Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Germans who like Bush...

Commeonsensical has asked for me to post an article he has sent about Germans and their definition of appeasement, so I will acquiesce. However, this idea of appeasement sounds more like Truman's containment policy, and hardly an act of "cowardice", as I will opine in the comments. History is a funny thing.

Comonsensical offers:
Matthias Dapfner, Chief Executive of the huge German publisher Axel Springer AG, has written a blistering attack in DIE WELT, Germany's largest daily newspaper, against the timid reaction of Europe in the face of the Islamic threat.
(Commentary by Mathias Dapfner CEO, Axel Springer, AG)
"A few days ago Henry Broder wrote in Welt am Sonntag, "Europe - your family name is appeasement." It's a phrase you can't get out of your head because it's so terribly true.
Appeasement cost millions of Jews and non-Jews their lives as England and France, allies at the time, negotiated and hesitated too long before they noticed that Hitler had to be fought, not bound to toothless agreements.
Appeasement legitimized and stabilized Communism in the Soviet Union, then East Germany, then all the rest of Eastern Europe where for decades, inhuman, suppressive, murderous governments were glorified as the ideologically correct alternative to all other possibilities.
Appeasement crippled Europe when genocide ran rampant in Kosovo, and even though we had absolute proof of ongoing mass-murder, we Europeans debated and debated and debated, and were still debating when finally the Americans had to come from halfway around the world, into Europe yet again, and do our work for us.
Rather than protecting democracy in the Middle East, European appeasement, camouflaged behind the fuzzy word "equidistance," now countenances suicide bombings in Israel by fundamentalist Palestinians.
Appeasement generates a mentality that allows Europe to ignore nearly 500,000 victims of Saddam's torture and murder machinery and, motivated by the self-righteousness of the peace-movement, has the gall to issue bad grades to George Bush... Even as it is uncovered that the loudest critics of the American action in Iraq made illicit billions, no, TENS of billions, in the corrupt U. N. Oil-for-Food program.
And now we are faced with a particularly grotesque form of appeasement... How is Germany reacting to the escalating violence by Islamic fundamentalists in Holland and elsewhere? By suggesting that we really should have a "Muslim Holiday" in Germany.
I wish I were joking, but I am not. A substantial fraction of our (German) Government, and if the polls are to be believed, the German people, actually believe that creating an Official State "Muslim Holiday" will somehow spare us from the wrath of the fanatical Islamists.
One cannot help but recall Britain's Neville Chamberlain waving the laughable treaty signed by Adolf Hitler, and declaring European "Peace in our time".
What else has to happen before the European public and its political leadership get it? There is a sort of crusade underway, an especially perfidious crusade consisting of systematic attacks by fanatic Muslims, focused on civilians, directed against our free, open Western societies, and intent upon Western Civilization's utter destruction.
It is a conflict that will most likely last longer than any of the great military conflicts of the last century - a conflict conducted by an enemy that cannot be tamed by "tolerance" and "accommodation" but is actually spurred on by such gestures, which have proven to be, and will always be taken by the Islamists for signs of weakness.
Only two recent American Presidents had the courage needed for anti-appeasement: Reagan and Bush.
His American critics may quibble over the details, but we Europeans know the truth. We saw it first hand: Ronald Reagan ended the Cold War, freeing half of the German people from nearly 50 years of terror and virtual slavery. And Bush, supported only by the Social Democrat Blair, acting on moral conviction, recognized the danger in the Islamic War against democracy. His place in history will have to be evaluated after a number of years have passed.
In the meantime, Europe sits back with charismatic self-confidence in the multicultural corner, instead of defending liberal society's values and being an attractive center of power on the same playing field as the true great powers, America and China.
On the contrary - we Europeans present ourselves, in contrast to those "arrogant Americans", as the World Champions of "tolerance", which even (Germany's Interior Minister) Otto Schily justifiably criticizes. Why? Because we're so moral? I fear it's more because we're so materialistic, so devoid of a moral compass.
For his policies, Bush risks the fall of the dollar, huge amounts of additional national debt, and a massive and persistent burden on the American economy - because unlike almost all of Europe, Bush realizes what is at stake - literally everything.
While we criticize the "capitalistic robber barons" of America because they seem too sure of their priorities, we timidly defend our Social Welfare systems. Stay out of it! It could get expensive! We'd rather discuss reducing our 35-hour workweek or our dental coverage, or our 4 weeks of paid vacation... Or listen to TV pastors preach about the need to "reach out to terrorists. To understand and forgive".
These days, Europe reminds me of an old woman who, with shaking hands, frantically hides her last pieces of jewelry when she notices a robber breaking into a neighbor's house.
Appeasement? Europe, thy name is Cowardice
--from Commonsensical

