Tuesday, October 16, 2007

BBC blinkered, say Scotland Yard

The battering of the BBC continued yesterday with Scotland Yard calling the organisation blinkered and arrogant. The attack came after the Independent Police Complaints Commission cleared the police of claims made in a BBC documentary about Stephen Lawrence, who was murdered at a South London bus stop in 1993. The documentary said that the Metropolitan Police withheld testimony about a corrupt officer from the inquiry into the bungled murder investigation that followed. The commission said: "We have found no evidence in support of the allegations made during the programme."

A senior Scotland Yard insider said: "It was sensationalism, it was arrogant. They became blinkered into believing what they wanted to believe." The BBC, however, released a statement saying it stood by its programme. "We considered it our duty to bring these serious allegations before the public and fully reflect the response of the police."

Mr Lawrence's family offered their support to the BBC yesterday


Even a "Raving Atheist" Can Be Pro-Life - Interview

The following, until now unpublished, interview was conducted with the popular blog personality "the raving atheist". The blogger, a lawyer who will not divulge his real name, has nonetheless acquired pseudonymous fame. He is featured, as "the raving atheist" in the anti-Christian documentary film 'The God who wasn't there". His pro-life convictions are based solely on scientific evidence for the life of the unborn. He is firmly opposed to belief in God. The interview is published here as it provides interesting insights.

Is it lonely being a pro-life atheist?

The pro-life position is certainly a minority one among atheists. It's also a minority position in my state, New York, which is the abortion capitol of the world. But the internet makes finding company easy, with sites such as that maintained by the Atheist and Agnostic Pro-Life League. And a handful of pro-life atheists, such as Nat Hentoff, have surfaced in the mainstream media.

Nevertheless, I did feel a great sense of alienation and rejection from the readers of my blog when I started regularly posting on abortion. The topic was already painful, almost disabling, from me to write about, and it was discouraging to see my efforts met with vicious personal attacks. Ultimately, it was for the good: I decided to write less and devote the extra time to volunteering at a Crisis Pregnancy Center. I also formed close friendships with a number of Christian pro-life bloggers, who assisted me (and let me assist them) in other advocacy and outreach efforts.

Your blog examines "how religious devotion trivializes American law and politics". How do you think that applies to the abortion debate in America?

In the late 1960's the pro-choice movement made a deliberate, strategic decision to trivialize the abortion debate by dismissing all pro-life arguments as mere Catholic dogma. This made it easy to gloss over the inconvenient, undeniable scientific embryological fact that human life begins at conception in favor of specious arguments regarding church/state separation and accusation that religion "is being forced down our throats." Planned Parenthood today still insists that the question of when life begins is a religious one which varies from woman to woman, apparently mind-dependent rather than reality-dependent. They do draw the line at the old Mayan practice of throwing infants into volcanos, although I don't see why, under their theory, that wouldn't be a protected exercise of religion as well.

Has the pro-life movement done a good job of countering that strategy?

Yes. I've seen more of a reliance on science - embryology, ultrasound - on the pro-life side than on the pro-choice side. In fact, the mainstream pro-choice organizations oppose showing women who are considering abortion ultrasound pictures of the child on the grounds that they are "confusing."

It should be noted that the pro-choice side isn't opposed to raising religious arguments when it suits them. Planned Parenthood has hired clergy to promote abortion from a theological standpoint. The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice devotes its very existence to that endeavor. Ironically, even the atheistic Freedom from Religion Foundation employs a religious argument when it comes to abortion - it argues that the practice should be permitted because it isn't expressly forbidden by the Bible.

I think most people now view abortion as a straight moral issue rather than as a religious one. They recognize that although there may also be established religious doctrines against abortion -- just as there are against theft, adultery and other forms of killing -- those doctrines aren't the sole reasons against the practice. They don't care if some people see them as God's reasons, because they withstand human scrutiny as well.

What tips would you give Christians who want to win atheists and agnostics over to the pro-life side?

Familiarize yourself with the purely secular arguments made in the essays like those available at the Atheist and Agnostic Pro-Life League website. There are also plenty of religious sites which provide the same arguments. They are the only ones which will appeal to non-believers. Quoting the Bible or trying to convert an atheist is a waste of time.

The most common argument that you should be prepared to counter is the one that asserts that a prohibition against killing after conception can only be accepted if one believes that the fetus has a "soul." You can respond by asking if an eight month old fetus has a soul, if a newborn baby has a soul, if a teenager has a soul, if an adult has a soul. If they respond "yes," you can point out that they are relying on an equally religious argument. If they deny the existence of souls, you can ask if that makes it okay to kill anyone at any time.


