Travels With Wrongo, Saturday Soother Style – May 21, 2022

The Daily Escape:

View of the town of Sancerre and surrounding vineyards – May, 2022 photo by Wrongo

Our visit to France is coming to an end. It has been a nice change of pace from our life in Northwestern Connecticut. More below about France after another rant about the state of American politics. Here, we’ve seen very little about the baby formula debacle in the US. At this distance, the reasons why Abbott shut down its formula manufacturing facility seem a little unclear.

The WSJ reports that the shortage happened after Abbott voluntarily recalled some products and closed a plant in Sturgis, MI where Similac and other brands were made. The FDA investigated consumer complaints related to four infants who were hospitalized, (two of whom died) apparently after using Abbott’s formula.

Abbott controls about 42% of the US baby formula market.

The FDA said the offending bacteria was detected in Abbott’s plant, but not in their products. That raised concerns by the Agency that the formula carried a risk of contamination. Abbott said there was no conclusive evidence linking Abbott’s formulas to the infant illnesses. A charitable view is that the FDA failed to weigh risks against the real-world consequences of abruptly cutting off this very significant source of infant nutrition.

This brings us to today. It will take six to eight weeks before Abbott’s formula again starts showing up on store shelves, meaning the shortage could last months. The Biden administration wanted to ease the domestic shortage of formula by giving the FDA funds to expedite a solution. On Wednesday, most House Republicans voted against the FDA funding bill on a near-party line vote of 231 to 192. Twelve Republicans joined the Democrats in backing the bill. Another example of the fact that the Dems are the party of let’s try, while the GOP is the party of no we won’t.

Nearly all Republicans voted in favor of another bill allowing foreign formula into the US. (They aren’t required to meet FDA standards). The combined effect of the Republican effort with these two votes is to impede a solution in the US while introducing unapproved baby formula into the domestic supply chain.

Barney Frank’s comment that for Republicans, life begins at conception and ends at birth, has never seemed truer than today, given the gutting of Roe v Wade and their refusal to support funding more baby formula. On to the travelogue.

First, the promised review of Auberge des Templiers, the Michelin one-star restaurant we were lucky to dine at on Wednesday. In summary, it was fantastic. We had six courses, all bite sized, including the main. All had unique presentations, a few were reimagined versions of traditional French specialties. Here’s a photo of our amuse bouche:

This was a soft-boiled egg served in a nest of straw. Note how the eggshell was so perfectly cut: it is difficult to imagine how that’s done. On top of the egg was an emulsion based on some of the straw in the “nest”. It was inventive and delicious, as were all of the courses. Not recommended for meat and potatoes types.

Yesterday we visited Sancerre, known for its wines made from the Sauvignon Blanc grape. The vineyards surrounding the town are on fairly steep slopes. One wine from Henry Bourgeois is called “La Cote des Monts Damnes”, which translates into “that damn hill” since the workers say it every time they are on its 40° slopes. Sounds like backbreaking work. France doesn’t allow immigrant labor from outside the EU, so wages for this hard work are reasonably good.

Wrongo sampled a bottle from 2020. It was fruity and soft, with a long finish. Very nice!

It’s clearly unseasonably dry in this part of France. Walking among the vines, the ground is dry and cracked. But it’s forbidden by law to artificially water vineyards in France. That places great pressure on winemakers to manage their crop while maintaining quality.

Today we’re off to visit a wine barrel maker. It may surprise you to learn that they make barrels to the specifications of individual wine makers. They are also making barrels in different shapes to test the impact of those shapes on wine quality over 5-10 years’ time. It seems that they plan to remain in business for a while.

Let’s close with a Saturday musical interlude blending France and the US. Listen to Pink Martini an America group featuring China Forbes, sing “Sympathique (Je ne veux pas travailler)” in Stuttgart, Germany in 2010. The song is from their first album, and was nominated for best song of the year at France’s Victoires de la Musique, the French equivalent to the Grammys:

Luckily, the video has English subtitles, but the chorus is well-known:

I don’t want to work
I don’t want to lunch
I want only to forget
And then I smoke

Facebooklinkedinrss

Travels With Wrongo, Part II

The Daily Escape:

A different view of the Arc de Triompe, taken from the roof garden of our Paris hotel – May 2022 iPhone photo by Wrongo

Before resuming the travelogue, despite limited internet connections and zero television, we’ve heard about the mass killing in Buffalo. It represents the inevitable convergence of the major trends animating the Republican Party as it schemes about a successful return to power: White nationalism, gun worship, internet radicalization, and hate speech masquerading as First Amendment absolutism.

