Patterico's Pontifications


I Don’t Want to Hear Anything More About How Stupid Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann or Any Other Republican Woman Is…

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 8:37 pm

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.  Or by Twitter @AaronWorthing.]

At least those women know what year it is:

Read the whole thing.

[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]

The New York Times Tries to Prove the Butterfield Fallacy True

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 11:27 am

The New York Times Tries to Prove the Butterfield Fallacy True

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.  Or by Twitter @AaronWorthing.]

So I was checking out various links and some site—I forgot which one—linked to this New York Times article, entitled “Steady Decline in Major Crime Baffles Experts” and I clicked on the link half-chucking to myself expecting the latest rending of the Butterfield Fallacy.  Fans of James Taranto’s excellent Best of the Web column have seen him literally pick on Fox Butterfield for years by naming the fallacy after him, as follows:

The classic example is: Prison populations continue to rise, despite a declining crime rate. The implication is that lower crime is evidence that tough punishment or, in this case, aggressive police work, is needless, when a more logical interpretation is that it is evidence of its effectiveness.

There may well be a good argument that the costs of these policies–to the taxpayers, to innocent people who are inconvenienced, even to the guilty–are not worth the benefits to society. But it takes a weird ideological predisposition to assume that the benefits are an argument against the policies.

Thus, I half-expected to see version 1,001 of that meme, get a chuckle and maybe even send it to the Wall Street Journal tipline for Taranto as I clicked on the link.  What I actually saw, however, was a little different.  First was a challenge to the belief that crime is driven by economics:

The number of violent crimes in the United States dropped significantly last year, to what appeared to be the lowest rate in nearly 40 years, a development that was considered puzzling partly because it ran counter to the prevailing expectation that crime would increase during a recession.

And it goes on a bit covering that, but then as advertised they got to the Butterfield Fallacy:

Nationally, the drop in violent crime not only calls into question the theory that crime rates are closely correlated with economic hardship, but another argument as well, said Frank E. Zimring, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

As the percentage of people behind bars has decreased in the past few years, violent crime rates have fallen as well. For those who believed that higher incarceration rates inevitably led to less crime, “this would also be the last time to expect a crime decline,” he said.

But there are several interesting things about that.  First it is completely fallacious to pretend that very much can be known for a fact when it comes to sociology.  Because of the moral and ethical limitations on human experimentation, it is virtually impossible to achieve anything like a “controlled experiment” in this context.  There are in fact a large number of factors to consider.  For instance, as noted in the article, truthfully the crime rate in reality only reflects the rate of reported crime.  If the actual crime rate remains the same, but less crime is reported, then people can claim with a straight face that crime has been reduced.  And other factors can intrude.  For instance, the article traces these declines in the crime rate back between one and three years.  Well, I can think of one event that conservatives asserted would reduce crime that occurred about a year ago, and I can think of another that occurred three years ago.  And that is only one of many factors I could imagine, which might be partly responsible for this trend.

But truthfully, because we cannot control for all potential factors—and given the complexity of human personality, it is hard to even identify all potential factors.  One can only guess why a thing like this occurs.  And I think Taranto understood that, since he said things that like the reduction of crime “is evidence of [a policy of increased incarceration’s] effectiveness.”  He didn’t assert it proved his theory correct, only that it provided some evidence of it.  But isn’t this interesting that the only time I can recall where the New York Times even takes notice of the theory that higher incarceration rates lead to reduced crime is the moment they attempt to rebut it?  Indeed, this instance of reduced crime rates and reduced prison populations would actually appear to be an aberration from prior trends–prior trends that the New York Times tried to minimize by inventing the Butterfield Fallacy in the first place.

[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]

Accident or Assassination Attempt?

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 7:12 am

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.  Or by Twitter @AaronWorthing.]

When President Amadanutjob Ahmadinejad of Iran was visiting a refinery there was an explosion:

An explosion blamed on a gas leak struck a newly inaugurated section of an oil refinery Tuesday just before President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke at the facility’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, state media reported.

At least one person was killed and up to 25 were injured by the explosion in Abadan in Iran’s oil-rich southwest, according to accounts by domestic Iranian news agencies. One Abadan resident quoted by the Associated Press said he saw rescue vehicles rushing to the site.

The incident did not disrupt Ahmadinejad’s speech, which included fairly typical denunciations of U.S. relations with Middle East autocrats and the course of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, according to news agencies.

Officials quickly insisted that blast was the result of an industrial accident and not an act of sabotage. Iran’s industrial sector has long been riddled with deadly accidents, from train and plane crashes to troubles at petrochemical facilities.

According to the semi-official Mehr news agency, the explosion and fire were caused by a gas leak, which poisoned oil workers.

Which raises two questions in response.  First, was it really an accident?  Second, does Ahmadinejad really think it was an accident?  (And the answer to both questions could easily be yes or no, independent of each other.)

And I didn’t bother to report it at the time, but after having many of his allies accused of sorcery and consorting with jinn, a.k.a. a genie…

Ahmadinejad was declared to be under a spell:

The People vs. Andrew Breitbart

Filed under: General — Stranahan @ 5:29 am

[Guest post by Lee Stranahan]

I love this scene. I love this movie, too. Watch…

I believe in the First Amendment. Let me go further. I love the First Amendment – that scene makes tears well up in my eyes. For me, it started with comedy.

I was a comedy nerd as long as I can remember. When I was around eleven years old, every week after church, I’d walk across the grass field to shopping center where the Friendly’s restaurant was. There was also a drug store there and they had a one of those rotating carousels of paperback books and one of them was a book standup comedy routines.

I wanted that book for weeks. I’d read a little bit of it in the store. It was just transcriptions of routines by comics like Woody Allen and Gabriel Kaplan, when they did stand-up. This was in the mid-1970s, before Netflix and Comedy Central and HBO and cable television. Access to stand-up comedy for an 11 year old was tricky. Clubs were out. It was LP records and books.

Eventually, I got the book and it also featured Lenny Bruce. And so I was on the path of First Amendment, via Dirty Lenny.

I bought Lenny Bruce’s albums, which are so-so funny but I knew there was some kind of brilliant mind there. I read anything I could find about Lenny – sometimes at the library but often poring through the used books and magazines at Johnson’s Bookstore in downtown Springfield, Mass. I got a VHS copy of Lenny on stage close to the end of his life, reading from his legal briefs on stage.

From Lenny, I moved on to learn about other comedy heroes who fought censorship every step of the way – from George Carlin to Richard Pryor to Howard Stern to Bill Hicks. Later, I moved to an interest in other censored artists, mostly photographers like Mapplethorpe or magazines like On Our Backs. This is a consistent position of mine for decades; regardless of subject matter…I oppose censorship of all kinds; by the state, by lawsuit, by bullying.

And that winding road brought me to Andrew Breitbart. Here’s the thing about the people being censored – they often have a small but loyal group of fans but a wide range of detractors. And that’s certainly Andrew.

I get accused of defending Andrew because I work with him. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s my chosen destiny to be friends with the modern day First Amendment hero. And make no mistake, the establishment wants to shut him up. Lenny Bruce found fewer and fewer clubs he could play in and there’s a similar campaign by the left to cut off Breitbart’s outlets.

Shirley Sherrod’s lawyers say some pretty stupid stuff in their latest case pleading, but it’s pretty outrageous for them disrespect our Constitution as they do when they claim that Breitbart’s First Amendment rights aren’t at stake here. Sherrod’s sharks say…

Plaintiff can only presume that the heightened and inflamed rhetoric of their “Summary of Additional Facts” is the start of what will be Defendants’ larger, self-serving attempt to cloak themselves as defenders of the First Amendment. But far from aiming to quash Defendants’ political speech on the broad range of political topics addressed in Defendants’ Summary of Additional Facts, the relief Mrs. Sherrod seeks in her Complaint is specific, circumscribed, and limited to the specific defamatory falsehoods that Defendants published about her individually which are the subject of the tort claims alleged in the Complaint.

They are claiming that they aren’t trying to take away Andrew Breitbart’s right to talk about ALL political topics – just the specific stuff about their client.

Guess what? That’s what almost ALL defamation suits do. NYT v. Sullivan wasn’t trying to shut down the Grey Lady’s entire Op-Ed page; just the advertisement that alluded to Sullivan. Jerry Farwell’s lawsuit against Larry Flynt wasn’t trying to stop the public of Beaver Hunt; it was ‘specific, circumscribed and limited to’ the stuff that Flynt published about Falwell.

So, yep – Andrew Breitbart is likely cloaking himself in the First Amendment. And it’s on his side.

Shirley Sherrod was a public official. She was a government appointee in charge of over one hundred people and millions of dollars. Whether or not she was a public figure is irrelevant, by the way. She was a public official, without question, and that status is what’s important, not the ‘public figure’ standard that expanded on the Sullivan ruling a decade later.

You want to hear some sweet poetry? These quotes are from the New York Times v. Sullivan opinion by Justice Brennan.

Thus, we consider this case against the background of a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.

The present advertisement, as an expression of grievance and protest on one of the major public issues of our time, would seem clearly to qualify for the constitutional protection. The question is whether it forfeits that protection by the falsity of some of its factual statements and by its alleged defamation of respondent.

Erroneous statement is inevitable in free debate, and that it must be protected if the freedoms of expression are to have the "breathing space" that they "need

That’s our Law. It’s wonderful, It’s important because it allows us breathing space for robust debate and recognizes human fallibility. It allows us to discuss the great issues of our time without worrying that we’re under the constant threat of some government official suing us when we make a mistake or publish something about them that they don’t like.

You’re free to think whatever you want to think about Andrew Breitbart and Shirley Sherrod – but don’t support her lawsuit, which strikes at the very heart of your own freedom to think, speak and criticize the government.

– Lee Stranahan

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