A place for Liam to post essays, comments, diatribes and rants on life in general.

Those fond of Liam's humor essays, they have been moved here.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Bernie post mortem

Matt Taibbi gets it.

And sadly, although the existence of Trump-the-nominee SHOULD be the perfect opportunity for the Dems to shake things up, it also sets up a situation where even people dissatisfied with the status quo recognize the huge danger in a Trump administration, and so those who supported Sanders and tried to send a message of our disapproval with business as usual can't afford to give that message strongly enough to have it truly stick, and that means another President Clinton and a Democratic Party that learns no lesson, because to them, the outcome is all that matters.

Watch for Hillary to back off from the Bernie platform she seemed so intent on claiming as her own a month or two back.  She doesn't need it any more, and the fact that a huge number of Democrats, including a large number of younger voters expressed their wish for change gets lost in the shuffle.

This is why I beg of you all, stop effing lecturing me on how I have to get on the Hillary train.  I'm not stupid, I know what's at stake, and in the end, I'll do the only thing that makes any sense.  But for a while, I'm going to take a break.  I'll vote the way I have to, but I'm not going to stump for her, I'm not going to make calls for her or donate to her, and the more pissant assholes lecture me about getting on board, the longer I'm going to resist admitting to myself that I really don't have any other acceptable option.

Supreme Court

I kind of hope President Obama withdraws the nomination of Merrick Garland the day after the election, if Clinton wins.  Garland was a peace offering, a compromise candidate, and much better for the Republicans than they'd get from President Clinton.  He shouldn't be left on the table for the Republicans to grab if they lose the Presidential election.

I don't think their foot dragging should then be rewarded.  If they make the country wait an entire year with a hamstrung Supreme Court, then they should live with that decision.  Their intention is to wait and hope a Republican takes the White House.  If they continue to bank on Trump, the gamble should not be a zero cost gambit for them the result should be being forced to hold hearings on much less centrist jurists...

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Hillary Defeats Bernie. Whoop-de-f***ing-doo.

I know who I'm voting for... but it's absolutely going to be holding my nose and voting.

First and foremost because I've been saying since the run-up to 2000 that dynastic, nepotistic Presidencies are a bad idea. Was bad when it was W, was bad when it was Jeb, is bad now that it's Hillary.

If the Republicans hadn't nominated a complete whack job, I might sit this one out. If they had actually nominated someone reasonable (which they haven't done since perhaps Bob Dole), I might even have voted that way.

As it is (warning, this is sort of Godwin's law, although hopefully you'll get my point), I keep coming back to the question someone asked me about Nazi Germany: How the hell did Hitler come to power? How did it happen? How many good people stood aside or ignored their personal concerns and supported the guy?

I'm not saying Trump is Hitler. I'm not saying I have any reason to believe he'd BE Hitler. I *AM* saying that we really don't know WHAT he'd do, and he's already shown a tendency to believe the rules don't apply to him and to believe that the President has way more dictatorial-level powers than it actually does... and in today's climate of inaction in the Congress, all it will take is someone with the force of personality to just do what he wants to do along with a Congress that couldn't cooperate long enough to tie their own shoes, and it doesn't really matter what the President is ALLOWED to do, it matters what he DOES.

So honestly, the only reason I'm willing to override my objection to the dynastic Presidency is because the alternative is SO terrible, and so potentially ruinous.

And by the way, can people PLEASE stop lecturing me on what I "have to do now"? I have very real concerns. Of course I'll do what's best for the country when it comes time to vote, but for right now, I just want to pretend it's OK for me to abstain from this one, because both major parties made TERRIBLE choices.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

In the vein of "thoughts I can't muse on elsewhere"...

I wonder if we aren't too quick to lump all people together into one bucket. In general, I mean things like people talk about "a cure for autism", but as the father of a mildly autistic kid, I can tell you that autism is a set of symptoms, not a disease, so there isn't one cure. My son's autism is due to an allergy to wheat and dairy proteins, and if we keep them out of his system, he's more or less neurotypical. My good friend from college has a child who is autistic and so far they have found NOTHING that helps. They've tried elimination diets to rule out food allergies, they've tried all of the typical treatments, their child is about 10 and he's almost entirely non-communicative. Autism is not ONE thing, and lumping all autistic people into one bucket doesn't really help.

So, in the same light, is it impossible to believe that there could be more than one type of transgenderism? That while we agree and support that SOME transgender people really do have the wrong gender brain (or whatever) in their head, so too OTHER transgender people might be suffering from some sort of "gender dysmorphia disorder"?

This is not a discussion I'd want to have among the unenlightened, because I wouldn't want to give anyone any ammunition for dismissing the people who truly are trans, but I'm just saying that the community of people who are trans (or who have trans urges, whether they've made any strides in the direction of changing or not) is large enough that it's possible, even likely, that there are more than one cause for it.

Are there women who claim rape for attention? Yes. Is it most of them? No. Are there people who claim to be trans for attention? I'd bet yes. Is it most of them? Almost certainly not.

Are there people who DO in fact choose to be gay, due to a severely traumatic experience with the opposite gender? Yes, I've known a few of them (I have one lesbian friend who talks openly about when she CHOSE to be gay, because she'd been abused one too many times by ex-boyfriends and (as I recall) also by her father as a child). Does that mean that every gay person is just choosing to reject the opposite gender? Certainly not.

So, is it possible that SOME number of transgender people are suffering a psychological delusion, rather than an actual biological fact? I'd say it's likely.

Of course, it's academic, because unless we have a way to distinguish who is who, there's no reasonable way to figure out who needs treatment for their mental illness and who needs gender reassignment surgery to correct a real problem. Clearly the real problem DOES exist, or else why would the case of that boy whose circumcision was botched, so they reassigned him as an infant and raised him as a girl be so clear, why would that one case be someone who felt absolutely, life long, that they were in the wrong gender body?

And by the way, I'm not suggesting we should force anyone (even the ones who are having a psychological problem) into treatment instead of being trans, but I do wonder if someone who is trans for some other reason than an actual physical mismatch between brain and body or soul and body or whatever might not find that the transition really solves the problems they think it will solve.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

More Feminism Thoughts

I am forever being asked why I am so frustrated with feminism, by friends of both genders who have accepted the claimed philosophy rather than the often seen behavior of feminism...  And today, another such example came up.

One of my female friends was commenting on how for many years, due to feminist "indoctrination" (her word), she felt mildly guilty about asking a man to help her open a stuck jar or other strength related task, or for thanking him if he did.

And after much discussion, the conclusion was reached that it was because men are not supposed to assume women need help and women are supposed to believe that they are perfectly capable without any help from a man... and yet there still exist many situations in which a man is not considered to be a "real man" if he does not help a woman who needs it.

Which led me to the following:

One of my frustrations with feminism is the extent to which men are still expected to help out, but are not suppose to OFFER to, except when they are. It's so confusing.

We are to assume women are perfectly capable of doing things for themselves, but
we're assholes if we won't open a jar for them that they cannot open for themselves.... but we're also assholes if we assume they need help and offer it before it is asked for... except when Emma Watson suggests that men have not helped out because they have not been invited, after which feminists all over the place had their heads explode, saying "Haven't been asked, it was their fucking DUTY, they shouldn't have waited to be asked!"

So... to sum up, we should never help unless asked, except when we should know to help without being asked, but not if the person being helped doesn't want the help, which we're supposed to know even though she has neither asked nor told us this is something she doesn't want to ask about.

Seems all perfectly fair to me... Easy peasy, I know EXACTLY how to behave.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

RIP Critical Thought

By all that's good in the world, is ANYONE thinking critically any more?

Or have we collectively just decided to surrender our critical thinking skills in favor of pundits and sound bites and emotions?

People who just weeks ago were war weary now rarin' to go back into the Middle East, guns a blazing, forgetting how little that has EVER accomplished in that region and how much of a quagmire it's going to be.  Great!  Let's condemn another tens of thousands of our young adults to PTSD and all sorts of mental and physical disfigurements, because ISIS.

And sure, that whole global climate change thing sounds scary, but if it's going to impact me in the slightest to fight it, well, it's just easier to believe the deniers.

And sure, sure, Emma Watson, so nice to have you remind us that feminism isn't anti-men, as you exhort men to heed the call to fight for exactly HALF of gender equality.  Sure, we've all been so indoctrinated that female infant genital mutilation is a crime against humanity.  The fact that we do it to the majority of our boys?  Oh, that's just because it looks prettier that way.  I will believe that feminism isn't anti-male when it starts pushing for ALL of gender equality, not just half of it.

And increasing numbers of people are calling for greater involvement by religion (by which they mean "Christian religion") in politics, because of course the wisdom of our forefathers in building a country this strong for this long is only worth anything so long as it doesn't offend our delicate sensibilities.  The GOP currently has the lowest approval ratings of any political group, and yet they're seen as "religion friendly" and so people vote for them, because who cares how badly we fuck things up, so long as the people in charge stroke our egos and tell us how attacked we poor majority members are.

Hell, latest polls even show a back slip in support for same sex marriage, and thank goodness, we were running the very real risk of seeming to be gaining tolerance.

Is there any hope for this country?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Interesting documentary on gender, nature vs nurture, and certain freedom paradoxes


Thursday, June 26, 2014


Y'know what?  I'm getting really tired of the whole crusade against anti-vaxers thing on Facebook lately.  And I get the pro vaccination side has the science on their side.

But I've noticed an interesting correlation, the loudest voices on the "anti-vaxers are stupid" side seem to be women, many of whom with profoundly feminist and pro-choice attitudes.

And this is where it's making me crazy, because I don't think they grasp the extent to which their argument is inherently contradictory.

If you want to spend a lot of time trying to educate people on the benefits of vaccinations, that's great.  Try to convince them that vaccinating is the right thing to do, try to educate them with science, try to show them how the things they believe have been disproved, discredited, or otherwise have come from disreputable sources.

But when you start haranguing people to pester them into doing what you believe they should do, or pushing to close what you see as loopholes in laws that allow people to choose for themselves, you are essentially fighting against the argument you've used for many years regarding abortion:  my body, my choice.

Because that's what it comes down to.  If a person chooses not to vaccinate, it is their body and they should have that right.  And the answer to that is "Well, if you choose not to vaccinate, that hurts everyone, because the herd immunity requires a certain percentage of vaccinations", but seriously, how would you react if I said "You shouldn't have that abortion, because the man you slept with, the baby and most of the members of your family believe abortion is wrong, and so in the best interests of everyone involved, you should be forced to carry that baby."

Everything else aside, you either believe in the sanctity of the body and the right of people to have ultimate say over their own, or you do not.  If you don't, then you need to find a better argument for why abortion should be allowed, because the self-righteous, sanctimonious "It's my body, you shouldn't be telling me what I have to do with it" argument is gone once you take the other side of the argument with regard to vaccines.

Look, I don't agree with a lot of people on a lot of things.  But that doesn't make me right and/or them wrong.  And even when I am, part of living in a free society is that freedom isn't restricted to only being free to choose the RIGHT answer, you're free to choose even if it's the WRONG answer.  And if you believe that vaccinations are ultimately harmful, or if you subscribe to a religion that equates taking vaccines into the body with accepting the imprint of the devil, or whatever you believe, ultimately it doesn't matter WHY.  It's your body, it's your choice, and if you don't want vaccines in your body, you should not be forced to have them.

I am absolutely not arguing the merits of the science.  I am saying the science doesn't matter, it is ultimately up to people to decide what to do with their own bodies (and by extension, their children's bodies, until those children are old enough to make up their own minds).

All I'm asking is that you be consistent.  Approach anti-vaxers the same way you'd approach a woman who was planning to have an abortion that you felt was ill-advised, with the same respect to their decision and with an attempt to persuade with facts rather than challenging the right to bodily autonomy.

Because honestly, the more you try to FORCE the vaccines, the more the die-hards will push back anyway.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Check Your Privilege

Y'know, any time anyone in the United States tells someone else to "check your privilege" without a trace of irony, unless there is an implied "WE should" in front of it, they're missing the point.

Monday, May 26, 2014


So, today's thoughts are on Feminism and two memes which I run into increasingly lately.

Before we begin, let's recall that feminist theory commonly calls out men for failing to respect a woman's feelings, or for attempting to suppress a woman's input into any topic of discussion.  One gets the impression that to modern feminism, respect for feelings is of the utmost importance.

If that's the case, why the "mansplaining" meme?  At what point did the "we must respect everyone's right to have some input" crowd decide it was okay to dismiss anything a man has to say as "mansplaining", which has come to be synonymous with "not worthy of consideration"?

The other meme, even newer (at least to me, I started seeing it in the last month or two) is the "not all men" meme.  The idea of this one is that when someone says "Men are (some negative thing in the eyes of feminism)", when a man points out that "not all men are this way", this man is dismissing the problems of women with an irrelevant (to feminists) response and therefore deflecting attention away to the REAL problem, which is the problem the feminists care about.  How is this respect for the feelings of the man in question, who has just been tarred in one broad stereotype with a negative brush which does not apply to all (or even most) men?  How is this any different than the feminist who, upon running into a negative stereotype about women, loudly lectures the speaker of said stereotype on how not all women are like that?

It seems to me that today it's become perfectly acceptable in feminism circles, even laudable, to treat men the way feminists themselves absolutely demand women not be treated.

And yes, I've heard the common answer to that objection:  Women have been so down-trodden for so long, as a class, by all men, that therefore extra protections are warranted.

But let's dissect that a bit, shall we?  Has the world historically been all to the benefit of men and all to the detriment of women?  Or has there been a gender divide which historically has served (and harmed) both genders, and which perhaps has outgrown it's usefulness (much like the appendix or the tail bone)?

