Merry Christmas From The ADF

These people are still around.

religion-adfsnowflakes

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is curiously named. Here are some details:

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF, formerly Alliance Defense Fund) is a 501(c)(3) American conservative Christian nonprofit organization with the stated goal of “defending the right to hear and speak the Truth through strategy, training, funding, and litigation.” The Southern Poverty Law Center has described the organization as “virulently anti-gay”.

ADF supports the inclusion of invocations at public meetings and the use of religious displays (such as crosses and other religious monuments) on public lands and in public buildings. The ADF opposes abortion, and believes that healthcare workers have a right to decline participation in the performance of abortions and other practices an individual health worker finds morally objectionable. ADF opposes same-sex marriage and civil unions, as well as adoption by same-sex couples based on their belief that children are best raised by a married mother and father. ADF believes parents should be able to opt their children out of sex education in schools that run counter to a family’s religious beliefs.

That’s from Wikipedia, and if I interpret it correctly—and I do interpret it correctly—what it says is this: The ADF supports the use of funds (taxes) collected by government officials using the power of United States law to proselytize for the Christian religion.

Full disclosure: I readily admit a lack of favor for the Christian religion. As a consequence I object to having money, collected from me under the force law, being used to promote this foolishness. Being as forthright as I am required to  be, I also object to my tax money being used to support all kinds of foolishness. Details on request. However, in the case of using tax money to proselytize for Christianity, there is specific United States law that backing me up:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

It is particularly the establishment clause at work here. What we see is a public school teacher, using his paid time, paid through public funds, erecting promotional posters and such on property, paid through public funds and established by public law. This is especially egregious when the purpose is to sway young children toward a specific religion.

Here is the crucial section of the Facebook posting by the Alliance Defending Freedom:

This wasn’t the first time that the Christmas classic found itself on the chopping block, and unfortunately, it wasn’t the last.

Recently, an employee at a public school in Texas was told by the principal to remove a poster on her door featuring the infamous Peanuts Christmas tree, Linus, and these words:

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior which is Christ the Lord. That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

As the Daily Caller reports, the employee was told to remove the poster “because non-Christian students might be offended.”

Where to begin?

First of all, I don’t see anyone tearing down posters of Santa Claus or Frosty or Rudolph for fear it might offend those who believe that Jesus is the reason for the season.

This tells me that either (a) people who aren’t self-described Christians are more easily offended than those who are; or (b) these school administrators simply care more about being “politically correct” than they care about the Constitution.

After all, free speech and free expression are protected by the First Amendment. And as Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told the school, “The U.S. Supreme Court has held repeatedly that neither students nor teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”

I have highlighted the significant text. Let’s look at it:

  • Foremost, it is false. Jesus was most surely not born on 25 December, and not in Bethlehem. Actually, I think the “City of David” is Jerusalem.  I’ve been wrong before.
  • Second, the proclamation that “Jesus is Lord” is religious propaganda—proselytizing quite pure.

The meat, and the title then of the ADF posting, is this paragraph:

It’s time to stop treating the next generation like precious snowflakes who will melt at the tiniest disturbance in their atmosphere. I know it’s hard considering what’s been happening on college and university campuses across the country—but these students didn’t become this way on their own.

Yes, ADF writer, Marissa Mayer, is casting this as an instance of PC police protecting fragile little souls from offenses to their delicate feelings. Really? How about this? How about casting this as an instance of showing respect for the American legal framework that protects citizens in a minority position from ultimate government power?

Mayer talks about “snowflakes.” Let’s talk about snowflakes. Let’s talk about a teacher in a public school putting up a poster saying something like, “There is only one God (Allah) and Muhammad is God’s messenger.” I suspect (I have been wrong before) that should such a thing happen we would see snowflakes melting like… Well like the proverbial snowball in Hell.

Your Friend The Handgun

Nothing new here, folks.

CasingsInTheStreet

These days it’s up to private citizens to keep themselves and their families safe from terrorists and an ever-present criminal element. People increasingly rely on the 2nd Amendment for the right to arm themselves. It is impressive how well this is working out:

CLARKSVILLE, TN (WSMV) – Clarksville police said a 3-year-old boy has died after being shot in the face.

