On the danger of deriving “will” from “ought.”

Game of Thrones, Season 5, Episode 10: Mother’s Mercy. This is my first post after watching the episode. If you haven’t read the books, a lot of names in this post will be unfamiliar. I will provide links as the names appear. A gigantic SPOILER WARNING applies to this post. Just assume I’m going to spoil the living fuck out of everything that’s happened in the books, as well as the show.

Oh, and I wrote most of this post before watching the finale. If it seems awkward and haphazard, my timing explains a lot of that. And it’s late at night, and I just spent the last couple of hours poring over the episode. My thoughts might not be at their most organized right now.

I saw this fan theory several days ago, and I want to talk about it. The idea was that Lady Stoneheart would be appearing in the finale. The evidence put forth for this prediction ranged from wishful thinking to near-outright fabrication. I can understand the wishful thinking part (we’ll do a little learning from my mistakes in this post), but there are times when Google is there to protect you from yourself.

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“Protect and Serve” means do better than this.

All lawyers are expected to do their jobs, no matter how obnoxious their clients may be, and it seems that the lawyer for Officer Eric Casebolt, aka that one in McKinney, TX, who is now famous for pinning a bikini-clad 14-year-old to the ground, has basically given up on saying anything interesting. Amanda Marcotte at RawStory gives us this word salad:

“The video that everyone has seen only depicts a small part of Eric’s actions that day,” Bishkin said, noting that Casebolt had responded to two suicide calls earlier Friday that took “an emotional toll” on the 10-year veteran of the force.

“With all that happened that day, he allowed his emotions to get the better of him,” Bishkin said. “Eric regrets that his conduct portrayed him and his department in a negative light. He never intended to mistreat anyone, but was only reacting to a situation and the challenges it presented.

Oh, dear oh dear oh dear. “Eric regrets that his conduct protrayed him and his department in a negative light”? Not that he’s sorry about assaulting that child, or that the call was bullshit in the first place, but he’s sorry about how it makes him and the department look.

Fine, I’ll assume that Officer Casebolt cannot say anything to the effect of, “I’m sorry about how I handled that girl, and I hope she’s okay” without fucking up his case. The content of his lawyer’s excuse of the day is that he had just handled two suicide calls and the stress was making him do things he shouldn’t have.

We hear this a lot, when we discuss police brutality. We’re told that policing is a really stressful job, so we need to be understanding with police officers, and withhold punishment when they fuck up.

I get it. I really do. I have no doubt that policing IS a very stressful, emotionally exhausting job. I have no interest in being a police officer! I don’t envy them.

Here’s the thing, though: there are a lot of stressful, tiring, emotionally taxing jobs that need to be done. For most of those jobs, we expect the people doing them to be able to handle their stress in a way that doesn’t endanger the people who depend on them to do their jobs appropriately. In other words, we expect people to be better than the rest of us before they take those stressful jobs. Policing should be no different. We need our police to be better than this at handling the stress of their work. If they’re not better, they should find other ways to make a living. Ways that don’t include a license to perpetrate violent acts on the bodies of unarmed children.

If police are the only ones we’re expected to forgive, repeatedly, for taking out their emotional exhaustion on the bodies of regular people like defenseless bikini-clad 14-year-old girls, why is that? Is there something about policing that attracts more than its fair share of shitty personalities? Almost like the schoolyard bullies grew up and needed to make a living.

Now, think of how stressful it is to live in fear of the people who are supposedly here to “protect and serve” us. How exhausting it is to associate the blue uniform with the threat of being killed for no good reason.

A pro-choice mother is not an oxymoron.

We have the news that Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL, is now expecting her first two children. There are some anti-abortion activists who find this really confusing.

The reaction beyond NARAL, however, has been much more complicated, Hogue says. “There is this whole mentality that anyone who fights for the rights that we fight for must hate children and not want to parent,” she says. “So to have the leader of a reproductive rights organization — an abortion rights organization — show up pregnant, it’s just jaw-dropping.”

At one point, she says, she walked into a hearing on Capitol Hill and an antiabortion advocate looked at her swollen belly and asked, “Is that real?”

