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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Trump Legal News: Karma Police
      •  I, The Jury, Part X: In the Jury Room, Continued
      •  Abortion Bans Have Consequences
      •  Early Voting Is Way Up in Ohio
      •  This Week in Schadenfreude: Uncensored
      •  This Week in Freudenfreude: This Is the End?

We regularly get messages about two technical issues that are (largely) beyond our control. The first is that readers tell us that our e-mail links, like the one at the end of the first item today, aren't working. What we use for that purpose is the very most basic html "mailto:" link. All that does is instruct the person's web browser to open whatever the browser thinks is the default e-mail client and then to open a new message. So, if the browser's default e-mail client isn't what a person thinks it is, or if the default client isn't working, or (in some cases) if the person uses a web-based interface for their e-mail, then our link will seem to not work properly. If you want to change your web browser's default e-mail client, there are instructions on how to do it for various browsers here. You can also right-click the e-mail link, select "Copy e-mail address," and then paste the address into a new message in the e-mail client of your choosing.

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And now we return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Trump Legal News: Karma Police

We do not presume to know which doctrines among the world's religious traditions are on the right track. However, when the saga of Donald Trump finally reaches its end, it looks like it's going to make a strong argument for what the Hindus and the Buddhists have to say about karma. Not instant karma, in Trump's case, but karma nonetheless.

It is not a secret that Trump spent much of his life, even before he was president, telling lies left and right, stiffing business partners, cheating on his romantic partners, committing acts of sexual assault, and screwing over customers. And he clearly suffered very little in the way of consequences for his bad behavior in the first seven decades of his life. But sometimes (maybe always?) you get what you give, and on a near-daily basis, he gets closer and closer to spending some significant portion of his remaining days behind bars. Thursday was yet another day with bad legal news for Team Trump.

At the outset of the day, Trump's lawyers were in Washington to meet with Jack Smith and his team. The legal eagles presumably thought this was a run of the mill meeting, at which they would be advised that Trump is getting close to being indicted (yet again) by a federal grand jury, this time for the former president's activities on 1/6. And they did indeed get that news. However, they were also advised that the Mar-a-Lago indictment has been superseded by a new, super-sized indictment that adds another defendant to the case and three more charges to Trump's list of alleged crimes.

You can read the superseding indictment here, if you wish. One of the three new charges against Trump is for violating the Espionage Act due to having highly classified plans for a hypothetical war against Iran in his possession. This is the document he discussed in the recording made at Bedminster, a recording that was eventually acquired and released by CNN. You had to figure it was only a matter of time until Trump was charged for this, and now he has been. However, the fact that it was tacked on to the Mar-a-Lago case presumably means there won't be a separate prosecution in New Jersey. That would also suggest that Team Smith does not feel that having Aileen Cannon preside over the case is a problem. If they did feel that way, then they would surely file in New Jersey, where this particular (alleged) crime was committed, so as to hedge their bets.

The other two charges to be added to the indictment of Trump are for obstruction of justice. Specifically, the Special Counsel has evidence that the former president ordered Carlos De Oliveira, who is an employee of Mar-a-Lago and is also Trump's brand-new co-defendant, to erase security footage documenting the moving around of boxes of classified material. We have no idea, of course, what Trump's relationship with De Oliveira or with his other co-defendant, Walt Nauta, is like. But we do know that Smith's odds of getting one of the accused to turn state's evidence just increased dramatically, particularly if there's any bad blood between Trump and either man, or if either man is worried about the other singing like a canary, and wants to beat his rival to the punch (in other words, it's basically a combination of the prisoner's dilemma and a truel, and so is fascinating from a game-theory perspective).

