Tag Archives: pandemics

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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Video of the Week – Match 5, 2022

Florida Gov. Rick DeSantis demanding high school students remove their face masks:

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When Macron Met Putin

Fences supposedly make good neighbors, but how about tables?

When French President Emmanuel Macron traveled to Moscow last week to meet with Russian leader Vladimir Putin about the burgeoning Ukraine crisis, neither man probably realized some observers just wouldn’t take them seriously.  Putin seems intent on invading Ukraine, during the Winter Olympics in Beijing and despite strong global opposition and threats of sanctions from the developed world.

But amidst the tension, one thing about the meeting stuck out: the table.  Macron and Putin sat at opposite ends of a gargantuan white table, as COVID protocols still deem such ambits necessary.  It almost goes without saying the physical distance between the duo was analogous to their ideological differences.

This photo is only one of the many derisive images about the conference.  Personally, I found the small floral arrangement more intriguing than either leader.

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Best Quotes of the Week – January 22, 2022

“The best thing to do when faced with voter suppression – and my friends, this is what voter suppression looks like – the best thing to defeat it is to go vote. The best thing to do is fight back.”

Dana DeBeauvoir, Travis County, Texas District Clerk, offering advice to voters

“Donald Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., and Ivanka Trump have all been closely involved in the transactions in question, so we won’t tolerate their attempts to evade testifying in this investigation.”

Letitia James, New York State Attorney General, in a statement released January 18 in which she alleges former President Donald Trump and his family inflated the value of his properties and misstated his personal worth in representations to lenders, insurance brokers and other players in his real estate empire

“History will not remember them kindly.”

Martin Luther King III, the son of the late civil rights leader, comparing Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin to the White moderates his father wrote about during the civil rights battles of the 1950s and 1960s – who declared support for the goals of Black voting rights but not the direct actions or demonstrations that ultimately led to passage of landmark legislation

“COVID is real; COVID is a threat. But even more serious than COVID, as real and scary as it is, is to see thousands and thousands of thousands of voters not being able to vote, and it was on our watch. We refuse to stop. We refuse to turn around.”

Rev. Adolphus Lacey, a pastor in New York’s Brooklyn borough, announcing ongoing voter registration efforts despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic

“This case is a disaster for the rule of law and a grave disservice to women in Texas, who have a right to control their own bodies.  I will not stand by silently as a State continues to nullify this constitutional guarantee.  I dissent.”

Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Supreme Court Justice, condemning severe abortion restrictions established by the state of Texas

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From the ‘Only in Texas’ Files – January 15, 2022

Hey, did you hear the story about the teacher who dumped her sick kid into the trunk of her car so she wouldn’t get infected?

This is true!  And it could only happen in Texas!  Sandra Beam is facing child endangerment charges for placing her 13-year-old son in the trunk of her car, after he tested positive for COVID-19.  Her reasoning?  She didn’t want to get infected herself!

Her decision prompted her suspension from the Cypress-Fairbanks school district and a felony charge of child endangerment.  She was jailed, but managed to post a USD 1,500 bond.  As of now, it’s not known whether or not she has an attorney.

The 41-year-old teacher is highly-regarded among her peers and has received a slew of support from the community where she has been described as kind and genuine.  Think about it though: the witch placed her own son into the trunk of her car so she wouldn’t get sick.

Here’s a bright idea: WHERE A MASK!

Here’s another bright idea: as punishment, dump home-girl into the trunk of that same car with a bottle of water and a cell phone and park it by a sewage plant for 12 hours.

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Worst Quotes of the Week – January 15, 2022

“Florida has become the escape hatch for those chafing under authoritarian, arbitrary and seemingly never-ending mandates and restrictions.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, in his State of the State address, during which he mocked COVID-19 restrictions

“First thing I’m going to do, we’ve already asked to preserve all those records. The answer could be very clear, why did the Democrats when they created January 6, pick and choose which Republicans can be on, disallowing never before in history individuals that I selected as minority leader? Why did the chair of this committee say the speaker is off-limits. Why did the speaker not allow the information from the sergeant of arms, that communication with the speaker?  They’re is two main questions you want on January 6. Why was the Capitol so ill-prepared that day, and how do we make sure it never happens again. You cannot answer any of those questions without getting that communication and we will get it, Sean, so we can get the answers.”

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, U.S. House Minority Leader, complaining about appointments to the January 6 Commission

“Many people witnessed people in their community dying from COVID and that made them think life can be short and you’d better live now rather than postpone until a later date.  That has helped Rolls-Royce.”

Torsten Müller-Ötvös, CEO Rolls-Royce, explaining how the COVID-19 pandemic has been good for his company

Müller-Ötvös added, “It is very much due to Covid that the entire luxury business is booming worldwide.  People couldn’t travel a lot, they couldn’t invest a lot into luxury services … and there is quite a lot of money accumulated that is spent on luxury goods.”

