In which I explain how Espresso Pundit does not know what the Ad Hominem fallacy is

15 Feb 2015 06:07 pm
Posted by: Donna

Arizona Board of Regents member Greg Patterson, aka the Espresso Pundit, has come at me with what pedantic mansplainers everywhere consider to be the most potent weapon they have in their arsenal. In other words, Patterson is accusing me of committing a logical fallacy. Sexist pedants love to trot out the List of Logical Fallacies to slay the arguments of women who disagree with them because ladies are so emotional and illogical amirite? However, since these pedants so often mistake their own opinions for objective fact, their attempts to characterize things as logical fallacies tend to go comically awry, as we see here:

Here’s an example of actual Ad Hominem. In which Braham Resnik refers to Diane Douglass as a “girl” and I question whether the reference is professional or appropriate. Donna Gratehouse then tries to dismiss my point because…I’m pro-life. Because pro life people apparently can’t complain when a reporter refers to the Superintendent of Public instruction as a “girl.”

This attempt to rebut my argument by attacking my character is classic ad hominem. Here’s the exchange.

I responded the way I did because Patterson’s outrage rang fake and hollow to me, as per usual with conservatives who get all kinds of pearl clutchy over sexism when one of their own women is insulted by a liberal or someone perceived to be but then go right back to working diligently to hurt all other women. Anti-choicers especially have no credibility in these situations.

The two fallacies mansplainers go to the most to try and shut down critics are the straw man and the ad hominem, most likely because there’s more ambiguity to exploit in them than with more formal fallacies. Patterson accuses me of committing a “classic ad hominem” fallacy (adding “classic” to it for a nice little pedantic flourish) incorrectly.

An ad hominem (Latin for “to the man” or “to the person”[1]), short for argumentum ad hominem, means responding to arguments by attacking a person’s character, rather than to the content of their arguments. When used inappropriately, it is a fallacy in which a claim or argument is dismissed on the basis of some irrelevant fact or supposition about the author or the person being criticized.

An example of a fallacious ad hominem would be if I were to dismiss Mabel’s argument that vaccines should be mandatory on the basis of her being divorced. That fact about Mabel is irrelevant to what she is asserting about vaccination. The same cannot be said for my mockery of a “pro-life” person’s sudden indignation over what was, at most, unintentional sexism by Brahm Resnik toward Superintendent Douglas. Being anti-choice is not a neutral characteristic that has no bearing on one’s attitude toward women. We are talking about a movement that is not only dedicated to criminalizing abortion and severely limiting contraception access but that has a long and well-known history of misogyny.

Which is not to say that I’m claiming that Greg Patterson agrees with Rush Limbaugh that women who want insurance to cover their birth control are sluts who should send him sex tapes and that he’d like to see abortions have to be done via guns. Or with Todd Akin that there are “legitimate” rapes and ones that are not. Or with people who terrify women trying to enter clinics. Or that he thinks this is a great movie. If I were to claim those things simply on the basis of Patterson identifying as “pro-life” then I would be engaging in the fallacy known as “guilt by association”. (For what it’s worth, though, Patterson has given his full-throated support to bad anti-choice laws and politicians with awful views on women on many occasions over the years.)

Under the most charitable assumption of what informs Patterson’s “pro-life” beliefs – that it’s all about the precious unborn babies (which perhaps he imagines as floating about un-tethered to anything or anyone?) and that he bears no ill will toward women at all – what he wants passed into law reduces pregnant people to the legal status of subhuman incubators and leads to (mostly) poor women being prosecuted for abortion and bad pregnancy outcomes. Of course, like many anti-choicers, Patterson may insist that wanting to restrict abortion access is not anti-woman at all. But that would be a difference of opinion on the humanity and bodily autonomy of women between him and me, not of any kind of illogic on my part.

Mansplainers, learn what logical fallacies are and aren’t and stop embarrassing yourselves!

Cathi Herrod demonstrates how anti-choicers erase women’s contributions, experiences, etc.

13 Feb 2015 04:06 am
Posted by: Donna

I’ll say one thing for Howie Fischer of Arizona Capitol Media Services – he has a long record of thorough coverage on the battle over reproductive rights here and of getting opponents of it on record. Fischer’s report on Wednesday’s Senate Health and Human Services Committee vote on SB1318 contains this interesting nugget from Center for Arizona Policy head Cathi Herrod (italics and emphasis mine):

Five years ago legislators voted to say that policies offered through a state-based health insurance exchange could not include abortion coverage. Instead, women would have to purchase that through a separate rider and pay an additional premium.

