Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Worn Path

Eudora Welty wrote the best Christmas story I know, A Worn Path .

Welty's ability to imagine the mind and world of the central character makes the story a masterpiece of empathetic understanding. The apparently simple story is like a complete exposition of everything that Chrismas is supposed to be about.

Looking for it online, I found a movie that her publisher made of it, which is remarkably faithful to the original and which presents a really great performance by Cora Lee Day as Phoenix.

A Worn Path

Part 1

Part 2

Interview with Eudora Welty on the story.

Put Jesus Back into Christianity and FOX Will Declare War [Anthony McCarthy]

If Christians are people who try to apply the teachings of Jesus to life, and the word has no meaning if this isn’t the case, they are one of the smallest religious groups in the world. Jesus somewhat cryptically said many are called but few are chosen. I’ve never quite understood what that means but it’s certain, very, very few choose to follow his radical version of the Jewish justice tradition despite their proclamation of his divinity, his status as the one savior of the world whose words are the commandments of God. Attempts, such as St. Francis’, to literally follow these teachings, are inevitably deemed to be too impractical before they are actively and, often, violently suppressed.

While there are a number of points that could be discussed, about the only instance in the gospels of Jesus consigning an individual to hell is the rich man at whose door the destitute Lazarus died in abject misery. Nothing which is commonly identified today as a sin or fault in the rich man is mentioned in the parable. Jesus only felt it necessary to say that he was rich, well clothed, well fed and well housed while a poor person lingered on his doorstep. Yet he is about the only individual Jesus condemned to unquenchable fire, refusing even the request that he be allowed to warn his brothers that the same was waiting for them. This is shocking when you consider the role of “christianity” as one long condemnation of the majority of humanity to hell for things never mentioned by Jesus. Why is this one sin, wallowing in luxury in the midst of poverty, not the cause of active concern among the bible toting, bible thumping and, especially these days, gay hating “christians”? Don’t they care to save the souls of these sinners?

In today’s “christianity” wealth is taken as proof of God’s favor. Those who have enjoyed the greatest success while posing as ministers of Jesus’ message have most typically laid aside his explicit instructions to preachers of his message. They are to not take money with them, to have the most minimal of clothing and to depend on the charity of those they are preaching to for food. They are to eat what is set before them, heal those who need healing and to go on their way. If someone rejects them they are merely to leave. And they are, apparently to go on foot, not in a Mercedes or Jet bought for their use by “the faithful”. Obviously Prada and designer clothes aren’t to be worn. The most basic and clear instructions about their chosen career from the Son of God are found to be inconvenient and are given the status of minor rules to be disregarded.

In the most successful changing of the subject in history, they replace the clearest messages in Jesus’ teachings, justice, remembering the poor, treating them as you would treat yourself, with tabloid style obsession with other peoples’ sex lives, especially, in what WILL NOT be news here, WOMEN. Not that it keeps many of them from enjoying quite exotic sex, themselves. Jesus was almost silent on the subject of sex except to point out to the bible thumpers of his day that prostitutes and tax collectors* would enter into the Kingdom of God before they would. In his most well known treatment of the subject, he pardoned a WOMAN caught in the act of adultery and refused to judge or participate in the prescribed penalty for adultery. Another teaching that doesn’t seem to have taken hold.

Those most constant servants of imperial power, the media, in the past forty years have defined “religion” as being the fundamentalists because of their political utility to the imperial order which the media serves. These religious hypocrites have covered up the justice teachings of Jesus by appealing to the worst in human character, racial, ethnic, gender and religious hatred and subjugation, selfishness and stinginess, cowardly hatred of the poor and powerless. And there is a reaction to this disgusting spectacle.

For the most part liberal religion of all kinds is ignored and so not discussed and so doesn’t exist. Those who the corporate media wish to kill, they ignore.

This maintainable of and service to numerous imperial orders and elites by "christians" and, especially, organized "christianity" is about the clearest contradiction between what is done in the name of Jesus and what the entire gospel, the only record of his teachings and life say. It alone impeaches the large majority of pretended "christianity".

It’s striking how many active in the current anti-religious agitation are the product of fundamentalist “christianity” and, to a lesser extent, it’s lesser known cousin, integralist Catholicism. They identify “xians” as the target of their anger but their particular indictments are aimed at fundamentalists who have entirely rejected the core teachings of Jesus. Those who bring the person of Jesus into disrepute are those who invoke his name as an excuse for practicing evil. There are none better at generating hostility to Jesus than conservative “christians”, those who are pretended to be the most fervent in their belief but whose every action belies that they don’t really believe in Jesus at all. The most potent weapons of anti-Christian propaganda are the hypocrisies of those who proclaim Jesus loudest while refusing to follow him.

So, what am I proposing? One of the greatest needs in the Christian world today is for those who really, truly, believe in the teachings of Jesus to do as he instructed, to act them out and to proclaim them. And they have to point out the hypocrisy of those who pretend to Christianity while practicing a modern version of Roman imperialism here in the United States. I challenge those who really believe in Jesus to insist on justice, equality, the common distribution of the things people need in order to live. And justice is first and last a matter of economic justice for everyone including the alien and even your enemy. Christianity may require many beliefs in things unseen and taken on faith but one thing is as clear as can be, Christianity cannot exist in someone who doesn’t act as if they believed its central message, economic justice for real people in the physical world. That justice isn’t an extra to be forgotten while setting up a manger scene on public property in an effort to rub the noses of unbelievers in the political power of “christianty”. Where there is no justice there is no Christianity. In the United States during this period of conservative ascendence, it has become almost extinct.

The increasingly tiresome fashion of mocking Jesus on the left is just proof of how ignorant people are of what he advocated in favor of the cartoon PR that is the real gospel followed by what is called "Christianity". It's made of various apparitions, vulgar sentimentalization and pious hypocrisies. It suits the ideological purposes of the self-purported champions of reason and science to ignore the more salient hypocrisies, it's fair to assume, because they're not really much more interested in the justice tradition that is as inconvenient to their purpose as it is to the imperialist triumphalists. But there isn't any reason for anyone interested in the truth and justice to go along with it. I believe that, even on a practical level, they are throwing away one of the most potentially powerful forces to actually change things, a belief that justice is a moral requirement because it is divinely ordered. But that would be far, far harder to do if "christians" didn't provide the myriad of hypocrisies, oppressions, murders, and, most destructive of all, indifferent disregard. If Christians lived up to the words of Jesus, their enemies would find it far harder to get any traction.

Expanded from a post from December 22, 2007 when I was still posting under a pseudonym.

* Yes, tax collectors, a group even more reviled than prostitutes, for whom many of the most vocal “christians” have a most definite use. The “christians” don’t seem to believe Jesus on that point either.

For those itching for the typical battle in the religious wars, you might want to read this provocative- - though for religious liberals not especially provocative- essay Way Beyond Atheism: God Does Not (Not) Exist.
The Great Toy Robbery

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Money and timing (by Suzie)

I’m a Dallas native who thinks Oswald was the lone gunman. So, you know I’m not big on conspiracies. I cringe when friends agree the sex-crime case against Julian Assange matters, adding: “But the timing is very suspicious.”

What I find curious is Assange’s timing. Imagine I say the following sotto voce. What if he seized on the allegations as a way to make himself look embattled and indispensible? Yes, there are conservatives who want him dead. Yes, the U.S. is investigating him. But there would be little action if not for the red notice, Interpol, jail, bail, mansion-arrest, etc., which has kept the story focused on him, not his organization or the cables themselves. He has become the champion of freedom, the international man of mystery, the rock star caught in the honeytrap. Supporters picket, write articles on his behalf, and donate to WikiLeaks, his defense fund and his bail. He is the man of the hour, and some say the year.

Despite criticism of the rich and powerful, Assange has been searching for big donors from the beginning. Despite criticism of the mainstream media, he has tried to place stories with large, respectable newspapers. Some WikiLeakers disliked this approach, but Assange knew a big splash would attract donors and other supporters. (John Young of Cryptome makes for excellent reading.)

The Wau Holland Foundation in Germany collects many of the donations and pays many of the costs of WikiLeaks, and it has just reported the best year ever for donations, although they have tapered off in recent months, according to today's Wall Street Journal. Costs also have risen.
... a big factor in the leap is a recent decision to begin paying salaries to staff. The primary beneficiary of that decision—which has been hotly debated within WikiLeaks—is Mr. Assange ...
He has received 66,000 euros (about $87,000) so far this year. (Not all invoices are in.) WikiLeaks has received $1.3 million in donations passed through the foundation.

A foundation spokesman says the donations have not gone toward legal expenses related to the Swedish case. I wonder how this is kept separate. Assange used WikiLeaks’s Facebook account and Twitter to smear the women, ensuring that people would view the case politically and think that his fate was inextricably linked to the fate of WikiLeaks. Lawyers for WikiLeaks often discuss the Swedish case, too. Do the lawyers have a ledger where they write "half-hour suggesting U.S. controls Swedish legal system" and "half-hour discussing the Espionage Act"?

Also today, the Times of London quoted "Peter Sunde, co-founder of the file-sharing website Pirate Bay" whose "micropayments website,, is an important source of funding for WikiLeaks."
I think it’s very important that Julian Assange comes to Sweden and has his trial in Sweden to show if he’s guilty or innocent. At the moment he’s dragging WikiLeaks down with him.
Sunde warned that, if Assange gets extradited instead, Anonymous will take out their anger on British government sites.
They are a very powerful force. Since there are very few people who can stop them, they can do basically whatever they want.
WikiLeaks had internal conflict before the accusations in August, and the accusations didn't help. Also that month, staff learned that Assange had cut a secret deal to release U.S. military documents on Iraq to newspapers in October, and some thought the release would be too early to properly redact the names of Iraqis who worked with the U.S. Key players in WikiLeaks began to resign. From the NYT:
After the Sweden scandal, strains within WikiLeaks reached a breaking point, with some of Mr. Assange’s closest collaborators publicly defecting. The New York Times spoke with dozens of people who have worked with and supported him in Iceland, Sweden, Germany, Britain and the United States. What emerged was a picture of the founder of WikiLeaks as its prime innovator and charismatic force but as someone whose growing celebrity has been matched by an increasingly dictatorial, eccentric and capricious style.
The newspaper obtained a transcript of an encrypted chat in September, in which Assange called colleagues "a confederacy of fools.” Meanwhile, Swedish police were interviewing people connected with the sex-crime case.

Assange left Sweden in September, with the understanding that he would return in October to be interviewed further. In October, he released the Iraq documents as promised, but he failed to return to Sweden. It issued an arrest warrant for him in November, and 10 days later he dumped the diplomatic cables. He turned himself in to British authorities on Dec. 7.

Has the Swedish case reduced support, or has he used it to his advantage? Perhaps we'll get more answers in the new year.
P.S. In the Times quotes, Assange mentions "my children." I've only seen his son Daniel discussed before.

Dying On The Job. Anti-Feminism And Feminism

The Men's Rights Activists of a certain stripe argue that women's lower average earnings are a trade-off for men's higher risk of occupational injury. That is my interpretation of the many arguments I've read which range from foaming-at-the-mouth rants to subtle references to the higher death rates at typically male occupations when anything at all is said about women's lower earnings.

The argument is difficult to analyze because those who bring it up don't seem to want a change at all. They don't want a more feminist world where women might be a greater percentage in the dangerous jobs and thus fewer men would die in them. They don't want to make those jobs safer, either.

Instead, they want male supremacy, higher accident deaths for male loggers and fishermen to continue, and for women to shut up about their lower average earnings.

Which is pretty weird. The other weird thing is that if we turned all those dangerous occupations into a fifty-fifty gender balance, women would still earn less than men. It's not the dangerous male jobs which explain the gender gap in earnings, for the most part.

After all that, let's look at those jobs. The statistics I found refer to dying on the job and obviously don't cover all types of injuries or job-related illnesses, and the list indeed is very male. The highest death risk belongs to fishers, loggers, aircraft pilots and engineers:

Fishers and related fishing workers" died from workplace injuries at the rate of 200 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers in 2009, according to the B.L.S., 60 times greater than the rate of 3.3 per 100,000 for the overall American work force. For loggers, the fatality rate was 61.8 per 100,000 and for aircraft pilots and flight engineers, 57.1 per 100,000.
Keep those numbers in mind. The rest of the ten most dangerous occupations are shown in the following table:

Women are not commmon as workers in those dangerous industries:

Maybe it's because men work in more hazardous jobs or maybe it's because they're daredevils or just plain stupid risk-takers, but the fatality rate from workplace injuries is more than nine times higher for men than for women: 5.5 per 100,000 for men, compared with 0.6 per 100,000 for women. The B.L.S. reported that 4,021 men died from workplace injuries in 2009, compared with 319 women.

I think those comments about being "daredevils" or "stupid risk-takers" are pretty misplaced, especially in the context of death.

Now for the feminist analysis: What is the most dangerous traditionally female job category?

