Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Preventive Detention, preventing reelection

I was not and continue to not be an Obamamanic. I was, early on, a Hillary Clinton supporter but became increasingly disappointed in her campaign. I admit I did not think that the US was ready for a black president, but I also did not realize, early on, what a magnificent politician candidate Obama was. By the Indiana primary, after many long minutes in the ballot box, I voted for Obama because he ran a campaign like I thought one should be run, like a social movement.

I voted for him for president.

I did not, however, believe he was the super liberal, leftist, that many of his most ardent supporters did. I think many people projected their own views on him. He was especially skilled at getting people to do that.

So, that he has moved slower on Gitmo than many would like (me too). that he has backed off a little on Iraq withdrawal, that he has gone into Afghanistan (I agree wholeheartedly with that one), that he has not been bold in the specifics of his programs, though bold in scope, well, all that fits what I saw.

I also am not a single issue voter. So far, President Obama has been what I figured he would be. He is still a politician, he take a long view, and he tries to change the terms of debates. All intellectual stuff that I appreciate.

But, BUt, BUT, BUt, BUt......the May 20th NYT article on President Obama's talk on "preventive detention" sickens me. Article is here.

They [anonymous sources] said Mr. Obama told them he was thinking about “the
long game” — how to establish a legal system that would endure for future
presidents. He raised the issue of preventive detention himself, but made clear
that he had not made a decision on it. Several senior White House officials did
not respond to requests for comment on the outsiders’ accounts.

This really concerns me. What I am hoping all this was, was President Obama being the law professor who posed all kinds of arguments as just an exercise. To see how people responded, to hear arguments for and against. I sure hope so.

If President Obama moves forward in trying to establish some kind of preventive detention, which seems to completely turn our legal and political values on their head, I will be a single issue voter because to undermine due process as we understand it, is far worse than just about anything else the defender of our constitution is supposed to do.

What would pose as a threat? Providing material aid and comfort to terrorists? How about recognizing the legitimate politcal goals but denouncing the means? Would that be worthy of preventive detention? The very idea of this is frightening and I don't frighten easy.

Torture which has happened, repeatedly, and we (the public) don't care, the resistance in Congress to closing Gitmo (I'm not a Lyndsey Graham fan, but I agree with him completely on his position regarding Gitmo), I wonder who is going to resist preventive detention.

The terrorists win if we institute a legal shibboleth to begin preventive detention. Maybe they already have if we are seriously speaking about it.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Teens' true motivations for sex may surprise you

Previously published in the Terre Haute Tribune-Star, 5/17/2009

It’s prom night. This is my fourth prom as a parent. No one will believe that it’s just a coincidence that the subject of this essay was not inspired by parental anxiety related to proms (and parents’ own recollection of that “special” night).

Recently, a nationally syndicated columnist cited a statistic about teens’ belief that “telling teens to abstain from sex, but if you do, use birth control or protection” encourages teens to have sex, seemed off to me. I found the cited study and sure enough the columnist had cited the findings incorrectly. That study and then reading a little more in the area led to this essay. Really.

The study, “With One Voice: A 2009 Survey of Adults and Teens on Parental Influence, Abstinence, Contraception, and the Increase in the Teen Birth Rate.” was conducted by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. Parents, quit blaming the media and internet. Teens, especially younger teens, rank parents as the most influential on their decisions about sex. Don’t breathe that sigh of relief too fast. Only about a third of teens indicated parents, more than any other source, but that leaves two-thirds of teens citing something else, like themselves, friends, the media, religious leaders, teachers, and sex ed (in order of most influential).

Adults underestimate their impact on their teens. 43 percent of adults cite teens’ friends as the biggest influence while only 18 percent of teens rated friends that way. Less than a quarter of adults believe parents most influence their teens.

71 percent of adults but only 37 percent of teens say they wish teens were getting more information about both abstinence and contraception. One-third of teens say they are getting enough information about abstinence and contraception.

60 percent of adults believe telling teens “to abstain but if you choose to have sex use contraception or protection” does not encourage teens to have sex and three-quarters of teens say the same thing. I wonder how adults would respond to this question: “Do teens understand what encourages and discourages them from having sex?”

Both teens (42 percent) and adults (51 percent) think more conversation between parents and teens would help young people avoid teen pregnancy. I suspect that there is quite an overlap there; that parents who think more open conversation would be helpful have kids who do, too. So, if you believe open conversation would be helpful, my guess is so does your kid (same goes for kids, if you think more open conversation would be good for you, there is a good chance your parents think so, too). Of course, cleaning your shotgun in plain sight of the young man who comes to pick up your daughter might convey a certain message, too.

As I read this study, I couldn’t help think that an organization that is dedicated to preventing teen and unplanned pregnancy might ask why teens have sex. Adults are good at framing teen sex in ways that make it very hard to actually have a conversation about it. There is the moral and religious framework that makes pre-marital sex dirty, sinful, awful, and dangerous but a walk down the aisle and a ring on the finger makes it romantic, moral, life-fulfilling, safe, and pleasurable. There is the “boys will be boys” or “tempting” girls framework, even “hormones gone wild.” One thing we don’t do is ask teens why they are motivated to have sex.

The authors of “Greater Expectations: Adolescents’ Positive Motivations for Sex” published in “Perspectives in Sexual and Reproductive Health” (2006) did just that to a sample of 637 ninth graders. Both boys and girls ranked three goals for relationships in the same order: intimacy, social status, and pleasure. Not surprisingly, girls rated intimacy more highly than boys and boys rated pleasure more highly than girls.

How does sex fit in with these goals? Boys expected sex to fulfill the goals of intimacy, social status, and pleasure more so than did girls. For girls, there were other means to achieve intimacy, social status, and pleasure than sex. Discussing those alternatives might be good fodder for conversation. For boys, ranking an emotional goal first is perhaps the most valuable finding of this study. It counters the more conventional view of male sexuality resulting from biological drives, risk taking, and physical pleasure instead of emotional needs.

Parents talking with their boys about their needs for emotional intimacy might do more to prevent teen pregnancy and early sexual intercourse than any government program.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

paddling fast

My friend, Andre and I, went paddling today on Sugar Creek. Wow, we knew the water would be high, in fact, I checked out Sugar Creek yesterday. But a heavy rain overnight sent the river into a torrent. I never saw white water in Indian before.

13.39 miles (from the put in above Narrows to the West Union covered bridge) in 2.5 hours. That is about 5 miles per hour. What a ride. A couple times the water seemed to take us over, but overall, a fun paddle.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

professors and liberal ideology, part 3

Part 3, I can't believe it. I've hit the motherload, the vein of response. If there is one thing I'v learned from my time writing my irregular column, it is that people are generally unwilling to write a letter to the editor. Two more in today's Tribune-Star on my April 26 column. I reproduce them below:

This first one doesn't address the April 26 column directly, but I'm not sure what else would have prompted it:

Force-fed the liberal agenda

Throughout my school career I have found instance after instance where the liberal agenda was forced upon me. To begin with, middle and high school teachers had a way of leaving out important facts in history to assist with the liberal agenda. They would make the conservatives out to be bad guys and the liberals out to be the heroes. As a young student, I didn’t know the truth and therefore almost fell for their lies.

I have always had an interest in history so I took it upon myself, in my spare time, to learn true history. I have learned several interesting facts that were never shared in school. I have also realized that not only is the liberal agenda forced upon students but an un-American view is also forced upon us. In schools, students are taught that American soldiers forced themselves on other countries and that we, as Americans, were tyrants. There is no excuse for teachers shoving this agenda upon young impressionable students.

College was even worse. I began my college career as a political science major but after being treated as poorly as I was as a conservative I changed my major to business and marketing. My first class in the political science field was a blatant example of the liberal agenda being forced upon students. The professor seemed great at the beginning and encouraged students to share their opinions on matters with the class. Little did I know at the time that as far as he was concerned the only important viewpoint was that of the liberals.

I offered my opinion a few times after studying topics and having prepared notes for a well-thought-out debate. I was told that I did not know what I was talking about and called “stupid” for taking this view. I was beyond livid, but being the person I am it only made me more stubborn and insistent on getting my points across. It got to the point where my grade was negatively impacted and I was receiving C’s for the same work others received A’s for.

I soon after transferred to another college and ran into the same problem in another political science course. At this point I was majoring in marketing, however due to my love of history and politics I decided to take the course. Once again, the professor focused on making Americans out to be bullies. When he wasn’t trying to get the students to believe Americans were the bad guy, he was trying to make conservatives out to be the bad guy.

I realize that liberals are trying to excuse themselves and their acts by claiming that it’s the “norm”, however this should not be the case.

Students should not have to pay to be called “stupid” nor should they have to put up with having the liberal agenda forced down their throats. As a young conservative student I realize that I am in the minority, however, I will not put up with being attacked by the liberal professors. It’s high time that either both viewpoints are given equal time or neither one is shared.

— Jessica Robinson


A second letter:

Thinking critically primary objective

This letter serves to inform you of my opinion in response to the April 26 essay by Thomas Steiger in the Tribune-Star regarding the issue of whether or not liberal perspectives are taught by college professors.

Throughout my college career there were many instances of my personal experience in which college professors have willingly acknowledged their own political views to the class. In some classes this was the source of much critical evaluation and constructive debates that were pertinent to the class’s development and understanding of the issue at hand. However, in other classes such opinion has also led to much heated debates that contributed very little, if not negatively, to the productivity of the class during those sessions.

A professor’s willingness to put their opinion out there for class discussion in itself does not merit the claim that the professor is trying to influence the class to have a “liberal” or “conservative” perspective. However, the professor’s willingness to defend this perspective and demonstrate why his or her opinion is the most valued/best opinion to others does express an overt willingness to influence others’ opinions regarding this subject matter.

Second, I think that sometimes there is confusion between teaching people to think liberally and just teaching people to think, and this contributes greatly to an overabundance of the opinion that college professors teach liberal idealism.

Many professors seem to play devil’s advocate for both sides of an issue for the intent of trying to get students to understand why people hold opinions on both the liberal perspective and the conservative one in an effort to demonstrate the critical thinking that is necessary for someone to form a well-founded, educated opinion.

Last time I checked, the concept of thought was in itself neither affiliated with conservative or liberal perspective but was the source of determining such ideals.

— Jolene Beck, senior student

Indiana State University

Terre Haute

Ms. Beck is not one of my students and I don't recall her ever taking one either.


Profs should steer clear of politics

Concerning Thomas Steiger’s April 26 essay titled “Are college professors teaching liberal ideology?”:

I believe that some college professors have began to teach liberal ideology in the classroom. This is a significant change of teaching for me, because when I was in high school, the teachers steered away from politically sensitive questions.

If a student asked a question that they felt crossed the line, then they would just say that is not what is being covered in the class material today. Now, in college, the teachers are not afraid to base their opinions on everything. This was especially the case here recently, due to the presidential election and economic downturn.

In all my classes at college, the opening topic was one of the presidential candidate’s views, policies and background. Many teachers were quick to bash one political party in order to create popularity for another, for whom which they were in favor most of the time.

I do believe that teachers and professionals are progressing toward using more of their own opinions and views while teaching and informing others on topic matter. From my own personal experience, this can be somewhat contrary to what your own personal beliefs are. This can often cause conflict and disagreement in the classroom.

I do believe that teachers should focus more on specific classsroom topics and material, and should steer away from political issues and debates. I do not believe that this approach is the most used by them, but it should be. It is up to each individual to develop their own opinions and perspectives on political topics, and the teachers should allow this process to take place.

— Trent A. Land


I don't recall any previous columns ever receiving 4 letters to the editor in response. Yay!!!!!

Friday, May 8, 2009

professors and liberal ideology, part 2

As I expected, I spent quite a bit of time responding to angry conservatives about my Trib-Star column of 4/26/09. I'm still not finished responding, but the last two weeks of class have to take precedence.

Yesterday, this letter to the editor appeared in the Trib-Star:

Most profs don’t teach any ideology

This is in response to Thomas Steiger’s essay titled “Are College Professors Teaching Liberal Ideology?” (Sunday, April 26, Page D2).

Before really thinking about the question, the answer yes immediately popped into my head. Teachers have always been known to be more on the liberal side, therefore teaching liberal ideas. But after reading the article, the author’s points made sense.

Growing up in a state that is typically more liberal than others, my high school teachers (especially) seemed to be more liberal. Not always just in their teaching, but in the way they voiced their opinions. Comments would be made about President Bush and how bad things were and how the Republican Party just wasn’t doing things correctly. Because of this, it was to my thinking that all teachers are like this.

When I came to college, I thought for sure things would be the same. Of course, there are those professors who openly state their liberal opinions. But I was surprised to see how many more conservative professors there are. I do believe a lot of that is because of the state we are in. Indiana is known to be a typically conservative state, so the professors are going to typically follow in that respect.

With all of that being said, I do not feel that professors are teaching liberal ideology as a whole. There are some out there who are very strong liberal-minded. There are some out there who are very strong conservative-minded. For the rest of them, they do a pretty good job of keeping their political views to themselves and focus on the task at hand – teaching students the material that needs to be taught.

— Abby Butler, student

Indiana State University

And she is not one of my students.
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