Woman please let me explain

1 08 2015

Former governor and never-president Mike Huckabee’s recent discourse on Iran, the president, and “march[ing Israelis] to the door of the oven” led Ed Kilgore to consider how much Pastor Mike like’s his  Holocaust analogies.

. . . . Fact is, Mike Huckabee has a remarkably intimate relationship with the Holocaust as he sees it, and has been prone to violating the unwritten rule against Holocaust analogies for years. For one thing, he is one of many anti-choice politicians and activists who cannot resist the temptation of analogizing legalized abortion to the Holocaust. There was the incident from back in 2007, during a speech at a pro-life event, when he referred to the deaths of 45 to 50 million unborn babies from abortion as a holocaust—and then connected those deaths to the country’s worker shortage.

Comparing the number of fetuses killed in the US since 1973 to the Holocaust is not uncommon among pro-lifers although the usual reference is to “a holocaust” than “the Holocaust”. Kilgore notes that Huckabee, however, has no problems equating abortion to Auschwitz, as he did in 2014:

If you felt something incredibly powerful at Auschwitz and Birkenau over the 11 million killed worldwide and the 1.5 million killed on those grounds, cannot we feel something extraordinary about 55 million murdered in our own country in the wombs of their mothers?

One of the problems with this analogy (in addition to all of the other problems) is the logical extension of this kind of thinking: women who have abortions are Nazis.

Oh, I know, Huckabee and the rest want us to think of Planned Parenthood and all of the rest of the “abortionists” as Nazis, and maybe to throw some shame on the rest of us as Good Germans, but if you think, as Huckabee apparently did in 2013, that a woman’s uterus “has become one of the most dangerous places for a baby to be”, then how can you avoid the conclusion that it is the women who endanger those babies?

It is the women, after all, who drive to the clinic, who walk into the office, who ask a doctor to perform an abortion, and who climb on to the table so that it may be done.

They are the one’s ordering the destruction of their children; the doctors are the ones simply following those orders.

Of course, that’s far too harsh a rhetoric to float in prime time; at most, perhaps, the women could be compared to sonderkommandos: victims themselves, if not wholly innocent.

That is the bind of the pro-life argument-by-Holocaust analogy: what to do with the women.

Which is not so far from the bind of the pro-life argument in general.

~~~

h/t Sarah Posner





Playing silly games

27 07 2015

I have not been shy about my dislike for Boston.

Hell, I even had one of the main characters of my first novel smack down the joint.

But this, this I can respect:

Boston’s troubled effort to host the 2024 Summer Olympics has come to an end, the U.S. Olympic Committee announced Monday.

“We have not been able to get a majority of the citizens of Boston to support hosting the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games,” USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said in a statement. “Therefore, the USOC does not think that the level of support enjoyed by Boston’s bid would allow it to prevail over great bids from Paris, Rome, Hamburg, Budapest or Toronto.”

. . .

Monday’s decision was met with relief from the broad coalition of residents who have been fighting the bid since the beginning. “We were very pleased to hear the news that the USOC has finally decided to pull Boston’s bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics,” Jonathan Cohn, co-founder of the opposition group No Boston 2024, told ThinkProgress via email. “This victory for the people of Boston is the result of tireless work of numerous activists and residents across the city, region, and state speaking up against this anti-democratic land grab.”

The orneriness of the Hub of the Universe was finally put to some good use.





Same as it ever was

26 07 2015

Medical research is gross.

No, wait, scratch that: biological research is gross.

There’s blood, and guts, and sawed-through bones. There are transgenic creatures, creatures which have been induced to glow, and shall we discuss fecal transplants?

Terribly useful, yes. But also gross.

And you’ve all seen the photo of the mouse with the ear on its back, right? Mother Jones helpfully compiled a list of weird experiments with mice, and while the naked ear-ed mouse doesn’t bother me, I cannot look at that last picture.

I just, I can’t, and you can’t make me. (This is me squinching my eyes tight.)

I find it profoundly disturbing.

So, on some level, I can empathize with those who are profoundly disturbed that Planned Parenthood donates fetal tissue for research. It sounds terrible.

Of course, much of the uproar deals with the alleged sale of said tissues and organs—an act which, if true, would be terribly illegal—but there is little evidence to indicate that Planned Parenthood has or does sell tissue.

They do charge for storage and maintenance, which fees are quite legal. The whole business is quite legal.

See Public Law 103-43, passed into law in June, 1993, in particular, Part 498A (a):

(1) IN GENERAL – The Secretary may conduct or support research on the transplantation of human fetal tissue for therapeutic purposes.

(2) SOURCE OF TISSUE – Human fetal tissue may be used in research carried out under paragraph (1) regardless of whether the tissue is obtained pursuant to a spontaneous or induced abortion or pursuant to a stillbirth.

There are important sections on the conditions of a licit donation, auditing of procedures, research and state law, and then:

PROHIBITIONS REGARDING HUMAN FETAL TISSUE SEC. 498B.

(a) PURCHASE OF TISSUE– It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly acquire, receive, or otherwise transfer any human fetal tissue for valuable consideration if the transfer affects interstate commerce.

Some statutes can be written in such a way as to obscure their meanings, but this one is not: fetal tissue sales are illegal.

(In fact, the sale of any human organ or tissue (with the exceptions of gametes, blood, and plasma) are illegal in the United State; only Iran (currently) has a legalized organ trade. It is a matter of serious ethical debate whether such sales should be allowed, but, again, under the current Uniform Anatomical Gift Act, they are prohibited.)

But what of the prices discussed? Scroll down to subsection

(d) DEFINITIONS – For purposes of this section:

. . .(3) The term valuable consideration’ does not include reasonable payments associated with the transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control, or storage of human fetal tissue.’.

Et voilà: charging for fetal tissue is not illegal.

Again, this might be disturbing to those who are generally unaware of how biomedical research is conducted in this country (or around the world), or of the bloodiness of medical practice generally.

Jen Gunter, an OB/GYN and pain specialist, responded bluntly to the alleged wrongs revealed in that Center for Medical Progress sting video:

Hearing medical professionals talk casually about products of conception may seem distasteful to some, but not to doctors. Medical procedures are gory by nature. Surgeons routinely cut skin, saw bones, and lift the uterus out of the abdominal cavity and then put it back in. We stick our hands inside people and it is messy. We handle broken limbs, rotting flesh, and cancers that smell. We talk about this calmly because this is what we are trained to do. It doesn’t mean that we are heartless; it means we are professionals and this is our norm for a clinical conversation. There is no reason a conversation about products of conception requires more or less reverence than one about a kidney or a biopsy specimen.

Furthermore,

Hearing medical professionals negotiate with a private buyer over the price for collecting tissue may also seem distasteful, but there is indeed an expense involved for the donor (in this case, Planned Parenthood). FactCheck.org contacted several researchers who work with human tissue, and the price range mentioned in the videos—$30 to $100 per patient—is on the low end. “There’s no way there’s a profit at that price,” Sherilyn J. Sawyer, the director of Harvard University and Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Biorepository, told the website.

Again, anyone could reasonably be put off by all of this, just as anyone outside of a particular field may be put off by the behaviors and standards of those in the field. I don’t want to see what happens in even an humane slaughterhouse, and I regularly avert my eyes (when not otherwise avoiding) depictions of animals being killed. I find it distressing.

But just because it is distressing does not mean it’s unethical. Some proponents of the “yuck factor” theory of ethics believe that our reactions of distress and disgust can be signals of a deeper moral response, but I think it more a matter of unfamiliarity and cultural taboo, and thus a rather unsteady guide to moral behavior.

In other words, insofar as I accept that biomedical research and medical treatment are in general both good, and that such practices depend at least in part on research on human body parts, I accept that something that sounds terrible—legal trade in human body parts—may not be terrible.

That said, I do think the tissue market as it currently exists, legal though it may be, is also problematic, largely because it pushes the process of commodification ever further into our bodies. That tissue banks aren’t always upfront about the destination of donated tissues, e.g., that skin may be used for a cosmetic surgery rather than burn patient only adds to the murk of this market.

Most of those reacting strongly to the discussion in the video, however, are less concerned about the legal tissue market (and in fact are convinced that Planned Parenthood is breaking the law) than that this somehow reveals something extra-unsavory about both Planned Parenthood and abortion.

They don’t want to overturn PL 103-43 or the UAGA, aren’t calling for changes to the regulation of the tissue markets, or going undercover at tissue banks. They aren’t concerned about how gross it is to skin a cadaver.

No, this is about abortion, not fetal tissue, not alleged illegal activity, but about how abortion in general and Planned Parenthood in particular are terrible.

In other words, while the issue of fetal tissue donation may be new to some, the message overall is same as it ever was.

~~~

Also worth reading: James F. Childress on the Human Fetal Transplantation Research Panel of 1988. It was the report of this panel which provided the ethical argument in favor of research using fetal tissue.





Small blue thing

21 07 2015

Home:

NASA/DSCOVER satellite

I’ve always said that, if given the chance, I’d jump to hitch a ride on the space shuttle. To go into space!—how could I not?

(Presuming, that is, that I were physically capable of doing so. And that the trip lasted days rather than months: I can control my claustrophobia 0nly so long.)

But while I certainly would want to peer out, to see what I couldn’t see from the ground, I’d bet that I’d probably spend even more time gazing on our small blue world.

You know that old T-Bone Burnett tune, Humans from Earth? It’s actually a nasty little tune about otherworldly colonization, but that title has always stuck with me: this is where we started, as humans, and this is where we live, as humans. We might someday figure out how to be human outside of low Earth orbit, but everything about us, thus far, is grounded in experience living on this astonishing spinning ball of rock and water.

I didn’t always feel this way about Earth, tended to take it for granted. But at some point in my studies of genetics (and with a nudge from Ms. Arendt) I began to take seriously that we were worldly creatures, in the sense that we are shaped by our conditions, the most basic of which is that we are born, live, and  die on this planet.

There’s a scene from a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Defector”, in which said defector, a Romulan, is taken to the holodeck in order to “visit” his home planet. At first he delights in the sights, but then he rejects the illusion: this was not home.

Earth is home, to me. I understand, as someone who left her hometown and home state, that where one is from does not have to dictate where one goes; thus, I begrudge no one who might want to make a one-way trip to Mars, or beyond.

One constant of humans from the very beginning of us is that some of stay, and some of us go. So, by all means, some of us should go.

I’ll be waving from the ground.





Ice ice baby

19 07 2015

Last summer I made it alllllll the way through without stuffing the air conditioner into a window.

This year, I made it to July 19.

Actually, I put the a/c up yesterday, knowing I needed to clean it prior to use and thinking I might need it overnight, but nope, not until this morning did I plug ‘er in and turn ‘er on.

Again, not generally a fan of air conditioning, but when it’s over 90 degrees and humid, I am mighty grateful for it.

Of course, I’d been even mightier grateful if the temps would fall so I wouldn’t need the damned thing.

~~~

Once again, a big THANKYOU to P. & T., who bought the thing for me lo’ those many—okay, 6—years ago.





What are words for

14 07 2015

Go pound sand.”

I don’t get it. I mean, I understand it’s a way of telling someone to take a flying leap, buzz off, fuck off, beat it, but why bother with such a dull (in both senses of the word) epithet? “Go fly a kite” isn’t the sharpest retort one could fire off, but at least it has the bite of the k and the t to make it sound a little nastier than it is.

It’s rounded and bland, and “pound sand” is just, pffft, it’s the verbal equivalent of punching a pillow when angry: the jab dissipates into a mound of mush.

If you don’t want to swear (really?), “beat it” works perfectly well: the two syllables go up and down in short order, a sharp point aimed dead at the target. Crack!

Yeah, that’s what a rebuff should sound like.

Okay, other phrases oot and aboot online: “no more fucks to give” and “because fuck you”.

I like both of these formulations, mostly because I like the attitude contained therein, but, like the aforementioned “batshit crazy”, bemoan their overuse.

“Just sayin'” was okay in small—teeny—doses, but it’s been fire-hosed everywhere online. “Fixed that for you” could, sometimes, be clever, but mostly it’s just tired and kinda jerky.

There are words and phrases which I like very much and think deserve wider use—but, like the hipster who only loves the songs no one listens to, I fear that were these terms to spread, the thrill of them would be gone.

So I guess that’s a way of sayin’ keep sayin’ “just sayin'”: better a phrase I don’t much care for than one I do flattened across the cyberverse.

Just, stop with the whole pound sand thing, okay?





Circus Maximus MMXVI: Wrecking ball

13 07 2015

No surprise, but the man who’s been befouling my home state has finally made it official:

Walker announcement

Gott im himmel, I’ve got to find some way to talk about this bastard without losing my mind. And if he actually gets the nomination*, I. . . I. . . fuck, I will either have to refrain from blogging altogether, or just go tits-out and plaster this joint with

NO!

*Which means I’ve got to hope—now there’s a word I don’t often use in conjunction with Republican politicians—some other GOPper palooka takes him out.








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