The Watering Hole, Saturday, May 23rd, 2015: From One to Infinity?

Last night I was doing an extremely necessary cleanup of my emails, and was about to delete some recent ones from our local Republican NYS Assemblyman, when I decided to take a look to see what he was writing about. Here’s one of them:

Cuomo’s Undemocratic Minimum Wage Hike Will Kill Jobs

East Fishkill, NY – (5/7/15) – Assemblyman Kieran Michael Lalor (R,C,I – East Fishkill) issued a statement today criticizing Governor Cuomo’s decision to unilaterally move to raise the minimum wage for some businesses without legislative approval.

“Dictating new regulations outside the legislative process is a recklessly undemocratic decision by Governor Cuomo,” said Lalor. “We have a process for passing new laws and the governor has chosen to bypass it because he was only able to get part of his job-killing minimum wage through the legislature. It seems he’s taking a page from President Obama’s playbook and simply dictating new laws when he can’t do what he wants through the legislature. Impaneling a wage board gives Cuomo’s action a veneer of unbiased approval, but is there any doubt that the board will simply follow Cuomo’s directions? We know how closely Cuomo has controlled previous ‘independent’ commissions.”

Lalor added, “This isn’t just undemocratic, it’s a job killer. San Francisco’s recent minimum wage hike is pushing small businesses to the brink of closure. [emphasis mine] This will hurt minimum-wage earners when businesses that can’t afford the increase start cutting jobs. Studies have shown entry-level job opportunities decline with minimum wage increases. The governor can’t simply mandate a better economy. Small businesses are struggling with New York’s high taxes and never-ending regulations. New York’s economy is struggling because of those taxes and regulations. The only way for government to increase wages and opportunities is to cut taxes and regulations across the board. We need to open up opportunities for businesses to thrive and create jobs in New York.”

“It’s also inappropriate for the governor to target just one industry,” Lalor added. “Governor Cuomo says he wants to raise fast food wages because fast food CEOs are millionaires. But, many fast food restaurants operate as franchises. They’re small businesses. This isn’t just hitting big corporations, Governor Cuomo, this is hitting small businesses. Cuomo’s dictate is so vague, we don’t even know how far this will go. It’s up to his wage board to decide what jobs will be defined as within the ‘fast food industry’. Pizzeria and deli owners, among other small businesses, don’t know if they’ll be included. They might not even know that this regulation could affect them until it’s already passed, missing the chance to voice their opposition.”

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Assemblyman Kieran Michael Lalor, a former teacher at Our Lady of Lourdes in Poughkeepsie, is a Marine Corps veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and a frequent guest on the Fox News Channel…”

I started to search for any information regarding what problems have been caused by San Francisco’s recent minimum-wage raise. The Google brought up several articles referencing “a San Francisco newspaper says that some restaurants and grocery stores in Oakland’s Chinatown have closed…” Okay, that’s Oakland, which, as far as I know, is still a separate city across the bay from SF. And my search for even that one “San Francisco newspaper” story yielded nothing but references to it from right-wing sources, i.e., The American Spectator and World Net Daily. As you can see, Thomas Sowell of The American Spectator has apparently coined (or at least emphasized) a new buzzword for the right, “ruinous compassion” – don’t be surprised if you start hearing that phrase in conjunction with any minimim-wage-raise arguments.

I finally found one article from Yahoo! Finance titled “Minimum Wage Hike Closes San Francisco Bookstore.” Although I had seen other stories from 2011 on about several booksellers such as the Borders chain losing business or closing, none of those seemed to be as a result of minimum wage hikes; it’s been pretty much a given for several years now that any bookseller would be in tough competition with current technology, with which one can access any book one wants with a few clicks. However, even this particular bookstore in San Francisco isn’t exactly going out of business entirely:

“Borderland Books, which specializes in science fiction and horror, says it has withstood a host of challenges since it opened in 1997, including the rise of Amazon.com and e-books, a landlord who supposedly doubled their rent while dotcoms were first booming, and a deep recession that the owners say “hit us very hard.” A higher minimum wage, though, would take the business from being modestly profitable to being a money loser, the owner says. “Although all of us at Borderlands support the concept of a living wage in principal and we believe that it’s possible that the new law will be good for San Francisco — Borderlands Books as it exists is not a financially viable business if subject to that minimum wage.”

But according to the article:

“The blog post went on to say that the Borderlands café business will stay open and should have “no difficulty at all” with the new minimum wage because it will be able to raise prices as needed. The bookselling business is different, the blog post argued, because book prices are set by the publishers and clearly printed on the books.”

So, although the owner wasn’t making much of a profit anyway from selling books, he’s still going to do just fine with the cafe associated with his bookstore. The last paragraph of the article itself links to this survey of economists who are mostly supportive of minimum-wage raises.

Hmm…So why is this one bookstore being used as, it appears, the definitive argument against all minimum-wage hikes, and why does it sound like the Ronald Reagan “Cadillac-driving welfare queen”? And since when does ONE = ALL?

I think I’m going to have to write to Assemblyman Lalor about his research team – if he has one.

This is our (very late) Daily Open Thread–what’s on your mind?

The Watering Hole; Friday May 22 2015; Cool Critters v. Clown Car Creepoids

In these days where political insanity seems to rule the world in which we’re stuck, it’s most enjoyable to head out and commune with critters that have never heard the word ‘Wingnut,’ and most certainly would head for the tall weeds if ever they should happen to encounter one — a concept with which I happen to be totally sympathetic.

Ergo, whenever the opportunity shows itself, I grab at the chance to turn my back on the ‘madding crowd’ and head for a more peaceful surround — assuming the weather cooperates, a rare happenstance so far this year (I could make some sort of snide comment concerning the science of climate change, but won’t because I don’t want to come across as really arrogant).

So here are a couple of critters that share the lake with the local flock of Canadian Geese. First up is what I’m guessing to be a Western Painted Turtle. He likes to hang out on an old bleached beaver-felled log that lies in the shallows very near the shore. He’s a fairly good sized fella, shell about 12″ in diameter, plus or minus one or two. He’s also a very peaceful dude; was sprawled on the same log on both days last week that we spotted him. We watched him for close to a half-hour each day, and he was the most statuesque critter I’ve ever seen — never moved a single muscle.

Beckwith turtle 1197Beckwith turtle 1227In the turtle’s general neighbood we spotted this other fellow as well. S/he is one half of a mating pair of Great Blue Herons which appear to have set up houskeeping at the lake this year. At least they’ve been hanging around for several weeks — time will tell if they choose to settle in. They are, however, very elusive, very secretive, and quite skilled at avoiding people. I got lucky with this one — spotted it standing near the shore a hundred yards or so distant. Fortunately, the camera’s 60X zoom was ready and willing to do its job!

Great Blue Heron 1192In the immortal words of Robert Burns,

“Still thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me
The present only toucheth thee:
But, Och! I backward cast my e’e.
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!”

That’s a very fair summation of what rolls about in the back of my mind every time I leave “we the people” behind and venture out for a mingle with the Higher Animals. The main downside to the whole process is the inevitable return to “civilization” and all of the noise that keeps it operational. Such as current political news, even little tidbits thereof. I think it was just yesterday morning, for example, when I heard that Rick Perry is going to announce on June 3rd or thereabouts that he’s decided to become the first Presidential candidate in US history to enter the race while under criminal indictment. WOW! He’s also just recently made it clear that nobody will worry about jade helm-type conspiracy theories when HE is president. Double WOW! For some odd reason, those two headlines, along with recollections of his brief candidacy in 2012 B.G. (Before Glasses),  reminded me of an old joke which, if based on genuine fact, would explain a lot of that WOW stuff:

A few decades back, a Texas family – mom, dad, and son – moved to another state. Come fall, mom and dad enrolled their son in first grade in the local school and told him that from the first day onward they wanted to hear all about what school was like, how things were going, etc. Dad said, “Son, always remember one thing: we’re from TEXAS and proud of it! And being from Texas means we got a heads up on everybody else, cause that’s what happens when you’re born in TEXAS!”

Son nodded and smiled. “Yes, daddy, I know. We’re from TEXAS!”