As it turned out, Arizona never set up its own exchange. Instead, residents can choose from plans offered elsewhere.

Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, said 41 of the 199 available plans offer insurance coverage (for abortion, I assume). And she said 90 percent of those covered under the Affordable Care Act getting some sort of subsidies.

“So taxpayers are on the hook for elective abortions,” she said.

SB 1318 expands the prohibition to bar abortion coverage in any policy offered by anyone through the Affordable Care Act.

But it actually goes farther: Arizonans would lose the right to even purchase separate coverage. Herrod said she’s convinced that this coverage is also subsidized.

Why does Cathi Herrod presume that women electing to purchase supplemental riders to cover abortion can only do it by being subsidized? Well, it could be related to the sheer amount of commentary I get from anti-choicers on social media who insist they are not opposed to birth control but they just want you stupid lazy women to…wait for it…“pay for it yourselves!”

No amount of my explaining to these dipwads that women do, in fact, work and pay both taxes and insurance premiums seems to sink through their thick skulls. Oh no, they are convinced that millions of American women are lolling about upon millions of couches, scarfing millions of bon bons while fiendishly plotting to have several abortions, and also several babies, and somehow also to participate in constant sex orgies enabled by free birth control. If that seems confusing to you, then you must be a reasonable person and unaware of the bizarro world concocted by anti-choicers to portray women (who are not white, married, and Republican) as a rabid horde of frowzy skanks hellbent on slutting it up while not working and living entirely off your dime.

“So taxpayers are on the hook for elective abortions,” as Senator Nancy Barto (R) claims, presses the false assertion that women who have abortions don’t also pay taxes. Barto further implies that the only taxpayers who matter are those who are anti-choice. Where did this idea come from that only people who object to abortion and birth control get a special carve-out from their obligation to contribute to the common good? After all, I’ve been paying taxes nonstop since 1985, despite my being a woman who has used birth control and has had an abortion. I’m totally fine with subsidizing both those things! Could Senator Barto or Cathi Herrod point me to where I could get my Iraq War refund?

Doug Ducey knows that anti-choicers have an image problem

12 Feb 2015 03:53 am
Posted by: Donna

Photo: Howard Fischer, AZ Capitol Media Services

So Center for AZ Policy had its God botherer hoedown at the State Legislature on Wednesday, in which they were given a speech by Governor Ducey where he said this:

“I am proudly pro-life” the governor told a rally of members of the anti-abortion Center for Arizona Policy. “And I look forward to working with you on those issues.”

But Ducey said there are things that need to happen.

“We have 16,900 children that are now outside of the womb and are wards of the state,” he continued.

“And I’m asking specifically for your help as an organization, the faith-based community to re-engage in this issue of child safety, whether it’s foster parents, whether it’s adoption, whether it’s as a court-appointed special advocate for these children,” Ducey said. “These are the most vulnerable in our society and they are in many situations not being cared for properly.”

Ducey linked his plea with his effort to “fix” the Department of Child Safety. He took the first steps toward that Tuesday by firing its prior director and installing Greg McKay to head it.

“And I’m specifically asking for the faith-based community and for the Center for Arizona Policy to help,”

This was such a bold observation that even Center for Arizona Policy head Cathi Herrod was forced to admit that policing people’s sex lives has been such a time consuming endeavor for her organization that they had been giving the issue of taking care of born children short shrift.

CAP President Cathi Herrod conceded that until now her organization has been only “somewhat” involved with issues of child safety and foster care.

“We can do more and we can do so much better,” she said. “The faith-based community can do more and I believe will do more.”

In fairness, it’s not like CAP has been doing nothing to address children in need of stable homes.

Senate Bill 1188, which was sponsored by Sen. Linda Gray, R-Glendale, would require an adoption agency to give primary consideration to adoptive placement with a married man and woman, with all other criteria being equal…

…”The governor’s action today is harmful to children in foster care and group homes who are seeking a permanent home and the support of a loving, caring family,” Mann said.

But Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy and a strong advocate of SB 1188, said Monday that the bill was among those that dealt with “critical issues of life, marriage and religious liberty,” and that she was “grateful” for the governor’s support.

Isn’t that special?

