Monday, September 29, 2014

iPhone 6, iSlave, and Made in the USA: A Rant

The Peace & Justice Center of Sonoma County offers ethical reasons
why consumers should not purchase Apple's iPhone 6.
I was recently doing something that no sane individual should ever do before a first cup of coffee: I was reading posts by online commentators.

Specifically, I was reading comments on an image posted on Facebook by US Uncut.   The image is a mash-up that includes children working in a mine, a woman working in a factory in China, and an image of the modified iconic iPhone dancers with the title, "iSlave." Under the images, the caption reads, "Apple's iPhone6: raw materials mined by Congolese child slaves, shipped to China for assembly by indentured workers who commit suicide jumping from factory windows, and sold by US retail employees getting poverty wages."  Although it was uncited, the original seems to have originated with The Peace & Justice Center of Sonoma County, who have also added the comment, "For a company that prides itself on innovation, Apple's supply chain resembles the 18th century triangle trade. *Also, let's not forget Apple dodges billions in taxes and illegally colluded to suppress the salaries of their engineers and programmers."

Setting that aside for now, I have to mention that even more specifically, I was drawn to a comment posted by Ryan Dailey, which, in its entirety (sans offensive swearwords marked with dashes) reads as follows:

 I honestly find it hard to believe that americans are ignorant to the fact that china is a communist country... They own three trillion in US debt and they can crush our economy at any time, nevermind that is the reason we are in such bad shape anyway. What happens when you give your neighbor all your money? Your house falls apart while your neighbor thrives. We buy everything from china, of course their "economy" is booming while ours crumbles, you can't just ship all your money out, you have to keep it in your economy... Nevermind all military is technology based and you won't find a factory in north america. If we do go to war with china does anyone honestly believe they will keep selling us the things we need to fight them. Haha, we dont even have the machines to make the machines to make the products anymore, we sent them all overseas. Tell me I'm wrong or crazy. Honestly I'm terrified. The time will come, we are outnumbered, our economy is trashed, we lack the resources to be self sustaining and our civil liberties would be the greatest factor in undoing us, remember communism people? Look it up again, now check the facts for yourself. Want to buy an american tv? a microwave? A cellphone? Toys for your kids? Well you won't find any outside 20 year old goodwill models. Buy china, replace often, don't get an option to buy anything made at home because we don't and can't and people are out of work. Detroit is what we really are. I'm not exaggerating or fear mongering. We need to so something. All we manufacture is entertainment and drugs. Who the - are we? How could we be so proud? I'm - terrified, will you be ever satisfied? 

Why was I drawn to Mr. Dailey's comment, you may be wondering? I was drawn to this comment for three reasons.  First, it was in the middle of my screen, and my eyes caught it. Second, at first I could not figure out how the comment related to the image, which made me curious.  Then I realized that the comment, in a roundabout way, expresses a wish to know what a person might buy instead of an Apple product. Lastly, I found Mr. Dailey's comment  lacking in research and sound logic, and I wanted to analyze it.  He backs up none of his claims.  For example, saying that "that is the reason we are in such bad shape anyway," is a bit off the mark, as there certainly is not just one reason "we are in such bad shape."  The "that" is certainly much more complicated than having our debt held by China, and the "that" is particularly vague, to boot.  Yet, although he doesn't offer any facts, he does challenge his readers to "check the facts for yourself," and he follows with a list of items that he claims are no longer made in the USA.  He mentions televisions, microwave ovens, cell phones, and toys.

As it may take me some time to intelligently respond to Mr. Dailey's entire comment, I can begin in this post to address his concerns about these four items, at least.

First, please be aware that Element Electronics makes televisions in the USA. Dacor makes microwaves.  David A. Mellis can show you how to make your own cell phone, and you can easily find handmade toys made by Americans on Etsy.

But have I digressed?

Isn't this supposed to be about Apple?  Well, in the words of Ryan Dailey, "check the facts for yourself."

Check out this infographic called "Apple Around the World" posted by Alex Hillsberg on the Finances Online Web site.  It may not address all of a consumer's concerns about buying Apple products, and it may even make a person feel worse about doing so, but it is certainly less biased and more comprehensive than "iSlave" iconography.

Check out this article called "If Apple Brought iPhone Manufacturing To The US It Would Cost Them $4.2 billion" by Tim Worstall on the Forbes Web site.

Check out this article called "CHART OF THE DAY: A Full Cost Breakdown Of Apple's New iPhones" by Dave Smith on the Business Insider Web site.

Check out everything you can find to check out about this issue and any other issue that is important to you believe unsubstantiated sound bytes delivered via Facebook and complicated by illogical and unsupported comments.  Seriously.  And if you want to bring manufacturing back to the USA, pick up a knitting machine and go sell bikinis on the beach instead of ranting on Facebook.

That is all.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Deductive Reasoning: Testing the Soundness of Arguments

A phonograph says "I've created a sound argument," while a man in a robe and a little robot stand to the side, saying, "That is not the 'sound' you're looking for."
An argument is "sound" when it is true and valid.
An Introduction to Argument

How is deductive reasoning different from inductive reasoning?

According to Moore and Parker in their text, Critical Thinking (2012), when we “set forth reasons for accepting a claim,” we are creating an argument (pg. 8). In other words, arguments must include reasons, also called premises, and a conclusion.  This includes arguments we make as well as arguments we choose to accept.

The two types of reasoning we use to propose or come to conclusions are deductive reasoning and inductive reasoning.  We use both of these types of reasoning skills to create, or decide whether or not to accept, arguments.

Inductive reasoning is a form of reasoning we use to come to probable conclusions.  We can use narratives, testimony, personal experience, and a whole host of types of evidence to create and argue for probable conclusions.  In the end, however, they are merely probable, not certain.

Deductive reasoning, on the other hand,  is a form of reasoning we use to prove certain conclusions.
Before we can propose or come to certain conclusions, however, we must first test the soundness of a deductive argument.

Deductive Reasoning: Testing the Soundness of Arguments

In deductive reasoning, the “thinker” has two tasks to perform before accepting the certain conclusion of an argument: the test of truth, and the test of validity.  When an argument passes both tests, the argument is said to be sound.  If an argument fails one or both tests, the argument is said to be unsound.

The Test of Truth

When we test the truth of premises for a given conclusion, we ask ourselves if each statement asserts a reality.  We have to find or provide evidence of that reality, check to be sure the evidence itself has been gathered or tested in an ethical and logical manner, and ensure the evidence is reliable, relevant, accurate, and timely.  The test of truth is a matter of fact and meaning.

When we test premises for truth, or an assertion of reality, we must carefully consider the language and the semantic meaning of each premise.  We must consider denotative and connotative meanings of words, the clarity and specificity of words and phrases, or vagueness and ambiguity caused by improper grammar, mechanics, and usage. If we cannot understand the premises, or separate one premise from the next, we cannot test the truthfulness of those premises.

For example, I could make the argument that

Major Premise: All apples are good for me.
Minor Premise: All apple juice is made from apples.
Conclusion: Therefore, all apple juice is good for me.

In order to test the truthfulness of these statements, I must find and evaluate source content from experts that prove the true or false nature of each of the two premises, the first being called the "major premise," and the second being called the "minor premise." There is a lot of evidence to support the first statement, and there is no reason not to believe that all apples are good for me.  However, there is conflicting evidence about the minor premise, about all apple juice being made from apples.  In fact, according to several studies, there are many other man-made ingredients and artificial sweeteners found in several brands of apple juice that make it deceivingly "not" good for me.

So, although the first premise is true, the second premise is false, which means this argument fails the test of soundness, and we cannot accept the conclusion.  Does that mean we toss our argument?  In some cases, perhaps. However, in this case I can add specificity and clarity to my minor premise to make it a true statement.  I can make the argument that my homemade apple juice is good for me.

Take a look at the change:

Major Premise: Apples are good for me.
Minor Premise: My homemade apple juice is made only from apples.
Conclusion: Therefore, my homemade apple juice is good for me.

I have now proposed my conclusion based on two true premises.  If I wanted to be even more specific, I could define "good for me," using clearer language; however, for this example I will accept the colloquial understanding of "good for me."

The Test of Validity

After testing whether or not each premise within an argument asserts a reality, I can label each premise as either false or true to reality.  True or false premises, labeled “T” or “F,” can be placed in a truth table to test the validity of the argument, or the semantic meaning can be determined by rewriting the argument in the form of a valid syllogism.  Testing the validity of a premise is a matter of form.

Because this argument is stated as a syllogism, with two premises and a conclusion, I will test the validity of this particular argument by comparing its form to known valid forms of syllogisms.


In order to test the validity of a syllogism, a "thinker" must compare the form of an argument to known valid forms of syllogisms.  There are 24 valid forms of syllogisms, and in order to be valid, the argument must match one of those 24 valid forms.  Labeling each piece of an argument by letter allows for closer examination of its form.

The three parts of my example argument's premises are

A. Apples, the subject of the major premise.
B. good for me, the predicate adjective of the major premise.
C. homemade apple juice, the subject of the minor premise.

That makes the form of the given syllogism

A. All apples B. are good for me.
C. My homemade apple juice A. is made only from apples.
C. My homemade apple juice B. is good for me.

When I compare my argument to the known valid forms of syllogisms, I can see that this is a valid form of a categorical syllogism, and my argument passes the test of validity.

My argument has passed both the test of truth and the test of validity, and I can therefore call it "sound."

Conclusion: If A, then B.  A.  Therefore, B.

If an argument's premises are true and stated in the proper form, then the argument is sound.

My argument's premises are true and stated in the proper form.

Therefore, _____________ .

Can you fill in the blank?

In conclusion, before making or accepting the certain truth of a deductive argument, a critical thinker must test the argument for the truth of its premises, and a critical thinker must test the argument for the validity of its form.  Only after the argument passes both of these tests can it be considered a sound argument.

Want to read more about critical thinking and argument?  Try

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Please contact the author for permission to republish.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Monty PyTHon THursday: Diagramming Syllogisms

A newt, a log as a witch, a log, a duck, a witch, a carrot, and a fire extinguisher, all labeled, some incorrectly.
Sir Vladimir's deductions, when diagrammed, make little sense at all.

In Monty Python and The Holy Grail, Sir Vladimir "tests" the witchness of a peasant woman brought to him by her peasant neighbors.

The claim that she is a witch, though eloquently worked out by Sir Vladimir, is very much flawed.  How do we know it is flawed? Well,  we "test" the soundness of his argument by using the rules of deductive reasoning: We test the truth of each premise and the validity of the form in which the premises are stated.

However, even before we run his argument through those two tests of deductive reasoning, we can test his use of language.  We can look closely at the structure of Sir Vladimir's sentences by diagramming each of the pieces of his argument, called syllogisms.  When diagrammed, we can easily look at the essential elements of each sentence and weed out all of the flowery language that might be obstructing clarity.

Think you aren't up to the challenge of diagramming each syllogism?  Well, in the words of The Black Knight, "Come on, ya pansy."

First Syllogism

This syllogism is written in a valid form.  The form is as follows:
  • All A's are B's.
  • All C's are A's.
  • Therefore, all C’s are B’s.
The second premise, however, is false: There are things that burn that are not made of wood.  Therefore, although the syllogism is valid, it is unsound because it has not passed the test of truth.
  • First Premise: All witches are things that can burn.
  • Second Premise: All things that can burn are made of wood.
  • Conclusion: Therefore, all witches are made of wood.

Does it really take an analysis of form and truth, though, to understand that this particular syllogism is not quite right?  Not really.  Before ever testing this argument for form or truth, we can diagram the sentences, the propositions, to help us narrow the sentences down to their essential elements.  Thus broken down, we can easily determine our A,B,C's and see that the language is vague and ill-stated - never a good sign of a sound argument.

The essential elements on the base lines of these propositions read "witches are things," "things are made," and "witches are made."  Someone should probably tell Sir Vladimir that "things" is never a great way to define the terms of our arguments.  "Things" is an example of vague language, and in the end, vague language ends up meaning practically nothing.

The Witch's Trial: The First Syllogism

Second Syllogism

The second syllogism is written in an invalid form.  The valid form is as follows:
  • All A's are B's.
  • All C's are A's.
  • Therefore, all C’s are B’s.
However, this invalid syllogism is written as follows:
  • All A's are B's.
  • All C's are B's.
  • Therefore, all C’s are A’s.
Do you see the difference?

Furthermore, it's again quite obvious that the premises are untrue, and even more obviously, the essential elements of these sentences are circular and nonsensical: All three read "Things are things."  

  • First Premise: All things that are made of wood are things that can float.
  • Second Premise: All things that weigh as much as a duck are things that can float.
  • Conclusion: So all things that weigh as much as a duck are things that are made of wood.

The Witch's Trial: The Second Syllogism

Third Syllogism

Just as with the second syllogism, this third syllogism is written in an invalid form.  The valid form, as above, is as follows:
  • All A's are B's.
  • All C's are A's.
  • Therefore, all C’s are B’s.
However, this syllogism is written as 
  • All A's are B's.
  • All C's are B's.
  • All A's are C's.
Even though slightly less vague than the previous sentences, the sentences in this third syllogism are still quite ridiculous: "witches are made," "things are things," and "witches are things."  We also know that the first and second premises are false, which makes this syllogism both untrue and invalid.

  • First Premise: All witches are made of wood.
  • Second Premise: All things that weigh as much as a duck are things that are made of wood.
  • Conclusion: Therefore, all witches are things that weigh as much as a duck.

The Witch's Trial: The Third Syllogism

Fourth Syllogism

Just as with the second and third syllogisms, this fourth syllogism is, once again, written in an invalid form.  The valid form, as above, is as follows:
  • All A's are B's.
  • All C's are A's.
  • Therefore, all C’s are B’s.
However, this syllogism is written as 
  • All A's are B's.
  • All C's are B's.
  • All C's are A's.
And, not to be confused with newts or women with carrots tied around their faces, according to Sir Vladimir, "witches are things," "thing is a thing," and "thing is a witch."  The first premise is also untrue, making each and every one of these syllogisms unsound arguments.

  • First Premise: All witches are things that weigh as much as a duck.
  • Second Premise: This thing is a thing that weighs as much as a duck.
  • Conclusion: Therefore, this thing is a witch.

The Witch's Trial: The Fourth Syllogism

How'd you do?  Were you able to do it, or did you head off to buy a shrubbery?  

Please use the comments box below to let me know if you have any questions, or if you just want to brag that you were able to tackle these syllogisms.  I will not say "Ni."

Want to learn more about diagramming sentences?  

Use this link to sign up for a Udemy account and take my complete online course on Udemy at a discount, or purchase my text, "Diagramming Sentences: A Playful Way to Analyze Everyday Language" on Amazon.

Friday, September 12, 2014

A Narrative Essay: Holding Hands

In about 45 minutes I will stop typing, eat some breakfast, take a shower, and pack my black suit.  I will be leaving for my 4th funeral in 2 years, and that number doesn't include the number of funerals I've not been able to attend.  I wonder if this is the real sign of being an adult; if that being an adult has nothing to do with grey hair, sore muscles, and numbers of years, and has everything to do with the numbers of funerals we attend for people we love?

When I was yet well away from being an adult, a little kid still a few feet from being as tall as my grandmother, we used to walk together.  We would, as is normal for a grandmother walking a young grandchild, hold hands.  She never just held my hand, though.  She would slightly squeeze it, three times, once for "I," once for "love," and once for "you."  

As a small child I thought, of course, that if I understood the squeeze, everyone must understand it.  I tested it on my grandfather, and he got it and squeezed back.  I tested it on my dad, and he got it and squeezed back!  My mom and my aunt got it, too!  I tested it on everyone I knew, and everyone I knew got it!  As I got older I would use this squeeze when I held hands with other people, and some would understand it, squeeze back.  Some would not get it, misunderstand, and either I'd let go or they'd let go.  As I got even older, I would use it as a test on unsuspecting dates.  Those that couldn't get it didn't last very long.  It was a good test.

My grandmother and I used the squeeze every chance we got to see each other, which wasn't enough for either one of us.  Over time, the squeeze developed into a conversation.

"Squeeze squeeze squeeze," for "I love you."
"Squeeze squeeze," for "How much?"
"Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeze," in response.

My grandmother and grandfather were both buried on the same day.  As people were standing graveside with their own thoughts, I had only 3 squeezes in my head.  As people were standing to explain to all of us what my grandparents meant to them, I had "squeeze, squeeze, squeeze" in my head.  During the luncheon? "Squeeze, squeeze, squeeze."  The flight home?  "Squeeeeeeeeeeeze."

Today I am going to my 4th funeral in 2 years.  I will go with my husband to honor his uncle.  I will make us some breakfast, we will take our showers, and we will pack our suits.  I will stand with him and hold his hand, and I will squeeze three times, and he will get it.  Today I will think of all the love we have for the amazing person we've lost, and it won't just be a sad day, although it will be a sad day.  I will make today another reminder to never take any opportunity to squeeze for granted, to squeeze with everyone I want to squeeze as often as I can.

Want to read more about narrative essays?  Try

Prewriting a Narrative Essay
Why Write a Narrative Essay
The Use of Narrative Assignments in Introductory Literature Courses

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Please contact the author for permission to republish.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Diagramming Sentences: Folk Song Friday

A sentence diagram of "You Are My Sunshine."
"You Are My Sunshine" is a great song to use for diagramming and analysis!

Diagramming sentences is a playful way to analyze everyday language.  Part of our everyday language includes music and song. Why not practice our grammar and analysis skills by diagramming a song?

"You Are My Sunshine" was written by Oliver Hood and the Rice Brothers' Gang in 1933.  It makes a great song for analysis because of its complicated sentence structures and catchy, popular tune.  Furthermore, as we begin to diagram and analyze this song, we start to see that there is more to it, and this speaker, than just life with sunshine.

Do you know how it goes? One, two, three, four, one . . .

The Chorus

The lyrics to the chorus of "You Are My Sunshine."
"You Are My Sunshine" Chorus

The chorus of the song, the most well-known part of the song, contains an appositive, a complex sentence structure, a personal address, an imperative sentence that uses understood you, linking verbs followed by subject complements, and an interjection.  It also includes contractions and a noun clause.  Can you pick them out?  I'll give you a hint: Appositives and understood you will always be placed on a diagram in parenthesis.

Verse One

"You Are My Sunshine" Verse One

Just like the chorus, the first verse of the song contains a personal address, a linking verb, a noun clause, and a complex sentence structure.  In addition, this verse also includes a compound verb, a present participle, a prepositional phrase, and a compound-complex sentence structure.

As a matter of comparison to the chorus, we can easily see in this verse that there are a lot of I's as subjects. All six clauses have "I" to the left of the subject-verb divider line.  What do you think that might mean?  What might that imply about the speaker in the song?

Verse Two

"You Are My Sunshine" Verse Two

The second verse introduces an infinitive phrase, "to love another,"  and the object complement, "happy." There is also another good example of an appositive, the renaming of "it" for "all."

The double  inclusion of the word "if," a subordinating conjunction, tells us even more about the speaker than the many uses of the word "I" in the previous verse.  Think about the circumstances that people are in when they most often use the word "if." The circumstances are often uncertain, or a person may be examining his or her potential future paths.  This type of sentence is called a conditional sentence.

Verse Three

"You Are My Sunshine" Verse Three

The third verse offers an excellent example of an indirect object and an excellent test of our abilities to diagram a compound-complex sentence.  The compound-complex sentence in this verse contains four clauses.  Do you see all four?  Here is a hint: "You told," "you loved," "no one could come," and "you've left and love," are the four subject-verb pairs.

Because songs and music are such an integral part of our daily lives, taking the time to analyze them can truly help us understand them better.  Diagramming, though exceptionally helpful when learning about grammar and usage, can also help us find ways to analyze a song's meaning by helping us see patterns in the language. Those patterns prompt us to ask questions and dig deeper into the song's greater implications.  As we can see here, this particular song is about a lot more than just life with "sunshine."

Want to learn more about diagramming sentences?

Try my complete diagramming sentences course on Udemy, or refer to my textbook, "Diagramming Sentences: A Playful Way to Analyze Everyday Language."