Friday, June 23, 2006

Senate Refuses to Support a Free Iran 

Perhaps I am being reactionary in my title, but I was amazed to find that on June 15 the Senate voted down an Amendment (46-53-1) to the Defense Appropriations Bill "[t]o authorize, with an offset, assistance for prodemocracy programs and activities inside and outside Iran, to make clear that the United States supports the ability of the people of Iran to exercise self-determination over their form of government, and to make enhancements to the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act of 1996." (S.Amdt.4234) While I didn't see anything in the text that jumped out at me screaming "must vote against," Sen. Warner raised objections during discussion that the timing may negatively impact ongoing efforts by State. Or maybe it's just the fact that everybody's favorite boogie man Sen. Santorum proposed it. Other notable aisle crossers included Sen. McCain, Sen. Lugar and Sen. Specter (no surprise). But more interesting is when you look at the record for discussion on the Amendment.
We have had lots of debates on the floor of this Senate. We have not had a debate on what I believe is the greatest foreign policy threat to this country at this time; that is, Iran, what our policies should be toward Iran, and what we as a Congress and the Senate should do with respect to supporting the President's policy or modifying the President's policy with respect to Iran.


The Senate has, so far, not taken any action to try to deter that development [of nuclear weapons], to try to change the political dynamic within Iran. Obviously, we have not taken any action to pursue any military force to stop them from doing so.

These are our three options, the way I see it: to get some sort of political dynamic going on within the country to change the regime; to impose sanctions or to get collaboration with other governments to stop them from developing these weapons; or, third, a military option.

I don't think we are prepared at this point to offer a military option, but with this amendment I am offering the other two. I am offering an amendment that will both support and codify Executive Order sanctions already in place against Iran; impose additional sanctions, not on Iran but on other entities that are doing business with Iran; and then try to impose a prohibition on importing into this country nuclear fuel assemblies made outside of this country if they do business with Iran.

Companies have to make a choice whether they want to do business with Iran or whether they want to do business with the United States. That is the sanctions part of it. So we need to enact these provisions because a lot of what is in place right now is done through Executive Orders.

Or maybe the idea of sanctions with real teeth designed to really do something is just a scary idea for some Senators?

Projected Date For Iraq Pullout ... 

Senator Kerry recently was quoted by the Boston Globe expressing optimism that his push to get a timetable for a withdrawal is gaining support based upon the fact the his latest effort drew twice as many votes as his previous attempt. Since it only garnered 13 votes, though, let's play a little math and see what's what.

The main difference between attempt 1 and attempt 2 was the change from 1 Jan 2007 to 1 Jul 2007. So, if we assume a geometric relationship between withdrawal and votes we need at least two more iterations before we get to > 50 votes, or 1 Jul 2008. However, assuming a linear gain of seven votes per six months the timetable stretches out further to 1 Jan 2011.

Methinks Thou Art But a Maiden 

This is a post that may get more than a few folks looking at me askance, but it's something I've thought about for a while now. I have always maintained that words have meaning, and that it is better for continued accuracy of understanding to judiciously protect those meanings. For example, during mandatory training I was always the one who emphasized the point that "sexism" is not equivalent to "sexual harassment" and that being a disgusting boor, while wrong in its own way, does not constitute grounds for an allegation of sexual harassment. I have deplored the tendency of some to expand the meaning and understanding of words describing horrible or evil actions as it degrades the impact of the true evil. If "rape" is expanded to include the ex post facto analysis that "I really didn't want to do it, but felt like I should" (as I have read in some College "Date Rape" literature), then the impact and meaning of the word when used to discuss the violation of another's body, will and personal integrity is lessened. I was reminded today of a similar trend as regards other crimes of a sexual nature.

A post on ABC's blog The Blotter trumpets that "Online Game Becomes Sexploitation Site." The article discussed a 40-year-old Texas man who was arrested for using the on-line game EverQuest to "lure" a 14-year-old girl into having explicit sexual conversation and send him naked photos. Leaving aside the sensational headline and lede that claims pedophiles are using on-line games like EverQuest specifically to avoid traceable e-mails (a claim for which no evidence was provided) I was struck by the fact that there was absolutely no information provided to indicate that the man was just such a predator rather than merely a gamer who became infatuated with another gamer and exhibited poor judgment. I also found it interesting to see EverQuest being referred to as a "Sexploitation Site," despite any indication that the game itself was used to exploit the girl or that the photos were not provided to the man (not the game) voluntarily. It seems one would be equally justified in describing the USPS as a "Criminal Conveyance," since con-men do, in fact, use the mail to communicate and often conduct scams. Apparently they are following the old '80s Dungeons and Dragons story template, where a game being played by some emotionally unstable kids was blamed for them doing the sorts of things emotionally unstable kids are prone to do anyway. Finally, it did not escape me that the intentional implied connection between this man, pedophilia and "child predators" was not lost on several commenters, many who expressed joy and relief at the assumed pending jail time and one who even suggested giving the sick man a medical injection of "straight hydrocloric[sic] acid."

