Saturday, February 24, 2007

Death of an Activist

It was poignant that the memorial service for Kathleen Crow was held on February 12, one day after the closing of the state Republican convention. For almost 40 years, Crow--who died at age 75 on February 1 after a long illness--had been a fixture at party conventions in the Golden State and a mentor to young men and women who desired to be active in the conservative movement and the Republican Party.

A native of Lewiston, Idaho, Crow was raised in ::Long Beach, Calif., and attended that city's community college. In the 1960s, she became active in the Goldwater for President movement and was a member of the San Marino, Calif., School Board. She was also appointed to the Teacher Preparation and Licensing Commission as well as the State Board of Health by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan, on all of whose campaigns she worked.

In the 1970s, she was chairman of the California Conservative Union, planning and arranging for conferences held in Southern California and featuring speakers such as Reagan, many members of Congress and national conservative commentators. Crow was also a delegate to three Republican National Conventions in which Reagan was placed in nomination for President (1976,1980,and '84) and was a California leader in the insurgent presidential campaign of Rep. John Ashbrook (R.-Ohio) in 1972.

A canny political organizer, Crow helped craft the first campaigns of Rep. Dan Lungren (R.-Calif.) and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, for whom she served as chief deputy for six years.

Sacramento political consultant John Feliz spoke for many on the convention floor when he told me: "Kathleen s memorial service is on Monday. I'll say good-bye to my godmother then."

Contributions in Kathleen Crow's memory may be made to the Right to Life League of Southern California, 1028 N. Lake Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91104.

Human Events, 2/19/2007

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Making Babies


Thirty years ago, the government of Valéry Giscard d'Estaing urged the French to have "un troisième enfant pour la France," but it is only now that they have taken the advice. The national statistics agency says that in 2006 France had the highest birthrate in Europe. The average number of births by women of fertile age was slightly more than two. Thus France, where I live, becomes one of two European Union states with a positive birthrate; Ireland is the other. The contrast with their neighbors is very marked. Germany, Italy, and Spain all have birthrates under 1.4. The rates in the new EU members--Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, and even Catholic Poland--are below 1.3.

French life-expectancy in 2005 was also the highest in Europe, at eighty-four for women and seventy-seven for men, and it increased last year by three and a half months for women and nearly five months for men. Debate over the EU's future has consistently focused on its ability to finance social services at the present level. Immigration policy has in recent years assumed population decline. Decline has been the trend since the postwar baby boom. The approach of retirement age for the postwar generation, now in their fifties, means a declining number of people in the active workforce to make the retirement and health insurance contributions necessary to support the already retired. Thus Europeans have been told that high rates of immigration are essential to support the European welfare state.

There is irony in this since the demagogic anti-immigration argument has been that immigrants come to Western Europe to take advantage of its generous social benefits. They actually are needed in the active labor force to keep welfare systems afloat. If the new French population trend should presage rising birthrates elsewhere in Europe, much of the angst might lift. However, this may be another "French exception." The increase in French births seems not to be due to a disproportionate number of immigrant births; the native-born are also having more babies.

This can't be proved by statistics, since in the name of French égalié French statistics do not take account of race or national origin. But children are thick on the streets of Paris's most prosperous quarters. On Sundays, the fashionable Paris Luxembourg and Monceau gardens are full of young families with double strollers and toddlers dashing about. My children's school friends are having three and four children--or more. One of my daughter's friends has thirteen.

Younger women are not the only ones having more children. The average birth age now is thirty. French women are more likely to work than other European women, but even graduates of the so-called Grandes Écoles, who go into privileged jobs, are having large families. Ségolène Royal, the Socialist presidential candidate, with four children, is exceptional only in that she and her "companion" never married.

And she is not much of an exception. The number of marriages fell from 416,500 in 1972 to 268,100 last year, but the number of civil partnerships--a legal alliance meant originally for homosexual couples, which has proven extremely popular among heterosexuals living in concubinage--has gone from some six thousand to over sixty thousand in six years. Birth records no longer note legitimacy of birth. A report of the National Assembly, chaired by the spokeswoman of the conservative party Union for a Popular Movement, said that the choice between marriage and civil union seems to have no great impact on family life. In other words, while the number of divorces is up, the civil union is not noticeably more unstable than marriage.

A factor in the increasing birthrate is undoubtedly France's generous social legislation, which provides a tax incentive for having children and gives long maternity leaves with assured return to work with posts and seniority intact. Governments with negative birthrates have investigated the French system, and Germany has just introduced new allowances for parents. "New Labour" introduced such measures in Great Britain in 2001, and last year that country enjoyed its highest birthrate in thirteen years.

Another possible birth incentive in France, which may not be copied elsewhere, is its thirty-five-hour work week. It's been suggested that the French now have so much leisure that they have found nothing more interesting to do with it than have babies, combining fun with demographic patriotism.

By: Pfaff, William, Commonweal, 2/9/2007