Prostitution, right*? The problem with prostitution is that it's not regarded a legal occupation in most places and therefore we don't get statistics on it. But I have recently read much on violence and sex workers, including the recent find in New York of several buried bodies, many of which belong to prostitutes and suggest a serial murderer in the area.

One study on prostitutes' death rates between 1967 and 1999 offers some information:

To our knowledge, no population of women studied previously has had a crude mortality rate, standardized mortality ratio, or percentage of deaths due to murder even approximating those observed in our cohort. The workplace homicide rate for prostitutes (204 per 100,000) is many times higher than that for women and men in the standard occupations that had the highest workplace homicide rates in the United States during the 1980s (4 per 100,000 for female liquor store workers and 29 per 100,000 for male taxicab drivers) (29).

The high homicide and overall mortality rates observed in our cohort probably reflect circumstances for nearly all prostitutes in the United States (where prostitution is illegal, except for a few rural Nevada counties where brothels are permitted (34)) and many other countries. Although these Colorado Springs prostitutes appeared to be representative of all US prostitutes in terms of prevalence and number of sexual partners (9, 12) and although they worked as prostitutes (and died) in many parts of the country, prostitutes elsewhere might have different mortality rates and profiles.

Women engaged in prostitution face the most dangerous occupational environment in the United States. Research identifying individual and contextual factors that make prostitutes vulnerable to murder and drug overdose can inform the development of interventions for reducing harm (32, 37, 48, 49).
Bolds are mine.

It's difficult to know what that table of the most dangerous occupations would look like if prostitution was counted, but it would certainly look different. Note the murder rate of 204 per 100,000. If it's an annual rate, the prostitutes would lead the statistics of most dangerous jobs.
*From a traditional angle, being a homemaker would also not be regarded as a job. It, too, has an occupational risk. Note that the earnings of prostitutes are not included in the earnings comparisons, either. The whole industry operates outside statistics.

Added later: From a ten-minute search, I found the following recent news about sex workers and murder

Caught in the cyber war (by Suzie)

Last week, I became a casualty in the cyber war over Julian Assange. My injury wasn’t too bad. I had to spend time and money to upgrade my computer and change my passwords. But what about someone with fewer resources?

Two others tell their stories here and here. For me, it started with messages from Gawker, LinkedIn and Amazon that I needed to change my passwords. The one from Gawker confused me – I’ve never commented there. I forgot that io9 was part of Gawker Media. “Gnosis” claimed credit for the attack; the Guardian blames Anonymous:
They were described as a leaderless, anarchic group of "hacktivists" who briefly brought down MasterCard, Visa and PayPal after those companies cut off financial services to WikiLeaks.
But inside Anonymous, the Guardian has found that the organisation is more hierarchical – with a hidden cabal of around a dozen highly skilled hackers co-ordinating attacks across the web.
The secretive group that directs the Anonymous network was also behind the assault on the Gawker websites in the US at the weekend, according to documents seen by the Guardian. That led to email addresses and passwords of more than 1.3 million Gawker users being made public, and spawned a spam attack on Twitter that is now being investigated by the FBI.
I don't know if any of the anonymous people who protest in person are Anonymous, but I do have a tip: When someone is accused of rape, don’t take the Spartacus route. For some of us, it's not comforting to see groups of men wearing masks and holding signs saying, “I Am Assange.”

Descriptions of Anonymous often mention its attack on Scientology. Wikipedia mentions many other actions, but not the one on feminist bloggers. I found that in the Anonymous-related Encyclopedia Dramatica, which recently changed. I don’t want to go back; I fear the Land of Trolls.

The term “troll” gets used too loosely. Some people are sincerely ignorant or infuriating, i.e., they believe what they’re saying. Wired gives a better definition, in connection with Anonymous:
To troll is to post deliberately incendiary content to a discussion forum or other online community—say, kitten-torture fantasies on a message board for cat lovers—for no other reason than to stir up chaos and outrage. Trolling is (for the troll, at least) a source of amusement. But for Anonymous it has long been more like a way of life. Study the pages of the Encyclopedia Dramatica wiki, where the vast parallel universe of Anonymous in-jokes, catchphrases, and obsessions is lovingly annotated, and you will discover an elaborate trolling culture: Flamingly racist and misogynist content lurks throughout, all of it calculated to offend, along with links to eye-gougingly horrific images of mutilation, sexual perversity, and, yes, kittens in blenders. Here, too, are chronicled the many troll invasions, or "raids," that Anonymous has inflicted on unsuspecting Web communities—like the Epilepsy Foundation's online forums, which were attacked with flashing, seizure-inducing animations.
For more information on Anonymous attacks on feminists, see Bitch or Feministe. In a previous post on Assange (12/12), I mentioned that we have a ton of information in the digital age, but we often lack ways to make sense of it. In this case, if someone new to the subject was curious about Anonymous and feminism, searching “anonymous” and “feminism” would hardly help. I found the information easily only because I subscribed to Bitch at the time.

Wouldn’t it make sense for the media to mention the attacks on feminists when they discuss the hackers who have published the names, addresses, phone numbers, photos, etc., of the Swedish women who complained about Assange, and who temporarily shut down the sites of the women’s lawyer and the Swedish Prosecution Authority? Like the attacks on MasterCard, Visa, PayPal and Amazon, people who have nothing to do with this fight get inconvenienced, possibly even hurt.

The new WikiLeaks spokesman said: "We neither condemn nor applaud these attacks.” But Assange had poured fuel on the fire, calling Visa, MasterCard and PayPal "instruments of U.S. foreign policy." What he didn't mention was that PayPal had temporarily suspended donations to WikiLeaks in 2009 and 2008, at least once for failing to comply with European laws on money laundering.

In the "irony of the year," he and his lawyers are calling for an investigation of whoever leaked the documents in the sex case to the Guardian. Supporters also have accused the Guardian, the recipient of leaked cables, for betraying Assange by posting the Swedish police documents. Journalists are supposed to protect confidential sources from disclosure. But Assange isn't a confidential source, nor does the Guardian have any responsibility to protect him from allegations of rape.

