Saturday, July 24, 2004

I caused a stalemate
when playing President Forever as a Libertarian candidate. I ran a 4-way campaign against Colin Powell, Al Sharpton and Ralph Nader. No one got the 270 electoral votes needed to win. I got 150, Powell got 210 and Sharpton received 178. Nader, alas, received none. Fun game. Apparently, the secret to my moral victory was campaigning in only a handful of states. I spent most of my time in California, Texas and Florida and actually ended up taking the first two.

Unfortunately, the game said Congress is dominated by the Republican party, so they selected Powell as President. Oh, well.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

I want to clarify
some things from my previous post.  My issue with the slippery language in the abortion debate is that reduction of emotionally charged issues to a more commodity-like discourse seems to cheapen the subject.  "Reducing the fetal calvarium" might be the clinically correct term for what's transpiring, but unless you've been exposed to the definition before (or unless you really stop and think about what it's actually denoting), you won't understand that this means crushing the skull of a fetus just prior to delivery in a partial birth abortion.

What's the problem?  Clinicalization (if that's a word) of terminology allows compartmentalize and separation from any emotional content.  An extreme example:  Nazis involved in the "Final Solution" (itself an obfuscating construction) regularly discussed the transport and extermination of Jews and other undesirable in terms that made it sound as if they were transporting cattle, coal or any other commodity.  The notion that human lives were being ended was completely removed from their discourse by careful control of their terminology.  (For the record, I am not trying to say that abortion providers or supporters are like Nazis; I have a better sense of history than that.  I am merely pointing out extreme depths to which control of language can completely shape discourse.  If you still think I'm trying to say they're one-in-the-same, that's your problem.)

One of my concerns in the abortion debate, which I alluded to in my previous post, is that it's becoming no more taxing on the emotions than having a tooth pulled (or an appendectomy, as I put it yesterday).  I think having an abortion should be a hard decision.  It shouldn't be something done on a whim, or in the rather blase fashion exhibited by the woman in the article I linked to yesterday.  It should be something that's done as a last resort, and done after much soul-searching and agonizing over the consequences (physical, emotional and psychological).

I heard rumors in high school about a couple of young women who had already had three or four abortions each by the time they graduated, and all indications were that they were using the procedure as a form of birth control (one wonders how many they've had by now).  That bothered me then, when I was far more liberal than I am now.

The reduction of abortion to purely clinical terms can only serve to make situations like that more commonplace.   And that disturbs me.
Conversations with robots
A couple of days ago, I heard about a website designed primarily for kids that offers a "robot" named Coco with which you can have a conversation. Apparently, when asked about Bush/Kerry it revealed a Kerry bias. Right Wing News confronted the left-wing program.
Breathe easy!
"The most unimportant political question of the day" has been answered.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Ever since I read
the book Doublespeak when I was in high school, I've been fascinated by the use of language, particularly as a method for obfuscation.  Euphemisms are particularly interesting, some of my favorites being "negative expansion," "tropical substance enthusiast" and "persons presenting themselves as commodity allotments within a business doctrine."  I'll leave it to you all to guess what those mean.  It's with great interest, then, that I read Shannen Coffin's article on NRO regarding "selective reduction."  (The NYTimes article he references is here.)

I believe that I've written before that I'm fairly wishy-washy on abortion.  It's not a subject that I've really wrestled with, but being a fairly libertarian Republican, you can count me as marginally pro-choice -- I'm not sure that the government has the authority to protect the rights of the unborn (in other words, I'm not sure that a fetus has any legal standing for government protection, but that's a topic for another post), and I believe that if the health of the mother is at stake, then abortion should be an acceptable option.  But, I suppose you can count me as one who agrees with Bill Clinton's formulation, that abortion should be "safe, legal, and rare."

As I said above, I haven't spent much time thinking about this, but I do know that if I ever slide more to the pro-life position, it will likely be in reaction to the pro-choice crowd.  Terms like "selective reduction," "intact dilation and extraction" and "reducing the fetal calvarium" for various types or methods of abortion seems like a deliberate attempt to remove any sort of gravity from someone's decision to have an abortion.  Some would argue, as some physicians have, that these are merely the terms used by the medical profession, and not anything nefarious.  But it isn't just in the halls of medicine and in the annals of JAMA that these terms are being employed.  Senate committee hearings, amicus briefs before the Supreme Court, etc. are all seeing these euphemistic expressions for abortion.  They have become an attempt to reduce abortion from something of grave emotional consequence to the equivalent of having an appendectomy.

Peggy Noonan wrote a powerful op-ed for the WSJ a few months ago, in which she gave her review of the current run of A Raisin in the Sun.  In it, she notes an interesting shift in the culture.  One of the central characters (you'll need to forgive my vagueness about plot details; it's been more than ten years since I've read the play) confesses that she's made a down-payment with an abortionist.  This is one of the most dramatic moments of the play, when this character is admitting to losing all hope -- this is supposed to be a tear-jerker moment.  The audience applauded enthusiastically.  Noonan says that some even cheered.

This is the sort of thing that will push me to the edge and over on the abortion debate.  Have pro-choicers become so callous that they can't see that abortion should be a hard decision, that terminating a pregnancy should be met with greater seriousness than, say, choosing a hair style?  I've never believed in abortion as birth-control or for convenience (as in the NYTimes writer's expressed reasons for her "selective reduction"), but that seems to be increasingly the move that's being made.  I remember a NYTimes article (sorry, I don't have a link) from a couple years back where a high-school student became pregnant, and she returned home one day to find ten or so women in the home, these women having been convened to pressure the girl to have an abortion.  The author of this story wrote a glowing account of the experience.

Sick, sick, sick.  I was filled with revulsion at the cavalier attitude of the women quoted and at the journalist's blind approval.  This is what it means to be pro-choice?  Do I want to be associated, in my wishy-washy, clear-as-mud approach to abortion, with that?

Gresham's law seems to apply in various forms all over, and it should now be extended here:  Extreme pro-choicers will drive out the moderates.

Monday, July 19, 2004

I have got to hand it
to our brethren on the left.  Hillary Rodham Clinton's staff was upset when she was overlooked as a speaker during the primetime slots at the Democratic Convention.  But, never worry, this has now been resolved.  The Kerry campaign has invited her to that she can introduce her husband.
I'm no HRC fan, but what does it say when her own party can't see that she's more than just an ex-First Lady, she's the junior Senator from one of the most important Democratic strongholds in the U.S?

Sunday, July 18, 2004

This Land
This is awsome.