[guest post by Dana]
I realize that there was big news regarding the Supreme Court abortion decision today, but because JVW covered it this morning, I’m not including it in today’s news items (but obviously you can comment on it at this post, if you want).
Housekeeping: I want to briefly address the criticism that I am not posting what some readers think I should post in the Weekend Open Thread. First, an “open thread” means just that: you are free to post and link to any news item that interests you. Whether others will want to talk about it, is anybody’s guess. Second, if I haven’t posted about your preferred subject, just accept that I was either unaware of the issue or that other items interested me more. If you think that’s wrong, or feel the need to make a moral judgment about me for not posting what you want, please cut to the chase: firstname.lastname@example.org
So with that out of the way, let’s go!
First news item
Second news item
About bodily autonomy and abortion:
This basic bodily autonomy argument for abortion was first fully articulated in 1971 by moral philosopher Judith Jarvis Thomson. Thomson stipulated for the sake of argument that the unborn child is a human being—and even that it is a human person. But she nonetheless justified abortion as non-intentional killing. Her famous analogy compared a pregnant woman to a hypothetical individual who, without his consent, has been hooked up to a famous violinist who is sick and requires this connection to remain alive. Imagine someone with kidney or liver failure who needs to be plugged into your body so he can rely on your kidney or your liver for, say, nine months, until a transplant could be found.
In Thomson’s analogy, just as it would be morally acceptable for you to choose to detach from the violinist, even if you know he will die as a result, so too would it be acceptable for a pregnant woman to have the unborn child detached. In neither case did you consent to having the violinist plugged in or the child exist in the womb. And in neither case are you seeking the person’s death. You don’t want it for its own sake, nor do you want it for the sake of something else it will bring. Death is neither your means nor your end, in the jargon of philosophers. It isn’t intended, only foreseen. You cut someone off from invasive access to your body, while knowing this will result in death. With this argument, Thomson portrayed pregnancy as an act of violence against women. Just as the violinist was secretly hooked up without your knowledge or consent, violating your bodily integrity, so too the child conceived and growing in the womb does so without permission.
Thomson’s argument fails spectacularly…First, the bodily autonomy argument for abortion could only get off the ground if abortion entailed unintentional killing. But unlike the case of the violinist, where the intention truly is just to detach—with his death a foreseen but unintended side effect—in the case of abortion, the intended outcome is a dead child. Thomson’s hypothetical is wrong about what people want when they seek abortion. An abortion where the child survives is a failed abortion. By contrast, a detachment from the violinist where the violinist survives would be considered a success. In performing an abortion, the abortionist doesn’t seek only to remove an “invading” child from a womb but also to ensure that the child no longer exists. (This is why the pro-abortion movement opposes even the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which would legally protect newborns who survive an attempted abortion.)
Second, the analogy between abortion and the violinist is a non-starter in any case other than when the pregnancy itself was the result of a violation of bodily integrity—as it would be if the violinist were hooked up to you. The analogy doesn’t apply to nearly all pregnancies, the vast majority of which result from consensual sex. In fact, the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute’s research has shown that only 1 percent of abortions are obtained in cases of rape—a percentage that holds steady across decades of data.
Third news item
The House sends President Biden gun violence bill:
The House sent President Joe Biden the most wide-ranging gun violence bill Congress has passed in decades on Friday, a measured compromise that at once illustrates progress on the long-intractable issue and the deep-seated partisan divide that persists.
The Democratic-led chamber approved the election-year legislation on a mostly party-line 234-193 vote, capping a spurt of action prompted by voters’ revulsion over last month’s mass shootings in New York and Texas. The night before, the Senate approved it by a bipartisan 65-33 margin, with 15 Republicans joining all Democrats in supporting a package that senators from both parties had crafted.
The bill would incrementally toughen requirements for young people to buy guns, deny firearms from more domestic abusers and help local authorities temporarily take weapons from people judged to be dangerous. Most of its $13 billion cost would go to bolster mental health programs and for schools, which have been targeted in Newtown, Connecticut, Parkland, Florida and many other infamous massacres.
14 GOP members vote YES:
Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio
Tony Gonzalez of Texas
What I remember about guns is that I remember almost nothing about guns. People owned them; they didn’t talk about them. They didn’t cover their cars in bumper stickers about them, they didn’t fly flags about them, they didn’t pose for dumb pictures with them. (I’ll plead one personal exemption: When I was a little boy, relatives in Greece once posed me in a Greek Evzone-soldier costume with my uncle’s hunting shotgun. I could barely lift it.)
Today, there is a neediness in the gun culture that speaks to deep insecurities among a certain kind of American citizen. The gun owners I knew—cops, veterans, hunters, sportsmen—owned guns as part of their life, sometimes as tools, sometimes for recreation. Gun ownership was not the central and defining feature of their life…
I have always trusted my fellow citizens with weapons. Now the most vocal advocates for unfettered gun ownership are men sitting in their cars in sunglasses and baseball caps, recording themselves as they dump unhinged rants into their phones about their rights and conspiracies and socialism.
Fourth news item
Supreme Court and Miranda:
The Supreme Court ruled today, 6–3, that if a police officer fails to inform you of your right to remain silent and avoid self-incrimination when you’re suspected of a crime, you can’t sue under federal law as a violation of your civil rights.
To be clear, the Court isn’t overturning Miranda v. Arizona, the 1966 Supreme Court ruling that determined that it’s a violation of a suspect’s Fifth Amendment rights for police to interrogate him or her about a crime without informing them they have the right to remain silent and the right to request an attorney. But what the Court ruled today is that if and when this right is violated, people can’t turn to Section 1983 of the U.S. code and file a civil action lawsuit against the police officer or law enforcement agency and seek redress or damages.
Fifth news item
…Russian Ambassador ANATOLY ANTONOV had a big-name dining companion for lunch Thursday at Café Milano in Georgetown: former U.S. envoy for Afghanistan ZALMAY KHALILZAD. The two were hosted by DIMITRI SIMES, president and CEO of the Center for the National Interest. Our colleague Daniel Lippman was at a neighboring table, overheard the conversation, and took notes on what was said.
On the war in Ukraine: The Russian ambassador agreed when Khalilzad said “we need an agreement” to end the war between Ukraine and Russia. On the prospect of a peace deal, Antonov asked Khalilzad, “What would [the U.S.] like us to give up?” Khalilzad suggested that Antonov have dinner with the Ukrainian ambassador. In an apparent reference to Russia’s false claims that neo-Nazis are running Ukraine, Antonov asked Khalilzad: “You have a lot of Jewish guys in the United States. Why are they so tolerant of what’s happening in Kyiv?”
— On Zelenskyy: Antonov expressed befuddlement over Ukrainian President VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, and said he doesn’t “understand [Zelenskyy’s] vision for the future of Ukraine.”
— On U.S.-Russia relations: “We don’t get any respect” from Washington, Antonov complained, adding that Russia “need[s] respect” and “would like [the U.S.] to respect” it. Asked what might lead to the normalization of relations with the U.S., Antonov told Khalilzad, “I cannot answer your question,” but later said that Russia needed “security guarantees.”
— On diplomacy: Antonov bemoaned the lack of dialogue and communication between the U.S. and Russia, comparing it unfavorably to the Cuban missile crisis, during which the U.S. and Soviet Union continued to talk. Near the end of the lunch, Antonov said: “Zal, I would like to use your contacts and your contacts in this administration,” and Khalilzad discussed the need for a “track two” in communications between the U.S and Russia.
— On a new media outlet: Simes discussed a business idea of his: starting a new TV channel in Moscow, which Khalilzad said could be “very lucrative.” “Don’t forget my request to be junior partner,” Antonov joked. (It is not clear how serious Simes is about his idea.)
Sixth news item
Party before all else:
Finding signs to worry about the future of American democracy is not hard, but few are quite so painful and acute as the cognitive dissonance displayed by Rusty Bowers this week.
Bowers, the Republican speaker of the Arizona State House, was the star witness during yesterday’s hearing of the U.S. House’s January 6 committee. Bowers calls himself a conservative Republican, and he has the record to back that claim up. Like most Republicans, he supported Donald Trump in the 2020 election, but when Trump and Rudy Giuliani tried to pressure him to assist in their scheme to overturn the results of the election in Arizona, where Joe Biden narrowly won, Bowers refused.
Bowers’s testimony was powerful because it was somber, serious, and clearly heartfelt. This is also why it was threatening to Trump, who issued a statement before the hearing even began, attacking Bowers and claiming he’d agreed with Trump that the election was rigged. Under oath, Bowers said flatly that Trump’s account was false.
And yet in an interview with the Associated Press published yesterday, Bowers also said he would back Trump if he runs for president in 2024. “If he is the nominee, if he was up against Biden, I’d vote for him again,” Bowers said. “Simply because what he did the first time, before COVID, was so good for the country. In my view it was great.”
Once you’ve decided that your specific policy planks are more important than ensuring that the fundamental system survives, however, the result sooner or later is a government that has no interest in the will of the people. Imagining this doesn’t take much creativity: After the 2020 election, Trump tried to ignore the will of the people and remain in power. He was stopped only by the courage of people such as Rusty Bowers. If even Bowers is willing to back Trump again, despite his eloquent condemnations, the outlook for popular democracy is very bleak.
Seventh news item
Ukrainian troops withdraw:
Ukrainian troops will have to withdraw from the besieged eastern city of Severodonetsk, the regional governor said Friday…The last remaining major city in the Luhansk region of the Donbas still under Ukrainian control has endured weeks of bombardment by Russia’s invading forces…Lysychansk, Severodonetsk’s twin city in the Luhansk region, has also endured days of heavy shelling, prompting a Ukrainian official to warn the battle for the Donbas is “entering a sort of fearsome climax” this week…”Unfortunately, we will have to remove our military from Severodonetsk, because staying in broken positions makes no sense — the number of dead is growing,” Luhansk region Gov. Serhiy Haidai said in a Telegram post…”Defenders of Severodonetsk will leave the city for new, more fortified positions,” Haidai said in a later post.
Ammunition shortages plague Ukraine’s troops:
Ukraine is running out of shells for the majority of its artillery in part because of a clandestine Russian campaign of bullying and sabotage over the past eight years, including bombings of key munitions depots across Eastern Europe that officials have linked to Moscow, according to Ukrainian government officials and military analysts.
Fighting in eastern and southern Ukraine is now almost exclusively a near-constant exchange of artillery, and Ukraine’s shortage of shells has exacerbated what was already a mismatch on the battlefield against a Russian military with more weapons. Russia is firing more than 60,000 shells per day — 10 times more than the Ukrainians, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar told The Washington Post.
Most of Ukraine’s artillery pieces date back to the Soviet Union, meaning they rely on the same 122mm- and 152mm-caliber rounds that Russia uses. But outside of Russia, very little supply exists — in large part because Russia spent years targeting Ukrainian and other Eastern European ammunition storage facilities and suppliers before launching its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in late February. Russia has also taken other steps to acquire the ammunition or otherwise prevent its sale to Ukraine.
“Even if everyone gives us this ammunition, it will still not be enough,” Malyar said, adding that Ukraine uses more of the 152mm shells than are produced globally in one day.
Howitzers used by NATO and the United States fire 105mm and 155mm shells. Western countries supplied Ukraine with plenty of those shells but only a limited number of systems to fire them. Despite U.S. and European pledges to send more artillery, Ukraine still does not have enough to replace its old Soviet-era equipment entirely with NATO-standard weaponry.
A U.S. citizen helping to broker weapons transfers to Ukraine said he recently approached an Eastern European country to negotiate a purchase of artillery rounds. Officials in that country said they couldn’t make a deal, the man said, because the Russians had already warned that they would “kill them if they sold anything to the Ukrainians.”
Eighth news item
Opinion writer expresses wrong opinion, gets demoted:
Gannett, the nation’s largest newspaper chain, with more than 200 daily newspapers, announced this month that it’s walking away from opinion sections like the one you’re reading. USA Today’s liberal editorial page editor said they failed to “evolve.”
I know something about Gannett’s evolution since I was USA Today’s deputy editorial page editor until August, when I was demoted after I tweeted, “People who are pregnant are also women.”
That idea was forbidden because a “news reporter” covering diversity, equity and inclusion wrote a story detailing how transgender men can get pregnant. I compounded my sin against this new orthodoxy by calling the idea that men can get pregnant an “opinion.”
If I wanted to keep any job at USA Today, my bosses informed me, I needed to delete these offensive tweets because they were causing pain to the LGBTQ activists and journalists on our staff.
Now, I have been an opinion journalist for 30 years — I thought I was authorized to have opinions. The idea that women are the ones who get pregnant has gone from scientific fact to opinion to outright falsehood in the blink of an eye. Nevertheless, it remains my opinion that women get pregnant…
Ninth news item
Developments in Uvalde investigation bring no comfort to parents or the community:
No security footage from inside the school showed police officers attempting to open the doors to classrooms 111 and 112, which were connected by an adjoining door. Arredondo told the Tribune that he tried to open one door and another group of officers tried to open another, but that the door was reinforced and impenetrable. Those attempts were not caught in the footage reviewed by the Tribune. Some law enforcement officials are skeptical that the doors were ever locked.
Within the first minutes of the law enforcement response, an officer said the Halligan (a firefighting tool that is also sometimes spelled hooligan) was on site. It wasn’t brought into the school until an hour after the first officers entered the building. Authorities didn’t use it and instead waited for keys.
Officers had access to four ballistic shields inside the school during the standoff with the gunman, according to a law enforcement transcript. The first arrived 58 minutes before officers stormed the classrooms. The last arrived 30 minutes before.
Multiple Department of Public Safety officers — up to eight, at one point — entered the building at various times while the shooter was holed up. Many quickly left to pursue other duties, including evacuating children, after seeing the number of officers already there. At least one of the officers expressed confusion and frustration about why the officers weren’t breaching the classroom, but was told that no order to do so had been given.
At least some officers on the scene seemed to believe that Arredondo was in charge inside the school, and at times Arredondo seemed to be issuing orders such as directing officers to evacuate students from other classrooms. That contradicts Arredondo’s assertion that he did not believe he was running the law enforcement response. Arredondo’s lawyer, George E. Hyde, said the chief will not elaborate on his interview with the Tribune, given the ongoing investigation.
It’s been a long week. I hope everyone has a restful weekend.