Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Pro-Death Movement


Author's Note: the following is the fifth draft of a piece I've been mulling over for some time.  Feedback on this issue would be appreciated, as well as any critiques of the logic therein.  
                                              - Jay Batman





As I’ve examined the pro-choice movement in America, I’ve been struck by the cognitive dissonance that permeates its reasoning.  In America, you’re conditioned to accept that corporations are people, too, with rights just like any individual, but the unborn are mere protoplasm and it’s no big deal when you go collapsing the skull of an unborn child in a partial birth abortion or ripping it apart piece by piece in the womb to extract it.  Moreover, you hear women talk about rape and incest, and the horrors of a government that forces a woman to carry the child of their rapist to term.  Well, no.  It’s not that the government is forcing you to carry your rapist’s child to term; it’s that in America, rape and incest aren’t capital crimes for the perpetrator, and so we logically assume that they wouldn’t be capital crimes for the unborn, either. 

            With that said, I don’t blame women for believing what the pro-choice movement puts forth as logic.  Abortion has, for all intents and purposes, become all pervasive in our culture, and the logic that underlies it and enables those who support abortion rights to form a defense of their beliefs has become ubiquitous in our thinking as well.  The woman who buys into the notion that an unborn child isn’t a person because it isn’t viable would never entertain the same viability argument for their mother or grandmother when old age, senility, and general infirmity render them unable to survive on their own without constant supervision and medical attention.  Well, the vast majority of women wouldn’t buy that argument.  The success of the pro-choice movement lies in its incremental advances towards whole sophistry in bioethics, whereby utilitarian arguments somehow seem more logical than arguments that defend such impractical notions as the sanctity of human life.

            Women today are taught that they have a choice; moreover, they are conditioned to believe that the choice is entirely appropriate for them to make.  After all, the unborn child within their womb is a mere visitor, perhaps even an inconvenient or inopportune visitor.  It may not even be a child; rather, it’s a mass of cellular matter. 

            What is indisputable is that every woman-and every man, for that matter-has gone through the same stages of development that encompass zygote, blastocyst, and fetus.  Those are human stages of development, because every human being has to undergo those stages of development.  There are no exceptions.  However, in the name of ideology, we can’t call those stages of development human stages of development.  After all, you wouldn’t reserve the choice to terminate another human being for yourself.  That call is not yours to make.  Most of us understand this simple axiom; those who do not go to prison. 

            The logical extension of the pro-choice movement’s logic is truly monstrous to behold.  Recently, two bioethicists, Alberto Giubilini of Monash University and Francesca Minerva of the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, advocating legalizing “after-birth abortions.”  They were insistent on that term as opposed to infanticide, just as pro-choice advocates prefer abortion to murder.  Giubilini and Minerva explained their rationale with the following:
“Both a fetus and a newborn certainly are human beings and potential persons, but neither is a ‘person’ in the sense of ‘subject of a moral right to life’. We take ‘person’ to mean an individual who is capable of attributing to her own existence some (at least) basic value such that being deprived of this existence represents a loss to her.”

            It isn’t enough to deprive an unborn human being in the earliest stages of development of life; one has to go as far as to offer up the imprimatur of intellectual legitimacy to killing a newborn.  And it’s not even killing, really, because the newborn isn’t a person!

            Would you care to reckon at why Western society has become so degraded over the past forty years?  It’s because ordered society tends to be founded on the recognition that persons are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of their own happiness.  They have a right to life itself, and this basic axiom of human civilization is predicated on the absolute principle that human life is non-negotiable.  The sanctity of human life is the absolute upon which civilized societies are founded.  It is the chief reason why governments are established among men, why systems of law and courts to interpret, apply, and enforce the law are created to offer men a civilized means of redress for grievances rather than the kind of savagery whereby individuals can simply strip another person of their humanity with semantic games and thereby justify killing them. 

            It is no small irony that while most Western nations have abolished the death penalty for crime, they have simultaneously ushered it back in for the unborn.  A murderer is a person; an unborn child is not person, or so goes the reasoning of most Western cultures these days.  And today, the semantic games of redefining who is and is not a person are going further and further, with newborns said to be lacking personhood because they aren’t “capable of attributing to her own existence some (at least) basic value such as that being deprived of this existence represents a loss to her.”   

            Lest you think that the views expressed by Giubilini and Minerva are fringe viewpoints, their articles appeared in the Journal of Medical Ethics, whose editor, Prof. Julian Savulescu, is the director of the Oxford-yes, that Oxford-Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics! Savulescu noted that the Giubilini and Minerva had received death threats in the aftermath of publication, and called those who had made the threats “fanatics opposed to the very values of a liberal society.” 

            Indeed. When two academics can publish an article that constitutes a death threat to every newborn on the planet, they are embodying the values of liberal society, but when people react with revulsion and even rage at their threat, such is the thinking in academia that the latter threat is worse than the former.  After all, the newborn isn’t a person, and Giubilini and Minerva are persons.  They are both capable of attributing to their own existence some basic values such as that being deprived of their existence would represent a loss to them.  Well, folks.  I guess you inflict brain damage and a permanent vegetative state first, and then you may rightly kill them once they have lost the capability of attributing to their own existence such basic value.  Then it’s no big loss when you kill them.   So long as you make sure they’ve first lost that portion of consciousness that makes them persons who value their own lives enough to be cognizant of losing said lives, you’re in the clear. 

            Every murderer on the planet should follow such methodologies from here on out and then argue that they are at worst guilty of assault or battery.  After all, when the killing occurred, the person didn’t possess the requisite faculties to realize that they were losing anything important.  Therefore, the person isn’t a person at all! In truth, the only crime committed against them while they were still a person was the initial battery that destroyed their faculties and rendered them something other than a person. 

