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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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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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Political Cartoon of the Week – May 29, 2021

Khalil Bendib

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Worst Quotes of the Week – May 29, 2021

“[It] shows that she was comparing the pre-Holocaust period in Nazi Germany to some aspects of America today, specifically, she was noting how history has shown us that certain countries and regimes have indeed separated people into second class citizens.  In essence, she was saying that Jews were branded as second class citizens back then with a gold star, and today we were also seeing a branding and division of people between the vaccinated, and the unvaccinated – two classes of people.  That was the point she made look she wasn’t coming from a place of hate.”

David Brody, a Christian Broadcasting Network commentator, expressing support for comments made by Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene about mask mandates

Sen. Rand Paul and wife Kelley

“I have been targeted multiple times now.  It is reprehensible that Twitter allows C-list celebrities to advocate for violence against me and my family!”

Sen. Rand Paul, declaring that singer Richard Marx is behind a mysterious package left on his doorstep

The package contained white powder and a threatening note.  Paul was referring to a recent Tweet by Marx stating: “I’ll say it again: If I ever meet Rand Paul’s neighbor I’m going to hug him and buy him as many drinks as he can consume.”  That, in turn, refers to a 2017 incident between Paul and one of his neighbors that turned violence.

The FBI is investigating the package, but there’s no proof Marx had anything to do with it.

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Best Response to a Stupid Question – May 1, 2021

“I’m sorry, I have to compose myself.  There’s not a vaccine with a tracking device embedded in it that I know of … exists in the world. Period.”

Dr. Clayton Chau, in response to Rep. Don Wagner asking if the COVID-19 vaccine has embedded tracking devices

Chau is director of the Orange County, California health care agency.

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Notes on Normal

A sign of hope for America.

Things are beginning to return to the way they were.  At least for me.  I found Lysol® at the store last week!  It’s a small – yet strangely ridiculous – sign of hope.  Maybe not so much strange as pathetic.  I mean, are things really so out of whack that we get excited about Lysol and toilet paper?

Last year started off rough for me, when my mother suffered a debilitating stroke.  I reluctantly had to place her in a rehabilitation facility to help her heal.  Her dementia only intensified matters.  Then the pandemic hit.  And then the facility practically evicted her in May of 2020 because her Medicare benefits expired.  She finally passed at the end of June.

The stress of caring for both of my elderly parents for so long seemed to hit afterwards as my body and mind almost completely collapsed.  In the midst of a global plague, I naturally thought I had “The Virus”.  But it was just that relentless stress.  I already knew its effects from life in the working world.  Yet I’d never felt it so personally.

Alas, the U.S. economy is regaining strength, for which conservatives are crediting Donald Trump.  But those of us with more than a few brain cells know Trump’s actions and behavior throughout his thankfully single term in office traumatized the American psyche and steered our financial situation into greater distress.

We finally have a president, though, who know how to act…well, presidential!  Joe Biden may be an old codger, but as someone rapidly headed towards 60, I’d rather have an old man who knows how to govern than a failed businessman / tax cheat / cretin of a human being who brags about fondling women and holds up a bible like it’s a copy of Mein Kompf for a cheap photo op.

Earlier this week I started working on a temporary job – one that requires me to actually get into my truck and drive to an office building in a neighboring suburb.  Aside from having to wear a face mask whenever I leave my desk, it’s a rather normal and ordinary corporate environment.  Oddly, it feels good to go somewhere other than a store or a restaurant during the week.

Some other things, however, remain troublesome.  Like its owner, my 15-year-old vehicle is showing its age.  I really think it just wants to lead a life of its own – much like my body.  Unfortunately, I’ve gained too much weight over the past several months.  I believe that’s a recurring problem.  But rotund physiques have become a common sight here in the U.S.  If I’d known better, I would have invested in sweat pants years ago!

Regardless, I still see hope on the horizon of mediocre.  Now, I must do some sit-ups and enjoy spraying that Lysol.

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Best Quotes of the Week – April 24, 2021

The Texas State Capitol Confederate Monument stands on the south lawn in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

“Confederate artifacts are undeniably a representation of hate, racism and of oppression. They are an insult to the many people who visit our Capitol today in the state of Texas. The argument that these monuments preserve history somehow or symbolize America’s past is merely to reshape and rewrite the intent of the Civil War.”

Rafael Anchía, Texas State Senator, promoting House Bill 1186, which would remove all Confederate monuments from the state capital

“We can’t stop here.”

President Joe Biden, on race relations in the United States, after the conviction of Derek Chauvin

“I can’t believe I’m going to say anything good about her. You all know I’m no fan of Nepotism Barbie. But here I go. Take a deep breath…Yesterday, I commend Ivanka Trump for having used her platform to show herself getting the vaccine and promote vaccination, when she says, I hope you get the shot too. And if you see the responses from Trump-supporting Republicans against what used to be their favorite daughter, you can see how political it has become.”

Ana Navarro, co-host of The View, on former First Daughter Ivanka Trump posting a photo of herself getting a COVID-19 vaccine

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