Thursday, May 10, 2012

Calling EQUALITY!!!!!

Today, President Barack Obama spoke in support for marriage equality for LGBT Americans. He's had a strong record of policy victories for LGBT rights, but pro-equality citizens were wondering for a long time when he was going to "evolve" on marriage. Today, he's evolved and has voiced his personal support for ending discrimination in our marriage laws.

Equality under the law is a promise of many countries, but promises made and kept are two different things. Many people, some lawmakers and some our fellow citizens, have always stood in the way of equality regardless of how good or bad their conscious intentions were. Conscious intentions are never enough to define human behavior. It also matters how behavior impacts.

Equal citizenship requires that each person have the freedom to control their personal lives, including the sexual aspects of them. Otherwise, we make celibacy a requirement for citizenship.

Equal citizenship requires equal access to ALL forms of health care, paying for those who can't afford to pay for themselves. And health care requires reproductive and sexual health care. Otherwise, we make celibacy or unwanted pregnancy a requirement for health care.

I propose we show our support for equality by supporting those who stand up for it.

For Barack Obama: Donate here!

To give him a supportive Senate: Donate here!

To give him a supportive House: Donate here!

To support any party, including Republicans, electing pro-choice candidates: Scroll down, Donate here! 

To remember what we're fighting for, sing our message in the Saturday sun :)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Calling All Pro-Choice Americans

Abolishing slavery, women winning the right to vote, stopping marital rape, interracial marriage – these “social issues” were once considered controversial or violating natural order. Today they have a consensus of support and are considered cornerstones of American justice and civil and human rights*. In other words, they are non-partisan issues.

It’s time for another social issue to become part of this list: The legal defense and social acceptance of each person’s right to sexual and reproductive health care.

The vast majority of us do not or will not wait until marriage to have sex, and the right to choose is no threat to those who genuinely want to wait (as opposed to those pressured to wait by parents and preachers.) The right to choose is only a threat to those who are anti-choice.

The fact is the pro-choice citizenry of America is comprised by people of all races, genders, sexual orientations, religions, ages, political parties, non-parties, and ideologies.

There are things we will disagree on. But let us agree on this: WE NEED TO ELECT THOSE WHO WILL PROTECT THE RIGHT TO CHOOSE!

Whatever your political identity, I ask each of you to donate to helping win critical pro-choice victories this year.

For ALL of us - and the women, men, teens, and children we care about – let us give to any of the following organizations helping defend reproductive freedom:

Republican Majority for Choice: Donate here!

NARAL Pro-Choice America: Donate here!

Planned Parenthood Action Fund: Donate here!

EMILY’s List (Democratic women): Donate here!

National Network of Abortion Funds (not a PAC, but important): Donate here!

Any others you suggest ...


* I’m aware that these injustices still exist in some form in America and around the world. But the explicit outlawing and explicit condemnation of these injustices is accepted as a given, when in times past it was not. It was perfectly acceptable to openly support slavery, denial of women’s right and ability to vote, etc. That we came to an explicit consensus against these injustices was necessary. That these injustices continue to exist only proves that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.

** I received editing assistance for this page from:

Elizabeth Shipp - Political Director at NARAL Pro-Choice America

Cristina Page - Author of How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

To everyone who thinks MSNBC = Fox News. I'll try to be nuanced.

Hello off-line friends, Facebook friends, fellow Americans, and fellow Global news watchers.

I've been watching the MSNBC commentary and the short Q&A's they tried to have with Republicans who either won or whose endorsee has won.

The link to the Q&A's will be here: ____________________ (when I get it).

I want to address something that has been either implied or explicitly stated: that MSNBC and Fox News are two sides of the same coin. Equally partisan and biased and differing only in direction. Like the Capulets and Montagues, the Hatfields and McCoys, the Phantom Tollbooth's dueling kings of Dictionoplois and Digitolopolis these pairs of news stations hide behind their "hatred" for each other the one thing they will never admit to sane, rational bystanders: that they are equally insane, destructive, self-interested, smug, and disingenuous about any claim they make about "fighting for a greater good".


It's a hell of claim. To make it and justify it one would need to study both Fox and MSNBC carefully and make lists of claims made by each. Personally I think it would be most informative to focus on the contradictory claims each made about the same thing. Then do some reality testing. This may include looking at the "unbiased" news networks like NPR and BBC. Though there's probably room to look further. Perhaps checking appropriate stats on the government site. See what the real numbers are. Fact might be another source. You all have a lot more knowledge in many areas that I do not have, so I bet you can add to this or figure out which of my suggestions might be done more efficiently or skipped entirely.