            This sophistry, snaking through reputable academic journals, does not require said journals or the wider academic community to tolerate the intolerable in order to maintain a claim to academic freedom.  In free societies or communities, there will always be those individuals who take advantage of freedoms in a perverse way, so that they might use those freedoms as a shield in order to exculpate themselves of any wrongdoing as they work to undermine and overturn those freedoms for other classes of people by using the freedoms they enjoy to accomplish their ends!  In the criminal justice system, we have long recognized as much, and as such we criminalize conspiracy to commit crime as well as the crime itself.  No criminal can appeal to freedom of speech to exculpate himself of a conviction for conspiracy. 

            Likewise, when considering these kinds of abhorrent arguments, the wider academic community owes no duty to those who make such arguments to include them in the pages of journals.  It is highly doubtful indeed that the Journal of Medical Ethics would include the paper of two National Socialist bioethicists arguing that Jews and mud people can be experimented upon like monkeys, rats, or pigs because they lack personhood due to their degraded racial status.  Such arguments are reprehensible, shocking to the conscience, and revolting to the standards of the civilized community at large, and we owe those who make them no duty to disseminate their horrid little arguments to the wider world.  People make these judgments all the time: we call them editors. 

            For a long time, I’ve wrestled with these issues on a personal level as someone who opposes state power.  I’ve journeyed from conservatism to libertarian to minarchist and finally market based anarchist viewpoints in my own thinking, and the idea of a government utilizing force to tell women they must not terminate a pregnancy is something I didn’t much like. 

While I’ve been consistently pro-life throughout that intellectual journey, I’ve been tempted to make exceptions because the pro-choice ideology that threads through our thinking on this issue asks me and everyone else to make a value choice: the mother or the unborn.  It is, like so many other examples of Devil’s calculus, an either/or choice.  Except that it isn’t, when you divorce it from the pro-choice false dichotomy and consider it for what it is.  That child, though it may exist within the womb of its mother, is a distinct entity.  It is a distinct person, entitled to the full measure of rights and privileges that you or I might have.  It may not be able to exercise those rights and privileges to the extent that you or I might be able to exercise them, but that does not make it less of a person. 

            And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why laws and states to enforce laws exist: to give protection to those who are entitled to rights but who cannot yet assert and defend their rights for themselves.  This is the logical explanation of state power as it relates to the unborn.  In the absence of a state, the standards of a community prevail through the voluntary interaction of its members, who may rightfully stand in defense of the unborn by interceding to prevent abortions.  An assault on the right of an unborn child to its life is the same as an assault on the rights of the wider community.

            Contained within this reasoning is another simple principle, one as old as society itself: the absolute sanctity of human life has only one exception, and that exception is the defense of human life.  If someone threatens your life, you may take his or her life.  Self-defense is a valid reason. 

            A woman who finds herself in this situation has a choice to make, and that choice is certainly agonizing: her life or that of her unborn child?  That choice is hers to make, because it involves a clear and present threat to her very life.  She will die if she has that baby, or there is an overwhelming likelihood that she will. 

            But for a woman who simply wants an on-demand abortion, that is not her choice to make. There is no threat to her actual life, just an interruption or inconvenience to her lifestyle as it presently exists. Society has an interest in defending the right to life of the unborn, especially as the unborn cannot defend its own right to life.  If a woman kills her unborn child for the purpose of convenience or preventing an interruption to her lifestyle, then the charge should not be infanticide or any lesser offense short of murder in the first degree.  Unfaithful spouses murder their husbands or wives all the time for the purposes of convenience or getting on with life as they prefer it to be, and they are rightfully charged, tried, and convicted of murder. 

            But let us examine one further inconsistency within the pro-choice movement’s logic: the idea that a group of amendments to one document can be cobbled together to give a woman the right to terminate a pregnancy, when under the same document, a later amendment had to be ratified to give them the mere right to vote! 

            For the pro-choice movement, Roe v. Wade and its companion case Doe v. Bolton were watershed moments.  The Supreme Court found that the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment gave women a right to terminate their pregnancies as part of their right to privacy, which the Court held was protected against state action by the Due Process Clause.  What is more, the Court acknowledged the compelling interest of the state in protecting a pregnant woman’s health and the “potentiality of human life.” 

            Let us consider that at the time the 14th Amendment was adopted, 36 states had laws on the books restricting or limiting abortion.  By the time Roe was written, 21 of those same states still had the exact same laws on the books.  Not one scintilla of evidence could be presented to substantiate the ahistorical interpretation of the 14th Amendment offered up by Justice Blackmun.  That is, no one could find any evidence that any of the 36 states had an epiphany about the 14th Amendment when it was adopted or after it was adopted that compelled them to change their abortion statutes in order to avoid running afoul of the Due Process Clause. 

            It would seem highly unlikely that the writers of the 14th Amendment, or any legal scholar or judge in those times, viewed abortion as a fundamental right meriting protection under the 14th Amendment.  Whatever you may think of abortion, you will find not one shred of textual support at the time or immediately afterwards to lend credence to the notion that people in the 19th century envisioned abortion as a fundamental right like speech, religion, gun ownership, protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, or protection against cruel and unusual punishment.  What you will find is that thinking on abortion had evolved by the 1840s as people became aware that the beginning of life was not the quickening (the time when a mother felt her unborn child kick), but rather the fertilization of an egg.  With that realization, a practice that had largely been legal and unrestricted until the mid-19th century was laden with restrictions to protect human life. 

            In 1869, an AMA committee issued the following statement regarding changing attitudes in the scientific and medical communities related to abortion and the life of unborn children:

        “the frightful extent of [abortion in the US] is found in the grave defects of 
our laws, both common and statute, as regards the independent and actual existence 
of the child before birth, as a living being.  These errors, which are sufficient 
in most instances to prevent conviction, are based, and only based, upon mistaken 
and exploded medical dogmas."

