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Category: “family values”

Starting Now, Roy Edroso Will Be Providing All the Content for My Entries

[ 96 ] April 26, 2013 |

Via alicublog, I find this quote from David Vicker of PJ Media:


If annual sales, endorsement deals, and TV ratings are any indicator, the brand of Americanism these swamp rats are peddling is white lightning in a bottle. Down on our luck, out of hope, and sick-and-tired-of-change Americans can’t get enough of Duck Dynasty’s message, or its messengers. They take us back to the ideals that really work in this country.

I find that idea that the popularity of a show necessarily means that its watchers ascribe to its values fascinating. Presumably :

  • “Seinfeld” meant that most Americans felt it was time to start masturbating on the honor system.
  • “Friends” signaled that Americans all wanted to get a “Rachel” and cordon themselves off into groups of six.
  • “Breaking Bad” is a sign that most Americans are about to chuck everything and start cooking meth.
  • “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” tells us that most Americans are mentally-challenged sociopaths.



Extinction: Not a pressing concern for humanity at this time

[ 99 ] December 5, 2012 |

Ross Douthat is doubling down on the notion that intentionally choosing to have less children constitutes “decadence”:

But the modern path has many possible endpoints, and it seems like an abdication of moral judgment to just practice determinism and assert that wherever a given developed country’s birthrate ends up — slightly above replacement level, slightly below, or in the depths plumbed by countries like Japan — must represent the best of all possible worlds.

After all, if children are not the only good in human life, they do seem like a fairly important one, no? Maybe even, dare one say, an essential one, at least in some quantity, if the pursuit of the wider array of human goods is to continue beyond our own life cycle? Or to put it another way, if we have moral obligations to future, as-yet-unborn generations, as almost everyone seems to agree, surely those duties have to include some obligation for somebody to bring those generations into existence in the first place — to imitate the sacrifices that our parents made, and give another generation the chances that we’ve had? And if that basic obligation exists in some form, then surely there comes a point when a culture in which it’s crowded out by other goals, other pursuits and yes, other pleasures can be aptly described as … what’s the word I’m looking for … decadent?

If I’m reading this correctly, Douthat is using the specter of the extinction of the human race in order to generate a moral imperative to have more children. I see little harm in conceding the point: were the human race facing imminent extinction, the moral calculus might plausibly look a bit different.

Fortunately, we’re in no such situation. Here’s a global population growth chart, showing three projections for population growth, high, medium and low, generated by the UN two years ago. In the high growth rate scenario, the population in 2100 is 16 billion and growing. In the middling scenario, the global population is leveling off at around 10 billion. In the low scenario, the global population will continue to grow to over 8 billion until around 2050, when it will level off and begin a decline, remaining above 6 billion in 2100. (My own read of the demographic projections is the most likely scenario lies between the low and middle projections; leveling off somewhere north of 8 billion but south of 10, with a more gentle decline than the low suggestion projects).

So, it’s safe to say that Douthat can retire his fears of decadence-induced extinction of the human race. He further argues that while in theory we could deal with the challenge of population decline in wealthy societies through greater immigration, as “humanists” we should seek to maintain those populations through children instead, because we’re so rich that we can provide better childhoods than other people.

This is spectacularly unconvincing. A broad commitment to something we might plausibly call humanism might very easily lead to the opposite conclusion: that providing an opportunity to migrate to a wealthy society for people suffering considerable oppression or mired in hopeless poverty scores at least as high on the humanism scale as having a not especially wanted additional child. I would also submit that a humanist commitment to the well-being of future generations is, first and foremost, concerned with the quality of life of those future people, rather than quantity in which those people exist. (Is Douthat a closet Parfitian?) Given our rather pathetic lack of progress to date to scale human consumption to a level that doesn’t dramatically alter the earth’s climate, a somewhat lower population at some point in the future might be worth pursuing as a necessary but not sufficient condition of ecological stability, despite the policy challenges it presents.

