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Tuesday, February 03, 2015

We do not own our children.

As the recent measles outbreak finally grabs the attention of the mainstream media, all eyes and ears are on the various 2016 Presidential hopefuls as they share their pro- and anti-vaccine stances.

Republicans have to navigate these tricky waters carefully, to avoid alienating folks in their base who demand exclusive parental control of all things related to their children.  And Democrats must be giving at least a passing moment's consideration to the "anti-vaxxers" among their traditional wealthy, well-educated, city-dwelling base (and should, perhaps, focus more on educating and less on shaming them).  

Hillary Clinton weighed in for the pro-vaccine side with a silly but well-intentioned Twitter hashtag, "#GrandmothersKnowBest" ... perhaps ignoring generations of grandmas who advised a bit of cereal in baby's formula to help with a good night's sleep, or some nice whiskey for those sore teething moments.  Hillary may be a grandma, but not all grandmas are Hillary.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie walked back his potentially anti-vaccine comments yesterday, but Rand Paul (son of a doctor, no less) stuck by his view that vaccines should be voluntary.  He followed this up with the statement that, "The State doesn't own your children; parents own the children...."

And then my head exploded.  You own your dog; you do not own your child.  You are the guardian of your child.  The typical statement we include in guardianship petitions here in Iowa is illustrative of the legal role parents (or other guardians) have when it comes to the children for whom they are responsible: 

"The decision making capacity [of the ward, the person to be placed under guardianship because of disability or status as a minor child] is so impaired that the ward is unable to care for his or her personal safety or unable to attend to or provide for such necessities as food, shelter, clothing, and medical care, without which physical injury or illness may occur."  Matter of Guardianship of Hedin, 528 N.W.2d 567 (Iowa 1995).

In establishing a parent-like relationship between two people (guardian and ward), the Court makes a determination that the ward needs a guardian to keep her safe, healthy, clothed, and fed.  And the Court further determines that the lack of such a guardian is likely to result in harm.  Only when that determination is made will a guardianship be put in place.  The guardianship then operates much like the parent-child relationships we see all around us.  In fact, a guardianship that is put in place for a minor child automatically ends when the child is no longer under the "disability of minority," in other words, when the child turns 18.

Those of us who work with families in the legal system know this "parent = guardian" notion well.  The best interests of children sometimes require their removal from their parents (not their owners) because their parents cannot or will not keep them safe.  The best interests of children also require the State, if it gets involved with a family because of safety concerns, to try to keep the family intact and to provide supports to make it stronger.  The best interests of children sometimes require the Court to impose custody or visitation arrangements that, in the opinion of a Judge, are best for the child but incredibly difficult for everyone else.  

The evidence in support of the safety and efficacy of vaccination for measles is overwhelming.  The risks to infants and immunocompromised people from unvaccinated children are terrifying.  I understand that many will try to turn this health crisis into a debate over government-mandated vaccination, and maybe that's inevitable.  Perhaps the more fruitful discussion will be over whether those who choose not to vaccinate their children are failing in their roles as their children's guardians.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Look At My Scandal! PLEEEEEEASE!

The Des Moines Register reported that the Director Of Administrative Services paid ex-state workers cash to keep quiet about their settlements after being fired.  Governor Terry Branstad fired the director.  That was the right move as Iowans deserve open and transparent government.

But that's not good enough for Democrats.  Their candidate is ten points behind and they need to declare this development "a scandal" and keep it in the news cycle.  Some of my Democratic Facebook friends begged the national media to cover it.

Unfortunately for my Democratic friends, their colleagues at the national level continue to drain coverage away from the non-scandal in Iowa and toward real scandal.  It's been revealed that the IRS may have colluded with Democratic legislators in harassing conservative groups.  The former head of the tax-exempt division of the IRS states her wish in an email to get a job with a political group that supports President Obama.

Now THAT'S a scandal, and you can't blame Iowans for yawning at the hiring/firing policies of their administration.

Friday, September 20, 2013

A Serious Mental Health Proposal

When tragedies such as the shooting at the Navy Yard occur, the subsequent political debate takes two tracks:  gun control proposals and mental health proposals.

While the media focuses on gun control proposals, there are serious mental health reform proposals being formulated as well.

One such proposal comes from Representative Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania.  A particular aspect of it caught my eye:

Preserve sufficient hospital beds for persons with serious mental illness who need hospital access. Believe it or not, this is controversial. The mental-health industry wants the public to believe everyone with mental illness can function in the community. This is letting wishful thinking trump science. Most can, many cannot. Beds are needed for those who cannot.

I personally know this is controversial.  As a legislator, I served on a mental health reform committee.  As part of our study, we toured Iowa's cavernous--and mostly empty--mental health facilities.

Why empty?  Because policy makers made a deliberate choice to attempt to treat mental health patients on an outpatient basis.  We believe this is compassionate.  When we debated this approach on the floor of the Senate, one legislator literally described mental health homes using images straight out of "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest."

Note that the proposal says many cannot function in the community.  These groups of people comprise a significant number of the "homeless" population.    People become homeless when their families literally give up on attempting to take care of them.  In some instances, these families buy a bus ticket for a mentally ill family member and send them to a nearby city.

The homeless man or woman then attempts to stay at shelters or Christian housing organizations but is soon denied a bed because they are a danger to others.

Just as it should not be assumed that a mental ill person should be confined to a bed, it should also not be assumed that every mentally ill person can function in society.   This proposal offers some real, pragmatic solutions to real problems.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Why "Breaking Bad" Needs "Duck Dynasty"

I am a Duck Dynasty fan.  I am happy to proclaim my love for the show to family and friends.  It's interesting how many of my friends are so dismissive of the show.  It's not cool to like Duck Dynasty.

It is cool to like "Breaking Bad."  My friends on social media are always talking about that show.

Interestingly, "Duck Dynasty" nearly doubles the ratings of "Breaking Bad."  You'd never know that by reading social media.  It's just not cool to love that goofy family that hunts and prays together.

I like both shows, which is why I was drawn to this column that makes the case that one show NEEDS the other:

Breaking Bad helps provide a template for what we can ascribe to culturally (morally complex, thoughtful, quality-focused works of art), but Duck Dynasty shows us where we actually are as a collective culture by showcasing the values that make popular shows connect with mainstream audiences. Without both “high culture” that challenges our worldview and “low culture” that reflects it, you lose context for both.

I don't watch reality shows that exploit people's dysfunction.   But I like the good-natured humor of "Dynasty" along with the complex exploration of the human condition exhibited in escapist shows like "Breaking Bad."

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Weather Apocalypse Postponed

A new report indicates that global temperatures have increased at a quarter of the rate predicted by a international panel on climate change and that computer models have wrongly predicted the impact of greenhouse gases.

It's not that global warming is fiction.  It's just that the public is smart enough to know that predictions of catastrophe are meant to spur drastic action not reflect reality.

I've seen Bjorn Lomberg speak (at a--gasp!--conservative conference) and he continues to be the voice of reason on this topic:

Global warming is real. It is partly man-made. It will make some things worse and some things better. Overall, the long-run impact will be negative. But some of the most prominent examples of extreme weather are misleading, and some weather events are becoming less extreme.

Of course, this type of reasonable discussion won't result in a massive limitation of private property rights, as some of the far-left groups who attach themselves to environmental causes wish.

But public skepticism is justified.  Over the course of a lifetime, studies will be presented as gospel and later debunked.  After all, a recommendation to drink eight glasses of water a day is now "nonsense."

Titanic Jokes In An Ad? Too Soon!

It's been 101 years since the Titanic sank, but a humorous ad by Red Bull that resolves around the ill-fated ship has drawn 79 complaints--a majority of which are probably from girls still crying over the end of the movie.

Here it is.

Political Poop Identified!

Because of its status as the first-in-the-nation-caucus-state, Iowa is home to some of the brightest political minds and best political writers in the country.

Todd Dorman of the Cedar Rapids Gazette is one of those writers.  When Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jack Hatch made his campaign announcement in a poop-filled field...Dorman was on it (the story, not the poop).  Dorman called on an expert to identify the source of the scat.

I have relatives in Florida who smile and shake their heads (with the utmost affection) at what comprises the nightly news here in Iowa.  In their state, the nightly news opens with ten minutes of murder.   One year, my relatives visited for the holidays and marveled that the five 'o' clock news opened with Christmas light displays.

But of all the Iowa-sounding political news that's ever been reported, this is the Iowanist.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Did Jordan Linn Graham Get Married Then Push Her Husband Off A Cliff?

Possibly.  Wife Tara is an attorney and sees a LOT of weird things.

It's important to note that this is what the PROSECUTION is saying.  But, boy, it is a weird set of facts.

A newlywed couple has a fight...then decides to go hiking near a cliff?

The bride had reservations after eight days?  The groom married her after a two-year courtship even though friends say she didn't love him?  He hoped that marriage would change her feelings about him?

This stuff only happens on Days Of Our Lives, right?

Naked Miley Cyrus Makes Me Sad

The new Miley Cyrus video features the former Disney star totally nude and licking a sledgehammer (no, I am not going to link it).  Pardon me while I go on a old fogey rant.

It seems that, in the entertainment world, when a female child star wants to transition into the realm of adult entertainment, they declare their adulthood by performing in some sexually explicit way.  I hate the message that this sends young girls--that they've reached adult status when they become a sex toy for men.

I hate interviews where woman proclaim that they are "empowered" by being sexually promiscuous.  You know who is really being empowered?  Men who want to have sex with a lot of women without any commitment.  Who loses?  The women who had given themselves to a man hoping to find love and commitment.

There isn't such a thing as "no strings attached" sex despite what Hollywood sells.  Tara and I sometimes joke with each other, "I like you better than everybody else."  But there's a subtext to that joke:  everyone deserves to be special to someone else.  Love doesn't mean participating in a human buffet.

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