Category Archives: Congress

McCarthy Redux

Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has been said to have been a brilliant student at Harvard Law School. But it is hard to reconcile that successful law school experience with the arrogance he has demonstrated, the preposterous claims he has made, and the outrageous policies he espouses. Take, for example, that 2010 speech he made in which

English: Ted Cruz at the Republican Leadership...

English: Ted Cruz at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

he alleged that there were 12 communists on the faculty of the law school. Yes, he was that specific: there were 12. And he knew who they were. Sort of. More like he knew who he thought were communists. It was the type of accusation made by that paradigm of virtue, Senator Joe McCarthy (R-Wisconsin), in the early 1950s, when he was getting on a role, the world felt an incredibly dangerous place, and people were building fallout shelters in their backyards because they thought nuclear war with the USSR was imminent. The same Joe McCarthy who averred he had a list of 205 communists working in the US State Department, but who never produced his list of names.

In response to such a scurrilous allegation, the late Senator William J. Fulbright (D-Arkansas) said, “The junior senator from Wisconsin, by his reckless charges, has so preyed upon the fears and hatreds and prejudices of the American people that he has started a prairie fire which neither he nor anyone else may be able to control.” The junior senator from Texas has now entered that same arena, and it seems likely that he has no idea that his words could start a fire even more devastating than McCarthy’s. It is probably useless to point out to Cruz that there are no communists on the Harvard Law faculty, and that law faculties tend to have professors who could be described as ‘left-leaning.’ It is the nature of academics that liberals gravitate to it while conservatives tend to enter businesses. Fortunately, the New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer called him out on this, yet even then his spokesperson insisted that Cruz was speaking the truth. Hardly.

Where else does he go off the rails. Well, given where the country is in the same-sex marriage debate, with a majority of millenials wondering why there’s such fuss about it, Cruz had something to say about Dallas’s mayor marching twice in gay pride parades: “When a mayor of a city chooses twice to march in a parade celebrating gay pride that’s a statement and it’s not a statement I agree with.” Ok, homophobic. Check.

Or course, is against abortion. Very Christian. Neanderthal.

Joe McCarthy had a good run. He was born into a devoutly Catholic family. (There seems to be a high correlation between devout Christianity and outrageous politics, but more on that when I write about His Emptiness, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York.) He was originally a Democrat but lost his first election, so he switched to the Republican party. He was elected judge of the 10th judicial circuit in Wisconsin in 1939, publishing slanderous materials about his opponent. After serving in the US Marines in World War II, he ran against Robert M. La Follette in 1946, where he accused La Follette of making a profit from the war and failing to join the military to fight. In fact, La Follette bought a radio station with a slim profit margin and was too old to join the military, but those truths meant nothing to McCarthy. He won, showing just how bad a job the American public does sorting out truth from fiction. On his first day in Congress, he called a press conference to give his views on how to end a coal miners’ strike then in full swing. (Does that arrogance sound familiar?)

He went along for a few year, failing to capture the nation’s attention. But then an investigation started into allegations that he had taken bribes from the Pepsi-Cola corporation. If proved, he might have been expelled from the Senate. He consulted with his closest advisors, which included a Catholic priest, who advised hi

Joe McCarthy - Colorized

Joe McCarthy – Colorized (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)

m to begin a campaign to rid the government of communists. On February 9, 1950, in a speech in Wheeling, West Virginia, he held up that infamous piece of paper that he said contained the names of communists working for the government. It must have been then that he realized he could soar on slander and innuendo. He ran for the senate seat of the senator who investigated his allegations of communists in the woodwork and won. By that point senators were afraid of him and he continued his outrageous demagoguery.

What did him in was television. He took on the US Army in an investigation of undesirables and it was televised. People of all stripes could finally see what a bully he was, and how he offered no proof for his shocking claims. Harry Truman said of him, “This is the first time in my experience, and I was ten years in the Senate, that I ever heard of a Senator trying to discredit his own Government before the world….” The most dramatic remonstrance was Joseph Welch‘s comment to McCarthy after the senator was ripping into a witness: “Let us not assassinate this lad further, senator. You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

McCarthy was finally censured by the Senate for his behavior. He died of acute hepatitis brought on by alcoholism in 1957.

