Dishonest politics

I really despise when politicians refuse to understand the point of the opponent. It isn’t merely an inability to respect a different perspective because it may be so foreign or opposed to some long-held point of view that gets me. No, it’s when someone expresses a point in clumsy language and the other side pounces, being an absolute bitch about actually listening to the real point. Take, for example, when Mitt Romney said he wasn’t concerned about poor people. Of course he cares about them. He just happens to believe that they currently have a relatively adequate safety net, a net which can be improved (and made unnecessary in many lives) via certain economic policies. (That isn’t to say he really understands them, nor that his policies would actually work, but I do not think he is quite as callous as his original comment might suggest.) Or, even worse, look at John Kerry’s treatment a few years ago. He tried to say that we’re stuck in Iraq because Bush is dumb. The way it came out, though, made it sound like he thinks soldiers are stupid. It was an absurd distraction that was dishonest to its core. I hated every second of it and I think it’s terrible that he had to apologize at all.

Fast forward to the present campaign season and we have the President saying this:

If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.

Whoa! Holy smokes, Batman! The President of the United States just said that small business owners – especially mom and pop shops that have been in the neighborhood for 43 years, giving out free meals to needy orphans and puppies every Thanksgiving – deserve zero credit. Zero. Rumor has it that once off camera, he even went so far as to grab the head of a struggling business owner, pull the guy’s face right up to his ass, and fart. I bet he laughed and laughed. Communist.

Oh…wait. I guess there’s more to the quote:

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

Oh, snap. Shitty, amirite conservatives? I guess what the President meant was that everyone has had help from others at one point or another. He then gave teachers as one example. Then he says that somebody helped to create the system in which businesses thrive. Then he uses roads and bridges as an example of what has helped businesses thrive. Next we have the big doozie of the whole thing: He says that businesses – gasp! – didn’t build our roads and bridges. For the reading impaired, let me reword the President’s sentences in a way which conveys the exact same meaning with a little more clarity:

Somebody invested in roads and bridges, and if you have a business, you didn’t build that.

Or how about this?

Somebody invested in roads and bridges, and if you have a business, you didn’t build that stuff.

Or maybe this?

Somebody invested in roads and bridges, and if you have a business, you didn’t build those.

Okay, here we go:

Somebody invested in roads and bridges, and if you have a business, you didn’t build those roads and bridges I just mentioned. In fact, the transcript of my speech should be written with a semi-colon so as to show what I am saying about businesses not building roads and bridges. For example, “Somebody invested in roads and bridges; if you have a business, you didn’t build that.”

And despite all this context, there’s even more to the speech:

The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.

Nothing the President has said is remotely remarkable here. He was simply making the point that everyone needs help in life, and a lot of that help comes from government-funded programs, works, etc. Most teachers are paid by the government. Most bridges are built by acts of Congress and state legislatures. That isn’t to say that businesses deserve zero credit. He outright says that one of the reasons businesses see success is individual initiative. That just isn’t the only reason they see success, is all. But hey, I know how to end this argument with one simple question:

Did Wal-Mart build the Interstate it uses to truck its goods around the country? No? Argument over.

Apparently basic logic is too difficult for Billo

Bill O’Reilly doesn’t believe that the Norway shooter Breivik is a Christian:

On Monday night’s show, O’Reilly was outraged that The New York Times described Breivik as a “Christian extremist” in a page-one headline, declaring that being an “anti-Muslim bigot” is what drove him, “not Jesus, not being baptized.” O’Reilly went on to assert that this was part of “a movement in the American media to diminish and marginalize the Christian philosophy.” Later in the show, O’Reilly said the Times’ headline was done to “give jihadists quarter or something like that, diminish the threat of them,” asserting that “the liberal media is so protective of extreme Islam, when it hates the left. … At The New York Times, they would all be hung.”

This one really shouldn’t be that hard. Just admit that Breivik is a self-identified Christian, but qualify that acknowledgement of the truth with the observation that he does not represent mainstream Christianity. I mean, in terms of in-group mentality he does, but in terms of action, no, he certainly does not. That should be good enough. No one is going to start thinking that, oh, I guess all Christians like to kill innocent people.

But no. O’Reilly can’t be that honest. He has to pretend that Breivik was somehow not motivated by his faith because labeling him both a Christian and an extremist would make him seem like all those icky brown towel wearing people. And I can understand O’Reilly’s motivations here. Many Americans, including Papa Bear himself, do look at Muslims with an unjustified eye of suspicion. They do this because of the publicity given to a few of their acts, not to mention the simple fact that they represent an out-group. Most Americans are Christians, and all religions encourage a negative view of anyone who is different. So yeah, it makes sense for O’Reilly to hold the view he does. It isn’t honest, but it makes sense.

O’Reilly continued his obsession on Tuesday’s show during a segment with The Washington Post’s Sally Quinn. As Quinn pointed out that Breivik called himself a Christian, invoked the name of Jesus and discussed the nature of his faith, O’Reilly insisted that “there’s no evidence that ties this guy to Christianity,” dismissing Breivik’s self-description by claiming that “Mussolini called himself a Christian.”

Uh-huh. There’s no evidence. Except for that evidence.

But O’Reilly wasn’t done. He went on to invoke the “No True Scotsman” fallacy (as others have), essentially claiming that Breivik couldn’t be a Christian because “they’re nonviolent.” When Quinn noted that most Muslims would not consider accused Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan a Muslim, O’Reilly objected: “I’m not saying he was a good Muslim. I’m saying that he was a Muslim terrorist because he carried a business card that said ‘Soldier of Allah,’ and he committed his crimes in the name of Allah.” He added, “The guy in Fort Hood, he was acting in the name of his religion. He killed because he believed that Allah told him to kill. The guy in Norway didn’t kill because he thinks Jesus wanted him to kill those people. Jesus had nothing to do with it. He wasn’t even cited. And using the word ‘Christian’ to label this guy is dishonest.”

Right, Billo, it’s everyone else who is being dishonest here. Everyone else is taking these two exact same situations – violent acts of highly-publicized murder motivated by a heap of crazy and a dash of religion – and twisting them around. Why can’t everyone see how dissimilar they are?!

This is as bad as all those dishonest Christians who claim Hitler believed in evolution. We know he was a Christian creationist who was raised Catholic and constantly professed a belief in Jesus and God. That doesn’t particularly indict Christianity. We have plenty of other things that do the trick. For example, blatant dishonesty.

The dishonest fool

I really didn’t want to make another post about this guy. Really. I promise. But I can’t stand dishonesty. And I literally have never encountered a more fundamentally dishonest person than Jack Hudson. I don’t need to recount the details; we’ve seen it before from this guy. I’m just going to quickly point out what happened, show you the evidence, and move on.

I recently made a post where the Catholic Church said it prefers that a real, living human being face certain death rather than let doctors do the ethical thing and end a sure-to-be-deadly pregnancy. The Church disassociated itself from an Arizona hospital as a result. I would have just ignored the incident if it didn’t constitute a textbook case of Double Effect. But since I love philosophy (having recently completed all the credits needed for the part of my degree that is in it), I felt compelled to write about it.

What I also felt compelled to do was link back to a post by Jack where he completely misunderstood a basic-as-hell thought experiment known as the Trolley Problem. He claimed that one issue with the thought experiment was that it was unrealistic. In fact, he said it all really came down to a logistical problem. Anyone familiar with philosophical thought experiments knows they often are supposed to be unrealistic. The big point is to see how far we’re willing to go with our ethical positions and theories. And anyone specifically familiar with the Trolley Problem knows logistics has nothing to do with it. This doesn’t even rise to the stuff of Phi 101.

And what was Jack’s response to the link-back? Well, I’ve outed him for a lot of his dishonest doings, including when he became upset over a public Facebook discussion and texted my cousin dozens of times. It’s only natural that he has an interest in people not finding their way back to my blog from his. (Let’s ignore that 15-30% of his blog hits have come from FTSOS in the first place.) So his first response was to delete the pingback that showed up on his blog from here. Fine. I expected that, it’s his blog, and it isn’t important. But his next action? He deleted every single one of his posts where we had discussed his philosophical shortcomings.

But you say, “Drats, Michael! You claim he deleted all his posts, but how do we know that’s true?” Well, I’m glad you asked. As it turns out, he put my comments in moderation, failing to or choosing not to delete them. (I’m sure they’ll disappear quickly – I’ve got the screen shots.) What this means is that while Jack’s readers are unable to see anything, all my posts are still visible to me. And here’s the proof.

The circled part in the second picture is where I was quoting Jack when he claimed that the Trolley Problem was one of logistics. And in case anyone has any trouble reading it:

You are actually confusing a moral problem with a logistical problem, as I said before – it would be morally right to save everyone if it were in my power to do so. It would be morally evil to intentionally harm people – logistically I do what I can to help as many people as possible, and as one person is intent on hanging out on a train track where he has the possibility of getting hit by a train, he gets harmed in my attempt to help others.

I guess the entire field of philosophy has been confused on this one for about 35 years. Thank goodness Jack Hudson rolled on up to let us all know where the error stood.

Okay, so maybe this wasn’t the quick post I promised, but it needs to be here. As I said, I can’t stand dishonesty. But I like to think I’m a pretty nice guy, so I’m going to give Jack the same advice I gave a certain ‘doctor’ about a million times (I just hope it takes for Jack): If you stop doing dishonest things, I will stop making a spectacle of them. It’s really that simple. Just as with that ‘doctor’, my posts are responses. Don’t like them? Then don’t give me anything to which to respond.

This isn’t that hard.

Update: With the weird exception of the comments in moderation (thanks for making it easy to expose your lies, Jack!), it appears that Jack Censorship Hudson has actually deleted all my posts (or at least all I have checked). As a prize, here are some of the things Jack Dishonest Hudson (he wears many hats) has said.

On making physical threats over a joke:

You know Michael, I almost never feel compelled to deal with anyone physically, but you are very lucky your puny little bank teller body is in Maine, because i would kick your butt from one side of the room to the other if you said that to my face. Of course you wouldn’t because you are a coward.

Jack Dishonest Hudson later claimed that he never makes personal attacks. I’m pretty sure threatening to physically attack someone counts as a “personal”.

On a family member of mine (read each line as being separate from the next):

I mean Ty is a pitiable figure who incites disgust and perhaps some concern about his mental stability,

It appears this is a pathetic bid for publicity for your failing comedy career

Oh, and anytime you are in Minnesota (not that anyone here would be so incredibly stupid to hire you) – stop on by, and we will have a little talk about who the coward is here.

What people would I have that would want to call a pathetic drug addled excuse for a comedian?

Tyler is a Chris Farley wanna-be, except not as funny, and not nearly in as good a shape.

Fact is, it doesn’t matter, because since he couldn’t afford to come to Minnesota anyway – and he would have to figure out where it is. So I am not too worried, and the fact that you are concerned about humanism while enabling your cousin’s lifestyle is fiairly pathetic.

Dream on Chris Farley, dream on.

So Ty, I have always heard the best comedy is the product of lonliness and poverty. Is that a myth, or are you just an exception to that rule?

So, given all the incredible accomplishments in your life, to what do you attribute the current need to don a clown suit and work the neighborhood birthday parties?

Two things. First, Jack Dishonest Hudson made a claim in that same thread that he was civil. I guess he couldn’t access dictionary.com that day. Second, what I really hated about the direction of that whole debacle was the chest-thumping contest Jack Insecure Hudson was trying to have. Aside from it being an awful show of school yard boyishness, it wasn’t even credible. If you don’t work out, if you aren’t in shape, if you don’t regularly play sports, and you’re middle aged, you are not healthy enough to show any young whippersnapper what’s-what. And I say that out of a disdain for the immorality of not trying to be healthy, not from the well of immaturity from which Jack LittleKid Hudson was drawing that day.

Thought of the day

People who argue for ‘a higher purpose’, or intelligent design, or a ‘necessary creator’, or any other intentionally vague idea are being fundamentally dishonest when they don’t admit that they are merely talking about their specific, cultural god.

Calling dishonesty

I’ve never been a big fan of calling someone dishonest with much ease. There are exceptions (a lot of politicians by virtue of being politicians, people who understand the science behind something but intentionally contradict it at the behest of a big corporation, i.e., researchers who long denied the effects smoking has), but I’m not usually ready to throw out a label of “dishonest” without good reason. I’ll say it for virtually all public-figure young Earth creationists because they present arguments they know are wrong (i.e., Kirk Cameron and his crocoduck; even when it was explained to him that evolution predicts no such thing, he continued to claim otherwise. I don’t think he’s smart, but he can’t be that stupid), but I won’t say it for the random young Earth creationist because they usually don’t know why their arguments are silly. For the former, I have good reason. For the latter, I do not.

And then there are theists in general. I believe most of them think their positions are valid and logical. They don’t inherently make arguments they know or believe to be false simply so they can push an agenda. This is true for all religious members as well as atheists, agnostics, and whatever else we care to name. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t big name theists willing to distort facts, make up history, and outright lie.

Enter the Pope.

‘As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the 20th century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society.’

Specifically, he means Nazis. This is a fallacious argument that attempts to link what just about everyone recognizes as a terrible regime to atheism. Hitler wasn’t an atheist and the Nazis did not promote atheism. The Pope is being overtly and brazenly dishonest.