There’s no good reason why it should be jaw-dropping for a reproductive rights leader to show up with a baby bump. There’s no conflict between advocating for the option of legal, safe abortion care, and having babies. Perhaps the name of the organization (National Abortion Rights Action League) causes a teensy bit of confusion, but I assure that “abortion rights” is not equivalent to “compulsory abortion.” Plenty of pro-choice feminists are also mothers. This is possible because sometimes, people actually want to have children. They don’t need to be forced, and they shouldn’t be forced.

Their confusion over Ms. Hogue’s pregnancy sort of gives the impression that anti-abortion activism is premised on a view of children as a burden, and that people will only become parents if they see no choice in the matter.

I’m sure the majority of anti-abortion activists don’t think this way. I’m sure most see nothing wrong with Ms. Hogue becoming a mother to twins. I sure hope so.

Also: Congratulations, Ms. Hogue! Yay, babies!

The Death Penalty and the Ariel Castro Principle

Holy shit, am I posting about something outside of Game of Thrones? It seems I am!

It shouldn’t be a surprise, though, when PZ Myers dangles a sparkly thing in front of my face. And by “sparkly thing” I mean some guy spouting nonsensical rubbish and acting like it makes him a superior freethinker.

Ron Lindsay, what is this I don’t even?

There’s lots in here to bat around and use as a chew toy, but I think this here is the most…special, of Dr. Lindsay’s supposed counter-counterpoints:

There is little doubt that much of the American justice system is affected by either explicit or implicit racial bias. This bias manifests at all levels, from disproportionate traffic stops and arrests of blacks to disproportionate death sentences for blacks. But ultimately, this argument against the death penalty is no more than a makeweight. Removing the death penalty is not going to end racism in the American justice system. Moreover, if the adverse impact on blacks were the real reason for opposing the death penalty, presumably opponents would be satisfied with a quota system, whereby no death penalty could be imposed on blacks, Hispanics, and so forth until the requisite number of whites were sentenced to death. A quota system would remove the effects of racial bias. I doubt, however, that this would satisfy death penalty opponents.

The racism in the application of the death penalty is one of several reasons why I am opposed. And I would not support a quota system, partly because I also oppose capital punishment for other reasons. But I just want to focus on this one line: “Removing the death penalty is not going to end racism in the American justice system.”

Did he really just say that?

“Removing the death penalty is not going to end racism in the American justice system.”

Yeah, here’s the thing: death penalty abolition, all by itself, will not suddenly make our justice system stop being racist. It would, however, address this one phenomenon of state-sanctioned executions of black people at an unwarranted rate relative to white people who commit the same crimes. I think that’s an end unto itself.

Oh, and I feel the same way about supermax as PZ does: a lifetime of perpetual isolation from other human beings is cruel and it should not be done. I also think that prison is inherently a site of violence, and short of abolishing the prison system altogether, there are a lot of ways that the incarceration process could be made less horrible. People who are kept in prison for the rest of their lives should be allowed to interact with other prisoners, and that shouldn’t be controversial.

This may surprise Dr. Lindsay, but I didn’t always take this position. I used to think the death penalty was moral in a small number of cases. I listened to opposing arguments and eventually changed my mind, but not because it was socially unacceptable to be pro-capital punishment. I changed my mind because I realized the anti-DP arguments made sense.

However, my fellow bleeding hearts might not like this: I also think that there are some cases in which prisoner suicide is the best possible outcome. Ariel Castro was one; Dzhokar Tsarnaev is arguably another. I think it’s wrong for the state to execute people, but I also think the state has no responsibility to keep profoundly cruel and destructive people alive against their will. If Tsarnaev wants to live a long life, he should be kept with the general population in a sufficiently secure prison. If he prefers to kill himself while he’s still young, he should have our permission to die.

Brain Surgeon Wrong About Everything

Ben Carson is very, very afraid that Life As Christians Know It will go catapulting down the crapper if marriage equality advances. He had this to say to the Illinois Family Institute:

Speaking to the anti-LGBT group Illinois Family Institute (IFI) on Friday, Carson explained that the Bible compares the relationship between Jesus Christ and his followers to a marriage.

