Even her once-reliable portrait of Robert Taft has turned on her.
“Welladay!” she sighed. The interviews for a new houseboy went poorly, and it had Peggy Noonan, longtime sister in good standing of the Sacred Order of Ladies Drink Free Night, in a doozy of a funk. She found herself spending hours pacing her drawing-room in her dressing gown and slippers, listening to recordings of her dear friend George Will reading his meandering writings on baseball, letting his atonal voice wash all her stresses away.
“Ah, George,” she said, remembering a long-ago evening at a little Georgetown bistro, a few bottles of a ’47 Chateau Lafite Rothschild, a stroll among the monuments, a bowtie that he would not take off even in the shower. “Such lovely memories, such lovely times.”
And then her mood darkened. “Before these times,” she hissed at the empty room. “Before some scheming sharpie befouled our beloved Supreme Court and democracy itself!”
Justice Samuel Alito’s preliminary opinion being taken from the court, without permission or right, and given to the press was an act of sabotage by a vandal. It hardly matters whether the leaker was of the left or right. It reflected the same spirit as the Jan. 6 Capitol riot—irresponsible destructiveness. As the book has been thrown at the rioters, it should be thrown at the leaker.
“Peggy!” a voice boomed. She looked up, heart in her throat.
“Lord?” she said.
“Close!” The voice was in the hallway. She stumbled, blinking, from her dimly lit study to behold a sight. No, the Lord was not speaking to her; it was her portrait of Robert Taft.
“Peggy,” the great Ohio senator said again. “I am as great an institutionalist as ever strode the marble halls of our fair Washington, and even I can tell the difference between a mass riot that threatened the pillars of democracy and a small and likely legal act of norm-breaking, the details of and reasons for we are far from learning. Both other branches of Congress leak like the Arizona on December 8, the Supreme Court can handle a decision creeping out a month early. It’s a political institution and like it or not, this is politics, not a seminar on criminal justice at the Ave Maria School of Law. Chill out.”
Yes, there were plenty of people the past 50 years who used “the issue” to accrue money and power. But this long life tells me the overwhelming majority of people held their views for serious reasons. They sincerely saw the prohibition of abortion as a sin against women; they sincerely saw abortion on demand as a sin against life.
“Ah, what is better for democratic legitimacy than for the Supreme Court to vote based on vibes,” the Taft portrait said. “People sincerely believe lots of things! I sincerely believed the Nuremberg trials were a waste of time and Harry Truman liked to secretly wear his wife’s dresses, but I was only actually correct about one of those.”
Why? Because all the other decisions were about how to live, and Roe was about death.
“Lord almighty, woman,” Mr. Taft exclaimed. "If we’re talking about allowing people the freedom to decide when and where and with whom to have children and shape their entire existence, then Roe is very much about how to live. Many people have in fact shaped their lives around this ability for half a century, it has become fundamental to the ordering of American society.”
“I honestly can’t believe they pay you for these insights,” the Taft portrait added with a sigh that caused the ground in Dayton to rumble.
Justice Alito seems to echo this thought in his draft opinion, which would turn the questions of legality and illegality over to each state. This is not a solution to the issue, it is a way of managing it - democratically.
Some states, New York and California for instance, have already passed their own liberal abortion laws. Some states, such as Texas and Utah, will ban most or all abortions within their boundaries. It will be uneven, a jumble. But the liberal states will have their liberal decision, the conservative states their conservative ones, and that is as close to resolving the dilemma as we, as human beings in a huge and varied nation, will get.
“For the love of Pete,” the Taft portrait growled, and was it her imagination or the painkillers she was liberally mixing with her gin that was causing the senator’s face to turn a deep shade of red as his blood pressure shot up? “There is a whole argument going on here about enumerated versus unenumerated rights in the federal constitution that you are completely ignoring to justify this cheap, backdoor shot at banning abortion in probably half the states. Are you trying to make my portrait melt?”
I am pro-life for the most essential reason: That’s a baby in there, a human child.
She listened carefully, but all that came from the Taft portrait was a wet strangling sound.
Advice now, especially for Republican men, if Roe indeed is struck down: Do not be your ignorant selves. Do not, as large dumb misogynists, start waxing on about how if a woman gets an illegal abortion she can be jailed. Don’t fail to embrace compromise because you can make money on keeping the abortion issue alive. I want to say “Just shut your mouths,” but my assignment is more rigorous. It is to have a heart.
