Links 7/5/22

Links for you. Science:

Summer in America is becoming hotter, longer and more dangerous
The Citation of Retracted COVID-19 Papers is Common and Rarely Critical
Where’s the herd immunity? Our research shows why Covid is still wreaking havoc
They Uncover New Fossils, but They Also Bite. Harvester ants in Nebraska unearthed thousands of fossilized teeth and jaw bones, leading scientists to the discovery of 10 new species.
Selective visuoconstructional impairment following mild COVID-19 with inflammatory and neuroimaging correlation findings (“…suggests a more specific impairment in the visuoconstructional processes of COVID-19 patients.” Oh goody.)
Out of the forest. We have thought of humans for a century or more as creatures of the savannah, shaped in every way by grassland life. Not so (maybe)

Other:

Democratic Strategies that Don’t Court Disaster (excellent)
Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony was even more terrifying than they’re telling you
1989-2001: America’s Long Lost Weekend (very good)
Maybe the Democrats aren’t doomed in November
People Will Still Die In Anti-Abortion States That Have ‘Lifesaving’ Exceptions
A new Supreme Court case threatens another body blow to our democracy
Minnesota’s GOP-Controlled Senate Legalizes THC Edibles — Not Totally On Purpose
U.S.-supplied HIMARS changing the calculus on Ukraine’s front lines
From bars to inns, a grassroots monkeypox prevention campaign is launched as thousands descend on Provincetown
Joe Biden Is Not the Fighter America Needs: The president loves the system far too much to fix it.
Younger voters agree with Democrats — but don’t trust them. Here’s how to fix that
It’s time to break the glass on the five-alarm fire that is the U.S. Supreme Court
Deleting Your Period Tracker Won’t Protect You
‘I Keep Waiting for the Feds to Come’: The Jan. 6 Investigations Have Trumpworld on Edge
Supreme Court makes up rule to enforce reactionary political preferences, part infinity
Another summer of discontent for MBTA riders casts a long shadow on downtown Boston’s rebound (D.C. feels Boston’s pain…)
What A Bunch Of Dumbasses
What we get wrong about the Fourth of July
‘It Was All Just a Show’: Confessions of a Republican Campaign Hit Man (worth reading for the natural history)
President Biden is considering canceling some student debt. Here’s why he should go big.
The White House Did Not Push to Fund a Key Energy Cost-Saving Tool. Missouri Rep. Cori Bush fought to secure $100 million to carry out Biden’s new plan to speed domestic production of clean energy. (the Dreaded Squad did this, not moderate Democrats. Just saying.)
New York Governor Signs Bill Restricting Concealed Carry Of Firearms

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Is Abortion Different?

Pessimists, and they should be distinguished from the skeptical, not especially optimistic types like me, have an advantage in political prognostication: because many things don’t work out as expected (such is life) and because times are pretty bad right now, they often are correct in their predictions, not due to any analytic insight, but because of their psychological predispositions. The tl;dr version is that vibes, even gloomy ones, aren’t a substitute for analysis.

Which brings us to an interesting article by Julia Ioffe, whose writing over the last few years has been pretty pessimistic, in which she talks to both Democratic and Republican political operatives about the fallout from the Supreme Court’s decision to end Roe v. Wade. The takeaway on the Republican side is confused: some seem to argue that it’s a complete loser of an issue for Democrats, while others are shocked Democrats aren’t trying to capitalize on it (as well as attempt to protect abortion and related issues, such as healthcare access, while they can).

On the Democratic side, the message is equally muddled, with a combination of ‘why isn’t the leadership doing something’ combined with ‘there’s nothing to be done’ (boldface mine):

You would think that, with a month of advance warning about how the Supreme Court was going to rule, Democrats would have been better prepared for the day that Roe v. Wade finally fell. And yet, when it happened, Democrats did what Democrats do best: make memes, get mad at each other, and do little of consequence.

There was a bit of private pearl-clutching in Washington when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that her fellow party members need to stop fundraising off the repeal of Roe and actually do something. Even Republicans who had spent the last two years peddling the “Dems in disarray” line thought it was a little harsh. “I was surprised at A.O.C. blaming the Democratic leadership,” one G.O.P. aide told me. “I was like, woah.”

