Life & Logic: Part 2 – Avoiding the Question

It just bugs me when officials in an interview on something important dodge the question with their answer.* In a time when facts and the truth are not always completely obvious, what do we do to stay sane and alert? Who has time to research everything to find accurate information? That may be why more and more voters vanish on election days from pure exhaustion. So let’s stay in it, and take steps to fight for logic in our political discourse!

*Note: I do understand when leaders are unable to comment due to ethical, legal, or sensitivity limitations. Sometimes we are legitimately not entitled to all the information in the moment. I accept that.

As we continue the series on strengthening our logic skills to recognize and respond to faulty logic, we equip ourselves to better understand facts, truth, and how they relate in reasonable ways. Today’s post looks at ways people avoid a question. These may not be new to you, but I find them interesting. It encourages me to be a careful and savvy listener when it comes to debate on important issues in our society.

Red Herring Fallacy

Saying things that sound like they answer the question, but they don’t. Saying things that are true, at least partially, but they do not answer the actual question. We’ve heard this happen in conversations and interviews. At times it is masterful how some people introduce something unrelated in a way that is hard to detect. Anytime this happens, that is one way of avoiding the question. This is called a red herring.

I recently read that a red herring is called that because it starts to smell like a dead fish. In the book, The Fallacy Detective, the authors tell how dog trainers would create a scent trail of whatever they wanted a dog to follow, say a racoon. Then the trail would become old. That is when the trainers would drag a smelly, old red herring across the trail and off in another direction to throw the dog off the original trail. They work with the dog to stay on the original trail and not get distracted. As defined in the book, here’s how this goes:

  1. A red herring, or irrelevant point, is introduced into an argument or in answer to a question.
  2. The speaker thinks or hopes that listeners will think this proves the point being made, and answers the question.
  3. But it does not.
  4. However, if someone responds simply with saying they do not know the answer, that is not a red herring. It is not irrelevant and is still on topic.

How to Recognize Red Herrings

Responses are often true, yet irrelevant. They can be good arguments, but just do not address the point of the question being asked.

So, to recognize a red herring, follow these steps:

  1. What is the question being asked or argued about?
  2. Did the person address that issue or question and stay on topic?
  3. Is the response true, but off topic?

These critical thinking tools help us determine a red herring and know how to respectfully listen, but not get sidetracked.

Special Pleading Fallacy

Special pleading is a variation of the red herring approach that uses a double standard or an exception that is not justified. These techniques sidestep the issue.

Example: I know I shouldn’t overeat, but I am very hungry.

Special pleading often brings in something that gives an unfair advantage. There are times when an exception to a standard or rule or law is unfair. When we hear those comments that seem unfair, it may be a red herring, distracting from the bigger issue or question.

How to Recognize Special Pleading

To call out a special pleading comment, step back and ask yourself or the person speaking, if you are in the conversation:

  1. Why is this exception relevant?
  2. Is this distracting us from the issue?

Ad Hominem Attack

I think these are easy to recognize because I get a pit in my stomach when listening. If you’ve ever watched a political debate in recent years, you’ve seen this in action. Ad hominem attacks are when one participant attacks the character and/or motives of the other to get us to doubt them and see them as bad or as the enemy. This is done effectively, yet unfairly, at times, if it gets us off the topic at hand. We listen to the participants drag each other through the mud instead of defending their position on an issue being debated.

Ad hominem is Latin for “to the man.”

We must go on alert when someone’s character or motives are attacked, instead of disproving an argument.  In that situation, someone is side stepping the question.

Next time, in the Life & Logic Series: Genetic fallacy, tu quoque, and faulty appeal to authority. What? Exactly why I’m reviewing these techniques that miscommunicate. I hope this is helpful.

Stay charming and logical, my friends!

Note: This is part of a blog series on a logical thinking to strengthen skills as we filter information in coming elections. Being an involved, informed voter is strategic and becoming more vital. Plus, logic exercises the brain. That is a great benefit. I am studying faulty logic, using a book, The Fallacy Detective, by Nathaniel and Hans Bluedorn. You can learn more at Let’s work toward more wisdom as citizens and voters together. Our democracy is strong. Let’s keep it that way together.

A Visit to La Monarca, a Local Bakery

La Monarca Bakery Sign

I recently returned to local bakery that I enjoy, La Monarca. I want to share it with you, in case you also have an interest and find enjoyment in discovering and visiting local bakeries. If you live in Southern California, and have not tried this bakery yet, I have included a link to find the several locations nearby. You’ll see link at the end of this post.

La Monarca is a pleasant place to grab coffee and a sweet, whether meeting friends or going solo. My husband and I have even been known to come here for a hot chocolate break on a busy Saturday in the winter. But more about that later.

I did a little research on the La Monarca website to find out more about this bakery. Here’s what was said to help frame our understanding:

La Monarca Bakery’s founders grew up enjoying the rich variety of cakes, pastries and breads which are household staples in Mexico. They created La Monarca Bakery to bring The Sweet Flavor of Mexico to the U.S. Our products are made with  all-natural fresh ingredients, without the use of lard, frying or artificial preservatives.

There’s a whole lot to like about that! Bakeries with a different cultural tradition are interesting. I learn and become familiar with treats new to me, a Midwest girl. Using “fresh ingredients” appeals to me, too.

I think it is fun to go in, grab a little tray and some tongs, and find your goodness. Scan the display and pick something interesting. Then go to the cashier to order any hot food or coffee.


Start here!


La Monarca Pan Dulce Delights

I am exploring the different pastries, new to me, on a quest to find my favorites. This is a long term goal. Currently, my favorite in the Pan Dulce display are the tacos or Taquito de Crema, Guayaba (or guava), or Con Queso (or with cheese). I like any of those three fillings wrapped in a flaky crust. I also like anything with cinnamon.

La Monarca Cinnamon Roll

The Cinnamon Roll

Sometimes I accompany the treat with a more sensible slice of Quiche Rajas, with peppers, corn, and cheese, to balance out with a bit of protein. The peppers are mild, not spicy, at least to me. I am a light weight when it comes to heat. Top it all off with a cup of coffee, and I’m all set to take a seat.

La Monarca Quiche Close-Up

The Quiche Rajas & Salsa

But before I sit down to wait for my hot food, I always carefully peruse the beautiful cakes on display, delightful to look at and no calories! No calories in just looking, that is.

La Monarca Cake Display

Check out the fresh cakes display.

The ambiance at our local La Monarca is fresh and clean, with an exposed brick wall, wooden tables and benches, and industrial steel stools. The music is energetic to add a pleasant Latin flavor. I have not been to other locations yet to compare.

La Monarca Wide Shot

Time to find a seat to enjoy the goodies and some conversation.

La Monarca Latte

Sometimes I get a latte.

I recommend trying their specialty coffee, Cafe de Olla! This coffee is described on their menu as custom Mexican spiced coffee with a blend of spices, brown sugar and organic Oaxacan dark roast coffee. I find the flavor mild and delicious in an interesting way. I do not like flavored coffee. However, I do enjoy this coffee occasionally, since the flavor is tasty and light, complimenting the coffee, not competing.

Also, this bakery supports the Monarch butterfly. We can sign and post a flyer for $1. La Monarca sends all proceeds to their partner ECOLIFE Conservation and the Monarch Butterfly conservation program. This is an important cause since those easily recognizable and majestic butterflies are in trouble, and the numbers have really decreased in recent years.


Looking through the door to the beautiful outside sky.

Did I mention the hot chocolate? I know it is 91 degrees today where i live, but cooler weather will be here again one day. We need to be ready! They offer Mexican hot chocolate with organic cocoa, brown sugar, and cinnamon, whip cream and a sprinkle of crushed peanuts. They also offer a traditional champurrado, and I have to try that some time this winter. If you know what it is, you’ll probably want to try it, too. If you do not know what that is, maybe you should try it to find out. Doesn’t talking about hot chocolate at least remind you of days with cooler temperatures, even though it has been a hot summer?


