Friday, December 30, 2011

Would feminism oppose sex-selective abortion to prevent the decline of the female population?

Apparently not in this day and age.  At least they're being consistent, right?  Choose the legal capacity to make choices over the ontological ability to have choices to make.

If I haven't said it before, I've intended to say it a thousand times:  evil is ultimately self-consuming, suicidal.  It is only parasitic on the good and when it has done all the damage it can do to the particular good off of which it feeds, it turns to other goods and extinguishes them, eventually cutting off the branch on which it sits; or as Tolly put it in the Silmarillion: her uttermost famine she devoured herself at last.

Thus do all evils eventually collapse or expend themselves.  The great 20th century dictatorships made great efforts to cull millions of their own people; Germany was saved only by attracting the righteous fury of the Allies trying to rescue Europe from fascism, the Soviet Union was spared perhaps as much by the demise of Old Joe Stalin but was felled by a gross overestimation of the propensity of humans to work for others before themselves, and China perhaps was a wiser student of history but is these days merely taking new bait for the same trap.

So we see it in the Roe effect.  Evil is sterile and cannot propagate itself, not without corrupting another fecund good.  I would speculate that this is why when Jesus touched the unclean, they became clean rather than He unclean.  The beast may raise its head again but here is one more reason why abortion will end:  there will be no one left to support it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

From Ms. Magazine, ten questions they think will stump pro-lifers:

  1. How many years do you consider to be a fair prison term for a woman who has an abortion?
  2. How many years for a doctor who performs one?
  3. Will the punishments be greater the second time around? 
  4. Where will the state get the money necessary to prosecute one-third of all American women for this crime?
  5. Forty-two percent of women who have an abortion have incomes below 100 percent of the federal poverty level (that’s $10,830 for a single woman with no children, if you’re counting). When women are forced to have children they cannot afford to raise, will those children become wards of the state or simply new Medicaid recipients? Where will the state find the money necessary to support them?
  6. Will you be willing to watch your wife die in front of you when her life is threatened by an unsafe pregnancy that no one is allowed to do anything about? Your daughter?
  7. Will rapists have to pay child support to women who are forced to have their children?
  8. Will the child of incest be in the custody of its rapist father or the father’s teenaged daughter, his mother? In fact, 18 percent of women who have an abortion in America are teenagers. Will they be required to drop out of high school to raise their children or will the state provide free childcare?
  9. Will upper-class white women be prosecuted as vigorously as other women who have abortions?
  10. You are aware that upper-class white women have abortions, aren’t you?

From me:
  1. I don't know, what's the usual penalty for infanticide?  If she did it out of desperation, then I might say it's analogous to murder three.  It would be, after all, a felony.  We're not going to get to the point as a society where abortion is off the table until having a child--even just having one and giving her up for adoption--is not viewed as a greater problem than killing a child; where trying to make the problem go away instead of facing up to it is not viewed as preferable to taking a hit in the lifestyle.  Until then, just putting people in jail isn't going to be any better a solution than putting basement tokers in jail under "zero tolerance" laws has solved the drug problem.
  2. I don't know, what's the usual penalty for infanticide?  Since he's just doing it as a matter of course, then I might say it's analogous to murder one.  It would be, after all, a felony.  I'd make the same analogy as I did with the war on drugs, but abortion clinics are notorious for not meeting the professional or hygiene standards of real medical facilities, and that kind of problem is of a more dire order than an agglomeration of college dropouts living smokey lives of quiet dissipation.
  3. Aren't they usually?  Why wouldn't they be?  Couldn't think of more than nine good questions?
  4. From the money it doesn't give to Planned Parenthood (by some estimations, nearly a million dollars a day--one figure I saw was $363 million a year), if your assumption is correct that the vast increase in number of abortions after Roe would not be reversed by its overturn--and is that one third of all American women, or one third of all American pregnancies?  We should be clear on this point; I'm actually uncertain, and haven't seen numbers on the propensity of women to have abortions repeatedly, recently enough to remember any figures.  Or maybe we could do things differently:  Instead of making it illegal to procure an abortion, just make it illegal to perform one.  After all, we already have laws that distinguish between possessing, buying, and selling controlled substances; if we want to be sensitive to desperate and scared mothers, we could focus on the doctors who actually do the dirty work.  Similarly, going after drug dealers would probably be more effective than going after people who would just prefer to toke up on Friday nights with a few friends instead of gathering around a box of King Edwards and a bottle of Crown Royal Reserve.  But still:  if we wanted another zero-tolerance law to enforce, do you think a million a day would cover it?
  5. So fewer than half of women who have abortions live in poverty?  Why does it seem natural to kill children who would be born into poverty before finding your own answers to questions like "who would take care of them?" and "who can afford to have children?"  And why are you assuming that the state needs to shoulder the direct responsibility to care for children?  There is such a thing as finding would-be parents who would handle these details and save lawmakers and voters much grief.  Sure, kids are expensive to raise, but decrepit senior citizens are also expensive to keep in nursing homes, and I'd like to give them the chance to do better than hold a pillow over my face when they tire of watching me linger.  But if they do neither because they were never born alive, who's stuck with the job?  The state--that is, you taxpayers.  Does that trouble you now?  Sure, you get to start making claims about how your money gets spent, but now your money's getting diluted more and you'll be fighting with more people who are anteing up and also want a say on how their money's spent.  You're worried about money?  If we ban abortion, start giving money to Distributed Parenthood so adoption fees and whatever medical expenses accrued during delivery are covered for poor mothers, since it looks like Obamacare is going to be driving Catholic Charities out of the business and taking over most everything anyway.
  6. You're asking me if I would be willing to kill my son or daughter to save my wife's life, not just from an "unsafe" pregnancy where the complications surpass current medical arts, but where for some reason doctors are barred from acting (a facile equivocation; in the real world abortion isn't the only possible solution to pregnancy complications).  First, two words:  double effect.  That's an argument too big to pack in here.  Second, maybe you should ask my wife if she was willing to kill her son or daughter to save herself.  Making this about male oppression makes you the sexist.  As for my daughter, well, I would never kill my grandchildren, and I would hope she wouldn't either; I guess you could say we're "barred" from murdering our offspring by the same logic.  You want to talk about unsafe pregnancies?  Try to frame a hypothetical situation in terms that don't require me to commit or authorize physical violence to resolve a "sometimes life's just a bitch" problem.  I wouldn't even kill you to save someone's life, unless you yourself were the immediate threat, and even then my desire and intent would not be your demise but the removal of your immediate ability to propagate harm.  Half of all abortions are elective, anyway, which means there isn't a vast majority of genuinely troubled and at-risk mothers desperate enough to risk a D&E in some marginally sanitary office.
  7. I think that's the least they should do.  Forcing them to marry their victims like in the old days was never a good thing, but it did reflect at least a dim understanding of accountability for one's actions.  Why would you even ask this?  Trying to make it easier on rapists by insinuating that they shouldn't, that rape victims should be protected from any possible "reminders" of their attackers?  Have you really ever gotten to know mothers whose children were the product of rape?  Or is this just another shocker of a non sequitir to keep pro-lifers off balance and pretend you actually scored some rhetorical points?
  8. Again with making every solution a power of the state.  Thanks for the patronizing lesson in abortion statistics.  Why would a rapist of any stripe now get custody of the child, and why would that change?  Does it relate in any way to laws on the books before Roe?  The father's a rapist, he should be in jail.  Do you realize you're assuming we would stop prosecuting rape in the case of incest?  Where the hell do you get that idea?  Just throwing out outrageous suggestions to get a rise out of us, so you can either pretend we're the unreasonable people for taking rightful offense at offensive claims and acting like the the only scandalized adult in the room?  As for teenage mothers, if it really gets to be a problem, maybe we should start having day care at high schools; in the meantime, we have day care elsewhere, and maybe the feds could offer a tax break or subsidy for child care if we're going to go that route instead of leaving it to today's grandmothers to raise a second generation of kids, hopefully better than the first (don't get hung up on rape--the vast majority of accidental pregnancies are from consensual sex).
  9. Why shouldn't they?  Are their children not just as human as the poor brown children you insist we hold to a different standard?  Or are you referring to the fact that rich people, perhaps disproportionately, already are not prosecuted with the rigor as other demographics, when suspected or accused of the same crimes?  That's a fair cop, since it's something that already happens with all kinds of crimes, and probably has been happening in the West for the last five hundred years, and longer before that and in all other places if you replace "brown" and "rich and white" with any other two disparate demographic groups historically and geographically proximal to each other (whether or not it's just, the double standard between alien or minority and native or majority is almost universal), so I don't know why it's only a scandal when trying to trick people into thinking their desire for mercy for desperate and scared and pressured pregnant women is really a belief in choosing abortion.  I can only imagine this is supposed to be a parallel with the death penalty, but to really be a proper analogy, we'd be debating whether to legalize or ban murder on the grounds that fewer white people get the chair for murder:  there may be a problem, but this is a different one.
  10. Oh, I see.  You're the one who holds poor brown people and, apparently, rich white men to different standards.  So you're racist as well as sexist.  No wonder I was only incredulous, and not stumped, at your really insightful and penetrating, um, caricatures.  You think we don't think about who has abortions?  You think it only occurs to us that abortions don't only happen to "not me and nobody I know" but "not me, nobody I know, and nobody of my race or economic class?"  Do you realize how artificial a way of thinking that is?  In spite of this, do you think it hasn't occurred to us that while perhaps a third of pregnancies end in abortion, half of all pregnancies of black women end in abortion?  Do you think we haven't noticed that, while half of abortions are not for reasons of medical or financial desperation (I'm reluctant to say "necessity"), the majority of Planned Parenthood clinics are in poor neighborhoods?  Do you think those rich white folks you so disparage are just going to happily come to those run-down and dangerous parts of town you want to pretend we think don't exist?  Do you think we haven't noticed that these differences are, as they say, statistically significant?  I'll tell you this much:  it's not because we're promoting abortion among minorities.  What do you think is going to happen to minorities if they maintain the highest abortion rates in the country?  But please, by all means:  tell me more about how abortion hits close to home.  Please, by all means:  when you've run out of reasonable arguments to make, make some more graphic or inflammatory comments to try to gin up some squeamishness or frustration to feed your schadenfreude.  That's how they roll on the internet, after all.

