Friday, January 22, 2016

Planned Parenthood sucks

My previous post was a condemnation of a deadly terrorist attack against Planned Parenthood. When something like this happens, the reflex of the well-meaning bystander is to elevate the target to hero status. Unfortunately, life has made me cynical and I am now careful to make people my heroes, particularly if they are still alive. Being in the victim position is no virtue in itself, and if you are too quick to give someone the ethical high ground, this person or group is more than likely to disappoint you the next day by acting like a jerk.

Below, I am copying most of Jerry Coyne's post Planned Parenthood tells HIV-positive youth it’s okay to keep their status secret from sex partners:

"Over at the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) site, you can find a description and a free download of their booklet, Healthy, Happy and Hot: A Young Person’s Guide to their Rights, Sexuality, and Living with HIV. And in that booklet you will find the advice that it’s up to infected people themselves whether or not to tell their partner. While the booklet does give good advice how to have sex if you’re HIV positive, it also asserts that people have a right to decide whether or not to disclose your status, and that apparently goes for your sex partners as well.

Here are some screenshots from that booklet:

 Screen shot 2015-12-27 at 6.56.48 AM
Screen shot 2015-12-27 at 6.54.17 AM

When you share your HIV status. In other words, you don’t have to share your HIV status with your partner; it’s your right not to. There’s no advice I can find that you should and must share your status with those partners.

Screen shot 2015-12-27 at 6.54.07 AM

This is odious, for regardless of the kind of sex you have with your partners, there’s always a finite chance of infecting them. Apparently, for the IPPF, the “right” to keep your status to yourself trumps the “right” of your partner to know you’re infected, knowledge that is critical since infection can be fatal, and always burdens one with long-term and expensive medical care.

In fact, many states in the US require you to tell your sexual partners if you’re HIV positive...But note that the pamphlet says that these disclosure laws violate the right of HIV-positive people to decide whether, when, and whom to tell about their status.

I’m not sure what is going on here, or why the IPPF considers nondisclosure to partners a “right”. It isn’t, at least not by any reasonable lights. The “right” of partners to know that you’re infected surely trumps whatever “right” you have to keep that status to yourself.  Perhaps I’ve misinterpreted this pamphlet, but I don’t think so, although they do mention that there are laws. Nor am I sure whether the US branch of the IPPF agrees with this stand.

Clearly, if you’re not having sexual contact with someone, or otherwise putting them at risk, there’s no need to tell people you’re infected. But the line should be drawn, as it is in most states, at sex.

I’m always wary when someone asserts something as a simple “right”: all too often that’s simply a way to shut down further discussion. In fact, I’d prefer to avoid all talk of rights, and discuss why the law allows people to do some things and not others. In this case it comes down to public health and to morality, which themselves come down to what kind of society we prefer to live in. I would prefer to live in a society in which HIV infected people are required to tell their sexual partners of their status. To me, that’s better than an unproductive discussion about competing “rights.”"

I fully agree with Prof. Coyne. Let me add my twopence: for an old Puritan like me, even the title of the pamphlet is worrying. Healthy, Happy and Hot: A Young Person’s Guide to their Rights, Sexuality, and Living with HIV. This contains in a concise form some ideas that I consider serious faults of our culture: that to be happy, to be dignified, to be a real human being, you have to be "hot", i.e. sexually attractive; and you must actually make sex, a lot of sex, even if you do not really wish it, and even with people whom you do not love, trust, like very much or know properly. In short, this is advice to HIV-positive young people to adopt or continue a destructive behavior that (1) can lead to new infections and (2) is fairly likely to have got them infected in the first place.

The comments to this post are also interesting. Some make a lot of sense:

"A typical pro choice argument is that people have the right to protect their bodies from harm.Somehow, this logic is being thrown out the window when it comes to those who should be denied the right to choose whether or not to expose themselves to HIV. Shame on you PP."

"Maybe I’m getting old, but should you really be in a sexual relationship with someone you can’t trust enough to talk to about such stuff? Perhaps, for someone living with HIV, they should remember what it was like for them? They could maybe reflect on how they contracted it, presumably from someone who didn’t tell them about their status."

