Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Too much going on at once

Well, you can't call this a boring week in the news, that's for sure. Let me get the obligatory comments out of the way on a few of the stories that are trying to drive each other off the front page.

I think the religious fanatics actually made a big mistake with the Mississippi "personhood" amendment. I understand they're trying to do this in a few other states and it ain't over (officially) yet but if you can't do it in the country's most benighted state (sorry to our fans from the land that gave us the blues but you know it's true) where can you do it? Their mistake was to confront the public with the logical conclusion of their claim that "human life begins at conception," that an embryo is morally indistinguishable from a baby. It turns out that lots of people who define themselves as "pro-life" can't actually go there when they have to take it literally. It's a reductio ad absurdum of the anti-abortion position, which they deliberately presented. If people are careful and wise, they can build on this moment to fundamentally shift the terms of the debate.

Next, Joe Pa.(It turns out there's a distant and meaningless connection -- he's an alumnus of Brown University.) Lots of people are pointing out that this is similar to the Catholic Church. Not so much, I think. They have in common the moral failing of putting the perceived good of the institution ahead of the child victims, but the context is otherwise quite different. Penn State and its football program weren't involved in the lives of the victims and weren't actually perpetrating the rapes. And it's pretty clear to me that the culture of the Catholic priesthood is deeply imbued with repressed and twisted sexuality. The guys at Penn State didn't actively protect Sandusky or enable his actions, they just couldn't be bothered to stop him. You may not agree, but it seems to me that along one dimension, anyway, that's even worse, because the cost of acting, and the potential damage to the institution, were far less in the Penn State case. It would have been easy to turn Sandusky in, and while people would have been shocked, it would not have reflected poorly on Penn State or Penn State football. So their actions are not only inexcusable, but rather inexplicable, in my view.

Next, I'm sure you're at least as sick as I am of hearing about Herman Cain, but I'll make one last comment. It's just plain weird that Vulgar Pigboy and the rest of wingnuttery are rallying around him and blaming the liberal media. It would cost them next to nothing to dump him, but it's costing them a whole lot to keep loving him. They're just pathologically incapable of admitting error, I guess.

Finally, as coastal Alaska gets wiped out by a snow hurricane, I wonder if it will have any impact on the climate change denialism that rules in a state where the oil industry mails a check to everybody once a year? We'll see. But no, I don't care what a former half-term governor has to say about it, and neither does anyone else.

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