Archive for the ‘U.S. Presidential Elections 2012’ Category

June 9, 2012

The Common-Sense Catholics

March 21, 2012

by Timothy Egan, The New York Times, March 21, 2012

Rick Santorum doesn’t just wear his religion on his sleeve, he billboards it in neon. Still, for all the flash and sparks generated by an ostentatiously Catholic candidate’s crusade for the presidency, one thing has been missing from most discussions: the actual Catholic voter.

Read the rest of this article.

Rick Santorum’s Fact-Free and Logic-Tight Bubble

February 4, 2012

Santorum is flat-out wrong—empirically wrong—on every point he has made in this response. One would expect a man who regular speaks on this subject to eventually inform himself about it. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that marriage is in fact a right, not a privilege (Loving vs. Virginia, 1967); denying that right to same-sex couples is therefore discrimination; and gay marriages do in fact benefit society in numerous ways—e.g., by encouraging stable and healthy relationships, by providing secure and loving environments for children, and perhaps most of all, by reducing the divorce rates. Yes, there would be far fewer divorces if homosexuals who wish to have families had better options than closeting themselves and marrying persons of the opposite sex! Santorum seems incapable of adding all this up, and he’s in a fact-free and logic-tight bubble where no one can reach him. These are not the traits we want in a president.

Rick Santorum Should Ditch the “Slippery-Slope” Metaphor

January 25, 2012

Rick Santorum

Would somebody please explain to Rick Santorum why he was booed at a recent town hall appearance in Concord, New Hampshire?

When a young lady in the audience asked him about “two men who want to marry the person that they love,” he cut her off, saying, “What about three men?” Then he trotted out his boilerplate “slippery slope” argument:

It’s important that if we’re going to have a discussion based on rational thought, that we employ reason. Reason says that if you think it’s OK for two, you have to differentiate with me why it’s not OK for three. Let’s just have a discussion about what that means. If she reflects the values that marriage can be for anybody or any group of people, as many as is necessary, any two people or any three or four, marriage really means whatever you want it to mean. [emphasis mine]

Here’s my point of view. And we’re done talking about this issue. We’re going to move on to something else.

Santorum appears not to understand the meaning of “discussion,” the purpose of town halls, or the requirements of rational thought. After rudely interrupting this audience member and insulting her intelligence, he offers an argument that is fundamentally flawed, then declares the “discussion” will be closed after he has stated his point of view. What could be more irking to an audience?

His argument is flawed for two reasons.

(1) If two, then why not three?

First, consider this part of his statement: “Reason says that if you think it’s OK for two, you have to differentiate with me why it’s not OK for three.”

This astonishing and utterly unreasonable claim is not just a momentary lapse on Santorum’s part, because he has said it before—many times. Taken at face value, it means that any monogamous marriage is the first step on the slippery slope to polygamy. And that begs the question, “Why not also ban opposite-sex marriage in that case?”

How are we to explain this bizarre statement? I suspect, though I cannot possibly confirm, that a word or phrase is missing after the adjective “two.” Santorum has mentally edited out a phrase from that position, and that phrase is something like “wicked and depraved persons,” which he has used before. He thinks but cannot say, “…if it’s OK for two wicked and depraved persons to marry, then why not three?” Or maybe the thought-phrase was “two of those people,” or “two perverts.” Something said in the company of family and close friends cannot be uttered when the public is listening.

(2) The slippery slope

The second flaw in Santorum’s response is his very choice of the slippery-slope argument, which logicians, jurists, and scientists universally regard as a logical fallacy.

The fallacy of the slippery slope argument is in supposing that a single step in a particular direction will inevitably lead to taking all the remaining steps. This may be true in the case of jumping off a rooftop, but it is not true in other life situations where choices are still available after the initial step has been taken.

Consider the following argument: “If we lower the drinking age from 21 to 18, there will only be further demands to lower it to 16, and then to 14. Before we know it, our newborns will be drinking wine instead of milk.”

In this example, the regression from twenty-one to zero is linear, and common sense tells us the skids are not greased and that babies will not soon be drinking wine. But what of Santorum’s “regression” from same-sex marriage to polygamy? It is neither more nor less linear than the “regression” from opposite-sex marriage to polygamy. Both entail increments of one or more, and so again we have equivalence of the two.

