Saturday, February 7, 2009

Abortion Rights vs. Gun Rights

Bob S. has challenged me. I don't think for a minute I'm up to the task of going head to head with him on something like this, but I'll give it a try.

The incredible story from Florida about the live-birth abortion is being used by Bob to illustrate my faulty ideas about guns. Basically, if you haven't read about the gruesome story, an 18-year-old paid $1,200 for an abortion. The doctor was late; she had a live birth at 23 weeks. The clinic staff stuffed the gasping premature baby in a plastic bag with the placenta and disposed of it like so much medical waste. The latest news is that the doctor, who eventually showed up, lost his medical license for falsifying records and trying to cover up the incident.

Here's Bob's comment on a post about guns.

Let's combine two meme's here.Add Image

You say that the misuse of firearms by some is a reason to reduce the availability, correct?

Would that apply to other activities/actions? If people misuse/abuse them, then actions should be taken to reduce the availability of activity?

How about abortion and this case from Buffalo News

Fla. doctor investigated in badly botched abortion
Associated Press Writer

Eighteen and pregnant, Sycloria Williams went to an abortion clinic outside Miami and paid $1,200 for Dr. Pierre Jean-Jacque Renelique to terminate her 23-week pregnancy.

Three days later, she sat in a reclining chair, medicated to dilate her cervix and otherwise get her ready for the procedure.

Only Renelique didn't arrive in time. According to Williams and the Florida Department of Health, she went into labor and delivered a live baby girl.

What Williams and the Health Department say happened next has shocked people on both sides of the abortion debate: One of the clinic's owners, who has no medical license, cut the infant's umbilical cord. Williams says the woman placed the baby in a plastic biohazard bag and threw it out.

Police recovered the decomposing remains in a cardboard box a week later after getting anonymous tips.

Had the abortion clinic not be so easily available, an infant would be still alive today possibly.

Now I am not arguing for the banning of abortion. Just trying to apply your logic to the problem.

Even those who support abortion rights are concerned about the allegations.

"It really disturbed me," said Joanne Sterner, president of the Broward County chapter of the National Organization for Women, after reviewing the administrative complaint against Renelique. "I know that there are clinics out there like this. And I hope that we can keep (women) from going to these types of clinics.

Isn't this the same with firearms...there are people out there who misuse firearms, responsible people would like to keep them from being used in illegal manners....but what can effectively be done to control free will?

At first I tried to beg off, calling this a ridiculous comparison. What prompted Bob's comment was, what I thought to be an extremely witty toungue-in-cheek post of mine comparing guns to cars. That's another comparison Bob likes to make.

My attempt to extricate myself from this mess of silly comparisons was met with this.
Please explain in simple terms and words why the comparison is invalid because obviously I, and many others, disagree.

Please explain why the comparison between the misuse - criminal deeds--in the abortion case and the misuse--criminal deeds-- of firearms isn't appropriate.

I think you are running from the issue.

I'll challenge you again. Take my argument apart point by point and show my how it is wrong.

Give you a break Mike? How about giving us a break from your repeated calls to disarm us?

From your repeated calls to impose restrictions and costs you aren't willing to bear on any other right...such as abortion.

Show me how I'm wrong instead of simply telling me it is what you "feel".

You are completely entitled to your opinion...but you are calling for changes in society, in my ability to enjoy a sport, in my ability to protect my family. Shouldn't that call for change require more song lyrics:

Feelings, nothing more than feelings,

(Now that was a light hearted attempt at humor )

Compared are the right of a woman to have an abortion and the right of any person to own a gun. Compared are the horror that happened in the clinic in Florida with the gun violence that takes place in America. I call those ridiculous and absurd comparisons; let's see if I can explain why.

Bob said, "You say that the misuse of firearms by some is a reason to reduce the availability, correct?" I answer, "correct."

Bob said, "Please explain in simple terms and words why the comparison is invalid because obviously I, and many others, disagree." I say, "here's how."

You cannot compare the right to bear arms to the right to have an abortion. They're both "rights," so to speak, but they're too different from one another. The 2nd Amendment was written in another time and place, and for totally different reasons than the ones that exist today. The authors were the same guys who owned slaves and denied women and others basic human rights. So, that argument means nothing to me; that's just my opinion. Furthermore the need to carry a gun to protect yourself and your family, I believe in most cases is totally exaggerated and the result of fear, insecurity and grandiosity; again that's just my opinion. Access to abortion, on the other hand, is a basic human right for women. Wherever it's denied, an injustice occurs because we all, women and men, must have sovereignty over our own bodies. Religion should stay out of politics; politics should stay out of women's bodies.

The downside of these rights being upheld is that every once in a while you have an awful story like the one in Florida, but every day in practically every major city you have gun violence. The misuse of guns is an epidemic; it's not an occasional odd incident. If you gun owners have to be inconvenienced in order to limit the availability of weapons to the criminals, I say that's a good thing. I've never said there should be a total ban, even though I'm continually accused of having said it. I'm only talking about major restrictions sufficient to curtail the flow of guns into the underworld.

So, I don't believe in these types of comparisons. I don't think they work, not guns and abortion, not guns and cars, not even guns and knives. Each situation is unique and needs to be examined on its own without resorting to facile comparisons that don't make sense.

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Incredible ex-Vice-President Dick Cheney published a fascinating interview with the ex-Vice-President the other day in which he staunchly defended the Bush administration policies many believe he orchestrated. Liberal feedback has been furious, mainly concerning his continued attempts at utilizing fear tactics.

On Crooks and Liars I found the following post: Rachel Maddow Show: Glenn Greenwald on Cheney's Fear Mongering. In the video, Greenwald makes a neat parallel between what the Bush Administration apologists keep saying, that he (Bush) kept us safe since 9/11, and the fact that Clinton "kept us safe" for years after the first World Trade Center attack.

On Opinione I found this post: Cheney terrorized Americans more than the terrorists ever did. The video is Keith Olbermann doing his thing, which I sometimes find to be a bit much, but with which I agree totally.

Dr. Death - Hero or Villain?

The Miami Herald reports on Jack Kevorkian, who spoke in Davie about a movement that is gaining momentum nationally.
"You have every right in the world to have assisted suicide," he told an audience of 2,600 Thursday night at Nova Southeastern University in Davie.

"I can only get people to think," said Kevorkian, 80, paroled in June 2007 on the condition that he not assist in any more deaths. "That's all I've done."

"I've never considered myself a criminal," said Kevorkian, who was sent to jail in 1999 after lethally injecting a man who had Lou Gehrig's disease and showing the video on the television program 60 Minutes. He had taken part in up to 130 suicides and, in his interview Thursday, said he would have "done it the same way" if he had to do it over again.

Although public opinion is gradually moving towards acceptance, according to the article in the Miami Herald, there continues to be criticism of Kevorkian's methods even among proponents of doctor-assisted suicide. He was personally present at each of the 130 assisted suicides he conducted, administering the medications himself. States where it has been implemented do not allow this.
"He was killing people," said Peg Sandeen, director of Death With Dignity, which advocates nationally for assisted-suicide legalization. "He illustrated some of the significant problems that can happen when this is not regulated."

What's your opinion? Is assisted suicide of terminally ill patients contrary to the mission of a medical practitioner? Does prohibiting people from doing this violate their rights?

Please tell us your opinion.

Growing Up

No one describes growing up in New Jersey in the 70s like the Boss. (rare video courtesy of Paulrob2006)

Those Crazy Czech Sex Offenders

CNN reports on the situation in the Czech Republic.
The Czech Republic's practice of surgically castrating convicted sex offenders is "invasive, irreversible and mutilating" and should stop immediately, the Council of Europe's Anti-Torture Committee said in a report made public Thursday.

The Council of Europe condemned the practice as "degrading."

The procedure is being performed even on first-time, non-violent offenders, such as exhibitionists, its investigation revealed.

It only takes a quick dance through the internet or a minimal familiarity with the conservative mindset to see that this barbarism will receive wide support. All the law-and-order types and the personal-responsibility folks will be quick to point out the efficacy a policy like this. All the vengeance seekers and the eye-for-an-eye characters will applaud this insanity. The Czech government is doing it, after all.
It argues the procedure is effective in reducing repeat offenses.

I wonder if that's true. Putting aside for a moment the questions of privacy and torture, of human rights, does it really work?
But the Council of Europe questioned the statistics on repeat offenses and said even if they were correct, castration was not an appropriate way to reduce recidivism.

"The committee's delegation came across three cases in which sex offenders had committed serious sex-related crimes, including serial rape and attempted murder, after they had been surgically castrated," the human-rights group said.

Studies, which I'm sure are just a click or two away, have suggested that rape is not about sexual attraction in many cases, but about power and violence. It's about subjugating another person and violating them. I suppose the theory is that the drive to harm others in this way does not come from the same testosterone that promotes the sexual urge. Of course, if this is true, then the Czech policy is all the more barbaric. What do you think?

But, what about gelded horses? Isn't that practice done to promote docility? Wouldn't the same thing work on humans?

And what does this say about the power of deterrence? I can't imagine how the would-be rapist who knows that the penalty could be castration, can go ahead and rape. To me this proves that deterrence does not work. The reason it doesn't work, as I've said before, is that criminals plan on getting away with their crimes, they don't plan on getting caught. Sometimes this is a calculated, well-thought-out criminal plan, while other times it's pure delusion. The result is always the same. Deterrence fails to inhibit criminals.

What's your opinion?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Opinione: The deafening silence of the press in America

Over on Opinione I discovered a terrific critique of the what's happened in Iraq and continues to happen and how it happened: The deafening silence of the press in America.
One of the reasons President Bush and his boss Dick Cheney were able to launch the war in Iraq in 2003, was due to the relative silence of the American press and the lack of investigative journalism into the conflict of interest of two former oil industry executives desire to go to war in Iraq.

I thought it was quite witty to call Cheney Bush's boss, but before the sentence was out, we have a serious inference. Could the fact that these guys had been in the oil business have had something to do with it? And, as il grande principe asks, why wasn't the press more vocal about that?

The results have been tragic for many and very profitable for a few. Some believe the American casualties, dead and wounded, are over 100,000 and the Iraqi numbers over 1,000,000. The profits for politically favored military contractors have been incalculable.
The relative silence of the US press to make an issue of the recent nomination and approval of former defense company lobbyists William Lynn and Michele Flournoy for high-level Department of Defense positions is another example of the diminishing power of the press in America. Similar to the conflict of interest that Dick Cheney had in granting a non competitive defense contract to a company he had been the president of, the recent Congressional approval of former lobbyists in the Pentagon also presents a conflict of interest for the Pentagon and the new Obama administration.

Is this something that can be blamed on the press? Or is this just the way business is done in Washington D.C.? Do you think these appointments, and others like them, will derail the Obama administration into being another train wreck like its predecessor?

What's your opinion?

If Guns Were Cars

I usually avoid these absurd comparisons because, well, they're absurd. They're like comparing apples with oranges, as the saying goes. However, in an attempt to comply with the wishes of the commenters who continually make these comparisons (especially you Bob), and who never miss an opportunity to accuse me of avoiding answering (that's you Weer'd), I've decided to give it a go.

So let's talk about cars.

Let's imagine there's a serious movement afoot to ban them. I'm talking about total ban. Those spearheading the movement are nothing less than fanatical in their untiring attempts to win support. Everyone knows how dangerous cars are. They pollute the environment; they're stolen from their lawful owners and used in crimes. All too often they're involved in deadly accidents on the highway, about which everyone understands the cars are not at fault, but as the banners love to say, "No cars, no accidents". Then, you've got the problem of law abiding car owners driving drunk or otherwise intoxicated. Again, this should not be blamed on the car, but since people are people, and even though the vast majority of car owners are responsible, you've always got that certain percentage who gives a bad name to the rest. Ban 'em all, says the Movement.

Fighting tooth and nail against the Movement is a more vocal minority who insist banning cars is not acceptable. These car enthusiasts feel eliminating cars would not address the problem. People would still use horses and bicycles for transportation, so you would still have accidents. They frequently refer to 19th century news articles in which horse-drawn carriages came thundering down upon an intersection only to crash into another vehicle or trample pedestrians. What about all the safety and convenience cars provide? We need them to protect our families, they cry. They will hear nothing of punishing the majority of lawful car owners for the sins of a small minority, even if those sins result in untold violence and bloodshed. Above all, the car lovers shout, it is their Constitutional right to possess cars. The Founding Fathers certainly would have specified so had cars existed at the time. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness can hardly be achieved without cars, they say.

The interminable debate rages on, car apologists, despite their smaller numbers, are maintaining a clear lead.

One voice from among the Movement to Ban Cars suggests that since the actual existence of cars hangs in the balance, and since these opposing philosophies represent all-or-nothing positions, it is reasonable to say that as long as car enthusiasts continue winning the battle, they must assume responsibility for the problems resulting from their victory. Since cooperating with the Movement would so completely eradicate the problems (no one really believes in that nonsense about horse-drawn carriages causing serious accidents or the fact that defensive car use outweighs offensive), then car lovers are responsible, if not directly, certainly indirectly for those problems.

Does that make my position no guns clearer?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Joe the Plumber - Chauncey the Gardener

The following clip is inspired by this post on the Brain Police today.

Google Earth and Google Oceans

Just in case anyone is concerned about Google over that trial in Milan, here's what they're up to.

Courtesy of the wonderful National Geographic site, we have this video. Google Oceans Video.

Here's a link to a very informative site called Just Magic.

I remember when Google Earth got popular a while back, there were some concerns about privacy. Does anyone feel that this fantastic technology is going to be misused, Big-Brother style? Some of this Google stuff makes the video surveillance in modern cities look like nothing? Is that a problem?

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.

Google Goes on Trial in Italy

The International Herald Tribune reports today on a fascinating trial which began yesterday in Italy. Prosecutors in Milan charge that Google officials violated Italian privacy laws by allowing the posting of a cell phone video in 2006 that showed four youths taunting a student with learning disabilities.

The first thing that occurred to me was that there must be thousands of videos that do that. Why all the fuss about this one?
The officials did not handle the posting directly, marking the first time that charges had been brought against representatives of a user-generated site for hosting an image without the subject's express approval, prosecutors said.

"What is at issue is whether or not privacy laws that apply to newspapers or to the radio also apply on the Web, or whether it is a sort of free port where anything goes," said Alfredo Robledo, one of the prosecutors in Milan who brought the charges after two years of investigation. "We are raising the issue to show that there are holes in Italian legislation."

I'm not sure what Sig. Robledo means by that, but the case surely has serious implications. And serious questions arise. Should the internet be totally uncensored? Can it continue to grow the way it has without self-destructing under the weight of all those sites that aren't for everybody? If left alone, would a sort-of natural selection process ensure its survival?

What's your opinion? Should certain sites be blocked and certain types of videos be prohibited? Did you know on-line gambling sites are blocked here in Italy? With everything else that is available, I find that quite amazing.

What's your opinion?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Who

Check out this video for great old pics and memorabilia.

Is There Change in Washington?

Much criticism has been flying about the intenet on the apparent discrepancy between Barack Obama's campaign promises and the reality of his first weeks in office. The International Herald Tribune reports on this situation in a nicely balanced article, Obama's promise of ethics reform faces early test.
Then there is the lobbyist for a military contractor who is now slated to become the No. 2 official in the Pentagon. And there are the others brought into government from the influence industry even if not formally registered as lobbyists.

President Barack Obama said Monday that he was "absolutely" standing behind former Senator Tom Daschle, his nominee for health and human services secretary, and Daschle, who met late in the day with leading senators in an effort to keep his confirmation on track, said he had "no excuse" and wanted to "deeply apologize" for his failure to pay $128,000 in U.S. taxes.

Do you think these things are acceptable compromises one must make when transitioning from the lofty rhetoric of the campaign trail to the harsh realities of Washington D.C.? Or do these examples represent the tip of the iceberg labelled "just another lying politician?" What's your take on it?

Several Democrats, including some who have advised Obama, said privately that he had only himself to blame for laying out such an uncompromising standard as a candidate without recognizing how it would complicate his ability to assemble an administration.

In the campaign, Obama assailed Washington's "entire culture" in which "our leaders have thrown open the doors of Congress and the White House to an army of Washington lobbyists who have turned our government into a game only they can afford to play." He vowed to "close the revolving door" and "clean up both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue" with "the most sweeping ethics reform in history."

Do you agree that perhaps Obama went overboard during the campaign in describing how he would work Washington? Do you think there could have been a type of naiveté which is only now becoming apparent, even to him?

Does anyone think there was a more sinister coldness to his promises, that even at the time he knew he'd have to compromise but felt he'd get away with it?

My idea is that regardless of what may have been in his head a month or two ago, he's faced with some difficult situations now which in some cases will require compromise. I don't see any evidence so far that these unavoidable situations will detract much from the overall good he'll accomplish as president.

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Blogroll Amnesty Day

I learned about this on Skippy the Bush Kangaroo and Jon Swift and Blue Gal.

the basic rule for blogroll amnesty day weekend is simply this: take a moment to write a post linking to (and pointing out to your readers) 5 blogs w/traffic smaller than yours. this inclusive and magnanimous yet easy-to-do gesture will not only expose your readers to new voices and those voices to new readers, it will foster a sense of community, support and all-around kumbaya amongst the progressive infrastructure.

tho we are happy to point out, one need not link exclusively to progressive/liberal blogs. we highly encourage you to find a sensible rightist blog and link thereto. (ha! that'll keep ya busy for the weekend!)

Sarah @ Preaching to the Choir is definitely my favorite lawyer.

Principe @ Opinione is definitely my favorite political analyst.

Vicki @ Nothing Personal is definitely my favorite new mom.

Microdot @ The Brain Police is definitely my favorite expat living in France. (probably not smaller - no offense)

Mud_Rake @ Man with a Muck-Rake is definitely my favorite Ohioan (probably not smaller - no offense)


CNN reports on some new studies on alcoholism.
A recent survey of alcoholism studies in the Lancet suggests that men have more than a 20 percent lifetime risk of developing alcohol-use disorders, while women's risk is 8 to 10 percent.

I couldn't help but notice that men have the same kind of bad deal here as they have in the suicide stats we talked about the other day. Why do you think that is?

The main point of the CNN article seems to be that alcoholism is genetic.
Much of that risk is inherited. Studies show that as much as 60 percent of the risk of alcohol-use disorders is genetic, said Dr. Marc Schuckit, professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, and director of the alcohol and drug treatment program at the Veterans Affairs-San Diego Healthcare System, who wrote the Lancet article.

The risk for alcoholism is four times greater for children of alcoholics, even those who are adopted by non-alcoholic families, Schuckit said.

I find that fascinating. How about you? Everyone agrees that a high percentage of prisoners were abusing alcohol and drugs during their criminal careers. Do you think the idea of genetic predisposition to alcoholism or drug addiction detracts from the idea of personal responsibility? If there really is such a thing as the genetic factor, wouldn't it follow that leniency is appropriate for those afflicted?

What's your opinion?

He's Still the Greatest Swimmer

The internet is flooded with the shocking news that Michael Phelps had been photographed smoking a bong pipe. He admitted it and apologized. CNN reports:

"I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment," the record-setting American athlete said in a statement issued Sunday.

"I'm 23 years old, and despite the successes I have had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way, not in a manner that people have come to expect from me," Phelps said. "For this, I am sorry. I promise my fans and the public -- it will not happen again."

I'm sure he's sincere about that. He's certainly got a lot to lose. The endorsements which followed his astonishing Olympic success amount to an estimated $100 million.

But the reports in today's news point out that in 2004, he was arrested for driving under the influence. At that time he said almost the same thing, apologizing, but qualifying it with mention of his young age.

What does it all mean? Some fans are disappointed; others say he's human like the rest of us. I say, he's not like the rest of us at all. His accomplishments in the sport of swimming are nothing short of miraculous. To have done that while occasionally indulging in drugs and alcohol makes it even more amazing. I'd say it's obvious that his partying was always kept to a minimum, never allowed to interfere, or he wouldn't have achieved what he did.

What I wonder is, could his behaviour with pot and drinking, occasional as it has been, indicate some latent problem that will manifest itself in increased abuse and more trouble in his future? Time will tell.

What's your opinion? Do athletes like Michael have a greater responsibility, being role models and all that? Should they be held to a higher standard? Or should the public stay out of his private life?

Please feel free to leave a comment.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Lock 'em Up and Throw Away the Key

Further to our discussion the other day about the Two-Tiered Justice System, I discovered this article in the International Herald Tribune, which although a bit outdated (April 2008), does provide some fascinating statistics.

We've all heard about the overall numbers, that the U.S. makes up 5% of the world population but has 25% of the world's incarcerated, but here's another way to look at it:

The United States comes in first, too, on a more meaningful list from the prison studies center, the one ranked in order of the incarceration rates. It has 751 people in prison or jail for every 100,000 in population. (If you count only adults, one in 100 Americans is locked up.)

The only other major industrialized nation that even comes close is Russia, with 627 prisoners for every 100,000 people. The others have much lower rates. England's rate is 151; Germany's is 88; and Japan's is 63.

A number of factors are mentioned as explanation of America's extraordinary incarceration rate: "higher levels of violent crime, harsher sentencing laws, a legacy of racial turmoil, a special fervor in combating illegal drugs, the American temperament, and the lack of a social safety net. Even democracy plays a role, as judges — many of whom are elected, another American anomaly — yield to populist demands for tough justice.

Whatever the reason, the gap between American justice and that of the rest of the world is enormous and growing."

The article describes how this is a fairly recent phenomenon.
The spike in American incarceration rates is quite recent. From 1925 to 1975, the rate remained stable, around 110 people in prison per 100,000 people. It shot up with the movement to get tough on crime in the late 1970s. (These numbers exclude people held in jails, as comprehensive information on prisoners held in state and local jails was not collected until relatively recently.)

As a further attempt to explain the discrepancy, we have this gem of a quote.
The nation's relatively high violent crime rate, partly driven by the much easier availability of guns here, helps explain the number of people in American prisons.

"The assault rate in New York and London is not that much different," said Marc Mauer, the executive director of the Sentencing Project, a research and advocacy group. "But if you look at the murder rate, particularly with firearms, it's much higher."

Naturally, I liked those words on the part of the author of the article because they perfectly match what I always say. I really don't think it's fair to attribute this opinion to people who lie or ignore facts. I believe it's a fair conclusion which many of us come to.

The other comment I liked too. I don't know what agenda the Sentencing Project might be trying to further with this remark, unless it's to support the claims often made on this blog.

What's your opinion? Last week a couple commenters mentioned that the problem with our criminal justice system is that it's too lenient, that the plea bargaining system weakens it too much. Does that make sense to you in light of our standing in the world? Should we lock more people up and keep them locked up for longer?

Please tell us what you think.

Archie Bunker on Gun Control

This incredible video is supplied to us by Microdot, that one man archive on everything from movies to music to American TV. Presently living a baronial existence in the French countryside, he had but to cast his memory back to find an episode that perfectly foreshadowed this blog's frequent comment threads, decades before they existed. The long-haired son-in-law was even named Mike.