But A.O.C. hit on a sentiment that is quietly but widely shared in Washington, especially among Democrats. Even they admit to being in disarray. “What the fuck are we doing?” a Democratic lobbyist fumed. “What the fuck is the D.N.C. doing? I’m on their listserv and I haven’t gotten a fucking thing, have you? Every woman I’ve seen on social media that’s so mad, I’ve seen no link to, hey, here’s where you vote. If this was the G.O.P. side, that whole apparatus would be mobilized. From the Koch brothers to the N.R.A. to big oil, they would be efficiently mobilizing their base right now.” Asked what they expected to see from fellow Democrats, the lobbyist responded, “I think we’re going to see a lot of hashtags, and some rallies, and a lot of useless shit.”

Others felt totally lost and deflated. “People are calling, asking what they should do, and we’re like, Vote? I guess?” one Democratic Senate staffer told me. The end of Roe, after all, returns the abortion battle to the states, replacing a baseline right to reproductive healthcare with a patchwork of restrictions and outright bans arranged atop America’s dichromatic political map. That divide is likely to energize voters in contested purple states where local elections will now be invested with monumental import.

But even people who advise Planned Parenthood told me the organization has little idea—and still fewer plans—for what to do at the national level, other than to fundraise and tell people to vote in the midterms. It’s a call that Democrats themselves know rings hollow. They called on their supporters to vote even though voting in 2018 didn’t stop Mitch McConnell from ramming through Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination in 15 days in a direct reversal of his own doctrine that stole Merrick Garland’s seat in 2016. Democrats voted bigger, better, harder in 2020, got the White House, the Senate, and the House, and it still didn’t get them a Green New Deal, paid family leave, or really much else on their legislative wish list. Nor did it help them, despite the House passing a Hail-Mary bill to codify Roe into law, to save the 50-year-old abortion rights precedent.

It turns out that telling people to vote and vote and vote some more in a system designed for minority rule, and where gerrymandering requires the Democrats to produce bigger and bigger turnout for smaller and smaller margins in Washington, can start to ring a bit hollow. How can you vote and win—and yet still lose so badly? Through the din of rage on social media and spontaneous protest in the street, even the most dedicated Democrats could hear the unmistakable, echoing sound of defeat.

Then Ioffe relates how some Republican consultants (no idea how large ‘some’ is) think abortion isn’t the winning issue, and that inflation and gas prices will be the dominant issues in the fall. Admittedly, what GOP operatives have to say should be taken with a grain of salt: none of them are going to say, ‘we had November in the bag, until abortion screwed us.’ They’re operatives talking their book.

But I think there’s a critical dynamic here: abortion is a huge part of women’s lives, and it’s not just about the percentage of women who’ve had one. At the risk of mansplaining women’s lived experiences, it’s worth walking through this.

Many men, at a visceral level, do not comprehend how much time and energy women between the ages of fifteen and fifty (plus or minus a few years) spend trying to avoid getting pregnant. And I think a large number of women have internalized this crucial behavior to the point where they don’t recognize how much effort they sink into this. It becomes something (or another thing) that just has to be done.

It’s literally a daily exercise if a woman is on the pill, and even if she is using long-term contraception, there still are multiple interactions with the (often annoying at best) healthcare system. Most of the women I know (long-time friends, relatives, or significant others) have had difficulty getting birth control (e.g., traveling or moving, and they to refill or extend prescriptions; having to switch doctors etc.).

Compare this to the experience of a healthy twenty-five year old man–other than a pack of condoms (at most), there’s very little effort or time spent dealing with this*. Again, I’m literally mansplaining what I would hope is obvious. But there are important political consequences here.

If there’s one thing I got wrong during our ongoing COVID pandemic, it’s that I thought the relative immediacy of policy decisions would have more political consequences. That is, a policy decision, such as ending masking, would be experienced only weeks or a couple of months later, and that would affect both policy and politics. This actually is quite different from most policy, where it usually takes a couple of years between enactment and ‘on the ground’ effects.

