After driving more than 600 miles across Wyoming and much of Montana en route to a meeting at Glacier National Park next week, we arrived in Belgrade Montana (no rooms at the inns in Bozeman). I was greated by some vitriolic anti-liberal bumper stickers on a car in our hotel parking lot. One said, literally, “Democrats hope more troops die in Iraq.” I don’t necessarily agree with all democratic plans for troop withdrawal, but it’s hard to see how arguing to bring the troops home does anything except minimize troop fatalities. It is the Republican Party that wants more troops in Iraq, and wants them there longer. Another sticker complained about the failed war on poverty. Sadly, no war on poverty is being waged with the Republicans in power. The national poverty rate fell every year from 1993 to 2000, with a Democrat in the White House, and has increased every year since Bush took office. It is particularly galling when the opposition can only come up with slogans and trash talk that are totally inconsistent with reality, and then has the nerve to boastfully put them on bumper stickers.

Average Rating: 4.4 out of 5 based on 243 user reviews.

The Bush administration is invoking the slippery slope argument in its opposition to legislation expanding federal funding of stem cell research. There are numerous sources pointing out that the slippery slope argument is a logical fallacy (just google slippery slope fallacy for a sampling). The slippery slope argument goes like this: if we allow destruction of stem cells for research we will eventually allow vivisection and live human transplants. Or: if we outlaw guns then we will have to outlaw knives. Or: if we legalize gay marriage we’ll have to legalize polygamy. One doesn’t need a degree in logic, philosophy, or law to throw the slippery slope argument out the window.

Here’s one way to see that the slippery slope argument is no argument at all. Every law we have is a matter of degree and would be subject to the slippery slope argument. Here are some examples.
(1) We let people drive 75 mph on the interstate, but this does not oblige us to let them drive 80 mph. Conversely, if you wish, we limit the speed of driving to 75 mph, but this does not force us to limit the speed 70 mph.
(2) Some drugs require prescriptions, some don’t; some are illegal. None of these restrictions puts us on a slippery slope.
(3) We have a federal minimum wage, but it hasn’t changed in almost a decade. Hardly a slippery slope to a higher minimum wage.
(4) We let 16-year-olds drive. Not 15-year-olds.
(5) We lowered the voting age to 18, but no further. No sliding down a slope to toddlers in the voting booth.
(6) You can buy a gun, but not an anti-aircraft weapon. You can carry your gun, but not into a school.

Our entire society is based on drawing lines. The idea that moving the line results in an avalanche down a slippery slope until the line is completely gone is simply absurd. In fact, I cannot think of a single law that does not involve drawing a line across a slippery slope and defining one side as legal and the other as illegal. Legal gay marriage will not oblige legalizing polygamy any more than it will oblige legalizing marriage between people and box turtles. What mythic force pushes anyone down the slippery slope? The U.S. Senate passed the legislation expanding stem cell research funding by a 63-37 vote today (short of the supermajority needed to override Bush’s promised veto). If that were to become law, how exactly would we be forced, or even tempted, to expand it further? If a precedent doesn’t work, we change it. If stem cell research were somehow found to be disastrous, it would be just as easy (even easier, in fact) to reverse this legislation. And Bush did allow limited federal funding of stem cells in 2001 anyway. Why didn’t the slippery slope argument apply then?

Average Rating: 4.5 out of 5 based on 277 user reviews.

With the U.S. Senate debating legislation to expand federal funding for stem cell research, George W. Bush is threatening his first veto. Bush opposes using “federal taxpayer dollars to support and encourage the destruction of human life for research.” Yet he has spent over $300 billion federal taxpayer dollars to actually destroy human life in Iraq. And if destroying a handful of cells constitutes the destruction of human life, why is he not proposing legislation to criminalize stem cell research and the destruction of unused embryos from in vitro fertilization? Because he is hypocritically pandering to his right-wing base while trying to avoid complete alienation of the vast majority of Americans who favor stem cell research.

Average Rating: 4.6 out of 5 based on 216 user reviews.

This was the closest I’ve ever come to leaving a theater in the middle of a film because it was making me physically ill. The film, directed by Michael Winterbottom, depicts the ordeal of three British men captured in Afghanistan in late 2001 and imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay for two years. They were released without ever having any charges filed against them. Most likely the only thing they are guilty of is incredibly poor judgment in deciding to enter Afghanistan at the start of the U.S.-led attack on the Taliban government. In addition to the cruel and degrading treatment of the prisoners at Guantanamo, the greater affront is that hundreds of people are being held prisoner without being charged with anything, without access to legal counsel, and without many of the rights that we Americans so pride ourselves on guaranteeing. Furthermore, can anyone possibly believe anything that a prisoner utters after years of physical and mental abuse? What sort of person can actually be satisfied that he has captured a real criminal or menace based on a confession coerced by the torment inflicted on these detainess? It serves only to diminish us, both in reality, and in the eyes of the world.

My criticism of the movie is that it is not clear until the end credits how much of the movie is a re-enactment (100%). While some of it is presented in documentary-style interviews, those interviews are with the actors portraying the “Tipton Three” prisoners. The movie would be more effective if the ground rules were explained at the beginning, outlining the sources of the information for what is portrayed and making it clear that it is a re-enactment.

Average Rating: 4.7 out of 5 based on 274 user reviews.