The only line of questioning to ask Rick Santorum, ever

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Rick Santorum is the king of the slippery slope argument. After all, this is the man who, while a United States senator, once said: “If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual (gay) sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything.”

He is also, to put it mildly, a horrible candidate who stands absolutely no shot at any higher office, ever. Even if every other politician in the entire nation were to be swept away suddenly, Rick Santorum will still never become president.*

But what Santorum represents is an amazing opportunity to have a battle of wits against an actual living, breathing straw man. His arguments are easily debunked — and that’s if they’re coherent at all.** How this man is not every debater’s punching bag, I will never know.

This week, Santorum was speaking at Penn State University when a student challenged him — deservedly so, I might add — on his odd rebuttal to the American Psychological Association’s assertion that yes, kids are healthy with same-sex parents.

Dear student: Please pursue this more. You, the politically minded person with a cohesive argument, have the upper hand. He’s obviously struggling in the polls and making a sub-par argument — this is when you need to pounce. Because in this moment, he needs to use his indoor voice. He can’t scream over you, and he needs to come off strong. Have your way with him.

And, for the love of God, don’t be afraid to use the slippery slope argument! Even better, let him call you out on using it! I remind you, he’s the king of that.

Early in the clip, Santorum said that gay marriage will “destroy faith” in America, and urged opponents to speak up (he obviously doesn’t listen)***. Respond by asking if homosexuals should be killed, as the Bible says they should.

He said later that the American Psychological Association is “made up of people who agree with him.” He added that “not all psychologists agree with the APA.” Remind him that not all Christians are Catholics. He said that “an evidence of supporting an organization is not a benefit to society.” Remind him of this.

To be honest, it doesn’t really matter what you do. But please, for the love of all that is good, press on!

If you’re strong with your views and unrelenting to a politician’s song and dance, he or she can give you a detailed account of what they are. Let him answer your question as you intended it to be answered. If that doesn’t work, wipe the floor with him.

*There’s a reason for his low poll numbers. Santorum is, essentially, a one-hit wonder who peaked during the culture wars of the 2000s. The guy can’t compete with any of the other candidates.

** I point you to his universe-changing theory: “This napkin is a napkin

*** I’ll get to his wonderful persecution complex at a later date, but it’s really noteworthy.

A case of 9/11 amnesia

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On September 11th, 2001, al-Qaeda launched the worst terrorist attack in the history of the United States, both in deaths and pure imagery. Perhaps that second point — the fact that it was covered on every single channel in real time, to the horror of everyone — is the reason why it’s stuck in the American psyche. But this isn’t about that.

September 11th happened. It happened on September 11th, 2001. And the president on September 11th, 2001 was George W. Bush.

I hate talking about those attacks. I hate people who talk about those attacks to pursue some further agenda. I hate Rudy Giuliani for using both those tactics as he ran for president. And so, I’m not going to talk about the attacks as they relate to President Bush (and I would kindly request that comments, if any, respect that). All I am going to say is that he was president.

This fact was brought into the news this week, when Fox Business host and Fox News contributor Eric Bolling, a former Wall Street trader (a down-on-the floor trader at one time), said that there was never a terrorist attack during the Bush presidency.

Now, for the reasons I listed a few paragraphs ago, saying that there was never a terrorist attack during the Bush presidency is completely and utterly wrong. When alerted to this mis-statement, Bolling retracted and corrected his statement threw a hissy fit.

Bolling joins a rather remarkable conservative club: The 9/11 amnesiacs. The members include Rudy Giuliani and, Dana Perino, the former Bush Administration press secretary who is right there in that first clip, sitting right next to Bolling. She didn’t correct Bolling; no one did. What are the signs of amnesia? Here are a few:

9/11 is point alpha. It is the dawn of time. You see, terrorism did not exist before September 11th. Nope, no terrorism whatsoever. Especially not in the United States.

The Bush presidency began on September 12, 2001. Ignore this. He was most certainly not president in August, when the entire counter-terrorism department of the U.S. government was running around with its “hair on fire.” He couldn’t have been. He was in Texas.


Yep, not a care in the world.

Terrorism is relative. A shoe bomber trying to blow up a plane during the Bush administration is much worse than an underwear bomber trying to blow up a plane during the Obama administration, despite the fact that both escaped airport security and were tackled by passengers in the same fashion. 

How do you get 9/11 amnesia? Well, you conflate the positive and the normative, obviously. When you say that “Bush was president during 9/11” as a factual statement, the implication — especially when delivered from a partisan side — is that Bush is responsible for 9/11. For conservatives — hi, Rudy — Bill Clinton is the man responsible for the attacks, despite everything. But that’s not a debate I want to have today. It’s in the same vein that one can blame Barack Obama for the 2007-2008 economic downturn that led to today’s recession, simply because he is now the president. (Don’t get me wrong; conservatives have blamed Obama since his inauguration.)

All of this is why we suffer from 9/11 amnesia. And I’m afraid it will never end.

Let’s talk about Textbooks!

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Welcome to the first post from the Binckesblog. Let’s get right to it, shall we?

I want to start with a bang, so let’s talk about textbooks. To be more specific, let’s talk about third grade social studies textbooks. Personally, I don’t remember what my third grade social studies textbook looked like. I’m not sure anyone can remember their book from that long ago, simply because those books were a) so amazingly broad and vague that they never made a point, and b) targeted at an audience just entering the world of American civics (I think*).

Imagine my surprise when I found out that some parents in Frederick, Maryland, actually cared about these books so much that they’ve demanded the school board ban them. The book, “Social Studies Alive!: Our Community and Beyond,” is allegedly some sort of liberal plot to destroy America by planting false ideas, such as this highlighted passage (at the 14-second mark of this clip) about health care, into our kids’ minds:

In some countries, child care is a public service. For example, in Denmark and Vietnam (double emphasis) child care is free or costs very little. This makes it easier for parents to work.

Do you think child care should be a public service in your community?

How dare they mention Vietnam! Don’t they realize that we went into that country, blew most of it up, then later abruptly changed our minds so that we would never have to read about it… in the context of them possibly doing something better than us?**

This is the mind of reactionary conservatives. I’ve spoken to them. And, in the case of the Texas textbooks, they immediately conflated a positive statement with a perceived normative. Their outrageous decision to remove references to Thomas Jefferson from the curriculum follows a path of tortured logic. Quoting liberally from myself:

“They talk about the Founding Fathers like they were all Christians,” [a Democratic Texas school board member] said. “There were a couple that may have believed what she [Leo] believed, they weren’t necessarily of her religion, so I think she may have realized that with Thomas Jefferson, and deleted him, though she may have given another reason for him in doing it.”

In that case, the positive statement is that Jefferson was a deist. The perceived normative is that Christianity (and religion) does not matter. The positive statement is now some vague unintended slight against Christianity. In the case of SSA!, the positive statement is that Denmark and Vietnam have comprehensive health care, while the perceived normative is that we should have a similar system***. And so, the parents try and make their arguments through an academic standpoint, by claiming: “It’s light on content, heavy on pretty pictures and heavy on social engineering.”

It’s a third grade textbook! Of course it’s going to be light on content. It’s pretty difficult for a third grader to understand the complex intricacies of health policy. Maybe in the fifth grade, they can discuss the optimal level of taxation.

The questions over content mask the “social engineering” point. As another parent put it, “It’s like a field guide for a community organizer.” Once again, the fear is that the textbooks allow the school system to give kids ideas that completely don’t mesh with the brainwashing that the parents think is their sole domain. But don’t let me tell you that; let’s have a parent say it herself: “I just feel like these are values that they should be learning at home.”

I do want to touch on one final subject. When researching the textbook, I came across this handy Amazon review from user Smart Guy “Smart Guy” (known hereafter as SG”SG”), who may have made me change my mind:

This book should be BANNED from every school.

It demonizes the USA and raise Vietnam and other commie countries as examples of good government and ‘caring’! Our kids are being destroyed by the idiot liberals.

This book as as full of lies as the “movies” made by Al Gore and Michael Moore!

With an argument like that, it’s a shock that this book is still being used!****

*Don’t get me wrong; I remember my third grade teacher quite well. Her name was Ms. Geier, and she was a wonderful woman. I just can’t remember much about what I actually learned in the class. Perhaps that’s how it’s supposed to be: fourth grade builds upon the third; fifth builds upon the fourth and so on. Then we get to sixth grade, and it all starts over again. Eventually, we learn the whole picture, and are ready to become citizens. I asked my mother what I learned in third grade social studies lessons. She couldn’t remember either.

** This is entirely in their minds. Their highlighting of this passage, for example, coupled with one parent’s quote that this textbook represents a “liberal… activist agenda,” suggests that the fact we don’t have this type of health care is something to be ashamed of. At least it does to me. Make your own interpretation of why it’s so controversial to mention Vietnam’s health care system.

*** I will grant the parents this: The question is an oddly-worded one. In asking the question, they think that a point for third-grade debate has only one answer.

**** For some fun, I decided to look over SG”SG”‘s Amazon reviews. Turns out the guy is price sensitive, rather bipolar (it either sucks or is great, and most are one or four stars) and has an odd fixation with lawn trimmers.