Sunday, March 01, 2009

Sunday Morning: Ice, Snow, and Good News

Sunday morning here, my neighborhood is buried in ice and snow. It seems to have stopped falling but Sue says there will be more tonight. A couple of days ago it might have been sixty degrees out, you didn't need a jacket. This morning I look out the window of my warm house with gentle jazz guitars improvising on the radio, and life doesn't seem so bad.

It has been amazing and wonderful to read the newspaper these days. The front section is just one story after the other about how the new guy is cleaning up, turning things around. The economy, the war, education, the environment, health care, everything. Did you hear him say out loud this week, "The United States does not torture?" A few months ago you couldn't get the President or any of his people to say that, because it wasn't true. The United States tortured people and they were proud of that. That's pitiful.

If you follow this blog you know that lately I have been on a bit of a kick about marijuana laws. I just seems royally dumb to me to arrest people for smoking marijuana. I personally don't like to smoke marijuana, so if you are a policeman please don't come to my house and dump my drawers out. I knew a guy that that happened to once, they kicked in his door and destroyed his house, beat him up, didn't find anything. I knew another guy who had had some bad guys break into his house and tie him up and steal everything he owned. When he called the police they basically ignored that and brought in experts to look at his tomato plants to make sure they weren't, you know, marijuana. It's crazy, marijuana is bad because it's bad. It's illegal because it's against the law, and that's it. When someone is arrested for smoking pot their real crime is ignoring meaningless and arbitrary lines in the sand that have been put down by white men in suits for the purpose of penalizing failure to respect authority sufficiently. There's nothing more to it.

Especially, think about people who are sick, cancer patients mostly, who use marijuana to beat the pain, to make their lives livable. The federal government has been arresting those people for the crime of failure to respect authority sufficiently. But now the new Attorney General is going to stop that:
Attorney General Eric Holder said at a press conference Wednesday that the Justice Department will no longer raid medical marijuana clubs that are established legally under state law. His declaration is a fulfillment of a campaign promise by President Barack Obama, and marks a major shift from the previous administration.

After the inauguration, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) continued to carry out such raids, despite Obama's promise. Holder was asked if those raids represented American policy going forward.

"No," he said. "What the president said during the campaign, you'll be surprised to know, will be consistent with what we'll be doing in law enforcement. He was my boss during the campaign. He is formally and technically and by law my boss now. What he said during the campaign is now American policy." Holder Vows To End Raids On Medical Marijuana Clubs

See what I'm talkin bout? I love reading the newspaper these days.

I also take some gloating pleasure when I see survey results like these: Porn in the USA: Conservatives are biggest consumers. Turns out the Very Moral state of Utah leads the nation in paying for Internet porn. Whatever, I hope they enjoy themselves, I just wish they didn't try to get everybody else to obey some moral standard that they themselves can't stick to.

In other news, the conservatives had a big convention this week, CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference. You gotta watch some of this stuff. It's cool to watch Rush Limbaugh and Joe the Plumber rise to the top. I'm sure they can lead their political movement to great success. Look out, liberals! [Note: links updated]

Speaking of which, I see in the news that Joe the Plumber came to DC this week for a book signing. The Post covered it:
About 11 people wandered into the rows of seats set up hopefully in the basement of a downtown Border's bookstore to hear Joe speak. Joe addressed them from behind a lectern and with a microphone, but that seemed unnecessarily formal. Joe the Author, Plumbing New Lows in Interest

Well, that's the liberal Washington Post, you know, probably distorting the numbers. There might have been fifteen people there, maybe even twenty, browsing in the bookshelves but listening.

In our county, the Citizens for a Responsible Whatever are outraged and indignant about a video used in the schools that shows some teenagers dealing with the consequences of having sex. Well, the girl considers having an abortion, you know they have to throw a fit about that. Let me point out something obvious here. Abortions are legal, it's better if you can avoid the circumstance altogether but there is a time and place for it. About half of American teenagers have sex before they graduate from high school, and a nontrivial proportion of them get pregnant. It is the responsibility of the schools to tell them what their options are, and one of the options, whether you like it or not, is abortion.

But the worst thing is -- the characters in the video are black. And you know what that means. It means that everything they do is stereotypical. If they use slang, if they watch a game on TV, if they dance, if they eat, or heaven forbid if they drop a terminal "g," they are being portrayed as stereotypes, according to the CRW, who are very outraged by the racism of it all. Because, to the CRW, the stereotypical black teenagers in this video are "ignorant, ill informed, and ill educated" -- exactly the stereotype, right? You know, the Citizens for a Responsible Whatever just care about racial equality, that's why they want the schools to pull this video. They do not, repeat do not, hold racist attitudes themselves.

