29 May 2009

The High Cost Of Abandoning The Base

For a great many Colorado labor unions and their supporters in the Democratic Party, the decision of Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, a Democrat, to veto of House Bill 1170 was the last straw. The bill would have allowed locked out employees to receive unemployment benefits, something that was true until Governor Owens reversed the policy during his administration. From a common sense justice point of view, this bill presents a much more clear issue than the national debate over the Employee Free Choice Act did.

When I was a a vacancy committee meeting for Senate District 31, replacing Jennifer Veiga as state senator for the district, the vast majority of people I spoke to either sworn not to contribute money to Ritter's 2010 campaign, or to not volunteer for it. A large share of the rank and file Democratic party faithful, probably more the half of the core group of active Democrats, have given up on the Governor as a result of the veto. This is not an idle threat, considering that sixteen of the top twenty contributors to his last campaign were labor unions, and unions provide a disproportionate share of the warm body volunteers needed to run a campaign.

Ritter has also earned the enmity of a good portion of the Democratic caucus in the Colorado General Assembly, not necessarily for vetoing the bill, but for failing to give them clear warning that he planned on doing this, and then publicly claiming that they knew a veto was coming. It doesn't help that his veto message doesn't even claim that the bill itself was wrong on the merits, just as he failed to the last time he vetoed a major pro-labor bill (despite perceived promises that he would sign the previous pro-labor bill). Ritter has earned a reputation under the dome as a man whose word cannot be trusted and who does not communicate with his own party. This dramatically reduces his legislative effectiveness. Suffice it to say also that this isn't the only bill where communication with the legislative caucus has been subpar.

Only a handful of people are saying that they wouldn't vote for Ritter over a Republican. And, Ritter has weak opposition so far on the Republican side. I'm not personally so disgusted by the veto that I've lost all hope, perhaps because I have a somewhat more cynical view of politics. But, the veto doesn't help either. It shows the Governor's bad judgment on the merits of the veto, and it shows miserable leadership and communications skills by the Governor and his senior staff with the legislative caucus and his base.

This veto was a serious self-inflicted wound. It could cost Ritter his re-election if the race gets close and Republicans start acting hungry. The Republicans show no sign of actually mounting a coherent campaign, but there is blood in the water. Yet, Ritter seems in no hurry to mend fences or make amends. If there was a plan in connection with this bill, it isn't apparent to anyone but him. If he wants to accomplish anything for the rest of his term of office, he needs to figure out how to make up this mistake to his base.

28 May 2009

Bad Zoning in NYC

Long time readers know that I have deep skepticism about the efficacy of zoning laws. An analysis of a New York City example addresses the topic well.

Early FAC: Khaos Komic

I'll be presenting a paper entitled, "This Financial Crisis Was Brought To You By The Internal Revenue Code," at the Law and Society Conference in Denver tomorrow, so this week's FAC comes early.

In recognition of the many gay rights stories in progress right now (the California Prop 8 election, the Veiga vacancy election's choice of Pat Steadman, human rights violations in Iraq, etc.), I offer you an extremely tightly plotted, fairly realistic, well drawn comic about several LBGT kids with interlocked lives coming out called Khaos Komic, as your FAC for this week. While relationship rather than porn oriented, Khaos Komic is sufficiently explicit that it is not work safe. It is currently updated weekly and began about the same time as this blog.

FWIW, I don't know why exactly, but a surprising share of the best webcomics (rated by both popularity and by editorial quality) are gay lit. My suspicion is that a lot of good work is having trouble winning over support from comic book publishers and sellers in the print market who are worried about whether there is a market for it, and are worried about conservative buyer backlash. So, these authors, some of whom are message distribution as well as profit oriented, have turned to the webcomic medium. The meritocratic internet, in turn, pushed some of the best comics to the top of the heap, without much regard for genre. These successes, in turn, may have developed an audience for similar offerings in similar places. It could also have something to do with an increasing number of LGBT people feeling more comfortable being out themselves, or acknowledging a sexual or gender orientation, in the current political climate, thereby providing a fast growing audience. But, I really don't know.

Tomorrow is also the last day of school for my children and many DPS kids. So, please be more careful out there from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., as there are far more kids about. On to a long summer of coach pitch.

Locally Grown Anti-Gay Evil In Iraq

The latest story . . . involves two gay men being killed in Baghdad by Shia militias. . . . More than 30 such murders have occurred in the last 3 months. The excuse given is that these men are sexual deviants who are killed to restore honor of their families. . . .

One means of killing gay people there is the use of anal glue.

"A prominent Iraqi human rights activist says that Iraqi militia have deployed a painful form of torture against homosexuals by closing their anuses using "Iranian gum." ... Yanar Mohammad told Alarabiya.net that, "Iraqi militias have deployed an unprecedented form of torture against homosexuals by using a very strong glue that will close their anus."

According to her, the new substance 'is known as the American hum, which is an Iranian-manufactured glue that if applied to the skin, sticks to it and can only be removed by surgery. After they glue the anuses of homosexuals, they give them a drink that causes diarrhea. Since the anus is closed, the diarrhea causes death. Videos of this form of torture are being distributed on mobile cellphones in Iraq.' According to this human rights activist, for the past 3 weeks a crackdown on homosexuals has been going on based on a religious decree that demands their death; dozens have been targeted. She says that the persecution of homosexuals is not confined to the Shiite clerics. Some Sunni leaders have also declared the death penalty for sodomy on satellite chanels."

From here (typos in original slighly corrected, links in original relocated and made to sources of the sources cited).

In theory, asylum is available in the U.S. for people who show up in the U.S. having faced this persecution. But, proving this in an immigration court and getting to the U.S. from Iraq are non-trivial matters.


I've spent many long hours in maternity wards telling myself that this doesn't happen any more, but sometimes it does.

Arizona State Treasurer Dean Martin's wife, Kerry, died Monday, four hours after giving birth, followed about forty-eight hours later by their newborn first child, Austin. Both died of complications of childbirth.

Take a moment to share this great sorrow.

Pregnant Prisoners

As many as 6,000 women are pregnant in prison in the United States.

From here.

Sonia Sotomayor A Shoe-In

President Obama's first U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, is almost certain to be confirmed now that key Republican Senators have announced that they don't plan to try to filibuster the nomination and given the large Democratic Party majority in the U.S. Senate. She will replace Justice Souter, one of the four Justices in the Court's liberal wing.

The appointment is not expected to greatly change the results the U.S. Supreme Court reaches in deciding cases, because in the usual close case Justice Kennedy who remains on the bench is the swing vote between the court's four conservative justices (Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Alito, Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas), and the court's four more liberal justices. Sotomayor is widely expected to vote with the court's more liberal wing in most close cases.

Felony Manga Possession

A 39 year old office worker from Iowa, who collected all types of manga, has pleaded guilty to a felony carrying a maximum sentence of up to fifteen years in prison for possessing seven manga (i.e. Japanese comic] books intercepted by customs officials depicting the sexual abuse of children, under a 2003 federal law. It is the first obsenity conviction for comic book art in the United States.

Quite frankly, his attorney's stated argument for not pressing the case, that a jury would consider it porn, was not impressive although one expects that the defense attorney has arranged a lenient sentence for what would otherwise could have been a long prison term.

Manga in Japan's Lolicon genre, and other hentai (porn manga and anime), are widely sold in Japan where the genre is considered to be just another form of soft porn.

The case is particularly exceptional because the primary justification for harsh penalties for child pornography is that children are actually sexually abused in the process of creating photographs or video depicting it. In manga and anime, this is very likely not the case, so the justification for distinguishing it from other types of obsenity is weak.

27 May 2009

Notable SCOTUS Death Row Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has been asked to review the death row case Davis v. Georgia.

Procedural History: This Is The Last Chance

All other appeals have been exhausted, lower courts have been barred from hearing appeals of the death penalty conviction for a 1989 murder, and a stay of execution has expired, but an execution date has not been set. A recent request for clemency from the five member Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles was denied in September, 2008, after a request raising the evidence of recantations in this case, and the Governor in Georgia does not have pardon power. So, if the U.S. Supreme Court doesn't grant this petition, there is a high probability that Davis will be executed.

A bare majority of the conservative United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit denied him relief, saying that a stand alone claim of innocence can never provide a basis for a second federal habeas corpus petition, and a divided Georgia Supreme Court likewise refused to allow an evidentiary hearing to consider new evidence. So, no court has heard the recantation or confession by an alternate suspect evidence.

The Issue: Does Post-Conviction Innocence Evidence Ever Matter?

This is a classic case pitting the finality of a trial court conviction for a crime, which exhaustive appeals for almost two decades have determined were procedurally correct in all material ways according to the trial court record, against new evidence, contradicting evidence offered at trial or not available at trial, strongly suggesting that the defendant was innocent. Specifically:

Davis was sentenced to death after being convicted of the murder of a Savannah, Ga., police officer on August 19, 1989. Since the trial, seven of the nine witnesses who said Davis had done the killing have recanted their trial testimony, saying they were coerced by police or were subjected to questionable interrogation tactics. Davis’ lawyers also said that newly discovered witnesses have said that another man at the scene committed the murder of Officer Mark MacPhail, and that the other man himself had confessed to friends.

In the new petition, Davis’ counsel wrote that “a study of federal habeas case law reveals no case in which seven State witnesses have recanted their testimony, much less a case with seven recantations supplemented by four confessions from the alternative suspect. Moreover, the recantations presented to this Court are to the rare variety: recantations from State witensses who were innocent bystanders.”

