Thursday Reads: SCOTUS News

Good Morning!!

I feel emotionally wrung out this morning. We are living through important events that will reverberate down through history, and we still don’t know which side will control how future generations see these events. Will we succeed in rescuing U.S. democracy, or will the forces of fascism win in the end? Will we survive the stunning series of decisions the reactionary Supreme Court has inflicted on us in the past couple of weeks? With the societal divisions being sown by the GOP and the Court lead to a new civil war? Today I’m going to focus on the latest decisions from the Trumpist SCOTUS decisions.

Nina Totenberg at NPR: Supreme Court restricts the EPA’s authority to mandate carbon emissions reductions.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday dealt a major blow to the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate carbon emissions that cause climate change. The decision by the conservative court majority sets the stage for further limitations on the regulatory power of other agencies as well.

By a vote of 6 to 3, the court said that any time an agency does something big and new – in this case addressing climate change – the regulation is presumptively invalid, unless Congress has specifically authorized regulating in this sphere.

At issue in the case were rules adopted by the Trump and Obama administrations and aimed at addressing the country’s single-largest carbon emissions problem – from coal-fired power plants. The Obama plan was broad, the Trump plan narrow. The Obama plan didn’t regulate only coal-fired plants. Instead, it set strict carbon limits for each state and encouraged the states to meet those limits by relying less on coal-fired power plants and more on alternative sources of energy – wind, solar, hydro-electric and natural gas. The goal of the plan was to produce enough electricity to satisfy U.S. demand in a way that lowered greenhouse emissions.

The concept worked so well that even after Obama’s Clean Power Plan was temporarily blocked by the Supreme Court and then repealed by the Trump administration, most utilities continued to abandon coal because it was just too expensive, compared to other energy producing methods. In fact, even without the regulation in place, the reduction targets for carbon emissions were met 11 years ahead of schedule.

Fearing the Obama approach might someday be revived, the coal industry, joined by West Virginia and 16 other states, went to court in support of the Trump plan and its more restrictive interpretation of the Clean Air Act. A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., ruled against them in 2021.

But on Thursday, the Supreme Court sided with the coal industry, ruling that the Clean Air Act does not authorize anything other than direct regulation of coal-fired plants….

The decision appears to enact major new limits on agency regulations across the economy, limits of a kind not imposed by the court for 75 years or more. The decision, for instance, casts a cloud of doubt over a proposed Securities and Exchange Commission rule that would require companies offering securities to the public to disclose climate-related risks – like severe weather events that have or likely will affect their business models. Also in jeopardy is a new interim rule adopted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission “aimed at treating greenhouse gas emissions and their contribution to climate change the same as all other environmental impacts [the Commission] considers.”

The Supreme Court deigned to give Biden one win, on immigration. The Washington Post: Supreme Court clears Biden to end Trump’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy.

The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled for the Biden administration on a controversial immigration policy, saying it had the authority to reverse a Trump-era policy that requires asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while their cases are reviewed in U.S. courts.

The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. writing for himself and Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, and the court’s three liberals, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

Roberts said federal immigration law gives the executive discretion: He may return asylum seekers to Mexico, but is not required to do so.

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett dissented.

Barrett said that she agreed with the majority on the merits of the decision but that the court should not have decided the case and should have remanded it to lower courts.

Alito, writing for himself, Thomas and Gorsuch, said the Department of Homeland Security should not be free to “simply release into this country untold numbers of aliens who are very likely to be removed if they show up for their removal hearings. This practice violates the clear terms of the law, but the Court looks the other way.”

From NPR, another bit of good SCOTUS news: Ketanji Brown Jackson to be sworn in as first Black woman on the Supreme Court.

Ketanji Brown Jackson will be sworn in Thursday at noon as the 116th Supreme Court justice and the first Black woman to serve on the high court.

Biden nominated Jackson in February, fulfilling a campaign promise to nominate the first Black woman to the Supreme Court.

“It has taken 232 years and 115 prior appointments for a Black woman to be selected to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States, but we’ve made it! We’ve made it — all of us,” Jackson said in remarks at a White House event the day after the Senate vote.

“I have dedicated my career to public service because I love this country and our Constitution and the rights that make us free,” Jackson also said.

Jackson, 51, has been confirmed since April, when the Senate voted 53 to 47 on her nomination. It was expected she would replace 83-year-old Justice Stephen Breyer — whom she clerked for after shed graduated from Harvard Law School in 1996 — when he stepped down. His retirement will be effective Thursday.

Jackson will take two oaths during the livestreamed event: a constitutional oath, administered by Chief Justice John Roberts, and a judicial oath, administered by Breyer.

Biden and Congressional Democrats are still struggling to deal with the Court’s decision to take away American women’s control over their own bodies and turn women in their childbearing years into broodmares.

The Washington Post: Democrats call on Biden to declare abortion national health emergency.

Lawmakers and advocates are pushing President Biden to declare a national health emergency to increase financial resources and flexibility in states that continue to allow abortion access following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The Congressional Black Caucus made the initial request the morning of the court’s ruling, and the House Pro-Choice Caucus is privately urging the administration to act swiftly. 

“The fundamental right to control your body and future has been ripped away from American women,” Assistant Speaker of the HouseRep. Katherine M. Clark (D-Mass.) told The Early. “Declaring an emergency is an immediate step to help patients access the care they need.”

Supporters say time is critical because the remaining abortion clinics are seeing a massive increase in demand that is going to be difficult to meet.

“They are doing everything they can,” Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) said of an abortion clinic treating women in the northern parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. “But they are severely resource constrained in terms of the providers that they have, in terms of the physical facilities that they have, in terms of the financial resources they need to try to expand access to care, which they desperately want to do.” 

“This would be another way for the full legal authority of the federal government to be brought into play as we try to protect women’s health,” Smith said in an interview on Washington Post Live this week. 

Another suggestion is to change the filibuster rules for abortion laws. The Washington Post: Biden endorses scrapping Senate filibuster to codify abortion, privacy rights.

Today, President Biden chastised the Supreme Court for “outrageous behavior” and said he would support an exception to the Senate’s filibuster rules to make it easier to write abortion protections into law. Biden, speaking on the world stage in Madrid, called the court’s decision last week to overturn Roe v. Wade “destabilizing” and said an exception should be made to a Senate rule that requires 60 votes for most bills to advance.

Politico: Biden says he supports a filibuster carveout to restore abortion rights.

“I believe we have to codify Roe v. Wade in the law and the way to do that is to make sure that Congress votes to do that, and if the filibuster gets in the way, it’s like voting rights, it should be ‘we provide an exception for this’ — require an exception to the filibuster for this action to deal with the Supreme Court decision,” Biden said during a press conference at the NATO summit.

