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Posts Tagged ‘paternalism’

Rated R for graphic smoking

Posted by Richard on May 11, 2007

The Motion Picture Association of America is going to consider smoking (by adults) as a factor, along with sex, violence, and language, in determining whether a film gets a restricted rating. Critics are complaining that the MPAA isn't going far enough. They want any image of tobacco use to automatically get an R rating, so that no child under 17 can see on the screen what they can see just outside the door on their way out of the theater:

"I'm glad it's finally an issue they're taking up, but what they're proposing does not go far enough and is not going to make a difference," said Kori Titus, spokeswoman for Breathe California, which opposes film images of tobacco use that might encourage young people to start smoking.

Titus said film raters should be as tough on smoking as they are on bad language to minimize the effects of on-screen smoking on children, including her own 5-year-old daughter.

"I don't want her using that language, but last time I checked, she's probably not going to die from that," Titus said. "If she starts smoking from these images she sees in movies, chances are she's probably going to die early from that."

Apparently in anticipation of such criticism, the MPAA had already lined up defenders to argue that their level of nannyism is sufficient:

While Titus' group wants tougher ratings restrictions, the MPAA released statements of support for its plan from John Seffrin, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society, U.S. Sen. Joe Biden and filmmaker Rob Reiner, among others.

"By placing smoking on a par with considerations of violence and sex, the rating board has acknowledged the public-health dangers to children associated with glamorized images of a toxic and lethal addiction to tobacco," Barry Bloom, dean of the Harvard School of Public Health, said in a statement.

So, the public debate is whether images of people lighting cigarettes are worse than or merely as bad as images of rape or disembowelment.

How long do you suppose it will be before some group of nanny-state nazis calls for restricted ratings on films that depict the consumption of doughnuts or french fries? 

UPDATE: A caller to Rush had a brilliant idea. He pointed out that the MPAA's statements and actions amount to an acknowledgement of culpability by the film industry. How many millions of us watched Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, and others smoking on the silver screen in film after film, and thought they looked oh-so-cool, and decided to emulate them? Could we perhaps get John Edwards or one of his law partners to file a class action suit on our behalf? Or do Edwards and his pals only go after industries that aren't dominated by leftist Democrats?

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Paternalism and passivity

Posted by Richard on April 21, 2007

(The first part of this post is a slightly edited version of a comment I originally added to Whither the Warrior Spirit?)

On Tuesday, I caught part of ABC's Nightline coverage of the Virginia Tech killings. They interviewed three students in Professor Liviu Librescu's class. Librescu was the 76-year-old Holocaust survivor who held his classroom door shut while his students fled out the windows. He was shot through the door and killed. Read about him at The Jerusalem Post.

The three students were males and looked reasonably fit. One seemed on the small side (maybe 5'8"), one was in between, and the third looked like a football player — over six feet, muscular, over 200 pounds.

They described the sound of gunfire, the fear and panic, the screaming from adjacent rooms. They talked about how they opened the windows, lined up, climbed out, and dropped to the ground. They described seeing Professor Librescu at the classroom door holding it shut.

None of these three strapping young men explained how and why they left a 76-year-old man to guard the door against a homicidal maniac while they fled to safety. None felt any need to explain or apologize or mention the moral quandary they faced at all. They weren't asked. It just never came up. Apparently, it never occurred to them (or their interviewer) that there was a moral quandary. 

How can this be? These three men thanked Professor Librescu. But it never even occurred to them to apologize to him and his family. How can this possibly be?

Admittedly, three is a small sample — but it disturbs me that these three gentlemen felt not an iota of shame or doubt. What kind of people are these that they won't even acknowledge the possibility of their own cowardice? That they don't even realize they had alternative courses of action? That they seem incapable even of self-examination?

With that as an introduction, I commend to you Mark Steyn's column, A Culture of Passivity:

On Monday night, Geraldo was all over Fox News saying we have to accept that, in this horrible world we live in, our “children” need to be “protected.”

Point one: They’re not “children.” The students at Virginia Tech were grown women and — if you’ll forgive the expression — men. They would be regarded as adults by any other society in the history of our planet. Granted, we live in a selectively infantilized culture where twentysomethings are “children” if they’re serving in the Third Infantry Division in Ramadi but grown-ups making rational choices if they drop to the broadloom in President Clinton’s Oval Office. Nonetheless, it’s deeply damaging to portray fit fully formed adults as children who need to be protected. We should be raising them to understand that there will be moments in life when you need to protect yourself — and, in a “horrible” world, there may come moments when you have to choose between protecting yourself or others. It is a poor reflection on us that, in those first critical seconds where one has to make a decision, only an elderly Holocaust survivor, Professor Librescu, understood instinctively the obligation to act.

Steyn illustrated his point two by recounting a Montreal mass murder with which I wasn't familiar, a story that left my jaw agape and chilled me to the bone. Go. Read.

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More nanny-statism

Posted by Richard on March 14, 2007

A nanny is someone who watches after your children on your behalf, right? Well, according to the Christian Science Monitor, there's a growing movement to make many states more literally into nanny states. Connecticut is leading the way:

…Connecticut has become the first state in the nation to introduce legislation that would require MySpace, other social networking sites, and chat rooms to verify the ages of their users. Any postings by those under 18 would require parental permission. Failure to comply would result in a fine to the Internet company of $5,000 per incident.

The goal is for the law to become a model for national legislation. As many as 20 state attorneys general are now considering similar bills.

"The basic idea here is that the parents should be empowered, and they should be put back in control if their children are below a certain age," says Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who's leading the fight for this type of legislation in Connecticut and around the country. "That's why age verification along with parental permission is key."

How, exactly, does taking responsibility for kids' online behavior away from the parents and giving it to the state government "empower" those parents?

And how, exactly, are MySpace and the like supposed to verify ages and permissions? Connecticut AG Richard Blumenthal seems to think it's a piece of cake:

The Connecticut bill would require networking sites to verify that a user either is 18 or older or has parental permission to have a profile. Dozens of Internet companies already provide age-verification tools. So this is how it would work: When a person provides information to a networking site, such as name, date of birth, or address, the site would put that information through verification sites, which would cross-check it against public records like driver's licenses, voter-registration information, land records, and local tax records. This process is already used for such things as online sales of alcohol and cigarettes.

Umm, OK —  but it works for sales of alcohol and cigarettes because those have to be paid for with a credit card and delivered to you. You can't just give the website any old name and address.

MySpace and the like face a completely different situation. Let's say Paul Pervert, 43, wants to impersonate a 14-year-old boy on MySpace in order to befriend young girls. Looking at whatever registration process they use, he sees that he needs the permission of a parent/guardian. "OK," he says, picking up a phone book, "I'm … [flip, flip, flip] … John Smith at 123 Elm Street, and my son Sammy has my permission to join MySpace."

Odds are John Smith has a driver's license, pays taxes, etc., so Paul passes the verification process. If not, Paul can try again. If they make it really tough, maybe Paul has to do some research of the most basic identity-theft variety (how hard is it to find someone's birthdate or driver's license number?). 

No, this kind of legislation won't make kids safer. But it'll make a lot of gullible parents feel better, help the sponsoring AGs and legislators flaunt their good intentions and troll for votes, and add to the revenue of the verification service providers. Someone should check into whether AG Richard Blumenthal owns stock in any of the latter.

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Caution: legislature at work

Posted by Richard on January 23, 2007

I don’t usually read (and certainly don’t subscribe to) The Denver Post. It’s a depressingly predictable liberal rag. They’ve never met a tax increase they didn’t like, they reflexively endorse 90+% of Democratic candidates (throwing in just enough "thoughtful moderate" Republicans to justify their claim to being non-partisan), and they positively swoon over phrases like "government initiative," "investing in our future," and "public-private partnership."

But I’m going to have to start dropping by their website regularly to read the columns of David Harsanyi, which seem to be consistently iconoclastic, humorous, and more than a little libertarian. Check out, for example, his wonderful Dec. 21 column, "Liberals confused over charity," which opens with the line, "Anyone can be compassionate with other people’s money."

Today’s column is a follow-up to his Jan. 11 column about the latest installment of Denver’s plan to "end [sic] homelessness." They’re throwing vast amounts of money at a non-profit organization with a long history of defaulting on government loans so that it can build housing units for the homeless (at $250,000 apiece, not counting the parking garage for the cars the homeless don’t have). This is the latest such project targeting a recently revitalized neighborhood that’s getting a bit sick of being the preferred location for various "affordable housing:" and "group home" projects. Harsanyi pointed out that powerful city councilwoman Debbie Ortega, appointed executive director of the Mayor’s Commission to End Homelessness, is also the president of this profligate non-profit’s board of directors, and furthermore, is associated with its for-profit arm. How convenient.

But I particularly want to draw your attention to Harsanyi’s Jan. 18 column, which provided a brief — and funny — overview of the plethora of paternalistic legislation our lawmakers introduced in the first few days of this legislative session:

How about Rep. Anne McGihon’s crucial HB 1126, "concerning the authority of physical therapists to perform physical therapy on animals."


Then there’s this paternalistic absurdity called HB 1006, sponsored by Rep. Paul Weissmann. He wants to double penalties for moving violations when the driver is "knowingly distracted."

How is one "knowingly distracted," exactly? By living?

For the purposes of Colorado law enforcement, "knowingly distracted" includes, but is not limited to, cellphone use (even hands-free), grooming, reading, eating and drinking. In other words, it gives police almost unlimited pretext to issue double fines.

Listen, no one should be reading a novel while driving. But should sipping a cup of coffee or eating a bagel be a crime?

Speaking of treating parents like children, every year, Democratic Sen. Bob Hagedorn is good for at least one solid intrusion. This year he’s babysitting by sponsoring a bill that prohibits "the use of an artificial tanning device by a minor unless specifically prescribed by a physician."

That bill seems less weird when you check out HB 1082, apparently sponsored by Rep. Andy Kerr and Mr. Spock. It would make it a crime for an individual to be implanted with a microchip. If citizens want to install microchips in their (untanned) teenage daughters, isn’t that their creepy concern?

Then there’s Rep. Jim Riesberg, who is co-sponsoring a bill that would create a new bureaucracy at your gym.

The "Athletic Trainer Practice Act" requires athletic trainers to obtain a valid license issued by "the director of the division of registrations in the department of regulatory agencies" before engaging in the practice of athletic training or representing himself or herself as an athletic trainer.

Republican Sen. Tom Wiens has joined the fun. He’s sponsoring a bill that "clarifies" the ins and outs of "whether to wear a helmet while participating in equestrian events called ‘gymkhana."’ Gymkhana, I believe, is derived from the Hindi phrase that translates to "stay the hell out of my business."

Amen, David!

To be fair — and to further illustrate Harsanyi’s sense of humor — I should quote his correction today of an error in the above:

Note: I owe an apology to state Rep. Andy Kerr, whom I accused in my last column of conspiring with Mr. Spock to pass a bill outlawing human microchips. It was Rep. Mary Hodge. And she is in league with the Cylons.

Regarding distracted driving, by the way, I’m happy to report that the Libertarian Party of Colorado (which seems to have stopped promoting insane 9/11 conspiracy theories) came out solidly against the bill and got a fair amount of local media attention for doing so. To date, however, they haven’t addressed tanning by minors, microchips, athletic trainer regulations, or any of the other pressing matters Harsanyi mentioned.

I can only hope the microchip issue doesn’t set off the moonbat wing of the LPCO.

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