Category Archives: dialogue

Exclusive Interview with Barack Obama: the President explains it all, right here!

Gadfly: Mr. President, your opponents often call you a ‘Communist.’ Would you please explain why this charge is false?
BO: Well, there are several reasons for that. Communism is an egalitarian system of people living as equals. I don’t believe in that. I believe I really am better than other people, and I believe that most people need government to tell them what to do and look out for them. Egalitarianism and democracy don’t work.
I’m not a Communist. I just believe that history will evolve to a point when we have totally eliminated poverty, wealth, greed, violence and inequality. I believe that we can push this along through the use of government, and I’m just the person to do it. I believe that democracy only works when the people elect the right person and give that person absolute and unopposed power. I believe that the best way to correct economic problems is to have the government buy control of major corporations and run them itself. How does that make me a Communist?
Gadfly: Mr. President, do you think the American people were trying to send you a message in the recent elections?
BO: I think the American people are as greatly disappointed in these election results as I am. I think this election was stolen by a handful of racists and fanatics who manipulated the vote. I was elected with a clear mandate to be the unquestioned dictator of this country, and I used that mandate to pass many of my goals, most notably my sweeping health care reform package. The American people are still behind me, and they know we’re working towards the goal of completely eliminating poverty, disease and injustice, but my administration needs time to complete these goals.
Gadfly: Mr. President, you frequently speak of unity and you denounce what you call “divisive rhetoric.” Could you explain what you think constitutes divisive rhetoric?
BO: Well, again, I am the One. Even Oprah said it. And Chopra too. And Minister Farrakhan. I know what’s best for America, which until my presidency has been a flawed nation with a flawed Constitution. That’s why I was given the Nobel Peace Prize just for being elected president: it shows how this evil country has changed. But there are still racists out there who oppose my agenda for no other reason than the color of my skin. They can’t stand the thought of a person of color as president, and they’ll do everything they can to oppose me.
Gadfly: But why do you insist your opponents are all racists? Isn’t it possible that they have intelligent viewpoints which simply disagree with yours? Isn’t it possible to have a different ideology without making it about race?
BO: Of course not! First, everyone knows that “conservative” is just a code word for “racist,” and “states’ rights” is just a code word for slavery. Just ask Rev. Sharpton, Rev. Farrakhan, Rev. Pfleger or Rev. Wright. Secondly, how is it possible for a position to be intelligent when it’s so blatantly wrong?
Gadfly: Indeed. . . .
BO: For example, all conservatives oppose basic scientific principles like evolution, abortion and that the world is round. Look at the opposition to stem cell research. They just oppose scientific advances. They don’t care about ethics or the value of human life. They just hate science.
Gadfly: Well, could you give an example of what you consider “hate speech” or “divisive rhetoric”?
BO: Yes. Some conservatives, for example, talk about Second Amendment rights. It should be obvious that anyone who talks about the Second Amendment or a “right to bear arms” must obviously want to overthrow the government and shoot anyone they disagree with. And rhetoric like “pro-life” or “abortion is murder.” This is violent, hateful speech that really promotes oppression of women and the murder of innocent humanitarian abortion doctors like Kermit Gosnell. Another example is people who say that homosexual acts are against God’s law, or that same sex attraction is disordered. This is blatantly hate speech, covering up a desire to put people with alternative lifestyles in concentration camps.
Gadfly: What would you suggest as a solution to this? What is the key to unity? Do you see any way of compromising with your opposition?
BO: Compromise is very easy. To compromise, my opponents just have to agree with everything I want to do and stop complaining. That’s the best way to have unity and bipartisanship.
Gadfly: Recently, you’ve talked a lot about how America needs to stop borrowing and start producing. Your critics argue that our government has borrowed more under your administration than pretty much all previous presidencies combined. Isn’t it a bit hypocritical to say that?
BO: Of course not. First, any borrowing my administration did was on a strictly emergency basis. We felt that the best way to stimulate our economy was to borrow money from other countries and give it to corporations and rich people so they could stimulate the economy by investing it. This, by the way, is quite different from trickle down economics. Secondly, any problems we still have in the economy can clearly be traced to the Republicans, and it’s the Tea Party people who are promoting the idea that America can borrow, borrow, borrow. After all, they’re just a bunch of country hicks up to their eyeballs in debt.
Gadfly: Another common charge levied against you is that you’re a Muslim. Can you please explain this one?
BO: Again, this comes from racism. People hear my name, and see the color of my skin, and think I must be a Muslim. I could never be a Muslim because Islam, while it is a highly respected religion and far superior to Christianity in many respects, is just as bad as Christianity when it comes to respecting women and reproductive freedom.
Gadfly: Could you please give America a definitive answer about what, then, your religious beliefs are?
BO: I’ve said it many times. I believe in a Higher Power. I believe we call that Higher Power by many names, but we can find it best by looking into ourselves and finding the wisdom and divinity within us.
Gadfly: Speaking of which, you once said that the question of whether unborn babies are human beings is ‘above your pay grade,’ saying that it was a religious question, not a legal one. There was a time when people expressed doubts that certain races were fully human, and those people tried to use religion to justify their arguments, saying they couldn’t be certain that Native Americans, or Africans, for example, had souls. Aren’t you using the same kind of argument when you say that you can’t be certain an unborn baby is human?
BO: That’s a racist question, and I refuse to answer it.
Gadfly: Well, then. . . . One final question: what would you say to those who think you are selling out our futures to China and the Middle East by the exorbitant debt we owe them?
BO: America’s time of claiming to be the greatest country on earth is at an end. It was a pretense that had to end sooner or later. We need to learn to work together with those we once considered enemies. We need to stop our racist attitudes towards them and learn to accept them, because we’re going to be paying off this debt a long time, and we owe them a lot of money, so we have to be nice to them. You see, I knew that borrowing huge amounts of money from countries that some people consider our country’s enemies was the perfect way to bring peace and harmony to the world–it’s why I was elected, wasn’t it? Don’t forget: I won the Nobel Peace Prize just for being elected. I have to fulfill people’s hopes, and the best way to do that was to force the American people to be in a situation where they have to play nice to China and the Arab nations. This whole concept of being a great nation has to go away, because it’s not true now, and it never was true. I firmly believe that.