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Abortion: What's the Goal?

A previous president once said that abortion should be safe, legal and rare. While the first two may not be universal goals, the third can be considered the holy grail of both sides of the abortion debate. The goal should be to reduce the numbers of abortions.

Halifax (name withheld on the internet) has opined that Bush will be forgiven by pro-lifers on his “nonchalance” regarding gay marriage and abortion because he has passed the partial birth abortion (PBA) ban and the Unborn Victims of Crime Law. Granted, pro-lifers most likely view these two items as significant, but I will argue contrarily. And I will not argue because I want more third trimester abortions, nor because I feel that crime against pregnant women should go unpunished. I will argue that these two items are poor legislation because they will not reduce the number of abortions, nor will they reduce the crime against pregnant women. The goals are lost amidst emotional rancor that panders to the socially conservative base, and the women and children will be the losers. Solutions are found in a pragmatic, multifaceted approach that would improve quality of life for the most vulnerable members of our society with education and access to health care.

First, a few truisms. Number one, abortion is here is here to stay. Since time immemorial women have attempted to terminate their pregnancies and this trend will continue regardless of any legislation humans might pass. Especially with the advent of pharmacologic agents that have made abortion more private, more safe and more accessible. If outlawed, abortifacient agents—RU486, methotrexate and cytotec-- would still be available on the gray and black markets. The desire for some women to terminate their pregnancy is strong enough that the demand will be met by supply regardless of any attempt to limit it. Even if every other state would outlaw abortion, right or wrong, the surreptitious leakage of these medications across state borders would surely commence.

Number two, fetuses are not children, and under the law, fetuses do not have personhood rights. I am not a lawyer, and this may seem like a technicality, but it’s true nonetheless. In the McCorvey opinion of a few years ago offered by Halifax , the judge refers to a fetus as a "child", which is at best a sloppy use of the legal language of the time, and at worst, an emotional plea that belies her prejudice under the law. The Unborn Victims Law of 2004 attempts to give more value to the fetus, and even calls fetuses "children", the legality of which will most likely be argued in the courts in due time before anybody serves time for “murdering” a fetus. Regardless, such legislation as written will not prevent one abortion, nor will it likely reduce violence against women, which to my knowledge is already illegal. (In 2002, the Bush administration attempted to give personhood rights under executive regulation for the State Children’s Health Program (SCHIP), but of course, overstepped reason by not only trying to define “childhood” as beginning with conception, but did so without legislative support.) Call me cynical, but that’s the way I see it. I’m pretty sure you could see strong support for giving, say, 32 week fetuses certain (albeit very restricted) rights under the law that no legislator would or could oppose, but even then, the impact on protection of fetal life would be negligible since terminations at such an age are exceedingly rare and universally for good reason.

