What's the next outrage from an illegitimate Supreme Court?
Having put us in a post-Roe world, they may be aiming for a post-world world
Since the decision leaked this spring—and, really, since transparently political justices Kavanagh and Barrett won their confirmations—one has expected this moment. But it still falls like a hammer blow. Those of us in our 60s have lived for a very long time with Roe, and the world it enabled, as a constant. Now we’re wrenched backwards. I’ve been hearing from colleagues at Third Act all morning: anger, sadness for the young people whose lives are now even more constrained, determination to do something.
But it may get worse still on Monday, when a decision is expected in the case of West Virginia vs. EPA. The tritest, most cliched, and also most correct observation about rightwing zealots is that they care about the unborn but not the birthed; that once you’re out of the womb, you’re on your own. As if to make that entirely clear, the Court previewed its Roe decision with one making it easier to wander around America with guns, just weeks after the school shooting in Uvalde. And they may well bracket it next week with a ruling that could effectively end federal climate policy, and with it much of what chance remains to ward off truly catastrophic warming.
Asking you to pay for a subscription seems wrong today; if you want to support this work I’m grateful, but I hope you’ll also send some money to one of these funds supporting women’s health access in the South, where abortion rights are most immediately threatened
West Virginia, and a passel of other fossil fuel producing states, sued to prevent the administration from using the Clean Air Act to close down power plants pumping huge amounts of carbon into the air. They argue that Congress should have to pass new, explicit regulations for every pollutant—knowing full well, given the gridlock that the fossil fuel industry has done so much to create on Capitol Hill, that that will spell the end of such oversight. Congress has never passed a serious climate law, and given the filibuster and the absurd apportionment of Senate seats, it likely never will; the expected ruling in this case would mean that Democratic administrations could lose their one tool to get something done. And if the U.S. can’t do anything substantive, then global action becomes all but impossible to imagine.
And that in a week when Bangladesh, for example, is seeing the worst flooding in its history. “Every piece of real estate in Bangladesh is populated, and this entire area is underwater,” Sheldon Yett, the United Nations Children’s Fund representative to the country, told the Times. The story describes a woman escaping her house in a small boat seconds before it was washed away. Now, with her mother and three children, she huddles in a shelter with one toilet for 190 families.
Bangladesh is a beautiful and hospitable country, with a population about half of America’s. Per capita carbon emissions for its citizens are under half a ton a year, compared with about 15 tons for each American; Bangladesh has put a rounding-error’s worth of co2 into the atmosphere, while the U.S. (four percent of the planet’s population) accounts for 25% of greenhouse gases. So the Supreme Court, having taken away the rights of women in the US to control their own bodies, may well now erase the right of poor people across the world to even have their bodies.
We organize—we push to preserve our democracy, maybe to gain enough seats in Congress to expand the number of seats on the Court. But we also mourn. Right now, in a series of stunning blows delivered day after day after day, the Supreme Court is upending our country and our planet.
More news from this week:
+Hundreds of leaders from around the country have written an open letter to Minnesota officials urging them to drop charges against protesters who tried to stop the Line 3 pipeline over the last few years. The indigenous-led protests ran into a law-enforcement buzzsaw, largely funded by the pipeline company itself; now organizers report some success; “in the last month alone, dozens of cases have either been dropped, or resolved on “stay of adjudication” agreements that usually result in the dismissal of all charges.”
+The effort to ban new gas stations is gaining ground—one California city, Petaluma, has already said no to building filling stations, and campaigner Nathan Taft reports that even Los Angeles—fast-revving heart of the planet’s car culture—might consider such a policy. Meanwhile, the Albany NY suburb of Bethlehem became the first in the state to say no to new gas stations in its comprehensive town plan, thanks to great campaigning by local activists.
+As war pushes oil prices higher, many financiers are trying to ride the boom. But at least one big bank, France’s Credit Agricole, reports that it has no interest in financing oil and gas. “There is some disorder in the economy right now, in supply chains and in the supply of fossil fuels,” chief executive Philippe Brassac told reporters. “We shouldn’t confuse this with the fact that inevitably governments and public policies will steer us away from fossil fuels and towards making renewable energy more accessible.”
+Maine activist Grace Nichols writes in the Portland Press Herald about the ongoing decline of insects, including pollinators. “There is no buzzing; no butterflies, no moths, no dragonflies, no bumblebees, no other bees or wasps, not even mosquitos. All is quiet on the soil front.”
+As waters recede from what officials called Bangladesh’s worst flooding in a centry of record-keeping, officials are worried that waterborne disease may up the death toll. “The last seven years alone brought five major floods, eroding people’s capacity to adapt, especially in the country’s northern and northeastern regions,” one hydrologist explained. The Guardian has a gallery of truly striking images from the hideous flooding
+Austria is banning new gas boilers beginning in 2023. If you’re building something new or renovating your home, get a heat pump! “Every gas heater we get rid of is a step out of our dependence on Russian gas,” explained Leonore Gewessler, Austria’s green climate minister. “Every flat and every house that we keep warm with sustainable heating makes us freer and less susceptible to blackmail. That’s why gas heating in new buildings will be a thing of the past from 2023 onwards.” If every government took this step, the world would change. Meanwhile, spiking gas prices are bringing Europe closer to a “Lehman-like moment” of collapsing energy markets, German officials warned.
+France picked a bad moment for its nuclear fleet to start breaking down. Cracks and corrosion in some reactors have taken them offline for repairs, and hot weather is making it harder to cool others with river water. The result is straining electricity supplies across western Europe as France, usually an exporter, is sucking in juice from beyond its borders.
+Best climate flash mob of recent times, from Mothers Rise Up, outside Lloyds of London, to ask them to stop playing games with fossil fuels. If this won’t do it, one despairs...
The pace is quickening as we get near the climax of our epic nonviolent yarn, and I am writing as fast as I can. If you want to read the first 76 chapters of The Other Cheek, you can find them in the archive.
Shareen Robinson knew she had walked a good deal in the last year—across most of India, which was an undeniably big place. But it had been at a stately pace, with plenty of time to gather trash, and usually along main roads, always as part of the DL’s big procession. Now she was hotfooting it along narrow trails, with only Lopsak for company, and a smallish boy named Pema. There was no trash to pick up—which was just as well, she thought, since her response to a soda can or crisps wrapper was by now purely automatic, and they did not have time to spare. Nor the energy—this was more like hiking, and hiking was harder work than walking.
“Emergency,” Pema would say in the local language, when they reached one of the widely scattered huts in the forest, or came across someone walking the distance from the village to their small and far-flung fields. Then he’d translate as Lopsak and Shareen took turns explaining their message: there was a great danger that an ice dam far upstream would soon give way, flooding the valley of the Brahmaputra, or as some of the tribes knew it, the Burlung-Buthur. They needed the people to climb up out of the valley, to a series of temporary camps they were erecting along the rim, and they needed them to do it fast.
“This must be the place where National Geographic comes to take all the pictures,” Shareen said as they pushed on past one small village. “I mean, crazy. The loincloths are one thing, but the poison-tipped spears? That’s old school.”
But she was impressed with how willingly people heeded the warnings of absolute strangers appearing out of nowhere. The first day hadn’t gone so well—she’d been paired with a Unitarian minister from Connecticut, and when young children saw a white man they tended to run away screaming about ghosts. “Given world history, not a bad call,” the reverend had said, and reassigned himself to cooking duty at one of the camps. Shareen had no such problems—people seemed to trust her and Lopsak, and clearly no one had forgotten the last time the river rose, wiping out many of these settlements. As long as she was willing to pause for a few minutes, and eat whatever she was offered, people were willing to start packing their belongings, which were few in number, and head upwards.
“I think I might have just had some endangered species for lunch,” she told Lopsak at one point. “But they were pretty good endangered species. With gravy they’d be really good.”
The air was cooler than it had been down in the Indian plains, but the humidity sucked the life out of Shareen’s legs by mid-afternoon. They were heading up towards the rim of the valley themselves now, where they could rest safely before resuming their mission in the morning. On the steepest portion of the path they came across an old woman, bent under a load in a makeshift rucksack, who was trying to shoo two young children up the trail. Pema talked with her a minute, nodding and smiling,
“She’s the grandmother,” he explained. “The mother is dead, and the father is out on a hunt, many days away.”
Lopsak took the bundle of belongings off her back, and Shareen gave her a hug. “Not easy raising your grand-babies,” she said. Together the six of them walked slowly up hill for half an hour, until they came in sight of the camp.
“This place is a lot nicer than it was this morning,” Lopsak said. The DL’s followers had clearly worked hard: there was a cook tent with big vats of stew steaming, and a row of makeshift latrines, and tarps set up in case it rained. Kids were running in circles, and erupting in giggles whenever the Connecticut minister appeared; if he stuck out his tongue they would hop up and down in delight. The DL himself was silently greeting each of the new arrivals; none of them seemed to know precisely who he was, but everyone seemed to recognize that he was special, if only for the kindness in his eyes.
That evening the elders gathered around as Sonam opened the computer monitor and fired up the modem. He showed them satellite pictures of the lake growing behind the ice dam upstream, and the course of the river beneath as it wound through Tibet and into their part of India—though he had to stop and explain how satellites could take pictures from above. He also tried to explain why the Chinese weren’t offering any warnings, but the political discussion didn’t seem to interest the men. Instead they kept grabbing the monitor for another look, and telling Sonam to zoom in on their villages. With Google Earth loaded, he could show them their huts and the trails that connected their settlements. There was much excited talk, and eventually Pema translated again. “This would be a good system for hunting,” he said. “They want to know if they can borrow it.”
Surveillance Briefing re Silicon Valley Suspects
Agent Minnie Reyes
This surveillance began at 0500 hours, after routine tracking of Chinese surveillance squad reported that their single agent, SUBJECT TING, had been joined by 11 other men in three cars. Six of these men were previously known, as employees of Chinese state security assigned to local consulate. Data analysis identifies the remaining five as arriving one day prior via United 7593 nonstop Beijing to Los Angeles, connecting to United 613 to San Francisco. All were traveling on tourist visas now believed to be fraudulent.
At 0715 subject vehicles were tracked to DharmaWheel fitness center, 2172 El Camino Real. Agents waited outside, monitoring egress points, until approximately 0745 when two subjects emerged into alley. Subject Matti PERSSON and UNKNOWN FEMALE CAUCASIAN SUBJECT APPROXIMATE AGE 22 were joined in alley by previously identified Subject ALTERSON and Subject KHATOANE. These four maneuvered on scooter devices to egress the alley and on to Stanford campus with Chinese team in hot pursuit. Pursuers were forced to break off automotive follow on perimeter of Stanford campus, and continued pursuit on foot, until subjects ingressed at TRESSIDER MEMORIAL UNION, 459 Lagunita Drive.
Pursuers were discouraged by campus security staff from continuing to trail the subjects. While this discussion was underway, the four subjects egressed from the roof of the building, using autonomous aerial vehicles. The AAVs were piloted approximately 1.5 miles to a parking lot on the perimeter of the campus, where they landed and the four subjects ingressed into a Honda Odyssey minivan, California license CBD8776, rented last night at SFO by Subject ALTERSON using a credit card in the name of the VUKOVIC CENTER FOR A FULLY HUMAN FUTURE.
Wide area satellite surveillance indicates Honda Odyssey minivan, California license CBD8776, is proceeding east on Interstate 80. Subjects have programmed onboard GPS for an address in a region above Colorado Springs registered to the SATYAGRAHA INSTITUTE, previously surveilled.
Special agent in charge Fox read the memo slowly, and then again, and then turned to gaze out the window at San Francisco harbor. “Well smack my sprightly buttocks,” he said, turning to agent Reyes. “If I’m reading this correctly, the Red Chinese sent a hit team to our city to take down a key player in one of Silicon Valley’s leading industries?”
“That appears to be so, sir.”
“And while they were waiting to abduct him on the streets of one of our most prosperous towns, they were interrupted by a team led by the people who shut down our rail network in an effort to damage the oil industry?”
“And these people evaded the Chinese agents by flying in drones across the campus of the most prestigious university in the western United States?”
“Pretty much, sir.”
“And now they are driving back to that same place in Colorado where we watched half the subversive dissidents in the world gather for a funeral? And where we watched the gun girl give the eulogy?”
“That would seem to be the case sir, unless they’re misdirecting us with their GPS. But so far that’s the route they’re on.”
“Do you have any hash-browned idea what this is all about?”
“Not really, sir. Perhaps some kind of fight over control of patents on new technologies?”
“It makes me long for bank robbers and counterfeiters and criminals who did things that made some kind of sense,” Special Agent Fox said. “I think we better talk to Washington again. But in the meantime, get some people in place around that institute again, whatever it is. I have a bad feeling that’s where this story is heading. Up into the Colorado hills, and in the middle of the sandblasted winter.”
“Absolutely, sir,” said agent Reyes.
When the call came, agent Ting was driving in circles around Palo Alto, looking to see if they might somehow come across the Honda van
“Minister Hua,” he said glumly, putting the phone on speaker so his three passengers could hear the exchange.
“As I understand it, your target, the man who visited the Dalai Lama in India, eluded you this morning. Via scooter?”
“Yes. And also drone,” said Agent Ting.
“And he was aided by the young man who helped introduce the Dalai Lama cartoon to China?”
“I believe so,” said Agent Ting. “We have forwarded video of them hanging from the drone for positive identification.”
“I have no doubt,” said Minister Hua. “We have been surveilling the Americans surveilling you surveilling the subjects. They have a drone up, and eyes on the van, and they believe that the subjects are en route to the institute in Colorado where we have observed the robed girl we believe to be a possible planned incarnation of the Dalai Lama.”
“Should we intercept?” Agent Ting asked.
“You should . . . proceed to the institute and establish a perimeter, while we analyze events from Beijing and consider next steps. Your entire team is intact?”
“Yes,” Ting said.
“I am going to count on you to actually do your job this time,” Hu said. “I’m sending you map data via your encrypted cellphone immediately. Get to Colorado, surround that place, and be ready to move on my word. And do not let the Americans know you’re there. A twelve-man hit team on their soil is—well, do not let them know you’re there.”