Exiled from the Underworld

Location: Tulsa, Oklahoma, Tonga

Monday, January 31, 2005

"I just want my child to go to heaven."

My preference for discussing "intelligent design" ("ID"-- by the way, have the proponents of this theory run their acronym by any Freudians?) would simply state, "ID is NOT science; it is uncomposted crap."

Recognizing that my way would be completely unsatisfactory to ID's apologists and to those who don't know what to think, I should be happier that Newsweek's article on the "controversy" is pretty much balanced.

However, the first paragraph disadvantages science by setting it as something to be endured, but not understood.

When Joshua Rowand, an 11th grader in Dover, Pa., looks out from his high school, he can see the United Church of Christ across the street and the hills beyond it, reminding him of what he's been taught from childhood: that God's perfect creation culminated on the sixth day with the making of man in his image. Inside the school, he is taught that Homo sapiens evolved over millions of years from a series of predecessor species in an unbroken line of descent stretching back to the origins of life. The apparent contradiction between that message and the one he hopes someday to spread as a Christian missionary doesn't trouble him. The entire subject of evolution by natural selection is covered in two lessons in high-school biology. What kind of Christian would he be if his faith couldn't survive 90 minutes of exposure to Darwin?

The article then generally describes the controversy (which, to the scientific community, bears as much resemblance to a real "controversy" as Bush's depiction of the Social Security system as a "crisis" does to the economic community), touching on the push for evolution-disclaimer textbook stickers in such places as Dover, Pennsylvania, and Cobb County, Georgia.

Why do some people find evolution unsettling? An illustration in this paragraph:
[W]hile most Christians accept a God who set the universe in motion according to natural laws, evolution raises more difficult existential questions. People want to feel that God cares for them personally. British biologist Richard Dawkins has written that Darwin's theory "made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist." But that's not what most Americans want for their children. Margaret Evans, a psychologist at the University of Michigan, has studied religious beliefs in children and seen the appeal of creationism. "We are biased toward seeing the world as stable and purposeful," she says. "I don't know what to believe," one parent told her. "I just want my child to go to heaven."

Assuming, arguendo, that this parent is right in her concern for evolution theory's effect on her child's eternal soul, one has to ask, "What kind of deity would deny anyone the best of eternity for the simple 'error' of inquiry and knowledge?" Would we all not have lost our opportunity for a good afterlife long ago-- perhaps when we discovered that we could keep a vengeful G_d's plagues at bay by discovering their causes and immunizing against them, or by improving sanitation practices, or by designing and implementing measures to avoid harm from floods, fires, or other disasters? How about engineering buildings to make them more resistant to earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes? Are we offending some supernatural order by even when we investigate ways to warn against tsunamis?

Could we be damaging our chances at heaven by, say, creating a Department of Homeland Security to prevent a messenger of G_d from completing a mission?

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Tone-deaf in the "civilized world"

Vice-President Cheney's Remarks at Reception for Survivors of Auschwitz, Galicia Jewish Museum, Krakow, Poland, 26 January 2005:

I will remind them these great evils of history were perpetuated not in some remote uncivilized part of the world, but in the very heart of the civilized world.

I wonder how this statement-- and the arch, ethnocentric, uninformed sentiment behind it-- plays in the "remote, uncivilized part of the world." Whatever that may be. With dismaying frequency, the major players in this administration show themselves to be completely tone-deaf, unable or unwilling to listen to the way they sound to the rest of the world outside the 51 percent of the United States voters who supported Bush.

Men without conscience are capable of any cruelty the human mind can imagine.

Don't we know it!

Therefore we must teach every generation the values of tolerance and decency and moral courage.
Tolerance has gotten short attention lately, no? But decency and moral courage (as opposed to some other kind of courage? or immoral courage?) have been used as marketing tools, privatized, and then out-sourced to the least tolerant supporters of the Bush administration.

And in every generation, free nations must maintain the will, the foresight and the strength to fight tyranny and spread the freedom that leads to peace.
I know what that kind of statement used to mean, and I know that it carries a menacing aspect now. My, how important context is!

Our presence in Krakow today, together with our European and Israeli friends, shows our determination to oppose anti-Semitism, religious intolerance, bigotry and genocide. We must face down hatred together. We are dedicated to the task at hand, and we will never forget.
Let's not forget that other religious and ethnic minorities, along with gays and lesbians, were persecuted and killed in the name of nationalistic purity. Can he not hear what he is saying? Does he think that the Muslim world is not listening?

Let he who makes peace in the heavens grant peace to all of us. Thank you very much for joining us.
Interesting that the White House website press release here does NOT follow usual tradition of capitalizing the H in "He" to identify the reference to G_d. (I suppose I can forgive him for his gender bias.) Unless... here's a funny thought... perhaps the V.P. was not thinking of G_d, but of someone else. Someone chosen by G_d to lead a nation. Someone whom G_d told to make war.

I bet that a "he" like that could make peace in the heavens.

Somehow, I don't like the sound of that at all.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

The Town Square Test

Natan Sharansky should hire our President as his book agent. Bush promotes Sharansky's Case for Democracy to all around him. He finds themes for his speeches in the text, and tells people that the book represents "how I feel" . Sharansky, in turn, generously refers to Bush as "dissident", although it's difficult for me to conceive of how one could apply that term to someone who claims a mandate.

Sharansky was a human rights activist and Jewish Refusenik in the USSR, convicted of and imprisoned for treason and espionage for the U.S. His human rights activities gained recognition early when he served as a translator for Andrei Sakharov, winner of the 1975 Nobel Peace Prize.

Sakharov led the USSR's nuclear arms research efforts until he became an advocate for disarmament. Sakharov spent seven years in internal exile in Gorky; his wife, Yelena Bonner, was later arrested and exiled when she attempted to leave the USSR for medical treatment. In a 1980 interview with the BBC, Sakharov stated, ""Our country, like every modern state, needs profound democratic reforms. It needs political and ideological pluralism, a mixed economy and protection of human rights and the opening up of society."

Even National Security Advisor (oops-- now she's Secretary of State) Condoleeza Rice's opening statement at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 18 January 2005,invoked Sharansky as a standard for measuring freedom. The White House wants us to use this test to determine if a nation is truly free, if it can tolerate dissent.

And soon the people of Iraq will exercise their right to choose their leaders, and set the course of their nation's future... The world should apply what Natan Sharansky calls the "town square test": if a person cannot walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or physical harm, then that person is living in a fear society, not a free society. We cannot rest until every person living in a "fear society" has finally won their freedom.

I wonder: to which Iraqi town square did Ahmad Chalabi go to express his views?

Jan 21, 2005 — DUBAI (Reuters) - Iraq's interim defense minister said on Friday the government would arrest Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmad Chalabi after the Eid al-Adha holiday on suspicion of maligning the defense ministry.

"We will arrest him and hand him over to Interpol. We will arrest him based on facts that he wanted to malign the reputation of the defense ministry and defense minister," Hazim al-Shaalan told Al Jazeera television.

Mr. Chalabi is currently a leading Shiite candidate for office in Iraq. Intermittently a neocon favorite, he reportedly provided some of the critical intelligence information that led the White House to attack Iraq. Last January, he was a special guest of the President and Laura Bush for the State of the Union address. Since that time, he has cycled in and out of favor with the White House.

Not that the President seems to remember his old friend. This exchange occurred on 1 June 2004, at a White House press conference regarding the Iraqi interim government.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. Chalabi is an Iraqi leader that's fallen out of favor within your administration. I'm wondering if you feel that he provided any false information, or are you particularly --
Q Yes, with Chalabi.
THE PRESIDENT: My meetings with him were very brief. I mean, I think I met with him at the State of the Union and just kind of working through the rope line, and he might have come with a group of leaders. But I haven't had any extensive conversations with him.

Wellll... maybe he met with Chalabi a time or two before, or at least that's what he told Tim Russert on Meet the Press on 8 February 2004.

Russert: If the Iraqis choose, however, an Islamic extremist regime, would you accept that, and would that be better for the United States than Saddam Hussein?

President Bush: They're not going to develop that. And the reason I can say that is because I'm very aware of this basic law they're writing. They're not going to develop that because right here in the Oval Office I sat down with Mr. Pachachi and Chalabi and al-Hakim, people from different parts of the country that have made the firm commitment, that they want a constitution eventually written that recognizes minority rights and freedom of religion.

Or perhaps he forgot that 2003 Thanksgiving meal in Iraq, the one where he posed with the plastic turkey. On the way back to Edwards Air Force Base, our President thanked the reporters for helping to pull of the surprise visit, and answered a few questions.

Q Mr. President, we were told you got to see Mr. Chalabi today?

THE PRESIDENT: I did see Chalabi. I met with -- well, let's see, I had the dinner, you saw that. I wasn't sure how long you were there, you probably timed it, but an hour or so -- are these the times? Oh, these are the people there.

I shook a lot of hands, saw a lot of kids, took a lot of pictures, served a lot of food and we moved on to see four members of the Governing Council -- the names are here. Talibani is the head of it right now, so he was the main spokesman. But Chalabi was there, as was Dr. Khuzaii, who had come to the Oval Office, I don't know if you all were in the pool that day, but she was there -- she was there with him, and one other fellow, and I had a good talk with them.

We were there for about maybe a little less than 30 minutes. I was able to assure them that we were going to stay the course and get the job done, but I also reminded them what I said publicly, that it's up to them to seize the moment, to have a government that recognizes all rights, the rights of the majority and the rights of the minority, to speak to the aspirations and hopes of the Iraqi people. I assured them that I believe in the future of Iraq, because I believe in the capacity of the people to govern -- as I said, govern wisely and justly. I meant what I said. I told them that privately. I told them I back Jerry Bremer a hundred percent. He's got my full confidence. He was sitting right there, as well. We had a nice visit.
So, we have come full circle back to the town square. Chalabi, now a dissident, speaks out against his government-- such as it is right now-- and is threatened with arrest.

We are definitely bringing freedom to Iraq.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Let me repeat: THERE IS NO CRISIS!


The system is not broken. It might need some tinkering to meet future needs, but even a new Ferrari has a schedule for maintenance and repair.

If you have had difficulty finding a single, consolidated source of information regarding Social Security, CLICK NOW on this link:

There Is No Crisis: Protecting the Integrity of Social Security

I confess that I have pin-ups of Max Sawicky, Brad DeLong, and Paul Krugman on my bedroom mirror. [If it weren't for a rich and satisfying fantasy life, I'd have no life at all.]

Go read the Social Security information (it really is riveting). Tell your friends, co-workers, family, colleagues, dental hygienist-- tell everyone. Write to your elected leaders! Then, click your heels together three times, repeat to yourself, "There is no crisis. There is no crisis. There is no crisis."

Help our leaders find heart.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Surprise! Surprise? Surprise!

Surprise! Front page headline from the New York Times online today: Rice Wins Backing of Panel for Confirmation by Senate .

Not that anyone had any real doubts that the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations ("SCFR") would approve her nomination and forward her confirmation to the full Senate. The SCFR has eighteen members, ten of whom are Republican. Approval by committee requires a simple majority; unless two of the Republican members of the SCFR were to break rank and vote against Rice, even a unified Democratic contingent would have been unable to block her nomination.

Surprise? Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, who in the past has stood outside his party's line on issues ranging from tax cuts and deficits to the resolution authorizing the military attack to "disarm" Iraq, is the only Republican member of the SCFR potentially independent enough to vote "no".

However, Chafee was just appointed chair of the Fisheries, Wildlife, and Water subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (chaired in turn by our own Senator James M. [for "(M)an-made global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people"]Inhofe)-- and removed from his previous position as chair of the Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics, Risk and Waste Management; appointed to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs (although he appears not to have been assigned to any of its three subcommittees); and continued as a member of the SCFR, chairing the Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs.

One might doubt that Dr. Frist appreciates Chafee's independence, his faltering allegiance to the Republican party -- or Chafee's public non-support of Bush's re-election. In any case, Chafee's resistance would have served only to further distance himself from participation with the majority leadership in the Senate. Count Chafee as "yes".

Surprise! I was hoping that the Democrats would have been at least... obstructive. Instead, the nomination passed out of committee with a vote of sixteen to two. Barbara Boxer found one other senator with sufficient calcium to form a spine. Wait-- it was John Kerry! I had thought that he would vote for Rice after his remarks yesterday at the end of the hearing:

So I hope you will seize that opportunity, and I hope that we have the opportunity to work together.

And I pledge to you that if you reach out, and there are ways to find that common ground, in the interest of our country, I'm prepared to meet you half-way, which I think we need to do.

Here is what Kerry said this morning:

“After serious consideration, I have decided to vote against this nomination. Dr. Rice is a principal architect, implementer, and defender of a series of administration policies that have not made our country as secure as we should be and have alienated much-needed allies in our common cause of winning the war against terrorism. Regrettably, I did not see in Dr. Rice’s testimony any acknowledgment of the need to change course or of a new vision for America’s role in the world. On Iraq, on North Korea, on Iran, to name just a few of the most critical challenges, it seems to be more of the same.

“I hope I am proven wrong. I hope the course will change. And I hope that the administration will recognize the strength of a foreign policy that has bipartisan support. I am prepared to work with Dr. Rice and others in the administration to try to reach agreement on policies that will truly strengthen our security and restore America’s credibility on the world stage. And I am confident colleagues on both sides of the aisle are prepared to do so as well."

How disappointing that Barack Obama consented to Rice's nomination, as did Russell Feingold, Chris Dodd, Bill Nelson, Paul Sarbanes, and Joseph Biden. Write to them, let them know that they conceded too quickly. Write to them anyway-- they may still redeem themselves in the full Senate vote.

By all means, contact Senators Boxer and Kerry to thank them for their patriotism.

The hearing ended more quickly than originally scheduled. The announced schedule on the SCFR's website stated:

Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Secretary of State Nomination - Part I
Time: 9:00 A.M. - 12:00 P.M.
- Break -
2:00 P.M. - 5:00 P.M.
Place: 216 Hart Senate Office Building
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
Secretary of State Nomination - Part II
Time: 9:00 A.M. - 12:00 P.M.
- Break -
2:00 P.M. - 5:00 P.M.
9:00 A.M. - 10:00 A.M.
Place: 216 Hart Senate Office Building

After Tuesday's hearing the Wednesday schedule was crossed out, replaced with
"9:00 A.M. - 10:00 A.M." written in red.

I suppose that they needed to tidy up the room after the vote.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Happy 21st Birthday!

Happy 21st birthday to PFC Avery Hott Abbott, as kind and fine a human as I have ever met.

[This is my Armstrong Williams moment] I have received no payments or other compensation to promote Mr. Abbott. In the interests of full disclosure, however, I happily acknowledge that I am his mother.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Today's MVP award for Clear Writing

Harold Meyerson, a Washington Post columnist whose work I respect, hit one out of the park today. Under the title, "President of Fabricated Crises", Meyerson wrote:

Some presidents make the history books by managing crises. Lincoln had Fort Sumter, Roosevelt had the Depression and Pearl Harbor, and Kennedy had the missiles in Cuba. George W. Bush, of course, had Sept. 11, and for a while thereafter -- through the overthrow of the Taliban -- he earned his page in history, too.

But when historians look back at the Bush presidency, they're more likely to note that what sets Bush apart is not the crises he managed but the crises he fabricated. The fabricated crisis is the hallmark of the Bush presidency. To attain goals that he had set for himself before he took office -- the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the privatization of Social Security -- he concocted crises where there were none.

Read the whole column. It's shortish, and scans quickly because Meyerson has hit pitch after pitch with dead-on timing.

So it's time once more to fabricate a crisis. In Bushland, it's always time to fabricate a crisis. We have a crisis in medical malpractice costs, though the CBO says that malpractice costs amount to less than 2 percent of total health care costs. (In fact, what we have is a president who wants to diminish the financial, and thus political, clout of trial lawyers.) We have a crisis in judicial vacancies, though in fact Senate Democrats used the filibuster to block just 10 of Bush's 229 first-term judicial appointments.

Eleven paragraphs of pared argument, and the last clears the wall on its way out of the park:

We've had plenty of presidents, Richard Nixon most notoriously, who divided the media into friendly and enemy camps. I can't think of one, however, so fundamentally invested in the spread of disinformation -- and so fundamentally indifferent to the corrosive effect of propaganda on democracy -- as Bush. That, too, should earn him a page in the history books.

I think that I will write him a fan letter. Maybe he'll sign my glove.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005


The New York Times carried an article today titled "Oil Find Hints at a Less Dependent Cuba". President Fidel Castro [durational ratio of Cuban presidents to U.S. presidents: 1/10] announced on Christmas day that estimated reserves of 100 million barrels of oil had been found in Gulf of Mexico.

Mr. Castro, in an announcement that raised eyebrows in the executive suites of energy companies here, disclosed that [two] Canadian companies[Pebercan and Sherritt International] had discovered estimated reserves of 100 million barrels. That was the good news. It was also the bad news.

The deposits, which are expected to produce oil as early as next year, may provide Cuba's government with some relief as it presses forward with efforts to use hard currency for purposes other than petroleum purchases from abroad. Shortly after Mr. Castro announced the discovery, the central bank said it was tightening measures intended to centralize the control of dollars circulating in the Cuban economy.

Endless irony-- first, that Godless Communist Cuba would get such a Christmas gift (no, wait-- it must be a holiday gift!)-- but more importantly, the discovery was made by Canadian-- not U.S. -- oil companies. If Miss Beazley ever jumps up and bites the President on the ass, the Bushes could change her name to Embargo.

The Cuban gulf oil reserve estimate places the amount of oil as being far below even modest estimates of that in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Insofar as the geopolitically strategic oil supply is concerned, this discovery will have little impact. (Here in the U.S., we could make it disappear in an instant.)

That may be the best part of the news for Cuba: we probably won't be looking for WMDs in Havana any time soon.

Virginia is a little safer for some lovers

John Aravosis at Americablog never fails to stay on top of breaking news.
He has earned my gratitude today for providing a tidy follow-up to the story about the proposed Virginia statute that would criminalize women who did not report broadly-defined fetal deaths within 12 hours.

The author of the bill (HB1677), John A. Cosgrove, R-Chesapeake, claims that he only wanted to "add more teeth to laws penalizing women who abandon full-term infants after birth." Don't believe it. If he had truly wanted to toughen anti-abandonment laws, his bill would have contained language to that effect. The bill contains NO words describing babies, infants, or even suggesting abandonment. On the contrary, the bill clearly states:

When a fetal death occurs without medical attendance, it shall be the woman's responsibility to report the death to the law-enforcement agency in the jurisdiction of which the delivery occurs within 12 hours after the delivery. A violation of this section shall be punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Moreover, most who have experience with women who abandon infants will freely tell you that increased penalties will not protect the children. Opportunities for women to leave their babies in safe places while protecting the mothers'anonymity produce much better outcomes for all. Oklahoma, often considered by the sophisticates in Virginia to be a supersized trailer-park, addressed the abandoned infant problem in 2001 (10 O.S. § 7115.1) with a decriminalization statute that both provides protection for the child and respects the mother's privacy.

The news article states that Cosgrove received a large number of e-mailed messages in opposition to his bill.
Information about Cosgrove’s bill was first posted on a Virginia Web site , democracyforvirginia.typepad.com. Maura Keaney, a Falls Church woman and former volunteer for Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean, uses the site to monitor state government and political issues.

Keaney said Monday her site had received about 70,000 hits in the previous 24 hours, and that information about the bill was picked up by more than 100 blogs, including Web sites for women who have suffered miscarriages. A check of computer search engines Monday found 155 links to discussions about the bill.

Cosgrove, who, before submitting his bill to the Virginia House, obviously did not discuss his bill with anyone who could have lent him a clue, feels abused by the publicity.
“They’ve been fairly responsive, but they never talked to me prior to going on the Web,” he said. “I was absolutely mistreated on this.”

Keaney said she tried to contact Cosgrove but posted her report after waiting three days without a response.

He attributed the volume of mail and the information to blogs, saying, “I’ve never been blogged before.” he said.

He won't be able to say that again.

The introductory paragraph in a linked story reads, "Social conservatives think it’s time Virginia joined the national juggernaut promoting constitutional bans on gay marriage, and Chesapeake Del. John A. Cosgrove wants to lead the parade."

Further down:
Cosgrove, 50, is an electronics engineer and former Chesapeake city councilman who was first elected to the House in 2001. Married with two sons, he is no stranger to hot-button social issues. Last year he successfully championed a new law designating fetal homicide a felony, steamrolling critics who assailed the measure as a back-door attack on abortion rights.

Do you suppose that he introduced that bill as an attempt to add teeth to exisiting laws to protect against child deaths?

Monday, January 10, 2005

When Disneyland is not enough...

Planning a vacation soon? Ever think of visiting... Kentucky? For
its theme parks?

"We want people to be confronted by the dinosaurs," said Mr Ham. "It's going to be a first class experience. Visitors are going to be hit by the professionalism of this place. It is not going to be done in an amateurish way. We are making a statement"... Mr Ham is particularly proud of a planned reconstruction of the interior of Noah's Ark. "You will hear the water lapping, feel the Ark rocking and perhaps even hear people outside screaming," he said.


1. Wasn't Ham one of Noah's sons? Is this guy a direct descendant?
[no, no, that would be too cheesy, he said wryly]

2. Could these people have picked a worse PR opportunity to discuss the flood? Could Ken Ham be more insensitive to the losses from the tsunami?

3. If the "real terror that Adam's sin unleashed" is having a Tyrannosaurus Rex chase Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, and T Rex is now extinct, does that mean that Original Sin has been forgiven?

4. Extra credit points awarded to anyone who can answer why, if God's retribution for teaching evolution at Columbine High School was an attack by students, the attack occurred in an overwhelmingly white, Christian, upper-middle-class community-- NOT in some lefty-liberal nest?

Friday, January 07, 2005

Coy little blogging template

My learning curve on this blog is still pretty flat (because I attend to it only fitfully). Today I finally got around to updating my profile (as in "View my complete profile" on the upper-left corner of the page).

One entry space asked for my birthdate, but offered the option of not disclosing the year of birth. I thought about my need for privacy, and for avoiding age-related inquiries. Deciding that anything short of full disclosure was a little too coy, I entered "02/11/1950", as required by the format.

Imagine how thrilled I was to see that Blogger believes that my birth date may be too personal, and instead has listed my astrological sign.

Announcing to the world that I am an Aquarian is substantially more embarrassing to me than divulging my age.

I suppose it could be worse. I could be a Scorpio.

Strip-searching Dick and Jane

The city of LaMarque, Texas ("the hometown of United States Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison") is understandably proud of its school system:

La Marque's Independent School District is the "Home of Champions" - students and athletes. La Marque High School has celebrated nine state championship titles in the past four years- three in track and field, three in football, one in powerlifting, one in softball and one in one-act plays. La Marque also has won UIL awards recently in Academic Decathlon, journalism and career and technology competitions.

