Tag Archives: Politics

10 Things I Have Learned About Abortion from Pro-lifers.

10 Things I Have Learned About Abortion from Pro-lifers.

1. Women choose to have sex. Men are apparently not involved in this decision-making process.

2. Women who do not use birth control are irresponsible and should never have sex.

3. Women who use birth control are also irresponsible, because they know that birth control is not 100% foolproof and should never have sex.

4. Being pro-life has absolutely nothing to do with religion. It’s just a coincidence that my God is opposed to abortion, and if yours isn’t, then you’re worshiping the wrong God.

5. No matter how many examples you find of God-sanctioned infanticide in the Bible, it in no way indicates that God is OK with baby-killing. Baby-killing on his orders is OK because reasons. If he says it’s OK, it’s OK, but he definitely didn’t say abortion was OK except in the parts where he did.

6. All the aborted babies could have gone on to do great things. None of the aborted babies would have been “welfare queens” or criminals or deranged genocidal dictators.

7. People are lined up to adopt babies. If you give your baby up for adoption, it will find a loving family. It definitely, positively, won’t join the half million kids already available for adoption or be one of the 23,000 who age out of the system without being adopted every year. Oh, and it will be happy with its family, who will never turn out to be abusive in any way.

8. It is never OK to abort a baby that resulted from consensual sex. Conception circumstances are paramount, which is why it’s OK to abort rape babies. Consensual sex babies are alive at the moment of conception because of consent. Rape babies are alive at the moment of conception, too, but it’s OK to abort them because they aren’t the consequences of the choice of an irresponsible woman. Don’t ask me to explain this, I’ve tried and tried and still don’t get it.

9. If abortions are illegal, nobody will need them. Only 1% of all abortions are for high-risk situations like the life of the mother or significant defects in the fetus, and letting women die and having babies who are severely handicapped (even if they’re guaranteed to die after birth) is a risk that people who aren’t dealing with these situations are willing to accept.

10. Even if you are too poor to support a child, too young to be a parent, too ill mentally or physically to be a parent, addicted to drugs and unemployed and homeless, married to an abusive spouse or a pedophile, the baby is a gift from God and all your problems will go away as long as you don’t get an abortion.

While You Guys are Writing Anti-Abortion Legislation. . .

While You Guys are Writing Anti-Abortion Legislation. . .

I make no secret of the fact that I feel that abortion should be a choice made by a woman and her doctor (and in some cases, her partner.) I find none of the reasons provided by anti-abortionists to be rational or compelling enough to justify sweeping legislation that impinges on the rights of women whose lives may be lost or destroyed by these limitations. Some of it is insulting to women’s intelligence; some of it is representative of medical ignorance; all of it is based in religion, which should not be influencing government in the first place.

Let me say, though, that the most abhorrent reasons are the ones that portray children as “punishment” for a woman in one way or another. Some state this overtly, some with a bit more circumlocution, but they all boil down to the woman shouldn’t have engaged in sexual intercourse if she didn’t want to have a child, so now she’s just going to have to deal with the consequences of her actions. I can’t even begin to plumb the depths of the awfulness of this argument. There are so many levels of wrong here that it would be impossible to address them in a single blog post.

What I can do is suggest a way that this attitude can be expressed legislatively in a far less discriminatory fashion.

You see, if a child is punishment for having sexual intercourse, then the punishment should be equally distributed between both parties involved in the punishable act. Legislation that prevents access to abortion should not affect only the mothers, but the fathers as well. Much of this might not be necessary, as in the case of faithful married couples who will already be legally obligated to share the financial and other burdens of having a child, but there’s no reason to leave them out completely, either. I’ll get to that.

Include something in this legislation that creates a record of women who request abortions, just to establish a paper trail for legal purposes. If a woman seeks an abortion and is denied it or cannot afford it, the state will perform DNA tests on both the child and the father named by the mother. Just as the ultrasound costs are paid by the mother in these legislative acts, the DNA testing cost must be paid by the father. Once paternity has been established, a judge will decide the best punishment for the father – in some cases, marriage to the mother may be ordered, but mostly it will involve lifetime child support and regular visitation. If the man didn’t want to be a father, then he shouldn’t have had sexual intercourse, after all.

If the father is already married to the mother, DNA tests should also be required, just to make sure that the right father is being punished. This would make having even wanted children more expensive, but we want to be absolutely sure that the right person is being punished for every child that’s born. Some states might even want to do this retroactively, DNA testing every man who, say, applies for public assistance or disability or unemployment, since those are obviously the selfish, irresponsible people who’d go around having recreational sex in the first place, amirite?

This way, states wouldn’t have to limit the procedure to only women seeking abortions, but to all the leeches on society making babies they can’t afford. Oh, yeah. But start with the abortion-seekers. That way the wording that punishes fathers with children can be included in the laws that punish mothers with children. If you want to be taken seriously when you say that you’re not anti-woman when you propose this stuff, then you shouldn’t be leaving fathers out of the picture. Of course, it’s hard to take you seriously when you talk about living, breathing, dependent little human beings as “punishment,” but at least this way you’ll appear a little less disingenuous.

Wednesday Links

Wednesday Links

Here are some references to help you win at logic: The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe explains how logic works and doesn’t work before delving into its top 20 logical fallacies – how to spot them and how to counter them. The Nizkor Project breaks them down by type, and you can search them by name. Logical Fallacies is an encyclopedic reference, a little more detailed than Nizkor, and an easier font and background than Skeptic’s Guide. Thou Shalt Not Commit Logical Fallacies is great if you’re a visual learner, with little icons for each individual fallacy. The Master List of Logical Fallacies is written for writers, has a few different names for some fallacies that you might not recognize, but is maybe a little easier to understand because there’s less Latin.

Speaking of fallacies, one of the big ones is the “teach both sides,” or “teach the controversy,” usually found regarding evolution. Dave Hone, in The Guardian blogs, shows how misleading this is with a specific case of a TV show that showed “both sides of the debate” regarding the evolution of birds. One side is represented by the majority of experts, the other by people who have an opinion.

Genetic research unearths a possible marker for prostate cancer, which may help us develop targeted treatments to cure it.

More on genes and cancer. . .apparently the genetic condition called Laron’s syndrome makes people’s bodies short, but their lives long. Somewhere in their genes, they’re resistant to growth hormones and resistant to cancer. Fascinating.

Phineas Gage is probably the best-known case of the effects of traumatic brain injury on behavior. New technology attempts to recreate the damage that was done by the railroad spike in his head in an effort to understand it better. Mindhacks isn’t sure he wants to know more, but shares it anyway.

Sometimes you need an outside perspective to see that an idea looks stupid. People in the UK think the NRA’s idea to put armed guards in schools is nuts. I think they’re right.

The Keystone pipeline could make this a scene anywhere along its entire length. Maybe that’s better than an ocean spill, but wouldn’t we rather avoid it in the first place if we can?

Rhinos are dangerous animals. Really dangerous. But how can you be scared of one that looks this cute?

Wednesday Links

Wednesday Links

Chiropractors playing to a parent’s deepest fear – SIDS. We don’t know what causes it, we know little about how to prevent it, but Chiropractors lay claim to secret knowledge and take advantage of new parents’ willingness to do anything for their children by lying to them.

Ed Yong tells an inspiring story of a triumph in genomic medicine. Lilly Grossman carries a gene mutation that fills her nights with shaking and seizures instead of sleep, but finding it delivers the treatment she needs to live an almost normal life. Grab your hankies.

This won’t make a lot of sense to many people, but an abstract that shows a possible neurobiological connection for skin picking and hair pulling (dermatillomania and trichitillomania) makes me think how nice it would be to eventually find a way to fix it.

Take this, people who think diet can prevent all disease. So there.

This may seem like a wonderful advancement in prosthetics, but can you say. . .mind control?!?!?

Recognize a pattern? Republican sticks to party platform, opposes gay marriage. Republican offspring comes out as gay. Republican weasels out of original stance.

I can’t say this where it’s appropriate, but you can tell when someone thinks he knows more than he actually does when he’s not even wrong. Unfortunately, the Dunning-Kruger effect means it will be impossible to educate him as to why this is so. He does not experience the discomfort of cognitive dissonance and learns only what strengthens his confirmation bias. Worse, this is willful ignorance and intellectual dishonesty. Rationalwiki is an appropriate source of information to reflect my repressed snarkiness. Enjoy.

