Thursday, April 19, 2007

Immoral Liberties and Operation Respect in Bexley

Update- I mention below that I did not have access to the full text of the Washington Post articles. I have it from someone who does have access that I was missing some key details. The accusation did involve physical contact.

ThisWeek Bexley is reporting that Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul, and Mary fame, opted not to perform a scheduled concert in Bexley earlier this week, sending his daughter to perform in his stead. According to the article, several parents of Bexley Middle School students protested to school administrators that the invitation to Yarrow was inappropriate. Why, you might ask?

Peter Yarrow, in recent years, has been championing a cause called Operation Respect, in an effort to reduce bullying in schools, with the ultimate goal of reducing school violence. The topic seems particularly salient this week, but that's neither here nor there. The parents weren't complaining about the message, sponsored by Bexley Schools, they were complaining about the messenger.

During the summer of 1969, Peter Yarrow was in a hotel room in Washington, D.C. He was in the District to perform with his group, Peter, Paul, and Mary. At some point, two sisters, one 14 and one 17, were there as well. On March 27, 1970, Mr. Yarrow pled guilty to taking "immoral liberties" with a minor, referring to an incident between Mr. Yarrow and the 14-year old.

In May of 1970, the girl's family sued Yarrow for $1.25 million dollars.

In September of 1970, Yarrow was sentenced to 3 months in jail on the Immoral Liberties charge.

In November of 1970, a judge reduced the sentence by three days, allowing Yarrow to be at home with his wife for Thanksgiving.

In January of 1981, Yarrow was pardoned by President Jimmy Carter.

In 2004, Yarrow's conviction became news once again as Republicans criticized candidates Martin Frost in Texas and John Kerry for allowing Yarrow to campaign on their behalf.

All of the unlinked facts above are given in articles by the Washington Post or New York Times published as the events unfolded in 1970. I have access to the full text of the NYT pieces, but only the first hundred words or so of the WaPo articles. If you search the internet, however, you will find many more "facts." I absolutely cannot stand when folks repeat allegations without sourcing, and I especially hate it when people out and out plagiarize, cutting and pasting without indicating that the words are not those of the poster. This is why I put "facts" in quotations. Let's start with Wikipedia. This is what they have to say about the incident in question:

In 1970 he pleaded guilty to taking "immoral and improper liberties" with a 14-year-old girl. The girl and her 17-year-old sister went to Yarrow's hotel room seeking an autograph. Yarrow answered the door naked and made sexual advances that stopped short of intercourse. Yarrow served three months of a one- to three-year prison sentence and was pardoned by President Carter in 1981. The singer has acknowledged the incident as "the most terrible mistake I have ever made."

This account adds several pieces to what I listed above. First, the girls went looking for Yarrow. Next, Yarrow answered the door naked. Following that, he made sexual advances. He did not have sexual intercourse. He was sentenced to 1-3 years and served 3 months. He later claimed the incident as his worst mistake.

The first thing that pops out of that list is the sentencing. Both the Times and the Post assert, at the time that Yarrow was sentenced, that the sentence was 3 months. So Wikipedia has got at least part of it wrong. Where did they get the wrong idea? I don't know, there is no citation in the article.

When I used to have students turn in obviously plagiarized work, I would simply Google strings of words that were likely to be unique to the source. So in this case, I googled "Yarrow answered the door naked." I got 75 hits. Almost none of them gave any citation. Some cited Wikipedia. One cited The Awareness Center. The Awareness Center has details on hundreds of cases. Peter Yarrow's case link leads to a missing page. At least one source cites World Net Daily, a conservative mouthpiece on the web. WND has a 'copyrighted story' that uses the quote, so I assumed that the more salacious details were coming from less-than-reliable sources.

Oops. You know what they say about assuming. The World Net Daily 'Exclusive' from 10/31/04 plagiarizes heavily from a New York Post piece that came out 01/15/04. Which hard-hitting News Corp. journalism was the source of the story? The Page Six gossip columnist. Now, where did our gossip columnist get the info? It was still primary season, so there's lots of candidates, but more importantly, where did they go for confirmation? Reports at the time.

That's as specific as it gets. "As reported at the time..." I can tell you that it wasn't reported that way in the New York Times, and it doesn't look like those details were included in the Washington Post's account of the arrest, the plea, or the sentencing. It's possible that the details came out in reports about the girl's family's lawsuit. It's possible that it was reported in the New York Post gossip column.

So, one day in 1969, Peter Yarrow answered a door. He may or may not have been naked. He proceeded to say or do something that would be considered by common sense to be improper, but the impropriety seems to stem from the age of the victim, not the act itself, as charges were filed only in connection with the 14-year-old, not the 17-year-old who was also present.

So here's a guess. He showed up at the door naked. He explained that the human body is natural and other 1969 hippy-dippy stuff. The sisters agreed, took their clothes off and hung out naked. End of story.

Maybe not. If anyone has better information from a reliable source, I'd be happy to follow up. If I were to be convinced that the guy was a sexual predator, I'd help to make sure that he wasn't getting himself invited into Middle Schools. Until then, however, I hope folks can take info from anonymous plagiarists of partisan gossip columnists with at least a grain of salt.

Letter from Pat Tiberi's Office

A while back I posted the text of a message I had fired off to Rep. Tiberi concerning a bill that he had introduced mandating insurers to cover reconstructive surgery for children.

I was working from a press release by an interest group, so I didn't want to make too many assumptions about the actual bill. The intent of the legislation seemed to be a good one, but from the sound of it the bill was not at all conservative in the way that it imposed government onto business practices, and not at all progressive in that it would possibly only benefit kids who already had private health insurance, and/or add even more costs to Medicaid, one of the entitlement programs whose budget sizes have become Mr. Tiberi's pet issue. So even though (perhaps especially because) I have no reason to believe that anything but a sincere desire to help kids motivated Mr. Tiberi, I was surprised at the form of the proposed solution and hoped to get some clarification.

In the past, I have never recieved anything but auto-replies from D.C., so I have to admit that I was surprised when I got an email back addressing each of my questions. I was also more surprised than I probably should have been to see that the tone was really quite polite. There has been a disorienting outbreak of civility lately amongst the local Republicans I follow. Civility may not make for the most riveting blog exchanges, but it is certainly a very welcome development. So for the time being, in which I've explained myself and my point of view, I think it's only fair to let Mr. Tiberi have a chance to speak for himself:

Dear (bonobo),

Thank you so much for your very kind email concerning my original cosponsorship of the Children's Access to Reconstructive Evaluation & Surgery (CARES) Act of 2007. This is indeed an interesting piece of legislation and I appreciate your encouragement and interest in this issue. Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding. Due to the large volume of mail I receive I am not always able to respond as quickly as I would like.

This legislation will help to provide necessary reconstructive surgical care for congenital deformities including cleft lip, cleft palate, skin lesions, vascular anomalies, malformations of the ear, hand, or foot, and other more profound craniofacial deformities. It is particularly important for children with these congenital conditions in helping them to achieve a sense of normalcy and function. I hope this is an issue that can be addressed by Congress. I also find it very interesting and encouraging that President Bush signed comparable legislation into state law while he was Governor of Texas.

In your email, you asked several questions concerning Medicaid, mental health, and the uninsured. Allow me to address the Medicaid and uninsured questions first.

As I'm sure you know, Medicaid is a joint state and federal benefit. States generally have wide discretion over payment methodologies. I understand that in the more recent past there has been a trend of moving Medicaid benefits into managed care plans and away from fee-for-service payments. The general basis for reimbursement, at least as I understand administration of benefits in Ohio, is that processes and procedures must be deemed "medically necessary and reasonable" in order to qualify for coverage. After speaking with several health care professionals in central Ohio, it is my understanding that the determination of medical necessity for children covered by Medicaid is made by the child's physician.

With regard to children who are not covered by private insurance and do not qualify for Medicaid, access to health care is admittedly more challenging. Right now, millions of Americans have no health insurance and millions more are underinsured. As you know, employer-provided health care benefits are the major source of health insurance for workers and their families. However, the spiraling cost of health care has made it increasingly difficult for businesses, particularly small businesses, to provide health insurance for their employees.

A number of different reform proposals have been discussed in Congress and, in some cases, have been approved repeatedly in the U.S. House of Representatives in recent years. These include initiatives to increase the availability of health insurance through new groups called association health plans (which will give small businesses the ability to join together to purchase insurance for their employees with the same advantages that large companies enjoy), and provide tax advantaged health savings accounts. However, there is much more work to be done.

My constituents in central Ohio are fortunate to have access to Columbus Children's Hospital. Columbus Children's is dedicated to providing medically necessary care for all of our children, regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay. Again, it is my understanding that medical necessity is determined by the child's physician.

