Sunday, March 29, 2009
First, let me say that what I'm about to say does not apply to medical marijuana issues. I get why that's an issue some people feel needs to be at the forefront of national attention--particularly with some states having legalized medical marijuana use, only to have their citizens arrested by federal authorities. But the medical marijuana issue is a much narrower one, and one that's fundamentally different from the larger issue.
It's fundamentally different because people who are using marijuana for non-medical reasons are free to stop. Am I saying that they should stop? Nope. I couldn't care less, so long as they're not driving around impaired or operating machinery or any of the things that might be dangerous to the rest of us. Just don't care. But here's the thing--the right to use marijuana (non-medically) is just NOT IMPORTANT. The economy is collapsing. Millions of people are losing their homes. People are dying in Iraq. And somehow "But I really wanna get high NOW" just doesn't resonate with me.
Proponents of legalization will point out (and rightly so) that we waste a lot of money prosecuting and jailing people for marijuana crimes. That deserves a look, but it's hardly the most pressing issue on our plates. The other major argument is that lives are being destroyed over marijuana charges..and it's true. As a former criminal defense lawyer, I can definitely attest to the fact that jail time usually does more harm than good. It' s a tragedy, for sure, when a young man with a family and a good job ends up in prison because he had a small amount of marijuana in his care.
But he has a choice. Until this issue is resolved, every single American is absolutely free to just NOT POSSESS MARIJUANA. Should he have to make that choice? Well, that's up for debate. But as of today, the law is what it is, and everyone knows what it is. And so anyone who doesn't want to risk going to prison can decide not to take that chance. That sort of undermines the sense of urgency in my mind. No one is at risk who doesn't choose to take that risk.
But let's say for a moment that it is a pressing issue, that we should set aside foreclosures and the death count in Iraq and get focused on making America safe for people who opt to use marijuana. If that's the goal, then let's get sensible about it.
First, let's consider the fact that the federal law against possession of marijuana was enacted by Congress--it's not an executive order. The President could, of course, encourage Congress to pass such a bill, but that's it; it's their purview, not his. And then if Congress DID pass such a bill, and the President signed it, the problem would be all solved...except that there would still be dozens and dozens of state laws criminalizing marijuana use--laws the President is ABSOLUTELY POWERLESS to affect. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, state and local prosecutions make up 99% of all marijuana prosecutions.
So...let's recap. An apparently huge movement within the United States wants the President of the United States to make it his priority to tackle something that's Congress's job, in order to repeal a law that will impact 1% of marijuana prosecutions across the country.
I've been hearing a lot of buzz about how disappointed people are in Obama over this issue. Seems to me that if all of those people got out there and rallied and donated money and campaigned to get Obama elected so that he could get the federal prohibition on marijuana repealed, the disappointment should be running the other way.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
The varied response was very interesting: a clinical psychologist talked about how early exposure to this kind of thing could have a lifelong impact on how a girl viewed her own sexuality and what she thought was expected of her; parents talked about the internet protections they had in place; and a surprising number of people suggested that I was a totalitarian right-wing lunatic who wanted to repress everyone’s sexuality and possibly kill them. One gentleman, whose knowledge of history is apparently a bit shaky, suggested that I probably thought homosexuals should be “gassed like the Jews”—I guess he wasn’t aware that homosexuals were also on Hitler’s hit list.
The general gist of the outraged comments I received was that a person’s sexuality was his own business and it said something negative about me if I didn’t think it was just fine if our kids were influenced by things like Two Girls, One Cup and grew up thinking that women eating feces and vomit was hot. Let me cop right off to the fact that I don’t think those particular “tastes” are “normal”. In no way shape or form am I going to try to tell you that I think that’s a choice that’s “just as valid as any other” or any such thing. I do, however, believe that what consenting adults do in private—assuming that it’s truly consensual—is their own business.
Apparently, some folks felt that my desire not to have our children’s sexual development influenced by this sort of material was inconsistent with the idea that what adults do in private is their business.
Get the difference?
Seems like not, so here’s the thing: you may find it hard to understand why, if I wouldn’t condemn an adult for doing something, I’d want to help a child avoid going down that same path. Frankly, that’s just stupid. It’s every adult’s own business, for instance, whether or not he smokes—but we don’t encourage our children to start smoking. And while those of you in the “you probably want to burn people with sex lives at stake” camp are probably fairly popping out of your chairs right now yelling that we ALL KNOW that smoking is bad for you, and you can’t compare that to someone’s sexual choices…
Here are just a few of the reasons that I wouldn’t want my son (or anyone else’s) to be influenced by something like Two Girls, One Cup and decide that it was really hot when chicks ate feces and vomited:
1. Eating feces is a serious health hazard. I’d hate for my son (or anyone’s) to be in the position of needing to jeopardize someone else’s health and well-being to satisfy his sexual desires.
2. This kind of activity can be damaging to a woman’s self-esteem and even mental health. Argue away, but it’s a well-documented fact, and I would hate to see someone I loved responsible for that.
3. Most of the population doesn’t participate in this sort of activity; I’ve had at least one comment that suggested I should speak for myself and this was a puritanical view, but it’s a simple fact. Most people don’t eat shit for sexual gratification. That means that a boy who does develop these proclivities is limiting his relationship possibilities or setting himself up for conflict in his relationships, perhaps for the rest of his life.
The other argument I received was that kids just weren’t going to see this as sexual. Right. An adolescent boy watching two naked chicks make out—possibly seeing such a thing for the first time—would never associate that with sex, right? And the vulgarity of the feces consumption would ensure that he was far too grossed out to have any kind of physiological response to those naked chicks making out. Right. And sexuality isn’t influenced by our early sexual reactions AT ALL. Right?
Saturday, March 14, 2009
But that's not what bothers me about the thumbprint requirement. What bothers me about the thumbprint requirement is the extreme unlikelihood that it's going to serve any purpose whatsoever. You see, fingerprints are only useful when we have something to compare them with. In a criminal case, fingerprints help in two ways. If you have a suspect, you can match the fingerprints from the evidence to find out whether or not they match your suspect. And if you don't have a suspect, you can run the fingerprints through various databases to find out whether they match anyone whose fingerprints are already on file.
The latter can be a slow process, and it doesn't always bear fruit. After all, most of us don't have our fingerprints on file anywhere. If you've been arrested, applied for certain professional licenses, been in the military, etc., your fingerprints are in some database somewhere. Even finding those is dicey without a full-scale effort, because most searches don't include all of these databases. There's a hierarchy of priorities, and in some cases a backlog.
So, let's imagine that every home seller in Cook County provides a thumbprint. The vast majority of those thumbprints serve no immediate purpose, because there's nothing to match them against. If a problem arises--if it turns out that a home has been sold fraudulently--they may serve a couple of purposes. First, they could help the actual homeowner prove that he wasn't the one who sold the house. That's good...except that when a home has been fraudulently transferred by a third party, this usually isn't much of an issue. The second way it could help is that IF the actual seller's fingerprints were in some database somewhere, and IF the appropriate law enforcement agency ran the thumbprint against the right database, the perpetrator could be identified and prosecuted. The FBI currently has fingerprints on file for about 20% of the U.S. population.
So, the big question in my mind isn't "Is this too much of a burden?" or "Is this a civil rights issue?" or "What kind of liability issues does this raise?" or "Is it really fair to charge homeowners for this?", though those are all valid questions. My big question is this: What's the point?
I haven't seen any reporting thus far that sets forth any practical way in which this measure will help reduce fraudulent transfers.
Friday, March 6, 2009
Last week, I took a trip across the country with a great bunch of middle-class suburban kids ages 11-14. Over the course of four days, Two Girls, One Cup was mentioned more than once. There were, mercifully, some kids who didn’t know what it was—but there were others willing to fill them in. A troubling number seemed to have actually watched the video. (If you have the good fortune not to know what I’m talking about, follow the link above—or suffice to say that the video sexualizes both the consumption of solid human waste and vomit.)
If I’d overheard one of these conversations in a public place, I think I would have engaged in that kind of wishful distancing that many of us employ instinctively when a child disappears—blame the parents, and that will mean that as long as I do everything right, my child is safe. The thing is, I know these kids and I know their parents, and while none of us are perfect these aren’t disaffected rich kids raised by nannies or latchkey kids whose single moms are working two jobs and forced to leave them alone too much. This is the heartland: family vacations, volunteering at the schools, homework before dinner.
And somewhere in the mix, a little Internet porn.
Two Girls, One Cup (and its ilk), it seems, has become the new millennium equivalent of sneaking a peek at dad’s Playboy…except it isn’t equivalent at all. Playboy sexualized pretty women in various stages of undress—something we might not have wanted shared with our sons too early, but that largely represented what they would eventually discover and experience. Not so Two Girls, One Cup and the like, which sexualize things most people never do—or never did, in the era when getting risqué meant sneaking a peek at Playboy.
The associations formed in the early days of sexuality are powerful and lasting, and there is no question that our kids are getting very different messages about what is sexy and sexual than the ones we were exposed to in our youth. Adolescent boys are going to react to naked women kissing one another—and if those women happen to be incorporating feces and vomit into their make-out session, those images and associations are going to get confused. Sexual triggers will develop where they don’t for most people (or didn’t in the past).
I suspect that we can’t avoid this entirely, any more than parents 50 years ago could prevent their adolescents from spying on the neighbor lady when she bathed or looking at the pictures their older brothers hid under the mattress. But the risk is something entirely different today, and access is a thousand times easier than it was even ten or fifteen years ago.
We all need internet filters, no matter how good our kids are. They’re also curious and subject to the buzz that gets going about something like this. We all need to be aware; parents of today’s adolescents cover a large age-range and have different degrees of familiarity with the Internet. Know what’s out there, and how readily available it is. You can read all about Two Girls, One Cup on Wikipedia, for instance. And we need to talk to our kids about more than how to avoid pregnancy and STDs. Uncomfortable as it might be for everyone involved, they need to know that there’s a wide range of healthy, loving sexual activity that doesn’t involve the sorts of images they’re seeing: images that may, for some, be the first exposure to explicitly sexual material.
NOTE: For those in the "you're a neo-fascist totalitarian" camp, please see my follow-up post: Why I Wouldn't Want My Son to Get Off on Watching Women Eat Feces
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
"Basically, I introduced legislation because the Barbie doll, I think, gives emphasis on if you're beautiful, you don't have to be smart."
I'm guessing Eldridge might have played with a few too many Barbie dolls in his youth.