Friday, December 31, 2010
Thursday, December 30, 2010
I'll review three different books on financial crisis.
I've been having a discussion on another blog about abortion and reproductive rights. While we disagree on most aspects of these loaded topics, we agreed to try to find consensus. We agreed that reducing the number of abortions was a beneficial goal, and to wit Leila has been gracious enough to present her 3 (really 4) suggestions. My discussion follows. At some later date, I'll present my 2 or 3 suggestions as well. She says:
How can we prevent abortions?
1) Make it illegal. We are a civilized society, and barbarism should not ever be enshrined in law, especially when it targets the most vulnerable and voiceless among us.
2) Teach virtue. Sex is sacred. It has purpose. Sex leads to babies and teens (and adults) must be retaught this. We have bought the lie that only "unprotected sex" leads to babies, which is a whole other post. So, virtue. Chastity. Do not have sex till you can accept the baby that will come with it.
3) Promote intact, two-parent families. The single mothers, the fewer men who take responsibility, the more poverty, the more abortions. Two parent, intact families.
Teach those three things and mean it, and you will have DRASTICALLY reduced the abortion rate.
Oh, and one more thing: Teach science and biology. Make sure we all see lots and lots of ultrasound photos of the unborn, and make sure we all understand that (as you know), science has long ago determined that human life begins when the sperm meets the egg to form a new individual human being.
Yep, that ought to do it! Agreed?
Defining the issues
Like many movements, the abortion rights movement was based on compassion. Women were being injured by illegal abortions, and organizers wanted to make it safe by taking it out of the alleys. I know this is nothing new and I know that the anti-choice community thinks this is misguided compassion. The only reason I bring this up is to point out the positive intention of the pro-choice movement, which is important.
Ok, so chastity, virtue and two-parent families. Yes, yes and yes (most of the time, assuming no spousal abuse.) Nothing in the abortion rights movement prevents the promotion of these beneficial attributes to personal and social hygiene. I think the case has been made, and continues to be made. To live a virtuous life is uncomplicated and affirming regardless of your belief system.
I suppose we can draw a correlation to Roe v Wade as the beginning of the breakdown of these virtues: If not for Roe, many assume we'd have no abortion, or surely less abortion. But is that what the empiric evidence shows? Was Roe the cause of the breakdown of virtue/chastity? Or was it an effect?
Making Abortion Legal
Desperate women used a number of dangerous means to terminate pregnancies. Some sought abortions from back-alley abortionists, with usually humiliating and sometimes deadly results.
Other women tried to induce abortions with homemade means--such as a bleach douche, or inserting sharp instruments into her cervix. This is why the now almost forgotten image of the wire coat hanger became the symbol of the abortion rights movement.
"In Chicago, at Cook Country Hospital, there were about 5,000 women a year coming in with injuries bleeding resulting to illegal abortions, mostly self-induced abortions," Leslie Reagan, the author of When Abortion Was a Crime, said in an interview. "They had an entire ward dedicated to taking care of people in that situation. Those wards pretty much closed up around the country once abortion was legalized."
The goal of the abortion rights movement in the 60's and 70's was to reduce the preventable morbidity associated with abortion. But preventing such morbidity certainly has increased the number of fetuses being aborted, right? We are merely exchanging one pathology for another, no? Well, that's a good question that may not have a clear intuitive answer. Statistics about abortion pre-Roe are difficult to decipher since we cannot know exactly how many abortions were being done surreptitiously, but we can try.
Estimates of the number of illegal abortions in the 1950s and 1960s ranged from 200,000 to 1.2 million per year. One analysis, extrapolating from data from North Carolina, concluded that an estimated 829,000 illegal or self-induced abortions occurred in 1967.
One stark indication of the prevalence of illegal abortion was the death toll. In 1930, abortion was listed as the official cause of death for almost 2,700 women—nearly one-fifth (18%) of maternal deaths recorded in that year. The death toll had declined to just under 1,700 by 1940, and to just over 300 by 1950 (most likely because of the introduction of antibiotics in the 1940s, which permitted more effective treatment of the infections that frequently developed after illegal abortion). By 1965, the number of deaths due to illegal abortion had fallen to just under 200, but illegal abortion still accounted for 17% of all deaths attributed to pregnancy and childbirth that year. And these are just the number that were officially reported; the actual number was likely much higher.
Simple arithmetic: The 829,000 illegal abortions in 1967 before Roe, added to the 2061 legal abortions performed in 1967, would give an abortion ratio (abortions per 1000 live births) of 23.6, compared to an abortion ratio of 23.3 in 1977, four years after Roe. This is in the ballpark of the current rate of abortion, assuming the population growth of the United States. So did Roe cause an increase in abortions? My conclusion, based on this admittedly incomplete data set, is no.
Legalizing abortion has reduced morbidity and mortality in women with unwanted pregnancy, but apparently has not increased the abortion ratio. Cook County Hospital no longer has a ward dedicated to managing complications from abortions gone awry. The abortion ratio peaked at 30 in 1980 and fluctuated in the teens an twenties over the subsequent decades. In the 2000's the ratio has been consistently in the teens; that low rate may be due to incomplete reporting, such as with the increasing use of medical terminations, or better and more available birth control, or social, religious and cultural factors (see below) .
Of course, we can argue that while physical morbidity may have decreased, we have done nothing for the emotional anguish of women aborting fetuses. Even the most strident pro-choice advocate would admit that abortion is not an optimal intervention. Even when done as safely as possible, medical complications can occur. Even when medical complications do not occur, emotional and psychological sequelae, often unquantifiable and unpredictable, may ensue.
At some later date, I can walk through the consequences of making abortion illegal again. Unsurprisingly, mMy conclusion is that most prohibitions probably would not have a material effect on abortion rates, but could increase morbidity in the pregnant woman.
The Chastity Argument
The concept of chastity has been around for a long time and, as Leila says, it has merit. But if that were the universal understanding, if it's such a great idea, then why doesn't everyone remain chaste? Yeah, this usually brings up the argument about Hollywood, television, the media, absent parents, and the loss of faith in God. If only we could correct these horrors, the First Amendment be damned, we'd have a Renaissance of virginal children growing up into monogamous spouses who stay married forever and have sex only for procreation, and the desire for abortion would be eliminated... just like it was in the good ol' days. I doubt that the good ol' days ever existed, at least for any sustained period of time, and it certainly is not what we see today. Or, alternatively, maybe today is as close we get to the good ol' days?
My grandfather would say to me, "Be good, and if you can't be good, be careful; and if you can't be careful, then name it after me." Then he'd smile, draw on his fat cigar and go back to his crossword puzzle. Message received: our actions have consequences, and as much as I loved my grandfather I did not want to change diapers on his namesake.
With such compelling reasons to avoid unwanted pregnancy, the emotional issues of promiscuity, the potential for disease, why hasn't the whole chastity thing caught on? I don't have one answer, but it likely has to do with a combination of our limbic system, or maybe the lack of fear of the negative consequences, or the endemic disbelief that some omniscient supernatural being is judging our bad behaviors. Even my sainted grandfather, who never missed Sunday Mass, did not appeal to the alleged omniscient Father in heaven to affect my behavior. Or, maybe it has caught on and this is about as chaste as our society will ever be.
No discussion of chastity would be complete without discussing abstinence-only education. Studies (1, 2, 3) have disputed the efficacy of such an approach. And while one recent study has indicated a marginal benefit, the study was flawed since it did expose the participants to non-comprehensive information about contraception, and the benefit was short-lived with 1/3 of abstinence-only participants engaging in sexual activity at the 2-year mark. Abstinence-only is a quantum event: either you do it all the time, or it fails.
I'm blogged out for now,and have other things to do, but certainly Leila's desires for the "promoting two-parent households" (however we could do it?) and science education (including comprehensive sex education?) are valid. Those discussions will need to wait for now. Certainly there are ways to decrease the numbers of abortions, and we should continue to look for consensus on effective ways to reduce the numbers of abortion. What do we do right? What do other nations do right? What works and what doesn't?
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Thursday, December 09, 2010
Micah asks,Anyway, if thought is merely a chemical reaction, how can two people sit and discuss thought? Is their discussion just random? Also, how can someone think about making plans for something a month away, and when the time comes they fulfill those plans. Is that also just random? To a Materialist, nothing can exist outside the material, right? If so, there could be no "mind." ...If morality to an Atheist is simply treating our fellow humans kindly, how do we come to that conclusion? Why should we not steal from the supermarket? It is beneficial to me; I gain something without having to suffer the loss of money. If morality is subjective to the person, why would Hitler killing the Jews be bad? To Nazi Germany it was perfectly fine under their own subjective morality.
Wednesday, December 08, 2010
And the wind-down:
Hope? Change? Yes We Can? Give me a break! I've got news for all the latte-drinking, Prius- driving, Birkenstock-wearing, trust fund babies crowding in to hear him speak! This guy won't last a round against the Republican attack machine. He's a poet, not a fighter.
Exactly my sentiment at the time, when my Hillary vote in Michigan was not counted. This barnburner rhetoric by labor leaders brings back my memories as a United Steel Worker on Chicago's Southside during summers in college. But it's not just rhetoric, it's an ironclad promise. The brotherhood was always there for you, pleading the case for more benefits and better work conditions, there was never a misunderstanding about where they stood. Organize. Do you think the banksters weren't organized when they walked into the White House in 2008 and got an $800 billion bailout?
The way to create jobs is to improve workers' conditions worldwide by organizing all labor. The Tea Party has produced commendable anti-establishment rhetoric, empty misguided rhetoric; but what we really need is workers' rights around the world, and John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Sarah Palin, Mittens and the Huckster ain't fighting for that. As long as any industry leaders are allowed to exploit Asian electronics and textile workers and pay them nothing, there will be no jobs here, ever. There is no justice that is not universal justice.
I have no country to fight for; my country is the earth, and I am a citizen of the world. --Eugene V. Debs
We aren't learning this lesson... we have more pain to endure.
Sunday, December 05, 2010
Wednesday, December 01, 2010
Monday, November 22, 2010
Bachmann will never admit shes wrong. Ever.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
According to the released torture memos, KSM gave up specific operatives before torture or waterboarding were applied. He gave up Majid Khan because he believed other operatives were "talking" (p 64-67 of this PDF), and not due to enhanced techniques. He gave information regarding Hambali and the planned bombing of Library Tower in LA, but nowhere in the memo does it say that enhanced techniques were required to obtain that information. KSM had been interrogated multiple times before enhanced techniques were used.
So while I may want to believe Hayden, I have no evidence to corroborate his opinion, and he was not director at the time. Meanwhile, the FBI interrogator, Ali Soufan, disagrees.
I'll conclude with John McCain:
“It’s unacceptable,” McCain said, adding:
"One is too much. Waterboarding is torture, period. I can ensure you that once enough physical pain is inflicted on someone, they will tell that interrogator whatever they think they want to hear. And most importantly, it serves as a great propaganda tool for those who recruit people to fight against us....McCain later reiterated his point, “The image of the United States of America throughout the world is a recruiting tool for Islamic extremists.”
Although Helgerson said he accepted the conclusions of CIA managers that the brutal torture of detainees resulted in “valuable” intelligence, he believed the CIA has yet to provide definitive answers as to whether specific torture techniques were “effective” and “necessary” in obtaining intelligence or whether the same information could have been obtained through “traditional methods.”
Tuesday, November 09, 2010
Brits deny Bush's claims that torture helped foil terror plots.
Doctors in other fields have always looked down their masked noses on their obstetrical colleagues. Obstetricians used to have trouble attracting the top medical students to their specialty, and there seemed little science or sophistication to what they did. Yet almost nothing else in medicine has saved lives on the scale that obstetrics has. Yes, there have been dazzling changes in what we can do to treat disease and improve people’s lives. We now have drugs to stop strokes and to treat cancers; we have coronary-artery stents, artificial joints, and mechanical respirators. But those of us in other fields of medicine don’t use these measures anywhere near as reliably and as safely as obstetricians use theirs.(Excellent piece; if you read one thing today, read this entire article)
Former Bush administration official, Nicole Wallace, discusses the lack of WMD in Iraq. She thinks the whole world is as clueless as Lawrence O'Donnell who allows her to spew a boatlaod of lies. Entire video is here. The pertinent 30 second clip:
But EVERYone wanted to go to oust Saddam Hussein, so how can we blame our President for making a greivous error?
Unfortunately, Gerhard Schroeder, former German chancellor, says "Bush is not telling the truth."
Olbermann needs to determine if he is a commentator or a journalist. It never really crossed my mind that he was considered a journalist by anyone, just like I never assumed that anyone considers Glenn Beck a journalist. And, for the record, neither does he. Both Beck and Bill O’Reilly (as recently as his appearance on Real Time With Bill Maher) said they fall on the commentary side of the network. This is the state of the media. No one should really be surprised by Olbermann’s donations. What should surprise people is that entertainment, commentary, and journalism have fused into such a state that it is difficult to differentiate among the three.
Sunday, November 07, 2010
BIll Moyers presents the narrative:
Early this year the five reactionary members of the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are "persons" with the right to speak during elections by funding ads like those now flooding the airwaves [re: Citizen's United]. It was the work of legal fabulists. Corporations are not people; they are legal fictions, creatures of the state, born not of the womb, not of flesh and blood. They're not permitted to vote. They don't bear arms (except for the nuclear bombs they can now drop on a congressional race without anyone knowing where it came from.) Yet thanks to five activist conservative judges they have the privilege of "personhood" to "speak" - and not in their own voice, mind you, but as ventriloquists, through hired puppets.
Does anyone really think that's what the authors of the First Amendment had in mind? Horrified by such a profound perversion, the editor of the spunky Texas Observer, Bob Moser, got it right with his headline: "So long, Democracy, it's been good to know you."
You'll recall that soon after the Court's decision President Obama raised the matter during his State of the Union speech in January. He said the decision would unleash a torrent of corrupting corporate money into our political system. Sitting a few feet in front of the president, Associate Justice Samuel Alito defiantly mouthed the words: "Not true."
Not true? Terry Forcht knew otherwise. He's the wealthy nursing home executive in Kentucky one of whose establishments is being prosecuted by Attorney General Jack Conway for allegedly covering up sexual abuse. Conway is running for the Senate. Forcht has spent more than $1 million to defeat him. Would you believe that Forcht is the banker for one of Karl Rove's two slush funds, American Crossroads, which has spent nearly $30 million to defeat Democrats.
What's that, Justice Alito? Not true?
Alan Grayson, for one, got it. He's a member of Congress and knows how the world is made to work. He recently said: "We're now in a situation where a lobbyist can walk into my office...and say, "I've got five million dollars to spend and I can spend it for you or against you. Which do you prefer?"
Alito was either disingenuous, naïve, or deluded. He can't be in this world without knowing he and his four fellow corporatists were giving big donors the one thing they most want in their campaign against working people: an unfair advantage.
My friend and colleague, the writer Michael Winship, told a story this week that illuminates the Court's coup de grace against democracy. It seems the incorrigible George Bernard Shaw once propositioned a fellow dinner guest, asking if she would go to bed with him for a million pounds (today around $1,580,178 US dollars). She agreed. Shaw then asked if she would do the same for ten shillings. "What do you take me for?" she asked angrily. "A prostitute?" Shaw responded: "We've established the principle, Madam. Now we're just haggling over the price."
I love Moyers' passion; he goes on to imply that the wealthy corporations in the US should voluntarily rescind their political hegemony that has been granted to them by our legislators and our Supreme Court.