Friday, October 14, 2005

Boss's Day? BOSS'S DAY?!?!

Patricia Bays Horoski, you have earned my enmity.

Apparently, October 16th is "National Boss's Day."

Many years ago I asked my parents why there was a Mother's Day and a Father's Day, but no "Children's Day." Their answer?

"Every day is children's day."

Call me bitter, cynical, or Jeffrey, but every day is "Boss's Day". We live in a country that awards golden-parachutes and multi-million dollar bonuses to executives in charge of failing companies, and slashes employee pay and benefits to pay for them. We need a national "Boss's Day" like we need another hurricane.

I've been living under a slimy moss-encrusted rock (i.e.: law school) for the past three years, so I'm using that as my excuse for having no idea that this "holiday" existed.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Making the Gays

Couldn't help noticing this headline as I got my morning coffee today.

From the venerable, reliable, never-over-the-top NY Post:

October 12, 2005 -- A debonair New York socialite filed a $5 million legal notice against the Catholic Church yesterday — claiming his molestation at age 7 at the hands of a young priest led him to become gay.


Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Take Up The White Man's Burden

Columbus has become somewhat of a polarizing figure for a lot of people in recent decades. Weighing in on the "Columbus: Cruel conqueror or Noble discoverer" debate is Edward Hudgins, who provides what is in essence a "White Man's Burden" argument in defense of Columbus and the european settlers who came to America in his wake.

From the Washington Times:

Many critics argue Christopher Columbus gave us a devil's bargain. In October 1492 that Italian explorer, working for Spain, opened America to his fellow Europeans. The result: We got a prosperous New World by impoverishing, enslaving and murdering the natives who were already here.
But this fails to distinguish between two types of exploitation, one over other humans and the other over nature. The former should be expunged from our moral codes and civilized society, the latter is the essence of morality and civilization.

It's interesting that the exploitation of nature is the "essence of morality and civilization." That's a very assertive, very pat statement, and Hudgins seems to feel that it needs no defense. It's also interesting because the critical opinion that Hudgins sets up in his first paragraph does not mention natural exploitation at all. The criticism is, in Hudgins' own words, the impoverishment, enslavement and murder of native people in service of our colonizing this country.

But according to Hudgins, we actually did those injuns a favor.

Let's put aside the wars between tribes, the outright brutality and the like, and just look at the daily lives of the Indians before Columbus. Life was lived simply, in primitive cycles. Natives inhabited crude hovels and hunted or used subsistence farming to sustain themselves. Yes, they could enjoy family and friends, tell tales of bringing down buffalo, and imagine that the stars in the sky painted pictures of giant bears and other creatures. The ancestors of Europeans did the same.

But true human life, either for an individual or society, is not an endless, stagnant cycle. Rather, it is a growth in knowledge, in power over the environment, and in individual liberty.

Let's ignore, for a moment (but just a moment) the blistering condescension ladled generously over those words, and discuss the truth behind them.

Hudgins writes: "Natives inhabited crude hovels."
Reality: Early pueblo holdings in the American Southwest often included individual structures and community buildings. Before the arrival of Spanish immigrants, native people of the area had constructed villages, sometimes including large apartment block buildings and some of which remain in use centuries later. LINK
And here's a mock-up of what an Iroquoian longhouse community looked like. Hovel-esque, no? No?

Hudgins writes: "Natives... hunted or used subsistence farming to sustain themselves."
Reality: While Native Americans did hunt for buffalo, they also created irrigation systems, crop-farmed for fruits, vegetables and tobbacco, and constructed storehouses to maintain the freshness of their foods - including grains, meats - over the winter months. LINK

So, the man is wrong. But (and here's where the condescension thing comes in) the worst part is how smugly wrong he is. The American Indians were not "Stagnant" in their culture, nor lacking power over their environment or over their individual liberty. Their societies chose to integrate their needs with nature, in a respectful and religious symbiosis that seems "stagnant" or powerless to Hudgins because he is evidently of the belief that it is our moral imperative to take what we wish from the earth.
His presumption that, because they were not as mechanically advanced as their European counterparts, the Indians were also not as culturally, socially, or philosophically advanced is shockingly wrong-headed. But enough of me...More of the Hudgster!
Perhaps many pre-Columbian natives were content with their lot in a simple, animal-like existence.
Ouch. Yes, perhaps, with their stone-paved roads, advanced mathematics, and still-mysterious building methods, those pre-Columbian natives were content.
But what of young Indian children who wondered why family members sickened and died and if there were ways unknown to the shamans to relieve their pain or cure them;
Perhaps if they had asked the men who brought those pox-infected blankets as "gifts," they would have known the name of the disease used to kill them.
if there were ways to build shelters that would resist bitter winters, stifling summers and the storms that raged in both seasons;
Such as the aforementioned Pueblos? Perhaps the longhouses? Maybe a Wickiup? Or, if need be, A Tipi?
whether there were ways to guarantee food would always be abundant and starvation no longer a drought away;
Native Americans Taught settlers irrigation, farming techniques
and whether they could ever actually fly like birds and observe mountains from the height of eagles? Where were the opportunities for these natives?
This last statement is almost jaw-droppingly bold on Hudgins' part. Where were their opportunities? Well, they certainly were given a number of "opportunities" by Columbus. Namely, death or slavery. Other than the opportunity to give up their deeply-held religious beliefs, their hunting grounds, and their homes to a bunch of white guys with guns, I'm sort of at a loss for what opportunities us Europeans brought over for them.
The clash between the cultures of pre-Columbian natives and European immigrants certainly produced injustices for natives. But it would have been unjust for those natives to expect the immigrants to hold themselves to the level of primitive cultures and beliefs. The true long-term tragedy is that so many descendants of the pre-Columbian peoples in North America ended up on reservations rather than integrated into a society that offers opportunities for each individual to excel.
Its amazing...with each new statement Hudgins makes, I find myself getting angrier. It would have been unjust of THEM to expect us to respect their "primitive cultures and beliefs." That statement is so horribly wrong that it stuns the mind, just a bit. It takes might brass hubristic balls to call a culture primitive when you've displayed a remarkable lack of knowledge about that culture. And it makes you look like an ignorant, racist buffoon to assert the superiority of your ancestors culture as a legitimate excuse for the "clash between the cultures."
What Hudgins is implying here, at the end, is that its the fault of the Native Americans, for not getting with the program and joining "civilized" society. That line of thinking is vomitous, and is not only unworthy of discussion, but of mention.
Columbus opened a whole new land for those who would tame nature and build a new, free and prosperous nation. We should celebrate the opportunity for America that he gave us -- not apologize for it.
I feel no need to defend, or apologize for, Columbus' behavior. He's been dead for hundreds of years, and he doesn't need the publicity. But I am surprisingly offended by this editorial. Its the sort of thing that boorish people say at dinner parties when they've been tippling a bit too much. Asserting that there is no need to apologize for the actions of Columbus or the American settler by writing off a deeply vibrant, complex and decidedly non-stagnant culture as "primitive" is the sort of thing that race purists and effete, spoiled trust fund babies do.

(courtesy of alicublog)

Monday, October 10, 2005

Magical Thinking

Courtesy of Daily Kos' AHiddenSaint:

From the October 5 broadcast of Focus on the Family:

DOBSON: Well, we only have about a minute or so left for this segment, but the other reason, I think, the left has reacted so viciously to you is that their own abortion movement is rooted in racism.

BENNETT: That's right.

DOBSON: You know, Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, was a profound racist, and she saw abortion in the inner city as a way of limiting the birth rate. So, the people who support Planned Parenthood and come from that philosophy are now attacking you for saying something that was completely a non sequitur.

BENNETT: Yes, and I know this history, and I have reviewed it and read it, and this is the sort of thing, I think, that was probably in their minds on a conscious or subconscious level, that had something to do with the viciousness of the attack. In using this noxious hypothetical, I hit too close to what they believe, not what I believe.

If anyone understands this line of reasoning, I'd appreciate an explanation.

Dobson's comments on the "profound racist," Margaret Sanger, did intrigue me. I googled "Margaret Sanger racist" and what I found was that Sanger was an advocate for the early twentieth-century Eugenics movement.

Eugenics is a social philosophy which advocates the improvement of human hereditary traits through social intervention.
One of Eugenics' most prominent advocates was W.E.B. DuBois, the father of Pan-Africanism, a founder of the NAACP, and perhaps surprisingly to James Dobson, quite black.

DuBois sat on the advisory council for Sanger's "Negro Project," a contraception-awareness program that was endorsed by Eleanor Roosevelt, a "profound" non-racist.

A quick stop-over at the Planned Parenthood website adds these historical nuggets to the discussion:

Sanger always believed that reproductive decisions should be made on an individual and not a social or cultural basis, and she consistently repudiated any racial application of eugenics principles. For example, Sanger vocally opposed the racial stereotyping that effected passage of the Immigration Act of 1924, on the grounds that intelligence and other inherited traits vary by individual and not by group.

What Sanger advocated was the selective breeding of the human race for its total "betterment," and her motivations appear to be unmotivated by race. Whether or not you agree with her eugenics philosophy is, I think, another question entirely.

Most interesting, I think, is how sites like Black Genocide, Acts1711 and Womensenews read Sanger's comments as being racist. Julianne Malveaux, a black woman writing for Women's e news, quotes Sanger:

"The undeniably feebleminded should, indeed, not only be discouraged but prevented from propagating their kind, " [Sanger] wrote. It is easy to see why there is some antipathy toward Sanger among people of color, considering that, given our nation's history, we are the people most frequently described as "unfit" and "feebleminded."

That's a leap of logic that requires no racism from Sanger, whatsoever. Malveaux needs to decide that Sanger meant "unfit" and "feebleminded" as a code for "black people" in order to ascribe any racism to Sanger's statements. All of Sanger's critics make that leap, substituting "black people" for Sanger's "unfit." This requires more than a little "racism" to accomplish.

Perhaps what Dobson and the rest of the anti-Sanger brigade truly object to is this:

"Eugenists imply or insist that a woman's first duty is to the state; we contend that her duty to herself is her first duty to the state. We maintain that a woman possessing an adequate knowledge of her reproductive functions is the best judge of the time and conditions under which her child should be brought into the world. We further maintain that it is her right, regardless of all other considerations, to determine whether she shall bear children or not, and how many children she shall bear if she chooses to become a mother." - Margaret Sanger

So, to sum up: Eugenics seems questionable to me from a moral standpoint, but the concept as espoused by Sanger and DuBois seems without negative racial implication. Dobson once again talks out of his ass, and I have too much time on my hands.

Power Line Failure

From Power Line:

Miers' lack of experience as a judge is one of the main shortcomings alleged by many of her critics. Actually, though, the Constitution doesn't require Supreme Court justices to be lawyers, let alone judges. I've always thought it might be salutary to have a non-lawyer or two on the Court. God knows we have plenty of businessmen, scientists, historians, housewives and others who are perfectly competent to read and understand the Constitution or a federal statute. And I think it would be fun to have such a person say, just once, as the Justices are deliberating: "Where does it say that?"

What we have here is, I believe, a fine example of how "conservative" thought can sometimes baffle me. While the concept of an "everyperson" sitting on our highest court is attractive in the abstract, it is fraught with problems in practice. It's a pretty fiction to think that we have housewives capable of correctly and sensitively interpreting the constitution, but anyone with a year of constitutional law under their belt knows that's just what it is; pretty, but a fiction, nonetheless.

The interpretation of Constitutional law requires an intellect not just powerful, but nimble. It requires abilities that are not, I would argue, innate. Sure, its possible to be smart enough to "get" constitutional law, and to interpret it on some level; given the right schooling, reading, and exposure. But that shouldn't be enough to land you on the Supreme Court.

Go Bearcats?


The bill was dropped by its legislative sponsor.

A controversial proposed bill to prohibit gays, lesbians and single people from using medical procedures to produce a child has been dropped by its legislative sponsor. State Sen. Patricia Miller, R-Indianapolis, issued a one-sentence statement Wednesday saying: "The issue has become more complex than anticipated and will be withdrawn from consideration by the Health Finance Commission."
So...apparently my conjecturings weren't totally off-base. Rock on Indiana gay people. Keep on inseminating at your discretion like us straight folk.


Republican lawmakers are drafting new legislation that will make marriage a requirement for motherhood in the state of Indiana, including specific criminal penalties for unmarried women who do become pregnant "by means other than sexual intercourse."

According to a draft of the recommended change in state law, every woman in Indiana seeking to become a mother through assisted reproduction therapy such as in vitro fertilization, sperm donation, and egg donation, must first file for a "petition for parentage" in their local county probate court.

Sen. Miller believes the requirement of marriage for parenting is for the benefit of the children that result from infertility treatments.

"We did want to address the issue of whether or not the law should allow single people to be parents. Studies have shown that a child raised by both parents - a mother and a father - do better. So, we do want to have laws that protect the children," she explained.

When asked specifically if she believes marriage should be a requirement for motherhood, and if that is part of the bill's intention, Sen. Miller responded, "Yes. Yes, I do."

The draft can be found HERE.

You want this to be some sort of hoax, don't you? I know I do.
This is a scary, scary story. Appropriate, I suppose, for October.
It's worth noting that this legislation affects assisted reproduction, not natural reproduction. Apparently, it's alright to get knocked-up on a Saturday night with Billy from the bottling plant, but not okay to spend thousands of dollars on artificial insemination.

Why is it, you ask me, that the Indiana government is seeking to screen single people for parental fitness before "allowing" them to have a child? Could it be, I respond, because artificial insemination and the use of gestational birth mothers is an effective, safe, and controllable way in which gay couples can "have" children?

Because, really, what other reasons are there for the construction of these amendments? Aritificial insemination and "assisted reproduction" in general are expensive, time-consuming, and generally unavailable to people who would, perhaps, not be prepared to monetarily care for a child.

Let's take a glance at what the government of Indiana will be evaluating when taking it upon itself to decide who will make a "good parent":

Sec. 12 (b) The assessment must follow the normal practice for assessments in a
domestic infant adoption procedure and must include the following information:
(6) Personal information about each intended parent, including the
(A) Family of origin.
(B) Values.
(C) Relationships.
(D) Education.
(E) Employment and income.
(F) Hobbies and talents.
(G) Physical description, including the general health of the
(H) Birth verification.
(I) Personality description, including the strengths and
weaknesses of each intended parent.

Notice that "values" and "the strengths and weaknesses of each individual parent" will be assessed. What does that mean, exactly? Who evaluates? And on what possible standard can such an evaluation rest?

Catholic Church to Faithful: Just Kidding!

From the Times UK:

THE hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church has published a teaching document instructing the faithful that some parts of the Bible are not actually true.

Some Christians want a literal interpretation of the story of creation, as told in Genesis, taught alongside Darwin’s theory of evolution in schools, believing “intelligent design” to be an equally plausible theory of how the world began.

But the first 11 chapters of Genesis, in which two different and at times conflicting stories of creation are told, are among those that this country’s Catholic bishops insist cannot be “historical”. At most, they say, they may contain “historical traces”.

As a professed Christian, I'm often perplexed and daunted (so very daunted) by the Bible. Have you ever read it? Some portions appear wildly stylized, others frustratingly mundane ("Benjamin begat Sarah, who in turn begat Clifford, who, in turn, begat Chuck who, in turn, begat a bunch of other people"). It's pretty tough to interpret, because certain portions appear quite literal, while others have been widely interpreted as allegory (see: Revelations, which according to respected Biblical scholars, is actually a symbol-laden tale of an actual battle).

So, its already pretty apparent that the Bible ain't all "true." Though, as Neil Gaiman would say, something doesn't need to have actually happened to make that something "true." That's a wise view, and one I happen to ascribe to, but it's neither here nor there. The fact is, the Catholic Church has officially stated that not everything in the Bible is true.

Which raises certain questions for me about religion, and about Catholicism in general. If certain, identifiable portions of the Bible didn't actually occur, or occured differently than was recorded, then how can we as believers be assured that any other portion of the Bible - save for the bits we can asertain historically - happened?
If God didn't create the earth in six days, then did Moses really come down from the mountain with a list of ten commandments? And if he did, were those commandments actually given to him by God? Or was Moses simply asserting law that he believed was best to maintain social control?
If we admit that the Bible contains less-than-factually-accurate passages, then how does any one Church thereafter have the authority to tell its parishioners how to behave? If the Good Book is interpretable, then who is to say they are interpreting it correctly? Why are Gays immoral in the eyes of God? Because God smote Sodom and Gommorah, where gayness was a'rampant. But if God never smote them at all? If his hand wasn't literally behind said-smoting?
Does that then render the argument of immorality baseless?

And does it also render impotent the threat that, without devoting your life to Christianity/Jesus, you are doomed to suffer eternal damnation? If we can't know whether Jesus and his followers were actually told this by God; if we instead are forced to consider other motivations behind such threats (motivations which include conversion, building a community of believers, and raising funds), does that weaken the argument that without Christ, we are not saved?

These are not, of course, new questions. People have been asking them since the first religion was founded. Still, they're interesting, important questions. I'm feeling a might bit philosphical-like this eve, I suppose.