One of the questions which needs to be asked at this juncture in history goes like this: is American becoming a Nazi country? I don’t mean that in a naive way — everyone suddenly turning into a neo-Nazi skinhead. I mean it, on this Holocaust Remembrance Day, in a real one, an historic one. Is something very much like a Nazi movement and politics now beginning to surface — and consume — America? For very much the same reasons it did Weimar Germany? And if that’s the case…then what happens next?
To answer this question, and do it well, we need to understand what fascism is — and then come to Nazism in particular. What is fascism? The way that you and I were taught about it in school and then university goes like this. It was born in the 1930s. That view, I’ve come to believe is wrong — badly wrong.
If we think about human history, what is one of its defining characteristics? Societies began to organise themselves along lines of caste. Human society, for the vast, vast majority of people, was made of “nobles” and “peasants.” The line between them was genetic — “nobles” were said to have “pure” or “superior” “blood,” which gave them superior strength, intelligence, goodness, and peasants had “impure” or “inferior “blood,” which meant they were deficient in virtue, weak.
This stratified social organization — based on the purity of blood — was justified by theology, and codified into law. Who gives nobles “pure blood”? God himself did, or the Gods did, depending. Because they were superior in every way, they were the owners of everything in society — its land, its property, its assets, its surplus. Because the rest were weak, the job of the strong was to subdue and exploit them, into servitude and slavery and serfdom. This was the greater good, what was moral, justified, and righteous.
This form of social organization — feudalism, patriarchy, because “pure blood” was passed down along familial lines, and hence so was ownership and privilege — was widespread. The norm.
It was present in Europe, Japan, China, Asia, Africa — everywhere. The relative equality of pre-agrarian village society had disappeared, and as societies grew in scale, feudalism as a form of social organisation emerged as a global form. Serf and peasant, exploited by King and Lord. It was hardly just European — think of India, with its castes of nobles, warriors, and untouchables.
It’s hard not to think of all this as fascism. What is fascism? Intellectually, it’s the project of dividing people into human and subhuman, superior and inferior, by virtue of blood.
From there proceeds fascist morality, which says the right place of the strong is to exploit and subdue the weak, and thereby prove their strength. The weak are liabilities and burdens upon the strong, and therefore, the greatest good is had by exploiting them, abusing them, using them for whatever they’re good for, and disposing of them when they aren’t good for that any longer.
Fascism, it seems to me, is the norm in human history. That is an uncomfortable truth to arrive it.
But I think it gives us a much, much clearer picture of where we are, and even who we are. The centuries of slavery and empire, of noble and peasant — how can they seriously be described as anything but fascism? And all this culminated in a terrible, terrible catastrophe, an atrocity to never forget. The Holocaust. The slaughter of the Jews, at the hands of Nazis. Where else was this road of fascism ever going to lead, but to a spectacular climax of history-shattering violence, aiming to completely exterminate the most hated of all?
This is a very different way to think about history. From this perspective, there are two kinds of societies: those which have genuine democratic revolutions, and those which haven’t. Let’s take the example of France. What really happened during the French Revolution? It wasn’t like the American Revolution — something much deeper happened. The old social organisation of noble and peasant was literally abolished. By way, it has to be said, of the guillotine. In America, by contrast, the “revolution” meant enslaving subhumans, constitutionally, at the moment of founding. Perhaps you see how different these revolutions really were.
All that is to say that humanity has not yet liberated itself from fascism precisely because fascism runs much more deeply in us and through us than we imagine.
We don’t describe our pre-modern, feudal forms of social organization as fascist. But shouldn’t we? What else is the inherited privilege, thanks to your divinely ordained blood, to force the weak into servitude and servility — through extreme violence, whether it was the katana, or rapier, or pistol?
When you think about fascism this way — as an historical norm, not some kind of 20th century anomaly — suddenly, perhaps, things look much clearer. Why is fascism resurging around the globe? Take a look at India, where hyper-nationalism has fundamentalists vowing to kill heretics. Or China, which has put millions, apparently, in concentration camps. Look at Britain, self-destructing by way of nationalism — not quite fascism, but not quite not, either, even European immigrants forced out, humiliated. Fascism is resurgent around the globe because our understanding of it is weak: it was history’s norm, and we never really liberated ourselves from it very much, and so here it is, coming right back again. The 20th century’s brief golden age of democracy is proving, so far, to be just that. The anomaly is democracy, which flourished for maybe half a century — but what’s that, compared to millennia of fascism. I’m noble by blood, and you’re my peasant, and I can kill you for nothing.
Let me say it again. Fascism is the historical norm — and democracy appears to be very much the brief anomaly, flourishing for less than half a century, really, so far.
Now that we understand fascism — and what it really is — let’s think about democracy, and what it really is. Because these are two poles of a spectrum of social order. At one end, there’s fascism, you’re superior, I’m inferior, all this is “natural,” aka God-given, in the blood, and from there, you have the moral duty to exploit and subdue me for the greater good, because I’m a liability and a “parasite.” And at the other end of this spectrum of social order lies democracy. What is it?
Well, if you understand fascism is predicated on inequality, then a democracy, to meet even the most minimal criteria, must offer all its people equality.
That isn’t some kind of extreme position, it’s a necessary condition for a democracy. What are the other conditions? There are a few more necessary ones. We must be equal, meaning our rights must be precisely equivalent. We must not be able to harm one another. We must be able to resolve our differences peacefully. And the sufficient condition is mutual consent: I must consent to how you wish society to be organized, and you must consent to me.
Now let’s come back to America. What is it? Americans are told that it’s the “world’s oldest democracy” — but that’s an obviously, trivially false myth.
Now that we understand what democracy and fascism really are, we can understand America a lot better, too.
For how long has America really been a democracy? You see, part of the problem now is that social scientists rank America as a “backsliding democracy”, and that’s true — but what they don’t ask is: how long has it been one at all? I’ll explain shortly why that question is important, but first let’s answer it.
It’s obvious to understand that an America in which some people — Black people — were considered just “3/5ths” human, and others, like Native Americans, weren’t human at all, was not a democracy. It was a form of limited power-sharing for rich, white, male land-owners, but that is not a democracy. To say that 1/10th or even 1/5th of a nation or society shares power and makes decisions in some kind of collective form is not a democracy. It is just what it appears to be, which is sharing power amongst a tiny fraction, to keep the rest powerless. It is not very different from feudalism at all — and feudalism, as we’ve already discussed, is almost indistinguishable from fascism.
So when did America become a democracy — even a “flawed” one, meaning an incomplete one? The answer to that question is chilling.
It wasn’t until 1965. Black people were given the right to vote in 1870, but they didn’t really have much of it, bound by Jim Crow laws. It wasn’t until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that Black women were given the vote, and Black people even begun to really have the power to vote. Only at this moment can America be said to have evolved into anything even vaguely resembling a democracy.
That leaves with a brutally clear view of what America really is, in sociopolitical terms. It has only been even a flawed democracy for something like fifty years. Before that, it wasn’t a democracy at all. It was simply an apartheid state, and before that a slave state — and apartheid and slave states, by definition, cannot be democracies. The reason that America is “backsliding,” as political scientists now begin to understand and point out, so swiftly and severely, then, is for a reason: because it was never a democracy very much, or for very long, at all.
Now let me come to the central question: is America becoming a Nazi country?
Let’s take three examples.
Maybe you didn’t know this first one. Virginia’s new governor is a man named Glenn Youngkin. He fooled the pundits — LOL, that’s not exactly hard to do — into thinking he wasn’t a Trumpist by wearing fleece vests and grinning like an aw-shucks country bumpkins when in fact he was a “private equity executive” signalling bigotry and supremacy at Virginia’s soccer moms and dads. He drove them into a frenzy of fear, rage, and hate, with Bigger Lies — “they’re coming for your kids! Your wives! Your land!!” Virginians lost their minds — to the point that soccer moms now threaten to shoot up the schools where their neighbours send their kids.
Sound fascist to you? It should. But what Youngkin did a few days ago crosses the next line. He set up a “tip line”…for people…to inform on….teachers.
Let’s think about this for a second. Now Virginians are going to be able to inform on their teachers to the government. For what? For the thoughtcrime, presumably, of teaching banned books and theories.
What happens then? The teachers get fired. Where does this end? Is it a tip line for informing on your neighbours next? And how about a special police force, to manage this job of people informing on others?
All this is the birth of a Gestapo. I’m not kidding about that. Go ahead and ask an elderly Jewish person — I’d bet the farm they’d agree with me, because they might have lived it. This is exactly how Gestapos are born. You inform on your neighbour — it becomes an act encouraged and incentivised by the state, for thoughtcrimes, like reading banned books, learning banned ideas.
That then demands a secret police, to keep files on people, to police them for things which aren’t crimes in a democratic society.
Things like what? Like reading. Learning. Meeting people. Teaching. Expressing yourself. Association. Privacy.
These things, let me repeat, are not crimes in a democratic society. They are just fundamental acts and facets of being human.
But these basic humanities — learning, reading, knowing, teaching, meeting — are becoming criminalised in America. In Tennessee, teaching a book about the Holocaust is now banned. It was banned in a unanimous vote.
What happens if I give a kid that book as a present? Can a neighbour “inform” on me for it? Is it just banned from schools — or is it banned, period? Who polices all this? You see how the lines are crossed, and how slippery the slope really is.
This is now a national effort — the focus of a new poltiics. It centers on criminalising things that are never crimes in a democracy.
Reading books. Teaching ideas. Learning theories. Voting itself, which can now be a felony if you “do it wrong,” as if that’s ever really the case.
The question then is: how far will this politics go? The answer to that question is: it doesn’t have to go much further at all to be chillingly and seriously Nazi. Is Youngkin’s tip line for informing on teachers fascist? Sure. When it’s for informing on neighbours, it’ll be Nazi. When books are banned at school, that’s fascist. When they’re banned period, that’s well, Nazi. When teaching theories is banned, that’s fascist. When expressing them is, that’s Nazi. When people’s privacy and freedom of association and freedom to learn and understand and know is monitored and controlled, that’s super Nazi — but that’s already what’s happening to Virginia’s kids. When soccer moms threaten to shoot up their neighbours kids at school, because their kids are strong, and so don’t have to wear masks, and the rest are weak, that’s ultra Nazi. The lines are blurry, and the slope is slippery.
I could go on and on. With examples of how extreme this new politics is. How it encourages and incites violence.
How it seems to want to burn books. How it criminalises thought and speech and privacy and association in escalating ways. The point, though, should be very, very clear. This is how Nazism happens. This is what it is. A mass movement devoted to cleansing and purification. Impurities have to excised from the social body. Those impurities begin with ideas and books. They become speech and expression. Then association and interaction — no shopping at that store, no going to that street, this ghetto is where those people live now. And then the impurities to be cleansed away become people themselves.
Then there is a Holocaust.
That is the road, it appears to me, that America is on.
You are most welcome to disagree. But I think on this Holocaust Remembrance Day, we should not fool ourselves with comfortable lies and easy half-truths. If this isn’t Nazism, this ugliness, hate, violence, this burning desire to cleanse society of the subhuman, the impure, the unclean, to burn books and inform on neighbours and take a gun to your neighbours kids head — if this movement that’s rising in America isn’t Nazism, then what is?
