Evidence and Argument Versus Rumor

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Political debate can be frustrating.

People are free to disagree with me, of course, and I’m well aware that I rub nerves raw unnecessarily sometimes.  (That’s something I’m working on, but self improvement is a lifelong endeavor.)  Be that as it may, it ought to be clear that I’m trying to construct arguments based on evidence so people who come to differing conclusions can offer contrary evidence or explain where mine is incorrect.  That’s how public debate is supposed to proceed.

The frustrating thing is how infrequently advocates for higher taxes even bother.  If I’m “cherry picking” numbers or making demonstrably false statements, it ought to be relatively easy to prove it.  Simply telling people to dismiss my arguments because the numbers are misleading is essentially admitting that you can’t be bothered to explain why.  In short: “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

This week, both the Newport Daily News and Sakonnet Times ran a letter by Tiverton resident Barbara Martin making a variety of unsubstantiated assertions about my motivations and intentions:

Make no mistake, Mr. Katz’s agenda for Tiverton is the agenda of the Koch brothers: Get rid of public education, destroy unions, eliminate any safety nets for the most vulnerable in our community, and reduce public safety funding.

Tiverton deserves better than to be the unwitting participants in an ideological experiment funded by the Koch brothers and carried out by Mr. Katz.

“Make no mistake,” indeed.  Ms. Martin won’t tell anybody what evidence she has, but details and data are not needed when one has vague rumors.  The old truism holds: When you can’t argue facts, attack the person.

One can only hope people are starting to see through the threats and rumors to the basic, straightforward goal of such people: They want to take more of their neighbors’ money to pay for their own priorities.  With the exception of destroying public-sector unions, not a single thing she says I want to do is accurate.

The biggest fact that Martin leaves out, though, is that I’ve done nothing more than give people an option to vote contrary to her preferences.  One suspects that’s really the unforgivable sin.



  • Monique Chartier

    So here’s the thing. A major component of this letter – that Justin and the RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity are funded by the Koch Brothers – is 100% false (unfortunately). The accuracy of the balance of the letter can be judged accordingly. For the writer to get a major item like that wrong casts a heavy pall on credibility and the firmness/tenuousness of the grasp on facts and data.

    • Merle The Monster

      Does the your Center disclose its sources of funding? If not and they are under no requirement to do so how can ordinary citizens know who is behind pushing for policies that will have an impact on themselves and their communities. How do they gather the “evidence” that Katz demands? How do ordinary people fare in the public arena when paid operatives who have access to newspapers and tv and radio to push an agenda of those who are not identified? Neil Gorsuch recently answered Sen Whitehouses question about who would spend 17 million dollars to get him on the Supreme Court by saying something like “you should go ask them” meaning the person or persons who had spent that amount of money on a judgeship. Our Senator responded by pointing out the problem with doing just that was that its impossible to know who funds these efforts . That is the problem with dark money in our country and in Tiverton.

      • Mike678

        Always interesting to see how people reason….

        “Does your Center disclose its sources of funding? If not and they are under no requirement to do so how can ordinary citizens know who is behind pushing for policies that will have an impact on themselves and their communities.”

        Ideas are just that–ideas. They can come from anywhere. Only the ignorant judge the idea from who/from whence it came rather than evaluating an idea on its merit (See the logical fallacy “Genetic.”).

        “How do they gather the “evidence” that Katz demands?”

        First, Justin made no “demands”—does misrepresenting make his position easier to attack? (Strawman fallacy). He states that an argument should have premises or evidence to support the conclusion.

        “How do “they” gather evidence?”

        Just as Justin does—they do research and critically think. Of course, you can have an opinion without facts and data to support it—it’s often called prejudice (a preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience).

        “How do ordinary people fare in the public arena when paid operatives who have access to newspapers and tv and radio to push an agenda of those who are not identified?”

        See point one. They think. Does an advertisement make one act? Are we mindless drones? Your sentence infers we are defenseless in the face of advertising—which, of course, is false.

        “Neil Gorsuch recently answered Sen Whitehouses question about who would spend 17 million dollars to get him on the Supreme Court by saying something like “you should go ask them” meaning the person or persons who had spent that amount of money on a judgeship.”

        Sen W’s question was the logical fallacy “loaded question”—a question that has the assumption of guilt built into it. Were these Neil Gorsuch supporting efforts deceptive? False? No indication of this—no data or analysis—just rank inference. The problem seems to be the Senator didn’t support/agree with these efforts; they were inconvenient to his agenda. Perhaps freedom of speech is a threat to those who prefer fact-free opinion and inference to facts and analysis?

        “Our Senator responded by pointing out the problem with doing just that was that its impossible to know who funds these efforts. That is the problem with dark money in our country and in Tiverton.”

        Non-sequiter and appeal to authority. Your premise does not support your conclusion, and the Sen is hardly a deep thinker. Opinion unsupported by data or analysis. Unconvincing and valueless.

        • Merle The Monster

          I asked questions of Monique Chartier because I think she
          may have an official role at THE CENTER OF PROSPERITY and freedom.

    • Donna J Hawkins Walsh
      • Mike678

        Nice article. Your point?

    • Donna J Hawkins Walsh
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