Newspeak 101

Policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta were told of the list of forbidden words at a meeting Thursday with senior CDC officials who oversee the budget, according to an analyst who took part in the 90-minute briefing. The forbidden words are “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”

The Washington Post

When people use the adjective Orwellian, this is exactly what they mean.

Women’s Health in Texas is Still Under Attack

The Planned Parenthood clinic in San Angelo, Texas has closed.

KUT – For Supporters Of Abortion Access, Troubling Trends In Texas – November 18, 2019

Planned Parenthood was the only place in the region that a woman could go to get birth control pills at a reduced cost. To get mammograms and pap smears done. The only place that poor women could go to see to their basic health needs. I know this because The Wife and I relied on that clinic when we lived in San Angelo. Now that clinic is closed and those women who are still in San Angelo have nowhere else to go.

The promise that Conservative Christianists made, that women’s health would not suffer in Texas because of their war on Planned Parenthood, was an outright lie. They don’t care about women’s health, they only care about maintaining male control over the female’s reproductive system. That is the beginning, the middle and the end of the story when it comes to why they hate Planned Parenthood.

It is the same reason why the founder of Planned Parenthood was reviled when she started this movement to care for women’s health first and foremost. She was liberating women from their reliance on men, and men don’t like that. It would be nice if this liars were better at telling the lies they tell. At least you could be comfortable in the lies that way.

RAnt(hony)-ings
RAnt(hony)-ings

Tracking Periods in Missouri

The Missouri state health director, Dr. Randall Williams, testified at a state hearing Tuesday that he kept a spreadsheet to track the menstrual periods of women who visited Planned Parenthood, an action that one lawmaker has called on the governor to investigate.

The spreadsheet, which was made at Williams’ request by the state’s main inspector, helped to identify patients who had undergone failed abortions.

Kansas City Star, Missouri health director kept spreadsheet of Planned Parenthood patients’ periods by Crystal Thomas

It gives me no pleasure to say I told you so. Not even the ambivalence of schadenfreude. but I did tell you this would happen.

…I am slightly amused, though, reflecting on the denial of anti-abortionists who insisted that no behavior of that kind would be required to save all the lives of the unborn. It’s too bad they don’t understand how the law works, or they might have been smart enough to realize they didn’t want to go where their beliefs were taking them.

Abortion, Lead & Crime

My paper does not refute their conclusions. To the contrary, it actually reaffirms them. I include their abortion measure in my analysis, and I find that the abortion effect is pretty much unchanged when one includes the lead effect. That the two effects are operating relatively independently, and that each one is of similar magnitude when you do or don’t account for the other. So what that means is that, from my perspective, both stories are true. And we can hold both of them kind of side by side. It doesn’t make sense to look for a single explanation for a decline in crime. There are lots of explanations.

Jessica Wolpaw Reyes

I’m glad that Freakonomics Radio went back and revisited this subject. I’ve been wanting to hear Levitt’s opinions on how the data has proven out over the last eighteen years. I had not expected that they would invite the lead study author (Jessica Reyes) to appear on the show and add her weight to the argument concerning why crime rates fell, and what to credit for this dramatic fall in crime.

StitcherAbortion and Crime, Revisited (Ep. 384)

Just a quick tangent here. I have to wonder about Stitcher just as I wonder about most podcast apps and their approach to embedded content. I have to construct the embed for myself in order to get the podcast to play, and even then the embed lacks most of the information that could be provided. Contrast this embed with the embed for Today Explained in this article. That embed showed up just by pasting the URL for the episode directly into WordPress. Like the articles of my own that I post below, the content simply appears.

I, as a firstborn child, born before the legal availability of abortion, a child now turned mature adult. I have no doubt as to the causal nature between wantedness and a tendency towards criminal behavior. I know what my teenage years were like. No, I won’t discuss that subject here. Not now, anyway.

I can say that my experiences have lead me to echo Levitt’s sentiment that I quote below, with my own children. I have striven always to make them feel loved, no matter what they did at any given time in their childhood years. I love them. I wanted them, and I want them to know that. No matter what secret feelings I harbor about my mother and what choices she would have made, had she been allowed to make them, I do my best not allow these feelings to color my dealings with my own children or anyone else around me. If anyone should be terrified that they might have been aborted before birth, that person is me. I would have preferred never to have existed than to have been an unwanted burden on anybody. I can also state that with certainty.

…if there’s one thing that comes out of our research, it is the idea that unwantedness is super-powerful. And it’s affected me as a father in the sense that when I first was having kids, I didn’t feel maybe so obligated to make children feel loved. And it’s interesting that that now as I go through a second round of kids, I am not trying to teach my kids very much. I’m just trying to make them feel incredibly loved. And it seems to me that that’s a pretty good premise for young kids.

Steve Levitt

Roe v. Wade Was a Conservative Decision

The Republicans are poised to reverse Roe v. Wade! How can you be so cavalier about this?”

A question I posed to myself in 2006

My response in 2006 went something like “Republicans have no intention of reversing Roe v. Wade. They would be fools if they did reverse it.” I’m beginning to suspect that I overestimated their intelligence on this particular subject. There has been a veritable deluge of attempts to overturn Roe v. Wade in the last decade, not to mention the war that conservatives are waging on Planned Parenthood in the mistaken belief that Planned Parenthood is where all abortions occur in the US.

TwitterTrumpconlaw #26

As the writing appears on the wall in this final gasp of American conservatism, the soon to be disempowered Republican party continues to slice parts of itself off in an orgy of self-congratulation. It seems that throwing all their morals out the window and voting for a confirmed con-artist, philanderer and pathological liar requires them to double down on those demonstrably debunked claims to a moral high ground. They are convinced that if they only pass one more law they’ll finally be able to get rid of the medical procedure, abortion, by overturning Roe. They also seem to think that they’ll stop women from using birth control or morning after pills, but I personally think that they should stop while they are ahead.

You see, Roe was already a conservative decision based on science and the law back when it was decided in 1973. It was and is conservative because it represented a partial step towards granting women the same bodily autonomy that men enjoy, before there was a detectable change in the woman’s body, while protecting the state’s interest in making sure that the maximal number of new citizens is born to each new generation of women.

Access to healthcare is a woman’s right. There really isn’t any question about this because access to healthcare, a combined investment by the society at large as well as individuals caught up in the various healthcare systems across the globe, is every human’s right. This right is established through the fact that each person born came from someone who in some way contributed to the current status of medical knowledge and the existing medical infrastructure. People come from somewhere, and that somewhere is from other people. People created the healthcare system over generations, this grants later generations access to the combined knowledge of their forebears on an equal basis. An equality that is currently being denied to most people living today, but that observation is a digression from the specific point I’m trying to make with this article.

Abortion is a medical procedure, no if’s and’s or but’s about it. As a medical procedure, abortion should be available to anyone who wants one, end of story. Or rather; it would be the end of the story if men had to carry the next generation in their bodies in the same way women do. But that isn’t how nature set procreation up. Nature put the bearing of young on women’s backs, not the men’s. This left the women at home while the men formed hunting parties. It left them at home caring for children while the men created the first governments. It left the women at home changing and washing diapers while men learned professions and took jobs outside the house. And so men vy for access to women’s reproductive organs by violence if necessary, and then try to keep their unwanted progyny in the woman’s body by force of law since they, the men, set up that law through their control of government.

No one expects men to reveal whether they’ve had a vasectomy. No one wants to hold men accountable for wasting potential life every time they masturbate (no one who is sane does, anyway) their privacy is respected, even when it comes to making decisions about whether they will have children or not. This is not true of women.

Women’s health is fraught with demands to know things about their physical being that a man would never, ever, put up with. “She’s on the rag.” “You look fat.” “your tits are too small.” “When are you due?” the intrusions into their personal privacy defy any attempt at comparison to the way men are treated in public. The next time a man loses his shit in public, ask him if he’s played with himself recently. Go ahead, I dare you.

There is a right to privacy in the constitution, and the reason this right exists even though it isn’t enumerated is itself constitutional. Political pundits talk about how abortion is a litmus test for potential Supreme Court (SCOTUS) justices. If there really were a litmus test when it comes to abortion, it ought to be the constitution that forms it since the constitution is what they swear to uphold. The test could be formed of a single question with two possible answers. What is the meaning of the ninth and tenth amendments to the constitution? The answer to this question could be either unenumerated personal rights and/or limited government power. Any potential judge that does not concede the existence of a right to privacy, of a limit to state power, does not have a place on the bench within the US court system. They demonstrably do not understand the document that they will be sworn to protect.

Roe v. Wade establishes a right to privacy in jurisprudence. The findings of all of the cases that involve privacy since that case rely on the findings of Roe for their justification. The court will have to find some other basis for privacy as a right in any form if they hope to preserve privacy after reversing Roe. Yes, the prospect of reversal of that judicial precedent is that far-reaching. To reverse it is to make us all wards of the state and to make all claims to privacy by persons, including the multi-national corporations null and void. Pick one. Outlaw abortion or lose your ability to talk to your doctor or attorney in confidence.

Yes, dear reader. I hear you out there exclaiming “What about protecting life, dammit?”

That’s all fine and good. First you have to prove that there is a life, a life with a conscious mind, a will to live, and not just autonomic responses. You have to prove the presence of brainwaves denoting an active consciousness. After you do that you still aren’t done. You still have to show how you will preserve that life without harming the life of the mother-to-be, and by harm I mean economic as well as physical or emotional harm. If you did all of that, you might have a telling argument. Failing to do any one of those things will put you back at where we started this entire fiasco. Individual choice. The woman decides if she will have a child, and that means right up to the day before delivery, as far as a legal argument is concerned.

Without breath there is no voice to speak up in protest. Without breath there is no human life that medicine or science can document. Without breath there isn’t a soul, as your own religious document states. Settle for what you have now or potentially lose any remaining control you exert over women’s bodily choices. Pick one.

Keeping abortion legal does protect the life of the real, live woman whose body you want to use as a government mandated living incubator. Women die during pregnancy and childbirth, all the time. Savita Halappanavar died an unnecessary death in horrible pain due to Ireland’s (since repealed) ban on all abortions. This will happen here too, if abortion is banned. Underaged girls get pregnant. Rape and incest figure into these pregnancies. Will you inflict further harm on girls who have already been violated by someone close to them by forcing them to carry those pregnancies to term? Some of them will die during pregnancy and childbirth. Just exactly what limits will you set in your pursuit of protecting the life of the unborn? How many women will die because of your crusade? It should be your job to count them all. All of those lost lives will be the blood on your hands. May you have better luck than Pontius Pilate had in removing that blood.


