Harry Reid: Right on Prostitution, Yet Wrong

December 28, 2012

Storey County (Nevada) commissioner Lance Gilman was elected this November 6 (with 62% of the vote). He is a businessman who owns, among other things, a brothel.

The AP reports:

Gilman maintains illegal prostitution is rampant across the country, and it makes more sense to legalize and regulate it. He said bordellos pay significant taxes to rural counties and the women are regularly checked by doctors. “I use the term caregivers for our industry,” Gilman said. “The public has no idea, but so many of the men we deal with are damaged or widowed or in need of kindness. The industry is so much more about providing care and human nurturing than anything else.”

Harry Reid made news in Feb 2011 when he suggested it was time to make prostitution illegal in Nevada. News reports suggest he had little to no support. His reasoning? Prostitution hurts economic development. I agree prostitution should be illegal, but Reid’s reason is poor. Ban one business because other businesses don’t want to move in next door? Liberalism tends to be willing to sacrifice individual freedom for whatever it thinks is the good of society: if brothels harm local economies, then ban brothels. At the same time, liberalism tends to refuse to prohibit actions on moral grounds, as long as the action can be portrayed as not hurting anyone.  Nevada should outlaw prostitution not because it harms economic development (though it may), and perhaps not even because it is immoral (though it is).  Nevada should outlaw prostitution because it does harm others.  Prostitution exploits the vulnerable in our society and giving it legal sanction makes such exploitation easier.

We should note that there is a grain of truth to Gilman’s claim that prostitution is about human nurturing.  He is right, I think, that prostitution is not simply about men getting sexual pleasure.  It is about what sex promises: an intimate union with another person. Love. The irony in Gilman’s argument is that while his customers’ deepest desires may indeed be for the caring touch of a woman, for some human nurturing – indeed, for love – that isn’t what he is selling!  His customers are deceived, perhaps even self-deceived. They are buying into a lie. Love cannot be purchased. The prostitutes will indiscriminately lavish their attention on any paying customer.  They are not making a commitment to the kind of intimacy that the human soul hungers for – that these men hunger for – and which finds its deepest physical expression in sexual intercourse.  She does not nurture him, helping him to flourish as a human being.  She doesn’t value him and he doesn’t value her.

Also, notice Gilman’s emphasis on the needs of men.  He claims his prostitutes are “caregivers” who “care” for men that are “damaged” or “in need of kindness”.  As I have already noted, the that claim these women truly care for those men is dubious at best, but what about the needs of these women?  What about the women who are reduced to selling themselves, to being indiscriminately intimate with any John with a few dollars in his pocket?  What about the damaged women who are in need of kindness?  Who is caring for them?  Gilman’s statement is a heinous, disgusting twisting of good and evil.

First, prostitution is not about care-giving.  It does not equally treat both parties as humans for it does not equally regard the honor, integrity, and wholeness – the human flourishing – of both parties.  Second, prostitution is an offense against women. It turns them into nothing but pleasure machines for men. It has no place in a society that respects and values women.  Third, brothel owners are enriched by taking advantage of poor and vulnerable women.  It is a classic case of the wealthy and powerful abusing the weak and poor.  Prostitution has no place in a just society.  Fourth, prostitution is a road to destruction.  It ruins families and it compromises the integrity of individuals as they deceive others to protect their secrets.  It has no place in a society that would have its citizens listen to their better natures.  Fifth, prostitution is the opposite of freedom. Women who depend on it for their income cannot easily walk away. They are no longer free to choose their sexual partners. They are not enjoying sexual freedom, as some may suppose, but rather sexual enslavement.  Prostitution has no place in a free society.

The people of Storey County, Nevada should be ashamed to have chosen such a leader, but the people of Nevada as a whole should be even more ashamed for giving legal sanction to such a demeaning, unjust, destructive, debasing, and enslaving act.


Race and Obama’s Reelection

November 8, 2012

In Vote was astronomical for Obama in some Philadelphia wards we read the following:

In a city where President Obama received more than 85 percent of the votes, in some places he received almost every one. In 13 Philadelphia wards, Obama received 99 percent of the vote or more.

Those wards, many with large African American populations, also swung heavily for Obama over John McCain in 2008. But the difficult economy seemed destined to dampen that enthusiasm four years later.

Not to worry. Ward leaders and voters said they were just as motivated this time.

“In this election, you had to point out to the people what was at stake. And in many cases, they felt that the Romney doctrine was not going to favor the working man,” said Edgar “Sonny” Campbell.

