Why do “pro-life” politicians want more abortions (and more poverty)?

Of course, they would never admit that more abortions would be likely if Planned Parenthood was actually defend, but it surely is.  Yes, PP performs a lot of abortions.  But you know what they do even more of?  Help people plan parenthood.  And you know what research suggests the type of pregnancies most likely to end up abortion are?  Of course, unplanned ones.  Furthermore, there is ever more evidence (Isabel Sawhill is great on this), that unplanned pregnancies are a key driver of poverty.  If only there were an organization that provided free and low-cost birth control and family-planning information to poor women!  Oh, wait– there is.  And Republicans want to cut it’s budget.

Ruth Marcus is right on top of it:

It is also not rational — whatever your position in the abortion debate.

If you are among those who view abortion tantamount to murder, I respect your belief. But consider: Defunding Planned Parenthood would inevitably result in more unplanned pregnancies and therefore more abortions, not fewer. In fact, if you really want to reduce the number of abortions, you should be lobbying to increase funding for Planned Parenthood and other organizations that provide birth control.

An important reminder: The federal money that goes to the organization cannot be used to underwrite its abortion services except in some rare exceptions. Sure, money is fungible but this funding comes with strict rules about commingling federal dollars with money and facilities used to perform abortions.

Rather, defunding Planned Parenthood would mean taking away money that it receives from the federal government for contraception and other essential services. Among low-income women who receive publicly supported contraceptive care at clinics, more than one-third use Planned Parenthood clinics, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

“You’re removing contraception with this [defunding], and if you remove contraception, you get unintended pregnancies, which means more abortion,” said Joseph Potter, a University of Texas demographer who has studied the impact of Texas’s move to defund Planned Parenthood in 2013, and testified on the organization’s behalf in a court challenge.

Yes, fewer Planned Parenthood clinics would mean fewer legal abortions (and surely many more illegal and dangerous ones, though admittedly not as many as there would have been legal), but it strikes me as very unlikely that it would have the impact of 345,000 less abortions per year that the Guttmacher Institute estimates that Title X funding for family planning leads to.  That’s a lot.  And not even counting the negative social consequences for the additional half-million un-planned births.

But of course, what should rational analysis, and heck, even concern for less abortions matter when we can talk about fetal body parts and make the base happy.

Quick hits (part II)

1) I’m quite comfortable with the “native advertising” in many of the podcasts I listen to.  These are great podcasts and they’ve got to pay the bills and I’m sure I’m not alone in paying more attention to the ads when done in a clever way.  To say that this breaks down the wall of journalism and editorial certainly seems like a stretch in the podcasts I enjoy (Panopoly/Slate and Gimlet) and the idea that listeners cannot understand they are hearing a paid ad is ridiculous.

2) The NYT got it really wrong in a recent story about a supposed “criminal” investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails.  Josh Marshall takes apart their defense.

3) Really enjoyed reading this ranking of all 74 Led Zeppelin songs.  Very much put me in the mood for listening to my CD box set.  I heartily agree with Kashmir at #1.  My biggest dispute is “Hey, Hey, What Can I Do?” way down in the 40’s.  That song was extra special back before you could get any song anywhere because it wasn’t even on any of their albums.  And it’s awesome.

4) On the surface, it may seem perfectly reasonable to not have Medicare cover erectile dysfunction, but if you stop and think about how important proper sexual functioning is for human happiness, this is really not right.

5) The Tech world is coming to value liberal arts degrees.

6) The Solar System is really big and this video is really cool, but not for 45 minutes.

7) Found this story fascinating on how Perdue is trying to gain a competitive advantage by moving to large-scale antibiotic free chickens.  The key to their approach?  A massive focus on cleanliness.  That’s right, keep everything sterile and clean; chickens don’t get sick, and you don’t need all the antibiotics.  Hopefully, this approach will catch on across the whole industry.

SALISBURY, Md. — The floors are spotless in Hatchery 3 on the sprawling Perdue compound here. Doors have been rehung to open out, and temperature control and ventilation systems have been upgraded, all to minimize the potential for airborne contamination.

The 1.5 million eggs that arrive here each week to begin the process of becoming the company’s chicken supply are also clean, with none of the traces of feces or feathers that were common in the past. They will move into chambers that are disinfected daily with hydrogen peroxide during the 21-day incubation-and-hatching cycle, a more rigorous program. No human hand will touch the eggs during those three weeks.

It took Perdue roughly a decade to perfect the raising of chickens without antibiotics of any kind, and now it has reached a tipping point: More than half of the chicken it sells can be labeled “no antibiotics ever,” a first for a major poultry company.

8) Vox with a teacher with a list of 7 things he wishes others understood about being a teacher.

9) Meant to give this it’s own post for too long.  A great, enraged Dahlia Lithwick on a case in Virginia where a clearly innocent man was prosecuted, convicted, and served years in jail before the prosecutor sort-of admitted the case was crap:

Deirdre Enright, director of investigation for the University of Virginia School of Law’s Innocence Project Clinic (disclosure: and a friend of mine), notes that this is where the idea of justice got confused with the promise of winning. As she says, “Lunsford appears to have learned in the middle of her case against Mark that the ‘victim’s’ cell phone tower records contradicted the victim’s version of events, and corroborated the defendant’s. Leaving aside the fact that a competent prosecutor is not learning the underlying facts of her case mid-trial, this was the kind of exculpatory evidence that would cause a fair prosecutor, honoring her obligation to seek and serve justice, to dismiss the charge. Instead, she successfully argued against their admissibility in court. In the wrongful conviction world, the nicest description we have for this phenomenon is ‘tunnel vision.’ ” …

And perhaps that’s the problem right there: Facing a mountain of evidence that showed there was no way the alleged victim could be telling the truth, the prosecutor believed her, then believed her, and then believed her some more…

If anyone suggests that the fact that Mark Weiner was released this week means “the system works,” I fear that I will have to punch him in the neck. Because at every single turn, the system that should have worked to consider proof of Weiner’s innocence failed him. [emphasis mine]

10) The super-important Voting Rights trial in NC (this could very well have national implications and could also very well work it’s way up to the Supreme Court) is now in the hands of the judge.

11) Loved this Will Saletan piece on Republicans and the Iran deal:

If Republicans win the White House next year, they’ll almost certainly control the entire federal government. Many of them, running for president or aspiring to leadership roles in Congress, are trying to block the nuclear deal with Iran. This would be a good time for these leaders to show that they’re ready for the responsibilities of national security and foreign policy. Instead, they’re showing the opposite. Over the past several days, congressional hearings on the deal have become a spectacle of dishonesty, incomprehension, and inability to cope with the challenges of a multilateral world. [emphasis mine] …

There’s plenty more I could quote to you. But out of mercy, and in deference to the many dead and retired Republicans who took foreign policy seriously, I’ll stop. This used to be a party that saw America’s leadership of the free world as its highest responsibility. What happened? And why should any of us entrust it with the presidency again?

12) Yes, crows are pretty damn smart.

 

Eat more blue whale?

I really enjoyed this thought-provoking Vox interview on the ethics of meat-eating and how it shaped by culture.  And, very much of it, doesn’t really have much of a rational basis (i.e., the fact that our culture is horrified by eating dogs, but does not mind at all eating pigs):

KH: Why do we eat some animals and not others?

HH: That is really interesting, and it gets to the heart of the topic that I’m interested in, which is why we love some animals and why we dislike others. Some of the reasons are just stupid. At least from an objective point of view, if you go and look at biblical rules on meat eating, they are absolutely bizarre in terms of why it’s okay to eat a cow but not okay to eat a pig. It has to do with the shape of their hooves. Why is it okay to eat one type of insect but not another type of insect? It makes no logical sense at all…

I think most of our meat choices are determined by cultural habits and things that get simply passed down from generation to generation. When I was a kid, the idea of eating raw fish would have just been hilarious, and now the idea of eating raw fish is universally accepted. In my little town in western North Carolina, a real conservative place, we have a terrific little Japanese restaurant that people flock to to eat raw fish. Why is sushi popular now when it wasn’t 40 years ago? For the most part, our food choices are governed by the same sorts of fads and fashions that govern our taste in clothing, or whether you wear your baseball hat backward or forward, or what kind of a dog you get.

KH: So it’s basically meaningless?

HH: No. And that’s the difference between deciding what animals you eat and deciding what animals you want to live with as a dog. And the reason is that meat involves killing a creature. That is the great paradox. On the one hand, we’ve evolved, I think, to be empathetic with creatures and to anthropomorphize them. So you see an animal like a puppy and you see a little bit of yourself or your kid in that puppy. But on the other hand, you see a pig — and I think little pigs are adorable — and you want at one level to empathize with the pig but on another level you want to eat that pig. The same thing is true with puppies.

