The Mahablog

Politics. Society. Group Therapy.

The Mahablog

On the Ledge

I admit I am demoralized and frightened. Until now I was reasonably certain Trump will lose, even if in a tight election. After last night, I believe the odds he will win shot up considerably. And I need to get my head out of politics for a few hours, but do please carry on in the comments.

The Debate Post and Thread

I’ll comment here during the debate as the spirit moves. Please, please, please add your impressions of the debate to the comments.

Well, we’re beginning. President Biden’s voice sounds a bit raspy.

Trump’s lies are not being corrected, and I’ve already decided I can’t watch this. But please comment if you can stand to watch it.

This is not going well. I’m seeing comments on Facebook saying that Biden just lost the election. Well, good night. I’ll read about it in the morning. Do feel free to comment.

That’s Some Supreme Court We’ve Got, Huh?

About the debate tonight — I’ll be here and have an open thread for comments, so if you want to hang out with me you are very welcome. Part of me is dreading it, though. Chris Hayes was playing highlights of the first 2020 debate the other night and I had to turn it off. Too much.  This time with mics turned off Trump shouldn’t be able to talk over everybody through the whole. bleeping. debate, but he may start shouting, knowing him. Trump is being advised to not be a “raging asshole” this time, but whether he can discipline himself is another matter.

I just reviewed what I wrote about the first 2020 debate. I couldn’t watch it then, either. I turned it off and followed a live blog of it instead. Here’s my longer post from a day later.  And I had forgotten about the cows. From a transcript:

1:18:31 TRUMP

You wanna rip down buildings and rebuild the buildings — where airplanes are out of business. Where there are two car systems or where they want to take out the cows. 

Well, we still have cows, at least in Missouri. I haven’t seen any since I’ve been in New York, but I have to assume the cows are still there.

Anyway … about the Supreme Court. Bleep. The Supreme Court rules that state officials can engage in a little corruption, as a treat. Some of those fellas do like their treats. See also It Sure Looks Like KBJ Is Throwing Yacht Shade at Sam Alito and Clarence Thomas by Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern at Slate. I understand Justice Jackson’s dissent is worth reading all the way through. So here’s the decision; the dissent starts on page 23.

There’s a lot more to complain about. I’m betting they are holding on to the fleetingly revealed Idaho abortion decision  and possibly the Trump immunity decision until tomorrow, to take attention away from whatever mess Trump makes of the debates. It appears with Idaho they’re planning to kick the can down the road so that they don’t have to decide anything before the election. Another anti-abortion ruling before the election might hurt Trump’s chances, you know.  Priorities.

Update: It appears we did get the Idaho abortion decision today after all but managed to not resolve anything. The issue at hand was whether federal law that requires hospitals to at least stabilize emergency patients (rather than denying them care if they don’t have insurance) could be used to force Idaho hospitals to perform abortions to save the lives of women. The Court dismissed Idaho’s appeal of a lower court ruling that allows doctors to perform emergency abortions, meaning the lower court ruling is back in effect, for now. But the litigation will continue, and this law may end up back in the Supreme Court in a future time. NBC:

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, who objected to the court failing to decide the case, read her dissenting opinion from the bench, a step justices generally only take when they are particularly disgruntled with the outcome.

“There is simply no good reason not to resolve this conflict now,” she wrote.

Conservative Justice Samuel Alito agreed on that point in a dissenting opinion joined by Justice Clarence Thomas and, mostly, Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Alito indicated he would rule against the Biden administration, which argues that federal law requires abortions when a woman is suffering from various health complications that are not necessarily immediately life-threatening, notwithstanding Idaho’s strict ban.

“Here, no one who has any respect for statutory language can plausibly say that the government’s interpretation is unambiguously correct,” he wrote.

Yeah, let’s worry about the statutory language while women are going into sepsis. Priorities. See also Why Idaho’s hospitals are having pregnant patients airlifted out of state.

