Morning Links

Friday, March 6th, 2009
  • The Economist says it’s time to legalize drugs: “Legalisation would not drive gangsters completely out of drugs; as with alcohol and cigarettes, there would be taxes to avoid and rules to subvert. Nor would it automatically cure failed states like Afghanistan. Our solution is a messy one; but a century of manifest failure argues for trying it.”
  • Glenn Greenwald revisits the anthrax attacks. I think he’s right. There are two many unanswered questions in all of this. A new investigation from outside the FBI seems in order.
  • A reader sends in another great double entendre headline.
  • Jeremy Lott takes a look at Jonathan Krohn, the 13-year-old aspiring pundit who wowed ‘em at the Conservative Political Action Conference last week, and pities him.
  • Barbie in the news: Parents aghast at the new “tattoo Barbie.” Meanwhile, a West Virginia legislator wants to ban the toy altogether, because he loathes the message that “if you’re beautiful, you don’t have to be smart.” Sez the lawmaker: “I knew a lot of people were going to joke about it and make fun of me.” Yep! (Via FreedomFiles)
  • Here’s some hot-button fodder for the comments section: What happens when a woman goes into a clinic to have an abortion, but due to accident or negligence, ends up giving birth to a live baby? I’m particularly interested in hearing from abortion rights folks about what should happen to the abortion clinic worker if, for the sake of argument, she’s guilty of what she’s accused of in the article. Is the difference between a morally acceptable late-term abortion and murder really just the few inches of the skull that remains in the womb during the former?
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  • 83 Responses to “Morning Links”

    1. #1 |  Salvo | 

      Hold on. I gotta get some popcorn for the flamewar that’s about to start. Nice one Radley!

    2. #2 |  Bronwyn | 

      The story of the botched abortion breaks my heart. I can’t form an opinion on the matter, because my mother instinct is too overpowering on this one.

    3. #3 |  nicole | 

      Well, if she’s guilty of what she’s accused of in the article, it sounds like she’s only guilty of not resuscitating a baby that would not have been resuscitated if it were born in a hospital to a mother who wanted to keep it.

    4. #4 |  jet | 

      Re: Barbie

      I hope the sticker set comes with appropriate tramp stamps, otherwise she’s completely useless.

    5. #5 |  Gary | 

      “What happens when a woman goes into a clinic to have an abortion, but due to accident or negligence, ends up giving birth to a live baby?”

      It’s questions like this that make abortion, in my opinion, one of the truly tough questions that we encounter. This is in contrast to things like gay marriage (why is the government involved in marriage at all?) and drug legalization (it’s nobody’s business what other people do in private) where I have no moral or ethical qualms about my personal stance.

      With abortion, I don’t think an inflexible stance on either end of the issue is appropriate. I suspect that most folks are against an abortion at 8 months. I suspect that most folks support a woman’s right to choose at 2 months. What about 7 and 3? 6 and 4? 5? Personally, I think the most appropriate government response is to keep abortion legal early in a pregnancy, make it illegal late in a pregnancy, and leave a swath in the middle where we do all we can to reduce abortions as much as possible while still allowing doctors to make appropriate decisions with respect to things such as health risks, etc… Is that a perfect solution? No. There is no perfect solution, but I find a solution similar to that to be reasonable.

      So with respect to your question, I would argue that an abortion where a live birth could result should probably be illegal. That’s my personal opinion, but there’s always going to be gray in this debate. The biggest problem we have is when both sides pretend the issue is completely black and white and not as complex as it really is.

    6. #6 |  Mike Leatherwood | 

      The abortion issue is a quandary (duh!). #5 has some valid points. What happens in the in-between months? At one time I would have argued that if the fetus could survive outside of the womb, it technically is born once removed. However, as modern science progresses, the length of a survivable gestation gets shorter and shorter.
      A woman’s right to her body exists, and I fully believe in it. However, due to the laws of nature exclusively, once a baby is conceived, shouldn’t that being, regardless of physical age, have a right to their own bodies as well? A woman has a choice (in most instances) to enage in the practice of reproduction. So, does that make rape an instant life disqualification? I just don’t know.
      I simplyfy the logical mess this makes by saying that life as well as rights begins at conception. It doesn’t answer all the questions, and it does pose some complications as well. It seems to be the most logical, removes most gray areas, and provides a fixed time instead of a movable one subject to interpretation.

    7. #7 |  Chance | 

      I’m pretty much an absolutist. As long as the baby is still drawing oxygen and nutrients from the mother’s bloodstream, and is not completely outside the mother’s body, then it should be totally within her rights to abort the pregnacy. I simply don’t consider an unborn baby of any age to be an entity with any rights. That is of course an unacceptable position to people who believe that life begins at conception. If you really believe that though, then the biggest charnal houses in the US probably aren’t abortion clinics but fertility clinics. How many fertilized eggs will simply be discarded?

    8. #8 |  Nando | 

      On the Economist article. We would need to get rid of federal drug statutes and allow states to regulate them themselves. That way we could learn from the successful as well as those who fail in legalizing drugs. It will never work on the federal level.

    9. #9 |  todd | 

      The abortion story kills me. Can one be pro-choice and hate abortion? If so then that’s me.
      This is a terrible situation and story and my parenting instincts kick in so I cannot be objective.

    10. #10 |  bob42 | 

      re: Banning Barbies in West Virginia… Why not? It seems to work splendidly in IRAN.

      There a so many legitimate money trails associated with drug prohibition it’s easy to see why the federal government has a vested interest in keeping the lies alive.

      From sending jack booted thugs to steal cannabis from sick people, to threatening El Paso city council members with financial penalties for just daring to mention that the Drug War doesn’t work and maybe, just maybe we should try something different.

      There is no rational explanation for continuing the insanity that was started by Richard Fucking Nixon.

      Politicians that still support this nonsense, or refuse to even discuss it are either stupid, evil, or both.

      Throw a shoe at them.

    11. #11 |  Aresen | 

      Wait until that West Viginia legislator hears about “Viagra Ken”.

    12. #12 |  wunder | 

      #3
      Based on the story, it looks like she did more than just “not resuscitate” the baby. If the baby was moving and making noise, as the mother says, then putting it in a plastic bag would have suffocated it.
      And though I’m not an expert, I do believe that here in the US, at least, hospitals do try to revive babies, even at 23 weeks. Twenty weeks is the cutoff for “miscarriage”. After that, I think they do try all available means to revive or keep a severely pre-term child alive.
      Does anyone know what the point is at which a hospital will decide not to save an early birth?

      Fair warning, I also cannot be considered clear-headed on this one; I’m 10 weeks pregnant with a baby my husband and I tried more than a year to conceive.

    13. #13 |  Mike Leatherwood | 

      I think Ken needs a new friend anyways, like Bath-house Todd or Confused Carl…..

    14. #14 |  anon | 

      Hey, when is Idol Blogging coming back?

    15. #15 |  nicole | 

      12: According to the article, putting the baby in the plastic bag would not have suffocated it, and it was most likely at 21.5 weeks and would not have been revived until 23 weeks. The article is my only source of info there.

    16. #16 |  PMB | 

      “What happens when a woman goes into a clinic to have an abortion, but due to accident or negligence, ends up giving birth to a live baby?”

      The law has to define what it means to be “born,” i.e., to be an individual human being with rights. Regardless of a person’s intentions, once the baby is born, it has rights.

      Nevertheless, such cases are tragic for everyone involved.

    17. #17 |  Tokin42 | 

      #7

      My view is almost the same within one distinction. Once the fetus has reached a point where it can survive outside the womb then abortion becomes infanticide. This baby was alive and breathing until it was put into a plastic bag. I wouldn’t do that to a kitten, I can’t imagine what kind of person could do that to a baby regardless of how many weeks premature.

    18. #18 |  Hys | 

      Just what the Republicans wanted, abortion back in the news. And how appropriate that this comes from Florida.

    19. #19 |  nobahdi | 

      Kang: Abortions for all.
      [crowd boos]

      Kang: Very well, no abortions for anyone.
      [crowd boos]

      Kang: Hmm… Abortions for some, miniature American flags for others.
      [crowd cheers and waves miniature flags]

    20. #20 |  Marty | 

      Jonathan Krohn should write a book about how ‘tattoo barbie’ effects his conservative beliefs. At least he’d be writing about toys, something much more appropriate for this stage in his life.

      I believe in letting my kid make mistakes, but I don’t think I’d let her onto such a big stage when she’s only ready for living room performances. Maybe the parents are idiots and think he is ready…

    21. #21 |  ktc2 | 

      Conservatives love to put young “bright” people on the stage at their shows. It’s just to convince themselves that their ideology isn’t dying off. They don’t seem to realize that they are too young to have truly reached the age of reason and are just regurgitating the lines pounded into their still soft heads by their parents. It’s like religion, if they don’t pound that nonsense into your head while you are still too young to reason for yourself you’d never believe it and laugh at them.

    22. #22 |  wunder | 

      #15 Thanks, Nicole. I saw this article a few weeks ago, so only skimmed it this time. What this clinic did makes me ill, but I guess if it wouldn’t have suffocated the baby, we’re back to the gray issue (for some).
      Personally, I just can’t imagine how someone could throw a fetus into a bio bag with no sense that it’s wrong, or with the idea that it’s just “tissue”. Even at 10 weeks, my baby looks like a baby. Sure, it’s the size of a lime, but it still looks unbelievably like it will at full-term. And at 21.5 weeks, I can’t imagine.
      From what I remember the first time reading this, though, apparently this clinic already has quite a reputation for the way it treats its patients. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, then, at how they treat anything else.
      Like, I said, I can’t possibly have perspective on this one.

    23. #23 |  John Jenkins | 

      Don’t forget the Fourteenth Amendment conundrum raised by the infant born alive and subsequently “aborted.” The Fourteenth Amendment provides that

      All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.

      and that No State shall…deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.We know that “person” is broader than “citizen” so that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections are extended to legal permanent residents, temporary residents and even to undocumented immigrants. Consequently, state cannot punish the murder of a citizen more severely than the murder of an alien, or otherwise have different standards.

      But if an infant is actually born, that infant is at that point a citizen of the United States (by definition) and entitled to equal protection of the laws. That potentially reframes the question into whether the state must prosecute such killings to meet the Fourteenth Amendment’s requirements, and wouldn’t the standard of review be strict scrutiny under part 3 of Footnote 4 in Carolene Products?

      [N.B.: Citizen is a subset of person in the Fourteenth Amendment context, so once the infant has been born, I don’t believe a successful argument may be made that the infant is not a “person” for Fourteenth Amendment purposes.]

    24. #24 |  Lee | 

      This is completely disappointing flamewar thread.

      /snark off

    25. #25 |  Howlin' Hobbit | 

      @Bob42 (#10): Though he certainly gave it a big boost when his turn came up, Richard Fucking Nixon wasn’t even alive when the insanity started.

      Check out The Naked Truth About Drugs, by Daniel Williams (Libertarian through and through).

    26. #26 |  Comrade Dread | 

      Personally, I’m Pro-life.

      That said, I don’t really see a majority of Americans ever agreeing with me on getting rid of abortion (with medical exemptions) while simultaneously making birth control more available and cheaper for everyone.

      So, my general fall back position would be setting viability as the cut-off point, with medical exceptions.

      And any child that is born alive should be protected. The clinic (or their malpractice insurance) can be held civilly liable if the patient getting the abortion so chooses, and she may keep the child or place it with an adoption agency or foster family.

    27. #27 |  John Jenkins | 

      @ ktc2: I assume that you still believe only people with whom you disagree do bad things, but I can assure you that leftists do the exact same thing to their children. (Have we forgotten the Obama children’s chorus so soon?)

      Authoritarians of all types require that their beliefs be inculcated in the young early because a rational examination of their beliefs must result in rejecting those beliefs.

      @Howlin’ Hobbit: Nixon began the “modern era” (is that like the live ball era?) of drug prohibition by calling it the “War on Drugs” in 1971. We can discuss the moral outrage of calling anything other than an actual war a “War” in another thread (War on Drugs, War on Poverty, etc.).

    28. #28 |  Red Green | 

      What you put in your body or take out of your body is your business only. That which is in your mind is also your business only.

    29. #29 |  Bill | 

      Part of the Barbie article reads like a Mad Lib:

      “A few years ago, Barbie’s best friend, Midge, was pregnant. Her bell would pop out a curly baby when opened.”

    30. #30 |  Rick Caldwell | 

      RB, you’ve done the hookers/BJ’s headline before.

    31. #31 |  Stormy Dragon | 

      As long as the baby is still drawing oxygen and nutrients from the mother’s bloodstream, and is not completely outside the mother’s body, then it should be totally within her rights to abort the pregnacy.

      Suppose you were one of a pair of conjoined twins and that you have the only heart. Assuming that you were not yourself at risk of dying by remaining joined, would you have a right to demand a surgical separation (and thus killing the other twin) because they depend on your bloodstream?

    32. #32 |  Walker Pfost | 

      If you found blood and skin under my fingernails, and I told you that it was my own blood and skin, we’d have no problem. But, then, let’s say you ran a DNA test on that blood and skin, and the DNA didn’t match my own. Would you continue to believe me, or would you assume that the blood and skin belonged to someone else?

      And yet, when presented with blood and skin possessing a different DNA from its host womb, some are able to make the assumption that they both belong to the same individual. I don’t think I’ll ever understand that.

      The clinic co-owner should be charged with lethal neglect (is that the proper term? I don’t really know), at the least. Do with that what you will.

    33. #33 |  Bob | 

      I must have a heart of stone, that or I understand how ‘Human life’ works better than most.

      Woman accidentally goes into labor and delivers a seriously premature baby that has no possibility of survival. The word for this is ‘miscarriage’. Babies die this way all the time. he fact that other people stood by helplessly and watched doesn’t really change that.

      Don’t forget, this is an Abortion Clinic, not a fully equipped hospital. What were they supposed to do? Press the big red button and transform the room into a state of the art Neonatal Intensive Care ward? Use the Asgard teleporter to transport the baby to a better equipped facility? No.

      It’s not a person at this stage, it’s a barely functioning mass of tissue. The only reason to roll code 3 and spare no expense to ensure even the tiniest chance of survival is if it was the last remaining infant of the human race.

      Look at it this way. Every woman born to the human race is born with about 500 eggs in the process of being developed. Those eggs are no more a person with thoughts, self, and feelings than a fetus at 21 weeks, Where is the extraordinary effort to save them? Virtually all of them are going to die without having been fertilized, much less gulp their first breath, get a name, or become self aware.

      If you’re going to get all weepy about this one, then what about all the potential babies that are lost during menstruation?

      Acting as if every egg that is fertilized is the last hope of mankind is a foolish waste of resources. We got plenty more where that one came from!

    34. #34 |  Mike Healy | 

      What Bob said. I think “abortion” ought to be legal up until the child in question us self sufficient.

      With 6.6+ billion of us here, human life is not what I would call precious anymore. We have bigger problems to worry about (like the fact that there are 6.6+ billion of us here!).

    35. #35 |  nicole | 

      Bob, I completely agree with you and also have a heart of stone. Which really is part of what it is: several people on this thread have explicitly stated that they can’t be objective or rational because of parenting instincts. (Not criticizing them for that, it’s great that they admit it.) These instincts make them feel a certain way about human infants, and anything that looks like a human infant—like wunder’s comment about how her baby already looks like a baby. It’s hard to overcome those kinds of instincts to realize that a fetus at 21 weeks has none of the qualities important to personhood—the “thoughts, self, and feelings” you mention.

      I think it really comes through with this story in particular. If this woman had given birth in a hospital they would most likely not have acted to save the baby. You would have had the same end result either way—and in this case, the result of not having a live baby was actually desirable to the mother. So the clinic seems to have broken some laws about…it’s not clear what exactly, but something to do with reporting and disposal perhaps. But people are extremely disturbed by the idea of putting a fetus in a plastic bag and throwing around the idea of “murder” and “lethal neglect” even though the exact same kind of neglect would have occurred in a hospital.

    36. #36 |  Mike T | 

      I simply don’t consider an unborn baby of any age to be an entity with any rights.

      And yet, I would hazard to guess that you would still say that someone has a right to life even if they are so retarded as to be less sentient than a stray dog. I can also see you denouncing someone as a Nazi for advocating the parental right to kill small children who are that defective, all the while patting yourself on the back for being so tolerant as to allow women an unfettered right to terminate any child in their womb.

    37. #37 |  MacGregory | 

      Mattel is coming out with a new Barbie: she is a delegate that does’t embarass her state.

    38. #38 |  texx | 

      #34 | Mike Healy

      I like it – use a false argument that “overpopulation is a problem” to support a indefensible pro-life position.

    39. #39 |  Comrade Dread | 

      I think “abortion” ought to be legal up until the child in question us self sufficient.

      So the cutoff for abortion would be 9, 10, 11, then? :)

    40. #40 |  Tyler | 

      several people on this thread have explicitly stated that they can’t be objective or rational because of parenting instincts.

      Always an important observation, but I don’t know anyone who can be truly objective about this (or any other) subject. What some call bias, others might call insight.

    41. #41 |  David | 

      I commented on this in another forum when the story came out, people saying how horrible, etc. I then pointed out that if everyone had done stuff a few minutes earlier, there would have been no legal issue, and I didn’t see how someone who was in favor of the woman having an abortion could condemn this without being a hypocrite. I can totally understand the legal distinction, what I have a problem with is the moral distinction people seem to hypocritically draw.

      I am personally, for moral reasons, against abortion. I also recognize, however, and agree with the Constitutional reasoning in Roe v. Wade etc. and can understand (even if I don’t fully agree with) the line-drawing between trimesters and viable/not viable (so former Pres. Clinton, “safe, legal, and rare” is probably the best albeit not entirely accurate summation of my view — legally permissible but morally wrong and should be discouraged). Someone like President Obama who (as a state legislator, if I recall correctly) is not in favor of requiring medical care for failed abortions is being consistent and has thought through his position. Someone like the pro-choice person I read quoted in an earlier story about this and who dealt only with the care to the woman was being consistent. I agree with them on the legality of abortion but disagree on the morality. But people who are pro-choice but are unduly horrified at this news story strike me as the sort of people (as most people are, nowadays) who don’t think through issues generally, let alone moral and ethical ones. I have friends who are pro-choice and friends who are pro-life; but I would have a real problem with a friend who was hypocritical or unthinking.

    42. #42 |  Mike | 

      “So with respect to your question, I would argue that an abortion where a live birth could result should probably be illegal. ”

      Isn’t that what a big part of the pro-life/pro-choice debate is about? Defining “live birth” seems tricky. Also gets down to something that can only be proven/speculated upon after the fact. Makes giving an abortion a risky proposition if some expert medical witness is standing by examining every fetus just waiting to charge you with murder.

      “Well, if she’s guilty of what she’s accused of in the article, it sounds like she’s only guilty of not resuscitating a baby that would not have been resuscitated if it were born in a hospital to a mother who wanted to keep it.”

