Thursday Reads: The Fight For Women’s Autonomy

Pierre Bonnard, Still life with dog

Pierre Bonnard, Still life with dog

Good Afternoon!!

I’m still thrilled by the vote on abortion rights in Kansas. I actually wasn’t terribly surprised, because Kansas has been showing signs of turning purple recently. I also believe that the majority of women everywhere are enraged by the SCOTUS decision to take away a right that has transformed American women’s lives. But it’s so exhilarating to know that in Kansans voted in numbers approaching the turnouts in presidential elections. There are other signs that Republicans may regret trying to turn back the clock on women’s rights. Here are some reactions to the “earthquake” in Kansas.

The New York Times: Kansas Votes to Preserve Abortion Rights Protections in Its Constitution.

Kansas voters resoundingly decided against removing the right to abortion from the State Constitution, according to The Associated Press, a major victory for the abortion rights movement in one of America’s reliably conservative states.

The defeat of the ballot referendum was the most tangible demonstration yet of a political backlash against the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that had protected abortion rights throughout the country. The decisive margin — 59 to 41 percent, with about 95 percent of the votes counted — came as a surprise, and after frenzied campaigns with both sides pouring millions into advertising and knocking on doors throughout a sweltering final campaign stretch.

“The voters in Kansas have spoken loud and clear: We will not tolerate extreme bans on abortion,” said Rachel Sweet, the campaign manager for Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, which led the effort to defeat the amendment.

Ms. Sweet told supporters that a willingness to work across partisan lines and ideological differences helped their side win.

Registered Republicans far outnumber Democrats in Kansas — and abortion rights activists made explicit appeals to unaffiliated voters and center-right voters. In interviews last week in populous Johnson County, Kan., a number of voters said they were registered Republicans but opposed the amendment — a dynamic that almost certainly played out across the state, given the margin.

“We’re watching the votes come in, we’re seeing the changes of some of the counties where Donald Trump had a huge percentage of the vote, and we’re seeing that just decimated,” said Jo Dee Adelung, 63, a Democrat from Merriam, Kan., who knocked on doors and called voters in recent weeks.

Annie Gowan at The Washington Post: How abortion rights organizers won in Kansas: Horse parades and canvassing.

When abortion rights organizer Jae Gray sent canvassers out into the Kansas City suburbs for the state’s upcoming referendum, they armed them with talking points aimed at all voters — not just liberals.

John White Alexander, 1856-1915

Painting by John White Alexander, 1856-1915

“We definitely used messaging strategies that would work regardless of party affiliation,” said Gray, a field organizer for Kansans for Constitutional Freedom. “We believe every Kansan has a right to make personal health-care decisions without government overreach — that’s obviously a conservative-friendly talking point. We were not just talking to Democrats.”

The effort paid off. On Tuesday, Kansas voters decisively defeated a ballot measure that would have set aside abortion protections in the state’s constitution, paving the way for additional restrictions or even a total ban. That victory was fueled by an opposition coalition that mobilized a large swath of the state’s electorate — including Republican and independent voters — to turn out in historic numbers….

Nearly 60 percent of voters ultimately rejected the amendment, with more than 900,000 turning out to the polls — nearly twice as many as the 473,438 who turned out in the 2018 primary election.

“Kansas turned out in historic numbers … because we found common ground among diverse voting blocks and mobilized Kansans across the political spectrum to vote no,” Rachel Sweet, the campaign manager for Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, said at a news conference Wednesday.

There’s much more about how Kansas organizers did it at the WaPo link.

Dan Merica at CNN: ‘Kansas will not be our last fight’: Abortion rights victory gives Democrats new hope for midterms.

The political impact of what happened in Kansas will be most directly felt in the November midterm elections – particularly in races for governor and attorney general after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, throwing the issue of abortion to the states. The June ruling has led to bans on the procedure being enforced in several states while opening the door to more restrictions in others. At least four other states will be voting on abortion-related ballot measures this November, but Democratic strategists are looking to the Kansas result to extrapolate lessons for states where abortion won’t be on the ballot.

“As the first state to vote on abortion rights following the fall of Roe v. Wade, Kansas is a model for a path to restoring reproductive rights across the country through direct democracy,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund. “We know that Kansas will not be our last fight, or our last victory.”

Democratic and Republican operatives acknowledged Wednesday that the result in Kansas, while limited to one state, could shift the way each party approaches the midterms. Democrats, buoyed by polling and the Kansas result, will likely attempt to make abortion a top issue in key races, hoping to link their Republican opponents to the support for stricter abortion laws….

“We already knew that the majority of Americans support abortion rights, but last night’s results in Kansas showed us that it’s also a motivating factor for voters,” said Xochitl Hinojosa, a Democratic operative and the managing director at progressive consulting firm Bully Pulpit Interactive. “We’ll likely see more Democratic candidates learn from Kansas and lean in on the threat and urgency of abortion bans across the country and start communicating that directly to voters.”

david-hockney--dog-days, 1996

David Hockney, Dog Days, 1996

Nate Cohn at The New York Times: Kansas Result Suggests 4 Out of 5 States Would Back Abortion Rights in Similar Vote.

There was every reason to expect a close election.

Instead, Tuesday’s resounding victory for abortion rights supporters in Kansas offered some of the most concrete evidence yet that the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has shifted the political landscape. The victory, by a 59-41 margin in a Republican stronghold, suggests Democrats will be the energized party on an issue where Republicans have usually had an enthusiasm advantage.

The Kansas vote implies that around 65 percent of voters nationwide would reject a similar initiative to roll back abortion rights, including in more than 40 of the 50 states (a few states on each side are very close to 50-50). This is a rough estimate, based on how demographic characteristics predicted the results of recent abortion referendums. But it is an evidence-based way of arriving at a fairly obvious conclusion: If abortion rights wins 59 percent support in Kansas, it’s doing even better than that nationwide.

It’s a tally that’s in line with recent national surveys that showed greater support for legal abortion after the court’s decision. And the high turnout, especially among Democrats, confirms that abortion is not just some wedge issue of importance to political activists. The stakes of abortion policy have become high enough that it can drive a high midterm-like turnout on its own.

