Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

The End of Roe: Picking Good Judges Worked

As it happened, the day that the Dobbs decision was handed down by the Supreme Court was also the day that I came down with COVID, so in addition to my general hesitancy to rush out with the same "hot takes" which everyone else is peddling, this gave me a forced pause before having much of anything to say about the decision.

At this point, the decision is safely old news, but since I haven't been blogging I'd like to take that time to circle back to the topic.

I've been politically aware for about thirty years now, and for the last twenty years or so, it's been a regular practice of those Catholics who disliked the increasing alliance of anti-abortion advocates with the GOP to mock the idea that supporting Republicans who in turn promised to appoint originalist of textualist judges who did not think that Roe v. Wade was correct in finding a right to abortion via a right to privacy which in turn resided in the emanations and penumbras of the constitution.

"It's like Lucy with the football in Peanuts," we were told.  "Republicans are not going to appoint judges who will overturn Roe because Republicans don't want Roe overturned."

There was a certain amount of evidence that people pointed to to support this view. Justice Harry Blackmun who was appointed by Nixon was the author of Roe, and indeed a majority of the justices in the pro-abortion majority in Roe were appointed by Eisenhower or Nixon, though Nixon had also appointed Rehnquist who authored the dissent (joined by Byron White who has appointed by JFK.)

Appointees from Ford, Reagan, and George H W Bush were decidedly spotty on the issue. John Paul Stevens (Ford), Sandra Day O'Connor (Reagan), Anthony Kennedy (Reagan) and David Souter (H W Bush) all ended up as Roe supporters to varying degrees.  Only Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas were reliable opponents.

However, to look at it this simply is to ignore the large task which faced conservatives looking to roll back a brand of judicial practice which took the constitution as a loose mission statement based upon which justices could discover rights based on their judgement and common sense. 

With the Federalist Society as the intellectual incubator, starting in the 1980s the conservative legal movement developed a legal philosophy focused on interpreting the law to mean what it said rather than what judges thought it ought to mean. 

The success of the FedSoc approach is underlined by the solid performance of the judicial appointments of the Trump administration, which were effectively outsourced to the Federalist Society, resulting not only in the appointments of Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett (all of whom stood in solid support of Alito's majority opinion overturning Roe) but in an outstanding slate of judges appointed to all other levels of the Federal judiciary during the Trump years.

There are, from a wish-fulfillment point of view, limits to the originalist/textualist approach. It means finding laws to mean what they say, rather than what conservatives might wish them to mean. But in a highly pluralistic society, reading laws as written is perhaps the best middle ground one can find. Nor is this judicial approach limited to conservatives, as the outstanding interview that Advisory Opinions did with Yale Law professor Akhil Amar underlines.

Where things go from here remains to be seen. Victory in politics and law can be a difficult thing. But one thing is clear: the mocking claim that it was a fool's errand to try to install solid judges, who would recognize that the US Constitution does not enshrine any right to abortion, was a false claim. Appointing good judges worked. And whatever else one may think of Trump (and I don't think much good of him these days) the judges he appointed were in general a very solid bench, perhaps in great part because Trump himself has few opinions on the matter and simply outsourced it all to the Federalist Society.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Old Bones

Future historians, sifting through the detritus of July 2022 in our house, will find:

  • Abandoned summer camp bags, receipts for COVID tests, an unexpected level of paper plates and soda bottles and plastic Go-Gurt sleeves.
  • Playbills for The Sound of Music, dated July 8-10, with several people surnamed Hodge in various supporting roles
  • Records of dumpster rental
  • Layers of plaster dust
  • Debris from the removal of tons of tile and concrete
  • Thousands of dollars of plumbing receipts
  • Slivers of lead from removed pipes. 
  • Shavings of PVC from new pipes
  • Samples of tile and stone
Yes, we have begun to Renovate the Bathroom.

In a stroll down memory lane, I found some photos of the bathroom from when we first looked at the house -- not fully representative of its state even then, since we didn't get shots of the already crumbling plaster. I assure you it was a good deal less charming and functional than it looks here, and that shower under the roof was bitter in the winter

The sink was angled slightly down so that nothing could rest on the edges, and the faucet was low and inconvenient. The radiator did not put out much heat, nor the sconces much light.

That green tile was also on the floor -- in good shape, and embedded in inches of concrete, which also encased the plumbing. They did that in the 1920s-40s, the workmen tell us.

In 2019, part of the ceiling collapsed, after sagging precariously for some time.

Last year, when we first started the demolition process, we filled one dumpster with plaster and tile, and left the shower intact enough to use.

Now there's nothing anymore but the studs, and some spanking new PVC pipe (too new for these week-old pix).

Behind the slot in the bathroom medicine cabinet, we found a century's worth of razor blades. 

They say that few things try a marriage as much a home renovation, a bit of wisdom I never had much cause to contemplate until I saw the holes cut in my library walls, and the paneling, undisturbed since 1929, pulled down from my beautiful bookshelves, and the gleaming wood molding popped off the ceiling. Darwin and the plumbers are very sorry, but that was the only way to access the pipes running down behind the walls from the gutted bathroom to the cellar. The holes will be patched eventually with modern drywall against the older, thicker wallboard, and perhaps with careful texturing and painting they will be mostly unobtrusive.

It's nothing compared to the hole in my heart.

The gutted bathroom has become the climax of all our home tours these days, surpassing Chthulu the ancient furnace in the basement or the old laundry chute. Come on over, and you too can see the bones of the house, as large as life and overengineered enough to confound renovators for centuries to come.

Saturday, July 02, 2022

A Marriage Song

June 30, 2001. Our marriage is only a year younger than these here kids.

A Marriage Song, by G.K. Chesterton
Why should we reck of hours that rend
While we two ride together?
The heavens rent from end to end
Would be but windy weather,
The strong stars shaken down in spate
Would be a shower of spring,
And we should list the trump of fate
And hear a linnet sing.
We break the line with stroke and luck,
The arrows run like rain,
If you be struck, or I be struck,
There’s one to strike again.
If you befriend, or I befriend,
The strength is in us twain,
And good things end and bad things end,
And you and I remain.
Why should we reck of ill or well
While we two ride together?
The fires that over Sodom fell
Would be but sultry weather.
Beyond all ends to all men given
Our race is far and fell,
We shall but wash our feet in heaven,
And warm our hands in hell.
Battles unborn and vast shall view
Our faltered standards stream,
New friends shall come and frenzies new.
New troubles toil and teem;
New friends shall pass and still renew
One truth that does not seem,
That I am I, and you are you,
And Death a morning dream.
Why should we reck of scorn or praise
While we two ride together?
The icy air of godless days
Shall be but wintry weather.
If hell were highest, if the heaven
Were blue with devils blue,
I should have guessed that all was even,
If I had dreamed of you.
Little I reck of empty prides,
Of creeds more cold than clay;
To nobler ends and longer rides,
My lady rides to-day.
To swing our swords and take our sides
In that all-ending fray
When stars fall down and darkness hides,
When God shall turn to bay.
Why should we reck of grin and groan
While we two ride together?
The triple thunders of the throne
Would be but stormy weather.
For us the last great fight shall roar,
Upon the ultimate plains,
And we shall turn and tell once more
Our love in English lanes.

Our 21st anniversary was not much of a red-letter day, eventwise. Most of the family, including Darwin, had just recovered from COVID; we were nearing tech week for The Sound of Music, which meant no evening date; our big anniversary celebration involved going out to lunch, and visiting tile warehouses to price supplies for our gutted bathroom. More and more, though, the importance of big anniversaries lies not in the events that celebrate them, but in the very fact of the anniversary itself. Twenty-one years is significant whether we go out for a big dinner, or simply fall wearily into bed and rest our foreheads together while saying, "I wouldn't do it with anyone but you."