Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

January 10, 2005

Syllogistic Hypocrisy

Filed under: — Different River @ 6:02 pm

One particular form of hypocrisy that really bothers me is the type where some person or group claims to favor or oppose X because of self-evident principle Y — but they don’t apply principle Y to everything else, and in severe cases they don’t apply principle Y to anything but issue X.

One example is the position of the National Organization for Women (NOW) (and lots of other people and organzations) on abortion. They and others claim to be in favor of abortion (or “abortion rights”) because of the principle that “a woman has a right to control her own body.”

Yet, on other issues, NOW specifically opposes a woman’s right to control her own body, and is in fact lobbying the federal government to infringe on that right. Specifically, they have an “action alert” on their website asking supporters to tell the FDA to deny approval for a certain type of silicone gel-filled breast implants. They claim the manufacturer has not provided enough data to show that the devices are safe. Presumably, the manufacturer disagrees and thinks their data does show the devices are safe.

Now NOW is entitled to their opinion about these devices, but if their concern were to protect the principle that “a woman has a right to control her own body,” then wouldn’t they want each woman to have to right to evaluate the risks and benefits and decide whether the tradeoff was worth it to her? After all, nothing is 100% safe, there are risks to everything, and no one is forcing anybody to get any kind of breast implants at all. So if a woman wants to get breast implants, and she has a right to control her own body, shouldn’t that mean she has the right to determine whether in her own judgement the risks are worth the benefits to her?

And if your answer to that question is “fine, but most women aren’t experts in these risks,” — well, they are implanted by a doctor; shouldn’t this be “a private decision between a woman and her doctor”? Isn’t that what they say should be the case for an abortion?

Furthermore, about four and a half years ago, NOW itself took the exact opposite approach to the FDA — they called on the FDA to expidite approval — without the safety testing normally required for new drugs — for RU-486 (mifepristone, the “abortion pill”). They cited approvingly the statement of the French Minister of Health that this drug is “the moral property of women,” with the clear implication that it’s the business of women, not the government, to determine whether it’s safe or not.

Of course, like breast implants, RU-486 is not without risk; unlike breast implants, at least four women in the US and Canada have died due to complications from the “abortion pill.”

If NOW acknowleges the risks of RU-486 (and I don’t know if they do or not), they could favor its approval and be consistent with their declared principle that “a woman has a right to control her own body” if they said that women should be allowed to make the their own decisions regarding risk-benefit tradeoff for themselves, and that it should “a private decision between a woman and her doctor.” But if they said that, they’d have to apply the same reasoning to the breast implants, and call on the FDA to approve those, too.

Now maybe I’m missing something here, but it certainly seems to me that NOW does not really believe that “a woman has a right to control her own body.” If they did, they’d be speaking out in favor of, not against, approving the breast implants, and they’d also be speaking out against the laws in Calfornia and North Carolina banning teenagers from tanning salons, and the laws requiring prescriptions for all prescription drugs, and parental permission for minors to get their wisdom teeth extracted, not just their fetuses.

It would be much less hypocritical if they’d just be honest and say “we believe in a woman’s right to an abortion — not necessarily a right for a women to do control anything about her body, just that one thing.”

Tsunami Politics #2: Who’s stupid?

Filed under: — Different River @ 12:54 am

VariFrank is an American who works in software, on teams with people from all over the world. He tells the following story:

Today, during an afternoon conference that wrapped up my project of the last 18 months, one of my Euro collegues tossed this little turd out to no one in particular:

“See, this is why George Bush is so dumb, there’s a disaster in the world and he sends an Aircraft Carrier…”

After which he and many of my Euro collegues laughed out loud.

And then they looked at me. I wasn’t laughing, and neither was my Hindu friend sitting next to me, who has lost family in the disaster.

I’m afraid I was “unprofessional,” I let it loose -

“Hmmm, let’s see, what would be the ideal ship to send to a disaster, now what kind of ship would we want?

“Something with its own inexhuastible power supply?

“Something that can produce 900,000 gallons of fresh water a day from sea water?

“Something with its own airfield? So that after producing the fresh water, it could help distribute it?

“Something with 4 hospitals and lots of open space for emergency supplies?

“Something with a global communications facility to make the coordination of disaster relief in the region easier?

“Well ‘Franz,’ us peasants in America call that kind of ship an ‘Aircraft Carrier.’ We have 12 of them. How many do you have? Oh that’s right, NONE. Lucky for you and the rest of the world, we are the kind of people who share. Even with people we dont like. In fact, if memory serves, once upon a time we peasants spent a ton of money and lives rescuing people who we had once tried to kill and who tried to kill us.

“Do you know who those people were? That’s right Franz, Europeans.

“Theres is a French Aircraft carrier? Where is it? Right where it belongs! In France of course! Oh why should the French Navy dirty their uniforms helping people on the other side of the globe. How simplesse

The room fell silent. My Hindu friend then said quietly to the Euros:

“Can you let your hatred of George Bush end for just one minute? There are people dying! And what are your countries doing? Amazon.com has helped more than France has. You all have a role to play in the world, why can’t you see that? Thank God for the US Navy, they dont have to come and help, but they are. They helped you once and you should all thank God they did. They didnt have to, and no one but them would have done so. I’m ashamed of you all…” [Few Europeans believe in God anyway. --DR]

He left the room, shaking and in tears. The frustration of being on the other side of the globe, unable to do anything to assist and faced with people who could not set aside their asininity long enough to reach out and help was too much for him to bear. I just shook my head and left. The Euros stood speechless.

Later in the breakroom, one of the laughing Euros caught me and extended his hand in an apology. I asked him where he was from, he said “a town outside of Berlin.” He is a young man, in his early 20′s.

I asked him if he knew of a man named Gail Halvorsen.

He said no.

I said “that’s a shame” and walked away to find my Hindu friend.

Thanks, as usual to Clayton Cramer for the link, and for the reminder to add VariFrank to the blogroll. And please — apologies to my friend who’s so fond of France…

Also: This is as good a time as any to recall this famous broadcast by the Canadian radio commentator, Gordon Sinclair.

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