None of this proves that the issue will help Democrats in the midterm elections. And there are limits to what can be gleaned from the Kansas data. But the lopsided margin makes one thing clear: The political winds are now at the backs of abortion rights supporters.

Read detailed analysis at the NYT link.

Kathryn Joyce at Salon: After Kansas smackdown, anti-abortion right in denial: Either it didn’t happen or it doesn’t matter. Joyce, an investigative reporter and author of two books on evangelicals and their obsession with childbearing and adoption.

Nearly 60% of voters in Kansas, typically a deep-red state that Donald Trump easily carried two years ago, rejected a ballot referendum that would have amended the state constitution to remove the right to abortion.

The amendment, artfully entitled “Value Them Both,” represented the first ballot initiative on abortion since Roe v. Wade was overturned in June. Abortion opponents described it as a corrective to a 2019 state Supreme Court ruling which found that the Kansas constitution protects abortion rights, while pro-choice groups warned it would swiftly allow Republican lawmakers to enact a total abortion ban.

Afternoon Promenode, Arthur Wardle (1864-1949).

Afternoon Promenade, Arthur Wardle (1864-1949).

Republicans never exactly admitted that, repeatedly casting pro-choice warnings about a potential ban as lies and disinformation, even after the Kansas Reflector obtained audio recordings in mid-July of a Value Them Both Coalition staffer telling Republican officials they had abortion-ban legislation waiting in the wings once the amendment passed.

The ballot initiative seemed designed to disadvantage abortion rights supporters from the get-go. It was scheduled for a vote not in the general election in November but in the August primary, which in Kansas traditionally draws few Democrats (since many Democratic candidates run unopposed) or unaffiliated voters, who cannot vote in either party’s primaries. Pro-choice advocates also charged that the ballot initiative’s language was intentionally misleading, designed to confuse voters about what a “yes” or “no” vote meant and including irrelevant provisions, such as public funding for abortion, that don’t actually exist in the state….

On Monday, the eve of Election Day, Kansas voters received an anonymous mass text message that transparently seemed to double down on that tactic, falsely suggesting that a “yes” vote would protect “choice.” The message, which the Washington Post discovered was sent on behalf of a PAC led by former Rep. Tim Huelskamp, a Republican, read, “Women in KS are losing their choice on reproductive rights. Voting YES on the Amendment will give women a choice. Vote YES to protect women’s health.”

In the face of all those obstacles, an energized electorate turned out and soundly rejected the Republicans’ ballot initiative. And how are Republicans taking this loss?

Faced with these facts, conservatives and anti-abortion advocates rationalized the outcome in various ways, from claiming that they were the real victims of disinformation campaigns to downplaying the significance of the results to suggesting that the initiative failed because it didn’t go far enough.

In the first category, the Value Them Both Coalition led the way, writing in a statement, “Over the last six months, Kansans endured an onslaught of misinformation from radical left organizations that spent millions of out-of-state dollars to spread lies about the Value Them Both Amendment. Sadly, the mainstream media propelled the left’s false narrative, contributing to the confusion that misled Kansans about the amendment.” The coalition went on to warn that Kansas was about to become an “abortion destination,” and, channeling the Terminator, vowed that despite this “temporary setback,” “We will be back.”

Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, which sent student canvassers to knock on some 250,000 doors in the Sunflower State, made similar charges: “The abortion lobby’s message to voters was rife with lies that ultimately drowned out the truth.” And Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life Action, lamented, “We are disappointed Kansans couldn’t see past the big money that flooded the state, confusing voters about an abortion-neutral amendment that would give them the freedom to vote on abortion policy.”

Actually, both sides spent about the same amount, according to The New York Times. Read more Republican rationalizations at Salon.

John F. Harris at Politico: How Ruth Bader Ginsburg Will Have The Last Laugh on Samuel Alito.

Justice Samuel Alito, in drafting Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, said he and the other justices who joined him in ending a constitutional right to abortion had no ability to foresee what the political implications would be. Even if they could know, he added, justices have “no authority to let that knowledge influence our decision.”

Andrée Bonnard and her dog, 1890, Pierre Bonnard.

Andrée Bonnard and her dog, 1890, Pierre Bonnard.

Does Alito genuinely write his opinions with no concern at all of what the practical political consequences might be?

In overturning Roe v. Wade, a decision he said was “egregiously wrong,” Alito asserted that the place to decide the morality and legality of abortion is not the Supreme Court but the political process in 50 states.

So what does Alito think now, in the wake of Kansas voters resoundingly rejecting a proposal to remove protections for abortion rights from their state constitution?

These are not gotcha questions. Alito presumably would answer that what happened in Kansas on Tuesday is precisely the kind of democratic process that the Supreme Court “short-circuited,” as he wrote in Dobbs, when it established a national right to abortion by judicial edict even as the issue remained deeply unsettled in the society.

They are questions, however, that highlight how life is full of surprise and paradox, even for a Supreme Court justice who specializes in blustery self-assurance. Alito’s career as an advocate for social conservatism began long before he joined the court. His record is replete with deference to religious tradition and skepticism of loosening sexual mores on all fronts, including gay rights. His references to “abortionists” in the Dobbs opinion hardly conceal his personal disdain. There can be little doubt of how he would have cast his ballot if he were a Kansas voter.

Yet the Kansas result raises an arresting possibility: Alito’s long-term legacy may well be as the justice who facilitated a national consensus on behalf of abortion rights. Quite unintentionally, today’s hero of the “pro-life” movement could end up being a giant of the “pro-choice” movement.

Read the rest at Politico.

For the first time in a very long time, I’m feeling hopeful that Democrats can hold A the Senate and that we may still save democracy in the U.S. I know there’s a long way to go, but I really think the Kansas result is significant. President and Attorney General Garland are also taking action to preserve abortion rights. A couple more articles:

CNN: Biden signs new executive order on abortion rights: ‘Women’s health and lives are on the line.’

President Joe Biden on Wednesday signed an executive order to help ensure access to abortion in light of the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this summer to eliminate the constitutional right to the procedure.

The President said the order helps women travel out of state to receive abortions, ensures health care providers comply with federal law so women aren’t delayed in getting care and advances research and data collection “to evaluate the impact that this reproductive health crisis is having on maternal health and other health conditions and outcomes.”

Biden spoke of the “chaos and uncertainty” that has ensued in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision and said, “Women’s health and lives are on the line.”

“Emergency medical care being denied to women experiencing miscarriages, doctors uncertain about what they can do to provide for their patients, pharmacists unsure whether they can fill prescriptions that they’ve always filled before, a tragic case of rape survivors, including a 10-year-old girl forced to travel to another state for care,” Biden said before signing the order.

Newsweek: Abortion Rights Counter-Attack to Roe Decision Has Begun.

The Biden administration sued Idaho over a strict state abortion law on Tuesday—as voters in Kansas resoundingly decided to protect abortion rights in the state.

The lawsuit, announced by Attorney General Merrick Garland, is the first major action by the Justice Department challenging a state trigger law since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in late June….

Joan Brown, Noel in the Kitchen (circa 1964).

Joan Brown, Noel in the Kitchen (circa 1964).

The lawsuit seeks to invalidate Idaho’s “criminal prohibition on providing abortions, as applied to women who are suffering medical emergencies,” Garland said.

The lawsuit argues that it would force doctors to violate the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, a federal law that requires hospitals receiving federal funds to ensure anyone coming to a hospital for emergency treatment is stabilized and treated.

“If a patient comes into the emergency room with a medical emergency jeopardizing the patient’s life or health, the hospital must provide the treatment necessary to stabilize that patient,” Garland said. “This includes abortion when that is the necessary treatment.”

Idaho’s law—set to take effect on August 25—”would make it a criminal offense for doctors to provide the emergency medical treatment that federal law requires,” he said.

What are your thoughts on all this? What other stories are you following today?


Thursday Reads

summer-porch-by-childe-hassam-1904-m-g-whittingham

Summer Porch, by Childe Hassam

Good Afternoon!!

I’m feeling kind of blue today. Partly it’s just the inevitable losses that come with my advanced age, and of course I’m sad about what’s happening to our country. In the past 7 years, we were forced to deal with an evil and incompetent man as presidential candidate and then president, and a still-ongoing global pandemic that has killed more than a million Americans. No wonder so many of us are exhausted. I got this in an e-mail from political writer Jared Yates Sexton this morning. He describes our situation better than I ever could.

There are nine members of the Supreme Court of the United States of America. It might be presumptuous, but I’m guessing if you’re reading this you are not counted among them.

The last time I checked, there was one President, one hundred members of the Senate and 435 representatives in the House. Though there are individuals in the White House and Congress who read this newsletter, their ability to effectively pass legislation or break up the intentional logjam at the federal level is somewhat negligible.

Meanwhile, our political and economic systems have been largely corrupted and co-opted by an increasingly wealthy group of power brokers hellbent on growing their wealth and power at any cost, including the destruction of the Earth and total dismantling of liberal democracy. Chances are, considering the math, you are probably not a member of this historically wealthy class of individuals, but if you are, feel free to get a hold of me. I’ve got some ideas should you want to make a difference.

All of it is overwhelming. To watch detestable actions like the overthrow of Roe V. Wade, followed by a yawning lack of response by those charged with protecting us, leaves a person feeling desperate and, over time, isolated and demoralized. The system, after all, is designed with this in mind. The founding of the United States was predicated on neutralizing the power of the masses in favor of rule by a tiny group of wealthy white men. Almost everything that has happened since then has been to either shore up that rule or battle attempts to trouble it.

To be clear, it feels as if the deck is stacked against you because it is. The flow of history is the story of how the powerful have continually protected themselves from situations where the fate of the masses is weighed more heavily than their own self-interest.

This newsletter appears to be a promo for Sexton’s upcoming book, and it doesn’t offer solutions; but it sure does paint a picture of where we are as a country right now. Sexton says, “we are not alone and we are not powerless.” I guess he’ll explain that in the book.

There isn’t that much I can do at my age, but I keep posting on this blog; somehow that gives me a sense of being a small part of the resistance to authoritarianism. At least I’m paying close attention to daily events and what is being written about them. We’ve been posting to this blog for many years now, and we’ve seen people come and go. If you’re still coming here, I’m very grateful for your presence. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts with us.

A Ten-Year-Old Pregnant Rape Victim and Clueless Male Journalists

Last week a story broke about a 10-year-old Ohio girl who was raped and impregnated. The Guardian:

The case of a 10-year-old child rape victim in Ohio who was six weeks pregnant, ineligible for an abortion in her own state, and forced to travel to Indiana for the procedure has spotlighted the shocking impact of the US supreme court ruling on abortion.

Breakfast Porch, William James Glackens, 1925

Breakfast Porch, William James Glackens, 1925

The story of the girl came to light three days after the court overturned a nationwide right to terminate pregnancy, and Ohio’s six-week “trigger ban” came into effect.

Dr Caitlin Bernard, an Indianapolis obstetrician-gynecologist, said she had received a call from a colleague doctor in Ohio who treats child abuse victims and asked for help….

Abortion providers like Bernard say they are receiving a sharp increase in the number of patients coming to their clinics for abortion from the neighboring states where such procedures are now restricted or banned.

“It’s hard to imagine that in just a few short weeks we will have no ability to provide that care,” Bernard told the Columbus Dispatch.

You’d think since the story mentioned a doctor by name, people would accept that the story was legitimate. Bernard even appeared on MSNBC’s The Last Word to talk about the case. But Republicans in Ohio claimed the story was fabricated, and that triggered claims that the story was fake on Fox News and social media. Even the Washington Post fact checker got involved.

But yesterday we learned that the perpetrator of the rape has been arrested. CNN: A man was charged in the rape of a 10-year-old who traveled to Indiana for an abortion.

A Columbus man has been charged with raping a 10-year-old Ohio girl who then had to travel to Indiana seeking an abortion after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, according to court proceedings CNN obtained through affiliate WBNS.

Rumors of the case garnered national and international attention, with some US political leaders referencing it in conversations about abortion bans.

Gerson Fuentes, 27, was arrested Tuesday, according to Columbus police and court documents. He has been charged with felony rape of a minor under age 13, according to the Franklin County Municipal Court. His first court appearance was Wednesday.

Fuentes is being held on $2 million bond, according to the court. CNN has reached out to his attorney for comment.

Fuentes admitted to authorities he raped the young girl on at least two occasions, Det. Jeffrey Huhn testified Wednesday at Fuentes’ arraignment.

Police first were alerted to the child’s pregnancy in late June through a referral by a local children services department that was made by the 10-year-old’s mother, Huhn testified.

The girl underwent a medical abortion in Indianapolis on June 30, the detective testified. DNA from the Indianapolis clinic was being tested against samples from Fuentes and the child’s siblings, Huhn said.

Fox News’s Tucker Carlson was still pretending the story was false last night.

At Neiman Lab, Laura Hazard Owen writes: Unimaginable abortion stories will become more common. Is American journalism ready?

As more states restrict or ban abortion, more girls who are raped will face a choice between crossing state lines for care or having babies while they are still in elementary school.

Andrew Wyeth

House with a porch, by Andrew Wyeth

I wish that this weren’t true. But events this week make it very clear that if you can’t bear to believe it — even if it seems so impossible that it needs a heartily skeptical fact-checking treatment — it is going to happen.

And reporters who want to tell these stories (and the news organizations those reporters work for) may have to abandon some conventional journalism wisdom in order to give the stories the attention they deserve….

The two-byline story — written by Shari Rudavsky and Rachel Fradette — made headlines around the world. But the first reaction of mainly right-leaning news organizations — despite the fact that the doctor who performed the abortion was on the record saying this happened — was to try to debunk it. Why? I mean, in part because it’s horrible and we don’t want to believe a 10-year-old could get raped and pregnant, because 10-year-olds are babies themselves. (By the way, Covid appears to have increased early-onset puberty around the world. Getting your period “early” now means getting it when you’re younger than 8. People for whom a pregnant 10-year-old strains credulity should keep this in mind.)

The debate over the story’s veracity started with a Washington Post “Fact Checker” column. In “A one-source story about a 10-year-old and an abortion goes viral,”

You can read the quotes at Neiman Lab, but lets just say Kessler was extremely skeptical.

“An abortion by a 10-year-old is pretty rare,” Kessler notes. (Oh, that “by.”) “The Columbus Dispatch reported that in 2020, 52 people under the age of 15 received an abortion in Ohio.” Definitions of “rare” may vary, but if 52 under-15-year-olds got abortions in Ohio in 2020, that’s one a week — and it’s just abortions that were reported, during a pandemic when a lot of abortion clinics were closed.

The Post column opened the door to worse takes. “Every day that goes by, the more likely that this is a fabrication. I know the cops and prosecutors in this state. There’s not one of them that wouldn’t be turning over every rock, looking for this guy and they would have charged him,” Ohio attorney general Dave Yost told USA Today’s Ohio Network bureau on Tuesday. Picking up on Kessler’s “single source” criticism, Yost added, “Shame on the Indianapolis paper that ran this thing on a single source who has an obvious axe to grind.”

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board called the episode “An abortion story too good to confirm,” as if there was something particularly juicy and delicious about this one (hint: It’s her age!)

We’re going to be seeing many more horror stories now that the Extreme Court has returned women and girls to second-class citizen status. And no, male journalists will not be ready to deal with the onslaught.

January 6 Committee News

CNN: Trump tried to call a member of the White House support staff talking with January 6 committee, sources say.

Former President Donald Trump tried to call a member of the White House support staff who was talking to the House select committee investigating January 6, 2021, two sources familiar with the matter tell CNN.

The support staffer was not someone who routinely communicated with the former President and was concerned about the contact, according to the sources, and informed their attorney.

Women Taking Tea on the Porch, Albert Lynch

Women Taking Tea on the Porch, Albert Lynch

The call was made after former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified publicly to the committee. The White House staffer was in a position to corroborate part of what Hutchinson had said under oath, according to the sources.

CNN was told the position of the witness Trump tried to call, but not the person’s name. Details about the witness Trump tried to contact have not been previously reported.

The initial revelation about Trump’s phone call was made in a dramatic moment at the end of this week’s hearing by committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney. Cheney, a Wyoming Republican, revealed that Trump “tried to call” an unnamed witness in the committee’s investigation. She said that witness “declined to answer or respond” to Trump’s call and instead alerted their lawyer. The committee has since supplied that information to the Department of Justice….

Rep. Pete Aguilar, a California Democrat who serves on the committee, told CNN on Tuesday that the individual Trump tried to call has been speaking with the panel.

“Trump himself had called someone who has been talking with us,” Aguilar said.

A source familiar with the panel’s investigation added that the committee has spoken to the person Trump tried to call, but not as part of a deposition.

Trump’s crimes just keep on piling up. When will he pay a price? No one outside the DOJ knows.

Donald Ayer, Stuart Gerson, and Dennis Aftergut at The Atlantic: January 6 Was Trump’s Project All Along. And The Department of Justice Has More Than Enough Evidence To Prosecute Him For It.

After seven hearings held by the January 6 committee thus far this summer, doubts as to who is responsible have been resolved. The evidence is now overwhelming that Donald Trump was the driving force behind a massive criminal conspiracy to interfere with the official January 6 congressional proceeding and to defraud the United States of a fair election outcome.

The evidence is clearer and more robust than we as former federal prosecutors—two of us as Department of Justice officials in Republican administrations—thought possible before the hearings began. Trump was not just a willing beneficiary of a complex plot in which others played most of the primary roles. While in office, he himself was the principal actor in nearly all of its phases, personally executing key parts of most of its elements and aware of or involved in its worst features, including the use of violence on Capitol Hill. Most remarkably, he did so over vehement objections raised at every turn, even by his sycophantic and loyal handpicked team. This was Trump’s project all along.

Edward Hopper

By Edward Hopper

Everyone knew before the hearings began that we were dealing with perhaps the gravest imaginable offense against the nation short of secession—a serious nationwide effort pursued at multiple levels to overturn the unambiguous outcome of a national election. We all knew as well that efforts were and are unfolding nationwide to change laws and undermine electoral processes with the specific objective of succeeding at the same project in 2024 and after. But each hearing has sharpened our understanding that Donald Trump himself is the one who made it happen.

As former prosecutors, we recognize the legitimacy of concerns that electoral winners prosecuting their defeated opponents may look like something out of a banana republic rather than the United States of America; that doing so might be viewed as opening the door to prosecutorial retaliation by future presidential winners; and that, in the case of this former president, it might lead to civil unrest.

But given the record now before us, all of these considerations must give way to the urgency of achieving a public reckoning for Donald Trump.

Read the rest of the argument at The Atlantic.

The New York Times: Jan. 6 Panel Will Turn Over Evidence on Fake Electors to the Justice Dept.

The Justice Department has asked the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol for evidence it has accumulated about the scheme by former President Donald J. Trump and his allies to put forward false slates of pro-Trump electors in battleground states won by Joseph R. Biden Jr. in 2020.

Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi and the chairman of the committee, disclosed the request to reporters on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, and a person familiar with the panel’s work said discussions with the Justice Department about the false elector scheme were ongoing. Those talks suggest that the department is sharpening its focus on that aspect of Mr. Trump’s efforts to overturn the election, one with a direct line to the former president.

Mr. Thompson said the committee was working with federal prosecutors to allow them to review the transcripts of interviews the panel has done with people who served as so-called alternate electors for Mr. Trump. Mr. Thompson said the Justice Department’s investigation into “fraudulent electors” was the only specific topic the agency had broached with the committee.

A Justice Department official said the agency maintained its position that it was requesting copies of all transcripts of witness interviews.

More details at the NYT.

CNBC reports that the next hearing is scheduled for next Thursday at 8PM. and will focus on “Trump’s hourslong failure to stop the Capitol riot.”

NBC News says there may be more hearings in August: The Jan. 6 committee won’t rule out more hearings this summer.

Have an enjoyable Thursday everyone!!


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!


Lazy Caturday Reads

Liquid Cat, photo by Karen Slagle

Liquid Cat, photo by Karen Slagle

Happy Caturday!!

My stress level is sky high lately. If only I could relax like a cat, blissfully unaware of the daily shocks we humans have to deal with these days. At least it’s the weekend, so maybe we’ll get a break–or maybe even some good news? Here’s the latest:

The Guardian: Demonstrators across the US protest expected reversal of Roe v Wade.

With the US supreme court apparently poised to overturn the 1973 landmark decision which made abortion legal, hundreds of thousands of people across America are planning to take to the streets to protest the looming decision.

A coalition of groups such as Planned ParenthoodUltraVioletMoveOn and the Women’s March are organizing Saturday’s demonstrations, whose rallying cry is “Bans Off Our Bodies”. More than 370 protests are planned, including in Washington DC, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago….

The “Bans Off Our Bodies” gatherings will take place three days after Democrats in the US Senate on Wednesday made a largely symbolic effort to advance legislation that would codify the right to an abortion into federal law. All 50 Republicans and one conservative-aligned Democrat – West Virginia’s Joe Manchin – voted against the measure, leaving it well short of the 60 votes necessary for it to advance.

Also from The Guardian: Protesters rally outside US supreme court justices’ homes ahead of pro-choice marches.

Pro-choice demonstrators continue to turn up outside the homes of supreme court justices, with the latest target being conservative Amy Coney Barrett, who signed on to a majority draft opinion that was leaked to reveal an intention to overturn the constitutional right to seek an abortion in the US.

f98f3f2f0a7f126cf8c3e9070096f64e“The right to your own body – to do what you want with your own body – is the most personal freedom you can have,” one protester said from among a group wearing long red “handmaid” capes and white bonnets earlier this week to symbolize forced childbearing, as members of the Virginia state police watched nearby….

Several organizations, led by Planned Parenthood and the Women’s March, are preparing for a nationwide day of pro-choice marches on Saturday….

Protesters have so far gathered outside the residences in the Washington DC area of Samuel Alito, who wrote the scorching draft opinion, and Brett Kavanaugh, as well as Barrett and the chief justice, John Roberts, who did not sign on to the draft opinion, unlike the other three and Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch.

Yesterday, British medical journal The Lancet released a scathing editorial warning the U.S. Supreme Court that if they overturn Roe v. Wade, they will have women’s “blood on their hands.”

The Lancet: Why Roe v. Wade Must Be Defended.

“Abortion presents a profound moral issue on which Americans hold sharply conflicting views.” So begins a draft opinion by Associate Justice Samuel Alito, leaked from the US Supreme Court on May 2, 2022. If confirmed, this judgement would overrule the Court’s past decisions to establish the right to access abortion. In Alito’s words, “the authority to regulate abortion must be returned to the people and their elected representatives”. The Court’s opinion rests on a strictly historical interpretation of the US Constitution: “The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision.” His extraordinary text repeatedly equates abortion with murder.

The Due Process clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution has been the main foundation underpinning the right of American women to an abortion. That 1868 Amendment was passed during the period of American Reconstruction, when states’ powers were being subjected to certain limitations. The goal of the Amendment was to prevent states from unduly restricting the freedoms of their citizens. That guarantee of personal liberty, so the Supreme Court had previously held, extended to pregnant women, with qualifications, who decided to seek an abortion. Alito rejected that reasoning. He argued that for any right not mentioned in the Constitution to be protected, it must be shown to have had deep roots in the nation’s history and tradition. Abortion does not fulfil that test. Worse, Roe was an exercise in “raw judicial power”, it “short-circuited the democratic process”, and it was “egregiously wrong” from the very beginning. It was now time, according to Alito, “to set the record straight”.

6a00d8341c630a53ef0133f4fe6739970b-600wiWhat is so shocking, inhuman, and irrational about this draft opinion is that the Court is basing its decision on an 18th century document ignorant of 21st century realities for women. History and tradition can be respected, but they must only be partial guides. The law should be able to adapt to new and previously unanticipated challenges and predicaments. Although Alito gives an exhaustive legal history of abortion, he utterly fails to consider the health of women today who seek abortion. Unintended pregnancy and abortion are universal phenomena. Worldwide, around 120 million unintended pregnancies occur annually. Of these, three-fifths end in abortion. And of these, some 55% are estimated to be safe—that is, completed using a medically recommended method and performed by a trained provider. This leaves 33 million women undergoing unsafe abortions, their lives put at risk because laws restrict access to safe abortion services.

Read the rest at the link.

At The Washington Post, Dana Millbank writes: Roe’s impending reversal is a 9/11 attack on America’s social fabric.

Washington’s reaction to the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade has been typically myopic.

Republicans first tried to make people believe that the issue wasn’t the opinion itself but the leak. Now they’re absurdly trying to portray Democrats as supporters of infanticide. Democrats, in turn, squabbled among themselves before a show vote on a doomed abortion rights bill. And the news media have reverted to our usual horse-race speculation about how it will affect the midterms.

This small-bore response misses the radical change to society that Justice Samuel Alito and his co-conspirators are poised to ram down the throats of Americans. Their stunning action might well change the course of the midterms — but more importantly, it is upending who we are as a people.

Assuming little changes from the draft, overturning Roe would be a shock to our way of life, the social equivalent of the 9/11 attacks (which shattered our sense of physical security) or the crash of 2008 (which undid our sense of financial security). As epoch-making decisions go, this is Brown v. Board of Education, but in reverse: taking away an entrenched right Americans have relied upon for half a century. We remember Brown because it changed us forever, not because it altered the 1954 midterms.

Read more at the WaPo.

Clarence Thomas, husband of Ginni Thomas, who supported a coup against the U.S. government, is still whining about the SCOTUS link, which most likely came from a right wing source. Adam Liptak at The New York Times: Justice Thomas Says Leaked Opinion Destroyed Trust at the Supreme Court.

6a00d8341c630a53ef0133f4feaa48970b-600wiThe leak of a draft opinion has done irreparable damage to the Supreme Court, Justice Clarence Thomas said at a conference in Dallas on Friday night, adding that it had destroyed trust among its members.

“What happened at the court is tremendously bad,” Justice Thomas said. “I wonder how long we’re going to have these institutions at the rate we’re undermining them.”

The leak of the opinion, which would overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion, was “like kind of an infidelity,” Justice Thomas said.

“Look where we are, where that trust or that belief is gone forever,” he said. “And when you lose that trust, especially in the institution that I’m in, it changes the institution fundamentally. You begin to look over your shoulder.”

Tough shit. My trust in SCOTUS was gone after Thomas was confirmed by lying about his sexual harassment of Anita HIll.

I won’t quote from this one, but if you want to read an argument by a constitutional scholar who is a Democrat who supports abortion rights but opposes Roe, check out this article at The Wall Street Journal by Akhil Reed Amar: The End of Roe v. Wade. I found it interesting but not that helpful for women who are facing a disastrous and traumatic future around pregnancy and childbirth. The article wasn’t behind the paywall when I opened it.

In other news, Republican Senators refused to visit Ukraine with Democrats, but then they organized their own trip. Please note that one of their GOP colleagues, Rand Paul, is currently blocking a bill to provide more aid to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia. The New York Times: McConnell and other Republican senators make a secret visit to Ukraine.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, visited Ukraine on Saturday to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky, leading the latest delegation of American lawmakers to the country as the United States deepens its commitment to Kyiv’s fight against the Russian invasion.

6a00d8341c630a53ef0133f4f00414970b-600wiThe surprise visit by Mr. McConnell, who was accompanied by three other Republican senators, comes as the Senate is working to pass a $40 billion emergency military and humanitarian aid package for Ukraine. It follows a string of other clandestine visits, including by the first lady, Jill Biden, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi….

“Helping Ukraine is not an instance of mere philanthropy — it bears directly on America’s national security and vital interests that Russia’s naked aggression not succeed and carries significant costs,” Mr. McConnell said this week. “If Ukraine fails to repel Russian aggression, there is no question that the threat to American and European security will grow.”

The trip was disclosed by Mr. Zelensky’s office. Details were not yet available from the lawmakers.

Mr. McConnell was joined by Senators John Barrasso of Wyoming, a member of his leadership team and the Foreign Relations Committee; John Cornyn of Texas, a member of the Intelligence Committee; and Susan Collins of Maine, who sits on both the Intelligence Committee and the Appropriations Committee, which oversees government funding.

In the photos I’ve seen, Zelensky doesn’t look as happy as he did when Jill Biden and Nancy Pelosi visited him.

The New York Times’s Luke Broadwater and Emily Cochrane on the subpoenas of members of Congress by the January 6th committee: Subpoenas for Republicans Raise New Questions for Jan. 6 Panel.

The decision by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol to issue subpoenas to five Republican members of Congress, including Representative Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, has sent a shock wave through Capitol Hill, heightening tensions in an already hostile environment and raising questions about the future of the inquiry and the institution itself.

The move by the Democratic-led panel set up a showdown with Republicans that could result in the threat of jail time against sitting members of Congress — including Mr. McCarthy, who is in line to be speaker if his party wins control of the House in November. It also had major implications for the investigation, and whether the country will ever get full answers about the deadly mob attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, that disrupted the peaceful transfer of power and left more than 150 police officers injured.

Some Democrats immediately began clamoring for Mr. McCarthy and other lawmakers to be held in criminal contempt if they fail to appear at their scheduled depositions in late May, while Republicans warned of retaliation if they take control of the House after the midterm elections.

“I wouldn’t be for it, but turnabout is fair play,” Representative Thomas Massie, Republican of Kentucky, said of retaliatory subpoenas. He called the Jan. 6 committee’s subpoenas a “horrible precedent for the institution,” adding: “It’s a race to the bottom.”

88cba75816c3e74906a3af2d2eb71db4I’d say the refusal of Republicans and Trump associates to honor Congressional subpoenas looks bad for Republicans, especially if they try to investigate Democrats in the future; but for the NYT, it’s always about how everything that happens is bad for Democrats.

Meanwhile at Axios: More bombshells for Jan. 6 committee before June hearings.

The Jan. 6 committee may seek testimony from additional lawmakers as soon as next week, ahead of blockbuster TV hearings that kick off next month, Axios has learned.

