tumbledry

Abortion

Jia Tolentino in The New Yorker, shows women in America their future, and it isn’t good:

Connecticut, a progressive state on the matter of abortion, recently passed a law that prevents local agencies from coöperating with out-of-state abortion prosecutions and protects the medical records of out-of-state clients. Other progressive states will follow suit. If prohibition states can’t sue out-of-state doctors, and, if abortion pills sent by mail remain largely undetectable, the only people left to target will be abortion advocates and those trying to get abortions.

Abortion makes the Supreme Court feel oogy, so to hell with good law. Tolentino continues:

If a fetus is a person, then a legal framework can be invented to require someone who has one living inside her to do everything in her power to protect it, including—as happened to Savita Halappanavar, in Ireland, which operated under a fetal-personhood doctrine until 2018, and to Izabela Sajbor, in Poland, where all abortion is effectively illegal—to die. No other such obligation exists anywhere in our society, which grants cops the freedom to stand by as children are murdered behind an unlocked door. In Poland, pregnant women with cancer have been routinely denied chemotherapy because of clinicians’ fears of harming the fetus.

Fetal-personhood laws have passed in Georgia and Alabama, and they are no longer likely to be found unconstitutional. Such laws justify a full-scale criminalization of pregnancy, whereby women can be arrested, detained, and otherwise placed under state intervention for taking actions perceived to be potentially harmful to a fetus. This approach has been steadily tested, on low-income minorities in particular, for the past four decades. National Advocates for Pregnant Women—the organization that has provided legal defense for most of the cases mentioned in this article—has documented almost eighteen hundred cases, from 1973 to 2020, of prosecutions or forced interventions related to pregnancy; this is likely a substantial undercount. Even in states such as California, where the law explicitly prohibits charging women with murder after a pregnancy loss, conservative prosecutors are doing so anyway.

And now, with that criminalization, we are rocketing toward an Attwoodian future:

Pregnancy is more than thirty times more dangerous than abortion. One study estimates that a nationwide ban would lead to a twenty-one-per-cent rise in pregnancy-related deaths. Some of the women who will die from abortion bans are pregnant right now. Their deaths will come not from back-alley procedures but from a silent denial of care: interventions delayed, desires disregarded. They will die of infections, of preëclampsia, of hemorrhage, as they are forced to submit their bodies to pregnancies that they never wanted to carry, and it will not be hard for the anti-abortion movement to accept these deaths as a tragic, even noble, consequence of womanhood itself.

It is particularly important to read the last three paragraphs of this piece.

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The case against the Supreme Court

Ian Millhiser at Vox, The Roe opinion and the case against the Supreme Court of the United States:

[Dismantling voting rights], moreover, is consistent with the history of an institution that once blessed slavery and described Black people as “beings of an inferior order.” It is consistent with the Court’s history of union-busting, of supporting racial segregation, and of upholding concentration camps.

Moreover, while the present Court is unusually conservative, the judiciary as an institution has an inherent conservative bias. Courts have a great deal of power to strike down programs created by elected officials, but little ability to build such programs from the ground up. Thus, when an anti-governmental political movement controls the judiciary, it will likely be able to exploit that control to great effect. But when a more left-leaning movement controls the courts, it is likely to find judicial power to be an ineffective tool.

The Court, in other words, simply does not deserve the reverence it still enjoys in much of American society, and especially from the legal profession. For nearly all of its history, it’s been a reactionary institution, a political one that serves the interests of the already powerful at the expense of the most vulnerable. And it currently appears to be reverting to that historic mean.

My anti-Supreme-Court rhetoric as of late felt like my own conclusion, but of course it is just a result of me reading people smarter and better-read than myself. Case in point, Gerald Rosenberg’s “The Hollow Hope”:

Rosenberg’s most depressing conclusion is that, while liberal judges are severely constrained in their ability to effect progressive change, reactionary judges have tremendous ability to hold back such change. “Studies of the role of the courts in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries,” Rosenberg writes, “show that courts can effectively block significant social reform.”

So if you live in what is nominally a representative democracy, but two out of three of the branches of Federal government (again, as pointed out by Millhiser) are structured to hold back societal improvement by granting such great, stubborn power to a minority belief (e.g. abortion prohibition)… what, precisely, do you do?

Abortion

After reading Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture by Roxane Gay, I’ll read anything by her, no introduction necessary. So you can imagine hers is the first take I read after the leaked forthcoming overturning of Roe v. Wade. Here she is at The Times, “It’s Time to Rage”:

We should not live in a country where bodily autonomy can be granted or taken away by nine political appointees, most of whom are men and cannot become pregnant. Any civil right contingent upon political whims is not actually a civil right.

So that got me wondering, what is the best thing for me to keep ready in my head should I ever need to explain where I stand? The following tweets from Shannon Hale’s excellent thread are a good place to start:

How do we determine what constitutes a baby? Science overwhelmingly agrees that an embryo and fetus are not a fully formed human. Some religions disagree, and many believe that at the moment of conception, an enteral spirit enters those cells, making it human.

There’s no proof of this. It is a belief. It is faith. And people are absolutely free to believe as they will and act on that faith. But requiring others to believe and act according to others’ religious beliefs? That’s, like, just SO against the laws of this republic.

Also against the laws of this republic? Requiring anyone ever to put themselves in any harm or threat of harm in order to save another’s life. Mandatory blood donations? Bone marrow? Kidneys? Liver? Skin grafts? NEVER! Even after death, no one can take our organs w/o permission.

The ONLY instance where laws require people to sacrifice their own health and give up their body autonomy in order to support another’s life is with pregnant people. So it’s not really about the sanctity of life, it’s only about controlling pregnant bodies.

And here’s the final realization that changed me: If you believe that a pregnant person should be able to terminate their pregnancy if they were raped, if they are a victim of incest, if they are a 10yo child, if pregnancy and birth will kill them, then you are pro-choice.

And now I loop right back around to what Roxane Gay said: Any civil right contingent upon political whims is not actually a civil right.

Ukraine

Reuters (and Mykala, when I woke up this morning) told me this happened today:

Russian forces invaded Ukraine on Thursday in a massed assault by land, sea and air, the biggest attack by one state against another in Europe since World War Two.

Right now I’m sitting with a panoramic view of pine, arborvitae, maple, and birch trees encrusted with little cakes of white, fresh snow. It’s quiet. Peaceful, even. I’m comfortable on the couch with my feet up, watching more snow fall gently; Ess is drinking hot chocolate, Mykala is making a fresh, savory, delicious evening meal. I’m warm, safe, healthy, with my family around me. In the garage to my left, we have three damn cars because there’s an extra one just waiting for when the oldest dies. If you drive a single mile from where I sit, there is a grocery store with more fresh food than we could ever eat, and there are twelve… twelve (TWELVE?!) other ones in this town with all the OTHER foods we could ever eat. Our power has gone out once in three years. Our natural gas has never failed in multiple decades to keep us warm in the winter, and to ensure we can always take warm showers and cook our food. We have four toilets. We’ve never once worried about bacteria or parasites in our water and we have a dedicated filter that makes it taste perfect. There is a drawer in our house that continually refills itself with ice. I’ve never, ever, gone hungry.

Why me?

I’ve done nothing to deserve this security, this endless bounty, this peace, this happiness. In the forty-plus thousand years of human history, I’m one of the luckiest single god damn persons.

I’m not sure what to DO with my profound sense of how unfair this is for the hundreds of generations before me and the billions of others suffering this instant. It is unfair that some of us live such a long time and others die too soon. It is unfair that some of us get fifth, sixth, seventh chances while others don’t even get a single one. It is a breathtaking waste and a heartbreaking loss that those who could’ve been our greatest poets, sculptors, writers, peacemakers, discoverers — that they died in squalor and obscurity, of preventable diseases, unnecessary famines, in meaningless wars started by shortsighted, murderous, foolish, barbaric, stupid, greedy men.

Which brings me back to Ukraine. Masha Gessen, yesterday:

Ukraine shares Russia’s history of tyranny and terror. It lost more than four million people to a man-made famine in 1931-34 and still uncounted others to other kinds of Stalinist terror. Between five and seven million Ukrainians died during the Second World War and the Nazi occupation in 1941-44; this included one and a half million Jews killed in what is often known as the Holocaust by Bullets. Just as in Russia, no family survived untouched by the twin horrors of Stalinism and Nazism.

Why was I born here and not there? Now and not then? Why?

Why me?

I have absolutely no answers. Haven’t even figured out yet what to do. I just have to sit with this jaw dropping, life-defining, universe-confounding stroke of good luck I have been given… and figure out how to honor it, what to do with it.

Ordinary Miracle

Stephen King, 22 years ago:

There was no miraculous breakthrough that afternoon, unless it was the ordinary miracle that comes with any attempt to create something.

It is humbling to read such good, clear writing. It is so, so hard to string together sentences that steer around cliché, avoid stock phrases, and communicate some coherent single thought. But then to manage to produce a narrative, along with some humor, along with some really profound insights… and to do it without abstruse language (see the irony there?), well… that’s something I have much to learn about.

The Great Resignation

Bob Lefsetz, The Great Resignation:

Maybe all the existing systems are out of date, they don’t work for the public. The machines replace people and then what, we’re all gonna drive Uber? What happens when we have self-driving cars?

Not that anybody is thinking about it, just like they’re not thinking or doing anything about global warming. Used to be we lived in a society, we felt an obligation to look out for each other, but then Reagan came along and said the government was evil and we should all put ourselves first, and then we did! Screw everybody else, life is just too hard!

The youngsters know all this. And all the oldsters can do is bitch about their work habits and expectations. The boomers got sexually harassed, you should endure it too! Huh? Homey don’t play that no more.