But with abortion, the effects are already being felt. Women can’t get the healthcare they need, whether it’s abortion or just medication for other illnesses that potentially could harm a fetus, such as medicines to treat rheumatoid arthritis. This is as immediate as it gets, and to return to the mansplaining, it reminds women of all the other ‘biology shit’ they have to put up with. Yes, the economic issues of inflation (and everything else) do matter–I’ve blogged about their saliency many, many times (kinda what I do here…). But abortion now that it is no longer available in many parts of the country seems to me like it could be very salient and not fade, if not to an anti-abortion Republican male political operative.

So maybe abortion is different this time, and despite all of the undemocratic and anti-majoritarian features of our political system, it will affect politics. If it doesn’t, I don’t know what else could.

*This is also one reason why men are less likely to seek medical attention in general: healthy twenty-five year olds don’t really need to see a doctor at all (they should, but they don’t need to do so), so they don’t develop the habit.

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Links 7/4/22

Happy Fourth of July! Let’s celebrate with some links. Science:

Different virus, same mistakes: Why (re-) emerging viruses are one step ahead of us
F.D.A. Says Next Covid Boosters Should Target Omicron Subvariants. The decision was an acknowledgment that the current shots may no longer be as protective for at least some Americans by the time a possible fall or winter surge arrives. (at times, Paul Offit hasn’t made a lot of sense…)
A Canine Companion So Nice It (Maybe) Evolved Twice. Two different ancient wolf populations contributed DNA to modern dogs, according to a new study.
Characterization of virologic rebound following nirmatrelvir-ritonavir treatment for COVID-19
First reported case of a person getting COVID from a cat (TEH KITTEHZ)
The Pandemic Is Waning. Anthony Fauci Has a Few More Lessons to Share. (except the pandemic isn’t waning exactly…)

Other:

The Supreme Court Is the Final Word on Nothing (excellent, must-read)
The Right Wins Because They Understand Power (also must-read)
In the Wake of ‘Dobbs,’ Biden Leans on Familiar Excuses for Inaction
D.C. ends coronavirus contact tracing effort, laying off 131 workers
Narratology: State of the Theory
Children’s book removed from Pride Month display in library after one dad complained
What FDR and Two Former Fed Chairs Understood About Social Security
YOU CAN’T PLAY POWER POLITICS WITH REPUBLICANS BECAUSE THEY DON’T WANT ANYTHING EXCEPT REVENGE (AND TAX CUTS)
The myth at the heart of the praying Bremerton coach case (should be “lie”, but still good)
Silverman Accuses Mendelson of Trying to Delay Three of Her Bills to Death
The Incredibly Disturbing Texas GOP Agenda Is a Vision For a Theocratic Dystopia
Sinema kills plan to codify abortion rights — then fundraises on protecting women’s health care. Sinema won’t back filibuster carveout to pass an abortion bill she is co-sponsoring
Supreme Court’s decision on abortion sparks health tech’s Cambridge Analytica moment
Waiting (and Waiting) for an Adams Doctrine: Six months into a highly energetic mayoralty, how has Eric Adams changed the city — if at all?
FDA says COVID boosters for the fall must target newer omicron types
Antiabortion lawmakers want to block patients from crossing state lines
The Path to Give California 12 Senators, and Vermont Just One. Maybe the two-senators-per-state rule isn’t as permanent as it seems.
In trainings, Florida tells teachers that religion belongs in public life
Gators Daily is the shitpost economy’s apex predator. The Twitter account’s rise to viral fame made absolute sense in the internet’s ecosystem. What its creator did with it is another story entirely.
In Florida, DeSantis’s plans for colleges rattle some academics
Kangaroo Escapes Captivity Thanks To The Help Of Another Animal

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A Fourth of July Reflection

Happy Fourth of July, I guess. It’s hard to be upbeat about the holiday considering that we’re moving towards a white Christian supremacist regime, and one that highly resistant to democratic change. David Daley & David Faris describe the sorry state of affairs (boldface mine):

In fairness, the vote harder refrain does bear on one key element of the crisis in democratic governance: with two Senate Democrats opposed to breaking the filibuster, the majority party needs to add at least two more to have any remote hope of advancing its agenda But the obsessive focus on increasing the Democratic numbers on Capitol Hill—a long shot, in any event, for reasons we will discuss below—obscures the larger problem. It’s not that the mandate of protecting democracy and our basic rights simply requires more Democrats. We need better Democrats, who actually understand what they’re up against and have a plan to fight back

There’s no point in shunning the obvious truth: Democrats have earned this cynicism. Yes, the nation is in this dangerous position because the Republican Party has swerved decisively toward authoritarianism. But this lurch has not happened in a vacuum. Over and over again, the forfeit of democratic freedoms has come about via the right wing’s opportunistic exploitation of a pronounced pattern of Democratic toothlessness in the face of bared GOP fangs. The smashed guardrails and discarded norms have mounted year after year, visible to all who cared to see. The scrupulous nonpartisan institutionalists Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein wrote their jeremiad outlining the antidemocratic fallout of asymmetric polarization in Washington, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks, a decade ago.

But that message has bafflingly yet to register with the Democratic party’s profoundly change-averse leadership. They have operated on institutional autopilot as right-wing opponents have gleefully annexed one revered institutional norm after another to the project of one-party minoritarian rule. A partial list of these power grabs includes: two terms of obstruction and wildly partisan congressional investigations during the Obama administration; a stolen Supreme Court seat; the napalming of the constitutional order during the Trump administration by way of naked contempt for congressional oversight, judicial authority and presidential conduct culminating in the GOP endorsement of blackmailing allies for partisan gain; a radicalized high court assault on voting rights; the most extreme partisan gerrymanders in modern history; an insurrection seeking to institute a right-wing coup, replete with talk of martial law, seizing voting machines and overturning election results from inside the White House. One among countless indicators of our broken system of simple truth-telling and public accountability is that the party aligned behind the “Big Lie” about a stolen 2020 election is in better shape to be successful today than it was on January 6, 2021; indeed, in several pivotal swing states, this spring’s GOP primaries saw ardent defenders of the Trumpian Big Lie win gubernatorial and secretary of state nominations, casting real doubt on the prospect of that actual election results will have any bearing on the outcome of the 2024 presidential balloting.

How have Democratic leaders been so stolidly resistant to facing up to the true scale of this threat in anything other than fundraising appeals? Regrettably, advancing age and the institutional complacency that often comes with it play a major role here. The members of the Democratic Party’s leadership caste continually yearn for the long-vanished shade of “The Party of Lincoln.” They pine for the camaraderie of Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan and the difference-trimming compromises struck in the Senate cloakroom half a century ago—and by indulging in these clubby reveries before the public, they continue to transmit the message that the GOP is a normal political party, committed to upholding basic constitutional rights, freedoms, and power-sharing norms.

There’s also this trenchant observation about the Democratic party consultants–who are neck deep in this shit:

They believed that they could raise enough money via ads foregrounding the excesses of Trump and his allies to keep the consultant class fat and happy, that gerrymanders couldn’t be forever, that there would always be a next election. Time and again, they were wrong, hopelessly. Time and again, the strategy failed to adjust to reality.

You should read the whole thing.

At this point, supporting Democrats has to be viewed as absolutely necessary harm reduction: every seat held by a gormless and clueless Democrat is a seat denied to actively malevolent Republicans (and to the revolutionary wannabees, making things even worse won’t lead to your glorious revolution, it just means things will be even shittier).

But we do need better Democrats too. A huge problem is the fanboi/grrling impulse of too many Democratic primary voters. These politicians aren’t your friends: they are means to ends, and when they fail, it’s time to get new ones.

Anyway, merry fucking Fourth.

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Links 7/3/22

Links for you. Science:

Neutralizing Antibody Activity to SARS-CoV-2 Delta (B.1.617.2) and Omicron (B.1.1.529) After One and Two Doses of BNT162b2 Vaccine in Infection-Naïve and Previously-Infected Individuals
Fauci says he’s taking 2nd course of Paxlovid after experiencing rebound with the antiviral treatment
NIH-funded project offers efficient approach when tracking SARS-CoV-2 variants (paper here)
Maryland Limits Male Blue Crab Harvests For The First Time Ever Amid Population Crisis
Clarence Thomas suggests Covid vaccines are derived from the cells of ‘aborted children’. Cells obtained from elective abortions decades ago were used in testing during the Covid vaccine development process, a practice that is common in vaccine testing.
‘Fluffy’ crab that wears a sponge as a hat discovered in Western Australia

