Crippled Government

From the day Barack Obama was elected, the opposition party pledged themselves to thwart his every step. And given that Obama has proven to be a rather ineffective president, it could be said that the pledge worked like a charm. But what the division has brought about is a government that simply cannot get it done and on the international front it must make this country look like living proof that democracy won’t work.

The upcoming international meeting on climate change in Paris is an interesting case in point. Take the following snippet from a recent opinion piece on the internet:

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is trying to negotiate a legacy-making climate change pact this coming week in Paris with one hand tied behind his back. Congress can’t even agree whether global warming is real.

Scientists point to the global agreement, years in the making, as the last, best hope for averting the worst effects of global warming. Obama has spent months prodding other countries to make ambitious carbon-cutting pledges to the agreement, which he hopes will become the framework for countries to tackle the climate issue long beyond the end of his presidency in early 2017.

But Republicans have tried to undermine the president by sowing uncertainty about whether the U.S. will make good on its promises. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and other GOP leaders have warned other countries not to trust any deal Obama may strike; other GOP allies are working to nullify Obama’s emissions-cutting steps at home.

What this means is that while the rest of the world knows that climate change is caused in large part by human activity and that this activity must be changed soon or the planet faces irreversible damage, the Republicans in Congress are tied to their pledge to oppose every step the president takes and, tied as they are to Big Business and Big Oil, are determined to scuttle any possible agreement the meetings might produce. America will be seen by the rest of the world as a chicken without its head, fluttering about aimlessly and blind to the obvious facts that everyone else has come to accept. And this fluttering chicken threatens us all.  The bottom line is the Republicans don’t want to take any steps that might “cost jobs” in spite of the fat that global warming could be reduced simply by committing this country to alternative, clean energy — which would produce thousands of jobs and save the planet at the same time.

Sitting on the sidelines as we do, it is clear that the machine of government is horribly broken. If Obama were a stronger president who knew how to wield the power his office potentially holds, perhaps this would not be the case. But faced with the fact that a weak president is opposed by stupid, small-minded men and women in Congress who are pledged to undermine his every step, we may be forced to admit we live in a country that, alone, stands in the way of a workable plan to save this planet from devastation.

Counterfactuals

What with the Trumpet going on about how if the people who were attacked in Paris had been carrying guns there would have been fewer deaths it would appear it is time for another logic lesson. I realize I have touched on this in a past blog post, but apparently the Republicans aren’t listening — or at least the loudest one.

Here’s the thing: you cannot, logically, verify or falsify a counter-to-fact conditional statement. It simply cannot be done. You can speculate about what would have happened IF something else had not happened — say what would have happened if Hitler had not invaded Poland — but you cannot verify any speculation you might choose to make.

Consider the following simple case. “If it had rained yesterday I would have taken my umbrella to the store with me.” Now we can verify that you actually went to the store and we can even verify whether or not it rained — let’s agree that it did not. But since it didn’t rain there is simply no way we can verify the truth of your statement. It is counter-to-fact. We might speculate that since you are a cautious sort and have a brand new umbrella that you have been dying to show off you might well have taken it to the store with you had it rained. But since it didn’t rain (presumably) we will never know. Never.

Similarly, when the Trumpet says that IF the people at the concert in Paris who were attacked by terrorists had been carrying guns THEN there would have been fewer deaths, we can say with certainty that he doesn’t know what the hell he is talking about — which is not all that unusual. Again, we can speculate and we can appeal to the emotions of an audience of conservatives in Texas, or wherever, who are gun-totin’ folks who tend to think as does the Trumpet. But it’s just that, an appeal to emotion that cannot be proved one way or the other. The fact is that there was a terrorist attack in Paris and many were left dead as a result. It is terrible, but it might have been even worse had the people who died been carrying guns.

One can speculate about either possibility. But one cannot prove it either way. Thus the Trumpet’s claim cannot be said to be true. Or false.