Culture can overcome our natural inclination sometimes. So, for example, we find it absolutely abhorrent, the idea of eating a puppy, but in China, Korea, Southeast Asia, people commonly eat puppies. Twenty-five million puppies or older dogs are eaten each year, and they are considered delicacies. And for most of human history, it’s likely that animals were more likely to be eaten than kept as pets. So that’s why meat is so deliciously morally complicated. It is a meaningless decision on one level but, on the other, it’s very meaningful.

Yep.  The least us pork eaters can do is stop judging those who eat dogs (I’ve accomplished that much, at least).

The interview also gets into an interesting discussion of the ethical dimensions of eating different types of meat.  Honestly, I sometimes do choose chicken over pork and beef because I know it has less negative environmental impact and I figure that the chicken’s suffering is less than that of a pig or cow because the latter are much smarter.  I never considered how many individual chickens versus pigs or cows this impacts, though:

KH: A Big Mac or a chicken nugget? I mean, I suppose the Big Mac would be worse because cows seems more sentient than chickens, despite the fact that chickens are probably treated worse. I put more value on a cow’s life than a chicken’s.

HH: That’s why you’re completely wrong. You have to remember that this is the moral calculus of utilitarianism, which means basically that if you are a sentient animal, you count in the moral calculus. Well, there are 280 — and I did the math on this — there are 280 chickens in a cow. So in other words, to kill one cow, you take one life. To get the equivalent amount of animal protein, you have to kill 280 chickens. Now, by that logic, the animal of choice for animal activists to eat would be a blue whale, because there are 80,000 chicken souls to make up the soul of one blue whale. I contacted Ingrid Newkirk herself, the head of PETA, and asked her if she would agree with me on that, and she said, “Absolutely.” She said if an animal rights activist is going to eat meat, they should eat whales. Eat more whales. So that’s one of the ironies is that beef is more moral than chicken, eating a whale is more moral than eating beef.

I don’t like the use of the term “souls,” for chickens, but I’m quite comfortable saying that it’s worth killing 80,000 chickens instead of one blue whale.  280 chickens versus 1 cow… hmmm.  These are interesting and tricky moral/philosophical issues, so I think I’ll fall back on the environmental as the environmental impact for a pound of meat is pretty clear– listen to the Chik-Fil-A cows and eat more chicken.

Quick hits

1) How the year you born influences your political views.

2) How always blaming mental illness for mass shootings is a cop-out.

3) The BBC ranks the 100 best American films.

4) On how schools should be working on building non-cognitive skills.

5) The new chair of the NC GOP is completely nuts.  Here he has decided to link Hillary Clinton to the KKK.

6) Great Upshot piece by Brendan Nyhan on how to use and interpret presidential election polls.  This is going to be assigned reading for multiple classes.

7) On how the Southern Drawl is fading away in Raleigh.  Safe to say my two children born in the area don’t have the slightest hint of a Southern accent.

8) Yes, the mob justice for killer of Cecil the Lion (honestly, I think it is pretty awesome that he is losing his dental practice over this) is arbitrary and severe.  As German Lopez points out, so is very much of American criminal justice.

9) We bought What Pet Should I Get last night.  Not Seuss’s greatest, but good stuff.  That said, it’s pretty clear that he never had any intention of publishing it and that makes me somewhat uncomfortable.

10) Very cool NYT multi-media feature on a rogue fishing boat and the environmentalists that hounded them for thousands of miles.

11) No standing desks for me!  But some good evidence that just a little bit of movement interrupting your sitting can make a big difference.  Between my small bladder and short-attention span at work and my whiny/demanding kids at home, I’d like to think this probably works out okay for me.

12) Not all surprising, but certainly damning is the way the police officers in Cincinnati worked together to agree to a false narrative in the Dubose shooting.

13) Your long read: NYT Magazine feature on Republican efforts to roll back the Voting Rights Act.  Sadly, North Carolina plays a starring role.