Also, if the steps are in the proper order and are in fact slippery, then couldn’t we conclude that opposite-sex marriage is the first step on the slippery stairway? Why choose the second step and not the first as the one to avoid?

And what if we were to discover that Santorum’s first two “steps” are in the wrong order and that polygamous relationships were the norm before monogamous ones in most societies? This was in fact the pattern in nearly all the cultures of Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Polygyny was clearly approved in the Torah (Exodus 21:10, Deuteronomy 17:17) and was practiced among Jews as late as the second century CE. Only within the last hundred years or so has monogamy been in the ascendancy.

If Santorum is to characterize the historical shift away from polygamy as a “progression” and not a “regression,” then where is he to place our newest entrant in the marriage game, i.e., same-sex marriage?  Is it also a progression, or is it a regression following a progression?

The point of all these questions is to show that slippery-slope analogies inevitably lead to muddled thinking of the kind Santorum displayed in Concord. His audience very likely sensed his confusion and resented his refusal to own up to it.

There is a viable alternative to slippery-slope argumentation, and it lies in evaluating every form of behavior on its own merits. We deserve to hear Rick Santorum’s reasons for opposing civil marriage for same-sex American couples who do not share his particular religious views. So far, he has advanced his badly broken line of reasoning because his objection to same-sex marriage must, for political reasons, appear to be grounded in logic, not church doctrine. Let’s hope that a dogged debate moderator somewhere down the line will smoke him out on this.

And we would appreciate his leaving polygamy, “man-on-dog” sex, and other forms of diversion out of the discussion. They do not belong there.

What Mitt Romney Should Tell the GOP

January 15, 2012


What Mitt Romney Could Say to Win the Republican Nomination

by Sam Harris

Governor Mitt Romney has yet to persuade the religious conservatives in his party that he is fit to be President of the United States. However, he could probably appease the Republican base and secure his party’s nomination if he made the following remarks prior to the South Carolina Primary:

My fellow Republicans,

I would like to address your lingering concerns about my candidacy. Some of you have expressed doubts about my commitment to a variety of social causes—and some have even questioned my religious faith. Tonight, I will speak from the heart, about the values that unite us.

First, on the subject of gay rights, let me make my position perfectly clear: I am as sickened by homosexuality as any man or woman in this country. It is true that I wrote a letter in 1994 where I said that “we must make equality for gays and lesbians a mainstream concern,” and for this I have been mocked and pilloried, especially by Evangelicals. But ask yourselves, what did I mean by “equality”? I meant that all men and women must be given an equal chance to live a righteous life.

Continue reading Sam Harris’s piece here.

Mitt Romney’s Rin Tin Ear

January 14, 2012

Rachel Maddow does a wonderful job with this story about Mitt’s dog Seamus.

Rick Santorum’s Plan to Eradicate Heterosexual Poverty

December 29, 2011

Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum recently proposed a two-step plan for eradicating poverty in the U.S.

Number one, graduate from high school. Number two, get married. Before you have children. If you do those two things, you will be successful economically.

As Santorum is one of our country’s fiercest opponents of same-sex marriage, we would like to know how GLBTs fit into his plan.

According to a new study published by The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, lesbian, gay, and bisexual same-sex couples are at least as likely to be poor as opposite-sex married couples. Lesbian and bisexual (female) couples are much more likely to be living in poverty than heterosexual married ones. (24% vs. 19% in the 18-44 age range).

Married heterosexual couples enjoy more than a thousand federal benefits that unmarried couples do not. These are generally grouped in the following categories: social security benefits, tax benefits (e.g., filing jointly), estate tax and planning benefits, veteran and military benefits, federal employment benefits, and immigration benefits.

Same-sex couples married under state laws receive none of these benefits. Nor, of course, do the unmarried ones. The Williams Institute study concludes that “Ending marriage discrimination by expanding equal access to the legal status of marriage would increase LGBT families’ economic stability and help reduce poverty in the LGBT community.”

So, does Rick Santorum care? Having been so outspoken about the evils of same-sex marriage, he must have included GLBTs in his mental calculus when he announced this poverty-eradication plan. But his formula will not “eradicate” poverty if it does nothing to help same-sex couples, who now number over 900,000, according to the 2010 Census. Sixty percent of these couples are lesbian. Twenty-two percent have children.