In another genius move, the Court blocked an EPA plan for reducing smokestack emissions

About the Latimer-Bowman Contest

Here’s a short note about the Bowman-Latimer race in southern Westchester County, NY. This is the infamous most expensive House primary race in history. As most of you know I’m living in Westchester now, but not in that district. From where I sit, I don’t know that Latimer’s defeat of Bowman is the bellwhether some commentary is making it out to be.

Bowman was profoundly shaken after a trip to Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank in 2021. Bowman’s criticisms of Israel after October 7 got the attention of AIPAC, which spent more than $14 million on the race. Bowman’s opponent, George Latimer, is a long-time Westchester County Democratic politician who has held several county and state offices. Voters know his name and are comfortable with him. I suspect he might have won the race even without AIPAC’s money. I expect him to win the general election.

The campaign AIPAC funded was not about Israel. Many of the television ads against Bowman listed all the times Bowman voted against some legislation supported by President Biden. Bowman, on the other hand, made AIPAC the focus of his campaign against Latimer. Voters possibly didn’t care that much about AIPAC’s campaign spending. But my point is that I don’t know that yesterday’s outcome is really telling us anything about public support or opposition to Israel’s war in Gaza, or about “the Squad,” the group of House progressives that counted Bowman as a member.

The district is mostly in southern Westchester and partly in The Bronx. There’s a lot of old inherited money in Westchester, but the southern part especially also has a lot of working-class people and mostly Latino immigrants. The district is less than 40 percent white and nearly 30 percent Latino. Josh Marshall’s analysis, which is worth reading, says “I wrote Monday that many observers missed a key element of this race. Jamaal Bowman wasn’t getting run out of Congress by a flood of pro-Israel money. He was getting run out of office because he’d gotten critically out of sync with his district.”  That seems about right.

Thou Shalt Not Mix Church and State

On the same day that Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry signed the new “Ten Commandments” bill into law — the one that requires a particular verson of the Ten Commandments be posted prominently in all classrooms in Louisiana — a Texas megachurch pastor and one time spritual adviser to Donald Trump resigned over sexual abuse allegations. Well, they aren’t really just allegations, since the pastor admitted to what happened.. When he was a young pastor in his 20s he repeatedly molested a 12-year-old girl. And if she was his only victim he’d be very unusual, but she’s the only one who has come forward that I know of.

Regarding the Ten Commandments law, the state representative who sponsored the Louisiana bill said that having the commandments posted would allow students to “look up and see what God says is right and what he says is wrong.” Maybe the Texas pastor should have posted them in his office.

I have said before, and I’ll say again, that this obsession with putting the Ten Commandments in everybody’s face has nothing whatsoever to do with good behavior. The 10 Cs are the Christian Right’s tribal totem. They are posted to proclaim that right-wing Christians are the dominant tribe.

The Louisiana law is nearly identical to a Kentucky law that was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court back in 1980. The current court might very well overturn the earlier decision. In which case most public schools in the South and in much of the Midwest will immediately turn into Jesus Camp. In most cases it won’t even be subtle.

I learned that Gov. Landy also signed a bill that allows public schools to hire or appoint volunteer chaplains to provide “support, services, and programs for students,” whatever that means. I found a copy of the bill online but can’t say if it’s exactly what was signed. This version of the bill doesn’t explicitly way they have to be Christian chaplains. But neither does it say they have to have any sort of training or credentials. The lawmakers did think to prohibit registered sex offenders from being school chaplains, but otherwise, whatever. I can see every relgious nutjob and not-yet-convicted pedophile in Louisiana lining up to be a volunteer chaplain. This coujld get very messy. And what happens if, say, a Rabbi or a monk from one of Louisiana’s Buddhist temples offers to volunteer as a chaplain?

