Political Flavors

About those “jokes” comparing Hillary Clinton to Dolores Umbridge or Winn Adami…or Tracy Flick

Posted in Editorials on June 14th, 2016

People I know and respect along with a ton of people I don’t know have latched on to the meme that Hillary Clinton is Dolores Umbridge, the sickeningly sweet teacher at Hogwarts who tortures Harry, is useless as a Defense Against The Dark Arts Teacher (though weren’t they all) and has a generally fascistic worldview.

I mean, I guess? Clinton voted for the USA Patriot Act and she views Edward Snowden as a criminal more than a whistleblower. That’s kinda fascist. But she’s also solidly against torture, said that we should screen and accept Syrian refugees and is making one of the themes of her campaign “Love Trumps Hate.” So, maybe?

What bothers me the most about this comparison though is how things end for Umbridge. Did you forget that part? I’m almost positive most people have, especially when making this comparison. She’s raped by centaurs. And it’s supposed to be funny. When she comes back to Hogwarts, she’s in shock, and our heroes know what happened. Ron makes clopping hoof noises to scare her (trigger her?) and Hermione and Ginny crack up. Granted, they’re teenagers, and they have bad judgement. But no one in authority tells them “Hey buzz off, that’s not funny.”

Similarly, though even more geeky and less widespread I see Trekkies making “Hillary Clinton is Winn Adami” jokes. On Deep Space Nine, Winn Adami, played by the amazingly badass Louise Fletcher, was one of the best villans in the history of Star Trek. She’s a religious cleric with both fascistic and theocratic tendencies (although on her home planet of Bajor it’s pretty accepted that the religious leadership shares power with the elected government). She’s a master at manipulating people’s fears to get what she wants no matter the consequences. Like Umbridge, she’s uses sickeningly sweet faux coquettishness to mask her true intentions. Unlike Umbridge, as the writers reveal the complexity of her character, we are meant to empathize with her as a person while still despising her actions. Her crisis of faith is relatable to so many people who have searched for truth.

Is Hillary Clinton like Winn Adami? They’re both blonde and religious and ambitious. I suppose you could draw it out further by bringing up Clinton’s connections to The Family. But that’s still a bit of a stretch.

And yet, like Umbridge, in the end Winn Adami is also raped. Deep Space Nine draws out a more complex story than Order of the Phoenix. Winn is seduced and deceived by her greatest enemy and she is sexually, emotionally and spiritually exploited. The storyline is fascinating one, with an unsettling trainwreck quality that still viscerally disturbs me.

I know that most people making the “Hillary is Umbridge” or “Hillary is Winn” jokes don’t really mean that they think Hillary Clinton should be raped by centaurs or a sociopath in disguise as punishment for her more imperialistic tendencies. I’m not immune to this myself. I love Tom Perrotta novels and when I saw people comparing Hillary Clinton to Tracy Flick I saw it as a backhanded compliment. Tracy Flick kicks ass. She’s super smart and accomplished and wins in the end.

Then I remembered that most of the plot of “Election” is driven by the fact that Tracy is seduced (statutorily raped) by her Math teacher, Dave. Tracy is smarter than most of her peers but she is far behind them in terms of social skills. She has no real friends. This makes her an exceptionally easy target to be groomed and taken advantage of by a much older authority figure. Dave’s actions set off a chain of events which Tracy’s teacher Jim blames her for on some level. In a moment of frustration Jim threatens to ruin Tracy’s reputation by telling the whole student body what happened to her. Tracy takes this in stride because she has a very thick skin, but it’s hard to watch her be manipulated and then blamed and threatened for it.

So perhaps this isn’t the best comparison either.

This is one of those things that once seen, cannot be unseen. So keep that in mind. If you keep making those clever memes, I’m going to keep rolling my eyes and thinking “Ugh. Raped by Centaurs. Really?”

On Having Conditional White Privilege During The Trump Campaign

Posted in Editorials on June 13th, 2016

Last week Ralph Nader said in an interview about the popularity of Donald Trump:

There were Negro-joke books, Jewish-joke books, Polish-joke books, Italian-joke books. They used ethnic jokes to reduce tension in the 1930s, ’40s, ’50s. And they’d laugh at each other’s jokes and hurl another one. But it still flows through ethnic America, you know. There are hundreds of things that people would like to say. So here’s this guy — he doubles down on them, he blows their minds. So that’s the first way he got their attention.

And I wanted to ask him, “Don’t you know white privilege is conditional?” Nader is Lebanese and in the United States many people would not consider him white if they knew that.

I have personal experience with this, I have discussed my mixed ethnicity on this blog. Many people who have conditional white privilege – Jews, light skinned Latinos, Arabs and other POC who pass as white – will have a moment in a conversation with a white person where some detail about their heritage is made known and something shifts in the white person’s tone or body language and you know they’ve just recategorized you in their head. I know Ralph Nader has had this moment, and it’s why I find his statement inexcusable.

Recently I got called out for something I did with my white privilege. In my post about why there is no progressive case for Donald Trump, I said:

For Latinos, Muslims, and many other Americans, Donald Trump is that bear trap and the vote for Hillary Clinton is the gnawing off of one’s leg.

Nezua and I had the following exchange:

I think it’s true that white people should not speak over or for people of color. There is a fine line between being an ally and taking up space that should be reserved for someone else. I also think that if you have privilege you should call out oppression and hatred where you see it, not to talk over or for other people but because it’s the morally right thing to do.

I don’t expect Nezua to intuit my heritage, and even if he knew that my father is a Colombian immigrant, his point would still stand as I do benefit from white privilege and I am not Mexican.

The reasons that I feel the need to call out Trump’s racism are both moral and personal.

I believe strongly that I should consider how my vote impacts everyone, not just myself.

I think that Trump’s comments, while specifically anti-Mexican encourage hatred against all Latinos including my family and possibly myself.

Finally, there is an ugly strain of “they’re coming for our women” underlying Trump’s remarks. Through a series of inadvisable clicks I spent a good portion of a recent afternoon reading through an infamous misogynist blog which has become a pro-Trump White Nationalist hellhole. And I read a lot of comments. Many Trump supporters are insecure men obsessed with their fear white women having sex with and bearing children with men of color. As the daughter of a white American mother and a Latino immigrant father, it was deeply unsettling to read these comments. I am a person who, in their mind should not exist. I am a mistake, an abomination, the worst outcome their fevered imaginations can muster. I am “White Genocide.” My mother is a ruined woman and my father is pure evil depravity. These are the people who filled the rallies for Donald Trump, the people who voted for him in Republican primaries, and who will vote for him in November. This is what they think of me.

I do not ever want to speak over or for groups I do not belong to. I only want to speak for myself. In my words and actions, believe I am morally obligated to consider how I impact other people from other groups.