My guess is that the citizens of LaMarque observe the Ten Commandments, tend to be Christian, and believe that their practices reflect high moral values.

It makes sense that 10 children were strip-searched at school-- excuse me, at their award-winning charter school-- in an unsuccessful attempt to find a missing $10 bill.

10 students strip searched over $10 bill

Associated Press
Jan. 7, 2005 03:10 PM

LA MARQUE, Texas - Police in Texas are investigating why 10 students at an award-winning charter school were strip searched while officials looked for a missing $10.

The principal of the Mainland Preparatory Academy says the 11- and 12-year-olds were separated by gender and told to strip to their underwear. The money wasn't found.

At least one parent filed a police complaint, and pulled her four children out of the school 40 miles southeast of Houston.
The principal defended the action, saying it's been done before and may be done again. She says nobody objected to it -- because they all wanted to clear their name.

Police say the search wasn't against the law, but investigators want to see if it was done legally.

Hmmm... LaMarque is 40 miles southeast of Houston; Alberto Gonzales, nominee for Attorney General of the United States, was reared in Houston.

It must be a coincidence.

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

In spite of my age, I learn a new trick.

"Virginia is for Lovers"

Thank you, Atrios and Democracy for Virginia, for alerting us to the newest twist in the small-government mind.

Virginia legislator John A. Cosgrove (R) of Chesapeake has introduced HB 1677, amending an existing vital records act to include this provision:

When a fetal death occurs without medical attendance, it shall be the woman's responsibility to report the death to the law-enforcement agency in the jurisdiction of which the delivery occurs within 12 hours after the delivery. A violation of this section shall be punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Existing Virginia law defines "fetal death" to mean "death prior to the complete expulsion or extraction from its mother of a product of human conception, regardless of the duration of pregnancy [italics added]; death is indicated by the fact that after such expulsion or extraction the fetus does not breathe or show any other evidence of life such as beating of the heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord, or definite movement of voluntary muscles." Code of Virginia, Section 32.1-249.

Nothing in the Virginia Code sections mentioned above nor in HB 1677 differentiates between a miscarriage (referred to medically as a "spontaneous abortion", or spontaneous AB) and an induced abortion, whether elective or therapeutic. The MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia discusses the causes, incidence, and risk factors of spontaneous AB:

The cause of most spontaneous abortions is fetal death due to fetal genetic abnormalities, usually unrelated to the mother. Other possible causes for spontaneous abortion include infection, physical problems the mother may have, hormonal factors, immune responses, and serious systemic diseases of the mother (such as diabetes or thyroid problems).

It is estimated that up to 50% of all fertilized eggs die and are lost (aborted) spontaneously, usually before the woman knows she is pregnant. Among known pregnancies, the rate of spontaneous abortion is approximately 10% and usually occurs between the 7th and 12th weeks of pregnancy.

The risk for spontaneous abortion is higher in women over age 35, in women with systemic diseases such as diabetes or thyroid problems, and women with a history of three or more prior spontaneous abortions.

If Mr. Cosgrove had intended his bill to address a legitimate purpose, he overreached, creating instead an anomaly that is arbitrary, overinclusive, and impossible to comply with. It violates a woman's right to privacy, criminalizes even acts of nature about which a woman may be completely unaware, and transforms an experience that may be an occasion of truly personal sorrow into a prosecutorial nightmare.

If Mr. Cosgrove feels deeply that Virginia has a maternal/fetal health crisis, perhaps he would be better advised to support universal medical care to all women of child-bearing age, so that more women will have access to early prenatal care and the incidence of both induced and spontaneous abortions is reduced.

Better yet, universal health care for all Virginians would potentially reduce maternal and fetal morbidity and mortality by diminishing their underlying causative health risks (untreated diabetes or thyroid problems, for example). Imagine a Virginia with healthy mothers, healthy fathers, and well-nourished, well-loved, well-treated healthy children.

Real children.

Not lost products of human conception.