Saturday, March 28, 2020

Some Good News amid all this

Some Good News amid all this

I wrote a number of time in the past about the struggle over the Dakota Access Pipeline, or DAPL, as Native American groups staged large-scale civil disobedience and protest in the attempt to block the pipeline from putting water supplies at risk.

Now comes some long overdue Good News on that front.

On March 25, the Washington, DC, federal district court ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers violated federal law when it affirmed federal permits for the pipeline originally issued in 2016.

The ruling, which came in response to a suit filed by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, found that in approving the project the Corps had violated the National Environmental Protection Act by, among other things, failing to take into account the criticisms by the Tribe's experts and paying insufficient attention to the safety record of the parent company, one which the court said "does not inspire confidence."

The original parent company, Energy Transfer Partners, has merged with Sunoco over the course of the legal battle over the pipeline.

The pipeline, designed to carry oil 1200 miles (1930 km) from North Dakota to Illinois, crosses the Missouri River near Standing Rock Sioux lands, threatening their water supply. After a lot of dithering, in December 2016 outgoing President The Amazing Mr. O denied the required permits - only to have Tweetie-pie reverse the decision his first week on the throne. The pipeline was completed in June 2017.

However, a suit challenging parts of the approved permits continued. Now, the court has ordered the Corps to undertake a full review and prepare a full Environmental Impact Statement, which the Corps has thus far avoided doing. Such a review could take years, during which the pipeline may - this has not yet been decided - have to be shut down.

Hopefully, in light of the finding that the project went ahead in violation of federal law, the court will do the obvious and shut it down until the review can be completed (since the result could be to find that the pipeline never should have been built, at least in its present configuration or on its present route). But we can't count on it: In 2017 the same court allowed construction of the pipeline to continue and in October 2017 said the pipeline could continue to function while the suit continued.

Still, the order for a full Environmental Impact Statement is different from a remand order to address details, so maybe the court will feel differently this time. In any event, the new decision is still Good News.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Some updates via Twitter posts

Consider this a quick means of posting by listing my recent Twitter tweets, listed chronologically.

You can follow me on Twitter: Larry Erickson

March 19
[in response to a "Time" article on "Why Can the Utah Jazz Get Coronavirus Testing, But I Can't?"]

It's because they're rich and we're not. What about that do you not understand?


March 21
It’s said (wrongly) that the Chinese for “crisis” is made of characters for “danger” and “opportunity.” At this time of crisis the danger is obvious. But it’s also an opening to push for real changes in our economy to benefit people both now and into the future. Will we dare?


March 21
[in response to a Raw Story article that the DOJ is using the pandemic to ask for permission for courts to hold prisoners indefinitely without trial]

One of the things I have been concerned about is the possibility of the state using our submission to ad hoc controls due to a real health crisis to get us to submit to permanently increased control over our lives, including our political freedoms.


March 21
I will accept President Tweetie-pie calling COVID-19 "the China flu" if and when he can show he has ever, even once, called H1N1 (the "swine flu") - [a new strain of] which first emerged in Ft. Dix, NJ - the "American flu" or the "US flu" or "the US Army flu."


March 21
Maybe instead of denying the idea that corporations are people, we should embrace it because that should mean people are corporations - so we will be as deserving of a bailout.


March 21
[regarding a report from "The Intercept" that banks are pressuring health care firms to raise prices on critical drugs and medical supplies for dealing with the pandemic]

Corporate mantra: Never let a good crisis go to waste!


March 22
[in response to a report that Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) had responded to the proposal to allow for indefinite detention of prisoners with "over my dead body"]

I've expected exactly this sort of move [from the DOJ], trying to use the crisis to entrench power and undermine civil rights. I expect there will be more. Happily, constitutional rights is an area where the left and the right can often find common ground.

One more thing: I hope people read the original "Politico" article. There is more involved here than this one outrage.


March 22
[in response to Stephanie Grisham whining "I don’t know why the media has to look backwards" after being confronted with Tweetie-pie's failures in dealing with the crisis]

So we must not "look backwards?" Does this mean Tweetie-pie's administration will never again make any reference to what Barack Obama did or didn't do in an attempt to avoid responsibility for its own abysmal failures?


March 22
Never forget [all the lies Tweetie-pie has told about the coronavirus].


March 23
[in response to a report that Senate Democrats has blocked a GOPper "relief" plan because it did too much for corporations and not enough for ordinary people]

I guarantee that the GOPpers will use this to blame the Dems for "doing nothing to help" and "politicizing" and "trying to exploit" the crisis. I certainly hope the Dems already have their political counterattack ready. But I bet they don't.


March 23
[in response to an article that the editor of the right-wing Christian journal "First Things" called saving lives a "false God"]

R. R. Reno, editor of said journal, is also quoted in the article as saying fear of dying of the disease is a victory for Satan. Mr. Reno is clearly a deeply disturbed man.


March 23
A reminder that the rest of the world is still out there: The Tweetie-pie administration is blowing up a mountain - including Monument Hill, home to sacred Native American land and burial sites - in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument to build its wall.


March 24
[in response to a report that Brit Hume said it's an "entirely reasonable viewpoint" for grandparents to be expected to sacrifice themselves to coronavirus in order to protect the economy]

Insane. Utterly, totally, insane. No more can be said.


March 24
[in response to Glenn Beck endorsing the "old folks back to work" idea]

So all this is about protecting the economy? Okay, since corporations are people, were told, how about any corporation that's over 70 years old close, sell its assets, and distribute the proceeds to employees, sacrificing itself in order to protect the broader economy?


March 24
[in response to an article saying that due to COVID-19 concerns that several Trump properties are facing financial problems]

Aha - so that's why he is so interested in "getting back to work." Like we didn't know all the time.


March 25
[in response to Tweetie-pie claiming the media is pushing to "keep our Country closed as long as possible" to hurt his re-election chances]

My challenge to the entire Twitterverse: Come up with somebody, anybody, who is a more egomaniacal, self-centered jerk than is Prez Tweetie-pie. This really does border on if not outright describe true clinical megalomania.


March 25
[citing a FAIR analysis of media coverage of administration actions toward Venezuela and Iran during the pandeminc]

If you don't do what the US tells you to, you can just go ahead and die.


March 25
[in response to Tweetie-pie saying at a presser “It’s hard not to be happy with the job we’re doing”]

Experience says that ending social distancing too soon will kill people [based on a 2007 JAMA study of 43 cities during the 1918 pandemic].


March 25
[in response to a Washington Post article that hospitals are considering universal "do-not-resuscitate" orders for COVID-19 patients, even over the objections of patients and families]

This is how bad it can get.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Announcement re: The Erickson Report

Okay, let's do this.

First: I'm fine. I'm okay. But:

The studio where The Erickson Report is produced is a small, public assess cable TV station which is going to be operating with a skeleton staff for at least the next several weeks.

The station covers three towns, two of which are for the moment continuing to have government meetings so the station staff has to focus on their primary responsibility of recording those meetings and getting them on air.

Add to that the fact that while I am in overall good health, I have to face the fact that by virtue of my age I am in a higher risk group, requiring extra care, extra caution.

All that adds up to this: The Erickson Report will not be produced for at least the next few weeks. How many constitutes a "few" depends on what happens around us in the region and the country over that time.

Just to emphasize, this is not the end; we will be back. It's only a question of when.

Check here from time to time. I may not have a show, but I still have my blog. I expect to be posting from time to time.

Also: This has prompted me to finally break down and join Twitter. I'm a neophyte at it and still figuring things out, but I suppose I can learn. I would be delighted if you followed me.

I'm using Larry Erickson and it's @LarryEr94572822.

"See" you soon.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

The Erickson Report, Page 6: Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [the Outrages]

Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [the Outrages]

Finally we have the Outrages and there are three of them, all related to court decisions.

I'll do this first because I can do it quickly. Last month, I discussed the morally depraved ruling by the Supreme Court to allow the "public charge" rule to go into effect while appeals against it continue. This is the one that allows denying green cards to potential immigrants if some official thinks they might at some point in the future need any one of a variety of types of public support.

The rule is expected to cut legal immigration by up to two-thirds and obviously it will be the "tired, the poor, the huddled masses" who will be affected.

The Outrage this time is that there was a second suit related to the public charge rule, which as the result of a stay had resulted in the rule not being in effect in Illinois.

On February 21, SCOTUS doubled down on its xenophobic depravity and lifted that stay, meaning the rule is now in place nationwide.

Which is a sickening Outrage.


Next is that on February 28, we continued our march toward centralized authoritarian rule as the Court of Appeals for Washington, DC, agreed with the Tweetie-pie gang that the courts can't force former White House Counsel Don McGahn to testify before the House Judiciary Committee because in the absence of proof of damage to some entity beyond the federal government, then quoting the decision, "any dispute remains an intramural disagreement about the ‘operations of government’ that we lack power to resolve."

In other words, for all practical purposes the executive branch can simply and with impunity refuse to provide information or testimony to Congress even if the specific letter or the law says it must - remember the thing about how Treasury "shall" provide requested tax information to Congressional tax committees - because there is no legal mechanism to force them to do so.

It's a dubious position given the court system's traditional role of arbiter of disputes but it does show how easy it is to let more and more power and control to flow to the Executive. That is not only an Outrage, it's frightening.


But the big Outrage this time is yet another court action.

The ACLU is asking the Supreme Court to take up the case of DeRay Mckesson, who is being sued by a Baton Rouge cop.

What happened, in brief, is that there were protests in the city after two white police officers shot and killed Alton Sterling, a black man, in July 2016. Police responded, as you would expect, with riot gear, excessive force, and illegitimate arrests.

At some point during one protest outside police headquarters, someone (it's not known who) threw something (it's not clear what) that hit some cop (whose name is unknown). That cop sued DeRay Mckesson, who was one of the organizers of the protest, on the grounds that as an organizer, he was liable for anything done by anyone present if violence was "forseeable."

A district court threw out the suit as clearly violating a core tenet of the First Amendment: In the context of a protest, individuals cannot be held liable for the unlawful, unintended acts of others. 

The Supreme Court
Then the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals - the same one that upheld the Texas and Louisiana abortion laws - took it up. The court concluded that Mckesson was not the person who threw the object, which indeed no one, not even the cop, had suggested he was, that he had no control over the individual who threw the object, and that he had not intended for the object to be thrown. Despite that, the judges concluded that Mckesson could be liable for the officer's injuries and overturned the district court ruling.

Huh? How? Because, the court said, during the protest, Mckesson (according to the cop) directed others onto the street in front of police headquarters, which supposedly violated some Louisiana law. Therefore, it was foreseeable that police would get involved and therefore foreseeable that violence could occur and therefore Mckesson could be liable for any harm that followed.

This is insane and insanely dangerous. Not only for the not unreasonable but still disturbing assumption that any time police are involved you can expect violence, but also that it literally could destroy the right of public protest by laying the risk of personal or organizational bankruptcy over any protest.

Quoting the ACLU:
Under the Fifth Circuit's theory, a police officer - or, equally, a counter-protester - need only allege that a protest organizer directed or enabled other protesters to do any illegal thing, from overstaying a permit in order to pack up, to pumping the volume up a little too loud, to conducting a sit-in that obstructs access on a sidewalk or constitutes a trespass. Countless potential plaintiffs could argue that their injuries - sprained ankles, broken windows, extreme stress - probably would not have occurred had the protest not been at that place at that time, or had police or counter-protesters not responded as they did.

With these costly risks, who would be willing to lead a protest?
In fact, it's even worse than that, because by the 5th Circuit's logic, the likelihood of police presence is itself enough to make violence "foreseeable" and therefore make protesters liable for any violence that occurs.

But police presence at protests is routine, especially in the case of large crowds or a focus on issues of public controversy. So essentially any organizer of any protest is running the risk of financial ruin for what some fool - or agent provocateur - does even in the absence of any illegal act.

Happily the Supreme Court dealt with this back in 1982 in NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co., making it clear that the Constitution limits the government's ability to place responsibility for violence onto peaceful protesters. Interestingly, one of its recent uses was to protect Donald Trump against a suit over violence at one of his campaign rallies and another was to protect protesters of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

But it looks like this battle is going to have to be fought all over again. Since 1982, the composition of the Supreme Court has changed for the worse, but at least we can, indeed must, hope the members still believe in the First amendment.

Because if they uphold this insanely outrageous ruling, we are completely screwed.

The Erickson Report, Page 5: Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [the Clowns]

Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [the Clowns]

Now for our regular feature, this is Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages. And we start, as we most commonly do, with the Clowns.

This first one is not so much a Clown as a con, and I suspect the real clowns here are the people who fall for this - but then again, I feel sorry for them.

Anyway: Paula White, TV preacher and pastor of the City of Destiny megachurch in Apopka Florida and Tweetie-pie's personal spiritual advisor (yes, that's true), was preaching at the King Jesus church Supernatural Ministry School in Miami early in February.

During that appearance, she told her followers that the way to God was to send her church money, the more the better, so much so that they should skip paying their electric bill in order to do it, because by paying your bill rather than sending that money to her, you are, in her words, "saying spiritually that 'power company, I have now established a spiritual law that puts you first, so, power company, save my family, deliver my drug addicted son, kill this cancer in my body.'”

I wonder if she's considered that if all these people don't pay their electric bill, they won't be able to watch her on TV?

Paula White: clown. Evil clown, but clown.


Next up: On the March 5 edition of Chris "I'll never be my dad" Cuomo's CNN show “Cuomo Prime Time,” Nina Turner, a co-chair of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, got into it with Hilary Rosen, a political commentator for CNN and an unofficial Joe Biden surrogate.

Turner said that Sander's policies are “in the spirit” of Martin Luther King, who, quoting Turner, “warned us - us being the Black community - about white moderates,” referencing King's famous "Letter From a Birmingham Jail." (Look it up and read it even if you already had. It is still a remarkable document.)

Nina Turner - Chris Cuomo - Hilary Rosen
In response, Rosen claimed - incorrectly - that King actually referred to the "silence" of white moderates and subsequently told Turner that she - i.e., Turner - doesn't have the "standing" to invoke King.

That as you would expect caused such a major reaction, enough that Rosen apologized on Twitter. This was her apology, in full:
On air Thursday I said my colleague @ninaturner didn’t have standing to use MLK Jr. That was wrong. I am sorry for saying those words. Pls no need to defend me and attack angry black women. They have standing. I always need to listen more than I talk. We rise together.
Which required Rosen to apologize again, this time for the racist trope "angry black women."

Okay, you say something offensive and stupid enough that you have to apologize, that's not good. When you have to apologize for your apology - yeah, you're a Clown.

As a footnote, Sanders called on Biden to apologize to Turner for Rosen’s remarks. Discussing that with Mehdi Hasan, a columnist at The Intercept, during his show on Friday, Cuomo noted that Rosen doesn’t work for the Biden campaign; she has just endorsed him.

Hasan responded by saying “A lot of the ‘Bernie bros’ who are accused of using bad language, they don’t work for Bernie either, but the media and a lot of the Democratic candidates insisted Bernie take responsibility for them. So why the double standard?"

Which is a really good question - except that, if you think about it for a moment, it pretty much answers itself.

The Erickson Report, Page 4: The death penalty is the death of justice

The death penalty is the death of justice

On Thursday, March 5, the state of Alabama legally murdered Nathaniel Woods, again showing that the US legal system cannot be trusted to deal with matters of life and death.

In 2005, Woods was convicted of felony murder in the killings of three Birmingham, Alabama police in June 2004.

There are two undisputed facts here: One, Woods was there. Two, he didn't fire the shots, a man named Kerry Spencer did. After that, it of course gets hazy as police and prosecutors claim Woods "masterminded" the killing and "lured" police to the location. But Spencer, who admitted to being the shooter, claiming it was because he saw cops aiming their guns at him so he was going to shoot first - a defense he was not allowed to raise at his trial - said Woods was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and ran away when the shooting started.

There are more things here that are undeniable, however: It is undeniable that Woods received grossly inadequate representation, so much so that one attorney actually abandoned him in the middle of his appeals and he turned down a plea deal of 20 to 25 years at least partly because he had been misled into believing he couldn't be sentenced to death since he wasn't the gunman.

It is undeniable that two sisters of one of the slain cops openly opposed the sentence, declaring that Woods was not guilty of murder and the sentence was in the words of  one "so unjust."

It is undeniable that Woods was condemned without a unanimous jury vote, something that is possible only in Alabama.

It is undeniable that The Appeal, a nonprofit news organization that covers the criminal justice system, found Woods to be “actually 100 percent innocent.”

And it is also, in my opinion, undeniable that Woods was rushed to execution as punishment for his refusal to cooperate in his own official murder. Death Row inmates were told to choose which of two methods by which they wanted to be killed, lethal injection or the experimental method of nitrogen hypoxia, where the victim is starved of oxygen. Woods refused to make a choice, after which his execution date was scheduled ahead of some others who had been on Death Row longer.

By the way: Among those whose date for execution has not yet been set is Kerry Spencer.

Nathaniel Woods
There is more, more here that I find truly offensive, such as Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey's reprehensible refusal to intervene, justified later by a statement that was nothing more than echoing the prosecution's story along with calling Woods "a known drug dealer," a crime for which as far as I can determine he was never convicted or even formally charged - but then again, the after-the-fact smear of a dead black man is hardly new.

But ultimately what is most offensive is that we still, we still, we still pursue the death penalty, this remnant of medieval brutality, this paean to blood vengeance.

It is, happily, hopefully, slowly dying out: Last May, New Hampshire became the 21st state to abolish the death penalty. Since 1976, there have been 1516 executions in the US but just one state - Texas - accounted for 37% of that total and just five states - Texas, Oklahoma, Virginia, Florida, and Missouri - accounted for nearly two-thirds while 15 states executed no one in that time.

Sadly, last August the Tweetie-pie White House announced an intention to bring the grim reaper back to federal jurisprudence, but Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Sen. Dick Durbin are in their respective chambers the primary sponsors of bills that would eliminate the death penalty at the federal level. While the case of Nathaniel Woods is not a federal one, obviously, it can be hoped that it will spark others - Are you listening, Nancy Pelosi? - to act.

The Erickson Report, Page 3: Everything You Need to Know: about the health care industry

Everything You Need to Know: about the health care industry

And as what you could consider a footnote to that, we resurrect another old feature not seen in some time, one called Everything You Need to Know, where you can learn a great deal about something in a very short time.

In this case, it's everything you need to know about the nature of our health care industry in just two sentences:

One: Twenty percent of American adults, roughly 50 million people, have contributed to a crowdfunding campaign to pay for someone's medical bills or treatments.

Two: Just after the Democratic centrist group hug around Joe Biden, reducing the chances of a Bernie Sanders candidacy, stock prices for health insurance companies spiked dramatically.

And that is Everything You Need to Know.

The Erickson Report, Page 2: Good/Bad News: Help with medication costs

Good/Bad News: Help with medication costs

Next up, something that looks like Good News but underneath is not.

Eric Threlkeld is a technical engineer living in Utah with his wife Erica. His job requires him to travel a great deal, so he has loads of airline miles. Keep that in mind.

A little over a year ago, in December 2018, Threlkeld was shocked when Jake Balle, who he had hired as his real estate agent as he and his wife looked for a house, when Jake Balle told him that Balle and his wife Marqui fork out $6,600 a year for insulin pens for their son, Reid. Reid has type 1 diabetes, meaning his body produces little or no insulin. There is no cure and the only thing keeping 7-year-old Reid alive is the insulin delivered through a small pump attached to his abdomen.

Knowing that prescription drugs are much cheaper in Mexico, Threlkeld offered to pick up several insulin pens during his next trip there. He found them: same brand that Reid uses, same packaging, same dose, it's the same stuff, for a bit over one-tenth the cost.

In January, Threlkeld and his wife made another trip, this time on his days off, using his airline miles to pay for their flights.

Through this experience, Threlkeld and his wife learned just how great the need is. Last month they started a nonprofit, the Medic(a)tion Found(a)tion, to help people who have been affected by skyrocketing prescription medication costs. They ask people to donate money or airline miles to defray the costs of travel with the idea of having volunteers go to Mexico at least every other month to buy insulin.

And they are expanding: On their next trip they are also going to be picking up some steroid inhalers for another patient being buried under the cost of prescription medicine.

Eric and Erica Threlkeld
All of which seems like a true feel-good story about caring people seeing a need among the people in their local community and using the resources they have to try to do something about it. So why is this bad news?

Because why should they have to?

Why should anyone have to do this? Why should anyone have to go to Mexico, to leave the country, in order to find life-saving medicine at a price they can manage to pay? Why should anyone be financially crippled just trying to keep their child alive? Why should the cost of insulin have doubled over just four years so that type 1 diabetics pay on average $6000 a year? Why should any family ever have to choose between medication and the mortgage, to decide every month which do we risk this time - sickness or homelessness?

How is this even conscionable? Of course, it's not, which is why people like the Threlkelds do what they do: because it's necessary. Because people are suffering to satisfy the greed of the pharmaceutical industry. Because it is unconscionable.

And it's not going to change until and unless we make it change.

The Erickson Report, Page 1: Good News: Hope for abortion rights

Good News: Hope for abortion rights

We start with something I used to do a lot but haven't in some time - but even here there is a twist. So we start with Good News - but it's Good News with an asterisk. Because it might be Good News, it hints at Good News, but won't know for a while if it truly is.

On the morning of March 4, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of June Medical Services v. Russo. This case arises out of Louisiana's attempt use the law to regulate abortion out of existence, following the path blazed by other reactionary, anti-women state governments that, having faced the fact that they can't outright ban abortion, try to put so many practical and regulatory roadblocks in the way that it's virtually impossible to get one.

In this case, it's Louisiana’s law that requires abortion providers to obtain “admitting privileges” at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic. No admitting privileges, no legal abortion services. The argument is that this provides the benefits of protecting the patient's health and ensuring continuity of care.

Now, these arguments are straight-up lies. First, an abortion is one of the safest medical procedures: During the oral arguments, Justice Elena Kagan noted one clinic in the court record has served around 70,000 women over the course of 23 years and has transferred only four patients to a hospital. In fact, studies have shown that the mortality rate for live childbirth is nearly 15 times that of abortion.
What's more, in the event of an emergency, a patient will be taken to the nearest hospital, the doctor's admitting privileges or no. Which is to the good because getting admitting privileges is not simply a matter of sending a letter or filing a form. Some hospitals will refuse to grant such privileges because they outright oppose abortion. And a good many hospitals require doctors to admit a certain number of patients per year to get and keep admitting privileges, which is difficult for abortion providers precisely because they so rarely need to admit anyone.

As for continuity of care, that is more maintained now by computer file than physical presence; in fact, a growing number of hospitals have "hospitalists," who function as your primary care physician while you are in the hospital; in fact, the doctor that you think of as you own PCP may well not see you at all during the time you're an in-patient.

There is only one reason for these restrictions: to force as many clinics providing abortion services as possible to close to make it as difficult as possible - and from their perspective, hopefully outright impossible - for a woman to exercise her right to a legal health procedure.

But this is where it gets interesting. Just four years ago, in 2016, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of a Texas law almost identical to the Louisiana one. In that case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the Court found that the requirement of admitting privileges provides no medical benefit, since abortion patients who experience complications can go to any hospital. The Court also found that the rule would force many clinics to close - which was of course the point - which would impose substantial burdens on women who might be required to travel hundreds of miles to reach an open clinic. Creating burdens plus adding no benefit equaled the law was unconstitutional.

So why are we here again? Because the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which also upheld the Texas law, essentially ignored the Supreme Court's binding precedent in order to uphold the Louisiana one by claiming not only that the requirement of admitting privileges does provide a medical benefit but that under the Louisiana law, the closing of clinics didn't create as much of a burden as in Texas and getting admitting privileges is easier. In short, instead of hitting you with a big stick five times, Louisiana was only going to do it four times and that makes it okay.

So the Supreme Court is hearing a case almost identical to one it ruled on four years ago. The big difference is that Rat Kavanaugh is on the bench now, leading many abortions rights advocates to fear that the Court will use the opportunity not only to uphold that Louisiana law but to overturn Roe v. Wade - and that the 5th Circuit corruptly upheld the Louisiana law against precedent for precisely that reason.

So where is the Good News is any of that? Well, as I said, it's not Good News, it's potential Good News and it lies in the unusual or at least unexpected line of questioning pursued by Chief Justice John Roberts during oral arguments.

The issue, of course, is that given that it is undeniable that the law would require at least some clinics to close, what is the additional burden to women that the requirement of admitting privileges would create versus the supposed medical benefits to those same women. In 2016's Whole Woman’s Health, the high court had ruled that there was no such medical benefit. And surprisingly, John Roberts, who dissented in Whole Woman’s Health, seemed to understand that this time around.

For example, he asked Louisiana Solicitor General Elizabeth Murrill
Do you agree that the benefits inquiry under the law is going to be the same in every case, regardless of which state we’re talking about? I mean, I understand the idea that the impact might be different in different places, but as far as the benefits of the law, that’s going to be the same in each state, isn’t it?
He later said much the same thing to Deputy Solicitor General Jeff Wall, who was defending the law for the Tweetie-pie administration, asking "Why do you look at each state differently if the benefits of the law - they’re not going to change from state to state.”

Chief Justice John Roberts
Which means that it is possible, it is not unreasonable to think or at least hope, that John Roberts will join with the four more liberal justices to again overturn the 5th Circuit and strike down the Louisiana law as unconstitutional.

Why Roberts, who is widely believed to be favorably disposed not only toward allowing states to restrict abortion but to overturning Roe v. Wade, would take such a tack is uncertain, but there are some possibilities.

One and the one most devoutly to be hoped for but is the least likely, is that he has changed or at least is changing his mind on the matter and now that it is coming down to an actual decision to empowering states to ban abortions, he is hesitating.

Another is that he may be disturbed by the idea of overturning a precedent set in his own court just four years ago, which would seem like a slap in the face in a Roberts-court-legacy sense and he does seem rather sensitive to how the Roberts court will look to history.

Yet another is that he may be just ticked off at the 5th Circuit for ignoring the precedent and has no intention of putting up with that.

And one more, suggested by at least some observers, is that the case Louisiana presented was so sloppy, so full of deceptions and so lacking in actual fact and data, that even if he wanted to uphold the law he couldn't justify to himself doing in on the basis of such a poor presentation.

Whatever the reason, we have been given some hope that even with Rat Kavanaugh on the bench, the loss of access to abortions is not a forgone conclusion. This does not mean that given another case, under other circumstances, that Roberts would not happily side with the reactionaries. But it does mean that despite what many of us had feared, the fight is not yet lost.

And that, well, it isn't Good News, but at least it's a possibility of it. Which is more than we usually get these days.

The Erickson Report for March 11-24

The Erickson Report for March 11-24

Good News: Hope for abortion rights

Good/Bad News: Help with medication costs

Everything You Need to Know: about the health care industry

The death penalty is the death of justice

Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [the Clowns]

Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [the Outrages]
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