On to politics … everybody is panicked. I see in Politico that Biden’s biggest fundraisers are depressed and disappointed because Trump is on a fundraising blitz and has erased a large part of Biden’s war chest advantage. But at the same time, “across the country, the mood of Republicans has dimmed, according to nearly a dozen Republican operatives, county chairs and current and former GOP officials,” also says Politico. Some polling numbers have been moving in Biden’s favor since the conviction. Yes, let’s all just panic.

Worth reading — I Know What America’s Leading C.E.O.s Really Think of Donald Trump by Jeffrey A. Sonnenfeld, who is the president of the Yale Chief Executive Leadership Institute.

Recent headlines suggest that our nation’s business leaders are embracing the presidential candidate Donald Trump. His campaign would have you believe that our nation’s top chief executives are returning to support Mr. Trump for president, touting declarations of support from some prominent financiers like Steve Schwarzman and David Sacks.

That is far from the truth. They didn’t flock to him before, and they certainly aren’t flocking to him now. Mr. Trump continues to suffer from the lowest level of corporate support in the history of the Republican Party. …

... If you want the most telling data point on corporate America’s lack of enthusiasm for Mr. Trump, look where they are investing their money. Not a single Fortune 100 chief executive has donated to the candidate so far this year, which indicates a major break from overwhelming business and executive support for Republican presidential candidates dating back over a century, to the days of Taft and stretching through Coolidge and the Bushes, all of whom had dozens of major company heads donating to their campaigns.

They aren’t entirely happy with President Biden, either, but think Bicen is “tolerable.” Trump has them scared.

A reminder that Trump is not normal. Trump taunted Jewish employees with jokes about Nazi ovens: Ex-Trump Org VP.

News Bits for Juneteenth 2024

Happy Juneteenth. Here is a history-nerd reminder that chattel slavery hadn’t completely ended in the U.S. on the first “Juneteenth” in 1865. Slavery remained legal in Delaware and Kentucky until the 13th Amendment went into effect in December 1865. But we’ve got enough holidays in December already.

On to the news: Matt Gaetz must really be in trouble.

After he was ousted as House Speaker last year, Kevin McCarthy claimed that Representative Matt Gaetz led the effort to depose him as revenge for a House Ethics Committee investigation into the Florida congressman. For his part, Gaetz has insisted that his motivations for giving McCarthy the boot were purely based on policy concerns. But if he was hoping the end of McCarthy would mean an end to the investigation, he was apparently sorely mistaken!

In a statement released on Tuesday, the ethics panel—which is notably controlled by Republicans—said that it has not only continued its investigation into Gaetz, but it has expanded the probe.

That other House Republicans would do this to Gaetz in an election year seems remarkable to me. Maybe he’s such an insufferable jerk they can’t stand him, either. Or maybe they’re trying to get ahead of something really awful that’s bound to come out sooner or later. This is from the Committee’s statement:

… Based on its review to date, the Committee has determined that certain of the allegations merit continued review.  During the course of its investigation, the Committee has also identified additional allegations that merit review.

Accordingly, the Committee is reviewing allegations pursuant to Committee Rules 14(a)(3) and 18(a) that Representative Gaetz may have:  engaged in sexual misconduct and illicit drug use, accepted improper gifts, dispensed special privileges and favors to individuals with whom he had a personal relationship, and sought to obstruct government investigations of his conduct.  The Committee will take no further action at this time on the allegations that he may have shared inappropriate images or videos on the House floor, misused state identification records, converted campaign funds to personal use, and/or accepted a bribe or improper gratuity. 

The most recent word on Gaetz is from ABC News: Witness tells House Ethics Committee that Matt Gaetz paid her for sex: Sources.

Yesterday was primary day in Virginia. The House VA-05 Republican primary was between two horrible men. Incumbent Rep. Bob Good is chair of the House Freedom Caucus and in most respects is as MAGA as they come, but for one thing: He endorsed Ron DeSantis back when DeSantis still looked viable as a presidential candidate. So Trump ordered Good to be primaried. The primary challenger is state Sen. John J. McGuire III. Josh Marshall calls McGuire a “Trump fanboy stooge.” Trump endorsed McGuire and looked to a McGuire victory as revenge against Good. And apparently all signs pointed to a McGuire win. But as of noon EST Wednesday, the race is too close to call.