And just like that, on a warm June Friday morning just as Americans were looking forward to a summer weekend, the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade.
In an instant, five men and one woman made the most consequential decision that’s been handed down by a U.S. court in decades and stripped women all over the country of their right to bodily autonomy. In an instant, it was determined that in the supposed “land of the free”, if you have a uterus, it’s the property of the state. In an instant, nearly two dozen states will ban abortion outright and in states like Louisiana, there isn’t even an exception for the life of the mother.
There was Nancy Pelosi on the lefthand side of the screen, calling the decision “deadly”. It was just weeks ago she was campaigning for and rallying support behind the lone pro-life Democrat in the House of Representatives, ensuring his progressive challenger lost the race by less than 300 votes.
It truly is enough to make you absolutely sick to your stomach.
I don’t even know how to process it just yet.
It’s one of those things where you know it’s coming, but it’s something else entirely when it officially happens.
Across the countries, millions will be denied that
If you think they’ll be stopping with Roe, you’re wrong.
They won’t stop until there’s a federal ban on abortion. They won’t stop until a ban on same-sex marriage is reimplemented. They won’t stop until the notion of privacy, in general, is a thing of the past. This is the result of decades upon decades of work, organization, and careful planning in order to achieve their agenda on the right. They are patient and calculating, and they know how to get things done.
And here we are, with millions upon millions of women about to suffer because of it.
Friday marked the beginning of one of the darkest periods in American history. The end of Roe v Wade, which is the decision that legalized women’s reproductive healthcare rights in America, aka “abortion.”
A Supreme Court made up of fanatics and lunatics, whose vision is a fascist theocracy, has, in one fell swoop, eviscerated American democracy. Five people have taken the most basic of rights away from 330 million. 70%, by some counts, 80%, of Americans don’t want this. This is how democracy ends.
Let me put in context just how incredibly dark this period really is. It’s one of the darkest in modern history, period. I can’t think of another example, certainly not in the developed world, where such fundamental rights, and so many of them, have been lost, for so many, in one fell swoop.
America went half a century backwards today — and more. That is an incredibly grim thing to see. It has almost never happened before in modern history, outside perhaps the Weimar Republic or the Soviet Union. This is how serious the stakes are.
What are those stakes? Let us all understand them with crystal clarity. This isn’t just “the end of abortion” — though that itself is huge. It is something much, much more grotesque than that. This is the end of a modern, free society for women in America. Yes, really. How so?
Anticipating this, Red State after Red State passed laws that were almost ludicrously Gilead-like. Women were to be informed on. Citizen-vigilantes were to be empowered to arrest them, sue them, and deputize themselves as agents of a theocratic state. Women were to be policed by everyone. “Aiding and abetting” them was criminalized. The Morality Police of Iran or Saudi Arabia had arrived in America. That sounds bad enough until you think about it, and then you understand what bad really is.
What does all that mean? Well, it means, for example, that if you’re a woman, sitting at a cafe, talking to a friend. The guy at the next table — a self-proclaimed “Patriot,” now carrying a gun in public, thanks to the very same Supreme Court, overhears you. And he decides that you’ve crossed the line. But he’s a deputy, because, well, anyone and everyone is. He turns you in. Or maybe he arrests you. For what? For a thoughtcrime. Wanting not to have a child. Are you even pregnant? Maybe, maybe not. Now the burden of proof is on you. And the friend you were speaking to? He’s arrested, too.
Grim enough for you? Then consider the next step. In some Red States, women were to be prevented from leaving the state. But how was anyone to know why a woman was leaving the state? Knowing would entail building a whole infrastructure to surveil a policewoman. Ma’am, pull over. Can you show us your phone, please? We need to inspect all your social media, emails, and correspondence. You need to prove it to us. We’re the Stasi — and we’re here to check up on…
Your purity. Your faith.
This is how a democracy dies.
This is the end of abortion. It’s also the end of democracy. How so? Well, think about the examples above. They are about to become true. But what is really happening in them? Basic rights no longer exist. Privacy. Expression. Association. Movement. The most basic rights of all — poof, gone. Not just for women. For everyone, because, well, anyone can “aid and abet” a woman.
This is actually how a democracy dies.
I want you to stop and think about that. Because Americans have been making fools of themselves for a while now. The process goes like this. Pundits tell them it can’t happen here. Intelligent observers like me, Sarah Kendzior, take your pick, say it is and it will. Denial prevails in the end. Nobody thinks it through. And it happens here.
This is really the beginning of end of democracy. Let me say it again. This is really the beginning of the end of democracy. 26 states already have trigger laws on the books criminalizing women’s rights. Many, in ways like the above. But those laws are hardly benign — sorry, you can’t go to an abortion clinic. They go much, much further than that. They are attacks on the fundamental fabric of democracy itself, the fabric of basic rights. They eviscerate freedoms of everything from privacy to expression to association. Now, you have to watch what you say. Who you say it to you. Whom you meet. What you write down.
America? Or the Soviet Union? Or Nazi Germany? Certainly, in free societies, you don’t have to do that. You don’t have to prove your morality, faith, rectitude, piety, and purity, to anyone. Because it’s nobody’s business but yours, and maybe you don’t think of it much at all. But now? In more than half of America? You do.
That isn’t democracy. Nor is it democracy when five unelected people who are lunatics and fanatics can take the most basic rights away from 80% of people — against their wishes. Stop and think about that, too. Five unelected people are taking the most basic rights away from society — far from just “abortion,” but right down to what you can say where you can go, what you can think, express, write, and want — against 80% of their wishes.
This is the beginning of the end of democracy. I’m not exaggerating or kidding. This is it. And you cannot be in denial about it anymore.
Why not? Well, how did it happen? Let’s think about it. The Republicans turned into a fanatical, neo-fascist machine. And they began to appoint genuine, bona fide lunatics to the Supreme Court. An alleged sexual predator, who cried and whined and shouted at his confirmation, sneering. A woman who’s a member of a religious sect which demands women who used to literally be called Handmaids, until it was bad press, be literally “submissive” to men. This is who is on America’s Supreme Court.
What were such people obviously going to do? You don’t appoint lunatics like this if you want, I don’t know, a Canadian healthcare system. You appoint them when you want a fascist theocracy. But something strange happened. When those of us who had survived and studied collapse before warned of this, our own side attacked us. Hey, give them the benefit of the doubt! You don’t know that woman is going to take everyone’s right away in the name of God — there’s no evidence of that! LOL — how much more do you need?
We are on the same side. We alarmists, and the sober ones who dismiss us as fantasists. We want the same things. But there is a big difference between us. They don’t know what the hell they’re talking about, and we do. We have gotten everything right — all of it — from fascist collapse to theocracy, to authoritarianism, to the coup, to how this terrible giant leap backward would play out.
We have got to come together. They need to recognize that we have been right — you, me, etcetera — and we need to be able to counsel them to use their power in wiser ways. Or else the bad guys keep winning. What does that look like?
Well, it doesn’t take a genius to see what happens next, because one of those lunatic Justices already drew an outline. Next to fall? All the cases alongside Roe, guaranteed rights for anyone in any way outside theocratic-fascist lines. Gay rights, rights to gay marriage, equality, representation. Rights to contraception. And then, of course, “interracial” rights — the return of segregation.
The lunatics talk about this openly. They slaver over it. The hard right is ecstatic that Justice Thomas laid out an outline for America to become a theocratic-fascist state. But where is the center-left?
The vision the lunatics have for America is clear now. And it will not do to spend even one more second in denial about it. That vision culminates in taking every modern right away from everyone. In Clarence Thomas’s opinion, he writes: “In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, & Obergefell.” That’s contraception, same-sex relationships, and gay marriage, respectively. They are not even being subtle about their plans. This is plain to see.
No more gay rights. No more interracial marriage, or even relationships. No more teaching kids what a modern, free society is. Forced birthing for women. No more privacy in the bedroom, the living room, the cafe, anywhere. No more, no more, no more. All these things are to be criminalized, in the same that women’s rights have been criminalized.
Did your kid do something gay? Time to turn him in. Wait, was he reading the wrong book? I’m going to turn your whole family in. Was that man wearing something that could be gay? Wait, did you see those two — they’re not even the same race! Hold on — we need to check. Are you dating outside your race? Is your kid exhibiting homosexual tendencies? Is that song talking about being gay? Does that book say women should have rights? Did you use contraception? You’re a criminal. You can’t say that, express that, meet people who say that, talk about that, want that, think that. We’ll check. Want to ever leave the state? How about a random stop to check your phone for evidence of being gay, having sex outside marriage, using contraceptives, or having a relationship outside your race?
This is where it’s going. Stop the denial. Stop it. Jesus, for the love of all that’s holy, stop it. I know what a lot of you thought reading that last paragraph. Scary, but it can’t happen here. That’s also what you thought about Roe vs Wade, five, ten years ago. And now here we are. Stop the denial. The first thing that scholars and survivors of social collapse have to teach you is that it happens in a blitzkrieg — faster, harder, swifter than you think. Like an avalanche.
Stop the denial and understand that this is real, and no, they won’t stop at this. Their vision is totalitarian. They want a totalized society, where they have total control of bodies, thoughts, actions, interactions, relationships, and possibilities. They will not stop until they have that, because that is what fascism and theocracy both are — totalized visions of moral order. They won’t stop at this. They will go all the way.
You want to know how to fight them. There are so, so many ways. A party that genuinely wanted to fight for democracy? It’d lead a general strike, right now. It would bring the nation to a standstill, and demand that these rogue institutions be reformed. It would keep that strike going as long as necessary.
It would impeach and remove justices for lying under oath. That’s an obvious step to take. When public officials lie under oath, they are derelict in their most fundamental duty. Steps must be taken to remove them from the office. Not should, but must — because otherwise, anyone can say anything, contest any office, and nothing means anything anymore. It’s the basic, primary responsibility of a party to remove public officials who lie under oath — especially Supreme Court Justice. That should be happening, too.
And such a party would reform these broken institutions. It’d expand — aka “stack” — the court. Why should five people have that much power in a democracy — forever? It’d end lifetime tenure. It’d put in mechanisms of recourse for obviously undemocratic decisions. It would codify basic rights into law, and then go even further than that — it would draft a whole new constitutional amendment, to redouble just how inalienable basic rights like speech, freedom, association, expression, and movement really are.
It would spark a grassroots movement, because, remember, 80% of Americans don’t want this. It would unify people and lead them to organize themselves to challenge these corrupt, horrific, malign institutions, and restore optimism and faith in self-governance.
My point isn’t that the Democrats will do that. Quite the opposite. My point is to teach you that, yes, even in social collapse, it’s possible to fight for democracy. Countries do it all the time. But it takes more than what Americans know. It’s not about trending on Twitter or escaping into Marvel-Movie land. It’s about getting real. And demanding better. Should there be a general strike? Should justice who lie under oath be impeached and removed from office? Should broken institutions which are fundamentally undemocratic be reformed? Of course.
But Americans need to begin genuinely demanding all that. Not acting like it’s impossible, and then retreating into apathy, doom, gloom, and despair. They need to barrage their representative with messages, arrive at their offices, and demand it. The right-wing does it, don’t they? They do it so much and so well that they literally have little kits to organize pressure campaigns.
