Thought of the day

I learn more history from Pawn Stars than any of the History Channel’s other shows.

Also, I refuse to call it “History”. It’s the History Channel.

Proven right in mere hours

It was only a few hours ago that I wrote about the condescension being expressed towards women who decide to have an abortion. The Republicans just don’t get it. Women aren’t getting abortions because they haven’t seen their ultrasounds. They aren’t making these decisions lightly. In short, women are not stupid. It’s crazy, I know. But one pseudo-libertarian right winger wants to make sure you all know I wasn’t just creating a strawman:

The pro-choice lobby has spread so much anti-science garbage over the years, I don’t for a minute believe that most women realize the implication of their decision to abort. Not for a minute.

Well, I never did expect someone from the right to believe in facts. Not for a minute.

The majority of the rest of this guy’s post is just projection – he knows the right has no grounds for claiming the side of science in anything, and he knows the entire point of all the ultrasound laws being proposed or passed in recent months is to be emotionally manipulative – plus he has a healthy does of red herring in there, but I am interested in one thing he said:

There is no debating that unborn children are human beings. Period. Science is clear on this issue. So, why are you being so anti-science by hinting toward a philosophical argument?

This reminds me so much of Punching Bag Neil. “Science is clear! Humanity begins at conception!” Except it doesn’t. What starts at conception is a process of development. Where that development starts to matter is a complicated issue – so complicated, in fact, that we can’t really begin to talk about it when people on the right don’t even understand the basic biology behind the issue.

Update: I noticed that one key part of my post wasn’t reposted by this guy. It was this picture showing the breakdown of what Planned Parenthood does. It shows that only 3% of their services are directed towards abortions. But do these facts matter? Of course not!

Why can’t you people just admit the facts? Why can’t you admit that Planned Parenthood’s livelihood is abortion services? Why can’t you people just admit that the trumpeted Hyde Amendment is utterly meaningless, because money is fungible!

Support abortion if you so choose, but for God’s sake, quit lying!

So when the facts are inconvenient, the other side is lying. Got it.

Defunding health care for women

I find myself more and more torn. On the one hand, it’s so hard to say Republicans are motivated by a hatred of women. There are legitimate arguments to be made in some of their actions. But on the other hand, the majority of their actions are asinine and condescending, backed by no grain of rationality or intelligence:

Last week, Indiana lawmakers voted to approve a measure that would defund the state chapter of Planned Parenthood by $2 million, the amount the group gets each year in federal dollars. The bill would also ban abortions following the 20th week of pregnancy unless a woman’s life is in jeopardy. The measure would also require abortion providers to tell women seeking abortions that life begins at conception, that the procedure is linked to infertility, and that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks or earlier…

The bill’s author, state Rep. Eric Turner (R), defended its passage, telling The Indianapolis Star Thursday that it means “pregnant ladies will have a better-informed decision to make.” Representative Turner also said, “The net result will be less abortions in Indiana, and I’m pleased about that.”

First, I’ve never had a problem with recognizing that Republicans are by-and-large anti-science. That’s a given, and this requirement to force doctors to make up stuff to tell pregnant women only confirms it. Second, women are NOT children and they are NOT making these decisions lightly, you condescending piece of shit, Eric Turner. Unfortunately, this douche isn’t alone in not getting that. Pick any random inbred state that’s been attempting to destroy individual autonomy and the idea that sexual maturity is a good thing: invariably there will be some ass who pretends that his motivation is to make sure women really know what’s going on. “Make them look at an ultrasound! Clearly women have no fucking clue what’s going on inside their bodies!”

No, you anti-abortionists, get it through your thick fucking skulls: People aren’t rejecting your shit arguments out of ignorance or a desire to murder babies. We aren’t rejecting it because we’re in the dark about all the emotionally manipulative (and emotionally false) images. We’re rejecting your horseshit because human beings – real live persons – are not defined by merely being cells. We’re rejecting it because consciousness matters, and making up that fetuses can feel and understand anything, including pain, is fundamentally dishonest. We’re rejecting it because it devalues human life to lie and claim a ball of developing cells is on the same playing field as someone who is 2 or 122 or anything between. Get better arguments.

The only glimmer of hope I can see in all this is that the Republicans, despite being the cause of much of our economic woes, were only elected to deal with the economy. Now that they’re showing their true colors, hopefully their human-hurting agendas will be rejected next time around.

Update: Oh, and a helpful reminder:

Gov. Perry says President Obama is ignoring Texas

The governor of Texas is complaining that President Obama is paying more attention to Alabama than Texas:

“You have to ask, ‘Why are you taking care of Alabama and other states?’ I know our letter didn’t get lost in the mail,” Perry, a Republican and frequent critic of the federal government, said after addressing a Texas emergency management conference.

President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency for Alabama, where storms — including a tornado that ravaged Tuscaloosa on Wednesday — killed nearly 200 people this week.

Texas actually does get significant federal help in its fire fighting efforts, but I digress. The more interesting question here is, why is Perry only criticizing Obama for ignoring Texas? Shouldn’t he be criticizing God for not doing anything?

Six little planets, all in a row

Over the next few weeks all the planets except Saturn will be visible in the dawn sky along the path of the Sun through the sky:

For the last two months, almost all the planets have been hiding behind the sun, but this week they all emerge and are arrayed in a grand line above the rising sun. Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter are visible, and you can add Uranus and Neptune to your count if you have binoculars or a small telescope.

This sky map of the six planets shows how they should appear at dawn to observers with clear weather and an unobstructed view.

Counting this morning, the moon will also be lined up for four mornings (sorry my fellow EST people for the post-dawn post).

What socialism isn’t

People seem to have a hard time defining socialism. As one person recently told me, it’s become nothing more than a four-letter word. It’s this catch-all for things people find different and therefore scary, and some are willing to define it as all-things-bad. This recent article really captures the point:

I heard on the radio a host list several components of fascism, including tyranny, government laws are more important than the individual, glorification of the nation, no dissent allowed, racism and intolerance. So I paused to listen. To my shock, not a minute later the host labeled this list of traits as “socialism.”

The author also points out the confusion over Nazis. I once personally found myself in a debate with a routinely inane and dishonest individual who actually argued that Nazi Germany was a socialistic nation because they used the word “Socialist” in their party name. To be fair, I think that person was just plainly ignorant in that case, but it was still pathetic to read. As the article says:

“Those people who insist that Hitler was a socialist show their ignorance about Nazi Germany. During the first half of the 20th Century, socialism had many meanings. When Hitler talked about Nazi socialism, he was describing the average German’s supposed social responsibilities to the State. Real socialists- social progressives- were usually sent to the concentration camps.” Author Jonathan Maxwell, Murderous Intellectuals: Nazis and the German Elite (personal correspondence April 13)

Whether socialism works or not, or whether it’s a good thing or not, is one issue, but it’s difficult to get there. When people run around conflating it with things they just don’t like, we can’t even have a decent discussion.

S. aureus found in meat and poultry

Staphylococcus aureus has been found in U.S. meat and poultry at alarming rates:

Nearly half of the meat and poultry samples — 47 percent — were contaminated with S. aureus, and more than half of those bacteria — 52 percent — were resistant to at least three classes of antibiotics, according to the study published today in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

This is the first national assessment of antibiotic resistant S. aureus in the U.S. food supply. And, DNA testing suggests that the food animals themselves were the major source of contamination.

I’m mostly posting this because I’ve recently been working with various bacteria, including S. aureus. One of the biggest problems with them – indeed, with any major and most minor bacteria species – is that they evolve quickly in response to the antibiotics we use against them. This research specifically looked at resistance, and the numbers are surprising. Compounding the issue, there are really only six or so major companies that work to develop antibiotics in the U.S. today. Though our government is a big corporate welfare bitch, our direct government investment in this sort of research is non-existent. That really makes no sense. It is government funding that has long been a huge driving force behind the science of the 20th century, and this is especially true where both lives and profits are at risk – private businesses will always opt to risk the former, not the latter. Given how quickly bacteria evolve to get around antibiotics – resistance has been detected in the very same year the antibiotics have been developed in some cases – it would be good science and our health if we started investing more. A lot more.

That said, there are preventative measures that need to be addressed. First – and we need government again – limit what farmers can give livestock. Of course resistance will evolve if we keep giving cows and chickens antibiotics at such high rate. Second – yep, government again – tighten food-handling protocols in meat markets, including supermarkets. Given the $8 an hour supermarkets pay their employees, I doubt people in that field will give two shits, but every little bit helps (especially before the food gets to that point). And finally – we might not need government to do all of this one – educate the general public, i.e., cook your food at recommended temperatures, wipe down counters, and other basic things civilized people ought to be doing without being told.