Biden’s comments come on the heels of the consequential Supreme Court decision last Friday to overturn the landmark 1973 decision and deny a constitutional right to abortion. The president has previously been opposed to getting rid of the filibuster — which establishes a 60-vote threshold to move most bills through the Senate — but said Thursday he would do “everything in my power” to protect the right to choose .

The president added he’d be in favor of changing filibuster rules to not only guarantee abortion rights but also a constitutional right to privacy — which he said the Supreme Court “wiped” out with its decision on Roe. He said codifying privacy rights would protect access to abortion as well as a “whole range of issues,” including same-sex marriage….

Biden’s support for ending the filibuster is his most concrete call for legislative action yet on preserving abortion rights. With the filibuster as it stands, Democrats almost certainly lack the 60 votes they would need to codify Roe in a 50-50 Senate.

So far, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema haven’t agreed to go along with this strategy.

Republicans have been hoping that violent demonstrations would follow the SCOTUS decision on Roe v. Wade, but their wishes haven’t come true so far. Kathryn Joyce at Salon: Did violence follow Roe decision? Yes — almost all of it against pro-choice protesters.

Before the Supreme Court even announced its decision overturning Roe v. Wade last Friday, right-wing politicians and media had begun warning of a wave of violent demonstrations or riots by pro-choice protesters. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., called on “all patriots” to defend local churches and crisis pregnancy centers, while Fox News hyped warnings about a “night” or “summer of rage” and various far-right activists — from the America First/groyper movement to the Proud Boys to a staffer for Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake — issued threats against leftists they claimed were about to become violent. 

But it appears that most of the violence that occurred in response to the Roe decision this past weekend was directed at pro-choice demonstrators, not caused by them.

On Friday night, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, a man drove his pickup truck into a group of women protesters, hitting several and driving over the ankle of one woman. Iowa journalist Lyz Lenz, who was covering the protest, noted on Twitter that the attack came at the end of a peaceful event, as demonstrators were crossing the road at a crosswalk while the man had a red light. “The truck drove around other cars in order to hit protesters,” Lenz wrote, adding that the driver “was screaming” while a woman in the truck with him begged him to stop….

That same night, at a pro-choice protest in Providence, Rhode Island, an off-duty police officer named Jeann Lugo — who, until this weekend, was a Republican candidate for state Senate — punched his Democratic opponent, reproductive rights organizer Jennifer Rourke, in the face. 

Providence police arrested Lugo and charged him with assault and disorderly conduct, placing him on administrative leave. On Saturday, Lugo dropped out of the Senate race and announced he would not be seeking any political office before apparently deactivating his Twitter account. 

In Atlanta, photographer Matthew Pearson documented a group of more than a dozen Proud Boys coming to counterprotest a pro-choice demonstration, while an Atlanta antifascist group posted photos of the group boarding a Humvee painted with the Proud Boys’ logo.

In several other states, police responded to demonstrations against the SCOTUS ruling with heavy-handed tactics and violence. 

Read about more of these events at the Salon link.

I’ll add more news in the comment thread. Have a nice Thursday!


Tuesday Reads: JFK, Waukesha, Roe v. Wade, and Other News

Le Petit Dejeuner, by Jacque Denier

Le Petit Dejeuner, by Jacque Denier

Good Morning!!

Yesterday was the 58th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. After all this time, the CIA is still concealing their records of that awful day. Joe Biden went along with their excuses last month. This is from Jefferson Morley, a journalist who has published three books about the CIA and the JFK assassination and has another coming out next year on the CIA and Watergate.

Politico: What Biden is keeping secret in the JFK files.

President Joe Biden has once again delayed the public release of thousands of government secrets that might shed light on the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

“Temporary continued postponement is necessary to protect against identifiable harm to the military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement, or the conduct of foreign relations that is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in immediate disclosure,” Biden wrote in a presidential memorandum late Friday.

He also said that the National Archives and Records Administration, the custodian of the records, needs more time to conduct a declassification review due to delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision, which follows a delay ordered by President Donald Trump in 2017, means scholars and the public will have to wait even longer to see what remains buried in government archives about one of the greatest political mysteries of the 20th century. And the review process for the remaining documents means Biden can hold the release further if the CIA or other agencies can convince him they reveal sensitive sources or methods.

Fifty-eight years later? As Biden likes to say, “C’mon man!”

Public opinion polls have long indicated most Americans do not believe the official conclusion by the Warren Commission that the assassination was the work of a single gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald, a former Marine who once defected to the Soviet Union and who was shot to death by a nightclub owner Jack Ruby while in police custody.

special House committee in 1978 concluded “on the basis of the evidence available to it, that President John F. Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy.”

Antonella Lucarella Masetti Tutt'Art@

By Antonella Lucarella Masetti

But longtime researchers almost uniformly agree that what is still being shielded from public view won’t blow open the case.

“Do I believe the CIA has a file that shows former CIA Director Allen Dulles presided over the assassination? No. But I’m afraid there are people who will believe things like that no matter what is in the files,” said David Kaiser, a former history professor at the Naval War College and author of “The Road to Dallas.”

His book argued that Kennedy’s murder cannot be fully understood without also studying two major U.S. intelligence and law enforcement campaigns of the era: Attorney General Robert Kennedy’s war on organized crime and the CIA’s failed efforts to kill communist dictator Fidel Castro in Cuba (with the Mafia’s help).

Still, Kaiser and other experts believe national security agencies are still hiding information that shows how officials actively stonewalled a full accounting by Congress and the courts and might illuminate shadowy spy world figures who could have been involved in a plot to kill the president.

Yesterday, Morley posted this interesting piece at Literary Hub: What Bob Dylan Does—Or Doesn’t—Know About the Assassination of JFK. Jefferson Morley Revisits the Nobel Laureate’s Recent No. 1, “Murder Most Foul.”

Also yesterday, Michael Bechloss posted Jack Kennedy’s final words from a speech he intended to give on the night of November 22, 1963. These words are relevant to our situation today.

We now have more information about the man who drove through a parade In Waukesha, Wisconsin on Sunday, leaving 5 dead so far and many more injured. He had been let out of jail on a very low bond after a “domestic violence” incident in which he drove over the mother of his child in a gas station, where he followed her after they had a fight. Police say he “intentionally” drove into the parade.

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: Darrell Brooks is the suspect in the Waukesha Christmas Parade incident. The Milwaukee man has been charged with crimes 10 times since 1999

The driver who plowed through a Christmas parade in downtown Waukesha, killing five people and injuring nearly 50, did so intentionally and is expected to face first-degree homicide counts and other charges, police said Monday.

The suspect, Darrell Brooks Jr., 39, recently had been released from custody in a strikingly similar case, in which he was accused of driving over a woman during a domestic dispute, sending her to the hospital and leaving tire marks on her pant leg.

