Saturday, August 25, 2012

From The News

A wise character in a Ray Bradbury story "And The Rock Cried Out" only reads the newspaper after it is a week old.  At that point, it is usually quite clear which parts are foolish and which are wise.  Good advice, which I will follow here.  Sort of.

Akins' comment that women don't get pregnant from "legitimate" rape because their bodies reject it is indefensible.  It got a lot of play because it goes to the heart of a particular narrative of modern women about themselves, that the abortion, sexual freedom, status and power, and false moral issues are so deeply interrelated as to be the same thing, so that "forcing" a woman to bear a child she has conceived is equivalent to forcing her to have sex.  There's some sense in that, as Akins's statement may indeed indicate an interrelatedness of the ideas in his mind.  It also got a lot of play because it's part of one of Obama's campaign themes. 

Here's the problem:  the only time I have ever run across this urban myth was in the late 70's when my wife was pregnant with our first child.  We read volumes of pregnancy and childbirth material, including some pretty strange stuff in the alternative childbirth books. (This was an era when having husbands present, gaining more than twenty pounds, and not getting knocked out were considered "alternative," remember.) One of the more mystical offerings reported that exerting mental control over reproductive function was a common idea in Eastern beliefs, and was found in Native American and African peoples as well.  These latter, in the spirit of the age, were included as positives because those groups were closer to nature than we modern whites were.  I remember feeling glad that I couldn't think of anything in the Bible, or even from any of the crazier Christians I hung out with, that suggested this was remotely true.  It seemed a mark precisely in our favor that there wasn't any of this.

I have no idea if her statement was indeed true, or just something she heard and passed on.  Plus, it sounds quite different when one puts it in terms of a mystical consonance between mind and body rather than a statement that you won't get pregnant if you're really raped, but it's the same thing.  I didn't catch that anyone went there in their criticism,  kicking the nonwhite peoples on the matter.  Perhaps the belief is that this is a generalised primitive belief found in many cultures, which persist because they are convenient to men. But even that gets us to a place I don't think liberals want to go.  Are you saying that these cultures unlike ours are inferior, then?  Not only the American fundies, but the Apaches and Thai monks and shamans?

Added:  I sometimes think that because I have mentioned something more than once, though years ago, it is in the back of everyone else's mind as well. Part of my argument that this is overblown is based on the idea that neither side is going to move the dial much legislatively, but the activists on both sides hyperventilate as if crushing defeat is imminent, but for their efforts.  The Akins of the world must be expelled, even though these ideas have no practical effect, because it is encouragement to the wrong tribe.  McAskill's belief that oil companies jerk the price of gas to influence elections - easily disproven with a little arithmetic how much that would cost them - is not considered a problem.  And frankly, though it has dire consequences, it's not considered a problem by the right as well as the left, because too many of them have dark Big Oil suspicions and also can't do arithmetic.  The right also tends to get activated for narrative issues rather than substantive ones.  It's what human beings do.


As a culture, we seem to have decided long ago that Lance Armstrong was being persecuted and began to feel sorry for him.  They kept trying to bust him for doping, he kept protesting his innocence, he pointed to his passed drugs tests, and we believed him when he said it was all a witch hunt.  Lance Armstrong is a nice guy, and fought back from horrible illness to boot, so it fit our narrative. 

We did not extend the same courtesy to Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, note.  They acted like pricks and we wanted their asses in jail.  Arnold is more ambiguous, but on balance, he was charming and popular, so steroid use was a clear smart move on his part in his younger days.

Lance is almost certainly guilty. If you think about it for awhile and drop the preconceived idea of a poor hounded innocent, you knew that.  Why would an entire agency continue to pursue him?  There are certainly personal vendettas in this life, and if someone stands to gain - if they were the buddy of a second-place finisher to Armstrong, for example - then we are even doubly suspicious.  It is certainly possible, that an entire agency, or powerful people within it, just don't like him, or feel that he showed them up, or are spending the rest of their days in futile efforts to justify accusations they made in the past, are obsessed with bringing Armstrong down.  Is it likely?  Really?  Isn't it more likely that they know he's guilty, and the question has been whether it's worth pursuing?

Is the fact that the pubic is tired of hearing about it a good motive for dropping it?  That's the bet that Bill Clinton made, and he won.  He protested his innocence and accused the accusers of bad motives, hoping that he could ride it long enough that everyone would get tired of it and turn on them, instead.  After that, when it became clear that Clinton had lied after all, it didn't matter.  Everyone pretended that they knew all along he was a liar, but they just thought his sins were small and his accusers were worse.  That's the opposite of what they said at the time.  It is in fact, a lie itself.  But a convenient one. 

Because everyone else is guilty, after all.  And LA's new statement is that he used no "unfair advantage."  And I am willing to believe that he did work harder, and suffer more, and was more talented.  But not that he didn't dope.

Added:  The Bill Clinton part is that it's different when you know the bastard is guilty and you think you've finally got him.  Armstrong's accusers don't think that maybe he is, maybe he isn't, lets find out.  The believe they have proof, if only they can get their day in court.  In 1998, conservatives had been denied because the public didn't care about Travelgate, or Filegate, or the obstruction around Foster's suicide, or Whitewatergate, or closed health care planning.  And the "not caring" was largely a result of "not pressed by journalists."  When the Monica story came around, they thought they finally had him.

Steroids came to Muscle Beach, and thus Southern California, in the 1960's.  They could well have been in many sports, not just bodybuilding and weightlifting.  I recall saying humorously in the 1970's, looking at clips of defensive linemen pursuing QB's "How can a man 6'4" and 295 lbs be fast?" But I thought it was just finding the freaks of nature, and training them right that did it.  Only later did I come to understand why.  I loved track and field in that era, and hope that few or none of my heroes were 'roided.  It's even been rumored about Roger Maris (unlikely, but not impossible).  Heck, even Babe Ruth drank a patent medicine that was supposedly made from sheep testes.

Augusta National

The fun part has been watching people get upset that it's the wrong sort of woman who got in. They don't care about women. They don't care about black people. They care that their own tribe gets rewarded. Never forget that. BTW, there are still all-male golf clubs. The critics only care when it fits the narrative.  

You Didn't Build That is getting its own post.  Obviously, to say that "You could never have grown all that food if I hadn't sold you the seeds," or "You wouldn't have scored 47 against the Lakers if I hadn't turned the overhead lights on" doesn't impress me much as an argument.  But I have a deeper objection from that, about the nature of government.


james said...

Wrt Akins, I'd heard something related, and more plausible; that pregnancy was possible but much less likely--the woman's body had suffered an injury. I wonder where one can find statistics on the question.

Wrt the other Armstrong, I wondered a bit (where there's smoke), but it seemed they could never pin anything on him, so I figured he was innocent.

Sam L. said...

What Jame said, on both. But it does look like hounding, if not persecution. He passed the tests they gave him, and now he's retired.

Augusta: Thinketh I, thou hast nailed it.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Well, he didn't pass the tests they gave him, That's part of my point. He has twice had suspicious results that did not rise to the level of proof in court. They say they've got more. That's not proof in a court of law, but it's plenty to keep going.

james said...

Interesting what goes on behind the scenes when you're not paying attention... I wasn't paying attention to bike racing at all, so I picked up the standard narrative by default.

I gather that 1999 had a lot of different tests, because the Wikipedia article mentions what appear to be two different findings. It sounds like they've collected quite a lot of testimony now.

I wonder what is going to happen to the rubber bracelet market.