Saturday, October 27, 2012

Judicial Retention and Iowa Justice David Wiggins

October 27, 2012, 11:00a.m.

Balancing Democracy and Judicial Independence

There are many issues and arguments regarding the voters' retention (or not) of Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins. Most of his opponents simply disagree with what they view as the policy espoused in an Iowa Supreme Court opinion (which he joined, but did not write) that found an Iowa legislative enactment banning gay marriage to be a violation of the Iowa Constitution.

Other issues that might be raised, but are seldom explored, involve the underlying wisdom (or not) of Iowa's "Missouri Plan" for selecting, and reviewing the performance of, state judges, and the Iowa Bar's evaluation of Justice Wiggins (certainly "passing marks," but lower than some others).

But a new, young colleague of mine, Paul Gowder, and I have tried to address a narrower issue, one we believe lies at the heart of legitimate public discourse. Our column appears in this morning's [Oct. 27] in Gazette: Nicholas Johnson and Paul Gowder, "Independent Judiciary," The Gazette, October 27, 2012, p. A5, and is reprinted in its entirety at the bottom of this blog entry.

In order to isolate, highlight and clarify the issue we wish to address, so as not to confuse and intermingle it with other issues, we implicitly assume for purposes of our analysis that (a) the Supreme Court opinion in question, Varnum v. Brien, was "correctly decided" from a legal, judicial, lawyers' or law professors' perspective, (b) that voters should vote to retain Justice Wiggins on the court, based on the enumerated standards for evaluating a judge's performance, but that (c) there remains a legitimate issue regarding the appropriate balance between (1) judicial independence and (2) popular control of governmental institutions.

The column was run in parallel with another which joined issue with regard to the outcome of that balance. Donald P. Racheter, "People Have Judicial Control," The Gazette, October 27, 2012, p. A5.

Racheter is president of the conservative think tank, Public Interest Institute, in Mt. Pleasant. Although he specifically advocates the propriety of voting against the retention of Wiggins because he signed on to the court's unanimous Varnum opinion, his column goes beyond that. He believes it is not only appropriate, but well within the purpose of the Missouri Plan, for voters to oust judges whose opinions differ from their own. Paul Gowder and I disagree.

The link above is deliberately provided so that you can read his entire column if you wish. Meanwhile, here are some excerpts that I believe fairly put his position:
As someone who for many years taught a college class entitled Judicial Politics, I would like to try to correct those who have been emoting of late about how the courts and judges are supposedly different from executives and legislators — that they are somehow “non-political.” Any institution composed of humans . . . is political . . .. Political reform efforts [regarding courts] make it easier to divert power and control from ordinary folks to elites such as lawyers . . ..

The Missouri Plan . . . is supposed to ensure popular control of judges [and] allow them to run on their record, and for the people to render a verdict on that record with their ballots. It is rare for a judge running for retention to lose, but . . . when it happened to Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and two of her colleagues here in Iowa in 2010 over the “gay-marriage” issue, it means the system is working as intended. . . . [M]embers of the “mainstream media” . . . are either being disingenuous or mendacious when they allege that it is “wrong” for citizens to vote against a judge they dislike . . .. Others who claim that voters should only vote against judges who are senile, abusive or caught taking bribes are similarly in error . . .. [T]hose Iowans who disagree with the Varnum v. Brien decision and choose to vote “no” on Justice David Wiggins . . . are fulfilling the “good government reform” role designated for them when the Missouri Plan was adopted in our state constitution.
Gowder and I do not argue that our federal and state (Missouri Plan) judiciary operate flawlessly, any more than any other institution does -- hospitals, major corporations, think tanks, legislatures, foundations, newspapers, universities, or police departments. Nor do we deny that there is some role for democracy. Where we differ with Racheter is when he argues the Missouri Plan was intended, and should be conducted, as a means of "popular control of judges" -- as he interprets "control." Indeed, we believe the opposite; that constitutions, and the judiciary to interpret them, were specifically established precisely to be a check against the mob rule that would result from a "popular control of judges" that includes the removal from office of those whose judicial opinions were disliked by a majority of the people.

We believe the people's remedies for judges' statutory interpretations the majority rejects are to be found in legislatures, not courts. If the majority disagrees with the court's interpretation of a constitutional provision, the public's remedy lies in a constitutional amendment.

Here, then, is our column from this morning's Gazette:

"Independent Judiciary,"
Nicholas Johnson and Paul Gowder
The Gazette, October 27, 2012, p. A5

Iowa’s Justice David Wiggins, on November’s ballot, says, “I hope Iowa Supreme Court justices never have to raise money from political donors to ask for your vote.”

Whether the public should be voting for judges is, like many other legal issues, a matter of balancing.

“Democracy” suggests popular control of the language in constitutions and laws, which we have. On the other hand, America’s founders believed the legislative and executive branches need the check of a truly independent, non-political third branch. Popular participation in picking federal judges was limited to the people electing a president who would make, and senators who would consent to, judicial appointments. Once sworn in, judges could decide cases on the merits, with the protection of lifetime appointments.

Iowa strikes this political vs. independence balance with a merit system for nominating potential judges, their ultimate selection by the governor, and the absence of conventional election campaigns. However, one year after an Iowa Supreme Court justice’s first appointment, and every eight-year term thereafter, Iowans can vote whether to retain them.

The relevant factors in retention elections should be such things as the judges’ integrity, professional competence, judicial temperament, experience and service. Before the election, the Iowa Bar researches and publishes its evaluation of judges regarding these and other factors.

Two years ago, with three justices on the ballot, few if any citizens had complaints about these relevant qualities of the Iowa justices. The Bar approved all of them.

But some Iowans rejected a particular Iowa Supreme Court opinion, Varnum v. Brien. This well-researched, reasoned and written opinion was supported by every justice. The case required the court to address civil rights provisions of the Iowa Constitution as applied to an Iowa law banning same-sex marriage. The court concluded that religious organizations are free to define marriage however they choose. The State of Iowa, however, said the court, is restrained by its own Constitution from prohibiting same-sex marriage.

It was certainly a significant decision. But as a matter of Iowa constitutional interpretation, and legal opinion drafting, the opinion was in no way a radical departure from the mainstream of American law.

Why is the political decision to remove judges because of a single opinion we dislike not even in the best, selfish interests of offended citizens? Because ultimately we all benefit from a windbreaker in the storms brought on by political climate change. Our nation’s founders realized that 225 years ago, and it is no less true today.

And if we passionately disagree with courts’ decisions? We can elect governors to appoint different judges. If we don’t like a court’s interpretation of a statute, we can ask the legislature to change the law. If it’s a constitutional provision, we can organize to amend it.

Independent judges, uninfluenced by campaign contributions, and supported by the public, enable each of us to live under a “rule of law” rather than arbitrary and unchecked political decisions. If we protect them now, they’ll be able to protect us in the future.
Nicholas Johnson and Paul Gowder are faculty members at the University of Iowa College of Law. Comments: or

# # #

Friday, October 19, 2012

Third Parties Are Our Friends . . .

October 19, 2012, 9:50 a.m.

. . . and Need Not Be Threat to Major Parties

Say hello to Gary Johnson, once the Republican governor of New Mexico and currently the Libertarian Party candidate for president. He's no relation, and I won't be voting for him. But I'm glad he'll be on my Iowa ballot November 6, and you should be, too.

Nor are the Libertarians the only ones to join Governor Romney and President Obama. We'll also have the choice of the Constitution Party (Virgil Goode and James Clymer), Socialist Workers Party (James Harris and Alyson Kennedy), Party for Socialism and Liberation (Gloria LaRiva and Stefanie Beacham), and the Green Party (Jill Stein and Cheri Honkal). (Jerry and Jim Litzel will also appear, having been nominated by petition.)

Some of these third party candidates will be holding their own 90-minute debate, hosted by Larry King, Tuesday night [Oct. 23] at 8:00 p.m. CT -- the night after the last of the three major parties' presidential debates -- albeit only streaming over the Internet rather than broadcast to an audience of millions. Editorial, "Third-Party Debate Will Be Educational, Informative," Iowa City Press-Citizen, October 19, 2012, p. A7. Watch. It promises to be more informative and entertaining than what we've seen from Obama and Romney. Go to

This blog entry advances two propositions: (1) We, as voters and American citizens, have benefited from, and therefore should welcome and encourage the participation of third parties in our political system. (2) The two major parties, now virulent opponents of third parties, would actually improve their odds if they would support a little reform called "instant runoff voting" (IRV) -- a win-win-win for major parties, third parties, and every American.

