Monday, March 27, 2006

Pro life or anti woman?

Alas, a blog, has elicited responses from a number of other blogs with the essay on whether the anti-abortion crowd was really pro-life, or just wanted to punish women for having sex, and the charted positions that concluded it was actually the latter. I believe that conclusion came from having either misunderstood or misrepresented pro-life positions in that chart, and is erroneous.

The pro-life position that life begins at conception comes from a simple syllogism: A. The object of the discussion is a life form of some nature. B. Both science and the courts accept DNA evidence as to the nature of tissue presented in evidence; from conception, it is genetically human. C. Both science and the courts accept DNA evidence as proof of identity, and from conception it has a unique DNA signature, different from the Mother’s. It is, therefore, a new, individual human being from conception. Immature, yes; but the courts have granted status to immature beings before- an eagle’s egg is considered to be an eagle for the purposes of the Endangered Species Act; smashing the egg is legally killing an eagle.

This does not mean that abortion is never acceptable, however- there are times when it is legal and ethical to take human life. If the mother’s life is endangered, it’s self-defense, just as much as shooting someone attacking you in the street. This is also true in the case of the mother’s health; you may legally use lethal force to prevent an attack that will not kill you- for example, you don’t have to submit to being kneecapped by a terrorist. Many pro-lifers will also include as acceptable the abortion of the severely deformed, seeing it as a different discussion more akin to the Schaivo case than to abortion.

This groundwork was necessary to explain one of the errors in the “Alas” chart; not even the most strict pro-lifer is against contraception that actually prevents conception. (Many Catholics are, but not all pro-lifers are Catholic) The problem they have is with pills like “Plan B” that work by preventing the fertilized egg from implanting in the womb; they see this as just a very early abortion. Any birth control method that prevents conception from taking place is perfectly acceptable; there is no inconsistency.

Those pro-lifers who oppose public school sex education don’t see any inconsistency in their stance because their position is that such classes increase the teen pregnancy rate, not decrease it. They argue from empirical evidence: 50 years ago, when there was no sex education, no birth control, and no abortions the illegitimacy rate was in the single digits; today, even with abortion, it has increased ten-fold. There are now entire neighborhoods where the child conceived in wedlock is statistically nonexistent. You may argue that there is no causal relationship here, that “b” following “a” does not prove that “a” caused “b”- but you cannot prove it… so it’s not inconsistent for them to believe that there is such a relationship.

Lastly, it was argued that if they really believed lives were at stake, they’d all be out there throwing bombs. Pro-lifers are not that stupid; they know the battle is for hearts and minds- individual action would at best, even if you believed the ends justify the means, (which people of faith generally do not) be throwing bricks into the Grand Canyon. John Brown’s revolution didn’t free slaves, it only killed at lot of people; the lesson has been noted.

My conclussion: the statement that pro-lifers just want to punish women for being sexual is indeed an unworthy accusation; the evidence is that pro-lifers are trying to save lives.

But there is an inconsistency here- being pro-choice while claiming to believe in the inherent dignity and worth of mankind. Most UUs believe in acquired worth- some believe it’s acquired in the second trimester, some in the third; some believe worth is acquired along with “viability”, and some attach no development stage at all, believing dignity and worth are acquired only when the mother decides she wants the child. Some, judging by their harsh rhetoric, seem to believe dignity and worth are acquired when one registers as a Democrat. To the best of my knowledge, I am the only UU I personally know who believes in the inherent dignity and worth of the individual.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

My neighborhood recognized

Living in a 126 year old house is sometimes a point of pride, sometimes of frustration, and always a moneypit- but it does produce a sense of history and community. Of course, Irvington has never been short on those qualities, as the White House has now recognized.

Though I bought my house in 1998, I’m no newcomer to Irvington- I was raised here. I thought it was just a whim that brought me back, but once here, I found half my childhood friends had also returned and bought homes. I guess you can’t take the boy out of Irvington after all.

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Real cause for war in Iraq

The reasons for our going to war in Iraq are being rehashed in a number of blogs and forums- most notably ChaliceBlog and CFUU forums. It seems to me that all the arguments can be boiled down to three camps:

The reasons publicly given were in fact the real reasons. Maybe you didn’t think they were good enough reasons, and one or two of the list have been proven wrong since the invasion, but what he said was what he meant.

Oil. Funny, but the adherents to this theory have never actually made their case; they believe that merely uttering the syllable both makes and proves the case for them- so I’ll have to refute unspoken words. Presumably, they believe that going to war would somehow lower oil prices- which is nonsense. In the short term, war always increases prices. Long term? At the time the decision for war was being made, gasoline prices- corrected for inflation- were already the lowest since we started keeping records in 1917. Merely increasing the supply would not lower it further; all refineries were already running at capacity and the strategic reserve was full- the only way we could have used more was to pour crude oil over our cornflakes in the morning. This means that to lower pricing, we’d have to lower the price for what we were already buying, which could only have been done by becoming closer friends to the Arabs (which another war would not- did not- do) or by actually taking physical possession of the Iraqi oil fields and pumping at our own prices. The world would not have permitted that to happen- which leaves no way in which the war could have been for oil.

Conspiracy theories. Bush wanted revenge for the assassination attempt on his father. Bush owed a favor to the Saudis. Yadda yadda- I’ll lump them all as one because they all must prove the same point: as Bush is President, not King, he had to convince all the insiders to go along with him, including a lot of Democrats at least as intelligent as he. How did he manage to do that? How did he manage to fake evidence so well the CIA and Military Intelligence were fooled? How did he drag all those other countries- some of whom have very good intelligence bureaus- with him? How did he convince Tony Blair to stake his legacy- as one of the greats before the war- on this adventure? Is Bush so beloved worldwide that no one anywhere would blow the whistle on him? After you’ve proven all that, you could also prove the Moon landing was faked in the parking lot behind the grassy knoll.

The only explanation that covers all the facts is #1- that Bush and Blair meant exactly what they said, and were simply wrong about the WMDs. The sooner people accept that, the sooner we can start correcting the problems that led us there, like the poor intelligence. It’s an old military maxim that the most expensive weapons system of all is the one that’s not good enough; obviously, this applies triple to intelligence. If we made Middle East intelligence a priority in the 80’s and 90’s, this war would not have happened… so what are we missing today, and how will it affect tomorrow? I hope it doesn’t take another war to find out.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

An issue worth supporting

This is an issue that goes back quite a while, but keeps coming back to the front burner as we keep racking up casualties overseas: the Veterans Administration will not permit symbols of Pagan faiths on the tombstones of fallen veterans. Here is a Stars and Stripes article on it: "Wiccans wait for VA to allow symbol on headstones at national cemeteries ",

Although the headlines specifically mentions Wiccans, the VA will not permit Thor's hammer or any other Pagan symbols, either. It's not like adding a few more symbols would be a hardship for the VA; they already have 38 different symbols, including our own chalice, and even symbols for Humanists and Atheists... but not for Pagans or Neopagans. Their reason for not accepting such symbols is such a thin veil as to provide no cover at all for open bigotry.

I've already spoken to my Congresswoman (well, her office anyway) and gotten a local conservative talk radio show to discuss it- and even here in the Bible Belt, all the callers said a fallen hero should have whatever the Hell he wants on his tombstone. But lone voices haven't done much good for the last 8 years, and no famous Hollywood names or church groups or social organizations are lending a hand.

It occurred to me this would be an excellent issue for UUs to see if they have any muscle to flex in the arena of public opinion- a clear fairness issue like this should be an easy sell for UU congregations to get interested in, and with the soft place America has in her heart for Veterans, it should be an easy issue to push with the public. This would let us know where we stand as a force for good- if we couldn't get this silly rule changed, we'd know what chance we have with the grandiose proposals the GAs keep putting forwards.

Catch Up Potpourri

Last Wednesday was the third meeting of our small group at church. Wow- we should have done this years ago!


Last night the Channing Club here at All Souls, Indpls, went to see Urinetown, the Musical at Footlite Musicals. A strange little piece, well worth a look if it's playing near you, though probably not archival good. The performances were excellent, although once or twice the music (live!) drowned out the voices- I give it an A-.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Life Lesson #2

A major crisis can usually be handled- we have role models and resources and support groups for that. It's the daily rain of minor outrages that are more likely to break one down in the end. An honest death certificate for many a man, marriage, movement, or administration would read : nibbled to death by ducks.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

What we always suspected

CC’s many permutations of the Mark of the Beast (ChaliceBlog, Sunday March 5th ) reminded me of a proof from High School Algebra class, one with many permutations of its own- here’s one appropriate to the venue:

Membership in the UUA requires an expenditure of time and money; expressed mathematically it would be:

Membership = (time)(money)

As we all know, time IS money, and therefore may be substituted into the equation:

Membership = (money)(money)
Membership = (money)^2

We also know that money is the root of all evil; substituting again we get:

Membership = (evil^ ½ )^2

Solving the powers, we get the final answer:

Membership in the UUA = Evil!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Life Lesson #1

I'm going to intersperse amongst topical posts some of the life lessons I've learned from spending a half a century on this planet. They're not very deep, but hey- I'm a shallow guy.

Life Lesson #1: Some people leave the TV on all day just to fill the silence, as ambience. Some people only turn on the TV when there's a show they actually wanted to see. The success of a marriage can sometimes hinge on knowing which type your spouse is.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

In a March 1st New York Times article, Thomas Friedman wrote about the energy crisis, saying "The only real solution is raising our gasoline tax, which is a paltry 18.4 cents a gallon and has not been increased since 1993. Only by bringing the total price of gasoline into the $3.50-to-$4-per-gallon range- and keeping it there- will large numbers of Americans demand plug-in hybrid cars that run on biofuels like ethanol."

Here is the reply I sent:

Dear Mr. Friedman,

Having just read another of your articles championing the gas tax as the best method of reforming our energy policy, I feel compelled to write to you. Louis Armstrong, asked to define Jazz, said, “If you have to ask, you wouldn’t understand the answer.”, and I fear that the mere fact that you can seriously propose taxing gasoline to bring the price up to $4.00/gallon means that you are incapable of understanding the consequences- but I feel I must try.

The majority of your fellow Americans are wholly dependent on their automobiles. I realize a New Yorker may have trouble grasping this, but fully one half of America lives in communities where there is no public transportation whatsoever, and another large percentage lives in cities where public transportation is quite inadequate. Here in Indianapolis, for example, we have a large and expensive bus system- but this is a city of some 400 square miles; including the suburbs where many of us live and work, we’re talking a couple thousand square miles- no bus system could ever service that. The reality is that to live and work, you must drive.

A further reality is that half of your fellow Americans can be described as working poor. We’re raising our families and usually making ends meet- but only just. We’re not out here joyriding in SUVs just to smell the burning gas, we’re driving the most economical vehicles we can afford to buy- which doesn't currently include hybrids. Those of us driving pickup trucks generally need them for work; we cannot afford to have separate work and home vehicles. We are already economizing as much as possible by keeping those vehicles in good repair, and combining as many trips as possible- going to the store only on the way home from work, etc..

Your proposed gas tax would mean, depending upon exactly where one works and lives, a $25-$100 per week extra expense- and tens of millions of Americans don’t have that kind of money. Please try to understand what I’m saying: it would not be a hardship, it would be an impossibility; the money does not exist. Tens of millions of Americans- most of them young families- would be bankrupt the day that tax goes into effect. Tens of millions more could afford it, but only by cutting back their quality of life into genuine hardship. It’s all well and good to talk of this forcing car companies to produce cheaper hybrids- but you’re talking years; these people will be homeless as fast as the sheriff can evict them for non-payment of rent!
I know it’s easy to forget about us here in “flyover” country between the big cities where the policy makers you report on work and live; after all, “out of sight, out of mind”. But we do exist, we have lives and families- please don’t write us off as the eggs that must be broken to make your energy omelet.