I started this article while the Kavanaugh hearings were going on. I felt so miserable for most of that time that I limited myself to just re-editing the Witch Hunt post, never managing to get this article formed up into the finished work I wanted it to be. Reviewing the evidence revealed by the talking heads I listened to, talking heads endlessly discussing the hearings, I came away with the fact that Christine Blasey Ford, the prosecutor that the Senate Judiciary Committee had hired to cross-examine now Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh, got him to reveal his character by making him lose his cool. He had secrets he was hiding, and he wasn’t going to reveal them willingly. He probably should have played with himself before going into that hearing. It might have made him less of a raging asshole, but I doubt it.

After this groundbreaking revelation, that Kavanaugh was lying on the stand, an impeachable error for a sitting justice, the Republican leadership of the committee fired Christine Blasey Ford, burning another witch. They had two witch burnings in one Senate hearing, and they counted that as a success. I know that Lindsey Graham saw it that way. The Senate Republicans burned the witches and pretended none of that bad stuff that Justice Kavanaugh was accused of ever happened. Just as they did with Justice Thomas. #IBelieveHer and That Still Isn’t Enough People. The outcome of the hearings was preordained by the Republican leadership of the Senate. Holding the hearings were just a sham.

On top of that, justice Kavanaugh was drunk on the witness stand. Pull up the video of his Senate hearing. Look at the flush on his nose and cheeks. That man is one angry drunk. I pity his wife and children.

Only stupid people like the Orange Hate-Monkey and his MAGA supporters fell for the charade that the Senate performed that day. Now we have two people accused of sexual assault sitting on the SCOTUS and the stage is set for the drama that conservatives have been waiting breathlessly for ever since Roe was decided, convinced that they’ll be able to put women back in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant as often as they can put them there. They’ve got their pandering Trump card stacking the federal courts in conservative favor. A task that was made possible by a Senate Majority Leader who should have been removed from office for dereliction of duty in 2010 when he stated his plans to do nothing for Obama while he was president.

Why Is This Happening? Forecasting the future of Roe v. Wade with Nancy Northup

The stage is set for the final act of this farce. The farce that started when Christianists decided to make America a christian country and set about forcing their beliefs about the nature of existence on the rest of us. The problem for them remains the same problem that the United States Supreme Court faced back in 1973. Namely, if they force women to carry every pregnancy to term, who pays for that? Who pays for those children’s futures? Who makes sure that they have equal access to the benefits of society right alongside every wealthy, wanted child?

Who? Well, we all will.

Your taxes will be raised to cover those costs. Don’t bother to try to disagree, this is written into the constitution. Brown v. Board of Education outlines the bare bones of what will be required of the general public if women are forced to carry every pregnancy to term. Equal schools for all those children. Equal access to healthcare. Equal access to the courts will ensure that this prediction will play out as I describe. Trillions will be spent.

Not just on schools and medical facilities, things we should probably be investing in anyway, but also on police and investigative capacity. Every woman will have to be registered as soon as they have their first period. They will have to be registered as a potential mother so that they can be properly tracked. Sexual activity will have to be monitored to make sure that no one attempts to prevent a pregnancy. This task will require a police force the likes of which has never been seen before in history. The Handmaid’s Tale only hints at the depths of depravity that will be required to insure that no pregnancy is terminated, ever.

That is what reversing Roe will entail. But it only begins there. The current thinking for who will pick up the tab for all these new children amounts to making the men who father them pay for them. As if men are made of money and all you have to do is tap them like a Maple tree and they’ll ooze more money than any number of children will require. Most men are too shiftless to be willing to work to support the results of every orgasm they experience (considering the thousands of times the average male masturbates in a given lifetime, this is understandable) Most men are unwilling to devote themselves to raising children themselves. This has been my experience, speaking as a dad who spent two years at home raising his second child. Most men that I have revealed this fact to have been incredulous that I would waste my time in that fashion. As if crafting the minds and bodies of the next generation of humans was work that wasn’t of prime importance to every currently living person.

Equality will not be achieved by enslaving the men unlucky enough to be caught fathering children. They will never produce enough to pay the costs of raising those children properly. The failure to produce funds to guarantee equality will result in the taxpayer having to fund the shortfall. This means your taxes will go up, and up, and up… if you ban abortion. Someone has to pay for these children, and the full faith and credit of the US government will require that the taxpayer eventually pays that bill.

Should men carry their share of the weight? Certainly. Should we leave children in the hands of women who don’t believe they are people and don’t want them? No. Should we force the fathers to share the poverty with these women and their unwanted children? No. Shall we then confiscate children from parents that cannot raise them? Make them wards of the state and then task the state with making sure they have the best life possible? Seems to me we probably shouldn’t even begin to head down that road, the road that is labeled banning abortion. That’s the point that I’ve been trying to make since this subject was forced into my personal space as a teenager, witnessing the misfortune of people who didn’t pay attention in health class. Someone will pay for the stupidity, eventually.

If, on the other hand, I were trying to craft political positions for the movers and shakers on the issue of abortion. If I were asked to advise them on the subject of whether to support this or that bill limiting women’s access to healthcare (as far-fetched as that notion would be) I would tell them to insist on a quid pro quo arrangement.

“Fine, I’ll support your interference in the health and family decisions of the average woman in exchange for legislation that guarantees that there will be no homeless children in our state. Legislation that insures no children go without meals or beds to sleep in or whatever level of education they prove themselves capable of working towards. Either we agree on this equal exchange, or I will torpedo your bill with every legislative trick that I can muster.”