      Technically if the mother told the hospital/clinic she was 23 weeks I am guessing the hospital may well have attempted resuscitation. From the article it sounds like it was determined to be 21.5 weeks after the fact. I don’t know about the external differences in a 21.5 and a 23 week old fetus but I’d guess most doctors would err on the side of resuscitation.

    43. #43 |  Frank | 

      On Barbie:

      As I said in my comment on the WV story, I’m going to start telling people I’m from Pennsylvania (I do have family there and was in fact raised there). I’m getting tired of WV politicians proving that the state is filled with the offspring of siblings and double cousins and that they get elected to office.

      We *really* need a New Texas amendment to the constitution to deal with the Stupid!

    44. #44 |  Sydney Carton | 

      Bob, first, I don’t think it’s as clear as you think that the baby had “no possibility of survival.” Premature babies at that stage have survived, if they weren’t subject to reckless indifference towards their survival.

      How twisted does someone have to be to put a baby into a plastic bag and leave it for dead in a closet? Even if you don’t think abortion is murder, what happened here should be. This is clearly infanticide.

    45. #45 |  NAB | 

      I’m not really sure why you would use this story to start an abortion debate. Clearly this is a gross example of medical malpractice. This is an example of a poorly run clinic that is making news for the most agregious of their errors. In my state you cannot get an abortion past the 14 week point at a clinic, you’d need a full hospital and doctor so it’s puzzling why the girl was admitted to the clinic in the first place. I know Radley is pro-life but using the worst example of medical malpractice he could find to try and rile up the pro-choicers seems like something only the very radical right to life groups would do.

    46. #46 |  Aresen | 

      #13 | Mike Leatherwood | March 6th, 2009 at 11:49 am
      I think Ken needs a new friend anyways, like Bath-house Todd or Confused Carl…..

      Or, he could join the horsey set and go with Barn Frank.

    47. #47 |  Chance | 

      Suppose you were one of a pair of conjoined twins and that you have the only heart. Assuming that you were not yourself at risk of dying by remaining joined, would you have a right to demand a surgical separation (and thus killing the other twin) because they depend on your bloodstream?

      I believe many parents have had to make almost that exact choice for conjoined twins. I imagine it must be a heartbreaking decision, but not really comparable to the abortion issue. If in the scenario you mean that I myself am making the decision, frankly, yes, I think I should have that right, asuming it is umambiguously my heart and bloodstream supporting both of us.

    48. #48 |  Chance | 

      And yet, I would hazard to guess that you would still say that someone has a right to life even if they are so retarded as to be less sentient than a stray dog. I can also see you denouncing someone as a Nazi for advocating the parental right to kill small children who are that defective, all the while patting yourself on the back for being so tolerant as to allow women an unfettered right to terminate any child in their womb.

      You guess is basically correct, but you seem to be suggesting this is somehow a contradiction to my earlier post. It is not. A retarded child has met the criteria I layed out: alive and completely seperated from the mother’s body. At that point, he or she is an entity fully entitled to the protection of law.

    49. #49 |  claude | 

      “Here’s some hot-button fodder for the comments section: What happens when a woman goes into a clinic to have an abortion, but due to accident or negligence, ends up giving birth to a live baby?”

      “Jonathan Krohn, the 13-year-old aspiring pundit who wowed ‘em at the Conservative Political Action Conference last week…”

      You cannot put those two topics on the same thread and expect me to give an objective answer to the first.

    50. #50 |  Tsu Dho Nihm | 

      So the cutoff for abortion would be 9, 10, 11, then? :)
      What, you think a kid that age can hold down a steady job and be truly self-sufficient? No, the cutoff age would have to be at least 16. Possibly as high as 21.

    51. #51 |  Zeb | 

      Abortion: mind your own fucking business. No one besides those directly involved have any legitimate interest in whether a baby is born or not.

      Terrific Economist article.

    52. #52 |  Tommy | 

      What Bob said. I think “abortion” ought to be legal up until the child in question us self sufficient.

      With 6.6+ billion of us here, human life is not what I would call precious anymore. We have bigger problems to worry about (like the fact that there are 6.6+ billion of us here!).

      What? Is this a argument for abortion, against abortion, or for mass murder?

    53. #53 |  Sydney Carton | 

      It’s an argument for mass murder, although perhaps unintentionally. Once you take as your starting point the idea that human life is not inherently valuable, all bets are off. Euthenasia, abortion, infanticide, mass murder. Also, tyranny, I would add, since the inherent right to life is one of the first things that tyrannies disregard. All are out of the same playbook.

      I have to sadly laugh at those of you clinging to the idea that being “completely separated” from a mother’s body is something that would distinguish the killing of a child as something wrong or something good. If you stick scissors into a child at 25 weeks while in the womb, that’s ok? But if you do the same thing to a child at 25 weeks and it’s outside the womb, that’s suddenly now murder? I didn’t realize that human life depended on location so much.

    54. #54 |  Stephen | 

      If it could be kept alive outside the womb, it is murder in my reality.

      That said, why are they going after the nurse so much and treating the “mother” as “victim” here?

      I mean, who decided to go to the abortion clinic huh? The “mother” made the decision long before the nurse came into the picture.

    55. #55 |  John Jenkins | 

      I am personally, for moral reasons, against abortion. I also recognize, however, and agree with the Constitutional reasoning in Roe v. Wade

      You might be the only one, then. The reasoning, such as it is, in Roe, is awful (the only worse modern decision from that standpoint that I can think of is Miranda v. Arizona, which is simply lawless).

      Just because we agree with a policy doesn’t necessarily mean that cases decided in its favor are well-reasoned. There are lots of criticisms of Roe out there, even from the left, including by Justices Stevens and Ginsburg.

    56. #56 |  Big Chief | 

      Regardless of how you feel about abortion, throwing a living moving baby in a bag and into the trash, even if not “viable” is bullshit. Sounds like this woman will be recruited to join a SWAT team.

    57. #57 |  thomasblair | 

      Suppose you were one of a pair of conjoined twins and that you have the only heart. Assuming that you were not yourself at risk of dying by remaining joined, would you have a right to demand a surgical separation (and thus killing the other twin) because they depend on your bloodstream?

      Ahh, the argument from non-existent scenario. Seriously, why do people create these ridiculous scenarios and then try to use them to divine answers to everyday moral issues?

    58. #58 |  Bob | 

      You need to make the distinction between “Human life” and “A human life”,

      Human life is dime a dozen. It has no individual face, no mind. It started … probably 100,000 years ago or so and has propagated itself without cessation since. It is fueled by the mechanics of reproduction and has no shortage of potential replacements for the currently existing units. Every egg, even every CELL, ultimately, can be used to make a new one.

      A human life is special. It’s a sentient being that deserves rights under the law. Part of sentience is being aware of your own autonomy, and as such… even the most retarded individual is afforded (and rightly so) these rights.

      There is a point in the development of a human where these faculties manifest themselves. Exactly where? I don’t know. Age 2? Age 3? Certainly not at conception, and probably not at birth.

      As such, I just can’t get weepy about a 21 or 22 week old fetus. That’s like throwing away a box of parts instead of building a sentient robot. Potential is not actuality.

      If anything, this should be considered a ‘property crime’ against the mother… her property (the developing baby) was destroyed. A crime mitigated by the fact that that’s why she was there in the first place.

    59. #59 |  John Jenkins | 

      Ahh, the argument from non-existent scenario. Seriously, why do people create these ridiculous scenarios and then try to use them to divine answers to everyday moral issues?

      Because the act of thinking about and solving the problems is useful, and extreme cases bring out absurdities and force interlocutors to refine their premises. The most famous example is the discussion of Gyges’ ring in Book II of The Republic. One who cannot grapple with difficult problems will have little useful to say about all but the simplest issues.

    60. #60 |  Gonzo | 

      People, please! Let’s just kill all the babies and call it even!

      Sorry. I’ve got a serious comment in me, someplace. I need more time.

    61. #61 |  Stormy Dragon | 

      Abortion: mind your own fucking business. No one besides those directly involved have any legitimate interest in whether a baby is born or not.

      Lynching: mind your own fucking business. No one besides those directly involved have any legitimate interest in whether someone is being hanged or not.

    62. #62 |  Mark Z. | 

      Because the act of thinking about and solving the problems is useful, and extreme cases bring out absurdities and force interlocutors to refine their premises. The most famous example is the discussion of Gyges’ ring in Book II of The Republic.

      That would be the book in which Plato reaches the conclusion that the best government is a totalitarian thought-control oligarchy. And that’s because he’s getting his ideas by dreaming up crap like Gyges’ ring and the allegory of the cave instead of observing real people.

      Thinking about extreme, unrealistic cases is a great way to tune your mind to think only about extreme, unrealistic cases. You end up with a set of premises that give the right results when applied to a four-color fantasy world but fail miserably in the real world.

    63. #63 |  Bryan | 

      I bet the Conservative Political Action Conference is disappointed they didn’t book a 13 year old Radley Balko to give a presentation on the dangers of drugs. You should send them a copy of the video for next year.

    64. #64 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

      The Economist: “Our solution is a messy one; but a century of manifest failure argues for trying it.”

      Three cheers for the Economist! These kinds of articles are popping up quite a bit lately in national publications like Foreign Policy and local newspapers. We have a long way to go, but a substantive conversation has begun, and this is something to celebrate, in my opinion. The Economist is honest enough to point out that its solution isn’t utopian (whose is?). But any drawdown in the disastarous “war on (some) drugs” would be great for civil liberties and great for most people who do not directly profit from prohibition.

    65. #65 |  Greg N. | 

      Lott’s takedown of the 13 year old is almost too good to be true. There’s nothing worse than a precocious little wanna-be pol. I know that, because I was one.

      Conservative, too.

      I’d beat up my 8-18 year old self if I could.

    66. #66 |  John Jenkins | 

      @Mark Z.:

      That would be the book in which Plato reaches the conclusion that the best government is a totalitarian thought-control oligarchy. And that’s because he’s getting his ideas by dreaming up crap like Gyges’ ring and the allegory of the cave instead of observing real people.

      Suffice it to say I don’t think you have a very good understanding of The Republic. In particular, the discussion of Gyges ring is about justice. Actually grappling with the issues Plato raises will show why Plato’s prescription for government is wrong (in this instance, it’s the failure of the analogy between what is good for a person, self-discipline and a proper ordering of appetites, versus what makes a good state). If you can’t successfully understand and argue against Plato’s argument, then the arguments from Marx become seductive.

      Plato was also quite a keen observer of people, which is why we are still reading him millennia after his death.

      Thinking about extreme, unrealistic cases is a great way to tune your mind to think only about extreme, unrealistic cases. You end up with a set of premises that give the right results when applied to a four-color fantasy world but fail miserably in the real world.

      Given that interesting questions tend to be edge cases, I believe you are in error. Extreme cases force you to recognize that there are no solutions, only tradeoffs.

      An example is the murderer who is plainly guilty, yet against whom all of the evidence obtained was obtained illegally and is inadmissible. The situation starkly demonstrates the potential consequences to society of the exclusionary rule. Most people don’t like these kinds of arguments because they “aren’t practical” or “that would never happen,” but if you are truly committed to the exclusionary rule (in this case) you should be able to explain why it is better for that murderer not to be convicted in that case. [I’m not picking on the exclusionary rule; this is merely an example.]

      Moreover, these kinds of examples help you to delineate your premises. In the abortion context, can it really be that delivering an infant and severing the umbilical cord changes the properties of the infant? Why is that the line, rather than some other arbitrary line (like age 5, 10, 15, as noted above?). Hypotheticals let you tease out what the real differences between interlocutors are and what the rules ought to be.

    67. #67 |  Jennifer | 

      If West Virginia is going to ban unattainable standards of beauty, it will be illegal to sell dolls with a full mouthful of teeth.

    68. #68 |  Mary | 

      Radley, it’s crap threads like this that makes me want to never come back. Please leave the sensationalism to others who truly make their living off that schtick.

    69. #69 |  chance | 

      Re: The Economist. In the issue I bought this week, they are also calling for the complete nationalization of U.S. banks. I neither agree nor disagree, just thought I’d throw that one out there.

    70. #70 |  chance | 

      I have to sadly laugh at those of you clinging to the idea that being “completely separated” from a mother’s body is something that would distinguish the killing of a child as something wrong or something good. If you stick scissors into a child at 25 weeks while in the womb, that’s ok? But if you do the same thing to a child at 25 weeks and it’s outside the womb, that’s suddenly now murder? I didn’t realize that human life depended on location so much.

      Time and location have a lot to do with the value human life. If you shoot me in the middle of the day as I walk uninvited towards you at Wal-Mart, you’ve committed a murder. If you shoot me as I walk into your house uninvited at 2:00 am, you’ve committed justified homicide. If the US bombs London tomorrow, there will be hundreds of innocent victims and a huge scandal. If the U.S. bombs an Afghan village tomorrow, there will be unavoidable collateral damage, and little to no scandal. I could go on, but I feel I’ve made my point.

    71. #71 |  Stormy Dragon | 

      If you shoot me as I walk into your house uninvited at 2:00 am, you’ve committed justified homicide.

      Is a fetus really uninvited?

    72. #72 |  graingod | 

      It’s so funny Radley that you criticize people for getting abortions. You wouldn’t spare 1 second in criticizing these mothers for needing welfare to support their child that they gave birth to but couldn’t support. Quite the double standard for the pro-life libertarians and republicans.

    73. #73 |  chance | 

      “Is a fetus really uninvited?”

      If you accept the premise that sex should be for procreation only, I suppose not. I do not accept that premise.

      But if I did accept that premise, and further accepted that abortion is in fact murder, then I don’t understand why most people allow exceptions for rape or to save the life of the mother. In the former, why should it be murdered? In the latter, that’s similar to the conjoined twins question above, and presumably is no different than me needing a heart transplant from someone who doesn’t want to give me their heart. I’d have no right to kill this person to keep myself alive, so why should an endangered mother have the right to kill their fetus?

    74. #74 |  Andrew | 

      At one time I was vehemently pro-abortion. I escorted women past picket lines and worked security for the staff and the facility itself. I was a true believer and proud of the work I was doing.

      For a while.

      Without going into the gory details I witnessed some things – terrible things- which caused me to change my mind. I’ve seen some pretty terrible things in my time and thought I was calloused to almost anything but what I witnessed in that place not only changed my views but changed me in a very profound way.

      It has been nearly 20 years now but I still have nightmares about it and carry a very deep sense of guilt and shame for my role there.

      Some things you can’t un-see and some crimes, authorized by the state or not, you just can’t make amends for.

    75. #75 |  Robert | 

      Ok, I’m confused by the whole abortion conversation. Sure, it sounds like some serious malpractice took place (falsifying records, destroying evidence, having unlicensed employees performing procedures that they shouldn’t, not to mention leaving a women alone long enough to give birth)

      But where does the murder question come in? The fetus was 21.5 weeks old, and non-viable. The plastic bag has nothing to do with anything, the fetus didn’t have lungs capable of breathing on their own, so the bag didn’t do any damage that wasn’t already done. Its just there as an emotional piece.

      The abortion clinic worker should be charged with whatever crimes they have actually committed, like tampering with evidence and practicing without a license. Murder or anything to do with the termination of the fetus is just absurd.

    76. #76 |  Bob | 

      | Stormy Dragon | March 6th, 2009 at 5:30 pm

      Abortion: mind your own fucking business. No one besides those directly involved have any legitimate interest in whether a baby is born or not.

      Lynching: mind your own fucking business. No one besides those directly involved have any legitimate interest in whether someone is being hanged or not.

      What’s tragic is that you can’t tell the difference.

    77. #77 |  chance | 

      IMO, this is all going to become a moot point, and probably sooner than we might think. Birth control technology will continue to get better, eventually to the point that the term “unwanted pregnancy” will practically be an oxymoron. If a “male pill” is ever invented, pretty much game over.

    78. #78 |  Michael | 

      I was called into an ER exam room, by and ER doctor, while in training, to see a fetus, completely enclosed in an amniotic sac, about half the size of a rat. It was a spontaneous abortion. (miscarriage)

      It was moving at the time. But, we knew it was soon to die. It was maybe 12 weeks. In that instance was I an accomplice to murder? NOOOO!!!! There was nothing that could be done that would have prevented the death. The biggest question in this case seems to have been answered the same way.

      But, I agree with the person stating how gray the area gets in making these decisions. The age was an estimate. And if, there was a 2 week variability in the estimate, the fetus could have been over 23.5 weeks. I feel the baby should have been evaluated for viability and not placed in the red bio-hazard bag. There was no way to determine, in retrospect, that the fetus was viable. If viability could have been proven, then the case would have been judged differently. I am sure. The gray area, in the legal aspects here, should have resulted in the final decision, not file those charges.

      The other problem, I see here, is the fact that the young lady was in the clinic to have a pregnancy termination. Why did it end up in a court room? That really makes me mad! WHY?! Was it guilt in seeing a perfectly formed “baby”, that drove the mother to this? That is just ignorance, in so many ways! It, just, makes no sense.

      And falsifying records, destroying evidence, and performing procedures while unlicensed are not malpractice. That is criminal behavior.

      The other negligent acts could be malpractice, if it was proven to be not the standard of care. But, there is no way to know how long it will take to deliver a baby. That should be common knowledge. A person could be alone for two minutes, and be able to deliver. But, that scenario would happen very rarely, indeed! In malpractice there must also be “harm”, if I understand it correctly. Since there was none (fetus death was implied in an abortion clinic), it should be moot. No malpractice, either.

    79. #79 |  annemg | 

      I don’t know, the whole story sounds fishy to me.

    80. #80 |  annemg | 

      #6 >>However, due to the laws of nature exclusively, once a baby is conceived, shouldn’t that being, regardless of physical age, have a right to their own bodies as well?<<

      You could spend hours on that question alone. At conception, there is no body. What’s the actualy difference between a zygote (clump of cells) and a sperm and egg a cm apart? They both have the potential to be a person. But we can’t go around giving rights to anything that has the potential to become a human someday. I agree that there must be some point where a fetus becomes a rights-deserving entity, but conception is most certainly not that point.

    81. #81 |  annemg | 

      Argggg… “actual” not “actualy”. Not even a word. (sigh)

    82. #82 |  Stormy Dragon | 

      What’s tragic is that you can’t tell the difference.

      Unless I’m the one doing the lynching, the fact I can tell the difference isn’t doesn’t matter as I’d be one of those uninvolved people who is supposed to be minding his own fucking business.

      The people who were performing lynchings felt, like people performing abortions that the party being hanged/aborted had no rights. Not while it can be argued the abortioners are right and the lynchers are wrong, a flippant ‘anyone not involved ought to butt out’ argument doesn’t do that.

    83. #83 |  Stormy Dragon | 

      If you accept the premise that sex should be for procreation only, I suppose not. I do not accept that premise.

      What if I just accept the premise that pregnancy is a foreseeable, even if frequenelty undesirable, outcome of intercourse?

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