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?


Tuesday Reads: Indiana Summer Blogging

Summer thunderstorm in Indiana

Summer thunderstorm in Indiana

Good Morning!!

I’m still staying with my mother in Indiana. Her 90th birthday party was a huge success. Everyone that we expected showed up, and I got to talk to some cousins I haven’t seen in ages–except on Facebook. The weather sort of cooperated. It had been raining for days, but we just had intermittent showers on Saturday, the day of the party. We had the canopy set up over part of the driveway so the tables were on solid ground. We had too much food, so we donated some of it to a local homeless mission, ate some leftovers, and froze the rest. Since that day, we’ve had gorgeous sunny weather.

The image above of the first lighting strike of an Indiana thunderstorm comes from Schweiger Photo. I’m including other scenic photos of various parts of Indiana throughout this post.

Supreme Court Decisions and Reactions to Them

A country road in Randolph County, Indiana

A country road in Randolph County, Indiana

The U.S. Supreme Court continues to dominate the news today. I know you have already heard about the terrible decision to allow Oklahoma to continue using drugs that cause intense, extended pain for their inhuman executions. The U.S. Constitution forbids cruel and unusual punishment, but Samuel Alito thinks it’s much more important to preserve the death penalty than to worry about whether the victims feel like they are being burned alive.

Carimah Townes at Think Progress: It’s ‘The Chemical Equivalent Of Being Burned At The Stake.’ And Now It’s Legal.

By a vote of 5-4, the Supreme Court ruled Monday that the use of the lethal injection drug midazolam does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment. The ruling comes more than a year after the botched executions of several inmates who remained conscious and experienced pain as they were put to death.

According to the majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito, “petitioners have failed to establish a likelihood of success on the merits of their claim that the use of midazolam violates the Eighth Amendment. To succeed on an Eighth Amendment method-of execution claim, a prisoner must establish that the method creates a demonstrated risk of severe pain and that the risk is substantial when compared to the known and available alternatives. Petitioners failed to establish that any risk of harm was substantial when compared to a known and available alternative method of execution. Petitioners have suggested that Oklahoma could execute them using sodium thiopental or pentobarbital, but the District Court did not commit a clear error when it found that those drugs are unavailable to the State.”

In her dissent, Justice Sotomayor wrote, “as a result, [the Court] leaves petitioners exposed to what may well be the chemical equivalent of being burned at the stake.”

The Indiana Dunes at Lake Michigan

The Indiana Dunes at Lake Michigan

Alito’s “reasoning” is that since the death penalty is “settled” law, whatever drug is available must be used even if it causes extreme pain and does not cause unconsciousness. Remember when Clayton Lockett “gasped for 43 minutes” before he finally died?

Cristian Farias at New York Magazine: In Lethal-Injection Case, the Supreme Court Essentially Ruled That Death-Row Inmates Have to Pick Their Poison.

Now we know why the Supreme Court left Glossip v. Gross a contentious case about the constitutionality of lethal-injection protocols — for the very last day of its term. Four out of five justices who had something to say in the case announced their opinions from the bench — an extremely rare occurrence that the American public won’t get to hear for itself until audio of the session is released sometime in the fall.

In a 5-to-4 decision, the justices ruled that the death-row inmates in the case failed to establish that Oklahoma’s use of midazolam, a sedative they claimed was ineffective in preventing pain, violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. The case’s various opinions and dissents run a whopping 127 pages — far longer than even the Obamacare and marriage-equality decisions. And they’re a sign that states’ methods of punishment are a major point of conflict at the court.

But Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the lead opinion, went further: He said it is up to the death-row inmates and their lawyers — and not up to Oklahoma — “to identify a known and available alternative method of execution that entails a lesser risk of pain,” which is “a requirement of all Eighth Amendment method-of-execution claims.” In other words, it is the responsibility of those condemned to death to plead and prove the best alternative method to execute them. They have to pick their poison — otherwise, no harm, no foul under the Constitution.

And just so that there aren’t any doubts, even though the case was not about the death penalty proper, Alito went out of his way to remind us that “we have time and again reaffirmed that capital punishment is not per seunconstitutional.”

Samuel Alito should never have been approved by the Senate. He’s a monster.

Indiana corn, "knee high by the Fourth of July."

Indiana corn, “knee high by the Fourth of July.”

The Court ordered that abortion clinics in Texas could remain open for the time being. Ian Millhauser at Think Progress: BREAKING: Supreme Court Allows Texas Abortion Clinics To Remain Open.

The Supreme Court issued a brief, two paragraph order on Monday permitting Texas abortion clinics that are endangered by state law requiring them to comply with onerous regulations or else shut down to remain open. The order stays a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which imposed broad limits on the women’s right to choose an abortion within that circuit.

The Court’s order is temporary and offers no direct insight into how the Court will decide this case on the merits. It provides that the clinics’ application for a stay of the Fifth Circuit’s decision is granted “pending the timely filing and disposition of a petition” asking the Court to review the case on the merits.

Ugh. I can hardly wait for the final decision./s

And then there’s the continuing unhinged right wing response to the Supremes’ decision on gay marriage. Texas Senator Ted Cruz has been in dangerous meltdown mode ever since the announcement on Friday.

A Converse County, Indiana road.

A Converse County, Indiana road.

Politico reports: Ted Cruz: States should ignore gay-marriage ruling.

“Those who are not parties to the suit are not bound by it,” the Texas Republican told NPR News’ Steve Inskeep in an interview published on Monday. Since only suits against the states of Ohio, Tennessee, Michigan and Kentucky were specifically considered in the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision, which was handed down last Friday, Cruz — a former Supreme Court clerk — believes that other states with gay marriage bans need not comply, absent a judicial order.

“[O]n a great many issues, others have largely acquiesced, even if they were not parties to the case,” the 2016 presidential contender added, “but there’s no legal obligation to acquiesce to anything other than a court judgement.”

Izzat so?

While Cruz’s statement may be technically true, federal district and circuit courts are obligated to follow the Supreme Court’s precedent and overrule all other states’ same-sex marriage bans as unconstitutional.

The Texas senator then went on to suggest that Republicans who have called for following the court’s decision are members of a “Washington cartel” and are lying when they say they do not support same-sex marriage.

“[Republican Party leaders] agree with the rulings from last week, both the Obamacare ruling and the marriage ruling,” Cruz said. “[T]he biggest divide we have politically is not between Republicans and Democrats. It’s between career politicians in both parties and the American people.”

I guess Cruz hasn’t bothered to look at the polls that show most Americans support same sex marriage–or, more likely, he couldn’t care less what Americans think about it. Get over it, Ted. Marriage equality is “settled law” now.

Another view of the Indiana Dunes.

Another view of the Indiana Dunes.

From The Hill: Cruz bashes ‘elites’ on Supreme Court.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Monday bashed “elites” on the Supreme Court for imposing their will on America’s heartland in its decision to legalize same-sex marriage.

“You’ve got nine lawyers, they are all from Harvard or Yale — there are no Protestants on the court, there are no evangelicals on the court,” the 2016 GOP presidential candidate said on NBC’s “Today,” echoing criticism from Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissenting opinion.

“The elites on the court look at much of this country as flyover country; they think that our views are simply parochial and don’t deserve to be respected.”

ROFLMAO! Earth to Ted: You graduated from Princeton and Harvard and worked under former Chief Justice Rehnquist. Obviously you think the inhabitants of “flyover country” are too stupid to know that.

A couple more reactions:

AL.com: Roy Moore: Alabama judges not required to issue same-sex marriage licenses for 25 days.

The Texas Tribune: Some Counties Withholding Same-Sex Marriage Licenses.

Following the Charleston Massacre,

A windmill on an Indiana farm

A windmill on an Indiana farm

a number of black churches have been burned in the South, according to Think Progress.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, at least six predominantly black churches in four Southern states have been damaged or destroyed by fire in the past week. While some may have been accidental, at least three have been determined to be the result of arson.

The first arson fire was on Monday at the College Hills Seventh Day Adventist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. The Knoxville fire department has said that the arsonist set multiple fires on the church’s property and the church’s van was also burned. On Tuesday, a fire in the sanctuary of God’s Power Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia was also blamed on arson, although the investigation is ongoing. And on Wednesday, a fire at the Briar Creek Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina was determined to be caused by arson, destroying an education wing that was meant to house a summer program for children, impacting its sanctuary and gymnasium, and causing an estimated $250,000 in damage.

The cause of a fire that destroyed the Glover Grover Baptist Church in Warrenville, South Carolina on Friday is unknown, while lightning is suspected in a fire that destroyed the Fruitland Presbyterian Church in Gibson County, Tennessee on Wednesday and a tree limb that fell on electrical lines is suspected in a fire at the Greater Miracle Apostolic Holiness Church in Tallahassee, Florida on Friday that destroyed the church and caused an estimated $700,000 in damage.

That is truly frightening. Read more details at the link.

A log cabin in Brown County, Indiana

A log cabin in Brown County, Indiana

Blue Nation Review: EXCLUSIVE: Bree Newsome Speaks For The First Time After Courageous Act of Civil Disobedience.

Over the weekend, a young freedom fighter and community organizer mounted an awe-inspiring campaign to bring down the Confederate battle flag. Brittany “Bree” Newsome, in a courageous act of civil disobedience, scaled a metal pole using a climbing harness, to remove the flag from the grounds of the South Carolina state capitol. Her long dread locks danced in the wind as she descended to the ground while quoting scripture. She refused law enforcement commands to end her mission and was immediately arrested along with ally James Ian Tyson, who is also from Charlotte, North Carolina.

Read all about it and see photos at the link.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread below and have a terrific Tuesday!

 


Lazy Saturday Reads

"Someone is Waiting," by David Hettinger

“Someone is Waiting,” by David Hettinger

Good Morning!!

I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that  today is a very slow news day.  Nevertheless, I’ve still managed to dig up a few interesting reads.

Long-time Clinton hater Richard Mellon Scaife has died at 82. The Associated Press reports via Politico:

Scaife died early Friday at his home, his newspaper, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, reported. Scaife’s death comes less than two months after he announced in a first-person, front-page story in his Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he had an untreatable form of cancer.

“Some who dislike me may rejoice at the news,” wrote Scaife, who acknowledged making political and other enemies. “Naturally, I can’t share their enthusiasm.”

He was the grand-nephew of Andrew Mellon, a banker and secretary of the Treasury who was involved with some of the biggest industrial companies of the early 20th century. Forbes magazine estimated Scaife’s net worth in 2013 at $1.4 billion.

The intensely private Scaife became widely known in the 1990s when first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton said her husband was being attacked by a “vast right-wing conspiracy.” White House staffers and other supporters suggested Scaife was playing a central role in the attack.

Hillary was mocked for those remarks; but today, in the aftermath of the Hobby Lobby decision, it should be obvious to all but the most oblivious and ignorant among us that the vast right wing conspiracy exists and its tentacles have reached even the U.S. Supreme Court.

Black-Girl-Reading

From Forbes, Clare O’Connor reports more Hobby Lobby Fallout: Catholic Soy Milk Mogul Won’t Cover Drugs That ‘Prevent Procreation’. Eden Foods founder Michael Potter has stated his determination to prevent his female employees from getting access to birth control, and the Supreme Court is helping him.

In April 2013, devout Catholic (and sole Eden Foods shareholder) Potter sued the Department of Health and Human Services, calling the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate “unconstitutional government overreach.”

In a letter he wrote in response to a shopper complaint that month, Potter described contraceptives as “lifestyle drugs” akin to “Viagra, smoking cessation, weight-loss” tools and other medications. (He also compared birth control to “Jack Daniels” in a contemporaneous interview with Salon.)

In October, the U.S. Court of Appeals decided against Potter, ruling that Eden Foods, as a for-profit corporation, couldn’t exercise religion.

The day after the Justices decided evangelical Hobby Lobby billionaire David Green doesn’t have to cover certain contraceptives for his employees, the Supreme Court vacated the judgment against Eden Foods and sent the case back to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit for further consideration.

“The court of appeals is ordered by the Supreme Court to follow its decision in Hobby Lobby,” said Erin Mersino, the attorney handling Potter’s case at the Christian, conservative Thomas More Law Center.

And the beat goes on . . .

At The Nation, Katha Pollit asks: Where Will the Slippery Slope of ‘Hobby Lobby’ End?

Facts are stubborn things, as John Adams famously said. Unless, that is, you’re talking about religion. Then facts don’t seem to matter at all: right you are if you think you are. The Hobby Lobby case was billed as a test of religious freedom versus the power of the state: Did the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) mean that David Green, the evangelical Christian CEO of a chain of crafts stores, could be exempt from providing coverage for the full range of contraceptives for his employees under the Affordable Care Act? Green balked at including Plan B, Ella (another form of emergency contraception) and two kinds of IUD, because, he claimed, they caused “abortion” by preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg.

The Court’s 5-to-4 decision—which featured all three women justices ruling for the workers, and all five Catholic men ruling for the corporation—was wrong in many ways. But the thing I really don’t understand is why it didn’t matter that preventing implantation is not “abortion,” according to the accepted medical definition of the term. And even if it was, Plan B, Ella and the IUDs don’t work that way, with the possible exception of one form of IUD when inserted as emergency contraception. As an amicus brief from a long list of prestigious medical organizations and researchers laid out at length, studies show that emergency contraception and the IUD preventfertilization, not implantation. They are not “abortifacients,” even under the anti-choicers’ peculiar definition of abortion. (Green is actually more moderate than some anti-choicers, who include hormonal contraception, aka “baby pesticide,” as abortion.) Why doesn’t it matter that there is no scientific evidence for Green’s position? When did Jesus become an Ob/Gyn?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Good question. Today even facts are irrelevant to Supreme Court decisions. The fact is that Democrats helped Thomas, Roberts, and Alito make it onto the Court, and now we’re stuck with these religious and ideological fanatics.

At Salon, Digby writes that Alito could have been stopped: Why Dems should have filibustered the radical. And from Peter Montgomery at HuffPo, Samuel Alito: A Movement Man Makes Good on Right-Wing Investments. Read them and weep.

Dakinikat posted this Guardian piece in the comments last night; I thought it should be included in this morning’s links: Black people were denied vanilla ice cream in the Jim Crow south – except on Independence Day.

By custom rather than by law, black folks were best off if they weren’t caught eating vanilla ice cream in public in the Jim Crow South, except – the narrative always stipulates – on the Fourth of July. I heard it from my father growing up myself, and the memory of that all-but-unspoken rule seems to be unique to the generation born between World War I and World War II.

But if Maya Angelou hadn’t said it in her classic autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, I doubt anybody would believe it today.

People in Stamps used to say that the whites in our town were so prejudiced that a Negro couldn’t buy vanilla ice cream. Except on July Fourth. Other days he had to be satisfied with chocolate.

Vanilla ice cream – flavored with a Nahuatl spice indigenous to Mexico, the cultivation of which was improved by an enslaved black man named Edmund Albius on the colonized Réunion island in the Indian Ocean, now predominately grown on the largest island of the African continent, Madagascar, and served wrapped in the conical invention of a Middle Eastern immigrant – was the symbol of the American dream. That its pure, white sweetness was then routinely denied to the grandchildren of the enslaved was a dream deferred indeed.

What makes the vanilla ice cream story less folk memory and more truth is that the terror and shame of living in the purgatory between the Civil War and civil rights movement was often communicated in ways that reinforced to children what the rules of that life were, and what was in store for them if they broke them.

Please go read the whole thing if you haven’t already.

man reading

From Politico: Why the Civil Rights Act couldn’t pass today.

It was a painful tableau: The bipartisan leaders of Congress linking hands in the Capitol Rotunda and swaying to the strains of “We Shall Overcome” as they commemorated the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi sang along with the crowd, but Mitch McConnell and John Boehner’s lips were frozen in silent, self-conscious smiles.

The climate in today’s Washington is so different from the one that produced what many scholars view as the most important law of the 20th century that celebrating the law’s legacy is awkward for Republicans and Democrats alike. Neither party bears much resemblance to its past counterpart, and the bipartisanship that carried the day then is now all but dead….

The current congressional leaders gathered last week not to honor Johnson — or any of the legislative leaders who actually passed the landmark law — but to award a posthumous Congressional Gold Medal to The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King, whose crusade helped create the climate that made the bill possible. In his life, racial tensions helped make King such a polarizing figure that both Johnson and John F. Kennedy worried about seeming too close to him, but in martyrdom and myth, he is the only politically safe ground on which present day leaders could unite.

They are all so pathetic. And this is beyond pathetic: Callers Use C-SPAN Civil Rights Discussion To Complain About White Oppression (VIDEO).

“Washington Journal” host Steve Scully listened as an “independent” caller named Thomas from Maryland told him that he is “much less liberal today” than he was in 1964 when the landmark law was signed by Lyndon B. Johnson.

“And I think the blacks have brought on most of their present-day problems themselves. They insult white people,” he told Scully. “I heard it right on your own show, I heard some black call Karl Rove a ‘white boy.’ And I don’t think that’s right. They’re attacking white people in the big cities and we’re supposed to put up with that kind of stuff and like them and say, ‘Well, come into our neighborhood.’ And how about the discussion of the black crime that goes on in this country?”

The caller went on to complain that the discrimination endured by Irish, Mormons and Italians is widely ignored.

“You people will never, never discuss that. You only discuss the discrimination against the black people,” he said.

Is that sick or what?

A few more news links:

Information Week on private tech companies treatment of their customers, Facebook Mood Manipulation: 10 Bigger Problems.

Fox News: Suspect arrested in Bourbon St. shootings.

USA Today: Seven hurt in Indianapolis shootings.

WSJ: A Weakened Hurricane Arthur Heads Toward Nova Scotia

ABC News: Before Boston Attack, Alleged Bomber Posed With Black Flag of Jihad at Local Mosque.

So . . . what stories are you reading and blogging about? Please share your links in the comment thread, and enjoy the rest of the long weekend!


Fourth of July Reads

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Good Morning!!

Today we celebrate the Declaration of Independence. I’ve assembled a few informational readings about this day in history.

From The Cagle Post: Fourth of July Fast Facts.

“I’m confused. I thought July 4 was the day our country declared independence from King George III of Great Britain.”

“Actually, according to ConstitutionFacts.com, that’s not so. The Continental Congress declared independence from Great Britain on July 2, 1776.”

“Then why do we celebrate our independence on the Fourth every year? Is that when we started the American Revolution?”

“That is a common misunderstanding, as well. The American Revolution began in April 1775, more than a year earlier.”

“I’m stumped. Was the Fourth the day Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence?”

“Nope. Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft in June 1776. Also, Jefferson didn’t write the Declaration alone.”

“He didn’t? I always thought he was the sole author.”

“A common misconception. In fact, the Continental Congress appointed a five-person to write the Declaration. It included Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Robert Livingston and Roger Sherman.” ….

“Though Jefferson wrote the first draft, it was changed 86 times by other members of the committee and other members of the Continental Congress.”

I did not know that.

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David Armitage at The Wall Street Journal: The Declaration of Independence: The Words Heard Around the World.

The Declaration of Independence is the birth certificate of the American nation—the first public document ever to use the name “the United States of America”—and has been fundamental to American history longer than any other text. It enshrined what came to be seen as the most succinct and memorable statement of the ideals on which the U.S. was founded: the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; the consent of the governed; and resistance to tyranny.

But the Declaration’s influence wasn’t limited to the American colonies of the late 18th century. No American document has had a greater impact on the wider world. As the first successful declaration of independence in history, it helped to inspire countless movements for independence, self-determination and revolution after 1776 and to this very day. As the 19th-century Hungarian nationalist, Lajos Kossuth, put it, the U.S. Declaration of Independence was nothing less than “the noblest, happiest page in mankind’s history.”

In telling this story of global influence, however, it is important to separate two distinct elements of the Declaration—elements that sometimes get conflated. The first of these is the assertion of popular sovereignty to create a new state: in the Declaration’s words, the right of “one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them.” The second and more famous element of the Declaration is its ringing endorsement of the sanctity of the individual: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.”

Read much more at the link.

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From the LA Times: The slow-spreading news of American independence.

In this era of instant communication, it’s interesting to note the slow distribution of the Declaration, and the spreading of the word to those on whose behalf independence had been declared. (Imagine the Twitter version: Dudes, we’re on our own. #independence #totallyrad #stickitkinggeorge).

The text was set in type by Philadelphia printer John Dunlap just hours after the Continental Congress approved the manifesto on July 4. He ran off about 200 copies, most of which were then distributed via horse and boat around the Colonies. He reprinted it in his own newspaper, Dunlap’s Pennsylvania Packet, or The General Advertiser (great newspaper names back then). Over the next few weeks, Jefferson’s stirring words were reprinted inlocal newspapers and pamphlets around the Colonies.

And, naturally, in Britain. It took more than a month for the first reports of the Declaration to reach Britain in letters ferried by the Mercury packet ship. Gen. William Howe, who was leading the crown’s forces in the Colonies, included a brief mention in his report to his overseers. So the first public airing of the news came in the London Gazette, the crown’s official paper. If you weren’t a close reader, you could have easily missed it.

In the four-page issue dated Aug. 6-Aug. 10, 1776, the Gazette’s lead story was Howe’s update of the war, reporting that “the Rebels, who are numerous, and are very advantageously posted with strong Entrenchments both upon Long Island and that of New York, with more than One Hundred pieces of Cannon for the Defence of the Town towards the Sea, and to obstruct the passage of the [British] Fleet up the North [Hudson] River, besides a considerable Field Train of artillery.”

Finally, Carina Kolodny at Huffington Post: This Is Not Your Independence Day.

The 4th of July might commemorate the independence of our country — but it also serves as a bitter reminder that in 1776, the country that I love had no place for me in it.

When our founding fathers penned, “All men are created equal,” they meant it. Not all people. Not all humans. Just all men — the only reason they didn’t feel obliged to specify “white” men is because, at the time, men of color were considered less than men, less than human.

The 4th is not my Independence Day — and if you’re a Caucasian woman, it isn’t yours either. Our “independence” didn’t come for another 143 years, with the passage of The Woman’s Suffrage Amendment in 1919. The 4th of July is also not Independence Day for people of color. It wasn’t until the 15th Amendment was ratified in 1870 that all men had the right to vote regardless of race — on paper, that is, not in practice. People of color were systematically, and all too successfully, disenfranchised for another century. July 4th of 1776 was certainly not a day of Independence or reverence for Native Americans. It wasn’t until 1924 that Native Americans could unilaterally become citizens of the United States and have the voting rights to go with it.

Now, before anyone argues that Independence is about more than voting rights, I’d like to point out that our Founding Fathers would fundamentally disagree with you. The Revolutionary War was fought, in large part, because of “taxation without representation” — the then English colonists believed they were not free because their voices were not represented. The right to vote, the right to have your say is the delineating characteristic of a democracy.

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The Aftermath of the Hobby Lobby Decision

On that note, today many concerned citizens are looking back at the latest Supreme Court decisions that take women backwards in their pursuit of freedom and autonomy. The court-approved limits on access to birth control go beyond the Hobby Lobby decision. Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog: Broader right to object to birth control.

Expanding the rights of religious opponents of birth control, a divided Supreme Court on Thursday afternoon spared an Illinois college — and maybe hundreds of other non-profit institutions — from obeying government regulations that seek to assure access to pregnancy prevention services for female workers and students.  In the same order, the majority essentially told the government to modify its own rules if it wants to keep those services available.

Three Justices wrote a sharply worded dissent, accusing the majority of creating on its own a “new administrative regime” that will seriously complicate the operation of the birth control mandate under the new federal health care law.  The majority, the dissenters said, “has no reason to think that the administrative scheme it foists on the government today is workable or effective on a national scale.”

The ruling, which the majority insisted was temporary and had settled nothing finally about the legal issues at stake, came three days after the Court in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby had given for-profit businesses whose owners have religious objections to birth control a right to refuse to provide those services in their employee health plans.

The plea by Wheaton College, a religious institution in Illinois with about 3,000 students, moved the Court beyond for-profit firms to the world of non-profit religious colleges, hospitals, and other charities.  The government had already moved to accommodate their beliefs, but that had not gone far enough for the college and for scores of other non-profits.  With the Court’s new order, they gained additional separation from the birth-control mandate.

At Mother Jones, Kevin Drum writes: Supreme Court Now Playing Cute PR Games With Hobby Lobby Decision.

For the last few days, there’s been a broad argument about whether the Hobby Lobby ruling was a narrow one—as Alito himself insisted it was—or was merely an opening volley that opened the door to much broader rulings in the future. After Tuesday’s follow-up order—which expanded the original ruling to cover all contraceptives, not just those that the plaintiffs considered abortifacients—and today’s order—which rejected a compromise that the original ruling praised—it sure seems like this argument has been settled. This is just the opening volley. We can expect much more aggressive follow-ups from this court in the future.

POSTSCRIPT: It’s worth noting that quite aside from whether you agree with the Hobby Lobby decision, this is shameful behavior from the conservatives on the court. As near as I can tell, they’re now playing PR games worthy of a seasoned politico, deliberately releasing a seemingly narrow opinion in order to generate a certain kind of coverage, and then following it up later in the sure knowledge that its “revisions” won’t get nearly as much attention.

At Slate, , and  explain that Hobby Lobby rewrites religious-freedom law in ways that ignore everything that came before.

Monday’s decision in Hobby Lobby was unprecedented. Much of the commentary has focused on the Supreme Court’s decision to extend rights of religious free exercise to for-profit corporations. Hobby Lobby is for religion what Citizens United was for free speech—the corporatization of our basic liberties. But Hobby Lobby is also unprecedented in another, equally important way. For the first time, the court has interpreted a federal statute, theReligious Freedom Restoration Act (or RFRA), as affording more protection for religion than has ever been provided under the First Amendment. While some have read Hobby Lobby as a narrow statutory ruling, it is much more than that. The court has eviscerated decades of case law and, having done that, invites a new generation of challenges to federal laws, including those designed to protect civil rights.

The authors explain how the right wing Roberts Court has moved beyond any concern for legal precedent in making its decisions.

Hobby Lobby is unprecedented because it corporatizes religious liberty. It extends to for-profit businesses the rights and privileges that have long been associated only with churches and religious nonprofits. But that change is the result of a more pervasive and deeper upending of the law of religious liberty in America. Ignoring congressional intent, the court reads RFRA as having shed its First Amendment skin. It is not entirely clear what American law will look like after that change. But if anything is clear, it is that the Roberts Court is now unconstrained by precedent. It has loosened itself from decades of First Amendment doctrine and has begun remaking the law of free exercise.

Please read the whole thing.

Ironically, the Hobby Lobby decision may have also created some serious problems for the human beings who own corporations (h/t Dakinikat). From Mother Jones: How Hobby Lobby Undermined The Very Idea of a Corporation. Basically, now that SCOTUS has said that some corporations are inseparable from the people who own them, those owners could lose their legal protection from debts and lawsuits that result from corporate actions. There’s some instant Karma for you!

In Other News

A few more links for your holiday reading pleasure:

Miami Herald: FBI records: Chilling find in Bradenton dumpster (new clues to Saudi involvement in the 9/11 and the cover-up of that involvement by the Bush/Cheney administration).

Study links Oklahoma earthquake swarm with fracking operations 

Boston Globe: People prefer electric shocks to time alone with thoughts.

LA Times: Tibetans get high-altitude edge from extinct Denisovans’ genes.

What stories are you following on this Independence Day?

 


Tuesday Reads: Most Classless SCOTUS Justice, Ongoing Snowden Saga, and Other News

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Good Morning!!

I’m enjoying some nice fresh air this morning after thunderstorms during the night. It looks as if the mini-heat wave we’ve been having here in the Boston area isn’t going to be as quite bad as originally predicted. It it supposed to be several degrees cooler than expected today and tomorrow and then we’re back to high 70’s temps. I hope that turns out to be right.

Unfortunately, because of this refreshing change in the air here, I slept longer than I should have and this post will go up a little bit late.

If there were a competition for “most classless supreme court justice,” there would be some serious competition among Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito; but I think in the end the first prize would have to go to Samuel Alito. Clarence Thomas at least has the grace to remain silent and Scalia supposedly can be funny at times. But Alito is just an immature, obnoxious disgrace, as he demonstrated at the State of the Union Address in 2010 when President Obama denounced the Citizens United decision.

Yesterday Alito used childish, offensive body language to publicly mock his senior colleague Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as she read a dissenting opinion to a SCOTUS decision that will make it more difficult for employees to sue for sexual or racial discrimination. From Dana Millbank at The Washington Post:

The most remarkable thing about the Supreme Court’s opinions announced Monday was not what the justices wrote or said. It was what Samuel Alito did.

The associate justice, a George W. Bush appointee, read two opinions, both 5-4 decisions that split the court along its usual right-left divide. But Alito didn’t stop there. When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg read her dissent from the bench, Alito visibly mocked his colleague.

Ginsburg, the second woman to serve on the high court, was making her argument about how the majority opinion made it easier for sexual harassment to occur in the workplace when Alito, seated immediately to Ginsburg’s left, shook his head from side to side in disagreement, rolled his eyes and looked at the ceiling.

His treatment of the 80-year-old Ginsburg, 17 years his elder and with 13 years more seniority, was a curious display of judicial temperament or, more accurately, judicial intemperance. Typically, justices state their differences in words — and Alito, as it happens, had just spoken several hundred of his own from the bench. But he frequently supplements words with middle-school gestures.

Millbank goes on the describe Alito’s similar treatment of female Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor a few days earlier. Read about it at the link.

Garrett Epps provides more detail at The Atlantic: Justice Alito’s Inexcusable Rudeness.

I am glad the nation did not see first-hand Justice Samuel Alito’s display of rudeness to his senior colleague, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  Because Alito’s mini-tantrum was silent, it will not be recorded in transcript or audio; but it was clear to all with eyes, and brought gasps from more than one person in the audience.

The episode occurred when Ginsburg read from the bench her dissent in two employment discrimination cases decided Monday, Vance v. Ball State University and University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. NassarIn both cases, the Court majority made it harder for plaintiffs to prevail on claims of racial and sexual discrimination.  The Nassar opinion raises the level of proof required to establish that employers have “retaliated” against employees by firing or demoting them after they complain about discrimination; Vance limits the definition of “supervisor” on the job, making it harder for employees harassed by those with limited but real authority over them to sue the employers.

The Vance opinion is by Alito, and as he summarized the opinion from the bench he seemed to be at great pains to show that the dissent (which of course no one in the courtroom had yet seen) was wrong in its critique. That’s not unusual in a written opinion; more commonly, however, bench summaries simply lay out the majority’s rationale and mention only that there was a dissent. (Kennedy’s Nassar summary followed the latter model.)

After both opinions had been read, Ginsburg read aloud a summary of her joint dissent in the two cases.  She critiqued the Vance opinion by laying out a “hypothetical” (clearly drawn from a real case) in which a female worker on a road crew is subjected to humiliations by the “lead worker,” who directs the crew’s daily operation but cannot fire or demote those working with him. TheVance opinion, she suggested, would leave the female worker without a remedy.

At this point, Alito pursed his lips, rolled his eyes to the ceiling, and shook his head “no.” He looked for all the world like Sean Penn as Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, signaling to the homies his contempt for Ray Walston as the bothersome history teacher, Mr. Hand.

I guess I should be grateful that I’m old enough to recall the Warren Court. We won’t see a SCOTUS like that again in my lifetime, I’m afraid.

Of course the news is still being dominated by Edward Snowden, who once claimed he didn’t want the story of his leaks of classified information from NSA to be about him. “Really?” writes Dan Murphy of The Christian Science Monitor. “But if that were true, we probably wouldn’t even know his name.”

Two weeks ago, Edward Snowden gave The Guardian permission to disclose that he was the leaker of documents from the US National Security Agency.

“I don’t want public attention because I don’t want the story to be about me,” the former NSA contractor said then. “I want it to be about what the US government is doing.”

If that was really his desire, he’s certainly gone about it in a funny way. From that day, every step he’s taken couldn’t have been better calculated to draw attention to himself. Over the weekend he even turned the media dial up when he fled from Hong Kong to the loving bosom of Mother Russia.

And with the assistance of Julian Assange, Mr. Snowden’s “where’s Waldo” saga is turning into aWikiLeaks production.

Mr. Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, has staked out a consistently anti-American and techno-libertarian position in the past few years. The US government is motivated by malice and power lust in his worldview, its rivals like Russia (where state-owned broadcaster RT ran a show of Assange’s) get a free pass, and secrecyis an evil in and of itself. Though he presents himself as a champion of free-speech, Assange has sought refuge in the Embassy of Ecuador in London, never mind that the country has a poor and deteriorating record on freedom of speech. The Committee to Protect Journalists listed Ecuador and Russia as two of the 10 worst places to be a journalist in the world past year.

Read the rest at CSM.

Meanwhile, Russia and China are pushing back against U.S. criticism of their refusal to help the U.S. extradite Snowden. From The Washington Post:

MOSCOW— Russia and China on Tuesday rejected U.S. criticism of their roles in the legal drama surrounding Edward Snowden, saying their governments complied with the law and did not illegally assist the former government contractor charged with revealing classified information about secret U.S. surveillance programs.

Snowden, 30, has not been seen in public since he reportedly arrived in Moscow on Sunday, after slipping out of Hong KongSecretary of State John F. Kerry on Monday strongly urged Russian officials to transfer Snowden to U.S. custody. “We think it’s very important in terms of our relationship,” Kerry said. “We think it’s very important in terms of rule of law.”

But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Snowden had not actually crossed into Russian territory, apparently remaining in a secure transit zone inside the airport or in an area controlled by foreign diplomats. Moscow therefore has had no jurisdiction over his movements, Lavrov said, and has no legal right to turn him over to U.S. authorities.

It sounds like Snowden could still be in some VIP lounge at the Moscow Airport, but no one knows for sure. One witness told Reuters that Snowden did in fact arrive there yesterday. If he is in the airport, Russia can claim that Snowden technically never stepped on Russian soil.

In other news, Nelson Mandela is in critical condition for the second day, according to President Jacob Zuma.

Mr. Zuma said that he and Cyril Ramaphosa, the deputy president of the governing African National Congress, visited Mr. Mandela late Sunday.

“Given the hour, he was already asleep. We were there, looked at him, saw him and then we had a bit of a discussion with the doctors and his wife,” Mr. Zuma said. “I don’t think I’m in a position to give further details. I’m not a doctor.”

Doctors told Mr. Zuma on Sunday evening that Mr. Mandela’s health “had become critical over the past 24 hours,” according to an earlier statement from the presidency.

In the statement on Sunday, Mr. Zuma said that doctors were doing “everything possible to get his condition to improve and are ensuring that Madiba is well looked after and is comfortable.” Madiba is Mr. Mandela’s clan name.

The Telegraph reports that Mandela’s close relatives “have gathered at his rural homestead to discuss the failing health of the South African anti-apartheid icon who was fighting for his life in hospital.”

From NPR, President Obama today plans To Lay Out Broad Plan To Address Climate Change.

President Obama is expected to announce a sweeping plan to address climate change this afternoon.

The president has framed this issue as a moral responsibility, to leave the Earth in good shape for generations to come. But the nitty-gritty of any serious plan to address this problem is also a challenge, because it means gradually moving away from fossil fuels to renewable energy supplies — and that means there will be economic winners and losers.

Winners include companies that produce clean energy — wind, solar and geothermal energy. That energy will be more in demand, and the administration intends to expand access to public lands, where companies can build windmills and solar facilities.

Public health is also a winner, because the plan would pressure coal-fired power plants to reduce their emissions. Those plants not only produce carbon dioxide, but they are major sources of mercury, radioactive particles and chemicals that contribute to asthma.

The losers will be coal companies and the miners they employ as well as millions of Americans who can’t afford to pay higher electric bills. You can read the entire plan at the NPR link. More detail in this story at CNN. And at Business Insider, Josh Barro lists 3 Reasons Obama’s Carbon Plan Is The Best Solution Right Now

Today should be another busy news day with the ongoing Snowden saga, the President’s climate initiatives, the continuing Whitey Bulger and George Zimmerman trials, and more important SCOTUS decisions. If it gets hot here again this afternoon, I’ll have something to distract me at least. I’ll try to post an afternoon update.

Now it’s your turn. What stories are you focusing on today? Please post your links on any topic in the comment thread, and have a terrific Tuesday!!