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Nevilledog's Journal
Nevilledog's Journal
December 23, 2023

Inside the MAGA Plan to Attack Birth Control, Surveil Women and Ban the Abortion Pill


No paywall link

THE SUPREME COURT announced last week that it would take up a case considering restrictions on the most widely-used method of abortion in the United States: the abortion pill. Under a worst-case scenario for American women, that case could have triggered a full reversal of the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of mifepristone, cutting off access to the medication across the country. That didn’t happen. The Supreme Court said it would only consider a more narrow set of questions about regulatory changes that have made the abortion pill more accessible in recent years. It could significantly limit access to mifepristone, but won’t end it altogether.

But it may not matter how the high court rules if Republicans win the presidency next November. That’s because GOP operatives have already crafted an expansive blueprint, 887 pages long, laying out in painstaking detail how they intend to govern, including plans to leverage virtually every arm, tool and agency of the federal government to attack abortion access. The document explicitly names their intention not just to rescind FDA approval for the abortion pill if they regain control of the White House in 2024, but to revive a 150-year-old law that criminalizes sending or receiving through the mail any “article, instrument, substance, drug, medicine or thing” that could be used to facilitate an abortion. That law, the Comstock Act, is viewed as a de facto federal abortion ban by reproductive rights advocates and anti-abortion activists alike.

Those plans — and many more, including proposals to attack contraception access, use the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to increase “abortion surveillance” and data collection, rescind a Department of Defense policy to “prohibit abortion travel funding,” punish states that require health insurance plans to cover abortion, and retool a law that is currently protecting pregnant women with life-threatening conditions — are outlined in Project 2025’s “Mandate for Leadership.”

Project 2025 is an initiative of the Heritage Foundation, a rightwing think tank that has helped staff and set the agenda for every Republican administration since Ronald Reagan. It describes Project 2025 as “the conservative movement’s unified effort to be ready for the next conservative administration to govern at 12:00 noon, January 20, 2025.”

December 1, 2023

Tim Alberta: The Bogus Historians Who Teach Evangelicals They Live in a Theocracy


I had never seen a sanctuary so full on a Tuesday night.

The people packed into FloodGate Church in Brighton, Mich., weren’t here for Bill Bolin, the right-wing zealot pastor who’d grown his congregation tenfold by preaching conspiracy-fueled sermons since the onset of Covid-19, turning Sunday morning worship services into amateur Fox News segments. No, they had come out by the hundreds, decked out in patriotic attire this October evening in 2021, to hear from a man who was introduced to them as “America’s greatest living historian.” They had come for David Barton. And so had I.

It would be of little use to tell the folks around me — the people of my conservative hometown — that Barton wasn’t a real historian. They wouldn’t care that his lone academic credential was a bachelor’s degree in religious education from Oral Roberts University. It wouldn’t matter that Barton’s 2012 book on Thomas Jefferson was recalled by Thomas Nelson, the world’s largest Christian publisher, for its countless inaccuracies, or that a panel of 10 conservative Christian academics who reviewed Barton’s body of work in the aftermath ripped the entirety of his scholarship to shreds. It would not bother the congregants of FloodGate Church to learn that they were listening to a man whose work was found by one of America’s foremost conservative theologians to include “embarrassing factual errors, suspiciously selective quotes, and highly misleading claims.”

All this would be irrelevant to the people around me because David Barton was one of them. He believed the separation of church and state was a myth. He believed the time had come for evangelicals to reclaim their rightful place atop the nation’s governmental and cultural institutions. Hence the hero’s welcome Barton received when he rolled into FloodGate with his “American Restoration Tour.”

Throughout his decades of public life — working for the Republican Party, becoming a darling of Fox News, advising politicians such as new House Speaker Mike Johnson, launching a small propaganda empire, carving out a niche as the American right’s chosen peddler of nostalgic alternative facts — Barton had never been shy about his ultimate aims. He is an avowed Christian nationalist who favors theocratic rule; moreover, he is a so-called Dominionist, someone who believes Christians should control not only the government but also the media, the education system, and other cultural institutions. Barton and his ilk are invested less in advancing individual policies than they are in reconceiving our system of self-government in its totality, claiming a historical mandate to rule society with biblical dogma just as the founders supposedly intended.

November 22, 2023

Trump Rallies are Tutorials in Hate, Vulgarity, and Disrespect


“MOM, I DON’T THINK YOU SHOULD SEE THIS. You should leave the room.”

That was my younger son, age 7 or 8, purportedly trying to “protect” me years ago from a risqué music video on MTV.

We were relatively permissive parents. The boys watched MTV and The Simpsons from an early age—so many episodes of the latter so many times each that even now, in their thirties, both of them can spout the perfect bit of dialogue to fit any occasion, no matter how surreal. I see now they were right—that show was hilariously and cuttingly on the nose about everything.

I thought of all this while reading a Washington Post account of a Donald Trump rally in Iowa. I thought I knew what these rallies were like: I watched one start to finish back in 2016 and since then I’ve read many verbatim transcripts of Trump rallies and speeches. And I thought I knew Iowa and its unique political culture: I spent much of the 1990s and 2000s covering its liberal peaceniks, conservative Christians, caucuses and straw polls. I figured that, like many journalists and Americans in general, I was shockproof after eight years of Trump, though I’ve tried hard to avoid becoming numb or bored or exhausted.

Hannah Knowles has proved I am not shockproof. Her Post story about Trump’s rally in Fort Dodge on Saturday is, in fact, a continuing series of new shocks. That’s because her focus is not only on Trump but on the people who came to see him, and their children. Brace yourself:

Children wandered around in shirts and hats with the letters “FJB,” an abbreviation for an obscene jab at President Biden that other merchandise spelled out: “Fuck Biden.” . . .

One of Trump’s introductory speakers from the Iowa state legislature declared anyone who kneels for the national anthem is a “disrespectful little shit,” quickly drawing a roaring response. And outside the packed venue, vulgar slogans about Biden and Vice President Harris were splashed across T-shirts: “Biden Loves Minors.” “Joe and the Ho Gotta Go!” One referred to Biden and Harris performing sexual acts.

November 12, 2023

Mass Murder Is a Choice. The Gun Industry Made It


No paywall

A WEEK AFTER THE MASSACRE in Lewiston, Maine, left 18 dead, 13 wounded, and a swath of New England terrorized and on lockdown, the gun industry was thinking about its bottom line.

During a Nov. 1 quarterly-earnings call, Ruger CEO Christopher Killoy touted the company’s profits, and the sales boost from new products like its SFAR — a “small-frame auto-loading rifle,” chambered to fire devastating, high-caliber bullets.

The firearms press is enamored with this new assault rifle, touting it as “easy to carry, fast to the shoulder, and packing the punch of an old-school .30-caliber battle rifle.” But had that deadly punch just been turned on civilians at a bowling alley and billiards bar in Lewiston? Law enforcement recovered a Ruger SFAR from the getaway vehicle of the military-trained shooter, Robert R. Card II, and the arrest warrant for Card highlighted “numerous rifle cartridges” scattered “throughout the premises” of both murder scenes.

Killoy did not mention the killings, directly. But he did address analysts who wanted to know if the company was picking up signals of a buying surge, based on the events of “the last 30 days” — encompassing both Lewiston and the Hamas assault on civilians in Israel. “There may be some good demand signals coming,” Killoy advised shareholders. “For all the wrong reasons, perhaps.”


October 30, 2023

Tracking Section 3 Trump Disqualification Challenges (Lawfare)


Almost immediately after Jan. 6, 2021, legal commentators began debating whether Section 3 of the 14th Amendment could be used to disqualify former President Donald Trump from running in the 2024 presidential election. They discussed, in particular, whether or not Section 3 applied to a former president, whether it is self-executing, and whether Jan. 6 could be considered an insurrection or rebellion.

Since then, the issue has become less abstract. In February 2021, the U.S. Senate acquitted Trump of an impeachment article for inciting insurrection, but with a bipartisan majority of the Senate voting to convict. Section 3 challenges have been mounted against several legislators, and one state-level county commissioner who participated in the attack was successfully ousted from his post under that provision. In addition, the House Select Committee on the Jan. 6 Attack on the Capitol made the argument that Trump did inspire an insurrection, referring him to the Justice Department for prosecution under multiple criminal statutes, including one prohibiting insurrection. The Special Counsel’s Office has since brought a criminal case in Washington, D.C. charging Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 attack. In addition, some prominent legal conservatives have argued for a strong, originalist reading of Section 3 that they argue would apply to Trump, immediately disqualifying him from office.

Beginning with a case in Florida in February 2023, voters and advocacy groups have brought many Section 3 challenges in state and federal courts across the country, attempting to block Trump’s name from appearing on ballots for state primaries and caucuses before the national election begins. This page is intended to track which states have active Section 3 litigation to remove Trump from the 2024 ballot. At the bottom is a selected reading of Lawfare's coverage on the issue. Note that the procedural posture and legal theories behind these challenges vary greatly, and a dismissal in any particular action does not necessarily bar other challenges from being brought in that same state.

October 26, 2023

What everyone should know about the new House Speaker, Mike Johnson


On Wednesday, after weeks of chaos, House Republicans unanimously selected Congressman Mike Johnson (R-LA) as the new Speaker. Compared to the previous Republican candidates for Speaker, Johnson has kept a relatively low profile in Congress. He was first elected to the House in 2016, and previously served as GOP deputy whip, a relatively junior leadership position. Johnson, 51, spent most of his career working as an attorney for far-right religious advocacy groups. Before joining Congress, he had a brief but eventful tenure as a member of the Louisiana legislature.

Here is some information you should know about Johnson, now that he has been abruptly elevated to one of the most powerful political positions in the nation.

Johnson advocated for the inclusion of controversial Bible course in public schools

In 2002, a course created by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools was offered in eight Louisiana parishes. The course, according to an April 2002 report in the Sunday Advocate, called "for students to read the Bible as a history book." It was criticized for being "skewed toward Protestant evangelical Christianity," for treating "the Bible as an accurate record of history," and for being a "thinly veiled" attempt to push Christianity on public school students.

The Supreme Court allows for the Bible to be taught in public schools, but only "objectively as a part of a secular program of education." Johnson defended the Bible course on behalf of the Louisiana Family Forum. He argued that the "Supreme Court did not say you have to discuss everybody's view on the Bible." Requiring that public schools treat all religious traditions equally, Johnson said, was "the height of political correctness."

October 17, 2023

Talia Lavin: America's Apocalyptic Cheerleaders



Evangelical “love” of Israel is the love of the consumer towards the consumed, a hungry man for bread. Their fantasy is ultimately one of destruction: the annihilation of the Jewish faith through death, save an elect of 144,000 who convert to Christianity — a number derived from the Book of Revelations. It is a necropolitical fantasy, one that views the tribulation with, as a post from Calvary Chapel—the church to whom Rep. Brian Mast, who has appeared in Congress this week in an IDF uniform, belongs, put it—“excitement, anticipation, and glee”; the end of the world is “the highly anticipated kingdom.” The apocalypse demands the agony of all but the elect; to the elect it is ecstasy. It is rapture.

The conversion and annihilation of the Jews must be preceded by their return to and absolute control of Israel; therefore the lives of Palestinians are worthless and forfeit from the start, a road-bump in this violent fantasy that was never accounted for in the Revelations map. They are an inconvenience to be disposed of, pawns to be knocked off the board so other pawns can be positioned to set up the moment of Christ's return, the end of history in blood. Palestinians are less than human in this vision; inconveniences at best, instruments of the Antichrist at worst. Either way, their annihilation is necessary. There have been many predictions of the apocalypse and many preludes. In this moment of death and displacement, there is joy for Christian observers from afar, the ecstatic terror of deliverance.

What it amounts to is cheering on Armageddon from the cheap seats—and directing funds to ensure it occurs. It's a grotesquerie of geopolitics and religion, and it carries undue weight in American foreign policy, thanks to the merger of the Christian Right and the Republican Party. A game of chess with eternity at stake.

Often, Christian Zionism—the fanatic belief that animates tens of millions of evangelical Christians in the US, many of whom have disproportionate power on the Christian right and by extension the Republican Party—redounds on Jews. The eschatological fantasy for which Israel is prime fodder requires our exploitation. Nonetheless, the “I stand with Israel” message that Christian-right congressmen, church leaders and governors proudly declare is viewed as another piece of evidence that Jews have unnatural and pernicious influence over American foreign policy.


October 15, 2023

Will the Media Fall For It Again? Conservative Activist Shares Playbook to Tie Hamas to Democrats

No paywall link (It kills the nasty ads)

Conservatives are so confident about their ability to play the mainstream media that they’re now saying the quiet part out loud. After his successful work at getting the mainstream media to carry his anti-“woke” anti-“critical race theory” narratives, American conservative activist Christopher F. Rufo instructed them on the next step to tie terrorist organization Hamas to BLM and more.

“Conservatives need to create a strong association between Hamas, BLM, DSA, and academic “decolonization” in the public mind. Connect the dots, then attack, delegitimize, and discredit. Make the center-left disavow them. Make them political untouchables,” wrote the Senior Fellow at the center-right Manhattan Institute.

When his fellow conservatives pointed out that he was saying the quiet part out loud, he admitted it happily, “Lots of debate in the replies. Many critics arguing that I’m “saying the quiet part out loud.” To which I respond: Yes.”

Maybe you’re thinking, how much can one activist really do just tweeting his “ideas,” and sadly the answer to that is: A lot.

“How a Conservative Activist Invented the Conflict Over Critical Race Theory,” is the New Yorker‘s title over a 2021 piece on him. They note, “To Christopher Rufo, a term for a school of legal scholarship looked like the perfect weapon.” Rufo wrote to them, “‘Critical race theory’ is the perfect villain.”


October 15, 2023

School Vouchers Are Dysfunctional by Design


No paywall

Florida homeschoolers could take Disney vacations on the taxpayer’s dime thanks to a recently expanded school-voucher program. The new Personalized Education Program, or PEP, “provides about $8,000 annually to thousands of homeschooled students to get taxpayer-funded theme-park passes, big-screen TVs, and other items with an attenuated connection to education,” Judd Legum reported at Popular Information. Theme-park tickets are an approved expense under PEP, and in a private Facebook post obtained by Legum, one parent says they got passes to Disney World and Universal Studios approved through the program. Another asks for advice on getting an annual pass approved.

As Legum notes, “Florida has delegated the administration of the vouchers to two private nonprofit organizations, Step Up for Students and AAA Scholarship Foundation. These nonprofits generate revenue based on how many students they can attract. So, they are incentivized to meet the demands of parents who receive vouchers.” Though theme-park tickets weren’t originally an approved expense, Step Up for Students reversed course after parents complained.

In the Facebook posts, parents treat the program like it’s their private candy jar. They’re right: It is. What Legum uncovered isn’t abuse, exactly. Rather, the program works as designed. Homeschooling parents now enjoy the financial resources and freedom the state of Florida denies public educators. That’s a deliberate choice on the part of Florida lawmakers and a natural outcome of the parental-rights movement.

As implemented by Step Up for Students and AAA Scholarship Foundation, PEP can cover big-screen TVs and expensive Lego sets and even some video-game consoles, if parents have a child with special needs. (In another private Facebook post, a parent asks if they can purchase a PS5 bundle that includes God of War, which is rated for adults only. They said their child is 5.) Homeschooled students can now pay for swing sets, foosball tables, air-hockey tables, skateboards, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, dolls, and stuffed animals through PEP, Legum added.


October 15, 2023

The Decades-Long Travesty That Made Millions of Americans Mistrust Their Kids' Schools


Call it the end of an era for fantasy-fueled reading instruction. In a move that has parents like me cheering, Columbia University’s Teachers College announced last month that it is shuttering its once famous—in some circles, now-infamous—reading organization founded by education guru and entrepreneur Lucy Calkins.

For decades, the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project was a behemoth in American education. As many as 1 in 4 U.S. elementary schools used Calkins’ signature curriculum. But that number is dwindling as a growing chorus of cognitive scientists, learning experts, and parents—many amplified by education journalist Emily Hanford via her 2022 podcast Sold a Story—argue that the Calkins approach to reading is ineffective at best, actively harmful at worst, and a large part of why more than half of our country’s fourth graders aren’t demonstrating proficiency on reading exams.

It’s common knowledge that never learning to read well damages children’s self-esteem, their life prospects, and our country’s future workforce. What’s less talked about is how, when schools fail to teach reading, it harms the public’s trust in schools. An unspoken contract between public schools and parents is that schools will teach their children to read. In many places, that contract was broken when schools adopted Calkins’ methods, kids didn’t learn to read, and responsibility for teaching reading transferred onto parents and guardians.

That’s what happened to me. I live in New York City, home to the nation’s largest school district and ground zero of the Calkins approach to reading. Mayor Michael Bloomberg brought Calkins’ curriculum to our schools some 20 years ago, and her methods have remained entrenched here ever since. Often called “balanced literacy,” this approach treats reading not as a taught skill, but as something innate that emerges under the right conditions. It rests on the fuzzy fantasy that drenching young children in a literacy-rich environment is what gets most kids reading.


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