Do you seen the similarities between Senator Cruz and Senator McCarthy? What can be expected is that Cruz will eventually go too far. He has already alienated most members of the Senate. No one likes him. But he doesn’t seem to care, and like Joe McCarthy goes blithely on stating absurdities and horrendous policies. He will crash and burn, but not before much collateral damage is done. Reasonable people can only hope that his time on the national stage is short.

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The Politics of Silliness

Michele Bachmann

Michele Bachmann (Photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Allen West in Joe McCarthy's Neighborhood

Allen West in Joe McCarthy’s Neighborhood (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)

The latest news on American politics has President Obama declining to play any more games with the Republican opposition, and member of that opposition thinking about how they are going to force the president over a barrel with their intransigence on raising the national debt level in the new year. I hate to point out to the GOP that they lost the election, Mitt’s not in the White House, and both the senate and the house are going to welcome some more Democrats in January. Yet they still think that they have leverage. For what, I wonder? For ‘entitlement’ cuts?

They’ve essentially got nothing left to work with. Boehner and his merry band are going to be held responsible for any rise in taxes that may take place if the White House and the House of Representatives can’t come up with a bargain. If they hold the debt ceiling hostage again and bring the country to the point of default, they will have abrogated their right to govern. The GOP at that point should cease to exist.

Why are they pursuing such silly politics? Can they not separate running for office from governing? We’ve got a country out there that is rife with problems, that needs responsible leaders who try to work together to actually help solve problems. Why is this such a difficult concept for Republicans to understand. More and more they remind me of Captain Queeg in “The Caine Mutiny”, a marvelous film (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0046816/) about a mentally unstable ship’s captain who is finally relieved of his command. I mean, how much more craziness do Republicans have to show us before we need to remove them from power? Por ejemplo:

  • ”And what a bizarre time we’re in, when a judge will say to little children that you can’t say the pledge of allegiance, but you must learn that homosexuality is normal and you should try it.” Michele Bachman

  • ”This was a war of Obama’s choosing. This is not something the United States has actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in.”

    Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, rewriting history while speaking at a Connecticut fundraiser about the war in Afghanistan, which President Bush launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks (July 2, 2010)

  • ”I have some great friends who are NASCAR team owners.”

    Mitt Romney, after being asked whether he follows NASCAR racing (February 2012

I haven’t even bothered to quote Todd Akin or Richard Mourdock on their ideas about rape, pregnancy, and women. Or Allen West, a completely bat-shit crazy black conservative who believes Obama is a marxist. This club seems to have an endless supply of loonies.

And then, of course, there are the Republican governors who, through serendipitous happenstance, find themselves in a state government controlled by their own party. What do they do? Well, for one they want to gut unions under the guise of making their state a ‘right-to-work’ state, where, as so disingenuously put it, no one can force a worker to pay union dues. They appear to be ignorant of the fact that all workers can opt out of unions right now, without this further legislation, so that can’t be the reason. Of course, it has to be to gut the unions, which traditionally vote democratic, and to get the same work for less pay. There is no evidence that Michigan’s hastily passed legislation will do workers any good. http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2012/12/11/1314751/snyder-right-to-work/

When a governing party puts members in charge of committees they are antithetical to, when it lies blatantly to the people it is supposed to help, and when its leaders are prepared to allow the country to default on its bills (bills this party helped run up in the last 12 years), then it’s time for them to go. So GOP, don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out!

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What, Exactly, Do Republicans Believe?

I believe the results from the election this year are in and President Obama won, while the Democrats picked up some seats in the senate and house. I’d say I was certain in that belief, but many of the members of the opposition are simply not. These poor deluded members of our body politic think the election was stolen! Talk about sore losers.

English: Savonarola monument, Ferrara.

