October 31, 2005
HaitiThe Failed State in the Americas
The foreign policy rage of the past few years has been the failed stateAfghanistan, Ethiopia, Sudan, maybe even Iraq. But we in the Americas have one right in our backyardHaiti.
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. It has 8.5 million people. The Gross National Income is $380 per capita. The minimum wage is $1.70 per day. (All figures are from the UN or the World Bank.)
Educational indices are equally depressing. About half of the children are enrolled in primary school: 49% of boys and 46% of girls. In secondary school the picture is worse: 21% of boys and 20% of girls are enrolled.
Health indices are poor. The contraceptive prevalence rate is 27% for any method, modern or not, and the birthrate is 3.8 (it rises to 7.0 in some areas). Maternal mortality is 680/100,000 live births and the infant mortality is 60/1000 births. These figures are the equivalent of Africa, as is the life expectancy which is 51 for males and 53 for females. The HIV prevalence rate is 6.1%.
The IPPF Member Association, Profamil, operates three clinics and sees over 100,000 visits a year on a budget of about $800,000. The contraceptive mix is unique. The condom is the number one method dispensed at the clinics, with 44% of patients opting for condoms. This is because of the long-standing push by the government to stop the HIV epidemic. Condoms are plentiful and free. Depo-Provera is the number two method at 30% and the Pill is a distant third at 10%. This pattern is in contrast to most Third World countries where sterilization is the number one method, followed by the IUD, Depo or the Pill.
We tend to hear about Haiti when another disaster strikes. Hurricane Alpha hit last week, wreaking devastation that was under-reported compared to other hurricane damage here and in other countries recently. A UN peacekeeper was killed last week. There are over 7,000 UN peacekeepers in Haiti trying to keep order. The Presidential elections scheduled for November are likely to be postponed. There are 32 candidates for President. One is an expat named Dumarsais Simeus, a multi-millionaire Texan, whose parents saved to send him to the USA and to Howard University. He now owns a huge food processing company and has brought his 11 siblings to the USA for university.
Mr. Simeus is a prime example of the Haitian brain drain. This is a phenomenon common to the Third World, but it has hit Haiti the hardest. Haiti has the highest percentage84%of college graduates living abroad. The next highest is Ghana at 47%. How can a country develop, govern itself, educate its people, provide health care if its most educated citizens live abroad in Miami and New York? It can’t, pure and simple.
Western Governments have agreed on a plan to provide security, hold the elections and provide more assistance for the educational and health care systems. There are plans to provide more potable water, usable roads and schoolbooks. Haiti must be made safe so that its educated citizens can return. I have heard testimony that they want to, but it has to be safe. I have also heard first-hand that the Profamil clinics have difficulty hiring and retaining skilled medical staffno surprise when they are in such demand and they can earn much more abroad. New York-area hospitals are full of Haitian staff. Perhaps we in this country should look with Haiti and try to balance the system, so that we preserve our immigration opportunities while not draining permanently our Third World neighbors who need those educated citizens at home.
October 24, 2005
In response to Richard Cohen's article, "Support Choice, Not Roe," in October 20's Washington Post
Responding to Cohen's "Support Choice, Not Roe"
Dear Mr. Cohen,
Thank you for your thoughtful piece on abortion, privacy and Roe
. I share your concern that abortion is about much more than privacy. The Douglas opinion is tortured to say the least. I have always thought that Goldberg’s concurring opinion, where he talks about the Ninth Amendment which states that there are other rights reserved to the people in addition to those mentioned in the Bill of Rights, was a better opinion. What might those rights be and how do we divine them? For instance, is the pursuit of happiness one of them? It is mentioned in our Declaration of Independence but not in the Bill of Rightsan unimaginable omission until one realizes that the Ninth Amendment actually means something.
I would submit that decisions about human reproduction are among the rights reserved to the people. It might be debatable whether Madison even thought about this, but birth control and abortion (at least pre-quickening) were legal in 1776 and 1789.
You mention that Supreme Court decisions should be based on clear logic and up-to-date science. I agree. Griswold
were ahead of the science. The whole field of Evolutionary Biology was in its infancy in 1965 and 1973. Now we know so much more about human reproduction and the role of human evolution in our childbearing. I set out all the science and my new argument for reproductive freedom in my book, Beyond Choice: Reproductive Freedom in the 21st Century.
The issue is, does society set the rules for human reproduction or do each of us reproduce as we think best. With abortion, is it better for humanity, for society, to set a rule that every pregnancy should result in childbirth? The science says no.