“Think about the implications of that,” he said. “When people come along and try to change the definition of marriage, they are directly attacking the relationship between God and his people.”

“And that’s the reason it’s so important for them to change the definition, because if you can get rid of that, you can get rid of everything else in the Bible too,” Carson warned.


In his speech to IFI on Friday, Carson opined that the “secular progressive movement” was like a “new group of mathematicians who come along and say, ‘Two plus two is five.’”

“The new ones say, ‘If it’s not five for you, you’re a mathophobe,’” he added. “We just have to continue to make it clear because they want to say that anybody who doesn’t believe what they believe is a hater.”



For someone who can put so many big words together, Dr. Carson sure sounds like a dude swimming eyeball deep in Lake Nonsense.

His concern about marriage equality appears to be as follows: Christians’ love of Christ is like a marriage, so, if same-sex couples are also allowed to get married, then Christians will begin to view their relationship with God in a different manner, and that would ruin everything they hold dear.

(Note: Openly gay people are not included in Dr. Carson’s definition of Christianity.)

Not only will the destruction of Christians’ love of Christ be a consequence of the gay marriage agenda, it is the mere opening of Pandora’s Box. We’re opening with the relatively warm-and-fuzzy act of marriage equality so we can later move on to destroying EVERYTHING about the Bible.

In order to prevent Christians’ relationship with Jesus from changing—meaning, in order to prevent the destruction of the fabric of the universe—the legal definition of marriage must be the same as it is in the Bible.

So, let’s review the way the Bible says marriage is supposed to be:

I think you all knew this would happen.

They misspelled “polygyny.”

Whereas, if two consenting adults of the same gender get married, that ruins everything for True Christians.

The Bible also calculates that pi=3. Now we have these blasphemous people called “math teachers” asking us to believe that pi is 3.141592653589793238 etc. Everything was so much easier and cleaner before we began to stray from the eternal wisdom of the Good Book.


Here is an example of victim-blaming.

You think I’ve said enough about the Steubenville rape case already? I have not yet begun to rant.

From a related article at Raw Story, I found this comment:

This is what the world really needs: more people telling women how not to get raped.

This is what the world really needs: more people telling women how not to get raped.

Pro Tip #1: There is no paucity of awareness that alcohol is involved in many rapes. There is not a woman in America who has not already been given the same evidence-free “advice” thousands of times: don’t drink too much, don’t walk alone at night, don’t go behind closed doors with a strange guy, blah blah blah. It helps about as much as telling us to throw salt over our shoulders whenever we pass by a black cat.

Pro Tip #2: You can insist until you’re blue in the fact that you’re not blaming the victim, but that doesn’t change the fact that you’re attributing the violent act to the victim’s behavior rather than scrutinizing the assailants’ choices.

So after this commenter was rightly dogpiled, they continued with this:

Keep digging that hole! You might hit oil!

Keep digging that hole! You might hit oil!

Oh, dear. So much victim-blaming in so few words.

There’s one nugget of truth here: this variety of sexual predator does not choose sober victims. They want victims who are unable to put up a fight. Therefore, if this particular girl had not become intoxicated in their presence…they would have found another girl whom they could pressure to drink until she passed out.

The fact that the girl was below legal drinking age is a red herring. Women over 21 get blind-drunk all the time; sometimes they’re drugged by assailants, sometimes they just go overboard. When they’re intoxicated to near-unconsciousness, sometimes violent men take advantage of their compromised state and rape them. After that’s happened, there are always people around who are only too happy to focus on how wrong it was for the victim to have so much to drink.

So, with that in mind, the last sentence really says it all. I start from a position of thinking there’s nothing morally wrong with an underage girl having too much to drink. Illegal, yes, but there is such a thing as a victimless crime, and our law books are covered in them.  Staying sober doesn’t make you a saint, and getting hammered doesn’t make you a degenerate. If that girl got that wasted of her own volition, that makes her responsible for the resulting hangover the next day; nothing more.

