Drivel Presented as Logic

The article in question:

I thought it of interest to post a response of sorts to an article (link posted above) that is popping up on the web. It’s an excellent example of flawed premises used to bolster a previously held belief. That is, the author has a clear belief she’s emotionally attached to and so rationalizes an argument to support it.

That’s called bad logic.

Take a read of the article, and then let’s explore her flawed premises.

Her premises:

1) The Iranian regime is dying.

Hmmm. Seems we heard that one quite a few times over the last thirty years, for sure! Estimating the longevity of any regime is a practice in futility. Remember when we thought the Soviet Union would last another century and its fall came largely as a surprise? How often have we heard over the years that North Korea or Cuba were ripe for change? Those two regimes have been “dying”, well, for longer than you or I are alive!

I well remember in 1982 high level experts predicting the of the totalitarian Saudi regime (our ostensible allies) by 1985. We’re still waiting for that one. Point is, there’s no real way of measuring whether a regime is “dying” or not. And Iran isn’t exactly a totalitarian regime. Its people do vote, for example, unlike, say, Saudi Arabia. Women can drive there. Unlike Saudi Arabia.

Dying? Could be. Might not be. The crystal ball is too cloudy to tell.

Conclusion: Her premise is at best weak and very likely flawed. She *wishes* for the regime to be “dying” and so she labels it so.

2) That sanctions are instrumental in bringing freedom to that poor country.

Seems we’ve tried that strategy with Cuba for over 50 years. Hmm. I’d like her to present one, just one, nation where sanctions have brought freedom to any nation.

Conclusion: Her premise is deeply flawed. She *wishes* that economic sanctions lead to freedom, and so she states that it is so.

3) Premise: That Iran can be convinced or forced to abandon its nuclear program like, say Libya.

I remember reading way back in the shah’s days – in 1978- that it was estimated that Iran would have a nuclear weapons expertise within 30 years. Yes, I really did read stuff like that in eighth grade.

Iran (population 76 million) is not Libya (population 6 million) It’s a very big country with a robust and ancient tradition of scholarship. Whether or not it actually manufactures nuclear weapons, it will gain the national knowledge to build them much sooner rather than later. It really does have that level of educational knowledge. Much like Japan, Australia and Taiwan have the knowledge to build such weapons if they choose. And they choose not to.

Additionally, the nuclear program is *hugely* popular in Iran. In this situation, Iran is much closer to the Pakistani nuclear model than Libya. Nuclear capability in both nations are deemed a matter of national pride. Remember when Pakistan exploded its first nuclear bomb? Pakistanis went into the streets to celebrate. The Iranians see such a capability as a sign of attaining a “great power” status, especially when its two neighbors to the east (Pakistan and India) have the bomb.

The common talk on the Iranian “street” is that it is high time for there to be a “Shiite bomb” as, in their view, there is already a “Sunni bomb” (Pakistan) and a “Hindu bomb” (Indian), never mind the “Christian bombs” of the USA, the UK, France, etc. Yes, they really do think that way.

At the popular level, if the Iranian government point blank abandoned its nuclear program, the regime *would* lose internal legitimacy.

The key in all of this is to find a path where Iran can view itself as a “great power” in the vein of powers that do not manufacture nuclear bombs. Attempting to get Iran to “forget” such knowledge is dreaming. Doing so is like getting Japan to “forget” its knowledge in nuclear technology. Can’t happen.

Conclusion: Her premise that Iran can contract nuclear amnesia is flawed. She *wishes* that there was a way to keep the nuclear genie out of the hands of the Iranian regime and so she states it is possible, regardless if it *is* possible.

4) That negotiations have “blown away” UN Security Council resolutions (I’ll leave her allusion to the resolutions “asking” alone, as tempting as it is to answer that one!).

That is, on its face, extremely flawed. The negotiations do nothing -nothing!- to undermine the UN Security Council resolutions. Rather, they are confidence-gaining measures.

Conclusion: She misunderstands the very nature of the negotiations. Her premise is flawed, and indeed, her prejudice shows through clearly with such Fox News-like accusations.

5) Premise: The world could prevent North Korea from obtaining nuclear weapons.

How, I pray, short of a major war does she propose for that to happen? Every peaceful solution -especially sanctions- has been applied to North Korea. The very strategy that she wishes to be applied to Iran was tried and is tried on North Korea…and NK has the bomb!

You see the circular argument here- yes? She wishes for Iran to be treated like North Korea to prevent Iran from building a…bomb. But that strategy didn’t work in North Korea!

Conclusion: Her premise is flawed: There’s no way to tell if the world, short of war, could have stopped the North Koreans from building a bomb.

She also has some interesting accusations:

1) The president is pursuing an agenda of “appeasement”.

Note as well her emotive accusation: “Appeasement” with all its connotations of World War II.

Initial negotiations which amount to a level of confidence building measures do not, at all, amount to “appeasement”. The authors use of the term is inappropriate at best, designed to manipulate a visceral response. It weakens, not strengthens, her argument, such as it is.

2) Barack Obama is “a US leader who not only let the Syrian genocide happen”.

Here we go again with words that attempt to manipulate the audience (“genocide”).

The reality is that Barack Obama was challenged in his powers to order even a bombing raid on Syria in response to Syrian use of poison gas on its own citizens.

The reality is, further, that the US populace has little interest in yet another Middle Eastern war with little prospect of a successful exit strategy.

It’s one thing to accuse President Obama of “letting” the “Syrian genocide happen”. It’s another thing completely to actually present a reasonable and realistic course of action that President Obama could pursue to stop such matters.

It’s qualifies as a wild accusation.

In short, the article is drivel, loaded with very poor premises and wild accusations.


“And Yet, It Moves”

GalileiMany extreme GOPers are so emotionally attached to the notion that Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Pell Grants, etc. can’t work that they refuse to accept that they do work, and work better than privatizing them.

Imagine if, similarly, these same people were emotionally attached to the belief that airplanes can’t fly. They’d propound as gospel the old mathematical proof that airplanes can’t fly.

Even if someone like Galileo proved to them that they DO fly by pointing at them flying above their very heads and said to them, “Eppur si muove” (“And yet it moves”).

“Fast and Furious” – The Result of Weak Gun Laws

DRAFT…clear out some repetition, including sourcing

Let’s talk about assertion that “Fast and Furious” is an Obama Administration program. Well, that’s accurate as far as it goes, but to leave out that it succeeded a Bush-Cheney era program known as Operation Wide Receiver is a bit disingenuous.

“Fast and Furious” indeed ran from 2009 to 2011. However it was the successor to Operation “Wide Receiver” that ran from 2006 to 2007, and then again in 2007  during, you know, during the Bush-Cheney Administration.   Call the 2006-2007  effort “Phase I” and the followup effort in 2007 as “Phase II”.

Phase II involved 200 guns. It didn’t work.  Although the ATF did its job, the Mexican government wasn’t able to track the smuggled weapons.

What’s the reasoning behind all this?  I mean, it sounds crazy for the US government to allow guns to be smuggled into Mexico…right?

In 2006,  before it was essentially unfunded by the GOP, the ATF was and is rightly concerned with sales of AR-15s and similar weapons to suspicious characters, and because of the GOP-led weakening of gun laws, could and can do very little about it. I mean, heck, the sale of semi-automatic, military grade assault rifles is guaranteed in the Second Amendment! For what it’s worth, my long passed way dad, who for thirty years was a small arms production specialist, and who worked with the US Army on the M16 rifle during the Vietnam War, wouldn’t agree at all that such weapons belong in civilian hands – even if they are set permanently to semiautomatic. I know- this guy, one of the few experts on the production of such weapons in the Northeast, made it quite clear to me what he thought of civilians having such military-grade equipment. But he lived in saner times – the 1970s- where keeping an assault rifle in one’s home would be…bizarre. And, please, don’t even try to tell me that assault rifles are good hunting weapons.  Hardly.

Anyways, the ATF’s frustration with such weak gun laws and the resultant flood of powerful weapons making their way down to Mexico was the catalyst for consideration of over-the-border “gunwalking” programs. The ATF reasoned that if they couldn’t leverage gun laws, then they could perhaps trace straw purchases of planted weapons to the drug cartels. This was the brainchild of a Bush-Cheney Administration. A “test” program, if you will.

Well, it sorta worked.   Operation Wide Receiver ultimately resulted with nine people getting arrested.

Success brings its own momentum and with it came about what can be called “Phase III”.   It was called “Fast and Furious” and was managed by William Newell, originally a Bush-Cheney Administration ATF agent who played a major role in Operation Wide Receiver.  This is the part of the program that occurred under the Obama Administration.

YES, a border patrol agent, Brian Terry, was shot and killed during a battle with five suspected illegal immigrants. It wasn’t a fair fight: The border agents had beanbag guns, and the suspects had some pretty powerful weapons smuggled in from the USA to Mexico (thank you weak gun laws!). Two of those weapons were found to be AK-lookalike weapons that came from the Fast and Furious program. The bullet that killed Terry was too badly damaged to be traced to those weapons.

In summary:

1. The Bush-Cheney Administration implemented the first two phases of the gunwalking program, known as Operation Wide Receiver. The first phase had limited success, the second phase was unsuccessful.

2. The Obama-Biden Administration, on arresting and bringing to justice suspects from Operation Wide Receiver (the part that I called “Phase I”), implemented Fast and Furious under an ATF agent who originally served under the Bush-Cheney Administration.

3. A border agent was murdered by suspected illegal immigrants, possibly by Fast and Furious weapons. However, as the bullet that murdered him was too badly damaged for trace analysis, whether or not a Fast and Furious artifact killed the border agent will remain forever unknown.

Here’s a 2007 dated document from the Bush-Cheney Administration where gunwalking operations under Operation Wide Receiver were openly discussed. Proof, if you will, of the program starting during the Bush-Cheney Admin:

So…please don’t come to me and tell me that that the was an Obama-Biden only program. Hardly. It was started and was just as much a Bush-Cheney program. If McCain (and angels and ministers of grace defend us) Palin were elected, the program would likely have continued.

Too, the issue -the real issue- is the huge numbers of guns (2,000 guns a day!) smuggled into Mexico thanks to severely weakened gun laws in the  USA.  The GOP-led House has, over and again, denied the Obama Administration’s attempts to strengthen these laws so as to begin to manage the flood of powerful American weapons smuggled into Mexico.  This abdication of responsibility by the GOP is reprehensible, all while they try to gain politically with a “Fast and Furious” brouhaha.


On Caterpillars and Women’s Rights

From a posted Google Plus image. Click on link to see the original post.

‎”Why is a raven like a writing desk?”

Lewis Carroll included that question in “Alice in Wonderland”. He didn’t have an answer for it. It was supposed to be nonsensical.

But people can always compare two things, and if we look hard enough and long enough, sooner or later, people *will* find a commonality of some sort.

That commonality doesn’t mean that a given analogy is a strong one or a weak one. It just means that everything has *something* in common. People can then grab onto that comparison (no matter how weak!) with a bulldog grip and not let go.

In regard to Reinhold Reince Priebus’s “War on Caterpillar” analogy to the very real “War on Women”, he was committing a logical fallacy by creating an obviously weak analogy.

Not that he cared. It’s enough to throw out such statements, as silly as they are, to act as distractions from what is really going on in regard to women’s rights. In that, he sorta succeeded!

People refused for years, by the way, to accept that Lewis Carroll created a riddle without an answer. Over the decades, people came up with a number of answers to the above riddle:

– Because Edgar Allen Poe wrote on both
– Because there is a B in both and an N in neither
– They both have quills

Just because Mr. Priebius made a comparison doesn’t mean he made a *valid* one, for heaven’s sake. He’s such a silly fella!

Is it Possible to be a Republican and a Catholic?

It’s difficult for me to get my arms around a yes or no answer on that one as the term “Republican” is the label for a coalition of groups on the “Right” side of the aisle. Those groups have a range of goals and foundational beliefs, ranging from moderate conservative (with close relations to the original Nixon/Rockefeller Republicans) to the extreme atheist libertarian elements.  Similarly, the term “Democrat” encompasses an even greater range of groups, ranging from secular humanists to Irish Catholic Democrats to the fiscally conservative Bluedog Democrats.

Regarding Republican-Catholic compatibility, the question is much more answerable from the perspective of “Catholic Conservative” and “Catholic Libertarian”, as there’s no denying that libertarianism has become the dominant force within the Republican Party today.  Such libertarianism is a strange bedfellow indeed for evangelical or Roman Catholic conservatives, to be sure, but a bedfellow nevertheless.

That there’s a significant difference between conservatism and libertarianism, is inarguable. Neither is it worth debating that while the libertarian strain is now dominant (read Tea Party, Paul Ryan, Ron and Rand Paul, and yes, to an extent, Rick Santorum), there still exists elements of the once-dominant moderate conservatives in the tradition of Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon. As much as GOP purists disparage Dewey Eisenhower and Nixon, with one ultraconservative once telling me at a dinner that Nixon wasn’t a “real Republican”, the reality is that Nixon and Eisenhower did something that followers of more extreme ideologies such as Goldwater couldn’t do: Win a national election.

These once dominant conservatives are the people who, to paraphrase Joe Biden, used to say, “Me too, but less” regarding progressive initiatives.  They’re the ones who brought forward the national highway system (Eisenhower and a Republican Congress pulled that one off- something FDR wanted and couldn’t get done), the EPA (Nixon did indeed approve the EPA; he basically said, “yes, but less” as he made the agency less powerful than what the Democratic Congress wanted), and these conservatives brought forward the War on Cancer, which was another Nixonian initiative as Nixon hoped curing cancer would be something similar to inventing a polio vaccine- nevertheless, this war on cancer that continues on has saved innumerable lives.  All of these initiatives demonstrate a concern for the common welfare.

This conservative school of thought also brought forward the current Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s system of mandated universal health care with mandated coverage via private health insurers.  Such a system was originally proposed by Richard Nixon in the 1970s.  This was and *is* a conservative idea. Nixon offered it to Edward Kennedy as an alternative to a single payer system- an idea that Kennedy rejected. A rejection Kennedy regretted to his dying day, calling it the biggest mistake in his political career.

It was GW Bush and a conservative-dominated Republican Party that pushed through Medicare Part D in 2003.  I have *huge* problems with Medicare Part D, mostly because a program more expensive than Social Security was irresponsibly voted through by the GOP without a way of funding it- but that’s another conversation.

Back to mandated health insurance: Such mandated coverage is *not* a libertarian idea, of course, as libertarians reject the concept of government promoting the general welfare, and here’s where we come up on the rub of the struggle in today’s Republican Party.

“Conservatism” takes its roots from the desire to “conserve” traditional values and mores. Towards this end, they embrace limited government (*not* “small” government as so many mistakenly say – but limited government- an altogether different notion). They also embrace such traditional values as self-determination and the rights of the individual versus the larger society. Encompassed within those values are the obligations of the individual to society at large so as to contribute to the common good (the “common good” is largely an original Catholic concept)- to pay fair taxes so as to balance budgets, to help the poor towards dignified self-sufficiency and to, in general, promote the general welfare, including the stewardship of the environment and natural resources so as to make those resources available to future generations. It was the Republican Theodore Roosevelt, after all, who made major strides towards conservationism.

At this level, such conservatism is hardly at odds with progressive values- heck- Theodore Roosevelt, Republican that he was, had no problems calling himself a “progressive”. In fact, there is significant overlap of true conservative and progressive values, as strange as that sounds in today’s polarized political climate. This overlap accounts for the political compromises that enabled real societal progress of the USA over the last eighty years. I submit that at this level, conservatism has more in common with progressive thought than it does with libertarianism.