That would be my advice. Anti-abortionists claim to be pro-life. It should be beholden on them to prove that they really are pro-life by making every child a wanted child, every child a child with a home, every child a child who is not hungry. Either that, or they can just admit that abortion is sometimes necessary and give up the whole idea of interfering in a woman’s right to choose. They are, after all, the shiftless men I’m talking about.

Punishment is where the entire roller coaster ride of anti-abortion sentiment goes off the rails. The moment that anti-abortionists decided to punish women for their promiscuity with forcing them to raise children they don’t want, they crossed an unforgivable line in the sand. Children are not punishment, and we cannot afford to treat them as punishment. Infants become adults, people with rights they can assert for themselves, and those people will take their dissatisfaction with their unwanted lives out on the rest of us.

This experiment has been tried in recent history and the results are known. Ask Nicolae Ceaușescu how well that worked out for him (another dictator that Trump would have loved) You can’t, because all those unwanted children dragged him out of office and killed him. That is what has happened before when an authoritarian government attempted to make women raise children they didn’t want. If avoiding that fate means abortion is legal for the full term of a woman’s pregnancy, then so be it. As I said at the start of this article, anti-abortionists should have settled for what they already had, because all of the alternatives will be far less satisfying for them than the status quo is right now. Roe v. Wade was a conservative decision, far more conservative than what the status quo will be after the precedent is reversed, no matter which way the country goes after that. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

You demand this life be born to appease you miserable vengeful god, but you then abdicate any responsibility for it whatsoever. Life begins at conception and ends at birth, well, at least society’s responsibility for it. To you, “sacred” means life must be born, no matter the consequences, and then it can die in the dirt and it’s not your problem. You would force life into the world, but shrug off any responsibility to build a better world for it.

Stonekettle Station
George Carlin: Pro Life, Abortion, And The Sanctity Of Life

They aren’t pro-life, they are anti-woman.

George Carlin

Case history


We are already living in a post-Roe America

1A – How We Talk When We Talk About Abortion – November 18, 2019

What is the number that is rare? I say let women decide. For themselves.

#IBelieveHer and That Still Isn’t Enough People

I want to tell you a story. No, scratch that introduction. This is not something I want to do. I need to tell you a story. This is a story that has needed to be told for quite some time. It’s a true story, so I will take a little literary license with the details to masque the identities of those involved; but the story remains true enough that those involved will know the truth of this story. Both the guilty and the innocent will know the truth of this.

It was 40 years ago. A young woman stumbled into a frat party near a  lake. She was naked. Her hair was matted with twigs and dirt. She was half-drowned, very drunk and confused. She said she had escaped from someone trying to kill her. She was raving. She sounded crazy. Someone had snuck up behind her while she was answering the call of nature. A few too many beers, she said. He had raped her, tried to strangle her, and then dumped what he thought was her dead body in the lake. “I’m a good swimmer” she declared, triumphantly.

No one that found her knew who she was. She had been brought to the party by friends from another frat. Just looking at her, you could tell, she had been through some serious trauma. So these benefactors, these people who had no idea who she was, took her to the hospital where it was confirmed that she had been raped by someone. The police were called. Yes, she said. I want to press charges. Yes, she said, I know who it was that raped me and tried to kill me. She gave his name to the police.

…and that was when the trouble started. This young man was well known, a hometown kid. She was a nobody. She had been shipped off to this far-away place because she had gotten pregnant.

Her high school sweetheart had been insisting they should have sex for most of their senior year. They had just graduated. It was time to celebrate, so she finally gave in to his desires and her own. And why not? She wasn’t going to the college she wanted to attend. Her parents had refused to send her to Europe, to the conservatory that had invited her to attend. A full scholarship, if she could only get there. To Europe, where her musical talents could be properly honed. They refused to buy her a plane ticket, even though they could pay for it. “You can’t make a living playing music” they told her. So here she was, in the arms of the man she thought she would marry. There was little else to look forward to, from her perspective.

She wasn’t stupid. She knew that she could get pregnant, but she loved him. She thought he loved her, until she found out she was pregnant and told him. Then he disavowed her. He said he’d never had sex with her, so it couldn’t be his child. He was going to the college he wanted, after all. He couldn’t stay there, get married and raise kids. That just wasn’t his plans for his future.

Alone and pregnant, she was sent away to live with foster parents. Sent away to a place where none of the friends and family would know of her dirty little secret. The dirty secret that she had been foolish enough to believe a man when he told her he loved her.

She did the right thing. She carried the child to term, because that’s what you are supposed to do. She carried the child to term and gave it up for adoption. That was the christian thing to do. Accept your punishment for having sex, and give birth to children you can’t afford. Children that you give away to strangers who can afford to raise them for you. She went through all of that, because that was what she was supposed to do.

With the embarrassment of nine months of a belly she didn’t want, a child she couldn’t keep, couped up with people she barely knew but strangely adopted as parents anyway; with all of that behind her, she set her sights on doing the best with what she had left of her life plans.

She still had her musical talent, even if she wouldn’t be touring Europe as part of an orchestra, the role she really was suited for. Her college friends envied her her gift, a natural ear for music and the ability to pick up nearly any instrument and play it well enough to shine in state competitions. But teaching music was the best she could hope for now. She didn’t relish the thought of teaching others to play, but if that was the best she could do, that is what she would shoot for.