“Peggy, I beg of you,” the Taft portrait moaned. “Get out every once in a while and go visit the state legislatures in places like Louisiana and Oklahoma. This misogynist train has long left the station. For God’s sake, Louisiana’s new bill would make it illegal to terminate an ectopic pregnancy. Perhaps instead of a new houseboy, you could hire a researcher or even just some Twitter rando who keeps up with the news?”
Use the moment to come forward as human beings who care about women and want to give families the help they need. Align with national legislation that helps single mothers to survive. Support women, including with child-care credits that come in cash and don’t immediately go to child care, to help mothers stay at home with babies. Shelters, classes in parenting skills and life skills. All these exist in various forms: make them better, broader, bigger.
“My…my God,” the Taft portrait wept. “Have you even spoken to another Republican since 1989? I’m just an oil portrait hanging in an old drunk’s musty and darkened hallway, and even I know Republicans are about as close to embracing such policies as Glenn Miller is to crawling out of the English Channel and singing ‘WAP’ with Cardi B. You can’t seriously believe this has a chance in hell of happening. I’d say please stop insulting your readers, but I think they read you to be insulted.”
Democrats too. You have been given a gift and don’t know it... The gift is that if, as a national matter, the abortion issue is removed, you could be a normal party again…You could be something like the party you were before Roe: liberal on spending and taxation, self-consciously the champion of working men and women, for peace and not war. As you were in 1970.
“Nineteen-seventy!” The Taft portrait wobbled and jittered and threatened to fall off the nails securing it to the wall. “I’m a Republican and even I find this condescending. Did you miss what I said about people having reordered their lives around the freedom of choice Roe has granted them for half a century? How greatly society itself has been reordered since then? Would you suggest all the Democrats start wearing mood rings and reading Shogun while they’re at it?”
And if Roe is indeed overturned, God bless our country that can make such a terrible, coldhearted mistake and yet, half a century later, redress it, right it, turn it around.
“Do you know what I’m not seeing here, besides an honest admission that somewhere between one-half and two-thirds of Americans do not want Roe overturned no matter how much you pretend the Democratic party is some minority outlier,” sighed Mr. Taft, who now had a strand of love beads painted around his neck for some reason. “Any wrestling at all with the can of worms that about a zillion legal observers have pointed out this ruling would open with regard to other past decisions that were based in the right to privacy found in Roe. Worms like gay marriage, gay sex, interracial marriage, the right to use contraception. Worms like authorities prosecuting women for murder when they miscarry, which, contra Megan McArdle – and don’t get me started on her – does happen. My God in Akron. I never thought I’d say this, but at least when Manuel was here you were still occasionally coherent.”
Then with a loud whoosh, the Taft portrait burst into flames. As the fire consumed its frame and its edges singed and curled, Peggy thought she could hear the old stentorian Midwest voice begging her to let him burn. She was sorry to see Mr. Taft go. Perhaps she would give George Will a call.
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Can 'Particicutions' be far behind?
With the Supreme Court preparing to eliminate the right to abortion (and far more) by overturning Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Republicans in state legislatures are rushing to pass new laws criminalizing abortion. But just outlawing abortion isn't enough for many in the GOP: They also want to underline their hatred of abortion (and anyone who'd perform or have one) by imposing harsh criminal penalties, not solely for doctors who perform abortions or prescribe medicine to induce an abortion, but also anyone who has an abortion. After all, if abortion is murder, then you need to send the murderers to prison, if not the gallows.
Charging enthusiastically into the race to the bottom, Republicans in Louisiana are advancing a bill that would classify abortion as homicide and grant full constitutional rights to "all unborn children from the moment of fertilization." Louisiana HB 813, called the "Abolition of Abortion in Louisiana Act of 2022," starts with the Book of Genesis and gets worse from there:
Acknowledging the sanctity of innocent human life, created in the image of God, which should be equally protected from fertilization to natural death, the legislature hereby declares that the purpose of this Act is to:
(1) Fully recognize the human personhood of an unborn child at all stages of development prior to birth from the moment of fertilization.
(2) Ensure the right to life and equal protection of the laws to all unborn children from the moment of fertilization by protecting them by the same laws protecting other human beings.
(3) Recognize that the United States Constitution and the laws of the United States are the supreme law of the land.
Yr Dok Zoom is not a lawyer, but I assume the religious language about zygotes being "created in the image of God" wouldn't formally violate separation of church and state because it's only a prefatory flourish.
But wait! Louisiana already has one of those "trigger" laws that's meant to criminalize abortion as soon as Roe is overturned. Why do Republicans want to pass a whole 'nother law banning abortion? The new bill's sponsor, state Rep. Danny McCormick (R-Gilead), explained he introduced it in March because "We can't wait on the Supreme Court." The bill was passed in committee Wednesday and will now go to the full state House for a vote.
McCormick wrote the bill with the help of Rev. Brian Gunter, a Baptist pastor, who explained waiting until a ruling from the Supremes would be intolerable to God Almighty:
"No compromises; no more waiting," Gunter said. "The bloodshed in our land is so great we have a duty ... to protect the least of these among us."
Gunter also explained that the existing "trigger" law simply isn't vengeful enough against abortion providers and anyone seeking an abortion, because it only "says that abortion providers have to pay a $1,000 fine … that is woefully insufficient." He wants jail time, obviously.
While the bill doesn't specify penalties for abortion, it builds a ban on abortion into Louisiana's existing law against "feticide," which enhances prison terms for crimes in which a fetus is killed. The current law includes an exception for abortions, which would be revoked.
First degree feticide under current Louisiana law carries a sentence of 15 years in prison with hard labor, so that ought to be a linguistically satisfying penalty for people who terminate pregnancies. We'll have to see if that's tough enough to satisfy the holy spirit of vengeance, though. Republicans in other states have in the past introduced bills that would institute capital punishment for abortions, so there's little reason they'll refrain from pursuing that even more fervently when Roe is gone.
Just to be absolutely clear that human life begins at conception, the bill defines human life as beginning with "fertilization" and strikes out the older law's definition, so that "'Person' includes a human being from the moment of fertilization
and implantation" and "Unborn child" is now defined as "an individual human being from fertilization and implantation until birth."
We're fairly sure the intent there is to criminalize IUDs, which prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. But hey, it also seems to mean that if you have an ectopic pregnancy, you'll just have to let it kill you, because that's an actual person with full constitutional rights in your fallopian tube, and never mind that it can't possibly be carried to term, because it will die when it gets big enough to make you hemorrhage to death. Should have thought about that before you let your body do that.
The bill does include a weird section that, as far as I can tell, would allow people to maybe claim self-defense, but it appears only to apply to cases where someone is forced to perform or to have an abortion at gunpoint:
When any crime, except murder where the victim is not an unborn child, is committed through the compulsion of threats by another of death or great bodily harm, and the offender reasonably believes the person making the threats is present and would immediately carry out the threats if the crime were not committed
That definitely doesn't appear to allow a pregnant person to have an abortion because a fertilized egg threatened to kill them by growing outside the uterus. But we'd definitely watch that movie.
And since the bill is already assuming the right to abortion has been repealed, it even includes a couple of bizarre lines declaring the law exempt from any review by the federal courts, and requiring that any state judge who "purports to enjoin, stay, overrule, or void any provision of this Section shall be subject to impeachment or removal." So there, this law is perfect and you can't even question it in court.
Hell, even after Roe is thrown out, that bit seems a tad unconstitutional, but as I say, I'm just an old-fashioned country doktor of rhetoric, not a lawyer.
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Shout it if you need to.
You may have noticed that in the last few days, Yr Wonkette has made a bit of a stink about the term "choice" as a euphemism for "abortion." We've praised Joe Biden and Stacey Abrams both for talking about the right to abortion, and Yr Editrix, in Thursday morning's Tabs, said it's high time we "stop with the focus-grouped, mealymouthed 'right to choose.' (Choose what, choose Jif?)"
A number of folks took issue with that in the comments we don't allow, while others also were none too happy with New York magazine's Rebecca Traister for taking Democratic leaders to task for their seeming unwillingness to say "abortion." (To be sure, a number of comments focused more on how it might be bad strategy to criticize Dem leaders in an election year, also too.)
So we figured this might be a job for a Doktor of Rhetoric. Words matter, language matters, and Crom knows that ever since Frank Luntz and Newt Gingrich teamed up in 1994 to talk about the "death tax" and to make "liberal" the dirtiest word in politics, Republicans have made a dark art of finding terms that will set off electric storms in the amygdalae of rightwing voters, inflaming their emotions with language that will move the base to support policies that help the party's big donors.
A quarter century later, it's starting to feel like framing abortion rights as the "right to choose" is perhaps tainted by the same defensive reflex that led Bill Clinton to proclaim that the "era of big government is over," as he caved to the Right on "welfare reform," ushering in a regime of harsh new barriers to helping people who needed help. Speaking of a "right to choose" almost feels like a concession to the Luntzians: Instead of whole-heartedly saying abortion is essential to freedom and bodily autonomy, "choice" seems to euphemize, as if accepting the Right's insistence that abortion is shameful, a moral failing, the choice of people who should have kept their legs shut and not gotten in trouble.
This isn't to say that "choice" or "pro choice" is a bad term in itself; it's a convenient shorthand that will likely stay around for some time. But it's also good to see the shift toward people talking about abortion without hesitation or guilt, too.
As Heather Young, who had an abortion when she was 17, told CNN for a story that ran just the day before the draft decision leaked,
We need to quit tip-toeing around the word abortion. People need to know that people have abortions for all reasons, not just life or death situations. I was 17, scared. I would probably not be here today if it wasn’t for my mother and doctors who helped me.
Saying "the right to abortion" instead of "to choose" has a similar feel to the 2015 #ShoutYourAbortion social media campaign, which encouraged people to talk openly about why they'd had abortions and how it made a difference in their lives. Popularized by feminists Amelia Bonow and Lindy West after yet another GOP effort to defund Planned Parenthood, the campaign inspired thousands to talk about abortion openly, with the goal of destigmatizing and normalizing it. That led in turn to Bonow and West forming the Shout Your Abortion nonprofit, which offers a very direct message: "We are out here. We are having abortions, and we are talking about them, at whatever volume we choose. It’s time for us to take back our own stories."
I absolutely get why "pro-choice" emerged as the alternative to the demonstrably empty term "pro-life," and particularly as an alternative to "pro-abortion." Heck, who wants to say they're in favor of abortion? So we got "I'm not pro-abortion; I'm in favor of protecting the right of women to have an abortion." But there's also a sense that it concedes rhetorical ground to abortion opponents, when if anything, those who want to take away the right to abortion are the ones who've been hiding behind a euphemism from the get-go.
When my very Catholic mother bundled me up and took me to a candlelight anti-abortion vigil when I was maybe 11 or 12, I know that I was sickened at the idea that people were killing babies. It's very easy to have absolute moral clarity when you're a child. But the Evangelical-driven political movement to do away with abortion rights has always been more about rightwing power than about "life" — after all, until the Religious Right seized on abortion as a wedge issue in the late 1970s, most Evangelicals, and most Republicans, supported Roe. Getting conservative Protestants to join Catholics in opposing abortion was a marriage of convenience that would be helpful in pursuing more immediate rightwing goals like preserving tax breaks for segregationist schools, and for that matter, building support for the segregationist church-run schools that sprang up in the wake of Brown vs. Board of Education.
Yoking Evangelicals to the anti-abortion cause succeeded far beyond the dreams of the rightwing activists who started it, and ending abortion supplanted segregation as the Right's driving force, although the racism remained a cherished part of the culture war agenda, too. Were some people truly committed to "pro-life" ideology and the cult of the fetus? Certainly. The Right really does want to stop every last abortion if it can.
But misogyny and hatred of women's independence were constant handmaids, as it were, and that too was reflected in the language surrounding the issue, which sought to turn fetuses into humans with full rights, while dismissing people with wombs as vessels for the "pre-born child" at best, and to demonize them as murderers, or callous airheads who might terminate a pregnancy to fit into a cute dress, Doctors, of course, became villains who performed "partial birth abortions" or might even "rip a baby from the womb" at any moment prior to birth, as if anyone would carry a pregnancy nearly to term and then decide to have an abortion on a whim, at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars because abortions late in pregnancy are performed only by a few specialists.
If the term "pro-life" felt like a smokescreen for most of the last 40 years, it was truly given the lie by the COVID epidemic, as Republicans made absolutely clear that they had little interest in preventing the virus from spreading, and indeed tried to suggest that Grandma Millie should be happy to die of COVID if it helped the country's GDP. Not that pointing out the hypocrisy mattered, because the Evangelicals knew it was a linguistic pretense all along.
I also can't help but think that the GOP death cult's decision to snottily coopt the language of abortion rights — "bodily autonomy" and "My body, my choice" — for the sake of not wearing masks or not getting vaccinated may also have helped sour a lot of us on the language of "choice." If the same phrase can apply to the right to have an abortion and to ignoring public health, then why not just come right out and say "abortion" so there's no confusion?
The draft opinion overturning Roe (and Planned Parenthood v. Casey) makes clear that the Right isn't about to bother pretending it's restrained by precedent or law. The Trump administration and its "alternative facts" made clear that the very nature of reality is just, like, your opinion, man, so why not be absolutely clear that the right to abortion is what's at stake here, not an abstraction like "choice."
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Because Grandma's still busy in the kitchen.
Editrix's note: Sorry, as usual, for skipping Loomis yesterday. We had a lot on our minds.
On May 3, 1965, Gene Bernofsky, JoAnn Bernofsky, Richard Kallweit, and Clark Richart bought a seven-acre piece of land north of Trinidad, Colorado. This would become known as Drop City, among the first and most important of the countercultural communes that dotted the American landscape during the late 1960s and 1970s and continuing, in a much diminished form, to the present. While itself not a particularly important day in American labor history per se, we can use this date to serve as a window into how work was organized in the counterculture, which is quite important to understanding this key part of American history.
Both then and now, there is a stereotype that hippies avoided work. The reality was far more complicated. Sure, many in the counterculture relied heavily on the welfare state to supplement their income. But most, including many of those who qualified for state benefits, valued hard work very highly. What the counterculture by and large rejected was work within the system of corporate capitalism. They weren’t going to be The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, for instance. They didn’t want to work for wages, be union members, go into middle management. But there are many forms of work. Many in the counterculture wanted to labor for themselves, often in the beautiful nature of the American West, either regenerating both the natural world or themselves (or both) through labor. One chapter in my book Empire of Timber details the Hoedads, a group of countercultural reforestation workers in the 1970s. These people took up some of the hardest work imaginable – planting trees on the steep slopes of the Pacific Northwest. Both men and women engaged in this work that was often back-breaking. They felt they were contributing to a more just and sustainable natural world by planting trees while working for themselves outside of capitalism. This work did not make them very much money, usually less than minimum wage, and it was extremely strenuous. But it was work nonetheless.
In the communes, the work was often quite different but was still work. People such as Stewart Brand promoted countercultural work norms through the Whole Earth Catalog, focusing on self-sustaining economic and environmental projects that promoted people working for themselves. In 1971, the Whole Earth Catalog sold over 1 million copies. Believing that rural spaces were unspoiled, unlike the polluted corporate cities, many young people sought to establish themselves in the country, working on the land. The problem with this is that this work was tremendously hard and most were not ready for it. Disasters struck frequently. Communes would save money and buy a piece of relatively expensive farm equipment and then ruin it because they didn’t know how to use it. They would build unstable structures that would collapse. That they eschewed many western farming methods and instead sought authentic Native American practices, often attempting to contact Native Americans to show them the way, did not help their material conditions much. Poverty was often the result. But being in touch with the earth through planting seeds by hand, harvesting farm animals, weaving, or planting trees was work well worth the effort for thousands of people during the years, despite the economic hardships they often faced.
But for all the potentially world-changing implications of countercultural work norms, one thing that is striking is how gender- traditional it all was. The counterculture broadly speaking, and certainly many if not most of the communes, internalized traditional gendered work norms. In the communes, men did most of the outdoor labor of constructing buildings, killing hogs, or plowing fields, while women both planted seeds in those fields and worked inside the buildings, cleaning, cooking, and taking care of the children. Women who tried to lay bricks with men reported being ignored and facing huge social pressure to return to the house. Over time, this did begin to fade in some communes, with men being forced to take on some childcare and women doing more physical farmworking tasks.
But this depended on the commune. On The Farm, in Tennessee, founder Stephen Gaskin — considered a guru by many of his followers — set up a traditional gendered world. Because Gaskin believed in the sacred power of women’s reproductive yin and men’s creative yang, he created a sexual division of labor that largely replicated an idealized past of what was considered 19th century rural gender roles. Quickly realizing that they were in over their heads in terms of the physical creation of community and self-sustainability, 12 to 14 hour work days with highly specialized roles became common. When they couldn’t make enough money, men hired themselves to local farmers for cash. Women on the other hand created collectivized childcare and worked in cottage industries, financing the enterprises, cooking, farming, teaching in the commune’s schools, and other tasks deemed feminine because they were seen as reproductive. In particular, the commune valued midwives as the highest form of female labor and they often played important social and political roles in these groups. Gaskin’s teachings reinforced these ideas, calling men “knights” that needed to protect and provide for women. There was an attempt to reject an unproductive animalistic masculinity in exchange for what he called the creation of the New Age sensitive man, but the gendered norms remained powerful and deeply connected to labor.
By the late 1970s, the commune movement was fading fast for a variety of reasons. Hippies were becoming old people and out of touch with the youth, or at least that’s how both the hippies themselves and young people saw it. Continued hardship and poverty were not appealing to a lot of men and women who were highly educated, and even if they had taken a decade off from the rat race, they still had Vassar or Columbia degrees and a lot of racial and cultural capital they could turn into future careers as lawyers or other professions. The revolutionary work ideas of the commune movement would largely go untapped, but their influence can be seen today in the organic farming and DIY work movements, both of which remain vital.
Gretchen Lemke-Santangelo, Daughters of Aquarius: Women of the Sixties Counterculture
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