Wendy McElroy Rips the Violence Against Women Act

Nobody lays bare the idiocy of radical feminism than Wendy McElroy, and in her latest article, VAWA2: Gender Apartheid, she goes after the Violence Against Women Act which is about to expire, and is the subject of a good deal of debate among its supporters and critics.

McElroy reminds readers that the original VAWA contained a measure, since ruled unconstitutional, that attempted to cement the feminist notion of “gender apartheid” into the law. As McElroy writes, the case involved a woman who in 1995 alleged that she was raped in her dormitory room at Virginia Polytechnic Institute,

The accused men had been cleared by both a university judicial committee and a criminal grand jury. Although the evidence could not sustain a criminal charge, Brzonkala [the alleged victim] used the VAWA to bring a civil case against them in federal court. The advantages to feminists of using a civil court ot punish an alleged criminal wrong were clear: civil courts require only a preponderance of evidence (51%) rather than “beyond a reasonable doubt” (99%) to “convict.” Moreover, the standards and procedures are far looser in a civil proceeding. In short, the evidence required to ruin a man’s life was watered down to meet feminist requirements.

A very strong, but accurate, characterization of the VAWA. The underlying principle behind the VAWA, and the reason it should be rejected, is the elevating of crimes of violence to special categories, if and only if they are committed for reasons of gender. This odd, primarily because it ignores the fact that pretty much all crimes involve some discriminatory intent. It should not be surprising that male rapists choose women as targets for violent acts, for example, anymore than it is surprising that armed robbers choose banks and commercial enterprises as targets for their larceny.

The real discriminatory intent in all of this is the VAWA which funds enormous sums of money to fight violence against women even though, as McElroy points out, the level of real violence against women has been declining since the early 1990s and regardless of which year is chosen as a baseline, men, not women, are the overwhelming victims of violence (yet when was the last time you heard of a program designed to help men avoid, deal with or ameliorate the results of violent crime?)


VAWA2: Gender Apartheid. Wendy McElroy, LewRockwell.Com, October 9, 2000.


ComicsOne has a pretty good idea — of course it helps that I’m probably its target market. First, license a whole lot of Japanese comic books. Second, scan them in and sell electronic versions of the comics for a lot cheaper than you could buy them.

The main drawback is you have to use the Glassbook Reader, which a lot of people have reported having serious problems with. Otherwise it’s a winner. I like comic books, but I am definitely not a “collector” — I don’t get a whole lot out of owning that particular issue of Spiderman or whatever. Even with the silly Glassbook reader, at the prices they’re selling stuff for, I’d probably be a regular buyer assuming their selection expands a bit.

Supreme Court Should Reject Unconstitutional Drug Tests on Pregnant Women

In its latest session the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear quite a few cases that center around Fourth Amendment issues. One of those cases, Ferguson v. City of Charleston, centers around a controversial program at a public hospital in South Carolina that tested pregnant women for the presence of cocaine in their bodies. If the women tested positive, they and the results were turned over to police after giving birth.

Is this reasonable? Justice Antonin Scalia, in questioning at the Court today, provided the basic defense of the testing — if a person shows up at a hospital with a gunshot or stab wound, laws in most state require doctors to notify local police. Unfortunately for Scalia, and hopefully the law, the two situations are no analogous.

In the gunshot case, the information the doctor has is a direct result of his duties to take care of the patient. When it comes to pregnancy, however, a) women are not routinely given tests for narcotic substances, and b) even in the South Carolina hospital the doctors drug tested only those women they suspected of using cocaine. This is not information that arises in the normal process of treating a patient, where the expectation of privacy for information related to a possible crime might be diminished, but rather a public hospital actively seeking to collect evidence.

To make the gun shot example analogous, not only would doctors notify the police but they’d also run a series of drug tests on the victims to see if he’d been committing other crimes.

Aside from the Fourth Amendment, it’s scary to think that doctors are running around performing tests that are medically unnecessary in order to squeal to the state. As more than one critic of the law has noted, far from helping infants of cocaine using mothers, the most likely result of the law is to keep women from seeking prenatal care and other medical attention, and possibly even to avoiding giving birth in a hospital (home birth is a great option for many people, but probably not a great idea for a drug addict).


Drug tests on pregnant women unconstitutional, lawyers argue. CNN, October 4, 2000.

Supreme Court to decide on women’s medical privacy. Laurie Asseo, The Associated Press, October 4, 2000.

Policing pregnancy. Rachel Roth, The Nation, October 16, 2000.

Windows Home Networking

Just to pick on Don Larson today, he links to this Mercury Center article on the dearth of home networks — the technology is there, but few people with multiple computers bother to network them. Larson notes that most of his Mac friends have home LANs, while most of his Windows friends don’t.

