The Further Shredding of Everything the Founders Tried to Accomplish by Donald J. Trump

Trump has given William Barr, one of his principal toads, the power to declassify anything he wants. Allegedly, this is so Barr can investigate how the investigations that led to the Meuller investigation got started. Paul Waldman explains why this is a big deal.

Barr is not trying to learn more about whether there was something fishy about that investigation. He’s looking for information that can then be selectively declassified in order to help Trump and undermine his perceived enemies. If that involves compromising sensitive intelligence, he won’t hesitate for a moment.

We can be pretty sure of what’s going to happen. Barr will scour every record he can to learn as much as possible about the Russia investigation. Whenever he comes across something that can be spun to make the FBI or anyone Trump has decided is his enemy look bad, he’ll put it in the “Declassify” pile. Then he’ll release it all to the public and hold a news conference where he suggests that there was a conspiracy to take down Trump. The president will then take to Twitter to proclaim that he was indeed the victim of a vile witch hunt that has at last been exposed. The news media, in possession of only the materials Barr has chosen to give them, will struggle to avoid amplifying and reinforcing Barr’s claims.

In case you were wondering what happens when an infinitely corrupt president decides to use the powers of the federal government for his own self-interest with the help of lackeys he has installed to protect him, this is it. Now just wait until he tells Barr to go after the Democratic nominee for president.

Yep, that’s how it will go down. Kind of amazing the United States lasted as long as it did, consideringa circus clown is doiing such a bang up job destroying it.

Trump Throws Temper Tantrum; World Yawns

(Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP/Getty Images)

So this just happened:

President Trump abruptly ended a meeting with Democratic leaders on Wednesday, saying he was unable to work with them on legislation following comments by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that he was “engaged in a coverup.”

Trump made an unscheduled appearance in the Rose Garden shortly afterward and in a meandering 10-minute address said he had left the meeting with Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) at which they were supposed to talk about working together on a $2 billion infrastructure plan.

“Instead of walking in happily to a meeting, I walk in to look at people who said I was doing a coverup,” Trump said, adding that he can’t work on infrastructure “under these circumstances.”

Here was the scene for the completely unscheduled and spontaneoous appearance that he hadn’t at all planned on making this morning:

Very early this morning Trump was tweeting about witch hunts already. BTW, it’s not clear what the Mueller investigation cost, but there are estimates it could have paid for itself through collected settlesments, mostly from Paul Manafort.

Anyway — I’m sure nobody on the Democratic side had any illusions there was a real chance Trump would keep any commitment to a $2 billion infrastructure plan. So nothing was lost here.

Also, before the infrastructure meeting had broken up, Greg Sargent wrote,

Trump is set to meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to discuss their previous agreement-in-principle to a $2 trillion infrastructure package.

But Trump has now blown up these negotiations with a new broadside — a letter demanding that Democrats pass his renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement, and insisting he will not consider infrastructure until that’s done.

“Before we get to infrastructure, it is my strong view that Congress should first pass the important and popular USMCA trade deal,” Trump wrote in the letter to Pelosi and Schumer, in a reference to the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which is NAFTA 2.0. After this is passed, Trump continued, “we should turn our attention to a bipartisan infrastructure package.”

Sargent points out that on both NAFTA 2.0 and infrastructure, Trump needs the House Democrats a lot more than they need him. Democrats want an infrastructure package, but only if it is paid for through progressive taxation and not through some cockamamie tax incentive plan to corporations. But anything paid for by taxes is not going to get through the current Senate. Of NAFTA 2.0, Waldman says, “Many congressional Democrats won’t support it without changes strengthening its labor protections, and view its intellectual property protections as a giveaway to Big Pharma.”

Trump, on the other hand, needs to be able to brag about accomplishing a better trade deal and an infrastructure plan as he runs for re-election.  But now Trump says he can’t work on those things because those mean, nasty Democrats are investigating him.

“I walked into the room and I told Sen. Schumer and Speaker Pelosi, ‘I want to do infrastructure’ … but we can’t do it under these circumstances,” Trump said at a last-minute Rose Garden event.

Trump’s anger appears to have been sparked by comments Pelosi made earlier in the day when she said, “We believe the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up” by blocking White House aides from giving testimony and responding to document requests from ongoing congressional investigations.

“I don’t do cover-ups,” Trump insisted Wednesday.

Dude — you’re blocking testimony and ignoring subpoenas. That’s covering up on its face. And then he turned it around and claimed the Democrats can’t be serious about working on legislation while they are also investigating him, not realizing that most  people really can walk and chew gum at the same time. If he thinks he somehow has leverage over the Dems and can scare them into not investigating him, or something … what leverage? I’m not seeing any leverage. He’s the one who needs to be able to say he did something about infrastructure. He’s the one who needs NAFTA 2.0 to not go down in flames.

Martin Longman advises Dems to just go ahead and write their own bill and then campaign on it next  year.

