Thursday, August 09, 2007

A light sprinkling II

In a comment to Spot's post King Banaian and the Ford Pinto II, the professor wrote this:

1, 2, and 3 [all arguments as posited by the professor regarding the bridge failure, as set out in the link above] can all be true. You'll forgive me for exploring different sides of the story? Dogs may have one tracked minds; humans get to explore.

First of all, Spot will say that he doesn't think this is an especially academic exercise on the professor's part; it's advocacy disguised as a kind of crack-pot scholarship. The professor's association with Michael Brodkorb may be showing: throw a lot of stuff at the wall and hope some of it sticks.

And now for a little civil procedure lesson. Today, we will be discussing the case of the cabbages. A man alleges that a neighbor's goat ate his cabbages. The defendant consults a lawyer who tells the defendant that it is possible to plead alternate fact theories as a defense to the charge. The defendant authorizes the lawyer to proceed, and the lawyer puts in this answer to the complaint:

  1. I don't own a goat.
  2. Even if I did, he didn't eat your cabbages.
  3. Even if he did, the cabbages were rotten and therefore worthless.

Although a perfectly lawful, and perhaps even rational in a formal rules sense, pleading, it lacks what, boys and girls?


Bingo, grasshopper. Just like our slippery goat owner, the professor has some problems with his arguments. You can't argue that the risk of something is unknowable and then claim that the politicians and the public made a rational cost-benefit analysis. If you don't know the costs or the benefits, you can't possibly do the analysis.

Similarly, it seems disingenuous, or at least odd, to argue (perhaps the professor will retreat to "muse") that a private inspection scheme (there were in fact private inspectors/consultants involved, remember?) would be better when the whole thing was probably, as the professor called it, a "black swan."

Spot thinks there is one comment left.

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