Sunday, July 17, 2022

Last Call For Another Day In Gumerica, Con't

The Texas state House committee looking into the Uvalde shooting two months ago is expected to release a blistering report on Monday finding that everything that could go wrong with the system that should have prevented the massacre did go wrong, from parental failures to school safety laxity to not just the ridiculous response from local Uvalde cops, but the failures of state and federal law enforcement as well.

The 77-page report, reviewed by The Texas Tribune, provides a damning portrayal of a family unable to recognize warning signs, a school district that had strayed from strict adherence to its safety plan and a police response that disregarded its own active-shooter training.

It explains how the gunman, who investigators believe had never fired a gun before May 24, was able to stockpile military-style rifles, accessories and ammunition without arousing suspicion from authorities, enter a supposedly secure school unimpeded and indiscriminately kill children and adults.

In total, 376 law enforcement officers — a force larger than the garrison that defended the Alamo — descended upon the school in a chaotic, uncoordinated scene that lasted for more than an hour. The group was devoid of clear leadership, basic communications and sufficient urgency to take down the gunman, the report says.

Notably, the investigation is the first so far to criticize the inaction of state and federal law enforcement, while other reports and public accounts by officials have placed the blame squarely on Uvalde school police Chief Pete Arredondo, for his role as incident commander, and other local police who were among the first to arrive.

The report also reveals for the first time that the overwhelming majority of responders were federal and state law enforcement: 149 were U.S. Border Patrol, and 91 were state police — whose responsibilities include responding to “mass attacks in public places.” There were 25 Uvalde police officers and 16 sheriff’s deputies. Arredondo’s school police force accounted for five of the officers on the scene. The rest of the force was made up of neighboring county law enforcement, U.S. Marshals, and federal Drug Enforcement Agency officers.

The investigators said that in the absence of a strong incident commander, another officer could have — and should have — stepped up to the task.

“These local officials were not the only ones expected to supply the leadership needed during this tragedy,” the report said. “Hundreds of responders from numerous law enforcement agencies — many of whom were better trained and better equipped than the school district police — quickly arrived on the scene.”

The other responders “could have helped to address the unfolding chaos.”


No blame for Republican state lawmakers who made it criminally east to get an AR-15 to kill 20 with, however. You won't find a word of that here. 

Just another day of finger-pointing in Gunmerica.

Being All Judge Mental, Con't

 A federal judge in Tennessee has blocked the Biden administration's Title IX transgender directives on bathrooms, sports teams, and more, saying that the federal government cannot punish states for enforcing state laws "protecting women".

A federal judge in Tennessee has temporarily blocked Biden administration directives allowing transgender workers and students to use bathrooms and locker rooms and join sports teams that correspond with their gender identity.

Judge Charles Atchley Jr. of the Eastern District of Tennessee ruled on Friday that the administration's directives would make it impossible for some states to enforce their own laws on transgender athletes' participation in girls' sports and access to bathrooms.

A coalition of 20 Republican attorneys general brought a lawsuit last year against the federal government, noting that they stood to lose significant federal funding as the Biden directives were in conflict with their own state laws.

Atchley agreed with that, writing in his order that the states "cannot continue regulating pursuant to their state laws while simultaneously complying with Defendants' guidance."

Oklahoma Attorney General John O'Connor, one of the plaintiffs, said in a written statement on Saturday that Atchley's order "is a major victory for women's sports and for the privacy and safety of girls and women in their school bathrooms and locker rooms."

The Justice Department, the Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission are named as defendants in the lawsuit. None immediately replied to requests for comment on Saturday. The three had earlier requested that Atchley dismiss the states' lawsuit, a motion the judge denied in his Friday ruling.

The coalition of Republican states argued the Biden administration directives improperly expanded on a 2020 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that extended anti-discrimination protections to transgender workers.

The top court in Bostock v. Clayton County said employers cannot terminate workers because of their gender identity or sexuality. The justices expressly declined to decide if the ruling applied to sex-segregated bathrooms and locker rooms.

The Supreme Court in Bostock held that the bar on workplace sex discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 extended to bias based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Department of Education in its guidance issued last year concluded that because Title IX, which bars sex bias in federally funded educational programs, borrowed language from Title VII, Bostock also applied to schools.

The department said, for example, that preventing a transgender high school girl from using the girls' restroom or trying out for the girls' cheerleading team would violate Title IX.

Atchley on Friday agreed with the states, writing in his ruling that the Supreme Court in Bostock "explicitly refused to decide whether 'sex-segregated bathrooms, locker rooms, and dress codes' violate Title VII."
This fight is of course going back to the US Supreme Court, where I expect that not only will there be five vote for Judge Atchley's bigoted views, but that Bostock was wrongly decided and should be eliminated...along with the rest of the Civil Rights Act. 
Let me repeat that. In just a few weeks, doctors in dozens of states are now facing felony imprisonment for treating women with pregnancy issues. Look at how fast that fell apart after Roe's demise. They didn't stop with women, either. 
If you think they're going to magically stop at criminalizing the existence of trans folk, I guarantee you that it won't be too long before the entire concept of a "protected class" is struck down by the Roberts Court, and the Civil Rights Act along with it.

We're heading back to Jim Crow, folks, an era where your rights to work, go to school, buy a house, or even exist will depend solely on which state you live in. It won't take long to get there, either, a bifurcated America that cannot survive without falling into brutal, bloody violence.

Hell, on women's bodies, we're already there. Buckle up, because we're going straight into the crucible of history, and not all of us are going to see the other side.

Sunday Long Read: No Vacancy In Paradise

We often cite San Francisco or New York City as far as America's affordable housing crisis goes, but the worst by far is Hawaii and cities like Honolulu and Hilo, as our Sunday Long Read from Eric Stinton at Dwell details.

If you’re thinking about moving to Hawaii, you’re not alone. But transplants shouldn’t necessarily expect a warm welcome. Long simmering tensions about who gets to live on the islands have flared over the past couple of years into a full-blown crisis.

When the pandemic began in 2020, Hawaii’s economy reeled. Tourism crashed, and joblessness skyrocketed. Soon after, remote work combined with the state’s low infection rate beckoned people with means from across the country to move to the islands, while sprawling estates owned by the likes of Jeff Bezos, Larry Ellison, and Mark Zuckerberg continued to metastasize. From the end of 2019 to the start of 2022, the median cost of a single-family home on O‘ahu, where most of the population lives, ballooned from $789,000 to $1.15 million. A quarter of all homes sold in 2021 were purchased by out-of-state buyers, who routinely bid well above the listing price, often without seeing the property in person. Homes are on the market for an average of just 10 days.

But the local housing crisis is nothing new; in many ways, the pandemic merely accelerated trends that started when Hawaii became a state in 1959. The cost of real estate has steadily increased since then, fueled by tropical allure and increased accessibility, with only brief and mild downturns. During the Great Recession, Hawaii’s prices dropped less and rebounded faster than those in most of the rest of the country, the whole thing just a hiccup in the state’s ever-hot housing market.

Behind the economic statistics are human tolls. Hawaii continues to have one of the highest per capita rates of homelessness in America while also experiencing five consecutive years of population decline. There’s a growing class of people who have called Hawaii home for generations but can no longer live there. Those who can afford to leave usually do; those who can’t end up on the streets.

These trends disproportionately impact Kānaka Maoli, or Native Hawaiians. (One may be a Californian for living in California, but living in Hawaii makes someone a Hawaii resident, not a Hawaiian.) Native Hawaiians account for about 10 percent of the state’s total population but more than a third of the people without permanent housing. Now, roughly three times as many Hawaiians live outside their ancestral homeland than in it, a cruel legacy of colonialism.

The roots of the crisis are familiar to other parts of the country—not enough supply, too much demand—but on these islands, what are elsewhere surging issues have been whipped up into an economic storm.

As a hilly, isolated archipelago with less total land than Maryland, Hawaii is tightly limited by geography. Try to build out and you’ll run into eroding shorelines or steep mountainsides; try to build up and you’ll hit ordinances limiting building height and intended to protect scenic views. And then there’s the cost: Since most building materials are imported, expenses are not only higher than elsewhere in the country but also especially sensitive to supply-chain conditions, international tariffs, and market variables like rising inflation and oil prices. Myriad state and county land-use restrictions complicate projects, and since Hawaii uses a general excise tax instead of a sales tax, transactions at every stage of development add costs.

"We’re the state with the most regulations and hoops that you have to jump through in order to provide housing," says Cassandra Abdul, executive director of the Maui-based housing nonprofit Nā Hale O Maui. "Navigating them is time-consuming, and time truly is money."

These days, new developments are built at one-tenth the rate of the peak of the post-statehood boom periods in the 1960s and ’70s, the last time housing was broadly affordable.

And while supply is almost nonexistent, demand is seemingly infinite. Some of it is driven by locals trying to hold on, but Hawaii real estate is also popular purely for investment. The state has the lowest property taxes in the nation, and real estate appreciation dependably beats inflation. Investors can capitalize on some of the highest rents in the country or simply hold their property and flip it later for almost guaranteed profits. It’s a perfect place to park money. Some estimates show that more than 76,000 units are unoccupied and that 30,000 to 60,000 units have been converted to short-term rentals.

"When you stack all these things together, you get a climate where there’s not going to be much housing at a price point that local people can afford," says Sterling Higa, executive director of the nonprofit Housing Hawaii’s Future.


In other words, Hawaii represents an entire state deep in the housing bubble. The human toll continues to get worse, and this time, when the housing bubble pops, it's going to burn this place down. Keep an eye on this bird of paradise, it's the canary in the coal mine. 

The Road To Gilead Goes Through Women's Medicine, Con't

One of the immediate effects of the death of Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood, plus the onslaught of red state abortion bans is that modern OB/GYN medical care for women in those states -- here in Kentucky included -- has now effectively collapsed for millions of women in just a few weeks.
A sexual assault survivor chooses sterilization so that if she is ever attacked again, she won’t be forced to give birth to a rapist’s baby. An obstetrician delays inducing a miscarriage until a woman with severe pregnancy complications seems “sick enough.” A lupus patient must stop taking medication that controls her illness because it can also cause miscarriages.

Abortion restrictions in a number of states and the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade are having profound repercussions in reproductive medicine as well as in other areas of medical care.

“For physicians and patients alike, this is a frightening and fraught time, with new, unprecedented concerns about data privacy, access to contraception, and even when to begin lifesaving care,’’ said Dr. Jack Resneck, president of the American Medical Association.

Even in medical emergencies, doctors are sometimes declining immediate treatment. In the past week, an Ohio abortion clinic received calls from two women with ectopic pregnancies — when an embryo grows outside the uterus and can’t be saved — who said their doctors wouldn’t treat them. Ectopic pregnancies often become life-threatening emergencies and abortion clinics aren’t set up to treat them.

It's just one example of "the horrible downstream effects of criminalizing abortion care,'' said Dr. Catherine Romanos, who works at the Dayton clinic.


Dr. Jessian Munoz, an OB-GYN in San Antonio, Texas, who treats high-risk pregnancies, said medical decisions used to be clear cut.

“It was like, the mom’s life is in danger, we must evacuate the uterus by whatever means that may be,” he said. "Whether it’s surgical or medical — that’s the treatment.’’

Now, he said, doctors whose patients develop pregnancy complications are struggling to determine whether a woman is “sick enough" to justify an abortion.

With the fall of Roe v. Wade, “the art of medicine is lost and actually has been replaced by fear,’’ Munoz said.

Munoz said he faced an awful predicament with a recent patient who had started to miscarry and developed a dangerous womb infection. The fetus still had signs of a heartbeat, so an immediate abortion — the usual standard of care — would have been illegal under Texas law.

“We physically watched her get sicker and sicker and sicker” until the fetal heartbeat stopped the next day, “and then we could intervene,’’ he said. The patient developed complications, required surgery, lost multiple liters of blood and had to be put on a breathing machine “all because we were essentially 24 hours behind.’’

In a study published this month in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, doctors at two Texas hospitals cited the cases of 28 women less than 23 weeks pregnant who were treated for dangerous pregnancies. The doctors noted that all of the women had recommended abortions delayed by nine days because fetal heart activity was detected. Of those, nearly 60% developed severe complications — nearly double the number of complications experienced by patients in other states who had immediate therapeutic abortions. Of eight live births among the Texas cases, seven died within hours. The eighth, born at 24 weeks, had severe complications including brain bleeding, a heart defect, lung disease and intestinal and liver problems.

Before it overturned Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court never allowed states to ban abortion before the point when a fetus can survive outside the womb — roughly 24 weeks.

Chicago diversity executive Sheena Gray survived a harrowing pregnancy-ending experience last year, when doctors discovered she had an embryo in a fallopian tube and an eight-week fetus in her womb. They removed the embryo along with the affected fallopian tube, and told her they needed to abort the other fetus to save her life.

The decision to proceed with treatment was hers — abortion is still legal in Illinois. In fact, the state provides greater access to abortion than most others, and has been flooded with patients seeking abortions following the recent Supreme Court decision.

Gray said she’s heard about similar care being denied or delayed in other states, and fears the high court ruling will force other patients to face the same fate.

“No one should make these choices for a woman, period,” she said.
But the Roberts Court and GOP state legislatures have already made that choice for millions.  It will absolutely lead to a skyrocketing of maternal mortality, already a crisis in the US for Black and Latino women, is expected to rise exponentially.

For Black women in the US, the number is 55 per 100,000, a staggering number that matches countries like Maldives or Cape Verde. You're literally more likely to survive childbirth in Mongolia than being a Black woman in this country.

But almost overnight, that has become far, far worse. How bad will these numbers get, with women dying from ectopic pregnancies and more? Who knows?

What I do know is Republicans could not care less.
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