Sen. Lanane introduced SB 32 which provides for same day voter registration. The person has to provide proof of residence and complete a voter registration form. I predict that this won’t go anywhere. Fifteen states currently permit election day registration, so it’s feasible. But, my guess is that the voters most likely to benefit from election day registration are less likely to vote for lawmakers currently in control of the General Assembly. Therefore, no dice.
David Mack, writing for Buzzfeed News has a long article on the Tippecanoe County case in which a Purdue student was sleeping in her boyfriend’s bed when another man snuck into the bed and initiated sex with her, knowing that she thought he was the boyfriend. The Purdue student woke up and went along with it because she thought it was her boyfriend in the bed. The guy was charged with rape but was acquitted because Indiana’s rape law only prohibits sex compelled through force or threats, if the victim is mentally disabled and can’t properly consent, or if he or she is unaware that the sex is occurring. None of those elements was present here in the case of this sneak rapist. The woman wasn’t forced or threatened, she wasn’t mentally disabled, and she was aware that the sex was occurring. She was deceived as to the identity of the man who climbed into her boyfriend’s bed.
Prosecutors apparently could have but didn’t charge sexual battery which prohibits someone touching, “for the purpose of sexual gratification, ‘another person’s genitals, pubic area, buttocks, or female breast when that person is unaware that the touching is occurring.'” But, even that only potentially covers the period of time where the guy was trying to initiate sex, rubbing on her and whatnot, while the woman was sleeping. The larger violation here was that he knew she wasn’t agreeing to have sex with him; she was agreeing to have sex with her boyfriend. If it had been her boyfriend, based on subsequent events, it seems like she would have been o.k. with the initiation while she was asleep. So, it’s not even clear that charge would have stuck.
This has led to legislative efforts to address what happened here. But, there are line drawing problems. I think most folks — myself included — are comfortable declaring that what this guy did was a crime and a pretty serious one at that. But what are the outer limits? “I know your consent is not directed toward me but is directed toward someone I’m impersonating with whom you already have an intimate relationship” is definitely fair to criminalize. Opponents of defining consent in the criminal laws to encompass something like this cite fears of over-reaching government and a slippery slope.
Some of that resonates with me. Much as I trust and appreciate our local Prosecutor to exercise sound discretion, you can’t always count on the right person being in that office, so I’m a bit skeptical of the advocate in the story who “rolls her eyes at the notion that prosecutors are going to bring criminal cases against men who falsely tell women they love them to get them in bed. There are evidentiary standards that need to be met, she argues, as well as prosecutorial discretion to pursue only the most egregious cases of deception.” Relying on the tender mercies of a Prosecutor acting in good faith can lead to bad places if the wrong person is in that office. As best we can, we should define as a crime only those things we wish to be prosecutable offenses and try not to rely on prosecutorial discretion any more than we have to.
That said, if a practice is wrong, toxic, and causing harm to some non-trivial cross-section of the public, we shouldn’t be afraid to criminalize the practice simply because it’s common or even if there are going to be some grey areas in hard cases. Wrongful prosecution is always a legitimate concern, but the fact is that instances of women being sexually abused, harassed, and otherwise mistreated are rampant while the number of men wrongfully prosecuted for such abuse, harassment, and mistreatment is and will likely continue to be miniscule in comparison. Ideally, of course, you try to create a system and a culture where none of that happens, but if bad things are still going to happen to good people, we have lots of room to adjust the scales in favor of women before men are in danger of getting worse treatment in this area.
So, if the legislature proceeds, what level of deception rises to a criminal offense? Maybe criminalizing saying “I love you” to have sex is too subjective and hard to prove; but how about saying “I’m not married?” I don’t know what level of crime that ought to be, but I wouldn’t be bothered by that kind of thing being criminalized even if there currently happen to be a lot of guys running around lying about their marital status to get laid. (But, again – line drawing problems – what if it’s a committed relationship rather than a state sanctioned marriage?)
The larger cultural issue is an “all’s fair in love and war” approach to sex — mostly when it comes to men trying to have sex with women. As a guy approaching 50 who’s been married for almost 20 years, I’m not really on the front lines of this sort of thing, but it seems to me that a big part of the problem is men being taught that sexual conquest will earn them a measure of esteem among other men. (Let’s call it the “pussy grabber” effect — something that’s done, not for enjoyment of the act itself, but so a guy can brag about it to P.J. and Squi.) That’s obviously not something the legislature can address directly, but maybe defining “consent” as excluding “consent” obtained by deception would be an indirect step toward reducing women becoming collateral damage of men trying to impress other men.
Dave Taylor, writing for the Tribune Star, has a good article on the efforts of Vigo County to locate a site for a new jail. The county is under pressure from lawsuits about overcrowding at the Vigo County jail. Expansion of the current facility sounds like something of a non-starter because it’s in town and two levels. The idea of transporting prisoners up and down in an elevator in the jail does sound like trouble.
I don’t know anything about Terre Haute or Vigo County, but some of the issues seem familiar to what we have in Tippecanoe County. The proposed new site is on County land near the Wabash River — which is exactly where Tippecanoe County’s current jail is. The move in Vigo County is opposed by an organization called Wabash River Development and Beautification (but commonly known as “Riverscape”). Riverscape is devoted to improving the land along the Wabash River. (In Tippecanoe County, we have an outfit known as the Wabash River Enhancement Corporation doing similar work.) Riverscape objects to using up land near the river as a jail because, in its opinion, doing so would limit options to improve and beautify the River in the future. Vigo County counters that the jail would not be on the part of the parcel adjacent to the River and that the remaining tract would presumably be available for River development. I don’t know anything about the history of Tippecanoe County’s relocation of the jail from in town Lafayette to land near the River, but it was done before WREC was up and running. That notwithstanding, WREC has developed long term plans for the river in Tippecanoe County that accommodate the fact that Tippecanoe County’s jail is in the area.
In any case, this issue is a nice microcosm of the types of cost-benefit analysis and weighing of priorities that local government has to undergo. This is the type of issue that has more of a practical impact on the day-to-day lives of citizens than the big, national issues of the day that consume our attention. So, kudos to the Riverscape folks who are working to transform their stretch of the Wabash into something more livable than what was left behind by heavy industrial uses or uses that tended to crop up along rivers before we were very conscious of urban planning. And kudos to the local officials in Vigo County and Terre Haute who are trying to come to grips with housing inmates in a humane way while being responsible with taxpayer dollars and trying to see that Wabash River is rehabilitated in a way that makes their area a better place to live. I’ve seen the folks in Tippecanoe County grapple with some of these things, and it’s definitely not always easy. But it is important.
My post from Thanksgiving 2008 remains relevant:
So, Happy Thanksgiving everybody. To me, this seems like the holiday that has remained “purest” in some ways. Everybody gets the idea of celebrating things they have to be thankful about by stuffing themselves silly. Commercialization hasn’t really taken over – probably because Thanksgiving is in a sort of consumer rain shadow of Christmas. When the nagging details of day-to-day life get to be a hassle, it’s easy to forget how good I really have it. I have a beautiful, smart, loving wife and two healthy kids who, by initial indications, are sharp as a pair of whips and who still seem to think I’m pretty awesome. I have a roof over my head, and plenty to eat every day. It’s easy to forget that health, food, and shelter aren’t something everybody can take for granted.
On the other hand, Thanksgiving isn’t all happy-happy-joy-joy. I’m a history buff and there is always a Clash of Civilization element in my mind when I think about the holiday. From my Thanksgiving entry last year:
In 1620 a band of religious separatists who weren’t happy with their situation in England (Church of England) or Amsterdam or Leiden (cultural influences) departed for the New World. For some reason, they planned their trip such that they arrived in Massachusetts in December. They found land that had been cleared by a prior Indian settlement and subsequently decimated by disease – most likely smallpox – and were able to settle there during the winter.
Fortunately, a native Patuxet named Squanto who had twice been kidnapped and enslaved by Englishmen was able and willing to translate for the Pilgrims and teach them how to raise corn and catch eel. Having survived their first year by the skin of their teeth and brought in their first harvest, the Pilgrims celebrated their first Thanksgiving 386 years ago.
Considering the fate of the Patuxet really drives home how much we have to be thankful about given the relative lack of plague, famine, and waves of foreigners from across the sea. Squanto, as it turns out, was to be the last of the Patuxet tribe which died out entirely when Squanto died of smallpox in November 1622, about a year after the first Thanksgiving.
So, if you think you have it bad, it could probably be worse. Happy Thanksgiving everybody!
I thought I’d posted about this before, but I couldn’t immediately find anything. I read a post that was skeptical of the universal feasibility of a financial planner’s advice that everyone should have 3-6 months of living expenses saved up for emergencies. It also mentioned that a 29 year old should have the equivalent of a year’s salary in a retirement investment account. And elsewhere, of course, other experts make other recommendations about what a prudent person should be doing with their money: food, shelter, transportation, insurance of various kinds (auto, property, disability, health), saving for college for your kids, paying off student loans, paying off credit card debt if you have it. I’m sure I’ve seen other recommendations.
What I think would be helpful for a state’s population is some kind of model state household budget based on median incomes in the state and perhaps various percentages thereof. Obviously anyone is free to deviate, and it’s no guarantee of success in life. But, there is a lot of financial illiteracy out there, and it would be helpful if there was a model budget that your average citizen could look at and know that, if their family followed those guidelines, they’d be more or less o.k. You should be paying about $x for housing, $y for insurance, putting away $z into your kids college account, etc.
A skeptical part of me thinks that this would never fly, in part at least, because if we mapped it out in one place, there might have to be an acknowledgment that financial prudence isn’t feasible for the average citizen. It might make the economy-as-morality-play model where we blame people for their own economic misfortune a little less viable.
The blog isn’t quite dead yet, though it’s been more and more dormant. It’s been going, more or less, for fourteen years now. So, happy birthday to the blog!
Today marks the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I, “the War to End All Wars.” Once upon a time, we commemorated this as “Armistice Day.” That changed in 1956 to “Veteran’s Day.” In my mind, this shift was unfortunate — not because there is anything wrong with honoring veterans but because we lost something when we stopped honoring the Armistice. We shifted our focus from the end of the fight to those who fought. Warriors are very often noble. War very often is not. When we celebrate the nobility of the warrior we run the risk of forgetting the ignobility of war.
Wars are often petty, pointless, and avoidable. How many of us can say just exactly what the point of World War I was? If you have a reasonable historical background, you can probably describe the causes. But what the hell were they fighting for? Pride, fear, and greed seem like the main motivators. And, of course, there was a huge “sunk cost” component — once the combatants were engaged and once a significant number of soldiers had died in the fight, it was impossible to give up without having anything to show for the sacrifice.
And the sacrifice was immense. The impersonal savagery of war was laid bare, stripped of its romance. Personal valor counted for little in the face of the industrial machinery of death. (At Verdun, the French and Germans fired 1.4 million tons of steel at each other.) Wave after wave of husbands, sons, fathers, and brothers were sent into what amounted to a meat grinder only to claim a few yards of ground; ground that was soon be lost again as the other side reciprocated. After the assault failed, and the attackers retreated to their trenches, they left behind the bodies of wounded men, pinned down under fire, beyond rescue, dying – the craters in which they lay filling with water, temperatures dropping, their moans and screams filling the air. In the trenches, soldiers had to dig ever lower to bury their dead, had to throw their body waste out into No Man’s Land. The horrors go on and on, and I can’t ever do them justice. I wasn’t there, and they are countless. My prose here is perhaps overwrought, but I don’t think I can do justice to what these soldiers went through. They suffered so much for so little.
The end of fighting, the Armistice, was itself a thing that deserves respect. We should continue respecting it by holding war in disdain. War can be necessary. On the American side, World War II and the Civil War seem like “good” wars. The need for World War I, Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq is much less clear. The soldiers who fight them can be heroic and noble and deserve our gratitude. But we should scorn those who rattle sabers, indulge their pride, and regard war as a primary instrument of policy without concern for the inevitable human suffering.
by Ewart Alan Mackintosh (killed in action 21 November 1917 aged 24)
(Private D Sutherland killed in action in the German trenches, 16 May 1916, and the others who died.)
So you were David’s father,
And he was your only son,
And the new-cut peats are rotting
And the work is left undone,
Because of an old man weeping,
Just an old man in pain,
For David, his son David,
That will not come again.
Oh, the letters he wrote you,
And I can see them still,
Not a word of the fighting,
But just the sheep on the hill
And how you should get the crops in
Ere the year get stormier,
And the Bosches have got his body,
And I was his officer.
You were only David’s father,
But I had fifty sons
When we went up in the evening
Under the arch of the guns,
And we came back at twilight –
O God! I heard them call
To me for help and pity
That could not help at all.
Oh, never will I forget you,
My men that trusted me,
More my sons than your fathers’,
For they could only see
The little helpless babies
And the young men in their pride.
They could not see you dying,
And hold you while you died.
Happy and young and gallant,
They saw their first-born go,
But not the strong limbs broken
And the beautiful men brought low,
The piteous writhing bodies,
They screamed ‘Don’t leave me, sir’,
For they were only your fathers
But I was your officer.
Today the news is reporting that a lot of people Trump has named as political enemies have been the subject of attempted bombings. In particular, George Soros, the Clintons, and the Obamas received explosive devices that were apparently similar. CNN’s offices were evacuated after what was suspected to be a pipe bomb. An explosive device addressed to Eric Holder was labeled with a return address for Debbie Wasserman Schultz whose return address also appeared on the bomb sent to Soros. A suspicious package addressed to Maxine Waters was intercepted by Capitol Police and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his Manhattan office received a suspicious package.
As the saying goes, the past doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes. This rash of murder attempts using bombs is reminiscent of the Anarchist Bombings of 1919. Those bombs were carried out by Italian anarchist followers of Luigi Galleani.
In late April 1919, at least 36 booby trap dynamite-filled bombs were mailed to a cross-section of prominent politicians and appointees, including the Attorney General of the United States, as well as justice officials, newspaper editors and businessmen, including John D. Rockefeller. Among all the bombs addressed to high-level officials, one bomb was notably addressed to the home of a Federal Bureau of Investigation (BOI) field agent once tasked with investigating the Galleanists, Rayme Weston Finch, who in 1918 had arrested two prominent Galleanists while leading a police raid on the offices of their publication Cronaca Sovversiva.
. . .
These bombings fed into the Palmer Raids, the Red Scare of 1919-1920, persecution of immigrants, and contributed mightily to the rise of J. Edgar Hoover and all of the civil rights abuses he stood for.
Some of the bombs at that time were accompanied by a flyer that said:
War, Class war, and you were the first to wage it under the cover of the powerful institutions you call order, in the darkness of your laws. There will have to be bloodshed; we will not dodge; there will have to be murder: we will kill, because it is necessary; there will have to be destruction; we will destroy to rid the world of your tyrannical institutions.
The Palmer Raids were a series of raids to capture and arrest suspected radical leftists, mostly Italian and Eastern European Jewish immigrants (especially those accused of being anarchists and communists), and deport them from the United States. Palmer had told a House Committee sometime earlier that radicals would “on a certain day…rise up and destroy the government at one fell swoop.” A trial run by Palmer was thrown out on First Amendment grounds and he learned to take advantage of “powerful immigration statutes that authorized the deportation of alien anarchists, violent or not.” A young J. Edgar Hoover led the effort, and the raids led to thousands of arrests, many of them legally dubious.
I can’t say what the fall out from today’s bomb attempts will be, but likely nothing good. Opponents of Trump will claim, with justification, that his rhetoric concerning his political opponents is dangerous and condones violence. His supporters who don’t think the violence is justified will likely dismiss the bombs as unrelated to his rhetoric or as a false flag operation. The government can use the attempts as justification for diluting civil liberties and cracking down on disfavored and politically weak groups, be they immigrants or some other undesirable group. Threats of violence will further exacerbate tribal divisions among U.S. citizens, as citizens with differing political opinions increasingly seeing each other as enemies rather than adversaries.
The Lancet has published a study by Gregg Gonsalves and Forrest Crawford finding that earlier implementation of a public health response could have reduced the scale of the HIV outbreak in Scott County. According to the study, the upper bound of undiagnosed HIV infections in Scott County peaked at 126 on January 10, 2015, about two months before Governor Pence declared a public health emergency. The total number of HIV infections was estimated to be 183-184 by August 11, 2015.
Initiation of a response on Jan 1, 2013, could have suppressed the number of infections to 56 or fewer, averting at least 127 infections; whereas an intervention on April 1, 2011, could have reduced the number of infections to ten or fewer, averting at least 173 infections.
