Archive for April, 2012

A recent (April 22, 2012) editorial in our local paper, the Kingsville Record and Bishop News, responded to Erin Gloria Ryan’s piece at Jezebel.com in which she places Kingsville, Texas among the “scariest places to have ladyparts.”  I reproduce C. Maher’s response here to make it available free to the public, that is those that do not currently subscribe to the paper’s webpage.  I want to emphasize the data offered up by Mr. Maher in this Editorial and not the somewhat condescending tone with which he chose to engage E. G. Ryan.  In no way do I lump “bloggers” and, indeed, Ryan herself,  into the same milieu that Maher does.  I simply want to convey the facts of his piece.  The tone is utterly and completely his alone. 

Kingsville makes “news” elsewhere

I was pondering topics for my column Wednesday, when an unexpected gift was dropped into my email inbox. The gift was a link to a blog post on the website Jezebel.com, in which little Kingsville, Texas, of all places, was named one of “The Ten Scariest Places To Have Ladyparts In America.” I briefly hesitated to write about it for a couple of reasons. The first is that you’ve never heard of Jezebel.com, and by criticizing the obscure, I run risk of drawing attention to something that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. The second is that it’s just plain cheating to pick on bloggers. It’s already sort of understood that they don’t have to rely on things like facts, coherence or grammar. Pointing out the faults of a blogger is like saying that sewage stinks. It’s true, but it’s really not new information. However, I needed a column topic, so I decided to pick the low hanging fruit.

Jezebel.com, by the way, is a site that includes forums on celebrity gossip, women’s issues, fashion and sex. The article that mentions Kingsville was written by Erin Gloria Ryan, a staff writer for the site. To give you a sense of the tone of Jezebel.com , Ryan’s article is in the same “Roe V World” category as another article, “Tim Tebow Can’t Shut Up About Not Being Aborted.” Ryan provides an unspecific system for assigning points to regions of the country based on access to abortion and emergency contraception, parental consent laws, and rape statistics, among others. She then provides her first worst place to be a woman in America – Kingsville. Kingsville was picked, it seems, in part to serve as a stand in for Texas’ abortion laws and domestic violence rates in general, and in part because of the town’s lack of abortion clinics. “Women who live here are about three times as likely to get raped than women who live elsewhere, and once the U.S. Army conducted an exercise here that involved live ammunition,” she wrote. I’ve lived here for more than 20 years, and I’ve never heard of the live fire incident. Apparently, Ryan’s non sequitur to a 1999 incident in which the Army conducted some training downtown, which scared some neighbors. I’m not sure what that has to do with “lady parts,” but it was important enough for Ryan that it received one of only two source references in her section on Kingsville. I was amused that her link was to a World Net Daily article citing an “investigation” by Alex Jones. I figure the inclusion of a decade-old reference to a local interest story is either a strange case of free-association or Ryan won a bet that said she couldn’t work Alex Jones in as a reference for a pro-abortion piece. In any case, I’ll move on from that mystery and focus on the unsourced part of her statement, “Women who live here are about three times more likely to get raped than women who live elsewhere.”

It’s a strange declaration, in that it not only does not provide a source, it doesn’t even provide context. Who are all these “women who live elsewhere” who are automatically safer than if they were in the streets of Kingsville? “Elsewhere” is a pretty big place, and I think there are women in other countries”elsewhere” who would disagree with Ryan’s assessment of their security. Since the article’s title includes the qualifier “in America” perhaps we can assume “elsewhere” is just somewhere in America other than Kingsville. Still a pretty big elsewhere, but a little easier to evaluate.

The Federal Bureau of Investigations compiles crime statistics from across the country in a Uniform Crime Report, which it makes available under a “Crime in the United States” section on its website. (http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/violent-crime/violent-crime). (If, by chance, you have read Ryan’s article, you may not be familiar with what you just saw in parentheses. It’s called a “source” and it let’s people know where you got your information when you make claims to things. That’s a free tip to all you other bloggers out there.) Table 4 (here), “Crime in the United States by Region, Geographic Division and State,” provides data on a number of violent crimes in the country, including “forcible rape.” According to the report, there were 84,767 incidents of forcible rape reported in the United States in 2010, a rate of 27.5 per 100,000 people. In the West South Central Region, which includes Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas, the rate was 32 per 100,000. In Texas, the rate was 30.3 per 100,000. In the same region, Arkansas and Oklahoma both had significantly higher rates than Texas, at 45 and 38.7 per 100,000 respectively. By comparison, Colorado, Michigan, New Mexico, and South Dakota all had rates of 43 per 100,000 or higher. The FBI’s database does not go down to the county level, but the Texas Office of Court Administration does. Data from 2010 is not on their website, but data from 2011 are available. According to the OCA, there were five cases of sexual assault of an adult on the district court docket in Kleberg County in 2011.

To give a little context, we can multiply that out times the 25,000 people who live in Kingsville cited in Ryan’s article, which would put the rate at 20 per 100,000, well below the state and national average. (You can duplicate my work by going to http://card.txcourts.gov/ReportSelection  aspx and selecting “District Court Data Reports” for the period of January 2011 to December 2011) I know those are a lot of numbers to digest, and numbers are boring, but providing real information sometimes isn’t as entertaining as making sweeping, unfounded generalizations. Ryan spends most of the section decrying abortion laws in Texas in general, and writes about the hassle Kingsville women face of driving to the nearest abortion clinic, in Corpus Christi. Apparently, not being able to get an abortion within the city limits of Kingsville is creating a hardship on women and endangering their right to terminate a pregnancy. Of course, Ryan can’t be bothered to offer any data to back up that claim. The Texas Department of Safe Health Services had birth information by county through 2008. For that year, 638 women in Kleberg County between the ages of 15 and 44 years reported a pregnancy. Of those pregnancies, 122 ended in abortion, a rate of 19.1 percent.

By comparison, Dallas County, which has a more urban population with presumably easier access to abortion clinics, had 54,679 pregnancies reported, with 11,337 abortions, or 20.7 percent. (http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/chs/vstat/latest/t14a/shtm). That’s 19.1 percent abortion rate in the land of no clinics and 20.7 percent in the big city. Although I’m sure Ryan would contend that just one opportunity for an abortion lost is one too many. I don’t think a 1.6 percent difference is enough to bring national condemnation. Ryan goes on to take pot shots at cities from Georgia to Oklahoma, as well as the entire state of Mississippi. By their omission, I can only assume the Southwest and West Coast are excellent places to have ladyparts. I’ll let writers in other areas targeted by Ryan take her to task for her shaky logic against them. For my part, I’ll just ask the lady to leave Kingsville out of it, and focus here attention “elsewhere.”

Little Blessings

Posted: April 9, 2012 in Humor, Life

April 10, 1912 (Wednesday)

  • RMS Titanic, the largest ship ever constructed up to that time, began its maiden voyage from Southampton, England at noon, with a final destination of New York City. [15] On its exit, the ship caused the American liner New York to break free of its moorings. [16] It arrived in Cherbourg,France that evening at 7:00 pm, took on more passengers, then departed two hours later. [17]
  • The French liner Niagara, sailing from Le Havre to New York, struck ice while sailing near Newfoundland. The ship’s bow plates were dented, the ship began to leak, and an S.O.S. was sent. The steamer Carmonia rushed to the rescue, but the crew of the Niagara was able to make repairs. [18]

The amazing gift of hindsight allows us to wallow in the dark similarities of these two events of not quite a hundred years ago.   On the day the Titanic embarked on her  maiden voyage into history, the French liner Niagara “struck ice … began to leak, and an S.O.S. was sent.”   In the end, as we gleefully see, Niagara was able to make repairs and keep afloat.  Alas, poor Titanic…

In other news, while hurrying to get breakfast this morning (wanting to get back home and enjoy my day off  – online!) I exited the restaurant location on the corner of Santa Gertrudes and 14th St.  (that’s  police parlance for “left the parking lot”) with stark intentionality.  I had noticed, Constable lights ablaze,  a funeral procession headed my way.  Not wanting to get caught up in deference to it, (again, I want to hurry home!)  I only slightly bumrushed the gas pedal on my truck to get ahead of the line of cars.

Speaking of unintended consequences, I traveled about a half mile to the stop light and got caught by the red.  So there I am, still; occasional, if intense, glances in the rear view mirror my refrain.  An impending funeral procession behind me, I anxiously await the green light:  Tick, Tock … Tick, Tock  Then, finally, red gives over to green and I hastily take the nearest turn, take a deep breath, and proceed home to enjoy my breakfast and this blog.

Blessings are in the minutiae of life.