Archive for the ‘Issues’ Category

Sarah Palin’s pregnant daughter, UPDATE

September 1, 2008 14 comments

Sarah Palin’s 17-year-old daughter is pregnant, and everybody’s making a big deal about it.  Barack Obama came out and said “leave the Palin’s family alone, especially the daughter” and he’s right.  And you know what?  I have not heard anyone attacking the daughter, even before Obama’s statement,  because this kind of stuff happens and people turn out fine if they have a good support structure.

But it does form a teachable moment about ‘abstinence-only’ sex education, doesn’t it?  Palin is on record opposing comprehensive sex education; she just wants kids to hear “don’t do it”.  If that’s all she told her daughters, and if she shielded them from real information, she sent them into young adulthood unprepared.  How to reduce teen pregnancies?  With comprehensive sex education.


  • Maureen Johnson’s blog has a wonderful, very constructive take on poor Bristol’s predicament: Free Bristol Palin.  I will do a separate post on it later.

  • The Intersection has comparitive statistics on teen sex and pregnancy, but it isn’t exactly new data.
  • ABC News on the latest.
Categories: Issues, observations

Abortion protest ethics

August 6, 2008 5 comments

Jeffrey Shallit at Recursivity points to a video of abortion protesters struggling to answer the simple question: “If abortion is made illegal, what should the punishment be for a woman who has one?” 

Surprising that they seem never to have thought about it after years of standing on the street with Joe Scheidler holding signs and yelling at passers by that abortion is murder. 
Hat tip to Lucas, whose shared items have been a gold mine

Categories: Issues, observations

Repeal the Second Amendment?  UPDATE

June 28, 2008 10 comments

The Chicago Tribune editorializes; “Repeal the Second Amendment”.  My first reaction is quite negative – we’re talking about one of the rights guaranteed in the constitution here.  It’s late, and I’ll have more to say about this on Sunday but I’d love to hear what you think. 

As promised, below the fold are some updates on this subject.  The Chicago Tribune editorial had many, many comments and I will base my responses on those.  Many were slogans that we’ve all heard before, and they deserve a response:

“If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns”
This is a real problem for gun-ban advocates: criminals don’t obey laws.  But it isn’t a problem for gun-control advocates, which is a very different thing.
“Concealed-carry will result in more crime, more shootings.”
Hasn’t happened, in places where concealed carry is allowed.  I bow to experimental results.
“Why don’t you just repeal the First Amendment!  The Second is the one that protects the first!”
This is not supported by the record of oppressive countries with armed populations.  Nearly every family in Saddam’s Iraq had a gun, and there were certainly people who wanted him dead.  But his government kept the people in line with torture and threats to family.
“The Nazis confiscated all the guns!”
Again, the idea that owning a gun is somehow a hedge against governmental oppression.  Sorry, but it isn’t.  There are lots of ways of controlling a population that are not fixed by bullets.  Propaganda, censorship, and terror all apply; no single amendment is sufficient or there would only have been one of them.  And while we’re at it, forget holding off the government with your trusty rifle; that’s just delusional.  You just might, however, keep it from ever getting that bad if the press isn’t a presidential lapdog.
“Washington DC has the strictest gun laws in the country, but it’s also the country’s murder capitol.”
Again, a simplistic explanation for a complex problem.  Part of our national psyche seems fixated on the last line of defense.  We like diet pills but we don’t like to count calories.  We like levees but we don’t like wetlands’ protection laws.  We enjoy excellent emergency medicine but had to be forced by law to wear our seat belts and they’ll have to pry the cell phone out of our cold, dead hands.  Our answer to safe streets is more cops, more guns, more violence.  It never occurs to us to do something about drug laws that impoverish inner-city neighborhoods while empowering criminals.  Or to put national resources behind inner-city schools and do something about hungry kids and ignorance.  We need to start applying long-term solutions to long-term problems.
“The Left has had its social experimentations with gun control for years now.”
It’s an experiment doomed to failure in a country awash in guns.  About all we’ve learned is; it doesn’t work to draw a line around a certain area and say; “No guns here”.  And here’s a related objection:
“Every single shooting has been in a ‘gun-free zone’”
Not true, and not meaningful.
“I have a right to self-defense!” (variations thereof)
Then you better get serious training.  The likelihood of your gun protecting you or your family has to be balanced against the greater likelihood of the opposite outcome. That said, many people do have training, and should update their training throughout life if they use a gun for defense.  And even then, recognize that a gun can give tragic force to your most irrational moments.
“The Second Amendment refers to a ‘well-regulated militia’, not to individual rights to own arms”
Admittedly this is one of the great historical puzzles.  The framers of the Constitution usually wrote in excruciatingly clear language, so we have to assume that this language was clear to them.  But for reasons of cultural change, it is far from clear to us.  A couple commenters even said that that armed citizens would regulate the militia – but they may have been joking.  See what happens if you pull up to the National Guard depot with your rifle and start telling them what they’re doing wrong.  I’m afraid we’re going to have to figure this one out ourselves.

