Thursday, May 5, 2022

Roe v. Wade Ended Because . . .




Note: This is an updated version of the previous 5-5-2022 blog titled, "Useful Analysis of Abortion Issues From Ruth Bader Ginsburg."


In May of 2022, Justice Alito's "[D]raft draft opinion in a key case striking down Roe v. Wade (1973) has sparked a heated debate, perhaps drawing new attention to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's opinion on the key abortion precedent." 

This is from Fox News: "Leak confirms Ruth Bader Ginsburg's prescient warnings about Roe v. Wade." Read former Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg's piece in Fox News:

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg was famous for her:

  • Very insightful and careful opinions on constitutional law 
  • and her liberal viewpoints more favored by average citizens than by the conservative Republicans.
She supported freedom of choice abortions rights but she also knew that the Supreme Court of the United States' (SCOTUS) Roe v. Wade finding had various technical problems--troublesome ones she had previously predicted would emerge. Back in 1973 Justice William Rehnquist in his dissent acknowledged such problems.
Justice Ginsberg predicted that Roe v. Wade would need fixing. She was not in favor of a sudden, dramatic complete overturning of Roe v. Wade which would be a shock to American citizens--a sudden end to medical rights without alternatives. That's what we got in 2022.

In this blog, I'm not giving my personal opinions on abortion. My goal is to broadcast the work of several writers who show us their high quality thinking processes. Clear thinking on abortion law requires temporarily setting aside strong emotions; then, as a result, a person can better take into consideration essential concepts ( see how Justice Blackmun lists many of these essential concepts in his quotation below).

James Mumford, PhD is a philosopher and writer. I noticed his book, Vexed: Ethics Beyond Political Tribes (Mumford, 2020). I bought it because he discusses the problems voters have as a result of the Democrat and Republican Parties each "packaging" issues together in a so-called "platform." And that makes it quite difficult for voters to make a sensible voting choice. They can't vote yes or no on separate issues; they can only vote for one or the other Party's package. For example, one can't get from Republicans both abortion rights and gun control.

Mumford points out that the Republican Party advertises their not putting restrictions on guns and that they strongly support the sanctity of life (anti- abortion). Mumford carefully interprets the Republican belief as saying: "The loss of life owing to guns may be tragic, but worse would be the loss of the liberty to have guns. Gun violence is the inevitable cost of freedom." Then Mumford concludes that, "Such a sentiment, I have argued, flies in the face of a commitment to the sanctity of life."

Then Mumford examines the hypocrisy of President Richard Nixon who in his first election pursued a pro-choice agenda and followed through on it during his first term. But in his campaign for a second term, Mumford wrote, "All that changed when he came to see his chances of re-election hinged on bringing the Catholics into the fold. He shamelessly reversed his position" (Mumford, 2020).

Nixon's personal hypocrisy and strategy for political gain is not unusual behavior for ambitious politicians; they carefully choose and promote in the campaign those issues that will get them elected. Mumford in his book helpfully examines half a dozen important political issues; he shows how they are used as weapons in the form of deceitful, tribal (as in emotion-provoking slogans) hooks by which to gain votes.
The Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision came in 1973.
Justice Harry Blackmun wrote the majority opinion making abortion legal. He remarked that, "One's philosophy, one's experiences, one's exposure to the raw edges of human existence, one's religious training, one's attitudes toward life and family and their values, and the moral standards one establishes and seeks to observe, are all likely to influence and to color one's thinking and conclusions about abortion" ( from Harrison and Gilbert, Eds., 2003).

Justice William Rehnquist, in his dissent, wrote: "The Court's opinion will accomplish the seemingly impossible feat of leaving this area of the law more confused than it found it" ( from Harrison and Gilbert, Eds., 2003).
Now, in the Fall of 2023, the some States are busy prohibiting abortion. Other states have laws allowing abortion. Several States have laws by which any citizen can sue those who go out of State to get a legal abortion; and there are lawsuits in the process of blocking such laws. The abortion law and its interpretation is pretty messy still. 
         For references, see the page BIBLIOGRAPHY / WORKS CITED
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Saturday, April 30, 2022

Part 2 of 2: Citizens MUST Supervise Their Government


Any government needs its citizens to care enough to supervise their politicians--to keep them from screwing things up.
Our government is good and will continue to survive. Instead of being set back by worry, we have to remember in a positive way that the Presidency and government is led by mere persons laden with truly overwhelming demands. 
Presidents Johnson and Nixon were both experienced and successful politicians—one Democrat and one Republican. In their last election, both won by a landslide with 61% of the vote and way more than enough electoral votes. But, concerning the Vietnam war, they failed to follow the wisdom of their best advisors. They failed to respect that after about 1968 public opinion was (1) against the Vietnam war and (2) and our involvement in the first place a serious mistake. Instead of getting out of Vietnam, Presidents Johnson and Nixon misinformed Congress and the American people and escalated the war they had been losing for multiple years.
Just because we know and care doesn’t mean that future presidents, governors and congressmen will avoid the documented mistakes of past governments. 
The most penetrating analysis of the causes of this debacle, so far as I know, is by Daniel Ellsberg in his excellent book Secrets: a memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers (Ellsberg, 2002).
Website is done. Blogging is getting somewhat easier. I’m humble and realistic about what I can accomplish. I'm very pleased with the number of visitors.
Now I’m spending more of my time performing nitty gritty political engagement actions.
  • I try not to annoy friends and family by talking too much about politics. 
  • I’ve sought out several friends who have a lifetime of political involvement and asked for their advice about where to go from here. They’ve helped by providing leads and suggestions.
  • I’ve made a few modest contributions to political influencers. I’ve received back some personal thank-you notes. Also, when I contributed to a candidate in another state whose goals exactly aligned with mine, I received a very nice received a very meaningful email! 
  • I’ve been attending two different monthly political party meetings. These are online. There’s always something to be learned, but I really want the greater emotional engagement from face to face meetings. 
  • A politically savvy friend and I researched the soon to be elected local county commissioners and city council candidates. We’ve done our homework. Some candidates for municipal judge were attorneys, which would make sense. But one candidate did not list any judicial experience. When we vote, we will not be making guesses.
  • The self-interest of the Parties and candidates is important. But just yesterday I learned there are thousands of important self-interest, group interest, and lobbying groups of citizens. I think there’s a big story here which I'm going to investigate. Maybe we'll be discussing this in a future blog. Check out this interesting link:

1. All citizens can get productively involved in politics in some way. I’ve worked professionally with all sorts of disabled persons and those whose rights have been legally limited; these folks also can get more power to their votes. Everyone can decide to do more and have reason to feel good about it. America needs every citizen. We are not at the top of our game, but let’s make progress!
2. Two generally important key ideas are as follows:
  • Dr. Hersh’s Politics Is For Power book emphasizes that we get more voting power by getting more involved socially and being helpful to people. Hersh said, “They earned the votes by showing their neighbors they care about them” (Hersh, 2020). Hersh’s political science research also found that a wide range of unremarkable people became successful influencing others and getting out the vote. I highly recommend reading this book. Very readable and inspiring.
  • Because America is a huge country, it is difficult for citizens to get involved personally with their state and federal legislators. The solution to this difficulty is through what are called “linkages.” For most Americans their linkage to government is through the Republican or Democratic Parties. While they are important, their squabbles and excessive partisanship are a big problem. For myself, I’m going to focus on local issues and local political engagement. Concerning the major political parties, I’m going to consider my one or two most important issues and vote for whichever Party appears compatible with my issues. Remember, the Parties are not obligated in any way to fulfill their election promises!
3. And finally:
  • Keep in front of your mind and heart what you care about, what pains you about government or any politician.
  • Write down one or two specific political issues. For example, income inequality or gun violence or abortion. What grabs your feelings about what should change in government? And for each issue, write down and pin on the wall, exactly the specific actions you want to see occur.
So! You have pain that you care about. You care to supervise your government because you know how fragile is their common sense. Keep a tight grip on you goal, for without it you will lose sight of your own concerns and the paths to solutions.
        For references, see the relevant page on the website.
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Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Part 1 of 2: Citizens MUST Supervise Their Government


Let's be clear what supervision means. It means the overseeing, directing, care and control of people or some process to insure it operates safely and correctly. Here are a couple down home examples:
  • Watching over children so they "play nice," don't get in danger, and so you can rescue them from trouble.
  • Knowing how to fry an egg and supervising oneself to not burn it up.
This blog, Part 1, is all about motivating voters to CARE enough to supervise.
The subsequent blog, Part 2, is about the various ways, above and beyond just voting, that serious-minded supervisors get the job done.
We’ll consider the Vietnam war as an illustration of monumental political decisions (not accidents) leading to agonizing failures and war tragedies which continue to bring tears to millions of Vietnam War Memorial visitors. 
The purpose isn’t drama. Instead, we want to weld emotional knowing with historical knowledge and secure it into our personal value system. The strength of an emotionally based value can then cause political engagement to grow. 
Most parents instinctively care to routinely supervise their small children. In contrast, average voters are annoyed and worry their about politicians but typically don’t provide them any supervision. I’m not saying politicians are like children. But politics is so important and overwhelmingly complex that outside supervision by engaged citizens is critically necessary.

I will reveal the key Vietnam war decisions of the presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon. They were the sequence of presidents in office for 21 years from 1953 to 1974. Each president worried over the dangers of involvement in a foreign civil war—and the substantial difficulties involved in making an exit from it.
In a typical year 90% of American voters never perform an act of supervision of local, state, or national government. Typical voters will occasionally voice complaints about politics to one another but not directly to their government officials. Thirty to fifty percent might vote in a couple elections during a year. In view of this, it’s no wonder voters are pessimistic and cynical about their influence on government. 
Voters show little evidence of caring to supervise politicians, but the politicians covet and crave citizen votes and tax money to run government. 
Centuries ago in Greece , in the world’s first democracy, the statesman Pericles said, “Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.”
Here is another famous quote relevant to politics in any century for any country: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” 
This was written by Lord Acton, a brilliant English politician, historian, world traveler, and writer in the 1800s.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1951)

Communism was expanding at the end of the Second World War (WW2) in 1945. The Soviet armies raced into several countries in Eastern Europe and made Communism the only allowed form of government. 
In the Democratic Republic of China (AKA Red China and now officially called just China), the communists were dominant. Northern Vietnam was trending that way.
The north and south parts of Vietnam had various names over the years. I simplify that by referring to them as North or South Vietnam. In 1975-1976 the Communists gained control of all Vietnam and the official name became the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. 
It seemed like one neighboring country after another was falling into Communism. President Eisenhower began comparing the spread of Communism to a series of falling dominoes, and this figure of speech caught on. North Vietnam was known to be increasingly Communist and the “domino theory” caused concerns that South Vietnam would fall to Communist aggression from the North Vietnamese and the whole of Vietnam would be communist. 
After WW2, France was unsuccessfully trying to re-establish itself as a colonial power governing Vietnam. But North Vietnam was becoming Communist and successfully battling against the French. America was financially supporting a large part of these French efforts. Occasionally U.S. aircraft assisted the French. This was the level of U.S. involvement in Vietnam under Eisenhower.
President John F. Kennedy (1961-1963)
Kennedy was a WW2 veteran and became a senator in Congress. He had an interest in foreign relations prior to becoming president and had taken an extensive world tour that included Vietnam. Kennedy is said to have had a great appreciation of history and had doubts of America’s ability to solve Asian political problems with military power. In 1961 he resisted calls for sending ground troops to Vietnam to fight Communism (Logevall, 2012 p 703-708). 
Nevertheless, the U.S. continued to send military supplies to South Vietnam including weapons. At the time of Kennedy’s assassination November 1963, there were 16,000 American military advisors in Vietnam but no combat troops.
President Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969)

