Daily Archives: March 11, 2008

Ad hominem

I went down to the college last week to catch Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s Farewell Tour on Wednesday. Of course nobody knew it would be his last visit at the time. What a monster!

Oh, I forgot. We’re not allowed to use that term in politics anymore, after Obama adviser Samantha Powers was forced to resign last week after she called Hillary “a monster” during a Scottish newspaper interview.

That seemed a little harsh to me, but I guess Barack is trying to avoid the ad hominem stuff. Not a bad idea really –I’m getting kind of tired of it myself at the local level.

As students of logic will remember, an ad hominem argument is a logical fallacy in which a person tries to win an argument by resorting to a personal attack on the person holding the opposite position, rather than responding to the argument itself.

Some examples of that might be, “Bill is wrong about Lowe’s because:
a. He is a pointed-headed college professor, or
b. He is a socialist, or
c. He is only in it to write a book about the experience.”

If the Bill in this example is my friend Bill Lofquist, then I can say that a. and b. are probably true, and c. is not true, but regardless of any of that, it doesn’t prove whether Bill is right or wrong about Lowe’s.

Of course, there is no totally right or wrong position on Lowe’s. It all depends on your goals for the community. If you want to turn Geneseo into a retail center for the county, jam it with traffic and destroy our small-town character, then building a Lowe’s, and more importantly, setting the precedent that the town is using with the PDD law, is the right thing to do.

If the question is, however, what is the existing zoning and planning for our town and and what are the correct procedures for dealing with a proposal of this magnitude, then my money is on Bill. From my own personal experience, I can say that Bill is almost always right about such matters.

The problem is that no one is willing to really debate Bill on those issues directly, probably because they suspect he is right. It’s much easier just to call Bill a pointy-headed monster and dismiss his positions without taking the trouble to actually read or understand them.

Next week we are having elections and three new candidates are competing to take Bill’s seat on the Village Board. As Tony Soprano would say, with all due respect to my good friends, no one will be able to hold a candle to the record that Bill has made in his four years in office.

Of course, I was one of those who ran against Bill four years ago, and if it wasn’t for a third-party candidate and a freak snow storm, I might have beat him. At this point, although I disagreed violently with his position on the Rental Housing Law, I can say that, on balance, the best man won.