Rights & Justice
War & Peace
Bridget Bishop being hanged for witchcraft in the 1600s.

Shame Shame Shame: On the Hovering Glory Of A Forced-Birth God Almighty

Kudos to Arizona's wingnut Supreme Court, who in their deranged upholding of an 1864 abortion ban so extreme even GOPers are fleeing it have dragged us back to a time when doctors used leeches, snake oil, opiates and a nice long asylum stay to treat women with "hysteria." If the law's upheld, "People will die." Still, a stalwart group of zealots took to the Senate floor to kneel, pray, babble in tongues and implore, "Let it be so, Father God." Be warned: "This is today's Republican Party."

The court's ruling came in the case of Planned Parenthood v. Hazelrigg, in which Dr. Eric Hazelrigg, who owns a chain of anti-abortion clinics and declares himself "guardian ad litem for all Arizona unborn infants," appealed a 2022 decision upholding the state's current, already-extreme 15-week abortion ban. Instead, the good doctor urged the court to reinstate a long-dormant law passed 160 years ago - as the Civil War still raged, before Arizona was a state, decades before the vast majority of those affected by it could vote - which allows abortions only if the mother’s life is in danger, provides no exceptions for rape, incest, non-viable fetuses or other ugly facts of life, and suggests abortion providers be prosecuted.

It also passed when male doctors with no clinical experience relied on the ancient concept of balancing the Four Humors: blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile. Women - frail, submissive, emotional - were deemed especially prone to illness, most often hysteria, or "womb disease," because their uterus, "the great central pivotal organ of her existence," moved and caused mood swings. Aggravating factors: too-tight corsets, sexual urges, reading, challenging the status quo. Treatments: bloodletting, magnetizers, snake oil, smelling salts, leeches on the abdomen to reduce blood in the womb, clitoral stimulation via pelvic massage to create orgasm and release excess fluid, "patent medicine" or opiates - most addicts were women - and the asylum, a "convenient, socially acceptable excuse (for) potentially scandalous behavior."

Laws then on the books addressed the possible pernicious results of said scandalous behavior: "If any woman shall endeavor, privately, either by herself or the procurement of others, to conceal the death of any issue of her body, which, if born alive, would be a bastard, so that it may not come to light, whether it shall have been murdered or not, every such mother being convicted thereof shall suffer imprisonment in the county jail for a term not exceeding one year." Other laws made it illegal to entice Black people to leave the state to be sold into slavery. But in the name of mercy another law creates the category of "excusable homicide" if, say, "a man is at work with an axe, and the head flies off and kills a bystander,” or a parent is "moderately correcting his child, or a master his servant."

Cue today's Arizona, or "Fetuzona, where all zygotes matter," the hateful likes of Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs can get elected, and GOP governors can pack a helpfully expanded Supreme Court - thanks then-Gov. Doug "Fucking Douchey, Anus Maximus" - with seven, male, far-right ideologues who can pass a "devastating, cruel" anti-choice law "wildly out of step with where Arizonan voters are at." Democratic, female state officials have made it very clear they will not go gentle into the night. "Let me be clear," said Gov. Katie Hobbs of an extreme ban that "hurts women." "Let me be completely clear," said A.G. Kris Mayes of an "unconscionable" ruling and "stain our state" she's already vowed not to enforce, with help from a proactive Hobbs who already gave Mayes' office sole enforcement authority.

Last week, reproductive rights organizers announced they'd collected over 500,000 signatures, far over the requisite 383,923, for a November referendum on a constitutional amendment enshrining the right to abortion, and activists and lawmakers vow, with abortion on the ballot, extremists will "feel the power of pissed-off women voters." Sadly, doctors and those they care for are caught in the middle. Lamenting she'll be "phoning lawyers for guidance on what i can do" rather than "making clinical decisions based on what my patients are telling me," one doctor decried "legal jargon (with no) ability to capture the nuance of taking care of a patient." "It completely wreaks havoc on our ability to do our job," she said. "And patients are going to be the ones who suffer."

Of course the "Republi-nazi terrorist attack" in Arizona, while more extreme than some, reflects a nationwide GOP war on women; today, more than one in three women of reproductive age live in a state with an abortion ban. Still, a glaring dissonance persists: Since the 2022 Dobbs ruling on Roe, voters in Kansas, Kentucky and other states have voted for expanding not restricting access to abortion, and similar proposals are on ballots in multiple states. Meanwhile, right-wingers on the wrong side of history remain stubbornly clueless about the grim possible consequences - fury, sorrow, sepsis, bleeding out in parking lots - facing millions of women. Citing Arizona's "earthquake of epic proportions," one GOP strategist admitted, "Anytime Republicans are talking about abortion, they’re losing."