I think the House should hold extensive hearings on the country’s infrastructure needs and how they can use a major bill to address climate change. They should pass the bill at the end of the year and then campaign on the issue when the Republican-controlled Senate inevitably lets the infrastructure issue die in Congress.

There are a lot of voters out there who will take the Democrats side in that debate.

Sounds like a plan.

How Democrats Need to Talk About Abortion

Jonathan Capehart praised Pete Buttigieg’s Fox News appearance (which I didn’t see), and in particular praised Buttigieg’s answer to an abortion question.

“Do you believe at any point in pregnancy,” Wallace asked, “whether it’s at six weeks or eight weeks or 24 weeks or whatever, that there should be any limit on a woman’s right to have an abortion?” The back-and-forth between Buttigieg and Wallace was instructive, especially the mayor’s initial response.

This part is a transcript of the Fox conversation:

Buttigieg: I think the dialogue has gotten so caught up on where you draw the line that we’ve gotten away from the fundamental question of who gets to draw the line, and I trust women to draw the line when it’s their own health.

Wallace: So just to be clear, you’re saying that you would be okay with a woman, well into the third trimester, deciding to abort her pregnancy.

Buttigieg: Look, these hypotheticals are usually set up in order to provoke a strong emotional—

Wallace: It’s not hypothetical, there are 6,000 women a year who get abortions in the third trimester.

Buttigieg: That’s right, representing less than 1 percent of cases. So let’s put ourselves in the shoes of a woman in that situation. If it’s that late in your pregnancy, then it’s almost by definition, you’ve been expecting to carry it to term. We’re talking about women who have perhaps chosen a name. Women who have purchased a crib, families that then get the most devastating medical news of their lifetime, something about the health or the life of the mother that forces them to make an impossible, unthinkable choice. And the bottom line is, as horrible as that choice is, that woman, that family may seek spiritual guidance, they may seek medical guidance, but that decision is not going to be made any better, medically or morally, because the government is dictating how that decision should be made.

I’ve seen worse answers, but I’m still not satisfied with that. Here is what (I would like to think) I would have said.

(Hypothetical conversation follows.)

Wallace: Do you believe at any point in pregnancy, whether it’s at six weeks or eight weeks or 24 weeks or whatever, that there should be any limit on a woman’s right to have an abortion?

Me: I support the Roe v. Wade guidelines that have been the law of the land for 46 years. That decision protects a right to abortion for any reason until the fetus is capable of surviving outside the womb, which medical science tells us is at about 23 weeks’ gestation, or late second trimester. The Roe decision said that states may restrict abortions after that point except when necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.

So when people opposed to abortion create these fantasy scenarios in which women close to term waltz into an abortion clinic to end the pregnancy and destroy the fetus for no good reason, they are talking about something that already is illegal and isn’t happening in the real world. Let’s talk about what is happening in the real world.

Wallace: There are 6,000 women a year who get abortions in the third trimester.

Me: That’s right, representing less than 1 percent of cases. So let’s put ourselves in the shoes of a woman in that situation  (etc.; the rest of Buttigieg’s answer was okay).

(End hypothetical conversation.)

Why is it so hard to actually explain what the law is now? Why don’t people do that? Nobody, not even NARAL, is fighting for elective abortion in the third trimester. Why is it somehow forbidden to say that?

The most recent polling on Roe. v. Wade (from April 2019) says that 65 percent of adults nationwide support Roe v. Wade and don’t want it overturned, as opposed to 32 percent who want it overturned. That’s a healthy majority.  Stand with Roe v. Wade. Why do we allow ourselves to be put on defense?

See Paul Waldman, On abortion rights, time for Democrats to go on offense. See also Why I Don’t Give Money to NARAL.

The Democratic Message Deficit

The usually insightful Greg Sargent praised Pete Buttigieg’s Sunday night appearance on Fox News, possibly only see by people who don’t have HBO subscriptions. But Sargent had some criticism, too.

Buttigieg has been pilloried for going on Fox News in the first place, something Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has done but that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has refused to do. Buttigieg addressed the criticism by saying: “I get where that’s coming from,” and referencing the anti-immigrant rhetoric of some Fox News personalities. He added:

There is a reason why anybody has to think twice and swallow hard before participating in this media ecosystem. But I also believe . . . there are a lot of Americans who my party can’t blame for ignoring our message, because they will never hear it if we don’t go on.

Buttigieg insisted that this is another reason the candidates must spend more time “going into places where Democrats haven’t been seen much. We’ve got to find people where they are — not change our values, but update our vocabulary so that we’re truly connecting with Americans from coast to coast.”

No, that cannot be right, says Greg Sargent. How can it be that Democrats haven’t been reaching out to and speaking to all voters? “One can and should argue for speaking to all voters without adding the notion that other unnamed Democrats don’t actually try to do this,” Sargent says.

Let me deliver this sermon one more time.

