Doctor Science Knows

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Socialism, capitalism, Cuba

hilzoy quite reasonably asked Who Is This "Hard Left" Of Whom You Speak? -- because it is ludicrous to say Obama is part of any hard left, and yet they keep doing it. I wrote:

It seem to me that what McCarthy, Brett, et al. call the "hard left" are the left-wing authoritarians, corresponding to the right-wing authoritarians of the "hard right". Bob Altemeyer has looked for left-wing authoritarians in his studies, but he hasn't found statistically significant numbers of them over the past 20 years or so. Which is pretty much what people are saying in this thread.

There are *plenty* of people to the left of Obama, but they aren't the "hard left" because their style is anti-authoriarian and thus "soft", even when they're *way* left.

I don't know of any good history or study of why the LWAs withered away, but wither they did.

Public health in Cuba:

Best hurricane response system. In the past decade, a total of 22 hurricane-related deaths -- and Cuba gets a *lot* of hurricanes.

Cuban health markers are essentially the same as those in the United States and other parts of the industrialized world.

IMHO these are two of the reasons Castro is still in power: the government actually takes care of the people on the most basic level.


Proper morality will protect the weaker from the stronger only because it's protecting everybody from everybody.

Only one truly socialist country is being invoked in this discussion: Cuba. As the public health cites I found show, Cuba has a remarkable and even admirable success at protecting its people from the most pervasive dangers humans face: disease and forces of nature. In what way is this not "doing better" than capitalist countries? I'm not saying life and health are the *only* good things, but without them the other stuff becomes secondary.

No-one in Cuba is wealthy; no-one in Cuba is starving. The Cubans are quite aware that this makes their median lifestyle much better than that in other Caribbean countries, and in many ways better than in the US.

To forestall an objection I suspect Brett will make: but Cubans are in prison! they can't leave!

IMHO to most Cubans, they aren't in prison, they're in this together. It's not that some people can't leave, it's that no-one gets to run away from their mutual responsibilities.

No, Brett, as I was saying: it forbids people to leave, because those who do would be running away from their responsibilities.

*Most* Cubans are better off in really basic ways than if Cuba were a strictly capitalist country. *Some* Cubans think that they personally would be better off under capitalism, even if everybody else would be worse off.

It's like a traditional extended family: it works because everyone's in it together, and that means some people have to stay in the family even when they want to be the prodigal son. And from the perspective of that tradition, the son who wants to run away to find his fortune in the big city (and not share it with the family) is a self-centered, irresponsible jerk.

I'm not actually saying Cuba's socialism is perfect. But I'm saying that it is not an obviously unreasonable system: it *really* works in crucial ways, and for the vast majority of Cubans it probably seems like a pretty good deal.

Look at it this way: Hurricane Ivan came roaring straight off the ocean, bounced all the way along the spine of Cuba -- and only 4 people died. And the Cubans were *shocked* that the death toll was so high. Why would they want to move to the land of Hurricanes Andrew and Katrina?

@nothingforducks: yes, you understand me correctly. I was trying to explain how things might appear to people in Cuba, and that a belief that Leaving the country you were born in is "running away from your responsibilities" and the state is like a "traditional extended family" are quite conservative and traditional approaches, in the broad scheme of things.

I am not talking about my own political philosophy, but about how it is reasonable for most people in Cuba to feel.

I disagree, Gary, that I am "romanticizing" -- I'm pointing out that there is hard actuarial evidence that Cuba isn't "a failure" compared to capitalist countries in its region. To assume that Cubans should care more about their principles than about their health and well-being, *that* it romanticizing.

I got my I-hurricanes mixed up -- I was thinking of Ike, not Ivan.

US hubris certainly had a lot to do with the disaster of Katrina, but not everything -- and you're disregarding Andrew, Ike, and the rest. As the wiki link says, Cuba evacuated about 10% of its population for Ike (more than a million out of 11 million) -- Cuban disaster planning is widely acknowledged as the best in the world.

My point is that what GoodOleBoy calls "the prison of mediocrity" is measurably -- rationally -- a better place to live for most of the population.


Oh, so you're a mindreader. This is one of the most condescending things I've ever read.

Good heavens, do you even believe what you're saying? It's not "mind-reading" to talk about what reasonable and prudent (or frightened, or angry, or happy) people are likely to do in particular circumstances -- except in the way that all human interactions involve trying to read other people's minds, and thus give philosophers a job.*g*

And I hardly see it as "condescending" to assume that Cubans are just as interested in health and life as my ancestors, who left Germany, Sweden, and Ireland for the US not out of some generalized ambition, but because staying at home involved things like "desperate poverty" and "being shot at".

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Monday, June 22, 2009

The Islamic Republic

hilzoy posted about the idea of an Islamic Republic. I commented:

Was there something in the air in the late 70s / early 80s?
IMHO, yes.

All over the world, the rate of cultural change was becoming too much for some people to handle. It was (and IMHO is) Future Shock. Technology and capitalism are the twin engines of change, and by the 70s it was becoming clear that there was no way out of dealing with them: everyone was going to get a full meal of change whether they're hungry for it or not.

I perceive that the biggest emotional problem people have is with changes in sexual mores and the role of women. I don't know if this is because sexual issues are actually more emotionally important than other things (pace Freud), or if all the issues of technology and economics that people have trouble dealing with are projected onto women. Either way, restrictions on women are the banner of fundamentalists all over.

