23 December 2009

Chuck Norris is an asshole

Many who know me witness a certain reaction when they mention Chuck Norris or make Chuck Norris jokes. I hate Chuck Norris with a fiery passion. There are not words enough to describe my hatred for him. I hate his jokes and I hate his popularity because Chuck Norris is an asshole. A bigoted, crazy asshole. Who thinks that the very existence of atheism causes school shootings. And that atheists are trying to make Christianity illegal. And that presidents need to be as overtly Christian as possible, because that's what the founding fathers did! So, he's also a goddamned moron. But I knew this before he showed the whole country in that patently stupid Mike Huckabee commercial. So it didn't surprise me that he wrote something insane about health care reform.

It is titled, I shit you not, "What if Mother Mary Had Obamacare?" So we know this is going to be precious. And he delivers the drama:
In short, while President Obama was accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, the Democrats in Congress drove a sword through the womb of the unborn.
A sword through the womb of the unborn. Which, by the way, doesn't make any sense. I'm not a scientist, but I don't think fetuses have wombs. And anyway, this sentence just reminds me of this hysterical animation, which makes it even more difficult to take seriously.
But the big question and bottom line, as Hatch asked, is: "Why should people of conscience be forced to participate in any aspect of abortion?"
Obviously, Hatch is talking out of his ass. His amendment basically blocks women who receive any federal funds--whether it's food stamps or welfare--from access to abortion procedures. Because, you know, poor women haven't had their reproductive rights trampled on enough.
Obama and Congress' pro-abortion steps are being taken despite a recent nationwide survey that revealed that 4 in 5 U.S. adults would limit abortion's legality. One in 3 would limit abortion to rape, incest or the saving of a mother's life. One in 3 also would limit abortion to either the first three or first six months. Only 9 percent said abortion should be legal for any reason at any time during pregnancy.
What's interesting about these statistics is that one-third of American women will have an abortion by age 45. So the same people who want to legally limit abortion are those that will either have (or have already had) one or have a loved one who will have (or already has had) one. I honestly think this is why anti-choice groups like to prey on the young; most of them haven't faced the reality and terror of an unplanned pregnancy, so they're more likely to be dickheads to those that have to make that choice. And even when these people grow up and get pregnant and get an abortion, they're sure that they're not like those "other" women who get abortions, who are just whores that got what was coming to them, and who should be punished by being forced to gestate and give birth. But if one in every three women will have an abortion before 45, it's not just those mythical irresponsible whores who are choosing to have the procedure. It's 17% of the population; that we would restrict access to a health care procedure used by 17% of the population is goddamned criminal.

But, the best part of this article is the last:
Lastly, as we near the eve of another Christmas, I wonder: What would have happened if Mother Mary had been covered by Obamacare? What if that young, poor and uninsured teenage woman had been provided the federal funds (via Obamacare) and facilities (via Planned Parenthood, etc.) to avoid the ridicule, ostracizing, persecution and possible stoning because of her out-of-wedlock pregnancy? Imagine all the great souls who could have been erased from history and the influence of mankind if their parents had been as progressive as Washington's wise men and women! Will Obamacare morph into Herodcare for the unborn?
Even the logically-impaired can recognize what's wrong with this argument, the second cousin of the "What if you had been aborted?" card. First, it's easily countered with the equally-stupid, what if Hitler's mom had had an abortion? Second, it is beyond stupid to base legislation that restricts health care on the assumption that every baby has the potential to turn into fucking Jesus. Or George Washington. Or whatever white guys Norris means when he says "great souls." What if a woman who was going to be the next great statesman, or cure cancer, or be a masterful musician, got pregnant at 16? If she couldn't get an abortion and didn't want to put another baby into the foster care system, she might never have the opportunity (financial and otherwise) to do those things. Now, I know Norris might scoff at the idea that a woman could do important things worth noticing, but people are not born great, they become great through circumstances. And when abortion is legal, those circumstances are bound to be better, because there is less chance that a child will be born to a parent who cannot financially take care of it. So there would probably be more "great souls" if abortion were more accessible. QED, bitch.

Frankly, this argument completely ignores the realities of reproduction. As Amanda points out:
Anti-choicers treat the whole process of reproduction as if getting pregnant is a rare and precious event, like finding a giant lump of gold in your backyard, and as if nature was stingy about attempts to create life. If this was true, they might have more of a reason to get offended at attempts to control when you give birth. But outside of those people who suffer from infertility (in which case, they have every reason to grab onto every chance at childbirth that comes along), the biological fact of the matter is that our reproductive systems are all about waste, all about killing billions in order to have the few that have the best shot.
Duh. If we lived life thinking that every next baby could be Jesus, people would have more frequent less protected sex, no one would have an abortion, and we'd all be starving within a decade.

Anyway, his scenario makes me feel really sorry for Mary, even though I find it unlikely she actually existed. She could have died because of an unplanned pregnancy, and Norris thinks that's an acceptable risk? Well, of course it is, because Mary was incubating the Holy Seed through the Sperm Magic of God. And everyone knows that women are just useless and whiny incubators of the products of mens' magical cock powers.

I hope this stops you from making Chuck Norris jokes. He does not deserve to be a cult icon. He's an asshole.

*There's an argument to be made that I'm not actually forced. Which is true, technically, but unless I can change my desires to be in higher education, which is as close to doing what I want as I've been able to find, I am in practice. Theoretically, I could join the no-work movement and stop buying things, but it's a fairly unrealistic thing for me, or anyone else, to do.

18 December 2009


I had my nose to the grindstone last week, and then I was baking like a crazy person for a few days, but now I'm back! And I came out of it with two delicious essays, one about Peter Pan and the postcolonial and one about Austen in the purity movement.

I don't know if you missed the super-misogyny fun-time in the atheist blogosphere last week. Which is perhaps a misleading moniker, sorry. First, this article came out by Stephen Prothero, and he seems to think that a more feminine face of atheism would improve it. Which would be nice, if he meant that atheist's public face wasn't all white guys, all the time. But that's not really it:
I heard two very different arguments at this event. The first was the old line of the New Atheists: Religious people are stupid and religion is poison, so the only way forward is to educate the idiots and flush away the poison. The second was less controversial and less utopian: From this perspective, atheism is just another point of view, deserving of constitutional protection and a fair hearing. Its goal is not a world without religion but a world in which believers and nonbelievers coexist peaceably, and atheists are respected, or at least tolerated.

These competing approaches could not be further apart. One is an invitation to a duel. The other is a fair-minded appeal for recognition and respect. Or, to put it in terms of the gay rights movement, one is like trying to turn everyone gay and the other is like trying to secure equal rights for gay men and lesbians.
R-igh-t. As Amanda pointed out, there's a big difference between religious people and heterosexuals: one is making a truth claim and the other kind of isn't. Which is kind of true; I would argue that both make truth claims, but they're of a different kind. GLBT and allies are making the claim that homosexuality is not a bad thing, and homophobic bigots are claiming that it is not, and should thus be practically illegal. Obviously, neither of these claims can be true at the same time. But, the nature of them is clearly different from the truth claims of the religious vs. the atheists. When GLBT rights are finally enacted, GLBT can coexist with heterosexuals just fine. They don't need to convert the heteros, because homosexuality and heterosexuality are not mutually exclusive categories on a societal-scale, any more than homosexual and heterosexual behavior are mutually exclusive on an individual-scale. But if atheists' truth claims (or non-truth claims) are correct, then they are necessarily mutually exclusive from religiousity also being correct. Prothero thinks that atheists need to forget this nature of our competing truth claims, and just hold hands and sing Kumbaya instead of arguing it out. After all, what does it matter that atheists are getting their right to serve in public office challenged?

The most infuriating part of this article, though, is the nonsensical sexism of it. Prothero thinks that female leadership would lead to this softer, gentler atheism. The only reason he could think that without stating his reasoning is that he thinks women are just softer and gentler.
But there is a different voice emerging — call it the new New Atheism — and with it a very different agenda from that of Hitchens and his angry acolytes. This friendlier atheism sounds more like a civil rights movement than a crusade. And it is far more likely to issue from the lips of friendly women than from the spittle of angry men.
Fuck you, Stephen Prothero. How's that for lady-like atheism?

Next up is Kathryn Lofton, who wrote a blog post claiming that (presumably, according to New Atheists) "Religion is [...] a lot like a girl." The post has been removed apparently, but it's written about by Myers at Pharyngula and Ruchira at the Accidental Blogger. As Ruchira points out:
Unless the New Atheists have categorically called religion a girlish pursuit or religious males girly men, (Lofton does not say that they have) it is plausible that it is Lofton herself who conflates irrationality and emotionalism with feminine traits and critical thinking and reason with manly characteristics. She may have again confused style with substance. After all, the majority of the high profile and vocal atheists in the public square are all males. Most of them also assume a combative stance while arguing their points of view. Even if Lofton considers the New Atheists arrogant, self absorbed and boorish, based on her opinion of their discursive temperaments, where did she get misogyny? Perhaps in her eagerness to condemn, Lofton uses the red herring of misogyny without any supporting evidence because it fits the rest of her perception of the atheists. Are some atheists women haters? Of course. Could there be a few among the ones she names? Possible. But it has nothing to do with critical thinking which does not bar women from becoming practitioners. And what is the score in the department of misogyny on the religious side? Start your count with the priestly class and the orthodox.
Now, there are plenty of misogynists among high-profile atheists (namely, Christopher Hitchens and Bill Mauer). And yes, those guys are assholes. But the sexism in the atheist "movement" can hardly measure up to the troubling sexism that comes from Christianity. Which isn't to say that sexism is not a problem for atheists, but that Lofton is not getting this "religion is a girl" comment from the atheists. Rather, she is, as Ruchira suggests, likely assuming that women would never be so aggressive and rude. Like Prothero, she thinks that soft and gentle are female characteristics. And she (rather nuttily, from my point of view) assumes that religion is soft and gentle, compared to those rude and obnoxious atheists.

What I like about the atheist reactions to these pieces is that they are not down with the sexism in them. What I don't like is that atheist authors are more likely to see misogyny as a problem of these authors and religious folks, and thus not our problem. But sexism is alive and well among atheists, and while it shouldn't be tackled by people like Lofton, who are clearly hostile towards atheists, it can't just be projected onto religious folks and ignored in our own community.

In a similar vein, Kay Hymowitz wrote an article about the conflicts between feminists and science for City Journal. She conflates evolutionary science with evolutionary psychology, that bastion of sexist thinking:
Evolutionary science has been nearly as vexing a subject for feminists as for rural Texas school boards. Feminists consider sexual identity a “social construct,” a human—or, to be more precise, a male—invention. Evolutionary scientists, on the other hand, believe that we have inborn physical and psychological traits that result from millennia of adaptations to our natural environment. Where feminists see society, evolutionists see nature.

Especially galling to feminists has been the field of evolutionary psychology, which proposes that evolution has fundamentally shaped human sexual and reproductive behavior—behavior that often seems to conform to the worst stereotypes. So New York Times science writer Natalie Angier refers to evolutionary explanations of why older men prefer younger women as “just so stories” told by “evo-psychos.” Recently in Newsweek, Sharon Begley critiqued evolutionary psychology–inspired apologias for poor behavior by the likes of John Edwards and Eliot Spitzer before gladly pronouncing the field dead as a dinosaur.

Begley is right that pop evolutionary psychology often bears about the same relation to science as an episode of The Flintstones does to the Pleistocene era. But she’s wrong about the field’s being on its way out. If anything, recent findings in primatology, neuroscience, and genetics have given evo-psych new life. Scientists in these fields, many of them women, have lent support to some deeply controversial ideas about differences between the sexes.
Stupid feminists, with their lady-brains, are so anti-science! Now, I once knew someone who thought this. Sort of. He didn't want to be accused of sexism, but he basically thought that feminist who argued that genetic sex is a construct (as I have done) are crazy, anti-science, anti-evidence morons. I suggested he read Sexing the Body, and he was fascinated by the fact that a woman who actually studied biology would argue something so nutty. He also said point-blank that we should force animals into categories because "sometimes you just want black-and-white distinctions," even if those distinctions are projected onto bodies instead of already being there. Feminists are not just crazy, folks. I know that we are deeply invested in sex and gender constructs. Like, deeply. But evolutionary psychology is more often than not a sexist guessing game (and when it isn't, then the media will twist it until it is), and the scientific community more often than not ignores the evidence when it comes to intersex conditions and the malleability of "genetic" maleness and femaleness. Jessa Crispin's reaction to this article is telling:
Um. What? We do? Feminists believe in evolution. There have been women who have criticized the science and the conclusions drawn from imbalanced theories, but we do not as a whole believe that evolution is a patriarchal conspiracy..
This is true. Most feminists believe in evolution. Even Anne Fausto-Sterling feminists. I don't know if Crispin is aware of evo psych and how it's used to basically claim that women are inferior money-whores who are just plain dumber than men, but that is exactly what feminists mean when they claim that sexist conclusions are "drawn from imbalanced theories." Science is designed and "done" by human beings who bring their already-formed conclusions and biases into the process. I know that they value "objectivity" and all that, but to act as thought science completely removes bias from the process is naive and a little stupid, especially when it comes to biology as it relates to humans. Do we honestly think that no bias will enter human beings studying the nature of human beings? Of course it will. Science doesn't happen in a vacuum.

04 December 2009

Stop Taser Torture Blogging For Justice Day

Today is the Stop Taser Torture Blogging for Justice day. Pam has a good round-up of the atrocities that have resulted from taser-use by the police. What I find really disturbing about these incidents is how they are often used as humor. The "don't tase me, bro" video went viral when the incident happened, and there are many other videos on YouTube that show officers using tasing not as a last resort and in place of a gun, but as a shortcut to getting compliance from people who are clearly not a danger to them. And these videos are not on the internet to induce horror (as most of Pam's examples are), but to be funny. I really don't understand it; I can't even watch those videos. Since when is torture funny? Is it because most of the people who get tased are people of color? Is it because we assume that criminals deserve whatever they get? Whatever the fascination, we need to get over it. People are people, and they deserve not to be tortured.

Bonfire and Football

Look, I get that Aggies like to pretend they care about "their own." And so the anniversary of the bonfire evokes genuine emotion, even though none of the students on campus today knew the students who actually died ten years ago. However, this is one of those sanctimonious traditions, designed to make Aggies feel holier-than-thou and superior to those "other" universities, where (understandably) the only people who care that students die are, you know, people who knew those students. So, like silver taps, it annoys me a little. I care about people's lives, but I'm not going to pretend to get choked up a military ceremony for someone I don't know, and I'm not going to pretend that the bonfire was such a tragedy that we need to, instead of waiting for litigation to be resolved and agreeing to have the engineering department overlook the planning, have our own damned "unofficial" bonfire every year.

Mostly, though, I'm irritated with the tone of this "tradition." There's a tone to this story about the football players helping with the bonfire rescue effort that makes some sense. The immediacy of a tragic event does make people feel awfully serious about it, and it is likely that these players at least knew of some of the people trapped. It is a tone, however, that has not gone away, and the real problem with it is how all the Aggie traditions are so intertwined that the football players who had just helped dig dead people out of a collapsed bonfire felt so much pressure to win a football game. I want you to reflect a little on the relative importance of those two actions.

From the story:
"It was one of those things where you didn't have to state the obvious," McCown said. "The look in everyone's eyes; everyone knew what had to happen on the field that day."

As the game commenced, the Longhorns quickly took the lead on two drives led by freshman quarterback Chris Simms. The Aggies trailed 16-6 going into halftime.

"The whole time I coached, I've never more felt more pressure to win a football game." Slocum said. "I just felt like we absolutely had to win that game. We just had so much sadness, and that week had been so hard that we didn't need any more hardship."
Seriously? Seriously.
"The fact that they won meant so much to the Aggie family," Groff said. "The team felt like it was just something that they could do for their fallen comrades."

Slocum said the team and the A&M family were closer that week than ever before.

"Everyone was all in one mental state at that time," Slocum said. "We all were feeling the same hurt, we all felt the need to win the game, but we all recognized the relative importance of the game compared to what had taken place that week."

McCown said the win and the support from all sides showed the character and spirit of Texas A&M University.

"It really shows a testament to the fortitude of being an Aggie," McCown said. "That in the hardest of times, we will not be shaken and we will not give up."
They say they realized the relative importance of the game, but it sure doesn't sound like they did. The players winning a football game after helping the rescue effort shows the "fortitude" of the players, not "of being an Aggie." And winning the game didn't make them fucking heroes, helping with the rescue effort did.

Anyway, I wasn't going to write about the bonfire,because I'm swamped with seminar papers and also because I didn't want to be stoned on campus. However, this story just set me off this morning. At the UT game this year on Thanksgiving, after the Longhorns won, their "cheer officer" ran their flag up and down the field. And apparently offended everyone. So he was forced to issue an apology:
Our two universities have utmost respect for each other and our individual traditions. My decision to wave the flag at midfield following the conclusion of a very high-spirited game has been a traditional symbol of a Longhorn victory at a rivalry game. I was acutely aware of the importance of the 10th anniversary of the Bonfire tragedy and the sacredness of the formal memorial and the hallowed Bonfire ground. I was unaware of the sacredness of the 50 yard line logo at Kyle Field at this Thanksgiving Day game, nor had I been advised of any regulations regarding postgame entry onto the field. I should have been more sensitive and let conservative discretion rule my actions and judgment on this special and somber anniversary day for the A&M family.
No offense, A&M, but a football game is not an appropriate place to hold a bonfire memorial, nor is it appropriate to expect other teams to know that if they don't do their duty and lose, they also have to not celebrate. You don't get to be the goddamned Catholic Church and sanctify any damn thing you want (a logo, really?) and call persecution when others don't respect your stupid holy objects.

I guess that's really what bothers me here. The traditions have the sanctity of religious objects. Saying "howdy" is like crossing yourself, the Aggie ring is like wearing a cross (guys, they cost $500!), and Sul Ross a saint to which you can pray. And it irritates me more when these traditions are wrapped up in what are actually serious things, like people dying. Traditions are stupid, and often pointless. People's lives actually matter, and it cheapens them to "remember" them by sanctifying a logo on a football field. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I really hope I never die at A&M, because the thought of being "remembered" at silver taps makes me sick to my stomach.