Do you have any local favorite bakeries to share about in the comments? Please do!

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Order Cafe de Olla here or pick up a bag at one of the La Monarca locations.

Stay charming, my friends!


For those experiencing “personal or political heartbreak,” Carrie Newcomer, an artist new to me, composed a song called Sanctuary that may speak to you. I connected with it. I am currently reading Parker Palmer’s life-giving book, On the Brink of Everything. This beautiful song,Sanctuary, is referenced in this book, and that’s how I found it and recently listened to it.


In the notes for The Beautiful Not Yet album, Carrie wrote this about her song,

This song was written after a conversation with my friend Parker J. Palmer. I asked him, “What can we do when we are personally or politically heartbroken?” He responded, “We take sanctuary. We gather with those we love, in places like Brown Chapel. We remember, we share stories or we sit in silence until we can go on.”

I am in a season of political heartbreak right now, and some personal heartbreak. Maybe you are, too. This song brought to mind people and places that provide sanctuary for me – a good meal shared with loved ones, the beauty of nature and cathedrals, cultivating my faith quietly, the solace I find in God, moments of solitude, and connection in my local church community. I need to be more intentional about taking sanctuary in difficult times, remembering I wasn’t made to do the hard in life alone.

Here are the lyrics. I like to read lyrics. Perhaps you do, too.

Will you be my refuge

My haven in the storm

Will you keep the embers warm

When my fire’s all but gone?

Will you remember

And bring me sprigs of rosemary

Be my sanctuary

’Til I can carry on

Carry on

Carry on


This one knocked me to the ground

This one dropped me to my knees

I should have seen it coming

But it surprised me


Will you be my refuge

My haven in the storm

Will you keep the embers warm

When my fire’s all but gone?

Will you remember

And bring me sprigs of rosemary

Be my sanctuary

’Til I can carry on

Carry on

Carry on


In a state of true believers

On streets called us and them

Its gonna take some time

‘Til the world feels safe again


Will you be my refuge

My haven in the storm

Will you keep the embers warm

When my fire’s all but gone?

Will you remember

And bring me sprigs of rosemary

Be my sanctuary

‘Til I can carry on

Carry on

Carry on


You can rest here in Brown Chapel

Or with a circle of friends

Or quiet grove of trees

Or between two bookends


Will you be my refuge

My haven in the storm

Will you keep the embers warm

When my fire’s all but gone?

Will you remember

And bring me sprigs of rosemary

Be my sanctuary

‘Til I can carry on

Carry on

Carry on


Where do you find sanctuary, a place of refuge or safety, when you can’t do it on your own? When the heartbreak makes it tough to get up and go on alone?

If you stop to watch the song video, may it encourage you and strengthen your heart, because maybe – just maybe – you needed this today.

Stay charming, my friends! And find sanctuary on dark days.


For more…The Growing Edge with Carrie Newcomer and Parker Palmer



In My Opinion: Reunite Families

We are in a moral storm. Time for me to rant.

A Prologue

This is a political post. I am defining politics, in this context, as the system a society uses to set governing principles and policies that help our nation of many people get along, use resources, and live our corporate values. For those of you who don’t like political posts, this will continue as a lifestyle blog on another day. However, I need to make some clear statements in this difficult and troubling time.

I want to first acknowledge that I am not confident in the statistics that we have been given. That is troubling. News reports had shared that slightly over 2,000 children are separated from families. Then, later this week, that count was updated to 3,000. That is upsetting for several reasons: 1) another 1,000 children are separated, 2) we cannot get accurate information, and 3) we are limited in knowing who and what we can trust.

Secondly, I have written (emailed) and called The White House, the Department of Justice, my two state senators, and my congresswoman. I have donated to World Relief, an organization I trust to care for immigrants, offer law-abiding compassionate immigration services, and to advocate for these marginalized brothers and sister. I still feel frustrated with my inability to impact change and to help.

No news in this next statement. We have a big problem here. Over 3,000 children are separated from family members. We have been told some parents have already been deported without their children. We have been told some children have been deported without parents. This is crazy and painful and wrong on so many horrific layers.

From the Lens of My Profession

I am a retired educator, still credentialed in California and a mandated reporter. A mandated reporter is legally required to report any suspicion of child abuse or neglect to the relevant authorities for children encountered in my professional duties and care.

I suspect that separating children from parents qualifies as neglect. We know children are not getting the level of care and nurturing that children need developmentally. Is that not neglect? This would be unacceptable in the world of education, and I’d have to report it. It definitely has been reported. Action to investigate and correct the situation is happening. Is it? Accountability seems to be in place. Is it? One deadline expires today. We will watch and see what happens.

Some of the little ones don’t even know the name of their parent, beyond their chosen term for mother or father. Some infants do not have language to speak the identity of their parents. Even with the best-intentions, even if the child detention facility was highly-equipped, I find this tragically unfortunate and damaging to children. Not to mention the parents unable to even contact their children. It is an overwhelming mess.

From the Lens of a Manager

Even in the best case scenario where workers assigned to these children are compassionate, emotionally intelligent care givers, they must be overwhelmed by the number of children assigned to them and the level of need. If I was an employer or manager in these facilities, I would be so upset for my staff. There is often a language barrier. Resources and support are severely limited. Training has to be minimal. At any typical recess setting on the playground, there is rarely enough staff to do more than supervise for physical safety. This must even be worse.

Holding children in groups in a system not set up for this makes me so sad for these workers, the conscientious ones who need their jobs. This is not a summer camp set up to house and care for children in established, child-center, age appropriate programming until parents pick them up on Saturday. My heart breaks for the good workers trying to obey orders, yet sickened by the situation. Where is the leadership to support them in a healthy work environment that does not ask them to compromise what they know to be right? I pray they can feel compassion and see they make a difference in the lives of children each day.

I’ve heard the authorities are struggling to match parents and kids to reunite them. I cannot begin to fathom the daunting task this is, and it is taking too long. I cannot imagine how my heart would ache if I had a job at one of these facilities and could not get this situation resolved. Thousands of lives of employees and families as well as immigrant families will never be the same, and we will be picking up the pieces for decades. This is a colossal mess, creating a level of chaos that is inexcusable. Yet leadership has not been called to account yet, at least from what I have seen and heard. I feel helpless and annoyed.

From the Lens of Problem Solving

Who was in the room when it was decided to separate children from parents? Even with that being such a bad decision, who let that roll out without the administrative structure to set it up, implement it well, support the workers, and remedy when time to reunite? In other organizations, debacles like this would lead to firing of key organization leaders. Speedy resolution would be visible. Who was in the room when the decision was made to move children to other states? Or move the parents to other states? This is our government. I am in shock.

I can’t even begin to get into the costs involved. Some businesses are even profiting from this situation. I understand the lawful rights to ask for asylum that are being denied and violated. I have some insight into how our foreign policy has negatively impacted certain countries, creating the need to migrate. I resent our drug culture that continues to provide a market for drug cartels. That all feels complicated, and makes me sick to my stomach. It just feels harsh and evil.

Did we not learn from Japanese internment camps? Is it unclear that this kind of behavior makes other countries despise our policies and laugh at our leaders? There are ways to protect and defend the border, create a compassionate, reasonable, lawful pathway to citizenship, and keep families together. Stop blaming political parties. Stop misleading and misinformed information, like immigrants will flood the country. That is not accurate. Or “they” just want open borders. Very few people want open borders.

There are experts on these immigration issues in our country. Get those people in the room. Return kids to families. And let’s continue to work sensibly to address the complicated issues of legal immigration with dignity, reflecting our values as a nation. Let’s consider the Golden Rule I was taught and recited in elementary school, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Be kind.

Will there be a rainbow after this storm? I continue to lament the situation, and pray for hope and healthy, speedy resolution.

Rainbow - Cropped