Over supper the night after the boy’s first day in school, dad asked, “So, son, how was school today? What’s it like?”

“It was ok, daddy. We all got told by the teacher where we should sit and I’m in the front row! Then she asked if anybody knew the alphabet and I raised my hand and she called on me, had me go to the blackboard and write it out, and I did! And I got all the letters wrote just right and teacher said I was the only one in first grade that ever knew all the alphabet on the first day! Is that cause we’re from Texas, daddy?”

“Yep, son, that’s cause we’re from TEXAS!”

The next night at supper, daddy asked again how school went. The boy smiled big and said, “It went great, daddy. Today the teacher asked if anybody could count all the way to twenty, and I raised my hand and she had me stand up and do it, and I done it! She was really happy, cause most kids can’t even count to ten and get it right. Is that cause we’re from Texas, daddy?”

“Yep, that’s cause we’re from TEXAS, son.”

On the third night, daddy again asked the boy how school went.

“Well daddy, today we went to the gym and they gave us shorts and a shirt to wear when we learnt how to do exercisins on the gym floor.”

“How’d you do, son?” Daddy asked.

“Oh, I done good. But afterwards we all had to take a shower get cleaned up afore we went back to class, and in the shower I noticed that all them boys had little bitty weenies compared to me.” The son paused, then asked, “Why is that, daddy? Is that cause I’m from Texas?”

Daddy thought a minute, then finally said, “No, son. It’s because you’re seventeen.”

The following year the Perry family moved back to the cotton farm in TEXAS.

Yep, that would pretty much define the Rick Perry with which I’m familiar. And I should add that while I’m definitely NOT a Democrat who has ‘sold my soul’ for immigrant votes (in spite of what one of the potential Clown Car Creepoids proclaims), it remains a FACT that I’d happily vote for either a turtle of a Great Blue Heron — immigrant or native, no worries —before I’d vote for ANYONE in said Clown Car!

Ok, that’s enough for now. The OPEN THREAD  is now . . . ummm . . . open.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, May 16th, 2015: Holy Rollers

Karma is a Bitch…

You Reap What You Sow…

The Law of Unintended Consequences…

A Homer Simpson “D’OH!” moment…

A Simpsons’ Nelson “HA-ha!” moment…

What Goes Around Comes Around…

Revenge is a Dish Best Served Stoned?

However you want to describe it, it’s going to be a fun time in Indiana on July 1st. July 1st is the day that Indiana’s revised RFRA law goes into effect. It is also the day that the State-of-Indiana-approved “First Church of Cannabis” holds their inaugural worship service. So when July 1st rolls around, prepare your favorite snacks, roll a fattie/fill a bowl/fire up the bong/bake some ‘special’ brownies, and get ready to enjoy the circus and the fireworks.

An excerpt from yesterday’s Think Progress thread about the Church, which was formed in March subsequent to Indiana’s revised RFRA law:

“It’s going to be a standard service,” Bill Levin, the group’s leader and self-proclaimed “Grand Poohba and Minister of Love,” told ThinkProgress. He explained the ceremony will last around 45 minutes, complete with music and teachings, but will conclude with an unusual benediction: “At the end of the service … we will enjoy cannabis, because it’s how we enjoy life.

An article from the Christian Post website, written by Vincent Funaro, is also informative. (I would have posted a link to it, but pop-up ads there refuse to go away – while, yes, I DO want to look at The Home Decorator’s big Outlet sale, I got their email yesterday so right now it’s just blocking an entire paragraph – but I digress!) While the article is written in a straightforward, non-committal way, I thought the stock photo they used to begin the article, although captioned appropriately, was just a tad over-the-top, not to mention outright misleading.

Hindu holy man(Photo: Reuters/ Navesh Chitrakar)

A Hindu holy man, or sadhu, smokes marijuana in a chillum on the premises of Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu February 17, 2015. Hindu holy men from Nepal and India come to this temple to take part in the Maha Shivaratri festival annually for holiday when it is legal to smoke the otherwise illegal drug. Celebrated by Hindu devotees all over the world, Shivaratri is dedicated to Lord Shiva, and holy men mark the occasion by praying, smoking marijuana or smearing their bodies with ashes.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

An Indiana organization dedicated to marijuana that calls itself the First Church of Cannabis will host its first “worship service” on July 1, the same day that the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act goes into effect.

