There may be another blog entry of a more serious nature about this, but I can’t help but think that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the sole surviving alleged Boston Marathon bomber…
… bears an uncanny resemblance to Bob Dylan, circa 1964…
There may be another blog entry of a more serious nature about this, but I can’t help but think that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the sole surviving alleged Boston Marathon bomber…
… bears an uncanny resemblance to Bob Dylan, circa 1964…
While the concept of rape itself is abhorrent by every stretch of the imagination, every trial for rape brings two very real — and at least in principle diametrically opposed — thought processes into the mix and in stark contrast with each other. In any crime, the accused is innocent until proven guilty. And I’d hate to imagine someone truly falsely accused of raping someone; that would be pure hell for the accused. Thus, the accused has the right to a fair and reasonable defense. Again, that’s true in any crime; I’m not singling out rape here.
The big problem with rape trials, then, is that — at least if you factor out the situations where someone threatens greater violence if the victim doesn’t accede to the wishes of the attacker — the only real way to put on a defense, is to deny that the crime has been committed.
There has to be a better way, pure and simple. I don’t know what it is.
Steubenville raised a glaringly bright light to one other aspect of rape trials that is equally troubling. I would consider this kind of trial second only to murder trials in that the pursuit of justice will not undo the crime that was committed. In a theft trial, the stolen goods can be returned or the victim can be compensated for their loss. The best the victims in a rape or murder trial can hope for is that the guilty parties will have learned their lesson and won’t commit their crimes again. Maybe with a bit of deterrence for others who might think they can do the same thing and get away with it.
Small comfort for the victim. Add in a community that rallied not around her, but her attackers, and I wonder how much the trial added to the trauma she had already endured. After all, her attackers were stars of the high school football team, popular, boys will be boys, and all of that bullshit…
A feminist appearing on Fox News recently suggested that the solution to the problem of rape is to teach men not to rape anyone. Although somewhat simplistic, she’s right. It’s not as easy as she made it out to sound, but it’s the right thing to do. In Steubenville, surely the culture of entitlement that the boys felt (thanks to their prowess on the gridiron) was a huge contributing factor. And we saw that in the way the community rallied around them, even in the face of overwhelming evidence of their guilt.
The way the boys reacted to their sentence, I think they thought that entitlement would acquit them of their crimes. That’s at least the impression I got; the fact that they broke down when their conviction was handed down, proves that they’re human. When they get out of prison, I sincerely hope that they’ll allow themselves to be a cautionary tale. I hope that they’ll be willing to talk about the horrible crime they committed, how they sincerely regret having done it, and being a message of reason: telling other people not to rape. Just like that woman on Fox News suggested.
Without regard to what the boys do, though, I wish the victim can find some degree of consolation in the outcome of the trial. It’s not going to be easy for her to move beyond the trauma of both the crime and the trial itself. But she must. For her own sanity and self-worth. She was exceptionally brave just getting this far. Whatever can be done to help her move forward can and should be done. Let her become a survivor and let her example be an empowering example to women everywhere.
It’s the least that can be done, for a crime that can’t be un-committed.
Today, March 8, is International Women’s Day. Say what you will about the former Soviet Union and what they stood for, and their overall policies, if there’s one thing they got right — or at least tried to get right — was treating women as equals to men. Today is a holiday they came up with to underscore that attitude.
Insert joke hear about how International Men’s Year can resume tomorrow.
But seriously, modern society is, well, patriarchal. This is hardly news. And it has been for quite a while. An educated guess as to when men claimed clout and power over women, would be around about the advent of agriculture, six to ten thousand years ago. Harvesting crops required physical strength and, whatever else is true, men are, on average, physically larger and stronger than women.
Bring in politics and religion and you’ve got yourself a self-perpetuating patriarchy.
There’s a mental exercise anyone can do, about determining whether or not you, as a member of a given group, enjoy a privilege that people not in that group don’t enjoy. Is there something that you take for granted, that other people might not even be available to other people? If someone asks for something you take for granted, why should you keep that something away from them? It’s like that one verse from the Phil Ochs song, “Outside of a Small Circle of Friends”:
Sweating in the ghetto with the colored and the poor
The rats have joined the babies who are sleeping on the floor
Wouldn’t it be a riot if they really blew their tops?
But they’ve got too much already, and besides we’ve got the cops!
And I’m sure it wouldn’t interest
Outside of a small circle of friends….
But that song isn’t really about feminism as much as it is other forms of privilege.
There are issues that women have to deal with. That’s not to say that they’re not men’s issues, too, but they disproportionately impact on women, so we need to be made aware of the fact that it happens. Privilege is when you take something for granted so if you don’t know about a given problem, you can’t really be prepared to solve it.
One thing I do think, though, is that there’s no such thing as a purely “women’s” issue. If it affects women, it affects me. Take, for example, my position on rape, which I have expressed on more than one occasion. That said, I don’t think I can understand the trauma that comes from it anywhere near as well as a woman who has gone through the trauma, can. This is why, when it comes to raising consciousness about matters, we need to hear people most directly affected. And just like the Phil Ochs song above, there are songs to help us raise awareness of the issues. So how about this one?
Of course, that might be one of the best-known consciousness-raisers out there. There’s another song that is just as effective. It’s a scary theme, to be sure, but it’s the kind of thing we need to hear if we want to improve ourselves. I just love this song…
(Note that, if you recognize that voice but not the name, she’s the original Maureen from Rent.)
Of course, rape and child abuse aren’t the only issues that affect women. There’s a third topic — domestic violence — that needs to be addressed. I vacillate back and forth as to which is more pernicious: rape or domestic violence. The former is often a one-time trauma that devastates the person emotionally (and likely physically). The latter is a continual trauma that can be just as devastating, but recurs far too often for anyone to be comfortable with. And this may be the best consciousness raiser for that topic:
Maybe, just maybe, in honor of International Women’s Day, we could all just raise our awareness of these three problems. They’re certainly not going to go away if we ignore them.
A little over a week ago, a man stormed into an elementary school, overpowered several people, and opened fire in a kindergarten class. In all, 28 people, including the gunman (who turned the gun on himself) — 20 of whom were children — were killed that day.
I have a six-year-old son in kindergarten, and the location of the school is in a town where I have many friends and work colleagues. When I visit my in-laws, Newtown, CT, is roughly the halfway point and I often stop there for lunch.
So, yeah, the news affected me.
The second amendment guarantees us the right to keep and bear arms. Or, more specifically,
A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
I’m not going to do a whole lot of parsing of the meaning of this particular constitutional amendment. The Supreme Court has decided numerous court cases in which the right has been infringed by some level of government.
There are a couple of things that do bear mentioning about this particular amendment, though. Unlike other rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, this one does not specifically state that congress may not pass laws that speak to owning a gun. Compare it with the first amendment, which begins with the phrase “Congress shall make no law…”
I think it’s safe to say that congress absolutely does have the right to state who can and should regulate the militia. (Note that the meaning of the word “regulate” has evolved a little bit in the more than 200 years since the bill of rights was passed. In the context as it was written, the phrase “well-regulated” means that it works the way it’s supposed to. Modern use of the word “regulated” speaks more to the process of ensuring that it does work the way it’s supposed to.
Let me state up front that I do not own a gun, and have no interest in owning one. And as long as you don’t want to require me to own a gun, I have no interest in taking your gun away from you.
You’re never free to do something unless you’re also free to do its opposite. You’re not free to own a gun unless you’re also free not to own one.
A lot of gun control advocates argue that the founding fathers didn’t foresee — nor could they have foreseen — the availability of weapons capable of firing off a hundred rounds with the pull of a single trigger. That’s true, but they also couldn’t foresee indoor plumbing. Or the telephone. Or the transmission of news from one place to another faster than a day. But the power of the weapons doesn’t make that much of a difference in the interest of maintaining security in a free state.
Gun rights advocates, on the other hand, argue that guns don’t kill people; people kill people. Again, true, but you can’t deny that guns make it easier to kill people. Almost too easy, but you don’t need a high-powered assault rifle to prove that point. The same day as that happened, someone went into a school in China and, in a knife attack, went after 22 children. The body count was significantly lower because of the fact that the weapon of choice was not a gun.
As an interesting side note, there’s a reason why murder is monitored within crime statistics as being completely independent of just about any other statistic. The motivation to commit certain crimes can and will waver, but if you want to commit murder, chances are, you either want to commit it, or you’re asleep. Theft — in all of its forms — is a crime of need. Rape is a complex crime with lots of motives, but even the serial rapist will have times when he doesn’t want to commit the crime. Murder stands alone. There are times when I wonder if the only thing that truly drives fluctuations in the murder rate, is the accuracy of the shooter.
As often happens, then, with complex issues, is that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Gun rights advocates and gun control advocates have a common ground: stopping tragedies like what happened in Sandy Hook, or Aurora, or Virginia Tech, or anywhere else where someone went on a rampage.
Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President of the NRA, gave a shameful response, and it would have been better if he’d said nothing at all. “Only good guys with guns can stop bad guys with guns,” is demonstrably not true. Whatever the solution is, it’s not more guns. When Ronald Reagan was shot, no one fired back at his attacker, John Hinkley. He was subdued, and Reagan was kept down, but it didn’t deter Hinkley from firing the shots in the first place.
What we need is to ensure that the people who do seek to purchase a gun, are qualified to use it and use it responsibly. From what I’ve read about Adam Lanza’s mother, she was a piece of work, paranoid that some mythical world government was going to come in and take away her freedoms. Even if he hadn’t gotten to her guns, I’d be a little bit worried that someone like her even owned guns like that in the first place.
I’d also like to encourage research into technologies that will make guns safer. By definition, guns are unsafe devices. But one thing that can be done to make them safer, is to do something that would prevent anyone other than the rightful owner of the gun from using it. A fingerprint recognition technology could be co-opted to prevent anyone other than the owner from actually discharging any bullets. This would prevent children from “playing” with their parents’ guns to disastrous results, and would also be good in situations where a gun falls between two people, there would be no need to scramble for it in a kill-or-be-killed scenario.
In fact, that kind of research would actually strengthen a person’s right to keep arms, to say the least.
There are other things that can be done that everyone would agree to. It’s just a matter of suggesting a few things and seeing what sticks.
Because the way the guns in the hands of a few deranged individuals have been going, the state is far from secure, and it’s becoming less free.
The official Republican Party platform is opposed to abortion under all circumstances other than to save the life of the mother. There are no exclusions for pregnancy resulting from rape or incest.
There have been some high profile candidates seeking elective office who have effectively said something akin to the platform, albeit in a less-than-politically correct manner, and who have gotten into trouble because of it. Most noteworthy are Todd Akin, who is now famous for his “legitimate rape” comments, attempting to argue (incorrectly) that women’s bodies can somehow prevent a pregnancy if under enough stress, and Richard Mourdock, who said that if a pregnancy comes about as a result of a rape, it was something that god intended and, thus, it shouldn’t be aborted. Only in word is the latter declaration not a statement that the rape itself was something that god intended.
One thing I sometimes wonder about — as it’s not a knowable statistic — is how far back we each have to go, to find a direct ancestor who was conceived in what was, by modern standards, a rape. Not necessarily a violent rape (which is what I believe Rep. Akin meant when he said “legitimate”), but a rape all the same. You really only need to go back to an arranged marriage and chances are, a child of that marriage was conceived in a rape.
That doesn’t justify or excuse the rape, though.
I’ve written before about how abhorrent I consider the concept of rape. Arranged marriages still happen, and the girls often willingly go along with it because they’ve been taught that it’s their role. That teaching is just as horrible as the rape itself.
The Mourdock statement is troublesome because he is applying the opinions of his own god, to the question of abortion. It’s been said so often that I’m not sure who first said it, but you know you’ve created god in your own image when he hates the same people you do. Of course, it’s not a surprise that a lot of religious groups seem to think that abortion is morally wrong.
It comes from a straightforward interpretation of Exodus 20:13, which holds that one of the ten commandments is not to kill. Because we understand how babies are conceived (now), they are extending this rule to the unborn. Fine.
But can’t an argument be made, though, that Genesis 2:7 dictates that life begins when we first breathe the “breath of life”? If so, then life wouldn’t begin until quite literally the moment after we’re born, when the doctor slaps us to start us breathing…. Anything before that, then, could be fair game for termination since it wouldn’t be alive. Thus, it couldn’t be killed.
Of course, the other big problem with the no exceptions for rape and incest rule is Deuteronomy 22:28-29, which holds that a woman must marry the man who rapes her. It doesn’t say anything about what she should do with any babies conceived as a result of the rape.
So, if I may be totally tongue-in-cheek when I say this, the punishment for someone being raped, shouldn’t be to bear the child. She should just marry her attacker.
And then she could just pretend she’s the next incarnation of Lorena Bobbitt….
Assuming I can complete this essay before midnight, today (October 7, 2012) was Pulpit Freedom Sunday, a day championed by conservative Christians in a bold-faced attempt to defy the law and actively endorse a political candidate in their Sunday sermons.
Just to level-set this issue, the law in question is the Johnson Amendment, the 1954 change to the Internal Revenue Code, which prohibits tax exempt organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates.
Assuming you agree that it’s reasonable for the government to collect taxes (and even if you don’t agree, the Sixteenth Amendment gives the right to collect taxes to the congress…), and assuming you further agree that there are organizations out there that deserve not to be subject to taxation, the Johnson Amendment is not unreasonable.
The legal definition of a tax exempt organization — which includes but certainly is not limited to churches and religious institutions — is outlined in Internal Revenue Code section 501. There are reasons why organizations deserve to be exempted from taxes, and the separation of church and state is, for the most part, a reasonable one.
A study earlier this year estimated that religious tax exemptions cost taxpayers (on all levels) approximately $71 billion every year. And the authors of this study were conservative in their estimates, omitting any monies they could not actually quantify.
There are some small congregations that openly concede that they would have to close their doors were it not for their tax exemption. And I’m not trying to make any arguments that say all churches should lose all of their tax exemptions, but some of the exemptions don’t really make any sense: take investment income as an example. If I invest in a stock or a mutual fund and a church invests in that same stock or mutual fund, then we should both be taxed on the earnings I make from those investments…
So to get back to Pulpit Freedom Sunday, these pastors are going up in front of their congregations and explicitly telling members of their congregations to go out and vote either for a particular candidate or against a particular candidate. The pastors have every right to their own opinions; don’t misunderstand me. Just like any other citizen, they have the right to vote either for or against any candidate as they wish… They can even let their vote be influenced by what they believe.
But when the First Amendment was passed, and further, when Thomas Jefferson coined the phrase “Wall of separation between church and state” in his Letter to the Danbury Baptists, this is overt political campaigning from the pulpit is exactly what he hoped to avoid.
Now. I can respect why an event like this is taking place. It is not uncommon for a person with a tax grievance to knowingly break the tax law in order to challenge the law itself. The arguments made by the proponents of a day like today basically say that the pastors’ free speech rights are being infringed, by not being allowed to endorse a candidate for office.
Except that they’re not. They’re already getting enormous benefits by being tax exempt. And in response for the granting of those benefits, the government simply asks that the organization not have an official position on an election. It’s why trade organizations and unions aren’t tax exempt. Or, for that matter, Political Action Committees.
Or to quote George Carlin, “I am sick and tired of these fucking church people… If these guys want to be part of the political process, you know what I say? Tax them! Make ‘em pay their fucking admission just like everyone else!”
Now if only the IRS would allocate the resources to doing exactly that…
I had an interesting experience in dealing with my local representatives in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. I use the word “Representatives” because this transcends both my current (Republican) representative, Todd Stephens as well as his (Democratic) predecessor, Rick Taylor.
This tale begins with an incident that made national news, and which is the stuff of a rather long Wikipedia entry: the recalls of various Toyota vehicles over the course of the years 2009 to 2011.
Full disclosure: I do not currently drive, nor could I actually imagine myself ever driving, a Toyota vehicle. Nothing against the brand, but they don’t make a car I actually, you know, fit inside of. That said, the issues that Toyota had to deal with the negative publicity of, could quite literally happen to any car manufacturer.
One of the more frightening things associated with those recalls, was the fact that some of the issues were not mechanical in nature; instead, they were defects associated with the computers that regulate many of the functions of the cars themselves.
In February, 2010, two different committees (on the federal level) held hearings about the defects, and that’s truly where my story begins.
A few months later, I was thinking about the congressional hearings and I called Rick Taylor. Let’s face it: although the federal government might dictate specific standards that have to be upheld for, well, just about everything to do with our cars, it’s the states that actually uphold those standards. And, quite frankly, the states do it differently.
To use an easy example, I, as a resident of the state of Pennsylvania, have to have my car inspected annually. Because I also happen to reside in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, I also have to have my car’s emissions inspected annually. There are other parts of the state that do not require the emissions inspection.
If I lived in New Jersey, I would need to have my car inspected every other year. (I believe that’s based upon the model year of the car, but since I drive a 2011 Chevy Equinox, I know it’s new enough that it doesn’t need the annual inspection older vehicles would need…)
So I called Rick Taylor’s office to find out if state inspection rules cover only mechanical defects or if they covered computer defects as well. (Knowing full well it’s unlikely that they’d cover computer defects because the nature of the problem was so relatively new.) The intent of my call, obviously, was to encourage some degree of movement to change state inspection standards so that they would encompass computer defects as well as mechanical ones.
I don’t have the exact date of my call to Rick Taylor’s office, but it was late summer or early fall. I never got a response back from him.
I am not in a position to judge whether or not the failure of Representative Taylor or one of his workers to respond was indicative of Taylor’s overall style, or if it was a function of his being embroiled in a nasty re-election campaign, but either way, I got no response.
After Rick Taylor lost his re-election bid to Todd Stephens, I gave him the benefit of the doubt and called a second time, reiterating my concerns and maybe making it so that he could pass on my inquiry to his successor.
Again, I never heard a response. Here, I can’t be sure if the inquiry simply got lost in the transition or if it was passed on to Todd Stephens and Stephens didn’t do anything either.
About a month ago, I took my family to the local activities going on as a result of National Night Out.
Todd Stephens had a representative set up at one of the kiosks there, so I decided to ask again about this still-existing safety concern. Only two years have passed since then, so, although something could have changed, the initial question still stands: do the state inspection rules actually cover this issue, or do they need amending?
I have received two or three callbacks from a member of Stephens’s office, with responses that effectively ranged from the acknowledgment of what I already knew, to the laughable. (It turns out that the person I was in contact with, is currently taking a leave of absence in his duties as an employee of Stephens’s official office in order to manage his re-election campaign.)
Zack did confirm that there haven’t been any changes to the requirements for state inspections. But he first began by pointing out that movement needs to take place on a federal level. The National Transportation Safety Board needs to set the appropriate standards for state regulation, or so I was told.
That’s actually not entirely true. Yes, the NTSB needs to lay forward the minimum standards, but the decisions about what to inspect and what not to inspect are solely within the purview of the state government, not the federal.
There’s room for debate as to whether or not it’s right that there be fifty unique sets of standards for state inspection. But that is the current reality and I can’t imagine anyone arguing for a change there.
Of course, what the federal government does, is set minimum standards: the seatbelts must have a certain minimum strength, the airbags must deploy if the vehicle decelerates by more than a certain rate in a certain amount of time, the brake pads must be at least so thick, the carbon dioxide emissions must be no greater than a certain number of parts per thousand. I don’t know exactly what the standards are (obviously), but those standards do exist.
And, of course, the states can impose more rigid standards than the minimum federal standards. They can even set their own, when none exist. California emission standards are both more rigid and older than the federal ones.
So when Zack recommended that I contact Senator Pat Toomey, I couldn’t help but laugh. Pat Toomey, a darling of the Tea Party and, asking him for increased government regulation is kind of tantamount to asking Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine to vote for Paul Ryan.
So it’s an interesting metaphor. In this one anecdote, both parties were completely ineffectual. So which is better in terms of being ineffective: receiving no response at all, or receiving a response that effectively passes the buck without making any real progress?
And this is an issue that should truly transcend labels like democrat/republican/liberal/conservative. It’s an issue of safety, pure and simple.
In anticipation of the shutdown of Apple’s MobileMe service, I am re-posting some of my old blog entires before they become harder to retrieve.
This entry was originally posted on July 6, 2005.
In my “politics of death ” blog entry, I hinted at this point, and I would like to elaborate on it a little bit.
It’s always interesting to read a Supreme Court opinion that may not be popular.
Kelo v City of New London — which held that eminent domain could extend to areas that are not blighted, solely for economic development — sided with the City of New London for two reasons: first that the court consistently sides with local officials, who may know better than national officials about what is good for a locality, and second, because the city’s plan did not favor a single developer. (In other words, just because WalMart might want to build a store where your house is, that’s not enough to get your local town to condemn your house…)
Texas v Johnson — which held that flagburning is constitutionally protected free speech — questioned why prosecutors didn’t charge Mr. Johnson with other crimes for which he was undoubtedly guilty (inciting a riot, etc…)
And Roe v Wade recognized on its face that there would be people with moral objections to it, however the judgment itself would be based solely on the constitution and that the 9th through 14th amendments, through precedent, would require that laws banning abortion be unconstitutional.
(Incidentally, you can search for all three of these supreme court opinions, along with all of the other opinions, at Cornell’s Legal Information Institute website.)
My problem, though, with the overall abortion debate is that it’s no longer a debate. Neither side is willing to accept any type of compromise with the other, and that’s truly not helping us get anywhere. As far as I’m aware, nobody’s standing on the corner screaming “We’re not performing enough abortions!” On either side of the debate. Not even those who would stand to profit by performing more. It’s just not that lucrative.
The only solution to this issue, therefore, is to fundamentally alter the issue itself. Why not encourage science to produce a process whereby a zygote/embryo/fetus can be removed from a woman’s uterus — with the same level of safety to the mother — without killing the aforementioned unborn? For the purposes of this discussion, we’ll call the process “removal.” For the remainder of this essay, I will refer to the removed zygote/embryo/fetus as a ZEF.
We can assume that the processes would be fundamentally different, depending on how far along the pregnancy is, and they may not even be viable at the same time. I’m fine with that, so long as at some point, all pregnancies can be terminated safely this way.
Once the process (or processes) is (are) tested and deemed safe, the discussion would immediately turn to what is to be done with the removed ZEF, and additional medical and scientific procedures may be needed for some of them. Each one raises ethical and legal concerns that we previously didn’t have to address with traditional abortion.
One option — like it or not — is the destruction of the ZEF. The only reason to favor removal over abortion if this is going to be the end result would be if the removal process is ultimately safer to the mother than abortion. Presumably, the abortion debate would morph into a debate over whether or not the ZEF should be destroyed following the removal. With other options available, though, this would not happen very often.
A second option would be to allow the ZEF to be donated to additional scientific research, akin to stem cell research today. This will have varying degrees of ethical concerns depending on your stance on this type of research and it would also vary between whether the pregnancy was terminated after a month, or six months. Even in the absence of stem cell research, what if the unborn child is diagnosed with some genetic disease? Would it be ethical to allow the removal for research to combat this disease? There is much to be thought about with regard to this matter.
Option number three would be to freeze the ZEF cryogenically for later use. I kind of figure this one would be the option of choice to the 15-year-old girl who gets pregnant, accepts that she might want children, say, ten years later, but would prefer not to have the baby now. This assumes the development of a technology whereby the ZEF can be re-implanted in the mother’s uterus. Might as well be a part of the research being funded. Among the issues raised here are the proper methods for safely freezing the ZEF, the costs associated with storage, and certain intangibles such as whether or not the mother follows through on the decision to have it re-implanted later, or even if the mother dies before having the opportunity to re-implant it. (In the event of the death of the mother, presumably the ZEF would be a part of her estate. For a young girl, here estate might not be very large, so certain protections must therefore be built into probate and estate law.)
The fourth option would be to bring the ZEF to a full gestational term and have someone else raise that child. As I termed it in my “politics of death blog” from a few months ago, we can call it a pre-birth adoption. There are three sub-options — all of which would require a significant amount of additional research not unlike the research needed in the third option — that may be viable depending on how mature the ZEF is.
Option 4a would be to bring the ZEF to gestational term outside of anyone’s womb, at which point it could be adopted and/or placed in foster care, not unlike the current systems.
Option 4b would be to implant the ZEF into the womb of a woman who would otherwise adopt the child once it is born. We would need a fair amount of legal disclosures and agreements, specifically with regard to protecting both sides in the event of a miscarriage, but we could certainly build on the existing adoption contracts.
Option 4c is alternately the most fascinating and troubling. It is the situation where, for reasons that range from health to ability of the potential adoptive mother, the ZEF is implanted in the womb of a third party, a surrogate. In this situation, we would likely need to combine the contracts that currently exist for adoption, plus the contracts that currently exist for surrogate mothers, all with similar protections as we are asking for in option 4b. We could therefore find ourselves in a contract that involves three separate entities: the biological mother (and father, as necessary), the surrogate mother (and any relatives who would take an interest in it), and the adoptive parents once the child is born.
For all three variations on option four, is there room for freezing the ZEF, as in option three, before bringing it to term?
I’m not pretending to have all of the answers here, especially since a lot of this governs minutiae of the law and I am not seasoned in this aspect of the law. But if the government were willing to promote this degree of scientific research, wouldn’t it be nice to actually open up the debate again, and possibly find a reasonable middle ground? Nothing else seems to be working….
In anticipation of the shutdown of Apple’s MobileMe service, I am re-posting some of my old blog entires before they become harder to retrieve.
This entry was originally posted on September 11, 2005. Please note that the link in the second paragraph at the time was to my Senator’s web page in the Senate. As he is no longer in the Senate the page does not exist anymore, I have changed the link to the Wikipedia entry on him.
In April, 2004, I wrote a blog entry that covered the five items that occasionally come up as potential amendments to the US constitution. This item covers the one amendment that, as of right now, is most likely to become law.
On June 22, 2005, the US House of Representatives narrowly passed a bill that would enable Congress to pass a law that bans desecration of the United States flag. The following day, I sent an e-mail to one of my senators, Arlen Specter , urging him to vote against it when it comes up for a vote in the Senate.
For some background on this amendment, it was first proposed after the 1989 Supreme Court ruling in Texas v. Johnson, which declared that a Texas state law that prohibited the burning of a US flag, was unconstitutional as it violated the first amendment freedom of speech provisions.
A couple of interesting points about this ruling bear mention:
– first off, the entire law was not overturned; only the paragraph as it pertains to burning a US flag. The rest of the law, which bans destruction of other pieces of property (such as tombstones and religious markers) remains intact to this day. This makes sense, actually, as desecration of a tombstone is vandalism or destruction of someone else’s property. If I burn your flag, rather than my own, you have some recourse against me in terms of arson and theft.
– second, the court questioned why prosecutors chose only to prosecute the defendant based upon this one law, rather than other laws for which a conviction was equally assured (i.e., inciting a riot, destruction of property, vandalism, creating a public danger, etc…)
What this ultimately boils down to is the fact that, the only kind of flag desecration that is not prosecutable under other laws, is the one where I do it to my own flag, on my own property, and with little fanfare or public spectacle. (In other words, one that essentially defies the reason for burning it in the first place…)
I don’t have any love lost for people who would burn the flag. It is an offensive act, to say the least. And they deserve to be spit upon, cursed out, and otherwise made to feel bad for doing it. That said, I don’t have a problem with the fact that they have the right to do it. That’s what makes our constitution so great.
There was a movie released in the early 90′s with Wesley Snipes, Sylvester Stallone, Sandra Bullock, and Benjamin Bratt, called Demolition Man. It envisions a futuristic society where, in the interest of peace, it is illegal to do anything that offends anyone. Wesley Snipes, playing a cryogenically frozen criminal from our time who is brought back to life in this future world, argues at one point that we all have the right to be assholes. I’m an American, and I’m proud that I can be an asshole if I want to be…
I also fear for the people and businesses who unintentionally desecrate the flag by flying it at night, in the rain, such that it touches the ground or the side of a building, or in a state where it would be better served by retiring it. How would they be protected from prosecution in the event that such a law passes?
So I contacted Sen. Specter in hopes that he would have the guts to vote against a proposed constitutional amendment that clearly does nothing more than pander to an ill-advised sense of patriotism. Some people will argue “my country, right or wrong…” Again, that’s one of the great things about my country: I have the right to tell it when it’s wrong…
I was extremely disappointed by Sen. Specter’s response last week. Not only did it come off as a canned response which seemed more appropriate to send to those who support the amendment, but also the only argument he could make was a comparison to yelling “fire” in a crowded theatre.
I always wondered about the fire-in-a-theatre rule. What happens if your seat does happen to catch fire? (I don’t know. Maybe, in lieu of the concession prices, I decide to bring a portable propane grill into the theatre for some burgers and hot dogs, and maybe something slips…) What am I supposed to do? Tap the shoulder of the person sitting next to me and whisper in his/her ear, “My seat’s on fire. Pass it on…”?!?!?
Still, I can respect that any place that gets crowded like that, especially with limited ability to move in two or more directions, can be a death trap when people panic and start to stampede against other people.
But yelling “fire” in a crowded theatre can cause a legitimate danger to other people. Burning a flag, assuming the burn itself is controlled and far enough away from any buildings, will do no such thing. Screaming obscenities at the top of one’s lungs in the theatre is a more apt comparison. People will try to silence the person, ignore him, join him, or worse, but there is nothing inherently illegal about it. Maybe yelling “guacamole” in a crowded Mexican Restaurant is an even better comparison, because then someone might actually have the curiosity to ask why the person did it.
I read somewhere that the majority of flagburning incidents in this country are done in protest of flagburning laws. I don’t know how accurate this factoid is, but it is certainly believable.
I can’t begin to express my disappointment of Sen. Arlen Specter for his support of this amendment.
If you care about this matter, I encourage you to check out Warren Apel’s Flagburning page , which contains a very thorough history of this matter, down to the legal definition of “flag” and why the amendment is such a bad idea. (And it’s frightening to think that a photograph of a child’s drawing of a US flag, with three stripes and two stars, is legally a flag..)