Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Turkeys Pardoned, Peta Unhappy, Democrats Suspicious

Bush pardoned two turkeys today, and the turkeys will go to a farm. PETA's response:
That drew an objection from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which said the turkeys would live in more humane conditions at an animal sanctuary.

The turkeys Bush pardoned last year died within three months after their "pardons," a result of drugs that make them grow excessively, the group said.

Bush responded by saying: "Fine. Next year we'll shoot 'em and eat 'em." At least, that's how my mom would respond if she were President. In fact, she would never pardon any turkey during her years at the White House.

Democrats responded to the pardon by questioning its timing:

"I question the timing of pardoning turkeys just before Thanksgiving. It's yet another example of Bush cronyism," said Al Sharpton, while holding up a large, roasted turkey drumstick.
Filmaker Michael Moore is making a documentary about the event called Gobble 11/17.

The turkeys had this to say: "Gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble. Gobble!"

Well said.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Rall's Rage Against Red State Biscuits

One of the stranger things in Ted Rall's zing at Middle America is his claim that liberals eat better. Rall's reasoning is that liberals migrate to larger cities, and such cities generally have good food. It's no doubt true that large cities have a wide variety of good food, but that's hardly due to liberalism. Large cities attract immigrants, and immigrants establish lots of good places to eat. Ironically, these immigrants often hold the values that Rall so despises--some of them might even be, gasp, Bush voters.

Besides, large cities don't have a monopoly on good food. I just had dinner with a nice couple from Georgia, and we had beer can chicken, biscuits, grits, and pecan pie. That's good eats.

Intellectual Snobbery or Misology: A False Dilemma

There's an interesting discussion at Rational Explications. One of RE's bloggers responded to Jane Smiley's nasty article by making a distinction between people who make their living in the realm of talk (e.g. writers and teachers) and those who make their living in the realm of things (e.g. businessmen and engineers). The problem is that he comes a bit too close to endorsing misology, and that's not a good response to the intellectual snobbery of the left. A better response is to insist that the left live up to its vaunted claims of tolerance and rationality.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

The Unimposing Kinsley

Michael Kinsley suggests that the problem with Red Staters is that they want to impose their values on other people, whereas liberal Blue Staters do not want to impose their values on anyone:
But at least my values — as deplorable as I'm sure they are — don't involve any direct imposition on you. We don't want to force you to have an abortion or to marry someone of the same sex, whereas you do want to close out those possibilities for us. Which is more arrogant?
This is a great example of what Ernie and I call the Butter-Wouldn’t-Melt-in-My-Mouth Fallacy: that’s the fallacy of pretending or thinking that your point-of-view doesn’t have any possible negative consequences, whereas your opponent’s point-of-view does. To see what’s fallacious about Kinsley’s point, consider the following:
But at least my values — as deplorable as I'm sure they are — don't involve any direct imposition on you. We don't want to force you to keep slaves or to recognize creationism as science, whereas you do want to close out those possibilities for us. Which is more arrogant?
What’s wrong with such reasoning is this. I may not be forced to keep slaves, but there is still the little matter that keeping slaves may be wrong in itself—and I have no problem whatsoever saying that you shouldn’t keep slaves. I doubt that Kinsley has a problem with this either. Likewise, I may not have to recognize creationism as science, but it doesn’t follow that I should allow it to be recognized in public schools.

The same goes for abortion and homosexual marriage. Abortion isn’t morally and legally permissible merely because it doesn’t impose on me. The “imposition argument” is a red herring, because there is still an open question about the moral permissibility of killing a fetus. Homosexual marriage involves an activity that doesn’t impose on me, namely, two men or women living together monogamously, but it doesn’t follow that I have to support the civil sanctioning of such relationships. There is still an open question about whether homosexual marriage is the moral equivalent of heterosexual marriage. So I return the ball to Kinsley’s court: he does want to impose his values on other people. Unlike Kinsley, however, I have no problem with his wanting to do so. It can be rational for us to impose our values on people who don’t share them, as we did vis-à-vis slavery. The real issue is not who imposes what on whom; it is whether an action is morally permissible, morally impermissible, or morally neutral. If something is universally morally impermissible, e.g. torturing babies, then we shouldn’t quail at the thought of imposing a law against torturing babies.

Call me profoundly misguided if you want. Call me immoral if you must. But could you please stop calling me arrogant and elitist?
I could be charitable and say something akin to: I’ll stop calling you arrogant and elitist if you stop calling me bigoted and ignorant, and can’t we just all get along? However, I do think that Kinsley is arrogant and elitist—his entire article reeks of arrogance. On the other hand, I’m neither a bigot nor ignorant, and neither are most “Red Staters.” That means, to put it bluntly, that the problem of uncivil political discourse lies on Kinsley’s side of the divide, not mine. The left found out a long time ago that it is better to demonize your opponent than to reason with him. Is there some schmuck who is against affirmative action? Don’t debate the merits and problems of affirmative action—just label him a racist. Is there some Neanderthal opposed to abortion? Well he obviously wants to oppress women and keep them barefoot and pregnant. On and on it goes.
We are, if anything, crippled by reason and openmindedness, by a desire to persuade rather than insist. Which philosophy is more elitist? Which is more contemptuous of people who disagree?
Oh brother. Butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth, and he could weep—weep—for a falling star. Unless the star has the nerve to vote for Bush.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Hawking on Iraq

Stephen Hawking offers his view of the war:
"The war was based on two lies," said Hawking. "The first was we were in danger of weapons of mass destruction and the second was that Iraq was somehow to blame for Sept. 11.
If Bush lied, then he (a) made false claims and (b) knew those claims to be false. So if Hawking is right, then all of the following propositions are true:
  1. Bush claimed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
  2. Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction.
  3. Bush knew that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction.
  4. Bush claimed that Iraq had some connection to 9/11.
  5. Iraq did not have a connection to 9/11.
  6. Bush knew that Iraq did not have a connection to 9/11.

(1) is certainly true; (2) and (5) are arguably true. (3) is false. The belief that Saddam had WMDs was a global and bipartisan belief. The debate over whether the US should go to war hinged on whether or not it was necessary; the debate never hinged on doubts about Saddam’s potential to menace the world. (4) is questionable; its truth depends on what the Bush Administration claimed about putative connections between Iraq and 9/11. (5) is probably true in the strong sense that Iraq did not play an essential role in 9/11, but it is false in the sense that Saddam funded terrorism. Finally, (6) is irrelevant given that (4) is equivocal.

"It has been a tragedy for all the families that have lost members. As many as 100,000 people have died, half of them women and children. If that is not a war crime, what is?"
Even taking that number at face value, a war crime is not based on the number of people killed in a war; it’s based on how and why they are killed.
"Our message to the U.S. is that the war is illegal and unnecessary, and we want our troops to come home," said Andrew Burgin, a spokesman for demonstration organizer Stop the War Coalition.
For x to be illegal, x must break a law. So which law did the war break? I cannot think of a more legal war. First, Saddam was in constant violation of the cease fire agreement he had with the United Nations. Second, the US Congress supported the war. Third, the US, rather than going to war without global support, went to the United Nations and secured Resolution 1440—passed unanimously by the security council—which gave Saddam a final thirty days to comply. The US did this in deference to those who wanted the war to be a last resort, including France and Germany. The conventional wisdom is that the US defied the UN and initiated a unilateral war, but this is wrong. France and Germany defied the UN by not living up to Resolution 1440, while the US carried it out.

You Just Think Women Are Treated Badly in the Islamic World

Here's TurkishPress's take on murdered filmaker Theo van Gogh:
Van Gogh was widely known for his criticism of Islam and recently caused uproar with a short film linking domestic abuse with the perceived subservient position of women in the Islamic faith.
Perceived subservience.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Bill meant "Platonic dialogue" literally

Here's the definition: The arguments below are real, but the characters and setting are fictional (barely so, they really are here, we just don't waste our time talking to them, since Bill and I know about their imperviousness to reason).

He was using "platonic dialogue" literally, and not as a sarcastic comment on the quality of the interlocutors. Sorry for any confusion, folks.