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Caveat emptor, or How I Found a Way to Send My Kid to College and Keep All The Good Things In Life

It’s never a good or noble thing to be perceived as self-indulgent, arrogant or snobby. Having said that, I recently have found myself feeling slighted and even a little guilty at having what I consider a great education. I really have no right to feel this way but I do. Maybe a little venting will help.

This past February, an old friend remarked to me that one of her children, then a junior, had received admission materials from my alma mater, Vassar College, and was absolutely delighted with the place! A potential early decision candidate, I thought. Her mother, who I have known for over 30 years and absolutely adore, asked if there was there a way to attend for the same overall cost as the local state institution, the University of Colorado. I now must assume that the question posed was purely tongue-in-cheek. Nevertheless, I responded as if it were an honest inquiry. I said he short answer was no but I did qualify my response by saying it was by no means impossible and that I would be delighted to discuss attending the College with the prospective applicant and the family at her mother’s discretion.

Needless to say, the now senior high school student will not be a part of Vassar College Class of 2018. To be honest, under the circumstances I strain to imagine the student even submitting an application to Poughkeepsie. I suspect her mother was simply asking humorously, as it is my belief that the family’s lifestyle would be, shall we say, cramped by a child attending a Seven Sisters college. However, it still bothers me for some reason. What is truly more relevant: an Education of Great Value or an Education at a Great Value? If this young person was as qualified as I was told, admission would not have been any real problem. That having been said, in the interest of full disclosure, I offer a comparison between the schools courtesy of CollegeData. To wit:

University That Shall Remain Nameless: Public, comprehensive university.
US News & World Report National University Ranking: N/A
US News & World Report Regional University Ranking (West): #22
Entrance Difficulty: Moderately Difficult. More than 75% of freshmen were in the top 50% of their high school class and scored over 1010 on the SAT I or over 18 on the ACT; about 85% or fewer of all applicants accepted.
Cost for Attendance for Out-of-State residents: $33,477
Payment Plans: Credit card (no, really…it officially lists “credit card” as the payment plan, I kid you not)

Vassar College: Private, liberal arts college.
US News & World Report National College Ranking: #13
Entrance Difficulty: Very Difficult. More than 50% of freshmen were in the top 10% of their high school class and scored over 1230 on the SAT I or over 26 on the ACT; about 60% or fewer of all applicants accepted.
Cost of Attendance: $61,860
Payment Plans: Installment plan, external finance company

The rub, of course, is the cost. That’s legitimate but only to a point. According to the University That Shall Remain Nameless, on its own website, it prides itself as “affordable…a top value in education”, which I suppose is a polite way of saying “we don’t cost much and if you stick us on your credit card you can file for bankruptcy later and still keep the diploma”. Well, good for them. But if cost is the only factor in choosing higher education for even well-to-do families, then I’m in the wrong line of work. Perhaps I should start my own university and charge half of what the students pay at even the most “cost-effective” institutions. How hard can it be to convince the U.S. Department of Education that my new institution can offer a truly effective and quality education? If Oral Roberts could pull it off in Tulsa, I could certainly do it. A person could become rich beyond their wildest dreams of avarice.

In all seriousness, I know what upset me about this. The “ha-ha-no-we’re-only-kidding” approach to even asking me if your child could attend my alma mater on the cheap. Don’t even ask if you know in your heart of hearts that there’s no way you’d surrender your 4-car garage and the condo in Vail with college costs often being what they are. Frankly, if you really want to save and get a great education about real life, have your child join City Year or the Peace Corps. By the way, never mind the bothersome scholarships, grants and yes, student loans which I myself used. How much do they help the rich? Quite possibly as much as any other student regardless of financial background. Was it difficult paying for school? Of course it was. My mother had all 4 of her children in college at one point but we made it work. “A great value” or not, I’ll stack the quality and long term usefulness of my education against the University That Shall Remain Nameless any day of the week.