            The pro-choice community selectively excerpts any mention of viewpoints the regarded children as living beings before birth when it examines the history of abortion in this country. They do not tell you that from the time the AMA changed its attitude, states began changing their laws to criminalize abortion.  By 1910 every state had erected statutes restricting or banning abortions, with the exception being Kentucky, whose courts had declared abortion wholly illegal.

            Yes, the earlier stages of the United States’ history were marked by a cavalier view of abortion before quickening, but that changed drastically once science and medicine had realized and documented how conception worked.  States changed their laws accordingly at the behest of the AMA on the very grounds that an unborn child was alive, and even before that point in our history, a child was considered a person to an extent under the law that permitted its mother to be tried for killing it after the moment of quickening.  Four states had passed reform to their abortion laws by 1970, but what no one mentions is that the one state without a residency requirement, New York, had a legislature that had voted to repeal their liberal abortion law only to run into the veto of Governor Nelson Rockefeller. 

            At the time the 14th Amendment was adopted, no state rushed to change its laws on abortion so as to avoid running afoul of the Due Process Clause or any right to privacy protected therein.  In point of fact, until 1967, states weren’t liberalizing their abortion policies, and when they did so, the reasons were never connected to the 14th Amendment or a right to privacy. 

            Common sense would dictate one further observation: a woman who didn’t receive voting rights at the state level under the 14th Amendment or the Equal Protection Clause cannot credibly argue that the same amendment gave them broad rights to terminate a pregnancy when they didn’t even have the right to vote until passage and ratification of the 19th Amendment!  Such a position strains credulity at all levels, and yet Justice Blackmun made just such a contention in his majority opinion for Roe.

            To make the argument that Roe, or any subsequent opinion afterwards, has built a foundation or a framework for abortion rights in the Constitution that makes logical sense is to divorce yourself from logical thought in order to embrace a mere result.  This is exactly what the pro-choice movement has done for over fifty years, be it stripping an unborn child of personhood to deny it legal rights or protections, or inventing from whole cloth the notion that an amendment which predates the right to vote for women can be construed to give them the fundamental right to terminate a pregnancy. 

            There are other arguments offered up by the pro-choice crowd, notably the argument that women are compelled to carry and bear children by the state if abortion is outlawed, and thereby subjected to an involuntary servitude.  Women are not compelled to conceive children by the state, they do so of their own volitional choice to have sex and not take precautions in many cases to prevent pregnancy.  To say that women do not have the option of birth control available to them in an era where a month’s supply of birth control costs a mere $9 at Target is absurd.  When public health departments provide low-cost or no-cost birth control, and organizations like Planned Parenthood do the same, women have little if any excuse for failing to exercise reproductive responsibility.

            The entire argument that outlawing abortion ushers in involuntary servitude is moot when you consider the argument offered up by Andrew Koppelman in his article “Forced Labor: A Thirteenth Amendment Defense of Abortion” for the Northwestern Law Review:

When women are compelled to carry and bear children, they are subjected to 'involuntary servitude' in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment….[E]ven if the woman has stipulated to have consented to the risk of pregnancy, that does not permit the state to force her to remain pregnant.”

            The same argument is used every day in this country to force fathers who are deemed to have consented to the risk of pregnancy to pay child support for 18 years. No one raises the Thirteenth Amendment as an argument on the behalf of fathers.  No one calls child support involuntary servitude, or denotes that while a man has one consent, that for sex, which encompasses all possible outcomes under the law including pregnancy; women have bifurcated consent to sex and pregnancy under that same system of laws.  The state forces men to take responsibility for outcomes they did not consent to as though they did because they are stipulated to have consented to the risk of pregnancy merely by having sex.  There are no mitigating circumstances that can lessen a man’s liability.  His use of prophylactics, or his mistaken belief that his partner was using birth control, or his use of the rhythm method, all of these are utterly moot when he comes before the court as a parent.  The argument offered by Koppelman holds no logical weight whatsoever for a man. 

            Women are not compelled to carry a pregnancy to term by the outlawing of abortion; they are merely not permitted to slaughter their unborn child. What a burden it must be to have to view your unborn child as a person, distinct and separate from you, with rights and privileges of its own, including life, and to have that right to life viewed as so sacrosanct that not even you as a mother can destroy it while it resides within your uterus.  Can you not see how this cavalier attitude has carried over to motherhood as an inconvenience, what with our nightly news cycles carrying story after story of mothers who take their children to bars and leave them in locked cars while they get drunk inside?  They’re being compelled by the state to interrupt their recreation with actual responsibility!  The nerve!  The tyranny!  Involuntary servitude, and to the barricades with our mixed drinks and outrage to fortify us in the face of state overreach! 


            When we consider the historical arc of pro-abortion advocates, we note that their momentum came from academia and the sophistry of ethicists and doctors who were themselves brought up in the stew of eugenicist thinking, whereby those who were defective for any number of reasons could be forcibly sterilized by the state.  There is no slippery slope from that thinking to the reasoning that unborn children who might be deformed or handicapped should be aborted beforehand.  Oh, it’s fine to diagnose an unborn child with chronic conditions and handicaps that afflict humans, but we won’t call the child a human per se; we’ll call it a fetus. 

            This linguistic charlatanism, this sophistry of words and terms, is at the heart of what the pro-choice movement does.  Let us not call ourselves pro-death, but rather pro-choice, and let us imply by doing so that mothers have the right to make a mere choice.  We deny them the same choice where their newborns are concerned, and we’d prosecute the man who slaughtered the mother and the unborn child in many states for his choice in doing so with two counts of murder, even as we simultaneously deny that the mother has murdered a person if she terminates a pregnancy! 