Josh Marshall: “This is nonstop popcorn. Two election denying freaks in a too close to call race in which the true may not be known for some time. Karma.” It also perhaps says something about the value of Trump’s endorsement, even among Republicans.

Speaking of Trump, now he’s saying that business executives should be fired from their jobs if they don’t support him for POTUS.

Former President Donald Trump on Tuesday said that business executives and shareholder representatives should “be 100% behind” him or face termination.

“Business Executives and Shareholder Representatives should be 100% behind Donald Trump! Anybody that’s not should be FIRED for incompetence!,” the former president wrote in a post on his social media website, Truth Social.

His post referred to an article from The Wall Street Journal on Monday comparing corporate tax rates between the Biden and Trump administrations. In another post, Trump quoted the article as saying, “Corporations won tax cuts during Trump’s first term, and they would benefit if he wins again.”

Of course, Trump also said the stock market would crash if Biden were elected in 2020. It, um, didn’t.

The business execs might also consider that Trump’s stupid plan to replace income taxes with tariffs would kill the economy.

There’s a new book called Apprentice in Wonderland about how Trump’s time on The Apprentice not only made him POTUS but also colors his worldview to this day. The author, Ramin Setoodeh, interviewed Trump six times at length about his Apprentice years. The first interviews were in 2021 and continued over several months. Setoodeh is saying now that Trump has “severe memory issues.”

I’ve said earlier that I’m not sure Trump always understands questions he is asked or what planet he’s on at least part of the time. He’s still bragging about the cognitive test he took in 2018 and allegedly aced. He seems to think this was some kind of intellgence test, when of course it was just a screening test for dementia. One wonders if he would “ace” it now.

White Evangelicalism Going to Hell

Here’s a startling bit of data. “In one survey of Christian attitudes, for example, 43 percent of evangelicals said they did not believe in the divinity of Christ.” Um, huh?

This is from Trump has changed what it means to be evangelical by Shadi Hamid in the Washington Post. The link in the quote goes to a page that compares current evangelical beliefs with basic Christian beliefs. This site claims that 43 percent of evangelicals recently agreed with the statement “Jesus was a great teacher, but he was not God.” I agree with that statement, of course, but I’m not a Christian.

I’ve complained a lot in recent years that the Christian nationalist movement seems largely populated by people with little understanding of Christianity. I grew up in a hotbed of ol’ time religion. Just about everyone in the Ozarks was some kind of Evangelical, mostly Southern Baptists, or some kind of Pentacostal. But back in the day if you talked to these folks they had a reasonable grasp of Christian theology as their churhes interpreted it. These days the loudmouth politicized Christians I see on television seem to not know the Beatitudes from Beetlejuice.

Note also that the white and black evangelical churches live on different planets. What’s being said here is about the white churches.

Last year I read Tim Alberta’s book The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism. I wrote about it a bit in this post.

Evangelical Christianity in the U.S. has long had its freak show elements — think snake handling — but they used to be tucked away in rural America. But now the freak show is televised, and getting freakier. Alberta went around the country reporting on churches large and small, and part of the story he tells is that evangelical church-goers are leaving “traditional” Christianity and flocking to churches that offer a heavily politicized Christianity that conflates Christianity with America and Jesus with Trump. Or else they want one with big entertainment value.

One very poignant story he tells is about a pracher who had built a hugely successful megachurch near Kansas City. And then at some point he “found Jesus” and realized what he was offering was spiritual junk food. He began to preach sermons that were based on actual Christian theology, and his parishoners deserted him. Now he gets a handful of people to show up for service in his huge, empty church, when he used to get thousands.

