Jul 29, 2009

O'Reilly turns the stupidity knob up to 11

This is making satire and parody impossible. Satire requires taking something stupid and exaggerating it, caricaturing it to make it patently absurd. But it just doesn't get more stupid than this. Like loudness in This Is Spinal Tap, the stupidity of some right-wing talking heads now goes to eleven.

Jul 24, 2009

Farmers and steelers live twice as dangerously as police officers

There it is - America's most dangerous jobs in 2007:

Also note that police officers' most common cause of death on the job are car accidents, not confrontation with criminals. Police officers' rate of death by homicide - about 8 per 100,000 - is just slightly above the rate for the general population (6.2 per 100,000), and is lower than the rate for general male population (10.0 per 100,000) or male population ages 20-59 (about 11 per 100,000).

Jul 18, 2009

Abort, Retry, Fail?

Tempest in a teapot about an "abortion party" (a fundraiser, actually). Really silly arguments.

Feminists and progressives want abortion to be legal, taken out of the political sphere. Fine. But these goal do not require that abortion be rendered morally unproblematic.
It is true that the pro-choice political position does not require it, but early abortion should be morally unproblematic.
But once again, abortion is not, and will never be, a matter of moral indifference.
And why not?

The woman in the story was having an early abortion. She had just discovered she was pregnant, and was taking steps to abort as soon as possible. (And, don't forget, if abortion were free, as it should be, she wouldn't need to waste time on fundraising and could have the abortion even earlier.) No issues of whether the fetus is conscious or feels pain are even remotely at play. The only reason to make this into a moral issue is religious woo - and that's no reason at all. Such early abortions should indeed become a matter of moral indifference - and that is necessary for the society to have a rational debate about abortion. Forcing early abortion to be a moral issue is the source of all current abortion-related hysteria.

Michelle Cottle makes an utterly irrelevant point about the original story:
in calling the piece "highly dubious," I'm not suggesting the party didn't happen as broadly outlined, merely that (a) this is the kind of piece that smacks of literary embellishment--or at the very least features a situation prone to heavy personal interpretation--in service of a point; and (b) even assuming events unfolded precisely as recounted, the experience is so outside the mainstream that it tells us virtually nothing about sexual relations, much less abortion politics, more broadly.
I don't know if the piece was "literary embellished", and neither does Michelle. But why does it matter whether the experience is typical? The author certainly didn't imply that it was. Interesting observation usually come from unusual experiences. Cottle seems to be concerned that the story will make pro-choice people look bad to "the mainstream", which reminds me of the unprincipled and short-sighted position of the "Neville Chamberlain atheists".

Conor Friedersdorf's question is more relevant, but I think it misses the point somewhat:
But I suspect that the same norm inevitably leads some men to ask -- wrongly in my view, but understandably -- if you think that abortion is ethically unproblematic, and whether to have one or not is your choice, why should I have to pay child support for 18 years if you decide against having one?"
The proper analogy is not with abortion, but with carrying a pregnancy to term and giving the baby up for adoption. That is the situation that challenges the consistency of the current legal rules - the mother can relinquish all legal and financial responsibility for the child in a way the father cannot.

It doesn't make much sense to compare compelling a man to pay child support and compelling a woman to carry a pregnancy to term. The latter is an involvement at a much deeper level, affecting the woman's body and potentially health. But once the pregnancy is over, that distinction is lost. Sure, after a "typical" birth (especially a wanted one), the mother feels a connection to the baby and would be devastated if she had to give the baby away; but we are not talking about "typical" situations, but specifically those where the mother truly does not want to keep the baby (but was not forced to carry it to term). A man would not be forced to raise the child (have custody), and neither should a woman. But a man - even if poor - would legally have some financial responsibility for the child. This is the area where legitimate questions of equal treatment do arise.