You would be a hypocrite

Arguments against gay marriage tend to fall into one of two groups: (1) the slippery slope group, which alleges that if gay marriage is permitted, all sorts of outrageous consequences will follow (such as the very Biblical polygamy or man-beast marriage); (2) question-begging Buckleyesque appeals to the natural order: gay marriage is contra naturam.  We saw one of those yesterday.  Somehow according to His Eminence Cardinal Rigali, opposite marriage is implied by the some kind of logical law.  Such is the power and strength of this logical law, that it has inspired calls to civil disobedience if such obvious contradictions are allowed to exist. 

Anyway, it's fun sometimes to look at things going the other way.  Perhaps some have heard that Karl Rove, champion of traditional marriage, has just been granted his second divorce (compare that to that other serial defender of traditional marriage, Newt Gingrich).  Rove's misfortune (such as it is–he may feel differently) prompted prominent blogger Glenn Greenwald to observe:

Karl Rove is an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage, citing "5,000 years of understanding the institution of marriage" as his justification.  He also famously engineered multiple referenda to incorporate a ban on same-sex marriage into various states' constitutions in 2004 in order to ensure that so-called ""Christian conservatives" and "value voters" who believe in "traditional marriage laws" would turn out and help re-elect George W. Bush.  Yet, like so many of his like-minded pious comrades, Rove seems far better at preaching the virtues of "traditional marriage" to others and exploiting them for political gain than he does adhering to those principles in his own life.

So I wonder whether we have a case of the tu quoque here (and in other analogous places).  Rove has argued (however badly) for the legal exclusivity of "traditional" marriage yet at the same time, he has now been divorced twice.  Whether we have a case of the tu quoque–the ad hominem tu quoque that is–depends on Greenwald's conclusion.  It's obvious, of course, that Rove is a hypocrite.  He doesn't adhere to the principles of traditional marriage in the most traditional sense of it.  So here's what Greenwald is arguing:  

I've long thought that the solution to the cheap, cost-free moralizing that leads very upstanding people like Karl Rove to want to ban same-sex marriages (which they don't want to enter into themselves, and thus cost them nothing) is to have those same "principles" apply consistently to all marriage laws.  If Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh and their friends and followers actually were required by law to stay married to their wives — the way that "traditional marriage" was generally supposed to work — the movement to have our secular laws conform to "traditional marriage" principles would almost certainly die a quick, quiet and well-deserved death. 

So it's not that Rove is a hypocrite now that bothers Greenwald, it's that he would be a hypocrite if he (and Gingrich and Vitter and the rest of the them) were actually forced to chose the old school style of traditional marriage.  I think this might be an instance of the non fallacious subjunctive tu quoque: were situations different, and you were the object of this law, you would not support it.

Grounded in logic

The other week the New York Times ran a fawningly long profile of a "big thinking" ultra-conservative Catholic intellectual.  It stressed his powerful Oxford credentials, his Big University Post (at a non-Catholic institution–take that elite liberal institutions!), his influence over Catholic leadership, his ties to Bush, Glenn Beck's admiriation of him, and, most importantly for our purposes, his frequent use of the word "reason" in place of an actual argument.  So powerful his intellect, you see, that Cardinal Rigali of Philadelphia, aped his words in a recent speech. 

Even marriage between a man and a woman, Rigali continued, was grounded not just in religion and tradition but in logic. “The true great goods of marriage — the unitive and the procreative goods — are inextricably bound together such that the complementarity of husband and wife is of the very essence of marital communion,” the cardinal continued, ascending into philosophical abstractions surely lost on most in the room. “Sexual relations outside the marital bond are contrary not only to the will of God but to the good of man. Indeed, they are contrary to the will of God precisely because they are against the good of man.

Now I may not be a logician of this fellow's calibre, but I'm trying to think of which principle of logic grounds the union of a man and a woman in life-long monogamous non-divorcing holy Catholic and procreative matrimony.  I'm going to guess that it must be one of those Latin principles, an abstraction, in other words, few could understand.  Maybe it's ex falso quodlibet sequitur

I think, however, it's more likely the principle of petitio principii–begging the question. 

