The weather is too nice around here. So please enjoy the following tweet:
The sweet spot is a mistake that allows the press to prosecute the error without sounding too political.
Sounds right to me. via Atrios.
Someone asked Mao Tse Tung (forgive me if I get this anecdote wrong) what he thought of the French Revolution. His reply: it's too early to tell. That's taking the long view. Now comes David Frum, former Bush Speechwriter guy, and transplanted Canadian conservative. He writes in favor of same sex marriage–good for him–but he does so in a way that makes you want to shake your head. You see, fourteen years ago he had predicted the decline of society in some kind of slippery slope type argument. He has waited around to see if that would happen, and lo, it didn't.
Washington (CNN) — I was a strong opponent of same-sex marriage. Fourteen years ago, Andrew Sullivan and I forcefully debated the issue at length online (at a time when online debate was a brand new thing).
Yet I find myself strangely untroubled by New York state's vote to authorize same-sex marriage — a vote that probably signals that most of "blue" states will follow within the next 10 years.
I don't think I'm alone in my reaction either. Most conservatives have reacted with calm — if not outright approval — to New York's dramatic decision.
The short answer is that the case against same-sex marriage has been tested against reality. The case has not passed its test.
Since 1997, same-sex marriage has evolved from talk to fact.
If people like me had been right, we should have seen the American family become radically more unstable over the subsequent decade and a half.
Instead — while American family stability has continued to deteriorate — it has deteriorated much more slowly than it did in the 1970s and 1980s before same-sex marriage was ever seriously thought of.
By the numbers, in fact, the 2000s were the least bad decade for American family stability since the fabled 1950s. And when you take a closer look at the American family, the facts have become even tougher for the anti-gay marriage position.
Middle-class families have become somewhat more stable than they used to be. For example: College-educated women who got married in the 1990s were much less likely to get divorced than equally educated women who got married in the 1970s.
What's new and different in the past 20 years is the collapse of the Hispanic immigrant family. First-generation Latino immigrants maintain traditional families: conservative values, low divorce rates, high fertility and — despite low incomes — mothers surprisingly often at home with the children.
But the second-generation Latino family looks very different. In the new country, old norms collapse. Nearly half of all children born to Hispanic mothers are now born out of wedlock.
Whatever is driving this negative trend, it seems more than implausible to connect it to same-sex marriage. How would it even work that a 15-year-old girl in Van Nuys, California, becomes more likely to have a baby because two men in Des Moines, Iowa, can marry?
Maybe somebody can believe the connection, but I cannot.
You mean you cannot believe that anymore, dingis. Fourteen years it took him to realize that the crazy ass slippery slope arguments–gay marriage will lead to the death of Merica!–were crap. Fourteen years.
Besides, there remains the question of whether what contractual relationships two constenting adults engage in is any part of anyone's business but their own.
UPDATE. Maybe Frum ought to revise his view in light of Pat Robertson's recent claim.
Disgraced former Speaker of the House and current Presidential Candidate Newt Gingrich on Gay Marriage:
"I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. I think that's what marriage ought to be and I would like to find ways to defend that view as legitimately and effectively as possible."
Getting hetero-married over and over (Gingrich is on his third wife) is not perhaps one of those ways.
In other news–every read this awesome post by Scott and Rob Talisse at 3 Quarks Daily.
Crooks and Liars link to a Senate committee discussion featuring Al Franken, Bernie Sanders, and Rand Paul on funding the Older Americans Act–a program that provides services to the elderly to allow them to remain in their homes and be healthy.
PAUL: I appreciate the great and I think very collegial discussion, and we do have different opinions. Some of us believe more in the ability of government to cure problems and some of us believe more in the ability of private charity to cure these problems. I guess what I still find curious though is that if we are saving money with the two billion dollars we spend, perhaps we should give you 20 billion. Is there a limit? Where would we get to, how much money should we give you to save money? So if we spend federal money to save money where is the limit? I think we could reach a point of absurdity. Thank you.
FRANKEN: I think you just did.
This is probably not a slippery slope argument, though it has some similarities to one. In fact, it's hard to figure out what Paul's point is.
P1) If spending x produces savings, then spending 10x would save 10x as much.
P2) This will reach absurdity.
C) Therefore, we shouldn't spend x.
This is not a good argument, but primarily because premise 1 seems false. Most preventative expenditures are not infinitely scalable (how much preventative maintenance should you do on your car, as Crooks and Liars notes), and so the absurdity never gets generated.
I think, in fact, there is a sort of equivocation at the root of Paul's rhetoric.Rand Paul is obtusely refusing to admit that when you spend money in order to reduce future expenditures that you would otherwise be forced to incur we can consider these "savings." He seems to be relying on a narrow notion that would define savings and spending as contradictory concepts. Thus, spending cannot be savings and vice versa. This latter sense of savings and spending is certainly operative in our language ("How can spending money be saving money?"). But, Franken reasonably expects a bit more sophistication than Rand Paul is able to muster. Rand's problem, I think, is that he needs to deny that those savings will be realized, but is unable to do so, and so falls back and some very silly twaddle.
In the interest of clarity, a SlutWalk — the latest gambit in the increasingly raunchy women's movement — is when college gals dress up like tramps in order to protest something no one believes anyway (at least no one who isn't a complete Neanderthal), i.e., that suggestively dressed women deserve to be sexually harassed.
So far, Orlet is on the map in terms of reasonable positions to take: i) sex-awareness movements needn't be so explicit, and ii) the revealing clothing message is old news. That's not to say I think he's right, but these aren't ridiculous views, and it does seem to show he's been paying attention (and perhaps, that he's learned a lesson). Oh, and then he follows it up with:
Not surprisingly, SlutWalks are quite popular on college campuses. Especially with frat boys who get to ogle scantily clad young women sashaying round the quadrangle.
Yeah, maybe he doesn't really understand, and all those reasonable views were held on accident. Not surprising, really, given that he recently argued that he could be more civil in argument, if that might make it more likely that he could get lucky. Yeah, the justification for an argumentative norm is that it is conducive of coitus (though I think it was a joke). And here's the evidence that he doesn't get the point about sexual harrasment and rape. He thinks there's a double standard being used everywhere else in the slutwalkers' lives:
… [D]espite what the SlutWalkers preach, we are judged by what we wear (and how we talk, and how we behave, even how we chew gum) and no number of skanky protests is going to change that. Just try showing up for a job interview dressed like Amy Winehouse or Courtney Love and see how far that gets you. I'm willing to bet my last dollar that these same SlutWalkers, when they interview job seekers or size up potential dates, judge people by what they wear.
Fine, but, you know, there's a difference between judging people by what they wear and groping and raping them on the basis of that. In the interest of clarity, it seems we must state again that it was that last thing that the protests were about.
Whatever else you might call it, abortion is a form of birth control. Not however, according to Americans United for Life President Charmain Yoest. Here she is (via Think Progress):
HOST: Is your organization in favor of helping women have more access to birth control and helping women have their birth control paid for by insurance?
YOEST: That’s actually not an issue that we address. We on life issues, on biotheics, on abortion, on end of life, on rights of conscience, but we do not address that issue because there are differences of opinion on that. […]
HOST: But I’m just curios, why not approach birth control as an issue if the goal is to reduce abortions, to make abortion unnecessary, birth control does that. Wouldn’t that be an interesting addition to your legal pallet?
YOEST: Well, as I said, there is an awful lot of issues that can be addressed and we stay really focused to this question of abortion itself. It’s really a red herring that the abortion lobby likes to bring up, conflating abortion and birth control and that’s why we try to stay very clear on differentiating between the two. Because frankly that would be carrying water on the other side.
It's hard to know how to respond to this, other than to say this person has little interest in reality and ought therefore to be laughed at. Abortion, for the people who support its availability, is, in the most objectionable cases (for Yoest), a form of birth control. There are other, less murderous (in her mind) forms of birth control, so it would seem that supporting them, rather than not supporting them, would not be unreasonable.
This would not be unreasonable, unless of course your real interest lies in objecting to all forms of birth control–which seems the only reasonable way to interpret her. At least that way she' s not inconsistent, or dumb. It's really after all a question of charity.
There is a new academic paper defending the idea that marriage of the "Leave it to Beaver" variety is a metaphysical fact (and no, I'm not kidding):
Marriage is the union of a man and a woman who make a permanent and exclusive commitment to each other of the type that is naturally (inherently) fulfilled by bearing and rearing children together. The spouses seal (consummate) and renew their union by conjugal acts—acts that constitute the behavioral part of the process of reproduction, thus uniting them as a reproductive unit. Marriage is valuable in itself, but its inherent orientation to the bearing and rearing of children contributes to its distinctive structure, including norms of monogamy and fidelity. This link to the welfare of children also helps explain why marriage is important to the common good and why the state should recognize and regulate it.
The paper is at the link. Here is one critique of the academic variety; here another, slightly less academic, but equally poignant. I'm not going to bother with the arguments, at this point, because I think that matter has been resolved–however much the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy might disagree. Well, ok, just one.
Our organs—our heart and stomach, for example—are parts of one body because they are coordinated, along with other parts, for a common biological purpose of the whole: our biological life. It follows that for two individuals to unite organically, and thus bodily, their bodies must be coordinated for some biological purpose of the whole.
That sort of union is impossible in relation to functions such as digestion and circulation, for which the human individual is by nature sufficient. But individual adults are naturally incomplete with respect to one biological function: sexual reproduction.
I suspect questions are massively begged on the idea of "biological purposes"–and I think "organic" uniting is probably different from anything you can get at your Whole Foods. Whatever their meaning may be, the hilarious part/whole purposes analogy cries out for inclusion in one's Introduction to Logic text. My liver has a function, ergo, ipso facto you must marry me.
Let's go ahead and suppose that lots of arguments can be dreamt up for Leave it to Beaver marriage. They're all going to suck, because they presume stuff that just can't be presumed, or they try to establish things as facts that can't be established as facts without the presumptions.
I wouldn't even consider this an academic argument at this point–one whose outcome matters not. The outcome of this argument matters a lot. It's just that we've already seen it. Does this mean, real question here, that we have duty not to entertain this kind of argumentative detritis?
I've been thinking of the reverse straw man for a bit now. Following the suggestions of some friends and commenters at the Mid South, one variation of the too charitable straw man we might call the "iron man." This is when someone's weak argument–or some weak arguer–is made stronger by irrelevant and inappropriate charity. Too often this inappropriate charity comes from people who ought to know better. And trolls depend on troll enablers.
The Onion, of all places, seems to get this. Here's their take on Michelle Bachmann:
Michele Bachmann Announces Bid To Be Discussed More Than She Deserves In 2012
That pretty much sums it up. Bachmann makes Bush look like Aristotle. Not iron-manning every incoherent utterance. I heard this yesterday on NPR:
ELLIOTT: I think the reception that Minnesota Congresswoman, Michele Bachmann, got here. She was really the star of the day. The crowd even sort of mobbed the stage when she finished her speech. And she really gave this conservative crowd just what they were looking for: plenty of meat stoking the anti-President Obama fervor that was rumbling through the crowd.
She attacked the president's health care overhaul. She attacked his energy policy, as well as his handling of the economy.
Representative MICHELE BACHMANN (Republican, Minnesota): We know what works. It's cutting spending. It's growing the economy. It's doing what free markets do, and what economic superpowers do. And Mr. President, you're no economic superpower.
I think it's a stretch to call this an "attack" on the President's handling of the economy. Maybe it would be more appropriate to say that she said words which on the most charitble interpretation were probably meant as criticism of Obama on the economy. Anything more would be iron-manning. The sample clip doesn't begin to make sense–it begs the question (it's growing the economy!), ignores basic economics (cutting spending!), and it equivocates on "economic superpower" (in the first it's a property of nations, then it's denied of Barack Obama).
Someone in Florida is arranging a kind of Tea Party summer camp, designed to inculcate such not at all vague and totally consistent core "principles" such as (1) God exists; (2) America is Awesome; and (3) No one (save presumably God and your tithe-requiring church) can make you share.
TAMPA — Here's another option now that the kids are out of school: a weeklong seminar about our nation's founding principles, courtesy of the Tampa 912 Project.
The organization, which falls under the tea party umbrella, hopes to introduce kids ages 8 to 12 to principles that include "America is good," "I believe in God," and "I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable."
Organized by conservative writer Jeff Lukens and staffed by volunteers from the 912 Project, Tampa Liberty School will meet every morning July 11-15 in borrowed space at the Paideia Christian school in Temple Terrace.
"We want to impart to our children what our nation is about, and what they may or may not be told," Lukens said.
He said he was not familiar with public school curriculum, but, "I do know they have a lot of political correctness. We are a faithful people, and when you talk about natural law, you have to talk about God. When you take that out of the discussion, you miss the whole thing."
Pointing and laughing is a reasonable option. But I don't know if it will do much good.
Alright readers of the NonSequitur, I have an exercise for you. John and I have had a few laughs with the following form of joke: employ a fallacy in giving an argument against using that fallacy. It's funny. Here are a few examples:
Agree that ad baculum arguments are fallacious or I'll punch you in the face!
If you don't stop using tu quoque arguments, you'd be such a hypocrite!
If we don't stop using slippery slope arguments, we'll become sloppy arguers, and if we become sloppy arguers, we'll become sloppy people. And if we become sloppy people, flies will land on us. And if flies land on our sloppy bodies, they'll lay eggs. And then we'll be sloppy slippery slope arguers covered in maggots… that's what we'll be!
See? Fun! Give it a shot in the comments.
UPDATE: John reminded me that the NS did the exercise back in 2008. Check the entries out here.