Muslim inmate sues Missouri jail, claims he was fed pork product

A Muslim inmate is suing a southwest Missouri jail, claiming the facility's administrators violated his religious rights by feeding him sandwiches with a pork product concealed in them. Odell M. Edwards, who as a Muslim is not allowed to eat pork, filed his lawsuit against the Greene County Justice Center this past week in U.S. District Court in Springfield. Jail officials maintain that the jelly is made with fruit pectin extracted from plants. Pectin is a natural substance that thickens jams and jellies.

The sandwiches in question were served to Edwards and other Muslim inmates during the holy month of Ramadan. Jail Director C.E. Wells said officials consulted with a Muslim spiritual adviser when planning the Ramadan menu, and the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were preapproved. But Edwards said the jelly in the sandwiches contained gelatin, which is often extracted from pig tissue. He appears to be seeking $250,000 per day for the period in which he was served the jelly.

Edwards, a federal prisoner, is awaiting trial in Springfield on drug charges. He's been an inmate since April 2006. It's not clear whether the court will dismiss the lawsuit as unfounded - which is what happens to many such cases - or allow it to proceed. Edwards said in a court filing that jail guards told him on Sept. 12 that his meals contained pork and had for some time. Edwards filed a request for remedy with the jail, asking to see the jelly ingredients and demanding a cultured cook or a dietitian that handled Muslim and pork-free foods. "I would also like to be compensated for the foul act!" he wrote.

Wells sent a written response to Edwards telling the inmate that the jelly contained fruit pectin and not gelatin. Wells said Edwards didn't just have a problem with the jelly. In his court filing, the inmate also complained that an overabundance of peanut butter in his diet had led to stomach pain and constipation, Wells said. "It's sad that your only answer to this problem is an unhealthy amount of peanut butter or don't participate in Ramadan," Edwards wrote. "Again it is my duty and right to share in Ramadan but not to be tricked and bullied by an unhealthy diet!"

Wells said Edwards knew what the special meals for Ramadan would include when he signed up for them. Ramadan is from Sept. 13 to Oct. 13. During that time, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset each day. They break their fast each evening with a celebratory evening meal.


Abortion and Crime: One has an effect on the other, but it may not be the effect you think


Violent crime in the United States shot up like a rocket after 1960. From 1960 to 1991, reported violent crime increased by an incredible 372 percent. This disturbing trend was seen across the country, with robbery peaking in 1991 and rape and aggravated assault following in 1992. But then something unexpected happened: Between 1991 and 2000, rates of violent crime and property crime fell sharply, dropping by 33 percent and 30 percent, respectively. Murder rates were stable up to 1991, but then plunged by a steep 44 percent.

Several plausible explanations have been advanced for the drop during the 1990s. Some stress law-enforcement measures, such as higher arrest and conviction rates, longer prison sentences, "broken windows" police strategies, and the death penalty. Others emphasize right-to-carry laws for concealed handguns, a strong economy, or the waning of the crack-cocaine epidemic.

Of all the explanations, perhaps the most controversial is the one that attributes lower crime rates in the '90s to Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court's 1973 decision to mandate legalized abortion. According to this argument, the large number of women who began having abortions shortly after Roe were most likely unmarried, in their teens, or poor, and their children would have been "unwanted." Children born in these circumstances would have had a higher-than-average likelihood of becoming criminals, and would have entered their teens - their "criminal prime" - in the early 1990s. But because they were aborted, they were not around to make trouble.

This is an attention-grabbing theory, to be sure. But a thorough analysis of abortion and crime statistics leads to the opposite conclusion: that abortion increases crime.

Debate about the relationship between abortion and crime was greatly influenced by a Swedish study published in 1966 by Hans Forssman and Inga Thuwe. They followed the children of 188 women who were denied abortions from 1939 to 1941 at the only hospital in Gothenburg, Sweden. Their study compared these "unwanted" children with another group, this one composed of the first child born at the hospital after each of the "unwanted" children. They found that the "unwanted" children were much more likely to grow up in adverse conditions - for example, with divorced parents, or in foster homes. These children were also more likely to become delinquents and have trouble in school. Unfortunately, the authors never investigated whether the children's "unwantedness" caused their problems, or were simply correlated with them.

Forssman and Thuwe's claim, notwithstanding the limits of the data supporting it, became axiomatic among supporters of legalized abortion. During the 1960s and '70s, before Roe, abortion-rights advocates attributed all sorts of social ills, including crime and mental illness, to "unwanted" children. Weeding these poor, crime-prone people out of the population through abortion was presented as a way to make society safer.

Recently, John Donohue and Steven Levitt - a law professor and an economist, respectively - revived the debate. They presented evidence that supposedly demonstrated abortion's staggeringly large effect on crime rates, and argued that up to "one-half of the overall crime reduction" between 1991 and 1997, and up to 81 percent of the drop in murder rates during that period, was attributable to the rise in abortions in the early to mid 1970s. If that claim was accurate, they had surely found the Holy Grail of crime reduction.

Most people who challenge the "abortion reduces crime" argument do so on ethical grounds, rather than trying to rebut the empirical evidence. But it is worth looking at the data, too - because they do not prove what they are supposed to.

To understand why abortion might not cut crime, one should first consider how dramatically it changed sexual relationships. Once abortion became widely available, people engaged in much more premarital sex, and also took less care in using contraceptives. Abortion, after all, offered a backup if a woman got pregnant, making premarital sex, and the nonuse of contraception, less risky. In practice, however, many women found that they couldn't go through with an abortion, and out-of-wedlock births soared. Few of these children born out of wedlock were put up for adoption; most women who were unwilling to have abortions were also unwilling to give up their children. Abortion also eliminated the social pressure on men to marry women who got pregnant. All of these outcomes - more out-of-wedlock births, fewer adoptions than expected, and less pressure on men "to do the right thing" - led to a sharp increase in single-parent families.

Multiple studies document this change. From the early 1970s through the late 1980s, as abortion became more and more frequent, there was a tremendous increase in the rate of out-of-wedlock births, from an average of 5 percent (1965-69) to over 16 percent twenty years later (1985-89). Among blacks, the number jumped from 35 percent to 62 percent. While not all of this rise can be attributed to liberalized abortion laws, they were certainly a key contributor.

What happened to all these children raised by single women? No matter how much they want their children, single parents tend to devote less attention to them than married couples do. Single parents are less likely than married parents to read to their children or take them on excursions, and more likely to feel angry at their children or to feel that they are burdensome. Children raised out of wedlock have more social and developmental problems than children of married couples by almost any measure - from grades to school expulsion to disease. Unsurprisingly, children from unmarried families are also more likely to become criminals.

So the opposing lines of argument in the "abortion reduces crime" debate are clear: One side stresses that abortion eliminates "unwanted" children, the other that it increases out-of-wedlock births. The question is: Which consequence of abortion has the bigger impact on crime?

Unfortunately for those who argue that abortion reduces crime, Donohue and Levitt's research suffered from methodological flaws. As The Economist noted, "Donohue and Levitt did not run the test they thought they had." Work by two economists at the Boston Federal Reserve, Christopher Foote and Christopher Goetz, found that, when the test was run correctly, it indicated that abortion actually increases violent crime. John Whitley and I had written an earlier study that found a similar connection between abortion and murder - namely, that legalizing abortion raised the murder rate, on average, by about 7 percent.

The "abortion decreases crime" theory runs into even more problems when the population is analyzed by age group. Suppose that liberalizing abortion in the early 1970s can indeed explain up to 80 percent of the drop in murder during the 1990s, as Donohue and Levitt claim. Deregulating abortion would then reduce criminality first among age groups born after the abortion laws changed, when the "unwanted," crime-prone elements began to be weeded out. Yet when we look at the declining murder rate during the 1990s, we find that this is not the case at all. Instead, murder rates began falling first among an older generation - those over 26 - born before Roe. It was only later that criminality among those born after Roe began to decline.

Legalizing abortion increased crime. Those born in the four years after Roe were much more likely to commit murder than those born in the four years prior. This was especially true when they were in their "criminal prime," as shown in the nearby chart.

The "abortion decreases crime" argument gets even weaker when we look at data from Canada. While crime rates in both the United States and Canada began declining at the same time, Canada liberalized its abortion laws much later than the U.S. did. Although Quebec effectively legalized abortion in late 1976, it wasn't until 1988, in a case originating in Ontario, that the Canadian supreme court struck down limits on abortion nationwide. If the legalization of abortion in the U.S. caused crime to begin dropping 18 years later, why did the crime rate begin falling just three years after the comparable legal change in Canada?

Even if abortion did lower crime by culling out "unwanted" children, this effect would be greatly outweighed by the rise in crime associated with the greater incidence of single-parent families that also follows from abortion liberalization. In short, more abortions have brought more crime.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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