Jim B: “When Hannity refers to the president as Barrack Hussein Obama his emphasis on the Hussein is clearly a dig at his Muslim middle name, although he can defend his choice by saying that it is just a fact that it is his middle name. We cherry-pick our facts and this choice is clearly gratuitous. Likewise when you highlight a poster’s pitiful education, as you did yesterday — Facebook identifies him as having “studied at Central New Mexico Community College” — you are cherry-picking your facts and committing an ad-hominem error. Admittedly his point is very, very poorly argued, but you can do better than to attack his education as your refutation. Because you are better than Hannity.”
☞ I did hesitate before including that. Maybe I made the wrong call. But after reading his comment on Facebook, I was curious to see who Jared was and so clicked his name. The only thing listed was what I quoted. So technically, I wasn’t cherry-picking; I was taking the whole bowl. And I didn’t intend “to attack his education as [my] refutation.” Basically — and this was my point — I had no refutation. How do you argue with people who simply dismiss anything that their thought leaders — Rush Limbaugh, say, or James Inhofe — have not approved?
(James Inhofe — selected by the Republicans to chair the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee — who recently brought a snowball onto the Senate floor to mock the scientific consensus on climate change.)
It’s no small question. If America — or humanity generally — can’t act rationally in its own long-term interest, what do we have to look forward to?
I often think back to 1974, after the second OPEC oil shock, and the oppoortunity I had to interview then Treasury Secretary Bill Simon. Should we not begin adding a dime a gallon to the gasoline tax each year — using all those billions to lower the income tax — thus discouraging the thing we wanted to discourage (oil imports) and encouraging the things we wanted to encourage: work, saving, and fuel efficiency?
Gas would have risen to the same $5 it hit recently, but the cost of driving a mile would have stayed modest as fuel efficiency soared; and all those trillions of dollars over the years would have stayed in American coffers rather than flowing to our friends abroad.
The Secretary — who was considered a bit of a terror (and who certainly scared me) — gave a long glower, as if trying to figure out how to deal with such a moronic question — and said, “Yes, of course we should! Everybody knows that. But we could never do it politically.”
Just one enormous example of a simple, obvious policy change that would have made us far more prosperous today, and very likely safer, with a much stronger balance sheet.
Forty years from now, will we be saying the same of our failure to address climate change? Or our failure to shift modestly from private consumption (bigger homes, bigger yachts) to public consumption (infrastructure revitalization)?
MERCHANTS OF DOUBT
One reason we often fail to make rational policy decisions is that talented people are well paid to mislead the public.
To wit, from eSkeptic:
. . . A new documentary film opens this weekend titled Merchants of Doubt, about the nature of pseudo-skepticism and climate denial and the link to the tobacco industry, featuring Skeptic publisher Michael Shermer and magician and skeptic Jamy Ian Swiss, among others. In addition to the many climate deniers and their industrial lobbyists featured and interviewed in the film, Jamy Ian Swiss plays a key role in demonstrating, through card magic, how easy it is to be deceived and how, through his principle “once revealed, never concealed,” the exposure of the tricks employed by industrial lobbyists to deny science means that they cannot use them again (just like knowing the secret behind a magic trick makes it hard to be fooled again). Forewarned is forearmed. Michael Shermer is featured as a one-time climate skeptic, who flipped his position (famously in the pages of Scientific American) after reading the primary scientific literature on the subject. . . .
We need to find ways to reach our friends like Jared. I’d be the first to admit that insulting his educational credentials is no way to do it. What is?
All suggestions welcome.
Quote of the Day
We've forgotten all the sacrifices that the people who've gone before us made to give us this wonderful life that we have. We accept it; we take it for granted; we think it's our birthright. The facts are, it's precious, it's fragile -- it can disappear.~Ross Perot, 1988
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