Dobbs 1. Egregiously Wrong

As expected, the Republican Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, and for the first time in history took away a right the American people believed they had. The vote in the case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was six to three. The case challenged a Mississippi law that in effect changed the deadline for getting an abortion to 15 weeks. The standard set previously by decisions in Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey was 23 weeks.

The six voting to uphold the Mississippi law were the Republican appointees to the Court. Five of the six, Chief Justice John Roberts not going along, decided to go further than Mississippi asked. Ignoring the tradition of keeping their ruling as narrow as possible, the majority of five decided in addition to upholding the Mississippi law they would rule that the entire doctrine in Roe and Casey should be overturned as improperly decided in 1973. That strips American women of their right to control their own bodies and determine the course of their own health care.

The majority opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, did not deviate much from Alito’s original draft, circulated weeks ago in a dramatic leak from the Court. It is clear Alito relished his assignment, writing, “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” adding, the reasoning in Roe “was exceptionally weak.” The key points:

  • The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion.
  • Roe and Casey are overruled.
  • The authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives.

There is a lot to unpack here so let’s get on with it. First, there is no surprise. Decades ago, Republicans decided Evangelical Christians were an essential part of their base. They have been pandering to them ever since. This is the one issue at the top of the Evangelical’s wish list, and they are thrilled Roe has been overturned.

Senator Republican leader Mitch McConnell has made overturning Roe his life’s crusade. He calls the Dobbs decision, “courageous and correct.” McConnell, aided and abetted in the last chapter of the saga by Donald Trump, who praised Dobbs, got three right wing conservatives on the bench during Trump’s one and only, so far, term. He first deprived President Barack Obama of a nominee by refusing, for nearly a year, the longest delay in history, to consider Merrick Garland, Obama’s nominee to succeed Anton Scalia.

McConnell then hypocritically rammed through the Senate the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett, nominated by Trump to succeed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg just days before the 2020 election. While Democrats dicker and negotiate amongst themselves, Republicans believe the end justifies the means. They don’t care how hypocritical their position is or who they hurt. And they win.

If you think the Dobbs decision is correct. Then you can go ahead and celebrate. This column is for those who do not. If you want to assign blame, start by looking in the mirror. Every single voter who just couldn’t bring themselves to cast a ballot for Hillary Clinton in 2016 is to blame. You voted for a monster, or at least, by sitting on the sidelines, allowed a monster to occupy the Oval Office. We are still fighting the destruction Trump left in his wake.

And if you don’t think the Republicans appealed to those with racist motives, watch first-term Republican Representative Mary Miller of east-central Illinois thank Trump for “the historic victory for white life in the Supreme Court yesterday.” Later, a campaign aide said she meant to say, “right to life,” but misspoke. Just days after taking office in January 2021, Miller was facing calls for her resignation after she cited Adolf Hitler in a speech to a conservative women’s group in referring to the political indoctrination of youths.

You have to put some blame on the notorious Ginsburg herself. She should have resigned, giving a Democrat the opportunity to name her successor. It must be very painful for a justice of the Supreme Court to have to consider such things. But that is where we are today. Justice Stephen Breyer, who joined in the Dobbs dissent and wrote the dissent in the New York gun law case, has resigned effective at the almost upon us end of term.

Breyer will be succeeded by Ketanji Brown Jackson, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Breyer is in good health, but the 83-year-old resigned now rather than having to retire due to health reasons after the 2022 election, when the Democrats may well lose control of the Senate. For that Breyer is a hero. Ginzburg, who died at the age of eighty-seven while still on the bench, was a multiple cancer survivor who was obviously in poor health. She resisted many calls to step down. Her death allowed the conservative Republicans to gain their sixth seat and change the balance of the court, dooming Roe.

A special shout out in the blame game goes to Joe Manchin, the Senator from West Virginia who runs as a Democrat, votes as a Republican and in general acts as though he is the most important person in the country. Manchin has acted repeatedly since the start of President Joe Biden’s term in office to block the progressive legislation Biden promised and the American people, by a margin of more than seven million votes, said they wanted. In 2018, the last time he ran for election, Manchin won 290,510 votes. Only 586,034 people voted in the whole damn state of West Virginia.

Manchin was one of only three Democrats to vote to confirm Justice Neil Gorsuch, who stole Garland’s seat and the only Democrat who voted to confirm the incompetent drunk Brett Kavanaugh. Both voted to overturn Roe after testifying that they believed the case was settled legal precedent during their confirmation hearings.

Manchin tweeted he is “deeply disappointed” in the Court’s decision:

“I trusted Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh when they testified under oath that they also believed Roe v. Wade was settled legal precedent and I am alarmed they chose to reject the stability the ruling has provided for two generations of Americans.”

While Manchin now says he would support legislation to codify the rights guaranteed by Roe into law, he voted last month against the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would have enshrined abortion protections into federal law, arguing the bill would have gone too far. You can get whiplash following Manchin around Washington.

But when it comes to mealy-mouthed wishy-washy oratory it is hard to beat the Senator from Maine, Susan Collins. The self-proclaimed moderate Republican, who always seems to vote the hard right line, is also upset. She also voted to confirm Trumps’s right-wing judges proclaiming to all who would listen, which means about every television camera in Washington, that she had gotten their support for a women’s right to choose.

Collins is in hiding someplace but her office has issued a statement on the Dobbs decision:

“The Supreme Court has abandoned a fifty-year precedent at a time that the country is desperate for stability. This ill-considered action will further divide the country at a moment when, more than ever in modern times, we need the Court to show both consistency and restraint. Throwing out a precedent overnight that the country has relied upon for half a century is not conservative. It is a sudden and radical jolt to the country that will lead to political chaos, anger, and a further loss of confidence in our government.

“This decision is inconsistent with what Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh said in their testimony and their meetings with me, where they both were insistent on the importance of supporting long-standing precedents that the country has relied upon.”

Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me over and over again, maybe I’d better admit that I’m the fool. When will the people of Maine stop sending us Senator Collins?

To be continued….

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Watch Out!

Look to your right. Now look to your left. Look ahead. Slowly, without drawing attention to yourself, turn and look behind. See all the people? Any one of them could be carrying a concealed weapon. They may be deranged. They may have no logical reason to be armed. But the Republican Supreme Court says they can carry weapons. And there is not a thing you can do about it.

The Republican hypocrites on the Court, all six of them, fulfilled the dreams of every member of the National Rifle Association by striking a New York law which had served that state well for one hundred years, setting standards for the carrying of concealed weapons. For the conservatives who hide when convenient behind the idea that states should be able to set local standards on these matters, the hypocrisy is exposed for all to see. This was not unexpected. Republicans have been fighting attempts to restrict guns for years. The vote was 6-3, strictly along party lines. All of Donald Trump’s three appointees voted to strike the law.

The New York law required concealed carry permit applicants to demonstrate a special need for a license, beyond a basic desire for self-defense. Writing the opinion in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the so-called “proper-cause requirement” prevented “law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their right to keep and bear arms.”

“We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need,” Thomas wrote for the majority. “That is not how the First Amendment works when it comes to unpopular speech or the free exercise of religion. It is not how the Sixth Amendment works when it comes to a defendant’s right to confront the witnesses against him. And it is not how the Second Amendment works when it comes to public carry for self-defense.”

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett joined the opinion.

The ruling’s broad sweep amounts to a complete overhaul of the court’s Second Amendment doctrine and is expected to call into question a wide range of other gun laws. The court’s decision clears the way for legal challenges to similar restrictions in Maryland, California, New Jersey, Hawaii, and Massachusetts. It follows recent mass killings in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas, horrifying acts of violence that spurred Congress to advance bipartisan legislation strengthening federal gun laws.

The court’s three Democrats, in dissent, accused the Republican majority of failing to consider “the potentially deadly consequences of its decision.” A 52-page dissent by Justice Stephen Breyer began bluntly. “In 2020, 45,222 Americans were killed by firearms,” he wrote, joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. History alone shouldn’t govern the Second Amendment’s application, he wrote, for “it is constitutionally proper, indeed often necessary… to consider the serious dangers and consequences of gun violence that lead States to regulate firearms.”

So now it is done. I have been writing about this ad infinitum, ad nauseam. I am ready to throw up. And to morn. I can now look forward in the years ahead to writing about more gun control laws being stricken by the Republican Supreme Court. And I can plan on writing about more killing and carnage. Make no mistake about it. The carnage does and will lie at the feet of the Republican Party, which favors guns over children. And takes the blood money of the NRA to win elections.

I know I have broken the tradition by referring to the Supreme Court justices as political partisans. Too bad. I call them as I see them. Today’s ruling has been the result of a fifty-year crusade by the NRA and its Republican syncopates to change the meaning of the Second Amendment and to take control of the Court. The second shoe is expected to fall any day with the overturning of Roe v Wade.

With this ruling, the Court continues the strained logic of its 2008 opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller. In Heller, the then 5-4 Republican majority bent over backwards to conclude that the first words of the Second Amendment, “A well-regulated militia,” didn’t actually require regulation nor a connection to a militia. Apparently these strict textualists, who in other places argue that the words of the Constitution are paramount in its interpretation, conveniently relegate those key opening words of the Amendment to the status of an ink blot to be ignored.

Let’s face facts. The Constitution does not mean what it says. It means what a majority of Supreme Court justices say it says.

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A Doolittle for Ukraine

What Ukraine could use is a Jimmy Doolittle. James (Jimmy) Doolittle was a pilot, a Lieutenant Colonel in 1942, when he led a bombing raid on Tokyo. It was just five months after Pearl Harbor, where the Japanese struck the American Naval base in a surprise attack.

Doolittle led sixteen stripped-down B-25 bombers carrying extra fuel and a reduced bombload taking off from the U.S.S. Hornet – a feat never attempted – and struck Tokyo. Fifteen of the planes then flew to the Chinese coast where they ditched and the crews were recovered by Chinese nationalist allies, while the other bomber landed in the Soviet Union.

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In Memoriam

Memorial Day, along with Veterans Day, are the days on which we honor the men and women in uniform who have given their lives to defend our nation. I have always had respect for those who wear the uniform. And I wonder if I would have been able to show their courage and dedication had I been called to do so.

I mean no disrespect, and I certainly hope our soldiers and veterans will not think ill of me, but I find myself moved to commandeer their day to mark another memorial and to write, for what seems the umpteenth time, about a mass killing in America. The twenty-one souls whose faces appear at the top of this columns died at the hands of an eighteen-year-old killer at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

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We Had This Beat

More than one million Americans have died of complications of Covid-19. Can you wrap your arms around that number? Does it seem possible? Everyone I know has been touched by Covid one way or another. I lost my mother-in-law. And it didn’t have to be this way.

American is in many ways like Australia. As reported by the New York Times (the link is probably behind the Times’ paywall, but it is excellent and worthy of credit), both countries are English-speaking democracies with similar demographic profiles. In Australia and in the United States, the median age is thirty-eight. Roughly 86 percent of Australians live in urban areas, compared with 83 percent of Americans. Yet Australia’s Covid death rate sits at one-tenth of America’s, putting the nation of twenty-five million people (with around 7,500 deaths) near the top of global rankings in the protection of life.

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Guns for All!

I’m beginning to think I have been going about this the wrong way. I write about the never-ending string of mass shootings. I tell the history of the Second Amendment. I deplore the right-wing Republican judges who overturn even the most reasonable legislation designed to curtail the endless supply of weapons. But here we are with another mass shooting. And on the same weekend, a single killing which would have been worse had it not been for some heroism by a church congregation.

A majority of the American people favor placing stricter limits on the ownership of guns. But the political leaders do not.

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First Amendment Hypocrites

It was the end of the term, 2014, when the headlines blared, “Supreme Court Strikes Down Abortion Clinic ‘Buffer Zone’ Law. At issue was a Massachusetts law requiring a 35-foot zone around clinics that provided abortion services. Both supporters and opponents of abortion rights were not allowed within that buffer zone, where some were harassing women going in and coming out while others tried to shield and protect them.

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