Why Third Parties Are Our Friends

True democracy has almost always been resisted by those in power. Most of those said to be the fathers of our democratic system, those who drafted the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, agreed with John Jay that, “Those who own the country, should run it.”

It is a view still widely held today by those in power.

As the 19th Century New York City political Boss William Tweed is credited with having said, “I don’t care who does the electing just so long as I do the nominating.”

If there are only two political parties those who control those parties’ purse strings can maintain their control of the nation by continuing to do the nominating.

The opposition to third parties by “those who own the country” is understandable. For it is third parties that have brought the American people most of the political and social progress we enjoy today –- much of which has come at the expense of the wealthy. That kind of progress was fought at every turn by those controlling the two major parties, often with the aid of local police and national guard in ways that left demonstrators injured, bleeding -- and often dead.

Ultimately one or the other of the two parties would adopt the proposal of a third party as its own, but only at the eleventh hour when its failure to do so would have seriously harmed the party’s political power and influence.

Third parties are a proud tradition in America -- and especially in Iowa's early history.

After the Civil War the Democratic Party came to be controlled by big business and the wealthy. It didn't do much for poor farmers. Disenchanted Democrats organized the People's Party.

By 1912 many Republicans were disgusted with big business control of their party. Those dissidents formed the Progressive Party.

James B. Weaver of Iowa was a third party nominee for president in 1892.

It turns out that most of the progress in this country has been opposed by both of the major parties. It has come about only when third parties have pushed the agenda and picked up enough popular support that they could no longer be ignored.

That's how we got regulation of banks and railroads, a progressive income tax, the eight-hour workday, direct popular election of U.S. senators, workers' compensation, and limitations on child labor. Yes, it is third parties we must thank for the women’s right to vote, antitrust controls over the worst of corporate abuses, the minimum wage, the fact that we’re not all working weekends, safety in the workplace, workers’ right to organize and bargain with employers, safe foods and medicines, social security, civil rights -– the list goes on. (See, e.g., the outline notes of Professor Donald R. Shaffer, University of Northern Colorado.)

So you can see why “those who own the country,” and today control both major political parties, would want to do all they can to prevent this kind of agitation and progress, and why I say that "third parties are our friends."

Opposition to Third Party Electoral Reforms
and Why Instant Runoff is Everyone's Answer

Both parties, and those who fund them, oppose at every turn any and all reforms that would permit more third party participation. The so-called Presidential Debates Commission is in fact an exclusive club for Democrats and Republicans, who have for the most part successfully prevented the American people from ever seeing third party alternatives to their nominees. They even oppose proposals that would eliminate the threat to them of what they persist in calling “spoilers.”

(Both parties, with their sense of entitlement to exclude all others from the political process, have the chutzpah to characterize anyone with the nerve to think they can also run for public office -- without the major parties’ permission -- as a “spoiler.”)

Because Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) can (a) eliminate "spoilers," (b) thereby helping the major parties win elections, while (c) also helping third parties to be viable, there's no reason not to adopt this reform.

How does IRV work? How does it help third parties? How does it help the major parties?

Here's how IRV works.

Our present system means a candidate can win without a majority of the votes; whoever gets the most votes wins, even if it's less than 50%. With IRV, the winner will have, and must have, something over 50%.

With our present system everyone can only vote once, and the votes are only counted once. Those who vote for a (usually losing) third party candidate never get a chance to say which of the two leading candidates they would prefer -- and therefore neither of the two leading candidates gets credit for what would have been third party voters' second choices. With IRV, each voter may vote for only one candidate if they wish; but they also have the option of ranking candidates, and indicating which would be their second choice if their first choice can't make it. If no candidate gets over 50% when first choice votes are counted, voters' second choices are considered until a candidate emerges with a majority of the votes.

Let's assume that those voting Libertarian prefer the Libertarian candidate to either Romney or Obama. Those voting Socialist Workers prefer their candidate. (Those whose first choice is Obama or Romney may vote only once, and only for their first choice.) But let's also make the inaccurate assumption, just for purposes of this discussion, that each of the third parties voters' have a second choice as well. If their first choice can't win the Libertarian voters would vote for Romney and the Socialist Worker Party members would vote for Obama.

Under the present system, both the third party members, and those affiliated with the two major parties, have to recognize that -- when the election is close -- those who vote for their favorite third party candidate may, thereby, contribute to the defeat of the major party candidate who would have been their second choice. Moreover, the "winner" is more likely to win with less than 50% of the total votes cast. In our example, let's say Obama gets 48% of Iowans' votes, Romney 44%, the Libertarian 5% and the Socialist Workers' candidate 3%.

IRV enables third party members to designate both their first and their second choice. Using our numbers, above, the first place votes are counted, and split 48-44-5-3. With IRV, at that point the candidate with the fewest first place votes (Socialist Workers) is dropped from contention -- but the second choices of those who voted for the eliminated candidate are now registered as first place votes for their second choice: Obama. The first place votes are then counted for a second time. Once the 3% Socialist Workers second choice votes for Obama are added to the 48% votes for Obama, it results in a 51-44-5 split, Obama has a majority, and is declared the winner.

Suppose our numbers were reversed: 48-44-3-5 (3% Libertarian, 5% Socialist Workers). No one has a majority. Libertarians have the fewest first place votes and are eliminated. Their second choice votes become first choice votes for Romney. But that still leaves no one with a majority: 48-49-3. Once again the candidate with the fewest first place votes is eliminated -- the Socialist Workers' candidate. Those voters' second choice (Obama) becomes their first choice, and following what is now the third count we have a 51-49 split.

Now here's one for the Romney supporters. Suppose the first vote count shows 47% for Obama, 46% for Romney, 2% Socialist Workers, 5% Libertarian. Under the present system the election's over; Obama wins Iowa's electoral votes. Can you now calculate what happens with IRV? That's right. The Socialist Workers' candidate is eliminated, and Obama picks up their 2%, making the new split 49% Obama, 46% Romney, 5% Libertarian. Obama is close to 50%, but there's still no winner; no one has over 50%. So we count the votes a third time. This time the Libertarian candidate is eliminated, throwing his votes to Romney, who now has 51% to Obama's 49%. Romney's declared the winner.

In other words, for the foreseeable future third parties will probably never win the White House, with or without IRV. The two major parties need have no fear of that. IRV will sometimes benefit the Republicans and sometimes the Democrats, but it will always produce a much better reflection of voters' actual preferences. Those who are more inclined toward the policies and proposals of a third party can indicate that with their vote -- while also selecting their second choice between the two most likely to win.

Still not clear? Like a 3-minute video from FairVote? Here it is:

Why IRV is a Win-Win-Win

Why is this a win for the major parties? Because they no longer need to worry about "spoilers." They will not only get the votes of those who view their candidate as their first choice, they will also pick up the votes of those for whom their candidate is a second choice.

Why a win for the public? Because we will have the more robust discussion of the issues brought about by a greater diversity of views. We will be offered a choice of candidates in addition to "the least worst alternative" from the two major parties. There will likely be more popular interest in politics in general and voting in particular. It will give us a more finely tuned opportunity to let the two major parties know where we stand than we reveal by just choosing between the two of them. It will come closer to a national poll of how we feel about a variety of issues and policies.

And why a win for the third parties, even if it's still unlikely any one of their candidates will live in the White House? States require third parties to obtain a designated percentage of votes cast, or names on petitions, in order to retain their status as a "party" entitled to be represented on future ballots. That's tough to do under current rules. There are many proposals to remedy this problem, but Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) is one obvious example. They will be able to attract more votes once people can vote both their hearts and their heads. It will help them to build membership, raise money, and attract more media attention.

To see a list of countries and cities where IRV is used, here and abroad, click here. For more on democratic, innovative, alternative voting systems see, e.g., the resources of the Center for Voting and Democracy.

# # #

Monday, October 15, 2012

Prisons: The Costs and Challenges of Crime

October 15, 2012, 9:10 a.m.

November 8, 2012, 9:00 a.m. -- POST-ELECTION, BOND DEFEAT UPDATE:

The Johnson County Justice Center bond proposal on Tuesday's [Nov. 6] ballot went down to defeat. That is, although a majority (56%) of those voting on it voted "Yes," that was not enough to clear the 60% hurdle required by Iowa law.

So the County Supervisors and allied supporters of the proposal have been meeting to decide what to do next. Lee Hermiston, "Justice Center Group Plans Next Move; Deciding Whether to Go Back to Voters; Critics Vow Same Plan Will Not Pass," Iowa City Press-Citizen, November 8, 2012, p. A1. [And see also, Gregg Hennigan, "Johnson County leaders discuss possibility of another justice center vote; Another vote would have to wait at least six months," The Gazette, November 8, 2012, p. A2; and Cassidy Riley, "Johnson County officials say justice-center battle is not over," The Daily Iowan, November 8, 2012, p. A1.]

As I commented on the online version of Lee Hermiston's story, "Many of the proposed Justice Center's opponents acknowledged that 'something' was needed, and that they'd support it. Many of the supporters had serious concerns. A chance to revisit these issues may prove to be the best outcome for Johnson County. Unlike Washington, compromise is a real possibility."

Some supporters are advocating physically pushing through the proposal in a subsequent vote just as soon as possible. Presumably, this means they would simply raise more money, to repeat their failed talking points with greater volume and quantity.

Frankly, I think this would be a mistake, whether opponents prove to be right or wrong in their prediction that, "This will not pass, I guarantee you" (as Hermiston quoted Sean Curtin). The comments from both supporters and opponents have left a lot of possibilities for compromise on the table. Johnson County citizens have a substantial reservoir of civility and compromise that this exercise in democracy could draw upon -- to everyone's credit.

Supervisor Terrence Neuzil thinks "the proposed center [could] use some changes." He's said, "I’m not interested in putting the same proposal in front of the voters that just voted it down." Hermiston also reports, "[S]upervisor Janelle Rettig said some issues still need to be addressed, such as the racial disparity of those who stay in jail for longer than a week;" and that "[Johnson County Attorney Janet] Lyness . . . suggested that members of the opposition be involved with those [future] discussions" of the committee of supporters.

These folks are setting the right tone and strategy. Otherwise it's going to reek of the City Council's recent effort to cut the public out entirely on a bond vote regarding grants of taxpayers' money, not for a public, traditional governmental project (such as jails), but for a private entrepreneur's profit-making venture.

There is no need here to outsource our design and decision to expensive out-of-town consultants, meaningless surveys, and endless discussions that never reach conclusions -- except an agreement to have yet another discussion. We can work this out.

I would make one more very specific suggestion that seemed to work for the School Board when creating its somewhat contentious governance policies. Come up with one person who is willing to do the writing, someone who either voted "No," but sees the need for some improvement, or someone who voted "Yes," but sees real problems with the failed proposal -- or possibly one of each. Task them with coming up with, first, as complete, factually accurate, and neutral a paper as they can create putting forth every one of the advocates' assertions for, and opponents' assertions against, the current proposal. Second, have he/she/them work -- separately -- with selected groups of supporters and opponents whose job it will be to come up with the best responses they can provide to the others' arguments. Revise the paper accordingly (including both assertions and responses). Third, select representatives of both camps who seem to be the most inclined to rational, analytical, data-driven, civil discourse on these issues to see what kind of a compromise proposal, if any, can be created.

An illustration of a possible contribution to the latter comes from Supervisor Rettig, as reported by Gregg Hennigan in this morning's Gazette: "Supervisor Janelle Rettig said . . . she’d support the county paying more for the project up front to reduce the amount bonded and not fully building out the facility at the start." Gregg Hennigan, "Johnson County leaders discuss possibility of another justice center vote; Another vote would have to wait at least six months," The Gazette, November 8, 2012, p. A2.

