I used to do a fair amount of work with experts in various fields that we as lawyers would call upon to testify at trial on issues germane to the case. With my work, most of the experts I used were people like chemists, toxicologists, engineers, and simliar highly-educated professionals. I also had to prepare for the testimony of the experts on the other side (which experts usually testified exactly the opposite of my experts, but that's how the game is played), and my goal was to test their opinions in court through cross-examination. As you might be able to tell if you are a regular reader here, that kind of stuff is what I find to be a ton of fun.
In any event, a more senior lawyer once told me that the way to test an expert's opinion is to ask him or her what it is, find out what facts that opinion is based on, and then use a hypotetical to change some assumptions. You then ask the expert if he or she would change or modify the opinion based on the changed circumstances or facts.
If the expert refuses to change the opinion, even though in your hypotetical you have changed the facts, it's no longer an "opinion," it's a "belief." Beliefs are fine in church or the religious institution of your choice. But, they are no good in a court of law where you are trying to convince a judge or jury that your side is scientifically correct. "Beliefs" can't be scientifically tested, and you don't really have to waste much time attacking the belief itself, because the point is to simply show the judge or jury that it's no use arguing with a crazy person who will never change their mind. Such people are not persuasive, either in court or in real life.
Our friend Ellen Beth Gill over at the 'other blog,' as some people have named it, is just getting warmed up for the general election to unload on Congressman Mark Kirk, now that she cut her teeth on poor Jay Footlik. I go over there every once in a while to see what lies and sedition are being spread, and one thing that caught my eye early this morning was a little rant she posted in comments, as follows:
"Kirk, like his fellow banana-republicans in Congress and in the Bush Administration, does nothing not part of his political agenda. There's no governing, no custodianship of our Constitution, no respect for the American people or everything that's made us Americans for all these years. Just whatever he can do to warmonger and fearmonger for dollars and political power. He's done nothing to make it clear he stands for our country, so he should be retired. Even worse is his friend McCain who has proven he'll do anything to become president including torture, even though his former stand against torture was supposed to be his big stand for morality. Isn't it about time someone governs for the people of the United States and not just baiting hate and fear for votes?"
Take a good read through the above excerpt, and you get the strong impression that her hatred of Mark Kirk is not opinion, it is "belief." EBG will never be convinced that Mark Kirk is anything but the devil incarnate, no matter what he does. She cannot admit to herself or anyone that Mark Kirk has done ANYTHING to benefit the Tenth District, when we all know so much better. Her "opinion" of Kirk cannot be changed no matter what the facts are, so in my book, that makes it "belief," not "opinion. If you cannot have a rational argument about an issue because no matter what you say, it must be wrong if you support Mark Kirk, there is no point in having the discussion. (for example, see an opposing view on the events that EBG is ranting about here).
Candidates like Dan Seals, however, are happy to have EBG & Friends as base supporters, because they are so low-maintenance. Seals is already a god to them, so he doesn't really need to do anything to engage his zealots for his cause, and he can do no wrong, so he has no fear of doing anything that would alienate his base.
Some more rational commentors over at Ellen's still try to engage her on the issues and have a meaningful conversation, but I think it's a waste of time. She and her flock simply want to hear their own beliefs repeated back to them, assumedly strengthened by lots of lemmings saying "me too!"
Come here if you want to have a fair, intelligent discussion about the issues without being insulted or deleted (which is what often happens if EBG senses she is losing the debate). Mark Kirk is not perfect, as none of us are, but we will not delete you for pointing out things he could do better.