Inspire. July.

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I’m not feeling particularly inspired this month after last month’s partisan, rogue display by the Supreme Court, so I will leave you with two quotations that I listened to today on Jon Meacham’s podcast, Reflections of History, both by Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall:

We must never forget that the only real source of power that we as judges can tap is the respect of the people. We will command that respect only as long as we strive for neutrality. If we are perceived as campaigning for particular policies, as joining with other branches of government in resolving questions not committed to us by the Constitution, we may gain some public acclaim in the short run. In the long run, however, we will cease to be perceived as neutral arbiters, and we will lose that public respect so vital to our function.

Thurgood Marshall, 1981

I do not believe that the meaning of the Constitution was forever ‘fixed’ at the Philadelphia Convention. Nor do I find the wisdom, foresight and sense of justice exhibited by the Framers particularly profound. To the contrary, the government they devised was defective from the start, requiring several amendments, a civil war and momentous social transformation to attain the system of constitutional government, and its respect for the individual freedoms and human rights, we hold as fundamental today. They could not have imagined, nor would they have accepted, that the document they were drafting would one day be construed by a Supreme Court to which had been appointed a woman and the descendant of an African slave. ‘We the people’ no longer enslave, but the credit does not belong to the Framers. It belongs to those who refused to acquiesce in outdated notions of ‘liberty,’ ‘justice’ and ‘equality,’ and who strived to better them.

Thurgood Marshall, on the Bicentennial of The Constitution, 1987

Mental Health Monday, Delayed

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First, a note about Press Freedom Day, which is today. Election Connection – Press Freedom Day will appear tomorrow. Mental Health Monday seemed to be more essential to post this morning.

Mental Health Awareness Month began on Sunday, a day that for most of us gives us some breathing room from the rest of the week. I am aware, however, of the many people who don’t get Sunday off and work in jobs that are so haphazard that they need second supplemental jobs and barely have time off from work. It’s important to recognize them and acknowledge and assist their mental health struggles.

I had intended to write something for publication yesterday, but after the shocking news of the Supreme Court leaked document, an Alito written draft overturning Roe v. Wade, I couldn’t sit down and write about mental health solutions when my mental health was on the verge of cracking.

All over my social media, I’ve seen women angry, upset, frightened. I won’t be getting pregnant again, and I feel the same way. I described it on Facebook as FURIOUS. I don’t have enough adjectives to describe the feelings and these feelings have been growing exponentially since November 8, 2016. It may sound melodramatic to say but that was a day of mourning in our house. We walked around with shadows across our faces, our eyes unfocused, muddling through the subsequent days; going through the motions. It felt very familiar, much like we acted during 9/11. We had also been mourning the sudden death of my mother in law, so that may have played a role in how deep our depression went.

The overturning of Roe v. Wade is a several faceted quandary. As I saw described on Twitter, the Republicans are the dog who caught the car. Now what will they run on? They’ve won the one thing they claimed they wanted. For Democrats, will this be demoralizing or will this energize us? Will we continue to be held hostage by apathy and the Manchin/Sinema power plays and/or the Collins/Murkowski concern Olympics complete with pearl-clutching and ‘oh mys’ with or without fainting spells?

And I know that some of you are wondering what this has to do with mental health?

A lot, in fact.

For women, this is a dark day. Some remember the days of back alley abortions. Are we merely chattel in a man’s world? Don’t we have the ability, the intelligence, the know-how to be able to know the best for our own bodies and mental health? The men passing the laws (and voting to overturn our constitutional rights) don’t even understand the biology of when a fetus is viable, when it is a new life, what a heart that holds a heartbeat is, or the difference between ectopic pregnancies, viable pregnancies, and high/low risk pregnancies.

They trust us to raise these children born, often alone and with no resources, but somehow we can’t be trusted to decide that the pregnancy should go forward as if our bodies are merely incubators.

No one suggests sterilizing men, who can create fetuses several by the day where as a woman can only bring one pregnancy to term a year.

I think we should have a general woman’s strike where all women stay home, and women who work at home or are homemakers or stay-at-home moms take the day off. Show the men that without women, things stop. I’d hazard to guess that everything stops.

Where does mental health fit in?

First, take care of yourself. If social media is too much with too many angry, dystopian posts, get off for a bit. Hours, or even days. You don’t have to be a part of that circus while it’s so raw for you.

Second, be aware of the amount of posting and news that will revolve around abortions, reproductive rights, the undermining of women’s rights and equality. Give yourself a trigger warning before you engage with social media and even some family members and friends.

Third, give yourself time to mourn. Spend quiet time. Have a cup of tea, knowing that the cup of tea will not cure this crisis, but it will give you some time to sit, relax, reflect, and simply do nothing for a little while.

Fourth, when you’re ready, plan how to combat this assault on our persons. We are the ones with heartbeats, and they will listen to us. We will make them listen.

Fifth, as part of doing something productive: if you have the money, some good places to donate are:

Election Connection Special Edition:

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The Texas Abortion Ban

The Conservative Justices’ Reasoning in the Texas Abortion Case is Legal Mansplaining

This brilliant piece by Slate writer, Dahlia Lithwick is a must read by everyone who calls themselves pro-choice and those who don’t. The idea that the people crying ‘our body, our choice’ over masks are the same ones brutally stomping on the bodies of pregnant people. Stomping is not an exaggeration.

This law is unconstitutional, but somewhat more importantly it is unconscionable. We should be protecting women, transmen, and CHILDREN who find themselves pregnant and unready, for whatever reason, and not forcing them to give birth.

We must remember these draconian laws and constant attempts at controlling our reproduction and our bodies at every election moving forward. GET OUT THE VOTE. Each and every election.

Read the entire article, but this quote from Lithwick really brought it home for me.

The inevitable answer is chilling: This isn’t about guns or speech or money or war. It’s about women, their lives and their bodies and their autonomy. That’s what allows you to do shoddy work, with careless disregard, because who’s going to stop you? You only do the thing in the dead of night, without care or effort, because you believe women are so used to being gaslit that you expect them to just tolerate it. You only do the thing in the dead of night without care or effort because you genuinely believe that they’re only women, and they deserve what they get.

Dahlia Lithwick, Slate

Election Connection: Welcome to the Biden Administration

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The Election Connection series will be a bit more sporadic, posted on a need-to-know basis now that we have an Administration that cares about its citizens in all the important and even in the most mundane ways. I still feel waves of PTSD at moments and then I see Press Secretary Jen Psaki swatting stupid questions, not arguing with White House correspondents, and offering experts to give briefings and answer questions, and I remember that it’s all going to be okay. It’s like the last four years were a dream, and I’m Pamela Ewing.

Unfortunately, the last four years weren’t a dream, and as nightmarish as it was to live through, it wasn’t a nightmare either. It was very real.

We need to take that same energy from the last years, the same energy brought to the Georgia Senate race, the same energy brought by the summer protests, and we need to focus it unrelentingly on the next two years, and then the two after that, and then the two after. We can never get complacent again.

Complacent = Complicit

We came very close to losing our republic. As it was, we witnessed a coup attempt, an insurrection that struck at the heart of our democracy. Five people died, including a Capitol police officer, but hundreds of others were injured. Two members of law enforcement have committed suicide. And still, there are Republicans who refuse to comply with law enforcement requirements to go through a magnetometer before entering the House floor. I mean, let’s be realistic and honest here, they’re also refusing to wear masks despite common sense and Executive Order, putting their colleagues and staff at risk (four members of Congress plus one spouse became covid infected because of Republican negligence on January 6th, and that was without their obvious complicity in the attack on the Capitol).

So, it’s time for a Civics lesson, and I will go extra slow as if I were speaking to the newly elected Senator from Alabama (this one) who doesn’t know the three branches of government (see below*) or a Supreme Court justice (this one) who doesn’t know the five rights guaranteed in the First Amendment (see below*).

Some things are etched in stone – the Constitution including the Bill of Rights is one of those things. The Constitution may be amended, and there are procedures in place to do that. In fact, we have amended the Constitution twenty-seven times, most recently in 1992.

Some things are not – Number of Supreme Court justices, the use of the filibuster. Supreme Court justices were based on the number of circuit courts, which have increased to thirteen. This is why many experts feel that the Supreme Court should be expanded to cover each circuit court with its own justice (as established in 1869 with what is known as the Circuit Judges Act).

The filibuster is not part of the Constitution, which makes it easier to change than amending the Constitution would be.

A couple of points:

Unity does not mean to continue to allow ourselves be abused or gaslit.

Unity does not mean giving in to bullies.

Unity does not mean power sharing when Democrats have a clear mandate.

Below the cut are Twitter follows of the Biden Administration, the House Managers of the Impeachment Trial, a selection of podcasts, and other accounts that I follow regularly and find are very informative and honest. Add your own in the comments and I can include them in the next Election Connection.

*Branches of Government
| | |
Legislative Executive Judicial

*5 Rights Enumerated in the First Amendment:
1. Freedom of Speech
2. Freedom of Religion
3. Freedom of the Press
4. Freedom to Assemble
5. Freedom to Protest the Government

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Election Connection: One Week. Seven Days. We’ve Got Work To Do.

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I’ve already voted. I made my plan and followed through. I voted on Saturday. In a typical year, that would mean I’m done for the next twelve months. But this is not a typical year.

Even though I’ve cast my vote for Joe Biden, my work (and yours) is not finished until the end of Election Day.

At that point, others may take up the baton, but hopefully the landslide and mandate will express crystal clearly the will of the American people.

As I was working on what this post was going to be eight days before Election Day, and even as I was writing my notes late last night, things happened that need to be brought to light for prospective voters.

The first is the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court. This was an illegitimate process to confirm a justice whose beliefs are so far opposite of the American people that that alone should disqualify her. Her lack of litigation experience is a second disqualification. Confirming her eight days before the end of an election after sixty million people have already voted is a despicable act by the Senate GOP and especially the evil*, hypocritical Majority Leader McConnell.

Clicking this photo will take you directly to Vote Save America’s Voting Plan. Twitter. (c)2020

The second big item was a Supreme Court ruling that while ballots in Wisconsin can be postmarked by Election Day, they cannot be counted after Election Day. What this means in the real world is that if you mail your ballot in, it may not be counted. Again, McConnell (evil hypocrite) and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy have consistently kept Congress from including voter security monies for the post office and have sabotaged key sorting equipment nationwide. Because of this partisan hackery, please, either vote early  or on Election Day in person or hand deliver your absentee ballot to an official ballot box, to your board of elections, or at the polls on Election Day.

To be sure your vote is counted, have a plan. The following are resources to help you from now through Election Day.

Remember – speak to your family and friends about voting. Be prepared to answer any questions. Direct them to the Biden website to read up on his policy proposals and priorities.

Make sure they’re voting.

Offer to drive people to the polls.

Volunteer – it’s not too late to help (see the links below).

*see his debate with Amy McGrath in Kentucky laughing about not bringing covid relief to the floor for a vote.

Clicking this photo will take you to volunteer opportunities at the Vote Save America website.


Other links:

Vote Save America – Donate to relieve this country of Mitch McConnell’s “leadership”

Vote Save America – Have a Plan to Vote

Vote Save America – Volunteer

I Will Vote

When We All Vote

Follow Marc Elias on Twitter.

What do you do if there is voter intimidation at your poll? Call 1-866-687-8683 (1-866-OUR VOTE)

What do you do if armed “militias” are at your polling place? Georgetown Law has information for all fifty states.

Clicking the photo will take you to We The Action where, if you’re a lawyer, you can sign up to volunteer to protect our vote.

Election Connection: 5 Weeks: SCOTUS

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[OPINION]

I think it’s important to look at this SCOTUS nomination in its totality, and not simply whether or not we like this nominee choice of Amy Coney Barrett. I also think we need to take care not to conflate our strong feelings for Ruth Bader Ginsburg and keep our biases in check when we talk about Barrett’s personal life and instead stick to her judicial record, which is scant. I also believe a little humility is necessary by those pressing for this nominee. Whatever judicial strengths she has, she cannot compare to an icon of RBG’s stature. RBG’s work for women and first head of the ACLU’s Women’s Project steered much of the equal rights we women (and men) enjoy today. Not everyone can be a Thurgood Marshall or a Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and that doesn’t necessarily disqualify someone, including Judge Barrett.

As a matter of course, this nomination absolutely should not go forward. Even without Mitch McConnell’s blatant hypocrisy, we aren’t too close to an election – we are in the middle of an election. Over one million voters have already spoken with millions more to vote between now and the conclusion of the election on November 3rd.

I do understand Barrett’s unwillingness to step aside somewhat; the President would only choose someone else, although stepping aside on principle would show us what principles she has, as not stepping aside has already shown us.

Very simply, my opinion is clear-eyed.

This President, who was impeached earlier this year, and has now been reported to have engaged in tax fraud should not be the person to nominate a new Supreme Court justice. There are still allegations that a deal was worked out for Justice Kennedy to retire. This President admitted on tape his malfeasance in conducting the response to the COVID-19 pandemic as it invaded its way across our country. He failed in his stewardship, and he should not be rewarded by the complicit and cowardly Senate; the same Senate and Majority Leader who refused to work with the nation’s first Black President on any legislative agenda. The same man who let his racism cloud his solemn oath to guard the Constitution.

The Election is now. People have voted. People are voting. Right now.

When the election is certified, if President Trump wins re-election, he can then nominate someone (including Amy Coney Barrett) for SCOTUS. However, if the President-Elect is Joe Biden, then we, as a country must wait until after the inauguration on January 20, 2021, and let the duly elected President follow the will of the American people, and nominate the justice who will fill Justice Ginsburg’s seat.

Although irreplaceable, someone will eventually take her place on the High Court and that someone should be nominated by the President chosen by the American electorate.

Go to Vote Save America and see how you can help get out the vote!

Justice John Paul Stevens (1920-2019)

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​I have always been fascinated by the legal system and the law. My whole life, including reading for pleasure has included government, history, and legal issues. I have an analytical and argumentative mind and nothing comes close to both of those attributes more than the law.

In high school my favorite class senior year was Everyday Law, which would most likely be compared to a civics class – what to do if you get pulled over? What are your rights when approached by a polic officer? Your neighbor is infringing on your property, what do you do? That sort of thing. It was an elective, and I still really believe this type of class should be required for students to prepare them for the real world they are about to enter.

I have been privileged to live in a time where I have witnessed the ascension of the first African-American, the first woman, and the first Latina to the Supreme Court (Marshall, Day O’Connor, and Sotomayor, respectively).

When I served jury duty, the cover of Time magazine was Chief Justice William Brennan who was retiring. He was one of my favorite justices and his court more than any other cemented my philosophy firmly on the liberal side of things, although I would characterize my views as less liberal and more founded in civil rights and equality.

I continued reading and studying the law throughout my life, and majored in political science/pre-law for two years of college. Constitutional Law was my favorite class, and I loved my professor who I had for all three of my law classes. I still have all of those textbooks and I’ve added The Law of Writing to my collection. My enthrallment has never subsided.

Until 2010 when he retired, for as long as I can remember, Justice John Paul Stevens has been a staple on the Supreme Court. As the Bush years passed, and the liberal wing was replaced by more conservative jurists, Justice Stevens remained stalwart, continuing the tradition of upholding the Constitution through law and not political partisanship. It is essential to remember that Justice Stevens was appointed by a Republican, President Gerald Ford as was Brennan (by President Dwight D. Eisenhower).

John Paul Stevens was the third longest serving justice on the Supreme Court. When he joined the Burger Court (soon to become the Brennan Court), I had just turned nine and for my entire life since, Stevens became a member of one of the most iconic groups of justices. While all generations have heroes to look up to and all Supreme Courts make important, life changing, country-wide decisions, I was blessed with the ability to follow the Supreme Court that included John Paul Stevens as well as his iconic colleagues.

Justice Stevens read briefs, and listened to oral arguments, deciding cases such as Hamdan v Rumsfield, Massachusetts v EPA, and dissenting on Citizens United v FEC and Bush v Gore as well as DC v Heller. Related to this case, he believes the 2nd Amendment should be readdressed, whether appealed or amended is still to see. He hasn’t been on the court in nearly a decade, but his voice will be missed in our world.

Rest in peace, Justice Stevens.

As a matter of constitutional tradition, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, we presume that governmental regulation of the content of speech is more likely to interfere with the free exchange of ideas than to encourage it. The interest in encouraging freedom of expression in a democratic society outweighs any theoretical but unproven benefit of censorship.
“Excerpts From Ruling on Internet: ‘Statute Abridges the Freedom of Speech'”. http://www.nytimes.com. June 27, 1997. 

Whenever we remove a brick from the wall that was designed to separate religion and government, we increase the risk of religious strife and weaken the foundation of our democracy.
Church & State Editorial, http://www.au.org. May 2010.

A democracy cannot function effectively when its constituent members believe laws are being bought and sold.
Dissenting, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. ___ (2010)

Preet Bharara had a lovely reflection on Justice Stevens

Justice John Paul Stevens – A Maverick on the Bench Dies at 99

Justice Stevens with Justice Elena Kagan, who took his place upon his retirement. Photo from Supreme Court government website. (c)2019

Election Reflection – 21 DAYS TIL MIDTERMS

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VOTE!

Vote Save America – check your registration. People are being purged and voters, especially minorities and Democratic voters are being suppressed. If Republicans had a message and could take the responsibility of governing, they wouldn’t need to cheat by suppressing legal voters from making their choices.

In Georgia, the Republican running against Stacey Abrams is also the Secretary of State of the state of Georgia, and is the one who validates the security and legitimacy of the election, including certifying the election. Currently, there are 53,000 voter registrations that are being held up. 70% of them are African-American voters.

Georgia Lawsuit is Latest…
The Supreme Court just ruled, merely a few weeks ahead of this year’s election that the North Dakota law requiring street addresses (rather than post office boxes) is legal and upheld. This disenfranchises many Native Americans voters, a voting group that primarily goes for the Democratic party. Living on reservations and on rural routes, the post office does not assign street addresses. This is significant.

Native Americans Decry Supreme Court Ruling on Voter ID in ND

Indiana is trying to purge voters in the weeks before this midterm election.

Federal Judge Blocks Indiana…

Again, I ask, what are Republican politicians afraid of?

We are still at risk from Russian election interference. Nothing has been fortified since the 2016 election that has been proved to have been compromised.

I’m worried.

You should be also.

Check your registration, drive your friends to the polls, and VOTE!

Dr. Ford and Justice for All

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​I’ve spent a lot more time thinking about these past two weeks than I normally would for a political rant, so maybe this isn’t exactly a rant or a venting, although the smoke is spiraling out of my ears, nostrils, and hair follicles and just like in the cartoons, I can hear the whistling.
To start, I want to state unequivocally that I believe Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s Judiciary Committee testimony in its entirety. Anyone who doubts her memory didn’t watch the testimony. She was incredibly careful and was clear to clarify her statements, and to say she didn’t know or didn’t remember if that was the case. She didn’t lose her temper or her composure despite the biased, some stupid questions from the Arizona prosecutor that the Judiciary Republicans hired (Senate Majority Leader McConnell called her a female assistant) because they couldn’t be human or decent to Dr. Ford.

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Now What? The Testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford

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​I planned my entire Thursday around Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony. When I went out in the morning to grab something to eat, I listened to Senator Chuck Grassley’s opening remarks on the radio, and I was home in time for Senator Diane Feinstein’s. From that point on, I watched, without interruption.

If I’m being honest, I hadn’t planned on watching Judge Kavanaugh’s, but I thought in the interest of fairness (and a cleared afternoon schedule), I decided that I would watch it live rather than wait for that evening’s analysis. Continue reading