Alberta’s main point was that politics was pulling white evangelicalism away from Jesus’ teachings. But this was the first I’d heard that so many had abandoned the doctrine of Trinity. Part of what seems to be happening is that there are people who have never been particularly religious but who now identify as “evangelicals” because they are Trump supporters. They are “claiming the label as a badge of partisan identity,” Shadi Hamid wrote.

In other news:  Politico has a news story about a Democratic party “power broker” in New Jersey who has been indicted by the state AG for racketeering. I have no particular insight into this situation except that it doesn’t surprise me. I’ve lived a large part of my adult life in New Jersey and New York but never clearly understood how politics “works” in either state.  The NY and NJ state governments are not as utterly useless as the state government of Missouri. (They should just fire everybody in Jeffereson City and hire a troop of Girl Scouts to run Missouri; the girls would do a better job, or at least be less annoying.) But there are nagging problems in both states (affordable housing, anyone?) that go on for years and years and never get addressed. It’s been pretty clear that old patterns of cronyism and corruption get in the way of good government. Maybe Trenton will be cleaned up a little, anyway.

Today’s News Bits: House GOP Fun and Games

On Wednesday, June 12, the House GOP voted to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt for refusing to turn over the audio recording of President Joe Biden’s interview with special counsel Robert Hur. Hur, you’ll recall, was the right-wing toadie tasked with investigating Joe Biden’s retention of classified documents from his time as Vice President.

Hur declined to recommend charging the President with a crime, citing insufficient evidence. Hur also threw a bunch of gratuitous shade about the President’s aging brain. Hur then got hauled in front of Congress by irate Republicans who were angry Hur didn’t recommend charges. They also wanted to hear more of Hur’s opinions of Biden’s mental acuity. That hearing pretty much went nowhere. Then Gym Jordan and James Comer sent a subpoena to the Justice Department for the audio recording of Hur’s interview. Justice sent them a transcript of the interview but not the audio. President Biden had invoked executive privilege and said the audio will not be released. Justice’s hands were tied. That brings us to Wednesday and the contempt of Congress vote.

Yesterday a Justice Department official responded to the House Republicans, explaining that it was Justice’s “longstanding position and uniform practice” to not prosecute officials who don’t comply with subpoenas because of a president’s claim of executive privilege. This seems straightforward enough that even Gym Jordan ought to be able to understand it, but perhaps I’m overestimating Gym Jordan.

Here’s the latest:

 Speaker Mike Johnson said Friday that the House will go to court to enforce the subpoena against Attorney General Merrick Garland for access to President Joe Biden’s special counsel audio interview, hours after the Justice Department refused to prosecute Republicans’ contempt of Congress charge.

“It is sadly predictable that the Biden Administration’s Justice Department will not prosecute Garland for defying congressional subpoenas even though the department aggressively prosecuted Steve Bannon and Peter Navarro for the same thing,” Johnson said in a statement. “This is yet another example of the two-tiered system of justice brought to us by the Biden Administration.”

Johnson is, of course, leaving out the executive privilege thing. Joe Biden is the sitting president. He can do that. Neither Bannon nor Navarro had valid excuses for not complying with a subpoena. Johnson should have heard of executive privilege, considering that his God-Emperor Trump made some attempts to use executive privilege after he left office, which is not how it works. And Gym Jordan famously blew off a subpoena from the January 6 committee; he had no excuses either.

This is all just political theater, of course. The only reason Republicans want the audio is so they can creatively edit out some clips and use them in campaign ads. And they will continue to complain that “Joe Biden’s Justice Department” is corrupt and doesn’t play by the rules, even though it clearly does.

Also last week, Politico reported that Trump called Mike Johnson at some point and demanded the House overturn the 34 convictions against him. Trump is too addled to understand that the U.S. House has no authority over what goes on in a city court. Johnson surely knows better, but is said to have promised to do something anyway.

I am so tired of these people.

In other news:  Some top CEOs met with Trump last week.

