Fallacy of Equivocation

The fallacy of equivocation is where you use a word with multiple meanings such that one meaning applies to one part of an argument and another meaning applies in another part of the argument, but it’s treated as though the meaning is the same.  For example: “Philosophy helps you argue better, but do we really need to encourage people to argue? There’s enough hostility in this world.” Here “argue” is used in two different senses.  In the first, it’s used to mean to present a collected series of statements that support a conclusion.  In the second, it means to disagree with someone in a hostile manner.  Monty Python made a comedy sketch out of that difference:

Another form is to use a word with one meaning while expecting others to apply a different meaning.  Congresswoman Ocasio Cortez used just that form with her recent description of detention centers used to hold people caught illegally crossing our borders until their cases could be adjudicated “concentration camps.”

When you hear the word “concentration camps” what’s the image that comes to mind?  Buchenwald and Auschwitz?  Yeah, me too.  I would also include Manzanar, Topaz et al as well.

What we have at our borders, however, bears as much resemblance to those places as a friendly Golden Retriever bears to a rabid Timber Wolf.

We have certain facilities where folk who have been caught breaking our immigration laws are held.  You might argue that our immigration law should be changed.  In fact, I’d agree with that proposition.  Personally, I could wish for a way to reliably identify folk who believe wholeheartedly in our Founding ideals (which, sadly, our founding practices often fell short of) so we could open the doors wide to them while being much more restrictive on people who don’t. (We can absorb some but too many, too fast, and we end up with an electorate actively opposed to those founding ideals–and we already have too much of the home-grown variety of that.)  But until such time as the law is changed, it remains the law of the land.

What we do not have are people are rounded up strictly on the basis of their ethnicity.  We’re not requiring all persons of certain ancestry to report to “relocation centers.” We are not sending out squads with carte blanch to round up any such folk hiding in folks’ attics.  We are not imposing brutal labor requirements on them while feeding them a pittance.  And we certainly aren’t shoving people wholesale into “showers” where the only “shower” is lethal gas.

We are instead enforcing our laws, as humanely as is practically possible given the realities of circumstances.  The conditions are far better than many of our servicemen and women live in.  And they’re certainly far better than the people in them subjected themselves to in order to illegally cross our border.

Frankly, if I were fleeing an oppressive regime that directly threatened me and mine (after all, “seeking asylum” is a frequent claim–although why they didn’t present themselves at a point of entry and make that claim rather than waiting until they got caught is left as an exercise for the student) then a cot, a roof (even a canvas or nylon one), and three square meals a day would be a godsend.  And having to stay put while they confirm my case would be a small price to pay to escape whatever I was fleeing from.

But by simply using loaded language, the fallacy of equivocation, Ocasio-Cortez attempts to short circuit actual argument of the merits of one approach to dealing with the issue or another.  She claims on one side that the detention centers mean the “dictionary definition” of concentration camps and so she’ll continue to use the term.  But she uses the term explicitly to call up images of Auschwitz and Buchenwald.  Indeed, her use of “never again” in this context demonstrates that’s exactly what she’s doing “with malice aforethought.”

And others are coming to her defense on that.

Unfortunately for her she managed in doing so to anger a lot of people who have family who dealt with real concentration camps and they are not amused.  Politically, I expect this to backfire big time.



“Abolish the Family”?

Yes, that idea is being seriously proposed to “Dismantle Capitalism”.  Here’s an archive link.

How about “no”?  Does “no” work for you?  If not, then how about “hell no”?

If anybody’s been paying attention (like, say, looking at yesterday’s blog post) they know just how important I consider family to be.  I’m far, far from alone in that.

The theory in socialist/communisty/whateverist ideas is that if you eliminate the family, and the attachment people have to family, they’ll transfer that attachment to “the people” or more accurately, the State: “The State is mother.  The State is father.  We live for the State.  We die for the State.” Once that happens, the theory goes, we can eliminate this crass materialism and people seeking their own advantage and everyone can live in harmony in a perfect socialist paradise.  And, yes, people have tried that, whether by simply trying to minimize the roll of parents, undermining the familial connection between parents and children, or even outright taking children to be raised by the state.

It never leads to a good end.