If you really believe that there's this huge patriarchy that was built solely for the benefit of men at the exclusion of women, explain to me why throughout history, men, not women, have been expected to go to war when war was necessary?  Why men are traditionally supposed to lay down their lives on a ship that's going down in favor of the women and children?  Why men have traditionally done most of the dangerous, life threatening jobs (other than childbirth, in which topic there is no option)?

Childbirth is in fact the answer.  The truth is that in any society, from a continuation-of-the-society-or-species standpoint, adult males are more disposable than adult females.

Consider a society with 100 adults, 50 men and 50 women.  If a tragedy strikes and 49 of your society is killed, the effect on the next generation of your society is more or less directly proportional to the number of your women killed, but unless you kill ALL of the men, the effect on the size of your next generation is almost negligible compared to the number of your men killed.

Think about it, in the above society, if you lose half of the men and half of the women, the next generation is going to be roughly half the size of the current one.  Yes, it's not exact, because in a crises, perhaps the women will choose to have some extra children they might not otherwise have chosen, but you get the idea.  In any one year, the number of babies that can be had is halved.  Now imagine the 49 people killed were ALL women.  Now, in any one year (give or take a month or two), you can have at most one baby.

Now imagine the 49 people killed were all MEN.  The birthrate in the society need not change at all, so long as our one exhausted man and all of our 50 women take their responsibility to the needs of the society seriously enough.  Granted longer term there may be increased genetic problems due to the next generation consisting entirely of siblings and half-siblings, but at least there IS a next generation.

If you understand this "needs of the species driving even stronger than self-preservation need" drive, you can start to understand a lot of where our historical gender divide came from.  It was not akin to slave days, with a batch of white sitting around saying "Hey, I can live pretty well if I own other people and force them to do all of the shit work, leaving me to only have to do the stuff I don't trust them to do".  This was a species, having adapted to the realities of the world, not because the species CHOSE to, but because by adapting that particular evolutionary path, they survived when other species (or other branches of the same species) which did NOT adopt the same "species before self" imperative died off.

This, I think, is the problem modern feminism needs to grasp, and the reason why I get upset when I see the men's human rights movement (MHRM) dismissed as a batch of misogynist assholes.  The members of the MHRM with whom I've had contact have not in any way been trying to perpetuate the gender distinctions of the past.  They've merely been trying to point out that while we're doing away with the traditional gender roles that have been a detriment to women, we must also do away with the ones that have been a detriment to men.

Women want to earn the same money as men for the same job, that's great.  And studies I've read have shown that when you correct for all of the variables, not just same job title, but same actual work, same willingness to work long hours, same willingness to travel as needed, same willingness to take risky assignments, the pay differential almost entirely disappears.  And women say "Well, that's because we have to take care of the children, too".  And to THAT I say "If you hadn't pushed so hard to define in society and the courts that women are the better caretakers and the logical primary guardian of the children, that wouldn't be a problem.  But you made that bed, now you get to lie in it."

How, exactly, should that matter to employers?  If an employer has two employees in the same position, but one of them works their 40 hours and goes home, and says "I'm sorry, I can't go on that business trip because I have to take care of my children", and says "I'd prefer that safe assignment over this risky one", while the other employee works the long hours, takes the trips, accepts the risky assignments, who do you think is going to get the promotions, the raises, the accolades, regardless of the genders involved?

But anyway, regardless of whether it's true now or not, if we work to equalize pay for the genders, should we not also work to equalize who pays for what on a date?  And equalize who pays how much child support to whom?

If women want the right to have sex without assuming any risk of close to 20 years of toil and resource drain of an unwanted resulting pregnancy, should not men have a similar "get out of jail free card"?  Is the use of a body as a living gestational vessel for 9 months really all that much greater an imposition than 18 years of the resources and labors of a person's life?

If women want the right to be in combat roles in the military, should they not also have the same responsibilities as men to register for the draft and be subject to it, should the draft ever be activated?

As a society, our job is to figure out whether we want to be a 100% egalitarian society, gender-wise, or whether we're willing to recognize certain inherent differences.  Once we decide on that, we can then either decide to do our best to make everything as exactly equal as possible, or we can decide what differences we think are acceptable and attempt to even the scales so that if, for example, one gender gets preferential treatment when it comes to being required to register to go to war if it comes to that, perhaps it's OK if the other one gets preferential treatment in some other area of life, to make up for it.

Friday, March 07, 2014


So, I'm coming to the conclusion that I'm different.

Not just slightly different, but fundamentally different.

And I don't mean this in a "look at me, I'm a special, unique flower" way, I mean in a "damn, I suck, I make no sense, my behavior does not fit in to anyone's models of human behavior" way.

The more I read about human sexuality, for example, the more I realize that I'm not even in the same state as "normal human sexual response".

The more I read about human interactions, the more I realize that my own interactions are so very different.

And the more I compare my actual behavior to the model in my head of the person I want to be, the more I realize that I am not that person, and therein stems some of the roots of my depression.

I wish I knew why I was so different from everyone else.  I feel like an autistic person, but without a recognized syndrome to explain my differences away.  If I could just find a name for what I am, and a peer group that exhibits the same behaviors, so that I could say "No, I'm not wrong or broken or completely different, I just have Blah-de-blah's Syndrome, and I'm one of .75% of the population that has this, and there are other people like me!"

As it is, even when I run into someone whose brain appears to work the way mine does, such as one of my former girlfriends, I still find that those similarities end up seeming superficial, and she's still orders of magnitude closer to normal human behavior than I am.

And here's the key, it's not merely that I'm not the same, I literally do not understand some "normal" human behavior.  Intellectually I do, I can read the words I can understand the theories for why people behave the way they do, but if I were to act in that fashion, it would be theater, it would be a constant put on act and a conscious decision, and exceedingly tiring to try to do all the time (I spend enough energy trying to behave not-depressed on the days when I am).

So what is it?  Why am I so different?  And why does it make me feel so broken and just wrong?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

AZ's Law and Sharia Law

As I write this, the legislature in the state of AZ has passed a law (currently awaiting the Governor's signature or veto) which would essentially make it illegal for a law to substantially interfere with someone's religious beliefs.

This is essentially in large part in response to several recent cases (in other states) such as a New Mexico photographer who refused to take pictures of a lesbian couple's 'commitment ceremony', a Washington state florist who refused to provide flowers for a same sex wedding and a Colorado baker who was threatened with a fine and jail time for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple.

And I have spoken volumes on my opinion of such laws, and also of the fact that if you take one passage from Leviticus and use it to claim a religious justification for not serving gays while still happily serving the nuptial needs of couples on a second marriage and couples who have (overwhelmingly, according to statistical probability) fornicated prior to marriage, and have chosen this one passage as more important than the actual words of the guy after whom your religion is named in telling you how to love your neighbor and treat him well even if he is not the pinnacle of acceptance in society, then you are cherry picking your religious texts in order to justify your own personal bigotry, rather than taking a stand for some higher principle.

