Sunday, June 14, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: June 14, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
CHUCK TODD: Over the last decade, she’s shifted her position on same-sex marriage, on immigration, on NAFTA, on the Iraq War, on Cuba policy, on criminal justice reform. Just a few that she’s done recently. They’re all to the left — all to the progressive side of things. How should progressives believe these are changes in conviction and not simply changes in convenience because the Democratic electorate has changed.

JOHN PODESTA: Chuck, I don’t think there’s anybody who’s been more consistent in their entire career, from the day she left law school, went to work for the children’s defense fund. From her in Arkansas to First Lady of the United States. She’s fought for children, for families. She’s made her priorities clear, her values clear. You know, times change. A decade ago, I think a lot of people had a different view on marriage equality. Today, the country has shifted. She’s at the forefront of saying that that is a right that every American should have. She’s gone further and said we need to protect the LGBT community in the workplace. So I think circumstances change. This isn’t 1992. It’s not 2008. It’s 2015, and she’ll take positions that are consistent with a set of longtime values that have made her a progressive in the best sense of the word. Fighting for working families, fighting for children, fighting for women across this country and across the world.
-- John Podesta, chair of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign, June 14, 2015, during an interview with NBC News' Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press".

Comment: First, Todd is accusing Clinton of flip-flopping. Second, Podesta is surely exaggerating when he says nobody has been more consistent than Clinton in their political positions. Third, Podesta seems to then contradict himself, saying that there have been changes in "circumstances". Does he mean that Clinton hasn't changed positions even as times have changed? Is it really true that she has the same position now on, say, same-sex marriage that she had a decade or two ago? Or is he saying that the changing times have resulted in her changing her position? At any rate, Podesta doesn't answer Todd's question, so this all amounts to an evasion.

Let me start by saying that a white guy is not ideally positioned or situated to evaluate or make sense of the moral and psychological equities of a someone trying to pass as black. (For a second I thought, hey this is kind of like all the rightwingers who are confused and think they're honorary Jews because they're so into Bibi Netanyahu or really, really, really want to kill them some Palestinians. But okay, not really the same.) So let me tentatively and respectfully offer some impressions from this imperfect vantage point.
-- Pundit John Marshall, June 13, 2015, remarking on Rachel Dolezal, an NAACP activist who falsely claimed to be African-American.

Comment: First, Marshall somewhat disqualifies himself from commenting on Dolezal on the grounds that "you don't know what it's like". Second, he demonizes right-wingers, characterizing them as wanting to kill Palestinians.

At a breakfast with reporters in Washington Thursday, Sanders previewed what he said will be a major theme of his campaign.

“I will be talking about family values, but not the family values that my Republican colleagues talk about, which for them means that a woman cannot have the right to control her own body or that gay people should not have the right to get married or that women should not have access to contraception. That is what their concept of family values are about. That’s not my concept,” Sanders said at the breakfast, sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor Breakfast in downtown D.C.
-- From a story by Meredith Shiner of Yahoo News, June 11, 2015, reporting remarks by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Comment: Sanders is demonizing Republicans on abortion by saying they don't want women to be able to control their own bodies. Would it be fair to say that Sanders' position on abortion is that unborn children should be killed? No, both accounts are caricatures. It's also a distortion to say that Republicans oppose women having access to contraception. Republicans don't want contraception outlawed, they (or many of them, at least) just don't want taxpayer dollars paying for it.

When it comes to economics — and other subjects, but I’ll focus on what I know best — we live in an age of derp and cheap cynicism. And there are powerful forces behind both tendencies. But those forces can be fought, and the place to start fighting is within yourself. What am I talking about here? “Derp” is a term borrowed from the cartoon “South Park” that has achieved wide currency among people I talk to, because it’s useful shorthand for an all-too-obvious feature of the modern intellectual landscape: people who keep saying the same thing no matter how much evidence accumulates that it’s completely wrong. … Thus, if you’re a conservative opposed to a stronger safety net, you should be extra skeptical about claims that health reform is about to crash and burn, especially coming from people who made the same prediction last year and the year before (Obamacare derp runs almost as deep as inflation derp). But if you’re a liberal who believes that we should reduce inequality, you should similarly be cautious about studies purporting to show that inequality is responsible for many of our economic ills, from slow growth to financial instability. Those studies might be correct — the fact is that there’s less derp on America’s left than there is on the right — but you nonetheless need to fight the temptation to let political convenience dictate your beliefs.
-- Pundit Paul Krugman, June 8, 2015.

Comment: Krugman is essentially accusing people of not caring about truth, while also caricaturing Republicans and conservatives (the right) by saying that they ignore truth more than the opposition Democrats, liberals, and progressives (the left), without providing any rigorous statistics to back up this claim.

CHRIS WALLACE: Pope Francis will release an encyclical on the environment... You suggested the holy father should stay out of the debate on climate change...

RICK SANTORUM: The Church has gotten it wrong a few times on science. And we probably are better off leaving science to the scientists and focusing on what we do -- what we're really good at, which is -- which is theology and morality.

CHRIS WALLACE: Two points, if he's not a scientist, and, in fact, he has a degree in chemistry, neither are you. That's one point. The second point is, somewhere between 80% and 90% of scientists who have studied this say that humans, men -- human activity, contributes to climate change. so, I guess the question would be, if he shouldn't talk about it, should you?
-- Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), June 7, 2015, during an interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News.

Comment: Wallace is accusing Santorum of hypocrisy for disqualifying Pope Francis from scientific commentary, but not himself, though he doesn't use it as a basis for an ad hominem argument. Both Wallace and Santorum make an appeal to authority – "scientist should determine what's true in science" – which is flawed reasoning. Whatever the topic, scientists and non-scientists have to abide by the same standards of providing good reasoning behind their beliefs. Scientists shouldn't immediately be believed simply because they are scientists, and the ideas of non-scientists shouldn't immediately be dismissed simply because they are not scientists.

No comments: