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Mike Gallagher. Going off on cyclists. Again

Dana Laird was killed by a car door being opened in front of her on a bike lane in Phoenix.

Got in my car this morning and the first thing I hear is Michael Gallagher once again going off on cyclists.  This time concerning a proposed Florida law that would compel cyclists to always use a bike lane if available and to always hug the far right edge of the road otherwise.  Gallahger thinks that this is a good law and followed up by stating that he thinks cyclists are mentally retarded.  Nothing like a bit of kindergarten maturity.

Here’s the deal with cyclists opposing the Florida law.  Many bike lanes are actually much more dangerous for cyclists than riding in the main traffic lane for one primary reason – they are directly next to parked cars.  Cyclists call this the ‘door death zone’.  Riding along at even 10 mph, much less 20 or 25, and having someone open their door directly in front of you is not healthy.  Most cyclists, myself included, will always ride at least 4’ from any parked cars for this reason.

Hugging the right edge of the road can also be quite dangerous.  The debris and pot holes along the edge can cause flats and crashes, mailboxes and street signs can shred skin, and cyclists don’t particularly like hitting runners and skaters.  Motorists are also much less likely to see cyclists along the far right edge increasing incidents of cyclists being hit from behind and of cars turning in front of cyclists.

But there are two even worse reasons.  The second worst is that telling cyclists to hug the edge of the road will also cause them to swerve back and forth between the edge and the traffic lane to avoid obstacles.  And the worst is that motorists will expect all cyclists to always hug the right side of the road and will not be expecting them in the traffic lane where they must sometimes ride.

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Christianity, Statistics, and the misguided chuzpa of Bradley R. E. Wright

A recent USA Today article “Christians question divorce rates of faithful”, began:

It’s been proclaimed from pulpits and blogs for years — Christians divorce as much as everyone else in America.

But some scholars and family activists are questioning the oft-cited statistics, saying Christians who attend church regularly are more likely to remain wed.

“It’s a useful myth,” said Bradley Wright, a University of Connecticut sociologist who recently wrote “Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites … and Other Lies You’ve Been Told.”

“Because if a pastor wants to preach about how Christians should take their marriages more seriously, he or she can trot out this statistic to get them to listen to him or her.”

Pastors aren’t exactly known for their due diligence when it comes to what they say from the pulpit and, sadly, trotting out inaccurate facts and figures is not uncommon.  And indeed, Christians who attend church regularly are more likely to stay together.  But there’s a lot more to it.

In his book ‘Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites …And Other Lies You’ve Been Told’ Bradley Wright takes aim at many statistics that have made the rounds of U.S. Christian Pop Culture over the past several years.

He starts off questioning Barna’s research implying that evangelical Christians were second only to prostitutes in how little they are respected.  So far, so good.  While Barna’s statistics on this are accurate, the hyperbole was not.

Other parts of this book however, including the portions the USA Today article was based on, are surprisingly disingenuous and misleading.

In chapter 6 Wright takes on Barna’s research indicating that Christians and in particular, Evangelical Christians, divorce almost as often as non-Christians.  Referencing The General Social Survey (a great source of information btw), Wright says:

As for divorce, the survey reports how many respondents (who had ever been married) had been divorced or were currently separated from their spouse. Contrary to popular belief, Christians and members of other religions have lower divorce rates, about 42%, than do the religiously unaffiliated, about 50%. Among Christians, however, there was substantial variation. Catholics are the least likely to have divorced, at 35%, followed by Mainline Protestants (41%), Evangelicals (46%), and Black Protestants (54%).

But if we want to know whether or not the evangelical church’s teachings affect the actions of its members, perhaps an even more important question is whether cohabitation and divorce rates go down as church attendance goes up. As it turns out, they do, and the change is substantial. As shown in Figure 6.1, of the Evangelicals who rarely if ever attend church, 7% were cohabitating, compared to 5% of the monthly attendees and only 2% of the weekly attendees. Likewise, with divorce, 60% of the never-attendees had been divorced or were separated compared to only 38% of the weekly attendees[1].

The statistic’s Wright uses are spot-on and are actually in agreement with Barna.  It’s Wright’s analysis that doesn’t add up.  He chooses to turn cause and effect on its head, asserting that church attendance is the cause and divorce is the effect.  And this is accurate – occasionally.  More often though, divorce is the cause and church attendance is the effect.  If you look across the landscape of divorced Christians you will find a vast number who attended church regularly – until some point after their divorce.  It’s not so much that “divorce rates go down as church attendance goes up” as Wright asserts, but that church attendance goes down as divorce rates go up.

The most common scenario is a couple who are fairly strong evangelical Christians and who attend church regularly with their kids.  He’s caught getting some sex on the side, she divorces him, she continues to attend church, he eventually stops attending.  Perhaps the best news from this is that only a bit over half of such scenarios end in divorce.  Sadly though, in the majority of those that do, one or both spouses drop out of church as do some number of their children.  This is a hugely critical element of the divorce problem within U.S. Christianity that Wright sets aside.

Even if you choose, like Wright, to ignore those who drop out of Christianity after their divorce (a chunk of that 60% of never-attendees who’ve divorced that he references in his book) and only consider the current regular attenders worthy, you still have a huge problem – even Wright’s slimmed-down 38% divorce rate is a quite noticeable lump in history and is significantly higher than even non-Christians outside the U.S. today.  The argument Wright makes here is simple lunacy.

Divorce is one of the most harmful challenges impacting Christians and society, whether 38% or 50%.  Loss of a relationship with Christ is perhaps the only thing worse.  Wright dismisses both as inconsequential.


Later in Chapter 6 Wright says:

The General Social Survey asks respondents if, when married, they have ever had sex with someone other than their husband or wife. As shown in Figure 6.3, 16% of Evangelicals reported that they had committed adultery at some time in their life. (It’s worth noting that the way the question is worded, we don’t know if the adultery happened before or after their initial involvement in evangelical Christianity). Mainline Protestants, Catholics, and Jews all reported similarly low levels of 14 to 16%. Black Protestants and the religiously unaffiliated reported the highest rates of extramarital sex, at about 25%. If we focus on the line labeled “Christians (all)” we see that, taken as a whole, Christians are committing adultery about one-third less than the unaffiliated. It appears that the commandment “Thou shalt not commit adultery” is, thankfully, still having an effect on the church.