Dr. Crawford in a news release summarizing the study said:
Our findings suggest that with earlier action the actual number of infections recorded in Scott County — 215 — might have been brought down to fewer than 56, if the state had acted in 2013, or to fewer than 10 infections, if they had responded to the HCV outbreak in 2010-2011. Instead they cut funding for the last HIV testing provider in the county.
According to a New England Journal of Medicine study, “free HIV testing had not been available in this community since a Planned Parenthood clinic closed in 2013.” Detection could have taken place earlier if there was a better health system in place. Even after the problem was detected, there was resistance to intervention because of moral concerns. Doctors Josiah Rich and Eli Adashi do a good job of explaining the competing policy views:
The tug-of-war in and around NSEPs and syringe access laws is an ideological one. To some, NSEPs condone and encourage drug use, dissuade injection drug users from seeking help, signal governmental acceptance of illegal behavior, perpetuate the cycle of drug crime, contradict law enforcement efforts, and threaten public health and safety. According to Robert Martinez, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy from March 1991 through January 1993, NSEPs “undercut the credibility of society’s message that drug use is illegal and morally wrong.”4 Framed in this fashion, injection drug use represents a voluntary lifestyle choice by individuals free of behavioral disease. Viewed in this light, NSEPs undermine the “war on drugs” and its attendant drug-control policies. To others, NSEPs constitute patient-centered constructs designed to assist those whom the International Classification of Diseases defines as having “mental and behavioral disorders due to psychoactive substance use.” These patients have a chronic relapsing disease that is amenable to intervention were they not stigmatized, incarcerated, deprived of employment, or kept at arm’s length from medical care. They have been ostracized and marginalized for want of effective outreach.
Ultimately, I think the evidence is on the side of needle exchange programs. Despite what one’s gut reaction might be to the programs, they do more to prevent harm than they do to increase harm. And, ultimately, that’s the moral calculus that policymakers should look at.
I watched the Fred Rogers documentary last night. (I’m not crying. *You’re* crying!) Mr. Rogers was a pretty strong example of the immense good that religious faith can bring into the world. I’m not a religious man myself, but it’s clear that Mr. Rogers’ faith drove him and informed his work in the world. There are a lot of loud mouths who do a lot of bad in the name of God. It’s important to remember that there are also a lot of people quietly doing good because of their faith as well. (And people doing good and bad without religious guidance as well.)
But, I digress before I even got started. One scene that really got to me was a series of opinion columns and television shows where people were arguing that Mr. Rogers had corrupted a generation or two of kids by telling them that they had inherent worth. This is the crowd that is desperately worried about participation trophies. These folks argue, perversely, that we’re damaging kids by telling them that they have worth.
I’m ultimately skeptical that the people who are critical of participation trophies are motivated by a deep concern for the children involved. At some level, I think these people don’t feel good about themselves or their own accomplishments unless someone else is losing. And/or they have some vague notion that the world these days is bad compared to the past and, what the hell, let’s blame it on people mollycoddling kids these days. (Lack of historical knowledge and nostalgia goggles let them overlook that the past, by and large, was a comparatively crappy place to live.) I don’t know, maybe their own parents beat them and told them they were losers. It’s too painful to think mom & dad were jerks or incompetent parents, so they turn that pain into a virtue. “It was for my own good.”
In a similar way, I think the idea of hell has its roots in the “can’t win unless others are losing” mentality. There is a sizable group of people who seem to relish the idea of others suffering in hell every bit as much as they look forward to their own divine reward. If I had to guess, I’d say that the group who finds a lot of value in the idea of hell probably has strong, negative opinions about participation trophies.
Competition is good. It hones skills and adds excitement to an activity. But the idea that a person doesn’t have worth outside of winning and losing is pernicious. It adds unnecessary pain to the world. Somehow the idea that the world can be made better by being nice to each other and helping one another has become subject to scorn and ridicule. It’s unicorns and rainbows. Cooperative and respectful isn’t the same thing as “weak.” I don’t think Fred Rogers was anyone’s doormat. If you look at what he accomplished and how he accomplished it, I think you’ll find a strength of will that most of us have not developed.
Anyway, be nice to each other. It doesn’t mean you’re weak. We can and should aspire to make the world better. Not winning isn’t the same as being a loser.