Tuesday, November 30, 2021
It has been nearly five decades since the Supreme Court's Roe vs. Wade decision. And only the oldest of us now remember the many women that were dying each year from abortions performed by people who didn't have the requisite skills to be doing them. The truth is that Roe vs. Wade has saved many lives.
Now the decision may be overturned. The current Supreme Court, with a 6-3 right-wing majority, is hearing a case from Mississippi that could be used to overturn it. This would be a tragedy.
Below is part of an excellent article by Sarah Wildman in The New York Times. She reminds us of the danger inherent in overturning Roe vs. Wade.
In the United States, with Roe v. Wade likely to be largely dismantled, if not overturned, next year, it is time to look again at the women whose lives — and deaths — changed how the public understands what’s at stake when we talk about banning abortion.
“The thing I worry about in the United States is that the rallying cry won’t happen until women die, and that’s so unnecessary and unfortunate,” said Kathryn Kolbert, who in 1992 argued the major abortion case Planned Parenthood v. Casey before the Supreme Court.
It should not take a high-profile death to expose just how much is at risk when medicine is hamstrung by politics, religion or culture. . . .
Storytelling, Ms. Kolbert pointed out, has always been a tool in the arsenal of the political movement to safeguard abortion rights, or to win them in the first place. In recent years, the focus among activists in the United States has shifted away from telling stories of dangerous back-alley abortions and become one of empowerment, focused on sharing stories that help remove the stigma and shame that still clings to the procedure.
But in the years before Roe, clergy, legislators, media and feminist activists hoped that telling women’s stories of victimization, humiliation and death could humanize the need for universal abortion access and bring about legalization. One such story began with a 1964 police photo of a woman’s bloodied, lifeless body, facedown on a motel carpet. The woman was Geraldine Santoro, known as Gerri, 28 and a mother of two. Ms. Santoro had been fearful of what her estranged and violent husband would do to her if he discovered she was pregnant with a lover’s child. Her boyfriend attempted to perform an abortion on Ms. Santoro, accidentally killing her in the process. (He fled and was later convicted of manslaughter.)
That photo of Ms. Santoro was published in Ms. magazine in 1973, under the words “Never Again.” The image was blown up on placards carried at abortion rights rallies, a visceral illustration of the risks of illegal abortion.
In recent years, the state of abortion rights in America has deteriorated, especially for poor women and women of color. But it may be harder to motivate protesters now, in an era where women of reproductive age have spent their entire lives with the protections of the Roe era. The back-alley abortions that motivated the movement in the past are largely someone else’s memory.
There are other fears now. Today, a person could be charged with a crime after miscarrying or could face legal consequences for ingesting abortion pills ordered on the internet. In states where abortion access has been whittled down, legal provisions promising to safeguard the life of the pregnant woman are left to interpretation by medical personnel. But this is a space without clear answers, and hospital staffs will inevitably factor their own legal and professional risk into what would otherwise be a decision about the patient’s best interest.
Texas’ law banning abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy has been in effect since September, and already, The Lily has reported, a woman in the state who experienced an ectopic pregnancy said she was turned away for care. Ectopic pregnancies, in which a fertilized egg implants outside the uterus, require immediate termination because they endanger the patient’s fertility or, worse, her life. In theory, terminating an ectopic pregnancy is not banned under the Texas law. But in this case, according to the National Abortion Federation’s hotline director, who spoke with The Lily, doctors were afraid to intercede, and the woman ended up driving at least 12 hours to New Mexico for the procedure.
The Texas woman with the ectopic pregnancy survived her ordeal. But as more states consider passing laws like Texas’, the next woman might not. What will happen then? Will we know her name? Will she become a rallying cry? Or will she and other women with tragic stories fade into obscurity, their families fearful of coming forward? No one wants to see this happen, but what are we doing to prevent it?
I called up Lynn Paltrow, the executive director of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women (who happens to be my cousin by marriage), and asked her: Why does tremendous outcry over restrictive abortion laws come after a woman dies, rather than before? Ms. Paltrow was biting in her response. “The primary impact of the anti-abortion movement has not been to stop abortions, it is to dehumanize,” she said. “It is martyrdom and the visible suffering and death of a visible woman that reminds people of their humanity and their right to life.”
In Texas and elsewhere, Americans shouldn’t wait for another woman’s heart to stop beating before they demand change.
Monday, November 29, 2021
The charts above are from the Pew Research Center. They questioned 6,485 adults between September 20th and 26th, and their survey had a 1.9 point margin of error.
It seems that there is a connection between domestic abuse and mass violence. That's not something I had considered, but I'm not surprised. Those who hurt the people they love will find it easier to hurt people they don't know. If you remove the loners (those who have no domestic partner to abuse), I'll bet the percentage of mass murderers who were domestic abusers is much larger.
The following is part of a discussion of this is by Ashley Luthern and Mary Spicuzza in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
The violence starts at home.
Then it spills out to the public.
Experts and advocates who help survivors of domestic abuse say it's a troubling pattern they've seen repeatedly in mass casualty events.
"Domestic violence — family violence — predicts mass shootings," said Karin Tyler, the injury and violence prevention coordinator for the City of Milwaukee's Office of Violence Prevention.
Nearly 60% of 749 mass shootings between 2014 and 2019 were either domestic violence attacks or committed by men with histories of domestic violence, a 2020 Bloomberg analysis found. A peer-reviewed academic study released earlier this year had a similar finding: About 59% of the 110 mass shootings analyzed were related to domestic violence.
"Not all domestic abusers are this type of abuser, but in almost every mass shooting or mass killing, the person who committed it had a link to some sort of violence in their intimate partner relationships," said Carmen Pitre, president and chief executive of Sojourner Family Peace Center.
Although studies have focused on domestic abuse and mass shootings — not vehicle attacks — the connection is still relevant, said Sara Krall, End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin's homicide prevention program director.
"It's the same dynamic," she said, "and clearly this perpetrator had shown previously that his vehicle was being used to perpetrate harm against his partner, still a weapon.". . .
Studies have found mass shootings typically come after an "explosive event," Krall said.
"Perpetrators of domestic abuse may be at a stage of heightened anger, maybe further emboldened by the situation that just unfolded and may, unfortunately, extend the violence to others who are just in the path of their destruction," she said. . . .
"Our attention is with all who are in shock, mourning, and grief — especially victims and survivors of domestic violence who are finding this time to be particularly challenging as details have emerged about the suspect having a history of domestic abuse," said Monique Minkens, director of End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin, in a statement this week.
"We see time and time again that people who use violence against their current or former partners are more likely to go on to commit acts of violence on a larger scale," Minkens said.
Sunday, November 28, 2021
The chart above is from the newest Dallas Morning News / UT-Tyler Poll -- done between November 9th and 16th of 1,106 registered voters in Texas, with a 2.9 point margin of error.
It shows that about 23% of Texans say they will not take the COVID vaccine (5% say it is unlikely and 18% say definitely no). That's about 6.7 million people in Texas who refuse to take the vaccine, and provides a significant sample in which the virus can continue to grow.
This provides a danger to all Texans, since the longer the virus continues, the more it will mutate -- possibly into forms that can resist the vaccine.
This did not have to be this way, and is almost entirely because of the way the Republican governor and other elected officials have opposed both masks and vaccines. They have turned the pandemic into a political game - a game that will unnecessarily kill many Texans.
The United States is supposed to have a progressive tax system -- a system where those who make more money pay a higher percentage of their income. But since assuming power about 1980, the Republicans have chipped away at that system. Now many of the super-rich pay little or no taxes at all. This is not fair to ordinary Americans who pay their taxes. This must change.
Here is Ali Velshi's take on this situation at MSNBC.com. Here is much of that article:
Policymakers and economists in America once agreed that a progressive tax system yields the best results. All that means is that the government imposes a higher percentage rate on taxpayers who have higher incomes. In other words: If you make more, you pay more, proportionately, in taxes. This isn’t a terribly controversial idea.
Nor is the idea that it’s actually economically beneficial to leave poor and low-wealth people with a greater proportion of the money they earn. Generally speaking, those earners will spend most, if not all of it, locally: at grocery stores, retail shops, small businesses, for car repairs and doctor’s visits. This in turn has a multiplier effect on each dollar.
That’s the taxation system the United States is supposed to be following. But you wouldn’t know it given the lengths some of our lawmakers go to protect the investment accounts of America’s ultra-rich.
And it’s particularly relevant right now because of President Joe Biden’s social spending plan. If the House-passed version of the Build Back Better Act becomes law, it will cost $1.75 trillion dollars to overhaul America’s health care, childcare, education, and climate systems. A major question still facing the Senate is whether the bill will ultimately be “paid for” by tax increases on the wealthy?
One last-minute proposal to pay for part of it is a new billionaire income tax, first proposed by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. The ultra-rich generate a lot of their wealth from assets, like stocks. But, as the tax code stands right now, the ultra-wealthy don’t pay taxes on those investments until they are sold. They’re instead allowed to accumulate what are called “unrealized gains”: they are wealthier on paper but, unless they sell the stock, the government doesn’t consider the wealth increase to be income.
Except for the ultra-wealthy, those unrealized gains function a lot like income, often acting as collateral against low or even zero interest loans, often from their own companies.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk is a prime example: he takes neither a salary nor a cash bonus from Tesla; he’d have to pay income tax on those. Instead, he gets stock options. As of the first week of November, his stock value was worth about $28 billion. And, in lieu of all the cash tied up in those stocks, he’s taken out loans from Tesla, using the stock as collateral to use for his expenses. (Try that at your local bank and see how it works out for you.)
The billionaire tax isn’t some socialist hunt ahead of eating the rich. It would only apply to those with more than $1 billion in assets for three consecutive years, or anyone with more than $100 million dollars in annual income. To put a finer point on it, median household wealth in America is about $700,000, according to CNBC. This would result in increased tax on people with wealth that is 1,420 times as much as that.
This proposal targets about 700 people in America, a country in which, Census data tells us, about 37 million people live in poverty. Increasing taxes marginally on 700 of the richest people in America, each worth more than a billion dollars - would create transformational change for millions. . . .
In truth, our system of taxation favors the way rich people get richer off their assets over the way regular people earn a paycheck. Regular working people get their income through their labor, be it paid hourly or as an annual salary. And they might be able to take a deduction here or there but, working Americans pay taxes on that income. Really rich Americans though have options about how and when they translate their wealth into income. They can then manipulate that timing in ways that not only allows them to avoid taxation but, as we see above, benefit from the largesse of the, um, average taxpayer.
This perpetuates the wealth inequality that’s rampant in our country. The Gini Index gauges economic inequality in a nation, measuring how income is distributed among a population. (The index ranges from zero to one, with zero being perfect equality and one being perfect inequality.)
Last year, America’s Gini Index was at 0.49, a tie for the highest on record. It’s not the absolute worst rating but it’s definitely not up to standard for the greatest democracy in the world.
If you want to see who gets penalized by the system as it exists, it’s America’s workers. If you don’t fairly tax the rich because they make money differently than the poor do, you’re literally ensuring that our massive inequality continues to grow. Which is exactly what Republican resistance to a wealth tax is doing.
Saturday, November 27, 2021
The charts above are from the Dallas Morning News / UT-Tyler Poll -- done between November 9th and 16th of 1,106 registered voters in Texas, with a 2.9 point margin of error.
A few days ago, the House of Representatives voted to censure Paul Gosar (and remove him from his committee assignments for publishing a cartoon in which he killed a fellow representative (a woman of color). His Republican cohorts in the House voted overwhelmingly against censuring him. Threatening a fellow member is OK with them -- as long as it's a woman, a minority, and a Democrat.
And Gosar is not the only member to commit hateful acts. Recently, Lauren Robert joked to an audience about Democrat Ilhan Omar being a terrorist. Will congressional Republicans take her to task for her reprehensible statement? Not likely. There has been silence so far from Republican leaders and members of Congress. The GOP has, in essence, become the party of racism, bigotry, and hate. And they will continue that, because it is what a significant majority of their base wants of them.
How did the Republican Party get itself in such a mess? It started in the mid to late 1960's, when President Johnson, a Democrat, got three civil rights bills through Congress and signed them into law. This angered millions of racists, especially in the South, and they abandoned the Democratic Party in droves. The Republicans happily accepted these racists, because it made them the majority party in almost every Southern state.
They were joined by white evangelicals, who opposed equal rights for women and the LGBT community. And Republicans roped in many white workers by making them fear immigrants.
The Republican leaders thought they would be able to control this union of haters -- appealing to them at election time to win, and then go back to their regular brand of conservatism. They were wrong.
With the election Of President Obama, America's first black president, the haters began to coalesce under the banner of the Tea Party. And in just a few years, they had seized control of the Republican Party. Now they make up a majority of the party, and demand that their leaders reflect their lack of values. And those leaders now do that -- afraid they will be primaries or just kicked out of the party.
It has become so bad that there are virtually no moderates left in the party -- and the conservatives must go along with cultural hatreds of the base or be branded as RINO's (Republican In Name Only) and driven from the party.
This is sad, because the country needs at least two powerful parties to provide balance and make sure neither the right or the left goes too far. But with the right abandoning their principles and catering to the hate and bigotry, that balance is thrown off. They no longer can negotiate with Democrats for the good of the country, and will vote against any measure that Democrats propose or which disagrees even slightly with their hate.
This is beyond sad, because it also poses a danger to our democracy as the haters support autocracy more and more -- and it poses a danger to American lives as they have started to believe in violence to achieve their goal of domination.
There is only one way out of this mess the GOP has created. They must be voted out of power so completely that they reorganize with decent values (or cease to exist, and are replaced with a decent version of conservatism).
Friday, November 26, 2021
The chart above is from the Politico / Morning Consult Poll -- done on November 20th and 21st of a national sample of 1,999 registered voters, with a 2 point margin of error.
The three killers of Ahmaud Arbery have been found guilty of murder, and they will likely serve long prison sentences. That's a good thing, and I understand why decent Americans are celebrating. Far too many racist killings have gone without any kind of punishment in the United States (especially in the South). It's nice to see justice being done in this case.
But don't get carried away. Racism has not been defeated, and the verdict doesn't mean there won't be any more racist killings going unpunished. In fact, if there had not been a video of the crime, the Arbery murder would have gone unpunished.
The police didn't arrest the murderers immediately. And the District Attorney at the time didn't want them arrested either. They all tried to justify the murder as being a "citizen's arrest", and therefore legally justified. It was only after the video got released that the case was finally investigated and charges entered. The video made it obvious that the police and D.A. were trying to cover up a horrendous crime.
This will happen again. There are too many right-wing racists in our society, and they are being encouraged to be violent (sadly by many GOP elected officials). There will be more racist killings. Will they be investigated if there is no video? Will they be covered up by the authorities? There's a real good chance of that happening.
We are still a racist country, and too many whites are willing to either do violence or put up with it being done by others because they fear losing their white privilege.
We saw this in action in Wisconsin, where Rittenhouse was found not guilty after murdering two men and wounding a third with a weapon he was carrying illegally in a state that he did not even live in. The victims were white in this instance, but to right-wing racists, whites who support Black rights are also targets.
The Arbery verdicts were a good thing. But they do not mean this country is no longer racist. They do not mean there will be no more racist murders. And they do not mean that officials won't try to cover up future racist murders. The fight is not over, and there's still a long road ahead of us.
Thursday, November 25, 2021
The chart above reflects the results of the latest Yahoo News / YouGov Poll -- done between November 17th and 19th of a national sample of 1,696 adults, with a 2.6 point margin of error.
It shows that 74% of Americans say their life has returned to normal, while only 26% say it has not. Frankly, I am very surprised at these results.
I still wear a mask when I go to stores and events where their are other people, and most of the people I see their are also wearing masks. Personally, I don't consider having to wear a mask around other people to be normal.
The Labor Department released its weekly unemployment statistics on Wednesday (one day early due to the holiday). It showed that about 199,000 workers filed for unemployment benefits in the week ending on November 20th. That's the lowest weekly figure in several decades. But don't be fooled by that. We are still millions of jobs filled below where we were before the pandemic hit.
Here is the official Labor Department statement:
In the week ending November 20, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 199,000, a decrease of 71,000 from the previous week's revised level. This is the lowest level for initial claims since November 15, 1969 when it was 197,000. The previous week's level was revised up by 2,000 from 268,000 to 270,000. The 4-week moving average was 252,250, a decrease of 21,000 from the previous week's revised average. This is the lowest level for this average since March 14, 2020 when it was 225,500. The previous week's average was revised up by 500 from 272,750 to 273,250.
The following thought-provoking (and rather frightening) post is by Jah'an Jones at MSNBC.com:
For the first time, the United States has been added to a list of “backsliding democracies” in a global report from the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, an organization based in Sweden.
“The United States, the bastion of global democracy, fell victim to authoritarian tendencies itself, and was knocked down a significant number of steps on the democratic scale,” according to the International IDEA’s "Global State of Democracy Report 2021,"released Monday.
I have reservations about the “bastion of global democracy” part given America’s history, but point taken: The U.S. is becoming an increasingly antidemocratic country due to conservative attacks on free and fair elections. Specifically, the report pointed to former President Donald Trump’s refusal to accept his 2020 election loss as a “historic turning point” in American democracy. The report said Trump’s actions were a sign of America’s “democratic backsliding,” a term for the severe erosion of democratic principles.
“Baseless allegations of electoral fraud and related disinformation undermined fundamental trust in the electoral process, which culminated in the storming of the U.S. Capitol building in January 2021,” the report said.
It also pointed to the GOP’s response — voter restriction efforts that disproportionately impact nonwhite people — as an indicator that the U.S. is experiencing ethnicity-based, antidemocratic inequality.
Trump’s baseless allegations have had spillover effects, as well, encouraging unfounded election conspiracy theories and antidemocratic crackdowns inseveral countries, including Brazil, Mexico, Myanmar and Peru, according to the International IDEA. Alexander Hudson, a co-author of the report, told French news outlet Agence France-Presse the U.S. saw a “decline in the quality of freedom of association and assembly during the summer of protests in 2020,” when Trump used violent rhetoricin response to anti-racist activists protesting police brutality.
And America’s antidemocratic turn is reverberating across the globe, according to the report.
“Since 2016, and for the fifth consecutive year, the number of countries moving towards authoritarianism is approximately three times as high as the number moving towards democracy,” the authors wrote.
About a quarter of the world’s population is living in a backsliding democracy, the report stated, including geopolitical powers like the U.S., Brazil and India. The organization said those three large countries falling into democratic decline is a particularly worrying sign for global democracy.
Wednesday, November 24, 2021
The chart above is from the OH Predictive Insights Poll -- done between November 1st and 8th of a random sample of 713 Arizona registered voters, with a 3.3 point margin of error.
It's a fact that the Republicans in Congress no longer believe in democracy or have any real values, but some are even going further. They are actually encouraging their supporters toward violent actions.
The follow is part of a post by Steve Been at MSNBC.com:
When many of us hear the words "armed" and "dangerous," we think of criminal activity: Police officers are often told to be on the lookout for suspects — accused of serious felonies — who are armed and dangerous, and are therefore threats to public safety.
What's far less common are instances in which elected officials suggest being armed and dangerous is a good thing. The Charlotte Observer reported:
Following a not-guilty verdict in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse on Friday, Rep. Madison Cawthorn offered the 18-year-old an internship and told people on Instagram to "be armed, be dangerous and be moral." ... On Instagram, Cawthorn said in a video: "Kyle Rittenhouse is not guilty, my friends. You have a right to defend yourselves. Be armed, be dangerous and be moral."
To be sure, Cawthorn was not the only GOP official in a celebratory mood after a jury found Rittenhouse not guilty on Friday. He was, however, the only member of Congress who thought it'd be a good idea to encourage his allies to be both "armed" and "dangerous."
The fact that the congressman added "moral" to the mix did not negate the importance of the other adjectives.
What's more, this wasn't the first example of Cawthorn raising eyebrows with the language of violence.
The North Carolinian appeared at a local Republican Party meeting, and held a shotgun during part of his appearance at the local event. During his public comments, the GOP congressman referred to jailed Jan. 6 rioters as "political hostages," before musing about freeing the suspected criminals and possible efforts to "bust them out."
When someone in the audience asked, "When are you going to call us to Washington again?" Cawthorn replied, "We are actively working on that one."
But then he kept going, falsely telling locals that the country's election systems are "rigged," and arguing that if American elections "continue to be stolen, then it's going to lead to one place, and it's bloodshed."
Cawthorn, of course, was obviously peddling nonsense: Elections systems in the United States are not "rigged"; there is no evidence that any election was "stolen" in 2020; there is no need for "bloodshed." But the 26-year-old raised the prospect of political violence anyway in service of his party's lies.
In a healthy political system, such public rhetoric would likely lead to a conversation about whether the lawmaker should be expelled. Indeed, one congressional Republican — Illinois' Adam Kinzinger — published a tweet denouncing Cawthorn's rhetoric as "insane."
But House GOP leaders nevertheless preferred silence. They also said nothing in response to his "be armed, be dangerous" comments.