Almost all recantation cases over the past ten years that have been summarily rejected without an evidentiary hearing involved recantations from accomplices or a family member” of the accused, the petition said.

The facts described in the petition to the U.S. Supreme Court make clear that this was not a case were the convicted defendant, and the alleged actual killer were co-conspirators arguing over who the triggerman was, as in a typical felony murder case. This is a true actual innocence claim that goes directly to the validity of the conviction of Davis for any crime.

The petition asks for a new evidentiary hearing to review the recantation and confession evidence. American criminal procedure is generally much more amendable to considering flaws in the original trial process than it is to considering new post-conviction evidence of innocence. Conservatives in death penalty state are particularly loathe to open up this avenue of appeal.

The U.S. Supreme Court will now decide if it is willing to craft some narrow exception to the general rule that criminal convictions are final to fit the extraordinary facts of the Davis case.

U.S. Postal Service Shrinks

The U.S. Postal Service employed 906,000 employees including 798,000 career employees in 1999, its peak in recent history. As of 2007, that had fallen to 786,000 employees of whom 685,000 were career employees. So, over the past nine years, U.S. Postal Service employment has fallen by 220,000 (about 24% and just 32,000 less than the current total global employment of General Motors in 2008) and by 113,000 career employees (about 14%).

Of course, nearly all of these cuts come from domestic federal government jobs that pay reasonably well, and in the career employee case, at least, come with decent benefits and job security and are largely unionized. Not all of the eliminated jobs have been removed from the economy entirely. Many have been outsourced to commercial mailhouses, which still employ people and are mostly domestic, but are less plum in the salary, benefits and job security offered.

Bankruptcy Or Bust For GM

Bondholders have refused to accept an offer of ten cents on the dollar in an out of court reorganization, for General Motors is almost certain to file for bankruptcy under Chapter 11, probably by Monday or Tuesday, and quite possibly sooner. These general creditors believe that they will get a better deal in court than they would in the deal that they were offered (and they may be right).

Germany has several bidders lined up to help rescue the European division of General Motors and is interested turning Opel into a free standing company separate from General Motors.

GM sold 8.35 million cars worldwide in 2008. About 2 million of these sales were in Europe, including about 500,000 cars sold under the Chevrolet brand and some sold under the Saab brand, among others. Opel is the largests of the European brands, however and might seek to acquire other European assets of General Motors.

26 May 2009

Scapegoating With Extra Scapegoating

The conservative magazine, Sam Schulman at The Weekly Standard condemns gay marriage, by condemning almost everybody else in the process. Among those scapegoated are:

* Mixed faith married people.
* Mixed nationality married people.
* Married people who have sex for purposes other than child bearing.
* People who have sex before marriage.
* People who have sex without someone other than their spouse during marriage.
* People who don't marry at the beginning of adulthood.
* People whose families would like, rather than loathe, each other in the absence of a marriage.
* Unmarried people who have sex who are a same sex couple.
* Married people who have sex who are a same sex couple.
* Same sex couples who built relationships with extended family.
* Unmarried women who don't feel they need marriage to protect them "from rape, degradation, and concubinage."
* State supreme court justices with degrees from middling law schools.
* Gays who "hold jobs--even as teachers and members of the clergy; . . .become elected officials, secret agents, and adoptive parents; and . . . live together in public, long-term relationships[.]"

We are also advised, by our thrice married male author, that marriage means the horrible suffering involved in surrendering "the dream of gratifying our immediate erotic desires" in favor of a wife, because "the granite underpinnings of marriage" are necessary for "domestic ecstasy." We are told that "without social disapproval of unmarried sex--what kind of madman would seek marriage?"

And what is unimportant about marriage? Well, "living forever with one's soulmate, loyalty, fidelity, warmth, a happy home, shopping, and parenting [or] arranging a happy home in which two hearts may beat as one--in fact marriage is actually pretty indifferent to that particular aim. Nor has marriage historically concerned itself with compelling the particular male and female who have created a child to live together and care for that child."

Who is this idiot and why does he get published? (Not surprisingly, he also hates atheists for questionable reasons and thinks that the Democratic party is the anti-Semitic party.)

Prop 8 Upheld, Existing Marriages Saved

The California Supreme Court upheld a ban on same-sex marriage today, ratifying a decision made by voters last year at a time when several state governments have moved in an opposite direction. The decision, however, preserves the 18,000 marriages performed between the court’s decision last May that same-sex marriage was lawful and the passage by voters in November of Proposition 8, which banned it.

From here.

Civil unions, which provide the legal trappings of marriage in all but name, will continue to be available prospectively in California.

The decision was not unexpected. The challenges had relied upon a distinction California's constitution makes between different procedures for amending the state constitution, which the California Supreme Court found inapplicable, and a variation of the Colorado Amendment 2 argument which argued that state constitutional amendments aimed at taking away fundamental rights should be treated differently, which the California Supreme Court rejected on the grounds that the distinctions were symbolic rather than substantive. Because the California Supreme Court holds that Prop 8 is not retroactive, there will still be 18,000 gay married couples in California, despite the proposition.

Less Red Tape Means More Research

The more layers of budget approval a project needs, the more likely it is that a project won't happen at all. The report vindicates the concept of fiscal autonomy for colleges and universities. Colorado's highly autonomous research universities are among the most productive in the nation and the world.

Pew On Evidence Based Sentencing

The Pew Center on the States has a new report (via Think Outside the Cage) on evidence based sentencing, and in particular on preventing recidivism for the majority of people sentenced to felonies who are on probation rather than serving prison sentences.

The trouble is that while the report repeatedly urges state legislatures to adopt evidence based sentencing programs and says that they work (well duh, otherwise they wouldn't be evidence based), it is remarkably thin on what these proven programs actually involve. Indeed, the opening paragraph of the report seems to be a persausive argument for more incarceration:

Sixty to 80 percent of state felony defendants are placed on probation, fined or jailed in their local communities. Although the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, there are nearly three times more offenders on probation than in state prisons. Recidivism rates among these felony defendants are at unprecedented levels. Almost 60 percent have been previously convicted and more than 40 percent of those on probation fail to complete probation successfully. The high recidivism rate among felons on probation pushes up state crime rates and is one of the principal contributors to our extraordinarily high incarceration rates. High recidivism rates also contribute to the rapidly escalating cost of state corrections, the second fastest growing expenditure item in state budgets over the past 20 years.

Most voters would be shocked by this fact and assume that probation is much harder to come by for felons than it actually is in practice.

Perhaps the 2007 paper in the Indiana Law Journal, which this seven page brief purports to summarize, is more informative.

I don't doubt that there are programs that have been proven to prevent recidivism. But, Pew should be telling us what they are and showing us the research in summary form, not simply telling us that they are good, mostly sight unseen.

25 May 2009

How Many American Women Are Homemakers?

The census bureau doesn't directly define "homemaker," but it does keep statistics that come close to answering the question of how many American women are homemakers?

There are about 90 million American women aged 20-64, of whom 29% are not in the workforce, i.e. not employed and not looking for paid employment (about 17% of men the same age are not in the workforce, a status that includes students, early retirees, prison inmates and people discouraged from looking for work). People with lower levels of educations are much more likely to be out of the workforce than those with higher levels of education.

Typically, adults age sixty-five or older who are not in the workforce are considered "retired" rather than to be "homemakers" regardless of their prior employment history. Students and pre-school children are also not considered to be in the workforce. The number of women aged 20-64 is overinclusive, because it includes, for example, adults living with their parents, or alone, who have become discouraged in their search for work, perhaps due to a disability, older college students, and early retirees. It may also include institutionalized adults in prison. But, it is also underinclusive, as it excludes women under the age of twenty who are not in the workforce such as teen parents living with a significant other, who would also generally be considered to be homemakers.

Still, for an order of magnitude number, this is close enough to peg the number of American women who are homemakers and not employed in paid work at something on the order of 15-25 million American women. While this is far less than a majority of adult American women, defying 1950s stereotypes (notably 64% of women with children under age six at home have paid employment), it is also probably still the most common occupation of adult, pre-retirement age American women.

There are about 300 million Americans overall across all ages and genders.

22 May 2009

Friday Science

Komodo dragons are poisonous after all. The subtle poison organs and snake-like poisons of the large reptile were just discovered. Despite the fact that there are even some komodo dragons in captivity, zoologists had previously thought that mouth bacteria rather than poison enhanced their bite lethality. Their six lower jaw poison glands carry just 0.2 mL of poison each.

Heads up psychologists! I did a quick search to see if there was any research to show if fashion sense had a hereditary component, and found that this issue has apparently not yet been scientifically investigated. PhD students: this project has your name on it.

Conspiracy theorists are psychologically distinctive: “Arguments advanced by conspiracy theorists tell you more about the believer than about the event." Among other things, "conspiracy believers displayed a greater propensity than nonbelievers to jump to conclusions based on limited evidence":

It seems likely that conspiratorial beliefs serve a similar psychological function to superstitious, paranormal and, more controversially, religious beliefs, as they help some people to gain a sense of control over an unpredictable world[.]

Query if one is better having conspiratorially minded or skeptical people in agencies like the CIA, that are charged with connecting the dots from limited information. The analysis recalls to mind studies on the accuracy of media pundits, which tends to show that cognitive style is the best predictor of accuracy, with the best pundits being those who are not obsessed with "the big idea."

National Public Radio, by the way, has an interesting five part series this week on the Science of Spirituality.

Part I: "The neurotransmitter serotonin affects the parts of the brain that relate to emotions and perceptions. Chemically, peyote, LSD and other psychedelics look a lot like serotonin, and they activate the same receptor."

