Saturday, November 29, 2008

PAS?

Anti-choicers have long claimed that abortion causes PAS - Post Abortion Syndrome. They claim that women suffer anxiety, depression, substance abuse, etc, etc, after having an abortion. This is a highly contentious claim. The anti-choicers justify this claim by referencing the anecdotal stories of women who are unhappy with the choice they made, and regret it (I wonder who made them feel bad? Could it be all the idiots insisting that they are cold hearted if they don't regret their decision? Could it be all the zealots calling them murderers? As I've discussed before, the anti-choicers might be partially to blame in this).

But now the Dakota Voice (a right wing news source) is reporting on a new study has been released claiming a correlation between abortion and various anxiety and substance abuse issues. While I can't actually get into the study itself, and hence can't assess its worth, it's being published in what I take to be a decent peer-reviewed journal. Of course, given the other studies which deny this claim (linked to from the Voice article), and given the fact that statistical science is the least reliable of the sciences, it's still not clear that PAS actually exists.

And honestly, I wish the anti-choice crowd would stop pushing this. It's just another indication that they are completely devoid of any understanding of basic critical thinking skills. Even if abortion carried with it the risk of PAS, that does not make it any less a legal right. Children of religious nuts might vary well suffer psychological damage, but that doesn't mean we should make it illegal to teach your children that they are inherently worthless and evil and are headed for fire and brimstone. Many women suffer post-partum depression, but that's no reason to make having children illegal. Many of the choices we make carry with them risks to our persons - both physical and mental - but that doesn't necessarily mean that those choices should be made illegal. You've got to make an argument for that.

But that's just the thing. The anti-choice crowd lacks any reasonable argument for their position. They rely on religious dogma and emotional appeals to convince people. And that's what they are doing with PAS - attempting to use it to frighten women away from making a choice that might actually be best for them in their situation.


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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I'm on Amazon!

My one and only "publication" (and those quotes are really important) is up on Amazon.com. Of course, it's unavailable at the moment, and they don't know when it'll be in stock. Probably never. Who would want that?


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God Trumps!

These are great. Collectible religion cards. Awesome. I have to say, though, I wish there were more in the set. The wiccans, spiritualists and Mormons all really deserve a spot.


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That Didn't Take Long

The election was just a few weeks ago, but the Democrats have already ticked me off. They've allowed Joe Lieberman to retain his chair of the Homeland Security and Government Oversight Committee.

There were a lot of voices from the left calling for Lieberman to be punished for being a turncoat this past election cycle. That's not why I think Lieberman should have lost his chair. I've no desire for revenge on Lieberman for supporting John McCain and saying what he undoubtedly really thinks about Barack Obama. Lieberman is a zionist and a warmonger who happens to be liberal on social issues. Of course he supported John McCain. What I have a problem with is allowing a warmonger who supported the "war on terror" tactics of the Bush administration to continue to chair a committee on homeland security. What I have a problem with is allowing a man who failed to look into the governmental failure in handling Hurricane Katrina to continue to chair a committee on government oversight. Lieberman is very likely to lose his seat in 2012, so I really don't care about punishing him. The people fo Connecticutt will deal with him as they see fit. What I care about is having someone whose not crazy and incompetent running important committees.


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Monday, November 10, 2008

Lame Duck on a Rampage

Think you're finally done with Dubya's idiotic run of our country? Think Dubya can do no more damage? Think again.

In the spirit of so many leaving administrations, the Bush Administration is quickly instituting - via executive order - things that might take us years to be rid of. Here's a few of the sampling the Houston Chronicle reported on:

A proposed Justice Department regulation would allow local and state law enforcement to collect and share sensitive information on citizens even when they are not suspected of involvement in criminal activity. The Americans with Disabilities Act would be weakened by permitting state and local governments to make only a fraction of their facilities accessible to the handicapped.

A Department of Health and Human Services rule change would deny federal funds to family planning organizations and clinics that refuse to hire staffers who will not provide birth control to patients upon request. The regulation would also define forms of birth control as abortion, allowing physicians and others a legal basis for declining to provide family planning counseling that includes birth control techniques.


That's right, Bushie boy, take your last few days to make life worse for the handicapped, damage our civil liberties even more, force employers to hire people who refuse to do their job and enshrine legally your unscientific, medically inaccurate, religious boogaboo definitions of birth control, pregnancy and abortion. That'll do wonders for your legacy.

We're not done with Dubya yet. I just hope he doesn't do too much damage that can't be undone.


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Did I Say The Word?

That question was asked by Joe Scarborough a few moments after he accidentally dropped the F-bomb this morning, live on MSNBC. (Video below for the morbidly curious)

He apologized for the slip after realizing (or being informed by co-hosts) about his mistake, and the cute question from his wife via email was apparently "How big's the fine?"

The sad thing is that we may not be far off from a place where there is actually a rather hefty answer to Mrs. Scarborough's question. The Supreme Court just recently heard arguments over the possibility of penalizing "fleeting expletives", that is, dirty words that slip out on live T.V. - words that the FCC doesn't like.

I personally believe the FCC does way too much regulating already, but I can understand why we would want to keep things that are offensive to many and probably shouldn't be heard by young ears off primetime, shared airwaves. (the shared bit is important - cable, etc, shouldn't be regulated since there are unlimited resources there - broadcast tv and radio are limited resources, owned by the public). But honestly, do we really think it would be fair to fine poor Morning Joe for his slip of the tongue? To use Scalia's word, I think that's gollywaddles.


For those with a philosophical bent - does it matter that it's only a mention?


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Mark Lilla's got it right

I recently tried to give Republicans some advice. Mark Lilla isn't advising, but he does give a great explanation of what the conservative movement seems to have done to itself. Check it out. Although, if he's right, then it's the Republican intelligentsia that caused this problem in the first place. According to Lilla, the intellectuals of the conservative movement are the ones who fanned the flames of anti-intellectualism that now haunt the Republican party.

If that's true - and I've no reason to question its historical veracity - then I am wrong to hope that the intelligentsia will turn away from this "populist chic" and toward making the conservative movement amenable to intellectuals rather than opposed to them. That's sad for them, but it's also very sad for the country as a whole.


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Sunday, November 9, 2008

There's Something Out There....

We all know that the universe is expanding, but a recent study has revealed evidence of a different movement - a movement at a steady speed in one direction. This indicates that there is something, well, pulling on our universe. But what?

It might be another universe, which would mean that our universe is just one bubble afloat in a sea of universes - one part of a multiverse. Pretty cool, huh? As a philosopher I love it, since a multiverse might mean that, with modification, the possible worlds theory of modality that has given metaphysics, philosophy of langauge, and epistemology so much to work with might be concretely realized.

But nothing is certain yet. This result still needs to be confirmed by other scientists. And even if it is, that doesn't necessarily mean that what's pulling on our universe is another universe. It could be... um... something else.


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Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Republicans - In Ten Types

After my rather serious and heated post advising Republicans on what to do next, I thought a little fun would be in order. So, here they are, the 10 types of Republicans:


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Advice for Republicans

The Republican party has some decisions to make at this point. They have to remake themselves. The infighting, on an ideological level, that occurred during this past election season, and the high profile defections of Republican intelligentsia reveal a party in crisis. The Republican party is a rather large tent. The three basic pillars of the Republican party - old guard fiscal conservatives, religious whack jobs (aka "moral majority), and warmongers (neocons) - are going to have to come to terms with one another. And it's going to have to become clear just who will take power.

For the past 8 years, the Republican party has been controlled by an alliance between the religious whack jobs and the warmongers. They have won popular appeal by embracing "populism", which to them has meant embracing the common and vehemently rejecting all things "elite", including education, intellect and success based on merit. Think about this - 8 years ago we elected the man you would want to have a beer with. He's a bumbling idiot - but for many he is the sort of person you can identify with. This time 'round, we had GI Joe and the ditsy prom queen - people you love for their story and for the way that you identify with them as real people. But here's the thing - when it comes to those people making decisions - you need the elite. You need intelligent, well-educated individuals who know what the hell they are doing.

The Republican party has been ruined by its "populism". It's been ruined by its warmongering neocons and its bigotry filled, anti-intellectual, religious whack jobs. The ruin of the Republican party is nowhere more apparent than in the selection of Sarah Palin as VP candidate. I don't care how many times you try to cover for her. I don't care how many minutes of this or that interview are on the cutting room floor (so are many minutes of many other interviews with prominent figures, and they still don't sound like 6 year olds). I don't care how much you think the recent comments about her believing Africa to be a continent and not a country are media bias (reported by FOX) or bitterness from her campaign. Just listen to the woman talk and you'll discover all you need to know. She doesn't have the slightest grasp on the English language. She doesn't seem to understand that the conjunction "also" should not be used as filler. She can't string a coherent sentence together - not even a simple one. Given that no one has indicated to me that she suffers some sort of impediment impacting her speech and not her mental prowess, I can safely assume that her inability to utilize basic speech is a signal of an empty head.

And my assumption is backed up by the fact that she didn't know what the Bush doctrine is, believes the earth is 6,000 years old and that humans walked with dinosaurs, and still doesn't know what the vice president does. This is the Republican party - power thirsty, war loving, ignorant, religious nuts. The conservative intelligentsia needs to rid themselves of this "populism". For the sake of the country, and the sake of their party, they need to abandon the religious right and the neocons and return to the party of fiscal conservatism and small government. They need to turn away from Sarah Palin and turn toward something else.