Why Some Of The Most Spiteful Progressives I Know Won’t Bother To Fact Check Articles Bashing Hillary Clinton

Posted in Editorials on June 10th, 2016

Silly season continues and it seems we are going through the news cycle of whiny privileged crybabies who claim to be on the left, but also somehow think that Donald Trump will be a better president than Hillary Clinton. I voted for Bernie Sanders, mostly because I wanted to send a signal to Hillary Clinton that many of her policies are unacceptable to me – her vote on the Iraq War and wishy washy-ness on the TPP and Keystone XL pipeline. It would have been pretty amazing if Sanders had won the nomination, but as history shows us, it’s extremely difficult to win a primary against the candidate backed by the party and this year was no exception to that rule.

There are many things I do like about Hillary Clinton, her intelligence, the respect she has garnered around the world and her tenacity. I voted for her in 2008 because I thought she would be tougher against the Republicans than Obama would. She has many flaws, which we detailed in our podcast episode about the primary, but I still think she would be a solid president.

A Politico article by Yves Smith caught my eye today. It’s titled: “Why Some of the Smartest Progressives I Know Will Vote for Trump over Hillary.” And it posits that progressives should vote for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton. The article is poorly sourced and doesn’t seem to have been fact checked. It amounts to a temper tantrum over Bernie Sanders not winning the primary. This isn’t just taking your ball and going home, it’s taking your ball and destroying the country in a mushroom cloud of entitled spiteful vengeance.

Smith quotes one of her commenters on her blog Naked Capitalism,

I don’t want to vote for Trump. I want to vote for Bernie. But I have reached the point where I feel like voting for Trump against Clinton would be doing my patriotic duty. … If the only way to escape a trap is to gnaw off my leg, I’d like to think I’d have the guts to do it.

This is an odd framing of the election. For Latinos, Muslims, and many other Americans, Donald Trump is that bear trap and the vote for Hillary Clinton is the gnawing off of one’s leg. I would say voting for Trump is like staying in the trap and dying of gangrene or lighting yourself on fire.

The Sanders supporters I interact with also reject Hillary’s trickle-down feminism as a substitute for economic and social justice. Clinton is correct when she points out that there is a glass-ceiling issue for women. There are fewer female CEOs, billionaires and senators. Women in the elite don’t have it as good as men. But pray tell, what is having more women, or Hispanics or blacks, in top roles going to do for nurses and hospital orderlies, or the minority group members disproportionately represented in low-wage jobs like part-time fast food workers? Class mobility has become close to nonexistent in America. If you are born in one of the lower-income cohorts, you are almost certain to stay there.

I would agree in part that much of what passes for feminism these days has no room for women of color or poor women. But I do not see that when I look at Hillary Clinton’s platform. How are paid maternity leave and universal pre-K “trickle down feminism?” These programs would be a great benefit to all mothers. (And children. And fathers.)

Then there are questions of competence. Hillary has a résumé of glittering titles with disasters or at best thin accomplishments under each. Her vaunted co-presidency with Bill? After her first major project, health care reform, turned into such a debacle that it was impossible to broach the topic for a generation, she retreated into a more traditional first lady role.

Has it ever occurred to Smith that part of the reason Clinton failed was systemic sexism? People were shocked and outraged that she was taking on any official role in her husband’s administration. They called it unprecedented nepotism. But in reality, going back to our second President, John Adams, most Presidents of the United States have relied on the wives for advice and counsel. Formalizing the role was too much for us to handle in 1993, but that doesn’t mean that First Ladies were not doing lots of work for their husbands. Letting this work remain invisible is a sad consequence of patriarchy.

As New York senator, she accomplished less with a bigger name and from a more powerful state than Sanders did.

The article cited fails to recognize Hillary Clinton’s accomplishments getting aid for 9/11 first responders detailed here. People fighting for the expansion of the Zadroga Act list her as an important ally in the fight to help responders and survivors of 9/11.

As secretary of state, she participated and encouraged strategically pointless nation-breaking in Iraq and Syria.

Equating our involvement in Syria with our invasion of Iraq is entirely disingenuous. I am and will always be morally outraged at the Iraq War. But Syria was already broken when we got there. Equivocating the two is disingenuous and minimizes the harm we did in Iraq.

She bureaucratically outmaneuvered Obama, leading to U.S. intervention in Libya, which he has called the worst decision of his administration.

This is false. President Obama did not say our intervention in Libya was the worst mistake of his presidency. He said his worst decision was failing to plan for the aftermath of the intervention.

And her plan to fob her domestic economic duties off on Bill comes off as an admission that she can’t handle being president on her own.

HILLARY CLINTON’S PLAN TO HAVE ADVISORS MEANS SHE CAN’T HANDLE BEING PRESIDENT? Perhaps Smith should change the name of her website to “Naked Sexism.”

Finally, there is the stench of corruption, dating back to Hillary’s impossible—by any legitimate means—trick of parlaying $1,000 into $100,000 in a series of commodities trades in 1978.

This makes it sound like she was directly involved in these trades. She was not. At worst, she employed a corrupt investor. But no investigation has ever taken place, surprising given the fact that she was investigated for Whitewater, a deal she lost money on. This Wikipedia article details what we know about this scandal and there is no conclusive evidence that Hillary Clinton herself did anything wrong. This attack is especially distasteful given that there is no comparison with Donald Trump’s involvement with the mafia in Atlantic City or his failure to pay people for their work worth a lot more than $100K.

They are willing to gamble, given that outsider presidents like Jimmy Carter and celebrity governors like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura didn’t get much done, that a Trump presidency represents an acceptable cost of inflicting punishment on the Democratic Party for 20 years of selling out ordinary Americans.

If Donald Trump gets elected President, he will appoint Supreme Court Justices who will impact the United States for a lot longer than 20 years. In a recent debate, Sam Seder was taking on a “Bernie or Bust” advocate and had the following exchange which I feel sums up the matter:

Jimmy: You know you got that Supreme Court, that is such a little poker in my eye!

Sam: Well, believe me, it’s not just a poker in your eye, it’s a poker in the eye of all those people who can’t vote this year by getting rid of preclearance, it’s a poker in the eye of all the families of the dreamers who keep getting deported, it’s a poker in the eye of people who want to have redress in the courts from things like forced arbitration, it’s a poker in the eyes of women in states who are denied access to abortion care. This thing is bigger than a poker. It’s like a cannon to the face.

There is no progressive case to be made for a racist charlatan like Donald Trump. Anyone who tries to convince you of such is selling spite and desperately trying to hide a bruised ego.

Some thoughts on the UUA Common Read: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Posted in Book Reviews, Editorials on May 23rd, 2016

Last week, I co-led a service at my UU Congregation about this year’s UUA Common Read, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. Here’s what I had to say:

In 2005, the UU General Assembly passed a Statement of conscience, which reads in part:

As Unitarian Universalists, we are committed to affirming the inherent goodness and worth of each of us. As Americans, we take pride in our constitutional promise of liberty, equality, and justice for all, including those who have violated the law. Yet the incarceration rate in the United States is five- to tenfold that of other nations, even those without such a constitutional promise. Our corrections system is increasingly rife with inequitable sentencing, longer terms of detention, racial and ethnic profiling, and deplorable jail and prison conditions and treatment. The magnitude of injustice and inequity in this system stands in stark contrast to the values that our nation—and our faith—proclaim. We are compelled to witness this dissonance between what America proclaims for criminal justice and what America practices. We offer an alternative moral vision of a justice system that operates in harmonious accord with our values as a community of faith. This vision includes the presumption of innocence, fair judicial proceedings, the merciful restoration of those who have broken the law, the renunciation of torture and other abusive practices, and a fundamental commitment to the dignity and humane treatment of everyone in our society, including prisoners.

