Friday, May 20, 2022

Where Sociology, Law, And American History May Meet

Admittedly, two items do not constitute a pattern, and various individuals are involved. However,  with both parties right-wing Republicans and an intriguing confluence of values exhibited, this might be referred to as Speculation Friday.

You will recall that, as explained in July 2018

In April 2018, the Trump administration announced a so-called “zero tolerance” policy on unauthorized immigration. Under this policy, each and every migrant – including asylum seekers – attempting to cross the U.S. border anywhere other than at an official port of entry was to be detained and criminally prosecuted. This approach meant the systematic separation of newly arriving adult migrants from children who had accompanied them if those migrants were crossing into the United States without authorization (and outside of official ports of entry).

Thousands of children were separated from their parents, and, following intense public outcry, the administration halted family separation and has sought instead to detain migrant families together – a move that has been subject to legal challenge and has yet to move forward.

"So-called" 'zero tolerance' policy is about right.  The Administration would have liked, if possible, to prosecute each parent in federal criminal court. Fortunately

A Biden administration effort to reunite children and parents who were separated under President Donald Trump's zero-tolerance border policy has made increasing progress as it nears the end of its first year.

The Department of Homeland Security announced Thursday that 100 children, mostly from Central America, were back with their families and that about 350 more reunifications were in process after it had taken steps to enhance the program....

On his first day in office, President Joe Biden issued an executive order to reunite families that had been separated under the Trump administration's widely condemned practice of forcibly separating parents and children at the U.S.-Mexico border to discourage illegal immigration.

"Zero-tolerance border policy." Unless the Voice of America is stenographer for former President Donald Trump, the first two words should be in quotes. The Administration claimed the objective was zero-tolerance. At 1:48 of the Canadian video below, the narrator innocently maintains "still, the Administration is convinced it will work. It will be, and already is, a deterrent. The problem is, that might not be so." A little needed skepticism, but still an assumption that deterrence was at the heart of the policy.

That might not be so. It may have been prompted by an interest in deterrence or plain cruelty, or some combination thereof. But there is no better time than Speculation Friday to suggest the possibility of a third motive, suggested by what- on the surface- is a completely different issue.

Justifiably alarmed, Slate's legal analyst Dahlia Lithwick recently wrote

One of the most arresting lines in Justice Samuel Alito’s 98-page draft opinion reversing Roe v. Wade is a footnote that didn’t really surface until the weekend. A throwaway footnote on Page 34 of the draft cites data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that in 2002, nearly 1 million women were seeking to adopt children, “whereas the domestic supply of infants relinquished at birth or within the first month of life and available to be adopted has become virtually nonexistent"

....... the footnote reflects something profoundly wrong with the new “ethos of care” arguments advanced by Republicans who want to emphasize compassion instead of cruelty after the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health fallout. Footnote 46, quantifying the supply/demand mismatch of babies, follows directly on another footnote in the opinion approvingly citing the “logic” raised at oral argument in December by Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who mused that there is no meaningful hardship in conscripting women to remain pregnant and deliver babies in 2022 because “safe haven” laws allow them to drop those unwanted babies off at the fire station for other parents to adopt.

Lithwick is concerned about "the extortionate emotional and financial costs of childbirth and the increased medical risks of forced childbirth." Additionally, she offers a brief history lesson which suggests "removing babies from their biological parents to be used by others lay at the very heart of the system of slavery."  

Drawing a connection between that system and Alito's reasoning, Lithwick recognizes "the argument that forced birth is justified because other people can have enjoyment of the resulting children sends us tumbling deeper down the rabbit hole into commodifying babies and conscripting their mothers. This is hardly a practice that ended with slavery. " 

According to the VOA, approximately 5500 children were forcefully removed from their parents during the Trump Administration. Yet despite their intensive efforts, well under 1000 youngsters have been reunited with their family. And now we have conservative Republican Samuel Alito, with tactical air support supplied by Trump nominee/appointee Amy Coney Barrett, pining for "the domestic supply of infants." This could be a coincidence. 

 And yet, "cruelty was the point, sure, but so was the forced birth and separation," Lithwick maintains about the practice of slaveholders using white men to impregnate black slaves for economic benefit. Slavery certainly provided a domestic supply of infants, which Alito et al. are favorable toward. Meanwhile, no one knows the exact location of those 4,000 boys and girls, cruelly separated from their parents at the border, or whether they have conveniently become a domestic supply.


Thursday, May 19, 2022

The Very First Rule

For a political strategist, Rachel Bitecofer is way out of touch.

As Chris Hayes explains, there is video of U.S. Representative Madison Cawthorn, who on Tuesday lost his bid to be nominated by the Republican Party for a second term, claiming that Republican colleagues had asked him to attend sex and cocaine-infused parties.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was upset. Other Republicans probably also were none too pleased.

We in the public do not know whether Cawthorn was telling the truth. However,  no video of this escapade exists other than Cawthorn calmly alleging existence of these affairs. Thus, it is a charge which probably does not stick in the minds of many voters, in part because there is no sex or hint of sex in any video itself.

However, we do have the following:


And there is this:



For those many Democrats and centrists, including the preponderance of the national media who would interpret this as harmless and normal fun, it should be instructive that a PAC has filed an ethics complaint against Cawthorn and

Among the many allegations is the claim that representative for North Carolina's 11th district provided thousands of dollars in loans and gifts to (Stephen) Smith, a staff member, with whom, the complaint states, he is engaged in an improper relationship characterized by steamy postings on social media and so close that the staffer joined Cawthorn on his honeymoon to Dubai in April 2021.