… Just as we discovered with divorce rates, church attendance correlates well with sexual misconduct. As shown in Figure 6.4, Evangelicals who regularly attend church display far less sexual misconduct than those who attend less often. Twenty-two percent of Evangelicals who never attend church have committed adultery as compared to 13% of those who attend weekly.

As with divorce, Wright is telling us “nothing here folks, move along…”  But there is something here, it is the major cause of divorce among Christians, and we should not ignore it.

In order to convince us to ignore reality, Wright chose to ignore three critical elements in his analysis.

The first is correlated data.  Do the subject numbers jive with other numbers?  Studies of prostitution in the U.S. indicate that each year about 17% of adult men visit a prostitute[2].  That’s actually pretty close to Wright’s estimated range of 13% to 25% of men going out for sex while married.  However, is that all that ever will, or only those who have so far?

Next year it will be 17% as well, but a slightly different 17%.  A few guys will have stopped visiting prostitutes and a few will have begun doing so for the first time.  The vast majority of these visits are by guys in their forties so of all adult guys, we have a gob of guys in their twenties and thirties who have yet to visit a prostitute, but will, and a gob of guys in their fifties and sixties who once did but no longer do (not many old guys have the sexual prowess of Dominique Strauss-Kahn)[3].

Using conservative numbers we get about 62% of U.S. men visiting a prostitute at some point in their life with 37% (of all adult men) doing so while married.  More realistic numbers produce somewhat higher estimates.  And this doesn’t include the guys who get some on the side with affairs but never visited a prostitute.  Any way you look at it, this adds a fairly big question mark to Wrights’ numbers.  Either his numbers are extremely low or studies of prostitution are extremely high.

But one correlation does not a good analysis make, especially where it’s possible for both statistics to be off.  Another and perhaps more critical correlation to look at then is divorce rate vs. extra-marital sex.

Does Wright’s statement that 13% of weekly attending Evangelical Christians engage in extra-marital sex work with his own 38% divorce rate for this same group?  Let’s look at 200 people in 100 marriages.  Over the length of their marriages, using Wright’s numbers, 26 will go out for sex (13% of 200) resulting in 26 divorces which is about70% of his 38%.  That comes fairly close to estimates of divorces caused by extra-marital sex.  So far, so good.

There’s more to it though.  To get there we had to assume that every single person who engages in extra-marital sex gets caught and that every instance results in divorce[4].  Reality is closer to maybe 50% getting caught and 65% resulting in divorce.  So now, 26 go out and 13 are caught resulting in 8 divorces.  This accounts for only 20% of Wright’s 38 divorces.  Or put another way, according to Wright’s numbers about 4 in 5 divorces, or 80%, involve no extra-marital sex at all by either partner (as a cause of the divorce or not).  The lowest relatively reliable estimate that I’ve seen is that 25% of divorces involve extra-marital sex, the highest 80%, with most in the 50-65% range.  Pastors and marriage counselors I’ve talked to say a bit over 50%.

A more probable reality of our 200 weekly attending Evangelical Christians is that about 75 guys and 10 gals will, at some point in their marriage, visit a prostitute or have an affair.  Five of these overlap with both partners going out for sex, giving us 80 marriages impacted in some way.  In 40 of these marriages one or both will be caught resulting in 26 divorces accounting for 68% of Wright’s 38% estimate (or 60% of a more probable 44% divorce rate).  That’s closer and also jives with prostitution and other statistics.

So, correlated data casts suspicion on Wright’s analysis.  His numbers come from a reputable survey though, how can he be so wrong?

The second element Wright has chosen to ignore, similar to our 17% prostitution number, is time.  He applies a static number (13% having gone out for sex) to a continuum (marriage).  That doesn’t work.  And he knows it.

We know how many say that they have already gone out for sex, but what about those, specifically guys younger than about 42, who have not, but will in the future?  This is extremely important in this context because marriages extend over a period of time but going out for sex is limited to a relatively brief period of that time, usually about 6 to 10 years during their 40’s.  What we want to know is how many marriages will be impacted by this at some point in time during the marriage.

For example, consider menopause, which is something else that marriages experience for a relatively brief period of time .  If you ask these same 100 married couples how many have experienced menopause you’ll get a response of about 40.  In reality though, 100% of marriages will.  So, to say something like “40% of marriages are impacted by menopause”, implying that the rest don’t have to worry about it, is quite misleading.  (Similarly, you can ask how many are currently experiencing menopause and get a response of maybe 11% which is similar to our 17% of men currently visiting prostitutes each year.)

So, of our 100 marriages of weekly attending evangelical Christians that exist on Jun 12, 2012 (with ages ranging from 20’s to older than me), using Wright’s 13% number, we’ll have 26 having been impacted by extra-marital sex.  Over the next year, one or two more of these marriages will be impacted.  And one or two more the year after that.  In 10 years about 38 of these marriages will have been impacted.  In 20 years 50, and in 25 years, when the youngest have now reached their 50’s and are no longer likely to begin patronizing prostitutes, about 57.

And we haven’t yet accounted for the number of guys who were regular attenders in their twenties, thirties, and forties, got caught going out for sex in their forties, divorced, dropped out of being a regular attender and thus aren’t counted as a regular attender who went out for sex even though they were.  This will push our 57 impacted marriages up a bit, likely to about 70 or so.

The third thing Wright ignores is admission error.  Let’s start with his lowest number – 13% of Evangelicals who attend church weekly reported having engaged in extra-marital sex.  A more accurate statement would be 13% of Evangelicals admit to having engaged in extra-marital sex.  How many do it but don’t admit to it?  Even in a supposed confidential survey?