Yes, drink more diet soda

Yes, I am going to keep riding this one.  Aaron Carroll (already my favorite physician-cum-blogger) takes a nice, thorough look at the risks of added sugar versus added artificial sweeteners in the Upshot.  Given that I’m sharing it, you will not be surprised at to its conclusions:

A 1998 randomized controlled trial could detect no neuropsychologic, neurophysiologic or behavioral effects caused by aspartame. Even a dose at 10 times the normal consumption had no effect on children with attention deficit disorder. A safety review from 2007, published in Critical Reviews in Toxicology, found that aspartame had been studied extensively and that the evidence showed that it was safe. [emphases mine]

It is true that people with phenylketonuria, a rare genetic disorder, need to limit their consumption of aspartame, since phenylalanine is one of its components. But for most people, aspartame isn’t a concern, even outside of cancer. It’s also true that some of the sugar alcohol sweeteners, like sorbitol or mannitol, can have a laxative effect or cause bloating when eaten in large amounts by some people. In normal use by most people, though, all of the approved artificial sweeteners are safe.

When I argue these facts with my friends, they want to know if I put my money where my mouth is. I do. My wife and I limit our children’s consumption of soda to around four to five times a week. When we let them have soda, it’s almost always caffeine-free, because we want them to sleep. It’s also almost always sugar-free. There’s a potential, and probably real, harm from consuming added sugars; there are most likely none from artificial sweeteners.

In fairness, I’m not actually trying to convert anybody to diet soda.  Drink water!  But I get so tired of people who are convinced about how bad diet soda is for you despite the lack of any strong evidence.

So, I was originally going to end the post there, but a friend shared on FB, and a reply came back with, “but aspartame is bad for your gut bacteria!”  Well, you know me, that had  to be investigated.  Well, on closer inspection, it appears it is only saccharin that is bad for your gut bacteria.  If you are a mouse.  Of course, mouse models are important and I very much believe we should pay attention to how various foods and additives affect our microbiome, but even with this study, it’s hard to make the case against aspartame.

Am I going to change the minds of any diet soda skeptics?  As Drum points out in his take… no.  Just ask yourself if you are motivated reasoning your way out of this one:

Anyway, that’s what science says. Unfortunately, science also says that presenting facts to people almost never changes their minds. In fact, it can do just the opposite as people respond defensively to the notion that they’ve been wrong for a long time. So I suppose no one reading this is actually going to switch to diet sodas. Instead they’ll cherry-pick studies that support their previous point of view. Or claim that all the studies exonerating artificial sweeteners are funded by big business and not to be trusted. Or perhaps make an outré claim about how aspartame interacts with gluten and animal fat to produce….something or other.

Of course, as somebody who drinks liters of diet soda per day, maybe this is all motivated reasoning on my part.  Maybe, but I still think its mostly just science.

You are an experiment

Loved James Hamblin on the misguided-ness of GMO labeling.  Here’s his awesome conclusion:

Long-term effects of introducing certain crops into certain ecosystems, and the business practices with which they are grown and sold, are enormously important and remain to be seen and carefully considered. Some effects of agriculture will be desirable, some untoward, and effects of both kinds will come from crops that run the gamut of what has been “modified” by human intervention, and to what degree. But “GMO-free” does not mean fair trade, and it does not mean sustainable, and it does not mean monoculture-averting, and it does not mean rainforest-enabling, and it does not mean labor-friendly, and it does not mean healthy, though it puffs its chest and carries itself alongside those claims. Activists march with signs that say “I AM NOT AN EXPERIMENT.” But the state of having 7 billion food-consuming humans on this planet—6 billion more than there were two centuries ago—is an unprecedented experiment.

It’s because of this meaninglessness, and fear perpetuated by a “natural” food industry, that a right to know is in this case a right to be misled. And this act continues to give food companies the right to tout and sell “GMO-free” as some halo of wholesome virtue, which would be lovely and elegant if it meant progress toward sustainably feeding the world healthful food, but it does not.

Chart of the day

Changing Medicare cost projections via Drum:

Ten years ago, Medicare was a runaway freight train. Spending was projected to increase indefinitely, rising to 13 percent of GDP by 2080. This year, spending is projected to slow down around 2040, and reaches only 6 percent of GDP by 2090.

Six percent! That’s half what we thought a mere decade ago. If that isn’t spectacular, I don’t know what is.

Can we credit all of this to Obamacare?  Likely not.  But it would be foolish to believe it has not played a role.  And for all that GOP hot air about how it was going to blow up health care costs (in a just world, nobody would ever again take seriously people who had said such things), it’s very, very clear that’s not the case.

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