Other:

Will Biden defend his own office from this court? The president must save the executive branch from the judiciary’s reckless power grab. (absolute must-read)
When the Terrorists Win. What happens to a nation when terrorist movements take power? (important–and there’s a reason 95% of abortions occur in clinics, not doctor’s offices or hospitals)
The fall of Roe is the culmination of the Democratic establishment’s failures (this will anger some people, but to think that the current Democratic leadership isn’t partially responsible for where we are is self-defeating madness; need to stop supporting ‘lovable losers’)
After the Norms: The Norms aren’t working. In their place we must embrace the dreaded “i” word.
New York Times Shows How McKinsey “Guided” Major Opioid Players, Causing Even More Deaths
In Wake Of Supreme Court Gun Ruling, D.C. Gun Owners Sue To Be Able To Carry Concealed Handguns On Metro (fucking Supreme Court)
How Japan Achieved One of The World’s Lowest Covid Death Rates
Cassidy Hutchinson Changes Everything
Sam Gilliam, Longtime D.C. Painter Whose Work Is Celebrated Around The World, Dies At 88
Doug Mastriano Is a Clear and Present Danger to Democracy
Political Lessons for Democrats in a Post-Roe America. Democrats can look across the aisle if they want pointers on how to overcome the challenges of an unrepresentative political system, a stacked Court, and their internal divisions. (much of the left, construed broadly, has been begging for this for two decades, give or take)
The Supreme Court’s big EPA decision is a massive power grab by the justices. West Virginia v. EPA confirms that the GOP-controlled Supreme Court will veto any federal regulation it wants.
‘Calm down,’ libs! A look back at select pieces of Roe commentary
No Way to Build a Railroad. Maryland’s outgoing GOP Governor Larry Hogan is eyeing a 2024 run for president. He is also leaving behind a mass transit mess.
Messaging
Damn the Constitution, full speed ahead … toward a nation that is literally ungovernable
Emphasis Changes
Pentagon UFO study led by researcher who believes in the supernatural
The rot runs deeper: What the actions of an obscure Wisconsin political appointee tell us about GOP democratic backsliding
Supreme Court to EPA: Don’t Touch the Thermostat, Kids. John Roberts has once again proved his devotion to the American corporate class.
Rude Compound Words on Reddit

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Say It

Observed on Q Street NW, between 14th and 15th, Logan Circle, D.C.:

Untitled

Untitled

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In Case You Missed It…

…a week of Mad Biologist posts:

Unity

So, What Is the Plan?

There Are Things that Democratic Officials Can Do to Protect Abortion

We Have Learned Nothing from the COVID Pandemic

Don’t Know Much About History…

Yelling at Professional Democrats Works

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Links 7/2/22

Links for you. Science:

Monkeypox: What We Do and Don’t Know About Recent Outbreaks
Donkeys are livestock guardians in up north battle with gray wolves
Expect an Omicron Booster This Fall. COVID vaccines haven’t transitioned to annual shots like the flu vaccine, but regular boosters will likely continue.
How better pandemic and epidemic intelligence will prepare the world for future threats
First record of functional underground traps in a pitcher plant: Nepenthes pudica (Nepenthaceae), a new species from North Kalimantan, Borneo
Miners, drug traffickers and loggers: Is Costa Rica’s Corcovado National Park on the verge of collapse?

Other:

Sam Alito’s woman problem (must-read)
The “Vote Blue” Myth: Democrats are rehashing the failed approach of the Obama era to avoid confronting the Supreme Court. (very good)
Attorney General Ken Paxton says he will defend Texas sodomy law if Supreme Court revisits Lawrence vs. Texas
Grand Bargaining (important)
Outcomes In Most D.C. Primary Races Remain Unchanged After More Ballots Counted, But Overall Turnout Jumps
Trump supporters raced to debunk Jan. 6 testimony. Then they got confused.
When Security Locks You Out of Everything
When Brazil Banned Abortion Pills, Women Turned to Drug Traffickers. With Roe v. Wade overturned, states banning abortion are looking to prevent the distribution of abortion medication. Brazil shows the possible consequences.
Ultra-MAGA (short and the last sentence is lol worthy)
Big Surprise In A Red Congressional District In Nebraska Augurs Well For Dems In November (and Howie Klein usually isn’t an optimist)
Florida Republicans turn school elections into new political battlegrounds
The Effing President Gets His Comeuppance
The roots of Trumpism: What the January 6 committee won’t reveal
What We Own This City Gets Wrong about Policing
Manhattan is a playground for TikTok
The Other Cancel Culture: How a Public University Is Bowing to a Conservative Crusade
In a doctor’s suspicion after a miscarriage, a glimpse of expanding medical mistrust
Democrats Finally Figured Out Their Post-Dobbs Message
J.B. Pritzker’s Grasp of Politics 101 Shouldn’t Feel Like a Breath of Fresh Air, But Here We Are
Elmo gets coronavirus shot, sparks another Muppet feud with Ted Cruz
Bernie Sanders calls on Buttigieg to take action amid flight delays, cancellations

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Links 7/1/22

Links for you. Science:

What causes long COVID? Canadian researchers think they’ve found a key clue
Comparing the Pfizer and Moderna Covid vaccines for young children
Antibiotic-Resistant ‘Superbug’ Now Widespread in Pigs, Can Jump to Humans (paper here)
Immunogenicity and Safety of Beta-Adjuvanted Recombinant Booster Vaccine
Inflation and NIH Research Project Grants
The IL-1β, IL-6, and TNF cytokine triad is associated with post-acute sequelae of COVID-19

Other:

The judicial politics of bad faith
If At First You Don’t Succeed, Find a Conservative Judge Who Will Decide You Succeeded
Abortion Centrism
Joe Manchin is quietly pushing Democrats into another catastrophe
Griswold Is Not About ‘Contraception.’ It’s About the Right to Privacy.
The Supreme Court hands the religious right a big victory by lying about the facts of a case
Hope The Heart Shaped Box Of Chocolates Was Nice
Cassidy Hutchinson’s surprise Jan. 6 testimony exposes the violence that fuels Trumpism
Send Money And Vote
Fears of drugged drinks at Boston bars are widespread and growing
We’re All The Schiavos Now
The Far-Right Is Fearmongering About Abortion Activists Attacking Churches
Lauren Boebert Baffled by ‘Bricks’ Belonging to a Construction Site
A Far Right Law Enforcement Movement Is Fueling The Effort To Infiltrate Voting Machines
Is It Good To Wait Until Women Are Dying To Treat Them? Views Differ
What I Mean When I Say ‘Ban Cars’: Somehow, every discussion about reducing our automobile dependency gets turned into a “war on cars.” The only option left is to reclaim the language.
1955 warrant in Emmett Till case found, family seeks arrest (we arrest Nazis from WWII…)
Fourth of July Flight Cancellation Hell
D.C. Approves Bill Allowing Vaccines For Some Minors Without Parental Consent
This Is How We Reach The Yutes
The number of vehicle-into-building crashes may be much higher than previously thought

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Yelling at Professional Democrats Works

Sometimes, anyway. It turns out that having much of the Democratic Party, including (and especially) the normies, yelling at Democrats to codify abortion rights actually works (boldface mine):

President Joe Biden gave his strongest response yet to the U.S. Supreme Court’s radical decision to end federal abortion protections Thursday, endorsing a carve out from the filibuster for protecting abortion rights and the right to privacy.

“I believe we have to codify Roe v. Wade into law. And the way to do that is to make sure that the Congress votes to do that and if the filibuster gets in the way, it’s like voting rights, it should be … an exception … to the filibuster for this action to deal with the Supreme Court decision,” Biden said in remarks at a press conference in Madrid, Spain, where he is attending the NATO summit. He added that he would support making an exception to the filibuster to protect the right to privacy, which could extend existing protections for contraception and marriage equality Justice Clarence Thomas threatened in his concurrence on the abortion case.

So we’re clear, that’s actually a reversal by Biden, not that moderate Democrats or the pundit class will ever admit that (can’t admit the Dirty Fucking Hippies, who apparently are now the majority of the country, got it right).

Pressure works. It’s amazing what can happen when Democrats stop fanboi/fangrrling over Democratic politicians, and, instead, expect them to do the shit they promised.

Baby steps all around, but still some minor good news.

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