Jesurgislac’s Journal

August 25, 2010

On the comparison of torture with equal marriage

Republicans Must Not Support Gay Marriage

Based on an actual post by a conservative blogger who was against torture in 2004, but who by 2009 was comparing the evils of allowing gay marriages to be federally recognized to the evils of allowing people to be tortured.

satire begins, for the sake of those without an irony-detector

I generally support the 9/11 Commission Bill [I suppose I could have picked out another piece of legislation, but it suited my sense of irony to pretend that we live in an alternate universe, where Republicans had decided to support gay marriage as a weapon in their War On Terror - which makes as much sense as supporting torture]. However, Sections 3032 and 3033 are very disturbing. They make it very easy for the US to accept gay marriages performed in other countries in order to allow such people to get married in that country.

I strongly believe in the principle of policing your own. I am a Republican and a regular advocate for the Republican Party. You should consider this post a kind of ‘toughlove’. As such I have some harsh words for the sponsors of this bill. This portion of the bill is morally, ethically, and politically wrong. It may be that you did not know all of what you were sponsoring (the bill is 300+ pages). But you should know now, and you should take action to change it.

There are so many things wrong with the idea of allowing gay marriage that I hardly know where to start.

First, it is wrong to treat people that way.

Second, these rules involve gay people. It is bad enough that we sometimes allow the wrong people to get married. Can we live with ourselves as a nation if we have condemned innocent men to get married to each other? If the French experience with PACS is any guide, the regularization of gay marriage causes an explosion of men getting married. They moved from the low hundreds to the thousands in just one year. That would likely involve at least a hundred innocent men getting married.

Third, it is a well understood conservative principle that people tend to push past the bounds of the legally permissible. Even though we have banned the use of gay marriage in our country, the line between gay marriage and non-marriage is still skirted from time to time. Overzealous gay people sometimes go a bit further than we allow. If we move the line to allow for gay marriages performed elsewhere, where will those who go a bit further go? They will go to using a person’s children against them. They will send a man and his wife to these other countries so both can be forced into same-sex marriages. I can’t predict exactly how it will work. But I know for a fact, and you do too if you think about it, that gay people push the line and push it hard. If we move the line so far as to allow gay people to go to other countries to get married, the actuality will go even further. You should also note that such exporting of gay marriage will never be under the classic ‘ticking bomb’ scenario which is sometimes used to justify gay marriage. If we have time to send them to another country, the information isn’t so crucial as a ‘ticking bomb’.

Fourth, gay marriage is rarely more effective than other marriages. Why open ourselves up to such horrors without even a payoff?

Fifth, for those not convinced by the above, it is politically stupid. This plays into all the left-wing fears about conservative blindness to the problems of the gay system. It makes all the whining about a ‘gay state’ look a bit less crazy. It provides a perfect example of willingness to abandon our country’s principles in the war on terrorism. Voters want tough, but they do not want crazy. We are at a crucial stage in a vital campaign. Throwing it all away by playing into every swing voter’s concerns about Republicans possibly going too far is just plain stupid. So if your heart is hardened to the moral implications, at least pay attention to the political implications.

My message to Republican leaders is this, either listen to the moral implications, or at least learn Dan Rather’s lesson. The blogosphere is beginning to focus its attention on this issue. Look at the number of trackbacks to katherine’s post. It isn’t just going away. Put it to rest now. Admit that you hadn’t fully thought through the implications of this small section of the bill and move on. It would be the height of foolishness to risk the American public’s backing for the War on Terror on a practice which is both highly immoral and typically unhelpful. We are going to have to steel the public’s nerves for a lot of things to come in the future. It would be a shame to waste time and energy defending the unhelpful and indefensible instead of dealing with other issues which are highly useful to the war and merely tough to defend.

June 27, 2010

Why is abortion like setting fire to kittens?

As many of you may know, I am a fervent and committed believer in a woman’s right to choose: I support all six demands of the women’s liberation movement: equal pay, equal employment opportunity, free contraceptive services, abortion on demand. (The last demand, free 24-hour childcare, I think is brilliantly utopian, world turned upside down, but the first five are all achievable in our present political state….)

Setting fire to kittens, on the other hand: inarguably wrong. Even if you hate cats, and as many of you may know, I am a fervent and committed cat worshipper whisperer.

Pro-lifers generally run blogs that do not accept dissenting viewpoints. (They’re like gay marriage opponents in that way.) But for pro-lifers, the “dissenting viewpoint” can be anything like “Contraception is a good way of preventing abortions” or scientific facts about how methods of contraception work, to assertions that women have abortions for all sorts of reasons, including the purely economic fear of losing your job, and these reasons are none of them outrageous or wicked. If you don’t want a woman who works for a Catholic school to have an abortion because she can’t afford to lose her job, then – as the ACLU did – you fight the case of a woman fired for getting pregnant, so that Catholic schools in future will refrain from encouraging their employees from having abortions. If you think a high abortion rate is a bad thing, you fund free access to contraception, you put in place sex education in schools that encourages children to think about sex positively as a source of pleasure for themselves and each other and using contraception whenever they have sex unless they intend to engender a child, you provide maternity care and paid maternity leave and rights for working parents to have time to care for their children and earn a living. We know that pro-lifers are not interested in reducing the number of abortions because, as a political movement, and, mostly, as individuals, they support none of these things.

What are pro-lifers interested in?

They hate abortion. And they want you to know they hate abortion.

Part of this goes right along with hating abortion because it means women can have, in the pro-life euphemism, “sex without consequences” – why pro-lifers also oppose free access to contraception. Women, in this view of things, ought not to be allowed to have sex joyfully, for her own pleasure, without fear: the fear of becoming pregnant is something that ought always to be looming over a woman’s mind when she thinks about having sex. Especially an unmarried women: hence pro-life support for firing an unmarried woman who decided not to have an abortion. This hatred of women having sex for pleasure is very strong in the pro-life movement, and for many years I’ve assumed it to be the key motivator. There’s considerable evidence for this in the policies/campaigning of the pro-life movement, as this post by Ampersand outlines:

In contrast, the leaders of the abortion criminalization movement have consistently put their political weight behind policies which make little or no sense if they genuinely think that abortion is identical to child murder. And those same leaders routinely endorse policies that make a lot of sense if their goal is to penalize women who have sex – to, as I’ve heard many of them put it, make sure women “face the consequences” of having sex. And they’ve done so with the apparent backing and blessing of the vast majority of the rank and file. [Further analysis at Alas a Blog.]

This belief – that denying access to abortion is an effective means of turning pregnancy into punishment and babies into “consequences” – is why many pro-lifers say they think abortion ought to be allowed for rape or incest, or to save a woman’s life.

But for some pro-lifers, that’s still not acceptable. For them, the key is hating abortion, and hating people who support the right to have an abortion. They don’t care about women dying: they don’t care about fetuses dying, or babies dying: they certainly don’t care about preventing abortions, because where would their source of hate be then?

I read this post on Slacktivist about false witness some time ago; Fred illustrated his point with reference to an awful incident the paper he worked for had reported on, a “group of disturbed and disturbing children doused a kitten with lighter fluid and set it on fire” and other incidents in which disturbed and disturbing people had done this awful thing. Fred noted that people were universally and unsurprisingly against kitten-burning:

But one also came away from reading that thread with the sense that people seemed to think this ultra-minimal moral stance made them exceptional and exceptionally righteous. Like the earlier editorial writers, they seemed to think they were exhibiting courage by taking a bold position on a matter of great controversy. Whatever comfort might be gleaned from the reaffirmation that most people were right about this non-issue issue was overshadowed by the discomfiting realization that so many people also seemed to want or need most others to be wrong.

The kitten-burners seem to fulfill some urgent need. They give us someone we can clearly and correctly say we’re better than. Their extravagant cruelty makes us feel better about ourselves because we know that we would never do what they have done. They thus function as signposts of depravity, reassuring the rest of us that we’re Not As Bad As them, and thus letting us tell ourselves that this is the same thing as us being good.

Hating abortion is a political tool to get people to vote against their own economic self-interests: as Avedon at the Sideshow summarises succinctly: “the lie that the anti-abortion movement was an organic reaction to Roe v Wade, but of course that’s not true – like everything else, it was orchestrated by rich right-wingers as part of their ongoing program to polarize society.”

In the US in the 1970s, racism was becoming less and less acceptable as a means by which right-wing politicians could convince working-class white Americans to vote and even campaign against their own economic interests. (As an example: By the end of that decade,even the Mormon Church had had to receive a revelation from God that it was unacceptable to ban black men from the priesthood. But in the 21st century, the Mormon Church actively campaigns for discrimination against lesbians and gays.) In 2002, the then-Senate Majority leader, Trent Lott, had to apologize for saying that the United States would have avoided all these problems if the racist Strom Thurmond had been elected President in 1948: in 2004, George W. Bush could endorse a national campaign for homophobic bigotry and inequality.

But if you can’t, any more, use racism as a trigger to get people to vote against their own economic self-interest, what can you use to drum up hatred? In the 1970s, the LGBT equality movement wasn’t widespread enough for gay-hating to work as a national trigger – too many parts of the US where LGBT people just kept their heads down and tried to be invisible and inaudible – but women, everywhere, need access to abortion and contraception. Turn this natural human need into a hate campaign and you’re off to a winner.

Abortion is like setting fire to kittens not because human fetuses are like kittens (there is no lolfetuses website) but because pro-lifers get their buzz out of believing themselves to be better than others. The opposition of pro-lifers to intact dilation and extraction, and their invention of the non-medical term “partial birth abortion”, is otherwise inexplicable: IDX is an abortion technique, one which can be safer for a woman who needs an abortion in late pregnancy, but banning IDX will not prevent any abortions: it merely ensures that a method which may be less safe for the woman must be used. Many pro-lifers have reacted with anger and rejection when asked if their opposition to IDX is because they want women to be hurt or permanently damaged: apparently what they want is a return to the pre-IDX days when the only way to remove a dead or dying fetus from the uterus was piecemeal. This belief that IDX in particular is bad makes no sense to many people, but if what pro-lifers want is the reassurance that they’re better than people who support a woman’s right to choose, thus letting them tell themselves that this is the same thing as “being good”, then it makes sense that they want abortion to appear “extravagantly cruel“. Performing IDX means the fetus can be removed intact, allowing the parents to hold the body as they mourn their loss: to pro-lifers this is as unacceptable as legislation for social justice is to Trotskyites who believe in a worker’s revolution.

I was 27 weeks by this point. I was terrified. The moment I met the doctor, all of that ended. He was a wonderful and loving man. I came in on Monday and gave birth to our baby girl on Friday. We were able to hold her after, and say our goodbyes. That doctor will always be in my heart. (From A Heartbreaking Choice, the website set up to commemorate Doctor George Tiller’s work.)

Pro-lifers are the movement for setting fire to kittens. They are not interested in preventing abortions: they are not interested in protecting women from harm. They are not interested in saving fetal lives. What they want is to compare access to abortion with the holocaust, with slavery, with torture – they want abortion to be performed as dangerously as possible: they want to claim that abortion is dangerous and performed by uncaring people; they want to campaign against evil like brave, brave, brave Sir Robin without actually running any risks because the evil empire they tourney against is entirely of their own invention.

Unfortunately, the women condemned to suffer and die from their tourneying are not.

Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today!

June 7, 2010

We are unarmed. We are no threat to you. Please do not shoot.

On March 16 2003, an American activist called Rachel Corrie was killed by an IDF tank, manufactured in the United States.

Because she was young, white, female, active online, and American, she became possibly the single most famous fatality of the conflict: one of the ships in the Gaza freedom flotilla to relieve the Gaza blockade was called MV Rachel Corrie, and no one had to explain why.

Water: Israel has not permitted supplies into the Gaza Strip to rebuild the sewage system. Amnesty International reports that 90-95 percent of the drinking water in Gaza is contaminated and unfit for consumption. The United Nations even found that bottled water in Gaza contained contaminants, likely due to the plastic bottles recycled in dysfunctional factories. The lack of sufficient power for desalination and sewage facilities results in significant amounts of sewage seeping into Gaza’s costal aquifer–the main source of water for the people of Gaza.
Food: A 2010 World Health Organization report stated that “chronic malnutrition in the Gaza Strip has risen over the past few years and has now reached 10.2%. Micronutrient deficiencies among children and women have reached levels that are of concern.” According to UN OCHA: “Over 60 percent of households are now food insecure, threatening the health and wellbeing of children, women and men. In this context, agriculture offers some practical solutions to a humanitarian problem. However, Israel’s import and access restrictions continue to suffocate the agriculture sector and directly contribute to rising food insecurity. Of particular concern, farmers and fishers’ lives are regularly put at risk, due to Israel’s enforcement of its access restrictions. The fact that this coastal population now imports fish from Israel and through tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border speaks to the absurdity of the situation.” 72 percent of Gaza’s fish profit comes from beyond the three nautical mile mark, but further restrictions by Israel’s naval blockade prevents Gazans from fishing beyond that mark. Between 2008 and 2009 the fishing catch was down 47 percent.

The Death of Rachel Corrie, in Mother Jones, is where I got the quote that forms the title of this blogpost.

A regular right-wing commenter on Obsidian Wings cited a post by Tom Gross, The Forgotten Rachels, listing “forgotten victims” – young people killed in Israel by Palestinian terrorists, as an example of anti-Israel bias in the media, citing Helen Thomas‘s outburst as an example of anti-Semitic feeling among US journalists.

As I noted on Feministe:

Helen Thomas should have known that while many of the white colonists who first began the 63-year-war against the Palestinian people were indeed from Eastern Europe and from North America, that was 63 years ago: it’s their descendants, and the descendants of the Middle Eastern refugees who came to the new state at the beginning of the war, who continue it now.

“Go back to where you came from” applies to Helen Thomas, the descendant of white immigrants, as much as it does to the dscendents of the white immigrants in what is now Israel.

Still, it’s worth noting that many American journalists have openly supported the murderous campaigns by the Israelis against the Palestinians, and supported the denial of citizenship to Palestinians and the maintenance of the apartheid state of Israel, without needing to announce that they are retiring immediately.

Tom Gross lists Rachel Thaler, killed age 16 by a Palestinian suicide bomber on February 27th, 2002. But he doesn’t mention Inas Ibrahim Saleh, age 7, who was struck by IDF shelling of Jabalya Refugee Camp, North Gaza district, on February 13th 2002, and who died on March 2nd 2002. He doesn’t mention Mahmoud Hassan Ahmad a-Talalkah, also age 7, who was killed on March 1st 2002 next to Nissanit, North Gaza district, by gunfire. He does not mention Maryam ‘Awad al-Bahabsah, age 30, who was killed by IDF gunfire, from a tank, in her home in Khan Yunis, on February 18th, 2002: nor does he mention Muna al-Bahabsah, Maryam’s 10-year-old daughter, also killed by the same IDF gunfire that killed her mother.
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June 8, 2009

Exposing Ed Whelan

Ed Whelan got trounced by Publius of Obsidian Wings – one too many times, apparently – and decided, since he couldn’t win an argument with Publius, he’d try to beat him up some other way.

Here’s how: Re: Exposing Ed Whelan – Bench Memos on National Review Online

Shared via AddThis

Update: Ed Whelan apologised, and Publius accepted. I find it ironic that Whelan behaved better than Kathryn Cramer under the same circumstances – and that his apology, however clumsy, was better-expressed than BitchPhD’s sorry-you-were-offended. In fact, not just ironic: I find it actively depressing. I’d rather Whelan had to look to SF fans and feminists for a good example, not the other way about.

June 3, 2009

Moral Courage

A former pro-lifer who has moral courage: a current pro-lifer without it.

An evangelical Christian with both moral courage and kindness; an evangelical Christian who has neither.

The sad thing is: you could go on forever on the one side, finding examples of pro-lifers and evangelical Christians with neither moral courage nor kindness in them.

February 8, 2009

Stupid Things People Say On The Internet 4960

Kathryn Cramer, if that is the name her parents wrote on her birth certificate, claims Aliases Are for People on Wanted Posters. (Via; via)

Or serving soldiers.

Or philosophers and pundits.

Or bastard logic.

Or bitches with PhDs.

Or perfect perverts with NSFW blogs.

Or wrecked wretched hilarious cakes.

Or cupcake spies finding the best bakeries in America!

Or feministes feministing.

Or, at Shakesville, Arkades, Elle, The Heretik, Misty, Mustang Bobby, Paul the Spud, Petulant, The Portly Dyke, Quixote, Shark-fu, SKM, Space Cowboy, Todd, and any of the other citizens I’ve missed.

Or a Pioneer Woman.

Or any of these philosophers, pirates, and pundits.

If I’ve never said before: I’m pleased and proud to have all of you on my blog-roll. Ms Cramer thinks we are con-men and crooks, because we don’t choose to use our real names.

What an ass.

December 19, 2008

Message to heterosexual supporters of Barack Obama

Telling us you don’t think it’s a big deal that a homophobic bigot has been invited to give the invocation at Barack Obama’s inaugeration?

Because Barack Obama has got to reach out to those homophobic, sexist, racist evangelical Christians. And it’s not a big deal when in doing so he insults LGBT people.

What else are we good for, if not to be the group that people of all religions can insult? It’s not as if Obama needs to treat LGBT people with any respect: the sane ones know he’s better than any Republican alternative, the insane ones suck John Hagee’s dick in airport restrooms and thank him for the privilege.

Members of the Lesbian and Gay Band Association are going to have to stand there politely and listen to Rick Warren, who thinks their having the freedom to marry is like incest or paedophila. I bet they weren’t warned in advance that they would be required to do that.

I hope Nancy Sutley can arrange to be absent. It would be ugly for Obama to force her to attend as Rick Warren prays.

Now why didn’t Obama invite John Hagee? Hagee could have insulted Barack Obama, too, and then we’d all be even.

December 18, 2008

But people shouldn’t throw shoes!

On Sunday 14th December, an Iraqi journalist, Muntadar al-Zaidi, of Baghdadia Televison, threw a pair of shoes at George W. Bush.

- “This is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, dog.”
- “This is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq.”

Zaidi is 28 years old, a graduate of communications from Baghdad University: members of his family were arrrested under Saddam Hussein’s regime, and he himself has been abducted by insurgents once and also held twice for questioning by the US occupation. (BBC)

Personally, I don’t like people throwing shoes at anyone.

His brother, Dargham al-Zaidi, told the BBC that Muntadar deliberately bought Iraqi-made shoes, from a shop on al-Khyam street in central Baghdad: dark brown with laces.

For some reason, I found myself wondering what kind of shoes they were: a pair of rubber flip-flops wouldn’t do much damage; steel-toed Doc Martens would be a different story. Insofar as I could see anything about these particular shoes, a lot would seem to depend on whether or not they had wooden heels.

Bush dodged both shoes, and appeared quite insouciant about the incident. Abdel Karim Khalaf, the head of operations at the interior ministry, told Reporters Without Borders that Muntadar al-Zaidi faced proceedings under Articles 223, 225 and 227 of the Iraqi criminal code: he can be sentenced to up to seven years in prison for “insulting a foreign head of state”.

That said, I also wondered whether Bush would have had any sense at all of how angry a lot of Iraqis are had this not happened.

Bush’s response: “If you want the facts, it’s a size 10 shoe that he threw.” (BBC)

I’m not saying that that makes it OK; just wondering.

Muntadar al-Zaidi has (his brother says) suffered a broken arm, broken ribs and internal bleeding after being beaten in custody. But after all, it wasn’t OK for him to throw shoes.

All these preceding blockquotes are from Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings.

Teresa at Making Light, in her Free Muntadar Zaidi now! post:

So, will someone please tell George that he has two choices? He can either grab a moment’s grace in the midst of the sorry spectacle that is the end of his administration, or he can have people sending shoes in his direction for the rest of his life.

But not Hilzoy. Obviously.

I wondered when Hilzoy took the gig at Political Animal if she would be infected by the same thing that got Kevin Drum: the need to have your political enemies praise you as “unpartisan”. I don’t know if she cross-posted this to Political Animal, but it’s a post Kevin Drum could easily have written, expressing such concern for Bush being the victim of having shoes thrown at him without harming him – without a word or a shred of concern for the man who threw the shoes, though it didn’t take much thought to know that he would suffer badly for what he did.

Update: Where to send your old shoes.

October 5, 2008

Lies About Health Care

Back in April 2004, I wrote (on Political Animal, comments now lost, but preserved on Respectful of Otters):

Practically speaking… at the moment the health system in the US, insofar as it exists, it set up on the basis that your employer will pay for your health insurance. If every employer in the US simply decided that from now on the money they paid to subsidize employee health insurance was to go to their shareholders instead, and people would only have health insurance if they could afford to buy an individual plan, then the US would suddenly face a health care crisis the like of which it’s never seen: not just 45 million people without health insurance, but probably more like 250 million. The whole health “system” would crumble into bankruptcy.
[...]
Wal Mart’s moral obligation to provide health insurance for all its employees arises from the fact that it makes its profits from a system which assumes that all major employers do so. If all major employees imitated its business model, the system would collapse and kill hundreds of thousands.

This was in response to a story Rivka had published earlier about Wal-Mart’s paying many of its employees so little they cannot afford Wal-Mart’s health insurance plan:

So imagine my surprise when someone came into my office today who has a full-time job. She works 40 hours a week at Wal-Mart. Like many of their employees, she can’t afford their health insurance plan. Even if she could, they wouldn’t cover her HIV care because it’s a pre-existing condition. It isn’t even about paying for the drugs, which are expensive – she qualifies for the state AIDS Drug Assistance Program, which picks up all of her prescriptions for her. Wal-Mart won’t pay for office visits to an HIV specialist, and they won’t pay for the blood tests she needs to monitor her condition.

So you, the federal taxpayer, will be paying for her medical care. Today you also gave her $40 worth of food vouchers, because after she pays her rent (which eats more than half her wages, and she lives in a slum) there’s not a lot left over to buy food. I’m sure you’re glad to do it, right? You don’t want her to die.

And you don’t want Walmart’s $8 billion profits and 21.6% return on shareholder’s equity to drop, the way it probably would if the public weren’t picking up the cost of keeping Wal-Mart associates and their children alive. You wouldn’t want any members of the Walton family to drop off the list of the richest people in the world. (Imagine if only four of them were in the top ten.)

Now, four years on, McCain wants to use the Wal-Mart model of health care for all the 71% of Americans with health insurance () who are insured via their employers. Douglas Holtz-Eakin, chief policy adviser for McCain, calculates that over 10 years, the US government will get $3.6 trillion increased revenue from taxing employer-provided health insurance (cite).

To understand this, I use the UK model of national health insurance (figures in US dollars): Supposing you earn $2400 a month, and your employee contributions to health insurance are 11%. (That’s the UK’s national insurance rate, covering health and other benefits.) So you pay $264 a month for your health insurance.

Under the current US system, that $264 is not taxed: it gets taken off your pay before tax, and goes to the employer’s health insurance company whole and entire, along with whatever contribution your employer makes, which contribution is also not taxed: so assuming that your employer matches your contributions to your health insurance (also the rule in the UK system) your health insurance company gets $528 per month to cover you.

Under the system McCain proposes, that $264 will be taxed: $39.6 (federal tax at 15%, at least) will be deducted from it. Furthermore, your employer’s contribution to your health insurance will be also taxed. So unless your employer is willing to increase what they pay, you will need to find about $80 more each month to get the same level of health insurance as before, which is in theory going to be paid for by a tax credit at the end of the year. That’s fine if you have the kind of cash flow that can easily compensate for $80 less each month with a tax credit that will hopefully equate to everything you paid out before: $2500 tax credit voucher if you’re an individual, $5000 if you’ve got family. (And issues about which families will be recognised as entitled to the double tax credit voucher, in states that don’t recognise same-sex couples and their children as “family”?)

Joe Biden described this healthcare plan in the VP debate:

Now, with regard to the — to the health care plan, you know, it’s with one hand you giveth, the other you take it. You know how Barack Obama — excuse me, do you know how John McCain pays for his $5,000 tax credit you’re going to get, a family will get?

He taxes as income every one of you out there, every one of you listening who has a health care plan through your employer. That’s how he raises $3.6 trillion, on your — taxing your health care benefit to give you a $5,000 plan, which his Web site points out will go straight to the insurance company.

And then you’re going to have to replace a $12,000 — that’s the average cost of the plan you get through your employer — it costs $12,000. You’re going to have to pay — replace a $12,000 plan, because 20 million of you are going to be dropped. Twenty million of you will be dropped.

So you’re going to have to place — replace a $12,000 plan with a $5,000 check you just give to the insurance company. I call that the “Ultimate Bridge to Nowhere.

(I see I wildly underestimated the cost of US health insurance. In the UK we pay far less and get better health care, but that’s just how it is.)

Ace of Spaces reports this as (via): “Biden falsely said McCain will raise taxes on people’s health insurance coverage — they get a tax credit to offset any tax hike. Independent fact checkers have confirmed this attack is false.” (This is number 7 in a list of “14 Biden lies”.)

Well, it’s true, while John McCain’s advisor says explicitly that the tax hike on health care insurance payments will raise $3.6 trillion, John McCain’s website makes no mention of tax hikes, the McCain campaign has made clear in media interviews that the plan is to raise trillions by making what your employer pays for your health care a taxable benefit, not an untaxed benefit. I don’t know how Ace’s “independent fact checkers” could have missed the news stories about this back in April and May and June (via): I’d suggest Ace fire them and hire ones who actually know how to use google, but I gathered by googling that this list of “Biden lies” is not even original to Ace, though the funnysite I was looking at for current Republican lies linked to Ace as the originator.

The current American health care system is the worst in the developed world (WHO ranks it at 37*): it’s even worse than health care systems in some developing countries. And it’s more expensive than any other health care system in the world.

McCain’s plan is to make American health care worse than it already is – to throw more and more Americans out of the pool of people who receive health care via their employer’s insurance plans, while giving them a tax break for choosing their own personal insurance plan. Ezra Klein explains why this is not revenue neutral, while Publius at Obsidian Wings points out that this plan just assumes individuals have exactly the same bargaining power as corporations do.

It appears, judging by this much-memed list of “lies”, that the only way Republican wonks can now think of campaigning for McCain is to flatly lie about about what his policies actually are.

*International stats on health care systems below the cut
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September 28, 2008

Being “Pro-life” has nothing to do with being pro life

A few years ago on Obsidian Wings, Von (then one of the conservative front-page posters) put up a pic of a fetus and titled the post Why I’m pro-life. (Von added that his partner is pro-choice, and that they have long ago quit having dinner table conversations about it.)

When debating with or about pro-lifers, I am in the habit of using their own name for their own movement, because I do think people have a right to name their own identity: but I also feel that it’s necessary to point out that being “Pro-life” is not actually, literally, about being pro-life: it’s about being pro forced pregnancy.

One of the “pro-life” commenters on my post The basics: why pro-choice is the only moral option took exception to my pointing this out: Opple claimed it was an unfair attack, but of course it is not:

Being pro-choice means that, regardless of your personal opinion about abortion, in general or in particular, you support every woman’s right to decide for herself whether or not she will have a baby, and every pregnant woman’s right to make decisions for herself, in consultation with her doctor, regardless of how advanced her pregnancy is. Although being pro-choice and being feminist are intrinsically intertwined (a person who believes women ought not to be allowed to control our own bodies is patently not a feminist…) a person need not necessarily be a feminist to be pro-choice: you could hold sexist beliefs about women without necessarily believing that women ought to be used as incubators.

Being pro-life means being part of a movement that believes the government should have the right to force a woman through pregnancy and childbirth against her will, and that the legislature and the courts should have the right to make medical decisions for pregnant women, overriding their wishes and their doctor’s advice. Von’s excuse for being part of this movement is, he asserted by his post, the cute li’l fetus argument: which would make more sense if those cute li’l fetuses really did incubate in jars rather than requiring a pregnant woman to make use of her body and blood and resources in a nine-month effort that may jeopardise her life.


I adopted a cute lil’ American fetus
from Fetusmart! Hooray fetus!

Forced pregnancy, or as a friend says “forced labour”, is a much more accurate name for the movement to deny women the right to access abortion: but pro-life is so utterly contradictory that it almost works as a label so divorced from the reality of their political movement.

Around the world each year, more than 500,000 women die in pregnancy or childbirth due to lack of proper care. What does the pro-life movement focus on?

The Global Gag Rule

The Global Gag Rule was reinstated by President George W. Bush on his first day in office in January 2001. Officially termed the Mexico City Policy, these restrictions mandate that no U.S. family planning assistance can be provided to foreign NGOs that use funding from any other source to: perform abortions in cases other than a threat to the woman’s life, rape or incest; provide counseling and referral for abortion; or lobby to make abortion legal or more available in their country.

Called the “gag” rule because it stifles free speech and public debate on abortion-related issues, the policy forces a cruel choice on foreign NGOs: accept U.S. assistance to provide essential health services – but with restrictions that may jeopardize the health of many patients – or reject the policy and lose vital U.S. funds, contraceptive supplies and technical assistance. (The Global Gag Rule Impact Project)

The Global Gag Rule Impact Project notes that “the gag rule is eroding family planning and reproductive health services in developing countries. There is no evidence that it has reduced the incidence of abortion globally. On the contrary, it impedes the very services that help women avoid unwanted pregnancy from the start”. (Over a year before Bush reinstated the global gag rule, a paper was published that showed countries that have poor family planning services have a high rate of abortions: there was no global correlation between easy access to safe/legal abortion and a high abortion rate.)

Von and Sebastian (both front-page pro-lifers on Obsidian Wings – though both are currently on hiatus) have both consistently argued against universal free health care in the US – both only support people having access to health care if it can be made profitable to someone. They have consistently refused to explain how their ideological belief that anyone too poor to have health insurance does not deserve decent health care, fits with their ideological belief that no woman ought to be allowed to decide to terminate a pregnancy: and it is that refusal that firmed my belief that even pro-lifers who otherwise come across as decent, sensible, honest people, are being more or less insincere when they claim that they only want to prevent women from having the legal right to choose because they care about the fetuses. “Care for fetuses” is not expressed by denying women healthcare, or denying pregnant women mandatory paid maternity leave with the right to return to work, or by arguing that the baby can always be taken away from the mother as soon as born and given to wealthier parents – the old “adoption instead of abortion” argument, which in any country with so many unwanted children in need of adoptive parents, is just about the ugliest argument for forced pregnancy that anyone could possibly make.

I wrote this over four years ago:

We can all agree that abortion is a bad choice to have to make. Where are the pro-life Republicans calling for free health care for pregnant women and for all children to the age of 18? That basic, human help alone could make the difference between “Can afford” and “Can’t afford”. Where are the pro-lifers calling for free contraception to be available to all? For free daycare and nursery schools available to all low-income parents? For good, detailed, thorough sex education (the Netherlands have an excellent model) available to all children, well before they’re old enough to be actively interested in sex themselves, and regardless of their parents’ opinions on how much their children ought to be kept in ignorance? How many pro-lifers – Republican or Democrat – are actively campaigning for parents to have federal employment rights enabling them to maintain a career and be good parents? (I’m not just talking maternity leave or paternity leave or even “children’s sick days”. I’m talking an end to the work culture that says you don’t get promoted unless you’re putting in 12-hour days at your desk and always have unused leave at the end of the year.)

I’ve written similar comments since: no conservative pro-lifer has ever tried to engage this argument, and justify their denial of care to pregnant woman with their insistence that every fetus must be protected.

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