Election Snippet: McCain on the Environment and Global Warming

Today’s election snippet:

John McCain on the environment.

McCain often talks a good talk about environmental issues. He’s no dummy, and he knows issues like global warming are important to voters. But according to this article in Salon.com:

All you have to do is look at his voting record. It reveals that McCain has long been one of the strongest opponents of clean energy in Congress, with a record matching that of James Inhofe, the most hardcore global-warming denier in the Senate, who comes from the heart of the oil patch in Oklahoma.

Read the whole article. It really is quite astonishing. For someone who so publicly prides himself on being a “straight talker” and a “maverick,” he sure does talk out of both sides of his mouth… and his voting record sure does line up with the hard-core conservative Republican Party.

Which is bad enough when it comes to things like abortion and gay rights.

But here’s the thing about global warming. If global warming doesn’t get handled, no other political issue will matter. If global warming doesn’t get handled — game over. The human race will be dead or in chaos, and issues like abortion and gay rights, health care and immigration, religious freedom and national defense, will be about as irrelevant as you can get.

And as much as we don’t need political leaders who deny global warming and pretend it isn’t important, we even more don’t need political leaders who deny that they deny it. We don’t need leaders who lead us to believe that they take global warming seriously and are planning to take real action… when, in reality, they’re voting with stinking rich oil companies to make them stinking richer, and blowing smoke up our asses.

Against Simultaneity: The Blowfish Blog

Please note: The piece that this post links to includes references to my personal sex life. Family members and others who don’t want to read about that stuff may want to skip this one.

Simultaneous orgasm
I have a new piece up on the Blowfish Blog. It’s about the ideal of sexual simultaneity, the idea that both partners in sex should get aroused and satisfied on more or less the same timeline… and how this ideal can screw up sex.

It’s titled Against Simultaneity, and here’s the teaser:

My first problem: Women and men tend not to have the same patterns and timetables of arousal and satisfaction. Women generally take longer: to get aroused in the first place, as well as to reach orgasm. We have our compensations, of course, in the form of multiple orgasm — but even that means that we take more time.

So if you’re a hetero couple trying to ride the “arousal and climax” train together, one of two things is likely to happen. The man has to try to rein in his pleasure so he doesn’t arrive before his partner. Or the woman never arrives at all.

Or, in the worst case scenario, both.

And while holding off on climax can certainly increase your own pleasure as well as your partner’s, there’s a point at which it stops being a deliciously prolonged tease that works you up into a frenzy… and starts becoming a chore, a mental exercise that detaches you from your body and your partner and the pleasures of the here and now.

Fuck that noise.

(And yes, for the purposes of this piece, I am assuming heterosexuality… for reasons I explain in the post.)

To find out what my other problems are with the ideal of simultaneity — and what I propose as an alternative — read the rest of the piece. Enjoy!

Election Snippet: Nobel Scientists for Obama

In this video, Marty Chalfie, one of this year’s winners of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, explains why he — along with 61 other Nobel Laureates in science — is supporting Barack Obama.

I’ll be talking more in future Election Snippets about the role of science in this election… and the respect, or lack thereof, that the candidates have shown towards science. But I need to post and run today, so today, it’s just the video.

Video below the fold. Enjoy!

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What Convinced You? A Non-Belief Summary… and an Atheist Game Plan

Noreligion
What convinces non-believers to reject religion and embrace non-belief?

A couple weeks back, I took a survey here in this blog, asking, “If you’re a non-believer in religion, and you used to be a believer — what changed your mind?”

I found the answers fascinating: touching, funny, heartbreaking, thoughtful. (Thanks so much to everyone who contributed!) And I think they provide, not only a window into the process of deconversion… but a game plan for those of us who want to help the process along. Whether you’re actively trying to help deconvert people and increase the amount of atheism in the world — or are simply trying to create a more atheist- friendly world where people who are doubting their faith feel safer becoming atheists if that’s what’s right for them — knowing how and why people deconvert is useful information to have.

I do realize that this isn’t really a statistically useful sampling, btw. It’s too small, and it’s too skewed. (“People who read Greta Christina’s Blog” is not necessarily representative of all non-believers, as much as I would like it to be.) I’d love to see a really good, large study of non-believers and how they got that way. But as a place to start, and in tandem with other atheist blogs who are doing similar polls, it’ll do for now.

FYI, I got 43 deconversion stories in this survey, including my own. But many people listed more than one cause for their non-belief. Hence, the total number of causes is going to add up to a lot more than 43.

Out of 43 deconversion stories, here’s what people gave as the main causes for their loss of belief.

Thinker
Just thinking about it: 30.

Talking to atheists/ skeptics, or reading atheist/ skeptical writing: 24.

Talking to religious leaders and teachers (pastors, priests, etc.) — or reading apologetics — and finding atrocities, inaccuracies, inconsistencies, absurdities, hypocrisies, sloppy thinking, and/or unacceptable moral views: 14. (This includes asking questions of religious leaders and teachers, and not getting satisfactory answers.)

Reading the Bible — or whatever the sacred text is of their religion — and finding atrocities, inaccuracies, inconsistencies, absurdities, hypocrisies, sloppy thinking, and/or unacceptable moral views: 9.

I want to take a moment to break down “just thinking about it” in a little more detail. It’s the biggest category by a fair amount. And the thinking processes that people describe are ideas I see in the atheosphere all the time… which makes me think we need to keep on getting those ideas out into the world.

So here is a quick- and- dirty summary of the “just thinking about it” ideas that made people begin, or end up, leaving their religion. (Again, because many people listed more than one idea, the total will add up to a lot more than 30.)

Bible-against-itself
Historical/ scientific inaccuracy, internal inconsistency, or just plain absurdity, of religious beliefs: 16

Immorality, unfairness, or other troubling aspects of religious beliefs: 14

Dishonest, hypocritical, or other bad behavior by religious believers or leaders: 11

Not seeing good evidence/ arguments for religion, and/or seeing it as improbable: 10

Phantoms in the brain
Science as a better explanation for X (consciousness, life, religious experiences, whatever) than religion: 10

Emotional experience — simply didn’t feel the faith: 5

Seeing religion as a human creation: 4

Seeing bad things happening, not consistent with belief in a good God: 4

Seeing harm done by religion: 4

Diversity of religious beliefs; different faiths with incompatible views: 4

Insufficiency of religion to offer comfort or other things it promises: 3

Realizing that “I only believed because it’s what I was taught”: 2

Rejection of religious authority: 2

And I want to break down the “talking to atheists” one as well… since it’s sort of the Big Question on the table. Because it turns out that there are lots of different ways that encounters with atheists and atheist ideas can help believers leave their belief behind. (Again, some people mentioned more than one cause, so the sum of the parts will add up to more than the whole).

God delusion
Specific atheist arguments or ideas: 16

Exposure to general skepticism, critical thinking, and/or the scientific method: 11

Simply knowing, or being exposed to, atheists or other non- believers; realizing that non-belief was an option: 7

Encountering atheism or other non-belief and realizing, “Yes, that’s me”: 5

Seeing that atheists not only exist, but can be happy people with moral/ meaningful/ non- guilt- ridden lives: 3

Seeing terms such as “atheist” or “agnostic” accurately defined: 3

And there’s something else I noticed: In the stories people told about losing their religion? The “reading/ talking to atheists” part often came at the end of the story. It isn’t what gave them doubt in the first place… but it’s what sealed the deal. (The phrase “final nail in the coffin” came up more than once.)

So here are the lessons I’m taking from this exercise, the lessons I hope other atheists will find useful as well. If we want to help people deconvert — or simply make it a world in which people find it easier and safer to do so — here’s what we need to do:

Coming out day haring
Come out. Often, simply encountering atheists and atheist ideas, or being exposed to skepticism and methods of critical thinking, can be a big factor in deconversion. And knowing about the existence of other atheists — especially other good, happy atheists — can help people feel like they have a safe place to land once they take that step. (The analogy with coming out as gay/ lesbian/ bi/ trans is inevitable…)

Don’t expect your arguments to deconvert anyone overnight. That rarely happens. Don’t think of yourself as dynamite under the foundations; think of yourself as water wearing away the rock.

Don’t expect to deconvert a strong true believer. Meeting atheists, encountering atheist ideas and arguments… these things can have an effect on believers. But they tend to have an effect in the end stage of deconversion — not at the beginning. The initial cracks of doubt tend to come from within: from people considering their beliefs, and having doubts about whether those beliefs are moral, or consistent with reality, or even consistent with themselves. We can help widen those cracks… but it seems like we rarely, if ever, make them happen in the first place.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t engage with strong true believers. The engagement can help strengthen your own arguments and clarify your own thinking. And if the engagement is happening in any sort of public setting — an online discussion thread, say — it may have an effect on other people following the argument… even if they’re not saying anything.

Christopher.Hitchens-The.Portable.Atheist
Arguments can have an effect. This one surprised me. I know how stubbornly resistant to evidence and reason religious belief can be. I know how frustrating it can be to debate with believers who ultimately don’t seem to value reason. But out of 24 non-believers who said that encountering atheists or atheist ideas was part of their deconversion process, 16 said they were at least partly persuaded by specific atheist arguments or ideas. That’s three out of four. And that’s 16 out of the grand total of 43 deconversions — more than one out of three.

Again, we often come in at the tail end of the process instead of at the beginning. But that’s an important part. Don’t dismiss it.

On the other hand, no one argument or idea is going to convince everybody. We’re not going to find a magic bullet, the One Good Argument that convinces everyone to deconvert. Different people find different arguments and ideas compelling. We have to keep presenting all of them.

Expose people, not just to specific arguments against religion, but to methods of skeptical, critical, and scientific thinking. While specific arguments can help people complete the process of deconversion, people need to start the process on their own. However, having critical thinking tools can help that process begin — as well as helping it come to its conclusion.

Encourage people to read the Bible, or whatever the sacred text is of their religion. For lots of people, the loss of their belief began by examining more closely what they supposedly believed, and being either intellectually baffled or morally repulsed. (Julia Sweeney’s performance piece, “Letting Go of God,” is a perfect example of this.) Let’s encourage more people to do it.

Finally, and most importantly:

Happy
Don’t despair.

What we’re doing can work. It is working.

What we’re doing can feel frustrating to the point of futility. Religious belief is often extremely stubborn. It is often extremely resistant to reason and evidence. It is often armored with a wide variety of armors against criticism… and indeed, against the very idea that it can and should be subject to criticism. Trying to persuade people that their religious belief is a mistaken hypothesis about the world — even trying to get people to see their religious belief as a hypothesis at all, one which should be able to stand up on its own against other hypotheses — can feel like shouting into the wind.

ScarletLetter.svg
But what we’re doing can work. Rates of non-belief have been going up dramatically in the U.S., even in just the last few years. And in parts of the world — specifically Europe — non- belief is so common that in some countries it’s more common than belief.

And look again at the replies to the original post. See how many times people said, “Finally I was persuaded by The God Delusion… finally I was persuaded by Daniel Dennett… finally I was persuaded by something someone said on an internet discussion group… finally I was persuaded by something I read on this blog.” What we’re doing can work. It is working.

So let’s keep it up.

Election Snippet: Sarah Palin’s Terrorist Associations

AiplogoNormally in elections, I don’t like playing the “guilt by association” game. If you’ve been in politics for any length of time, chances are you’ve worked with, or accepted money from, people you have some serious disagreements with. That’s sort of how politics and government works.

So unless I’m convinced that Senator Blow’s connection with a troubling political organization or a crazy religious leader is strong enough to suggest that they themselves share those troubling/ crazy views, I’m not going to give them too much shit for it.

But if they, themselves, are playing the “guilt by association” game against their opponent? Playing it to the balcony, loudly and repeatedly, for all that it’s worth?

The way Sarah Palin has been doing with the “Barack Obama once served on a committee with former Weather Underground member William Ayers, therefore Barack Obama advocates terrorism” schtick?

Game on, baby.

Which brings me to this troubling story in Salon.com about Sarah Palin’s husband… and his membership for seven years in the Alaska Independence Party. An organization that advocates Alaska’s secession from the United States — and that has repeatedly advocated violence and armed insurrection against the Federal government.

A key quote from the founder (now deceased) of the AIP, Joe Vogler:

When the [federal] bureaucrats come after me, I suggest they wear red coats. They make better targets. In the federal government are the biggest liars in the United States, and I hate them with a passion. They think they own [Alaska]. There comes a time when people will choose to die with honor rather than live with dishonor. That time may be coming here. Our goal is ultimate independence by peaceful means under a minimal government fully responsive to the people. I hope we don’t have to take human life, but if they go on tramping on our property rights, look out, we’re ready to die.

And in 1993, shortly before his death, Vogler was scheduled to appear before the United Nations to to denounce United States tyranny and to demand Alaska’s freedom… sponsored by Iran.

Oh, just a reminder:

This is Sarah Palin’s husband. Not some guy she served on a committee with once upon a time. Her actual husband belonged to this organization. For seven years. And Sarah Palin herself supported them enough that, this year, as governor, she told them, “Keep up the good work. And God bless you.”

As Salon writer David Talbot writes:

Imagine the uproar if Michelle Obama was revealed to have joined a black nationalist party whose founder preached armed secession from the United States and who enlisted the government of Iran in his cause? The Obama campaign would probably not have survived such an explosive revelation. Particularly if Barack Obama himself was videotaped giving the anti-American secessionists his wholehearted support just months ago.

Imagine indeed.

Spread the word. (And thanks to Jocelyn for the tip!)

Morals, Deprivation, and Prioritizing Sex: Is Cheating Ever Okay? Part 3

This piece was originally published on the Blowfish Blog. It’s Part 3 of a three-part series; here are Part 1 and Part 2. Again, the bits about comments and conversations are primarily in reference to comments and conversations made on the Blowfish Blog when the series was originally published.

Cheats
I swear to Loki — this is the last round of this for a while. Next week, a nice review of a new book on sex and science. I promise. But this is too compelling a topic, and too interesting a conversation, for me to drop at this point.

I’m talking, of course, about cheating. Specifically, cheating in a sexless relationship.

And today, I want to connect it to how high a priority we place on sex.

Because I think that’s something that’s been missing from this conversation.

When I wrote my first piece on this topic, I put the question in terms of a social contract. I argued that yes, cheating is a violation of the unspoken (and in some cases, spoken) terms of a relationship agreement. But I also argued that unilaterally and permanently depriving your partner of sex is also a violation of those terms. And I argued that, when one person violates their half of an agreement, the other person is no longer obligated to keep theirs.

Contract lawNow, a lawyer friend of mine, Jon Berger, has clarified a point of law that’s very much relevant to this question. (Don’t worry — I’ll get out of all this contract stuff soon, and back into the stuff about sex.) He pointed out that in contract law, there’s a difference between a simple breach of contract and a “material breach” — and only when a breach becomes material are you no longer required to keep your end of the bargain.

And I think this whole “material breach” thing is crucial to what I want to get at today.

Because, in my opinion, the unilateral, non-negotiable, permanent cutting off of sex in a monogamous relationship is a material breach.

One that’s every bit as serious, every bit as significant, every bit as harmful, as cheating in a monogamous relationship.

And I think this is a concept that many anti-cheating advocates are not seeing. (Or maybe they’re just not agreeing with it. I’m not sure.)

Trash_bin_full
Jon is right, of course. It’s not like any violation of any relationship agreement gives you license to cheat. If your partner promises to take the garbage out on Friday nights, and one week they forget, that doesn’t give you license to run off to the nearest singles bar. Forgetting the trash one week is not a material breach, and cheating wouldn’t be a proportionate response. (Or, for that matter, a relevant one.)

But to unilaterally cut off sex in a monogamous relationship, without any willingness for negotiation or even discussion, and with every intention of it being a permanent arrangement? To unilaterally force your partner into a situation where their only options are cheating — which is admittedly not that honorable; breakup or divorce — which many people in many situations would also consider dishonorable; or lifelong celibacy — which many, many people, myself included, would consider intolerable?

You’re damn right I think that’s a material breach.

And while I don’t think I’d personally choose to cheat in that situation, I can easily see how a good person might decide that cheating was both a proportionate response and a relevant one.

Now, some argue that cheating is always indefensibly wrong because it’s non- consensual: one partner is non-consensually forcing the other into a type of relationship that they didn’t agree to and don’t want. And this is an interesting point, with some validity to it. (FYI, there are other anti-cheating points being made in this debate that also have validity: I just don’t have space to address them all.)

Desert
But my counter-point is this: It is equally non-consensual for one partner to unilaterally decide that the relationship will now, and forevermore, be sexless. It is equally non-consensual for one person to try to force another into a life of lifelong, permanent celibacy.

And in my opinion, it is an equally serious moral violation, with equal potential for harm.

I’m not sure why I’m being so tenacious about this. (Apart from the fact that I’m a tenacious person, and am like a dog with a bone when I get hold of an idea.) I have a sex life that I’m happy with, and I’m not monogamous. So for me personally, this is all something of a moot point.

But I’m always troubled when I think people are trivializing sex, and sexual desire, and the high priority that some of us place on it.

And that’s some of what I’m seeing in these debates.

I’m not saying that all anti-cheating advocates are trivializing sex. But I am saying that, in the debates about cheating in sexless relationships, I’m seeing what I consider to be a disproportionate emphasis on the cheating… and a similarly disproportionate lack of attention to the sexlessness, and the harm that it can do, and the difficult moral bind that it puts people in.

Ethics
Adult life is full of complicated ethical situations, with no one clear morally excellent choice. Adult life is full of situations in which we have to prioritize some of our values over others. As both Seth and Ola pointed out in the comments to last week’s column, one of the central questions in this debate is whether honesty in relationships is the highest priority, outweighing all other values and ethical considerations. And even if you personally think it is, I think you have to accept that this is not the only morally defensible position. I don’t think it’s reasonable or fair to expect people to sacrifice sex for the rest of their lives just so they can live up to your personal ethical priorities rather than their own.

Look. I’m not saying cheating is a morally excellent choice. I’m saying that it’s sometimes a complicated choice. I’m saying that good people sometimes make this choice for reasons that are valid. I’m saying that good people could reasonably see it, not as a great choice, but as the best bad choice that’s available to them, the choice that they think is the least likely to cause harm in a complicated and difficult situation. And I’m saying that, even if it’s not the choice that you or I would make, we have to not just reflexively and unthinkingly treat everyone who does make it as if they were wicked, selfish, unethical people by definition.

And I’m saying this:

I think that, if sex-positive people are going to take cheating seriously as an ethical violation, we need to take the unilateral and permanent turning off of sex in a relationship every bit as seriously. We need to acknowledge the complicated and difficult moral bind that the latter choice puts people into. And if we’re going to treat the latter choice with compassion and empathy and understanding for extenuating circumstances, it’s unfair to treat the former with stringent and unrelenting condemnation.

This is the final post in this series. I’ve been asking people to hold off on commenting until the series is complete; I now rescind that request. Comment away.

Election Snippet: McCain’s Temper

Today’s election snippet: John McCain’s temper.

You’ve probably heard or read bits here and there about John McCain’s volatility and difficulty controlling his temper. This video pulls many of those bits together. It makes it clear that this is not an isolated incident or two: this is a pattern, a central part of the man’s temperament.

And it’s not a temperament that we want running the country. It is not a temperament that we want engaging in international relations in a highly explosive period of human history. It is not a temperament that we want in a time of domestic crisis and extreme national polarization. And it is damn well not a temperament that we want with the finger on the nuclear button.

Oh, the thing I find really interesting: Many of the people speaking in this video? Republicans. This isn’t about Democrats smearing an opponent. Among people who know McCain, this is a serious concern across the political spectrum

Video below the fold.

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Is Cheating Ever Okay? Part 2

This piece was originally published on the Blowfish Blog. The bit about the comments is a reference to comments made on that blog, when Part 1 of this series was originally published. If that makes sense. (BTW, the Sarah Palin piece on the Blowfish Blog has since gotten more comments… but not by much, and not more than the whole “cheating” series put together.) This is Part 2 of a three-part series; here’s Part 1.

Cheat
Wow.

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn’t that. My column from last week, Is Cheating Ever Okay? — the one suggesting that cheating in a sexless relationship might be morally defensible — generated more comments than any other column I’ve written for the Blowfish Blog. By a considerable margin.

And based on the content of the comments, it seems as if I need to do some clarifying, and go into this in a little more detail. This is a complicated question — that’s the main point I’m trying to make, actually — one that I’m still figuring out myself, and it’s going to take more than a couple of blog posts to resolve it, even in my own mind. But I want to take a little time to explain what the heck I’m talking about, and address some of the main themes that came up in the replies.

Conversation
First of all: Lots of people said, “Why don’t you just talk about it with your partner? Don’t go cheating. If you’re not happy with your sex life, try to work it out.”

Yes. Of course. I totally agree. It is no fair reneging on monogamy in a sexless marriage if you haven’t told your partner there’s a problem.

I even said so in my original post (she said, trying to keep the peevish tone out of her voice). But apparently I didn’t say it clearly enough, or at great enough length, or close enough to the top of the page, and it somehow got overlooked. So I’ll say it again: If you’re in a relationship where your partner has unilaterally turned off the sex, and you’re considering cheating, you have some responsibilities. And one of those responsibilities is to make a scrupulous, good- faith effort to fix the sexual problems with your partner, and try to find a solution that works for both of you, before you go a-wandering.

Conversation exclamation point
What’s more, you have to try hard, and you have to try more than once. If you tell your partner, “What’s with the lack of sex?” and they say, “Yeah, well, I don’t think I want to have sex any more,” you can’t then shrug your shoulders and go running to the nearest singles bar or online hookup site. You have to make it very clear that this is a real problem for you, one that’s making you unhappy. I’m not sure you should necessarily give them an “If you won’t ever have sex with me again, I’ll find someone who will” ultimatum — in my experience, most people don’t respond well to ultimatums — but you have to make your feelings clear, and you have to keep trying. Cheating isn’t a go-to solution. It’s a last resort.

But what if you tell your partner there’s a problem, and they aren’t willing to talk about it? Or they don’t see it as a problem, and aren’t willing to do anything about it?

What would you do then?

Fachi-Bilma-DÃŒnen
Several other people pointed out that sometimes people’s libidos go through temporary dry patches, due to childbirth or depression or other stressful situations. They argued that part of a long- term monogamous commitment is being willing to accept that, and to accept celibacy until things get better. And again, I quite agree. I even said so in my original post. (She said, again trying to keep the petulant, “Could you please at least read what I write before chiding me about it?” tone out of her voice. And failing, probably. Sorry about that.)

I’m not talking about that. I’m not talking about long but temporary dry spells. I’m talking about one partner unilaterally turning off the sex in a relationship — permanently. Or at least, with no willingness to discuss it or deal with it, and no end in sight.

What would you do then?

Opening up
And lots of people said things like, “Why cheat? Isn’t open non-monogamy a better option?”

Yes. Of course it is.

But it’s not always an available option.

Not everyone is willing to be non-monogamous. Or even to consider it. Some people apparently do think that, because they’ve given up on sex, their partner should, too. In the letters to the sex advice columnists on this topic, one of the themes that comes up a lot is that the partner who’s turning off the tap thinks sex is something you do when you’re younger, early on in the relationship; that the drying up of sexual desire is normal; and that it’s unreasonable to expect or indeed want sex past a certain point.

What would you do then?

And other people have suggested that the only honorable options in this situation are (a) open non-monogamy, and (b) break-up/ divorce. A lot of people said things like, “If you’re not happy in your sex life, why would you even want to stay together?”

Family
But that assessment is not always accurate, or fair, or reflective of reality. What if you have kids? What if you have a business together? What if you have some sort of artistic or intellectual endeavor together? Splits are almost always difficult and messy, but some are more difficult and messy than others. Some splits affect more people than the ones who are splitting.

And what if you really like each other, and love each other, and enjoy being together apart from the sex problems? What if, apart from the sex, this is a relationship that makes you both happy? Is ending a relationship whose end would cause upheaval and unhappiness to you and your partner and lots of other people really a better, more honorable choice than a discreet affair? Are the only moral choices either (a) divorce or (b) foregoing sex for the rest of your life?

What would you do?

I’m going to take the most extreme situation to illustrate my point. Admittedly it is an extreme situation; but it’s also not an unrealistic one. In fact, it’s one I’ve seen described more or less verbatim in the sex columns.

Knot.svg
You’re in a long- term relationship. You have kids, or a business, or some other major entanglements together: entanglements that would make a split extremely difficult and painful, and that affect other people than just the two of you. And you do, in fact, both like being coupled with each other, and would much rather stay together than split up.

Your partner has stopped having sex with you. You’ve tried to discuss it with them, but they either refuse to even talk about it, or don’t see it as a problem. They are unwilling to change. They think sex is something you do when you’re younger, and that you should just accept the disappearance of sex as a normal part of life. And they are unwilling to consider non-monogamy.

What would you do?

You might decide that your best choice is either to accept permanent celibacy for the rest of your life, or to break up. And I wouldn’t argue with either of those choices, or judge you for making them. But I don’t think they’re great choices, either. They’re also choices that can hurt people, choices that can make people besides yourself unhappy.

And I’m arguing that, in this situation, cheating is in the same category. It’s not a great choice, it’s a choice that can hurt people… but in this situation, I’m not sure I’d argue with it, or judge you for making it.

Again, I know that I’m describing an extreme situation. But when trying to figure out complicated moral questions, it’s often useful to take an extreme example first, and then parse backwards from there, to see where you think the line should be drawn. And I do think this is a morally complicated situation. That’s the main point I’m trying to make. Cheating is not always a cut and dried moral issue, where we can comfortably scold and wag our fingers. It’s often a complicated one, with extenuating circumstances.

I don’t think that cheating is, to use the phrase Ingrid uses, morally excellent. I don’t think it’s a great choice. But I do think that, in certain situations, it may be the best bad choice available. There are some situations in life where there are no good choices, no morally impeccable choices, and all you can do is make the best imperfect choice you can.

This is Part 2 of a three-part series. Part 1 appeared yesterday; Part 3 will appear tomorrow. Again, I realize this is probably a fruitless request, but I’m asking people to please hold your comments until the rest of the series is posted. Part 3 was also written largely in response to comments made when I originally posted this series on the Blowfish Blog, and you might find my response to your comment in the conclusion of the series. Thanks.

Election Snippet: Sarah Palin’s Supreme Ignorance

My election snippets haven’t gone after Sarah Palin in a couple of days, so I think it’s time to return to that very fertile ground. This is an excerpt from the now- infamous Katie Couric interview… an excerpt in which Palin was unable to name any Supreme Court decisions, other than Roe v. Wade, that she disagreed with.

The video is loaded with inanities, and I could pick them apart all day. But when I first heard this video, here’s what I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs:

DredScott
Dred Scott.

I learned about Dred Scott in junior high. The day it was decided is generally considered the bleakest day in the history of the Supreme Court. It was the day the Supreme Court said, “Slavery? Sure!” If you can’t think of a single Supreme Court decision that you disagree with, surely you should be able to come up with that one.

I can think of others, too. Plessy v. Ferguson. Bowers v. Hardwick. The one, I can’t remember the name of it right now, that said corporations have the same Constitutional rights as people. Just off the top of my head. And I’m not running for Vice-President. I’m not even governor of a state. Hell, I’m not even a lawyer. I’m just a layperson with a liberal arts B.A., gassing on in my blog.

You’d think that someone who was running for the second highest office in the country would know enough about the history of interpretations of the Constitution — the foundation of the country she supposedly loves so much — to be able to, you know, think of one.

And I’ll say it again: A heartbeat away from the Presidency. The Presidency of an elderly man with at least a 1 in 3 chance of dying in office.

Oh, yeah. Here’s the video. Below the fold.

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