It seems amazing to me that 99% of a district would actually favor Obama’s policies.  You certainly don’t get that kind of policy agreement in my suburban Philadelphia neighborhood!  It is therefore easy to conclude that these people are voting not for policy but perhaps for skin color.  However, let’s be generous, and suppose that they actually did vote for Obama’s policies.  Suppose that these people live in neighborhoods where there really is an almost unanimous opinion that Obama’s policies are right and good.  If everyone around you thinks like you do, if their conclusions seem so obvious to you, it isn’t hard to conclude that there must be something wrong with those who think differently.  Suddenly, I think I begin to see an explanation for the phenomenon of crying “racist” against those who oppose Obama’s policies.  Perhaps opposing those policies is such a foreign concept to such people – and to everyone surrounding them – that race becomes an easy explanation.  Perhaps the existence of dissension strikes them in much the same way that the existence of near unanimity strikes me.

If this analysis is right, or somewhere in the neighborhood of being right, then perhaps we have a clue how to approach folks that accuse others of racial prejudice in politics.  Could it be as simple as observing the fact that while you may be surrounded by people of like-mind, in other circles there is a much greater diversity of opinion – a diversity that has to do with how people think, that has to do with ideas and not skin color?  Or, that while you may think diversity of opinion is the norm, in other circles,  a nearly unanimous consensus reigns – a consensus that is perhaps a part of the fabric of a subculture and that has to do with how people think and not with skin color?

Yet, there is a difference between the two sides here: one side is reacting to unanimity while the other side is reacting not to dissension per se, but to the mere possibility of dissension.  For me, when I look at the unanimity in Philadelphia, my question is “How can almost everyone believe X?”.  My question is not “How can anyone believe X?”  While I don’t believe X, I am nonetheless surrounded by people who do believe it.  I expect some people to disagree with me; I just don’t expect everyone to.   Suppose Joe is from Philadelphia and he believes that since it is absurd for me to really not believe X, I must be racially motivated.  Joe really seems to be making the assertion that “No one can really disbelieve X!”  That is, while I am looking for an explanation for the unanimity, Joe takes it for granted that no one can truly disbelieve X and so he looks for an alternative explanation that doesn’t have to anything to do with reason or belief.  It seems that I have a failure to recognize “group think”, while Joe has a failure to be open-minded.

Open-mindedness, understood as the ability to entertain a foreign viewpoint, to fully comprehend it and intellectually treat it fairly, is a virtue[1].  It seems to me that Joe lacks this virtue, because he cannot fathom how someone would honestly think differently from him.  So how do we proceed?  First, rather than cry racism ourselves, we should be willing to admit that other dynamics, such as group think, may be at play.  Second, we have to first persuade people that our views are at least plausible, that a reasonable person could possibly hold them.  Only after that is achieved, can we hope to persuade them that our views are not only plausible, but also right.

[1] For a discussion on the virtue of open-mindedness, from a Christian perspective, see “Open-mindedness” in Being Good: Christian Virtues for Everyday Life , Austin & Geivett, eds.

Breaking News! Rick Santorum endorses Mitt Romney!

May 4, 2012

Today, Rick Santorum, speaking at the Neanderthal Thinkers Forum, said, “Today, I am endorsing Mitt Romney for President.  As President, Mitt Romney will do great things for this country.  All of my attacks on Mitt were hyperbole and mere political gamesmanship – simply part of my quest to clinch the Republican nomination.  Forget what I said; I didn’t really mean it.  I am just another conservative hypocrite.  In truth, Mitt Romney is the candidate who will get America back on track, getting government out of the way of individuals and restoring prosperity.  I urge my supporters to get behind Mitt Romney during this election.”

Of course, Santorum didn’t say that, but that is what the media would love to report that he did say.  They seem to be obsessed with the question, “Will Santorum endorse Romney”?  After all, this is a really big question because of the very real possibility that Santorum will instead endorse Barack Obama – in some distorted, parallel universe!  All the media hoopla over various conservatives endorsing Romney is utter nonsense.  Who else are they going to endorse?  Does Romney even need their endorsement?  I think not.  No one needs to tell anyone who supported Bachmann, Cain, Gingrich, Perry, or Santorum who to vote for when the choice is between Obama and Romney!

So, why does the media make so much of this meaningless endorsement question?  The only reason I can think of is that it validates their view of conservatives as being hypocrites.  Here we have Mr. X, who previously said various negative things against Romney, now supporting Romney.  What hypocrisy!  Not really.  The obvious point to make is that Mr. X may disagree with Romney on many points, while still thinking that Romney is a far better candidate than Obama.  It isn’t that X’s differences with Romney were fake or inconsequential, but only that those differences are nothing in comparison to X’s differences with Obama.

