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Mar 24 2014

It’s Protective Custody, That’s What It Is.

Once again, recent events call out an older verse. I fucking hate it when that happens.

[...S]ome civil libertarians and women’s rights advocates worry that if Gibbs is convicted, the precedent could inspire more prosecutions of Mississippi women and girls for everything from miscarriage to abortion — and that African Americans, who suffer twice as many stillbirths as whites, would be affected the most.

Mississippi has one of has one of the worst records for maternal and infant health in the U.S., as well as some of the highest rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease and among the most restrictive policies on abortion. Many of the factors that have been linked to prenatal and infant mortality — poverty, poor nutrition, lack of access to healthcare, pollution, smoking, stress — are rampant there.

“It’s tremendously, tremendously frightening, this case,” said Oleta Fitzgerald, southern regional director for the Children’s Defense Fund, an advocacy and research organization, in Jackson. “There’s real fear for young women whose babies are dying early who [lack the resources to] defend themselves and their actions.”

Jennifer, Jennifer, got herself pregnant,
The poor, irresponsible slut.
See, boys will be boys, so it’s up to the girls
To be moral, and keep their legs shut.
But Jennifer, Jennifer, couldn’t be bothered;
She led her young Billy astray.
They met, after classes, at Jennifer’s house,
And now there’s a kid on the way.

Jennifer, Jennifer, wants an abortion—
She says she’s too young for a baby—
But the law of the land says abortion is murder;
The answer is no, and not maybe.
See, murder is murder; we cannot condone
The destruction of innocent life.
And Billy, of course, is an innocent, too,
And he’s much, much too young for a wife.

So Jennifer, Jennifer, finds herself caught
In the view of a watchful Big Brother,
And Country and Church have a task on their hands—
How to keep the babe safe from its mother.
If murder is murder, for fetus or child,
Then surely assault is assault;
A fetus is damaged by drinking or smoking,
And all of it, Jennifer’s fault.

If Jennifer, Jennifer, falls down the stairs
Then the baby inside could be harmed;
And since that poor child is a ward of the state
It is right we should all be alarmed!
So Jennifer, Jennifer, needs to be safe
For the sake of the babe in her womb;
To keep the poor innocent safe from all harm,
Let’s keep Jennifer locked in her room.

But Jennifer, Jennifer, isn’t the first
Nor the last to be pregnant, you see.
The task that’s before us—protecting our children—
Is crucial, I think you’ll agree.
With the passing to law of my modest proposal,
I honestly think we’ll prevail.
It’s simple: Each woman who finds herself pregnant
Must spend the next nine months in jail.

Jennifer, Jennifer, shielded from harm
In a cell with a toilet and cot
With a closed-circuit camera, an unblinking eye,
For the safety of Jennifer’s tot.
When at last you deliver your new baby boy
We’ll whisk you right out through the door;
We care about kids while they’re inside your womb—
Once they’re out, we don’t care any more.

And Jennifer, Jennifer, can’t find her Billy—
Besides, he’s too young for a wife—
She weighs her alternatives, looks down each road…
And reluctantly takes her own life.

And the church says a prayer for the baby unborn
And a heartfelt and tearful farewell.
But Jennifer, Jennifer, so says the church,
Will be heading directly to hell.

There is, unfathomably, a lot of talk recently about what should have been settled long ago. What *was* settled long ago. And when even Jimmy Carter points to religion as a root cause of violence against women, there is no question which side atheists should be on.

Mar 23 2014

On Realizing That Corporations Are People Too… And That You’ve Fallen In Love With One.

My darling corporate entity
I’ve loved you from the start
One hundred ten percentity,
With more than just my heart
I told you what I meantity
In poetry and prose
You showed your discontentity
And that’s the way it goes.

My sweetheart business enterprise
I tried to win you back
I told you my intenterprise—
You told me what I lack
My capital I’d spenterprise
But you would not invest
My future’s in descenterprise—
My value is depressed.

My love, my all, my syndicate—
Forever and beyond!
I note, to my chagrindicate,
My word’s my only bond
I’d fight through thick and thindicate
To have you as my bride
I know I cannot windicate;
You know, at least, I tried

My darling corporate entity
I’ve loved you from the start
One hundred ten percentity,
With more than just my heart
I told you what I meantity
In poetry and prose
You showed your discontentity
And that’s the way it goes.

Yeah… put “loving you back” as another difference between the kind of people known as “corporations” and the kind of people known as “people”. “Going to jail” is another thing corporations can’t do. We’ll find out pretty soon whether “discrimination” is yet another.

Mar 22 2014

Denser Than The Pre-Expansion Universe

Expansion of the cosmos
At a faster pace than light
Renders Genesis a fairy tale,
It seems—alas, not quite.

The mental calisthenics
That it takes to make them fit
Will keep believers straining, when
An honest mind would quit

“A believer and a scientist”,
Is how she chose to live—
But disconfirming evidence
Meant something had to give

Azusa University
Is Christian to the core:
“The big bang proves the bible right!”—
Discrepancy no more!

It isn’t doing science
When, no matter what you find
The conclusion never alters:
See? The cosmos is designed!

All creations need creators
Why, it’s only common sense!
Seems the pre-expansion ‘verse
Is not the only thing that’s dense.

On the CNN Belief Blog, a Dr.Leslie Wickman, director of the Center for Research in Science at Azusa Pacific University, asks “Does the Big Bang breakthrough offer proof of God?

The prevalent theory of cosmic origins prior to the Big Bang theory was the “Steady State,” which argued that the universe has always existed, without a beginning that necessitated a cause.

However, this new evidence strongly suggests that there was a beginning to our universe.

If the universe did indeed have a beginning, by the simple logic of cause and effect, there had to be an agent – separate and apart from the effect – that caused it.

That sounds a lot like Genesis 1:1 to me: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth.”

And she’s a scientist! So you know this can’t just be her faith talking.

As a modern believer and a scientist, when I look up at the sky on a clear starry night, I am reminded that “the heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1). I am in awe of the complexity of the physical world, and how all of its pieces fit together so perfectly and synergistically.

In the Old Testament book of Jeremiah, the writer tells us that God “established (his) covenant with day and night, and with the fixed laws of heaven and earth.”

These physical laws established by God to govern interactions between matter and energy result in a finely tuned universe that provides the ideal conditions for life on our planet.

Just ask the dinosaurs, who ruled for longer than we have been around, or the beetles or bacteria, either of whom dwarf us both by numbers and by mass. Or perhaps for humanity, who can’t live below the sea or above a certain altitude, but who, given the right sort of environment, will multiply ourselves into a famine situation, and who are doing our best to destroy these ideal conditions.

As we observe the complexity of the cosmos, from subatomic particles to dark matter and dark energy, we quickly conclude that there must be a more satisfying explanation than random chance. Properly practiced, science can be an act of worship in looking at God’s revelation of himself in nature.

Properly practiced, of course. And the worth of an explanation is often reflected in how “satisfying” it is.

One wonders how it is that a self-described practicing scientist can look at the same evidence that, for some, banishes God from His last hiding place, and call it evidence for His existence. Oh, that’s right–one doesn’t wonder at all: it’s her job. She’s the director of the Center for Research in Science at a place that already knows what all the really big answers are. After all, you can find these answers in the bible.

Mar 21 2014

Someone Is… On The Internet

An article on politics—
No if, no ands, no buts—
Will bring out Libertarians
Who’ll demonstrate they’re nuts
But also arch-conservatives
And liberals by the score
Who’ll engage in verbal fisticuffs
And all return for more.

An essay on religion—
Any angle you might choose—
An opinionated blog post
Or the fair and balanced news
Will find arguments aplenty
By extremists on both sides
(Oh, and everyone’s extremist)
As predictable as tides

A feminist perspective—
On whatever thing you want—
Will, like maggots on a rotting corpse,
Erupt in shouts of “cunt!”
Any argument transmogrified,
Distorted, shouted down;
The important thing is showing
Who’s the big dog in this town

A report about the climate,
Evolution, or vaccines,
Gun control, or education,
GM foods, or gay Marines—
In the comments, it’s a certainty,
As daytime follows night,
That opposing sides will gather there
And then begin to fight.

A picture of a kitten—
Or a puppy, or some ducks—
The comments start with “ooh!” and “squee!”
And then—“Obama sucks!”
Or a photo of a fetus
Or “nice pussy!” or some threat…
It’s depressing; it’s disturbing;
It’s annoying… it’s the ‘net.

I was going to link the article that inspired this particular verse, but it frankly doesn’t deserve singling out. And I don’t mean that in a positive way–it does deserve being seen as shameful… but so do countless others that could just as easily have inspired today’s verse… and, to some extent, did, I guess. I am sure you’ve had the experience (unless you have taken the very good advice of NEVER READ THE COMMENTS!!!!) of reading some innocuous piece of reporting, or some blog post (whether a report on breaking news, new science, or what the writer did last night or found in their shoes this morning), and there in the comments, a non-sequitor (or at best, tangential) comment linking the writing to the commenter’s particular grudge–Obama, usually, or atheists or christians or muslims or libertarians or gays or blacks or trans or women or mentally ill or republican or democrat or jews or nazis or activists of all sorts… it will depend on who are the naturally occurring flora and fauna at that particular site. If your experience is with completely different accusations, all that means is that you read different sites than I do.

It almost doesn’t matter what the original writing was about; the real action is in the comments. People who say this is a post-racial society… don’t read the comments. People who say this is a post-feminist society… don’t read the comments. People who say the real victims today are conservative white Christian males… don’t read the comments. Reading the comments is like turning on the lights in a filthy room–you see things you really wish you had not.

I think I’ll go shower now.

I suppose this is related.

Mar 20 2014

“An Abortion, But Not A Tan”

“A young women if this bill passes can get an abortion, but not a tan, an abortion would be legal but a tan would not, think of it.” Rep. Steve Vaillancourt (R-Manchester)

She’s much too young for cigarettes,
And way too young for booze
Too young by far for voting;
There’s no telling who she’d choose!
She’s still too young for driving—
She could wipe out in a skid
But she’s old enough, or so they say,
To bear and raise a kid.

Too young for getting married
And too young to get tattoos
Too young to buy a handgun
Or to gamble (win or lose)
Too young to do a lot of things,
No ifs, no buts, no maybes…
But magically, she’s old enough
To be put in charge of babies!

I thought about it, Steve. There are, as you can see, quite a few things the state has decided are in its best interest, and the best interest of its citizens, to regulate. We don’t allow 14-yr-olds to vote, with or without their parents’ permission–that is the state’s choice. We don’t allow the parents to decide that their 12-year-old is responsible enough to drive. Mind you, parents can be idiots sometimes, so it is quite often the case that they will be the source of the kid’s cigarettes or beer well before it is legal; in such cases, we hold the parents liable for contributing to the delinquency of a minor!

Yup, kids make stupid decisions at times. They do things before they are mature enough to make good decisions (and of course, many adults simply make bad decisions, but the state has decided they can be responsible for themselves at a certain point). Forcing a teenaged girl to go through with a pregnancy is actually a fairly horrible thing to do; she is not mature enough, physically or emotionally, for childbirth, let alone for parenthood. One could make a strong case that it is in the state’s (and certainly the girls’) best interest to mandate abortion in cases of young teen pregnancy… but of course, such a law would never pass. Allowing choice, though, is not at all an extreme position–rather, it is a middle ground between mandating birth and mandating termination. And it is the only one that recognizes the bodily autonomy of the girl herself.

So, yeah, Steve, if the Tanning Safety bill had passed, a girl could have an abortion legally before she could go to a tanning bed legally (given the presence of the sun, the bill would not prohibit her from actually getting a tan); and this position is perfectly consistent with being concerned for the best interest of the girl. Your pro-skin-cancer, pro-forced-birth position is also consistent, if being cruel to girls is your aim.

(Of course, “A Good Cartoon” had this covered a while back.)

Mar 19 2014

“The Squid’s Embrace…”

Down in the depths
Of the salty Atlantic
A seaglider measured the signs of the sea–
Monotonous work,
And it isn’t romantic,
At least, I’d be bored if the glider were me

Up to the surface
And down to the bottom
Again and again, that was all that it did
No chance for a hickey,
Yet, somehow, it’s got ‘em!
A gift from the hug of an amorous squid

Of all of the stories
That science discovers
The saddest of tales that I’ve ever heard (yet!)
Is the tragic ordeal
Of the two star-crossed lovers
The Romeo Squid and his fair Juliet.

Over at Deep Sea News, evidence of the tragic end to a classic Romeo & Juliet story (with very very cool pics!). They came from different backgrounds: she was a scientific instrument measuring the temperature and salinity of the ocean depths, and he was a squid. But their love was as true as it was brief–they shared an embrace, he shed tears (which she collected and measured), and they parted forever. Still more moving than that silly scene in Titanic.

How do I know it was love, rather than a battle (as DSN suggest is a possibility) or ecoterrorism (as PZ’s post might suggest to a conspiracy theorist)? Simple–how else would you explain this? (that link is “The Anachronism”, a beautiful short film that is well worth your watching, but you should know it is 15 minutes long. When you have that amount of time available, watch–you will be very glad you did!)

Extra points for anyone who knows the context of the title without looking it up!

Mar 16 2014

That’s not a Tree of Life–THIS is a tree of life.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, on Cosmos, brings up the “Tree of Life” metaphor. I like mine better.
Tree

Artist: Mike McRae

Mar 15 2014

Meat

Just finished an absolutely wonderful book (about which, more later); in the notes was a mention of Terry Bisson’s wonderful short story “They’re Made out of Meat”. Studio 360 aired a version a while ago–give a listen:

Bisson’s site has the transcript (or rather, the original story), for those who want. I love it.

Mar 13 2014

On Bodily Autonomy

There are accidents and incidents
And surgeries and wars—
There’s a constant need for blood, and so,
We’d like to borrow yours.

You can spare a pint or so a month—
We’ll take it from your arm—
And to make the process easier,
I’m setting up a farm:

We’ll keep you while you serve your term,
Three-quarters of a year,
And harvest blood and marrow—
For the greater good, it’s clear

You’ll be saving lives by dozens
So you’ll gladly do your part
Sure, we’re forcing your donation
Still, it’s coming from your heart

You’re in servitude to others
It’s a slavery of sorts
But you’re saving lives, and so we know
You’re good and willing sports

You can put your wishes second
You can put your life on hold
You can meet your obligations
You can do what you are told

You claim rights we cannot trample
Or shout “Freedom!” till you’re hoarse
You have life inside your bloodstream…
If we have to, we’ll use force

To complain’s unpatriotic—
But extremists raise their voice
And they’ll blather “it’s my body”
And the foolish “it’s my choice”

If the state controls your body
Then that argument’s a dud;
For the sake of someone else, then,
We’ll be harvesting your blood.

***

I doubt I need to put this in context.

Mar 13 2014

Intrinsically Worthless

From a comment at an article “The Empty, Boring Atheism of Richard Dawkins” (from the Catholic World Report, naturally): “What is an “appetite for wonder” in an intrinsically meaningless universe but simply an appetite for diversion and entertainment?”

I love my spouse and children—
Well, I say I call it “love”,
But it doesn’t hold a candle
To what comes from God above.

I marvel at a symphony—
In this case, number seven—
But, of course, it sounds like screeching chalk
Compared to harps in heaven

A mountain, or an ocean,
Or a sunset or a birth—
But I know there is no meaning
In the things I see on earth

Intrinsically, we have no worth,
We really must admit.
Intrinsically, without a God,
Intrinsically, we’re shit.

The universe is meaningless
And all our lives, as well
Though I’ve never been to heaven
Clearly, life on earth is hell

I pretend to love my children
I pretend to love my wife
But I know that, once in heaven,
I’ll forget about my life

Cos it’s God that gives life meaning,
Not our family, not our friends—
Not our passions, not our pleasures,
All erased when this life ends

Life on earth is mere diversion—
Entertainment till we die—
Others strive to make life better;
I, myself, must wonder: why?

What’s the use of helping others?
What’s the use of pitching in?
When it’s God, not man, deciding
What is good, and what is sin

I can’t know what’s good or righteous;
I can’t know what’s bad or wrong
I can’t know that what I thought was right,
God hated all along!

I can’t trust my own perceptions
I can’t fathom what is true
All I know without a doubt is
I know better than do you.

You, who love your spouse and children,
Music, mountains, seas, and more
You, who love without a God to tell you
What your love is for

What a pity you’re so hollow
What a shame you have no God
What a horror that your world
Is just this “natural” façade

All your life amounts to nothing!
Can’t you get it through your head?
Can’t you see? The only meaning
We can have is once we’re dead!

But of course… I got it wrong (so did several others on the comment thread-and in truth, I wrote it after only his first comment, so I didn’t know). The commenter, identified as a moderator, on Catholic World Report, does not actually believe in a god. Go figure. His big deal is not the absence of a god, but rather the absence of intrinsic meaning. In an intrinsically meaningless universe, what we are left with is mere diversion, mere entertainment, nothing worthwhile.

And he is dead wrong.

I will, of course, grant the “no intrinsic meaning” bit, but there is no magic in the word “intrinsic” that makes meaning any more… meaningful. Money has no intrinsic value–it is paper and metal, or bits of information. The intrinsic value of a $100 bill and a $1 bill are the same. And when we ran on the gold standard, nothing was different–it was social agreement that made gold the standard rather than quartz, or chickens (I now have the image of a one-chicken bill, and making change for a goat bill).

And yes, what is meaningful in life–doing good, fighting for causes, creating art or music, advancing science–all are meaningful solely because we say so. Because that’s what meaning is. Specifying “intrinsically” before “meaningful” is a bit like specifying “invisible” before “pink”. We understand the words from other contexts, but they don’t belong together in this one. Noting that life (or anything) has no intrinsic meaning or worth is trivial, and suggesting that because life is somehow diminished–even worthless–because it does not have this characteristic which it never had to begin with. These fictional modifiers–”intrinsic” is one, “ultimate” is another–serve only to introduce an impossibility, our lack of which is somehow damning.

Just remember, that argument has no intrinsic worth.

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