Shelfari: Book reviews on your book blog
Fearless Philosophy For Free Minds: December 2006

Friday, December 22, 2006

More Mandatory Minimums Madness: The “Sexual Predator” Edition

I have written in the past about the insanity of mandatory minimum sentencing laws on at least two occasions (here, and here). In my previous posts, the minimum sentencing guidelines had to do with the war on drugs. In this latest outrage however, this mandatory minimum sentence has to do with “aggravated child molesting.”

In theory, mandatory minimum sentencing for certain crimes seems like a great idea. The problem with such a “one size fits all” approach is it gives judges absolutely no discretion when it comes to particular cases. No matter how well written or intentioned a law may be, there are always going to be cases where the application of the law is simply unjust. The case of Genarlow Wilson is a perfect example of what I mean.

From The New York Times article “Georgia Man Fights Conviction as Molester”

[Genarlow Wilson] was sentenced to 10 years in prison without parole for having consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old girl at a New Year’s Eve party, an offense that constituted aggravated child molesting, even though Mr. Wilson himself was only 17.


Disturbed by Mr. Wilson’s conviction, the Legislature changed the law in March to ensure that most sex between teenagers be treated as a misdemeanor. But the State Supreme Court said legislators had chosen not to make the law retroactive.


Even more confounding, at the time of Mr. Wilson’s offense, a so-called “Romeo and Juliet” exception had already been made for sexual intercourse between teenagers.

“Had Genarlow had intercourse with this girl, had he gotten her pregnant, he could only have been charged with a misdemeanor and punished up to 12 months,” said Brenda Joy Bernstein, Mr. Wilson’s lawyer.

So let me get this straight: Genarlow Wilson is 17 and engages in oral sex with a girl who is 2 years younger than he is. At the age of 15, the girl is not at the legal age of consent in Georgia. However, had the two had “consensual” sex instead of oral sex, Wilson would have been charged with a misdemeanor offense carrying a maximum sentence 1 year but because they didn’t go all the way, Wilson is facing an 11 year sentence and will not be eligible for parole until after he has served 10 years. OR if Wilson chooses, he can have his sentence reduced to 5 to 7 years with a possibility of parole if he agrees to register as a sex offender.

So why won’t Wilson take the deal? According to the aforementioned article, Wilson is quoted as saying the following:

"Even after serving time in prison, I would have to register as a sex offender wherever I lived and if I applied for a job for the rest of my life, all for participating in a consensual sex act with a girl just two years younger than me," he told a reporter for Atlanta magazine last year, adding that he would not even be able to move back in with his mother because he has an 8-year-old sister. "It’s a lifelong sentence in itself. I am not a child molester."
There is no question that Wilson used poor judgment in engaging in oral sex with a girl who was under the age of consent. But he is quite right in making a distinction between a child molester and a couple of horny teenagers. When I think of the term “child molester” I tend to think of an adult (usually middle-aged) having inappropriate sexual contact with a prepubescent child. These are the real sexual predators who should be put away for the rest of their natural lives.

It seems to me that there needs to be a serious discussion about where exactly the line should be drawn. Clearly, children should be safe from predators but at what point is a child an adolescent of an age where he or she can be held responsible for his or her choices? It wasn’t that long ago when children as young as 12 married and started families of their own. If you go far enough back in any family tree, you will find ancestors who married and had children at ages we would today consider taboo.

I am not saying that we should return to a time when children have to grow up so fast, but I do think that there needs to be some common sense in the laws. There should be some sort of sliding scale taking into consideration the ages of the parties involved. Is an 18 year old having sex or sexual contact with 17 year old molestation, regardless of the age of consent? I think not! What about a 30 year old with a 14 year old? I tend to think so.

There seems to be no clear answers; what might seem reasonable to me might not seem reasonable to you. When a “zero tolerance” policy in the form of mandatory minimum sentences is in play, there can be no thoughtful discussions in the jury room. It’s all or nothing. According to the article, had the jurors known that Genarlow Wilson would serve 11 years for his offense, most if not all of them would not have convicted him.

Genarlow Wilson has already served nearly 2 years for this offense. Does he really need to serve another 8 to teach him a lesson? Alternatively, should he be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life? The answer to both of these questions depend on whether or not one believes that Genarlow Wilson is a threat to children based on his actions as A 17 YEAR OLD WITH A GIRL WHO WAS ONLY 2 YEARS YOUNGER THAN HIM. If you ask me, he has already done enough time.
Free Hit Counters
devry university

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Fearless Philosophy Flashback: Peace on the Enemy’s Terms

In light of the takeover by the pacifist Democrat Party, the Baker Report, and the general mood of the country to pull out of Iraq and elsewhere, I’ve decided to repost the post I wrote back on August 12, 2005 titled: Peace on the Enemy’s Terms. It appears that many if not most Americans feel that defeat is an option and we should be prepared to deal with whatever the consequences of surrender are. We should sit down with the leaders of Iran and Syria and talk about a solution to our woes in Iraq (never mind the fact that both of these governments have contributed to our woes in Iraq). In any event, with the Democrats poised to take over congress in January and politicians in both parties preparing to make a presidential run in 2008, the future seems quite bleak when it comes to confronting Islamofascism.

I would like to point out an error I repeatedly made in the post when I wrote it. Like many people, I fell into the trap of calling the Islamofascists ‘terrorists’ and called the war on Islamofascism ‘the war on terror.’ Please accept my apologies for failing to identify the enemy correctly and feel free to mentally substitute the proper terms where I made this error. The important thing is I have since learned from my mistake; if only our leaders could do the same…

Peace on the Enemy’s Terms
Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows I have been an unapologetic supporter on the war on terror. Like many Americans, however, as the daily news reports of casualties pour in each day, I am starting to rethink my position. Innocent people are all too often killed by errant bombs and bullets. As I have written before, war is messy. How many more fathers and mothers will have a soldier knock on their door to deliver the tragic news that their son or daughter was killed in Iraq, Afghanistan, or elsewhere before this war on terror is over? How many wives will lose their husbands? How many more children will lose their fathers and mothers? Is the cost of human life worth the price? Are the war protesters right when they say ‘war is not the answer’? If war is not the answer, what is? Whether we support the war on terror or not we must ask ourselves these important questions.

Maybe I have been wrong all this time; maybe my belief that using overwhelming force against the enemy is not the way to stop terrorism. Maybe it is time to extend the olive branch to the enemies of our country. After all, if it were not for the policies of the United States and its support of Israel, these oppressed people would leave us alone…right?

Antiwar advocates seem to believe that if the U.S. pulled out all its troops in the Middle East, Bin Laden and Co. would stop killing innocent Americans. I do not think their solution goes far enough. If we seriously want our enemies to stop attacking us by using appeasement, pulling out of the Middle East and ending our support for Israel is only a first step. If we started to withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan, the terrorists might hold off on attacking America for awhile, but in the long term, we must do more. We have to understand why they wish to kill us.

Why is America such a threat to militant Islamists? Our very existence is a threat. Perhaps we should try to live the way they would want us to. After we pull all troops out of the Middle East, we must convert to Islam (the Al Qaeda version) as a nation. Separation of church and state shall become a thing of the past as we burn the U.S. Constitution and replace it with Islamic law.

The new Islamic law will require dissolving the three branches of government and all the state governments. Representative government is against the will of Allah, therefore, all power will be vested in a Muslim Cleric who will be chosen by Allah. Those who choose to disobey the cleric’s laws will be promptly executed.

The rights of Life, Liberty, and Property shall be a thing of the past. Life can be taken away from any person at any time for any reason the Cleric sees fit. Americans will no doubt have to do a great deal of repenting for their past transgressions against Allah. The day may come when you are asked to strap a bomb to yourself or your child in order to kill as many infidels as you can (there will undoubtedly be some Americans who will want to revive the former constitutional republic). The only ‘liberty’ that shall be allowed in this new government is to live in accordance to the Quran as there is no liberty without Allah. All property which is repugnant to Allah shall be destroyed and be cleansed with the blood of the infidels and replaced with a mosque. The only limited property rights this government will allow is for men have property rights over women, because women shall have no rights whatsoever.

