7 things @ 11 o’clock (7.12)

7 things @ 11 o’clock (7.12) July 12, 2013

1. This is pure genius. Saves water, encourages hygiene, why didn’t someone think of this sooner? This is also pure genius (via Zack Hunt, who has posted a couple other videos from the series).

2. Dr. Steven C. Brigham seems to be a predatory hack. But since his patients are just women with nowhere else to turn, he’s been able to keep practicing his dangerous brand of “medicine” for years. The link there, you’ll notice, is to a story by Sharona Coutts for RH Reality Check. Remember that story and that link a year or so from now, when the conservative media finally picks up on that story and Conor Friedersdorf imagines that, since it’s brand new to him, it must be brand new to everyone, and then he writes a story asking why Dr. Brigham isn’t front page news and the whole conservative wurlitzer picks up the tune, clucking and fretting about a supposed media conspiracy to silence the story. Again.

3. A century from now there will be a statue of James Hansen on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Tourists will be able to look down at it in glass-bottom boats. Or, more optimistically, the Hansen statue will be carved into the wall of one of the huge Dutch-style dikes and levees that will be necessary to preserve places like the National Mall as dry land. Jeff Goodell says, though, that no such feats of engineering will be able to save Miami.

See also Brad Plumer on “How climate change makes it harder to keep the lights on.” And Holly Richmond with “Send this crazy graph to the climate deniers you know.”

4. “For much of the 20th century, people –usually women – in American prisons and mental institutions were subjected to forced sterilization.” That’s Paul Campos providing a history lesson at Time because, as it turns out, for much of the 21st century women in California prisons may have been subjected to forced sterilization. That’s monstrous.

One response might be to outlaw tubal ligation — to ensure that no one is ever again forcibly sterilized by ensuring that no one is ever again voluntarily sterilized. That response makes sense only if you believe that there could never possibly be a good reason for anyone to want such a procedure, or for any doctor to think that such a procedure might be medically necessary for the health of the woman in question. Or, I suppose, that response would make sense if you think that women aren’t fully human — that they are intrinsically untrustworthy and incapable of making wise and good choices for themselves in consultation with their doctors.

But some of us do think women are fully human and capable of making good, wise, prudent choices about themselves. Some of us even think that, because those choices involve those women’s own bodies, it would be wrong for anyone else to override their interest, their judgment, their choice.

Some of us, in other words, are pro-choice. And some of us are not.

5. James McGrath muses on how the endless day of Arctic summer and endless night of Arctic winter messes up biblical rules about the beginning and end of Sabbath. (He also notes that Arctic Sabbath would be a great band name.) This recalls one of my money-making schemes — one I would never pursue because: A) it’s immoral, and B) money-making schemes only work for those obsessed with making money (I find it comes in handy, but I’ve never had the monomaniacal drive it takes to chase after the stuff singlemindedly). The scheme involved a pair of luxury resorts catering to the indulgences of the ultra-rich — one in Scandinavia somewhere, the other in Tierra del Fuego. We’d need two such resorts because Ramadan is a moveable fast, sometimes arriving during summer in the northern hemisphere and sometimes in winter. … You can probably see where this is going.

6. One of the weirder aspects of American politics is that so much of it is fueled by resentment of the poor and the powerless. That’s ass-backwards and upside-down, but it’s an undeniable facet of American life. Many among the wealthy resent the poor. Many of those with job security resent the unemployed. Many whites resent black people. Many straight people resent LGBT people. Many men resent women. Many who adhere to the hegemonic majority religion resent religious minorities. Resentment isn’t supposed to work like that. It’s hard to see how it’s even possible for the powerful to resent the powerless, or for the rich to resent the poor. Yet they do. That mystifies me.

It puzzles Duncan Black, too. He offers a theory that may explain some of this backwards resentment:

An issue in American politics isn’t just that too many whites can’t stand the idea of blah people getting any of “their” money, it’s that they truly think there is some secret welfare system that only blah people have access to. Plenty of white people have had whatever it is amounts to “welfare” in this country and have found it to be quite stingy. All those young bucks with their Cadillacs and T-bone steaks must be getting the really good welfare.

That last sentence is, of course, a reference to several perennial right-wing urban legends. Those lies were designed to create resentment, and they seem to be working. But there must be more to it than just that because the wealthy, powerful people who invented those lies — who know them to be nothing more than lies — were themselves already seething with resentment. Why? How?

7. There’s been a great deal written in recent years about the failure of churches to attract younger members. It’s almost a cottage industry — hand-wringing posts, articles and books musing over the puzzle of why so many younger people are leaving our churches. One of the main reasons — and one that has been largely ignored — is also one of the most obvious: Younger people are leaving the church because they were asked to leave. Or told to leave. Or forced to leave. Joseph Amodeo didn’t jump; he was pushed. This is a guy, you’ll recall who was prevented from entering church earlier this year by a bishop who called the cops to keep him out. But, gee, if only we could figure out this mystery of why younger people don’t feel more welcome. …


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  • For a case that extreme, I’m glad her parents managed to get the surgery okayed. But isn’t there a saying that extreme cases make bad law?