A few months into her delayed college education, she was invited to that fateful party. She had a little too much to drink. She had the misfortune of needing to relieve herself. She left herself vulnerable to the jealous and the talentless, albeit well-liked, hometown boy. A hometown boy with a grudge.

Once again, she did the right thing. The thing you are supposed to do. She knew her attacker, even though she was drunk at the time. She knew what he had tried to do to her, had actually thought he had achieved. He thought she was dead when he left her floating in the water. She would be just another body found washed up on a beach somewhere.

A tragic accident. Except it was rape and attempted murder, and you don’t let that go unpunished. She pressed charges against the hometown boy, faced him in court. She accused him of the crimes that there was far more than sufficient evidence for. She accused him from the stand, and yet he was found not guilty by the jury.

Why was he found not guilty? Because she had done the right thing, over and over. She had yielded to the man she wanted to marry. She had carried the resultant child to birth and given it away. She had shrugged it all off and made the best of what she had left. She had the temerity to stand tall and not be embarrassed by the things society told her were embarrassing. Why should it be embarrassing? Doing the right thing should be praiseworthy. Shouldn’t it? Shouldn’t it?

“But,” they said, “she was a loose woman.” This was evident because she had given birth recently. Given birth instead of having an abortion and hiding the evidence of her improprieties, her loose ways. Loose women just want to have sex, and clearly she wanted to have sex with this hometown boy. When he rejected her, she staged the entire scene. Choked herself, tried to drown herself, rolled around in the dirt, naked, and threw herself on unsuspecting strangers in order to malign the hometown boy. Who was the court to believe? This loose woman, spirited away from her family and friends in order to save their reputations? Or should the court believe this fine, upstanding hometown boy who, while musically talentless, was still a handsome young man with a promising future? Who indeed?

Who indeed? Not guilty. Case dismissed. Free as a bird, he flew. Still flies. As I said, a true story. True enough, anyway.

So when I read stories about why didn’t they come forward? In the news these days, news about high profile judges and corporate leaders and politicians galore, men of high stature accused of the wrongs that they’ve hidden in plain sight until finally some woman has had enough that she just won’t take it anymore and risks everything to shine the light of justice on these loathsome individuals, I don’t even have to ask

Why don’t they come forward?

I know why.

They didn’t come forward before, and most of them will not come forward now because they won’t be believed. As the latest accusations about Brett Kavanaugh circulate, while the Pussy Grabber-in-Chief defends him, and the same old song and dance plays out. The women are condemned while the guilty men fly free. Just like it always has happened before.

These women are not believed by far, far too many people. It’s too convenient not to believe if believing means you have to change who and what you think is right in the world. You wouldn’t come forward if you were them, and you are deluded if you think otherwise. Until these guilty men are punished there are not enough people who believe the women. That is the simple fact in front of all of us right now. Until they are punished, there will be no justice for women in this world.

You tell me the world has changed much since 1994.

And yet here you are, telling me that we should put that same old mindset, boys will be boys, all boys do it, on the Supreme Court and you know, it’s hard for me to see that much of anything has changed at all.

Stonekettle Station

#26 Overturning Roe

Twitter

If you think #MAGA means anything other than Misguided Appallingly Gullible Americans, you are the person these tweets were written for.

StitcherRoe EP. 26 – 08.16.18

Pro-Life?

No one should be able to say they are pro-life unless they are willing to pay for the cost of raising all children born out of their own pockets.

If it does not breathe, it isn’t human life. You can also look at it from the perspective of the soul enters with the first breath.

An unborn child is like any other organ in the female body, with the exception that it can become a separate person.

This is one of the hardest philosophical questions the average person has to deal with. It is understandable to get it wrong sometimes.

This is an excellent podcast talking about this subject;

Radiolab – The Primitive Streak – September 23, 2016

Abortion kills no one, not even in the 9th month. This is scientifically demonstrable but unpopular.

People who identify as pro-life are hypocrites if they do not live in continual poverty, spending all that they have to improve the lives of others; especially the others whom they have forced into this world by tricking their mothers into having children that they cannot afford to have.

That is the basis of the comment I made.

If they don’t want to live like that, actually valuing all life as precious and worth sacrificing for, then they need to ask themselves what it is they really believe? Because it isn’t the sacredness of unborn life that motivates them.

Facebook

Knowledge vs. Belief

I started to write this post after Jim posted Unknown unknowns over at Stonekettle Station, which was a post in response to the tempest in a teapot that represented the 24 hour news cycle reporting on the clinic standoff and shooting incident in Colorado Springs. I shelved it for various reasons at first, none of them really earth-shattering. Of course, a week later and we have the inexplicable mass shooting in San Bernardino, which instantly eclipsed the previous story.

I could easily spin this into an screed against the gun lobby and their paid cronies in Washington DC who won’t let the CDC even study gun violence in an effort to figure out how to address it, considering that we have had more than one mass shooting every day of this year (2015) which has to be some kind of record that no society on the face of this earth is really interested in breaking…

…but that isn’t the article I want to write. This isn’t going to be the article I started out writing, either. The issue is much bigger than the specific subject of what we know or don’t know about a specific person set on doing wrong, or having been caught doing wrong. It is even bigger than the problem that Jim was trying to address, the 24 hour news cycle, which I agree probably represents the greatest threat to human civilization in the modern age. The need to fill time, to produce facts and counterfactuals when no hard facts are known about the specifics of the incident in question, can lead to greater and greater flights of fancy.

