Friday, January 30, 2015

"Stupid" Examples: 2012

"[I am addressing] an enormous myth that circulates in our media culture; namely, the idea that conservatives are uniquely anti-science and progressives are uniquely pro-science. … It is certainly true that some conservatives embrace anti-scientific beliefs, most notably on evolution and climate change. But some progressives also adhere to a set of dangerous anti-scientific beliefs. … the destructive anti-vaccine movement has a long association with the progressive left. … Scientists see water fluoridation, which particularly benefits the poor, as a major public health triumph. But not progressive activists in Portland, Oregon, who fought to prevent the fluoridation of their city’s water supply. Mainstream progressive environmental groups such as Greenpeace and the Union of Concerned Scientists also oppose genetic modification, despite its tremendous life-saving potential in areas such as preventing vitamin A deficiency … Despite the fact that thousands of deaths in the U.S. are attributable to the pollution produced by burning fossil fuels each year, progressives oppose energy policies that could reduce our dependency on coal and oil. Progressives historically have been anti-nuclear power, and today, they are opposed to natural gas, a much cleaner fossil fuel. Instead, they embrace wind and solar, neither of which are currently capable of meeting the world’s growing energy demand."
-- Columnist Alex B. Berezow, December 28, 2012.

Comment: Isn't it a hasty generalization to argue that, if somebody rejects a scientific theory, they therefore reject science as a whole? Does disputing one scientific theory support declaring that someone is stupid or that they don't care about truth?

"According to a June Gallup report, most Republicans (58 percent) believed that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years. Most Democrats and independents did not agree. This anti-intellectualism is antediluvian. No wonder a 2009 Pew Research Center report found that only 6 percent of scientists identified as Republican and 9 percent identified as conservative. Furthermore, a 2005 study found that just 11 percent of college professors identified as Republican and 15 percent identified as conservative. Some argue that this simply represents a liberal bias in academia. But just as strong a case could be made that people who absorb facts easily don’t suffer fools gladly."
-- Columnist Charles Blow, December 7, 2012.

Comment: Blow is appealing to polling data to argue that Republicans are "anti-intellectual", which amounts to caricaturing them as "stupid" or perhaps as not caring about facts. Blow also considers a causal connection between political affiliation and scientific occupation, though isn't this a case of false causation?

"The good news first: the percentage of Republicans who think ACORN stole the election is down by three percent from 2009 when 52 percent thought ACORN prevented John McCain and Sarah Palin from winning the election. Here's the bad/hilarious news: ACORN ceased to exist years ago following a conspiracy of videotaped lies by Andrew Breitbart and James O'Keefe; a scam that was picked up by Republican leadership in Congress where the organization, which didn't break any laws, was stripped of federal funding. After it was too late, the U.S. Government Accountability Office determined that the Breitbart/O'Keefe videos were heavily edited and that no federal funds were misused and no laws were broken. But ACORN was killed by a conspiracy of lies and slander anyway. And now, years following its wrongful death sentence, ACORN is still being unjustly and inexplicably accused of stealing elections, and it's all because the base is entirely disconnected with facts and reality -- a disconnection that's reinforced in almost every sphere of right-wing influence. Anyone who thinks the Republicans are capable changing is just as delusional as the secessionists and conspiracy theorists who compose the GOP's base. The far-right entertainment complex is so deeply and inextricably woven into the life-support system of the Republican Party, it's nearly impossible to extract the crazy-cells without killing the host."
-- Columnist Bob Cesca, December 6, 2012.

Comment: The polling data Cesca cites from Public Policy Polling demonstrates that the opinion of some Republicans on a particular issue is based on false information. Does this prove that Republicans are somehow divorced from reality beyond redemption? If it is shown that the opinion of some Democrats on a particular issue is also based on false information, does that prove that Democrats as a party are somehow delusional beyond redemption?

"In the wake of the election, there's no doubt the Republican Party is capable of making some adjustments to rebrand itself. If nothing else, the party has demonstrated its proclivity for sloganeering and marketing and there are plenty of ways it can adjust its messaging. But it's obvious to anyone paying attention that the base simply won't allow the party to change in any meaningful way. The base is deeply encased within the twisted, alternate-reality looking glass that the GOP has been constructing throughout the last three decades: a realm of anger, racial resentment, distrust of government, hatred of immigrants and violently anti-choice misogynists and demagogues. The party has deliberately incited these tendencies via the conservative entertainment complex, as David Frum called it on Morning Joe -- AM talk radio, Fox News Channel and the like -- and augmented it with the generous contributions of wealthy financiers who bankroll everything from astroturf campaigns to the bulk-purchasing of every book-length screed by Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Michelle Malkin and Glenn Beck. The problem this creates, of course, is that the Republican Party has been consumed by misinformed idiots with no substantial connection to the real world, and the first post-election PPP poll only serves to amplify this conclusion."
-- Columnist Bob Cesca, December 6, 2012.

Comment: Cesca is indulging in name-calling, against Republicans, demonizing them and saying that they are stupid, and that they are racists and bigots. Are there no moral considerations animating Republicans, only racism, misogyny, xenophobia, etc.? Cesca also indulges in "demagogue" rhetoric.

"Yet there is an even deeper problem with Boehner's arithmetic. The Republicans are fighting to extend all the Bush tax cuts to the wealthiest two percent along with everyone else -- but their alternative proposals are utterly inadequate to compensate for the $1.3 trillion in revenues lost by continuing those cuts for the rich. To "offer" $800 billion in new "revenues" obtained by eliminating deductions rather than raising rates simply doesn't work, as a matter of basic math. It isn't nearly enough money. If Republican leaders cannot do the arithmetic, then it is impossible to negotiate with them. If they can do the arithmetic but insist on falsifying the answers, then it is both unwise and impossible to negotiate with them. Unless and until the Republicans start talking about real numbers that can actually add up, there is nothing to be gained from pretending to negotiate. Nor should the president start negotiating with himself, as he has sometimes done in the past. Instead, he ought to make sure that the opposition understands what will happen when they fail to act responsibly. After Jan. 1, he will bring them an offer they cannot refuse to restore cuts for the 98 percent -- and they will be held accountable for any consequences caused in the meantime by their stalling."
-- Columnist Joe Conason, December 6, 2012.

Comment: Conason is indulging in name-calling, saying Republicans are too stupid to do basic math. There's a legitimate argument to be had about raising tax rates versus closing loopholes, but it's significantly an empirical one, not simply mathematical. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), for instance, estimates that $12 trillion in revenue can be raised over ten years by closing major loopholes. It may be unpopular or bad economic policy to close those loopholes, but it is not mathematically incoherent to expect that $800 billion could be raised by doing so.

"Then he [Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)] added: “I just think in America we should have the freedom to teach our children whatever it is we believe. And that means teaching them science, they have to know the science, but also parents have the right to teach them the theology and to reconcile the two things.” It’s certainly a relief to know that Mr. Rubio thinks children should learn science. Perhaps he could bear a couple of things in mind as he joins the rest of us in the 21st century. (He might also want to check out some of the latest advances in horseless carriages and those little handheld computing thingies.)"
-- Editorial page editor and columnist Andrew Rosenthal, December 5, 2012. Rosenthal is referring to Rubio's earlier comments about the age of the Earth, in which Rubio declined to say whether the Earth was billions of years or merely thousands of years old.

Comment: Rosenthal is engaging in name-calling, caricaturing Rubio as stupid. Perhaps Rubio was wrong not to advocate the scientifically-determined age of the Earth (roughly 4.5 billion years), but is the age of the planet really as obvious as the existence of automobiles and iPads? No. It's a derisive caricature for Rosenthal to describe Rubio as being unaware of cars and computer tablets.

"The issue right now that's relevant is the acknowledgment that if we're going to raise revenues that are sufficient to balance with the very tough cuts that we've already made and the further reforms in entitlements that I'm prepared to make, that we're going to have to see the rates on the top 2 percent go up. And we're not going to be able to get a deal without it. And understand, Julianna, the reason for that. It's not me being stubborn. It's not me being partisan. It's just a matter of math. You know, there's been a lot of talk that somehow we can raise $800 billion or $1 trillion worth of revenue just by closing loopholes and deductions, but a lot of your viewers understand that the only way to do that would be if you completely eliminated, for example, charitable deductions. Well, if you eliminated charitable deductions, that means every hospital and university and not-for-profit agency across the country would suddenly find themselves on the verge of collapse. So that's not a realistic option. When you look at how much revenue you can actually raise by closing loopholes and deductions, it's probably in the range of $300 billion to $400 billion."
-- President Barack Obama, December 4, 2012, during interview with Julianna Goldman on Bloomberg TV.

Comment: This is exaggeration and derisive caricature. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that major tax expenditures -- "loopholes and deductions" in Obama's words -- amount to $12 trillion in revenue over 10 years and $800 billion in just the year 2012. It's open to discussion how accurate their predictions are, but it the CBO numbers indicate that raising $800 billion over 10 years by closing loopholes and deductions (as Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) proposes) is entirely plausible. There may be good policy reasons not to close those loopholes, and closing them may be very unpopular with voters, and Obama is entirely within his rights to demand that Republicans specify which exemptions and deductions they would ended. But that's different from saying that raising $800 billion is wrong just as a "matter of math". Doing what's unpopular isn't comparable to doing something mathematically impossible or logically contradictory, as Obama describes. Obama is exaggerating, and derisively implying that Republicans are unable to do basic math.

"Democrats were the knuckle-draggers on race and populist economic reform in the 19th century, Republicans in the latter half of the 20th. … Conservatives of the last decade lost their way by rejecting science, immigration reform and personal freedom, particularly in regard to choices made by women and gays. If you believe in climate change, finding a path to citizenship for millions of hard-working Hispanics and the right to marry the person you love, there is no place in the Republican Party of 2012 for you."
-- Columnist Timothy Egan, November 29, 2012.

Comment: This is name-calling. Egan can criticize the political views of others without resorting to "knuckle-draggers", can't he? And is it rejecting science to be skeptical about some portion of the issue of climate change? Are you opposed to all immigration reform if you oppose a path to citizenship for people (Hispanic or otherwise) who broke immigration and/or border law? Is it rejecting all personal freedom if you oppose gay marriage? Aren't these hasty generalizations, and ones that serve to demonize Republicans or cast them as stupid? Would it be fair to generalize the same way about Democratic positions? For instance, to say that, because they oppose enforcing immigration and border laws on immigrants who have broken those laws, therefore they oppose the rule of law altogether? No, of course not. Nor are Egan's descriptions fair.

LIMBAUGH: Groton, Connecticut. Steve. Great that you called, sir.

STEVE [last name unknown]: A couple days after the election I just absolutely felt like I'd be kicked in the stomach. I could not understand --
LIMBAUGH: Why, did you think that we were going to win and you couldn't believe that we lost, or was it something else?
STEVE: I thought it was a slam dunk for Romney. I really did.
LIMBAUGH: Why did you think that? Seriously. I'm not criticizing. No, no. I'm not criticizing. I'm genuinely curious. Why did you think that?
STEVE: Because, you know, I had hope that the American people would exercise just a small modicum of common sense when you compare the two.
LIMBAUGH: Well, yeah. I know.
-- Radio pundit Rush Limbaugh, November 20, 2012.

Comment: Limbaugh and the caller, Steve, are essentially saying that people who didn't vote for former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) in the 2012 election lack common-sense (in other words, they're stupid). In their view, people who voted for President Barack Obama did something blatantly irrational.

ROMNEY: [O]ur Navy is smaller now than any time since 1917. The Navy said they needed 313 ships to carry out their mission. We're now down to 285. We're headed down to the -- to the low 200s if we go through with sequestration.

OBAMA: [Y]ou mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military's changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines. And so the question is not a game of Battleship where we're counting ships. It's -- it's what are our capabilities.
-- President Barack Obama, October 22, 2012, during the third presidential debate in Boca Raton, FL, between Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA).

Comment: Obama is correct that military capability isn't simply dependent on the number of ships, it's also dependent on the quality and type of ships. But he could have made this point without derisively suggesting that Romney is ignorant of the fact that we now have things like aircraft carriers and submarines. Plus, it's not necessarily playing "a game of Battleship" to count ships, as there is a minimum number of ships needed in order to perform certain functions, which is what the Navy assessment was stating.

BIDEN: "They’re -- they’re closer to being able to get enough fissile material to put in a weapon if they had a weapon."
RADDATZ: "You are acting a little bit like they don’t want one."
BIDEN: "Oh, I didn’t say -- no, I’m not saying that. But facts matter, Martha. You’re a foreign policy expert. Facts matter. All this loose talk about them, “All they have to do is get to enrich uranium in a certain amount and they have a weapon,” not true. Not true.They are more -- and if we ever have to take action, unlike when we took office, we will have the world behind us, and that matters. That matters."
-- Vice President Joe Biden, October 11, 2012, during the vice presidential debate in Danville, KY, between Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI).

Comment: Again, this is name-calling. Biden is suggesting that Ryan's concerns about Iran are based on the rejection of facts, but they're not. Rather, there's a legitimate disagreement here about what constitutes the "point of no return" in Iran's nuclear weapons program. At the risk of oversimplifying, Ryan is saying that once Iran has uranium enriched to 90%, their weapons program is impossible to turn back. Biden is saying that the point of no return is at a later stage, once the 90% enriched uranium has been crafted into an actual weapon. (Ryan, I assume, would object that weaponizing enriched uranium is technically much easier than producing enriched uranium.) This is a complicated technical argument, so it's a derisive caricature for Biden to portray the debate as one side (his own) believing that "facts matter" and the other side (Ryan's) saying that they don't.

BIDEN: "Let’s all calm down a little bit here. Iran is more isolated today than when we took office. It was on the ascendancy when we took office. It is totally isolated. … I don’t know what world this guy’s living in."
-- Vice President Joe Biden, October 11, 2012, during the vice presidential debate in Danville, KY, between Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI).

Comment: This is name-calling. Biden is suggesting that Ryan is mentally deficient, or divorced from reality. The issue of what to do in order to keep a country from developing nuclear weapons is very complicated, Ryan's worries may be incorrect -- Biden is free to make that argument -- but Ryan's concerns are surely not deranged.

"This was the first time Romney addressed the whole country directly, rather than a purely Republican audience. He didn’t have to worry about the nut balls he was running against in the G.O.P. primary and was not forced to cater just to the Tea Party base."
-- Columnist Thomas Friedman, October 6, 2012.

Comment: "Nut balls" is clearly an example of name-calling. Friedman is basically saying that the GOP presidential candidates he doesn't like are mentally deranged.

"When I listened to the UN ambassador Susan Rice today several words came to mind: "asinine", "naive", "inept", "incompetent" and "borderline ignorant". Because when you understand that the Egyptian government, their intelligence services, put out a letter talking about the potential threat of an attacks and uprisings about a week before this. It was even printed in the Jerusalem Post on 9/11. And anyhow, I can tell you Judge, being in a combat zone several times after 9/11, we were always on a higher state of security and alertness on 9/11. It should have been the exact same thing here. And for Susan Rice to say that this was not a well-coordinated attack, first of all, I have to ask her what is her line of expertise in understanding what a well-coordinated attack is because this was not happenstance, it was not coincidence. This was well-planned, well-coordinated and the president there in Libya confirms that."
-- Rep. Allen West (R-FL), September 16, 2012, discussing the recent attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya.

Comment: This is name-calling. Of course there can be legitimate differences of opinion about intelligence predicting an attack (many warnings of attacks are false positives, for instance). For West to say the only explanation is that Rice is "asinine" is just derisive caricature.

"Don’t you ever forget, when you hear them talking about this, that Republican economic policies quadrupled the national debt before I took office, in the 12 years before I took office, and doubled the debt in the eight years after I left, because it defied arithmetic. It was a highly inconvenient thing for them in our debates that I was just a country boy from Arkansas and I came from a place where people still thought two and two was four."
-- President Bill Clinton, September 5, 2012, during his address at the Democratic National Convention.

Comment: This is a derisive caricature, of the "stupid" variety, implying that Republicans don't accept basic math.

"Mitt Romney, quite simply, doesn't get it. A few months ago he visited a university in Ohio and gave the students there a little entrepreneurial advice. "Start a business," he said. But how? "Borrow money if you have to from your parents," he told them. Gee, why didn't I think of that? Some people are lucky enough to borrow money from their parents, but that shouldn't determine whether you can pursue your dreams. I don't think Gov. Romney meant any harm. I think he's a good guy. He just has no idea how good he's had it."
-- Mayor Julian Castro (D-San Antonio), September 4, 2012, during his keynote address at the Democratic National Convention.

Comment: If Castro is implying that you can't come up with policies that are good for the poor if you haven't been poor yourself, then this is a faulty appeal to authority (and "you don't know what it's like" rhetoric). And, does suggesting to people that they try borrowing money from their parents somehow make Romney "out of touch"?

No comments: