Category Archives: My (largely correct) political views

Suing to protest your child’s existence should be prima facie evidence of child abuse

Perhaps you’ve seen the articles about a white lesbian couple who are suing because the sperm bank they used to conceive their child gave them the sperm of Donor #330 instead of Donor #380.  Likely would not have been a problem, but Donor #330 turned out to be African-American, and the women are freaking out because they have to raise a mixed-race child.

This reminded me instantly of parents who bring “wrongful life” or “wrongful birth” lawsuits, [.pptx]* alleging that doctors failed to warn them of potential risks of disability that would have caused them to abort their unborn child.  The mixed-race case and the undetected-disability case share this in common:  they require parents to say they would not have had a child who is now born, is now here, is now A PERSON.

It always makes me think:  Don’t these parents realize their unwanted infants will grow up to be teenagers who can use Google?  Don’t they realize that even the youngest of children will understand an environment of unwantedness?

The request for damages is usually for the extreme distress of raising a disabled child (wrongful birth) or BEING a disabled person (wrongful life).  What it should be for is PREPAYMENT OF THE SHRINKS’ BILLS THE KID WILL INCUR BECAUSE HER PARENTS DECIDED TO TELL THE WORLD THEY DIDN’T WANT HER.

Image:  mixed race toddler girl in pick polka-dot t-shirt and jeans sitting in what appears to be a shopping mall.

Original caption:  “This undated family photo provided by Jennifer Cramblett shows her daughter, Payton.”   So not only is she telling the world that her daughter is a mistake, she’s publishing her name and photograph.  Do they think that their child alone in the world will never Google her own name?  W.T.F.?

This situation is so fucked up that my conservative brother and I — who agree about almost nothing except that his kids are awesome and the rest of our family is a clown car — are in complete agreement.  Take it away, Bruce!

Two white people decide to have a baby and, surprise, it comes out black (or half black). They’re lesbians so you’d think maybe they’d have some sensitivity to being a minority (and pay some lip service to that), but fundamentally they’re pissed that they bargained for a white baby and got a half-black one.

But, don’t people get surprises not of their choosing with babies all the time. I think this has been your mantra for a long time – that all life is equally valuable, etc. Interesting that therapists actually recommended they move out of a white neighborhood into a more “diverse” neighborhood.

Not sure, but this story seems to have about a million things wrong with it, none of which have to do with the mistake made by the sperm bank.

Sadly I learned early in my career in civil rights law that being in one minority does not guarantee you give a rat’s ass about any other minority or civil rights in general.  In an investigation not long after we started Fox & Robertson, we were interviewing people with disabilities whose personal care assistants were managed by a company who we thought might be committing Medicaid fraud.  The primary complaint of one of the first people I spoke with was that, despite her request, the agency would not stop sending Black people to her house.   Sigh.  This recent post by our friend Corbett describes a similarly depressing lack of rat’s-ass-giving by a group of non-disabled feminists.

Working hypothesis:  Humans are selfish, insular, and thoughtless, except the ones who are generous, compassionate, and funny.  It’s hard to say.

But back to parents who sue because their child exists.  As Bruce says:  having a kid is always full of surprises.  My parents — dyed-in-the-wool liberals — could not possibly have predicted they’d have a gen-u-ine Republican son.  But then, my dyed-in-the-wool Republican/WASP grandparents could not possibly have predicted they’d have a Democratic son who married a Jewish liberal, either.  Generations of parents — to the beginning of time — cope with children who aren’t what they expect them to be, yet the law does not recognize a right to compensation for parental disappointment unless the child is disabled or — I guess we’ll soon learn — of a different race.

Meanwhile, I’d like to set up shop as the lawyer representing the grown kids of these hateful lawsuits, bringing suit against their parents for the child abuse of publicly rejecting their very existence.

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* Link is to an excellent PowerPoint presentation on the subject by Samantha Crane, Public Policy Director at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network.

This guy is tasked with public safety?

I personally believe in Jesus Christ as my lord savior, but I’m also a killer. I’ve killed a lot. And if I need to, I’ll kill a whole bunch more. … If you don’t want to get killed, don’t show up in front of me, it’s that simple. I have no problem with it. God did not raise me to be a coward.

via Ferguson-Area Police Officer Suspended After ‘Killer’ Rant Surfaces Online.  He apparently rants on along these lines, on the video, for an hour or so, largely missing the point of the whole “Christianity” thing.  And the whole “protect and serve” thing.

This guy is a cop, and a member of the “Oath Keepers, the right-wing law enforcement group that is aligned with the Patriot movement.”   A quick (and slightly toxic) visit to their website reveals that “Oath Keepers” are a collection of police and military types who believe their “oath” to their interpretation of the constitution gives them the right to do things like not do their jobs and shoot random people who do not share their interpretation of the constitution.*

They have a list of orders they will not obey, including executing warrantless  searches (good), disarming Americans (potentially bad, if the armed American is threatening to kill someone), and wildly paranoid:

We will NOT obey orders to invade and subjugate any state that asserts its sovereignty and declares the national government to be in violation of the compact by which that state entered the Union.

We will NOT obey any order to blockade American cities, thus turning them into giant concentration camps.

Whew!  Glad we cleared that up.  And good to know that when Texas finally secedes, no one will try to stop them.  Buh byeeeeee!

I do appreciate that this group is a big fan of Edward Snowden.  So they exist in that special place where the extreme right and extreme left of the political spectrum meet up in shared paranoia and megalomania.

I guess we’ve always known that certain subsets of law enforcement view themselves as creating, interpreting, and executing the law; it’s more than a bit frightening to think those cops have a self-aggrandizing club where they can encourage and reward each other for doing so.

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* Based on their logo, this may or may not be caused by the emotional trauma of having very long but very thin penises:

Image: silhouette of man holding long gun, which also looks like he has a very long, thin penis protruding from his midsection.

Peter Singer and the TERFs: We Know You Better Than You Know Yourself

And we want to make pejorative, exclusionary and — in Singer’s case — homicidal* decisions based on our superior knowledge of your inner state.

I had just written my random thoughts on the importance of trans* [**], Autistic and other former others rejecting the default setting, and my view that this made it easier for all of us “to be who we are and find or create our own cubbyhole, or none, or multiple,” when the New Yorker published “What is a Woman?” by Michelle Goldberg, an article describing the anti-trans* faction of “radical feminism” called, variously, Radfems or — more pejoratively but accurately — “trans-exclusionary radical feminists” (“TERFs”).

But what truly reminded me of Peter Singer was the TERFs’ certainty that they know the inner life of trans women and trans men. One Sheila Jeffreys has written a book, “Gender Hurts: A Feminist Analysis of the Politics of Transgenderism,” in which she proclaims her knowledge of and judgment on the inner life of trans men and trans women by seeing them entirely through the political prism of male-dominated society. A man, per Jeffreys, can never appropriate the experience of being a woman. Accordingly, Jeffreys “insists on using male pronouns to refer to trans women and female ones to refer to trans men.” To her, trans men are simply trying to “raise their status in a sexist system” while trans women, well, “when trans women ask to be accepted as women they’re seeking to have an erotic fixation indulged,” or — according to the psychology professor on whose work she relies — trans women have “‘autogynephilia,’ meaning sexual arousal at the thought of oneself as female.”

So Jeffreys and other TERFs — cis women all — have decided that they know the inner life of trans people better than trans people themselves do, and not only pontificate about this in writing, but ultimately reject trans women as women, refuse to use their preferred pronouns, and in some cases exclude them from women-only spaces.

This is rank Singerism. Peter Singer is a Princeton professor who believes that, well, I’ll let Harriet McBryde Johnson describe it:

Applying the basic assumptions of preference utilitarianism, he spins out his bone-chilling argument for letting parents kill disabled babies and replace them with nondisabled babies who have a greater chance at happiness. It is all about allowing as many individuals as possible to fulfill as many of their preferences as possible.

In other words, privileged white male Princeton professor asserts that he knows with such certainty the inner life of people with disabilities that he advocates killing them as infants. To me, Singerism means making policy — usually negative — based on the facially impossible premise that you can know and pass judgment on someone else’s inner life. Singer can never know how happy any particular person is or will be, much less disabled infants he’s never met. Jeffreys and the TERFs have no idea how trans women experience their lives and their identities.

Where the fuck do they get off deciding to kill, insult, and exclude people based on these arrogant and patently impossible judgments?

Jeffreys claims that cases of “regret” — people who have physically transitioned and later regretted the move — “undermine[ ] the idea that there exists a particular kind of person who is genuinely and essentially transgender and can be identified accurately by psychiatrists.” Well, it might undermine that idea for the person experiencing regret but how it undermines the self-knowledge — often hard-won — of everyone who has ever transitioned is hard to see. More Singerism.

The New Yorker article describes one TERF group, Deep Green Resistance, as holding the view that “a person born with male privilege can no more shed it through surgery than a white person can claim an African-American identity simply by darkening his or her skin.” I suppose that may mark the far outer boundaries of my “Free to Be You and Me” approach to identity, that is, that we should credit people with knowing themselves and defer to the identity each asserts. Could a white person declare himself black in the same way a person born with female parts can declare himself to be male? Can I decide to be disabled without actually having a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities? When does the assertion of identity become appropriation? I think we avoid Singerism by saying (1) we don’t know; and (2) we have no business killing, insulting, or excluding people based even on identities that push the boundaries of credibility.

It is reassuring that TERFs find themselves marginalized in feminist and academic circles, though frustrating that Singer is not similarly ostracized. It is apparently more acceptable to mainstream academia to advocate killing disabled infants than it is to advocate excluding trans women from all-female music festivals.***

I conclude with this quote from the New Yorker article:

Older feminists . . . can find themselves experiencing ideological whiplash. Sara St. Martin Lynne, a forty-year-old . . .

Hold on! “Older” and “forty-year-old” do not go together!  But assuming that “older feminist” would accurately describe this 54-year-old, I experience no whiplash, but only a deepening appreciation for each way we let people be themselves, and each mind-opening step we take away from the default setting.

Update: Here is an excellent response to the New Yorker article, in Bitch magazine.****  TERF War: The New Yorker’s One-Sided Article Undermines Transgender Identity by Leela Ginelle.  Lots of good points about the the TERF problem, though I disagree that the original article undermined transgender identity.  I thought it was fair, and that the TERFs were portrayed as the narrow-minded troglodytes that they are.

Update 2:  Julia Serano, who is mentioned in Goldberg’s article, has an informative rebuttal in The Advocate.  Here is my comment:

This is an excellent rebuttal to the New Yorker piece, but reading this & the rebuttal in Bitch made me wonder whether we read the same original article. First, though, I agree that Julia Serano has every right to feel personally pissed. But while Goldberg clearly skates over the surface of a complex issue, and probably did sensationalize the feminist catfight angle, I thought the TERFs came off in her article as deeply misguided, insular, and hateful. Specifically the reference to “autogynophilia” seemed to me like a self-evidently hysterical use of scientific-sounding Greek word roots to disguise abject quackery. All that said, Serano’s response adds a great deal of useful detail; would be great if The New Yorker published it.

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* I was going to say “life-threatening” but Singer doesn’t just want to threaten the lives of disabled infants, he wants to permit people to kill them. Let’s call it what it is.

** “Trans*” is a way of indicating a wide variety of trans ways of being. As Slate explains, “the asterisk stems from common computing usage wherein it represents a wildcard—any number of other characters attached to the original prefix.”

Image: Graphic that reads, "Trans*. I recently adopted the term 'trans*' (with the asterisk) in my writing. I think you should, too. If it's new to you, let me help clarify. Trans* is one word for a variety of identities that are incredibly diverse, but share one simple, common denominator: a trans* person is not your traditional cisgender wo/man. Beyond that there is a lot of variation. What does the * stand for? *Transgender, *Transsexual, *Transvestite, *Genderqueer, *Genderfluid, *Non-binary, *Genderf**k, *Genderless, *Agender, *Non-Gendered, *Third gender, *Two-spirit, *Bigender *Transman *Transwoman" Poster created by online LGBTQ educator Sam Killerman.This can get confusing here, in light of the fact that the ThoughtSnax Style Manual calls for asterisks for footnotes.  We’ll muddle through.

*** The article noted that violence and threats have been directed toward TERFs, which is of course deeply offensive and wrong . . . except the graffiti “Real Women have Dicks,” which is just the sort of smartass, mind-opening civil disobedience I love.

**** Of course I read Bitch Magazine — it’s my trade publication!

 

How to ensure that your lefty Jewish friends do not take you seriously.

I do not have the knowledge — or the kevlar underwear — to opine on the situation in Gaza, but I’ll say this:  nothing seems better designed to ensure that Jewish lefties simply tune you out than the choice to use inflammatory — borderline anti-Semitic — language.

I’m a liberal and a Jew, and would be the natural audience for arguments that Israel has — what’s the technical foreign policy term? — seriously fucked up this time.  But when I hear words like “genocide” or “apartheid” or see images of Israeli politicians with blood on their hands, I don’t think, “Hmmm, that person has an interesting point I should think about.”  I think, “asshole.”  Or, with slightly more nuance, “grandstanding asshole who is more interested in left-wing tribal solidarity than actually having a rational dialog.”  And ultimately:*

Image:  Graphic of the small toolbar from the upper right side of a web browser that offers the choices of minimize (a flat line), restore (two small squares), and close (an X), with a red arrow pointed to the X.

 

 

 

 

I know this can be said of almost any fraught issue in American politics today.  If you say either “baby killer” or “the government wants to own my uterus” you are not interested in having a rational discussion about abortion; you are expressing tribal solidarity.   I’m firmly convinced that tribal solidarity drives most political opinion.  Once you’ve identified as a Republican and that has become part of your identity, it’s hard to say, “you know, perhaps we should treat children arriving at our border with compassion.”  Your tribe has made it a mark of in-group-ness to decry these children as shock troops of an invading horde of Obama-inspired future Democrats,** and taking a contrary position would be as hard as making a Red Sox fan cheer for the Yankees.  It is similarly hard, I think, to get most Democrats to even admit that people who oppose abortion might do so from deeply-felt, well-thought-out reasons and not simply because they hate or want to suppress women.***

So ultimately if your goal in discussing the situation in Gaza is  just to express tribal solidarity with your co-opinionists, go for it.  Use whatever inflammatory language makes you feel like part of the in-group.  If you actually want to have a rational discussion with people who just might share some of your lefty views, you might want to reconsider.

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* Well, no, ultimately what I feel is fear, because historically when people start down this road, things do not end well for Jews.

** Not that there’s anything wrong with that!

*** Two additional notes about this.  First, these two examples are in no way intended to suggest some sort of faux balance.  In my view, Democrats remain largely right, policywise, and Republicans largely wrong.  Second, I think tribalism is stronger on the right than the left because one of the substantive values of the right is conformity, while one of the substantive values of the left is iconoclasm.  Which makes it all the more ironic and, to me, disappointing to hear left-wing tribalism.

 

 

We got to meet the President!

Image:  President Obama next to Tim Fox (white man in suit and tie sitting in wheelchair) and Amy Robertson (white woman in suit and scarf).

For all the griping I hear on the left and right, I remain a huge fan.  It was an amazing moment for me, so I’ll be enforcing a “Thumper Rule” for comments:  “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”

July 4th Thoughts from a Patriotic Nerd

Image: head and shoulders of Bald Eagle with head cocked to the left staring into the camera.

Photo credit: American Bird Conservancy http://www.abcbirds.org/newsandreports/botw/bald_eagle.html

  • The US is an amazing country.  I love being an American for the reasons I toss out here and many more.
  • The primary reason the US is an amazing country is that we have written into our constitution and laws  — and our deepest sense of who we are  —  the ability to continue to make this a better country.  The things that make us great scientists, entrepreneurs, innovators, dreamers, and kickstarters make us a great country:  we are constantly trying to figure out better ways to organize and govern ourselves.
  • And along the way, we are completely free to tell one another — and the government — how completely wrongheaded everyone else’s ideas are.
  • Our history is just as full of triumphs, failures, good, evil, brilliance, stupidity, compassionate people, and flaming assholes as you’d expect when a group of humans gets together to try to accomplish something.  The same people who wrote the Declaration owned slaves.  While we were being a beacon to a world of refugees and immigrants, we were discriminating against them in housing and employment.  And our European foreparents — along with the rest of the white First World — did deplorable things to the people who were already in the countries we decided to make our own a couple hundred years ago.
  • But one of the things I love the most is that we can say these things.  We can point out that the Constitution itself was flawed from the start and that we had to fight a war to fix that.  And that we are continuing to try — in fits and starts — to be fairer to all Americans.
  • The statement “America is the greatest country” and other forms of American exceptionalism don’t make any sense to me.  It’s the greatest country for me and evidently for millions of others who both live here and want to live here.  But for us to tell a world full of people that it’s a greater country than their respective countries seems like a fairly incoherent overgeneralization.
  • Same with knee-jerk American denigration.  What are you denigrating?  Our government?  Which part?  The part of the DOJ that’s justifying solitary confinement?   Or the part that’s figuring out how to ensure that we can all vote, marry, shop, and hold  jobs without discrimination?  Republicans?  Democrats?  Us?  Me?
  • Ultimately, as Dr. King said, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”  When I’m disappointed in a Supreme Court decision — as I have been fairly often recently — I remember that it took us 58 years to go from  Plessy v. Ferguson to Brown v. Board of Education but only 17 years to go from Bowers v. Hardwick to Lawrence v. Texas, and just another ten to United States v. Windsor.  For every

Image:  Protesters (a white male adult and possibly light-skinned black child) holding signs that say "Thank God for Dead Soldiers," "Sin and Shame not Pride" and "You're Going to Hell."

there’s a

A woman dressed as an angel with large wings covered with white sheets standing next to others dressed similarly.

or even more important

Image:  Protesters holding signs reading "Homo Sex is Sin."  They are behind a police line. In the foreground, a white man dressed as Jesus Christ holds a sign saying "I'm not with these guys."  Another counterprotester holds a sign pointing to one of the protesters that says, "Secretly Gay."

and

Image:  Protester holding a sign that reads "God Hates Fags."  To his right, another protester holds a sign with an arrow pointing to the first guy and the words "Fuck This Guy."

and

Image:  An older white man wears a t-shirt that reads "You Deserve Hell."  Next to him, a younger white man holds a sign that reads, "You can't choose to like dick but you can choose to be one.  For example" and an arrow pointing to the guy in the You Deserve Hell t-shirt.

showing that Americans and our sense of humor will always prevail.

So Happy Random Patriotic Rambling Day from ThoughtSnax!

 

 

 

Anti-Gay Group Refuses To Accept Mail With Harvey Milk Stamp

From the Huffington Post.

Fundamentalist Christian group American Family Association is urging members not to accept any mail postmarked with the U.S. Postal Service’s newly released Harvey Milk stamp, the first U.S. stamp to feature an openly gay elected official.

Image: US postage stamp bearing the image of a smiling white man, with the legend "Harvy Milk."

In related news, the American Family Association announced plans to put its fingers in its ears and say “LALALALALALALALALA” until the 21st Century goes away.

Dog Bites Man*

Justice Scalia Makes Epic Blunder In Supreme Court Opinion.

“This is not the first time EPA has sought to convert the Clean Air Act into a mandate for cost-effective regulation. Whitman v. American Trucking Assns., Inc., 531 U. S. 457 (2001), confronted EPA’s contention that it could consider costs in setting [National Ambient Air Quality Standards],” Scalia wrote in his dissent, which was joined by Justice Clarence Thomas.

The problem: the EPA’s position in the 2001 case was exactly the opposite.

More or less epic than basing an entire judicial career on the fallacy that he can accurately interpret the intent of the drafters 100% of the time and that, coincidentally, it favors the desired conservative legal outcome 100% of the time?

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* No dogs were harmed in the drafting of this post, though a number of them may have been insulted by the unfortunate comparison to Justice Scalia.

WWJF

Who Would Jesus Fear?

The residents of Indian Village are fighting mad about the potential location of a group home for mentally ill youth in southwest Louisiana’s Allen parish.

“We don’t have a problem helping people,” said 57-year-old resident Beth Courville. “We are a Christian community, a hard-working community.”

“Our fear is fear itself. We don’t know what’s going to be in our backyard,” said Courville. “We would like to stop this nightmare from happening to another community.”

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

States Rights: 1963 and 2014

Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!

 

georgewallace_custom-76a21ac9eda0f4f7e943b6d8bc9c1f7908b0a05d-s6-c30

 

Prison rape today, prison rape tomorrow, prison rape forever!

 

Perry