Sunday, April 29, 2007

Why am I Disgusted Beyond Belief?

I'm sick as a dog right now, and if I talk it sounds like a cross between a heavy-breather phone call and Darth Vader hitting puberty, so I'm not all that up to doing much today. As is often the case, I'm sick via my daughter via day care. Gotta love the way the kids "spread the love" when it comes to bugs.

I thought I'd just do a short post on why I picked this name and then named this blog after the name. It is really not all that interesting. I have read blogs and other things online for years. I remember looking at the web when it was only a bunch of nerdy engineering students who even knew about it. Not that I did much with it back then. I did post on Usenet News then. Lots of interesting discussions. Not that this has anything to do with my handle now.

One of the blogs I read religiously (or as religious as an atheist gets...) is Glenn Greenwald. He is great for many many reasons. I eventually would put my own two cents there. Around the time I really started to do that there was a vote coming up in the Senate for what I call the "pro-torture" bill. Unfortunately, that bill passed. Even more unfortunately, one of my Michigan Senators, Senator Debbie Stabenow, voted FOR the pro-torture bill. It was a clear pander attempt right before her re-election in 2006. It disgusted me. So when I wrote my response to a thread on Glenn's site, I signed "Disgusted Beyond Belief" because that was how I felt. To remain consistent, I kept using that name thereafter, and then to remain consistent with my comment posts and my blog, I named the Blog after it. Because of the vote, even though I did not want the GOP to remain control of congress, I decided I could not, in good conscience, vote for Stabenow. So I did not. I sent her an email to that effect.

I know that a GOP Senator would probably have voted the same. Which was the point. If a Senator is going to vote with the GOP anyway, what's the difference? But more to the point, I wanted to let her know that she in no way can count on my vote just because I might dislike the GOP more than the Democratic party. Actions have consequences. If I and others like me don't hold her accountable for her actions, then who will? She already knows the GOP isn't voting for her. So I did it to send a message and to stand on principles. It always disgusts me to see people support someone just because of the 'R' or 'D' in front of the name, regardless of the bad things that candidate has done.

It turned out she did win re-election, which was good, because then the Democratic party took over Congress and can finally do some real oversight and put the 'checks and balances' back into checks and balances. But even so, I will NEVER just hold my nose and vote for someone I don't like. I will vote for the candidate that I think will best represent my interests. I don't have to agree with everything they do. I do also consider such things as who I'd want to control Congress. But I also consider voting for a "pro-toture" bill to be so repugnant to everything this nation is supposed to stand for that I cannot, in good conscience, vote for a candidate who would support such a bill. And I did not.

So that's where the name came from. I now return to my previously scheduled hacking coughs.

Friday, April 27, 2007

This is just retarded - Student arrested for writing an essay

And now the overreaction begins. A high school student is charged with a CRIME for writing a freaking high school essay. Story here. I can't believe anyone could possibly get away with filing charges on something like this. This is utter bullshit. The prosecutors should be disbarred. Any judge who doesn't immediately throw out the charges should be impeached. What, am I overreacting? Isn't that the whole point?

The kid wrote an essay of his stream of conciousness, as per the assignment. He did not censor himself, as per the assignment.

A rational response would have been to talk to him, find out why he wrote it, find out that yes, he was just following the assignment, and leave it at that. But rationality is not one of humanity's strong points, apparently. Ugh.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Abortion - with a happier note

As promised, I had a little more to share on this subject, though what I'm about to share now is thankfully not tragic, though it was harrowing at times. And it does relate to abortion and my thoughts on it, so bear with me.

My wife and I were very fortunate. When, after being married for six years, we decided it was the right time for us to try and make an addition to the family, it only took a single try. Which just goes to show not only that birth control actually works quite well, but that when you don't use it and the time is right, be prepared to go pick out baby furniture. (And the same was true the second time as well, though obviously we were not so fortunate, in the end, with that).

And so we went through the pregnancy. I read the instruction manual (What to Expect when you're Expecting) often, always trying to see where we were with it, what level of development the fetus had reached, and, well, what to expect. I'd always look ahead, too, to see what was coming. I spent plenty of time on that ninth month, wondering just what it would be like to have a real, live baby come out. I remember spending lots of time in the room we made up to be the baby's room, looking at a mobile on the crib, trying to imagine what it would be like to have a baby. I knew it was coming, and yet it did not really feel real. The room seemed still and quiet, even when my wife was in there with the baby kicking wildly inside her. (Doing somersaults, it felt like).

As the date became only a few weeks away, my wife had some issues, and so they had her take off work. It ended up only a little earlier than she would have taken leave anyway. Then all we had to do was wait. As often happens with first pregnancies, the due date came and went and there was no birth. Then, three days after she was due, as my wife was wont to do, she decided to go for a walk around the block. As she was walking, she felt a sharp pain, but then otherwise felt ok. It may or may not have been related to what happened later.

That night, around 11:30 or so, I was in the bathroom, as we both got ready for bed. Then I heard my wife from the bedroom say those words that I knew would come, but which I could never really feel prepared for. "My water just broke." My mind was spinning a thousand miles an hour when I heard that, and then, it all came crashing down when she said almost immediately, "oh wait, it's blood."

Time gets a little fuzzy at this point in my memory. I remember throwing things at a bag I had ostensibly prepared by the bedside for the inevitable trip to the hospital. I'm sure at least some of those things made it in the bag. I did remember to grab the camera which was right there. A nice digital camera that could also do video, bought specifically for the baby. We put some towels down on the seat of the car, which was a good thing, because they were quickly soaked almost through with blood when my wife sat on them. Driving to the hospital, all I could think about was how if there is all this bleeding, does it mean the cord is loose, is it an abruption, or whatever it is called? And if so, doesn't that mean the baby is getting no oxygen? Doesn't that mean the baby has only four or five minutes before permanent brain damage, then death? I kept going over the math in my head, five minutes of life versus the 15 to 20 minutes it would take to get to the hospital. I kept trying to figure out how five minutes could really be 20 and I couldn't make it work, and I have to say, up until that point in my life, that was the most scared I've ever felt. Fear not for me, but for my baby, whom I thought would, in 15 minutes, be delivered dead. It was good that it was late. The roads were empty. I probably got up to 95 miles per hour on the highway. I did not want to crash, but I did not want to be late. Maybe I could shave some minutes off the trip. I even figured that if we were seen by the police, we could call 911 on our cell phone and inform the operator to inform the police of the situation because there was no way I was even going to slow down, sirens or no sirens.

In the meanwhile, my wife was on the phone to the doctor on call, and I was listening eagerly for any information, asking her to ask them if we should be worried, what it meant. They really didn't tell her much, but it was enough for me to keep hope that things were not lost.

Finally, after an eternity, we made it to the hospital. My wife went inside, then I went to park the car. I went up and joined her as fast as I could, and then, still shaking, waited eagerly for them to get the fetal heart monitor hooked up. That was all that I wanted to hear. I wanted to hear that fast little pitter-patter of a heart beat, letting me know that, at least the baby was still alive. And then I heard it. It was so wonderful. I could breathe again. I was so relieved. Now there was just the bleeding. They did an ultrasound and determined that things looked ok. Because of the date, they decided to just go ahead and induce.

So then we move into a pre-birth room while they start getting her ready. They hook her up to a spinal and start getting the drugs to induce her into her system. I'm trying to stay awake while they do this, it is already past 2 am, and I have trouble staying up past 11 most nights. I'm also a bit of a wreck from the worry earlier. But things seem ok now and I try to rest on a very uncomfortable chair in the room while nurses are busy all over the place, getting her ready. (Of course, I had no idea I'd be sitting in that exact same chair 17 months later with a very different set of thoughts.) Then they all leave and it is just me, my wife, and the nurse.
Finally, contractions start. First one. Then soon another. But with each one, the baby's heart rate plummets to almost nothing. After just two contractions, they are calling the doctor in and they decide that to continue is risky. But they give us a choice. We can try for labor, or we can just do a c-section. But the doctor warns us they may just have to do a c-section after hours of labor anyway. Now, my wife really does not want a c-section. But as I thought about it, I decided that it would be better to do a c-section now, then go through labor and do one later, only with the doctors being in a hurry. I'd rather they do it when they can take their time. Plus, why go through all the trauma of labor if you'll end up with a c-section anwyay? So that convinces her, and so they prep her for the c-section. Swarms of doctors and nurses surround her and I just stay back. They give me scrubs to put on and after they wheel her out, they have me sit in this chair outside the OR and wait for them to call me. By then it is 6 am.

A few minutes later, I'm in the room. There is a large cloth screen at my wife's neck, shielding her body from my view, which is a good thing, because I'm sure if I saw them cut into her or any of that, I'd be passed out on the floor. I'm not a big fan of hospitals in general. So I sat by her head and held her hand. Her arms were shaking violently, which I guess is normal, but still disconcerting. Then only 20 minutes in, I heard that sound, a baby crying, a sound that never had any more meaning than it did at that moment. Then she became real. It was very surreal. Going from talking about having a child, to the pregnancy, to finally that. That reality. It was wonderful and very scary. I turned on the camera and caught it as she came from behind the cloth screen. Immediately, they put her in a plastic box and she was surrounded by four masked people working on her every which way. It was hard for me to even see her, but I caught glimpses. I won't even try to explain all the emotions there - any parent can tell you about that.

They kept working at it, then came another little bomb. Apparently they weren't happy with how pink she was, they were worried she wasn't getting enough oxygen, so they were going to take her up to the special unit for babies (which they fortunately had in this hospital, one of the best). Not exactly great news. I was so worried. Thankfully, though, the worry was shortlived. They showed our baby to my wife, then they took her out, and then I left the OR while they finished up. I sat in the same chair outside of there. Then someone came down the hall and told me that our baby was fine - that they took her up the elevator and by the time the elevator door opened on the unit, she was looking much better, so they just brought her right back down to the nursery. I joined my wife in recovery and told her and then I went to really see my baby for the first time. She was under a warming lamp in there and was so cute and wrinkled. Because of the problem, they actually had not weighed her, so they weighed her then. Seven and a half pounds. Then I took her on this car out to where my wife was in recovery (again, my feelings at that place 17 months later would be very different) and showed her. My wife was out of it, still shaking, but she did see our baby. Finally, I picked her up and held her. I kept looking around for someone (security?) to tell me not to hold the baby because I didn't know what I was doing. But no, they just left me to figure it out on my own.

I won't belabor this now much further. My wife spent three days in the hospital, as did the baby. Then they let us take her home. That also amazed me. I was thinking, "they just let you take babies home? Don't they want to see credentials for parenting or something??" But really, that is that, you are on your own. That was surreal. The nurse was kind enough to call us the next day to see if we were ok. I thought that was a nice touch.

My daughter is so beautiful. She always has been. She always will be. She's 20 months old now. I shared all of the above because I wanted to share something that ended happily after sharing something that really didn't. And they tie in together, not just because both involved pregnancy.

I think after we lost the baby, what really got us through it more than anything else was our daughter. Both because she needed taking care of, so we were busy with that, and also just because we were so thankful to have her, and even if we could never have another, she would be all we would need. That's what got us through it. That's what gets people through any crisis, though. Family. (I'm an atheist, so obviously there was no religious element to any of this, not for me, not for my wife, but then, I think even religious people get through things the same way - with the support of family and friends).

What I also wanted to say about this was that this illustrates that even with a successful pregnancy and birth, things can go wrong and there are risks involved. It was not an easy thing for my wife to go through. Of course, we thought it was well worth it, our daughter is wonderful, but it was something we chose to go through and chose to risk.

I love my daughter. More than anything. I'd die for her. We have a strong bond. Picking her up from day care is the highlight of my day.

I, for one, would never advocate or want to use abortion as a method of birth control. I just don't think I could do it. But that gives me no right to make that choice for someone else. I've heard some talk about how one who gets pregnant needs to face the consequences of that, as if a pregnancy, or a baby, were a punishment, not a person. Like it is some sort of moral judgment. Some of the same people are against teaching birth control. And yet the number one way to stop abortions is through more effective birth control. So it makes me question the real agenda. At the very least, it makes me question their logic.

The lack of a health exception makes me wonder where the line would be drawn. How close to death does my wife need to be before we'd be "allowed" the option of an abortion? And here's a good hypothetical - if there is no health exception, only a life exception, what happens if your daughter or your wife is pregnant and it turns out that the only way to take the baby to term is if you induce a coma in your wife or daughter for seven months, risking brain damage, but with no chance of death? With no health exception, doctors would have no choice but to induce the coma, taking away seven months of the mother's life for the baby. Forcing her to be a human incubator. With all the normal risks that such entails. As I noted above, no pregnancy is risk free. It is a risk every time a woman gets pregnant. The risk goes up as the pregnancy progresses. Why should anyone have the right to force that on a woman against her will?
Years ago, I once suggested to a pro-life friend that the solution to the abortion question was simply technology - if you could transplant a fetus out of a pregnant woman and then into anyone else, that would solve it. I suggested that pro-lifers could all volunteer for the procedure. He was upset by that and thought it was a horrible idea. Ultimately, it boiled down to what I said above - he saw it as the pregnant woman avoiding the 'punishment' of being pregnant. But then, why should that matter if it is about the life of the baby?

I saw someone commented that sex is just for procreation. But who gets to decide that? Sex, last I checked, is about far more than just making babies. Otherwise, why would people have sex even if infertile? Why would contraception even exist? Ah, maybe they don't want contraception, either. It seems to me like you have to have it one way or the other. If one is against having abortions, one at the very least needs to be for vigorous contraception availability and distribution.

In closing, at the risk of repeating myself, I could be considered pro-life, in that I would never have an abortion except to save the health or life of the mother. I think it is a horrid means of birth control. But I don't think it is my place to tell anyone else they can't do it just because I wouldn't. Pro-choice doesn't mean pro-abortion.

I also don't hate pro-lifers. I had harsh language in my last post on this because that was exactly how I felt at the time, but I never hated them, even when I was that angry. It still makes me angry to think of anyone else having to go through that. But I don't think hate is very constructive. I'd rather convince people with words and reason. I'm heartened to see at least one person, Erin, changed her mind based on my post.

I am amazed this has gotten such a response. I never expected that. I do appreciate all the comments I've gotten, even the negative ones, if you can believe that, simply because it shows me how others feel about this topic. I guess it is nice that something good can come of such a horrible situation. And I still have my wife and my daughter and we will try again for more children very soon. The doctors said she should have no special problems with doing so. So thank you for the comments everyone, and feel free to keep on commenting - I read them all and appreciate each one. And I am impressed that anyone can make it all the way through either of these long, verbose posts. I've learned alot as well. Thank you.

Apparently there are a few people with an opinion on the matter...

First, all I have to say is, wow, I never expected the response from that post, perhaps because I never got the impression more than a handfull of people even read my blog. I do appreciate the feedback. I am somewhat overwhelmed - I try to respond to all comments I receive, but when there are over 100, it is hard to know where to start. But I do want to address them, and I will, in another post, perhaps tonight, when I have time. There was more I wanted to say on the topic initially, but I just could not type another word by the time I got to the end of this post.

And I want to share something else, a little most positive, again perhaps because I need to. So as soon as I get the chance, hopefully today, I will post my other thoughts on the matter, as well as respond to the comments.

Thank you everyone for your kind words. Oh, and something I did not mention before - my wife is indeed ok after our ordeal and the doctors also told us that she would have no problem having another child. They said it was likely a bad attachment, that sometimes happens, and there really is no predicting it nor is there any reason to think it would necessarily repeat if she got pregnant again. And we do plan on trying to have one or two more children.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

My Views on Abortion

Updated with links at the end. Updated again with the birth of my son.

Abortion. There's a conversation stopper. While I've always been pro-choice (as far as I can remember), I was never particularly concerned with it as my primary issue. Part of that was because I never really thought (nor do I think) that Roe will ever be overturned. See this post for why. But beyond that, I'm a man. When asked about the issue, my flippant response was that I have decided that I, personally, will never have an abortion. Not exactly a huge committment, given that I can't get pregnant. But it also reflected (and reflects) my conviction that it is a personal choice.

Then I had to wrestle with this issue in my own life. My wife was pregnant. No, it wasn't unexpected. It was about as planned as it gets without using a fertility doctor, though thankfully, we did it the old fashioned way (much cheaper). Things were fine, until about six weeks in. Then she started to have some bleeding. Obviously, this is a great concern. We thought we lost the baby. So one trip to the emergency room later, we find out that no, the baby is fine. We even get an ultrasound, far earlier than you usually get one. There we can see this tiny creature with a tiny heartbeat. Unfortunately, the bleeding just continued, nonstop. For weeks. We were assured that this is common and that it would likely stop by week 10 or 11. Still, we weren't sure. And so we discussed possibly terminating the pregnancy, because it was very alarming for my wife, and also we didn't want to take this further only to find out it wasn't viable. Thankfully, we had such an option. We already had gone through the scare of wondering if we had already lost the baby.

A week passes. She gets another ultrasound. Things still look fine, but the bleeding continued. Then it got worse. Another trip to the ER. Again, they tell her, it is fine, but they told us we should come in if she soaks more than one pad with blood in an hour. So now we have a benchmark. Fortunately, things get better. Another week passes, they do another ultrasound. Things look great. I'm amazed at how much the little bugger has grown just in a few weeks, more than doubling in size. We're getting close to 10 weeks. Hopefully then, we're told, the amniotic sack will be big enough to exert enough pressure to stem the blood loss.

We were watching TV on the bed at home. Then she felt some pain. But she wasn't bleeding. She was cramping. It was very painful, but again, we checked, and there wasn't that much blood. So we did not go to the ER right then, they said one pad per hour. I called my sister, who suggested a hot bath to ease the cramp pain. And that did the trick. Then she started bleeding more. She panicked. She took off to the ER without even waiting for me to get dressed to go with her.
By the time I've joined her there, she is bleeding enough to go through one pad every 10 minutes. Then every five minutes. Her blood pressure is steadily dropping. The machine shows the numbers in orange. Then they are both in red. But all the ER people can do is basically watch her bleed. They don't want to do anything more because of the baby. They do start to give strong painkillers to my wife, but they only help a little. So we go for another ultrasound in the ER. I expected the worse. From the looks on the faces of the people, I could tell things weren't looking good, but they did not want to say anything. And yet, again, the little bugger is holding on and actually is fine even as its mother is bleeding out. So back we go to the ER room.

Now they want to see if she's dialated. I guess if she is, it is game over, but the ultrasound didn't show it and there's so much blood they simply can't see. Now the blood pressure numbers are even lower. I'm not a doctor, but I somehow don't think 60/40 is a good number to see on a blood pressure monitor, even for a moment. My wife is still awake, but a bit out of it from the drugs. They start pumping a transfusion into her, though it can't replace the blood at the rate she's going, or at least, it seems like that to me. We get a nice scare speech about the risks of transfusion. But its not like we can say no. She signs the consent form and they get in the first of two units of blood.

Finally, the ER OB comes in and starts talking to us about the possibility of losing the baby some more. Fortunately, we have already discussed this and thought about it, having already thought we lost the baby two or three times over the past few weeks. Still, it isn't pleasant to think about it.

Nothing is stopping the bleeding. There seems to be nothing they can do. They talk about trying some drugs, but then they decide things are going too fast to give time to let them work. So that leaves only surgery as a possibility. Surgery means hosing her out. It means killing the baby. So obviously, we look into other options. Only now, my wife is so out of it, from blood loss, from the painkillers, that the doctor said she is no longer able to legally consent. Now I'm handed a clipboard. On it is consent to basically give my wife an abortion and kill our future child. And it is all on me, my decision, mine alone. Something I never thought I'd ever face, ever have to deal with. Made worse by being a decision of either kill the baby or potentially watch both my wife and the baby die. The doctors did not say at this point that it was absolutely necessary. Maybe more blood could be transfused in. Maybe she wasn't dilated - they hadn't figured it out yet. Still too much blood. So then there I was, facing the sort of choice that you usually see only in hypotheticals in ethics and philosophy classes. Only it was real. It was my wife. And I didn't have exactly a lot of time to think about it. It was just me and the clipboard. An empty line there, marked for my signature. My wife bleeding right next to me. The ultrasound of my baby, and its heartbeat, fresh in my mind from minutes before. I cannot begin to describe how I felt at that moment. One cannot know until you are in it. I won't even try. I hope I never feel that way again.

As fate would have it, soon after that eternity of minutes, they finally managed to figure out, by touch alone, through all the blood, if she was dilated. She was. Just barely. That made the pregnancy an inevitable loss, they told me. I signed the consent and they took her up for what they said would be a 20 minute surgery. Even more ironically, they took us up to one of the pre-delivery rooms to prep her for the surgery. It turned out to be the very same room we were in before our first (and thus far only) child was born. Oh how the feelings were different this time around. Oh how those feelings were amplified and made worse by the memories of the last time I was in that room. And there they left me, where I waited for word.

I sat there, wondering if I'd at least get my wife back after this. Then 20 minutes passed, and nothing. Thirty minutes. Forty. Forty five. I started to get worried and thought all sorts of horrible things that I will not put words to. Mainly, then, I start to think about the abortion debate. About pro-lifers, in particular. I think about all those meddling politicians that would want to interject themselves into everything that just happened to me, interject themselves between me, my wife, and her doctors. And then I had a strong, visceral reaction. I wanted the mutherfuckers to die. I wanted to rip off their heads and tear out their hearts, because how DARE they play politics with my wife's life? The baby was fine until the end. I wondered if that would have meant they'd force us to let my wife bleed until almost death before they'd let us abort, because well, if she's not near death, then it is just a 'health' exception, and we can't have that! Fuck them. Fuck them all. They can fucking die, as far as I'm concerned. This was what went through my mind as I sat there, waiting to see if, after my baby died, my wife had died as well. I still feel that visceral reaction when I think about it, though not quite as strong - right then and there, if someone pro-life walked in and started talking about it to me, I very well might have physically attacked them. And I'm about as non-violent as one gets.

Finally, the doctors come out and tell me she's fine and headed to recovery. Again, she's in the same slot in recovery as she was after the birth of our daughter. I'm exhausted. It is now 1 am. She will be there overnight. I make sure she's ok and I head for home.

Obviously, I'm still pro-choice. And I do still say that I'll personally never have an abortion. But if anyone tells me politicians should meddle in what should be between one's doctor and one's self, I'll tell them, politely, to go fuck themselves, and then explain why.

In the weeks after this happened, I reflected on some other things as well. While I was upset at losing the little one that I saw on those ultrasounds, it did not feel even 1/100th of how I'd have felt if we'd lost my then 17 month old daughter. Not even close. We did not have a funeral. We did mourn, in a way, but nothing like you'd do with a baby who has been born. In short, just instinctively, we knew it was nothing like that. It was a seed of a person, but it really wasn't a person yet, not in our awareness. Nobody really treats a 9 week old fetus like that. Not even pro-lifers. More food for thought.

Anyway, I wonder sometimes if this is why I decided to actually make my own blog. Because I have things to say. I'm not sure if that is why, but the timing makes me wonder. This all happened very shortly before I made my blog here. So yes, it is still relatively fresh. It is still raw. I still have trouble thinking about it. I wanted to write about it, but just couldn't. I have mixed feelings about even posting this. But I think it will be cathartic. So here goes.

UPDATE: I posted a follow-up here and here. And I have some more recent, good news here and here. And now I have a short post on the one-year anniversary of this. And now my son has been born.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Dungeon and Dragon go bye-bye

Ok, so nobody who's not a long time RPG gamer will really understand this, but this announcement from Wizards of the Coast felt like a kick in the gut and then made me feel like someone had drowned my puppies in a bathtub. (If I had any pets.)

I've been a gamer for most of my life, almost 30 years now, since like 1980 or 1981, though I never really had many friends to play with until college. And a constant companion, almost like a friend when I knew almost no one who played, was Dragon magazine. Its first issue was when I was only 5 years old, before I ever heard of Dungeons and Dragons. The first time I ever became aware of it was when I was on a family vacation in California and saw one at a newstand. I was hooked instantly. It was issue 63. I'll never forget that cover. I soon found an earlier issue on that same trip, number 62. By the time I got home, I was subscribed and soon got issue 64. My subscription lapsed at 89 due to various reasons, but once I found more friends to play with, I was resubscribed and then I set out getting all of the issues I missed. Then I set out getting all of the older ones as well. I succeeded, ironically enough finding that the very last issue I tracked down was issue 61, the one right before the issues I first found in that California gift shop. I even got all of the issues of the precursor, The Strategic Review, which was little more than a black and white newsletter that lasted only seven issues.

Later, they started another magazine, Dungeon, which included adventures. I kind of liked the idea that the game called Dungeons and Dragons now had two official magazines, Dungeon (wiki entry) and Dragon (wiki entry). And of course I have all of the Dungeon magazines as well.

No matter how busy I was, even if I was too busy to play or even to read the magazines when they came, it was always comforting to know they were there. A piece of my childhood that has grown with me to adulthood. Something that represents an activity that I always have fun with and I hope my children will enjoy as much as I have.

But now finding out that both magazines will be discontinued, as of September of this year, it just sickens me and saddens me. So I just had to mention it here, though I have no idea if anyone who reads this (what, all three of you?) even cares about this topic. But I care.

So it ends, with issue 359 of Dragon and 150 of Dungeon. I'll miss you both terribly.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Politicization of the Justice Department under Gonzales.

It is clear that politics trumps all, including the law, with this administration. But I had no idea how pervasive it was with the Justice Department, just how ugly and corrosive it was, until I read this article.

Here's the money quote:

Some of the most important and revealing information during this hearing did not come from Gonzales, but rather from the newest member of the committee,
freshman Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D.RI). Senator Whitehouse is the former Attorney General of Rhode Island, and a former U.S. Attorney. He thus understands well how the Justice Department should operate, and how it actually is operating.

In a premise to a question for Gonzales, Senator Whitehouse said he had found correspondence in the files of the Senate Judiciary Committee from the days when Orrin Hatch was chairman relating to an investigation of the relationship between the Clinton White House and the Justice Department (under Attorney General Janet Reno). Hatch was concerned about the independence of the Department of Justice, so he wanted to know who in the White House could speak with whom in the Justice Department. The correspondence showed that four people in the White House (the President, Vice President, chief of staff, and White House counsel) could speak with three people in the Justice Department (the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney and the Associate Attorney General) - period.

Senator Whitehouse discovered - and created a chart to make the point - that in the Bush White House, a shocking 417 people could speak with 30 different people in the Justice Department. It was a jaw-dropper. As Chairman Leahy said, when he asked Senator Whitehouse to continue when his time expired, in his thirty years on the Judiciary Committee, he had never seen anything like the open contacts from the White House to the Justice Department that had occurred in the Bush Administration.

Gonzales really had no response when asked about this subject. But this information shows that, in this Administration, the Department of Justice has become a mere political appendage of the White House. (I have a number of friends who are career professionals at the Department of Justice, and since Gonzales arrived, they have said that morale at the department has tanked, for they all feel the politicization of the place, and they do not like it. Many of these gifted, experienced professionals are leaving, which will hurt the Department, the government, and ultimately all of us.)

I read this and, as the article predicts, my jaw dropped. That is so disgusting. Gonzales needs to be GONE. I still predict the end of April. Hopefully Bush won't be more stubborn than that. I still have fears he won't be fired, but even Bush has to eventually cave in (as reality caves in around him). Too bad it is only a little bit at a time. At least the Gonzo Meter is up to 95 percent after his testimony yesterday. (See picture of the comparative organizational charts of contact at the end of this article).

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Abortion Ruling

Well, the Supremes just had a famous abortion case - limiting so-called partial birth abortion. Both sides hail this as extremely significant. And perhaps politically it will be. But legally, it really isn't. And even if you're pro-life, there really isn't much to get excited about.

Basically, it outlaws a specific procedure, one which wasn't all that common to begin with, and which has a more common alternative method. So all those pro-lifers celebrating, well, they have nothing to celebrate. In reality, this will probably reduce the number of abortions by exactly zero, so those who see abortion as murdering babies, well, no babies will be saved by this ruling. It is the equivalent, to them, of outlawing death by hanging and just replacing it with a firing squad. You still get just as dead.

It also really isn't much of a precedent either. The only reason it passed muster was that because of all of the above - the fact that it really wouldn't stop any abortions, just altered how a few would have been done. Not exactly a precedent to use to reduce the number of abortions. Essentially, the whole thing about 'partial birth' abortions was more political theater (read: bullshit) than anything substantive. Nothing really has changed.

Politically, though, it could be interesting to see the effect. It may very well backfire on the pro-lifers because this may energize the pro-choice base. All for something that really gave the pro-lifers nothing.

The Supreme Court will NEVER overturn Roe v Wade, at least not if the GOP has anything to say about it. It is too valuable as a fundraising vehicle, for one. And it would give an immediate fundraising boost and grassroots boost to the pro-choice movement. It would also make the GOP a permanent minority party. Right now, there are lots of pro-choice voters who vote for Republicans secure in the knowledge that it doesn't matter if the candidate is pro-life because Roe stops them from doing anything. With Roe gone, however, now this would suddenly matter, and all sorts of votes for GOP candidates will evaporate as they actually have to pay a price for their pro-life stance politically that they didn't have to before - in essence, they could benefit from the religious base by declaring themselves pro-life while at the same time they would not have to worry about alienating mainstream pro-choice voters because Roe kept them from actually doing anything to outlaw abortions. This is also why I think Democratic Supreme Court nominees are pretty clear on their support for Roe while GOP nominees are all secretive about it - not because they'd overturn it, but because they wouldn't, for purely political reasons. Of course, once they are on the court, they are there for life, and free to do as they please, so perhaps we could all be shocked, but I'd be willing to bet that in those smoke-filled backrooms, all GOP candidates for the court are carefully vetted to make sure they NEVER overturn Roe.

One of these eons, I'll post something about my own views on abortion. But that is a long post for another day.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

All those parents

There is an article up with the names and pictures of the slain. I just read through it. I still think about my daughter when I see this. I don't have any comment. I just want to cry. Maybe I will.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Being a parent

I have to say that since I've gotten to experience the joys of parenthood, it has really changed my perspective on things, like say, school shootings. I hear of a shooting and it just makes me cringe, it makes me feel sick inside. I feel like it could have been my daughter, even though she's only 20 months old.

This morning I heard on the radio that at a local elementary school, high winds blew over a flagpole and struck a kindergartener - a five year old girl - in the head. She was dead by the time the paramedics arrived. I was about ready to cry when I heard that. I could not help but think of my little girl.

I now understand that question I've seen some ask when something happens involving children and someone seems not to be all that concerned, and so that person is asked "do you have any kids?" It is just something visceral, I'm sure probably evolutionary, that makes us feel very protective of our kids and that makes parents extra sensitive to any dangers they might face. Sometimes irrationally so.

And then there are certain tragedies with even younger kids, well, I just can't think about that right now for reasons I'm not prepared yet to discuss.

Friday, April 13, 2007

50 Million Emails - all gone bye-bye

Gee, what horrible luck the Bush Administration has. All those pesky emails, videos, and DVDs just keep going missing, and wouldn't you know it, they are always the key pieces of evidence in whatever current scandal is brewing. Of course, for six years, they got away with it clean, because the GOP Congress bent over and let Bush do whatever the hell he wanted, abdicating all public duties to check the executive branch.

Now it turns out Rove specifically eliminated all of his email for years, to the point where even the RNC had to try and stop him. Oh, but I had no idea, Rove says. Yeah, right. Karl Rove is a lying sack of shit.

This just pisses me off so much. Oh well, at least Gonzales will testify next week, and it looks like he's doing so bad at his murder boards, they won't even let him talk to the press anymore. I hope they rip him a new one.

I'm glad to see the Democrats finally showing some backbone, particularly Leahy, who point-blank said he does not believe the administration when it says they "lost" the emails. Go get 'em, Senator!

Thursday, April 12, 2007


There is an excellent article on prosecutors and their power and how it can be abused, and how this is highlighted by the US Attorney firing scandal and what happend with the Duke non-rape case.

Some good quotes:

Federal prosecutors, like state district attorneys, have tremendous power and almost limitless discretion to launch investigations, to subpoena, to file charges, to question witnesses, and to drop charges when the facts don't bear them out. And if the Duke case reminds us of anything, it's that the innocent targets of such investigations and indictments have only one power: to wait it all out and hope for the best.

* * *

both stories ought to remind us that "prosecutorial independence" isn't just some meaningless ethical jargon or a gauzy law-school ideal. Former Attorney General and Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson gave a speech in 1940 in which he warned that "[t]he prosecutor has more control over life, liberty, and reputation than any other person in America. His discretion is tremendous. He can have citizens investigated and, if he is that kind of person, he can have this done to the tune of public statements and veiled or unveiled intimations." Jackson added that "the citizen's safety lies in the prosecutor who tempers zeal with human kindness, who seeks truth and not victims, who serves the law and not factional purposes. ..."


Anti-Rape Device

There is apparently a device designed to be worn in the vagina as protection from rape. It has razor sharp teeth inside that latch onto the penis and can only be removed in a hospital where presumably some questions will have to be answered.

This also brings to mind the film coming out soon, Teeth, regarding a "natural" version of this device.

Talk about "ouch." I wonder if it has actually worked as intended. I also wonder if any would have been accidentally left in during consensual sex.

A Response to Thinking Girl

As promised, here is my response to TG's comment. I thought I'd do it in a post so I could use quotes and other fun things like that. First, here is the discussion part of her post (from my comments here):

as for my method of argument, I don't think I need to explain every detail of everything I say all the time for people who clearly have not gotten a good grasp on basics. It's not a Fem101 blog. I've spent enough time thoroughly arguing my views for the better part of two years on that blog, and you know what? It's tiring to repeat myself over and over and over, especially when there are epistemological differences going on that make it nearly impossible to discuss across them. Also, it slows down progress. In your case, I actually think I and/or others responded to all of your claims. I made a point to respond to almost every single comment on that thread for the sake of being clear about my argument, so it's actually kind of funny that you think I wasn't being sufficiently patient and/or clear about my view. And when I felt I couldn't be any more clear, and any further attempts were going to be met with more of the same from you, making the "discussion" quite pointless and useless to carry on with, I said so. I think it's perfectly valid in an ONLINE DISCUSSION BOARD to ask people to do a bit of their own legwork instead of wasting my time with basic stuff or trying to find different ways to explain something I've already
explained as best I can. I'm not here to educate, and I'm sick of being asked to. it's not my responsibility.As for that particular thread, you actually were being pretty inflammatory and rude, and I'm not one little bit convinced of any of your arguments. You were trying to compare oppressions, which is extremely short-sighted and indicative of trying to deflect attentino from the issue at hand, and you weren't actually listening. you were just getting upset that I and others were not buying what you were selling. nobody said that your experiences of class oppression, of being shy, of being an atheist, weren't valid. all I said was that they did not relate to a discussion of racism. nobody said that your hard work to get to where you are didn't matter - just that that's not what we were talking about. And all of that, all that "look at me" stuff you were doing to try to deflect from the argument at hand in order to "disprove" it, was just more and more evidence of privilege. you weren't proving your point, you were proving mine. sorry.I appreciate dialogue, discussion, and debate. If you want to come back DBB, you're welcome to. As I said, I didn't ban you. If I had banned you, I would have told you, like I have done with the oh, three people I've banned up till this point. And for the record, the people I have banned I
have done so with good reason - either personal attacks against me or blatantly hateful comments against marginalized groups. Neither of which are remotely close to that I couldn't handle the objections to my argument.

Ok, now my response.

First, regarding 'Feminism 101', 'legwork', and 'homework.' Implicit in this is an assumption on your part that I just haven't read about anything regarding the subject matter, but if I had, then I would be 'up to speed' and so there would be no need for you to talk about all the prior points allegedly settled in Feminisim 101. But of course this denies another possibility - that I HAVE read up on those particular points, but found them unconvincing. If you are saying I have to agree with everything Feminism 101 claims before we can have a conversation, that seems to stifle any chance at a conversation if I don't agree with the premise. So please keep in mind that just because someone doesn't adopt as truth what is 'taught' in Feminism 101 doesn't mean that that person did not attend the 'class' - it could mean that he or she attended and found the arguments therein unpersuasive.

Second, I find it somewhat curious that you chastise me about allegedly not knowing Feminism 101 in a thread about racism while at the same time telling me it was invalid to bring up other 'isms' involving atheism, shyness, and anti-semitism. If feminism is relevant to racism, it seems to me all those other isms should be part of the discussion as well. If those other 'isms' should not be brought up in a racism thread, then it seems that feminism should not be, either. In which case, what the heck does it matter if I'm up on 'Feminism 101' or not if the discussion was about racism? So which is it - is it valid to compare or discuss various oppressions together or not? If it is, then my bringing up other forms of discriminatino was valid. If it is not, then it is equally invalid for you to bring up feminism when discussing a thread on racism.

Third, 'responding' to a claim does not mean you have successfully refuted it. You may think you have, just like I may think I have refuted all of your claims. Certainly it is good not to leave a point unanswered. But just because you have answered it does not mean your point of view has prevailed. (Sort of like the fun of watching each side claim they 'won' a presidential debate after the debate is over).

Fourth, the primary point I was responding to and debating was actually two rather narrow, related, specific claims: That all white people are racists and that all non-white people are not racists. Something which you based on a made-up definition of racist, a word that is rather loaded with meaning about one's personal attitudes and actions. You have utterly failed to convince me on either of these points (to be fair, actually, I was mostly arguing with TFS on this), and I'm not alone in that regard.

Fifth, everything you say about not wanting to have to repeat points to me because I don't 'get it' could apply equally to you - I could say I tire of having to repeat my points over and over because you just don't get it. While there certainly could be some validity to that either way, perhaps it is most indicative of stubborness and not listening on either person's part. Or perhaps it indicates something else. When someone does not seem to 'get' what I am saying, instead of blaming them, my first instinct is to wonder how I can recraft the argument or better explain it. One ultimately wins another to one's own point of view not by berating them, but by figuring out a way to explain your POV that they can fully understand. And even then, there are no guarantees - it is entirely possible to fully understand your opponent's possition on an issue and still legitimately disagree with it. I've read many lawyer's briefs that were actually winning briefs on the law that still did a horrible job of explaining it. Really, the best explanations are the simplest ones, free of jargon, free of unwarranted assumptions. My experience has been that if a brief makes an issue seem complicated, that is usually a bad brief, whereas those briefs that make something seem so simple a child could understand them, those are the good ones. I strive to write the good ones. I am sure I have much to learn in that regard.

Sixth, any discussion about race that is premised on calling all members of one race racists is extremely likely to be inflammatory. I'm not the one who made such an inflammatory claim and you can't expect someone painted with such a broad brush not to have an equally inflammatory response. And the only rude thing I can recall doing is calling TFS a racist for his racist statements, but of course, this was only after he had called me a racist. So if I was rude for calling him a racist, then he was equally rude for calling me one. If there are other examples of rudeness on my part, please point them out to me.

And finally, again, sorry about the misunderstanding. All things considered, I rather enjoyed discussing things there.

Oh yes, one other thing I wanted to ask you (and TFS for that matter) - a hypothetical:

Bobby is 31 years old. His biological parents, who raised him, are both African-American, both descended from slaves. He grew up poor, but worked hard, went to college, and now has a very nice corporate job. Perhaps he would have done better were it not for his race. But he certainly did well with the hand he was dealt. Then he suddenly was struck by a strange virus. This virus had the unfortunate effect of making him lose all of his skin pigmentation, and now he looks 100% white and no one who knows him could tell the difference. Is he a racist? Why or why not? In ten years will he be a racist? Is there anything he can do to avoid it? And if so, why could not someone born with his new "handicap" not do the same thing to avoid it?

I was not Banned at ThinkingGirl

As the subject line says, I was not banned by ThinkingGirl (well, banned in the sense of being moderated) - apparently it was a software glitch I was unaware of.

So for claiming I was, ThinkingGirl, here I publicly apologize.

Why I thought I did was I posted a rather innocuous 'congratulations' on the post about you getting into law school and was told I was in moderation, and from reading your comments policy, I remembered that you said you did that to people who were not first posters for various reasons. So I assumed that was what happed. I could not be 100% sure, of course, but I became more sure over time as I repeatedly mentioned it here and elsewhere and TG did not correct me, and I guess I thought she would have by then, but then I had no real way of knowing if she ever looked at my blog (or if anyone does). So that was also an assumption on my part, a mistaken one as it turns out until now.

So again, I apologize.

I will respond to your comment when I get the chance. Of course, I don't know if you'll read this, either, so maybe I ought to post something on your blog about this.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Irony Alert - Anti-Porn Conference Exploits Women

Apparently an anti-porn conference put on a slideshow of images from various porn movies as part of their presentations. Apparently they are now selling that slideshow for $5 on CDs. And apparently they have not gotten the permission of any of the women or men in those pictures in the slideshow from any of that porn, nor have they even blacked out any of the faces.

First, I should say, I haven't looked at the actual slideshow. But then for the purposes of what I discuss here, that isn't relevant.

What is relevant and galling is the pure irony - no hypocrisy of these people who first claim that all porn is exploiting women, despite the consent of women to be in it through a slideshow that was shown WITHOUT the consent of anyone in it.

The irony is that the only ones who were using images without consent in this show were the anti-porn people. The images in the porn itself were made with the consent of the performers who had to sign release forms. The images in the slideshow were used without anyone's permission. So now a show about the exploitatioin of women's sexual images without consent uses as its centerpiece a show that is full of sexual images of women that the conference used without their consent.

I'll give them one thing - they certainly prove the rule that the loudest moralizers are usually the biggest hypocrites. It just usually isn't so freaking OBVIOUS.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

What it takes for a US Attorney NOT to be fired...

I should not be shocked, but I am- this is just so bad I want to scream obscenities at Bush and Rove and the whole damn GOP. This is just sick. This is a perversion of everything it means to be an officer of the court. Fucking political hacks. (h/t Andrew Sullivan). I'd say more but it would be a bunch of four letter words that won't add much to any discussion.

Echo Chambers in Blog Comments

There is an interesting post about Echo Chambers in blog comment sections. I, of course, added my own two cents to the discussion:

I don't see anything wrong with some commenters agreeing - if you agree you agree. What I think 'echo-chamber' means as a criticism is that commentators who don't toe some invisible line, they are banned - and I'm not talking about rude or disruptive behavior, I'm talking about simple, reasoned disagreement. I posted in a few threads on a feminist blog (ThinkingGirl) and was 'banned' apparently just for not agreeing with her in a thread that all white people are by definition racists. I was not rude. I stuck to the topic at hand. I simply disagreed and stated why I disagreed and why I, in fact, thought to label an entire demographic like that was racist because it puts race ahead of the individual.

To me, if one's ideas can't stand up to reasoned debate, that is a reason modify those ideas, not censor opposing ones. Out of general principle, I will never attempt to post at that blog again, though I did post some of my thoughts about the various topics there on my own blog. Again, anyone can ban for any reason - your blog, your rules - but that doesn't mean you are immune from criticism for doing so. And hey, I have my own platform, my own blog, so my voice continues.

Still, I think censoring for ideas is rather short-sighted - you'll get inbreeding of ideas and you will get further and further disconnected from reality. I think in some of those blogs (I've only looked at a few feminist blogs) there is a bubble of an alternate reality where it is just taken as a given that all men are evil perpetrators of the patriarchy, and everyone who disagrees with their narrow band of feminism are just enablers. RenegadeEvolotuion's blog is a reaction to that all the time - she has to put up with quite a lot that is undeserved just because of her profession.

