Friday, April 9, 2010

The Swiss cheese model of gender.

You may have notice that I write a lot of responses to other people's posts here. That's what this blog is for - when I have something to say but can't fit it in the comment field. And today I found a post called "What makes a woman", via some link-clicking that started in a comment thread on queer theory that I was participating in, and the thoughts it provoked kept me busy for quite some time. It's about the OP's own view on what it is that makes someone a woman, and not a man:
I only ever feel like a woman when someone is making me feel like a woman. By catcalling me from across the street or holding a door open and saying “Ladies first” or by treating me like a child because I have a vagina. The rest of the time, when I’m not being coerced into feeling like a woman by the heteropatriarchy, I feel like a human being.
The OP has every right to be considered a human being and not a woman. The thing is, she's contrasting her experience with that of transgender and transsexual women (emphasis in original):
The transwomen say they are women because they define themselves as women, and demand to be treated accordingly.
But I am a woman because society defined me as a woman, and will treat me accordingly even though I would rather be treated like a human being.
I have to say I'm confused - if the OP is only a woman because society said so, then it seems to me that the first six words of the second sentence should have been unnecessary.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

You know what they say about "assume".

I've got my reddit main page set up with both r/politics and r/Republican on my front page, because I like to give my opponents a chance to convince me. And so when I saw a blog post on the "psychology of liberalism", I bit -  maybe I'll learn something, I thought.

Well, the most coherent points I could find in it were that liberals deny reality, refuse to blame anyone for anything, are pacifists to the point of stupidity, and use these attitudes to justify "progress" and "open-mindedness" which leads to all sorts of crazy things like "libertarianism, atheism, weird sex" and "postmodernism".


The problem is that he's got exactly zero data to actually support any of these claims. He's got Pew survey results that indicate the "Millennial" generation is more open to change, and says that this doesn't tell us anything about their intelligence (as if anyone were claiming that it did) and another study on liberalism, atheism, and IQ... and somehow this is supposed to prove that liberals are all thinking backwards.
It takes a long time for the nerdy self-conscious low-self-esteem dropouts of the world to unite and overthrow their betters, but they've had many centuries to do so, and they finally started to really pick up steam around 1945 or so. Ever since then, being strong and doing what's right has had that nasty sting of "well, you could be the new Hitlerstalin" to it, and so smart people have backed off from changing anything beyond their own matching paint tones at home.
Hmmm... waitaminute, who's been making comparisons to Hitler and Stalin lately? Liberals? 

Which brings me to another psychological trait that's actually got some research to back it up its existence - right-wing authoritarianism or RWA. The concept of an "authoritarian" personality was originally proposed and observed in research situations after World War II, and was further refined into the concept of RWA in the 1980s by Dr. Robert Altmeyer. The construct obviously can only tell us about group tendencies, and not about individuals - but the tendencies that come along with RWA have been fairly consistent wherever it's found, and they are fairly disturbing. You'll also notice that Altmeyer was unable to find a liberal/left-wing equivalent of RWA, although he looked for one.

This guy's analysis of liberal "psychology", on the other hand, is nothing more than a list of his own assumptions about what liberals must be like, which tells me that he can't have talked to very many liberals.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


You know how I said in my post a while back that insurance companies have a "de facto monopoly"?

Well, I stand corrected.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

They just can't make up their minds can they.

Remember how the Republicans were going on and on about how the Democrat's healthcare plan was too damn long and complicated? Well, now that Obama's condensed it down to an eleven-page summary, it's too short.

Hey GOP-ers, next time you start ranting about "relativism" and how terrible it is? I'm going to mock you,  and there will be pots and kettles involved.

Monday, February 22, 2010

I see your Tarantino and raise you a non-arcane parliamentary tactic.

I saw on my RSS reader yesterday that Harry Reid has finally grown a spine and decided to start fixing up the House and Senate healthcare bills into to one complete bill that's ready to be passed. There were quotes from Republicans saying that this whole reconciliation thing is absolutely not kosher, and some comments from Democrats who were saying the same thing. But it just so happens that both healthcare bills are budget bills, and so passing them with budget reconciliation is completely legit. Also, reconciliation is not an "arcane parliamentary tactic", and in fact the Republicans used it all the damn time

My newsfeeds also told me that the GOP are now waving their arms and  going "ZOMG SEE?! THE HEALTHCARE SUMMIT IS A TRAP!" and after a trip over to Reddit I saw that the conservative blogosphere is doing about the same thing. They've been doing this ever since Obama decided to have a summit, and I think it's hilarious.

You see, it is a trap - but this isn't because of anything Obama did. This meeting is just him going "Okay guys, show what you've got." If they actually had any new ideas this wouldn't be a problem - but they don't, and they know it. All the stuff on their website is already in the Senate bill, and none of it will fix the real problem. Everything that would is something that they now couldn't support even if they wanted to. Meanwhile some people are wising up to the fact that this healthcare reform stuff sounds pretty good once you understand what it does.

And of course there's the public option.  We've now got twenty senators who want it in the final bill, and it just so happens that this particulat component is the part of the bill with the most public support. If the senate Dems can get their shit together and pass the thing already, then not only does everyone get some health insurance... and as a side bonus the GOP will end up looking like a bunch of paranoid idiots when it doesn't bring about the revival of the Soviet Union.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

On the need for standards.

The conservative talking point of labor laws and environmental regulations "kill jobs". This has always struck me as an oversimplification, but until recently I'd never given much thought to exactly how it might be right or wrong.

Well, I found this blog post about minimum wage laws by "The Drage"... and I think I get it now. His argument against them is basically that employees should be able to charge as little as they want for their labor, and that establishing or raising the minimum wage increases unemployment by making employers pay more for the same labor. Emphasis mine:
"How long do you think the company will keep [its workers] employed [following a minimum wage increase] if they're not worth what they're being paid? Well, if they don't perform to their new standard then chances are they will be let go and the company will go find employees who are worth the $7.25 an hour that they are forced to pay. Furthermore, the company's total labor costs will increase. Is it likely that the company will be able to raise prices enough to offset the increase in wages in this economy? Probably not. Therefore, the company will have to find some way to cut costs and the first place they'll likely look is payroll."
Great Scott, I do believe I've found the problem.

Utah likes their women barefoot and pregnant.

Utah Bill Equates Miscarriages With Criminal Homicide. 

You can't even say that the intent here was to keep women from getting illegal abortions - for one thing, they're already illegal. For another, it opens a huge legal can of worms - anything a woman does that could have caused he to miscarry could be classified as "reckless behavior" and get her a life sentence.

This is not about abortion, it's about controlling womens' behavior. I've explained at length how I came to think this, and every time a pro-life group tries pushing through more of their legislation it only gives me more proof.  "Parent notification" laws  are the most specific when describing the consequences of noncompliance - the parts about how to comply are very vague, which makes it obvious what their real purpose is. Fetal personhood laws are worse, because they effectively give fetuses more rights and protections than pregnant women - exactly the kind of thinking that leads to laws like this one in Utah. 

 The fact that these laws allow "exceptions" doesn't make them better. If anything it's even more of a giveaway that this isn't about saving every embryo, it's about letting women get abortions only when the anti-choicers think it's okay.

I suppose you could make this shit up.

NYT, "A Small Price for a Large Benefit":
FORECASTS involving climate change are highly uncertain, denialists assert — a point that climate researchers themselves readily concede. The denialists view the uncertainty as strengthening their case for inaction, yet a careful weighing of the relevant costs and benefits supports taking exactly the opposite course.
Emphasis mine. This is really the only reason that I can see why the IPCC "Climategate" e-mails are causing such a stir - even without them, a lot of other researchers have come up with a lot of other evidence for climate change independently of one another. But deniers take every tiny suggestion of inconsistency as damning evidence. This perplexes me because, as the author of this article explains, taking action isn't going to cost that much.

The actions we're trying to take have obvious benefits even if you don't care about anyone's carbon footprint. Oil wells renew so slowly that they might as well be a nonrenewable resource; we have to import a lot of it to meet out needs, and the process of refining it into a usable form adds to its cost. Coal also renews very slowly, and mining it is extremely labor intensive and dangerous, not to mention highly damaging to our national landscape. And using our energy sources more efficiently means we spend less money on it in the long run, and have more money for other things. So switching over to renewable energy sources - even if climate change turns out to be less serious than expected - seems like a pretty good idea to me.

Well the climate deniers - the "skeptics" - seem to think that these are bad ideas, and that we shouldn't bother pursuing them because global climate change might not even be real. And in fact the implication (or in some cases, the statement) that accompanies the outrage over the "Climategate" e-mails and other "counterevidence" they find is that anthropogenic climate change is all a hoax. I guess that might be possible - maybe not likely, but for the sake of argument let's assume for a moment that someone really is making all this up.


I mean, if this is a hoax then it's a pretty elaborate one, because nearly every single professional scientific organization in the world and 97% of publishing climate scientists are in on it by now, not to mention individual national governments, political parties, and a good portion the media. No one would go to all that trouble just for shits and grins - so what's the benefit and who gets it? "Profit" isn't going to cut it here, because there are plenty of ways to make a profit that don't involve orchestrating a massive global conspiracy. If any of the "skeptics" out there have ideas on this then I'd be very interested to hear them, because I can't think of any.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

...and which principles would those be?

I hear that a bunch of conservatives sign this Mount Vernon Statement thing which seems to be a 21st century conservative credo. And as I'm reading it, all I can think is "...mmmyep." You can read it, but it's absolutely nothing new.

What I'm now wondering  about is the entire concept of "conservative principles". Maybe I'm being cynical, but I think the best thing you can say about this is that it's ironic. This is not to say that progressives are never unprincipled or hypocritical, but among conservatives it's like a competitive sport.

There's the whole "limited government thing. They absolutely oppose anything that looks like unnecessary federal spending, except the spending they ask for. They oppose all needless government interference in people's lives, except when it suits their arbitrary morals. They are against any expansion of federal power, unless it's to enforce those morals. They think all life is sacred, especially life of the embryonic and fetal variety  - but not if you're a pregnant woman with no insurance.

Because they're fiscally conservative too, right? That's why they support tax cuts and oppose healthcare reform and unions. That stuff leads to socialism, which is like what they have in Soviet Russia. Or Canada. 

And they want to lower taxes, right? They would totally get rid of income taxes except that would never work, so you know what they're going to do instead? Give a whole bunch of tax cuts to rich people, because, um... the Laffer curve says it's a good idea!

Well anyway, the conservatives would have you know that all the liberals want to do is be soft on communism terrorism. Because it's not like Bill Clinton spent a metric fuckton of money on counterterrorism or put a whole bunch of terrorists in prison or anything. And Obama? He's just as bad as Clinton (if by "bad" you mean "awesome". )

Oooooh, but did you know that Obama did drugs when he was younger? Republicans would never do drugs... okay, except that one time. See, what you don't understand is that "drugs are bad" means "for poor people".  Also "unless you're white."

But don't you dare call them racist, because they're totally not racist. They only defend people's right to continue displaying the Confederate flag because those people have a right to express pride their heritage; it says so in the First Amendment! But if you want to exercise your First Amendment rights by burning the flag or being "hostile" towards religion, well you're just a goddamn hippie.

ETA: Ezra Klein wrote a short but good post about how the Republicans conflate their political position with their philosophy - which explains why their "philosophy" changes whenever it suits them.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Why the public option is good for everyone.

You've probably already figured out from reading my posts that I am in favor of healthcare reform. I also favor the public option, and I am very pleased to see that it may not be dead after all.

The thing is, most of the arguments for the public option that I've seen stop at "everyone gets insurance", and this isn't enough to convince some people. Those who are insured probably want to know why they should have to pay for this, in addition to what they have already.

If you are one of those people, this post is for you. I'm going to explain how the public option will benefit you even if you have private insurance and want to keep it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Call Your Reps.

Dennis at Balloon Juice regularly posts reminders to call your House and Senate reps and tell them to pass the healthcare bill. I've just called my Senator, and I'm going to call my Rep once I'm done reading my morning news feeds.

I know that calling important people can be kind of nerve-wracking, but just remember that these people are supposed to be working for you - even if you didn't vote for them, you can still decide whether or not to do so the next time they run. Also, the person who answers the phone is usually an intern - so while you should definitely be nice to them, don't be afraid to tell them how strongly you feel about this issue and how much you want your rep to vote for this bill.

If you need some easy steps to follow, Balloon Juice has a guide for first-time callers.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Fred Clark at slacktivist made a point about climate change denial which I hadn't thought of, and which is very interesting:

It might be helpful to look at this through the lens of a textbook example from Ethics 101: The Drowning Stranger.

"A man is drowning near the end of the dock," the professor says. "What is your responsibility?"

"I didn't push him in!" the student says, with abrupt, vehement anger.


This question of blame and innocence seems to be central to much of the denialism and the vehemently irresponsible lack of a response to climate change. The more overwhelming the evidence becomes that climate change is, undeniably, happening, the louder they protest that nothing can or should be done because climate change isn't "man-made." After years of denying that there even was a drowning stranger in the water, they've fallen back to the student's defensive claim of "I didn't push him in!"
This actually makes quite a lot of sense. We something bad happens, it's much easier if there's one person, or a few people who are obviously responsible -  we've got someone to blame and punish, even if someone else ultimately cleans up the mess. With climate change we don't have anyone to blame, and in fact it's something that nearly every human in the world has contributed to. No one wants to believe that they could have done something like this... and so they deny.

The fact is that all the available evidence is to contrary. and denying it's there won't make it go away. Even if you don't want to accept responsibility for this problem, you can be part of the solution, because many of the actions that reduce your carbon output will also save you money.

Taking up too much space in the market.

I found this interesting little anecdote while roaming around on Digg, and since I don't want to be one of those people who only reads posts they agree with I read it through. It mentioned something that I've heard mentioned quite a few times since the Citizens United ruling went down. The writer of this post seemed to think that the only reason why a progressive individual (such as myself) would want to prevent corporations from contributing a lot of money to elections - or why we'd want to prevent them from doing anything, for that matter - is because we're a bunch of elitists and think that all the normal everyday Americans are gullible and stupid.

According to this guy's post, the liberal with whom he was talking did say that most people aren't "intelligent" enough to understand contracts they make with banks or other corporations. To be fair I've met a few other liberal-types who've expressed a similar sentiment... but I disagree. I don't think you'd have to be stupid to not understand a bunch of text that's really small, really dense, and full of legal jargon. The fact that some people (myself included) find that stuff completely obtuse and mystifying doesn't mean we're stupid - it means we aren't lawyers. The people writing those contracts know this, and they overload them with information, knowing that we probably won't be able to process all of it, and hoping that we'll miss something that will allow them to screw us over later.  The best thing you could call this is a dishonest business practice.

Now on to Citizens. For-profit corporations are not just a bunch of people who "choose to organize"- they organize specifically to make a profit. I don't have any problem with this per se. I do have a problem when those with more money start to feel like they are entitled to more of everything else as well - including more speech. Any asshole can get a free blog and write stuff on the internet, but if you want anyone to ever see it you've got to write good stuff, encourage people to link to it, and put forth effort to get more page views and be seen.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Glenn Beck Story Hour

I've been reading  an article called "Can Republicans Govern?", in which the writer (Mr. Jeff Bergner) outlines his idea of what America should look like under Republican leadership. I admit that most of what I read has a liberal slant, but this article is from The Weekly Standard, was written by someone who is definitely a conservative, and it presents that viewpoint in a positive light... so I figured I'd give it a read and see what I thought of it. And now I'm going to tell you, at length and with quotations. All italics are mine unless otherwise noted.

Friday, February 5, 2010

This is not even subtle.

I think everyone's probably noticed by now that Republicans hate pork - not the meat, but the spending practice. What counts as pork is subjective, but if a Democratic senator wanted $35 billion to spend on some project in their home state, I'm guessing they would place it squarely in the "pork" category no matter what it was.

But when Richard Shelby wants $35 billion to be sent to Alabama, it's not pork. No, it's a "lucrative US Air Force tanker deal". The fact that he hasn't gotten it yet isn't an effort to curb wasteful government spending, it's an "unaddressed national security concern", and so he is totally justified in what amounts to  throwing a tantrum.

I wish I could say this surprised me, but it's just the latest example of the contradictory positions held by people on the right. Conservatives of all stripes oppose government intrusion into the lives of private citizens, while also opposing equal marriage. They support "freedom" and "liberty" and then throw a shitfit when we dare to suggest giving terrorists a trial by jury, as if they think any jury or judge might acquit them.  The same people who propagate racist myths about "welfare queens" turn around and express their outrage that abortion rates are significantly higher among women of color. Chuck Grassley opposes both a national healthcare system and "big government", and then tells people to go work for the government if they want a good insurance plan. John McCain thinks that we should respect the military's judgment on all of their policies, except when they disagree with him. And the entire Republican party is totally opposed to wasteful spending, with the definition of "wasteful" changing as it suits them.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Imagine nothing but toll roads.

I subscribe to The Simple Dollar (because it's a neat blog with pretty good advice) and in the author's most recent roundup post was a link to another post, at another blog, with the subject line "The Hypocrite Test: Should Rich People Pay More?" I cleverly deduced had a feeling that this post was about taxes somehow, so I clicked on it.

I was correct. The author of this post begins with the following scenario, in which the reader is supposed to imagine that they've been working hard for twenty years, and have gone from having nothing to having a very nice house in a very nice part of town (where they now live with their family and their possessions, some of which are also nice.) This nice new house needs a nice new boiler, because apparently the one it came with was not so nice. So they call a contractor, who:
...pokes around a bit, then hands over a proposal. $15,000. Youch!

Sounds out of line, so you thank him and send him on his way.

Later that day, you run into an old friend who lives “down the hill.” You mention your need for a new boiler and are surprised to discover he’s in the market for the exact same boiler. And, the one he’s replacing is the very same one you have. AND, he also just got an estimate from the same contractor…for the exact same amount of time, same equipment, same job.

But, your friend’s estimate was $7,500. Half of yours.
The author asks if this scenario is fair or not, and specifically tells the reader to think about why it is or isn't fair and keep that line of reasoning in mind. The author then goes into the next scenario. Guess what it is.
This time, you’re the guy living down the hill, earning a modest living. The contractor is now the government, the estimate you and your wealthy acquaintance received is your tax burden and the benefits are the services provided to both of you by the government.
The instinctive conclusion that many readers will come to is that neither situation is fair. This makes sense if you assume, as the author does, that these to situations are "the same issue, just set in a different context" - a transaction is fair if you get what you pay for, and since taxes don't work this way then they must not be fair. I was tempted to make this assumption as well, but when I took the time to consider the analogy, I realized that it was flawed.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

State of the Union

Those of you who don't live in a cave will know that Obama gave his State of the Union address yesterday, which means that the Republicans and others of the right-leaning persuasion should be spending today going over all the things in the speech that could even remotely be construed to make Obama look bad. Given that Obama covered a lot of different topics in the address, they've got a lot of material to work with, but so far they seem to be focusing on a few select topics:
There's also a little fact-check that they ganked from the AP. A couple of the items on that list are legitimate causes for concern - specifically, the hiring of lobbyists and the level of openness that doesn't live up to what he promised during his campaign. Everything else on the list borders on nitpicking - "The stimulus didn't help that much! We didn't catch that many terrorists!" - and apparently Obama is supposed to magically make insurance companies, Congress, and Russia do everything he asks. Uh-huh.

Equally telling is the stuff they haven't reacted to. Tax cuts, offshore drilling, reduced government spending - I guess all those things are only good if a Republican president proposes them. Nor are they paying much attention to his statement on healthcare and reducing student loan debt, or any of those other things he mentioned that would help out lots of people in a lot of ways. No, they're talking about stuff he mentioned only briefly - those things are important, yes, but they weren't the big points.

I think there's a reason for this. The Republicans in Congress are not going after the actual substance of Obama's speech, or openly and straightforwardly disagreeing with him, because frankly that would make them look like assholes. No Congressperson who actually wants to get reelected is going to say that there's no need for healthcare reform, or that it's okay that people are going into massive debt to pay for college, or that the bottom 95% doesn't need a tax break. They certainly don't want to have to explain why they'd be against punishing the banks with a fee or doing something about the Citizens United v. FEC ruling - if they did then people might figure out that their love for Jesus, fetuses, and Joe Six-Pack are collectively outweighed by their love of corporations and money. Giving into their instinctive disapproval would also expose them as hypocrites - do they really believe that offshore drilling, reduced government spending, and tax breaks are only good ideas when a Republican president is proposing them?

So they've got to take some time to make shit up - instead of saying we don't need healthcare reform because the system works for them, they gave us a bunch of crap about facism and death panels. And for the moment, we're only going to get their views on the issues that they've already got canned responses to - Obama's soft on terrorism, he's a liar because he didn't get everything done in his first year, and the gays will destroy the military. Once they've had time to make up some more shit we'll get to hear all about why the taxes breaks that they used to love so much are actually going to destroy America.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Oh noez! Form your militias!

President Obama's signed an executive order to create a council of governors. It's going to be ten state governors from both parties (who will serve on the council for two terms each) plus a bunch of cabinet members. The executive order says that reason behind this is to
"strengthen further the partnership between the Federal Government and State Governments to protect our Nation against all types of hazards. When appointed, the Council will be reviewing such matters as involving the National Guard of the various States; homeland defense; civil support; synchronization and integration of State and Federal military activities in the United States; and other matters of mutual interest pertaining to National Guard, homeland defense, and civil support activities."
Now, when George W. and Friends pushed their little wish list of civil liberties infringements through Congress after 9/11, not too many people paid attention to it until months later. And now that Obama's made this one little executive order establishing what looks to be a committee for reviewing all sorts of things (which the next president could easily get rid of with another executive order) some people are already interpreting it as the beginnings of a sinister plot to declare martial law.

I almost find this funny, until I remember that they're not joking. These are the same people who were talking about forming militias and buying up all that ammunition after the election was over - the same people who think that Obama hates America and is somehow a communist and a Nazi at the same time (a statement which bothers me not just because it's slanderous and false, but because it's pretty much impossible - Hitler's party may have been called the "National Socialists" but the fact is the communists were among the people that he was sending off to death camps.) Obviously the situation we're in now is far from perfect, but it seems like the people who are saying these things want to believe that we're mere moments away from some kind of apocolyptic dystopian totalitarian doom-empire. I honestly do not understand this. I mean, I didn't like George Bush while he was president, but I also never compared him to any dead dictators or suspected him of trying to set up some kind of 1984-esque police state (and this in spite of the whole PATRIOT Act thing.)

I'm not a political scientist, but immediately after I heard about the executive order and the theories as to what it is for, I came up with a theory of my own. Surely you all remember the gentleman from Nigeria who spectacularly failed to blow up an airplane in Detroit last month. You may also remember that not too long after this happened, President Obama said in pretty blunt terms that our intelligence and national security system had screwed up badly and needed to be reviewed and overhauled ASAP - because apparently a few agencies within the government had this guy's name and information about him, and somehow he still didn't make onto any no-fly lists and was able to get on a plane to Detroit. And so now the goal is to figure out where the miscommunication happened and fix it.

Given all of this, it seems a lot more likely that this is part of the comprehensive "overhaul" of our national defense system that Obama was referring to - the state governors will meet with the people from the cabinet and go over everyone's resources and policies and whatnot, so that everyone will be on the same page and know what they need to do (and what everyone else is doing) at the state level if there's ever another attempted bombing. I think this make a lot more sense than the "martial law" conspiracy theories... because frankly, if I were a president and wanted to work towards making myself a dictator, my first order of business would not be "form a committee".

I mean, maybe this is all just a front for some evil scheme... but I, for one, will not be rushing out to buy a gun anytime soon.

The Pro-Life Movement: selectively protecting embryos since 1973.

Unless you've been hiding under a rock for the past year, you are probably aware that the U.S. government is closer than it's ever been to major healthcare reform. If you're aware of this, you're probably also aware that the debate over this reform has partly turned into a fight over abortion, with the right introducing all kinds of measures to make sure that no one's tax money ever pays for an abortion.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am pro-choice in every sense of the word - I believe that everyone who is able to do so should have the final say in their own medical decisions, and that these decision should ideally be based on their  needs and sounds medical advice. Ergo, I think that if a woman wants to undergo any procedure related to her own fertility (IVF, abortion, tubal litigation, etc.) then the only moral paradigm that she should have to consider in the process should be her own. It's no one's business why she should choose to do any of these things - and unless you're her doctor, you have no right to ask or give your opinion on the matter. Obviously, those in the pro-life movement disagree - they would probably tell me that those embryos are unborn children who have a right to live.

But I've noticed something recently that I find very strange. For all the time and resources that the anti-abortion people have dedicated to putting as many restrictions on abortion into the healthcare bill as possible, they've kept strangely quiet about another medical procedure - in vitro fertilization, or IVF. I haven't seen it mentioned at all, even though it seems logical to me that someone who opposes abortion on the grounds that embryos are people would be equally if not more opposed to IVF. Anyone who consider embryos to be people and abortion to be murder should logically consider IVF to be something like a massacre.

Iowa residents, take note.

State representative Dawn Pettengill (R, Mount Auburn), is proposing a law that would require Iowa state reps to say "so help me God" when being sworn into office (link goes to Friendly Atheist.)

The justifications that are giving for this proposal are truly cringe-inducing ("not allowing state-sponsored prayer is against my religion!") The whole thing is obviously unconstitutional and even if it does go through somehow, it would probably be struck down very easily. Nevertheless, if you live in Iowa and have the slightest regard for freedom of (and from) religion, then you should still contact your state rep about this. Let them know that there are people in Iowa who will not take this kind of nonsense sitting down.