Friday, May 27, 2005

In the May 30th The New Republic:
Christian groups are preparing to battle a new scourge: Vaccines that could prevent more than 200,000 women from dying of cervical cancer each year (including 5,000 here in the United States). [The vaccines] immunize against infection with human papillomavirus (HPV), a common STD that is responsible for the vast majority of cervical cancer cases.
Abstinence groups don’t want a vaccine to eliminate this fear factor. “Giving the HPV vaccine to young women could be potentially harmful because they may see it as a license to engage in premarital sex,” says Bridget Maher of the Family Research Council, a Christian lobby that plans to fight a Merck campaign to make HPV vaccination mandatory for all girls by the time they enter junior high. Of course, absolutely no evidence supports Maher’s claim. But there’s plenty of evidence that an HPV vaccine will prevent thousands of needless deaths. Now what was that about a culture of life?
Yes, it's as crass as it sounds: the vaccine is bad for their business (built on fear).

And from the same TNR issue:
As political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson argue in their forthcoming book, Off Center: George W. Bush, Tax Cuts, and the Erosion of Democracy, recent changes have made Congress an unreliable representative of majority will. Now that incumbents, thanks to partisan gerrymandering, are virtually assured reelection, politicians have a strong incentive to pander to their most reliable supporters—including partisan activists and high-stakes donors—in order to avoid the primary challenges that now decide elections. This means that representatives and senators can increasingly ignore the preferences of the moderate majority without suffering electoral consequences.
In the Schiavo case, which has, more than any single event, rallied right-wing opposition to the judiciary, two-thirds of the public opposed Congress’s intervention in an ongoing judicial proceeding. But that doesn’t seem to matter to congressional Republicans, who are in the thrall of their base: interest groups on the extreme right who care intensely about judicial nominations because their socially conservative views are not shared by a majority of Americans. Having ostensibly played an important role in Bush’s reelection, these groups feel entitled to political payback.
Fortunately, the canniness of the courts in following public opinion suggests that Republican attacks on judicial independence are unlikely to succeed. Political scientist Gerald N. Rosenberg has examined nine periods in U.S. history when judicial decisions led to meaningful congressional opposition, as measured by the number of bills introduced in the House and Senate attempting to curb the Supreme Court’s power.
This history suggests that the Court tended to retreat in the face of congressional opposition only when it was genuinely out of step with public opinion. That is not the case today. If the historical pattern holds, the courts are unlikely to wilt before congressional proposals to strip them of jurisdiction over controversial cases. Nor are they likely to be intimidated by DeLay’s recent attacks.
As long as judges are confident that a majority of the country is behind them, they will remain steadfast in the face of congressional bullying. But we are in a dangerous situation when the people’s will is better represented by the Supreme Court than Congress. For most of U.S. history, the Court looked to Capitol Hill as the most reliable representative of the people’s constitutional views; if Congress no longer accurately represents the constitutional views of the majority, the Court will have alarmingly little evidence of what those views are, aside from fickle public opinion polls, which are hardly an appropriate basis for judicial decisions. Moreover, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist will not serve forever, and, when he retires, his successor will be chosen by a president who seems more interested, at the moment, in catering to his social conservative base than in representing the country as a whole. Over the long run, however, majorities in the United States always have their way; and, if they find their political leaders subverting their wishes, they are likely to demand new ones. -- Jeffrey Rosen

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