To Bind or Protect?

Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect. There is nothing more or else to it, and there never has been, in any place or time.

Frank Wilhoit

This week’s featured post is “No Victims Allowed“.

This week everybody was talking about January 6

The public hearings will return to prime time on Thursday, with a “minute by minute” recreation of what Trump was doing (and not doing) while the Capitol was under attack.

Last Tuesday’s hearing [video transcript] centered on the decision to call a mob to Washington, and who some of the key organizers were. Vox lists the key takeaways from the hearing.

I had not previously made the connection between the “unhinged” White House meeting of December 18 — when Rudy, Sid Powell, Flynn and “the Overstock guy” urged Trump to have the military seize voting machines — and Trump’s “will be wild” announcement of the January 6 demonstration that he tweeted only hours later. In context, it looks like Cipollone et al convinced him that martial-law tactics wouldn’t work, so he moved on to the riot plan.

The other detail that struck me: Even though the call to march to the Capitol was only added to Trump’s speech at the last minute, lots of people seemed to know it would be there.

As one organizer texted a conservative journalist on January 5, “Trump is supposed to order us to capitol at the end of his speech, but we will see.” Another organizer texted that the plans had been kept under wraps to keep it a surprise: “It can also not get out about the march because I will be in trouble with the national park service and all the agencies but POTUS is going to just call for it ‘unexpectedly.’”

That starts to sound like conspiracy.

Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony continues to pick up corroboration. None of the TrumpWorld sources who supposedly were going to dispute her account have gone on the record. Meanwhile,

a Metropolitan Police Department officer corroborated details of Hutchinson’s account and recounted what was seen to committee investigators.

Rep. Raskin:

[Pat] Cipollone has corroborated almost everything that we’ve learned from the prior hearings. I certainly did not hear him contradict Cassidy Hutchinson. … He had the opportunity to say whatever he wanted to say, so I didn’t see any contradiction there.

The Committee continues to warn Trump about witness tampering. It’s a simple crime that is not that hard to prove — kind of like Al Capone’s tax evasion.

Part of putting together an account of Trump’s behavior during the 1-6 riot involves looking at Secret Service text messages. But it turns out that some texts were deleted as part of a “device-replacement program”. We’ll see if that’s really as suspicious as it sounds. The committee says it will try to “reconstruct” the deleted messages.

The most amusing take on the Secret-Service-text-deletion story is that it vindicates Major Biden, who had to leave the White House because he kept biting agents. Maybe he had sniffed out that some of them weren’t good boys.

Steve Bannon’s trial starts today. He tried to delay or derail it every possible way, but it’s happening. Also, the Trump-appointed judge is not allowing the spurious defenses that Bannon pledged would turn the trial into a “misdemeanor from Hell”. “What’s the point in going to trial here if there are no defenses?” his lawyer asked.

Other investigations also seem to be picking up steam. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has sent “target letters” to a number of Georgia Republians

informing them they could be indicted for their role in a scheme to appoint alternate electors pledged to the former president despite Joe Biden’s victory in the state

Target letters are typically used to invite lower-level members of a conspiracy to come in and make a deal to testify against higher-level conspirators.

Willis has already subpoenaed Senator Lindsey Graham and Rudy Giuliani.

DoJ reportedly is also looking at the fake electors, possibly because it would be easy to make a case: People signed their names to false documents and sent them to the National Archives.

and more Manchin sabotage

Early on, I was inclined to give Joe Manchin the benefit of the doubt: He represents a conservative state, and is entitled to vote his worldview just like any other senator. If Biden’s Build Back Better plan doesn’t make sense to him, he shouldn’t vote for it.

And in a 50-50 Senate, each Democrat is in a position to hold out for whatever deal they want. That’s how politics is, and if people don’t like it they should elect a few more liberal Democratic senators to take Manchin’s veto away.

What’s been driving me nuts, though, is that Manchin doesn’t seem to be negotiating in good faith. Negotiations that have no reason to take more than a few weeks instead stretch into many months, and then at the end there’s no deal. If there was nothing he could agree to, why didn’t he just say so early on?

This week the climate portion of Build Back Better fell apart.

Sen. Joe Manchin appears to have torpedoed a cornerstone of President Joe Biden’s economic agenda, telling Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer Thursday evening that he won’t support moving forward on proposed tax hikes on wealthy Americans and corporations that would pay for a package of climate change and energy policies, at least not right away, this according to two aides familiar with the matter.

Manchin cites fears about inflation, but since the spending is balanced against taxes, and won’t drive up the deficit, it’s not clear why the bill should be inflationary.

Meanwhile, new climate anomalies keep popping up. Europe is seeing wildfires in France and Spain, and England is set to break 40 degrees Centigrade (104 Fahrenheit) for the first time ever.

and abortion

The featured post discusses the pregnant Ohio 10-year-old who had to leave the state for an abortion.

I don’t think this story is a one-timer. Abortion is fundamentally a more complicated decision than conservatives picture, and their simplistic bans are going to lead to a long series of I-didn’t-mean-that cases.

The Biden administration is insisting that hospitals have to provide abortions in emergency situations, even if state law bans them.

[HHS Secretary Xavier] Becerra said the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act pre-empts state laws that restrict abortion access in emergency situations. … Although most of the state abortion bans make exceptions for when the woman’s life is in danger, U.S. health officials worry that wary doctors could wait too long to treat ectopic pregnancies and complications from miscarriages while awaiting legal guidance.

Texas, meanwhile, appears to be holding out for a hospital’s right to let a woman die.

Texas on Thursday asked a federal court to block the Biden administration’s requirement that physicians and hospitals provide abortions in medical emergencies.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, in a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, argued that federal law does not confer a right to an abortion.

Dov Fox is a law professor and the director of University of San Diego’s Center for Health Law Policy and Bioethics. In a NYT column, he raises the issue of doctors who perform illegal abortions for reasons of conscience.

The American legal regime that governs medical conscience is broken. While conscientious providers find virtually no refuge in the conscience clauses that are codified in almost every state, refusers are protected almost categorically. And just about all of these conscience laws are reserved for denials of care.

It’s not hard to imagine what a conscience-based abortion would look like: Even if the state has a life-of-the-mother exception in its abortion ban, the doctor may draw that line in a different place than the legislature does. A doctor said this to ABC News:

When I see patients, for instance, who have a major cardiac problem, a lot of the time they have a risk of a major cardiac event of up to 15% to 25%, even up to 50%. At the moment they’re fine. But as they get further into pregnancy, that’s going to put their life more and more at risk.

So do I have to wait until they’re on death’s doorstep, or can I intervene at that point to prevent more harm and more damage to them?

The NYT is covering the Kansas referendum on abortion. A Yes vote amends the state constitution to allow the legislature to restrict or ban abortion. The Republican legislature has scheduled the vote to coincide with the August 2 primary election, which has a lower turnout than a November election. The amendment is also confusingly worded. It doesn’t sound like what they’d do if they thought the electorate was solidly behind them.

The whole process smacks not so much of returning power to the people as of showing contempt for them and for the democratic process, a trend that is becoming standard operating procedure throughout much of the G.O.P.

and you also might be interested in …

Remember what a to-do it was last week, when protesters came to a restaurant Justice Kavanaugh was eating at, but there was no interaction, no one was harmed, and nothing was damaged?

A source told Politico that Kavanaugh did not actually see or hear the protestors in question during his dinner at Morton’s, though he did reportedly leave the restaurant before dessert.

What? No dessert? Is this Nazi Germany or something?

My comment was:

Any time liberal protesters inconvenience a conservative official, it’s going to get national attention. (Generally, conservative protesters have to shoot somebody to get similar coverage.)

Well, Saturday an armed man was arrested outside Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s home in Seattle. He was armed, and was yelling that she should “go back to India” because he was going to kill her. The story just didn’t seem to take off like the Kavanaugh story did, even though the threat seems far more serious.

Maybe if he’d actually shot her, that would get Kavanaugh-level attention.

The New Yorker has an enlightening article about LGBT children’s books. Often the issues that children bring up in a book discussion are not the ones that adults anticipate. The article also makes a distinction between “didactic” queer stories (which are suppose to teach children that difference is OK) and “just-are” queer stories (in which gay or trans people are just characters in a story about something else).

Ron DeSantis types assume that the presence of LGBTQ characters makes a story “sexual”, when kids don’t read that into the text at all.

Several prominent Republicans — former senators, former judges, etc. — have put out a report debunking the various stolen-election theories Trump supporters have put forward. It’s called Lost, Not Stolen, and it goes through the claims state by state.

If you’ve been following this stuff closely, you won’t find anything new. I already knew, for example, that when the Cyber Ninjas were hired by Arizona’s Republican legislature to “audit” the state’s 2020 election results, Biden’s lead actually grew in their recount. And that when a committee in Michigan’s Republican state senate investigated their state’s election, they found “no evidence presented at this time to prove either significant acts of fraud or that an organized, wide-scale effort to commit fraudulent activity was perpetrated in order to subvert the will of Michigan voters”.

But the report is significant for two reasons

  • This isn’t Democrats saying Biden won and Trump lost, it’s Republicans.
  • The report is encyclopedic, so it addresses the whattabout-this/whattabout-that tactic of Trumpists, where refuting one conspiracy theory just causes them to raise another.

A committee of the Texas House has put out its report on the Uvalde school shooting. The Texas Tribune summarizes:

No one was able to stop the gunman from carrying out the deadliest school shooting in Texas history, in part because of “systemic failures and egregious poor decision making” by nearly everyone involved who was in a position of power

Police from various jurisdictions, from the school district to the state to the Border Patrol, descended on Uvalde, but nobody took charge of the 376 officers.

The report speculates that the shooter had never fired a gun until the day of the massacre.

and let’s close with something cosmic

I like to close with something you haven’t seen before, and often the closing is some set of spectacular photos. This week, though, the most spectacular photos (maybe ever) were headline news: The first returns from the James Webb Space Telescope.

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  • Janet A  On July 18, 2022 at 1:17 pm

    I am too old now to ever get pregnant, but I doubt that means the GOP will stay out of my business and try to control my body. What will happen if I develop a cancer of my reproductive organs? Cancerous cells are formed by my body and grow rapidly. They are maintained by my heartbeat and breathing. They are “alive” by conservative dogma. Chemotherapy and radiation treatments are abortifacients. Thankfully I live in California where I can still access healthcare for any part of my body, not just the ones that are vagina-adjacent.

  • Alan  On July 18, 2022 at 3:00 pm

    A few notes about the Wilhoit quote:

    This is the origin, and I think a better citation as it provides the context in which Wilhoit wrote it.

    I think the context is important because Wilhoit was not attacking conservatism as most Americans consider it. He casts a much wider new. His comment opens “There is no such thing as liberalism — or progressivism, etc. There is only conservatism. No other political philosophy actually exists…”

  • Meg LeSchack  On July 18, 2022 at 6:58 pm

    Seeing those spectacular star formations kinda makes me want to send them Welcome baskets – Welcome to the Neighborhood! 😊

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