I also find attempts by American Protestants to paint Shi'ites as "the more dangerous Muslims" rather ironic. When I read Hodgson's The Venture of Islam, it definitely seemed to me that over the course of history Catholicism:Protestantism::Sunni:Shiite.

It seems to me that Shi'a, like Protestantism, tends to be more doctrinally firm and thus prone to schism, and schism again, and schism again, so that today it is smaller but less unified than Sunni. Sunni is much more small-c catholic, more accomodating to different cultures and personalities, so it's got a lot of the amoeba-like quality of Roman Catholicism. I have the impression that Shi'a is also like Protestantism in being more apocalyptic than Sunni (or Catholicism).

In this analogy, the Wahhabis would be Opus Dei, I guess, but that may be a metaphor too far.

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The Islamic Republic

hilzoy posted about the idea of an Islamic Republic. I commented:

Was there something in the air in the late 70s / early 80s?
IMHO, yes.

All over the world, the rate of cultural change was becoming too much for some people to handle. It was (and IMHO is) Future Shock. Technology and capitalism are the twin engines of change, and by the 70s it was becoming clear that there was no way out of dealing with them: everyone was going to get a full meal of change whether they're hungry for it or not.

I perceive that the biggest emotional problem people have is with changes in sexual mores and the role of women. I don't know if this is because sexual issues are actually more emotionally important than other things (pace Freud), or if all the issues of technology and economics that people have trouble dealing with are projected onto women. Either way, restrictions on women are the banner of fundamentalists all over.

I also find attempts by American Protestants to paint Shi'ites as "the more dangerous Muslims" rather ironic. When I read Hodgson's The Venture of Islam, it definitely seemed to me that over the course of history Catholicism:Protestantism::Sunni:Shiite.

It seems to me that Shi'a, like Protestantism, tends to be more doctrinally firm and thus prone to schism, and schism again, and schism again, so that today it is smaller but less unified than Sunni. Sunni is much more small-c catholic, more accomodating to different cultures and personalities, so it's got a lot of the amoeba-like quality of Roman Catholicism. I have the impression that Shi'a is also like Protestantism in being more apocalyptic than Sunni (or Catholicism).

In this analogy, the Wahhabis would be Opus Dei, I guess, but that may be a metaphor too far.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

"Grass-eaters" in Japan

I probably need to stop going to Rod Dreher's so often. Sometimes he's almost one of the Reasonable Conservatives, but then stuff like this comes out. And yet, he is definitely on the up side of a really pitiful bunch -- he's a Green in many ways, just so goddamned enraging about gender issues.

In any even, poor Rod was shocked by this article about 20-something male behavior in Japan. Rod calls them "grassy-eating sissy monkeys". *HEAD. DESK* I commented:

I'll have to check with my Japan-based sources, but there's one thing you should remember, Rod: Japanese masculinity does not have the same signals or boundaries that American masculinity does. In particular, the sharp boundaries of gender roles in Japan means that men there have a much wider ranger of behavior available to them.

Think of it this way: the defined border between masculine and feminine in Japan means that a man can go right up the edge and yet still count as firmly on the masculine side. In the US, the border is comparatively broad, shifting, and ill-defined, so a man who is anxious about appearing masculine has to keep much further away from the edge. American masculinity is subtractive; I don't know Japanese culture well enough to talk about how their gender roles are evolving.

The Japanese also have a very different approach to makeup and costumes than we do in the US. Thoreau said "beware of all enterprises that require new clothes" -- the Japanese say, "what's the point of one that doesn't?" So the makeup sales (which are likely to be the most accurate part of that story) don't necessarily mean what you think in your fevered American brain.

I wonder, too, if the use of "grass-eating" or vegetarian as an insult has a religious undertone, because vegetarianism is associated with Buddhism.

But as someone whose children are older than yours -- for all your sakes, don't box yourself into thinking that clothing, hairstyle or music choices are the appropriate battlefields for their upcoming teen and young adult years. Worry less about whether they seem manly to you, more about whether they're decent human beings.

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Pro-Life and Seeing Women

(not). Daniel Larison, who is extremely sensible for a conservative but is still Conservative, wrote his thoughts on Tiller. I commented:

jake has IMHO nailed it:
For whatever reason, many anti-abortionists believe the woman shouldn’t be held responsible for her actions. I think it is the same kind of thinking that underlies the resistance to abortion - the subject is defenseless, at the mercy of more powerful beings, and because we have an obligation to protect and defend the weak, we also don’t hold the weak (fully) responsible for their bad actions. In essence, a woman is a permanent ward of her family, and not an autonomous actor in her life.
In other words, the central question is *not*, despite the framing, “Is a fetus a human being?” but “Is a woman a human being to the fullest extent of the law?” You don’t get to say “of course! no-one ever doubted it!” when the historical truth is that it has *often* been doubted, at great length.

I must say it’s enraging to see Scott, Richard, and Daniel discussing abortion as though their opinions must be Serious and Important, even though none of them has any skin in the game. And it’s doubly enraging to see posts like Daniel’s that do not even mention the word “women”, as though we’re invisible and inaudible even when the battlefield is our own bodies.

Until you *act* as though women are autonomous actors in our own lives, it would be foolish of me to assume that’s what you believe. You may even tell youself you fully respect me as a human being with my own agency, but when you discuss what barriers to place between me and my doctor *without even mentioning my existence* your actions — that is, your words — show that I am not solid and real in your eyes.

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Sunday, June 14, 2009


hilzoy got righteously POed at Erick Erickson of RedState, who said flat-out "leftists celebrate each and every death of each and every American solider". In the discussion, some people said Erickson (et al.) are "not human beings". My comments:


It's not about hurting them, it's about hurting you. Just as in the CS Lewis quote hilzoy used, the more you let yourself think of other people as "not human" the more of yourself you cut off. There is no "get out of species free" card (and I hear the Martian citizenship residency requirement is a *bitch*).


When you say "this (group, behavior, whatever) is not human", you are not telling the truth. In addition to my moral reaction, I'm a biologist, and I invariably find that the behavior people are most ready to label "inhuman", "not a human being", etc., is in fact *precisely* human. Frequently-made comparisons are insults to weasels, snakes, and things that live under rocks. There are no "vicious" wolves, because wolves have no vice -- though there may be vicious dogs, because we've made them into half-people, psychologically.

When you label someone "inhuman", you are stating "there is no way that could be me, there is no commonality between me and that behavior." If there's one thing we learned in the 20th century, it is that this is a delusion. It is *always* us, it is always pure 100% human behavior with no non-human ingredients going on.

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The Iranian Election

Glenn Greenwald had a round-up post, including a bit on the Iranian election. My comment:

If you look at the reporting linked from DailyKos, Andrew Sullivan, Talking Points Memo, to try to evaluate what's going on in Iran, and then go to the major US MSM sites, what you'll notice is:

1. much less coverage of Iran

2. most front-page photos show only Ahmadinejad, not any street-level shots

3. fewer headline references to "disputed election"

I keep being reminded of how little time Fox News devoted to the Holocaust Museum shooting this past week. When the event doesn't fit the narrative, the MSM just doesn't cover it.

I think any kind of close vote or disputed vote in Iran doesn't fit the MSM narrative in which Iran is *collectively* a force for evil that Must Be Stopped. The people in the US and Israel that want to portray Iran as a huge threat that we couldn't blame Israel for attacking are actively resisting any signs that Iran isn't monolithically behind Ahmadinejad.

Hm. Checking back to, I see that they've changed their slant in the course of the morning. There's now more Iran coverage, more street-level photos, and more doubt expressed in articles linked from the front page.

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Smoking Bans and Smell

shaddup. I'll work tonight.

At Crooked Timber Henry reports on the effects of recent smoking bans:
When Ireland banned smoking in enclosed spaces in 2004, I would have been prepared to bet large amounts of money that the ban would be universally ignored (Irish citizens have historically had a flexible attitude to the interpretation of legal rules that don’t suit them). In particular, I would have predicted that the ban would never work in pubs. But it did – pretty well instantaneously as best as I could tell. If it hadn’t been for the Irish example, I would have bet even larger amounts that the ban would never have taken off in Italy (where storeowners are legally obliged to give you a receipt when you buy something, to make it more difficult for them to fiddle taxes, and where the general attitude to large swathes of civil and criminal law seems best characterized as a kind of amiable contempt). But again, it appears to have worked.

I haven’t seen any research on this (if someone knows of any, let me know in comments), but my best guess in the absence of good evidence would be that the success of the ban reflected instabilities in previously existing informal norms about where people could or could not smoke.
My comment:

The Irish case is very interesting, and not what I would have expected, either.

I think one reason for the norm fragility on this issue is a peculiarity of the nervous system. Speaking as a lifetime non-smoker, one of the things that annoys me most is the smell. Smell is the most adaptation-prone of the senses: that is, we "get used" to smells more quickly and thoroughly than for other types of stimuli. The consequences for smoking are:

a) smokers have no idea what it smells like, none.

b) as the number of smokers goes down, the smoke from the remaining ones is *more* annoying and obvious to non-smokers, because we're no longer adapted to moving through a constant blue-gray fog.

In the 60s and 70s, everyone smoked in eating/drinking places all the time, it was just part of how they were. By the 90s, it was much less common, and I'd feel free to leave a place if it was too smoky. Now, I can tell if my husband has talked to a smoker, by the smell clinging to his clothes; I've returned books to the library, because the previous borrower had smoked while reading them and the smell wafting up from the pags was repulsive.

So I think it's partly that a lot of people were looking for an excuse to ask people to stop smoking, but also that the fewer smokers there are in the population the more stinky they seem.

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Abortion and quickening

OMG, I spent too much time today in the continued discussion at Erin's post All or Nothing:
my latest:

abortion stops a beating heart
I've often wondered about this slogan -- I used to drive by a billboard displaying it. Two things went through my head every single time:

a) so does a heart transplant

b) you're saying before there's a heartbeat it's OK, then?

When your billboard makes me think these things I'm not sure it was a successful slogan.

Let's see what sources I have to hand. In A Historical Summary of Abortion from Antiquity through Legalization (1973), Excerpted from A Christian View of Abortion By John W. Klotz (Concordia):
One interesting and oft cited distinction made in the early church was that abortion in the early stages of a pregnancy was not considered wrong. The reason for this can be traced back to Aristotle who held that the soul entered the body of a male fetus at 40 days and the body of a female fetus at 80 days. He believed that at conception the individual received a vegetable soul which gradually was replaced with an animal soul and finally by a rational soul. It was only after the appearance of the rational soul that abortion was to be considered murder. Sixtus V issued a bull in 1588, Effraenatum, wiping out the 40- and 80-day rule and punishing all abortion as murder; the punishment was to be excommunication. Subsequently Gregory XIV returned to the 40- and 80-day rule. However in 1869 Pius IX returned to the sanctions of Sixtus V.
Note that he says not just "not murder", but "not wrong". From The History of Birth Control, by Kathleen London:
The majority of women before the 19th century and many in the 19th century did not consider abortion a sin. Until the early part of the [19th] century, there were no laws against abortions done in the first few months of pregnancy [in the US]. Prior to the 19th century, Protestants and Catholics held abortion permissible until ‘quickening’—the moment the fetus was believed to gain life.

The issue was always killing, not a husband's rights, or else the act would not have been condemned had it been taken at the father's behest, which was not he case at all.Here I am relying more on my memory (it's been a long time since I read the primary sources, and the books I have to hand aren't the ones I need). In the 19thC, at least, doctors and clerics were very conflicted when husbands wanted their wives' pregnancies terminated when the wife did not. On the one hand, abortion (ew ew); on the other, undermining husbandly authority. I do not recall hearing about male authority figures advising wives to resist their husband's wishes on this issue, nor, frankly, does it seem plausible given the general emphasis on wifely submission and the extremely broad rights a husband had to his wife's body.

I do seem to recall that clerics (who tended to be more distant from the realities than doctors were) had a hard time believing that a husband truly *would* want his wife to abort -- and the situation where a wife wanted a child despite her personal danger[1] but the husband did *not* would not have been common.

The situation with unmarried couples was different, of course, and the rhetoric often stressed how aborting illegitimate pregnancy was covering up "the crime" -- the crime being illicit sex. In George Eliot's "Adam Bede", Hetty Sorrel is guilty of infanticide by abandonment, but her sentence of hanging is commuted to transportation (to Australia) when her well-born lover confesses. It's not clear how realistic this is, of course, and how much her life is spared because her boyfriend turns out to be the Squire's son. Within the novel, it's clear that Hetty's unwillingness to "name the father" is considered an aggravating circumstance.

Update #2 (multiple comments):

You don't do that when people's elderly parents die, do you, even though it is *possible* that euthanasia was involved?

My experience is that there *is* an investigation when an elderly person dies alone and unexpectedly. It's also my experience that the issue is far more likely to be suicide than euthanasia.

do you really think that when people hold strong to a moral principle, that means they are absolutely incapable of any nuance when it comes to law?

"All or nothing" is what it says.

Here's a primary source quote for you:
To the dismay of medical leaders, the public still believed that quickening marked the beginning of life. The practice of abortion persisted nationwide. "Many otherwise good and exemplary women," Dr. Joseph Taber Johnson reported in 1895, thought "that prior to quickening it is no more harm to cause the evacuation of the contents of their wombs than it is that of their bladders or their bowels."

[quoted in "When Abortion Was a Crime", from Joseph Taber Johnson, "Abortion and its Effects," American Journal of Obstetrics and Diseases of Women and Children 33 (January 1896): 86-97]

As for how reasonable people would be in practice, here's a Boston Globe article on the abortion ban in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Chile. In those countries, poor women may find it difficult or impossible to be treated in a timely way for ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage, due to doctors' fear of prosecution. As you probably know, a D&C is both a method of abortion and frequently necessary to treat miscarriage -- doctors in public hospitals in these countries will wait as long as possible before performing one, lest they be charged with murder.

At present, do people hold inquests for every death that occurs? I was unaware of this practice.

AFAIK all "unattended deaths" are investigated, yes. I don't think they all go to the legal level of a formal inquest, but they're definitely treated as police matters.

Another citation:
While Aquinas had opposed abortion — as a form of
contraception and a sin against marriage — he had maintained that the
sin in abortion was not homicide unless the fetus was ensouled, and thus,
a human being. Aquinas had said the fetus is first endowed with a
vegetative soul, then an animal soul, and then — when its body is
developed — a rational soul. This theory of "delayed hominization" is
the most consistent thread throughout church history on abortion.

from Joseph F. Donceel, S.J., "Immediate Animation and Delayed Hominization,"
Theological Studies, vols. 1 & 2 (New York: Columbia University Press,
1970), pp. 86-88; cited here.


I don't get it. How would abortions continue without any problem? How would doctors go around performing surgical abortions for a living? Attempting to self-inflict abortion is dangerous and I doubt many women would go for it.

I'm going to assume that this an honest question, and that you were born after 1960 or so. I have a post in moderation with links, but briefly: there would be a network of discrete, well-paid doctors performing safe, expensive abortions for well-to-do women. *Lots* of women who couldn't afford such doctors would try all kinds of things to induce abortion, and many, many of them would die.

When pro-choice activists say "No More Coat Hangers!" they're talking about a historical reality.

I don't get it. How would abortions continue without any problem? How would doctors go around performing surgical abortions for a living? Attempting to self-inflict abortion is dangerous and I doubt many women would go for it.

I'm going to assume that this an honest question, and that you were born after 1960 or so. Alas, this comment will go to moderation, but I hope the links will be worth it.

Some doctors would still make a living performing abortions for well-to-do women, as is the case in most of Latin America (as reported in the Boston Globe article I linked to previously). When Barry Goldwater's daughter became pregnant out-of-wedlock in 1955, he arranged a safe, though illegal, abortion for her in New York. Networks of safe, expensive, discrete abortion doctors were *everywhere* in those days, with referrals through an intense network of word-of-mouth, mostly woman-to-woman, and ads using the words like "full gynecological services" and "complete privacy and discretion". Women would go out-of-town if they could -- a "spa weekend" to "restore one's health" was a *euphemism* in my youth. I don't know what this kind of service cost in today's dollars, but I'd guess that if a legal abortion costs $400 today, a safe illegal one one would cost $1000 or more, if you follow me.

As for women who couldn't afford a good doctor, yes they did take awful risks. Here's one doctor's report:
The first month of my internship [in 1962] was spent on Ward 41, the septic obstetrics ward. Yes, it's hard to believe now, but in those days, they had one ward dedicated exclusively to septic complications of pregnancy.

About 90% of the patients were there with complications of septic abortion. The ward had about 40 beds, in addition to extra beds which lined the halls. Each day we admitted between 10-30 septic abortion patients. We had about one death a month, usually from septic shock associated with hemorrhage.
Right now, complications from illegal abortions are a leading cause of death for women of child-bearing age in South America. In Peru alone, an estimated 50,000 women a year either die or suffer serious complications after an illegal abortion. More women in Ethiopia die from complications from illegal abortions than from any other medical reason save tuberculosis, the World Health Organization reports.


I have the impression that Rebecca thinks making abortion illegal would eliminate almost all of them, and that's what I was addressing.

Yes, making it illegal would reduce the rate -- but it would also severely *increase* the death rate for women, and abortions that did occur would be at a later stage because the finances and logistics would be more difficult.

Another cite from "When Abortion Was a Crime": The year after abortion was legalized in New York State, the maternal-mortality rate there dropped by 45 percent.


It's true that I never heard first-hand of anyone using a coat hanger. I did hear first-hand stories about crochet hooks. Is that scary enough for you? You've said that "I doubt many women would go for [self-inflicted abortion]", but the historical record and what's going on in Latin America proves that many *will*. Shocking, dangerous, horrifying -- yes, but it's a *fact*.

[1] How many of your great or great-great-grandmothers died in childbirth? Of my four great-grandmothers (born in various countries between 1865 and 1880), half died in or shortly after childbirth.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

From the Abortion threads at Beliefnet

Erin's post, All or nothing


Pregnant women could not be legally put to death in any Christian culture (and in many non-Christian cultures), no matter how heinous their crimes; the mere suspicion of pregnancy was enough for a woman to escape the gibbet or the headsman.

This is not true. The "mere suspicion of pregnancy" was certainly not sufficient for a woman to "plead her belly" and delay an execution, she had to be examined by a midwife who would swear that she could feel the fetus move -- the "quickening", which was the common standard for when life begins regardless of the disputes of scholars. The time of perceptible quickening varies, but it's usually around 4 months.

In pre-modern times, any woman could claim to be in the first trimester and there was no reliable way to tell. In case you're wondering about women who had been imprisoned for more than 3-4 months, women who were facing execution are known to solicit sex from their jailers, in the hope that they would get pregnant in time to "plead their bellies" -- or to make such a plea plausible.

Making quickening the baseline for life has an extremely long pedigree, going back to Aristotle at least (and probably further). You'll note that the widespread belief that first-trimester abortions are OK is in line with this traditional approach. Most women were quite willing to use whatever remedies they could get to "bring on their periods", and did *not* consider this the same thing as the heinous crime of abortion.

Men (including male clerics) objected to these first-trimester remedies, but *not* usually on the grounds that it was destroying an ensouled human being. Rather, they said (truthfully) that it undermined male authority, and the husband's unquestioned right to control his wife's fertility.

I can't help noticing that the shift from "life at quickening" to "life at conception" follows a shift in when *men* can tell that a woman is pregnant, instead of taking her word for it.

at Erin's post on Abortion and civil rights (headdesk warning):

"Your Name" @3:40 has the crucial data:

the rate of unintended pregnancies among poor women (below 100% of poverty) is nearly four times that of women above 200% of poverty

In other words, poor women -- who are disproportionately non-white -- find it excessively difficult to obtain, pay for, and assert their right to use birth control.

When "pro-life" groups actively endorse effective contraception, I'll believe they mean what they say. If you say "abortion is murder" and don't promote birth control -- barrier methods at the very least -- I'll be forced to conclude that your primary motivation is to control women and our sexuality.

I have known quite a few individuals who are "pro-life" and also "pro-birth-control", and I can respect that. I know of *no* anti-abortion group which takes that stance. In reality, as you must be aware, the anti-abortion movement has consistently put up barriers between poor women and contraception. More unintended and unwanted pregancies, more abortions -- and the barriers the anti-abortion movement has constructed mean that poor women will tend to have abortions later, too, because it takes them more time to gather the money and make the arrangements. *There*'s your civil rights issue.


I know quite a few "pro-life" individuals who take your position, and I have no major quarrel with it. What I do not know of is any significant "pro-life" organization or institution that is also pro-contraception.

People who are anti-abortion and anti-contraception are IMHO making their priorities clear: contraception is worse than murder. No, I'm exaggerating: they're making it clear that they don't actually believe abortion is murder, because everyone agrees you're allowed to cut moral corners to prevent murder, much less something that's called "a Holocaust".

At Erin's Is protesting against abortion a hate crime?

"Is protesting against abortion a hate crime?"

No. Learn what words mean.

"Hate crime" is not a separate category of crime, it is an an aggravating factor in an already-defined crime. Here is a summary from David Neiwert. He's guy you need to read if you're going to be talking about this stuff. The chances are that if you don't read Neiwert you do not know what you're talking about.

Protest is NOT a hate crime. No-one is trying to define protest as a hate crime. No-one in the US is seriously trying to pass "hate speech" laws, in the sense of trying to define *currently legal* speech as "hate speech".

Shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater is a speech crime. Shouting "Fire!" in a crowded church or synagogue may well be a hate speech crime. But the point is that in the US it has to be a crime first, before it can be a hate crime.

The reason you're getting the impression that leftists are calling abortion protests "hate crimes" and "terrorism" is because abortion protesters frequently don't just protest. Some protesters -- though by no means all -- also stalk, harrass, assault, and threaten women and clinic workers. Harrassment, etc., are *already* crimes. When the goal of the harrassment, etc., is to "send a message" not just to the immediate victim but to the group or community of which she is a part, *that is a hate crime*.

ETA -- yes, Carhart is talking about a more general use of the term "hate crime". He's wrong, but I'm prepared to overlook it because he doesn't have the pro-choice organizations backing him up on this issue, and mostly because he is in legitimate fear for his life.

Anti-abortion activists might fruitfully ask themselves what they can do to make the risks to Carhart less. I'm not talking about just verbally distancing themselves from people like Tiller's assassin, I'm talking about reducing the level of physical terror Carhart, his colleagues, and his patients experience.

And yes, I am using "terror" as in "terrorism".

No, "Another Michael". Abortion clinic violence is the terrorism that *works*. It's not the body count that matters, it's the fear. Abortion-clinic violence isn't limited to murder, the murders are only the extreme tip of the harrassment, assaults, stalking, and the general climate of fear -- terror, even -- that this violence produces.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Axioms of Online Discussion

The storm over Ed Whelan's outing of publius has moved into the cleanup phase.

Actually, you *are that* bad, mr. moto. But I am responding to you not for your benefit, but because a lot of new people are visiting, and it's clear you are not alone in your ignorance and confusion.

This whole blowup arose because Ed Whelan, a pro blogger, was just as ignorant of the rules of online communication as mr. moto is. Not just the rules, the *axioms* -- the principles that were worked out back in the Usenet days, before the WWW even existed.
  1. No plagiarism
  2. No outing
  3. No sockpuppets
  4. No obtaining material benefits (money, computers, lip gloss[1]) by fraud
  5. No stalking
  6. No deliberate spread of malicious software or links
I think that's it.

These aren't really rules of netiquette, these are the *premises*, the axioms which online communication has been found to require. These axioms aren't about politeness, they're about making communication *possible*.

This is why bloggers both left & right joined in condemning Whelan's behavior -- it wasn't that he was "too mean", it was that he broke an axiom. It was and is shocking that someone could be a paid blogger without keeping to these axioms reflexively.

And this is why mr. moto is wrong. publius' remarks might possibly have risen to the level of "flaming", though I personally would call it at most a slight scorching. But outing is not proportional retaliation, it is *breaking the whole system*, it's taking the conflict to a radically different level.

I'm not going to go into the rationale behind each of the axioms, because that would take too long -- can anyone recommend a good link? But as with any educational process, you obey the rules first, then study why we have them.

[1]Based on an actual event, I'm not kidding

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Pseuds vs anons

At Rod Dreher's:

I second Ruth's emphasis on the crucial difference between anonymity and pseudonymity. I am frankly astonished by how many bloggers -- especially though by no means only on the right -- cannot seem to recognize that they are two different things. I find the number of anonymous/pseudonymous commenters who say they'd never read a pseudonymous blogger *hilarious*.

I've put up a description of actual anonymous blogging here. No such thing is occurring in the political blogosphere, so I cannot fathom why you-all don't seem to be able to keep your terms straight.

no one else is under any moral or ethical obligation to respect that pseudonymity.

It is standard netiquette -- good online manners -- to not "out" people's pseuds. One reason for this is because pseuds are the default online. Categories of people who would be prudent to use pseuds include:

1. women

2. anyone under 25

3. anyone working as a teacher who is not a tenured college professor

4. anyone who doesn't always agree with their boss

5. anyone who doesn't always agree with their clients or customers

6. anyone who doesn't always agree with their mother or father

7. anyone who is not straight

8. anyone who is divorced

9. anyone who wants to blog about personal issues

In other words, *most people*.

Saying that people "should" blog under their RL name or that it's "best" to do so is tantamount to saying, only powerful men have the right to discuss things.

Even if there were no other good reasons to respect pseuds, there's a good conservative reason: respect is the community standard. That's why so many bloggers on both right and left have joined in condemning Whelan -- so that everyone knows that there *is* a community standard.

At The Volokh conspiracy:

Count me among those befuddled by the apparent widespread confusion between "pseudonymity" and "anonymity". I am extra-befuddled by Mr. Volokh's conflation of the two, given Jonathan Alter's post here yesterday discussing their crucial differences. As he said, A pseudonym operates like a brand name, and the value of the brand is, at least in part, a function of how the pseudonymous blogger acts over time.

Actual anonymous blogging is extremely rare -- I describe one example here, mostly to illustrate how nothing current in the political blogosphere qualifies. Why, then, are so many people who are otherwise careful with language saying publius was blogging "anonymously"?

At Riehl World View:

Riehl, I am baffled by your conflation of "anonymous" and "pseudonymous", a confusion that appears to be widespread. Do you honestly not see that they are not the same thing? You aren't anonymous at all, you have a consistent pseud, just as the Federalist Papers' "publius" or "George Eliot" or "Mark Twain" did. The fact that it may be tricky to get from "Riehl" to your physical address doesn't prevent you from accumulating a reputation and building up "trust networks" with other people.

I've posted about what actual anonymous blogging looks like here:[]. What you (and publius, and most of your commenters) are doing is not what I'd call anonymous at all -- what makes you say it is?

I see now that I was confused -- "Dan Riehl" is not a pseud, but a RL name. My question remains, though: why are you referring to "pseudonymous" as "anonymous"? Do you truly think they are the same thing?

I see no practical difference in this and most cases in which a blogger chooses to remain anonymous by using a pseud

A pseud is neither anonymous nor Anonymous
so I actually don't know what you mean by "remain anonymous by using a pseud".

Pseuds are social identities that can gather reputation and trust. Anyone who has to detach from a pseud has to lose the trust and reputation that identity has collected. When I say this is "not anonymity" I'm not just arguing semantics, I'm saying they function in different ways.

I believe blogging under one's real name is best
-- from this it follows that the "best" blogging is that which is detached and impersonal. Blogging about one's child-rearing experiences, for instance, by your standards cannot be the "best" blogging, because it is usually unwise to blog about one's children under a real name.

At The American Scene:

I’m asking this all over, because I am baffled. You seem to be using “anonymous” to mean “pseudonymous”, though they are two very different things, especially online. The link in my sig is to a post I made about what (rare) truly anonymous blogging looks like. What we are talking about is *pseudonymity*, a consistent internet identity. Do you not know the
difference, or do you not think it matters — and if so, why not?

If we were to do a complete cost/benefit analysis of the effects of pseudonymous blogging over the past decade, I have no doubt that the result has been mostly negative (the blogosphere would be a more civil place without it).

What is certainly true is that many, many fewer people would be able to blog or comment if they always had to use their RL names. As Tony rightly pointed out above, most women (for instance) would be imprudent to do so. For the majority of people (who are mostly *not* financially and personally secure men, accountable to no-one) blogging under one's RL name would be a dangerous luxury -- your standard would make a desert and call it peace.

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Sunday, June 07, 2009

Outing publius

The National Review's Ed Whelan, scumbucket, outed one of the Obsidian Wings bloggers.

Humans, why must you FAIL so hard?

I find the objections to pseudonymous blogging from flagrant pseuds hilarious, and will only address them by pointing and laughing.

I have encountered a number of people who use only RL names online and are uncomfortable with people who use pseuds, but this attitude is baffling to me. Pseuds have an extremely long history for fiction writers and political writers, and I see no reason the "nom de net" shouldn't be accepted seemlessly in those fields.

More generally, objecting to pseuds puts you on the losing side of a generation gap. As my children grew up and started going online, I carefully instructed them in the construction of suitable pseuds and in basic techniques of internet compartmentization. For young people in general and women in particular, pseudonymity online is a matter of basic security. Objecting to it marks you as a clueless fogey, or at least as highly privileged.

In another decade, it's possible that the "presumption of online pseud protection" will become a legal principle, as it already is within the "old-growth" parts of the Internet. I do not think we're there yet, and I don't think any suit by publius would have a legal leg to stand on.

Thanks for the explanation, Slart. I now see what you mean.

I continue to be baffled by the number of people referring to "anonymous bloggers" -- especially while using a pseudonym (LOLZ). *No-one* here is blogging anonymously, we are mostly using *pseudonyms*, which is (a) completely different and (b) part of a very, very old tradition in both politics and fiction.

Here's what an actual experiment in anonymous blogging looked like [details redacted]: a group of several hundred people with a common interest formed a community in which *every member* had admin privileges. Both posts and comments were unsigned and IP addresses were unlogged, so there was no way to connect comments and posts to each other.

I was told that the advantage was:
Because it is detached from our named selves, it allows for fluidity of identity, I think. I can be the person leaving an idiotic comment and the person chiming in against them, and then also someone taking up that comment and rehashing it further in the discussion, all while still supporting an environment where everyone is instantly comfortable with each other.
In the event, as might have been predicted, one member of the community got angry and used hir admin privileges to delete *everything*, and there was much unhappiness. What was truly surprising was that this took *3 years* (a generation in Internet time), so it probably qualified as a remarkably successful experiment.

The point of this story is to make it perfectly clear that we in the political blogosphere are *not* talking about anonymous blogging.

I will assume that anyone who persistently uses the term "anonymous" to describe pseudonymity is part of the problem. That is, people like *you* are the reason fiction and politics have a long tradition of pseuds, of which the nom de net is just the most recent version.

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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Cherry Pie recipe

Because J asked.

The pie filling is per lastscorpion, and presumes that you're starting with one of the bags of frozen cherries we put up at cherry time (1 quart pitted cherries + 1/2 c sugar):

take a bag of frozen cherries out and dump them into a medium-large saucepan. Squeeze all the stuff out of the bag and into the pan. Thaw it, either by putting the lid on the pan and leaving it sit for a couple hours or else by stirring frequently over low heat. In a cup or a small bowl or something, combine 2 Tablespoons (maybe heaping Tablespoons, depending on how much liquid the cherries have produced) corn starch and 1/4 cup sugar and a dash of salt. Mix the dry ingredients into your pan of cherries and goo. If it's very dry looking, add a little water, but no more than 1/3 of a cup. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly, and then continue cooking and stirring for one or two minutes more. Take it off the heat and put the lid on and le it cool without stirring, and use it just like purchased cherry pie filling.

We add 1/2 tsp lemon zest -- the dehydrated stuff from Penzeys.

The crust is this recipe at Fine Cooking:

8 oz. (1 cup) cold unsalted butter
9 oz. (2 cups) all-purpose unbleached flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup cold water

Mix it up in the stand mixer or with two knives or with the pastry thingy until the largest bits of butter are still pea-sized, but most of the rest are fine.

Cut it in half, roll it out *very* quickly, put it in your 9-inch pie pan. Cover it with the other half of the dough, crimp the edge, then chill it in the fridge while you pre-heat the oven.

Pre-heat to 450, then turn it down to 350 when you put in the pie. Cook for about 50 minutes.

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In which my last nerve is dissolving

Comments made at Obsidian Wings re the Tiller assassination.

At hilzoy's post on Terror Should Not Pay:

Why were the OB/Gyns who performed late-term procedures in Wichita, Boulder, and I think Florida, and not say in NYC or LA?

I'm guessing, here, but I'll bet there are in fact such doctors in the NY, DC, LA, SF, Seattle, and Chicago areas. The difference is, the doctors in those areas do not need to advertise their services -- they get as many patients as they can cope with in their respective metropolitan areas by local referrals.

myq: Thanks for the link, it's nice to see my guess was correct.

I made it in part based on a friend of mine who had a late-term, emergency ID&E in one of those major metropolitan areas about 5 years ago. I'm quite sure it saved the life of the other twin -- and indeed, ID&E aka "partial birth abortion" is frequently the best choice when one fraternal twin is dead or dying. But AFAIK the procedure is now banned *regardless*.

In my friend's case, I don't know if the one twin was absolutely certainly 100% dead when they began the procedure. But I am sure that if they'd have to flail around finding someone who knew what they were doing, both twins would have died.

I find it noteworthy that no restrictions on late abortion have a "life of the other twin" exception. Why, it's almost as though they're not really concerned about children's lives.

At hilzoy's post In which I disagree with Megan McArdle:

I'll say this for McArdle, at least she has some skin in the game. Over the course of the day I'm getting to the "Flames! on the side of my face!" point, having to hear/read/talk to *so many* people who have opinions about abortion but no skin. As echidne said after the final presidential debate:

"It is always extremely distasteful to watch two men discuss what should be done about abortion. Always, never mind what they say."

*Always*, guys.


I expect that for many here, Dr. Tiller was just a nice guy removing unwanted tissue from some women by performing perfectly legal operations.

I dare say you expect *wrong*. As cleek suggested, read some of the personal accounts Sully has posted today. Think about the friend I wrote about in the previous thread, who had a so-called "partial birth abortion" to save the life of one twin when the other was doomed.

Both medicine and motherhood sometimes involve hard choices, and they always have. The only question is whether women and doctors will make those choices *themselves* or not.

What WT said, not to mention that I have personally read discussions on pro-life fora about whether it's moral to abort an ectopic pregnancy. Their conclusion, BTW, was "no, but it's OK to take out the fallopian tube with the implanted embryo in it -- you may be destroying the woman's fertility, but you aren't *directly* killing anyone so that's OK".

At Sebastian's post, What conclusions should we draw?

In general, folks, I'm finding the use of sarcasm, irony, and rhetorical exaggeration in this discussion is a layer too far. I am having a lot of trouble deciphering what people are *actually* intending to convey. It seems that the widespread use of the phrase "the abortion Holocaust" has caused my sarcasm/irony detector to go offline, at least for the purpose of this discussion.

Specifically, Sebastian, I have no sense of whether you're rhetorically exaggerating or not when you parallel Tiller's murder and the recruiter's. I'd like it if you (or von, or whomever) addressed the points made by Jeff Eaton's not-at-all-rhetorical points.

Do you, Sebastian, truly think that Tiller's death was "a single murder"? Do you truly think that it was not incited? Do you truly believe that women and our doctors have not been made afraid -- terrorized, even -- by harrassment and violence directed at abortion clinics and birth control providers?


I don't think OR's rhetoric rises to the level of incitement

Why not? Is there something about the legal definition of "incitement" that you're relying on?

Even without Jeff Eaton's evidence, it seems perfectly obvious to me that OR (and O'Reilly, and probably others) have been trying to get someone to kill Dr. Tiller for *years*. Sarah Robinson has a good, simple round-up of the evidence at Orcinus.

Is anyone here truly surprised that Tiller was killed? Does anyone honestly believe that it was not assassination -- murder of a public figure for a political reason?

what a coincidence. no common thread at all.

clee-eek, that's what I'm talking about. Please try to restrain the sarcasm, it means that every sentence has to be re-parsed, which is more neuro-cycles than my current brain installation can afford.


As you say, a lot of the sarcasm is both a sign of very strong feelings and of a lack of respect for others. I have no problem with the former except when it leads to the latter.


Because of the high sarcasm concentrations in the air, I cannot tell if stonetools has changed hir mind about whether Roeder is a terrorist.

I also cannot tell if OCSteve is serious about equating rare protests at recruiting stations with the very common protests at abortion clinics. I also cannot tell if he seriously thinks recruiting-station protests actually frighten potential military recruits. The very fact that most abortion clinics need client escorts should tell him that yes, anti-choice protests are often frightening -- one might even say, terrorizing.

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