Discussion can be constructive; it is also essential. But my experience has taught me that it is multiples more efficient, effective, and speedy if it is focused on a written document at the outset. As the discussion progresses, the document is revised. This produces both a tangible product from the discussion, greater likelihood of agreement, and a record of the the process.

Just a thought. You're welcome.

What follows is the blog entry entered here October 15, 2012:

Humankind has struggled with virtually every aspect of crime and punishment since we came down out of the trees. See, e.g., "Criminology,"

The economic and human cost of the "solution" called incarceration have created both a multi-billion-dollar industry and human failures. "With more than 2.3 million people locked up, the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world. One out of 100 American adults is behind bars -- while a stunning one out of 32 is on probation, parole or in prison [NJ: a grossly disproportionate percentage of which are minorities and the poor]. This reliance on mass incarceration has created a thriving prison economy. The states and the federal government spend about $74 billion a year on corrections, and nearly 800,000 people work in the industry." "Billions Behind Bars; Inside America's Prison Industry; CNBC Goes Behind the Razor Wires to Investigate the Profits and Inner-Workings of the Multi-Billion Dollar Corrections Industry," CNBC, October 2012.

Prisons have now become America's most fully occupied, and expensive, public housing program.

Nor have Iowa, and Iowa City, remained outside these challenges. Johnson County's supervisors, and sheriff, are recommending local residents approve a near-$50-million bond burden on top of their current property taxes to provide a substantial expansion to our local contribution to the prison industry and our own public housing.

Here is my own effort, in this morning's [Oct. 15] Press-Citizen, to keep to the requested 500-word limit on my own thoughts about the challenge:

Voting "Yes, but. . ." for the Justice Center
Iowa City Press-Citizen
October 15, 2012, p. A7
Nicholas Johnson

I’ll be voting for the justice center. Some increase in jail cells and courtrooms seems warranted, notwithstanding dispute about numbers.

But questions, concerns and unused opportunities remain.

• Big picture, big debt. Iowa taxpayers’ debt service obligations are about $2 billion. We’ve just promised $250 million to a foreign corporation: jobs for Iowans, profits for Egyptians. Our local school district is eyeing its $281 million borrowing capacity. Downtown development takes millions in TIFs. The justice center adds $48 million-plus. There’s no central rationalization of priorities on taxpayers’ behalf.

• Regional centers. For 100 years — the 1830s to 1930s — Iowa’s horse-and-buggy 99 county governments made sense. They don’t anymore. Politically, counties can’t be abolished. But mental health services now are transferring from counties to “regions.”

Why not regional jails — the low-cost alternative to 99 jails designed for peak occupancy?

Our $1 million a year sending inmates elsewhere compares favorably with the jail’s share of $48 million. Why not continue it for those serving week, month or longer sentences? Wouldn’t that reduce the cells needed for the football drunks and those awaiting trials?

Why are neighboring counties’ jails not full? Is it possible future policy and funding changes with mental health and dependency populations, social and political attitudes, technological and other innovations will further reduce the need for jail cells? Won’t rationalizing our continued, though reduced, use of others’ jails give us more future flexibility?

What would a peak load analysis suggest as our optimum number of additional cells?

• Criminal consolidation. How about a standalone criminal structure — courtrooms, meeting and class rooms, along with jail cells? It would improve efficiency, consolidation and eliminate courthouse security concerns. Potential, adjacent, full city block locations are available southeast, south, and west.

Our courthouse is one of Iowa’s greatest early, Romanesque structures. More than 110 years old, it deserves, and should continue to be, maintained in its original setting — like Old Capitol. That was the wise choice when moving courthouse offices to the current County Administration Building five blocks away. It’s the wisest, win-win choice now.

Moreover, this would enable limiting a refurbished, more secure courthouse to civil cases.

• Holistic approach. A significant proportion of the criminal population suffers from the mental health and chemical dependency challenges that make them repeat visitors. Jails are neither their answer nor ours. Johnson County has made commendable progress transferring these individuals from jails to specialized courts and programs. But might it not be cheaper, more effective and humane, to budget as well as administer to this population’s total needs with a single program? Can we do even more to reduce the need for jails?

We need some additions to our criminal justice capabilities. That’s why I’m voting “yes.” But that doesn’t mean additional thought, and modification of what’s now on the drawing board, couldn’t serve us even better.
Nicholas Johnson, Iowa City native and former school board member, teaches at the Iowa College of Law and maintains and

# # #

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Paying the Price for Women's Rights

October 11, 2012, 10:00 a.m. -- now with continuing updates on her medical condition Oct. 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 31

SPECIAL: Malala is being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. I've signed the petition; if you would like to join me, click here. About 150,000 have signed so far [Nov. 14].

And you might want to visit Malala's Facebook page.

Malala Yousafzai

Another brave young woman is in the news, Malala Yousafzai, living in northwestern Pakistan and advocating on behalf of girls seeking education. Editorial, "Malala Yousafzai’s Courage," New York Times, October 11, 2012, p. A30 ("If Pakistan has a future, it is embodied in Malala Yousafzai. Yet the Taliban so feared this 14-year-old girl that they tried to assassinate her. Her supposed offense? Her want of an education and her public advocation for it."). Here are links to her Web page and Facebook page.

The United Nations declared November 10 "Malala Day." Here is a photo of children celebrating in Karachi that day. For the video of U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon's announcement in support of Malala, click here.

[For medical updates [Oct. 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19] on her condition, see, Mushtaq Yusufzai, "Malala shifted to AFIC Rawalpindi in serious condition," The News (International) [Pakistan], October 12, 2012; "Malala's Condition Satisfactory: ISPR," The News (International) [Pakistan], October 14, 2012 ("The Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Sunday [Oct. 14] termed Malala Yousafzai's condition 'satisfactory' and that it was witnessing a steady improvement. [She] was taken off the ventilator for some time and was later placed back on it. The . . . option to send her abroad for further treatment was being considered. . . . ISPR Maj Gen Asim Bajwa said that [she] . . . was now being administered a lower dose of sedatives. 'Movement has been witnessed in Malala's hands and legs which is a positive development,' Maj Gen Bajwa said.").

"Schoolgirl Wounded by Taliban Is Airlifted to Britain," New York Times, October 15, 2012 ("Malala . . . [has left] Rawalpindi, . . . in a military hospital, on an air ambulance sent from the United Arab Emirates. [She will] receive immediate treatment for her skull, which was fractured after a bullet passed through her head, as well as 'long-term rehabilitation including intensive neuro rehabilitation' . . . at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham . . . which has specialized in the treatment of troops wounded in Afghanistan . . .."); "2 questioned at U.K hospital treating Pakistani girl," USA Today, October 16, 2012 ("British police have questioned two people who tried to visit [Malala] . . . raising fears about her safety following pledges by the Taliban to make another attempt on her life. . . . Dr. Anders Cohen, chief of neurosurgery at The Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York [said] '. . . we don't know what part of the brain the bullet went through, whether it crossed the midline and hit any vessels, or whether the bullet passed through the right or left side of the brain.' [B]oth physicians say it is extremely unlikely that a full recovery can be made. They could only hope that the bullet took a 'lucky path' — going through a more 'silent,' or less active — part of the brain. 'You don't have a bullet go through your brain and have a full recovery,' [Dr. Jonathan] Fellus [chief scientific officer at the New Jersey-based International Brain Research Foundation] said.").

"Malala will need reconstructive surgery: hospital director," Dawn Newspaper, Urdu Edition, October 17, 2012 ("Malala Yousufzai is making progress in a British hospital, doctors said on Tuesday, as police turned away visitors claiming to be relatives. . . . [She] was in a stable condition on her first full day . . . [and the Birmingham Queen Elizabeth Hospital medical director David Rosser said she] had had a 'comfortable night.' '“We are very pleased with the progress she’s made so far,' . . .. [E]very bit as strong as we’ve been led to believe. Malala will need reconstructive surgery and we have international experts in that field.' . . . 'Her response to treatment so far indicated that she could make a good recovery from her injuries,' the Queen Elizabeth Hospital said in a statement."). "Malala stable in UK hospital as support floods in," AFP/The Express Tribune/International Herald Tribune, October 18, 2012 ("Doctors said Malala Yousafzai spent a second comfortable night . . .. [S]he 'remained in a stable condition and continued to impress doctors by responding well to her care,' a hospital spokesman said.").

John F. Burns and Christine Hauser, "Pakistani Schoolgirl Shot by Taliban Is Showing Progress," New York Times, October 19, 2012 ("[Malala] has recovered to the extent that she is now able to stand with assistance and communicate in writing . . . Dr. David Rosser, the medical director of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, said . . . 'she is doing very well. In fact, she was standing with some help for the first time this morning when I went in to see her.'”) Alan Cowell, "Pakistani Activist, 15, Recovering at ‘Encouraging Speed,’ Father Says," New York Times, October 27, 2012, p. A9 ("Ms. Yousafzai’s father [Ziauddin Yousafzai] and mother, Toorpekai Yousafzai, arrived in Birmingham on Thursday [Oct. 22], accompanied by her two younger brothers, Atal Khan, 8, and Khushal Khan, 12. [T]he family was reunited . . . for the first time since Ms. Yousafzai was flown to Britain, 'there were tears in our eyes out of happiness,' her father told reporters. 'We all cried a little bit.' He added: 'It’s a miracle for us. She was in a very bad condition.' A week ago, a bulletin from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital [reported] 'She’s not out of the woods yet, but we are hopeful she will make a good recovery' . . ..")]

Dawn is a newspaper in Pakistan that I have found over the last few years to be one of the best sources of information not only about Pakistan, but also about Afghanistan. The overwhelming majority of Pakistanis deplore the Taliban's effort to assassinate Malala. But some among its religious right have recently made an effort to compare that attempt to the American use of drones that end up killing innocent civilians. Dawn has risen to the occasion with an editorial today [Oct. 16] headlined "Skewed Narrative," Dawn Newspaper, Urdu Edition, October 16, 2012. Here is an excerpt: "Let's get one thing straight about the attack on Malala Yousufzai. It is not comparable to drone strikes . . . [or] other incidents the religious right might use to try to divert attention from the particular evil of this one. . . . [T]his incident was: a deliberate attack on a specific teenage girl in retaliation for her activism for girls’ education . . .. Drone strikes may be unacceptable in their current form and end up killing innocent children, but doing so is not their intent. . . . And yet moves are afoot to position these events as comparisons in an attempt to dampen the widespread recognition of the Malala incident for what it was — the targeting of an innocent girl by an outfit that does not believe in the most basic of human rights and is prepared to attack even children to promote its regressive ideas."

I used the word "another" in the opening paragraph not only because there are today, as there have been throughout the years, a great many young women and girls -- as well as men and boys, but primarily women -- who have often paid a heavy price, up to and including death, fighting for what are often even minimal rights for women.

But I also say "another" because of what I wrote earlier about a brave young woman who played a major role in the "Arab spring" in Egypt, Asmaa Mahfouz. "Asmaa Mahfouz: Democracy's Heroine," October 27, 2011. And see, "The Natural Superiority of Women; And Why Men Fail," September 11, 2012.

There's good news and bad news regarding the role of religion in women's rights -- one of the major civil rights challenges during my lifetime. The liberal, reformist, and moderate elements of many of the world's major religions view women's struggle as possessed of moral, ethical, and religious rights as well. Sadly, however, often in violation of their own sacred texts, many religions' more extreme elements -- including those in this country -- seek to find support for their suppression of women's rights from within their religion.

So it was in northwest Pakistan this week.

The balance of my blog entry this morning is simply a reproduction of yesterday's [Oct. 10] entry on a blog maintained by "Rosh," a UCL (University College London?) student: Lashings of Gingerale -- because she so well states my own thoughts there's little to be gained by my composing an equivalent.

Malala Yousafzai started her blog about being a girl trying to get an education in the Swat Valley when she was 11 years old. On Tuesday [Oct. 9] at the age of 14 she was shot in the head by the Taliban because she "promoted secularism."

She is currently in hospital, alive and recovering after surgery. This girl is the bravest girl I know because she stood up for education for girls. And do you know what makes this story even more disgusting? That she has to do this at all in 2012.

My thoughts and prayers are with her and her family.

# # #