I’m rubber, you’re glue…

David Limbaugh (yes, brother of that Limbaugh) has a message for all those liberal-types and namby-pamby conservatives who aren't down with the Tea Party: the more you act like or say that Tea Party Conservatives are extremists, that just shows what an extremist you are. 

I'm surely not the only one who notices the persistent efforts of the leftist establishment and certain establishment Republicans to portray mainstream conservatives, especially those inhabiting the tea party movement, as radicals and extremists. The more they push this theme the more they marginalize themselves.

You see, according to Limbaugh, Tea-Partiers can't be extremists, because they believe in everything that is right and good.  And so, those who hold that the people who believe in all things right and good are extremists must themselves be the real extremists:

They reveal a great deal about themselves when they call "extremists" patriotic Americans who believe in the American ideal, lower taxes and fiscal responsibility, originalism, the rule of law, blind justice, equal protection under the law, strong national defense, limiting government to its assigned constitutional functions, the Second Amendment, the nondiscriminatory application of freedom of speech and expression, the free exercise clause, a reasonable — not unduly expansive — interpretation of the establishment and commerce clauses, protection for the unborn, judicial restraint, federalism, the separation of powers, the free market, racial colorblindness, the existence of good and evil in the world, equality of opportunity rather than of outcomes, law and order, immigration control and border protection, motherhood and apple pie.

First of all, anyone who says he believes in apple pie has got to be an extremist, if only because he takes it that in having to avow belief in apple pie, there are people out there who don't.  Who doesn't believe in apple pie?  Anyone?  So who's he up against?   Well, sure, it's a rhetorical flourish… but what on Limbaugh's list isn't?  It's not that anyone in the debate doesn't believe that lower taxes and fiscal responsibility would be great… just if we didn't have to prop up banks that would otherwise drag the country down the drain or find some way to stimulate the economy in a way that doesn't take advantage of the fact that so many are suffering.  Who's against the rule of law, blind justice, freedom of expression and speech, free exercise of religion?  Who doesn't believe in real goods, real evils? Anybody?  Really, it's all a long list of stuff nobody really rejects, well, except Originalism and the stuff about the unborn.  But reasonable people disagree about those things.  Ah, but here's the rub: Tea Partiers have a quick tendency to use terms like 'fascism' or 'tyranny' or 'socialism' or 'communism' to describe those who disagree with them on the details.  That's what makes them extremists — they refuse to acknowledge that those with whom they disagree have good intentions, reasons, a love for their country, and a vision of justice.

Now, here's the problem: if Limbaugh can't see liberals (or even moderate conservatives) as committed to blind justice, free exercise, and fiscal responsibility, too, regardless of how they come down on originalism and abortion, then isn't that the real face of extremism?

W-T-F

Some maintain that arguments are dialogues and such therefore be evaluated as such.  I have my doubts about this view, because so many of the arguments I encounter seem to be monologues, or at least the critical parts of them don't have anything to do with dialoguing with someone who disagrees with you (assuming the back-and-forth exchange is what is meant by "dialogue").  They seem–the critical parts–to be old-fashioned inferences of the inductive variety, or variations thereof.

Here's an example.  Today George Will argues ("superbly" according to some twitterers) that collective action to address an economic crisis is bad.  His argument, such as it is, goes something like this:

1.  During the depression, FDR's NRA attempted  price-fixing as a tool of economic recovery;

2.  One of those charged with overseeing this program admired Mussolini;

3.  Those who attempted to sell goods or services for less than the fixed price were punished  (just like in Cold War Poland);

4.  Today, as in the Great Depression, the government is trying to aid recovery:

Today, as 76 years ago, economic recovery is much on the mind of the government, which is busy as a beaver — sending another $26 billion to public employees, proposing an additional $50 billion for "infrastructure" — as it orchestrates Recovery Summer to an appropriate climax. But at least today's government is agnostic about the proper price for cleaning a suit.  