But how many of you have done such an analysis?


I myself have not done something like this. I watch primarily MSNBC with some CNN. Since coming to NYC, I've seen a lot of NY1. I haven't listened to much NPR since maybe the few times from a couple years ago. And rarely, rarely do I watch BBC. I've seen Fox slightly more often.

I will agree with all of you that I would benefit strongly from watching NPR and BBC and taking their words into account especially when they claim that one of my favorite MSNBC commentators has fudged facts or even out right lied (have not heard this, but stand to be corrected). My first desire, the passions of confirmation bias perhaps, would be to see if Rachel Maddow or any of them would rebut it. My knowledge-craving part of the brain ought to go beyond this.

I will agree with you all that busy lives and schedules means we are limited in how much research we can do. For this reason picking a "sure bet" for unbiased news, like NPR and BBC, would at least keep a busy person well-informed if not fully and completely informed.

I will also add that while I keep insisting that you folks haven't proven that NPR and BBC are as unbiased as you think they are, the cognitive shortcuts you took in making that call (reporting facts without anger, not calling anybody a negative name, etc) are pretty-good cognitive shortcuts. As a graduate-level psychology student and an experienced person in life, I have come to respect the wisdom of quicker decision-making (and the unknown field of stereotype accuracy) even though such heuristics generally are less accurate than the slow and deliberate processes for which all social scientists have different labels.

But still the slow and deliberate thought/research/inference processes will usually catch what the cognitive shortcuts miss. Have any of you ever seen Rachel Maddow's interviews with people she disagrees with? Yes, she really tries to have dissenting thinkers on her show. Check out her interviews with Rand Paul, ex-gay advocate Richard Cohen, Pat Buchanan, (I'll list others as I look them up). And check out the follow-up commentary on that interview the next day's show.

Lawrence O'Donnel's interviews with Ron Paul and tonight's Q and A with Eric Cantor who would not answer a question on a deficit ceiling no matter how many times Lawrence asked it.

Chris Matthew's tough questions to conservatives and Republicans, like tonight's questions he asked to Michelle Bachman who would not answer Chris' question about Bachman's on-video statements about calling for an investigation of any Congressmembers with"Un-American thinking".

If I had more time (or at least more discipline) I might want to switch to Fox to see if they might rebut how these guys asked these questions, but these Q/A clips from tonight seem straightforward. If I see otherwise, I have to post another blog to correct what I'm saying here.


I am betting a lot of you have responsibilities that I don't have. Families to care for, whether kids, partners, or financially-struggling parents. Even if it's just you, I imagine your still dealing with student loans and are probably doing part-time or full-time jobs, maybe while still in school and against your academic adviser's advice. I can't know how hard it is for you to find time to watch and study news. Neither me nor anyone can make any claims about your "laziness" without doing a full and complete objective analysis of how you spend your time and even that would be flawed because 1) you have a right to be left alone 2) no "objective analysis" can define the personal human values you use to guide your day to day choices. You have a right to these values.


What I can say is that no matter what the reason is for why any of us can't do a thorough analysis to justify (or disprove) such a claim like MSNBC = Fox, what we can't do is make such a claim. We could say the same for the opposite claim: that MSNBC is NOT= to Fox. BUT, which of these two is the more reasonable assumption (pending a thorough comparative analysis)?

Perhaps I have to concede that I can't claim that MSNBC is better than Fox, or that NPR and BBC isn't better than MSNBC. I haven't done the homework to justify that. I may have good reasons for not doing that homework, but I still need to it to make those claims with reasonable confidence.

BUT, I would propose this hypothesis: That MSNBC is better than the "unbiased" news in connecting the dots to draw legitimate and objective moral conclusions. How do you get an objective moral conclusion? Isn't morality just an opinion?

That was not the consensus when Carl Paladino said his garbage about homosexuality so soon after the gay teen suicides. Nor was it the case when Anderson Cooper asked an Assistant Attorney General why he is following around a gay college student and blogging about him being a Nazi. The AG said "it's nothing personal". Anderson interjected: "well of course it is. your following him around. making comments about his family, etc. you can't say it wasn't personal".

Was Anderson being "biased" when he asked this accusatory question?

Are you being biased when you claim MSNBC = Fox?

When Rachel talks about candidates that oppose abortion, even in cases of rape or incest, is she really being "biased" when she says that this candidate is in support of "the government forcing the woman to bear the rapist's child"? Or is she just saying the moral truth that the "unbiased" news stations feel is too "biased" to say?