Ideas unchallenged go stale and decay. That I think is the main problem when you censor and moderate your comments on a blog into an echo chamber.

There was also an interesting comment by someone else that linked to an earlier comment that I found amusing.

Abusrdities - The Drug War

It is amazing how absurd things can be shown to be when you take a step back and just look at the essence of what is happening in any given situation. I had an epiphany of sorts on just that sort of thing some time ago when watching a program on television about law enforcement.

On the show, they were discussing how there was a new, higher-quality marijuana plant that was being sold, and all the "problems" that came with it, and then they showed a real raid on a house that was growing it. Apparently they found it for the heat lamps.

I watched them go over the "booty" of the police raid, they showed the room with hundreds of marijuana plants in the basement. They then discussed all the "drug paraphenelia" and so forth, basically using all sorts of fancy police terms, and then it hit me - despite all their fancy terminology and SWAT gear, what this really was about was that they were arresting a bunch of people (probably sending them away for decades) for GROWING PLANTS. That's it. That was their crime. They were GROWING PLANTS. Then it just hit me how fraking absurd that really was. It wasn't like I was all for the drug war before this - I wasn't - I was a pretty strong libertarian by then - but just the patent absurdity of it all hit me.

This all came back to me today after I saw this article (h/t Ed Brayton) detailing how college students were raided by police with guns drawn for growing tomato plants after a heat lamp was found in a closet and a resident was reported to have been acting "nervous" and someone thought they smelled marijuana and so that was enough to send in the SWAT team with guns drawn. And this happens all over the place. Much like the war on terror, the war on drugs has led to police abuses and destruction of civil liberties. And it is all so freaking absurd at its core.

Thankfully, there are some sane police that are intimately familiar with the bullshit of the drug war and now are for legalization, but I somehow doubt pandering politicians will ever listen.

Is Government Ever Necessary?

There was a short, interesting little debate between a libertarian and a conservative on the question of Is government ever necessary? I have to say I probably fall somewhere in between. I am all for free markets and minimizing government, but I think that some things probably would not get done (or would not get done very well) if not done by government, for various reasons.

I think part of that is because there really is no such thing as a perfect free market, even when there is no government. This is because you then have some large business entities, such as corporations, and in my experience, the larger a company gets, the more it gets just as inefficient and crappy as the worst government. But at least the government can be somewhat responsive to the people, particularly local government, whereas a corporation is only beholden to a handful of people - the primary shareholders.

Where the line can be drawn - what must be done by government and what can be effectively privatized - I don't know. But it is an interesting discussion.

Monday, April 9, 2007

The fallacy of thinking someone else thinks like you do

We see this playing out with the war in Iraq right now.

I'm sure I've been guilty of one form of this fallacy or another. In its most basic form, I assume everyone I talk to is of equal intelligence to myself, or smarter. I never even noticed I was doing this for the longest time. It is just that I can't imagine anyone not being at least as intelligent as myself. I can certainly imagine someone being smarter, as many are. But since I tend to do well on at least some things that require intelligence, it must be the case that there are some out there less intelligent than me. But damned if I can relate or even make the assumption that anyone I'm talking to is one of those people. I guess on the whole it is probably a good thing, but then again, maybe there is a downside to that. I don't know.

But I'm sure it goes on elsewhere as well. On a somewhat related note, it reminds me of somethin else. I see it in the various racism and feminism threads. On the one hand, those saying 'everyone is racist, we live in an unchangeable patriarchy' are quick to point out that I, as a white male, have no idea what it is that they live with being non-white or being a woman, or being both. Which is true enough. But then perversely, I am then told everything I have and do because I'm a man and white - and I'm told this by people who are not a man or who are not white. And they don't seem to see the delicious irony in that - telling me how I experience life as a white male when they have never been a white male and so have NO IDEA what it is like to be one. And they have never walked in my shoes, so I find it somewhat funny and terribly arrogant to hear them tell me what it is like for me to walk in my own shoes.

I'm sorry, if you aren't me, you don't know what my experience has been, you have no idea what I have nor have not achieved in life, and if you are willing to make generalizations about me based on either my race or my gender, then you are a racist, sexist pig.

Soon, very soon, I will deal with what is and what is not a 'privilege.' And then fun with prosecutors.

SIDE NOTES: On a side note - I missed the whole theocracy weekend. I guess I don't post much about religion or atheism because to me, that is like putting up a bunch of posts about how the sky is blue. To me, atheism just is, and so I don't know what else I can say about it. I certainly do pay attention to atheists in the news, but for me personally, it is just a done deal. There is no evidence for any gods, so I'm an atheist.

On another side note - I'm going to make some nerd posts as well. Being a nerd means I do things like play Dungeons and Dragons. There, I said it. Now that is my idea of a fun time. I never did get into the whole watching sports thing. In that way, I really don't connect well with the vast majority of males in this world. In that way, it makes me an outsider to one of the core tennets of maleness. I may post about this more later as well.

Hatch - Meet the Press Update

I watched Meet the Press this Sunday. And lo and behold, they did actually mention that Hatch had sent them a letter to correct something he said about Carol Lam. Unfortunately, that is ALL they said. They did not say what was in the correction, nor did they point out just what exactly it was that he said was wrong (i.e. EVERYTHING he said about her, pretty much).

Sad sad sad. I guess correcting the record when a Republican LIES is not worthy of even 30 extra seconds of air time. Meanwhile, Kate O'Bierne spouted some more lies of her own, unchallanged, as usual.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Just to be clear

I am not stating that there is no such thing as racists or racism or institutionalized racism.

What I am stating is that all white people are not, by definition, racist, and not all white people have gotten to where they are in life because of racism - in point of fact, probably most white people have not, for various reasons I've already discussed. Sorry, not everything in life is about race. But sometimes people have filters on that try to shoehorn everything into race.

I saw one example of this when I was in high school. I was in an almost empty classroom after school, working on something (science experiment or something, I forget exactly now) when I heard two male voices in the hall yelling back and forth at each other, saying some nasty things to each other - not nasty in explicit terms, but more in the personal terms of someone who knows you and knows how to aim the barbs where they hurt, yet still sound like you are joking. I heard this and commented out loud, somewhat absent mindedly that "they must be brothers." The other person in the room with me took instant offense, and accused me of making a racist statement. At first I looked at them like they were insane, because I did not even understand how what I said could be racist. Because I said what I said because, though I did not recognize the voices, the personal nature of their back-and-forth reminded me of the sort of teasing one gets from one's siblings. Then a few seconds later it hit me that they must have thought I meant "brother" used to mean "African-American male" - which did not even occur to me at first because it simply is not a word I EVER use that way - to me a brother is a sibling, period, though obviously I know of the other meaning, since it is long established. I just never (and still never) have ever used it that way.

Of course, despite this, I could not convince this other person of my meaning. Not that I tried particularly hard. I knew I said nothing racist, race wasn't even on my mind. I really did not care what the other person thought of me because I knew I was right and they were wrong - and given that only I know what is in my head, and that nobody is a mind-reader, there is really no way this other person could have been as sure of their own version of what I said. But they persisted anyway.

So now what is my point? I'm sure it is obvious by now. It is that one can see racism even where absolutely none exists if one is looking for it.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Racism against minorities versus majorities

I was thinking about this the other day, and finally decided to try to put it to words. In all these threads about being white == being racist, there seems to be a certain assumption that underlies it all, the assumption that all white people more or less owe whatever position or job or anything they have solely to their whiteness, because more qualified non-whites would otherwise have taken their position.