English: Savonarola monument, Ferrara. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, I will grant you that, when you offer an incredibly weak, tone-deaf, Teflon-like candidate and pair him with a partner who would make Savonarola look good, and when you approve a platform (that is, a list of ideas and policies that you as a party believe in) that overtly tells gays, women, and undocumented immigrants that they are lesser than you, it’s likely that you would also be so moronic as to believe the loss was all due to machinations by the other side. Really, you give stupidity an entirely new depth of meaning.

Ever since Newt changed the goal from governing to winning, gaining seats and power has been the GOP’s pole star. So I see how much this election, the one that Mitch McGoniff insisted he would deny to the president, must mean to you. And the only response you can come up with is to promise to destroy the sandbox you’re playing in if the Democrats don’t give in to your demands.

This is where I’m in a quandary. I’m assuming your demands reflect what you believe in. So it’s safe to say you do not want to raise taxes on the rich. After all, you took a solemn pledge to St. Grover that you would never, ever, ever, even consider it. Why, I wonder? Who is this schoolyard bully who forced you to take this ridiculous pledge? And what would possibly happen to you if you broke that promise? Would the sky fall? Would the earth cease to spin? I’m sure you think it’s much more personal than that. You might have to face a virulent primary opponent, one more anti-science, anti-intellectual, anti-global warming, and anti-government than even you are. But what if all of you decided to shove the pledge where the sun doesn’t shine? What might happen then?

Ok, so I get you want to protect the rich. But there must  be more, because you don’t give a shit about the middle class, and let’s not even talk about the poor. I have decided that you have a biased view of humanity in general. Since you have always been the party of business, I assume you think like many businessmen do. That is, you never believe that your employees are giving you the work you’re paying for, you always think they’re screwing you up the wazoo, and it’s clear to you that they want to take you for all you’re worth. Ok, ok, I know there are still some old Fezziwigs out there who truly care about their workers and their businesses, but the majority of you have joined the firm of Scrooge & Marley. It’s profits, profits, profits–that’s the bottom line. Workers are just interchangeable parts. No need to worry about them.

So you want to cater to the rich and not give a damn about middle class workers. As for the poor, I would bet a million that you think they are in the regrettable position they are because they are lazy, shiftless, no-account loafers, alcohol and drug abusers who want to rip off government the same way your workers rip you off. They’ve got no ambition and they are stupid, to boot. So why bother with them?

“A Live Jackass Kicking a Dead Lion” by Thomas Nast. Harper’s Weekly, January 19, 1870. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ah, it’s becoming clearer. Protect the wealthy, barely tolerate the middle class working population, let the poor die by the wayside. “Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?” We sure have a hell of a lot of the former, so Ebenezer would feel pretty good about that. But what about those other odious groups? Women, for example. Well, we know you don’t want to pay a cent of public money towards women’s health care and you will never forgive the Supreme Court for its finding in Roe v. Wade. By the way, really nice to see how many fat, happy, white Republicans you picked for committee heads recently. What is it about women you’re afraid of? Must be something big.

There’s no question you still carry the seeds of racism within you. The blacks who join your cause are extremist to the core. As for the rest of the country’s blacks, you’re happy developing laws to ‘prevent voter fraud’ (ain’t happening, guys!) or, as it should be called, resurrected poll taxes. And you  have just about assured your party that the largest demographic of voters, Latinos, will not vote for you again. That leaves only the gays, and you certainly don’t want to offer them a seat at the table. They’d destroy your happy marriages, wouldn’t they?

So what we’ve got is a pro-rich, anti-middle class, anti-poor, anti-black, anti-women, anti-Latino, anti-gay party who is wondering where the hell they went wrong. And I saved the most nonsensical anti- for last. This party is anti-government. Yep, if elected they would move heaven and earth to dissemble the government. We’ve seen it countless times. John Bolton appointed as UN ambassador even though he hates the idea of a United Nations, congressmen like Todd Akins and Richard Mourdock with a dearth of science knowledge on the science and technology committee.

This has got to stop. The best thing for this country would be for the GOP to implode upon itself, like communism did in the old USSR. Let a new party arise, one interested in governing and happy to deal with facts and problems common to us all. That’s what I’ve got on my Xmas list this year!

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John McCain, You’ve Lost It!

Senator John McCain (Republican, Arizona) is a stark reminder of why term limits are often considered. Once a dashing politician who served his country proudly and well, he’s now become a millstone around America’s neck. One wonders if his many selves have conversations late in the dark hours of the night. Could he harbor a

English: John McCain official photo portrait.

English: John McCain official photo portrait. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

resentment against “that one”, the current president who beat him handily in ’08 and just won again?

He was the quintessential ‘maverick’ of the Senate, voting his principles, not his party. During the 2008 campaign, he corrected one of the lunatic fringe who insisted again that Barack Obama was not a citizen, was born in Kenya, and was a Muslim. (This fruitcake probably still believes that Jews ate Christian babies, that black cats and witches are one in the same, and white people are losing control of ‘their’ country. Well, have to give her the last one, although no one ever ‘owns’ a country forever, and well they shouldn’t.)

I admired him then, but something since that time has unhinged him and loosened all the important connections in his brain. His ‘maverickness’ is now more obstructionist, and I cannot find any purpose for his crazy antics, especially regarding Susan Rice, other than that the GOP was Kerry in the administration so they can try to move Scott Brown back into the Senate. The GOP is machiavellian enough to plan such a thing and McCain, Lindsey Graham (R-S Carolina), and Kelly Ayotte (R-New Hampshire) [BTW, who the hell is Kelly Ayotte and why is anyone paying attention to the junior senator from NH, elected in 2011?]

There seems to be a madness playing out in John McCain. It is sad to watch, because he has failed his primary duty as a US senator, to serve the interests of his country. He went to the dark side of the Tea Party and it appears they have his brain, or what’s left of it. His daughter, Meghan, makes more sense than her father. We can only hope that he disappears as quickly as possible from the political stage, like his bud Joe Lieberman. We wish the same about Senator Graham, whose resemblance to a large rat is uncanny and who’s smarminess is unmatched. (I know,

Kelly Ayotte - Caricature

Kelly Ayotte – Caricature (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)

it’s an ad hominem attack, but he sooooooo pisses me off with his holier than thou attitude. It’s revolting he has the power he has in the senate.)

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Banish Them to the Wilderness!

If anyone has not yet caught on to what the Republican right is up to, it is time to open your eyes wide and take your hands away from your ears. They are working tirelessly to buy this election, seeking to put a man with no seeming convictions into the Oval Office, leading what, for the time being, is the most powerful nation in the world.

Oval Office, desk 1

Oval Office, desk 1 (Photo credit: Truthout.org)

They are not interested in the welfare of the middle class or the poor. They are obsessed with making sure the wealthy are more comfortable and protected.

It is impossible not to see they are attempting to develop an oligarchy.

Oligarchy (from Greek ὀλιγαρχία (oligarkhía); from ὀλίγος (olígos), meaning “a few”, and ἄρχω (archo), meaning “to rule or to command”)[1][2][3] is a form of power structure in which power effectively rests with a small number of people. These people could be distinguished by royalty, wealth, family ties, education, corporate, or military control. Such states are often controlled by a few prominent families who pass their influence from one generation to the next. –Wikipedia

English: Sheldon and Miriam Adelson recieve Wo...

English: Sheldon and Miriam Adelson recieve Woodrow Wilson Awards Español: Sheldon and Miriam Adelson reciben Woodrow Wilson Awards (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And they are doing this in plain sight. When a billionaire like Sheldon Adelson, CEO of the Las Vegas Sands corporation, can keep dropping $10M at a time into super pacs whose sole goal is political  (to make sure Obama has only one term), the situation has moved from dire to outrageous. Adelson, along with his wife Miriam, are super Israel supporters, to the point that they deny Palestinians are entitled to be treated as a people. This is one of the men trying to buy the election.

The Koch brothers are trying to do the same thing. David and Charles Koch control Koch Industries, the second largest privately controlled company in the United States. They are incredibly wealthy, yet want more.

What, do you think, are Sheldon, David, and Charles looking for? My bet is an astounding reduction in business regulations, a sweet tax structure that let’s them get even more rich than they are, and control of the presidency. No one–no one–gives millions and millions of dollars to a presidential campaign without expecting something in return. They want access to the Oval Office. I am sure Sheldon wants to manipulate Mitt Romney [I don’t have time in this post to talk about what a straw man this guy is.] into being even more of a defender of Israel. (I’ll leave to another post just how absurd the basis for the Jewish state is.) And David and Charles want even less interference from the US government as they go on their merry way expanding their oil business.

That’s why it’s time for the Republican party and conservatism to be banished to the wilderness again! It happened after the Watergate scandal in the 1970s. It should be happening again, now. The GOP has passed the tipping point, demonstrating time and again it is not concerned with the middle class or the poor. (See my post “Mitch McConnell Boxed In.”) Jobs should be the goal of our legislators, yet we see Republicans in the House pushing endless legislation on abortion (31 bills in the last 2 years.) And no bill on jobs. Won’t even consider the president’s jobs bill.

They must be defeated, so soundly that they slink away in fear. Listen to their talk. Everything they accuse Obama of, they are doing.

This government should not be run by the Adelsons of this world and the Koch brothers. That is not what America is, or what it should be.

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On Being Wrong

Cover of "Being Wrong: Adventures in the ...

Cover via Amazon

I am currently reading a wonderful book by Kathryn Schulz called Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error. Humans are not comfortable with making mistakes. But we do, and we do it pretty consistently. I have to assume, though, that some of you might have run into insufferable bosses or colleagues who insist that they rarely, if ever, err In fact, you might even find one in your family, perhaps Grandpa Hamid or Aunt Lucy, who never ever make mistakes. The skill they all have in common is the ability to blame an underling or other family member for their faults.

Schulz writes that;

A whole lot of us go through life assuming that we are basically right, basically all the time, about basically everything: about our political and intellectual convictions, our religious and moral beliefs, our assessment of other people, our memories, our grasp of facts. As absurd as it sounds when we stop to think about it, our steady state seems to be one of unconsciously assuming that we are very close to omniscient.

You know, the only creatures I’ve ever found with omniscience were gods! My, my, aren’t we all pleased with ourselves.

Of course, with ordinary mortals one can just ignore them or, in extremes, tell them off. But then there is the politician, the bloviating, slobbering, pompous, condescending paradigm of this hubris just described.

Most of us, according to Schulz, believe that falling into error is “dangerous, humiliating, distasteful, and, un-fun in the extreme.” She refers to this belief as the pessimistic model of wrongdoing. Schulz explains:

[o]ur mistakes really can be irritating or humiliating or harmful, to ourselves as well as to others. To dismiss that fact would be disingenuous, but as an overall outlook on wrongness, the pessimistic one is radically incomplete. To begin with, it obscures the fact that whatever damage can arise from erring pales in comparison to the damage that arises from our fear, dislike, and denial of erring. This fear acts as a kind of omnipurpose coagulant, hardening heart and mind, chilling our relationships with other people, and cooling our curiosity about the world.

Is this not the ultimate truism about the political class? Are they not petrified of making any error, lest the electorate throw them out of the comfortable homes they have found in government? And is this not true in every land on the face of the planet?

I can only speak for my own country, but the denial of committing error is running rampant in my government, and I must be honest and say the Republicans/Conservatives are the biggest offenders. Take, for example, climate change. Business has denied the existence of climate change for a number of reasons, but one big one is that it is afraid of the regulations that would burden them should climate change be true. Over the years, more and more scientists have reviewed the evidence and undertaken new studies and, unfortunately, climate change is a reality. The long-term droughts, violent storms, huge flooding, and monster hurricanes are telling us that something is wrong. And still Republicans deny it is happening.

I saw Bill Maher‘s panel discussion on cable tv the other day. Some Republican Luddite was arguing that these climate catastrophes were nothing more than the regular cycle of events, like the hurricanes he remembered from his childhood. Luckily, there was another panel member, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist, science

Dr. at the November 29, 2005 meeting of the NA...