These things remind me of people I knew in high school and college, and even a few in grad school, who are pretty smart, but maybe not as smart as they think they are, and are hung up on getting by with native talent and not bothering to do any real homework.  Sure, someone looked up that 42% figure somewhere, but coming up with this list of questions, it's like they couldn't get past the misconception that pro-lifers are really just about controlling women and hiding that agenda under a veneer of sentimentality.  But what's sentimental is talking like we need to save PP because it's such a great provider of women's health services, like it's one of those "too big to fail" corporations loaded up with the nostalgia of an older friend who will hold your hair back when you're puking in the toilet and give you a lift to the mall when you need to Take Care Of Something.  No thanks; I like a friend who helps me when I'm sick but I don't want one who would support me in doing something wrong, and I hope I wouldn't be a friend who would, either.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Is there such a thing as truth, or just facts?

Has anyone noticed a pattern lately?

For the past several months, on and off in the marginally philosophical circles I occasionally run tangent to, I've seen a slight increase in the incidence of people distinguishing truth from facts, and it rubs me the wrong way.

I'm not saying I think there's a perfect correspondence between the two ideas.  There just seems, to me, to be a concerted effort to divorce truth and facts, a little undercurrent in human discourse that changes the direction of thought and discussion ever so subtly.

I'm not sure I can give an adequate definition of "truth" in this context; usually what I see is assertions or bald existential conclusions (perhaps justified by observation or reasoning somewhere, and not just presumed, but it's left as an exercise to the reader) that truth is unknowable or nonexistent and all we're left with are facts.

But when I learned what a fact was, I was taught that it was an objectively true idea or statement.  You can debate whether it's warm or cool, cold or hot--that would be a matter of opinion--but you can't argue that it's not winter on December 27 in the northern hemisphere.

There's some wiggle room, I get it--if there's a premature thaw and New Year's passes with highs in the 50s, then it's not really wintry weather--but we don't have to go there.  I could also say it's a fact that 2+2=4, that it's absolutely true, if we bar silly games with rounding and deviant numeral systems.  I'm not dealing with that right now; we can describe those situations with other facts.

There's truth and then there are facts?  Last I knew, if it wasn't true, it wasn't a fact.  Is the window open? It's true the window's open.  It's a fact that the window is open.  If the window were not open, it would not be true that it's open, and it wouldn't be a fact that the window was open.  You could say "It's open" anyway, but then you would simply be wrong.

It would be a fact that you said it's open, but that's not the same thing, and maybe therein lies the difference.  Still, it's a matter of the fact, the truth, being "You claimed, or believe, that the window is open," which if you're wrong could have nothing to do with the configuration of a window.  But then the fact is "someone asserted X," not "X" itself.  Sure, it's true someone asserted X, but I don't care about that any more than I care about how to label mild weather the week after Christmas; I care about X being true and what's going to happen to the snow.  Some things we can only have empirical evidence for, true (ha!), but some things are not empirical and nobody argues about it (see 2+2=4, above).

So, is the window open?  You say it's closed.  You're right, or you're wrong, or you define "closed" by some idiosyncratic criteria, or it's partway closed and you want to split hairs, but if you're not psychotic we can sort these things out.

You can claim any of these things.  Are they thereby facts?  No, the only facts are (1) whether the window is open or closed and (2) that you think something about it.  These things are true.  At first I gave the second as "what you think about it," but that's an opinion, not a fact.

The line between opinion and fact is getting blurred; all we're left with is what people think is going on around them, either poorly documented or uncamouflaged and called opinion or empirically documented and called a fact (even though the fact is not "well-documented X" but "we have observed X to be predominant condition," which is still contingent on statistics).

Anyone else noticing this?  Is it a recent development in philosophy that we can have "facts" with no truth value, or just some relativistic claptrap that has trickled down to the hoi polloi who consider themselves bright because they call themselves Bright?

I was annoyed enough when I first heard people making unequivocal assertions like "there is no objective truth," but this seems like an attack on the idea itself.  If we can no longer rise above the confusion to even conceive what "truth" would be, how could anyone claim there was such a thing, or that they had it?

Good question.  But I'm not playing.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

What politician is down to earth?

Larry Elder at Catholic Exchange concludes an insightful analysis by reminding us that, ultimately, none is--not at the national level, anyway.

But he spends most of the article demonstrating how the Democrats' vocation of championing the unwashed masses does not arise from firsthand experience in the lower class and lower middle class predominating the biographies of the DNC's top players.  On the contrary, Democratic leadership is every bit as out of touch as that of the GOP; but that's not the narrative we hear, is it?

No, we hear lots of sentiment about protecting the little guy from corporate fat cats--you know, the one who are tycoons because they either inherited wealth from their robber baron parents or because they managed to foist all taxes off on the people who make under $28k, or somehow stole it from them (or the corporations they own somehow did, or maybe just people with college degrees and desk jobs and as a demographic the lion's share of the tax burden).  We hear a lot about punishing the successful and the lucky for the crime of drawing resentment from the destitute, the jealous, and the professional class warrior.  We hear not just patronizing propaganda and behalfist rhetoric but weird, presumptive editorializing like claims that "people cringe when politician X says Y about issue Z," where "people" is supposed to be all-inclusive and make X appear to be, again, out of touch, but really only includes the journalist or the propagandist and his staff or circle of friends and probably few others, and definitely not others who have a different but still reasonable view of what truth and virtue can mean.

Elder's article didn't surprise me, but the picture he painted drew into focus an inconsistency I hadn't noticed before.  The DNC and its minions have been painting the GOP's candidates as being in various degrees of alienation from at least the rest of America.  By contrast, the Democrats are supposed to be relatable and understanding.  Like Larry Elder said, both sides are lacking in this department at that level, but what really seemed curious to me was the fact that the Dems were bothering to play the "common man" card, after this theme developed in his support base and went unanswered by the then-future-president.  

Is he the superhuman who got elected or is he a common man in the right place at the right time for the next election?  If he were both, I guess he would have to be God, wouldn't he?  But he's not.