I do find it refreshing when a conservative calls out his compatriots who oppose women’s reproductive freedom for their glaring lack of interest in poor and vulnerable children post-birth. I also take Governor Ducey at his word that he believes that faith groups like CAP can and should step up to help the thousands of Arizona children needing foster or adoptive parents*.

The timing of Ducey’s statement does warrant skepticism, coming as it did when the newly-formed Department of Child Safety is in the midst of a shake-up and an anti-abortion bill championed by CAP was being debated in a Senate committee on Wednesday afternoon, oh-so-coincidentally on the same day as the CAP Day at the Capitol activities.

If one were cynical, one might conclude that Governor Ducey was trying to create a distraction from those things while taking advantage of an opportunity to soften his own image but, eh, whatever. What is most salient, at least in my estimation, is that Doug Ducey (or someone in his administration) is clearly aware that the “pro-life” conservatives who have been running Arizona for decades don’t look credible on child welfare, with good reason, since their policies have demonstrably not led to good outcomes for children.

*I’d prefer that Cathi Herrod stay as far away from children as possible, which is exactly the same as I feel about her proximity to any other living entity.

CAP Day at the Capitol and (yet another) anti-choice law

10 Feb 2015 02:00 pm
Posted by: Donna

On Wednesday a bunch of nuisances with way too much time on their hands and a burning desire to meddle in your personal life on behalf of Jesus will descend upon the Arizona State Capitol.

Sounds like a barrel of laughs but I’ll pass. This event coincides with a Senate Health and Human Services Committee hearing where they will be voting on SB1318, which is yet another attempt to restrict abortion under the guise of “safety”. The bill requires all doctors performing abortions at clinics to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

Like all other TRAP laws, admitting privileges are a complete crock of crap, as Imani Gandy explains in RH Reality Check:

At first blush, these laws may seem sensible enough, especially if you believe that abortion is a dangerous procedure and providers should have hospital admitting privileges in case something goes horribly awry. Such is the concern of anti-choicers pushing for the Wisconsin law, as Susan Armacost, legislative director of Wisconsin Right to Life, noted in a July 5 statement. “Apparently, Wisconsin’s abortion clinics don’t believe their abortionists need to have hospital privileges at a hospital located within 30 miles of their clinic … or anywhere at all,” she said. “Currently, when a woman experiences hemorrhaging or other life-threatening complications after an abortion in Wisconsin, the clinic puts her in an ambulance and sends her to a hospital ALONE where she is left to her own devices to explain her medical issues to the emergency room staff. The abortionist who performed the abortion is nowhere to be seen. This deplorable situation must change.”

But documents submitted to the federal court in Wisconsin overseeing the case paint a very different picture of the admitting privileges law. According to Dr. Douglas Laube, a board-certified OB-GYN since 1976, the admitting privileges requirement is “medically unjustified and will have serious consequences for women’s health in Wisconsin.”

As Dr. Laube explained to the court, abortion is one of the safest medical procedures in the United States, alarmist claims to the contrary notwithstanding.

Note how the anti-choicer uses alarmist and emotionally-charged language but has no real argument to substantiate the need for admitting privileges. If a patient getting any type of treatment at a clinic – be it abortion, colonoscopy, root canal, whatever – goes into a life-threatening medical emergency an ambulance is going to be called and they will be taken to the nearest emergency room. Whether or not the doctor at the clinic has admitting privileges is utterly irrelevant. And EMTs and hospital staff are trained to recognize symptoms and stabilize and treat patients so this notion of a poor damsel in distress being left alone (ALONE!) to deal with her medical emergency is both absurd and insulting.

The obvious aim of this bill is to drive abortion clinics out of business since it’s very difficult for abortion doctors to get the admitting privileges because hospitals fear all the harassment they’ll get from (guess who?) anti-choicers. So the effect of this, should it go into law, will be to make abortion a far more unsafe proposition for a large number of women who will be forced into seeking abortion care on the illegal black market. Even if, unlike me, you want to take the most charitable view possible of the motives of anti-choicers with these TRAP laws and assume they are acting out of a good faith desire to protect women, you have to admit that their efforts have been a spectacular failure at making abortion safer.

Here’s a neat little thing about abortion law in Arizona that you may be unaware of: It has an exception written into it that just so happens to make it so that some affluent ladies are able to have their “procedures” done by their private physicians with no one bothering them.

2. “Abortion clinic” means a facility, other than a hospital, in which five or more first trimester abortions in any month or any second or third trimester abortions are performed.