Police said the shooting happened Friday evening in the 500 block of Samantha Lane.

The child had been shot in the face with a handgun. The 911 call said the boy had found the gun and shot himself in the mouth.

The victim was transported by ambulance to the hospital, where he later died.

The .40 caliber handgun was owned by a resident of the home.

Remember, the handgun is your friend. Keep it handy.

Getting Real

Continuing from a previous post

I previously posted on reasonable legal measures to counter this country’s massive problem with gun violence. Quoting myself:

In the wake of the mass shooting and murder at the Pulse night club in Orlando, there has been a renewed call for restrictive gun legislation. And some response. Vis, a recent Facebook posting:

Nobody added comments to my post, but a link I posted to Facebook received some response. A screen shot captures a summary, omitting 22 additional comments.

Gun-FacebookPage-01

Here is a transcription from the above image:

Steven Breed So back to the first bullet point then: How does it reduce gun deaths?

John Blanton It does not.

Steven Breed Now I’m confused. Does it work in conjunction with the other bullets to reduce them? What is it supposed to do?

John Blanton Steve, because you have shown so much interest in this topic, I am now encouraged to give it the full attention it deserves. Stand by for another Skeptical Analysis post.

Hence this post. To recap, following is my current (revised since the original post) bullet list:

  • Firearms must be registered. Yeah, yeah, this is a preamble for taking away your guns. Get over it.
  • Severe restrictions on the carrying of guns. If you want to handle your weapon anywhere outside your home, anywhere besides a shooting range or a hunting location, you’re going to need a permit, and to obtain that permit you’re going to need to demonstrate you have a good business reason for carrying a gun on the street.
  • Severe penalties for violations. You don’t register your gun, the government can seize it, you won’t get it back, ever. Carry your weapon on the street without the proper permit, and you lose it. Besides, you are going to jail. And you will receive no compensation from the government.
  • Sever penalties for using a gun in the commission of a crime. These laws exist and are enforceable. Penalties can be increased.
  • The need for an automatic weapon must be demonstrated before such a weapon can be used outside the home. Gun people like to pick words over what is an automatic weapon, but as an engineer, any machine that operates itself is by definition automatic. Any weapon that reloads itself is automatic.
  • Automatic weapons will not be authorized for hunting.
  • Guns being transported must be locked up. We had these laws in Texas for years. You’re going hunting? You need to keep your weapons in the trunk of the car until you get where you’re going.
  • It will be illegal to transfer a gun from one person’s ownership to another’s without a proper background check.
  • It will be illegal to lend a gun to somebody who does not have the right to possess a gun.
  • Violation of gun laws will result in the forfeiture of the right of ownership for life.
  • Pistols will be regarded as exceptional weapons, requiring additional restrictions for ownership.

Steve’s question is “Does it work in conjunction with the other bullets to reduce them? What is it supposed to do?” I was hoping Steve would have figured that one out, but I am prepared to do the legwork and outline how registration of firearms will lend itself to reducing gun fatalities. Not being a lawyer or legal scholar by any measure, I am sure to get various points wrong. Challenges and corrections are solicited.

  1. When a gun is registered it becomes associated with an individual.
  2. If an individual registered as a gun owner is convicted of a felony, especially a felony involving violence, all guns registered to that individual become subject to confiscation without reimbursement. These guns become the property of some government agency.
  3. If a registered gun from 2 above cannot be located, then the gun will be placed on a watch list.
  4. Any attempt to transfer possession (ownership) of the illegal weapon will incur criminal charges.
  5. The person found in possession of the illegal weapon will be prosecuted.
  6. If a registered weapon is stolen it will be recorded as an illegal weapon, with criminal penalties attached to its subsequent possession.
  7. The above procedures will reduce the free circulation of weapons and will also provide government authorities the ability to remove illegal weapons from circulation.
  8. An obvious result of the above is that a gun removed from circulation will not shortly become involved in death or injury to somebody. People legally possessing a gun will be dissuaded from illegally selling, lending, or giving the gun to somebody who should not have it.

All this may seem minor, and somebody is going to argue that it places undue burden on legitimate gun owners at very little accomplished toward reducing gun violence. The point is conceded, except for the “undue” part. The burden is due and will become part of the cost of gun ownership.

A full transcript of the Facebook exchange is available on request. Again, comments and suggestions are solicited. If you are reading this from a Facebook link, comment in the section below rather than on Facebook. This saves me the trouble of transferring Facebook comments to this posting.

Getting Real

It has come to my attention that my bullet list was incomplete in its original form. This post has been revised to correct that.

It’s getting about time for a reality check. See the photo below.

GunDebate-MariahDavis

That’s five-year-old Mariah Davis. Only now she’s dead. She was not the victim of international terrorists. She was not the victim of a crazed shooter. She was not the victim of a scumbag criminal. She was killed, either by herself or by another child in her own home. Laws banning assault rifles would not have prevented this tragedy. She was killed by a handgun owned by her grandmother, supposedly a responsible gun owner.

In the wake of the mass shooting and murder at the Pulse night club in Orlando, there has been a renewed call for restrictive gun legislation. And some response. Vis, a recent Facebook posting:

Guns-HarlowKeithOrlandoShooting

Silly remarks are laid upon both sides of this debate. Those notwithstanding, some things are real.

The embarrassing rate of gun-related deaths in the United States cannot be attributed to mental illness. Mariah’s grandmother was not mentally ill. Also, she did not do the shooting. Let’s get real. Let’s toss out all the mentally ill and all the drug gangs and the terrorists attacks. How many countries can even approach the United States when it comes to killings by children under the age of 10?

It is not solely a matter of criminals and deranged individuals with guns. Strike those, and the United States is still number one among advanced countries. The truth is that the more guns there are around the more people will be killed by guns.

Underlying that problem is the Second Amendment to the Constitution. This amendment protects the right of citizens to keep and bear arms. Contrary to the thinking of the National Rifle Association and legions of gun rights advocates, the Amendment nowhere mentions guns. Apparently the Second Amendment was intended to be interpreted. Interpretations have been many. For example:

Its foggy wording and odd locution stand out in the Constitution. Lawyers and scholars debate its commas and clauses. For 218 years, judges overwhelmingly concluded that the amendment authorized states to form militias, what we now call the National Guard. Then, in 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court upended two centuries of precedent. In the case of District of Columbia v. Heller, an opinion written by Justice Antonin Scalia declared that the Constitution confers a right to own a gun for self-defense in the home. That’s right: the Supreme Court found there to be an individual right to gun ownership just a few years ago. Now, when we debate gun control we do so in the context of a Supreme Court ruling that limits what we can do (though we don’t yet know how much).

Waldman, Michael. The Second Amendment: A Biography (Kindle Locations 39-44). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

This has been a critical decision by the Court. Not being a legal scholar, I take this to mean that if you want to own a gun the government is going to need a good reason to deny you the opportunity. Even the NRA concedes convicted criminals can be denied the right to have a gun.

My opinion: this has escalated beyond all sensibility. States have enacted open carry laws, allowing people with permits to carry weapons concealed or in plain sight just about anywhere they want to go. And this has resulted in greater safety for all of us.

No, it has not.

What is reasonable? Is it too early to start getting reasonable? Maybe the time has come.

Some plans are top of the head foolish. Take away peoples guns. Never going to happen. People purchased guns at a time when the law allowed them to do so. Seizing their property now would, at the least, be in violation of due process, part of the Bill of Rights.

Gun buy-back programs are also foolish and on the face unworkable. People will game the system, even purchasing cheap, often unworkable, weapons and working the program for a profit.

Prohibiting the sale of certain weapon designs. That has gone nowhere in the past, as minor changes in design can defeat the definition of what is prohibited. Exception: machine guns, what gun buffs call automatic weapons, can be outlawed.

Prohibiting the manufacture of certain weapons. Nah.

Holding manufacturers and marketers responsible. No, again.

Enough of that. What can be done? What can be done that has the slightest chance of passing muster with the courts. My suggestions:

  • Firearms must be registered. Yeah, yeah, this is a preamble for taking away your guns. Get over it.
  • Severe restrictions on the carrying of guns. If you want to handle your weapon anywhere outside your home, anywhere besides a shooting range or a hunting location, you’re going to need a permit, and to obtain that permit you’re going to need to demonstrate you have a good business reason for carrying a gun on the street.
  • Severe penalties for violations. You don’t register your gun, the government can seize it, you won’t get it back, ever. Carry your weapon on the street without the proper permit, and you lose it. Besides, you are going to jail. And you will receive no compensation from the government.
  • Sever penalties for using a gun in the commission of a crime. These laws exist and are enforceable. Penalties can be increased.
  • The need for an automatic weapon must be demonstrated before such a weapon can be used outside the home. Gun people like to pick words over what is an automatic weapon, but as an engineer, any machine that operates itself is by definition automatic. Any weapon that reloads itself is automatic.
  • Automatic weapons will not be authorized for hunting.
  • Guns being transported must be locked up. We had these laws in Texas for years. You’re going hunting? You need to keep your weapons in the trunk of the car until you get where you’re going.
  • It will be illegal to transfer a gun from one person’s ownership to another’s without a proper background check.
  • It will be illegal to lend a gun to somebody who does not have the right to possess a gun.
  • Violation of gun laws will result in the forfeiture of the right of ownership for life.
  • Pistols will be regarded as exceptional weapons, requiring additional restrictions for ownership.

Good, sensible gun advocates like to remind me that no gun law will prevent gun violence. Of course. No piece of paper will keep a bad guy from having a gun. Of course. What the piece of paper does accomplish is to give police the authorization to seize a weapon and even arrest a person. Without the “piece of paper” the police have to stand by until a crime has been committed or is about to happen. There is a case in point.

This is from news reports. People reported a man on the street carrying a gun. Police did not respond. Without probable cause the police could not stop the man and interfere with his going about his business. After the man killed two people the police were able to respond. Here is a case:

Case study: the Neenah stop. Recently in Neenah, WI, a woman called the police to report a man with a gun strapped to his back walking down the street. The call was placed to the non-emergency police number and the caller didn’t report that the man was doing anything threatening, but she did suggest that the police check on the situation. As a result, an officer stopped the man and his companion. The officer engaged in a protracted dialogue with the man, at one point telling the man that he would be shot in the head if he made any furtive movements. Other officers also responded, and at least one drew her weapon. The man who was stopped remained calm throughout the interaction and was eventually permitted to depart. The full 18-minute video of the stop is here. A local news article about the stop is here. It has generated quite a bit of controversy. Were the officer’s actions lawful and justified by public safety concerns? Or was it an unjustified response to lawful open carry? This post breaks down the legal issues.

Here is another:

As I first reported late Monday, questions are hanging over how the Colorado Springs Police Department handled a 911 call on Saturday morning, when a resident saw a man carrying a rifle on her residential block prior to a deadly gun rampage. The caller, Naomi Bettis, was alarmed about 33-year-old Noah Harpham—who soon went on to shoot three people to death in the area before being killed by police. But when Bettis made the 911 call, her first of two, the police dispatcher apparently reacted without urgency, telling Bettis about Colorado’s law allowing firearms to be carried openly in public. Bettis hung up, and when she called back it was because the killing was underway.

Yes, I’m thinking we’ve had about enough of this business. It’s time to get real.

Friday Funny

One of a series

So, why am I showing this image of a brown (?) Probe? Maybe it has to do with today’s funny headline:

Kenyan Judge Says Anal Probes Are a Legal Way to Determine if Someone is Gay

In Kenya, a nation where sodomy is a criminal offense, a judge just ruled that anal probes are a legal way to determine someone’s sexual orientation.

And that’s funny.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same

Religion-FaithHealing-01

Unfortunate as it is, I can probably do one of these every Tuesday. This is recent:

Two Mormon parents who own a nutritional supplement company are accused of letting their toddler son die from meningitis because they tried to treat him with home remedies instead of medicine.

David and Collet Stephan have pleaded not guilty to charges that they failed to provide the necessities of life to their 19-month-old son Ezekiel, reported CBC News.

Although Ezekiel’s parents did not substitute prayer for medical treatment, their faith in home remedies proved just as fatal as if they had prayed to Jesus. When faith wins out over pragmatism, somebody needs to come around to collect the bodies.

