Abortion, Life and the Law (and a Snowden Postscript)

Abortion, Life and the Law

A few months ago the folks at Healthcare-administration-degree.net reached out to me to share an infographic on our attitudes about abortion. Too busy to pay proper attention I allowed the note to sink under a pile of other e-mail. As luck would have it, they gave me a poke this week at a very good time. The House just voted in support of a bill making abortion illegal after 20 weeks, in direct contradiction to current law and Supreme Court rulings. We won’t go into what a waste of time this vote was. The bill will never get through the Senate and if it did it would be vetoed by Obama. It was a symbolic gesture at a time when we need Congress to focus on doing what it can to improve a limping economy.

What jumps out from the infographic is the difference between what people think about life vs what they think about the law. Most folks consider themselves pro-life. Most folks think abortion should be legal in at least some cases. I think these findings illustrate something the most strident  “pro-life” people tend to distort about those who differ with them. Precious few people are “pro-abortion”. The most opinionated pro-life folks call pro-choice folks “baby killers”. The truth I think, is that 99% of folks think the ideal world is a world where every couple greets the news of an impending birth with great anticipation and joy. We don’t live in an ideal world so what do we do about those couples who, for whatever reason, do not welcome a pregnancy? The graphic below shows that most of us want pregnancies to go to term but we are at best ambivalent about the legal remedy when they don’t.

Clearly there is a difference in asking “do you support life” as opposed to “do you want to put women who get abortions in jail”.  Examine the graphic below and tell me what you glean from it.

What We Think About Abortion
Image source: www.healthcare-administration-degree.net

I should note that from my general perusal of the Healthcare Administration Degree web site, they do not appear to have a political axe to grind. The graphic, as far as I can see, simply tries to illustrate a truth about semantics and our attitudes toward abortion.

Random Thoughts about Edward Snowden

Hero or Traitor

I tend to agree with those who say Snowden is neither hero nor traitor. He clearly did us a service by putting a spotlight on a government technically capable of invading our privacy on a grand scale. For that we owe him some thanks. On the other hand, he is acting like a fugitive fleeing first to Hong Kong and now to Moscow. It’s a bit hard to admire the man when he is unwilling to “face the music”.

Oh, How Thick the Irony

A week or so ago I heard an NBC correspondent guessing at a psychological profile of Snowden from … wait for it … his old Twitter and Facebook feeds. The correspondent seemed oblivious to the fact she was using his Internet trail to report on his whistle blowing a government who uses OUR Internet trail to create profiles of us. In fact, the very same media stoking the outrage at NSA overreach has been using Twitter feeds to analyze folks from Trayvon Martin to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Methinks the media doth protest too much.

Espionage, Really?

In “sealed” papers, we have charged Snowden with espionage. I asked my readers in the comment thread of my last article what kind of sense this could make. Who was Snowden spying for? One of my readers hit it on the head, quite sadly, when he replied “He was spying for the American people.” We are at a point where we need our own spies to keep an eye on the Obama administration which has turned out to be anything but transparent.

Just cos You’re Paranoid Doesn’t Mean the Bastards Aren’t Out to Get You

Obama’s abysmal record in prosecuting and intimidating whistle blowers made what should have been a sad story of a fatal car accident into fodder for conspiracy theorists. Rolling Stone and BuzzFeed writer Michael Hastings died last week in a fiery automobile crash. Hastings was instrumental in getting General Stanley McChrystal fired from his post as Commander of our forces in Afghanistan. As recently as a few weeks ago he appeared on MSNBC calling Obama a liar regarding our drone program. I’m not a tin foil hat wearing kinda guy but when I heard about Hastings’ death I immediately wondered aloud if he had been killed.

Michael Hastings may have died driving recklessly in the middle of the Los Angeles night but I’d bet dollars to donuts that Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill are looking over their shoulders right now.


Food for Despots

178px-_Be_Smart_Act_Dumb__-_NARA_-_514912Despots thrive on ignorance. After watching US foreign policy for the past 10 or so years, it is not too far-fetched to say that people get the government they deserve. We have learned this lesson time and time again. First we thought we would be greeted as liberators in Iraq. Then we moved from anti-terrorism to nation building in Afghanistan. Then we cheered on the Arab Spring in Egypt and Libya. In all cases we have discovered that the country post-despot is far more dysfunctional than the country under the despot.  This may sound callous bordering on bigotry but some countries are so full of ignorant people, incapable of self-government that they need a strong-arm to keep things in order. I believe the jury is out on whether the world is better off without Hussein, Mubarek and Gaddafi. Anyone paying the slightest bit of attention knows that Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai is a bad joke. And now what are we doing? We are seriously contemplating a contribution to the demise of Syria’s Assad with zero knowledge of what will follow his departure.

Is the lesson this teaches us here at home limited to foreign policy? No it isn’t. A smart electorate can become a dumb electorate. Dumb people get leaders who end up not acting in their best interests. Dumb people end up losing their freedom. I argue we are becoming a dumb people and I say this in a totally bipartisan way.

In the past week I have watched several exchanges on television that left me very unnerved. Bill Moyers interviewed Glenn Greenwald a journalist who has written about the Obama administration’s crackdown on whistle blowers. The government tactics range from intimidation to criminal prosecution. According to Greenwald, more whistle blowers have been harassed by this administration than any other administration combined. Recent developments suggest that those offering evidence on the Benghazi terrorist attack of 9/11/12 that was contrary to the government account were being shut down. I have spent some time on this blog and in the comments section defending Obama and Hillary Clinton on the Benghazi affair but when a mainstream show like “Face the Nation” this morning reports that the administration knowingly lied or distorted the facts about Benghazi how can there be any more defense? In fact, we risked endangering our relationship with the new President of Libya by essentially calling him a liar when he said the attack on the embassy was planned.

Then a few nights later a PBS “Frontline” report talked about America post-9/11 and painted a picture of a government shrouded in secrecy doing things in “America’s best interest” without their permission. This policy was passed on to the Obama administration and expanded by him. Billions of our e-mails are read every day by folks employed in Homeland Security.

Later in the week HBO’s Bill Maher interviewed Jeremy Scahill, a reporter whose eyes burn with anger when he recounts how we brazenly killed the 16 year old son of Anwar al-Awlaki simply for being the son of a terrorist instigator. Press Secretary at the time, Robert Gibbs, reportedly said this is what happens when your Dad does bad things. Scahill seems to be alone while most liberals turn a blind eye to a liberal administration flushing liberal ideals down the toilet.  Scahill went on to discuss the near indiscriminate killing of Afghan civilians by our special ops forces. As Scahill puts it, if someone steals your goat, you can report them to the Americans as a suspected terrorist and our special ops team will storm their house and kill everyone in it.

Later on that same broadcast an argument broke out, so brief that if you blinked you missed it. Lawrence O’Donnell, MSNBC uber-liberal, flew off the handle when conservative guest Pete Hegseth launched the old 2nd Amendment defense of an electorate needing to protect itself from government tyranny. O’Donnell said what I have been saying for years … and very recently in the comments section of this very blog, namely that the time for us to be worried about government tyranny is long past. Our well oiled democracy has built-in safeguards that ensure government tyranny would never happen. Along with that is the ironic and contradictory side argument that all of our US militias would never be a match against a government armed with drones and nukes — that same government that would never resort to tyranny. Essentially “they would never be tyrants but if they were you’d be no match for them.”

Well, I’m no longer so sure O’Donnell is right. We saw a militarization in Boston a few weeks ago that should give us all pause. When asked if America would ever drone strike its own people, Attorney General Eric Holder’s initial response was a hypothetical yes. He only backed off after an old-fashioned filibuster by Senator Rand Paul focused attention on it. Combine this with the other stories I watched this week, and we no longer have the liberal ideal of America that I vote for every four years.

But beyond all that, we have a conservative populace with a sizable number of folks who still don’t believe Barack Obama was born in America and a liberal populace too ignorant to understand that universal background checks (which I support) would have done nothing to prevent the tragedy of Sandy Hook. We are, as a nation, getting dumber and dumber. If we don’t turn this around, we will wake up one morning and not recognize the America in which we live. Our ignorance will be the food that one day nourishes a true despot.


Poster from National Archives