If you read their letters and if you have been following our little controversies over the past four or five years, you will recognize that both the letters sent to the school district subtly reminded the district of past lawsuits, with the implicit hint being that there could be more. The CRW has sued so many times I can't possibly recount them all. The Montgomery County Public Schools go to a lot of trouble to develop new curricula and materials. Not only are a bunch of educators involved, but they bring in citizens to review everything, and further the Board is elected by the citizens, so they are responsive to things that might make them unpopular. The Superintendent is appointed by the Board, and he also has to be to be politically aware. The stuff that happens in classrooms, in other words, is not just the product of a gang of far-left liberal metrosexual educators, there is a lot of opportunity for public input. There is a vast process for implementing materials, and someone who is interested in having their opinion heard has many opportunities to be part of it. You can even go to the school board meeting and sit in front of them and speak for two minutes, anything you want to say. They'll listen to you, I've seen it many times.

But the CRW doesn't want to obey the rules, they have no concept of following the official process. Instead, they make things up, they complain to the media, and they sue. Why don't they follow the process? The answer is really pretty simple, there are two things. The opinions of the CRW are 1.ridiculous and 2.unpopular. When you look at what they're saying, there is simply nothing to it. For instance, in this video, there is no racial stereotyping. The CRW thinks that any video with black people in it is making a statement about black people, that's all, because in their mind every black person is either an instance of a stereotype or an exception. The objection that the video is racist is ridiculous. Further, people in this county simply disagree with the CRW's views. Most of us in the county do want our students to get good comprehensive sex-ed, most of us do not hate gay people, most of us understand abortion to be a difficult choice that a woman makes but a choice nevertheless -- most of us do not believe high-school students are ready to become parents. The CRW can never get their ideas implemented here, because people here consider their dream to be a nightmare. There may be places in the country that would approve, this isn't one of them.

Well, whatever, they live to antagonize, there is just one important thing now, and that is for the school district to show the fortitude not to cave. There will be threats of lawsuits, there will be inflammatory words, and we've been through this again and again. The simple truth is that our community cannot let a tiny minority of radicals impose their values on the rest of us.

Well, I have had nearly a whole pot of coffee. The snow stopped and started again and seems to be slowing down but I think we will get a lot tonight, won't we? Somebody is playing a flamenco guitar on WPFW and the morning paper is sitting there unread. Time to get this day on the road, it looks like.

21 Comments:

Blogger David S. Fishback said...

Jim,

Thanks for linking the video a few days ago. I just got the chance to view it.

At the beginning, I was unsure as to whether it was appropriate, but as the story developed, I could see how well it was put together, notably in raising issues for discussion: The young man's ignorance of certain details of when a woman can get pregnant; the bases underlying his statement that it would be "over" if his girlfriend chose an abortion; the young man's pretty unrealistic assessment that they could just go ahead and raise a family at the ages of 17 and 18; the practical concerns expressed by the girlfriend's mother (and her unconditional love for her daughter, even as she was outraged by the pregnancy); the discussion between the young man and his mother about whether he was acting like his apparently absent father; the pregnant young woman's friend's statement about adoption while in the abortion clinic; whether the couple's reconciliation at the end is despite having an abortion or despite not having an abortion -- and how the different scenerios would play out.

CRC calls it "Soft porn." Not even remotely close. The tough question educationally is whether it advances the story to show the lead-up to and (in a totally non-pornographic way) what could be viewed as the "consummation." And it is unclear as to whether the pregnant girl's friend is herself sexually active. Perhaps that, like whether the pregnant girl chose an abortion, is deliberately left as ambiguous. I am sure the Citizens Advisory Committee had this discussion, and it would be interesting to know the details of the discussion.

The review of videos is a serious matter. I am glad that there is an Advisory Committee to make recommendations regarding materials presented by the staff. Community discussion can be useful, and Jim's linking it can be a real service.

March 01, 2009 9:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"....the young man's pretty unrealistic assessment that they could just go ahead and raise a family at the ages of 17 and 18...."

Why is it unrealistic to think that they couldn't raise a family? I know plenty of people, including my spouse, niece, nephew, the neighbor who lives next door, the four kids of one of my best friends, the two kids of one of my sister's best friends, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., who wouldn't be here today if their parents had thought that their pregnancies should have been aborted simply because they were 17 or 18.

And, of all of these people, I don't know of ONE who regrets having their child. I've had this discussion with lots of people I know. If they could have gone back to when they were 18, they laugh when I ask whether they would have aborted their children. I hear a resounding NO from every single one.

March 01, 2009 10:19 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

David,

Thank you for that analysis. I think a very important lesson from your essay is that ambiguity is the most important aspect of this video, because it mirrors the conflicts and choices that exist in real life. The conservative extremists have absurdly tried to reduce every human and social issue to black-and-white for decades now, most famously GWB's line, "You're either for us or against us."

That Anon's family is proud of having had children as adolescents in a world where a college education is not a luxury but a necessity just shows how much more work we have to do to educate our youth to make responsible decisions.

I don't think it's a surprise that those states with the highest teen-age pregnancy rate have the highest rates of divorce, sexual abuse, child neglect, and dependence on government handouts.

March 02, 2009 9:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Absolutely I'm proud of my family. You need to stop stereotyping people, Dana. People juggle family, work and school all the time by working hard.

March 02, 2009 11:46 AM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

And what do we know about the outcomes of teenager motherhood?

The CDC reports:

Unintended pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of morbidity for women, and with health behaviors during pregnancy that are associated with adverse effects. For example, women with an unintended pregnancy may delay prenatal care, which may affect the health of the infant. Women of all ages may have unintended pregnancies, but some groups, such as teens, are at a higher risk.

Another CDC report states:

When teens give birth, their future prospects and those of their children decline. Teen mothers are less likely to complete high school and more likely to live in poverty than other teens. Pregnant teens aged 15–19 years are less likely to receive prenatal care and gain appropriate weight and more likely to smoke than pregnant women aged 20 years or older. These factors are also associated with poor birth outcomes.

In 2006, a total of 435,427 infants were born to mothers aged 15–19 years, a birth rate of 41.9 live births per 1,000 women in this age group.1 More than 80% of these births were unintended, meaning they occurred sooner than desired or were not wanted at any time. Although pregnancy and birth rates among girls aged 15–19 years have declined 34% since 1991, birth rates increased for the first time in 2006 (from 40.5 per 1,000 women in this age group in 2005 to 41.9 in 2006).


AP reports on the recent increase in teen pregnancy after 14 years of decline:

"...Mississippi's rate was more than 60 percent higher than the national average in 2006, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. The teen pregnancy rate in Texas and New Mexico was more than 50 percent higher.

The three states have large proportions of black and Hispanic teenagers - groups that traditionally have higher birth rates, experts noted.

The lowest teen birth rates continue to be in New England, where three states have teen birth rates at just half the national average.

...Some experts have blamed the national increase on increased federal funding for abstinence-only health education that does not teach teens how to use condoms and other contraception. They said that would explain why teen birth rate increases have been detected across much of the country and not just in a few spots. "


Let's not forget the numbers from 2002 show that childbirth is more than 11 times more risky than abortion. Why do anonymous wingnuts like to encourage teenage girls to take the highest risk option (childbirth) rather than teach them how to protect themselves by being abstinent or properly using a condom or even mentioning abortion is an option when they are not? Do they want this reversal in the trend of teen pregnancies to continue to grow?

March 02, 2009 12:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the introduction of comp sex ed in the 70s did more to promote teen pregnancy than any other factor

history calls you a liar, Bea

March 02, 2009 1:22 PM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

the introduction of comp sex ed in the 70s did more to promote teen pregnancy than any other factor

Right, the sexual revolution of the 1960s had nothing to do with it. (eye roll)

history calls you a liar, Bea

Well if it's because of my comment at 12:33, history would be calling the CDC and Associated Press a couple of liars for citing statistics and "some experts."

Dr. Jacobs is one who is trying to shade the truth when she cites only stats about maternal mortality for abortions in 2002. In fact, comparing maternal mortality for both abortion and childbirth in 2002 shows that childbirth was more than 11 times riskier than abortion.

March 02, 2009 2:14 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

Well, excuse me for thinking that one of the few things upon which we could all agree is that adolescents should not have children. I guess Bristol Palin changed that for you.

March 02, 2009 3:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, adopting 2 children from teens did.

March 02, 2009 7:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Well, excuse me for thinking that one of the few things upon which we could all agree is that adolescents should not have children. I guess Bristol Palin changed that for you."

Maybe someday we'll all agree that if unborn children are inconvenient, killing them is not an acceptable solution.

Then, we could say we are a Great Society.

March 02, 2009 7:55 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

I don't think you'll find a single individual here who likes abortion. We've been trying for decades to make abortion legal, safe and rare. All you've been doing is pushing your absolutist, anti-woman position, while ignoring the reality that has been women's lot for millennia.