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Rape and Abortion.

I’ve been engaging in a rather long and heated, yet interesting, discussion on InsideCatholic with an alleged Catholic who supports abortion in the case of rape, but who echoes the kinds of comments made by “Operation CounterStrike.”

To sum up, the person in question has stated the following positions:
1. That we should not “force” women to have pregnancies they don’t want
2. That a baby conceived from rape is the “progeny of a rapist,” and therefore deserves to die
3. That enduring a pregnancy resulting from rape is like reliving the rape.
4. That abortion in the case of rape is self-defense.

I have made repeated attempts to get this person to explain why she thinks this, but she refuses to give the points remises that underlie these opinions or the syllogisms that connect them.

I, and several others, have asked her what guilt the “progeny of a rapist” bears that requires the death penalty, why she thinks abortion in this case qualifies as “self-defense,” and why she thinks pregnancy is so traumatic, but she refuses to explain. Instead, using typical pro-abortionist rhetoric, she accuses us of being idiots, lunatics, fanatics and liars (I’ve been accused of all four). She accuses us of lying about who we are.

She talks disparaingingly of “minor traditions” like relics and indulgences. When I pointed out that those are not optional–you can’t have a valid church without relics, and if you say, “I don’t participate indulgences,” that means you never pray, read the Bible, go on pilgrimage, etc.

Anyway, the conversation is well worn out, but it once again shows how pro-abortionists really can provide no philosophical foundations for their positions, other than vague emotional appeals. The baby deserves to die, in their view, because the poor, wimpy women can’t separate the baby from the cause of the baby.

It dawned on me last night to point out one of my usual arguments on this issue: the rape is one thing. For a conception to result, God has to step in, so obviously God intends for the baby to exist. If you believe life begins at conception (as this person claims to believe), then God created that soul at the moment of conception (and of course, the conception could occur as much as five days after the rape).

I really *would* like to know why these people think this way. It doesn’t change the fact that they’re wrong, but it would make it a lot easier to refute them. I tried to suggest some of the reasons I’d heard before, but she accused me of misquoting her.

In any case, the “forcing” thing is a stupid argument. There’s a big difference between “forcing” someone to do something and taking away the option.

It is quite interesting, in fact, that pro-lifers oppose the UN’s International Criminal Court for its provisions on “forced pregnancy”. We’re assured that this does not refer to outlawing abortion, but rather to situations like women taken captive in war and forced into sex slavery.

Yet the pro-aborrtionists have adopted the rhetoric of “forced pregnancy” in the context of making abortion illegal.

“You wouldn’t force a woman to have a baby that would traumatize her?” they ask.

So I proposed, “What if the woman was abused and had a baby that looked like her abusive husband or parent or relative; wouldn’t that traumatize her?”
I was assured that this was an irrelevant analogy. I’m still not sure why.

