Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

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Kathleen Parker: If Alabama is trying to become the worst state for women, its strategy is strong

In Alabama, where a new law denies abortion to women even in cases of incest or rape, a rapist may still pursue custody rights of a child conceived during his assault.

I’ll give you a moment to digest that sentence. It gets worse.

In a recent case, a young woman in Alabama sought help when she said her step-uncle, who raped her when she was 15, was being released from prison after a drug conviction and wanted to share custody with the child who resulted from the alleged rape. Theoretically, he could even gain full custody. [..]

In fairness to the unborn, as well as to those strictly opposed to abortion, a child conceived through rape is surely innocent and deserves the same protections as one conceived in holy matrimony. I get that. But rape and incest have long been accepted as extraordinary circumstances under which abortion could largely be tolerated. What kind of people would effectively force a 15-year-old rape victim to have a child by her step-uncle and then face the prospect of shared custody with him?

It isn’t a stretch to say that, with its new draconian abortion law and its failure to block parenting rights to rapists, Alabama essentially has installed a medieval system in which women are treated as chattel, notwithstanding the duly elected Gov. Kay Ivey (R), who signed the bill. Though public stonings haven’t (yet) been suggested for disobedient women, we may not be as far removed from such practices as we might pretend to be.

Mary Ziegler: The End of the Rape and Incest Exception

Republicans are abandoning language that has long been standard in abortion bans. Why?

All of a sudden, abortion opponents have abandoned rape and incest exceptions to abortion bans.

Louisiana became the latest state to do so last month, following Ohio, Mississippi and, most notoriously, Alabama. That same month, younger abortion foes in groups like Students for Life of America fired off a letter asking the Republican Party to stop supporting exceptions that before this year had long been standard components of anti-abortion legislation.

Why the sudden shift on rape and incest, and what does it mean? Fights about rape and incest exceptions expose deeply different ideas about the guilt and trustworthiness of women — and about how much popular opinion should dictate abortion politics. [..]

Part of the answer seems to be generational. With a conservative majority now in place on the Supreme Court, some younger abortion foes seem willing to buck the Republican Party’s orthodoxy on issues from climate change to immigration — so why not abortion too?

Elizabeth Joh: Want to See My Genes? Get a Warrant

Should the police be able to investigate your genetic family tree for any crime, no matter how minor?

Someone broke into a church in Centerville, Utah, last November and attacked the organist who was practicing there. In March, after a conventional investigation came up empty, a police detective turned to forensic consultants at Parabon NanoLabs. Using the publicly accessible website GEDmatch, the consultants found a likely distant genetic relative of the suspect, whose blood sample had been found near the church’s broken window. [..]

The technique is known as genetic genealogy. It isn’t simply a matter of finding an identical genetic match between someone in a database and evidence from a crime scene. Instead, a DNA profile may offer an initial clue — that a distant cousin is related to a suspect, for instance — and then an examination of birth records, family trees and newspaper clips can identify a small number of people for further investigation.

The identification of Joseph DeAngelo in the Golden State Killer case also relied on genetic genealogy. He was charged with 26 counts of murder and kidnapping after a genealogist helped investigators in California identify a third cousin of Mr. DeAngelo’s through GEDmatch and other genealogical records.

While there may be broad public support for a technique that solved serial murders, just because technology allows for a new type of investigation doesn’t mean the government should be allowed to use it in all cases.

Michelle Cottle: Take the Iowa Caucuses. Please.

This is no way to pick a presidential nominee.

Last weekend, a drove of Democratic presidential hopefuls descended on Iowa for two days of voter contact. The lure was Sunday night’s Hall of Fame dinner in Cedar Rapids, where each of the 19 candidates was given five minutes to perform a monologue before Iowa’s Democratic Party elite. [..]

Iowans insist on personal attention from candidates, and this crop of contenders, some of whom have been working the state for months, understands what’s at stake in the first contest of the presidential nominating season. It is yet another reminder of how special Iowa politics are — and of why it’s past time to end the state’s outsize and unwarranted influence over the nominating process.

Hating on the Iowa caucuses has become a cliché. As the familiar refrain goes: The state is too old, too rural and far too white to wield such clout. This is a cliché because it is true. Demographically speaking, the Iowa electorate looks about as much like the face of America as does the Senate Republican conference. Which says a lot. [..]

Iowa’s caucuses are mind-numbingly convoluted and anti-democratic, favoring the most motivated, well-organized few over the less-obsessive majority of Iowans. More fundamentally, granting one state — any state — a perennial lock on the pole position of presidential voting fosters a sense of entitlement resulting in a quadrennial parade of pandering that borders on the absurd. Ethanol subsidies? Seriously?

Beyond the particulars of Iowa, caucuses are problematic electoral processes. Compared with primaries, they tend to be less inclusive and more complicated, resulting in much lower participation rates. In 2016, less than 16 percent of Iowa’s voting-eligible population participated in its caucuses. In New Hampshire, which holds the first presidential primary, the participation rate was over 52 percent.

Looking to address caucus-related concerns raised in 2016, the Democratic National Committee urged state parties to switch to primaries for 2020 and instructed those that didn’t to find ways to make their caucuses more inclusive and transparent. Almost all caucus states made the switch. Iowa did not, instead setting up a series of online caucuses, to be conducted on a half-dozen occasions leading up to an in-person caucus, aimed at answering the criticism that many voters cannot spend multiple hours on caucus night sitting around trying to persuade fellow Democrats to back their candidate. The new system is even more complex than the old one — I dare you to study the details — and no matter how many people participate in the virtual gatherings, the results will count for only 10 percent of the total.

Steve Rattner: Help Is Almost Here for Retirement Savers

Only a few Republican senators stand in the way of the most consequential reform legislation in more than a decade.

Washington shocker: With overwhelming bipartisan support and little public attention, the House of Representatives recently passed the most significant reforms to individual retirement accounts in more than a decade.

But while support in the Senate is also strong and bipartisan, a few recalcitrant Republicans, notably Ted Cruz of Texas, are threatening to hold up passage over small pet issues.

We need the Senate to go along. The improvements are important because the shift away from traditional, employer-based plans that began in the early 1970s has proved deeply flawed; tens of millions of Americans are now facing retirement without adequate financial resources.

Most importantly, the legislation would facilitate the ability of holders of 401(k)’s and I.R.A.s to use the balances in their accounts to purchase annuities that would provide a steady, predictable income from retirement until death.

Compare that with the current system, under which Americans with individual accounts must currently decide how to invest their retirement savings as they are accumulating them.

That was an insane idea. Why did we turn ordinary Americans into money managers, burdened with the task of figuring out which funds to invest in or, even crazier, which individual stocks to buy? How many of us would fix our own plumbing or take out our own appendixes?