Hypocrites R Us

By Ande Jacobson

This month has shown us the full range of hypocrisy in our nation’s highest court. The court’s majority claims to be “originalists” beholden to the Constitution, yet their rulings belie this claim instead showing them to be radically reactionary basing decisions on ideological or religious goals.

  • Carson v. Makin (6-3): The SCOTUS majority completely disregarded the separation of church and state in their decision allocating public funding to religious schools in Maine. This goes counter to the First Amendment and allows the government to directly fund religious teaching with taxpayer dollars.
  • New York State Rifle & Pistol Assn., Inc v. Bruen (6-3): The SCOTUS majority took away state’s rights to enact restrictions based on common sense gun control measures such as limiting who can carry a concealed weapon. Restrictions on gun ownership are well within the framework of the Constitution’s Second Amendment which is mute on private gun ownership or where one can carry a gun. As a result, this court majority imposed a federal mandate which will undoubtedly increase gun violence not based on any Constitutional rights.
  • Vega v. Tekoh (6-3): The SCOTUS majority determined that people arrested by police have no recourse if they are not read their Miranda Rights upon arrest. This pushes us further toward turning the U.S. into a police state.
  • Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (6-3): The SCOTUS majority took away federal protections on a woman’s right to choose when or if to carry a pregnancy to term throwing that legal authority to the states. That means that a woman’s most personal decisions related to their own reproductive freedom will depend upon their state of residence.

These recent decisions show these wildly unpopular majority opinions are not based on precedent or the Constitution but instead are based on an ideological agenda that goes counter to our legal foundation. These decisions will target women, racial minorities, and people of limited financial means most dramatically, unfairly putting their lives at unnecessary and often preventable risk. Continue reading

If only & never forget

By Ande Jacobson

I am of an age that I watched Watergate evolve and got to study it in school as the investigation was first being made public. That certainly made civics interesting and timely. At the time it seemed to be the most significant threat to our nation’s democratic principles since the Civil War. Shortly before articles of impeachment were to be voted on in the House, President Nixon resigned, though it took quite an effort from his party to get him to do so. One month hence, President Ford pardoned his predecessor setting in motion an emboldened, extremist faction within the Republican Party that enabled an even bigger threat to our democracy to emerge. Just under a half century later, an attempted coup occurred. The coup was intended to prevent the peaceful transition of power after the lawful election of a new president. If only Ford hadn’t pardoned Nixon on September 8, 1974, perhaps we wouldn’t have elected the former president in 2016. If only the country hadn’t elected the former president in 2016, we wouldn’t have had an attempted coup on January 6, 2021. Continue reading

Rights and life

By Ande Jacobson

Several months ago as Dobbs was heating up, a dear, pro-life friend asked me if I considered a fetus a life. My knee jerk reaction was absolutely not. I kept thinking about my answer, and after a good night’s sleep realized that my friend had asked the wrong question. She didn’t really want to know if I considered a fetus a life. Of course it’s living tissue. What my friend was really asking was whether I believed that a fetus was a person. There my answer is still unequivocally, no. Clinically, it really shouldn’t be considered a person until it is born, or as Roe v. Wade decided almost 50 years ago, at least until the point when it is viable outside of its host/mother’s body. Before that point, options to terminate a pregnancy if so desired should remain legal, safe, and available to all. Continue reading

The Animal Kingdom includes us

By Ande Jacobson

In early March, The New Yorker published a fascinating report on a legal crusade to confer “personhood” on Happy the elephant to help protect her rights. The article, entitled The Elephant in the Courtroom: A curious legal crusade to redefine personhood is raising profound questions about the interdependence of the animal and human kingdoms, discusses the fierce debate over what constitutes personhood, and why that is important for legal protection. Several cases from around the world are discussed where various non-human species were granted “non-human person” rights as part of various efforts to protect them from abuse. Animals on the endangered species lists gain a few more protections as well, but they are still not considered persons and don’t enjoy the same freedoms as humans. While the legal calisthenics over which animals deserve additional consideration based on human determination of whether they are sentient or not provide an interesting intellectual exercise, there is a basic fact of science that is lost. Rather than being separate from the Animal Kingdom, humankind is part of the Animal Kingdom as any introductory biology class (based on science) makes abundantly clear. There is indeed an interdependence between various animal species, and our arrogance aside, it should not be a legal matter but a biological imperative that supports the expansion of what we call animal rights or perhaps even personhood. Continue reading

It’s strange in my land

By Ande Jacobson

Sometimes I don’t recognize the country I thought I knew. The news is filled with terrifying reports on all kinds of things as the world grapples with the ongoing struggle between authoritarianism and democracy as various individual rights are being restricted in ways that were incomprehensible just a few years ago. The struggle is exacerbated by the huge wealth disparity in the U.S. between a small number of ultra-wealthy individuals and a large number of regular people just trying to live their lives. The world is far more connected now that it was 50 or 60 years ago. Since the widespread use of the internet, information that used to have daily, weekly, or even monthly cycles now flows continuously with 24/7 access to current information, some of which is factual, and some of which is entirely fictional. The sorting is left to the interested reader or viewer, and it can be exhausting sometimes. Continue reading

What is reality?

By Ande Jacobson

In our current world, there is a great deal of effort being expended to bend people’s perceptions of reality to gain personal, organizational, or even national advantage. I’ve written about the dangers of propaganda before, and in modern society with its current technological advancements there are more tools available today than ever before to impose false realities, i.e., to create mythologies. Granted, not all propaganda is necessarily negative since the term applies to any attempt to create a narrative to further a cause, some of which could be focused on good things. Still, there is far more press reporting on the dangerous side of the equation. Continue reading

Finding the limits of the rules

By Ande Jacobson

Amid the ongoing circus of seeking accountability for those breaking the rules at the highest levels of our society, I think back to my school days when I learned something about how limits might apply. As children we all push against the boundaries imposed upon us in some ways which helps to define our sense of right and wrong. I’m reminded of two particular incidents from my grammar school days that affected me beyond the simple situations at hand. Continue reading

Embracing my inner hermit

By Ande Jacobson

Now almost a month into 2022, while I still have some hope that things will improve eventually, I’m not quite as optimistic as I was at the beginning of January about some things and more optimistic about others. Entering our third year of the pandemic, one thing is a constant, I am tightly embracing my inner hermit. Fortunately, being an introvert helps a lot. Unlike most of my friends and family, I don’t crave in-person gatherings. I’ve discovered that over the course of the pandemic, I not only appreciate the widespread use of tools like Zoom or FaceTime in addition to the old standbys of voice calls and texts, I find that I prefer them to meeting in-person. It’s safer on multiple levels while still maintaining important connections. It’s also highly likely that my personal live performance days are over even if or when we eventually move from the pandemic to an endemic phase of living with COVID-19. Instead, my music and theater focus has shifted to helping the next generation dive into that wonderful world through mentoring.

Beyond the performing arts, which are still struggling to strike a safe balance between remote only performances and live performances with all the comradery and interaction that allows, the nation is continuing to swing from one extreme to the other between fully reopening with no restrictions to tightening down just short of lockdowns while virus cases mount. That the response to such a deadly threat was politicized and common sense measures demonized make the U.S. an ongoing threat to itself and the world. We could be much further along if only the divisions keeping many people from making wise decisions didn’t exist.

Those same political divisions are driving the ongoing threat to the U.S. remaining a world leader in democracy. This month the GOP members of the Senate, representing 41.5 million fewer people than the same number of Democrats and Independents (with a little help from two Democratic Senators whose motivations are more than a little dumbfounding) thwarted an attempt to preserve voting rights nationwide. As a result, some states will continue to be democratic ensuring that every eligible voter can vote and have their vote counted, while others will do all they can to ensure that even if every eligible voter can theoretically cast a vote, it will be far more difficult for traditionally democratic voters to do so. In those suppressive states, only some votes will be counted going forward as determined by partisan election boards. Voting rights that guarantee free and fair elections are fundamental to any functioning democracy, and the U.S. is in real danger of losing that depending on what Congress does next.

The insurrection investigations are making real progress into exposing the truth of the 6 January 2021 attack on our democracy and the peaceful transition of power after a presidential election. Both the DOJ and the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol have filled in more of the blanks on exactly what happened and who was responsible. The House Select Committee will soon be holding public hearings to let the people of the country know what happened, and all of the evidence they collect will also be made available to the DOJ for future prosecutions. Will it be enough and in time to counter the propaganda and stop another insurrection from happening? Only time will tell.

Living in the bluest part of a very blue state, it is sometimes difficult to imagine how harsh the reality is in other parts of the country where the worst effects of the Congressional deadlock and propaganda blitz play out. Still, the fact that people are engaged even in places where it’s a steep uphill climb to get any relief is encouraging. With all of the venom being spewed across the political divide, it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that at our core, despite the rhetoric, we really are all the same. Humans all need the same basic necessities in life, and as a nation, we have the ability to ensure that nobody goes hungry or is forced to live on the street. We just need to have the will to make it so.

Along the way, we all have stories to tell. Some stories may capture the imagination and provide inspiration to make things better. Others can be demoralizing encouraging people to just give up. We need more stories of the former type. Despite the fodder for dystopian sagas the past several years may inspire, we can’t lose sight that the opposite is also out there, and there is far more to life than winning and losing. Watching the ubiquitous political fights blanketing the media sometimes make it seem that the only thing that matters is winning, but that’s not true.

Sometimes on a warm winter day, it’s important to look up at the trees and the blue sky and take a deep breath ignoring the political machinations vying for control of our lives for a moment. What matters is living and doing our best to help those around us do the same.

Teri Kanefield – The Dangers of Lies and Simplifications

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Hello 2022!

By Ande Jacobson

As I took my car out for some exercise to keep it running on the first day of 2022, I was filled with hope. We had recently received some significant rain that we desperately needed to help lessen the severity of the two-year-old drought. The sky was blue. There was snow on the higher area mountain peaks. There was a chill in the air under the bright winter sun. As was my habit I donned my masks, which this time of year also helped keep my face warm, and I noticed as I passed others walking or riding their bikes that most were also masked. I was filled with hope that others in my area were still taking the COVID-19 threat seriously as the Omicron variant of the disease was causing case counts to spike to new highs. Continue reading

Goodbye 2021!

By Ande Jacobson

2021 started out with such promise. Vaccines to help us get past a worldwide pandemic were just starting to be deployed. As their availability widened, they promised at least a partial, if not total return to normalcy until being inoculated (the responsible thing for a person to do) was attacked and made into a political battle. Still, those doing their part by getting their shots when they became eligible were hopeful. Continue reading