After the crotch thing became public, a prescient Cawthorn noted "Many of my colleagues would be nowhere near politics if they had grown up with a cell phone in their hands.' He wasn't talking about phone calls or text messages.

And so, as one tweeter maintains and Bitecofer agrees, one rule of a Republican primary is not to be associated in any way with a hint of cocaine or sex parties.  But two other rules for a man to survive GOP primaries might be: don't flaunt foreplay with another man and don't advertise your preference for wearing women's lingerie. And of course the most important: don't be captured on video doing either.


Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Not Quite Yet

I confess that I do not like Oprah Winfrey. I have never liked her, don't like her, and probably never will like her. 

Winfrey, or "Oprah" as an adoring media calls her, has never seemed to embody principle or a firm set of values. Money and image appear to be her guiding principles. There is no clear ideological reason that (as the video below reminds us) she endorsed Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008. The dirty little secret (for which the elite would substitute "wonderful" for "dirty") is that she yearned for a President who would "make history," whatever benefit or harm he would bring to the country.

I posted yesterday two excellent tweets. Today, I reverse that and post tweets from one clueless, and one almost clueless, individual about arguably the most popular American celebrity of the past decades.

"Oprah" is more than a "dialogue starter." As of 2021, she was considered the fourth most admired woman in the world. Reportedly worth approximately $2.6 billion, Winfrey is held in such esteem that the Smithsonian museum in 2018 dedicated to her an exhibition entitled "Watching Oprah: The Oprah Winfrey Show and American Culture." With such great influence and wealth comes great responsibility.

Winfrey did indeed launch the media career of Dr. Mehta Oz, who thereby became simply the far more marketable "Dr. Oz." She chose to promote his career despite the widespread belief in medical circles that Oz  stood upon a platform of quackery (video below from 12/21).  Winfrey promoted Dr. Oz- and his growing popularity in turn contributed to Oprah's own phenomenal success.  She commands a microphone more than almost anyone in this country, and if she were to choose publicly to deny responsibility for Dr. Oz' rise, she has every opportunity to do so.

Nonetheless, there was no reason heretofore for Ms. Winfrey to "campaign relentlessly against Oz."  Mehta Oz was running in a primary, not a general election.  If Winfrey had spoken out against Oz, she would have been aiding the candidacy of either David McCormick, a far-right hedge fund executive, or Kathy Barnette, apparently a far-right participant in the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, 2020. Though Oz would be a terrible US Senator, there is scant evidence that either of the other two wouldn't be at least as dangerous.

As of this writing, the race is sufficiently close that a recount is likely. If Oz does not prevail, Winfrey's silence will prove to have been irrelevant. If Oz does prevail, there is plenty of time for Ms. Winfrey to explain not only that Oz would not be a wise choice in November but that his opponent, John Fetterman, is far more dedicated to the democratic process and to the values of a free people.  

Patience, patience.  Tweeter Thrasher recognizes that powerful people should speak out against injustice, particularly when the individual (albeit lacking prescience) indirectly helped bring it about. But if there is a time for everything, the time for Oprah Winfrey to criticize Dr. Mehta Oa was not during a primary race but during a general election contest. It would be an invaluable part of her legacy.


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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

On Target

Monday, May 16 included an excellent tweet from a prominent Republican- and an excellent retort.


It is the opposite side of the same issue, or an essential part of the same issue. Last August, Representative Liz Cheney, Mitt Romney, and Adam Kinzinger, the Republican who serves with Cheney on the 1/6 commission, voted against the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, thus leading Mehdi Hasan to note."On voting rights, the most important issue of our time, Cheney, Kinzinger, Romney… are not your friends."

It is the most important issue of our time and no Republican in the US House of Representatives voted in favor of voting rights. (The bill failed to receive the 60 votes necessary to proceed in the Senate, with Alaska's Lisa Murkowski the only Republican willing to advance it to debate.)

Nonetheless, Cheney's said (typed?) what was necessary. She criticized the white nationalism, white supremacy, and anti-semitism saturating today's GOP. She avoided attributing it specifically to Donald Trump, albeit a worthy target but low-handing fruit, or to the Republican street. Clearly, she had in mind House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik but broadened it to House leadership generally.

The Wyoming congresswoman challenged the leaders of her party to denounce the bigots. Moreover, she managed to blast white supremacy and white nationalism without using the "r" word, arguably the least-defined, most abused term in the English language: racist.

White nationalism and white supremacy, with a valid nod toward anti-semitism, says it all. There is no need to write "racist" because it is flagrantly overused, poorly understood, and antagonizes individuals.  It is applied to individuals who are racist and more often to individuals who are not. Used in this fashion, it has become virtually meaningless, a go-to term invoked by people to mean- well, whatever they choose for it to mean.

When she accuses leadership, in the chamber in which she serves, to the party to which she (and her famous father) belong, of enabling evil, Liz Cheney is being succinct and comprehensive in under 281 characters. It's what had to be said by someone we needed to hear it from, a Republican and sitting member of the House of Representatives.

Her legacy will be determined by two things: her leadership opposing her party's allegiance to the attempted coup of 1/6/20; and the leadership she thus far has not exhibited in opposing her party's allegiance to voter suppression. As Professor Nesnow indicated, the first logically leads to the second, a connection which thus far Elizabeth Cheney regrettably seems not to have made.


Monday, May 16, 2022

Where "Partisan" Is Republican

Buried deep into her piece on Saturday in The Washington Post, Ashley Parker and Michael Scherer write

Biden’s decision to dub Republicans as “ultra MAGA” — like another new Biden quip, “This is not your father’s Republican Party — represents a turnabout from his campaign persona. He ran as a unifier, promising that under a Biden administration Republicans would have an “epiphany” and bipartisanship would return to Washington.

Instead, partisan vitriol has continued to consume the nation’s capital, a reality Biden seems to acknowledge with his “ultra MAGA” descriptor — a wing of the Republican Party that he described as “petty,” “mean-spirited,” “extreme” and “beyond the pale” at a fundraiser in Chicago Wednesday night.

Biden's recent remarks, Ashley & Scherer maintain, "represents a turnabout from his campaign persona." (As I explained in my immediate previous post, they really don't, but that's off-topic.)  Moreover, they maintain, "partisan vitriol has continued to consume the nation's capital...."

If indeed- as conventional wisdom has it- Biden's recent comments are a turnabout from his promise to be a unifier, the reporter seems at a loss to understand it. Her point appears to be: Joe Biden is no longer Joe Biden, but instead has become what his enemies are.

That bothsiderism angle is, as the President himself would put it, malarkey. In the same newspaper the following day, WAPO's Marianna Sotomayor noted promotion of the Great Replacement Theory by the wildly popular right-wing talk show host Tucker Carlson, as well as by three Republican US Representatives- Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Matt Gaetz of Florida, and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.

Nevertheless, Sotomayor properly emphasized the advocacy of New York State's Elise Stefanik. In a Facebook ad posted by her campaign last September, the third highest-ranking GOP House member contended

Radical Democrats are planning their most aggressive move yet: a PERMANENT ELECTION INSURRECTION. Their plan to grant amnesty to 11 MILLION illegal immigrants will overthrow our current electorate and create a permanent liberal majority in Washington.

At the time, Stefanik's hometown newspaper editorialized

Ms. Stefanik isn’t so brazen as to use the slogans themselves; rather, she couches the hate in alarmist anti-immigrant rhetoric that’s become standard fare for the party of Donald Trump. And she doesn’t quite attack immigrants directly; instead, she alleges that Democrats are looking to grant citizenship to undocumented immigrants in order to gain a permanent liberal majority, or, as she calls it, a “permanent election insurrection.

So perhaps this was not surprising:

Stefanik is much too slick to say "let immigrant babies die" or "keep the Latinos out."  However, as Yale professor Philip Gorski has told Greg Sargent, "first, it was the entertainment wing of the GOP. Now it's the political wing as well." New York Times reporters Nicholas Confesore and Karen Yourish recognize that versions of the ideas espoused in the manifesto of Payton S. Gendron, the apparent perpetrator of the mass murder in Buffalo

sanded down and shorn of explicitly anti-Black and antisemitic themes, have become commonplace in the Republican Party — spoken aloud at congressional hearings, echoed in Republican campaign advertisements and embraced by a growing array of right-wing candidates and media personalities.

Republican leaders have been spouting rhetoric which itself goes well beyond President Biden's adjectives of “petty,” “mean-spirited,” “extreme” and “beyond the pale.”  Nor is the Republican invective relegated to an "ultra-MAGA" wing, whatever that is. It is deep in the heart of leadership, including House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik. That is the partisan vitriol infecting the country and it has no parallel in the Democratic Party, even as some reporters pretend otherwise.


Saturday, May 14, 2022

Misbegotten Strategy

In late February, Florida senator Rick Scott, chairperson of the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, issued an 11-point "Plan to Rescue America." There are two items which, broadcast widely, would undo much of the gain Republicans have made in the middle- and lower-middle classes the past few decades

Section 5 included "All Americans should pay some income tax to have skin in the game, even if a small amount. Currently over half of Americans pay no income tax." 

They represent poor individuals and families, and those of modest means, who have benefitted enormously by the earned income tax credit, extremely popular across the electorate.

And included in section 6, "Government Reform and Debt," "all federal legislation sunsets in 5 years. If a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again." As this reporter explains

Here is the language from page 19: “All federal legislation sunsets in 5 years. If a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again.” [There are a number of promised changes on that page all under the rubric of “Government” but this one is quite a doozey!]

Now among the many federal laws on the books is a law called the Social Security Act. This law was originally passed in 1935 to create Unemployment Insurance, Aid to Dependent Children (cash welfare for widows and orphans --- later extended to cover all poor single women with children renamed Aid to Families with Dependent Children [AFDC]), and Old Age and Survivors Pensions (what is commonly thought of today as “Social Security.”). Since then, the law has been amended many times and expanded dramatically.... Included in the current law is an entire section covering Medicare which is administered by the Social Security Administration. (Medicare was passed as an amendment to the Social Security Act in 1965.)

So --- if Scott actually understood his own proposal, the entire Social Security Act --- including Medicare and the Social Security Pensions almost all Americans over 70 are receiving monthly --- would either disappear (that’s what “sunsetting” means, by the way) or have to be re-enacted by Congress.

We must applaud Rick Scott for reminding us not only of the GOP's harsh cultural agenda, but also of the economic plan for destroying the middle classes. So with Scott handing Democrats a prime talking point and obvious campaign issue, in a speech on May 8

“Let me tell you about this ultra MAGA agenda,” Biden said, using former president Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan — “Make America Great Again” — as a pejorative. “It’s extreme, as most MAGA things are.”

Then, in the subsequent days, Biden and his team continued to hammer Republicans in aggressive terms, attacking them as “MAGA” and “ultra MAGA.” Biden even dismissed his predecessor at one point as “the great MAGA king"....