But nevertheless, something else occurred to me, too.  Just like the Louisiana lawmakers who were SHOCKED to discover that the "state funded vouchers to be used for religious private schools" law applied just as well to Muslim religious schools as to Christian ones, so too this law could have consequences that the supporters of the law might be shocked to discover:

Muslim Sharia law.  In the Venn diagram of politics, there is almost certainly a huge overlap between the supporters of the new law in AZ and the group of people regularly fear mongering that Muslims are trying to get Sharia law installed here.

Well guess what, the AZ law would further that cause, because what the law essentially says is that you can violate a whole host of other laws if following that law would violate your religious beliefs.  Which essentially means if there's an aspect of Sharia law which we as non Muslim Americans might find abhorrent, the state of AZ would not be in a position to enforce the law because the religious beliefs behind Sharia law would be violated.

It amazes me that the same people who think Sharia law would be the worst thing ever to happen to this country are, by and large, the same people who think that nothing could possibly be better for this country than legislating from the Bible, even though to those of us on the outside of both religions, there's very little difference to be seen between the two options.

It also amazes me how many times these sorts of laws come back to bite the lawmakers in the butt.  Here's how this plays out if Gov. Jan Brewer opts to sign this bill (last year she vetoed a similar bill, but is looking like she might be considering signing this one):

1)  Within a year or two, some case involving Sharia law comes up in AZ, someone doing something that's required under Sharia law but in violation of state law.

2)  AZ state courts find that due to this new law, the devout Muslims must be allowed to follow their religious beliefs.

3)  AZ legislators (by and large the same ones who thought this law was just ducky when it was intended to allow Christians to discriminate against gay people) will try to pass a reactionary law restricting Sharia law.

4)  That reactionary law is challenged and ultimately struck down as violating the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

5)  End result, either AZ voluntarily takes down it's new law, because they "never imagined anyone could use it to support Sharia!" or else Sharia gets a strong foothold in AZ.

Amazingly, the lawmakers here do not see this and will be just as blindsided as their LA brethren, now fuming because state money is going to Muslim religious schools, and they can do nothing about it.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

On Free Markets

I continue to believe that the libertarian philosophy sounds good in theory, but in practice does not work. I feel as though pure libertarian philosophy works in the same universe that pure socialism works, aka one in which human nature is something other than it actually is, and I want to put down a little bit of why, because I'm tired of making this argument, and I'd like to have it consolidated in one place.

Part of the problem is the "some of something is good, more of that thing is better" philosophy that people so often fall prey to. Think of water. If you're in a desert and have been for a few days, it's hard to imagine there ever being TOO MUCH water. But if you're in a tsunami, it's hard to imagine ever WANTING for water. It's all a matter of the middle ground.

In our American diet, we eat too many fats, and so a lower fat diet is good. A diet that eliminates ALL fat is bad, and we would die if we followed that for too long.
This, I think, is a large part of my philosophy on life: It is a continuum. There isn't a binary state between liberal and conservative, there is a continuum, and it's OK to be a bit more liberal on some things and a bit more conservative on others, and find that in just about any area of life, you will find people who exist further to the extremes on BOTH sides of you.

I find it very odd that libertarians regularly make the argument that smaller government would "stop screwing the little guy", while the big money players all push for smaller government because they know less government would mean less regulation which would mean making more money. So who is government really helping, the little guy or the big guy? I'm inclined to believe the that the little guy is being protected a whole lot more than he's being harmed.

For the free market to work, we have to have a number of things which are simply not in evidence in human nature: a good source of reliable information, the ability to efficiently process information to filter out the BS and only keep the good information, the time and organizational skills necessary to keep that information on everyone we have business dealings with, immunity from advertising, and a tendency to look to the long term over immediate gratification.

Taking these one at a time.

Good source of information we have, but we have TOO MUCH of it. We're inundated with it, and it is simply not possible for most people to process all of it. As I write this, there's a minor kerfuffle over Barilla brand pasta because one of their executives said something homophobic, and right now, that has our attention. But as we go to the store and buy our Prince pasta and think we're taking a stand against Barilla's homophobia, we are ignoring the fact that many people simply aren't even aware of this issue (and so our token protest probably doesn't even amount to anything), and also that we DON'T know what we don't know about Prince. Let's say for a moment (and this is all hypothetical, none of it is true to my knowledge) that Prince dumps toxic waste products directly into a lake near their factory, or produces their pasta in a sweatshop, or donates money to white supremacist groups. But we aren't aware of it, and so while we think we're doing something good, perhaps Barilla is actually the LESSER of the two evils, and we've gone the other way because we didn't get the good information.

Reliable filter we certainly don't have. I've told the Bubble Yum story before, but here it is again: When I was in high school, and Bubble Yum bubble gum was a new brand, I remember it was “common knowledge” that Bubble Yum had been found to contain spiders eggs, and that there had been at least one instance of a child biting into a piece and finding a mouth full of baby spiders. It was, of course, complete BS.

Now, imagine that Hubba Bubba had in fact that very problem. To get out in front of it, they start a viral marketing campaign convincing everyone that it is Bubble Yum that has the problem. Eventually it blows over.

Now, when it comes out that in fact it is Hubba Bubba that has the problem, how do most people react? Either with brand confusion, saying “Oh, that’s old news, it wasn’t true” and dismissing it, or saying “Oh, well, I guess they all do it” and dismissing it, or saying “Yeah, fool me once, shame on you, it wasn’t true last time, why should I believe it this time?”

When someone has the monetary equivalent of a bullhorn, they can control (to some extent) the information flow, and the free market does not work as it should.

Immunity from advertising we definitely do not have. I've also told the Coke vs Pepsi story before, but again, here it is: In college, my friends and I were pretty evenly divided into the “Coke people” and the “Pepsi people”. We each sort of privately considered our cola of choice to be the best and couldn’t really understand how the other side could drink that “sewer water”.

So one day, we decided to do a blind taste test. Not double blind, maybe not scientifically valid, but it was good enough for us. So we bought some Coke, some Pepsi, and some RC Cola as a control.

And guess what, the RC Cola (which cost about 20% less than the other two) won the taste test. Almost universally, we preferred its taste over the big two.

And yet within a fairly short period, the Coke people were back to drinking solely Coke, the Pepsi people were back to drinking solely Pepsi, and I (as the lone guy still sticking with the RC Cola) being looked at kind of funny when I’d grab the RC on a shopping run.

Time and organization to keep it all current I sort of already covered in the first section.

Prioritizing long term good over immediate gratification we absolutely don't have, and if you think we do, just look at the obesity problem in our nation. With all of that tasty fast food around, so very few of us are willing to say "Hey, I'll be a lot healthier throughout my life if I don't stop for that big mac as a snack between meals".

Look also at shopping. How many people decry some of Wal*Mart's business practices, and yet how many of us shop there, because we can find the same things there at a significantly cheaper price than we can most anywhere else? Would it really make the majority of people be willing to spend more just because they knew product x was made in a facility that polluted heavily, when given the choice between saving money NOW vs. the threat of an unlivable environment LATER?

And the free market people say "Well, if people value cheaper products over clean air and water, then the market works, and whose business is it to force them to make a different choice?"

And to that I say two things: Sometimes, we really DO need someone to look over our shoulders and make sure we do the right thing. But more importantly, things like pollution affect EVERYONE. So without someone saying "Hey, we need to protect the commons", I can spend twice as much as everyone else for environmentally conscious products, and if almost no one else does, all I've ended up doing is spending more money and STILL having to live in a world with air I can barely breathe and water I can't drink.

It's SO very easy to make the free market case (and so many of the other cases we hear these days) when you have it good. We have generally clean-ish air and water. We have relatively safe and effective medications. We have a relatively safe food supply. (And if you point to the exceptions to claim we don't, let me point out what a big deal it is when we hear about an e-coli outbreak. They happen so infrequently that it's a big deal when they happen!)

If we enact libertarian philosophies, and in 25 years we have to purchase all of our water from industrial purification companies because the ground water is undrinkable, and have to wear masks when we go outside because the air is toxic, I'm pretty sure at that point no one is going to be objecting to a little government regulation to keep things clean and safe.

We have a good road system, so it's easy to complain about having to pay for it, because we don't see what it would be like NOT to have one. We have a strong military and generally effective policy/fire/emergency teams, and a generally fair judicial system. Is any of it perfect? No, nothing made by humans ever will be. But when things are at their best, it's easy to forget or ignore the level of effort it took to GET them there and just object to having to do your part.

Now, having said all of that, don't take ANYTHING I've said here to mean that I don't support capitalism. What I'm arguing against is the extreme. Absolutely there are aspects of the capitalist, free-ish market system we have which are vital to the way our country runs, and a lot of progress would not be made without the potential to reap rewards for taking the risks. But honestly, I don't run into very many people (other than caricatures and straw men in the minds of the right wing) who truly advocate for a fully socialist society here in the U.S., while I DO hear people claiming that completely unregulated free markets would cure a lot of the problems we have and do so more efficiently than government does, and with less corruption and bloat, and that is the argument I simply find unsustainable.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

One of the reasons I hate Fox News and the "Party before everything else" nature of right wing politics these days is that they've made me into a partisan, and I really don't want to be one.

What do I mean by that? I mean that I would like to be free to assess the President and his performance, and like him for what he does well and be annoyed at him for what he doesn't do well. But the problem is that there's a better chance of successfully serving deep-fried snowflakes at your next dinner party than that this President could ever do anything which gained any significant level of approval from the right wing echo chamber.

Which means no matter WHAT he does, the loudest chorus of voices is telling us why it sucks, why it hurts America, why he's a terrible President, and how many other people are clamoring to be rid of him... in spite of the fact that it's all partisan BS. I've said it before, but I honestly believe some members on the right would say "Y'know, she wasn't really all that great" if Obama suggested naming her Mother of the Year.

So how does this make me a partisan? I no longer feel confident is disliking something the President did, because I'm never sure whether the facts are what I hear, or whether that's the echo chamber spin. It's so easy to fall into the trap of increased and unreasonable expectations.

The truth is, I see more to like than to dislike about this President, certainly more than his predecessor, and most of the things I like least about him are where he has not done enough (or anything at all) to change some of the most anti-American policies of that predecessor.

And it really is the fault of the propaganda. When all you hear is bogus complaints and outrage from people who could have been bet upon with 100% certainty before the fact to be outraged before you even knew what the President was going to do, you get to wonder A) is my outrage at this one thing even real, or have I been influenced, and  shouldn't I just give him a pass on this thing? He's got enough people giving him crap for things he doesn't deserve it for.

This is the legacy of Fox News. More damage to the soul of this nation than any terrorist attack ever could do.

Friday, July 12, 2013


I don't know this woman, I've never read her blog, don't know what else she has to say.

However, I've made this argument many times and been shot down. Perhaps because I'm a guy, and even though I would never actually make use of the option if it were available.

I wonder if it will be received any better when it comes from a woman.


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

For Profit Prisons. What could POSSIBLY go wrong.

My thoughts on this:


If you still think privatized prisons are a good idea, just go ahead and unfriend me now. THIS is exactly why privatized, for-profit prisons are a TERRIBLE idea.

Our courts should never be a source of profit. There should never be any incentive for anything other than serving justice in our judges.

Given the extreme violation of his public trust, I would have no problem what so ever seizing everything he owns to pay some restitution to those unjustly imprisoned. Hell, if he's going to be in prison for life, he won't need any of it.

None of this $1.2 million crap that averages out to $240 per person. Take every last thing the man has. Not punitively, but to try to pay back as much as possible of what he stole from those people.

And yes, I know some of them may have been legitimately imprisoned, just... expedited. Still, in the expediting process, he skipped over important protections our society provides.

I'm sitting here, and I honestly can't think of a punishment that I'd think was out of line. I can think of some I wouldn't personally ADVOCATE, but if it were to happen, I wouldn't argue in his favor...

*     *     *

There's ANOTHER reason to point out to the "privatizing is better" crowd: Each of these cases (or at least, those who would not otherwise be found guilty in a fair trial, or who would have received lighter sentences if there weren't a bounty) are costing taxpayers money.

Each one of these people is now in the prison system, and the privatized jail model doesn't mean we don't have to pay for it, it just means we pay on a "per inmate per day" basis rather than a "time and materials" basis. So each day one of these wrongly convicted or up-punished kids spent in jail is one more bit of money going from the taxpayers.

Which means even if the jail is run more efficiently than the government can do it (an assertion about which I've seen numerous studies indicating that it's not actually true, which makes sense if you think about it, if you can't do something for less than $x dollars, how can you turn it into a for-profit model, add in the overhead of profit margin, and come in UNDER $x), that difference was almost certainly more than made up for by the increased bed count in the prison, paying for inmates that under a fairer system would not have been there.

And finally, I have to say, I'm a little afraid of the slippery slope. I know slippery slope arguments are themselves slippery slopes, but really, if we privatize the jails, is it really that much of a stretch to believe someone might suggest privatizing the courts as well? And if that happens, can you not see people shopping around for a court the way one shops around for a lawyer, choosing the court that has a history of finding in the direction you want them to find?

This whole thing is a huge travesty of justice, brought to us by greedy people who have reaped all of the benefits of the system we had, and can't conceive of either being expected to pay to continue to support the system that got them where they are, or that these things aren't just magically delivered by fairies, if we stop paying for them, they WILL stop happening.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Until we view basic health care as a human right instead of a fungible commodity, nothing will change.

We need a single payer system. In spite of the horror stories opponents like to tell (as if there's any country-sized system anywhere that's not going to have a few examples of problems), in most of those countries if you asked them if they'd like to exchange their system for ours, overwhelmingly people say "no".

Honestly, I really feel like we have it TOO GOOD in this country, and those who believe the government does nothing well and stands in the way of personal liberty have lost sight of all of the things they don't have to worry about BECAUSE our government handles them so well and so efficiently. To be part of a society, you have to have a social contract. And to have an effective social contract, you have to have a way of enforcing and administering it. That is government.

