Against all evidence, I keep thinking the assholes are outliers.

– James Holden,
a character in the novel Babylon’s Ashes by James Corey

This week’s featured post is “What’s the point of punishing Trump?“.

This week everybody was talking about Kansas


In a deep red state, the Republican-dominated legislature hoped voters would approve a constitutional-amendment referendum that would let it ban abortion. So it scheduled the vote to coincide with a low-turnout primary where Republicans had interesting races and Democrats mostly didn’t. Result: the amendment failed by a wide margin, 59%-41%.

The result raises an obvious question: If an anti-abortion referendum can’t pass in Kansas, where could it pass? The NYT tried to answer. This kind of speculation is always sketchy, but here’s what they came up with: A similar national referendum (if such a thing existed) would be opposed by 65%. Seven states would clearly pass the anti-abortion referendum, and the question would be a toss-up in several more.

One thing the Kansas referendum proved is that people will come out to vote on this issue. During the Roe era, that was always the question: People might tell pollsters they supported abortion rights, but would they cast a vote on that issue, or just count on the Supreme Court to protect them?


The next question, which won’t be answered until November, is whether voters will choose candidates based on abortion rights. For years, suburban Republican women in particular may have thought of themselves as feminists, but have cast their votes with other priorities in mind, like taxes or national security.

The clearest test of this question is the Michigan governor’s race, where Gretchen Whitmer faces Republican challenger Tudor Nixon, who would ban abortion even in cases of rape and incest.

Indiana banned abortion Friday, except in cases of rape, incest, lethal fetal abnormality, or serious health risk to the pregnant woman. Along the way, a Democratic representative unsuccessfully offered an amendment also banning erectile dysfunction drugs.

If an unwanted pregnancy is an act of God, then impotency must be an act of God.

Here’s how the abortion issue is being used in Texas by Mothers Against Greg Abbott (the other MAGA).

Texas has virtually banned abortion, but that doesn’t mean it values fetuses. Bloomberg has a long article about how bad maternity care is in rural areas near the Mexican border. Presidio (a town of 4500 or so residents) has no full-time doctor. The nearest hospital is 90 minutes away: Big Bend in Alpine (population 5900). But that hospital has had trouble staffing its labor and delivery unit.

Some months it’s been open only three days a week. … If [visiting Dr. Adrian] Billings’s patient goes into labor when the maternity ward is closed, she’ll have to make a difficult choice. She can drive to the next nearest hospital, in Fort Stockton, yet another hour away. Or, if her labor is too far along and she’s unlikely to make it, she can deliver in Big Bend’s emergency room. But the ER doesn’t have a fetal heart monitor or nurses who know how to use one. It also doesn’t keep patients overnight. When a woman gives birth there, she’s either transferred to Fort Stockton—enduring the long drive after having just had a baby—or discharged and sent home.

Why can’t Big Bend staff its maternity unit? Covid, of course, but also a more basic problem:

As quaint as Alpine is, it has some drawbacks. It’s three and a half hours from El Paso and more than five from San Antonio. There’s one grocery store, and the closest Walmart is an hour away. There’s no day care, which makes it hard for businesses to recruit families with two working parents.

“We’ll hire a nurse who’ll say, ‘Great, I can start work in two weeks. Just let me get day care set up.’ We tell them, ‘Well, we don’t have day care in Alpine.’ They’re like, ‘What are you talking about?’ They can’t accept the job,” says Roane McLaughlin, Alpine’s only obstetrician and gynecologist. Before she moved to the area in 2014, Alpine didn’t have an OB-GYN at all.

In short, rural Texas is a bad place to be pregnant, whether you want to be or not. The state is anti-abortion because it’s anti-woman, not pro-fetus.

Thinking about related rights, Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby defends Rep. Glenn Thompson against charges of hypocrisy. Thompson is the GOP congressman who voted against a bill to codify same-sex marriage rights, and then delivered an upbeat toast at his son’s same-sex wedding. So: yes, a hypocrite.

Jacoby defends the vote because the Respect For Marriage Act is a “political gimmick” that is unnecessary because same-sex marriage rights aren’t in danger. We know this because “the court’s majority opinion [in Dobbs] repeatedly emphasizes that the overruling of Roe v. Wade does not cast doubt on prior rulings involving marriage or gay rights”.