            Rick Santorum took a good bit of flack for his position on this issue during his campaign, but let me clarify in words what I would put forth in stentorian proclamations were you able to hear me: I am pro-life.  There is no legal, constitutional, or logical basis for asserting that a human being in the earliest stages of its development, stages which every other human being passes through as part of life’s course, should be stripped of their personhood in the law.  There is no natural beginning of human life that does not entail conception through a fertilized egg, and there is no objective, rational basis for saying otherwise.  The arbitrary distinctions drawn by the pro-choice movement to debate where life begins, what life is, and who is alive and qualifies as a person are little more than strained efforts to arrive at a result which requires the suspension of everything that is known about human life, what it is, what it involves, and who is alive and human.  We do not merely refer to a fetus as a fetus unless we wish to deceive ourselves as to what it truly is: a human fetus. 

            There is no negotiation to make with these people that does not entail future compromises far more monstrous than the earlier concessions already made. Give them a trimester, and they’ll seek dilation and evacuation into the second trimester.  Give them dilation and evacuation, and they’ll seek to pull an unborn child three quarters of the way out of its mother to suction its brain out and collapse its skull before pulling it out completely.  And give them partial birth abortion, and they’ll seek infanticide and re-term it post-birth abortion. 

            Some 55 million unborn children have already perished due to these trade-offs and the fact that even pro-life individuals or strict constitutionalists on the bench have not possessed the courage or the wherewithal to call abortion what it is: the murder of a human being in the earliest stages of his or her existence. They have not possessed the fortitude to state that the state has every compelling interest, as it represents society’s interest, in protecting the life of a child who cannot protect itself from the hideous ideology of the pro-death movement.  Though it would be simple enough to deracinate Roe, no Court has.  Even Roe’s supporters acknowledge that it is a decision bereft of intellectual or constitutional logic, void of valid reasoning.  From Laurence Tribe to Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Edward Lazarus, who was Justice Blackmun’s clerk, not one pro-choice advocate can muster up the dishonesty to portray Roe as a valid decision rooted in logic or sound jurisprudence.  They’ll agree with the result even as they decry the means, because making a dishonest argument riddled with obvious error is a horror while killing an unborn child is something they can overlook. 

            Absent a state, any individual would have the same compelling interest to act in defense of the rights of any unborn child faced with an abortion: an assault on the rights of another human being, regardless of how old or young it is, is the same as an assault on the rights of humanity at large.  We hold these truths to be self-evident, and we hold that our right to life, to liberty, and to property are not the products of some paper and ink document, nor or they legitimated by the recognition of a government or state.  The state and the government are themselves legitimated by their recognition of those rights, and they lose legitimacy when they refuse to recognize those rights.

It benefits no civilized or free society to inculcate within its citizens an attitude of vengeance and a false sense of righteous wrath that extends to killing another human being to avenge the life already lost.  It should be shocking to the conscience of society when a human life is lost, and not a matter to which people should be inured.  The images of war, the glorification of executions, the depictions of violence that reduce the loss of human life to a ten second or one-episode event within a single season of a sitcom, do no service to the respect for human life that has to exist at the core of lawful, ordered societies. 

            A society and its government gain for themselves immeasurable benefit when they acknowledge that there are some choices no majority, no matter how powerful or numerous, can legitimately make.  Some choices are not ours to make. The moral precedent is clear.  If overwhelming majorities of people, caught in the fervor and emotion of anger, cannot justifiably decide to override the right of one individual to his or her life regardless of what they might have done, then no individual may rightly choose the same act for himself or herself.  To defend life from immediate threats, clear and present threats, one may take matters into their own hands.  They may reserve that right corporately to a state to wage war against other states or non-state organizations.

            On either side of these two debates, abortion and capital punishment, advocates will offer up hypotheticals far outside the realm of plausibility to tempt the exception, but the answer is to stand firm and resolute for the sanctity of human life.  Without a respect for that one abiding principle, around which the health, prosperity, and decency of humanity depends, all is lost.  Some principles are not up for debate, not up for compromise, and not up for negotiation.  Human life, from its earliest stages to its most debased examples of criminality and barbarity, is not up for compromise or negotiation unless the gun is pointed at you or the bomb is about to go off and kill you or others who are unable to defend themselves.  In the immediate aftermath of an attack, though the danger may have receded somewhat, states may assume that the threat is still ongoing and they may pursue those responsible to hold them culpable.  If they will not surrender to culpability, and they persist in threatening the lives of those tasked with bringing them to justice, then those who are engaged in the task of achieving justice may defend their lives from a threat. 

            The answer to these cultures of death, for the sake of convenience or a calloused desire for vengeance on behalf of those already dead, is a simple insistence on life that is unyielding and constant.  The moral and ethical restoration necessary to revitalize humanity begins with the reaffirmation of human life as the basis around which we find our common ground, and the foundation upon which we erect our communities and the values thereof. 
           
            The degradation and decline of our society is rooted in these cultures of death and the illogic that precedes and accompanies such cultures.  When you compromise on human life, nothing else can seem sacred or off-limits.  The moral and ethical rejuvenation of our society in this country begins with the restoration of respect for human life, be it that of the unborn or the murderer.  If you respect even the lives of those who arguably deserve to have their lives taken, you set a precedent against which the armies of sophistry and illogic cannot prevail.  They cannot use the exceptions you’ve already made, because you haven’t made any.  If you give ground on this issue, you signal to those who are already morally and ethically challenged that you will give ground on every other issue.  They will take it.

            The pro-death movement in this country would have you believe that their respective positions on abortion and capital punishment are about choice and moral vengeance. The former is absolutely disingenuous in its positing that such a choice can be made on the issue of life; the latter is an oxymoronic concept.  One does not get to choose to extinguish human life, or to deny the humanity of that life, in order to form a philosophical and ethical framework to expedite convenience.  The people who argue that capital punishment is moral on the grounds that it occurred 8,000 years ago and is observed as a divine commandment in the Old Testament are the same people who protest that slavery, dietary prohibitions on the consumption of shellfish, and the treatment of women as chattel are all antiquated items abolished by a new covenant under Christ in the New Testament. 