But let's evaluate this situation. A man talks dirty to a young woman and convinces her to send "provocative, naked photos." Considering there was at least three States between them at all times I highly doubt if there was any physical contact or coercion involved. Yes, he was in the wrong, something he openly acknowledged when contacted by ABC News, but is this really something for which a man's freedom should be forfeit and his life should be ruined? While many commenters had already consigned the man to the eighth circle of Hell there were a few who pointed out the inaccuracy of accusing one of pedophilia or sexual abuse when there was no possibility of physical contact while others shared my discomfort with using the label "pedophile" to describe someone attracted to a sexually mature young adult.

This is where you get your chance to look at me sideways and wonder what I'm really saying, but I believe there is a fundamental difference between those who exhibit a sexual attraction to sexually immature youths and those who exhibit an attraction to sexually mature youths. For clarification, I use the word "youth" to describe anyone not attaining majority, nominally 18-years-old, rather than "child" as I think it is a more accurate term for this discussion. In the first case, the target of attraction is without doubt an inapproriate target based upon a clear physical standard, while in the later case the unsuitability of the target is due to an assumed emotional standard. Or, to put it another way, given a photograph of two young people it is easy to tell the difference between a physically immature 12-year-old and a 19-year-old, but this may not necessarily be true if asked to discriminate between the same 19-year-old and a 16-year-old. In the case of the 16-year-old, though, when the age of the individuals becomes known it would then be reasonable to expect an adult to respect that person's youth and to not pursue the attraction. As such, though, I don't see that the attraction itself is necessarily wrong, but rather how the person responds. It's the same principle I teach my girls when I tell them "it's OK to get mad, but it's not OK to get mean." The problem in the event discussed by the article was that the man failed to exercise the judgment one should be expected show. I'm sure nobody could have ever imagined a 40-year-old hard-core gamer without the emotional maturity and judgment to tell a girl who is actually paying him attention that he is to old for her. Granted, I don't know if this the reality of the situation, but nothing in the article tells me it couldn't be.

In the end, though, we have another man who will probably be added to the local "Sexual Predator" listing and who will have to, for the rest of his life, identify himself as such or risk going back to jail. But, based upon the information available, is this right? I have young daughters so I have a strong interest in knowing who my neighbors might be when it comes to such matters, but when my wife and I checked the local register or Sexual Offenders I noticed a very certain pattern. Without a doubt the most common offense was statutory rape or similar offenses involving a minor. What I really wanted to know, though, was who may have been previously convicted of a violent assault or stalking or such, not who got in trouble with the neighbor's daughter back in 1977 when they were 20-years-old. And while it may be reasonable to place limits upon consummation based upon protecting emotional health or parental prerogatives, it seems quite anachronistic to still hold the idea of statutory "rape" in the day of Feminism and Sex-Ed in almost the same regard as when we were interested in protecting the virtue of the innocent. While it may be good for the anti-sexual predator industry, in my eyes it just throws chaff into the question of "who are the dangerous sexual predators."

Personal Effect of Global Warming 

Everybody has been chuckling about ABC News' bleging for tales of personal woe and amazement to demonstrate the terrors of man-made Global Warming. In the spirit of community I share my submission:
The biggest effect Global Warming as had on my life is in the increasing numbers of Yahoos who think they have all the answers and continue to push for government imposed draconian measures that would severely affect my economic and personal life for no demonstrable benefit.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Changing Positions 

Glenn Reynolds had a quick look at a Guardian article praising the recent Gay Pride day in Moscow. While this isn't normally my beat, I just couldn't let pass without comment the following Freudian slip in a very serious article:
A handful of courageous gay Russians got up off their knees and stood tall, proud and defiant.
I leave it to the reader's imagination to conjecture what they were doing on their knees in the first place.

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