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Best Quotes of the Week – January 15, 2022

“A turning point in this nation’s history.”

President Joe Biden, describing the upcoming consideration of voting-rights bills in Congress

Biden added, “Will we choose democracy over autocracy, light over shadows, justice over injustice?”

“The last time we had a committee, [Senator Paul] was accusing me of being responsible for the death of four to five million people, which is really irresponsible. And I say, ‘Why is he doing that?’ There are two reasons that’s really bad. The first is it distracts from what we’re all trying to do here today, is get our arms around the epidemic and the pandemic that we’re dealing with, not something imaginary.  Number two — what happens when he gets out and accuses me of things that are completely untrue is that all of a sudden, that kindles the crazies out there and I have…threats upon my life, harassment of my family…with obscene phone calls because people are lying about me. Now I guess you could say, well, that’s the way it goes, I can take the hit. Well, it makes a difference, because as some of you may know, just about three or four weeks ago on December 21st, a person was arrested who was on their way from Sacramento to Washington, D.C., at a speed stop in Iowa…The police asked him where he was going, and he was going to Washington, D.C. to kill Dr. Fauci. And they found in his car an AR-15, and multiple magazines of ammunition, because he thinks that maybe I’m killing people.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, during a hostile exchange with Sen. Rand Paul at a U.S. Senate hearing on the ongoing battle over COVID-19 restrictions, mask mandates and vaccines

Fauci added (while holding up a printout of Paul’s website), “So I ask myself, ‘Why would Senator [Rand Paul] want to do this?’  So, go to Rand Paul’s website, and you see ‘Fire Dr. Fauci’ with a little box that says, ‘Contribute here.’  You can do $5, $10, $20, $100. So you are making a catastrophic epidemic for your political gain.”

“Somebody with the degree and the seriousness of the psychological disorders he has does not get better without any kind of therapeutic intervention.”

Mary Trump, about her infamous uncle, Donald Trump

Regarding his loss in the 2020 presidential election, Mary noted, “He probably suffered the greatest narcissistic injury of his life in 2020. And regardless of how many lies he tells himself or other people, he is a loser.  But it will certainly start to peel people away from him.  Not the cult. But the 74 million people who voted for him weren’t all in the cult. They just don’t pay attention.”

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Strained

On September 1, several new laws went into effect here in Texas – 666 to be exact; a number that surely makes evangelicals tremble.  Some, like Senate Bill 968, which bans “vaccine passports”, became law immediately when Gov. Greg Abbott signed them in June.  Others, such as House Bill 2730, which deals with eminent domain, go into effect January 1, 2022.

Overall, it appears that some of them are designed to oppress the basic human and constitutional rights of certain groups.  The Texas State Legislature meets every two years and, in 2019, their principal goal was to loosen gun restrictions even more than they already were.  Those of us who aren’t obsessed with firearms (meaning we don’t suffer from Pencil-Penis Syndrome) wondered how much more lax these rules could become.  Stupidity never ceases to amaze me, and conservatives in the Texas State House always deliver.

This year’s session, though, has raised eyebrows and tempers across the nation – and mainly because of two of those 666 laws in particular.  One deals with voting and the other with abortion.  Abortion has always been an open wound for social and religious conservatives.  To them it’s worse than the growing economic inequalities in the country, the prescription drug epidemic, or the fact that so many children in the U.S. live in poverty.  Pro-life conservatives are “pro-life” – up to the time that baby is born.  Once it pops out of the placental oven, it’s pretty much on its own.

Known as the “fetal heartbeat” bill, it is the most ardent assault upon reproductive freedom since the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.  It bans abortions no matter the circumstance (including rape, incest and danger to the mother’s life) after the sixth week of pregnancy, which is usually before most women learn they’re pregnant.  It bears that moniker because an embryonic heartbeat allegedly can be detected at the sixth week.  In reality, the heart hasn’t developed by that point; only the muscles that eventually will become the heart have formed.  The term is misleading.  The sound of a heartbeat is generated by the opening and closing of the heart valves.  Those valves haven’t formed yet at 6 weeks.  When someone detects this so-called “fetal heartbeat”, it’s the sound generated by the ultrasound machine.  But self-righteous conservatives in the Texas State Legislature don’t see it that way.  It doesn’t conform to their narrow view of reality.  In other words, a group of (mostly male) politicians have decided they know more about human development and reproductive health care than actual medical professionals.

But the “fetal heartbeat” law goes even further – allowing anyone who assists in an abortion after that sixth week to be held liable as a criminal accessory and sued for up to $10,000.  This isn’t aimed strictly at those in the medical industry.  Giving a woman a ride to an abortion clinic, for example, opens them to criminal charges under this law; which means cab drivers are subject.  Perhaps comforting a woman after the abortion could be considered criminal.  Would a plumber who repairs water pipes in a women’s health clinic be deemed a criminal?  It’s not the state that would bring the charges; the $10,000 penalty is for any individual who files suit under the law.  Thus, if someone is upset (gets their feelings hurt) because of an abortion, they’re entitled for up to $10,000 compensation.

