Monday, May 30, 2022

We Have Met the Élites and They Are Ted


Ted Cruz's vast kitchen "breakfast area", with a view of the also vast patio, via New York Post.

He doesn't actually spend $23K/month for security. Looks like Republican donors do that, with the blessing of the FEC, and not to protect his house but his campaign travel, as he roams the country pretending to be a serious person looking for votes for the—ah, 2024 election, and for all I know he needs the protection, as Mark Kelly and Raphael Warnock, both running for 2022 and for different reasons subject to really frightening threats, certainly do, which Kelly's opponent apparently thinks is funny:

When a GOP candidate seeking to run against Arizona Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly recently released an ad featuring him in a Wild West shootout with Kelly and other prominent Democrats, members of both parties criticized the spot. 

Kelly’s wife, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, formed a gun control advocacy group after surviving a 2011 mass shooting in Tucson in which a gunman killed six people. Senate candidate Jim Lamon posed as an old-time sheriff having a shootout with “the DC gang” in the ad, which aired during halftime of the Super Bowl on Tucson’s NBC affiliate. His campaign subsequently said it was meant to be tongue-in-cheek.

The "DC gang", lol. That's another code for those "élites" we keep hearing about who are totally not country music–loving assault rifle–toting homeboys like Senator Cruz. 

But, just to be clear, his whole neighborhood may not be strictly gated, that's for the neighborhood's lower class, the condo owners, not three-story 4000-square-foot five-bedroom mansions like his own, but the 24/7 private security is definitely there.

River Oaks is a subdivision within the Houston Super Neighborhood #23 and is located in between Uptown and Downtown Houston. River Oaks is said to be one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Texas and the U.S. as a whole. It is two square miles of mansions and exclusive estates, each valued in the millions of dollars. Security for the area is maintained by a private agency called the River Oaks Patrol, which boasts one of the lowest crime rates in the city of Houston.

We don't know how much he pays for it, but we do know it's the kind of personal service–oriented. company that will take care of your dog if a cold snap and massive citywide power failure force your family to flee to Cancún, as we learned when that happened to the Cruz family last year.

Anyway, I just wanted to share this evidence that Ted Cruz knows exactly what "élite" means, which has little to do with tastes in popular music or guns: it means him (along with, no doubt, some people who are less committed to tax cutting for the rich and deregulating capitalist excess, but mostly him). 

Sunday, May 29, 2022

The First Moral Majority


Denarius from 44 B.C.E., the year of Julius Caesar's death, showing Julius on the obverse and his claimed ancestor (and Aeneas's mother), the goddess Venus. Image by Classical Numismatic Group via Wikipedia.

Religion played a curious role in the beginning of the Pax Romana starting around 30 B.C.E. with the final victory of the person we think of as Octavian—though that's just an adjective, apparently, meaning "guy from the Octavius family"; he'd been going through a lot of names since the assassination of the great-uncle and adoptive father Julius Caesar in 44 left him heir to two thirds of Julius's vast fortune and most of his political following, starting with Gaius Caesar and then, after the deification of Julius in 42, Divi Filius, "Son of the God"), and then Imperator Caesar, "General Caesar" without any forename, like a Star Wars character, and for a while Romulus, after the city's mythical founder and first king, another deified character. And finally in 27 got the Senate to grant him, alongside the political title Princeps ("First" in the Senate), a religious name, Augustus ("consecrated, sacred, reverend" according to Lewis and Short, reverendus being of course a Latin gerundive or future passive participle, "to be revered in the future"), which I take to be an announcement that he, like his great-uncle, would be a god when he died. As subsequently happened. 

Augustus was a political genius, without any doubt, and his aim to secure internal peace after a good 60 years of constant civil war in Rome and all across its enormous territories in Europe, Asia, and Africa, seems like a worthy one—especially since it really worked for 200 years, through unimaginably bad emperors and reasonably good ones, the institutions he created as a legacy being more durable than his frail human heirs. But there's something spookily familiar about the way he did it, putting a permanent end to the tradition of representative government in the Republic to take absolute power for himself, but selling that to the public as a conservative policy, a return to the good old, virile Republican virtues, the representation of a Moral Majority to replace a political one.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Whig History


The Tories and the Whigs, Pulling for a Crown. Via History Collection.


