Does Wendy Davis think her voters are stupid?

As we inch ever closer to election day Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis stares into the long dark night of a probable double digit loss to her opponent Gregg Abbot (as one poll group reports, “The probability that Abbott will beat Davis is 98%“). Fear, especially fear of defeat, leads people to take desperate and strange chances but well, her latest charges against her opponent are… hard to describe;

The best thing that can be said about accusing a man in an interracial marriage of being against interracial marriage is… at least it isn’t talking about sex toys.

What’s so egregious about all this pandering (beyond the insertion of “dildo” into the public discourse*) is that there are provocative and interesting philosophical issues that could be brought up here. The entire archaic issue of anti-miscegenation laws was originally broached by San Antonio Express-News reporter Peggy Fikac explicitly as a way of exploring Abbott’s stance on the Texas state ban on Gay Marriage.

Now, I don’t favor the interpretation that Loving v Virginia (the Supreme Court case that struck down the laws against mixed race marriages) is directly applicable to the gay marriage debate, but it’s very clear that a number of people such as reporter Ms. Fikac do feel it is, what with her article being titled “Echo of past in ban on gay marriage?”. A quick perusal of the wikipedia page for Loving shows that the case has been repeatedly brought up either supporting or being distinguished from the analysis of gay marriage.

So with the interview about gay marriage, the commentary about gay marriage, the entire reason sex toys came up* at all is related to enforcing state bans on gay marriage, naturally Wendy Davis… accused Abbott of being soft on miscegenation. Apparently Wendy Davis thinks that actually following the chain of reasoning is too much for her voters, no matter how frequently the idea of gay-marriage is no different from miscegenation is discussed or laid out. But then again, maybe not…

Maybe she is afraid of telling the truth to her voters: accusing Abbott of being soft on miscegenation may be nonsensical, but it avoids pointing out that liberals like Davis view gay marriage as the continuation of the march of Civil Rights. Which is a comparison that no small proportion of African-Americans find deeply offensive;

“To state that marriage redefinition is in any way similar to the civil rights movement is intellectually empty, dishonest and manufactured,” says minister Stacy Swimp, founder of Revive Alive Missional Ministry. “When has anyone from the LGBT demographic ever been publicly lynched, specifically excluded from moving into neighborhoods, prohibited from sitting on a jury and denied the right to sue others because of their sexual preferences?”

Pastor James Crowder, of St. Galilee Baptist Church and president of the Westside Minister’s Alliance, also weighed in on the narrative of sexual orientation being a civil right.

“Judge Friedman is sanctioning the staging of a false story,” Crowder says. “On stage are many actors who pretend that redefining traditional marriage is as valid as blacks fighting against the carnage of chattel slavery and the humiliation of Jim Crow. Never have I been so insulted. The curtain must be pulled down on this play of disinformation.”

Then again, to imagine that the subterfuge of pointing to anti-miscegenation laws will actually distract these voters from the habit of treating gay rights as the newest version of Civil rights… well, she’d have to think that her voters were pretty stupid not to be able to connect those dots.

Then again, when a candidate launches an attack on a man in a wheelchair with an ad that prominently features a wheelchair… maybe it’s just projection.

 

*Yes, I know.

 

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The Ebola problem isn’t the Ebola, it’s the politics

The recent incidents of Ebola virus infections in the United States have prompted something of a crisis, but not a crisis as other outbreaks before: our present crisis is of confidence, not necessarily fear of infections.

Most damaged has been the reputation of the CDC and its head, Dr. Tom Frieden;

CDC director Tom Frieden holds press conference on Ebola, October 5, 2014

Simply put, when a person wearing the mantle of Scientist/Physician says things like;

“Though we might wish we can seal ourselves off from the world, there are Americans who have the right of return and many other people that have the right to enter this country,” Dr. Thomas Frieden told a press conference. “We’re not going to be able to get to zero risk no matter what we do unless we control the outbreak in West Africa.”