It isn’t too soon to assign responsibility for this and almost all hate-fueled attacks to Republicans. It’s time for Democrats to go on the attack: Every day, all day long until the message is burned into the consciousness of the public.

Otherwise, we won’t need gun control. We’ll just need to avoid churches, malls, supermarkets, mosques, concerts, synagogues, cinemas, parks, pre-schools, middle schools, high schools, college campuses, mass transportation, and the outdoors in general.

Finally, Republicans always use the argument that it was mental illness that caused someone who hates the “others” to use a killing device for its intended purpose. The killers are valued Republican followers until they pull the trigger. Then they become unfortunate mental cases who just happen to support Tucker Carlson’s ideas. On to the travelogue.

After spending a few nights in Paris, Wrongo, Ms. Right and our traveling companions are spending seven days in the Loire Valley. We were fortunate to reconnect with Stan, a guide from our last extended trip in France in 2008. So far, we have had fantastic weather: sunny skies, high 70°s F and low humidity. Much of this trip is food and wine focused, but the Loire is also the principal wheat growing region of France. The Loire is a bucolic place, sometimes referred to as the “Garden of France”. Here is an example of a Loire Valley wheat field:

Wheat field, Rogny-les-sept-Ecluses, FR – 2022 photo by Wrongo

Many fields are surrounded by mature trees that help shelter the crop from the wind. And while most farms are small and independent, increasingly, large corporations are buying out French family farmers, and are changing the local culture. Like in the US, there is an active movement to prevent the purchase of family farms by corporations.

This is not a very populated part of France. We drove through several villages that seemed empty of people, but when we attended the town market in Gien on Wednesday, it was clear that was where people were congregating. Gien is a town on the Loire River. During WWII, its main bridge was bombed first by the Nazis and later by the French. It was rebuilt in the 1950s, using much of the stone that was rubble in the river after the war. Here’s a photo of the reconstructed 12-arch bridge over the Loire River today:

Photo via

In the background is the 15th Century Chateau de Gien that was also bombed in WWII and later restored by the French government. The picture above shows how far the Loire has retreated from its original width and depth over the past few years. Ten years ago, the river’s edge would have been about 15 meters behind where the photo was taken. While climate change is a global culprit, as it is here, another issue is that water from the river is used to cool the Loire region’s nuclear power plants. France under President Macron is committed to nuclear. In February 2022 France announced plans to build six new reactors and is considering building another eight. France is the world’s largest net exporter of electricity due to its very low cost of power generation. It receives €3 billion/year from this source. About 17% of France’s electricity is from recycled nuclear fuel.

Tonight we’re headed to Auberge des Templiers restaurant , a 2022 Michelin 1-star that is part of a Relais & Chateaux hotel in Boismorand. We’re expecting a fine time, and will give a review in the future.

Let’s close with a video of some of the chateaux of Loire:

 

Facebooklinkedinrss

Travels with Wrongo, Part I

The Daily Escape:

Mona Lisa doing the dap, Marché Président Wilson, Paris – May 14, 2022 photo by Wrongo, price is 12 euros.

Wrongo and Ms. Right, along with four traveling companions arrived in Paris on Friday. We’re staying at a boutique hotel (45 rooms) in the 16th arrondissement, a short walk from the Champs-Élysées. The building dates from the Belle Époque, and originally was a single family home. Here’s the view from our room:

Never ones to give into jet lag, after dinner, we visited the Lapin Agile (the agile rabbit) in Montmartre at about 11 pm local time Friday night. The Lapin Agile is a very old cabaret, founded in 1860. It features performers doing drinking songs, risqué songs  and the famous chansons de Paris, with the audience laughing and singing along, some like Wrongo, in fractured French. We had their traditional drink, a cherry cognac, which packs quite a punch. The singing was fun, and the crowd largely Parisian with some tourists mixed in.

On Saturday, we went to the Marché Président Wilson, an open air market that’s open on Wednesdays and Saturdays. It’s said to be the largest market in Paris. Here’s a pic:

Boutique hotels have quirks. Like most older hotels in Europe, we have a separate toilet room (WC). It is beyond tiny. Worse, the toilet seat won’t remain in an upright position. Wrongo doesn’t know much about the toilet habits of Frenchmen, but either they have substantially better aim than most Americans, or peeing is a two-handed effort, and probably not in the way Trump would have you believe.

Finally the hotel elevator dates from a former time. It holds two people comfortably if they are friendly. Otherwise it is only for people with a very liberal definition of personal space. Oh and its walls are decorated in Louis Vuitton:

Few in Paris are wearing masks, the streets are packed. And the Charles de Gaulle Airport was full when we arrived at 7 am Friday, despite the gloom and doom about inflation and the terrible global economy.

Time for your musical break from the week. Here is the signature pas de deux from “An American In Paris The Musical”. Wrongo and Ms. Right saw the play in London in 2019, where it is still running today. Back then we were privileged to see it with Robbie Fairchild playing Jerry Mulligan. He had starred in the earlier Broadway version. Here is the original Broadway version with Fairchild and Leanne Cope:

More next week.

Facebooklinkedinrss

Florida State House Changes School Curriculum

The Daily Escape:

Cape Cod evening – 2022 photo by Alan Hoelzle

(This is the last column for this week as Wrongo and Ms. Right are heading to France for ten days. It’s our first international trip since 2019. Posting will be light and dependent upon internet connectivity.  Try to behave yourselves and keep your tray tables in the upright and locked position until told otherwise).

Bullies always complain that they’re the victim, not the ones who got the beating. We see this with Putin and Trump.

Another example of that is what Republicans in Florida are doing with public school curricula. Gov. Ron DeSantis says that he’s saving kids from imaginary indoctrination in their schools, but this week he issued a government edict that requires school indoctrination. From the Miami Herald:

“Public school teachers in Florida will soon be required to dedicate at least 45 minutes of instruction on “Victims of Communism Day” to teach students about communist leaders around the world and how people suffered under those regimes.”

DeSantis’ bill makes Florida one of a handful of states adopting the designation. More from the Herald:

“It is, however, the first state to mandate school instruction on that day, as Florida Republicans continue to seize on education policy while placing school curriculum at the forefront of their political priorities ahead of the 2022 midterms….It would require teaching of Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong and Fidel Castro, as well as “poverty, starvation, migration, systemic lethal violence, and suppression of speech” endured under those regimes.”

So kids, we learned today that teaching Florida students about authoritarian fascist slavery in other countries is necessary and mandated. But teaching Florida kids about authoritarian fascist slavery in this country is nothing but divisive critical race theory (CRT) that makes white kids feel bad. It must never, ever be mentioned.

This is a part of the Republican Party’s effort to make public education their top campaign messaging issue in the 2022 Midterms. Despite the reality that all of the education-related “issues” they are focused on are non-existent — like claiming that the teaching of CRT is everywhere, or that teachers who educate students about LGBTQ+ issues are “groomers”.

Normally, local school boards would be left to decide what is taught in the schools under their control, including curriculum, and health and safety standards. But under Republican radicals like DeSantis, the local community isn’t able to do that, because it might interfere with his goal of becoming America’s next Trump.

The irony of dictating school policy from the capital isn’t lost on anyone. It proves that DeSantis understands the basic concept that got the very regimes he hates going in an authoritarian direction in first place. They play up the victimhood — I’m the one being oppressed! — and then get their voting base, those who carry grudges against the Other, to go along with it.

The only “critical race theory” that DeSantis cares about is the race he’s running in to be president one day.

Since Wrongo is leaving you without any musical interludes for a week or more, let’s have a travel-appropriate tune to help propel you forward into the news jungle.

Listen, and watch for sure, Dierks Bentley do his 2014 song ”Drunk On A Plane”. If only airplane rides were really like this! The video won Music Video of the Year at the 2014 CMA Awards:

Facebooklinkedinrss

Which States Are The Best for Working Moms?

The Daily Escape:

Sunrise, Columbia Hills, WA – May 2022 photo by Mitch Schreiber Photography

Each year, WalletHub ranks the best and worst states for working mothers. Below is an overview of their methodology and findings: Women make up nearly half of the US workforce, and nearly 68% of moms with children under age 18 were working in 2021.  That share of the workforce declined during Covid, dropping around 1.3% between Q3 2019 and Q3 2021 (compared to 1.1% for men).

We know that women face an uphill battle in the workplace, with their average hourly wage being just 84% of what men make. They face other non-financial problems as well. Parental leave policies and other childcare support systems vary by state, but the quality of infrastructure — from cost-effective day care to public schools, is far from uniform.

WalletHub compares state performance across 17 metrics to rank the best & worst states. They compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across three key dimensions: 1) Childcare, 2) Professional Opportunities and 3) Work-Life Balance:

“We evaluated those dimensions using 17 relevant metrics…with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the most favorable conditions for working moms. We then determined each state and the District’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample.”

WalletHub’s weighted average for the three categories was as follows: Childcare = 40 possible points, Professional Opportunities = 30 possible points, and Work-Life Balance = 30 possible points, totaling 100 points available per state. That translates into the overall total score below. Here are the top 10 US states for working mothers with individual state rankings by category:

It’s very telling that America’s best score was 62.99 out of 100, meaning that all states have a long way to go to make us a nation that supports women and mothers. Wrongo is happy to note that Connecticut is #1 in job opportunities for women. Here are the bottom 10 states:

Note that only California of the bottom 10 states is an urban (and blue) state. It gets killed in the rankings because of its terrible performance on childcare. If you are interested in how your state ranked, you can see an interactive map of all the states here. WalletHub also compared the top and bottom five states across a few of their metrics. Here’s what those rankings show:

According to a recent report, more than 2.3 million American women have dropped out of the labor force since the start of the pandemic. Solving the problems that keep these women out of the workforce should be a focus for all of the states.

This is particularly true for service and front-line workers whose work scheduling can be unpredictable and for many jobs, there is limited flexibility. Companies should do more. They can create more flexible work environments, allowing parents to take short-term time off. They can strive to eliminate schedule unpredictability for hourly workers. Companies can also work to change their culture to better recognize work-life balance.

The biggest hypocrisy of the anti-abortion movement and the Supreme Court’s apparent decision on abortion is that the Justices and the Republicans are willing to go to the mat to protect the unborn, but that commitment mysteriously vanishes once a child exits the womb.

In many cases, these same zealots are actively hostile to programs that would benefit children.

Parenthood is humankind’s most important job; but there’s no internship, no training program, no handbook. You dive into it and are expected to figure things out on your own. It’s true that parents should bear the responsibility and costs of raising a child, but, government intervention should be available, depending on local conditions and income levels. Some parents simply need help.

At a time when Republicans and the Supreme Court seem to be willing to discount the value of women in our society, it’s important that we battle their views on the economic front as well as on the political front.

Facebooklinkedinrss

Monday Wake Up Call – May 9, 2022

The Daily Escape:

Sunset, Lynden, WA – May 2022 photo by Randy Small Photography

A final thought about our radical Supreme Court: They should give up their black robes. White robes would be much more appropriate.

But for today, let’s talk about the Victory Day celebrations in Russia. This year marks the 77th anniversary of the end of World War II, and Russia observes it every year with military parades and patriotic messages.

Wrongo is publishing this before we learn exactly how Putin will mark the celebration. Certain pundits think that Putin will use the occasion to escalate his war in Ukraine.

UPI reported that in remarks Putin made to commemorate Victory Day, he blasted what he described as “Nazi filth” in Ukraine. He also sent congratulatory messages to the Russian-appointed figureheads of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine, which together make up the Donbas region, for “fighting shoulder to shoulder for the liberation of their native land.”

That certainly doesn’t sound like he’s backing down on his currently stalemated war.

Others think that Putin is more likely to make the political choice to declare victory, or partial victory in the “special military operation”. They think that Putin will postpone any decision regarding mobilizing more troops, which could be politically difficult. Pat Lang, a former US intelligence officer, worries about Russia using a tactical nuclear weapon against the steel plant in Mariupol, a frightening possibility for the world.

Despite the speculation, let’s spend a few moments thinking about how the Ukraine war might end.

Tell me how this ends is what General Petraeus famously asked in 2003 at the outset of the Iraq War. It lasted until 2011, and then morphed into the war on ISIS, that lasted until 2017.

Since the Russian war hasn’t resulted in a clear victory, certain US and British officials are talking more openly about a “victory” in Ukraine, meaning that the West decisively degrades the Russian military’s capability. Also, there’s some talk about regime change in Moscow.

A more likely scenario is that we’ll see an extended standoff between Ukraine and Russia, without an agreed end to the war, but where neither side wishes to continue active combat. In this case, Western sanctions would continue. Russian forces would occupy all or most of the Donbass region and control a land corridor linking Crimea with the Donbass and Russia.

This outcome would have few rules of engagement, since most of the guardrails that would be part of a negotiated settlement wouldn’t exist. The US and Europe would face years of instability and the constant threat of a military miscalculation causing a spillover in Europe. A forever war in Ukraine also runs the risk of eroding support for Kyiv in the US. America isn’t emotionally able to endure another grinding military conflict, even with no troops on the ground.

Finally, there may be a negotiated settlement. But what is the compromise that all parties can live with?

Zelensky has indicated that Ukraine might agree to be a neutral country; but only on condition of stringent security guarantees, the terms of which both the US and Russia might find objectionable.

Ukraine has understandably ruled out territorial concessions, but Putin would almost certainly not agree to any settlement in which Russia were forced to leave the Donbass and Mariupol. And separatist groups there would be unhappy living under Kyiv’s rule after years of war. Also, it’s hard to see Putin compromising unless the US and Europe ease economic sanctions as part of a settlement. Removing sanctions without a Ukraine “victory” might be a difficult political pill for Biden in particular, to swallow.

We like to think that all wars end, and eventually, they do. Remember that may not happen quickly or completely. The surrender of the Confederate Army at Appomattox didn’t settle hostilities, or political and cultural tensions in the US. It didn’t resolve the related racial prejudices and political differences, which still linger today.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that in the Ukraine war, there may not be a discrete moment marking the war’s end for many years. A protracted war would be a favorable outcome for Moscow. It would certainly be a terrible outcome for Ukraine, which is already devastated as a country.

Time to wake up, America! What’s our strategy in Ukraine? Are we even following a strategy in the Ukraine war? To help you wake up, listen to Jon Batiste perform McCartney’s “Blackbird” on The Late Show in 2016:

Note Batiste’s overture on piano which McCartney originally wrote for guitar, was inspired by Johann Sebastian Bach’s Bourrée in E minor, a well-known lute piece.

Facebooklinkedinrss

Sunday Cartoon Blogging – May 8, 2022

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell thinks the leak of the Supreme Court’s draft opinion overturning Roe is a “toxic spectacle”. Chief Justice John Roberts calls it a “betrayal.” And Justice Thomas of Ginni said:

“We can’t be an institution that can be bullied into giving you just the outcomes you want…We are becoming addicted to wanting particular outcomes, not living with the outcomes we don’t like…”

So suck it up American women! They’re sure that the leak is worse for America than their outrageous decision, and nothing you say will change any Republican minds. It is likely to be a long time before this (anticipated) decision is reversed. We will be a nation divided between states where reproductive freedom is guaranteed and states without it.

Major judicial errors in American history have been reversed before. The Constitutional amendment prohibiting alcohol was repealed in 14 years. The Supreme Court opinion upholding laws that criminalized gay sex was overturned after 17 years.

Women have many reasons for choosing abortion that have nothing to do with not wanting to be a parent. They may have medical needs; a fetus may carry genetic defects; the woman may be an underage child or a survivor of rape or incest. Adoption does not erase either the medical effects or the psychic scars that forcing a mother to term might inflict, and that may persist long after pregnancy is over.

And on this Mother’s Day, it is particularly ironic that they call themselves pro-life. Except, of course, for mothers. On to cartoons.

Who should be feeling violated?

Alito changes the rules:

Barrett shows she’s one of the boys:

More of the hypocrisy:

Oh, the places you will go:

Anybody else think Republicans are too controlling?

Mother’s Day 2022:

Facebooklinkedinrss

Saturday Soother – May 7, 2022

The Daily Escape:

Griffith Observatory, LA, CA – April 2022 photo by Mike Holzel

You undoubtedly missed it, but on Wednesday, Biden gave a short speech on the budget deficit and the national debt. You can watch a video of his talk here. You didn’t see it because it received virtually no coverage in the media. From Robert Hubbell:

“….let’s engage in a thought experiment: Ask yourself, ‘By what amount has the deficit increased during Biden’s tenure—rounded to the nearest $1 trillion?’”

It’s a trick question. During Biden’s first year in office, the deficit decreased by $350 billion and is on track to decrease by an additional $1.5 trillion by the end of this fiscal year (9/30/22). It will be the largest single yearly decline in American history. Biden also said that this quarter, for the first time since 2016, the Treasury Department is planning to pay down a small portion of the national debt.

Biden pointed out that the deficit increased for each year of the Trump administration, both before and after the pandemic. Let’s remember that the main driver for deficits during Trump’s administration was the Republican 2017 tax cut for corporations and millionaires. The Trump tax cuts didn’t add any additional revenue, and without any offsetting savings, deficit spending went way up.

After Biden finished speaking, he took a few questions from the press. He was immediately asked about Russian sanctions and the leaked draft of the Supreme Court’s abortion opinion. Biden responded by saying:

“No one asked about deficits, huh?….You want to make sure this doesn’t get covered.”

Why isn’t good economic news covered by the media? Most members of the media seem to be uncomfortable with it. Biden shares responsibility for getting the good news out as well. He should speak to the American people directly, not just indirectly through the press in the middle of the day.

Maybe Ukraine’s Zelensky could be a role model. He speaks directly to his people every day. Had Biden announced paying down the debt and cutting the deficit while seated at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office, people would know that it was a big deal.

He should also speak about the location and targeting information we gathered about Russia’s cruiser and then shared with Ukraine:

“Intelligence shared by the US helped Ukraine sink the Russian cruiser Moskva, US officials told NBC News, confirming an American role in perhaps the most embarrassing blow to Vladimir Putin’s troubled invasion of Ukraine….The US…was not involved in the decision to strike.”

Despite America’s chicken hawk pundits’ finger-wagging, releasing this information hurts Russia’s already badly-run war effort. It shows Putin’s bad decision-making, poor command structure, and with it a likely collapse of morale. Going public also helps other NATO members see the differences with Trump’s four years of doing everything he could to sow distrust in the alliance.

There is a big country outside of DC desperate for good news. And therein lies the central problem for Democrats. Biden delivered this speech just before a meeting with Olympic athletes. Wrongo bets that this is the last we will hear from Biden on this accomplishment.

Just like FDR used his “fireside chats” to brief Americans on what his administration was doing, Biden should speak directly to the American people when necessary on matters of significant importance to the nation. He needs to discuss his accomplishments at every opportunity—and not just from the East Room of the White House.

Better messaging has to come from the top. If it does, voter support will follow. Oh, and by the way, we had another very good jobs report on Friday. The unemployment rate is 3.6%, and 428,000 new jobs were created last month according to the BLS. But the media only report about inflation.

It’s a continuation of Biden’s record job creation. In his first year in office, there were 6.6 million jobs added to the economy, 60% more than the next highest total, which was 3.9 million under Jimmy Carter. Wait, you thought Trump was the biggest job creator in history just because he said so? Wrong!

You might say that Putin is losing his domestic disinformation war while Biden is losing his domestic information war.

Time to turn off the news for a few minutes, and center ourselves for another rock ‘em, sock ‘em week ahead. It’s time for our Saturday Soother!

Here on the fields of Wrong, our crab apple trees’ blossoms will open over the weekend. It appears that we may not have bluebirds in our nest boxes for the first time in 10 years. A juvenile Cooper’s Hawk is using a box as his perch to survey our mix of woods and open grassland. That has driven many birds away.

So, grab a seat by a south-facing window and listen to Beethoven’s “Triple Concerto in C Major, Op. 56 No. 2” Largo, and Attacca, performed in 2019 by Anne-Sophie Mutter, Daniel Barenboim, and Yo-Yo Ma, accompanied by the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra at Philharmonie Berlin:

Facebooklinkedinrss

Thoughts on Alito’s Draft Opinion

Daily Escape:

Chama River, near Abiquiu, NM – 2022 photo by James C. Wilson

Wrongo’s last column spoke about how the Republican Party had become the Party of White Christian Nationalists. And that was before the draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade was leaked to the world. It seems that this likely decision is a key example of how radical Christians are assuming a political role in America that isn’t dissimilar to the Taliban’s in Afghanistan.

Justice Alito’s draft opinion reinforces the view that there’s a very dangerous Christian movement afoot in our nation. It’s not enough for them to live in a country where they are completely free to practice their own religious beliefs. They require the rest of us to live by their religious code, too.

Two thoughts: First about the Court’s legitimacy in the eyes of the public when they overturn a 50-year-old precedent. The Editorial Board of the WaPo summarized the damage to the legitimacy of the Court that Justice Alito is likely to inflict:

“The Court’s legitimacy rests on the notion that it follows the law, not the personal or ideological preferences of the justices who happen to serve on it at any given time….What brought the Court to its current precipice was not a fundamental shift in American values regarding abortion. It was the [result of] shameless legislative maneuvering of Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, who jammed two Trump-nominated justices onto the Court.”

For some time, you’ve been able to predict the votes of Supreme Court Justices by knowing the Party of the president that appointed them. That is particularly true if the issue is either overtly political or a Culture War proxy for Republican Party doctrine.

The American people want to believe the law is fair and impartial, because everyone wants to live in a just and predictable society. But this isn’t what Conservatives want. Their so-called love of religion and love of authority move them to reduce or eliminate voting rights, and now, to eliminate women’s rights.

Second, Wrongo thinks that the Conservative Court has gone a political bridge too far. Most polls show that the rights granted in the Roe v. Wade decision are broadly popular, even among Republicans. And Americans have lived with those rights for almost 50 years, assuming it was an inviolable Constitutional right, you know, like owning a gun.

Heather Cox Richardson says that the Supreme Court has never before taken away a Constitutional right. That means there will certainly be a political backlash against those who have supported this attack against women specifically, and against privacy rights in general.

Pew reports that women are more likely than men to express support for legal abortion (62% vs. 56%). And among adults under age 30, 67% say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, as do 61% of adults in their 30s and 40s.

This describes the foundation of a political movement: Young women as the vanguard of an anti-Republican crusade (pardon the Christian pun). We also know that young people historically have had the lowest voter turnout, dating back to the 1960s. Here’s a graph showing what percentage of women have voted by age group:

Source: Stastia

It was only in 2020 that very young women reached the 50% turnout level for the first time in 50 years. They still lag all other age groups in voting. This means that a wealth of untapped political power lies waiting to be flexed this fall, and overturning Roe is the spark that can light the fire.

Add to that Black and Hispanic women who according to a Guttmacher Institute report are, respectively, three and two times more likely to have an unintended pregnancy than white women. Nationally, Black women had 37% of abortions, white women had 34%, and Hispanic women had 22%. Black women are also more than three times more likely to suffer a pregnancy-related death compared to white women.

Pew also reported that two-thirds of Asian (68%), and Black adults (67%) say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, as do 58% of Hispanic adults.

All of this creates the basis for a national political movement to defeat anti-abortion candidates at local, state, and national levels. Think about how a young woman like Mallory McMorrow who spoke so effectively against the Republican Culture War, could be a leader in the fight.

Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball lists seven states that offer the biggest potential for a Democratic backlash driven by abortion rights: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Each of these states has a highly competitive gubernatorial or Senate race on tap for this fall, and several of them have two.

Before you say it’s impossible, remember that in Ireland in 2012, the death of a young woman who had been denied a medically necessary abortion became a rallying cry for the abortion rights movement. In 2018, this Catholic country held a referendum to change their Constitution to legalize abortion, which passed with over 66% support.

The non-Christian-radical path forward is via the ballot box, where women should be poised to lead us to a rebuilt society. Even as the Roberts Court and Republicans turn their backs on the Constitution, we must still embrace it.

The Roberts Court’s radical Christian majority is, intentionally or not, administering a fatal blow to the Court’s legitimacy.

Facebooklinkedinrss

Tuesday Wake Up Call – May 3, 2022

The Daily Escape:

Sunrise, Ocean City, NJ – April 2022 photo by Sri Reddy

Jennifer Rubin’s article in the WaPo says that the GOP is not a political party anymore. It’s become a movement dedicated to imposing White Christian nationalism:

“The media blandly describes the GOP’s obsessions as “culture wars,” but that suggests there is another side seeking to impose its views on others. In reality, only one side is repudiating pluralistic democracy — White, Christian…who are becoming a minority group and want to maintain their political power.”

These are the people driving the Republican bus. Any progress is soon followed by their claims of victimhood. From Rubin:

“No one should be surprised that the “big lie” has become gospel in White evangelical churches. The New York Times reports: “In the 17 months since the presidential election, pastors at these churches have preached about fraudulent votes and vague claims of election meddling.…For these church leaders, Mr. Trump’s narrative of the 2020 election has become a prominent strain in an apocalyptic vision of the left running amok.”

America was founded as a Christian nation, by (White) Christians; and its laws and institutions are based on “Biblical” (that is, Protestant) Christianity. As Georgetown’s Phillip Gorski says about Jan. 6:

“Christians waved Trump flags. The “Proud Boys” kneeled and prayed. One man, decked out as a cosplay crusader, clutched a large leather Bible to his chest with skeleton gloves. What looked like apples and oranges turned out to be a fruit cocktail: White Christian nationalism.”

Widening out to society at large, the Republican Christian Right is successfully walking a line between two seemingly contradictory notions: That our nation is the greatest nation on earth precisely because it is a Christian nation; and at the same time, that our nation is overrun with evil forces.

The precepts of Christianity were meant to make us more accepting and humane towards others. Today,  these people are about doing the opposite of that.

The BJC’s (Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty) report on the Jan. 6 coup includes survey data from February 2021, showing that Christian nationalist ideology (specifically, belief that the founding documents of the US are divinely inspired, or that the federal government should declare the US a Christian nation) were strongly associated with the belief that Black Lives Matter and Antifa started the violence on Jan. 6:

Source: Public Discourse and Ethics Survey, Wave 7 (February 2021) Fielded by YouGov. Survey design by Joshua B. Grubbs and Samuel L. Perr

The graph shows that the more White Americans agree with Christian nationalism, the more likely they were to believe conspiracy theories about the involvement of Black Lives Matter or Antifa.

Since the founding of the country, we’ve gradually gained a panoply of rights; rights which could not be infringed by federal, state, and municipal governments. Now, the six Christian conservatives on the Supreme Court plan to gut many of those decisions.

The effort to blur the lines between church and state in America may be reaching its zenith. On April 25, the Supreme Court heard Kennedy v Bremerton School District, the first case involving prayer and public schools to reach the high court since 2000.

America’s Constitution promises the “free exercise” of religion; but it also prohibits the “establishment” of religion. Recently the Supreme Court has been strengthening the first guarantee: the right to live your faith free from government meddling, while chipping away at the wall separating church from state.

The issue in the Kennedy case was whether a public school district had the authority to prevent a high school football coach from continuing his practice of leading student-athletes in midfield prayer immediately after games.

Four justices had previously supported Kennedy when the case first came to the Supreme Court in 2019. At oral arguments this time, both Justice Coney Barrett and Chief Justice Roberts also sounded inclined to join the four in favoring free exercise over religion-state separation.

The decision in this case may change our long-held First Amendment rights into something less than they were designed to be.

Time to wake up America! The Culture Wars are the tip of the Constitutional threat iceberg. We’ve all shrugged and walked away from people who think the worst about non-White, non-straight Americans. We can’t do that anymore.

To help you wake up, listen to The Judds’ “Love Can Build a Bridge”. Naomi Judd died over the weekend. Here it’s sung by Naomi and Wynonna on April 11, 2022. This was Naomi’s last public performance:

Sample Lyric:

When we stand together, it’s our finest hour
We can do anything (anything)
Anything (anything)
Keep believin’ in the power

Facebooklinkedinrss