American Sophistry at its Political Zenith

I typify this as American sophistry at its political zenith for obvious reasons – if you’ve read about and understand the formation and foundations of sophistry. How American politicians turned it into the rationale for every copout foisted upon the body politic.

Life on one side. Death on the other. And it needn’t matter which side takes which position. That’s what needs to be understood. Obviously the best Congressional solution eventually lies between the two. Pick a war in the last 70 years!



Truthiness on the March

Lucy P. Marcus

❝ The late US Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” That may be true. But, entitled or not, politicians and electorates are constructing their own alternate realities – with far-reaching consequences.

❝ Nowadays, facts and truth are becoming increasingly difficult to uphold in politics…They are being replaced with what the American comedian Stephen Colbert calls “truthiness”: the expression of gut feelings or opinions as valid statements of fact. This year might be considered one of peak truthiness.

❝ To make good decisions, voters need to assess reliable facts, from economic data to terrorism analysis, presented transparently and without bias. But, today, talking heads on television would rather attack those with expertise in these areas. And ambitious political figures – from the leaders of the Brexit campaign in the United Kingdom to US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump – dismiss the facts altogether…

❝ …The Iraq War was launched in 2003 under false pretenses. Intelligence reports had not established that there were weapons of mass destruction in the country, yet British Prime Minister Tony Blair dutifully followed US President George W. Bush in ordering his military to invade. The consequences of that decision are still emerging.

If our leaders can be so willfully wrong about such consequential matters, how can we believe anything they tell us? This question has opened the door for a new, more overt truthiness, espoused by the likes of Trump, who seems to introduce freshly invented “facts” on a daily basis. Trump’s surrogates, for their part, use television appearances and social media to restate the falsehoods, seemingly operating under the principle that if you repeat something often enough, it will become true…

RTFA for more details – if you need them. There is an added parallel example in the cupidity of British voters and how they were misled quite deliberately into the Brexit vote. Lies, agitprop both for and against voting at all. Not unlike Republicans who swear they haven’t a bigoted bone in their body – and never emit the slightest peep over that party’s vaguely-disguised voter suppression campaign.

Paul Krugman: the Anti-Fed two-step

Back when Ted Cruz first floated his claim that the Fed caused the Great Recession — and some neo-monetarists spoke up in support — I noted that this was a repeat of the old Milton Friedman two-step.

First, you declare that the Fed could have prevented a disaster — the Great Depression in Friedman’s case, the Great Recession this time around. This is an arguable position, although Friedman’s claims about the 30s look a lot less convincing now that we have tried again to deal with a liquidity trap. But then this morphs into the claim that the Fed caused the disaster. See, government is the problem, not the solution! And the motivation for this bait-and-switch is, indeed, political.

Now come Beckworth and Ponnuru to make the argument at greater length, and it’s quite direct: because the Fed “caused” the crisis, things like financial deregulation and runaway bankers had nothing to do with it…

I’d just add that if there were anything to this story, we should have seen a sharp increase in long-term real interest rates, as investors saw the Fed getting behind the disinflationary curve. Here’s the real 10-year rate in the months leading up to Lehman:

Do you see the kind of spike that could cause a catastrophe?

But to come back to the main point: It’s a very dubious claim that the Fed could have prevented the crisis with more aggressive policy in 2008; it’s three-card monte to transmute that into the claim that the Fed caused the crisis.

Objective analysis of the cultural costume jewelry adhering to today’s excuse for conservatism automagically includes self-delusion and outright lies. The incidence of the Great Recession following on from fraud and investment hustles brings us to a repeat of an older, long-standing conservative character flaw. They take responsibility for nothing.

Hat tip to Tom Keene

Ted Cruz discovers he’s an idiot deluded by ideology

“This invisible snake protects me from reality”

One day after Ted Cruz told college students in New Hampshire that he had no health insurance because President Barack Obama’s health care law caused the cancellation of his coverage, the Republican presidential candidate’s campaign walked back that assertion…

Contrary to what Cruz, a top contender for the GOP nomination, said on Thursday—”I don’t have health care right now”—it turns out the U.S. senator from Texas and his family appear to be insured after all.

A campaign spokeswoman said Cruz’s insurance policy was indeed cancelled but that he didn’t realize his provider, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas, had automatically transitioned him and his family onto a new policy…

As they do for anyone else whose existing coverage doesn’t meet standards.

Cruz, who is married and has two daughters, attributed his insurance situation to “the suffering that Obamacare has caused.” He told students at Saint Anselm College during a bus tour in New Hampshire that his family was “in the process of finding another policy. I hope by the end of the month we’ll have a policy for our family…”

Cruz is a victim of a favorite Republican mantra: Make Congress follow the same laws it enacts for others. Prior to passage of the Affordable Care Act, the lawmakers and staff members were eligible for the same benefits employees of the federal government received. Now, however, lawmakers and some staff are required enroll in health plans available to other Americans under the law.

As a result, Cruz found himself in a dilemma shared by many constituents: In July 2015, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas said it would end its preferred provider organization (PPO) plans on the individual market at the end of the year and transition to health maintenance organization (HMO) plans…

Blue Cross Blue Shield added, “We’re sharing this information well in advance of the required notification date so that you have plenty of time to research the plan options that best suit your needs.”

Cruz was too busy telling everyone in America what was wrong with helping more folks have access to healthcare that he apparently didn’t get round to reading his mail and noticing what was actually happening to his coverage — instead of what he believed would happen.

Perception? Gap between seniors’ opinion of driving ability and performance in the real world

A new report shows that 85 percent of senior drivers rated their driving as “excellent” or “good” during a five-year period although 25 percent reported having a crash. No participants rated their driving as poor, and less than 1 percent rated their driving as fair — which points to a possible lack of awareness of safe driving ability.

The study…analyzed Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration data from 350 older adult drivers ages 65-91 with a mean age of 74. The drivers were asked about self-reported incidents and state-reported crashes during a five-year period. They also were asked to rate their own driving abilities at year five. The study found that self-rated driving ability had no relationship with a previous history of adverse driving outcomes, such as crashes, other than receiving recommendations from physicians or friends to stop or limit driving…

Driver license requirements for seniors vary by state. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety eight states and the District of Columbia require vision tests for seniors. Illinois is the only state that mandates a road test for those ages 75 and older. This means that all other states rely on seniors to self-regulate their driving…

“Testing visual acuity is not enough to predict crashes. The screenings that show true promise in determining whether or not a senior is able to drive safely are performance-based,” says Lesley Ross, author of the study. “Until that happens, we found that receiving a suggestion to stop or limit driving had the greatest impact on seniors self-rated driving abilities.

“Clearly, there needs to be more open discussion among older adults, their family and friends, as well as physicians. Driving is essential to maintaining independence and mobility for many older adults, and discussions on limiting driving should not be taken lightly. It is a complex issue with real implications for older adults and their families,” Ross says.

I’ve found my self doing what my father did. I sit back and look at reaction time, attention to surroundings, how much might my attention wander even driving alone. He slowed down. I’ve slowed down. He even stopped driving on interstate highways at some point in time. I haven’t done that, yet.

Still, even if I get cranky over it – I would go along with testing in addition to the vision testing currently required here in New Mexico for old geezers.