Now, how do we get there? Do we let each state decide this (your view) or do we say that a decision of this sort is beyond the purview of the states and reserved to the people? Is a power of this sort vested in our government what we signed on for when our government was created? We created a limited government for good reason. Freedom to reproduce on one’s own terms is just one good reason why this matter should not be left to the whim of where you live.
October 19, 2005
Getting to a Nominee's View of the Constitution
Harriet Miers has submitted her response to the questionnaire of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Her response reveals her to be a competent, ambitious, corporate functionary. She rose through the ranks to lead her law firm and the Texas Bar while representing big corporations (that’s what big law firms do) and participating in every conceivable community/legal/charitable/do-good organization in sight. No wonder she didn’t have much of a personal life. She was out networking, connecting, schmoozing and getting ahead. Like Woody Allen, she showed the value of showing up. Even so, she ends up with a fraction of the net worth of John Roberts. Maybe she should have come to Washington sooner. John Roberts’s questionnaire revealed precious little in community involvement, in fact virtually none. He was a legal eagle with little time for the rest of life.
There are different roads to the Supreme Court then. But the end result? Both nominees answered a question about judicial activism. Though phrased differently, they said the same thing and often used the same words like humility and limited. But it is clear that each wrote their own response. Roberts quotes Felix Frankfurter, Miers cites her mentor, Federal District Judge Joe Estes. Roberts quotes Chief Justice John Marshall, Miers cites her experience on the Dallas City Council. The end result is the samejudicial restraint is a good thing. The legal experience revealed shows a gulf as wide as the Atlantic. Roberts is a major leaguer; Miers is minor league all the way.
But does life experience give us hope that Miers will understand the personal side of the cases she will decide? Amidst all the corporate and legal memberships she has had over the years, Miers lists being Chair of the Advisory Committee of Girls, Inc. (1987), a member of the Progressive Voters League (1987) and a Board member of the YWCA and Goodwill Industries (no dates given), and a member of Meals on Wheels (no dates given). Was this social conscience jettisoned as she entered politics or does she still have it, though hidden?
In 1989 Miers filled out a form for the Texans United for Life. She scored 100%, or by my scoring 0%. She supported banning abortion except to save the mother’s life, and she stated that she would appear at press conferences to promote the goals of the pro-life movement and that she would participate in pro-life rallies and special events.
Is Harriet Miers the next Lewis Powella corporate lawyer, bar association president, a seeker of compromise and a person with a social conscience? Or is she an ideologue or an unprincipled politico who has cast aside for political expediency or in a true conversion whatever experience she might have had with the underprivileged who need more than the rest of us the protection of the law?
The Senate Judiciary Committee failed utterly to find out what kind of person John Roberts was or what his constitutional beliefs really were. It was not a fair fight. He was smarter in his answers than they were in their questions. I am sure that Harriet Miers will give similar responses to questions about a right to privacy and, despite conflicting press reports, seems to have already done so to Senator Specter.
So, it is time for a new tack. Let’s ask Miers something new. Let’s see what she is made of constitutionally. Rather than go over the same privacy questions which will elicit nothing of value, how about going through the 1988 Report to the Attorney General: The Constitution in the Year 2000: Choices Ahead in Constitutional Interpretation. This Report lays out 15 vital constitutional issues facing the court. Now clearly the nominee will not answer direct questions on probable cases, but the report gives a roadmap on possible different methods of constitutional analysis on such issues as equal protection, due process, the first amendment, and federalism. She should be asked which method of analysis she supports and why.
The issue of federalism perhaps provides the most fruitful road for probing questions. Justice Goldberg in his concurring opinion in Griswold
cited the Ninth Amendment as a basis for his opinion that there were rights not specifically enumerated in the Bill of Rights that were protected from federal interference. In other words, the people had certain natural rights that could not be infringed. The Ninth Amendment has undergone numerous incarnations over the years and there is fresh scholarship on what its original meaning was, whether it was a rule of interpretation or a source of rights. Miers should be asked about natural law and what she thinks the Ninth Amendment means. Are there natural rights or not? How does a judge discern them? Are the states as well as the federal government prohibited from interfering with them? These are the new questions that Harriet Miers should be asked. Maybe then we’ll learn what is behind the façade.
October 18, 2005
Article in the Oklahoma City Pioneer
See page six of the for "Abortion in the Spotlight" by Tina Morlock. Note: The newspaper is in PDF form -- click here to download it