Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Hasty Generalizations

There is a very common fallacy called, "hasty generalization." Basically, it says it is illogical to assume something happens all the time, everywhere, just because you've seen it once, or a few times.

The fallacy is illustrated in this common joke.

An engineer, a scientist, and a mathematician were riding a train into Ireland. As they observed the passing vista, they saw a black sheep. The engineer commented, "Interesting, that the sheep in Ireland are black." The scientist corrected him, "Let's not generalize too hastily. At least one sheep in Ireland is black." The mathematician thoughtfully added, "No, at least one side of one sheep in Ireland is black."

We all generalize hastily without knowing that we are. But in some cases, the fallacy is rather obvious. Take the case of global warming. Physicist Freeman Dyson recently commented on generalizations, not only from regional warming, but also from inadequate computer models that do not represent the true dynamics of the planet.

Freeman Dyson Takes on the Climate Establishment

"Global Warming is Baloney"

Tennesee Burger King Signs, "Global Warming is Baloney."

Free speech in the world of contracts. Does a franchise have the right to free speech when it embarrasses the brand name?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

I went to sleep in America....

Recently, John Cusack wrote an article criticising the direction of the Obama administration. He quoted Constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley:
"Well it can't get any worse: extreme executive privilege arguments in court, withholding of abuse photos, adoptions of indefinite detentions without trial, restarting military commissions, and blocking any torture investigation. Welcome to Bush 2.0..."
That is a nice summary of decision after decision coming out of our current administration that has anyone who cares about the Constitution concerned, to say the least. Let's recap:

1. Sovereign immunity (April 09): The government can spy on you as much they want, as long as they don't tell the public what they got on you.

2. Secrecy law (May 09): If the government did anything illegal between 9/11/01 and 1/22/09, they don't have to tell you, or show anyone the pictures they took.

3. Indefinite preventative detentions (May 21 09): If the government thinks you're dangerous, they can lock you up. Without a trial. Forever.

Now we have the latest:

4. Proposal to allow guilty pleas in capital cases--without a trial. If the government wants to sentence you to death, they can torture you--excuse me, interrogate you intensely--until you confess, and execute you based on that confession.

One comment I read in response to Glen Greenwald's blog on this topic inspired the title to my own blog: "I went to bed in America and woke up in a soviet gulag."

I have one minor disagreement. I think we went to sleep in America, and none of us has woken up yet.