Bookmark this site for when you need a good laugh or a healthy dose of schadenfreude. There is simply too much here for me to give it to you a bit at a time. Bask in its guanophrenic glory as it slowly loads the page bit by bit up to the top. If you really want to get in the spirit, go to the pantry and get some tinfoil to make yourself a party hat first.


Wednesday Links

Wednesday Links

Sorry for the paucity of links this week, but I have been spending a significant portion of my days either sleeping or wandering about wishing I were asleep. This should keep you busy for a little while, though.

Carl Zimmer explains what’s up with the wrinkly brains.

Theory of Mind describes our ability to understand the emotions and thoughts of others by relating them to our own. Rebecca Saxe is using fMRI to study how it develops.

The Human Brain Map Project proposed by President Obama sounds really cool, but some scientists have what sound like legitimate gripes about it.

Jon Stewart interviewed Steven Brill about his Time Magazine Article, Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us, and didn’t ask him too many tough questions about his information. However, Matthew Iglesias did in Slate, and David Dobbs agreed and added a story of his own as illustration on Wired. (H/T to Miss Cellania)

Gorillas playing in leaves!!

Belief Makes You Close-Minded. . .

Belief Makes You Close-Minded. . .

It’s a refrain that’s heard often by skeptics – “You’re close-minded!” “If you’d open your mind, you’d understand!” “By ruling out the possibility of (fill in the blank) you’re closing your mind to all possibilities!” The thing is, in pretty much every instance, these insistences are completely wrong. The believer is the one whose mind is closed. Let me outline why this is.

Someone who believes something is, by definition, rejecting all evidence and argument that contradict with those beliefs. It doesn’t matter if it’s a belief that was taught to them, or when it was taught to them. It doesn’t matter if they came to the belief via anecdotes or personal experience. The core of belief is that it is not based on actual evidence. What a believer views as evidence is actually confirmation of belief. Evidence is reliable, consistent, and reproducible. Evidence doesn’t happen only under certain circumstances or only when observers are believers.

To a believer, evidence is inextricably bound to belief. Stories that support the belief are considered evidence, while those that contradict the belief are picked apart and dismissed as inconsequential. Supporting information is accepted, regardless of whether it is actual evidence, and dissenting information is rejected, even if it is actual evidence. If we’re talking about what constitutes closed-mindedness, I’d put this way up at the top of the list.
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Wednesday Links

Wednesday Links

It’s Wednesday, and I actually planned ahead for this. Enjoy the links!

The saddest web server in the world really, really regrets giving you a 404 page.

Speaking of sad, this is some basic information about the working poor in America. John Scalzi wrote a personal perspective back in 2003 that is still relevant today – and still not understood by people who don’t have to struggle.

And speaking of people who don’t understand. . .Farhad Manjoo over at Slate pitches a hissy fit about two spaces after a period. Only recently has it come to my attention that I’ve been DOING IT WRONG for 40 years. Until I read this article, I was considering trying to overcome the habit that was instilled in me in high school typing class, but now I’ll keep doing it just to piss off people like this. So there.

Carl Zimmer talks about modularity in The Parts of Life and a computer model of the eye that might explain how this evolved in nature.

This one reminds me of a discussion with someone who apparently thought that dogs were just wolves that had been trained by humans to be tame. It was a silly idea, especially since dogs have been so obviously bred by purpose by man. Virginia Hughes, in People and Dogs: A Genetic Love Story, explains how dogs’ ability to digest starch is key to understanding how they came to be companions to humans.

Good news for anyone who might need a CT scan in the future: Next-generation CT scanner provides better images with minimal radiation It just got approved, so it might be a while before the machines are easy to find, but now you know they’ll be out there somewhere.

Infactorium takes on the problems caused by gathering up funds for research and has some ideas to make things better here.

These are not otters, but they are close, and having a wonderful time:

OK, I’ll give you an otter, but only because you insist. Video after the pics.

