The End Of Roe v. Wade

Is the title of this post alarmist? No, not really. That is effectively what the new Texas law has done, and has now been fulsomely endorsed by the Supreme Court, without even the courtesy of full briefing, oral argument and a merits decision. It was known this was coming when SCOTUS let this bunk take effect yesterday morning without action, it was just a question of what the backroom dynamics were in that regard. Now we know.

Here is the “decision”. As anti-climatic as it is, it is important. This is decision on a law, and the words count.

It is madness upon not just in Texas, but the entire country. These earth shattering decisions used to come only after full briefing and argument. No longer, now the shadow path is supreme.

Agree with Mark Joseph Stern in Slate when he says this:

At midnight on Wednesday, in an unsigned, 5–4 decision, the Supreme Court effectively overturned Roe v. Wade. The five most conservative Republican-appointed justices refused to block Texas’ abortion ban, which allows anyone to sue any individual who “aids or abets” an abortion after six weeks, when the vast majority occur. There is no exception for rape or incest. The decision renders almost all abortions in Texas illegal for the first time since 1973. Although the majority did not say these words exactly, the upshot of Wednesday’s decision is undeniable: The Supreme Court has abandoned the constitutional right to abortion. Roe is no longer good law.

Texas’ ban, known as SB 8, constitutes a uniquely insidious workaround to Roe. It outlaws abortion after six weeks, but does not call on state officials to enforce its restrictions.
Instead, as Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in dissent, the law “deputized the state’s citizens as bounty hunters, offering them cash prizes for civilly prosecuting their neighbors’ medical procedures.” Random strangers can sue any “abettor” to an abortion anywhere in Texas and collect a minimum of $10,000, plus attorneys’ fees. The act’s language is incredibly broad, encompassing any friend, family member, clergy member, or counselor who facilitates the abortion in any way. Every employee of an abortion clinic, from front-desk staff to doctors, is liable as well. And when an individual successfully sues an abortion provider, the court must permanently shut it down.

What other questions does this action, really inaction, by SCOTUS generate? A lot. Peterr asked this elsewhere:

Next up, perhaps, in the Texas legislature, now that SCOTUS has affirmed (5-4) their new approach to enforcement of state laws . . .

Texas declares that black and hispanic people shall not be allowed to vote, and delegates enforcement to any citizen, allowing them to sue for at least $10,000 if they can prove a black or hispanic person voted.

Texas declares that marriage is reserved to one man and one woman, and delegates enforcement to any citizen, allowing them to sue any same-sex couple who presents themselves in any form or fashion as “married” for at least $25,000 . . .

etc. etc. etc.

Again, not hyperbole. For now though, it is crystal clear that Roe is gone. There will be different laws in different states, at best. That is it.

What happens when states like Texas/their citizen plaintiffs start trying to enforce their craven law as to conduct occurring in other states? I don’t know, but that is the next horizon.

At any rate, this is going to be a problem for a very long time. If SCOTUS will do this though, given their clear previous precedent contrary to today’s order, means you can kiss voting rights cases goodbye.

It is a not so brave, nor honorable, new Supreme Court world.

Mirriam Seddiq, Dulles Justice and New Effort For Afghan Evacuees

Woke up to see that one of our favorite commenters, Eureka, noted Marcy’s retweet of MirriamZary from late last night. There are so many new folks here, and such a hurricane of strife, in the four and a half years since Trump set the first Muslim Travel ban that I thought a little backstory would be good about now. So, here we go.

@MirriamZary is her Twitter handle, but her real name is Mirriam Seddiq, and she is totally kick ass. I’ve twitter known her forever, there are a certain group of criminal defense attorneys that have long known and interacted with each other, on and off of twitter, and she has very long been one.

The day Trump instituted the Muslim ban in 2017, Mirriam, her partner at Seddiq Law, Justin Eisele, and some local attorney colleagues founded Dulles Justice and camped out at Dulles airport protesting the way Muslims were being detained and denied legal immigration assistance. They gave advice to families concerned, and laid a lot of the initial basis that soon got the Muslim ban set aside. Also inspired similar efforts in international airports all over the country, including here.

It was so inspiring that, after getting some tips from her work, I got off my butt and went and joined some other friends at our local Sky Harbor airport to do the same. That occurred all over the country. Thankfully, it was not that much of a legal problem here, and most of our time went into protesting (and it was a pretty big one) for news cameras and reporters, and not into having to address legal issues and problems. Soon the travel ban was set aside, and a lot of the impetus on the ground started with Mirriam and Dulles Justice. She is a hero, and is clearly now back at it. By necessity, yet again.

So, that is the back story of MirriamZary. Updates will likely be necessary as events are unfolding quite fast. How the Afghan evacuees are treated in the US, and elsewhere, will be an ongoing story and concern for quite some time.

As a coda, for now anyway, I’d like to point out how awesome women criminal defense attorneys are. You may remember me mentioning it here at EW. I took after Kathleen Walsh almost immediately on Twitter because I was so outraged and disgusted by her demeaning article. That was just the start, I kept on for a bit, because Walsh deserved it. Another one of the evil criminal defense attorneys, my pal Scott Greenfield, did a fantastic post on Walsh’s uninformed nonsense. What Kathleen Walsh doesn’t understand is what defense attorneys, and women are a core part of them, really do. They kick ass and take names, and Mirriam Seddiq is a prime example of that.

This Is Bullshit: Silver Takes the Gold for COVID Guff [UPDATE-1]

[NB: Check the byline, thanks. Update at bottom of post. /~Rayne]

I’m sure my neighbors wondered what the hell was going on here Friday. The weather was nice enough that my windows were wide open exposing those within hearing to my vented spleen. There was so much crap in my social media I couldn’t help yell, “Bullshit, bullshit, absolute bullshit!” I can only hope they thought I was yelling about the Olympics.