What’s happening today in front of our very eyes, as mentioned above, is the supremacy of libertarianism within the GOP. This is an altogether new happening.  It isn’t happening with just one candidate,  such as Barry Goldwater in 1964, but throughout the nation, and what’s more, to add to this new event, it’s strangely melding with an extremist version of fundamentalist, apocalyptic Christianity.  This melding is all the more strange as the most radical forms of libertarianism follow Ayn Rand’s atheistic creed where selfishness and competition are made virtues.

Many believe that libertarianism is a subset of conservatism, that is, an extreme form of conservatism. I strongly disagree.   Libertarianism is *not* conservatism, as many conservatives from Eisenhower to Nixon would attest.  Certainly Bill Buckley, if he was alive today, would make a hard and fast distinction between conservatism and libertarianism.

The relationship is one of some overlap, but not of a parent-child relationship. Libertarianism embraces a completely deregulated economy- something that I submit is at odds with conservative traditional values to minimally regulate the economy so as to maintain a stable society and business environment- minimal regulations to be sure- but regulations nonetheless, and embodied by such organizations as the Securities Exchange Commission, for starters, but also via such the Federal Reserve. This is born out by the fact that most of the chairmen of the Federal Reserve have been…Republican. Yes- the Fed was a Democratic-invented institution brought forward in 1913. However, in recent history, it’s been run, mostly, by Republicans who have no philosophical issue with a centrally-managed banking system that promotes a stable business environment. Such central management, while tolerable to many conservatives if it promotes that stable business environment, is anathema to libertarianism, Alan Greenspan not withstanding.  Think of Ron Paul’s near obsessive “End the Fed” campaign. Ron Paul’s main opponents to “End the Fed”?  An informal coalition of progressives and conservatives.

Libertarians would have had no *philosophical* issue with the USA falling into a deep depression in 2008. As per their Hayek- and von Mises- led economic beliefs, most libertarians would see such a depression as a “lessons learned” for businesses. While some libertarians would show great personal compassion towards the suffering caused by a depression, philosophically, they would have let it happen.

Conservatism, in the case of the 2008 recession brought forward by GW Bush, saw that allowing such a depression was at cross purposes to the conservative value of promoting the general welfare, and acted, in concert with Democrats, against such a calamity via approving hundreds of billions in TARP monies, sending billions in support to the American auto industry to ward off the loss of jobs for millions (the first batch of $$$ to the auto companies was a GW Bush-led effort), and supporting the Federal Reserve’s actions when the Fed granted no-interest and low-interest loans worldwide to prevent a global banking collapse. It’s not well publicized, but the Fed loaned well over at least $4 trillion -that’s “trillion”- to banks worldwide to prevent a widespread banking collapse- some accounts peg the amount as something like $14 trillion in interest-free loans.  Ron Paul can scream “End the Fed” until his face turns blue, but without the Fed’s actions in this arena, the ensuing depression may have made the 1930s Great Depression look small.

Catholic social teaching – which I must reemphasize, again, is mandatory for all Catholics, teaches the “whats”, that is, the requirements. It requires from all Catholics respect for life in all its forms, from an aversion to abortion all the way to a strong opposition to the death penalty. The teaching continues with respect for the dignity of work, unions, and collective bargaining rights. It continues with a societal preference for the poor, with such basic necessities as food, clothing, education, and health care available to all.  On it continues with strong teachings toward a preference for an equitable distribution of goods (the Catholic “universal destination of goods” which teaches that the economy exists to promote the common good). It focuses especially in regard to the just distribution of goods to those in poverty -yes- that’s exactly what is taught in the Catholic teachings of distributive justice. The interrelated concepts of subsidiarity and solidarity are crucial to these formulas. Our responsibilities toward stewardship of the environment are strongly emphasized, which means controls to ensure clean water to drink, and pure air to breathe.  It means listening with respect the scientists who tell us that our climate is changing.

Church teachings emphasize over and again that while it instructs regarding the “what”, for obvious reasons, these teachings don’t bring forward the “how”.  If conservatives can bring forward workable “hows”, then God bless them. I’m all ears, and I submit, all parties, from every side so the political aisle, should be open minded to all suggestions as to how to attain these ends, no matter from what quarter.

That said about conservatism, after much consideration and study, I fail to see how libertarianism, with a competing set of “whats” – a competing set of requirements at cross purposes to Catholic Social Teaching- is compatible with Catholicism.

So – can a true-blue (pun intended) conservative Republican be a Catholic? Sure, if he or she adheres to the requirements of Catholic Social Teaching, the major tenants of which are stated above.  After all, anyone can join the Republican Party, just as anyone can join the Democratic Party.

Can a *libertarian* Republican be a Catholic? I fail to see how that’s possible. Catholicism is a social and communal religion that emphasizes the importance of the community versus the individual.  It also emphasizes the need for government assistance to the poor (it certainly does- I can write a book about how the USCCB says it can’t do things alone and needs government help to assist the poor).   Such communalism and the view that on the whole, government is a vehicle of the good, is anathema to libertarians.  Furthermore, Catholic teaching states over and again that there is no such thing as a solitary Catholic. Even Catholic hermits have a societal obligation.

Libertarianism, by its very nature, is an individual, near-anarchic movement that rejects even the notion of societal requirements.  Libertarianism has no room for John Paul II’s “social mortgage” requirements on all levels of society.  At best, when forced into a corner, libertarianism narrowly and inaccurately defines society only in terms of the individual – usually labeling society a “collection of individuals”.   Just as there is no such thing as a solitary Catholic, there is no such thing as a communal libertarian as the core of libertarianism is extreme individualism.   Where libertarianism defines extreme individualism and even selfishness as virtues, such hyper-individualism and selfishness is considered by Catholicism as a sinful state.  The concepts of Catholicism and libertarianism are truly and obviously at odds with one another.

Can a Google search find people who label themselves Catholic libertarians?  Absolutely. That doesn’t mean that they’re right, or for that matter, philosophically honest. Even a quick study of what is written by these folks shows that these self-professed Catholic libertarians try to twist one belief into fitting into another – such as weird attempts to marry Ayn Rand’s hatred of the poor as “takers’ and “parasites” with Jesus’ message of “bringing good news to the poor” and His teachings regarding the dangers of wealth. But each and every one of these “marry Catholicism to libertarianism” attempts are fantastical, gymnastic attempts to, well, grow oranges on the sun while performing a ballet. Doesn’t work and looks really silly from the outside.

This is well borne by the recent document by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace on the Global Economy. That document made it quite clear that libertarianism and its adherence to the Austrian School of economics is fundamentally at odds with Catholic economic teachings. Whenever Ron Paul says (and really he does say this), “We are all Austrians”, he’s referring to the Austrian School of economics. Whenever he says this, whether he knows it or not, whether he admits it or not, whether he’s even capable of understanding it or not, he’s taking a direct shot at Catholicism.

So- conservative Republican Catholics – sure, of course they can exist, and as long as they adhere to the requirements of Catholic Social Teaching (again, see above), they can be considered “good” Catholics.   I will submit that being a Republican while adhering to the major tenants of CST is a *hard* thing to do in today’s polarized political climate, where Republican presidential nomination debates feature such horrible events as loud cheers for a governor holding a record in the number of executions under his watch, or shouts of “Yeah!” to a question of letting a man die who doesn’t have health insurance.

It must be especially hard outside of the northeastern USA.  In many areas outside of that zone, support for the death penalty is strong, the poor are blamed for being poor, and long regarded basic protections for the environment are cast as “socialism”.

But libertarian Republican Catholics? No, such animal exists, as much as some may insist on it. The phrase itself is an oxymoron.

Hence I suggest, and suggest with all seriousness, that the greater political adversary to Republican Catholics are not their Democratic Catholic brethren, but the libertarianism that strikes at the very heart of traditional Judeo-Christian values.  Christ taught the story of the Good Samaritan, a parable in direct contrast to that shout of affirmation during a Republican presidential debate in regard to letting a man die simply because he lacks health insurance.

The time is coming to decide what side you stand on:  Do you stand with the Good Samaritan?  Or do you stand with that man who shouted “Yeah” to letting a sick man die because he lacks health insurance?