I turn the TV off when that feeding frenzy starts. It is hard enough to separate the wheat from the chaff on good days.  On bad days like the two events above bring, listening to the news just feeds confirmation bias until you end up looking and sounding like an idiot.

I will include the specific arguments for the Colorado Springs incident in this post, but the point that I’m seeing come into focus now that the shooter has appeared in court and indicted himself is the argument about what we know vs. what we believe. How we can know what we think we know, and how is that different than belief?

That is the reason why the 24 hour news cycle is such a threat. Being not much more than the talking heads that sold soap in the early days of television, the current crop of news faces appear to have even less familiarity with what facts are and why fact-checking is important. They are, after all, just selling soap.  Keeping the most number of eyes on the screen is how they sell soap and so the factual content of what they say isn’t the important part of the equation.  That they tell you things that reinforce your beliefs on a subject so that you will keep watching, is.

Most of the white-looking people in the US trust the police intrinsically, for example.  Most of us older types were raised on police dramas portraying the cops as the good guys who enforce the laws and keep the peace.  It is very uncomfortable for most of us to be confronted with stories if entire police departments covering up the details of killings done at their hands. And yet, time after time over the last few years, we have been shown just how human police departments are everywhere in the US.  Be it Chicago, Baltimore or Saint Louis, just about anywhere USA, there are examples of police who brazenly violate laws and procedures who are then protected by their brothers in uniform.

This really isn’t news.  If you’ve been paying attention you would have run across stories by people like Radley Balko who have been documenting police excess for several decades now.  The police are humans, they make mistakes just like the rest of us.  If you were in their place you would act no differently than they would, because that is what humans do.  But that doesn’t excuse the excess, it is a point of data that needs to be accounted for when deciding what you know or don’t know about any given subject.

For the black or brown people who are almost always the bad guys in police dramas, the revelation that cops are only human really isn’t news either. They’ve lived with the reality of constant police scrutiny for generations. So much so that stories abound of fathers and mothers cautioning their children not to become police statistics.  So it is no wonder that the chant black lives matter resounds with them. The counter offered by clueless whites that all lives matter is heard by these same people as just another call for them to sit down and be quiet. How is this possible?  How can realities and beliefs about these realities be so widely separated?

When it comes right down to it, what you know with certainty is a very small number of things. Whether it is night or day. Whether it is cold or hot. You know these things because you can test them directly with your senses. Solipsists will argue that you can’t even know those things because we are all just brains in jars at best, but I’d like us all to pretend that the shadows on the cave walls actually represent something real, and try to make sense of that.  If that much can’t be granted, then there is little point in continuing to read this.  Even less in my continuing to write.

Beyond what you can test yourself (fire burns) there are grades of factual knowledge which you can probably safely rely on.  At each point where the facts exchange hands, the ownership of that data has to be documented to be trusted. This is why, when doing research, it is important to seek out source material and not just rely on wikipedia.  The more obscure the subject matter the less reliable secondary sources are.

When watching the news on television or reading news stories on any other site than AP, Reuters or UPI you are already dealing with information that has been through at least three hands if not dozens. When you’ve gone beyond the point where the witness is being interviewed in person, you are dealing with evidence that wouldn’t be accepted in court. That doesn’t mean it is without value, it just means the news you are being offered could be just this side of fantasy.

It might even be pure fantasy. Case in point, the FOX/conservative/anti-abortion counter-narrative about the Colorado Springs shooter.  When I logged on Blogger that night, the first thing I saw wasn’t the Stonekettle Station article. The first article that caught my eye was a piece over at Friendly Atheist in which Ted Cruz voices the notion that the shooter was some kind of leftist.  No, I could not make something that stupid up myself.

Cruz is basing that characterization on a supposed voter registration form in which Dear was listed as a woman. Whether it’s a mistake, or Dear was just messing around, or simply not the right form, we don’t know, but no other evidence indicates that he was transgender.

There’s even less evidence that he was a “leftist.”

The problem that I had with Jim’s Unknown unknowns piece now surfaces. Jim mentions this story in opposition to the reports (which he attributes to Planned Parenthood) that the shooter was heard to say “no more baby parts” as he was being arrested.  But the contrast between the veracity of these two stories is as marked as they are in opposition to each other.

The statement no more baby parts was repeated by an officer to a reporter directly on the scene, a reporter who dutifully passed the comment on to their viewing audience. While that is hearsay and not evidence admissible in court; the officer, if he were to appear in court, could repeat the statement and it would be admissible.  It would also be accepted by an overwhelming number of juries who trust police officers to be truthful (see above) even in the face of so much evidence that police will lie to protect their own.

Since this case isn’t about one of their own, and since the police showed remarkable restraint in bringing a cop killer in alive, I was inclined to believe the statement of the arresting officer.  That the shooter (not alleged, he plead guilty) repeated a version of the same statement at his hearing just confirms the motivation that lead him to commit the crimes he is guilty of.

On the other hand, the preferred story of conservatives/anti-abortionists is based on what? Essentially no evidence whatsoever, more wishful thinking than anything else.  And yet it is repeated by a Republican Presidential candidate as if it was the unquestionable truth.

That is the nature of belief. It doesn’t require facts.  Facts are counterproductive because they can be questioned. If facts are presented that counter a belief, it only takes the briefest scrutiny to discover or manufacture an anomaly which the believer will use to discard the entirety of the factual information presented. Ted Cruz wants to believe that the shooter couldn’t be one of his fellow anti-abortionists. Ted Cruz believes that leftists are dangerous people, and that LGBT people are a threat to his way of life.  The story he repeats is ready-made to fit into his preconceived view of the world, and it matters not one bit that the story makes no sense on its face.  That the average liberal and LGBT person would be in support of Planned Parenthood and consequently wouldn’t see a need to attack one of their clinics never enters into the mind of a conservative repeating this laughable story.

Given the history of attacks on Planned Parenthood, and the current cloud of controversy artificially created by anti-abortion activists faking videos that purport to show Planned Parenthood selling body parts, the story of a shooter in a clinic almost serves itself up ready-made as a vehicle to attack the religious right and conservatives in general. Of course they would want to craft a counter-narrative (however flimsy) to give themselves an out, a way to disavow accountability for their actions over the last twenty years and more.

A conservative could easily counter all of the above (most probably will) with the adult equivalent of I know you are but what am I?  Since about the time that Reagan was elected, conservatives started to complain about the liberal media. Even I, for a time, fell for this notion that the media was somehow biased in general against conservatives. As the years have progressed, and conservatives have created their own outlets like FOX news, conservapedia, and uncounted news sites including the whacko fringe like prisonplanet and infowars, it has become clear that conservatives aren’t satisfied with simply presenting news from their point of view.  No, what they want is their own set of facts which are unassailable.  Unassailable because they aren’t based on anything real.

Another example is the softer, nicer language of pro-life and pro-choice adopted by the two sides of the endless argument over abortion. Having softened the language, pollsters can get majorities of citizens in the US to say they are pro-life. Who would be against life?  I’m pro-life, I’m also pro-choice; militantly pro-choice.  The fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans still believe that abortion should be legal gets lost in the conservative rush to declare the opposite, that the majority of Americans oppose abortion. This conservative view on the matter simply isn’t true as polling shows.

What has occurred since the creation of FOX news is the division of the US into two camps; one of those camps thinks they are right, and the rest of us are liberal.  In their attempt to prove that the rest of the media is based on a liberal conspiracy, conservatives have consciously created a conspiracy of their own. A conspiracy where they tell lies which they know are lies, because the ends justify the means.

When you evade the truth, when you spin tales to hide your true goals, what you get are people who believe your lies so firmly that they will act on them as if they were truths.  You get what transpired in Colorado Springs yesterday, to the embarrassment of every single person who identifies as pro-life. Remember that the next time you hear the phrase liberal media.

The Planned Parenthood Frame-up

I don’t watch gotcha films. I don’t watch gotcha films on any subject, not just on this subject. The reason I don’t watch gotcha films is because there is no way to know whether or not what you are seeing is in any way real. The protest that “these videos are unedited” is a claim which cannot be verified, in a general sense. It is possible to fake almost anything you’d like to these days, and that ability only becomes easier with time.

What I rely on instead is my established ability to sift through a large amount of written language and recognize currents through various writers and posts.  I take people at their word for goals and drives, and filter what they then say against those stated goals looking for what they say that isn’t crafted to further those goals.

That is why my first stop on visiting a site is generally the about page. This is so that I can see who funds the site, what the stated goals are, what the makeup of the management of the site looks like.  With that knowledge in hand, it then becomes possible to determine what any entry on the site is placed there to achieve.

Case in point, the recent melt-down involving Planned Parenthood selling body parts from abortions they’ve performed. As the article on the subject over at Snopes.com points out;

Fetal tissue may only be used or sold post-abortion with the consent of the woman undergoing the procedure. Although some researchers may obtain fetal tissue directly from abortion clinics at their own medical facilities, others have to purchase it from middlemen who pay fees to providers such as Planned Parenthood for specimens and then resell those specimens to researchers. Planned Parenthood maintains they charge only what the law allows (i.e., what they need to cover their expenses in such transactions), while the middlemen charge a markup to cover their processing costs. But regulation of these types of transactions is somewhat murky.

Snopes

So what the Republican candidates for President are tearing their hair over, and what the morons who lead the House of Representatives want to shut the government down over, is already illegal in the first place. It can’t get more illegal than it already is; and since Planned Parenthood and its leadership have not been charged with violating any laws, I’d bet that what we are witnessing is just more demagoguery and not real revelations on the issue.

I am a certified fan of Planned Parenthood and a fan of it’s current leader, the daughter of a former Texas Governor. Planned Parenthood provides vital and irreplaceable services for the poor all across the US, and services for women’s health (be they rich or poor) which cannot be obtained from any other provider in many areas of the US. If your response to this declaration is that abortion is murder, I direct you to my previously posted article titled simply Abortion, and to the hopefully soon completed EPHN article on the misunderstanding of what human life is. Abortion is a protected procedure that every woman will contemplate at some point in their lives.  Those women who deny this are lying to you and possibly even to themselves.

It is worth noting that the incident which is most often quoted, the one related by Carly Fiorina in the second Republican Presidential debate, never actually occurred in any of the video that Ms. Fiorina could have seen. So she was lying on national television during a debate.  This really isn’t news because candidates lie all the time (Lips are moving? They’re lying) but usually it’s about things that they’ll do if elected.  Rational types might hold out the hope that threats to end legal abortion in the US are equally lies since the President cannot override decisions set down by the Supreme Court, but there is plenty of other mischief that an activist President can do with his or her office.

