May 11, 2022 - by Heather Cox Richardson

Now… that radicalized minority is driving the (Republican) party. It has… embraced the idea that a strong government must enforce the religious and social beliefs of their base on the rest of the country.

ACLU: “Elon Musk’s Decision to Re-Platform President Trump Is the Right Call”

Indeed, some of Trump’s most offensive tweets ended up being critical evidence in lawsuits filed against him and his administration. And we should know—we filed over 400 legal actions against him.

It is beyond doubt that the capacity to act is the most dangerous of all human abilities and possibilities, and it is also beyond doubt that the self-created risks mankind faces today have never been faced before.”

Between Past and Future by Hannah Arendt, Jerome Kohn

Of Course the Constitution Has Nothing to Say About Abortion | The New Yorker

As it happens, there is also nothing at all in that document, which sets out fundamental law, about pregnancy, uteruses, vaginas, fetuses, placentas, menstrual blood, breasts, or breast milk.

What Stood Out, WK 19

For me, this week was all about Roe V. Wade. Alito’s leaked draft memo brought forward an enormous amount of commentary across all my news feeds and, being a moderate liberal who has always believed that women should have access to abortion, I zeroed in on that commentary.

Before I get into the articles I read about Roe V. Wade and the Alito draft document, I should articulate my own stance. Abortion should be available, safe and rare and by rare I do not mean draconian restrictions. At the same time, I do not believe there should be a completely unfettered right to abortion. I do believe that there should be a gestational point beyond which an abortion can only be performed in special circumstances, where the mother’s life is threatened for example. I also believe that pregnancy resulting from rape and incest should always be an exception to whatever laws there are limiting or prohibiting abortion.

I have also had personal experience with having to make a decision on pregnancy termination. I was in a marriage that was falling apart when we discovered my then wife was pregnant. Because of the rather miserable state of our marriage we made the very difficult decision to abort the pregnancy. I don’t regret the decision, but it lingers with me as a significant and sad part of my personal history. A friend once told me that she was pretty sure that “abortion is violence.” There is no doubt about that. It’s violence to everyone involved. Yes, abortion should be as rare as we can make it without completely denying it as an option.

I first learned of the leaked draft opinion from Heather Cox Richardson in her May 02 post.

Tonight, news broke of a leaked draft of what appears to be Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s majority decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision establishing access to abortion as a constitutional right.

Then there was this admiration for the opinion post on Reason.com.

It is a tour de force. Justice Alito meticulously dissects, and forcefully responds to, every conceivable position in favor of retaining Roe and Casey. I could teach an entire law school seminar class on this opinion.

In the months leading up to the leak I began to wonder why there wasn’t more protest, more anger, more activism around what the likely outcome of the courts deliberations on Dobbs would be. Why there hadn’t been more effort to protect a woman’s right to an abortion. This Pro Publica article addresses that very issue.

I have been aware that the Roe V. Wade decision was thought by many to be on shaky ground, including Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who felt the ruling was too broad and not focused on the rights of women as it should have been.

This article in Reason.com crystalized my thinking on what the real issue is.

In it’s somewhat glib “awe, it’s not so bad approach,” the article tells us that there will only be a 10 to 15 percent decline in abortions as women will still have options. There’s the abortion pill, available on line (some states are trying to curtail this) or travel to another state where abortion is more available (some states are moving to declare abortion murder, which does not bode well for the women who leave the state with gestating fetus and return without one). But then, the author identifies a core problem with returning legal management of abortion to the states when they admit that women with means will always be able to get safe abortions if they want them while working class and working poor women will struggle to do so. This, to me, is a pivotal issue. If this opinion turns out to be essentially the ruling the court delivers, then the consequences of society’s legislation of abortion will fall unequally on the citizenry with a disproportionate bad falling on women of limited means.

With the above in mind, this article in The Atlantic about declining mobility in the United States, that is, the ability of people to vote with their feet, seemed significant.

I can’t say what my complete feelings are about this ruling should it turn out to be close in scope to the final one. It’s clear to me that a lot of women are going to suffer because of it. But it also seems that the legal arguments supporting the current situation are not solid and perhaps the silver lining of all this is to get a chance to do it over and do it in a more lasting way.

… this seems a bit goolish…

“I’ll Have What She’s Having”: The Jewish Deli at the Skirball Cultural Center, 2022 (photo Matt Stromberg/Hyperallergic)

“I’ll Have What She’s Having”: The Jewish Deli at the Skirball Cultural Center, 2022 (photo Matt Stromberg/Hyperallergic)

Nostalgic for the 1860s? Then You’ll Love Alito’s America. – Mother Jones

If the purpose of the historical analysis is to ascertain what was considered a protected right long ago, it will be a recipe for undoing the progress of the 20th century.

This Was Not a Surprise

If you’re a person who cares about choice, that is the silver lining of this very dark, dark cloud that it is now going to galvanize in a way we have not seen in our lifetimes, those who believe in a right to choose.

There are times when stuff happens that seizes control of your life. I seem to be in one of those times… Was getting ready to walk out the door to catch a train to the plane to Florida. My mom needs help. She is packing up her life of 35 years and moving to Seattle to be close to my brother, sister and grandchildren. This weekend she was showing signs of the stress getting to her so I moved my departure date to go help up to today. As I am getting ready to go she calls to tell me she is feeling wonky and should she call 911. I told her she should. Don’t know where things have progressed to. Hoping it’s a panic attack and not something more serious. Glad I am on my way down.

May 2, 2022 - by Heather Cox Richardson

Tonight, news broke of a leaked draft of what appears to be Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s majority decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision establishing access to abortion as a constitutional right.

Haven’t done one of these in a while… i call them video stills.

Spring is springing here… #MBMay

What Stood Out, WK 18

It was a week of struggle for me. I have been trying to manage my weight and not succeeding. I was in and out of depression and couldn’t really say why. A combination of little frustrations and big fears. I wrote a quasi mathematical equation to represent it.

-1-3-5-2-7,243=f^$&%k me

Clever I thought. Maybe it’s a micro poem. Did you notice it is all prime numbers? Except for the f^$&%k me. Well, maybe that is prime too, just in a different number system. A parallel universe.

Still, I am reminded by the struggle in Ukraine that things could be worse.

The photography of Boris Mikhailov came to my attention. One of the first photo books I bought as I was getting into photography was Books. It is a reprint of two separate books in one volume. One book explores rock outcroppings through photographs paired with sketches of the outcroppings. The sketches emphasize what he saw in the rocks. Human and animal forms, women’s private parts. Just now, when I looked up the book on the web, I learn that he is noted for his:

“clear-eyed depictions of his homeland, Ukraine–most famously, his portrayals of the everyday struggles of the bomzhes, the homeless, a class that dramatically enlarged after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.[^1]

He was born in 1938 and is still alive apparently. His hometown is Kharkiv. Oh my. I wonder if he is still there. If he got out. Is he making pictures?

The Ukraine conflict inches forward towards a direct engagement between the US/NATO and Russia. The US/NATO is openly supplying evermore sophisticated weaponry and now training of Ukraine soldiers to use the weapons. Current speculation is that Ukraine might be able to win the war. One commentator suggests they already have. Russia, for its part, shakes the nuclear stick clenched in its metaphorical fist. Does anyone think that Ukraine can “win” without suffering at least a limited nuclear attack in the endgame?

The war has apparently been a boon for fossil fuel profits for Russia. If we don’t immolate ourselves first, will we finally give up fossil fuels for less blood thirsty alternatives?

This article about what we have gained since the end of the Soviet Union and what we are now set to loose was interesting. Fans of Steven Pinker will find confirmation of his thesis in Better Angels of Our Nature, but also how it is presently coming apart.

The World is Back on a War Footing and We’ll All Pay the Price

Mourning the resurgence of militarism and the fading of the environment of peace and prosperity the article tells us that:

“The speed of poverty alleviation in the last 25 years has been historically unprecedented,” Alexander Hammond of Britain’s Institute of Economic Affairs wrote in the happier year of 2017. “Not only is the proportion of people in poverty at a record low, but, in spite of adding 2 billion to the planet’s population, the overall number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen too.” He added: “The new age of globalization, which started around 1980, saw the developing world enter the global economy and resulted in the largest escape from poverty ever recorded.”

This article attributes the worlds troubles to the lack of clarity as to who runs it.

When Superpowers Lose Their Power, the Chaos of War Follows

It’s an irony that theorists of war—from Thucydides onwards—recognized. War occurs when it isn’t clear who holds power. War happens when the answer to the question of who is running the world is simultaneously nobody and everybody. War is a result of uncertainty. The fog of war is caused by the fog of peace.

Elon Musks attempt to purchase Twitter was big news this week, with lots of speculation about what it will mean. I found this article interesting:

Rotten to the Core: Why Twitter and Elon Musk Deserve Each Other

Trump isn’t worth banning. American democracy might be in crisis. But it’s not because Donald Trump is or isn’t on Twitter.

On the Democracy crisis front, there is a steady stream of news about how close we came on January 6 to loosing it and how far right conservatives continue to mess with the mechanics of elections to make it more likely they will succeed next time. It would be a cosmic joke if the Ukrainians succeeded in defeating Russia and preserving their democracy but the United States was lost to some form of Authoritarianism. Both Putin and Trump are anxiously eyeing the 2022 and 2024 elections as the solution to their problems.