Riled up by an “American for Prosperity”

Riled up by an “American for Prosperity”

Steve Lonegan weighed in in this morning’s Asbury Park Press. Apparently, this was supposed to address women’s issues, but it kind of wandered all over the place. I decided that the best way to cover it all was to simply insert my comments into the article (bolded) I sent this to the paper, but as usual, I used way too many words to expect it to see the light of day there!

With distressed home prices caused by government intervention, skyrocketing energy prices and 42 consecutive months of unemployment over 8 percent, leftists are using the so-called “war on women” to divert attention from the stagnant economy and divide us. One might say that the right is using this argument to divert attention away from the very real attacks on women’s rights. Leftist efforts to create “victims” and promote more government programs to “help” them are the top priority. It is the Right that is calling people “victims” and trying to eliminate government aid programs that exist in the first place!

It’s part of an extremist ideology that doesn’t see people as individuals but as members of sociological “groups.” Divide and conquer. That’s what you saw at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte — everything from ethnic caucuses to gay and lesbian caucuses to an animal rights caucus. None of us are individuals — we are only recognized for the group to which we are assigned. And yet, at the RNC, you saw pretty much a very narrow demographic, and it’s the Republicans who are making bold statements that define and denigrate “otherness.” I’d say that accepting that there are many different types of people with different needs and goals is much less of a “divide and conquer” strategy than the “us vs. them” tactic that’s so dear to the Republicans.

Half a century ago, the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream of a day when people would be judged “on the content of their character,” not by demographics. And yet, simply by belonging to a particular demographic, whole swaths of people are judged without a moment’s consideration to the “content of their character” by members of the Republican Party! But the leftists’ infatuation with various “wars” on different “groups” illustrates their goal of dividing us into groups pitting one group against the other. When you initiate or pass legislation specifically targeting a “group” which takes something away that they have had or limits their civil rights, or establishes a prohibition that will exist in perpetuity, yeah, that’s aggressive enough to be a “war” and tightly focused enough to be called a war “on” that group.

Radical pro-abortion zealots would have you believe that the most important right a woman can have is access to a taxpayer-funded abortion. Radical pro-abortion zealots would, by definition, be in favor of mandatory abortions in all cases, even wanted pregnancies. Hyperbole is not your friend, sir. But the pro-life movement is a women’s movement, led by women, many of whom have been victimized by abortions they were encouraged to have by the same types of people who say Republicans are waging a “war on women.” Blatant fabrication. The leadership of these groups is predominantly male, especially at the higher levels. However, they have found that having a few female mouthpieces is beneficial. As for their stories of “forced abortions,” if you read the descriptions on their various websites, it’s patently clear that few of these women have even had abortions just by reading how they describe them. Top story on one I visited recently stands as a good example – the woman described how she was given a Vicodin and laid on a table covered with paper and the doctor took a big knife and stuck it up through her cervix and “scraped and scraped and scraped.” If this story were real, she wouldn’t have been able to write it, because she’d be dead. Most of the descriptions are just as credible as alien abduction stories.

Now, there are some who think that the “right” to have an abortion is more important than economic or political freedom. False dichotomy. Even if you were to actually define the terms “economic freedom” or “political freedom,” which are highly subjective, you would be hard pressed to find a single person on this planet that would say “I’d rather have legal abortions than economic freedom” or “I’d gladly give up all my political freedom in order to keep abortion legal.” This is setting up the strawman to fit into the next declaration: These are the people who strongly support President Obama and his policies. “Yessireebob, I love abortions and hate freedom, and that’s why I’m voting for Obama!!” The strongest supporters of the dependency state are also the most pro-abortion because they believe personal responsibility is not important, and that circumstances, not individual actions, determine success. That’s right, Steve. If a 52 year old woman going through menopause accidentally conceives, the responsible choice is to have that baby. If a young couple figures out they can probably manage to support a child if they’re careful with their finances and find out that the baby will require expensive lifelong care, the responsible choice is to have that baby and rely on public assistance because they can’t afford it. If you’re using birth control to avoid pregnancy and it fails, you are clearly irresponsible, so the responsible choice is to suck it up and have that baby you weren’t responsible enough to prevent in the first place.

