Emancipate yourself from mental slavery

2 12 2015

So yet another clinic is attacked, yet more people murdered, and yet again cries are heard that the real murderers are Planned Parenthood or whichever organization or whoever clinician is performing the abortions.

Jamelle Bouie had a decent point: if you really do believe that abortion is worse than slavery, that every abortion clinic is the site of mass murder, then wouldn’t you think, even a little, that Robert Dear (or Scott Roeder or Eric Rudolph or. . . ) is a little bit John Brown, a little bit righteous?

It’s a serious question, and as someone who would hopefully act politically against any attempt to reimpose slavery in this country, I don’t know that I would rule against violence to prevent a massive, bleeding, injustice.

Which is to say, I might understand those who are committed to non-violent actions to end abortion who nonetheless think, Yeah, but. . . .

None of which is to say—surprise!—that I think abortion is a massive, bleeding, injustice. And I’ve long been irritated by those who compare Roe v. Wade to Dred Scott and thus, abortion to slavery.

I did used to struggle with this (oh, hey, maybe those prolifers are making a point about the fetus) until I decided just to dismiss the entire analogy: abortion slavery.

But now I’ll come up on that analogy from the other side: abortion isn’t slavery, the fetus isn’t a slave, but the legalization of abortion was, in fact, an emancipation for women, and any attempt to make abortion illegal takes away the freedom of the woman.

Now, I may have, in that second novel that I still haven’t managed to inquire about with an agent, had one of my characters argue with another that she wanted to “enslave women”, but speaking for myself, I don’t really like that language: as a great a loss to the dignity and liberty to women it would be to lose the right to end a pregnancy, it’s not the same as—not as horrifying as—chattel slavery.

It’s bad enough, though, as the loss of dignity and liberty is no small thing.

And thus to my final point: those who decry Planned Parenthood (et. al.) as mass murderers neglect (surprise!) the women who themselves get the abortion. Abortion clinics aren’t pulling women off the street and strapping them down so that the ‘abortionist’ can kill her third-trimester baby and sell its parts; no, women are choosing, one by one by one by one, to go to a clinic to end her own pregnancy.

Some women have one abortion, some have two abortions, some have more than two abortions; each time, it the woman herself who enters the clinic, who climbs on to the table herself, who asks that her pregnancy be ended. The abortion provider isn’t doing anything to her that she hasn’t asked to be done.

I understand that many intelligent and decent people do think that abortion is horrifying and  that 50,000,000+ babies have been killed in the U.S. since Roe, and are sincerely grieved by what they seen as the ‘abortion industry’ killing those babies en masse. They see abortion as a system that must be overturned as surely as the abolitionists saw slavery as a system to be overturned.

But what I see are the women, one by one by one by one, deciding, each for herself, what she can take, and what she can give, and what will be the course of her own life.

And that’s a liberty ardently to be defended.

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You put the load right on me

27 03 2013

I don’t believe in rights.

No, no, that’s not, mm, right. I don’t believe in natural rights, inalienable rights, rights granted by the Creator. . . you know Imma ’bout to tag-team this off to Bentham, don’t you?

Natural rights is simple nonsense: natural and imprescriptible rights, rhetorical nonsense — nonsense upon stilts.

Rights are, instead, rhetorical artifacts, crafted out of history and philosophy and given heft in political culture. They haven’t always existed; they may not always exist. But, for now, we act as if they do, and grant them such privileged status in our theories of liberty (another rhetorical artifact) that a claim of right serves to silence alternate claims of expedience and desire.

(Or, y’know, start a fight  if one’s rights claim is countered with another. Then Mill is invoked: The liberty of the individual must be thus far limited; he must not make himself a nuisance to other people, i.e., my right to swing my arms ends at your nose. And when that doesn’t work, well, that’s another post.)

Where was I? Ah, yes: the durability and privileged status granted to rights.

Which brings me to Prop 8 and DOMA and Constitutional rights and democracy.

I’m not a Constitutional scholar, nor even a dedicated Court-watcher (more of a Court-peeper, actually), so I have nothing to say regarding the juridical strength and weaknesses of the petitioners arguments before the Court. I do find issues of Constitutional interpretation interesting, mainly because I find issues of interpretation interesting (and will blow a gasket at Scalia’s claims regarding originalism), but, today, I don’t have anything to say on what the justices may or ought to say about the Constituion vis-a-vis same-sex marriage.

This doesn’t mean I have nothing to say, of course. (D’oh!) Let’s talk politics! Yay! More specifically, let’s talk about the politics of rights-claims versus majoritarianism, and which is the better way to cement a political victory.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg has famously argued that Roe v. Wade was decided too broadly, that more and more states were moving to relax their abortion laws, and that by creating a federal right to abortion, the Court simultaneously energized the anti-abortion opposition and imperiled reproductive rights.

It is a plausible interpretation of events. I am not at all sure, however, that it is the correct one.

Which, roughly, brings us to the question: When ought claims be treated as preferences and run through majoritarian processes, and when ought they be treated as rights and granted (near) absolute status, safe from majority preferences?

I don’t know that there’s any good answer to this. On the one hand, I prize liberty, for which rights are a if not the crucial component, but I also prize representative democracy, in which majorities may legitimately impose their preferences on minorities. Turn everything into a right, and the collective may do nothing; disregard rights, and majorities become tyrannies.

It is demonstrably the case that majorities (or the fervent sub-majority among them) can get irritated when they are prevented from imposing their views on others, and, sometimes, may so strongly react against such prevention that the backlash may be worse than and last longer than would have the original situation.

So what’s a minority to do?

The Ginsberg approach argues in favor of the slog: get in and chip away, chip away, chip away, until the mountain pressing down upon you crumbles away. Once it’s gone, it’s damned well gone.

There’s a lot to recommend to this approach, and, on the whole, I favor it.

But that doesn’t mean one can’t or shouldn’t occasionally stick some dynamite into that mountain, yell FIRE IN THE HOLE! and blow that sucker to smithereens. Sometimes justice—oh, yeah, justice!—demands the weight removed in all due haste.

Sometimes justice says to hell with the backlash.

Justice, too, sits alongside and occasionally jostles rights and liberties in a democratic society. Minorities must have justice, but so, too, must majorities; is there any way to determine ahead of time who must carry the weight?

No, there isn’t. You go with what you’ve got, and if you lose in one arena, you try for the win in the other. If you think you’re right, if you believe your claim is a matter of liberty and justice for all, then you fight in every way possible.

That’s politics.

And a right to marry? I honestly don’t know if there is a right to marry, for anyone. But it seems that if that right is granted to some, then—liberty and justice for all—it should be granted to all.

~~~

h/t for that fantastic Michael Bérubé link—go ahead, click on it!—to Scott Lemieux, LGM





Stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before

18 03 2013

Oh that Rand Paul, champion of liberty! Look how he’s standing up for freedom now:

“The Life at Conception Act legislatively declares what most Americans believe and what science has long known – that human life begins at the moment of conception, and therefore is entitled to legal protection from that point forward,” Paul said in a statement. “ The right to life is guaranteed to all Americans in the Declaration of Independence and ensuring this is upheld is the Constitutional duty of all Members of Congress.”

Ahh, conceptional personhood: An idea utterly lacking in biological sense.

Charlie Pierce has the right idea regarding the Paul family: His Five Minute Rule  states that, for five minutes, both the son and the father, Crazy Uncle Liberty (!), make perfect sense on many issues. At the 5:00:01 mark, however, the trolley inevitably departs the tracks.

As Pierce notes, with this we are at the 5:00: 07 mark: The trolley has jumped the tracks, tipped over on its side, and is skidding down the boulevard.

I believe I have covered this before, but let’s go over this again, shall we?

There is no such thing as the “moment of conception”.

As Moore and Persaud note in the 6th edition of The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology:

Fertilization is a complex series of “coordinated molecular events (see Acosta, 1994 for details) that begins with the contact between the sperm and a oocyte and ends with the intermingling of maternal and paternal chromosomes at metaphase of the first mitotic division of the zygote, a unicellular embryo. Defects at any stage in the sequence of these events might cause the zygote to die (Asch et al, 1995). . . . The fertilization process takes about 24 hours. [p. 34, emph added]

“Process”, Senator Paul, not “moment”. Shall we break it down even further?

  • Passage of sperm through corona radiata surrounding the the zona pellucida of an oocyte.
  • Penetration of the zona pellucida surrounding the oocyte
  • Fusion of plasma membranes of the oocyte and sperm
  • Completion of the second meiotic division of oocyte and formation of female pronucleus
  • Formation of male pronucleus
  • Membranes of pronuclei break down, the chromosomes condense and become arranged for a mitotic cell division—the first cleavage division [pp. 34-36]

There are many more details involved in those stages, but the highlights ought to be enough.

At this point, the zygote is still in the ampulla [middle portion] of the fallopian tube, ambling its way toward the uterus. Beginning around 30 hours post-fertilization, it undergoes a series of mitotic or cleavage divisions, in which the internal cells (blastomeres) divide and become successively smaller. “After the nine-cell stage, the blastomeres change their shape and tightly align themselves against each other to form a compact ball of cells. . . . When there are 12 to 14 blastomeres, the developing human is called a morula (L. morus, mulberry).”  The morula forms about 3 days post-fert, and enters the uterus 3-4 days post-fert. [p. 41]

Okay, 4 days in and the mulberry is still wandering around, unattached, developing away. A fluid filled space called the blastocyst cavity or blastocoel forms, which separates the blastomeres into two parts:

  • a thin outer cell layer called the trophoblast, which gives rise to the embryonic part of the placenta
  • a group of centrally located blastomeres known as the inner cell mass, which gives rise to the embryo [p. 41]

At this point the berry becomes a blastocyst. (FYI: If you are an embryonic stem cell researcher, this is when you’d harvest the inner cell mass in order to cultivate stem cell lines. The blastocyst would, of course, be destroyed in the process.)

The blastocyst continues to float around in “uterine secretions” for a couple of days as “the zona pellucida gradually degenerates and disappears”. [p. 41] With the dissolution of the zona pellucida, the blastocyst is free to bulk up on those tasty secretions, until around day 6 post-fert, when it attaches itself to the endometrial epithelium.

All hell breaks loose now, as the trohoblast differentiates itself and its outer layer, the syncytiotrophoblast, insinuates itself into the endometrial epithelium and into the connective tissue, or stroma. “The highly invasive syncytiotrophoblast expands quickly adjacent to the inner cell mass, the area known as the embryonic pole. The syncytiotrophoblast produces enzymes that erode the maternal tissues, enabling the blastocyst to burrow into the endometrium.” [p. 42]

Although it takes another week for the embryo to implant itself fully into the endometrium and stroma—which further details I will spare you—this is the stage at which one could say a pregnancy begins.

Got it? One day for the process of fertilization, 6 days for sufficient development to begin a pregnancy, for a grand total of 7 days or one week.

Oh, and one more thing: Of all the zygote-morula-blastocysts formed, 25 percent wash out before implantation, and another 35-55 percent miscarry before birth. Only 20-40 percent of those berries results in a baby.

Anyway, if I wanted to be kind to the momentary conceptional folks, I could say that “conception” is achieved after 24 hours; if I wanted to be strict, I could say 7 days, and if I wanted to be a real bitch, I could argue that not until 14 days has the embryo done anything worth considering a “conception”. Even granting a kindness, it’s clear that the moment is, at its shortest, a day.

Why does this matter? After all, for many people who are pro-life, the issue is less the biology than the morality; that the conceptus takes awhile to get itself together does not obviate the fact that the process begins—that human life begins—when the sperm drills itself into the egg. The biology matters only because it is a trigger for something more, not in and of itself.

This, of course, is how you get bullshit proposals like personhood bills and amendments: by treating biology as a chit in the culture war rather than a reality on its own terms.

Human development is an amazing, complicated, and fraught process, one which does not comport itself easily to our moral preconceptions (sorry) about it. By all means, make a moral argument, but don’t pretend that biology tucks up neatly into it.

Senator Paul is free to believe all he wants “that human life begins at the moment of conception, and therefore is entitled to legal protection from that point forward”, but I am also free to point out it is a belief untethered to biological reality.

That trolley done run into nonsense.





Talking ’bout what everybody’s talking ’bout

19 02 2012

Let’s not talk about contraception—oh no, no no no.

Can’t talk about contraception—except, as in the case of Senator Lynn Blankenbeker, a Republican legislator in New Hampshire, to talk about not using birth control:

“People with or without insurance have two affordable choices, one being abstinence and the other being condoms, both of which you can get over the counter,” she said. [. . .]

“Abstinence works 100 percent of the time,” she said.

Blankenbeker also asserted that condoms and abstinence offer married couples a wider range of family planning options than oral contraceptives.

“If you decide you want to get pregnant you can refrain from abstinence,” she said.

Uh-huh.

If nothing else, Blankenbeker helps to remind us that women may also qualify for the title as American idiot.

Anyway, let’s talk about all of those who don’t want to talk about what everybody’s talking about: sex and not-making babies. Let’s start with an inquiry into how many children these got-my-fingers-in-my-ears-lalalalalala-can’t-hear-you legislators have.

There are a lot of legislators, of course—100 senators, 435 voting representatives, plus hundreds more state legislators—so why not start small, with, say Representative Darrell Issa (he of the all-male panel on not-contraception) and the 112th Congress’s Full Committee on Oversight and Government Reform:

Republicans
Rep. Darrell E. Issa (CA-49), Chairman: b. 1953, married for over 30 years to second wife, 1 child
Rep. Dan Burton (IN-05): b. 1938, Church of Christ, 3 children w first wife (deceased), 1 child resulted from extramarital affair; remarried
Rep. John L. Mica (FL-07): b. 1943, Episcopalian, married, 2 children
Rep. Todd Platts (PA-19): b. 1962, Episcopalian, married, 2 children
Rep. Michael Turner (OH-03): b. 1960, Presbyterian, married, 2 children
Rep. Patrick T. McHenry (NC-10): b. 1975, Catholic, married
Rep. Jim Jordan (OH-04): b. 1964, evangelical Christian, married, 4 children
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (UT-03): b. 1967, Mormon, married, 3 children
Rep. Connie Mack (FL-14): b. 1967, Catholic,  2 children w first wife (divorced), remarried
Rep. Tim Walberg (MI-7): b. 1951, Protestant, married, 3 children
Rep. James Lankford (OK-5): b. 1968, Baptist, married, 2 children
Rep. Justin Amash (MI-3): b. 1980, Orthodox Christian, married, 3 children
Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (NY-25): b. 1951, Catholic, divorced, 6 children
Dr. Paul Gosar (AZ-1): b. 1958, Catholic, married, 3 children
Rep. Raul Labrador (ID-1): b. 1967, Mormon, married, 5 children
Rep. Pat Meehan (PA-7): b. 1955, Catholic, married, 3 children
Dr. Scott DesJarlais (TN-4): b. 1964, Episcopalian, 1 child w first wife (divorced), 3 children w second wife
*Rep. Joe Walsh (IL-8): b. 1961, Catholic, 3 children w first wife (divorced), remarried, 2 children (w second wife?)
Rep. Trey Gowdy (SC-4): b. 1964, Baptist, married, 2 children
Rep. Dennis Ross (FL-12): b. 1959, Presbyterian, married, 2 children
Rep. Frank Guinta (NH-1): b. 1970, Catholic, married, 2 children
Rep. Blake Farenthold (TX-27): 1961, Episcopalian, married, 2 children
Rep. Mike Kelly (PA-3): b. 1948, Catholic, married, 4 children

Democrats

Rep. Elijah Cummings (MD-7), Ranking Member: b. 1951, Baptist, married, 3 children
Rep. Edolphus Towns (NY-10): b. 1934, Baptist, married, 2 children, surrogate to 2 nephews
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (NY-14): b. 1946, Presbyterian, widowed, 2 children
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.): b. 1937, Episcopalian, divorced, 2 children
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (OH-10): b. 1946, Catholic, 1 child w first wife (divorced), married to third wife
Rep. John Tierney (MA-6): b. 1951, Catholic, married, 3 stepchildren
Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay (MO-1): b. 1956, Catholic, divorced, 2 children
Rep. Stephen Lynch (MA-9): b. 1955, Catholic, married, 1 child, surrogate to niece
Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-5): b. 1954, Episcopalian, married, 3 children
Rep. Gerald Connolly (VA-11): b. 1950, Catholic, married, 1 child
Rep. Mike Quigley (IL-5): b. 1958, Catholic, married, 2 children
Rep. Danny Davis (IL-7): b. 1941, Baptist, married, 2 children
Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-1): b. 1957, Presbyterian, married, 3 children
Rep. Peter Welch (VT-At Large): b. 1947, Catholic, 5 stepchildren w first wife (deceased), 3 stepchildren w second wife
Rep. John Yarmuth (KY-3): b. 1947, Jewish, married, 1 child
Rep. Christopher Murphy (CT-5): b. 1973, nondenominational Christian, married, 2 children
Rep. Jackie Speier (CA-12): b. 1950, Catholic, 2 children w first husband (deceased), remarried

So what can we tell from this august group? Of the 40 members, 4 are women, 38 are some variety of Christian, and, apparently, damned near all of them almost certainly practice some form of birth control.

“Almost certainly”: I do not know and do not want to know the sexual habits or fertility of these men and women, whether they or their sexual partners have miscarried or had abortions, or whether there were any health problems during pregnancy or with any of their children.

None of this is my business. None.

But what is my business is the public activity of these 36 men and 4 women and what they prescribe to the rest of us in terms of our own, private, business. And while I tend not to make much of the usual gaps between private behavior and public pronouncements—I don’t actually know if any of these representatives have voted against making birth control more accessible—it is nonetheless worth noting that evidence suggests that these representatives (or, perhaps, their wives) have accessed birth control themselves.

________________
*Joe Walsh deserves special mention, and not just because he’s been sued by his ex-wife for child support and chastised by a judge for his non-cooperation; at the not-contraception hearing he stated This is not about women. This is not about contraceptives. We know, you’ve said it, we’ve said it up here. This is about religious freedom. This is about religious liberties.

Because women and religion have nothing to do with one another. Perfect.

(Biographical info from Wikipedia, Project VoteSmart, official home pages)





Cash money, ain’t got no use for you

18 12 2010

No no no no no no NO! No. No no no. NO!

In terms of public safety and national security, the sooner the world moves to a digital cashless economy, the better.

So says Professor Jonathan Lipow. To which I respond, well, you read my first line.

Consider the opening graf:

THE 500-euro note is sometimes called the “Bin Laden” — after all, Europeans may never see the 500 euro, but they know it is out there somewhere. Unfortunately, Al Qaeda’s leader and the 500-euro bill are connected in another way: high-denomination bills make it a lot easier for terrorists to operate.

Got it? A joke about a name actually reveals a deeper reality!

Although, exactly how high-denomination currencies make it easier for terrorists isn’t really explained so much as it is “analogized”:

Organized crime has always been a cash industry. In 1969, the Treasury stopped issuing $500, $1,000, $5,000 and $10,000 bills specifically to impede crime syndicates — the only entities that were still using such large bills after the introduction of electronic money transfers.

It is up to the reader to suss out the reason for big bills: My guess is that it’s a lot easier to store a load of cash if that load is a pallet-full rather than a room-full.

In any case, while it is clear that terrorists and other assorted bad guys [and presumably a few bad broads] prefer cash to credit because, as Lipow helpfully points out, one can collect and dispense cash without showing any ID whatsoever(!!!!) it is not at all clear that bin Laden and his henchmen [what a great word, by the way, henchmen: it even sounds sinister] are actually using those 500-euro notes.

But no matter: the point about the mob was just to reinforce that bad guys and dolls use cash, and that the government can make it harder for those bad guys (and dolls) to use lots and lots of cash.

(Did such actions lead to a lessening of organized crime? Well, no, since Lipow himself notes that drug traffickers pile up the cash, only now in $100 denominations. But that’s another column, right?)

(And for another aside: We should be grateful that after distribution about $19 billion in cash in Iraq and Afghanistan,

the military has gradually realized that the anonymity of cash makes it easy for terrorists and insurgents to smuggle in money and make purchases without a trace.

So the Treasure figured out in 1969 that cash was king among the kingpins, but it took the military 40 years to figure this out? Or is that, too, another column?)

Anyway. Lipow then tells us the solution to all these terroristic and trafficking woes is to move from actual to virtual cash, not just cell-phone based but, preferably, “smart cards with biometric security features.” He offers the charming example of the Universal Electronic Payments System:

In South Africa, the technology company Net1 now distributes social welfare grants to almost four million people. It’s simple: with a battery-operated, point-of-sale device akin to a credit-card terminal, money is transferred from one person’s card to another; during the process, the cards download and record each other’s transaction records.

Every few days, employees from the payments system head out to the villages and make their own money transfers, downloading the transaction histories of the cards they come into contact with, which contain the histories of the cards they interacted with, and so on. That data is then downloaded into the company’s mainframe, as a way of monitoring the flow of funds across the cards.

Best of all, the system can function offline and off the power grid, providing a secure means of payment under all conditions and without any geographic limitations. And the incremental cost of executing a transaction via this system is essentially zero. It is a promising model for the global economy.

It’ll be cheap, easy, and fun!

No, what’s important about this system is not any benefit provided to consumers, but that the crooks, absent the ability to accumulate funds off the books, would find their transactions open to audits:

In a cashless economy, insurgents’ and terrorists’ electronic payments would generate audit trails that could be screened by data mining software; every payment and transfer would yield a treasure trove of information about their agents, their locations and their intentions. This would pose similar challenges for criminals.

Because in a cashless economy, there’s no way—no way—these criminals could dodge a (gasp!) audit, amirite? And since electronic systems are by definition impenetrable, there’s also no way that these same criminals could smash their way through or tunnel their way under these virtual walls to hide, steal, or otherwise mess with these currency bytes, right? Right?

I’m snarking on Lipow, perhaps undeservedly—after all, I’m hardly a fan of either Al Qaeda or organized crime—but he hijacks the wheels (and grease) of the economy in service to the omnipresent national security state without a consideration for all of the other licit purposes of real-world currency, or any inconveniences (or worse) to people of that same world without cold, hard, cash.

Following Lipow’s example, I won’t bother actually to spell out all those inconveniences (Matthew Yglesias provides some possibilities in the link, above), but let’s consider some of those “or worse” scenarios.

  • You don’t have enough money to open a bank account, or enough of a steady infusion of funds to overcome any of the fees associated with low-money accounts. As a result, you are shut out of the economy.
  • You lose your e-cash-card (loss, theft, catastrophe) and have no way to access your account. No one can lend you money to tide you over, because the problem is not the lack of money, but lack of access to the money.
  • You are in an abusive relationship and need funds to get away. Abuser is able to track you through your purchases, or in some way interfere with your ability to access your funds.
  • The government doesn’t like you and slams down a gate between you and your money. (Think this can’t happen? Consider what happened to Muslim charities designated in some way as “terrorist”: their funds were frozen; search “muslim charities funds frozen” for examples. Or asset forfeiture when the cops think you’ve committed a crime; see here and here, among others).
  • The government doesn’t like you and pressures financial institutions to block your access to funds; see WikiLeaks.

The thread running through these possibilities? The loss of access, which can inhibit not just your purchases, but your purchase on the economy, your mobility, and your ability to engage in disfavored political activity.

Admittedly, the last three examples  could be used against me just as I used the only-partial-effectiveness of Treasury Dept. actions to halt crime against Lipow, to wit: these things are already happening in the cash-ready world. Unlike, Lipow, however, I don’t argue that this means we should get rid of all e-money and rely solely on cash.

The virtual economy is useful, which is one of the reason that so many of us have moved happily into it, i.e., we were neither suckered nor coerced into doing so. Common currency was developed, as Adam Smith pointed out, as a convenience to both buyer and seller (as well as a way for sovereigns to accrue and maintain creditable wealth), and while some might have grumbled at the loss of commodity-barter, it is likely that most others liked the fungibility and—wait for it—accessibility of currency.

In other words, currency gave its holder options.

This mix of actual and virtual money seems to me to offer money-holders a reasonable array of options. Don’t like holding cash? Go with the debit or credit card. Prefer shopping online? Ditto. Like being able to fish a buck or two out of your pocket to buy a slice of pizza or to toss into a busker’s guitar lid? Cash. Don’t want a store (or another household member)  to track your spending—or know it was you who bought something embarrassing? Ditto. Want the convenience of the card as well as the ability to buy and sell anonymously? Duh, both.

You can do variously nefarious things with cash, of course, as well as have variously nefarious things done to you, but so, too, with electronic monies. And I wouldn’t be surprised if it were more likely for you to be victimized electronically than, um, cash-ically—but I won’t push it.

So we make our choices—sometimes after much thought, sometimes with no thought at all—and do what we can.

I disdain the glib security-versus-liberty equations, not least because they are not necessarily opposites, and don’t necessarily have anything to do with one another; this particular “versus” implies a death-match which doesn’t necessarily exist.

“Necessarily” is the key term: Sometimes they are in relation to one another, and sometimes one does have to choose more risk in exchange for more freedom, and less freedom in exchange for less risk (although, even here, I question whether trading away one’s freedom will result in greater security—but I’ll leave that for another day).

Lipow, however, commits the opposite error: he doesn’t even consider that his quest for security could have any effect on liberty, large or small; in his eagerness to close off the options of criminals, he doesn’t much consider the effects on the options of the rest of us.

“Money’s destiny is to become digital,” he quotes an OECD report. But he and the report’s authors forget that money doesn’t have a destiny.

It has a use.

Which means we should, theoretically, have some say in how it is used.





Right through the very heart of it

3 08 2010

You may have heard: SHARI’AH IS COMING! SHARI’AH IS COMING!

All because a group of New York Muslims want to build a MOSQUE AT GROUND ZERO!

Only it’s not exactly a mosque—tho’ the Cordoba Institute will contain a mosque—and it’s not at the former World Trade Center site.

Still, I wondered just where this vessel of Mohammadean infiltration was—not just on the map, but in terms of the neighborhood.

This is the general area:

Stephen Van Dam, NY@tlas, 1998-2004, 5th ed

And a close-up:

If I had any kind of skillz, I’d be able to put a little doohickey in there to show you exactly where the building is, but you’re smart, you can see that it’s right at the tip of the red arrow on Park Place.

But what does it look like, really?

(Apologies for the poor quality of all shots to follow; I shot these on the fly over my lunch hour with my  point-and-shoot . Click on any of the shots or of the maps to make big. Or at least, visible.)

So here it is: 45-47 Park Place, located between Church and West Broadway, two blocks north of Vesey (which is itself the northern border of the re-construction zone).

I think the above shot is 45, and this one, 47:

Regardless, the building itself was denied landmark status today, which means it can be torn down for the HEADQUARTERS OF JIHAD!

And what else occupies such sacred territory?

To the east:

And to the west:

In short, a bar and a market—the ‘Amish Market’.

Lots of bars and markets in the ‘shadow of Ground Zero’:

SE Corner Washington & Cedar: Indian restaurant; O'Hara's pub a bit south.

NE corner Broadway (in view) & Park Pl

And sundry other shops:

NE Corner Cortlandt & Broadway

Park Place, between Church & Broadway (yes, the OTB is for 'off-track betting')

There are Starbucks and pizza joints, Chinese and Korean and French and Japanese restaurants. . .

Cortlandt, NW corner of Broadway

Trinity Place, at Liberty St

And, of course, let’s not forget this spot, south of Ground Zero:

You know that the Pussycat Lounge isn't a pet store, right? At least, not that kind. . . .

And that lingerie shop? Advertises ‘peep show’ in its window.

Where is this in relation to the site?

See the crane?

This is what you see from the proposed Cordoba Institute site:

This building takes up the south side of Park Place between Church & West Broadway

Not exactly ‘looming over’ Ground Zero.

And dhimmis have their places, too:

St Paul's Chapel, overlooking Church St, bet Vesey & Fulton

Church of St Peter, on SE corner Vesey & Church

Trinity Church, which takes up the block between Broadway, Trinity Pl, Rector & Thames

And the quiet spots:

Portion of the FDNY Memorial Wall, at FDNY Engine 10 Ladder 10, at Greenwich & Liberty

On grounds of Church of St Peter

What does this all mean?

I don’t know. What does it mean to have a department store—Century 21—-adjacent to the site? What does it mean you can buy t-shirts and baseball caps and coffee and pizza and sushi and hot dogs and pretzels and *gasp* halal food around and next to and overlooking the place where almost 3000 people died?

A place in the middle of the largest city of the country, a city which never stops, never sleeps, where people may pause and mourn and reflect—and live.

I have been so tremendously angry at those current- and former- and half-politicians and pundits and alleged civil rights organizations who and which spew fear and loathing, trying to make us afraid and mean and small.

So let me, uncharacteristically, respond to anger with affection, even love:

This is my city; this is New York City.

It is big and  it is tough, but it isn’t mean, and it shouldn’t be small.

Let us be large, let us be mixed-up and loud and jostling and gesturing and Jewish and Muslim and Christian and Hindu and Sikh and Voudou and pagan and heretic and agnostic and atheist and conservative and liberal and radical and apathetic and hustling and napping and dancing and falling down and flirting and singing and praying and chanting and arguing and mourning and laughing and embracing and letting go and everything everything everything that we have always been and always became and always will be.

Let us be all of that and everything more. Let us be New York City.

And I’ll refrain from telling the loathsome lot of you to fuck off. Even though that’s a New York thing to do, too.





Welcome to the Ludovico Centre*

27 04 2010

I know, I know: It’s like obsessing that ‘there’s somebody wrong on the internet!’

But Gott im himmel, I cannot let this go:

Strict Abortion Measures Enacted in Oklahoma

Strict: so THAT’s what they’re calling punish-evil-women measures these days.

According to James McKinley Jr of the New York Times:

Though other states have passed similar measures requiring women to have ultrasounds, Oklahoma’s law goes further, mandating that a doctor or technician set up the monitor so the woman can see it and describe the heart, limbs and organs of the fetus. No exceptions are made for rape and incest victims.

A second measure passed into law on Tuesday prevents women who have had a disabled baby from suing a doctor for withholding information about birth defects while the child was in the womb.

Got that?

The first provision is presumably driven by an overwhelming need to ensure that woman understands exactly what she’s about to do—because, hey, women are such silly little things who go about evacuating their uteri for just any ol’ reason.

And who could be against a truly informed consent?

Um. . . then. . . about that second provision?

But wait! There’s more!

Two other anti-abortion bills are still working their way through the Legislature and are expected to pass. One would force women to fill out a lengthy questionnaire about their reasons for seeking an abortion; statistics based on the answers would then be posted online. The other restricts insurance coverage for the procedures.

Any penalties attached for writing over the questionnaire ‘BECAUSE I DON’T WANT TO HAVE A CHILD RIGHT NOW YOU DUMB FUCK!’ or  ‘NONE OF YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS YOU NOSY PIECE OF SHIT!’?

And just in case you think I’m overreacting, how’s this for an Alex-in-the-movie-theatre mind-fuck:

Several states have passed laws in recent years requiring women to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion, and at least three — Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi — require doctors to offer the woman a chance to see the image. But Oklahoma’s new law says that the monitor must be placed where the woman can see it and that she must listen to a detailed description of the fetus. [emphasis added]

Tell me—tell me this is not about punishing women.

(*Yes, that’s a A Clockwork Orange reference)