Although Americans take great pride in the freedoms we espouse, the American prison system violates basic human rights in many ways. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which the United States endorsed in 1948, states in Article 5, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” American correctional practice often subjects inmates to abusive treatment, such as torture and rape, and neglects basic human needs such as health care and nutrition. Some suspects are detained without charge, legal counsel, or access to family. While indigent defendants have exactly the same rights to competent counsel as non-indigent defendants, in many states indigent defendants are not provided equality of representation.

The American penchant for retribution squanders opportunities for redemption, rehabilitation, and restoration of the individual offender. Failures in the criminal justice system have created a disenfranchised, stigmatized class who are predominantly from lower-income backgrounds, poorly educated, or from racial and ethnic minorities. The punishment for crime is often simply separation from society, and the sentence one serves is the punishment. In our penal system, punishment often continues even after those convicted have completed their sentence. They are often stripped of voting rights, denied social services, and barred from many professions. If convicted of a drug crime, they become ineligible for federal student loans to attend college. Our criminal justice system makes it exceedingly difficult for anyone to reintegrate into society. People returning to their communities find that they lack opportunity, skills, and social services to fully function in society and hold down jobs, maintain families, or participate in their communities. Therefore, an unacceptable percentage of those released from our prisons and jails recidivate.

Not all prisoners who enter the system leave. One of the most shameful aspects of our current criminal justice system is the death penalty. Many countries have abandoned the practice of capital punishment. Studies fail to demonstrate that the death penalty actually deters crime. While the United States Supreme Court has ruled against the execution of juvenile offenders, the death penalty is still legal in the United States. Experience shows that judges and juries wrongly convict defendants. Given the number of death row inmates released on account of innocence, it is highly likely that we have executed innocent people and will do so again in the future unless we abolish the death penalty.

The first two Principles of Unitarian Universalism address the inherent worth and dignity of every person and justice, equity, and compassion in human relations. Consistent with these fundamental principles, a new corrections policy must place a primary emphasis on community alternatives.

Appalled by the gross injustices in our current criminal justice system, we the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association commit ourselves to working in our communities to reform the criminal justice and correctional systems and effect justice for both victims and violators. We act in the spirit that we are indeed our sisters’ and our brothers’ keepers. Love is our governing principle in all human relationships. Therefore, that we may speak with one voice in unity, though not uniformity, we commit ourselves, our congregations to make good on our Unitarian Universalist heritage and our American promise to be both compassionate and just to all in our society. Through our diligence and perseverance in realizing this promise, we can live the core values of our country and extend the values of our faith to the benefit of others.

And so with this in mind, it is easy to understand why the UUA chose “Just Mercy” as the common read for this congregational year. The book, by Bryan Stevenson chronicles his career as an attorney working to for people on death row, mostly in Georgia and Alabama who have no other access to representation. He built the Equal Justice Initiative which litigates on behalf of condemned prisoners, juvenile offenders, people wrongly convicted or charged with violent crimes, poor people denied effective representation, and others whose trials are marked by racial bias or prosecutorial misconduct. EJI works with communities that have been marginalized by poverty and discouraged by unequal treatment.

Just Mercy’s main thread follows the story of Walter McMillian, a man wrongly convicted of murder and sentenced to death on scant evidence, false testimony and racist rumors. And while his story is compelling, Stevenson puts it in context of the criminal justice system we have today. It’s clear that his work isn’t just about one person. It’s to address the ongoing crisis of our broken criminal justice system.

I was left in awe and amazement at the tenacity and patience of Bryan Stevenson. I am so astounded by people who can spend their whole lives fighting an uphill battle. The book is not about him and gives few details about his personal life. He is very modest about his many great accomplishments in fact. And this perspective of humility and hope frame the book.

Something I keep coming back to when I think about the death penalty is that I, like everyone else, am a fallible human being subject to amoral impulses. There is an anecdote in the book about about a man who was the victim of abuse as a child and was suffering from PTSD after serving in Vietnam. After returning to the United States, he tried to win back an ex girlfriend by PUTTING A BOMB on her porch. In his distorted mind, he would save her from the bomb, and win back her love. But that didn’t happen. It went off, killed a young girl and maimed another in the process. It was and is very hard for me to feel sorry for him. But I think that’s exactly why we need to be careful in how we adjudicate these crimes. Our emotions cloud our judgement. In my outrage over his crime I do not care about the mitigating circumstances of this man’s victimization as a small, helpless child or the mental illness he could not avoid after his country drafted him and sent him to fight in a war. But Stevenson included this story in the book to show how brutal the death penalty is. The chapter details the visceral horror of the electric chair, which this man was put to death in. And even though somewhere in my heart I want vengeance for his victims, I know that his execution did nothing to help them. In fact, the surviving girl’s family approached Stevenson and asked him for help. They told him that putting someone else to death would not heal her. And I do feel some dissonance that we, to quote and old slogan kill people who kill people to show that killing people is wrong.

Although I know this book was meant to expose the injustice of our current system, I was also left with the gladness that people like Bryan Stevenson exist. His optimism and his accomplishments are an inspiration.

I have 5 sex questions for Ted Cruz

Posted in Editorials on April 13th, 2016

As David Corn writes in Mother Jones,

In 2004, companies that owned Austin stores selling sex toys and a retail distributor of such products challenged a Texas law outlawing the sale and promotion of supposedly obscene devices. Under the law, a person who violated the statute could go to jail for up to two years. At the time, only three states—Mississippi, Alabama, and Virginia—had similar laws. (The previous year, a Texas mother who was a sales rep for Passion Parties was arrested by two undercover cops for selling vibrators and other sex-related goods at a gathering akin to a Tupperware party for sex toys. No doubt, this had worried businesses peddling such wares.) The plaintiffs in the sex-device case contended the state law violated the right to privacy under the 14th Amendment. They argued that many people in Texas used sexual devices as an aspect of their sexual experiences. They claimed that in some instances one partner in a couple might be physically unable to engage in intercourse or have a contagious disease (such as HIV) and that in these cases such devices could allow a couple to engage in safe sex.

But a federal judge sent them packing, ruling that selling sex toys was not protected by the Constitution. The plaintiffs appealed, and Cruz’s solicitor general office had the task of preserving the law

Sound familiar? You might have seen this video about the law featuring the late Molly Ivins:

Continuing from Corn’s Mother Jones Article,

Cruz’s legal team asserted that “obscene devices do not implicate any liberty interest.” And its brief added that “any alleged right associated with obscene devices” is not “deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and traditions.”

Question 1: Has Ted Cruz ever heard of Ben Franklin?

The brief insisted that Texas in order to protect “public morals” had “police-power interests” in “discouraging prurient interests in sexual gratification, combating the commercial sale of sex, and protecting minors.” There was a “government” interest, it maintained, in “discouraging…autonomous sex.”

