Jesurgislac’s Journal

June 23, 2008

“With this ring I thee bind, with my body I thee worship”

These are the words that Peter Cowell and David Lord used to wed each other at the Church of St Bartholomew in London, on Saturday 31st May 2008:

I N take thee M as my partner, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, and thereto I pledge thee my troth.

With this ring, I thee bind, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

The Reverend Martin Dudley married them, and says he did nothing wrong and would do it again. This is by far from being the first time that two Anglican priests have wed in church, but two things make this different.

Before 5th December 2005, there was no legal recognition of same-sex relationships in the UK. Civil partnership is legally different from marriage (primarily, it has a different name: but there are some small legal differences, too). But the differences are not big enough to make the legal recognition comfortable to the Church – indeed, it’s hard to see what differences would be. In common parlance, civil partnership is regarded as gay marriage.

The other difference: past ceremonies were carried out in secret. The Church of England has never objected to having gay bishops and gay priests so long as they lie about their sexual orientation to the laity: but honest priests who make no secret of their sexual orientation are distrusted, and honest bishops are very nearly anathema. Secrecy, shame, and concealment make being gay or bisexual all right: honesty, openness, and unashamed love are what the Anglican Communion cannot bear.

Giles Fraser spoke in the BBC Thought for the Day on 18th June:

So what, then, is the Church of England’s theology of marriage?

Back in the 16th and 17th centuries, as the Book of Common Prayer was being put together, marriage was said to be for three purposes:

First, it was ordained for the procreation of children. Secondly, it was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication. Thirdly, it was ordained for the mutual society, help and comfort that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity.

As Fraser notes, the Church of England does not bar mixed-sex couples from marrying who cannot have children, and makes no intensive inquiry into whether couples wed in church intend to “procreate”.

Why, then, does the Church of England object to same-sex couples marrying? (The argument “marriage is about procreation” can only be taken seriously when consistently applied: when it is used to ban mixed-sex couples who cannot have children together.)

The Bishop of London takes the Rev Dudley’s action very seriously: he has issued a public rebuke where he says:

The real issue is whether you wilfully defied the discipline of the Church and broke your oath of canonical obedience to your Bishop.

In short: Richard Chartres, Bishop of London, says the problem is not that God is homophobic; is not that Chartres himself is homophobic (Chartes claims that “homophobia is not tolerated” in his dioscese): the problem is “the discipline of the Church”.

The problem is that 300 homophobic bishops are declaring that if the Anglican Communion continues to tolerate openly gay bishops and priests, instead of requiring a gay person who is ordained to be dishonest and live in the closet, they can no longer be part of the Anglican Communion: they will walk away from it.

As Haaretz reports:

Some 300 bishops – a third of the Anglican bishops in the world – arrived in Jerusalem this week to attend the Global Anglican Future Conference, organized by the traditionalist wing of the church, which is opposed to ordaining homosexual bishops. GAFCON is being staged as a rival to next month’s Lambeth Conference in London, the Anglican Communion’s main event held every 10 years.

GAFCON has drawn some 1,000 participants: bishops, clergymen, and activists from Anglican congregations in 28 countries, led by Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria.

These people believe that God hates queers, and that the Episcopalian Church ought to enforce celibacy and lies on gay clergy. When an openly-gay priest was appointed to a bishopric in 2003, they went mad: when civil partnerships became law in the UK, and gay priests who had been living together for years or decades began cautiously to wed, they screamed. They know God hates where they hate, and they can’t understand why the rest of the Communion can’t see it.

I’m an atheist, and before I was an atheist I was a Quaker, which is fairly far removed from the angst and ceremony of the Anglican Communion. (In the UK, Quakers decided some years before civil partnership that if a same-sex couple wanted to marry in a Meeting for Worship, they should make application to their local Monthly Meeting, just as a mixed-sex couple would, and it would be up to that Monthly Meeting to say yes or no. This is a very Quakerly solution: unlike most other Christian sects, the Religious Society of Friends doesn’t just say they believe in freedom of conscience, they work to ensure that all Friends do have freedom of conscience. There is no hierarchy, and there can be no demand for ritual obedience.)

So why do I care about the Anglican Communion? Well, in 1986, I made a friend whose friendship I still treasure, though he died nearly 16 years ago. For his sake, in his memory, I still go to the church where he was ordained a deacon, for midnight mass on Christmas Eve, and other times when it occurs to me. I even take communion, though I never did when he was alive: I used to tell him that as I had never been baptised, and had never been a communicant member of any Christian congregation (Quakers don’t do baptism and don’t do Holy Communion) I could not possibly take communion as part of a Church of England service. I wish he were still alive to argue with me about it. But he died, and so I eat the bread and drink the wine and remember my friend, who unfairly won the argument by leaving it. He had a partner: they were never married, of course, but “for the mutual society, help and comfort that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity” they were an admirable couple.

So I care. In a sense, of course, as an atheist and a believer in religious freedom, if Peter Akinola and his homophobic cohort wish to uphold their belief that God hates where they hate, I see no reason why they shouldn’t – I would wish it otherwise, but Nigeria is one of the countries in Africa where gays are actively persecuted, and an Archbishop who believes that Christians ought to persecute and humiliate gays is simply going along with mainstream opinion in his country. It would take enormous courage and steadfast principle to oppose the violent mainstream even if Akinola believed that God is love, but there’s no indication that Akinola is anything but sincere in his belief, shared with many other Christians, that God hates and the Church should enforce God’s hatred.

In the UK, Christians arguing that they have a right to incite hatred are mainly arguing they should have the right to abuse and intimidate schoolchildren, not for a right to incite lynch mobs. It’s easy for me, living in the UK, not a schoolchild, to say “This is a matter of religious freedom” because it is not my life or my wellbeing on the line.

Nevertheless, in a detached kind of way, if you don’t look at or care about the homophobic violence (and the Archbishop of Canterbury prefers not to) the situation becomes:

One third of the Anglican Communion has decided it cannot tolerate the majority. They are threatening to leave, if the majority won’t support their homophobic beliefs and persecute lesbians and gays as the minority believes we should be persecuted.

The Anglican Communion survives on tolerance – on accepting, however reluctantly, that within the Church of England there can be a diversity of belief and opinion. If a significant minority of that Communion now finds the tolerance of the majority intolerable, they should leave.

What they shouldn’t do is blame the objects of their bigotry for their leaving. Akinola’s complaints are chiefly directed at the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams: because Williams has failed to persecute the openly-gay priests and bishops of the Anglican Communion with the rigour that Akinola believes God wants. Williams and others like him seem to blame the victims for being there – for being open and honest and in love.

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Update: Archbishops fail to condemn violence against lesbians and gays (Ekklesia)

At the press conference [for GAFCON] Iain Baxter of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM) from the UK asked the Archbishops how they reconciled their faith with their support for jailing lesbian and gay people, which had led to cases of rape and torture.

He also asked why they had refused to speak out against such incidents which had taken place in their respective countries.

In response Archbishop Peter Akinola said that he was not aware of any such incidents anywhere in Africa. He also said he was unaware that anyone had been imprisoned for being gay or lesbian.

When given the example of a lesbian women from Uganda [Prossy Kakooza] who had applied for asylum in the UK after being jailed, raped in the police station, and marched for two miles naked through the streets of Uganda, Archbishop Akinola said: “That’s one example. The laws in your countries say that homosexual acts, actions are punishable by various rules. I don’t need to argue.”

“If the practice (homosexuality) is now found to be in our society” he continued, “it is of service to be against it. All right, and to that extent what my understanding is, is that those that are responsible for law and order will want to prevent wholesale importation of foreign practices and traditions, that are not consistent with native standards, native way of life.”

It’s quite clear: for Akinola, God is hate. More on this later.

June 20, 2008

What’s the value of a human life?

Over the past several months, the US has been “dealing” with the Iraqi resistance in Sadr City, home to 2.5 million people, by firing “Hellfire missiles, tank rounds, satellite-guided missiles and rounds from machine guns”. (The resistance have been firing “rocket-propelled grenades, sniper rifles and mounted machine guns as well as AK-47 rifles”, according to this recent New York Times article.)

How many Iraqis have been killed as a result? Impossible to say, exactly: as a matter of policy, the US military does not count or try to count Iraqis killed, and of course will claim as a matter of routine that any adult male Iraqi killed was a member of the resistance, and therefore a legitimate target for the occupying army.