The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office, which is prosecuting that case, said Monday it was launching an internal review of a prosecutor’s “inappropriately low” $1,000 bail recommendation. The bail amount was signed off on by a court commissioner.

Woman Reading, Henri Matisse

Woman Reading, Henri Matisse

The horrific scene Sunday evening tore at the heart of the Waukesha community and rippled outward from the Norman Rockwell-style parade that has been a six-decade tradition. At least 18 children were among the injured, 10 of whom remained in Children’s Wisconsin’s intensive care unit….

Investigators learned Brooks was involved in a “domestic disturbance” before he drove into the parade route, the chief said. There was a report of a knife being involved, but police were unable to confirm that as of Monday afternoon, he added.

Thompson said a police chase did not lead to the driver’s actions but Thompson said he would not be providing more details about the suspect’s motivations at this point. The chief said there was no sign the event was an act of domestic terrorism. Waukesha prosecutors expect to file formal charges Tuesday.

Courts never seem to take “domestic” violence seriously, and so often that attitude leads to death and destruction. Read about the victims of the tragic incident in this Journal Sentinel article: What we know so far about the five victims of the Waukesha Christmas Parade.

On December 1 the Supreme Court will hear arguments about the Mississippi abortion law that could end Roe v. Wade.

William Saletan at Slate: Republicans Will Be Sorry If the Supreme Court Overturns Roe.

Next week, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case that could overturn Roe v. Wade. The suit, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, involves a Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, about two months earlier than states can currently prohibit abortions under Roe. The statute’s defenders have suggested that a 15-week ban would enjoy wide public backing. In an amicus brief, for instance, 44 senators and 184 members of the House assured the justices that “two-thirds or more of Americans support limiting abortion after twelve weeks’ gestation.” And some scholars have argued in op-eds that a “moderate ruling,” upholding the Mississippi law and setting a 15-week limit, could establish a “new equilibrium.”

Don’t count on it. Many Americans would support a law like Mississippi’s, but they’re not a majority. If the court uses this case to overturn Roe, it’s likely to trigger a voter backlash next year.

The Mississippi case has been overshadowed in recent months by Texas’ law banning abortion after six weeks….most Americans think a six-week limit is too severe. They reject it even when they’re told that by six-to-eight weeks “a fetal heartbeat is detectable.” [….]

Woman Reading, by Rada Vucinic

Woman Reading, by Rada Vucinic

Saletan cites multiple polls to show that the majority of Americans would not support a ban on abortion.

….In Economist/YouGov polls, the Texas law loses by about 13 points, but respondents are almost evenly divided on the Mississippi law, with support and opposition in the low 40s. In A Yahoo! News/YouGov poll, respondents opposed the Texas law, 50 percent to 33 percent, but they tilted in favor of the Mississippi law, 39 percent to 33 percent. A Marquette University Law School poll found almost the same gap, with respondents in favor of upholding a 15-week ban, 40 percent to 34 percent.

If you look closely at these numbers, however, you’ll see something missing. While more than 50 percent of Americans say abortion should be illegal at three months, only about 40 percent endorse Mississippi’s ban at 15 weeks—which is later than three months. A crucial segment of the public, about 10 percent to 15 percent, flinches when the question stops being hypothetical and gets real. Why?

The simplest explanation is that many Americans are uncomfortable with banning abortion, even when they are personally opposed to it. They don’t like the procedure, but they don’t like the government getting involved, either. Two weeks ago, in a Washington Post-ABC News poll, 75 percent of voters said abortion decisions should be “left to the woman and her doctor” rather than “regulated by law.” In a Data for Progress survey, 66 percent of likely voters chose a pro-choice statement—“The government should not interfere in personal matters like reproductive rights”—while 26 percent chose the pro-life alternative: “The government should be able to make decisions about reproductive rights, especially when it involves protecting the sanctity of human life.” In a Navigator poll, 33 percent of voters identified themselves as pro-life, but 60 percent identified themselves as pro-choice.

If abortion is banned, writes Saletan, there will be a serious backlash and the “political energy” on the issue “will shift to the left.”

Could we really be headed back to the way it was when I was a young woman? Reuters: In Supreme Court abortion case, the past could be the future.

OXFORD, Miss., Nov 23 (Reuters) – Just months before she was set to start law school in the summer of 1973, Barbara Phillips was shocked to learn she was pregnant.

Then 24, she wanted an abortion. The U.S. Supreme Court had legalized abortion nationwide months earlier with its landmark Roe v. Wade ruling recognizing a woman’s constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy. But abortions were not legally available at the time in Mississippi, where she lived in the small town of Port Gibson.

Phillips, a Black woman enmeshed in the civil rights movement, could feel her dream of becoming a lawyer slipping away.

Kenne Gregoire, Book

Kenne Gregoire, Book

“It was devastating. I was desperate,” Phillips said, sitting on the patio of her cozy one-story house in Oxford, a college town about 160 miles (260 km) north of Jackson, Mississippi’s capital.

At the time of the Roe ruling, 46 of the 50 U.S. states had some sort of criminal prohibitions on abortion. Access often was limited to wealthy and well-connected women, who tended to be white.

With a feminist group’s help, Phillips located a doctor in New York willing to provide an abortion. New York before Roe was the only state that let out-of-state women obtain abortions. She flew there for the procedure.

Now 72, Phillips does not regret her abortion. She went on to attend Northwestern law school in Chicago and realize her goal of becoming a civil rights lawyer, with a long career. Years later, she had a son when she felt the time was right.

“I was determined to decide for myself what I wanted to do with my life and my body,” Phillips said.

More interesting stories to check out:

The New York Times: Four Black Men Wrongly Charged With Rape Are Exonerated 72 Years Later.

Politico: Rep. Louie Gohmert announces he’s running for Texas AG.

CNN: New January 6 committee subpoenas issued for 5 Trump allies including Roger Stone and Alex Jones.

Margaret Carlson at The Daily Beast: John Kennedy Went From a Democrat to the GOP’s Discount Joe McCarthy.

Robert Mann at The Washington Post: Opinion: Our Foghorn Leghorn Republican senator little resembles his former Democratic self, but in Louisiana we know the type.

CNN: Private SCOTUS files that could reveal what happened in Bush v. Gore remain locked up.

Science Alert.com: The Most Common Pain Relief Drug in The World Induces Risky Behavior, Study Finds. [Tylenol? Really?]

Have a nice Tuesday, Sky Dancers!!


Tuesday Reads

The Northeaster, by Winslow Homer

The Northeaster, by Winslow Homer

Good Afternoon!!

A huge nor’easter is moving up the coast and will likely hit us this afternoon. New Jersey and New York have already declared states of emergency. It has already been pouring rain here for the past two days and it will continue into tomorrow. We are expecting 70 mph wind gusts, maybe a bomb cyclone, and, of course, power outages. I just hope I don’t lose power. I need to get a better flashlight.

The Washington Post: Intensifying nor’easter lashing Northeast with flooding rain and high winds.

A storm offshore the Mid-Atlantic explosively intensified Monday night, and it is buffeting the Northeast with strong winds and flooding rains.

Flash flood watches are up from extreme northern Delaware and New Jersey through eastern Pennsylvania and most of southern New England. Up to five inches of rain are possible, falling on soils that are largely saturated following an exceptionally wet summer. Parts of New Jersey have already seen more than 4 inches, with rainfall rates topping an inch per hour….

Wind advisories also stretch from the nation’s capital to the coastline of Maine, with a high-wind warning up for the shorelines of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, where gusts could top 70 mph. The nor’easter is the first of two sprawling storm systems that will bring inclement weather to the East Coast this week. Its rate of intensification is expected to qualify it as a “bomb cyclone,” or a storm that strengthens with unusual haste.

The storm is the final act of a destructive ensemble that brought tornadoes to the Ozarks and Midwest on Sunday and a line of strong thunderstorms to parts of the Mid-Atlantic overnight Monday, which unloaded 1 to 3 inches of rain from Washington to Philadelphia. By Tuesday, rain and downpours were exiting offshore of the Delmarva Peninsula, spiraling into a new developing low pressure center taking shape off the East Coast.

But nearly half of Americans are deluded about what causes climate change, according to a new poll.

Vice News: 45% of Americans Don’t Believe Humans Cause Climate Change, VICE News/Guardian Poll Shows.

This year was marked by several unprecedented natural disasters, including a “heat dome” marked by sweltering temperatures of up to 113 F that plagued the Pacific Northwest, killing hundreds, and record-breaking wildfire seasons that razed entire towns and displaced thousands. Experts linked the string of natural disasters to the climate crisis, and yet, many Americans are still struggling to understand whether and why the generation-defining crisis is happening.

Emil Carlsen, Nantasket Beach Nor'easter, 1882

Emil Carlsen, Nantasket Beach Nor’easter, 1882

The poll, which surveyed 1,000 Americans on behalf of VICE News, the Guardian, and Covering Climate Now, by YouGov, comes less than a week before leaders and delegates from around the world meet in Glasgow, Scotland, for COP26, the United Nations’ climate change conference. The data shows that climate change is a top voter issue in the U.S., behind health care and social programs. For college grads and Democrats, climate change jumped to top spot (for Democrats it was tied with health care).

But while 69.5 percent of respondents believe global warming is happening, they were divided on what’s causing it. Forty-five percent don’t think humans are mostly to blame for global warming, opting instead to blame “natural changes in the environment” or “other,” and 8.3 percent denied global warming is happening altogether.

That’s mostly due to Republicans (55.4 percent) and independents (33 percent) though, who were far more likely than Democrats (17.2 percent) to believe “natural causes” have led to global warming. Young people and educated folks too were significantly more likely to believe humans are to blame for climate change.

Republicans aren’t satisfied with destroying U.S. democracy and killing as many people as possible with Covid-19; apparently they are also determined to hasten the end of the human race. Of course Republican are getting help with their goal of ending democracy and doing nothing about climate change–from a so-called Democrat.

John Nichols at The Nation: Joe Manchin’s Surefire Strategy to Ensure That Democrats Lose in 2022.

If Joe Manchin gets what he wants in negotiations with the Biden White House and his fellow Democratic senators regarding climate policy, which now seems likely, it could have a devastating impact on the planet—and on Democrats’ prospects in 2022.

How so? Let’s answer that question by asking and answering two other questions.

First: Name an issue that young people—an increasingly important and frequently decisive voting bloc—are passionate about? When the US Conference of Mayors surveyed potential voters between the ages of 18 and 29 in 2020, 80 percent said the climate crisis was “a major threat to human life on earth as we know it.” By a 3-1 margin, young people said “bold measures” needed to be taken to address that threat.

Greg Cartmell, October Nor'easter

Greg Cartmell, October Nor’easter

Second: Name the issue that Democrats are now talking about downplaying in the ”Build Back Better” agenda in order to secure the West Virginia senator’s support? The Biden administration is by all accounts preparing to cut from the budget plan the Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP), a key climate initiative that would use a combination of incentives and mandates to get utilities to embrace renewable energy.

Much of the serious reporting on the issue has focused on the devastating impact that losing those clean-energy provisions could have on upcoming climate negotiations at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland. Without them, it will be tougher for Biden to convincingly pledge a 50 percent reduction in US carbon emissions by 2030. That could undermine negotiations on the issue, according to Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State. So serious is the threat that Mann greeted the news of Manchin’s push to abandon the CEPP by declaring, “Joe Manchin just launched a hand grenade at Glasgow.”

Read the rest at The Nation.

More depressing articles on Biden’s shrinking “Build Back Better” legislation:

The Washington Post: Additional Medicare, Medicaid benefits may be whittled or cut as Democrats woo moderates.

Democrats’ sweeping plans to bolster Medicare and Medicaid benefits have been scaled back amid an assault from industry groups and opposition from centrists like Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), with popular coverage expansions likely to be narrowed in hopes of reaching a deal this week.

A proposal to expand Medicare to cover dental, hearing and vision benefits is in danger of falling from the tax-and-spending package rapidly taking shape in Congress. A framework to expand Medicaid to cover Americans in a dozen mostly Southern states has also been reworked.

Meanwhile, drug-pricing reforms have come under sustained attack from pharmaceutical lobbyists, with some Democrats now balking at empowering Medicare to negotiate the price of prescription drugs. Scaling back that proposal, which was expected to cut government spending by more than $700 billion over a decade, would complicate Democrats’ ambition to subsidize their coverage expansions.

Manchin told reporters on Monday that he had concerns about some of Democrats’ signature proposals, underscoring the fragile state of negotiations. “You’ve got to stabilize” Medicare’s long-term finances before adding new benefits, the senator said, adding that he thought the Medicaid proposal was “unfair” to states like his, which have already expanded the program under the Affordable Care Act.

The infighting over health care also prompted Democratic leadership this month to consider a plan to delay some of the party’s health agenda to next year, including a plan to repeal a Trump-era ban on prescription drug rebates, hoping that election-year deadlines would force lawmakers to seal deals that are currently proving elusive, said three people with knowledge of the negotiations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.

That won’t excite Democrats about voting in 2022. And Bernie Sanders is fighting back. The Hill: Sanders draws red lines on Medicare expansion, drug pricing plan in spending bill.