I’m upset there’s so much stupidity in the world.  Where’s my financial compensation?

Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a blow to abortion rights when it refused to take up the new Texas law for consideration.  Previously, it’s overturned similar laws passed by other states.  But for the past few years, conservatives have been pushing these draconian measures for the mere sake of having the High Court review the Roe v. Wade decision and ultimately overturn it.  The Court’s refusal to examine this Texas law is a blatant nod to right-wing extremists who feel divinely appointed to control other people’s lives.

The other new law gaining notoriety is Senate Bill 1, which targets the voting process.  SB 1 limits the early voting period and bans 24-hour and drive-through voting.  The drive-through voting idea was proposed last year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 elections.  Perhaps the most alarming feature of this law is that it allows poll watchers greater access.  Voter intimidation is not just rude; it’s felonious.  But don’t tell that to Abbott and the rest of the Republican mafia in Texas who symbolize ongoing efforts by conservatives nationwide to undermine the right to vote – the very genesis of democratic societies.  It’s something we’ve tried to instill in other countries, such as…well, Iraq and Afghanistan.  But, just like the World War II generation moved Heaven and Earth to stop fascism in Europe, yet did nothing to end it here in the U.S., conservatives want people in developing nations to be able to vote in clean and fair elections – without putting the same amount of effort at home.

Like most of the nation, Texas is still in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic with a resurgence of infections and increasing hospitalizations.  This past February the Texas power grid system almost completely collapsed with the onset of Winter Storm Uri.  Scores of people died.  Much of the rest of the state’s infrastructure – mostly roads and bridges – are in dire need of repair or replacement.  And, of course, all those children in Texas and across the nation who are uninsured…doesn’t pro-life also mean taking care of them?

The new gaggle of laws has a few other gems – good and bad.  HB 1535 allows people to utilize marijuana for medicinal purposes.  SB 224 simplifies access to the Supplemental Assistance Program for older and disabled citizens; individuals can forgo the normally required interviews and have a shortened application process.  Now this measure is what I would deem pro-life!

On the other hand, we have HB 2497, which establishes an “1836 Project” committee produce educational materials dedicated to Texas history.  In 1836, the Battle of the Alamo launched Texas’ separation from México.  It’s in contrast to the “1619 Project”, which examines U.S. history from the arrival of enslaved Africans.

Moreover, HB 3979 limits teachers from discussing current events and systemic racism in class.  The bill also prevents students from receiving class credit for participating in civic engagement and – wait for it – bans teaching of the aforementioned “1619 Project”.

I attribute these social studies bills as efforts by White conservatives to undermine the true history of the United States; that Native Americans were more civilized and intellectual than many realize; that the “founding fathers” weren’t devout Christians; and that the Civil War really was about keeping an entire race of people enslaved and not states’ rights.  Like the presidency of Donald Trump, it’s a strike back against decades of progressive thought and ambition.

I never know what to think of these right-wing fools in elected office.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to put up that sign on my front lawn offering free rides to abortion clinics.

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A Second of Thought and Prayer

The Governor of the State of Texas, Greg Abbott, has COVID-19.  Since he is anti-vaccine and anti-mask, let us give him what he deserves: a second of our thoughts and prayers.

Okay, now please continue with the more pressing matters of your life.  Thank you for your support.

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Worst Quotes of the Week – June 5, 2021

“Are Peter Daszak and Tony Fauci under criminal investigation?  We can only hope they are. They certainly deserve it. At this point, we can’t say for sure. We do know that Fauci hasn’t simply lied about the origins of COVID, pretending to know things he could not know. He has also lied about vaccines in key ways.”

Tucker Carlson, in response to newly-released emails showing that Dr. Anthony Fauci had tried to work with Chinese health officials to learn the origins of the COVID-19 virus

Dr. Peter Daszak is a British zoologist who focuses on disease ecology.

“As I said that day, Jan. 6 was a dark day in the history of the United States Capitol.  You know, President Trump and I have spoken many times since we left office, and I don’t know if we’ll ever see eye to eye about that day. But I will always be proud of what we accomplished for the American people over the last four years.”

Former Vice-President Mike Pence, speaking at the Hillsborough County Lincoln-Reagan Dinner in New Hampshire

Pence went on to say, “I will not allow Democrats or their allies in the media to use one tragic day to discredit the aspirations of millions of Americans. Or allow Democrats or their allies in the media to distract our attention from a new administration intent on further dividing our country to advance their radical agenda.”

It’s important to note that the Capital Hill rioters were chanting to kill Pence, as they invaded the Capital on January 6.

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