Free to Dominate, Free to Control

Roosevelt’s four freedoms were the building blocks of a humane society — a social democratic aspiration for egalitarians then and now. These Republican freedoms are also building blocks not of a humane society but of a rigid and hierarchical one, in which you can either dominate or be dominated.

– Jamelle Bouie, “The Four Freedoms, according to Republicans

This week’s featured posts are “Summing Up at the End of the Trump/Russia Investigations” and “How I Evaluate Sources“.

But if you only read one essay this week, it should be the Jamelle Bouie column quoted above. He looks at the agenda that is passing in red-state legislatures and synthesizes four Republican “freedoms”:

  • Freedom to control, manifested in state control of women’s uteruses,
  • Freedom to exploit, represented by the rollback of child labor laws,
  • Freedom to censor, exemplified by book banning and preventing schools and universities from teaching about systemic racism and other forms of oppression,
  • Freedom to menace, demonstrated by laws allowing guns to be carried anywhere, openly or under concealment, and used whenever the bearer feels threatened.

More about this below.

This week everybody was talking about the debt ceiling

It’s hard to know what to say. In some sense, it’s the most important thing happening. But whatever negotiations are or aren’t happening between President Biden and Speaker McCarthy are behind closed doors, so we don’t really know anything.

It’s also hard to guess what the negotiating positions would mean, even if we knew them. Democrats are worrying that Biden will give away the store and get nothing back other than a promise not to blow up the world economy until next spring.

Americans of either party should worry about whether McCarthy can make a deal at all. Maybe anything he agrees to will be framed by Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz as a RINO sell-out, and lead to McCarthy losing his speakership rather than to a deal.

And finally, does Biden have a Plan B? Could he circumvent the debt ceiling via the 14th Amendment? Or by citing the contradiction between the debt-ceiling and that appropriation bills Congress has passed? Or by minting a platinum coin or selling consol bonds?

There are reasons to worry that this partisan Supreme Court will nix those options, independent of what the laws actually say. (Though I don’t see any grounds for objecting to consol bonds or less radical high-interest bonds that would sell above par.)

But all the Plan Bs sound gimmicky, and like an expansion of executive power. Biden will be in better political shape to invoke one if he can argue that he has been driven to his last resort; he did in fact did offer deep concessions that Republicans did not accept, and came to the conclusion that no deal with McCarthy was possible.

So if Biden offers concessions, is he giving away the store or setting up a deft counter-move? There’s no way to know.

and the red states’ continued decline into oppression and authoritarianism

Thursday morning, The New York Times greeted me with these headlines:

Just another day in red America. Remember when the GOP was supposed to be about Freedom? Each of those three bills is Big Government telling people how to live their lives.

Other headlines I saw this week:

  • School librarians face a new penalty in the banned-book wars: Prison. “One example is an Arkansas measure that says school and public librarians, as well as teachers, can be imprisoned for up to six years or fined $10,000 if they distribute obscene or harmful texts. It takes effect Aug. 1.” The terms obscene and harmful are, of course, undefined. So a prudent librarian will steer clear of any book that any judge might object to — or if the librarian wants to avoid a court case altogether, avoiding any book that any parent might object to.
  • School Can Force Trans Girl to Dress as Boy for Graduation, Judge Rules. “A federal judge ruled late Friday evening that the Harrison County [Mississippi] School District can prohibit a 17-year-old transgender girl from attending her graduation Saturday unless she dresses in attire designated for boys” Tim Miller‘s summary: “The government preventing parents from seeing their child graduate unless they wear state mandated pants.”
  • The Short Life of Baby Milo. Deborah Dorbert knew for three months that the fetus she was carrying had no chance to live, because it lacked essential organs. But Florida’s abortion ban forced her to complete the doomed pregnancy. Her son was born and lived 99 minutes.
  • The staggering fine print of Texas and Florida’s new anti-trans bills. “Chriss laid out a scenario in which [the new Florida law] would apply: A family is living in California, which doesn’t have a ban on gender-affirming care. A parent contesting custody of their child could take them on vacation to Disney World in Orlando, go to the nearby Orange County courthouse, and ask the judge to take emergency jurisdiction over the custody case because the other parent is planning to help the child get puberty blockers.”

The outrageous attacks on personal freedom and parental rights are coming so fast that I’m sure I missed a few.

but here’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you

Namely, how I assess unfamiliar sources.

and you also might be interested in …

Wednesday, House Republicans refused to vote on a motion to remove George Santos from Congress.

Dahlia Lithwick asks an important question: What if reporters covered the Supreme Court the way they cover every other branch of government?

Her point, in short, is that reporters on the Supreme Court beat act as if they are covering the Law itself, not a public institution made up of nine immensely powerful human beings.

[T]he longstanding tradition of covering the cases rather than the Justices meant that, with few exceptions, there have not been a lot of folks in the SCOTUS press corps on the Clarence/Ginni Thomas beat; almost nobody on the Dobbs leak beat; and, aside from routinely reporting the fact of plummeting polling numbers, few court insiders on the “legitimacy beat.” With the notable exception of Politico’s Josh Gerstein, who co-reported the Dobbs leak last year, virtually all of the scoops about Clarence Thomas’ ethical breaches, Leonard Leo’s golden spigot, the rich donor to Supreme Court Historical Society pipeline, Ginni Thomas’ election disruption efforts and the catastrophic leak investigation all came from enterprising investigative reporters, political reporters and “outsiders” at Politico, Pro Publica, and the New York Times.

… But it’s not just that we mostly settle for covering the cases. We further let the cases set the agenda for what we consider “justice.” If the nine Justices decide to revisit affirmative action, and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, and federal preemption around labor disputes, we’ll then devote a year to debating both sides of these legal issues—regardless of the fact that they were supposed to be long settled. As long as the court thought it was a good time to breathe life into the Major Questions Doctrine or the Independent State Legislature Theory, we have considered the questions of that theory seriously, despite its manifest unseriousness. And once the Supreme Court started to invent its own facts—as it did in the Coach Kennedy case last term, the affirmative action cases this term, and of course 303 Creative, the refusal of service to same sex couples case, also this term—it began to matter urgently that the press would still routinely be covering “cases” as usual, even though these cases included wholly imaginary “facts”—or, as in 303 Creative, no facts at all. Repeating manufactured narratives with which the court will eventually manufacture legal doctrine serves the Court’s interest. The problem is that it does not serve the interests of the public, and that’s who journalists are supposed to be writing for.

The headline from Noelle Dunphy’s $10 million lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani was her accusation that he boasted about selling pardons for $2 million each.

[Giuliani] also asked Ms. Dunphy if she knew anyone in need of a pardon, telling her that he was selling pardons for $2 million, which he and President Trump would split. He told Ms. Dunphy that she could refer individuals seeking pardons to him, so long as they did not go through “the normal channels” of the Office of the Pardon Attorney, because correspondence going to that office would be subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.

But when you read the 70-page complaint, that is far from the worst of it. (Even if she can support that claim, he could counter that he was just talking big to impress her.) The complaint makes sickening reading. It paints Dunphy as a vulnerable woman coming out of an abusive relationship. Giuliani lures her by promising a huge salary ($1 million per year) and that he will represent her against her abuser. He then starts his own abusive sexual relationship with her, comes up with excuses to “defer” the vast majority of her pay, strings her along without a formal employment agreement for two years, and then fires her without paying the salary or fulfilling any of his other promises.

She claims to have recorded many of their conversations (including one where he gives her permission to record their conversations), and that (because her job including managing his email) she has his email files, including emails from long before her employment.

And if you’re wondering how Giuliani’s judgment could be that bad, Dunphy has a ready explanation: He was drunk almost the entire time he employed her.

If any of that is true, Giuliani should just find the $10 million and not let this go to court.

Giuliani faces another lawsuit, a defamation suit filed by two Georgia poll workers whom Giuliani baselessly accused of election fraud. Friday, the judge ordered Giuliani to provide a detailed accounting of his net worth, which is never a good sign.

My Pillow founder Mike Lindell isn’t just delusional about the 2020 election, he also doesn’t pay his bets. (I looked for a word that packs the same punch as “welsher” without demeaning any ethnic group, but I didn’t find one.) In 2021, Lindell was claiming he had computer data proving that the Chinese had interfered in the 2020 election, and he seemed to back up his claim by offering a $5 million Prove-Mike-Wrong challenge. But now that he has lost that challenge, he won’t pay up.

Cyber-detective Robert Zeidman quickly did prove Mike wrong.

Coming to this conclusion this apparently wasn’t all that hard. Some of the data, Zeidman recently told the Las Vegas Review-Journal, looked like someone had simply typed random numbers; another data set had been created just days before the contest, not before the 2020 election, which was pretty obvious given that creation dates on the files had not been altered.

Lindell is not a computer expert himself, so one likely explanation is that he was conned by fraudsters who sold him the “proof” he wanted to believe existed. Marks often get emotionally invested in the con they’ve fallen for, and typically are the last people to grasp what has happened. Successful businessmen like Lindell can be perfect targets for conmen, because they really, really don’t want to believe they are suckers.

The rules of his contest stipulated binding arbitration on claims, and the arbitration panel selected by a Lindell company ruled in Zeidman’s favor in April. But Lindell is still refusing to pay, so this week Zeidman took his case to federal court.

Zeidman may have to get in line to collect, though, because Lindell is also being sued by Dominion Voting Systems for his lies about their role in the 2020 election. One reason Fox News had to settle with Dominion for $787 million was that Tucker Carlson gave Lindell an uncritical platform to spew his baseless allegations.

David Roberts links to AP’s “2024 Republican hopefuls rush to defend Marine who put NYC subway rider in fatal chokehold” and then comments:

I wonder how much evidence will have to accumulate before “objective” reporters are allowed to take note of the *pattern* of rapidly rising support for vigilante violence on the right. And then they could go a step further and connect the rising support for vigilante violence with the relentless push to get more guns into circulation. And then they could go eve[n] further and connect the support for vigilante violence & the push for more guns with the declining demographics that make winning via democratic means increasingly difficult.

The Washington Post asked people attending a gun show why they wanted guns. Nearly all the answers contained the word protection.

[O]ver and over, people told me they needed their guns to keep themselves safe. Safe from what? Most couldn’t answer; they simply had a feeling that the world had become a more dangerous place. … Republican leaders, including Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, have resisted calls for increased gun regulation after shooting deaths, arguing that the root problem is mental illness. But the paranoia that fuels gun-buying has come to seem like a mental health issue in its own right.

The New Yorker visits the Gathering of Thought Criminals, a New York salon for those who “simply feel persecuted for holding unpopular opinions”. Apparently, if you profess ideas that most people deem objectionable, and they dare to object, then you’ve been “cancelled” and are entitled to sympathy.

Meanwhile, Florida parents who want their child to receive gender-affirming care can now have that child taken away. Is there a salon for them somewhere?

Jim Brown died Thursday night at the age of 87. He was arguably the greatest running back in NFL history. In 2010, NFL Network ranked him #2 on a list of the greatest NFL players ever, behind only Jerry Rice. (At that time, Tom Brady had only three of his seven Super Bowl wins, and was ranked #21.)

Brown also had social significance as a key member of the second generation of Black athletes in the national spotlight. The first generation, led by Jackie Robinson and Joe Louis, had mostly kept their heads down, avoided making waves, and let their performance do the talking. The second generation, led by Brown, Bill Russell, and (a few years later) Muhammad Ali, could be more outspoken, and were frequently portrayed in the media as troublemakers.

Today, the NFL is a quarterback’s league and runners only rarely make headlines. But in Brown’s era, the NFL was a runner’s league, and he was the best anyone had ever seen. Here are some highlights. (Copyright issues aren’t letting me embed the video.)

and let’s close with something from down under

Normally, I pick a closing to be amusing and not at all political. This one does involve a political issue, but I’m hoping it’s amusing enough to get by. Australia, the video claims, has all kinds of deadly dangers. But at least it doesn’t have AR-15s.

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  • carolannie1949  On May 22, 2023 at 12:43 pm

    In the Baby Milo case, it leaps to the obvious eye that the baby wasn’t a separate entity from the mother until he was born.

  • Thomas Paine  On May 23, 2023 at 7:12 am

    The four ‘freedoms’ of the GQP Jamelle Bouie identifies are the logical outgrowth of the white nationalist christo-fascist demand not to have to tolerate anything, and especially anyone, that is different from themselves and their narrowly drawn tribe.

    This is the same demand that drives them to live on large tracts of land, isolated from anyone they might have to share a moment with that requires accommodation and adjustment. This is an anti-community mentality, and especially anti-community if they can’t control the membership and behaviors of that community.

    It’s too costly and exhausting, however, to keep fleeing and retreating from the encroaching horrors of diversity and tolerance of people making choices that are different than theirs. Or, even worse, those amongst them (even in their own families!) who refuse to continue to deny the essence of who they are because that isn’t even a choice but rather their very being.

    And so, the time has come to stop retreating and instead hijack the controls of the state so they can order everyone to be and behave as they do. This will free them of the burden of having accept and adjust to others who have the same rights they demand to live as they are and choose, but who choose differently.

    The cost of community – real, authentic community where each member has equal standing and is valued for who they are as they choose to present themselves – is accepting (if not outright celebrating) and accommodating the differences that such communities inevitably present. And that’s a cost MAGA simply will not accept and has declared war on.

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