Nothing can put forth a message like a well-crafted editorial cartoon. Here, then, are some of the ones regarding the Texas massacre of 19 school children and two adults that made an impression at this blogging desk.
It was Tuesday in America. More gun violence. Another mass shooting.
The result of allowing this continuing assault on our children, our communities, our common sense, and our decency is now defining who we are as a nation, and a people.
The mass shootings and use of weapons designed for military purposes must be addressed in our nation. These assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines being allowed for purchase are pathetic and very much earn us the ridicule from nations around the world who have passed gun control laws so to protect their societies from what we glibly call ‘our right’.
Last night, we turned into the Late Show with Stephen Colbert as New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was a guest. The tragic alignment of events in Uvalde and her appearance on the show made for a meaningful conversation to watch.
On the program, she talked about her country instituting strict gun-control laws and a gun-buyback plan in the wake of the 2019 Christchurch mosque shootings. It was a far-right extremist who killed 51 people which alerted the nation that something was required for the safety of their society. It needs to be noted that in just weeks the nation passed a bill, with only one lawmaker out of 120 opposing, that has–and the data proves the point–curbed gun violence in the nation.
New Zealand’s elected officials did not ask any NRA goonish type organization how to proceed, or what they might do to deflect their national conversation away from the gun issue that stared them in the face. They did not whimper and kneel to gun makers and their lobbyists.
Gosh, the elected officials found their role as leaders to be paramount, and then acted.
So, it can be done.
That we do not act is shameful. The world knows that, too.
Just when you thought you had heard the worst possible ideas imaginable from a Republican officeholder, comes this disgusting news story from Texas.
Governor Greg Abbott officially directed Family Protective Services to investigate all trans children in Texas and prosecute their parents as child abusers. He instructed all teachers, doctors, and caregivers to begin reporting any trans students.
While the state’s child welfare agency has said that it will investigate such claims, some county and district attorneys have stated that they will not enforce the opinion. Be that as it may, the entire nation needs to send a message of pulling conventions and sporting events from a state that has so little regard for human decency or any degree of concern or empathy for trans children.
The loathsome depths that Abott will travel to play to a segment of his ignorant and repugnant base must be addressed by the rest of society who simply can no longer abide by such behavior.
And so it goes.
I enjoy a great legal thriller. If a book jacket were to frame the plot as starting with a dead-of-the-night ruling by the Supreme Court over an issue that did not have any oral arguments, resulting in a decision that was unsigned by the Justices, and which upended decades of settled law, I would be most intrigued. I would surely add the book to my cart.
That is, after all, how a great legal drama should leave a reader feeling. Wanting more.
But when that plot instead is the lead paragraphs in the morning newspaper it makes for a very different feeling for the reader. There is only dread and concern, with a desire to hurl the newspaper back to the front stoop.
By now we all are again aware that the Supreme Court is morphing towards a most dangerous conservative bent, and precedence is recklessly being tossed aside like last year’s calendar.
Last Thursday night the Supreme Court handed down a 5-4 decision, with conservative Chief Justice John Roberts joining the three liberal justices in dissent regarding the ruling which upheld the now infamous Texas abortion law. (Roberts made a move that underscores the fact he cares about the Court, and his legacy. A topic often noted on this blog.)
We have all become very aware that Senate Bill 8, signed by Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott in May is now law. It bars abortions once a doctor can detect fetal cardiac activity, which is often before many women even know they are pregnant. This is the most draconian and bizarre abortion law in the nation. Not only because it is estimated to prevent an estimated 85% of abortions there, but also because of how the law is framed to work.
What has been created in Texas is more akin to the way those in places like the former USSR used snitches and tattlers to bring down their neighbors and enemies.
Most laws in the land are enforced by government officials. But the outrageous Texas law says that private citizens can step in by suing abortion providers and anyone who “aids and abets” a patient obtaining an abortion after six weeks.
Overnight a chill traveled up the collective spine of the nation.
Think about this.
Family members of a woman getting an abortion, or the taxi cab driver who transported the woman, or any counselor who spoke to the woman about the abortion could all face legal effects from violating the law. If the Gladys Kravitz types in Texas, who will now sneak around communities and poke, pry, and try to gather information on women, should prevail this law says they are entitled to damages of at least $10,000 plus legal fees.
Listening to the nation’s leading legal experts this past week has been one way to sort through the atrocious nature of the law.
“The Constitution, including Roe v. Wade, only applies against the government, it doesn’t apply against private individuals,” says Laurence Tribe, a leading constitutional law expert at Harvard. “That’s what makes this really dangerous. It’s a kind of vigilante justice, circumventing all of the mechanisms we have for making sure that the law is enforced fairly, and that it’s not enforced in a way that violates people’s rights.”
While many correctly state the disastrous outcome this is for women and their rightful control of their health decisions it is also equally clear this law is a blow to our understanding of democracy.
I actually enjoy, each time a nominee for the Supreme Court is asked questions by the Judiciary Committee, to hear how that person feels about the meaning of the law and concepts that the court deals with continually.
Without fail, there was always a deep conversation about the importance of judicial precedent. As one who respects Alexander Hamilton, he being my favorite Founding Father, I let his views make the case. From “The Federalist No. 78” where he stated a robust respect for precedent is indispensable to preventing judges from exercising arbitrary discretion.
“To avoid an arbitrary discretion in the courts it is indispensable that they should be bound down by strict rules and precedents, which serve to define and point out their duty in every particular case that comes before them; and it will readily be conceived from the variety of controversies which grow out of the folly and wickedness of mankind, that the records of those precedents must unavoidably swell to a very considerable bulk, and must demand long and laborious study to acquire a competent knowledge of them.”
Additionally, I add a fact we need to be mindful of when considering the tossing aside of precedence. This week it was noted on NPR that in cases over the past half-century where a constitutional precedent was overturned, the court was either unanimous or nearly unanimous in that decision, with two or fewer justices in dissent. Hence the call from Hamilton about preventing judges from exercising arbitrary discretion. Democracy runs the best when the law is stable and society has a level understanding of, and expectations about the issues at the heart of the laws.
So this past week there was, for me, this great chasm between those Senate hearings and the Court’s calamity that allowed for a state legislature to empower individual citizens to harass and intimidate women seeking a decades-long constitutionally protected medical procedure.
So where does the nation go from here with this issue?
Clearly, other state legislatures in the hands of conservative will try to entertain such kindred scenarios and pass legislation that mimics Texas. After all, these types of zealots have been working to strike down Roe v. Wade for decades. But what these Republicans have not taken into account is the reaction from the people.
We live in a very politically split nation, but there are a few issues where the people are united. When it comes to the 1973 Roe decision there is a strong majority–most polls show it at roughly 70%–in support. Therefore, the brunt of negative reaction will be placed, correctly, upon the party who undermines that ruling for women’s health.
What the GOP has done, with the aid of Mitch McConnell and other such luminaries in their party, is place truly culturally backward nominees on the bench. What those throwbacks on the bench are doing is sowing the seeds of anger that will then create well-deserved blowback on the Republican Party in future elections.
Consider the mid-term elections in 2022. Republicans nationwide are going to need to answer, again and again how they feel about the Texas law. A law that will only become more unpopular as more stories of actual impacted women in that state make for headlines. More trouble for the GOP candidates as more court cases result from the Texas law. And more angst for the GOP over the very idea of a draconian and stupefying ban on abortions after 6-weeks!
Is it any wonder that President Biden and Democrats grasp the fact that the Republicans have leaned way too far over their skis? Abortion can be a potent and energizing issue in just an average election cycle. Given what the Republicans have offered as a blazing trash can of disgust we are left to feel genuine shock at their level of amateurish behavior in Texas.
So, Mr. 2022 GOP candidate: “Do you agree that your uncle should be sued by his nosy neighbor concerning his driving a daughter to a medical facility so to allow her to make a personal health decision?”
If conservatives want to wage a political war against women, I know a majority of Americans who will have a response.
And so it goes.
The absurdity from Texas has been demonstrated on the editorial pages of newspapers around the nation.
All at once, the entire Texas Statehouse Democratic Caucus is the focal point for protecting election rights in the nation. I must say, the spirit and spine they show remind all of us what we need to do in upping our game in the fight to save our democracy.
In the midst of an onslaught of legislative moves by Republicans from coast-to-coast to restrict voting following the 2020 historic voter turnout and the unprecedented use of vote-by-mail, it goes without saying it is essential strong-willed Democrats and independents wage a battle to stop the undermining of the right to cast a ballot.
Some of my Republican readers would argue that the bills under consideration, or the ones already passed, only strengthens ballot integrity and free and fair elections. The rest of us would contend that no matter what coat of paint is applied to the bills they are still voter repression efforts.
One part of the Texas proposal under consideration, that is not in any way defendable, is the removal of drive-through voting. As an example, Harris County first tested drive-thru voting in a summer 2020 primary runoff election with little controversy, but its use of 10 drive-thru polling places for the November general election created Republican outrage. Voters remained in their cars and showed a photo ID and verified their registration before casting ballots on portable voting machines. There was nothing different about the voting other than they might have been listening to the radio as they made their balloting choices.
As a person on the national news last night quipped, ‘We allow drive-through pick up for alcohol sales, but not for voting!”
Another regressive move by Republicans would prohibit local election officials from sending unsolicited applications to request a mail-in ballot. Harris County’s attempt to proactively send applications to all 2.4 million registered voters last year was blocked by the Texas Supreme Court. Under the bill mailing unrequested applications to voters in the future would also be blocked. After all, why encourage voters to exercise their rights!
As of June 21, 17 states enacted 28 new laws that restrict access to the vote. With some state legislatures still in session, more laws will certainly follow. But if the Democrats in the Texas Legislature have anything to say about it their state will not be adding constrictive laws to the statutes.
I honestly can say the willpower and steadfastness of the Texas Democrats are inspiring. For the second time this year, they have staged a walkout in an effort to block Republicans from passing new voting restrictions. You might recall they walked out of the Capitol building in May.
Now they have left the state!
That bold move reminded me of the days in February 2011 when religious leaders in Illinois and Wisconsin offered their congregations and homes as a sanctuary for Wisconsin Democratic senators who walked out of the legislature to block a vote on then-Governor Scott Walker’s proposal to roll back collective bargaining rights for public employees.
The goal of the Texas Democrats is, of course, to deny the legislative special session the quorum of members it needs to pass massive changes based on lies about the 2020 presidential election. Texas Republicans are pandering to the base that supports Donald Trump, but in so doing are eroding at the foundations of the republic.
Those Democrats who have left the state will continue to work. At least 50 of the 67 Democratic lawmakers flew to Washington, where they will meet with other legislators to push for federal voting protections. It is my hope that the gutsy move they are making will, in contrast, showcase the lack of resolve and backbone among several Democratic senators who have not been agile enough in protecting our democratic (small d) values.
Republicans can’t win elections unless they cheat by suppressing votes. (Or rig district boundaries with gerrymandering.) Democrats in Texas are calling the GOP out with a national headline-making move.
We need to now press our calls and emails to members of Congress to be as mindful of the right to ballot access as the Texas Democrats are doing.
And so it goes.
President Biden said in relation to relaxing across-the-board state mandates during the pandemic in places like Texas and Mississippi, it was just too early.
“Look, I hope everybody’s realized by now these masks make a difference,” Biden, who was wearing a mask, told reporters at the White House.
He said the United States was “on the cusp of being able to fundamentally change” the course of the pandemic, with vaccinations currently underway across the nation.
But, he said, “The last thing, the last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking that, in the meantime, everything’s fine, take off your mask.”
I totally agree with Biden in his assessment of the situation about the medical data regarding COVID. But I do differ with him about using the term Neanderthal. Considering the brainpower of some of these GOP ‘leaders’ makes the comparison rather insulting to Neanderthals.
I was outside assisting Mother Nature with spring melting and talked with some neighbors today. One of them had family in Texas and there was a clear-out denunciation of the short-sighted action of Governor Greg Abbott.
It comes as no surprise that medical professionals are very concerned about a stronger variant wave that is coming. They are mindful of the transit points–such as in places like Texas–where there is a weakness in accepting public responsibility for the actions so to stem the spread of the virus. The political culture of places like Texas is skewed towards Free-Dumb, but the nation pays the price for their lack of understanding of science and data about COVID.
For the rest of the nation who find science to be a good thing, I urge getting vaccinated and continue to prevent infection–especially the coronavirus variants by sticking to the fundamentals that we know work. Wear a mask and social distance. Wash your hands often and be good to other people.
This is what I first saw in my news feed this morning. Who does not enjoy a headline? The Capital Times’ State Debate continues to be a lively and topical location for readers to get an array of views and opinions.