I’m in agreement with Douthat that a sense of obligation toward future generations is an important moral value, and a general duty to contribute to the care, cultivation, protection and education of children is a central way in which the duties associated with that value are discharged. From there, however, it does not follow that people should feel a moral obligation to have children when they are uncertain or unenthusiastic about doing so. It’s a duty that can be discharged in a variety of ways, including the support of the sort of family-friendly public policies Douthat mentions in his original column, as well as contributing of the care and support of children and parents in one’s extended family, community, and social circle. There’s no reason to conclude, with Douthat, that such an obligation can only be discharged through having (more) children of one’s own.

In political commentary, a little nudity goes a long way.

[ 33 ] May 2, 2010 |

At the conference in Manchester, I attended a panel by Roger Sabin and Martin Barker titled “Doonesbury goes to Iraq,” and it mostly concerned what is, from a European perspective, the rightward turn in the politics of Trudeau’s Doonesbury after B.D. had his leg blown off.  Their argument, briefly, is that focusing on B.D.’s gradual acceptance that he had suffered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder transforms him into an object of sympathy for both the American right and left; and that, as such, PTSD represents a political common ground that is, to the rest of the world, rather unsavory.  For example, if an American soldier kills civilians in Iraq, from the American perspective, that soldier suffers a trauma; whereas from the international perspective, that soldier may have committed a war crime, etc.

It was an impressive argument, but it didn’t sit well with me because it relied too heavily on the notion that, unlike Vietnam, the United States military is a volunteer force.  It ignores both the extent to which stop-loss has been used to plug recruitment shortfalls and the class politics at play in all military recruitment.  If you want to claim that the United States military is used to achieve imperialists ends, there’s an argument to be made there; but if you want to claim that United States soldiers knowingly support an imperialist agenda, you have your work cut out for you.

All of which is only to say, it seemed odd that these sharp British scholars were taking Gary Trudeau behind the woodshed for being implicitly conservative when there are so many explicitly conservative cartoonists who better express the ideological incoherence of the foreign policy and cultural politics of the contemporary right.  Granted, they might not consider actual conservative cartoonists worthy of their attention, and I can see why.  Consider Chris Muir, a.k.a. the man who unwittingly proves that white male Tea Party aficionados only listen to arguments proffered by scantily clad women.

The only interesting thing about Muir is how bereft of his ideas his “strips” are: he finds the conservative talking point of the day, imagines a domestic scene in which his female characters would be fully or partially nude, and combines them into a poorly drawn political burlesque.  How formulaic is he?  He could continue his strip indefinitely without ever needing to “draw” again in his life.  To demonstrate the validity of this claim, I’ve done Muir the favor of remixing some of his recent output into entirely new comics:

They do, I admit, border on the absurd, but I’d consider that an improvement.  I suppose I understand then why Sabin and Barker decided to treat the implicit conservatism in Trudeau then: they probably had a difficult time believing that folks like Muir realistically represent conservative thought in American politics.  Would that they were correct.


Real Family Values.

[ 0 ] July 30, 2007 |

One of the things that really gets under my skin is the notion that in the battle over rhetoric, the wingnuts have won the word “family.” Since when is telling people that they can’t get married, can’t adopt kids, can’t get the proper health services for their kids pro-family? Lest you think we live in a sane society.

The ridiculousness of the right’s ownership over the word “family” was nowhere clearer than in many Republicans’ opposition to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA requires that employers (in companies of over 50 employees) allow employees to take up to 12 weeks in any 12-month period of unpaid leave to care for a family member or child. Employees cannot face negative employment actions for taking the leave. Though detractors argued that Congress does not have the power to pass such a law, in 2003, the Supreme Court (in an opinion by Rehnquist!) upheld the law.

The FMLA is a step, but a small one. There’s still no paid leave. And, like Title VII, it only applies to large employers. And still, it continues to face stiff opposition from the party that is supposedly pro-life and pro-family.

