Thursday, April 24, 2014

'Scuse Me, Mr Issa

Darrell Issa's been making a fuss over the IRS flap for a while now, and even tho' it's always looked like the standard fishing expedition; and even tho' there's plenty of evidence that Da Gubmint wasn't just trying to beat down a buncha poor defenseless slobs like Karl Rove, there seems to be something missing in all the hubbub.

Here's a short look at the kind of outfits the IRS was looking into.  Remember, bureaucrats have a lot of shit to get thru in a day.  And so like anybody with a living thinking brain who's trying to work with even a little efficiency, they need to prioritize and organize; and the IRS had some database tools that they were using to help them sift thru all that paperwork and get to the good stuff first etc.

OK, so here's the graphic:

But wait - it seems the outfits that Issa is saying were being Jack-Booted by the army of evil CPAs weren't the ones attracting all the attention after all.  The TeaBaggers are down at #4, and so ermahgerd, Mr Issa has been fibbing this whole time!?!  How could this be?

OK OK, I'll stop because nobody but the bubble-dwellers ever believed it was about trying to rein in the outa-control tyranny of Da Gubmint anyway. 

Unfortunately, a coupla things are still pretty fucked up about it.

First, the law and the attending regulations are vague about what does and what doesn't make your little organization eligible for tax-exempt status.  Laws need to be specific. Laws that are not specific tend not to be enforceable.  Which leads us to the paranoid presumption that maybe somebody wants these laws to go unenforced in order to gain an unfair advantage.

And that gets us to the second part.  By bitching about the IRS, and claiming some kinda bullshit mistreatment, Issa's little dog-n-pony show conveniently distracts us from finding out whether or not any of those outfits might be breaking the law.

Darrell Issa is using his position of wealth and power to protect his clients (ie anyone else in a position of wealth and power) from being held accountable for anything by anybody.  He's protecting them from us; he's facilitating the sale of our Representation to the highest bidder; and he's using our money to fucking do it.

Helluva deal.

Logical Fallacy #11 - Burden Of Proof

When debating any issue, there is an implicit burden of proof on the person asserting a claim. An argument from ignorance occurs when either a proposition is assumed to be true because it has not yet been proven false or a proposition is assumed to be false because it has not yet been proven true.[1][2] This has the effect of shifting the burden of proof to the person criticizing the assertion, but is not valid reasoning.[3]

While certain kinds of arguments, such as logical syllogisms, require mathematical or strictly logical proofs, the standard for evidence to meet the burden of proof is usually determined by context and community standards.[4][5]
In public discourse[edit]

Burden of proof is also an important concept in the public arena of ideas. Once participants in discourse establish common assumptions, the mechanism of burden of proof helps to ensure that all parties contribute productively, using relevant arguments.[6][7][8][9]
Proving a negative[edit]

When the assertion to prove is a negative claim, the burden takes the form of a negative proof, proof of impossibility, or mere evidence of absence. If this negative assertion is in response to a claim made by another party in a debate, asserting the falsehood of the positive claim shifts the burden of proof from the party making the first claim to the one asserting its falsehood, as the position "I do not believe that X is true" is different to the explicit denial "I believe that X is false".[10]

Matt Dillahunty gives the example of a large jar full of gumballs to illustrate the burden of proof.[11][12] It is a fact of reality that the number of gumballs in the jar is either even or odd, but the beliefs a person could hold are more complicated. We can choose to consider two claims about the situation, given as
The number of gumballs is even.
The number of gumballs is odd.

These two claims can be considered independently. For each claim, because of the law of excluded middle, we are forced to either believe or not believe. Before we have any information about the number of gumballs, we have no means of distinguishing either of the two claims. All of the information we have applies to claim 1 in exactly the same way it applies to claim 2. Due to the law of noncontradiction we cannot accept both of the two mutually exclusive claims, so we must reject (or not believe) both. This is the default position, which represents the null hypothesis. The justification for this position is only ever the lack of evidence supporting a claim. Instead, the burden of proof, or the responsibility to provide evidence and reasoning, lies with those seeking to persuade someone holding the default position.

Fair's Fair

Rain Song --Jimmy Page and Robert Plant

This is the springtime of my loving-
the second season I am to know
You are the sunlight in my growing-
so little warmth I've felt before.
It isn't hard to feel me glowing-
I watched the fire that grew so low.

It is the summer of my smiles-
flee from me Keepers of the Gloom.
Speak to me only with your eyes
it is to you I give this tune.
Ain't so hard to recognize-
These things are clear to all from
time to time. Ooooh...
Talk Talk-
I've felt the coldness of my winter
I never thought it would ever go
I cursed the gloom that set upon us...
But I know that I love you so
but I know that I love you so.
These are the seasons of emotion
And like the winds they rise and fall
This is the wonder of devotion-
I see the torch we all must hold.
This is the mystery of the quotient-
Upon us all a little rain
must fall, Just a little rain?

Feels Like Rain --John Hiatt

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Because --Dave Clark Five

Because --Beatles


Once upon a time, you could count on your marketing department to be able to "prove" any conclusion management had already reached.

When the board at BP needed to feel reassured that the company could avoid being tagged as a major contributor to the death of an entire geographical region and the resultant slow implosion of several local economies, they went to their marketing geniuses and we got all those great commercials on TV about "Disaster? What disaster? Everything's great here."  It doesn't matter what's really going on because you're "controlling" the message, so nobody's going to see the real problems because Big Oil owns a majority stake in the politicians in the Gulf States and the money they're able to spend on media makes it easier for people (who desperately need to believe it's all OK) to believe it's all OK, in spite of some small voices to the contrary.

Variations on that little scenario have played out quite often over the years.

Things have been changing a bit though.  Social Media is the way to go now.  You can save many millions of dollars (paying me a few hundred K instead) by putting up a Facebook page and letting Twitter carry your message virally to millions more consumers than TV or even that old-fashioned Inter Tubes thing could ever imagine.

But "control" is an illusion, and what frequently happens on Social Media proves it.  What you get might be very much the opposite of what you were probably expecting and/or hoping for, and it can come as a very rude surprise when you start to understand that you can't cherry pick the feedback.

Mitch McConnell found that out not too long ago (eg).  And now the New York Police Dept is finding out too.  NYPD decided they were in need of a little PR boost, and believing (as all authoritarian organizations do) that the undeserving masses must surely be grateful to us  - or at least respect us for our abilities to crush their puny skulls at the slightest provocation - they went along with the Social Media suggestion by asking their fans to tweet their favorites pictures of the noble NYPD in action.

Here's a quick sampling of what came in by the thousands before they could shut the account down - prob'ly not quite what they had in mind:

Monday, April 21, 2014

Cuz It Works

Mostly, there's a buncha smart people running the businesses that run the world.  And mostly, these smart people make smart decisions, and (again, mostly) they decide to spend something like half a trillion dollars every year on advertising.  We think that's about right, but nobody's real sure anymore because the outfits doing the spending stopped talking about it openly several years ago, and the outfits that try to keep track of it have come to understand that the information is pretty valuable, so if you wanna know about such things, you get to pay for it (it's all about "The Analytics", dontcha know).  So the rest of us - well, we're just kinda shooting in the dark.

Anyway, smart people spend a fuckload of money on advertising - because it works.