Thursday, September 27, 2018

Christine Blasey Ford in the land of Narnia?

Why don’t they teach logic at these schools? There are only three possibilities. Either your sister is telling lies, or she is mad, or she is telling the truth. You know she doesn’t tell lies and it is obvious she is not mad. For the moment then and unless any further evidence turns up, we must assume that she is telling the truth. (pg. 52) 

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Four consistent possibilities

1. Roe v. Wade was rightly decided, and abortion should be legal. 
2. Roe v. Wade was rightly decided, but abortion should not be legal. 
3. Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided, and abortion should be legal. 
4. Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided, and abortion should not be legal. 

2 and 3 are the surprising combinations. 2 is consistent because abortion can always be rendered illegal through a constitutional amendment. 3 is consistent because it is possible that abortion can be defended for other reasons than that offered by Roe. But everyone assumes that 1 and 4 are the only options. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Legalizing murder: The argument from reasonable doubt

I have a strong inclination toward these two positions. 

1) Abortion is murder. 
2) Abortion should be legal. 

Which means I think murder should be legal in many cases, that although very wrong, the remedy for it should be moral rather than legal. That is because the personhood of the fetus is not provable beyond reasonable doubt, therefore the status of abortionists as murderers is not proved beyond reasonable doubt, and that is the standard for convicting someone of murder in America.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

What price pro-life

 I think it is a mistake to make the acid-test of whether someone values life whether we are willing to put people who provide abortions in jail, when there are so many other things that can be done that we don't do to have a child-friendly society. When Roe v. Wade came out in 1973, women could be fired if they carried their babies to term. Employers didn't have to give them unpaid time off to have their babies, and when this was outlawed under Bill Clinton, the very party that is supposedly pro-life, or at least most of their Senators, voted no on the Family and Medical Leave Act. If we want women to have their babies and not abort them shouldn't we want to make sure they have health insurance? Yet the Trump administration cut the CHIP program. If we don't want to see abortions, aren't we going to see more babies born in difficult economic circumstances? Are we willing to pay higher taxes to see to it that these children don't starve? Are we doing enough to show people that life with a disability can be worth living, so that mothers who face the prospect of bearing a child with a disability will be more inclined to have that baby rather than abort it? And yet the party of life has been working on a law that undercuts the Americans with Disabilities Act, and conservatives in Texas want to eliminate all mention of Helen Keller from the American history books. If we want to stop abortions, do we really have to accept arguments that deny that a woman has a right to privacy in her medical decisions, because the legal arguments against Roe are all about rejecting and limiting the right of privacy, and not at all about a fetus's right to life. (If you think the route to getting rid of abortions is through conservative justices, that is what their argument is for overturning Roe. They never argue that the fetus has a provable right to life. Ever.)

I'm pretty sympathetic to pro-life. I don't think the pro-life position is provable to all reasonable persons, but I would never want to be party to an abortion myself. But pro-life seems to include a package deal which includes the Republican agenda. If have been told that I have to accept a President whose behavior harms the country in more ways than I can count, all because, by golly, he'll put people on the Supreme Court who will save all of those fetuses, all the while trying to take health insurance away from millions of people, including those very fetuses once they are born. If he shot five people to death on Fifth Avenue, some people would say "Yes, but at least he's pro-life."

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

From the Left to the Outer Darkness

Intolerance and political correctness is the poison pill of the political left, the road out from some political viewpoints, many of which I am inclined to support, into the outer darkness of totalitarian thinking. 

Christians are terminally politically uncomfortable. Every ideology has a poison pill. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Socialism and Health Care

Let's do a little history. While he was still an actor, Reagan did recordings for the American Medical Association fearmongering about socialized medicine, but if you listen to them carefully what he is talking about is was for people over 65, so what he was objecting to was what eventually became Medicare. I'm old enough to remember opponents of Medicare were condemning that a socialized medicine. I remember hearing Rush Limbaugh complaining about Bill Clinton's health care proposal by saying THIS IS SOCIALISM. The s-word was used to scare everyone away from the plan, which, of course, never passed even through the Democratic Congress he had at that time, and the fear of socialized medicine was a major talking point for the Contract with America in 1994. Opponents of changing our health care system kept insisting that we have the greatest health care system in the world, even though it left millions of people uninsured and uninsurable. When Obama came along the Affordable Care Act was a compromise. It was originally proposed with a public option. Trump began his campaign by saying that everyone should be enabled to have health insurance, but called Obamacare a disaster and joined the chorus who wanted it repealed and replaced. He was challenged by Ted Cruz at one point for his comments at some point in his past in favor of single payer, but he denied that he supported that. It is hard to know what he believes about health care (if he believes anything at all coherent), but he does seem dedicated to destroying the works of Obama. Nevertheless the Administration has supported bills that would take health insurance away from millions of people. Even now they repealed the individual mandate and support state lawsuits that challenge the constitutionality of the ACA. Republicans have sometimes insisted that they want a market-based solution to the health care problem. But what does that mean? Markets are things you can be priced out of, otherwise they aren't markets. If it's a market-based, the insuring that everyone gets health care is like insuring that everyone gets, if not a Cadillac, at least a Hyundai. Health insurance companies won't make a profit insuring people like me, unless the government does something to make it profitable for them in insure people like me. It seems that there are two things you can say about the situation I was in for all that time. One is that the previous system, while it left me in an unfortunate situation, was part of the prince we pay for a free society, which means a free market. It's an argument that could have been used, and was used, against Medicare. Health care isn't a right, it's a commodity, which means that if it is unaffordable, that may be unfortunate, but it's not an injustice, and that Obama and the Democrats were wrong on principle for trying to fix it. Or, they can admit that Obama and the Democrats were right in attempting to redress that injustice, even if they didn't go about it in the right way. (Republicans, or course, are going to insist that single payer is not the right way either). Which makes it incumbent upon them to show us what the right way is instead of just objecting to what was actually passed. Republicans need to answer the in-principle question clearly, so that we can understand what, in fact, they want to do.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

On Cadillacs and Health Care

I could never get affordable, or even any, health insurance until Obamacare was passed, since I was diagnosed with a chronic illness at the age of 23 and never worked for a big enough employer to get health insurance through them. But some would argue that people not being able to afford a good health insurance policy is like some people not being able to afford the car or house they would like to have. Sure, it would be nice if everyone could have a Cadillac, but in a free market economic system, some can afford it, and some can't. We'd bankrupt our country if we went socialist in such a way that we tried to give everyone who wanted one a Caddy. Besides, who would work hard if Cadillacs were distributed in accordance with need. What goes for Cadillacs, should go for health insurance. It is an individual's responsibility, not government's, to take care of our health. If we go socialist to the extent that will be necessary to make sure everyone has health insurance, we will end up with economic failure like they have in Venezuela. 

This is not an argument I buy, by the way. 

Where were you?

Alan Jackson's famous song is here.  I know where I was. I was in the shower. My wife came in, and I thought she was just trying to tell me to hurry up. Then I learned that the unimaginable had happened.

Saturday, September 08, 2018


 Let me pose the general question of when a candidate's moral problems ought to cause a voter either to vote for someone who is further away from you on the political spectrum that that candidate, or at least withhold support from the candidate closer to you and so, by default, help the candidate further away to get elected. The issue is complicated. It has to do with the extent to which a) the candidate's moral failures, or the discovery thereof, are going to affect the performance of their duties or cause a voter backlash which will benefit your ideological opponents in the long run, and b) whether you think the candidate in the other party isn't just someone who disagrees with you on some things, but in fact embodies an ideology you consider to be simply evil. A liberal, on those grounds, might, knowing what we know, vote for Mitt Romney in an election against John Edwards , because of Edwards' willingness to violate campaign rules to escape the consequences of an illicit affair, if he thinks conservatism to be an ideology with whom he merely disagrees. If he thinks it's the embodiment of evil, he may vote for Edwards anyway, because Romney's conservatism is too evil not to vote against. NeverEdwards is silly in light of that, they might argue.

On Edwards, here. 

Sunday, September 02, 2018

From a facebook discussion on politics,as it concerns fact-checkers

In political discussions, particularly on Facebook, I like to fact-check the claims people make. But some conservatives, goaded on by Trump, don't like fact-checker. They think they are a bunch of liberals. But I don't see them recommending any conservatively acceptable fact-checkers. Do we live in a postmodern world now, where there are no facts, only the interpretations of facts? 

How do YOU determine what is true in politics? It seems to me, on one way of viewing things, we determine what is factual by whether it fits with the ideology we espouse. We assume that only those who are on our side of the ideological fence have any willingness to look at facts and determine what is factual. But why think that. I used to think that the MAGA hats were all made in China, until I fact-checked, and discovered they weren't. 

Or we can think that there are really no facts, only interpretations of facts, and so we can pick and choose based on our ideology what is a fact, since facts are determined by ideology. But that is exactly the kind of postmoderism that conservatives decry. Or we can ask who is doing their homework and working at getting their facts straight, regardless of ideology. 

When I was young I watched the Senate Watergate hearings thinking that Nixon was almost certainly innocent. I thought Democrats like Same Ervin wanted Nixon to be guilty, but why in the world would anyone but a bungling underling do something so stupid as to bug the DNC headquarters at the Watergate hotel. Surely Woodward and Bernstein at the Post were liberal Democrats who were eager to see Nixon fall. John Dean was just trying to save his hide. John Ehrichman came in and finally set everyone straight. And then there was the Saturday Night Massacre, the House judiciary impeachment hearings in which one pained Republican named Railsback laid out the evidence that Nixon was guilty, the Supreme Court said the tapes had to be released, and finally the web of lies fell apart. In the words of the Who, I won't be fooled again.

If you are a Democrat, you naturally want evidence to come out that supports what you believe as a Democrat. If you are a Republican, and like what the President is doing in general, you don't want it to be true that he has, for example, violated campaign finance laws in paying women for their silence in order to influence the results of an election. And then there is such a thing as evidence. We might ask this question-do the news sources you like ever report anything embarrassing the their own political beliefs. Do they ever retract claims that are shown to be incorrect?

The fact check that I quoted estimated the difference between what Trump spent on vacations as opposed to Obama more conservatively than I expected. But since it comes from Snopes, I guess you have to assume that, no Obama spent more money on vacations than Trump. This in logic is called the ad hominem fallacy. We don't look at the case a person presents, we look at the source instead. If we don't like the source, it has to be false, even if it isn't. Liberals can do the same things as conservatives, in which case it is guaranteed that no discussion on the issues on which we differ can be discussed with the hope of progress. You get conversations like this: 

L: Cohen pleaded guilty to a campaign finance offense and implicated Trump. 
C: You're only saying that because you are a liberal. 

Look, I would be more impressed by conservative complaints about fact-checkers if conservatives could point out some fact-checkers to me that were more credible than the ones I use. (chirping crickets).