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Supreme Court’s Pace Will Produce Pileup of Rulings

Supreme Court Protects Access to Mifepristone... For Now

Yesterday, the Supreme Court issued a 9-0 ruling in Food and Drug Administration et al. v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine et al., striking down the ban on mifepristone imposed by District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk (and largely upheld by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals). Sounds like a victory for the pro-choice side of the abortion issue, doesn't it? Not so fast.

We're going to let lawyer-reader A.R. in Los Angeles have the first word:

First, a brief refresher about standing. Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, so only certain types of cases brought by the appropriate parties can get into federal court. An appropriate party is (generally) one who has an injury-in-fact that was caused by the alleged harm, which can be remedied by the court.

Here, the Alliance for Hypocritical Medicine (oops, damn auto-correct) alleged they had standing to sue the FDA because at some point, somewhere, one of its doctors may be called upon to administer to a patient with complications from having taken mifepristone. The justices unanimously said, uh, bye Felicia! They held that the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring their claims.

Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote the opinion and, ironically, went on at some length about how federal courts' limited jurisdiction promotes democracy and that questions that aren't ripe for their review are best left to the political process. Indeed, courts are only to decide the cases on the specific facts before them, and not "opine on legal issues" not raised. Hmmm, I seem to recall that at oral argument in the Trump immunity case, Kavanaugh and many of his colleagues didn't want to hear about the facts of the case in front of them; instead, they wanted to discuss lofty, abstract principles because they were writing a "decision for the ages" and for "future" presidents. So when it suits them, their hands are tied because "democracy," but when the facts are inconvenient (as in the Trump case), they are unconcerned about "assur[ing] that the legal questions presented to the court will be resolved, not in the rarified atmosphere of a debating society, but in a concrete factual context conducive to a realistic appreciation of the consequences of judicial action." I think I understand how this works now.

But back to our regularly scheduled programming...

The Hippos complained that the FDA's approval of mifepristone was improper. But they could not meet any of the required standing elements. None of the doctors had been injured because none had alleged that they had treated a woman with complications from terminating a pregnancy with mifepristone. Further, doctors enjoy a conscience objection, so even if such a case had presented itself, the doctors could not show they would have been required to treat that patient. The organization couldn't show standing because they also could not demonstrate they had been impacted financially or otherwise by others' use of mifepristone. Finally, the Court rejected the plaintiffs' argument that standing was appropriate because if they don't have standing, no one will.

Thankfully, the justices did not adopt Associate Justice Clarence Thomas' view that the Court should jettison associational standing altogether, which would have jeopardized non-profit groups' ability to use their resources to sue on their members' behalf. Environmental groups, civil liberties groups, women's rights organizations, even the NRA—all depend on this standing to challenge laws that infringe on their members' constitutional rights. This decision did not need to go that far to resolve the case before it, and the Court, in this instance, adhered to the boundaries and limits of Article III in its ruling.

Thanks, A.R.!

And now, let us add that yesterday's ruling did absolutely nothing to resolve the underlying issues this suit raised. First is this nonsense where one judge in one division can make decisions for the entire country. Second, and more importantly, is whether or not the FDA's approval of mifepristone can be reversed by the judicial branch. Since the case was dismissed on the basis of standing, it was not necessary to engage with these issues.

This being the case, why did SCOTUS take so long to reach a decision? Well, Kavanaugh's decision (and Thomas' concurrence) appear to be carefully crafted so as to indicate what lines of attack might be more feasible for anti-abortion activists. In particular, the justices seem to imply that a hospital compelled to care for someone who suffered from mifepristone complications might have standing. Similarly, Thomas proposes that a doctor who felt pressured to waive their conscience objection (say, they were the only doctor working the ER on a particular night) could also have standing. And so, the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine and other such groups are already thinking about how they can take a second bite at the apple, with greater success on the second go-round.

Consequently, all SCOTUS has done is take a hot-button issue and kick it down the road a little bit. Given that this particular hot-button issue works to the detriment of Republicans in general, and Donald Trump in particular, some commenters have gone so far as to describe the decision as a "gift" to Trump. That could be so. In our experience, however, the voters who care about this particular issue tend to be better informed than the public as a whole. Just because mifepristone is no longer under imminent threat doesn't mean it's not still threatened. And, of course, there's all the other hard-right abortion stuff coming out of places like Texas and Louisiana and Alabama (see below for more). So while we pass along the observation that this decision could work to the benefit of any Republican who has to appeal to a purple (or blue) electorate, we are inclined to think that's not how it will work out. (Z)

Senate Republicans Block Protections for IVF

Before we get to yesterday's news, we need to go back a couple of days to provide some potentially useful context. Southern Baptists are rightfully concerned about the implications of in-vitro fertilization. And what we mean by "rightfully concerned" is that if you legitimately believe that life begins at conception, then IVF raises a lot of difficult questions that are somewhere between "hard" and "impossible" to answer. The most obvious is the disposition of unused embryos. If those are lives, must they be given legal protections? Must they be preserved in perpetuity, possibly even beyond a normal human lifespan? If the answer to the latter question is "yes," who is responsible for that task?

For these reasons (and undoubtedly others that have to do with sex, sexuality, women's place in the world, etc.), the Southern Baptist Convention voted on Wednesday in favor of a resolution declaring the group's formal opposition to IVF. The Southern Baptists are the nation's largest (13 million people) and most politically connected Protestant denomination, and so their decision throws a pretty big wrench into the works for Republican politicians, who have spent the last several months scrambling to show their support for IVF after Alabama's Supreme Court ruled that embryos count as children for some (all?) legal purposes.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is well aware that the vast majority of Democrats support the availability of IVF. He is also well aware that the issue has now become a very hot potato for Republicans. This is a situation that calls for a show vote, and so he held one yesterday on a bill that would guarantee access to IVF nationwide. It was a procedural vote, and it failed, as Schumer expected it would. The vote was 48-47; because of the filibuster, to advance the legislation would have required 60 votes. The vote was party line, excepting that Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME) voted with the Democrats.

Senate Republicans, in an effort to have it both ways, fell all over themselves trying to explain how they are pro-IVF, but anti- the IVF bill. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), for example, said that he likes IVF but he doesn't want to do anything to infringe on Americans' religious freedom. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) echoed the religious freedom claim, and also said that he prefers his bill, which would deny Medicaid funding to any state that prohibits IVF. Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) said that IVF is currently legal in all 50 states, so why does the Senate need to do anything? This ignores the fact that state legislatures and state supreme courts have shown many times they can make radical changes to state law overnight, if they are so inclined. IVF may be legal everywhere today, but given the resolution passed by the Southern Baptists, would you be stunned if it were illegal in a half-dozen red states by September?

In the end, we think this story supports the observation we made in the previous one: There are so many fronts in this particular struggle that Democrats are going to have no trouble finding things that will make Republicans squirm. If it's not mifepristone, it will be IVF. If it's not IVF, it will be abortion bans. If it's not abortion bans, it will be women who suffered due to the lack of proper reproductive care. This is an extremely powerful issue for the blue team, and will remain so through November. (Z)

Trump on The Hill: No Evacuation Needed... This Time

They say that the criminal always returns to the scene of the crime. Yesterday, Donald Trump did nothing to disprove that aphorism, visiting Capitol Hill for the first time since 1/6. His ostensible purpose was to discuss campaign strategy with his fellow Republicans as the election cycle heats up.

The reason we write "ostensible purpose" is that Trump actually spent very little time on campaign strategy. He first met with members of the House Republican Conference. During that confab, the former president settled some scores (attacking Rep. David Valadao, R-CA, for example, for voting in favor of impeachment). He also went on rants about Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), the city of Milwaukee (more below), musician Taylor Swift and the Department of Justice. A strange list; it reads like the "answer" to one of those old Johnny Carson "Carnac the Magnificent" questions.

Next up was a press conference where Trump, flanked by a bunch of Republican senators, repeated some of his favorite lies of this campaign cycle. For example, he declared that violent crime is as bad as it's ever been right now, despite the fact that it's down 15% this year and is nowhere near the rates seen in the 1980s. He said that inflation is currently the highest it's been in American history, when in fact it's down to 3.3%, which is far less than the 9% it was last year, and is far, far less than the double-digit inflation of the 1970s. Trump also made his oft-repeated claim that foreign nations are emptying their prisons and sending the inmates to the United States. This is complete fantasy; there is no evidence for any part of this.

After the press conference, it was time for a meeting with Senate Republicans. There was less griping than when Trump met with House Republicans. However, the main story was this:

Trump shakes hands with Mitch 
McConnell, who is standing about as far away as possible while still making contact

This is the first time that Trump and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have spoken, much less met in person, since 1/6. You could probably write a book about the body language in that picture. Still, despite the Kentuckian's obvious lack of enthusiasm, and despite the fact that he once condemned the former president for fomenting insurrection, he has since climbed back on board the S.S. Trump and has endorsed his 2024 campaign. Your junior high biology teacher might have taught you that turtles are vertebrates, but clearly that is not the case. McConnell is done being Republican leader in about 8 months and he's done being a senator in 2 years and 8 months. Even if he's not willing to do the Liz Cheney and go full apostate, he could nonetheless ignore Trump without consequences. And yet, there he is, kowtowing before the Dear Leader.

To the extent that Trump did discuss election strategy with the representatives and the senators, it was mostly how to talk about abortion. And his somewhat muddy message was "don't campaign on abortion" but "lean into the notion that it's a states' rights issue" and also "follow your heart." Those first two are paraphrases; the third he actually said verbatim. In any case, even if Republicans don't want to campaign on abortion, the Democrats are going to give them no choice. Meanwhile, we've pointed out many times that framing it as a states' rights issue is not so simple. That sticks the states' rights advocates with the most extreme manifestations of state-level abortion policy, like what's going on in Texas, while ignoring the fact that some issues, like mailing mifepristone, are inter-state issues. It's also worth pointing out that Trump is uniquely capable of getting away with policy positions that amount to mumble, mumble, mumble. For example, on April 27, he said he would soon be releasing his plan for mifepristone. That's 6 weeks ago; where is it? Few other politicians have that superpower.

In short, Trump's visit had relatively little to do with helping Team GOP plan for the election, and quite a bit to do with reminding everyone who runs the Party. And the fawning supplicants were pleased to give The Donald exactly what he wanted. The senators, for example, had a flag-shaped birthday cake for Trump, since his birthday is today. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) gushed about how sweet and how cute he is. Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) told reporters that the Party is 100% behind Trump, and that anyone who is not has been, or will be, purged. Ted Cruz applauded Trump as he exited the meeting with the senators, and kept clapping for more than a minute after the door had closed behind the former president. These are just a few examples of the fawning that went on yesterday. And keep reading for more on the state of the Republican Party in 2024. (Z)

Trump Slams Milwaukee: Let the Equivocating Begin

As we note above, one of Donald Trump's many off-the-cuff remarks while meeting with Congressional Republicans yesterday was an attack on the city of Milwaukee, which just so happens to be the site of this year's Republican National Convention. Despite the fact that the RNC is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Trump Organization, and that Trump could theoretically demand that the convention be held in any city he chooses, he's apparently unhappy with the selection. And so, during his time with the House Republican Conference, he said: "Milwaukee, where we are having our convention, is a horrible city."

This might not have been the best choice of words, given that the convention is imminent and that Wisconsin is a swing state. And so, the spin/cleanup operation began immediately. Here's the response from Trump spokesman Steven Cheung, posted to Twitter almost instantaneously after the news broke:

Wrong. Total bull**it. He never said it like how it's been falsely characterized as. He was talking about how terrible crime and voter fraud are.

Grammar and clarity are not Cheung's strong suits.

In any event, once it was proven that Trump did say those exact words (based on reports from multiple people who were in the room), then other Republicans picked up the ball and leaned into the "I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant" defense. That is to say, Republicans—and, in particular, Wisconsin Republicans—declared that when Trump said Milwaukee was a "horrible city," he didn't mean it's a horrible city, he merely meant that it's a city with out-of-control crime and massive voter fraud. Well, glad we cleared that up, because that's MUCH less insulting, right?

There are two lessons here. The first, which is a repeat from the previous item, is that the Trumpublican wing will do anything for Trump, regardless of how bad his behavior is. The man insulted Ted Cruz's wife and father, and what does Cruz do? Give him a gratuitously long standing ovation (see above). The man took a needless potshot at Wisconsin's best-known city, and what do Wisconsin Republicans do? Bend over backward to explain how Trump has a good point here.

The second lesson is that Trump has a very bad habit of saying impolitic things and shooting himself in the foot. In what way did he benefit from slurring Milwaukee? And, in our view, he's getting worse about this. Is it because he's angry about being a felon? Is it because he's convinced himself he no longer needs to be careful? Is it because his mental acuity is slipping? We don't know. But what we do know is that these screw-ups are going to get more and more attention as campaign season shifts into full gear. And while there is nothing Trump can do to lose the 40% of voters who are True Believers, he absolutely can and will hurt himself with the swingy voters, some of whom he needs if he wants to win. (Z)

This Week in Conspiracy Theories: No, These are Not Facetious

On Wednesday, we ran down some of the kooky conspiracy theories that were circulating among Republicans in the hours after Hunter Biden was found guilty on all counts. This presaged an uptick in conspiratorial lunacy since then. Let's take a look at a few examples.

First up is what might be called v2.0 of the Biden verdict conspiracy theories. On Wednesday, there were plenty of right-wingers willing to say that the verdict was actually proof of corruption in the Department of Justice, with various "explanations" of how, in effect, Hunter was being used as a sacrificial lamb in order to protect Joe. Some conspiracists have now moved on to grander fantasies. The latest is that the guilty verdict will give the President an excuse to drop out of the race, so that the Democrats can replace him with... Michelle Obama.

Beyond the fact that there's zero evidence for any of this, it also makes zero sense. Obama has no interest in running for president. If she was going to do it, either because she's lying about not wanting to be president, or because she was willing to take one for Team Blue, she would have run in 2020. And even if there was a grand plan to make a switch, why would a Hunter Biden conviction be necessary? Joe Biden could announce he's dropping out at any time, with any of a dozen excuses. Then, Obama could announce her availability the next day (or could arrange for Democratic leaders to "draft" her). If both the President and the former first lady are on board, that's all that's needed.

And now, conspiracy theory #2, which is actually a retread of a conspiracy theory about Michelle Obama. Candace Owens—who, we should note, shows increasing evidence of being mentally unwell—is flogging the claim that French First Lady Brigitte Macron was born a man. Not only that, but Owens alleges that Macron lived as a man for 30 years, fathered three children, and that the person who is known as Macron's brother is actually Brigitte, pre-transition. Owens shared this on Piers Morgan Uncensored. Morgan is never going to be confused with Karl Marx or Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), but even he found the whole thing ludicrous, eventually voicing his opinion that not only is the claim offensive, but that Owens doesn't really believe it, and is only saying it to get clicks and views.

And finally, a conspiracy theory that is also a retread, although this time it's a retread of a conspiracy theory about... Paul McCartney. Many readers will be familiar with the allegation that McCartney died in a car crash in 1966, and was replaced by an impersonator thereafter. An impersonator who, by the way, was nonetheless capable of writing "Let it Be," "Hey Jude" and "Penny Lane," incidentally. Anyhow, for a very long time, there were plenty of people who were absolutely convinced that "Paul is dead."

This exact same conspiracy theory attached itself to Joe Biden a couple of years ago, and it's come roaring back to life on social media in the last couple of days. The claim is that Biden died about a year into his term (possibly of cancer) and that he's since been replaced by somewhere between two and fourteen impersonators. Here is an example of the sort of "evidence" being marshaled in service of this theory:

A tweet has two different video captures of Biden, along with
this comment: 'Two videos posted within a couple of hours of each other. I mean... you tell me what's going on here...'

You know, we saw the movie Dave, too, and thought it was pretty good. But, c'mon. First of all, from looking at the background, it's clear the two clips were lit differently. Plus, when you digitize video, all kinds of things can happen. Oh, and it's hardly outside the realm of possibility that these images were digitally manipulated by the fellow who posted them. Though we will admit that, at the very end of "Strawberry Fields Forever," it DOES sound like John Lennon is saying "I... buried... Joe."

