Men (and women) behaving badly

ArgueThis post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.

Do you have a right to behave badly? Most people probably would answer “no” to that question even if, in their heart of hearts, they feel quite differently. And, by all counts today, Americans do feel differently.

There is no constitutional right to bad behavior. In fact, the United States Constitution exists, in large part, to keep bad behavior in check at the federal levels of government. The same goes for state constitutions and a whole raft of state and local laws. Laws exist because of bad behavior – not to encourage it but to discourage it. A free society requires order, meaning good behavior, and a free society cannot long endure a culture of bad behavior – it can’t afford it, neither can it naturally counter it. There are no neutral corners in a free society where bad behavior simply vanishes because men all of a sudden become angels.

The need for law and order has been such a fundamental part of America since its founding that calls for less law and order have sounded irresponsible – until now. The exponential growth of government in our lives has justified a choir of imprudent overreaction.

Rather than shore up old ways, these modern voices are calling for even less law and order. I believe the call for less law and order today has more to do with the changing definitions of “bad behavior” than it does it anything else. You hear it all of the time, “Who gets to decide what’s bad behavior?” – as if these decisions are something new to the world. When what’s new to the world is changing values.

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'Breaking Bad' reveals the sad joke of 'victimless crimes'

Jesse plays peekaboo with the little boy while waiting for the boy's addict parents to return in a scene from Breaking Bad.

Jesse plays “peekaboo” with the little boy in a scene from “Breaking Bad.”

As “Breaking Bad” winds down its fifth and final season, one of the most heartbreaking episodes (and that’s saying something) from the highly acclaimed AMC series comes in the middle of the second season. Episode 6, “Peekaboo,” finds Jesse (Aaron Paul) trying to recover drugs stolen from one of his dealers.

[Here’s a quick recap for anyone who hasn’t followed the show, which is very violent, gruesome and dark but is also a superbly written, acted and shot essay on morality, choices, pride, deceit, family and vice. Jesse is a drug-using high school dropout who cooks and sells methamphetamine. He is joined by his former high school chemistry teacher, Walter White (Bryan Cranston), who has been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Walter is looking for a way to secure his family’s financial future before he dies, and his chemistry wizardry produces a “better” meth product, which Walt and Jesse manufacture and sell—with far-reaching, horrific consequences.]

The junky mom calls to her little boy as Jesse demands they return his drugs and money in a scene from Breaking Bad.

The junkie mom calls to her little boy as Jesse demands they return his drugs and money in a scene from “Breaking Bad.”

Back to the episode at hand: Jesse finds the thieving junkies’ house and breaks in only to discover no one is home—or so he thinks. He has just settled down to wait when a 7-year-old boy (Dylan and Brandon Carr) emerges from a bedroom. When the boy announces he’s hungry, Jesse helps get him some food and plays “peekaboo” while they wait for his mom and dad to arrive.

The boy’s parents finally return home and are accosted by Jesse, who demands his missing drugs and money for the drugs the drug-addled duo have already used. The dad, Spooge (David Ury), tells Jesse they have his money in the backyard in an ATM they stole.

“FIDC [sic] insured, yo! It’s a victimless crime!” crows Spooge as viewers see the ATM heist that includes a murdered cashier. “I’m tellin’ you—victimless crime.”

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What does detailed map of racial data tell us?

race-population-mapAn amazingly detailed new map shows the location and race of every single U.S. citizen in 2010. It’s especially fascinating as we reflect on Martin Luther King Jr.’s legendary speech of 50 years ago.

On the map, a detail of the Wasatch Front shows just how white the area is, and where higher concentrations of Hispanics, blacks, Asians and other races are located.

For example, central Ogden shows a heavy concentration of Hispanic and other races, while the northern areas of the city and up into North Ogden are more of a mix.

In Salt Lake City, 700 East appears to mark a fairly vivid transition point from mostly white areas to the east and non-white areas to the west. West Valley City consists largely of well-mixed regions, with the northern part of the city composed of more heavily Hispanic zones.

The southern areas of the Salt Lake Valley down into northern Utah County are mostly white, with only Orem and Provo displaying a mix of non-white races.

Besides being a really interesting map to study, what does this data tell us? Why do people choose to live where they live? Does public policy have an impact on these choices? Certainly the segregation policies of the South and other states created mandated-by-law racial divisions in the first half of the 20th century, but what about now, after those policies have long since been abolished?

Does this map of the Wasatch Front indicate racism? Or are there other factors at play, such as economics, family ties, education and employment preferences and opportunities? Is it simply human nature? Humans tend to want to be around those who are like them, and that includes all of the factors above and, apparently, race itself. Why is it so common that those factors tend to line up along racial lines? For instance, why is it so rare for a white person to have a black brother-in-law who lives in the same neighborhood with the same socioeconomic status?

Are we less divided and more united now than in the past? Have policies such as affirmative action and university admission quotas helped or hurt? What about welfare policies — have they helped or hurt economic mobility? Is public education closing the gaps in education, employment and opportunity? And what effect, if any, do these policies have on family formation and stability?

These and other questions are important to ask 50 years after Dr. King said, “I have a dream ….”

To access the interactive map, head here.

Understanding the “Gay Agenda”: Part 1 – In the Beginning

By design, Ryan White was made the face of AIDS in the 1980s.

By design, Ryan White was made the face of HIV/AIDS in the 1980s.

The following is part 1 of a multi-part series covering some of the history and tactics of the “gay rights” movement.

By the fall of 1987, AIDS was devastating the homosexual community throughout America. The well-documented promiscuity among homosexuals was a breeding ground for what became known as the “gay disease.” Homosexual males at the time comprised more than 95 percent of known cases of AIDS. Deaths of both out and closeted celebrities of HIV-related symptoms were trending in the news. Cover stories about how “Patient Zero,” the infamous and highly promiscuous male flight attendant Gaëtan Dugas, accused of spreading HIV unconscionably, seemed to be the only news at the time. Predictions of a pandemic were voiced through the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.

The truth turned about to be somewhat different. Yes, Africa has been slammed by HIV (not surprising, even within a traditional heterosexual African culture, where anal sex is viewed as a legitimate form of birth control). But America was saved, relatively speaking, from the predicted pandemic. Why? Because HIV always has been primarily a “gay disease” – and there just aren’t that many practicing homosexuals in America (a statement, by the way, known as “The Big Lie” among many homosexual advocates). Yes, needle-using drug addicts have added to those numbers, as have cases of contaminated blood among hemophiliacs. But, by and large, HIV-related illnesses occurred most frequently among homosexuals.

So it was curious in October 1987 that sponsors of the first federal funding bill in the U.S. House of Representatives related to AIDS was titled “The Ryan White Act,” named after a hemophiliac boy who contracted the virus from contaminated blood. Ryan White became the poster child for AIDS in 1987 – not promiscuous homosexual Gaëtan Dugas, but an innocent little boy born with hemophilia. That story played better in Peoria. Read more

Reality check on ‘most trusted person’

601px-Handshake_(Workshop_Cologne_'06)The following post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.

Who is the most trusted person in your life? And why is that person your most trusted person? What triggers these questions is a recent Reader’s Digest poll surveying subscribers about their most trusted American. Those subscribers told Reader’s Digest that their most trusted American is actor Tom Hanks. In fact, the top four most trusted Americans are actors: Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep.

There’s a lot we could talk about here, but let’s just focus on a couple of things.

First, it’s not surprising that subscribers to Reader’s Digest would choose Hollywood actors, especially these four actors. America lives a Hollywood culture. Entertainment is America’s No. 1 pastime. We watch way too much television. We get way too many cultural cues from gossip magazines about celebrities. And, for the most part, average Americans really do believe that Hollywood actors are more intelligent and more informed than them.

Only people my age and older would remember a time when Jack Klugman, a popular television star who once played a medical examiner named “Quincy,” was actually asked by a congressional committee in the early 1980s to testify on an orphan drug bill. By the way, that bill was being blocked by Utah’s own Orrin Hatch who eventually was swayed by the actor to vote for the bill. Klugman’s experience also was no doubt responsible for the popular expression, today spun by the Holiday Inn chain, “I’m not a real doctor, I just play one on TV.” Read more

My letter to the Boy Scouts of America

The following post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.

The Boy Scouts of America is scheduled to vote later this month on its proposed nondiscrimination policy on sexual orientation for its youth. I was asked by a BSA official to provide some thoughts on the subject in a letter and here are some of those thoughts. I wrote,

603px-Boy_Scouts_of_America_Silver_Dollar_Centennial_Commemorative_Coin_obverseSutherland Institute is sure of a few facts and consequences, if the policy is approved.

First, BSA is not being challenged legally on this issue. … In other words, this debate, as much as it has been unnecessarily contentious, is a self-inflicted wound for BSA.

Second, the proposed policy is a solution looking for a problem. The fact is that no one knows how many youth not in Scouting, but who would like to be, self-identify with a homosexual orientation. What everyone does know is that that number is unremarkably few….

Third, homosexuality, whether imagined or enacted, is incompatible with Scouting. … For a Scouter to think homosexual thoughts or to act on those attractions is not being one’s better self.

And, fourth, there is the issue of psychological and emotional abuse of a child. For BSA to passively accept the idea that a 10-year old has some irreversible homosexual “orientation” that seals his sexual fate for the rest of his life is psychological and emotional abuse of a child…. Read more

Exceptional Utah

DSC01343The following post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations:

As I mentioned last week, this week Sutherland Institute will release two new publications: a booklet titled The Sutherland Idea: The Cause of Freedom and a book titled Exceptional Utah: Leading America in Faith, Family and Freedom. Last week I spoke briefly about the booklet. This week I’d like to share a few thoughts from our new book, Exceptional Utah.

It is commonplace to ridicule Utah and its Mormon population. But Utah is exceptional in several ways precisely because of the Mormons. I am a Mormon convert. I am neither a native Utahn nor a natural Mormon, so if anyone has room to judge them, I do. While I did graduate from Brigham Young University a million years ago, my wife and I were a little bit hesitant to return to Utah to assume the helm at Sutherland 12 years ago. Frankly, I am too much of an idealist about a predominantly Latter-day Saint community – I expect way too much from us and that expectation constantly leaves me open for disappointment.

But Utah is exceptional in several important ways – in ways that matter for the future health and prosperity of this state. In Sutherland’s new book, Exceptional Utah: Leading America in Faith, Family and Freedom, we explain just how great Utah really is. Read more

The lonely, dull life of the caricaturist

Photo: Hannibal Poenaru

Have you met the caricaturist? You’ve probably met more than a few, and you might have even, like me, played the part at some point. He’s the one who views most everything around him, including himself, as a caricature. The caricaturist comes from every political stripe, every age, every profession, greatly exaggerating good and bad attributes (as he sees them) for his own purposes.

The caricaturist almost exclusively shares one part of herself with the world: dogmatic, boorish, rude. Why is that? Surely there is more to her character than nastiness? Why doesn’t she share it?

The answer might be because caricature is how she reacts to the world, so that is all she is capable of sharing. “If I think XYZ person, place, or thing is bad, then I will make sure to be the opposite of XYZ,” soon becoming a shallow, grotesque caricature. Read more

The Sundance tempest

Last week my Sutherland colleague Derek Monson wrote about the Sundance Film Festival. To highlight the unbelievable truth that a whole bunch of your tax dollars go to a film festival in Park City, Derek mentioned a few of the questionably themed films promoted there – and, for that simple narrative, my good colleague has been lambasted by The Salt Lake Tribune (not just once, but three times).

Furthermore, and rather oddly, a state senator from St. George used his Facebook page to ridicule our blog post, absolutely lie about some alleged personal conversation with me and compared Sutherland Institute to a twisted pack of religious bigots who demonstrate about homosexual rights at military funerals – but not once did this state senator from St. George explain why he supports tax dollars to a film festival.

So let me back up and retell this story. The widely popular Sundance Film Festival is held in Park City every winter. It attracts thousands of visitors to the state and quite a few famous Hollywood types. Over the last four years the state of Utah, using your tax dollars, has given this film festival over a million dollars. Read more

Our best gun control

In 2008, the United States Supreme Court ruled that “the Second Amendment protects the right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of self-defense” as it struck down a gun ban in the District of Columbia – the first time the court established a federal right to keep and bear arms on the basis of self-defense and outside of a military context.

Immediately following that 2008 decision, two cities in Illinois – Chicago and one of its suburbs, Oak Park – passed local ordinances banning handgun possession. The legal concept was that the court’s decision only applied at the federal level and the Second Amendment didn’t apply to the states. In other words, the 14th Amendment, routinely used by liberal advocacy groups under the guise of “incorporation” to force states to embrace progressivism, all of a sudden did not apply to the states as it pertains to gun control.

While the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the local gun-ban ordinances, the Supreme Court reversed that decision, in effect, saying the Second Amendment (through incorporation of the 14th Amendment) applies to the states and prohibits state or local ordinances that ban handguns for the purpose of self-defense.

Interestingly, the court stated in its decision that one of its primary tasks was to “decide whether that right is fundamental to the Nation’s scheme of ordered liberty.” That’s an important term to remember: ordered liberty. Read more