Archive for March 1st, 2011

No man’s life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session. –  Gideon J. Tucker

One week ago, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (a Democrat from Nevada) made a speech in which he “called on” Nevada to outlaw prostitution; the story broke in the Las Vegas Sun but was quickly spread everywhere, and by the next morning probably half of my regular readers had alerted me to it (for which I thank all of you; please don’t ever hesitate to send me interesting links!).  At first I didn’t really see what I might say about the story; after all, in the current viciously prohibitionist climate a politician’s making such asinine comments isn’t exactly unusual.  But then I ran into a few other stories and started thinking about the Reid affair in light of them, and my ensuing thoughts gave me something worth writing about.  First of all, for my international readers and those Americans who somehow missed it, here are the highlights of the story:

Senator Harry Reid on Tuesday [February 22nd] called for “an adult conversation” about prostitution in Nevada, saying it is an impediment to economic development because it discourages businesses from moving here.  “Nevada needs to be known as the first place for innovation and investment – not as the last place where prostitution is still legal,” he said in a speech to the Nevada Legislature.  Reid told the assembled lawmakers that he met recently with a group of business leaders who run data centers for technology companies.  They visited Storey County in search of a new location for their businesses but “one of the businessmen in that meeting told me he simply couldn’t believe that one of the biggest businesses in the county he was considering for his new home was legal prostitution.”  He said he has talked to families who “don’t want their children to look out of a school bus and see a brothel.”

“We should do everything we can to make sure the world holds Nevada in the same high regard you and I do,” Reid continued.  “If we want to attract business to Nevada that puts people back to work, the time has come for us to outlaw prostitution.”  The industry had been warned that Reid would call for an end to legalized prostitution, which is allowed only in the state’s rural counties…Legislative leaders were not pleased at the prospect of the leading Democrat in the U.S. Senate floating legalized prostitution as a key issue for them to confront.  Some questioned the timing of his call, coming as the state grapples with a massive budget deficit and record unemployment.  If Reid believes prostitution gives Nevada enough of a black eye that business won’t relocate here, some wondered, why then would he create a circus-like spectacle by mentioning the topic and attracting national attention to it.

While Reid’s remarks were the primary focus of the media and others in attendance, he only spent a few paragraphs on the topic in an eight-page speech.  Reaction to Reid’s remarks was mixed, with most elected officials saying any decision on whether to ban it is best left to the rural counties…

Apparently, Senator Reid is woefully ignorant of both history and international law; he claims that Nevada is “the last place where prostitution is still legal,” when in actuality the United States is practically the last place in the Western world where prostitution is still illegal.  He also displays his moral imbecility by arguing that overprotective parents’ “right” to keep their kids in ignorance about sex actually trumps others’ civil right to work in the job of their choice.  But for politicians moral imbecility is practically a given, and his ignorance of the world outside U.S. borders obviously doesn’t extend to politics:  Reid knew full well that his ridiculous suggestion would be greeted with all the warm acceptance alcohol prohibitionists might expect at a brewery, but his comments weren’t for their benefit; rather, they were intended to appeal to neofeminists, religious fanatics and all the other undesirables currently following the prohibitionist bandwagon.  After all, his party was considerably weakened in the last election and it needs all the money and support it can get.  There’s a name for shamelessly catering to other’s desires and emotional needs in exchange for money, but I don’t think I need to say it; instead, I’ll call your attention to the definition of the word “hypocrisy” instead.

Reid’s proposal hasn’t a snowball’s chance in Hell of going anywhere, nor does this recent bill from Georgia state representative Bobby Franklin (a Republican with degrees in Bible Study and Business Administration); Franklin proposes that women should get the death penalty for miscarriages if they cannot prove they didn’t cause them on purpose.  The following is paraphrased from an article which appeared in Mother Jones on February 23rd:

Georgia State Representative Bobby Franklin, who has proposed a host of bizarre laws in the past, has introduced a bill that would criminalize miscarriages and make abortion in Georgia completely illegal.  Both “crimes” would be potentially punishable by death: any “prenatal murder”, including “human involvement” in a miscarriage, would be a felony and carry a penalty of life in prison or death.  Women who miscarry would be forced to prove that there was “no human involvement whatsoever in the causation” of their miscarriage or be found guilty of the new crime, and there is no definition of what “human involvement” means; this is hugely problematic as medical doctors do not know exactly what causes most miscarriages.

Perhaps a quarter of all pregnancies spontaneously terminate, and the actual number may be much higher because many miscarriages occur so early that a woman doesn’t even know she’s pregnant.  The bill thus holds women criminally liable for a natural, common biological process and demands they protect embryos (redefined in the law as “fetuses”) from “the moment of conception,” despite the fact that pregnancy tests aren’t accurate until at least three weeks after conception.  Unless Franklin (who is not a health professional) invents a revolutionary intrauterine conception alarm system, it’s unclear how exactly the state of Georgia would enforce that rule other than holding all possibly-pregnant women under lock and key.

The bill also contends that Georgia is exempt from upholding Supreme Court decisions like Roe v. Wade because the Constitution’s Article I only governs five crimes (counterfeiting, piracy, high seas felonies, offenses against the law of nations and treason), and since murder is not one of those five crimes, it should be solely governed by the state.  Furthermore, it mandates that doctors must at least attempt to save both mother and fetus even in situations where doing so is impossible, and redefines medical terminology by designating all zygotes, embryos, and concepti as fetuses and the latter as persons no matter what the level of development.

But I still didn’t really know what to do with these stories until I read this partisan rant from U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York, in which she tries to pretend that the current rash of misogynistic rhetoric and legislation is somehow the fault of those evil Republicans.  Obviously she missed the speech made by Senator Reid, a Democrat, and the fact that the other U.S. senator from Nevada, a Republican, disagreed with him.  No, Representative Maloney, this isn’t all your supposed political opponents’ fault:  it’s yours.  You and every other legislator of both sexes at every level of government, no matter which half of the Big Government Party you belong to, have by your constant marginalization and social castration of male Americans created a vast reservoir of resentment toward women that will not remain dammed up forever, and is in fact beginning to seep out in the new attacks on women’s rights from BOTH sides of the aisle.  By decades of expanding government control and weakening civil rights you and your kind have established the precedent that the government can brutally repress the individual in almost any way it likes, and by allowing legislatures to redefine everything from tomatoes to rape you have set the precedent the new Georgia bill follows; if an adolescent can be defined as a child or a rational adult woman as an incompetent ward of the state, how is defining a zygote as a fetus or a fetus as a citizen any different?

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