Sadly, a recent poll indicates that 64% of Republicans want Palin to run in 2012. Here is my advice for Republicans - don't let that happen. It may work. You may get Bush with lipstick in 2012, but you will damage the Republican brand, and the country, even more than you already have.


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Prop 8, Race, and Religion

You may have heard that Prop 8 - an amendment to California's Constitution banning gay marriage - passed. You may have also heard that its passage was at least in part due to record African American turnout - 7 in 10 blacks voted to ban gay marriage.

I normally wouldn't have anything to say about this, other than shame on you California. We all know religion was the main force behind the votes to strip rights away from gays in California. Or at least, that's what I thought. But I've been hearing a lot from blacks claiming that it's actually the gay community's fault that blacks voted to take away their rights. Jasmyne Cannick's op-ed in the LA Times is, I think, a prime example of this claim:

I don't see why the right to marry should be a priority for me or other black people. Gay marriage? Please. At a time when blacks are still more likely than whites to be pulled over for no reason, more likely to be unemployed than whites, more likely to live at or below the poverty line, I was too busy trying to get black people registered to vote, period; I wasn't about to focus my attention on what couldn't help but feel like a secondary issue. The first problem with Proposition 8 was the issue of marriage itself. The white gay community never successfully communicated to blacks why it should matter to us above everything else -- not just to me as a lesbian but to blacks generally.

The way I see it, the white gay community is banging its head against the glass ceiling of a room called equality, believing that a breakthrough on marriage will bestow on it parity with heterosexuals. But the right to marry does nothing to address the problems faced by both black gays and black straights. Does someone who is homeless or suffering from HIV but has no healthcare, or newly out of prison and unemployed, really benefit from the right to marry someone of the same sex?

Did you get that? According to Ms. Cannick, the reason blacks don't care about equality for gays is that they have their own troubles. And apparently, it's the responsibility of the gay community to make it the case that their ability to excercise their rights does something to help the black community. Let's call this what it is, without pulling any punches - absolute and utter bullshit.

I'm not denying that blacks in this country still face nasty poverty and discrimination. I live in an area of the country that is still in many ways de facto segregated, with black areas, hispanic areas, and white areas. That disgusts me to no end. And I can certainly understand why changing that would be a priority for Ms. Cannick and others. But that is no reason to deny anyone else their rights. Prop 8 didn't have to be the priority for the black community, although apparently Ms. Cannick doesn't understand the difference between pushing a button to secure the rights of others and making a life long cause of something. The gay community wasn't asking blacks to turn away from their fight to eradicate discrimination and poverty in minority communities. They were asking blacks to push the "no" button when they walked into the voting booth.

Apparently, though, Ms. Cannick believes that there isn't any reason to support the rights of others if doing so doesn't give you any benefit. That's absolute crap. And if that reasoning held, then no rich white person would have any reason to give a damn about the plight of blacks in this country. But they do have reason - they have a reason more significant than money or fame or glory or feeling good. It's called justice. Justice is important whether or not you or your community see anything good out of it. Justice, like any other virtue, is good for its own sake. And it should be supported whether you get anything out of it or not. Justice is why all people, not just minorites, should care about making sure that minorities are not discriminated against. Justice is why people should care about poverty. Justice is why people should care about whether or not gays can marry. Gays shouldn't have to make their right to marry something that helps the black community in order for it to matter. The denial of rights should matter to each individual, whether that denial has any impact on them or not.

Of course, in addition to claiming that the black community isn't going to care about gay rights until they personally see some benefit from those rights being recognized, Ms. Cannick also claims that gays didn't actually make an effort to connect with black voters and convince them to vote no. She claims their efforts with the NAACP weren't enough and were poor strategy, given that the NAACP is "outdated". Melissa Harris-Lacewell, who I have enormous respect for, says something similar (video below). Now, it may very well be true that the NAACP is outdated, and it may well be true that other groups should have been contacted. But I think this is where the real reason that blacks voted yes on prop 8 comes out.

Which groups would you think you should contact in order to make ideological inroads into the black community? My first guess would be the churches. But guess what, the churches are the reason that blacks voted yes on prop 8. The bigotry displayed by their vote (Harris-Lacewell said it first) is a product of religion. Just go look at what some black voters had to say about their backing of prop 8. Apparently pastors were telling their congregants to go vote yes on 8. Even Cannick briefly mentions this:

But the black civil rights movement was essentially born out of and driven by the black church; social justice and religion are inextricably intertwined in the black community. To many blacks, civil rights are grounded in Christianity-- not something separate and apart from religion but synonymous with it. To the extent that the issue of gay marriage seemed to be pitted against the church, it was going to be a losing battle in my community.


