Domestic Terrorism

The Islamic terrorist attacks, especially deadly and frequent as of late, are reprehensible. People are rightly outraged. Unfortunately, many are proposing unreasonable measures in the name of safety, such as shutting down mosques and refusing refugees from Syria.

We are often blind, however, to our own terrorism: the home-grown type. The kind of terrorism that is, at least in some part, caused by prominent political figures and the people who vote for them.

There is one particular target that has been the favorite of domestic terrorists. Between 1977 and 2006 there have been seven murders, 17 attempted murders, three kidnappings, 152 assaults, 305 completed or attempted bombings and arsons, 375 invasions, 482 stalking incidents, 380 death threats, 618 bomb threats, 100 acid attacks, and 1,254 acts of vandalism (source).

So what is that target? Well, it’s a national chain of about 700 health clinics. It provides cheap or free cancer screenings, tests for STDs, and helps prevent countless unwanted pregnancies. About 3 percent of what these health clinics do, however, is vehemently opposed by a very large and irrational portion of our populace despite being completely legal. Yes, I’m talking about Planned Parenthood of course.

And while details are still coming in about the attack in Colorado at a Planned Parenthood clinic yesterday in which multiple people were killed in a six-hour shootout with police, it seems fairly likely that yet another act of domestic terrorism will pass by without any changes to prevent future attacks. We won’t change our gun laws. Conservatives won’t stop inciting anger towards a health clinic. Politicians whose words started the whole thing won’t take responsibility and their constituents won’t hold them accountable.

People are screaming for war in Syria, eager to send hundreds of billions of dollars and American soldiers into a conflict that will ultimately end up just spawning another terrorist group or two. But this, home-grown terrorism, we choose to ignore.

Sometimes it’s depressing to be a human being.

Refugees

This is the Syrian city of Homs, the third largest in the country. This photo was taken a year ago, before the bombings from major superpowers really took off.

Now imagine that was your home. Your family’s home. Your children’s home. You’re not a soldier or a politician. You bake bread or fix cars.  Every single day, explosions and gunfire ring out nearby. You live in constant fear. For the past four years, this has been your life.

This is the horror that Syrian refugees are fleeing from. They are human beings, not so different than you or I.

Of course, we helped create that horror. Most of us supported invasions in the region. Our government provided many of the weapons and directly caused some of the destruction. We funded their dictators. We fought proxy wars with our enemies by involving them. We bought their oil and used our military might to control its production and distribution.

And now when innocent men, women and children are fleeing that nightmare, we want to close our borders and turn them away. We’re fearful that a few bad ones might sneak through. We’re scared that they might not adopt our culture.

Many of us have an iPhone in our pockets, unaware that its creator was himself conceived in the very same city you see above. Perhaps this world we live in, this pale blue dot in the vast universe, is smaller and more connected than we think?

Many complain that terrorists have “won” if we are fearful of the next attack. I think they “win” if we forget our humanity and turn away from our empathy.

Protecting the Children

The argument I keep hearing on social media is that the new Mormon policy of exclusion is all about “protecting the children.” It’s a laughable argument, but I’m no longer laughing.

“SALT LAKE CITY– Professionals working on the front lines of suicide prevention say they’re handling a higher volume of calls since last Thursday…”

“‘We actually have been aware of a couple of suicides that have happened,’ Caldwell said.”

Utah already has one of the highest suicide rates in the nation and it ranks even higher (worse) for teen suicides. There are published, peer-reviewed studies that show that depression and suicide rates among LGBT groups increase significantly after discriminatory acts are passed.

This is a serious problem. Clearly, it is not being helped by policy changes from top Mormon leaders that further expand on the repulsive idea that gay people, and now even their children, are inferior. And it’s certainly not being helped when members of those communities defend those harmful policy changes.

Sins of the Parents: Mormon Church Doubles Down on Hate

Yesterday, my former church made a significant policy change. Not only are members in same-sex marriages now considered apostates, children of same same-sex spouses are not allowed to be baptized. Seriously.

From the official church handbook: “A natural or adopted child of a parent living in a same-gender relationship, whether the couple is married or cohabiting, may not receive a name and a blessing.” Additionally, to eventually be baptized, the child must be at least 18, must renounce their parents’ marriage, must leave home, and even after all that must also get approval from the First Presidency (no small feat).

Besides being irrational and bigoted, this is also hypocritical since a fundamental Mormon doctrine states clearly that children do not inherit the sins of their fathers. Second Article of Faith: “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins…” This new policy seems to punish children who obviously had no choice in the matter of their parents’ sexual preference.

Perhaps the most repugnant aspect of the whole thing is to force the child, if he or she actually wishes to join such a hateful religion, to renounce their own parents’ marriage. So much for being all about family.

 

Ben Carson Does it Again

I know I have been picking on him lately, but it’s rather hard not to. He’s a leading candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination. And he’s an idiot.

That’s not something I would casually say about a famous neurosurgeon, but Mr. Carson has been exceptionally proficient about changing my mind on such things.

Ben Carson in 1998: “My own personal theory is that Joseph built the pyramids to store grain…Now all the archeologists think that they were made for the pharaohs’ graves. But, you know, it would have to be something awfully big if you stop and think about it.” He confirmed today that he still believes that theory.

That clears up quite a bit about why Republican politicians deny climate change. Why listen to experts when you can misinterpret the Bible, an ancient book of mythology? Of course, the Bible doesn’t even mention pyramids, but that doesn’t stop Ben Carson!

Nor does the fact that the pyramids would be an absolutely terrible structure for storing grain, since they had no space for storage:

But perhaps the most hilarious part of this all is that Carson relies on Joseph of all the Biblical figures. Joseph’s approach to the coming famine was to take food stores from people who had more than they needed and give it to those who did not have enough. It sounds eerily like welfare, something modern Republicans don’t seem to like very much.

Edit: And yet again!

Ben Carson completely fabricated a story about applying to and being accepted to West Point on a full scholarship.

Sexual Slavery

Recently, I have become aware of a phenomenon in some conservative circles that wives should never say no to their husbands in regards to sex. At first, I had a hard time not believing it was satire. It’s such an incredibly sexist, backwards way of looking at marital intimacy that it left my jaw nearly on the floor.

But it is real. And many people who support the idea are unafraid to say so. This trend may have really took wings with Dr. Laura’s old book, The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands, where she essentially blames the victim (the wife) when a husband cheats. From her blog on the subject:

“Typically, the person who has been cheated on jumps to blame instead of looking at their participation in their spouse’s fooling around.  They make it all about how they’ve been hurt, and ignore the fact that they’ve betrayed their vows by not supporting or paying attention to their spouse.”

Dr. Laura, my wife never vowed to have sex with me whenever I want. That’s not in any marriage vows I have ever heard of. If I cheat on her, it is entirely my fault and not hers. This extremely sexist fear-mongering makes gullible women feel that they must be subservient in the sexual arena in order to prevent their husbands from cheating.

Other people have been more explicit than Dr. Laura, claiming that wives should always acquiesce their husband’s sexual desires. Just ask Michelle Duggar, the prominent mother-figure from the famous Duggar family, who quotes on her blog advice from her friend:

“Anyone can iron Jim Bob’s shirt, anybody can make lunch for him. He can get his lunch somewhere else. But you are the only one who can meet that special need that he has in his life for intimacy. You’re it. You’re the only one. So don’t forget that, that he needs you. So when you are exhausted at the end of the day, maybe from dealing with little ones, and you fall into bed so exhausted at night, don’t forget about him because you and he are the only ones who can have that time together. No one else in the world can meet that need.
“And so be available, and not just available, but be joyfully available for him. Smile and be willing to say, ‘Yes, sweetie I am here for you,’ no matter what, even though you may be exhausted and big pregnant and you may not feel like he feels. ‘I’m still here for you and I’m going to meet that need because I know it’s a need for you.’”

Jim Bob sounds like an asshole.

Or perhaps we could look at biblicalgenderroles.com’s advice:

“If your wife is un-submissive in the sexual arena and chronically denies your sexual advances (without legitimate medical or psychological reasons for doing so) then perhaps that upcoming trip you were going to take her on gets canceled. Maybe that wardrobe upgrade your wife was looking forward to gets downsized or canceled.”

It’s particularly troubling that the first two people I quoted are women. They are perpetuating the patriarchal sexism that has existed throughout human history. This is nothing short of sexual slavery. And really, it approaches rape. If a woman doesn’t want to have sex with her husband, she should not have sex with her husband! And for him to force her out of guilt, fear, obligation, or biblical nonsense is an unacceptable and shameful coercion.

I could probably write another post or two about how society and culture repeat the false claim that men always have higher sex drives than women. Or maybe a post about how strident opposition to masturbation makes normal differences in libidos a much larger factor in marital distress. But what do I know? I’m just a happily married guy who treats his wife as an equal instead of as a sex toy.

Ben Carson Doesn’t Know What a Debt Ceiling Is

It’s absolutely insane to me that the three leading contenders for the GOP presidential nomination have absolutely no economic, political, or foreign policy experience. Zero. Zilch. Do their supporters think that somehow being good (or bad in the case of Fiorina) at business or brain surgery magically translates into being a good president? The point of a business is to make money. The point of government is to serve its citizens. But I digress.

Ben Carson is running for President and doesn’t know what the debt ceiling is. Seriously. Read or listen to this interview and take note of how he simply cannot grasp that the budget and the debt ceiling are very, very different. The interviewer even tries to help him multiple times understand the difference:

Ryssdal: All right, so let’s talk about debt then and the budget. As you know, Treasury Secretary Lew has come out in the last couple of days and said, “We’re gonna run out of money, we’re gonna run out of borrowing authority, on the fifth of November.” Should the Congress then and the president not raise the debt limit? Should we default on our debt?

Carson: Let me put it this way: if I were the president, I would not sign an increased budget. Absolutely would not do it. They would have to find a place to cut.

Ryssdal: To be clear, it’s increasing the debt limit, not the budget, but I want to make sure I understand you. You’d let the United States default rather than raise the debt limit.

Carson: No, I would provide the kind of leadership that says, “Get on the stick guys, and stop messing around, and cut where you need to cut, because we’re not raising any spending limits, period.”

Ryssdal: I’m gonna try one more time, sir. This is debt that’s already obligated. Would you not favor increasing the debt limit to pay the debts already incurred?

Carson: What I’m saying is what we have to do is restructure the way that we create debt. I mean if we continue along this, where does it stop? It never stops. You’re always gonna ask the same question every year. And we’re just gonna keep going down that pathway. That’s one of the things I think that the people are tired of.

That’s just embarrassing. For him. For the Republican party. For our country. Why is anyone taking this guy seriously?

Planned Parenthood

When I wrote a post nearly three years ago about the abortion debate, I knew the effort was futile. But the latest attacks on Planned Parenthood reinforce the point I made back then. I’ll be very clear upfront about where I stand: I am pro-choice and want to reduce the abortion rate. In fact, most of the pro-choice people I know also want to reduce the abortion rate. So what makes us different than the conservatives who also claim they want to reduce the abortion rate? One thing: we care about what actually works.

The evidence is clear: closing abortion clinics or making abortion illegal has no significant effect on abortion rates. In fact the abortion rate, despite it being legal in the US during the period, has been steadily falling for the past 30 years.

So what does work? Two things have a significant effect: comprehensive sexual education classes and freely available contraceptives. It’s obvious when you think about it: abortions come as a result of unwanted pregnancies. Reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies by providing proper education and birth control, then the abortion rate drops with it. Meanwhile, promoting abstinence-only sexual education dramatically increases the abortion rate. See the numerous sources here.

So why do so many people keep fighting against better sex ed and contraceptive use if they claim that they want fewer abortions? And why attack Planned Parenthood, which does 97% of its care on sexual education, contraceptives, and health care for women, primarily low income women who would be more likely to have abortions? If we took our biases out of it and just examined the data, shutting down Planned Parenthood would increase the number of abortions being performed.

Here is what I think:

1 – It’s a political tool. The bogus videos produced this year came at a rather fortuitous time for Republican politicians, right as they are ramping up for election season. Nothing has excited their voters more over the past few decades than the abortion debate. It doesn’t matter that the videos were shown to be falsified or that multiple independent investigations found no wrong-doing on the part of Planned Parenthood. It doesn’t matter that PP doesn’t use any taxpayer money to perform abortions. One glance at Fox News or facebook and you’ll see that it is having its intended effect, evidence be damned.

The politicians don’t care about actually reducing the abortion rate. It has already been falling consistent for 30 years and they aren’t quoting that statistic. No, they want people to get out and vote for them. And for Republicans, that means screaming about dead babies at the top of their lungs over and over again every election cycle.

2 – The modern Republican party glorifies ignorance. Whether it’s denying climate change, trickle down economics, demonizing same-sex parenting, or endlessly fighting against sex ed and contraceptive availability while simultaneously claiming to be anti-abortion, it’s like an ostrich burying its head in the sand. When the evidence doesn’t support their position, they simply ignore the evidence.

3 – The Democrats let them get away with it. The prominent voices in the Democratic party have not been sending the most effective message. They keep trumpeting the idea of a woman’s right to choose (which I agree with) instead of presenting the very clear evidence. Let’s pay more attention to data and give less heed to subjective arguments.

4 – For Republicans who are aware of the data, it’s about their own particular brand of morality in regards to sex, not about abortions. That’s the dirty little secret here. They don’t want a world where their teenagers learn how to put a condom on in school. They don’t want a clinic down the street passing out free condoms. They’re not really willing to do what it takes to reduce the abortion rate because they would rather legislate sexual morality.