Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Blogging Tories Long Takes: May 30, 2006.

Oh, man, there is just way too much chewy goodness over at the BTs for "Short Takes" this morning so we're going to take our time. Get a coffee, settle in.

First, there's the incomparable idiocy of Dr. Roy, who refuses to acknowledge the distinction between accepting gifts against which the Senate ethics manual merely "warns" in case there's a perceived conflict, and the massive culture of corruption inside the Republican Party and its supporters that has numerous members under investigation, being indicted and now, finally, being sent to prison for lengthy stretches. Sure, no difference there to speak of. I'm guessing you don't do "nuance," am I right, Doc?

[EVER SO TIMELY UPDATE: Oh, man ... Dr Roy versus TPM. The word "smackdown" doesn't even begin to describe this, does it?]


Next, we have CPC Pundit Stephen Taylor, demonstrating that he knows how to spell certain logical fallacies without really understanding what they mean. Apparently, in Stephen's world, any cross-border comparison now represents a new logical fallacy that he has named reductio ad americanum and which, if I read him correctly, is being used to simply slam the door on meaningful debate.

I can see his point. I can't imagine the value in any further discussion once someone has whipped out a vicious, anti-American, comparative smackdown such as, "Policy planners are looking at American-style Senate elections, where voters would cast ballots for certain senators on one six-year cycle, and other senators on a second six-year cycle." I mean, holy fuck! Using the same voting cycle as the Americans? Are we insane? God in Heaven, how will we ever protect the children?

I'm amused by the fact that, in his lengthy list of alleged logical absurdities, Taylor carefully avoided any example related to, say, statistics on handgun-related deaths. Are we still allowed to bring that up, Stephen? I mean, if we're talking gun control, you'd think that might be a useful set of facts to bring to the table. Can we still talk about that without being chastised by you, Stephen? Huh? Can we, can we, can we?

(Is it worth pointing out that both Andrew and Damian think Stephen is making a terrific point? I'm pretty sure nothing more need be said there.)

[UPDATE: By the way, Stephen, while we're on the subject of logical fallacies, you ought to check out this one: "Hasty generalization." It has to do with drawing sweeping conclusions from an insufficient number of samples. Sound familiar?]

Finally, we learn from Uncommon Truths that "You're more likely to die walking around in Detroit than in Iraq." Why, sure, and if a Republican congressman says it at NewsMax.com, it must be true.

Ignore, of course, that Rep. Steve King (R - Delusional Fantasyland) gets to cherry pick the most violent cities in the U.S. for his comparison. Ignore that this comparison involves pitting those most violent American cities against the country of Iraq as a whole which would, of course, include large areas of relatively peaceful countryside that would skew the values drastically. (Are we allowed to ask what those figures would look like if Detroit was compared specifically against, say, Baghdad? Or Fallujah? I'm betting things would be noticeably different.)

But perhaps the funniest observation is that the claim refers specifically to "civilian deaths." And why just civilians? Because if you make the same calculation for just American troops in Iraq, you could be generous and point out that members of the American military are being killed at a rate of about 60 per month these days. If you assume 135,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, that works out to be about 44 deaths per 100,000 troops. Per month. Not annualized. Not per year. Per month. In short, the comparative death rate of the American military in Iraq is some twelve times as high as that of civilians in the most violent American city.

And remember, these are not helpless civilians we're talking about in Iraq. These are members of the most powerful military fighting machine on the planet, with automatic weapons, flak jackets, body armour and wicked pissah Humvees and everything else, who will waste you for just looking at them the wrong way. And they're still being killed at a rate twelve times as high as civilians in Washington, D.C.. But, hey ... let's not let those unfortunate numbers get in the way of a great talking point. That would be so ... depressing.

I think we're done here. Time for coffee.

AFTERSNARK: There's just so much hideous dishonesty associated with that whole "Iraq/D.C. death rate" comparison, and it's not hard to find. Take, for instance, this delightful example of bogus statistics from back in 2004:

The average monthly death toll for US soldiers in Iraq is 55.6 deaths per month while the average reported murders per month in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York City are 48.7, 51.9 and 49.3 deaths per month. The murder statistics in the US cities are for hostile deaths only — whereas the death toll in Iraq includes both hostile and accidental deaths. This makes our own murder rates in LA, Chicago and NYC even more appalling. Yet there is not an equivalent amount of reporting or hand wringing.

And when you read the above carefully, what's missing? Why, yes, the admission that the population of, say, New York is considerably larger than the population of American troops in Iraq. Calculating the actual, honest comparative values on a per capita basis is left as an exercise for the reader.


Anonymous said...

Where does that GOP Rep. come up with "an annualized Iraqi civilian death rate of 27.51 per 100,000?" That sounds awfully low.

All it says is that he got it "using Pentagon statistics cross-checked with independent research." What does that even mean? Without more information, it just seems like he's pulling that number of of thin air.

MgS said...

Well, Mr. Taylor's declaration that any comparison with the USA is "reductio ad americanum" (and apparently thus becomes an invalid argument) renders much of the CPC platform logically invalid.

CC said...


Not quite. It appears that Taylor's spanking new fallacy applies only to unfavourable comparisons. One is apparently still able to compare to the U.S. if that comparison is to one's benefit.

I'm pretty sure there's a name for that logical absurdity as well.

MgS said...

How silly of me to overlook that detail - how could anyone possibly apply that logic to CPC dogma?

Robert said...

Where does that GOP Rep. come up with "an annualized Iraqi civilian death rate of 27.51 per 100,000?" That sounds awfully low.

Maybe by leaving out Iraqis accidentally killed by coalition forces?