Will someone who can get access to Rick Santorum with a microphone please try to pin him down about this? What is his plan for same-sex couples and their children?

Santorum’s past pronouncements about homosexuality—even the most recent ones—leave little doubt that he is a bigot’s bigot. He believes that gay sex is not equal to straight sex, that the purpose of marriage is procreation, that the state has the right to ban homosexual conduct altogether, that there is no constitutional right to privacy, that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” should be reinstated, and that gays should not be allowed to hold public office.

So what picture emerges when we try to integrate Santorum’s poverty-eradication plan with his extreme views about homosexuality and same-sex marriage? If he is consistent and principled—and if he is elected—we may witness social engineering programs that will surpass anything envisioned by the Nazis:

  1. GLBT couples will be told not to expect equality under the law. They must accept permanent under-class status and resign themselves not only to social opprobrium and loveless lives but also to poverty. If they are discovered having sex, they will be fined or imprisoned.
  2. GLBTs wishing to marry will be told they must find a partner of the opposite sex. Obviously, they may have to conceal their sexual orientation at least during the courtship phase of the relationship. After that, they will be expected to prove their bona fides by having children.
  3. GLBT couples who are already married under state laws will have their marriages annulled. (Read Michelangelo Signorile’s article about this.) Any children they may have will be put up for adoption in heterosexual families. All other GLBT couples will be allowed to cohabit only on condition that they become celibate.
Santorum was asked by lesbian filmmaker Kristina Lapinski (on 11/16/11) what he would do if she were his daughter. He replied that he would love her, but that he would encourage her to marry and have a family with a man.

Our jaws drop to the floor on hearing such things. Imagine a gay father “encouraging” his heterosexual daughter to marry a woman! Has Santorum never experienced love and sexual desire? Does he think they can be switched on and off, re-routed, stoked and stifled at will? If his reply to Lapinski sounds familiar, it’s because it is the vestige of a patriarchal mindset that is as old as the hills. Santorum’s use of the soft-power term “encourage” is his nod to modernity. Only a century or so ago, the term of choice would have been “force.” But love, as anyone who has ever been in love knows, cannot be forced.

The larger framework is a religious one. (Let’s not forget that Santorum is more Catholic than the Pope.) All legitimate power and authority emanate from God (a male, of course), down through the hierarchy of the Church (all male as well), and then on down through the head of the family (also a male). Sexual desires, love, and life plans are to be totally subordinated to the will of God as it percolates downward. Making the right “choice” in these matters is necessary if we are to please God.

Santorum’s views on homosexuality and marriage reveal a political ideology that is utopian and authoritarian. It is a “one-size-fits-all” social scheme that ignores human variability and punishes deviation from an arbitrary norm. It is based on an impoverished understanding of human nature and a rejection of the Enlightenment values on which our country was founded.

The ensemble of his views about homosexuality cannot be understood without reference to Catholic teachings about sin and free will. Like Marcus Bachmann (Michele’s husband), Santorum appears to sincerely believe that homosexuality is a choice. Catholic dogma describes it as sinful and teaches that sin is always chosen. We can, with God’s help, choose virtue over vice. Otherwise there would be no accountability.

It also seems plausible that both Rick and Marcus did make a “choice” about their sexual orientation in their younger days. If so, it is unlikely that either of them fully understood the nature of that choice. Marcus practiced reparative therapy because he believed others could “repair” themselves (as he had done?). Rick has made a career out of denouncing homosexuality. Both men are extraordinarily preoccupied with gay sex.

We don’t hear as much about “choosing” sexual orientation as we used to. Choicers know they may be asked about the circumstances of their own “choice,” and they don’t want to go there. Gays and lesbians know the truth—that the only “choice” one makes is to either accept and affirm one’s sexual nature or to suppress it. This truth flies in the face of Catholic teaching.

The “choice” claim is still humming in the background, however, and the Rick Santorums, the Marcus Bachmanns, and the Maggie Gallaghers need to explain how it figures in their thinking about marriage equality.