The organization will test the law’s ban on government burdens on the exercise of religion as it will feature a pot-smoking session that is illegal in the state of Indiana.

The cannabis group’s founder Bill Levin explained plans for the service to U.S. News and said it will open with “Amazing Grace” played on a harmonica by a popular young musician and move to a quick sermon followed by a “call to worship,” which is actually just a time for smoking marijuana.

“I’m an old-school producer,” Levin told U.S. News. “We start off the show soft and we have a build-up and then in the end we explode in glory and we all dance around the hall.”

Levin is searching for a church that will lease him space for the event and will also consider holding it on a religious campground or in a public park. It’s still unclear if local police and prosecutors are prepared to accept pot smoking as protected conduct under the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Peg McLeish, a spokeswoman for the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office in Indiana told U.S. News that the Religious Freedom Law doesn’t necessarily protect people who commit crimes from being arrested.

“It’s that they could assert [their religious beliefs are] a defense if they are prosecuted,” she said.

Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act says the government cannot “substantially burden” a person’s ability to follow their religious beliefs, unless it can prove a compelling interest in imposing that burden and it does so in the least restrictive way.

Critics of the law contended that it could be used to discriminate against the LGBT community on the basis of religion. This would apply to Christian business owners refusing to service gay weddings based on their beliefs.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence later clarified RFRA after signing it into law in March stating that it “does not give businesses a right to deny services to anyone.”

To appease detractors, Pence signed revisions into the law to remove fears that it would allow businesses to discriminate against the LBGT community in April.

However, the article fails to point out that part of the Church’s raison d’etre is the celebration of the healing and medicinal powers of the ‘blessed’ plant.

And yes, folks, there is a membership application posted on The Church of Cannabis’ Facebook page – in fact, I see that someone we know visited before I did.  ;-)

Hmm…is anyone else thinking what I’m thinking? :D

This is our daily Open Thread – have fun!

The Watering Hole; Thursday May 14 2015; Of Geese and Goofs

The day was Monday, May 11, 2015. Springtime, right? I was up early, and when I first looked out the window this is what I saw: the endpoint of an overnight snowstorm, some five, maybe six inches of heavy wet stuff. Looked like the middle of January out there, and certainly not like a happy time for springtime’s nesting bird life. Early AM snow May 11 1161A few hours later the temp had climbed into the low forties, and the clouds had begun to break up, revealing this view of the Front Range where, according to reports, as much as two feet of snow had fallen. Mojada breaking clouds 1181The following day, the PM temps returned to the low seventies where they typically reside this time of year. That afternoon, we decided to take a walk around the local lake, see if we could again spot the Canadian Goose family that had been busily exploring its corner of the lake during the week before the storms came.  The photo below was taken on May third, very near the day the goslings first left the nest to explore their new world. Goose family 1126So on Tuesday the twelfth we returned to their corner of the world and eventually spotted the mating pair of Canadians (Branta canadensis) relaxing near the shore of a small island that lies about a hundred yards out. They were, as usual, in the company of the only remaining pair of Chinese geese (Anser anser domesticus) in the lake’s current goose colony. 4 geese 1183In the photo above, note the absence of goslings — they were nowhere to be seen, which is most unusual as the days approach the middle of May. Where were they? Normally if they were nearby, either the Canadian mating pair or the Chinese geese would be supervising, watching carefully. Such was clearly not the case, so the first assumption was that something had gone awry. Were they victims of the sudden snowstorm? The recent weather had certainly been goofy enough to be assumed a possible threat to days-old chicks. Or maybe a fox stopped by? Or a cougar? Dog? Feral cat? Take your pick. One thing I did notice — later in the day while reviewing the above photo — was what appeared to be a battle wound of some sort on the neck of the white Chinese goose: Chinese goose neck injury 1183Chinese geese are a popular domestic breed, well-known to be an efficient watchdog that is typically very noisy when anything unusual is around. In this local semi-wild setting, the two of them are always and invariably in the company of their Canadian ‘friends.’ They are, in fact, extremely protective of Canadian goslings. They seem to watch from a distance, but whenever another critter pops up in the neighborhood (humans included) they immediately start honking loudly as they hurry over to offer whatever help might be needed. My first glance at the neck wound above, therefore, definitely made me wonder if maybe the goslings had indeed “gotten got” by one or another of our furry critter locals. The odds against them being somewhere — even in the nest — unsupervised are quite high. Dare we hope? In any case, time will tell if they’re still around or gone for good. We do intend to keep a close eye on the situation and will report back if anything happens to pop up.

Meanwhile, back to the human world where the idiocy continues unabashed, as evidenced in these few recent headlines:

Poll: One-Third Of Republicans Think Obama Wants To Invade Texas

Conservative Pundit: ‘Major Outbreak Of Violence’ Against Obama Administration Imminent

And finally, this absolute GEM!

Beck: Free Community College Is A Government Plot To Enslave People Through Student Loan Debt

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The Watering Hole; Friday May 8 2015; First Day In The Life Of . . .

Around these parts at the foot of Colorado’s Front Range, the first week in May is the typical time of year when Canadian Goose (Branta canadensis) chicks first show up on the scene. I’m not sure exactly which day they actually hatch, but this year the very first little guys out of the nest appeared on the afternoon of May 2, and though there were only three in the company of their parental mating pair, they were each and all very busily exploring their new world, learning the ropes, etc.

Following is a series of ten photos which I assume pretty much portrays various moments of the goslings’ first full day of real life outside the egg and beyond the nest. No need for captions, the images themselves pretty much tell the familial tale.

Goose family 1084Goose family cr 1085Goose and goslings 1092Gosling 10983 sibling goslins 1126-crGosling pair 1133Gosling 1136Goslings 1143Chow time 1112Sack time 1118Party’s over, but tomorrow’s another day! Yay!                                   (all photos by frugal)

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The Watering Hole; Thursday May 7 2015; Baloney Detection Kit

Election season is upon us. It might still be eighteen months away before the votes are counted, but no matter, the Republican clown car is filling up as we speak. Cruz, Rubio, Paul, Huckabee, even Carly Fiorina — five candidates announced already with who knows how many more waiting in the wings. Eighteen months. How much B.S., how much baloney, how many lies both bold-faced and subtle will they toss out over the next eighteen months? And how to separate the wheat from the chaff, the truth from the fiction, the horse hockey from the B.S.? After several weeks of careful thought, I’ve decided to do the right thing and — in the absence of truth serum — provide the means to view the best tool set known to the civilized world that enables the separation of shreds of fact from immense piles of fiction. So here it is: the late Carl Sagan’s Baloney Detection Kit!a set of cognitive tools and techniques that fortify the mind against penetration by falsehoods.

In his book “The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark” — published only a few months before his untimely death in 1996 — Sagan shared his ideas on how to use reason and logic to overcome the barrage of untruths and outright lies which each and every day assault every corner of the “civilized” world. That which follows is from his chapter entitled “The Fine Art of Baloney Detection” where Sagan writes:

In addition to teaching us what to do when evaluating a claim to knowledge, any good baloney detection kit must also teach us what not to do. It helps us recognize the most common and perilous fallacies of logic and rhetoric. Many good examples can be found in religion and politics, because their practitioners are so often obliged to justify two contradictory propositions. Among these fallacies are:

1. Ad Hominem — Latin for “to the man,” attacking the arguer and not the argument (e.g., The Reverend Dr. Smith is a known Biblical fundamentalist, so her objections to evolution need not be taken seriously);

2. Argument From Authority (e.g., President Richard Nixon should be re-elected because he has a secret plan to end the war in Southeast Asia — but because it was secret, there was no way for the electorate to evaluate it on its merits; the argument amounted to trusting him because he was President: a mistake, as it turned out);

3. Argument From Adverse Consequences (e.g., A God meting out punishment and reward must exist, because if He didn’t, society would be much more lawless and dangerous — perhaps even ungovernable. Or: The defendant in a widely publicized murder trial must be found guilty; otherwise, it will be an encouragement for other men to murder their wives);

NOTE: A more cynical formulation by the Roman historian Polybius: Since the masses of the people are inconstant, full of unruly desires, passionate, and reckless of consequences, they must be filled with fears to keep them in order. The ancients did well, therefore, to invent gods, and the belief in punishment after death.

4. Appeal to Ignorance — the claim that whatever has not been proved false must be true, and vice versa (e.g., There is no compelling evidence that UFOs are not visiting the Earth; therefore UFOs exist — and there is intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe. Or: There may be seventy kazillion other worlds, but not one is known to have the moral advancement of the Earth, so we’re still central to the Universe.) This impatience with ambiguity can be criticized in the phrase: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

5. Special Pleading, often to rescue a proposition in deep rhetorical trouble (e.g., How can a merciful God condemn future generations to torment because, against orders, one woman induced one man to eat an apple? Special plead: you don’t understand the subtle Doctrine of Free Will. Or: How can there be an equally godlike Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in the same Person? Special plead: You don’t understand the Divine Mystery of the Trinity. Or: How could God permit the followers of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — each in their own way enjoined to heroic measures of loving kindness and compassion — to have perpetrated so much cruelty for so long? Special plead: You don’t understand Free Will again. And anyway, God moves in mysterious ways.)

6. Begging The Question, also called assuming the answer (e.g., We must institute the death penalty to discourage violent crime. But does the violent crime rate in fact fall when the death penalty is imposed? Or: The stock market fell yesterday because of a technical adjustment and profit-taking by investors — but is there any independent evidence for the causal role of “adjustment” and profit-taking; have we learned anything at all from this purported explanation?);

7. Observational Selection, Also Called The Enumeration of Favorable Circumstances, or as the philosopher Francis Bacon described it, counting the hits and forgetting the misses (e.g., A state boasts of the Presidents it has produced, but is silent on its serial killers);

NOTE: A My favorite example is this story, told about the Italian physicist Enrico Fermi, newly arrived on American shores, enlisted in the Manhattan nuclear weapons Project, and brought face-to-face in the midst of World War II with U.S. flag officers.

So-and-so is a great general, he was told. What is the definition of a great general? Fermi characteristically asked. I guess it’s a general who’s won many consecutive battles. How many? After some back and forth, they settled on five. What fraction of American generals are great? After some more back and forth, they settled on a few percent.

But imagine, Fermi rejoined, that there is no such thing as a great general, that all armies are equally matched, and that winning a battle is purely a matter of chance. Then the chance of winning one battle is one out of two, or 1/2, two battles l/4, three l/8, four l/16, and five consecutive battles 1/32 — which is about 3 percent. You would expect a few percent of American generals to win five consecutive battles — purely by chance. Now, has any of them won ten consecutive battles …?

8. Statistics of Small Numbers — a close relative of observational selection (e.g., “They say 1 out of every 5 people is Chinese. How is this possible? I know hundreds of people, and none of them is Chinese. Yours truly.” Or: “I’ve thrown three sevens in a row. Tonight I can’t lose.”);

9. Misunderstanding of The Nature of Statistics (e.g., President Dwight Eisenhower expressing astonishment and alarm on discovering that fully half of all Americans have below average intelligence);

10. Inconsistency (e.g., Prudently plan for the worst of which a potential military adversary is capable, but thriftily ignore scientific projections on environmental dangers because they’re not “proved.” Or: Attribute the declining life expectancy in the former Soviet Union to the failures of communism many years ago, but never attribute the high infant mortality rate in the United States (now highest of the major industrial nations) to the failures of capitalism. Or: Consider it reasonable for the Universe to continue to exist forever into the future, but judge absurd the possibility that it has infinite duration into the past);

11. Non Sequitur — Latin for “It doesn’t follow” (e.g., Our nation will prevail because God is great. But nearly every nation pretends this to be true; the German formulation was “Gott mit uns”). Often those falling into the non sequitur fallacy have simply failed to recognize alternative possibilities;

12. Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc — Latin for “It happened after, so it was caused by” (e.g., Jaime Cardinal Sin, Archbishop of Manila: “I know of … a 26-year-old who looks 60 because she takes [contraceptive] pills.” Or: Before women got the vote, there were no nuclear weapons);

13. Meaningless Question (e.g., What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object? But if there is such a thing as an irresistible force there can be no immovable objects, and vice versa)

14. Excluded Middle, or False Dichotomy — considering only the two extremes in a continuum of intermediate possibilities (e.g., “Sure, take his side; my husband’s perfect; I’m always wrong.” Or: “Either you love your country or you hate it.” Or: “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem”);

15. Short-term Vs. Long-term — a Subset of The Excluded Middle, but so important I’ve pulled it out for special attention (e.g., We can’t afford programs to feed malnourished children and educate pre-school kids. We need to urgently deal with crime on the streets. Or: Why explore space or pursue fundamental science when we have so huge a budget deficit?);

16. Slippery Slope, related to excluded middle (e.g., If we allow abortion in the first weeks of pregnancy, it will be impossible to prevent the killing of a full-term infant. Or, conversely: If the state prohibits abortion even in the ninth month, it will soon be telling us what to do with our bodies around the time of conception);

17. Confusion of Correlation And Causation (e.g., A survey shows that more college graduates are homosexual than those with lesser education; therefore education makes people gay. Or: Andean earthquakes are correlated with closest approaches of the planet Uranus; therefore — despite the absence of any such correlation for the nearer, more massive planet Jupiter — the latter causes the former);

NOTE: Children who watch violent TV programs tend to be more violent when they grow up. But did the TV cause the violence, or do violent children preferentially enjoy watching violent programs? Very likely both are true. Commercial defenders of TV violence argue that anyone can distinguish between television and reality. But Saturday morning children’s programs now average 25 acts of violence per hour. At the very least this desensitizes young children to aggression and random cruelty. And if impressionable adults can have false memories implanted in their brains, what are we implanting in our children when we expose them to some 100,000 acts of violence before they graduate from elementary school?

18. Straw Man — caricaturing a position to make it easier to attack (e.g., Scientists suppose that living things simply fell together by chance — a formulation that willfully ignores the central Darwinian insight, that Nature ratchets up by saving what works and discarding what doesn’t. Or — this is also a short-term/long-term fallacy — environmentalists care more for snail darters and spotted owls than they do for people)

19. Suppressed Evidence, or half-truths (e.g., An amazingly accurate and widely quoted “prophecy” of the assassination attempt on President Reagan is shown on television; but — an important detail — was it recorded before or after the event? Or: These government abuses demand revolution, even if you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs. Yes, but is this likely to be a revolution in which far more people are killed than under the previous regime? What does the experience of other revolutions suggest? Are all revolutions against oppressive regimes desirable and in the interests of the people?)

20. Weasel Words (e.g., The separation of powers of the U.S. Constitution specifies that the United States may not conduct a war without a declaration by Congress. On the other hand, Presidents are given control of foreign policy and the conduct of wars, which are potentially powerful tools for getting themselves re-elected. Presidents of either political party may therefore be tempted to arrange wars while waving the flag and calling the wars something else — “police actions,” “armed incursions,” “protective reaction strikes,” “pacification,” “safeguarding American interests,” and a wide variety of “operations,” such as “Operation Just Cause.” Euphemisms for war are one of a broad class of reinventions of language for political purposes. Talleyrand said, “An important art of politicians is to find new names for institutions which under old names have become odious to the public”)

Knowing the existence of such logical and rhetorical fallacies rounds out our toolkit. Like all tools, the baloney detection kit can be misused, applied out of context, or even employed as a rote alternative to thinking. But applied judiciously, it can make all the difference in the world — not least in evaluating our own arguments before we present them to others. ~Carl Sagan

So there it is, there you have it: the tool set which enables moments of truth to be separated from all those months of spoken, written, preached, shouted, and whispered political baloney. Use it in good health!

And thank you over and again, Carl Sagan.

OPEN THREAD