Driving the news: Chiefs of staff and other aides to members of the House select committee were told Friday on their weekly call with committee staff to brace for more bombshells ahead of the June 9 start to public hearings, according to two sources on the call….

The big picture: The committee created a major stir with post-election implications when on Thursday it issued subpoenas to five House Republicans, including two of the GOP’s top brass — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and the Judiciary Committee’s ranking member Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).

  — Members haven’t said how they would enforce those subpoenas.

  — Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the committee, told Axios on Thursday that “the fact-gathering process will continue through the hearings.”

What we’re hearing: A U.S. Capitol Police security briefing for members and their chiefs of staff, to prepare for the June hearings, is scheduled for May 20.

That’s what’s happening so far today, as I see it. What’s on your mind?


Thursday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

It’s another big news day. We lost Madeline Albright, the first woman to serve as U.S. Secretary of State, paving the way for other women to meet with NATO allies and announce new sanctions on Russia. Afterwards, he will visit Poland and perhaps even go to the border of Ukraine. Today is the final day of the hearings on Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Today will be dedicated to testimony from people who support or oppose her nomination. The Ukraine war continues, with reports of Ukrainian victories and numerous analyses of the failure of Putin’s efforts to subdue it’s neighbor. I’ll get to as much of this news as I can.

Madeline Albright

The Washington Post: Madeleine Albright, first female secretary of state, dies at 84.

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Madeline Albright

Madeleine K. Albright, who came to the United States as an 11-year-old political refu­gee from Czechoslovakia and decades later was an ardent and effective advocate against mass atrocities in Eastern Europe while serving as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and the first female secretary of state, died March 23 in Washington. She was 84.

The cause was cancer, her family said in a statement.

Before Dr. Albright, the inner sanctum of U.S. foreign policymaking had been an almost exclusively male domain. In many ways, her politically fraught early life — enduring Nazi and communist repression — impelled her rise to the highest levels of international politics.

Her family, which was Jewish, narrowly avoided extermination at the hands of the Nazis. They fled to England shortly after Hitler’s tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia in 1938.

Several of Dr. Albright’s relatives, including three grandparents, died in the concentration camps of Theresienstadt and Auschwitz. After the war, Dr. Albright’s father, a Czech diplomat wary of communism, feared he would be arrested following a 1948 coup by hard-line Stalinists in Prague. The family escaped once more, this time to the United States.

Before she died, Albright wrote an op-ed for The New York Times, published Feb 3: Putin Is Making a Historic Mistake.

In early 2000, I became the first senior U.S. official to meet with Vladimir Putin in his new capacity as acting president of Russia. We in the Clinton administration did not know much about him at the time — just that he had started his career in the K.G.B. I hoped the meeting would help me take the measure of the man and assess what his sudden elevation might mean for U.S.-Russia relations, which had deteriorated amid the war in Chechnya. Sitting across a small table from him in the Kremlin, I was immediately struck by the contrast between Mr. Putin and his bombastic predecessor, Boris Yeltsin.

Obit Albright

FILE – U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright smiles as she shakes hands with Russian acting President Vladimir Putin, right, in Moscow’s Kremlin, on Feb. 2, 2000. 

Whereas Mr. Yeltsin had cajoled, blustered and flattered, Mr. Putin spoke unemotionally and without notes about his determination to resurrect Russia’s economy and quash Chechen rebels. Flying home, I recorded my impressions. “Putin is small and pale,” I wrote, “so cold as to be almost reptilian.” He claimed to understand why the Berlin Wall had to fall but had not expected the whole Soviet Union to collapse. “Putin is embarrassed by what happened to his country and determined to restore its greatness.”

I have been reminded in recent months of that nearly three-hour session with Mr. Putin as he has massed troops on the border with neighboring Ukraine. After calling Ukrainian statehood a fiction in a bizarre televised address, he issued a decree recognizing the independence of two separatist-held regions in Ukraine and sending troops there.

Mr. Putin’s revisionist and absurd assertion that Ukraine was “entirely created by Russia” and effectively robbed from the Russian empire is fully in keeping with his warped worldview. Most disturbing to me: It was his attempt to establish the pretext for a full-scale invasion.

Should he invade, it will be a historic error.

It sure looks like she was right. For more on Albright and Putin, check out this interview she gave to NPR’s All Things Considered in June, 2021: Madeleine Albright had a lot to say about Putin — and she didn’t mince words.

Biden in Europe

AP News: US to expand Russia sanctions, accept 100K Ukraine refugees.

BRUSSELS (AP) — The United States will expand its sanctions on Russia in response to the invasion of Ukraine, targeting members of the country’s parliament and the central bank’s gold reserves, the White House announced Thursday.

At the same time, Washington will increase its humanitarian assistance by welcoming 100,000 Ukrainian refugees and providing an additional $1 billion in food, medicine, water and other supplies.

The White House announced the initiatives as U.S. President Joe Biden and world leaders gathered in Brussels for a trio of summits in response to the Russian invasion, seeking new ways to limit the economic and security fallout from the conflict.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the day’s first meeting, an emergency NATO summit, where he called for “military assistance without limitations.” He pleaded for anti-air and anti-ship weapons, asking “is it possible to survive in such a war without this?”

A U.S. official, who requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said Western nations are discussing the possibility of providing anti-ship weapons amid concerns that Russia will launch amphibious assaults along the Black Sea coast.

There should be a lot more news about Biden’s trip in the course of the day today.

Ketanji Brown Jackson

The Washington Post Editorial Board: Republicans boast they have not pulled a Kavanaugh. In fact, they’ve treated Jackson worse.

Throughout her Senate confirmation hearings, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has been a model of composure, which is made all the more impressive by the egregious behavior of some on the Republican side.

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Ketanji Brown Jackson

During the hearings, Republicans such as Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) have congratulated themselves for declining to treat Judge Jackson the way Democrats handled the nomination of Brett M. Kavanaugh. In fact, by the most relevant measures, Mr. Graham and a handful of other Judiciary Committee Republicans have handled themselves worse.

A woman credibly accused Mr. Kavanaugh of sexual assault. Democrats rightly asked the committee to investigate. After a superficial FBI review, Republicans pressed forward his nomination. In the end, it was Mr. Kavanaugh who behaved intemperately, personally attacking Democratic senators and revealing partisan instincts that raised questions about his commitment to impartiality.

By contrast, Republicans have smeared Judge Jackson based on obvious distortions of her record and the law. Mr. Graham and others painted her as a friend of child pornographers, despite the fact that her sentences in their cases reflect the judicial mainstream. Even conservative outlets had debunked these accusations before the hearings began. The more Judge Jackson argued for rationality in criminal sentencing — or attempted to, as Mr. Graham continually interrupted her — the more Mr. Graham ranted about the evils of child pornography, which Judge Jackson had already condemned repeatedly and her record plainly shows she takes seriously.

graham-berates-jackson-over-kavanaughMr. Graham also attacked Judge Jackson for her work defending Guantánamo Bay detainees, acknowledging that no one should judge her for representing unpopular defendants or advocating zealously for her clients — and then proceeding to do just that.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) used much of her time assailing those concerned about transgender people. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) attacked Judge Jackson for sitting on the board of Georgetown Day School, a D.C. private school, because he disapproves of its anti-racism curriculum, which Judge Jackson has never endorsed, let alone relied upon in a ruling. Similarly, several Republicans complained that outside pressure groups favored her nomination, even though she has no connection to them. These attacks by association underscored that they had little substance on which to criticize her.

Dahlia Lithwick at Slate: Cory Booker Aside, Democrats Stranded Ketanji Brown Jackson.

The third day of hearings for Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation to the Supreme Court came to a close on Wednesday following another 10-plus hours filled with character smears about child pornography from Republican senators and more phony umbrage about some out of context quotes. At this point, with just one more day of testimony from outside witnesses remaining, it is worth noting that this entire circus is being performed to try to pick off two or three Republican votes—and perhaps one Democratic vote—that will probably not come. One of the reasons Sen. Lindsey Graham is quite literally spitting and screaming about amicus briefs filed on behalf of Guantanamo Bay detainees two decades ago, is because having voted to confirm Judge Jackson to a federal appeals court less than a year ago, he must manufacture sufficient umbrage to vote against her now. Happily for Sen. Graham, time has gradually reduced him to a pile of free floating umbrage held together by hair.

If we can all agree that the purpose of this charade for Graham is to try to flip Sens. Susan Collins or Lisa Murkowski, and that for Sen. Ted Cruz, the purpose of this charade is to goose his own twitter mentions, and for Sen. Josh Hawley the purpose is to take what was a fringe “endangering our children” smear campaign last week and push it to the GOP mainstream today, it’s manifestly clear who the real pornographers are this week. But if we can all agree what the GOP agenda has been, I remain utterly mystified by the Democrats. They have the votes to confirm. They are about to irrevocably alter the course of American history. So what are they afraid of?

1236166050.0

Josh Hawley lectures Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson.

I wrote earlier this week about the utter failure on the part of Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats to connect this hearing to what is going to be a catastrophic series of progressive losses at the Supreme Court this term, and the almost staggering inability to lay out any kind of theory for progressive jurisprudence, or even a coherent theory for the role of an unelected judiciary in a constitutional democracy. My colleague Mark Joseph Stern wrote today about a broadside attack on the whole idea of unenumerated rights, substantive due process, and the entire line of cases that protect Americans from penalties for using birth control, forced sterilization, indoctrination of their children, and afford them the right to marry who they want. More mysterious than this coordinated GOP project to undermine LGBTQ rights, marriage equality, contraception, and abortion—again, none of this is new or shocking—was the almost complete silence from Senate Democrats on these issues of substantive due process, privacy, and bodily autonomy. On the simplest level the hearing might have been an opportunity to explain why Roe v Wade is in fact the tip of the constitutional iceberg; that the same doctrinal underpinnings at risk in this term’s looming catastrophe of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization could lead to existential losses of countless other freedoms. But the hearings were framed as if Republicans stand to lose the court, and the midterms, while the Democrats behaved as if the future of the courts, the Senate, and democracy itself has no bearing on what happened inside the Senate chamber.

Please read the rest at Slate.

More reads to check out on this topic:

Mark Joseph Stern at Slate: The Ketanji Brown Jackson Hearings Show Marriage Equality Is the Next Target Once Roe Falls.

Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post: GOP grandstanders aren’t the only reason Jackson’s confirmation hearings were so disgraceful.

Glenn Kessler at The Washington Post: These Trump judges failed Hawley’s sentencing test for Jackson.

The New York Times: QAnon Cheers Republican Attacks on Jackson. Democrats See a Signal.

The Washington Post: American Bar Association says Jackson is ‘A-plus’ on final day of confirmation hearings.

Ukraine War

CNN: Ukrainians claim to have destroyed large Russian warship in Berdyansk.

Lviv, Ukraine (CNN) Ukrainian armed forces said they destroyed a large Russian landing ship at the port of Berdyansk in southern Ukraine on Thursday.

The port, which had recently been occupied by Russian forces with several Russian warships in dock, was rocked by a series of heavy explosions soon after dawn.

Social media videos showed fires raging at the dockside, with a series of secondary explosions reverberating across the city.

The Armed Forces of Ukraine said they had “destroyed a large landing ship,” which they named as the “Orsk”in a post on Facebook.

The Ukrainian armed forces said that besides destroying the Orsk, two more ships were damaged.

“A 3,000-ton fuel tank was also destroyed. The fire spread to the enemy’s ammunition depot. Details of the damage inflicted on the occupier are being clarified,” they said.

It’s not known what weapon was used to attack the port.

More Ukraine/Russia reads

CNN: The bodies of Russian soldiers are piling up in Ukraine, as Kremlin conceals true toll of war.

The Economist: The Stalinisation of Russia. As it sinks in that he cannot win in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin is resorting to repression at home.

Douglas London at The Wall Street Journal: Spies Will Doom Putin. After invading Ukraine, he’s tightening the screws the way the Soviets did—and that will help the CIA recruit Russians.

Lawrence Freedman at Comment is Freed: Losing Wars and Saving Face.

I guess that’s enough to keep us busy. I hope Thursday goes well for you and yours.