Heather Cox Richardson posted an interesting article about the threats to democracy that are running in parallel at the moment. Each line of attack is being headed by an individual with presidential aspirations. Donald Trump is pursuing family autocracy. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is pursuing “illiberal democracy” modeled on Victor Orban’s illiberal democracy in Hungary. Texas Governor Greg Abbot is pursuing “soft fascism.” Ms. Richardson concludes:

Trump’s type of family autocracy is hard to replicate right now, and our history has given us the knowledge and tools to defend democracy in the face of the ideology of states’ rights. But the rise of “illiberal democracy” or “soft fascism” is new to us, and the first step toward rolling it back is recognizing that it is different from Trump’s autocracy or states’ rights, and that its poison is spreading in the United States.

And then there was this article on the disinformation problem, which has as much to do with people’s craving for material to support their position regardless of whether it is factual or not.

Amusing Ourselves to Autocracy – Mother Jones

The day after the Giuliani episode aired, former President Barack Obama delivered a thoughtful speech at Stanford University on disinformation. It wasn’t groundbreaking, but it’s worth watching. He discussed the obvious problems presented by social media and offered a few general notions about solutions, noting that Big Tech can do more to restrain the flow of dangerously false information. But what he didn’t confront was the demand side of the equation, the immense desire for disinformation. What do we do when 10 percent, 20 percent, 30 percent, or more of the public craves disinformation to feed and bolster their prejudices, grievances, outrage, and anger?

On a literary front, when H and I moved to Beacon, we contemplated opening a book store. Beacon needed one at the time. We visited numerous independent bookstores in the valley. It was a pipe dream. We never had the money for it. Or maybe just not the true entrepreneurial will. At any rate, this documentary came to my attention this week:

The Profound Impacts of Decency: On ‘Hello, Bookstore’

As pleasurable as the storyline is—getting to watch a good man with a much-loved business triumph—there is also a great joy in simply watching time pass in The Bookstore.

We plan to watch it.

There was also this article revisiting a talk given by Robert M. Pirsig at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. He talks about how he and his then wife moved to a small house in a small town in southern Mexico. The idea was to write his great American novel in those idyllic conditions. It turns out he wasn’t ready to write a book. Later in his life, he wrote Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance which, he tells us, emerged organically from the midst of his messy life. He wrote what he knew.

The reviews I’ve read all seem to regard this as some great act of creativity. It was a very systematic, deliberate act. I was about as creative as an accountant at this point. I was just putting down these slips and comparing them. But this particular form gave me the advantage of being able to expand in the middle, of being able to reorganize at any time, so I had a flexible outline that could grow as my understanding of the story grew. I was never limited. I was free to throw away where I had been and restart again, over and over again, with what was coming in new. And I’m sure that in any creative project you really can’t perceive what the end is going to be, unless it is a very small thing you’re doing. I think the advantage of this particular device was that it always kept me open, it always kept me flexible, it always gave me a kind of a hollowness, so that I could constantly be refilled with new things that were coming in. The result of this was a book of many levels and of much complexity, but whose levels and whose complexity somehow always seem at the last minute to hang together.

I intended this to be a little more polished with some images included, but time has run out and I think it better to go ahead and publish it. Maybe I will revisit it and update. Maybe not. It’s decent reflection of what caught my attention last week either way.

Head to The Hyde Collection for World-Class Art in the Adirondacks | Sponsored | Visual Art | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine

Any fellow travelers in the Hudson Valley? This looks interesting.

H. C. Richardson, o4-29-2022

Today, Ukrainian defense reporter Illia Ponomarenko tweeted: “What America is doing now in terms of sending weapons to Ukraine is a masterpiece of logistics. In all regards, starting from bureaucratic hurdles.”

Who says dog and cat can’t coexist?

Made today…

Made yesterday…

Boris Mikhailov on Liberation, Vulgarity, and Chance in Photography

One of my first photobook purchases was a reprint of two of his books in one volume. Epic talent.

Russia’s War on Ukraine Has Nearly Doubled Its Fossil-Fuel Revenues

Oil is war… war is oil. My great hope is that we learn, if we don’t blow the whole place up, to give up fossil fuels.

The Profound Impacts of Decency: On ‘Hello, Bookstore’

As pleasurable as the storyline is—getting to watch a good man with a much-loved business triumph—there is also a great joy in simply watching time pass in The Bookstore.

Rotten to the Core: Why Twitter and Elon Musk Deserve Each Other

Trump isn’t worth banning. American democracy might be in crisis. But it’s not because Donald Trump is or isn’t on Twitter.

This morning started out in an unpromising way… … so i eschewed my normal routines and began poking around figuring out a workflow process that gets me from draft(s) to post more efficiently… … the power of Drafts continues to grow as i learn its deep functionality…

Robert M. Pirsig on the Book He Wrote (And the One He Didn’t

Pirsig talks about the organic process that took him from real life to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

H. C. Richardson, April 28, 2022

… the rise of “illiberal democracy” or “soft fascism” is new to us, and the first step toward rolling it back is recognizing that it is different from Trump’s autocracy or states’ rights, and that its poison is spreading in the United States.