You are correct that this is similar to the concept of mental health parity legislation. In fact, several bills have been introduced in Congress this year that address this issue, each in a slightly different way. Additionally, the Health Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee has held a hearing on these proposals, and additional hearings are anticipated. While I'm not a member of this subcommittee, I have followed this issue with great interest. I expect that a consensus mental health parity bill will emerge at some point this year, and I look forward to supporting a responsible solution to this issue.

Thank you again for your email. Please feel free to contact my office if I may be of assistance in the future or if you would like to discuss any of these issues further.


Patrick J. Tiberi

Representative to Congress

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Personal Responsibility

I believe in due process, and in the proposition that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Applying that standard will undoubtedly allow some criminals to walk. That's the price we pay in attempting to ensure that no innocent defendants are unfairly imprisoned. We could repeal the fourth amendment and get many more criminals convicted. I recognize and acknowledge that fact.

I believe in the freedom of speech. I recognize that allowing the public airing of viewpoints that dehumanize classes of individuals increases the likelihood of material victimization of the individuals in that class. There is a responsibility that falls on a society to protect its members from victimization, and perhaps a special responsibility on the part of those who defend the incendiary speech that plays a contributing role. I can accept that.

So just once, I'd like to hear someone from the N.R.A. or like-minded organization say: I believe in the right to keep and bear arms. A society that keeps its population disarmed keeps its population as a tempting and vulnerable target for a range of abuses. Handgun bans could have prevented the tragedy at Virginia Tech. I accept that. Occasionally 32 innocent people will die because a young man had the freedom to obtain the weaponry to kill them. It is a tragedy, and perhaps a preventable tragedy, but it does not justify taking guns away from lawful individuals.

That's a principled position that someone who is willing to take personal responsibility for the consequences of their opinions and actions might hold.

On the other hand, I'm still waiting to hear someone say: There is a distance between what the Second Amendment says, and what many reasonable people believe it to mean. There is quite probably a gap between the Framers' understanding of the role of firearms in society, and the actual role that arms play in our current society. As such, I believe that most forms of gun control are unconstitutional, and that we absolutely need to amend the Constitution to allow reasonable controls on guns.

That's another principled position that someone who understands the consequences of their opinions and actions might hold.

At the moment, however, whatever position you might take in this debate, when 33 people are dead, you lose. Everyone loses. For those whose lives will never fully recover from their loss, you have my deepest sympathy.

Post-Script on Post On Partisanship

Instead of re-typing the two thousand words I had written, then lost when the viewer tool on the state legislature's website crashed my browser, I'll try to sum up:

Webster's defines a partisan as:

1 : a firm adherent to a party , faction, cause, or person; especially : one exhibiting blind, prejudiced, and unreasoning allegiance.

One commenter on my earlier post 'On Partisanship' interpreted my self identification as a partisan blogger as something akin to "a firm adherent to a cause," and shared that identification. Another commenter felt that my I.D. was more akin to having a 'prejudiced, unreasoning allegiance to a party.'

I would pull something different out and say that I have a prejudiced allegiance to a party that is the result of a well-reasoned strategy to advance my goals as a firm adherent to a set of causes.

I'm not usually a means-to-an-end type of guy, but this is how the world works. I happen to agree with the vote on statewwide strip club standards that my State Senator David Goodman made yesterday, even though I supported his opponent in 2006. I bring this up, because today's Dispatch describes the history of Goodman and that vote:

Passing statewide standards now instead of in 2006 also avoided concerns about the re-election of Sen. David Goodman, R-New Albany. One reason Senate leaders took statewide strip-club standards out of the bill in 2006 was Goodman's opposition, and the fear that the vote could hurt him at the ballot.

Goodman won in November. He voted against the bill yesterday, half-joking that he can already envision future ads saying he supports lap dances.

Now, what were Democrats doing on this?

Senate Democrats tried a number of procedural maneuvers to stop the bill, all of which were rejected by Republicans. Six of 11 Democrats voted for the measure, which didn't surprise Minority Leader Teresa Fedor, D-Toledo, who voted no.

"Everything can be used against you," she said. "It may not be good public policy, but politically, who can vote against it?"

With the Republican majority safely re-elected, Goodman can vote against SB 16 on the floor, but Republicans get their way. With Democrats controlling the State Senate, most would be too gutless to vote against it, but the bad bill would never come up for a vote in the first place. I don't blog in a partisan manner because I put party over person, it's because I put policy over both.