What about, “You wouldn’t *force* a man who’s psychologiclaly compelled to rape to resist his urges, would you?”
“You wouldn’t *force* a person who’s psychologically compelled to murder to endure the trauma of not murdering, would you?”
“You wouldn’t *force* a person who’s desperately in need to *not* rob a bank, would you??”

It’s the most meaningless argument a person can make, and somehow they have no idea how meaningless it is. It’s baffling to me. And women say men are sexist when we accuse them of being emotional rather than logical.

Of course, another fall back in the discussion is always, “Well, abortion is legal, so deal with it.” Duh. That’s why we’re debating about whether to make it illegal.

Then there’s the Rousseauian classic, “Well, the Catholic Church is responsible for a lot of the social posroblems that cause abortion,” and “The Catholic Church facilitates rapists.”

OK, what a good, faithful Catholic you are.

Socio-economic circumstances don’t cause sin; original sin does.

“What about the women who have abortions?”

Pro-abortionists have a particular question they like to throw out at pro-lifers.  Like the Pharisees trying to trip up Jesus, they think this question particularly clever and creates an impossible dilemma.

My recent interlocutor, the pro-abortion terrorist and demonaic who goes by “Operation Counterstrike”, prides itself on its website for supposedly “confounding” pro-lifer bloggers with this question.  Although I answered the question on its blog, and the direct question never came up here in our lengthy exchange, this person (whom I strongly suspect has gender identity issues, given that its rhetoric sounds like NOW but seems to avoid the personal identification with abortion that radical feminists have) tried to say that I put its comments under moderation because of my inability to confront that question.

No, I put its comments under moderation because a) the arguments were getting circular and unprogressive and b) the person insisted on using language that was both rude and crude, as well as personally attacking my friends. This individual needs to learn about a modicum of civil discourse.

Anyway, the question goes like this:

“If abortion is made illegal, and you consider abortion to be murder, what should happen to the women who have abortions?”

They see this is an an “aha!” question, exposing us for either being hypocrites or for “not really thinking abortion is murder.”

The paradox, they think, goes this way:

1.  If you think they should be punished as murderers, they’ll call you “unreasonable.”

2.  If you say they shouldn’t, they say, “Then you don’t really think abortion is murder.”

Of course, these are the kinds of people, especially the CounterStrike person, who think that people like Scott Roeder, Paul Hill and John Salvi are the only consistent anti-abortionists.  According to their logic, a) if you believe abortion is murder, then b) the only way to punish a murderer is to c) kill him/her in an act of vigilantism.  Otherwise, you’re a liar and/or hypocrite in that a) you don’t “really” believe abortion is “murder” or b) you’re not “really” pro-life.

Of course, they set up the false dichotomy in that, case they set up the false dichotomy in this one, too.

Yes, the question does pose a paradox for certain kinds of Republicans and conservatives, but it shouldn’t pose a paradox for a Christian, or certainly any person with an understanding of psychology or legal responsibility.

There is a difference between the objective nature of an act and the subjective culpability of the actor.  When a teenaged girl has an abortion, is she really culpable?  Does she know abortion is murder?  Does she know the unborn child is a person?  (Not if the pro-aborts have anything to say about it; they do everything in their power to fight informed consent, waiting periods and sonogram laws–they know most women would reject abortion if shown this information).  Are they really making the “free choice” that pro-aborts allege?  Or are they pressured by family, society, money, etc.?  What is their mental state?

Is a girl who has an abortion fully morally culpable for what she does? 

Now, this is quite different from, say, some upper middle class white woman who gets an abortion to avoid the stretch marks or pursue her career or something.

Interestingly, Patrick Madrid has been involved in a parallel exchange from the other end, on his Facebook page, radio show and blog, in which a pro-life advocate apparently took a fairly hardline stance with some women who had repented of past abortions, insisting they were still “murderers”.

Of course, objectively, the woman who has an abortion is a “murderer,” but that leads to two issues: 1) her aforementioned culpability and b) her intention of repeating the crime.

A person who copies and pastes a bunch of paragraphs out of Wikipedia and Cliff’s Notes is, objectively, a plagiarist.  However, a good teacher knows how to distinguish unintentional acts of plagiarism from intentional academic theft.  Sometimes, especially in this example, the student just doesn’t know how to cite or how to write a proper research paper, and thinks the copied and pasted paragraphs constitute “research.” 

So, let’s say the teacher decides to give the student a second chance, or that a student who was expelled from one institution for plagiarism gets admitted to another.  In either case, our plagiarist has learned his or her lesson.  He or she remains a plagiarist, but the question is: will he or she *continue* to commit plagiarism?

Inspector Javert chases Jean Valjean for years because he thinks that one act of theft should mark a man for life.