"That’s just plain insane! Maybe their position is that viruses have rights too."

"Better that Planned Parenthood should sell fetal tissue to Satanists for Black Mass rituals than that it should give such lousy advice to kids."

"I can think of no intimacy more selfish than having sex without disclosing to your partner that you’re HIV positive."

"For me, the important thing here is consent. You cannot consent if you don’t fully understand the situation. It’s unconscionable in my mind not to tell a partner that you are HIV positive, especially as it could have devastating consequences for the other party. Would PP advise it’s OK to not use a condom if you tell your partner you are using one? I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t because it would violate consent. What’s the difference with disclosing HIV status? To me the principle is the same – you can’t consent if you are not aware. I know there are very real issues regarding HIV status being leaked, but if you don’t want it leaked and you don’t trust your partner don’t have sex."

"In practice (which I have much of), the grey area of someone being unjustly accused of “knowingly” transmitting HIV (when they in-fact did not know)… never happened. It just never came up. The worst of the worst has ALWAYS been the Gaetan Dugas type… KNEW but was determined to put everything on everybody he pooned. Either complete sociopaths or complete denialists that HIV had anything to do with anything. And we ran into a lot of them. What do we do? Let the worst gay persons’ nightmare go on the rampage? Some segments of the gay community said “yes”, but a larger contingent asked us to ignore the more idiotic of the politically-motivated, and to simply treat this disease like any other. In any case, the larger politically-motivated folks won out in the big cities. And the nuts was essentially chopped off of any systems to deal with disease control proactively — which is why we now see 90% of new HIV infections in gay males in all the big cities. The epidemiological picture has not budged since day one. It is truly tragic. And it is public health malfeasance, due to a misperception that such surveillance and control measures are tantamount to there being a “bedroom police” when such systems are maintained. They chose death for themselves and others over the freedoms for other to remain uninfected. That sucks... It is public health malfeasance. I don’t read minds yet, but attribute this kind of “hands-off” mentality to built-in desires to root for the underdog (supposedly, the infected). That the right of the uninfected to remain so is the central point of public health disease control (and usually enshrined in law in the local statutes, besides) seems to not cross the minds of many of the people involved in the biz, apparently." (Emphasis mine - M. M.)

"A friend of mine died because his partner did not disclose that he was HIV positive. And he died rather painfully. As far as am concerned, the partner is a murderer. The PP pamphlet is inexcusable."

Others put themselves in the shoes of the HIV-positive person wanting the best for himself:

"One reason – not by any means the only one – for being cautious about disclosing one’s HIV status is that there have been no small number of breakups after which one of the partners has disclosed the other partner’s status against their wishes. People do do horrible and unconscionable things to other people. I’ve a friend who has been in that boat. It’s not a nice place to be."

"“Freedom for Aggression,” as I call it, is a common position among “gay rights” supporters, though they avoid yelling it from the rooftops. For instance, you cite the ACLU, are you aware that the ACLU supports the same position the IPPF does?"

"I won’t address the moral issue of HIV non-disclosure but I would like to draw attention to the arguments against criminalization of non-disclosure from a public health/ prevention point of view.
(From one of these articles cited by another commenter: "“Laws that criminalize HIV exposure may actually undermine public health efforts by, for example, providing a disincentive for persons at risk to be tested (lest individuals become aware of their infection and have to disclose it to sex partners) or by reinforcing discrimination against persons living with HIV (PLHIV) and exacerbating HIV-related stigma.”)... There is no evidence that criminal laws reduce HIV prevalence... disclosure is not helpful (nor is it enjoyable discussing it with those who consider it a moral absolute). That’s the nature of HIV infection. Find out how to protect yourself from HIV. Don’t rely on the law or your partner’s disclosure to protect you. Take it from someone who’ve been HIV+ for over 30 years. And think about the morality of using criminal law to deal with a public health issue in a country where most kids get abstinence-only sex ed."