It’s this very ideology that led the president to say to business owners, “You didn’t build that.” Yes, he told business owners that they didn’t build the roads that led to their buildings, the electric, water, sewer, and other public utility connections they need to run their businesses. . .the ideology of a shared infrastructure and coordinated service provision is truly, truly horrible!! Because to left-wing zealots, people only fail because they were victims of some perceived slight. The cries of “racism,” “sexism” or “homophobia” are loudest from society’s biggest failures — people seeking to blame others for their inability to succeed. When the majority of the population fails to succeed, that does not indicate individual shortcomings, but a barrier to success that’s inherent in the structure of society. Are you really telling several million Americans that they’re a bunch of whiny babies who are so stupid and lazy that they completely deserve what they got? And then you want them to vote for you?

Liberals like to criticize conservatives, (not like conservatives. Calling people “Leftists,” “victims,” “extremists,” “members of assigned groups,” “radical,” “zealots,” opposed to freedom, supporters of dependency states, “irresponsible,” “victims of some perceived slight,” unable to succeed, manufacturers of allegations, divisive, mob-builders, and unproductive isn’t anything at all like criticism. Or name-calling.) and efforts to intimidate them through name-calling often succeed because many politicians err on the side of being liked by their constituents, not pursuing the right policy. The desired effect is for Republicans to panic and overreact by overcompensating. Could they be panicking because they’ve been called on bad behavior that shows you can’t simultaneously paint entire groups of people with a broad brush and then pretend that you didn’t really mean it? This is the strategic aim of the manufactured “war on women” allegation. You couldn’t make this stuff up.

Advocates of this divisive plan seek to build an army (perhaps mob is a more apt description) of like-minded liberals who parade under the banner of egalitarianism, seeking to use their power to take a chunk out of the productive class. Tell us about this “productive class,” Steve. Making lots of money by moving money around is not synonymous with producing anything tangible. They believe they have the right to mortgage the income of others and to take their “fair share” simply because they have the growing numbers to wield political power. No, they believe that there are certain things that are essential to maintaining a society that is healthy and sustainable and provides opportunity for growth and success, and that contributing to those things from which a society’s members benefit is part of the responsibility of belonging to that society. Understanding that short-term personal gain does not benefit society as much as investment in the security of the whole of society is not the same as believing that all personal gains should be eliminated or appropriated.

There’s a war all right, but it’s not women who are the target — it’s a war on the shrinking class of productive Americans. So the elderly, disabled, unemployed, and impoverished should be fighting hard to protect the rights of the wealthy. Women should stop resisting the idea that it is well and good that they should get the low-level jobs and accept less pay for the same work and have babies they don’t want or can’t care for (and more of them because contraception is only for women who can afford it and whose men tell them they can use it.) Who wins the war will determine the direction of this nation for the foreseeable future. Ideally, the wealthy will be able to build really big walls around their mansions so that they don’t have to see or smell the slums outside of them, just like in, say, India. Preferably, they will be at the top of hills so that the “unproductive” will trickle down.

A Modest Proposal of My Own

A Modest Proposal of My Own

Thanks to the sheer number of bills proposed by Republican elected officials across the country, their convoluted justifications for those bills, their “misstatements” about those bills, and their ignorance about existing laws and medical reality, I think we can all agree that the primary focus of all of this is that they don’t want women to have intercourse. They especially don’t want poor, non-white, non-Christian women to have intercourse. And while they’re OK with well-off, white, Christian women having intercourse, they want them to have it only with their husbands and only for making babies – even these women are not allowed to (ooh, fetch me my smelling salts!) enjoy it.

The whole problem with this is that they’re focusing on the girls and women. Last time I checked, humans don’t reproduce by parthenogenesis, so there has to be a male participant in there somewhere. And if you think about it, this is where the problem lies. The female of the species does not have to be an active or willing participant in this process in order for it to occur, so these legislators are simply taking the wrong approach.

In fact, no matter where you look, from ancient history to today, not a single attempt to eliminate non-procreative sex by restrictions on women has had more than a marginal effect. This is due to the flawed perception that somehow women, by their sheer presence, render men slaves to uncontrollable desire. No matter how much boys are taught that girls are wretched and unclean, they still want to see them and touch them. No matter how much modest, concealing clothing you put on girls, boys still think about what’s underneath. No matter how much you keep girls’ and women’s mobility restricted, they sometimes have to leave the house – and a boy or man can find them there. Or, having no restrictions themselves, get in to wherever the women are confined. If the boys want to have sex with girls, they have the ability to do so with a willing or unwilling partner, and always seem to find a way.

Clearly, hiding the womenfolk and making them fully responsible for and ashamed of causing male arousal is just not cutting it. Giving women yet another burden, that of forced childbearing, as a “consequence for their actions,” won’t be any more successful. Women have an incredible number of deterrents against sexual intercourse as it is. We’re really doing our best, guys, but we need some cooperation here.

So my feeling is that a completely different approach is needed. It is boys and men who need to be the focus of curtailing the immoral practice of recreational sex. If they do not experience arousal in the first place, then intercourse simply will not take place! No more sex ed classes, no more birth control controversy, no more unplanned pregnancies, no more need for moral outrage directed at women! Problem solved!

Perhaps some of the money being taken away from organizations that are involved in women’s health and family planning could be diverted to researching a treatment that would eliminate male sexual arousal. Certainly, some of the money being spent on all those unneeded ultrasound machines in abortion clinics would help, since they would no longer be used. No religious organizations would be forced to cover contraception in their employees’ insurance policies, so I’m sure they’d gladly lend financial as well as moral support towards this research.

Imagine it – a world in which men would be capable of sexual arousal only when they and their legally married spouse decided it was an appropriate time for procreation! Not only would it solve all the problems our lawmakers are trying to legislate away, but some of the problems they themselves cause by engaging in non-procreative intercourse outside of marriage! No more adultery, because it wouldn’t be possible, and absolutely, positively, none of that yucky boy-on-boy buttsecks. EWWW!

I can’t think of a single reason why the folks who want women to stop having sex, stop using birth control, and stop having babies, would object to a plan like this. It’s incredibly sensible, and bound to work. Don’t you agree?

The Fall of the American Empire?

The Fall of the American Empire?

I hope I’m being alarmist. I hope I’m unduly concerned. I hope that this all is just a hump we’ll get over after a few difficult years. What I’m thinking here is that there are people alive today who will witness the decline and fall of this country.

I was thinking pragmatically when I voted for Obama. I expected that he was not going to be able to live up to his promises, or find that his ideas were unrealistic once he was in office, and chose him not because I had any faith in him being the hope and change he promised, but because he was better than the alternative. I also expected that the GOP was going to continue to oppose any efforts of the Democrats and the Democratic Party regardless of their merit simply for the sake of opposing them. What I didn’t expect was that the President and what’s close to every elected Democrat in this country would cave to a slew of destructive Republican demands so that the Republicans would agree to one or two inconsequential concessions.

All I can see now is that both Obama’s budget proposal and the Republican cuts are going to fast-track our country into a third-world standard of living, if not actual third-world status. At first, all I objected to was the short-sightedness of politicians at all levels all around the country – did they not think about the greater implications of the changes they were proposing? Some ideas impacted quality of life by removing or restricting services, some by taking away funding or re-allocating it misguidedly. Bit by bit, the picture began to emerge that one side had a clear agenda for a new social structure, and the other had only a few pet ideas that it would half-heartedly defend.

Yes, a lot of things should be cut. A lot of programs spend more money than they should. A lot of programs don’t generate results that justify their budgets or their continued existence. Looking at a list, I can see some things that could be consolidated, managed better, or yes, even eliminated. What I don’t see, though, are cuts to things that could manage just fine without government assistance, like corporate welfare and tax credits, and tax structures that benefit the wealthiest individuals in the country. Instead, what’s being taken away in these proposals are programs that help those without the money or power to help themselves, or programs that protect them from abuse by the people and entities in power. Almost all the proposals coming to the table from both sides increase the gap between the haves and have nots, push the middle class and working poor closer to the latter category, and erode the quality of life for all those who can’t buy their own luxury and peace of mind.