On the other hand, if Mr. X remains silent and doesn’t endorse Romney, he is again a hypocrite.  Here is Mr. X, Mr. Conservative, who is clearly on Romney’s side in a Romney-Obama match up, but yet he won’t stand up for Romney.  Hypocrisy!  Pettiness!  We love it!  Perhaps it would be hypocrisy and pettiness.  Or, perhaps Mr. X sees an endorsement as wholesale approval rather than selection of the best among the available choices.

Personally, I expect Santorum will ultimately back Romney, but frankly I don’t care.  For me, given the choice between Romney and Obama, the choice is clear.  I don’t need Santorum or any of the other Republican primary candidates to help me make up my mind.

Thoughts on Koran-Burning

September 8, 2010

In the news: pastor plans to burn Korans

I do not intend to support the burning of Korans.  First, burning books is only useful if the book is truly harmful and you have realistic chances of burning every last copy; otherwise, it is merely a symbolic act.  Second, what good can come of this?  This is not how you persuade people that Islam is evil or just plain wrong.  These things aside, there are some interesting observations to be made in relation to this story.

Various people are concerned that this would incite violence against Americans in the Muslim world.  First of all, we shouldn’t care what radical Muslims think about this, since they’ll be trying to kill us regardless.  Are we then afraid of the actions of “moderate” Muslims?  If we are, then we should ask whether they are really moderate, because it seems anyone who kills over an insult is hardly a moderate anything.  Beyond that, it would be rather hypocritical for moderate Muslims to insist on not being lumped in with radical Muslims while at the same time lumping together all Americans with a small church that burns some Korans.

There is also the usual religious pluralism nonsense at work, demonstrated by the Gainesville mayor, who declared September 11th, “Interfaith Solidarity Day”.  That would be solidarity with everyone except those of the faith who are planning to burn Korans.  On what principle are these people standing in solidarity?  The principle that no religion should criticize another religion?  Surely the world would be a better place if all criticism were done away with.  Never mind whether something is true or not.  I suppose this principle of non-criticism must be what David Axelrod had in mind when he said burning the Korans was “not right.  It’s not consistent with our values”.  I actually thought that having the freedom to show your contempt for something that you considered wrong was one of our values.

We also should not fail to appreciate the Muslim response to all of this.  A candidate for the Afghan parliament was quoted as saying, “If this happens, I think the first and most important reaction will be that wherever Americans are seen, they will be killed. No matter where they will be in the world they will be killed.”  By calling the reaction “first and most important” I conclude he isn’t merely predicting what will happen but what ought to happen.  This is a wonderful proof that the Koran does not deserve to be burned.  I sure hope this guy falls into the “radical” category.

Then we have Eric Holder who calls the whole thing idiotic.  So, if you publicly criticize Islam, you may have the Attorney General calling you an idiot.  And, finally, we have some comments from State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley.   According to Crowley, the administration is hoping that Americans will rise up and condemn the planned burning.  Why should we?  It certainly isn’t an insult to me, and I frankly don’t think it is necessary for everyone from Joe Smith on up to the President to call out someone for throwing around insults, however nasty they may be.  Crowley went on to say not only that the burning is “inconsistent with our American values” and “un-American” but, moreover, that it is “consistent with the radicals and religious bigots who attacked us on 9/11.”  Hold on!  So there’s a moral equivalence between murdering a few thousand people and throwing around insults?  This is a truly outrageous statement.   Crowley, however, made his gravest error when he said the burning was “a divisive potential act of disrespect to one of the world’s great religions.”  In point of fact, Islam is not great.

President Obama’s Sermon On The Mount

April 14, 2009

President Obama delivered a sermon on the economy today (full text here), and in it he borrowed from a famous sermon given by the most famous preacher of all time (though he was and is much more than just a preacher): Jesus Christ.

Obama said:

There is a parable at the end of the Sermon on the Mount that tells the story of two men. The first built his house on a pile of sand, and it was destroyed as soon as the storm hit. But the second is known as the wise man, for when “…the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house…it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.”

We cannot rebuild this economy on the same pile of sand. We must build our house upon a rock. We must lay a new foundation for growth and prosperity – a foundation that will move us from an era of borrow and spend to one where we save and invest; where we consume less at home and send more exports abroad.

It’s a foundation built upon five pillars that will grow our economy and make this new century another American century…

Obama then listed the five pillars on which to build our foundation:

  1. Reform of rules and regulations on Wall Street
  2. The education system
  3. Harnessing renewable energy
  4. The health care system
  5. Fiscal discipline

What Obama gleaned from Jesus’ sermon was a simple message: “Be wise and build on a solid foundation.”  Unfortunately, he missed the mark, by a long shot.  Jesus considered that an obvious message, which is why he built an analogy out of it.  Jesus’ message was much deeper: “Just as you build your house on a solid foundation, so also you should build your life on a solid foundation: my words”.

Jesus said “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock” and “everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.”  So, Jesus’ message was far more than “consider your foundation”, but rather “do what I have taught you”.

Now here is where it gets really interesting.  Hopefully, President Obama will re-read the sermon he borrowed from and let the true meaning sink in.  What were “these words of mine” that Jesus referred to?  Here are a few examples from the immediate context (The “Sermon on the Mount” is found in Matthew 5:1 to 7:29):

  1. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…”  Ironically, Obama quoted from this sermon in a speech that was focused on treasures on earth!
  2. “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets”.  Consider how this applies to the murder of innocent babies.
  3. “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  You will recognize them by their fruits.”  We are seeing Obama’s fruit: legalized abortion is not enough, but taxpayers must also fund it.
  4. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven….And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”  Is supporting and funding abortion doing the will of the Father?

May President Obama’s wisdom exceed that of the wise man who built his house on the rock; that, after all, is merely common sense.  Rather, may he be a truly wise man, one of those who hears the words of Christ, and does them.

Arlen Specter Insults Constituents

February 9, 2009

Arlen Specter wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post which opened thus:

I am supporting the economic stimulus package for one simple reason: The country cannot afford not to take action.

Now, either Specter is a fool, or he is insulting us.  I’ll be gracious, and assume the latter.  Let me rephrase him: “I support eating doggie-poo, for just one reason: we have to eat something.”  Yes, folks, he’s being just that logical.  And he thinks you won’t notice.

What he should be saying, very loudly so as to pressure the Democrats into doing the right thing is: “The country cannot afford to take the wrong action!”  Or, perhaps, with his favored double negative, “The country cannot afford not to take the correct action.  Let’s make sure we get this right!”

“Logic.  What do they teach in schools these days?” (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe)

Obama: What Scalpel?

February 5, 2009

During the presidential campaign, Obama criticized McCain for proposing to take a hatchet to government spending, where a scalpel is needed. Obama seems to have buried the hatchet, and the scalpel as well – favoring the addition of nearly a trillion dollars of spending rather than cutting the fat.

Some points to consider:

  1. With $900 billion dollars, we could give about $3,000 to every single man, woman, and child in the entire country.

  2. Nancy Pelosi claims we will lose 500,000 jobs every month until the stimulus bill is passed. Joe Biden is adamant that we cannot afford to wait two, three, or four weeks longer. Their knowledge of the future is amazing. I can’t imagine how they could possibly know this. Pelosi’s claim implies the only hope for the economy is government action – that if the stimulus bill is never passed, the entire nation will eventually become unemployed, at so many jobs per month. This is ridiculous fear mongering.

  3. When the government creates a job that the market didn’t demand, what maintains that job, except for continued government spending?

  4. Has Congress made a correct diagnosis of what ails our economy? If not, how can they hope to cure it? Consider the tax refund checks of the last few years, and the several recent bailouts, which have not set the economy aright. This is evidence that Congress in fact does NOT know what ails the economy or how to fix it!

  5. Politicians are fond of talking about creating jobs. Don’t we actually want to create wealth? How can there be jobs if there is a lack of wealth in the economic system?

  6. When an entrepreneur invests in starting a business, the goal is to turn that business into a self-sustaining, wealth-generating machine. This is good for the economy. The money that Congress pushes into the economy, however, does not create self-sustaining, wealth-generating machines. The government is mostly just a consumer, buying the goods and services it wants, using money it took away from those wealth-generating machines. The government could take on the work of an entrepreneur, but then the government becomes an investor, and who trusts Congress to make wise financial investments?

Some government spending is necessary (maintaining the national defense, for example). However, every dollar the government spends is a dollar it pulled out of the economy, away from the businesses that generate more wealth. So, what should government do? Cut spending as much as possible, and take as little money in taxes, away from where it is needed, as possible.   President Obama: take up your hatchet!

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