Dr.Neil DeGrasse Tyson at the November 29, 2005 meeting of the NASA Advisory Council, in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

communicator, and director of the prestigious Hayden Planetarium in New York City. Of course he was asked for his views. His  first comment was on what scientists expect from laymen who are told some  information they don’t like to hear. First, he said, they deny it. Second, they say it conflicts with the Bible (or Torah or Quran). Third, they say they knew it all along. But when asked for evidence, he pointed to nature itself. Plants and animals are moving northward, because it is becoming warm enough for them to survive there. They know what global warming is and they’re feeling it.

But the Republican party cannot bring itself to say it was wrong, and so we continue to have battles about environmental regulations that shouldn’t be. Because they would find it humiliating to say that they missed the boat. I don’t think they will acknowledge their effort until that boat is foundering. And we’ll all lose.

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John Roberts Takes His Place in History

Official 2005 photo of Chief Justice John G. R...

Official 2005 photo of Chief Justice John G. Roberts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chief Justice John Roberts, by siding with the four liberal members of the United States Supreme Court and writing the opinion upholding the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), has moved into the history books. A conservative Catholic, Roberts must have struggled with this case, with one shoulder angel urging him to uphold conservative tenets and overturn the law, and the angel on the other side shouting into his other ear that this case would have an importance far beyond today.

Judges are human beings. They all have life experiences that inform their decisions, no matter what they may say about their ability to be completely neutral. But they are also extremely sensitive to their own reputation, and with

English: Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice of...

English: Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Supreme Court justices, with how they will be remembered by historians. Some, like Clarence Thomas, seem deaf and dumb to the rest of the world. Thomas has been embittered by the way he was treated during his youth, and his confirmation hearing was scandalous. His penchant for asking no questions from the bench during oral arguments is no doubt related to his own life, and he is far to the right of even someone like Scalia.

English: Antonin Scalia, Associate Justice of ...

English: Antonin Scalia, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Antonin Scalia himself is showing signs of early dementia, as he rails against his fellow justices and the president in his dissents and majority opinions.

Many lay people wonder how the justices can make a decision based on each side giving a half-hour argument, with the justices interrupting each attorney repeatedly. But the Court has already read and studied the submitted briefs and basically made up their minds before the oral arguments. So this is just the icing on the case.

Roberts is most concerned with his place in history. If he voted down the law, he would be remembered as the chief justice who did away with the only health care bill to pass Congress in over 100 years. This obviously was repugnant to him, so he chose to stand with the bill’s supporters and be known as the Chief Justice who found the Affordable Care Act constitutional. He did it by finding that it was not a fee but a tax, which was constitutional under the Taxing clause. This logical argument has already by picked up by Senator Mitch (“Do-Nothing”) McConnell as a negative quality of Obama. Fulminating that the administration has snuck a tax in while all Republicans were watching, he promised to dismantle it completely and give the American public a bill with no tax and takes care of them. [When that happens, this writer will be happy to walk across the Mediterranean to celebrate.]s

So Roberts has moved into the textbooks, McConnell is apoplectic, and who knows what the Tea Party is thinking.  There have been Supreme Court decisions in our history that were incredibly wrong-headed, from the vantage point of today: Dred Scott v. Sanford (slaves do not have standing to file a claim in an American court because they are property), U.S. v. Ju Toy (upholding the Chinese Exclusion Act and affirming that US Port Inspectors and the Secretary of Commerce had the power to determine who would be admitted to the country), and Korematsu v. the United States (upholding the government’s decision to intern Japanese-American citizens on the West Coast during World War II). But for the rest of us, today is a time to celebrate a decision that will actually helps the country move forward.This decision will stand with Loving v. Virginia (it is legal for people to marry a member of a different race), Roe v. Wade(a woman may  choose to have an abortion legally), and Lawrence v. Texas (same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults is legal), instances where these nine people made decisions to progress.

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