Part II: Spiritual experiences and hallucinations are associated with the "temporal lobes [that] run along the sides of the brain, . . . deep within them is something called the limbic system. This system handles not just sound, smell and some vision but also memory and emotion." The limbic system is sometime knowns as the mammalian brain; the temporal lobes are particularly developed in humans relative to other animals.

Part III: Across faiths, prayer and meditation activate the frontal lobes but suppress activity in Baime's parietal lobes: "This is an area that normally takes our sensory information, tries to create for us a sense of ourselves and orient that self in the world. . . . When people lose their sense of self, feel a sense of oneness, a blurring of the boundary between self and other, we have found decreases in activity in that area." Practice enhances this effect producing "systematic change in . . . the brain as well as the immune system" (immune response is enhanced).

Part IV: Spirtuality is good for you. An AIDS researcher notes that "people who felt abandoned by God and who decreased in spirituality lost their CD4 cells 4.5 times faster than people who increased in spirituality. . . . That was actually our most powerful psychological predictor to date." But, can "my thoughts can affect another person's body? 'The answer is pretty unequivocally no.'"

Part V, this afternoon will ask if "people have souls that survive a brain's death."

Friday Quotes

Look… in my opinion, the best thing you can do is… find a person who loves you for exactly what you are. Good mood, bad mood, ugly, pretty… handsome, what-have-you… The right person’s still gonna think the sun shines out your ass. That’s the kind of person that’s worth sticking with.

- Mac (Dad) in the movie Juno (2007).

The people who are REALLY real in your life are the people you're close to. The rest are just a dream you wish you weren't having.

- Dylan in "Hello Groin" by Beth Goobie (2006) at page 44.

No matter how much you try to ignore something like that, no matter how much you tell yourself that your body is just a subplot in your life, it isn't. It's the main plot.

- Id. at page 57.

When it comes to lying, little kids are different than adults. I mean, they haven't lived long enough to learn the art of lying continually the way adults have. Sure, they come up with incredible whoppers sometimes, but only in a crisis, to save themselves from a time-out or an early bedtime. They don't live a lie all the time like some grown-ups, plodding through each day resigned and defeated, all the while smiling tiredly and saying, "Oh, I'm good, great, fine. Everything's okay." Happiness, there's no happiness in them anywhere.

- Id. at page 80.

It may be just psychological, but I'll pay sixty bucks for that psychology.

- A coffee shop lawyer, overheard at Aviano's Coffee, a place of beauty (regarding a non-traditional medical treatment imported from New Zealand that seems to have enhanced his immune system).

21 May 2009

Fiat Bids For GM Europe

Fiat is already trying to buy Chrysler assets in connect with its bankruptcy proceedings. Now, Fiat is also a bidder for the General Motor's European Opel division, including the British Vauxhaul brand.

General Motors is trying to unload its Saturn, Hummer and Saab brands, in addition to its Opel brand. It is planning to shut down its Pontiac brand as well. A successful sale would make General Motors a much smaller company, presumably an easier to manage company, and also presumably an easier company to make profitable. Opel has been more profitable than GM's North American operations in recent years, but a sale might provide GM with the cash it needs to avoid or survive a bankruptcy.

Pat Steadman Senator-Elect In SD 31

The vacancy committee in State Senate District 31 chose Pat Steadman, a lobbyist for liberal causes and openly gay man, to finish out the term of Jennifer Veiga on the 13th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling invalidating anti-gay Colorado Amendment 2, a decision that inspired Steadman to enter politics and upon which he worked. He will need to run in 2010 for the remaining two years of Jennifer Veiga's term, and then in 2012 for the next full four years of the term.

Steadman's supporters were out in force and visible at the meeting, followed by supporters of Jill Conrad, who secured just ten seats in the first round and withdrew, endorsing her Denver Public Schools colleague Alex Sanchez. Ann Ragsdale, went all three rounds was the elder statewoman of the race, mostly with support from Adams County delegates (in this majority Adams County district).

20 May 2009

SD 31 Vacancy Election Tonight

There are nine people running for the vacancy in Colorado Senate District 31 (replacing Jennifer Veiga) at the Democracy Party vacancy committee meeting at Morey Middle School in Denver this evening starting at six and probably lasting until ten, if all three rounds of voting are necessary for one of the candidates to receive majority support.

I am on the fence, although I am not indifferent to the stream of campaigning that has taken place. Last night, for example, found Pat Steadman and Alex Sanchez on my front porch, more calls on my telephone, and more literature from Patrick Byrne and others in my mailbox. A steady stream of personal visits, phone calls, and literature have bombarded me since the race began, and I've studied it.

I do care about how much effort a candidate is putting into the race, because it is a proxy for how hard that candidate will work to be re-elected. If you can't work hard enough to make your case to an audience of less than a couple hundred voters who are actually interested in politics, how can you make your case to 110,000 people in the district in a general election.

For example, Elmer "Butch" Hicks and John Maslanik have made virtually no effort, which is apparent to me anyway, to seek my vote, at the same time that other candidates are making multiple contacts in person and by phone, having supporters call, and getting out multiple rounds of literature. I personally know that John Maslanik is a good guy and loyal democrat, and I'm sure that the same is true of Butch Hicks, although I've never met him in person. But, if you are going to be a candidate you have to be more dynamic than either of them have been, even though both have experience as candidates for local office and Hicks has held office as a city council person.

As I noted before, jumping into a campaign at the very last minute, like John S. Wren, while permitted by the rules, shows a lack of initiative and commitment. And, the way he conducts himself in his day job undermines my ability to trust him.

Campaign effort isn't everything, of course. Patrick Byrne has mounted a reasonably vigorous campaign. But, as he himself highlights, he is young, he hasn't been involved in the party for very long, he doesn't have long standing connections to the district or Colorado, and he isn't long on political connections. He thinks that TABOR and the state budget, issue with which he is familiar from his experience as a budget analyst, are the most important issues facing the state. And as he sums it up:

TABOR doesn't care if you've been a community organizer, the Gallagher Amendment doesn't care how many old-school politicians are endorsing you, and Colorado's backwards urban renewal laws don't care how long you've had a (D) next to your name. At this time, SD31 needs an honest, fair-dealing technocrat like myself to untie the knots.

This is a great pitch for his position at his current job as a budget analyst for the Governor. But, this doesn't cut it in a run for State Senate. Staffers need to be technocrats. Legislating, particularly in the State Senate where a majority caucus of twenty men and women must cover every single issue facing the state, is a job for a generalist who is good with people. The problem is not an inability to find accounting tricks or to know that the state budget is broken. The problem is how to use your coalition building skills to build the political consensus to fix it. Expertise is a price of admission to meaningful budget discussions. But, once you have crossed that threshold, budgets document your values, something which has little to do with expertise or intelligence. Age and seniority aren't everything, but voters need some provable way to know that your heart is in the right place and that you can be an effective team player in the ultimate cooperative game.

I'm also puzzled by Bryne's decision to take up immigration as a key issue in a diary at Colorado Pols posted during his campaign, when running for state office. Once again, he doesn't seem to have the right political instincts.

In contrast, Doug Williams, whose background is in political work and real estate development, got in late, although not at the last minute, but understands very well that the job calls for a coalition building generalist who knows how to run campaigns and persuade legislators to take action. He presents as an effective person who has mounted a solid campaign once he got started. His very strong ties to Texas are not a plus, but it is hard to know how deep his Texas values run. It is also hard to know how effective he would be at developing a rapport with the people of SD 31. He has twinkle in his eye maverick charm, but is not exactly salt of the earth that your average SD 31 voter can easily relate to either.

For a political old hand, Ann Ragsdale, a Colorado General Assembly veteran, has run a surprising low key campaign. She is clearly the top dog among the Adams County candidates, and she has proven that she can do the job. But, it isn't entirely clear what issues she is running on this time around, and she doesn't appear to be reaching out vigorously to Denver members of the vacancy committee. Her reputation while in the General Assembly was as a centerist, which is a great thing to be in a close district or when Democrats are having a hard time getting coalitions together on issues that can be made law, but isn't as much as a virtue in a safely Democratic party controlled district when Democrats control the House, Senate and Governorship.

Pat Steadman and Alex Sanchez have both mounted extremely solid campaigns for this race that show their commitment to the seat. Both men have personal stories that make clear that they understand extremely well how average people in SD 31 see the world. Steadman's progressive political credentials, and knowledge of the legislative process are unimpeachable, and I know him to be an intelligent man. Sanchez makes his living delivering carefully prepared public statements for the Denver Public Schools and it shows. Sanchez knows how to give a short, effective pitch.

As I think through the matter, perhaps the biggest concern about Steadman is whether he will be able to transition smoothly from fighting the power to being in power. Acting as a scrappy street fighter on particular issues is a different role than presuming the kind of entitlement that makes it possible for you to make an unwieldy state government bow to your will. Then again, at the rank and file level of the legislature being part of a base which reliably votes and encourages people to vote the right way has its value.

Sanchez has more experience acting from a position of authority, but is not terribly quick on his feet when asked unexpected hard questions. He doesn't have much of a public policy paper trail either, so it is hard to know how his early life, corporate experience, and time as a member of the top administrative team for the Denver Public Schools will collectively impact his decision making when new economic issues come up. I trust him to make decisions in good faith while thinking carefully about the needs of ordinary people in his district. I'm not always sure what conclusions that internal dialog will lead him to in the end.

Jill Conrad has also mounted a vigorous campaign, although not the most relentless one and wins the prize for the flashiest campaign moment, distributing a DVD to every member of the vacancy committee in addition to her literature. She also wins props in the ability to campaign to diverse constituencies department for the fact that she is a sitting elected official who won office in an at large Denver seat on the Denver Public Schools Board, a race she won as the teacher's union candidate in 2005 despite the fact that her opponent, Brad Buchanan, raised more money and was supported by most of the current school board and the Mayor's wife, Helen Thorpe. Jill Conrad's education policy expertise is clear. She is a liberal with an emphasis on bread and butter issues. She is remarkably coy about her roots and background, although she is well spoken and her obvious affluence belies her description of herself as a mere "PhD student." Her life before getting her master's degree at the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1997 is basically a blank slate. She is a competent politician with no obvious flaws, but also has no obvious connection to the district other than her home address.

I won't reach conclusions here, and haven't in my own mind. There are some candidates who will have a very high hurdle to win my vote in the vacancy committee election, and others who are front runners, but the process in this race with so many candidates and multiple rounds of voting in short succession means that I may end up voting for a backup choice in later rounds of voting in any case.

18 May 2009

Coming Soon To Denver Ballots

Two ballot issues are in the works for Denver voters. In their own way, each is about immigration.

One is the Extra Terrestrial Commission proposal, which has provided water cooler fodder nationwide. The other is "impoundment II" which seeks to impound any car driven without a license, rather than specifically aiming at undocumented immigrants, as ill crafted "impoundment I" adopted by Denver voters did. Neither is definitively on the ballot yet, but both are in the works.

Of course, the Denver City Council may also put its own measures on the ballot, and it may want to do something to address city budget stresses or other issues.

Late To Dance In SD 31 Vacancy Race

John S. Wren has announced late in the game that he is adding his name to the eight people already running to replace Jennifer Veiga in the State Senate. He describes himself as a "business consultant and adult educator" who "has also served President of . . . the Rocky Mountain Direct Marketing Association[.]" He has a long and reasonably solid looking resume which he has distributed by e-mail.

But, I have to be honest. I've recently received some direct marketing of his business consulting services which has, rightly or wrongly, not left me favorably inclined towards his run. Simply put, the e-mail ad I received came across to me as misleading and too close in style to other disreputable advertising for comfort. I dispatched it to my junk e-mail box.

Keep in mind, Attorney General Ken Salazar's main claim to fame when he run for U.S. Senate was his work on a state no call list.

I'm also not too impressed with someone who launches their campaign this late in the game, after other candidates have campaigned much longer and hence shown more initiative. An ability to run a good campaign is a key attribute of any candidate. I first heard of his run today, although his press release is dated Saturday. The election is on Wednesday. The candidate forums are over. Is this a real run, or just a way to generate some free press for his business?

9-11 Civil Rights Case Deep Sixed

Ashcroft v. Iqbal is that a civil rights case alleging that former Attorney General John Ashcroft and others in the Bush Administration violated an Arab-American's civil rights in connection with an extraordinary rendition. The 5-4 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court decision (with conservatives in the majority) holding that the suit fails is hardly surprising. There are a wide array of governmental defenses to these actions.

But, the ground in this case for the dismissal are particularly broad. Basically, the case was dismissed on the grounds that the factual allegations about the intent of the officials involved was conclusory, rather than specific.

In this situation, as in the recent anti-trust case that revolutionized pleading in civil cases, the justices are requiring that plaintiffs have the goods in insider discussions necessary to establish liability that plaintiffs and the public don't ordinarily have access to, even before filing suit and engaging in formal discovery and depositions that could more specifically prove bad intent. This will make bringing civil rights suits and other suits involving managerial wrong doing in private enterprises much more difficult without a whistleblower.

The dissent by Justice Souter also notes that the majority reaches out to narrow the substantive standard for supervisory liability in civil rights cases, an issue which was not before the court and was not briefed. This could impact almost every civil rights case involving supervisory liability.

15 May 2009

Martin Luther On Polygamy

Somehow, the really interesting bits of the history of the religous denomination I grew up in were left out of my religious education.

Periodically, Christian reform movements that have aimed at rebuilding Christian doctrine based on the Bible alone (sola scriptura) have at least temporarily accepted polygamy as a Biblical practice. For example, during the Protestant Reformation, in a document referred to simply as "Der Beichtrat" (or "The Confessional Advice" ),[24] Martin Luther granted the Landgrave Philip of Hesse, who, for many years, had been living "constantly in a state of adultery and fornication,"[25] a dispensation to take a second wife. The double marriage was to be done in secret however, to avoid public scandal.[26] Some fifteen years earlier, in a letter to the Saxon Chancellor Gregor Brück, Luther stated that he could not "forbid a person to marry several wives, for it does not contradict Scripture." ("Ego sane fateor, me non posse prohibere, si quis plures velit uxores ducere, nec repugnat sacris literis.")[27]

24 Letter to Philip of Hesse, December 10, 1539, De Wette-Seidemann, 6:238–244
25 The Life of Luther Written by Himself, p.251 [1]
26 James Bowling Mozley Essays, Historical and Theological. 1:403–404 Excerpts from Der Beichtrat.[2]
27 Letter to the Chancellor Gregor Brück,[3] January 13, 1524, De Wette 2:459.

From Wikipedia.

New Financial Crisis Data Points

* The amount produced by the manufacturing industry in the United States is now down 16% from its December 2007 peak. Just 69.1% of available U.S. industrial product capacity is currently being used, the lowest level since capacity utilization data were first collected by the Federal Reserve in 1967.

* Commercial and multi-family housing mortgage lending has fallen by more than 86% from the peak mid-2007 levels.

Similar to residential, Fannie and Freddie are just about the only game in town. Conduit lending has essentially stopped for commercial real estate. Commercial bank and life insurance lending has slowed dramatically.

Lending is off across all property types, but especially for: Retail lending (off 90% from the peak originations), office lending (off 93% from the peak), and hotel lending (off 99% from the peak).

I have previously blogged the near complete demise of subprime and Alt-A lending. Prime residential mortgage lending is still going on, and commercial mortgage lending isn't zero, but the real estate industry's collapse is not over.

* Default rates on prime residential mortgages have jumped to 2.4% in April, but I am skeptical that these loans will impact the larger real estate market in the way that subprime and Alt-A default rate surged did, because the baseline default rate on prime mortgages was so much lower to start with, and because foreclosures on homes with prime residential mortgages may produce much smaller losses than those with low down payment loans.

Investors in low down payment loans (a good proportion of which were second mortgages secured by the top twenty-percent of the home's equity at the time of purchase) were relying on credit default swaps and underwriter guarantees, both of which went bad due to "counterparty risk." In contrast, investors in prime residential mortgages can take only modest losses, even if property values decline by more than 20%, because they are first liens and the owner has cushioned the first 20% of property value declines for them. Fraud is also less likely to come up in prime loans, because the underwriter and investor were more often the same entity, and hence had an incentive to be more careful. The care taken by banks in underwriting mortgages when not playing with someone else's money is reflected in stories like this one.

Post-Divorce Conflict

While taking a continuing legal education course the other day, the instruction opened up with a stunning anecdote. He was at a restaurant having dinner with his ex-wife and their two children, while saving food for a doggie bag for her current husband. The waitress simply refused to believe that this was possible.

Some divorces are followed by prolonged high conflict between the ex-spouses. Other couples get along swimmingly when their only shared responsibility is co-parenting, rather than the full array of mutual responsibilities that come with marriage. I've seen estimates that in 30% of cases, or so, that the ex-husband simply exits stage left and disappears from the scene entirely. Divorces in cases where there are no shared children, are beyond the scope of this post, but are much simpler legally and morally -- having children, rather than consumation of a marriage, is really the key dividing line between the marriages in which the public has a stron interest, and those in which the only real concern is protecting the economic interests and expectations of the parties.

One of the realities of American divorce, which sometimes takes divorcing individuals a little while to get a handle upon, is that while you can move out and end the marriage, that you are locked into some sort of relationship with your ex-spouse, if you have children, at least until all of your shared children are emancipated. Some academics have described the American system of marriage as serial polygamy. I'd even venture to guess that there are probably more adults who have minor children from multiple living partners and maintain relationships with them via those partners in the United States right now, than there are in many contemporary polygamous societies, like Morocco and Saudi Arabia.

Every scenario has its drawbacks. Almost everybody agrees that high conflict post-divorce relationships are not good for children. But, even those who vehemently complain about the frequency of divorce in contemporary society do not dispute that divorce is appropriate for very high conflict couples.

Very low conflict, to the point of genuinely friendly, divorce couples are more confusing. On one hand, parents who are friendly to each other after a divorce are clearly doing less harm to their children than those who have high-conflict post-divorce relationships, and for that matter, are doing less harm to themselves emotionally. But, in these cases, it is hard not to wonder why they couldn't have stayed married, at least until their children were adults, and there is a growing body of evidence that appears to show that outside the highest conflict marriages, that staying married is much better for children than getting divorced, on average anyway.

The examples of societies and subcultures where divorce and separation are rare even where marriages are frequently arranged, of marriage before divorce was widely available, and of marriages saved by some sort of intervention or counseling, suggest that it would be possible to prevent a large share of the divorces that happen now, although it is less obvious that preventing these divorce would be an unequivocally good thing.

In cases where a parent, usually a father, disappears entirely, there is no conflict, which is a plus, but the children suffer the harm of growing up without a parent, and the absent parent usually provides only the most minimal of support, if any.

What predicts the kind of post-divorce relationship that a couple will have? I suspect, but do not known, that high conflict post-divorce relationships usually follow high conflict marriages, and that low conflict post-divorce relationships are most common following low conflict marriages.

Are there many low conflict marriages that end up producing high conflict relationships after divorce? If so, what distinguishes those cases, why did the couples break up, and what, if anything, could have saved those marriages? Are there many high conflict marriages that end up producing low conflict relationships after divorce? If so, what aspect of the divorce lowered conflict, and did the divorce make the children better off? Does divorce more often increase or decrease conflict between two parents, when it has an impact at all?

There is also the economic mystery. There is strong evidence that, on average, women suffer great economic hardship from divorce, while men tend not to experience nearly as great of an economic impact from a divorce. (Query if these data adequately consider the very high rates of swift remarriage after divorce properly). But, these is also anecdotal evidence that a large share of divorces, perhaps as many as two-thirds are initiated by women. The classic case is of the man who is stunned to arrive home one day, with the furniture, wife and children gone and a process server at the door delivering the divorce decree, who had no idea that his marriage was in trouble. Why should those most likely to suffer economic harm from a divorce be most likely to seek one?

This post doesn't have those answers. It is merely asking the questions.

In previous posts, I've looked at data that show that there is a strong social class and economic component to divorce, and to the parallel and corollated phenomena -- having children without getting married in the first place. The economic analysis tends to show that (1) divorces are much more common when a woman is less economically dependent upon her husband than when she is when she benefits economically from the marriage relative to what she would reeive in divorce, (2) women in poor and working class couples receive far less economic benefit from their male partners than women in middle class and upper middle class couples, (3) the likelihood of prompt remarriage to a better provider is a key factor in women's decision to end a marriage and is greater when a husband is not economically successful, and (4) uncertainty regarding and poor information regarding the economic outcomes of a divorce in court and in financial impact from splitting up a household can lead to decision making based upon overly optimistic economic expectations that don't pan out.

The economic intepretation of the disparity between middle class divorce and out of wedlock parenting rates, which are quite low, and those of working class families, again suggests that there are a large percentage of divorces that are avoidable if the right financial conditions are present. Contrawise, it suggests that strong economic pressures to end a marriage are hard to surmount with other measures, even though statistics show that couples are actually on average better off economically if they stay together even if they are poor.

The example of the European welfare states, which have the highest rates of non-marital childbearing, also support the economic analysis of divorce rates. The social safety net in those countries makes women far less economically dependent, and hence reduces the pressure on women to stay in a legal relationship with a co-parent. The conservative critique of the American welfare system as a driver of high divorce and non-marital childbearing rates in poor families also shouldn't be dismissed out of hand.

The lay interpretation of divorce as caused by conflict in marriage or similar failures of couples to love each other may be valid at the extremes, but other circumstances clearly have a powerful impact in a large swath of less extreme cases. This makes the question of determining who is harmed and who is helped in different subsets of divorces important from a policy perspective, and also makes understanding the causes of divorces critical to having any impact on divorce rates. For example, despite the fact that New York State is one of the hardest states in the United States to have a court grant a unilateral divorce in, it is not the state with the lowest divorce rate and is does not have a divorce rate that much lower than the nation as a whole. Changes in the grounds for granting a divorce unilaterally are not the most important fact in how many marriages end.

My intuition is that (1) public policy action to save more marriages when children are present is a good idea even if it involves considerable public expense (something also true in a large subset of child abuse and neglect cases where economic pressures are a major factor in child mistreatment), (2) the public policy action that would be most effective would be primarily economic and cultural in nature rather than adjustments in the process by which one is allowed to obtain a divorce, (3) it is feasible in some manner, although difficult, to screen high conflict marriages from lower conflict ones in a way that prevents economic pressures from keeping marriages that need to end from being forced to endure, and (4) it is possible to single out and better manage the legal process in minority subset of cases that have high conflict post-divorce relationships, in order to minimize the harm these cases cause to the children involved.

Denver Dropouts Are Usual Suspects

It is hardly surprising that a John Hopkins study has shown that kids dropping out of the Denver Public Schools have disproportionately flunked classes (often starting years before), missed many days of school, are disporportinately male and disporportionately Latino. But, it never hurts to quantify more general observations.

In ninth grade, most of the dropouts had gotten at least one F in their freshman year, a third had four or more F's in a semester, and two-thirds of the dropouts had missed 20 or more days of school in the ninth grade.

When they were in sixth grade, one third of the dropouts were failing at least one course, 44 percent had missed more than 20 days in middle school, and one in five had at least one suspension in middle school.

Most of the dropouts were male, 61 percent were Latino, and 84 percent quit in high school — with more kids leaving in the ninth grade. . . .

Looking at data collected from the 3,657 students who dropped out during the 2006-07 school year:

• 77 percent had failed one or more semester courses in ninth grade

• 61 percent had missed more than 20 days of school in the year before they dropped out

• Chronic absence in the ninth-grade year was significantly higher among dropouts (60 percent) than non-dropouts (44 percent)

• 10 percent had been suspended at least once during the two-year period 2005-07

The newspaper report doesn't cite CSAP scores as a risk factor, but other studies at DPS have shown that kids who fail to score proficient on CSAP tests in elementary school are at grave risk of not catching up, and at highly elevated risk of dropping out.

Other studies have shown that dropping out of high school is a ticket to time in the criminal justice system, lifelong high rates of unemployment, and dead end low income jobs even when work is secured. Not even the Army wants high school dropouts.

The John Hopkins study also doesn't talk about another classic high school dropout profile - the teenaged girl who gets pregnant, has a baby and doesn't stick with school, although there is certainly overlap. Poor future educational and work prospects are closely associated with teen pregnancy.

Barely Crossing The Line

As Patricia Calhoun at Westword noted this week, only a small share of students who start high school in DPS high schools like North, which serve mostly lower income students from Northeast Denver, graduate. About 50 of the 180 North High seniors who did graduate apparently didn't attend school at least 85% of the time in their senior year, although a last minute repreive triggered by press attention allowed these fifty to participate in their graduation ceremonies. Michael Ballez, whose case Calhoun took up to illustrate the situation, isn't exactly the kind of kid Disney will put at center stage in a new High School Musical movie either.

[T]he classmates who've dropped out, one by one, until only a handful of the kids he started with as a freshman remain in school. The pressures he's faced — and fought — to join a gang. The needs of the two little girls he's fathered. His own learning disabilities. And then keeping his grade point average high enough to play on North's baseball team all four years.

Isaiah Baca was [another] one of the students whose names disappeared. . . .

Isaiah's cousin, Tiffany Martin, is Michael Ballez's mother. When her son broke the bad news about no graduation ceremony last Friday, she couldn't believe it. "The way I see it, you're telling an eighteen-year-old kid, 'You're not good enough to participate in my ceremony,'" she told me. "When my son contacted me, he had a crackle in his voice. He's been through a lot already."

Unlike her older son, who "hung out with the wrong crowd" and dropped out of North, Michael held strong and stayed in school. "My son is not a gang member, he's not in the legal system, he's a full-time dad," Martin explained — a dad who sometimes has to stay home with sick kids. But even though he's a special-ed student, his grades were good enough for him to play baseball, and he stays on track in his classes. Martin knows, because she checks in with Michael's teacher and education case manager daily to make sure.

So she didn't hesitate to call the school to ask about this new graduation-ceremony policy. Ed Salem returned her call and told her that he'd informed the seniors of the 85 percent attendance requirement at a senior meeting a month ago.

Ballez's mother didn't give up and accept this answer. She advocated for her son -- contacting parents of other affected kids and Westword. It is likely that her pluck is the reason that all fifty of those low attendance kids will be able to attend their graduation ceremonies. Her pluck is probably one important reason that Ballez didn't give up on school when he had his first or second daughter, and the barriers posed by a learning disability -- something that isn't diagnosed for many kids.

I also wouldn't be surprised if the political instincts of, Alex Sanchez, spokesman for DPS who is one of eight candidates seeking to replace Jennifer Veiga as a state senator in a vacancy committee race on May 20, and has positioned himself as an advocate for the Latino community, has a part in the change of policy. He may have made the case that keeping graduates who low attendance from participating in graduatation was bad from a P.R. perspective to North High Principal Ed Salem, who made the initial decision, and his boss, the Denver Board of Education.

Ballez is fighting the odds to make his way into the American working class and to stay out of the American underclass. His diploma, lack of gang membership, history of sports involvement, and commitment to raise his daughters (the story doesn't say if he's together with his daughters' mother or mothers) will all help him achieve these goals. He needs someone to give him a chance, at a time when the economy is the worst it has been in his lifetime. An employer wouldn't be a fool to give him one.

Please Panic

North High Principal Ed Salem's attempt to punish seniors with low attendance doesn't come from nowhere, even though it was ill timed and counterproductive in this case. As Guerin Green at the North Denver News reported a little more than a year ago, Salem is under great pressure to turn the school around.

North High School will face redesign for the 2007-2008 school year.

Redesign is process by which Denver Public Schools attempts to “dramatically turn around a school’s performance and culture to create a rigorous academic program and a strong and intentional school climate.” In doing so, essentially the school’s entire instructional staff is fired, although they can reapply for their jobs.

DPS has been under pressure to improve performance at North, including from politicians. With the closure of Manual High School last year to facilitate its redesign, some in the community believed that North might share that fate. But with the announcement that North will be redesigned comes a commitment that the school will remain open.

DPS Superintendent Michael Bennet has argued that redesign gives the school a fresh start and opportunity to introduce a new program that didn’t exist with the on-going reform plan. The new faculty is then committed to the new program and, in theory, a new school culture. According to the district, since 2001, North has lost over 400 students, or nearly 25% of its enrollment, from 1,628 in 2001 to 1,224 in 2006.