So if a general practitioner or gynecologist with a posh office in Scottsdale keeps it to five or fewer abortions a month s/he can provide them to patients without going through most of the rigamarole placed on the clinics that serve non-wealthy women. Nice, huh? Gotta hand it to right wingers. They sure are good at exempting themselves from the pain they want to dish out to others.

The other thing the bill does is ban insurance coverage for abortion from women using the federal ACA exchange by changing the language of the existing law that only pertains to state run plan to any health care exchange operating in the state. Neat how they didn’t want to set up a state exchange under the ACA but now they want to tell the federal one what it can do (and it already doesn’t use federal funds to cover abortion because compromise had to be made with anti-choice Dems to get the ACA passed). It’s unlikely antis are even going to pretend this is about “safety” so I’m guessing they’re going with the argument that godly virtuous Americans should not have to subsidize women getting the dirty slut operations. Even if said women are paying 100% of the costs of the premiums for their insurance themselves*.

Because abortions can run from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, blocking coverage in insurance can put a huge financial strain on women, leading some of them to delay their procedures or resort to unsafe, illegal methods. Kermit Gosnell’s horror show clinic, which antis constantly throw in everyone’s faces as the consummate example of why legal abortion is so terribly unsafe and needs to be strictly regulated (by them) was in large part the result of anti-abortion policies (such as bans on government funding and insurance coverage) that have made it difficult for women to get safe first trimester abortions. Never forget that if anti-choicers get their way, there will be more Kermit Gosnells, not fewer. These are seriously not the people who should ever be put in charge of the safety of abortion yet, they are, and none but a few lonely pro-choice voices are calling attention to this alarming situation.

*You would not believe how often I encounter anti-choicers who seem to be mystified by the concept that women who use contraception and get abortions work and pay taxes and insurance premiums just like everyone else and are not lying around waiting for other people to “pay for” those things. We really just want what we are already working and paying for, thanks.

AG Brnovich should familiarize himself with the Rule of Holes

05 Feb 2015 02:34 pm
Posted by: Donna

Rule of Holes: When you’re in one, stop digging.

It’s possible that this isn’t an approving retweet by Cathi Herrod but, given her ardent support of Mark Brnovich in the election and her just being an all-around terrible person, I’d say it’s a safe bet that it is.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich decided to lash out at Republic columnist Laurie Roberts by euphemistically calling her a liar (“misleading”). Roberts merely directly quoted what was in the motion to dismiss filed by his office against a lawsuit filed by a rape victim alleging shocking negligence by the state prison. Here are some exact words from the motion:

“By being placed in a classroom at the complex, the officers were not placing Plaintiff in any type of situation that she would not normally face. The risk of harm, including assault, always existed at a prison like Eyman.”

Roberts wasn’t even the only reporter who covered the story but Brnovich focused his ire on her for some reason. I often disagree with Laurie Roberts but there was nothing dishonest in her column and it’s puzzling why Brnovich is being so recalcitrant on this instead of simply pulling the motion to dismiss and issuing a sincere apology to the victim.

Perhaps Brnovich feels he needs to display this kind of bravado as a new AG, but he really picked the wrong battle to do it on. Since the election I’ve spoken to more than a few people, including some Democrats who were deeply disappointed that Felecia Rotellini lost, who were hopeful that Brnovich would at least be more professional and levelheaded than his predecessor Tom Horne. If his handling of this lawsuit is any predictor, though, it does not bode well for that.

Nice AGs you’ve elected yourselves there, Arizona

03 Feb 2015 10:47 pm
Posted by: Donna


I actually don’t know if Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Weisbard was a Tom Horne or Mark Brnovich hire but does it matter?

The Arizona Attorney General’s Office is asking for dismissal of a lawsuit filed by a teacher who was brutally assaulted and raped after being left in an unguarded prison classroom with a convicted sex offender.

The AG’s reasoning is essentially this: the woman knew she was in a prison, so what did she expect?

No, seriously. That’s the reasoning.

“Plaintiff is an ADOC (Arizona Department of Corrections) employee who routinely worked at the prison complex,” Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Weisbard wrote in his motion to dismiss. “By being placed in a classroom at the complex, the officers were not placing Plaintiff in any type of situation that she would not normally face. The risk of harm, including assault, always existed at a prison like Eyman.”

Ladies, if you’ll just stay safely in your homes handcrafting artisan chastity belts and not trying to have “jobs” or to “help people” or whatnot you will not have these “rape” problems!