Cue hapless rich white dude in a bad Beatles wig Mark Simone, who went on a Fox panel of more rich white dudes to discuss lady parts and say it's all good. A radio host who online trashes "Biden's kids who've all been involved in horrible drug scandals," lauds a brilliant Trump "who builds 100-story skyscrapers in his sleep," and claims Bernie Sanders "never held a job until age 53 and lived off welfare and four different women," he shrugged that any sloppy, pregnant ho has it easy with a simple, solo bus ride: "If you had to travel to another state for an abortion, buying a bus ticket to (go) get it is not the worst thing in the world." Says the guy who def doesn't know how grief, terror, vaginal bleeding, abdominal pain, financial panic, ectopic pregnancy or worrying about who's watching the kids feels.

Nationally, he's got much oblivious company, with even anti-choice GOPers so freaked out by Arizona's illustration of "what happens when abortion policy is left up to the (often rabid) states" they're running away from it. That night, Fox talking heads literally ignored the ruling, though they found time to accuse NPR of being liberal and Kamala of doing "abortion hit jobs." While a coalition of right-wing sages has reportedly published a 920-page, Comstock Act -based plan for a Trump Mandate for Leadership to target abortion pills, Trump continues to just say whatever he thinks will keep him out of jail - which rightly hasn't stopped anyone from laying Arizona at his tacky door, from Elizabeth Warren - "Remember, this is brought to you by Trump" - to Biden: "This is Trump's fault."

Arizona's GOP pols are flip-flopping so fast they forget what they just said. Kari Lake, who once proclaimed she was "incredibly thrilled we (have) a great law that's already on the books" - from 1864 - now says the law is "out of step with Arizonans,” which never stopped her before. Rep. David Schweikert, a Roe opponent and six-time sponsor of a radical Life at Conception Act up for re-election, now says abortion should "not be legislated from the bench." Rep. Juan Ciscomani, who fought to ban health insurance that covers abortion, called the ruling a "disaster" and wants the 15-week ban back please. As stupid as these people are, they've evidently grasped that "Let The Men Decide" - the sign of a protester rigged in top hat and mutton chaps - may not be the greatest campaign slogan.

Not state Sen. and Jan 6-er Anthony Kern, though. The day before the ruling, Kern led a small prayer group onto the Senate floor - the Senate seal, actually - where they kneeled, cried out in tongues and summoned "the hovering glory of God almighty" to, yes, let the men decide. "Lord, we ask thee to release the presence of the Lord in the Senate chamber," Kern bellowed, as acolytes who regrettably missed out on 1692 Salem wailed, "Let it be so, let it be so, let it be so." Kern was an apt guru. Now under investigation as a fake elector for Trump in 2020, he turned his back on Gov Hobbs during her State of the State speech and just successfully pushed through a Senate bill permitting the Ten Commandments to be recited aloud in public schools: "This is the guy the writers of our Constitution warned us about."

After the head of Secular Arizonapointed out Kern's garish play-acting on government property - "So this happened today" - the reaction was swift. Most people agreed, "If you believe, fine, but believe on your own time, not mine." Also on "archaic beliefs in imaginary bearded sky daddies": "Yup. Freedom of religion. Support sky pilots, that's your option. But keep it out (of) public facilities." They raged - "The Taliban has infiltrated state government" - mourned - "God cringes" - snarked - "The state of Arizona is showing the long-term effects of living in an Easy Bake Oven," "Oh those zany GOP politicians - next he's bringing snakes and a goat to sacrifice" - mused, in the 21st century, "You actually have to put effort into being as willfully ignorant." Many imagined the furor if, say, Muslim prayers were recited.

The "speaking in tongues" shtick also sparked debate. Given they're Repubs, maybe it's just gibberish, or one of the migrant languages Trump says "no one has ever heard of." In the Bible, it was noted, the apostles spoke in tongues when the Holy Spirit filled them, and each person heard them in their native tongue; if it's not understood by all, it's just showmanship. Or theocracy. "They weren't speaking in tongues - they were articulating Republican policy," one argued. And, "This is how Republicans make decisions for your family and future." Our fave: "My wife spoke to me in tongues and I couldn't understand her, so with her preacher's advice she divorced me. We were 'unyoked.' After a few years, I met and married a wonderful woman. Best thing that ever happened to me!"

