Thursday, September 30, 2004

Well, gentle readers, my favorite mining spot, workingforchange, proves yet again that as long as howling liberals exist there will be errors in thinking to examine. Today we will be looking at an article by Joe Conason. Mr. Conason is a writer for the New York Observer and is, well, an offensive sort.

In this article, ‘A Gay Old Time for the GOP’, Mr. Conason talks about the politics of homosexuality. It isn’t his discussion of various Republican party members who are tolerant of homosexuals that is offensive. No is it his discussion of ‘closeted’ homosexuals within the Republican Party. No, it is his characterization of the majority of Americans.

Poll after poll indicates that the majority of Americans do not think that homosexual unions should be equivalent, equal to, whatever, of marriage. So how does Mr. Conason refer to such people? Well, he calls us “rubes”. See, he is certain that the ‘act’ put on by Republican leaders opposing homosexuals ‘basic rights’ is a con job to snow us ignoramuses in fly-over country. Now, I assumed that perhaps an elected official would subsume his own opinions to represent the desires of those who elected him, but what do I know? After all, I have been manipulated by my fear of homosexuals to the point that I am incapable of thinking for myself.

Will Durst (who can actually be funny) betrays a central conceit of liberals; that those who disagree with them are stupid. His article, a satire as subtle as a hammer, states flatly that stupid people like Bush, smart people like Kerry. Of course, smart people listen to classical music and stupid people listen to country music in this realm, so we get to combine a number of stereotypes favored by liberals.

Yes, I understand Mr. Durst is writing satire. But its only a satire if you agree with the basic concept. If you disagree, its just hateful and offensive. And Mr. Durst makes a big mistake – he equates I.Q. with education level. The two are not related; Albert Einstein never completed grammar school and George W. Bush (who Durst derodes as ‘sim’ elsewhere) has an Ivy League education, for example. Which just points out that Mr. Durst is probably not a Mensa keynote speaker, himself.

Let’s move on to Kiersten Stewart at Gadflyer. In her article, Ms. Stewart performs a trick I like to call ‘statistics equal truth’’; this is where someone hopes that a slew of statistics will make you accept dubious claims. Not likely. And in this case, Ms. Stewarts statistics are waaaaay off. She claims that “Homicide, usually at the hand of an intimate partner, is in fact the leading cause of death for pregnant and recently pregnant women.”

Hmmm. Sounds serious, doesn’t it? Actually, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health released a report that is often listed under the headline ‘Homicide Leading Cause of Death for Pregnant Women’, or some such, but it A) isn’t statistically significant, B) is limited geographically, and C) actually says that women who are currently pregnant or have given birth within the last six weeks are less likely to be victims of homicide. Only when the period of ‘pregnant’ is extended to a period of one year after giving birth do those numbers show homicide as a leading cause of death. By about 1% over medical complications. Amongst a primarily young urban poor demographic. Oh, and this only works at all if you discount ‘death by accident’ (i.e., car crashes, slip/fall injuries, etc.). So the NOW articles touting these same things coyly slip in ‘after accidents’, limit the ages to very specific ages, and keep on going.

Don’t get me wrong; women shouldn’t have to worry about homicide at all. And it is a tragedy that so many murders against them are by husbands or boyfriends. But here’s another exercise – go look up the leading cause of death for young men. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Surprised? You see, homicide is a plague on everyone in this country. The honeymoon period discovered in Massachusetts means young women are marginally safer if they are pregnant. See how I can make statistics say all young girls should get pregnant?

Ms. Stewart also uses statistics on the number of women on public assistance who cite domestic violence as a cause of divorce; the numbers are quite high. But those numbers include all women of all age groups. Why is this relevant? Well, Ms. Stewart argues that government incentives for marriage would ‘force’ women to stay in abusive relationships. In making her argument with these particular domestic violence statistics she neglects to mention that the ‘target audience’ would be young couples, both unmarried and newly-married, who have a domestic violence incidence of about 2% - quite low. The goal is to keep these relationships from fragmenting. Other statistics show that an unwed or divorced mother is more likely to be abused in relationships entered into after the termination of the relationship with the father.

In other words, women who marry and stay married to the father of their child are much less likely to ever be abused.

Ms. Stewart also glosses over other, very important, numbers. One-third of all single mothers and their children live in poverty. Here’s the scary part – that number is from 2001. That’s before the recession we’re currently in. If the gain in poverty among single mothers just went back to 1996 levels, its actually 40+% of single mothers and their children living in poverty today. Young couples (and their children) are less likely to be living in poverty.

Ms. Stewart, herself a mother and child of a single mother, admits that having two parents makes it easier. And she skips over the many studies that show that children of single mothers are more likely to fail school, use drugs, commit crimes, etc., etc. (and this is true of children of divorce and of women who never married, making domestic violence moot). This makes Ms. Stewart cross the line into offensive or stupid; either her resistance to marriage is borne out of a dislike of marriage itself or ignorance of the effects of single parent families on kids.

Let us now go on to Ellen Goodman and her article ‘Religious Malpractice’. With the tag line “Catholic Health Plans Augur Frightening Declines in Care” I think the tenor of her article should be clear. She sees the introduction of ‘Catholic health plans’ as a dangerous trend where soon no one will be able to get health care unless the Pope signs off. No, really, the article is about that reactionary. She ignores that the appeal of these plans is that devout Catholics can rest assured that their health care premiums will not help fund an elective procedure they find morally repugnant. She does concede that health care professionals can opt out of providing options that they find morally repulsive, but denies that an institution such as a hospital can. She warns that religious practice will become medical malpractice since a bishop or some-such might determine what can and can’t be done.

Ms. Goodman ignores a few points; first of all, condoms and abortions are available, often free, from Planned Parenthood and government clinics virtually everywhere in this country. Despite her conceit that women won’t have access to these options if Catholic hospitals don’t provide them, she’s wrong. It might be a little inconvenient, but they can be had. And while admitting that Catholic-run hospitals are more than 10% of all hospitals in America, she almost certainly doesn’t know that one of the reasons they want to avoid offering abortions and such is not just the moral objections, but the fact that funding those procedures drains money away from such things as, oh, performing free work that is not optional, such as free surgery for the poor, or much less optional, like plastic surgery for poor kids with cleft palates.

And the final nail in Ms. Goodman’s coffin is her use of quotes from a lawyer who conjectures about Jewish hospitals that ‘circumcise every baby’. Puh-leeze. This is disingenuous to the extreme. As if there is a comparison between not offering abortions and forcing a religious practice on every child that passes through. And I’ll only mention in passing the use of quotes by cough ‘Catholics for a Free Choice’, i.e, Frances Kissling and her fund-raising intern.

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