The argument of “zero risk” is a giant red flag for anyone even passingly familiar with medicine; it’s a political term used to provide plausible cover for not taking an action, in this case, enacting a travel ban. Consider, for example, that never touching a cigarette does not reduce your risk of lung cancer to zeroIf we were to apply the logic Dr. Frieden espouses, why should a physician discourage a patient from smoking? It will not reduce your risk to zero.

The answer is, of course, that not smoking or quitting smoking has a substantial and positive increase in your health. The idea that people shouldn’t quit smoking because their risk will not go to zero is silly… yet this is the logic the head of the CDC promulgates. Scientists and physicians speak in terms of risks and rewards, benefits and trade-offs: ceasing or restricting the number of people coming from West Africa would not reduce the risk to zero. But!

  • Restricting ports of entry would allow concentration of personnel,
  • Concentrating personnel allows for concentration of expertise,
  • Reducing volume of incoming travelers increases man-hours of safety personnel per traveler,
  • Increasing man-hours per traveler allows systems to perform differently: health monitoring systems that would be overwhelmed with 1000 visitors per day may perform fine with 10 or 20 per day.

Now, there may be perfectly reasonable drawbacks to any of these hypothetical benefits (then again, some of them already seem to be happening), but we’re not having that discussion. Instead we’re having a discussion that leads one to conclude that “[t]he public-health profession is more committed to social justice than to sound science“, and an administration with little approval burns through yet more of the public’s confidence.

At the same time we’ve also seen some astonishing partisan attacks to go along with the flailing of the administration. While Ebola is very unlikely to become a major health hazard in the US, that doesn’t change the basic nature of the virus. So it’s especially disturbing to see political partisans in the media tear into Senator Rand Paul (one of the few MDs in Congress) for stating basic medical facts;

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky) reportedly put on his scientist hat this morning, telling CNN’s Ashley Killough that Ebola is more easily spread than AIDS–a statement that is an irresponsible, flat out lie.

You’ll be shocked to discover that Mother Jones is… pretty much completely wrong, and Dr. Paul pretty much right (or, at least, he was using the CDC’s own recommendations). This can be simply and easily understood with the following practical advice;

A person that wished to engage in sexual relations with a significant other infected by HIV/AIDS needs the following,

A sense of humor and some care would also be advised.

A person that wished to engage in sexual relations with a significant other infected by Ebola needs the following,

Also needed: a very liberal interpretation of the word “sex”.
Ebola is not the 1918 flu (*fingers crossed*). But we are poorly served when the people that need to be above politics are consumed by politics, and even worse served when the media abandons it’s own good sense.

Rice, Knox and who gets to speak

May 23, 2014 Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, right, speaks alongside his wife, Janay, during a news conference at the team’s practice facility in Owings Mills, Md. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

Things seem to have finally calmed down on the Ray Rice imbroglio, and as I look back, I ask: why was it that the only person we never seemed to hear from also the only person that the events really mattered to? It takes very little to suspect the Ray Rice scandal was never chiefly about what Mr. Rice did to the future Mrs. Rice in that New Jersey elevator. Now let’s be clear: I’m not making any sort of excuse for Mr. Rice’s deeds or any assumptions about the health (or lack thereof) of their marital relationship. Sometimes relationships are simply toxic and pathological.

But if that was the case here, why was so little actually done to hear the side of Janay Rice, the woman in question? Why, at the end of the affair, was Mrs. Rice turning her finger accusingly at her erstwhile saviors in the media?

The simple fact is that Mrs. Rice’s anger at the media and the NFL (specifically, functionally ending her husbands career) doesn’t require reducing Mrs. Rice to a puppet or thrall of her husband. Instead a very logical and pragmatic reason exists: she lost a metric truckload of money.

To those that say “well, our media would never celebrate a women doing a morally questionable, potentially dangerous and degrading thing for money!”, I would reply, “In fact, they do!”

