Hillary Clinton’s Nomination is not Indicative of Success

“I’m so excited! Finally, a woman is the presidential nominee of a major party in America! I get choked up just thinking about it! Now we can tell little girls they can be ANYTHING they want to be!”

This is a deeply tragic statement and has nothing to do with the political views or reputation of the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee. Were this statement referring to the most upstanding, moral woman in the world, it would be, perhaps, only slightly less tragic.

I’m not going to say these are the worst of times or that the nation or world is going to hell in a handbasket. We’ve certainly seen more strife in the course of world history than what is happening now, but things could certainly be a lot better. And the real tragedy isn’t the lack of character of the two presumptive presidential nominees; it’s the character of the nation, for the candidates we elevate are only reflections of the national zeitgeist.

We’ve always been able to tell little girls they can be anything. Certainly, at some point, someone told Mrs. Clinton that she could be president. Perhaps that wasn’t when she was a little girl, but the fact remains that the idea always precedes the reality. If we tell ourselves that the reality must precede the idea, not only are we being illogical, we’re halting any progress.

In 1867, just shy of five years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation and two and a half years after the end of the Civil War, while the South was still very much a slave culture, a woman named Sarah Breedlove was born. Sarah’s mother died when Sarah was only five and her father left her orphaned just a few years after that. She was abused by her brother-in-law and later widowed at the age of 20; not the makings of a success story and certainly not the sort of privileged childhood Mrs. Clinton had, but Breedlove worked hard and from “the cotton fields of the South… to the washtub… to the cook kitchen” she rose to being the head of a multi-national hair product business that employed tens of thousands of women and was later eulogized as the first female self-made millionaire in America.

Now, while Breedlove was unquestionably motivated, she didn’t do all of this on her own. No one ever does. In particular, she had her second husband and business partner, cheering her on the whole way. To have told 7-year-old Breedlove or even 20-year-old Breedlove that she’d one day rise to such heights would have seemed ludicrous. Even if she’d been a white woman born into better circumstances, her success would have seemed quite unlikely in those days, but that didn’t stop her or those around her telling her she could succeed. The fact that there had never been a woman who had achieved what she did, didn’t matter either.

And the list goes on: Sally Ride, the first American woman in space; Nellie Tayloe Ross, the first female governor in the U.S., elected in Wyoming in 1924, just four years after suffrage; Oprah Winfrey, born to a single mother and raised in rural poverty. More importantly, one could argue, are the millions of unsung heroines who make the world a better place every day, be it one classroom, one community, or one household at a time and against the odds.

Little girls can grow up to be anything they want but if we’re waiting for one of them to achieve some certain status before we can tell the rest that it is possible, it will never happen. Furthermore, if we wait until something is achieved before we begin telling our children that that thing is achievable, how does that further progress? Accomplishment without risk is no accomplishment at all.

So point to Hillary Clinton as someone who achieved her goals if you must (although I can name a thousand women more deserving of emulation than she is), but don’t let her success be the marker for our daughters. Whether she wins or loses her bid for the presidency she should not be the reason they strive for their goals. In fact, regardless of her political views or character, the arc of her life, which could best be summed up as her pursuit to become the first female president of the United States, should not be lauded. Instead, we should be teaching our daughters, lo, all of our children, to strive for something much bigger than that. While anyone can be “the first (fill in the blank: woman, black, Asian, Hispanic, gay, etc.)” anything, it is not the census form box we check that matters, but what we do with the opportunities we’re given. I’d much rather that my children grow up to be the best janitors or convenience store clerks they can be than senators or CEOs without integrity.

Boycotts, Bathrooms, and the Boss

bruce_springsteenThis past Sunday, Bruce Springsteen was scheduled to play a concert in Greensboro, NC. He canceled the concert, citing opposition to the recently passed HB2, the “bathroom bill”, which he labeled discriminatory against the transgendered community.  Three weeks ago, Disney and several other companies, state governments, and individuals threatened to boycott the state of Georgia if Governor Nathan Deal signed a bill with similar legislation. He folded to the pressure and vetoed that bill. In 2010, a similar boycott of the state of Arizona was launched in opposition to SB 1070, a bill which strengthened immigration laws.

Never mind that the people boycotting these states haven’t read or don’t understand what’s in these bills. If they did, they might stop hyperventilating and calling everyone they disagree with bigots. Let’s assume for a moment the bills that liberals cite as their reasons for boycotting entire states are really as horrible as they say. Their boycotts are ineffective.

In fact, boycotts, in general, are ineffective. Greenpeace and other groups called for a boycott of Exxon following the Valdez oil spill. Here in my home state of Washington, Exxon gas stations disappeared fairly quickly. But not for long. And my guess is, even while Exxon signage was “gone”, the company itself was probably still raking in bucks from Washington. And now, of course, ExxonMobil is the largest oil company in the world.

Even sanctions, legally enforced boycotts of entire nations, are not nearly effective as supporters claim. Tin-pot dictators are very adept at illegally funding their dictatorships and sanctions typically hurt the masses much more than they hurt the leaders. (Not that I’m saying we should do away with sanctions; they still have their place, are much more effective than voluntary boycotts, and do help to stifle the flow of funds to said dictators. Besides, regardless of sanctions, money rarely gets to the masses anyway in third-world states. There’s always another Ferrari to buy for Uday or Kusay, after all.)

Yes, for the most part, boycotts are nothing more than feel-good endeavors that help buoy the self-righteousness of the boycotter, and may, at best, make the company being boycotted look up for half-a-second until the next squirrel races by for the masses to follow. (“Oh, look! Monsanto!”)

And boycotting an entire state, at least voluntarily, i.e. not through sanctions, is the most ineffective boycott of all because it is near impossible to boycott an entire state in today’s interconnected world. You want to boycott North Carolina, Mr. Springsteen? Okay. Better make sure none of your millions find their way through a Bank of America account. And no sleeping on a Sealy mattress tonight. That Hanes undershirt you’re wearing? Scrap it. Same with the Burt’s Bees you just put on those talented lips of yours. All those “evil corporations” are headquartered in North Carolina. And you’d better cancel that upcoming tour stop in Italy as well. They still don’t even recognize gay marriage!

And what about Disney? Certainly no small potatoes compared to yesterday’s rock star. They’re one of the largest media companies in the world and spend millions of dollars on production in the state of Georgia every year. Disney threatening to boycott Georgia certainly made Governor Deal’s decision to veto HB 757 a bit easier but it wasn’t the deciding factor I’m sure. And if it was, he’s clearly not adept at making deals. I would have played chicken with the Mouse. Again, a squirrel would have run by in a matter of months and Disney would have been back to filming all sorts of movies and TV shows in the home of the Falcons (and herein ends the animal references). Curiously, Disney didn’t seem to have a problem distributing Force Awakens, which was filmed in the United Arab Emirates, a nation that actually murders people for simply engaging in same-sex activities. (To be fair, I’m not sure where they come down on transgendered bathroom use.)

So, we’ve established liberals boycott because they want to feel good about themselves. They’re also notorious hypocrites so that argument falls on deaf ears. But what about hurting those you’re aiming to help?

Liberals love to point out the evils of sanctions because, as mentioned above, they disproportionally fall on the backs of the downtrodden masses.  And an argument can be made that engaging with one’s foe will do more than stonewalling him. This is even more so the case when one’s foe is not a bloodthirsty dictator. I know liberals love to equate murderous thugs like Kim Jong Un and “evil Christian bigots” like those at Focus on the Family or Chick-fil-A, but if they actually took a moment to listen to Jim Daly or Dan Cathy, they’d realize there’s actually quite a bit of difference.

But, okay, okay, let’s go even further and assume they’re right and everyone who voted for North Carolina’s HB2 and everyone who voted for those people are really hate-filled homophobes that want to send every transgendered person in the state to a re-education camp where they’ll be thumped by Bibles 24/7. Are these the same people who would attend a Bruce Springsteen concert? Actually, yes. Unlike liberals who would rather stand in a downpour than take an umbrella from someone with whom they disagree, those of us on the right can separate the fact that good music can be made by people with whom we disagree politically and our entire outlook on life isn’t going to be defeated by listening to a little Born in the U.S.A. Heck, even Ronald Reagan used it as a campaign theme for a while until Springsteen threw a fit over that because, again, “tolerant” liberals simply can’t tolerate things like that.

But I’ll go yet one step further. Let’s say that those supporting HB2 would never be caught dead at a Bruce Springsteen concert and the whole audience agrees with Bruce. That only makes the argument stronger. Refusing to play a concert in a state that has policies you disagree with doesn’t hurt the people with whom you disagree, it hurts the people with whom you agree and those you seek to help.

If Bruce Springsteen and his followers want to change the political tide in North Carolina, the best thing he could have done is play his concert in Greensboro and, between songs, give a heartfelt plea to those in attendance to rally for the cause. Who knows, maybe a few folks not in his camp may even have been persuaded.

And with Disney and Georgia, assuming that bill hadn’t been vetoed, Disney’s impact could have been even greater. I’m assuming that the majority of the people in the entertainment industry were opposed to Georgia’s religious freedom bill, so how much better would it have been to put money in those people’s pockets by filming in Georgia; money that could have gone on to elect people who are more amiable to Disney’s views?

So, liberal boycotters (and conservative boycotters for that matter), be the change you want to see in the world! Engage! You’re sure to change more views from inside the state than screaming at it from the outside, even if you can scream as loud as Bruce Springsteen.

Cross posted at AmericanThinker.com.

Let’s Raise a Glass to John J. Blaine!

Saturday marks the 83rd anniversary of the passage of the Blaine Act, which initiated the repeal of Prohibition in the United States. It makes for a fitting time to recognize that our government is not the appropriate arbiter of morals, no matter how agreed upon those morals may be.

Prohibition came to pass as a result of the crusading Women’s Christian Temperance Union and others who sought to cure society’s ills, not through appealing to the better angels of its nature, but through the long arm of the law, and, as a result, largely failed. It was part of a larger movement by Progressives to end all sort of “abuses” like gambling and drug abuse. It’s no wonder that the Progressive movement of today seeks to combat their preconceived societal ills in much the same fashion, be they the internal combustion engine, guns, or 32 oz. sodas.

But surely, you protest, we cannot devolve into anarchy, letting everyone do as they please, no law to live by, only subtle persuasion. No, we cannot. Anarchy, like totalitarianism has been proven not to work everywhere it has been tried. So where do we draw the line between which morals to enforce with force and which to enforce with appeal? The answer, as is usually the case, rests in the first lines of our Declaration of Independence, which decree that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable Rights, among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (also known as estate or property, if the Lockean origins of the Declaration are to be believed).

This means that my rights to do whatever I want end where the tips of my fingers touch the tip of your nose or whatever the tips of your fingers have created. So murder then, clearly, is an act which government has the duty to prevent. So, too, is theft, rape, and slavery. But drinking? Hardly, but I understand the motivations of the temperance movement and, to an extent, agree with them. Here we were in the footloose and fancy free teens. Men were gallivanting around, prone to the ills of the bottle, and leaving their wives and children to fend for themselves. This is not the basis of a good society.

So, just as today’s Progressives blame murder not on the man who pulls the trigger but on the trigger itself, Progressives of that era blamed broken families and broken vows on broken bottles of gin. It’s much easier that way, actually, for guns and gin can’t fight back and become easy targets for our wrath. But this approach doesn’t solve the problem. Just as murders continue to be committed by people who don’t legally have access to guns, public drunkenness and truant fathers continued to happen long after the 18th Amendment was passed.

The correct means of curbing society’s ills, then, is to appeal to the better angels of our nature. Let’s take seat belt laws. They are in place because seat belts prevent injury. This is proven. Yet a small percentage of folks refuse to comply with the law. And this is, or at least should be, their right. After all, if they go through the windshield they’re only hurting themselves. (Yes, if they don’t have insurance we’re all going to have to pay for their stupidity, but that’s a different argument for a different day.) And whether it’s seat belts, alcohol, or even murder, we need to realize that, no matter how many laws we pass, certain people will never comply.

And for those who don’t we have two options. We can, and should, ignore them when they seek to punish causal offenses, i.e., actions that are not harmful in and of themselves but can lead to actions that are; and we should punish the offenders severely when they break a law that actually does cause harm. Case in point of the first would be drinking and driving.

“What?! What?!” you say? “Surely drinking and driving should be a primary offense. Drunk drivers kill thousands of people per year!” Yes, but how many people successfully have a few pints down at the local pub and drive a few miles back home with nary a scratch? Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating that people drink and drive because they “drive better when they’re drunk” or some of the other nonsense I’ve heard. I’m just saying that, logically, drunk driving is a secondary offense. If you actually do drive better when you’re drunk and can manage to get all the way home without causing an accident or swerving about enough to gain the attention of the police, congratulations, you win. Like they say, nothing’s illegal unless you get caught. Of course I say that in jest, yet there’s more truth to it than we like to admit.

So all of this is to say that we, by all means, need to encourage and educate people to be safe, smart, and moral in their actions. Don’t drink and drive. Don’t go on a bender and gamble away next month’s mortgage or leave your wife and kids for Ashley Madison. But, more importantly for the purpose of this article, I don’t want government, which is already hard pressed to do the things we’ve asked it to do, to take on enforcing laws that it can’t enforce while walking ever closer toward that line of nanny-stateism (or father past it, as the case may be). After all, while the vast majority of us can agree on not drinking and driving, how many of us really agree on the morality of eating fois gras or driving a Ford F-350?

So let’s raise a toast to Mr. Blaine and thank him for allowing us to, once again, make our own decisions, at least in the part of America that doesn’t include a large part of Arkansas.

Cross posted at AmericanThinker.com.

States’ Rights and the Gay Marriage Debate

English: United States Supreme Court building ...
English: United States Supreme Court building in Washington D.C., USA. Front facade. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I’ll start by saying that I think the whole gay marriage debate is stupid. It’s a distraction perpetuated by zealots on both sides to distract us from the more important issues like the ever increasing debt and the anemic economy. (For my simple senator solution to the problem read my post A Victory for Love?)

 

But there is one important issue that the recent cases before SCOTUS raise, namely states’ rights.

 

The point was raised in a recent discussion with a friend that gay marriage isn’t a states’ rights issue but a human rights issue. It could be that. Legitimate arguments could be made either way (I’m not going to take the time to make them because, again, I think there are more important things to discuss). But it is most certainly a states’ rights issue. Just as, in fact, slavery (which is most certainly also a human rights issue) was. Why? The 10th Amendment.

 

It states that “[t]he powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Since marriage and slavery were not covered by the Constitution at its inception this means that those issues had to be addressed by the states individually. It could be said that slavery was covered by certain clauses of the Constitution prior to the passage of the 14th Amendment (something I agree with) but, as we all know, a very bloody war had to be fought to resolve that argument and, unfortunately, sometimes right only comes about by might. Marriage, of course, is still not addressed by the Constitution or any of its amendments.

 

Now, why is it important that these are issues that should be addressed by the states and not the federal government? Because if we argue that they should be addressed by the federal government then the 10th Amendment ceases to have any significance (something that began happening shortly after it was written and continues at an ever increasing speed today with things like federal welfare, education and health care, as noble as those things might be on some [read: individual] level). If we argue this then we might as well argue that, since it is such an important human rights issue then the UN should address it. I’m sure there are many who might agree with that last point but here is why that opinion (and the UN itself, one could argue) is so dangerous.

 

Practically, the overwhelming majority (all but 15 either in part or in whole) of member nations in the UN do not recognize gay marriage. And there are quite a few nations (54) that oppose not only marriage but other homosexual “rights” (several of these even put homosexuals to death). So there’s not much chance that it would happen today. And even if it did, what’s to say that tomorrow an opposite minded majority reigned supreme. And so the same goes at the federal level.

 

I can use abortion as another example. This too should be a states’ rights issue even though many folks would argue that the life of an unborn child is one of the greatest human rights issues we face today. The problem is, although many folks feel this way, there are many that feel the exact opposite (abortion is currently opposed by about half of Americans). So instead of passing so sweeping law that covers all 50 states, why not just sit the issue out and let each individual state come up with its own laws. You’re never going to force someone to agree with your opinion and if such a great number of people disagree (whether its gay marriage or abortion) it does no good to shove it down their throats. Better to appeal to them rationally unless you’re willing to fight a very bloody war over the issue.

 

Yes, although I ardently agree that fighting the Civil War was a good decision by the Lincoln and the Union, it was still a states’ rights issue and a legitimate argument could be made that, technically, the Northern states had no right as delineated by the Constitution to wage war on the South. Of course, the Union had a moral right and that’s much more important but at the end of the day, if the North had lost then it would have had to continue to recognize slavery as legal in those Southern states and hope that things would change another way.

 

And that last point is what makes the argument of some on the left so fascinatingly hypocritical. Many of the same folks arguing for gay marriage are the same folks who argue against foreign intervention in those nations which not only don’t recognize gay marriage but put homosexuals to death. You can’t have it both ways. If you’re not prepared to recognize this as a states’ rights issue then it means you feel it is okay to impose your opinions on others who do not agree with you (one of the main characteristics of a statist so it’s no surprise). And that’s fine as long as you’re willing to back it up with military might (and no, I’m not saying that we should fight an actual war over gay marriage although there are plenty of stupid cases of physical violence happening over this issue). That’s fine as long as you’re willing to impose that same view of gay marriage not only on people in other U.S. states but also people in places like Saudi Arabia and the Chicksaw and Iowa Indian Nations.

 

And, yes, I know some may argue that the U.S. never fought a war to end slavery in another nation. I’m not arguing that it should have or shouldn’t have, just that, if it had, those who supported the initial war would have to support the ensuing war on moral grounds to be consistent.

 

 

Seek first to understand, then to be understood

So, big surprise, while the economy falters along, people continue to be out of work and the Israelis and Iranians gear up for Armaggedon, what’s the big news rocking the 24/7 news cycle? Todd Akin and American’s favorite pastime, ABORTION! YEA!

First, let me just say, I’m kind of divided on the whole Akin dropping out of the race thing. On one hand he’s clearly not cut out for primetime so sharpen your knives and set the table, Democrats, because I’m sure he’ll let fly something stupid at least once more before Election Day. Then again, this is what Republicans like to do on an all too regular basis. Someone says something stupid and the rest of us immediately throw him under the bus instead of coming to his defense and calling out the media for what it is; a bunch of scare-mongering sensationalists. That’s politics, I guess and the reality of the situation probably dictates that it’d be a good move to move over. I guess we’ll all find out on November 6th.

Until then, though, I’m going to jump to Akin’s defense. Not because I necessarily thinks he deserves it but because I think his position deserves it. And I’m not even saying it deserves it because it’s correct. I’m saying it deserves it because if, as a nation, we stop debating these issues in an objective and rational manner, carefully weighing both sides but, rather, flying off the handle, calling each other all sorts of stupid names and putting words and thoughts in other people’s mouths and minds we might as well just give up. I tell folks who think this country has gone off the rails in terms of political discourse that we should at least be thankful that our politicians aren’t literally beating each other over the head with canes and fire tongs (like cousin Roger did back in 1798) but perhaps they’re right. At least before Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton they both engaged in rhetoric so high it would make Joe Biden look… oh, wait, bad example but you get the idea.

But back to Akin, his comment falls into two categories. First, his poor choice of the phrase “legitimate rape” and, second, his overall message; what he meant had he had a bit more time to prepare for the camera.

By “legitimate rape” he meant forcible rape. It would have been better had he just left off the modifier altogether but not because he thinks there is such a thing as legitimate rape but because the other kind of rape clearly does not factor into this debate on any level. What sort of rape is that, you ask, already, I suspect, indicting me in your mind as someone who thinks a woman in a short skirt deserves to get raped or some such nonsense? We all know that there are plenty of young girls (and a fair number of boys) under the age of 16 (or whatever the age of consent may be in their particular state) that have had sex with men or women over the age that would make it legal. To give an example of how innocent this might be, in Wisconsin, where these is not “close in age” exception, a girl or boy aged 18 years and 0 days would be guilty of statutory rape if he or she slept with a partner aged 17 years and 364 days. If they’re married, however, then it’s completely legal. Can that scenario, even though it is technically rape, really be equated to any other form of rape? (And before anyone goes there, I’m not condoning sex between a 17 year old and an 18 year old although, when there are 10 year olds having sex in the back of classrooms maybe we should be concentrating on that first.)  This also doesn’t even take into account the 8% of rape charges that are false, and therefore truly “illegitimate”; a number four-times as high as false reporting of other crimes, by the way.) Was what he said stupid even with a better choice of words or is there enough truth to his remarks that they are at least worth considering (even if we don’t end up agreeing with them in the end)? After all, that’s what having an open-mind is all about.

Now, again, I agree that even without the phrase “legitimate rape” his remarks weren’t what I’d call intelligent. In fact, speaking as someone who’s coached more than a few people on public speaking and having said a few things in media interviews I’d rather I hadn’t (although nothing even remotely this stupid), he probably should have just left the whole science of the situation out of it, not being a scientist himself and knowing that abortion, especially rape-related abortion, is one of the hottest-button issues in the country. But he didn’t, so let’s just look at what he said with as open a mind as possible, “seeking first to understand and then to be understood”.

He stated that pregnancy in the case of rape is very rare and added that a woman’s body has ways of rejecting a pregnancy in the case of “legitimate rape” (again, rape, not including statutory rape or falsely reported rape). As I said above, he should have just stopped with the words “very rare”.

So let’s look at that. Let’s just lay out the possibilities without taking sides quite yet. RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network) says that pregnancies resulting from rape happen at a rate of 5%. This is based on a general incidence of pregnancy from one-time sexual intercourse. However, RAINN follows up by saying this number could be lower based on a variety of factors I will get into shortly. But I think we can both agree that 5% isn’t rare although it’s a fair bit more rare than the 27% chance a woman has of getting pregnant when her partner uses the withdrawal method and and 85% chance when no form of birth control is used. I’ve also seen other stats listing rape related pregnancies occurring at a rate of 6.42 to almost 8% with the followup that this is at least twice as common as the consensual rate of 3.1%. The Guttmacher Institute reported 1%. Hmm, 1% up to 8%. Statistically, that’s kind of a big gap but okay, using these numbers I’d say Akin and his doctors are wrong. Rape related pregnancies are not all that rare. But are these numbers accurate? Let’s look at a different analysis.

An article in the New England Journal of Medicine reported on a number of studies of women in Minnesota and Chicago, victims numbering in the thousands, where no pregnancies occurred. So that’s certainly rare. But whatever, statistics from studies done here and there can often be manipulated. Let’s take a look at some larger numbers to see if any of these statistics actually pass the “smell test”.

A 1995 Dept of Justice Study revealed that 170,000 women were the victims of rape. Another 140,000 were victims of attempted rape but we won’t figure them into the calculation because, biology degree or not, I think we all know how a baby is made.

Now, using statistical analysis and being generous (i.e. favoring a higher percentage outcome) with my numbers, let’s say there are actually 200,000 rapes each year.

Of that 200,000 one third were either too young or too old to get pregnant. That leaves 133,333.

A woman is only capable of getting pregnant 3-5 days per month. 133,333 times 1/6th (5 our of 30) is 22,222.

1/4th of all women of childbearing age have been sterilized. The remaining 3/4ths equals 16,666.

According to another study in the New England Journal of Medicine only half of all rapists actually deposit sperm so now we’re left with 8333.

15% of men and women are naturally sterile. That leaves us with 6020.

Another 15% of women are on the pill or already pregnant. 5118

It takes the average couple 5-10 months to conceive. (Of course, other studies have said there’s only a 3% chance of conception at one time but we’ll go with the 5 month number.) So 5118 divided by 5 is 1023.

Miscarriages happen at an average rate of 15%. 870

870 divided by 200,000 is 4.35 out of 1000. 0.00435. Now that is rare!

So even without the whole “her body has ways of rejecting it” argument we’re at a rare occurrence.

But what about that whole thing of the body rejecting the pregnancy? No, it’s not some magic, hocus-pocus. It’s stress. Many couples will tell you that getting pregnant is not as easy as it sounds and doctors will often point to stress as a major cause in not becoming or not staying pregnant. One doesn’t even need a degree in obstetrics to realize this makes sense. Stress is bad. Pregnancy causes even more stress and this all can often lead to miscarriage. And this is between two people actually trying to have a baby and only dealing with the stresses of day to day life; things like a mortgage, long days at the office and, perhaps, the result of a past successful pregnancy.

I wouldn’t know and I hope to never find out, even second-hand, but my guess is that there aren’t too many things more stressful than rape, if anything, so that minuscule percentage is likely even lower; on the high side like 500 per year in the US.

Finally, roughly half of all rape victims end up carrying their pregnancies to term.

In 2008 there were 825,564 abortions reported to the CDC. So we’re talking about a problem that affects 3 in every 10,000 women. Sure, for those 250 women it’s a big problem I’m sure, but 450 people die each year falling out of bed. Why aren’t we talking about that?

So I think it’s safe to say, agree or disagree with Mr. Akin, his statement, if we seek to understand what he might have meant instead of projecting our own wishes of political demise on him, isn’t unreasonable on any level other than the fact that he doesn’t choose his words carefully (which is at least half the battle in getting people to understand you properly).

As to the greater issue of whether abortion should be legal and just how legal it should be, I’m going to leave that for another post.

Is it time for state funding of media to go?

The Washington News Council ruled on a disagreement between the Vitae Foundation and KUOW regarding a story that KUOW ran last April. It should be well noted that this is only the fifth time in its 14 year history that the WNC has had to make a ruling, the vast majority of the disagreements brought before it being mediated.

In five out of six complaints brought before the council it ruled in favor of Vitae, deciding that KUOW did have the responsibility to get a response from Vitae before running the story and that, having made some factual errors in the original story, KUOW should have corrected those errors on-air, not just online. The only complaint that went in KUOW’s favor was that of wanting them to run a full, on-air story on Vitae. In regards to this, Joel Kaplan of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting puts it best “A credible and responsible news organization promptly corrects its mistakes,” Mr. Kaplan said. “It does not trade its most valuable commodity — its airtime — as a way to apologize by promoting a story on an organization that does not pass the newsworthy test.” () And I think Vitae’s request for a full story had more to do with the fact that KUOW chose not to get a response or make timely and appropriate corrections to the original story, not that they wanted a full on story just because.

One thing that is absent in all of this though (and not without reason, since WNC should remain apolitical and like any good judiciary, rule only on the cases before it, not the greater themes those cases depict), is the fact that both KUOW and Planned Parenthood receive government funding. Does this make them more likely to air biased stories portraying other organizations that receive government funding in a kinder light? There are certainly critiques of private news sources airing preferential stories about organizations from which they may benefit and regardless of the legitimacy of those critiques, these organizations always quick to point out a potential conflict of interest (i.e. in a story about GE, NBC will point out that they are owned by them). Should KUOW at least point these facts out as well? Maybe not. The connection, after all, isn’t quite as close; Planned Parenthood doesn’t own KUOW. But the whole arrangement of government funded media is just a bit too Pravda-esque. And why continue with it anyway?

Norm Arkans, the Associate VP of Media Relations and Communications for the University of Washington told me his office is the one that lobbies for funding from the University for KUOW and said that the only funding KUOW receives from the University goes to cover most of the station manager’s salary. All the other operating expenses of the station come from listener support and underwriting. Of course, not included in the station manager’s salary or in the operating budget as a whole are all the benefits an employee of KUOW receives: pension, health care, etc.

News Director Guy Nelson says differently, stating that “KUOW gets no state funding (not even from the UW, though we are considered UW staff) and only a small amount of CPB funding.”

According to their website, KUOW receives 89% of its funding from individuals and business support. The important question is, how much of the remaining 11% comes from the tooth fairy?

In regards to government funding in general he adds, “while decreasing federal funding wouldn’t change much for KUOW, it could really hurt small stations around the country who are much more dependent, leaving their listeners with no alternative to commercially owned radio and news. So for that reason, independent public radio is very important and government funding is a necessary part of that.”

For what it’s worth, Arkans said KUOW is “a good news organization” with “a strong commitment to fairness.” Okay. Is that “strong commitment” sort of like the “serious consideration” that KUOW said during mediation it would give to running an on-air story about Vitae? Words are nice but they ring hollow when confronted with actions such as these.

Nelson states that “every news organization makes occasional errors. Neither the WNC or CPB said or implied that KUOW is biased in its coverage or lacking in professionalism. Anyone who alleges a conflict needs to come up with evidence to support their claims.” Hmm, does not owning up to your mistakes immediately following their happening and having to go before the Washington News Council where you’re ruled against not constitute evidence? Well, certainly not the level of evidence required to convict beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law but not reaching that level of evidence has never seemed to stop the media (and I refer to all media, not just KUOW or NPR). Maybe NPR’s firing of Juan Williams because he dared to answer a question truthfully instead of politically-correct constitutes evidence.

For the record, Planned Parenthood and the reporter of the original story, Meghan Walker, declined to comment on this story.

And while we’re exploring government funding of the media let’s take a gander at Voice of America. Since the passage of the Smith-Mundt Act in 1948 VOA has been prohibited from broadcasting within the US (although, thanks to the interwebs you can listen to streaming audio online). Why? Evil, scary propaganda, like, you know, a recent story about Algae as Fuel. Wait. What? You mean like this story on NPR: “Could Algae Be Milked Like A Cow?” Maybe not like a cow but certainly like a grant from the CPB! So if VOA is not allowed to broadcast stories about algae because they receive government funding how is it that NPR, who also receives government funding can?

A Victory for Love?

Last night New York became the sixth state to “legalize” gay marriage and, not surprisingly, many people across the nation are celebrating the legislation. Fine. Whatever. Regardless of what my religious convictions may be, my libertarian streak leads me to not care much either way. Despite what Fred Phelps and others on the “religious right” may say, the world is not going to come to an end because the New York State Legislature decided to recognize the legal status of homosexual marriage. Neither, though, will anti-gay sentiment be completely squashed across the land. In fact, once all the cheering and jeering from either side calms down it really isn’t going to affect that many people. At the absolute most it will grant about 8% of homosexuals  the opportunity to have their union legally recognized as marriage by the State of New York (based on 2000 census data showing that 8% of homosexuals identify as being part of a single household; of course not all of these couples want legal recognition for their relationship). Of course there is the very real potential that it may affect religious communities and free speech overall but more on that later.

The big problem I have with what’s going on is the way this issue continues to be framed by gay marriage supporters. Immediately after it passed, Facebook, Twitter and blogs coast to coast became alive with comments like “Hooray! This is a victory for love!” or “Way to go New York for recognizing the rights of ALL people.” Arguments like these are disingenuous; especially the first one. How is this a victory for love? Despite what some may wish us to believe, gay marriage was not, in fact, illegal in New York before yesterday. I can’t find any references to gay marriage being illegal anywhere in the US at anytime although I suppose one could cite sodomy laws as a good comparison. And those were struck down by a New York appellate court decision in 1980 (and by the SCOTUS in 2003). And let’s face it, even when sodomy laws were in effect they were rarely enforced. In short, yesterday’s decision has nothing to do with love just as a law repealing such a decision wouldn’t be a “defeat” of love. Love can not be legislated. Prior to yesterday, homosexual Unitarian Universalists and members of the United Church of Christ had no problem walking into their houses of worship and asking their ministers to solemnize their vows. They may not have received a piece of paper from the state recognizing that union, but since when did the county clerk become the arbiter of love?

As for the second, slightly more cogent argument of gay marriage being the recognition of rights, that, too, is largely incorrect. The only right involved with marriage is the right of marriage itself; the right to be joined to another person in a committed relationship recognized by that couple’s (or triple’s or group’s) god (however god may be defined) and, as I just pointed out, that hasn’t been “illegal” in any sense, nationwide, since 2003. Most everything else that comes with marriage is, in the legal sense of the word, either a privilege (spending time away from work to be with a sick spouse) or is a right not infringed upon. If I want to leave my house to my mailman or make my barista the legal guardian of my children I can do that. If I want my poker buddy to be the one who decides whether I live or die while on life support, that’s completely legal too. And as we saw with the Teri Shiavo case, simply being married to someone doesn’t always lead to a simple decision of who gets to pull the plug. (As a side note, that’s why everyone should get a living will that spells out in ridiculous detail what you want to happen if you fall into a coma.) As far as I know, the only privileges which are afforded to legally married couples would be things like survivor benefits for social security and federal pensions, and if that’s the big beef then take the SSA, DoD and USPS to court and I’d probably support you except for the fact that I’d rather just see Social Security and federal pensions eliminated completely.

So why is this such a big deal for “gay marriage opponents”? How might this affect religious communities to the point that passing such legislation was not a good idea?

In short, it’s government putting its nose where it doesn’t belong by trying to legislate social mores. It is no more proper for the government to suggest to me through this legislation that I must condone gay marriage than it would be for government to suggest I must condemn it.

“But laws recognizing gay marriage don’t force you to condone it,” you say? Well, maybe not today and I certainly appreciate the protections within the law for religious and non-profit organizations, but the problem with this type of social legislation and a certain portion of the gay rights movement (again, a certain portion, not all) is that they won’t be content in stopping here. We saw it in California with the terrorizing of old women and church services who dared to voice their opposition to gay marriage, and we see it with “hate speech” regulations that have led to severe legal repercussions for some.

Whether you agree with someone like Fred Phelps or not, one of the things that makes this country great is our right to free speech. As long as we are not inciting violence we can say whatever ludicrous thing we want. Phelps can say gays are going to hell and Perez Hilton can say that members of the Westboro Baptist Church are going to hell. But when we start legislating morality (or “immorality”, as some might say), we begin to erode those first amendment rights. That was the problem with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 despite its overall good aims. Society will never succeed in stamping out discrimination, especially through legal force, nor should it since any attempt to do so is “thought policing”. To be sure, governments should not discriminate. If they offer health benefits and family leave for a heterosexual couple they should offer them for a homosexual couple or not offer them at all. The proper aim of government should be to remain neutral in issues of morality (as long as one person’s morality doesn’t directly infringe on another’s). Government’s proper aim is to allow society to dictate adherence to a moral code on a voluntary basis through education. (Not only is it the right thing to do, in the end it leads to more adherence as people tend to not like being forced into a belief system. Furthermore, it brings things like homophobia and racism in to the light where they have the best chance of being dealt with instead of leaving them in the darkness where they are allowed to grow unbeknownst and at great threat to the world.)

So, then, what’s the solution to this whole gay marriage business? Marriage privatization. People like Ron Paul have it right when it comes to this issue. Government has no role in dictating relationships. If someone wants to live in a harmonious relationship with someone, be they boyfriend, girlfriend, brother, cousin, roommate or all of the above, that’s their business. It doesn’t even matter if it’s sexual in nature or not and government stepping in to recognize it or not recognize it doesn’t make it any more right or wrong in the eyes of the participants or onlookers. The only reason government needs to be involved at all is for child custody and end of life issues; and the marital status of the participants has nothing to do with those things. If I want to leave my estate to fifteen of my second-cousins, give custody of my kids to my next door neighbors and allow my third-grade teacher to come visit me when I’m on my death bed, that’s my business and I can state so in my will.

And not only should libertarian minded folks get behind marriage privatization but so, too, should religious minded folks. By relying on government to recognize a union, couples (or triples or groups) are putting government above God (however one may define God) and love itself. When we realize government has no role in marriage it is then we will truly have a “victory for love.”

Are police officers above the law?

The results of the inquest into the shooting death of John Williams by Seattle Police Officer Ian Birk have come back and while they state that the shooting was unjustified, no criminal charges will be filed. Understandably, many folks are more than a bit angered. One friend of mine posted on her Facebook wall “WTF?! This cop should be executed in the same way that he murdered this defenseless, innocent man. Un@#%&ingbelievable!” Many of her friends chimed in in agreement. To her credit, when I called her on such an inflammatory posting she redacted it slightly, saying that I shouldn’t take it literally, that she was just angered.

It raises an important question though. What should a community do when a member of law enforcement unjustifiably, but without malice, shoots someone?

While the inquest didn’t find him “guilty”, everyone involved, including Officer Birk, seems to agree that the shooting was a mistake. But mistakes happen all the time and decisions made when under duress, in the blink of an eye, are not always the same ones we’d make when given time to reflect. Of course all the time that goes in to training a police officer is suppose to hone those officers’ decision making skills so that mistakes that the average citizen would make while under duress wouldn’t be made by the officer. It seems, then, that perhaps Officer Birk’s training was not all it should have been. Or perhaps Officer Birk just wasn’t fit to be a cop. I think most people will agree it’s a good thing that he chose to resign and find another line of work. But calling for his head; even calling for him to be charged with manslaughter and thrown in prison, is a dangerous road to go down.

First of all, I’m guessing that Officer Birk isn’t some bloodthirsty murderer who had it out for Native woodcarvers and joined the force just to be given the opportunity to go around shooting them. He’s going to have to live with the mistake he made for the rest of his life. Like most people who have killed another person, even if completely justified, the mark it will leave on his conscious will not soon disappear. He’ll likely be tormented by flashbacks and PTSD, so as a community, while our hearts go out to the family of John Williams, our hearts should also go out to Officer Birk.

There are some folks who always like to jump up when an officer shoots someone, even completely justifiably, and use what I like to call the “Dirty Harry” argument. “The guy only had a knife! Why didn’t the cop just shoot it out of his hand?” Really? Tell you what. I’m going to stand 30 feet away with a knife, act a little crazy, make some threatening gestures and start coming toward you. I’m going to bet that your survival instincts kick in pretty fast and you do whatever is necessary to stop me; including shooting at the biggest target you have: my chest; not my hand, arm or leg and certainly not the knife. This is not the movies and Jason Bourne does not exist so let’s put that myth to rest right away. That’s not to say that John Williams was charging at Officer Birk with his knife swinging through the air but since there were only a few people on that corner that day and, if after all their testimony and the testimony of other expert witnesses, half the members of the inquest jury came away believing that Officer Birk did feel his life was in danger, it means that there are enough questions that remain unanswered that no one will know for sure what was really going through Officer Birk’s mind and what the appropriate response should have been. After all, Seattleites are not typically known as gun-toting, trigger-happy, anti-Native American racists so if they’re willing to give Officer Birk a pass then he probably deserves one.

Of course, if Citizen Smith had shot John Williams and then claimed that Williams was making a marginally threatening gesture with a knife, it’s a fairly good bet that Citizen Smith would be facing five to ten years as a guest of the state for manslaughter for using what the law calls “imperfect self defense.” If the prosecutor was feeing lucky he might even be able to pin him with second-degree murder. So does this mean that, because the only difference between Citizen Smith and Officer Birk is a badge that law enforcement is above the law? Well, yes. From something as simple as being allowed to speed toward the scene of a crime all the way up to being allowed to use deadly force; even force so deadly it can wipe an entire city off the map (after all, the president is the top law-enforcement agent in the nation), we’ve given certain folks extra rights to operate outside the law in order to enforce it. It’s the tradeoff we make for living in a civilized society. We trust that these people will act properly outside the confines of the law that the rest of us must follow and, generally, they do. Sometimes, though, they make tragic mistakes. We, of course, still have certain guidelines or laws they must follow when living outside the other laws. If an officer’s supervisor got wind of him speeding around just for the thrill of it he’d be heavily reprimanded. And any time a cop discharges his weapon, even justifiably, he has to fill out reams of paperwork. If it was found that a general ordered the mass slaughter of an entire village of civilians, he’d be dishonorably discharged and would probably spend the rest of his days in Leavenworth. (At least he should be. Unfortunately justice isn’t always perfect.) But any of these law enforcement officials facing such charges must be investigated and given a fair trial. What’s more, they must be given a bit longer leash than the rest of us.

The problem with charging Officer Birk with manslaughter, even if his civilian counterpart would have been, is that, the next time an officer is on the street and someone starts swinging a knife around, instead of taking the shot that officer may recall what happened to Officer Birk and, even if he does choose to take action after weighing the pros and cons, the extra seconds he spends doing so may cost him and others their lives. The same argument can be made for how we’re waging war in Iraq and Afghanistan. We should certainly discipline, even to the point of imprisonment, any soldier who uses excessive force or who does not follow the rules of engagement, but when we’re talking about Mirandizing combatants we meet in the field of battle and treating war like some routine traffic stop, we make soldiers second-guess their actions or, perhaps, choose not to take action at all. After all, why would any soldier risk his life to capture the enemy if he thinks he may be charged with a crime for doing so or that the enemy he captures may just end up being freed a few months later.

Instead of calling for the blood or our own police officers and soldiers because some may make mistakes, we should thank them for putting their lives on the line every day in defense of ours and if we really are facing problems of poor decision making in the field, as it appears is the case with the shooting of John Williams, we should make sure the training and screening process of our officers is the best it can be so we can better trust the decisions they make.

GOP Calling for Reid’s Resignation as Stupid as Comments Themselves

 

It’s come to light that Harry Reid made what most people are calling racist comments during President Obama’s bid of the Democratic nomination. GOP leaders are now calling for his resignation. STUPID! Why?

First of all, while Reid, in uttering the comments, didn’t show the best use of judgment, they were far from racist. Let’s be honest here. There are many reasons Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson never got the nod and one of them definitely has to do with their oratory style and choice of words while on the campaign trail. So just because Reid made an observation that most people would agree with but are too politically correct to utter themselves doesn’t mean he’s racist, just that we live in a culture where, right or wrong, politicians have to choose their words extra carefully and he didn’t.

And it isn’t as if Republicans haven’t made their fair share of gaffs so it shows equally poor judgment and hypocrisy to open that can of worms. Why not focus on, oh, I don’t know, THE ISSUES? (Yes, I know, the issues are complex and it’s easier to pander to the lowest common denominator in society, making a fuss over race, gay marriage and other things that most people really don’t care about when compared to other things like the economy or terrorism, but maybe we could give it a try?)

And if the GOP really wants to focus on ousting racist US Senators they could focus on one who has a proven record of racist behavior like third in the line for the presidency, President Pro-Tem of the Senate and former Exalted Cyclops in the KKK, Robert “Sheets” Byrd. Even that, though, would be a waste of energy compared to what they should be doing: waging the war on terror and getting government out of the way so the economy can prosper on its own.

What Are We Supposed to Do When the System Is Broken?

This morning Laura Ingraham ran a story about Michigan abortion doctor Abraham Hodari who continues to practice despite countless instances of forced abortions and even, what one might generously label, the negligent homicides of four young girls.

And then there’s Maurice Clemmons and his cold-blooded murder of four Lakewood Police Officers yesterday.

What do these two tragic cases have in common? They represent a failure of the system. I don’t have some grand illusion that life is supposed to be fair. There are some sick folks out there and sometimes really bad things happen to really good people. It may be tragic but it’s life. The grand illusion that I do carry around is that, while life may not be fair, government should be. And by that I mean government needs to uphold and enforce laws that help to prevent tragedies like those I just mentioned.

The crimes committed by Hodari and Clemmons should never have happened. Hodari should have, at the very least, been stripped of his medical credentials long ago for forcibly aborting pregnancies. In my opinion he should be spending several years as a guest of the Michigan State Penal System. Clemmons should not have been released on a scant $150,000 bail after being charged with child rape. He, too, should, at the very least, be awaiting his rape trial in a Pierce County Jail.

But neither of them are and what are we left with? Who knows how many more young girls may be forced to go through abortions before Hodari is stopped? In the case of Clemmons I suspect justice will eventually be served and he’ll be placed behind bars without the possibility of parole but I doubt this will be the last time that innocent people must die at the hands of a felon walking free. So I ask you, what are we suppose to do?

Some may say, “Well, we still need to rely on the system. Sure it may have some kinks but it’s still the best on Earth.” Others may advocate reform at the ballot box. I’d certainly hope that whatever idiot judge that granted Clemmons bail be retired as soon as possible, but is any of this really enough?

I’ll add one more name to the list: Khalid Sheik Muhammad. What is this guy doing receiving a criminal trial? He’s already admitted to planning 9/11. Why is he not already six feet under? All the criminal trial is going to do is serve as an opportunity to plead not guilty on the grounds that either a) only 2800 people died on 9/11, not the 3000 that the government is charging him with or more likely b) everyone that died on 9/11 deserved it because they were infidels. Either way he’ll use the time to rail against the evils of the very country that is allowing him the opportunity to do so.

This can’t continue indefinitely. We can’t keep relying on “the system”. I’m not advocating blind vigilantism. As much as I can empathize with someone who takes the law into his own hands and blows away the guy that raped his daughter, it’s not right. I don’t agree with the guy that murdered abortion doctor George Tiller either. Abortion is still, unfortunately, legal and, to the best of my knowledge Dr. Tiller, while a despicable human being, wasn’t so despicable as to forcibly abort any of his patients’ pregnancies. But when “justice has been served” and the verdict is not guilty on account of the guy didn’t get read his Miranda Rights or, as in the case of Dr. Hodari, he laughs at his accusers because he believes he’s above the law (and apparently rightfully so if you go by the State of Michigan’s actions) what must be done? At what point do we concede that the government is not doing its job and feel well within our rights to take matters into our own hands.

In many states, Washington included, we have the Castle Law, which allows homeowners to shoot dead anyone that enters their house and poses a threat to their safety. And there are other instances where we, as private citizens, are completely within our rights to take lethal force against someone who is threatening us or someone around us. So, if someone who is a known killer, either because there is undisputed evidence clearly indicating that they are beyond any doubt, or because they’ve admitted to it themselves, and the government lets them go because of a technicality, do we just sit around and wait until they are in the process of committing another murder (or, in the case of Dr. Hodari, manslaughter is probably the more appropriate charge but, either way, he’s still killed someone), or, given the opportunity, do we prevent further murder by any means possible? Again, I’m not advocating blind, vigilante justice but surely there is a point at which private citizens can not rely on government. I’m not saying we’re there yet but the discussion needs to occur if people like Hodari and Clemmons are walking free and enemies of war are being afforded the same rights as common criminals.