Saturday, April 28, 2007

Marriage Is Not The "Magic Bullet"

There has been a lot of discussion lately over the statistics released this month that point to the overall ineffectiveness of abstinence-until marriage sex education. I hate to be the one to pour more cold water over the abstinence crowd (OK, maybe I don't hate it THAT much), but the poor job it does keeping young, unmarried people out of harm's way is really only the tip of the iceberg.

Marriage is no panacea regarding STD's (or anything else, for that matter). The fact that someone "waits" until marriage is no guarantee they will never be infected. This seems like common sense, but even the mainstream medical community does a poor job of communicating this. Consider the following statistics: 22 percent of men and 14 percent of women admitted to having sexual relations outside their marriage sometime in their past, according to a study done in the 1990's. The same study found that 70 percent of married women and 54 percent of married men did not know of their spouses' extramarital activity. On top of that, consider the fact that annual well-woman exams rarely include STD testing for women who self-identify as married or in a monogamous relationship, and most men do not go to their doctors at all for regular checkups. The following quotes from the University of Tennessee Medical Center give insight into the prevailing attitude of the medical community regarding STD's:

Your care provider may want to perform other lab tests to make sure you
are healthy. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are a big problem in
who have multiple sexual partners and don’t use condoms.

They go on to say:

Many times women are not aware that they are infected because they
have no symptoms. For this reason, women at any age with a history of
behavior or evidence of problems, may need special tests.

Now, it would seem the fact that women often fail to notice symptoms would be reason enough to test all women for STD's, but the "risky behavior" clause is again thrown in. Considering the statistics above about infidelity, how many people who feel "safe" in a marriage are really unwittingly in the "risky behavior" category?

So, we have folks going around, telling teens and young people that the best way for them to avoid STD's is to avoid sex before marriage, and they do so by framing it in mystical, loaded language that relies on religious "sanctification" of the act. Here's an example I found on a site about the "Top 10 Reasons Why Sex Should Wait Until Marriage".

Premarital sex breaks the 10 Commandments given by God. The 10
Commandments are given to man by God to make man happy. They are
not outdated and they are not restrictive. If we follow these laws, we
create happy and prosperous lives. If we don't follow them, we will pay
heavy price in divorce, disease, abortions, illegitimate children and loneliness.

We see marriage portrayed as a sort of "Get out of Jail Free" card. If you just wait until marriage, you don't have to worry about things like divorce, disease, abortions, illegitimate children, or loneliness. And don't just take MY word for it-- this is God's law, after all (?!) Now, I expect as much from the radical right, but it just appalls me that the medical community has fallen in lockstep with such absurd notions. So we have married people who think they are protected when they are not, and who the medical community just ignores as potential infection risks. Except, of course, when a woman is pregnant. Because anyone who has ever been pregnant knows that, as a matter of course, all women (married or otherwise) are given a full battery of STD tests during the course of their prenatal care.

Because, you know, we've gotta keep those embryos and fetuses safe, even if that means admitting married people sometimes get STD's.

My recommendation is simple. All annual checkups (for women or men) should have STD tests as a part of the regular battery of tests to perform, regardless of their relationship status. People should opt out, rather than opting in to these crucial tests. And, of course, we should dump the abstinence until marriage education, and paint a more realistic picture about what marriage and the transmission of disease really look like. That assumes, of course, that we're really worried about lowering STD infection rates, and not just indoctrinating people with "family values" falderall about the sanctity of marriage.

