Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Forty years after Roe v. Wade, abortion is still a national disgrace

An abortion-related event occurred last week, and if you were paying close attention to the news, you might have been aware of that. Hundreds of thousands of abortion opponents gathered in Washington, DC for the “March for Life,” protesting the grisly process that has terminated about 55 million future Americans in the womb since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.

It wasn’t easy to find news accounts of this event. The Media Research Center reports, “the broadcast networks combined devoted a total of just 46 seconds to the March. ABC offered 24 seconds and NBC gave it 22 seconds, correctly noting the ‘huge turnout’ despite brutal weather conditions. CBS didn’t bother to cover it at all.”

This coverage totaled about 18 percent of the coverage the birth of a panda cub at National Zoo received a few days earlier. In the eyes of our dedicated network news people, one new panda is six times more important than 55 million aborted potential children, and the hundreds of thousands of Americans who braved the cold to make their position known.

This helps confirm the long-held idea that we do not have a news media that furnishes the public with what it needs, but instead provides what it wants the public to know.

A fact sheet published by the Guttmacher Institute tells us that at least half of American women will experience an unintended pregnancy by age 45. Given that the cause of pregnancy is not a medical mystery, that is a shocking statistic.

Web4Health explains that sex without contraceptives carries an 85 percent likelihood of pregnancy, and if the most effective contraceptive methods are used properly, the chance of pregnancy drops to eight percent or less, but abstaining from sexual intercourse has a zero percent pregnancy rate, except for in vitro fertilization.

According to Guttmacher, fifty-four percent of women who have abortions had used a contraceptive method (usually the condom or the pill) during the month they became pregnant. Among those women, 76 percent of pill users and 49 percent of condom users report having used their method inconsistently. Forty-six percent of women who had abortions used no contraceptive method during the month they became pregnant.

Other factors contribute to unwanted pregnancy. Some men and women are uneducated about how to have responsible sex, and contraceptives can be expensive for some.

Abortion was, in fact, the solution for more than a million women who got pregnant unintentionally last year. But as long as abortions are an easy corrective for bad luck, carelessness or bad judgment, it seems unlikely that more responsible use of contraceptives will occur.

The problem with abortion is that at some point in the pregnancy the fetus will have developed enough to be justifiably considered a human being. That point may or may not be the same point as when the fetus can survive outside the womb, but whenever that point occurs and afterward, abortion is murder. The debate goes on over just when the fetus reaches that point.

It is commonly accepted that at 20 weeks the fetus can feel pain during an abortion, and at least one researcher believes that as early as eight weeks after conception the neural structures needed to detect certain stimuli are in place. As science progresses more and more becomes known about fetal development, pushing backward toward conception the point at which the fetus is a person.

Be that as it may, it is absolutely scandalous that in America in the 21st century so many women get pregnant who don’t want to, and that so many of them choose to abort the developing life inside them.

It ought to be a point of humiliation that the great majority of unwanted pregnancies result from carelessness or negligence in the use of contraceptives, or not using contraceptives at all.

A major provider of abortions is Planned Parenthood for America, and it receives more than $500 million each year in taxpayer funds to deliver “vital reproductive health care, sex education, and information to millions of women, men, and young people worldwide,” according to its Website, “the key program [of which] provides essential health care to women, the Title X Family Planning Program.”

Planned Parenthood provided 360,000 abortions in 2013. Providing abortions to women who are pregnant and don’t want to be is not planning for parenthood.

There are couples all across this nation who cannot conceive a child and would gladly adopt an unwanted child given up for adoption. Perhaps Planned Parenthood could shift its focus from abortion to adoption, and nurture women through their unwanted pregnancy to an end that both honors life and helps those who want children, but can’t have their own.

How many great writers, scientists, artists, inventers, athletes, etc., have been summarily snuffed out before they got started?

A young pregnant wife was hospitalized for a simple attack of appendicitis and had ice applied tfso her stomach. Afterward, doctors suggested that she abort the child, because the baby would be born with disabilities. The young wife decided not to abort, and the child was born. That woman was the mother of Andrea Bocelli.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Federal government willfully breaches constitutional protections

On Aug. 16, 2012, Chesterfield County, Virginia police, Secret Service and FBI agents arrived at Brandon Raub’s home, asking to speak with him about his Facebook posts. Mr. Raub, a decorated Marine who has served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, uses his Facebook page like millions of other Americans, to post items and comments, including his political opinions.

Without providing any explanation, levying any charges or reading him his rights, law enforcement officials handcuffed Mr. Raub and transported him to police headquarters, then to John Randolph Medical Center, where he was forcibly detained in a psychiatric ward for a week against his will.

For having the temerity to express his opinions Mr. Raub was kept in custody for an evaluation based on the opinion of one Michael Campbell, a psychotherapist hired by local law enforcement that had never interviewed Mr. Raub, but somehow felt he was capable of determining that the former Marine might be a danger. Psychiatrists at the mental institution, however, found nothing wrong with him.

According to The Rutherford Institute, which is representing the former Marine, in a hearing on Aug. 20 government officials pointed to the Facebook posts as the reason for incarceration. While Mr. Raub stated that the Facebook posts were being read out of context, a Special Justice ordered that he be held up to 30 more days for psychological evaluation and treatment. But Circuit Court Judge Allan Sharrett ordered his immediate release a short time later because the concerns raised by the officers were “so devoid of any factual allegations that it could not be reasonably expected to give rise to a case or controversy.”

When the government’s case came before U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson in Richmond, Va., he dismissed it.

Mr. Raub then sued the officers for taking him into custody without sufficient cause and for his subsequent mistreatment. A request by the offending officers to dismiss the case against them has been rejected.

“Brandon Raub’s case exposes the seedy underbelly of a governmental system that continues to target military veterans for expressing their discontent over America’s rapid transition to a police state,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute.

“While such targeting of veterans and dissidents is problematic enough, for any government official to suggest that they shouldn’t be held accountable for violating a citizen’s rights on the grounds that they were unaware of the Constitution’s prohibitions makes a mockery of our so-called system of representative government. Thankfully, Judge Hudson has recognized this imbalance and ensured that Brandon Raub will get his day in court,” he said.

Judge Hudson has ordered limited discovery allowing Rutherford to demand what information federal and local authorities knew about Mr. Raub before he was detained for a mental evaluation.

The Institute called the decision a victory for free speech and the right to be free from wrongful arrest and presented facts indicating that the involuntary commitment violated Mr. Raub’s rights under the First and Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

The complaint alleges that the attempt to label Mr. Raub as “mentally ill” and his subsequent involuntary commitment was a pretext designed to silence speech critical of the government.

A Richmond Times-Dispatch story noted: “Much of the information about Raub’s alleged mental condition was developed after his arrest and emergency mental assessment, but [Judge] Hudson notes in the opinion [allowing the suit against law enforcement officials] that “there is no indication that any defendant was aware of the specific contents of (emails and statements Raub was making) before Raub’s arrest."

Attorneys from The Rutherford Institute charge the seizure and detention were the result of a federal government program code-named “Operation Vigilant Eagle” that involves the systematic surveillance of military veterans who express views critical of the government, according to information on the Institute’s Web site.

Of “Operation Vigilant Eagle” the Wall Street Journal reports that “the Federal Bureau of Investigation [in 2009] launched a nationwide operation targeting white supremacists and ‘militia/sovereign-citizen extremist groups,’ including a focus on veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, according to memos sent from bureau headquarters to field offices,” and that “a similar warning was issued … by the Department of Homeland Security.”

So, the FBI and Homeland Security view military veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan like white supremacists and extremist groups, and then on flimsy or non-existent evidence, take them into custody and confine them for mental evaluation?

It will be interesting to see how the government and these agents defend their action at trial.

Many, perhaps most Americans, are well served by state and local law enforcement that behave within the law and respect the privacy and freedom of those they serve until evidence is presented warranting arrest. However, those who initiated and carried out the persecution of Brandon Raub, including the psychotherapist, deserve to be strongly disciplined and perhaps fined and criminally charged for their illegal and unconstitutional behavior, and when the case is resolved, maybe they will be.

Such a resolution would likely get the attention federal officials who improperly unleash the force of government against innocent citizens, and restore respectful treatment of citizens by the government that exists to serve them.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

As the New Year begins, government’s policies are still failing us

As the economic non-recovery crawls into 2014, the “good news” on the jobs front – that the unemployment rate dropped .3 percent in December to 6.7 percent – is far less impressive when you look beneath the surface.

The reason the unemployment rate dropped was not that a strengthening economy produced a sharply higher number of new jobs, as should be expected in a true recovery. December showed only a puny 74,000 new payroll jobs were added. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that the drop resulted because five times that many people – 374,000 – became discouraged that they couldn’t find work and dropped out of the labor force.

Adding even a small number like 74,000 to a smaller labor force misleads us into thinking things have improved.

The BLS identifies June of 2009 as the official end of the recession, at which time the labor force participation rate was 65.7 percent (162 million workers). At the end of December, the rate stood at a pitiful 62.8 percent (155 million workers).

Using the size of the labor force in 2009 and the adding back into the equation the 7 million who have dropped out, the unemployment rate is just under 11 percent.

We should not celebrate a drop in the unemployment rate to 6.7 percent when 7 million Americans have given up looking for work because the economy still has not produced jobs for them.

Hopefully, the New Year will bring an infection of fiscal responsibility to our national leaders. It is interesting how liberals see global warming/climate change – a widely popular but unproven theory – as a true crisis, but don’t see years of budget deficits near and above a trillion dollars, and a national debt of nearly $17 trillion, as a problem.

President Barack Obama’s first year in office, 2009, saw a deficit of $1.4 trillion, which gets credited to George W. Bush, but contained the contribution of nearly $200 billion from the Obama stimulus. But over the next four years Mr. Obama racked up more than $4.2 trillion in deficits – FY 2010: $1,294 billion; FY 2011: $1,300 billion; FY 2012: $1,087 billion; FY 2013: $680 billion. This fiscal year the projection is a deficit of $744 billion, and the FY2015 deficit is projected at $577 billion.

To help put this in perspective, The Weekly Standard noted back in November of 2012 that, “According to the White House OMB, we ran up $1.8 trillion in real (inflation-adjusted) deficit spending during fiscal years 1942-45,” and that “we’ve now run up $3.4 trillion in real (inflation-adjusted) deficit spending under Obama — in less time than it took us to fight World War II.”

If there is good news in Obama deficit numbers it is that the deficits are coming down, but real good news would be Congress and the president taking concrete steps to get spending under control.

That seems unlikely, given Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) opinion that “The cupboard is bare. There’s no more cuts to make,” a position gleefully adopted by most, if not all, Congressional Democrats.

In her view there is no waste, fraud or abuse, despite more than ample evidence to the contrary, and there’s no unnecessary spending, either.

Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) issues an annual report on government waste, and in “Wastebook 2013,” he lists 100 examples totaling $30 billion. Heaven only knows the total of all the wasteful spending of the federal government.

* The military has destroyed more than 170 million pounds of useable vehicles and other military equipment, approximately 20 percent of the total U.S. war material in Afghanistan, totaling $7 billion, rather than sell it or ship it home.

* The SuperStop is a $1 million bus stop complete with heated benches and sidewalks, and wireless zones for personal computers. Yet its roof doesn’t protect from the rain, snow, wind or blazing sun.

* One of NASA’s next research missions won’t be exploring an alien planet or distant galaxy. Instead, it is spending $3 million to go to Washington, D.C. and study one of the greatest mysteries in the universe — how Congress works.

* When officials at the Manchester Boston Regional Airport in New Hampshire installed new solar panels costing $3.5 million, they did not anticipate one quarter of them would not be used 18 months later because the reflection from the panels blinds pilots and controllers.

* The Treasury Department’s Inspector General for Tax Administration discovered the IRS paid up to $13.6 billion in false Earned Income Tax Credits in 2012.

* While millions of Americans continue to pay taxes on their hard earned wages, many federal employees are tax cheats, to the tune of $3.6 billion.

* The feds keep the lights on in empty and little used federal buildings, costing $1.5 billion.

* Out of the $33.5 billion in Pell Grants the federal government doled out last year, individuals posing as students took off with $1.2 billion.

When an elected public servant believes there can be no spending cuts in the face of such wanton waste, it speaks volumes about the integrity and motivation of that individual.

Federal spending is a giant problem that we had better address soon.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

What do minimum wage demographics say about raising the wage?

There has been a lot of uproar in the media lately about raising the minimum wage so that those people earning it would earn a “living wage.” But what do demographics about those earning the minimum wage tell us?

According to the Current Population Survey (CPS), which is a joint effort of the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau, 3.7 million workers reported earning the minimum wage of $7.25 or less per hour. Now 3.7 million is a lot of people, but when looking at the entire workforce, it’s a small portion – only 2.9 percent. Slightly more than half of them are aged 16 to 24, and 62 percent of that group are students.

Nearly 80 percent of those earning the minimum wage work part-time jobs and belong to families that earn nearly triple the poverty level for a family of four at $65,900 a year, while only 22 percent live at or below the poverty line. Three percent have finished college and obtained a degree, and 5 percent are married.

Many of those aged 25 and older work in jobs where they also earn tips, like restaurant workers, so their total pay most nearly always exceeds the minimum wage. While most do not live in middle- and upper-income families, they also are not living in poverty, having an average family income of $42,500, just less than double the $22,350 poverty line level for a family of four.

Advocates of raising the minimum wage – and many minimum wage earners who respond to the hype those advocates produce – complain that you can’t raise a family or even live a decent life on the minimum wage, so therefore it should be raised to provide a “living wage.”

When you realize that only 3 of every 100 workers earn the minimum wage, the problem doesn’t seem as dire as the advocates for a wage hike want you to believe. And when you look at the kinds of work that minimum wage earners perform, and who minimum wage earners are, it seems even less dire. These jobs require little education or training, and are overwhelmingly held by young people living at home.

Based upon the demographics, there’s no economic reason for a higher minimum wage.

You won’t find trained and educated people like electricians, mechanics, carpenters, plumbers, nurses, pilots or teachers, or lawyers, doctors, CPAs, engineers, and others who have gotten an extensive education and additional training making minimum wage, or anything near it.

But more importantly, the number of minimum wage employees who really need a “living wage” because of family or unusual personal needs is very small, and there are better ways to help them.

Assuming all minimum wage employees worked 20 hours a week, a $2 increase in the minimum wage would cost employers $2,080 a year for each employee, plus increased payroll taxes. For all 3.7 million workers, the increase would cost $7.7 billion a year, plus increased payroll taxes. Those working more than 20 hours a week adds even more costs.

Additional costs arise when those making between the old and new minimums get increases to get them to the new minimum, and when those making close to the new minimum get increases to keep them proportionately higher than the new minimum. The costs would be substantially higher than $7.7 billion. And guess who bears that cost? Employers? No.

Consumers will pay higher prices, producing reduced sales, and those higher prices will also affect those who just got a raise.

A Heritage Foundation research report released last February notes that while many advocates of higher minimum wages suggest a higher wage “to help low-income single parents attempting to survive on just a minimum-wage job … just 4 percent of minimum-wage workers – or 148,000 – are single parents working full-time, compared to 5.6 percent of all U.S. workers.”

To add billions in increased consumer costs to benefit a relative few doesn’t make sense. They need to become qualified for better paying jobs, and if that is difficult or impossible for them, and if government is going to provide welfare, those people should receive help.

“Contrary to what many assume,” the Heritage report notes, “low wages are not [the] primary problem [of the poor], because most poor Americans do not work for the minimum wage. The problem is that most poor Americans do not work at all.”

The faction promoting a higher minimum wage consists primarily of two types of people: those who do not understand or don’t care about the most basic concepts of business economics, and politicians who benefit from pandering to minimum wage earners.

Current government policies are designed for purposes other than to help people escape poverty; therefore government needs to start encouraging job creation so that people in poverty have better opportunities to take control of their own lives and work their way out of poverty.

Returning America to the land of opportunity it used to be, where people were able to go as far in life as they were able, should be President Obama’s major goal.