Biden’s attempt to appropriate the “MAGA” brand as a political attack was hardly accidental. It arose from a six-month research project to find the best way to target Republicans, helmed by Biden adviser Anita Dunn and by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a liberal group.

The polling and focus group research by Hart Research and the Global Strategy Group found that “MAGA” was already viewed negatively by voters — more negatively than other phrases like “Trump Republicans.”

It's hard to believe any political party could be this stupid.  Conjured up by a GOP strategist, it would be a brilliant tactic to move the Overton Window to the right.  If the bad position is ultra-MAGA, surely MAGA is in the sensible middle.

One Republican strategist noted "Biden and his folks" are "taking the most iconic, successful political slogan of all time and trying to turn it into something derogatory. I mean, who doesn’t want to make America great again?” And leftist (in the best possible way) David Dayen remarked "Excuse me, I have to pick up my head after it ejected from its body and found the nearest wall to explode into."

Hopefully some Democrats are listening to the tweeter with a mere 57 followers who understands

Rick Scott handed them their midterm message on a silver platter. Why aren't they talking about his threat to sunset SS and Medicare?

But few are, and the reason may lie in the criticism of Scott's plan by The New Republic's Jason Linkins, who has written 

.....the real value in Scott’s proposal is that it exposes that when it comes to policy, the GOP hasn’t embraced some new “Trumpian” portfolio. For all of Trump’s rhetorical and attitudinal contributions to the party, the extent to which he diverged from Republican orthodoxy in office has always been overrated and overstated. His campaign promises to bring middle-class populism to Washington were left wrecked and abandoned within his first 100 days in office. Hell, beyond allowing shadow president Leonard Leo to install three Supreme Court justices, Trump’s main accomplishment in office was a tax cut for the wealthy.

Trump innovated nothing, and while Scott’s plan is dressed up like something new under the sun, at its core it is just the same old reversion to the same old Republican mean. Scott has no real new ideas, and some of the ones on which he’s placed a big bet aren’t as popular with the public as the media often makes them out to be.

Joe Biden in 2019 referred to the Trump presidency as "aberrant moment in time" and boasted "if we defeat Donald Trump, you're going to see, as we say in southern Delaware, an altar call. You're going to see people all of a sudden see the Lord." (Note: "altar call" is used throughout the USA and maybe elsewhere.)  Admittedly, Biden wasn't alone.


Now he is discouraged. However, he still believes the problem lies with a faction of the Republican Party. Thus, the President rails against the "ultra MAGA," as if the entire Republican Party isn't embarked on the crusade it began over forty years ago.  The wing of the Democratic Party which Joe Biden ostensibly leads, which the mainstream media assures us is far more sensible than the progressive wing, is (or pretends to be) under the delusion that the nation is threatened only by the crazies of the GOP.

"Kick me" (or "us") reads the sign on the back of Rick Scott, at one time CEO of a company which perpetrated what was at then the largest Medicare fraud in history. The "epiphany among many of my Republican friends" which Biden predicted in 2019 would occur after the defeat of President Trump hasn't come, and time is running out. And Joe Biden believes they're still his friends.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Unexamined Issues

Following the murder of George Floyd by police officer Derek Chauvin in May of 2020, there arose a vast movement of Americans, many of them boasting yard signs which typically were headed "in this house, we believe." Following was a list, varying slightly and insignificantly from one sign to another, "science is real;" "love is love;" "women's rights are human rights;" "kindness is everything;" "no human is illegal." In each case the signs, still available for purchase, included "black lives matter" and were inspired by the killing of a black man which catalyzed a nation.

Six months later, NBC News reported

From 2014 to this May, #BlackLivesMatter was tweeted or retweeted 39.2 million times, but the hashtag was shared more than 100 million times in the month after George Floyd was killed, according to a report from Kivvit. The Floyd protests of the summer pushed the movement forward in new ways, the report shows.

At least 62 Fortune 500 companies posted about Black Lives Matter on Facebook in the wake of the summer’s protests. And BLM Facebook posts by popular brands like Nordstrom, Ben & Jerry’s and others saw more engagement than usual posts, according to the report. Before the summer's protests, just two Fortune 500 companies had posted about the movement, the report said.

Black Lives Matter, as the movement it led, focused on the harshness of treatment of blacks by law enforcement.

Given the organization's preoccupation with the belief that law enforcement organizations single out blacks for brutal treatment, it's unlikely Black Lives Matter will be especially exorcised that in Las Cruces,New Mexico

A city police officer who approached the home of Amelia Baca orders her to drop the large kitchen knives she's holding in her hands 16 times in 40 seconds. On the last request, Baca takes a step toward the officer and he shoots twice, killing her.

Baca, 75, experienced a form a dementia, according to a family member who called 911. Baca spoke only Spanish, her granddaughter later told investigators. The officer who shot Baca spoke to her in English.

The dramatic shooting is captured on the body camera of the police officer who shot Baca inside her home on the 800 block of Fir Avenue the evening of April 16, the day before Easter.

The police officer, who has not yet been identified, could have handled the situation in a few different ways, only one of which involved shooting to kill. In the video below, The Young Turks' Cenk Uygur argues that police training is grossly inappropriate, encouraging participants to shoot first rather than de-escalating the situation.  Too many agencies promote the "killology," in which  "warrior cops" are urged to protect themselves at the expense of building strong community relationships. Uygur recognizes that the "there are good cops as well as bad cops" narrative encourages us to turn a blind eye to the warped priorities of some police departments.

Not surprisingly, though, one point is absent from the TYT video. The victim (though not non-Hispanic white) is not black. Everywhere that will be ignored because it does not figure into the "black lives matter" and its common "blue lives matter" schema.

Two years ago, the dispute over policing was presented as "black lives matter" vs. "blue lives matter," as if they were two mutually exhaustive categories. Occasionally, someone would maintain "all lives matter" but that subversive notion was dismissed as racist.

Blacks are treated worse, on average, by many police departments and many protestors protestors of 20+ months ago are displeased by the thought of excessive force being applied by police against any ethnic group.

Yet, it's not a high priority, nor has it ever inspired demonstrations of major significance.  For the academic, business, entertainment, and political worlds, the emphasis- previously an obsession- has been with abuse of blacks. It was handy to assume that were we to address the racism in police ranks and disparate treatment resulting therefrom, issues with policing would rapidly dissipate.

It should be jarring to recognize that there are problems with law enforcement which go beyond race. In Las Cruces, a city which is over half Hispanic, that might include the need for Officers to have a functional understanding of Spanish. However, we have learned a lot the past two years, including that for leftists, conservatives, and- especially- centrists, the reality is unworthy of acknowledgment.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Tweet Of The Day- Still The GOP

In the midst- at 6:46 of the video below- condemning the draft opinion which would cut down Roe v. Wade- John Oliver remarks

It is now worth taking a moment on exactly how we got to this point, especially as some have been telling a slightly incomplete story this week. Just listen to Chuck Schumer pointing the finger of blame firmly in one direction "this isn't your grandfather's Republican Party, America. It's Donald Trump's Republican Party."

Well, hold on there, because in what way is this not your grandfather's Republican Party? It has been advocating for this exact outcome for decades now.

Innumerable Democratic officials believe Republicans lost their way only with the arrival on the political scene seven years ago of Donald Trump.  They think that if they didn't have to succumb to Trump's intimidation, their GOP colleagues would be benign, consensus-seeking creatures. More realistically:

 "Either you deal with what is the reality," the late author Alex Haley famously said, "or you can be sure that the reality is going to deal with you." The reality is that the GOP has evolved into a dangerous party of extremists, and Donald Trump is merely the ringleader.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Tweet Of The Day- Border Crossing

Obergefell v. Hodges.  Lawrence v. Texas.  Griswold v. Connecticut. Loving v. Virginia.

If the USA Supreme Court does overturn Roe v. Wade, as Justice Samuel Alito's draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health would do, other constitutional rights would be vulnerable. They include, respectively, same sex-marriage; gay sexual contact; contraception within marriage; and interracial marriage.

One or more probably would fall, in part because, as Steve M. explains

There must always be a liberal menace just over the horizon. Maybe the focus will be on a whole new set of crimes we're guilty of, but the draft abortion decision makes it awfully easy for the GOP to take aim at the sexual and marital liberties we've been taking for granted. They won't stop until they're stopped, and they won't stop whining no matter how many times they win.

Nonetheless, before the Supreme Court is able to invalidate any of these constitutional guarantees, various states, most or all Republican-controlled, will severely restrict any right to abortion.  The Guardian notes

Lawmakers in Missouri weighed legislation early this year that would allow individuals to sue anyone helping a patient cross state lines for an abortion. The law was ultimately blocked in the state’s legislature, but experts expect such legislation to gain more support if Roe is weakened or overturned.

“I think states are not going to rest with just saying ‘there won’t be abortions in our state.’ I think they’re going to want to ban abortion for their citizens as much as they can, which would mean stopping them from traveling,” said David Cohen, professor at Drexel University’s Kline School of Law and lead author of a forthcoming article on cross-state legal issues that could arise in the abortion context.

“We’re going to see state-against-state battles that are really going to divide this country even deeper on this issue,” he said.

If the supreme court overturns abortion protections, such travel bans might also be permitted to stand, Cohen said.

“The supreme court does not have well-developed case law regarding extraterritorial application of state law,” he added in an email. A court that has gone so far as to overturn Roe, he said, “would likely take that unclear precedent in the direction that is most anti-abortion.”

Steve M. realizes that the GOP's cultural agenda is far-reaching and radical,. He quotes The Atlantic's Charlie Warzel recognizing that conservatives employ

a politics that will manage to use its victories to stoke additional fears inside its voters. For the media, there is no amount of evenhanded or both-sides coverage that will get the right to back down from calling the press illegitimate, biased, and corrupt. For non-Republican politicians, there is no amount of bipartisan language or good faith attempts at dialogue or engagement that will inspire bipartisanship, compromise, and a desire for majority rule. For the right, even in victory, there is only grievance and fear.

A sense of grievance is less common on the left, and appealing to fear generally is discouraged. But this is the way to go. The ad below is succinct and chilling and should become a staple of Democratic messaging on reproductive rights:

Monday, May 09, 2022


Confrontation always carries the risk of backfiring and Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett are reportedly not as gung-ho on overturning Roe v. Wade as are Justices Gorsuch, Thomas, and Alito. However, this reflects a stunning lack of perspective:


 The "civil" approach to abortion politics was illustrated when on March 10, 1993 Dr. David Gunn was gunned down walking into his clinic during a forced-birth protest at a reproductive health clinic in Pensacola, Florida. In 1994 Dr. John Britton and volunteer Ret. Lt.Col. James Barrett were shot dead at another healthcare clinic in Pensacola. Later that year,

an anti-abortion extremist opened fire on two clinics in Massachusetts, killing both clinics’ receptionists—Shannon Lowney and Leanne Nichols—and wounding five others. In 1998, Eric Rudolph, who bombed the Olympic Games, a clinic, and a lesbian and gay bar in Atlanta, detonated a bomb at a clinic in Birmingham, Ala., killing off-duty police officer Robert Sanderson, who served as a security guard at the clinic, and critically injuring a nurse. In 1998, a sniper murdered Dr. Barnett Slepian in front of his family as he was standing in the kitchen of his home in upstate New York.

On a Sunday at the end of May 2009, Dr. George Tiller was attending services at his church in Wichita, Kan., when anti-abortion extremist Scott Roeder entered the church, raised a gun to Tiller’s forehead and shot him at point-blank range. Tiller had survived being shot in both arms by a different anti-abortion extremist in 1993.

In 2015 Robert Lewis Dear Jr. shot six people, two fatally, outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado, then shot one person inside the facility and held police off for five hours, shooting four and killing one officer.  He later rejoiced at the murder and mayhem because he believed it would prevent abortions being performed there. However, the murders

don't come close to telling the full story of the unrelenting, daily violence and harassment that anti-abortion extremists visit on providers and clinics. Attempted murder, death threats, stalking, kidnapping, bombings and arson are a routine part of life for providers and clinics.

From 1993 to 2016 (video below from 5/16), "pro-life" advocates killed doctors, clinic employees, a clinic escort, a security guard and a police officer, 11 in all, with 26 attempted murders.

Then it got worse. After speaking to the National Abortion Federation, in 2019 CBS News reported

In 2017, violent acts against abortion providers more than doubled from the year prior, according to data compiled by NAF. The group recorded 1,081 violent acts, the most since the group began tracking these incidents.

Last year, the group recorded another new record high: 1,369 reported violent acts, including 15 instances of assault and battery, 13 burglaries, 14 counts of stalking and over a thousand episodes of illegal trespassing.

None of that includes the great number of women who are harassed, scared and shamed as they walk a gauntlet to enter abortion clinics.  It's what makes the pro-life movement the "pro-life" movement, a fervid, aggressive effort to prevent strangers from getting the reproductive care they've chosen.

Make no mistake about it.  If the authors of the draft copy of the decision leaked last week had gone against the State of Mississippi by concluding that the law banning most abortions after 15 weeks was unconstitutional, the uproar on the right would have been far nastier, illegal, and violent than anything we've witnessed from the left. Instead, it took anti-abortion activists several decades but they appear finally to have gotten what they have wanted, and it hasn't come by friendly persuasion.

It's how the right rolls. More than a month after testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee following nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Court, Christine Blasey Ford reportedly was "still getting death threats" and "had to move four times. She can’t go to work as a professor at Palo Alto University, and it’s unclear when she’ll be able to return, according to NPR. She needs a private security detail."

So obey the law, everyone. But never forget that "might makes right" is the code of the conservative.


Saturday, May 07, 2022

Knowing Which Way The Wind Blows

Conservatives deserve to gloat. In 1986-1987 "What a Country!" ran on American television featuring, among others, Yakov Smirnoff, who had become an American citizen two months earlier after having emigrated from what was then the Ukrainian area of the USSR.

It has been 35 years since "what a country" became a thing for Smirnoff but the phrase still rings true, in an ironic sort of way.  You'll remember those heady days nearly two years ago when we read

half a million people turned out in nearly 550 places across the United States. That was a single day in more than a month of protests that still continue to today.

Four recent polls — including one released this week by Civis Analytics, a data science firm that works with businesses and Democratic campaigns — suggest that about 15 million to 26 million people in the United States have participated in demonstrations over the death of George Floyd and others in recent weeks.

These figures would make the recent protests the largest movement in the country’s history, according to interviews with scholars and crowd-counting experts.

“I’ve never seen self-reports of protest participation that high for a specific issue over such a short period,” said Neal Caren, associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who studies social movements in the United States.

While it’s possible that more people said they protested than actually did, even if only half told the truth, the surveys suggest more than seven million people participated in recent demonstrations.

The turnout was extraordinary and at times it seemed as if there were even more individuals demonstrating for a movement which, it was assumed, would have more of a lasting impact than did the one-year run of "What a Country."  Surely, this would be more than a "thing" when

“The geographic spread of protest is a really important characteristic and helps signal the depth and breadth of a movement’s support,” said Kenneth Andrews, a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

One of the reasons there have been protests in so many places in the United States is the backing of organizations like Black Lives Matter. While the group isn’t necessarily directing each protest, it provides materials, guidance and a framework for new activists, Professor Woodly said. Those activists are taking to social media to quickly share protest details to a wide audience.

Black Lives Matter has been around since 2013, but there’s been a big shift in public opinion about the movement as well as broader support for recent protests. A deluge of public support from organizations like the N.F.L. and NASCAR for Black Lives Matter may have also encouraged supporters who typically would sit on the sidelines to get involved.

Black Lives Matter has been around since 2013, but there’s been a big shift in public opinion about the movement as well as broader support for recent protests.

Well, that didn't last long.  Fox News and, to a lesser extent, other news outlets repeatedly ran video of violence which occurred at the racial justice protests that summer and autumn.  

Not all such acts were committed by individuals supportive of the black lives. No matter. The axiom "a picture is worth a thousand words" is not valid because of their questionable validity. Instead, pictures create an immediate and often lasting effect upon voters unaware of the manipulative impact they are typically intended to generate. A combustible mixture is created when added to two things: a) the couple (literally) of prominent Democrats (Cori Bush and Rashida Tlaib) who have advocated an actual defunding of police; and b) the prominent, centrist Democrats (such as Jim Clyburn) who have denounced other Democrats for allegedly wanting to defund the police.

Thus, notwithstanding the previous and ongoing effort of Black Lives Matter, the movement that began in earnest and was- or appeared- spectacularly popular two years ago currently is far less now. Therefore, it shouldn't be shocking that now

In an effort to address rising crime rates, 19 mostly moderate House Democrats are urging Speaker Nancy Pelosi to hold a vote soon on bipartisan legislation that would increase funding for police departments across the country.

“As national crime rates increase, including homicides, car jackings, and assaults, now is the time to support local law enforcement through passage of bipartisan, bicameral commonsense legislation,” the Democrats wrote Friday in a letter to Pelosi, D-Calif., that was first shared with NBC News.

The letter is the latest sign that Democrats, fighting to preserve their fragile majority this fall, are concerned about rising crime and the “defund the police” messaging from progressives that contributed to the party’s loss of 13 House seats in the 2020 election.

Two vulnerable moderate Democrats — Problem Solvers Caucus Co-Chair Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey and Cindy Axne of Iowa — spearheaded the letter, which was also addressed to Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and the top Democrat and the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee.

The "Invest to Protect Act of 2022" is not some crazy-ass or fascist right-wing legislation.  But these are Democrats, not Republicans, and if any of them publicly opposed the racial justice protests of 2020, he or she did so very quietly. Some agreed and some disagreed at that time with the protests, which a few probably still believe were beneficial.

Nonetheless, their goal is to be re-elected and, in competitive districts, they are unlikely to be successful unless they have their pulse on the sentiments of their constituents.  They realize that sentiment is not to de-fund the police, but to jack up their funding.

God is in the details, and whether increased funding for police departments is wise lies substantially with how the money is spent. Surely, however, the millions of people in the streets in the summer and fall of 2020 were not pushing to expand the role of law enforcement in the lives of black Americans, or any Americans.

But what a country!  Notwithstanding the popularity of the protests as they were occurring and the optimism that there would be improved monitoring of law enforcement agencies and their actions, voters have become apoplectic about an increase in violent crime. With encouragement from media,  Democratic (!) politicians are reassuring them that they will fortify police budgets.  Of course, no liberal or centrist will admit that the movement about which they were so giddy less than two years ago has largely failed.

Thursday, May 05, 2022

No Counterattack

The morning following unexpected release of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito's unpopular draft opinion which would overturn Roe v. Wade, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell strategically tweeted "by every indication, this was yet another escalation in the radical left's ongoing campaign." Senator Marsha Blackburn tweeted  "I have no doubt that the Chief Justice will work to root out the radical activist" (who)  must be immediately removed from their position and exiled from the legal community."

McConnell and Blackburn both speak as if it is understood that the culprit is of the left, with Blackburn assuming also that he or she is a lawyer. The latter is unclear, the former far more doubtful. The remarks of U.S. Representative Dan Crenshaw of Texas best encapsulate the GOP's strategic tactics of distraction, ad hominem, and straw man remarks.  At 1:06 of the video below, he charges

Let's be honest. What this leaker probably believes is that they're gonna be made a martyr. They're gonna get a great gig on MSNBC. They might be disbarred but they're gonna get a great gig on the left. They're gonna become a spokesperson for the pro-abortion movement....

We know a couple of things, one of which is "they're gonna." Also, that Republicans will be- already are- dictating with careful, yet scorching, language the terms of the debate. Crenshaw surmises that the leaker of Alito's draft majority opinion is someone of the left, who then will get "a great gig with MSNBC." 

It likely that the leaker was of the right, with anti-abortion rights activist and right-winger Ginni Thomas, wife of Justice Clarence Thomas, the most likely culprit. However, we probably will never learn the identity of the leaker because Chief Justice John Roberts would prefer he or she remain anonymous. The New York Times reports

Gabe Roth, the executive director of Fix The Court, a nonprofit group that pushes to make the Supreme Court more accountable to the people, said the leak investigation amounted to a massive task for the Supreme Court marshal, a job he described as ​​“more administrative than investigatory” in nature.

“The marshal’s like the C.O.O. of the Supreme Court,” Mr. Roth said. “They concern themselves with overseeing the police, overseeing hirings. They’re involved in the budget proposals that are released every year. They’re involved in ensuring decorum is maintained during an open Supreme Court session.”

Consequently, it's a no-risk proposition for Republicans to allege, with affected certainty, that the culprit is a leftist. They knew Democrats would not challenge the narrative.

Two can play at that game but it's only one when Democrats are unwilling to charge that a member of the GOP is at fault. Democrats can defend themselves only by reversing the charges, a risk worth taking. Conservatives have stronger motives than liberals for the draft opinion to be leaked well before the elections in November.  Yet, they are demonizing the Democratic Party as the villain and the subject of the smear has not responded..

Crenshaw additionally refers to the pro-choice position as "the pro-abortion movement," both in the clip beginning at 1:04 and when he alleges (at 3:45) ".... and you noted something about the- they call it the pro-choice movement. It is a pro-abortion movement."

Very few people are actually pro-abortion. You know it, they know it, but anti-abortion ideologues do not, and demagogues are going to demagogue. There is no way to stop the right from invoking the spurious term "pro-abortion."

Nor is there a way to stop conservatives, who generally oppose universal pre-school, paid family leave, and low-cost birth control for the needy, from calling themselves "pro-life." So the left should refer to anti-choice people as "pro-forced birth." That has the advantage not only of being a negative characterization but also of being accurate.

