Dave's Daily Dose 5/20/2022
Back To Italia Edition
So, in preparation for a trip to Rome this September, I decided to start reading the local newspaper of record to brush up on my Italian1… and boy, is it interesting! It’s a progressive/leftist slanted publication, and the biggest shock therein was seeing just how obsessed the Italian left seems to be with brokering a peace deal in Ukraine.
Anyways, today’s an “odds-and-ends” newsletter.
RE: NY state’s rejected district map.
The gerrymandering battle doesn’t have to be a unilateral disarmament. It doesn’t have to further entrench the evil two-party system. And we don’t have to immediately jump to impractically maximalist solutions like proportional representation or multi-member districts.
Independent redistricting — not bipartisan, but independent — can build a bulwark against gerrymandering. It’s not as sexy as tit-for-tat, but the plain truth is that all states eventually flip, and if a virulently anti-democracy party like the present GOP is who flips them, then anything short of an independent commission is just a loaded gun in their hands. And because they can also gerrymander their own legislatures, they’re that much harder to unseat through normal politics.
If the goal is truly to protect democracy, then we shouldn’t be wasting our time messaging controversial and doomed reforms. Every blue state should be erecting a constitutionally-protected independent commission as the first order of business. And every purple state that flips? Same thing. To not do so, is irresponsible. It might seem like a waste of time, like we’re unilaterally disarming, but the reality is that the GOP will not hesitate to exploit any openings we give them. It’s time to close those openings.
Sweden and Finland need to get a move on before Putin starts border skirmishes to keep them out of NATO.
“Abortion is safer than birth” is a really cheap and misleading talking point. Its rhetorical value seems mostly to be in snarkily undermining the mystique of childbirth and scare women into being pro-choice on the strength of medical exceptions. What’s sad is that even if those exceptions are morally valid, it’s a disgusting way to support them.
It’s misleading because abortion inherently eliminates the risks of pregnancy. Duh, right? It’s apples and oranges. We’re not comparing the mortality of one therapy option against another, like vaginal delivery vs. C-section. Most women go through with their pregnancies! There’s a revealed preference hiding in the way we think about medical exceptions: it’s clear that for those pregnancies, abortion was never a therapy option for achieving the original objective of a live birth, but only ever an emergency measure in case something went wrong.
To be fair, the talking point facially is supposed to be narrowly focused on comparing the mortality of women being forced to carry to term vs. getting their desired abortions — this is advocates’ nightmare, after all. But the more honest way of quantifying that kind of mortality would be to break it down by week of pregnancy. As the advocates themselves point out, vanishingly few women have third-trimester abortions electively. Because they’re usually having complications, maternal mortality rates for these abortions will be more in line with to-term pregnancies. By contrast, most women having early abortions are doing so electively; and we should also be weighting their reduced mortality rate to account for abortions that would have ended up as miscarriages or stillbirths if carried longer. But what we absolutely shouldn’t be doing is claiming that abortion is “safer” because the 90-something-percent of early-aborters avoid the same complications late-aborters often experience. In fact, “safer” isn’t even an appropriate word!
For example, transportation safety advocates don’t say, “staying on your couch is safer than flying on an airplane”. Sure, we might compare different modes of transportation — planes, trains, automobiles, boats — for safety. But anyone who isn’t biased by a deranged pro-couch2 or transportation-hating agenda would recognize that we call people who obsess about sticking to the safety of their couches “shut-ins”; and that regardless of the risks of modern transportation, it’s absurdly silly to think of couches as a tool of transportation safety. If you need to get from point A to B, a couch will never help you, so why point out that it’s “safer”?
It’s legitimate to argue that we shouldn’t go ripping people off couches and strapping them into airplanes, because that’s an obvious violation of their bodily autonomy. But “abortion is safer than childbirth” makes these advocates look like couch-loving car-haters, not the transportation safety advocates they imagine themselves to be.
Two semesters in college on top of six years of French and five of Latin won’t get me fluent, but fluency is overrated in the age of near-universal foreign English education. Being able to read signs and other written media is a LOT more valuable.
As an aside, I suspect that our (Americans’) continuing obsession with foreign language fluency despite its waning utility is (1) a bit of a holdover from just 20 years ago when fluency was more important to travel, and (2) driven by an inferiority complex we have over “Ugly American” stereotypes.
Everyone should be afraid of Big Couch’s conspiracy against our cars!