Exactly, Ms. Cannick. It's not a matter of the gay community adding a few benefits to the black community to any recognition of gay rights. It's not about white gays being afraid to go into certain neighborhoods (that dig, by the way, was unwarranted, and continues the false conflation between fear of poor neighborhoods and fear of black neighborhoods). It's not because, as was mentioned in the LA Times article linked to above, "the gay community was never considered a third of a person". It's about religion. A community that has endured the most insufferable violations of rights, the most degrading treatment, and terrible blocks to advancement. A community that, sadly, still has to fight for equality and still has to endure the ignorance of racism that swims under the surface in this country has fought to take away rights from others. They didn't do it because justice isn't worth fighting for if you don't get something out of it. They didn't do it because they have endured worse treatment than gays have. They did it because a man in a pulpit told them that big sky daddy hates gays. Contrary to what Ms. Cannick thinks, social justice and religion are not intertwined in the black community. Social justice for some and religion are intertwined in the black community. And, as with religion in any community, it is also intertwined with hatred and injustice. Now, would you even bother to spend your money and time trying to convince people who believe on faith that you deserve fewer rights than others to vote in your favor? Could it be that the coalition for "No on 8" thought it would be a waste of time to fight the church in the black community?

I may be wrong. Perhaps there were inroads other than the church that the gay community could have, and should have, utilized. I'm willing to leave that an open question. But I refuse to believe Ms. Cannick's assesment of why blacks voted yes on prop 8. I refuse to believe that the black community only cares about justice when they benefit from it. Instead, it seems clear as day to me that the black community is influenced by the church, a church that teaches bigotry and hatred, a church which teaches that justice should only be given to some. The black community in California has been infected with the same poison that infects white communities in Lousianna and Indiana and hispanic communities in Arizona and Nevada - the poison of hatred spewed from the pulpit. Don't blame the gay community for the passage of prop. 8. Don't claim that it passed by attributing self-serving motives to those who have shown no sign of such shallowness. Put the blame squarely where it belongs - the church.

Princeton's Melissa Harris-Lacewell, being her usual brilliant self on the Rachel Maddow show:


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The Election Is Over. Now What?

At a few minutes past 11 here on the East Coast, the media called the election for Barack Obama. And I began to cry. I cried out of pride for my country. I cried out of relief that the extreme right wing of the Republican Party can no longer ruin this country. I cried out of happiness.

But now the dancing in the streets is over. The firecrackers have burned out. Now it's time to find out if the hopes that Barack Obama managed to bring to this cynic, and others around the country, will actually be fulfilled.

I'm not sure they will be. Recent news about the building of Obama's staff and cabinet have me worried. Rahm Emmanuel - the president-elect's new chief of staff - doesn't bother me all that much. Some are whining that Obama's selection of a Clinton administration veteran is a betrayal of the promise of change we heard from the Obama campaign. I don't see that. Emmanuel is known as an attack dog - the sort of man who bugs others until they do what he wants. That's just the sort of person you need as chief of staff. So while I'm not ecstatic or anything, I'm not unhappy about Rahm.

What I am very unhappy about is the rumors I'm hearing that Obama might appoint RFK Jr. to the head of the EPA and Lawrence Summers as Sec. of the Treasury. Why do I have a problem with this? Well, Lawrence Summers may be a great economist. I don't really know. What I do know is that he is well known for being a sexist. He's had no qualms about saying things like "girls can't do math". Appointing Summers to the Treasury despite his sexism would be a sign of tacit acceptance of his sexist positions. Would the Obama administration appoint him if his comments had been racist or anti-semitic? Of course not. But sexism, oh, that can be overlooked. Well, not by me.

RFK Jr. is even worse. He's an antivaccinationist and pusher of pseudoscience. No one who has so little respect for science should be anywhere near any bureaucratic agency that has to do with science. After 8 years of far right wing anti-science policies, the last thing we need is 8 more years of far left anti-science policies. If you want to learn more about why RFK Jr. shouldn't be near anything having to do with government involvement in science, see here. Why can't our bloody government support reason and evidence for once! Christ this makes me angry.

If it makes you as angry as it makes me, you can actually make your wishes known to the Office of the President-Elect here. It doesn't have to be about these particular appointments. This is at least one sign of change, that the president-elect has actually set up a way for you to give your opinion.


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Monday, November 3, 2008

How Messed Up Is This?


Via Pharyngula (like he needs me to link to him. Ha!)


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