5.  But, in 1937 the Great Depression got worse:

In 1937, FDR asked in his second inaugural address for "unimagined power" to enforce "proper subordination" of private interests to public authority. The biggest industrial collapse in American history occurred eight years after the stock market crash of 1929, and nearly five years into the New Deal, in . . . 1937.

6.  Therefore:

The NRA lives on, sort of, in this Milton Friedman observation: Pick at random any three letters from the alphabet, put them in any order, and you will have an acronym designating a federal agency we can do without.

That's the best I can do with this argument.  In the first place, Will hasn't done anything to show that price-fixing (or the New Deal) caused the industrial collapse of 1937.  Second, there seems to be no analogy between stimulus spending on teachers, firefighters and police (among others) and arguably misguided price-fixing in the Thirties.  

Now had this been some kind of back and forth of a dialogue, WIll might have anticipated that.  But he didn't.   

Can and should

We really deserve a better national discourse than the one we have.  Right now, for instance, there is a lot of discussion about the Cordoba House, an Islamic Community Center in Lower Manhattan, known by many (unfortunately) as the "Ground Zero Mosque."  No one seriously disputes–or rather no one can seriously challenge–the Islamic Community's constitutional right to build wherever they want.  This doesn't mean people won't try this ridiculous line of argument (see this discussion from Scott the other day) or worse.  The real adult discussion must be elsewhere.

On this score, people spend a lot of time drawing a distinction which, it also turns out, no one seriously disputes.  Just because one can build an Islamic Community Center in Lower Manhattan, they say, does not entail that one should.  However, just because one can make such an obvious distinction does not entail that the distinction has any bearing on this particular issue.  Normally, when one makes a distinction between can and should what ought to follow is a series of reasons why not.  I'm still waiting.  For good ones anyway.  Someone help me.

To be honest, I have a fairly settled opinion on this matter–I don't personally see the problem.  But I'm concerned that I'm missing some argumentative nuance, so I really wonder what the argument against the Cordoba House is.

Let's exclude all of the arguments which assert stuff that's false (Muslims build F-U mosques at the site of their victories, Sharia Sharia Sharia, etc.).  That stuff is ludicrous.  What is left? 

What about the sacred space of Ground Zero?  Well, (1) it's not located at Ground Zero; (2) It was a Burlington Coat Factory; (3) the area also hosts strip joints, bars, and wagering facilities; (4) Ground Zero itself will be a commercial building; (5) non-terrorist Muslims died in the 9/11 attacks (and in the subsequent terrorist conflict).

What about the feelings of the survivors and their families?  Gee, (1) they're mistaken about who is responsible for the 9/11 attacks; (2) they don't have sole title to have hurt feelings–see above, Muslims were killed too; (3) nothing about the proposed center celebrates the terrorist attacks, on the contrary, it pays homage to the memory of those who died.

Nothing, as far as I can tell (if you can, however, you're welcome to say so in the comments).  Now just as an illustration of how debased we have become on this point.  Dana Milbank, newish permanent columnist on the Washington Post's Opinion Page, finds something to gripe about:

He claims he wishes to improve the standing of Muslims in the United States, to build understanding between religions, and to enhance the reputation of America in the Muslim world. But in the weeks since he — unintentionally, he says — set off an international conflagration over his plans to build an Islamic center near the scene of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in New York, he has set back all three of his goals.

Still, there is another cause that has flourished during the controversy — that of Feisal Abdul Rauf. Here he is on the Larry King show; there he is writing an op-ed in the New York Times; that's him, again, on ABC's This Week. On Monday morning, he addressed the Council on Foreign Relations in New York (I listened in via conference call), offering many thoughts on what appears to be his favorite topic.   

It just gets worse.  Milbank apparently takes issue with Rauf because he has attempted to defend his decision to locate the Cordoba House in lower Manhattan.  He can only defend himself by defending himself.  Seriously.  Marvel at the snide insinuation that Rauf has been self-aggrandizingly provocative.  Let's put Milbank's moronic point in a much less charitable way:

you're only defending yourself and your decisions because you've been attacked.

If someone knows another way to defend oneself then I'm all ears.  But this is the mind of the contrarian.  There are to my mind (again, if there are, tell me) no arguments against Rauf's Cordoba House.  None.  But that's not going to stop Milbank from thinking outside of the box.

See also.

Trapped in his father’s time machine

If it's wrong to be ruled by Kenyans, then we're in trouble in my college (the Dean is actually from Kenya):

Our President is trapped in his father’s time machine. Incredibly, the U.S. is being ruled according to the dreams of a Luo tribesman of the 1950s. This philandering, inebriated African socialist, who raged against the world for denying him the realization of his anticolonial ambitions, is now setting the nation’s agenda through the reincarnation of his dreams in his son. The son makes it happen, but he candidly admits he is only living out his father’s dream. The invisible father provides the inspiration, and the son dutifully gets the job done. America today is governed by a ghost.

Three questions: (1) Obama's father had a time machine? (2) won't someone save him if he's trapped? and more importantly, (3) why can't we use this time machine to warn Obama about Obama getting trapped?

Newt Gingrich calls this "most profound insight I have read in the last six years about Barack Obama."  He wants to run for President.

Not the First Amendment I Know

Over at the American Spectator, George Neumayr is arguing that the First Amendment does not protect the building of the "Ground Zero Mosque" or the burning of Korans. 

The truth is that the First Amendment protects neither the Ground Zero mosque nor Jones's burning of copies of the Koran. How do we know this? Because under the real First Amendment, the one written by the Founding Fathers, local communities within states were perfectly free to pass laws prohibiting the construction of particular religious buildings or pass laws that banned book burnings.

In fact, on his interpretation, the First Amendment should protect us against the "tyranny of the minorities" when it comes to religious matters.  His case is that because the various states had preferred state churches when they adopted the Constitution, there's no way that the First Amendment could prevent explicit state preferences for religion:

Six of the thirteen states that signed the Constitution ran established churches. It is a historical fact that the First Amendment was written not to suppress those state churches but to protect them. Those six states would have never signed the Constitution otherwise.

This is an interesting and promising point, one that deserves some consideration.  The rule restricts, as stated, Congress, not other legislative bodies or the executive branch.  But for a very long time, the restrictions on Congress here were taken to be exemplary for how the rest of all governing bodies and governmental executives were to conduct themselves in the US.  Taking it otherwise now contradicts stare decisis about the Constitution.  Moreover, it runs counter to what the 'free exercise' clause is supposed to protect.  In fact, a state must show compelling interest in restricting any religious expression.  So what kind of interest does the state have here?

The notion that the First Amendment requires individual states to treat all religious believers equally was invented out of thin air by judicial activists. . . . The rejection of the real Constitution for the phony "living" one explains today's tyranny of the minority. That tyranny has assumed ironically divergent forms in recent days. In New York City, a majority stands aghast as a group of Muslims tries to build a mosque within blocks of the World Trade Center ruins. In Florida, the majority stands appalled but idle before the pastor of a tiny church who launches an "International Burn-a-Koran Day." Both incidents are, in varying degrees, acts of gross and pointless incivility that do  not truly enjoy constitutional protections, but all public officials can mumble in the face of them is the cliché du jour that Americans have a "right to be wrong."

Wow. To say that actions that are gross and uncivil do not deserve First Amendment protection is just about tantamount to saying that you don't understand the First Amendment, isn't it?  Seriously, most of the stuff in The American Spectator would fail that test, wouldn't it?   Moreover, I will never be able to wrap my head around the idea that Constitutions are written to prevent tyrranies of minorities in a democracy.   Again, saying those sorts of things should be an easy tell that someone doesn't understand what they're talking about.

Burn out the day

Perhaps we can file this intervention by Sarah Palin in the "things that aren't analogous" file:

"Book burning is antithetical to American ideals," she wrote. "People have a constitutional right to burn a Koran if they want to, but doing so is insensitive and an unnecessary provocation — much like building a mosque at Ground Zero."

The peaceful practice of basketball and religion is just like a book burning.

One more thing.  The title of this article on the Huffington Post: "Sarah Palin: Burning Quran 'Antithetical to American Ideals.'"  That doesn't quite capture her view, I think.

The mosque of pain

I've had nothing good to say about former Bush 43 speechwriter Michael Gerson's work in the Washington Post.  Every day is a new day, however, so today a little kudos for an argument well argued.  Not, of course, just because I agree with the conclusion (which I do, but that does not a good argument always make, trust me), rather because I think he's lined up the right sort of reasons for it (truth be told, I don't like some of them).

In this debate, grace is in short supply but irony abounds. The Christian fundamentalist view of Islam bears a striking resemblance to the New York Times' view of Christian fundamentalism — a simplistic emphasis on the worst elements of a complex religious tradition. Both create a caricature, then assert that the Constitution is under assault by an army of straw men. The debates within Islam on the nature and application of sharia law, for example, are at least as complex as the debates among Christian theologians on the nature of social justice. And the political application of Islam differs so greatly — from Saudi Arabia to Mali to Morocco to Bosnia to Tanzania to Detroit — that it defies easy summary.

Many Christian fundamentalists seem oblivious to the similarity of their own legal and cultural peril. In portions of America — say San Francisco or Vermont — conservative Christians are sometimes also viewed as suspicious, illiberal outsiders. Their opinions on gender roles, homosexuality and public morality are viewed as an attack on constitutional values — much as fundamentalists view the threat from Islam. Some secular critics of Islam — Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens come to mind — explicitly argue that the real threat to freedom comes from the oppressive moralism of the entire Abrahamic tradition — Jewish, Christian and Muslim.

Christian fundamentalists who undermine religious liberty in order to target Muslims are playing a game of intolerance roulette. That First Amendment might come in handy someday.  

Ok, I think he's wrong about the New York Times, and I think his appeal to Christian fundamentalists here is a bit disturbing (you're both oppressive moralists!), though perhaps not incorrect.  Many Muslims are cultural if not fiscal and political conservatives.  Alientating them is bad politics.

The more interesting reason comes at the end: "That First Amendment might come in handy someday."  Or put in another way: "you'd be singing a different tune if the shoe were on the other foot."  And here we have, I think, another interesting of the subjunctive (or hypthetical) tu quoque.  Discussed also here.

The argument is clearly of the ad hominem variety.  Not the fallacious kind.  It points out a pragmatic inconsistency in this particular Mosque-opposer's hypothetical argument.  The practical inconsistency is driven, I think, by the analogy with similar circumstances.  So question: is the subjunctive tu quoque burden met by an argument from analogy?  I ask this because many posts ago Scott wondered what the burden was for such arguments (when they're non fallacious).  Perhaps this is one possibility.

Pile on

The other day I talked about this weak and hollow man rich column by Charles Krauthammer.  But there was way more about that column that an attentive undergraduate could have criticized.  Here's another tidbit.  He wrote:

And now the mosque near Ground Zero. The intelligentsia is near unanimous that the only possible grounds for opposition is bigotry toward Muslims. This smug attribution of bigotry to two-thirds of the population hinges on the insistence on a complete lack of connection between Islam and radical Islam, a proposition that dovetails perfectly with the Obama administration's pretense that we are at war with nothing more than "violent extremists" of inscrutable motive and indiscernible belief. Those who reject this as both ridiculous and politically correct (an admitted redundancy) are declared Islamophobes, the ad hominem du jour.

So fine two thirds of the population are against the Ground Zero community center.  What else have two thirds of the people been against?  I wonder.  Let's go back in time:

The reponse?

The "smug attribution of bigotry" to 82 percent of the people.