Obviously, it's no secret that the Trumpublican wing of the Republican Party, which is most of the Party these days, will do anything to accommodate their Dear Leader (see the two items immediately preceding this one). It's also no secret that the Trumpublican version of reality often has little to do with actual reality (see this item, plus the two immediately preceding). However, yesterday just served as a particularly good reminder of these facts. It's also a reminder of why polls of Trump voters don't really matter, because those 70 million or so people are voting for him no matter what. There's no getting through to them, and there's no breaking the spell Trump has over them until he retires or dies (and even then, it's only maybe). In 2024, it's what happens with the non-Trumpy Republicans (an endangered species) and the independents that will be decisive. (Z)

Clarence Thomas Corruption Watch: What Regulations?

This is the fourth day this week that we've had an item of some sort about Supreme Court misbehavior. You think maybe SCOTUS has a corruption problem?

The latest news, as is the case roughly 75% of the time, involves Clarence Thomas. Even after all the hullaballoo, and even after Thomas claiming that he was now clear on the rules and that he's gotten his paperwork up-to-date, it turns out, as Senate Democrats revealed yesterday, that the Justice took three additional luxury trips on Harlan Crow's dime that were not reported. The destinations, in case you are interested, were domestic, across multiple states.

There is, of course, zero chance that Thomas will be held accountable by his fellow justices. And there is zero chance that he'll be held accountable by Congress; an effort to establish an ethics code for the Supreme Court was blocked by Senate Republicans this week, and would have no chance in the House even if it got that far. No wonder he's been willing to pocket "extra benefits" whose value is approaching $6 million, and to do everything possible to keep those benefits hidden. After all, there are no consequences, especially for a guy who sees any criticism as further proof of his status as a right-wing martyr.

That said, you may have heard about a couple of cases in the past few weeks in which high-profile folks were busted for shady paperwork, including one who was busted for shady federal paperwork. Conservative, but anti-Trump, lawyer George Conway has heard enough at this point that he believes a criminal investigation of Thomas is warranted. The Justice might not have violated the Supreme Court's ethics code, since there wasn't one until a few months ago, but he almost certainly violated the Ethics in Government Act. In addition to laying out requirements for disclosing gifts, incidentally, that Act is also what created the Office of Independent Counsel. So, it could be doubly useful here.

We seriously doubt AG Merrick Garland would be willing to unleash the firestorm that would ensue if he announced that a Special Counsel had been appointed to take a long look at Thomas' history of accepting (and hiding) lavish gifts. But you never know for sure, especially if there are more revelations about how Thomas made a mockery of the system and of the rule of law. (Z)

I Read the News Today, Oh Boy: On the Lam in an Automobile

Because last week's headline theme was unexpectedly tough, we gave three clues. Here they are:

  • Friday: [W]e originally had the headline "Trump Polls: Voters Reacting to Verdict," but we changed it to "This Week's Polls: Voters' Reaction to Verdict Is Surprisingly Swift." That is because we aren't 100% sure that the first version fits the theme, but we know the second version does.

  • Saturday: The sentence "The sun is up, Ma, so now we can see the wolf in the woods!" contains four more words that fit the theme, in addition to the one word per headline from yesterday.

  • Sunday: Originally, the headline "Gosar's New Green Deal" was "Gosar Proposal Has an Unpleasant Musk to It."

We got some really good (but wrong) guesses. For example, this one from D.M. in Austin, TX:

These all contain code names used during World War II to designate specific dates as part of military planning and communication:
  • Legal News: Hunter Is from Venus, Donald Is from Mars—Hunter refers to D-Day (June 6, 1944)
  • This Week's Polls: Voters' Reaction to Verdict Is Surprisingly Swift—Swift was used for April 8, 1944, during the Battle of Imphal in India
  • The Price of Loyalty: Gosar's New Green Deal—Green referred to July 20, 1944, the day of the failed assassination attempt of Hitler
  • The Price of Disloyalty: Black Balled—Black was used for January 1, 1945, during the Battle of the Bulge
  • Fascism Alert: DeSantis Still Trying to Woo Right-Wing Voters—Woo was designated for June 6, 1943, during the Aleutian Islands campaign
  • Wheel of Fortune: Time to Turn the Page—Page was for August 17, 1942, during the Battle of Stalingrad
  • Foreign Elections: India's Voters Ding Modi—India was for August 15, 1944, during Operation Dragoon in Southern France
  • I Read the News Today, Oh Boy: Day and Fortnight—Day was for March 7, 1944, during Operation Tidal Wave in Romania

Very impressive, but it doesn't work with the clue. Also, some headlines are not accounted for.

Another good (but wrong) guess from M.W. in Newington, CT:

Grammy winners!
  • Legal News: Hunter Is from Venus, Donald Is from Mars—Bruno Mars
  • This Week's Polls: Voters' Reaction to Verdict Is Surprisingly Swift—Taylor Swift
  • The Price of Loyalty: Gosar's New Green Deal—CeeLo Green
  • The Price of Disloyalty: Black Balled—Black Coffee
  • Fascism Alert: DeSantis Still Trying to Woo Right-Wing Voters—William Grant Still
  • Wheel of Fortune: Time to Turn the Page—Jimmy Page and Patti Page
  • Foreign Elections: India's Voters Ding Modi—India Arie
  • I Read the News Today, Oh Boy: Day and Fortnight—Andra Day
  • This Week in Schadenfreude: Jones, Bannon Learn that Actions Have Consequences—Norah Jones
  • This Week in Freudenfreude: Bill Walton... Motormouth—Cedar Walton

This is really, really good, but still doesn't fit the clue. There is no Grammy winner, questionable or otherwise, named Trump.

Here is the correct answer, from N.S. in Los Angeles, CA:

The headlines all contain the surname of a billionaire.
  • Legal News: Hunter Is from Venus, Donald Is from Mars—Jacqueline and John Mars
  • This Week's Polls: Voters' Reaction to Verdict Is Surprisingly Swift—Taylor Swift
  • The Price of Loyalty: Gosar's New Green Deal—Jeff Green
  • The Price of Disloyalty: Black Balled—Leon Black
  • Fascism Alert: DeSantis Still Trying to Woo Right-Wing Voters—Peter Woo
  • Wheel of Fortune: Time to Turn the Page—Larry Page
  • Foreign Elections: India's Voters Ding Modi—William Ding
  • I Read the News Today, Oh Boy: Day and Fortnight—Robert Day
  • This Week in Schadenfreude: Jones, Bannon Learn that Actions Have Consequences—Jerry Jones
  • This Week in Freudenfreude: Bill Walton... Motormouth—Jim, Rob and Alice Walton

Your next-day emphasis of the hint put the idea in my head. Oh, also "The Sun is up, Ma, so now we can see the Wolf in the Woods!" (David, Jack, Dick, Tiger, respectively)

We really thought the Trump clue would give it away, but we were wrong. In fairness to the readers, we erred and put "Trump" on the wrong side of the colon. Also, we tried to use as many famous billionaires as we could come up with, but we didn't really put it over the top until we gave the "Musk" hint on Sunday. Unfortunately, there was no good way to work "Gates" into a headline.

Anyhow, only 20 readers got it. Here they are:

  1. N.S. in Los Angeles
  2. R.S. in Milan, OH
  3. E.S. in Cincinnati, OH
  4. J.H. in Sturbridge, MA
  5. J.A. in Brisbane, QLD, Australia
  6. J.R. in San Antonio, TX
  7. A.S. in Fairfax, VA
  8. J.L. in Walnut Creek, CA
  9. T.K. in Half Moon Bay, St. Kitts
  10. M.B. in Albany, NY
  11. M.B. in Menlo Park, CA
  12. D.M. in Austin, who sent in an updated guess
  13. D.M. in Oakland, CA
  14. J.K. in New Orleans, LA
  15. L.B. in Cardiff, Wales
  16. S.K. in Drexel Hill, PA
  17. D.H. in Portland, OR
  18. H.G. in Springfield, IL
  19. O.B. in Santa Monica, CA
  20. C.W. in London, England, UK

We try to give the themes roughly equal levels of difficulty, but last week's was WAY on the tough side, and the week before that was definitely on the easy side. Oh, well, variety is the spice of life.

As to this week's theme, it's only one word in each headline, and the first two headlines don't count—mifepristone and IVF are very important issues and we don't feel right making a game out of them. Also, in giving the Trivial Pursuit category, we have previously limited ourselves to only the categories in the original edition. We're not going to do that anymore; instead, we will use every edition as a possible source of categories. And so, this week's category is "The Written Word," which was one of the six categories in the 20th Anniversary edition. And the hint (and this is a really good one) is that we originally had a headline today that used the word "misbehavior," but then realized that would only work if we were British.

If you have a guess, send it to, preferably with the subject line "June 14 Headlines." (Z)

This Week in Schadenfreude: Putin Gets an Education

The leaders of the G7 are meeting right now, even if the gathering has something of a funereal vibe. PM Rishi Sunak is definitely a dead man walking, and Presidents Emmanuel Macron and Joe Biden are in the middle of tough election battles. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, PM Justin Trudeau and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida are all unpopular, and any or all of them could be out of office by this time next year. Only Italian PM Giorgia Meloni, the fascist, is basically safe.

Even if there is a lot of lame duckery going on, however, that doesn't mean that the leaders can't get some things done. In particular, they all want to help Ukraine in its war against Russia. And so, they agreed to "loan" Ukraine $50 billion. The reason we put "loan" in quotations is that Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who is also present at the G7 as an observer, will get the money now, but Ukraine doesn't actually have to pay the money back.

So, who is funding this generous de facto donation? That would be... Russia. After Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, the G7 members froze about $280 billion in Russian assets. Those assets are currently generating about $3 billion a year in interest, and that interest will be used to pay back the $50 billion. So, in effect, Russia is giving Ukraine $50 billion to help Ukraine in its war against Russia.

You have to admit, it's pretty funny that Ol' Vlad is paying to fight... himself. The members of the G7 might not be able to participate in the war directly, but the various members—especially the U.S. and the U.K.—have spent the last 75+ years figuring out ways to have an indirect, but still substantive, impact when they want to. And boy do they want to, here. Tough luck, Mr. Putin. (Z)

This Week in Freudenfreude: Finnish Authorities Reduce Teen Abortion Dramatically

Since today's post is rather heavy on reproductive stuff, how about some good and interesting news on that front. You see, back in the 1990s, Finland went through a struggle not too dissimilar from what is going on in the U.S. right now. Abortion rates were way up among young Finns, and voters on both the political right and the political left were deeply concerned.

That said, neither the Finnish government nor the right-wing Finnish political parties are in the thrall of voters who want to outlaw abortion, but who don't particularly have policy ideas beyond that (or who, in many cases, actively oppose such policy ideas). And so, in 2000, the government adopted legislation that made morning-after pills available free of charge to any woman over the age of 15, and that made sex education compulsory in the nation's high schools.

Did it work? You betcha. According to a new report from Finnish public health institute THL, between 2000 and 2023, the number of abortions among Finns under the age of 20 dropped 66%. Among Finns 18 or younger, it was a 78% drop. If you would like that in gross numbers, it works out to about 1,500 fewer abortions a year.

It is not a secret that we have many readers who are pro-choice and a meaningful number of readers who are anti-choice. In theory, this is the sort of evidence-based result that should please people on both sides of the issue. True, there are many Catholics and many evangelicals who oppose birth control, but those folks are increasingly going to have to ask themselves: If your stated belief in the sanctity of human life and your stated opposition to birth control are fundamentally in opposition, then which one matters most?

Have a good weekend, all! (Z)

Today's Presidential Polls

Another poll of Maine suggesting it's in play. But again, look at all those undecideds. It just doesn't mean much when nearly one voter in five isn't picking a major-party candidate. For that matter, look at all the undecideds in Utah. What are they waiting for? Everyone knows Donald Trump is going to win there. (Z)

State Joe Biden Donald Trump Start End Pollster
Maine 40% 41% Apr 08 Apr 30 Critical Insights
Utah 25% 57% Jun 04 Jun 07 U. of Utah

Click on a state name for a graph of its polling history.

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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