My first marriage was one of the 17 percent of marriages that end in divorce due to infidelity. I never saw it coming, and to this day, I don't know what kind of sexual activity my ex-husband may have participated in with "the other woman" while we were married. Never once, until I expressly asked for it (after finding out about the infidelity) did any of my doctors offer me a STD test while I was married except for when I was pregnant. Marriages provide little enough protection from the vagaries of human emotion, let alone the transmission of disease. Society needs to be honest to people about both.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Believe Me

Oh, all ye people of little FAITH! See what is before you and TREMBLE at the awesomeness of my Awesome revelation! For I finally have CONCLUSIVE, IRREFUABLE proof of extraterrestrial life visiting this planet! Feast your eyes on the above pic! What do you see? To some, it is a strange zig-zaggy light. To others, it might seem like the camera was bummped while taking a picture of something bright in the dark. I, however, know it to be none of the above. It is, in fact, a picture of an extraterrestrial being in the shape of a large light dog zipping through the earth's atmosphere! Staggering, isn't it? But there it is. I think these light-entities are taking the form of dogs because they know we consider dogs to be human's best friend, and they want to communicate their friendly intentions. Aren't they way smart? They may even be interdimentional as well as intergalactic travelers-- I just don't know yet.
So, you may ask, "How do you know these are light-dog entities from another galaxy?" A very good question, for which I have a very good answer. I believe it to be true. And that's all I need. Because belief is stronger than the strongset steel. More immovable than the largest mountan. More inpenetrable than the deepest fog. As really Super Spectacluar as the picture is, I don't need it. Because I have faith in the illumicanines (that's the name I have coined for our most Revered and Stupendous guests), I just know they are there.
That is the beauty of faith. It is what it is. If you have it, it is real. Faith doesn't need proof, it has itself. I mean, how elegant is THAT? I am a real supporter of faith. Well, as long as it isn't stupid faith. That, I've got no time for. Like , for example, those Native Americans who call G-d "the Great Spirit". Please. Yahweh. Now THAT'S a name for G-d. Or, the Holy Ghost! I don't know about you, but that just resonates. Even Allah has got a ring to it. How do I know what the right name for G-d is? I just do. Cause that is faith. And GOOD faith, the kind I like-- well, that's the STUFF!!
The other day, Jimbo and I were on our way to the mall when we got behind this car that had a really great bumpersticker that drives home this point. It said, "If you think you are perfect, try walking on water". Yeah. Can't do it, can ya? Well, it just goes to show you... yeah. THAT, my friend, is the power of faith. If you are a Believer, you KNOW you can't walk on watter. You take it on faith. But all of these other, science-y types, they have to go falling in to the lake, getting all wet, and maybe drowning before they know the Unalterable truth. You can't walk on water. That's what MY faith gives me. In your FACE, un-faith types!
Those un-faithers out there kinda worry me. I mean, if they don't think like I do, what's to keep them from practicing their un-faith all rampantly, and squeezing out MY faith? I think that is a really big concern. What if everybody just went around believing or not believing as they wished? Hmm? What then? I shudder to think.
Greeting to the Illumicanines
Oh! Great glowing Dog of the Cosmos! Thank you
for gracing me with your presence. I am here, and I have

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Safe, Legal, and Rare- A Perspective On Gun Control

“Safe, Legal, and Rare”, is the quotation we often see attached to the debate about abortion, but I contend that it is perhaps better applied to the whole discussion about gun control. In the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings, those in favor of stricter gun control laws are bringing to the forefront of the national discourse the inconsistencies of the national policy towards gun ownership and use. The only way, in my opinion, to make sane legislation in the US regarding gun ownership and use is to approach it with this framework in mind. Our goal in this country should be to make sure that guns are used safely, the right to own guns is protected, and the real and perceived need to own guns is greatly reduced.

First, efforts should be increased to ensure the safe ownership of guns. A clearer national standard as far as who may and may not purchase guns needs to be instituted. Notice, I never said “stricter”. Frankly, you can’t legislate for every contingency, as far as who might be a “good” candidate for gun ownership, as opposed to a “bad” candidate for gun ownership. Overly strict restrictions on who may and may not purchase a gun only invite circumvention, and make enforcement much more difficult. The federal government, then, should concern itself primarily with: 1. A unified age for gun ownership (I would suggest 18); 2. Proof of satisfactory completion of a gun safety education course; 3. Clear rules about who may be barred from gun ownership (felons convicted of violent crime, or gun-related crime, and people who have been ruled to be mentally incompetent are obvious groups here); and 4. Proof of citizenship or legal status. States, of course, should be able to legislate more restrictive standards, but the federal standards should act as the minimum baseline. There need to be clear standards regarding how states report information to the national database, and a clear timeframe for them doing so. I also believe it is time to demand more accountability from gun and ammunition manufactures, and clear federal standards should be enacted to make all guns and ammunition more easily traceable through microindentification marks.

Secondly, we need to be sure to respect the constitutionality of gun ownership. Like it or not, the constitution is very clear about the right to own guns. Though the core reason for the amendment- the notion that people should be able to defend themselves against tyranny- is not particularly relevant today (not to say the danger of tyranny has abated; rather, the ability of even a well-armed populace to resist it has), there are clearly other reasons why gun ownership is still relevant in a modern society. The use of guns for sport, the use of guns in certain professions, collecting guns for their intrinsic value and artistic merit, and the use of guns for personal protection are all legitimate reasons for modern citizens to own guns. It is also important to note that the state should not be second-guessing the capacity of rational, law-abiding citizens to make decisions about what is or is not appropriate for them to own when no imminent threat of harm or actual harm to society has been established.

Finally, we come to the “rare” part of the equation. The sanction of violence and belligerent behavior that pervades our culture makes gun ownership and gun use much less well examined than it ought to be. Though there are several perfectly legitimate reasons for owning a gun, many people own them because they mistakenly believe that it makes them look “tough”, or that gun violence is the only sure way to resolve conflict. Unrealistic portrayals of how easy—and accurate—guns are only serves to encourage people to buy and use guns irresponsibly. It is the duty of educators, the media, and other concerned citizens to counteract these destructive messages with honest information about the high human cost of gun violence, positive messages about self-esteem that are not linked to stereotypes of “toughness”, and honest messages about the difficulty of using a gun well, especially in adverse conditions. In addition, non-lethal modes of self-protection need to be made more widely available and better understood. None of this, of course, will be able to change the culture of violence overnight, but these steps are perhaps the most important and long-lasting forms of “gun control” available to this society.

This Just In: Resumes Trump Logic On Issues Of Public Policy

Sigh. This is the response to the letter I wrote my state Representative about HB 213, which was ostensibly designed to safeguard intellectual diversity. Aside from failing to address a SINGLE argument I made in my letter, this response is really... Yeah. I'll let it speak for itself. if you are interested in reading my letter or the actual legislation text, see my previous post.

Ok, I can't stand it. I've just got to point out that the plaintiff in the case that was the inspiration for this piece of legislation is named Emily Brooker- hence, the "Emily Brooker Intellectual Diversity Act". He refers to it as the "Booker" case. That really makes me feel confident he is telling me the truth when he says "I have read the Bill carefully several times."

But hey. He's got a law degree from UMKC.

Thanks for the email on HB 213. I have read the Bill carefully several times. My academic experience includes, undergraduate study at William Jewell College , with Honors study at Oxford University and a Law Degree from the University of Missouri at Kansas City . I have also served as an Adjunct Professor at William Jewell College for nearly 14 years. During my 15 years as a practicing lawyer, a large part of my practice has been representing plaintiff’s for employment discrimination. These claims have included race based, gender, age, and first amendment, and whistle blower protection claims. I am comfortable in the analysis of constitutional issues.
The Diversity Act is directed at view point discrimination and is neutral on whose view point is protected. Additionally, many universities have adopted policies that have essentially many of the same guidelines as set out in HB 213. Mizzou was the example raised during floor debates. The main difference is that the public educators would have to report to the General Assembly that they have adopted a policy against view point discrimination. For most professors, this law would have virtually no impact on them. For most schools this law will have no impact on them.
Missouri State, however, is the example of what can go wrong when a university forgets what their mission is, open education and not discriminating. In the Booker case, she refused to sign an “advocacy letter” the professor had crafted as it was against her philosophical convictions. The University initially backed the professor and interrogated the student. It took a law suit to force the issue and secure a real remedy.
The Bill as written would protect both a liberal and a conservative student. A Student of Muslim faith could not be discriminated against if he would not agree to sign an advocacy letter that violates his religious beliefs. The socialist student would be free to speak and write as he or she wished and not be graded based on view point, but upon skills in displayed in promoting their ideas.
A pro life law student would not be subjected to different treatment and nor would a pro choice law student.
There has been much proclaimed about this Bill. I do not know if it will be pursued in the Senate. Even so, I think it is important to raise this issue so that students do not have to resort to law suits and faculty is both highly educated and diverse as well.
Thanks for writing to me about this important issue.
Best Regards,
Tim Flook

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Missouri Residents Be Warned! HB 213 Is Not What It Seems To Be

Below is a copy of the letter I wrote to my state rep. about HB 213. If you want to see a copy of the bill text, go to:

Representative Flook:
I am writing to you today in regard to House Bill # 213, also known as the “Emily Brooker Intellectual Diversity Act”. As I understand it, this piece of legislation was granted first round approval on April 11th of this year, and is waiting on a final vote before it can move on to the Senate.

As an educator and a proponent of true intellectual diversity, I urge you to vote against this piece of legislation. Though it sounds like an affirmation of basic freedom of speech and intellectual tolerance, a close reading of the bill’s text would suggest otherwise. In addition to the basic premise of the bill being flawed, there are two key areas of the bill which are particularly troubling.
First, the whole notion of legislating intellectual diversity is problematic. The bill never provides any rationale for why such legislation might be necessary. As a matter of fact, the inciting incident for the bill seems to have little to do with the topic of the legislation. A Missouri House communication dated April 11th states,

Rep. Cunningham’s legislation comes on the heels of claims from a student
studying social work at Missouri State University that she was threatened
with a lower grade if she did not sign an advocacy letter to the Missouri
legislature in support of gay adoption. The student, Emily Brooker, sued the
university which quickly responded with a settlement.

Clearly, the above situation is an example of a questionable grading policy in a particular classroom, not a system-wide threat to intellectual diversity. In addition, I would like to point out that only one section of the legislation, line 2j, directly deals with such situations. Ironically, the definition of “intellectual diversity” provided in the bill, “…the foundation of a learning environment that exposes students to a variety of political, ideological, religious, and other perspectives, when such perspectives relate to the subject matter being taught or issues being discussed.” would actually be upheld by the assignment in question, as it clearly exposed Ms. Brooker to a viewpoint different from her own.

Secondly, the bill seems to be an attempt to do exactly what Representative Cunningham states she does not wish to do – “micromanaging” the affairs of colleges and universities. As a matter of fact, at one point, the bill actually suggests the creation of an entire new office—that of Intellectual Diversity Ombudsman—just to deal with all of the paperwork generated by this bill. In an era of dwindling funding for education across the board, the creation of yet another bureaucratic position seems to be a poor use of funds.

Finally, and perhaps most troubling, the bill seems poised to do exactly the opposite of promoting intellectual diversity. Line 2e admonishes institutions to take steps like: “Include intellectual diversity concerns in the institution's guidelines on teaching and program development and such concerns shall include but not be limited to the protection of religious freedom including the viewpoint that the Bible is inerrant;” At first, it sounds like a positive move for institutions to “include intellectual diversity concerns in guidelines on teaching and program development”. When you look to the end of this statement, and the decision to only specifically name the viewpoint that the “Bible is inerrant” as protected, a different, decidedly less intellectual diversity –friendly agenda clearly emerges. It is telling that this viewpoint, which could actually be argued to be the dominant paradigm in most of Missouri today, was selected for specific protection, as opposed to something that might truly be considered a minority or subversive view, like the inerrancy of the Koran, or the illegitimacy of the Bible, for example.

In short, the Emily Brooker Intellectual Diversity Act is a poorly conceived, overly bureaucratic attempt to stifle the very thing it allegedly promotes. This piece of legislation is nothing more than a well-disguised attempt to frighten postsecondary educational institutions away from supporting real minority viewpoints, and force them to accommodate the will of the majority.