For my regular visitors, if you find that this blog hasn't been updating much lately, chances are pretty good I've been spending my writing energy on my companion blog. Feel free to pop over to Home is Where the Central Cardio-pulmonary Organ Is, and see what else has been going on.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Todd Akin and Manufactured Controversies

There are two things about the Todd Akin controversy that amazes me.  1) that it happened at all (especially considering the complete lack of controversy over Biden's recent bout of foot-in-mouth-disease) and 2) that it's still going on.

When I first saw the headlines after Akin's interview, I could see right away that there was a case of how not to report the news going on again.  The headlines made it obvious.  Virtually every headline had the words "legitimate rape" in it, in quotes, followed by claims that Akin said women who've been rapes "don't", "won't" or "can't" get pregnant.  A few had some variant of how women can somehow "shut down" their bodies if they're raped to prevent pregnancy.

Of course, with headlines like that, people were in full freakout mode.  I expected that from the political left, of course.  They'll freak out over the most minor of gaffes by those on the political right, while pretending the most heinous comments from their own side never happened, or simply brush them off as irrelevant.  What amazed me is the vicious attacks from those on the political right.  From what I've seen (and I admit, I've missed a lot of it) the attacks on Akin from his fellow conservatives has far exceeded the attacks from his liberal opponents.

The problem is, everyone seems to be freaking out over what they think he said, or some projection of what he apparently meant when he said it.

What was it that he actually said?  Well, see for yourself.

Here's the transcript of his actual words.

Well, you know, people always want to try and make that as one of those things... "Well, how do you slice this particularly tough sort of ethical question?"
It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors that's really rare. If it's a legitimate rape the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. Let's assume that maybe that didn't work or something. You know, I think there should be some punishment. But the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.
And then all hell broke loose.  But why?  What did he say that was really so wrong or terrible?  Let's look at the key phrases everyone is blowing a gasket over one part at a time.

"...from what I understand from doctors that's really rare."

Okay.  So what's controversial about that?  Pregnancy from rape is rare.  He's not saying it doesn't happen, as so many headlines and commentators have claimed.  He just said that doctors have told him it's rare.  How rare?  Well, that's difficult to say, since rape statistics are understandably questionable in the first place (more on that below).  What percentage of rapes result in pregnancy?  There have been many claims that the pregnancy rate in rape cases is the same as for consensual sex, but I'm not seeing any legitimate data to back those claims up.  Then there's this example.

Pregnancy is rare after a single act of forcible rape. In a prospective study of 4000 rapes in Minnesota, there were no pregnancies. In a retrospective study covering nine years in Chicago, there were no pregnancies. In a prospective study of 117 rapes there were no pregnancies among either the 17 victims who received DES or the 100 who did not.
Eugene F. Diamond, MD
Professor of Pediatrics and Past Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine
April 11, 1985 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine

Now, that's old data in just one area, but I don't know that women in Minnesota are any more or less fertile then women in other parts of the US, and while the number of reported rapes may have changed, I have not seen anything to suggest the percentage of pregnancies as a result of rape has increased since then.

So basically, then, his first statement - that pregnancy due to rape is rare - is true.  He didn't say it doesn't happen, or that he doesn't believe raped women get pregnant.  Obviously, he knows it happens, and that is reflected in the interview.  Yet if you read only the headlines, you'd think he said that rape due to pregnancy doesn't happen, which is clearly false.

What's the next part?  Ah, yes.  This one.

"If it's a legitimate rape..."

People are just losing their heads over the use of the word "legitimate."  There are all sorts of accusations that he was somehow implying that there's rape, and then there's rape-rape.  Kinda like Whoopi Goldberg.

Now if only people had flipped out over Whoopi's comments the way they are now over Akin's comments, because hers were far more condescending and insulting to rape victims!

What confuses me is how anyone could have any confusion about the use of the word "legitimate."  To be honest, I think Akin's detractors know full well what he was talking about, but it's far more satisfying to get all offended and pretend he was saying something else.  It fits into the "Republican War on Women" narrative so much better.

For those who still refuse to see the obvious, he's talking about ... well, legitimate cases of rape vs things like false accusations or false claims of rape. 

Here is where things get muddy.  Rape statistics are unclear at the best of times.  Part of the problem is that there is an unknown number of women who never report their rapes, or report them years after the event.  It's said that 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted (all types of sexual assault, not only rape) in their life time, which is meaningless, since it's a prediction.  Then there's the problem of false rape reports.  Again, it's hard to know how many false rape claims there are.  On one end of the spectrum, it's claimed that only 2 percent of reported rapes are false (which is higher then the percentage of abortions due to rape).  Yet a US Dept of Justice report from 1996 found that about 25-26% of rape cases were proven to be false!

So here we have a problem of there being an unknown number of unreported rape cases, coupled with what may be as much as 25% of reported rapes being proven false (some have claimed that number is actually as high as 51%, but I don't find it reliable).  It's entirely possible the unreported vs false accusations cancel each other out, but there's no way to know.

To further mess up the numbers, there's also statutory rape, which can include consensual sex as well as forcible or coercive rape.

In other words, when it comes to rape statistics, we really do need to know what is, or isn't, "legitimate" rape!

In context of the interview, this sort of thing was obviously what he was referring to.  The headlines would have us believe he was somehow claiming that rape victims weren't really raped, or somehow making light of the seriousness of the crime committed against rape victims.  Personally, I think that's a stretch.  It does make me wonder, though.  Just how could he have been more clear?  Some have suggested that he should have just said "rape" without any qualifiers, but in context of the interview, that would have actually made his statement worse.  So what would be a more appropriate word to us?  Real?  Authentic?  True?  Actual?  I can think of a lot of potential adjectives, but they all end up making his statement sound worse, too.

Which leaves us back with the word "legitimate."  Personally, I can't think of a better, less offensive, way to differentiate between actual rape events and false claims. 

Which leads us now to the next part that has people's heads spinning.

"... the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."

Wow, have the responses been over the top to this part!  Akin is accused of all sorts of things, from being stupid, unscientific, and crazy, to associating him with Nazi experiments and linking him to some bizarre claim from the past that "spastic tubes" somehow prevent pregnancy.

First, let's make it very clear what he ISN'T saying.  He is NOT saying women who have been raped do not, cannot or will not get pregnant.  That's what's in the headlines and in the interpretations.  That's not what he said.  He is also not suggesting that women have some magical ability to voluntarily make their bodies prevent pregnancy during rape.  Again, that is something others are claiming is meant, but it's not what he actually said.

Is there any truth to the statement?

Actually, yes, and it's been known for ages.  Long before we knew about the chemicals our bodies produce, and the roles hormones play in reproduction in particular, it was known that trauma and high levels of stress can affect a woman's ability to conceive and/or prevent miscarriage.  Such things affect male fertility, too, but when it comes to women, our bodies actually do have ways to prevent pregnancy when conditions are not optimal for conception.

First, there are the effects of stress on the reproductive system.  This can be long term stress, of it can be stress from a single traumatic event. 

The female body is, from a purely biological point of view, a baby making machine.  We are awash with chemicals and hormones that are there to ensure optimal fertility.  That may not be true as individuals but, as a general statement for healthy women, that's how our bodies work.  Aside from stress, a number of things can trigger our bodies into becoming hostile to conception.  Nutritional deprivation is one such example.  When we're starving, women are less likely to conceive, and if we do conceive, we're more likely to miscarry.  Likewise, if we have too much or too little of specific nutrients, it can prevent pregnancy.  I remember seeing an interview, several decades ago, with a doctor from a Toronto fertility clinic.  He talked about how most of his patients didn't need extreme interventions such as IVF; most needed to only make minor lifestyle changes.  He described two cases to illustrate.  One couple he treated lived an extremely "healthy" lifestyle.  They were both marathon runners, and were in peak physical condition, yet they could not conceive.  In the end, it turned out the wife did not have enough body fat.  They relaxed their marathon training regimen, gained some body fat, and promptly got pregnant.  Another woman he described was also a "healthy" eater.  He talked about how one of the first things he did was look at the palms.  When he saw this woman's palms, he noted a distinct orange cast to them.  As he talked to her, he learned that she had read a lot about antioxidants and had been supplementing with beta carotene.  For some reason, she was taking very high amounts of it, which is why her palms started to turn orange.  She stopped taking the excessive supplements and was soon pregnant.

Calorie restriction can also affect fertility.  Our bodies can't tell the difference between starvation due to famine or starvation due to dieting.  It can tell when we are not getting enough nutrition to support a pregnancy, causing changes in our chemical balance that make it more difficult to conceive.

These are just a few examples of ways our bodies create conditions to prevent pregnancy by shutting down our reproductive system.  In the context of Akin's interview, it is the stress related responses of our bodies that kick in, creating conditions hostile to conception.  Such conditions also cause miscarriages and prevent lactation.  This is old news.

Do women still get pregnant, even in non-optimal conditions?  Obviously we do, and he never claimed we didn't.  He just said that our bodies "try to shut that whole thing down."  Which is accurate.  Sometimes, it fails.  The idea that he was suggesting women can somehow control whether or not they can become pregnant is ludicrous, but that doesn't stop people from making that assumption.

Now, I have no idea who Akin is and, frankly, I don't care all that much.  What I do care about is accuracy and truthfulness.  I've seen his interview and compared it to the many headlines and column inches dedicated to tearing him apart, and it bothers the heck out of me.  The attacks against him are inaccurate, in that they claim he said things he didn't, and dishonest in how they extrapolate meanings to what he said that are, at best, pure conjecture or, at worst, deliberate misrepresentation for the purpose of destroying him both personally and politically. 

Was what he said clumsy, "misspoken" and or insensitive?  Perhaps, perhaps not.  I think the "shut things down" part of what he said was clumsy and unclear, but only to those who don't know anything about the effects of stress on the reproductive system. 

Was what he said false?  No.  Though he was repeating what he says he was told by doctors, and he was in no position to expand on the claims during the interview, his actual statements were correct.

Of course, you won't know that by the headlines. 

With all the focus on one sentence of what he said, people are completely forgetting about the closing sentence.

You know, I think there should be some punishment. But the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.

People are completely ignoring what he's pointing out here, which is that it is the rapist that did something wrong and should be punished for it.  This brings up the obvious question for pro-abortionists using the rape and incest argument: Why should any child conceived in rape be killed because of what the father did?


Thursday, August 02, 2012

Boycott to Buycott - or game changer?

Starting a post at 1:30 am is probably not a good idea, but I wanted to take a moment and post about some observations I've noted in the past few months.  We're still in the busiest time of year for my family and it won't slow down for a couple more months (at least I hope it will!), and I haven't been on top of things like usual.  Even so, I've still managed to hear about some of it.

I haven't been living under a rock enough to miss out on the Chick-fil-A fiasco, and it's been fascinating to see how things have played out.  Being in Canada, we have no Chick-fil-A's, so it's has no effect on us, but there's no shortage of Canadians weighing in on the whole thing anyhow.

What I find the most interesting is comparing the Chick-fil-A boycott is comparing it to others I've seen. Especially after I saw someone sharing this on Pinterest.

My first thought when I read this was along the lines of "that's not quite how things unfolded."  It's a pretty typical strawman response, though; portray an alternate to reality, then attack the alternate as if it were the reality.

Right off the top, in the above example, whoever made this used the term "anti-gay rights organizations", which in itself is a strawman.  Gays have the exact same rights as everyone else in Canada and the US.  What gay "rights" activists and their supports want are for the restrictions of granted rights to be removed so as to accomodate a tiny sub-group - plenty of whom disagree with the activists that claim to speak for them - forcing the rest of society to redefine it's foundational institutions while at the same time endorsing their proclivities.  This isn't about equality - we have that.  It's about special treatment and recognition.

Now, let's take the list at the top.  Right off the top, we can write off the Electronic Arts one, which was faked.   The end statement is accurate.  They (whoever "they" are) are indeed exercising their free speech.

Let's use the JC Penny example, simply because I'm more familiar with it.  JCPenny hired Ellen Degeneres (or, uh, "Degeneress").  Personally, I don't see understand what the big deal is with her; my few attempts at watching her show left me decidedly unimpressed, but so does most TV.  I don't find her funny or interesting.  Actually, I find her boring and bland and, quite frankly, I think more people watch her show because she's a lesbian and want to prove they're not haters then out of any real interest, but that's just me.

Now, JC Penny can hire whomever they want.  They are free to do that.  The One Million Moms (OMM) group made a statement and called for a boycott.  I thought that was a rather bad idea, but again, they are free to do that.  You know; freedom of speech and all.  What was interesting was the fall out from that.  The level of pure, head exploding hatred levelled against this group was pretty amazing.  Of course, anyone who disagrees with anything gay activists demand are labelled "anti-gay", "homophobe", "bigot", "intolerant" and "haters."  Which is really funny to see, considering the terrible things they themselves were saying against the group or anyone who doesn't cave in to their demands.  Now, if someone actually called for gays to be hung (as in one of the images above), I would have a problem with that.  For someone to say that gays are "possessed by demons," well, that's free speech, too, and I'd just laugh and think they were idiots.  I don't actually see the context of any of the images across the top of that graphic, though, except for the first one with Ellen, and the use of the term "anti-gay moms" is just another illustration of what I'm talking about.

The point is, however, people who support traditional marriage are allowed to say so.  Doing so doesn't make them "anti-gay" or "haters," but hey, that's free speech, too.  One group can call for the boycott, others can condemn them for it.  And condemn them, they did, with a level of hatred far exceeding the perceived hatred coming from the OMM, and that's when things started to cross the line.

JCPenny, however, seemed to enjoy their notoriety and went a step further.  Hiring Ellen, after all, had nothing to do with her being a lesbian.  For Father's Day, they were more blunt.  Sort of.  That's when they put out an add featuring two guys with kids.  When I saw the add, I actually just assumed it was a couple of male models posing as dads with their kids.  The image I saw was difficult to read, so I completely missed the bit at the end that revealed that the two guys in the photos were a couple, posing with their own children.

At this point, I think JCPenny was counting on OMM, or some other group, to object, because of the surge of support they got with Ellen.  I saw plenty of people condemning OMM, and again, the level of pure hatred aimed at them was startling.

I also saw plenty of people claiming they would shop at JCPenny to support them.  I'm not sure that that actually translated into increased sales for JCPenny.  I've read claims that their sales dropped significantly as a result of the boycott, but I've also read claims that their sales soared.  I don't think either is true.  I expect they got a modest increase, and then everyone promptly forgot about it.

Then there was Oreo.  This was interesting, because the ONLY reason I found out about the rainbow Oreo cookie ad was from people who posted about it or shared the image, slagging "homophobic" groups that were calling for a boycott of Oreo because of their support of gay activists.  I actually had not seen any of these calls for boycotts at all.  I'm sure they were there, but whoever they were, they got more publicity from those condemning them then they ever would have otherwise.

As soon as I saw the ad, though, my thought was that the marketers at Oreo saw what happened with JCPenny and figured publicly stating they supported gay activist causes, inviting controversy, would result in a surge of supprt - and sales - from gay activists and their supporters.  I don't know how well that worked out for them.  The people I saw voicing their support for Oreo say they planned to buy more Oreos, but there were so few of them, and I didn't see anyone claim they already had, because of this.  Personally, I think Oreos are kind of gross, unless they're in ice cream. ;-)

Now lets go to the second part of the graphic, where is points out the percieved hypocrisy of how the call to boycott Chick-fil-A is "infringing on... free speech."

That's where the maker of this little bit of catch phrase activism gets it wrong.  Gay activists are free to call for a boycott.  Likewise, others are free to condemn them for it, just as the activists were free to condemn OMM for wanting to boycott JCPenny.

Calling for a boycott was never the problem.

The first problem was that the boycott was based on a lie.  Many lies, actually. The owners of Chick-fil-A are well known for being supporters of traditional marriage.  This is not news.  Of course, the activists translate this as being "anti-gay" and "hate speech," etc.  This recent controversy, however, was based on the CEO of Chick-fil-A saying "guilty as charged" in an interview, which was re-written as him saying he was against gay marriage.  The thing is, he was never even asked about gay marriage.  The conversation had nothing to do with gay marriage.  If anything, it was anti-divorce.  No one it going around saying he was "anti-divorcee", however, or that he "hates divorced people."  Becuase that would be a lie, too.

So the whole thing was a manufactured controversy, right from the start.

The other problem is the claims by pro-gay activists that Chick-fil-A - the company - was discriminatory.  It was claimed that their policies were discriminatory and anti-gay.  That's just plain slander.  If, as a company, Chick-fil-A refused to hire gay people, they'd have a case, but they *do* hire gay people.  If, as a company, they refused to serve gay customers, again, they'd have a case.  Of course, they do no such thing.  What these activists and their supporters have done was not just twist around the actual statements made by the CEO of the company into something else entirely, but they're outright lying about the company itself.

That still isn't quite restricting the free speech of the CEO.  What *is* restricting free speech is the demands of activists to punish the company for the personal beliefs of the CEO.  When politicians promise that they will not approve new restaurants in their areas because the personal beliefs of the CEO is not what their own personal beliefs demand, it's actually illegal.  Yes, even fascist.  This is government officials abusing their powers to force private individuals to change their beliefs, or keep those beliefs to themselves.  Many of these activists, who so loudly claim they are for "equality", "equal righs" and "tolerance" not only fully supported this abuse of power, they demanded it. To them, this dictatorial behaviour was "noble" and "brave."

To be fair, I saw some people who started out supporting the boycott of Chick-fil-A draw the line here.  This, however, is where the gay activists lost the game.  This is on top of the most vile and hateful attacks being aimed at Chick-fil-A, all because of something the CEO didn't actually say.  Foul language is pretty standard for these sorts and, unfortunately, so is wishing death and all manner of terrible things (Rosanne Barr's tweet being the most infamous) on the CEO, his family, his employees and their customers.  There have even been bomb threats.

It was the same level of vitriol aimed at OMM, but this time, the attackers were the ones calling for the boycott.

So, first was have the "anti-gay organization" calling for a boycott of a company because of their corporate level support of gay marriage (I have no idea what the private beliefs of anyone involved are).  Yes, that's free speech.  Then we have the pro-gay activists and their supporters condemning the boycotters, while claiming they are haters, bigots, homophobes, etc. for supporting traditional marriage.  That is also free speech.

Now we have the pro-gay activists calling for a boycott of a private company because of personal opions of the CEO, which were misquoted and misrepresented, in the process declaring him anti-gay, homophobic, a hater, etc.  It is falsely claimed that the company discriminates against gays.  When people step up to support the company, they too are called haters and bigots and homophobes, along with wishes of illness, pain and death, even though the people supporting the company and its CEO includes gays.  These people absolutely tried to infringe on the free speech of the CEO through bullying tactics, and some were willing to do so illegally through dictatorial abuse of political power.

What's the fall out?

Well, the calls to boycott JCPenny and Oreo seem to have fizzled out of the limelight, as have the calls for a buycott to support these companies for their support of gay activist demands.

The Chick-fil-A boycott seems to have backfired completely!  The bullying tactics used by the pro-gay activists were stood up against.  I began seeing comments everywhere from people saying that they had gone to Chick-fil-A to support free speech.  I saw people saying they'd never gone before, and even some who said they'd spent the last of their money before payday, to support the company and stand up to the attacks against it.  I read people describe how they went several times a week - some every day - when they had only occaisionally gone before.  I heard from others saying that they were gay, but they still went to Chick-fil-A because of the what the boycotters were saying and doing.  Over and over again, I heard people describe restaurants packed, some so full they couldn't get in at all, with drive through line ups that wrapped around the block.

(h/t Blazing Cat Fur)
Then there was Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, and the response is out of this world!

Watching all this has served to confirm some of my other observations.  For all that SSM is legal in Canada now, and polls in the US supposedly show that support for SSM has increased over the years (this despite the fact that ever state that put it to a vote has maintained the definition of traditional marriage), the tide may be turning.  Just as the abortion issue, which was supposed to be a done deal, is now seeing a resurgance of opposition as more and more people recognise the damage it does to society, people are starting question the notion that accepting SSM is benign.

It had been my belief that SSM would eventually be accepted in general, though at the cost of personal and religious freedom for anyone who dared challange it.  I thought it would follow the typical pattern I see elsewhere.  After acceptance, it would take years - probably a generation or two - before the damage we were told would never happen would be recognise, and then eventaully a backlash would begin.  That is the state the abortion issue is at now.

Oddly, I think the Chick-fil-A fiasco has become a game changer.  There is an unexpected momentum in the backlash to the gay activists.  We've already got evidence showing that SSM hasn't resulted in sunshine and roses for all, and that there is, in fact, quite a lot of damage resulting from even the most stable of SS relationships.  Now, as the totalitarian behaviour of pro-gay activists crawls out into the open, people have noticed, and large numbers are standing up to it.  Not by protesting or becoming angry, but by going out, having fun and buying chicken.

Is it possible that the humble chicken sandwich can become the final straw that revealed the hypocrisy of activists who are trying to redefine our society into their own image?


Check out Bigotry and Chick-Fil-A

Give this a watch, for those still under the delusion that allowing gay marriage won't affect everyone else.

Also, When hating on Chick-fil-A, try to hide it better.