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Throw out the trash

One way to prepare for a new year is to discard useless items that have been accumulating and encumbering us. By way of assisting you, I offer some examples that might help you to clean house. 

1. Barack Obama is a native-born citizen of the United States and thus qualified for the presidency. This fact is amply supported. If you still entertain a contrary opinion, then you have been gulled by cranks or misled by dishonest persons.

2. Basic evolutionary theory, with some quibbling over details, has widespread acceptance in the scientific community. So do the theory of relativity, the theory of gravitation, and the theory of the heliocentric solar system. If you have your children taught otherwise, you are curtailing their ability to operate in the world as informed adults.

3. Same with global warming. On this one, you have potential to do even more serious harm to your children.

4. The Civil War, whose 150th anniversary is approaching, was fought over the slavery issue. Apologists for the Confederacy continue to insist that the war was fought over states’ rights. In fact, slavery was the only states’ right that mattered to the secessionists.* All you have to do is read what the secessionists themselves said. By all means find noble and honorable elements in antebellum Southern culture, but don’t deny the ugly fact.

5. Gay people and illegal immigrants will not be magically made to go away. It’s time you accepted the former as fellow human beings with the same civil rights as everyone else. It’s time to recognize the latter as inextricably bound up in our economy and find a way to regularize their status in this country.

This should give any number of people an opportunity to unclutter their minds as 2011 approaches, but I am open to other suggestions as well.


*Well, that and the fear that an increase in the number of free states would eliminate the disproportionate representation slave states exercised in Congress through the odious three-fifths clause.


Posted by John McIntyre at 2:01 PM | | Comments (26)



Good luck with this. :-)

Also, shouldn't your Captcha in particular be real words? Frosals face? Huh?

#1 is a non sequitur. Whether or not Obama is qualified to be president has nothing to do with his U. S. citizenship.
#2 & #3 operate on the mistaken notion that a scientific theory--even a widely accepted one--is fact. It is not, by definition, fact.
#4 is a gross generalization that over-simplifies an extremely complex social and political situation whose roots went all the way back to the formation of the Union.
#5 states the obvious to the point of being nonsense.

I begin to wonder whether My Nonsense read the post.

#1. If Mr. Obama is thirty-five years of age or older, a natural-born citizen, and fourteen or more years resident in the United States, then the Constitution says that he has met the qualifications for the presidency.

#2. I did not confuse scientific consensus with fact. I pointed out that people who deny the scientific consensus are hampered in functioning in the world, with potentially serious consequences.

#3. Not all that complex. Slavery was the issue on which the union of the former colonies nearly failed, and the three-fifths clause was the fatal compromised that induced the Southern states to join. Slavery was at the bottom of the secession crises that led up to the war, and it was central in the secession declarations and speeches of the seceeding states. Denying this is not as shameful as denying the Holocaust, but it isn't praiseworthy, either.

#5. I pcerceive that My Nonsense is new to the Internet. Perhaps someone could direct him to the many sites at which these propositions are far from accepted as obvious.

#1: As far as the U.S. Constitution is concerned, Obama is qualified. Anything else is a matter of opinion. The circumstances of his birth are not.

#2 and #3: Theories, in science, describe natural phenomena as supported by evidence. There are no immutable "facts" in science. Gravity, like evolution, is a widely accepted theory, not a fact. You may disprove it at any time by providing contradictory evidence. Best of luck.

#4: Yes, slavery was very complex, as was the war fought to end it. Your point?

#5: Glad we can all agree on something. Let's stop blaming the gay people and immigrants for society's ills then, shall we?

#3 Arguing from scientific consensus is arguing from authority and no argument at all. Scientific consensus once also concluded that black people are inferior to whites, that ulcers were not caused by a virus, and that cleanliness had nothing to do with the high rate of infections in hospitals.

A refusal to argue the merits of a theory, to defend it with facts, to explain it to those who are genuinely curious, is a clear sign that there are flaws in the theory.

