Friday, June 27, 2008

A Couple Of Moorhens in the Curate's Paddock

Rather nice little things they are, too. They should be having their chicks any time now. I recently bought a second-hand camera with a hefty optical zoom - 10x or 12x - I'll try to get some pictures.

Well, when I posted this morning, I'd not heard the news of the latest Labour by-election disaster. Pretty impressive.

The comments, again, are more telling than the commentary.

"I can see Labour getting utterly obliterated at the next general election."

"Anyway, it's all fiddling while Rome burns for Labour. Come election time, he's a goner, I'm afraid, as is the whole New Labour project. They've had 11 years to get it right, and they have comprehensively blown it."

"Can he turn things around in the next 12 months? Sunder, he couldn't turn things around if he had another 12 years. NuLab have lost most of their support, I am genuinely surprised that there are still a few apologists out there. Maintaining the current discontent and not increasing it further is the best he can hope for over the next 12 months, funnily enough, if he manages that it will be his finest achievement."

"Public opinion has turned. They have decided that time is up for Labour. It does not matter what Brown does - he is finished."
"As many have stated above, New Labour are finished. A party that once stood for fairness abandoned that principle a long time ago. The executive is in thrall to the City and the ultra-wealthy, and a truly pitiful band of supine lobby-fodder backbenchers will not challenge them, in fear of damaging their careers. Too late, many of them are realising that after the next election they won't have careers, and with Labour's funding problems, many of those career politicians might have to actually find a proper job for the first time in their lives.Tied in with the relentless assault on personal and civic freedoms under the catch-all banner of security, they have managed to inflict massive damage to this country. But after all this, they still don't understand what they have done and why they are now despised. "

"Like virtually everybody else I forsee a Labour meltdown at the next election."

"This isn't about policy really anymore. Its about the hate of an ignored people for those who have lorded it irresponsibly and contemptuously over us for too long.

I listened to Harman yesterday, it wasn't necessarily what substantively she was saying (even though her statement was worryingly woolly) it was her wretched suburban nannyish tone, her condescension and sense of automatic superiority that upset me.

Red rag to a bull really, Labour are beyond the pale. At the next general election the people are going to administer a good kicking to Labour that will make 1997 look like a picnic."

"Sunder, your article explains exactly why labour is in danger of extinction as a national political movement. As I grew up on an innercity estate surrounded by trade unionists I was told I had to support labour because they were 'our' party.

This is no longer true, taxes on the poor and lower middle incomes are at record levels. The last three big policies have been, banging people up, which will disproportionately affect labour's core as they can't afford lawyers and are no longer eligible for legal aid.

Then there was changes to planning, a vast use of political capital that will benefit corporates and nobody else. Finally, yesterday Harman says its ok to discriminate against white men. You probably think this is great, but most of labour's heartlands are white and regretably I expect the BNP to exploit Harman's bill to the full.

Sunder, you and Harman represent the Elite NUS policy wonks that are destroying the labour movement. As a tory you might think I would cheer, but the vacuum that is being rapidly created is exploited by racists, separatists, fanatics and will lead to trouble ahead here on this humble estate of mine."

So we're seeing the total disconnection of Labour from its grassroots. At the same time, while people are willing to vote for Cameron, there are no deep currents flowing to the Tories. Cameron's USP is that he's not Gordon Brown. His support is wide but shallow - indeed, I wonder if the more traditional the Tory, the less they'd trust him - the way Old Labour felt about Blair.

It took eleven years - and a change of leader - to take Labour from the heights to the despised depths, during which time the grass roots withered. I have a feeling it could take David Cameron much less time.

UPDATE - I forget where - article, comments or Polly Toynbee's Damascus moment - more great comments - but someone pointed out that saying you support Labour is becoming unfashionable the same way that it was unfashionable to be a Tory in the 90s. Now in one sense it's a tragedy that UK politics is now a matter of fashion - but it's been like that for ten years or more. And it's necessary that both the main parties suffer the same treatment before politics can be rebuilt. Have I Got News For You, Ben Elton and the 'alternative' (now establishment) comedians, Spitting Image, and long before them stuff like TW3 - they were all basically anti-Tory - but they builded better than they knew.

I've said before that Cameron's 'de-toxification' of the Tory brand (aka 'removing anything conservative') must be reckoned an achievement - a marketing achievement, mind, but an achievement nonetheless.

Brown keeps up the line that Cameron is just a good salesman. Doesn't he realise what a compliment that is in the new age of politics ?

Blogging Continues To be Light ....

Apologies. Still, there's a lot of good stuff out there. Mr Tarran's writing gets better by the month, Ross and the Dumb One continue to inform, Martin Kelly is posting some great stuff (one of his great points is that you can never be sure what view he'll take on an issue - not a predictable blogger although he does sail by a moral compass).

Must dash. Blogging resumes tonight - when the hedges are cut.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Abortion Deaths Pre-Legalisation

I posted on the Ann Furedi thread: "Oh, that question. These untold thousands who died from back-street abortions in the bad old days. Is there any factual evidence for this, or numbers of any kind, or is it just another left-wing myth ?"

ChooChoo answered as follows :


I'd hesitate to say 'myth'. But there are problems with some figures and, of course, this is further problematised by the polemical contexts of inveterate debates. The US is interesting because abortion remains a livewire political debate: not just because of social dynamics, but also because of the legal context there. Unlike here, the (from one view) judicial fiat by which abortion was legalised in the states generates tensions beyond the usual ones in this debate.

In Planned Parenthood vs. Casey (Bob, a lifelong Democrat incidentally), the figure of 5,000-10,000 pre-legalisation deaths was mentioned. This figure, a common one in the US context, goes back to attempted extrapolations from studies from the 1930s, for instance, by one Frederick Taussig (published in '36). He used figures for the abortion rate (not the abortion mortality rate) from NY and Iowa birth control clinics, combined with his own estimates for the mortality rate to come up with the figures. (There were others which used similar techniques).

In reality, these figures are dubious and not least because of their use in polemical contexts. In 'Induced termination of pregnancy before and after Roe v. Wade', in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 208.22 (1992) pp.3231-3239, the authors use pre-legalisation figures for abortion mortality from National Center [sic] for Health Statistics:

1940 - c.1400

1945 - c.750

1950 - c.250

1955 - c.225

1960 - c.250

1970 - c.125

(The exact figure for pre-legalisation 1972 is 39. Abortion mortality figures still do exist post-legalisation, and the figure hovered around c.20 post-legalisation before dropping further in the 80s or 90s, I forget which).

These figures can hardly settle the question. First, they don't show how many total abortions there were. Second, they do not, in themselves, get into the difficulty of arriving at such figures. This difficulty, incidentally, is not just for finding reliable pre-legalisation figures, but also reliable post-legalisation figures. (Assigning abortion as cause of death is not as simple as it may sound). Third, these do not get into all sorts of social factors (was there a change in the public acceptability of treating women who had had abortions?). (These figures, per se, are far more reliable than, say, Taussig's).

Fundamentally, however, and this occurs in other contexts too, the large reduction in abortion mortality correlates to (and is no doubt caused by) medical provisions: most importantly, the diffusion of antibiotics. Medical provisions are more important in bringing down abortion mortality than legality. (This is not to deny that legality cannot or does not have an effect of safety: it does, but this relation is heightened where the safety, even where legal, would not be so good. Conversely, where medical provisions are good - not just supplies, but access - legality cannot have a strong effect on abortion mortality). In a first-world context, the notion that illegality will result in the death of scores of women is not tenable. (Another important aspect to this is that pre-legality abortion, certainly in the states, was largely - c.90% - carried out by physicians: this is what emerges from works on the reality of abortion by the likes of Mary Claderone - erstwhile medical director of Planned Parenthood - in the 60s). This is not to deny the total legitimacy of being worried about this, or of valuing women's lives. (Of course not). I'm just trying to write a little about the figures for abortion mortality.

I'm most grateful to him or her for this - the only information I've ever seen on the subject. If anyone's got any info on Britain I'd be interested.