At the state level here in NJ, we’re seeing this on a much more obvious level, since there are fewer places to hide waste and favoritism. When Governor Whitman eliminated state pension contributions in order to cover budget deficits, and then (of course) never quite got back to putting that money back (nor, to be fair, did Corzine) we of course ended up with not enough money to pay pension benefits to retiring state employees. Contrary to what politicians would like us to think, most of these employees are not lazing about the public trough, living easy at the cost of our tax dollars. The bad apples are held up as examples of how undeserving these people are, but the truth of the matter is that the ones who are getting hurt have worked hard, many of them dealing with the hardship of low wages in exchange for benefits, and have put in their time. They signed contracts that made specific legal promises, and planned their lives with those promises in mind. At retirement or close to retirement age, they should not have the rug pulled out from underneath them because someone else didn’t plan as well as they did.

At the same time, people higher up the food chain are not being asked to make the same sacrifices. Small pockets of outrage have erupted over double-dipping politicians, patronage jobs that pay six figures for showing up a few hours a week, and contracts that allow certain elected or appointed individuals to collect the full salary for their term of employment and keep generous retirement benefits even if they’re booted out early. The problem is, I think, that your average Joe who votes sees the “lazy government workers” in his daily life, is affected personally by the “bad kids produced by all the rotten schools and overpaid teachers,” knows people who “get off easy” or “get screwed over” by “corrupt cops”. . .ask anyone to provide examples of how any state or local employee is getting more than he deserves from our hard-earned tax dollars, and you’ll get tons of anecdotal evidence. Ask him what’s in the contract for his school superintendent, or how many duplicate jobs exist at the upper levels of state administration, and all you’ll get is a blank stare.

So rather than making good on the debt, Governor Christie comes out like a raging bull, demonizing public employees so that he can cut their salaries, benefits, and numbers with impunity, and further the disconnect between budget problems and excess at the higher levels. Not only does he effectively swell the ranks of the poor and impoverished, but he also proposes cuts to things that benefit all of us. Public programs that house the mentally ill will lose funding, putting more of them out homeless on our streets – your streets, if you don’t live in a gated community. Funding cuts for schools that result in fewer and less qualified teachers and fewer extracurricular opportunities will give us bored, uneducated, disaffected young people, rather than future leaders who contribute to society – the kids down the street will be robbing and vandalizing your house rather than, say, shoveling your driveway or watching your kids, because what else is there for them to do? And if you call the cops after they do this (or the fire department, if they get a little too enthusiastic) you’re going to have to accept that they might not be able to get there, sorry, because they’re understaffed and haven’t been able to afford to fix some of the broken equipment.

Open spaces aren’t being preserved, so if you don’t own your own pristine recreational acreage, you’d better be happy with the view out your window. Other agencies and organizations that preserve history or provide recreational opportunities are closing up shop, so the field trips that got students excited about learning just won’t happen, and you’ll have to come up with your own ideas for things to do with the family on weekends. Yahtzee and Monopoly will wear thin pretty quickly, and you won’t be able to go to the local library, because the special programs will be gone and the hours will be cut, if it even manages to stay open.

Horse racing, however you feel about it, takes up a lot of space and doesn’t contribute as much as casinos, so the entire equestrian industry in the state is taking a hit. You might not think much about it, but once those horse farms become new housing developments, it’ll be too late to realize you didn’t want to lose them.

And speaking of casinos, you get to buy those whether you like it or not. Revel paved the way – they began construction and then threatened to leave the rotting hulk if they didn’t get the funding and tax breaks they wanted. New Jersey caved on that. Since you paid for it, you should probably go visit it. While you’re there, take a tour of the sparkling gem that is Atlantic City. The casinos got incentives and breaks from the state because they promised to give back – specifically to the town in which they operated. What you actually see, though, is a microcosm of our future as planned by lockstep Republicans and weak-kneed Democrats. The haves – the casinos with their flaunted wealth, taking in money from working people and keeping most of it through special arrangements and creative accounting, and the have-nots – the people of AC, most of them at or below the poverty line, in decrepit housing with inadequate public services, whose future generations will not have received the education or assistance to rise above it and make a better life for themselves or their families. Keep your car windows rolled up and your doors locked, and don’t depend on the police showing up if you need them.

As Atlantic City is a smaller version of what may await us as a state, it is also a smaller version of where our country may be headed if the budgetary efforts to increase the class divide succeed. Nothing anyone has done has been able to counteract or slow this process in that city. If that’s what happens on a local scale, I don’t have high hopes that it will be different in a state or regional or national level.