The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Logic, reasoning, and SQUIRREL!

In The Daily Parker's occasional series on logical fallacies, we now come to my favorite:

Non sequitur

"It does not follow." That is, the argument does not have anything to do with the point under discussion. Sometimes non sequiturs make you wonder about the other person's sanity. Example, in poetry:

Haikus are simple
But sometimes they don't make sense
Refrigerator

If you look up "non sequitur" in the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, you will see this quote:

"They've won five wars where the armies that went against them froze to death. It's pretty amazing. So, we're having a good time. The economy is doing great."--President Trump, 19 July 2017.

The conclusion "the economy is doing great" has nothing to do with the Russian Army's historical prowess fighting in winter.

Then from two weeks ago: "We've got 32,000 soldiers on South Korean soil, and we've been helping them for about 82 years. And we get nothing. We get virtually nothing."

Our agreements with South Korea have nothing to do getting anything from South Korea other than protecting our own interests in the region. In fact, South Korea would prefer not to have thousands of foreign troops on its soil. (Also, we haven't had troops there since 1937.)

And the day before that: "We want to allow millions of people to come [into the U.S. legally] because we need them... because we have many companies coming into our country. They're pouring in... We have companies coming in from Japan, all over Europe, all over Asia. They're opening up companies here. They need people to work... Thousands and thousands of companies are leaving China now because of the tariffs."

I mean, where does one begin? I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader.

How to combat influence operations

Bruce Schneier has an eight-step plan—though he recognizes Step 1 might not be possible:

Since the 2016 US presidential election, there have been an endless series of ideas about how countries can defend themselves. It's time to pull those together into a comprehensive approach to defending the public sphere and the institutions of democracy.

Influence operations don't come out of nowhere. They exploit a series of predictable weaknesses -- and fixing those holes should be the first step in fighting them. In cybersecurity, this is known as a "kill chain." That can work in fighting influence operations, too­ -- laying out the steps of an attack and building the taxonomy of countermeasures.

Step 1: Find the cracks in the fabric of society­ -- the social, demographic, economic, and ethnic divisions. For campaigns that just try to weaken collective trust in government's institutions, lots of cracks will do. But for influence operations that are more directly focused on a particular policy outcome, only those related to that issue will be effective.

Countermeasures: There will always be open disagreements in a democratic society, but one defense is to shore up the institutions that make that society possible. Elsewhere I have written about the "common political knowledge" necessary for democracies to function. That shared knowledge has to be strengthened, thereby making it harder to exploit the inevitable cracks. It needs to be made unacceptable -- or at least costly -- for domestic actors to use these same disinformation techniques in their own rhetoric and political maneuvering, and to highlight and encourage cooperation when politicians honestly work across party lines. The public must learn to become reflexively suspicious of information that makes them angry at fellow citizens. These cracks can't be entirely sealed, as they emerge from the diversity that makes democracies strong, but they can be made harder to exploit. Much of the work in "norms" falls here, although this is essentially an unfixable problem. This makes the countermeasures in the later steps even more important.

Also unfortunately, most of the countermeasures require informed and conscientious political leaders. Good luck with that.

Anti-daylight saving time article is early this year

Apparently the morning people haven't let up in their assault on us night people:

[S]o far, legislation to go on year-round daylight saving time has passed in at least seven states, including Delaware, Maine and Tennessee this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Oregon was the most recent, approving year-round daylight saving on June 17.

“After the 2018 time change, I don’t know what happened, but people got grouchy,” Oregon state Rep. Bill Post, a Republican who sponsored the bill, toldthe Oregon Public Broadcasting network.

The grouchiness is not just in Oregon. A month earlier, Washington legislators adopted year-round daylight saving time. California voters have approved the same, and sometime as early as next month, the California state Senate is expected to review the matter, according to state Assemblyman Kansen Chu, a Democrat and the bill’s author.

OK, let's review: clock time is completely arbitrary. It has no relation to the iron-clad astronomical motion that determines when the sun comes up and when it sets.

I think the permanent DST idea attacks the problem from the wrong side. Maybe the problem is that so much of our life requires people to get up and go to sleep when their bodies don't want to. Changing wall-clock time twice a year just shuffles the furniture.

But, hey, let's apply our energy to this anyway. It's easier than fixing real problems.

What are you really asking?

Time for another logical fallacy, this time one commonly felt but not always understood.

Plurium interrogationum

"Many questions" or "complex question" means that a sentence appears to contain a single question but really rests on implicit assumptions that may obviate it. Put more simply, someone asks you a question that assumes something else as if you've already agreed to it.

The classic example, "when did you stop beating your wife?", contains two distinct parts requiring two distinct answers. First, "Have you ever beaten your wife?" Second, "If so, when did you stop?"

This fallacy comes in half a dozen flavors, which goes beyond the scope of The Daily Parker, as my goal is simply to summarize and list them. The Philosophy Department at South Carolina's Lander University has an excellent description of all the permutations of plurium interrogationum.

Latter-day horoscopes

Today's Washington Post takes up the world-bending news that people put their Myers-Briggs types into their dating profiles:

The Myers-Briggs assessment categorizes people into one of 16 personality types, using an extensive questionnaire of nearly 100 questions such as, “Do you prefer to focus on the outer world or on your own inner world?” and “Do you prefer to focus on the basic information you take in or do you prefer to interpret and add meaning?”

Many critics argue that people’s personalities exist on a spectrum — people possess varying degrees of both introversion and extroversion, logic and sentimentality — and therefore the Myers-Briggs test is an oversimplification.

Despite its shortcomings, the test has persisted with professional team buildingemployment recruiting and, now, for love.

Crafting an online dating profile is an art: Singles must whittle their most impressive yet personable characteristics into a few hundred characters. In an attempt to give a tl;dr on one’s entire essence, some daters display their Myers-Briggs personality type as a way of disclosing their essential selves.

As it turns out, people aren’t that great at figuring out to whom we’ll actually be attracted. In a study published in 2017, researchers asked singles to describe their ideal qualities in a partner. After examining daters’ stated romantic preferences, researchers created an algorithm to match participants based on their self-reported personality tastes. The machine could not predict who ended up pairing off. The researchers concluded that “compatibility elements of human mating are challenging to predict before two people meet.”

So I wonder, what's the MBTI equivalent of telling someone your sign is "Neon?"

If only I had a flight coming up this week

...I might have time to read all of these:

And now, back to work.

Afternoon articles

Just a few for my commute home:

  • New York Times reporter James Stewart interviewed Jeffrey Epstein on background a year ago, and it was weird.
  • The Post analyzes temperature records to find which parts of the US have warmed faster than others.
  • Chemist Caitlin Cornell may have discovered an important clue about the origin of life on Earth.
  • The site of the city's first Treasure Island store, just two blocks from where I lived in Lakeview from 1994-1996, might become an ugly apartment tower unless residents can block it.
  • Seva Safris digs into the differences (for good and ill) between JSON and XML.
  • Timothy Kreider delivers a stinging rant against gun-rights advocates: "The dead in El Paso and Dayton, whether they were shopping for back-to-school backpacks or just out having beers and hoping to get laid on a Saturday night, gave their lives so that you might continue to enjoy those freedoms."

I will now return to my crash-course in matrix maths.

How was Anne Frank found?

A former FBI agent is using "cold-case" techniques to figure it out:

Gertjan Broek, a lead researcher with the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, believes that the search for an informant might prevent researchers from discovering what really happened. “By asking ‘Who betrayed Anne Frank?’ you actually assume tunnel vision already. You leave out other options,” he says.

It’s possible, Broek says, the Franks weren’t betrayed at all—instead they might have been discovered by accident. There’s a chance that those in hiding were discovered during a search regarding fraudulent ration coupons, he says after a two-year research project.

Another group of more than 20 forensic, criminology, and data researchers hope to narrow the margins to a single culprit. The team, led by retired FBI agent Vincent Pankoke, is treating the investigation like a modern cold case. For years they’ve been combing through archives and interviewing sources around the world while also using 21st-century technology to crosscheck leads. The team has created a 3-D scan of Frank’s hiding place to see how sounds might have traveled to nearby buildings.

Regardless, it's fairly certain that Anne Frank was not a "Belieber."

Sunday afternoon link round-up

Including sitting with a lost dog for 45 minutes this morning, I've had a pretty lazy Sunday. Here are some of the articles I might read if I decide to do anything productive today:

Finally, in part because of the proportion of depressing things listed above, I want to post a photo of this dog:

Why? Because she's just that adorable. And not at all troubled by the newspapers.

It was 50 years ago today

That Sgt Pepper taught the band to block a street in London:

It was on August 8, 1969, that the band snapped the photo that would change Abbey Road’s future forever. The following month they would release an album named after the northwest London street where it had been recorded, and that album’s iconic cover would seal the street’s fate. A photo of the Fab Four crossing the street in tidily-arranged profile made Abbey Road the site of the most famous crosswalk in the world.

In terms of traffic management, it’s been downhill ever since.

Getting the pose right is not easy. When the original photo was taken, police were on hand to stop traffic while photographer Iain Macmillan scaled a step ladder to get the right angle. Visitors ever since, by contrast, have had to contend with the fact that this quietly opulent street is actually quite busy with traffic, ever complicated by the daily gauntlet of posing fans.

I confess, I visited the famed zebra crossing in 2012. The actual Abbey Road Studios building is just behind it: