Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Benazir Bhutto -- feminist?

In Pakistan, most women lead lives of peril. Laws are stacked against them. Nearly twice as many men can read as women. Girl children are often fed only after their brothers have eaten their fill. Maternal mortality is strikingly high.

Despite her feminist rhetoric, Benazir Bhutto did little to change any of that. Nonetheless, she remains a potent symbol of female empowerment to the women of South Asia.

Your ecrivaine offers more on this topic at The American Prospect Online:
Benazir Bhutto: An Imperfect Feminist

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How Edwards could win Iowa

Your blogstress's gut feeling has long been that, on the Democratic side, John Edwards will win the Iowa caucuses. While other prognosticators have come to similar conclusions, for which they have some educated rationale (usually based on the fact that Edwards never left Iowa after the 2004 presidential race), your cybertrix has contented herself by going with the gut.

Not long ago, your écrivaine spoke to a friend who is on the ground in Iowa, organizing for a candidate who is not Edwards. The friend predicted a win for Edwards, and, yes, the friend had a educated rationale.

"Hillary is not going to win," said the friend. "People doing her footwork are focused on the more populous counties. Meanwhile, Edwards is organized in all the rural counties -- places where an entire caucus may consist of eight people."

See, the results of the Iowa caucuses are not based on popular vote. They're a bit more complicated than the electoral college's winner-take-all construction, but work along similar lines.

Caucuses are meetings of the voters in a given precinct. Each precinct decides its top candidates after eliminating the "non-viables" who fail to meet a particular threshold (usually around 15 percent). Each of the top candidates is awarded a number of county delegates based on a formula that takes in the percentage of caucus voters and the level of that precinct's Democratic voter turnout in recent statewide elections. Bottom line, though, is that each of the viable candidates gets at least one delegate.

The winner of the Iowa caucuses is then determined by the tally of county delegates each candidate has won. Hence, the rural vote is more heavily weighted.

For instance, when I visited a caucus in Des Moines in 1996, that single caucus was at least 500 people, if not more; they packed a public school auditorium. It is conceivable that in such a gathering that one viable candidate could win, say, two delegates -- not a whole heckuva lot. But a rural caucus of eight people could also wind up winning two delegates for its big candidate. And, according to my friend, Edwards has those votes pretty well locked up.

Another twist on the Edwards story comes from your Webwench's former TAPPED colleague, Matt Yglesias, who now blogs at The Atlantic. Matt, responding to a comment by Stuart Rothenberg, chiding Edwards for "scaring the stuffing out of corporate America," writes:

[I]f Edwards wins in Iowa by running left and pissing people off, that'll be a good thing for the world. By contrast, while there's a lot I like about Barack Obama, if he wins Iowa it won't have been by running hard on the things I like best about him.

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