Rising Conflation & Another Iggy® Award

The tireless search for logical obfuscation continues, and this week has reaped two gems. Yesterday, Star Tribune columnist Katherine Kersten wrote about returning from overseas and being shocked shocked! at the political grandstanding occurring over the 35W bridge collapse. Referring to politicians who use their media allies to "blame tragedy on their opponents," she introduced this hard-hitting evidence:

"After [Hurricane Katrina], foes of President Bush launched a cynical campaign to blame his administration, despite overwhelming evidence of less-than-stellar performance by politicians of all stripes and at all levels and despite the sheer unmanageable scale of the damage wrought by the storm."

I love it. The party of accountability and personal responsibility continues to push the art of conflation to new heights. From the people who brought you Osama Hussein comes the idea that the breech of a levee is the same thing as the response to the breech of a levee. I mean, maybe some lunatic accused George Bush of personally taking a jackhammer to a dam, but most people concluded, quite reasonably, that when one appoints an Arabian horse trader to head FEMA, one should be accountable when said person claims to have learned "factually" of the disaster after it had already been broadcast on CNN. The moral: Appoint your cronies to ambassadorships in Micronesia, not to jobs where lives are "factually" at stake.

Next, in a somewhat related move, the Committee on Spectacular Achievements in Profound Ignorance has been moved to present its second Iggy Award. The recipient is Mike DeCamp of Plymouth, Minnesota. In response to a previous writer who observed the double standard that those who criticize Light Rail (transit) for not generating revenue tend to neglect the fact that roads also do not generate revenue, Mr. DeCamp composed the following:

"Wow! Basic economics should be an (sic) requirement in this country before you are allowed to vote! How does he think his groceries got to his neighborhood supermarket? How did his home get there? His refrigerator? His sofa and bed? His shampoo and deodorant? His plumber? His bicycle? Not by light rail!"

In doing so, wrote the Committee, Mr. DeCamp took conflation to astounding new heights. In one brilliant stroke, he redefined the concept of "revenue" from "something that directly generates money" to "something that facilitates any form of commerce." The logic apparently holds as follows: Because a road facilitates the delivery of goods and services that go into a home, and because "demand" existed for those products for which an entity produced the "supply," and because those entities received direct revenue for those items, therefore the roads on which the delivery trucks of that entity traveled also generated revenue.

The Committee draws attention to four facts that make this argument exceptionally ignorant:

1. By this definition, because airplanes and ships also deliver goods for homes, water and air also generate revenue--at a fraction of the cost of roads--in which case we should be lobbying for more air and water.

2. Because roads encourage more driving of cars and trucks, which require fossil-fuel energy, which results in pollution and carbon emissions, the true economic impact of roads is not, forgive the pun, a "one-way street."

3. Because people always develop the ideas that ultimately become products to meet marketplace demands in a capitalistic society, the schools and teachers who provide their education are ultimately the most "revenue-generating" entities of all. Despite this, the Committee doubts that Mr. DeCamp sees these entities as "profitable."

4. Because every person who works in the pursuit of producing goods and services therefore generates revenue, and because thousands of said workers take the Light Rail to work, the Light Rail generates revenue in the same way as roads, but with one important difference: It's more efficient.


This light-rail commuter thanks the committee and wishes them "God speed the argument."
Anonymous said…
Looks like the official version of this commentary got printed in the Strib just this morning:


Misreading criticism

I used to admire the Republican Party for its emphasis on accountability and personal responsibility. Columnist Katherine Kersten again proves why this admiration is misguided ("Bridge collapse ought to unite us, not divide us," Aug. 20).

The criticism of President Bush for Hurricane Katrina wasn't about the collapse of the levees, it was about the response. When the president appoints a former official with the International Arabian Horse Association to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and that person claims to have learned about people being stranded at the New Orleans Superdome from a CNN broadcast, then I'd say the president needs to take a little "personal responsibility" for the response to the storm.

Vegas Gopher said…
Another letter to the editor?! Wow, you're getting close to achieving Cranky Old Man status. Or at least guest columnist status. Well done, Mr. Conklin!

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