Jeremy Sapienza at AntiWar would make me vomit if I didn't have Zofran in the house. He writes:
Assange is not now, in any way, hoist by his own petard ... WikiLeaks exists to expose the misdeeds of those in power, the nearly invincible elites.
As a counterpoint, read Jaron Lanier's "The Hazards of Nerd Supremacy," which is the best analysis that I've seen so far on WikiLeaks.
I actually take seriously the idea that the Internet can make non-traditional techie actors powerful. Therefore, I am less sympathetic to hackers when they use their newfound power arrogantly and non-constructively. ... How can you tell when you are the underdog versus when you are powerful? When you get that perception wrong, you can behave quite badly quite easily.
People who say they hate controls on the Internet, or on the release of information, may mean they don’t want any restrictions on themselves. But they may want restrictions on others, or they may use their skills to silence others. From Birgitta Jonsdottir, the member of the Iceland parliament who left WikiLeaks:
Julian is incredibly like-able, incredibly enjoyable to be with – if you are agreeing with him. If you criticise him, he is very abusive. He has a very high IQ but very low EQ [emotional intelligence].
Gawker released emails he allegedly wrote to a 19-year-old woman when he was 33. If true, and no one has denied them, he got her phone number, car make and license plate number, creeping her out. He pursued her, even when she had the subject line “don’t call me.” He ended up telling her that she was cold and self-absorbed.

Some may think I'm gossiping, but his attitude toward and treatment of women matter in the running of WikiLeaks, just as it does for any boss. In his old OKCupid dating profile, he says he's working on a male-dominated project. Does WikiLeaks need more women, not just to care for Assange, but to voice their perspectives? Maybe the Swedish women were exceptions, but if he regularly has sex with supporters and colleagues, do they wonder if he had any interest in their ideas? Do other women wonder if that's what they need to do to get his attention? Do men wonder if a woman is allowed more access because she's sleeping with him, or do they assume that's how other women have gained access? These are the questions that arise when a boss has sex with underlings. Here's an email on Cryptome from Assange in 2006:
It seems like everyone I meet plans to follow the young Che Guavara, and take off on their motorbike and adventure through the poverty and pleasurs of South and Central American, now that seduction of random latinos has been politically sanctified -- and who can blame them?
Last year I rode my motorcycle from Ho Chi Min City (Saigon) to Hanoi, up the highway that borders the South China Sea.
More from the OKCupid profile:
I like women from countries that have sustained political turmoil. Western culture seems to forge women that are valueless and inane. OK. Not only women!

Although I am pretty intellectually and physically pugnacious I am very protective of women and children.
Perhaps that's a reference to the decade he spent fighting the mother of his son for full custody. He has described her as "emotionally disturbed," and her subsequent boyfriend as abusive. I've never seen her side anywhere, but then again, she left while he was hacking into corporate and government sites, including the Pentagon. If I were her, I wouldn't want a public fight with him.

The former couple reached a private agreement, letting the mother have continued responsibility for raising their son. Although supportive, Daniel Assange, 20, hasn't "been in contact with his father for a number of years." So, what was the point of the custody fight? Writing about his father in general, Daniel tweeted in 2006: "I think he just has a tendency to follow the path of highest resistance, simply for the sake of defiance."

A custody agreement for Daniel was reached when he was about the same age as Julian when Assange's parents divorced. Julian Assange has described his mother's next partner as “a manipulative and violent psychopath.” She had a son by him, and there was a custody fight. So, she took her two boys on the run for at least five years.

Assange likes a fight? OK, but don't pretend you're protecting me and others.
P.S. Thanks to Sarah Posner for quoting me in "How Julian Assange Is Like A Televangelist."

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christian Charity?

Do you know what you get for saving a woman's life? You get excommunicated from the Catholic church:

The head of the Catholic church in Phoenix has stripped Arizona's largest hospital of its Catholic affiliation after he ruled that a decision to save the life of a mother by terminating her 11-week pregnancy was morally wrong.

Bishop Thomas Olmsted announced yesterday that St Joseph's hospital can no longer be considered to be Catholic. The ruling breaks a relationship that stretches back to the hospital's founding by Catholic nuns 115 years ago.

He has also excommunicated the member of the hospital's ethics committee that permitted the abortion to go ahead.
That member of the ethics committee is Sister Margaret McBride, R.S.M. According to Bishop Thomas Olmsted:

Then, earlier this year, it was brought to my attention that an abortion had taken place at St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix. When I met with officials of the hospital to learn more of the details of what had occurred, it became clear that, in the decision to abort, the equal dignity of mother and her baby were not both upheld; but that the baby was directly killed, which is a clear violation of ERD #45. It also was clear that the exceptional cases, mentioned in ERD #47, were not met, that is, that there was not a cancerous uterus or other grave malady that might justify an indirect and unintended termination of the life of the baby to treat the grave illness. In this case, the baby was healthy and there were no problems with the pregnancy; rather, the mother had a disease that needed to be treated. But instead of treating the disease, St. Joseph's medical staff and ethics committee decided that the healthy, 11-week-old baby should be directly killed. This is contrary to the teaching of the Church (Cf. Evangelium Vitae, #62).

It was thus my duty to declare to the person responsible for this tragic decision that allowed an abortion at St. Joseph's, Sister Margaret McBride, R.S.M., that she had incurred an excommunication by her formal consent to the direct taking of the life of this baby. I did this in a confidential manner, hoping to spare her public embarrassment.
So the hospital is no longer Catholic and poor Sister Margaret McBride is excommunicated. And this was because an abortion was performed in the hospital. According to bishop Olmsted (who of course is now a medical expert), the pregnancy was going just fine and all the woman needed was treatment for her pulmonary hypertension.


The case concerned an unidentified woman in her 20s, who had a history of abnormally high blood pressure that was under control before she became pregnant. But doctors were concerned on learning of the pregnancy about the extra burden that would be placed on her heart, and they monitored her closely.

Tests showed that in the early stages of pregnancy her condition deteriorated rapidly and that before long her pulmonary hypertension – which can impair the working of the heart and lungs – had begun to seriously threaten her life. Doctors informed her that the risk of death was close to 100% if she continued with the pregnancy.

Consultations were then held with the patient, her family, her doctors and the hospital's ethics team, and the decision to go ahead with an abortion was taken in order to save the mother's life.
Hmm. Should the hospital have let both the woman and the fetus die? I guess that would have been better.

But clearly bishop Olmsted felt that way, and so did the US bishops' Committee on Doctrine:

"No circumstance, no purpose, no law whatsoever can ever make licit an act which is intrinsically illicit, since it is contrary to the law of God which is written in every human heart, knowable by reason itself and proclaimed by the church," the committee said.
Thus, pregnant women should be allowed to die, even if the fetus will obviously die inside her, too. Such charming charitable folk those bishops are! And you should read some of the Catholic mouthpieces! They are all totally and completely of the opinion that the wench should die.

I did so well until that last sentence, writing calmly and boringly while my blood ran cold. Women really are not worth much to all these religious patriarchs, and the sooner we accept that the quicker we can create some real change.

Oh. I know someone who desperately needs a kidney transplant, desperately. I'm sure that bishop Olmsted won't mind handing one over. It won't even kill him.
PS. Many years ago I read a book about a pregnant woman who was allowed to die on these grounds. The book was fiction, and I remember thinking how glad I was that no such thing could actually happen in reality.

DADT Is Dead

Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the policy of keeping gays and lesbians in the military closet is over:

President Obama on Wednesday signed into law a historic bill that will reverse the ban on gay men and women serving openly in United States military forces.

The White House described the legislation as equivalent to civil-rights-era laws that expanded the rights of minorities. The signing ceremony included so many supporters of the move and legislators who approved the bill that it had to be moved to the Department of the Interior, as the White House is full of holiday decorations and tours.

"I couldn't be prouder," said Mr. Obama of the repeal of the current "don't ask don't tell" policy. The repeal law, he said, "will strengthen our national security and uphold the ideals that our fighting men and women risk their lives to defend."
This is good news. As long as the United States is going to have a military force, those who wish and are able to serve should be allowed to do so without carrying a gigantic closet with them. In any case, DADT was a truly odd two-faced policy, consisting of pretending on all sides.

2D-4D Studies: A Changing Simple Theory?

Remember the theory about comparing the length of the forefinger (2D) to the length of the ring finger (4D)? The idea is that a long ring finger compared to the forefinger is evidence of prenatal testosterone exposure, at least within the male sex. I earlier wrote about one study which found that male stockbrokers with especially low 2D/4D ratio (indicating a longer ring finger than forefinger) seemed to earn humongous amounts of money. This was explained by their greater willingness to take risks, based on that presumed prenatal testosterone bath.

When I wrote that earlier post, I got really annoyed by this:

"Men typically have a ratio below 1, indicating their ring fingers are longer, Coates said. Women typically have a ratio of 1 or above."

So Coates is arguing that the average woman has forefingers longer than her ring fingers? I tried to Google more about this topic and only came across something in Desmond Morris' (of all people!) book The Naked Woman:

Despite its importance the forefinger is usually only the third longest of the four fingers, being exceeded in most cases by the middle finger and the ring finger. In 45 percent of females, however, it is the second longest finger, relegating the ring-finger to third place. Surprisingly, this is true of 22 percent of males.
The reason for my irritation is that I had never noticed any women having equally long forefingers and ring fingers. It seems that this is something I should have noticed, you know, if the above assertion was to be taken as a universal one.

But all is made much clearer now. A recent study carried out with data from Finnish women gives the 2D-4D average figure for right hands as 0.978 and for left hands as 0.972. Compare these values with the above quote. No wonder that I didn't believe that assertive statement.

The 2D-4D ratio seems to show genetic differences between countries or at least differences as one moves northwards. This is a good example of a changing simple theory, perhaps even a dying one.

The reason for the latter speculation is that several recent studies fail to find support for the idea that the digit ratio can tell us much about, say, the fertility behavior of individuals. Indeed, my random surfing among these studies seemed to pick up mostly negative results. An example:

We failed to demonstrate meaningful relations between the radiographic 2D:4D index and the wide scale of studied variables. Despite the ideal set-up of the measuring possibilities in a relatively large radiographic material the variables currently studied were not dependent on the length of finger bones. It can therefore be questioned whether any real associations between the bony 2D:4D index in adult life and (direct or indirect) hormone dependent effects exist. There may be a publication bias explaining that mostly positive findings have been previously reported. This study cannot rule out the possibility that the previously found associations between the 2D:4D index and several items are due to finger soft tissues.

What's the point of this post? Not to criticize the digit ratio studies as such, but to point out that the popularizing media is nowhere to be found when things get less clear-cut or when negative results predominate. It's all hullabaloo with the initial findings (assuming they show youknowwhat) and after that, snores.

The Consequences Of Selective Gender Science Popularizations

Comments translated from Helsingin Sanomat, a major Finnish newspaper which naturally published a chimps and sticks popularization. I picked this because I came upon it and also because when I stated that this thing was gonna go viral I wanted to be able to show you what it means:

The equality commission must order young male chimps to also carry a stick like a baby and at least to build it its own sleeping nest. That stick must also be chauffeured to ice-hockey training and ballet and it must be bought a pony.

One would think that people in 2010 know that boys are boys and girls are girls and that we are different in many ways. And equality is pure rubbish.

"isms" don't change biology to something else. Already as young ones we practice.

It's a fact that women's and men's brains FUNCTION differently. I don't mean that they were different (smiley). Examples: Men in general take things LITERALLY when women understand better if something is not said directly but, say, through teasing.

For women feelings are important. It's important how things feel. Men think with logic and women with emotions (People in general make their decisions based on emotions and then afterwards justify them with logic, but this is stronger in women)

To balance some of that out, I'd like to also offer a comment from that thread which disagrees. It's framed strongly:

If women truly for biological reasons existed only as aquaria for fetuses and after that as the servants of children, the world would be quite different.

If women naturally/by their nature were as proposed by the supporters of evolutionary biology, we wouldn't have an equality discussion, discussions about wage discrepancies, discussions about the problems of day-care. No. We would only have continously pregnant or breast-feeding women interested in only their babies. The labor market and all other squabbles would be left to the men. Women would take care of children and only allow sex when they'd want to get pregnant again.

Does that sound a bit extreme? But so do all those biology-is-destiny commentaries! We just don't spot it because a certain kind of extremism is so very common in our public discourse.

That is naturally helped by what is brought to that public discourse. Female chimpanzees making spears and killing? Nah. Female chimpanzees playing with dolls? You bet your ass.

See how the innateness discussion is distorted by that?

Why can't I let go of this topic? Because the sexist culture is so strong that innate differences don't even matter. Even if they were slight (as Lise Eliot argues in her book Pink Brain, Blue Brain) they are used as the vehicle for forcing people into narrow slots and even for misogyny.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

'Notorious radical feminists' (by Suzie)

"Notorious radical feminist" -- I want that on a T-shirt.

Today, the Times of London quoted Julian Assange saying: “One of the women has written many articles on taking revenge against men for infidelity and is a notorious radical feminist.” He was talking about "Miss A," one of the two Swedish women who have accused him of sexual misconduct.

Dear Feminists for Free Speech and other feminist supporters: He uses "radical feminist" as a pejorative. He told the BBC:
I've never had a problem before with women. ... Women have been extremely helpful and generous and put up with me [not just in bed, but] in a sense of assisting me with my work, caring for me, loving me and so on. That is what I am used to.
The Swedish women "got into a tizzy about whether there was a possibility of sexually transmitted diseases." He says the women may have been "bamboozled" by the police into making accusations. He also suggests that Miss A wants money and revenge.

On her former blog, Miss A linked to an eHow article on revenge that's legal. (Just fyi: False allegations to the police are not legal.) This was before she met Assange. The article does mention cheating, but as an example. It also says it's better to forgive than take revenge, and not to take revenge disproportionate to the offense. Once again, Assange has manipulated the truth, a k a lying.

He has serious work to do, he says, and he's not going back to Sweden just to have "a chat" with prosecutors. He says Sweden is more of a banana republic than a civilized country.

He acknowledges that he had no evidence that the allegations were a “honeytrap.” He says he never claimed that, and the lawyer who did either misspoke or was misquoted. But his first public response to the accusations was that they were "dirty tricks," perhaps done by the Pentagon. Even if they were true, “there is nothing that any reasonable person would say is a rape."

Your Favorite Toys And Games

So what were they? Why were they your favorites? How did you play with them or them?

These questions were provoked by the chimp studies naturally. If I'm going to make you answer, I should, too. The problem is that what I remember from my childhood with the greatest pleasure is not toys but books. The minute I figured out how to read I was pretty much gone for books and the wonderful worlds they contained.

I also remember playing ball with other children, various types of games played outside on sand in groups, and playing with my cousins, all boys. The latter games were playing cowboys and Indians (my sincere apologies, I didn't know better), war and police and robbers. Also Robin Hood. Once we robbed the kitchen garden of my aunt and ate all the baby carrots. That didn't go down well.

I liked those games. Does that mean that I'm a god in the gown of a goddess? I doubt that very much. We also played shop, which consisted of first walking in the ditch along the big road, picking up empty cigarette cartons and other packaging and then arranging them in a play store to sell. I also met my first used condom on those scavenging trips. And yes, we were told not to do that but it was fun.

My older sister and I also played house. The mother had the best role in the play and she was always the mother. I was the father and had to lie on her first. Then my brother was allowed to join as the child in the family. I'm pretty sure I didn't know why I had to lie on my sister first, at that time, but I'd do anything to be included.

There were toys, too. I think I even had a doll or two, but they didn't become socially important until the Barbie age when the games we played were mostly role playing, not baby minding.

Your turn

And Finally, On Chimps And Sticks. Take Three

I have noticed a clear trend during my years as a blogger. Anything vaguely smelling of science which supports traditional gender roles immediately develops humongous wings and flies all over the place, crapping on our upturned faces.

Anything not supporting traditional gender roles is presented in a few places, gets no attention and dies a a silent death. This even in the cases where the studies are equally good or equally bad.

The overall effect of all this is obvious: It props up the traditional gender role explanations as the scientifically supported ones. That lots and lots of studies beg to differ is ignored because they are not interesting enough to popularize. This outcome is serious. It is harmful to women and girls and it is ultimately dishonest to all of us.

But that's how things are.

My example of this was provided by Dan S. in the comments to the first chimp-n-sticks post, and I'm going to compare that example to the present one.

The two have points of similarities: First, they both discuss chimpanzees and sticks. Second, they both observe behavior which is more common in female chimpanzees than in male chimpanzees.

The similarities end there. This new study reinforces traditional gender roles so it's good and worth popularizing. The 2007 study worked against them so it's something we should forget about right away. But let's see what it found, in any case:

Chimpanzees living in the West African savannah have been observed fashioning deadly spears from sticks and using the tools to hunt small mammals -- the first routine production of deadly weapons ever observed in animals other than humans.

The multistep spearmaking practice, documented by researchers in Senegal who spent years gaining the chimpanzees' trust, adds credence to the idea that human forebears fashioned similar tools millions of years ago.


Using their hands and teeth, the chimpanzees were repeatedly seen tearing the side branches off long, straight sticks, peeling back the bark and sharpening one end. Then, grasping the weapons in a "power grip," they jabbed them into tree-branch hollows where bush babies -- small, monkeylike mammals -- sleep during the day.

In one case, after repeated stabs, a chimpanzee removed the injured or dead animal and ate it, the researchers reported in yesterday's online issue of the journal Current Biology.

"It was really alarming how forceful it was," said lead researcher Jill D. Pruetz of Iowa State University, adding that it reminded her of the murderous shower scene in the Alfred Hitchcock movie "Psycho." "It was kind of scary."
Fascinating, innit? Sounds like a guy behavior, it does. But wait a second:

The landmark observation also supports the long-debated proposition that females -- the main makers and users of spears among the Senegalese chimps -- tend to be the innovators and creative problem solvers in primate culture.


Pruetz recalled the first time she saw a member of the 35-member troop trimming leaves and side branches off a branch it had broken off a tree.

"I just knew right away that she was making a tool," Pruetz said, adding that she suspected -- with some horror -- what it was for. But in that instance she was unable to follow the chimpanzee to see what she did with it. Eventually the researchers documented 22 instances of spearmaking and use, two-thirds of them involving females.
Very interesting. Note how the popularization takes its time before it points out the gender difference? Not like the popularizations of the new study which start with that, pretty much.

Do you remember the 2007 study going viral? I don't. But it's every bit as significant as the new stick study, only it shows female chimps as tool makers and as killers. So are we going to draw conclusions to human society from that one, too?


And Back To Chimps And Sticks

These popularizations of the original study are so fascinating! A new one on has dropped the information that the play has been observed in only one chimpanzee group, not the others! That of course makes the "innate" explanation stronger. As I told you, this was going to happen.

On the other hand, new information has cropped up:

Boy chimpanzees typically used sticks as weapons, shaking them to intimidate playmates.

But just like human boys with "action figures," young male chimpanzees were sometimes seen playing with dolls as well.

Kahlenberg described one 4-year-old male named Kakama in an e-mail response:

"He was observed to bring his stick into his nest and play the 'airplane game' with it, that is, he laid on his back with his arms and legs extended upward and balanced the stick on his upturned palms and 'flew' it from side to side. This behavior is performed by mother chimpanzees with their infants and, of course, human parents do it as well. Another interesting observation is that Kakama even constructed a separate nest for his stick."
Now, the previous Mother Jones popularization said something different about that nest constructing:

* Once a young chimp built a separate nest for her stick.
So were there two cases of nest building? And if not, which sex built the nest?

What do we conclude from this new popularization?

It's just days till Christmas, and many young girls around the world will be thrilled to find little dolls under the tree to play with.

But there's new evidence that it's not only human girls who enjoy playing with imaginary babies -- young apes may be showing the same behavior.


So should this behavior in any way alter the way we perceive chimpanzees, and any affiliation with human behaviors?

"Regarding how this study is related to the sex difference that we see in how human children play, it has at the very least contributed to the discussion of the factors underlying these differences," Kahlenberg answered.

"Our results suggest that part of the explanation may lie in innate differences between males and females. Specifically, there may be differences in how the sexes play that shape how they interact with toys, including which types they prefer."

That finding would suggest there may be a genetic and gender-driven force behind the play.
Just to remind you: The other chimpanzee communities don't do this kind of play. And just to remind you, the chimpanzees are playing with sticks, not making dolls. And just to remind you, a different way of thinking about this is that the female chimpanzees use tools more often than male chimpanzees.

Those reminders go on deaf ears.
The comments to the post include this one:
" Finally we can stop this idiotic "gender neutral toy" business."
See how this whole thing works? Also, my comments somehow appear to be stuck in moderation! Who would have thought.

Eve Rode The Dinosaur To School

Forty percent of Americans believe that God created humans as they are about 10,000 years ago. That's the bad news. The good news is that this percentage used to be even higher, 47% in the 1990s. The survey doesn't say if that same forty percent believe that Eve was persuaded by the snake to eat the apple, but I suspect they do. Hence the creation theme parks and such. Where all animals were brought in Noah's ark.

From a new Gallup poll asking people about their views on how humans came about:

Most Americans believe in God, and about 85% have a religious identity. It is not surprising as a result to find that about 8 in 10 Americans hold a view of human origins that involves actions by God -- that he either created humans as depicted in the book of Genesis, or guided a process of evolution. What no doubt continues to surprise many scientists is that 4 out of 10 Americans believe in the first of these explanations.

These views have been generally stable over the last 28 years. Acceptance of the creationist viewpoint has decreased slightly over time, with a concomitant rise in acceptance of a secular evolution perspective. But these shifts have not been large, and the basic structure of beliefs about human beings' origins is generally the same as it was in the early 1980s.

Americans' attitudes about almost anything can and often do have political consequences. Views on the origins of humans are no exception. Debates and clashes over which explanations for human origins should be included in school textbooks have persisted for decades. With 40% of Americans continuing to hold to an anti-evolutionary belief about the origin of humans, it is highly likely that these types of debates will continue.
I sometimes do despair. On one side we have this and on the other side we have the Evo Psychos. Either way women lose, you know, but that's not at all new in the history of "mankind"*, and neither is the idea that bad science is pretty close to religion, perhaps even bad religion. The same fervent belief, the same refusal to be moved, the same simple explanations. The same low-level concrete, dualistic thinking.

Not that I equate the two, naturally. Just pointing out that we should never confuse religion and scientific thinking this way. They belong in different parts of the brain and the ability to accept parables and metaphors is crucial for the former.
*As invisibly pointed out in the picture we usually see depicting evolution.

Happy Winter! (by Suzie)

David Lubin, M.D., took this photo early this morning in Florida. He says it's "the first full lunar eclipse on the winter solstice since 1638."

Monday, December 20, 2010

On Sticks And Chimpanzees

Mother Jones discusses a study which finds that female young chimpanzees carry sticks much, much more often than male young chimpanzees. The study argues that this means the sticks are dolls and that the behavioral differences tell us that there is a gender difference in childhood play in chimpanzees in one chimpanzee community.

But these results will ultimately be applied human sex differences in play and how that prepares us to our later gender roles in the society: Girls play with dolls, boys play with trucks and cars, all this is innate and explains the absence of women among American presidents, say.

From the study abstract:

Sex differences in children's toy play are robust and similar across cultures. They include girls tending to play more with dolls and boys more with wheeled toys and pretend weaponry. This pattern is explained by socialization by elders and peers, male rejection of opposite-sex behavior and innate sex differences in activity preferences that are facilitated by specific toys. Evidence for biological factors is controversial but mounting. For instance, girls who have been exposed to high fetal androgen levels are known to make relatively masculine toy choices. Also, when presented with sex-stereotyped human toys, captive female monkeys play more with typically feminine toys, whereas male monkeys play more with masculine toys. In human and nonhuman primates, juvenile females demonstrate a greater interest in infants, and males in rough-and-tumble play. This sex difference in activity preferences parallels adult behavior and may contribute to differences in toy play. Here, we present the first evidence of sex differences in use of play objects in a wild primate, in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). We find that juveniles tend to carry sticks in a manner suggestive of rudimentary doll play and, as in children and captive monkeys, this behavior is more common in females than in males.
Wow. That's it, then.

Well, not quite. First, the nature-vs-nurture argument, in the versus sense, is outdated and incorrect. The actual way these things work is much more complicated and interactive.

Second, studies of chimpanzees in prison (cages) introduces a human influence (difficult to control for) in their environment and doesn't really study them in their actual habitat.

Third, those findings about the chimpanzees in the wild? They only apply to one chimpanzee community:

The findings link this play to adult behavior, since female carry infants more than 99 percent of the time and males less than 1 percent of the time—making this a seemingly clear case of nature over nurture. But there's little evidence of stick-carrying behavior in other chimpanzee communities. So the Kibale chimps appear to be copying a local behavioral tradition—making this a case of nurture over nature. Put them together, and you get a clear case of biological and social influences entwining.
You know what this sounds like to me? It sounds like cultural evolution. If we insist on using the nature-vs-nurture idiom, the lack of stick playing in other chimpanzee communities would, in fact, rule against nature, never mind whether male and female chimpanzees play with sticks at different rates in one particular community. The young chimpanzees would observe the gender norms of their group and follow those.

Indeed, I suspect that gender identification in early childhood may be the engine that drives many of the toy choices rather than some innate interest in one particular type of toy. Or at least it's a valid alternative theory, because any particular toy could be played with in many different ways.

I'm not writing this post because, as the abstract says, discussing innate differences in human play is somehow "controversial," but because I suspect we are stuck at the level of far-too simple-and-shallow explanations and because most of those end up being used in the propaganda sense. So you will keep hearing that even chimp girls play with dolls and chimp boys with cars!
Thanks to trifecta for the link.

A Housekeeping Announcement

Blogger changed some of its rules about a year ago, and as a consequence of those rule changes my homepage got shorter. It used to fit a week's worth of posts but no longer does if individual posts happen to be long ones. The "continue reading" break in general works to allow more posts to be kept on the front page but I couldn't get it to work on the ancient template I have. If anyone can help me on that I'd be grateful.

For the time being, you have to click on the archives to read anything older than the last four or five days. My apologies for that.

Have some chocolate and stay warm.

The Wedding Shower*

The announcement:
Ghulam Haider, 11, is to be married to Faiz Mohammed, 40. She had hoped to be a teacher but was forced to quit her classes when she became engaged.

What will you bring to the shower? Perhaps this:

The International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act, a bill championed in the Senate by the chamber's No. 2 Democrat Dick Durbin and moderate Maine Republican Olympia Snowe, would require the federal government to develop a plan to combat child marriage with the goal of eliminating the practice worldwide.

The bill's defeat in the House Thursday left Durbin fuming.

"The action on the House floor stopping the Child Marriage bill tonight will endanger the lives of millions of women and girls around the world," Durbin said in a statement after Thursday's House vote. "These young girls, enslaved in marriage, will be brutalized and many will die when their young bodies are torn apart while giving birth. Those who voted to continue this barbaric practice brought shame to Capitol Hill."

The measure had already passed the Senate – unanimously. So how did a bipartisan bill with 112 co-sponsors fail to pass the House?
It's such a cheap present! And comes handy for the groom at least, because there will be less international condemnation of the romantic relationship. The bride might not like that but who are we to judge foreigners and their morals? Except when it comes to abortion, naturally:

Just before the vote, Republicans distributed a memo to pro-life House members arguing that the bill could ultimately end up funding abortions.

"The bill provides little structure or oversight on how the money may be spent," the memo read. "The President is authorized under this bill to provide assistance through nongovernmental organizations that are charged with the promotion of 'health' of girls and women. It is possible that some of these NGOs may view abortion as health care and promote abortion services as a part of that health care."
Never mind how many young girls are torn apart giving birth. That's what they are for, to quote Martin Luther on the topic of gender equality!

But fetuses! Now those are precious. And they must be remembered, even if the bill mentions nothing about abortions, nothing at all! Even if one's eyes cross when trying to understand how an attempt to make forced child brides less common somehow might encourage abortion. Even then we must use fetuses as an excuse to kill girls.

Or money:

In the memo, Republicans denounced the bill as "costly and duplicative."

"Some conservatives have expressed the following concerns," they said. "The bill authorizes $108 million over five years – before ascertaining how much is already being spent on similar programs that aim to prevent child marriage – and without finding any offsets."
How much did we spend on the Iraq war? There was another perfectly good war already going. Did we try to find it as an offset? Did we try to find out how much was spent on general warmongering? Nope, we did not.
*Note that the specific story and picture refer to an older wedding, not a recent one.

Also, I know Anthony McCarthy already wrote two great posts on this topic. But repetition is the mother of learning and the topic needs to be kept in the open.

The Quickest Way To Get Misinformed

Is to watch Fox news 24/7. A recent study on political misinformation found evidence that voters of all types are misinformed (perhaps willfully?) on their pet issues:

...including the stimulus legislation, the healthcare reform law, TARP, the state of the economy, climate change, campaign contributions by the US Chamber of Commerce and President Obama’s birthplace. In particular, voters had perceptions about the expert opinion of economists and other scientists that were quite different from actual expert opinion.
But more interestingly, those who watched Fox News a lot were more misinformed than everybody else:

Those who watched Fox News almost daily were significantly more likely than those who never watched it to believe that:

most economists estimate the stimulus caused job losses (12 points more likely)

most economists have estimated the health care law will worsen the deficit (31 points)

the economy is getting worse (26 points)

most scientists do not agree that climate change is occurring (30 points)

the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts (14 points)

their own income taxes have gone up (14 points)

the auto bailout only occurred under Obama (13 points)

when TARP came up for a vote most Republicans opposed it (12 points)

and that it is not clear that Obama was born in the United States (31 points)

These effects increased incrementally with increasing levels of exposure and all were statistically significant. The effect was also not simply a function of partisan bias, as people who voted Democratic and watched Fox News were also more likely to have such misinformation than those who did not watch it--though by a lesser margin than those who voted Republican.
The only polite conclusion to be drawn from that is that Fox misleads its viewers on purpose. That's fair-and-balanced?

Why does this matter? Because we have come to a place where people not only hold different opinions but where facts themselves have become just a part of those opinions. How do we debate politics under those conditions? It's nigh impossible if different people have different ideas of what has happened.
A summary of the study can be found here.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Eric Cantor Protect Pedophiles [Anthony McCarthy]


As posted here yesterday, the Republican caucus in the House of Representatives of the United States killed a bill that had been passed UNANIMOUSLY in the Senate that would have fought the practice of forced marriage of very young girls. The Republicans in the United States House of Representatives, the gang of thugs who are about to take it over, VOTED FOR CHILD RAPE.

the bill, S. 987, passed unanimously in the Senate (all 100 Republicans and Democrats), and was sent on to the House yesterday for final passage.

And as soon as it landed there, the Republican leadership set out to defeat it. First, just after noon yesterday, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen sent a "Dear Colleague" letter to House Republicans forcefully urging them "to oppose the Senate bill, S. 987, the “International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2010,” when it comes up for a vote today in its current version."

This letter then went on to argue--without merit--that the bill would cost $108 million and urged votes for a "new" alternative bill crafted by Ros-Lehtinen.

In fact, S. 987 is an authorizing bill and contains no new funding. Rather, the bill was purposefully crafted to make the most effective use of existing U.S. international assistance by ensuring effective coordination among various development efforts.

And after that the Republican Whip, Eric Cantor issued what was, in effect, marching orders:

Later in the day, at 6:53 pm just before the vote was to be held, Eric Cantor's office sent out a "whip alert" to Legislative Directors of Republican offices, which now also contended that they should vote against the bill based on "pro-life" concerns.

What "pro-life" concerns? I find it literally impossible to say, since for one thing the bill itself seeks to protect and promote the life, health and survival of girls who are being married as young as age eight, and for another thing the bill, in that it seeks to prevent child marriage in the first place did not address the needs of already-married girls and young women who for obvious reasons otherwise need access to reproductive health care.

Let me repeat: This bill seeks to prevent children from being married and by extension from forcing young girls into sexual relations in a custom that is nothing but a blatant abuse of human rights.

The Republican Party, the "family values" party, the "pro-life" party voted as a bloc in the House of Representatives FOR THE RAPE OF CHILDREN, ensuring the early deaths of many young girls and the babies their bodies are too small and underdeveloped to give give birth to safely.

This is such an outrage that if it doesn't become as important a talking point as the trivia that so absorbs so much attention, I don't think any of us escapes the shame. As Eric Cantor appears on the Sunday morning BS shows, I doubt he will be asked about this. It's up to us to shame them into passing it. It's up to us to point out that this is a REAL instance in which the federal government is promoting pedophilia, child rape, the mutilation and deaths of children.