I have deliberately put this comment last, though this broke the chronology of the discussion (some of the above comments were actually reactions to it). The author is HIV-positive and wants for himself the right to make sex without disclosure but does not openly state his position. Instead, he deceptively claims that laws requiring disclosure are counter-productive and even cites some junk "scientific" article to support his argument. To me, such hypocrisy is more repulsive than even the most odious open manifesto.

The situation reminds me of leftists who want the West destroyed and hail everyone who could do it, be it Islamists or common criminals. These leftists know that few would support them if they openly advocated replacement of our beautiful civilization with either a Saudi Arabia-like theocracy or the jungle law. So they weave convoluted "arguments" that we shouldn't crack down on Islamists or lock up criminals because this only produces more of them. John Pepple mocked this nicely: "Isn’t it funny that experts on the left never say that going after racists or neo-Nazis will somehow help the recruiting efforts of those groups, but they always will say this when we want to go after the Islamists?"

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Christian terrorist kills three in Colorado

On Nov. 27, Robert Lewis Dear (57), a self-proclaimed Christian with a history of anti-Planned Parenthood activity and abuse of women, went armed to a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He opened fire and killed two people who were accompanying their friends to the clinic: Jennifer Markovsky (35) and Ke'Arre Stewart (29), an Iraq War veteran who used his last breaths to warn others to take cover. When police came, Dear shot dead one of them, Garrett Swasey (44), before being arrested.

Each victim had two children. Because of the murderer's rampage, two children will grow without a mother and four other children will grow without a father.

Dear's motivation: his anti-abortion views. (Planned Parenthood is the main provider of abortion services in the USA.) By cruel irony, such views are designated by the euphemism "pro-life". I also suspect that racism was involved in his choice of targets, because he is white while Ms. Markovsky was Hawaiian and Mr. Stewart was black.

To me, and to anyone of he meanest understanding, abortion is a basic human right. It reflects the woman's autonomy over her own body. I am not going to discuss the pain perception and cognitive abilities of human embryos and fetuses at different stages of prenatal development. For the argument's sake, let's presume that the fetus to be aborted is as conscious as you and me. Does this give him the right to live? No, because he cannot live on his own, and no human being is obliged to support another one by her own body.

If some patient with a rare blood group has suffered heavy blood loss and you happen to have the same blood group, should you be tied to a bed and forced to donate blood? No, you shouldn't. Nobody would even consider doing this to you, though the health impact of a blood donation is negligible, compared to that of a pregnancy plus birth. Moreover, in most countries - actually, in all countries I know - even the organs of a dead person, no longer useful to him, cannot be taken for transplantation unless family members consent or the deceased himself has stated such a wish before his death. Patients with kidney disease may be dying, but the organs that could save their lives are instead left in the corpse and cremated or put in a grave to rot.

Of all humans, pregnant women alone are reduced to a subhuman status and regarded as mere baby incubators, that is, tools to support the lives of other humans regarded as superior. Why? The answer is simple: because of religion. I know only one group opposing abortion on non-religious grounds, and it is the disability activists. This is actually a reason why I distanced myself from disability advocacy. I don't want to be around people whose agenda includes shaming or forcing women to carry to term disabled babies whom they do not want. However, the Colorado Springs murderer was no disability activist. As Wikipedia reports, "Dear voiced on several occasions his support for radical Christian views and interpretations of the Bible, and praised people who attacked abortion providers, saying they were doing "God's work." He also described members of the Army of God, a loosely organized group of anti-abortion Christian extremists that has claimed responsibility for a number of killings and bombings, as heroes." Dear was the products of a culture where Christian fundamentalists obsessed with looking into women's wombs still enjoy moral authority, and abortion-related attacks make news only if lethal, otherwise they are business as usual.

In destroying three human lives, "pro-life" Robert Dear was driven by his religious convictions and apparently eager to instill fear in survivors. So he is, by definition, a terrorist. His crime must be denounced for what it is, not just a triple murder but also an act of domestic Christian terrorism. And Christians should think how to stand against such atrocities, as well as the entire "pro-life" madness.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Will there be hope after Obama's "disastrous policies"?

From the Jerusalem Post:

"Column One: Rubio, Cruz and the US Global Leadership

by Caroline Glick

At some point between 2006 and 2008, the American people decided to turn their backs on the world. Between the seeming futility of the war in Iraq and the financial collapse of 2008, Americans decided they’d had enough.

In Barack Obama, they found a leader who could channel their frustration. Obama’s foreign policy, based on denying the existence of radical Islam and projecting the responsibility for Islamic aggression on the US and its allies, suited their mood just fine. If America is responsible, then America can walk away. Once it is gone, so the thinking has gone, the Muslims will forget their anger and leave America alone.

Sadly, Obama’s foreign policy assumptions are utter nonsense. America’s abandonment of global leadership has not made things better. Over the past seven years, the legions of radical Islam have expanded and grown more powerful than ever before. And now in the aftermath of the jihadist massacres in Paris and San Bernadino, the threats have grown so abundant that even Obama cannot pretend them away.

As a consequence, for the first time in a decade, Americans are beginning to think seriously about foreign policy. But are they too late? Can the next president repair the damage Obama has caused? The Democrats give no cause for optimism. Led by former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential hopefuls stubbornly insist that there is nothing wrong with Obama’s foreign policy. If they are elected to succeed him, they pledge to follow in his footsteps...

On the Republican side, things are more encouraging, but also more complicated...

Bush’s foreign policy had two seemingly contradictory anchors – a belief that liberal values are universal, and cultural meekness.

Bush’s belief that open elections would serve as a panacea for the pathologies of the Islamic world was not supported by empirical data. Survey after survey showed that if left to their own devices, the people of Muslim world would choose to be led by Islamic supremacists. But Bush rejected the data and embraced the fantasy that free elections lead a society to embrace liberal norms of peace and human rights.

As to cultural meekness, since the end of the Cold War and with the rise of political correctness, the notion that America could call for other people to adopt American values fell into disrepute. For American foreign policy practitioners, the idea that American values and norms are superior to Islamic supremacist values smacked of cultural chauvinism.

Consequently, rather than urge the Islamic world to abandon Islamic supremacism in favor of liberal democracy, in their public diplomacy efforts, Americans sufficed with vapid pronouncements of love and respect for Islam...

It is far from clear which side will win this fight for the heart of the Republican Party. And it is impossible to know who the next US president will be.

But whatever happens, the fact that after their seven-year vacation, the Americans are returning the real world is a cause for cautious celebration."

Monday, December 07, 2015

Bulgaria with decent stance about trade with Israel

Nearly a month ago, the European Union decided to label goods made in the Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

I was outraged to hear this. What was the rationale behind the move? The rationale was to appease the Islamists by showing them that Europe supports the Palestinians and is against the Jews. (And if someone says that you can criticize the Zionist policy of Israel without being against the Jews, I'd suggest to him to analyze the following statement: "I have nothing against Italians, I just want Italy erased from the world map.")

To be a Westerner and to promote or support anti-Israeli policies is ethically problematic, to put it mildly. Besides, it is against your own interests. As Churchill once said, appeasement is like feeding a crocodile - all you can hope at is that it will eat you last. In fact, almost immediately after Europe decided to label the "settlers"' products, terrifying Islamist attacks were carried out in France, claiming 130 lives. France was one of the countries who led the settlement labeling effort. Another one was Belgium, where the attacks were planned. The Islamists are more rational and consistent than us. They look for weak spots and, when they find one, they press.

I am glad that my Bulgaria was among the EU member states that didn't press for labeling. (The others were Austria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia). Now, I'd wish Bulgaria to refuse to implement the decision, like Hungary.

I wrote this post exactly today to mark the Jewish festival of Hanukkah which began last night. To all who celebrate - happy Hanukkah!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Compassion to France

This crude drawing is to show my sympathy to the people of France after the Nov. 13 tragedy in Paris, where 129 innocent people were massacred in the newest mass murder in the name of Islam.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Princess mermaid

I am now busy with examining my mother's things and deciding what to take, what to leave and what to discard.

Of course, this work generally makes me sad. However, it occasionally brings nice surprises.

Last week, I found the drawing shown above.

It was made by my elder son at preschool when he was in 1st group, i.e. 3 years old. I was delighted to see it, because it was one of his first recognizable humanoid images.

I asked him what he had drawn. He replied, "a princess". Presumably he meant mermaid but didn't know the word. At that time, he already could read and was learning to write,as the drawing shows, but could not yet talk properly.

I wanted to keep the drawing but couldn't find it and thought that it had become just another lost work. I had quite forgotten that I had given it to my mother.

I suppose that only a parent can understand why I was glad to find it again and why someone would wish to keep such a masterpiece in the first place.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Honoring Taurian Bulgarians and Misho Hadjiyski

(Bulgarian readers can find this post also on my Bulgarian blog.)

In June, my father Dyanko Markov together with Georgi Chunchukov from the city of Dobrich and Filip Pitelov from the Association of Bulgarian Expatriates was invited to attend a ceremony to unveil a memorial plate of Misho Hadjiyski in the village of Inzovka, Ukraine. I of course felt quite uneasy because of the situation in Ukraine and the advanced age of my father. (It was difficult to manage his travel insurance, because for most insurance companies, people of my father's age simply do not exist.) This event made me learn more about the Taurian Bulgarians, whom I had known just by name.

When we Bulgarians talk about Taurica, we usually mean the region north-west of the Sea of Azov, where many ethnic Bulgarians settled in the first half of the 19th century. They kept their language and traditions because there was no local population to influence them - until their coming, the region was desolate. The settlement was under the auspice of Russian general Ivan Inzov. To facilitate the cultivation of Taurica, he ensured that the settlers would have rights of free people. At that time, the Russian peasants as serfs were deprived of such rights.

Taurian Bulgarians generally lived well until the October Revolution of 1917. After that, they together with the other Soviet subjects had to face the repressive terror of the Bolshevik regime. Although they had been farmers for many generations and had turned their land into a granary, they suffered and a number of them died in the Holodomor - the genocide organized by Stalin to subdue Ukraine, considered too unruly.

Memorial of the Holodomor victims near the village of Tyaginka, between Odessa and Taurica. Above, there is an inscription in Ukrainian: "Ukraine, to your sons and daughters, great and small, children and adults, suffocated by the bony hand of the Holodomor in 1932-33..." Below is a verse in Russian by the well-known poet Robert Rozhdestvensky: "Posredine planeti / V grome tuch grozovih / Smotryat myortvie v nebo / Verya v mudrost zhivih." (Amidst the planet, / In the thunder of stormy clouds, / The dead are staring into the sky, / Trusting the wisdom of the living.)

Memorial in the village of Kolarovka (Taurica) of the ethnic Bulgarian victims of Stalinist terror. The inscription in Bulgarian and Ukrainian is: "To the Bulgarians of Ukraine, victims of the repressions."

After Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union and occupied Ukraine, Taurian Bulgarians wrote a letter to the Bulgarian king Boris III on April 20, 1942. I am translating a part of the text: "In this war between the two great states, we have been ruined and abandoned. Our prosperous villages have been turned into deserts... We have heard, King, that your Kingdom is an ally of Great Germany, may God help you in everything you do, but we are asking you for one favor: Let our plight is alleviated at last, let the Germans allow us to have in every Bulgarian village authorities of our own, subordinated directly to the Germans rather than to the Russians... Send here to Taurica an envoy to protect us... We shall be glad if you right now decree for all us sixty thousand Bulgarians to be accepted in Your Kingdom. Maybe there will be free lands for us to settle. We are not many, we are here [concentrated in] twenty-eight villages at the shore of the Sea of Azov, between the towns of Melitopol and Berdyansk. We are ready to share in the joys and sorrows of your Kingdom but to be under your protection. If we cannot settle all at once, King, allow to a part of us to come, so that we all move to Bulgaria in one or two years. We had turned Taurica from a desert into a Paradise on Earth. Give us desolate lands and we will settle there, because we have always lived by honest work..."

The letter was signed by 15 people. Most important, however, was the role of a young man whose signature was third, the writer Mikhail (Misho) Hadjiyski from the village of Inzovka. After obtaining permission from the Bulgarian authorities, he led nearly 2000 his compatriots to Bulgaria in 1944. The refugees were traveling on their own, in very harsh conditions, sometimes crossing battlefields with their horse carts. Upon arrival, most of them settled in Southern Dobruja, a region only recently reunited with Bulgaria. Misho Hadjiyski met Savka Nikolaeva, a university student from Sofia, and they married in late August.

However, the refuge in Bulgaria was too short-lived. In September 1944, Bulgaria itself was occupied by Soviet troops who installed Soviet puppets as new rulers. At the end of the month, Misho Hadjiyski was arrested and tortured. Some Bulgarian leftists advocated for him and he was released in the middle of November. However, on December 7 militiamen came to arrest him again and he committed suicide, shooting himself in the head. He was only 28 years old and had been married only for 3 months.

The next year (1945), Taurian Bulgarians who had moved to Bulgaria were sought one by one, dragged into trains and deported to the deserts of Kazakhstan - the method of genocide preferred by Stalin because it reliably destroyed a substantial part of the unwanted population without leaving troublesome evidence like gas chambers. As some commentators noted, the Bulgarian nation had managed to rescue its Jews two years before, but now was unable to rescue the Taurian Bulgarians.

At present, Bulgarian Taurica is divided. Its eastern districts have been affected by Putin's land-grabbing campaign and are currently under the control of pro-Russian separatists, but most of its territory is in free Ukraine, at least for now. Inzovka, named after the benefactor Inzov, is also in Ukraine. Until recently, the village school had no name, but now it is named after Misho Hadjiyski. The naming ceremony took place on June 18 and included unveiling a memorial plate of Misho Hadjiyski at the front wall of the building.

Nona Popova, Mayor of the village of Inzovka, is reading the naming order.

In front of the memorial plate, moments after it was unveiled.

The memorial plate, with inscriptions in Bulgarian and Ukrainian: "To Misho Hadjiyski, writer, human rights activist and Bulgarian patriot, killed by Stalin's repressions, from the grateful Taurian Bulgarians."

The guests from Bulgaria with a folklore group of Taurian Bulgarian children. The tall man is Georgi Chunchukov, next to him is my father.

The photos in this post were sent to me by Georgi Chunchukov; his report about the visit was also of much help to me in writing this text.

Savka Nikolaeva, the widow of Misho Hadjiyski, is still alive but is bed-ridden and cannot attend the ceremonies in honor of her husband. She did not remarry after his death. Stalin's terror not only took the life of Misho but ruined her life as well.

After his meetings with Taurian Bulgarians, my father was impressed that despite the past sufferings and the numerous innocent victims they hated nobody. Now, they only want to be free, to live their lives as they choose and to create material goods and culture. We had heard allegations of strong pro-Russian sentiments among this community, but they turned out to have been much exaggerated. Like most other Ukrainians, Taurian Bulgarians are looking in the direction of Europe and hope for their country to be admitted into the European Union. Alas, "old" Europeans are too inclined to betray the founding principles of European civilization and to seek only security and material well-being, which naturally leads them to collaboration with the aggressor Putin. In the long term (and even not so long), this endangers not only Ukraine but also Europe itself. Therefore, as my father said, the future of Europe depends on the survival of independent Ukraine.

I am glad that in the same year in which the residents of Inzovka could finally honor their countryman Misho Hadjiyski, honors to him and the Taurian Bulgarians led by him were paid also in Bulgaria. This is happening exactly in Dobrudja where the refugees were accepted and hoped to find new homes. A memorial plate dedicated to the Taurian Bulgarians will be unveiled today in the city of Dobrich, in front of the municipality building. So everyone who passes through the center of Dobrich will remember the events of 1944-45 that must not be forgotten.