This year’s decline was only six kids, but this includes 57 former Manual students who attend North this year. The situation for 9th graders is particularly acute. For example, the 9th grade cohort in 2002 diminished to 182 students in 2005.

In addition, North’s choice out rate has increased from 30.5% (567 students) in 2002 to nearly 45% (730 students) in 2006. This is all cause for serious concern, since enrollment declines led to a diminished academic offering at Manual and eventually to its closure. North had 733 9th graders in 2001-2002 and graduated only 206 students four years later in 2004-2005.

For North, student achievement has been an ongoing struggle. Just 17% of North students taking Advanced Placement tests for college credit succeeded, compared with 40% in the district as a whole. Few students tested as advanced in state-mandated CSAP testing; just fourteen 10th graders measured as proficient or advanced in Math in 2006; only 1 in 6 North students measured proficient or advanced in writing. North had shown real improvement in scores in recent years, but those gains weren’t determined to be sufficient.

For the first time in memory, the district put at least some of the responsibility for its woes squarely upon administrative shoulders."

Ballez and his fellow low attendance students were caught between the old system's expectations and the new, by a principal who knows from studies like the one by John Hopkins reported on above, that getting attendance up is key to reducing the phenomenally high dropout rate at North High.

Perhaps the biggest indictment of the Denver Public Schools is that it doesn't panic sooner, when failing in school and ultimately dropping out is predictable so early. While it may not be possible to tell precisely who will dropout -- people do have free will and turn themselves around -- it is possible to distinguish between kids at very high risk of dropping out from those who are extremely unlikely to do so, by late elementary school and early middle school. The District has three to six years of clear warning signs in most cases before a kid drops out. Yet, the response to this slow motion train wreck in a child's life seems very modest in most cases.

DPS does have several dozen programs designed to meet the needs of kids who are failing in school, many of which are charter schools. But, ordinary schools in poor neighborhoods with few special programs that purport to stuggle through a standard curriculum are full of kids with problems just as great who are simply muddling through, their failures not seriously addressed by both the District and their parents.

14 May 2009

Still Too Many Chrysler Dealers?

Chrysler LLC wants to eliminate roughly a quarter of its 3,200 U.S. dealerships by early next month, saying in a bankruptcy court filing Thursday that the network is antiquated and has too many stores competing with each other.

The company, in a motion filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York, said it wants to eliminate 789 dealerships by June 9. Many of the dealers' sales are too low, the automaker said. Just over 50 percent of dealers account for about 90 percent of the company's U.S. sales, the motion said.

From here. By comparison, Toyota, which is on the verge of surpassing Ford to be #2 in North American automobile sales and sells far more vehicles than Chrysler, manages with just 1,200 dealers, about half the number of dealers that Chrysler will have after this wave of dealership shutdowns.

Twelve of the Chrysler dealers proposed to be cut are in Colorado, out of forty-four Chrysler dealers in the state overall, a number roughly typical of the national average.

Racial Integration Progressing In Denver

In metropolitan Denver, racial and ethnic minority populations are growing at rates significantly faster than the total population in the suburbs, while Denver proper, which once was home to most of the state's African-Americans has seen a decline in its African-American population. The end result is greater racial integration in the Denver metropolitan area, at least at the county level.

Arapahoe County, a first ring suburb to the South and East of Denver is a notable example of the general trend:

The census report shows that almost all of Arapahoe County's growth since 2000 has come from the surge in the minority population. During that time, the county's white population grew less than 1 percent compared with a 70 percent growth in the Latino population and a 37 percent rise in the black population.
Nine years ago, three out of four faces in Arapahoe County, home to most of Aurora, were white. Today, it is two out of three . . . .

[In its] Cherry Creek School District. . . the percentage of minority students has risen from 12 percent to 40 percent in the past decade. School officials expect half of the students to come from minority backgrounds by 2012. . . .

In Denver, the growth in the minority population slowed this decade. The black population actually fell almost 10 percent between 2000 and 2008, while the white population grew by 5 percent[.]

Much of this is driven by the availability of affordable housing in Arapahoe County, coupled with reduced racial discrimination in housing in new developments and the gentrification of previously affordable Denver neighborhoods, as centrally located, high density housing regains popularity.

Europe Has More Unwed Births Than U.S.

Iceland is the leader with 6 in 10 births occurring among unmarried women. About half of all births in Sweden and Norway are to unwed moms, while in the U.S., it's about 40 percent.

France, Denmark and the United Kingdom also have higher percentages than the United States, according to the report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. . . . Japan had the lowest percentage of unmarried births, with 2 percent in 2007.

From an AP report. See also the underlying report.

Unmarried women are having children at higher rates in almost every country in the world.

From 1995 to 2002, birth rates for unmarried teenagers declined: The rate for younger teens dropped 30% for ages 15–17 years, and 12% for older teens. Between 2002 and 2006, the rates declined slightly for young teenagers and increased 5% for older teenagers. . . .

[Birth] rates for Hispanic women (106 births per 1,000 unmarried women in 2006) and black women (72 per 1,000) were highest. Birth rates for unmarried non-Hispanic white (32 per 1,000) and Asian or Pacific Islander (API) women (26 per 1,000) were much lower. From 1995 to 2002, the nonmarital birth rate for black women declined 12%. Rates for non-Hispanic white and Hispanic women were essentially unchanged during these years.

In the recent period 2002–2006, birth rates for unmarried non-Hispanic white women rose by 14% and for black women by 9%, while the rates climbed 20% for Hispanic women and 24% for API women.

By far the largest component of this increased fertility for unmarried women in the United States since 1995 has been among Hispanic women in their twenties or thirties.

Fertility rates for unmarried non-Hispanic white and Asian women are comparable to those of European countries like Italy and Spain were births to unmarried women are much less common. So far as I can tell, however, unwed parenting does not involve nearly the economic harms in most Western European countries that it does in the U.S., as a result of the strong welfare states of these countries.

In the U.S., unmarried parenting is starkly divided along lines of race and class, something that seems to be less clearly the case in Northern Europe.

Japan is notable not only for its low percentage of unmarried births, but for its very low fertility rate with recent fertility rate drops attributable almost entirely to women not choosing to marry, rather than to reduced fertility among married couples, and for its strong preference for condoms over hormonal birth control methods or IUDs as a method of contraception. Japan's school based and governmentally supported sex education programs have historically been weak. Japan also has a quite small, by international standards, public sector. Many social welfare needs met by the government in Europe or the United States, are met by extended family and employers in Japan, which also benefits from having a relatively egalitarian society economically, in which few people are truly poor.

What is happening in Japan? Women are increasingly entering the workforce, but finding that the choice between a career and a family is all or nothing to a much greater extent than in the U.S., and these women are increasingly choosing a career over a family.

The values of Japanese women have . . . changed notwithstanding the attempts of the government to persuade them to produce more babies. The more educated a woman is, the later she marries and has a child. The mean age of first marriage for Japanese women in 2007 was 28.3 years old up from 24.2 in 1970.

Moreover, marriage is now just one possible lifestyle choice for women. Career women today do not necessarily need a husband for their survival and comfort. The Japanese media and sociologists have coined the term “parasite single” to label working adults, especially single women, who have a decent salary and a great consumer lifestyle by staying rent-free with their parents. Women today are no longer under compulsion to marry at all cost.

More than 30 percent of Japanese women over 30 years old remain unmarried. Presumably, some cannot find a spouse who can match their expectations; others do not find the life of a housewife raising babies with an absentee husband (whose life and soul are pledged to the corporation) to be an attractive lifestyle choice.

[In a 2008 government survey] the percentage of Japanese men and women who rejected the statement “husband should work outside while the wife protects the home” were only 46.2 percent and 56.9 percent respectively --- considerably lower than those in the US, Germany and Sweden. . . . Japanese men spend an average of only thirty minutes each day to assist in childcare below five years old --- comparatively low by international standards. . . .

Husbands are expected to spend long hours at their workplaces and not take paternity leave even though it is granted by law. The childcare leave utilization rate by Japanese women was 72.3 percent for women in 2005 but only 0.5 percent for their husbands.

Age 1991 1996 2001 2005
25-29 40.2% 48.0% 54.0% 59.9%
30-34 13.9 19.7 26.6 32.6
35-39 7.5 10.0 13.8 18.6
40-44 5.8 6.7 8.6 12.2

Political Theater In India

In India, as in the United States, most of Western Europe, and much of the Islamic world (Turkey, for example), one of the main political faultlines is between culturally conservative religiously oriented politic groupings on the right, and more secular and modern political groupings on the left.

A current flashpoint in India is in Bangalore, which has a thriving middle class Western oriented information technology economy juxtaposed with a more tradition and often impoverished traditional India economy full of culturally conservative, older and often less educated Hindus. The Hindu Nationalist Bharatiua Janta Party (BJP) represents conservative Hindus in electoral politics. But, Bangalore also has a group called Sri Ram Sene, which has pressured for local restrictions on discos, conducted demonstrations against bars, Valentine's Day and Christian churches, and at times engaged in mildly violent attacks (mostly causing property damage and minor bodily injury and embarrassment, rather than serious bodily injury) targeted at women whom they feel dress immodestly and go out drinking. Some describe this new wave of violent conservative political action as the Talibanization of India (marginally more apropos than the German brownshirt analogy that also easily comes to mind) and Bangalore has earned the new nickname in the press of "Bans-Galore."

The secular left, led by Nisha Susan, 29, responded by forming an activist group called the Consortium of Pub-Going, Loose and Forward Women (they have a blog), which is comprised of modern minded young artists and writers. Their latest event mailed hundreds of pink panties to Sri Ram Sene on Valentine's Day. Whatever faults India may have, it certainly does not want for audacity and political theater.

Colorado Public Radio Statistics

In their morning fund raising drive, Colorado Public Radio stated that they have 350,000 listeners and about 30,000 members (who make some sort of donation). Thus, about 10% of the adult population listens.

The widespread assumption which I am sure some data supports, is that the audience is very elite in education, socio-economic status, income and wealth -- even the BBC's reporting style tends to target its broadcasts towards a more general audience and is less relentlessly serious. Most of the content on Colorado Public Radio is purchased from other providers like National Public Radio and Public Radio International, although there is something like an hour of local news content each day, and in addition on the second channel which plays classical music, some DJ chat.

It receives a small percentage of its support from government grants, and makes some money from corporate underwriting (i.e. discrete advertising), but earns a substantial share of its revenues from listener donations.

13 May 2009

RNA Not Irreducibly Complex

A standard argument for a form of creationism known as intelligent design is that complex molecules necessary for life couldn't have formed without an intelligent designer because this would require massively improbable or impossible leaps of complexity without intermediate evolutionary steps.

One of the biggest pieces of this argument has been that the RNA, which now helps DNA produce proteins, is too complex to arise from undirected chemical reactions. New research disproves this claim.

The new findings map out a series of simple, efficient chemical reactions that could have formed molecules of RNA, a close cousin of DNA, from the basic materials available more than 3.85 billion years ago, researchers report online May 13 in Nature. . .

The new research lends support to the idea that RNA-based life-forms were the first step toward the evolution of modern life. Called the RNA world hypothesis, the idea was first proposed some 40 years ago. But until now, scientists couldn’t figure out the chemical reactions that created the earliest RNA molecules.

Today, DNA encodes the genetic blueprint for life — excluding some viruses, for those who consider viruses living — and RNA acts as an intermediary in the process, making protein from DNA. But most scientists think it’s unlikely that DNA was the basis of the origin of life, says study coauthor John Sutherland of the University of Manchester in England.

Information-bearing DNA holds the code needed to put proteins together, but at the same time, proteins catalyze the reactions that produce DNA. It’s a chicken-or-egg problem. Scientists don’t think that DNA and proteins could have come about independently — regardless of which came first — and yet still work together in this way.

It’s more plausible that the first life-forms were based on a single molecule that could replicate itself and store genetic information — a molecule such as RNA (SN: 4/7/01, p. 212). RNA world proponents speculate modern DNA and proteins evolved from this RNA-dominated early life, and RNA in cells today is left over from this early time.

RNA molecules are chains with units that include "a sugar, a base and a phosphate group." The breakthrough involves combining precursor molecules that are neither sugars nor bases, but are instead a hybrid of the two. These are more reactive than stand alone sugars or bases.

Overkill In Denver Child Abuse Case?

A Denver father has been charged with child abuse resulting in death after his 7-month old son drowned in a bathtub.

Thomas Ashley, 48, answered the phone and took out the trash while his son, Isaac, was unattended in the bath on April 28, prosecutors said today.

From the Denver Post.

In cases where a death results, Colorado's criminal punishments are as follows:

With criminally negligent intent: Stranger: 1-3 years in prison. Parent of juvenile: 8-24 years in prison.

With recklessness: Stranger: 2-6 years in prison. Parent of juvenile: 16-48 years in prison.

Leaving your infant son in a bathtub while attending to household chores is surely negligent. Perhaps it is even criminal negligence, or reckless. But, the criminal penalty in Colorado is overkill for the offense -- from which a parent or caretaker will typically already feel horrible guilt and loss, even in the absence of any criminal punishment.

Punishments For Comparable Crimes

Let's review.

In the case of an adult stranger (where guilt and grief would typically be less than in the case of the unintentional loss of one's own child for whom one is caring), criminally negligent homicide is a class 5 felony (punishable by one to three years in prison), and reckless homicide is a class 4 felony (punishable by two to six years in prison).

In contrast, in Colorado, child abuse resulting in death that is criminally negligent is a class 3 felony punishable by eight to twenty-four years in prison, while child abuse resulting in death that is reckless is a class 2 felony punishable by sixteen to forty-eight years in prison. Abuse is defined under the child abuse resulting in death statute to include what ordinary language would call neglect or even mere negligence, rather than active abusive conduct.

Colorado also has a crime that is a class 1 felony punishable by death or life imprisonment, but that must involve a knowing killing of a child under twelve by a person in a position of trust.

Loss of parental rights to other children, restraining orders, and civil suits by other next of kin of a child are also available as non-criminal remedies in these cases under current law.

Other Crimes With Similar Punishments

Parents who don't tend their children with awful consequences have done something wrong. Some criminal punishment may seem appropriate even to them. But, this is offense is not nearly as culpable as other class 2 or class 3 felonies that are crimes of violence and hence carry the same punishments.

Class 2 felonies that are crimes of violence include murder committed knowingly and not in the heat of passion; kidnapping with an intent to collect ransom or other concessions; kidnapping in connection with a rape or robbery; forcible gang rape; rape causing seriously bodily injury; rape committed with a deadly weapon.

Class 3 felonies that are crimes of violence include murder committed knowingly but in the heat of passion; assault causing serious bodily injury or committed with a deadly weapon in the course of another serious felony; assault with intent to do serious bodily injury or disfigurement that does so; extortion with weapons or weapons of mass destruction; armed kidnapping; forcible rape; forcible child molestation; arson; armed burglary; and armed robbery.


The criminal justice system legitimately imposes serious punishments for serious crimes, but punishments should be proportionate to the culpability of the crime committed. All other crimes punished with the sentences applicable to child abuse causing death are knowing or intentional crimes typically committed by hardened criminals, usually with weapons, not acts of omission, involving no weapon or active abuse attributable to poor parenting.

Protecting The Public

Poor parents are also rarely a threat to the general public, which is the main reason that people need to be kept in prison for long periods of time for committing serious crimes. It may be appropriate in many case of parental neglect of their children to terminate their parental rights with respect to all of their children, or with their children until they reach an age where they can protect themselves better. It may also be appropriate in these cases to impose an extended period of probation in which no caretaking for any children is permitted. And, relatively short prison terms may make sense so that the gravity of the harm is recognized and punished.

Public Expense

Long imprisonment of these parents is a gross waste of public funds and a waste of the defendant's potential to contribute to society productively. In pure dollars and cents, it costs the State of Colorado about $150,000 of corrections costs and well over $15,000 of lost tax revenue, plus a significant sum for welfare and other social services for dependents of defendants, to imprison someone for eight years (the minimum for child abuse resulting in death from criminal negligence) as opposed to three years (the maximum for criminally negligent homicide). Even accounting for good time that reduces the sentences involved, this law costs the public something in excess of $100,000 per convinction to treat parents more harshly than people who negligently kill strangers. This also omits the harm caused by loss of livelihood and years of additional socialization with hardened criminals turning previously law abiding people into criminals that long prison sentences can cause. The costs to the state of Colorado associated with mid-range sentences for each offense is even greater.

There are currently about 400 people serving prison sentences in Colorado for some form of child abuse, although I don't have an exact breakout of these cases by sub-offense easily at hand.

No one needs to be reminded that Colorado's prison populations are soaring, mostly due to changes in statutory criminal sentences like the child abuse resulting in death statute, while the state's budget is strapped.

The Prosecutor's Case For Tough Statutory Punishments

I understand perfectly well why prosecutors bring the most serious criminal charge plausibly available to them in every case. At worst, from their perspective, the pre-trial and trial process will produce a conviction on a lesser charge, and more often, the defendant will plea bargain to avoid such severe penalties, avoiding the expense and uncertainty of a trial. But, the fact that an approach makes tactical sense for prosecutors doesn't mean that it is a good law. The law should not unduly pressure people who aren't guilty of an offense to waive their constitutional rights to due process in order to plea guilty to committing something.

Prosecutors also have to bear considerable responsibility for bringing charges that produce long sentences when less serious charges would have been sufficient. And, those who are most cooperative to law enforcement are most prone to receiving the longest sentences, as the cases against them are easiest to prove, and hence provide the least room for plea bargaining.

History has shown, as this case does, that prosecutors will not exercise discretion in some cases, and abuse of prosecutorial discretion is essentially beyond any form of judicial review (other than the Governor's very rarely used clemency power). When sentences for crimes are lengthened prosecutors in Colorado have sought and obtained them.


The easiest way to reform the law would be to simply treat deaths from child abuse or neglect like any other murder. This already removes common law privileges that remove any criminal or civil liability for harm to one's own family members, but does not punish harms to family members more seriously than similarly culpable harms to members of the general public.

Denver Post Not Available Statewide

The Denver Post will no longer offer newspaper delivery of anything but its Sunday edition to much of the state, including most of the Western Slope and Southern Colorado, starting this summer.

Prior to the demise of the Rocky Mountain News, the Rocky had served primarily the Denver metro area, while the Post had a statewide orientation. But, apparently, while this gave the Post higher paid circulation, it was not cost effective.

One expects that coverage of state news outside its subscription area will decline as well.

Hummer Sale Pending

"GM received three bids for Hummer, and expects a sale by the end of May."

From Calculated Risk.

Meanwhile, GM's stock price has fallen to a record low of just over a dollar, with many GM executives unloading their shares of the company. GM has also expressed interest in selling Saab and Saturn, but these negotiations do not appear to be making progress.