  • From what I’ve heard, European public toilets vary from, “Does everything but tuck in your clothes afterward” to “ceramic-plated hole in the floor”. Sometimes in the same country.

    (My mother told me about one restroom she’d been in, somewhere in Europe, that had a female urinal. “Cold and uncomfortable” were the words she used. Also “awkward”.)

  • I don’t think that saying means what you think it means.

    Specifically, I don’t think it means “The law should forbid things which would be bad in most cases, and say ‘too bad so sad’ for the exceptional cases where it wouldn’t be.”

  • Alix

    …except no one’s asked for a law like that. We’ve argued against making sterilization of legal dependents the default, not for a full ban of any sterilizations.

  • AnonaMiss

    No, no, it was.

    Thank y’all for the discussion on this, especially for most of you not immediately jumping to the conclusion that I was a horrible person (which I kind of expected). I really hadn’t thought through my position from all angles, but just from the position of a person who knows and has grown fond of two people who, if something had happened to their family, would have been extremely vulnerable to abuse.

    It also has occurred to me that my positions on the power which legal guardians should have over their guard-ees may be warped as a result of a series of cosmetic (reconstructive after an accident) surgeries I had as a minor which I would not then have given consent for, had I believed I could say no. (If I needed the same surgeries now I would say yes; I was just ready for the whole ordeal to be over at the time, even if that meant wearing dentures for the rest of my life). I may also have been underestimating the trauma/invasiveness of surgery as a combination justification/defense mechanism. I will be reflecting on that further.

    Anyway thank you for the thought-provoking discussion.

  • AnonaMiss

    The article Fred posted simply listed a number of sterilizations which the state of California had given to people in its care, without giving any of the details of why the procedure had been done in each case. It sure seemed like the article was against the state performing any sterilizations on people in its care no matter what the situation, and I think you’d find a lot of people holding that position as a reflex against the eugenics movement.

    Though yes my OP went too far the other direction.

  • Alix

    immediately jumping to the conclusion that I was a horrible person

    Hey, I’m the person who argued in another post that in extreme circumstances, people should be allowed to kill their dependents. I’d hardly consider you a horrible person for this.

    No, these kind of issues are really thorny, and there aren’t easy answers. My best friend calls things like this “the clash of competing goods,” and for me that’s a helpful thing to keep in mind.

    I do, genuinely, see where you’re coming from. And FWIW, I think this was an interesting and worthwhile conversation to have, if at times rather frustrating. XD

  • Alix

    I just keep thinking there has to be a balance somewhere – a bar to meet before forced sterilization’s deemed acceptable, or some other people (doctors, was my thinking) signing off on it. That sort of thing. I don’t generally think blanket, across-the-board bans on anything is a good idea, because I can see cases like some of the very specific ones you and others brought up, where something like sterilization might be necessary.

    But I also balk at making such a thing the automatic standard for state care (or, frankly, private care, though the state-care scenario scares me more).

    There’s got to be some reasonable medium.

  • AnonaMiss

    Having clicked through on the article it looks like the story it was in reference to was actually a case of performing tubal ligations on people who had “too many children already” etc., rather than for consent-based-ethics reasons. The article Fred linked was unclear and just went off on a eugenics rant, which is why I tried to counterpoint; but the actual situation in California is terrible and needs to be spread more.

  • You have left me puzzled as to why you’ve been arguing against something no one* has suggested.

    (* No one here. Yes, I know that a hundred years ago people seriously entertained the idea that we should automatically sterilize all undesirables, thank you very much, but I haven’t seen a single word in this conversation about “the default” from anyone advocating it.)

  • I just find something unsavory about anything that approaches a frame of “How many hoops shall we make the caregiver jump through before we deign to trust them to make medical decisions?”

  • Alix

    And I likewise find something problematic about a “blindly trust the caregiver to always be operating in the dependent’s best interest” approach – again, especially when talking about folks in state care, which is something we’ve shown throughout history we’re really, really bad at.

    Too much trust can be just as bad as too little, and as I said, my “hoops” would be: medical advice. That’s it. That the person is honestly diagnosed as mentally unfit to make that decision themself, that the doctor thinks such sterilization is advisable. That … really doesn’t seem excessive, to me.

  • Alix

    From AnonaMiss’ initial post: “for women in the care of the state, who will never have the capacity to consent to pregnancy, forced sterilization is absolutely the best course of action.”

    That’s what I was arguing against – the idea that the default for any woman placed in state care would be forced sterilization, not only sterilization in extreme circumstances.