Question 2: Would a Cruz administration pursue this interest in masturbation police? How?

Question 3: Is there a government interest in discouraging maturbation if you do it with a partner? (Or partners?)

In perhaps the most noticeable line of the brief, Cruz’s office declared, “There is no substantive-due-process right to stimulate one’s genitals for non-medical purposes unrelated to procreation or outside of an interpersonal relationship.” That is, the pursuit of such happiness had no constitutional standing. And the brief argued there was no “right to promote dildos, vibrators, and other obscene devices.”

Question 4: What counts as an obscene device? Lingerie? Silk Scarves? Feathers? Ice Cubes? Flavored Condoms? Please provide a robust and discreet definition.

Question 5: Can you use obscene devices during procreative sex? In the Catholic Church, it’s all good as long as the penis ends up depositing semen into the vagina. Would that be a policy you would be willing to pursue?

If you are going to be at a Ted Cruz event any time in the near future, please ask him one of these questions! You don’t even have to credit me. Just send me a tweet and let me know what he says.

The Signal To Noise Ratio Of Blood Flow To One’s Genitals

Posted in Editorials on December 3rd, 2015

There’s an idea floating around our cultural conversation that has too long gone unquestioned. This is one of those fallacies that is so much a part of our rhetoric that we hardly even recognize we are perpetuating it. It’s the idea that sexual arousal is inherently meaningful aside from one’s personal subjective experience or actual participation in sex with a partner. And this is not only wrong, but it can be very harmful.

If anything, we don’t have enough compassion, education or care around human sexuality. And I wish we lived in a world where we took care of ourselves and each other in that way. As we do not, I think that our ignorance is part of what lets this fallacy flourish.

Here’s what I mean. I see this on the Red Pill, but it’s in other places too. It’s the idea that a person getting sexually excited means anything else than their particular brain was stimulated and is now sending the signal “hey there goes a good person to mate with.” So when someone says they wouldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton (or Bernie Sanders) because they aren’t hot and don’t want to look at someone old on TV – they are falling victim to this fallacy – that the amount of blood flowing to their junk can tell them anything meaningful about who should be president. (Insert Martin O’Daddy/Marco Rubio-oh-oh-OH joke here.)

Recently on the Red Pill, a guy dismissed Philippa Rice, best selling illustrator and author as:

a low value woman’s musing about being the queen of a loser

I wanted to respond that she’s probably laughing all the way to the bank, but I didn’t. Because according to this guy, her creative or financial success mean nothing if she can’t give him a boner. She has no other value as a human being.

It goes the other way too, an attractive person is seen as being capable regardless of their qualifications. Tons of dudes said they’d vote for Sarah Palin for this reason, as if being attractive means she would be a good leader. Note to those dudes: voting for a person is not an effective way to get that person to sleep with you.

It’s not just manosphere misogynists that do this either. I was giggling over Rachel Bloom’s “Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury” when I sent it to my podcast co-host Karen. She said, “I don’t want to police her sexual choices or her celebration of her sexual choices but wanting to fuck somebody is not a compliment. It doesn’t compliment them for their accomplishments.” And as much as I still like that song, she’s right. Maybe we should lay off the “That person is such an awesome writer/artist/scientist that I want to have sex with them” proclamations. They add nothing to the conversation aside from an acceptable way to say “Hey everyone my genitals are pleasantly engorged right now!”

And this can get really gross really quickly. I’m disturbed by David Tennant fans trying to change the meaning of Jessica Jones from a revenge fantasy to one about unrequited love. If any given person wants to fuck Kilgrave, brilliant, enjoy your mind control fantasy. But that does not mean that the other characters in the show should feel the same way! Any given fan’s personal pants feelings about David Tennant do not and should not have any impact on the plot of the show. Those feelings of lust don’t make Kilgrave not a rapist – which is why I will judge you if you ship Kilgrave and Jessica.

It’s hard to know how big of a leap there is from defending fictional rapists because the actor who plays them is hot to defending actual rapists because you think the accused person is hot. And it happens all the time. “James Deen [/other famous actor/athlete] can’t be guilty because I personally would have wanted it, ergo she must have wanted it.” As I said, really disgusting, really fast.

In an ideal world, everyone would be healthy and fulfilled in their sexuality. But we need to stop giving that delightful rush of hormones an intrinsic meaning other than “Ooh. I think I’d like some sex now.” It’s meaningful in discerning one’s own sexual desires but says nothing about anyone or anything else.

If you like this post, you might also like:
The Projection of Hate – Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Rolling Stone and Right Wing Sex Panic
Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser

American Politics Is Eating Itself

Posted in Editorials on November 9th, 2015

Last week, Deport Racism PAC offered a $5,000 prize to anyone who would interrupt Saturday Night Live and call Donald Trump a racist. And so the show got out in front of it. Sonia Saraiya wrote in a review of Donald Trump hosting SNL:

This was most on display in the opening monologue, when a man heckled Trump, yelling “You’re a racist!” It was a plant—Larry David, who had been in the cold open, reprising his role as Bernie Sanders—but the punchline, if there was one, went nowhere. Trump was unflappable, because he knew the heckle was coming, and David’s “character” immediately admitted he’d taken cash to yell at Trump. In a few moments of adroit comic shuffling, the show introduced racism, let Trump defuse it, and then revealed it as insincere. That’s a set of actions with profound commentary for what it means to allege racism in this media climate; naturally, then, no performers of color were on stage. To include them would have meant underscoring how messed-up the bit was, and “Saturday Night Live” was not interested in critical thinking last night.

Rumors are circulating that Deport Racism PAC is linked to the Hillary Clinton campaign, but as the Daily Dot explains, all we really know is that the PAC was founded by a Clinton supporter.

But the PAC’s link to Clinton is irrelevant when you consider Saraiya’s critique. Larry David legitimized Donald Trump. His “joke” was that we all know Trump isn’t really a racist. C’mon you guys it’s just internet crazies and angry Latin@s saying that.

And in response, Deport Racism PAC has said that they’re giving the money to Larry David.

Irony is dead.

In declaring Larry David the “winner” they either don’t get the “joke,” are pretending not to, or don’t care. I’m leaning towards the latter. Which should make it very hard for anyone to take them seriously as a legitimate anti-racist organization in the future. So in this weekend’s showdown between a xenophobic megalomaniac and a nominally anti-racist PAC, the winner was Lorne Michaels. He played this whole thing expertly, as he should, having been in television for so long.

But in not using satire to speak truth to power, Michaels and David reveal that the game is rigged. Trump looks good, SNL has some of the best ratings in years and Deport Racism PAC insists that they also won somehow. What’s left is a meaningless discourse that’s more about getting attention than making a coherent point or changing anything. “Both sides” are feeding off of one another like a snake eating it’s tail (an example of the tagline for my podcast about the “political ouroboros.”) And the end result is that Trump improved his reputation. After all, that liberal Larry David didn’t think he was a racist!

I truly believe that the totality of American politics is a lot more than Donald Trump. But from conversations with friends and family who aren’t glued to Twitter, cable news and alternative media the way I am most people aren’t thinking about what Paul Ryan will do as Speaker, the climate conference in Paris or the TPP. When most Americans hear “politics” they think “Donald Trump.”

The Wealthy Could Always Give Away Their Problems

Posted in Editorials on October 21st, 2015

In The Guardian, this week there’s a profile of a therapist who counsels wealthy clients who deal with the unique stresses their money brings them.

“We are trained to have empathy, no judgment and so many of the uber wealthy – the 1% of the 1% – they feel that their problems are really not problems. But they are. A lot of therapists do not give enough weight to their issues.”


From the Bible to the Lannisters of Game of Thrones, it’s easy to argue that the rich have always been vilified, scorned and envied. But their counsellors argue things have only gotten worse since the financial crisis and the debate over income inequality that has been spurred on by movements like Occupy Wall Street and the Fight for $15 fair wage campaign.

“The Occupy Wall Street movement was a good one and had some important things to say about income inequality, but it singled out the 1% and painted them globally as something negative. It’s an -ism,” said Jamie Traeger-Muney, a wealth psychologist and founder of the Wealth Legacy Group. “I am not necessarily comparing it to what people of color have to go through, but … it really is making value judgment about a particular group of people as a whole.”

The media, she said, is partly to blame for making the rich “feel like they need to hide or feel ashamed”.

I actually am going to recommend some Biblical advice for the wealthy. But first I want to point something out. There’s a reason that people are protesting the rich, and it’s not because they are rich. No one is protesting Bill and Melinda Gates or Richard Branson or Warren Buffet or even Michael Bloomberg (well maybe they were but that had more to do with his actions as mayor rather than his wealth). They’re protesting the Waltons and the Bankers and big business because those are the people who are using their wealth to harm people. The financial crisis ruined the lives of people who had nothing to do with Wall Street. Working conditions exist in the United States and in US owned companies abroad that should not exist anywhere on Earth, much less in a country prides itself on American Exceptionalism. The judgement isn’t on the circumstance of happening to be wealthy but on how that wealth was accumulated and then what was done with it afterwards.

Money probably does bring unique challenges to family dynamics and social interactions, but the idea that the wealthy are unfairly judged is absurd. And like Adam said, there’s a very easy solution to fix the perception of being an evil rich person. GIVE YOUR MONEY AWAY! Give it to the poor, to homeless shelters and food banks, give it to schools and libraries, parks, museums, animal shelters, medical research, and abortion funds! There’s a lot of people who need it, and it will soothe some of that guilt and the public admiration will make you feel a lot less judged.

Image credit: OpenClipArt.org by vokimon

If You Can’t Explain How You Would Enforce An Abortion Ban, Don’t Propose One

Posted in Editorials on October 19th, 2015

A while back I wrote about how anti choicers want abortion to be illegal and seem to equate this with abortion not existing. When you press them on how exactly this would work, they have nothing. Recently I engaged with a pro lifer on the comments section of a Patheos blog and I want to repost our conversation to further illustrate this point. Even someone who seems to have compassion for women can’t explain how an abortion ban would stop abortions.

I noticed a woman posting in the comments of this post and I asked her:

Would you please explain what the law should be regarding abortion? I am pro choice, and I am also a policy wonk, and I do not understand how we could make abortion illegal without for example, legislating mandatory regular pregnancy tests and police investigations of miscarriages. I have written about the logistical problems with an abortion ban and I would love to know your thoughts.

She Answered:

So, my political views are somewhat two-fold. There is what we can be doing right now, and there is what we can be doing in other, let’s say, more advanced circumstances. If you want to boil it all down, yes, the end game is that I would like to see a society that bans abortion at any stage in most cases (but not all), but I think that is neither feasible, nor the priority at this point.

For the right now, there is a lot more that can be done to reduce abortions than what a ban would accomplish. The number one reason why women abort is due to financial reasons. As such, I support progressive policies such as a single payer healthcare system, guaranteed paid maternal and paternal leave, living wages, paid time off for family leave. Tangentially, we need to put more money and care into our adoption and foster care system. We need to make it easier for mothers who would not even be thinking abortion if they felt that adoption was actually a viable option – not just some pie in the sky so-called-option. We need to make it easier for parents to adopt, by increasing ranks of social workers who can do background checks on them, and provide post adoption follow up services.

And we need to do a lot better on the preventative side of things. We need a no apologies diversified stance to sex education. If you are an accredited middle or high school, even if you are catholic, you have to teach about sex-ed that includes birth control options and how to use them. We need to push down the cost of things like IUDs and the pill, and for those who want it, sterilization. And we need to make them fabulously easy to get these things. Again, I see progressive policies as heading in that direction.

I’m sure we can agree pretty well on these first steps, but they are important, and I think they are intrinsic to any ban that is going to both reflect and guide a culture that values all stages of human life, thus being more sustainable. If there aren’t many other, easy options for women (and their men), any ban will be received as well as Roe v Wade has – that is, you’ll get your predictable split of public opinion. Black and white policies usually result in outlier horror stories, be them testimonies of people who survived being aborted, or the horror stories of women whose hospital policies resulted in them not providing them with the medically needed abortion they required to survive.

What is the next step? Probably a 20 week ban*. Let me be clear, this does not reflect what I see as the morality of abortion. I don’t see a huge distinction between 5 minutes before birth versus 5 minutes after – I similarly see no distinction between 5 minutes before 20 weeks and 5 minutes after It is still a tragedy. But from a policy stand point, this does two things. It gets us used to the idea of abortion bans without completely cutting off the option. At that point, women will have known they’ve been pregnant for at least a couple of weeks, so they still have an opportunity to have an abortion at that point. Again, this is a stepping stone. (I’m a big fan of adaptive management as well. Policy doesn’t do adaptive management very well, which is why doing things in steps like this is needed. Implement less strict policy, check out your results, and the next round, you can make adjustments to address the issues of the last round)

*Two caveats to this. First, that while I see the time frame for abortion as being slowly constricted as society finds other ways to avoid or deal with unwanted pregnancy, life of the mother is not up for grabs. A rape exemption, due to the mental self-defense that an abortion could provide a victimized woman, is also something that should be set in stone. Second, I’d want to see this legislation being passed with a rider bill that ensures it is not difficult to obtain abortions within the legal limit. This would include things like ensuring that women didn’t have to travel far (perhaps even compelling hospitals that receive state funding to provide such services or stop receiving funding/ setting up a fund for public clinics for such services where there are none). What? You might say, this seems to be an expansion of abortion, not a reduction! But this is part of the end goal. Acknowledging that there will be times when, sad though it may be, a tragedy to that unborn person though it may be, is required medically or psychologically, I do want to make sure that if it must happen, it happens as safely, as easily, and as much without distress as possible – as I feel about any medical procedure. This will, I think, help the pro-life side of the country come to terms with that idea that sometimes, abortion is the best course. They’ll be seeing a reduction of abortions, particularly later term abortions, and see this as progress on their end too. Eventually, you’d get to a full on ban, and when that happens, you won’t accidentally have a Savita because the infrastructure is there and hospitals will know that not providing services could mean the end of their tenure.

As far as the nuts and bolts go, I don’t see any need to be monitoring women’s fertility. We’re banning abortions, not banning women not being pregnant. And I don’t see prosecuting a woman as effective policy. We don’t assume there has been a murder unless there is evidence that there has been a murder. We don’t go checking in on people, invading their houses to look for dead bodies. Why would we assume there has been an abortion without evidence that there has been an abortion? Additionally, it won’t be effective at enacting a cultural shift to one that values people at any stage if we’ve got some police state going on. In the environmental world, I’ve seen that for policy, the more moving parts, generally, the harder it is to keep track, and the point of service, in this regard, is not the woman, but the abortionist.

So, be it stage one, all the way through to a full ban, how would women who required a medically needed abortion get one? Or who were victims of rape? Let’s keep it to one vector. Doctors can become certified (perhaps a special kind of certification probably following coursework in ethics, as well as what they’ve probably already studied at that point in gynecology, perhaps psychology, etc, that maybe they need to take refresher courses on every couple of years) to offer a legal medical opinion. Any hospital or clinic that offers abortion services has to have at least one of these housed, and they are not paid by the abortion provider, but by a separate fund set up by the gvt. Alternatively, your GP could have this certification if they went through the courses. Maybe you’d require a signature, like a woman goes to her GP complaining of something, GP checks it out, says, this pregnancy has a huge potential of killing you, I prescribe an abortion, you take that prescription note to the clinic or get the in-house certified doctor to examine and check. Of course legal language would have to be included such that a doctor can sign off on an abortion post procedure when needed. Essentially you’d be getting this doctor to not only say after the fact that an abortion was needed, but that timing did not allow for the written recommendation to be given earlier. They sign and stamp that. You might have, as you do with the USDA or EPA, rare, unannounced governmental check-ins, where regulators are checking in at these certified doctor’s offices, going over identity redacted files to gauge whether or not the certified abortion prescriber was generally prescribing abortions for medically needed situations. As far as a rape exemption would play out, I’d see a situation where I wouldn’t want to impose that a woman actually have a successful court case that she was raped. But she would need to sign something to the effect that she was. This would get the certified doctor to sign off, and the abortionist could do their thing. Abortionists who performed abortions without the prescription would be the ones who would be prosecuted for at minimum, malpractice, at most, potentially manslaughter.

What is the downside of this? Well, let’s be honest, there is the huge potential for corruption. Women can feasibly walk in and say, I was raped, abortion pleaase! or doctors could be bought off to say, you are dying, get yourself an abortion! I think that is just something that is unavoidable. We have corruption in existing laws, police officers who murder and never see a courtroom, bribery for insider trading, or polluting companies that covertly dump waste into the river. That doesn’t change the fact that these laws have changed attitudes overall. Thanks to the clean air act, yes, coal companies still pollute, sometimes illegally, but less do. You can see LA now.

Furthermore, I would want to err on the side of keeping women safe. As I said in another post, not one case of a woman dying because she was refused a medically needed abortion is acceptable.

Culture shapes policy shapes culture which shapes policy which shapes culture. So I don’t think we’ll get to a ban until the fear factor of pregnancy and birth go down significantly, but a ban following the policies that address financial struggles, and is flexible enough to account to medical and psychological needs will result in a populace that has fewer motivations to skirt the law.

I said:

I don’t see how your suggestions are radically different from current laws. I agree with you that we need to do more to prevent unwanted pregnancies. We should increase access to education, contraception and jobs. Great!

13 states already have 20 week abortion bans. Over 98% of abortions happen before 20 weeks and most happen in the first 12 weeks. So these laws are mostly just rhetoric – but for the people they do impact, they are hellish. Abortions performed at or after 20 weeks are performed either because of severe fetal abnormalities or serious risks to the mother’s health. Given that your policy allows for doctors to grant exceptions in these cases my first question for you is – what would your policy change about the current state of affairs? Because I don’t see it changing anything.

From a policy perspective, allowing someone to merely sign a piece of paper alleging they were raped to get an abortion is merciful and compassionate to rape victims. But given that women who need abortions were willing to do much worse when abortions were illegal, like pay exorbitant prices, travel hundreds of miles, and put their lives at risk by going to disreputable quacks, lying on a piece of paper no one but you and your doctor will see seems like a walk in the park. So my second question is – given that your policy makes abortions easier to get than they were before Roe vs Wade, why and how do you expect it to reduce abortions in any significant way?

You said, “Abortionists who performed abortions without the prescription would be the ones who would be prosecuted for at minimum, malpractice, at most, potentially manslaughter.” Kelly Renee Gissendaner was convicted of murder and executed by the state of Georgia last week for conspiring with her lover to kill her husband. Her lover was the one who stabbed her husband to death. Richard Glossip is on death row in Oklahoma for allegedly paying someone to kill his boss. If people can be sentenced to death for conspiring to kill someone or to pay a hitman to do so, why should abortion be any different, if in your words, “it’s the fact that we are talking about the bodily autonomy of two individuals that makes this issue so difficult. It’s extremely important. However, I do not find bodily autonomy compelling enough to inflict mortal damage against another carte blanche.” My third question for you is, how is a woman who goes to a doctor and requests an abortion different from a person who hires a hitman to kill their spouse or boss? Perhaps we agree that neither crime deserves the death penalty. But I think that abortion should be legal because a fetus is not a person and that hiring a hitman should be illegal. Why would you separate the two crimes if you believe a fetus has bodily autonomy?

You said “I don’t see any need to be monitoring women’s fertility. We’re banning abortions, not banning women not being pregnant. And I don’t see prosecuting a woman as effective policy. We don’t assume there has been a murder unless there is evidence that there has been a murder.” When a woman has a miscarriage in countries where abortion is illegal, that is taken as evidence that she may have had an abortion. My fourth question is. If you don’t think that late term miscarriages should be investigated as possible abortions under your 20 week ban, how else would it be enforced? If doctors and hospitals are not required to report “suspicious” miscarriages, how would people who performed illegal abortions be punished?

My fifth question is, where would the criteria for deciding who gets to have an abortion at 20 weeks (or earlier if your successive bans are enacted) come from? You personally? The American Life League? A private organization or a public rulemaking body? For example would these regulations be made available on the Federal Register for public comment? How would these exceptions be determined?

And my sixth question is let’s say that you enact the 20 week ban, when do you take the next step, what is it, and how will you know it’s time to do so?

She replied:

1) Given that your policy allows for doctors to grant exceptions in these cases my first question for you is – what would your policy change about the current state of affairs? Because I don’t see it changing anything.

It wouldn’t change anything as far as abortion numbers go in the first round. But in order for us to get past this schizophrenic personality disorder, attempts to accomplish an all or nothing scenario depending on which side of the fence you sit, it’s a needed first step in my scenario. Pro-lifers need to convince pro-choicers that they really do care about women, by making it easier for women who medically need abortions to get them, and pro-choicers need to convince pro-lifers that they do care about the unborn too (I know on these blogs, people might truly not give a whit about the fetus, but in my experience – and the vast majority of my friends are pro-choice – that isn’t the case at all. They do care about the unborn. Very much so. From pre-natal health too emotional attachments, they see the question of abortion as a really difficult one, just one where ultimately they are afraid for women to be caught in difficult situations they have no recourse out of. My hypothesis is that this is the more mainstream pro-choice position). Again, we need to build that bridge, because otherwise it continues as a political shouting match where we get nothing done (and that includes making sure that women who really do need medical service, like your hypothetical woman in the middle of Oklahoma who needs a medical abortion, can get it easily, and as safely as possible.)

2) So my second question is – given that your policy makes abortions easier to get than they were before Roe vs Wade, why and how do you expect it to reduce abortions in any significant way?

Most of this is answered in the prior question, but I did want to touch on one thing. You mentioned that women were willing to pay a lot more pre RvW for abortions. But again, policy timing, and policy context matters for how any given policy is going to impact people. If people pushed through the 15th amendment pre-civil war, do you think this would have had much of an impact on the election process, perhaps, but not likely in the intended way. Slave owners might have compelled their slaves to vote the way they wanted, or maybe prevented them from voting in the first place. But the civil war happened, slaves were free, and suddenly the 15th amendment becomes relevant and useful towards giving blacks a voice that was their own. (Of course, there was still suppression, and struggle, but not being owned by others made it possible to exercise their 15th amendment rights marginally, as opposed to not at all.)
I hypothesize that in a society where financial supports are there, where social structures exist to support both mother and pre-nate, where medical infrastructure exists so no pregnant woman has to say, I better abort now because if I don’t, and weeks down the line there is a problem, I won’t be able to get an abortion to live, when the desperation involved in a lot of abortions is gone, there is less of an incentive to to even want to get an abortion to begin with. In my experience, policy can really only deal with the aggregate. It can’t hope to zoom down to the individual. A person would still have to sign that they were raped, and it stays in that medical record – though due too privacy laws, released only when the patient agrees. That’s a pretty big deal to lie about something like that. I’m sure someone can do it without a problem, but not most people. Like I said, I am sure there will be cheaters, as there is with any policy. They will be in the minority (is my hypothesis).

3) My third question for you is, how is a woman who goes to a doctor and requests an abortion different from a person who hires a hitman to kill their spouse or boss? But I think that abortion should be legal because a fetus is not a person and that hiring a hitman should be illegal. Why would you separate the two crimes if you believe a fetus has bodily autonomy?

Because in no scenario is there a “hitman for health”. There aren’t legally sanctioned times when a person can go out and hire a hitman to kill somebody. Obviously in the case of an abortion, under my hypothesized policy, there is just such a case.
The addition of such ambiguity means that there is the potential for it being applied really poorly. A woman who had her doctor tell her that she is eligible for a medically justified abortion, but somewhere along the line, the certification doesn’t get communicated when she gets it, shouldn’t be punished for bureaucracy.
As I said before, the more vectors, the more likely your policy is going to produce unpredictable results. It is more efficient, more likely to be successful, if you narrow down the point of liability. And since in this hypothetical world, the only people performing abortions or prescribing abortions have been certified one way or another, they stand to bear a real cost – the loss of that certification. It’s less costly to enforce as well, once again, improving the ability of it to be effective.

4) My fourth question is. If you don’t think that late term miscarriages should be investigated as possible abortions under your 20 week ban, how else would it be enforced? If doctors and hospitals are not required to report “suspicious” miscarriages, how would people who performed illegal abortions be punished?

So, firstly, not all countries where abortion is illegal do they enact that police state. Ireland doesn’t. I see no need to follow the model of those who do.
But to answer your question, enforcement comes in part with those unannounced regulator visits. If abortion certified doctors are performing illegal abortions, when the regulator shows up, they are caught, loose their certification, and potentially face extreme jail time. As far as people who are not licensed and are performing illegal abortions, you’d catch them the way you’d catch any criminal doing crimes covertly. How did anyone catch Gosnell? Eyewitness accounts, anonymous tips, and finally a police raid. Was the protection of born-alive infants a bad law because he acted outside of it? I don’t think so. You’re right though, I can see where manslaughter for unliscenced abortionists might not be a significant enough deterrence. Not sure. I have to think on that more.

But to be clear, my goal is extremely reduced abortions, not increased incarceration. Again, going after the bottleneck that is the abortionist, when they act illegally, is more efficient in that regard.

5) My fifth question is, where would the criteria for deciding who gets to have an abortion at 20 weeks (or earlier if your successive bans are enacted) come from? You personally? The American Life League? A private organization or a public rulemaking body? For example would these regulations be made available on the Federal Register for public comment? How would these exceptions be determined?

Doctor. When the doctor writes down her/his prescription, it’s not just a signature. It’s a detailed report on why and how, in their professional opinion, they believe the pregnancy of a woman is life threatening. You could potentially have a group of gynecological physicians make up a body that codifies some general categorical circumstances that doctors can classify their reasoning under, or even stricter guidelines than that, like Registered Professional Foresters do for the Forest Practice Act in California, but with even more strength to the doctors. That wouldn’t be a bad idea, particularly if you got a healthy mix of medical perspectives relating to abortion. The point is though, keep politicians out of it.

6) And my sixth question is let’s say that you enact the 20 week ban, when do you take the next step, what is it, and how will you know it’s time to do so?

Good question, and the hardest one (not that the others didn’t require thought!). I am not sure of the answer. Honestly, I’m a fairly optimistic person, but in this regard, I am quite pessimistic that we are even going to get to this point in my lifetime. As I said before, the GOP’s conservatism has been the #1 worst thing to happen to the pro-life movement. Though I argue with other pro-lifers when I can that pro-life and conservatism cannot be politically synonymous to succeed, I don’t think it is going to change any time soon. The GOP needs to explode or something.
Knowing what I do about the lethargy of policy making (unless it is an in-your-face issue or emergency, it seems really hard to get on the agenda) Given that fact, if this policy were able to be enacted, you’d probably have to write the timeline into the bill, even if you had release values to extend time periods when needed. From a purely non-policy, cultural standpoint, I think you go down from the 20 week ban at the point where you see abortion numbers plateau down at their lowest level. As I’ve said in other posts, the idea is that culture needs to change as much as policy, and a final, full ban should mostly be codification of the fact that the culture generally respects life at all stages. But as policy impacts culture, ratcheting down that ban in this way, I hypothesize, helps nurture that value in society. (Not all policy positively impacts cultural mores of course! I am not trying to make that claim. But done right, they can.)

I replied:

You said “pro-choicers need to convince pro-lifers that they do ” care about the unborn too.” This is an odd sentiment. I know you identify as politically liberal and you don’t like the fact that most pro-lifers are politically conservative, but that’s the way it is. And in general liberal policies for better education, healthcare, economic opportunity and environmental preservation ARE better for future generations than conservative policies. I think we both would agree on that. But why do you think pro-choicers should have to talk publicly about how much they love fetuses? What would that accomplish?

You said, “I hypothesize that in a society where financial supports are there, where social structures exist to support both mother and pre-nate, where medical infrastructure exists so no pregnant woman has to say, I better abort now because if I don’t, and weeks down the line there is a problem, I won’t be able to get an abortion to live, when the desperation involved in a lot of abortions is gone, there is less of an incentive to to even want to get an abortion to begin with.” So you are mostly right in that countries with better sex ed and healthcare have lower abortion rates, but that has nothing to do with the “incentive to even want to get an abortion.” That is because in those countries there are fewer unwanted pregnancies to abort in the first place. Which I think we would both agree is a great goal! However, I am confused by what you mean by “incentive to get an abortion.” Can you explain what incentives you think exist that encourage women to get abortions? Because from the evidence I’ve seen, women don’t get abortions because they think there is a reward involved, they do it because they are pregnant when they do not want to be.The Guttmacher institute studies abortion in the United States and in 2014 they reported that women gave the following reasons for getting an abortion (they were allowed to select more than one.)

Cannot afford a baby now 73%

A baby would interfere with school/employment/ability to care for dependents 69%

Would be a single parent/having relationship problems 48%

Am finished with childbearing 38%

Having a better social safety net is great. But it’s not going to stop young women from wanting to finish their educations before having kids, or remove other responsibilities from people who have them or fix broken relationships or make someone want another child when they feel they are too old.

Going back to the hitman example, under your proposed policy, abortion would be legal until 20 weeks. Going back to the previously cited Guttmacher presentation, 99% of abortions occur before 20 weeks. That’s a lot of hitmen being hired without health exemptions, don’t you think?

If they don’t arrest women for miscarriages in Ireland, that’s great for human rights. But it’s bad policy. To explain why, let’s look at a neighboring country – Northern Ireland. There they have a law similar to the one you propose. Abortion is only legal when the mother’s life is at risk. However, hundreds of women have had abortions by ordering drugs online. Women frequently travel to other countries to get abortions. The law serves to make abortion more difficult but it doesn’t stop or reduce abortions.

You said, “enforcement comes in part with those unannounced regulator visits.” That sound great but where would the funding for this infrastructure come from? The scope of what you are proposing is quite large. You said, “Any hospital or clinic that offers abortion services has to have at least one of these housed, and they are not paid by the abortion provider, but by a separate fund set up by the gvt.” But since any abortions performed after 20 weeks must be prescribed by one of these certified doctors, I would argue that all hospitals, walk in clinics and OBYGN practices have to have a certified person on staff. Because when you need an abortion to save your life it’s because bad things are happening very quickly. You said that “Of course legal language would have to be included such that a doctor can sign off on an abortion post procedure when needed. Essentially you’d be getting this doctor to not only say after the fact that an abortion was needed, but that timing did not allow for the written recommendation to be given earlier.” How would this work though? I do know a little bit about third party verification and the idea that a professional that has their career and the threat of manslaughter charges hanging over her head would verify a procedure they were not present for is ludicrous. You would need to have people on staff at all times.

In 2008 there were 1,793 abortion providers in the United States. However since then many have been forced to close because of Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP laws). In 2013 there were 5,686 hospitals in the USA. According to the US Census in 2010, there were 33,624 OBGYNs in the US. So how many locations is that that need to be inspected? Somewhere between 1,700 and 41,000. Who would conduct and pay for these trainings? How often are these inspections? I know they are unannounced, but how often should they be expected? Once a year? Even if we are only inspecting current abortion clinics – let’s say 1800. That’s 1800 new government bureaucrats PLUS inspectors to check up on them. That is a huge. If you wanted any real oversight the inspector would have to be onsite for a few days at least plus travel time. So 3600 working days. For every clinic to get one inspection per year. If you propose a 5 day work week with 2 weeks vacation and 10 holidays, that’s a 240 day working year. So allowing for zero travel time, you need 15 employees who are willing to travel constantly for once a year checks. 30 is more reasonable given travel demands, allowing time for paperwork. If you want twice a year checks – 60 people, and so on. To truly inspect all hospitals and OBGYN’s you’d need a staff of tens of thousands more onsite people AND 630 people for once a year checks, 1260 for twice a year checks and so on. In addition to the inspectors you need support staff, HR, IT, office space, computers, and so on. Where does this money come from?

You said the guidelines would come from “a group of gynecological physicians.” But what if the doctors don’t want these restrictions? The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said in 2014,

Safe, legal abortion is a necessary component of women’s health care. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists supports the availability of high-quality reproductive health services for all women and is committed to improving access to abortion. Access to abortion is threatened by state and federal government restrictions, limitations on public funding for abortion services and training, stigma, violence against abortion providers, and a dearth of abortion providers. Legislative restrictions fundamentally interfere with the patient-provider relationship and decrease access to abortion for all women, and particularly for low-income women and those living long distances from health care providers. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists calls for advocacy to oppose and overturn restrictions, improve access, and mainstream abortion as an integral component of women’s health care.

Sure, there are some pro life OBGYNs but they are in the minority. If they are the only ones on the committee that sets the standard, that is an incredibly political move. If the sample is representative, you won’t get the standard you want. So how would this work?

She never answered. I’m assuming she simply got tired of the exchange. I really like talking to pro lifers about how they think their policies will work because I get the impression they really don’t know. And if I can make them see that, then maybe they will stop proposing them.

Link to full discussion in comments thread.

Unpacking the Murray/Singas domestic abuse scandal.

Posted in Editorials on October 14th, 2015

On Long Island this fall, the Nassau County District Attorney’s race is heating up. Current Nassau County prosecutor Madeline Singas is facing off against Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray. Murray is claiming Singas’ failure to fire a co-worker in a messy divorce case means she is unfit for office. A lot of the reporting about this has come from the New York Post, but I want to present a summary that is less focused on the lurid details and more about the facts of what happened.

Here’s what we know:

1. Jeffrey Stein, a Democrat and the Nassau County DA’s chief administrative officer used to be married to Carole Mundy.

2. According to leaked records of their divorce, Mundy suffers PTSD brought on by Stein’s interest and participation in kink and BDSM. (The Post gives all the lurid details here.)

3. Mundy’s attorney is Dave Mejias (another Democrat), someone who has had two different ex partners make accusations against him. (Stalking his ex girlfriend.) (Breaking and entering into a different ex girlfriend’s home.)

4. Murray released a campaign attack ad saying Singas should have fired Stein. It is unclear if she has evidence against Stein aside from what was revealed in the sealed divorce proceedings that have been partially leaked.

5. The ad also talks about a domestic violence case from 2006 that Singas declined to pursue.

6. Singas’ campaign says that Stein is innocent.

Everything about this is terrible. There may be a domestic abuser in the Nassau County DA’s office and the Post is using the story as clickbait focusing on the details of specific sex acts rather than whether or not they were consensual. Kate Murray is using the suffering of victims of intimate partner violence for her own political advantage. Dave Mejias handles the civil side of domestic abuse cases when he may be a perpetrator himself. Madeline Singas, like all prosecutors is in a difficult spot. She wants to advocate for victims but has limited resources with which to do so. If Kate Murray really wants to make domestic violence her issue, she should tell us what she plans to do about it, and what solutions and resources will she offer to victims, rather than exploiting other people’s pain to score points.