As for Occupy Wall Street…what we learned is protest doesn’t work, action does. Don’t show up for work and Wall Street has a problem.

They’ve pushed it so far that people have finally had enough, and they’re not only pushing back, they’re quitting the game! This was not foreseen. This was not predicted. You didn’t read about this anywhere. But it happened and is still happening. It’s not like you can force people to work hard for a pittance. And there’s plenty of money, it’s just that Wall Street, the owners of this country, don’t want to cough it up.

(I don’t think self-driving cars are going to happen in my lifetime, but I also don’t think that invalidates his point about automation.)

It is fun to read a cogent take about how this current instability in the US means things could change for the better, but considering I was born during the Reagan administration, you can understand my hesitancy to adopt any kind of optimism around change… so I find myself awfully pessimistic about there being a revolution where things get better rather than worse.

Minoritarianism

Lawrence Lessig at The New York Review of Books, Why the US Is a Failed Democratic State:

Because the Supreme Court has declared that partisan gerrymandering is beyond the ken of our Constitution, states have radically manipulated legislative districts.

Quite.

Before the United States Supreme Court, Justice Amy Coney Barrett asked lawyers from the Republican National Committee why they were opposing provisions enabling more people to vote. Because it “puts us at a competitive disadvantage,” the lawyer was untroubled to reply.

Hmm.

Yet what’s striking about the United States Supreme Court is not only that it has done nothing to resist minoritarianism but also that its most significant recent interventions have only ratified perhaps the most egregious aspects of our minoritarian democracy: the influence of money in politics.

While most mature democracies have various techniques for minimizing the corrupting effect of money in politics, the US Supreme Court has embraced the most radical conception of campaign money-as-free speech of any comparable democracy.

Uh oh.

Yet we have to frame the stakes accurately and clearly: if we do not “confront” those “imperfections” in our democracy, “openly and transparently,” in the State Department’s words, we will lose this democracy.

I wonder if I’m spending too much time trying to learn about the oncoming train tearing down the track and too little time untangling the knots that bind me to the rails.

Mermaids

Dear Essie,

You are one room over, humming a tune to yourself while you write a chapbook about mermaids using the stickers that Mama got you as illustrations. (I’m getting regular updates: it’s a great book.) I’m here in the next room watching the snow fall and ruminating about the world you’ll someday confront; all its inequities, violence, duplicity, rigged systems, cruelties. But those worries are not for you right now.

The world out there can wait.

Love,
Dada

Justice on the Brink

I sent poor Mykala a 1,361 word screed, generously quoting Linda Greenhouse, about why the Supreme Court is broken for the foreseeable future. Before I paste in parts of that here, consider this:

New York Times public editor Daniel Okrent said that he has never received a single complaint of bias in Greenhouse’s coverage.

Greenhouse wrote for the Times for thirty years.

Anyhow, onward, beginning with a quote from a recent Fresh Air interview:

DAVE DAVIES: I guess the Trump appointees were unwilling to grant that request by the Trump administration on the election cases, particularly the election cases alleging fraud and theft of votes. The court pretty much shut those down quickly with the Trump appointees agreeing with the majority. What can you say about the extent to which these three appointees were willing to, you know, go by the president’s wishes?

LINDA GREENHOUSE: Well, what I say in the book is that they assisted in saving the court. And what I meant by that was had the court granted any of these Trump election cases, it would have been an institutional disaster, not only for the country because, obviously, there was no fraud in the election and, obviously, Trump was not robbed of an election victory. That’s clear. We can agree on that. But for the court to have given in to the series of requests that came, including that crazy case that Texas brought against the states that Texas claimed should have gone for Trump but didn’t - you know, it just would have been an institutional disaster for the Supreme Court. And obviously, the court was well aware of that.

Like, holy shit, Linda Greenhouse, three-decade expert on the Supreme Court, is saying that the fucking Supreme Court of the United States of America was just saving its own ass when it came down on the side of the facts and our democracy in 2020 election disputes. And not only that, the Court did so with the least amount of effort: they didn’t even take the opportunity to set a PROBABLY EXTREMELY USEFUL SOMETIME SOON PRECEDENT about election disputes. I mean I’m hyperventilating with anger just writing these sentences.

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Reading

Yesterday, we took a quick bike trip across town to one of the Little Free Libraries — Ess on a tag-along bike, only one wheel to it and a rigid attachment to my seat post. The season of drought has partially lifted and the green leaves in the gentle late summer sun and the blue sky… I don’t think there’s room to improve on the lovely weather we had. We looked for bunnies and sang out when we saw them, Ess got harassed by a barking dog at a stoplight, we huffed and puffed up hills… the usual bike stuff.

So Ess made her selection and we pedaled for home, I thought — when I turned around, she had eschewed pedaling entirely, pulled her new book out from her bike pouch, and was just reading, with the book resting on her handlebars.

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