And Supreme Court justices would never mislead us about something like that, would they? Also, if the bill accomplishes nothing, why not pass it? What harm would it do?

For those of you who don’t follow the Boston papers, before I read a Jacoby column I always ask myself “What would Pope Benedict have said about this issue?” That’s usually a good predictor.

BTW: the religious Right doesn’t think protecting same-sex marriage rights is a phony issue. They’re solidly against it, and are pressuring Republican senators.

and the Inflation Reduction Act


The Senate passed the Inflation Reduction Act Sunday, 51-50 on a straight party-line vote, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie. (Remember this the next time someone tells you there’s no difference between Republicans and Democrats.)

The IRA is primarily a climate bill that over-funds itself by cracking down on corporations that pay no taxes, leaving $300 billion to offset the deficit over the next ten years. It also protects ObamaCare subsidies, cuts drug costs for seniors, and does a few other things. According to the environmentalist website Grist:

Independent analyses estimate that the IRA would slash approximately 6.3 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s emissions ledger over the course of the next decade, prevent up to 3,894 premature deaths per year by 2030, and get the U.S. two-thirds of the way to Biden’s goal of reducing total emissions 50 percent compared to 2005 levels by the end of this decade.

It now goes to the House, where it is expected to pass quickly.

This is a big deal. It’s much smaller than the $4 trillion plan Biden originally proposed, and smaller yet than the $6 trillion plan Bernie Sanders wanted. But getting it through the Senate with only 50 Democratic senators was a major accomplishment.


In other legislative news, Tuesday Mitch McConnell’s Republicans relented and passed the Honoring our PACT Act to help veterans suffering from the effects of toxic fumes from burn pits. It was the exact same bill they blocked last week.

The history of this bill is a lesson in Republican disinformation. In June, a version of the bill passed the Senate with 84 votes, which means at least 34 Republicans voted for it. (The 14 No votes were all Republicans.) The House passed the same bill, minus one line deleted technical reasons that had little impact on what the bill would do. So it went back to the Senate, where it was expected to pass without incident.

But then Senator Manchin announced that he had found a version of Biden’s Build Back Better plan he could support, now relabeled the Inflation Reduction Act (see above). McConnell decided to throw a tantrum by scrapping whatever bipartisan bill he could find, which turned out to be PACT.

Suddenly, 41 Republican senators — the exact number needed to sustain a filibuster — had grave reservations about PACT. In particular, Ted Cruz (who had voted for the nearly identical bill in June) now denounced it as a “budgetary trick” that would lead to $400 billion in pork-barrel spending.

Over the weekend, the GOP realized just how unpopular it is to play games with the health care of veterans who may be dying from something we did to them. So they came back and passed the same bill that was so terrible last week. Cruz voted for it, and put out a statement applauding its passage. All the features Cruz complained about when he blocked the bill had been in it when he voted for it in June, and when he voted for it again Tuesday.

Bear this history in mind as you hear Cruz and other Republicans tell you terrible things about the Inflation Reduction Act.


and the economy

The late-pandemic economy is breaking all the usual patterns. By some definitions, we’re already in a recession, but job growth is still booming and unemployment is the lowest it’s been since the 1960s. Year-over-year inflation is the highest since 1981, but gas and food prices have been dropping this last month or two.

In short, just about anything anybody says about the economy these days, good or bad, deserves a yes-but response.

and the pandemic

Case-numbers are nearly meaningless in this era of home tests whose results are never reported. But hospitalization and death statistics continue to creep upwards. Deaths per day are running just under 500, up from under 300 in early June.

and Alex Jones

A jury ruled that he has to pay nearly $50 million to two parents of a child killed at Sandy Hook. I discuss this in the featured post. I didn’t get around to mentioning that his lawyers’ blunder has exposed him to a possible perjury charge. That’s what happens when you should have called Saul.

and you also might be interested in …


Even the “courageous” Republicans are lining up to support election-denying anti-democracy Trumpists once the primaries are over. Peter Meijer endorsed the guy he lost to. After seeing anti-democracy Republicans win the primaries in his state, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey tweeted:

This is going to be an important election given the issues our state is facing and it’s important for Arizona Republicans to unite behind our slate of candidates.

It’s party-over-country, all the way.

I wish all the Biden’s-low-approval-rating articles would break out WHY voters disapprove: How many conservatives think he’s too liberal? How many liberals think he hasn’t done enough? How many people of all sorts don’t know what he’s done or believe he’s done something he hasn’t?

I remember similar polls about how unpopular ObamaCare was at first: They never broke out how many people wanted the status quo versus how many wanted universal health care. Those polls fooled Republicans into thinking a repeal would be popular.

Jamestown, Michigan just voted to defund its public library.

The controversy in Jamestown began with a complaint about a memoir by a nonbinary writer, but it soon spiraled into a campaign against Patmos Library itself. After a parent complained about Gender Queer: a Memoir, by Maia Kobabe, a graphic novel about the author’s experience coming out as nonbinary, dozens showed up at library board meetings, demanding the institution drop the book. (The book, which includes depictions of sex, was in the adult section of the library.) Complaints began to target other books with LGBTQ+ themes.

One library director resigned, telling Bridge she’d been harassed and accused of indoctrinating kids; her successor also left the job. Though the library put Kobabe’s book behind the counter rather than on the shelves, the volumes remained available.

“We, the board, will not ban the books,” Walton told Associated Press on Thursday.

The library’s refusal to submit to the demands led to a campaign urging residents to vote against renewed funding for the library.

I emphasize: This is a town library, not a school library. “Jamestown Conservatives” are trying to control what their fellow citizens are allowed to read.

Christianity Today looks at White Southern Protestants who have mostly stopped going to church. (About 45% of White Southerners report going to church once or less in the past year.) When Northeastern Catholics left their church, they tended to become more liberal, particularly on social issues. But WSP’s aren’t doing that. Instead, they’re just losing their trust in other people.

When asked, “Do you think most people would try to take advantage of you if they got a chance or would they try to be fair?” 54 percent of white Protestant southerners who attended church no more than once a year said that most people would try to take advantage of them.

In response to the question “Would you say that most of the time people try to be helpful or that they are mostly just looking out for themselves?” 58 percent said the latter.

The responses from white Southern Protestants who attended church every week were almost the direct opposite. Sixty-two percent said that most people would “try to be fair” rather than take advantage of them, and 57 percent said that most of the time people “try to be helpful.”

This isn’t news, but it’s such a good line I have to repeat it. In the preface to the 10th anniversary edition of his spy novel Slow Horses (now an Apple TV+ series) Mick Herron confessed that he actually doesn’t know that much about spies.

A writer spends the first part of his or her career hoping to be discovered; the rest hoping not to be found out.

and let’s close with something sporty

Legendary sports announcer Vin Scully died Tuesday night at the age of 94. He called the Brooklyn/LA Dodger games for 67 seasons (1950-2016), but also covered a wide variety of other sports events. If you’re a sports fan, you probably know his voice from historic moments like Hank Aaron’s 715th home run.

But if you don’t remember Vin or his voice, here’s some amusing proof that he could make anything sound engaging: A guy who did the sports report for a San Diego rock station (and met Scully in the press box during a Padres/Dodgers game) once asked Scully to read his grocery list.

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  • Wade Scholine  On August 8, 2022 at 2:34 pm

    I like the idea of making “burn-pit Republican” be an epithet to denote utter lack of patriotism, or of any loyalty to anything at all beside the Republican Party.

  • susanmbrewer  On August 8, 2022 at 3:06 pm

    I firmly believe that women in Kansas are responsible for the election result, regardless of what they say about abortion outside the voting booth. Apparently there were many new registrants and most were women. It’s a dramatic demonstration of the practical importance of a SECRET ballot. It’s also well worth noticing a difference between what voters vote for and what legislatures pass — a big clue for other states to consider.

    And thanks for the Vin Scully clip. That voice is just unmistakable.

  • Bill Dysons  On August 10, 2022 at 8:08 am

    Is everyone in America either pro-choice or pro-life, or is there room for a “pro-abortion” stance? That is, why couldn’t we get a coalition of voters to support mandating abortion for any pregnant person under the age of 18? Why should it ever be legal for a minor to be a parent? Why should a minor even have the option to bring a pregnancy to term given the statistics on the outcomes of such children and their parents? I never hear anyone anywhere float this idea, but it seems absurd to me to (for example) give a 14-year old pregnant girl the right to give birth to a child.

    A side benefit: if a state like California were to try to pass a law like this, conservatives would probably look at the pro-choice position more favorably….

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