No, people in large parts of the United States don’t hear Democratic Party messages very often, if at all. Democrats to show up and speak to these voters, but when they do they use carefully vague Republican Lite rhetoric. For decades they’ve avoided discussing hot-button issues like abortion. They also avoid discussing any new initiatives that might require raising taxes. When they run for office, most of their television ads are designed to reassure voters they really aren’t like those liberals.

I am living in a Missouri county that went more than 70 percent for Donald Trump in 2016. I grew up here; it’s a community that had a lot of union jobs 50 years ago, but no longer. The kind of boldly progressive ideas many of the current Dem presidential candidates are proposing haven’t been spoken out loud here since the 1960s. I am serious. Republican talking points are all anyone ever hears, and the few Democrats who do have a voice in the region — the recently deposed Claire McCaskill is a good example — tend to run for office on how pragmatic and centrist they are. 

The only specific issue I can remember that McCaskill emphasized in her many television ads was reducing presciption drug costs. She didn’t say how she was going to do that, except by “standing up to the pharmaceutical companies.” But  in a state where rural hospitals are shutting down faster than Sears, she did not address the wider issue of health care costs, I assume to avoid being put on the spot to defend Obamacare.

Gun control? Nope. Infrastructure? Nope. Abortion? Nope. Opioids? Nope. It’s true progressive ideas on this issues may not play well in rural areas, but in Kansas City, St. Louis, and more urban areas people are more receptive, and to win a statewide election here a Democrat has to run up a big margin in urban areas.

I know people in this area. It’s true a lot of them have been so saturated with Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, and little else, for so many years they are impervious to any other sort of message. But I also sincerely believe a lot of folks in these parts would be receptive to progressive, New Deal style ideas if they ever heard them. But they don’t. At least, they don’t hear about them from local news or from the states’ politicians of either party.

This is an example of how the Democratic Party’s hyper-cautious run-to-the-center strategy has so eroded the Democratic brand that nobody knows what the party stands for. Or if it stands for anything.

For a guy like Pete Buttigieg to win elections in right-wing Indiana is, IMO, damn impressive. It may be that South Bend is more liberal than the rest of the state; I wouldn’t know.  But when he says things like “there are a lot of Americans who my party can’t blame for ignoring our message, because they will never hear it if we don’t go on” and “We’ve got to find people where they are — not change our values, but update our vocabulary so that we’re truly connecting with Americans from coast to coast,” I know exactly what he’s saying, and I agree entirely.


When Rights Attack

We Americans sure do care about our rights, although it does seem some rights get more respect than others. And sometimes they cancel each other out.

Last year Alabama voters approved an amendment to the state constitution “declaring that the state’s policy to recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life, the rights of unborn children – including a right to life in all manners and measures appropriate and lawful – and that the Constitution does not protect the right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”

More recently, Sen. Cory Booker issued an open letter to all men

On Monday, the country watched as 25 men in the Alabama state Senate voted to make abortion a felony in the state, without even an exception for survivors of rape or incest. Two days later, the bill was signed into law. This attack on women’s fundamental freedoms and agency is a blatant assault on constitutional and human rights.

But what happened in Alabama is not an anomaly—it is part of a decades-long, coordinated, all-out effort to erode women’s reproductive rights and freedom nationwide.

Clearly, here we have an example of two conflicting rights that cannot co-exist.

What are “rights,” anyway? The Equality and Human Rights Commission says “Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms that belong to every person in the world, from birth until death. They apply regardless of where you are from, what you believe or how you choose to live your life.” But Alabama has carved out a right that ends at birth, since it applies only to the “unborn.” And the Human Rifhts Commission still isn’t telling us what “rights” actually are.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines “rights” as “entitlements (not) to perform certain actions, or (not) to be in certain states; or entitlements that others (not) perform certain actions or (not) be in certain states.”

Rights dominate modern understandings of what actions are permissible and which institutions are just. Rights structure the form of governments, the content of laws, and the shape of morality as it is currently perceived. To accept a set of rights is to approve a distribution of freedom and authority, and so to endorse a certain view of what may, must, and must not be done.

The encyclopedia entry goes on to discuss various kinds of rights and makes distinctions among things related to rights, such as liberties, immunities, powers, and privileges.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy also says, “Human rights are norms that aspire to protect all people everywhere from severe political, legal, and social abuses. Examples of human rights are the right to freedom of religion, the right to a fair trial when charged with a crime, the right not to be tortured, and the right to education.” This article goes on to consider whether rights can always be inalienable and absolute.. Most philosophers have said, not really.

Maurice Cranston held that human rights are matters of “paramount importance” and their violation “a grave affront to justice” (Cranston 1967). If human rights did not have high priority they would not have the ability to compete with other powerful considerations such as national stability and security, individual and national self-determination, and national and global prosperity. High priority does not mean, however, that human rights are absolute. As James Griffin says, human rights should be understood as “resistant to trade-offs, but not too resistant” (Griffin 2008). Further, there seems to be priority variation within human rights. For example, when the right to life conflicts with the right to privacy, the latter will generally be outweighed.

A few years ago I wrote a post called Wrong About Rights that describes a time a woman was preparing to make a speech at the University of Utah and was receiving death threats. In particular, she was warned that if she didn’t cancel her speech she would be shot. Both the University of Utah and local law enforcement denied her request to bar firearms from the venue, because people had a right to carry firearms, after all. So the woman canceled the speech, and intimidation won. The right of audience members to carry firearms trumped her safety and right to make a speech.

Another one of my favorite examples is the famous time a man waving a firearm in a public park in Georgia caused the parents of Little League teams to pull their children off the field and into shelter. Police could do nothing, because the firearm-waving man had a right to wave a firearm.

In both circumstances, it seems to me that somehow the “right” to carry a firearm had been privileged over all other rights. And if we’re defining rights as “norms that aspire to protect all people everywhere from severe political, legal, and social abuses,” it seems to me that such privileging is enabling abuses.  When does a “right” cease to be a “right” and becomes a privilege that supercedes rights?

The so-called “heartbeat bills” — our eight-week embryo doesn’t actually have a heartprivilege embryos over adult women.

Proponents of House Bill 481 contend that life begins once an embryo’s heartbeat can be detected — at about six weeks, when it is about the size of one’s fingernail. And before most women even realize they’re pregnant.

Except there is no embryo or fetus in the “heartbeat” bill. There is only the “unborn child,” who would receive “full legal recognition” under Georgia law as “a natural person.”

It’s an embryo. It doesn’t have a heart. It doesn’t have a brain. Its neurological wiring is too primitive to allow for experience of any sort, including self-awareness or pain, according to science.

Human embryo at eight weeks’ gestation.  The embryo is less than an inch long and weighs less than 1/8 of an ounce.

But because this biological entity is to be privileged, rights must be stripped from girls and women, who do have hearts and brains and experiences. (Oh, and life doesn’t begin. It just is.) To extend a right to life to an entity that is not capable of liberty or the pursuit of happiness, we take those rights away from women.

In Wrong About Rights I wrote,

Awhile back the the late Ronald Dworkin, who was a professor of philosophy at New York University, compared the exercise of individual rights to playing a trump card. “Individual rights are political trumps held by the individuals,” he said. “Individuals have rights when, for some reason, a collective goal is not a sufficient justification for denying them what they wish, as individuals, to have or to do, or not a sufficient justification for imposing some loss or injury upon them.”

The problem is that we seem to have assigned trump status to some rights even when a greater good would be served by denying them.

At some point, it seems to me, the word “rights” became nearly meaningless. It’s just a trump card; this right trumps that one, because somebody says so. “Rights” these days are privileges or liberties given to particular groups, depending on who wins elections or who appoints judges. So the raped girl must carry the baby to term, the woman cancels her speech, and the children leave the park because their rights were trumped by someone, or something, else’s. Such “rights” were created by arbitrary political decisions and have little to do with “norms that aspire to protect all people everywhere from severe political, legal, and social abuses.” They’ve become more like “privileges politicians extend according to their own psychological bugaboos.”

Abortion Law: Why Cruelty Is the Point

The current epidemic of medieval abortion laws being passed by state legislatures has inspired a lot of people to explain why such laws are cruel. See, for example, Rape victim who had illegal abortion at age 13 calls Alabama’s law ‘an abomination’ at USA Today. I support anyone who speaks out about such painful experience. But as gut wrenching as these stories are, they won’t change the minds of people who support abortion bans.

Yes, the bans are cruel. The cruelty is the point.

Let’s step back and look at where this anti-abortion fanaticism is coming from.

Abortion wasn’t always the subject of such fanaticism. Until the latter part of the 19th century it was a common thing that may not have been discussed in polite company, but it was openly practiced and few seemed to care. Under English common law adopted in the states, abortion was not illegal until “quickening,” or the point in pregnancy at which fetal movement could be felt, which is at about 15 weeks’ gestation, give or take. And abortion was mostly considered women’s business, unimportant to men.

But in the 19th century male physicians began to take over childbirth, which previously had been tended by midwives, and thus pregnancy met the patriarchy.

The [American Medical] association’s efforts were led by Horatio Storer, an obstetrician often called the father of American gynecology. Storer didn’t want the medical profession to be associated with abortion, and considered women’s desire to terminate their pregnancies to be tantamount to insanity. He felt that a woman’s biological role was to be a wife and mother, and that to disrupt that path was not just to commit a social crime, but murder.

“We are the physical guardians of women,” read the group’s 1859 report on what it called “criminal abortion.” “The case is here of life or death—and it depends, almost wholly, upon ourselves.”

The group made a concerted effort to delegitimize the work of the women who previously held the majority of knowledge about childbirth and pregnancy, and to prevent women from becoming obstetricians.

Storer was also keenly interested in making sure “civilization” was spread in the West by white Americans.

 “Shall” these regions, he asked, “be filled by our own children or by those of aliens? This is a question our women must answer; upon their loins depends the future destiny of the nation.” Hostility to immigrants, Catholics, and people of color fueled this campaign to criminalize abortion. White male patriotism demanded that maternity be enforced among white Protestant women. … Regular medical men had entered the debate about sexual politics by attacking the female practice of abortion as immoral, unwomanly, and unpatriotic.

You get the picture. By the 1870s a handful of states had banned all abortions, and by 1910 or so abortion was illegal in all states. Of course, that didn’t mean abortions weren’t being performed.

Making abortion illegal never meant abortion didn’t happen. For the entire century of criminalized abortion, women of every class, marital status, religion and race still obtained them. Before Roe, hospitals had entire wards for patients experiencing sepsis after shoddy or self-­induced abortions. Chicago’s Cook County Hospital had 5,000 patients annually in the abortion ward — women who were bleeding, infected and sometimes dying.

The push to decriminalize abortion began in the 1950s. By the 1960s, the legislatures of several states were under pressure to change the law. In anti-abortion folklore it’s said that no one was arguing about abortion before Roe v. Wade was decided, but that’s nonsense; it was heating up as a source of contention even as we were all at each other’s throats over Vietnam. In 1967 California passed a law that allowed “therapeutic” abortions when a pregnancy endangered a woman’s life. In 1970 first Hawaii, and then New York, decriminalized elective abortion. And then, of course, Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973.

When Roe v. Wade was decided the Catholic Church already was opposed to abortion, although it hadn’t always been. But in 1973 abortion wasn’t a big issue among conservative Protestants and Evangelicals

In fact, it wasn’t until 1979—a full six years after Roe—that evangelical leaders, at the behest of conservative activist Paul Weyrich, seized on abortion not for moral reasons, but as a rallying-cry to deny President Jimmy Carter a second term. Why? Because the anti-abortion crusade was more palatable than the religious right’s real motive: protecting segregated schools. So much for the new abolitionism.

In brief, the same right-wing whackjobs who had opposed desegregation finally realized they had lost, so they seized on criminalizing abortion as their new holy cause.

Please also see How abortion unified Catholics and evangelicals to become a power on the right. This describes a debate in the California legislature in 1967:

Back then, many abortion opponents were Catholic Democrats, while many conservative Republican Protestants wanted nothing to do with the issue, viewing it as the province of Catholics, their theological adversaries.

Despite Beilenson’s plea, the Catholic Church fought hard against the bill, which would allow abortions when the pregnancy endangered the life or health of the woman or if she was the victim of rape or incest. Cardinal James McIntyre compared it to Herod ordering the slaughter of “Holy Innocents” in Bethlehem. But the legislature passed the landmark bill, which was then signed into law by the new governor, Ronald Reagan. Within a few years, some 20 states would follow.

The evangelicals’ ambivalence on abortion, an issue they now consider to be at the sacred heart of their morality, is striking. Francis Schaeffer, an evangelical professor who later became a major anti-abortion activist, at first refused to get involved. After his son, Frank, pushed him to join the anti-abortion movement, Schaeffer exasperatedly blurted out, “They’re Catholics!”

“How can you say you believe in the uniqueness of every human being if you won’t stand up on this?” the son yelled.

“I don’t want to be identified with some Catholic issue. I’m not putting my reputation on the line for them!” Francis shouted back.

But right-wing political operatives succeeded in getting conservative evangelicals and Catholics to form a political coalition around the abortion issue to help win the elections of right-wing Republican politicians. And that coalition is still a powerful force in today’s political landscape. Indeed, the evangelicals appear to have become even more fanatical than most Catholics in opposing abortion, which has brought them to the ignominy of being Donald Trump’s strongest base of support. Because, literally, nothing else matters to many of them them but stopping abortion. They have become full-bore, barking mad fanatics about it.

You’d think Jesus would have said something about abortion if it were that important to Christianity, but it doesn’t appear that he did. And yes, there were abortions in those days, too.

The Roots of Fanaticism

So now let us step back and consider where this newfangled anti-abortion fanaticism is coming from. There are many comments today on social media about “Talibama” and comparing the Alabama abortion bill to Sharia law. In truth, all reactionary religious conservatism, whether you call it “fundamentalist” or “extremist,” ends up looking pretty much alike. Religious extremists tend to be authoritarian and patriarchal. And they tend to subjugate women and treat them as sexual appliances.

So you see Islamic extremists punishing women for not being properly dressed in burquas, and we see right-wing polygamist sects in the U.S. keeping women in long, modest “pioneer” dresses. There are two purposes here. One is to deprive women of individuality. But the other is to cover any traces of women’s sexuality, which apparently is something religious whackjob men loathe and fear above all things.

Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune Eldorado – Attorney Rod Parker advises a group of FLDS women as they prepare to speak to the media after being separated from their children Monday, April 14, 2008, at the YFZ “Yearning for Zion” Ranch.

The practices of forcing young girls into marriage and keeping women covered up in way too much cloth are common to religious extremist groups of many traditions around the globe. The men in these groups want to use women for sex, but it has to be entirely on their terms. They are too afraid of women to give them any free will or individuality. And yeah, they’re just about the sickest puppies on the planet.

Now, which came first — the sexual pathology or the religion? I’d say it’s some of both, but more the first factor than the second. These men are not afraid of women because they are religious; they cling to authoritarian religion because they are afraid of women. They use religion, or their own cherry-picked version of religion, to justify the fear and ugliness clanking around in their ids.

Now, I don’t believe the male legislators who are passing the abominable abortion laws are marrying little girls or keeping their wives wrapped in sheets, but their difference with the polygamist cult leaders is one of degree rather than kind. They are deeply conflicted about sex, which is why they are so obsessed with writing laws regulating sex. They are deeply insecure about their own sexuality, which is why they need to keep women under control. And they have more in common with most rapists than they’d care to admit. Rape can be an expression of hostility to women. Anti-abortion laws also are an expression of hostility to women, with the added advantage that the perpetrator can feel self-righteous about it.

And if you understand that, you understand why the legislators who write these  women-controlling laws are more interested in punishing abortionists than rapists:

If [Alabama’s] HB 314 is enacted, a first-time offender who is accused of raping, say, an intellectually disabled woman or a 13-year-old girl could potentially serve less prison time than a doctor providing an abortion.

Note that Alabama is also considering a law that would make it a crime to bring a false rape allegation. Now, I’m also opposed to false rape allegations, but rape is difficult to prove, and convictions can be hard to obtain, and a lot of rapists get off. If this bill is passed, a woman who really was raped will be punished if her rapist isn’t convicted, which commonly happens. If this law passes, it’s pretty much telling the women of Alabama that if they are raped, that’s their problem. Don’t bother the criminal justice system about it.

Alabama hasn’t gotten to the point that the woman accuser is stoned to death, but like I said — it’s only a difference of degree.

No wonder the anti-abortion cause became so central to these men’s lives. It feels good. It lets them act out their inner ugliness, without compunction. And too many women go along with it because they are conditioned to submit to the patriarchy and to measure their self-worth by the approval of men.

Cruelty Is the Point

I wrote in 2015 about evangelical support for Donald Trump,

On other words, the extrinsic [religious] orientation is mostly about social and cultural conditioning and group conformity dressed up as piety. … Their religion is not something they keep in their hearts and minds; it’s the uniform they wear. It’s the banner they carry.

That the “religion” some evangelicals manifest may have little to do with the teachings of Jesus shouldn’t take anyone by surprise, because it doesn’t. It’s mostly their culturally induced biases shoved into a Christian (or whatever) package. And an authoritarian figure who promises to smite those they are biased against is just too compelling. Who cares if he doesn’t know Presbyterian from popcorn?

Last October Adam Serwer wrote an essay called “The Cruelty Is the Point.”

The Trump era is such a whirlwind of cruelty that it can be hard to keep track. This week alone, the news broke that the Trump administration was seeking to ethnically cleanse more than 193,000 American children of immigrants whose temporary protected status had been revoked by the administration, that the Department of Homeland Security had lied about creating a database of children that would make it possible to unite them with the families the Trump administration had arbitrarily destroyed, that the White House was considering a blanket ban on visas for Chinese students, and that it would deny visas to the same-sex partners of foreign officials. At a rally in Mississippi, a crowd of Trump supporters cheered as the president mocked Christine Blasey Ford, the psychology professor who has said that Brett Kavanaugh, whom Trump has nominated to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court, attempted to rape her when she was a teenager. “Lock her up!” they shouted.

Ford testified to the Senate, utilizing her professional expertise to describe the encounter, that one of the parts of the incident she remembered most was Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge laughing at her as Kavanaugh fumbled at her clothing. “Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter,” Ford said, referring to the part of the brain that processes emotion and memory, “the uproarious laughter between the two, and their having fun at my expense.” And then at Tuesday’s rally, the president made his supporters laugh at her.

Serwer goes on to say that this cruelty, and the group enjoyment of cruelty, is the true basis of Trump’s support. The cruelty is the point. People who feel dissociated from the larger culture can find identity and meaning in Trump and communion with those who are derisive of everyone else. Please see “This Is What Evil Looks Like.”

So don’t expect the anti-abortion legislators  to be sympathetic to the child who was raped and faces pregnancy and childbirth. She is a sexual female, and must be punished for it. After all, the fetus she carries is “innocent life,” which is precious, even though these meatballs don’t give a hoo-haw about the sky-high infant mortality rates in their states. Expanding Medicaid is socialism. Spending tax money to provide prenatal and infant care isn’t fair to rich people. Or whatever.

There is no negotiating with such people. They must be vanquished. Utterly.

March of the Fetus People

Last week, David Atkins predicted that anti-abortion fanatics will drag the U.S. into a “cold civil war.”

Republican legislators fully intend to criminalize abortion. They fully intend to jail women as murderers for taking control of their own bodies, to prosecute them for leaving the state for medical aid, to punish any doctor who attempts to help with a lifetime in jail. They really mean to do it—damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead.

But unlike any issue since slavery and Jim Crow, morally decent Americans in blue states will not stand by and idly watch as their fellow American women are dragged before theocratic tribunals and sentenced to life in prison for exercising the basic rights and freedoms that have become standard practice across the western world. They will not keep calm as thugs attempt to drag women refugees back across state lines for the crime of seeking a better life, free from their abusive partners, and endure the forced births of unwanted pregnancies. Like no other issue in American politics, decent citizens will demand aggressive action to defend the downtrodden and abused victims of patriarchal theocracy.

I think it’s as likely as not that the draconian abortion laws being passed in Alabama and other red states will be struck down by federal courts, and if the Supreme Court takes the cases Chief Justice Roberts will vote with justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Kagan, and Sotomayor to keep them struck down. Roberts may not like abortion, but I believe he has enough sense to know what’s good for the Repubican party. However, this may be wishful thinking on my part.

There is a school of thought out there that these state legislatures want the SCOTUS to kill their abortion laws. Deep down, the thinking goes, they must realize there will be a nasty backlash if women and doctors are really imprisoned for abortions. Politicians want to be able to wave their anti-abortion bona fides in front of their hard-right constituents and then blame the courts for nor turning their states into real-world Handmaid’s Tales. They don’t want to be the dog that catches the car.

Maybe, but I’m inclined to agree with

Why? It’s beyond obvious that red states’ attempts to chip away at abortion rights have nothing to do with “protecting” women. Considering that Alabama has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the U.S., and the Alabama legilsature appears to be doing nothing about that, one assumes they don’t give much of a hoo-haw about children, either. See Michael Hiltzik, States with the worst anti-abortion laws also have the worst infant mortality rates.

Alabama is one of two states, with Georgia, that enacted new abortion restrictions over the last week. Their records on maternal and infant health are shameful. Alabama is tied for fourth-worst place in infant mortality, with a rate of 7.4 deaths per 1,000 live births. Georgia, with a rate of 7.2, is tied for seventh-worst.

“In a state that has some of the worst health outcomes for women in the nation—such as the highest rate of cervical cancer — Alabama is putting women’s lives at an even greater risk,” said Leana Wen, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

Of the 12 states ranked highest in infant mortality rates, all with rates of 7.0 or higher, 11 are described by the abortion rights organization NARAL as imposing “severely restricted access” on abortions. The one exception, West Virginia, is listed as having “restricted access,” a notch better. But NARAL reports that 90% of women in the state live in counties without a single abortion clinic.

The biggest reason for this appears to be that state legislatures that spend all their time thinking up ways to restrict access to abortion tend to be the same states that didn’t expand Medicaid and which are stingiest at providing access to health care for women and children. They piously claim to be “saving babies,” but only until they are born.

And what about protecting women? Paul Waldman:

The anti-abortion activists who push these bills and the legislators who write them always say that they aren’t interested in punishing women for having abortions; I’m reminded of the time in 2016 when the recently pro-life Donald Trump said “there has to be some form of punishment” for women who have abortions and was then quickly silenced by Republicans whispering “ixnay on the unishment-pay!” out of the corners of their mouths, since this is a truth you’re not supposed to mention.

But the Georgia bill quite purposely didn’t include any language saying women couldn’t be prosecuted.

That brings us to Alabama, where on Thursday the all-white-male Republican contingent in the state senate tried to sneak through an amendment to their own even more radical bill, which would outlaw all abortions, heartbeat or no, and make abortion a felony punishable by 99 years in prison.


My gut-level take is that at the core of right-wing men is a deep fear and loathing of women’s sexuality. The gives them a means to act out those feelings by punishing women for being sexual.  The cruelty is the point. It’s not going too far, I don’t think, to call anti-abortion activism a form of vicarious rape. And yes, women get sucked into this same sickness. There may be some self-loathing involved, and I also think a lot of women are too conditioned to find their own self-worth in male approval, so they take part in their own subjugation. And there’s the religious element also.

Too Much

Sometimes when I don’t write it’s because I’m so overwhelmed by so much going on I can’t settle on one topic. Right now we’ve got Crazy John Bolton trying to get us into war in Iraq Iran, the Attorney General of the United States undermining the Constituion and national security; Miz Lindsey Graham is undermining the authority of the Senate; the POTUS is a festering cesspool of resentment and ignorance. But now the state of Alabama just passed a ban on all abortions except to save a woman’s life. So the 11-year-old rape victim will just have to have the baby.

I’ll write more about this tomorrow.

Trump’s Economic Genius

You might have heard that stocks were in free fall for a time this morning and that the markets closed much lower than last week on news of escalation of the trade war with China. But even earlier, the Creature demonstrated he doesn’t understand how any of this works …

Yeah, China is cowering in terror of the Mighty Trump and wants nothing more than to make a deal

Beijing will fight “to the end” in the trade war, the country’s state broadcaster said on Monday, just before China announced that it would raise duties on US$60 billion of American goods on June 1.

Disregarding warnings issued by US President Donald Trump, the Chinese Ministry of Finance said tariffs on thousands of US products will rise to as high as 25 per cent, from the original 10 per cent, in the latest escalation of the battle between the world’s two biggest economies.

Oh, wait …

In his public statements, Trump persists in describing the tarriffs imposed on China as a transfer of wealth from China to the U.S. A few days ago he tweeted “For 10 months, China has been paying Tariffs to the USA of 25% on 50 Billion Dollars of High Tech, and 10% on 200 Billion Dollars of other goods. These payments are partially responsible for our great economic results.” And, of course, he persists in not grasping that his tariffs actually function as a massive tax to be paid by consumers.

Greg Sargent:

President Trump has spent the past 24 hours tweeting manically about trade, repeating the absurd falsehood that China is paying us billions in tariffs. We keep hearing that this shows Trump “doesn’t understand” how tariffs work.

But this is better seen as a straight-up, deliberate lie — a lie upon which Trump is staking his reelection.

A long-term trade war with China now looks plausible. Trump hiked tariffs to 25 percent on $200 billion of Chinese goods on Friday. Monday morning, China announced it will retaliate with new tariffs on $60 billion of U.S. goods.

If this does continue, Trump’s lie about China paying us billions in tariffs will become ever more imperative for him.

Sargent writes that negotiating better trade agreements with China was one of his central campaign promises. How much do most people care about trade agreements with China, though? As long as they are happy to buy Chinese-made consumer goods? As with other lies, at some point many people do notice that nothing is better. They didn’t really get a tax break. The factories didn’t really open. And so on.

Joe Biden’s “Middle Ground” on Climate Change

Following up the last post — Reuters is reporting that Joe Biden is working out his climate change plan. It involves the words “middle ground.”

Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden is crafting a climate change policy he hopes will appeal to both environmentalists and the blue-collar voters who elected Donald Trump, according to two sources, carving out a middle ground approach that will likely face heavy resistance from green activists.

In other words, Biden is crafting his policy around political appeal. Paul Waldman:

It’s probably too early to criticize this vague set of ideas until we see exactly what it entails. But there’s already cause for concern: the people who have been authorized to speak to the press about this are framing it explicitly as something Biden “hopes will appeal to both environmentalists and the blue-collar voters who elected Donald Trump.”

We’re not naive here. Of course candidates are going to consider how the policies they propose will be received by voters. But can you at least pretend that you first decided what the best policy would be, and only afterward set about determining the most effective way to sell it to the electorate?

Biden’s people are just coming out and saying that he has an existing election strategy — hold Democratic voters and poach conservative blue-collar white voters from Trump — and they’re fashioning his climate plan so it slots into that strategy.

First, Dems, you aren’t going to “poach” voters from Trump. Any voter who isn’t already disgusted with Trump isn’t poachable. Forget those votes. But take heart; a substantial majority of respondents in a recent poll said they won’t vote for Trump. The challenge, then, is not to poach voters from Trump but to, first, rally the base. Including the lefty-progressive base. Second, persuade disaffected voters who already don’t like Trump that it’s worth getting to the polls to vote for you. Please stop with the safe wishy-washiness that makes people wonder why they bother to vote.

Waldman writes, “it’s pretty clear that Biden suffers from a common Democratic malady, one that produces a constant fear that taking policy positions they perceive to be too liberal will produce electoral disaster.” Yeah, that’s my impression of him, too.

Back to Reuters:

The backbone of the policy will likely include re-joining the United States with the Paris Climate Agreement and preserving U.S. regulations on emissions and vehicle fuel efficiency that Trump has sought to undo, according to one of the sources, Heather Zichal, who is part of a team advising Biden on climate change. She previously advised President Barack Obama.

The second source, a former energy department official also advising Biden’s campaign who asked not to be named, said the policy could also be supportive of nuclear energy and fossil fuel options like natural gas and carbon capture technology, which limit emissions from coal plants and other industrial facilities.

A site called Sludge with which I am not familiar says that the above-mentioned Heather Zichal was once on the board of a Texas-based liquified natural gas company. That doesn’t necessarily make her a bad person, but it doesn’t look good.

Bernie Sanders has already pounced.

And see Naomi Klein —

That was my reaction to the “middle ground” headline before I’d read the article. And it’s still my reaction, although if actual climate scientists say Biden’s plan is reasonable, I will listent to them. I am skeptical, though.