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 |  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.

    2. #2 |  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?

    3. #3 |  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.

    4. #4 |  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.

    5. #5 |  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.

    6. #6 |  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.

    7. #7 |  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?

    8. #8 |  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.

    9. #9 |  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.

    10. #10 |  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.

    11. #11 |  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.

    12. #12 |  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.

    13. #13 |  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.

    14. #14 |  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.

    15. #15 |  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.

    16. #16 |  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.

    17. #17 |  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.

    18. #18 |  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.

    19. #19 |  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.

    20. #20 |  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.

    21. #21 |  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?

    22. #22 |  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.

    23. #23 |  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?

    24. #24 |  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.

    25. #25 |  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.

    26. #26 |  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.

    27. #27 |  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.

    28. #28 |  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.

    29. #29 |  annemg | 

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

    30. #30 |  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.

    31. #31 |  annemg | 

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

    32. #32 |  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.

    33. #33 |  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?