David, who is on a first name basis with every member of the staff at our local Giant supermarket, is off to the store. I need to get out, he says. For him, grocery shopping is as much about paying a social call as it is a shopping trip.
When he was working at the US Patent and Trademark Office a few years ago and retired at age 72, the fellows in his old office called him for the odd get-together for years afterwards. He missed work terribly when he left. Now almost 85, he has finally stopped sending out resumes.
For several years, retirement was difficult for David, but it wasn’t for me. Although I had both worked and attended school the previous 40 years, and continued school for six years after separation from the labor force, I never missed work. Sometimes I miss school, however. The give and take in the classroom, the mostly civilized discussions, for me there was nothing like school to exercise the mind.
Speaking of exercising the mind, this past week Tom Sightings at Sightings over Sixty (link below left) laid out a cogent discussion concerning the various sources of political information most of us rely on to become and remain informed citizens. Like me, Tom is a political Independent.
It’s hard to be an Independent these days.
During our recent primary election (the election that threw Eric Cantor out of office in his district two hours away), three people knocked on my door for the same Democrat candidate. In our county, you can have anyone you want in office as long as he or she is a Democrat. Our county is so blue, that if you don’t vote in the primary, you don’t have a vote. Some years, nobody from the other parties even attempts to run. I find myself longing for the days when we had real choice.
Unfortunately, gerrymandering by both parties has created the stalemate we see across our country. Want change? forget it. Congress is Constipated. To all those who want a certain people out of office, I say dream on. Even if you knock out one person from a particular party, six more candidates of the same persuasion will appear to fill his place until the people themselves change the way they vote.
Until and unless an attorney general in the opposition party dreams up a criminal charge, most of which are dropped or the defendant found innocent, you are stuck. Of course most people never hear about the dismissal of charges or the innocent verdict. However, the reputation of the defendant is ruined. As Ronald Reagan’s Labor Secretary said back in the 1980s, when he was exonerated of trumped-up charges brought by an opposing partisan, “Now who will give me back my reputation?
Consequently, you see politics getting dirtier by the day. After he was attacked by a leftist extremist in his own party for being too far to the right, the ‘moderate’ Democrat who ran and won in our district attacked Paul Ryan. I assume he did this because he thought it worked with undecided voters, whomever they might be. Give me a break, I told one fellow who knocked on my door on the eventual winner’s behalf.
Can we do anything? Begin by reading Tom’s post which describes how the press manipulates us. Sadly, the free press almost doesn’t exist anymore. But within each of the more responsible media outlets (like The Washington Post), you can find some (not all) writers from both perspectives who speak factually. Be open-minded. Read both Ruth Marcus and George Will. But use the criteria Tom outlines in his post. Discover whether the argument is a straw man, loaded question, or specious argument. Wiki says:
A loaded question or complex question fallacy is a question which contains a controversial or unjustified assumption (e.g., a presumption of guilt).
Aside from being an informal fallacy depending on usage, such questions may be used as a rhetorical tool: the question attempts to limit direct replies to be those that serve the questioner’s agenda. The traditional example is the question “Have you stopped beating your wife?” Whether the respondent answers yes or no, he will admit to having a wife and having beaten her at some time in the past. Thus, these facts are presupposed by the question, and in this case an entrapment, because it narrows the respondent to a single answer, and the fallacy of many questions has been committed. The fallacy relies upon context for its effect: the fact that a question presupposes something does not in itself make the question fallacious. Only when some of these presuppositions are not necessarily agreed to by the person who is asked the question does the argument containing them become fallacious. Hence the same question may be loaded in one context, but not in the other. For example the previous question would not be loaded if it was asked during a trial in which the defendant has already admitted to beating his wife.
This fallacy should be distinguished from that of begging the question, which offers a premise whose plausibility depends on the truth of the proposition asked about, and which is often an implicit restatement of the proposition.
The term “loaded question” is sometimes used to refer to loaded language that is phrased as a question. This type of question does not necessarily contain a fallacious presupposition, but rather this usage refers to the question having an unspoken and often emotive implication. For example, “Are you a murderer?” would be such a loaded question, as “murder” has a very negative connotation. Such a question may be asked merely to harass or upset the respondent with no intention of listening to their reply, or asked with the full expectation that the respondent will predictably deny it.