If a couple of boys see a girl who’s falling-down drunk and decide to do horrible things to her while she’s too fucked up to put up a fight, that’s on them. That is not bad weather, or illness that naturally follows from excessive drinking; that is a decision that one human being (or several) makes against another. Telling the girl that the assailants wouldn’t have done what they did if she hadn’t gotten so wasted makes about as much sense as scolding her for wearing a short skirt.

Irish Bishops Wrong About Everything

The Catholic bishops of Ireland have released a statement regarding the death of Savita Halappanavar, and it makes about as much sense as we’ve come to expect from the organization that created and maintained the Magdalene Laundries. Here you can read it in full. More prominent bloggers have already given their responses to the “moral” positioning and “medical” information contained therein, and on those fronts, I’m just nodding along with them.

Dr. Jen Gunter attempts to interpret the bishops’ medical opinions.

PZ Myers wants to know: what makes those bishops think we want to hear anything they have to say?

The part that I want to address is this one:

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#Savita could have lived with her loss.

I’m still glued to the #Savita hashtag on Twitter. It’s a sickness.

While I was browsing through the Savita-related Tweets today, I came across someone Tweeting these…words.

I’m not going to link to the Tweets. I don’t want to bring further attention on this person’s Twitter account, and besides, the idea is not unique to her. I don’t want to pick on the user.

That never would have occurred to me.

The message is true but so obvious it contributes nothing but white noise. Of course Savita would have grieved her child if she’d survived. In fact, we don’t even need to speculate on the matter of how Savita “would have” felt if she’d walked out of that hospital, because we have her husband telling us how she DID feel about her miscarriage in the small window of time in which she was still alive. She knew her daughter wouldn’t make it, and she was devastated. She really wanted that baby, but she knew the pregnancy wasn’t viable. She knew it, the medical team knew it, so what did she do? She asked the doctors to terminate the pregnancy. Savita really wanted to be a mother, but even more than that, she wanted her cervix to close up before she developed a life-threatening infection.

Then we have this:

It’s not the “baby” that’s under the attack. It’s the hospital, the medical team, and the laws.

But…seriously? No one is accusing the “baby” of anything. She was going to die no matter what, and the medical team knew it. “Defense” is a totally inapplicable concept to the fetus that died along with Savita.

However, when we’re talking about what someone would have said to Savita about her miscarriage if she’d survived: actually, I can picture myself saying to someone like her, “I’m very sorry for your loss, but I’m glad you’re okay.” I have friends who’ve experienced miscarriages. I had a conversation with one such friend about a year ago, soon after her loss. She was upset, and I was upset for her, but I was also happy to see that she had made it through the experience with minimal physical injury.

Why would I say such a thing? Why would I tell my friend that it’s good that she’s recovering so well?

Because her life does not forfeit all meaning when she fails to bring a fetus to live birth.

And that brings us to this…fascinating…idea.

I need booze.



Do you mean to say that it’s better that Savita died, because now she doesn’t have to mourn her pregnancy loss? Because that is…pretty much what the Tweet above suggests.

When Savita found out that she was losing her 17-week-gestating daughter, you know what she wanted? She wanted a prompt termination to protect her own life and health. She asked the doctors to evacuate her uterus so that the process of losing her fetus would not put her life in danger. She didn’t want to die along with her unborn daughter. Savita wanted to live with her grief.

She wanted to live.

But, because “this is a Catholic country,” they refused to extract the fetus before her heart stopped beating, and as a result of that delay, Savita died after days of horrible pain.

So, tell me: does that make her daughter any less dead?

Is the loss of Savita’s unborn little girl somehow less tragic because Savita isn’t around to grieve?

I have seen what happens when women get the appropriate medical care during miscarriages. You know what happened to all my friends who suffered pregnancy losses and lived to tell about it? They got on with their lives. Nearly all of them have since had children. I held and kissed one of those post-miscarriage babies less than a week ago. He’s beautiful and perfect in every way, and his parents are thrilled to have him. None of those children would have been born if their mothers had been left to die of sepsis from incomplete miscarriages.

Savita wanted to be a mother, and if her life had been saved with a prompt termination, she could have still had children. Her daughter was beyond help, but Savita still had a life to lead. Her mother now has to live without her.