Eisenhower and Kennedy knew the dangers of getting involved in a foreign civil war and the difficulties of exiting if things didn’t work out. But they succumbed to the easier, immediate response of ramping up resources and advisors. 
After Kennedy’s assassination, Johnson became president and served out the remainder of Kennedy’s term. 
Johnson, in his campaign for his own first term as president, said he “would not send American boys to fight a war that Asian boys should fight for themselves.” 
But after he became President, he escalated the war with the bombing of North Vietnam, called “Rolling Thunder.” And in March of 1965 the first combat battalions arrived in South Vietnam. 
Bernard Fall, the Frenchman author of the famous book, Street Without Joy: Indochina War 1946-1954, was a true expert on the war. He advised our country on the dangers of involvement. His opinion, his prediction, was that all the American firepower would make the war continue without resolution, “but at immense cost: the destruction of Vietnam” (Logevall, 2012, p 709-214). The future casualty statistics which confirm Fall’s prediction are from The Vietnam War (Ward and Burns, 2017).
  • 58,000 American dead
  • 250,000 South Vietnamese troops dead
  • 1,000,000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops dead
  • 2,000,000 north and south Vietnamese civilians dead
  • Tens of thousands in neighboring Laos and Cambodia dead
Johnson certainly had great compassion for all classes of Americans and for political freedoms for others around the world. But during the war he lied to and withheld from both Congress and the American People information they needed in order monitor and provide checks and balances to the President. 
Deceitfully, Johnson prevented Congressional and public oversight by withholding or minimizing bad war news . He did this to insure winning his presidential election and for insuring the passage of his Great Society social welfare legislation (Bird,1998). He did win the election in a landslide and the Great Society passed. 
What President Johnson (a man with heart and political skill) allowed to happen is a critically important lesson for children, young adults, and grownups to understand and worry about.

America was not winning the war in Vietnam. The North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong Communist soldiers were guerillas fighting a style of war they could ultimately win. The American style of war didn’t match the conditions in Vietnam.
The following quotations are from The Color of Truth (Bird, 1968, pages 17, 345, 366, respectively ). Note: Robert McNamara was Secretary of Defense and the Bundy Brothers (MacGeorge Bundy and William Bundy) were top level advisers in the Johnson administration.
  • Long before Robert McNamara privately turned against the war, the Bundy brothers understood what a dubious venture the Johnson administration had embraced. They knew how badly the war was going as early as 1964-1965, yet they found a way to persist in folly. 
  • By 1965 McNamara said, “We have been too optimistic…I’m saying that we may never find a military solution. We need to explore other means. Our military approach is an unlikely route to a successful conclusions.” 
  • Eventually, in 1967, Johnson was told by Robert McNamara that he could not foresee success in the Vietnam war; de-escalation and negotiations with the North Vietnamese to end to war were what was needed. Within a few days Johnson found a position for McNamara as president of the World Bank. Not long after, during a discussion of war matters, McNamara broke down and spoke tearfully about the cost and tragedy of the Vietnam. McNamara then said to the incoming Secretary of Defense, “We just have to end this thing. I just hope you can get hold of it. It is out of control.” 
Early in 1968 the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong (communist soldiers in South Vietnam) together launched the huge TET offensive; they attacked simultaneously more than 100 cities and about 40 provincial capitals. It was the largest military operation of either side during the war. Combat deaths for 1968 were 16,500 killed. More troops were needed to attempt to stabilize things, and there was a new draft call for 48,000 men. President Johnson sought out negotiations to end the war. Unbelievably, the negotiations to end the war were “derailed in a secret agreement between then Presidential Candidate Richard Nixon and the President Thieu of South Vietnam. TET Offensive. (2022, April 23) In Wikipedia.
Eventually, Johnson was so overwhelmed with the issues of the Vietnam war that in March 1968 he announced he would neither seek nor accept a nomination to run for a second term. Publicly, Johnson presented a strong and confident public face as a war time president. Privately he agonized over the casualties. He wanted to hear them on a daily basis. Sometimes he appeared consumed with grief and sometimes was found crying. 
Incredibly, as the Johnson Administration and Congress grappled with stark wartime realities, the U.S. military manipulated enemy troop strength figures to give a more favorable impression of American progress in the war (Bird, 1998, p 364). More than a few American soldiers, when hearing official news about enemy dead and American casualties, came to believe the Pentagon was lying.
President Richard M. Nixon ( 1969-1974)

When Nixon took office the American death toll in Vietnam was 36,000.
Nixon in his campaign had promised to end the war, but within the next four years another 21,000 would lose their lives. For every man killed, six were wounded.
In 1970 Nixon decided to commit ground forces to Cambodia, a neighbor of Vietnam through which North Vietnamese supplies and troops passed on their way to South Vietnam. Some of Nixon’s staff worried about him and thought he was in an overly aggressive state of mind. Nixon expressed his own mood as, “We go for broke.” His Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, and others strongly disagreed with Nixon. Several top advisers resigned in protest (Robenalt, 2015.) Subsequently large protests erupted in America:
  • There were mass student protests.
  • An ROTC building at Kent State was burned to the ground. In the ruckus and protests, four students were shot by National Guardsmen.
  • Many colleges and universities temporarily shut down.
  • Students marched on Washington by tens of thousands.
  • Nixon had made a remark that protestors were “bums” and Nixon’s staff felt this exacerbated the public’s unrest and protests.
Many times during Nixon’s years in office he obsessed about the news media and those in Congress who opposed him. He sought to neutralize such public dissenters. He directed some of his staff to collect damaging information about those dissenters so their reputations could be destroyed. He had his staff install secret wiretaps and microphones for recordings within the Whitehouse. Nixon didn’t even trust some of his own staff, such as his Secretary of State Kissinger.
In June o f 1972 at Nixon’s initiation, a small group (nicknamed and known as the “Plumbers”) broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters for the purpose of spying and bugging their telephones. Nixon often contemplated underhanded means of attacking those working against him. The Plumbers were caught red handed and arrested. Later on, anonymous tips provided enough clues to tie Nixon staff to illegal surveillance activities. Eventually the existence of the secret Whitehouse recordings came to light. Nixon’s staff tried but were unable to shut down the FBI investigation. Soon Nixon’s cover up fell apart and the criminal behavior of his staff was fully investigated. Multiple Whitehouse and Plumbers staff were found guilty and went to prison. 
Congress overrode a Nixon veto and passed the War Powers Resolution in November 1973; it significantly limited a president’s authority to wage war. 
In 1974 Congress began impeachment proceedings on Nixon, who resigned later in 1974 to avoid the impeachment--which was predicted to end in conviction. Vice President Gerald Ford became President. Ford ruled out further military activity in Vietnam. In April 1975 America finished evacuating Saigon, which surrendered to the North Vietnamese. 

America’s Vietnam war had come to an end.
These four presidents, well informed by history and military advisors, were forewarned about getting into a foreign civil war from which an exit would be difficult. The war went on for years even after the very experienced presidential staff advised ending it-- even after the majority of citizens, most of the Congress, and the press wanted to end it. There are some critically important reasons the war went on as long as it did:
  • The excessive power and independence of the executive branch of government at the time. 
  • Lack of congressional confidence and determination to serve as an effective balance to the power of the Presidency. 
  • Arrogance and excessive desire to win while ignoring and justifying the exorbitant human and financial costs. 
  • Johnson and Nixon were both intelligent and experienced politicians. But out of self-interest they lied and distorted information to manipulate the other branches of government and the American people. Powerful men are necessary but their power must be balanced by the other branches of government and the well informed citizenry.
Several major events led to the end of the Vietnam war:
  • Daniel Ellsberg’s leaking of the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times and other newspapers. When the Whitehouse sought to suppress the Pentagon papers and keep them secret, the Supreme Court quickly ruled that the public had a right to know what had been going on in the Whitehouse and the war. Ellsberg was charged by the FBI with various crimes but the judge declared a mistrial because the prosecution during the trial was violating Ellsberg’s constitutional rights and hiding or lying about information sought by the trial judge himself. (from Ellsberg, 2002)
  • The impeachment proceedings of Nixon for Watergate-related crimes that caused his resignation.
  • Congress passed legislation which reduced the power of the presidency to act so independently and which began to reestablish the balance of power. 
  • Public opinion, protests, and the public media informed the citizens. The citizens and veterans learned they had been intentionally denied information they needed, had been lied to, and abused by their own government.
The point is, these are important tragedies we citizens must remember, reflect upon, and use to maintain a commitment to America to be well engaged and effective politically. We need to be able to vote better and to confront our politicians and have them take us seriously—or be voted out of office.
Part 2 of We The People MUST CARE to Supervise Our Government will focus on what actions well motivated citizens can perform to bring out the best in the politicians and the government. These activities make each citizen's one vote become more meaningful and powerful.


        For references, see the relevant page on the website.

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