Margaret Sanger Was a Racist So Birth Control Is Bad

Margaret SangerJoyfulA retweeted a really disturbing twitter conversation. It amazes me what many conservatives say online. I have to admit, they sound a whole lot different from the conservatives who I have actual conversations with. Online, the people come off as rigid and hateful. But I guess that makes sense. There is that simmering under the surface of my conversations. And I rarely confront conservatives on their opinions; I’m more interested in drawing them out and finding out why they think what they think. It is hard to conclude that at base, conservatives are just pissed off that other people are getting away with stuff.

The conversation started with a man writing, “Baby murder is 100% a liberal agenda. Margaret Sanger wanted blacks eliminated. Murder is not a choice.” Sanger was a birth control advocate who started organizations that later became Planned Parenthood. She was also a racist. She believed that light skinned people were superior to dark skinned people. There appears to now be a conservative meme that says that Sanger was really only interested killing black babies. This is patently false. For one thing, her focus was on birth control, not abortions. She was actually against abortions (because they were so unsafe) and wanted to use birth control as a way to stop them.

Many years ago, I predicted that if conservatives got abortion made illegal, they would move on to birth control. Well, they didn’t even wait that long. The anti-choice movement has embraced opposition to birth control in a big way. This is mostly in the form of opposition to “the pill,” which they seem to think causes an abortion. (It does not.) What all of this shows is that the anti-choice movement is fundamentally an anti-woman movement. The idea is to limit the choices that women have.

Yet another man added, “Her legacy is planned Parenthood, and she was a racist.” And finally a woman joined the chorus, “Democrats support the war on women, minorities, elderly. Wake up. You are being exploited.” I don’t really know what these people are talking about. The Christian Church was started by a homophobic man with extreme sexual hang-ups. I’ve always thought that was pretty amazing: because of Paul’s many personal problems, much of western civilization continues to have a screwed up relationship to sex. Regardless, none of these people would accept the argument that their religion is invalid because Paul was at best a man of his times. Margaret Sanger was right about birth control and that is all that is relevant.

The one good thing that came out of this is that Anthony B (who has been fighting the good fight against these idiots) tweeted the following cartoon that rather well sums up the modern Republican Party:

Legitimate Rape

Fermat’s Last Birthday

Pierre de FermatOn this day back in 1578, the Italian Baroque painter Francesco Albani was born. He specialized in a kind of idyllic religious work that is not widely appreciated but which I rather like. Baroque composer Nicola Porpora was born in 1686. Here is a little bit from his opera Semiramide Riconosciuta that has a nice Bach feel to it:

Writer and proto-feminist Gene Stratton-Porter was born in 1863. Another early feminist Mae West was born in 1893. I didn’t realize it, but she lived to be 87 year old.

FBI agent Mark Felt was born in 1913. He is best known as “Deep Throat,” the Watergate scandal leaker. It is interesting that Wikipedia refers to him as a “whistleblower.” And it should! But that is not the description that it gives to Edward Snowden. Today there is all kinds of discussion as to whether Snoden really qualifies as a whistleblower. There is lots of mud slung at him with the implicit and sometimes explicit claim that if Snowden’s purpose was not morally snow white, then he’s a villain. But Felt was nothing close to snow white. In 2010, Bob Woodward said this of Felt’s motivations:

In brief, [Felt] knew there was a cover-up, knew higher-ups were involved, and did not trust the acting FBI director, Pat Gray. He knew the Nixon White House was corrupt. At the same time he was disappointed that he did not get the directorship.

The truth is that I have little doubt that Snowden will be seen as a hero in ten or twenty years. At the time, those in power always think such people are traitors. What’s different now is that the press itself has become so obsequious towards power that they are the ones calling for whistleblowers’ heads. I’ve been amazed that over the past few months, there has been fairly limited official attacks on Snowden. There hasn’t been the need. They can just depend on people like Bob Schieffer:

And poet and destroyer of unstable women, Ted Hughes was born in 1930.

Actor Maureen O’Hara is 93 today. Actor Robert De Niro is 70. Screenwriter Julian Fellowes is 64. Writer Jonathan Franzen is 54. And actor Sean Penn is 53.

The day, however, belongs to the French mathematician Pierre de Fermat who was born on this day in 1601 (or 1607). By profession, he was a lawyer. But his passion was mathematics and made a number of important contributions to the field, especially in number theory. And it is for one conjecture in that field that he is best known for: Fermat’s Last Theorem. He said that there are no three natural numbers a, b, and c that will make the following equation true for an integer n greater than 2:

an + bn = cn

If n is 2, then this equation can be true; for example: 32 + 42 = 52. But when n is 3 or higher, it did not appear to ever be true. This was widely believed. But Fermat wrote in the margin of a book (a habit of his), “It is impossible to separate a cube into two cubes, or a fourth power into two fourth powers, or in general, any power higher than the second, into two like powers. I have discovered a truly marvelous proof of this, which this margin is too narrow to contain.” But for the 28 years of his life, he never mentioned the problem again. For centuries mathematicians searched for the solution, which was only found 358 years later.

Did Fermat really have a “marvelous” proof that everyone else missed? Alas, no. It is generally thought that he was either mistaken or had a more limited proof in mind. Remember, the proof was only in his mind, so he could have thought he had a proof, but there was actually a mistake in it. Or maybe he had a proof for n=3 that he thought would generalize. It is certainly possible that he later realized that he hadn’t solved the problem. After all, how likely would you be to go back to an old book and update something you had written in the margin of a page? “Update: oops! I was wrong.” What’s more, countless times over the years, other mathematicians thought they had solved the problem, only to be proven incorrect.

Here is a brief video with the man who finally solved Fermat’s Last Theorem in 1995, Andrew Wiles. He actually starts crying while talking about it. It’s an amazing thing. It doesn’t however talk about the math, which involves a number of developments and would just confuse all of us anyway. It took him 6 years of concentrated work, despite the fact that he was already a specialist in the subfield of mathematics. The proof itself is over 100 pages long.

Happy birthday Pierre de Fermat!

Bring Back Glass-Steagall

Elizabeth Warren“The repeal of Glass-Steagall did not cause the financial crisis.” This is a common claim made by conservatives in defense of doing absolutely nothing to fix our financial industry. And like much conservative wisdom, it is true enough to be dangerous. Glass-Steagall was the depression era law that stipulated two kinds of banks: commercial and investment. And never the twain shall meet. This had to do with FDIC, which insures deposits. The idea was that if the government was going to guarantee deposits, the banks were going to be careful with those deposits. Similarly, it was assumed that those investing with commercial banks were sophisticated investors who understood the risks. But in 1999, Glass-Steagall was repealed.

What makes this important is not that this repeal itself caused the financial crisis, because it most certainly did not. But the repeal allowed banks to get bigger. And since the crisis, those banks have only gotten bigger still. So the repeal of Glass-Steagall did exactly what those who first passed the law would have predicted. So we went from banks that were too big to fail to banks that are even bigger than too big to fail.

In a sane world, after 2008, all of these banking behemoths would have been broken up into little bite size chunks. But that brilliant man who many think “deserves” to be the next Federal Reserve chairman thought that was a bad idea. And we all know what buds Summers and the president are, so Summers ruled the day and the financial crisis led to us having an even more risky industry than we started with! Brilliant. Put that man in charge of the Fed!

Now, however, a bipartisan group of senators (bipartisan in the sense of Elizabeth Warren with two Democrats and McCain) have proposed reinstating Glass-Steagall. The banking industry, predictably, is against it. “It will make us less competitive!” The shocking thing is that such complaints are not openly mocked. No other industry would be allowed to make such claims. Dean Baker puts it well:

What is striking about the argument on re-instating Glass-Steagall is that there really is no downside. The banks argue that it will be inconvenient to separate their divisions, but companies sell off divisions all the time….

Stronger regulations might lead us to do more business with foreign-owned banks since weaker regulations could give them some competitive edge. That should bother us as much as it does that we buy clothes and toys from Bangladesh and China.

But because bankers are so powerful and as Baker puts it “own Washington” their competitiveness is our problem, just like it is our problem when they fail.

The best thing about reimplementing Glass-Steagall is that it would effectively do what our president was too weak kneed (and beholden) to do: break up the big banks. There is no doubt that this would not be enough, but it would be a start. And the fact that people are even talking about is a very good sign.