Clarifying Ad Hominem

Here’s a brilliant piece clarifying the oft misused term “ad hominem.” The key thing here is that an “ad hominem” attack is one in which someone tries to refute an argument. Merely insulting someone does not rise to the level of ad hominem.

One of the most widely misused terms on the Net is “ad hominem”. It is most often introduced into a discussion by certain delicate types, delicate of personality and mind, whenever their opponents resort to a bit of sarcasm. As soon as the suspicion of an insult appears, they summon the angels of ad hominem to smite down their foes, before ascending to argument heaven in a blaze of sanctimonious glory. They may not have much up top, but by God, they don’t need it when they’ve got ad hominem on their side. It’s the secret weapon that delivers them from any argument unscathed.

In reality, ad hominem is unrelated to sarcasm or personal abuse. Argumentum ad hominem is the logical fallacy of attempting to undermine a speaker’s argument by attacking the speaker instead of addressing the argument. The mere presence of a personal attack does not indicate ad hominem: the attack must be used for the purpose of undermining the argument, or otherwise the logical fallacy isn’t there. It is not a logical fallacy to attack someone; the fallacy comes from assuming that a personal attack is also necessarily an attack on that person’s arguments.

Therefore, if you can’t demonstrate that your opponent is trying to counter your argument by attacking you, you can’t demonstrate that he is resorting to ad hominem. If your opponent’s sarcasm is not an attempt to counter your argument, but merely an attempt to insult you (or amuse the bystanders), then it is not part of an ad hominem argument

March 6, 2011 |  Category: Random Nonsense
Posted By The Original Golf Blogger

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BidCactus Auction Site Review

BidCactus dot Com is one of a new breed of auction sites in which participants pay for the right to bid for products offered—not by individuals—but by the site itself.

The hook for BidCactus (and other sites like it) is that you could possibly score consumer electronics, gift cards, jewelry and other brand new retail products for as little as a penny.

Each auction starts at one cent, and every time someone places a bid, the price of that item goes up by one cent. And each time a bid is placed, the auction is automatically extended from between three and thirty seconds—ostensibly to give others a chance to jump in. The item is yours if you’re the last person to bid.

The catch is that you must pay for the right to bid on the products. Each bid at BidCactus costs the participant seventy five cents. Participants buy bid packs ahead of time, and each time a bid is placed, one is subtracted from the total.

Of course, as soon as you place your bid, the likelihood is that someone else will bid, extending the auction. The only way to stay in the game is to then place another bid, at a cost of another seventy five cents. Then, if there’s another bid, you need to spend another seventy five cents and on and on.

In this sort of a system it would be very easy to get stuck in a situation where you practically have to keep bidding. Once you’re thirty or forty dollars worth of bids into a product, if you lose the auction, you’re out all that money with nothing to show for it.

Thus, while the deals generally look good at first glance, the savvy buyer must figure into the item cost the cost of the bids.

For its part, BidCactus doesn’t care about the final selling price, so long as the sum of the value of the bids exceeds the item’s wholesale cost. And there’s no doubt that will happen. Consider: As I write this, there’s an auction underway for a $100 Amazon gift card. The current high bid is $2.00 (and climbing rapidly).

Since the auction began at one cent, and increases one cent for each bid, the $2.00 price represents 199 bids at seventy five cents each. That’s $149.74. If the price stays at $2.00, BidCactus has earned a $49.75 profit.

Of course, it doesn’t matter to the consumer how much BidCactus makes. The only thing that matters is getting a good price (an auction price that, when the cost of the bids is considered, is considerably lower than retail). In the case of the Amazon gift card, someone placing, say, a hundred bids would get that $100 card for $77 ($2, plus $75 in bids.). That’s a pretty good deal.

There are no refunds on bids on lost auctions (BidCactus is correct in saying that this would inflate the prices), but the site does have a points program. For every bid you place, you get two points which can be used to purchase items in the Reward Store. There, a $10 gift card runs around 2,200 points. For that, you’d have placed 1,100 bids at a cost of $825 dollars.

One plus of this style of site is that unlike more traditional auction sites, you’re getting a new item from BidCactus. There aren’t any other parties involved.

The site has beginner auctions to help get you started, as well as an interesting limit of 25 wins in thirty days. That, they say, is to spread the wealth around.

I think the key to winning at BidCactus is to play during off hours (you’ll have to find out what those are by watching for a while). The person who jumps in at the last minute with just a single bid is the real winner on this type of site.

March 1, 2011 |  Category: Random Nonsense
Posted By The Original Golf Blogger

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Deal Fun: Tempting and Appalling Review

DealFun offers one of the more interesting auction sites I’ve seen. The concept is simultaneously tempting and appalling.