While it would seem like just paying out a settlement for the prison’s screw-up and then directing the prison system to implement the safety protocols necessary such that no unarmed civilian would ever be trapped with known violent predators would be the most fiscally optimal and face-saving response by the AG’s office, you should never underestimate their capacity to make the exact opposite of the most rational and competent choice.

Yes, a US Senator did just say that handwashing should be voluntary.

03 Feb 2015 02:19 pm
Posted by: Donna

Like a jackboot on your neck

GOP politicians and the business leaders who own them are enamored with cutting what they see as onerous regulations. They are often supported by the public in this because they rarely mention the specific rules that are oppressing business owners and stifling prosperity, preferring instead to describe them using vague and bloodless terms like “red tape” or “bureaucracy”. You are meant to think of them as arbitrary and mostly unnecessary, and it never hurts their cause when there’s a story about some little girl’s lemonade stand being shut down by overzealous government agents for not being properly licensed.

But it turns out that most business regulations don’t merely exist as a full employment act for capricious civil service tyrants. They are there to protect the health and safety of workers and consumers. One such requirement, which I’m hopeful is in place everywhere, is that employees who handle food must wash their hands after using the restroom. Up to this moment I had lived in the naive bliss that this was something that everyone could agree was reasonable. Alas, no.

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) said Monday that he’s okay with the idea of service industry workers returning to work without washing their hands after touching their unmentionables, as long as customers are made aware of the situation.

Tillis made the declaration at to the Bipartisan Policy Center, at the end of a question and answer with the audience. He was relaying a 2010 anecdote about his “bias when it comes to regulatory reform.”

“I was having a discussion with someone, and we were at a Starbucks in my district, and we were talking about certain regulations where I felt like ‘maybe you should allow businesses to opt out,’” he said, “as long as they indicate through proper disclosure, through advertising, through employment literature, or whatever else.”

Tillis was, at the time, the minority whip of the North Carolina House of Representatives.

“She said, ‘I can’t believe that,’” he continued in retelling the story. “And at that time we were sitting back at a table that was near the restrooms and one of the employees just came out. She said: ‘For example, don’t you believe that this regulation that requires this gentleman to wash his hands before he serves your food is important and should be on the books?’”

“I said: ‘As a matter of fact, I think it’s one that I can [use to] illustrate the point,’” he remarked. “I said: ‘I don’t have any problem with Starbucks if they choose to opt out of this policy as long as they post a sign that says “We don’t require our employees to wash their hands after leaving the restroom,”’” he recalled, as the audience chuckled. “The market will take care of that.’”

“That’s the sort of mentality that we need to have to reduce the regulatory burden on this country,” he added. “We’re one of the most regulated nations in the history of the planet.”

Bipartisan Policy Center President Jason Grumet joked that he was “not sure” he would shake Sen. Tillis’ hand when the discussion was over, causing the lawmaker and members of the audience to laugh.

As you can see, Tillis’ statement was so out there that it was too much for even the very pro-business Bipartisan Policy Center to take! Of course, rich people enjoy and can afford to eat in restaurants often so I guess it’s understandable that someone like Mr. Grumet would recoil at his suggestion. But when there’s little chance of rich people personally being harmed, as in by dumping pollution in poor communities or subjecting workers to dangerous and unsanitary conditions, for example, they’re all for making safety standards as voluntary as possible.

Another bizarre aspect of what Tillis said is that the people who would tangibly enjoy being unburdened from having to wash their hands after relieving themselves would be the low wage workers themselves. Does he really think that workers have been dying for a savior on that instead of, say, freedom from mandatory drug testing or having to hand over their social media passwords to their employers? I have my doubts about that.

Arizona has been fully taken over by people who embrace Thom Tillis’s brand of free market near-absolutism. From Governor Ducey’s inauguration speech:

Guarding public health, protecting children, supporting higher education, building roads where we develop and preserving natural lands where we don’t, these too are among the fundamentals, and they must be done wisely and well.

So we will not be searching these next four years for new excuses to insert government into the lives of our people. Americans get plenty of that already from Washington, D.C. By observing limits on government, we are merely recognizing the limits of its competence. In securing individual freedom, we affirm the ability, the dignity, and the right of free men and women to make their own decisions and to find their own way.

I’d be interested in hearing Gov. Ducey’s thoughts on things like mandatory hand-washing for restaurant workers. I definitely want to know what his position on vaccinations is.