In almost any survey there is some level of admission error.  Obese folk often under admit to how much they eat, most of us over admit to how much we exercise, high school boys over admit to how often they’ve had sex and married guys under admit to how often they’ve gone out for sex.

The reasons for the latter vary.  Some married guys lie simply because they are concerned about getting caught.  They’re either not confident in the confidentiality of the survey or they’re concerned that someone is listening or looking over their shoulder when they’re responding or that in some other way they’ll be caught if they admit to it.  Another is that some respondents simply don’t think that a quickie with a hooker or a happy ending at a massage place, counts.  And then there is the issue of cognitive dissonance – innocence bias – “if I don’t admit to it then maybe I didn’t really do it and thus I am who I think I am and not who I am.”  It’s one thing to do something, another entirely to admit to it.

It’s rather critical to note here that the General Social Survey is conducted face to face.  “So Mr. Respondent, how often have you visited a prostitute?”  I think you get the point.

The impact of admission error is difficult to gauge.  If your only purpose here were to compare Christians to non-Christians then you might choose to ignore it since both will contain somewhat similar errors.  Some statisticians might note that Christians may be somewhat less likely to admit to it, but not calculate that in to the results.  If however, what you want to know is more of an absolute, like how many do in fact go out for sex versus how many do not, then you need to account for it.

We can assume that most of those who have not gone out for sex will not say that they have.  But how many who did go out for sex will not admit to it?  This is a commonly discussed phenomenon in general and in particular with socially undesirable attributes  For instance, the number of guys admitting in surveys to going out for sex is consistently well below the number needed just to support our known prostitution industry, not counting non-prostitution extra-marital affairs, and is consistently below any reliable estimates of the number of divorces caused by extra-marital sex.

Based on my experience I’d guesstimate that about 40% of weekly attenders who have gone out for sex will not admit to it in a survey (and slightly fewer, maybe 30%, for non-attenders).  This would put us in the mid 90’s for marriages impacted by extra-marital sex, a number that I guesstimate is high.

Note that critical word guesstimate.  We’re dealing with pretty ambiguous numbers here.  We can’t watch these folks 24 hours a day to know for certain how many go out for sex and how many do not.  In the end, taking in to account known statistics and correlated data, I’d guesstimate that anywhere from 65% to 90% of marriages of evangelical Christians who attend  church weekly are impacted by extra-marital sex, that in about half of these it becomes known to their spouse, and that maybe 65% of these result in divorce.

Getting below 65% of marriages of regular attending Evangelical Christians impacted by extra-marital sex requires accepting some rather unrealistic suppositions (like everyone gets caught, all of these result in divorce, everyone caught and divorced continues being a regular attender, and every one of these admits to it in surveys.)  Oh, and we’d have to have a lot of future admission as well “gosh, I’ve never done anything like that, but I expect that in ten years I’ll begin visiting prostitutes”.

The 90% upper bound is simply gut instinct.  I strongly believe that at least 10% of these marriages never have any extra-marital sex.

Most importantly though, these guesstimates correlate relatively closely to other data.


When it comes down to it, we don’t really know what the real numbers are.  We can, at best, make educated guesstimates.

We know that Wright’s 38% divorce rate is low and that reality is probably more like 44%, but it could be 40% or 48%.  In the end though, these differences don’t matter a wit, 38% or 44% is still an extremely major problem that impacts a ton of people, particularly children.  The difference in Barna’s and Wrights numbers simply don’t make any difference – we have a huge problem either way.

Underlying this, how many weekly attending Evangelical Christians have extra-marital sex?  Likely somewhere between about 34% and 47%.  A very long way from Wright’s 13%.  Most critical though is that we know that we have a high divorce rate, that these divorces are having an extremely detrimental impact on a large number of people, particularly children, and that extra-marital sex is at least a major cause of these divorces and likely the major cause.

Why then would Wright produce this?  Why would he try so hard to play down the problem of divorce?  He knows statistics, sociology, anthropology, and statistical analysis well enough to know better.  The report card he gives at the end of his book may provide a clue.  Some of his more interesting:

Gender Equality: C Christianity still a majority of women, except in leadership.

Crusty: Interesting that he says this here but doesn’t account for it in any of his analysis.

Racial Integration: B-  Church still predominantly White, but it’s getting better and more diversified in recent decades.

Crusty:  Still predominantly white?  What does he expect when the vast majority of our population is white?  Interestingly, Wright’s own chart indicates that U.S. evangelical Christianity better reflects the racial make-up of the U.S. than any other religion and in most cases it’s better by a huge margin. I’ve reproduced Wright’s chart below from the same data source with the only difference being sort order.  I’d give us a B+.

Divorce and living together: B  Relatively low rates, and less among frequent attendees, but increasing over time.

Crusty: Really?  Relatively low rates?  By Wright’s own estimate, evangelical Christians who attend church weekly have a 38% divorce rate.  And Wright’s number is low.  Easily an F in my book.  We have a major problem here that is having a huge negative impact on millions of people and on society.

Sex: A-  Relatively low rates of adultery, premarital sex, porn; these decrease with attendance.

Crusty: See Divorce and living together.

Loving Behaviors: C+  Could act more charitably to others, but this does increase with attendance.

Crusty: I don’t agree or disagree.  There is certainly room for improvement and likely always will be. 

Attitudes toward Blacks: D  Um, being Black is not a sin.  Gets worse with attendance, but improving over time.

Crusty: Again, there is certainly room for improvement. However, if this really was a D I doubt that evangelical Christianity would so well reflect the racial make-up of our overall society and be the most racially integrated religion in the world.

Attitudes towards gays: D  Not loving gays; gets worse with attendance, but improving over time.

Crusty: Agree.  Being gay is not a sin, acting on it is.  Even so, we should still love even those who most flagrantly act on it.  I know a lot of Christians who, I believe, act accordingly in this regard, but I also know several who have a very difficult time separating the sin from the sinner.

We may be getting somewhere. Wright does his best to check off the social justice agenda; Blacks, Gays, Gender Equality.  Then he tries to say that nearly half of Christian marriages ending in divorce, leaving millions of impacted children in its wake, isn’t much to be concerned with.



Reproduction of Wright’s figure 4.3 using the same data and formatting.  I made two changes; 1) I sorted based on standard deviation from the norm of the Total U.S. Population, and 2) I used colors that more closely correlate with the groups we’re discussing.  The number in parenthesis indicates the percent of the total population accounted for by each group.



[1] Bradley R.E. Ph.D. Wright. Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites…and Other Lies You’ve Been Told: A Sociologist Shatters Myths From the Secular and Christian Media (p. 133). Kindle Edition.

[2] Extremely quick numbers: Including erotic massage such as practiced by Jennifer Love Hewitt’s character in The Client List, there are about 132 million engagements per year by the 275,000 women working as prostitutes in the U.S. (or an average of 40 / mo / prostitute)  The average customer makes 7 visits per year (the majority average about once per month, but a significant number visit prostitutes once or twice per year, thus the average of 7 per year).  132 million engagements divided by 7 visits per customer gives us 18 million distinct customers which is 17% of the 111 million adult men in the U.S.

[3] This 40-something phenomenon comes from a number of sources including studies of prostitutes indicating that the majority of their customers are in their 40’s, polls on prostitution websites such as The Erotic Review that indicate most of the men involved are in their 40’s, audience statistics from Alexa and others indicating that those who visit prostitution sites are predominantly 38 – 47.

[4] We also assumed that each of these was a different marriage – E.G., that no marriage had both husband and wife having extra-marital sex.

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Rethinking the War on Drugs. They just didn’t think.

This article recently appeared splashed across the front of a section in the Wall Street Journal.  To say the least, a bit disappointed that the Journal would publish something this vacuous.

They’re spot on with their initial statements; our war on drugs has been a failure, people are different and require different solutions and, the bulk of the problems to society are caused by a relative few. They suggest 20% of abusers account for 80% of the problems, I think it’s maybe 5% who account for over 90% of the problems.

Otherwise, I’m not sure they did much thinking.

Their attack on drug legalization, like most others, is that if we legalize drugs then use will skyrocket:

Legalizing possession and production would eliminate many of the problems related to drug dealing, but it would certainly worsen the problem of drug abuse….  If these “hard” drugs were sold on more or less the same terms as alcohol, there is every reason to think that free enterprise would work its magic of expanding the customer base, and specifically the number of problem users, producing an alcohol-like toll in disease, accident and crime.

Actually there is no reason to believe this and numerous reasons to not believe it – if you’ve done much research (which these authors either didn’t or did and ignored). No country that has liberalized their drug policy has seen such an increase. Fewer people, teens in particular, smoke pot in Amsterdam than in the U.S., drug use decreased in Portugal and Switzerland after liberalization, and on and on the examples go.  Prohibition laws have little or no impact on people’s decisions to abuse drugs, but do drive the industry underground, decrease addicts ability to get help, and significantly increase violence.

People don’t obey laws, they obey their beliefs. What we see as law-abiding is often simply an intersection of people’s beliefs with the law.  A change in law will have little impact on people’s beliefs.  People who believe that doing drugs is stupid will still believe that doing drugs is stupid regardless of legality just as people who want to do drugs today do so whether legal or not.

Further, these authors’ equating alcohol with abusive drugs in the way they did is actually one of the few examples where alcohol and abusive drugs make a poor equation. Alcohol is socially acceptable, drugs are not. Even in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland, and other places that have legalized all or some drugs, drug use continues to be socially unacceptable. This lack of social acceptance plays a major role in reducing use.  More significantly, drugs have well known and extremely harmful effects, way beyond any negatives of alcohol, and for most people this is what that keeps them from abusing drugs, not fear of arrest.

I like Judge Larry Long’s 24/7 solution of people showing up twice daily for testing and with test failure meaning immediate short-term incarceration. This is a potentially great solution for people who have a substance addiction, whether drugs or alcohol, that has gotten so out of control that it has caused them to put others at risk (DUI, Assault, etc). We can’t afford this for everyone who simply smokes a joint once a day, does a line of coke once a week, or has a glass of wine with dinner, but for those who cross the line of moderate responsibility, it is likely a very good first step solution.

Today with our drug war we have immense problems with drug abuse.  If we legalize drugs we’d still have a lot of problems, though likely somewhat less.  Regardless of legality we need to continue to educate people about the short and long-term harmful effects of all drugs, including alcohol, and we will still need programs like Long’s to deal with those who cannot control themselves.

That they even mention an ID requirement after discussing Long’s 24/7 solution is interesting simply because its usefulness is completely obviated by Long’s program.  Both are focused on the same group of very heavy drug and alcohol abusers.  An ID requirement will provide no benefit not provided by 24/7 testing and, while Long’s program is somewhat difficult to circumvent, an ID requirement is extremely easy to circumvent with fake ID’s, a tip to their bartender or drug dealer, or any number of ways. There is no reason to do something this Orwellian that provides no benefit.

Kennedy’s two programs?  Really?  They are premised on saying “It’s OK to break the law like this, but not like that.” That’s an extremely damaging message to send to society and an extremely damaging precedent to set.  It’s like saying that if you’re going to rape a young girl, just don’t do it in public where it will bother the neighbors, don’t slap or bruise her in the process, and we’ll look the other way.

Just as that would do nothing to reduce rape, Kennedy’s ideas will do nothing to reduce drug abuse nor the bulk of the problems caused by our war on drugs.  At best it slightly reduces on-street drug dealing and some of its associated violence for a brief period.

More importantly, we are a nation of laws and our laws need to mean something.  If we’re going to say that it’s OK to deal drugs so long as you do it in an appropriate venue and don’t kill people, then let’s avoid the ambiguity and encouragement of law-breaking and make it legal to deal drugs so long as you do it in an appropriate venue and don’t kill people.  There is zero benefit to Kennedy’s programs over legalization and a lot of negatives.


Regardless of their merits or lack thereof, these are all after the fact. Long’s program is good, but is dealing with people after they’ve become fairly hard-core addicts, Kennedy’s with people after they’ve become violent drug dealers. Will these do anything to reduce overall drug use, the consequences of that use and it’s commerce, or the consequences of our war on drugs?

Long’s program will help reduce the timeline of addiction. Instead of hard core folks using drugs for nine years, they may now use them for seven.  And, it will help to get the abusers who are most dangerous to society off the street.  Since the only impact is with longer term hard-core users though we’ll only reduce overall drug use and demand by maybe 5%.  We’ll still have the same problems in Mexico and other production countries, along our border with Mexico, and on our city streets.  Producing, smuggling, and selling 95 grams of dope will result in just as much crime and just as many murders as 100 grams.

Far worse, we’ll still have the same problem of people breaking laws so routinely that the concept of law-abiding looses it’s meaning.

Long’s program is a good one regardless of legalization.  Kennedy’s is harmful regardless of legalization.  Neither though do anything to reduce the root harms caused by our war on drugs.  The authors propose these as an alternative to either the war or legalization, but these are only a 1% solution.  It’s like proposing a thimble of water as an alternative to a fire hose.

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A Day Without The 1%

Occupy protesters are calling for a day without the 99%. What about a day without the 1% that they so want to get rid of?

We’d start with no iPhones (or iPads or Macs or …). These were all created by a one percenter named Steve Jobs. Actually we’d likely have to do away with all electronics since many of the key inventors were one percenters or were financed by one percenters.

And the list goes on and on and on.

The reality is that a functioning society needs a wide variety of people. It needs financiers and brick masons and teachers and plumbers and janitors and CEO’s and even writers.

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Drug War, Treyvon Martin, and George Zimmerman

Treyvon Martin’s death is a very sad tragedy.  Whether it was murder or self-defense I don’t know, we’ll have to wait to see what evidence comes out in the trial for that.  Whatever the outcome though, it is still a tragedy.

A preventable tragedy?  Very Likely.

Let’s step back and consider for a moment why George Zimmerman was patrolling his neighborhood in the first place, why he followed Martin, and why he might have confronted Martin.

Zimmerman’s neighborhood had apparently become increasingly plagued by crime; mostly burglaries, but some assaults and drug dealing as well.  Zimmerman and other neighbors had called police numerous times with little to no results.  That can be pretty frustrating when you’re worried if you’ll be next.

Common law, going back to the Magna Carta, recognized people rights to defend themselves and their property wherever they were.  Over time and with modern law enforcement, this was modified a bit to say that you can protect yourself and your property in your home (castle doctrine), but when you enter the public sphere this responsibility now falls largely on law enforcement.  We gave up some rights for the benefits of a more peaceful society with law enforcement.

What happens though when law enforcement doesn’t hold up their end?  At some point any sane person will step up to protect themselves, their property, and their neighbors if law enforcement isn’t doing it’s job.  George Zimmerman and his neighbors apparently decided that it was time.  This situation was also the advent of the stand-your-ground laws in several states.  These laws gave back to citizens some of the rights they had given up earlier.

The Drug War enters this on several levels.  At the top of the list is resources – our law enforcement spends nearly half their time and money investigating and arresting people for drug violations, including stuff as simple as smoking pot.  What if all of this resource were instead directed towards protecting innocent citizens?  Would this lessen the need for neighborhood watch duties like George Zimmerman was performing?

Likewise, spending less time on consenting adult prostitutes (over 95% of all prostitution surveillance and arrests) would give them more time to protect innocent citizens and help women who had not consented to work as a prostitute.  How about spending less time with traffic violations that are revenue generation rather than actual road safety issues?

If law enforcement were once again focusing on keeping innocent citizens safe would this also lessen the need for Stand-Your-Ground laws?

Some gal going at it in a hotel room with some guy for $300 is not a threat.  Someone smoking a joint or doing a line of cocaine is not a threat.  Burglaries and assaults ARE a threat.  Which should they be focused on?

Second, our wars on vice is the cause of a huge chunk of the violent and other crimes in our communities.  It IS NOT the vices that cause these problems, but our wars on them.  You don’t often here of people killing over a turf war on cigarette sales or robbing a house for their next Marlboro.  It happens, but it’s not even remotely as common as that caused by illegal drugs.  Ending our wars on personal vice would significantly lessen the violent and other crimes in our communities caused by these wars.

Just consider George Zimmerman’s neighborhood if personal vice was once again personal, not criminal.  Drug sales and prostitution would take place in more appropriate locales, like within designated business districts, rather than residential neighborhoods like Zimmerman’s.  With market instead of black market prices, there would be less need for people to burglarize others, such as those in Zimmerman’s neighborhood, for their next fix.  This certainly isn’t the only cause of burglaries, but is a major contributor.  And, if law enforcement reverted back to their once primary responsibility of protecting innocent citizens instead of chasing after people for their personal sins then perhaps we wouldn’t need gun toting citizens like George doing their job for them.

And maybe, the next Treyvon won’t happen.

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Michael Gallahger on road rage? Really?

Yesterday morning Mike Gallagher was telling this story about a woman behind him on the freeway honking at him. He was enraged that she was expressing supposed road rage towards him. Really?

From his side of the story he was in the middle lane on the freeway going about 50 or 55 mph and talking on his cell phone. He said that there was some distance to the car in front of him.

According to his description he was on at least a 6 lane highway. I’ve never seen a 6 lane outside of perhaps an airport with less than a 55mph limit and most are 60 or 65. The prevailing speed on highways such as this is usually 5 – 10 mph over the limit with about 20% of drivers going 15 – 20 mph over. So, we can assume that the prevailing speed of traffic around him was 65 – 75 mph. Gallagher was going below 55 and was not keeping up with the car in front of him. In the middle lane.

He was talking on his cell phone. More than a few studies have indicated that talking on a cell phone is just as distracting as drunk driving. People distracted by cell conversations very often drive much slower than prevailing traffic, do not maintain a consistent speed, drift out of their lane, and make sudden lane changes, often without using their blinker. Other than going slower than prevailing traffic, we don’t know if he was exhibiting any of these other traits.