It's an obvious point, but The Washington Post's Ruth Marcus would seem to have beaten everyone else to the punch in observing that Trump apparently did not grasp the moral of Richard Nixon and Watergate. No, it's not to turn off the damn cameras (or tape recorders) before he cheats. It's that the coverup is usually worse than the crime, at least when it comes to these sorts of white-collar/political things. Recall that Trump was caught red-handed (orange-handed?) with documents he was not supposed to have. However, if he had just surrendered them when NARA first came calling, none of the rest of this would have happened. Every president takes some stuff by accident, and NARA and the Department of Justice don't want to be in the business of putting former presidents in prison, even if they are technically entitled to do so. But Trump just had to double down, and double down again. Now, he faces 40 felony counts, and he's well past the point of no return where he could extricate himself without consequences. O! What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.

On that point, the research consortium Bright Line Watch surveyed 569 political scientists to ascertain which of the pending legal cases against Trump is most likely to compel The Donald to make karma's payment, as it were. Keeping in mind that 1/6 is currently vaporware (vapordictment?), and so not a part of the survey, 57% of them think that his biggest exposure is in the Mar-a-Lago case. Only 10% think the Alvin Bragg case in New York is stronger, while 33% of them think that Trump is in deep doo-doo in both cases. Perhaps more importantly, well north of 90% of them think that the factual basis of the DoJ's Mar-a-Lago case is proven just by the information that's been made public. As a consequence, 66% think he should serve prison time, while another 25% think he deserves a fine and/or probation. Only 2% thought that Trump deserves no punishment. And again, recall that these opinions are based solely on the evidence that's been made public. It's entirely possible Smith has one or more rabbits in his hat that he hasn't shown to the general public yet.

In short, as the walls get closer and closer, it looks like Donald Trump is going to get a very painful lesson in the notion that what goes around... comes around. Oh, and he'll likely get it right in the middle of the 2024 presidential campaign; Axios has put together a timeline based on what is known of the political calendar and what is known of Trump's legal calendar. Here it is:

Political Legal
8/23/23: First GOP debate  
  10/2: civil fraud suit
1/15/24: Iowa caucuses 1/15/24: E. Jean Carrol suit #2
  1/29: Pyramid scheme class-action suit
3/5: Super Tuesday  
  3/25: New York hush money suit
  5/20: Mar-a-Lago trial
7/15: Republican National Convention  

This must surely be giving RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel nightmares.

One last note about Trump's ability to dodge bad karma, chameleon that he is. We think we're on to something when we suggest, whether it's mystical in basis or not, that a long lifetime of problematic behavior on the part of Trump is finally catching up to him. And as some readers might have noticed, to help make our point, and also to amuse ourselves, we dropped the title of a famous song about karma into the headline and into each paragraph. That's 10 songs in total, the one in the headline and the one in each of the nine body paragraphs. The titles are all at least two words long, so none of the myriad songs simply entitled "Karma" count for this purpose. We'll reveal the list of songs on Tuesday of next week; should you wish to try to hunt the songs down before then, and check your answers, feel free to send your list along, and we'll tell you if you've got it. (Z)

I, The Jury, Part X: In the Jury Room, Continued

Whenever we do a Trump legal update, we're inclined to run some more jury stories. Here is another set covering readers' experiences in the jury room:

L.H. in Chicago, IL, writes: I was selected for a jury in a criminal case in Cook County a few years back. I actually ended up being the foreman of that jury, which found the defendant guilty of attempted murder.

Two things of relevance to your question: (1) One prospective juror pretty blatantly disqualified herself when the judge asked her (he asked everybody this question) whether she could treat the testimony of a policeman with no more and no less credibility as the testimony of any other witness. Most of us answered that yes, we could, but she made a point of insisting that she was biased toward believing a cop. The judge had to disqualify her, but he did it with a strong condemnation, berating her for several embarrassing minutes about her lack of character. I'm sure that was aimed at letting the rest of us get the message, "Don't think every one of you can get out of jury duty by making the same argument!" and (2) In the deliberation room itself after the trial, we were amazed (in a bad way) to learn that (unlike television), there was no transcript of the testimony available for refreshing our memories. If someone didn't take notes at the time and we couldn't remember exactly what a witness said, we just had to muddle through with the best of our recollection.

