Intransitivity

by John Quiggin on September 29, 2005

From today’s NYT

“Even though DeLay has nothing to do with Frist, and Frist has nothing to do with Abramoff, how does it look? Not good,” said William Kristol, a key conservative strategist and editor of The Weekly Standard.

Unfortunately for Kristol’s rhetorical exercise, the relation “has nothing to do with” is not transitive, a fact of which he is presumably aware, given this choice of example.

From the previous para in the same story

the string of ethical issues so close together – including the indictment and continuing investigation of the Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who was close to Mr. DeLay … is a source of anxiety in Republican circles.

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scribblingwoman
09.30.05 at 10:54 pm

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1

foo 09.29.05 at 6:51 pm

Presumably “has nothing to do with” is reflexive though, right?

Whether you believe him or not (my bet: no!), looking at it like that (along with the fact that he had already brought up the Frist hca stock thing earlier), it’s clear that Kristol isn’t trying to say anything about transitivity, he’s just trying to make the weak claim that “these things are all independent, and it’s just bad luck that it’s all happening to the republicans at the same time.”

i.e, “Frist independent of DeLay” and “Frist independent of Abramoff” => “Republicans shouldn’t be blamed for the stock-shenanigans and the abramoff-shenanigans at the same time.”

An altogether different sort of error…

2

Matt Weiner 09.29.05 at 7:07 pm

Irreflexive, I’d say. It’s symmetric, which I think is what your point needs.

I think it probably is true that whatever Frist is up to, he’s up to on his own–but Abramoff and Savafian and all that seem to be part of a big steaming pile.

3

Chimpeach 09.29.05 at 7:59 pm

I think the point was that DeLay has everything to do with Abramoff, and Kristol made a weak attempt at separating them rhetorically.

George Bush has nothing to do with the Oxford English Dictionary, and the Oxford English Dictionary has nothing to do with Old Crow Bourbon, but let us never take that to mean that George Bush isn’t getting shitfaced drunk on that very booze right now.

4

Kenny Easwaran 09.29.05 at 8:43 pm

I just pointed out to my officemate this same use of intransitivity to implicate a lack of connection between DeLay and Abramoff. Or, to a mathematician or philosopher, to make this connection painfully obvious.

5

Semanticleo 09.29.05 at 10:41 pm

Is there anyone with the intestinal fortitude to follow this thread throughout the lengths of it’s related members?

We need a Captain America, but I’ll take a suit that feels it’s important to be able to look at him/herself in the mirror every morning.

Where the Hell is Mr. Smith?

6

Ginger Yellow 09.30.05 at 2:03 am

Of course the Republican House majority leader has nothing to do with the Republican Senate majority leader. And of course the Republican Senate majority leader has nothing to do with the number one Republican lobbyist. Only a conspiracy theorist would think otherwise.

7

Amardeep 09.30.05 at 10:12 am

I hope this isn’t a digression from the thread, but I wonder if the Dems. will really be able to make any hay out of all these investigations and indictments in the midterm elections next year.

Campaign finance irregularities like DeLay’s are hard to explain to voters — because the law itself is pretty arcane — and hard to run on.

You’re stuck running on things like “the whole congress is ineffectual” or “there is a culture of corruption,” which is quite a bit weaker as a selling point than the “Contract With America.”

I worry that the Democrats won’t find any way to capitalize on the wave of scandals.

8

Steve LaBonne 09.30.05 at 10:22 am

DeLay could shoot people down in the street in broad daylight and I STILL wouldn’t have any confidence that the Dems could capitalize on it. Sigh.

9

Thompsaj 09.30.05 at 1:05 pm

Is Bill Bennett’s connection to Bill Frist (through Kevin Bacon, obviously) transitive, since going into the entertainment industry (on PBS no less)?

10

Shelby 10.04.05 at 11:48 am

So is this an effort toward a grammar of politics, or a geometry? (Or calculus?)

Just so it’s not a dialectic…

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