I would remind all of you who took some form of ethics course to review what you learned about moral relativism. Use these principles as a guide to help you understand what I am trying to say here.

I hope that, busy schedules permitting, there will be interesting commentary after I post this on Facebook.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Facebook status on the word "anti-choice"

On Wed, October 27, 5:36P I made this status + comment on Facebook:

Facebook Status:

I have often preferred to use the word "anti-abortion" rather than "anti-choice", because the former is more specific. It's also the most neutral choice between "pro-life" and "anti-choice" and I hope this would be a good compromise if I ever speak with anti-abortion believers. But...

Comment under:
I feel that the "pro-choice/anti-choice" dichotomy can be different than the "anti-abortion/pro-abortion" dichotomy. For one thing, many self-identified pro-choicers find themselves to be "anti-abortion" is some way. Often these folks are ones who would never think they would have an abortion themselves, but would not want to stop others from having one whether by law or verbal lecture. Also, "pro-choice" is meant to be supportive of ANY choice the pregnant woman might make, whether abortion, adoption, raising the baby yourself, or maybe giving it to a family member to raise. Surely this includes such choices as raising a baby with the father BUT not marrying the father or perhaps not even continuing the romantic or sexual relationship. Ideally, I think the hetero-couple should psychologically keep their relationship's evolution separate from their co-parenting responsibilities. I disagree strongly and fiercely that couples should stay together "just for the kids".

So ultimately the "choice" word is far more meaningful than the "euphemism for abortion" that many claim it to be. I can't fully say that the motivation to euphemize is not there. And that is because I understand humans to be ALWAYS motivated by more than they are saying (or consciously thinking). BUT the motivation of standing for choice is strong enough to be NOT a peripheral motivation, but a primary one (if not THE primary one).

So now we are just left with the feelings of those who may be called "anti-choice". I can only say this: there is far more important things at stake than how you feel being called that. If taking this stand means I have given you permission to call me or my friends YOUR preferred labels (pro-death, pro-abortion, pro-abort, pro-murder) then I can live with that. I hope my friends might feel the same, but then again I know that my fellow pro-choicers suffer a lot more than me in fighting. I'm watching the Assassination of George Tiller and I see what clinic escorts and doctors have to put up with. I can't speak for them in determining how much THEY should have to tolerate in being called the preferred labels of anti-abortionists.

Even among the non-violent (in thought and deed) subset of anti-abortion citizens there are those who still support abstinence-only, no contraception, no sex outside of marriage or procreation, and no life without religion. They may not represent the whole subset, but it bothers me so much that even here among the better angels we find intolerance for people's choices to live as they are, sexuality and all.

I feel that the anti-abortion folks are "pro-life" only in the sense of life as biological function and absence of clinical death. Life is so much more than that, and that is what women are fighting for when they travel x-number of miles to an isolated clinic where anti-choice screamers will be.

It not an issue, it is the lives of women.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Optimism, pessimism, good intentions, success and feelings

Many of us have often heard others say we should "be more confident", "believe in yourself", etc. You can all make your own list of examples.

There seems to be evidence that confidence by itself sometimes breeds success. When I say "confidence by itself" I mean believing in your aptitude, personality, etc regardless of whether or not you actually have those things. So believe in your skill even if you have none or have it inadequately. Be confident, show that confidence to others, and you will succeed.

I read a psychological science paper by Norem and Chang (2002) which suggested this and gave that strategy a name: "strategic optimism". It involves not only avoiding negative thoughts (which the "be confident" crowd would champion) but it speaks well of actually having positive illusions (Norem & Chang, 2002; Taylor & Brown, 1988).

However, Norem and Chang also talk about the other half of the story, one which echos the sentiments of many of us who are frustrated with the "be-confident" crowd: sometimes strategic optimism doesn't lead to success. Sometimes it's better to imagine the worst, to have low, low expectations ("unrealistically low"). This strategy is called defensive pessimism.

The paper says that the research suggests that strategic optimism and defensive pessimism work equally well for succeeding at tasks. And that a person will perform better if allowed to use their preferred strategy, whichever it is. This adds some hope for those of us who prefer a "to each her own" strategy. In other words, if "be confident" works for you, great. But don't assume it will work for me. Not only are you possibly imposing upon me (violation of my and many others' libertarian views) but you are doing the opposite of what you are intending to do: promote my success.

The true and good intentions of a "be confident" preacher should be recognized until he or she proves otherwise. But by now we know good intentions don't equal good effects.

On the other hand, there are those that can't stop criticizing. "Pedantic" is often a fancy name for them. Ironically, it's these often these same people who end their sermon do's and don'ts with the "be confident" preaching. Essentially we are told two messages: "you can be do anything and should believe that" and "you can only do this, this, but not that, but only this is this way...."

These people are not necessarilly overly-critical. A lot of them, I think, are telling exactly what is true and nothing more. I wouldn't call them "pedantic". But sometimes it may feel that way on the receiving end. There may not be anything that the advisor can do because they are already staying within the lines of being appropriately-but-not-excessively critical. This is probably where the phrase "suck it up" comes into play, though I personally feel that is an ugly phrase to be said against another person. But I have few qualms about saying it to myself, and I suppose others feel the same, meaning a lot of success-motivated people are telling themselves to "suck it up".

And this may be where the un-optimistic, hyper-serious facial expressions (or lack of expression) emerges for any person being coached, mentored, or otherwise given advice. We look anything but confident and excited, and yet we are told (if not by the advisor, then by the rest of the world) that we need to show confidence and excitement on our faces. I'm sure there is psychological evidence and definitely lots of anecdotal evidence that shows that smiles and confidence get you the job easier than those without. It makes sense to think these things, separate from real skill, are necessary. And yet, they are kind of dependent on real skill, because if you don't have the skill, or have not prepared sufficiently, how can you feel confident? What reason do you have to be? Don't forget, we are also advised by the world not to be overconfident, "pride cometh before a fall", and a hundred thousand stories of people who thought they were all that only to have reality "slap them in the face". And the lesson? They needed that.

Why not avoid such folly by assuming less than confidence would have you believe?

Every adult has every reason to be confident they can add single digits, that they can walk better than an infant, and that they can control their hand to turn a doorknob. Beyond these low-grade examples, there are hundred other things we can and should be 100% confident in. But these are things that are true beyond a doubt. Judgments of whether I know enough to answer this or that interview question in the right way, with the right emotional expression, excluding these or those words, all of which may change from interviewer to assess if one is ready for this is a far more ambiguous assessment. There is always room for realistic doubt (or nearly always, see told you). The success-obtaining value of showing confidence and smiles is real. But you also want there to be answers behind that confident grin.

Finally, I think there is another value besides success. There is also the value of being your own human self in whatever human emotional state you are in. And I'd like to think others ought to be tolerant of others emotional states, unless they involve an angry attack on them. While the darker, more serious moments on our faces are sometimes considered less "human" than the ideal of a laughing, confident, life-is-too-short demeanor, really all of our emotional states are human because we do not change species when we shift emotions. I turned to psychological science in this blog post because the field has in many ways a greater appreciation of the diversity of human expression beyond what society considers ideal or "normal". It was society that considered being gay "a sickness" and it was scientific psychology that disproved that, after cleaning out its own biases. I can't say nerds in the psych department always know more than people living in the real world. But we do have access to some objective thought strategies that can shed some light on so many claims made by people: "be confident", "suck it up", etc.

I know this means that sometimes the people making those claims will be proven right (at least until more evidence comes in). Though that is probably why I chose to end this piece talking about the value of freely-felt emotional states. Because even if psych science shows that the preachers pushing me to act and feel against my desire are truly bringing me towards a successful interview or whatever, will it be justified? Don't forget, we have "ends don't justify the means" principle. Though I know we choose to break it a lot and that is what defines much of mature pragmatism. And I can support a lot of that.

I think that it is always good to learn as much as we can about a place before we have an interview there. Learning about the place means learning about the culture and the people there. The advantage is that you can hopefully see how much of your true insecurities is ok to express. In social psychology, they call these "display rules", and we already know such unspoken rules differ between cultures.

A place that does work with weird results (like scientific research) might have folks in the place of employment that are all-too-empathetic with colleagues that looked frazzled. In some places, it is more ok to let them see you sweat (or have an unsmiling/nervous face).

It's searching for places you fit.


Norem,J.K. & Chang,E.C. (2002). The positive psychology of negative thinking. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 58 (9), 993-1001

Taylor, S.E. & Brown, J.D. (1988). Illusion and well-being: A social psychological perspective on mental health. Psychological bulletin, 103, 193-210.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sampling some of my best posts

November 20, 2007: How I Spent my Transgender Day of Remembrance

Nov-Dec 2007: In the comments section of this article, I debate pro-lifers on the question of abortion and whether women should get jail time like any other murderer. The main pro-lifer I debate is “AndyJ”. My name is “Harry834”. Since this time I have often made comments asking this same question to other prolifers, though I don’t necessarily invest as much time in the debate as I did in this one with AndyJ. Also, anyone can jump in to comment, so be sure to see commenter’s name to see if it is my words or someone else’s. But the convergence of so many different commenters is great because we often add on to each other’s points.

The article has 65 comments as of today. Back when it was only 32 comments, I commented about the progress of that debate on my blog.

Jan 22, 2008: I wrote this on the anniversary of Roe v Wade. It is a list of things I think heterosexual men should do to advance and respect women’s rights: For Pro-Choice Straight Men

A commenter had emailed me some questions about what I said in this post. So I felt it was necessary to write a clarification (Feb 10, 2008)

Jan 25, 2008: This is a commentary I wrote on another the post of another advocate, Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out. He advocates against the scientific falsehoods of the ex-gay movement. Some of my commentary might read like a book report, but I add my opinion too.

March 10, 2008: Around this time, an audio tape had been release of State Senator Sally Kern at rally with fellow social conservatives. She expressed anti-gay views and said historical falsehoods such as “no society with homosexuality has lasted more than ten years”. This post was about how I saw the issue of free speech in relation to my views, her views, and the views of her other critics.

Approx. March 19th 2008: Once again, I get into a debate with someone on RH Reality Check about the issue of whether women should be imprisoned for getting abortions the way murderers are. The link you hit here to the pro-lifer’s response, and if you scroll down you will see me comment back as “Harry834”. Warning: the font got messed up, so all our words are in bold.

*May 20th 2008: A big blog post analysis - “Should women who have abortions go to prison?”

*July 8th, 2008: My comment as Harry834 on a RH post on late-term abortion. My comment is has the heading, “this is why”

*July 11th 2008: My differing and nuanced opinions on immigration issues

September 11th 2008: Bill O’Reilly had made some negative comments about the unplanned pregnancy of Jaime Lynn Spears, younger sister of Britney Spears. Bill was criticized by Jon Stewart of the Daily Show for not giving similar negative commentary for Bristol Palin’s unplanned pregnancy. Bill defended himself saying we had media documentation of Britney’s crazy lifestyle but none of Bristol’s. I take all these statement, combine them with knowns and unknowns, and give my assessment, logically charting out.

*September 17th 2008: Not all teen marriages are failures

November 21, 2008: Another Transgender Day of Remembrance. My post, A just society protects all citizens, transgender or not

December 20th 2008: Having doubts about the Rick Warren fight

February 11, 2009: I emailed a letter to network planning to air an anti-gay documentary. Here is that letter.

*December 1, 2009: comment on RH as Harry834. I make a suggestion about anti-abortion laws, heading “good point

More recently:

I debate "Logical Brian" (as Harry834), scroll down far

I debate folks (as Harry834) at the politically conservative gay site, Gay Patriot: here, and here, and here.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

An analysis by Amanda Marcotte on choice and shame

Good read.

Here's an exerpt:

"But my shoulders really start to tense up when I hear, 'I'm pro-choice, but ... .' What follows that 'but' is 99 percent guaranteed to be egregiously sexist, a suggestion that huge numbers of women wait eight months and abort for the hell of it or that women prefer to have their uteruses vacuumed out instead of taking a pill or that you should feel ashamed—or at least act like it. And that's what I got off this guilt-tripping 'I'm pro-choice, but ... ' whine written by Mary Ann Sorrentino. "

My thoughts

At center is the the idea of women who have had abortions speaking out. I believe women who choose to do this should be encouraged through whatever medium they choose. This is their coming out. I never want women to be pressured to speak about her experience, but if she chooses to, she should be encouraged because the absence of these real stories is what allows stereotypes and anti-choice testimonies by "women who regret" to become the primary definers of the abortion experience. I accept that there are women who regret, and I am still learning about how large their numbers are. I believe these women, like all women, should seek the counselors that are best for them as individuals, if they choose to have counselors.

I simply wish that these women gave other women the same acceptance for their personal choices and experiences, even if they don't agree or approve of them. What do you think "pro-choice" stands for?

To learn more about the stories of women who don't regret, see I'm Not Sorry. I should say that this group alone is still not representative of the entire abortion experience, though I suspect more women belong to the "no regret" group than the "regret" group (I don't mean these website's numbers, I mean the general society of women of the abortion experience). I do remember a site that tries to include a broad range of many types of abortion experiences. I'll get that link later in an update.