Category Archives: Kathleen Parker

Non-Argument to the Worst Explanation. Just. Wow.

Wrote about this Kathleen Parker op-ed before I went on vacation for a week. Thought I'd post it anyway, just because it's still impressively awful.

Here goes the argument:

1. Obama delivered a speech that contained 13% passive voice constructions.

2. Men and women communicate differently.

3. Obama talks like a girl.

4. Obama's rhetoric hinders his leadership.

She writes:

Generally speaking, men and women communicate differently. Women tend to be coalition builders rather than mavericks (with the occasional rogue exception). While men seek ways to measure themselves against others, for reasons requiring no elaboration, women form circles and talk it out.

Obama is a chatterbox who makes Alan Alda look like Genghis Khan.

The BP oil crisis has offered a textbook case of how Obama's rhetorical style has impeded his effectiveness. The president may not have had the ability to "plug the damn hole," as he put it in one of his manlier outbursts. No one expected him to don his wetsuit and dive into the gulf, but he did have the authority to intervene immediately and he didn't. Instead, he deferred to BP, weighing, considering, even delivering jokes to the White House Correspondents' Association dinner when he should have been on Air Force One to the Louisiana coast.

His lack of immediate, commanding action was perceived as a lack of leadership because, well, it was. When he finally addressed the nation on day 56 (!) of the crisis, Obama's speech featured 13 percent passive-voice constructions, the highest level measured in any major presidential address this century, according to the Global Language Monitor, which tracks and analyzes language.

We might be able to fill in a few more premises here.

2a. Women tend to use passive constructions more than men. (Is this true? Is there any evidence for it?).

3a. Talking like a girl prevents one from taking action. (Again, any evidence to believe this? There might be some relationship between the two. E.g "Time and again, the path forward has been blocked, not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor." Does such a sentence make action less likely that an active construction?)

Interesting that the qualifier is "any major presidential address this century" which would include just two of our 44 presidents (Are there data for the last 50 years?). Also, interestingly the link to the communicative differences between men and women is a story about differences in navigational abilities and says nothing about linguistic differences. But, that I presume doesn't matter to Parker who is convinced that Obama is not a good leader and this makes her think, it seems, that he is womanly.

I understand that the Washington Post is concerned about bias among their bloggers these days, maybe soon they'll get equally concerned about basic competence in advancing an argument for an opinion.

A vast social justice empire

This Kathleen Parker op-ed is a masterwork in insinuation.  The topic is ACORN, of course.  She has found a way to make ACORN the reason to be afraid of health care reform by linking them to a union, of all things.  

She writes:

You also don't talk about either organization without mention of Wade Rathke, co-founder of ACORN and founder of SEIU Local 100 in New Orleans. Rathke, who resigned from ACORN last year as "chief organizer" after it became known that his brother embezzled almost $1 million from the association, continues to run Local 100, as well as ACORN International, recently renamed Community Organizations International.

Rathke's social justice empire is so vast that he is more hydra than man. Nine heads are surely better than one when you're organizing communities in at least 12 countries. While Rathke and ACORN undoubtedly have done much good for impoverished people here and abroad, it appears likely that American taxpayers indirectly have been helping to underwrite unionizing activities and advance political goals through the commingling of Rathke's various interests.

A "social justice empire"?  Ponder that phrase for a moment.

Judgement at Nuremberg

Kathleen Parker cluelessly asks:

When did we start punishing lawyers for producing opinions with which we disagree? And where does that road lead?

The answer: Nuremberg

And that's not the dumbest part of her argument.  This inexplicably moronic assertion (seen by now all over the place, e.g., here) shows up as well:

Moreover, the same technique is used to train our own military personnel, who do not suffer severe physical pain or prolonged mental harm. 

The logic of this claim is completely baffling.  If we use the technique known as waterboarding in order to prepare our military personnel for the kinds of torture that the enemy might use against them, then on that account it's not torture if we use it against the enemy.  But if it's not torture, then we are either tormenting our soldiers for no good reason or we are giving the enemy a pass in virtue of our using it as training.  

Tormenta corpori mentive inflicta

This is perhaps an odd time for a former Bush appointee to take a moral stand.  But Bush's former ambassador to the Holy See–that's the Vatican, see–has declined an award (the Laetare medal) from Notre Dame on account of their offering Barack Hussein Obama, 44th President of the United States of America, an honorary degree.  In favor of this (to me childish) decision writes Kathleen Parker in the Washington Post:

Here on planet "What About Me," principled people are so rare as to be oddities. Thus, it was a head-swiveling moment Monday when Mary Ann Glendon, the former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, quietly declined Notre Dame's Laetare Medal.

Glendon — a Harvard University law professor and a respected author on bioethics and human rights — rejected the honor in part because Barack Obama was invited to be commencement speaker and to receive an honorary degree.

In a letter to Notre Dame's president, the Rev. John I. Jenkins, Glendon wrote of her dismay that Obama was to receive the degree in disregard of the U.S. bishops' position that Catholic institutions "should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles."

She means "Catholic" principles.  Like these (in Latin because of the profound moral thinking of the Ambassador can only be transmitted in Latin):

Vehementer iam deflevit Concilium Vaticanum II, suo quodam in scripto tristius etiam nostra ad tempora pertinente, complura contra vitam humanam scelera et conata. Easdem sententias in Nostram nunc suscipientes partem, triginta post annis, simili vi rursus universae Ecclesiae nomine, una cum illo conciliari congressu ista lamentamur crimina, nihil profecto dubitantes quin omnis rectae conscientiae veros interpretemur sensus: “Quaecumque insuper ipsi vitae adversantur, ut cuiusvis generis homicidia, genocidia, abortus, euthanasia et ipsum voluntarium suicidium; quaecumque humanae personae integritatem violant, ut mutilationes, tormenta corpori mentive inflicta, conatus ipsos animos coërcendi; quaecumque humanam dignitatem offendunt, ut infrahumanae vivendi condiciones, arbitrariae incarcerationes, deportationes, servitus, prostitutio, mercatus mulierum et iuvenum; condiciones quoque laboris ignominiosae, quibus operarii ut mera quaestus instrumenta, non ut liberae et responsabiles personae tractantur: haec omnia et alia huiusmodi probra quidem sunt, ac dum civilizationem humanam inficiunt, magis eos inquinant qui sic se gerunt, quam eos qui iniuriam patiuntur et Creatoris honori maxime contradicunt” (Gaudium et Spes, 27).[Evangelium Vitae, 3]. [Translation of this passage here]

I would point out in any case that Barack Obama does not act "in defiance" of "our" fundamental moral principles in that he does not share them–he's not Catholic.  Besides, as the above cited passage demonstrates, standing against of the moral principles of Catholicism involves a lot more than not being "pro choice."  I can't say, whether the Ambassador herself has been selective, but I have to wonder:


A pro-choice Catholic and a Rabbi walk into a bar

Two columns in the Post.  One from the newly reborn Kathleen Parker, who argues, not that fallaciously, that perhaps lifting the stem cell ban was otiose, as researchers had already found a way around the central moral problem (for some), i.e., the creation of embryonic stem cells from embryos.  Or is it the destruction?  I'm not sure, because she unfortunately characterizes the moral problem in these two distinct ways.  This seems important because some people object to using (therefore destroying) stem cells, others object to creating embryos solely for the purposes of research, which seems, in some sense, much worse.  Nonetheless, other cells, she alleges, work just as well, so lifting the ban on whatever it was that was happening doesn't amount to much.  I have a feeling something in there is false or confused, but this doesn't strike me as a fallacious argument.  So good for Parker, at least we stayed on topic.

Same topic, different writer.  Michael Gerson makes the following very puzzling assertion:

It is probably not a coincidence that Obama has chosen a Roman Catholic — Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius — to implement many of these policies as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Obama has every right to a pro-choice Cabinet. But this appointment seems designed to provide religious cover. It also smacks of religious humiliation — like asking a rabbi to serve the pork roast or an atheist to bless the meal.

Sebelius, though strongly pro-choice, was capable of occasional compromise. But she consistently fought against the serious enforcement of Kansas's late-term abortion restrictions. Kansas became a magnet for late-term abortions.

Still, Sebelius insists that "my Catholic faith teaches me that all life is sacred." This puts her in the same category as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Biden — Catholics who assert the sanctity of life while defending legal abortion. It has also earned Sebelius a firm rebuke from her archbishop.

No, it's not like the Rabbi thing at all: Sebelius is strongly pro-choice, one might presume the rabbi in the joke or the atheist is not "pro pork" or "pro God."  There is much else about this column that would warrant criticism, such as the claim that pro life people's rights are being trampled upon when they lose arguments:

There is a common thread running through President Obama's pro-choice agenda: the coercion of those who disagree with it.

Indeed, laws are coercive.  Elections, someone said, have consequences.  Pointing that out doesn't mean those consequences (i.e., laws which are "coercive"!) are wrong.

Idiot wind

As a general rule, this blog applies the same level of rigor to A-level (nationally syndicated) pundits as its author applies to first year college students in Philosophy 101.  I'm not complaining because someone failed to distinguish between analytical and synthetic a priori judgments.  An introductory course in logic–the ones that often get called "critical thinking" or better "critical reasoning"–ought to be sufficient for both understanding my critiques and avoiding being the subject of them.  

I just felt like saying that.  Anyway.  It appears Kathleen Parker has definitely moved up to the A-level for her criticism of the Palin choice.  This same kind of pundit promotion has happened to a number of former conservatives as well as former supporters of the Iraq war.  Being wrong about some major thing for a long time, it turns out, increases one's credibility in the media world.  I just wanted to say that too.

Back to Parker.  Speaking of Larry Summers, former President of Harvard University and possible pick for Treasury Secretary in the Obama administration, she writes:

Fresh ire aimed at former Harvard University President Larry Summers prompts the question: Shouldn't there be a statute of limitations on dumb things expressed in public?

(Please say yes.)

Forever accursed is the economist and Clinton-era treasury secretary for having raised — more than three years ago — the eensy-weensy possibility that innate differences between men and women might explain in part why more men than women reach the top echelons in math and science.

His comments, though not completely without scientific basis, unleashed a millennium worth of female scorn, making Hell a suddenly attractive destination for the discriminating traveler in search of cooler climes.

Research pointing to male-female differences that could partly explain different career outcomes is available to anyone in search of clues to the gender universe. But let's not go there. The social construct versus hard-wiring debate will continue unabated until the last woman utters: "No, honey, you stay in bed. I'll go see what that noise was."

For these purposes, let's stipulate that Summers said a dumb thing. He didn't, really. Provocative, yes, but it was a question about theory, not an assertion of belief. Impolitic? Without question. Still, we'll call it dumb.

Should said offense forevermore disqualify Summers from public service? Or even public appearances?

President of Harvard or not, Summers had wandered far out of his natural intellectual element in order to speculate on matters without any scientific basis.  He was justly criticized for being lazy and for casting about for genetic explanations for sexual differences in employment and achievement.  Turn back the clock twenty or thirty years, Summers could have made the same remark about female medical doctors.  Turn back the clock maybe five years, and perhaps he could have said the same thing about African American quarterbacks in the NFL.  Why are there so few? He and Rush Limbaugh might wonder.

So it was a dumb thing to say.  Should he be forgiven for it as Parker suggests?  I don't know.  Probably.  But does Parker's assertion of sexual difference in home security measures excuse Summer's thinking that there are signficant and innate differences in mathematical ability?  Nope.

Pretty woman

Practically by his own admission, Charles Krauthammer's thin case isn't worth making fun of–"he's going down with the ship" out of fears that Obama would not frighten the Beejeebus out of our terrorist enemies, like Bush does now.  Which he doesn't.  More interesting is Kathleen Parker's continued presence on the Washington Post op-ed page.  Sure she has had the stones to say that Sarah Palin doesn't belong in national office (I would add municipal to that as well), but she hasn't somehow regained rational powers.  

Today, for instance, wondering what drove John McCain to pick Sarah Palin for VP, she offers the dirty old man or viagra thesis:

But there can be no denying that McCain's selection of her over others far more qualified — and his mind-boggling lack of attention to details that matter — suggests other factors at work. His judgment may have been clouded by . . . what?

What could it be?

Science provides clues. A study in Canada, published by a British journal in 2003, found that pretty women foil men's ability to assess the future. "Discounting the future," as the condition is called, means preferring immediate, lesser rewards to greater rewards in the future. 

Right, "science."  Add other decisive clues (Parker's husband's unfortunate candor among them) and you arrive at the following mind-blowing conclusion:

It is entirely possible that no one could have beaten the political force known as Barack Obama — under any circumstances. And though it isn't over yet, it seems clear that McCain made a tragic, if familiar, error under that sycamore tree. Will he join the pantheon of men who, intoxicated by a woman's power, made the wrong call?

He probably made the wrong call–especially if he wins.  But this gets worse:

Had Antony not fallen for Cleopatra, Octavian might not have captured the Roman Empire. Had Bill resisted Monica, Al Gore may have become president, and Hillary might be today's Democratic nominee.

If McCain, rightful heir to the presidency, loses to Obama, history undoubtedly will note that he was defeated at least in part by his own besotted impulse to discount the future. If he wins, he must be credited with having correctly calculated nature's power to befuddle.

My sense was that, pretty or not, he just miscalculated the amount of BS even the American media was willing to tolerate.  And no one can blame him for that.

Comes around

Kathleen Parker, famous here for her frequent and crappy arguments, gripes that she got some hate email–the worst ever–after she wrote a column suggesting Sarah Palin should step down from the Republican ticket.  She writes:

WASHINGTON — Allow me to introduce myself. I am a traitor and an idiot. Also, my mother should have aborted me and left me in a Dumpster, but since she didn't, I should "off" myself.

Those are just a few nuggets randomly selected from thousands of e-mails written in response to my column suggesting that Sarah Palin is out of her league and should step down.

Who says public discourse hasn't deteriorated?

Firedoglake, a liberal website, points to a column of Parker's in the non too distant past (2003).  She wrote [read the entertaining commentary at the link as well]:

[Zell] Miller is not alone, though some are more sanguine when it comes to evaluating the roster of contenders. Here's a note I got recently from a friend and former Delta Force member, who has been observing American politics from the trenches: "These bastards like Clark and Kerry and that incipient ass, Dean, and Gephardt and Kucinich and that absolute mental midget Sharpton, race baiter, should all be lined up and shot.

When did public discourse start to deteriorate Kathleen?

Ad matrem et filium

Is this charge from Kathleen Parker just a lie, a reverse ad hominem tu quoque, or nutpicking?

Politicizing Bristol Palin's pregnancy, though predictable, is nonetheless repugnant and has often been absurd. It may be darkly ironic that a governor-mother who opposes explicit sex ed has a pregnant daughter, but experienced parents know that what one instructs isn't always practiced by one's little darlings.

We try; we sometimes fail. There are no perfect families and most of us get a turn on the wheel of misfortune.

Were it not for the pain of a teenager who didn't deserve to be exposed and exploited, the left's hypocrisy in questioning Palin's qualifications to be vice president against the backdrop of her family's choices would be delicious. Instead, it leaves a bad taste.

Would anyone ever ask whether a male candidate was qualified for office because his daughter was pregnant?

Some also have questioned whether Palin, whose son Trig has Down syndrome, can be both a mother and a vice president. These questions aren't coming from the right—so often accused of wanting to keep women barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen—but from the left.

Did someone switch the Kool-Aid?

I wonder this because Parker doesn't name anyone who makes those charges–no, saying "the left" doesn't count as naming anyone.  She might even be able to find someone, perhaps some anonymous diarist at the Daily Kos, but that would be nutpicking: trolling the comment threads of blogs looking for the person who says just what you need them to say, claiming all the while such a person represents "the left" or ("the right" for that matter).  But doesn't even bother to do this minimally sophistical thing.  That would at least give some cover to the false assertion.

It's clear that she wants to make the charge of hypocrisy.  But in order to do this she ought to have some minimum of purported hypocritical behavior.  So rather than speciously misrepresenting some particular charge against Palin, Parker has just made something up. 

Where I come from (Michigan), that's called "lying."

And it's still lying even if it's on the opinion page.

Judgment at C-Span

I saw an interesting film last night–Judgment at Nuremberg–In case you haven't seen it, you should.  As the title suggests, the film deals with the war crimes of the Nazis–but in particular the criminal complicity of lower level Nazi judges who participated in the legal machinations of the Nazi regime.

On a related theme, Kathleen Parker has found a new way to pass out moral responsibility in such situations.  If you think you're involved in a criminal regime (but are not yourself criminally responsible), then your saying nothing is worse, yes, worse, than the crimes you have witnessed being committed.  Speaking on C-Span, courtesy of Crooks and Liars, she says:

Parker: Oh wow that’s, you know I’ve met Scott and he is, comes across as just the sweetest, nicest fellow. I took great umbrage at this primarily because, whether the… you know, if… if he were… if he sat in those meetings where evidence was being trumped up and people are actually dying and never so much as cleared his throat or raised an eyebrow–which is what I’m told by everyone in the White House– then I think that he is guilty of something much greater than whatever he presents to the public in this book. You don’t sit there and listen to what you now consider lies and know… you walk out the door. An honorable man walks out the door. And you can go and call a press conference if you are the Press Secretary of the President of the United States. You can call a press conference. You can walk out and get a book contract that day, but you don’t sit through it for years and years and then say ‘well, I think I’ll go get a book contract and you know, present basically my notes that I’ve taken all these years knowing that these people were doing wrong.’ So I simply don’t trust a person like that.

That's novel.  The usual claim is that the person is complicit in the crimes, a silent accomplice perhaps.  Perhaps in an extreme case one might consider the person guilty of a serious crime, but no one could sustain the claim that his or her crime is worse than the original crime.  This would, after all, make the actual criminal less bad than the silent witness.