Except in football…

Détente as a new Winter Olympic Event?

The United States is not going to boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Neither is any other participating country for that matter. Russia’s new hard-line anti-LGBT laws, unconditional support of the Assad regime in Syria nor the granting of asylum for Edward Snowden will slow down, let alone halt, the games in Sochi.

This brings up an important question: How did poor Vancouver get dragged into this? The Canadians don’t want it back there. The Vancouver Sun doesn’t even have the attempt by some to relocate the Games there as a main story on the front page today. The online version of the paper, however, does have a report several headlines above the Change.org’s petition story that reads: “Miami Beach teen caught spraying graffiti dies after shock from police Taser”. This is the level of excitement that British Columbians have when considering the prospect of hosting their 2nd Olympic Games in 4 years.

When you do find the report, it does quote Vancouver City Councilman Geoff Meggs as saying a 7 month lead time to get Vancouver ready as an Olympic Plan B is “not like putting fresh sheets on the guest bed.” The story continues: “I can understand the intention, but practically I don’t see how it could happen,” he said Wednesday, noting Vancouver had seven years to plan the 2010 Games. “I think lots of people in Vancouver would love to have the Games again, but it’s a question of who would pay for it and how it could possibly be done, and I don’t think we know the answer to either of those questions,” he said. Clearly It would seem in some quarters that if American celebrities want Russia to be put on notice that their government is doing unfair, cruel and inhumane things to innocent people (which it has been doing since the days of the czars), then maybe those same celebrities better starting writing some big checks to the City of Vancouver. Fast.

Many people, especially activists on the left, are under the delusion the Olympics are about competition, athletic spirit and national pride. They’re not. They’re about money. Lindsey Vonn made $2.5 million after the 2010 Winter Games. Apolo Ohno made $1.5 million, Bode Miller made $1.3 million and all three of these individuals are still earning huge sums years after the flame was extinguished over Vancouver. Truly these are the lives that will be in tatters if they can’t participate in Sochi next February. Make no mistake, the decision of whether to boycott the Olympic Games is absolutely not about salvaging the egos of athletes who have “trained their whole lives for this moment”. Neither Moscow nor Washington nor any other government honestly gives a damn about the training amateur athletes do in order to excel in their sport at Olympic levels. If by some bizarre twist of fate the games are boycotted or cancelled, I’m quite certain the thrill of having the chance, just the chance, to compete in world championships, endorse breakfast cereals and pose in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue will make these young people quite content.

Nobody despises the actions of the Kremlin lately more than I do. Russia’s record on human rights has been abysmal for generations and Vladimir Putin shows no sign of wanting to buck the trend. So if anyone wants the Winter Games in 2014 moved out of Russia, don’t listen to people like Stephen Fry, George Takei or disgruntled NSA and State Department officials who are still fuming over the fact that they couldn’t get Snowden in handcuffs. Also, enough with the whole 1936 Berlin Olympics comparison either. Jacques Rogge and his bunch at the IOC aren’t buying what the media is selling so let’s drop that one, shall we? Petitions to the White House will be completely and utterly useless. The U.S. Government will do what it feels is in the best interest of the country and wondering whether or not to participate in a Russian Olympics isn’t high on the list. You want to send petitions? Send them to the boards of directors of Nike, McDonald’s, GE, Coca-Cola, Reebok, Omega, Dow Chemicals, P&G, Samsung, British Petroleum, Rolex, Verizon, Gatorade and Adidas. If anyone has a say on the who, what, where, when, why, and how of the Olympic Games, they do…

GOP Tests the Meaning of Insanity

Sometimes I simply cannot adequately express an opinion in the way it really needs to be said. As such, in honor of the 40th (that’s right…40th) time Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have tried in vain to repeal The Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”) on August 2nd and House Speaker John Boehner’s recent statement on July 21st that “Congress should not be judged on how many new laws we create but on how many laws we repeal”, I offer this assessment of the idiocy currently plaguing the Lower House in Washington. In its zeal to simply oppose and dismantle anything and everything the President supports, I give you the words of the sublime Dana Milbank of The Washington Post. His words speak more eloquently, and bluntly, than I can on this lunacy…

GOP tests the meaning of insanity

By Dana Milbank
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Post
July 18, 2013

WASHINGTON — Well, this is embarrassing.