It's religion that allows the excesses of authority, in exactly the way I describe, in that discussion and others: power is constrained by limits of force and, later — post 1215, as we're taught in school — by law (a concept that reaches its revolutionary fruition in the 18th Century, in America and France). For millennia the king had unlimited power, as an expression of ownership, he owned the country and sublet it to his Lords, who were called into service to defend it against other fiefdoms or countries. The point is that the whole thing was property + force = authority — two utterly concrete (meaning, not abstract) elements — until law was placed atop the hierarchy...

religion lets a particular group 1) control the framework of morality absolutely, undergirding states, treaties, laws, everything else...2) within that authoritarian mandate, lets a small group absolutely control the parameters...and 3) is designed to work in terms of the antiquated, the outmoded, and the medieval (so that the elements of civilization are, as they say, "deprecated"). It's the perfect formula for tyrannical control.

If I'm correct in my utopian predictions, the 21st Century will be remembered as the moment when humanity finally outgrew and cast off that ancient shackle. We can't pretend the question isn't being forced — we could hold onto all of it the way we retain so many outmoded rituals (like the father "giving away" the bride in marriage), but they're forcing us to call the question and dump it all.

Jordan's picture, which I may well have been reading wrong, and if so forgive me, looked to me like what they call "whig history", the picture of history developed in Britain after the end of the Napoleonic wars, as the Whig party was turning into the Liberals, characterizing the whole of history as

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Does inequality cause gun violence? More than you might think

We interrupt our regular scheduled programming to bring you a take, relevant to yesterday's horror in Texas:

It is clear, or ought to be clear, that we have too many guns in this country, far too many, just crazy amounts of them serving no valid purpose (as Joe Biden pointed out there aren't any deer out there in Kevlar vests), but it should also be clear that we have too much untreated mental illness, partly because we won't spend any money on it 

Monday, May 23, 2022

Notes on Christianism

Still from Pier Paolo Pasolini, Il Vangelo di Matteo (1964), via a blog called "El Primo de Marty Feldman".

So Cardinal Cordileone ("Lion's Heart") has excommunicated Speaker Pelosi, at least when she's in San Francisco—I don't suppose he can stop priests elsewhere from ministering to her—over her support for laws permitting abortion in a society that is 78% non-Catholic. 

Excommunication seems pretty crazy to me all the way around. It's not like shunning, where the criminal is sent into complete social exile. Excommunicated Catholics remain legally part of the community, they're even expected to attend Mass like everybody else, but they're barred from the sacraments, remaining in their seats while the congregation goes up to receive communion. It occurs to me that that is exactly the opposite of what happens in the Gospel narrative, as Matthew tells it: during the Passover seder service on the evening before his death, Jesus literally hears Judas's confession (though Judas doesn't realize he's confessing)

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Narratology: The Plot Against the King


Kash Patel has released his memoir, on how he personally saved "handsome King Donald" from the machinations of Hillary Queenton and Keeper Komey to knock him off the throne, before he even got a chance to mount it! Or as he puts it himself in his own little blurb, "the true story behind the Steele Dossier, and the Russian collusion narrative," only with better costumes, and fewer details. Only $19.99 from Beacon of Freedom Publishing House. I think Kash is the flashy bearded wizard in blue-green, at upper left.

I hate to tell you, this may not be the actual story, not only because Donald wasn't ever actually the king, which we basically don't have in our country, but also because Special Counsel John Durham, hired by former attorney general Barr to investigate the insidious plot in which the Clinton campaign commissioned a British Russia expert to make up a crazy story about candidate Trump conspiring with Russian intelligence in order to, um—get the FBI to find out whether the crazy story was true or not, has so far been unable to find any evidence that it existed. 

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, because as you or I could have told him, it didn't. The FBI's investigation into the Trump campaign was inspired by Georgie Papadopoulos and his prophecy that the Russians had thousands of emails that they could use to sink the Clinton campaign, and it turned out that they actually did have thousands of emails that they used in the hope of sinking the Clinton campaign, and Trump was on TV asking them to please find more and saying "I love WikiLeaks!" And even that wasn't enough to persuade the FBI to investigate Trump himself, which waited until he became president and made himself look ridiculously guilty by firing the FBI director, telling the Russian foreign minister and the Russian ambassador at an unannounced private Oval Office meeting,

Friday, May 20, 2022

The Brooks of Wrath

David Brooks getting to know his deplorables. Image by Driftglass.


David F. Brooks, fan of data-heavy perspectives on policy issues, taking exception to a data-heavy perspective on a politics issue ("How Democrats Can Win the Morality Wars"):

I’m a fan of FiveThirtyEight, a website that looks at policy issues from a data-heavy perspective, but everyone publishes a clunker once in a while. In February, FiveThirtyEight ran a piece called “ Why Democrats Keep Losing Culture Wars.” The core assertion was that Republicans prevail because a lot of Americans are ignorant about issues like abortion and school curriculum, and they believe the lies the right feeds them. The essay had a very heavy “deplorables are idiots” vibe.

(Reading FiveThirtyEight for its coverage of policy issues is a lot like reading Playboy for the arts criticism, eccentric to say the least—I can't believe Brooks said that, unless he actually doesn't know that "policy" and "politics" in English mean two different things. Everybody knows the sexy part is the horserace stuff.)

Is the core assertion of the piece (by Alex Samuels and Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux, inspired largely by Glenn Youngkin's victory in last fall's Virginia gubernatorial race) that Republicans prevail because "a lot" of Americans are ignorant about issues like abortion and school curriculum so they believe the lies Republicans tell them? Well, no, it really isn't. It's that Republicans carefully choose issues to lie about that aren't really issues; things most Americans don't need to know much about, that can be exploited not factually but emotionally—

B. Franklin Update


Garden angelica as depicted in Köhler's Medizinal-Pflanzen, 1887, via Wikipedia

I was telling you how Benjamin Franklin, at the tender age of 23, was making fun of his ex-employer Samuel Keimer for accidentally publishing a kind of guide to self-induced abortions in his Philadelphia newspaper. 

A wonderful discovery from Molly Farrell at Slate is that 19 years later, in 1748, he published such a guide himelf, in all seriousness, as a public service, by tacking the Virginian John Tennent's The Poor Planter's Physician onto his pirate edition of a popular British how-to manual, The Instructor; Tennent's treatise included advice on how to deal with a missed period, the "suppression of the courses", a "common Complaint among unmarry'd Women", by treating it (a week before you "expect" to be missing it!) with angelica, also known as "bellyache root":

Franklin’s choice to get Tennent’s pamphlet into the hands of readers all over the colonies meant that anyone learning to read, write, and calculate with his book would also have access to the leading available treatment for ending a pregnancy. Tennent’s handbook prescribes angelica, an herb known to be an effective abortifacient in the early stages of pregnancy for thousands of years, and which was frequently recommended across early modern herbal books.* Moreover, the recipe refers to several herbal abortifacients known at the time:

For this Misfortune, you must purge with Highland Flagg, (commonly called Bellyach Root) a Week before you expect to be out of Order; and repeat the same two Days after; the next Morning drink a Quarter of Pint of Pennyroyal Water, or Decoction, with 12 Drops of Spirits of Harts-horn, and as much again at Night, when you go to Bed. Continue this 9 Days running; and after resting 3 Days, go on with it for 9 more.

Farrell connects the publication with Franklin's lifelong promotion of education for girl and women, especially in math (which was the main subject of The Instructor), as well as with the further evidence contra Alito of how "deeply rooted" abortion rights were in "our history and traditions" if your world was a world in which women had some autonomy . It's a lovely piece, with an illustration so good I don't want to steal it, just go read it.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

The Zinger That Wasn't


Some effort to award young Doocy a point over the new White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre on Monday, in her official debut, on the part of this RealClear reporter:

I don't know whether the story is going to have any legs or not, but in the first place, everybody but billionaires and MMTers recognizes that raising taxes is a way to reduce inflation—inflation is when there's too much money circulating, and taxation pulls the money out of circulation. Though its effectiveness must depend on who or what is getting taxed, and what possible side effects it might have; some Bloomberg idiot at WaPo writes, for instance, that it can cause an overtime rejection crisis among the fed-up workers

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Election Day


Image via The Geek Anthropologist.

New Yorkers from upstate and Long Island may not even realize it, but today is Election Day for them—an election in which hardly anybody normally bothers to vote, for their local school boards (in New York City, we don't have them at all, having surrendered the Education Department to mayoral control under the Bloomberg administration), because how is that even important?

It's becoming important now, as a key component of the web in which Republicans are attempting to take control with the bogus issues of "critical race theory" and anti-trans terror focusing on girls' bathrooms and sports teams, and the right to bully LGTBQ+ kids in general, and COVID masking and shutdowns. The enemy can bring out voters in some force, no doubt generally old people with no schoolchildren of their own; former GOP lieutenant governor and celebrated Pants-on-Fire liar Betsey McCaughey warns readers at the New York Post that 

In school-board elections from Long Island to Albany and westward Tuesday, New York parents outraged by the indoctrination and sexualization of their children will try to wrest control.

Don't let them succeed. Please please please check with your local media and find out what you can about the candidates and vote! On other races...

For the Record: Grindelwald on "Mainstream Democrats"

I didn't spend much time on the East Side during my ten years in Buffalo, to my shame, if you like, and certainly to my loss, as is proven by the one occasion I remember—a visit to a jazz club somewhere near Jefferson Avenue to hear a couple of sets by the McCoy Tyner Quartet, which was transcendentally good, maybe 1978. 

I won't say I was like Bill O'Reilly being astonished to learn that they had cloth napkins in Sylvia's in Harlem, because I wasn't, but I wish I would have thought about going there more often.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Literary Corner: Tragic Event


A Tragic Event

By Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States of America

I think they had
a tragic event
in Buffalo.

Tragic event
in Buffalo with
numerous people being killed.

In 18 months in Afghanistan,
we lost nobody.
No, agreed, it's not funny.

I might as well note that, if he's really trying to brag about how he managed the US war against Afghanistan better than President Biden is managing the race war Trump is busy fomenting in New York State and elsewhere in the US, it wouldn't be true at all. The Trump administration was prosecuting a was in Afghanistan for all 48 months. Though the toll of dead American military was greatly reduced for its last 11 months, after the administration negotiated the surrender to the Taliban in February 2020 (leaving the Biden administration to carry the surrender terms out in August 2021, when the Taliban were unable to prevent their Qa'eda enemies from killing another 13 American soldiers), and included no further combat deaths, but I have no idea what "18 months" he would be talking about.

Via Wikipedia.

While the last year of stochastic terrorism on US soil under the Trump administration included 22 murders:

  • Of the 7,750 hate crime offenses classified as crimes against persons in 2020, 53.1% were for intimidation, 27.9% were for simple assault, and 17.9% were for aggravated assault. Twenty-two (22) murders and 21 rapes were reported as hate crimes. The remaining 32 hate crime offenses were reported in the category of other.
  • Of the 3,147 hate crime offenses classified as crimes against property, most (74.1%) were acts of destruction/damage/vandalism. Robbery, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, arson, and other offenses accounted for the remaining 25.9% of crimes against property.
That's following up on the 51 hate crime murders reported in 2019, including the killing of 22 in an El Paso Walmart in February in "response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas" (an imaginary invasion that was a big element of Trump's 2016 election campaign). 

Official statistics aren't out yet for 2021, but my impression is in spite of the horrific spike in hate crimes against Asian Americans and African Americans, there really have been fewer fatalities since President Biden took office (eight deaths last year from the Atlanta serial killer who claimed to be driven not by hate but by "sex addiction", three awful murders of women in New York City this year so far before Saturday's white nationalist massacre of 10 in Buffalo). It's idiotic trying to keep score anyway (remembering the times Norway and New Zealand jumped to the top of the world list), but I can't seem to help myself, sorry.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Good News, Maybe

Kash air guitar dance moves. Vvia India Abroad.

This is something I landed on completely by chance, and I have no idea who else knows about it, except to the extent that the Establishment Media don't seem to, or at any rate they aren't talking about it, involving Mr. Kash Patel, the Devin Nunes staffer who ended up playing a peculiarly ambiguous role in the Trumpery, alongside the equally ambiguous Ezra Cohen-Watnick, of getting cycled into Trump administration jobs where nobody wanted him or seemed to know what he was supposed to be doing, leading to a certain amount of paranoia in which I myself was, not to put too fine a point on it, participating, especially after Mark Esper suddenly got fired as secretary of defense (on 9 November, 2020, shortly after the November 2020 election) and Patel suddenly got posted to the Pentagon as chief of staff to Esper's acting replacement, Christopher Miller, and we all started wondering why (Trump had floated the idea of making him deputy director of the FBI before, and acting CIA director after that).

As with so many other still-mysterious aspects of the Trump presidency, there’s a riddle at the center of Patel’s many activities. Beyond the basic goal of advancing Trump’s personal agenda, was there a larger mission? Was there a systematic plan, for example, to gain control of the nation’s intelligence and military command centers as part of Trump’s effort to retain the presidency, despite his loss in the November 2020 election? Or was this a more capricious campaign driven by Trump’s personal pique and score-settling without a clear strategy?

I was imagining things less grand and horrifying than that; I was thinking of him and his fellow minions rifling through the files drawers of DOD and pulling incriminating documents, to keep them out of the hands of the huge investigations that would no doubt be engulfing them all  after President-elect Biden was sworn in. Maybe something like the documents he was wishing for in February 2021:

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Left But Not Left Behind


Mercator projection with Tissot's indicatrixes of distortion in the form of the red circles, each of which represents an area with a 10,000-kilometer diameter. Image by Justin Kumimune via Wikipedia.

A brief encounter with some Naderite yielded a pretty good analogy

it's kind of spectacular how much he didn't get it:

Yes indeed, you can, and you can flatten a globe into a Mercator projection,  but when you're planning global activities you don't pretend to believe that Greenland is really twice the size of South America or that Anchorage is 25,000 miles from Vladivostok. Making a practical use of the left-right spectrum as a basis for decision making is like deliberately setting out to make yourself an order of magnitude dumber than a flat-earther.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Lemon, Aid


Drawing via Antarctica Journal.

Roy at his Substack and others are understandably feeling heated about the people who aren't feeling heated at all, who call themselves liberals but seem more concerned about the comfort and quiet of Supreme Court justices in their upscale neighborhoods than the 50-odd percent of the population with wombs whose rights are being snatched away by those same justices

It’s pretty wild to see how easily leaders from both sides of the aisle accepted this fraudulent crisis at face value when the engineers of the assault on our rights were the alleged targets.  At the same time, when you talk about the very real danger the draft Dobbs decision poses to not only the right to abortion but also other unenumerated rights such as gay marriage and contraception — as can be clearly read in Alito’s opinion — not to mention the dead certainty that Republicans will use the decision to try and ban abortion outright nationwide, the toffs don’t seem nearly as exercised.

Part of the reason, I think, is because conservatives are loudly declaring that they won’t do any such thing, and the Very Serious Democrats cannot bring themselves to suggest they’re lying.

I'm wondering if the Very Serious Democrats—TV civility Democrats like Paul Begala and Chris Coons, are worth the attention. For one thing,

Monday, May 9, 2022

Opinions: Postscript

Ruta graveolens, rue, meaning "repentenance", though as Ophelia says "we may call it herb of grace o' Sundays." Photo via BardGarden.

I found a terrific piece of actual scholarship, as opposed to bloggy poking around in the evidence, in support of my guesses on the legal status of abortion in early modern England, in Carla Spivack, "To 'Bring Down the Flowers': The Cultural Context of Abortion Law in Early Modern England", in William and Mary Journal of Women and Law XIV/1 (2007), which took on the 2006 book by Joseph Dellapenna that may well have been Alito's basic source, Dispelling the Myths of Abortion History, and its assertion that

contrary to Justice Blackmun's historic analysis in Roe, "abortion was considered a serious crime throughout most of European history" and that "courts did... punish abortions before quickening during the Middle Ages."

On the contrary, Spivack shows,

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Opinions We Never Finished Reading. IV

Meanwhile, beyond the grim world of the witch killers Coke and Hale, there's evidence of more relaxed attitudes on both sides of the Atlantic, in some places that you might not expect at all. 

For instance, in 1729, around the same time as the prosecution of Eleanor Beare, a brand new newspaper, the Philadelphia Gazette, published by Samuel Keimer, was running a series of articles, presumably pirated, from a new English reference work, Chambers' Cyclopaedia, in alphabetical order, and apparently not paying enough attention to what he was issuing. It included a lengthy discussion of Abortion in the fifth number, which had been okay in a bound volume in England, but too explicit for the comfort of an American newspaper audience, reading a little like a how-to manual:

Anyway, none other than that first fearless American comedian-blogger, Benjamin Franklin, had a number of grudges against Keimer, who had given him his first job when he came to Philadelphia as a 17-year-old in 1723, and undercut his own plan to start a newspaper by founding the Gazette at the end of 1728. Franklin and some friends really intended to drive Keimer out of business, in a series of  satirical opinion columns published under the nym "The Busy-Body", in Andrew Bradford's American Weekly Mercury. He began, however, by mocking Keimer over the abortion article, in the following bogus letters to the editor of the Mercury:

Friday, May 6, 2022

Opinions We Never Finished Reading. III


Frontispiece from Matthew Hopkins' The Discovery of Witches (1647), showing witches identifying their familiar spirits for the Witch Finder. Via Wikipedia.

Hi, it's Stupid to criticize Justice Alito for citing a 17th-century jurist just because the jurist, Lord Edward Coke, happened to be an advocate of marital rape and had ordered women to be executed for witchcraft. After all, marital rape and the execution of witches are deeply rooted in our nation's history and traditions too! Besides, why should we suppose his views on these matters are even relevant in any way to his views on abortion?

Alito notes that

The “eminent common-law authorities (Blackstone, Coke, Hale, and the like),” Kahler v. Kansas, 589 U.S. __, —_ (2020) (slip op., at 7), all describe abortion after quickening as criminal. Henry de Bracton's 13th-century treatise explained that if a person has “struck a pregnant woman, or has given her poison, whereby he has caused an abortion, if the foetus be already formed and animated, and particularly if it be animated, he commits homicide.” H. Bracton, De Legibus et Consuetudinibus Angliae...

Although what Coke says, in fact, contra Bracton, is that it is not homicide, unless the child dies after being born, because while within the womb the fetus isn't really a person, a "reasonable creature", a thing in rerum natura, in the world of natural beings, and under the King's peace, that is a member of society:

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Opinions We Never Finished Reading. II


Image from

Question to Radio Yerevan: Is it true that the right to abortion was "was entirely unknown in American law"? And that "Indeed, when the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted, three quarters of the States made abortion a crime at all stages of pregnancy"?

Yes, but 

  • first of all, so was the right to stop women from voting (women could vote in several of the 13 colonies, but it was explicitly forbidden in all state constitutions by 1807)—men just did it without asking whether they had a right to do it or not;
  • second of all, it wasn't clear that women had any rights at all, since, as Justice Alito might say, the word "woman" doesn't appear anywhere in the Constitution; the "inescapable conclusion", as Alito might say, is that the existence of women is "not deeply rooted in the Nation's history and traditions", and not a matter on which the federal judiciary should speculate; and
  • third of all, while it's quite true that abortion "at all stages" (i.e., both stages, before and after "quickening") was criminalized in 26 states at the time the 14th Amendment was adopted in 1868, abortion providers plainly had a right to perform abortions before those laws were passed—it had to exist in order for the legislatures to take it away—and Alito's text doesn't say when they were passed: how "deeply rooted in the Nation's history and traditions" was the states' right (unenumerated in the Constitution but presumably guaranteed by the 10th Amendment) to stop women from terminating their pregnancies?

Helpfully, Alito does offer an appendix with dates and texts for all the original anti-abortion laws in all the states and territories, down to Mississippi in 1952 (really late to the party, as you might expect), and that gives us some kind of clarity on these matters.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Opinions We Never Finished Reading. I

GettyImages via The Independent.

Well, it took Politico and their sources about eight hours after I posted my prediction that the Supreme Court would not overrule Roe to publish the extremely strong indications that I was totally wrong, and you might forgive me for wondering if they did it just to humiliate me. 

Other than that, I am not at this time taking an interest in who the leaker of Alito's draft opinion, or whistleblower as the case may be. Effectively, the hullabaloo over the leaking might as well be meant to silence the discussion of the awfulness of the work, and I mean awfulness in every sense, from literary to legal, and that's what I'd rather be talking about, starting with Alito's opinion that

The right to abortion does not fall within this category [of unenumerated rights guaranteed by the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment]. Until the latter part of the 20th century, such a right was entirely unknown in American law. Indeed, when the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted, three quarters of the States made abortion a crime at all stages of pregnancy. The abortion right is also critically different from any other right that this Court has held to fall within the Fourteenth Amendment's protection of “liberty.” Roe's defenders characterize the abortion right as similar to the rights recognized in past decisions involving matters such as intimate sexual relations, contraception, and marriage, but abortion is fundamentally different, as both Roe and Casey acknowledged, because it destroys what those decisions called “fetal life” and what the law now before us describes as an “unborn human being.”

The "law now before us" being Mississippi's "Gestational Age Act", defining abortion as

the use or prescription of an instrument, medicine, drug, or other substance or device with the intent to terminate a clinically diagnosable pregnancy for reasons other than to increase the probability of a live birth, to preserve the life or health of the unborn human being, to terminate an ectopic pregnancy, or to remove a dead unborn human being.

and prohibiting all abortions after the "unborn human being" reaches the gestational age of 15 weeks, without the usual exceptions, where Roe allowed states to prohibit them after 24 weeks, and Casey after the age of "fetal viability". Although the whole thing is looking pretty moot because within ten days after the Mississippi attorney general determines that the Roe decision has been overruled by the Supreme Court, basically all abortions regardless of "gestational age" will be prohibited in Mississippi, under one of those "trigger" laws, passed in 2019

  • (1) As used in this section, the term “abortion” means the use or prescription of any instrument, medicine, drug or any other substance or device to terminate the pregnancy of a woman known to be pregnant with an intention other than to increase the probability of a live birth, to preserve the life or health of the child after live birth or to remove a dead fetus.

  • (2) No abortion shall be performed or induced in the State of Mississippi, except in the case where necessary for the preservation of the mother’s life or where the pregnancy was caused by rape... only if a formal charge of rape has been filed with an appropriate law enforcement official.

with a mandatory sentence of 1 to 10 years for the provider. I guess they promoted the termination of an ectopic pregnancy from "not an abortion" to "preservation oof the mother's life" but for some reason they dumped the "unborn human being" category, perhaps because ALEC has stopped using the phrase? (Earliest cite I find in a quick search is from 1994, by Robert P. George of the American Enterprise Institute.)

But the Supreme Court, tasked with deciding on the constitutionality of the 15-week ban in the Gestational Age Act, has in fact stuck Mississippians with this one, like a cuckoo's egg, without arguing it at all.

And meanwhile, Alito has skipped over the contrast between "fetal life" and "unborn human being" and decreed without any argument at all that the latter is all you need to know, meaning he's decided in advance that abortion rights are fundamentally different because they are a right to murder (except in the case of an ectopic pregnancy, in which I suppose the reason the abortion isn't abortion is that it's in self-defense—that fetus is trying to kill her!), and there's no real reason to discuss it any further. But he does, all the same. for 90-odd pages. 

In the next installment, we'll be looking at "entirely unknown in American law" from a historical point of view.

Monday, May 2, 2022

Deep in the Dark of Texas


Wendy Davis, ready to run, via KTSA TV.

Maybe the most personally infuriating thing to me about the current flurry of state anti-abortion legislation is its open contempt for the rule of law: I mean these mean-minded, pinched and intolerant people, so ready to judge others for the slightest deviations from their own idea of propriety, passing laws that are flagrantly illegal according to settled law (as the members of a Supreme Court majority from Roberts through Kavanaugh and Barrett have maintained in their confirmation hearings). 

The "trigger laws" in something like 20 states from the previous wave were designed to take effect only after such a time as Roe and Casey are overturned, should that happen (I'm not convinced it will, at least this year, though they'll undoubtedly continue working to cripple abortion rights around the edges). The current wave, in Mississippi and Florida and Oklahoma and wherever else, is as if the law doesn't even exist; it's pretty much as if they passed a law legalizing slavery, or denying women the right to vote. Saying, as they do, that it might be constitutional soon, after the Court rules on the Mississippi law, doesn't cut the mustard: it's unconstitutional now, and they know it.

And the Texas law, the infamous SB8, is the worst of all, with its sly legalism in the provisions designed to prevent the Court from considering it—since the state is not enforcing the law, simply inviting bounty hunters to enforce it privately by suing anybody who assists in providing patients with abortion services in the state, for $10,000 in punitive damages, nobody has standing to sue the state, as decided just last week. 

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Back to Class

 Happy International Labor Day!

Krugman sticks this thing ("Education has less to do with inequality than you think") under his "Wonking Out" rubric, which is a shame, because that means a lot of people who need to read it won't, and since it's indirectly making a point I've been making for a long time, but making it with an expertise I couldn't come close to, I wanted to highlight it.

His immediate purpose is to defend the idea of a broad-based program to cut or eliminate student debt, like the one Biden promised in the 2020 campaign and has recently returned to talking about; a widespread criticism of such a program is that it rewards people for doing something for which they have already been rewarded, with a college degree: