Sunday, December 16, 2007

Labeling issues

I just took one of those "who's your candidate" quizzes. Of course I still don't know who to vote for: this quiz didn't measure relative importance of issues, so all three of the people suggested differ from me on some of my most important issues, while agreeing with me on the minor stuff. Weighting is an important design element here. (I have previously taken weighted quizzes, but my politics are quirky and not well represented in aggregate by the two major political parties. I don't think there is a viable US presidential candidate who agrees with me on all three of abortion, gun rights, and the "war on terror.")

Then I read some political stuff; apparently some Iowa teacher has been politically active in ways that make other people suspicious. He asked a difficult question of Clinton and then his 11-year-old kid asked a question that cast aspersions on another competitor of Obama. What I don't understand is why labeling something "a _____________ talking point" (where the blank is filled by the name of the opposite party from the candidate's) means you no longer have to address it. It's a talking point, so poof! We don't have to have an answer to it! The accusation that someone's question is a "talking point" seems like an ad hominem argument, and is irrelevant to the question whether the issue is important and deserves discussion.

I also note that recent ridicule of the many elected officials who have strongly opposed human rights for homosexuals being caught soliciting partners for homosexual sex probably qualifies as an ad hominem tu quoque. Bad argument offends me; there are plenty of good arguments to be made in favor of removing the artificial, unethical and society-damaging denial of human rights to people who are homosexual, as if that were the most important thing about them.

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