Tuesday, April 11, 2006

EQUALITY RIDERS "ARRESTED" AT BYU?

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This is interesting:
Five people were arrested Monday on the campus of Brigham Young University in connection with a pro-gay event presented by an outreach group that is touring religious and conservative colleges.

Three people from the Equality Ride and two supporters were escorted off campus by BYU police after Equality Ride co-director Jacob Reitan tried to give a speech in a campus courtyard, the Deseret News reported.

The other people arrested were Diane Bedwell and Rebecca Solomon from the Equality Ride, and Reitan's parents, Randi and Phil Reitan, who had tried to give a speech about raising a gay son.

The five were issued citations for trespassing and released.

"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints at one time did not allow African-American members," Jacob Reitan said after his release. "Through the church's belief in 'continuing revelation,' that shameful practice has ended. It is time for the LDS to realize that their policies against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are also part of an unacceptable history of religious discrimination."
A few errors in this story.

First, The LDS Church has never witheld membership from blacks, let alone "African-American[s]." Rather, the LDS Church witheld the priesthood (and, as a corollary, temple admission) from blacks.

Second, the activists were not arrested:
Five members of a gay rights group targeting BYU this week were removed from the campus and issued citations on Monday.
I don't think being "removed from the [BYU] campus" amounts to an arrest. The claim that they were arrested is probably an attempt to boost publicity:
"This is the fourth school where we've had arrests take place," said Richard Lindsay, spokesman for the Equality Ride.

Monday, January 23, 2006

ABORTION: A NEW "MASON-DIXON" LINE?

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This is interesting:
In the next six weeks, South Dakota lawmakers will decide whether to make abortion a crime.

A bill that would ban abortion in the state will be introduced within the next two days.

The bill will be called the Woman's Health and Life Protection Act. It will ban abortion, but won't prosecute a doctor who performs one to save a woman's life.

And the lawmaker who's introducing the bill says he thinks now is the right time to try and over-turn Roe vs Wade.

Rep. Roger Hunt says, "Abortion should be banned."

Those four words will likely lead to many others in the South Dakota House and Senate as lawmakers will decide whether to criminalize abortion in the state. The bill's supporters are using findings from a controversial abortion task force report recently given to the legislature.

Hunt says, "DNA testing now can establish the unborn child has a separate and distinct personality from the mother. We know a lot more about post-abortion harm to the mother."
...
Sunday, Hunt and other anti-abortion advocates held an event promoting their legislation. They say now is the time to pass it, because other states are considering similar bills and because with new Chief Justice John Roberts, and possibly Samuel Alito, the US Supreme Court is changing.

Hunt says, "Two very solid, we feel, pro-life candidates. Again you never know but based on their testimony to the senate we feel they're good candidates."
This is a longshot, I think, but let's assume that Roe and it's progeny (particularly Planned Parenthood v. Casey) are overturned and the issue of whether to criminalize abortion is left to individual state legislatures. Let's further assume that some states do end up criminalizing abortion (probably elective abortions, as I can't imagine any state legislature would try, let alone succeed, in banning abortions where there is an overriding medical imperative such as the life of the mother). Other states (mostly on the coasts) will likely pass legislation to legalize elective abortion.

So what are we left with? A patchwork of laws that change at the state line. The situation for abortion will be somewhat similar to the Mason-Dixon Line. There are some obvious distinctions, of course. Holding slaves in the antebellum South was ongoing conduct, whereas getting an abortion is a discrete event. Moreover, today women anti-abortion states can easily overcome an anti-abortion statute by simply traveling across a state line.

Which leads my main question: Is there any remedy for this for anti-abortion states? Not that I can see. South Dakota can't punish its citizens for going to another state and engaging in conduct that is legal there (getting an abortion).

Friday, September 16, 2005

JOSEPH SMITH'S ARREST RECORDS FOUND

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Okay, this may be a long post, so settle in.

On April 6, 1830, Joseph Smith, Jr. founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He has long been the target of criticism by critics of every stripe (secular and sectarian, Protestant and Catholic, you name it). One particular criticism relates to an arrest and trial of Joseph Smith in South Bainbridge, New York in 1826. At lease three non-identical (and, in some respects, mutually contradictory) versions of the trial exist, but in the early 1970s a Reverend Wesley Walters, an ardent critic of the LDS Church, brought some new information to light, as discussed in a 1972 BYU Studies article written by Marvin S. Hill (footnotes omitted):
Reverend Wesley P. Walters of the United Presbyterian church in Marissa, Illinois, discovered some records in the basement of the sheriff's office in Norwich, New York, which he maintains demonstrate the actuality of the 1826 trial and go far to substantiate that Joseph Smith spent part of his early career in southern New York as a money digger and seer of hidden treasures. A periodical in Salt Lake City which heralded Walters's findings said they "undermine Mormonism" and repeated a statement by Hugh Nibley in The Myth Makers, "if this court record is authentic it is the most damning evidence in existence against Joseph Smith."


Judge Albert Neely's bill of costs

Walters's discovery consisted mainly of two documents. The first was a bill of costs presented to local authorities by Justice Albert Neely in 1826 which identified Joseph Smith as "The Glass Looker" and indicated that he was charged at the trial with a "misdemeanor." Neely's bill reported that his total charges for the case were $2.68, the precise amount shown in Fraser' s Magazine.

Walters's second find was a bill by the local constable, Philip DeZeng, dated 1826, which indicates that not only was a warrant issued for Joseph Smith's arrest but also a mittimus, which Walters believes must have been issued after the trial ordering the sheriff to escort Joseph out of the county. Walters contends that the mittimus thus proves that Joseph Smith was found guilty.

A preliminary investigation by the writer at the sheriff's office in Norwich, New York, confirmed that Walters had searched thoroughly the bills of local officials dated in the 1820s, many of which were similar to the two bills in question. The originals, however, were not at the sheriff's office but in Walters's possession. Presumably they will be available for study at a later date. Until then, the final question of their authenticity must remain open.
Let us now fast-forward a few decades to a news article that just appeared online today (September 16, 2005):
A historian in New York state has rediscovered historical records that detail how Mormon church founder Joseph Smith, a native of Vermont, was arrested on four occasions in the mid-1820s.

Chenango County Historian Dale Storms says she turned over the newly found documents to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


Partial records of the arrests had long been in the possession of the county and known to historians, but Storms says the documents fill in some historical holes.


The Mormom church says it's pleased the original papers of Smith's court proceedings in 1826 and 1830 have been returned.
But the church says they don't reveal anything new about the Mormons' founder.

The documents include arrest warrants, court transcripts and legal bills from four separate charges. The cases detail Smith's involvement in glass looking, or treasure seeking, and being a disorderly person.
This didn't seem particularly noteworthy until I came across another article that had some interesting additional details (emphasis added):
One of the documents includes a bill from then-South Bainbridge Justice Albert Neely to the county for services rendered. Included in the bill is a $2.68 charge for fees in examining the case of "Joseph Smith, the glass looker."

Smith was born in Sharon, Vt., in 1806.


Storms said the records were turned over to the county recently by Norwich resident Richard Smith (no relation to Joseph Smith), whose mother was the county historian until 1997 and secretly had the records in her possession for the last three decades, Storms said.


The former historian squirreled them away in the early 1970s after they were taken without permission from the basement of the county sheriff's office in 1971 by Wesley P. Walters, a deceased pastor of the Marissa Presbyterian Church in Marissa, Ill. Storms said Walters took the papers because he thought they were unsafe where they were and might be destroyed.
I find it interesting that Rev. Walters absconded with public records (albeit very old ones) out of concern they "might be destroyed." Destroyed by whom? If these records reveal nothing new about Joseph Smith's legal troubles, who would want to get rid of them? (There's also a wee bit of irony in Rev. Walters attacking Joseph Smith's character with evidence he (Walters) took without permission - stole - from the sheriff's office, but I digress...)

And then there's the problem Rev. Walters breaking the "chain of evidence," so to speak. How many documents did Rev. Walters "take without permission" from the county sheriff's office? Did the previous county historian (Mrs. Smith, mentioned above) conspire with Rev. Walters? If so, what was the point and purpose of the conspiracy? Was she hiding the documents (her son seems to think so, as she "secretly had the records in her possession for the last three decades")? If so, why? What legitimate purpose could a public servant have for taking private possession of public records for thirty years?

Did Mrs. Smith and Rev. Walters retain all the records relating to the Joseph Smith trial? Or did Rev. Walters vet them to make sure that only those records lending credence to his antagonistic portrayal of Joseph Smith saw the light of day? Were there any records that contravene Rev. Walters' characterization of the trial? If so, would Rev. Walters have had a motive to destroy them?

We don't know the answers to these questions, and it's very likely we never will know one way or the other. (I wonder if Mrs. Smith is still alive, though. Perhaps she could shed some light on this.) However, the fact is that Rev. Walters broke the chain of custody of evidence. He had a vested interest in making Joseph Smith look as bad as possible. He did, in fact, use some of these records for that purpose. His conduct therefore gives rise to not-untenable suspicions about whether the complete body of evidence made it through his hands.
____

UPDATE: I just came across an online discussion of this news item here.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

RELIGIOUS BIGOTRY DRESSED UP AS HUMOR

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I have a fairly low tolerance threshold for naked religious bigotry. I hold this position for some of the same reasons that I find other forms of bigotry (as against race and gender) contemptible. I recognize that religious affiliation differs from these inherited traits in that religion is, in the main, a matter of choice. But in America, some choices are treated as sancrosanct, are they not? We have a right to vote (and, therefore, to choose a candidate), right to travel (choosing to cross state lines), right to assemble, etc. I'm currently working on a civil rights lawsuit wherein the state filed a motion to terminate our client's parental rights and neglected to tell him about it until the matter was almost over. His right to choose to have children, and to choose to raise and associate with them, was violated.

A person's choice of religion, then, should enjoy a presumptive measure of respect. Not necessarily agreement with, or reverence for, or deference to. Just respect. My own religion, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (more familiarly known as Mormonism) frequently faces a not-insignificant amount of disrespect arising out of, well, its existence. That's unfortunate. Take, for example, this advertisement about an upcoming play put on in New York City:
The second developmental production of the season will be Cusi Cram’s ALL THE BAD THINGS, which will play a limited 15-performance engagement, beginning performances in late January, 2006. Fernanda is having a bad day -- a very bad day. She lives with her ailing mother in a tiny apartment in the West Village, her husband has braces and is unemployed, her brother-in-law has suddenly converted to Mormonism, the creditors wont stop calling AND she finds out her rent stabilized apartment is about to be de-stabilized. Where can the fragile, the artistic, the underemployed find refuge in a city that is no longer kind to its eccentrics and Bohemians? Is Manhattan over? Are there sane Mormons? ALL THE BAD THINGS asks these questions and a few others, while searching for hope in unexpected places.
A family member joining the LDS Church is a "bad thing," on par with having an unemployed spouse, being hounded by creditors, and facing a rent increase. Mormons are presumptively insane, and there is some question as to whether there are any sane Mormons at all.

I doubt the secular, artsy-fartsy avant-garde types putting out "All the Bad Things" would insult, say, Islam or Buddhism in this way.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

GOOGLE NEWS - IT HAS ITS DRAWBACKS

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I previously posted about how I enjoy using the Google News feature. It does, however, have shortcomings (see, for example, here, here and here).

To these I add my own recent experience. Earlier today I was googling news items relating to the LDS Church. Check out the first "news" result:



If you can't make out the image, it says "Was President Bush Behind Katrina? Salt Lake City Deluge Coming ..." The link goes to GreaterThings.com, run for an outfit called "Church of the Firstborn," apparently a group claiming some sort of relationship to Mormonism (though clearly not to the LDS Church per se).

Perusing this site and its "sister sites" is not much fun. In any event, be sure that you take search results from Google News with a grain of salt.

Monday, September 05, 2005

I'M BACK

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I've been gone for a while. A lot has happened over the past several months that have kept me distracted and away from this blog.

Anyway, I'm back. I'm looking forward to posting more regularly.

Friday, February 18, 2005

IRRELEVANCIES AS EDITORIALIZING

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One of my favorite blogs is Oh, That Liberal Media, which is dedicated to "highlighting liberal bias, agendas, distortions and erroneous reporting in the mainstream media."

One way that a journalist can editorialize in what purports to be a straightforward news story is by injecting irrelevant comments or details that are designed to influence the reader.

I just came across what just might be an example of this (bolded emphasis added):
'Nobody is talking'
The Guardian

The evidence of two new books demonstrates that 9/11 created the will for new, harsher interrogation techniques of foreign suspects by the US and led to the abuses in Guantánamo, Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond. In a special report, James Meek reveals that it is the British who refined these methods, and who have provided the precedent for legalised torture...
...
The most detailed statement about the early thinking on torture in Washington came in August 2002, with a memo to Alberto Gonzales from Jay Bybee, then assistant attorney general. A devout Mormon and a keen kazoo player, Bybee spent seven years in the Reagan and elder Bush administrations, and returned to the capital with the inauguration of Bush Jr. After the Bybee memo was leaked last year, the administration disavowed it with a new, milder legal opinion. Their disavowal might have been more convincing had the departing Bybee not been rewarded with a federal judgeship in Las Vegas.

In the memo, Bybee's concern is not with the wellbeing of suspects, but with the risk that a US government employee might be prosecuted....
What in the world does Bybee's religious affiliation or kazoo-playing have to do with the story?

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

GLADYS KNIGHT SKIPPED THE GRAMMYS

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Gladys Knight is so cool:
SALT LAKE CITY - Gladys Knight wasn't sitting in front of a television set watching the Grammy Awards. And she didn't even know she shared a gospel performance Grammy award Sunday with the late Ray Charles for their duet, "Heaven Help Us All," until there was a break in church services.

"My bishop came up to me in between them and said, 'You won! You won!' I was so surprised," she said Monday in Salt Lake City while promoting her new CD, "One Voice," a collection of hymns and gospel classics.

"Any time your peers give you an award, there's a feeling of satisfaction, but this one was awesome for what we did. I know Ray is an icon in many lives, but he's certainly one in mine," she said.

Knight spent Sunday night in Las Vegas, where her fireside church sessions are so popular with fellow members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that they have been divided into two programs.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

ABORTION ADVOCATES: IN IT FOR THE MONEY?

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I subscribe to an email newsletter, "Best of the Web Today," by James Taranto at http://www.opinionjournal.com/. Mr. Taranto has frequently discussed what he dubs "The Roe Effect"

Regular readers of this column know that for some time we have been pushing a pet theory about the political effect of abortion. We refer not to the issue of abortion but to the practice, and our theory is that abortion is making America more conservative than it otherwise would be.

We base this on two assumptions. First, that liberal and Democratic women are more likely to have abortions. Second, that children's political views tend to reflect those of their parents--not exactly, of course, and not in every case, but on average. Thus abortion depletes the next generation of liberals and eventually makes the population more conservative. We call this the Roe effect, after Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court's 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion.
Today, Mr. Taranto has a very interesting account of how Planned Parenthood, "'the nation's most frequent provider of abortions, is performing more of the procedures than ever . . . and relying increasingly on the revenue generated from abortions, according to its Fiscal Year 2004 annual report.'"

Taranto cites a story by CNS News, which observes that "a survey of newspaper stories regarding the closing of 11 of the organization's clinics during Fiscal Year 2004 revealed a common cause," which is that demand for abortions in certain areas, Texas, Ohio and Indiana (all of which, Taranto notes, were carried by President Bush) is declining. Here's the money quote from the CNS article (emphasis added):
"While we recognize the need for affordable family planning services in the Copper Country," said Scott Blanchard, executive director of PPNM [Planned Parenthood of Northern Michigan], "our Houghton center simply hasn't served enough clients to justify the monthly costs to keep it going."

Closing the facility was a difficult decision, Blanchard noted in a press release, in part because "those who oppose Planned Parenthood's presence in Houghton will undoubtedly see this as a victory.

"However, this was strictly a business decision," he said.
Dwell on that for a moment. Planned Parenthood has a vested financial interest in performing abortions. I wonder how much Planned Parenthood gets from adoptions.

Taranto concludes: "This suggests that the demand for abortion is becoming more concentrated in areas that vote Democratic. In other words, the Roe effect is accelerating." I hope so.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

LDS RELIANCE ON THE BIBLE

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If you haven't guessed by now, I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the "LDS Church" or "Mormon Church"). Over the last few years I have encountered numerous critics of my faith, many of whom profess adherence to some flavor of Christianity (most anti-Mormons, I think, are of the Evangelical and Fundamentalist variety).

One of the chief gripes I hear from these folks is that we Latter-day Saints don't have enough reverence for the Bible. I think this observation derives mostly from a confluence of 1) the rejection by LDS of the concept of "inerrancy" of scripture; and 2) a seven-word caveat in the 8th Article of Faith, which is accepted as scripture by Latter-day Saints (emphasis added):

We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.
Our critics, I think, are far too eager to find fault on this point, and try their best to make Mormons look their worst for it. However, I just came across a discussion on the Times & Seasons blog that offers some interesting evidence that contravenes this argument:

Thanks to a cool feature on the scriptures.byu.edu website, it’s easy to rank the scriptures by the frequency they’ve been cited in General Conferences since 1942. I guessed number one, but was surprised by several of the top ten. Before checking the answers, make a few guesses: What are the most prominent scriptures in Mormondom?

The Passages of Scripture Most Cited in General Conference, 1942 - 2004:

1 Moses 1:39
2 JS-H 1:15-20
3 Matt. 22:37-40
4 John 17:3
5 Matt. 6:33
6 Moroni 10:4-5
7 D&C 68:25-28
8 2 Nephi 2:25
9 A of F 13
10 Matt. 25:40
11 D&C 84:33-38
12 D&C 89:18-21
13 Abr 3:25-26
14 John 7:17
15 James 1:5
16 Matt. 28:19-20
17 John 14:6
18 Matt 5:48
19 John 3:16
20 Exodus 20:8-15
21 Matt. 16:16
22 Acts 4:12
23 Rom. 1:16
24 Dan. 2:44
25 John 14:27
26 Acts 3:21
27 Rev. 14:6-7
28 Matt. 11:28-30
29 D&C 59:23
30 Mosiah 18:9
31 D&C 121:41-45
32 Matt. 5:16
33 John 11:25
34 D&C 59:9
35 Mal. 3:10
36 John 3:5
37 2 Nephi 31:20
38 D&C 14:7
39 D&C 93:36
40 Mosiah 3:19
41 1 Nephi 3:7
42 Luke 23:34
43 Gen. 1:27-28
44 D&C 76:22-24
45 D&C 20:77
46 1 Cor. 15:22
47 Moro. 7:47
48 Matt. 3:17
49 John 14:15
50 Mark 16:15
51 Josh 24:15
52 Amos 3:7
53 D&C 130:20-21
54 1 Pet. 2:9
55 Matt. 16:17
56 D&C 1:30
57 D&C 18:10, 15-16
58 D&C 19:18
59 D&C 110:15-16
60 Matt. 24:14
61 Eph. 4:12
62 3 Nephi 11:7-10
63 D&C 101:80
64 D&C 58:27
65 Matt. 7:12
66 2 Nephi 2:27
67 3 Nephi 27:27
68 Matt. 6:9
69 Alma 41:10
70 D&C 88:118
71 D&C 89:8
72 D&C 1:38
73 Moroni 10:32
74 D&C 82:10
75 Matt. 24:14
76 A of F 1
77 James 1:27
78 A of F 9
79 John 5:39
80 A of F 3
81 A of F 4
82 D&C 38:30
83 Gen. 3:19
84 Philip. 4:7
85 D&C 13:1
86 D&C 38:27
87 Luke 22:42
88 Acts 3:21
89 BofM Title Page
90 John 14:26
91 Ether 2:12
92 John 16:33
93 Isa. 9:6
94 John 8:12
95 Eph. 2:20
96 Isa. 29:14
97 Matt. 4:4
98 Matt. 25:21
99 1 Tim. 4:12
100 A of F 12
Here's how the Top 100 breaks down by percentage:

Bible Quotes: 53%
Other-than-Bible Quotes: 47%
Put another way:
New Testament: 44%
Doctrine & Covenants: 24%
Book of Mormon: 14%
Old Testament: 9%
Pearl of Great Price: 9%
My gut instinct and personal experience has long been that our critics are wrong on this point. I think these numbers bear out that impression. Of course, inerrantists will never be satisfied by anything but wholesale acceptance of that dogma, so if you are a Mormon, don't expect this gripe to go away any time soon.

Friday, January 14, 2005

CONDI RICE v. HILLARY CLINTON IN '08?

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Is America going to have a woman president in four years? Possibly:

Dick Morris, the nation's most prominent political consultant, says the 2008 race is shaping up to be showdown between two of America's most popular women: Condi Rice and Hillary Clinton.
...
In a surprising analysis, Morris writes in NewsMax Magazine that Condoleezza Rice is the only Republican on the national scene who can beat Hillary and keep the GOP in the White House.
We'll see, I suppose. There are other names being floated for the Republican ticket. John McCain and Mitt Romney come to mind. John Ellis, George W. Bush's cousin, recently labeled Romney as "The GOP's best hope in 2008."There are even t-shirts, pins, and hot cocoa mugs for sale advertising "Mitt '08."

Two women and a Mormon are beind discussed as presidential contenders. Cool.

Friday, January 07, 2005

ABORTION AS EUGENICS, OUTLAWED IN CHINA

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A few months ago I blogged about "Abortion as Politically Correct Eugenics." I discussed how prospective parents are aborting fetuses with medical conditions (such as deformed feet, cleft palate, etc.).

In a somewhat related vein, I now raise the issue of abortion as a means of terminating a pregnancy based not on a medical condition, but on gender. I think this is probably a widespread problem only in China, the inevitable result of that country's One Child Policy clashing with cultural expectations of the family name being preserved through a male heir. The ugly result: it is very common in China to abort, kill or abandon baby girls and instead try to have a boy.

With these things in mind, check out this story:

China is to make abortion on the basis of sex a crime in a bid to redress the
imbalance between newborn boys and girls that has arisen as a result of the
their one-child policy.

Government figures show 119 boys are born in the
world's most populous country for every 100 girls and Beijing has now set a goal
of reversing the imbalance by 2010.
...
Sex-selective abortion is
already banned but technologies such as ultrasound have made it easier to know a
baby's gender in advance, increasing the chances for aborting girls.

"As a new measure, the commission will start drafting revisions to the Criminal Law
in order to effectively ban foetus gender detection and selective abortion other
than for legitimate medical purposes."

ATTITUDES ABOUT AIDS

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Here is an example of an apparent problematic perspective on AIDS:


Wendel Kirkbride, who has been living with HIV for more than 17 years, is frustrated that people don't seem concerned about HIV/AIDS. He attributes a recent rise in cases among males age 20 to 29 to their perception of the success of new treatments, which "makes you so you don't want to use protected sex."

Got that? Mr. Kirkbride blames the recent rise is AIDS cases among young males on . . . new treatments for AIDS. It's not because these young men are choosing to engage in risky sexual behavior, but because advances in medical treatments make them want to engage in it.

Or maybe Mr. Kirkbride is merely providing an explanation, not a justification or ratationalization, for this behavior.

I dunno. The frustrating part of the AIDS epidemic is the fact that so many cases arise out of nothing more than the natural consequences of engaging in high risk sex. People who get AIDS from tainted blood or from their unfaithful spouse or from their mother (i.e. during gestation or via breast milk) are all genuine victims. They have committed no volitional act that placed them at risk of contracting AIDS.

But there are huge numbers of people who do commit volitional acts that place them at a high risk of contracting AIDS. People, particularly high risk groups like gay men, who engage in promiscuous, unprotected sex (the above-linked article states that "the majority of new infections reported between 1998 and 2003 - 53 percent - were among men who have sex with men") are simply playing Russian Roullette. They play the odds and everyone - themselves, their friends and family, and society in general - reap the tragic consequences.



Saturday, November 06, 2004

"MORMON STUDIES PROGRAM" AT CLAREMONT

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This is interesting:
A California school is looking at opening the first chair for Mormon studies outside of Utah for study of the faith's history, people and traditions.

Karen Torjesen, dean of religious studies at Claremont Graduate University's School of Religion, said separate councils studying possible chairs for several religions are due to file their recommendations next year, a Salt Lake newspaper reported Saturday.
...
The Mormon studies program could be among several new chairs in religious studies Claremont is examining for such religions as Islam, Judaism, Orthodox Christianity, Protestantism and Catholicism.
...
Another effort to open a Mormon studies chair at Utah Valley State College has met resistance. Some residents of Orem, Utah, fear it could evolve into a Mormon-bashing program undermining the faith of the school's 24,000 students, most of whom are Mormon.

"There is so much cultural baggage and still a lot of hurdles we have to jump over in order to make the community feel comfortable with academic study of Mormonism," said Brian Birch, director of religious studies at Utah Valley State College, who received his doctorate at Claremont.
...
Mormons in Southern California like the idea, said Amy Hoyt, a doctoral candidate in women's studies at Claremont and a member of the school's Mormon advisory council.

"There's some surprise that it's a secular, non-Utah university" that would take up Mormon studies, she said. "I also get a sense of relief from people, like 'finally someone is going to take us seriously.'"
She said the Mormon church is becoming a topic of increasing interest among religion scholars as it grows beyond the Western Hemisphere into a worldwide faith. Yale University held a scholarly conference on Mormonism two years ago, and Harvard University also is taking an interest.


Thursday, November 04, 2004

AFIRMATIVE ACTION HURTS BLACK LAW STUDENTS

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Eugene Volokh, one of my favorite bloggers, is commenting on a study (link requires registration, so email for a copy of the article if you are interested) reporting that
Affirmative action hurts black law students more than it helps them, by bumping applicants up into law schools where they are more likely to earn poor grades, drop out, and fail their states' bar exams, according to a forthcoming study by a law professor at the University of California at Los Angeles.

The author, Richard H. Sander, argues that ending racial preferences in law-school admissions would increase the number of black lawyers because it would help ensure that students attend law schools where they are more likely to succeed.

A report of the study, scheduled to appear in the November issue of the Stanford Law Review, has sparked a contentious debate among supporters and critics of affirmative action. . . .

His report, "A Systemic Analysis of Affirmative Action in American Law Schools," says that:

-After the first year of law school, 51 percent of black students have grade-point averages that place them in the bottom tenth of their classes, compared with 5 percent of white students. "Evidence suggests that when you're doing that badly, you're learning less than if you were in the middle of a class" at a less-prestigious law school, Mr. Sander says.

-Among students who entered law school in 1991, about 80 percent of white students graduated and passed the bar on their first attempt, compared with just 45 percent of black students. In a race-blind admissions system, the number of black graduates passing the bar the first time would jump to 74 percent, he says, based on his statistical analysis of how higher grades in less competitive schools would result in higher bar scores. Black students are nearly six times as likely as whites not to pass state bar exams after multiple attempts.

-Ending affirmative action would increase the number of new black lawyers by 8.8 percent because students would attend law schools where they would struggle less and learn more, and earn higher grades.

-With the exception of the most-elite law schools, good grades matter more to employers than the law school's prestige.
Volokh is impressed with both the author and the findings. So am I.

Friday, October 15, 2004

ABORTION AS POLITICALLY CORRECT EUGENICS

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I just came across this story from several months ago and thought it worthy of a post:
ABORTION SOARS IN QUEST FOR PERFECT BABIES
Daily Mail
Sun May 6, 2004 23:30:03 ET

Those with conditions that can usually be corrected medically - such as deformed feet and cleft lips and palates - are instead being terminated.

And the number of abortions of Down's syndrome babies now outstrips live births, despite the fact that those with the condition can live a long and fulfilling life. As screening techniques improve, the trend is likely to grow - horrifying pro-life campaigners.

'These figures are symptomatic of a eugenic trend of the consumerist society hell-bent on obliterating deformity - and at what cost to its own humanity? ' said ethicist Jacqueline Laing, of London Metropolitan University. 'We are obliterating the willingness of people to accept disability. Babies are required to fit a description of normality before they are allowed to be born.'

The figures for 2002 - the latest available - from the Office for National Statistics show more women than ever are choosing to terminate babies with potential handicaps, with such abortions rising 8 per cent in a year.
See also here ("Minority preborn children are being aborted at more than twice the rate of white preborns."), here ("British Abortion Rate Skyrockets as Couples Eliminate 'Defective' Children"), here ("A woman was granted a late-term abortion because the foetus was found to have a cleft lip and palate.") and here ("(Women should not be required to justify their need for abortion. It is sufficient that a woman does not want to continue the pregnancy . . . It is not difficult to understand why women choose to abort abnormal pregnancies. Many women find that they feel differently about their condition when they find their baby would be born disabled. The discovery that the child is 'not normal' may challenge a woman's hopes and expectations about what her future family life will be . . . Abortion on grounds of fetal abnormality is not a matter of eugenics, it is a means to extend women's control over their lives and futures.").

Thoughts?

Friday, October 08, 2004

RISKS IN THE PORN INDUSTRY - PART 2

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I previously blogged about how the porn industry places porn actors at greater risk for contracting STDs because consumers don't want to see condoms in porn flicks.

Here's an update on this issue:
LOS ANGELES -- Government officials are stepping up their effort to get adult film producers to enforce the use of condoms during sex scenes.

Los Angeles County health officials have sent letters urging producers and directors to use condoms during filming, and vaccinate actors for hepatitis A and B.

A state lawmaker has also issued a letter threatening possible legislation to mandate the use of condoms in porn productions.

The government has been frustrated with the porn industry's failure to take steps to prevent sexually transmitted diseases following an HIV outbreak in April. That's when four actors were identified as having HIV and the industry was temporarily shutdown.

LDS MISSIONARIES IN CANADIAN SCHOOLS

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I'm not sure this is a good idea:

Two American missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, hit a snag when they made a pitch to the Iqaluit District Education Authority on Sept. 27. It was the first big setback for the pair, who have been well-received elsewhere in town.
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This was the first time that Mormon missionaries have requested classroom time with the students, and board members were less than thrilled with the idea.

"Not my kids," said vice-president Aseena Allurut, who was at the meeting.
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Board member Katherine Trumper, on behalf of the group, raised a concern that there was no precedent for allowing a specific religious group in the classroom.

Inuksusk High principal Terry Young replied that there have been presentations in the past that "did not result in a good thing." Young also said that the board had denied requests from religious groups for the last five years.

The missionaries informed the board that several schools in Quebec had allowed missionaries into their schools. At Trumper's prompting, they agreed to present letters of references from the principals of those schools.

"Frankly I was somewhat surprised that they didn't have those [references] in hand," says Trumper.
I would be opposed to having missionaries proseletyze a "captive audience" of young kids in school, whether those missionaries be LDS or any other faith.

Friday, September 24, 2004

SEPARATED AT BIRTH?

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A few hours ago I came across this picture of John and Teresa Kerry:



Hmm. Doesn't John Kerry remind you of Odo from Deep Space Nine?




UPDATE: What's up with this?




I'm not sure what sort of appeal a pumpkin-hued presidential candidate will have on the masses. We'll wait and see.




Monday, September 20, 2004

JOHN KERRY FLIP FLOP #677

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John Kerry on September 20, 2004:
Sen. John Kerry said Monday that mistakes by President Bush in invading Iraq could lead to unending war and that no responsible commander in chief would have waged the war knowing Saddam Hussein didn't possess weapons of mass destruction and wasn't an imminent threat to the United States.

"Yet today, President Bush tells us that he would do everything all over again, the same way. How can he possibly be serious?" Kerry said at New York University.
John Kerry on August 9, 2004:
Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry said on Monday he would have voted for the congressional resolution authorizing force against Iraq even if he had known then no weapons of mass destruction would be found.

Taking up a challenge from President Bush, whom he will face in the Nov. 2 election, the Massachusetts senator said: "I'll answer it directly. Yes, I would have voted for the authority. I believe it is the right authority for a president to have but I would have used that authority effectively."