The videos that started this whole fiasco are a frame job even so, cooked up by avowed anti-abortion activists (and a right-wing hate group) looking for material to indict Planned Parenthood with.  They have no remorse for the people whose lives they destroy in the process, either;

Arguably the worst aspect of this scam video, beyond the harm it will do to reproductive rights and Planned Parenthood, is the reality that Dr. Nucatela’s life is all but ruined for the foreseeable future. At this moment, anti-choice extremists are likely fanning out around the internet, collecting damaging information about her; finding out her home address and contact information; discovering whether she has children and where they go to school; planning rallies outside her house; or worse. Based on wrongful charges, she now represents Enemy Number One for googly-eyed radicals, fueled by visions of aborted fetuses and the false impression of Planned Parenthood as the Walmart of black market fetus organs.

Real people with real lives in the real world whose lives are ruined because of these faked videos. Faked in that the materials sold are not sold for profit, and are a part of a vital network of research and transplantation that saves lives.

If you doubt that this is true, then I highly recommend the episode of Radiolab titled Gray’s Donation which goes into precisely how many lives the materials from a single aborted fetus can be impacted in a positive manner.  A fetus that had no chance for life because of the birth defects he would have suffered from, in the specific instance of the Gray’s investigation.

Radiolab – Gray’s Donation – July 16, 2015

That is the practice that this anti-abortion hate group wants to end. Let these facts sink in for a minute.

I’ve taken the time to write this because I was recently sent a link to an article on Rational Review News (a site I used to follow pretty regularly) that was so patently false on its face that I found it hard to believe that the same guy I used to rely on for libertarian news could be so demonstrably wrong on the subject. Proof that, if nothing else, the Balkanization of internet information continues unabated. Clear thinking and understanding of a subject has never been more critical than it is today, nor has it ever been more wanting, apparently.


The net effect of this blatant targeting of Planned Parenthood over the subject of compensation for the cost of obtaining research materials is that Planned Parenthood will no longer accept compensation for the costs of providing them. That cost will now have to come out of other sources such as donations to Planned Parenthood, because the research work will continue and the materials will continue to be available.

One can hope that the effect of exposing this obscure process to light will lead to more transparency on the subject, but I personally doubt it.  Few people really are interested in the details of transactions that occur all around them without their noticing.  Subjects like this only occasionally see the light of day, and the outrage in response is predictable and almost humdrum in its monotonous outrage. If the individual who is outraged over fetal tissue used for research were to spend time investigating the subject of medical history and the process of obtaining materials for research historically, the outrage over the acquisition of cadavers for medical schools would be something we’d never hear the end of.  Because that, historically, was a very dark process indeed.

The anti-abortion industry having beaten this dead horse long enough will simply find another soft target to attack in their never-ending drive to stop abortion in all cases.  They really aren’t interested in truth, reality or the constraints of biology or biological life.  The procedure is evil in their eyes, and evil should not be tolerated. Their own blindness to the reality of human life ensures that the fight will never end, because women who do not want to have children will continue to end pregnancies whether the procedure is legal or not.  Whether the woman is pro-life or pro-choice, the choice occurs anyway.


The long and tortuous process of holding these fakirs accountable for their damaging actions continues to unfold in various state courts,

After the videos surfaced last year, Dan Patrick, the Texas lieutenant governor, a Republican, asked the Republican district attorney in Harris County to open a criminal investigation into Planned Parenthood in August. A grand jury ended up indicting Mr. Daleiden and Ms. Merritt, and taking no action against Planned Parenthood.

The New York Times, Last Charges Dropped Against Abortion Foes in Making of Planned Parenthood Video July 26, 2016

As the title of the source article states, the charges in Texas were dropped. Texas as a political entity hates itself in a very weird and self-destructive way. This comes out in events like the above, with religious crusaders elected to office attempting to score religious points in a political arena simply don’t understand what the law says even though they are trained lawyers. Luckily for justice, there are other states who aren’t as consumed with self-loathing as Texas,

Prosecutors filed 14 felony counts of unlawfully recording people without their permission — one count for each person — as well as one count of conspiracy to invade privacy.

Becerra, a veteran congressman who became attorney general in January, said his office “will not tolerate the criminal recording of confidential conversations.”

“The right to privacy is a cornerstone of California’s Constitution, and a right that is foundational in a free democratic society,” Becerra said.

The Los Angeles Times, Two antiabortion activists behind undercover Planned Parenthood videos charged with 15 felonies March 28, 2017

The problem in all these cases, and there were cases being investigated in several states after the videos were released, is that the concerns and laws protecting privacy are butting heads with the first amendment right of the press and freedom of speech. It is a near-impossibility for a public entity like Planned Parenthood to win a case of slander or libel against the perpetrators of these fraudulent videos. It might be possible to seek damages from them if they weren’t essentially penniless conspiracy fantasists in the first place. The chances of any case being successfully prosecuted against them on any grounds fades to a faint hope when you understand the hurdles placed in the way of justice in this case.

Justice would require that  Daleiden and his conspirator Sandra Merritt go in front of groups of people who think like they do and explain why what they did was wrong. This is the form justice should take, because I don’t think that they or their supporters understand the injustice they engaged in. The harm that they have committed in their blind ambition to see abortion ended in the US and across the world. Real people harmed in real ways by their delusions about life in the womb. It is criminal that they cannot be shown reason that will convince them on this subject.