We may get our humanity back yet

The U.S. Supreme Court postponed the execution of Earl Berry today pending review of his appeal. They may decide, as they have with three other executions, that the execution must be delayed until they issue a decision next spring on whether lethal injection constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment”.

The American Bar Association has issued a report on the failings of the death penalty, and is calling for a nationwide moratorium.

Meanwhile, leading Democrats are actually publicly condemning torture and demanding that our public officials condemn it as well. You know what that means — they sense that public opinion is turning against it. Here’s hoping they’re right.

Aborting for less violence is like bombing for peace…

… and we all know what that’s like.

Sergio Cabral has been reading too much Freakonomics:

The governor of Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday said that making abortion legal could be a way to help contain violence in the crime and drugs-plagued city, one of the most dangerous places in Brazil. […]

Contain it within women’s bodies, you mean.

“If we take the number of children per mother in the well-off areas such as Copacabana or Lagoa, we see a birth rate similar to that in Sweden,” he said.

“But the slums, like in Rocinha, have a birth rate similar to Zambia or Gabon. These are the makings of misfits,” said Cabral, a 44-year-old Catholic.

(I don’t know how they do things in Brazil, but here I would regard that as a not-so-subtle attempt to whip up people’s fears about black people reproducing. Points for guessing the racial makeup of the slums Cabral’s talking about.)

Brazil has some of the worst income inequality in the world. Almost a third of its people live in poverty. Drug trafficking — very little of it done by newborn babies, it turns out — is rampant.

But none of that is the problem. That’s just how the world works. Fertile women and their children — that’s the real cause of violence. Or at least, maybe you can get enough people to believe that. Label those kids “misfits” and kill them. In a generation, your society will still be sick and millions of children will be dead, but by then it’ll be someone else’s problem. They’ll probably find some other powerless people to blame anyway.

Feed the dog

Guillermo Habacuc Vargas says he wanted to make a statement about hypocrisy.

He paid two kids to capture a sick, starving dog on the streets of Managua and tied in up in an art gallery. Patrons were instructed not to give food or water to the dog, which died after a day on display.

Vargas’ point seems to have been that people cared about this dog when he was on display in the gallery but wouldn’t have cared about the same dog if he’d died on the street. This is true, but it’s hardly a startling insight (and sure as hell not worth killing a dog over). It’s not news that people are more concerned with suffering that takes place where they can see it. People are numb to suffering on the street; suffering in an art gallery still takes us by surprise. I think the much more instructive aspect of this exhibition is one Vargas doesn’t mention.

Nobody fed the dog.

I assume there were no armed guards on hand to force patrons and gallery employees not to feed it. All it would have taken was a dish and some food or water. People came and looked all day, and were outraged. But not one person fed the dog. Maybe people were afraid to defy even the weak authority of the artist and the gallery. Maybe it didn’t even occur to them to do so.

This is probably the closest thing to the Milgram Experiments you can do in an art gallery. Like the Milgram Experiments, it’s easy for us to comfort ourselves by thinking, “I wouldn’t have done that.” Statistically speaking, yes, there’s a good chance you would. There’s a good chance you would have obeyed the people in charge and not fed the dog. There’s a good chance I would have. It’s what we’re conditioned to do — to believe ourselves so helpless in the face of injustice that we actually become helpless, we obey, even when a way to remedy the injustice is right in front of our faces.

Feed the dog.

(ht: The Gin Blog)

Democracy for Life of Illinois kickoff event Oct. 22

Democracy for Life of Illinois will be holding a kickoff event in Effingham next week:

Democracy For Life of Illinois (DFLI), an affiliate of Democrats for Life of America (DFLA), has scheduled a press conference and initial meeting for October 22, 2007 at the Thelma Keller Conference & Convention Center, 1202 N. Keller Drive, Effingham, IL. The event will begin at 6:00 pm. Featured speaker will be Carol Crossed of Rochester, NY, one of the founders of DFLA. The purpose of the meeting is to publicly announce the formation of DFLI and explain its goals and purpose. Presentation of “The Case for Pro-Life Democrats” will be made as well as a brief explanation of DFL’s “95-10 Initiative.” Democrats for Life of America, Inc. is a national organization for pro-life members of the Democratic party founded in the year 2000. Democrats for Life of America exists to foster respect for life, from the beginning of life to natural death. This includes, but is not limited to, opposition to abortion, capital punishment, and euthanasia. The goal of DFL is to mobilize Democrats at local, state, and national levels to:

a. elect pro-life Democrats to office
b. support pro-life Democrats while in an elected position
c. promote a pro-life plank in the Democratic Party platform
d. achieve pro-life legislation with the help of national and state pro-life Democrats
e. participate actively in Democratic party functions and offices

All members of DFLI, pro-life Democrat officeholders and candidates and interested members of the public are invited. For questions or more information, contact DFLI president, David Seiler: 217-342-6882.

[ETA: updated with more information. Also, apparently I got the name wrong at first and it’s Democracy for Life of Illinois. I kind of like that.]

but then, I’m pretty much a Godless socialist tree-hugger myself

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Al Gore have won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for their work on bringing attention to global climate change.

I’ve seen speculation around the blogosphere this week that if Gore won the Nobel, it would be the perfect springboard for a new bid for the presidency. I think that’s more than a little na├»ve. There’s a strong streak in the American psyche, particularly but not exclusively among the right, of resistance to anything that could be construed as letting outsiders tell us what to do. If Gore announces his candidacy, you can bet that by lunchtime Bill O’Reilly and the rest will spin it as “Don’t let some Godless socialist tree-huggers in Norway decide who’s going to be your president.”

I personally think a little humility and willingness to admit that other people in the world might have something to teach us would go a long way toward making this country a healthier place. You’d think, for instance, that the pro-life movement in the U.S. would look at countries with dramatically lower abortion rates than ours and ask ourselves, “What are they doing right? What can we learn from them?” But you’ll never find an article on “Lessons from the Netherlands” in the National Right to Life News, nor an interview with Belgian public health officials in Focus on the Family’s Citizen magazine. Granted, that’s mostly because solutions involving contraception and sex ed don’t fit in with the agenda of most pro-life groups — more’s the pity. (At first, I mistyped that as “more’s the piety”. That too.) But I think there may be an element of false patriotism at work as well. It’s hard for many Americans, and particularly for conservatives, to admit that there’s anything the U.S. isn’t the best at. I would think having an abortion rate 2 to 3 times that of many Western European countries would be a hint, though. We can learn from other countries, and it’s not anti-American to say so. It’s as pro-American as you can get, to want to make America a better place.

Wangari Maathai on Democracy Now!

Democracy Now! aired an interview with Nobel Peace Laureate Wangari Maathai yesterday about the connections between environmental, human rights, and anti-war advocacy. Although the subject didn’t come up in the interview, Maathai also opposes abortion. She gave an interview to a Norwegian newspaper in 2004 in which she said that abortion is wrong, and that it hurts both unborn children and their mothers. (partial translation — if anyone out there speaks Norwegian, I’d love to get a full translation)

News from the last week (or so)

Good news:

Bad news:

  • The breast cancer mortality rate isn’t dropping for black women.
  • The maternal death rate is rising among American women. It is especially high among black women, and may be even higher than official figures indicate.

Where I get the news:

  • The above items all came to my attention via the Kaiser Daily Women’s Health Policy report. It’s a roundup of news from mainstream media sources, so the usual disclaimers apply, but it’s a good place to get an overview.

Commentary on the news:

  • Day Gardner of the National Black Pro-Life Union comments on the Jena Six
  • liberaljournal at Booman Tribune reminds us, Don’t Forget the Other Jena’s.
  • District Attorney Reed Walters said of a protest by several thousand supporters of the Jena Six on September 20: “I firmly believe and am confident of the fact that had it not been for the direct intervention of the Lord Jesus Christ last Thursday, a disaster would have happened. You can quote me on that.” Thanks, I think I will. Apparently a large gathering of mostly African-American protestors is a sufficient threat as to require divine intervention. I bet poor Jesus never even had time for a smoke break during the 50s and 60s.

News that makes me worry that I was unintentionally prescient: