Rights

Kyrsten Sinema is in big trouble in Arizona

Centrist Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona has recently drawn a great deal of criticism from more progressive Democrats for her opposition to ending the filibuster, and a new poll from the progressive think tank Data for Progress finds that two-thirds of Democratic primary voters in her state would favor a primary challenge to Sinema in 2024 if she maintains that position. But the poll raises some questions: how do centrists, conservatives and independents feel about Sinema in Arizona? And how would a more progressive Democrat fare against a Republican candidate in Arizona's 2024 U.S. Senate race?

Sinema, along with Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, has been adamant in her opposition to ending the filibuster, which requires at least 60 votes for most bills to pass — including voting rights bills such as the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Democrats have a narrow majority in the U.S. Senate, but they don't have 60 votes. Sinema, who was elected to the U.S. Senate when she defeated Republican Martha McSally in 2018, has argued that Democrats will be glad to have the filibuster if Republicans regain the Senate and the White House in the future. And some Democrats have responded that if Sinema and Manchin are opposed to ending the filibuster altogether, they should at least support creating an exception to the filibuster when it comes to voting rights — which Republicans in state legislatures have been attacking with voter suppression bills all over the United States.

On July 20, Brian Burton and Gustavo Sánchez of Data for Progressive cited Sinema's support of the filibuster as the reason why she is, according to Data's poll, vulnerable to a possible Democratic primary challenge in 2024. The poll was conducted from June 28 to July 6.

According to Burton and Sánchez, "These potential primary voters are already revealing the policy priorities and deal-breakers that may decide their vote. Particularly salient among them is the voters' desire to eliminate the filibuster. Among likely Democratic primary voters, 66% have said that they would vote for another candidate who will champion filibuster reform compared to only 22% who would reelect Sen. Sinema should she continue to preserve it. As previously noted, her voting record up to this point would already place her in a relatively weakened position in a hypothetical primary challenge. If she remains steadfast in her resolve to protect the filibuster, regardless of reason, it seems quite likely that she will further push her base towards another candidate entirely."

But if a staunch progressive — someone along the lines of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York City, Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington State or Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota — were to defeat Sinema in a Democratic primary in 2024, could that person defeat an Arizona Republican in the general election? Other polling has indicated that while progressive Democrats are critical of Sinema, she fares better among centrists, independents and conservatives.

In 2024, Sinema will not be running a House race in a liberal, overwhelmingly Democratic district in New York City, Seattle or Philadelphia — she will be running a statewide race in Arizona, which was deeply Republican for many years but has evolved into a swing state.

For decades, Arizona was synonymous with the right-wing conservatism of Sen. Barry Goldwater and his successor, Sen. John McCain — a self-described "Goldwater conservative." But Democrats have enjoyed three major statewide victories in Arizona in recent years — first Sinema's victory over McSally in 2018, followed by Sen. Mark Kelly's victory over McSally in 2020 and President Joe Biden's Arizona victory over former President Donald Trump in 2020. Arizona now has two Democratic U.S. senators, which is downright shocking to older Arizona residents who remember how Republican the state was for so long. And when Sinema praises McCain as her political idol, that goes over well with centrists, independents and Never Trump conservatives in her state.

Although the Data for Progress poll indicates that Sinema is vulnerable to a primary challenge in 2024, she fares better in polls that are less progressive. A recent Bendixen/Amandi International poll found that among registered voters in Arizona, those who have a "favorable" view of her include 52% of Democrats and 51% of Republicans.

That poll asked, "Do you approve or disapprove of the manner in which Kyrsten Sinema is handling her job as United States senator?" Those who "approve" included 54% of Republicans, 47% of Democrats and 46% of independents. But when the subject of the filibuster comes up, one finds quite a disparity. Bendixen/Amandi asked, "Do you support or oppose Sen. Sinema's decision to maintain the filibuster in the U.S. Senate?" Only 21% of Democrats supported Sinema on the filibuster compared to 75% of Republicans and 51% of independents."

These are the challenges that Sinema faces in 2024, when she may have to worry about a possible primary challenge from the left as well as how to defeat a Republican if she makes it to the general election.

MSNBC host delivers a rapid-fire list of the evidence that has emerged to confirm Trump's fascism

Progressive firebrand Mehdi Hasan angered many Republicans during the 2020 summer when he described former President Donald Trump as a "fascist." Hasan, now an MSNBC host, revisited that subject over the weekend on his Sunday-night program, saying that he now believes his anti-Trump statements of the past might have been an "understatement."

Hasan, during what he describes as one of his "one-minute rants," recalled that when he was sitting in for MSNBC's Chris Hayes last year, he "used the F word in relation to Donald Trump."

"A lot of people, even some on the left, lost their minds," Hasan told viewers. "I was accused of hyperbole and exaggeration, fear-mongering."

The MSNBC host went on to explain why, if anything, he "understated" how dangerous Trump is.

Hasan explained, "In the months since, we've seen Trump refuse to accept the results of a free and fair election and then cite a fascist mob to attack the Capitol. And now, the fascist revelations keep coming and coming…. According to a new book, Donald Trump called on his armed forces to crack skulls and beat the f out of racial justice protesters. Last summer, he reportedly said: Just shoot them…. And according to another new book, Trump, in the early days of the pandemic, wanted to send American citizens infected with COVID-19 to Guantanamo Bay to a literal prison camp."

Hasan concluded his commentary by saying, "When I said Trump was guilty of fascism…. I was accused of overstatement. Nearly a year on, given what we're now reading and seeing, maybe the f-word in relation to Trump was an understatement."

GOP chair accused of 'cognitive dissonance' over Pride Month tweet ​after party pushed 100's of anti-LGBTQ bills

Republican Party Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel Wednesday evening posted a tweet wishing the LGBTQ community "Happy #PrideMonth."

It did not go over well.

Republican Party Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel Wednesday evening posted a tweet wishing the LGBTQ community "Happy #PrideMonth."

It did not go over well.

The GOP has been at war with the LGBTQ community at every turn, and considerably ramped up their attacks this year.

"2021 has officially surpassed 2015 as the worst year for anti-LGBTQ legislation in recent history," the Human Rights Campaign reported in early May.

More than 250 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in state legislatures in 2021, including:

At least 35 bills that would prohibit transgender youth from being able to access best-practice, age-appropriate, gender-affirming medical care


At least 69 bills that would prohibit transgender youth (and in some cases college students) from participating in sports consistent with their gender identity


At least 43 bills that would allow people to assert a religious belief as justification for failing to abide by the law or provide services to people of whom they disapprove


At least 15 bills that would prohibit transgender people from having access to restrooms or locker rooms consistent with their gender identity

As of May 4, one month ago, 17 of those bills had already been signed into law – more than in the last three years combined.

Republican Party Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel Wednesday evening posted a tweet wishing the LGBTQ community "Happy #PrideMonth."

It did not go over well.

The GOP has been at war with the LGBTQ community at every turn, and considerably ramped up their attacks this year.

"2021 has officially surpassed 2015 as the worst year for anti-LGBTQ legislation in recent history," the Human Rights Campaign reported in early May.

More than 250 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in state legislatures in 2021, including:

At least 35 bills that would prohibit transgender youth from being able to access best-practice, age-appropriate, gender-affirming medical care
At least 69 bills that would prohibit transgender youth (and in some cases college students) from participating in sports consistent with their gender identity
At least 43 bills that would allow people to assert a religious belief as justification for failing to abide by the law or provide services to people of whom they disapprove
At least 15 bills that would prohibit transgender people from having access to restrooms or locker rooms consistent with their gender identity

As of May 4, one month ago, 17 of those bills had already been signed into law – more than in the last three years combined.

There are more.

For example, Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis celebrated the start of Pride Month by signing into law June 1 an anti-trans bill banning transgender girls from participating in women's sports, and he chose a private Christian school – which does not need a law to ban trans girls from sports – as the venue to sign the bill into law, sending a very strong message as to whom he is trying to please.

DeSantis, a top Trump supporter who is believed to be a 2024 presidential hopeful, followed that up with vetoing pro-LGBTQ legislation on June 2.

"Just days from the five-year remembrance of Orlando's Pulse nightclub massacre," The Orlando Sentinel reports, "DeSantis on Wednesday vetoed $150,000 in state funds that would have provided counseling for survivors — despite a budget that has $9.5 billion in reserves. And in what advocates describe as 'war' on LGBTQ+ Floridians, the governor also eliminated $750,000 approved by the Florida Legislature for the Orlando-based Zebra Coalition to create housing for homeless gay and transgender youth."

McDaniel's tweet makes clear the GOP is only interested in even claiming to support LGBTQ protections as long as the "rights" of conservative Christians are not touched. The hundreds of bills stripping those protections and imposing even worse restrictions on LGBTQ people, especially minors, expose her tweet as a lie, but it's revealing to know the Republican Party is willing to prioritize the civil rights of LGBTQ Americans over the religious right.

Here's how some are responding to the GOP Chair's tweet.













The GOP's fact-free world threatens the survival of democracy

The right-wing media apparatus, which is global in scale, has lately been making a fetish of something called "critical race theory" (CRT). This has prompted academics to defend it. It's not a radical political ideology, they say. It's merely a form of critical inquiry. It is not the boogeyman it's being made out to be. There's nothing to fear.

I understand the need to defend critical race theory. Colleges and universities are beset on one hand by Republican fascists accusing scholars of indoctrinating students, on the other by anti-left liberals accusing the same of hostility toward freedom of speech. Meanwhile, administrations act more like corporations that privilege efficiency over research and teaching. It's enough to think CRT is an appropriate hill to die on.

This, however, overlooks the larger dynamic at work. The more you defend CRT as an ideologically neutral mode of seeing and thinking about the world, the more the propagandists are going to do what they do best, which is terrifying the ignorant. More importantly, CRT defenders are not seeing the true nature of their opponents. From the authoritarian perspective, modes of seeing and thinking about the world are never ideologically neutral because once you learn to see and think about the world on your own, you don't need authoritarian leaders to tell you what to see and think.

I risk making them seem like cartoons. I risk making people who treasure "traditional" and "conservative" and "Judeo-Christian" values look like they yippy-skippied over the Enlightenment on their way from the Spanish Inquisition to the 21st-century America. But it's worth the risk given that most respectable white people, in my opinion, tend to overestimate the societal effects of liberal arts education. Critical thinking is so uncontroversial among respectable white people as to be barely worth mentioning. The authoritarians, however, see it quite clearly for what it is—an existential threat.

This is why the particulars of critical race theory don't matter.1 (You don't care about the particulars when you're fighting for survival!) This is also why explaining those particulars to people who seem to fear them won't change their minds if you don't also take into account that explaining the particulars of critical race theory can itself be seen as intolerable aggression. What most of them fear is loss of social control. What most fear is loss of authority. Where you see an individual merely muddling through life the best she can, coming to the best conclusions she can, most of them see an individual whose ideological aggression is so monstrous as to justify any response.

Respectable white people look at the right-wing media apparatus, which is global in scale, and marvel at the fact that Americans consuming its propaganda inhabit a fact-free world. I think what they misunderstand is lying isn't a bug. It's a feature. Facts are available to individuals to see and think about on their own, free and independent of authorities licensed to say what individuals see and think. Facts, therefore, are aligned politically with perceived enemies. A rational response to facts is nonstop lying. So "alternate facts" are not a result of authoritarian politics. They are a first principle.

Critical race theory is not a political ideology, but it may as well be to the world of the right-wing media apparatus, which is global in scale. It might as well be because anything that teaches individuals to see and think about facts independent and free of groupthink compromises the integrity of the authoritarian's grip on the group. Case in point is Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney. The Republican believes the former president tried bringing down the republic. She is factually correct. For the "crime" of seeing and thinking about the world on her own, she's now being punished. The House Republicans are poised to purge her from the House conference leadership. The Republicans are not individualists. They are collectivists enforcing groupthink.

Respectable white people marvel at the fact that Americans consuming right-wing propaganda inhabit a fact-free world. As a consequence, they do not take it seriously. People who insist on inhabiting a fact-free world are not just ignorant—not when democracy depends on the ability of individuals to associate and organize themselves for the purpose of self-rule. When huge numbers of people inhabit a fact-free world, and collectivist leaders police the integrity of that groupthink, they threaten not only democracy's ability to function minimally, but its survival. Liz Cheney is now being reassimilated into the collective. Democracy itself faces the very same fate. Do not marvel at these people and their fact-free world. Regard them as the danger they are.

New poll confirms the GOP's fears on voting rights

Zero GOP lawmakers have backed the For the People Act, congressional Democrats' comprehensive plan to strengthen U.S. democracy by making it easier to vote, curbing partisan gerrymandering, and limiting the influence of money in politics.

Republican voters, however, support many of the proposals in the 800-page bill, according to a new poll released Monday.

The survey (pdf) of 1,138 likely voters across the country—conducted from April 16 to April 19 by Data for Progress on behalf of Vox—found that, when presented without partisan cues, the voting rights and election reform bill is popular with voters across party lines. Overall, 69% of the electorate supports the For the People Act, including 52% of Republicans, 70% of Independents, and 85% of Democrats.

As Vox reported:

More than 80% of respondents said they supported preventing foreign interference in elections, limiting the influence of money in politics, and modernizing election infrastructure to increase election security. More than 60% of respondents supported requiring nonpartisan redistricting commissions, a 15-day early voting period for all federal elections, same-day registration for all eligible voters, automatic voter registration for all eligible voters, and giving every voter the option to vote by mail.

With the exception of preventing foreign interference in elections, limiting the influence of money in politics, and modernizing election infrastructure to increase election security—broadly supported measures with less substantial partisan differences—Republican voters were not as enthusiastic about other provisions as Democratic and Independent voters.

For instance, more Republican voters opposed automatic voter registration for all eligible voters (46%) than supported it (44%). The same goes for restoring voting rights to people convicted of felonies who have completed their sentences (49% against to 39% for) and giving every voter the option to vote by mail (54% against to 38% for).

Nonetheless, a greater share of Republican voters supported same-day voter registration for all eligible voters (49%) than opposed it (42%). In addition, 48% of Republican voters said they were in favor of limiting voter roll purges, compared with 34% who said no, and 56% expressed support for a 15-day early voting period for all federal elections versus 34% who did not.

Right-wing operatives close to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) feared that many aspects of the legislation would be well-received by the GOP's base.

"Back in March, the New Yorker's Jane Mayer obtained a recording of an adviser to Mitch McConnell privately bemoaning, on a call with conservative group leaders, that Democrats' big voting rights bill, the For the People Act, polled quite well," Vox noted. "'When presented with a very neutral description' of it, 'people were generally supportive,' the adviser said."

If the poll presented a question with partisan cues, however, support for reform decreased among Republican and Independent voters.

When asked if all states should be required to use non-partisan commissions to draw congressional districts so that no one party has an advantage, 59% of Republican voters and 71% of Independent voters said yes, compared with 25% and 11%, respectively, who were opposed.

When asked whether the filibuster rule should be changed so that Senate Democrats could pass redistricting reform with 51 votes rather than 60, two-thirds of Republican voters and almost half of Independent voters said no.

In March, the Democratic-controlled House passed H.R. 1, its version of the For the People Act, without the support of a single Republican.

But as long as the Senate's anti-democratic filibuster rule remains intact, passing S. 1 will require a 60-vote supermajority. Given that none of the upper chamber's 50 Republicans has backed the For the People Act, convincing at least 10 of them to vote for it is virtually impossible, regardless of the bill's cross-partisan popularity among the electorate.

Progressive advocates have argued for months that protecting the franchise, and with it, the future of democracy in the U.S., depends on reforming or eliminating the filibuster in order to pass the For the People Act.

Conservative Democratic Sen. Joe Machin (W.Va.), who remains opposed to abolishing the filibuster, recently suggested that circumventing GOP obstructionism to pass the popular pro-democracy reforms would spark another right-wing insurrection.

In response, Evan Weber, political director of the Sunrise Movement, said that it appears Manchin "only cares about the 'distrust in the system' from predominantly white supporters of Donald Trump, not from the Black, Brown, and young Americans being locked out of representation by restrictive voting laws and gerrymandering."

Matt Gaetz showed nude pics of women he said he slept with to GOP members of Congress: report

On Thursday, CNN reported new salacious details about the behavior of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who is separately under a Department of Justice sex trafficking investigation.

"Sources say Gaetz gained a reputation in Congress over his relationships with women, and even showed fellow lawmakers some nude photos of women he said he slept with," said anchor Wolf Blitzer. "Lauren Fox is on this part of the story. What are you learning about these photos?"

"We should be very clear from the top, this is a separate issue than the DOJ investigation that is ongoing right now," said Fox. "When Matt Gaetz was a new member of Congress, he earned a reputation quickly of being a close ally of former President Trump's. He liked to be in the limelight of the media. He also, according to multiple sources CNN spoke with, behind the scenes likes to show his colleagues photos and brag about sexual exploits he had with women."

"Three sources told CNN this was something that Gaetz did, and two of these individuals had seen these images firsthand," said Fox. "One of these individuals said they saw this image, Matt Gaetz shared this image with them, a nude photograph on the House floor. One said they had seen an image Gaetz shared with them just off the House floor, but still at the U.S. Capitol. CNN reached out to Gaetz for comment. We have not heard any response from either Gaetz nor his office. Obviously this is a significant development given what is going on with the DOJ investigation."

Watch below:

Matt Gaetz www.youtube.com

In game-changer, ICC will take up Israeli war crimes and apartheid in Palestine

On Friday, the International Criminal Court found that it had jurisdiction to consider war crimes and crimes against humanity and the crime of apartheid in the Palestinian territories.Israeli politician Abba Eban once quipped that Palestinians never lost the opportunity to lose an opportunity. But Palestinians have carefully, methodically created this opportunity to be heard in an international tribunal. It is the ruling Israeli right wing about which one can now quip about missing opportunities.

