What did we Expect would happen after 30 years of hate radio and Fox News?

If you’ve ever done any kind of personal growth work you know that one of the central tenets of a lot of such work is that, while you cannot necessarily control the world around you, you can control your response to the world around you. 

On the other hand, one of the core principles of the new conservatism is, who can we blame?

I don’t know what people thought would happen after we had 30 years of right wing “Talk” Radio and 25 years of Fox “News.” The only thing these people are interested in is arousing our emotions and telling us whom we should blame for our problems.

In other words, whom we should hate.

And they’ve been very successful at it.

There is a film maker who directed a whole film about it. Her name is Jen Senko. Her film is called The Brainwashing of my Dad, and it looked at the phenomenon in a very personal way, focused on one particular human being.

But what happened to Jen Senko’s Dad happened to a lot of citizens in the United States.

So now we have another guy, another pasty, skinny, pathetic, virginal, resentful, conspiratorial, pseudo-masculine teenage white prick — one who has never been able to get a date — shooting up a grocery store because it was in a black neighborhood.

Oh, he’ll eventually get a date. In prison, if he makes it that far. He’s going to get a date up his ass. That will not be a fun day for him.

On the very next day after this kid’s rampage, by the way, we had a 60 year old Chinese man shooting up a Taiwanese church in California. Not quite the same thing, but close.

Now ask yourself, when was the last time that a black panther shot up a church of white evangelicals?

When was the last time someone from Antifa shot up a bunch of klansmen at a rally?

Can’t remember?

It’s because that’s never happened.

There has been a lot of commentary about how once fringe theories, like the Great Replacement Theory, have gone mainstream in recent years.

Although Republicans have been mining racial resentment for a long time — see, for example, this ad from Jesse Helms that ran in his 1990 Senate race — the Great Replacement Theory is a new level of race baiting and paranoia. The theory originates with French intellectual Renaud Camus, who in his younger years was a gay socialist activist.

Now he’s just a reactionary jerk.

Allegedly, he developed his theory when he observed in 1996 that a lot of old villages in the Herault region of southern France were filling up with Muslim and dark-skinned immigrants. By 2011 he had written a book (The Grand Replacement) that argued that with the complicity of French elites, the white European populations were being “replaced” with non-white peoples, especially Muslims, through mass migration, demographic growth and a drop in the birth rate of white Europeans.

Oy.

This theory has progressively been adopted by white supremacists and Tucker Calrson. This is, of course, the same Tucker Carlson about whom a federal court recently decided that no “reasonable” person can believe what he says.

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Does the Bible prohibit Abortion? (Spoiler alert: the answer is “no.”)

With “pro-life” evangelicals and other Christian conservatives about to achieve their wet dream — the imminent repeal of Roe v. Wade — one question that arises is, does the Bible prohibit abortion.

And the answer is: absolutely not.

First of all, as any number of commentators have noted, the word “abortion” never once appears in the Bible. Not in the Old Testament. Not in the New Testament. Not in the letters of Saint Paul. Not in the non-canonical Gospels. Not anywhere.

The old Testament does, however, include 613 laws, including such items as:

  • To circumcise the male offspring (Gen. 17:12; Lev. 12:3)
  • To put tzitzit on the corners of clothing (Num. 15:38)
  • To read the Shema in the morning and at night (Deut. 6:7)
  • To recite grace after meals (Deut. 8:10)
  • Not to stand by idly when a human life is in danger (Lev. 19:16)
  • To assist in replacing the load upon a neighbor’s beast (Deut. 22:4)
  • Not to leave a beast, that has fallen down beneath its burden, unaided (Deut. 22:4)
  • Not to afflict an orphan or a widow (Ex. 22:21)
  • Not to wrong the stranger in buying or selling (Ex. 22:20)
  • Not to eat a worm found in fruit (Lev. 11:41)
  • Not to have intercourse with a woman, in her menstrual period (Lev. 18:19)
  • Not to eat anything from an ocean or river that doesn’t have scales and fins, thereby excluding all shellfish (which is why we have the website God Hates Shrimp).

So, did God just forget to lay down the law on abortion?

It should be noted that Jews, who adhere to the Hebrew Bible (or Tanakh) — which is very close to (but not identical with) the Old Testamentgenerally do not believe that life begins at conception.

There is ample evidence, by the way, to show that abortion was practiced in the Levant as far back as sixteen centuries before the birth of Christ. What we don’t find are many prohibitions against it. And again, none at all in the Bible.

In addition, there are plenty of stories in the Bible that suggest that God was not all that concerned about either fetuses or abortion.

Consider, for example, Exodus 21:22-25, which relates the story of a the case of a pregnant woman who becomes involved in a brawl between two men, resulting in a miscarriage. A distinction is then made between the penalty that is to be exacted for the loss of the fetus and injury to the woman. 

If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.

(Exodus 21:22)

It doesn’t sound like God value’s the fetus that much.

Or consider, for example, this passage from Numbers where God details the punishment for an unfaithful wife who was not caught in the act:

But if you have gone astray while under your husband’s authority, and if you have defiled yourself and some man other than your husband has lain with you” then the priest shall put the woman under the oath of the curse, and he shall say to the woman “the Lord make you a curse and an oath among your people, when the Lord makes your thigh rot and your belly swell; and may this water that causes the curse go into your stomach, and make your belly swell and your thigh rot.”

(Numbers 5:16)

Some commentators have argued that what is being done here to the woman is the forced ingestion of an abortifacient.

So, if it’s not in the Bible, where does Christian opposition to abortion come from?

Three words: the Catholic Church.

(And people wonder why I have problems with the Catholic Church.)

Actually, the Catholic church was not always opposed to abortion, at least not before “ensoulment“ (the moment that a body gains a soul) occurs.  

And when is that?

Most early Christians believed that this did not happen until “quickening,“ the moment when a pregnant woman starts to feel or perceive fetal movements. 

In fact, it wasn’t until 1869 that the Catholic Church seemed to take the position that a person acquired their soul at the moment of conception. This was back in 1869 when Pope Pius IX, eliminated distinction between the “fetus animatus” and “fetus inanimatus,” so that the soul was believed to have entered the pre-embryo at conception. It took the church over 1800 years to come to this conclusion.

When Christians do try to justify their belief that life begins at conception through texts from the Bible, they find that the pickings are slim. For the most part, they quote passages that suggest that humans were created in God’s image. For example, a passage which some pro-life advocates have argued establishes the sanctity of life before birth is the following:

Now the word of the LORD came to me saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

(Jeremiah 1:4-5)

But this is not a passage about the sanctity of fetuses. It is instead a passage about how the Lord has ordained Jeremiah to be a prophet unto nations.

Or, the following passage has been used to argue that a fetus is truly a living human being and deserves the same protection as any other human being:

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.

(Luke 1:39-44)

But this is not a passage about the holiness of a fetus. It is a passage about the excitement that the future John the Baptist (at that point still inside his mother Elizabeth) feels upon meeting the future Jesus (at that point still inside his mother Mary). It’s about the future relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus, not about the sanctity of fetuses.

Or here is a beautiful passage from Psalm 139 about how we are “knit together” in the womb: 

For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.

(Psalm 139:13-18)

That’s a lovely sentiment, of course, but nowhere in there is any kind of prohibition on abortion.

Conservatives like to claim that they are “textualists,” especially in their reading of the Constitution. But where is their textualism when it comes to reading the Bible for passages prohibiting abortion?

Nowhere, that’s where.

They got nothing.

They got nothing at all.

And yet, they want to prohibit abortion for all of us because of their (mistaken) belief that life begins at conception.

Something begins at conception, but it is not human life.

And crucially, it is not life that can survive outside of the body of a woman. 

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The Forgotten Ninth Amendment and its Relation to Abortion

As we discuss the potential repercussions of the decision in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization — the one where Justice Alito is apparently willing to overturn Roe v. Wade — I just want to point out to the legal nerds among us that Roe was probably decided under the wrong provision of the Constitution. I would argue that it should have been decided under the (largely) forgotten Ninth Amendment.

So, how did we get here?

First of all the Ninth and Tenth Amendments are the last two amendments that were added in the Bill of Rights (the 10 amendments to the Constitution that were enacted a few years after the Constitution’s 1788 ratification). 

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

The Ninth Amendment

And

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

The Tenth Amendment

Now, these two amendments could be considered to be an expression of natural law: that there are certain rights, often very personal rights related to the family, that don’t need to be enumerated. Questions of sexuality, marriage or procreation would definitely come under this umbrella.

Of course, the text of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments together create some confusion. If the Ninth reserves unenumerated rights in the people, why does the Tenth delegate unenumerated rights to the states or the people.

It doesn’t really matter. 

For various historical reasons, the Ninth and Tenth amendments were never used in this way. Instead the Supreme Court resorted to something known as “substantive due process.”

Substantive due process is an oxymoron. If it’s substantive, it’s not due process. And yet the Court distinguishes between exactly that, “substantive” and “procedural” due process.

  • Procedural Due Process is exactly what you would think it would be: questions of whether certain procedures that guarantee fairness — such as the right to cross-examine adverse witnesses in a court of law — have been followed.
  • Substantive Due Process, on the other hand, is really about establishing substantive rights that have not been enumerated anywhere (and thus are kind of like “natural law” rights).

This concept was really first articulated in a case known as Griswold v. Connecticut. In that case the state of Connecticut had passed a series of Comstock laws that restricted the kind of birth control that married couples could use.

Wait a minute.

In 1965 Connecticut restricted the kinds of birth control that married couples could use?

Sure did.

Why?

Three words: the Catholic Church.

(And people wonder why I have problems with the Catholic Church.)

In any case, the Court in the Griswold case struck down the statutes criminalizing the use of certain contraceptives by married couples, reasoning that they violated the right to marital privacy (an unenumerated right in the Constitution). The same logic was used two years later when the Court struck down the antimiscegenation laws of Loving v. Virginia (laws that prohibited interracial marriage also vioalted the “unenumerated right” of citizens to marry the person of their choice. The same reasoning animated the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision on gay marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges).

Interestingly, Justice Arthur Goldberg wrote a concurring opinion in Griswold in which he cited to the Ninth Amendment in support of the ruling. As it should have been.

So, in 1973, when Roe v. Wade made its way up to the Supreme Court, the Court used “substantive due process” to establish the rights of women to choose whether to abort or not (balanced against the State’s right to protect public health). Because of the public health concerns, the Court limited the right to the period where the fetus had not yet achieved “viability.”

It’s Justice Alito’s evisceration of substantive due process in his draft Dobbs opinion that has so many legal scholars worried. If he can dismiss substantive due process in the abortion case, then why can’t it be dismissed in cases permitting gay, or even interracial marriage?

That’s why legal scholars are worried.

And maybe you should be worried too.

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What happens now with the abortion situation?

As I predicted yesterday, a big focus of the leaked Supreme Court decision is going to be the question of who leaked the draft opinion.

Chief Justice John Roberts has already ordered an investigation to identify the leaker.

Wouldn’t it be funny if the leaker turns out to be Justice Stephen Breyer? He’s already resigning at the end of the term. What are they going to do, fire him?

This decision — which, in all fairness, one must add has not yet been enshrined — could cause political shock waves and upend the perceived calculus about how the midterms are going to go.

Which leads us to the question of whether this Supreme Court is an illegitimate court?

Of course it is.

Merrick Garland should be sitting on the court, and Amy Coney Barrett should not be sitting on the court. That the reverse is true is all due to that Überhypocrite, Mitch McConnell.

But he got what he wanted.

Now he has to hope that it doesn’t come back to bite him.

So far, there are five votes to jettison Roe (Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett) and three in opposition (Breyer, Kagan and Sotomayor). How Chief Justice Roberts votes will be interesting. He’s an institutionalist, and he may vote against overturning Roe without affecting the outcome.

We should note that we only have a draft of the lead opinion from Alito, and no one yet knows how many concurring and dissenting opinions there might be.

In any case, as one can see from the map below, the legal situation in the various states is one giant clusterfuck: 

  1. Progressive states, like Massachusetts (my home state) and California have already enshrined abortion rights in the law.
  2. Regressive states, like Texas and Oklahoma, have trigger laws banning abortion, that will spring into effect as soon as the decision is formally released.
  3. A third category of states, like Michigan and Wisconsin, had laws banning abortion that were overruled by Roe, but which were never taken off the books. In these states the bans would spring back to life.
  4. A fourth category of states, like Pennsylvania and Ohio, never resolved the abortion issue, and the Roe case made the issue essentially moot.

Good luck to the wild, wild west. People of means will travel to the coasts to get their abortions, and abortion providers in California, Oregon, New York and Massachusetts, among others, can expect to be deluged with abortion requests.

Predictably there will be an upswing in the prescribing of mifepristone and misoprostol (used in a two-step approach) as artificial abortifacients in both legal and illegal ways.

If there can be a thriving underground business in opioids, then there can be a thriving underground business in abortifacients. 

But it might not be pretty.

Welcome to back to 1973, a time where a superpower was at war (the United States in Vietnam), there was a disgraced President (Nixon), and abortion was not yet the law of the land.

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No one should be surprised that the Supreme Court is planning on overturning Roe v. Wade

Well, really no one should be surprised that the Supreme Court is poised to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision, or that Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett and Neil Gorsuch (all Trump appointees) are voting with the majority.

The surprise is that this “draft opinion” was leaked ahead of time.

Look for right wingers to make a big deal out of the leak, to try to deflect attention from what is actually going on to how the leak is wrong.

And the leak is wrong. It is unprecedented, and it sets a bad example going forward.

But it’s pretty clear why it was leaked now: so that it could have a political impact now, in the middle of primary season, where it could significantly motivate the Democratic base.

We don’t know who leaked the document, but it was likely either a law clerk for the Supreme Court, or someone close to a law clerk for the Supreme Court, who would have had access to the draft. The leak was made to Politico, who published it right away. You can read the draft opinion, authored by Justice Samuel Alito, here.

Overturning Roe has been, of course, the fever dream of the American right and the anti-abortion movement. Donald Trump — who has been pro-choice most of his life — enabled this fever dream by placing three justices on the Supreme Court. He was able to do that because of the enormous and unapologetic hypocrisy of former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Now conservatives may have to live by the maxim “be careful what you wish for, as it may come true.” A lot of things have changed in the 49 years since Roe was decided, and we’re now headed for a United States in which there will be dramatically different abortion laws in the 50 states. For women with resources, abortion will still be available, although in many cases much more difficult to obtain. For women without resources in Red states? Well, they get fucked again.

Should be interesting to see how this plays out in the next few weeks. The “final” decision probably won’t be issued until mid June, although there is no firm deadline.

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Inflation reaches 7.4% in Germany, and yet, Joe Biden is not their President

I occasionally check on Der Spiegel, Germany’s version of Time Magazine, to see what they’re reporting on. Recently I came across the following headline:

Inflationsrate steigt im April auf 7,4 Prozent
Lieferengpässe, Corona und Russlands Krieg in der Ukraine: die Preise gehen nach oben. Im April klettert die Teuerungsrate laut Statistischem Bundesamt weiter auf 7,4 Prozent – der höchste Wert seit 41 Jahren.

Most of you probably don’t speak German, so let me translate for you:

Inflation rate rises to 7.4 percent in April
Supplychain bottlenecks, the Coronavirus, and Russia’s war in Ukraine: prices are going up. According to the Federal Statistical Office, the inflation rate climbed further to 7.4 percent in April – the highest value in 41 years.

And yet . . . Joe Biden is not their President! Somehow inflation managed to increase to 7.4% in Germany with Joe Biden nowhere in sight. Imagine that!

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I’m not actually concerned about Prayer after High School football games.

The Supreme Court heard a case this week involving a high school football coach who was in the habit of praying with his players at the end of a football game on the 50 yard line.

As reported by NPR, Joseph Kennedy, a coach for the varsity and junior varsity high school football teams in Bremerton, Washington, would routinely take a knee and say a prayer with his players at midfield. Eventually school administrators asked Kennedy to stop praying with students. While he cooperated for a short time, the Marine veteran soon returned to his practice of praying right after the game. Initially this was mostly at away games, and with little fanfare. By the time of the big homecoming game, Kennedy had lawyered up and decided to make a big spectacle of his public prayer.

Kennedy claimed it was a “personal” choice.

The school system’s administration retorted that he had made a public spectacle of it.

Attendance at the game doubled, five TV stations showed up, and a group of Satanists unsuccessfully attempted to take the field to perform their own competing ritual. After the final whistle blew, a largely pro-prayer crowd mobbed the field, knocking over some band members and cheerleaders. Surrounded by TV cameras and some of his players, Kennedy knelt to pray on the field while a state representative placed his hand on Kennedy’s shoulder in support.

Now, personally, this is an issue that I don’t care much about. I’m secure enough in my beliefs that public prayer doesn’t bother me at all. If others want to pray, I can just close my eyes and meditate.

But these are high school kids. And many of them may feel that they need to pray in order to keep their place on the team.

Don’t Christians have enough places where they can pray that they don’t have to do it at school?

Like at home.

Or in a church.

In any event, the case is Kennedy v. Bremerton School District. I don’t think I’m too far from out in left field when I predict that this conservative court will side with the football coach.

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How do I feel about Elon Musk buying Twitter? Not excited.

How do I feel about Elon Musk buying Twitter? I’m not excited. That’s for sure.

I was hoping that Twitter would be able to resist the takeover attempt by this unmitigated rich asshole, but I guess when you have $44 billion to throw around, it’s hard to resist.

Musk has vowed to “unlock” Twitter’s potential by loosening what he sees as unfair restrictions on free speech. I’m not going to leave reflexively until I see what Musk actually does with Twitter.

But if that means bringing back hate speech and allowing Donald Trump, that protofascist, to come back on Twitter and spread his lies around, I’ll be leaving Twitter immediately. In that event, I hope millions will follow me out the door.

My favorite part of this story, by the way, was when Tesla lost $125 billion in valuation because of this Twitter deal.

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We Dodged a Bullet on Sunday. But just Barely.

We dodged a bullet on Sunday. But just barely. French President Emmanuel Macron won reelection to a second five year term on Sunday. In the end, the margin of victory wasn’t that close: roughly 58% to 42%.

But Marine Le Pen?

The daughter of Jean Marie Le Pen?

The daughter of the fascist who ran for President in 1974, 1988, 1995, 2002, and 2007, and would have run in 1981 if he not failed to gather the necessary signatures.

The daughter of that guy?

During her campaign, the firebrand populist Marine Le Pen pledged to dilute French ties with European Union and NATO. Le Pen is a known admirer of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and was opposed to sanctions on Russian energy supplies. The second term for the 44-year-old centrist spared France from the seismic upheaval that would have been the result of having Le Pen as President.

Macron acknowledged that numerous voters cast ballots for him simply to keep the far-right Le Pen from office — just as so many here in the United States voted for Biden to keep Trump from securing a second term. Macron had been accused of being haughty and indifferent to the concerns or ordinary French men and women. He pledged to try to reunite a country that is “filled with so many doubts, so many divisions” and work to assuage the anger of French voters.

Let’s hope it’s not this bloody close five years from now.

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Who votes against capping the price of Insulin at $35 per vial?

Not quite as dramatic as yesterday’s story about the $489,000 med flight — but still criminal — is the price of insulin in the United States. Insulin has been around since 1922, so it’s not exactly a new medication. And yet, a one-month supply of the insulin Humalog cost $21 in 1996, but $275 in 2019—a 1200% increase—but actual inflation during that same period was only 63.67%.

A 2018 study by the Rand corporation found that the average cost of insulin in the United States compared as follows with these other major consumers:

  1. United States — $98.70
  2. Chile — $21.48
  3. Mexico — $16.48
  4. Japan — $14.40
  5. Switzerland — $12.46
  6. Canada — $12.00
  7. Germany — $11.00
  8. Korea — $10.30
  9. Luxembourg — $10.15
  10. Italy — $10.03

Why is insulin $12 in Canada and almost $99 in the United States?

A few days ago the U.S. House passed a bill to cap the price of insulin at $35 per vial. 193 Republicans voted against it (12 Republicans voted for it). It’s now moved on to the Senate and it’s not guaranteed that it will pass there.

193 Republicans voted against limiting insulin to $35 per vial.

And this is the party of the middle class?

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