Tag Archives: freedom

Best Quotes of the Week – May 14, 2022

“The wife of a Supreme Court justice doing what Ginni Thomas did is utterly unheard of in the history of the United States.  Justice Thomas, talking about [the] legitimacy of institutions – either the White House or the court itself – he should recuse himself, which he refuses to do, from any case involving the president of the United States and the election.”

Carl Bernstein, condemning Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas for criticizing Americans opposed to the possibility of Roe vs. Wade being reversed

Describing Thomas as “rogue” and “disingenuous”, he added, “There is a real failure of institutions, especially on the Supreme Court, by a rogue justice who would not say, ‘I’m going to step aside.’”  Bernstein also noted that Thomas’ wife, Virginia (Ginni) Thomas, had worked to overturn the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

Thomas had given a speech at the 11th Circuit Judicial Conference in Atlanta last week chastising people for “becoming addicted to wanting particular outcomes.”  The Court, Thomas said, “can’t be an institution that can be bullied into giving you just the outcomes you want.  The events from earlier this week are a symptom of that.”

It has to be noted that, in December 2000, Thomas was among the SCOTUS justices who ordered the state of Florida to stop counting ballots for the presidential election; thus handing George W. Bush the presidency.

“I’m a rape victim myself.  And when you realize what’s happened in your life, the trauma, the emotional, the mental, the physical trauma in a woman’s life, that decision ― she should make that decision with her doctor and between her and her God.”

Rep. Nancy Mace, in an interview with CBS News’ “Face the Nation”

Mace added that, while she backs abortion rights and wants to see abortion laws handled at the state level, she would personally only support anti-abortion legislation in South Carolina that has exceptions for rape, incest and in cases where the woman’s life is in jeopardy.

“Is the state of Mississippi going to force those girls and women who have this tragedy inside them to carry the child to term?  Are you going to force them to do that?”

Jake Tapper, interviewing the Governor of Mississippi Tate Reeves about the possibility the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn the landmark 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision

It was a Mississippi case that led to this critical moment in judicial history.  Tapper also asked Reeves if the state will force mothers to carry a child to term, even if the fetus is detected with “serious or fatal abnormalities that will not allow [it] to live outside the womb,” and in cases of incest.

Reeves argued that abortion procedures overwhelmingly happen in elective cases while incest is a much more uncommon circumstance by comparison.  “If we need to have that conversation in the future about potential exceptions in the trigger law, we can certainly do that,” he said.

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Right to Control

Many of the cases that arrive before the U.S. Supreme Court begin with individuals either trying right a wrong or make their own lives better.  They rarely expect to launch a national movement.  That was pretty much the case when Norma McCorvey found herself pregnant with her third child in 1969.  An unemployed carnival worker living outside Dallas at the time, McCorvey apparently had led a rough life and had given up her first two children for adoption.  She didn’t need – and couldn’t afford – to bring another child into the world.  However, the state of Texas didn’t allow for abortions except to save the life of the mother.  Even rape and incest victims couldn’t end their unwanted pregnancies.  Like so many women in her situation, McCorvey was too poor to travel to another state where abortions were safe and legal.  She even tried to obtain an illegal abortion, but again the cost was prohibitive.  She sought legal help and ended up under the guidance of attorneys Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington.

In 1970, after McCorvey had given birth and given up the baby, Coffee and Weddington filed paper work challenging the Texas law and bestowed the name “Jane Roe” upon their client.  They targeted then-Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade.  Wade had entered the national spotlight nearly a decade earlier when he prosecuted Jack Ruby for killing Lee Harvey Oswald who had been accused of assassinating President John F. Kennedy.  (Wade would later come to light as a ruthless prosecutor who engaged in unscrupulous legal maneuvers to ensure criminal prosecutions, no matter the cost and despite evidence to the contrary.)

After McCorvey’s suit was filed, a Texas district court ruled the state’s abortion ban violated the constitutional right to privacy under the 14th Amendment.  Wade persisted, however, and vowed to prosecute any doctor who performed what he deemed unnecessary abortions in the state.  The case eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court and, in a 7-2 ruling on January 22, 1973, abortion was fully legalized in the United States.

That was pretty much the end of the issue until the 1980s, when right-wing religious leaders began stoking the fires of anti-abortion rhetoric.  It accompanied the presidency of Ronald Reagan who openly stated he wished for a return to an America before the 1960s.  That should say enough about his bigoted state of mind, but it aligned with a growing hostility towards progressive ideology and civil rights legislation.

Earlier this week the unexpected news arrived that the Supreme Court may overturn Roe vs. Wade by the end of its current term in June.  We wouldn’t know anything about this if it wasn’t for the leak of a draft opinion by Associate Justice Samuel Alito who declares the Roe decision “egregiously wrong” in terms of constitutional practicality.  Chief Justice John Roberts has confirmed the veracity of the statement, but has joined many others in condemning the leak.

For many of us the leak isn’t the main concern.  It’s what it says.  There is now a very real possibility that nearly a half century of protection for that part of women’s overall health care could end because a handful of conservative extremists on the High Court want to inject their personal views into it.

For their like-minded ilk in the American public, the overturning of Roe marks the end of a long-fought battle in their alleged “pro-life” agenda; a perverted early Mother’s Day gift.  It doesn’t matter that a majority of Americans don’t want to see a complete ban on abortion.  They’ve been working for this moment over the past four decades.

For liberals, though, this is a much more dire situation.  While the current case that brought Roe back into the forefront is limited to just abortion, progressives see other seminal SCOTUS decisions in the judicial crosshairs.  It really isn’t extraordinary to see such cases as Obergefell vs. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage, reversed.  Along with abortion, queer rights have been a target of far-right conservatives.  But, if the Court sees fit to outlaw abortion at the national level (and leave it up to individual states), it could also reasonably overturn Griswold vs. Connecticut, which ruled that states could not deny birth control to married couples.  Before that decision, married residents of Connecticut (and a few other states) couldn’t legally purchase birth control.

To some conservatives, abortion has become another form of birth control, which is not what contemporary feminists who jump-started the modern women’s movement desired.  The latter group had always declared that abortion should be a woman’s last choice.  But, with the overall concept of birth control in mind, is it possible a woman who has a tubal ligation could be criminally prosecuted?  For that matter, could men who have vasectomies be subject to criminal jurisprudence?  How about condoms or IUDs?  Could those be outlawed?

Why stop with Roe?  Aside from Obergefell and Griswold, could the Court target Loving vs. Virginia, the case that struck laws against interracial marriage?  How about Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education, which outlaws racial desegregation in schools?

Remember that, when Antonin Scalia died in 2016, Republicans in the Senate displayed their usual contempt and disdain for President Obama by refusing to hold hearings on his nominee to the Court, until after Donald Trump got into office.  They stated that, since Scalia’s death occurred during an election year, the incoming president should select his replacement.  Yet, upon the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2020, they rammed through the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett – a character straight out of “The Handmaid’s Tale”.

That social and religious conservatives want to dictate what women can and cannot do with their own bodies conflicts with the long-held American vision of individual freedom.  Many of these people screamed at the thought mandatory mask-wearing or forced vaccinations at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic; crying they should have autonomy over their own bodies.  Really?  What an original concept.

Conservatives herald the beauty of life, but a life costs hard dollars in the very real world of child-rearing.  Since 2019, for example, the state of Texas has experienced a 1,100% rise in children placed into foster care.  Love and compassion alone won’t pay those bills, no matter how much prayer one puts forth.  Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie once emphasized that pro-life means the entire life cycle – not just up to the moment the fetus is born.

The reasons why an individual woman wants to end a pregnancy are myriad, but it is no one else’s business.  As painful a decision as it may be, I’d rather see a woman end a pregnancy she doesn’t want than give birth to a child she doesn’t want.  Children who come into the world unwanted are often unloved.  That’s an awful fate for someone.

Regardless, pregnancy and birth are individual choices.  No one – not the Supreme Court and not a politician – has the right to interfere with that.

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Martin Luther King Day 2022

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Image: Paul Daniels

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Most Hypocritical Quote of the Week – January 15, 2022

“Science tells us that after conception, that any … child’s heartbeat starts at six weeks. Any abortion at that point stops that heartbeat. It stops that life and it stops that gift from God. Today, I am asking all of you to protect the heartbeats of these unborn children. I am bringing legislation to ban all abortions once a heartbeat can be detected.”

Gov. Kristi Noem (R-South Dakota), in her State of the State address, in which she hopes to follow Texas’ lead and ban all abortions after 6 weeks

In a seemingly unrelated figure, South Dakota – with a population of just under 900,000 in 2020 – has an 11.9% poverty rate; the bulk of whom are non-White.

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Imprisoned for Writing: Pham Doan Trang

Independent journalist and human rights defender Pham Doan Trang was sentenced to nine years by The People’s Court of Hanoi on December, 14 2021. She was arrested in Ho Chi Minh City on October 7, 2020, and charged under Article 88 of the 1999 Criminal Code which criminalizes “making, storing, distributing or disseminating information, documents and items against the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam.”

Trang is the author of several books that address women’s rights, LGBT issues, environmental concerns and land rights.  In 2019, Reporters Without Borders awarded her a Press Freedom Prize in recognition of her impact.  Her work on the Liberal Publishing House helped it receive the prestigious Prix Voltaire award in 2020 for its continued coverage in spite of risks and dangers of reprisals.

Trang was held in isolation from the time of her arrest until October 19, 2021, when she was finally allowed to meet with one of her lawyers after having been denied access to her family and legal representation for over a year.

Foreseeing her own arrest, she gave instructions ahead of time for fellow activists to take advantage of her imprisonment to negotiate for more freedom in Viet Nam, and to “advocate for the others first, then me.”

In The Vietnamese, a journalists’ magazine Trang founded, her “final statement” from her trial has appeared today reads, in part:

“In a democratic society, if a citizen writes something or responds to interview questions from foreign journalists regarding matters the government doesn’t want to hear, what would be the civilized response? The most civilized response would be for the government to do nothing because a civilized person knows how to respect the opinions and interests of others.

“In a less fortunate situation, if a government has authoritarian tendencies and finds what the citizen says unacceptable, then it could simply write books or articles to rebut that citizen, or even boldly reach out to the foreign press to arrange an interview in which a government representative expresses his/her viewpoint or responds to the citizen in-kind.

“But the Socialist Republic of Vietnam does none of this. Instead, it chooses to respond in a more vile, foolish, and heinous manner, imprisoning its citizens simply because they write works or respond to interviews with foreign journalists.”

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Veteran’s Day 2021

“In the face of impossible odds, people who love this country can change it.”

Barack Obama

Image: Janet Brown, The Cake Studio

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December 2020 Countdown – December 29!

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.  Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning.  They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.”

Frederick Douglass

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Photos of the Week – August 8, 2020

The 2020 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally opened this week in Sturgis, South Dakota with little regard for the COVID-19 pandemic.  Bike aficionados roared into town, sans masks and social distancing.  I have to concede I have no problem with this.  While I haven’t ridden a motorcycle in almost 30 years – and probably wouldn’t now at my age – I fully support this rally and the attendees’ right to navigate as they please.  If I was on bike, traveling down the highway at 100 mph, my biggest concern wouldn’t be a virus flying into my mouth; it’d be a bug!  Or some idiot coming the other way in their over-sized SUV texting.

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Happy Independence Day 2020!

“It’s Fourth of July weekend, or, as I call it, exploding Christmas.”

Stephen Colbert

“True patriotism springs from a belief in the dignity of the individual, freedom and equality not only for Americans but for all people on earth…”

Eleanor Roosevelt

“Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better.”

Albert Camus

“I always have the most fun on the Fourth of July. You don’t have to exchange any gifts. You just go to the beach and watch fireworks. It’s always fun.”

James Lafferty

“In the face of impossible odds, people who love this country can change it.”

Barack Obama

“You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle.  But with family picnics where kids throws Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and flies die from happiness.  You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.”

Erma Bombeck

“All people are born alike. Except Republicans and Democrats.”

Groucho Marx

“And one day people will celebrate this day by getting shit-faced and lighting Chinese explosives – Thomas Jefferson 1776.”

Zach Braff

“The life of the nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful and virtuous.”

Frederick Douglass

“Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

John F. Kennedy

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Wait? We have.

I looked at Tom* with what he later described as a scowl.  “Are you serious?” I asked.

“Um…yeah,” was his only reply.  He then looked embarrassed – almost as if he realized he’d just said the wrong thing.  Or, in this case, just pissed me off.

It was the fall of 2002, and we’d known each other for a few years and been roommates since May.  Things weren’t turning out as well as I’d hoped.  Pooling resources is supposed to help people get through tough time.  So far, the only thing that had turned out well was the new puppy he got in August, after the death of his last dog.

I like Tom – for the most part.  You never really know someone unless you either spend the night with or move in with them.  Tom and I had never spent the night.  I do have standards!  But Tom was smart and highly-educated; something of a wild man with few bounds.

He was a little like me: a native Texan of mixed ethnicity (in his case, German and Indian) who graduated high school in 1982 and attended the University of North Texas (although I didn’t arrive there until 1984).  But he was more conservative, and our political discussions on race and gender often went sideways with his right-wing logic.

This evening’s conversation was a perfect example.  I can’t remember what set it off, but I had mentioned that the modern civil rights movement “had to occur”; that it had to take place.  He refuted that claim; calmly stating that it had been completely unnecessary; that eventually society would “come around” and realize it was only fair to give all people a chance; that folks just “needed to wait”.

Thus, my…scowl.

“Wait?”  People had already waited – more than 400 years, from the arrival of the first Europeans to the 1950s, when Martin Luther Kind launched his quiet revolution.

People had waited through the American Revolution, the U.S. Civil War, World Wars I and II, Korea and Vietnam.  People had waited through every major political and social event since the Salem Witch Trials for an equal place in American society.  People had waited through the name-calling, beatings, shootings, stabbings, lynchings and relocations.

People had waited.  Long enough.  And that’s why everything finally exploded in the 1960s.  I believe the catalyst was the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  Just a few years into the decade, the first U.S. president born in the 20th century was cut down by a delusional madman (or a cavalcade of them, depending on who you ask); thus squelching a promising future to an American that was moving irreversibly forward.  But the centennial of the Civil War – a conflict about one group of humans owning another group, not property – helped fuel the embers of dissatisfaction.  People had finally said, ‘I’ve had it.  This is it.  We’ve done everything possible to make ourselves valuable and worthy of a seat at that great American banquet table.’

And, in the midst of the mayhem, old White fools like Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan stood around saying, ‘I don’t know why they’re so upset.  They live in a free country.’

Define free.

A high school English teacher once said all that happened in the 1960s was boiling in the 1950s.  The Korean War – the sadly “forgotten war” – was a blight in an otherwise great decade.  It was marked by the creation of the grandest economy at the time and included the seminal Brown v. Topeka Board of Education.

Tom didn’t know what to say to me after my rant.  It was more of a lecture.  I can get emotional with those sensitive issues, but I’d maintained my decorum – each of us standing there in boxer shorts chugging beers.  He was truly speechless – a rarity for him.  But alas… he had to concede I was right.  Or more, that he could see my point.

Wait…no longer.

*Name changed

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