What really set me off was dangerous twaddle from someone who should long ago have learned not to opine without data.

Because he refuses to stick to his lane using data to support his case, Nate Silver has become anathema, all of his own doing. His bullshit tweet Friday about COVID can get people killed if they pay him any heed at all.

No data offered here to support this swag – it’s pure opinion.

For the last couple of months we’ve known we haven’t been dealing with the same virus variant which began the pandemic; we’re now up against a far more transmissible version the features of which researchers are still analyzing.

In its pandemic coverage, the Washington Post reported the Centers for Disease Control acknowledged in an internal memo “the war [against COVID] has changed”:

… The document strikes an urgent note, revealing the agency knows it must revamp its public messaging to emphasize vaccination as the best defense against a variant so contagious that it acts almost like a different novel virus, leaping from target to target more swiftly than Ebola or the common cold.

It cites a combination of recently obtained, still-unpublished data from outbreak investigations and outside studies showing that vaccinated individuals infected with delta may be able to transmit the virus as easily as those who are unvaccinated. Vaccinated people infected with delta have measurable viral loads similar to those who are unvaccinated and infected with the variant. …

In other words our past assumptions about SARS-C0V-2 no longer work; this isn’t a virus with a replication factor of R2 (in which one infected person infects two more on average) but an R-naught much higher.

Let’s revisit what was known at the end of June this year about the Delta variant in this explainer I’ve shared before:

It’s the change in charge and in the amino acid described in Rob Swanda’s video above which may be responsible for both the high level of virus load found in both unvaccinated and vaccinated individuals. Think of the electrostatic charge as acting like a magnet, attracting more virus to receptors, combined with a change to the spike protein which may allow the virus to attack host cells more quickly and not be recognized quite as rapidly by vaccinated persons’ immune systems. You’ll grasp why vaccinated persons are infectious and spreading the virus along with unvaccinated carriers.

For another overview which offers a fairly basic explanation of the process by which viruses mutate and then disperse as well as an overview of the Delta variant, see this MedCram video from July 20:

If you watch this video, do pay special note to dates on materials cited. There’s one graph in particular addressing the spread of Delta in the UK based on data from June; the spread of Delta is so aggressive that data wasn’t accurate by the time of this video a month later.

This article in BBC provides a graph showing the trend from mid/late June in the UK; Delta’s spread continued along that rapid uptick, resulting in more hospitalizations though vaccinations kept the rate from matching the last COVID surge. The MedCram video (at 5:17) does attribute the increase to the Delta variant.

Note also the differences in population testing positive for Delta – now much younger – and the admissions. While vaccinated individuals are still unlikely to need hospitalization as documented outbreaks like that in Provincetown MA show, they can still get the virus. We still don’t yet know what the long-term repercussions are among vaccinated individuals who have asymptomatic or mild cases of COVID. We do know that previous variants have caused damage among infected individuals even though they had asymptomatic or mild cases, and younger people including children were among those who were injured.

But now that we know vaccinated persons can both be infected with Delta and spread it, vaccinated persons can’t simply “choose to live [their] life ~however [they] want under COVID” because they pose a danger to individuals who can’t be vaccinated or are immune compromised.

That’s someone like Montel Williams, living with a compromised immune system, fully vaccinated, did everything right to protect himself, and yet someone infected him through thoughtless carelessness:

Don’t listen to bullshit from unqualified hacks who don’t have skin in the game. Pay attention to credentialed virologists, epidemiologists, public health professionals who are on top of the data related to COVID and the peer-reviewed research about its variants.

Above all continue to wear masks and maintain some level of social distancing even if you’re vaccinated, not just because you may become mildly ill but because you may infect others who may not be able to be vaccinated — particularly children — or who may be immune compromised.

This tweet shows the difference between an infected young teen’s lungs and health lungs; imagine this happening to younger children, unable to be vaccinated while vaccines have yet to be approved for use among those under age 12:

Prevent this from happening to more children by encouraging vaccination. The sooner we reach 70% or more vaccinated, the faster we can halt the emergence of the next highly-transmissible and damaging SARS-CoV-2 variant.

UPDATE-1 — 2:40 PM ET 31-JUL-2021 —

When some denialist throws a 99% survival rate statistic in your face, sit them down and share this.

Oh, was I suppose to provide a trigger warning? COVID doesn’t provide them, oops.

The video above only addresses patients who’ve been hospitalized. At least one recent study suggests an average 13-14% of persons who recover from COVID have symptoms lasting weeks and months, some of which are debilitating and reflect permanent damage COVID does to the body.

Freedom. Woo. Choose to live your life however you want. Good luck getting out of bed freely after hospitalization, or keeping your job while suffering from brain fog and other cognitive impairment found in long COVID.

Space Cowboys

Well, today there will be another Billionaire Blastoff. First went Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic; today will come Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin. Musk will come last, but as much as he is dislikable, and he really is, he has sent a rocket into real space to the ISS. He just wasn’t on it, which is okay in the Billionaire Blastoff races.

There is a lot of discussion in the social media and press as to whether these vanity flights are worth it, or whether the relative money should be spent on domestic efforts and climate change, child poverty etc. Strikes me that is a valid discussion.

It is pretty hard to argue with the “spend your cash now” on this or that. Very valid arguments. The side that, sure it is vanity by these Billionaire Blastoffers, but there is value here long term, is also right. Maybe it is not such a simple dichotomy.

I will also add, that as a former pilot, I more love the fact that actual pilots had to drive Virgin Galactictic. Bezos vehicle is the proverbial space monkeys in pre-Mercury criticisms.

There are a multitude of questions on the Billionaire Blastoffs. All, and maybe more, valid to be discussed. Personally only, I think the net good in advancement of engineering and US space capability militates in the positivities column. But that is not an easy question.

Use this thread for any launch things. Featured above is the great Steve Miller. And with plaudits to our once, and forever, Roving Reporter Rosalind.

On Helmets And Vaccinations

Okay, so I told an old war story from the motorcycling days of my youth in an earlier thread. In response to a Raven Eye comment, I said:

“Your story of father and BB guns really holds water though. A friend and me, pre driver’s license, used to ride dirt bikes all over what is now suburbia. We would take 410 shotguns out quail and dove hunting. They seemed, shall we say, not very effective at range. So, one day with leathers and helmets on, we paced off, maybe 50-75 yards and shot at each other. We each took some pellets but no harm. And that is the kind of stupid your father foresaw.”

As stupid as it sounds on the surface, it was fine. We were both wearing motorcycling attire and full coverage helmets. Looking back, it still falls in the “things you ought not do” department. But we were in no real danger, just young and stupid.

I’ll get to the “vaccinations” part of this post in a minute, but back to helmets. I never even thought to wear a bicycle helmet, whether riding on the streets of Tempe in college (hey, I got sideswiped once!), or on those of Santa Monica in the summers. Literally never crossed my mind. Now they are ubiquitous on almost every bicyclist you see.

Back to the helmet thing. I wore a Bell Star, with flip down visor. It cost an insane amount of money at the time, but my mother paid it in a heartbeat, as my friends and I did not just ride to hunt quail and dove, we raced motocross and hare and hounds. It was the classic white Bell Star one, with a flag decal on each side. My friend in this story did not wear a Bell, but, I think, a Shoei. There were not that many full coverage helmets that early. Either way, we were pretty safe for the 410 test.

That Bell helmet later saved my life. I had done some wrenching on a friend’s Yamaha 250 (close to what I had raced earlier), and was taking it home to him. Doing 30-40 mph on a large street with a palm tree median when a little sports car made a left turn in front of me. The bike collapsed into the side, and I was catapulted over it and landed 20-30 yards on the other side, on my knees, elbows and head. The elbows were skinned, the knees really hurt, and the trusty Bell Star was cracked in the cranium section. Cracked. That would have been my head. I went to the hospital for a checkup, but was released within a couple of hours. Concussions were not yet a thing.

Such is the value of helmets. But how many people out there now, without a thought, wear bicycle helmets, but ignorantly refuse to get vaccinated? I honestly do not know the answer, but it strikes me that it may be a quantifiable amount. And how is that exactly? Here is an NFL player, once “hesitant” that found the vaccine jesus. Good for Travis Kelce. For one and all, PLEASE go get fully vaccinated; it is good for you, your family and society. It, like helmets, can save lives. Do it.

Ending American Erasure

[NB: Byline check, thanks. /~Rayne]

In my personal library I have a copy of my textbook from American Government, a mandatory class when I was in high school in Michigan from 1974-1978. Most students took this class in their senior year as it was understood they needed familiarity with government before they voted for the first time, usually within a year of becoming seniors.

Covered about week three of the school year, the subjects of immigration and citizenship followed an overview of basic forms of government, the American republican system of democracy, and the Constitution.

It was the first time in my life that coursework directly addressed any topic related to my family’s origins – specifically my father’s Chinese heritage.

This is it, all of it from that class, in three paragraphs, one of which is a footnote.

The text, Page 83:

Oriental and Personal Exclusion Policies. Congress placed the first major restrictions on immigration with the passage of the Chines Exclusion Act in 1882.[3] At the same time it barred the entry of convicts, lunatics, paupers, and others likely to become public charges. Over the next several years a long list of “undesirables” was composed; for example, contract laborers were excluded in 1885, immoral persons and anarchists in 1903, and illiterates in 1917.[4] By 1920 more than thirty groups were listed as ineligible on grounds of personal characteristics.

Footnote:

[3] The law was intended to stem the flow of “coolie labor” to the Pacific Coast; the Chinese could and did work for far less than white laborers, especially in the mines and on the railroads. By 1924 all Orientals had been excluded except for temporary visits. The policy was relaxed somewhat during World War II when provision was made for the admission of limited numbers of Chinese, Filipinos, and natives of India. Since 1952, immigration from each independent country in the Far East has been regulated by the quota system.

Page 89:

Just how broad the 14th Amendment’s statement of jus soli is can be seen from one of the leading cases in the law of citizenship, United States v. Wong Kim Ark (1898). Wong Kim Ark had been born in the United States to parents who were citizens of China. After an extended visit to China, he was refused entry to the United States by immigration officials at San Francisco. They insisted the 14th Amendment should not be applied so literally as to mean that he was a citizen. They held that as an alien he was prohibited from entry by the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. The Supreme Court, however, ruled that under the clear words of the 14th Amendment Wong Kim Ark was, indeed, a native-born citizen and that the Chinese Exclusion Act could not be applied to him.

Because he and his immediate family members left no documents like journals, a total of 318 words in Magruder’s American Government, fifth edition circa 1971, are all I have to understand why my great-grandfather ended up staying in Hawaii rather than coming to the U.S. mainland.

There was nothing in the textbook about other laws affecting immigration and citizenship of Chinese coming to the U.S. – nothing about:

Anti-Coolie Act of 1862
Naturalization Act of 1870
Page Act of 1875
In re Ah Yup 1878
Angell Treaty of 1880 and 1892
Geary Act 1902
In re Hong Yen Chang 1890
In re Knight 1909
Immigration Act of 1924, which included the Asian Exclusion Act
Lum v. Rice 1927

Nothing at all about state and local restrictions affecting Chinese immigrants like:

CA Foreign Miner’s Tax Law 1852
CA law barring “Chinese or Mongolian races” 1858
Pigtail Ordinance of San Francisco
Alien land laws across multiple states

And while there was a generalized discussion of the Naturalization Act of 1790 affecting naturalization of “free white person[s] … of good character,” there’s nothing about its affect on Chinese who weren’t considered white.

As recently as 2018 (!) an alien land law remained in effect in the state of Florida which denied Asian farmers the right of land ownership; the law was finally overturned by voters that year though they had rejected its repeal in 2008.

All of this is particularly galling knowing that over the course of the project, the Transcontinental Railroad was built with the labor of as many as 20,000 Chinese immigrants – enough men to populate a small city. In my American History class the achievement in which the west and east railroads were joined was covered with little more than a passing nod.

Just look at this famous photo taken at the celebration of the railroad’s completion:

Chinese immigrants made up as much as 90% of Central Pacific Railroad’s workforce. How many Chinese faces do you see in that photo? The Chinese paid dearly, hundreds having died from the dangerous work and conditions, paid far less than whites on the same job, only to be literally erased.

It’s also particular painful over the last couple of weeks observing the anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre in which Black Wall Street residents were murdered, knowing that there have been multiple massacres in American history of Chinese Americans which have gone unobserved. Granted, there have been more massacres of Black Americans throughout American history like the 1920 Ocoee massacre, but like the thousands of railroad workers the Chinese victims of white rage since the 1800s received a dearth of recognition.

How many U.S. textbooks contained references to these violent assaults on Chinese American communities during which whites drove out residents after attacking and sometimes killing Chinese Americans:

Los Angeles Chinese Massacre 1871
33 California attacks 1880s
Rock Springs Massacre 1885
Attack on Squak Valley 1885
Tacoma riot 1885
Miscellaneous mob violence in Colorado, Nevada, Oregon 1885-1886
Seattle riot 1886
Hells Canyon massacre 1887
Pacific Coast Race Riots 1907
Bellingham riots 1907

Likely none. Perhaps it’s just as well my great-grandfather never made it to the mainland, becoming an American citizen after the U.S. annexed Hawaii in 1898 and granted Hawaii’s citizens U.S. citizenship in the process of establishing the Hawaii as a territory.

It’s funny Donald Trump forgot this bit of history each time he denied Barack Obama’s U.S. citizenship, yet more deliberate erasure. Each time I heard about Trump’s birtherism I wondered if my family’s citizenship was likewise being called into question for being both brown and born in Hawaii.

~ ~ ~

All of this is to say that the rabid state-level attempts to excise teaching the truth of America’s history is another racist effort to police brown people and erase them while continuing to siphon their value (i.e., keep working and contributing to Social Security and taxes, but die early from the same kind of racist neglect extended to Americans of color through the nation’s history.)

Hello again, colonialism, this time occupying not only brown bodies but the public’s mind, whitewashing the past.

I won’t use the phrase which was honestly and earnestly applied to the body of knowledge which teaches all of America’s history, including its pre-nation origins. I respect the persons behind it, but the phrase or label has become toxic, deliberately made so by a counter movement intended to invoke a reflexive negative reaction in a particular audience.

That I will call out for what it is: it’s white supremacy and nationalism with oligarchic sponsors, attempting to sanitize its wretchedness and avoid disclosure of its ongoing toxic effect on this country by insisting the history of Black Americans is removed from classrooms.

It’s naked racism, fighting against a near-term future in which half or more of the U.S. is not white, in which people like me and my family are a part of a new majority.

It’s a raw struggle for continued domination over the narrative through which they cling to power – the falsehood that America is ever-innocent and eternally white, that its emergence over the last 402 years didn’t depend on the physical, economic, and political subjugation of non-white humans and their nations, even now on a rolling basis.

It’s desperate denialism which cannot accept this country began as multiple layers of theft, constructing an illusion of a vast and empty space waiting for European whites to fill it, suppressing the truth that forced labor by brown people helped turn this space once occupied by indigenous brown people into the precursor entity which became the largest economy in the world.

Fuck all of that. Fuck the erasure which denies people of color have been an intrinsic part of this country’s emergence and too often under violence.

~ ~ ~

No country is perfect. Absolutely none; it’s the story of humanity. A good many countries are now or have been occupiers or occupied over the history of mankind. Changes in boundaries and country names through human history often came with atrocities. There are some truly awful histories like that of the former Belgian Congo and the more recent Cambodia under Khmer Rouge, South Africa’s apartheid past, and now the horrors of the Israel-Palestine conflict and China’s carceral Xinjiang province.

In this the U.S. is not alone. It’s simply a younger country than the United Kingdom whose English forebears injected their brand of slavery into this nation’s history by bringing enslaved people of Ndongo ashore into what is now the state of Virginia.

The same nation later “discovered” Hawaii, encouraging the first wave of colonists and their European diseases which over the next hundred-plus years would wipe out roughly 80-85% of Hawaiians.

This is in part why Hawaii became a territory and is now our fiftieth state. There were too few Hawaiians left to mount a vigorous rejection of colonialism, to defend against the seizure of its monarch. Magruder’s American Government gave even less text to the process by which Hawaiians’ sovereign was deposed and its government replaced as American sugar plantation owners desired, in order to reduce taxes on their products.

I can’t recall exactly how much my American History text expended on Hawaii but I doubt it was little more than a page.

In spite of the wrongs done by Britain and then the U.S. to the small sovereign Pacific nation, it is a bulwark of islands guarding the remote mainland, its residents ready to defend their nation as they were in 1941.

The women in this U.S. Navy photo who were training to fight fires in Pearl Harbor naval shipyard aren’t all white. They are like me and my family – mixed race, some Hawaiian, some Chinese. There were more who were Filipino and Japanese. Let’s not forget war hero and former senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, also of Japanese heritage who served his country in WWII with distinction along with other tens of thousands of other Japanese Americans even as 120,000 more civilian Japanese Americans were interned.

These Americans didn’t withdraw and withhold their efforts because the nation which claimed their island as territory was at that time majority white. They signed up to serve the military as did many other local residents who likewise weren’t all white.

Like so many other non-white Americans — Black American descendants of slaves and later immigrants from African nations, Vietnamese and Latin American immigrants, Native Americans who were here all along, so many more — they are part of our complete history and are entitled to be remembered and taught in classrooms.

Any and all of these groups are worth more than three paragraphs. All America deserves a richer, more complete picture of itself. Their story is our story; it shouldn’t be muted, silenced, erased.

Accept the truth: this is what America looks like at its best, warts and all.

Wegman and NYT on Judge Katzmann

I noted this on Twitter, but there is a really important opinion piece at the NYT by Jesse Wegman on Judge Robert Katzmann, who passed away this week far too early at age 68. Usually, when NYT or WaPo etc. are brought up they are being bashed, but not today. Jesse Wegman has penned a magnificent, and compact, honor to Judge Katzmann, and you should read it.

I will not overly quote it because I want you to go read Jesse’s work. Suffice it to say that most of the world knows Robert Katzmann as the dissenting judge in a 2-1 2nd
Circuit opinion on Brady v. NFL, the Deflategate opinion, that got it right. But he was so much more than that. One of the most brilliant of judges, and best writers, of a couple of generations. Yes, the exact kind of judge you want on the bench. As Mr. Wegman intones, we need more Katzmanns on the bench. Even under Dem Presidencies, the country is not getting enough of them.

Without further adieu, here is a taste:

“The complicated humanity of others — whether judges, litigants, citizens or lawmakers — was at the heart of Judge Katzmann’s understanding of the world. He saw it in the work of Congress, where laws that are supposed to serve as clear guideposts are often vague, ambiguous or self-contradictory, like the people who wrote them. Some jurists see all that messiness as irrelevant if not dangerous, and steer as far from it as possible. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was the leading advocate of this approach, known as textualism, and refused to consider anything that was not in the black-and-white text of the law in front of him.

Judge Katzmann, the first ever federal judge with a Ph.D. in political science, worked from a more balanced perspective. Laws are “expressions by the people’s representatives of this nation’s aspirations, its challenges, and approaches to those challenges,” he wrote. “When judges interpret the words of statutes, they are not simply performing a task. They are maintaining an unspoken covenant with the citizenry on whose trust the authority and vitality of an independent judiciary depend.”

Go read the whole thing. It is a portrait of what you want a judge to be. Katzmann was superlative. But he is not alone, there are many judges out there trying to do the right thing, and not getting enough credit for it. I see them in court, and have for a very long time. Even know a few. But it is harder to see from the 30,000 feet airplane view of the internet. Robert Katzmann was special, but there are others too.

No One Wants to Work [For You] Anymore: The End of Oligopsony

[NB: Note the byline above, thanks. /~Rayne]

There are few ways faster to piss me off than to say, “Slackers don’t want to work” in response to the lack of candidates for low-wage jobs.

This is what it looks like when a monopsonic or oligopsonic labor market is broken. It looks like workers can pick and choose the opportunity which best suits their needs rather than grabbing the first opportunity offered them because they are in precarity.

An oligopsony (from Greek ὀλίγοι (oligoi) “few” and ὀψωνία (opsōnia) “purchase”) is a market form in which the number of buyers is small while the number of sellers in theory could be large. This typically happens in a market for inputs where numerous suppliers are competing to sell their product to a small number of (often large and powerful) buyers. … [Wikipedia]

But there are more than one buyer (monopsony) or even very few buyers (oligopsony) of labor, you might say. Superficially you’d have a point.

Inside a one-mile stretch of the main thoroughfare where I live in Midwestern Suburbia, I can find 8-12 signs advertising job openings right now. I’ve lived here since the late 1970s and I’ve never seen this many postings for jobs.

Every single one of these jobs pays between $3.67 (Michigan’s minimum tipped hourly wage) and $15.00 an hour. None of them are full time, most have variable schedules, and only one place assures workers one weekend day off every week. None of them offer health care or childcare assistance of any kind. None of them offer enough hours regularly with enough compensation to pay for a one-bedroom apartment within walking distance, and likely not within a 10-mile radius.

Until the pandemic, these employers were able to tell workers what they’d pay, take it or leave it. They could act in concert without having to coordinate to set market pricing because it was simply understood by workers that hourly workers’ pay fell in this range and it was an employers’ market.

Employers have acted like a cartel, with collusion on price fixing for labor enabled by other monopolistic entities like Facebook and Google.

Workers may have thought they had some inside information through access to technology, but the same resources which informed them what to expect for compensation also told employers what to indicate as expected compensation. It told them what their competitors were paying.

Further, employers could buy the continuation of their high profits, I mean, low wage environment, simply by donating to a member of Congress directly or through a business association like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. These same purchased entities also did their best over the last several decades to reduce workers’ rights and suppress unionization.

It’s been cheaper and more reliable to buy a GOP member of Congress than to increase automation or to pay workers a living wage.

It’s also worked so well for so long that idiots like Sen. Marco Rubio unquestioningly parrot employers’ complaints as plain fact, ignoring how many voters are workers while sucking up to potential business donors:


Never mind the cost of living for low-wage workers, though.


Seriously, Marco Rubio is a bought-and-paid-for moron who, along with the rest of the GOP, could give a shit about the lives of the working class.

What the pandemic has done is broken the undocumented employer cartel and exposed the lack of bargaining power low-wage employees have had for decades. That unemployment compensation — a ridiculously low figure which doesn’t truly provide subsistence income — is more than what employers have paid these workers is revealing. They’ve gotten away with forcing precarity on workers to keep profits up, distorting whether their business models were legitimate. Some of the precarity is bound up in deliberately unlawful behavior including wage theft.

With a bare minimum of unemployment and pandemic aid, these workers have had breathing room to decide whether to go back to work and risk their health, or wait for more people to be vaccinated. They’ve had financial space to stay with their kids who still don’t have adequate childcare available or adequate support should schools need to transition back to remote classes on short notice.

These workers have also simply had enough — enough putting themselves at risk, jeopardizing their families’ health, enough of being bullied by employers and customers alike.




This is just pathetic — a sandwich? Employers are going to respond to all that’s wrong with current working conditions by chumming applicants with sandwiches?


McDonald’s franchises have been offering cash ranging from $50 in Florida to $500 in Pennsylvania to applicants who showed up for an interview. At least one franchise is alleged to have called the state’s unemployment bureau to turn in applicants who didn’t accept their employment offer, in an effort to terminate their unemployment benefits.

All these nasty anti-worker machinations just to avoid paying a living wage, which employers know is the reason they aren’t landing applicants:

So, in an effort to attract new employees, a Tampa McDonald’s is now promising $50 to anyone who just shows up for an interview.

Local McDonald’s franchise owner Blake Casper, who also owns Oxford Exchange, told Business Insider that a manager at his Dale Mabry and Chestnut location came up with the idea, but far so it hasn’t really yielded much success. …

Of course, one way to attract new employees is to just pay them more, and while he hasn’t done it yet, Casper told Business Insider he’s now considering raising starting wages to $13. As of now, according to a job posting on Indeed.com for the same Dale Mabry McDonald’s location, new employees can make up to $11.50 an hour.

Last year, more than 60% of Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment to raise Florida’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by the year 2026.

Workers clearly believe 2026 is too long to wait for a living wage — and $15 an hour in 2026 may not be a living wage by then, given the rate at which real estate investors have forced rental prices out of reach for low-wage workers.

Employers know better, and yet they have the goddamned balls to ask for more free labor:


Mind you, no more than three free days a month or the company might get in trouble — oh, and do be sure to dress like you’re being paid for it.

Workers would rather bust hump on their own, eat deterioration of their own vehicle and amortize it rather than take a minimum wage hourly job:


When they work as a contractor on a gig job, it pays better and their boss isn’t a bullying asshole who puts their safety at risk.

But of course the GOP has a problem with helping these small business persons with their tiny entrepreneurial aspirations who are trying to earn a living wage while not risking their physical and mental health:


Meanwhile, journalists aren’t asking key questions, rolling over and playing dead for the likes of Marco Rubio when he trots out the fascist conventional wisdom that workers are lazy. They aren’t asking businesses if they’re re-examining their business model the way workers have had to re-examine their priorities.


The least we and journalists should be doing: asking business-owned chumps like Rubio more pointed questions about employers, especially when they’re buying support yachts for their mega-yachts:

The Day After the Second COVID Mother’s Day

The cards have been opened and read, the flowers admired, the meal not cooked by Mom fussed over and the dishes done. We’ve passed our second Mother’s Day under COVID.

Last Mother’s Day we were still in a state of collective shock and denial about the pandemic.

It had been four months since SARS-CoV-2 had been sequenced, three months since the first outbreak in the U.S., two months since we began to lockdown in earnest. The country’s daily average new case count was less than 200, and we counted deaths in tens of thousands.

As of this now-past Mother’s Day we had lost 581,056 to COVID with 607 deaths reported Saturday, 246 more on Sunday. At least one recent study estimated the true number of deaths due to COVID at 900,000 — more than double the reported number.

Many of those lost were mothers and grandmothers, and mothers-to-be. In the the last several weeks mothers died of COVID after giving birth, having never held their infants.

We’ve lost mothers who will be coolly labeled “excess deaths,” among them a mother and grandmother in my own family who did not seek help in adequate time.

This is not to minimize all the other mothers we’ve lost for a host of usual reasons, including unacceptable increasing maternal mortality in this country, disproportionately affecting women of color.

While we celebrated motherhood yesterday we must remember the day after and here forward not only mothers who aren’t here with us but the families they left behind who may have observed yet another first holiday without their loved one.

We must look after the mothers still with us.

~ ~ ~

Mothers who survived this past year of pandemic have been under incredible pressure; 35 million moms with children at home increased their unpaid care time by 57 million hours as childcare and home schooling fell to them disproportionately. They’re exhausted, tapped out of resources, and fed up with the unrelenting guilt trips about the glory of motherhood on top of the nasty demands from the business world which insists workers are slackers laying about, sucking down unemployment benefits.

Meanwhile the previous shortage of childcare has become catastrophic, in part because many moms who worked as daycare providers and grandmothers who may have provided care for free have gotten sick, developed long COVID, or died.

What daycare remains open is increasingly expensive — in 2019 the average cost for an infant and a preschool child was $22,000 a year — and moms who earn minimum wage may not be able to afford care depending on whether they are eligible for any state or federal aid.

Hourly tipped workers whose workplaces have limited capacity due to COVID restrictions may not earn enough tips — they certainly can’t make enough on their base wages which in 18 states and Washington DC doesn’t reach $2.50 an hour.

What happens when an outbreak happens and schools need to rapidly change to remote learning? Moms drop everything and end up at home to care for their kids, needing to drop work hours and shifts or quit altogether. Far too many mothers can’t get paid time off let alone unpaid time off to address their children’s needs even when there isn’t a pandemic; it’s worse during COVID because there are so few alternatives to simply quitting when there’s no backup care provider.

If we truly want to do something meaningful and of real use for mothers in this country, we need to do more than send cards and flowers. We need to deliver for them the remaining 364 days a year.

Moms need:

– A living wage beginning with $15 an hour for all minimum wage workers;

– Health care for all, not just insurance for some;

– A comprehensive program helping to meet the needs of new parents, persons with serious personal or family health challenges, providing paid leave (see the FAMILY Act);

– Establish a national paid sick days standard (see the Healthy Families Act);

– Establish a national childcare program to expand availability and at prices based on income, beginning with the Child Care for Working Families Act;

– Integrate the Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act into a national childcare program so that children do not have to be shuttled from daycare to preschool essential to preparation for K-12 education;

– Care for working mothers-to-be with passage of the Pregnant Worker Fairness Act, which protects pregnant workers’ right to reasonable accommodation, prevents retaliation for requesting reasonable accommodation, and prevents pregnant women from being forced to take leave, paid or unpaid, if reasonable accommodation is available;

– Address the massive economic losses sustained disproportionately by women during the pandemic, a considerable percentage of which are mothers.

Both the Healthy Families Act and the FAMILY Act were introduced in 2019 but ended up shuttled off to die in committee. The FAMILY Act has been resubmitted and needs to passed if we are to successfully recover from this pandemic without further sacrifice on the part of mothers.

The Healthy Families Act does not appear to have been re-introduced yet under the 117th Congress (at least no bill comes up for this term under that name).

The Child Care for Working Families Act was re-introduced in April in both houses of Congress after failing to pass under the 116th Congress.

Senators Wyden and Warren introduced the Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act last month.

The Pregnant Worker Fairness Act has already been approved by the House Education and Labor Committee as of March 24; it has wide, bipartisan support and needs to be passed ASAP before any more pregnant workers are forced out of their jobs without reasonable accommodation.

~ ~ ~

You made your phone call to the mothers in your life yesterday to tell them you care. Now make the calls to your representatives in Congress to follow through and insist they take action to pass the legislation to help mothers and grandmothers, and mothers-to-be.

Don’t just talk, do the walk.

Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121 or use Resist.bot.

India’s COVID Surge: The Curious Facets of U.S. Response

The volume and tenor of pleas for help escalated to new heights this past week as India was engulfed in the pandemic.

You’ve likely seen images of numerous funeral pyres and many graves along with sick outside overfull hospitals.

Apart from the pyres, it looks like Wuhan in January 2020, the U.S. in March 2020, and Brazil at the end of this March.

And yet there is something really wrong here, very off. The case counts and deaths are truths which can’t be escaped but the insistence the U.S. somehow is failing to meet India’s needs is off base.

~ ~ ~

All that’s left of a couple thousand word post I wrote and wrote, and  then rewrote over the last several days is what remains above.

The situation over this past weekend changed rapidly, thought the angry ranting at the U.S. and Big Pharma never let up.

The Biden administration issued a couple of statements between Sunday and Monday about the steps it would take to aid India, which included COVID testing kits, PPE, oxygen, therapeutics for treatment, raw materials for vaccine production, and funding to ramp up capacity of India’s own vaccine producer, BioE.

The media did its usual weak sauce reporting.

Not a single outlet noted extremely curious facets about the Biden administration’s outreach to India:

• U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan spoke with his counterpart, India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval this weekend;

• There are no reports of Prime Minister Mahendra Modi contacting Biden to ask for help though they have spoken in the last 24 hours (perhaps as recently as this morning Eastern Time);

• There was scant coverage of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken talks at least a week ago with his counterpart, India’s External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, regarding COVID and vaccines.

Why did the National Security Adviser play such a big role, with the White House statement issued by NSC office?

~ ~ ~

In the mean time invective against the Biden administration and Big Pharma has continued, some of it based in what looks like weak and less-than-thorough reporting.

Claims that Big Pharma has decided profits come before the lives of India’s people follow reports that Big Pharma refused to give India patents or transfer intellectual property.

Except that Big Pharma is represented in India by AstraZeneca, which is making their adenovirus-vector vaccine in country. It’s the same vaccine which has been used in Europe, and is still in FDA safety review here.

India also has its own Big Pharma in Bharat Biotech, which has developed Covaxin vaccine in collaboration with Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri. The vaccine left Phase 3 trials in early January.

Yet intelligent people continue to harangue the U.S. and Big Pharma about their refusal to help India with the IP needed for licensing. They retweet stuff like this:

The account that wrote this was opened only weeks ago in January 2021. There’s almost nothing in its profile to suggest this is a human with credible background education or experience; the account hasn’t been validated by Twitter. Note the number of times this has been shared by retweet or quote tweet, yet the majority of roughly 6000 tweets by this account are about pop culture.

This is the kind of social media content which ramped up tension around U.S. response to India’s ongoing COVID surge and continues to do so because it remains uncontested.

The issue the tweet focused on was vaccine manufacturers’ request for indemnification by countries which use its vaccine or licensing to manufacture vaccines. How odd that an account tweeting about beauty products and the Kardashians chose to phrase indemnification this way.

~ ~ ~

One of the reasons the U.S. National Security Adviser may be involved is the lack of an effective top-level response by India’s government to the surge. From Reuters via Yahoo:

NEW DELHI (Reuters) -India’s government has decided to leave the import of COVID-19 vaccines to state authorities and companies, two government officials told Reuters, a decision that may slow acquisitions of shots as a second wave of the pandemic rips through the country.

They said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government would instead aim to support domestic vaccine makers by guaranteeing purchases from them. The government this month paid Indian producers in advance, for the first time, for vaccine doses.

Under fire for his uneven handling of the world’s worst COVID-19 surge, Modi has opened vaccinations for all adults from next month but supplies are already running short.

Negotiations between countries on exports/imports are usually handled by their state departments or external affairs and not at lower state/province level. What amounts to the transfer of technology between a nation and individual states is a security risk, let alone problematic for individual pharmaceutical companies.

This is likely why the initial agreement between the U.S. and India’s national security advisers addressed shipment of supplies and other support but not vaccines, technology, or licensing.

It surely didn’t encourage the Biden administration to see how badly Modi has bungled handling the pandemic:

In late January, Modi indulged in a smarter version of Trump’s March 10, 2020 remark, “We’re prepared, and we’re doing a great job with it. And it will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.”

Addressing the World Economic Forum’s online Davos Agenda Summit, PM Modi said India has beaten all odds to battle the pandemic. “When Covid-19 arrived, India had its share of problems. At the beginning of last year, several experts and organizations had made several predictions that India would be most affected by the pandemic. Someone had even said that 700-800 million would be infected and someone had said that over two million Indians would die from the pandemic. Looking at the condition of countries with better health infrastructure, the world was right in worrying about us,” he said.

“India, however, took a proactive public participation approach and developed a Covid-specific health infrastructure and trained its resources to fight Covid,” the PM added.

This was a mere 12 weeks ago; it was complete hogwash and hardly the stuff needed to instill confidence. India’s situation deteriorated greatly after Davos because Modi failed to take any effective measures to mitigate COVID’s spread in advance of a weeks-long major religious holiday, the Hindu observation of Kumbh Mela.

Nor has it helped develop trust in Modi and his government when they have demanded Twitter hide tweets critical of Modi’s COVID response from Indian public view.

Faith in the individual Indian states is tenuous at best; there are far too many anecdotes about state governments lying about COVID response and health care resources.

This is an insane level of denial:

Amid reports of patients and hospitals struggling to find and maintain oxygen supply, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has asked officials to take action under the National Security Act and seize the property of individuals who spread “rumours” and propaganda on social media and try to “spoil the atmosphere”.

Mr. Adityanath asserted that there was no shortage of oxygen supply in any COVID-19 hospital – private or government-run – but that the actual problem was blackmarketing and hoarding.

The state of Uttar Pradesh is expending more resources on suppressing “rumours” than on demonstrating to the public there is ample oxygen and other resources for COVID therapy.

~ ~ ~

This level of narcissism, gross incompetence, and denial in another country’s leadership isn’t something the U.S. can fix. Obviously the U.S. is still struggling with cleaning up after its own run-in with a white nationalist populist who was narcissistic and grossly incompetent as well as corrupt.

We’re still playing catch up because the Trump administration obstructed a peaceful and efficient transition, what with Trumpist GSA Administrator Emily Murphy refusing to turn over the keys to Biden’s team after the election. We’re not as far along as we should be with vaccinating the public because there was no federal COVID program when Biden was inaugurated and insufficient amounts of vaccine had been ordered by Trump.

Not to mention the January 6 attempt to overthrow the government and the Big Lie which continues to interfere with outstanding transition issues.

But the U.S. somehow bears some responsibility for the mounting disaster in India?

Otherwise smart people are trashing both the U.S. and their own cred with demands to remedy Modi’s manifold failures; others insist immediate action in spite of global inaction for decades on pandemic preparedness.

Where was all this concern when Trump killed the pandemic monitoring program instituted under Obama?

Where is the awareness of the security risks posed by a failing state like India, which already has patents?

~ ~ ~

There’s one more element in this mix which may explain the presence of the National Security Adviser in the aid offering to India.

Granted, I’m not certain how to get a handle on the risk involved, but some of the intellectual property and technology isn’t as benign as a Play-Doh Fuzzy Pumper or an Easy-Bake Oven. It can be militarized and its output weaponized.

When talking about some of the COVID vaccines, we’re talking about development which began as military programs. Research for adenovirus-vector vaccines now used against COVID began in the 1950s inside the Defense Department; a vaccine was developed and distributed to military personnel for more than two decades to prevent acute respiratory disease associated with adenovirus infections. This vaccine didn’t become part of the scheduled vaccines American civilians receive, just as they didn’t receive anthrax vaccines.

How much of the limitations we have seen tossed around in social media, attributed to Big Pharma greed, are really carefully parsed concerns about the potential for the vaccine IP and technology to be acquired by hostile entities for weaponization?

Can we really blame any legitimate pharmaceutical company for expecting indemnification against the misuse of their product, IP, or technology considering this kind of exposure? Let alone the potential claims against them for extremely rare side effects which may be worsened by incompetence in treatment, ex. treating unusual clotting events with blood thinners which may exacerbate the clotting.

But this goes to the lack of global systemic preparedness for pandemic. It’s a global problem, not one for which the U.S. bears sole responsibility.

Imagine the possible blowback from questionable social media accounts with negligible provenance should the U.S. under the Biden administration choose to arbitrarily “Free the patents!” as so many demanded this past week over social media, without due diligence about the security risks these new vaccine technologies pose.

This pandemic requires us to imagine this and a lot more. We need to think systemically, more deeply and widely.

This includes thinking ahead to where will the next crisis begin, because it’s only a matter of time.

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