A puritan is a person who pours righteous indignation into the wrong things. – G.K. Chesterton
Welcome to the second installment of my new weekly feature (introduced yesterday); once I catch up, all the stories appearing in “That Was the Week That Was” columns will be ones I discovered within the previous week. But for now, let’s look at a few items from week 2 of 2012:
I’ve often stated that humans have a distressing tendency to elevate the least-evolved among us – those who desire control over others – to positions of power, but it’s rare that a politician gives such a clear and graphic demonstration of that truth as the one thoughtfully provided by Tennessee state representative Richard Floyd on January 12th:
…Richard Floyd…[is] the sponsor of [a] bill (HB 2279), which [would institute a $50 fine for anybody who does not use the public restroom or dressing room that matches the sex on his birth certificate; since Tennessee law does not allow for the sex to be changed on birth certificates, this would make it illegal for transgender people to utilize public accommodations that match their gender. Floyd said]…“I believe if I was standing at a dressing room and my wife or one of my daughters was in the dressing room and a man tried to go in there — I don’t care if he thinks he’s a woman and tries on clothes with them in there — I’d just try to stomp a mudhole in him and then stomp him dry. Don’t ask me to adjust to their perverted way of thinking and put my family at risk. We cannot continue to let these people dominate how society acts and reacts. Now if somebody thinks he’s a woman and he’s a man and wants to try on women’s clothes, let him take them into the men’s bathroom or dressing room”…This bill is nothing short of an outright attack on transgender people…Even individuals passing through one of Tennessee’s airports or bus stops could be targeted for these fines, just for being transgender.
The bill was introduced January 9th and withdrawn by its co-sponsor on the 12th, effectively killing it and deeply upsetting Floyd. In an interview on WTVF in Nashville, Floyd explains that his bill “protects everybody”:
“I’m just sick and tired of society having to adjust to every little alternate lifestyle or little whim of someone who thinks they’re different,” Floyd says. “We’ve got the tail wagging the dog. If things go in the future like Washington wants them to go, people will be marrying their dogs and cats and horses. We can’t continue to let society go down a slippery slope of depravity and survive as a society. We can’t do it.”
Well, that’s different! And here you thought he was just a bigoted ignoramus, when in reality he was using the Scalia argument.
Update to “A Moral Cancer” (March 6th, 2011)
The article described in this column intended to create panic over a minor increase in a rare form of cancer caused by HPV spread through oral sex. I described those who write such articles as “crypto-moralists”, people who…
…avoid words like “sin” and eschew religious rhetoric, and may not recognize their own moralism even if confronted with it. Such people are always (perhaps unconsciously) looking for ways to prove that vices really are objectively “bad”; they delight in cirrhosis and emphysema, secretly love syphilis and AIDS and pore over each new “discovery” about the deleterious health effects of good-tasting foods with the same rapt attention as a normal person might read a letter from his accountant informing him that his taxes had decreased.
Here’s the latest exercise in crypto-moralism, courtesy of the Guardian of January 13th:
…Eating 50g of processed meat every day – the equivalent to one sausage or two rashers of bacon – increases the risk [of pancreatic cancer] by 19%, compared to people who do not eat processed meat at all. For people consuming double this amount…the increased risk jumps to 38%, and is 57% for those eating 150g a day. But experts cautioned that the [lifetime] risk of pancreatic cancer was relatively low…one in 77 for men and one in 79 for women. Nevertheless, the disease is deadly – it is frequently diagnosed at an advanced stage and kills 80% of people in under a year. Only 5% of patients are still alive five years after diagnosis. The latest study, published in the British Journal of Cancer…found inconclusive evidence on the risks of eating red meat overall, compared to eating no red meat…
The article goes on to say that smoking causes a third of all cases of pancreatic cancer, and that obesity is a major cause as well. Now, let’s look at the math; what they’re actually saying is that if you eat a serving of bacon every single day for your entire adult life, your chance of contracting pancreatic cancer “jumps” from about 1 in 78 to 1 in 65…slightly less than the likelihood of terminal flu and a tiny fraction of the odds of perishing by heart disease, cancer or stroke. So by all means, give up foods you enjoy in order to reduce your already-minuscule chance of croaking from a rare illness, but don’t imagine these “warnings” are anything other than disguised Puritanism.
Update to “Sales Pitch” (May 22nd, 2011)
The Swedes claim that criminalizing the clients of prostitutes has almost wiped out prostitution in Sweden and Norway; they claim that it’s “impossible to run a brothel in Sweden”, that sex workers have not been harmed in any way, and that the vast majority of Swedes “enthusiastically support” the ban. All in all they claim a lot of things, none of them true; on January 15th Wendy Lyon reported the results of an official Norwegian government study:
…Norway’s 2010 Progress Report to UNAIDS…states that since the sex purchase ban was introduced…“it has become more difficult to…gain admittance to prostitution circles…sex workers no longer want to carry condoms and lubricants out of fear that they will be used by the police as [evidence]…support and health services for sex workers…argue that due to increased competition and greater stress on the market, sex workers are forced to offer clients [more] unprotected sex…[and] sex workers in escort services are forced to sell sex at the customer’s arena, which makes them more vulnerable to violence and abuse.”
…More detail appears in [an] appended…survey…with data compiled by the Norwegian Directorate of Health in conjunction with other government departments and NGOs…Part B…was answered by six NGOs…On the issue of obstacles [to effective HIV prevention, treatment, care and support, they]…state: “…police enforcement has affected the sex workers’ relation to other services, such as harm reduction services, as many refuse to associate with anything or anyone that may give the police a suspicion of sex work. Condoms are used as evidence, hence the sex workers position for negotiation with the client about safe sex [has] been weakened…”
…But has the ban achieved its aim of reducing the amount of prostitution and trafficking? …“[A harm reduction centre]…estimated that the number of sex workers…in Oslo is reduced by 16%…However, [because] these estimates…are based on those who have had contact with support services or placed advertisements, researchers maintain that these data are unreliable because not all prostitutes get counted…there has been a significant reduction in registered sex workers from Nigeria and Central and Eastern Europe residing temporarily in Norway…Reports from Denmark and Luxembourg indicated [that] many Nigerians have moved [there]…The number of registered Thai sex workers on the other hand, has increased…” I’m unclear as to why the number (as opposed to the proportion) of Thai sex workers should have increased since the ban, but this otherwise seems to validate a few points that I’ve made…first, that criminal laws are a poor method for getting people out of prostitution; second, that the effect of prostitution laws cannot be viewed in isolation from the effect of migration policies; and third, that what may seem to be a “reduction” in prostitution is all too often merely a diversion…If those Nigerians and CEE sex workers had been trafficked or otherwise exploited in Norway, and undoubtedly some of them were, they’re still being exploited in Denmark or Luxembourg or wherever. Norway’s law hasn’t done a thing to help them, it just made them someone else’s problem…
Of course, this is exactly what sex workers have been saying for years, but now that one of their own government bureaus has said it maybe someone will listen (not that I’m not going to hold my breath or anything).
One Year Ago Today
“Between the Ears” presents evidence that “most women’s sexual problems derive not from [low testosterone levels], but from what’s going on in their heads.”