Republicans have made so many attempts to repeal “Obamacare” that the scorekeepers have lost count.

“Republicans,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., “voted to repeal it 40 times.”

“Their 38th vote to repeal,” Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, tallied Wednesday on the House floor.

“Thirty-nine times,” declared New York Rep. Louise Slaughter, the ranking Democrat on the Rules Committee.

“The House has tried nearly 40 times,” the White House asserted. 

Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, wasn’t sure. The chairman of the Ways and Means Committee’s health subcommittee referred to criticism that “Republicans are trying for the 38th or 39th time to repeal Obamacare.” 

Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon observed that “my good friend, the chairman, couldn’t even reference exactly how many times they’ve tried to repeal it.”

But let’s not pick on Brady. All the tallies fall well short of the actual number of times Congress has voted to repeal all or part of Obamacare. It has done that — are you sitting down? — 67 times.

According to Glenn Kessler, The Washington Post’s fact checker, there were 37 votes to scale back Obamacare before two votes Wednesday in the House. But those 39 don’t include the Senate, where Reid’s office has documented 28 votes, all but a couple in the form of Republican amendments. This might explain the new findings that Congress is holding more votes than ever but passing fewer bills.

The 66th and 67th attempts went much like the previous 65, except for a mid-debate recess so that lawmakers could have their official photograph taken on the House floor.

“This bill is unraveling before us,” exulted Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, reported that “the train is not coming off the rails; it’s already off the rails.”

On the Democratic side, Rep. John Dingell of Michigan responded by saying, “Einstein observed that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again with the full expectation that the results are going to be different.” Actually, the quote is probably apocryphal — but Einstein didn’t live to see the 113th Congress.

The proposals on the floor Wednesday were relatively mild: One codified the delay in the law’s employer mandate already announced by the Obama administration, and one extended the delay to the individual mandate. And Republicans weren’t entirely logical or consistent in advancing these proposals. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, accused the Obama administration of ushering in “socialism,” while Brady argued the contradictory position that the White House is “just listening to the voices of business” and ignoring “Joe Six-pack.”

But Republican lawmakers were clear about one thing: The tally of attempts will continue to rise.

“Postponing the two mandates are only the latest steps to repeal Obamacare,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida said on the floor.

Rep. Luke Messer of Indiana explained that “each day this law is delayed gives us more time to seek its total repeal.”

The overkill isn’t irrational. As The Washington Post’s Sarah Kliff noted, research shows that people resist regulations more vigorously if they think the requirements will eventually be repealed. “If it’s 37, 38, 39, I don’t care,” Rep. Rich Nugent, R-Fla., said this week. “If we do it 100 times, sooner or later we’ll get it right.”

And so Republicans continue to tee up the repeal votes — far more than anybody realized.

“Thirty, 40 times we’re talking about repealing it,” protested Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y.

Or was it, as Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., posited, “the 38th time”?

“I kind of lost track,” confessed Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C.

It’s OK, Congressman. So did everyone else.

The Death Penalty: Murderers, Rapists, Spies and the Inequity of Capital Punishment

The United States is one of the few western countries that still has the death penalty. Whether one supports or disapproves of capital punishment is not the focus of this discussion. Rather, capital punishment’s implementation as the ultimate penalty for certain crimes I believe can say a great deal about who we are as a society; that is to say, what types of behavior we as a society absolutely do not allow under any circumstances and will not forgive and, perhaps more importantly, what offenses are not considered so heinous and unforgivable as to merit the offender forfeiture of his life as punishment.

The use of the death penalty among the states has been limited to offenses resulting in the death of another person and generally only if that death is held to be pre-meditated. The 1977 U.S. Supreme Court case of Coker v. Georgia, (433 U.S. 584), a case where the defendant was convicted of aggravated rape and sentenced to death, essentially held that the death penalty was “grossly disproportionate and excessive punishment” for this crime. The ruling ultimately restricted the states to applying a vigorous proportionality test to determine if any given crime warranted the death sentence. As a consequence, virtually all state offenses other than murder are prohibited under the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution as cruel and unusual punishment. Seventeen years later, The Federal Death Penalty Act was passed as Title VI of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. In passing this legislation, use of the death penalty under Federal law was codified far more broadly than that the states. In this act, Congress established constitutional procedures for imposition of the death penalty for 60 offenses, including 28 new Federal capital offenses, which “…fall into three broad categories: (1) homicide offenses; (2) espionage and treason; and (3) non-homicidal narcotics offenses.”

I now turn to recent events that have brought the use of the death penalty into sharp focus. The first involves the matter of Ariel Castro, 54, of Cleveland, Ohio, who was charged with 977 felony counts for the kidnapping and abuse of 3 women in the Cleveland area over the course of nearly a decade. The indictment included 512 counts of kidnapping, 446 counts of rape, and 2 counts of aggravated murder. The latter charges stemmed from Mr. Castro’s repeated beatings of his victims which resulted in the termination of pregnancies that he himself had caused through raping them. On July 26, 2013, Mr. Castro entered into an arrangement in which he pleaded guilty to 937 felony charges and was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole plus 1,000 years.

The second involves Edward Snowden, 30, a former CIA employee and contractor for the National Security Agency. Mr. Snowden absconded with 4 laptop computers containing highly classified information detailing surveillance efforts by the NSA and the British intelligence agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) against American and British citizens domestically as well as foreign governments, some of them allied with the United States and leaked the data to the press.  On June 14, 2013, while in hiding at Russia’s Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted Mr. Snowden for espionage and theft of government property.  The espionage charge, under the Federal Death Penalty Act of 1994, carried with it a possible sentence of death. On July 26, 2013, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder submitted a letter to his Russian counterpart, Justice Minister Alexander Konovalov, assuring Russia that the United States would not seek the death penalty if the government in Moscow would return Mr. Snowden to U.S. custody.

Here we have our quandary. For so many of us, after learning the horrifying details of his actions, most of us felt that Ariel Castro must be executed. As a society, we could not conceive that the sheer volume of so many monstrous acts committed over such a long period of time would merit anything but death for the offender. But one could argue that because he did not commit pre-meditated murder, Ariel Castro could not have faced the death penalty. The aggravated murder statutes for which he faced execution derive from a “fetal homicide” law which provides for capital punishment if a pregnancy is terminated unlawfully. Ohio is one of 38 states that have such a law on the books. It has been argued that if Mr. Castro had gone to trial, his defense could have overcome these charges or had them dismissed, as the state would have to prove that Mr. Castro knew his victims were pregnant and that his beatings were the specific cause of the miscarriages beyond a reasonable doubt. There is no provision in any state law to allow for the execution of a person for the totality of crimes committed over days, years or a lifetime. To put it succinctly, the vast majority of Americans recently polled (excluding those ardently opposed to the death sentence as a matter of principle) feel that Ariel Castro should die for his crimes. The reality, however, is that were it not for what amounts to a quirk in Ohio law passed only in 2002, as horrific as his crimes were, Mr. Castro would never have faced the ultimate penalty.

As for Edward Snowden, although he has not committed murder or any other act coming anywhere close to the standard imposed in the Coker decision, the Federal charge of espionage nevertheless carried with it the possibility of the death penalty. The drama that has played out in the media regarding Mr. Snowden’s flight to avoid capture and extradition back to the U.S. to stand trial for the crimes he has been charged with has often hinged on whether or not the death penalty would be imposed if he was convicted of espionage. It is no surprise that Attorney General Holder had to make assurances to Russia specifically regarding the death penalty with regard to Mr. Snowden. In today’s world, it is logical to conclude that any information whatsoever placed on internet could easily be found by “enemies of the state”. As such, we are left with the difficult task of trying to redefine what “giving aid and comfort to the enemy” constitutes. In a time of war or if the accused is a soldier at war, the task is less difficult, although the case of PFC Bradley/Chelsea Manning has proven it is by no means an easy one either. But is disseminating classified information to the press and by extension the public in whose name such secrets are kept to protect, so unforgivable a crime that the offender must lose his life for it? Unless we know that what Mr. Snowden has in his possession could have the immediate result of causing the death of others or putting lives in grave danger, the automatic consideration of capital punishment for espionage seems harsh. The last time this country had this particular discussion was in 1952. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were convicted for conspiracy to commit espionage in a time of war for passing technical information about the atomic bomb to Soviet Union and subsequently executed.  Are we prepared to compare Mr. Snowden’s activities to that of the Rosenberg’s?

As a final thought, I return to Coker to wonder if it is not appropriate to add aggravated rape to the list of offenses punishable by death under state or even Federal law. If we are prepared to execute non-violent offenders such as drug runners, spies and people who did not actually commit murder but were only accessory to the crime, is death not a fitting punishment for a person who commits the most vile act one human being can commit against another? In so many instances, rape survivors have often said they would rather be dead than continue to be haunted by the anguish, humiliation and terror of that moment. Some greater action must be taken if we are to honestly purport to be a country that actively supports the rights women to be secure in their persons from such sickening violations of their bodies.

I wonder if the justice system can or should be changed. If our current laws do not allow the state to punish those whose crimes are so beyond society’s capability to punish through conventional means such as life imprisonment, should there not be a mechanism for which special charges may be brought against such offenders? Perhaps in the case of Mr. Castro, there could have been a provision in Ohio law to allow the state through the Attorney General’s office to petition the Ohio Supreme Court for a writ that would allow prosecutors to charge him with a general “Crime Against the People of the State of Ohio” that carried with it a sentence of death. Also, as a civilized society, what message do we send when we are prepared to level the ultimate penalty against a man who is the final analysis is a naïve and petty thief, who with poor judgment exposed to the world the secret that they too were being watched without just cause?

The death penalty again is supposed to deter violent crime and punish those who cannot be rehabilitated back into society. If given a choice between a man who has essentially commits grand larceny and leaks classified material to the press or a man who kidnaps three women and holds them in a basement, rapes and tortures them over a period of several years, who do we strap to the table for lethal injection? Both men in the end will be punished. But  I submit that when the state must employ execution as a means to maintain order, then maybe we always have contend with the hard questions  from men such as Castro and Snowden and ask those questions over and over again without resolution. Two individuals on opposites ends of what we consider “offenders” and “criminals”, two men who are different in almost every way, but nevertheless both at one time staring at the exact same fate. If there was ever a time to reconsider the law’s use of the term “grossly disproportionate”, this would be good time to have that conversation.

Edward Snowden on Mars

“There was supposed to be an Earth-shattering Ka-boom!”

The lament of Marvin the Martian as his attempt to blow up the Earth is foiled by the accidental astrorabbit Bugs Bunny stealing the Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator is a witty reminder of something that is, shall we say, less apocalyptic than an alien destroying the world to clear his view of Venus. It is nevertheless curiously and somewhat disturbingly also the story of something of immense power stolen by the most unlikely of protagonists with the ability, ostensibly anyway, to blow up the world. There have lately been some important questions that have gone completely missing from the collective American political consciousness:

Where is Edward Snowden? What happened to his reported treasure trove of U.S. government secrets that was supposed to have caused so much hand wringing in the halls of power from Washington to Warsaw to Wellington? More importantly, where is this great national discussion that we were supposed to be having about government surveillance and the questions regarding individual privacy versus public safety?