This is the development of an institution known as “the silent majority.” When that’s 80% of people, and they’ve grown so fatalistic, so hopeless, that they accept five people taking their most basic rights away — something is terribly wrong. It tells us that the party whose job it is to defend democracy has failed to galvanize them, teach them, to lead them.
And so the people must lead themselves. This is not a game. It’s not a drill, a joke, or some kind of childish fantasy. This is it.
This is the beginning of the end of democracy. It’s the endgame, and it’s almost checkmate. There’s still time for a few moves left. But Americans have to learn to make them, instead of sitting there, helpless, in despair. We are Americans, goddammit. We went to the moon and defeated the Nazis. Don’t tell me we can’t. That’s not who we are. We do it because we can. We had better begin remembering that, now — or else all really is lost.
(SideNote: I want to say something, as a woman. We knew this was going to happen. The draft was leaked. This wasn’t a surprise. And yet, the Dems did nothing. We went through the cycle of outrage, the Dems did some handwringing, and then… nothing. No strike, no action, no organizing, no mobilizing to prevent this from happening. If you want things to change, you have to be prepared to be relentless. I no longer see that spirit in Americans, except for the far right. They keep taking and taking from you — your rights, your livelihoods, your kids’ lives — and nothing ever changes. When will enough be enough? Will it ever? If not now, when half the population has had their rights taken away, when? Are we just going to sleepwalk into Gilead?
I don’t think men understand how it feels. To know that the government is inside your body. To know that your body is a political battleground, that is no longer your own. It is a violation. It is violent. And that is the point. To punish women for the “sin” of being sexually active. To put women in their place, to remind us that our bodies aren’t ours. They belong to men. To externalize costs to women, because that is what patriarchy is built on. So to me, I see the inaction that came after Roe, the way both left and right use us as pawns in a political game, as proof of just how much patriarchy hates women. And that’s how I really feel. I feel hated right now.
And I am furious. I am white hot with rage. I am furious at the far right, who dehumanize us and hate us. I am furious at the Dems, who did not care enough about us to codify Roe when they had the chance. I am furious at the inaction. To me, it says: that women weren’t worth the fight. I am furious that I have to explain to people that they won’t stop at abortion, that contraception is next, that America is going to become a country, save for a few liberal havens, where women are forced to become pregnant, and give birth. Like chattel. That’s what we are now. Again.
I am furious that I have to be furious. But that is a fact of life being a woman in patriarchy. We’ve fought and won the right to vote, to own property, to have our own bank accounts, to be seen as people, to be full members of society. But to do those things, we were relentless. We have to be again.
On this day, remember Gerri Santoro, bear witness to what happened to her. See the reality of it. Don’t hide from it. And say, “we won’t go back.”)
In a rare example of good news, Fox News is increasingly looking like they will be forced to explain their coverage of dominion voting systems and the election conspiracy theories they espoused on their network. In a ruling for the Delaware Superior Court, Judge Eric M. Davis ruled that the infamous right-wing network may have acted with “actual malice” in its reporting and that the defamation suit by Dominion Voting Systems against the network could proceed.
What Does This Mean?
Actual malice, as cited by the judge, is a direct reference to a legal precedent set by the Supreme Court in New York Times v. Sullivan (1964), a case in which the Court unanimously ruled that the New York Times was not guilty of libel. The Court reasoned that the petitioner, L.B. Sullivan, failed to show any intent to harm his reputation or any “reckless disregard” for whether or not what was written about him was true.
This standard established that unless public officials could show that the media outlets they were suing knew what they were printing was false or acted as though it didn’t matter, they couldn’t receive any damages. This standard is considered exceptionally high and rarely goes in the petitioner’s favor. However, Dominion’s suit might be the exception.
In the ruling for the Superior Court, Judge Davis cited news reports that Fox News staffers, particularly Rupert Murdoch himself, knew that many of the conspiracies that Fox broadcast on its platform were false. Namely, thanks to those reports suggesting that Murdoch denounced the idea that the election was stolen. Judge Davis further pointed to other Murdoch-owned press outlets debunking the 2020 election conspiracy theory, suggesting that Murdoch not only agreed with them but that he knew that Fox was lying.
With the case proceeding, it is increasingly likely that Fox will try to settle. Though it is not guaranteed. If Fox chooses to face the suit directly, they will face discovery, putting the right-wing network in an awkward and compromising position. If said discovery falls in support of Dominion, then Fox could be on the hook for a massive price of $1.6 billion if an alternative set of damages are not established.
While it is unlikely that a court would allow for such a massive cash prize for Dominion, any failure in this case outside of a pre-discovery settlement would prove disastrous for Fox’s reputation and its parent company, News Corps. Nor would it be unprecedented for right-wing news organizations to suffer due to their election coverage.
Newsmax, the infamous right-wing news organization, has faced similar issues as Fox, with the same judge rejecting the network’s attempt to throw out Dominion’s defamation suit against them. Putting the network in the exact same place as Fox. Former Trump lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani are all facing similar suits by Dominion and have also lost their motions to dismiss.
While it is unclear what will happen, the fact that a judge has suggested that actual malice has been present in not just one instance of right-wing media but in multiple cases sets a dangerous path forward for the right at large. It also incentivizes Dominion to pursue damages to the fullest extent possible. Unless Fox and its ilk can turn the case around soon, they are in for one hell of a ride. And I, for one, am looking forward to seeing where it will end.
“I’m trying to figure out how bleak the future of the planet is. I assure myself that, even if I’m a starving artist, at least I have thousands of dollars in my retirement fund that I’ve been saving up for the last 20 years. Now I’m worried that everything we always thought was true (that the stock market always goes up over time) may not be forever true. Is there a risk of the entire financial/banking system crashing anytime in our lifetime (or the next 20 years) so decades of savings just go up in smoke?”
What is “the opulence bubble”? “Opulence” is a formal term. Economists — the really good ones, and there are about maybe ten of us left in the world at this point — use it to mean “things we don’t really need.” Or “things made with hidden costs.”
Just think of opulence as…the American lifestyle. When we live in the States, it’s in an affluent little neighborhood in a wealthy coastal town. Every house, is big. Air conditioned to the max. The neighbors used to have three cars, now they have four, maybe five. You need these things just to survive, many of them, in the States, because, of course, there are no real public goods. Good luck getting anywhere without a car.
That’s opulence. But there’s a lot more to it than that, too.
What is our “way of life” — meaning our economy, really — based on? An educated person will say “hydrocarbons.” And that’s true. Simpler minds read statistics about clean energy and whatnot and think we’re going to make it. The damning truth, as Vaclav Smil has tirelessly pointed out, is that the basic building blocks of our civilization — glass, steel, fertilizer, cement — all come from fossil fuels. We literally don’t know how to make these things without fossil fuels. But without those things — what exists of us? No factories. No dams. No food, water, energy, or buildings. Nothing. We go back to the Iron Age.
Nobody much seems to understand this point, because our media does a terrible job of educating people.
Now. Is our civilization “based on hydrocarbons?” Yes, but it’s much worse than that. There’s a truer truth here. Our civilization is based on externalizing the costs of hydrocarbons. What does that mean?
Well, just look around. What are the skies full of? Hydrocarbons. The ocean? Plastic — carbon. What’s all that doing? Melting the ice sheets. Destroying major, planetary ecology, one after the other, from the Amazon to the great currents in the seas. Raising the temperature. To levels not seen for millions of years. Are we walking naked apes? We’ve only been around for 300,000.
What is our civilization really based on? It’s a bubble. The bubble works like this. Having had an industrial revolution, we extract stuff from the earth, and all that extraction begins with hydrocarbons, which are our primary energy source. We use all that extraction to manufacture stuff. What stuff? All the stuff. That we take for granted. The stuff of our everyday lives.
Let me give you an example. Think of a broom. A broom used to be something made of wood and straw, in local factories. Now? They’re made in China, of plastic. Hydrocarbons. Everyone has one, two, five.
How much does the broom cost? I don’t know, $5 — and it doesn’t matter. Because the truth is that the true costs of the broom are way, way higher than that $5. They include the carbon emitted in manufacturing, the production, the distribution, and the waste. All the ways that carbon then goes on to kill off trees and animals — like birds dropping dead from the skies. Goes on to melt ice sheets and raise the temperature to the point of…
See why I called it a “bubble?” What I was trying to teach my peers was that we were not paying the true costs of the stuff of our civilization. We were just kicking the can down the road. But someone would have to pay those costs, in some way.
There were two ways that those “negative externalities” — hidden costs — would have to be resolved and only two ways. One, we’d have to clean up. We’d have to decarbonize the skies and unpolluted the oceans and learn to revive the planet’s dying ecologies — because all of those things provide us air, water, medicine, food, life. Or, two, they’d die off, and we’d pay the price in self-destruction.
Which one of those two options appears to be occurring right now? The self-destruction one.
We’ve spent centuries at this point being an industrial civilization. Extracting and manufacturing steel, glass, cement, plastic, fertilizer — choose a basic raw material, input, thing — with hydrocarbons. All those inputs become the stuff of our everyday lives. Everything from sugar and wheat and coffee — made with fertilizer — to buildings and electronics and household goods made with the rest of it. We’ve mastered this art, taken it to the limit. We can literally tear holes in the planet looking for yet more gas and oil to an incredibly sophisticated degree.
But. That whole time? All those centuries? We haven’t been paying the hidden costs. And so…well…our planet is now dying.
Extinction. You can literally see it happening now. I told you the story about the little girl who asks where the monster that’s killing all the birds is. How much longer is the American West going to be habitable? What happens when the water runs out here or there? When do the energy grids begin to fail? The harvests? They’re already failing.
What happens when you don’t pay a debt? Interest accrues, right? There’s a kind of interest at work here, too. We’ve spent centuries not paying off this debt, the debt of injuring the planet. Now the earth is mortally wounded.
See all that inflation around? What’s it really about? Second and third-rate economists — and there are a lot of them — crow, again and again, about the “pandemic ending.” It’s tiresome. Hello, we’re in the middle of another wave. It’s not over.
What was Covid? A fluke? Of course not. It was part of a pattern — SARS, MERS, Covid. Temperature rising. Habitable land decreasing. Animals and humans rubbing shoulders uncomfortably. Zoonotic flow — transmission of biomaterial between species — skyrocketing. Covid was just part of a trend. That trend is predicted to accelerate. Guess what happens as humans and animals both flee to highlands, as the earth scorches, looking for water, food, and relief from the killing heat? More pandemics. Not my guess — a scientific fact.
Pandemics? They’re part of extinction. Now think of how just one pandemic has brought our world economy to its knees. It’s not going to be the last one.
What were the effects of the pandemic? Well, Covid basically shut everything down — and then billionaires used it to profiteer since people suddenly couldn’t get the basics. That’s a tiny window into the future. Inequality skyrockets. The rich make out like bandits. The powerless and vulnerable begin to die — just like they are, of heat, even in rich nations, in rich cities, like Phoenix. Nobody’s rising from the ashes of extinction but the devil.
Shortages and inflation. What are they really about? The second and third-rate economists and analysts — the kinds you hear on CNBC or whatnot — will tell you it’s about some sudden spike in “demand.” LOL — who are they kidding? At this point, we have four solid generations experiencing catastrophic downward mobility. Gen X did way worse than Boomers, and it was still kind of funny, then Millennials did worse than Gen X, then Zoomers did worse than Millennials — and now it’s not funny, it’s shocking and tragic. Next come two generations we haven’t named yet, and they have no economic prospects whatsoever. None. Zoomers and millennials can’t afford houses and families. The two generations coming after them are going to be poorer than that.
There’s no sudden spike in “demand.” Quite the opposite. We are suddenly, rapidly growing dramatically and catastrophically poorer. Because we cannot supply the basics anymore. Suddenly, opulence has caught up with us.
Want to know why inflation’s really soaring — and shortages are becoming endemic? Because harvests around the globe are failing. For everything. Sugar, coffee, wheat. Commodities are soaring in price as a result — which is what we grossly call the planet’s natural bounty. What happens when a planet begins to die? Suddenly, it can’t provide anymore, at the same level, at the same rate. And prices skyrocket because supply goes into shock.
That is the real problem we face.
The opulence bubble is imploding now, all around us. Our civilization’s economy is failing — all of it. How long does it take to get a new Mac? Months. Shortages? Everything from tampons to baby formula to flights. Next up come energy, food, water, and medicine.
This isn’t a joke. It’s not a drill. This is the end of a chapter in human history.
The opulence bubble is popping — and it’s the greatest bubble in human history. It’s the bubble of an industrial economy pretending it could go on forever, injuring the planet, taking without giving, and the planet wouldn’t convulse in death spasms.
The bubble is popping. The planet can’t supply us anymore with the things we’re used to — especially not in the same abusive ways — and so we are now growing dramatically, rapidly poorer.
Is any of that making sense? Let me tell you why I ask. When I came up with this idea — and I wasn’t hardly the first, I was young. Really young. In my early 30s. I stood on the shoulders of elders — Partha Dasgupta, Amartya Sen, Herman Daly, and many more. But I was proud of my idea. I used to feel really strongly about it. I use to feel like I’d solved something when I came up with this idea. But you know how it goes for people like us. We’re the Cassandras, the different ones. And so almost every single one of my colleagues and peers — we were much younger then — turned on me, columnists and writers and economists and so forth. So I stopped writing about it for a very long time.
They thought I was saying all this to scare people. Some of them still do. They don’t understand — still don’t — that I’m the one with family in the hottest city on earth. With little cousins asking me where the monster that’s killing all the birds is. I inherit the burden of the wretched of the earth, man, because, well, where do you think I come from? I’m not trying to scare you. I never was. I’m just trying to warn you.
This is extinction. It’s not a game. It’s not a joke. It’s not a drill. This is the real thing.
What happens next? This does. When I say “our entire industrial economy was a bubble, and now it’s popping,” I’m not kidding. Do you think the harvests are magically going to come back to life? The rivers suddenly flow again? The animals resurrect themselves and frolic joyfully in the sunshine again?
None of that is going to happen. And so the future, economically, at least, is more of this. Accelerating. Faster and faster. Right on into oblivion. Shortages, inflation, uncertainty — all of which are really just part of the same thing: a civilization growing dramatically poorer, because it can’t supply itself with basics anymore, because it killed its planet.
I’m not trying to scare you. I’m warning you. How do you prepare for all this? You find a place to live. Harden it. Power it sustainably. Make sure it has a water source. In a temperate place. Surrounded by life, which has a chance of going on. You find a community that values life. You start or shift to a career in which you fight. To save what’s left of all this. Life and civilization. You love, as desperately and fiercely as you can. You grieve, every single day, for all those countless billions of lives, gone, in the wink of an eye. Extinction.
You grow and develop and mature into the kind of person who is better than all this. Just being a hyper predator killing a planet. You become.
Let me ask you a question. None of this is really about economics. It’s about who we are. What our relationship with time and being and life are. So let’s just get to it.
Do you think it’s possible to hurt God? I mean it in a secular way. The Universe. Can God be hurt? Or was Nietzsche right — God’s dead, good and evil don’t exist, and nothing but power matters?
What do you really think? Me? Here’s what I see. The light of a soul burns in every one of us. You know it and I know it. I don’t think you have to be religious to really know that much. Why else do we listen to music? Read poetry? Weep and laugh and sing and hold each other so desperately the second the night falls? Have little pets? Just look into a tiny thing’s eyes. See the way an ocean murmurs. You’ve heard the universe whispering the truth of it all to you. Over and over again. All this is alive, just like you. You are part of this, too. You are a child of stardust and time. Death holds you like a friend. All this is called “the universe.” It’s not out there, it’s in here. In each of us. We all know it, even if we pretend we don’t. I know we know it every time I see someone smile at my little puppy.
This is all there is. This is all there is. Just this. Life. In this beautiful and connected and timeless way. Each breath is every breath. In one eye, all reflections are beheld. Every moment is eternal, and each one is, as Camus said, the Last Judgment.
So let me ask you again. Is it possible to hurt God? As in “the universe.” Me? I think that’s what we’re doing. I think the universe is wounded. By us. I think it’s recoiling in pain. I can feel it these days. Am I the crazy one?
It is waiting for us to learn something. To mature into grace and truth. Or continue on, down the road of lost souls.
The road to extinction.
*Save up. Put the money somewhere safe. Invest a little bit every month in something real, a company you value, a home, things that keep their value, made with love and care, education, and people. Build systems of care for yourself and those you love. Don’t spend much, even if it feels like money’s losing its value. Sock it away. And think about all the above. Because it’s not just about money. It’s about life.
Ever since that fateful day in November of 2016, as the results were coming in and the numbers kept going up and up for the Republican candidate that had his whole life handed to him, never having to work hard or break a sweat (okay, maybe walking up the stairs) won the presidency, I felt a sick feeling growing in my stomach. I was at a friend’s apartment at an election party, I had to excuse myself because as the results became apparent I became physically ill and went outside into that cool, crisp November night hoping that it would help, I was suddenly overtaken by the need to water a bush and was shortly reintroduced to my dinner that I had eaten not that long before.
I dreaded the direction of this country, and I have been right to be afraid, for myself and for my fellow women. Fortunately, I live in a state with some common sense, to protect the women, but ever since that November and even before that I feared such a thing was going to happen, I believe that if any male doesn’t want to fight for this should be forced to have to experience what a woman goes through every month – a period or as I like to name it so aptly – Shark Week – you are welcome to use it, and then following that experience what its like to go through all nine months of pregnancy including labor and childbirth, guess what would happen real quick – Roe v Wade would be signed into law– immediately.
Reading the leaked draft of a majority opinion authored by Supreme Court justice Samuel Alito strongly suggests that the court will rule to overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. These two landmark cases have upheld the right to an abortion nationwide for the last half century. If the final ruling largely follows what is sketched out in the leaked draft, abortion services will be drastically curtailed, if not outright banned, in over half the country.
Abortion is often framed as a “culture war” issue, distinct from material “bread and butter” economic issues. In reality, abortion rights and economic progress are deeply interconnected, and the imminent loss of abortion rights means the loss of economic security, independence, and mobility for millions of women. The fall of Roe will be an additional economic blow, as women in the 26 states likely to ban abortion already face an economic landscape of lower wages, worker power, and access to health care.
Women’s economic lives, livelihoods, and mobility are at the heart of the reasoning to overrule Roe.
In the draft majority opinion, Justice Alito dismissed the argument in Casey that women had organized their lives, relationships, and careers with the availability of abortions services, writing “that form of reliance depends on an empirical question that is hard for anyone—and in particular, for a court—to assess, namely the effect of the abortion right on society and in particular on the lives of women.” In fact, this empirical question has been definitively assessed and answered. A rich and rigorous social science literature has examined both the detrimental effect of a denied abortion on women’s lives, as well as the individual and societal economic benefits of abortion legalization, as detailed in the thorough amicus brief filed in Dobbs on behalf of over 100 economists.
Some of the economic consequences of being denied an abortion include a higher chance of being in poverty even four years after; a lower likelihood of being employed full time; and an increase in unpaid debts and financial distress lasting years. Laws that restrict abortion providers, so-called “TRAP” laws (targeted regulation of abortion providers), have led to women in those states being less likely to move into higher-paying occupations.
On the flip side, environments in which abortion is legal and accessible have lower rates of teen first births and marriages. Abortion legalization has also been associated with reduced maternal mortality for Black women. The ability to delay having a child has been found to translate to significantly increased wages and labor earnings, especially among Black women, as well as an increased likelihood of educational attainment. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen concluded that “eliminating the rights of women to make decisions about when and whether to have children would have very damaging effects on the economy and would set women back decades.”
The draft opinion of this overtly partisan Supreme Court ignores the rigorous data and empirical studies demonstrating the significant economic consequences of this decision. In doing so, it lays bare the cruel and misogynistic politics that motivate it. Justice Alito’s dismissal of claims that forcing women to bear an unwanted pregnancy imposes a heavy burden is shockingly glib, as he simply asserts “that federal and state laws ban discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, that leave for pregnancy and childbirth are now guaranteed by law in many cases, that the costs of medical care associated with pregnancy are covered by insurance or government assistance….”
Every statement in this casual litany is wildly misleading. Women are still routinely fired for being pregnant, close to 9 in 10 workers lackedpaid leave in 2020, the costs of maternity care with insurance have risen sharply and constitute a serious economic burden for even middle-income families. And many of the states certain or likely to ban abortion after the fall of Roe have not expanded Medicaid, leaving women without insurance facing much steeper costs—particularly in the immediate post-partum period. And, of course, our failed health care system often imposes the ultimate cost of all on pregnant women: The U.S. rate of maternal mortality, especially for Black women, ranks last among similarly wealthy countries. In short, the potential costs of bearing a child are high indeed, and it is women who should decide if and when they wish to shoulder them.
Recognizing that abortion is an economic issue is an important step in building support for protecting women’s right of access. But this recognition also allows us to see the potential fall of Roe v. Wade as a key piece in a broader politics and economics of control. Twenty-six states currently have laws or constitutional amendments on their books that ban abortion. If Roe is declared overruled, these bans will go into effect. Low- and middle-income women, especially Black and Brown women, will bear the brunt of the impact. Many of the states with preexisting abortion bans held at bay by Roe are also states that have created an economic policy architecture of low wages, barely functional or funded public services, at-will employment, and no paid leave or parental support. In these states, the denial of abortion services is one more piece in a sustained project of economic subjugation and disempowerment.
26 states have “trigger bans” that will set in immediately after the SCOTUS decision, pre-Roe bans or extreme limits, and likely bans. If a state is a so-called “right-to-work” state that makes it harder for workers to collectively bargain and unionize, whether the state has expanded Medicaid and the rate of incarceration per 100,000 people in that state. While wages and access to health care (through Medicaid) are relatively obvious measures of well-being, so-called “right-to-work” laws are also useful to look at as worker power and unionization also have strong connections to economic, social, and physical health. Mass incarceration and the criminal justice system are also deeply intertwined with racial and economic inequality, from the impact of a criminal record on employment and earnings to the intergenerational effects on families and communities.
It is no coincidence that the states that will ban abortion first are also largely the states with the lowest minimum wages, states less likely to have expanded Medicaid, states more likely to be anti-union “Right-to-Work” states, and states with higher-than-average incarceration rates. For example, among the states which will ban abortion, the average minimum wage is $8.39, compared with $11.48 in the states that have abortion access. Similarly, 10 of the 26 anti-abortion states have not expanded Medicaid, and all but two of the states are anti-union “right-to-work” states. While the nationwide rate of incarceration is 419 per 100,000 people, in the 26 anti-abortion states the average incarceration rate is 439 per 100,000 people, compared with 272 for the states without abortion restrictions. The consequences of low wages and lack of access to health care, including abortion services, falls especially hard on Black women in many of these states. There is a long history of racism motivating political organization, like the rise of “right-to-work” legislation in the Jim Crow south, or the complicated combination of anti-abortion politics and backlash against desegregation efforts during the political realignment of the 1970s.
Policymakers and advocates must recognize that the fall of Roe is an economic issue and would be one more victory for the economics of control and disempowerment—low wages, little worker power, and rising disinvestment. Reproductive justice is key to economic justice and protects women’s humanity, dignity, and the right to exert freedom over their own choices in the economy.
From the NY Times:
The United States now joins a very small group of countries that have tightened abortion laws in recent years, as opposed to loosening them. Three countries have done so since 1994: Poland, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. In that period, 59 countries have expanded access, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.
Under Roe, the United States has been unusual in allowing abortion for any reason until around 23 weeks. Yet in many countries with earlier cutoffs, abortion is allowed for a wide variety of reasons.
From The Guardian:
The supreme court just overturned the landmark Roe v Wade case, which granted women in the US the right to terminate a pregnancy. A reversal of this magnitude is almost unprecedented, particularly on a case decided nearly 50 years ago.
The extraordinarily rare move will allow more than half of states to ban abortion, with an immediate and enduring impact on tens of millions of Americans.
The court decided there is no constitutional right to abortion in a case called Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization. In reaching that decision, the conservative-majority court overturned Roe v Wade, from 1973.
Historically, the court has overturned cases to grant more rights. The court has done the opposite here, and its decision will restrict a constitutional right generations of Americans have grown up taking for granted.
As a result of the reversal, states will again be permitted to ban or severely restrict abortion, changes that will indelibly alter the national understanding of liberty, self-determination, and personal autonomy.
Twenty-six states are expected to do so immediately, or as soon as practicable. This will make abortion illegal across most of the south and midwest.
In these states, women and other people who can become pregnant will need to either travel hundreds of miles to reach an abortion provider or self-manage abortions at home through medication or other means.
However, anti-abortion laws are not national. The US will have a patchwork of laws, including restrictions and protections, because some Democratic-led states such as California and New York expanded reproductive rights in the run-up to the decision.
Even so, new abortion bans will make the US one of just four nations to roll back abortion rights since 1994, and by far the wealthiest and most influential nation to do so. The other three nations to curtail abortion rights are Poland, El Salvador and Nicaragua, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights. More than half (58%) of all US women of reproductive age – or 40 million people – live in states hostile to abortion.
Across most states, this will happen quickly. Thirteen states have abortion bans “triggered” by a reversal of Roe v Wade, though the laws vary in their enforcement dates. Louisiana, for example, has a trigger law that is supposed to take effect immediately. Idaho has a trigger ban that goes into effect in 30 days.
Other states have abortion bans that pre-date the Roe decision, but have been unenforceable in the last five decades. Michigan has a pre-Roe ban that is currently the subject of a court challenge.
A final group of states intends to ban abortion very early in pregnancy, often before women know they are pregnant. One such state is Georgia, where abortion will be banned at six weeks. Several states, such as Texas, have multiple bans in place.
In many cases, court challenges under state constitutions are likely, and experts believe there will be chaos for days or weeks as states implement bans.
Can the federal government stop this?
The most effective protection against state abortion bans is a federal law, which would precede the states. Public opinion favors such statute – 85% of Americans believe abortion should be legal in most or all circumstances.
Such a law would need the majority support of the House of Representatives, a 60-vote majority in the Senate, and a signature from Joe Biden to pass. A majority of members of the House of Representatives support an abortion rights statute, as does the White House.
However, Republicans are almost certain to block abortion rights laws in the Senate, which is evenly split with Democrats. One Democratic senator, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, has repeatedly crossed party lines to vote against abortion rights. That leaves just 49 Democrats, far short of the support needed to pass such a measure.
To overcome the evenly split Senate, Democrats would need to win landslide victories in the upcoming midterm elections. However, despite the fact that popular opinion favors abortion rights, it is unclear how the midterms could be swayed by the issue.
And, regardless of the outcome of the next election, Dobbs will forever change life in the US. The lives of individuals will be irrevocably altered as people are denied reproductive healthcare, face long journeys or are forced to give birth.
Not Just A Social Issue But An Economic One, As Well
No matter which side of the Roe v. Wade debate you lean towards, it’s clear from the data that abortion access is not only a social issue but also an economic issue.
Women in the workforce are essential to our economy. Caregivers are essential to our economy. Overturning Roe v. Wadecan impact women’s ability to take care of themselves and the children they have now or in the future. Approximately 60% of women in the U.S. who have abortions are already mothers, and approximately one-third of women seeking an abortion say their reason for wanting to terminate the pregnancy is to care for children they already have, according to a study in the Journal of Pediatrics.
“This is an issue that affects women’s own decision-making about their lives and their families,” says Diana Greene Foster, PhD, professor at the University of California San Francisco and lead author of the landmark Turnaway Study, which examines the effects of unwanted pregnancies on women’s lives. “It’s not irresponsible people who are in this situation; it is people who are trying to make a responsible decision to take care of themselves and their kids. When we take that decision away from people and instead let the government decide when they have a baby, their outcomes are worse. The ramifications are just humongous not only for that individual, but for her family. We’re talking about overriding people’s own life course and family decisions.”
The leaked draft opinion states, “Americans who believe abortion should be restricted press countervailing arguments about modern developments. They note that attitudes about the pregnancy of unmarried women have changed drastically; that federal and state laws ban discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, that leave for pregnancy and childbirth are now guaranteed by law in many cases, and that the costs of medical care associated with pregnancy are covered by insurance or government assistance…”
Caitlin Myers, professor of economics at Middlebury College and who, along with more than 150 other economists, filed an amicus brief to highlight the impacts of abortion legalization in the U.S. and model what would happen if Roe v. Wade was overturned, says, “There is a mountain of rigorous evidence on these questions, so it is completely unsupportable for the court to say, ‘We don’t have any way to know if this is going to impact anybody.’ Mississippi in their argument is basically telling us we have all these policy advances that now make it possible for people to balance parenthood and work with little sacrifice. I don’t even know why you need an economist to tell you that argument is wrong. If you know any working parents, you know they struggle with that balance. There shouldn’t be any disagreement that the American economy is especially challenging for working mothers. We should be able to acknowledge that as a fact.”
Here are some ways that the research illustrates how overturning Roe v. Wade could impact the economy, and society at large.
Decreased workforce participation. When a larger number of the population are employed, their paychecks mean more money to spend on food, clothing, entertainment, and goods that in turn increase demand and help fuel the GDP. It’s clear that parental status has an impact on women’s labor force participation. For example, the fact that women continue to shoulder the majority of caregiving duties may be a contributing factor prompting 43% of highly-qualified working mothers to leave their careers at some point, according to the Harvard Business Review. The financial implications are big: Women lose an average of 18% of their earning power when they take an off-ramp and 37% of their earning power when they spend three or more years out of the workforce.
There is also research showing the specific impact of abortion access for women in the workforce: The amicus brief filed by economists found abortion had a bigger impact on women’s labor force participation than birth control, leading to increased wages, especially for Black women. Women who were unable to get an abortion were three times more likely to be unemployed after six months as compared with women who were able to get an abortion, according to the American Journal of Public Health.
“For people who are denied abortions, we see an immediate drop in full-time employment. Yes, public assistance goes up, but it’s not enough to mitigate the loss of employment income, because public assistance isn’t enough to support a family,” says Dr. Foster. “Some people aren’t eligible because of the number of kids they’ve already had or they time out. You can see higher levels of food stamps for people who are denied abortions. Another metric we ask people is whether they have enough money for basic living needs. We see that people who are denied abortions are more likely to report they don’t have enough money, and it lasts for the whole five years that we studied people.”
The Turnaway Study from the University of California San Francisco was a research project following 1,000 women for five years with unwanted pregnancies, some who were able to have abortions and others who were turned away from the procedure. A 24-year old woman quoted in the Turnaway Study shared, “Pregnancy definitely has a negative impact on people’s financial well-being. Because it is very, very difficult to find a job when you’re pregnant, to keep a job when you’re pregnant, and to find or maintain a job with a baby, especially if your partner is a [explicit] and doesn’t want to help. So, I think that on that end, the incidence of domestic violence skyrockets, because you’re financially dependent on your partner because you have to be home with the kid.”
If state-wide abortion restrictions were eliminated, an estimated 505,000 more women aged 15 to 44 would be in the labor force who would earn over $3 billion dollars annually, and already-employed women would earn $101.8 billion more—helping to fuel the state’s economy, according to an Institute For Women’s Policy Research report.
Decreased earning potential. While younger women may be closing the wage gap in some major cities, any gains made diminish once they have children when women’s wages drop due in part to bias, discrimination, and lack of support infrastructure. The most recent data from the National Women’s Law Center shows mothers working full-time, year-round outside the home are paid 75 cents for every dollar paid to fathers. The gap widens based on race and ethnicity: Latina mothers are paid 46 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic fathers; Native American mothers are paid 50 cents; Black mothers are paid 52 cents; and white, non-Hispanic mothers are paid 71 cents.
“What we see right now, just like in the 70s, is that childbearing is the single biggest explanatory factor for gender gaps in economic outcomes,” says Myers. “If you look at data on men and women’s earnings, for instance, they tend to be pretty similar up until the point that they become parents. That’s when men’s earnings are not impacted or even increase slightly, but for women, it falls off a cliff and it is a permanent shock.”
Moreover, safe and affordable childcare is key for enabling women to stay in the workforce, but childcare costs have increased 41% during the pandemic. Parents now spend an average of $14,117 annually on center-based childcare providers, finds a LendingTree report.
The Turnaway Study research found that women denied an abortion who had to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term had four times greater odds of living below the Federal Poverty Level. It also found that being denied an abortion lowered a woman’s credit score, increased a woman’s amount of debt and increased the number of their negative public financial records, such as bankruptcies and evictions. New research from SSNR finds that abortion restrictions could further push women out of the workforce or impact them in terms of taking lower-paying jobs.
Negative impact on children’s financial wellbeing. A lack of abortion access can not only impact women, but also the financial wellbeing of their children. The Turnaway Study found children born as a result of women’s being denied abortion procedures are more likely to live below the federal poverty level than children born from a subsequent pregnancy to women who received the abortion.
“The research on women unable to get an abortion shows that existing kids are more likely to be living in poverty, more likely to be living in a home without enough money for basic living needs and are also less likely to achieve developmental gross motor, fine motor, language and social emotional milestones,” says Dr. Foster.
Negative impact on equality. Access to abortion can impact gender and racial equality by enabling women to choose when to become parents, and therefore have greater control over their education, careers, and economic security. The amicus brief reported that legalized abortion reduced teen motherhood by 34% and reduced teen marriage by 20%. For Black women, who have a higher rate of maternal mortality, the estimated reduction in the birth rate was two to three times greater than that for white women, and Black women also experienced a 28 to 40% decline in maternal mortality due to the legalization. In addition, the brief reports a 22 to 24% increase in the probability that Black teenage women graduated high school and a 23 to 27% increase in their probability of attending college.
“People who seek abortions are disproportionately people of color, so it’s already hitting a population that tends to be systemically disadvantaged,” says Dr. Foster. “If Roe v. Wade is overturned, the most economically privileged among people who become pregnant will be able to get abortions, and the least privileged will not. It will exacerbate these health disparities, these economic disparities, and these racial disparities.”
Should Roe v. Wade be overturned, women seeking abortions in states without access will have to travel to states where it is legal—requiring money, time off of work, and childcare for existing children. “If we’re talking about a scenario in which half the states ban abortion and half the states don’t, we are returning to a world where women with means will continue to get abortions and poor women will be prevented from doing so,” says Myers. “The women who will be most affected are young women, women of color, poor women, and particularly those living in urban areas in the deep South and the Midwest.”
In the U.S., caregiving has been treated as an individual responsibility, largely falling on women to provide paid and unpaid care, with a shortage of affordable childcare options and lack of a national paid parental leave that have served as barriers for women staying in the workforce, rising up into top leadership positions, and achieving economic equality. “If people were sincere about being pro-life and pro-child, they would start with fixing all the social safety nets for low-income families and families with disabled kids. They would not start by making people have kids that they can’t afford and can’t support,” says Dr. Foster
What Happens Next???
Newsweek spoke with Doron Kalir, a clinical professor of law at Cleveland State University whose scholarship has focused on topics such as statutory interpretation and federal courts, to answer some of those questions.
I think there are three steps that we’re about to see gradually. The first is that 28 states already have trigger laws in the making or already on the books, just awaiting the day in which the court will indeed confirm that this draft opinion is the majority opinion of the Supreme Court. On that day, 28 state laws will spring into action and we’ll have different levels of restrictions, but basically, it will eliminate the right to abortion across those states.
The second stage will be the fight for personhood. That will be the notion that the unborn life is a person under the Constitution and therefore should receive all the protections under the 14th amendment and otherwise. That will turn the act of abortion actually into active murder, and that will criminalize abortion. So, from a Constitutional affirmative right, the act of abortion will turn into a negative criminal activity.
Finally, I think that the final goal would be a federal ban on abortion. So, instead of what we’re talking about now, which is a federal acknowledgment or reaffirming of Roe v. Wade, the third stage of overruling Roe v. Wade after acknowledging personhood would be a federal ban on abortions across all 50 states, which is the opposite of what we have now.
Presumably, under a Republican-controlled Congress and a Republican president. Not now of course, but in years to come. That will be one of the major policy and talking points that are already in the making if you’re reading or listening to that kind of talk radio.
So, we will have a federal prohibition across all 50 states, which, again, would negate even this opinion by the Supreme Court, which is extremely, extremely unusual in that it allows most of the states to restrict abortion. Some states actually have confronted that with countermeasures, affirming the right to abortion and welcoming people from other states to do so. But a federal ban on abortion, if it arrives, and I hope it won’t, will prohibit that as well. We’re really looking at a series of steps that only begins with the decision of today.
If Roe v. Wade is overturned, do you expect more states to move to restrict abortion rights?
I think that it’s a great talking point and it seems to be a good selling point for many nominees in red states. I think that, very interestingly, the next issue on the ballot or on the agenda is to restrict not only the right to an abortion in their own states but to attempt to dissuade people from traveling to other states to gain an abortion.
The restriction in Texas is temporary in that it is enforced by vigilantes because they knew that the state officials cannot enforce that ban simply because, on the books, there was a constitutional right for an abortion. So, once a state official would have enforced that ban, you could have gone to court and issued an injunction against them. This whole scheme that they built — that people would tell on each other — was designed to bypass this restriction on state officials to enforce an abortion. No such restriction will happen the day the Supreme Court will affirm this [draft] opinion, and therefore I really expect that Texas will have a complete ban on abortion.
In terms of whether it will be a nuanced ban starting at 15 weeks like the Mississippi law at issue or an outright restriction, including no exception for rape and incest — which I must stress is horrific — I think that the states will start to do what is called a race to the bottom where each governor from a conservative state will claim that he is the one that restricts the most. Very soon, that race to the bottom will end with a complete restriction in almost every red state on the entirety of abortion from the beginning with no exceptions, which, of course, is almost dystopian. I mean, we’re talking about it as if that’s what’s going to happen, but as we are standing today in 2022, the United States is literally looking at going backward 50 years in terms of women’s rights, in terms of human rights, in terms of equality, in terms of progress. But if you’re asking me what the states will do, they will race to the bottom. Each conservative [state] House and governor will declare that they are the ones that are more restrictive than others, and so they will have to compete. Very quickly, it will devolve into a complete restriction in every red state.
The way this Supreme Court opinion is written currently, and Justice Alito referred to that, the federal test in order to validate those restrictions would be a rational basis test, which is literal speak to “anything goes.” When you have a rational test, that means that the state can declare almost any rationale at once. As long as that rational basis can stand the smell test, it’s fine. Women’s health, interstate commerce, anything that the state comes up with, unless proven to be wrong and that it’s almost an impossibility legally, the court will allow such legitimate state interests to survive. Therefore, there will be really no recourse.
There are talks right now about a current reaffirmation of Roe via Congress. That’s a pie in the sky. Not even all the Democrats are united in terms of abolishing the procedural means that will prevent them from doing that. So, since Congress is not going to enact the right to an abortion federally, state laws will be free to enact their own, and then there’s really no recourse legally, to do so. Maybe in 10 years, in 15 years, maybe in 30 years, the Supreme Court personnel will again be replaced and new justices will think that it wasn’t such a bad idea to protect women’s rights. Maybe then we will restore Roe v. Wade, and then all those state laws again will be put on the shelf until a conservative majority again takes control of the court.
I wanted to suggest that the right to travel is a right that exists on the book, but for many women in this country — those who can’t leave their job or two jobs for the few days that they would require in order to travel and don’t have the means to do it, and maybe would have to leave a kid at home —it’s simply an impossibility even under the best circumstances. Think of traveling from a state like Texas, which is huge, even to neighboring states. This is truly unfortunate that even under the best circumstances, many women in this country would not be able to travel to the nearest abortion clinic, which may not be near at all. But even that, Missouri and other states say, is not good enough because they may sue you if you are going to go to another state. Their rationale, just to explain it, is that: “We wouldn’t allow you to go to another state to steal or to murder someone. Therefore, we would not allow you to go and commit that crime.” But it’s absolutely not a crime to have an abortion. In fact, as we speak here today, it’s still a constitutional right.
If it goes to the states, it means that it is allowed in certain states. Therefore, I really cannot understand the rationale of those who would say: “If you move across state lines, we will sue you.” The means to enforce [travel restrictions] is both statewide and in terms of vigilantes, meaning people will tell on other people, on their neighbors. “I know she went to the next state over and returned after having an abortion.” And they will be allowed to sue them in court. If you’re asking me how courts would decide in those cases, it’s anyone’s guess. I would suggest that the lower courts would protect women’s rights to travel across state lines because this is the controlling United States Supreme Court precedent and common sense. But if you’re asking me what would happen when this case eventually arrives again at the hands of Justice Alito, I cannot say. I would probably say that he would write: “When we said that there was a right to travel, we never intended that that would be the right to travel in order to commit something that we just declared so wrong.”
Some have voiced concerns that the overturning of Roe v. Wade could put other landmark decisions or precedents like same-sex marriage and contraception on the line as well. What do you think is the likelihood that overturning Roe could lead to other freedoms like these being imperiled?
I think the answer to that, and my hair stands as I’m saying it, is absolute yes. Perhaps the most frightening thing about this opinion, and there are many, is the ease with which Justice Alito waives his magic wand and strikes out 50 years of established jurisprudence. Many a justice on the Supreme Court did not feel religious, or perhaps even morally, that abortion is the right thing to do. Yet they knew well to separate their moral convictions and religious beliefs from the law of the land. This is no longer the case. We have a majority on the Supreme Court that is exceptionally religious. Five out of the six are Catholic, and they believe that their religious beliefs and their moral convictions should dictate the law of the land. With a stroke of a pen, they can reverse 50 years of jurisprudence that suggests that women have the right of autonomy over their own bodies.
We’ll have to see if this is the Supreme Court majority opinion, but I think that that strikes a blow at the heart of the entire edifice of progress in this country and may lead us back decades, if not centuries.
I feel that uncomfortable feeling in my stomach again after writing this. Thank you for reading and please feel free to comment if you have any suggestions on what you would like to see please let me know in the comments.
You can tell a lot about a person by the company they keep.
Whether it’s their close friends or the ideological company with which they cavort.
Or those whom they favorably quote.
Consider Justice Samuel Alito, who, in his recently leaked draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, made it clear whose authority he believes we should rely upon for assessing the legitimacy of abortion.
Sir Matthew Hale, a 17th-century English Judge.
In his decision — in which he says the Court misinterpreted history when they legalized abortion in 1973 — Alito references Hale, who insisted that abortion was a “great crime.”
Even though Hale wasn’t an American judge whose meanderings might be seen as a matter of national importance, Alito insists his views are relevant.
Why? Because they speak to the common law tradition to which we should be largely bound and from which he believes Roe grievously deviated.
And he says this even though no state outlawed abortion for the first century of the nation’s existence, despite that common law history.
In other words, the founders didn’t give a damn about Judge Hale.
But according to Alito, Hale is the authority to whom we should look for guidance here.
This tells us a lot about Samuel Alito and the thinking of the anti-abortion right-wing.
Because Sir Matthew Hale wasn’t merely a jurist who viewed abortion as a horrible offense.
After all, if you believe abortion is murder and that embryonic and fetal life is morally equal to the woman carrying it, it stands to reason you wouldn’t be satisfied with banning abortion in 26 states.
Once one decides a woman has no right to bodily autonomy and that she can be forced to sacrifice that body to another being against her will, federalism becomes a trifle.
But not only that.
Far more than abortion is at risk.
By ruling that the legal basis for Roe was faulty — that an implicit right to privacy exists in the Constitution — the Court has thrown down the gauntlet against the last half-century of jurisprudence regarding sex and gender.
Privacy was the basis for the Griswold v. Connecticut decision, which struck down state laws against contraception.
If there is no right to privacy, there is no right to control one’s reproduction even before becoming pregnant.
Though no state would outlaw all forms of contraception, it is certainly conceivable that several might seek to ban birth control pills, which some believe (falsely) to be abortifacients.
Beyond matters of reproduction, Lawrence v. Texas, the decision striking down so-called sodomy laws — really, the outlawing of homosexuality — relied upon the principle of privacy now put in the wood chipper by the highest Court.
And since Alito’s opinion insists rights aren’t real if they haven’t stood the test of time over many generations, it seems almost certain that he and his reactionary colleagues would find overturning Lawrence and once again outlawing LGBTQ folks acceptable.
As well as marriage equality.
Although Obergefellv. Hodges rested upon more than implied privacy rights — it also turned on notions of equal protection — there is little doubt that Alito would apply his anti-Roe logic to that decision.
Indeed, he already did in his dissent to Obergefell: an opinion for which he didn’t have a majority then — but likely would now.
The real goal is domination and control — the restoration of traditional hierarchy
It is time to face the facts.
First, those who still say “there’s no real difference between Democrats and Republicans” are unworthy of being listened to about anything beyond restaurant Yelp reviews at this point.
If you’re one of those who thought it would be no big deal if Trump won, or if some Republican Senator in your state did — so you sat out the elections or voted for some third party candidate so you could feel pure — seriously, fuck you very much.
Second, know this: the war on Roe was never about abortion so much as restoringtraditional hierarchy and authority.
Outlawing abortion and limiting, if not banning, certain types of birth control strips women of sexual autonomy and restores hegemonic sexual power to men.
Which is precisely the point.
They aren’t principally concerned about fetuses and embryos, let alone “babies.”
As Margaret Renkl noted in her recent New York Times piece, if they were, they would support policies that would bring down abortion rates dramatically by reducing the number of unplanned pregnancies.
They would want expanded access to birth control and more comprehensive sex education, which actually works, unlike the abstinence version.
But they have supported neither of these.
Why? Because their desire to limit abortion and save fetal life was always less important to them than restricting sexual activity outside of marriage or sex for pleasure without the possibility of procreation.
Additionally, as Renkl notes, if they’d been concerned with reducing abortions, they would have supported expanded social safety nets for families and children — affordable child care, paid family leave, and more comprehensive health care coverage — rather than seeking to slash these.
But in each case, they took the position that would make it more difficult for parents to raise children, increasing the likelihood that a pregnancy would end in abortion.
Because this was never about saving babies.
It was about controlling women and maintaining traditional hierarchy, which, in the economic sense, would be challenged by larger safety nets.
If that doesn’t convince you, there is one final proof that the right cares only about controlling women and nothing about “saving babies.”
Namely, the way conservatives address in vitro fertilization.
Jessica Valenti has pointed out that if fertilized eggs are “persons” in the womb, they must also be persons when waiting to be implanted in a woman who has stored them for later usage.
But if so, why do abortion opponents not seek to prohibit the discarding of such “persons,” which occurs all the time, usually after successful implantation and once a couple (or single woman) decides they don’t want more kids?
Why don’t pro-lifers seek to prosecute couples who discard their “extra babies” or the labs who do?
When Alabama State Senator Clyde Chambliss was asked this a few years ago, he gave the revealing answer, noting that “the egg in the lab doesn’t apply. It’s not in a woman. She’s not pregnant.”
Right, because abortion restrictions are not about saving human life, they are about restricting the rights and autonomy of women.
The right-wing is solely about domination and subordination.
It is all they have ever been about.
The Republican Party and its ideological leaders are the enemies of women’s liberty.
They must be defeated, finally and forever.
Not compromised with.
Not understood or brought into some broader bipartisan coalition.
As America’s celebrities gathered in all their wealth and glamour at a Gilded Age themed Met Gala in New York, news broke that according to a first draft majority opinion that was leaked to Politico, the conservative Supreme Court has decided to strike down the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision that guarantees a woman’s right to abortion.
I struggled to fall asleep on Tuesday night.
All night long I tossed and turned as the news sunk in, unable to shake off everything that I was thinking and feeling. We all knew it was coming, didn’t we? But, that does little to prepare us for when it actually happens, does it?
I have become accustomed to essentially being told by those around me that I’m just too angry. Too divisive. I expect too much. I live in a fantasyland. I’m silly. Naive? Oh, I’ve heard that more times than I can count. I’ve heard it all. Well when it comes to this issue, I don’t have the patience for any of it.
Yes, I am angry. Absolutely livid.
In all honesty, though, I think I might be more sad than angry.
Obviously, I’m angry at the right wing. I’m angry at the fact that this decision was made with those responsible all too aware that this was going to do nothing to prevent abortion. This will kill women, and they know it. Of course, it’s not lost on me either that these are the very same people who claim to care about life, while at the same time refusing to do anything to help the women and children they’re forcing into these circumstances.
Do those who claim to be “pro-life” want to ensure that school lunches and breakfasts are free? Do they want to ensure they have access to a free, high-quality education that will continue through college? Do they want to ensure the women being forced to carry a child will be able to feed, house, and clothe that child? If she or the child gets sick, do they aim to ensure there is access to healthcare that’s free at the point of service?
Of course not, and they don’t even deny it.
In the eyes of the Supreme Court and those who support this decision, women are incubators and nothing more. This is not about life this is about control. This is about ensuring that it’s even more difficult for women to attain economic freedom and control over their lives. This is about upward class mobility and ensuring fewer and fewer people — obviously for women overall, and Black and Brown women in particular — can achieve it.
And then, there’s the Democratic Party.
The Democratic Party whose refusal to even attempt to codify Roe vs. Wade into law with the House, the Senate and the White House in their control is absolutely unforgivable. The Democratic party would rather fundraise off of this than respond with substantive action. The Democratic Party, under the leadership of Nancy Pelosi, supports anti-choice Democrats like Henry Cuellar simply because of that D next to their name.
They must be so proud.
But hey, as long as those panicky fundraising emails deliver some money, it’s worth it, right?
How can you not be disgusted?
And then some brushed off the importance of the Courts. Those who insisted it really wasn’t going to make much of a difference and Trump’s impact on the judicial system was no big deal. Well, considering this wouldn’t have been possible if he had not won, I’d say that it was, wasn’t it?
I am exhausted. I am devastated. I am angry.
But I refuse to feel powerless. If they’re going to wage this all-out war, then we must fight back. No lawmaker should be able to visit their offices at home without someone questioning them about codifying Roe vs. Wade into law, and the steps they’re going to take to make it happen. I don’t want to see a single fundraising email or text message from any of them over this. Personally, I don’t even think I could stomach hearing Nancy Pelosi talk about it. They sicken me, and until they actually take action I have no patience for any of them.
Now is the time to channel anger into action. It’s time to fight.
Of all the people operating within federal politics today, few — arguably none — have been as nefarious or effective throughout their career than GOP minority leader Mitch McConnell. Over the course of decades he has succeeded in achieving some of the devastating core goals of the elite, and the country has felt the effects. Perhaps one of the stealthiest and consequential avenues McConnell has used to achieve the goals of the donor class was through packing the courts, which in turn allowed for their victories in cases like Citizens United now over a decade ago.
Citizens United, which was arguably the nail in the coffin when it came to protections from dark money infiltrating the American political system, has only fueled deep seeded divisions and the feelings of hopelessness that accompany a political system where lawmakers are responsive to high dollar donors as opposed to their actual constituents.
All that being considered, when it comes to his reasonings for not supporting Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, McConnell’s comments were interesting to say the least.
“On the day President Joe Biden announced Jackson’s nomination, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell declared she “was the favored choice of far-left dark-money groups.” During the first day of Jackson’s confirmation hearings, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, feigned concern about the “troubling role of far-left dark money groups” in the judicial selection process.”
At this point, sickening doesn’t even begin to describe this level of dishonesty and hypocrisy.
It goes deeper than that, though.
Doesn’t this serve as a clear indication of how acutely aware the GOP is of the disdain the American people have for the clear corruption within our political system? It takes a level of manipulation and frankly sociopathy for the people most responsible to take that anger, and flip it on its head. The unmitigated nerve of Mitch McConnell of all people to feign concern about dark money influencing politics is incredible.
Of course, as obvious as it might be it feels necessary to point out the fact that there are absolutely no “far left” dark money groups, let alone any that are powerful enough to hold sway over Democratic lawmakers. Mitch McConnell is merely doing what the GOP does best: feeding into the fears of their base because they have absolutely nothing else to offer. McConnell knows that sending these dog whistles will appear to his base’s vehement hatred of “antifa”, and their misguided belief that the Democratic party is somehow beholden to them.
If discussions of “far left” dark money groups gets the base distracted from the fact that it’s right wing elite like Charles Koch who have bought and purchased the GOP, then of course McConnell will feed into it.
Again, what else does he have to offer the average voter?
Welp, it’s on, folks — the Russia-Ukraine crisis is keeping scary close to the trajectory I’ve been expecting.
Putin appears to be putting elements of all eight stages I outline below into effect at once. Strikes are falling across the breadth of Ukraine and an airborne attack has secured a major airport outside of Kyiv.
It’s always difficult to assess what’s happening on the ground through public media sources, but it appears Russia is hitting Ukraine from all points of the compass yet less intensively than a shock and awe campaign designed to obliterate the entire Ukraine military in one blow would fall.
My suspicion is that the attacks on Odessa and Kyiv are meant to distract from the focus of the Russian attack in the east. By launching probing strikes from any angles Russia can tie down Ukrainian forces everywhere. Firepower can be directed at major points of resistance.
Russian forces could try a massive full-scale invasion on all fronts, but this would be much riskier than threatening an all-out thrust while picking apart Ukraine’s forces which have to deploy to meet all these attacks, leaving cover and becoming vulnerable.
All that can be said with absolute certainty now is that the Russian attacks will eventually run out of steam. But whether any of Ukraine is free after is an open question.
Biden and the West have failed utterly. The Postwar and post Cold War orders are dead and done. America has failed to deter Russia, and is no longer a superpower. Europe stands alone.
But it, once American influence is put in its proper place, can still win
Vladimir Putin’s aggressive speech more or less denying Ukraine’s right to exist has codified Russia’s policy towards both Ukraine and NATO for the foreseeable future.
And the so-called “West” is letting him get away with it.
Sanctions — pah. They never work.
All that craven Anglo-American politicians like Joe Biden and Boris Johnson are after now is a way through the crisis that won’t further harm their already dismal political futures.
Deterrence is their favorite slogan, but this has clearly failed. Russia is willing to pay whatever costs for acting as it likes that the West tries to impose through sanctions. Putin knows that absent real military aid to Ukraine the Russian Armed Forces can pick apart Ukraine piece by piece.
Ukraine’s military is simply outmatched thanks to the failure of America or NATO to offer meaningful support. Stingers and Javelins, cool as they might be, are no match for the weight of firepower Russia has positioned around Ukraine right now.
Iskander tactical ballistic missiles, hundreds of capable combat aircraft, and around two thirds of Russia’s ground forces are just too much for Ukraine’s smaller, less sophisticated military to withstand with short-range missiles, however effective. Ukrainian soldiers and half-trained civilians are being told it’s up to them to shield the West from the Russian horde, but a blood sacrifice to the old gods will achieve nothing but send good people to Valhalla and Folkvangr.
Putin and his people have planned this crisis all too well. The recognition of the Donetsk and Lukhansk republics as independent was done to provide Russia a pseudo-legal justification to intervene.
America’s leaders have been insisting that Putin is about 48 hours from an all-out invasion for weeks now. This has aided Russia’s efforts immensely, damaging Ukraine’s economy and distracting the world from the fact an assault on Kyiv is probably the very last stage of Putin’s plan.
He has a much better way to take it without direct use of force after forcing Ukraine to crumble. And the so-called West will let him, happy to have an enemy to distract us from climate change and Covid and inflation.
As ever in power politics, millions of lives are in jeopardy because the elites who run most countries have different interests than the rest of us. NATO and America are desperately trying to maintain relevant in a world that has moved on, while Putin stays in power by play-acting the role of Russia’s Big Papa, a paternalistic national father figure.
Nobody in the English-speaking world wants to admit this out loud, but Russia has always been and will always bepart of the so-called West.
Western Civilization is a euphemism for Christian Europe and the places it conquered. It is an inherently bigoted concept that has always been designed to separate a mythical East from the rest of humanity to justify military actions and social repression.
Russia is an Orthodox Christian country — part of the reason why American Evangelical Christians tend to like Putin is the fact his power derives from replacing Communism with Christianity.
That’s why Russia hates the idea of LGBTQ+ rights and suppresses Muslim minorities —these similarities are why American Evangelicals use much the same rhetoric as he does anymore, and many actively seek to make America the same kind of country as the one he’s built out of post-Soviet Russia.
It also explains why he’s so obsessed with Ukraine, as Kyiv is seen as the birthplace of modern Russia and a semi-holy place in Russian Orthodox Christianity. What Putin’s Russia-centric view of history — no less inherently bigoted than America’s own self-narratives — fails to admit is the inconvenient fact that Russia is an artificial construct too.
All countries are to some extent, and the bigger they get the more imperialist they tend to become. Russia and Ukraine’s deep origins lie in the same Indo-European migrations that defined all of Europe, and their more recent past was defined by the interaction between Vikings from Scandinavia and the Slavic peoples who emerged in Eastern Europe.
Rus was a tribe led by Viking chieftains, and Kyiv as a city started out as a kind of way station for Norse traders utilizing the rivers of Eastern Europe to reach the Middle East. The city-states of Novgorod and Kyiv later merged to form what Putin recognizes as early Russia, but then as now Russia and Ukraine have always been more like composite city-states than defined monolithic cultures with clear national boundaries.
Russia never used to have borders reaching the Pacific — this was purely a product of Russian imperialism. Nothing east of the Ural Mountains was historically Russian — Russia’s Far East became Moscow’s mirror of the American West, which some Russian explorers even reached back in the heyday of Russian expansion across Asia and into North America.
Putin play-acts the role of the Orthodox Christian emperor of Russia, a stern father figure who protects his nation — the people in it loyal to him, anyway — and defines its history and values. Paternalism at a national level of the sort Republicans in Texas dream of, so long as they are interfering with womens bodies and not gun ownership.
The irony is that Russians and Ukrainians aren’t that different — or at least, they weren’t until Putin made them that way through eight years of invasion and threats.
But he is investing in this conflict because it’s one that Russia can control and therefore win. By doing so he humiliates NATO, threatens the European Union, and takes advantage of America’s foreign policy myopia and Joe Biden’s comically inept leadership.
Russia’s new close ally China is cool with this because it distracts Washington D.C. from its racist pivot to Asia obsession while proving how little America can actually do to protect Taiwan in the face of modern military weaponry. American fossil fuel executives are cool with the situation because they are drooling at the thought of selling dirty fracked natural gas to Germany at exorbitant rates, as are America’s arms dealers, dreaming of a new burst of NATO military spending.
So the stage is set for continued escalations and a drawn-out conflict that kills tens of thousands of people so leaders can keep acting tough while the world burns. The same stupid scam that has afflicted humanity for its entire history and is in fact far more likely to destroy us in the end than climate change.
Americans are trained to think war consists of a series of big battles won or lost by the skill of the commanders involved, but the strange truth is that war is nothing more than politics carried on through violent means.
American politicians and pundits hate this fact, much preferring to pretend morality matters in politics, but cry all they like the simple fact is that the powerful eventually do whatever they can get away with. And they often can’t be deterred from acting, because they don’t perceive the costs and benefits the same way less powerful people do.
Power is the primary evil in human affairs. Power disparities self-generate new conflicts no matter how moral, ethical, or right a powerful party claims to be.
Putin is teaching the world a cruel lesson in hard power right now. He’s deliberately shredding the entire artifice of the liberal international system tenured PhDs at major universities — like Berkeley, where I earned my first degree focusing on International Relations — have spent decades teaching as the only global system imaginable.
This doesn’t mean he’s unpredictable — the opposite is true. Real military operations are always exercises in creating asymmetries that your forces can exploit in order to win a fight with few or no casualties. Grey warfare, hybrid warfare — it’s all the same.
Logistics and terrain control the conduct of military operations because they are the bones and sinews of the military effort, which is ultimately policy made real, given life. Armies have a physical presence on a landscape, they must occupy space and so are vulnerable to detection and destruction once spotted.
Ukraine’s military forces are indeed stronger than they were eight years ago — but so are Russia’s. It has adopted small independent tactical formationsequipped with drones and information technology, linking ground units to massed artillery and air support.
Russia has, like Germany did after the First World War, learned how to fight using modern arms after watching America’s military mishaps around the world and testing key lessons in Syria.
As a result the Ukraine-Russia military matchup resembles the one between Iraq and America in 2003. Russia has superior intelligence-gathering abilities, GPS satellites, and precision guided stand-off weapons that make it almost impossible for Ukrainian soldiers armed with short-range missiles to even fight back.
There remains a narrow window where a conflict could be averted, but at this point it appears nothing less than Ukraine giving up Donbas will stop a bloody fight.
Long term Putin would like to control all of Ukraine, but a direct invasion that seizes Kyiv is incredibly risky. So much could go wrong that this option makes the most sense held in Putin’s pocket as an ultimate threat, a bluff that could easily transform into something more in the right circumstances.
But Ukraine stands alone in all the ways that matter, and Putin has effectively declared war on the very idea of Ukraine. So he’d definitely like the country under Russian control, and his military power allows him to set the pace of any attack, moving faster or slower depending on Ukraine’s reactions.
I see this playing out in a series of stages, each serving as a decision point where Putin can evaluate his gains and press on or declare victory. What he decides will likely be most strongly influenced not by Biden’s threats, but by whether he meets any surprises as he proceeds.
Stage 1 is underway now — a movement of Russian forces positioned around Rostov into separatist controlled Donbas at the same time major forces deploy along the Ukrainian defenders’ flanks. This brings Russian personnel right up to the edge of the bombardments and lets them pick out targets and plan further moves.
Stage 2 will likely begin after any Russian military casualties, as was the case in Georgia in 2008. That will likely be the trigger for a focused shock and awe style bombardment of Ukrainian military positions in the separatist territories, but probably not the rest of the country — at least at first.
Stage 3 I expect to be a major flanking assault by forces deployed along the Russia-Ukraine border near Kharkiv. These might encircle that city or, as I suspect, flow just to the east to come down hard on the Ukrainian Army’s left flank. Russian air and missile strikes will expand in scope to isolate Ukraine’s east from Kyiv, but shouldn’t heavily target the capitol region.
Stage 4 is the breakout from Crimea to the Dnieper River accompanied by focused naval landings on the Azov coast. These will have to be accompanied by massive bombardments to cover the vulnerable helicopters and landing ships, and the port of Odessa will likely come under some degree of blockade though it being assaulted directly at this stage is unlikely.
Stage 5 will see Russian forces push to surround and annihilate Ukraine’s army in the east, comprising about half of its forces — and its best trained. This could mark the culmination of the first phase of the war, with Russian forces pausing to resupply and allow for renewed diplomacy. Or Putin’s efforts could proceed apace, with air strikes hitting the entire country, skipping past Stage 6.
Stage 6 under the baseline scenario would see the conflict turn inward as Russia consolidates gains and more or less dares the West to do something meaningful about it. A major military defeat could put Zelensky’s government in danger of a coup, and Putin will likely foment as much internal strife as he can before considering further actions in hopes Ukraine will collapse of its own accord.
Stage 7 would be the feared march to Kyiv from multiple lines of advance. It is doubtful that Putin would commit forces to seizing the city itself, but by splitting Ukraine’s major cities apart in an all-out invasion after Ukraine was badly weakened he could effectively break the country up into chunks, demonstrating the Zelensky government’s inability to rule and keeping open options for bringing regions into Russian control by force.
Stage 8 is the hardest to define, as it depends on how quickly and completely the prior stages are accomplished. If Zelensky’s government falls to a coup or decamps to Lviv near the Polish border, whatever regime rises in Kyiv will request that Russian “peacekeepers” proceed west. If an actual guerilla struggle begins, it will likely turn into a Syria-like situation develop where Russian forces conquer and pacify one portion of Ukraine at a time, inflicting horrific casualties.
My belief is that a settlement will be reached or Ukraine will collapse long before, but rational calculations have a way of going horribly wrong at this level of detail.
What I know for sure is this: America and NATO have all but set Ukraine up to be destroyed.
If I were a conspiracy theorist, I’d be hard pressed to avoid drawing the conclusion this whole conflict was drawn up by America and Russia to re-start the Cold War. A bit of theater designed to shore up Washington and Moscow, both of whom have handled Covid poorly.
But sadly, this moment, I fear, marks a great turning of the wheel.
America’s unipolar moment, such as it was, is over. There will be no true Cold War, as this is the multipolar moment back in my undergrad days I predicted was coming sooner or later.
Ukraine’s fate now stands at a knife’s edge. Moscow has brutalized the region time and again through history, and in a world where countries are mostly fragmenting, not growing, Ukraine’s persistence is inevitable: there is now, thanks to Putin, a Ukrainian identity that will never fade.
The best course for the Zelensky government now is to recognize the hard truth: Ukraine stands alone, and the east cannot be defended.
There is no point in sacrificing thousands of lives on the principle of borders being fixed and permanent. Ukraine stands no chance of holding Donbas and it would be absolutely criminal to expect Ukrainian soldiers to hold the line there, outflanked and far from Kyiv as they are.
Successfully defending against a Russian attack depends on avoiding the initial blow by retreating to a new defensive line. Ukraine must not allow its army to be outflanked, surrounded, and battered to pieces. Russian forces will stand off at range, perhaps using separatists as cannon fodder to draw fire so that Ukrainian positions, infantry and artillery, can be picked off one at a time.
Kyiv must be ready to conduct a fighting retreat to a more defensible line, wrong-footing the Russian attack and letting its weight fall on abandoned ground. The Dnieper in the south and a defensive line stretching from Kharkiv to Dnipro should be possible to defend unless or until Russian forces attack from the north. At that point they have to pull back behind the Dnieper and hold what they can.
That, sadly, is all that can be done to avoid the worst of what’s coming. If Ukraine is successful, Putin will be forced to recalculate.
This might buy time for a settlement. If the east is taken by Russia the full spectrum of sanctions will likely fall. Ukraine can count on more direct military aid — possibly the kind that might matter, like truly effective anti-aircraft defenses.
Then begins the long fight to prepare Europe for what comes next. Ukraine isEurope’s bulwark, and we have to assume that Putin won’t stop with Ukraine if his plan succeeds.
Not now. Not after Biden has shown his belly so often Putin knows a few years of constant pressure will split Europe from America and break NATO apart.
Cracks are already apparent, if you know where to look. NATO has offered lots of big talk, but little action — and this is unlikely to change.
And by 2024 America will be so focused on its domestic collapse Putin will have a free hand to support his ally Trump by further demonstrating America’s weakness. Estonia, Lithuania, or Latvia can expect low-level provocations because Ukraine, as important as it is to Putin, is only a pawn in his broader fight against NATO.
And once America is completely broken, Europe will stand alone.
The important thing now is to recognize where this is all heading and start taking the necessary actions to maintain Europe’s security. Ukraine must avoid its army being annihilated, and the European Union has to begin building a dedicated defense force with Ukraine as an integral partner.