But this is a rather precarious notion when whites are a majority. For instance, I think African-Americans are only about 14% of the population. Whites are over 50%, in some places significantly so. What this means from a practical standpoint is that, all other things being equal, racism or not, when you are white and you are competing for a job, your main competitor from a purely demographic standpoint will be another white person. Because if, say, there are 10 people representing the population as a whole vying for a job, then 7 or so of them will be white, and only one will be black. If there are three positions that those 10 people are seeking (in competition with each other) then no matter how well the African-American does - if he or she is the best qualified, or at least in the top 3, that still leaves two slots available for white applicants. So really, the only white people to get a benefit from racism are those at the margins - those who are at the bottom end of those who would get a job who might only get one if a qualified minority is kept out of the position due to racism. The other two whites would have gotten the job regardless, because somebody had to fill those jobs, and there simply are far more white people in the population than African-Americans.

And this simple demographic fact means that no matter how bad the racism is, there simply are not enough employment "spoils" to go around to benefit all whites - because the main competitor for things, such as jobs, will always be other whites as long as they are in the majority. So to blanket claim, for instance, that all whites have their jobs over non-whites due to racism is just plain false, even if there is rampant racism (which today, there isn't - in fact, in employment, it is ILLEGAL and you can pay MILLIONS OF DOLLARS if you violate that law). I don't claim it is gone, or that people still might risk losing their businesses and livlihood in order to continue racism, but it is far far less than it used to be.

Now, this demographic situation didn't exist where there has been racism elsewhere - South Africa being the prime example. There, whites as a whole really did benefit from racism because they were a very small part of the population, so there probably was almost enough employment "spoils" to go to all of them, regardless of qualifications. But then, the United States is not South Africa.

I know employment isn't everything, but it sure is hell is the most important thing in one's life as an adult unless you are independently wealthy. Later, when I have time, I am going to tackle the long list of alleged white benefits I've seen mentioned elsewhere.

NOTE: I sure hope this won't turn into a blog that comments mostly on racism - but I guess I haven't quite exhausted my words on this subject as of yet. I have other things I want to talk about - prosecutors, for instance, but that will have to wait for another day.

Oh, and I seem to have gotten in trouble in this thread for asking a question, which was only slightly loaded, but which I genuinely wanted the answer to.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Senator Hatch Lies on Meet the Press?

I watched MTP, as I usually do on Sunday mornings, and so I saw Hatch this week talking about Carol Lam, one of the fired US prosecutors. What I did not realize at the time was that he was either clueless or lying his ass off when he did so.

What gets me is that I somehow doubt that MTP will post a correction about that or that even anyone in the MSM will even mention this at any point. In other words, his words, wrong as they were, will stand, and may even show up in other right-wing talking points (which is where he likely got them in the first place). What is sad is that blatently false right-wing talking points dominate the airwaves, always, while even true talking-points from the other side get almost no air time. I'd be willing to bet if someone from the other side said anything so blatently wrong, there would be a right-wing talking point on the Drudge report, filtered to everyone on the planet on every single talk show, within three days. But there is no such network on the left to distribute talking points into the MSM, and the MSM seems unwilling to channel anything like it channels the Drudge report (even when the Drudge report is full of bullshit).

I wonder what can be done about this sort of thing. It is the sort of thing that can make me either pissed off or depressed. Or both. I guess at least there is the blogsphere, so even if the MSM doesn't correct it, it gets corrected somewhere (I found it, after all). One can't lose hope.

UPDATE: Apparently when Orrin said "Carol Lam" he really meant to say "Alan Bersin" - oh, ok, now it all makes sense. (See original link - it has been updated). Now lets see if that ends up getting corrected on the air with someone calling "bullshit."

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

A post just to post

I do have a few things kicking around inside my head right now that I'd like to post about, but don't have time right now. Work beckons, as does my daughter after. Then some fun as well. I have found some time to respond to some other posts elsewhere, in particular this one that I found interesting. I guess old habits die hard - I still post more in comments on other blogs than I do here.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Isn't it fun to unilaterally redefine words?

I really did not intend to post about this again, but since this has my goat, and I heard that there was yet another post on defintions, I just had to.

First, I note that this new definition of racist that TG and TFS use is NOT in the dictionary and also is NOT the meaning of racist used by the vast majority of the public. If you came up to a stranger and told them that someone else was a 'racist' they would immediately have all sorts of things spring to mind, including KKK meetings and burning crosses. And yet that is not what they have redefined it to mean.

In effect, this is a unilateral redefinition of the meaning of the word, done incidentally without informing most of the public that you've done so. So when one objects, it is not out of any special pleading that my version of the word is better than yours - it is a simple recognition of the fact that the word 'racist' does not mean what they say it means. They are suggesting an entirely NEW definition of the word, entirely made up by them. The only problem is, there is an old definition, widely known, that means something entirely different and that is personally insulting. But hey, I think they like that. I think they want to insult. TFS certainly does. He calls anyone who disagrees with him a racist. He certainly means it as an insult.

I'm told that TG won't make up a new word for 'Racist' because the one we have is just fine. And yet, she DID make up a new word for 'racist' because her definition is not the regular definition of the word in any dictionary I've been able to find. So I'm not asking her to make up a new definition for 'racist,' I'm objecting to her use of that word where it does not fit according to its own definition. 'Racist' is not a word that works just 'fine' as it is - because if it were, she would not have to redefine it.

Using 'racist' as a word that denotes one's personal culpability is not about denying that racism exists or power, it is about using a word in its ordinary, long-held meaning.

But beyond that, the redefinition dilutes the word and also makes it nonsensical. First, it dilutes it by calling everyone who is light-skinned a racist, making none of their individual acts matter (I just love how being in the KKK is equated to simply being white by TG - that is so ridiculous it almost can't be responded to with anything but ridicule. So I might as well go out and start burning crosses on African-American lawns now because hey, I'm a racist, and that's no different from what I usually do (sit at home and read a book)).

Second, it makes it nonsensical. It is like being white now is equivalent to being racist. In fact, that is exactly what they've done. Might as well just change the language to reflect it, right?

"Help! Police! Someone just tried to steal my car!"
"Did you get a description of the person?"
"Yes, it was a racist wearing a brown leather jacket!"
"Was there anyone else there?"
"Well, there was a non-racist person walking the other way - she might have seen something!"

See, we can just eliminate "white" from the language entirely - after all, we already have an equivalent word to use for everyone of the white "race" - just call them a "racist" and we'll all know what they mean because not only are all whites racist, but all racists are white.

And hey, here's a pop quiz for all those who follow the TFS and TG line of reasoning.
Bobby is 31 years old. His biological parents, who raised him, are both African-American, both descended from slaves. He grew up poor, but worked hard, went to college, and now has a very nice corporate job. Perhaps he would have done better were it not for his race. But he certainly did well with the hand he was dealt. Then he suddenly was struck by a strange virus. This virus had the unfortunate effect of making him lose all of his skin pigmentation, and now he looks 100% white and no one who knows him could tell the difference. Is he a racist? Why or why not? In ten years will he be a racist? Is there anything he can do to avoid it? And if so, why could not someone born with his new "handicap" not do the same thing to avoid it?

I don't expect I'll actually get an answer from either of them - they may never even read this - but I'll ask it all the same.