Christians technically believe in repentance and forgiveness.  The pro-life movement is an embodiment of this.  Many of our leaders have themselves been directly involved in abortion in the worst ways: Norma McCorvey, Sandra Cano, Bernard Nathanson, John Bruchalski and so many others have come to the pro-life cause after repenting of their involvement in abortion, whether it was their own abortions, abortion practices, or political/legal work.

Yes, we want to see abortion illegal so that it is stigmatized, and society can heal from the rift in Natural Law caused by legalized abortion.  Yes, we want to save babies’ lives.  Yes, those who are consciously and deliberately involved in abortion–and unrepentant–should be punished for it. 

Those who lack full moral responsibility, however, should be given clemency and understanding.  Those who have repented and turned over a new leaf should be given the benefit of the doubt.  They remain, objectively, murderers, but the real question is whether they will murder again.

There is no better illustration of this than a conundrum presented regarding George W. Bush when he was still Governor of Texas, a situation that puzzled liberals to no end.  It was the case where a woman on death row in Texas had converted to Christianity, repented of her crimes and showed a complete remorse.  Pro-life Christians argued that she should not be subject to the death penalty, and even that she should be released.

“Our God is the God of second chances.”

That’s what Christianity is all about: repentance of sins:

When you’ve won an Internet debate and when the topic is just beaten to death.

Internet discussions get resolved five ways:

1. The two people actually meet some sort of compromise or agreement. I’ve been meaning to blog for some time about the merits of Facebook in this regard. I think part of it is that Facebook is more “real”, forrcing us out of the anonymity we’ve gotten used to, but another is that Facebook combox discussions tend to be more limited.

On blogs and message boards, the discussions go on between lots of people with various voices confusing threads and issues.

Or, on a blog like this one, it’s almost entirely controversial. I’ve once or twice had some fair minded interlocutors pop up here to engage in an open-minded exchange. I’ve more often than not had people from the Left who come here in complete attack mode.

But on Facebook, I’ve found that even contentious discussions often even out in a compromise, each person leaving a bit enlightened by the conversation. I’ve had arguments with people on a mutual friend’s Facebook thread, then those arguments have turned to us friending each other.

Getting back to the three ways:

2. Boredom. Most people may post a comment or two in a combox discussion, but they wander off after that. Most people leave discussions because they’ve trailed on down the line, or gotten bored with the topic.

The question of “victory,” if it applies at all, comes into play with the next two.

3. I will admit that from time to time I find myself facing a worthy adversary. As well-read as I am on most of the subjects I stick to on this blog, dollars to doughnoughts, Satan will find some person who’s just a little better read in some dimension, then that person will come on here and start not only attacking my ideas, but me personally, calling me an idiot and even challenging my academic and professional credentials.

Usually, what happens in such situations is that a) I do whatever level of research I feel is worth the conversation, b) consult some authorities on the matter in question for back-up, and c) after giving up the conversation, I retreat from blogging for a bit because the exchange was so exhausting.

If “debate” is the goal, like a kind of sport, I presume the other person claims victory. Indeed, looking at the website of one such recent interlocutor, I find that he/she/it likes to go to pro-life blogs, attack the blogger on some picayune detail, challenge the blogger’s intelligence, and then go home to his/her/its blog and claim “victory.”

Meanwhile, when dealing with such people, I balance three impulses: making sure I’m not just doing it for pride, making sure there’s an adequate response made so readers will not be influenced by the enemy’s voice, and realizing that the pig-headed adversary probably won’t be moved by anything I say.

Giving up out of fatigue or humility is not ceding ideological victory but merely prioritizing that a blog post should not cost this much.

A blog is like a news column. I write to share my ideas and my insights or to share things I come across that I believe are significant to the purposes of this blog. This is not a scholarly research journal, and I don’t claim it to be. If I am going to take the time and energy to do scholarly research, I am certainly not going to waste the research by posting it here without trying for professional publication first, and I owe no interlocutor the time of day to do that.

I posted a hand-out, made to give my students a general guideline on what to consider when they want to write about controversial issues, and this individual launched into a full-fledged assault, which, having responded to, I am considering deleting from the comments (and closing comments on that thread) to keep the original intent pure. It was not meant to be a dissertation nor a comprehensive list, but merely questions to consider–questions that, if properly considered, would have led to the points this person raised, anyway.

There are two clear remaining possible ends, and those are the ones where some sort of victory or stalemate can properly be claimed on intellectual grounds, rather than simple exhaustion:

4. The question that can’t be answered. This is sort of like situation 3. The main differences are that it often comes early in the discussion, and the discussion may proceed without it, and it has more to do with logic than information.

