Lawyers, Guns and Money

Primary Battle Completely Understandable

Walter Shapiro asks "Whose fault is the Clinton-Obama stalemate?" The article then more or less argues that although Clinton's campaign has been egregiously incompetent, Obama's campaign has also had a significant share of "substantial misadventures." But shouldn't we consider the possibility that the race has reached a quasi-equilibrium with Obama in a relatively narrow but decisive lead because both of the candidates are really, really impressive? That the core supporters of both aren't moving because they, I dunno, really like their preferred candidate? Doesn't this seem considerably more likely?

This is especially true since the examples Shaprio offers are either trivial (anyone want to make a case that the race would be significantly different if Clinton kept the same slogan?) or projection (I certainly think it's outrageous to push to try to seat delegates based on a straw poll with one major candidate on the ballot, but I'd love to see evidence that this has been a factor for a significant number of actual primary voters.) Even the one really consequential Clinton blunder that Shapiro identifies -- allowing Obama to run the table in the February caucuses with nearly token opposition -- was the outgrowth of a strategy that was reasonable (invest resources to end it on Super Tuesday) that just didn't work out.

I know we're trained to be cynical, but at some point you have to consider the possibility that the race has gone on because the Democrats have two broadly ideologically similar candidates with, in different ways, formidable political skills. All campaigns make mistakes, but that's the key dynamic here; the race wouldn't be close for so long if both candidates didn't have a lot of strongly committed supporters.

Americans Like To Throw Each Other In Prison

Given all the press recently about the U.S. incarceration rate -- which now tops 1 in every 100 adults -- it should come as no surprise that the US leads the world in both total number of incarcerees and the per capita incarceration rate. As Liptak puts it, our prison population dwarfs that of other countries. A dubious distinction if I ever heard one.

From Liptak's article in today's NYT:

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Anti-Vaccination Crankery Is Dangerous


Seriously, Obama needs to stop with this public-health-damaging nonsense immediately.

...what Megan says in comments is worth elevating here:
And to second (third, fourth, whatever) those above - the science is not inconclusive. But I am willing to concede that this is one of those times when the precise language of scientists (and in particular, statisticians) can become misconstrued. In particular, no study can ever 'disprove' much of anything. All it can do (and many, many studies consistently have, in this case) is fail to find a link. In statistical terms we always call this 'failing to reject the null hypothesis of no relationship.' It's a weird double negative, but it's careful for a reason - we always set up our experiments assuming the thing we're trying to disprove is true. Our conclusion options are to reject the null (and conclude that a relationship exists) or fail to reject the null. We typically shy away from clearly stating that this means conclusively that no relationship exists, since as scientists we're always open to the possibility of being wrong - perhaps another study will come along with better/different methodology and contradict our findings, perhaps someone will have more money and more time and collect more data and contradict our findings, etc. However, all that hemming aside, just like a scientific theory is treated with more confidence than the layman interpretation of the word 'theory,' when numerous studies consistently fail to reject the null hypothesis, most reasonable scientists are comfortable assuming that this means that no relationship exists.
...Clinton too, ack.

Mail Is A Fundamental Right

One more way that the criminal (in)justice system is whittling away at the small pleasures in life for the incarcerated in a Florida county: now their loved ones have to write extra teeny tiny. That's because now, based on a new directive, they will only be allowed to receive postcards. No S.W.A.K. allowed.

Here's more:

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Knocked Up? Your Job Might Be on the Line

The Wall Street Journal is reporting today that discrimination against pregnant women is on the rise. Up 14 percent in the past year, to be exact. And yet, pregnant women have very little recourse.

Jezebel (linked above) explains pregnant women's legal bind: "Employers can fire, lay off and refuse to hire knocked up ladies, but they have to provide ample proof that they held men to the same standards. They also have to provide maternity leave, as they would provide leave for any other medical issue, but in 48 of the 50 states, that leave doesn't have to be paid (readers in California and Washington State, you're the lucky ones)."

That's pretty much right. There is a Pregnancy Discrimination Act, but it's protections are limited. And it doesn't require affirmative protections for pregnant women but rather restrains companies from treating pregnant women worse than men and women who are not pregnant. In fact, the Supreme has specifically rejected any requirement of affirmative protections for pregnant women.

Of course, this all goes to the point that we live in a society that doesn't really care about having women as equal citizens, or really about children and even fetuses (except when they can be used as political pawns). Call me crazy, but I'd argue that firing a woman or treating her badly during her pregnancy is certainly not the way to assure a healthy pregnancy and birth.

Are Harvard Men Sidelined by Sharia?

Michael Graham at the Boston Herald has his panties in a bunch over Harvard's decision to create a women-only hour in the school's gym, so that Muslim women can exercise comfortably and in keeping with the rules of modesty imposed by Sharia. He calls discrimination against those poor Harvard boys who have been sidelined by the school's decision. Woe is them!

Now, here's the thing. I'll admit my ambivalence (to put it mildly) about religious edicts (of ANY faith) that require women's "modesty" while usually allowing men to traipse all over town. But, aside from the fact that we live in a pluralistic society that should accommodate many faiths, using this as an excuse to decry, oh, everything Harvard has ever done to encourage dialogue with Muslim students and world leaders is just bull.

I'm told by a Boston-native that the Herald is beantown's version of the NY Post. Graham certainly proved it today.

Italian Police Storm Hospital to Prevent a Late-Term Abortion

Is this what we're heading toward here in the U.S.? In Naples last week, police stormed into a hospital based on an anonymous tip that doctors there had performed an abortion later than 24 weeks (the latest date allowed under the country's 30-year-old abortion law). From the NY Times:

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Being Pro-Choice Is Not Enough

This post was originally published on 1/22/08

So, as you might have heard, today is the 35th Birthday/Anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, which was handed down on January 22, 1973. The organizers of blog for choice day have suggested we all write about why it's important to "vote pro-choice." While it's true that it's important to vote "pro-choice," I want to write about more than that -- why it's important to vote for someone who really understands what it means to want reproductive justice. In order to understand this, it's important to know how far Roe got us, and how far we've got to go.

Roe was a huge step. It said that the right to abortion was constitutionally-grounded and was too important -- to fundamental -- to be left to the whims of the state governments or to come and go at the will of the majority. Though the language of the decision had more to say about doctors than about women, the message of Blackmun's decision was loud and clear: women have a fundamental constitutional right to control their reproductive lives, not to let their reproductive lives control them.

Immediately after Roe, Medicaid funds became available for poor women to have abortions, and the right became a reality for many millions of American women. Since then, however, the times have not been so sweet for reproductive freedom. Facing pressure, violence, and over the top licensing requirements from the states, clinics have closed, leaving women in 87% of US counties without an abortion provider. The Hyde Amendment was passed and continues to bar poor women from receiving Medicaid funding for their abortions, with few exceptions. As Francis Kissling and Kate Michelman, two longtime leaders of the abortion rights movement (Kissling at Catholics for a Free Choice and Michalman at NARAL)
write in this week's Nation, the US has gone from being a leader in reproductive health access to a laggard.
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