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Category: Politics (Page 1 of 13)


General Sherman’s Prophetic Letter

General William Tecumseh Sherman is an important name from the U.S. Civil War. He was a distinguished military man and master of military strategy. Sherman was also a successful author, teacher, and businessman. When General Grant became president in 1869, Sherman succeeded him as Commanding General of the U.S. Army.

Sherman was born and raised in Ohio, but had many friends in the Southern States and enjoyed being there. In fact, he was in Texas when South Carolina seceded from United States. He was so upset by this event that he cried and wrote the following letter to his friend, Professor David F. Boyd in Virginia, who was strongly in favor of secession. The letter proved to be an accurate analysis of the situation and visionary forecast of the final outcome.

General William Tecumseh Sherman, U.S. National Archives

He wrote:

“You people of the South don’t know what you are doing. This country will be drenched in blood, and God only knows how it will end. It is all folly, madness, a crime against civilization!

You people speak so lightly of war; you don’t know what you’re talking about. War is a terrible thing! You mistake, too, the people of the North. They are a peaceable people but an earnest people, and they will fight, too. They are not going to let this country be destroyed without a mighty effort to save it.”

“Besides, where are your men and appliances of war to contend against them? The North can make a steam engine, locomotive, or railway car; hardly a yard of cloth or pair of shoes can you make. You are rushing into war with one of the most powerful, ingeniously mechanical, and determined people on Earth — right at your doors.

You are bound to fail. Only in your spirit and determination are you prepared for war. In all else you are totally unprepared, with a bad cause to start with. At first you will make headway, but as your limited resources begin to fail, shut out from the markets of Europe as you will be, your cause will begin to wane. If your people will but stop and think, they must see in the end that you will surely fail.”

The Specious Appeal to Fairness

There are many kinds of fallacious arguments and logical fallacies. There’s one I see from time to time that doesn’t appear to have a name. At least I haven’t found it in any list of fallacious arguments. I call it the Specious Appeal to Fairness or SAF for short. I want to spotlight it for a moment so you can recognize it.

Note that there is an argument called an Appeal to Fairness but it’s not specious. An example of an appeal to fairness would be, “It’s not fair that a man is paid $15 an hour and a woman is paid $10 an hour for the same job.”

The Specious Appeal to Fairness has been around for a long time. It seems to crop up whenever there’s talk of loosening rules or requirements, forgiving debts or crimes, granting amnesties, or increasing inclusivity.

Below are some examples. Some examples appear more specious than others, but they are all specious.

Amnesty to Immigrants

Granting amnesty to undocumented immigrants isn’t fair to those who came here the right way.

(Ignoring that many who are here legally now were granted amnesty under President Reagan or who came illegally and gained residence later.)

Student Debt

Forgiving student loan debt isn’t fair to those who worked hard and paid theirs.

Code Requirement

In my hobby of ham radio, the ability to receive Morse Code used to be a stringent requirement. It took long hard practice, months for some, years for others, to build this skill to pass the higher tests. In the 1980s and 90s, the arguments raged red hot. One of the arguments was that dropping the code requirement isn’t fair to those who got their licenses the hard way. Well, code was dropped and the hobby not only survived but is thriving. Not only that, voluntary learning and use of Morse Code is growing rapidly. No one ever imagined that would happen.

Freeing the Slaves

During the U.S. Civil War, there was talk of freeing the slaves. An opinion piece was published in a newspaper arguing against it saying that freeing the slaves wasn’t fair to those who had escaped on their own.

Jesus and The Five-Thousand

Jesus feeding the five-thousand from five loaves and two fishes wasn’t fair to those who brought their own food.

SAF Trolley Problem

You’re probably familiar with the Trolley Problem, a thought experiment in morality / ethics. Here you see a trolley car heading for a track where it will kill five people. You can pull a lever and route the trolley to another track where only one person will be killed. Should you pull the lever?

The SAF version goes like this. You see a trolley car has just killed five people. It’s heading for a track where it will kill another five people. You can pull a lever to reroute the trolley to a track where no more people will be killed. Is it fair to those already killed to reroute the trolley?


All of the above arguments strike me as ridiculous. But they don’t seem ridiculous to everyone.

Depending on which poll one believes, somewhere between 30 and 50 percent feel that forgiving student loans isn’t fair to those who paid theirs. That’s a lot of people who feel this way so a lot of people subscribe to this way of thinking.


I think that agreement or support of these SAF style arguments implies an elitist worldview. It implies a person that wants to be a gatekeeper with an exclusive rather than inclusive mindset.

What do you think?

The IRS Expansion

IRS Logo

The organizations paying for ads opposing the IRS expansion and the hiring of more IRS agents are telling on themselves. They’re calling it a “shakedown”.

Let’s think about this for a minute. The IRS doesn’t take any more than they are legally allowed to, which in the U.S. these days is very little. This is the amount legally owed. Anyone who would call expansion of the IRS a shakedown is admitting that they are a tax cheat. They’re admitting to breaking the law and not paying their fair share. All such people are in the top ten percent of wealth in this country.

So who is paying for these ads? The ones I’ve seen are paid for by an organization called “Americans for Prosperity”. Great sounding name but who are they? Americans for Prosperity is the Koch Brothers’ propaganda outlet, funded by them. Are you a billionaire? A millionaire? No? Then this expansion doesn’t apply to you.

Americans for Prosperity produces ads that try to get normal middle-class people and the poor angry about issues that have nothing to do with them but do concern the Koch Brothers and their billions. Unless you’re a billionaire or expecting to become one soon, you’re being played. Keep this in mind the next time you see an ad from Americans for Prosperity.

The ads imply that the IRS engages in theft, when it’s the reverse. All the IRS does is enforce the tax code as set forth by Congress, nothing more. Those who cheat are the thieves, robbing the government of funds that would come to the middle-class and poor in the form of roads, highways, education, assistance, medical care, and security.

Ironically, it’s the richest people who can easily afford to pay their taxes that complain. The poor pay little tax, as it should be, but the Koch Brothers still want you to vote for things that benefit them, not you. Don’t be fooled by the name Americans for Prosperity. Whose prosperity? Yours? No.

Will the IRS be targeting the billionaires? Of course they will. Why would they come and audit you if you’re an ordinary wage earner, who pays their taxes with every paycheck? It would be a waste of time. It’s the ones who owe tens of millions of dollars on a hundred million in income that is worth the effort. These cases also require more manpower and smart auditors to untangle complex tax-dodging arrangements. That’s what those agents will be doing — exactly what the Koch Brothers and hundreds of others don’t want.

Tax rates in the U.S.A. are very low when compared to the rest of the developed world. They are very, very low when compared to the 1950s and 1960s when the U.S.A. was at it’s most prosperous. Republicans have been gutting the IRS for 30 years by reducing IRS funding and staff. Why? The intent is to hobble the IRS so their wealthy donors can cheat with impunity.

What’s more, it’s not even an expansion of the IRS if you look back 30 years. It’s the intent of Congress to restore funding and restore the IRS to an appropriate level. Again, unless you’re a billionaire or millionaire, none of this concerns you.

Fossil Fuel Companies Hold Planet Hostage

Sounds sensational, doesn’t it? Click bait. Well, after reading this, you tell me.

It’s not widely known but over the past 100 years, investors have demanded agreements, treaties from the governments of countries they invest in. There are thousands of these treaties, including with the United States. Investors understandably don’t like risk and do everything possible to eliminate risk. Countries, especially poor countries, will jump through hoops, bend over backwards, go to any length to attract foreign investment. They’ll give everything up and sign such agreements in order to attract foreign money.

Petroleum Jack Pump

In the case of fossil fuel companies, such treaties enable them to demand hefty compensation if the government interferes with the business in any way, revokes permits to drill, permits to lay pipelines, restricts extraction, and so forth. We’re talking payouts that can amount to hundreds of billions of dollars if/when these treaties are invoked, far beyond the means of many countries.

And, it’s starting already. The U.S.A. is being sued to the tune of a billion dollars for cancelling the Keystone Pipeline. The governments of Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, and others are being sued for four billion dollars over their phasing out of coal power plants, requiring environmental impact assessments, and blocking of extraction projects. Anything that interferes with the business is grounds to sue for damages.

These treaties enable fossil fuel companies to hold us hostage and prevent the implementation of measures to mitigate climate change. Oil companies can make it too expensive to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels, hamstringing the ability of countries to deal with climate change.

It’s an insane situation where the urgent need to act on climate change will be derailed by old treaties from the middle of the last century. But here we are. They have us over a barrel (of oil).

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