The impact of the FMLA and its import was on full display in a NY Times Magazine article this weekend, penned by the Absolute Convictions author Eyal Press (the article is long but worth reading in full as this post will discuss only one small part of it). In a discussion of the wave of lawsuits that have been brought under the FMLA, Press gets right to the point:

The flood of cases reflects not just the increased presence of women in the workplace but also the growing difficulty Americans of all social backgrounds seem to be having in balancing the demands of work and family. Unlike so-called “glass ceiling” cases involving women barred from the top rungs of a handful of elite professions, the plaintiffs in these new work-family disputes have ranged across the occupational spectrum, from physicians to police officers to grocery clerks. While not all have become millionaires, more than half have prevailed in court — a success rate significantly higher than that of more conventional employment-discrimination cases, which is below 20 percent. Beyond causing headaches for their employers, the lawsuits are serving notice that the battle over “family values” is no longer just about gay marriage and abortion: it’s also about workplace attitudes that some advocates believe do significantly more to undermine family life than those controversial practices do.

Exactly. The article also demonstrates how harmful it can be to one’s career (male or female, interestingly, though of course it still hurts women more) to be a parent, especially of more than one child. FMLA tries to minimize these effects.

So let’s get this straight: it’s the people who claim to be pro-life and pro-family who oppose leave to care for their families and who would do nothing to remedy the parent penalty? Insanity indeed.

Where Poverty & Reproductive Health Collide

[ 0 ] July 19, 2007 |

Jumping off of my last post, here’s an example of the collision between reproductive health and poverty, its potentially farreaching effects, and how the Republicans are trying to use poverty as a tool for trimming reproductive rights.

From a SIECUS news alert:

Congressman Mike Pence (R-IN) has introduced an amendment to the House Labor and Health and Human Services appropriations bill that is intended to specifically block Planned Parenthood health centers from receiving federal family planning funding. No other health provider is targeted by the amendment. The vote is scheduled for today, and could take place at any time!

Each year, more than five million women receive comprehensive family planning services at approximately 4,500 family planning clinics funded by Title X. Title X patients are predominantly poor and uninsured; two-thirds have incomes at or below the federal poverty level.

Title X is the Federal government’s only funding stream for reproductive health services for the poor. Title X funds the provision of general gynecological care and contraceptive services for poor women. Title X funds may not be used to provide abortions. And – yes – planned parenthood receives Title X funding, as do many other clinics.

Pence’s amendment is plain-old vindictive. It’s fueled by legislation like the law recently signed in Missouri (from that cross-shaped podium no less) that bars Planned Parenthood from teaching comprehensive sex ed. It’s planned parenthood – and poor women – as the strawman for abortion rights politics. And it’s plain old disgusting.

The vote could happen today. call your representative and tell them to vote no on the Pence amendment. Reach your Congressperson by calling the Congressional Switchboard at 202-225-3121.

The "Privacy" Dodge

[ 0 ] March 8, 2007 |

Matt is right about this. Now, it must be said that when it comes to a candidate’s personal “family values” I’m strictly of the “Nice guy? I don’t give a shit. Good father? Fuck you! Go home and play with your kids” school. Personally, while there are many good reasons not to want Rudy to be president, the fact that he’s a jerk and bad husband and bad father is not, to me, one of them. You may remember this from the “Liberals should like Sam Alito because he’s nice to his wife and likes baseball” routine. George W. Bush is a much better husband and father than FDR or LBJ were, William Rehnquist a much nicer person than William Douglas, and so on and so on and so on. If it’s not entirely accurate to say that there’s no relationship between being a nice person and being a good president (or Supreme Court Justice or whatever), certainly the correlation is weak enough that you’d be crazy to put any real weight on it. When assessing candidates, “character” is bascially a Latin word meaning “bullshit.”

Having said all this, though, you can’t have it both ways. Either the fact that you’re a family man matters, or it doesn’t. Giuliani can’t use his family as a campaign prop and then squeal about his “privacy” when the rather more unpleasant aspects of his domestic life come to light. If he thought it mattered that he was a good husband and father, then it’s fair game for people to bring up the fact that he isn’t.