*edited for sense later in the day.

Disappearing comments

Here's a "deep thought" from the eschatonblog:

People who disagree with me are ill-informed and have their views clouded by an unrealistic ideological agenda, while I am a clear-minded pragmatist.

Anyone guess who he is talking about?

In all seriousness, however, because of some inefficiency in the comment spam system, many more legitimate comments are being swept into the spam folder.  When I rescue them, they get deleted anyway.  I am working to fix it.  Keep commenting everyone. 

Biocentric anti-vegan arguments in the NYT

There has been a lot of coverage of veganism in the major media recently–Jonathen Safran Foer–bears much of the credit for this: And so, it was probably just a matter of time before we saw desperate and silly self-justification start to be printed. I was unprepared for seeing one of the silliest arguments that I have seen in the New York Times op-ed pages.

But before we cede the entire moral penthouse to “committed vegetarians” and “strong ethical vegans,” we might consider that plants no more aspire to being stir-fried in a wok than a hog aspires to being peppercorn-studded in my Christmas clay pot. This is not meant as a trite argument or a chuckled aside. Plants are lively and seek to keep it that way.

The more that scientists learn about the complexity of plants — their keen sensitivity to the environment, the speed with which they react to changes in the environment, and the extraordinary number of tricks that plants will rally to fight off attackers and solicit help from afar — the more impressed researchers become, and the less easily we can dismiss plants as so much fiberfill backdrop, passive sunlight collectors on which deer, antelope and vegans can conveniently graze. It’s time for a green revolution, a reseeding of our stubborn animal minds.

I take it that her point is that there is a moral fault in eating plants. This is because plants are sophisticated and have responses to the world around them. Of course, these are not the reasons that anyone thinks that animals are morally significant and our use of them for food is a moral fault in the circumstances in which most people (in the West at least) consume animals.

Perhaps, I wouldn't have a problem with a form of this argument–there are many interesting biocentric ethical positions, which hold that non-sentient living things have interests in a morally significant sense. But, when this argument is deployed to create a moral equivalence between harvesting grain and the slaughter of sentient animals for non-necessary purposes, we end up with this twaddle bent, it seems, on scoring cheaply a clearer moral conscience.

Mysterious ways

As I head off to vacation, let us marvel at Newt Ginrich marvelling at God's mysterious ways (courtesy of Media Matters):

newtgingrich As callista and i watched what dc weather says will be 12 to 22 inches of snow i wondered if God was sending a message about copenhagen

newtgingrich After the expanding revelations of dishonesty in climategate having a massive snow storm as obama promises our money to the world is ironic

newtgingrich There is something jimmy carter like about weather service upgrading frrom winter storm to blizzard as global warming conference wants US $ 

But he was not alone.  There was disagreement about the meaning of the snow storm.  Here is Erick Erickson at the not-worth-evaluating Red State blog:

Over at Talking Points Memo, Brian Beutler chronicles the follies of the Democrats and health care.

Joe Lieberman has gone back to Connecticut in advance of the blizzard. This leaves the Democrats needing Republican votes to get back to health care.

At the end of the article, Brian writes, “[D]on’t be surprised to hear a new Republican talking point: Even Mother Nature hates health care reform.”

I hate to correct him, but actually the talking point is that God hates the Democrats’ health care deform. With funding death panels and abortions, of course the Almighty would send a snow storm or, in Brian’s words, a snowpocalypse to shut down Washington.

Oh, and kudos to Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council for organizing the “pray-in.” Looks to be working.

I am tempted to think the second of these is a joke, but the "death panels" remark seems to be serious. 

What’s best for America’s security

I thnk I've said that I hate to repeat myself, but I'll say it again: when it comes to two-trillion dollar wars of choice, for Robert Samuelson, no amount of spending is too much:

Yes, that column made big mistakes. The war has cost far more than I (or almost anyone) anticipated. Still, I defend the column's central thesis, which remains relevant today: Budget costs should not shape our Iraq policy. Frankly, I don't know what we should do now. But in considering the various proposals — President Bush's "surge," fewer troops or redeployment of those already there — the costs should be a footnote. We ought to focus mostly on what's best for America's security.