The temptation is this: A glance at the DealFun home page shows that you could potentially get a brand new iPad, or a 32 inch lcd television, or any one of dozens of other new electronics, accessories and jewelry for as low as one cent. That’s right. One cent. The are dozens of items on the site right now: iPads, iPhones, Kindles, Laptops, LED TVs, PS3s, Watches, Jewelry and Toys.

Of course, you only get the product for one cent if no one else bids. Each time another person bids, the price goes up by a penny, and the auction is extended for 15 seconds. The item is yours if you’re the last bidder when the timer expires. From what I can tell, auctions typically last thirteen to fifteen hours.

So far, so good. But here’s the appalling part:

In order to participate, you have to purchase the right to bid at sixty cents each, prepaid in “bid packs.” Every time you place a bid, one is deducted from your reservoir.  So, if you place a starting bid, that costs you sixty cents. If someone outbids you, you can get back in the game by placing another bid, which costs you another sixty cents—and extends the auction, giving someone else the chance to spend sixty cents to top you. And on and on.

DealFun thus doesn’t really care what the item sells for, as long as sufficient bids have been placed to cover the cost.

It’s pretty obvious that you could spend a ton of money here in pursuit of a hot item. Once you’re in for thirty or forty bucks, you want to keep bidding, or the money is essentially lost. So you keep bidding and bidding and bidding, all at sixty cents a pop. On the other hand, you could get lucky and get a fabulous deal.

If you check the individual items listed, you’ll see that there’s a notation on each item detailing how much the item sold for last. On one iPad auction, it shows $301.31—a significant savings over Apple’s $499 price for the same item. That auction price, however, doesn’t factor in what the buyer paid for bids he used to win the item. Maybe the buyer got lucky and only spent a buck or two—or maybe they spend forty, fifty or more. It could easily be the case that the final bid price, plus the expense of the bids exceeds the regular retail price. Or not.

One saving grace is that if you lose the auction, you still can purchase the item at a “Buy It Now” price, and the cash value of the bids you placed is deducted from the final tally. However, you have to be careful here, too. A quick check on a iPad 2 shows that the DealFun price is $200 more than the same item on the Apple site.

Another plus. Unlike, say, Ebay, you know you’re getting a new item from a seller who actually will follow through on the sale. They emphasize their customer service—something you often can’t get on other auction sites. And, to make things easy, they have “beginners auctions,” and a guarantee that you’ll win your first item in 24 hours or your bids are reset.

Finally, there’s no weekly or monthly win cap, so the savvy bidder could end up with a lot of loot.

I think you could do well on this site if you really paid attention to the details. First, compare the price of the desired item at a regular retailer to the DealFun price. If the two are comparable and you plan to buy the item in any case, give DealFun a try. You might get the item at a bargain price (remember to factor in the cost of your bids into your calculus); or in the worst case, you end up paying the “Buy It Now” price. The real winner will be the guy who jumps in at the last second, after all the other bidders are exhausted.

Deal Fun has gotten a lot of press.

Full Disclosure: This has been a sponsored post. The opinions, however, are unfiltered and uninfluenced.

March 1, 2011 |  Category: Random Nonsense
Posted By The Original Golf Blogger

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How Billionaires Control The School Systems

Here’s an interesting article from a leftist magazine, Dissent, on how a few billionaires and their foundations are controlling—likely to its detriment—the direction our public schools are taking.

THE cost of K–12 public schooling in the United States comes to well over $500 billion per year. So, how much influence could anyone in the private sector exert by controlling just a few billion dollars of that immense sum? Decisive influence, it turns out. A few billion dollars in private foundation money, strategically invested every year for a decade, has sufficed to define the national debate on education; sustain a crusade for a set of mostly ill-conceived reforms; and determine public policy at the local, state, and national levels. In the domain of venture philanthropy—where donors decide what social transformation they want to engineer and then design and fund projects to implement their vision—investing in education yields great bang for the buck.

As someone in the trenches of education, I am absolutely convinced that the nations schools are going backward—not forward—with every new reform. We’ve spent two decades trying all of these new-fangled education ideas dreamed up by ambitious Ph.D.s and power accumulating state and federal bureaucrats and the end result, if you believe these same Ph.D.s and Bureaucrats is that things are getting worse. So much worse, in fact, that we need even more change than before.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

Lets go back to the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic with traditional teaching methods. That’s the education that the Ph.D.s and bureaucrats received that made them so smart in the first place.

February 5, 2011 |  Category: Education
Posted By The Original Golf Blogger

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Photographers Rights Grey Card

Here’s a handy gizmo that combines the ever-useful grey card for color balancing with crib notes on the rights of a photographer in case you’re ever challenged.

January 30, 2011 |  Category: Photography
Posted By The Original Golf Blogger

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