Since the Zimmerman verdict, the birth of Royal Baby, and the continuing scandals of Anthony Weiner (aka The Man Who Would Be Mayor), we have completely lost sight of Mr. Snowden, now holed up for a month inside the international transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport. We can only assume that he still has possession of his four laptop computers containing not only specific information about NSA surveillance of American citizens and foreign governments but also reportedly a “blueprint” outlining NSA infrastructure and operations. But that’s only an assumption.

We can also assume that there have been no great efforts on the part of any of the countries that have offered him asylum to actually get him out of Russia. Little news or commentary has come from the governments in Bolivia, Nicaragua or Venezuela regarding their desire to give succor to Mr. Snowden. Nor has there been any confirmation that he will be allowed to emigrate to Russia, as has been widely reported. Vladimir Putin’s stated requirements that if Mr. Snowden wished to remain in Russia that he no longer release any more classified information that might damage the United States or its intelligence networks may prove too stringent for him to abide by, leaving Mr. Snowden still marooned at Sheremetyevo. But that’s also only an assumption.

Save for the occasional brief statement by an intelligence official, there has been strangely little in the news at all lately about the man who once had the attention of the world riveted to his every move. Ironically, another domestic issue of great importance has taken the place of the discussions we as a nation were supposed to have about the implications of Snowden’s revelations and eclipsed once again our view of what’s going on inside Fort Meade. In the wake of George Zimmerman’s acquittal for the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, race relations and gun violence in America have once again rushed to capture center stage. I do not wish to imply even for a moment that this is not a debate we should be having. Indeed, this is an issue that we as a nation must tackle head on. But I think something important to America got lost in the din of angry voices, somewhere between Sanford, Washington, New York, London and Moscow.

It has been said that the American news media, particularly on the left, missed a golden opportunity to initiate a truly vigorous debate about the NSA and its activities at home and abroad. Instead, they dropped the ball with an obsession to cover the man and not the message. Mr. Snowden’s flight across the world became our dirty little national pastime. It was a soap opera better than any on daytime television ever could hope to be.  The somewhat ridiculous and banal national polling of the “hero or traitor” question also clouded what Mr. Snowden was trying to achieve. We focused on the person of Edward Snowden and his endless search for a place to hang his hat and failed to stop and think about what our intelligence services are up to in our own backyards. I should think that would qualify as a major intelligence scoop all by itself.

It may be too late. We as Americans have the attention span of a school of halibut and get distracted so easily by the agony and the ecstasy that hits our headlines every morning. We may not even care if he ever gets asylum, or is captured by U.S. authorities or just simply disappears one day from our memory. Tragic death occurs and protesters fill the streets. A baby is born and we can all share in a little joy, pomp and circumstance. Tomorrow will have new things to worry and wonder at. In the meantime, a young man stays trapped inside an airport terminal far from home. However carefully calculated or misguided his original intentions may have been, I for one have no doubt he was trying to change the world for the better. Who mourns for Marvin with his view of Venus still obstructed by that annoying planet filling his telescope?

Well, THAT was a waste of perfectly good taxpayer dollars…

Lost among the torrent of news saturating the internet today regarding the birth of Kate and William’s son who shall one day rule a nation slightly larger than Oregon that is not this one, something of great consequence in this country was being grossly underreported. A federal judge blocked the enforcement of North Dakota’s new abortion law, which was one of, if not the most, restrictive in the United States. The law, scheduled to take effect on August 1, would have banned virtually all abortions in that state beginning at 6 weeks as opposed to 28 weeks, which is the measure laid down in the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland, ruling for the plaintiff in the case of MKB Management v. Burdick (13-cv-71, U.S. District Court, District of North Dakota), stated in his ruling “The state of North Dakota has presented no evidence to justify the passage of this troubling law…The state has extended an invitation to an expensive court battle over a law restricting abortions that is a blatant violation of the constitutional guarantees afforded to all women.” As the order blocking enforcement is temporary, Judge Hovland gave the parties involved in the case 30 days to let him know whether to schedule a trial on the merits of suit. Comments from the state government in Bismarck are pending as of this writing.

I suppose what I find to be most startling aspect of these cases is the vigor with which Republican controlled legislatures in states houses across the country pursue the most restrictive laws on reproductive rights possible. It’s amazing to consider the Herculean effort that is put forth in so many states to restrict a woman’s right to choose and I often find myself watching with wonder as GOP controlled state houses go through a kind of legislative Bataan death march to pass these restrictions where ultimately the entire process follows the same outrageously predictable, costly and unnecessary storyline. In each body of the legislature, there is first seemingly endless debate or in certain cases none at all, as an attempt is made to railroad the legislation through without any chance for opposing views to be heard and documented. Sometimes it is necessary for the bill’s proponents to amend or even completely ignore the rules of procedure, thus insuring the proposed legislation won’t fail prematurely through parliamentary maneuvering by the opposition. There are also, of course, the public protests and citizen testimony on both sides of the issue that sometimes famously go into the night, day after day for sometimes weeks on end and all with the accompanying bad press that inevitably follows the abortion debate, regardless of whether you support such legislation or not. Finally, after exhaustive work or sheer guile, the bill is passed and finds its way to the governor for his signature. It’s always seems to be “his” signature which I find very telling.

In the end, the fruits of their labors always appear to literally wither and die on the vine. All the work put forth to accomplish these goals is usually for nothing, as legislators watch as their new laws are promptly blocked by the federal courts as unconstitutional. It was suggested to me by a colleague that certain GOP legislators go through what he termed “abortion histrionics”, as it is part of the current Republican raison d’être to legislate as far to the political right as possible. There is a desire to appeal to a base that they are convinced will remove them from office, one way or the other, if they don’t pass unimaginably conservative laws to regulate our behavior. The irony, of course, is that the true extent to which such a constituency wields enough political clout or can bring out sufficient voters to level a credible threat toward lawmakers is uncertain. So it is that these legislators generally know these abortion restrictions are never going to pass muster in court but they try it anyway.

The motivation behind these Sisyphean endeavors I believe is two-fold. First, it pacifies that very dedicated (and mysterious) conservative base which they are convinced will make or break their political careers unless all women, regardless of circumstance, are compelled by the state to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term, even one caused by rape or incest. Second, there are those odd true believers within the Republican party that are convinced that even though their efforts will fail when initially challenged in court, they hope to eventually find their bill at the U.S. Supreme Court and thus challenge and perhaps overturn Roe v. Wade, thereby allowing them to claim final legislative victory and bring moral correctness to a nation they see as hopelessly lost and damned for a collective promiscuity that exists only in their heads. They never consider that all would happen in the eventuality of Roe v. Wade’s dismissal is the decisions regarding abortion rights would return to the states, defeating the grand vision of a pure and chaste America that needn’t worry about the problems of women who refuse to simply put an aspirin between their knees.

There is something foul about the continued efforts to restrict abortion rights that go beyond the dictatorial and onerous desire to keep women from exercising their individual rights by controlling their bodies by force of law. Judge Hovland expressed it well his use of the word “expensive” in his ruling. These efforts are not simply misogynistic, which is bad enough. They are a waste of the taxpayer’s money. It costs plenty to litigate these matters and the eagerness of certain lawmakers to keep dipping into the people’s coffers to fund their own personal moral crusade should offend even the most politically conservative among us. What’s worse, they know these laws are doomed to collapse under legal scrutiny, which makes their efforts all the more odious.