One only needs to look at the various conspiracy theories, such as the moon landing hoax, the 9/11 is an inside job and the Kennedy assassination. In each case, there were authorities who stood up and pointed out weaknesses and flaws in the arguments. It doesn't stop those nutters from advocating them, but it does allow for people of good will to reach the truth.

With the global warmists, I've seen suppression of counterarguments, arguing from authority, goalpost shifting (It's global warming! It's climate change! No, it's global cooling!) and an outright confession from one of the leaders of the recent climate conference that the global warming argument is being used to redistribute wealth from wealthy countries (which is a tenant of socialism).

There are points about your other conditions worth arguing, but this was the most egregious.

I would have read this blog entry sooner, but I was preoccupied with stories about stranded airline passengers and frost warnings in Hong Kong. :-)

One does not need to look far to find any number of discredited ideas that were once advocated in the name of "science." Such notions have long since been refuted by evidence. Falsifiability is a tenet of any scientific theory.

One needs to look a bit harder to find evidence to refute evolution or climate change, or heliocentrism, or gravitation. The facts in support of these theories are not in short supply, nor are they particularly difficult to find.

The "controversies" surrounding evolution and climate change are not motivated by people of good will seeking the truth. Rather they are politically motivated assaults against reason. I believe that was the point of the original missive.

Oh, FFS. The theory of evolution has been tested and argued for well over a century and has proved remarkably robust.

The same is true of the spherical-Earth theory, but the Flat Earth Society still exists.

Saying "it's just a theory, it's not a fact" is confusing the folk meaning of "theory" (or "best guess") with the scientific meaning of the word. I call this line of attack "Argumentum ad homonym".

LOL at "ad homonym." Beautifully recursive!

The verbal chicanery about "theory" should be the first clue that the opposition is not so much interested in truth as it is obfuscation.

Gee golly, Mr. McIntyre, I think it's wonderful that your readership apparently includes a hefty proportion of philosophers of science who can set us all straight about those annoying theories-posing-as-facts. As for gravity, try my friend Bob Phillips' formulation: "Gravity; it's not just a good idea, it's the LAW!"

Mr. McIntyre, I fear that instead of discarding the trash you have imported it.

Elizabeth: ReCaptcha words come from scanned documents, but the documents aren't always in English. My ReCaptcha says "Joan Exthlen". If you have trouble, you can always hit the double arrows icon next to the entry box to get a new Captcha.

Is a statement factual?
Is a statement objective?
Is a statement truthful?
Is a statement accurate?
Is a statement ethical?
Is a statement logical?

Some would have you believe that it's possible to conflate these rhetorical characteristics into a singularity and that they might not be mutually exclusive.

And they would be wrong.

"I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored, the nearer the Union will be 'the Union as it was.' If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union."
-- from Lincoln's letter of August 22, 1862 in response to an editorial by Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune which had urged complete abolition.

Gary Kirchherr, I hope you realize that "stories about stranded airline passengers and frost warnings in Hong Kong" are consistent with the climate changes one can expect in a warming globe.

Snow requires moisture in the atmosphere. Wide-ranging heavy snowfall requires abundant moisture in the atmosphere. Warmer temperatures in the regions that pump moisture into storm systems lead to more abundant moisture in the atmosphere.

Similarly, adding heat to Earth's climate changes the large-scale cycles that drive weather systems. Changes in those cycles can sometimes cause cold fronts to dip farther south in one region or another. In fact, changes in those cycles could cause one region to become permanently cooler than it once was.

But the frost in Hong Kong is more than balanced by the consistently warmer weather elsewhere. Hong Kong was cooler than normal on that one day, but, overall, Earth's climate is still warmer.

An exquisitely careful, lawyerly statement for public consumption, the kind of thing that Lincoln excelled at, Chief Throckmorton Ibebe. You realize that Lincoln had discussed empancipation with his Cabinet in July 1862 and that he kept the document in his desk until the Union victory at Antietam in September 1862 provided an occasion for proclaiming it.

The facts remain that the South seceded over slavery. Lincoln came to understand that restoring the Union meant ending slavery.

Chief Throckmorton, there would have been no war if the South had not seceded, and the South would not have seceded had they not feared that slavery would be abolished.

Whether Lincoln considered the Union more dear than abolition is irrelevant. The South held slavery more dear than Union, and seceded because of that belief. And Lincoln did ultimately free the slaves — albeit only in the states and territories under rebellion. (Slaves in New Orleans, for example, remained enslaved.)

"We, therefore, the People of South Carolina, by our delegates in Convention assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, have solemnly declared that the Union heretofore existing between this State and the other States of North America, is dissolved, and that the State of South Carolina has resumed her position among the nations of the world, as a separate and independent State; with full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent States may of right do."
--from "Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union"
December 24 1860

Since Mr. Cornpone calls attention to that interesting document, let me also quote from it:

We affirm that these ends, for which this Government was instituted, have been defeated, and the government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding states. Those states have assumed the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the states and recognized by the constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted the open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other states. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes, and those who remain have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.

For twenty-five years this agitation has been steadily increasing, until it has now secured to its aid the power of the common government. Observing the forms of the constitution, a sectional party has found within that article establishing the executive department the means of subverting the constitution itself. A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the states north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common government, because he has declared that that "government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free," and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.

"whose (Lincoln's) opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery..."

Seems the South Carolingians prejudged Lincoln. As Chief Throckmorton Ibebe points out, his letter to Greeley clearly asserts two years later, he had no political agenda regarding slavery one way or the other and would have even left the issue alone had the union stayed intact.

The sessechs eagerly wanted the federal government off their backs--because of slavery, trade, border issues, taxation, tender, and a dozen other issues--just as the colonists wanted England off theirs (for the laundry list of grievances spelled out in the Declaration of Independence).

Given another generation or two and increased trade and industrialization in the South would have obviated the need for slavery anyway.

It was a key issue. It was not THE issue.
Emancipation was an economic weapon Lincoln used as skillfully as he used the Blockade.


Interesting that today in 2010, one of the key issues between Democrats and Republicans continues to be the authority of the federal government to intervene in state fiscal, regulatory, and legislative matters, Healthcare Reform is one of the main ones dividing us politically--but it is not the only one.

Cliff Tyllick, it's come down to this: Is the winter warmer than usual? Global warming. Is the weather colder and snowier than usual? Global warming.

I marvel both at global warmists' ability to frame a heads-I-win, tails-you-lose argument, and at the media's unabashed willingness to buy into it.

Then I must be a media dupe, because Mr. Tyllick's explanation makes sense to me. Perhaps it's because of the difficulty I have in envisioning a phenomenon that acts uniformly over the entire globe.

You know, they want to tell us that because of the earth's tilt as it revolves around the sun, it can be summer and winter on Earth AT THE SAME TIME.

Damned Copernican scum.

All things being equal and, granted, it's happening, where is the data on whether global climate change might in fact be a GOOD thing? Who says the world's climate before the modern industrial age was so idyllic? Perhaps more available moisture, higher men temperatures, and shifts in the atmosphere might benefit humans. What if they could grow so in the Sahara? (And ironically, more tropical weather might act as a natural break on climate extremes.). Why is change universally and necessarily perceived as an evil? According to Darwin, the species who survive and thrive aren't the strongest or most prolific--they're the most adaptable.

Sorry, that first post was ragged...
All things being equal and, granted, it's happening, where is the data on whether global climate change might in fact be a GOOD thing? Who says the world's climate before the modern industrial age was so idyllic? Perhaps more available moisture, higher mean temperatures, and shifts in the atmosphere might benefit humans. What if they could grow soy in the Sahara? (And ironically, more tropical weather might act as a natural break on climate extremes.). Why is change universally and necessarily perceived as an evil? According to Darwin, the species who survive and thrive aren't the strongest or most prolific--they're the most adaptable.

Gregg --

I'm currently reading a book scheduled for March 15 publication, Deep Future by Curt Stager, that addresses exactly that question in more depth than I've seen elsewhere in popular literature. Short answer -- yes, some regions probably will benefit from global climate change, but the overall picture is extremely complex. I'd suggest you (and anyone else genuinely interested in the issue) give it a look when it appears.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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