Politics: July 2004 Archives


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Or should we call it Ketchupgate? Found at CaribPundit.

Edwards Lied

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I want to remind everyone that John Edwards said repeatedly and in no uncertain terms that he wouldn't accept the nomination for Vice-President if John Kerry offered it to him. I bet he and Kerry are going to continue this campaign as one against Bush on the issue of honesty. If so, Edwards is a hypocrite.

According to this site, he can't claim that he's reluctantly taking the job, since he's been pursuing it quite actively. Some might respond by saying that he wasn't interested in the job while he was running for president, and now that he knows he won't win the nomination he's just changed his mind. This won't do, though, because he was still saying he wouldn't do it during the last dregs of his campaign, when it was clear to everyone that Kerry would win the nomination and Edwards' presence seemed to be only to show Kerry that he was the best VP pick. That's true dishonesty if his actions are demonstrating something absolutely contrary to his words. Then again, his trial lawyer background might have been good preparation for this side of politics.

Update: More on this at Evangelical Outpost, including more claims of dishonesty.

The people on Fox and Friends this morning are amazed that John Kerry believes life begins at conception, and they're wondering how he can believe that and then say that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. Many of my students have had the same strange notion that pro-choice people shouldn't believe the scientifically obvious truth that life begins at conception. The main issue has absolutely nothing to do with when life begins. For many people it has to do with when personhood begins (though philosophers have given good reasons to think even that doesn't decide the issue either way, since it's sometimes ok to kill a person, and it's sometimes wrong to kill something that's not a person).

What bothers me about Kerry's stance on abortion isn't some supposed inconsistency between believing life begins at conception and allowing abortion. The problem is that he says he thinks abortion should be rare, and then he does nothing to discourage it and everything to encourage it. That's good reason to think he doesn't really believe very strongly that it should be rare.

Update: Someone from the Washington Post is on now, saying that Kerry has set himself up for some moral dilemma with his recent comments on abortion. He stated it again in terms of life beginning at conception, so apparently he doesn't know any biology either. Tehy're now giving some more information on the quote, and he hasn't just said that life begins at conception, which isn't exactly an informative point as to anyone's views. He actually said he opposes abortion. So maybe he does have a moral dilemma to deal with, and he's just a moral wimp, believing something to be gravely wrong but being absolutely unwilling to do anything to oppose it. That dilemma has nothing to do with when life begins, though.

Update 2: More context: Kerry sees his opposition to abortion as a purely religious matter that he can't force on others. This doesn't change my previous evaluation that this is the position of a moral wimp. It does raise my eyebrow a bit, though, because it reveals two things. First, he doesn't think there are any good arguments for abortion and takes it as an article of faith. He uses that term. Many people who have a more liberal view on this issue believe this to be true of all pro-life people, and it's completely false. I wonder if this is evidence that he doesn't really believe it and is giving what a Democrat might think a Republican believes to try to get more conservative votes. The other possibility is that this is just his way of saying that there isn't any truth of the matter, but he has a feeling about it. It's a bad way of saying that, and it's offensive to people who really have convictions about it, but it's one way of reconciling his claim that he has convictions about it with the obvious evidence that he doesn't.

Second, as I just suggested, this is incredibly offensive to people with deeply seated beliefs that coincide with their religious beliefs but also are held because or real arguments and even careful reasoning. It belittles them, and it ignores how many of our laws really do come from religious viewpoints, even if there are also secular arguments for most of them. Abortion, for many people who happen to have religious beliefs on the matter, is not a religious issue. It's a moral issue. Those who say you can't legislate morality are simply ignorant of how the legal system works. Most laws legislate morality.

Digitus, Finger & Co. has a nice post explaining why abstinence-only sex education (or lack thereof!) is a very bad idea, even if excluding the abstinence-only message is also a bad idea. I knew there were extremists out there who think it's morally wrong to teach facts about birth control or how the human reproductive system works, but I thought abstinence education was simply showing why abstinence is the only way to be sure to avoid pregnancy and STDs (barring rape). I didn't realize that there are whole programs developed just make that claim and don't bother to teach the rest of the relevant issues. That's at least as bad as failing to mention that abstinence is the only 100% safe method and failing to talk about the magical thinking of the inverse lottery fallacy (instead of "I know how irrational it is to play the lottery, but I might win, and isn't that enough" it's "I know it's possible I might lose at the sex lottery, but that won't happen"). How can you support your claim that abstinence is the best method when you don't teach the facts about the others to back it up?

Fact-Checking Moore

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Since people have been crying out for a review of someone who has seen the film who critiques it, here it is. Judging by the comparison between Moore and Bush, I think it's safe to say that the reviewer isn't a huge fan of the president. Still, the review is virtually nothing but correctives on the basic facts.

The one that shocked me was Moore's continuance of the falsehood that Gore would have won if the recount had continued. Different standards for recounting would have yielded different results, but a recount using the more likely recount standards would have yielded Bush as the winner. I hadn't heard this one trotted out in a while except in slogans about election-stealing. People presenting facts have pretty much acknowledged this one. Moore isn't among them, apparently.

Even if the reviews of Moore are unfair in their bias (see post below and comments for more on that), there's a completely separate issue of balance that has come to the fore in the time since Moore's film has been released. That's how the media have been reported it. Rabe Ramblings debunks the claims that compare Fahrenheit 9/11 with The Passion of the Christ and exaggerate its success. CNN, MSNBC, and USA Today are the only media outlets he mentions, but I've been hearing similar things all over the place. I'm not sure how this started, but here are the only ways the box office sales of this film stand out.

1) It's doing extremely well for a documentary, though not first place as is claimed.
2) It's set a few records for particular theaters but not for box office sales as a whole.

Otherwise, it's pretty lackluster. On opening weekend, it didn't even outsell the 1999 live-action remake of Inspector Gadget. Jackass is as much a documentary as Fahrenheit 9/11. and that did better on opening weekend.

Messy Christian links to another review of Fahrenheit 9/11 that's being hailed as balanced, though I'm not sure simply saying both good and bad things about it is enough for it to count as balanced.

A number of his conclusions result from falsehoods, e.g. that we haven't found any WMD in Iraq, that the only reason to continue to fight now would be if we'd found WMD in Iraq, that Saddam is the only bad guy in Iraq, that Iraq needed to be involved in 9/11 for there to be a connection between Saddam's administration and al Qaeda, that big business profits from the war have any relevance to whether it's the right thing to do, that big business is even profiting from the war (Halliburton isn't, for instance), that troops are dying for no reason simply because he doesn't agree with the reason.

It's true that Hitchens didn't say anything positive about the film, but saying positive things at the expense of the truth isn't balance.



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