Tag Archives: Sarah Palin

Iron manning means not having to know what you’re defending

As devoted Non Sequitur readers know, the iron man is a kind of reverse straw man.  This is to say that it’s unjustifiably strengthening someone’s argument so as more easily to defend it.  This interview with Sarah Palin is the very essence of iron manning.  You see, Palin doesn’t even need to know what Phil Robertson, the Duck Dynast, has said (or what the criticisms of it are) for her to defend him.  From TPM:

Fox News host Greta Van Susteren asked Palin if she took issue with the manner in which “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson made his comments, which Van Susteren characterized as “graphic” and “offensive,” even if she agreed with the substance of what Robertson said.

“I haven’t read the article. I don’t know exactly how he said it,” Palin responded. “But what he was doing was in response to a question about a lifestyle he disagrees with, and yet he has said over and over again he doesn’t hate the person engaging in a lifestyle he disagrees with.”

That speaks for itself.  For reference, here’s what he said (from the GQ article):

Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.

Then there’s this (which is just kind of hilarious):

For the sake of the Gospel, it was worth it,” Phil tells me. “All you have to do is look at any society where there is no Jesus. I’ll give you four: Nazis, no Jesus. Look at their record. Uh, Shintos? They started this thing in Pearl Harbor. Any Jesus among them? None. Communists? None. Islamists? Zero. That’s eighty years of ideologies that have popped up where no Jesus was allowed among those four groups. Just look at the records as far as murder goes among those four groups.

For the record, Islam includes more than 0 percent Jesus, and it’s also more than 80 years old.

Another squirmish* in the culture wars

In the category of self-refuting worries (by now noticed by all of the web), here is disgraced former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich:

"I have two grandchildren: Maggie is 11; Robert is 9," Gingrich said at Cornerstone Church here. "I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time they're my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American."

A secular atheist country dominated by religious fundamentalists.  

*squirmish

Every effect has a cause, usually

Someone quipped the other day that whatever we do in the wake of Saturday's massacre (not tragedy), we must not consider what might have caused it.  And so, George Will:

It would be merciful if, when tragedies such as Tucson's occur, there were a moratorium on sociology. But respites from half-baked explanations, often serving political opportunism, are impossible because of a timeless human craving and a characteristic of many modern minds.

Well, I say all men by nature desire to know.  I'd also say the very frequency of mass casualty attacks means they fall into the "things deserving explanation category."  It's "tragedies" plural, after all.

Who can blame George Will (and the rest of the pack of Wapo conservatives); no one likes to be associated with psychos.  As someone else quipped (on twitter of all places): if they're looking for advice on how to manage the unjust assocation, maybe they can ask Muslims.  If someone holds beliefs remotely similar to yours, after all, you're guilty unless you spend all day every day distancing yourself from them.  Well, that's the way it is for Muslims, at least.

Anyway, the point I wanted to make today was already made by smarter and more articulate people.  So I'll just repeat most of what they said.

While calling for caution, honesty, and rigor in attributing specific causes to the events in Tucscon, George Will casts caution to the wind in interpreting the words of others.  He writes:

Three days before Tucson, Howard Dean explained that the Tea Party movement is "the last gasp of the generation that has trouble with diversity." Rising to the challenge of lowering his reputation and the tone of public discourse, Dean smeared Tea Partyers as racists: They oppose Obama's agenda, Obama is African American, ergo . . .

Let us hope that Dean is the last gasp of the generation of liberals whose default position in any argument is to indict opponents as racists. This McCarthyism of the left – devoid of intellectual content, unsupported by data – is a mental tic, not an idea but a tactic for avoiding engagement with ideas. It expresses limitless contempt for the American people, who have reciprocated by reducing liberalism to its current characteristics of electoral weakness and bad sociology.

By way of analogy, which is a kind of argument, I might pick out eleven words from Erick Erickson or Glenn Beck, or whoever, that suggest one ought to take up arms against the government.  But that wouldn't be fair, would it?   Well in their case it just appears to be plainly true. Anyway, the point is that Dean was making a more nuanced point that Will's slimy quotation suggests.  And so we have, I think, the beginnings of a classic representational form straw man.  It begins with pure distortion directly attributed to someone else.  But this one has, I think, a key feature of the fallacious straw man–the employment of the distortion to close the argument–which is exactly what Will does.  It's not enough, in other words, that Dean's contribution to the Tea Party discourse blows.  He's also a moron for offering it, a moron not worthy of further serious intellectual engagement.

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.

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?  

 

Pile on

There's misspeaking and there's incoherence.  Here's incoherence:

BLITZER: Another question. What are your new ideas on how to take the Republican Party out of this rut that it’s in right now? Give me one or two new ideas that you’re going to propose to these governors who have gathered here in this hotel.

PALIN: Well, a lot of Republican governors have really good ideas for our nation because we’re the ones there on the front lines being held accountable every single day in service to the people whom have hired us in our own states and the planks in our platform are strong and they are good for America. It’s all about free enterprise and respecting the …

BLITZER: Does that mean you want to come up with a new Sarah Palin initiative that you want to release right now.

PALIN: Gah! Nothing specific right now. Sitting here in these chairs that I’m going to be proposing but in working with these governors who again on the front lines are forced to and it’s our privileged obligation to find solutions to the challenges facing our own states every day being held accountable, not being just one of many just casting votes or voting present every once in a while, we don’t get away with that. We have to balance budgets and we’re dealing with multibillion dollar budgets and tens of thousands of employees in our organizations.

Dumbfounding.  Anyone have an interpretation?  Sounds like a literal translation some kind of syntax-challenged computer.

(via Kevin Drum,via The Confabulum, via Hilzoy at Political Animal).

Fallacy fallacy fallacy

The fallacy fallacy consists in thinking a conclusion false because it is the product of a fallacious argument.  I often get accused of that.  Such accusations reveal a manifest ignorance of how proving stuff works.  The fallacy fallacy fallacy consists in thinking it fallacious (usually an ad hominem) to accuse people of having committed fallacies.  So if I point out, for instance, that someone has reasoned poorly, and that person responds that I am attacking them personally, then that person has committed the fallacy fallacy fallacy.  I think in fact that this occurs quite often.  Here, for instance, is an imperfect example from that intellectual giant, Sarah Palin:

Palin told WMAL-AM that her criticism of Obama's associations, like those with 1960s radical Bill Ayers and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, should not be considered negative attacks. Rather, for reporters or columnists to suggest that it is going negative may constitute an attack that threatens a candidate's free speech rights under the Constitution, Palin said.

"If [the media] convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations," Palin told host Chris Plante, "then I don't know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media."

Got that?  You can't criticize Palin's guilt-by-association tactics, because that's "attacking the person."  Dumb.

For the fallacy fallacy, all the credit goes to Humbugonline.  For the above Palin quotation, the Washington Monthly.

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.