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Sunday, June 9, 2024

More on growing threats to womens' reproductive autonomy

June 13th update: SCOTUS strikes down mifepristone challenge, 9-0.
(June 10th) I'm now about 3/4ths through this. Riveting. Totally 5 Stars. Stay tuned...
I finished The Fall of Roe. My Twitter/X reaction:
I just finished this brilliant, important book by & of the . It is analytic contemporary sociopolitical history journalism at its dispositive BEST. One of those relative rarities—a writing style SO good as to be “invisible."
“Invisible?” I didn’t begin college until 1980 at the age of 34. Tested off the charts verbal. Intended to major in corporate/industrial advertising. Still recall my copywriting prof’s wise admonition: “If your writing style calls attention to itself, you’re NOT doing your job.”

Do yourselves a favor. Buy and carefully study this book. Blog review coming.
Indeed. I'm more of a sucker than most folks when it comes to a Jones for eloquent prose, but the excellence of the writing here goes principally to its transparent cover-to-cover delivery of the history and the searingly fraught issues. The clarity, man...
Below, Excellent review by Susan Rinkunas:
‘The Fall of Roe’ Is More Than An Account Of History. It’s A Warning About The Future.
A new book recounts how a Christian group schemed to erase the right to abortion — and why its work is far from over.
 Also apropos, from a recent read and post:
…you were alive long before you possessed a developing nervous system, let alone the fancy three-pound brain housing your conscious mind as an adult. Leaving speculations about consciousness in engineered artifacts for later, a living organism is needed to support consciousness. But it is not sufficient. The central nervous system, assuming the organism has one, must be structured in a certain way; it must have a sufficient level of differentiation, complexity, or “something” to support the type of consciousness we are familiar with. What this “something” is will become clearer in a bit.

Fetal Consciousness

Uncovering the dawn of consciousness isn’t just a narcissistic endeavor or a Proustian search for lost memories; it has drastic consequences.

Consider the 2022 landmark decision by the US Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. It overruled two long-standing legal precedents concerning abortion (Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey), invalidating the long-standing fetal-viability rule, which held that abortion should be legal until the fetus can survive, with proper medical assistance, outside the uterus at around twenty-three to twenty-four weeks’ gestational age.

The decision before the court involved lengthy, erudite, and passionately held legal, religious, historical, philosophical, and political considerations on both sides. One justification for overturning the viability rule was the argument that the fetus is conscious as early as fourteen weeks’ gestational age and would thereby suffer extreme pain during abortion. This is a scientific-clinical matter that I commented on by joining an amicus brief, filed in the Supreme Court, to support Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The evidence for this startling claim was ultrasound imaging of the fetus in utero, demonstrating that the fetus reacts to touches of the mother’s belly, to her voice, or even to painful surgical procedures, with facial grimacing and limb movement. These actions imply consciousness and therefore a capacity to suffer.

It is true that the second-trimester fetus has rudimentary behavioral capacities, such as withdrawal from painful stimuli. Yet these are limited and stereotyped reflexes, called nociceptive responses, that adults show without any conscious awareness. Both nociceptive reflexes and pain can be associated with action, including the release of stress hormones and an increase in blood pressure, but only the latter triggers a subjective, aversive conscious experience. Nociceptive responses occur during deep sleep, as when the sleeper withdraws a limb without waking up. Likewise, patients with severe brain injuries that leave them in a near coma can still withdraw their hand if a fingernail is pinched hard. Indeed, tiny fruit fly larvae react to a flame by bending away from the source of the heat. Yet few would advocate for larval sentience.

There is no question that the fetus, like other nascent organisms, is a living entity with regulatory feedback loops supporting stereotyped sensory-motor behaviors that protect it from harm. Yet, for a stimulus to be consciously felt as a painful experience—“ouch, that hurt”—a reflex is not enough. For a person to become conscious of a noxious stimulus, signals from pain receptors in the skin must be relayed, via the spinal cord and the thalamus, to the neocortex, where they set off an alarm perceived as painful. This requires a byzantine, sophisticated network of neocortical cells and their partners in satellite structures, such as the thalamus, closely associated with the neocortex.

The birth of neurons, called neurogenesis, starts around the fifth week and is largely completed by the end of the sixteenth week. For the most part, you were born with a full complement of nerve cells. Yet these are immature and will continue to grow, to differentiate, and to extend their processes and tendrils to contact other neurons until well into adulthood. For example, neocortical neurons of a fetus are not properly wired up to receive any peripheral signals until about the thirtieth week. Until this time, the fetus responds to a stimulus such as a heel lance (a quick puncture of the skin to draw blood from the foot) but is unlikely to experience it. Indeed, a preterm infant born at thirty weeks gestational age—not a fetus anymore—will not even wake up following a heel lance.

Based on the way these circuits develop, peripheral pain signals can trigger reflexes but fail to ring the consciousness alarm until well into the third trimester. This implies that a previable fetus does not experience pain—does not suffer. It still must cross the great Divide of Being separating something that does not experience from someone who does. The former is nothing to itself, while the latter is a subject, albeit still a rudimentary one.

In the final analysis, the supreme court decided Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization not on scientific but on constitutional grounds, returning the authority to regulate abortion to individual states.

Koch, Christof. Then I Am Myself the World (pp. 26-29). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.
Lots to yet consider.

I've been thinking about this stuff for a long time (my older blog). See also here.
Taking out Roe was just a start, not the end. Read The Fall of Roe carefully and completely for a full understanding. See also
to wit,
In 2016 a federal district court struck down HB 1523 for the obvious reason that it favored one set of religious beliefs over others. In 2018, however, an appeals court set aside that decision on the grounds that the plaintiffs did not have standing to bring the case, so the law remains in force until some individuals suitably harmed by its manifestly discriminatory intent, and in possession of the bottomless resources that will be required for the inevitable battle with deep-pocketed Christian right legal groups like Alliance Defending Freedom, decide to come forward to oppose it.

The Blitzers understand at some level that their agenda will not command majorities of public opinion. Indeed, the premise of their work is that they can’t win in a fair and open debate. Increasingly, Christian nationalists have become comfortable embracing this kind of minority-led politics. As J. Randy Forbes, founder of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, put it, “Our studies and what we have seen is 10 percent of the people in any country in the world can change that country if they have the right strategies, if they persevere, and if they will just find a way to put their differences aside and come together. And that’s what we’re seeing happening across this country.” Referencing David Barton’s assertions about the American Revolution, Forbes claimed that “only 10 percent of the population ever did anything in the fight, just 10 percent, and that really hasn’t changed much today. Ten percent of the people in this country can change this country. We just have to find that 10 percent, get them together, get the right strategies, the right commitment, and watch how the Lord how he can change this country.”

Stewart, Katherine. The Power Worshippers (p. 166). Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition.
More stuff to read and consider, Lordy Mercy:


The problem of the twenty-first century,” Jamal Greene argues, echoing W. E. B. DuBois, “is the problem of the rights line.” Rights talk has become the driving force of American political discourse, a chief source of the contortion of American courts, and an engine of American political polarization. Rights wars are battles of all against all, absolute and unrelenting. It is the argument of this important book that until Americans can reimagine rights, there is no path forward, and there is, especially, no way to get race right. No peace, no justice.

Claiming that your rights have been violated has become the best and in many cases the only way to pursue your political interest. Instead of seeking political change in pursuit of my interest in the realm of political debate and the making of law—where my interest will compete with your interest, and we will likely arrive at a compromise—my remedy is to claim that my interest is not an interest but a right. You do that, too. And then we go to court. As a result, conflicts that don’t need to be settled in the courts are settled in the courts, where the winner takes all. In a contest between your rights and my rights, the courts decide whose rights win based on each judge’s preferences. This is neither fair nor democratic. And, as Greene writes searingly, “it divides us into those who have rights and those who don’t.”

Greene is not the first legal scholar to point out that rights claims have run amok. In 1991, in Rights Talk: The Impoverishment of Political Discourse, Mary Ann Glendon argued that “discourse about rights has become the principal language that we use in public to discuss weighty questions of right and wrong, but time and again it proves inadequate, or leads to a standoff of one right against another.” Under this regime, Glendon argued, “a tendency to frame nearly every social controversy in terms of a clash of rights (a woman’s right to her own body vs. a fetus’s right to life) impedes compromise, mutual understanding and the discovery of common ground.” Glendon saw the much-vaunted “rights revolution” as having begun in the 1960s. But, as Greene argues here, it has a much longer and more complicated history, calling for different solutions. It is one of the hallmarks of Greene’s work that he looks to other countries for those solutions, finding, in their different rights discourses, a world of possibilities. And he looks, as well, to the past.

Like Glendon, Greene finds the origins of the hardening of rights discourse in the 1960s. But he begins his inquiry in the eighteenth century, because he’s particularly keen to figure out exactly when and how and why things went awry. “American courts draw firm lines, often in morally arbitrary ways, between the interests they consider rights and those they don’t,” Greene writes. “The interests that courts count, they protect robustly from democratic politics, while those that they don’t count remain wholly at the government’s mercy. We sometimes describe this fetishism about rights—but just some rights—as foreordained by the Founding Fathers, but America wasn’t born this way.” It was only born this way in this sense: to be a human being held as property is to be a person without any rights. Dividing people into those with rights and those without began at the beginning.

Read this book to find out what Greene means about how rights went wrong and what he proposes, and then decide whether you agree. But I suggest keeping your eye on the ball, which is racial injustice. The oldest national organization in the United States founded to pursue constitutional rights is the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which began in 1909. Six years later, the NAACP concluded that the Supreme Court “has virtually declared that the colored man has no rights.” The NAACP embarked on a strategy to seek fundamental rights, as guaranteed under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. Led by this organization, the Progressive movement marked a turning point in the history of rights seeking by way of lawsuits, down through Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 and the criminal justice cases addressed by the Warren Court in the 1960s. Rights asserted by way of a remedy to rights for so long and so violently denied did not end the battle of rights but instead turned it into a war when, beginning in the 1970s, modern conservatives, adopting methods used by liberals, asserted not liberal claims to rights, but conservative claims to rights. Rights fights became politics by other means.

How Rights Went Wrong is an essential and fresh and vital history of constitutional law and American politics. It is also a cautionary tale, with a sober warning for judges and lawyers. “Courts should be reminding litigants of what they have in common, not encouraging them to view their opponents in the worst conceivable light,” Greene writes. How Rights Went Wrong is an argument against judicial supremacy, in the interest of justice.

The courts in plenty of other countries avoid this mess. One of the most valuable contributions of this book is its comparative approach, looking especially at the resolution of rights conflicts in Germany and the United Kingdom as models of rights mediation. Those courts aren’t perfect, and Greene doesn’t pretend that they are. But he wants to shake Americans loose from the fiction that the courts own the Constitution. It is, instead, ours.

   —Jill Lepore

Greene, Jamal (2021-03-15T23:58:59.000). How Rights Went Wrong: Why Our Obsession with Rights Is Tearing America Apart. HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. 

    A Money shot for me, right outa the chute:
“Courts should be reminding litigants of what they have in common, not encouraging them to view their opponents in the worst conceivable light,” Greene writes.
Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner. Ill will and bad faith everywhere you look (to the extent you've paid attention). "Winner-take-all," "Zero-sum" ethos, Trump MAGA "Patriots" vs "Libtard Traitors," "competing against" vs "competing with..." etc.


And, an intriguing new find:
Razor-edged radically inclusive, unapologetic analytics. She ("they") takin' no prisoners.
 I whined on TwitterX about the price.
Her Doctoral Dissertation is available here (PDF).
Don't touch that dial...

Thursday, June 6, 2024


We went to Normandy in 2004. There are no words.

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Sunday, June 2, 2024

The coming week

He started in immediately in the wake of the 34-count NY guilty verdict. He admonishes us all to Be Very Afraid. Imagine our surprise.
I guess we'll eventually see what shakes out. 156 days to the November 5th elections. Below, never mind established and proper appellate due process. Mr. Trump, you are now a convicted felon. 12 ordinary law-abiding citizen jurors found that to be the case, beyond any reasonable doubt. You have no more presumption of innocence. And, the United States will get along just fine despite any incovenient hobbling of your election campaign. You have no unfettered right to run for the presidency or any public office.

I gotta move on to other stuff. to wit,

The Amazon blurb:
A dazzling and infuriating portrait of fifty years of corporate influence in Washington, The Wolves of K Street is a masterpiece of narrative nonfiction—irresistibly dramatic, spectacularly timely, explosive in its revelations, and absolutely impossible to put down.

In the 1970s, Washington’s center of power began to shift away from elected officials in big marble buildings to a handful of savvy, handsomely paid operators who didn’t answer to any fixed constituency. The cigar-chomping son of an influential congressman, an illustrious political fixer with a weakness for modern art, a Watergate-era dirty trickster, the city’s favorite cocktail party host—these were the sort of men who now ran Washington.

Over four decades, they’d chart new ways to turn their clients’ cash into political leverage, abandoning favor-trading in smoke-filled rooms for increasingly sophisticated tactics, such as “shadow lobbying,” where underground campaigns sparked seemingly organic public outcries to pressure lawmakers into taking actions that would ultimately benefit corporate interests rather than ordinary citizens. With billions of dollars at play, these lobbying dynasties enshrined in Washington a pro-business consensus that would guide the country’s political leaders—Democrats and Republicans alike. A good lobbyist could ghostwrite a bill or even secretly kill a piece of legislation supported by the president, both houses of Congress, and a majority of Americans.

Yet nothing lasts forever. Amid a populist backlash to the soaring inequality these influence peddlers helped usher in, DC’s pro-business alliance suddenly began to fray. And while the lobbying establishment would continue to invent new ways to influence Washington, the men who’d built K Street would soon find themselves under legal scrutiny, on the verge of financial collapse, or worse. One would turn up dead behind the eighteenth green of an exclusive golf club, with a $1,500 bottle of wine at his feet and a bullet his head.
I'm now about a third of the way through this 16-hour read. Spot-on thus far. Got onto this one via an Atlantic Monthly piece by Franklin Foer, The Real 'Deep State.
The Wolves of K Street continues to be a great trip down sociopolitical memory lane for this 78 yr old. The "best" (or "worst," depending on your PoV) government that money can buy, adroitly recounted.
I finished the book. Highly recommended. Tangentially, I am reminded of my March 2023 post "The History of the Myth America Pageant."

Saturday, June 1, 2024


What a week.
The month of June will likely be even crazier.