There was much more; this is just a sample.  So let’s try to figure it out here.  I’m going to say what I’m in favor of, and ask you to poke holes in it.

In many ways this is more a rural/urban problem than a conservative/liberal problem.  If you live in a rural area, it’s difficult to appreciate the constant slaughter that parades through urban emergency rooms.  As the saying goes, “all politics is local.”

But it can be a problem even in rural areas.  When I was doing a pastoral internship in NC, there was a feud between two local families.  Now this is back ‘up the hollows’ and they called the ‘young rev’rund’ to officiate.  I was sitting in the living room of one of the families listening to ‘maw-maw’ when the ‘young buck’ walked into the living room carrying a nickel-plated .38 revolver.  His index finger was comfortably ensconced inside the trigger guard.

“Where you going with that?” I asked.  I felt pretty safe, because he was not mad at me.

“Uh, nowhere.  I just had it out,” he answered.

You have every right to believe that you are superior and more rational than that young man, and you might be.  But laws aren’t written for you; they’re written for everyone.  And there are lots of different kinds of irrationality.

I’m in favor of controlling criminals, and to do that we need gun control.  If you have a record of violent crime, such as assault, then no gun license for you, period.  And just as there are different kinds of drivers’ licenses (motorcycle, day-only, car, truck, etc) there should be different kinds of gun licenses.  All of them should require training, testing, recertification and liability.  A gun license should place very strict obligations on the gun owner.  And once you have licensure in place, it’s a lot easier to identify an illegal gun and more importantly, an illegal gun owner.

You might wonder, since criminals break laws, what good a licensing scheme would be?  With laws in place you can come down harder on a criminal caught with a gun – some laws already go there. And you would have law-abiding citizens with guns, which would give the criminals something to think about.

The first-level license would be approximately like the current Illinois FOID card.  You can own them, buy ammo, etc.  But every gun needs to be registered and a ballistic sample taken.  You need to have a locking enclosure and a homeowner’s liability insurance rider.

The second-level license would be a concealed-carry license.  You have to pass rigorous training and you get to carry one, specific registered weapon of limited type. You leave it home when you fly.  And you’re legally liable if the gun is stolen so load up on the insurance, baby.

The third-level license would allow you to carry your gun pretty much anywhere, even on an airplane.  License applications should be reviewed by a citizen’s jury like a trial, to limit political clout.  Most third-level licenses would answer some demonstrable professional need.

That’s the legal stuff.  Now for some practical stuff.  People who live in “nice” neighborhoods may not recognize that some homes do need defense.  But defending one’s home against criminals is NOT a simple problem.  The scenario in most people’s minds is this: you are sleeping and you hear someone break in.  You get your gun and force them to flee, or shoot them.  That’s a small minority of home invasions.  Odds are good you won’t have a chance to get to your gun.

I grew up in a house full of guns, so I have handled and fired most of the common types.  Handguns are a poor choice for home defense – they require a lot of skill and if they are stolen, are easy to conceal for crimes.  For most homes, a shotgun is probably better – easy to use, effective, and so intimidating it may not be needed.  And it won’t go through your wall and across the street and kill your neighbor.  Me, I keep an old golf club around, somewhere.  I live in a neighborhood that is quiet enough for a gun to be a bigger hazard, statistically, than the likelihood of a home invasion (which has to be further divided by the likehood that I could effectively use a gun to counter one).

I don’t know why Americans are so gol-durned het-up on guns; we just are.  There’s no one-size fits all solution to it either.  Switzerland is awash in guns too, but their murder rate is far below ours.  But they have a lot less poverty and racial strife than we have.  Maybe that’s the big difference?  But criticisms of American culture reinforce my point that we need long-term solutions, meaning structural, even foundational changes in American society.  Until then, we need improved gun control, much improved criminal control, some government control (stop the war on drugs and stop treating drug users like criminals), and ever-better emergency medicine. 

Finally, I am extremely uneasy with removing anything from the Bill Of Rights.  Our country is what it is; let’s start thinking up ways to live with ourselves.

OK folks, hit me with it: what do you think?  Let’s see if we can figure something out that isn’t just rhetoric.

Categories: Issues, observations

Expensive Cheapening

March 17, 2008 6 comments

I try to save being offended for things that matter.  Janet Jackson’s wardrobe didn’t malfunction enough as far as I’m concerned.  OK, I’m joking there – I can think of lots of wardrobes I’d like to see malfunction before that one.  But there’s a jewelry store here in town that has actually succeeded in offending me.  I had a view of this sign while eating breakfast last Friday:

Honestly, I can’t figure out who this sign is not insulting.  Women?  Shallow, and give out sexual favors based on expensive baubles.  There’s a word for that… can’t think of it just now.  Men?  Guys, treat your wives like, um… that word again.  It’s not about partnership, or relationship, it’s about manipulation and a fair medium of exchange.

Children?  Hey kids, see this sign?  Be sure to grow up into stereotypical consumers!  This is what adult relationships are about, manipulating your partner and enriching so-and-so’s jewelry!

The same jewelry store has a whole campaign based on this concept.  A diamond necklace; “Wife insurance”.  Ring with huge rock on it; “Hey, your daughter’s engagement ring is bigger than yours!”  A fabulous broach; “Apologize like you mean it”.  And many more. 

I know, I know, it’s commercialism. I guess no standard is too low… 

Categories: Issues, observations

But how do we draw “bright idea lightbulbs” over cartoon heads now?

June 21, 2007 1 comment

I often change bulbs in LCD projectors.  The high-pressure bulbs run so hot they require elaborate cooling fans, yet still shorten the life of the rest of the projector.  Picture quality degrades as they near end-of-life, and a new bulb (often with less than 1,000 hours on it) costs $350.

Various LED arrays stacked with optical columnators come to mind, but here’s another idea I like a lot: the microwave lightbulb.  Far more efficient (and thus cooler-running) and it wouldn’t die. It would vastly improve the economical practicality of classroom projection systems.  It could even be used in other applications like room lighting. 

(from Pure Pedantry)

Categories: Issues, observations

Open thread: best way to “help The Poor”

July 18, 2006 28 comments

The comments on the previous thread, “Line in the sand have veered off onto a tangent that I believe deserves its own thread.  The question is: “Supposing you do want to help the poor, HOW?”  What is the best way to go about it?  You can even knock Bush, defend Bush, remember Johnson, promote libertarianism – whatever you think contributes to the topic.  Don’t hold back!

I’ll check in on this thread in a few days to contribute a thought or two.

Categories: Issues, observations

What has changed since last Christmas?

December 11, 2005 3 comments

At the store where my son works, corporate headquarters decided everyone should greet customers with the phrase; “Happy Holidays!”  There have been a few incidents of customers coming completely unglued, screaming at the poor clerks that they’re ruining Christmas because Jesus, something, blah-blah…

What has changed since I last wrote about this issue in a post entitled, Merry Christmas, Macy’s?

The “Christmas war” has been ramped up a little bit.  In his book, The War On Christmas,  author John Gibson complains that those awful secularists are trying to ruin Christmas by removing ‘any mention of Jesus’ from the public square.  But several things have not changed.

That uber-Pinhead, Bill O’Reilley, is still exploiting the issue for ratings and personal aggrandizement.  The ACLU is still not trying to remove Christmas from the marketplace, and they are still opposing tax-funded promotion of any one religion over another.  They have still not sued any private entity, store, or person for any expression of faith.  They are still being accused trying to destroy Christianity while defending the right to expression of faith.

Another thing that has not changed is that it is still extremely bad manners to take offense at a blessing or when no offense is intended.  If there are legal issues to address (such as if tax dollars are involved in the promotion of a religion), then address them.  But it is idiotic to harrass anyone for a friendly greeting.

I am an atheist – I don’t believe in your god.  I might be annoyed if you back me into a corner and start preaching to me.  But if you wish me a ‘Merry Christmas’, or a ‘Happy Holiday’, I’ll smile back and wish you the same.  Christmas is both a religious and secular holiday, enjoyed by people of all faiths and no faith whatever.  What could possibly be wrong with good wishes?

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Categories: Issues, News

Islamic Feminists

October 28, 2005 1 comment

You have to admire the courage to take on a seemingly impossible task -  BBC News: Islam feminists urge gender jihad.

Organiser Abdennur Prado Pavon says the struggle for gender equality in Islamic countries involves refuting chauvinist interpretations of Muslim teachings.

I wish them luck.  If it has been an uphill battle in our culture…


Categories: Issues, News

Drop your daughter off here

August 19, 2005 3 comments

Apparently jokes about sexual predation are still considered funny:

Stephanie Oberlander, The Pantagraph, 19 Aug 2005

Classy, very classy.  It’s Fall semester move-in time, and I’m sure the university appreciates the image these fine young men help project.

That reminds me; I’ve been meaning to write about Lynn Johnston’s comic strip, “For Better or Worse” and her treatment of a stalker/rapist.  She is a pioneer who introduced the first gay character to a mainstream newspaper comic and raised the realism of family life portrayal to a new level.  In a recent story line, she has written one of her main characters in danger from a co-worker:

To my knowledge this is the first portrayal of sexual violence in a mainstream comic.  There are so many levels on which the series illuminates the horror of such an attack; the main character is someone we readers have followed since childhood – in a sense she is daughter to each of us.  She is panicked, and her attacker is having a great time, totally oblivious to or even enjoying the pain he is causing.

Maybe it will make people think.  The next time someone says; “She said no, but I knew she meant…” the response will be hard opposition instead of silence.

Unfortunately Johnston is planning to retire soon because of a painful neck condition that interferes with her drawing.  But her writing is first-rate and I wish she could get someone else to draw.

Quote for the day:
“Men are afraid women are going to laugh at them.  Women are afraid men are going to kill them.”
Gavin DeBecker, author and security consultant

1. This post was edited for clarity after its original posting. 

Categories: Issues, News, observations

What’s a filibuster good for?

April 28, 2005 1 comment

Senate Republicans are bent out of shape at the Democrats’ use of a filibuster to block the worst of Bush’s judicial nominees.  They actually want to change the rules of Senate debate to get their way.

I remember similar blockage on Clinton’s nominees, but never mind that.  The important thing is, they could stop this filibuster with only a three-fifths majority.  Any nominee capable of bipartisan support could sail right on to a vote, and probably pass.  But these nominees are so obviously partisan they can’t get a single Democrat’s nod.

I’d feel pretty good about a judge who got votes from both sides of the aisle.

Same thing with line-item veto.  Everyone knows that spending lines are tacked onto “must-pass” legislation that have nothing to do with the primary purpose of the bill.  Fine; I have no problem with that.  A presidential line-item-veto holds those dubious items up to a higher standard that requires a supermajority (enough to strike down a presidential veto) to pass.

There’s the principle: dubious things should require a higher standard. 

Now on to the campaign to break the filibuster.  The Republicans claim that the Democrats are “trying to keep people of faith out of the judiciary.”  This is nonsense of course but it makes good press.  There are lots of people of faith in the judiciary, nominated by Democrats and passed with bipartisan support.

The Republicans appear to want “people-of-faith- who-agree-with-us- on-every-hot-button-issue.”  Well that’s a very different goal, and quite unhealthy from a constitutional perspective.

It doesn’t speak well for the credulity of religious voters that they don’t see how shamelessly they’re being maniupulated for political gain.  The bible has something like a dozen verses about homosexuality, and over two thousand about helping the poor.  Drunkenness is clearly condemned in the Bible, yet no one proposes making alcohol illegal because we dun’ tried that and it worked about as well as the war on marijuana.  The first four commandments are clearly sectarian and have no place in American law.  Abortion was common during biblical times, yet is never directly mentioned in the Bible.  There are even fake quotes from Thomas Jefferson and George Washington floating around that try to make them look like they wanted a Christian government.  It should raise serious concern when someone tries to (literally!) re-write history.

What’s an activist judge?  Pretty much any judge who does something you don’t like.  But often the judges (who are in a more secure position that any politician and thus more independent) are our only hope of anchor against the winds of political fashion.

Categories: Issues