Former President Donald Trump failed to impress everyone in a room full of top CEOs Thursday at the Business Roundtable’s quarterly meeting, multiple attendees told CNBC.

“Trump doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” said one CEO who was in the room, according to a person who heard the executive speaking. The CEO also said Trump did not explain how he planned to accomplish any of his policy proposals, that person said.

Several CEOs “said that [Trump] was remarkably meandering, could not keep a straight thought [and] was all over the map,” CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin reported Friday on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

Bump Stocks and the Imperial Supreme Court

Today the Supreme Court decided that a ban on bump stocks is unconstitutional.

In a 6-3 ruling on ideological lines with the court’s conservatives in the majority, the court held that an almost 100-year-old law aimed at banning machine guns cannot legitimately be interpreted to include bump stocks.

Writing for the majority, Justice Clarence Thomas said that a firearm equipped with the accessory does not meet the definition of “machinegun” under federal law.

Here is the ruling; Thomas’s opinion begins on page 5. As you know, “bump stocks” are an accessory used with semiautomatic weapons. They work with the firearm’s recoil to make the weapon fire repeatedly without the shooter pulling the trigger again and again. At least, that’s what I read in news articles; I’ve never fired one.

The question that Thomas addressed was whether a such a modified weapon could be classified as “machine gun.” Thomas writes that “Under the National Firearms Act of 1934, a ‘machinegun’ is “any weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.’” Any full-auto weapon, in other words. Ownership of machine guns and anything used to convert semiautomatic weapons into machine guns is tightly restricted by that same act. Thomas then gives us several pages of verbiage that argues a bump stock doesn’t really convert a semiautomatic weapon into a fully automatic one, so a bump stock is not covered by the NFA of 1934. You can read it all yourself if you care what it says.

Note that a bump stock was used in the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting that killed 60 people, and also in the Buffalo mass shooting in 2022. And probably some others I’m not remembering. In 2017 after the Las Vegas shooting a poll found that 82 percent of Americans wanted bump stocks banned. But we must only pass laws approved by the Imperial Court, will of the people be damned.

The National Firearm Act of 1934, which has been amended a couple of times, is not a total ban on automatic weapons. It does, however, put so many restrictions on acquiring one that it’s just about impossible for civilians to do so legally. Or even illegally; I understand they are very scarce in the U.S. This act was challenged in court, and in United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939), the Court said, among other things, that the Second Amendment protects only the ownership of military-type weapons appropriate for use by a “well-regulated militia.” (There’s a long article here about the Miller decision that looks like an interesting read, but I haven’t gotten to it yet.) And the NFA remains the law of the land.

I don’t believe Miller has been overturned. The issue, of course, is that the old “well-regulated militia” enshrined in the Constitution, in the Second Amendment and in Article I, Section 8, paragraphs 15 and 16, carried muzzle-loading muskets that the men were required to obtain themselves. Hence, a right to own firearms had to be protected for the sake of the militia. But the state militia system — which, truth be told, was never all that effective at defense — was reorganized as the National Guard in 1903. Guardsmen don’t supply their own weapons, I don’t believe, so the purpose of protecting firearm ownership for the sake of the militia is kind of outmoded. The 2008 Heller decision then expanded the right to carry arms beyond just militia service, but didn’t eliminate the connection to the long-ago self-armed militia entirely.

But it seems to me that firearm technology has changed so drastically that any opinion about what is or is not a “military-type weapon” protected by the Second Amendment can get pretty arbitrary, especially since it was decided a long time ago that full-auto weapons are not protected. And I strongly suspect that if we could wake up and reconstitute the authors of the Second Amendment and show them what people are shooting now, they’d be shocked and horrified and want to repeal the amendment themselves.

Speaking of Clarence Thomas — see Harlan Crow Provided Clarence Thomas at Least 3 Previously Undisclosed Private Jet Trips, Senate Probe Finds at ProPublica.

Update: More analysis by Mark Joseph Stern at Slate:

The Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority carved a huge loophole into the federal prohibition against machine guns on Friday, striking down a bump stock ban first enacted in 2018 by the Trump administration. Its 6–3 decision allows civilians to convert AR-15–style rifles into automatic weapons that can fire at a rate of 400–800 rounds per minute. One might hope a ruling that stands to inflict so much carnage would, at least, be indisputably compelled by law. It is not. Far from it: To reach this result, Justice Clarence Thomas’ opinion for the court tortures statutory text beyond all recognition, defying Congress’ clear and (until now) well-established commands. As Justice Sonia Sotomayor explained in dissent, the supermajority flouts the “ordinary meaning” of the law, adopting an “artificially narrow” interpretation that will have “deadly consequences.” This Supreme Court will be squarely at fault for the next mass shooting enabled by a legal bump stock. …

… For years, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives had been monitoring these devices; the agency found some unlawful, depending on their precise mechanisms, but did not take a formal position overall. The Las Vegas shooting prompted ATF to conclude that bump stocks transform semiautomatic rifles into machine guns, rendering them illegal under a long-standing federal statute. That’s because this law bans “any part designed and intended solely and exclusively” for “converting a weapon into a machinegun.” And a “machinegun” is defined as any firearm that fires “automatically” by “a single function of the trigger.” After extensive deliberation, ATF found that bump stock–equipped rifles do exactly that.

Now the Supreme Court has decided that it understands firearms better than the ATF. Thomas’ majority opinion reads like the fevered work of a gun fetishist, complete with diagrams and even a GIF. The justice, who worships at the altar of the firearm, plainly relished the opportunity to depict the inner workings of these cherished tools of slaughter. (It’s no surprise that he borrowed the images from the avidly pro-gun Firearms Policy Foundation.) To reach his preferred result, Thomas falsely accused ATF of taking the “position” that bump stocks were legal, then “abruptly” reversing course after the Las Vegas shooting. This account is dead wrong: ATF took a careful, case-by-case view of different bump stock–like devices as gunmakers developed them, deeming some permissible and others unlawful. The gun industry pushed these devices into the mainstream by deceiving ATF about their purpose; in one case, for instance, a manufacturer won approval from the agency by claiming a bump stock was designed to accommodate people with limited hand strength—then turned around and marketed it as the next best thing to a machine gun.

After wrongly accusing the agency of a politically motivated about-face—and using this charge to discount its expertise and authority—Thomas adopted a highly technical interpretation of the statute that does not align with its text. A “single function of the trigger,” he wrote, does not mean a single pull of the trigger, but rather a complete “cycle” of the spring-loaded hammer inside the gun. Because the hammer (rapidly) resets to its original position between shots, Thomas concluded, “bump firing” involves more than “a single function of the trigger.” And because the shooter must “actively maintain” a particular stance to put pressure on certain parts of the weapon, the justice wrote, the resulting fire is not truly “automatic.”

The Christian Nationalists Think They’re Winning

Yesterday the Southern Baptist convention voted to oppose in-vitro fertilization. They didn’t call for a ban — yet — nor did they forbid Southern Baptists from using IVF. Instead, they passed a resolution that calls on Southern Baptists “to reaffirm the unconditional value and right to life of every human being, including those in an embryonic stage, and to only utilize reproductive technologies consistent with that affirmation, especially in the number of embryos generated in the I.V.F. process.”

I interpret that to mean that it’s okay to use IVF to achieve pregnancy as long as no surplus fertilized zygotes are created as a result. Which means the odds of success will be very low.  (And for the record, the SBC narrowly failed to pass a ban on women pastors. This tells me they recognize a public relations disaster when they see one. But just before this vote the SBC voted to expel the First Baptist Church of Alexandria, Virginia, because the church allows women to serve even in senior pastoral roles. This suggests some ambivalence about women pastors.)

IVF was an issue in the Senate yesterday. Chuck Schumer and the other Democrats have been challenging their Republican colleagues to go on the record on women’s health-related issues, such as protecting a right to birth control. This week Chuck and the gang proposed a bill to protect access to IVF. So then this happened:

In response, Republicans have clung to two legislative gambits of their own that they say are just as good. Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) offered a simple resolution demonstrating the Senate’s “support for Americans who are starting and growing families through in vitro fertilization.” Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Katie Britt (R-AL) put forward a bill that would make states ineligible to receive Medicaid funding if they ban IVF.  …

… Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) blocked the Republican bill, calling it a “PR tool.”

“[This is] just another way for Republicans to pretend they are not the extremists that they keep proving they are,” Murray said on the Senate floor as she objected to unanimous consent. 

“The bill allows for states to push for regulations that could severely reduce the standard of care for IVF treatment, such as restrictions on how many embryos are created and what individuals can do with these embryos — decisions that should only be made between patients and their doctors, based on science and clinical guidelines,” she added of the Cruz-Britt bill.

Limiting the number of fertilized eggs produced in IVF and limiting what can be done with those eggs seems to be where the Right is coming down on IVF. Medical experts say limiting the number of fertilized eggs produced will make it much more difficult to achieve a successful pregnancy with IVF.

Yet there’s more. The Christian right is coming for divorce next writes Anna North at Vox.

Before the 1960s, it was really hard to get divorced in America.

Typically, the only way to do it was to convince a judge that your spouse had committed some form of wrongdoing, like adultery, abandonment, or “cruelty” (that is, abuse). This could be difficult: “Even if you could prove you had been hit, that didn’t necessarily mean it rose to the level of cruelty that justified a divorce,” said Marcia Zug, a family law professor at the University of South Carolina.

Then came a revolution: In 1969, then-Gov. Ronald Reagan of California (who was himself divorced) signed the nation’s first no-fault divorce law, allowing people to end their marriages without proving they’d been wronged. The move was a recognition that “people were going to get out of marriages,” Zug said, and gave them a way to do that without resorting to subterfuge. Similar laws soon swept the country, and rates of domestic violence and spousal murder began to drop as people — especially women — gained more freedom to leave dangerous situations. 

Well, forget that. Republican lawmakers in several states are working to abolish no-fault divorce and go back to the bad old days.  “Conservative commentators and lawmakers are calling for an end to no-fault divorce, arguing that it has harmed men and even destroyed the fabric of society,” Anna North writes.

Michelle Boorstein and Hannah Knowles write at WaPo about what the Christian right wants from a second Trump term.

Should Trump reclaim the presidency in November, they say, it would represent a historic opportunity to put their interpretation of Christianity at the center of government policy. …

… Among the proposals being pushed by the Christian right’svariousgroups and leaders:

  • Removing the words “gender” and “abortion” from federal program documents, as well as the related funding.
  • Imposing new restrictions on abortion pills, perhaps through the authority of the Food and Drug Administration.
  • Carving out greaterexemptions to anti-discrimination laws intended toprotect LGBTQ people.
  • Establishing a more visible role for Christianity in public schools, including more prayer led by both teachers and students.

There was some good news on the theocracy front today. The Supreme Court unanimously rejected the bid to restrict distribution of mifepristone, the main abortion pill. And it was unanimous. The court found that the plaintiffs didn’t have standing to sue, because they couldn’t prove they had been personally harmed. Okay. But Justice Kavanaugh dropped big hints that maybe someone else could sue.

In other news: Trump wants to eliminate most federal income tax by just adding tarrifs to all imports. Basically, he wants to go back to the antebellum economy.

Trump is getting called out for his stream-of-consciousness ramblings. Apparently he was so inchoherent at a closed-door meeting with House Republicans it was “like talking to your drunk uncle.” See also Eugene Robinson, Is Donald Trump okay? and Tom Nichols, Let’s talk about Trump’s gibberish.