Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Men's Roe vs. Wade

For a long time I have found it to be a dichotomy in American Jurist Prudence that a woman can decide that she is not in an appropriate economic position to have a child and therefore kill it, legally. At the same time a man has no such choice. There are a number of ways to remove that dichotomy and, frankly, I don't have a great deal of sympathy for guys who screw around and get stuck with the tab. But this article has a quote that I just cannot pass on.
The president of the National Organization for Women, Kim Gandy, acknowledged that disputes over unintended pregnancies can be complex and bitter.

"None of these are easy questions," said Gandy, a former prosecutor. "But most courts say it's not about what he did or didn't do or what she did or didn't do. It's about the rights of the child."
The bold is my own emphasis. We now have the President of NOW saying that court cases surrounding child support and abortion are decided on the "rights of the child"! Isn't this the same group that claims that it should be considered unconstitutional to outlaw partial birth abortion, a procedure in which nobody even claims that we are dealing with an inviable glob of cells and which nobody has stepped forward with a supportable claim that it is ever reasonably needed in saving the life of the mother? Talk about dichotomies!

Funnies for the day

Ann Coulter's column today is a decent hit piece on Hollywood in general and the Oscars in particular (still haven't found anybody I know who watched any of it). This is the key belly-laugher paragraph:
Even on AIDS – which is something you'd expect people like Clooney to know something about – Hollywood was about seven years behind. Wait, no – bad choice of words. Even on AIDS, Hollywood got caught with its pants down. Still no good. On AIDS, Hollywood got it right in the end. Oh, dear ... Note to self: Must hire two more interns to screen hate mail.

Big Libs should avoid math and statistics

Diane Carmen, one of my favorite targets in the antique media of late, decides to prove that the state of Colorado is fundamentally unfair to women by using statistics and "logic" in her latest Denver Post Column. We all know I love math, so here we go.
A study released last month by the Guttmacher Institute ranks South Dakota 44th in the nation for availability of contraceptives and family planning services and for public policies that support women's reproductive health care.

Colorado ranks 40th.
What does this actually rank? Not the availability of contraceptives and "family planning" (read abortion), but availability as measured by the percentage of women who are either covered by private insurance or the public dole so that it is free or near free. This is not a measure of "availability" but a measure of who has to pay. It may or may not be accurate, but it isn't a question of the state in some way preventing these women from access to birth control, it is about who has to pay.
Even women with health insurance and prescription drug coverage often are on their own when it comes to birth-control pills and devices. While 23 states have enacted health care equity laws, neither South Dakota nor Colorado requires insurance companies to cover contraceptives.
Notice that the claim is not that either state prevents health insurance policies from covering said things, just that it does not require them to cover it. Do they require the insurance programs to cover all requests for a vasectomy? I somehow doubt it. This may be, according to your personal views, good or bad policy from the perspective of employers negotiating health coverage for their employees, but again, the state isn't preventing access to anything. And in which state does the law require a guy's health care plan to cover condoms? If you want equity you have to make condoms covered, at least until that male contraceptive pill becomes viable.
So a woman making $22,000 a year and paying $115 a month in insurance premiums still will pay approximately $35 a month if she needs oral contraceptives.
OK, so I make more than $22K/year. I also pay a lot more than $115/month in premiums. I pay a $20/month copay for my wife's oral contraceptives. Can I just pay for that out of pocket and reduce my premiums to $115/month? We are talking about $1/day here. I would agree that if a woman is on oral contraceptives for the purpose of being healthy (and many are) as opposed to just avoiding pregnancy that it should be considered part of any health care drug coverage package. But if you are a single woman who is having regular sex, is $1/day a big deal? If it is, can't you get him to pay? Or wear a condom? As social problems go, paying $1/day to have sex without worrying about pregnancy doesn't seem like one of our major crisis management issues.
The same woman probably would not be eligible for services under Medicaid in either state because South Dakota and Colorado do not provide funding for family planning services beyond minimal levels.
Again, are we talking about $1/day or are we talking about state (read my taxes) funded abortion?
And in case this woman gets raped or a condom breaks during sex, neither state requires emergency contraception to be available in hospital emergency rooms or through pharmacists.
This implies that these services are not available. She offers no proof of this other than the state doesn't require it. Personally, I think the state should require that Plan-B be available in the emergency room for any woman who comes in and reports a rape, but this may be unnecessary. I would assume that it is, the only question being who pays. I am happy to have my tax dollars go to this one for low income women who are the survivors of rape and are willing to fill out the police report. I am not so sure it is my job to deal with it on the "the condom broke" (read very often We were in a big hurry and didn't bother) case, but again, this is a "who pays" question not an availability issue. If you question my aside, try pulling a condom over your head and down to your nose. If you own an air compressor try filling it up until it breaks. If not, try putting it under the tap as a water balloon. Condoms rarely break.
Here are the facts: Only 56 percent of the women in need of publicly supported contraception services in Colorado are getting them, and 14 percent of pregnancies here end in abortion.
Notice the key phrase in there: "publicly supported". Is it my job to not only provide real health care but preventative care so you can have indiscriminate sex without consequence? This, again, isn't an availability issue but a "who pays" issue.
When it comes to teenagers, only 49 percent get the contraception services they need. And a full 23 percent of teenage pregnancies end in abortion.
OK, so now it isn't only my job to pay for the birth control of adult welfare recipients but 16 year old girls. THEY SHOULDN'T BE HAVING SEX! And if they are and can't get the guy to buy a condom we need to get better teachers in their health classes. Trust me, I was a teenage guy. I never passed on sex over the cost of a condom. I don't know any guy who ever did.

And here comes my absolute favorite and the reason I had to post this:
Women of reproductive age spend on average 68 percent more in out-of-pocket health care costs than men. A woman who wants two children will use contraceptives for more than two decades. And then, when she experiences menopause, a wide range of prescription drugs to treat symptoms are not covered by insurance plans either.
Don't couples spend most of the money spent out-of-pocket for contraceptives and pregnancy care and delivery costs? Since for a great portion of their reproductive age most women will be married is this really a cost that SHE bears or is it a cost that THEY bear? And for single women, do you really think the average guy spends less than $1/day more than you on the whole dating scene? Two movie tickets, popcorn and soda once a week is a lot more than $1/day. Don't even think about going out to dinner. And if you are dating and using only oral contraceptives are you really being smart? This isn't 1968, sex kills today.

Are there issues in the current system? Most certainly there are. But Ms. Carmen tries to frame those issues as being oppressive to women. That is really not the case. One can argue that God has been unfair to women but not the state. What she really wants is for the state to pay for everything that anyone might want. I don't. I am willing to admit my desires are destined to be suboptimal. Her desire is socialism. We know where that leads and my suboptimal is much better.

In closing, I would vote for a plan saying every child bearing age woman is to be provided oral contraceptives on demand in the state of Colorado (or the country for that matter) if the state wants to go cut a deal for $25-30/month/woman. I would wind up saving money and poor women could get what they want for free and their premiums wouldn't go up. That is, however, the free market at work and not pure socialism.

If the state just forces all health care providers to include them and the state pays for those uninsured, then the premiums will go up for poor insured women, I get no cost break, and the state (read you and me) will pay $35/month/woman for those covered under Medicare. Our taxes will have to go up to pay for that. My plan is much better, don't you think?

The free market is a wonderful tool, socialism is a wonderful tool for destroying society.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Did Chief Justice Roberts mean that?

I stated yesterday that I thought C.J. Roberts implied that the Congress could pass a law that forced universities, even those that did not accept federal funds, to allow equal access to military recruiters. Matthew Franck makes the argument at Bench Memos that he didn't. I am still not sure that the Chief did intend to state that but I find Matthew's argument very weak.
If Roberts was speaking carefully, he could be read (equally carefully) as saying only that a direct federal statute requiring universities to open their doors to military recruiters (without relying on strings attached to federal funding) would not infringe on the freedom of speech -- while the chief would be saying nothing at all about whether Congress otherwise possessed lawful authority to impose such a mandate on universities directly.
I accept this as an entirely viable possibility and was the reason that I said I wasn't sure what the intent was, especially since even though the opinion is written mostly without frivolous legal-ease it wasn't entirely clear which way we should read that portion of the opinion. Matthew and I fully agree that the argument for intent to declare a direct requirement constitutional is in the "broad and sweeping" description the Chief gives earlier in the opinion in describing Congresses power to raise armies. This is where his argument and I part company.
Even the most expansive reading of "raising and supporting armies," augmented by the most latitudinarian reading of the "necessary and proper" clause, would hardly permit the U.S. Army to station a recruiting sergeant in my front yard all day long, to accost my young neighbors with offers of great career options if they sign on to be soldiers. (And if he doesn't move in and spend the night, Sarge is not "quartered" in my house contrary to the Third Amendment.)
While I don't disagree with the statement, it isn't relevant. There is something special about a school, even if private, in recruitment. That is why private companies recruit there and not on your front yard. Further, the Chief did not say that Congress could require a college or university that did not allow other recruiters access to give access to the military. This is a non-argument.
Or try it another way. It's one thing for Congress to create a draft and require all eligible young men to register for it. It would be quite another thing for Congress to require me, as a teacher, to check on the draft-registration status of young men in my classes.Um, not to put to fine a point on it, but not only can they, they have. Because of federal law I had to show my up to date draft registration card to enroll in college. As far as I know this is still the law of the land. Further, I don't believe you can avoid it by not accepting federal dollars. I am not sure about that last bit as it didn't come up for me, but I most certainly had to prove I had registered to get into the classroom. They don't explicitly require a teacher to double check the draft registration because presumably every young male in your class is registered with the school. As a practical matter, therefore, all college professors can guarantee that the young men over 18 in their classes have registered.
And what difference is there at Harvard? It's a private entity with its own property rights, entitled to govern its own affairs, and not as such to be dragooned into serving the government's recruitment purposes unless it accepts some quid pro quo as an institution. It's not even clear that public entities -- like state universities -- can be so dragooned, since they are not arms or creatures of the federal government. (I am not necessarily arguing for a judicial power to gainsay the sorts of laws I've mentioned, but I do think they are beyond any proper understanding of congressional authority.)
Again, a non-argument. General Electric is a private entity with its own property rights, entitled to govern its own affairs, etc. too. Congress regularly passes requirements for access, hiring practices, trade practices, manufacturing requirements, etc that General Electric can't ignore just because they are getting their money from actual customers and not the federal dole.
Does it make a difference that Roberts is only talking about the mandate of equal access being imposed on universities and their law schools? If so, my hypotheticals aren't apposite. But here's one that would be. If I run a career forum, off-campus in a rental property at my own expense, for political science majors to explore jobs they might seek after graduation, can the Congress dictate that I let in military recruiters on terms equal to everyone else I invite, even though I did not wish to invite the military? If you say no, what changes when I move it on campus and get my university to sponsor and fund it?
I say no and yes! In fact I would be surprised if Congress hadn't already said so. Again, I am not a lawyer, but the government routinely forces private companies to not only do business with them but to guarantee them a price no higher than their best customer. The exception to this rule is religious freedom, an exception found also in the text of the Solomon amendment. As a counter example, let's talk about something more mundane. Let's assume I operate a private and independent pen manufacturing and sales firm. I build super heavy duty pens. People like my pens because, while pricey, they hold up well to the stress of heat/cold/moisture/pressure/etc. Can I refuse to sell pens to a guy in uniform? How about a politician? How about the government/Pentagon? I don't think so. The government can't force me to be in that business but once I have chosen to do so they can regulate all sorts of things about it, including forcing me to sell to them.

The tougher question would be can Congress force military recruitment access on schools or businesses that don't allow other recruiters? Is the power to raise an army so broad that Congress could force a private institution to do something outside of it's normal course of business. For example, the military currently has a desperate need for folks who read and speak Arabic. Could the Congress force private businesses to make contact lists of people who work for them that speak Arabic available to the Penatagon so that the Pentagon can attempt to recruit them? I would hope not and the Chief certainly did not imply in any way that they can.

Again, I am not certain that Chief Justice Roberts intended to imply that this power is inherently constitutional, but I see no viable argument against that position in Matthew's post. In fact, his examples tend to enforce the idea that such a power, if exercised, would be constitutional.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Robert Reich and I agree on something

And no, I am not drunk. I knew this day would eventually occur. I knew one day I would read one of his pieces and go "He gets it, this is totally rational and seemingly correct". I would have never guessed it would be about the Bush administration being right and their critics being hysterical. I may need a drink. I may send him one! Can you legally ship those little scotch bottles like the airlines use through the mail?
About 80 percent of American ports are already run by foreign companies. These companies usually hire Americans to do the day-to-day management. After all, global companies want the best talent they can get. Dubai Port World's chief operating officer is Edward Bilkey, who's an American. Its former American executive, David Sanborn, was just nominated to be U.S. Maritime Administrator.

And if this deal goes through, Dubai Ports World will probably keep most of the American executives who have been working for the British company that now runs the six ports in question because they've made the company lots of money, which is why Dubai Ports wants to buy it.

Whatever the arrangement, the day-to-day operations at the ports will still be done by American longshoremen, clerks, and technicians. And control over port security will remain with the U.S. government, the Coast Guard, Customs, harbor police, and port authorities, who make and enforce the rules.
I haven't written on the ports deal mostly because I haven't had time to blog lately. But I also held off because it was clear in the beginning that more data would come out. I, like most people, don't know anything about port management or port security.

The initial reports just seemed too thin on hard facts to do anything with them. I read it as OH MY GOD, we are turning over our ports to ARABS. But they didn't say what, exactly, we were turning over and I did know enough that you don't actually sell or buy major US ports, you rent them. And when, early on, someone pointed out that companies wholely owned by the Communist Chinese Government were doing exactly what the UAE company was going to do we got: But you don't Understand, THESE are ARABS we are talking about. That was my first cue that this was another kerfuffle.

When I found out from this Varifrank post (HT: Hugh) that the same UAE holding company owns passenger and cargo airlines and CARGO TERMINALS at JFK airport (you know, the one in New York City), I was convinced that this is a kerfuffle. We trust them to fly jumbo jets over our most populated city every day but we can't trust them to run forklifts. It was a PR disaster and the administration better start figuring out how to do better PR, but the decision seems, now that we have more data, entirely in line with what we and the majority of the world has done and continues to do. To undue this deal would either mean kicking out all the foreign companies who do this work or being overtly and extremely racist, IMO.

I have heard some non-racist, thoughtful arguments against this deal. Those arguments would also apply to the Chinese companies and a bunch of others. It seems to me that it is reasonable for the Congress to (please God, after talking to people who know the subject which they clearly haven't done to date) look into passing laws around what kind of security clearances one should have to get access to some of the information floating around at a major port and apply it to all of these companies. It doesn't seem reasonable to piss off the whole Arab world by pulling what looks like a perfectly reasonable deal for both us and the UAE, and which appears to have little to no security implications.

One of the things that strikes me about the non-convincing arguments against this deal is that by running port operations a bad guy could get something bad into the US. My first thought on that was that if it is coming into our port the guy who arranged to get it to the US wasn't in the US, now was he? It is completely irrational especially in the face of the fact that we keep being told that only a tiny fraction of the containers arriving are inspected. Why bother to infiltrate our port if you want to get a nuke into the US? Why not infiltrate the port in Pakistan? The nukes in the US are, well, already here!

We have learned something that at least I didn't know. We now have a bunch of inspectors at foreign ports checking the containers coming here at the shipping point. That actually makes a lot more sense to me than checking them once they get here.


Houston: People of N.O., get a job or go home

It seems that the good folks of Houston are a bit miffed that having bent over backwards for the folks who lost their homes to Katrina the good Mayor Nagin only wants the ones back that are willing to work. This guy has permanent foot in mouth disease.

On a more serious note, while there were certainly a good number of hard working respectable folks in New Orleans there were also a lot of free loaders and criminals. One could argue that New Orleans had more than their fair share of both. If I were the mayor I wouldn't want them back either. It is entire likely that by percentage those folks are more likely not to return. If they found the government teat in Houston why would they risk the possibility that it ran dry in New Orleans? If most of the working class moves back to New Orleans, Houston will be left with an expanded criminal and welfare class and few new taxpayers to help deal with them.

2 odd stories from England today

Put Mom in the freezer for safe keeping.


Potholes are like free speedbumps.

Speaking of despicable

The Woodlawn cemetery in Detroit where Rosa Parks was buried has raised their rates.
The spaces in the Rosa L. Parks Freedom Chapel were priced at $17,000 before the cemetery gave spots, for free, to Parks, her husband and her mother. Now, the spaces cost $24,275, and possibly as much as $65,000 for the slots nearest to Parks’ crypt.
I am all for free enterprise and pricing what the market will bear but there are some things that one should not attempt to make a buck on. IMHO, this is one of them.

A Fair Decision

That is the apt title of this post at Powerline. SCOTUS handed down a unanimous decision today that the Solomon Amendment is constitutional. For those of you not following this case the Solomon Amendment requires colleges that accept federal funding have to allow military recruiters the same access to campuses and students that any other recruiter receives. Chief Justice Roberts wrote the opinion which actually goes farther than declaring that the Solomon Amendment is, in fact, constitutional. He at least implies if not outright states (legal speak is funny that way to me) that the Congress could simply require the access and not give colleges the option of not receiving the funds and withholding access to military recruiters.
It is clear that a funding condition cannot be unconstitutional if it could be constitutionally imposed directly.
I expected SCOTUS to uphold the Solomon Amendment. I would have never dreamed that a unanimous decision with a single issued opinion would go so far as to explicitly recognize Congress's rights to force even private organizations with no state funding to reasonably assist in the process of "raising an army".