The opinion that was released prematurely on Monday may or may not mirror the actual decision when it is handed down.  What surely won't change, though, is the GOP's effort to vilify the left, whether as criminals or as baby killers.  "When they go low, we go high," Michelle Obama once stated. That was bad advice then and is even worse advice now.

Tuesday, May 03, 2022

Education During Covid-19

In an opinion piece entitled ''Math is Racist' Crowd Runs Rampant in Seattle, Portland," Jason Rantz condemns examples he gives of what should be characterized as Critical Race Theory-adjacent policies. In so doing, he makes about Oregon an error- intentional or otherwise- which exposes both a fundamental mistake governments made about Covid-19 and a strategic error commonly made by the Democratic Party.

Rantz writes

the Democrat-controlled Oregon legislature passed a law ending a high school graduation requirement that students demonstrate proficiency in math (along with reading and writing) after minority students failed at high rates.

In pertinent part, no, because 

From 2012 to 2019, in order to graduate with an Oregon diploma, students had to show proficiency in nine “Essential Skills” including reading, writing, math, critical thinking, technology usage, and civic and community engagement. Students showed that proficiency either by passing state standardized tests (mostly the Smarter Balanced assessment, or another approved test) or submitting work samples....

COVID-19 came to Oregon in March 2020, shutting down schools. Every state was permitted to skip standardized testing altogether in 2020 because of the pandemic. In 2021, testing returned, with Oregon receiving approval to scale back its standardized testing.

For both the Class of 2020 and the Class of 2021, the Oregon Department of Education suspended the Essential Skills requirement....

Senate Bill 744 was signed in July. Former special education teacher Zach) Hudson and his fellow lawmakers, including Rep. Teresa Alonso Leon, D-Woodburn, said the pandemic presented an opportunity to take a look at what Oregon students needed to do to graduate.

“If we’re going to look at our graduation requirements, this is the time,” Rep. Alonso Leon said. “This is the time to really make that assessment, and look at it from an equitable standpoint. I don’t know if that was the lens that was used back in 2007.”

And rather than requiring the Essential Skills proficiency while it’s under review, lawmakers decided to continue the suspension.

“I would not have supported just suspending it in order to study it, but since it was going to be suspended anyway, it seemed like this gave us a good opportunity,” Dembrow said....

Left unmentioned is that suspension of the Essential Skills requirement was a prudent response to Covid-19, especially because it probably resulted in fewer students being held back a grade and thus saved valuable financial resources. However

Hudson and the other legislators point to other states that don’t have testing requirements to graduate. According to the Education Commission of the States, Oregon is one of seventeen states with a non-course requirement to graduate.

Both lawmakers and ODE say rethinking graduation and diploma requirements is a matter of equity, and part of a broader effort to better support students from Oregon’s communities of color.

The state of Oregon therein has committed the classic Democratic error. It implemented reasonable fiscal and educational policy but couldn't resist the temptation to frame it in terms of social equity.  Thus

In an email to the media outlets, Charles Boyle, a spokesman for the governor, said the new standards for graduation would help benefit the state’s "Black, Latino, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander, Tribal, and students of color."

A concern with social equity should not have precluded "black, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, and tribal" for the redundant, heavily woke "Latinx," "Indigenous," and "students of color," the latter reminiscent of "colored students." Or perhaps Oregon could have referred to students of "disadvantaged groups."

However, that would have been a de facto admission that not all black, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, or tribal students are disadvantaged. Nor would it have acknowledged that the economic/social status of, for instance, Americans of Asian or Pacific Island background typically differs from that of blacks or Latinos. Nor would the State have recognized that even some white (!) students suffered under the Essential Skills requirement.

But economic class can't be considered when color is considered so much more important- which, fittingly, brings us to the terrible response we've made in education to Covid-19, thereby returning us to May 2020 when

As the pandemic forced tens of thousands of Philadelphia students into online-only education, Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. asked Comcast and other internet providers to open their WiFi networks so all students could learn through their laptops — but all refused, he said Wednesday.

Addressing City Council as it considers School District funding for next year, Hite said internet access remains a “critical infrastructure issue,” and if public schools require children to use the internet for educational purposes, that access should be free in the way that school meals are free to low-income families.

The School District has distributed more than 81,000 Chromebooks to students in an effort to keep them learning while schools are closed for face-to-face instruction. But just 57% of students are participating in some way, according to the most recent district data, and officials say a lack of wireless access is in part to blame.

“It becomes sort of futile to provide the Chromebooks if we’re not providing the internet access,” Councilmember Cindy Bass said. “We might as well give them a piece of paper and a pencil and sit them down at a table and tell them to figure it out.”

Comcast Corporation, a telecommunications conglomerate based in Philadelphia with revenues of 116,38 billion dollars in 2021. Providing free internet access while schools were closed would have been a boon to online education in a city with one of the highest poverty rates in the nation.  It also would have struck a blow, indirectly but powerfully, against the racial wealth gap in a city in which 90% of students (mostly black) are of minority groups.

Comcast wouldn't go there. But at least Philadelphia tried, while through this epidemic far too little attention has been paid by government to the role Internet providers can play in promoting educational progress. (Probing possible explanations is a subject for a later date.)

Progress- and standards.  If ISP's had done their share, education would have been vastly improved during this pandemic and public schools would have been able to accomplish far more than they have. That might not have satisfied- or even pleased- conservatives such as Jason Rantz, but millions of young people across the country would have benefitted.


Where Sociology, Law, And American History May Meet

Admittedly, two items do not constitute a pattern, and various individuals are involved. However,  with both parties right-wing Republicans...