Breast-feeding? Statistically awesome. Gay sex? Equally protected. Affirmative action? Halle Berry. Opinions R Us reopens for business. Not that it’s been missed.
Before Jonah was born I had a friend tell me to be careful at the hospital if Erin and I were going to opt for formula-feeding the newborn instead of breast-feeding. “Those nurses are Nazis about it,” he said. Erin and I always planned on having her breast-feed Jonah, so it wasn’t an issue for us. It turns out, though, the nurses have some pretty good reasons for being Gestapo-esque about breast-feeding as the way to go.
According to an article in The New York Times (“Babies Aren’t the Only Beneficiaries of Breast-Feeding,” 22 June, 2003), the benefits of breast-feeding aren’t just numerous, they’re greater than we heretofore imagined:
- Among the benefits are reduced risks of asthma, lymphoma, sudden infant death syndrome, meningitis, pneumonia, inflammatory bowel disease, allergies, infections, diarrhea and colds. In a majority of studies, breast-fed children have I.Q.’s 3 to 10 points higher than children who are nursed by bottle.
That’s an astounding array of pluses for any infant, but it gets better: Breast-feeding is also good for mom. It’s long been known to help the postpartum uterus contract back into shape, but recent studies are finding that breast-feeding’s effects for the woman are considerably more than that. Again, The New York Times article:
- …[B]reast-feeding can significantly reduce the risks of breast and ovarian cancer. It is also said to decrease the long-term risk for osteoporosis. In the short term, breast-feeding can help reduce bleeding in the immediate postpartum period. It can help women return more quickly to their weight before pregnancy, assist in birth control and curb depression and anxiety in nursing mothers.
On that last point, breast-feeding mothers are one third less like to get postpartum depression, an amazing statistic. I don’t think anyone (ahem, formula makers!) can deny the benefits of breast-feeding over bottle-based formula.
It is unclear from studies just how long an infant must be breast-fed or a mother must breast-feed in order to accrue all the above-referenced benefits. What is clear is that the longer one breast-feeds, the better it is for both mother and child.
Those who would bemoan the Supreme Court’s Lawrence v. Texas decision which effectively decriminalized gay male sex need to read the oral arguments of the case. The petitioners’ attorney, Paul Smith, has made numerous appearances before the Supreme Court and it showed. He completely outclassed Charles Rosenthal, the Harris County DA. In fact, I’m afraid Rosenthal came off as a bit of a dolt, and while that’s not a terrific reason to vote one way or another, surely it didn’t help the Texas cause. Here is a biased but reasonably accurate analysis of the oral arguments.
The majority decision penned by Justice Kennedy was right in outcome but wrong in justification. The claim made by the majority was, in essence, that morality cannot form the basis of law. As Justice Scalia pointed out, carried to its logical conclusion this would invalidate state statutes barring incest and prostitution, among other things.
I think the correct interpretation, rendered by Justice O’Connor, relies on the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. That is to say, it is illegal to subject only one class of people to a law. The Texas statute, in specifying homosexual sodomy, implicitly effects only gays. That leaves open the option of a law which makes sodomy illegal for everyone, but nowadays such laws are more likely to be repealed than passed.
As Justice Thomas(!) makes clear in his brief dissent, laws dealing with adult consensual sexual conduct are “uncommonly silly.” Still, if a state is going to make and enforce them (1) you just knew it would be Texas and (2) they ought to apply to everybody.
Justice Scalia worries that the court’s decision here opens the door to gay marriage. Antonin, we can only hope. For if not marriage, certainly gays and lesbians deserve to have some kind of civil ceremony which grants them equal protection under the law when it comes to visitation rights, child custody issues like adoption, workplace discrimination, and so forth. If various religions wish to discriminate that is their prerogative. For a nation which holds that everyone should be equal under the law, it should not be an option.
I’m not a big Justice Scalia fan. He’s smart and funny, but ever since he ripped up his strict constructionist credentials with Bush v. Gore, it’s been hard to take at face value any complaints he has about a judicially activist Supreme Court. If a jurist can set aside his supposedly core beliefs so that he can get the White House tenant he wants, he has a lot less credibility when he accuses others of violating their principles. Plus somebody ought to give him a kick in the pants for giving us such an awful president.
Nevertheless, Scalia was on the mark about the University of Michigan affirmative action case. This will strike just about everyone as politically incorrect, but as I’ll try to explain, it’s not as out there as it first sounds. Of course if I’m wrong about that, somebody should let me know so I can check into the asylum before the men with the straightjacket show up. Those ambulance fees are outrageous!
Surely with the exception of Neo-Nazi, KKK members, and others of their ilk, we can all agree that racial discrimination is immoral. Not only does such discrimination rightfully breed resentment in the wronged party, it also inherently violates both Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream of a harmonious racially mixed society and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
How affirmative action is not racial discrimination is difficult for me to see. Although we use the term “affirmative action” as a catch-all for a wide variety of programs, all of them at heart make race a factor in attempting to achieve the goal of diversity. No one should be so judged morally or legally. Indeed, the proper way to help the disadvantaged is to help all the economically challenged, not just those who are minorities.
“The Court expects that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today,” wrote Justice O’Connor for the majority. That is small comfort for an America that has to live with a polarizing racial policy for the intervening period. I say that any solution to the problems of racial discrimination cannot itself be racially discriminatory.
I say this not simply because such action is morally wrong (though I believe it is). I say because affirmative action is also increasingly unworkable. The fact is that Halle Berry looks hot, and millions of white, black, Hispanic, and Asian males think so. Indeed, there are beautiful women (and men) of every racial distinction, and if you think their sexual attractiveness is in any way hampered by race, you’re nuts.
If you’re not following, let me put it a different way: Love knows no boundary. Nearly 7 million Americans—that’s 2.4 percent of the population—described themselves as multiracial on the 2000 Census. Among those under 18, that number is actually 4.2 percent, so this multiethnic blending is only going to keep expanding until, hopefully, it becomes obvious to everyone that we’re all God’s children and that no type of racial discrimination, no matter how well intentioned, is anything less than a sin.