Many dishonest hacks know that you can construct a hypothetical that makes critical assumptions that force readers to agree with the rhetorical answer that’s quite evident from the question itself. If they refuse your assumptions, you then accuse of them of refusing to answer your question. Of course, it’s also possible that Patterico is just stupid and doesn’t know that over-constructing a hypothetical will get you the answer you want, but it seems unfair to assume that he’s stupid.
Here’s my hypothetical for Patterico: if you know that by waterboarding President Bush until he died, you would definitely save the lives of thousands more Americans who would otherwise die wastefully in an Iraq war that will only get worse no matter what we do, would the waterboarding session be worth it?
Hint: there’s only one correct answer, and it’s the answer I want you to give. Any other answer is “obfuscation and evasion.”
In other words, anybody can construct a hypothetical that forces people to answer the way they want them to. Hypotheticals can be useful, but only when you don't make critical assumptions that undermine the purpose of a thoughtful hypothetical.