  • Jamoche

    Supercooling – Mythbusters did it: http://mythbustersresults.com/mini-myth-madness – the state change doesn’t happen until something happens to trigger it. Superheating is similar – that’s when you microwave water past the boiling point in a smooth clean container.

  • Alix

    Oooh. Cool, thanks!

  • Jamoche

    Then there’s the newly-discovered blue planet which, they theorize, gets its color from silicates that cause glass rain


  • Jamoche

    Word trivia: “meltdown” predates nuclear physics – it refers to the behavior of ice cream.


  • Jamoche

    Would it help to put plastic wrap tightly around the pie slices before freezing them, to keep air away as they freeze? It’s what I’d do by default if anything has a surface that normally wouldn’t be exposed.

  • No, the point is that extreme cases shouldn’t be held up as, “See, this is why [extreme measure] should be the default.”

    Pointing to an extreme case and saying, “This is why the law can’t be too inflexible, either” is entirely reasonable.

  • Fanraeth

    Really? So black people have no friends whatsoever within their community? Fascinating.

  • No, black people have friends. Non-racist white people have friends. Racists have “friends” and they have “black friends”.

  • ohiolibrarian

    Unless you realize that the law for absentee voting was sometimes (jury-rigged? expanded?) amended to permit early voting in person. AKA any voting other than election day voting.

  • ohiolibrarian

    If someone can make medical decisions for them, then why not this one? If one of these women got cancer, and her guardian authorized surgery/chemo/radiation would you think that was improper?

  • ohiolibrarian

    Seems, frankly, more and more like lazy caretaking to me – why aren’t they caring for their patients and making sure they don’t get raped in the first place?

    You seem to be blaming caretakers now for not preventing every bad thing that might happen to someone in their care. Can they be there 24/7/365 for years and years on end? Even if they have to work? Even if they should die before the disabled person does?

    That is one monstrous burden you are placing on people.

    Just one question, have you ever been a caregiver of anyone?

  • ohiolibrarian

    Tell it to Shakespeare!

  • Carstonio

    You’re talking about lifesaving procedures, while AnonaMiss described an elective one. Elsewhere in the thread, I endorsed Alix’s position that permanent, invasive procedures should be a very last resort.

  • ohiolibrarian

    Weird pink, right? Remember copying the funnies (in color!) by pressing a flat pad of silly putty on them?

  • ohiolibrarian

    OK. What if one of these women had the gene that makes it probable that she will get breast cancer (like Angelina Jolie), but does not yet have breast cancer. Do you have to wait until the probable, but not inevitable, cancer occurs? Or is a prophylactic surgery permissible in your view?

  • Carstonio

    That would depend on the level of risk and the other types of treatments available. (Odd that all the posts I made on this subject the other day aren’t available in this thread.)

    I’m not categorically opposed to such sterilization. I’m saying that the bar for making these decisions for others should be pretty goddamn high, as Alix put it. At a minimum, the guardians should exhaust all other possibilities to prevent such pregnancies, such as long-term contraception.

    The only reason that people with mental capacity issues are at greater risk of rape is because the criminal justice system and the mental health guardian systems aren’t doing their jobs.

  • Alix

    But we are talking about folks in state care. And moreover, people keep missing my damn point, which is that everyone’s acting like rape is inevitable and so therefore jump straight to surgery for every woman in state care.

    Why not, say, stop the rapes? Why act like they’re an inevitable fact that can’t be changed? (Hint: rape isn’t an inevitable fact of life. There are, for example, any number of cultures with very low rape rates – even war-torn ones.)

    And I’d seriously like to know why the hell everyone’s talking about private caretakers when that’s not what this was about. But even in that case, hell yes, I have a problem with caretakers jumping to the most extreme possible solution to a possible problem, especially when ensuring the safety and well-being of their dependents is kind of their job.

    Again, yes, there are extreme cases where I’d be fine with sterilization. And yes, no one is Superman and able to prevent every single possible rape. But I really really don’t like the sense I’m getting that oh, rape is just this inevitable horror that inexplicably happens to folks, like a natural disaster, and thus the only thing that can possibly be done is cutting out the gonads of folks who can’t consent to it, because lord knows no one has ever invented locks or hormonal birth control.

    Just one question, have you ever been a caregiver of anyone?

    For a while, yes, so you can stop being a condescending asshat whenever you’d like. Odds are pretty damn good I’ll end up doing that again fairly soon. And no, I don’t feel like going into specifics, because it’s not only my privacy at stake here.

    I’m done talking about this. Everything I have to say I’ve said multiple times throughout this thread, as clearly as I possibly can, and at this point I’m just tired. I’m sorry – I usually consider it pretty rude to just drop out if other people are still trying to talk to me, but … yeah, tired pretty much sums it up. :/ And, again, I see where other people are coming from, and how y’all are drawing your own lines, and your rationales, and all that – I just don’t agree, and at this point it feels very much like we’re just spinning our wheels. So.

    Edited because I hit post before I was done. :/