But if you think about what would be likely to happen if the FBI were to “deal with” violent crime in New York City, the most populous city in the US, by firing Hellfire missiles at locations where they believe violent criminals live or where they’ve been storing weapons, you might have an idea of what is happening in Sadr City.

The other day on Obsidian Wings, Eric Martin posted what I thought was a fairly uncontentious post: The Going Exchange Rate:

From a distance, the true levels of devastation are hard to appreciate in any deeper sense. Further, the relentless drumbeat of bombings and other incidents leads to a certain level of numbness. It’s impossible to pause and take notice of each. As a result of this continued conflict, the numbers of dead and wounded have reached those hard to comprehend levels where the tragedy of lives lost is blurred by the sterility of statistics. The fact that our media has deliberately chosen to keep images of the carnage from our screens and pages also contributes to the impersonal nature of the math.

One thing that I find myself doing almost reflexively when I read about a bombing such as yesterday’s (perhaps to counteract this tendency), is to try to imagine what such a body count would equal in American terms (something Juan Cole did some time back IIRC). That is, given that Iraq is a much smaller country population wise, what would the corollary be in a country America’s size (this is relevant when trying to measure the impact on a society as a whole from such acts). The conversion rate is actually quite easy due to a certain symmetry in Iraq’s pre-war population (roughly 30 million) and America’s (roughly 300 million) – about ten times the size.

Thus, in order to begin to empathize with Baghdadis, imagine what a bombing that took 630 Americans would feel like. Imagine the outpouring of emotion that would ensue, the sadness, the outrage. And that’s from just one day out of thousands in a war that has seen few, if any, pass without comparable tragedy.

The blogging community at Obsidian Wings – front page posters and regular commentators, a group of perhaps a hundred people – lost one of our number in Iraq this January past: Andy Olmsted, who also posted as G’Kar. Andy touched more lives than most, but for every life lost in Iraq (well over a million since 2003, as two separate counts have confirmed) there was a group of people who felt as we did – friends, family, loved ones. Unlike some others on the blog, Hilzoy or Gary Farber, I wasn’t particularly close to Andy; yet the knowledge of that life wasted, of the loss of all Andy hoped for, still sometimes brings me to tears. I’ve lost close friends and family before: there is a grinding grief you just have to spend time – months, years – working your way through. Mourning.

For each life lost in Iraq, people are feeling that grinding grief. For each one of a million lives, there are family and friends who are still trying to endure the loss, the grinding grief, the mourning.

It’s impossible to comprehend the scale of this tragedy – no one could hold an understanding of that much grief and loss and misery and pain. It’s awfully easy to dismiss the lives lost that we only hear about by the dozens in news reports – thirteen dead here, sixty-three dead here – as not holding that much grief, that much pain, as our individual losses, that we know by name and family and the words they wrote.

But Eric’s point is well made: if Iraqi lives and American lives are considered of equal value, then to measure the impact on the US if an equivalent number of lives were lost, you have to think of ten times the number.

Before the war, there were 30 million people in Iraq. 300 million people in the US. One million Iraqi dead. To understand the scale of that loss, do simple arithmetic: imagine if the scale of the American losses were not four thousand but ten million.

Given ten million American dead, a group the size of the Obsidian Wings network would not have experienced just one loss in five years. Every time someone was offline for a while, the worry would be that (as I think most of us regular readers worried about Riverbend) that something had happened – that they were among the dead, or the injured, or the refugees who had been forced to flee. (As Eric also noted, to consider the scale of the disruption caused by 4 million Iraqi refugees, think 40 million American refugees.)

Only two basics are required to understand the point Eric was making in his post: the basic humanity to know that each Iraqi killed is the same loss as each American killed, and the ability to do basic arithmetic.

What are we to think of the people who aggressively, bitterly resisted Eric’s post, claiming that it was impossible to equate the deaths of Iraqis with the deaths of Americans? It would be generous, I suppose, to blame the American educational system, and believe that they don’t know how to do basic arithmetic.

June 19, 2008

William Saletan on the pro-abortion pharmacies

Pro-abortion pharmacies are a bizarre phenomenon: claiming to be “pro-life”, they promote abortions by denying women contraception: especially emergency contraception, which is of course needed precisely when a woman knows there’s a high risk she might well need an abortion otherwise.