Last night, my girlfriend and I were discussing this, and we sort of came up with the idea that anyone who is against health care reform and a single payer system should spend a year living in Germany or the UK and get sick at least a couple of times while doing it. And anyone who continues to believe that government does nothing well and is just an inhibitor on "liberty" should spend a year in Somalia or some other country where you've got all the damned liberty you want, no one restricts your ability to do anything you want. See if that's really more to your liking.

Honestly, these people have lived their entire lives living with the benefits of our society, the benefits our government, and our unions, and our level of socialization has purchased for them, that they honestly do not believe that being given an anarchy-level of freedom would result in society changing at all.

It's like someone who had never gone hungry a day in their life talking about how unimportant the supply line for food is. They simply cannot conceive of the concept of hunger, and so the consequences of losing the thing they think is unimportant are just not recognizable to them.

Thursday, April 11, 2013


My friend Frank Dana posted this on Facebook.  He said he was himself stealing it from a comment someone made elsewhere, but he did not name the other person, so I can't name them here, either.

But this goes so much more eloquently to the reasons why I think our disparity of wealth is such a bad thing that I had to share it.

I will have some comments of my own at the bottom.  The stuff in bold italics is quoted and not original to me.

...Why do we tolerate mega-wealth? — Not mere millionaires, but really obscene, couldn't-possibly-use-it-all accumulations of untold multiple billions of dollars? Your Bill Gateses your Saudi sheiks, your Apple Computers. (And this isn't about Apple's corporate value, but its _wealth_ — some say they could be sitting on as much as $100 billion.) Societally, I mean, why do we accept, admire, even praise the "achievement" of consolidating so much wealth into the control of one entity?

If your small fishing village was experiencing a famine, or if your country had instituted wartime rationing of food, it wouldn't be considered "okay" for some morbidly obese glutton to be stuffing himself to death with food while everyone around him fought not to starve. Even if he obtained the food fairly, heck even if he produced every bite of it himself, it would still be viewed as _shameful_ to be wallowing in such excesses of consumption. It wouldn't have to be illegal, or even "wrong", to be viewed as morally lacking, and most people would take a dim view of someone with such a gluttonous appetite, and so little self-awareness or empathy for the other members of the community. Fatso would get the stink-eye, for sure.

Yet, when someone scrapes together a pile of gold big enough to choke the Nile and shoves it in their basement, we marvel at their achievement and praise their "success", as if what they've accumulated are merely points on a scoreboard, and not actual, fungible resources. (Money, dammit, IS a commodity, if perhaps a uniquely volatile one.) Why do we drool over Apple's $100 billion corporate bank account, and devour breathlessly-written pieces on what a "problem" they have trying to figure out how to spend all that cash, without even raising the question of whether their massive wealth is a good thing? How could it not be, right?

Wouldn't it be appropriate (perhaps even more appropriate) to instead react with something like, "Holy shit, Apple so overprices their products, and/or underpays their employees or suppliers, that they're sitting on $100 billion in CASH from being the peddlers of wildly unnecessary digital toys."? Why would it be wrong to consider their massive wealth and the process by which they achieved it just as gluttonous, shameful, and reprehensible as our theoretical food-hoarder?

Or, take Bill Gates. Now, he's done a lot of really amazing things with his wealth, things which are undeniably praiseworthy. I have absolutely no desire to diminish the incredibly generosity he's demonstrated, with his incredibly vast personal fortune. But, thing is, he didn't HAVE to do that. (Which makes it all the more laudable, of course.) He could just as easily have sat on the entire $70+ billion or whatever it was, or swam around in it like Scrooge McDuck. So, why would we (again, societally) favor people having that option? Why was it even "okay" that he became worth so much to begin with, regardless of what he did or didn't ultimately choose to do with the money? Why are we so unquestioningly worshipful of financial gluttony?

I love this take on it.  I usually focus on the difference is value to society and level of effort, and conclude that I simply do not believe a CEO works 300-400 times harder than the average employee at their company.  I certainly don't believe (what with golden parachutes and the like) that CEOs take any more risks than the people below (who oddly seem to often be the ones who take it in the shorts, thus earning the CEO a huge bonus).  And given the performance of a lot of CEOs, it doesn't even seem to be pay-for-performance or pay-for-excellence, it seems to largely be "Find a random person with an MBA, dump a wagon load of cash on them, and pray that they don't fuck up too badly".

Similarly, I do not see what it is that hedge fund managers do that's worthy of hundreds of millions of dollars, and SO worthwhile to society that they deserve to have that income taxed at a much lower rate than anyone else.

That hedge fund manager certainly does not work harder than the construction worker pulling long shifts building bridges or paving roads.  Arguably doesn't provide more to society.  And certainly hasn't risked more.  And yet there they are with the piles of loot and arguing that they shouldn't be taxed any higher because damn it, they EARNED what they have, and they deserve it all.

But I very much like this other way of looking at it.  We watch the TV show "Hoarders" and laugh at or pity the people who feel a compulsion to keep everything, to just amass STUFF.  Someone sitting in their house with every newspaper they ever bought is crazy, but someone sitting on an equivalent pile of money, gathered long after every conceivable need for more had been met, simply because they have a level of greed that demands that they take ever more... this is not laudable behavior.  It is sick.

Do we all want to be rich?  Most of us do, yeah.  And I don't fault people who are lucky enough to have the opportunity to actually get there for taking that opportunity.  But I also don't feel at all bad for someone sitting on an income of a hundred million dollars if we ask them to give half of that back.  They're STILL almost certainly vastly overpaid for their level of effort, risk and value to society.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

How One Atheist (or Agnostic) Sees The World

A Christian asked me the following questions in a discussion over religion and atheism, and I wrote the answer below, and I liked it enough to want to save it in a more easily accessible location than Facebook.

The questions:

Just how do you determine what is right or wrong without God? And what do you do about guilt and what is the purpose of guilt? Do you think there is a difference between people and animals? Do people have souls?

And my answers:

OK, in order... to me, good and evil is based largely on empathy and unwilling harm done to others. So to me, it is evil to murder someone (you're taking away their life without their approval), but it is not evil to assist someone in suicide (for instance, if they're a terminal patient, assuming the person is making a fully informed decision and hasn't been coerced or misled into the decision).

I do not find "victimless" crimes to be particularly bad, except when they're "victimless" only in that you happened to not hurt someone. (For instance, I don't have any problem with consensual sodomy in any form, but I think drunk driving is evil, because drunk driving MAY be victimless, most of the time, but it puts other people at serious risk due to YOUR risky behavior, and the times that it ISN'T victimless can be pretty extreme). I'd be open to discussing whether drunk driving should be treated as never victimless and punished whenever it's found, or whether we should say "No, if you don't hit anyone, you're fine, but if you kill someone and you're found to be drunk, you face the death penalty", aka make it only a crime if you ACTUALLY hurt someone, but make the punishment so extreme that no one wants to risk it.

And it isn't the HARM that's the problem, it's the harm done to someone against their will. And by that I mean that I think it's STUPID to play Russian Roulette, but if a group of people wants, of their own accord and with no coercion, to play the game, I don't think that's EVIL, even though some of the participants will almost certainly die. No one there dies who didn't know it was a possibility and who didn't willingly join into the game.

So that's a very simplified view of my take on right and wrong. 
But honestly, it's a "do unto others" situation. If I wouldn't want it done to me, or if a reasonable person wouldn't want it done to them even if it's not something I mind, then in general, doing it to someone against their will is bad. It doesn't require the threat of a God to recognize that, nor the teaching of a religion to make clear what should be obvious to every normal human being.

Question two I don't understand. What do I do about guilt? I feel guilt the same way anyone else feels guilt. Some more so, some less so, but guilt does not, IMO, come from religion (although some religious people convince themselves that the source of their guilt is "shame before God"). But I don't know what you mean by "what do you do about it and what is the purpose of it". What is the purpose of any emotion? What is the purpose of happiness? Sadness? Excitement? Envy? I'm sure they all have biological purposes, at some point each of those emotions in some way enhanced the chances of survival of those people who had it over those who did not. Beyond that, I'm not sure there's some grand universal "purpose".

Do I think there's a difference between people and animals? I struggle with this one all the time. Clearly we sort of have to dismiss that to some extent, or we'd never be able to eat meat, but that might be an intentional and necessary blindness rather than a reality. Certainly families that have dogs don't like to see their animal mistreated or harmed, or get sick. We know some animals can learn, which means there's intelligence there. But I am leery of getting into the "relative intelligence" debate, because that's a slippery slope to the "Ok, if it's intelligence, then are mentally challenged people less human than average humans? Are Mensa members MORE human than average?"

So... I can't really answer that. I try not to inflict any unnecessary pain or mistreatment upon animals, because there's no reason to be cruel, but I am not a vegetarian, so clearly I've convinced myself it's OK to eat them, or at least some of them, and I'm not above squashing a beetle or spider in my house or swatting a fly or a mosquito, and I wouldn't be at all happy doing any of those things to a fellow human being, even one in a persistent vegetative state (aka no more aware or intelligent than animals may be).

Do people have souls? Define souls. To my way of thinking, we don't yet completely understand the nature of awareness. What exactly is going on in the brain to make us aware? I don't mean WHAT we're aware OF, but THAT we're aware at all. I know you can make people have hallucinations by stimulating various portions of the brain, so certainly the brain is involved, but what aspect of the brain makes awareness happen? I don't believe we know, scientifically. And so that old "any sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from magic" argument kicks in, and lacking any better answer, I suppose you can call that "a soul" until we discover a better answer for it.

Remember, I'm agnostic, not atheist, which means I'm honestly not sure if there's anything after death. I don't think it likely involves God in any way that human beings currently conceive of the concept, but we have ZERO experience of people coming back who have gone FULLY through that door for more than a few seconds.

Let's analogize to one of those one-way, full-height turnstiles in subways. You are in a building and you see one of those that leads into another part of the building, and you have NO idea what's over there. You do know that you've seen people go through it, and the only people who have come back didn't really go FULLY through it, and they report having seen things on the other side, but clearly their view wasn't much better than just standing next to the turnstile.

What's on the other side? You can't see. You have no reliable testimony from anyone who has been there. So all you can do is speculate. It could be a wild party, so much fun no one even considers leaving. It could be filled with poison gas and the moment you're out of sight down the hallway, you die. It could be that you're just trapped there and no one comes back because no one can get out. It could be that there's another exit out of the building on that side, and no one comes out because they leave the building and go home and you just don't see them.

Death is, to me, the same way. The number of possibilities I can think of is myriad and of course includes the very real possibility that this is it, when we die our consciousness is extinguished along with our body, and that's just the end of it. My ego doesn't like this answer, because ultimately I think it's human nature to reject the idea that we are not the center of the universe or somehow essential to it... but just because we don't like something isn't reason to believe the contrary. I don't like that I'm going to die one day, but that doesn't mean I get to believe that I'm immortal.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The words of a friend

A friend of mine posted this on our community message board, in response to a number of the knee-jerk gun protectionists that spring into action the moment there's any sort of gun related tragedy such as the heinous murder of 20 near-babies and 6 school staff in Newtown, CT late last week.

I have been answering one and two at a time the charges, such as

  • that guns make you safer (statistically they don't, you are more likely to be shot with your own gun than ever to successfully defend yourself or your home with one)
  • that it is possible to be safe and responsible with guns (may be, but there are a lot of people who think they are both things but who are in fact not, such as the mother of the unnamed evil-incarnate that took all of those innocent lives)
  • that guns are necessary in case the government overreaches (in a world of drones and missiles and tanks and the like, exactly how much is any gun, even a semi-automatic assault weapon, going to help even if it does become necessary to overthrow the government, which we rather hope will never happen anyway)
  • that restricting any gun ownership violates the second amendment (I don't see too many 'well regulated militias' around, and anyway I also don't see too many people advocating for private ownership of nukes, so we've all tacitly agreed there IS a line, we're not arguing over whether there is one, we're arguing over where it should be drawn)
  • that "guns don't kill people, people kill people" (true, but why should we make it easy and efficient with a product whose sole use is exactly that ease and efficiency of killing)
  • that "if you outlaw guns, only criminals will have them" (The types of criminals who will likely still have them will mostly be organized crime and professional assassins, neither of which tend to engage in the sort of random massacres that we're trying to prevent.  Also, just because you can't keep them out of the hands of every possible criminal is to you a good reason not to try to reduce the number of criminal hands that might be able to get hold of one?)
  • that "if more people had guns, someone would have stopped (insert your favorite mass killing)"  (The answer to this depends on the specifics of the case.  In the case of Kent State (which someone brought up), do you really imagine that someone drawing a gun would have REDUCED the number of casualties?  Would it not in fact have increased them, as the abusive authorities now felt threatened and considered the students to be resisting arrest?  In the case of the Batman theater murders a month or two ago, in the smoke and confusion, collateral damage from 'friendly fire' would have been high, to say nothing of confusion over who was a bad guy and who was a good guy, there's every reason to believe self-appointed saviors of the crowd could have started taking shots at one another, not realizing that the other gun-holding person wasn't the perp)

But my friend (who has asked to remain nameless, which I will respect, but who gave me permission to repost this unattributed) wrote a piece which says, I think, most of what I've been trying to say much more succinctly and persuasively, so here goes.  The rest of this post are words with which I agree, but which I did not author originally.


Guns do not make you safer. Inevitably, they end up being used against someone whom the gun was intended to protect, very often the gun's owner.

Guns make things more dangerous in contentious situations, not less - that’s just a fact. Life is full of arguments, disputes, anger, cheating, depression and resentment. Adding a gun to any of those situations is adding gasoline to a fire, one that can blow up in unpredictable ways, that can more easily have deadly results than if the gun were not present. We've learned that very hard lesson even here in Grantham this past year.

Having more even more powerful weapons with larger magazines available and legal turns the gasoline into dynamite, with predictably worse results.

There’s a certain amount of bravado in the arguments put forth by gun enthusiasts whenever tragedies like the one in Connecticut happen. If only someone with a gun had been there, maybe someone like themselves, they could have stopped this tragedy. Most profess to how their own weapon makes them secure and safe from harm - if only everyone had a gun, we’d all be so much safer, the argument goes.

Except, this isn’t true. Take a look at the facts of every mass-shooting that’s happened since the original “I don’t like Mondays” shooting back in the 70s. In nearly every instance, even when someone who was there *was* armed, it did them no good. Why not?

The answer is simple, and you don’t need to ask me. Just ask any cop on the beat - having non-law enforcement personnel at a crime scene with a weapon makes it more dangerous, not less. Once the shooting starts, these are scenes of chaos and danger, and you’re as likely to be shot as a perpetrator or shoot an innocent bystander yourself as to be the hero and save the day, probably more so. How do you sort out the "good guys" from the "bad guys" in a situation like that? How do I know that you, the guy who just drew a weapon, isn't another bad guy? Unless you're a cop or another trained professional, it's damn neigh impossible. The times when an armed individual was successful at intervening, it's usually an off-duty cop with professional training in how to handle those situations, not some self-appointed Dirty Harry.

Why do you think the professional police organizations all oppose radical initiatives like the "stand your ground" laws that overturn the "duty to retreat" doctrine that's been in place since we adopted English common law? It's because they know they'll make public places more dangerous, not less.

I highly recommend reading this Op-Ed from the New York Times that was written by an infantry officer who served two years in Afghanistan and Iraq, and who went to High School in Littleton Colorado when the Columbine shootings happened. He wrote this after the Aurora shooting spree this summer, and says it better than I ever could.


Monday, December 03, 2012

Partner Violence

This one is not politically correct.  But it's something which frustrates me, so I wanted to get it out there.

Every so often, some well-meaning person starts going off on "violence against women" as a problem in our society, and to the extent that violence against PEOPLE is a problem, and women are people, yes, violence against women is a problem.

My frustration is that the term is bandied about so often, many are left with the clear implication that when there is violence, it's against women.

Here are some statistics from the FBI on murder from 1995 and 1996.  More than five times as many men are murdered each year than are women.  So there's that.

The long "oh, please save the poor women" posts usually focus on partner on partner violence, so let's look at those numbers specifically.  Yes, the number of women murdered by their husband or boyfriend is higher for women than the converse for men.  But is it so overwhelmingly higher as to be almost trivial for men?  No.  Men are murdered by a wife/girlfriend more than once for every twice women are murdered by a husband/boyfriend.

Yes, the number is higher for women.  But it is not so much higher that we should be dismissing the men who are thus murdered, or portraying this as an act universally perpetrated BY men AGAINST women.

Statistically, men report less abuse than women do, but some studies have indicated this has less to do with a lower AMOUNT of abuse and more to do with societal attitudes.  Abused men are seen as weak, sissies, or just complainers.  How could a man POSSIBLY be abused?  They're so much bigger and stronger, says the sexist stereotype by some of the same people who would bristle if you were to bring up men as the stronger, more in-control gender under most other circumstances.

We have a plethora of abused women/children's shelters, but try finding one for abused men.  They're very difficult to find, even though again, statistically about half of relationship violence is perpetrated AGAINST men.

When police are called to a "domestic", overwhelmingly when one member of the couple is arrested or taken away to "cool off", it is the man, even when the woman was the one doing the abusing.  We just assume that if there's violence going on, it was perpetrated by, or at least initiated by, the man, or that he's such a high risk to accelerate it that he must be removed from the situation.

And let's take a look at the highly publicized violent acts.  For example, Lorena Bobbitt.  She cut her sleeping husband's penis off, and then discarded it in a field as she fled the scene, and among many, she was seen as a cult hero, a woman who stood up for herself.  She was arrested and tried and found not guilty.

Really?  Imagine the situation had been reversed.  Imagine a man who was taking the kinds of systematic abuse Ms. Bobbitt is reported to have taken at the hands of her husband.  Imagine that husband snapping one night and, instead of just leaving, filing for divorce and getting a restraining order, he'd physically cut some portion of her body off before leaving.

Do you imagine ANYONE would have considered him to be a hero?  It seems to me that he'd have been tried and convicted, with scores of "anti-violence-against-women" types claiming that no matter WHAT punishment he got, it was not sufficient, and in all likelihood, he'd have been required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

Look, I'm not saying partner violence isn't a problem.  I'm really not.

But PLEASE, let's talk about it as partner violence, not violence-on-women, because statistically the incidence in both directions is not that different, and so to try to make it out as a single-direction problem merely dismisses (and thus, further victimizes) roughly half of all of the victims.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Mutually Contradictory Positions

There are several policies on the right which are mutually contradictory as relates to abortion and population.

We often hear the complaint that poor people breeding excessively is a problem.  Putting aside the canard that they are doing so in order to increase their welfare receipts (because in most cases, that's just not the case), let's look at right wing policies and how they create exactly that problem.

Policy #1:  Abstinence Only Sex Education.

Teach children to say "no".  This is not reasonable, there are basic biological urges that most people cannot fully control.  We do it when we have to, such as by not wantonly having sex in the middle of a dinner party, or with whoever is around regardless of their consent, but it is not reasonable to expect people to be entirely abstinent.  This is a large part of why so many politicians have sex scandals, being human they are simply unable to resist their urges 24 hours a day, 7 days a week without break.  It is also probably a large part of the priesthood problems in the Catholic church.  Asking these normal, healthy men to subjugate that core part of themselves for life leads to issues.

So, we raise a generation that doesn't know what contraception is or how to use it.

Policy #2:  No Subsidized Contraception

Now, again because it's "not moral", let's not aid anyone in getting their contraception.  No, that's just aiding sluts who want something for free.  Which means now you have people who have probably not got a full grasp of what contraception is or how to use it properly to protect themselves now also having to decide whether they can AFFORD it.  Some won't be able to.  This will not prevent them from having sex (see #1), just prevent them from avoiding pregnancy.

Policy #3:  Anti Abortion

So now, we have people getting pregnant because they never learned how to have a normal sexual life safely, or could not afford their contraception, but now that's a LIFE, from the moment of conception (never mind that the Bible defines human life as beginning with the first breath, which happens after birth), and we dare not take it.  So this couple who conceived a child through carelessness or (more likely) through a lack of knowledge that you've engendered and a lack of access to affordable contraception that you've prevented, and you will not allow them to terminate the pregnancy.

Policy #4:  Complain

And finally, complain that these poor people, the ones most hit by policies #1 and #2 and exacerbated by #3, are breeding so much, and require government assistance to feed these children.

Really, this series of policies is kind of like having a policy of gathering seeds of invasive plant species, having another policy of strewing them around your property, having a third property of watering and fertilizing them, and then complaining because invasive plant species are taking over your yard.


Career Education