Thursday, February 24, 2011

Proof of the Hypocrisy or That Sign Was True

I want to try to synthesize two ideas that I’ve written about over the last week. On Friday, I posted the entry “Neatly Packaged Hypocrisy” in which I shared a case of blatant hypocrisy and noted how rare it was to see hypocrisy so neatly packaged for display. And on Tuesday (well, almost Wednesday morning), I posted this photo in the entry “Best Protest Sign Ever?” (I’ve cropped the photo to make the sign easier to read):

246351255 So now I want to give an another example of neatly packaged hypocrisy (though not quite as neat as the homophobic tattoo) that supports what that sign is saying.

First, let’s look at Indiana House Bill 1210, sponsored by 54 of the 60 House Republicans (at least I’m pretty sure that all 54 of the sponsors are Republicans; it’s possible that a few are Democrats, but I’m certain that the vast majority are Republicans…). Here are a few of the things that HB1210 would do:

  • It makes the following “finding” on behalf of the Indiana General Assembly (even though the finding is not actually supported by science, notwithstanding the claims to the contrary in the bill): There is substantial medical evidence that a fetus at twenty (20) weeks of post-fertilization age has the physical structures necessary to experience pain.
  • It would require that a doctor tell a woman seeking an abortion (even though these statements are not supported by medical science):
    • the potential danger to a subsequent pregnancy;
    • the potential danger of infertility;
    • the possibility of increased risk of breast cancer following an induced abortion and the natural protective effect of a completed pregnancy in avoiding breast cancer; and
    • that medical evidence shows that a fetus can feel pain at or before twenty (20) weeks of post-fertilization age.
  • It would also require that the doctor tell the woman that “human physical life begins when a human ovum is fertilized by a human sperm” even though fundamental questions regarding the beginning of life are inherently personal in nature and the statement required likely conflicts with certain religious traditions.

The bill has other restrictions and limitations as well, but those described above give a nice overview. Other anti-abortion bills have also been introduced, including one to ban all abortions (Senate Bill 290) and another to defund organizations like Planned Parenthood (House Bill 1205). HB1210 appears to have enough support to pass and be enacted; we’ll have to wait and see the fate of the other abortion bills (there is apparently discussion at the Statehouse of rolling other abortion bills into HB1210 as a sort of omnibus abortion bill). Oh, one more thing: HB1210 even includes a provision to establish a defense fund to pay for the cost of defending the bill from litigation challenging its constitutionality (recall that Indiana is flush with cash right now … oh, wait … sorry … we’re in a budget crisis).

Thus, I think that it is fair to say that Indiana’s Republicans want to limit abortions or, said another way, protect fetuses.

Now, with the provisions of those abortion bills in mind, let’s turn our attention to House Bill 1226. Unfortunately, the bill is long and difficult to read (because it deals with numerous sections of the Indiana Code). However, the portion that I want to focus on deals with amendments to Indiana Code § 12-17.2-6 dealing with “child care ministries”. In essence, a child care ministry is an unlicensed child care facility operated by a religious organization. Here are a few of the requirements that HB1226 would have required of child care ministries (and note that these requirements are included to address actual, real world problems):

  • To maintain a written policy that the use of tobacco, illegal drugs, or alcohol be prohibited in the child care ministry while child care is being provided;
  • To maintain at least one working telephone and emergency contact information for each child;
  • To provide “appropriately timed, nutritionally balanced meals and snacks in sufficient quantities to meet the needs of each child”;
  • To maintain “availability of drinking water at all times” and have both hot and cold running water;
  • To have at least one exit that does not require passage through garage or storage area where hazardous materials are stored and is not a window, is not blocked, and is “operable from the inside without the use of a key or any special knowledge”;
  • To conduct fire drills;
  • To be sure that firearms, ammunition, poisons, and other chemicals are placed in areas inaccessible to children; and
  • To have working smoke detectors.

Hard to argue with any of that, right? After all, we’re talking about taking care of children. And proponents of the bill included eyewitness testimony from Indiana officials (including the police) describing the deplorable and unsafe conditions that they’d seen in childcare ministries. Well, guess what? Those same Republicans who want to stop abortions and protect fetuses are against adding these additional protections into the law. Why? Because it would interfere with the choices being made by these ministries in how to care for children. The bill was heard in committee, but the chair refused to even call it for a vote (after all, it just might be hard to explain to constituents why you voted against a bill like this one).

Thus, to reiterate, in order to protect fetuses, Indiana Republicans are willing to require doctors to lie to their patients, give them information not supported by medical science, and make statements that may contradict with religious beliefs. But at least the fetus will be safe. However, once that fetus is born, should the parents send the child to a child care ministry for care, that child will not necessarily have the benefit of being kept away from tobacco, drugs, or alcohol, get adequate meals or drinking water, have a safe emergency exit, be kept away from guns or poisons, or have the benefit of a working smoke detector.

Now go back and look at that photo again: “If you want a REPUBLICAN to care about you REMAIN A FETUS”. When we compare these two bills that I’ve described, it’s hard to take issue with the statement in that photo. And it’s hard to escape the hypocrisy of a viewpoint that will go to such lengths to prevent abortions but which is so callous to the safety of actual children.

Is this why people voted Republican?

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Best Protest Sign Ever?


It’s late and I’m tired. After a really interesting day in Indiana politics, I decided to check Twitter one last time before going to bed and I came across this photo (linked to by Little Green Footballs). I had to post this before going to bed. That sign (the one in the upper left for those who were unsure) sums up, so perfectly, so much about my feelings about today’s Republican party. This may just be the best protest sign ever. I’m thinking that Democrats and those who favor women’s reproductive rights and … well, everybody who isn’t a Republican … should get shirts and signs with that phrase and start wearing and posting them from now until the 2012 election.

Oh, and for anybody reading on a smartphone or who otherwise has trouble reading the sign, it says:

If you want a REPUBLICAN to care about you REMAIN A FETUS

Update: Grr. For some reason the photo disappeared overnight. I’ve reposted the entry.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Neatly Packaged Hypocrisy

I came across the following photo on Twitter this morning (posted by @shortstack81 retweeting @scibuff who, in turn, had linked to this article from Technoccult). It provided an easy opportunity to show just how completely and totally hypocritical (and probably clueless) some people really are when it comes to using their religious beliefs as a basis for discrimination against homosexuals:

leviticus tattoo Why is this anti gay Leviticus tattoo extra absurd?

Apparently, this photo is a screenshot from a 2009 TV news segment about an attack on a gay man. The man pictured in the photo is identified as a friend of one of the attackers. For those who can’t quite read the tattoo, it says:

You shall not lie with a male as one does with a woman. It is an abomination. <Leviticus 18:22>

So what’s so funny or hypocritical about this photo? Well, let’s jump ahead to the next chapter of Leviticus (just 50 or so verses later):

You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord.

Leviticus 19:28 (emphasis added).

Apparently, in the sick world in which this guy lives, it is important to follow G-d’s commandments … except for the commandments that you choose to ignore.

What are the chances that this Bible-thumper even knows that in demonstrating his commitment to G-d’s commandments, he’s violated another of those commandments?

I point out this kind of Biblical hypocrisy all the time when people quote some sections of the Bible to justify hatred of or discrimination against homosexuals but ignore sections of the Bible that tell them not to eat pork or cut their hair or whatever. But rarely does hypocrisy come quite so neatly packaged for display.

If you’re interested in the video of the original news report (it contains some very disturbing footage of the man being beaten), I’ve embedded it below. You’ll note that the guy with the tattoo says that the beating wasn’t a hate crime.

By the way: So long as we have legislators willing to enact legislation discriminating against homosexuals instead of protecting minorities and recognizing equal treatment for all, then behavior like this will likely continue. Racism, bigotry, and hatred will not be defeated so long as it is tolerated or even endorsed by laws and legislators.

Oh, and did I mention that the Indiana General Assembly voted against a bill that would have strengthened anti-bullying legislation for schools because some legislators were worried about the First Amendment rights of kids who wished to express their disapproval of gays.

Is that why people voted Republican?

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Newest Republican Plan to Stop Abortions: Legalize the Murder of Abortion Providers

Let’s start with the actual text of South Dakota House Bill 1171 (the underlined text is what the bill would add to South Dakota’s existing laws):

FOR AN ACT ENTITLED, An Act to expand the definition of justifiable homicide to provide for the protection of certain unborn children.
    Section 1. That § 22-16-34 be amended to read as follows:
    22-16-34. Homicide is justifiable if committed by any person while resisting any attempt to murder such person, or to harm the unborn child of such person in a manner and to a degree likely to result in the death of the unborn child, or to commit any felony upon him or her, or upon or in any dwelling house in which such person is.
    Section 2. That § 22-16-35 be amended to read as follows:
    22-16-35. Homicide is justifiable if committed by any person in the lawful defense of such person, or of his or her husband, wife, parent, child, master, mistress, or servant, or the unborn child of any such enumerated person, if there is reasonable ground to apprehend a design to commit a felony, or to do some great personal injury, and imminent danger of such design being accomplished.

Now let’s back up for a moment. HB 1171 would amend the definition of “justifiable homicide”. Go back and read the bill without the underlined material and you will, I think, have a better understanding of current state of the law in South Dakota. In essence, the law says that I’m permitted to kill someone if I’m doing so to protect myself, my wife, my parents, or my child from being murdered or if there is reasonable ground to believe that I or my wife, parents, or child might be subject to “great personal injury”. (I’m not sure about the reference to “master, mistress, or servant”…) So, if an armed intruder enters my house, I’m probably within my rights (if I am in South Dakota) to shoot and kill the intruder. Similarly, if I’m mugged by an armed assailant, I’m probably within my rights to kill the assailant. If I get into a fight at a bar, and I’m reasonably concerned that the person I’m fighting with might do me great personal injury, then I’m probably within my rights to shoot to kill. There might be something to quibble with here and there, but I suspect that most would agree with those broad concepts (although the last example might be pushing things…).

But now go back and read the bill again, this time including the underlined material. Then, try to analyze the following situations and, for each situation, tell me if the homicide that I describe would be “justifiable” in South Dakota if HB 1171 were enacted into law:

  • A woman becomes pregnant. She and her boyfriend argue about whether to terminate the pregnancy. The woman decides to get an abortion after the boyfriend refuses to marry her and tells her that he won’t pay child support. While she is in the clinic, the boyfriend bursts in and kills the abortion provider before he can terminate the pregnancy.
  • A husband and wife mutually decide to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. The wife’s mother, an anti-abortion activist, walks into the clinic and shoots the abortion provider.
  • A woman who had decided to obtain an abortion changes her mind just as the procedure begins. She panics and shoots the doctor.
  • A father rapes and impregnates his teenage daughter. She seeks an abortion, but her father, the rapist, kills the abortion provider.
  • A woman decides to have her friend drive her to a clinic in Iowa where there is easier access. Her boyfriend, thinking that the fetus is his, kills the friend to prevent her from taking the woman to the clinic.
  • A woman learns her that her pregnancy endangers her own life and that she probably could not carry the fetus to term successfully and therefore decides to have an abortion. Her husband doesn’t believe in abortion and kills the abortion provider.

As I read HB 1171, in each of the foregoing examples, the person who committed the murder could claim justifiable homicide because in each example, the triggering event would either be “likely to result in the death of the unborn child” or would “do some great personal injury” to the fetus.

Do we really want a legal system that condones murder as a way to stop an abortion? Do we really want a legal system that condones murder by a rapist, estranged boyfriend, or deranged anti-abortion activist as a way to stop an abortion?

And just for “fun”, think about the following scenarios:

  • A pregnant woman asks her husband to stop smoking around her and tells him that the secondhand smoke could harm the development of the fetus. The husband refuses to stop smoking, so the woman shoots him to protect her “unborn child”.
  • A pregnant woman lives in a town that the EPA has noted has unsafe levels of mercury in the drinking water. She asks the mayor and town council to do something, but they refuse. So she shoots them to protect her “unborn child”.
  • A pregnant woman asks her boss for some additional time off of work before she is due to deliver. He refuses (even though the law says that she should be given time off). The mother tells the boss that if she has to keep working right up to her due date, it could harm the fetus. The boss still refuses. So she shoots him to protect her “unborn child”.

Yeah, I know those examples may be a stretch, but read what the bill says would be a justifiable homicide.

A few additional points worth noting:

South Dakota already has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, and one of the lowest abortion rates. Since 1994, there have been no providers in the state. Planned Parenthood flies a doctor in from out-of-state once a week to see patients at a Sioux Falls clinic. Women from the more remote parts of the large, rural state drive up to six hours to reach this lone clinic. And under state law women are then required to receive counseling and wait 24 hours before undergoing the procedure.

Before performing an abortion, a South Dakota doctor must offer the woman the opportunity to view a sonogram. And under a law passed in 2005, doctors are required to read a script meant to discourage women from proceeding with the abortion: "The abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being." Until recently, doctors also had to tell a woman seeking an abortion that she had "an existing relationship with that unborn human being" that was protected under the Constitution and state law and that abortion poses a "known medical risk" and "increased risk of suicide ideation and suicide." In August 2009, a US District Court Judge threw out those portions of the script, finding them "untruthful and misleading." The state has appealed the decision.

South Dakota Moves To Legalize Killing Abortion Providers”, Mother Jones, February 15, 2011. And, it is also worth remembering that since 1993, eight doctors have been murdered by anti-abortion activists and seventeen others have been targeted. Moreover, in the recent trial of the killer of Dr. George Tiller (who Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly repeatedly referred to as “Tiller the Baby Killer”), the defense attempted to raise a defense of justifiable homicide. The judge rejected the defense.

Following the firestorm that has erupted in the wake of the initial attention given to HB 1171 by the Mother Jones article, Greg Sargent, writing for The Washington Post, described his interview with HB 1171’s sponsor, Phil Jensen:

[H]e defended the bill, arguing that it would not legalize the killing of abortion doctors.

"It would if abortion was illegal," he told me. "This code only deals with illegal acts. Abortion is legal in this country. This has nothing to do with abortion." In other words, since abortion is not "homicide," the law could not apply.

Jensen's defense of the bill, however, is unlikely to make abortion rights advocates any happier, since he seemed to dismiss as irrelevant the possibility that the measure could inflame anti-abortion fanatics to violence.

Jensen insisted that the bill's primary goal is to bring "consistency" to South Dakota criminal code, which already allows people who commit crimes that result in the death of fetuses to be charged with manslaughter. The new measure expands the state's definition of "justifiable homicide" by adding a clause applying it to someone who is "resisting any attempt" to murder of an unborn child or to harm an unborn child in a way likely to result in its death.

When I asked Jensen what the purpose of the law was, if its target isn't abortion providers, he provided the following example:

"Say an ex-boyfriend who happens to be father of a baby doesn't want to pay child support for the next 18 years, and he beats on his ex-girfriend's [sic] abdomen in trying to abort her baby. If she did kill him, it would be justified. She is resisting an effort to murder her unborn child."

Pushed on whether the new measure could inflame the unhinged to kill abortion doctors, as some critics allege, Jensen scoffed. "You can fantasize all you want, but this is pretty clear cut," he said. "Never say never, but if some loony did what your suggesting, then this law wouldn't apply to them. It wouldn't be justifiable homicide."

Asked whether he was conceding that the law could conceivably encourage such behavior, Jensen pushed back: "You could cross the street and get hit by a car. Could happen, couldn't it?"

I don’t know about you, but I find Rep. Jensen’s explanation to be completely implausible. Why? Well, go back and read HB 1171 again, without the underlined material. Then think of how the existing law would apply to the situation that Rep. Jensen described. Wouldn’t the woman already be justified in killing her ex-boyfriend to protect herself? Adding the language regarding the “unborn child” adds nothing at all to the situation described by Rep. Jensen.

Moreover, look at Rep. Jensen’s defense with regard to how people are reading his bill. The problem seems to be that Rep. Jensen is one of those legislators who doesn’t really understand how the law works. The question is not what was in his mind when he wrote the bill or what “ill” he sought to address; rather, the question is what does the bill actually say. Of course, the simple remedy would be to add some kind of language to the law that says that it is not justifiable homicide to try to prevent a legal abortion. Perhaps, had Rep. Jensen simply said, “Gee, that’s an interesting point and a legitimate criticism of the language. We’ll add some language to address that concern,” then we could chalk the whole thing up to sloppy language and failure to think through the unintended consequences of proposed legislation. However, the fact that the bill’s sponsor is unwilling to concede that, as written, the bill goes far beyond his intent, demonstrates to me that he is either being disingenuous or simply lying. Given the way the legislature of South Dakota has addressed abortion previously …  well, I’ll let you decide what you think.

Is this why people voted Republican?


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Friday, February 11, 2011

Can Somebody Help Me Understand…?

One of the constant arguments by those opposed to same-sex marriage is that by allowing homosexual couples to marry, the institution of marriage or the sanctity of marriage is somehow being damaged or diluted. Opponents of same-sex marriage (and proponents of constitutional amendments to define marriage and/or ban same-sex marriage) speak of the “harm” that would be caused to marriage if gays are allowed to marry. But, in all honesty, though I hear this argument over and over, I don’t understand it.

Sure, I understand the superficial appeal of the argument, but I don’t understand what it really means. I suspect that it’s simply some kind of code for “gay marriage is icky and we don’t like it” or “G-d says homosexuality is wrong” but formulating the argument in those ways is less appealing to all but the most religious or conservative voters. So I’m asking those of you who oppose gay marriage or who want to see the Constitution amended to define marriage as solely between a man and a woman to help me understand what is meant when people say that the institution or sanctity of marriage will be damaged or diluted. Explain it to me.

And be very, very specific. I’ve heard the broad outlines plenty of times. What I want to understand is how, precisely, marriage will be damaged or diluted. What does that mean and how will actual, real, living, breathing, heterosexual married couples or their marriage be harmed.


When you’re explaining it, please keep a few things in mind. These are some of the arguments that I’m likely to use in response. Your explanation doesn’t do much good if it doesn’t try to go beyond platitudes and really tackle the substance in detail.

For example, Larry King and Elizabeth Taylor have each been married numerous times (I’m not sure I can count that high). So too have both Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich (who, if memory serves, had an extra-marital affair while he was presiding over efforts to impeach President Clinton for lying about a blowjob). Britney Spears was married for 52 hours. All of those marriages were heterosexual marriages. So please explain how allowing two loving, committed homosexuals to marry will do any more harm to the institution or sanctity of marriage than King, Taylor, Limbaugh, Gingrich, or Spears. Again, please be specific. You might also want to address the issue of infidelity, especially among elected officials (remember Sen. Vitter or Gov. Sanford?) in your analysis.

Also, when articulating your response, please don’t talk about procreation. All too often, opponents of gay marriage point to the “purpose” of marriage being procreation and argue that, because gay couples can’t procreate, they shouldn’t be married. If you insist on discussing procreation as a part of your argument, consider whether the argument against marriage on the basis of procreation should also apply to anyone who is sterile, to post-menopausal women, or to anyone who does not want or does not intend to have children. If the procreation argument applies to gays but not to those who can’t or won’t bear children, then please explain why gays — and only gays — are being treated differently. Oh, and in providing this part of your explanation, consider gay couples who may choose to have a child with the assistance of a donor or surrogate or who choose to adopt a child. Do those situations have any impact on your procreation argument? One more thing: If the purpose of marriage is procreation, should engaged couples be forced to sign a binding agreement to either have children or to adopt (or otherwise lose the benefits of being married)?

If you plan to argue that allowing gays and lesbians to marry will cause heterosexual couples to elect not to get married, please provide some empirical evidence to back up the assertion. It’s easy to say if X then Y (if I belch twice, sneeze, and fart really loudly while singing “My Way”, the moon will fall out of orbit and cause pandas to become extinct), but without empirical evidence, your assertion is just as silly as the one that I just made. If you believe that heterosexual couples will stop getting married, point to supporting evidence (how has gay marriage impacted heterosexual marriage in Iowa or Massachusetts?). And consider that there are statutory and economic benefits to getting married, so be sure that your response considers the cost-benefit analysis to heterosexual couples deciding not to get married. And be sure that your evidence demonstrates that heterosexual couples choose not to get married because gays can marry and not for some other reason (like viewing marriage as an old-fashioned institution or not economically beneficial).

If what you mean by the “sanctity” of marriage has something to do with religion, consider a few things. For example, if the sanctity of marriage is a religious issue, then why is the government involved in marriage at all? Why isn’t marriage simply left to individual faiths without involvement from government? Why do you need the government to recognize your religious institution. The government doesn’t recognize baptism, confirmation, bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah, or communion. Nor does government tell us who can be baptized, confirmed, have a bar or bat mitzvah, or take communion. (In fact, in a way, the opposite is true: The government tells us that you have to be 21 to drink alcohol, but recognizes an exception for religious observances.) So why is marriage special?

Similarly, if marriage is a religious institution, why are those from different faith traditions who may have different views of marriage allowed to share in the ritual of marriage. For that matter, why are atheists allowed to marry? I know that this is a dangerous place to go, but if marriage is a religious issue, then why don’t we permit polygamy (for faiths that allow it) or require a man to marry his brother’s widow (as required by the Bible)? My suggestion, in explaining how gay marriage will “damage” the institution of marriage is to avoid religion altogether. But if you insist on bringing religion into your explanation, please provide a detailed explanation of which religious rules you don’t follow and the basis in choosing not to follow those rules (i.e., show me the “pick & choose” clause of your particular religious text); pay particular attention to rules attendant to marriage and family.

And if your concern is simply that the definition of “marriage” has a particular meaning in society that should not be changed, can you explain the problem with giving gay couples something precisely equal to marriage in all respects other than use of the term “marriage” (such as civil unions)? How will allowing a gay couple to share in property, make medical decisions together, visit one another in the hospital, and be beneficiaries of tax, inheritance, and other property laws harm your marriage, especially if that gay couple is only “unionized” or “joined” or “naimisissa” — just not “married”?

Finally, if gays are allowed to get married, will you get divorced? If you’re not yet married, will you refuse to get married because gays are also allowed to marry? Be honest.

So, please help me understand this component of the argument against gay marriage. But make it worth my while and don’t waste my time with arguments that are going nowhere. Help me understand why you oppose equality and want to stop loving couples from having the same rights that you have. Help me understand. But if you can’t articulate a cogent argument, then perhaps you should re-examine your own thoughts on the subject.


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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

You Have Got to (Cluck) Be Kidding Me

As I think I’ve previously said on an occasion or twelve, constitutions (whether that of the United States or the State of Indiana) are important documents. They represent the basic framework under which our government works and provide a broad description of rights retained by citizens. Constitutions are for the “big stuff” and aren’t the place to deal with the mundane.

Now, if you thought that this post was going to be about my opposition to the proposed amendment to Indiana’s Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage (and take away the right of a future General Assembly to redefine marriage or create civil unions) then you’ll have to wait for another day (or go read this post or this post or any of these posts). Rather, I want to look at one of the dumbest proposed constitutional amendments that I’ve ever seen:

The people have a right to hunt, fish, harvest game, or engage in the agricultural or commercial production of meat, fish, or poultry, which is a valued part of our heritage and shall be forever preserved for the public good, subject to laws prescribed by the General Assembly and rules prescribed by virtue of the authority of the General Assembly.

That is the text of Indiana Senate Joint Resolution 9, sponsored by Indiana state Senators Brent Steele (R-Southern Indiana) and Jim Banks (R-Northeast Indiana). If adopted, this provision would be enshrined in Indiana’s Bill of Rights.

There are so many problems with this proposed amendment that it’s hard to pick a good place to start.

First, is this really the sort of provision that needs to be added to our Constitution? And, just in case you’re not sure, here are the titles of all of the other provisions in Indiana’s Bill of Rights:

Inherent rights · Right to worship · Freedom of religious opinions · Freedom of religion · No religious test for office · No state money for religious institutions · Religion no bar to competency of witnesses · Mode of oath administration · Freedom of thought and speech · Libal, truth as defense [sic] · Search and seizure · Openess of the courts, Speedy trial [sic] · Rights of accused, Rights of victims · Double jeopardy and self-incrimination · Rights of persons arrested · Excessive bail or fines, Cruel and unusual punishment · Bailable offenses · Penal code and reformation · Criminal cases—Jury determination · Civil cases--Right of trial by jury · Compensation for services and property · Debts—Imprisonment exemption · Equal privileges and immunities · Ex post facto laws · Laws—Taking effect · Suspension of laws · Habeas corpus · Treason defined · Treason, proof · Effect of conviction · Right of assemblage and petition · Arms—Right to bear · Military · Quartering of soldiers · Titles of nobility · Freedom of emigration · Slavery—prohibition

If you’re curious about any of those rights, I encourage you to take a few minutes to read them (I bet very few Hoosiers have ever actually read even a small part of Indiana’s Constitution).

But anyway, does the right to “hunt, fish, harvest game, or engage in the agricultural or commercial production of meat, fish, or poultry” belong in that list. How does it compare to things like the right to worship, freedom of religion, search and seizure, double jeopardy, right of trial by jury, and slavery? Think about how our Bill of Rights would read: “… Section 36. Freedom of emigration. Section 37. Slavery—prohibition. Section 38. Freedom to hunt and raise poultry.” Wow, what a modern state we must be!

And, though I said above that this was not a post about the proposed Marriage Discrimination Amendment, consider for a moment that Republican lawmakers seem to think that the definition of marriage and efforts to prohibit same-sex marriage are, effectively on par with the right to raise poultry. I’m not sure if that tells us that banning same-sex marriage really isn’t that important, that hunting and fishing are way too important for some, or that some (most?) of our lawmakers simply don’t understand what the Constitution is and isn’t.

Think of some of the other “rights” that we all know that we have but that aren’t in the Constitution: the right to procreate, the right to name our children as we choose (not true in some European countries…), the right to marry who we want (within limits … sorry … couldn’t resist). I could go on and on. There are plenty of things that we can do that we haven’t bothered to put into our Constitution. Why is hunting, fishing, and the production of poultry so important? There are also many things that are important parts of our heritage that aren’t enshrined in our Constitution. Where is the right to play basketball?

And as I read the proposed amendment, it talks about the “agricultural or commercial production of meat, fish, or poultry”. What about the agricultural or commercial production of corn, soybeans, or whatever other agricultural products Hoosiers might want to grow? Why is the agricultural or commercial production of animals protected in the Constitution, but the agricultural or commercial production of crops not protected? Are animals more important to Hoosier heritage and the public good than crops? And while I presume that pork (“the other white meat”) is included in the definition of “meat”, I also note that the edible portion of a fruit or nut is also called “meat” — so, it would appear that the proposed amendment is only biased against vegetables (and I can’t remember: Is a tomato or fruit or vegetable?).

Moreover, it seems to me that the very language of the proposed amendment demonstrates that it is, in fact, worthless. After all, the rights of the people set forth in the proposed amendment would be “subject to laws prescribed by the General Assembly”. Well, does that mean that the General Assembly could ban hunting? Could the state ban pen hunting (“hunting” animals caged in a  pen)? Can the State require a hunting or fishing license? If so, how does that relate back to the very concept of hunting as a right of the people? I mean, if it’s a constitutional right, how can I not be eligible for a fishing license? If it is a right, how can the General Assembly pass laws that take that right away (or restrict it beyond a “reasonable time, place, and manner” — a phrase often used when discussing limitations upon constitutional rights)? And what of limitations on any of these rights already enshrined in Indiana’s laws? Are they void unless re-adopted in accordance with this new provision of the Constitution?

What about laws regulating farming or livestock production? Could the State prohibit the use of bovine growth hormone? Could the state even set standards for “organic” without running afoul of someone’s constitutional right to produce meat, fish, or poultry? Could the State ban certain types of meat, fish, or poultry because, for example, they are harmful to indigenous species or just harmful, in general? What if I want to produce lions, tigers, and bears? Oh, my!

Plus, think of the havoc on local zoning ordinances or covenants affecting many neighborhoods. Most zoning ordinances limit or restrict agricultural activities in certain areas. Would those ordinances now run a-fowl (sorry, couldn’t help it…) of the Constitution? Would the provision in a neighborhood covenant prohibiting homeowners from keeping livestock be void? Can you imagine your neighborhood after one neighbor decided to do some squirrel hunting in his backyard and another decided to raise poultry?

I’m also curious about the meaning of the phrase “shall be forever preserved for the public good”. What does that even mean? Does it mean that the right is a public good or does it mean that hunting, fishing, and production of poultry is a public good? And how are we supposed to preserve either of those things for the public good? If someone doesn’t want to fish or hunt or have livestock, must we require them to do so? What would happen if the last poultry farm in Indiana wanted to close? Would we have to have a state-owned poultry farm? And by “public good” do we mean that the product of the agricultural production of meat, fish, or poultry (as opposed to the commercial production of meat, fish, or poultry) is a resource belonging to the State and its citizens?

Sen. Vi Simpson (D-Bloomington) sought to have the phrase “or gardening” added to the proposed amendment. I suspect that her interest was less in protecting gardening and more in showing how truly silly this proposed amendment really is. Her proposal failed. In any event, 6 Republicans and 2 Democrats voted to pass the proposed amendment to the Indiana Constitution and send it to the full Senate for a hearing (1 Democrat and 1 Republican did not vote).

Hey, I’ll acknowledge that I’ve gotten a bit slap-happy as I’ve written this post. I have a hard time taking it seriously. But I’m not laughing at the notion of adding something like this to our Constitution. That is not a laughing matter. I believe that our Constitution should be a place to enshrine rights of Hoosiers. But let’s not clutter it up with things like this proposal; let’s save amendment to the Constitution to the “big stuff” — like, say, recognizing same-sex marriage…

Update February 5, 2013: Just correcting some annoying typos. Also, please note that I wrote the foregoing before the following was added to the bill:

Hunting and fishing shall be the preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife. This section shall not be construed to limit the application of any provision of law relating to trespass or property rights.

Finally, please note that the Indiana General Assembly did pass this proposed constitutional amendment in 2011.


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Friday, February 4, 2011

Is This Why People Voted Republican?

I’d hoped to post more this week, but after my week without Internet, I’ve had to deal with Icepocalypse 2011. I’m still trying to dig out (both literally and metaphorically and both at home and at the office). Thus, this post will be shorter on detail and citation than is my norm.

Anyway, a few weeks before the November 2010 elections, I wrote a series of posts (“Do We Really Want the Insane Right to Gain Control?” and “Do We Really Want the Insane Right to Gain Control? (update)”) in which I briefly examined some of the Republican candidates for office. Well, thankfully, some of the crazier candidates were defeated (Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell, for example), but many more were elected. So now that the election is over, let’s take a brief look at some of the legislation being proposed, both in Congress and across the country. And for those of you who voted for Republicans in November, ask yourself these two questions: 1) Was this kind of legislation the reason that you voted for a Republican and 2) how many jobs will this kind of legislation create?

I think my “favorite” (heavy dose of sarcasm…) bill so far (which was thankfully dropped earlier this week) was the effort to redefine “rape”. For those who haven’t followed this story, it is truly mind-numbing. At present, the law does not allow Federal funds to be used for an abortion (e.g., funds from Medicaid); however, there are exceptions in the law for the protection of the life of the mother, rape, and incest. Well, Congressional Republicans (and a handful of Democrats) decided that they didn’t much care for these exceptions because, you know, that might allow for a few more abortions. So they sought to limit the rape exception to cases of “forcible rape” (which was not defined). In other words, Federal funds could not be used for an abortion in a case of statutory rape. Just think about it: A 24 year old teacher has sex with a 14 year old student or a pair of 13 year old kids "experiment". Whoops, not a “forcible rape” (even if state statutes call it rape). Or a sorority girl gets really drunk or us given a date rape drug and "consents" to sex (or is unconscious). Tough luck. And how about sex with a mentally disabled girl who can’t actually give consent? The bill would have also excluded incest if both people are over 21. How about that mentally disabled girl who was “raped” (but not forcibly) by her father or brother? Nope, no abortion funding allowed. I understand that some people oppose abortion, but how many opponents of abortion really want to stop abortions in those sorts of situations? Is this why people voted Republican?

Not to be outdone on the issue of rape, a Georgia legislator (ordinarily, I’d include links, but as I mentioned in the intro, time is short…) has introduced legislation to prohibit rape victims from being called “victims” until the accused rapist is convicted. Until then, the victim is merely an “accuser”. Note that the legislation would not require the same terminology in the case of a murder victim or the victim of a mugging or burglary or any other crime. Nope. Just rape victims — oops, sorry, accusers —would be singled out. Is this why people voted Republican?

Here in Indiana, Republicans want doctors to tell a woman that a fetus might feel pain — even though science doesn’t support that. And Republicans want to be sure that Planned Parenthood doesn’t get any state funding (forgetting, of course, that Planned Parenthood provides many services other than abortion, including birth control). Indiana Republicans also want to prohibit insurance policies from covering “elective” abortions without a separate rider (and who thinks to acquire a separate rider for an abortion, especially if the abortion is necessitated by rape). Indiana Republicans have also sought, once again, to define human life as beginning at conception (see my post “Keep Your Religious Doctrine Out of My State's Laws” from January 2008). And Indiana Republicans have sought to ban all abortions in Indiana unless a doctor certifies that the abortion is necessary to save the mother’s life. Apparently, one of the sponsors of the bill wants this statute to be the test case to take to the Supreme Court of the United States to challenge Roe v. Wade. Is this why people voted for Republicans?

In Congress, Republicans made a big show of trying to vote to repeal health care reform. Note that they voted on the idea of repealing reform before even presenting their own plan to replace the health care law if they could manage to get it repealed. And in states all across the country, Republicans are introducing legislation that would allow their state to “opt out” of the health care reform passed by Congress. Forgot for a moment the Constitutional problems with allowing states to opt-out of Federal laws. Instead, think about what opting out would mean for citizens of a state that opts out (or of the country as a whole if Republicans were successful in efforts to repeal the law without having a plan to replace it). OK, perhaps that would mean that citizens wouldn’t be subject to the mandate to buy insurance. But it would also mean that insurance companies could drop them if they became sick, could refuse coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions, could drop kids from parents’ plans, could impose lifetime limits, and the list goes on. Note that so far as I’ve been able to discern, none of these opt-out proposals include legislation to extend rights to citizens in the states; rather, they only seek to remove the “burden” of the Federal health care reform legislation. Is this why people voted Republican?

Similarly, Republicans are also introducing legislation in some states to allow the state to “veto” Federal legislation that the state doesn’t like. Apparently, these legislators are unfamiliar with both that little spat often referred to as the Civil War and the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution (Article VI, Clause 2):

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.

Is this why people voted Republican?

Many states are also wasting time worrying about the imposition of Sharia law and passing laws to prevent courts from considering Sharia or foreign laws. (I plan to write more about this later…) It is worth noting, however, that most states have laws specifically incorporating foreign law (the English common law). Moreover, I suspect that the Republicans pushing these sorts of bills have no understanding that following Sharia for a Muslim is not much different than keeping Kosher for a Jew or following the rules set forth in the Bible for a Christian. I guess if we can’t look to foreign laws, then the Ten Commandments will certainly be out. But I digress… And again, I ask, is this why people voted Republican?

Guns are also a favored subject these days. Across the country, Republicans have introduced legislation to loosen gun control regulations. After all, the shooting in Tucson certainly showed that the availability of high capacity magazines and the ability of people who might be mentally unstable to get weapons isn’t strict enough (another dose of sarcasm…). Several states are looking to adopt new provisions regarding carrying concealed weapons, including on college campuses (even in classrooms). Here in Indiana, Republicans have proposed legislation to prevent an employer from asking an employee or prospective employee about gun ownership and to allow a person to carry a licensed weapon onto school property so long as the person isn’t a student. (How comfortable would you be knowing that a parent visiting your kids school might have a concealed gun?) And I can’t help but include the digest of Indiana Senate Bill 506 (emphasis added):

Allows a person to carry a handgun on or about the person's body without being licensed to carry a handgun if: (1) the person is in or on property, or in a vehicle, that is owned, leased, rented, or otherwise legally controlled by the person; (2) the person is lawfully present in or on private property, or in a vehicle, that is owned, leased, rented, or otherwise legally controlled by another person; (3) the person is carrying the handgun at a shooting range, while attending a firearms instructional course, or while engaged in a legal hunting activity; or (4) the handgun is unloaded and securely wrapped.

Read the introduction and clause (2) again and then tell me where the person isn’t allowed to have an unlicensed gun. As I read that digest, a person could have an unlicensed handgun on my property and there would be nothing that I could do about it (other than, I suppose, kick them off my property if I found out). But remember that last year Indiana adopted a law that prohibited employers from declaring their property “gun free” zones. Is this why people voted for Republicans?

And before we leave the subject of guns, it is worth noting the novel idea that has been proposed by Republicans in South Dakota. In an effort to try to show that the Founding Fathers would not have approved of the mandate provision of the health care reform legislation and that the mandate is unconstitutional, South Dakota Republicans have introduced a bill to require all residents of South Dakota to purchase a firearm. Do we really think that encouraging people (let alone requiring people) to have weapons is a good idea? But the funny part of this is that rather than demonstrate how the health care mandate may be unconstitutional, South Dakota Republicans may, in fact, have done just the opposite. You see, in response to this bill, some folks did a little bit of historical research (something that Republicans seem to have a wee bit o’ difficulty with) and learned that — are you ready for this? — while George Washington was President, Congress enacted a law requiring that all citizens own a firearm! Yes, our first President, Father of the Nation, signed into a law a mandate requiring citizens to purchase something! (And don’t forget during Adams’ presidency [I think; maybe it was Jefferson?], Congress enacted a law mandating the 18th Century equivalent of health insurance for seamen.) Hmm. Is this why people voted for Republicans?

In state after state, Republicans are proposing legislation like that adopted in Arizona, to enact racial profiling into their laws in the hopes of stopping illegal immigration. Here in Indiana, Republican legislators want to prevent the State of Indiana from printing documents in any language other than English because, you know, doing so might actually help someone who doesn’t look and talk like the rest of us. Is this why people voted for Republicans?

In quite a few states, Republican legislators have introduced “birther” legislation that would require Presidential candidates to prove that they are natural born citizens. Gee. I wonder why Republicans feel this legislation is necessary? Is this why people voted for Republicans?

Republicans have introduced legislation to protect teachers who want to teach “alternative science” — you know, like creationism, that global warming is a myth, vaccines cause autism, the planets and sun orbit the Earth, the Earth is flat, Jesus was … OK, fine. I won’t go there. But is this why people voted for Republicans?

In Congress, newly elected Senator Rand Paul has proposed eliminating (or nearly so) the Department of Education, the Department of Energy, the Centers for Disease Control, the Food and Drug Administration, and numerous other departments and programs. And remember, he’s a doctor! He also wants to eliminate all foreign aid, including all foreign aid to Israel (he calls it “welfare”). Is this why people voted for Republicans?

And finally, in state after state, Republicans are trying to pass laws or even amend state constitutions to ban same-sex marriage. Is this why people voted for Republicans.

It was my understanding that Republicans were concerned with the economy and job growth. It was my understanding that the Tea Party was concerned with the so-called erosion of individual liberty. Yet across the nation, Republican legislators are introducing legislation to tackle social issues while ignoring the economy, often at the expense of individual liberty. Or, said another way, individual liberty is a good thing, but only if it’s the “right kind” of individual liberty; otherwise, Republicans want to ban it. Finally, consider whether these bills will create jobs or help the economy.

Is this why people voted for Republicans?

If not, let your Republican legislator know that these kinds of bills are not why they were elected. Let them know why they were elected. And remind them that another election is coming…

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Responding to a Threat of Violence

Long-time readers of this blog will know that I disagree with many of the positions of Indiana Sen. Mike Delph (R-Carmel). However, despite the fact that I disagree with Sen. Delph, he and I have developed what I believe to be a good relationship, based upon a mutual willingness to engage in good faith, civil discussion of the issues. So, after reading the story “Police probe e-mail threat to state senator” in today’s The Indianapolis Star, I sent the following email to Sen. Delph’s office:

Dear Sen. Delph:

You and I have had several occasions to sit and discuss issues. Rarely have we agreed on much of anything other than that: (a) we disagree and (b) we both value civil discourse and the opportunity to discuss our views and our differences. And though you and I rarely agree, I commend you for always being willing to talk about issues, to listen to opposing viewpoints, and to engage in just the sort of civil discourse and dialogue upon which our governmental system depends.

Given the news about the recent threat against you and your family, I thought that it was important for me to take a moment and reach out. Violence and threats of violence have no place in our system. I think that we all have the obligation, when we see or hear things like this, to stop and say “No! Not in my country! Not in my state.” We may disagree, but our ability to disagree with civility is what separates our system and our society from so much of the world.

I hope that you don’t allow this threat to change your approach to doing what you think is right, yet still engaging in dialogue with those with whom you disagree.

I’ve used the platform of this blog to argue against violence and violent rhetoric. Thus, when violent rhetoric and threats of violence hit close to home, I felt that it was incumbent upon me to at least say something.

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