Ruth on the Rocks

A basic course in Disgraceful Argument covers this one in the first few weeks:

  1. I have received death threats from people who disagree with me;

  2. Therefore, I'm right; and, in addition:

  3. If you disagree with me, you're the kind of person who issues or encourages death threats.

Between naps, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dabbled in this sort of argument recently. Ed Whelan and Marc Levin have the quotes and comments.

Last Modified 2012-10-25 8:37 AM EDT

Annie Agonistes

Annie Proulx wrote on the Oscars for the UK's Guardian. Clearly, she was disappointed that Brokeback Mountain (based on her original story) lost out to Crash for Best Picture. But she was a totally good sport about it:

And rumour has it that Lions Gate inundated the academy voters with DVD copies of Trash - excuse me - Crash a few weeks before the ballot deadline.

It's somehow refreshing to know that even a critically-acclaimed professional author will occasionally write like a half-witty 14-year-old girl in a tearful snit because of a perceived snub at her middle school. ("I can't believe Smellily and Lamy - excuse me - Emily and Amy said that!") I strongly recommend you check out Shawn Macomber for further analysis.

Getting Pedantic with Pinkerton

James Pinkerton has an important and insightful article at Tech Central Station, part one of two, about the "crisis of process." Boring as that sounds, the article deserves to be shoved under the noses of the President, top executive-branch staff, and each and every Congresscritter. Couldn't hurt, anyway.

[P]roblems of process inside the federal government are threatening not only our national well-being, but also our national security. … [We] will remind conservatives and free-marketeers, who like to affect a nonchalant disdain of government - even when they are running the government - of the following reality: Nobody makes you run for elective office. But if you want to hold high office, then you have to take that office seriously. If you are in the government, you have to govern. And that means, either make the existing system work, or else bring forth a better system. What you can't do is pretend that it's someone else's problem. The buck stops with you.
Excellent point. The devil's in the details, however. For example, I'll quibble with the following:
Six months after Katrina, nobody will argue that FEMA handled the storm well. The only question is: who, what, and who else is to blame?

Well, actually someone does argue that FEMA did a pretty good job. Here's an excerpt from Popular Mechanics' take on it:

[T]he response to Hurricane Katrina was by far the largest--and fastest-rescue effort in U.S. history, with nearly 100,000 emergency personnel arriving on the scene within three days of the storm's landfall. … While the press focused on FEMA's shortcomings, this broad array of local, state and national responders pulled off an extraordinary success--especially given the huge area devastated by the storm. Computer simulations of a Katrina-strength hurricane had estimated a worst-case-scenario death toll of more than 60,000 people in Louisiana. The actual number was 1077 in that state.

While it's easy to imagine that FEMA could have handled things better (and PM mentions "Bumbling by top disaster-management officials"—it's not as if they have their heads under a basket), painting the problem as a "process" catastrophe to be laid solely at FEMA's door doesn't work for me.

Similarly, when Pinkerton claims:

… Uncle Sam can't actually run the schools, but the feds can set in place a system of carrots and sticks to make sure that kids get the education they need—and America gets the competitive workforce it needs.
… the skeptic in me says: where's the evidence that the feds can actually do that? (As opposed to what they claim they can do, or what they would like to be perceived as doing?) Where's the evidence that they won't simply be pushing on one end of a long string, in a vain attempt to get the other end to move? It doesn't exist, I fear.

Pinkerton points to a long string of Presidential education promises, going back decades. He points out the dismal lack of results. He fails, however, to draw the straightforward conclusion. I don't get it.

But check out the article. Lots of good points.