It doesn’t work.  It never works.  Even if you eliminate the biological family:  Keep people segregated.  Reproduce only by artificial insemination.  Hey make it in vitro fertilization and artificial wombs to remove the parent child relationship entirely except as purely genetic.  Raise children in creches with no idea who provided the genetic material and who among others might possibly share some of that genetic source material.  You still won’t eliminate the drive to family.

Family is important.  Family is vital. Family is what makes the world go around.  Milton Friedman noted that the smallest economic unit isn’t the individual so much as it’s the family.  In situations of voluntary exchange, individuals will routinely make changes that are detrimental to them personally if it benefits their family.  Which is a fancy way of saying that people are quite willing to make sacrifices for their families.

Take that away and people don’t then gravitate to the faceless collective of “the people” (nor to their self-selected “representatives” of the regime in charge).  Instead, they create new units of their own to replace that familial bond.  A common example of that is gangs serving as surrogate families for gang members.

You cannot eliminate the family while still retaining anything resembling human.  Separate children from their parents and they find surrogate “parents”.  Separate siblings and they find surrogate siblings.  What they do not do (with perhaps rare exceptions) is sublimate their drive for family into humanity at large.

The results of attempts to eliminate family have always been abysmal.  The substitute families almost by definition tend to be highly disfunctional (not to say that “natural” families–which have taken many forms over the course of recorded history and before–are all shining examples, but they’ve generally worked out better than not*). The idea of family has been so universal across the multitudinous cultures of humanity that one might almost think there is a reason for it, if for no other reason than, from my experience, people have generally been happier in a family relationship than not.*

So, to repeat:  “Abolish family”? How about “no”.

*Yes, I am well aware that there are counterexamples to these ideas.  And, no, I don’t have anything more than a general impression of the truth of the basic principles.  I just also happen to think that family would not have survived so long, through so many iterations, in so many widely disparate cultures, if it didn’t fulfill an important, fundamental need in the human species. “Happiness” and “worked out better than not” will serve as terms for the fulfilling of that need.

Sadness–A Musical Interlude

I had a particularly bad night recently (these are scheduled several days in advance, so things should be resolved by the time this pops up).  Thus the theme of today’s musical interlude.

There’s a movie “Deathgasm” that I haven’t seen (yet) but from which a couple of “memes” have come from.  One of them has a metalhead guy explaining to what appears to be a very non-metal girlfriend the attraction of metal.  When you hurt, you listen to metal and it’s better because someone else knows the pain.

Whether specific bands singing about stuff actually “know the pain” is really irrelevant in the greater scheme of things.  The illusion is sufficient to create the catharsis.  Metal and Goth are particularly good for that purpose.  I think Country might be as well but with very few exceptions I have just never cared for the “sound” of country.  It’s a matter of personal taste and, as always (and especially when it comes to music) your mileage may vary.

And so, here are some songs that I find particularly cathartic when the mood strikes.

And that should be enough for now.


“To Me Socialism Means….”

This bit has come across my social media feed more than once:


People like to denigrate Ms Occasio-Cortez’s intelligence.  I’ve done it myself (for what seems to me good reason).  However, this really isn’t an example of that.  This is a common result of what comes when you define something not my the processes and incentives involved, but by the hoped-for outcome.  People get told over and over again that “Socialism means…” followed by things like fairness, providing for the poor, “social justice”, and what have you.  And, as a result, when those outcomes don’t happen, of course it wasn’t “real socialism” because it didn’t provide the desired outcomes.

This leads folk to implementing the same processes over and over again, claiming, once again, that it’s for the desired outcome.  And, of course, they dismiss any failures because if it didn’t have the desired outcome then by definition it wasn’t socialism.

The catch to all that is that you don’t implement outcomes.  You implement processes.  And if the processes don’t lead to the outcome (as, time and again we have seen with socialism) then all the definitional objections in the world aren’t going to change that.

Another example.  Marx claimed that once socialism was implemented the state would “wither away.” What about the processes involved and the incentives created cause the state to wither away was left more than a little vague.  It would be unnecessary because people would just do the things they needed to do for the “common good.”

That this doesn’t describe any human population of any size since the dawn of time is just glossed over.

But, clearly, since the state in Communist Russia, or China, or Cuba, or Cambodia, or (more recently) Venezuela have not had their states wither away (although, perhaps, Venezuela is rapidly heading to failed state status, if it’s not already there, that’s not hte same thing at all), therefore they can’t possibly be “real socialism.”

The problem with that particular issue–the state “withering away”–is that once you have the dictatorial power necessary to establish socialism–to collectivize the farms, to strip people of their hard-won property rights, to force people to comply with the various task that must be done (without the use of prices, including price of labor, to attract people to less desirable occupations)–you attract people who desire that kind of power for its own sake.  While it’s not something I particularly grasp, there are folk out there who like ruling over others.  And if, somehow, you manage to get everyone else to agree to work together in harmony without any price or other self-interest motivation (and good luck with that; see above about no society of any size in history) those in power before that point aren’t going to just step aside.  And one of the things they will do with their power is ensure that they always need to remain in power.  If there isn’t a reason for them to retain power (“for the common good”, of course) they’ll manufacture one.

“We have always been at war with Eastasia.”

This all comes by attempting to define things by the stated hoped-for outcomes rather than the processes and the incentives those processes create.  The nice thing about a system of voluntary exchanges coordinated by changing prices is that the process provides incentive for people to provide for the wants of others because they can then exchange that for things they want.  And the incentive is to produce the most value, as those they are exchanging with see it, at the least expenditure of scarce resources that have alternative uses.

The process of free market exchange does more to accomplish the stated hoped-for goals of socialism than the process of socialism ever has…or ever will.

Shoe Weirdness.

For most of my adult life I wore 9 1/2 extra wide (4E) shoes. That’s what they fit me for in basic and that’s what I wore for a very long time.

A few years ago, however, I started having foot pain issues which my podiatrist noted were caused by too-narrow shoes. I had to go from a 4E to a 6E and up from a 9 1/2 to an 11. (Note, my dress-up boots didn’t come in widths so I ended up with size 13’s and “filling space” with a couple extra gel insoles.) Apparently, this was part and parcel of my plantar fasciitis. The bones in my feet were just “splaying” more and so I needed more room to accommodate the resulting shape change.

Eventually it reached the point where I was wearing size 12 4E shoes (although they were a little loose in width once broken in. Could probably have gone with a 2E instead.)

All well and good. However, the other day I went shoe shopping again and trying on shoes what I ended up with was a size 10 1/2 4E.

Apparently, my feet shrank.

This does not make any sense to me at all.

So…two new pairs of shoes. Sneakers (New Balance, which my podiatrist recommends for me for the better arch support than most brands) and some basic oxford dress shoes. Both in a size that a year ago I wouldn’t have been able to squeeze my feet into.


Feeding the Active Writer: Pork Fried Cauliflower Rice

This uses cooked pork loin pieces and riced cauliflower.  The “Active writer” factor is that I precook a good batch of the pork and rice a full head or two of cauliflower in advance so that the actual cooking time for the meal is minimal.  Cut the pork into bite sized pieces and stir fry until cooked through and run the cauliflower through the grating attachment on a food processor.  Put them in covered containers until ready to use.


  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 egg
  • 2 cup riced Cauliflower
  • 4 oz cooked pork
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • diced vegetables as desired (carrot and green bean make good, low-carb options)

Grease a hot skillet with the olive oil.  Scramble the eggs.  I like to scramble them right in the pan.  Add the cauliflower and stir it together with the eggs for about two minutes.  Add the pork and another two minutes.  Finally, add the soy sauce and vegetables.

It makes a great one-dish meal or it can be divided into portions and used as a side dish.



Daughter Got Her New Sax

In addition to cello, my daughter wanted to take up saxaphone.  Specifically, Baritone Sax.  When we went to arrange for one–a rent to own arrangement, they didn’t have any Bariton saxes in stock.  The sales clerk recommended an alto sax to start with.  It’s half the size, one octave up, and so played the same way.  So she could start on that and switch when the Baritone Sax came in.

Well, the baritone sax was long back ordered.  No real explanation why.  However, it arrived today.

Once she got it home she just had to put it together and try it out.