CSotD: Fact Checking the Opinions

I referenced Daniel Patrick Moynihan the other day, who is mostly famous for saying that you are entitled to your own opinions but not to your own facts.

Moynihan died in 2003, so he only got to see the initial Newt Gingrich portion of the fact-free revolution, and thus could argue that there are facts and that they matter.

We lost, Pat.

And I’m going to bend a rule today and feature some commentary with which I disagree, but I’ll try to go light on the snark.

There’s nothing wrong with doing a cartoon I don’t agree with or don’t like, and I would direct your attention to my colleague DD Degg’s roundup of Stan Lee tributes, some of which I thought were okay, some of which I hated, none of which violated Moynihan’s Law.

But, f’rinstance, here’s a juxtaposition from the weekend:

(Stuart Carlson)

(Chip Bok)

Carlson’s contention that the United States has been left out in the rain is, of course, an obvious play on the weekend’s weather issue, but it’s also some reading of tea leaves based on clips of body language and facial expressions, which admittedly would be more fair if you were there to see every greeting and interchange, and of contrasts in speeches, which, as far as I could tell, is accurate.

Bok echoes the idea that the other nations are united against the US, but, while Carlson suggests Trump has created the separation, Bok goes the opposite direction.

Specifically, Carlson has the other national leaders under umbrellas, echoing not simply the rain issue itself but “having the sense to come in out of …”

He also depicts Trump as angry rather than solemn, and carrying an “America First” sign, a phrase which has echoes to the pro-nazi bunds that helped keep America out of World War II.

That would be a cheap shot if the term had not, in fact, been used by Trump’s allies, and which does mark the self-centered, isolating nationalism Macron addressed in a speech analysts have said targeted both Trump and Putin.

Bok, by contrast, depicts Macron as Napoleon, with an EU badge on his hat, while Merkel clutches an IOU to NATO, and suggests that their claim, that love of country (patriotism) is superior to my-country-right-or-wrong nationalism, shows an intent to declare war.

What Macron said was

Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism: Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism. In saying ‘our interests first, whatever happens to the others,’ you erase the most precious thing a nation can have, that which makes it live, that which causes it to be great and that which is most important: Its moral values.

Macron’s statement is opinion, but it’s fact-based, because “patriotism” is love of country, while, as he suggests, “nationalism” is more defensive and isolated. The dictionary lists them as synonyms, but adds a secondary definition of nationalism as extremist.

As for the Trumpian claim that European countries “owe us” for NATO, that’s an anti-globalist, isolationist concept that has been debunked by so many sources that I’ll send you to Google and let you pick your own.

The idea that the European Union intends to declare war on the United States I will leave as opinion, but simply preferring patriotism to nationalism seems a thin thread upon which to build it.


(Jimmy Margulies)

(Signe Wilkinson)

However, while I often disagree with Bok, here’s a juxtaposition by a pair of cartoonists with whom I normally agree but that leaves me asking questions.

I was primed (no pun intended) this morning to question the pushback on Amazon’s new pair of headquarters by a Tweet forwarded by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whom I really want to like but who apparently thinks tax incentives and cash-in-hand are the same thing.

Talking about what else you could do with X-amount of tax incentives assumes the taxes being reduced would otherwise be paid in full, which is like assuming that a piece of art that has been appraised for $5,000 is the same as having $5,000 in your hot little fist.

You do well to end up with half that.

I think Margulies is on fairly solid ground, speculating that Amazon’s presence in Queens, while it will create jobs, will also touch off a massive round of gentrification, pushing less fortunate people out of their low-income homes.

However, the issue Wilkinson raises is more theoretical, if we assume that the building itself will be fairly green.

Adding jobs invariably adds commuters and population increases, so any move forward does have impact on the carbon footprint. Absolutely.

The question in my mind — and it’s a serious question — is to what extent the impact is proportional to the number of new jobs.

That is, if a new store employs 25 people, they also have to get to work and will heat their homes and whatever.

But when you compare that impact with a company adding 25,000 jobs, is it proportionally equal or is there an economy of scale?

And those people existed anyway. If the jobs pay well, will they buy more efficient cars?

I don’t know, and I also don’t know how much pushback against Amazon — from these two and others — is because it’s Amazon.

There’s a Make America Green Again emotional thing that seems separate from insisting on environmental regulation.

It’s more wishing to go back to the corner druggist and the independent bookstore. I’m nostalgic for them, too, but I don’t know how you reverse time.

And, after all, the Sears catalog was simply an analog form of Amazon.


Variations on this meme have been popping up on Facebook and fall under the category of “Yes, but …”


Yes, but do you pump your own gas?


Yes, but do you use an ATM?


Yes, but do you only shop at stores where the clerk gets your
merchandise for you, or do you take a cart and
go down the aisles selecting your own things?

And, of course

Yes, but why didn’t you write this on paper and mail it
to all your friends to save postal carrier jobs, or hire
homeless people to stick it up on fences?

Life has consequences.  Make sensible choices.


(I never could picture Gracie driving a tractor.)

3 thoughts on “CSotD: Fact Checking the Opinions

  1. “Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first.” Charles de Gaulle

  2. Some of the Amazon pushback comes from the right, because they love to take what they think is a “left” issue and turn it on the left. Also, they think it’s a wedge issue than can cause infighting. Also, they’re furious that the jobs are moving to places that already have jobs, and it never, never, never occurs to them that liberal areas are actually more beneficial to business than conservative areas.

    25000 jobs is a lot of jobs. It is so common now for local governments to make businesses completely tax-free with NO job guarantees. This one HAS job guarantees and isn’t completely tax-free. If Amazon actually provides that many jobs and they are decent ones, it will put more money back into the economy.

  3. True dat. I’ve never understood the multipliers they use to assess economic impact, but it comes down to more benefit than, as I said, people buying better cars.

    I distrust their precision, but I’m willing to accept the overall concept that economic benefits offset tax incentives.

    I’m also of the impression that tax incentives are generally tied in some way to performance, such as the job guarantees in the Amazon deals. I’ve seen a mall come back and ask for a change in a Payment In Lieu Of Taxes agreement because sales didn’t keep up with expectations, but PILOTS for retail construction are, I hope, more casually calculated than something of this scale.

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