When it comes to health care reform, for Robert Samuelson, no amount of spending is too little:

The remaining uninsured may also exceed estimates. Under the Senate bill, they would total 24 million in 2019, reckons Richard Foster, chief actuary of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. But a wild card is immigration. From 1999 to 2008, about 60 percent of the increase in the uninsured occurred among Hispanics. That was related to immigrants and their children (many American-born). Most illegal immigrants aren't covered by Obama's proposal. If we don't curb immigration of the poor and unskilled — people who can't afford insurance — Obama's program will be less effective and more expensive than estimated. Hardly anyone mentions immigrants' impact, because it seems insensitive.

Meanwhile, the health-care proposals would impose substantial costs. Remember: The country already faces huge increases in federal spending and taxes or deficits because an aging population will receive more Social Security and Medicare. Projections the Congressional Budget Office made in 2007 suggested that federal spending might rise almost 50 percent by 2030 as a share of the economy (gross domestic product). Since that estimate, the recession and massive deficits have further bloated the national debt.

Obama's plan might add almost an additional $1 trillion in spending over a decade — and more later. Even if this is fully covered, as Obama contends, by higher taxes and cuts in Medicare reimbursements, this revenue could have been used to cut the existing deficits. But the odds are that the new spending isn't fully covered, because Congress might reverse some Medicare reductions before they take effect. Projected savings seem "unrealistic," says Foster. Similarly, the legislation creates a voluntary long-term care insurance program that's supposedly paid by private premiums. Foster suspects it's "unsustainable," suggesting a need for big federal subsidies.

There is no question the current health care legislation falls far short of resolving the issue (no one can claim that it has).  It certainly falls far short of what I had hoped for.  But, gee, if we can afford to blow money on a war of choice, why not treat ourselves and our fellow citizens to a little doctor visit once and a while.

As for the point about America's security, this is one way to put it.

Stirs the discussion pot

Eugene Robinson's attempted takedown of Sarah Palin was so bad that Sarah Palin (or her assistant) was able to demolish it in a letter to the Post.   Was she right about climate change?  Probably not.  No matter.  The Post published her anyway.  Why?  Via the Howler, Editor and Publisher gives us a little insight:

NEW YORK It took editors at The Washington Post less than a day to greenlight Sarah Palin's climate change Op-Ed piece, according to Op-Ed Editor Autumn Brewington.

She said the newspaper received an e-mail from Palin Tuesday asking to write about the issue and it decided it should run Wednesday, before President Barack Obama was to head to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.

"If we were going to use it, we had to use it immediately," Brewington said. "It was a quicker turnaround than is often the case. But we made the decision based on news."

The Palin piece questioned the ongoing climate change view of global warming, stating: "while we recognize the occurrence of these natural, cyclical environmental trends, we can't say with assurance that man's activities cause weather changes." It brought a string of criticism in other publications and Web sites, ranging from The Atlantic to Scienceblogs.com.

Brewington did not regret giving Palin space, noting, "She is someone who stirs discussion and we are in the business of putting out opinion. She reached out to us."

She said the e-mail actually arrived Monday night, but editors did not see it until Tuesday. Brewington said no other Op-Eds had to be bumped for the piece to appear Wednesday, adding that columnist Ruth Marcus is off this week, freeing up more space.

Palin's piece drew interest for its criticism of climate change proponents, citing a scandal in Britain in which some "climate experts" were accused of falsifying data.

Brewington said the piece drew more reaction than most Op-Eds, adding that it ranked among the 10 most-read articles on the Post Web site Wednesday. "We are getting a lot of feedback. I have heard from a few more people today than I normally would have," she said. "Some people I think were glad that Palin had a voice in the Post, some were critical of her writing about climate change."

Among the critics was a university professor who has offered to write a rebuttal column, Brewington said, declining to name the person. "It is always interesting to see who reaches out to us," she said.

So Palin, someone without any knowledge or expertise or even credible opinion on the subject of climate change has her opinion rushed into print in one day because she "stirs discussion" and generates hits on the web page.  Some university professor's rebuttal–one can only imagine how many offered–not so much.  This is our discourse. 