            Oh, magistrates are established among men and imbued by God with the ability to avenge these wrongs with capital punishment.  Those magistrates under Biblical reasoning can have a child stoned to death for disrespecting its parents.  Before you were in the womb, I knew you, and I gave this minister the sword to cut you down if you got out of line.  A woman who did not cry out in the city while being raped was subject to capital punishment for not crying out, the presumption being that she enjoyed it and therefore it wasn’t really a rape.  Perhaps she was terrified of her assailant, but God will sort that all out on the other side.  To the rocks with her! 

            The point of sanctification as an ongoing process, or of progress in human society, is to move beyond the primitive moral strictures of the past to something better and more humane.  We no longer subject rape victims who comply with their assailant’s demands for quiet to a stoning, because we have progressed.  We don’t allow a man who takes a woman’s virginity in a field to pay her father 50 shekels and get off with mere marriage these days, either.  And when angry mobs gather outside of a home, a father is not permitted to offer up his virgin daughters to save his male houseguests from the sodomite lust of the mob outside.  Not if he wants to retain his reputation in the community among those who aren’t part of the mob, at least.  For that matter, should he fail to summon those individuals to form a larger mob to intercede on his behalf, he would be looked upon as somehow complicit due to his cowardice and incompetence. 

            If those antiquated customs have been struck down as remnants of an earlier time, and disregarded for the modern day, it stands to reason that life should be afforded an evolution as regards its sacrosanct status among the morally progressive society.  What a great loss it would be to lose the ability to shoot, hang, electrocute, gas, or intravenously poison someone for murdering another human being! Why, we might not stoop collectively to the level of such people!   And as an added bonus, when exculpatory evidence arose, we wouldn’t have the blood of innocent men to account for due to the mistakes made by our justice system, or the deliberate errors and abuses committed by prosecutors who took on the role of zealots. 

           The paradigm of pro-life does not end with the unborn.  It extends to those individuals who have committed acts that subject them to capital punishment under our present legal system. Let me be absolutely clear: one has the right to defend one’s life from immediate threats, and self-defense is the only exception to the sanctity of life that I can see.  The extinguishing of a human life as reciprocity is as immoral and savage as abortion itself.  It strips an individual of his humanity and vests far too much power in a state and its procedures for determining guilt and culpability than are warranted. 

            From what we know of prosecutors and the criminal justice system at large, we know that men have been convicted of capital crimes they did not commit and sentenced to die. We have more than adequate reason to believe that men have already been executed for crimes they did not commit.  The system is not merely prone to error; rather, it perversely incentivizes error.  District attorneys are elected officials whose careers depend on convictions, and too often, their rush to convict leads to abuses of evidentiary procedure and safeguards designed to ensure that guilty rather than innocent men are convicted for the crime. It serves no societal interest to convict an innocent man of a crime; indeed, it runs contrary to every societal interest to have the guilty walking free while innocents serve hard time or face execution for crimes they did not commit. 

            Moreover, the supposed safeguards of DNA evidence, expert testimony, and the like are not nearly as error-proof as we have been led to believe.  Drug dogs, fire marshals, psychiatrists and psychologists for hire, and even DNA laboratories, all have been shown to be prone to manifest error in the form of shoddy work or lax training, procedural violations of scientific protocol, or mercenary impulses that override professional objectivity.  And even if the system were perfect, there is still no moral or ethical grounds for violating the sanctity of human life. 

            It is damaging to our cultural attitude towards life when individuals can feel as though they, through the state, can hold the power to carve out exceptions to that absolute upon which human rights and human societies are founded: life.  To say that life can be suspended because of a criminal act is to reduce it in status to the level of other, lesser rights such as assembly, speech, religion, and the like even though one can live without those rights.  We reserve a special status for human life as a right for this very reason: it is necessary to our existence. The enjoyment and exercise of every other right are rendered irrelevant without life. 

            The time has come for us to re-term the pro-choice movement for what it is: pro-death.  Death is not a choice you get to make for the voiceless and defenseless as a matter of your own convenience.  When the lives of others are a hassle for you, such that you would entertain the ethical implications of killing them, perhaps you have deeper issues to resolve.  And when you stand on the one hand and deny the right and the power of mothers to murder their unborn children but on the other hand say that you have no problem with the state executing convicted criminals to avenge their misdeeds or deter future wrongdoing, you have no high ground to speak of…you’re just another person making exceptions to the sacrosanct nature of human life, and you are just as morally compromised. 





           
           







           



           

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Don't Believe the Hype: Mitt Romney Will Not Win in November



Surveys and polls in presidential elections are rather useless at this point in a presidential election, unless of course they point to a decisive rout.  In key states like California and New York, the numbers are overwhelmingly clear: Barack Obama is going to beat Mitt Romney like a drum, as Charles Barkley put it.  In the state where he held the Governor’s Mansion, Massachusetts, Mitt Romney is also losing in double digits.  For all of the hype and euphoria from the recall election in Wisconsin, where Governor Scott Walker became the first ever governor to survive a recall election, Walker’s momentum does not apply to Romney. 

            The best piece of political analysis I encountered last night came from Twitter, where user @OctavianD put it best: “You can't translate Scott Walker's win to Romney beating Obama. You see, Scott actually did conservative things, like standing up to unions.”  For all of the pundits and insiders who offered up their analysis on various media outlets last night, OctavianD nailed the implications of last night’s recall election for Mitt Romney’s electoral chances far better than any mainstream media talking head. 

            It is beyond time for Republican, conservative, and libertarian voters to have a gut check about the man who is the presumptive Republican nominee.  Mitt Romney is neither conservative, nor Republican, nor viable in November as a candidate.  It is as if the national Republican establishment communicated to their state chairs that they wanted the one candidate who could lose to President Obama to secure the GOP nomination.  They got their man. 

            Here we have a former Republican governor who gave his state fee increases to no end, disingenuously called himself a low tax governor after the fact, and then capped it all of by signing Romneycare with its individual mandate into law. What about that record strikes anyone as distinctly Republican?  Outside of the fact that the Heritage Foundation endorsed an individual mandate, there is no parallel between that record and the kitchen table Republicans who will determine whether or not Mitt Romney has any chance of getting elected.  And let us be clear: with the individual mandate, the Heritage Foundation sacrificed any credibility it might have once had as a Republican or conservative leaning think tank. 

            With one idea, the Heritage Foundation revealed itself as a shill for a health insurance industry and the broader healthcare market it backs; an industry which, by the way, is desperate to preserve a model of coverage that enables 5% of those  covered to eat up over half of the healthcare provided.  This results in healthcare premiums for the other 95% of covered individuals that are totally unmoored from the reality of what they consume.  In other words, they get hosed, and while that’s a great deal for the health insurance industry and the wider healthcare market of pharmaceutical companies and for profit hospitals, it has nothing to do with a free market.  The last thing any of those companies want is a truly free market with competition across state lines, drug reimportation, and portable health insurance policies that are customized to the individual purchasing coverage rather the one size fits all model with minor differentiations in tiers. 

            If Congress is despised by 93% of American voters, it is only because they have been despicable.  And if Mitt Romney, a man whose actual record as a governor is closer to the Democratic side than the party whose nomination he is about to receive, cannot make inroads in places like New York and California as a former private equity fund head who passed an individual mandate in his state as governor, his chances to be elected are slim to none. People are tired of voting for the lesser of two evils, and the GOP chose to bench its A team of candidates for 2016 or relegate them to obscurity in 2012.  The two best candidates the GOP had in 2012 couldn’t even get on a debate stage, and that’s saying something. 

            Thad McCotter went from a rising star and five term representative who was a Young Gun of the GOP to being an also ran who won’t seek a sixth term.  New Mexico’s former two term governor Gary Johnson, a governor who governed like a Republican in a state with 2 to 1 Democrat to Republican ratio in registered voters and still got re-elected to a second term, had to go Libertarian to get nominated. He’ll be on 49 of 50 ballots in November, with Oklahoma being hammered out as I write this piece. 

            Mitch Daniels, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and John Thune all stayed out of 2012’s campaign fight.  Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has offered the same backhanded endorsement of Mitt Romney that former President Clinton has offered to President Obama; that is, he’s highlighted the substantive ways in which he was better than the man he endorsed. 

            This election is scripted for Barack Obama to win, and he will win barring Republican voters saying no to Mitt Romney.  There are two options, neither of which is likely: a bloodbath at the convention whereby another candidate besides Romney is drafted, or Republican voters flock en masse without regard to the stigma of abandoning the GOP to Gary Johnson.  There are Republicans who are going to vote Republican just because, and then there are Republicans who will face up to the fact that this party puts its own interests ahead of the country at large by nominating someone like Mitt Romney. 

            Even if Romney wins, he’s a wild card at best for Republicans. This is a guy who will say and do whatever to point to his ability to work across the aisle and get things done.  He just wants a record; he doesn’t much give a damn what the record is. Who would have thought that the Libertarian nominee would be a.) a successful businessman who built his business from scratch; b.) a former Republican governor who cut taxes, spending, and government jobs in New Mexico and c.) managed to get himself re-elected anyway in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 2 to 1, only to run up against a GOP establishment that wouldn’t even allow him to get on the debate stage against the likes of a TARP supporting Senator Santorum, a serial philanderer and hypocrite with a trail of broken non-profits in his wake like former Speaker Newt Gingrich,  and a former Utah Governor in Jon Huntsman who doubled the size of his state’s budget while in office?  What is more, Gary Johnson didn’t need to borrow money to purchase companies so that he could pay himself a large dividend, abscond with the monies, and leave the company in liquidation and default on its loans.  Mitt Romney did, and there’s a cogent and entirely credible argument to be made that he borrowed the bulk of purchase prices for said companies knowing full well that he and his partners at Bain Capital were never going to pay back the loans.  The same behavior that we decry in subprime borrowers is the behavior we acclaim in private equity.  Gary Johnson built a company, didn’t loot it for his own benefit, and he sold it at a profit.

            And the Republican Party chose Mitt Romney and his record as governor of Massachusetts over the fiscal conservatism and accomplishments of Gary Johnson as governor of New Mexico.  That, ladies and gentlemen, says it all.  When Gary Johnson left office, no piece of signature legislation he backed resulted in 48% cost overruns that busted New Mexico’s budget.  Mitt Romney, on the other hand, left Massachusetts with just such a scenario to deal with after he departed office. 

            Everyone knows that the two presumptive mainline candidates for President in 2012 are awful.  They stink.  There’s no other way to phrase it.  Their records speak volumes as to their respective inabilities to lead.  However, the incumbent is running against the one candidate he can conceivably beat in 2012, and that candidate seems tailor made for his re-election.  If you have a problem with the points I’ve raised in this piece, consider that Barack Obama and his team of Chicago insiders are going to destroy Mitt Romney over time by raising these very same points over and over again.  Yellow dog Republicans and establishmentarians will go to the polls to vote for the GOP, not Mitt Romney, but the kitchen table Republicans will sit at home, grouse over their coffee as they watch the returns, and see each other in the aisle at Wal-Mart the day after the election to commiserate over four more years of Barack Obama, even if Mitt Romney somehow wins. And that’s tragic, because Gary Johnson is a viable, principled candidate whose record as a fiscal conservative and small government Republican is undeniable. 


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Billionaire Philosopher Kings and the Rest of Us

Michael Bloomberg, billionaire, mayor of New York, and owner of those ubiquitous Bloomberg terminals that dot our financial sector and trading floors everywhere, raised the ire of soda swilling patriots and libertarians around New York and the country at large when he proposed a ban on sodas in sizes above 16 oz.  Bloomberg's presumptuous and authoritarian nature is well-documented at this point; after all, he's the mayor who banned smoking indoors.  He's the philosopher king who knows better than you do what's best for you, and while rules like term limits are suggestions for enlightened men such as him, his rules are ironclad for the rest of us.  

Bloomberg believes, and fervently so, that you don't have the right to make the wrong choice.  In that respect, he's no different from a host of other individuals who favor centralized planning and tyrannies of virtue.  Take T.H. Huxley, for example: 

If some great power would agree to make me always think of what is true and do what is right, on condition of being some sort of clock and wound up every morning before I got out of bed, I should close instantly with the offer.”  

I should disclose at this point that if some great power, clad in scanty lingerie and bearing a cat o' nine tails, would make me always think of what is true and do what is right after allowing me to do all manner of depraved things, on the condition of being some Pavlovian being, I should close instantly on the offer. That's me, and I like brunettes, or blondes with brown eyes.  

For folks like Huxley, Bloomberg, and yes, even our current president, the hoi polloi should be compelled to do the right thing by the force of law.  They know best, such is the hubris of the elites of this nation and everywhere else, and humility before their learned greatness should be our lot in life as unwashed masses educated at state schools.  As B.F. Skinner put it in his book Beyond Freedom and Dignity, "“...and it should be possible to design a world in which behavior likely to be punished seldom or never occurs. We try to design such a world for those who cannot solve the problem of punishment for themselves, such as babies, retardates, or psychotics, and if it could be done for everyone, much time and energy would be saved.”

But what is perhaps surprising is how similar Mayor Bloomberg's outlook is to that of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.  A recent piece by Elspeth Reeve on the Atlantic Wire, Long Lost Emails Show Just How Much Romney Loved the Individual Mandate, documents the Romney emails parsed through by the Wall Street Journal's Mark Maremont, emails which recount how intimately involved in advocating for the individual mandate in Massachusetts Mitt Romney truly was.  Romney's emails document his inner conflict with libertarian ideals that say a libertarian could decline free care.  Romney notes that under the law, this is "impossible," even "inhumane."  

What is surprising about the emails is the short shrift given to the real reason for exploding health care costs, little of which is related to uncompensated care for uninsured people; care that, for those of you who have wondered, averages around $63 billion annually in a $2.5 trillion market.  The catalyst for exploding healthcare costs has always been the insured.  In no other insurance market is coverage as comprehensive as it is in the healthcare market.  Your car insurance doesn't cover routine preventative maintenance.  It covers the unlikely event that your car will be in an accident, and if your driving record increases that likelihood, your cost goes up exponentially as an individual.  

Not so in the health insurance market, where insurers don't get to charge individual members within a group of employees a higher premium for risk factors like obesity, high cholesterol, and smoking.  Sure, if you lose coverage and have a pre-existing condition, you'll likely pay more or be rendered ineligible for coverage, but that's only true if you lose coverage period.  Not only is health insurance comprehensive in the extreme, it's modeled to overlook real risk factors like obesity for individuals and spread the costs among the wider group.  Thus, we have a healthcare system where 5% of the insured generate over 50% of the costs.  

The problem isn't the uninsured, who look like geniuses when you consider these facts.  They're usually younger, healthier, and see no need to purchase comprehensive rather than catastrophic insurance.  And why would they? Why would they want to pay for the 5% of individuals who burden the other 95% with their excessive healthcare consumption?  

In order to save that 5% the real cost of their choices where exercise, lifestyle choices, and nutrition are concerned, our elected representatives have chosen to legislate a model of health insurance that will give us healthcare premiums for family that will cost more than 50% of the median family income by 2021.  That's the real outrage, and that's only the premiums. Deductibles, co-pays, and the uncovered treatments don't even begin to factor into those projections.  

And their legislation is the problem, because legislators have given us economic subsidies for corn and tariffs on imported sugar that cause Americans to consume high fructose corn syrup, which blocks leptin, the hormone that signals satiation to the brain.  Corn syrup is cheaper than sugar only because of the subsidies and tariffs.  We as American consumers pay four times the market price of sugar so that Florida sugarcane growers can be protected from foreign competition, and we do so because we are governed by philosopher kings who think they know best.  Today, corn is everywhere in our diet, from the syrup that substitutes for sugar in our food and things like maltodextrin.  

Despite the best efforts of our philosopher kings to legislate and regulate a better, more virtuous future into existence, what arises instead is a dystopia where Americans are fatter, sicker, and less able to make ends meet on a single income.  What's inhumane is the result of hubris on the part of our philosopher kings like Mitt Romney, Michael Bloomberg, Barack Obama, and many other well-intentioned but fatally arrogant elected representatives and bureaucrats who thought they knew best.  

Yes, food is cheaper, but the food we eat is more expensive over the long term in terms of our health and well-being.  Yes, we can walk into an emergency room and get treatment, even if we can't afford the insurance to pay for that treatment, but the reason we need that insurance in the first place is the system erected by men like Richard Nixon and Teddy Kennedy, who gave us the HMO Act of 1973.  

America has had enough of philosopher kings who usurp authority they don't rightfully possess to realize their ideal world, and not because of freedom and liberty per se, but instead because the results aren't there to justify allowing these types to have free rein to make the world "better" the way they think it should be.  In 2012, we have two philosopher kings who prior records are thick on lofty ambition and thin on actual results as advertised.  Yes, more people are covered by insurance in Massachusetts after Romneycare.  However, cost overruns of 48% in the first year of Romneycare destroyed the Massachusetts state budget.  Costs rose in every category across the board, and recently advertised declines in the rise of premiums have been shown to be the result of the insured postponing care, a practice that almost always leads to more expensive treatment later.  

Allowing such men unfettered rein to achieve their ends justify the means ideology is costly, inefficient, and most importantly...it doesn't work.  Never you mind that it runs contrary to the ethos of individual self-determination and freedom that forms the bedrock of the American identity, it doesn't work when put into practice.  We have fifty years of interference in healthcare by the federal government, creating problems and then solutions, all of which only led to compounded problems over time.  The answer isn't more philosopher king interference and government by self-appointed elites who never deliver on their promises.  The answer is obvious: limits on government reach and authority.  Let individuals make decisions, even bad ones, but don't call it humane when you use government to lessen the consequences of their actions. It isn't.  Pricing health coverage out of the reach of families to save the 5% of patients who consume more than half of the healthcare is not humane; it's savage.  

A healthy dose of humility is appropriate for the philosopher kings of our age, at every level of government.  They don't know better, and their record proves it.   





CBO: Federal debt to double in 15 years - Washington Times

Stephen Dinan-Washington Times


The federal government is staring at a disastrous fiscal picture with debt approaching 200 percent of GDP within two decades if Congressdoesn’t change course on spending and taxes, according to the latest analysis by the Congressional Budget Office released Tuesday.

CBO: Federal debt to double in 15 years - Washington Times

CBO: Massive rise in U.S. debt crashes our economic forecasting model in 2035























A stunner from the Congressional Budget Office in its new long-term budget forecast. When the government budget scorekeepers took into account the worst-case scenario impact of debt on the U.S. economy, its economic forecasting model, well, broke:

Under the assumptions leading to the most negative effect on GNP, debt would reach 250 percent of GDP by 2035. CBO’s model cannot reliably estimate GNP after debt reaches that amount, in the agency’s judgment: The assumptions about private saving and capital inflows incorporated in CBO’s model are based on historical experience, and if interest rates and the debt-to-GDP ratio rose to levels well outside of that experience, those assumptions might no longer be valid. In 2035, GNP would be 21 percent below the benchmark under the assumptions leading to the most negative effect on GNP; beyond 2035, the negative effect on GNP would grow under those assumptions as debt continued to increase relative to the size of the economy.


More here:
CBO: Massive rise in U.S. debt crashes our economic forecasting model in 2035

The Surplus That Never Happened: Slick Willie Peddles His Myth Again



Bill Clinton, erstwhile New Democrat, stood up last night at the Waldorf Astoria hotel to deliver his stump speech at a fundraiser for President Obama.  The narrative comprised the same tired tripe he's been shilling for years now, whereby he stands in front of throngs of people who long for the days when the economy was built on a tech bubble and then a finance bubble to speak on his record as the last president with a budget surplus.  There's only one problem: Bill Clinton never had a surplus.

What Bill Clinton did was borrow money from Social Security, a fact noted by Democratic Senator Fritz Hollings of South Carolina in the clip below (from about 3:30 on, Senator Hollings lays waste to the fake surplus with the facts):



Slick Willie, at his worst. Senator Fritz Hollings, at his best, a Democrat who recognized the truth and spoke it out loud even though it hurt his own party.  Do you miss the days when truth outweighed partisan political success, especially as it related to the good of the country?  No wonder Congress has a single digit approval rating.




Monday, June 4, 2012

Fareed Zakaria: Starvation as Humanitarian Outreach




Fareed Zakaria, member in good standing of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission, did his part to shill for the men behind the curtain when he called for imposing sanctions on Syria to force regime change.  Apparently, sponsoring a rebel movement with arms and logistical support within that country hasn't done enough damage.  Zakaria wants to impose sanctions on Syria, knowing full well that sanctions don't do much to hamper the totalitarian regimes that rule countries like Syria, North Korea, and Iraq.  Such sanctions do, however, lead to mass starvation and a lack of medical supplies necessary to treat various ailments and illnesses.

Zakaria and his fellow elites within the media have no problem decrying sensory deprivation, waterboarding, and stress positions as inhumane forms of  torture; yet they cannot see sanctions as the utterly inhumane, ineffective, and barbaric means they truly are.  In Iraq, sanctions didn't do much to weaken Saddam Hussein's hold on power, but they did lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children who couldn't receive treatment or preventative care.  Estimates of the death toll range from 170,000 to 1.7 million, and all the while Saddam Hussein remained in power and retained the wherewithal to build palaces throughout Iraq.

North Korea has been under sanctions for some time; the regime in that country has managed to maintain its grip on power nonetheless while ordinary North Korean starve.  The only fat North Koreans are members of the Dear Leader's family, specifically whichever son is due to inherit leadership.   Additionally, North Korea continues to develop its nuclear program and add to its existing arsenal.

What Zakaria doesn't do is what any reporter ought to do: examine the origins of the current rebel movement presently operating inside of Syria.  If Zakaria would actually do his job, perhaps he'd find the same amalgamation of hired foreign mercenaries, Islamists, and foreign malcontents that overthrew the Libyan government and stirred up Egypt to overthrow Hosni Mubarak.  Today, the future is murky for both of those countries, and the prospect of a Islamic regime is very real for both countries. In other words, the United States meddled in the affairs of two foreign countries to overthrow their governments, with the net result being the prospect of another regime rising that is far more fundamentalist in its outlook and approach.

Today, the flag of Al-Qaeda flies over Libyan ground, and the Muslim Brotherhood is poised to take power in Egypt.  If that's the definition of successful foreign intervention, the United States should raze the CIA to the ground.  What is more, the same model of short-sighted intervention and destabilization is taking place in Syria as I write this, and men like Fareed Zakaria are doing the bidding of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission instead of acting as impartial journalists covering a story and exposing the undercurrents of foreign intervention by our intelligence establishment.

Indeed, Zakaria and his ilk are actively encouraging the destabilizing of Syria and attributing atrocities committed by the Free Syrian Army to the Assad regime, ignoring the reports of survivors who attribute the massacres to the Free Syrian Army.  The Mighty Wurlitzer, as envisioned by an intelligence establishment that worked to subvert a free and independent media decades ago, has now achieved full spectrum dominance, and Fareed Zakaria is one of their rank and file, dutifully advocating for sanctions that will increase the suffering of ordinary Syrians while doing little if anything to the Assad regime.