There are 100 GM dealerships in Colorado (it says it plans to shut down more than 40% of its dealerships), 44 Chrysler dealerships in Colorado (it says it plans to shut down 25% of its dealerships), and two stand alone Lincoln-Mercury dealerships in the state (a concept that Ford plans to discontinue). So, the state could easily lose more than 50 car dealerships out of more than 240 of them in the state (all per the Denver Post today). Then again, this is definitely a "your results may vary" scenario. Colorado has gained much of its population relatively recently, and so it is less likely to have an excess of dealerships than many states.

Dealership shutdowns are more likely to cause lost jobs in Colorado than other changes in the automobile industry, because few people are directly employed by the Big Three or their major suppliers in the state.

Texas Law Enforcement Still Corrupt

National Public Radio has called attention to what amounts to racially profiled highway robbery in Texas, in the guise of a civil forfeiture program taking drug crime related assets. In at least one case, this was undertaken with the apparent complicity of a local district judge who benefited personally from the seizures.

Meanwhile, a resolution to impeach the top criminal appeal judge in Texas, Sharon Keller, is being considered by the state legislature and many local observers think that she will not be on the bench at the end of this year.

Sinatra and Racial Equality

My parents were among the last generation to like Frank Sinatra, the last really big pre-rock musician, while not being too impressed by the Beatles, one of the first really big rock bands (I count Elvis Presley as a transitional figure, a proto-rock musician). Thus, I associate Sinatra and the Rat Pack with traditional side of the 1960s social and cultural revolution in the United States. But, before the sex, drug and rock and roll revolution of the 1960s, the nation was already neck deep in the civil rights movement that sought to end racial segregation, which really took off in the 1950s. My parents, who were first generation college graduates and urban professionals who grew up in the rural Midwest, were a part of this movement themselves, particularly during their days in Atlanta, Georgia in the 1970s.

As a Square State diarist "fake consultant" explains, it turns out that Frank Sinatra was an important celebrity supporter of the civil rights movement who used his popularity to pressure Las Vegas venues to integrate and spoke out in favor of integration of the person to person friendship level. Who knew? It certainly gives me more respect for this music legend to know that this was the case.

12 May 2009

A Washington State Tragedy

The case of this young woman was recently filed in the U.S. Supreme Court. The facts of the case as set forth in that petition for certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court are as follows (citations omitted):

This matter arises from a tragedy. When petitioner Carissa Marie Daniels was seventeen years old, she gave birth to a son. At the time, she was a high school student in Washington with no criminal record. She lived with her twenty-two-year-old boyfriend, Clarence Weatherspoon, who was not the father of the child. Weatherspoon did not have a job, so he often stayed at home to watch the baby while petitioner went to school or work.

Hardly a week after birth, the baby began to have health problems. Petitioner promptly took him to the emergency room. The doctor, however, found nothing wrong with the baby. Over the following eight weeks, as her baby continued to ail, petitioner took him to his regular pediatrician or the emergency room on seven additional occasions seeking treatment. But he did not get better. Nine weeks after the baby’s birth, he died. On the morning of his death, petitioner had left him in the care of her boyfriend. After receiving a call from her boyfriend that afternoon saying that her baby looked ill, petitioner came home, found her child limp, and called 911. When paramedics arrived, they determined that the child was dead.

As is common when a baby dies unexpectedly, an autopsy was performed. The autopsy suggested that shaken baby syndrome or blunt head trauma could have caused the child’s death. Those inspecting the baby could not be sure of the cause of death, though, because it typically is “really hard to tell” whether a baby’s ill health is caused by traumas or something congenital, or even “the flu.”

The State charged petitioner and her boyfriend with two crimes, (1) homicide by abuse and (2) second degree felony murder (predicated on either assault or criminal mistreatment), and put them both in jail. Homicide by abuse (absent any aggravating facts, and the State charged none) carries a sentencing range for first-time offenders of 240-320 months; second degree murder is punishable by 123-220 months. Before trial, the State dropped both charges against the boyfriend and released him from custody in exchange for his agreeing to testify against petitioner.

At the conclusion of petitioner’s trial, the court delivered the Washington State pattern jury instruction for cases involving multiple charges related to the same incident. The instruction read in relevant part:

"When completing the verdict forms, you will first consider the crime of homicide by abuse as charged. If you unanimously agree on a verdict, you must fill in the blank provided in verdict form A the words “not guilty” or the word “guilty,” according to the decision you reach. If you cannot agree on a verdict, do not fill in the blank provided in Verdict Form A.

If you find the defendant guilty on verdict form A, do not use verdict form B. If you find the defendant not guilty of the crime of homicide by abuse, or if after full and careful consideration of the evidence you cannot agree on that crime, you will consider the alternatively charged crime of murder in the second degree . . . ."

The jury left Verdict Form A blank and returned a guilty verdict on Verdict Form B, with the jury’s writing in italics, stated: “We, the jury, having found the defendant, Carissa M. Daniels, not guilty of the crime of homicide by abuse as charged in Count I, or being unable to unanimously agree as to that charge, find the defendant Guilty of the alternately charged crime of murder in the second degree.” The trial court did not make any inquiry or finding as to whether the jury was deadlocked on the homicide by abuse charge. Nor did the jury offer any descriptions of its deliberations or conclusions in that respect.

After polling the jurors to confirm that they all had voted guilty on the second degree murder charge, the trial judge entered judgment on that charge and dismissed the jury. The trial judge did not declare a mistrial respecting the homicide by abuse charge, and the prosecution did not request any further proceedings with respect to that charge. The trial court sentenced petitioner to 195 months in prison.

On appeal, her conviction for second degree felony murder was reversed on the ground the conviction on the state-law ground that assault, one of the two predicate felonies the State charged for the offense, is not a proper predicate for felony murder. Thus, she does not stand convicted of any offense at this point.

The State asked for a remand “for a new trial on homicide by abuse or the alternative charge of felony murder in the second degree predicated on criminal mistreatment.” . . . The court of appeals held that while the State could reprosecute petitioner for second degree murder, the Double Jeopardy Clause barred the State from retrying petitioner for the more serious crime of homicide by abuse. . . .The Washington Supreme Court thus concluded that by successfully appealing her conviction, petitioner had revived the State’s ability to prosecute her for the more serious offense for which it was it was unable to obtain a conviction at her first trial.

The legal issue for the U.S. Supreme Court is whether the Double Jeopardy Clause of the United States Constitution permits this woman to be tried on homicide by abuse and the alternative charge of felony murder in the second degree predicated on criminal mistreatment, or only felony murder in the second degree predicated on criminal mistreatment.

There is a deep split of authority in U.S. Courts over whether this is permissible, including a split between the Washington State Supreme Court and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in a decision reached while the Washington Supreme Court was deliberating, which the Washington State Supreme Court considered an rejected. There are also procedural issues over whether the U.S. Supreme Court should take a case like this one now, on direct appeal, or reserve judgment in case the case comes up for collateral review in a habeas corpus petition.

For Carissa Marie Daniels, this is the difference between facing again the possibility of a 195 month sentence, and facing the possibility of an even longer sentence. It is also the difference between facing a trial on two different theories, either of which a jury could believe and convict her, or facing a trial on just one theory, which would present a more specific set of facts that prosecutors would be required to prove. Further, the fact that this case has some obvious factual weaknesses, means that there is no certainty that a reconviction would be produced by a new trial. Ms. Daniels and the prosecution could reach a plea agreement or the prosecution might even drop all charges in the case, rather than have a new trial. The outcome of this decision making would be influenced by the charges that may be brought in a new trial.

The statement of facts strongly imply, of course, that the real problem in this case is that Ms. Daniels is not guilty of anything but giving birth to a child in ill health who didn't live, and that the decision of the prosecutor to bring such serious criminal charges at all was an (unactionable) abuse of discretion. What was at worst inartful parenting by a young and inexperienced parent in a difficult situation was treated like murder. The medical evidence to support the shaken baby syndrome theory upon which the prosecution relied also appears to have been established by far less than the beyond a reasonable doubt standard that applies to criminal cases. The possibility that the fact that the boyfriend's testimony was in exchange for relief from the possibility of a decade and a half or longer in prison for criminal charges also casts serious doubt upon the reliability of his testimony. The prosecution, the facts imply, has compounded a tragedy Ms. Daniels has already suffered, by bringing this weak case.

Indeed, Ms. Daniels is really less culpable in many ways than a parent in the common neo-natal homicide situation, where a lack of care for a newborn from a woman in the throes of labor giving birth alone gives rise to murder charges. Ms. Daniels sought and received help from her boyfriend and sought medical care for her young son repeatedly.

The U.S. Supreme Court won't decide those issues. It will simply decide if Washington State has the right to retry Ms. Daniels on one charge instead of two. The odds are reasonably good that Ms. Daniels will win before the U.S. Supreme Court. The odds are also reasonably good that if the U.S. Supreme Court takes the case and decides it in her favor, that a new jury will acquit her or that she will reach a plea bargain that produces a sentence much shorter than the 195 month sentence that she received at trial the first time. Her lawyers in this case, acting pro bono, are among the best in the business at U.S. Supreme Court litigation. It also isn't unlikely that the attorney in the prosecutor's office who pushed this case in the first place will have moved on, and that no one else in that office will want to try it again.

It is also likely that this case, upon achieving the notoriety that Ms. Daniels' case has if the U.S. Supreme Court accepts it, will spur legislative reforms in some state, perhaps even Washington State, that will protect other parents in her shoes from criminal prosecutions, or could even produce a pardon from Washington State's governor in her own case. Time will tell.