William Saletan (via) sees these pro-abortion pharmacies as a “matter of conscience”: some pharmacists, he feels, just see it as moral to ensure that more women need to have abortions, and the law shouldn’t stand in their way.

There’s actually, I discover via Saletan, an entire website devoted to supporting pro-abortion pharmacists, including even a PDF of guidelines to ensure a person who wants to work as a pro-abortion pharmacist or in a pro-abortion pharmacy, can get the job they want.

The PDF suggests that “the following techniques have been used successfully on several occasions to obtain employment in which the company agreed to a [proabortion] dispensing policy for the pharmacy. This means no [female contraceptive] drugs or devices, including birth control pills, and no referrals for the same.” (I’ve edited the unscientific inaccuracies out.)

  • a belief that God has such employment in mind
  • prayer that God will prepare the way to find it
  • include the pro-abortion message clearly on the resume
  • Unless the interviewer brings up the pro-abortion ethics statement, defer discussing it until the end of the personal interview
  • refuse to take the job unless the pharmacist enforces pro-abortion policies on all staff and customers

Saletan’s “solution” to these pro-abortion pharmacies is typically libertarian:

And Stein’s reporting suggests the abstaining pharmacies aren’t making their policies clear enough. If they won’t do this voluntarily—by posting them, for instance—the law should make them do it. If I were writing the regulations, I’d draw up a big, fat, standardized “We don’t stock birth control” notice, complete with a 24-hour toll-free number that will direct you to the nearest pharmacy that has what you need.

Which of course, if it’s the only pharmacy in a small town, might be a hundred miles away.

I’d suggest to Saletan that a more accurate notice would say: “We promote abortion” and besides Saletan’s slightly pointless 24-hour toll-free number for the nearest real pharmacy, would be required to include contact details for the nearest health clinic that performs abortions: and each pro-abortion pharmacy would be required to pay a percentage of their gross take per 28-day period to that clinic to support women on a low income who need abortions.

Or, you know: the law could just require that a pharmacist who has suddenly developed religious scruples about doing their job, which includes providing women with the means to prevent abortion, would have to either quit being a pharmacist or quit trying to impose their religious beliefs on their customers.

Meanwhile, as an active Internet citizen, I’d like a websearch for pro-abortion pharmacy and pro-abortion pharmacists to bring up the appropriate site: PFLI, the pharmacists for abortion. Unlike pro-lifers, and certainly unlike these pharmacists, I actually think it would be great if there were fewer abortions each year – safely carried out, as early as possible, and prevented as far as possible by provision of wider choices to women.

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Robert Semler, the pro-abortion pharmacist
Robert Semler, the pro-abortion pharmacist
Drugstores Market Beliefs:

When DMC Pharmacy opens this summer on Route 50 in Chantilly, the shelves will be stocked with allergy remedies, pain relievers, antiseptic ointments and almost everything else sold in any drugstore. But anyone who wants condoms, birth control pills or the Plan B emergency contraceptive will be turned away.

That’s because the drugstore, located in a typical shopping plaza featuring a Ruby Tuesday, a Papa John’s and a Kmart, will be a “pro-[abortion] pharmacy” — meaning, among other things, that it will eschew all contraceptives.

Like the doctors, nurses and other staff members at Tepeyac, Robert Semler, the pharmacist who will run DMC Pharmacy, plans to start each workday with a prayer with his staff, which at first will just be his wife, Pam, a nurse. “Being a faith-based workplace, it’s a logical thing to do,” Semler said.

(More on this from Jill at Feministe.)

June 18, 2008

Maggie Gallagher redefines marriage

Unsurprisingly, Maggie Gallagher (Redefinition Revolution, National Review Online) is spouting off about how awful it is that two men can now go to California and get married. (Though the first marriage in California was between two women who had been partners for 55 years, Maggie makes no reference to this: it doesn’t fit her paradigm of “gay marriage”, and as her meltdown on The Volokh Conspiracy three years ago demonstrated, she is simply not capable of fact-based arguments for or against same-sex marriage.)

Let’s be clear; opponents of same-sex marriage are homophobic. There’s no reason to oppose lesbian and gays having the legal right to marry, but the belief that it’s wrong for LGBT people to have the same civil rights as heterosexuals: and that is a homophobic belief.

The justifications for why it’s “wrong” are all illogical. Maggie begins her argument with “Gay men are promiscuous!” (Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon points out that if consensual promiscuity were a reason for banning marriage for all, straight marriage has to be banned too.) In part of course Maggie is just presenting a naively homophobic argument – it’s okay for straights to get married even though some of them will be openly polyamorous within marriage, but gays have all got to behave far better than straights if they want to be “permitted” the right. But mostly, I think Maggie begins her argument with this because she wants to summon the familiar prejudices against gay men, and “they’re all promiscuous!” is certainly one of them.

Moving on to Maggie’s next “point”, she mentions:

Same-sex marriages are tailing off rapidly, after what the New York Times describes as “an initial euphoric rush to the altar.” In Massachusetts, that rush included residents of other states — as indicated by the New York Times headline of May 18, 2004: “Despite Uncertainties, Out-of-Staters Line Up to Marry.” The latest data indicate that 867 gay weddings took place in Massachusetts in the first eight months of 2007, down from 6,121 gay weddings in the first six months of 2004.

This is the same pattern seen in other jurisdictions where same-sex marriage has been allowed.

Yes, Maggie, it is. And a little thought – or even a little examination of the marriages taking place in the first few months – would tell you why this pattern is common to all countries and states where same-sex marriage, or civil union equal to marriage. Because couples who have been together for decades, who have committed their lives to each other, who are given the chance to marry, will do so. Immediately.

Once all the couples who have been waiting for ten, twenty, forty years to be able to marry are married, of course there’s an apparent fall in the marriage rate. There is no more backlog, so the marriage rate steadies to a normal rate.

(more…)

Why do people get so panicky about falling birthrates?

There are two short answers to that: racism and sexism.

The sexism part is fairly obvious: the anti-choicers (who hate the idea of women getting to decide whether we have children, how many children, and when to have children) see in a “falling birthrate” that a significant proportion of women in a country who have become uppity. (Anti-choice women seem to have achieved the far-from-unusual hypocrisy of thinking that all other women have become too uppity to have all the children they should want to have. (As David P. Barash (via Pandagon)points out in the LA Times op-ed pages recently, humans are evolutionarily inclined to eat when we feel hungry, drink when we feel thirsty, and have sex when we feel horny. We are also inclined to take care of and feel protective of babies when they arrive, but this is a separate bit of programming from wanting to have sex.)

The racism part ought to be just as obvious. The human species is in no danger of becoming extinct. None at all. There are over 6 billion humans worldwide: while it’s possible that a human-created catastrophe could end up wiping out our entire species, in plain fact, a species with as large a breeding pool as ours and as a wide range, is not in any danger of extinction short of a human-created catastrophe such as a nuclear war.

What several people have argued (most recently, I had this argument on Family Scholars Blog [before I was banned] but it’s a standard right-wing anti-choice Thing) is that there’s a problem with demographics – that countries where women are both educated and independent enough to be able to decide for ourselves how many children we want to have and when (and which are usually countries with a good enough health care system that all the children a woman decides to have will most likely survive to adulthood – this is not coincidental) are countries with an aging population, where “soon” there will be too many people too old to work and too few younger people to support them.

One may then – logically enough – point out that immigration generally solves that problem. It’s not as if there’s a real shortage of human beings: if there’s any country in the world which really is having trouble because there’s too many old people and not enough young people, it’s because that country has managed to block off most legal and all illegal immigration. (Needless to say, I do not believe there is such a country, nor ever will be.)

Then your average racist Christian right-winger (I mean that as a compound: Christians who are neither right-wing nor racist, and right-wingers who are not Christian nor racist, should not feel included, but FSB’s right-wingers are both Christian and racist and homophobic and sexist… you can see why they banned me….) frothing gently at the mouth, will say that they want their culture to stay their culture, and it won’t if there’s mass immigration from other countries that don’t share their culture. Right now, this fear is usually ostensibly anti-Muslim. A century ago it would have been anti-Eastern European/anti-Jewish/anti-Irish, and fifty years ago it would have been anti-West Indies. It is the same racist fear, and it is unfounded every time, as one can see by looking back at previous examples.

What this fear of falling birth rates ultimately comes down to is: we want our women to have more and more of our babies. What that means to your average right-wing Christian racist is: white women should have white babies, and a white woman shouldn’t under any circumstances be allowed to abort just because she can’t afford to take care of a child: she should hand the baby over to a white (and heterosexual, and married) couple. (Egg-donation and sperm donation, however, are bad, because anything that lets a woman feel in control of reproduction is fundamentally bad: women who are in control of reproduction have fewer children.)

I got banned from FSB because the moderators objected to having homophobia identified as bigotry, or indeed identified at all: the preference of your average right-wing Christian homophobe is for their feelings about LGBT people to be regarded as normal, not as homophobia – still less to have homophobes called out as bigots. But in a sense, their homophobia is a side-effect: the real motivation behind all this twisted nonsense is a knotted-up combination of racism and sexism. Hard to pick out which comes first, which is more important to them: a riddle as unsolvable as the chicken and the egg.

But it all ties together: these people who oppose contraception, sex education, abortion, and who oppose child support, a right to paid maternity leave, breastfeeding, subsidised daycare, free education for all beginning in nursery school. Racism and sexism are the roots, with homophobia as a flourishing fruit of the tree.

Lovely. Let’s cut it down, burn it up, and party on the ashes.

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This post was first published on my greatestjournal, on 13th May 2006.

June 17, 2008

How to celebrate your 55th anniversary

Get married.

Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon made history – again – at 5:07 p.m. Monday [16th June] when they were declared “spouses for life.”

At that moment, standing next to each other in the mayor’s office in San Francisco City Hall in front of cheering friends and relatives, the couple of 55 years became the first same-sex newlyweds in San Francisco and among the first in California under a new right bestowed by the state Supreme Court.

“And it feels great,” said Lyon, 83. (link)

These days, unless of course you’re in the military, or you’re a teenager still at school, or financially dependent on homophobic parents, most Americans can come out about their sexual orientation in reasonable certainty that while some people may be stupid and rude enough to publicly disapprove, no one is likely to kill them over it.

When Del and Phyllis met, 55 years ago, their love was legally regarded as a illness or a disability: a feeling that they were supposed to be ashamed of or want to be “cured” of.

That things have changed so much in 55 years is due, in part, to the courage and hard work and sheer admirable stubborness of these two women, and many others.

Thank you, Del and Phyllis.

There haven’t been very many days like these around the world, where suddenly couples who had been denied the right to be married may at last be legally wed.

“A thousand welcomes to you with your marriage kerchief, may you be healthy all your days. May you be blessed with long life and peace, may you grow old with goodness, and with riches.”

For Del and Phyllis, this wedding blessing is already so: they’ve lived their lives to grow old with goodness, long life, and peace.

But there’s another traditional blessing, even more appropriate for this day:

May those who love us, love us.
And those who don’t love us,
May God turn their hearts;
And if He doesn’t turn their hearts,
May He turn their ankles,
So we will know them by their limping.

Don’t let the anti-marriage activists try to redefine marriage for everyone by eliminating from marriage the love, respect, devotion and joy that Del and Phyllis feel for each other, and cutting marriage down to a card figure of any man or any woman.

June 15, 2008

US: Pro-life politicians are anti-children

Here’s a convenient piece of documentation: American politicians, and how they vote on pro-child policies.

You can look up the worst and the best politicians for yourself.

John McCain has a 10% score, by the way. Barack Obama has a 60% score. (Hillary Clinton has a 70% score.)

Correlating the pro-child politicians against the “pro-life” politicians, unsurprisingly, we find that the politicians most likely to vote against children are the politicians also most likely to vote “pro-life”. Being anti-child has a strong correlation with being anti-woman.

I won’t give them a link, but the NRLC has a convenient little tool by which you can look up different politicians and discover how they voted on anti-women bills: McCain has the lowest score as anti-child in the Senate, and he also has a lot of bright green ticks on NRLC (and is endorsed by them as a “pro-life” candidate).

David Vitter, James Inhofe, James W. DeMint, Tom Coburn: score at 20%, – strongly anti-child: and all of them have a 100% voting record as anti-women. Among the legislation they supported was a vote that had the effect of defunding UNPFA.

You can continue checking: it’s tedious but disgusting work, confirming that if you’re the kind of politician who votes to limit women’s choices, you are the kind of politician who votes against helping children.

Pro-lifers don’t care about preventing abortions (a pro-lifer showed up in the comments to that post to confirm this): but if you ask them, they’ll claim their justification for trying to make abortion difficult to access or illegal is “Helping moms, saving babies, ending abortion!”

Yet they vote for and urge others to vote for politicians who don’t care about helping moms, or saving babies (or older children) and who actively prefer to avoid preventing abortions.

Now why do they do that? If they wanted to “help moms” they could campaign for paid maternity leave, for free healthcare for pregnant women and children. If they wanted to “save babies” – well, babies and older children – they could campaign for and support politicians who can be trusted to vote for policies supporting children.

There are Senators who score 100% on voting for pro-child legislation (listed below) and, unsurprisingly, NRLC doesn’t like how they vote very much. Check their names: some of them have a few approving green ticks from NRLC for voting for anti-woman legislation, but most have nothing. NRLC doesn’t score points for voting to help children: all NRLC cares about is the codeword “saving babies” – which has nothing to do with actually helping real children, any more than it has anything to do with preventing abortions.

Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) 100%
Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) 100%
Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) 100%
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) 100%
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) 100%
Sen. Robert Casey, Jr. (D-PA) 100%
Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) 100%
Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) 100%
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) 100%
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) 100%
Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) 100%
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) 100%
Sen. Herbert Kohl (D-WI) 100%
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) 100%
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) 100%
Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) 100%
Sen. Joe Lieberman (D/I-CT) 100%
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) 100%
Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD) 100%
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) 100%
Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) 100%
Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) 100%
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) 100%
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) 100%
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) 100%

June 8, 2008

Why the US is in breach of the Geneva Convention

Google orders the pages it pulls from the Internet for you to view by the number of times it is linked to. There was a time (in 2002, or earlier) where googling for “Geneva Convention” got me a set of pages I had to search through to find this page, but not any more: these days, four and a half years since the first prisoners were sent to Guantanamo Bay, google Geneva Convention (no quotes, even) and the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War comes right to the top of the first googlepage.

I first read the text of this convention back in December 2001, or whenever the prison camp in Guantanamo Bay had been announced, with much relish about how uncomfortable it was going to be (I assume the Bush administration then were playing to their base: I know I got many Americans online saying that this was nothing more than these scum deserved). Later, as Red Cross and other international protests came in, official public talk about the Guantanamo Bay prison camp changed, and made it sound more comfortable.

It’s hard to believe now – now that we know that many of the people sent to Guantanamo Bay were simply sold to the Americans for bounties, and many were turned in for a grudge – but at the time, I believed that when the US said they were sending only “the worst of the worst”, the truly dangerous, to their prison camp in Cuba, they were probably telling the truth. In December 2001, we really knew so little about the Bush administration, and I honestly did not think that they were outright lying about this, as we know now they were.

I certainly believed – until the facts started filtering out – that all of them would have been taken “on the battlefield” – that is, by US soldiers, with reasonable surety that all of them had been taking part in the hostilities. As we know now, in fact any foreigner in Afghanistan could be said to be “al-Qaeda”, and any Afghan man could be said to be a “Taliban fighter” – and the Americans who were accepting prisoners turned in by any warlord with the sense to talk the right anti-Taliban stuff wouldn’t bother to check.

I can’t remember exactly when the truth sank in. Was it when the Americans kidnapped six people from Bosnia? Or when it turned out Moazzam Begg had been kidnapped from the house where he and his family were staying in Pakistan, by the Pakistani police? It was fairly early on in 2002, anyway, that it became clear that some at least of the prisoners were not “taken on the battlefield”, and that evidence that they were terrorists or Taliban was shaky.

But it was clear from the first read-through of the Geneva Convention that the US was in breach of it, and on a fairly basic issue: the prisoners had not had their status established by a competent tribunal. At the time – December 2001 – I did assume that, if they were “the worst of the worst”, that the US would most likely muster the competent tribunals in Guantanamo Bay. But by January or February 2002, it seemed clear that the US had no immediate plans to do so.

Article 4 of the Geneva Convention specifies who may be regarded a prisoner of war. It does so in some detail. Article 5 reads, in its entirety:

The present Convention shall apply to the persons referred to in Article 4 from the time they fall into the power of the enemy and until their final release and repatriation.

Should any doubt arise as to whether persons, having committed a belligerent act and having fallen into the hands of the enemy, belong to any of the categories enumerated in Article 4, such persons shall enjoy the protection of the present Convention until such time as their status has been determined by a competent tribunal.

The US has claimed (still claims) that they doubt that their prisoners in Guantanamo Bay are covered by Article 4. Where the US is in breach of the Geneva Convention, is that at no time did they determine the status of those prisoners by a competent tribunal before removing their rights under the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War. But that’s what the Geneva Convention says they must do, plain as print.

When I first pointed this out – over five and a half years ago – I got a succession of protests from Americans (and others, but mostly Americans) that their country couldn’t possibly be in breach of the Geneva Convention. The protests were originally quite varied, but have in time settled down to one straightforward argument:

Article 5 only says “should any doubt arise”. It doesn’t say what should happen if the detaining power is certain that the prisoners don’t belong under Article 4.

Remarkably, that argument has stayed consistent over the five years during which we have all seen what happens if the detaining power is so certain of its ability to decide, without doubt or justice, that a prisoner doesn’t deserve the protection of the Geneva Convention: the number of prisoners who have had to be released because there was no evidence (mostly the citizens of countries allied to the US), and the number who ought to be released but aren’t because it’s too embarrassing for the US government to admit it has no evidence (mostly the citizens of countries who have no power to put pressure on the US to try them or release them) has risen every year.

I wrote this post on 10th September 2006 and posted it on GJ: I’ve written other posts on this issue, but I think this one is the most recent and the most succinct. Below the fold, my inspiration for writing it at the time – which turned out to be mistaken – was a post by Andy Olmsted, which I’d read and misunderstood pre-coffee, then re-read and understood post-coffee. I wanted to take this opportunity to say that Andy Olmsted was a fine person, and our loss is immeasurable.

(more…)

June 4, 2008

This is what “pro-lifers” want

From Repairing the damage before Roe, by Waldo L. Fielding, an obstetrician and gynecologist in Boston for 38 years:

Almost any implement you can imagine had been and was used to start an abortion — darning needles, crochet hooks, cut-glass salt shakers, soda bottles, sometimes intact, sometimes with the top broken off.

Another method that I did not encounter, but heard about from colleagues in other hospitals, was a soap solution forced through the cervical canal with a syringe. This could cause almost immediate death if a bubble in the solution entered a blood vessel and was transported to the heart.

The worst case I saw, and one I hope no one else will ever have to face, was that of a nurse who was admitted with what looked like a partly delivered umbilical cord. Yet as soon as we examined her, we realized that what we thought was the cord was in fact part of her intestine, which had been hooked and torn by whatever implement had been used in the abortion. It took six hours of surgery to remove the infected uterus and ovaries and repair the part of the bowel that was still functional.

When pro-lifers plunge into eager discussion of how awful abortion is (for obvious reasons, pro-lifers tend to focus on the small proportion of abortions performed late in pregnancy, and for obvious reasons, pro-lifers tend to claim that late-term abortions are performed for the same reason as early abortions) it’s worth noting: what they want is to criminalize abortion. They don’t care about preventing abortions: they don’t support free provision of contraception to all, informative sex education for all, nor do they support free universal support for pregnant women and mothers: health care, employment protection, paid maternity leave.

They just want to return to the good old days when women who had abortions sometimes died of it, because the government had claimed the authority to force any woman who got pregnant to go through with the pregnancy and give birth against her will.

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Update: Sharon (the same Sharon of the God of Bloggers shall strike thee down) came up with some statistical data:

The fact is, the number of teen pregnancies has dropped 15 to 53% in all reporting areas. This is during a time when abstinence-only programs have been in effect.

Unfortunately, Sharon has a long history of losing arguments when she ventures away from her own blog (on her own blog, she can delete comments…) so she naturally didn’t want to come here. While the research tells a consistent tale: abstinence-education doesn’t work in preventing teenage pregnancies, what Sharon misses is that the number of teenage girls getting pregnant dropped in all reporting areas – but dropped faster in areas where schools were still allowed to teach comprehensive sex education. The data is available from the CDC, though last time Sharon and I argued about the merits of preventing teenage pregnancies she didn’t like those big figure-filled tables and didn’t look at them.

That thread, incidentally, is further evidenc that pro-lifers do not care about human life in any respect: a horde of pro-lifers who love the Iraq war and don’t want to think about the million Iraqis dead.

June 2, 2008

This is very yes.

Filed under: Full of win,Internet — jesurgislac @ 12:36 pm
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