And we need to know from Rick Santorum whether, while eradicating poverty, he wouldn’t just like to eradicate gays as well. Sounds like he has a plan …

Mouth of Newt

December 16, 2011

by Alan Grayson

As remarkable as it may seem, we can no longer exclude the possibility that the Republican Party will nominate Newt Gingrich for President. And it’s remarkable for this reason: that apart from Sarah Palin, there is no major public figure in America today with such an attenuated connection to reality.

Many people have flailed Newt for being a philanderer; a corporate shill; a crass greedhead; an egomaniac; and a cranky, crabby, crotchety, caustic, cantankerous, choleric cus. All of that may be true, but I think that it may miss the point. The point is that Newt is wrong, wrong, wrong. Consistently wrong. Shockingly wrong. Newt Gingrich is the Emily Litella of politics.

Not exactly what we are looking for in a President.

How can I put this politely? Newt is not astute. Newt’s grasp of things is minute. Newt’s credibility is in disrepute. What Newt says in not hard to refute. When it comes to understanding what goes on, Newt is not acute. When Newt is talking, the truth is often lost enroute.

In fact, if the consequences of a Presidential election were not so serious, you could say that Newt is a hoot, to boot. Unintentionally funny, but still funny.

(Please note that I did not call Newt a crazy old coot, even though that rhymes.)

Every once in a while, you can see Mitt Romney lapse into some artificial-vanilla-flavored, white-bread, apple-sauce lie. Newt’s lies are totally different. Newt’s lies are psilocybin-laced, psychedelic, eighth-dimension lies. In fact, it just does not do them justice to call them lies. They’re delusions.

In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the first ingredient for the witches’ brew that the witches use to cast an evil spell is “eye of newt.” Today, in American politics, the first ingredient is “mouth of Newt.”

As I public service, I’m going to turn this missive over to Newt, so you can see for yourself. Here goes:

“In Washington, D.C., 800 babies are left in dumpsters a year.” Actually, there were four, during one year.

People can use food stamps “for anything,” including “to go to Hawaii.” Uh, no. They’re food stamps, not vacation stamps.

When the United States “first created the federal income tax, frankly, nobody below a million dollars a year paid anything.” Actually, everyone who earned over $4000 paid the tax.

“We must expect the Soviet system to survive for a very long time. There will be Soviet labor camps and Soviet torture chambers well into our grandchildren’s lives.” As Rick Perry might say, “oops.”

“For four years, we balanced the budget and paid off $405 billion in debt.” Actually, during Gingrich’s four years as Speaker, the federal debt grew by more than $800 billion.

“The Clintons are counterculture McGovernicks.” And Ron Paul is my Secret Santa.

“Up to 25% of the White House, when they first came in, had used drugs within the past 4 or 5 years.” Fabrication ’R’ Us.

“Most People don’t realize it’s illegal to pray in school, most people somehow think that’s not true.” Because it’s not true.

“We spend less on defense today as % of GDP than at any time since Pearl Harbor.” Actually, defense spending in 2010 was a higher percentage of GDP than in any year since 1991. So not just wrong, but wrong for 19 years in a row.

The 2009 American Recovery Act “is anti-Christian legislation that will stop churches from using public schools for meeting on Sundays, as well as Boy Scouts and student Bible study groups.” Well, it’s 2011, and that hasn’t happened yet.

The Affordable Healthcare Act creates what “would, in effect, be death panels.” Oh, please. Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich – great minds think alike.

The Dodd-Frank Act “establishes a mandatory 20 percent down payment to buy a house.” Politifact: “There is no such requirement.”

“I never favored cap and trade.” Except on national TV.

“The problem isn’t too little money in political campaigns, but not enough.” In his campaign, maybe.

If Newt Gingrich does win the Republican nomination, then next year, we can choose between one candidate who has won the Nobel Prize for Peace, and another candidate who is constantly seeking the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Time for a Different Perspective?

December 11, 2011

GOP Presidential Candidates Ruining America’s Reputation, Says German Commentator

December 2, 2011

Marc Pitzke, writing for Der Spiegel Online, calls the current GOP presidential line-up “a club of liars, cheaters, adulterers, exaggerators, hypocrites and ignoramuses.” Read his sizzling commentary here.

Former Republican Senator John Danforth (Missouri) concurs, saying, “It’s embarrassing for me as a Republican to watch this stuff.”