pageok
pageok
pageok
More Statistics:

I stress again — it may well be that many or even all the FLDS parents are guilty of various crimes. But it's also important, in this case as well as in others, for the media to report statistical information in a useful way.

Take, for instance, this MSNBC headline, "Official: History of injuries to polygamist kids / At least 41 had broken bones; possible sex abuse of boys investigated." At least 41 kids have had broken bones — sounds like a serious problem.

But 41 out of how many? Paragraph seven reveals this: "More than 450 children are in state foster facilities from the raid."

What about the other information that would be necessary to make this data make sense? I refer, of course, to how many kids normally have broken bones without abuse. I don't know the percentage, but a quick Google search found [UPDATE: this replaces a much less reliable estimate I'd originally found] this study, which puts the risk of bone breakage at 1.3% per year per child (for 0-to-12-year-olds). Assuming this carries over to 0-to-18-year-olds (perhaps a mistaken assumption, especially since "The incidence increased linearly with age" up to age 12, but let's use it as a back-of-the-envelope estimate), this yields an estimate of about 20-25% of all minors having had a broken bone, which is to say that a minor of average age would have about a 10-12% chance of having had a broken bone. This can't automatically carry over to the FLDS kids, of course, for a variety of reasons; this is just one study that I quickly found; and some part of the broken bones reported in the study of may themselves have been caused by abuse. But still the "41" figure (which, recall, refers to children who "have had broken bones in the past") seems a lot less striking when one turns it into "under 10%" (41/450), and even less striking when one asks how this compares to the normal broken-bone rate among unabused children, which the study I found suggests is roughly 10% for the average child.

Now I stress again: Many of the FLDS kids might have been physically abused, even beyond the seeming early marriages of some of the girls and the alleged forced marriages of some of the girls and expulsion of some of the boys. The abuse rate might be higher than average. Of course the total broken bone rate may well be much higher than 10%, because not all the broken bones might have been identified. Sexual abuse at any rate, whether of teenage girls or young boys, is a serious crime that should be punished. And if there was indeed evidence of sexual abuse of young boys (with "young" meaning very young) then the removal of even small children might have been justified, contrary to my arguments below, which were based on press accounts that at the time had focused solely on the alleged sexual abuse of teenage girls.

But the particular news account here strikes me as a highly unhelpful, and potentially misleading, use of statistics, because it (1) includes the numerator in the headline, and leaves the denominator for paragraph seven, and (2) suggests that the number is significant evidence of abuse, without even trying to provide a comparison with the broken-bone rate among ordinary, nonabused children. The story does later quote the state agency as saying, "We do not have X-rays or complete medical information on many children so it is too early to draw any conclusions based on this information, but it is cause for concern and something we'll continue to examine," but that does little, I think, to undercut the attention that MSNBC focused on the 41 number in its headline.

GV:
It's 50% of kids will at some point during their childhood suffer a broken bone. For that number to be relevant to the MSNBC story, you'd have to know how many kids, at any one given time, are then suffering from a broken bone. It's obviously not 50% and I doubt it's anywhere close to 10%

(And you don't currently have a link to the story.)
4.30.2008 3:54pm
EKGlen (mail):

Many of the FLDS kids might have been physically abused,

Well, we do know from your post yesterday that a number of them were raped, which I think does count as physical abuse.

(The basis of my statement is that X of the Y girls who were 14-17 were pregnant. Even with the parsing, I think we have to conclude that that means that at least some 14, 15, 16 year olds were raped and not that all of them were [potentially legal] 17 year olds.)
4.30.2008 4:03pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
GV: Sorry I had inadvertently omitted the link. But note that the story (as well as the state Web site I do link to) says that "at least 41 children have had broken bones in the past," not that they had them at the time of the raid (which is why I talked about 41 children who "have had broken bones"). I've now added the link, and added a parenthetical to make this extra clear.
4.30.2008 4:04pm
Dave N (mail):
What do they say about lies, damn lies, and statistics?

This is fairly typical of sloppy reporting and editing. A reporter hears a number and thinks "Oh my God, that's huge" and writes the story around the number without providing a whit of context.
4.30.2008 4:05pm
anym_avey (mail):
It's obviously not 50% and I doubt it's anywhere close to 10%

A back-of-the-envelope calculation, using lots of simplifying assumptions, begins by assuming 450 persons randomly distributed across the 0-18 year age range. With a 50% breaking average in that time, 225 of them will break a bone at some point within their own 18 years. Assuming, for convenience, an even distribution of breaking probability, the chance of one of those children breaking a bone THIS year is 12.5% (or 6.25% for the overall population, if you prefer). Thus, 6.25%*225 = 14 persons with a broken bone in any given year.

Since a bonetakes about six weeks to heal and will be considered "broken" during that entire time frame for the purposes of a census, anyone who does break a bone will be counted as having such for 15% of the year, and 15%*14 means probably two or three of them with a broken bone simultaneously.

Of course, this is simplified as noted, and further complicated by the fact that Xbox360 and 50" Plasma HD television ownership might be a bit lower in an FLDS type commune than in the general population, and the children are more likely to be playing outdoor sports, a very common cause of bone injuries. 41 simultaneously still seems high, though. Any word on whether that compound is interpsersed by Burmese tiger pits?
4.30.2008 4:19pm
Smokey:
I haven't kept up with this story, but this looks to me like CYA by trying the case in the media.

Where's the original complainant? Did anyone ever identify her? Is she the same adult woman who makes fraudulent calls about lots of things, or someone else? Why didn't the police ask her to come by in person to make a complaint? Do they run in with guns drawn based on an anonymous phone call, without lifting a finger to verify anything? And if they were investigating this group for three years, then evidence of abuse must have been minimal, at best.

Now it appears that the authorities are throwing every insinuation and innuendo at every available reporter in an attempt to justify their possibly premature actions.
4.30.2008 4:21pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
anym_avey: (1) Thanks, but I revised the paragraph to reflect a seemingly more reliable source.

(2) Let me stress again that 41 wasn't the count of broken bones at the time of the raid -- it was the number of children whom the state had identified as having had broken bones at some time in the past (the state site makes that clear, and I've also added a parenthetical to the post to make this even clearer).
4.30.2008 4:23pm
anym_avey (mail):
EV: Sorry I had inadvertently omitted the link. But note that the story (as well as the state Web site I do link to) says that "at least 41 children have had broken bones in the past," not that they had them at the time of the raid (which is why I talked about 41 children who "have had broken bones"). I've now added the link, and added a parenthetical to make this extra clear.

Well, that changes things (in addition to an earlier math error -- for an 18 year distribution, the probability of breakage increases 5.55%/year, not 12.5%). Using the same basic assumptions as before, let's divide the 225 "breakers" by 18 and assume 12.5 children in each age group. The chance of having experienced a break increases by 5.55% with each year, so the present 0-1yo group will have experience none, the 1-2yo group will have experienced 0.65, the 2-3yo group will have experienced 1.375, and so forth.

Assuming that math is reasonable, one would expect to have seen maybe 115-120 previous breaks in a population that size.
4.30.2008 4:32pm
LAW Dude (mail) (www):
You know what would have been a fantastic idea? ARRESTING THE MEN.

If only the men were committing sexual abuse, couldn't they interrogate the women/children and snag a few of these guys? It'd ridiculous.
4.30.2008 4:38pm
pgepps (www):
Yes, the need to keep the story sensational and dramatic/traumatic, as well as a self-justifying crusader mentality on the part of the CPS types, obscures the real harms and crimes, here.

In my non-abusive family, growing up, two of the four of us children at some point had a broken long bone (discounting my toe), one at the age of three (tripped and fell onto a VCR), one at least twice (I forget if he broke it a third time), and all before twelve.
4.30.2008 4:41pm
EKGlen (mail):
LAW Dude - that will be the next step, I imagine.

Last I heard, they were running DNA tests of the children so they can sort out who is really who, and how old moms where when certain children were born.

I am just guessing that they are going to find a genetic evidence that some fellas were having sex with underage women/girls (a.k.a rape.)
4.30.2008 4:42pm
EKGlen (mail):

In my non-abusive family, growing up, two of the four of us children at some point had a broken long bone (discounting my toe),

In your family were 40% of the girls 17 and under pregnant?
4.30.2008 4:43pm
Stryker:
And how are they going to prove the crime was done in that jurisdiction?
4.30.2008 4:47pm
Morat20 (mail):
A point here -- I believe the State is heavily restricted on the sorts of information it can give out, since it's dicusssing minors.

While sloppy statistics might be CYA, it might also be about the only way of releasing information in a way that doesn't obviously identify specific minors.

However, I'd like to note that -- an abundance of 14, 15, 16, and 17 years olds that are, or have been, pregnant is a pretty freakin' good sign of abuse -- especially given the routine tossing out of teenage boys and the whole group marriage situation.

I get the feeling Texas CPS isn't feeling the need to play CYA, since as soon as the DNA testing comes in they'll have a number of rape and sexual abuse of a minor cases that are, effectively, ironclad.
4.30.2008 4:59pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
Although far from conclusive, it is also worth looking at this in light of what is known about FLDS life from the various people who have defected or been expelled. They talk about coerced underage marriage, occasional sexual abuse outside of "marriage", and corporal punishment of children more severe than what is generally accepted, e.g. spankings with a belt, but I don't recall any mention in any of the accounts that I have read of physical abuse of the sort that would lead to broken bones. Obviously the only way to know for sure is to look at the facts in individual cases, but the idea that there is a lot of physical abuse is not consistent with what is known about this sect.
4.30.2008 5:03pm
Anon!:
Eugene,

Monday's post showed you had done remarkably little thinking about the 14-17 year olds who are pregnant or mothers - only a child born within the last 120 days could conceivably have been the result of arguably permissible sex with a 17 year old, and then only if the mother is one day shy of her 18th birthday.

Do you really want to continue down this road? You suggest that the bone breakage rate is close to normal, but do not seem to have taken into account several factors that one would need to know in order to make a meaningful comparison, e.g., what is the distribution of the children's age, and what are the ages of the children with broken bones.

If your point is that the raw number tells us nothing about whether the incidence is greater or lesser than normal, I agree, it doesn't. But your suggestion that the rate is normal is not any more helpful.

Academic inquiry or not, your posts look like you are looking for excuses for the FLDS.
4.30.2008 5:35pm
Blades (mail):
In 2005, the age of concent for marraige in Texas changed from 14 to 16 (with concent of parent).
So a 14 year old in 2005 could legally get married. In 2008 that would now be a 17 year old who may have 2 children and all completely legal.

(Not sure when in 2005, that law change actually went into effect.)

However most of these cases they probably did not get a legal marraige.
So there can be a 17 year old with children where no crime took place in Texas law, but probably is not.
4.30.2008 6:01pm
EKGlen (mail):
Anon -

Remember the old saying: First they came for the polygamist Mormon child rapists, and I did nothing . . .
4.30.2008 6:03pm
ithaqua (mail):
Pft. Broken bones are good for children. Builds character. Strict discipline is important in raising Christians - "Fear is the heart of love", as they say.

This is just another non-issue - more chaff to distract the media from the government's homewrecking feminist agents.
4.30.2008 6:15pm
Blades (mail):
Does marriage automatically include Emancipation in Texas?

From "Emancipation Laws of Texas"
One of the ways in which a minor may become emancipated is for the purpose of marriage. The legal age of marriage in Texas is 18 though someone under the age of 18 can enter into a marriage with parental consent. A family law lawyer can go over the details that are necessary for a person to marry under the age of 18. When the parents grant this permission, the child is then emancipated from their parents and becomes the responsibility of their spouse just as any other married people do.

Does any paprerwork have to be filed or is it automatic?
Does that mean that any (lawfully) married 16 yo (if any), being held by Texas represents legal kidnamping of an adult?
4.30.2008 6:20pm
Oren:
If only the men were committing sexual abuse, couldn't they interrogate the women/children and snag a few of these guys? It'd ridiculous.
Unless the victims refuse to identify their abusers, a fairly universal theme in domestic violence. In all 50 states, if the police have evidence of spousal battery, they are required to investigate and press charges (if appropriate) irrespective of the battered spouses contrary desire.
4.30.2008 6:21pm
Oren:
Blades, as far as been reported so far, none of the FLDS children have filed to emancipation. Nor do I think a judge would grant it since it requires a showing of economic independence which is clearly lacking in the instant case.
4.30.2008 6:22pm
pete (mail) (www):

If your point is that the raw number tells us nothing about whether the incidence is greater or lesser than normal, I agree, it doesn't. But your suggestion that the rate is normal is not any more helpful.

Academic inquiry or not, your posts look like you are looking for excuses for the FLDS.


I have to agree with Eugene on this. These numbers are pretty meaningless without additional context. I read the story before visiting this site since it is a yahoo headline and had almost the same reaction and thought that 10% actually sounded low based on my memories of friends with broken bones in childhood. This story would have been better off not published since it adds a lot more heat than light. If they had more relevant details like these were all recent breaks or that the kids were accusing adults of intentionally breaking bones then the story would be useful.

I am for the most part fairly supportive of this investigation so far and have a lot of sympathy for the state workers who are dealing with this, but this story does not do much to actually increase our understanding of what took place in this community.
4.30.2008 6:29pm
subpatre (mail):
Eugene - Better than following the twittering media, use the Department of Family and Protective Services's news page including their Senate briefing and continuing updates.

My impression —the description is typical CPS— is that all babies up to 12-months were placed with their mothers (by court direction!) and that underage mothers were placed with their children too.

DFPS has made considerable effort to ensure . . . pregnant minors and minors with young children will be placed together . . .

IOW, CPS placement strategy intentionally skews the reported ages of mothers by withholding placement with their own children unless they lie.

As the buses were loaded, there were instances where women came forward with different information. In one case, a minor who previously had said she didn’t have children begged not to be separated from her baby. We were able to place the girl with her child.” - Texas CPS
Solomon would be ashamed.
4.30.2008 6:33pm
Oren:
Solomon didn't have the people in his court lying to him, which made his job considerably easier.
4.30.2008 6:37pm
Blades (mail):
Oren, I agree that Filing for emmancipation does require court permission, and the conditions for it are not met.
But I found one reference that marriage grants automatic emmancipation and does not require court permission.

Since many of these girls/women told Child welfare they were adults, but child welfare said they did not look like they were 18 yet. I was wondering if both statements could be true.
4.30.2008 6:38pm
Randy R. (mail):
It's pretty funny, actually.

Whenever the discussion here at VC turns to same sex marriage, inevitably opponants argue that it will automatically lead to polygamy. And that's bad! So therefore, we have to stop SSM or else polygamy will be next.

And of course, polygamy is SO bad, no one ever offers any rationale as to why it's so bad. We all just assume it's bad, and no argument is needed.

Yet now, when confronted with actual polygamy, one would think that, based on all the heated discussion on SSM, people would be condemning polygamy everywhere left and right. But even ithaqua defends it!

So what gives? I honestly the discussion would be circling around how best to lock up the men and women. But I sense a measure of sympathy for them in some of these posts. I'm really confused.....
4.30.2008 6:43pm
subpatre (mail):
Oren opined - Solomon didn't have the people in his court lying to him, which made his job considerably easier.
Anti-religious will never ‘get it’.
4.30.2008 6:46pm
Oren:
That might save a few corner cases Blades but, as well all know, not all of those women can actually be married at the same time.

Perhaps if the FLDS were clever they would divorce the older 'wives' so as to officially marry the youngest ones, thus emancipating them. Such a revolving-door system would probably (and rightly) be considered outright fraud though.
4.30.2008 6:46pm
Philistine (mail):

Solomon didn't have the people in his court lying to him, which made his job considerably easier.



Didn't he? Wasn't that the whole point of his famous decision, determining who was lying?
4.30.2008 6:58pm
Oren:
Anti-religious will never ‘get it’.
Are you implying that they didn't lie, or that lying to the investigators is OK because it leads to noble ends?
4.30.2008 6:59pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I have always assumed that the FLDS men are divorcing one woman in order to marry the next. This apparently was their strategy in CO city, and would almost have to be the case here. Otherwise, they are bigamists and child molesters. The problem is that divorces have to be through the courts to be effective, and if they screw up, even a little, then all subsequent marriages and divorces are null (and they are child molesters). I have little doubt that this is the next step after CPS figures out who (male and female) begat whom.
4.30.2008 7:18pm
ReaderY:
What I suggest Eugene do, head on, is question why people believe sex with teen-agers is "abusive". What's the actual basis for that belief, other that a lot of people believe it, are emotionally attached to it, and think those who believe otherwise evil?

As Eugene points out, the minimum ages we've seen in the United States of late are a very recent Western phenomenon. In most of human history, including our own societies until a century ago or less (in many states, a decade ago or less), and many other societies at all times including today, it was and is perfectly normal for teenagesr to enter into the kinds of sexual relationships with men sanctioned by the moral norms of societies for adult women generally. It is our own society that is the anomaly involved.

Now, one can argue that teenage sex inhibits the development of "normal" economic and social relationships -- it makes it less likely that teenagers will continue their education, or enter into lasting marriages, and many other difficulties. But it's very difficult to argue, given the normality of teenage sex in human history, that it has suddenly come to hurt them in a way associated with the term "abuse."

In my way of thinking, society is completely justified in crafting new rules in response to changing economic and social conditions and to develop novel moral concepts relevant (or simply perceived as relevant) to our particular society, and it simply doesn't matter what other societies did or what our own history says (it certainly should matter to voters and legislators, but not to constitutional courts.) This is what we've done in our teenage-sex legislation, and it would be a good idea to admit it and be honest about it.

I certainly don't think courts would be justified to compare our teen-sex laws with those of other societies and our own history and to declare them irrational and strike them down as out of alignment. I don't think that's the business of courts.

But this is only because I believe sexual mores rules as the legitimate business of legislation and not constitutional adjudication. The constutition in my view says nothing at all about such laws, one way or the other, leaving such matters to voters and legislatures to determine as they see fit.

It is simply remarkable to me how easy it is for courts to get it into their heads that laws they personally don't like are irrational, while laws that on objective grounds may have a similar comparison to our history or to other societies get a complete pass because judges happen to like them. Laws against teen sex are no more inherently rational or irrational then other sexual mores laws. One needs an awful lot of context, including a prediction of where society is going, to understand if such laws make sense. Indeed, it seems to me that the principle reason against them -- they inhibit the formation of the kind of behaviors and relationships society thinks young people should be forming -- is essentially the same as the principle reason given against sodomy laws. I personally like one or both or neither, and personally think the reasoning better in one case than the other (or not), but it seems to me the reasoning for both is the same, and both are first blush equally plausible. Attempting to pass a judgment on either requires knowing an enormous amount abour its society and social relationships.

As a non-libertarian I have an easy time thinking of sexual and family relations as a social rather than a purely personal phenomena with lots of social implications. This may be easier to see in the case of teen sex, but it doesn't seem to me to be of a different substance than any other sexual more.

Human beings may need to have emotionally-held, tightly held sexual mores. We may have adapted these for no other good reason than that we've abandoned others and need something. People aren't robots, they have emotional needs, and if this were the only purpose of such laws I wouldn't call it irrational.
4.30.2008 7:24pm
ReaderY:
What I suggest Eugene do, head on, is question why people believe sex with teen-agers is "abusive". What's the actual basis for that belief, other that a lot of people believe it, are emotionally attached to it, and think those who believe otherwise evil?

As Eugene points out, the minimum ages we've seen in the United States of late are a very recent Western phenomenon. In most of human history, including our own societies until a century ago or less (in many states, a decade ago or less), and many other societies at all times including today, it was and is perfectly normal for teenagesr to enter into the kinds of sexual relationships with men sanctioned by the moral norms of societies for adult women generally. It is our own society that is the anomaly involved.

Now, one can argue that teenage sex inhibits the development of "normal" economic and social relationships -- it makes it less likely that teenagers will continue their education, or enter into lasting marriages, and many other difficulties. But it's very difficult to argue, given the normality of teenage sex in human history, that it has suddenly come to hurt them in a way associated with the term "abuse."

In my way of thinking, society is completely justified in crafting new rules in response to changing economic and social conditions and to develop novel moral concepts relevant (or simply perceived as relevant) to our particular society, and it simply doesn't matter what other societies did or what our own history says (it certainly should matter to voters and legislators, but not to constitutional courts.) This is what we've done in our teenage-sex legislation, and it would be a good idea to admit it and be honest about it.

I certainly don't think courts would be justified to compare our teen-sex laws with those of other societies and our own history and to declare them irrational and strike them down as out of alignment. I don't think that's the business of courts.

But this is only because I believe sexual mores rules as the legitimate business of legislation and not constitutional adjudication. The constutition in my view says nothing at all about such laws, one way or the other, leaving such matters to voters and legislatures to determine as they see fit.

It is simply remarkable to me how easy it is for courts to get it into their heads that laws they personally don't like are irrational, while laws that on objective grounds may have a similar comparison to our history or to other societies get a complete pass because judges happen to like them. Laws against teen sex are no more inherently rational or irrational then other sexual mores laws. One needs an awful lot of context, including a prediction of where society is going, to understand if such laws make sense. Indeed, it seems to me that the principle reason against them -- they inhibit the formation of the kind of behaviors and relationships society thinks young people should be forming -- is essentially the same as the principle reason given against sodomy laws. I personally like one or both or neither, and personally think the reasoning better in one case than the other (or not), but it seems to me the reasoning for both is the same, and both are first blush equally plausible. Attempting to pass a judgment on either requires knowing an enormous amount abour its society and social relationships.

As a non-libertarian I have an easy time thinking of sexual and family relations as a social rather than a purely personal phenomena with lots of social implications. This may be easier to see in the case of teen sex, but it doesn't seem to me to be of a different substance than any other sexual more.

Human beings may need to have emotionally-held, tightly held sexual mores. We may have adapted these for no other good reason than that we've abandoned others and need something. People aren't robots, they have emotional needs, and if this were the only purpose of such laws I wouldn't call it irrational.
4.30.2008 7:24pm
pete (mail) (www):

And of course, polygamy is SO bad, no one ever offers any rationale as to why it's so bad. We all just assume it's bad, and no argument is needed.


Plenty of people have argued why polygamy is bad. Usually the arguments boil down to that it leads to the sexual exploitation and abuse of women and children. Also, in modern societies very few men are able to support that large of a family without resorting to welfare fraud.

Polygamy also leads to a bunch of angry young males that are unable to marry. In the case of FLDS they usually solve this problem by abandoning the males wben they become teenagers so that they will not be in competetion with the older males for a limited supply of women.
4.30.2008 7:31pm
ReaderY:
In other words, we should admit that our society has constructed an ideal of childhood as sacred and inviolate, protected by law, which has no more basis in underlying empirical human behavior than a previous society's (and many elements of our own society's) view of marriage. Should laws be constructed to defend ideals?

My answer is yes!!! If the ideals are useful to society, than it is completely rational to have laws defending them. No apologies! There's simply nothing irrational about the social construction of ideals, even if the ideals are not terribly well attached to empirical experience.

In my view, everyone socially constructs ideals. Much of the ideology underlying laissez-faire represents a similar idealization of the role of individuals.

People tend to believe that their ideals are inherent in the order of things. And they may be right!! (Do we really know what the order of things is.) But the fact that one comes to believe ideals are "just" ideals, or "just" socially constructed, or stops believing in them oneselfm doesn't make them irrational, or even less rational than ones own prefered ideals.

Social ideals can of course be written into the constitution, but the constitution and courts are not the sole repositories of societies' ideals. Legislatures can add their own. The fact that we realize we are sometimes making things up as we go along doesn't make the enterprise of making things up illegitimate.
4.30.2008 7:38pm
pete (mail) (www):

What's the actual basis for that belief, other that a lot of people believe it, are emotionally attached to it, and think those who believe otherwise evil?


I made the point in an earlier thread that the main reason I am opposed to teen marriage is that today's teens are not forced into maturity because of the relative ease of modern living and longer life expectancy, while earlier societies probably needed teen marriage to survive because life was shorter and more brutal. Earlier societies needed teens to act more like adults than we do now so teens were treated like adults and took on a lot more responsibility. I do not think there is anything inherently immoral with teen marriage, but do think that the vast majority of modern western teens are not prepared by society or mature enough to handle it.
4.30.2008 7:47pm
TheGut (mail):
Well thanks to Pete, and ReaderY, we are actually getting somewhere on the teen sex = bad meme. Even if I disagree with their view (and I do), its nice to see someone articulate the why, instead of acting like its a given, and that one holding the opposite view is somehow abnormal.
4.30.2008 9:44pm
TheGut (mail):
Oh yeah - on the broken bone thing.... just anecdotally I had 3 broken bones I think, growing up, before I hit 17-18 or so. My brother had around that many. They were from typical play, or sports injuries. (I.E - just because Tarzan did it, doesn't mean I could manage it..... vine (or rope, in this case) swinging led to a fractured arm).
4.30.2008 9:47pm
zippypinhead:
In the interest of trying to convert a tiny bit of the heat this subject is generating into light, here's an updated AP report that came out this evening. Includes more info, albeit still rather ambiguous, on the broken bones and other types of alleged abuse in the FLDS compound. I also find significant the extent of the parental obstruction of the investigation that's being alleged (but those who read a couple of my earlier posts may recall that obstruction of justice is a particular bugaboo for me).

Have at it folks; I suspect there's fodder for arguments on all sides in it. I don't think I'll weigh in on this one, for the reasons earlier expressed here.
4.30.2008 11:10pm
TheGut (mail):
Zippypinhead,

When the government oversteps its bounds, its pretty much a moral requirement that you don't co-operate and actively hinder any "investigation".

The government is nobodies friend. At best, it might not be an enemy, but its always suspect.
4.30.2008 11:19pm
Oren:
TheGut, that's somewhat counterproductive, don't you think? Hindering the investigation is only going to fuel suspicion and keep it going longer, increasing the burden on everyone. Furthermore, how do you know that your non-cooperation is not accidentally depriving some suspect of exculpatory evidence?

Also, in the instant case, I can't imagine any motive for CPS other than the well-being of the children. They might be mistaken about what actions to take to better that interest, but I see no evidence calling their motives into question.
4.30.2008 11:30pm
subpatre (mail):
Oren writes: Also, in the instant case, I can't imagine any motive for CPS other than the well-being of the children.

“I can’t imagine.” There is a universe in those three words.

Folks experienced with CPS can list many reasons —none related to childrens’ welfare— and can imagine many, many more. From moral outrage to political ambition; from religious competition to budget cuts.

A common reason is the unintended consequences of a mindless bureaucracy. The ‘Hard Lemonade’ case might be a good example. What motive stripped that little boy from his parents, rejected custody to relatives, barred his father from home, and denied contact with his own mother? Rules; mindless, unimaginative rules.

In the case at hand, what motive for CPS to believe the anonymous call to a domestic violence shelter? It’s unthinkable for criminal investigators to accept second-hand hearsay, not due to legal mandates, but for practical reasons. People lie, for more motivations than there are words.


“I can’t imagine.” Ouch.
5.1.2008 9:04am
Brad Ford (mail):
Reporters and statistics are always a bad mix. If something sounds like a big number, they will dutifully report it as "news."

Someday, I will read in the AP how a university study showed 100% of women die of something.

BTW - before I was 17, I had 1 concussion, 1 broken arm, broke my hand 2 times, knee surgery, 50-100 stitches, and at least 7 trips to the ER. I was not abused by anyone. I just played rough. As they say, Boys will be Boys
5.1.2008 11:00am
Blue (mail):

Folks experienced with CPS can list many reasons —none related to childrens’ welfare— and can imagine many, many more. From moral outrage to political ambition; from religious competition to budget cuts.


I assure you that CPS--and the local jurisdictions--are going to come out of this net losers, both in cash and in public sympathy.

They are trying to do the right thing for these kids and paying a price, both literally and figuratively, to do so.
5.1.2008 11:32am
Extraneus (mail):
I agree that the original numerator-only report was suspect in terms of newsworthiness, as is this latest one, which does give a denominator yet strangely avoids adding any comparative data that might put the associated broken-bone rate in perspective. In fact, for whatever reason, most of the reporting on this story strikes me as suspicious, as do the statements coming out of the state authorities, but this passage from the new one seems particularly interesting:

Before Wednesday's disclosure, the state had argued it should be allowed to keep the boys, not because they were abuse victims, but because they were being groomed to become adult perpetrators in the sect. Men in the sect take multiple wives, some of whom are allegedly minors.

If this is in fact what the state argued, and if the law's allowed justifications as posted by Blue in an earlier related thread were in fact those provided in the law, how can this argument have been made with any seriousness?

The allowed justifications cited were:

1. an immediate danger to the physical health or safety of the child

2. the child has been the victim of sexual abuse

3. the parent or person who has possession of the child is currently using a controlled substance

4. the parent or person who has possession of the child has permitted the child to remain on premises used for the manufacture of methamphetamine

Grooming children for an immoral lifestyle doesn't seem to fit any of these criteria. Is it still allowed as a justification for removal? And if so, may we use it to stamp out other ideologies we find immoral, such as when parents espouse Koranic teachings about smiting infidels or Jews under rocks and other such things?

These FLDS guys may be guilty as hell, of actual crimes, but this case is offending my libertarian instincts.
5.1.2008 12:38pm
zippypinhead:
It's orthogonal to the main point of this comment thread, but I can't let this mis-statement go:
TheGut wrote:
When the government oversteps its bounds, its pretty much a moral requirement that you . . . actively hinder any "investigation". . . .The government is nobodies friend.
Nope. Incorrect Constitutionally, legally, and, I would argue, morally (let's not go off on a civil disobedience tangent -- those who are honestly committed to acts of civil disobedience that violate the law are also willing to pay the legal price for their stand). Obstructing, hindering, or lying to the government in any investigation or proceeding is an independent crime, regardless of the underlying context. And the Supreme Court has no problem with that, as there's no First or Fifth Amendment right to affirmatively lie to the government.

I don't know Texas law, but in the Federal context, browse Chapters 47, 63 and 73 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code if you don't believe me. Here's a few of my favorite prohibitions on fibbing to Uncle Sam outside of a formal Article III court proceeding (and there's a LOT more if you bother to read Title 18):

18 U.S.C. §1001: "whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowing and willfully - (1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick scheme, or device a material fact; (2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or (3) makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry; shall be...imprisoned not more than five years..."

18 U.S.C. §1505: "Whoever corruptly...influences, obstructs, or impedes...the due and proper administration of the law under which any pending proceeding is being had before any department or agency of the United States...shall be...imprisoned not more than 5 years..."

18 U.S.C.§1512(b): "Whoever...corruptly persuades another person...or engages in misleading conduct toward another person, with intent to... hinder, delay or prevent the communication to a law enforcement officer or judge of the United States of information relating to the commission or possible commission of a Federal offense...shall be...imprisoned not more than 20 years..."

18 U.S.C. §1519: "Whoever knowingly alters, destroys, mutilates, conceals, covers up, falsifies, or makes a false entry in any record, document, or tangible object with the intent to impede, obstruct, or influence the investigation or proper administration of any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States...shall be...imprisoned not more than 20 years..."

An old Washington politicial truism that people disregard waaaaay too frequently: "It's not the crime that will get you, it's the cover-up..."

Closing thought: IMHO, a proper response to a law or regulation that infringes one's liberty is to directly work to have the regulation repealed. Not to encourage citizens in passive-aggressive lying, cheating, stealing, or obstructing because you don't agree with the regulation. The latter course is destructive to not only the offending regulation, but corrupts respect for even the proper (limited) role of government.
5.1.2008 1:27pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
There's a way to get laws repealed. How do you get regulations repealed?
5.1.2008 10:08pm
ReaderY:
To be fair, the North Carolina Supreme Court in the 1998 case of Pulliam v. Smith explicitly made making an illegal lifestyle visible to the children and failing to tell them that the lifestyle was immoral a ground for a change in custody in a divorce case. Because someone has to have custody in a divorce, however, this is still different from removing the children in the first instance.
5.1.2008 11:43pm
Oren:
How do you get regulations repealed?
Elect a new executive.
5.1.2008 11:55pm
Normie:
In my family:
4 out of 5 children had broken bones. None of us were abused. We just played hard. Only one of us is had more than one broken bone. We call him "fragile" (he actually has a medical condition).

Statistically these numbers don't seem too high. But, in a group with a lot of, uh, "shared genetic material"--especially one that has a very different lifestyle than most (these people are farming, making cheese, working as construction workers--none of them have cushy office jobs, and the kids are playing outside all the time)--some divergence from the national norm shouldn't be too surprising.
5.2.2008 12:03am
Chairm (mail):
Randy R, the nature of marriage is the combination of sex integration and the congingency for responsible procreation. Polygamous practices strongly tend toward the segregation of the sexes and against responsible procreation.

See my comments in previous threads (example) on the subject of this Texas raid.

Instead of using a dragnet to investigate the potential for symptomatic criminal behavior, and instead of waiting for statutory rapes and abuse of children, society can pursue the enforcement of the anti-polygamy laws.
5.3.2008 12:46am