Israel has egregiously violated the 1949 Geneva Convention on the treatment of people in occupied territories by flooding its own citizens into the Palestinian territories, by stealing Palestinian land from its owners and building squatter settlements on it, and by using disproportional force against Palestinian demonstrators at the Gaza border.

The court will also look into war crimes by Hamas, which was elected in 2006 and retains control of the Gaza Strip.

It has been impossible for anyone to stop Israel's repeated and serious crimes against the Palestinians because the United States backs them to the hilt and is deeply implicated itself in keeping Palestinians stateless. (The "two-state solution" long since became geographically impossible, and invoking it and an alleged "peace process," as the Biden administration does, is just a way of keeping the Palestinians from enjoying any human rights).

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu cynically called the ruling "anti-Semitic," in the ultimate debasement of a term that has otherwise been central to human rights struggles.

Filistin al-Yawm (Palestine Today) quotes Rami Abdu, head of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, as saying that the International Criminal Court announcement that it has jurisdiction over the Palestinian territories represents a victory, won by many sacrifices, for justice, freedom, and ethical values in the world. It is, he said, the fruit of a Palestinian struggle that has lasted decades to win recognition of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.

As a result, he said, Palestinian victims of Israeli war crimes from various generations will gain the right to seek justice after decades of occupation and to see the perpetrators tried in the Hague. He cautioned, however, that "the decision does not mean the end of the road, and the task will not be easy. The hope is that the Biden administration will adopt a different course from its predecessor, and will refrain from putting any pressure on the court."

In spring of 2020, then-President Donald Trump declared a national emergency as a pretext for being able to target justices and staff of the International Criminal Court with sanctions because they were looking into alleged crimes by U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan. These outrageous and ineffectual sanctions have been lifted by the Biden administration.

The International Criminal Court was established by the Rome Statute circulated to U.N. member states in the late 1990s and finalized in 2002. The United States and Israel refused to sign or to recognize the court's jurisdiction. Some 123 countries have, however, ratified the treaty and so incorporated it into their national law.

The court can take up cases of war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and apartheid committed by officials in the signatory states. It can apply sanctions to individuals in those governments after trying them. It does not sanction states but individuals. So far its cases have been entirely from Africa.

But the court's hands are usually tied with regard to non-signatory governments. It cannot move against their officials unless the United Nations Security Council forwards a case to them. Thus, when the murderous regime of Muammar Gaddafi attacked civilians in winter-spring of 2011 during the Arab Spring youth revolt, the Security Council referred the case to the ICC. Its justices considered evidence against Muammar Gaddafi and his son Saif Gaddafi, as well as interior minister Abdullah Sanusi. Arrest warrants were issued by the court for these individuals on June 27, 2011.

The state of Palestine led by Mahmoud Abbas had little hope of the U.N. Security Council asking the ICC to look into Israeli war crimes in the West Bank and Gaza, since the United States almost always uses its veto to protect Israeli officials from sanctions for their illegal occupation policies in the Palestinian territories that they grabbed beginning in 1967.

The Palestinian David very carefully and with foresight therefore moved to join the International Criminal Court. The first obstacle they faced is that court members have to be members of the United Nations. Since the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the eclipse of Labor in favor of the far, far-right Likud and its offshoots, Israel's policy against the Palestinian people has been predicated on preventing Palestinians from ever having a state. They are to be kept stateless and deprived of the basic human rights that come with citizenship in a state.

So, Palestine sought the same status at the U.N. as is enjoyed by the Vatican, of permanent observer state. The General Assembly can grant this status, and did so for Palestine in 2012. Permanent observer states cannot vote, but they are not voiceless and can attend sessions. Palestine's prerogatives were expanded in 2019 when the Group of 77 at the U.N. elected it their chairman that year.

In 2015, the state of Palestine (as the U.N. calls it) acceded to the International Criminal Court and recognized its jurisdiction in the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem.

This is like three dimensional chess on the part of the Palestinians. Because they now have what is called in the law "standing." They are a permanent observer state at the U.N. and they are signatories to the Rome Statute.

Now just one step was left, which was to take to the ICC those Israeli officials operating in the Palestinian Territories in such a way as to violate the Rome Statute. Palestine did not hurry to do so, hoping that the government of Binyamin Netanyahu would see the legal peril and become more reasonable. But Netanyahu kept stealing their land and urging Trump to cut their funding (which he did), and by 2019 the Palestinians concluded that they had nothing left to lose by filing a claim.

The ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, declared a delay while she sought reassurances that the court had jurisdiction over Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem.

A little over a year later, she has been assured that it does, given the recognition of the Palestine Authority as the government of those region in the Oslo Accords.

As Mr. Abdu said, this step is more the beginning of something rather than its end. Netanyahu will attempt to obstruct the workings of the court. But this is a great day for the international rule of law, and all believers in human rights should rejoice.

Bonus Video: From 5 months ago: "Palestine takes Israel's war crimes to ICC" | News Bulletin | Indus News

Juan Cole teaches Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan. His newest book, "Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires" was published in 2020. He is also the author of "The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation Is Changing the Middle East" (2015) and "Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East" (2008). He has appeared widely on television, radio, and on op-ed pages as a commentator on Middle East affairs, and has a regular column at Salon.com. He has written, edited, or translated 14 books and has authored 60 journal articles.

US Supreme Court wipes case law supporting Texas pandemic abortion ban from the books

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The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday voided rulings from lower courts that upheld a ban on most abortions in Texas early in the coronavirus pandemic.

The high court vacated two rulings from the lower U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals that sided with Texas GOP officials arguing that Gov. Greg Abbott's March 2020 executive order prohibited abortion under all but a few narrow circumstances in an attempt to preserve medical resources for COVID-19 patients. Abortion providers have said that the procedure rarely requires hospital time and typically does not involve extensive personal protective equipment.

The executive order ended over the summer, allowing abortions in the state to resume, but Planned Parenthood has said leaving the lower court rulings on the books would set harmful legal precedent for abortion rights advocates.

In a statement, Planned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Lawyering Project called Abbott's order “a transparent attempt to chip away at access to reproductive health care by exploiting a public health crisis," and said it was “important we took this procedural step to make sure bad case law was wiped from the books," according to a NBC News report.

After Abbott paused all non-urgent medical procedures and surgeries to slow the spread of COVID-19 and conserve medical equipment, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the order should include a ban on most abortions, setting off a barrage of conflicting court rulings that created confusion for clinics and women seeking to end their pregnancies.

Many Texans left the state to receive abortions during that time, a new study found earlier this year.

Disclosure: Planned Parenthood has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2021/01/25/supreme-court-texas-abortion-ban/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

The climate crisis is worse than even scientists can imagine. Here’s what happened when one tried

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Peter Kalmus, out of his mind, stumbled back toward the car. It was all happening. All the stuff he'd been trying to get others to see, and failing to get others to see — it was all here. The day before, when his family started their Labor Day backpacking trip along the oak-lined dry creek bed in Romero Canyon, in the mountains east of Santa Barbara, the temperature had been 105 degrees. Now it was 110 degrees, and under his backpack, his “large mammalian self," as Peter called his body, was more than just overheating. He was melting down. Everything felt wrong. His brain felt wrong and the planet felt wrong, and everything that lived on the planet felt wrong, off-kilter, in the wrong place.

Nearing the trailhead, Peter's mind death-spiralled: What's next summer going to bring? How hot will it be in 10 years? Yes, the data showed that the temperature would only rise annually by a few tenths of a degree Celsius. But those tenths would add up and the extreme temperatures would rise even faster, and while Peter's big mammal body could handle 100 degrees, sort of, 110 drove him crazy. That was just not a friendly climate for a human. 110 degrees was hostile, an alien planet.

Lizards fried, right there on the rocks. Elsewhere, songbirds fell out of the sky. There was more human conflict, just as the researchers promised. Not outright violence, not here, not yet. But Peter's kids were pissed and his wife was pissed and the salience that he'd so desperately wanted others to feel — “salience" being the term of choice in the climate community for the gut-level understanding that climate change isn't going to be a problem in the future, it is a crisis now — that salience was here. The full catastrophe was here (both in the planetary and the Zorba the Greek sense: “Wife. Children. House. Everything. The full catastrophe"). To cool down, Peter, a climate scientist who studied coral reefs, had stood in a stream for an hour, like a man might stand at a morgue waiting to identify a loved one's body, irritated by his powerlessness, massively depressed. He found no thrill in the fact that he'd been right.

Sharon Kunde, Peter's wife, found no thrill in the situation either, though her body felt fine. It was just hot … OK, very hot. Her husband was decompensating. The trip sucked.

“I was losing it," Peter later recalled as we sat on their front porch on a far-too-warm November afternoon in Altadena, California, just below the San Gabriel Mountains.

“Yeah," Sharon said.

“Losing my grip."

“Yeah."

“Poor Sharon is the closest person to me, and I share everything with her."

Sometimes everything is both too much and not enough. George Marshall opened his book, “Don't Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change," with the parable of Jan Karski, a young Polish resistance fighter who, in 1943, met in person with Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, who was both a Jew and widely regarded as one of the great minds of his generation. Karski briefed the justice on what he'd seen firsthand: the pillage of the Warsaw Ghetto, the Belzec death camp. Afterward, Frankfurter said, “I do not believe you."

The Polish ambassador, who had arranged the meeting on the recommendation of President Franklin Roosevelt, interrupted to defend Karski's account.

“I did not say that he is lying," Frankfurter explained. “I said that I didn't believe him. It's a different thing. My mind, my heart— they are made in such a way that I cannot accept. No no no."

Sharon, too, possessed a self-protective mind and heart. A high school English teacher and practiced stoic from her Midwestern German Lutheran childhood, she didn't believe in saying things you were not yet prepared to act upon. “We find it difficult to understand each other on this topic," Sharon, 46, said of her husband's climate fixation.

Yet while Sharon was preternaturally contained, Peter was a yard sale, whole self out in the open. At 47, he worked at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab, studying which reefs might survive the longest as the oceans warm. He had more twinkle in his eye that one might expect for a man possessed by planetary demise. But he often held his head in his hands like a 50-pound kettlebell. Every time he heard a plane fly overhead, he muttered, “Fossil fuel noise."

For years, in articles in Yes! magazine, in op-eds in the Los Angeles Times, in his book Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution, on social media, Peter had been pleading, begging for people to pay attention to the global emergency. “Is this my personal hell?" he tweeted this past fall. “That I have to spend my entire life desperately trying to convince everyone NOT TO DESTROY THE FUCKING EARTH?"

His pain was transfixing, a case study in a fundamental climate riddle: How do you confront the truth of climate change when the very act of letting it in risked toppling your sanity? There is too much grief, too much suffering to bear. So we intellectualize. We rationalize. And too often, without even allowing ourselves to know we're doing it, we turn away. At virtually every level — personal, political, policy, corporate — we repeat this pattern. We fail, or don't even try, to rise to the challenge. Yes, there are the behemoth forces of power and money reinforcing the status quo. But even those of us who firmly believe we care very often fail to translate that caring into much action. We make polite, perhaps even impassioned conversation. We say smart climate things in the boardroom or classroom or kitchen or on the campaign trail. And then … there's a gap, a great nothingness and inertia. What happens if a human — or to be precise, a climate scientist, both privileged and cursed to understand the depth of the problem — lets the full catastrophe in?

Once Peter, Sharon and their 12- and 14-year-old sons set their packs down at the car on that infernal Labor Day weekend, they blasted the air conditioning, then stopped for Gatorade and Flamin' Hot Doritos to try to recover from their trip. But the heat had descended not just on Peter's big mammal body but on millions of acres of dry cheatgrass and oak chaparral.

That same afternoon, around 1 p.m., the Bobcat fire started five miles from their house in the Los Angeles hills.

Peter's climate obsession started, as many obsessions do, with the cross-wiring of exuberance and fear. In late 2005, Sharon got pregnant with their first child, and in the throes of joy and panic that accompanied impending fatherhood, Peter attended the weekly physics colloquium at Columbia University, where he was working on an astrophysics Ph.D. The topic that day was the energy imbalance in the planet — how more energy was coming into earth's atmosphere from the sun than our atmosphere was radiating back out into space. Peter was rapt. He'd grown up a nerdy Catholic Boy Scout in suburban Chicago, and had always been, as his sister Audrey Kalmus said, someone who “jumped into things he believed in with three feet." He'd met Sharon at Harvard. They'd moved to New York so she could earn a teaching degree. For a while, before returning to school, Peter had made good money on Wall Street writing code. Now here he was hearing, really hearing for the first time, that the planet, his son's future home, was going to roast. Full stop.

This was a catastrophe — a physical, physics catastrophe, and here he was, a physicist about to have a son. He exited the lecture hall in a daze. “I was kind of like, 'Are we just going to pretend this is like a normal scientific talk?'" he told me, recalling his thoughts. “We're talking about the end of life on Earth as we know it."

For the next eight months, Peter walked around Manhattan, “freaking out in my brain," he said, like “one of those end-is-near people with the sandwich boards." He tried converting Columbia's undergraduate green groups to his cause. Did they care about the environment? Yes. Did they care about the planetary catastrophe? Well, yes, of course they did, but they were going to stick with their project of getting plastic bags out of dining halls, OK? He tried lobbying the university administrators to switch to wind power. Couldn't even get a meeting. Nothing made sense. Why was Al Gore spending a fortune to make a climate movie only to flinch at the end of “An Inconvenient Truth" and say, essentially, Just buy more efficient light bulbs? Almost nobody saw it — really saw it. WE ARE HAVING AN EMERGENCY. There was only one possible endgame here if humans didn't stop burning fossil fuels, fast: global chaos, mass violence, miserable deaths.

Peter and Sharon's friends came over to meet and bless their baby, Braird, shortly after he was born in June 2006. All the guests went around the room offering wishes for the unborn child. When Peter's turn came, he said he hoped that his son didn't get shot at in climate-induced barbarity and that he did not starve.

Peter and Sharon rented a house with a big avocado tree when they moved to California, in 2008, for Peter's dream postdoc studying gravitational waves at CalTech. Braird was 2 and Sharon was nursing newborn Zane. Peter and Sharon had both come from families with four kids, and they didn't want Braird to be an only child — and having a child when you want one is also immeasurably wonderful, too wonderful, in this case, to give up. (They did later decide to forgo a third.) In Peter's first run at grassroots activism, he organized a climate protest with a friend. Only two people showed up. Peter joined Transition Pasadena, a community group dedicated to producing “a more resilient city and for living lighter on our Earth." He also said he tried pushing “to focus the group around global heating and climate breakdown," but the members, he said, wanted to talk about “gardening and city council meetings," not the apocalypse, so Peter and Transition Pasadena parted ways.

Four years into climate awakening and action, Peter felt he had accomplished nearly zero. One night, frustrated with inaction and disgusted with fossil fuel use, he sat at his computer and calculated the sources of all his own emissions so he could go about reducing them.

In the morning he presented Sharon with a pie chart.

This was one of those moments that both distorted and crystalized the scale problems inherent in addressing climate change, the personal and the planetary, the insignificant and the enormous, warping and reverberating as if modulated by a wah-wah pedal. Peter himself believed that you can't fix climate change with individual virtue any more than you can fix systemic racism that way. But he also knew, at some point, “You have to burn your ships on the beach," as Richard Reiss, a climate educator and fellow at the Institute for Sustainable Cities at Hunter College, put it. You need to commit, perhaps even create drama, and make real changes in your life.

By far the biggest wedge of the pie chart was Peter flying to scientific meetings and conferences. For the family, if Peter quit flying, it meant he'd be home more to help with the kids. Sharon reserved the right to keep flying if she wanted. Win-win.

Peter's second-largest source of emissions was food. So he started growing artichokes, eggplant, kale and squash, plus tending fruit trees, and that was great. Then he started composting — OK, that's great, too. He also started keeping bees and raising chickens, and soon raccoons and possums discovered the chickens and Peter began running outside in his underwear in the middle of the night when he heard the chickens scream. Baby chicks lived in the house, which the boys loved. Braird got stung by bees while Sharon was at a meditation retreat and it turned out Braird was allergic and he went into shock.

Next came dumpster diving (which eventually — and thankfully — morphed into an arrangement with Trader Joe's to pick up their unsellable food every other Sunday night). Peter's haul — “seven or eight boxes," according to Sharon; “three boxes," according to Peter — included dozens of eggs with only one broken. Flats of (mostly not moldy) strawberries. Bread past its sell-by date. Peter did his best to put things away before he fell asleep because waking up to the mess drove Sharon nuts. But … it was a lot. Low-carbon living was a lot.

They stopped using the gas dryer. They stopped shitting in the flush toilet and started practicing “humanure," composting their own crap. Sharon had lived with an outhouse in Mongolia, “so that was something I was used to," she said. Plus, to be honest, she liked the local, organic anti-capitalist politics of it. “Marx writes about this in 'Capital, Volume 1' that one of the reasons Europeans started to use chemical fertilizers is because people started to move into the cities and off of the land, … and people stopped pooping out in the countryside, so it became less fertile." The main problem, for Sharon, was that their bathroom was small and the composting toilet was inside. They used eucalyptus leaves to try to cover up the smell, but then little bits of leaves got all over the bathroom, too. After a while Peter moved the composting toilet outdoors. He also built an outdoor shower that Sharon found quite lovely, “rustic and California."

Sharon commiserated with a friend who was married to a priest. How do you have an equal marriage with a man who's trying to save the world? The priest's wife, too, found “it impossible for her to have any space for herself," Sharon said. “Because he was called by God to minister to people. When she tried to do her own thing, it wasn't as important as his." Motherhood was hard enough. Sharon wanted to write a novel. She wanted to write poetry. She wanted to go for a run, or even a walk, in peace. “His dreams were so much more heroic and important that I had to sort of, I don't know," she said. “I had to go along with it."

The most trying component of the low-carbon experiment for Sharon was the 1985 Mercedes that Peter converted to biodiesel. Maeby, as Sharon hate-named the car — as in Maeby we'll get there, Maeby we won't — arrived in their lives in 2011, just as Sharon was starting an English Ph.D. at UC Irvine and commuting 50 miles each way. Yes, they took family summer road trips to go camping and visit friends. But on the winter trips to visit their families in the Midwest, the grease coagulated in the cold, which made Maeby break down more. Some nights Sharon cried in the motel room, but “when it's daytime it all seemed better," she said. She talked about renting a car or even flying home but never did. Still, late one night on a very cold, dark and lonely Utah highway when Peter was under the broken-down car, and Braird and Zane were in the back seat, screaming, and Sharon was revving the engine at Peter's request — she started to wonder if she had Stockholm syndrome.

Sometimes, Sharon thought of Peter as being like “John the Baptist, a voice in the wilderness, crying out, 'Repent, repent!'" This was said with love but also annoyance. As Larissa MacFarquhar explored in her book “Strangers Drowning," extreme do-gooders often provoke us. We find them ridiculous, self-righteous, sometimes even perverse or narcissistic moralists for whom, MacFarquhar writes, “It is always wartime." Just figuring out how to raise children on the Earth, right now, presented so many existential questions. Peter often indulged in a half-joking zombie apocalypse mentality. He wanted to teach his boys to grow crops, to defend themselves, to fix things. “I do think we need to be talking about the collapse of civilization and the deaths of billions of people," he said.

When she was at her gloomiest, Sharon, too, felt scared to leave her sons on this planet, but she also called on her tight-lipped German upbringing to create a bubble of denialist peace. “Things you don't want to confront, just ignore it. Pretend it's not there," she said. Her “ethics of care," as she called it, involved encouraging the boys to take music lessons, read books and even meditate when she could persuade them to join her. She wanted to prepare her sons to be creative and resilient. If the planet was crumbling, they'd need rich interior lives.

Did Sharon want the boys to worry? “I don't know, I don't know," she said. That was the never-ending, urgent, timeless question. How much do we want our children to understand about the horrors of the world?

In 2012, Peter switched fields, from astrophysics to earth science, because he just couldn't stop obsessing. This meant backpedaling in his career, quitting the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) experiment, three founding members of which would go on to win the 2017 Nobel Prize in physics. Still, even his new job was a strange fit. Science itself — with its cultural terror of appearing biased — was a strange fit.

Peter had given up expecting emotional comfort. He'd given up on decorum. He had nightmares about being on planes. “The emissions, you know," he said. “It feels like the plane is flying on ground-up babies to me." Even the simplest decisions led him into deep philosophical rifts. The boys' music lessons, to Peter, seemed woefully, almost willfully anachronistic, a literal fiddling while Rome or Los Angeles burned.

Peter kept trying to figure out ways to make his voice heard. He organized climate cafes, modeled on death cafes, places for people to gather to share grief (Sharon did not attend). He started No Fly Climate Sci, a grassroots group of academic institutions and individual scientists committed to flying less. He kept writing, posting, organizing, talking. This was not always well received. Before the pandemic, Peter stood on the sidelines of Braird's soccer games when it was 113 degrees. “And I'd be telling the other parents: This is climate change," he said. “And, you know, they don't want to hear that during a soccer game. But I can't not do it. I can't."

WE ARE HAVING AN EMERGENCY — Peter thought that all day, every day. “Here I am with a retirement account," Peter said. Did he need a retirement account? What was the world going to be like in 2060, when he was an old man? He'd been careful with himself not to become a doomer. Doomers, in his mind, were selfish. They'd given up on the greater good and retreated to their own bunkers, leaving the rest of us to burn. Still, despite Peter's commitment to keep working toward global change, Sharon found Peter's florid negativity distasteful at times. “There's almost like a pornographic fascination with 'Oh, I'm going to imagine just how bad everything is going to be,'" she said.

Sharon staged minor rebellions to maintain a sense of self — little stuff, like using lots of hot water when she did the dishes, and bigger stuff, like she stopped talking sometimes. Braird and Zane, too, each absorbed and reacted to Peter's passionate cri de coeur in their own ways. Zane, the younger one, started doing his own regular, Greta Thunberg-style climate strikes in front of city hall. Braird, the older, meanwhile, was entering his teens, differentiating and waxing nihilistic. When asked what he wanted to do with his future, Braird said, “What future?" When asked what he thought about climate change, he sunk a dagger into his father's heart like only a child can. Braird said, “I don't really think about it."

On the Tuesday evening after Labor Day, two days after the family returned from their infernal backpacking, Peter, still recovering from heat exhaustion, stood at the sink doing dishes. Braird played League of Legends on his bed. Sharon sat meditating, as she did from 7-8 p.m. each night. Then the emergency alerts blew up their phones. An evacuation warning, the Bobcat fire. The day before, in the ongoing horrible heat, they'd taped their windows shut against the smoke but they hadn't packed go bags. They never really believed their house would burn. The state was a climate warzone. Military helicopters had rescued 200 people trapped in a Sierra lake by the Creek fire, which had thrown up a plume of flames 50,000 feet. Cal Fire was predicting the Bobcat fire would not be contained for six weeks.

Sharon finished meditating. Then she started photographing all their stuff, including the insides of closets and drawers, because that's what insurance adjusters tell you to do: Document your property so you can make a stronger claim. Peter snapped. He didn't care about the pictures or the insurance. He just wanted to let the house incinerate. He felt done pretending that anything was normal, and he decided that now would be a good time to tell Sharon that he'd felt frustrated and gaslit by her all these years.

“WE NEVER EVEN TALK ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE! DO YOU EVEN CARE ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE?" he said. This did not go well.

She threw a laundry basket. “YOU HAVE GOT TO BE FUCKING KIDDING ME," she shouted. “Our entire lives are about climate change."

There it was, that gap we build around knowing and integrating, to protect our own lives and minds. Yet after the fight, after finally saying aloud what he'd been thinking for almost 15 years, Peter felt better. Not because anything was different. Nothing was different. The situation remained unshakably, cosmically wrong. The only reason to care about insurance, books, paintings, the house, was if you believed that there would be a stable planet on which to enjoy those things in 20 or 40 or 80 years. If you believe there'd be a “planet with seasons, where you can grow food and have water, and you can go outside without dying from heatstroke," Peter said. “I don't have that anymore, that sense of stability."

But he also knew, deep down, that Sharon could not, and should not, give that up. She was a more anxious person than he was. They both knew that. “For me to stay sane, there's only so much I can take," Sharon said. Earlier on the night of their big fight they'd watched “The Handmaid's Tale," as they did each Tuesday. Sharon often thought about the main character, June. “You have to moderate how you think. You have to think in little chunks, so you can endure, just like June does," she told me. “You have to make sacrifices so you can survive. If you can survive to fight another day, then maybe the right opportunity will present itself. You can't kill yourself well, you can. But that's not the option I want to take."

Maeby is now gone. Peter drives an electric car. The composting toilet remains outside, though Peter admits, “The other three family members are not interested in contributing at all." Peter's current project is making climate ads. Is this how he can tell the story of what is happening to the world in a way that will make people not just hear and retreat but act? He thinks about this all the time. How do you describe an intolerable problem in a way that listeners — even you, dear reader will truly let in?

All through October and November, the Bobcat fire continued to burn. It grew to 115,000 acres. Its 300-foot-high flames licked up against Mount Wilson Observatory, where scientists first proved the existence of a universe outside the Milky Way. The fire continued to burn well into December, when UN Secretary-General Ant nio Guterres urged, with middling effect, the nations of the world to declare a climate emergency. So far, 38 have done so. The United States is not one of them. In January, a team of 19 climate scientists published a paper, “Understanding the Challenges of Avoiding a Ghastly Future," that said, “The scale of the threats to the biosphere and all its life forms — including humanity — is in fact so great that it is difficult to grasp for even well-informed experts." The language of this sentence could not be more dire. It makes the mind go numb.

So how, with our limited human minds, do we attend enough to make real progress? How do we not flinch and look away? The truth of what is happening shakes the foundations of our sense of self. It asserts a distorting gravity, bending our priorities and warping our whole lives. The overt denialists are easy villains, the monsters who look like monsters. But the rest of us, much of the time, wear pretty green masks over our self-interest and denial, and then go about our days. Then each morning we wake to a new headline like: The planet is dying faster than we thought."

While I was trying (and failing) to process it all, Peter called to make sure I understood the importance of a comment he'd made: He's no longer embarrassed to tell people he would die to keep the planet from overheating. He's left behind the solace of denial. He's well aware of the cost. What a luxury to feel that the ground we walk on and this planet that is rotating around the sun is in some sense OK."

Biden just reversed Trump's transgender military ban

President Joe Biden has just signed an executive order reversing President Trump's total ban on transgender service members.

The order "sets the policy that all Americans who are qualified to serve in the Armed Forces of the United States should be able to serve. The All-Volunteer Force thrives when it is composed of diverse Americans who can meet the rigorous standards for military service, and an inclusive military strengthens our national security."

"President Biden believes that gender identity should not be a bar to military service, and that America's strength is found in its diversity. This question of how to enable all qualified Americans to serve in the military is easily answered by recognizing our core values. America is stronger, at home and around the world, when it is inclusive. The military is no exception. Allowing all qualified Americans to serve their country in uniform is better for the military and better for the country because an inclusive force is a more effective force. Simply put, it's the right thing to do and is in our national interest."

REVEALED: Anti-LGBTQ nonprofits, businesses and schools received millions in PPP funds

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) recipient list released has revealed that several non-profit organizations, businesses, and schools with policies that are particularly discriminatory against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals received millions in loan funds amid the pandemic, according to information released by the Small Business Administration.

The program, which was intended to be a financial relief effort for small businesses facing peril amid the coronavirus pandemic, awarded a total of approximately $2.5 million to seven groups including "the American College of Pediatricians, American Family Association, Center for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam), Church Militant/St. Michael's Media, Liberty Counsel, Pacific Justice Institute and Ruth Institute," according to NBC News.

It has been reported that all seven groups have been categorized as "anti-LGBTQ hate groups" by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). According to the data, the American Family Association received $1.4 million of the $2.5 million total.

Now, LGBTQ advocates are speaking out about the latest reports criticizing the pandemic program and the Trump administration's priorities. Cassie Miller, an SPLC data analyst, criticized the Trump administration for funding discriminatory groups while true small businesses suffer.

"Extremist movements thrive in climates of political uncertainty," she said. "Now, the government is doing even more to help hate groups by handing them millions of dollars in forgivable loans."

Kyle Herrig, president of the watchdog firm, Accountable.US, also criticized the priorities of the administration which led to bailouts for larger businesses — the exact opposite of the program's intended purpose.

"It is hard to find a clearer example of the Trump administration's warped priorities than allowing countless mom-and-pop shops to go under without proper relief while bailing out wealthy and well-connected anti-LGBTQ enterprises on Americans' dime," Herrig said in an email.

Justin Nelson, president of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, also had a similar perspective. as he expressed concern about LGBTQ-owned small businesses that have faced pandemic-related struggles similar to mom and pop businesses. Despite submitting applications for PPP loans, Nelson indicated that only a small number of the businesses were awarded funds.

"These folks are worried about keeping the lights on," he said. "We had a number of businesses that applied, and only a small number that received funding."

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