Argument of the Week: Health Care and Dying

It’s Monday, but its hard to imagine anyone topping this: “Nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care”. That’s Representative Rual Labrador.

This statement is baffling. I want to respond with a spluttering, “But of course people die if they can’t access health care!” It’s a new high watermark in “post-facts” discourse. I find myself wondering how a person, let alone a member of Congress, has a sequence of thoughts and arrives at health care and being alive have nothing to do with each other.

A large fraction of the internet has informed me that if people really wanted to live, they’d get a better job. Never mind that if everyone did that, there’d be no one to work those jobs; never mind that its simply not a realistic option for some people; never mind the inherent cruelty of those positions. Those people are at least being honest with me. If you are barista or work a cash register or lost your job because Wall Street gambled too dearly, your life is not worth saving! That barbaric cruelty looks damned upstanding for its honesty next to Representative Labrador’s statement.


I own a Labrador retriever so dumb we must persuade her not to eat goose droppings. It turns out, the people of Idaho sent a dumber Labrador to Congress.

Not the dumbest Labrador in America!

They have an opportunity to correct that mistake November 6th, 2018.

Also, here is a basket of Labrador puppies, not just because they are smarter than a Representative, but because I sense we are going to need them this week.


Argument of the Week: Twitter Twit Elect

Ladies and Gentlemen, the President Elect of the United States of America. Twitter ranting. Again.

The thing is. No. Just, no.

This argument is taking place so far down the rabbit hole to begin with that I can scarcely believe it. Remember, this is the President Elect, the guy who won the election. Saying that there were catastrophic levels of voter fraud. And saying that’s why we don’t need a recount. In the halcyon days of August 2016, I would have guessed that would win Argument of the Week by itself. But we’re not done.

On top of that, he is using a well-worn logical fallacy—appeal to ignorance. Appeal to ignorance is pointing to a lack of evidence to claim that something is true. Trump is furious with CNN because they have not proven to his satisfaction that voter fraud did not take place. Bear in mind, Trump is the one who advanced this claim without offering evidence or taking legal action. The burden of proof is on Donald Trump to prove his original claim, not on CNN (or anyone else) to definitively prove the converse. If that were all, I would concede that caution was in order saying that no fraud took place. But we’re still not done.

The thing is, CNN and others have provided ample evidence that there is little cause for concern. Both campaigns had poll watchers. NGOs from home and abroad have looked into it. Data analysts have found most of the irregularities consistent with demographics. Let’s be real here: it hurts Donny’s fee-fees that he lost the popular vote so he is clinging to a conspiracy theory.

If there is one thing I can say as I hand Trump his award it is this: At least he is giving us good examples of fallacies for the next four years.

Argument of the Week: He Went to Business School

From time to time—ideally weekly—I will highlight an especially bad argument I saw made by the press or political class. Recipients need not collect their award in person, but rather take a sabbatical from public life in general.

All my posts this week have been dedicated to The Donald and his ascent to high office. I’ve hardly mentioned Steve Bannon because, well, the rest of the internet is covering him quite thoroughly. And well they should! The former editor in chief of Brietbart represents everything going wrong on the right and will soon by the chief strategist for the White House. He is the architect of the “Alt-Right” movement, having seen that it would be profitable to run articles from both neo-Nazis an the KKK on his website and presided over the unholy matrimony of many white supremacist groups into one cesspool. For some reason, there is doubt as to whether or not that counts as being a white supremacist yourself. Or as Reince Priebus said:

The guy I know is a guy sitting in an office all day yesterday talking about hiring, talking about people,” Priebus said on the Today Show. “Here’s a guy who is Harvard Business School, he was a ten-year naval officer, London School of Economics, I believe. He is a guy who is very, very smart, very temperate.


This is, depending on your tastes, some parts false dichotomy and some parts non-sequitor. (Informal fallacies are, well, informal, after all.) You can go to Harvard and be a white supremacist—a cynical part of me thinks it might be an asset in the business world. You can be in our military and be a white supremacist, though the US Armed Forces have done a reasonable job tamping down on that for a long time. The London School of Economics does not throw you out for being a White Supremacist. Indeed, all three of these institutions used to keep black people out.

This is a dreadful argument. Not because it is wrong—though, yes, he is a white supremacist—but because it does not hold up. If you said that Obama was not a white supremacist because he too went to Harvard, your argument would be invalid. These things have nothing to do with one’s beliefs about white people.

So come on down, Mr. Priebus, and collect your award!