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October 18, 2005

Turn Left

If 2005 was the Arnold's Year of Reform, it looks like the embattled Governator is readying to make 2006 his Year of Liberalism:

Beyond the push to repair roads, ports and hospitals, Schwarzenegger has told his staff members he wants to cover the estimated 6.6 million Californians who have no health insurance. Officials said they are considering a variety of options, such as putting more nurses and doctors in schools and expanding prevention programs with the help of federal waivers.

They are also looking at programs being debated and implemented in other states, such as a Wisconsin plan to grant vouchers for buying basic health insurance paid for with a payroll tax. One idea would require all Californians to obtain health insurance, much as drivers are required to have car insurance.

But because the state expects another budget shortfall next year, the governor's health officials said they are narrowing their focus to the state's 780,000 uninsured children and teenagers.
[...]
And the governor wants to revive a plan that Democrats torpedoed last year to install solar panels on 1 million roofs — traditionally an issue they would embrace — after being lobbied by electrical workers unions concerned about protecting jobs.

We'll see what comes of it all. The state is shockingly underfunded right now, and having just passed a $15 billion bond initiative, there's already talk of floating another. So much as I'm for these goals -- including the solar panels project, which unions myopically opposed and Democrats cravenly caved on -- we just don't have the cash for this stuff unless we raise taxes a bit. And I'm not hearing any mutterings from Arnold on that. Also, this is just a horrible, evil idea:

Whatever the governor's intentions, one element of the new agenda is already causing friction. On Thursday, Schwarzenegger launched a signature-gathering drive for a proposed November 2006 ballot initiative that would increase penalties for sex crimes. The measure would include a provision requiring sex offenders to be tracked for life with global-positioning devices.

The initiative drive will give Schwarzenegger a tough-on-crime issue to embrace next year, while forcing Democrats to take a stand on a measure they may find too harsh. Democrats faced a similar battle last year with an initiative to modify the state's three-strikes law, which Schwarzenegger opposed and which failed.

This is simple demagoguery, an attempt to whip society's most hated offenders for political gain. In a democracy, the measure of a society is not how it treats its most beloved, but how it treats its least liked. Arnold is taking an easy path towards a wedge issue by violating the constitutional rights and further heaping punishment on sex offenders. That's grotesque, not because sex offenders are good, but because the rest of society supposedly is. If you want to increase the penalties on these offenses and lock offenders up till death, put that on the ballot. But there's simply no precedent for using the state to track every step they take for the rest of their lives. Both society and its convicted must move on, or not. This, however, is simple pandering to the electorate's worst instincts.

October 18, 2005 in California | Permalink

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Comments

I wonder if the child sex offender stuff is part of a trend. Ever since Jeb Bush used the Jessica Lunsford case to pass a draconian 25-life mandatory minimum law for sex offenders, I've been hearing more and more about this. The Republican candidate for Atty Gen here in Virginia is running an ad narrated by this "angry mom"-looking actress about how he's "tough on child sex offenders," which is the first time I've heard that as a campaign issue.

Posted by: Dave Weigel | Oct 18, 2005 12:22:11 PM

In a democracy, the measure of a society is not how it treats its most beloved, but how it treats its least liked. Arnold is taking an easy path towards a wedge issue by violating the constitutional rights and further heaping punishment on sex offenders. That's grotesque, not because sex offenders are good, but because the rest of society supposedly is

dizzaamn ezra!. here's a tourniquet you bleeding-heart liberal, you

Posted by: almostinfamous | Oct 18, 2005 12:55:01 PM

I agree with you in general, but this statement

"If you want to increase the penalties on these offenses and lock offenders up till death, put that on the ballot. But there's simply no precedent for using the state to track every step they take for the rest of their lives."

doesn't make a lot of sense to me. If locking them up for life would be ok, I can't see how it is not ok to not lock them up but keep an eye on them.

My big beef with the whole 'sex offenders' thing is that it is a big category, ranging from those who rape kids to those who flash on a bus. Putting them into a single category for punishment seems like too much to me.

Posted by: Dave Justus | Oct 18, 2005 1:18:46 PM

If Nathan is right:

http://www.nathannewman.org/laborblog/archive/003146.shtml

then the problem isn't unions. It's Schwarzenegger and the GOP trying to use a seemingly good thing (solar power) as a wedge issue between enviromentalists and workers. Why shouldnt there be a prevailing wage policy on the installation?

Posted by: benton | Oct 18, 2005 1:23:37 PM

Given the way that the media overpublicizes and sensationalizes sex crimes, none of this is surprising. The public wildly overestimates the crime rate, due to excessive media coverage, particularly of the most sensational crimes. Demagoguing these issues is easy and effective for politicians, which is one of the primary reasons we have the highest rate of incarceration in the world.

Posted by: Rebecca Allen, PhD | Oct 18, 2005 2:45:39 PM

I thought the Gropinator was a sex offender. I guess he would rip off with his bare hands his GPS-enabled ankle bracelet or travel back in time to escape or something.

Posted by: Ted | Oct 18, 2005 7:25:29 PM

Arnold announced he would fight for health insurance for shildren next year only days after he vetoed a bill that would offer health care for children.

I can't believe this guy's our governor.

Posted by: Scott | Oct 18, 2005 8:17:21 PM

Under California state law, a nineteen year old who is convicted of having sex with a fifteen year old will be tagged for life as a sex offender if this law is enacted.

As a psychologist who has reviewed the research on adult/adolescent sexual relationships, I have to conclude that there no more evidence of short or long term psychological harm on average with adult/adolescent relationships as those between adult and adult and those between two adolescents. As with adult/adult relationships and adolescent/adolescent relationships a minority are judged to be negative in impact, another minority are judged to be positive in impact, and the majority are judged to be neutral and not terribly memorable.

It seems to me that if we're going to enact severe punishments for adults who engage in consenual sexual contact with adolescents (and keep in mind that the majority of cases that go to trial involve adolescents, not pre-pubescent minors, in many if not most cases at the best of their parents), we should at the very least keep in mind that the science does not support the notion of temporary or lasting psychological damage. Rape is one thing, but "statutory rape" in a majority of cases involves consent.

And if you're going to argue that adolescents in America, 2005, are incapable of consent you should know that the age of consent today varies widely throughout the world, and even throughout the west. It is as young as twelve or thirteen in some western countries, and eighteen is the high outlier. Why are fifteen year olds in Germany, and fourteen year olds in Canada, and thirteen year olds in Spain capable of consent but Americans are allegedly not?

Also, we should keep in mind the broader historical context for these laws. For most of the Christian age in the west, the age of consent hovered around twelve (it was slightly less in some places and at some times). Ephebophilia (that is, sexual relations between adults and adolescents) was never quite encouraged in most places, but tolerated. Marriages between twenty year olds and fifteen years old happened in medieval France, and early America.

A sea change in attitude though occurred in the late nineteenth century, as industrialization pushed ever greater numbers of people into the cities. Child prostitution was rampant, and the political right pressed for increasing the age of consent largely to deflect attention from the root causes of this pathology, which of course was the poverty wages their parents were earning in factories and mills. The political left was no less opportunistic, seeing a possible increase in the age of consent as a way of mandating secondary schooling, and turning young people into good secular socialists. Some western countries have in recent decades lowered their age of consent, others like America have not.

As a general rule, western cultures at their height have been rather tolerant of ephebophilia (few cultures have tolerated pedophilia, which by definition involves adults and pre-pubescent minors) and western culture in decline rather intolerant. Both homosexual and heterosexual ephebophilia were enculturated in classical Greece, and both were punished in the Hellenistic age (which is widely regarded as a period of decline by historians). The pedarasts were thrown out of the lyceum in early centuries BC. As I mentioned above, heterosexual ephebophilia was enculturated in the Christian west from the middle ages until the nineteenth century, and has come under particular assault since the 1960s. Was every sixteen year old boy who had sexual relations with a twenty-something warrior in fifth century Athens scarred for life? Was every sixteen year old girl who married a twenty-something man in seventeenth century Britain scarred for life? You can't be serious....

Every civilization declines and dies eventually, and as paleoconservatives have been quick to point out in recent decades, the decline in social and cultural cohesion (as well as the assault on economic redistribution), the rise of bourgeois feminism and gay rights (both of which are antithetical to the Judeo-Christian cultural order), the replacement of culturally based self-policing with the police state (also related to the decline in cultural cohesion), and the erosion of the primacy of the nation state and national identity are all signifiers that the Judeo-Christian age is waning.

The irony is that while we might regard today's war on sex offences as progress, a new cultural and social order (which will probably be rooted in a new religion) is likely to emerge in the coming centuries, and if history is any guide is likely to be more tolerant of sexual relations between adolescents and adults. They will regard this age as dismal, decadent, and mediocre. Our political correctness is a marker of decline.

Posted by: Dr. Sarah | Oct 20, 2005 4:22:44 PM

Also, just in case it needs to be said, I'm not especially a fan of criminalized abortions or throwing gay men in prison for dancing in public. I was simply pointing out that patriarchy and homophobia were central to the Judeo-Christian social and cultural order, and that our war against sex offenses, combined with bourgeois cultural liberalization and the erosion of economic redistribution are markers of the decline of that order.

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