The basic problem with Windows LANs it that they are pretty much impossible to set up for a normal consumer unless a) the consumer gets very lucky or b) he or she is willing to learn in detail about LANs (which most people simply aren’t).

Take Windows Millenium (please). Windows ME promises to make setting up a LAN completely simple. Okay, I’ve got two HP boxes, both shipped from the factory with NIC cards, one with Win98 and one with Windows ME, and I restored both of them to exactly like they were when I got them out of the box using the included software to do so.

So I click on ME’s nicely, though deceptively, designed Home Networking Wizard, reboot a half dozen times, and I’m set. Windows ME then tells me it can easily get my other computers up and running. Following the directions I insert a floppy, tell it my other computer is a Win98 machine, and it creates a disk — just put the disk in my other computers floppy, it promises, run setup.exe, and it will automatically configure my Win98 machine for the LAN.

Except it doesn’t work. I go through the half dozen reboots, but it still can’t recognize my LAN. Why? In typical genius fashion, a) even though it shipped with a NIC, HP didn’t bother to enable the network protocols I need to access the LAN (and lets face it, for a home machine I’m not going to be using some obscure protocol — just enable what I’m going to need for a typical home network), and b) the Windows 98 ME home networking disk never bothers to do a simple check to see if the proper protocols are installed.

This is a problem I’ve run into repeatedly with Windows where I’m trying to do something that should work only to discover that the MS installation program never bothers to check if the underlying software I need is installed. This makes no sense to me, since how hard can it be to doublecheck and have a dialogue box say something like, “You don’t have this protocol installed. You’ll probably need it for your home network. Would you like to install it now?”

These sort of hidden assumptions render the whole point of a home networking wizard pointless. If I understand all of the things I need to have set up to get the LAN going, I can probably install it without the wizard, and if I don’t, I’m never going to figure out what’s missing to make it work.

Why MS continues to mis-design its software this way continues to leave me scratching my head. There’s no reason installing a LAN shouldn’t largely be plug and play — certainly they can write an installation script smart enough to tell whether or not I’ve got the correct network protocols installed.

‘Rogue’ Planets Forcing Re-think about Planet Formation

Reuters is just one of several outlets reporting on the discovery of a system with 18 planets along with a few stars that seem to be doing their own thing rather than organizing themselves into a solar system. Typically planets and stars are believed to be formed from a single swirling mass of gas — the planets being formed from planetary-sized masses that partially escape the gravity of the central mass, which eventually becomes a star, but instead end up orbiting the central star from which it was born.

In the system near Orion which these scientists discovered, the gas giant planets don’t orbit any nearby stars. As one of the scientists put it, “The formation of young, free-floating, planetary-mass objects like these is difficult to explain by our current models of how planets form.”

‘Natural Resources’ and Human Ingenuity: Is Titanium About to Become Real Cheap?

One of the common errors made by people who argue we are close to running out of natural resources is failing to realize just how much human ingenuity plays in making “natural” resources available. The amount of wheat that occurs “naturally,” without human intervention, wouldn’t be nearly enough to support many billions of people, but by applying human ingenuity and creating an extended system of agriculture, human beings are able to gain access to far more wheat than just that available “naturally.”

Another example of how natural resources can be limited or expanded purely by human knowledge is titanium. Titanium is extremely abundant on our planet — it is the ninth most common element found on Earth. And yet titanium is extremely expensive, which is why even though it has properties that make it more desirable, steel and other metals are typically used where titanium might be a better choice.

The problem is that even though titanium is abundant, it is mixed with other elements. Separating titanium from the elements it is mixed with involves an expensive, two step process. Recently Nature published an article by Cambridge University’s George Chen suggesting a single step electrolytic process that should be able to extract titanium with a one step process, and, if it can be scaled up, should bring the cost of titanium crashing down over the long run.

Those are some very big ifs, but consider another element that used to be extremely expensive: aluminum. Aluminum used to be more valuable than gold for the same reason — although it was relatively abundant, there was no simple process to extract pure aluminum. Then in the late 19th century a couple scientists developed an electrolytic technique to extract the metal and its production soared while its cost declined. In fact this scientific discovery enabled contemporary industrial societies to be the first in world history to see the widespread use of this “natural” resource.

The amount of natural resources available to human societies have as much to do with our own ingenuity and economic incentives as they do with any real natural limit. The current level of technology, for example, is a much better predictor of the availability of aluminum than any laundry list look at the number of aluminum atoms in the universe. By always focusing on such strict definitions of resources and ignoring the way that human invention expands available resources or contracts the need for such resources, many environmentalists and doomsayers only pay attention to half the story.


Dr Chen and the philosopher’s stone. The Economist, September 21, 2000.