Number three, the partial birth abortion ban is a sham. The term itself is not found in the medical literature. The law as written only prohibits one very specific form of the procedure that is described as delivering a live fetus in breech position and then opening and collapsing the skull for delivery. Apparently, a similar procedure would be legal as long as the fetus is rendered lifeless beforehand by some other means, say, umbilical artery potassium injection (or conceivably, electric shock or purposeful blunt trauma.) This law is just plain stupid, and acts to limit the woman’s and physician’s choices while not materially changing the outcome for the better. The majority of third trimester abortions are for severe fetal anomalies, severe maternal medical disease, or both. Of the 1.3 million abortions in the US every year, those after 21 weeks make up less than 1% . Forcing these women to undergo an invasive umbilical artery catheterization prior to the termination may increase her risk; therefore, those exact women who would most benefit from a late trimester abortion are thus put at greater risk because they cannot undergo the very safest procedure. The federal government, under President Bush, has now attempted to enter the medical decision-making field. (Mr. Bush’s decisions regarding pre-emptively invading countries is bad enough, let’s leave him out of the doctor’s office.) As had been predicted by Clinton, the PBA ban has been found unconstitutional because of the lack of provision for the well-being of the mother. (Stenberg v. Carhart, 2000) So, Halifax, what good is a law if it is innately flawed and found unconstitutional, other than to stir up the pro-lifers in time for election?

Number four, abstinence-only programs are educational malpractice. In a perfect world, all sexual intercourse would occur between consenting adults with adequate social and family support. Such support would necessarily include health insurance, access to prenatal care and contraception, with a lack of threats to one’s personal well-being. Unwanted pregnancies would be avoided by the proper instruction in the use of birth control. Unfortunately, the perfect world doesn’t exist. Teen-agers have sex. They have sex with for a myriad of reasons, under a plethora of circumstances, with an uncountable number of partners. Statistically, the majority of US teens will engage in premarital sexual activity by age 20. Haranguing about celibacy does not change this statistic—90% of those “choosing” abstinence-only will eventually fall to the siren of illicit sex; only now they do so without knowledge of contraception and STD prevention, thus leaving them more vulnerable. According to Planned Parenthood (with multiple supporting references): “When they do become sexually active, though, they often fail to use condoms or other contraceptives. Meanwhile, students in comprehensive sexuality education classes do not engage in sexual activity more often or earlier, but do use contraception and practice safer sex more consistently when they become sexually active.” Without birth control, 85% of sexually active women will become pregnant within a year. Therefore, the public health dictates that sex education and birth control should be available to all people who require it (which is ALL women and men BEFORE they become sexually active.) As long as we as a society deny this fact, we will live in a world of unwanted pregnancy and preventable abortion. Addressing this most vulnerable segment of the population, we can work on the highest proportion of young women who choose abortion, thereby getting the greatest benefit. Not only do we avoid the loss of an unwanted fetus, we save the young woman the anguish of having to face such a heartbreaking decision, which the real lesson of McCorvey has shown can lead to lifelong distress.

The solution: If the goal is to decrease the number of abortions, then common sense would dictate that we should address social factors associated with abortion. According to Alan Guttmacher Institute, of the 1.3 million abortions, almost 90% occur in the first trimester, almost all of which are unwanted pregnancies (see “agi-usa” reference above.) Over half are in young women (under 25 years old) with the largest proportion among 18-19 years old (19%). Regrettably, the US has the highest abortion rate in the developed, western world. As Huf would remind me, causality for any phenomenon, especially abortion, is hard to generalize, but we do see strong associations worldwide; and more importantly, negative associations.

For example, some of the highest rates are in countries where abortion is illegal, namely Latin America, thus showing us that simple prohibitions are not satisfactory; and the lowest rates are in countries with very liberal laws, namely Northern and Western Europe. The strongest associations are that abortion rates are lowest in nations where women are empowered financially, health insurance is guaranteed and government-run quality sex education is either mandatory or strongly recommended in the early teen years.

Even in that minority of instances where women are married prior to first sexual experience, quality sex education and access to healthcare would still be empowering. By linking health insurance to employment or spousal support, women are left vulnerable to the whims of their husband or their employer. This arrangement has the potential effect of decreasing their access to birth control or prenatal care, thus increasing the likelihood that abortion would become a choice for that woman or couple. Furthermore, pro-life groups fight access to morning-after pill which has been implicated in decreasing the number of abortions by tens of thousands per year in the US (see “womanissues” reference above.)

Planned Parenthood has been much maligned by many pro-life activists because they are the largest single provider of pregnancy terminations in the US. The fact that is lost is that PP is also the number one single entity working to prevent abortion—with education and affordable and accessible birth control. In effect, PP is performing the function that public health departments and secondary schools perform in other civilized nations. As a society, we should be ashamed at the abysmal state of our national health that we must rely on a philanthropic organization to be the primary purveyor of such an important and necessary function.

While the Bush administration and pro-life groups dance around the periphery of the abortion debate, and try to appeal to the lowest emotional level, we continue in our national health nightmare. Our president accepts kudos by his misguided political base because he supports worthless laws, such as PBA ban, and ridiculous policies, like abstinence-only education and “life begins at conception.” Meanwhile, American children live in ignorance and deprivation and get pregnant prematurely. Ironically, many of these same adults who gush about the virtues of the PBA ban and abstinence-only education also protest the very things that would likely lead to fewer abortions because of some ideological aversion to big government, or national health, or federal deficits, or whatever. We argue endlessly about allocating a few hundred million dollars to reduce abortion—a yearly budget that would be equal to a couple weeks’ expenditure for our Iraqi occupation. I maintain that for a president, and other leaders, to stoke the flames of controversy with talk of abstinence-only and partial-birth abortion, etc. is to act immorally, and with forethought. Mr. Bush should know better. A true leader would use his Ivy League education to interpret the data, and present the cold hard facts to his loyal constituency. Until he does that, the blood of every preventable abortion is on his hands.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Deuce of Spades...

UBL's cousin, Dubya-al bin Laden

War on Mail

UPS wins!!

Bush's Moral Collapse?

After all the fuss made by "religious conservatives" and their loyalty towards Bush in the recent election, I was wondering if they felt duped with the latest revelations about the newly re-elected president's nonchalance toward the two issues held most dear to the voters who cast ballots based on "moral issues": gay marriage and abortion (see below articles' excerpts.). The hypothesis pointed out in pre-election emails, from ideas broached by Thomas Franks in his book What ever Happened to Kansas?, is that right-wing politicians do not want to actually resolve these problems associated with lifestyle; they would rather be divisive during election season and get the evangelicals in a lather for voter turn-out, but then back-burner these issues after the election in order to save them for the next election cycle. Like clockwork, every election they drag out the gay issues, the abortion issues, etc., to get the wanted turnout at the polls, but predictably Bush is now distancing himself from these moral crusades.
Now, are evangelicals miffed that Bush has tabled the gay marriage ban and has appointed an AG who thinks kids should have abortion without parental approval? Where's Jerry Falwell when you need him? At least one person I know voted for Bush solely for his "moral issues" stances, and actually had called Bush a "loose cannon" on foreign policy. Do we now have the worst of all worlds? Just wondering if you feel used?

From CNN: "As a Texas Supreme Court justice, Gonzales' rulings implied he does not view abortion as a heinous crime," said Judie Brown, president of the American Life League, in a written statement.... As a member of the court, Gonzales ruled with the majority that some teenage girls should not be required to get parental permission for an abortion. www.cnn.com/2004/ALLPOLITICS/11/11/bush.cabinet/

From MSNBC/Washington Post: 'No push on marriage amendment. On the domestic front, Bush said he would not lobby the Senate to pass a constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage.
While seeking reelection, Bush voiced strong support for such a ban, and many political analysts credit this position for inspiring record turnout among evangelical Christians, who are fighting same-sex marriage at every juncture. Groups such as the Family Research Council have made the marriage amendment their top priority for the next four years.
The president said there is no reason to press for the amendment because so many senators are convinced that the Defense of Marriage Act -- which says states that outlaw same-sex unions do not have to recognize such marriages conducted outside their borders -- is sufficient. "Senators have made it clear that so long as DOMA is deemed constitutional, nothing will happen. I'd take their admonition seriously. . . . Until that changes, nothing will happen in the Senate."
Bush's position is likely to infuriate some of his socially conservative supporters, but congressional officials say it will be impossible to secure the 67 votes need to pass the amendment in the Senate.'