After the response, Kern sneered, "Looks like our prayer team stirred up some God-haters." In the venerable traditiion of learning nothing, ever, his House colleagues also acted like douchebags - or kids sneaking out before their mom can make them clean their room - by twice blocking Dem efforts to repeal the 160-year-old baby mama law and then up and quitting, voting to adjourn until "cooler heads prevail." "Democrats were screaming at us and engaging (in) insurrectionist behavior," one whined, and besides, "removing healthy babies from healthy mothers is not health care." Jesus. They never seem to realize maybe they have to go so far back in time to strip women's rights because it's been that long since we wanted to live like that. As GOPers left, Dems chanted, "Shame! Shame! Shame!" If only they had some.

"Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past." - George Orwell.

Traffic is seen at the Otay Mesa border crossing

'Victory for Cleaner Air' as Federal Court Upholds California Vehicle Emissions Standards

Three judges serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Tuesday affirmed the Biden administration's 2022 decision to preserve California's strict emissions standards—dealing a blow to a coalition of right-wing state attorneys general and fossil fuel industry groups that had challenged the rules.

The panel—made up of judges who were appointed by Democratic Presidents Joe Biden and Barack Obama—ruled that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was right to reinstate its waiver, dating back to the 1970s, which allows California to impose stricter emissions standards than the federal government.

The waiver, which has helped the massive state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by hundreds of thousands of tons annually, was introduced to help the state address smog stemming from congested freeways and roads in Los Angeles.

The Trump administration revoked the exception in 2018, and Biden reinstated it in 2022, a move that one Sierra Club leader said was "vital to California" and would have a "positive ripple effect on states across the country, driving forward climate progress and delivering cleaner air for millions of Americans."

On Tuesday, Sierra Club senior attorney Joshua Berman said the D.C. Circuit panel's ruling in Ohio v. EPA was "a victory for cleaner air and cleaner cars not just in California, but across the nation."

"The D.C. Circuit has reaffirmed California's critical role in protecting its residents from harmful vehicle emissions, thereby benefiting the many states that rely on adoption of California's standards to achieve and maintain the Clean Air Act's air quality mandate," said Berman.

California's strict emissions standards have been adopted by 17 states and Washington, D.C. since they were first introduced. The Biden administration recently approved new emissions standards for cars as well as buses and trucks that campaigners and experts said were progress but didn't go far enough.

Alice Henderson, director and lead counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund, said the upheld standards "will save lives, protect people from the climate crisis and unhealthy air pollution, save drivers money, and help create good new jobs."

Scott Hochberg, transportation attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity's Climate Law Institute, which intervened in Ohio v. EPA in support of California's waiver, called on the state to now "go full speed ahead with strong car standards."

"This year California should continue to show national leadership on clean vehicles by adopting ambitious new standards for gas-powered cars, pickups, and SUVs," said Hochberg. "Importantly, this ruling ensures that the 17 other states that follow California can keep driving towards a future with cleaner air and cleaner vehicles."

BlackRock CEO Larry Fink

'Out-of-Touch Billionaire' Larry Fink Blasted for Calling 65 a 'Crazy' Retirement Age

Larry Fink, the billionaire CEO of the world's largest asset management firm, wrote in his annual letter to investors on Tuesday that it is "a bit crazy" that 65 is viewed as a sensible retirement age in the United States, drawing swift backlash from Social Security defenders and policy analysts.

Dean Baker, senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, replied that the CEO of BlackRock apparently doesn't know the U.S. already raised the full retirement age for Social Security to 67 under a law passed during the Reagan administration—a change that inflicted benefit cuts across the board.

"I love how rich people are treated as sources of great wisdom when they obviously don't know their ass from their elbow," Baker wrote on social media.

While Fink, who is 71, wrote that "no one should have to work longer than they want to," he argued that "our conception of retirement" must change, pointing specifically to the Netherlands' decision to gradually raise its retirement age and tie it to life expectancy. (Fink does not mention that life expectancy in the U.S. has been trending downward in recent years.)

"When people are regularly living past 90, what should the average retirement age be?" Fink wrote. "How do we encourage more people who wish to work longer, with carrots rather than sticks?"

Alex Lawson, executive director of the progressive advocacy group Social Security Works, told Common Dreams in response to the BlackRock CEO's letter that "Larry Fink is the definition of an out-of-touch billionaire."

"He is welcome to work as long as he wants to, but that doesn't mean that everyone else—including people who do demanding physical labor—should work until they die," said Lawson.

"Half of Americans age 65 and older are living on less than $30,000 per year. This is absurd. Congress must expand Social Security."

Roughly half of older Americans have no retirement savings, a fact that Fink acknowledged in his letter.

While progressive lawmakers such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have called on policymakers to expand Social Security benefits by forcing rich people like Fink to contribute more to the program, the BlackRock CEO argued that the private sector and federal government should team up to "ensure that future generations can live out their final years with dignity."

"What should that national effort do? I don't have all the answers," Fink added. "But what I do have is some data and the beginnings of a few ideas from BlackRock’s work. Because our core business is retirement."

Fink's letter comes days after the Republican Study Committee—a panel comprised of around 80% of the House GOP caucus—released a budget proposal calling for "modest adjustments to the retirement age for future retirees to account for increases in life expectancy" in a purported bid to "secure Social Security solvency for decades to come."

But progressives argue that rather than slashing benefits for new retirees to shore up the program, Congress should lift the payroll tax cap that allows the ultra-rich to pay the same amount into Social Security as someone who makes $168,600 a year.

Fink, for example, has a base salary of around $1.5 million. With the current payroll tax cap in place, Fink stopped paying into Social Security less than a month and a half into 2024.

"In the U.S. today, 12 million seniors are dealing with food insecurity," Sanders wrote on social media Tuesday. "Half of Americans age 65 and older are living on less than $30,000 per year. This is absurd. Congress must expand Social Security."

Norfolk Southern derailment in East Palestine, Ohio

Norfolk Southern Agrees to Pay $600 Million—A Fraction of Its 2023 Profits—for East Palestine Disaster

A decision from a class-action lawsuit has determined Norfolk Southern will now have to pay $600 million—a mere fraction of the company’s 2023 profits—for the toxic derailment of its train in East Palestine, Ohio last year.

The decision deals with everyone within a 20-mile radius of the derailment. The train spilled more than a million pounds of hazardous chemicals in East Palestine.

"Individuals and businesses will be able to use compensation from the settlement in any manner they see fit to address potential adverse impacts from the derailment," the company said in a statement. "This could include healthcare needs and medical monitoring, property restoration and diminution, and compensation for any net business loss."

"We believe this is a fair, reasonable and adequate result for the community on a number of levels, not the least of which is the speed of the resolution, and the overall amount of the awards residents can expect, which will be significant for those most impacted by the derailment," said Seth Katz of Burg Simpson Eldredge Hersh & Jardine, M. Elizabeth Graham of Grant & Eisenhofer, Jayne Conroy of Simmons Hanly Conroy and T. Michael Morgan of Morgan & Morgan, the attorneys for the plaintiffs, in a combined statement.

The Biden administration recently announced that at least two people will now have to be on board the trains of the country's largest freight operators, following the East Palestine disaster, which drew national attention to Norfolk Southern’s history of dangerous practices and lobbying against more stringent federal safety rules.

Last year, even after adjusting for a $1.1 billion hit associated with the East Palestine wreck, the company reported nearly $3 billion in income from its railway operations.

Santa Marta 5

Salvadoran Court Decried for Letting Case Against 'Santa Marta 5' Continue

Human rights defenders on Wednesday condemned a Salvadoran court's decision to uphold what critics say are politically motivated murder and illicit association charges against five environmental activists.

Miguel Ángel Gámez, Alejandro Laínez García, Pedro Antonio Rivas Laínez, Teodoro Antonio Pacheco, and Saúl Agustín Rivas Ortega were arrested in January 2023 and accused of murdering María Inés Alvarenga—an alleged collaborator with the U.S.-backed Salvadoran regime that killed approximately 75,000 civilians during a 1979-92 civil war—when the men were Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) rebels.

Defenders of the "Santa Marta Five" have highlighted not only the Salvadoran government's failure to show any proof of the men's guilt, but also the fact that perpetrators of civil war-related crimes are protected under a 1992 amnesty agreement between the government and FMLN.

"It is outrageous that the judge is allowing this trial to go forward despite the lack of any evidence of a crime," said John Cavanagh, a senior adviser at the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Policy Studies.

"The international community stands strong with the five leaders of the successful fight against mining, and we will join Salvadoran water defenders to continue to fight with them for justice in this case," he added.

Advocates for the five defendants have also noted how a "state of exception" imposed as part of right-wing Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele's war on drug gangs has eroded due process and other rights. As Common Dreams has reported, tens of thousands of people have been arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned under the crackdown. More than 130 of them have died in state custody.

Some critics say it's no coincidence that the Santa Marta Five—who played a key role in winning a 2017 ban on metals mining in El Salvador—have been targeted by Bukele's government, which is taking steps to reverse the historic prohibition. Environmental activists have found themselves in the crosshairs.

Vidalina Morales, who heads the environmental and human rights group Association of Economic and Social Development (ADES)—where Santa Marta Five member Pacheco worked— toldAtmos earlier this year that by arresting the Santa Marta Five, Bukele's administration is "sending us a message."

"They want to open the path for these mining projects to come back," she explained. "They want to criminalize the social movements in this country."

"This is the life we're living in El Salvador," Morales added. "We feel so much fear for our lives and the lives of our families."

Viviana Herrera, the Latin America program coordinator at MiningWatch Canada, said Wednesday that "there is a well-documented pattern of criminalization across the Americas, where environmental defenders are slapped with unfounded charges in an effort to silence their opposition to mining and prevent their life-affirming work protecting water for future generations."

"We firmly denounce today's Santa Marta case ruling," she continued. "All five water defenders played pivotal roles securing an historic ban on metal mining in El Salvador, and this ruling is a clear threat to the rights of all Salvadorans who are protecting their water and environment."

"We express our heartfelt sorrow with the five water defenders and their families," Herrera added, "and will continue to call for the charges to be dropped until they are free."

Injured child in Gaza

'History Will Judge': Sanders Says US Must Stand With Gaza Children, Not Netanyahu

Sen. Bernie Sanders wrote Thursday that the Biden administration must fundamentally alter the United States' relationship with the Israeli government as it continues to bomb and starve children in the Gaza Strip, often with the help of American weaponry and diplomatic support on the world stage.

"The United States has offered Israel unconditional financial support for many years," Sanders (I-Vt.) wrote in an op-ed for The Boston Globe. "That relationship must now change. Instead of begging [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu's extremist government to protect innocent lives and obey U.S. and international law, our new position must be simple and straightforward: Not another nickel for the Netanyahu government if its present policies continue."

The senator noted that the U.S. public opposition to Israel's catastrophic war on Gaza has surged in recent months, with a majority of American voters saying in response to one survey that they want the Biden administration to halt weapons shipments to Israel.

"Let's be clear: This is a monumental tragedy for the Palestinian people," Sanders wrote. "But from a moral perspective, it is also a defining moment for Americans, because the United States is directly complicit in this horrific war. No, the U.S. military is not dropping 2,000-pound bombs on civilian apartment buildings, but the United States is supplying those bombs. No, the United States is not blocking the borders and preventing food, water, and medical supplies from getting to desperate people, but we have supplied billions of dollars to the Netanyahu government, which is doing just that."

"History will judge what we do right now," the senator continued. "History will judge whether we stand with starving children, whether we uphold America's professed values, or whether we continue to blindly finance Netanyahu's war machine."

Sanders' op-ed came days after President Joe Biden said in a phone call with Netanyahu that the U.S. could move to condition military aid to Israel if it doesn't do more to protect Gaza civilians and allow aid to flow to malnourished and increasingly desperate Palestinians. At least 28 children have died of starvation in Gaza in recent weeks due to Israel's restrictions on food aid.

While Israel agreed in response to pressure from Biden and the international community to open a new land crossing for aid deliveries, humanitarian groups said the move was woefully inadequate in the face of famine conditions, rapidly spreading disease, and other crises.

"Above all, what the people of Gaza need is a permanent cease-fire to end the death and destruction," Sally Abi Khalil, Oxfam International's Middle East and North Africa director, said in response to Israel's announcement last week.

But Biden's rhetoric on conditioning U.S. aid to Israel has not translated to concrete policy change: The Biden administration is currently pressing Congress to approve a proposed sale of $18 billion worth of F-15 fighter jets to Israel, and the White House last month quietly greenlighted the transfer of more than 1,800 2,000-pound bombs.

For months, United Nations experts and humanitarian groups have been calling on the U.S. and other nations to cut off weapons shipments to the Israeli military, pointing to well-documented evidence of war crimes.

More than 250 human rights organizations have now signed a statement demanding that all countries "immediately halt the transfer of weapons, parts, and ammunition to Israel and Palestinian armed groups." The statement had just 16 signatories when it was originally released in January.

"All states have the obligation to prevent atrocity crimes and promote adherence to norms that protect civilians," the statement reads. "The international community is long overdue to live up to these commitments."