Monday, January 30, 2006

The Rights of the Individual vs. The Rights of the Individual

I guess this is my month for confusing issues. After using my blog to try and work out my feelings about privacy…and failing…I’m trying again on another confusing one – refusing services based on moral views.

It seems that many pharmacists are refusing to fill prescriptions for the “morning-after” pills because they don’t agree with abortion, and refuse to be a part of the process. Many of their employers, naturally, have a problem with that – the company makes money off each sale, so turning away a customer is not their preferred option. So naturally, the government has begun to get involved, with a variety of proposed state laws to prevent those noble pharmacists from being punished for standing by their convictions. To add to the confusion, some of those laws appear to shield health care and medical providers from negative action in a variety of circumstances. Depending on the wording, that could include ignoring a patient’s explicit instructions as expressed in a “Living Will,” or even a refusal to provide medical care of ANY sort to a homosexual patient.

It does seem to me that the pharmacists and other health care providers have a right to obey their conscience. If you truly believe that abortion is murder and that preventing the fertilized egg from anchoring to the uterine wall is abortion, then to be forced to provide the “morning-after” pill is morally equivalent to loading the rifle and handing it to the gunman up in the tower – in both cases, you are enabling and assisting another person to commit murder. I’m not as certain about the rationale for refusing medical care to homosexuals. I can sort of understand a refusal to provide artificial insemination to a lesbian patient – some people honestly believe that allowing a lesbian to be a parent is a guarantee of harm to a child. I am a bit worried that those laws might go so far as to shield a doctor who refuses to treat a homosexual patient, thus allowing the patient to die. Is that the proper outcome of a moral decision?

On further reflection, though, I think that both the people refusing services and the legislators writing laws to protect them are wrong. Certainly, the pharmacist who objects to the “morning-after” pill has the right to object, and even the right to refuse to serve his customer – but he does NOT have the right to demand that his company support his stand. His employer hired him to fill prescriptions, not to make moral judgments. If he finds himself in a moral quandary as a result, then he should choose another profession, one that presents fewer challenges to his beliefs. The same is true for all the other health care professionals – military doctors and nurses provide treatment to enemy prisoners, surely a harder decision than providing treatment to someone who disagrees with your moral judgments. Certainly, giving up their profession may result in a drop in their income, a decrease in their standard of living – but if they are not willing to make that sacrifice for their beliefs, then why are they demanding that other people do so? I can respect someone who makes sacrifices for their beliefs. I cannot respect or accept someone who demands that I make sacrifices for them. That’s the difference between a martyr and a tyrant.

I guess that issue wasn’t as confusing as I thought.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

For The Love Of The Sport

As some of you know, David has developed an interest in swords and other medieval weapons. He’s spent large chunks of his own money buying swords at Bud-K, and asked for several more display weapons for this past Christmas. As part of that interest, though, he wanted to learn to use them.

Well, when our sons show a real interest in something, enough that they are willing to spend their own time and money on it, we do our best to support them. Accordingly, we took David to the Virginia Academy of Fencing, and signed him up for their Historical Swordsmanship classes. He took the eight-week beginners’ course and moved on to the six-week Intermediate course – and enjoyed it a lot. His interest kept going, or maybe even increased – he never complained about having to go after a hard school day, and he even spent some of his spare time practicing moves on his own.

We considered keeping him in the Academy. It would have been very expensive. Around $1400 a year just for membership, plus additional fees for classes, and the requirement to purchase expensive equipment. But we could have managed it, somehow…but something else occurred to us. In the world of fencing, there are competitions for epee and rapier, and multiple styles and scoring…but nothing for the broadsword. The only purpose of his continuing classes would be to get better so he could take more advanced classes. In the long run, not much fun!

So, after a bit of discussion of the options, we chose another route, and looked up the local branch of the Society for Creative Anachronism. I dropped $60 on a family membership for all four of us, and we have attended four of their “Indoor Fighters’ Training” meetings. They run for two to three hours instead of one hour at the Academy. There’s always at least one experienced fighter available to train the three or four novices, and often three or four skilled swordsmen and swordswomen will lend a hand, offer pointers, or provide critiques – yes, that equals one-on-one training! We will at some point still have to spend a significant amount of money on his gear, but for right now, he’s practicing moves at “slow speed” using a Whiffle bat…and every week he comes home thrilled with how much more he’s learning than in the fourteen weeks we spent at the Academy. Later on, he’ll get real armor and “real” weapons (still plastic, foam rubber, and duct tape, but capable of serious bruises or even broken bones if it hits an unarmored spot), and actually be able to test his training against honorable and chivalrous opponents out to kill him…and then shake his hand and congratulate him on a well-fought battle.

It’s also a good excuse for the rest of us to use our Rennaissance Festival garb once in awhile!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

What IS Privacy?

The right to privacy is much in the news of late. Apparently this right, while not explicitly stated in the Constitution, underpins Roe v. Wade. It’s the main reason for the uproar about President Bush’s authorization of wiretaps without warrants. But what are we talking about, exactly? Let’s look at some examples. In which case or cases is privacy being violated, and in which is it not?

1. A husband and wife are prosecuted for sodomy for consensual acts perfomed in the privacy of their bedroom.

2. An unmarried man and woman are prosecuted for sodomy and adultery for consensual acts performed in the privacy of one of their bedrooms.

3. A married man and a woman not his wife are prosecuted for sodomy and adultery for consensual acts performed in the privacy of a motel room.

4. A man and another man are prosecuted for sodomy for consensual acts performed in the privacy of one of their bedrooms.

5. A married man and a female prostitute are prosecuted for sodomy, adultery, and prostitution for consensual acts performed for money, in the privacy of a motel room.

6. A husband is prosecuted for sodomy, battery, spousal abuse, and rape for acts he forced on his wife in the privacy of their bedroom.

I will grant that in most of those cases the prosecutor is going to have a heck of a time gathering evidence – but let’s assume that all of them were caught red…um, handed, in the various acts while the police were searching the house under a legal warrant for an unrelated offense. That (unlikely) circumstance would make it all admissable in court…and under laws still on the books in some states, ALL of those cases are illegal!

Let’s try another one.

1. A government agency records a phone conversation, without a warrant, including the following sentence: “I plan to get bombed at TGI Fridays in Pentagon City this weekend.”

2. A government agency records a phone conversation, without a warrant, including the following sentence: “I’m planting the bomb this Friday in the Pentagon. Stay away from the city this weekend.”

I don’t know about you, but in one of those cases, I’d really sort of like to find out the NSA was listening…but isn’t it still a violation of privacy? I’d really like to find a way to define privacy that would provide for reasonable violations for appropriate causes, but still protect me from unreasonable invasions. I just cannot for the life of me imagine a way to word a definition to control those limits.

For that matter, I have some question about the whole need for privacy, at least in terms of government intrusion. After all, if I’m not breaking any laws, what do I care if someone knows what I’m doing? Obviously, I don’t want it all released to the media, or posted on the Internet, or whatever…but as long as my personal information is used ONLY to prosecute legitimate crimes, I can’t see a real problem with having a camera in my bedroom, or attached to my arm, or whatever – 24 hour surveillance. After all, if everyone is being watched, that serves to PROTECT me from any number of crimes that might affect me – from terrorist bombs, muggers in dark alleys, even idiots who run red lights.

I really believe that most people’s fear of invasion of privacy stems from their suspicion or solid knowledge that some of the things they do are at least immoral, and probably illegal. In some cases, I believe that means the law should be changed, so that people can do what they want, as long as no one else is harmed without their consent – such as the laws against prostitution, drug use, and driving without a seat belt. In other cases, the world would be a better place if people could not get away with their crimes – such as rape, selling substandard prescription drugs, or driving with small children without child seats.

If our laws were written to protect us from others, instead of protecting us from ourselves, we wouldn’t need privacy. Since they’re not…I’d like to keep my privacy intact. I just wish I knew for sure what I’m asking for.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Back to the Blog

It's been quite awhile since I've posted.. I'm going to try to keep up with this a little more often, even when I don't really have much to say. If I don't, though, you'll just have to forgive me.

Today, for example, I don't really have much to say, so I'll just talk about what I'm watching and listening to lately. I got a couple great CDs for Christmas, Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Tommy. They're fantastic, but they got me to thinking about some of the other classic albums that I love but don't this weekend I bought a copy of Rumors by Fleetwood Mac. Listened to it in the car today...still a wonderful album.

I spent quite a bit of money this weekend, actually. We also bought an "Elliptical" (what a silly name!) so we can all exercise in the house, now. Not great fun, but I need all the motivation I can get to exercise, and it's good for all of us.

I also dropped $45 at a friendly little poker game. Whatever happened to Dealer's Choice poker, where you could play all night on $20, and maybe win a little, maybe lose a little? Now, the only poker anyone plays is Texas Hold 'Em tournaments, with designated payouts for the last few left at the table, and everyone else goes home broke. Not nearly as friendly as it used to be! Of course, I might be a little biased, since I've played twice now, and haven't won a dime. I did better, though. The first time, I came in 7th of 8 players, and this time I pulled 6th of 11. Maybe next time I can finish in the money...

Anyway, I guess I'll go do a little walk on the elliptical...I want to be free by 9, so I can relax and enjoy the next hour in Jack Bauer's busy life!