Karol Wyckoff, Nor'easter

Karol Wyckoff, Nor’easter

Robert Reich at The Guardian: Is Biden’s entire agenda about to shrink into nothingness?

This week, Democrats either reach an agreement on Biden’s social and climate agenda or the agenda may shrink into meaninglessness. The climate measures in particular need to be settled before Biden heads to Scotland for the UN climate summit this weekend, so other nations will see our commitment to reduce carbon emissions.

On Sunday, Biden met with key Democrats to work out spending and tax provisions. Yet every senate Republican and at least two senate Democrats continue to assert that Biden’s agenda is too costly.

Too costly? Really? Compare the Biden’s social and climate package’s current compromise tab of $2tn (spread out over the next 10 years) with:

The $1.9 trillion Trump Republican tax cut that went mostly to the wealthy and large corporations.

Americans were promised that its benefits would “trickle down” to average workers. They didn’t. Corporations used them to finance more stock buybacks. The wealthy used them to buy more shares of stock (and shares of private-equity and hedge funds).

The Trump Republican tax cut should be repealed to pay for Biden’s social and climate package. There is no good reason to retain it. But no senate Republican will vote for its repeal, nor will Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema – making it a political non-starter in a chamber where Democrats have just half the votes.

The $2.1 trillion that America’s 750 billionaires have raked in just since the start of the pandemic.

You might think that at least a portion of this windfall should help pay for Biden’s agenda since much of it has been the result of monopoly power (for example, Amazon’s dominance over e-commerce during the pandemic).

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, is proposing a “Billionaires Income Tax,” to be paid by the roughly 750 Americans with $1bn in assets or $100m in income for three consecutive years. It would be a yearly tax on the increasing value of their assets – such as stocks and bonds – regardless of when they sell. They could still write off losses every year. Interestingly, neither Sinema nor West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, the other holdout, has voiced opposition to Wyden’s proposal.

The nearly $8 trillion we’ll be spending on the military over the next 10 years.

The United States already spends more on our military than the next 10 biggest military spenders in the world combined.

Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee unveiled a nearly $726bn budget for the Defense Department in 2022. That was about $20bn more than Biden requested. Some $14bn in other funds are set aside for the Pentagon in separate military construction and energy appropriations bills, bringing the total budget to about $740 billion. Over ten years, that comes close to $8tn.

More at the link. Also see this from The Washington Post Editorial Board: Build Back Better is getting worse and worse.

Karen Blackwood, A Nor'easter Coming

Karen Blackwood, A Nor’easter Coming

I’ll end with this piece by Erin Gloria Ryan at The Daily Beast: These Aren’t Justices. They’re Used Car Salesmen, and They’re Coming for Your Abortion Rights.

One of the oldest sales tricks in the book is the one where the salesperson presents the potential buyer with an extremely crappy option first, and follows that up with an only moderately crappy second option. The potential buyer, dazzled by the jump in quality between options one and two, won’t scrutinize option two as much, because it’s so much better than option one. This has been employed by slimy realtors, wedding planners, and used car salesmen.

And now, we’ve reached the point in the American experiment where the Supreme Court’s new conservative majority has resorted to a cheap sales tactic in an attempt to rehabilitate its image. Lower the customer’s expectations enough, conventional wisdom goes, and they’ll thank you for ripping them off.

The high court agreed to hear the Biden administration’s challenge to the law on Nov. 1, on an expedited schedule. Legal observers predict that the court will toss the law out. I—and many wary pro-choicers—predict that after tossing the law out, the media will fawn over the court’s newfound social moderation, and the Susan Collinses of the world will crow that they were right, the hysterical feminists were wrong, and the Supreme Court was never going to toss abortion rights on—as Mike Pence would say—“the ash-heap of history.”

The following month SCOTUS will hear oral arguments in the case of Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health, testing the constitutionality of a Mississippi law that directly confronts Roe v. Wade by banning abortion after 15 weeks’ gestation. Roe established in 1973 that the government has no right to interfere with abortion access prior to fetal viability—around 24.5 weeks’ gestation (a full-term pregnancy takes 40 weeks). Dobbs is the direct challenge to Roe that conservative activists have had a hard-on for since Reagan.

Ryan argues that, using the “smokescreen” provided by the ridiculous Texas law, the right wing justices will use the Alabama law to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Sorry this post is so full of woe. Hope you all have a pleasant Tuesday; I’ll be taking a news break for the next few hours at least.


Friday Reads: Now We Know They’re Still Traitors!

Louis Frey, Artist
Sequoia National Park Poster

Good Day Sky Dancers!

One of the weird things I’ve learned growing up in these United States was that no matter how far in the past the Civil War was fought, parts of the Deep South have never got over it or gone much beyond it.  This is especially true in rural areas although there are also some Western and Mid-Western states that are mostly rural and as backasswards about stuff as much as the Deep South.

I grew up in the Heartland and spent every moment feeling like I lived in a cultural desert even though the combined area of Council, Bluffs, Iowa, and Omaha. Nebraska is fairly large in terms of middle-of-the-country cities.  I’m thankful my daughters are in Denver and Seattle that are big enough population areas to drive the rural parts of their state to mostly obscurity on the state level.

So, this was no surprise to me:

Sabrena Khadija, Artist
Volcanoes National Park

I’ve heard better solutions to the red state/blue state gap and believe me, I was ready to make a movement for France to reclaim New Orleans quite a few times during the entire Hurricane Katrina period.  But seriously, who wants to live near this kind of behavior?  Gabrielle Hays files this story for the PBS News Hour.  This happens to come from my mother’s hometown which I thought was super-sophisticated grown up in comparison to Omaha. A pro-slavery petition is the latest racist incident at this Kansas City high school. Parents say they’ve had enough.”  WTF?

An online petition to reinstate slavery that made its rounds at a high school in Kansas City this month is the latest in a series of incidents sparking outrage from parents and students who say race-related controversies at the school are an all-too-common occurence.

In an email to parents at Park Hill South High School dated Sept. 22, Park Hill School District Superintendent Jeanette Cowherd acknowledged the petition – which was brought to officials’ attention nearly a week prior – by saying many people are “hurting” because of “unacceptable and racist statements online,” adding that Board of Education “prohibits discrimination, harassment and retaliation” and that discipline could equal “suspension or expulsion.” Cowherd did not share any specifics regarding the students involved nor whether they have been disciplined. The email also noted the district will set up meetings to “give people the opportunity to share how they feel.”

But parents say the district is doing little to mitigate the ongoing problems, including individual attacks on students based on their race.

“I have a disheartening feeling about the incident that happened at Park Hill South. I don’t feel like it was addressed properly or at all,” parent Jeff Holmes said during public comment at a Park Hill school board meeting last Thursday, adding that these issues span across the school district.

“I’ve heard all of the nice, kind words and I guess that they are okay, they are what they are but they are meaningless, hollow and insincere if we don’t see action,” he said.

Park Hill South is only the latest school over the past week to make headlines for its handling of racial incidents. Just days after the petition circulated, school officials at Olathe South School, 30 minutes away from Kansas City, Missouri, are investigating a homecoming proposal poster that read “If I was Black I would be picking cotton but I’m white so I’m picking you for HOCO?” A photo of the offensive poster made its rounds on social media before school administrators caught wind of it.

National Education Association President Becky Pringle said these types of derogatory occurrences are not new.

“All students – no matter their race or place – have a right to a public education in a safe learning environment. But right now, many of our students are scared, anxious, and feeling threatened. What happened at Park Hill South High School isn’t an isolated incident nor did it happen by accident,” she said in a statement to the PBS NewsHour.

NEA, a teachers union that advocates on behalf of educators nationwide, has received reports of “hostile and hateful environments” in schools across the country, she said.

Brittney Lewis of Bybrije, Artist
Yosemite National Park

There have been threats made to school board members across the country as well as a documentary by NBC on an incident that sparked the critical race theory kerfuffle which basically erases slavery, Jim Crow, and whatever we happened to stumble across in our history books like the Tulsa Race Massacre.  Greg Abbott just signed a law to make white folks feel comfy with their slave-owning, KKK klan, lynch-happy ancestors.  Many southern states actually are experiencing an increase in the population of black southerners as many Black Americans are moving to the large, affluent cities of the south.  This might be one way of turning more southern states blue.

Then, of course, we’ve spent lots of time on the Abbott anti-women and anti-voting rights legislature making Texas basically into something akin to Texastan with its Cristoban tyrants seeking to make women, people of color, and the LGBT community outcasts and lesser citizens. What the Hell is going on?  Why do we have a tyranny of a minority?

But what about the American Outback where many states have fewer people than your normal Chicago, New York, or LA Zip codes.  I watched Steve Kornacki show how much political power these states have because they all have two senators.

I mean, what we`re talking about here is the partisan distribution of voters. A couple different ways, I guess, to look at this. First, the map everybody knows. This is the 2020 election. Biden wins. There`s the electoral vote count. Here are the red states. Here are the blue states.

You see, basically, we know Democrats concentrated a lot on the West Coast, the Northeast, somewhat here in the Midwest. Biden was able to flip a couple states. But in that clip you played, you had Michael Steele talking about the county strength.

Now, the 50 states in the country, there`s more than 3, 100 counties in the United States. So this map is going to change here in a second, and you`re going to see all of the counties in the country.

This is the red/blue map for the counties. And, obviously, you see a lot more red here than blue. In the 2020 election, Donald Trump won more than 2, 500 counties. Again, there`s just over 3, 100 of them. More than 2, 500 went for Donald Trump.

Now, obviously, not every county is the exact same size. Here`s like a very dramatic example I could give you. If you were to really Zoom in here in Southern California, I`m going to circle it. What I just circled is Los Angeles County in Southern California.

This is a big blue county, the city of Los Angeles, about 10 million people. There`s about 10 million residents in Los Angeles County. Joe Biden won Los Angeles County overwhelmingly. In terms of population, though, Los Angeles County would be the same size as Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, roughly.

If you were to combine all of those red states, the population would be about the same as Los Angeles County. And yet obviously the number of counties, the land distribution, there`s a lot more landmass, there`s a lot more red than blue one here, land vs. population. So that gets the story this divide here that you see in the county map.

Here`s the actual number, Trump won 2, 574 counties, Biden 539. This has become — this century, at least, this has become the story of our politics. And Clinton in the 1990s won a ton of counties. He won a lot more of the interior of the country.

But this has become the story. But this, by the way, what you`re looking at here, is if you sized every state in every county relative to its population, this would be the map. But this is just a blob here. It looks like a Rorschach test.

But if you were to size the high population areas to the same scale as low end — in low population areas much lower, this would become what the red/blue map looks like. But, again, Ari, what it basically gets at here is, look, the distribution of the popular, Democrats in cities, increasingly in suburbs.

Sage Aune of Sagepizza, Artist Joshua Tree National Park

You may watch the analysis at this clip that also includes Howard Dean and Michael Steele. The map is fascinating.

We’ve talked about Senator Joe Manchin was has been the focus of disruption in the Senate Democratic Caucus.  Eyes recently on Arizona’s Krysten Sinema who is going for the complete enigma look.  This is from Axios’ Hans Nicholls: “Cracking the Sinema code.”

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s political allies have some free advice for anyone trying to bully the wine-drinking triathlete into supporting President Biden’s $3.5 trillion budget bill: She doesn’t play by Washington’s rules — and she’s prepared to walk away.

Why it matters: For all her flash, Sinema — unlike fellow holdout Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) — rarely telegraphs her precise intentions, leaving political adversaries guessing about her ultimate goals.

  • In conversation with colleagues, she’ll suggest that her top priority is passing the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal she brokered this spring over late-night, wine-fueled negotiations. Beyond that, you’re piecing together clues.
  • President Biden and his top aides met her four times over the course of a day this week without totally cracking the code.
  • Sinema on Thursday tweeted a statement saying, “Claims that the Senator has not detailed her views to President Biden and Senator [Majority Leader Chuck] Schumer are false” and they “are fully aware of Senator Sinema’s priorities, concerns and ideas.”

Between the lines: Progressives could be forgiven for presuming that Sinema, 45, the first openly bisexual member of Congress, who’s easy to spot in her trademark sleeveless dresses, wry wigs and acrylic glasses, would share their woke politics.

  • They’ve been befuddled, and increasingly enraged, when she behaves more like the late Republican Sen. John McCain, another Arizonan who didn’t mind challenging party orthodoxies.
  • At her core, Sinema is something of a fiscal conservative, which disappoints progressives, leading them to whisper about a primary challenge in 2024.
  • She’s unconventional (see: recent internship at a Sonoma winery) and a force to be reckoned with. She’s known to rise between 4-5 a.m. to train for her next race, and she was forced to take up aqua jogging after breaking her foot this summer in something called the “Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon.”

The big picture: While Manchin has been intensely focused on price tag of spending, setting his limit at $1.5 trillion, Sinema has signaled she’s more concerned with the tax side of the equation, including who pays them.

    • She’s suggested to some allies that she’s reluctant to support any increase in the corporate tax rate, but she’s more likely to accept a smaller increase to the headline rate — likely in the 24% range, well short of Biden’s proposed 28%.
    • She’s raised flags about increasing the rate on corporations’ international profits, which she believes could harm their competitiveness.
    • On capital gains, she’s also indicated that she’s opposed to Biden’s headline 39.6% rate but could accept a number in the mid-twenties.

Sabrena Khadija, Artist
Death Valley National Park

There are so few conservative Dems and centrist Republicans that the Senate is as split as the country.  However, the right-wingers of the Republican base have more cows and coyotes for neighbors than people. The graph shown by Kornacki makes me agree with Dr. Howard Dean.

DEAN: Well, the central problem — there are several central problems.

The biggest problem of all is that the counties and the states that Michael talked about and that Steve talked about are older, getting older and whiter. And they`re terrified of the future. Their kids are leaving. They`re teaching stuff in the schools that`s not useful.

The older people don`t know how to use an Internet. They`re losing their jobs. And if they can`t use the Internet, they can`t get another job. And this is pure fear and anger that`s motivating Trump`s voters. And it`s why he`s so successful.

The problem is that the future, first of all, belongs to the blue areas, at least right now. Young people overwhelmingly vote Democratic, not because they love the Democrats, but because that horrible, pessimistic, furious vision of the Republicans is just totally unacceptable to people who are young.

And it also highlights the structural defects that we have got that are now an emergency after 250 years, the Electoral College, which doesn`t make any sense at all. The corrupt election laws that are being passed, we have had experience with that through Jim Crow.

We have the new Jim Crow in Georgia, and they still voted for two Democratic senators for the first time since segregation was broken. So, the country is really at an inflection point, a point. And the fury and anger between the red and the blue is explainable by how terrified the right-wing is and the conservatives are of the future.

Let me know return to what’s behind that first twitter with a direct link to the study.

The University of Virginia Center for Politics has partnered with Project Home Fire, a new initiative dedicated to finding common ground in American politics, on an innovative new data analytics and polling project to explore the social, political, and psychological divides between those who voted for Donald Trump and those who voted for Joe Biden in 2020.

Some of the key takeaways from today’s release are:

— Majorities of Trump and Biden voters express support for several elements of the bipartisan infrastructure and reconciliation bills being debated in Congress, but there are marked differences in their levels of support. (see Table 1 below)

— Majorities — often large majorities — of both Biden and Trump voters express some form of distrust for voters, elected officials, and media sources they associate with the other side. A strong majority of Trump voters see no real difference between Democrats and socialists, and a majority of Biden voters at least somewhat agree that there is no real difference between Republicans and fascists. (see Table 2 below)

— Significant numbers of both Trump and Biden voters show a willingness to consider violating democratic tendencies and norms if needed to serve their priorities. Roughly 2 in 10 Trump and Biden voters strongly agree it would be better if a “President could take needed actions without being constrained by Congress or courts,” and roughly 4 in 10 (41%) of Biden and half (52%) of Trump voters at least somewhat agree that it’s time to split the country, favoring blue/red states seceding from the union. (see Table 3 below)

The Center for Politics and Project Home Fire will be releasing findings from this study in the coming weeks through a series of articles in Sabato’s Crystal Ball and other publications, as well as public symposiums that will each explore major, divisive subjects in American life. Those topics include: immigration, political violence, pandemic response, and other prominent national issues.

Yup. We’ve got a bunch of secessionists out there but they are not the majority. What are we going to do with this situation?

The National Park Posters are available to purchase to help raise funds for the NPS.  You can read more about them and their artists at this link at Forbes.  The link is old but still interesting.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Thursday Reads: SCOTUS=American Taliban

210902_gma_scott_0714_1_hpMain_16x9_992

American Taliban

Good Day, Sky Dancers.

As far as I’m concerned, the most important story today is that the corrupt U.S. Supreme Court is signaling the approaching death of reproductive rights for American women. I was so angry that I couldn’t sleep last night, and I’m not thinking too clearly this morning. As I’m sure you know, the Court allowed the insane Texas abortion ban to take effect around midnight on Tuesday, without explanation or comment. Late Wednesday night, the court released the justices’ opinions. The New York Times summarized all of them: Supreme Court, Breaking Silence, Won’t Block Texas Abortion Law.

The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining the court’s three liberal members in dissent.

The majority opinion was unsigned and consisted of a single long paragraph. It said the abortion providers who had challenged the law in an emergency application to the court had not made their case in the face of “complex and novel” procedural questions. The majority stressed that it was not ruling on the constitutionality of the Texas law and did not mean to limit “procedurally proper challenges” to it.

But the ruling was certain to fuel the hopes of abortion opponents and fears of abortion rights advocates as the court takes up a separate case in its new term this fall to decide whether Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision establishing a constitutional right to the procedure, should be overruled. It also left Texas abortion providers turning away patients as they scrambled to comply with the law, which prohibits abortions after roughly six weeks.

The “conservatives” were too cowardly to explain their votes, but the other four justices filed dissenting opinions

“The court’s order is stunning,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in her dissent. “Presented with an application to enjoin a flagrantly unconstitutional law engineered to prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights and evade judicial scrutiny, a majority of justices have opted to bury their heads in the sand.”

“The court has rewarded the state’s effort to delay federal review of a plainly unconstitutional statute, enacted in disregard of the court’s precedents, through procedural entanglements of the state’s own creation,” Justice Sotomayor wrote. “The court should not be so content to ignore its constitutional obligations to protect not only the rights of women, but also the sanctity of its precedents and of the rule of law.”

Chief Justice Roberts wrote that he would have blocked the law while appeals moved forward.

54c8b036fb764f80403fcfd33e35bd8bec-texas-abortion-ban.rsquare.w1200“The statutory scheme before the court is not only unusual, but unprecedented,” he wrote. “The legislature has imposed a prohibition on abortions after roughly six weeks, and then essentially delegated enforcement of that prohibition to the populace at large. The desired consequence appears to be to insulate the state from responsibility for implementing and enforcing the regulatory regime.”

The chief justice underscored the tentative nature of the majority’s ruling. “Although the court denies the applicants’ request for emergency relief today,” he wrote, “the court’s order is emphatic in making clear that it cannot be understood as sustaining the constitutionality of the law at issue.”

Justice Elena Kagan criticized the court’s practice of deciding important issues in rushed decisions without full briefing or oral argument — on what Supreme Court specialists call its “shadow docket.”

“Today’s ruling illustrates just how far the court’s ‘shadow-docket’ decisions may depart from the usual principles of appellate process,” she wrote. “That ruling, as everyone must agree, is of great consequence.”

“Yet the majority has acted without any guidance from the court of appeals — which is right now considering the same issues,” she wrote. “It has reviewed only the most cursory party submissions, and then only hastily. And it barely bothers to explain its conclusion — that a challenge to an obviously unconstitutional abortion regulation backed by a wholly unprecedented enforcement scheme is unlikely to prevail.”

“In all these ways,” Justice Kagan wrote, “the majority’s decision is emblematic of too much of this court’s shadow-docket decision making — which every day becomes more unreasoned, inconsistent and impossible to defend.”

“Today’s ruling illustrates just how far the court’s ‘shadow-docket’ decisions may depart from the usual principles of appellate process,” she wrote. “That ruling, as everyone must agree, is of great consequence.”

“Yet the majority has acted without any guidance from the court of appeals — which is right now considering the same issues,” she wrote. “It has reviewed only the most cursory party submissions, and then only hastily. And it barely bothers to explain its conclusion — that a challenge to an obviously unconstitutional abortion regulation backed by a wholly unprecedented enforcement scheme is unlikely to prevail.”

“In all these ways,” Justice Kagan wrote, “the majority’s decision is emblematic of too much of this court’s shadow-docket decision making — which every day becomes more unreasoned, inconsistent and impossible to defend.”

d9d58583-0b79-4b7c-a049-b373e5393510-RBB_Texas_rally_for_life_65707Justices Breyer and Kagan joined Roberts’ dissent, and Breyer also wrote his own dissent. Zoe Tillman at Buzzfeed News: 

Breyer — who has spent the past year fending off calls from the left to step aside and let President Joe Biden appoint a successor while he has a Democratic majority in the Senate — wrote that it was true that the lawsuit raised difficult threshold questions about how this type of case could be handled by the courts. But he wrote that there had to be a way for courts to deal with an imminent violation of a party’s legal rights.

“There may be other not-very-new procedural bottles that can also adequately hold what is, in essence, very old and very important legal wine: The ability to ask the Judiciary to protect an individual from the invasion of a constitutional right — an invasion that threatens immediate and serious injury,” Breyer wrote.

Amber Phillips at The Washington Post: What to know about the Texas abortion law.

The law, which was passed in May and went into effect Wednesday, says that any pregnancy in which a heartbeat is detected cannot be aborted. That effectively means if you’re six weeks pregnant, you cannot have an abortion in the state of Texas, because that is around when most fetal cardiac activity can be detected. (Doctors opposed to this legislation say that is misleading language, and that the fluttering detected isn’t always necessarily a heartbeat so early in a pregnancy.)

The law makes no exceptions for rape, sexual abuse or incest.

The law does something else novel: It effectively incentivizes the public to police abortions. It allows people — anyone living in the state of Texas — to sue an abortion provider or anyone else they suspect is “aiding and abetting” abortions after that six-week mark. And the law sets a $10,000 award for any successful lawsuit to stop an abortion.

Taken together, those decisions allowed Texas lawmakers to essentially end abortions in their state, abortion rights activists say.

210831-MJF-texas-abortion-tase_jigpixOn the SCOTUS decision:

The court announced that a five-person conservative majority had decided to let the ban stand. The court’s most conservative justices, including the three President Donald Trump nominated, such as Amy Coney Barrett, decided to let the law stand. In a one-paragraph statement, these justices said there are “serious questions regarding the constitutionality of the Texas law,” but indicated that the way the law was set up, the court is unsure how to stop if from going into effect.

The three liberal justices, joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., dissented. Roberts said he would stop the law from going into effect because it is so novel and far-reaching.

The justices didn’t say anything about whether the statute is constitutional. They just said it will stay in place while that question is litigated.

That was an unexpected move that could signal the court is ready to strike down Supreme Court precedent created nearly 50 years ago in Roe v. Wade that guarantees a woman access to abortion services in the first half of her pregnancy before the fetus would be viable outside the womb,said Lisa Soronen, executive director of the State and Local Legal Center, which supports municipalities in cases before the Supreme Court.

“The justices know that this Texas law violates Roe v. Wade. They all know that,” she said. To keep the law in place, “that still doesn’t overturn Roe v. Wade, it just makes a really big statement about what they think of it.”

Phillips notes that other Republican-controlled states are likely to quickly pass similar laws effectively banning abortion. Read about it at the WaPo link.

Joan Biscupic at CNN: In the shadows: Why the Supreme Court’s lack of transparency may cost it in the long run.

Supreme Court justices tout judicial integrity and the importance of public confidence in their decisions, but the court’s midnight silence Tuesday while letting a Texas law that curtails abortion rights take effect — followed by a midnight order Wednesday — offers the latest and most compelling example of its lack of transparency and the cost.

The justices’ secretive patterns have gained new attention as confidence in all government institutions has waned. Witnesses before a bipartisan commission set up by President Joe Biden to consider court revisions — most visibly, the options of term limits and the addition of more seats — have targeted the justices’ secrecy and how it contributes to public distrust of the high court, along with the lopsided advantage the court gives to some litigants.

Such lack of transparency is only part of the context behind the Supreme Court’s silence in the closely watched Texas case. The emboldened conservative majority already is poised to reverse or at least undercut Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark ruling that declared women’s constitutional right to end a pregnancy. The court announced last spring that it would take up in the 2021-22 session a dispute over Mississippi’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks. The Texas law goes much further, making it illegal to terminate a pregnancy when a fetal heartbeat is detected, which may be typically around six weeks.

Both laws sharply conflict with Roe v. Wade, which forbade states from interfering with a woman’s abortion decision before the fetus would be viable, that is, able to live outside the womb, at about 22-24 weeks.

The justices have made plain their concerns regarding public mistrust and misunderstanding of the Supreme Court. Chief Justice John Roberts regularly declares that judges differ from elected lawmakers, and Justice Stephen Breyer protested in a speech at Harvard last spring that they should not be regarded as “junior-varsity politicians.” Breyer cited the court’s long-standing preservation of abortion rights as evidence of its nonpartisan, nonideological character.

Separately last spring, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Neil Gorsuch emphasized in a joint appearance, advocating civics education, the deep reasoning that underlies their opinions. They criticized those who would look only for a bottom-line judgment.

Yet no judgment — or word of any sort — came late Tuesday night, with the clock ticking, anxiety rising among both sides in Texas and a national audience watching.

Read the rest at CNN.

More opinions:

Gail Collins at The New York Times: Texas Is Trying to Overturn Roe v. Wade All by Itself.

Mark Joseph Stern at Slate: The Supreme Court Overturned Roe v. Wade in the Most Cowardly Manner Imaginable.

Dana Millbank at The Washington Post: Opinion: Texas shows us what post-democracy America would look like.

Michelle Goldberg at The New York Times: Republicans Are Giving Abortion Opponents Power Over the Rest of Us.

Any man who expresses “concerns” about women in Afghanistan needs to explain why they aren’t concerned about women in Texas and ultimately the entire U.S. Or they need to STFU!

Hang in there Sky Dancers!!