When you're willing to work for comprehensive sex education, and make contraception, both preventive and emergency, easily available to prevent even the consideration of abortion, then I will take you seriously.

I don't see that day coming anytime soon, because what you fear most is women's independence and autonomy, but I will still work towards it, and welcome you when you're ready.

March 02, 2009 9:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bea -- You don't decide to kill babies based upon a statistical roll of the dice about their future.

Also, I was at a party a few years ago, and there was a pregnant woman in her early 40s talking with another woman of the same age. This other woman had had her first child at 18, and now both her children were grown and out of the house.

They got into a discussion while I was there. It turns out that the woman who was pregnant for the first time in her early 40s couldn't imagine having had a child at the age of 18. She had lived a good life prior to becoming pregnant -- and had had a great life.

Well, it turns out that the woman who had had her first child at 18 - she couldn't imagine being pregnant now, in her early 40s. She and her husband were young, enjoying life, buying a new beach place, were very involved in their children's successful lives -- having a ball.

March 02, 2009 9:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"All you've been doing is pushing your absolutist, anti-woman position, while ignoring the reality that has been women's lot for millennia."

Dana, every woman alive is someone who wasn't murdered in the womb. Every female baby killed before birth would one day be a woman.

Don't sling your feminist crap.

"When you're willing to work for comprehensive sex education,"

Comp sex ed hasn't been shown to reduce teen pregnancy.

Oh, you could say "that's just because it hasn't been done right".

Of course, you could say the same about ab education.

"and make contraception, both preventive and emergency, easily available to prevent even the consideration of abortion,"

please

contraception is readily available in 21st century America

it has led to more not less teen pregnancy

March 02, 2009 9:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Question about abortion....I've had people on this blog tell me that a fetus is not yet a baby, so it's okay to kill it. Well, some of you think it's okay to kill it only sometimes (like Dana).

This begs the question...if you believe that a fetus is not really a baby, then why in the world do you wish to lower the abortion rate? If a fetus isn't really a baby, then abortion, from that perspective is just a great form of birth control. And hey -- it rids the world of all of those people who, statistically, may get just a bachelor's degree instead of a Ph.D. Or those who might be bookkeepers instead of accountants.

Why even pretend to care about lowering the abortion rate if you feel that a fetus isn't a human?

March 02, 2009 10:29 PM  
Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

Jim writes,

I also take some gloating pleasure when I see survey results like these: Porn in the USA: Conservatives are biggest consumers. Turns out the Very Moral state of Utah leads the nation in paying for Internet porn. Whatever, I hope they enjoy themselves, I just wish they didn't try to get everybody else to obey some moral standard that they themselves can't stick to.

LOL...Jim, Jim, Jim...did you even read the concluding paragraph of this man-bites-dog story? Here, let me share it with you,

On the whole, these adult entertainment subscription patterns show a remarkable consistency: all but eleven states have between two and three subscribers to this service per thousand broadband households, and all but four have between 1.5 and 3.5. With interest in online adult entertainment relatively constant across regions, there's little sign of a major divide.

Could it be that if this were placed at the front of the story it would have invalidated much, if not all, of the subsequent "story"?

And by the way, I don't oppose pornography (which many these days attempt to soft pedal under the euphemism of "adult entertainment") because of some priggish desire to oppress others with my own brand of morality. I oppose it because it treats people (specifically women for the most part) as objects to be exploited for the gratification of others. This is as objectively wrong as was slavery.

While I am saddened that you cannot see this, neither am I surprised, given the level of education you claim to possess.

March 03, 2009 12:49 AM  
Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

Dana Byer writes,

I don't think you'll find a single individual here who likes abortion. We've been trying for decades to make abortion legal, safe and rare.

While I realize this "safe, legal and rare" is an article of faith for progressives, it is no more than an empty-headed nostrum. It is a simple fact with regards to the law that when ones makes something legal they can expect to see more of it.

Come on Dana...we are smarter than that...

March 03, 2009 12:57 AM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

March 03, 2009 8:22 AM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

Really, Orin? Do you think the 40 year "War on Drugs" has cut down on drug consumption? Did prohibition cut down on alcohol consumption?

Life is a little more complicated than that.

March 03, 2009 9:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One abortion is an unacceptable evil.

One drink or one joint is not.

March 03, 2009 10:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That ^ is the opinion of a pot-smoking drinker, and it's worth every penny you paid for it.

March 03, 2009 3:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

well, if you disagree, please explain

March 03, 2009 3:48 PM  

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