This is just what we know from his side of the story. It’s safe to assume that the woman behind him and others on the road around him might have some different details to add.

At a minimum it appears Mike Gallagher was impeding the flow of traffic and there’s a high probability that he was a danger and menace to others on the roadway.

Sad conversation or not (he said that this was a very sad conversation), he should have, at a minimum, been in the far right lane, not the middle lane creating problems for other drivers.

Ideally though, he should not have been talking on a cell phone while he was driving. Driving safely, for us and those around us, requires absolutely 100% of our attention. Roadways are extremely dynamic environments and you never know what might suddenly happen in front of, beside, or behind you. We should NEVER do anything else while driving. Not talk on a cell phone, do our hair, eat, text, or anything else whatsoever.

BTW, I do practice what I preach. Even when I’m not driving, if the person I’m talking to is driving then I make it an extremely short conversation and let them know why.

There are emergency situations that might require someone to talk on their cell while driving. I know one surgeon who talked someone else through a prep procedure while he was rushing to the hospital to operate on the patient. Gallagher’s may be an understandable situation. But it doesn’t sound like anyone’s life was at risk so I’m not sure Gallagher’s situation was worth putting others lives at risk.

This is, I think, the same Michael Gallagher who was threatened with arrest in September 2004 for ‘terrorizing’ a woman on the road in Dallas. And the same Michael Gallagher who screams that everyone needs to have sympathy and compassion for him, but shows little for others.

What a whinny blowhard. Time for Gallagher to grow up.

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Antiquated TV restrictions

TV programming has traditionally been licensed based on geography. That was fine when programming was broadcast over local airwaves. Today though we have more and more content broadcast over the Internet which is completely geography free.

Well, except when TV programming is concerned. Various bike races are available on the internet, but are, thanks to antiquated rules, limited to viewing only within specific geographic areas.

It’s time to do away with these. There are english speakers scattered throughout the world. In the U.S. we have millions of people who speak a variety of other languages (if you doubt this, just try to order something at Wendy’s). Perhaps Sky’s coming NowTV will break through antiquity and gain rights from ASO and others to broadcast a worldwide english language broadcast of races (and other sports).

NOTE: Yes, I am very aware that I’m behind on the Sex Offender series.  Paying projects do have to get priority so hopefully I’ll get the next article out early next week.


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Porsche: Why buy a car from a company whose ads annoy people?

Porsche put an ad up on Foxnews today (and Fox allowed them to) that ranks as one of the most annoying ads I’ve seen recently. You go to foxnews’ web page and then have to wait for the Porsche ad to do it’s thing (or click on the X and wait).

My question to Porsche: Why would I want to drive around in a car that people are going to point to and say “That’s the company with the annoying web ads.”?

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Good News

Though the numbers aren’t yet in full agreement, it appears that divorce is going out of fashion.  For years it was almost fashionable to get divorced, particularly for women who were now earning a good living and wanted to spread their wings and independence a bit.  It appears things are changing.  There’s a growing realization of the harms, often significant, that divorce has on numerous people far beyond the divorcees themselves.  People getting divorces are starting to be viewed negatively instead of congratulated.  Between the realization of the harms and the negative attitudes, people are beginning to think thrice before considering divorce.

Since the mid 1980’s there’s been an increasing number of women not taking their husbands last name when they marry.  This appears to be taking a rather dramatic turn with the number not taking their husbands name beginning to decline rather quickly.  The reasons, according to women, is both to simplify routine paperwork and because taking your husband’s name signifies a greater level of commitment and family cohesion, particularly to children.

California Driving

I was just in Laguna Beach for a few days.

Driving down “the 5” from Orange County Airport.  I was quite surprised when I got to the toll booth to find that they don’t use EZ-Pass.  I thought most states in the U.S. were on this now so people don’t have to get a bunch of different transponders for every individual system and so visitors who bring their EZPass don’t have to use manual toll booths which cause backups, are expensive for the state to operate, and are a PITA.

Surprise number two came at the toll booth – they don’t accept plastic of any sort, cash only.  I had to scrounge through my bag and pockets to come up with enough.  Many of us view California as fairly advanced, clearly not from this experience.

Driving in California is quite different from anywhere else in the U.S.  On the plus side, they don’t drive overly slow on highways.  From Laguna Beach to Carlsbad I drove 80 (in a 65) and was with the flow of traffic.  I think I got passed by more people than I passed, a rarity for me in the U.S.  On the other hand, California drivers rank among the worst for left lane blockers and not using blinkers.  I was quite amazed how often I and others would be stuck behind someone blocking the left lane (of 3 or 4 lanes) with a good chunk of clear highway ahead of them.  The weaving that this causes is extremely dangerous.

Modern Offense

Good thing this gal didn’t grow up prior to now, when most people lived in one-room homes or at best homes with a very minimal wall for a master bedroom.

Florida teen calls cops to report mom having sex

Cops are so mature.

Yesterday morning I was in a café working.  After a bit, a guy and gal sat at the table next to me and proceeded to have a fairly loud conversation, mostly about her life as a plainclothes cop.  There were about 30 people in the café and she was far and away the loudest (and one of the loudest I’ve ever heard).

After about 45 minutes and my head beginning to hurt I asked her, very nicely, if she could talk a bit quieter.  “Whatever” she replied.  The guy commented to her that I must think they’re 5-year-olds (after all is said and done, yep).  She replied to him, clearly for my benefit, that maybe she should look up my license tag and police record.

And cops wonder why they’re losing respect from others so quickly.

Mitt’s Taxes

A lot has been made about Mitt Romney’s seeming low tax rate.  A few thoughts.

  • Romney gave over $7 million to charities.  This brings his effective tax rate to nearly 19%.
  • Romney paid additional taxes in the form of sales taxes, vehicle taxes, and likely the biggest chunk, real estate taxes.
  • Most of his earnings and the cause of his supposedly low tax rate are from capital gains.  A low capital gains rate is critical to all of us.  It’s people investing in new and existing companies that makes us the wealthiest country on earth.  It is these investments that make it possible for all Americans to have a higher standard of living than their counterparts elsewhere.  There is a lot of risk in these investments and while we’re quick to talk about the winners and how low their taxes are, we neglect to talk about all the losers, how much they lost, and how many taxes they didn’t pay.  When the capital gains rates are increased, the rewards begin to be not worth it for the risks involved – and investment and employment declines.
  • It’s not just the uber-rich who benefit from capital gains.  By many estimates about 40% of Americans have capital gains income.  AND, much of that (EG, for the not so uber-rich) is actually taxed at about one-third the rate Romney paid.  5% instead of 15%.


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Preventing Sex Offenses III – Alternatives

Note: this is part of an ongoing series on the extremely high rate of sex offenses in the U.S.  This was triggered by several recently involving people close to me.

Part I – Guys Can Be Such Jerks

Part II – Who Are Sex Offenders?

Preventing Sex Offenses I – Self Prevention

Preventing Sex Offenses II – Playing With Fire


God grant me the serenity to

accept the things I cannot change,

courage to change the things I can, and

wisdom to know the difference.


Our Christianity preaches complete 100% sexual abstinence until marriage.  But, marriage today doesn’t come for most people until their mid to late twenties, and for some, never.  Is this a realistic expectation or are these two somewhat mutually exclusive?

Any expectation that even half of guys, Christian or not, can remain celibate until their late twenties is misplaced.  Aside from locking these guys in solitary confinement, it ain’t gonna happen.

And yes, I’m very aware of the rather obvious issue this raises for Christians who believe in abstinence until marriage.  I’m not saying that this is right or wrong, just that it is what it is.  It is reality.  Most guys are going to have sex often with a variety of cute young girls, about seven of them, before marriage.  The question is not will guys do this, but which cute young girls will they do it with.

There are a gob of people reading that and screaming.  Scream all you want.  Do all the Slutwalks you want.  This isn’t something that’s protestable any more than we can protest if we don’t like it that the earth revolves around the sun.  It is what it is and very likely always will be.  We have no more chance of changing it than of stopping the earth.

Unfortunately we base our expectations on this current unrealistic view of things.  Worse, we then base our decisions on these unrealistic expectations.  Not a recipe for success, just a lot of disappointment, disillusionment, and head banging.

So, who will his first six sex partners be?

Your daughter?  Coaxed in to it on a date with promises of love and affection?  Prom night perhaps?  Raped by her step-father?  Taken advantage of by a friend after she had a bit too much to drink?

That’s today’s reality in the U.S.  It’s reality for Christians as well as non-Christians.  It’s the norm in university dorms from Penn State University to Bethel University.  It’s the norm for the vast majority of twenty-something’s.

Some folks are fine with this.  Certainly most guys are.  But what about those who aren’t OK with it?  Gals who don’t want to have sex until marriage?  Guys who have an uncontrollable sex drive but don’t want to coax their virgin girlfriend in to bed?

There is only one alternative to our current system that I know of.  And whether it’s better or worse is highly debated.  We do say, in the U.S., that it is illegal though.  Prostitution.


Is it better for a guy to use whoever his current girlfriend is to get his sexual needs met or to visit a consenting legal adult prostitute who agrees to have sex with him for $300[1]?  Many of us very strongly want to answer ‘neither’.  We want total abstinence.  Or at least for the guy to wait until she’s the one.  But, ‘neither’ isn’t on the menu.  It is not a realistic option for perhaps 70% to 80% of the guys out there.

This isn’t an easy question and most of us don’t like dealing with issues this tough.  I don’t.  Anyway, today’s reality doesn’t seem all that bad.  At least compared to legal prostitution.  Certainly we can avoid this difficult decision.

We start by saying that all we’ve got to do is keep guys from having sex with a variety of cute young girls.

When that doesn’t work we decide that we’re going to accept guys having sex with our daughters.  After all, everyone is doing it.  Seems a lot better than prostitution.  What harm will it really do?  And besides, regardless of the statistics, it won’t actually be our daughter, but someone else’s.

Perhaps the lesser problem with this approach is that guys who can’t get their sexual needs met via consensual relationships will, lacking an alternative, turn to non-consensual.

Countries with strongly enforced prohibitions against prostitution fairly consistently have about three times the incidences of rape as countries with legal prostitution.  In the U.S., every year, we have about 63 rapes per 100k women.  In Europe it’s about 18.  A girl is three times more likely to be raped in the U.S. than she is in Amsterdam.  She is four times more likely to be raped in the U.S. than in Copenhagen or Germany.  Six times as likely as in Switzerland[2].

A worse problem though might be the impact this policy may have on marriage and families.  Will a guy be as committed to his wife if she’s provided sex to two, or three, or six other guys before him?  If he knows that a nude picture or video she sexted to some guy is now in the hands of tens of thousands of guys on the internet?  Or even just that one other guy?  Will he value her and care for her as much as he would if he’d been her only sex partner?  If he himself had had to earn the right to have sex with her?  What impact will having provided free sex to half a dozen guys who later broke up with her have had on her emotional health?  What baggage does she then carry in to her new family from all of this?  AND, do any of these even matter?

These are far from new issues.  One of the earliest debates on this was Augustine in about the year 400.  Thomas Aquinas followed up around 1270 in his Summa Theologica.  These are perhaps the two greatest moralists in Christian church history and they both stated that prostitution should remain legal and normal.  That it was better than rape, sexual assault, and girls coaxed in to the hay by their boyfriends.

Today we’re saying just the opposite, that rape, sexual assault, and young girls coaxed in to bed by their boyfriends is better than prostitution.

I can hear the screams of all of those disagreeing and saying “no, guys just have to stop having sex with a variety of cute young girls.”

Historically, guys have been expected to visit prostitutes to get their sexual needs met, rather than ‘soil the virtue of innocent girls’[3].  Yet today in the U.S. there is no realistic legal alternative for guys.  For many in the U.S. the risk of sexually assaulting or raping or date raping someone seems much less than the risk of getting busted visiting a prostitute.  And, quicker, easier to arrange, and more of a sure thing than an illegal prostitute.  The risk from coaxing some girl, willingly or semi-willingly, in to bed for his daily orgasm?  Zero.

Some people will argue that the notion of an innocent girl’s virtue is antiquated.  That it doesn’t really exist.  And that’s fine.  For them.  But again, what about those who do believe in it?  Those who believe that it’s best to enter marriage a virgin, at least for the woman?

Prostitution certainly isn’t any kind of panacea.  Your daughter is free, sort of anyway, and that’s hard to compete with.  But allowing for a legal alternative and maybe even encouraging it, will at least take some of the sexual pressure off.  If guys have a viable legal and socially acceptable alternative to get their physical sexual needs met, which are the needs that drive rape, sexual assault, and even consensual sex, then young girls may feel less pressure from them for sex and safer from rape.  Instead of gals offering sex to guys as a way to compete with other girls (and yes, even Evangelical Christian gals do this today), they may find that it is no longer enough of a competitive element to be worth the cost.


One of my first thoughts on this is that the last thing I’d want is my daughter marrying some guy who’d visited prostitutes.  But is the alternative, that he’s had sex with six previous girlfriends, really any better?  (Yes, some guys will have done neither, but we’re talking the majority, not the minority.)

Each of his girlfriend encounters likely took place in one of four scenarios; fully consensual within a relationship, mildly coerced, strongly coerced, date-rape.

In the latter two or three, consider what kind of person he is or that he has become because of these actions.  I’m a strong believer in acclimatization – that someone who’s driven to some level will very likely live other areas of their lives at that new-found level.  If a guy’s sex drive drives him to various actions and deceptions to get free sex from his girlfriends and others, how will he otherwise be impacted?

Is  fully consensual a lot better?  The prostitution guy comes in to his marriage having only experienced physical, non-emotional sex. The consensual girlfriend guy’s prior experience was somewhat more emotional, more like sex within a marriage.  For the first guy, sex with his new wife is new and totally different from all of his previous experience.  It’s levels above non-emotional sex in ways that physical-only can never match.  But for the second guy she’s just number seven (or for a Christian guy, number five), not much different from the previous six.

In all four scenarios, what impact has it had on him that he got it so easily for free?  Does he now place little to no value on sex at any level, physical or emotional?  Does this matter?

A final very pragmatic note.  He is much less likely to have acquired an STD from a legal prostitute than a girlfriend or friend with benefits.

It is critical here that we consider how varied these situations are in reality.  There are many who get past their past.  And their spouse’s.  They are able to leave it behind and have a healthy relationship.


What of the prostitutes themselves?  Do we really want to promote something so harmful?

If you rank all of these varied sexual encounters by emotional and physical harm to the gal, forced prostitution and rape clearly get the top spots.  Prostitution isn’t next though.  A gal who is coerced in to providing free sex to a boyfriend or six, who later break up with her, is more likely to contract an STD and to likely to suffer more short and long-term emotional harm than an off-street prostitute.  A consenting adult prostitute has no unrealistic expectations, she chose to do this, she knows the endgame.  Many say that the worst emotional issue they face is the social stigma if they are discovered.

Ranking these we’d likely have something like[4]:

This is not to say that these prostitutes are not at all harmed, but only that the harm they might suffer is, relative to other sexual encounters, likely somewhat less.

What we are saying with today’s reality is that rather than have 220,000 gals (the estimated number of prostitutes in the U.S.) endure legal and fully consensual prostitution, we’d rather have 22 million endure coerced sex by guys who will leave them for someone else[5].  And, unlike today’s reality where gals are discouraged from dealing with the emotional ramifications of coerced or consensual sex in a temporary relationship (for that would be a rather inconvenient admission of reality), prostitutes are encouraged to do so.

The goal here is to drive these encounters towards the lower end of the harm scale.  From forced prostitution, rape, coerced sex, and street prostitution to legal consensual prostitution.

It’d be great if every incident of forced prostitution and rape could be converted to legal consensual prostitution.  While this would result in about a 10% increase in consensual prostitution over today’s numbers, it would certainly be better than today’s reality.  Realistically, we’d likely not achieve anywhere close to a 100% reduction in these most harmful activities, but a 75% reduction is certainly possible and would put us on par with countries that do have these much lower rates of rape and forced prostitution.

Prostitution isn’t very desirable compared to a world of perfect abstinence and never-any-harm-done consensual sex, but such a world has never existed and likely never will.  On this earth anyway.  Compared to our current reality though, legal prostitution may be very desirable.  Especially for young girls who don’t want to be raped or coerced in to bed.  And would very likely reduce our world high rates of rape, sexual assault, human trafficking for sex, STD’s, teen pregnancies, and abortions.

If we’re lucky, maybe we can achieve the same low rates of rape, sexual assault, abortion, STD’s, teen pregnancy, and human trafficking as Amsterdam.  Our young girls would appreciate that.

Next: Faith, Hope, Love.  … And Sex.

[1] I said use his girlfriend and visit a prostitute.  In many of the former incidents he is indeed ‘using’ her, he’s deceiving her to get what he wants.  In the latter incident, prostitution, he’s not deceiving her, she knows very well up front what the transaction is.

[2] World Bank, UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention – Seventh United Nations Survey of Crime Trends and Operations of Criminal Justice Systems, US Dept of Justice Crime Statistics Survey.  Note also that while the U.S. has about four times as many non-rape sexual assaults as Europe, this is believed to be partially because Europeans appear less likely to report minor sexual assaults.

[3] Aquinas

[4] It is obviously critical that we recognize that every person and every sexual encounter is different.  Some gals are harmed more from fully consensual sex by a boyfriend who breaks up with her than others are by rape.  What we are discussing are gross generalizations.

[5] Estimated number of the 29 million sexually active unmarried gals aged 15 – 29 who’ve endured coerced sex.  The actual number of the 29 million who’ve experienced coerced sex and how many instances of strongly coerced vs mildly coerced is difficult to ascertain as are the numbers for girls younger than 15.

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