In light of this, PZ has a series of Hitler quotes that help to demonstrate what the German leader thought. They’re worth a look in their entirety, but I’ll provide just a few here.

“I believe today that I am acting in the sense of the Almighty Creator. By warding off the Jews I am fighting for the Lord’s work.” (1936 speech)

~~~

“My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God’s truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders.” (1922 speech – this one goes on for longer than what I’ve represented here)

~~~

“This human world of ours would be inconceivable without the practical existence of a religious belief.” (Mein Kampf)

~~~

“ATHEIST HALL CONVERTED

Berlin Churches Establish Bureau to Win Back Worshippers

Wireless to the New York Times.

BERLIN, May 13. – In Freethinkers Hall, which before the Nazi resurgence was the national headquarters of the German Freethinkers League, the Berlin Protestant church authorities have opened a bureau for advice to the public in church matters. Its chief object is to win back former churchgoers and assist those who have not previously belonged to any religious congregation in obtaining church membership.

The German Freethinkers League, which was swept away by the national revolution, was the largest of such organizations in Germany. It had about 500,000 members …” (New York Times, May 14, 1933, page 2, on Hitler’s outlawing of atheistic and freethinking groups in Germany in the Spring of 1933, after the Enabling Act authorizing Hitler to rule by decree)

Far from being an atheist, Hitler believed in God. Furthermore, he actively suppressed atheist groups. The Pope, having lived in Nazi Germany and having been forced to join them, knows this. His people know it. Everyone frickin’ knows it.

But my favorite quote of all (which isn’t on that list):

Walking about in the garden of Nature, most men have the self-conceit to think that they know everything; yet almost all are blind to one of the outstanding principles that Nature employs in her work. This principle may be called the inner isolation which characterizes each and every living species on this earth. Even a superficial glance is sufficient to show that all the innumerable forms in which the life-urge of Nature manifests itself are subject to a fundamental law–one may call it an iron law of Nature–which compels the various species to keep within the definite limits of their own life-forms when propagating and multiplying their kind. (Mein Kampf)

Mmyes. In addition to not being an atheist, Hitler didn’t even accept the fact of evolution. Only a fundamentally dishonest theist would bother to argue otherwise.

Texas gets it right

Texas actually managed to get something right.

The final proposal for the state’s science curriculum pleases scientists and watch groups, who say it will help protect Texas public school classrooms over the next decade from what they call “watered-down science” — specifically during the instruction of evolution.

Much of the concern over earlier versions of the proposed curriculum centered on a requirement that students be able to analyze the “strengths and weaknesses” of scientific theories, a phrase which some say is being used by creationists — including some members of the State Board of Education — to subvert the teaching of evolution.

It’s high time this was settled. Creationists compose the most dishonest bunch of crazies we have running around in the world. They’ve never added anything of worth to the world that comes directly from creationism. Everything they believe is worthless garbage that deserves nothing but ridicule and derision. They explain nothing while taking the beauty out of the world. They want us to be satisfied with not understanding the Universe because doing so allows them to continue in their delusion. The fact that this group had a voice at all in a worthy process such as the creation of science standards for children shows a pathetic lack of education among those involved in the process.

The third and final draft says students should be able to analyze and evaluate scientific explanations. There is also a new requirement that students should be able “to evaluate models according to their limitations in representing biological objects or events,” but it would take a mind-boggling leap for anyone to interpret that as applying to evolution, Quinn said, particularly when viewed through the plan’s new definition of science.

The old definition — which included phrases like “a way of learning about nature” and “may not answer all questions” — has been replaced with a definition from the National Academy of Sciences. It states that science involves using evidence to form explanations and make predictions that can be measured and tested. It also warns that questions on subjects that cannot be scientifically tested do not belong in science.

Bam. Peace out, creationism. Magic cannot be used to make predictions, cannot be tested, and is unfalsifiable. Fail, fail, fail. There is no point where supernatural beliefs have any relation with science. Well, to be fair, that isn’t entirely true. I can imagine an SAT question that says “False is to true as creationism is to ____” with the correct answer being “science”. That relation works quite well, actually.

Don McLeroy, the state board’s chairman, has said that science should admit the possibly of the supernatural when natural explanations fail. But he has also said that he is not trying to put creationism in public schools.

There’s a pretty good explanation of some more creationist dishonesty. McLeroy (who is a dentist) wants nothing more than to sneak magic into public schools. It is his raison d’être. All he wants to do is find a point where science has yet to explain something and then institute something which can absolutely never explain anything. That is creationism. He may as well have said “I want creationism in our public schools, but I don’t want creationism in our public schools.” Jackass.