Expectations of Privacy

This is a continuation of a previous discussion.

Better_Sample_PDF417

In a previous post I discussed what it was like growing up in a small town, the gist being in a small town your expectation of privacy is a fantasy. What got me thinking of this was the civil suit that may have earned professional wrestler Hulk Hogan (Terry Bollea) $115 million. That’s what a jury awarded Mr. Bollea from defendant Gawker Media. Following that, on Monday of this week the jury came back and awarded Bollea an additional $25.1 million dollars from defendants Gawker Media, Gawker founder Nick Denton , and Gawker editor A.J. Daulerio. Here is how it all came about.

From testimony at the trial, Bollea was at the home of his friend, Tampa-area radio shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge, whose real name is Todd Alan Clem. Present also was Clem’s bride, Heather Cole, from all appearances a major babe. A suggestion was made, and the very enticing Ms. Cole took Bollea by the hand and led him to an upstairs bedroom where the two engaged in the most intimate of human relations.

The problem is, Mr. Clem arranged to video tape the encounter, although accounts differ as to whether Bollea agreed to this or even knew of it. That was in 2007. Nine seconds of the video wound up being posted on the Gawker site in 2012, without Mr. Bollea’s permission. This according to the jury’s finding.

So here’s the rub. Hulk Hogan (Terry Bollea) has for some time earned his daily bread as an exhibitionist, engaging in staged wrestling exhibitions (nobody seriously calls them matches) and other, less respectable, exhibitions. He has previously discussed his private sex life in public interviews.

Anyhow, that pretty much settles that. Freedom of speech notwithstanding, you cannot take something that was rightfully expected to be private and make it public. That is, you can’t do it unless you welcome legal and monetary repercussions.

My previous post (see the link above) delved into the matter of the NSA and other government agencies monitoring network traffic and even phone traffic. I’m going to expand on that. What about other forms of monitoring? Where does the expectation of privacy end? Recall (link above) my tale of growing up in a small town, and everybody told my mother when they noticed I was getting out of line. Bicycling around the streets in a small Texas town did not involve any expectation of privacy.

There is more I did not tell. As kids, I had a brother and some cousins, we decided we wanted to be detectives. What do detectives do? They keep an eye out and see what’s going on. We took it upon ourselves to stand by the street and record the license plate numbers of the cars going by. Yes, that was funny.

Did we have a right to do that? Anyone would argue this was a foolish exercise, but few would deny us the right to do so. But look where this is leading.

Pasted inside the windshield of my car is a toll tag. When I drive through a toll gate on any number of Texas tollways, a scanner reads the information embedded in the tag and records it. They’re going to send me a bill.

But wait. They record more. They record where the car was, at which toll gate, and in which lane. Also the date and time of day—to the minute. I tried an experiment. I logged onto my toll tag account and verified for myself. Yes, I could track the progress of my car throughout my travels along the toll road. And so could anybody else who had access to my account. Not just the NSA, but the local police. If later at a criminal trial I contended I did not murder the famous banker Robert McCool, the police could come back and ask, then why did my car exit the toll road near Mr. McCool’s house just minutes before the crime was committed?

Obviously my privacy went out the window when I decided to paste a toll tag on my windshield. The solution would logically be to not use a toll tag. Just pay cash.

Wrong-o! Nobody takes cash anymore. Don’t have a toll tag? The toll gate just reads your license plate. They look your car up in public records and mail you a bill. And charge you extra for the extra trouble.

Nonetheless, having a toll tag pasted on your windshield opens your privacy to anybody who can scan it, and not just the tollway authority. Anybody with the technology. Of course, reading your toll tag ID does not disclose additional information to somebody who does not have access to the toll authority’s database. They can’t even get your license plate information from the toll tag ID. But they don’t need to.

People don’t need to read your toll tag to get your license plate number. All they need to do is to look at your license plate. And they don’t need eyeballs to do that. Recall the kids in the small Texas town writing down license plate numbers? That was so 1950. Technology exists and is for sale to scan and read license plates. Anybody, anywhere, anytime can set up a scanner alongside a public road and collect license plate numbers from all passing cars. And they can record the date, time, and location. And it’s all perfectly legal. So far. Back to that later.

Besides the toll tag, I have pasted on my windshield another item. It’s the DMV registration tag. The police do not need to read my license plate to identify my car. The windshield sticker has a 2-D bar code that gives the police all the information they need. A cop stops you for speeding (or driving while black) and walks up to your windshield. He scans the bar code. He doesn’t have to write down your license plate number. He may check to see that the plate number corresponds (it had better) with the scanned information, but he has all he needs for his records.

So much for privacy? No way. This is routine, and a policeman stopping your vehicle for any reason can legally collect this information. And it can be use in later legal action.

I’m about to carry this the ultimate step forward. What if it were not necessary to step up to my car to read the sticker? What if, as with the toll tag, the registration stickers could be read from afar, for example from a scanner stationed beside the roadway. Then all the police (read, the NSA) need to do is to set up a network of monitoring stations and track every vehicle traveling on public roads. That is a massive amount of data, but who doubts the ability of the NSA to handle it?

A massive invasion of privacy, you will exclaim. Could be. This will not catch the crooks, you exclaim. The crooks will make up phony stickers. They could, in principle, but remember, the police (NSA) can also read the license plate, and if the license plate and the sticker don’t agree, then there’s trouble. Additionally, if a sticker is just duplicated, then the computing power of the NSA would take note that your car was in two cities at the same time. Flashing lights would appear in the rear view mirrors of two cars simultaneously.

This bit of government intrusion has been very interesting, but I’m getting to something more. Civil rights attorneys can make a big issue of any such government action, but do not believe that eliminates the problem. Though I am no legal scholar, I am going to venture that what the government is restricted from doing a private citizen may not be.

What law currently on the books, what pertinent case law, prevents a private citizen from stationing himself alongside a public road and recording the license plates of all traffic, all day, every day? And storing this information? Let’s give this private citizen a name. Let’s call this private citizen Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google. Google already has photos of your house. Some taken from the street and some taken from above. They possibly have a photo of your car driving on a public road. They have mine. I found it along I-35 in Texas.

Drilling deeper, if Google, or some other entity, were to collect and make public the time and location of every automobile on public roads, there is the possibility of a lawsuit akin to the famous one involving wrestler Hulk Hogan. But it’s not necessary to make the information public. All they have to do is to retain it, for all eternity. At that point all that the NSA, or any prosecuting attorney, would need would be a court order requesting the itinerary of the $75,000 BMW of notorious pimp Larry McCool, accused of murdering the unfortunate Miss Lala McShirley, late of 22nd and Fifth Avenue. Additionally, the NSA could obtain tracking information for all vehicles leaving the scene of a bombing at the Supreme Court building in Washington, DC.

What prevents Google from collecting this information is lack of financial incentive. It’s a for profit company. That does not apply to the NSA. They have not shown a profit in over 50 years. Could the authorities incorporate such a system of surveillance, disregarding whether the courts would allow it? The technology is getting cheaper. And it’s already in use, except for the part of reading license plates. Red light cameras exist through many major cities. There’s a violation, they have the photos. All that would be necessary would be to apply plate-reading technology, and you’re busted. Hey, look what I found:

I-10FreewayTrafficCamera

 

Yes, that’s you traveling on I-10 while I’m writing this at 1039 on 24 March. Does your wife know you’re not at work right now? Hopefully she doesn’t have a computer with a Web browser,  because that’s all it takes to vaporize your expectation of privacy.

In closing, we owe much thanks to citizen Hulk Hogan for defending everybody’s right to privacy. Yes, Hulk. Thanks. A lot.

Bat Shit Crazy

Second of a series (unfortunately)

Todd Akin

Todd Akin

 

What is this thing called love
This funny thing called love
Just who can solve its mystery?
Why should it make a fool of me?
Lyrics by Cole Porter

Of course, it’s not always thus. There are times when love is not involved. But some politicians hold out hope. Sort of. Idaho State Representative Pete Nielsen of Mountain Home was speaking in support of a proposed bill. It would “require women seeking abortions to be given a list of providers of free ultrasounds, and to be told they have a right to such a procedure and to hear a fetal heart monitor.” My guess is that Representative Nielsen is among those who believe abortion should be avoided in all cases. Lacking the legal means to block abortions, bills of this kind are designed to dissuade women who have decided to abort a pregnancy from going through with the procedure.

But “in all cases” includes rape and incest, two instances in which women are very likely to need an abortion. Fortunately for these women, Representative Nielsen has some good news:

During the hearing Rep. Pete Nielsen, R-Mountain Home, said, “Now, I’m of the understanding that in many cases of rape it does not involve any pregnancy because of the trauma of the incident. That may be true with incest a little bit.”

Except for the “little bit” part, this means victims of these crimes may not have to worry about becoming pregnant, meaning the proposed legislation would not apply to them. Representative Nielsen knows of what he speaks, due to his extensive background in gynecology and human reproduction.

Actually, that last part is not quite true. Other than attending Brigham Young University and Utah State University, Representative Nielsen seems to have no medical background at all:

This leaves us wondering at the source of Representative Nielsen’s deep knowledge. Apparently some questions are never meant to be answered.

This is not the first time a feckless politician has offered up sage advice on the mysterious workings of human reproduction. During the election cycle four years ago the world swooned at candidate Todd Akin’s amazing grasp of detail:

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) – Todd Akin, the Republican candidate in the closely watched U.S. Senate race in Missouri, released a new advertisement on Thursday featuring a woman who says she was raped and had an abortion but supports Akin’s anti-abortion stand.

The TV commercial comes in the closing days of a campaign that has drawn national attention because of Akin’s remark in August that women’s bodies could ward off pregnancy in cases of “legitimate rape.”

As it turned out, voters did not appreciate candidate Akin’s insight. Some, I am sure, thought he was bat shit crazy. He lost the election to Senator Claire McCaskill.

The election years is just rolling into gear. There will be, I am sure, much more to come. Keep reading.

The Tainted Well

Joseph Smith Translating Harold Kilbourn, © 1970 “You have a gift to translate the plates” (D& C 5: 4) Displayed on LDS’ Website: www.josephsmith.net

Joseph Smith Translating Harold Kilbourn, © 1970 “You have a gift to translate the plates” (D& C 5: 4) Displayed on LDS’ Website: http://www.josephsmith.net

I worked most of a year in Salt Lake City, and many co-workers were LDS members. To a person, they were exemplary individuals, little representative of the founder. An American Fraud is a book by lawyer Kay Burningham, born into the faith, only to leave the church in mid-life. The book lays out the history of the founding of the LDS and the ethical squaller of its early leaders. Under outside pressure the Church morphed to adapt to modern morality, yet still retains tinges of a 19th century oppressive society. This according to Burningham’s observations.

Not detailed in the book are the workings of LDS offshoots that show much evidence of drinking from the tainted well. When circumstances arise the egg is cracked, and the world gets a fresh appreciation of the Church’s criminal underpinnings:

FLDS leader Lyle Jeffs, 10 others charged with benefits fraud, money laundering

SALT LAKE CITY – Several leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are in jail, facing federal charges. On Tuesday, federal prosecutors announced indictments against 11 people on charges related to food stamp fraud.

The unsealed court documents allege FLDS leaders directed members to hand over their SNAP benefit cards to the FLDS storehouse, and that certain individuals laundered money to hide the activity.

Up front it should be noted that the FLDS has no relationship with the founding church. This and numerous branches of similar ilk are soundly repudiated by the Church, headquartered in Salt Lake City.

The recent charges relate to blatant criminal activity, but at a lower level these splinter sects have a long history of banking social preferences—supposedly supported by religious doctrine—off the American taxpayer. Polygamy is a Church practice abandoned and condemned by the LDS over a century ago, but it exists in principle, particularly in the Utah hinterlands and other locales out of the main stream. The easing of legal repercussions against casual immorality allows a man, so inclined, to have multiple wives, provided he files only one marriage with the government. The remaining wives are women of convenience, completely tolerated by modern law. Modern society assists this arrangement by providing welfare benefits to these unwed mothers and their children.

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Apparently Lyle Jeffs has gone the step too far. What prosecutors are saying is that people eligible for SNAP (benefit) cards were giving the cards to others, under the direction of local leaders. The people eligible for the benefits were not receiving the benefits, but the cards were being used in stores controlled by the FLDS to make phony purchases. Sales were recorded, and the stores received reimbursement from the government, but no actual purchases were involved. The activity amounted to theft of money from the government.

This and other FLDS shenanigans in the towns of Hilldale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, (actually one community spread across the state line) are not appreciated by others in these communities:

Former members of the FLDS church say they’re not surprised by the by the allegations. Hildale resident Isacc Wyler said he’s glad the federal government is doing something about it.

“We know there are things going on that shouldn’t be going on,” Wyler said. “We’ve reported it. It just seems like it was going really, really slow, and then all of the sudden today it’s going really, really fast. So that’s good.”

The rot is not localized:

Former Police Chief Testifies He Lied Under Oath Due To FLDS Church Pressure
February 04, 2016

PHOENIX – On Wednesday, Helaman Barlow entered the Phoenix federal courthouse and took an oath to testify truthfully in front of a jury.

There would seem to be nothing exceptional about Barlow taking that oath, since all witnesses do, and Barlow is the former chief of the joint police department serving the twin cities of Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah, on the state border.

But on Wednesday, Barlow told the jury he had lied previous times he was questioned under oath about the very matter before them — whether his former police department was controlled by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) and whether the city government and police discriminated against church outsiders.

It’s hard to come away from this without concluding evidence of a tainted well. Burningham’s book traces the roots to the following and more:

The Kirkland Bank was typical of the criminal enterprise at the foundation of the LDS.

Soon after his translation of the Egyptian papryi, Smith attempted to create an independent financial institution whereby he would profit from the deposits of his faithful followers. Here is where the Prophet’s outright swindling of the Saints caused the first in a long series of disaffections and apostasies.

Burningham, Kay (2011-03-13). An American Fraud. One Lawyer’s Case against Mormonism (Kindle Locations 3681-3683). Amica Veritatis. Kindle Edition.

FLDS leader Warren Jeffs is currently in a Texas slam after being convicted of less than ecclesiastical transgressions. His incarceration did not serve to pull the plug on his criminal enterprise. I am doubting these recent events will, either.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

It was hard to peg this as a flawed production. The story is compelling, and acting and directing are dead on. Only see this one when you are not off your meds, because it is that dark. This one defines film noir.

It’s Caged from 1950 out of Warner Brothers with a musical score by Max Steiner. The director is John Cromwell. Images are from the Turner Classic Movies showing on cable TV. Technical details are from Wikipedia. The movie is based on Women Without Men by Virginia Kellogg and Bernard C. Schoenfeld.

Eleanor Parker is Marie Allen, and here is her story. She’s 19, just convicted as an accessory to armed robbery. Her husband, out of work, went in to rob a place and was killed. She was driving. Now she’s in the state slam. And pregnant. Sign-in at the state women’s resort is cold and impersonal.

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A ray of light is warden Ruth Benton (Agnes Moorehead). That light is quickly dimmed by more powerful forces, both within and without the walls.

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Within there is the equally criminal matron Evelyn Harper (Hope Emerson). Harper can make life more pleasant inside, if you have something to deal. Marie has nothing to offer and is too innocent to exercise her imagination. Harper can also make things tougher, and she does.

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Harper’s brutality works its magic, and Marie rapidly hardens. Her baby is born in the prison infirmary, and she has to put the child up for adoption. Her spineless mother refuses to take the child owing to the objections of Marie’s rigid stepfather, himself unemployed.

Offers come. Marie can obtain parole. But she needs an outside sponsor. And a job. None such is in sight. Except that gangs on the outside are eager for molls to work their rackets for them. Rigidity of the system and brutality on the inside prevail.

Harper meets justice on the floor of the dining hall, cut down by a piece of tableware wielded by the life-hardened Kitty Stark (Betty Garde).

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In the end, Marie takes the offer. We last see her getting out on parole underwritten by a gang of crooks. Warden Benton keeps Marie’s file active. She will be back.

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