Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Todd Akin is a douchebag.

Those of you who read this blog with any regularity* know a few things about me. One is that I'm a total jerk. Another is that I have an ex-girlfriend who was raped. And a third is that, generally speaking, I'm pretty pro-woman. Not pro-woman in the sense of anti-man but pro-woman in the sense of, "Women and men are equals and no sex has the right to treat the other like chattel". It goes without saying that this frequently puts me at odds with the Republican party, which seems to view a woman's uterus and vagina as more appropriate targets of regulation than assault weaponry, but that's not the point. Okay, actually, that is the point because our wonderful friends in the Republican party have recently produced an individual of such cretinous over-achievement that it boggles the mind. I refer, of course, to this guy:

Allow me to introduce you to Representative Todd Akin, Republican Senate nominee from Missouri, who apparently fails at both high school biology and basic human decency. I have developed those twin opinions based on his recent comments pertaining to the need for a rape exception to legislation banning abortion:

“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Mr. Akin said of pregnancies from rape. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.”

Now, there are several bits that are horrifying in here. First there's that "legitimate rape" bit. The phrasing is unfortunate as it makes it sound as though some rapes are justified or something, but I think it's more likely that Akin is suggesting that rapes that aren't "forcible rapes" under the FBI's definition, aren't "real rapes". In other words, if you're date raped, then you weren't raped. In order for it to be "Rape" with a capital R you have to be attacked by a stranger, who probably has a knife or something, fight back, be injured, and then report the assault immediately to the authorities. Any rape that is slightly more complex than that- like this heartbreaking case, for example- just doesn't count. This is additionally revolting because of the apparent implication that many existing claims of rape are just women lying as, you know, women are wont to do. You know how it is- we men can't go ten feet without some evil woman (who probably took a women's studies class) leveling a false accusation of rape.** I don't know how we men can stand it- maybe our overwhelmingly advantaged position in society offers some comfort. Second, there's the spectacular biology fail involved here; "...the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down"? I suppose that's true if by "ways to shut that whole thing down" Akin means "going to a fucking abortion clinic" but, aside from that interpretation, this claim has absolutely no basis in fact.*** No, to the contrary, it shows such a spectacular ignorance of basic facts of human biology that I am STILL trying to wrap my head around it. This is a grown man who does not understand how human reproduction works and he wants to be a Senator! Frankly, this level of ignorance should prevent him from being taken seriously in polite society, much less politics. And then, finally, let's just keep in mind that in the final analysis, he just doesn't care if it was rape or not- the bundle of non-sentient cells is worth more in his eyes than the thinking, feeling woman who was sexually assaulted and now has to spend nine very difficult months to bring her rapist's child to term. And so, as I said, Akin appears to be a failure at both biology and human decency.

Now, granted, he has tried to walk his statements back:

“In reviewing my off-the-cuff remarks, it’s clear that I misspoke in this interview, and it does not reflect the deep empathy I hold for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year,” Mr. Akin, who has a background in engineering and is a member of the House science committee, said in a statement. “I recognize that abortion, and particularly in the case of rape, is a very emotionally charged issue. But I believe deeply in the protection of all life, and I do not believe that harming another innocent victim is the right course of action.”

But, of course, the problem with that is not his misspeaking. He did not misspeak, he stated his position quite clearly. I'll grant that the reference to "legitimate rape" was probably an unfortunate off-the-cuff word choice, but the rest of it shows such an utter lack of knowledge about the world and total disdain for women that nothing short of a massive apology would be sufficient.

My father always taught me that I was never too good to shake another man's hand, but for Todd Akin, I think I might make an exception.

* This shows considerable dedication of late given that "Total Drek" has been, for lack of a better word, estivating. 

** It really is remarkable how few rape allegations one receives when one treats women like human beings who are worthy of respect, as opposed to tits and a hoo-haw on legs.

*** Similarly, the bodies of Republican candidates do not have ways of preventing themselves from uttering horrifying remarks in public. Other than using their brains, I suppose, but it's been a while since I've seen a Republican candidate who seems inclined in that direction.

Monday, July 02, 2012

So, as it turns out? Republicans really do hate critical thinking.

And while you might think that title is a bit of hyperbole on my part, you'd be mistaken. It is, in fact, an explicit part of the 2012 platform of the Republican Party of Texas. Seriously:

"Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority."
So, the Republicans of Texas are directly and literally saying, we do NOT want to teach our children to think for themselves. We, instead, want them to just believe the same shit they believed before and to cling to their "fixed beliefs"... whatever those happen to be.* As someone who has been an educator for quite a few years now, it's a little bit difficult for me to wrap my head around an entire group of people who think that deliberate ignorance is not just an acceptable choice, but a viable campaign position. And yet, this isn't even the only absurdist nightmare in the platform. If you're curious, you can get a look at the platform in its entirety, which produces some other interesting bits, although in the interest of brevity** I'll limit my attention to the education section. My favorite bit is probably the section on "controversial theories":
"Controversial Theories – We support objective teaching and equal treatment of all sides of scientific theories. We believe theories such as life origins and environmental change should be taught as challengeable scientific theories subject to change as new data is produced. Teachers and students should be able to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of these theories openly and without fear of retribution or discrimination of any kind."
It's hard not to love that section since it only makes sense if you want to teach students to consider all sides of an issue or, in other words, to THINK CRITICALLY. Sadly, however, the Texas Republican Party is explicitly opposed to critical thinking, so it's a little difficult not to view this provision as sort of an orphan. Okay, yeah, what I said isn't totally true- these two clauses together make it pretty clear that Texan Republicans are for critical examination of views they disagree with, and slavish obedience to views they do agree with. So much more charming, eh? We also find the section on patriotism:

"American Identity Patriotism and Loyalty – We believe the current teaching of a multicultural curriculum is divisive. We favor strengthening our common American identity and loyalty instead of political correctness that nurtures alienation among racial and ethnic groups. Students should pledge allegiance to the American and Texas flags daily to instill patriotism." 
Which basically gives the finger to the melting pot ideal of everyone coming together in favor of the "screw you and assimilate" perspective. And you just have to adore that bit about the pledge of allegiance instilling patriotism- I said the pledge every damned day of my primary schooling and it never made me feel more patriotic. No, it made me feel bored. Unless Texans want us to be bored by citizenship, this is probably a silly platform position. There's the classroom discipline section:

"Classroom Discipline –We recommend that local school boards and classroom teachers be given more authority to deal with disciplinary problems. Corporal punishment is effective and legal in Texas."
So, to recap, critical thinking = bad, hitting children = good. Stay classy, guys! There's the bit on young kids:
"Early Childhood Development – We believe that parents are best suited to train their children in their early development and oppose mandatory pre-school and Kindergarten. We urge Congress to repeal government-sponsored programs that deal with early childhood development. "
Which wouldn't be so bad, except it wants Congress to repeal all programs that "deal with early childhood development". So, in other words, government support for non-mandatory programs to help disadvantaged populations are also out the window. Who needed class mobility anyways, amiright? Then there's the inevitable section on naughty bits:
"Sex Education – We recognize parental responsibility and authority regarding sex education. We believe that parents must be given an opportunity to review the material prior to giving their consent. We oppose any sex education other than abstinence until marriage. "
So, to recap again, hitting kids is fine, but telling them how to control their fertility and avoid STDs is bad. Or, to make that more concrete, they're fine with a teacher hitting a child but they better watch out if that teacher dares to mention the word "condom". Am I in fucking bizarro world here? Wait, we're talking about Texas, so yes. Then there's the bit on homeschooling:

"Private Education – We believe that parents and legal guardians may choose to educate their children in private schools to include, but not limited to, home schools and parochial schools without government interference, through definition, regulation, accreditation, licensing, or testing. "
Okay, so apparently if you keep your kids home you can teach them whatever the fuck you want and the state can't say anything about it. Good to know. There's the religious "freedom" section:

"Religious Freedom in Public Schools – We urge school administrators and officials to inform Texas school students specifically of their First Amendment rights to pray and engage in religious speech, individually or in groups, on school property without government interference. We urge the Legislature to end censorship of discussion of religion in our founding documents and encourage discussing those documents. "
From having grown up in the south, believe me when I say that encouragement is not necessary here- your classmates will badger you about religion no matter what you do. It's just especially difficult when they have formal sanction to do so. And finally, there's the indoctrination clause:

"Traditional Principles in Education – We support school subjects with emphasis on the Judeo-Christian principles upon which America was founded and which form the basis of America’s legal, political and economic systems. We support curricula that are heavily weighted on original founding documents, including the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, and Founders’ writings. "
So, not only are kids encouraged to proselytize, but we're going to make religion an official part of the curriculum. It's hard to know what to say to that.

Anyway, take a look at the platform and be sure to post your favorite bits in the comments. I would hope that this would help lose the Republicans the election but, sadly, I think this just emphasizes how crazy some folks have become.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go weep for the future. Which is to say, cry because I can't bequeath a better world to JezLil.

* Of course, this being Texas, we can be fairly sure that "fixed beliefs" is nudge-nudge, wink-wink, for "Wacky version of Christianity".

** Yeah, that's a lie. It's mostly in the interest of "I'm really busy and lazy".

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Dude, seriously?

I mean, come on! We use WAY more than six people when we run surveys. Hell, we usually use more than six people when we do experiments. It's the neurobiologists who are all like, "We did an fMRI study of 14 people- we understand EVERYONE!!!1!!"

Still and all, though, it's a fun comic. Thanks SMBC.

Monday, April 30, 2012

And that would be desirable because...?

As an atheist, I'll be the first one to admit that I don't always understand why people do things. I don't get praying or speaking in tongues, I don't really understand the fatalistic acceptance of "god's will" or the unfounded assumption that everything that goes on in the world is really for the best at some abstract level. I am, in a word, accustomed, to being confused by the people around me on a fairly regular basis and, for the most part, I'm able to live with it. And yet, even with my general ability to handle things that don't make sense to me, this one stands out as particularly bizarre:

Egypt’s National Council for Women (NCW) has appealed to the Islamist-dominated parliament not to approve two controversial laws on the minimum age of marriage and allowing a husband to have sex with his dead wife within six hours of her death according to a report in an Egyptian newspaper. 

The appeal came in a message sent by Dr. Mervat al-Talawi, head of the NCW, to the Egyptian People’s Assembly Speaker, Dr. Saad al-Katatni, addressing the woes of Egyptian women, especially after the popular uprising that toppled president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.

She was referring to two laws: one that would legalize the marriage of girls starting from the age of 14 and the other that permits a husband to have sex with his dead wife within the six hours following her death.
Okay, so, I don't mean that the opposition to said law doesn't make sense, I mean that the motivation to pass the law doesn't make sense. As pretty much all of you know, I'm a married man, and in the hopefully unlikely event that my wife were to up and die, I do not think that my first thought would be, "Well, it'd be a shame to waste a perfectly warm corpse." Nor would my second, third, or fourth thoughts be even vaguely in that direction. I am utterly and completely at a loss to explain not only why someone would react to the death of their spouse with the sudden urge to bang the corpse, but also why this inclination would be so widespread as to garner support from lawmakers.

Just... what the hell, Egypt?

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