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Location: Austin, Texas, United States

I'm a software engineer / partner working for a young company in Austin, Texas, USA. I spend most of my free time hanging out with friends and family, eating out, and partying in the Warehouse District. I should spend more time working on my house....

Monday, January 16, 2006

False analogies matter...

In a recent editorial Austin Bay laments the current state of rhetoric:

Take the Rev. Pat Robertson as a recent example of "failure to reflect." When Robertson said that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's tragic stroke might be a divine rebuke for "dividing God's land," a wave of deserved scorn and ridicule swamped the silly man. The White House and The New York Times blasted Robertson, a right-left political condemnation of a right-wing ayatollah.

Idiocy isn't illegal, nor is lying— at least, not if one lies in U.S. Senate hearings. U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy provides the recent example of hot, emotion-stoking rhetoric untethered by truth. On opening day of Judge Samuel Alito's Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Kennedy opened up with a faith-based fire Robertson might envy: "Judge Alito has not written one single opinion on the merits in favor of a person of color alleging racial discrimination on the job. In 15 years, not one."

Kennedy's statement is completely false. Alito found for plantiffs alleging racial discrimination on the job in several cases (for example, Zubi v. AT&T Corp. and Goosby v. Johnson & Johnson Medical). Kennedy, possibly because of his status as a left-wing political ayatollah, has avoided Robertson's mass condemnation. His snake dance and sanctimony is as poisonous as Robertson's, however, and perhaps more venomous, since his fib slanders Judge Alito.

This is just stupid. These two mistakes are not even remotely ananlogous. I sent the following letter to the Statesman that says everything I want to say on the matter. Hopefully they will print it:

Austin Bay (Words matter - as Robertson and Kennedy should know) argues that Pat Robertson and Sen. Ted Kennedy made similar mistake in recent comments. Robertson stated, idiotically, that Israeli Prime Minister Sharon's tragic stroke might be a divine rebuke for "dividing God's land". Kennedy stated, incorrectly, that Judge Alito had never found for plaintiffs alleging racial discrimination. These are NOT similar mistakes. Bay, by suggesting they are, does a huge disservice to his readers.

Robertson made a heartless statement that presumed to know the mind of God. Kennedy's statement, even if intentionally incorrect, was a factual mistake easily refuted by any of the other Senators in the hearing or Judge Alito. It is not in the same ballpark as Robertson’s statement.

Bay complains, "“In contemporary politics, it seems flame raises more money than fact, and thus fund-raising trumps truth, decency and common sense."” His solution might begin at the mirror.
I also sent the letter above to Mr. Bay himself. I wonder if he will respond.


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