No longer will women be allowed to walk the streets, drive, or be seen in public without a male relative escorting them. If a woman must be in public, she must cover every inch of her skin so that men will not be tempted by her charms. Any woman who is caught or rumored of engaging in sex (consensual or not) with any person other than her spouse shall be executed by her family.

These reforms would be a good start to keep the terrorists from killing us but there is still more we must do. All art, music, dance, literature, scientific research not approved by the Cleric must be destroyed. Human expression of any kind not in accordance with the Quran or the Cleric is strictly forbidden. All scientific research which is contrary to the TRUTH of Islam must not be taught under any circumstances.

All these sacrifices will be hard for most of us to come to terms with. Though most of us won’t truthfully believe in their imaginary friend (oops, I mean god; old habits die hard), we can all pretend along with them and no one will be the wiser. If we agree with the enemy’s terms for ‘peace,’ will they hold up their end of the deal? It is worth a shot I suppose. Our way of life, our liberties, and our culture are not THAT important are they; worth dying for? What is war good for? Absolutely NOTHING! Right?
Free Hit Counters
devry university

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Placing the Blame Where it Truly Belongs

Sixty-five years ago on this day, December 7, 1941, was the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor killing 2,390 Americans. Until this date, America chose an isolationist policy as Europe was being devoured by Nazi Germany. Little did Imperial Japan know the fury America was going to unleash in Japan, Germany, and everywhere else the war would be fought. Little did Imperial Japan know that two of its cities would be completely leveled by weapons not yet invented. After the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Americans understood the stakes were high and failure was not an option.

Now, fast forward to September 11, 2001. On that day, even more American lives were lost, this time at the hands of Islamofascists. This attack would claim even more lives than the attacks on Pearl Harbor. Much like the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attacks, Americans were eager to exact justice on those who planned the attacks and the regimes which harbored them. Few people criticized President Bush when he named Iraq, Iran, and North Korea the new “Axis of Evil.”

December 7, 2006 is a very different time from either of these days which “live in infamy.” Today, supposedly intelligent people suggest we should talk to the regimes of Iran, Syria, and North Korea. Any discussion of military action is a complete non-starter.

We are also told we should leave Iraq and hope for the best. We should leave Iraq and let it fall into complete chaos and become a staging ground for more Islamofascists to train so they can make their way back to America to kill even more of us. We should turn our backs on the Iraqi people who took America at her word that she would not abandon those Iraqis who bravely stood up for their own freedoms. We should leave Iraq and let the world know that America does not have the stomach to fight for the survival of Western Civilization.

It is with much dismay that I have to say that I believe we are losing this war but this is not the fault of our military but there is plenty of blame to go around. The entity has the most blood on its hands is our media. Our media clearly does not like America or her values, especially when a Republican occupies the Oval Office. They would have us believe that the Islamofascists are just ‘misunderstood.’ It’s the fault of America’s foreign policy as to why they hate us anyway; their oppressive governments are in no way at fault.

The second entity which deserves an almost equal amount of blame is the American Democrat Party. Oh, how they like to put all the blame on their arch nemesis George W. Bush (which he does deserve some blame, which I’ll get to shortly). The Democrat Party had an opportunity to be leaders. The Democrats could have easily put their differences with the Republicans aside to fight the enemies of America (just as the Republicans did when a Democrat was in office). Democrats would have had plenty of other areas in which to disagree with the president and his party. Hell, the Democrats would have plenty of areas to disagree and criticize in how to proceed with the war against Islamofascim provided the criticism was constructive and had the same goal of victory. Make no mistake about it, the Democrat Party has emboldened the enemy.

The third entity who deserves blame is the American people for falling prey to the distortions and outright lies of the media and the Democrat Party. Shame on us for being so easily mislead.

The fourth group which is at fault for this failure is President Bush and the Republican Party. Both showed leadership up front but proved weak over the long haul. President Bush talks tough but when it comes down to it, he tries to hard to be liked by the media, the Democrats, and the world community- - all people who hate him no matter what he does. Perhaps even more egregious, President Bush has failed to secure the borders at home while fighting a politically correct war abroad. The overly restrictive rules of engagement are costing the lives of our men and women in uniform. Sometimes fighting aggressively means accidentally killing civilians. When you decide to go to war, that is part and parcel of what you bargain for.

So much could be learned from the World War II generation. In the wake of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, America responded courageously. What if they were as timid back then as we are now? Perhaps an even better question would be: How much better off would we be today if the public, the media, and our leaders had the same resolve as the World War II generation?
Free Hit Counters
devry university

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Milton Friedman’s Summary Rendition of Leonard E. Read’s “I, Pencil”

Unlike most Libertarian leaning and capitalist bloggers out there, I failed to mark the passing of the brilliant Milton Friedman with a tribute post (shame on me). I happened to run across this YouTube video of Milton Friedman at Rick Sincere’s blog. In this video, Friedman recites a shortened rendition of Leonard E. Read’s work titled “I, Pencil.” For those of you who are unfamiliar with “I, Pencil” its one of the best explanation of how capitalism works for everyone involved in producing a pencil (for example) because no one person can produce a pencil by himself.

After watching the video, I decided to try to find a text version of “I, Pencil.” The original version I did find is much longer than the summarized version Friedman recites here (but worth the time to read). Immediately following the text of the work, there is a review written by none other than Milton Friedman (which in itself is very worthy of reading).

I also found some other great videos on YouTube about Milton Friedman. Most of the videos posted come from Friedman’s PBS series titled “Free to Choose” (based on the book he wrote by the same title). There is so much good material there but I could never give it the justice it deserves here so I encourage everyone to check it out. In a world headed for socialism, reading and hearing the wisdom Milton Friedman left us is very refreshing and a great reminder of why we must continue to fight the good fight.

Free Hit Counters
devry university

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Sad State of Tolerance in America

I guess I was naïve in thinking that my country was one which was generally tolerant and generally believed in the rights of the individual. Not much surprises me anymore but the results of these gay marriage bans passed by voters in all states but one (Arizona) where the issue was on the ballot did. I was not surprised that the amendment to ban gay marriage in Colorado’s constitution passed but I was absolutely dumbfounded that Referendum i failed to receive support by a majority of Coloradans. As I wrote back in September, the purpose of Referendum i was to allow same sex couples to have the same basic rights such as inheritance rights, the right to visit the other in the hospital, the right to make medical decisions, and the right to make funeral arrangements. Even though the referendum specifically stated that it was for these legal rights and NOT MARRIAGE, Coloradans sadly denied such basic rights.

Of course we all know the story of Ted Haggard, the evangelical leader who engaged in gay sex with a prostitute and bought crystal meth from the prostitute. It is very intriguing to me how often those who actively lobby lawmakers to keep such activities as drug use and prostitution crimes (and pursuing even further restrictions among individuals and between consenting adults) while partaking in these very activities themselves. Ted Haggard, the same person who actively hid behind his religion as an excuse, not only to promote bigotry but also to make his bigotry the law of the land. To his credit, Haggard did say one thing that was true: “I’m a deceiver.” Of course he only came clean because he was caught and the fact that he is acting as though he is sorry seems to back up his statement that he is still a deceiver.

Despite this revelation, the bigoted campaign against homosexuals continued. I was appalled by some of the bigoted campaign ads that were being run on the Alabama news/talk station 770 AM WVNN (I listen to WVNN’s internet stream to listen to The Neal Boortz Show). It was bad enough that many of the ads urged support for a candidate based on the fact that he or she taught Sunday school and/or sang in a church choir (this is no joke; as if participating in church activities somehow qualifies someone to hold office) but the smearing of candidates who actually believe that individuals should be treated the same under the law was unconscionable. One ad that ran for several months prior to the election made an issue out of the fact that his opponent supported an (gasp!) openly gay (lesbian) candidate in another race. In response, the candidate who was the target of the ad responded by saying that he voted several times to ban gay marriage in Alabama. I thought Judge Roy Moore was extreme for Alabama but apparently his views are quite main stream in this part of the country. Is it any wonder that so many people regard Southerners as backward?

To be fair, these extreme Christian Right views are not isolated to the South nor is the bigotry limited to homosexuals; religious bigotry is also rearing its ugly head. I guess I was also naïve in believing that many people would not oppose an office holder or person running for public office based on his or her personal beliefs (although I realize that a majority of Americans would not support a skeptic, atheist, agnostic, or any other free thinkers). When someone would tell me that he or she did not believe a Jew (for example) could be elected president, I used to disagree strongly. After all, John F. Kennedy was elected president in a time when Irish Catholics where discriminated against. Now I am not so sure that a non-Christian candidate of any kind could be elected president. Here are two examples of why I’m coming around to this most discouraging view: Kieth Ellison (a Muslim) and Mitt Romney (a Mormon).

Kieth Ellison (D) is a Muslim who was elected to the congress in Minnesota. Apparently, Dennis Prager has a problem with the fact that Ellison has the “hubris” to be sworn in by placing his hand on the Quran instead of the Bible. Here is a sample of Mr. Prager’s ignorance in a column he wrote titled: Multiculturism run amok (bold text is my emphasis)

Keith Ellison, D-Minn., the first Muslim elected to the United States Congress, has announced that he will not take his oath of office on the Bible, but on the bible of islam, the Quran.

He should not be allowed to do so – not because of any American hostility to the Quran, but because the act undermines American civilization.

First, it is an act of hubris that perfectly exemplifies multiculturalist activism – my culture trumps America's culture. What Ellison and his Muslim and leftist supporters are saying is that it is of no consequence what America holds as its holiest book; all that matters is what any individual holds to be his holiest book.

First of all Mr. Prager, no matter how much you want to deny that the U.S. Constitution is a SECULAR document and that there is such a thing as the “establishment clause” of the First Amendment, the law is not on your side on this one. Furthermore, there is another little thing called Article VI, Clause 3 in the constitution that prohibits religious tests to serve in public office. Though it is tradition to swear on the Bible it is not a requirement nor should it be. Also, America does not have a holy book; individuals decide which book (if any) they wish to worship. It so happens that Mr. Ellison, who was chosen by the voters, is a Muslim instead of a Christian. Get over it!

On the Republican side, there is the 2008 presidential hopeful Mitt Romney. Doug Mataconis at Below the Beltway wonders if Romney’s Mormon beliefs will alienate many in the Christian Right.
Doug writes:

This, more than anything else I think, explains Romney’s recent courting of religious conservatives. Clearly, the evangelicals will be faced with a choice if Romney becomes one of the front runners for the GOP nomination (with, say, John McCain). Do they ignore the religious differences or let those differences determine their vote? It will be interesting to watch.

I believe Doug’s analysis is correct. Elsewhere in his post he cites an article about how Romney is attempting to shore up the Christian Right base by seeking the approval of the likes of Jerry Falwell and Franklin Graham (Maybe they would be okay with Romney as president provided that he promises not to use the Book of Mormon in his inauguration).

What’s stunning to me in the religious bigotry aimed at Mitt Romney comes from people who have very similar values (at least from what I gather). The fact that he is trying to secure the endorsement of the homophobic theocrat Jerry Falwell should give anyone who cares about personal liberty pause.

I personally do not know much about neither Kieth Ellison nor Mitt Romney at this point. For all I know they could both be horrible politicians for a variety of reasons. But to look only at their personally held faiths as a measure of either is qualified? Yes, there may be some concerns I might have because of their beliefs, that’s why the public should ask the tough questions. Questions such as “Are you going to uphold the law based on the constitution or your religion?” or “Do you want to remake the government in the image of your religion?” If either answers yes to either question, he is not fit to govern.

It’s very distressing to see how little we as Americans have learned from our mistakes of the past. Apparently we learned nothing from slavery, segregation, and other forms of ethnic and religious bigotry. For the most part, I believe that we have far less racial bigotry than ever before but how different is this from bigotry of certain religious beliefs or personal lifestyle choices (Though I am convinced that homosexuality is more biological than an environmental factor but either way, it’s a free country) ? When did Americans become more preoccupied with the personal conduct of others than the basic concept of life, liberty, and property? From what I gather, we only hold these values sacred when its our own life, liberty, and property that’s in jeopardy but we sure don’t mind trying to take these rights from others when we are not the ones affected.

Free Hit Counters
devry university