M.S.A. in Richmond, CA, writes: As a recently retired attorney with more than 45 years of experience, including a number of years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney during which time I tried both civil and criminal cases, I was surprised when I wasn't dismissed during the lengthy (1½ days) voir dire process in a criminal case where the trial was estimated to take 3 days. I declined the invitation of my fellow jurors to serve as the foreperson because I didn't want to unduly influence the outcome. The charges were domestic violence, kidnapping and violation of a court order. We hung on the two felony counts but convicted the defendant of violating the court order. Because of my legal experience, I already had doubts about how well the jury system works to resolve issues of fact. After sitting on that jury, my concerns have become stronger. Some of the jurors ignored completely the evidence that was inconsistent with their conclusions. When that evidence was pointed out to them by other jurors, they said it didn't make a difference.

Unfortunately, because the vast majority of judges in the U.S. are either political appointees or are elected, I also have serious concerns about their ability or willingness to be impartial , so I can't say that allowing judges to decide issues of fact necessarily works any better than the jury system.

N.F. in Brussels, Belgium (but a U.S. Citizen formerly residing in Philadelphia, PA), writes: After seeing some of the Ph.D. jury rejection stories, I must chime in.

I served on a jury in Philadelphia while working on my Ph.D. in infectious disease. During selection, the judge asked me about my occupation and I think this was actually a major factor in why I was selected—they wanted someone who thinks analytically and impartially.

It was a murder trial—a teenage girl bystander had been killed in gang crossfire. The suspect and witnesses were the kinds of people I had never seen in real life, from a neighborhood I never dared venture to. The prosecutor was telegenic and pulled on the jury's heart strings, straight out of an episode of Law and Order.

In my heart, I felt the suspect was guilty. But as the skeptical scientist, I was hesitant to convict—there were too many holes in the evidence for me. I also strictly followed the rules of not researching the case or the suspect after hours. As a result, I steered the jury to a lesser conviction (we got to choose between different degrees of murder).

That lesser conviction is one of my biggest regrets to this day. After we delivered our verdict, we were present in the room while the judge ruled on an additional charge of illegal firearms possession (the gun was inadmissible evidence in the main case). Then I looked up the suspect online that evening and learned about other murders and gang activity. And I looked up the sentencing guidelines for our lesser-degree murder conviction and saw the guy would probably be out on parole after 7 years.

This guy was guilty of the more severe charge, but I let my Ph.D.-level skepticism and over-analysis get in the way. It made me realize that this is why it's a "jury of your peers" and "beyond a reasonable doubt." My lesson is that a jury, by design, must use gut instinct and emotion in their decision.

P.G. in Berkeley, CA, writes: I was on a jury in San Francisco about 50 years ago. This was a pretty minor case, but the defendant wanted a jury trial for his (or his attorney's) own reasons. After testimony from the police and cross examination, we were sent to the jury room. The evidence was overwhelming and the only question was whether we should return a verdict immediately or wait until we got our free lunch—which is what we decided. We then officially polled ourselves and found that one woman who had been silent up until then, was voting not guilty. We tried to calmly discuss this based on the evidence and common sense. She would not budge. Her reason was that "the police always lie and I would never vote to convict based on police testimony." Finally we sent word to the judge and the foreman explained our dilemma to the judge. He dismissed us. I am not sure if the woman was in some way punished for violating her juror's oath but the defendant was not guilty by reason of a hung jury. I think we can all see the potential relevance of this to the current situation.

R.M. in Williamstown, WV, writes: I have served on several military juries (courts martial) and three juries as a civilian. One of those sort of fits the essence of your questions about jury service.

The crimes charged were driving under the influence, and resisting arrest. The defendant was a young woman (about 25 years old), who had managed to take out an Interstate exit sign and crash into another car in the process. She was taken into custody, and tested at twice the legal blood alcohol limit. She had also been combative with the arresting officer. There was a fairly long procedure of describing the activities of the defendant on the day of the crash, and another fairly long bit of testimony concerning calibration of the blood alcohol test equipment being used. The trial took 2 days once jurors were selected and testimony was begun.

One of the facts that came to light during the trial, which had no bearing on the trial itself, was that the young woman was a single mother—a fact that she mentioned often during her own testimony.

However, the facts in the case were pretty cut and dried, so I assumed that jury deliberation would not take long. Once a foreman had been selected for the jury, he suggested that, before we began discussions, we take a preliminary vote to determine how much disagreement there might be among the jurors. We did so, and that initial vote was 11 guilty, 1 not guilty. The juror voting not guilty was asked to explain why she had voted as she had. Her explanation was that the young woman was a single mother, and that being found guilty would impose an unreasonable burden on her ability to care for her child. We spent several hours trying to convince her that this was not a reason to find her not guilty, since she clearly WAS guilty. But the woman would not budge. "There is no way I will vote to convict a single mother in her circumstances" was her oft-repeated comment. We even reached a point were three of the jurors suggested that we just give up, vote with her, and find the defendant not guilty so we could all go home. But the rest of us would not agree to that. We told the judge we were deadlocked. He told us (twice) to keep trying. The third time, he reluctantly declared a mistrial.

Whether or not the young woman was tried again, I don't know. But I can see where a dyed-in-the-wool Trump lover could end up on his jury, effectively creating not an acquittal, but a mistrial which would result in considerable delay while a new jury was impaneled, and a new trial conducted.

A.B. in Wendell, NC, writes: I have been called a total of six times in my life. The first three times, I no longer lived in the county that called me. The fourth time, I got picked. The fifth time, I was excused, and the sixth, I only had to phone in, and never even got to the courthouse. The time I was excused was during voir dire, and I knew that the case involved an adult taking sexual liberties with a minor. I asked to approach the bench and did so, along with both attorneys. I begged off the case, saying that, because of my own personal experiences in this area, there was no way I felt I could be impartial.

The time I actually served on a jury, I was the lone holdout in the room. Five minutes after we went back, everyone but me was ready to hang the guy. And they got mad at me, asking if I was "some kind of bleeding-heart liberal that was gonna keep them there all day." I told them I had a reasonable doubt that I felt could possibly be cleared up. I then pointed out that the county had provided us a nice lunch, so maybe we could kick the thing around a bit while we ate. That calmed the lynch mob down, and then they asked me about my reasonable doubt. I told them I was not sure the ambient light had been sufficient for a positive ID, and asked the bailiff to fetch me a copy of the Old Farmer's Almanac. I wanted to know what time the sun rose that day, so I could decide if there had been sufficient ambient light. We finished our lunch, I decided the light would have been sufficient, and I voted to convict, too. My tale is to let you all know that jury holdouts are often not treated well in the jury room. In my experience, most jurors are eager to get home and do not truly give a damn if the defendant is guilty or not... they just want to go home.

I came away from that experience very disillusioned with our system of justice, and decided then and there that if I ever was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and found myself in the dock, I would waive my "right" to a jury trial, and request a bench trial, and hope for a fair judge.

Of course, in my case, seeing as I am a transgender woman, I know for a FACT I would not get a jury of MY PEERS. More likely, I'd get twelve folks in a hurry, and few with maybe a cross to bear and who would see it as an opportunity to punish me for being trans. This is how trans people like me HAVE to think. And there is no way in hell I would serve on a Trump jury, because there is absolutely NO CHANCE I could be impartial.

We'll have more soon. It just occurred to us that Donald Trump is months and months away from facing a jury, so we don't necessarily need to get these in quickly. That will free us to catch up on some other things. (Z)

Abortion Bans Have Consequences

Yesterday, we had multiple items about the political wrangling that is currently taking place when it comes to abortion policy. Today, we follow that up with a rundown of some of the human consequences that are already showing themselves as a result of the Dobbs decision. Here are 10 of them:

  1. Cruel Prenatal "Care": This was one of the first issues that people began to talk about once the post-Dobbs laws kicked in. The line between "emergency prenatal care" and "abortion" is somewhat blurry, and if being on the wrong side of that line means losing your medical license and the career you spent a decade or more training for, then it leads to... extreme overcaution. Already women are being forced to carry non-viable or barely viable pregnancies to term, and to endure the agony of delivering a child that will not survive. To give one example, Samantha Casiano's daughter Halo had identifiable, unsurvivable deformities, including profound anencephaly. The problems were discovered well after the Texas cutoff for an abortion, so Casiano had to carry the pregnancy to term, and then watch Halo spend four hours gasping for air before dying. The family is unable to afford a funeral, incidentally.

  2. Maternal Mortality: Needless to say, if some women are compelled to carry non-healthy fetuses to term, then some women will suffer severe health consequences and, in turn, some of those women will die. In the former category, for example, is Amanda Zurawski, whose water broke too early, and who was denied an abortion. As a result of this, she developed a severe infection, went into septic shock, and spent three days in intensive care where her chances of survival were sometimes judged to be 50/50. She made it, but others will not. Amanda Stevenson, of the University of Colorado, has used statistical modeling to project a 14% increase in maternal deaths in states that adopt strict abortion restrictions. That works out to somewhere between 60 and 100 preventable deaths of women per year.

  3. Infant Mortality: Another predictable impact of carrying compromised fetuses to term is that some of them will make it, in the sense of surviving birth, but they won't make it long-term. Recall that Texas got a jump on the post-Dobbs world with its bounty-system workaround, which served to significantly curtail abortions in the state. The impact, in terms of infant mortality, is already manifesting itself roughly 2 years in. After 7 straight years of declines, the rate of infant death is up 21.6% this year in the Lone Star State. In total, the abortion restrictions appear to be responsible for about 230 dead children.

  4. Hair-Triggers: File this one under "the law of unintended consequences." As we have pointed out many times, the 6-week cutoff for abortions is designed to create a very short window, or no window, for women to decide whether to terminate. It takes time for the evidence of a pregnancy to show itself, more time to get a test, and more time to schedule a procedure.

    This is where the unintended consequences enter the picture. If a woman is left with mere days or hours to decide, and is not 100% sure about keeping the pregnancy, then the deadline might force a termination that might not otherwise have happened. For example, Angel (last name withheld) learned she was pregnant at the 5 week, 5 day mark. She had 24 hours to decide whether to keep the pregnancy or not and, not able to wrap her mind around such a life-changing possibility in that timeframe, concluded she had no choice but to terminate.

  5. Terrible Travel: As we noted yesterday, surgical abortions are still reasonably accessible for women, even in states with bans, if those women are willing and able to drive to a nearby state without a ban. Those trips can be and often are pretty miserable, however. Consider the story of Austin Dennard, who is herself an OB-GYN, and who learned 11 weeks into her pregnancy that her fetus had unsurvivable anencephaly. Since there was still a "heartbeat" (as we noted this weekend, that term is actually a misnomer), Dennard had to travel from her home state of Texas in order to secure an abortion. "I felt like my pregnancy was not my own, that it belonged to the state, because I no longer had a choice of what I could do. I felt abandoned. I couldn't believe that after spending my entire life in the state, being a sixth generation Texan, practicing medicine in the state, that the state had completely turned their back on me," she said in court testimony as part of a case challenging the Texas law.

  6. Back-Alley Abortions: When a country builds border walls, it leads to an uptick in ladder sales. When a country bans liquor, it leads to bootlegging. And when a country bans abortions, it leads to an increase in back-alley and/or self-induced abortions, which are obviously much less safe than the ones conducted by medical professionals. There hasn't been quite enough time for a statistical picture to become clear, but professional organizations for physicians are already publishing guidelines for how to treat the consequences of badly performed abortions.

  7. Police State: There is much about the red-state abortion policies that is hard to enforce. One of those is limits on abortifacient pills via mail, which is a battle that's just getting underway. Another is drawing a line between miscarriages and induced abortions. That battle is already being waged. Most notably, at least in terms of press coverage, is the case of Celeste Burgess, who delivered a stillborn fetus, 28 weeks old, when she was 17 years old. The police in her home state of Nebraska investigated the matter in a manner commensurate with, oh, say, the case of the Zodiac killer. That meant, among other things, gaining access to text messages between Burgess and her mother. Ultimately, Burgess was found guilty at trial and sentenced to 90 days in jail.

  8. Disparate Impact, Race: Black and Latina women have less access to birth control and less access to prenatal care. That inevitably means that they will disproportionately suffer the consequences described above. To be more precise, Black and Latina women are about three times as likely to have an abortion as white women; that suggests that Black and Latina women are about three times as likely to feel the effects of abortion bans. Activists in those communities are already pointing this out, vocally.

  9. Disparate Impact, Social Class: This goes hand-in-hand with the previous item on the list, but poor women also have less access to birth control and to prenatal care, and so are more likely to suffer the consequences of abortion bans. Making things worse is that the abortion-banningest states tend to have the worst maternal support nets. NPR has some interesting visual journalism that puts this into perspective, with charts that show states by rate of uninsured women age 19-64, by child poverty rate, and by percentage of population that lives in a "maternity care desert" where such care is barely available or not available. To take one example, Mississippi has the tenth-most uninsured women (13%), the worst child poverty rate (28%), and the second-largest percentage of women in maternity care deserts (59.3%). Also worth noting is that if someone is already poor, having an infant child is not usually going to improve on that fact. The Turnaway Study, which is very well known among those who study these issues, reveals that half of women who seek abortions are below the poverty line, and that those who are denied treatment are 400% more likely to remain below the poverty line going forward.

  10. Disparate Impact, Age: Most adults know that when a woman reaches the age of 40, roughly speaking, the odds of fetal abnormalities go way up. Considerably less well known is that some of the most common abnormalities among such mothers do not reveal themselves until roughly the 15th week of pregnancy. Needless to say, that is well past the cutoff imposed by a 6-week ban and a 12-week ban. To be more precise, there are currently 17 states where week 15 would be too late for an abortion, and another 8 states where a sub-15 week ban is on the books but is currently on hold due to a court order. That's exactly half the states where 40+-year-old women are at risk, or potentially at risk.

It is abundantly clear that, barring some sort of black swan event (say, Russia nuking New York City), abortion is going to be THE issue of 2024, in races up and down the ballot. Joe Biden has set the tone for his party, taking every opportunity to bring up Dobbs and to talk about what he calls the "devastating consequences" of the ruling.

Meanwhile, even though the numbers argue very strongly that it's politically unwise, Republicans continue to press for more and more restrictions on abortion access. Yes, it might make sense for someone running for governor of Alabama or state senator in Wyoming to build their campaign around their strong opposition to abortion, but the math doesn't work so well in swingier states, cities and districts. In particular, the Freedom Caucusers in the House keep insisting on putting anti-abortion stuff in spending bills. Among other things, if the Paul Gosars and Lauren Boeberts of the world had their way, they would ban abortions in D.C., would prohibit any assistance on the part of the armed forces when it comes to service members who want or need abortions (even medically necessary ones), and would stop pharmacies from dispensing abortifacient medications.

Undoubtedly, swing-state GOP members of Congress will try to explain that they did not support [Extreme Measure X]. But it's going to be pretty easy for Democratic politicians, up and down the ticket, to run on the argument that voting Republican means voting for harsh anti-abortion policies. And as Democratic politicians make this point, they are going to have plenty of compelling, heart-wrenching material to work with, as outlined above. Some of the things we list are going to find their way into speeches, some will come up in debates, and some will become fodder for campaign ads. Meanwhile, the people on the front lines—the women and their doctors—are going to tell their stories, over and over—and, in fact, are already doing so (see here, here, here, here, and here for a few examples). We'll also point out that there are different exemplars available for different purposes. For example, talking about the impacts on 40-year-old mothers will likely resonate with suburban women; talking about the impacts on Black and Latina women will resonate with voters in those communities; talking about the aggression of law enforcement in places like Nebraska will connect with libertarian-minded voters, etc.

And that is why we present this rundown for your consideration. If the GOP gets crushed in 2024, and abortion policy is one of the main reasons (which it almost certainly would be, in the case of a blue wave), nobody can say they didn't see it coming. (Z)

Early Voting Is Way Up in Ohio

Speaking of abortion policy, and its impact on elections, reader R.E.M. in Brooklyn brings to our attention a story out of Ohio: Early-voting turnout for the upcoming special election is massive.

Recall that the initiative being voted upon, Issue 1, would make it much harder to pass future initiatives, increasing the number of votes needed from 50% + 1 to 60% + 1. It would also make it harder to get future initiatives, particularly left-leaning initiatives, on the ballot. This is accomplished by imposing very stringent signature requirements that would dictate that a big chunk of signatures be collected in every county, including the sparsely populated red ones. As we noted just yesterday, the point of Issue 1 is to make it harder to legalize abortion in the Buckeye State. And the point of scheduling the vote for August is to sneak the initiative in under the noses of voters while they're not looking.

The latter part of that strategy has clearly failed. Through the first week of early voting (July 11-19), more than 155,000 people cast ballots. That leaves 2 more weeks to go before the deadline for absentee ballots (Aug. 1) and 3 weeks to go before the actual election (Aug. 8). To put that 155,000 in context, there was a total of just 138,000 early ballots cast in last year's Senate primaries in May, despite the hotly contested race on the GOP side of the aisle. Or, to look at it a different way, the first week of ballots includes about 16,500 early votes and 5,500 absentee votes per day. If you extend that out over the entire early-voting period, it projects to about 460,000 early in-person votes and 110,000 absentee votes, for a total of 570,000. In the election held in August of last year (for state legislature), a total of 640,000 votes were cast, with the great majority of those coming on Election Day. This year's August election will blast past that, and may well double it.

Ohio isn't counting the early ballots yet, per state law, but surely the ballots already cast skew heavily in an anti-Issue 1 direction. Why do we say so? Well, first, left-leaning people are consistently more likely to use early voting than right-leaning people. Second, that general rule is borne out by the demographics of the ballots that have already been cast in Ohio—the lion's share of the early vote has been in Franklin, Hamilton and Cuyahoga counties, all of them very blue. Third, poll after poll shows that Ohioans oppose Issue 1 by a 2-to-1 margin. If your side is in the minority by such a lopsided margin, your only hope of winning an election is to have a small, non-representative electorate. That's clearly not happening here.

We won't know for a few weeks if Issue 1 is going to be defeated. At least, we won't know for sure. However, the tea leaves give a pretty strong indication of where things are headed. And if Issue 1 loses in a blowout, driving people to the polls in the August heat and humidity because that's what it takes to keep abortion legal, then it also presages what's going to happen in November, when Ohioans vote directly on a pro-choice ballot proposition. (Z)

This Week in Schadenfreude: Uncensored

We had a number of candidates for this slot, but since we had the item "Public Libraries Are the Next Battleground" yesterday, we decided to go with this news story sent in by reader N.R. in Wellesley, MA.

The story involves one of the places in California that annoy (Z) the most, namely Rancho Peñasquitos. There are many places in California that have managed to retain their name from the Californio period, like Rancho Palos Verdes, Rancho Santa Margarita and Rancho Cucamonga. However, Rancho Peñasquitos got its name about 25 years ago from the developers who built up the community, because they hoped it would make the rich white people living there feel "cultured." Yuck.

During Pride month, the Rancho Peñasquitos Library put together a display of LGBTQ-themed children's books. Some locals decided those books weren't appropriate for children, despite the fact that it's a rare child these days who doesn't know that sometimes Terry has two mommies and sometimes Pat has two daddies. Since Pride month was going to draw to a close before the anti-LGBTQ patrons would be able to take administrative action (say, making a stink at the next library council meeting), the patrons decided instead to check out all the books in the display. In that way, they could effectively censor the library.

It did not work, of course, or we would not be writing this item. To start, libraries across San Diego dipped into their repositories and replenished their sister library's supply of books (and then some). Strike one. In addition, patrons who heard about what was going on and did not like it donated more than $15,000 to the library for LGBTQ books and programming, a sum that was matched by the city. That money will be used not only for more LGBTQ-themed books, but also for drag-queen story hours. Strike two. Finally, the people who checked out the "dangerous" books have since returned them. Strike three, and you're out.

As we have noted repeatedly, we largely don't approve of book bans. If you don't like LGBTQ-themed books, don't read them. If you don't want your kids reading those books, tell them not to read them. If they choose to ignore you, that's a you problem, not a library problem. So, we must admit to some fair amount of schadenfreude when these Karens and Kens get outmaneuvered, particularly when they live in Rancho Poseursquitos. (Z)

This Week in Freudenfreude: This Is the End?

Here's some news that really ought to be getting more attention than it is. A new report from UNAIDS suggests that the end might be in sight when it comes to halting the spread of AIDS.

We don't want to be too Pollyanna-ish, so let's actually start with the caveats. First, activist groups like UNAIDS tend to be overly optimistic, because extreme hope tends to drive things forward. Second, the prediction is not that AIDS will be ended, per se, but that it will stop propagating (that is to say, there will still be tens of millions of carriers, even if the prediction comes to pass). Third, human societies have shown a propensity, when it comes to epidemic and pandemic diseases, to take things to the precipice of victory, and then to relax their defenses. See, for example, the recent resurgence in cases of measles.

Now, with the Debbie Downer stuff out of the way, we will share the year by which UNAIDS says the disease might be defeated. It's... 2030. That's staggering; it's less than 7 years away. And while the folks at UNAIDS might be optimistic, they do have data to back their general narrative. The target, when it comes to effectively halting the spread of an epidemic disease, is described as 95-95-95. That's at least 95% of the people who have HIV knowing their HIV-positive status, at least 95% of the people who know they're HIV-positive being on antiretroviral treatment, and at least 95% of people who are on treatment being virally suppressed. Those benchmarks have been reached in most of the industrialized world, and now they've been reached in 8 different African nations, while another 16 African nations are almost there. Success in Africa matters quite a bit in this fight, since the vast majority of HIV-positive humans (well over two-thirds) live on that continent.

We pass this along because the lesson is obvious. When the world's leaders put their political differences aside, and work together to solve crises, then big-time progress can result. Considering the American response, since this is a U.S.-politics-focused site, after all, Ronnie Reagan put his head in the sand when it came to the AIDS epidemic. But George H.W. Bush took it seriously, and the three presidents after Bush took it very seriously. Indeed, the efforts of the George W. Bush administration to combat AIDS in Africa, most notably the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, may be the single biggest feather in the cap of Bush the Younger.

Success like this naturally gives hope about what might be done if the world in general, and if the Republicans and Democrats in particular, can have a meeting of the minds on some of the existential crises facing the world today. Like, oh, we don't know... maybe climate change, perhaps? Just spitballing here.

Have a good weekend, all! (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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