There is no question that Palin has an opinion (though I am never sure what it is).  The question is whether her opinion is one that belongs in this debate.  My opinion of the Detroit Lions does not belong in a debate about this year's playoffs–they're not going.  But by the Post's reasoning, publishing a piece about how they should be going or how they are going would "stir discussion."

They’re just nihilists

The Washington Post has given tenured spots on its page to a serial climate change denier (George Will), a conspiracy theorist (Charles Krauthammer), and they have offered up guest spots to the likes of Sarah Palin and other alleged global warming skeptics.  Today, finally, a little bit of balance.  Eugene Robinson goes after Palin's latest op-ed, and Anne Applebaum reaffirms the obvious and well-known facts about global warming. However, as if a part of some weird conspiracy to exacerbate the problem of the doubters, their arguments blow. 

Robinson's entire piece is directed at the alleged change in Palin's position.  As governor of Alaska, Robinson points out, Palin seemed to affirm the reality of climate change, but now she denies it.  But that's not what Robinson says:

In her administrative order, Palin instructed the sub-Cabinet group to develop recommendations on "the opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from Alaska sources, including the expanded use of alternative fuels, energy conservation, energy efficiency, renewable energy, land use management, and transportation planning." She also instructed the group to look into "carbon-trading markets."

But in her op-ed last week, Palin — while acknowledging "natural, cyclical environmental trends" and the possibility that human activity might be contributing to warming — states flatly that "any potential benefits of proposed emissions reduction policies are far outweighed by their economic costs." What she once called "carbon-trading markets" she now denounces as "the Democrats' cap-and-tax proposal."

Is there nobody at the Post who can point out that this is not a contradiction.  She instructed a group to "look into" not to "endorse" carbon trade proposals.  She's clearly unhappy with the ones offered.  Robinson is so gleeful in the discovery of his alleged contradiction that he doesn't realize he hasn't found it.  Besides, what does it matter?  She can change her mind if she wants.  Further, who cares what she thinks?  She is neither a scientist nor an elected official of any consequence. 

By contrast, Anne Applebaum has found the real culprit in the whole climate change debate: scattered crazy enivronmentalists.  And she goes in the for the full weak man.  She begins, ominously enough:

There is no nihilism like the nihilism of a 9-year-old. "Why should I bother," one of them recently demanded of me, when he was presented with the usual arguments in favor of doing homework: "By the time I'm grown up, the polar ice caps will have melted and everyone will have drowned."

When I was a kid it was nuclear war.  Anyway, what lesson does she draw from this.  No, not that for many kids this will be a reality.  Rather, people who point this out are a big bringdown:

Watching the news from Copenhagen last weekend, it wasn't hard to understand where he got that idea. Among the tens of thousands demonstrating outside the climate change summit, some were carrying giant clocks set at 10 minutes to midnight, indicating the imminent end of the world. Elsewhere, others staged a "resuscitation" of planet Earth, symbolically represented by a large collapsing balloon. Near the conference center, an installation of skeletons standing knee-deep in water made a similar point, as did numerous melting ice sculptures and a melodramatic "die-in" staged by protesters wearing white, ghost-like jumpsuits.

Danish police arrested about a thousand people on Saturday for smashing windows and burning cars, and on Sunday arrested 200 more (they were carrying gas masks and seem to have been planning to shut down the city harbor). Nevertheless, in the long run it is those peaceful demonstrators, the ones who say the end is nigh, who have the capacity to do the most psychological damage.

The second group of people have nothing to do with negative messaging.  She goes on and on with examples of nutty environmentalists who just make you feel bad with all of their blaming and hyperbole (the veracity of which she doesn't question).  All of this, however, is a silly distraction.  The law of probability has it that global warming will attract no small number of people who say crazy things (if in fact they're guilty of that).  Can you really blame them, however, when you have well-paid people on the staff of the Post–not sign-carrying nutters in the streets–who deny well-established facts. 

Who is the real nihilist?  The one who says we're doomed if we do nothing?  Or the one who alleges it's all a big communist lie?