It’s the question that gets dodged. The opponent’s response is to ignore it, throw out a red herring, or something. For example, I retold the “peas and carrots” last week, and a commentor threw out a red herring about starving children in Africa. Then, when I asked the question why an atheist would care about starving children in Africa, there was no response.

I know how troubling it is for me when I’m presented with a paradox I haven’t considered, or evidence I haven’t considered, and I need to regroup and reorganize it. Therefore, I know when I’ve hit a nerve with my interlocutor because he or she refuses to even address the question. Even a snark, an ad hominem or a half-hearted challenge shows some level of retained confidence. Silence says to me, “I really have no idea how to begin confronting that question.”

That lead, early on, to what I call the “three strikes” rule: I make a point three times, and, if it’s not responded to, I give up on the discussion.

5. True victory is achieved only when you get the other side to admit to the paradox. For example: Getting the pro-abortionist to get beyond all the superficial rhetoric and get to his or her fundamental belief that some people are more worthy of life than others. I phrase this, when I’m trying to be purely Socratic, as the “is it OK to kill blind people” question.
In other words, the unborn baby is lacking in some quality that makes it “less worthy of human rights.” Ultimately, for any pro-abortionist with a brain, this gets to dependence on the mother for survival. So I raise the qusetion if it’s OK for parents to throw their kids outside and abandon them, since the kids are totally dependent upon the parents for survival. Or the question of people with disabilities.

And, of course, for a truly consistent pro-abort, there is some level of disability at which they will deny people the right of human dignity, for the same reason they deny it to unborn children. I once had an interlocutor admit, after a long Socratic exchange, that she believed it was OK to kill anyone on life support.

Such a moment constitutes an impasse but at least gets beyond the other side’s veneer.

A lot of so-called Christians could learn from this Muslim

A while back, a gun-toting Muslim deli owner pointed a gun back at the guy who was trying to rob him–and then offered the guy mercy, some money, and a second chance.  The guy has since converted to Islam.

How many converts could we have to Christianity if more Christians showed such an example of virtue.  Note that this is a lesson both for pacifist liberals and for merciless conservatives.

What is a logical fallacy?

I often wonder if we need to revise the way we treat logical fallacies. Fallacy is reallly a matter of function more than content.

For example, the fallacy of redirection. It is not uncommon to see any given topic in Catholicism have the issue of sex abuse by priests come up. Depending upon *why* the issue is raised, it may be “redirection,” it may be “getting off topic,” or it may be a valid question to raise.

For example, if, in a discussion of some social issue, the issue is raised to question the credibility of the Church’s teachings, it *may* be very relevant, or if the issue is raised to illustrate a parallel error. On the other hand, the issue must be discussed only in that context in which it is raised, if that is the case.

One “fallacy” thats fallaciousness has always seemed suspect to me is “slippery slope.” If “slippery slope” is always a fallacy, then Humanae Vitae is fallacious.

Very often, however, slippery slope is exactly how things work. One man’s slippery slope is another man’s incrementalism.

Or ad hominem. When I teach critical thikning, I call on my students to carefully analyze who the writer is, who the publishers and sponsors are, and what ulterior motives they may have. If there’s researched involved, who paid for the research?

To examine such questions is not to engage in ad hominem but to examine the credibility of the source.

Also, when I teach writing, I tell my students to be careful about audience, to consider exactly who they are (indirectly) addressing their piece to. What are the needs of the audience? Their interests, agendas, existing knowledge, questions, etc.?

Mary has a friend who is now a professor at a Catholic college, who got banned from campus retreats when they were in college because of a discussion with a homosexual man.

Now, the conversation was, from the perpsective of Mary’s friend and his interlocutor, a mildly heated but fruitful intellectual dialogue. However, the interlocutor did not disclose that he, personally, was struggling with the sin of homosexuality. Mary’s friend, in retrospect, said that his argument would have been different if he’d known his audience was an actual homosexual, rather than thinking it was purely a discussion of principle.

In any case, some third party overheard the conversation and complained to the directors of the retreat ministry. So her friend was banned from leadership in that retreat ministry because of upholding the Church’s teachings.

In any case, the incident raises the question of self-explanation. If critical readers are to evaluate the writer’s possible motives and agendas, and if a good writer considers his audience’s motives and agendas, then shouldn’t writers be required in principle to offer some self-explanation?

The tradition of Western formal academic writing has grown that writers are not supposed to self-reference, but this is intellectually dishonest. It is really important that a writer express why the subject is important to him or her personally, what personal experience he or she has in that field, etc. What metaphorical axes is the writer trying to grind?

To do otherwise creates a huge impediment to actual dialogue.