Adam Serwer

"Women's Empowerment" Does Not Lead to Sex-Selective Abortion

Ross Douthat had a head scratcher of a column yesterday positing that sex-selective abortion is the "result" of women's empowerment, offering India as an example: The spread of sex-selective abortion is often framed as a simple case of modern science being abused by patriarchal, misogynistic cultures. Patriarchy is certainly part of the story, but as Hvistendahl points out, the reality is more complicated — and more depressing. Thus far, female empowerment often seems to have led to more sex selection, not less. In many communities, she writes, “women use their increased autonomy to select for sons,” because male offspring bring higher social status. In countries like India, sex selection began in “the urban, well-educated stratum of society,” before spreading down the income ladder. If "women's empowerment" led to sex-selective abortion, that would offer a powerful argument against abortion since everyone agrees sex-selective abortion is bad. The problem is that even abortion rights...

Fallout

This is a tough read, but it's worth it. Bmaz thinks Justice Anthony Kennedy is going to "seal the deal" for marriage equality. Interfering with prosecutorial discretion, immigration edition. "Are you a flake?" is a softball question.

Private Prisons Spend Millions Pushing Bad Policy

I meant to link to the Justice Policy Institute's report on private prisons last week, but Andrea Nill Sanchez has a good summary of the report's conclusions about tremendous influence private prison companies have amassed by throwing money around: According to JPI, the private prison industry uses three strategies to influence public policy: lobbying, direct campaign contributions, and networking. The three main companies have contributed $835,514 to federal candidates and over $6 million to state politicians. They have also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on direct lobbying efforts. CCA has spent over $900,000 on federal lobbying and GEO spent anywhere from $120,000 to $199,992 in Florida alone during a short three-month span this year. Meanwhile, “the relationship between government officials and private prison companies has been part of the fabric of the industry from the start,” notes the report. The cofounder of CCA himself used to be the chairman of the Tennessee...

Culture War Counterterrorism: The Senate Wants To Interrupt Terrorism Investigations To Make A Point

Ben Wittes writes that the detention provisions in the Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act could have the impact of hampering terrorism investigations with their requirement that all Muslim terrorism suspects be forced into military custody: So let’s consider two very plausible counterterrorism scenarios and how they would interact with this bill, were it law. In the first, the FBI arrests an Al Qaeda operative domestically in the midst of an unfolding terrorist plot, and he quickly begins talking productively and giving useful information. This situation has materialized at least twice in recent years, and we can certainly expect it to develop again in the future. Absent a waiver, it seems clear that the provision would require that the FBI suspend a productive interrogation, transfer the arrestee to the military, and that the military begin things anew later on. Since the bill does not specify how long the government has to turn such the suspect over the to the...

Cahoots

Malik Zulu Shabazz , one of the defendants in the trumped up New Black Panther voter intimidation case, has recently apologized to President Barack Obama for saying this: He said: "He represents the CIA, set-up, sabotage, lie on an African leader and bomb [sic] that man like he's George Bush ... And his wife should leave the n***er tonight. She should walk out, and his beautiful daughters should walk out on this bamboozling, buck-dancing Tom. Oh yeah, I said it. We've held back on this Negro for a long time ... You should have listened to Louis Farrakhan a long time ago when you were at his table." Obviously that whole "buck-dancing tom" thing was code for "we have your back in the next election."

Conservatives: Democracy "Fails" When I Don't Get What I Want

Andrew Sullivan flags some eye-popping responses from religious conservatives regarding New York's decision to pass marriage equality legislation. Here's Kathryn Jean-Lopez : Are the fears of our founding fathers mere fantasy, or is care for legal protection against the tyranny of the majority an actual real-world concern? Is the vote of a democratically elected body necessarily not tyranny? To dismiss the N. Korea analogy as beyond the pale is to deny the rational of the founding fathers, to deny any appeals to right and wrong that extend beyond positive law. Tyranny is capricious law, based upon the will of one, few, or many in a way that gravely contradicts the common good and the traditional laws for securing that good. And here's George Weigel : The gay-marriage movement is thus not the heir of the civil-rights movement; it is the heir of Bull Connor and others who tried to impose their false idea of moral reality on others by coercive state power. This sort of moral inversion is...

Video Games Protected By The First Amendment

California's effort to prevent the sale of violent video games to minors produced some of the most amusing oral arguments at the Supreme Court we've ever seen, with Justice Samuel Alito poking fun at the originalism of Justice Antonin Scalia by saying, "I think what Justice Scalia wants to know is what James Madison thought about video games. Did he enjoy them?" Whether he enjoyed them or not, the implication of Scalia's majority ruling in Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Association is that he would have thought of them as being protected by the First Amendment. The EMA was dealt a substantial assist by the American cultural distaste for explicit sexuality as opposed to explicit violence, a preference enshrined in obscenity law. California tried to argue that the games in question were obscene and thus subject to regulation, but Scalia noted that "the obscenity exception to the First Amendment does not cover whatever a legislature finds shocking, but only depictions of “...

Not Deporting Someone Is Not The Same As Granting Them Citizenship

Suzy Khimm checks in on the latest immigration nontroversy, the supposed "stealth DREAM Act" instituted by the Obama administration in the form of an ICE memo reminding the agency that their priority is the removal of undocumented immigrants with criminal records. Certainly, immigration hawks and restrictionists have grasped upon the ICE memo as evidence that Obama has granted amnesty to undocumented immigrants and passed the DREAM Act through the backdoor. "President Barack Obama’s administration is quietly offering a quasi-amnesty for hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants," wrote The Daily Caller. The story added that the memo was "like a stealth DREAM Act enforcement through non-enforcement,” quoting anti-immigration lawyer Kris Kobach . Again, this is more of a re-emphasis on the administration's "priorities" regarding how to allocate limited resources, which the administration thinks should be devoted to removing undocumented immigrants who pose a clear threat to public...

The Libya Vote: The Worst Of All Worlds

Earlier today, Congress voted on two Libya resolutions : One to authorize military intervention, the other to restrict the U.S. to support operations. Both failed. Neither Congress, nor the president has covered themselves in glory on this issue. Obama disregarded the views of the Office of Legal Counsel and several of his top lawyers in concluding that operations in Libya were not "hostilities" under the War Powers Act. In the final desperate hours before the vote, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stooped to the kind of "us against them" rhetoric reminiscent of the Bush administration, stating "[T]he bottom line is, whose side are you on? Are you on Qadhafi ’s side or are you on the side of the aspirations of the Libyan people and the international coalition that has been created to support them?" Like Bush it seems, Clinton apparently believes that questioning the strategic wisdom of American military interventions civil war is tantamount to siding with the enemy. The political...

Geert Wilders Acquitted Of Hate Speech

It should go without saying that anti-Muslim Dutch Member of Parliament Geert Wilders ' acquittal on charges of hate speech don't vindicate the content of his remarks. While Wilders view on Islam are abhorrent, the laws under which he was being prosecuted are a far bigger travesty. As Justice Louis Brandeis wrote, "the fitting remedy for evil counsels is good ones," not government deciding which ones are evil and which ones are good.

Militarizing Domestic Detention

The outlines of a Senate "compromise" on detention have emerged, and it looks like Democrats have agreed to allow military detention in a domestic context with Muslims suspected of terrorism: Another provision would mandate military detention for people suspected of being "high value" terrorists from Al Qaeda: members of the organization who participated in planning or conducting attacks on the United States. The mandate would exclude United States citizens, and it would allow the secretary of defense to send detainees to the civilian criminal justice system at his discretion. Military detention on the battlefield is one thing--this provision would extend the "battlefield" to United States soil. With only two exceptions-- Jose Padilla and Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri --the Bush administration never held domestic terror suspects in military detention. Both of those cases ended with transfers back to the criminal justice system, and both the Obama administration and the Bush administration...

Clarifying Yoo

Yesterday Glenn Greenwald wrote : In his column for the American Enterprise Institute today, John Yoo accuses President Obama of transgressing the proper limits of executive power by asserting the right to wage war in Libya without Congress. That's not really what Yoo was saying . Yoo said that the president was flouting his own understanding of what was constitutional, and was undermining restraints on executive power by ignoring opinions from the Office of Legal Counsel rather than simply putting someone like Yoo there who would give legal sanction to whatever the president wanted him to. Yoo's position is that under Article II, the president can declare war on whomever he wants. That's why he says this: Let's be clear: Obama has the right result, but for the wrong reasons. He doesn't need to contort the law beyond all recognition to wage war in Libya. Obama could claim that his authority stems from the Constitution's grant of the commander-in-chief and chief executive powers, which...

Programming Note

My apologies everyone, I should have written this sooner but blogging is going to be a bit slow today and tomorrow because I'm out reporting on a story that has a short lead time. Things should be back to normal next week.

Unprosecuted Felons

Tim Lee makes a great point about selective moralizing about violations of immigration law: The same point applies to immigration law. Obviously, we ought to enact sane immigration laws that make it easy for people like Jose Vargas to get a green card. But given that we haven’t done that, it’s a good thing—both for him and for the rest of us—that our enforcement system wasn’t effective enough to prevent him from taking a job here. Again, there’s a huge double standard here. We American citizens take a strictly moralistic tone toward laws that we don’t personally have to follow. But “the rule of law” goes out the window when it comes to that pot you smoked in college, or the use taxes you haven’t paid on your Amazon purchases, or those pirated MP3s on your hard drive. When we’re talking about laws that actually affect us, we’re glad there’s some breathing room between the law on the books and what people actually get punished for. We should display the same kind of magnanimity toward...

The Will And Organization Of Immigration Reform Advocates

I was kind of shocked to see Matthew Yglesias write yesterday, in response to Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Jose Antonio Varga s outing himself as an undocumented immigrant, that "undocumented people could in principle force their way onto the agenda if there was enough will and organization." The larger context of Vargas' piece was that potential DREAM Act beneficiaries have been outing themselves in protest for years. Prior to the union protests in Wisconsin, the immigration reform movement represented the largest left-leaning protest movement in the country, turning out in Washington DC by the thousands to press for immigration reform. They occupied congressional offices, they staged hunger strikes, they outed themselves in an attempt to counterbalance the reductive caricatures that permeate the political conversation over immigration. When the DREAM Act failed, it left potential beneficiaries who had fought their hearts out wondering if they would be deported. Vargas' story is...

Pages