Should We Say Yes To Affirmative Consent

Should We Say Yes To Affirmative Consent

This is an opinion piece published in the Statesman.

BY SCOTT LONGAKER | Guest Columnist | The Statesman

The Unites States Constitution is a document most citizens hold dear and the Fifth Amendment in particular contains what is known as the “Due Process Clause.”

“No person shall…be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law….”

While the Constitution is in place to limit the power of the federal government and does not explicitly bind the university from enacting its own rules and regulations regarding conduct, violating it does have serious implications for society as a whole. The university’s recent adoption of an affirmative consent sexual assault policy does just that by shifting the burden of proof onto the accused. Both of these actions severely undermine the foundation of law this nation was founded on.

The University of Minnesota system’s Policy Library defines sexual assault as “actual, attempted or threatened sexual contact with another person without that person’s affirmative consent.”

Affirmative consent is defined as “informed, freely and affirmatively communicated willingness to participate in sexual activity that is expressed by clear and unambiguous words or actions.”

The language of the policy establishes a position for the complainant that cannot be refuted.

How can the accused, that is one who has not yet been found to be guilty of any wrongdoings, prove that they received consent from someone who claims not to have given it?

Last year the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that shifting of the burden of proof violated the “Due Process Clause” and was therefore unconstitutional. While a university in Minnesota is not bound by the court rulings in Washington, ignoring it and enacting similar policies sets a standard of practice that undermines the American concept of justice.

Imagine this scenario: two students go on a couple dates. On the third date, as they are saying goodnight, one student leans in as if to kiss the other. No explicit verbal consent was given and the initiator awkwardly fails at landing the kiss. If they felt threatened by the action of trying to be kissed they would be able to file a complaint of sexual assault.

While an encounter such as this does not fit into what is commonly thought of as sexual assault, under affirmative consent it could be. In addition, under the same policy, the initiator of the kiss would be guilty.

There is no mistake that sexual assault, on campus and off, is a real problem.

A problem where the perpetrators of such crimes often are never prosecuted or reported even though laws and conduct codes already make rape and sexual assault illegal, as well as laws and codes addressing the inability to give consent due to incapacitation.

Proponents of affirmative consent policies suggest that they are necessary to combat this problem. Ezra Klein, editor-in-chief of Vox.com and a supporter, readily admits that it will brand some innocent people as rapists but that, “Men need to feel the cold spike of fear when they begin a sexual encounter.”

This despite findings by forensic expert David Lisak of Boston College in a 2002 study, Repeat Rape and Multiple Offending Among Undetected Rapists, that over 90 percent of campus rapes are committed by three percent of students.

So because of the heinous crimes of a few, innocent people may be labeled (in some instances for life) as sexual offenders. How does criminalizing the sexual behavior of everyone stop the evil behavior of the predator who will no doubt still try to find a way to harm others? As mentioned, many times these crimes go unprosecuted and often are not even reported. How does labeling more people as offenders stop the crimes already being committed? Does expelling the student who tried to kiss their date prevent future assaults? Does it bring justice to the victims who stand silent?

We have seen what mass criminalization has done to stop drug abuse under the guise of the War on Drugs. While we incarcerate a larger portion of our population than any other nation, illicit drug use has reached what has been called epidemic levels. Has such policy stopped drug abuse or its associated crimes? Obviously not. Why would the same type of mass criminalization stop sexual assault?

In the interest of justice, perhaps we should focus on the crimes already being committed instead of creating new ones. We should be addressing why victims are reluctant to report such crimes (could it be the abysmal conviction rate of real rapists?) and why we feel violent behavior (sexual assault) can be countered with more violent behavior (putting people in cages). This is a formula that has failed repeatedly, yet we still expect different results.

Creating a culture of fear and shame surrounding our sexual lives does nothing to stop the grotesque actions of the sexual predator, nor does expelling the awkward freshman. What it does accomplish is a violation of our basic rights and moves our society further away from the ideals of equality under the law.

Fond Du Lac Still Recovering

Here is a story produced for News Photography with a class theme surrounding Duluth’s infrastructure.

 

The Fond du Lac Culvert bridge. The bridge a Depression era construction, stands in disrepair as of March of 2016.
The Fond du Lac Culvert bridge. The bridge a Depression era construction, stands in disrepair as of March of 2016.
Entrance to Chamber’s Grove Park in the Fond du Lac area of Duluth, Minnesota in March 2016. The park is closed until next year while it receives a facelift.
Entrance to Chamber’s Grove Park in the Fond du Lac area of Duluth, Minnesota in March 2016. The park is closed until next year while it receives a facelift.
Minnesota State Highway 210 through Jay Cooke State Park in Duluth, Minn. The road still closed in March 2016 after the damage caused by the flood of June 2012.
Minnesota State Highway 210 through Jay Cooke State Park in Duluth, Minn. The road still closed in March 2016 after the damage caused by the flood of June 2012.

 

 

The Fond Du Lac neighborhood of Duluth, Minnesota was hit particularly hard by the flood of June 2012. An event that became known as the Flood of the Century. Situated at the westernmost end of Duluth and in the St. Louis River Estuary, Fond Du Lac is still recovering nearly four years later.

 

The northern entrance to Jay Cooke State Park via Minnesota State Highway 210 also starts within the neighborhood. The damage in Jay Cooke was extensive but has been repaired, the section of roadway on the eastern edge of the park being completely washed out. There was also extensive damage to the natural habitat surrounding the roadway. This section of highway is still closed, with a tentative re-opening of October 2016 according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s website.

 

At the foot of highway 210 lies Chamber’s Grove Park. Set on the St. Louis River, it is a popular fishing and family recreation area. The park is currently closed to undergo facility improvements. The Army Corps of Engineers, in cooperation with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the MN Land Trust, completed work on the shoreline and section of river in November 2015. The work included restoring a natural shoreline and building rock walls in the river, for erosion control and to create spawning areas for fish. As part of the St. Louis River Area of Concern the project has been heralded as a great success by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

 

The park is slated to re-open in the spring of 2017. In the upcoming year, renovation will be done on the parks facilities and infrastructure. Initial funding of one million dollars has been secured from the Minnesota DNR Parks and Trails Legacy Grant. In January a public meeting was held laying out areas of focus and two concepts plans. Included in the improvements will be new restroom facilities and playground equipment.

 

Mission Creek runs through the heart of Fond du Lac and underneath Minnesota Highway 23. The bridge over the creek, known as the Fond du Lac Culvert is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. While the culvert does not currently need any structural improvements, the stonework does require attention. The section of Highway 23 is known as Veteran’s Memorial Parkway. The Minnesota Department of Transportation is currently underway with major improvements on Highway 23, but current and future plans do not indicate any work to be done to the area in Fond du Lac.

 

The area is rich with history, once the site of an Ojibwe settlement, and followed by an American Fur Trading Company outpost. The American Fur Trading Company, founded by John Jacob Astor thrived following the War of 1812, making Astor the United States first multi-millionaire. As the fur trade declined, the area turned to commercial fishing, and by the beginning of the 20th century the area had become the popular picnic and recreation area it is today. Keeping this history in mind with the planned improvements, the area stands to remain a popular destination for outdoor recreation and families for years to come.

Greenbacks. Moolah. Cash. Bitcoin?

Greenback. Moolah. Cash. Bitcoin?

Link to an Article that was published In the Duluth Budgeteer.

By Scott Longaker

Money, an ever-present need, has gone through many changes, from livestock to the U.S. Federal Reserve Note to today’s digital currency. Whether it is earning, spending or saving, we use money. Bitcoin, a digital currency, is the new kid on the block.

Ernesto Jimenez, Twin Ports entrepreneur and owner of SoberPro, a local designated-driver delivery service, is a proponent of bitcoin as well as other altcoins, or cryptocurrencies. His business, which offers sober drivers to bring people home in their own cars, can be paid in the traditional manner of credit card and cash. It also accepts bitcoin.

“The biggest thing about bitcoin are the transaction fees,” said Jimenez. “With Square (a mobile credit-card reader) and such, it’s based on a percentage. So at 2.75 percent, if we make a $100 transaction, they’re going to take $2.75. If we take a million-dollar transaction at 2.75 percent, that’s a pretty penny. Now with bitcoin, it doesn’t matter how much money is changing hands.”

“Bitcoin transaction fees are usually around 4 cents,” said Clyde Raymond Whitledge, a computer programmer and local expert on bitcoin. This is much lower than traditional credit card fees, which commonly add 3-5 percent to the cost of any product. Many small businesses will offer a 3-5 percent discount to a buyer using bitcoins for avoiding the traditional fees.

With these potential savings, coupled with the online appeal of security and anonymity, bitcoin is gaining an increased presence for the average consumer and retailer. Retailers such as Home Depot, CVS and Target now accept bitcoin as a valid form of payment at many locations, though not yet in the Twin Ports.

There are also digital gift card providers such as Gyft and eGifter. Both companies have apps available that allow purchasing digital gift cards directly with bitcoin. Many large chain businesses such as Best Buy and Applebee’s have egift cards available. Both gift-card sellers offer greater rewards for using bitcoin than they do for traditional credit and debit card purchases.

Jimenez thinks putting the control of money back into the hands of those to whom it belongs, as opposed to the banks, can be a great help to pulling people out of poverty.

“I have heard we are in an economic crisis since I was 12 years old,” said Jimenez, “Constantly being told it is my future, well, they’re right. I see this as a way to bring wealth back into the community.”

The potential savings and the ease at which one can collect Satoshis, the smallest fraction of a bitcoin, are a couple of the reasons Jimenez sees the future of bitcoin as one that helps eliminate poverty.

Bitcoin faucets, so-called because they drip Satoshis from a network, similar to how a bathroom sink may have a leaky faucet, is one way to collect bitcoin. Jimenez estimates he collects about $14 a month in altcoins, either through bitcoin faucets or by connecting to networks to earn various other cryptocurrencies which then can be exchanged for bitcoin. This is all money he earns by simply allowing his home desktop computer to connect to the required networks and run the needed programs by playing simple games or entering “Captcha” phrases.

“If I can get $14 a month on my computer, what if 30,000 people in Duluth did that?” he said. “That’s $420,000 a month being brought into the city.”