Belle Knox (Miriam Weeks), Student, Pornographer, (self-proclaimed) Feminist Icon
Belle Knox and Whoopi Goldberg after Knox’ interview on The View (March 17, 2014).

For those blissfully unaware, above are some of the many, many pictures of Belle Knox (Miriam Weeks), the Duke freshman who (as an observant classmate discovered) was acting in pornographic movies, ostensibly to pay her tuition.

I’m not (well, not just) bringing her up because the blog could use a little Rule 5: the stories of Belle Knox and Janay Rice have more in common then one might think, but the reaction in the media, and specifically the interest (or lack thereof) of the media in hearing from the women in question, is very revealing.

Where Mrs. Rice found herself buffeted by a media that claimed to act in her interests while depriving her (through her husband) of millions, Ms. Knox faced a very different media response. While there was plenty of criticism for her stance of female empowerment through debasement, she also found her share of defenders.

Mrs. Rice? Let’s just say that I haven’t noticed anyone saying (as they said of Ms. Knox) that “This girl seems wise beyond her years”, nor is Conde Nast likely to do a 5-part series on Mrs. Rice to accompany the one they are doing on Ms. Knox.

The argument might be made that you cannot compare these women because, while Ms. Knox’ motivation can be reduced to money, suggesting that Mrs. Rice’s actions reflect a callous mercantalism cannot avoid the specter of mental infirmity. It seems ever present, the whisper that “oh, those women, they always take the abuser’s side…”, that Mrs. Rice is, if not fit to be a ward of the state, at least not a rational actor.

Which is all the stranger for the fact that Ms. Knox is a clearly troubled women. Consider this fetching Not-Safe-For-Work picture of Ms. Knox. Nothing you haven’t seen at the beach… except for something you hopefully haven’t seen before: a mass of scars on her upper thighs. These are the results of (as the article linked above notes) “Like man[sic] young women grappling with depression, I used to take it out on myself”, which is made even more troubling when she claims that she stopped cutting 5 years ago. Making the peak of her self-mutilation the tender age of thirteen.

Now this could go on forever, but there are really two issues that need to be touched on; First, the visceral. There are no two ways about it, watching the video of Ray Rice striking his then fiancee is… distressing. In the interest of intellectual honesty I should now link to the video that brought Ms. Knox to fame… but I can’t. I can’t not only because the video is pornographic, but because it is debauched. Ms. Knox may view her “enjoyment of rough and dirty, nasty and filthy, saliva-dripping and name-calling-filled sex” as sex-positive, but… well, let’s just say most people will find their gorge rising, rather then anything else.

Second, the lynchpin of the comparison: the legal. What transpired between Ray and Janay Rice however much one might object to pornography in general or the intensely violent extreme pornography in particular, it is legal. But this leads us to the stickiest problem of all: Ray Rice was no fugitive from justice, but a man that had gone through the criminal justice system and been pronounced fit to walk among the citizenry. One of the most interesting, and telling, elements of the coverage that I observed was how there was seemingly no weight given by any of the commenting class on the way the legal system adjudicated the situation. The idea that the criminal justice system worked in this case seems to be almost always be regarded with skepticism.

The ultimate fact remains: if the point of the whole affair was to help Mrs. Rice, then why is it that by all objective measures she seems to be so much worse off then if the media had respected her privacy? Why is it considered fitting that an Ivy League pornographer is invited to an in-person interview on national TV, but not a woman who’s private life is the center of a media circus?  Why is it that the media did a much better job of respecting the limits and privacy of a woman that takes her clothes off for a living then the victim of a deeply personal crime? In all honestly, I don’t have a good answer.

Of course, might one advance the idea that the media is deeply, passionately, interested in the integrity of the sacred bond of marriage, and any person that desecrates the connubial vow will feel their wrath? Well

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Hillary Clinton looks on as President Clinton discusses the Monica Lewinsky scandal in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on January 26, 1998.

Yeah… I don’t think that’s it.