The Notorious — Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The Notorious

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

September 20th 2020

1933 was the deepest moment of the Great Depression. FDR told the American people they had nothing to fear but fear itself, and while it gave the people some resolve, it was nonetheless one of the most frightening times in US history.

It was also a time when, despite Reconstruction, most African-Americans found it difficult if not impossible to vote, own property, or enter most places of business. Restaurants sometimes had signs, “We Don’t Serve Jews” and of course Jews were banned from most country clubs and golf courses. Other visibly ethic people endured discrimination ranging from stereotypal jokes to treatment as poor as that afforded blacks and Jews.

Women had only won the right to vote a dozen years before, but could not have their own credit, own property in some states, and were effectively banned from most professions. While nursing and teaching are anything but menial, they were seen as being menial enough for women to perform such tasks.

In addition to being female and Jewish and born in 1933, RBG had a fourth strike against her: she was diminutive. I doubt she ever weighed more than 100 pounds.

Beating a lot of odds, she grew up to be a lawyer. And her first legal act as such was to write a brief in a tiny Idaho estate case, wherein the parents of a deceased teen wrangled over who should be executor. Idaho law said that a male should be executor in wills, and the mother disagreed. Ginsburg’s brief carried the day, and helped strike down the “males-only” rule in Idaho estate law. Courts had never invalidated a sex-based law like that one before. Indeed, less than 100 years earlier, the Court had banned women from even being lawyers, ruling that “The paramount destiny and mission of woman are to fulfil the noble and benign offices of wife and mother. This is the law of the Creator.”

Yes, Dorothy, that is why we have separation of church and state. It reduces the idiocy factor.

Ginsburg herself was fond of saying she rode on the shoulders of giants. The metaphor, often attributed to Isaac Newton, actually came from Bernard de Chatres in the 12th century.

For Ginsburg, it was particularly apt, because she brought her love of fairness, justice and equality to the legal profession just at the time when a tidal wave of change was sweeping the country. Civil rights expanded, destroying the walls of segregation and Jim Crow, and sweeping outward to eliminate thousands of rules and laws that held women down, or worse, “protected them.” In the beginning of the 60’s, the Supreme Court upheld a law barring women from jury duty, arguing that they were “the center of the home and family life” and simultaneously too frail to be subject to the horrors of the criminal life.

Her first case argued before the SC, Frontiero v. Richardson. Spouses of female soldiers—then still quite a rarity—had to prove they were dependent on the income of said soldiers in order to qualify for the same benefits that spouses of male soldiers received without question.

Her most influential and consequential brief came in 1976, Craig v. Boren, a case about different drinking ages for men and women which led to the Supreme Court setting rigid criteria for determining the constitutionality of cases where the law varied based on gender. Ginsberg was no ideologue for women: she cheerfully took up the gauntlet to fight laws that discriminated against men, as well. Her’s wasn’t a battle of the sexes; it was a battle for fairness.

Her entire legal career was devoted to that tenet, and spanned hundreds of cases, both in the Supreme Court and in the lower courts. Her love of law and passion for justice was so formidable that

Bill Clinton, upon nominating her for the court, compared her to Thurgood Marshall. It was a comparison notably missing from descriptions of the man who actually replaced Marshall on the Court.

As her health declined, her courage and determination, already legendary in legal circles, became known to the public, and this tiny and seemingly frail little old lady was seen as a wall against the rise of fascism in America. Nobody would have blamed her if she had laid down the mantle five years before, but she understood the thinking of the American right—who thought of her as a “fast-talking Jew from New York” all too well. She understood that she stood to be replaced by a snarling bible-beater who would hold equal rights in withering contempt. She fought far beyond what could be reasonably expected of anyone in holding that off.

She may have won this last, final battle. Her dying wish was that her replacement be named by the President taking office in January, a reasonable request given the “no SC nominations during an election year” history that the Republicans hold so dear. Trump wants another Bill Barr on the Court. Biden will select an actual lover of the Constitution. She may have survived long enough to make it impossible for enough Republicans to replace her with fascist trash. For her, it wasn’t partisanship or even ideology; it was love of justice, and the fairness of the law.

She stood on the shoulders of giants, and did them proud, moving forward.

Now we must stand on her frail, tiny shoulders, and move forward, and make her proud.

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The Cultivation of America — Teaching free people to drink Kool-aid

The Cultivation of America

Teaching free people to drink Kool-aid

September 18th, 2020

As this is being written, the horribly sad news broke that the great Ruth Bader Ginsberg has died from complications of pancreatic cancer. An extraordinarily brave and determined woman, she represents the best America will be.

Now is the time to remind Republicans that eight months before the election in 2016, they announced they would not consider a nomination to the court in an election year. If their lust for power causes them to forget that stand, remind them that people have had enough of this criminal and corrupt reign of GOP power, and an attempt to ram some third-rate Nazi onto the court over the next 45 days will result in severe civil strife.

Talking with Trump supporters, one is struck by the things they believe that are patently false. The economy is not great under Trump. In fact, it didn’t grow as fast in the first three years of Trump as it did in the final three years of Obama. And the fourth year has been a catastrophe, one created by the pandemic but made far worse by the Republicans taking advantage of the crisis to steal trillions from the country. Biden isn’t a socialist. I’m a socialist, and I wish to hell he was, but he isn’t. Neither of us are communists. Wearing a mask is no more an infringement on rights than requiring shoes in a restaurant, or having to drive on the left-hand side of the road. Nobody’s coming for their guns, or making them be atheist, or forcing them into same-sex marriage.

The range of belief is from simply uninformed to utterly ridiculous. Obama isn’t a Moslem, and nor is his minister. Antifa isn’t intent on burning Oregon down. Trump isn’t one of the common men. Not unless you pronounce the first “m” like an “n”. He didn’t get rid of the deficit—he quadrupled it. YOUR taxes didn’t go down, but he wants you to give up your Social Security and Medicare to make up for the cost of the taxes lost to billionaires and corporations. Oh, yes, and COVID-19 is a real thing, and actually has killed nearly a quarter million Americans. It wasn’t made up by scientists to make Trump look bad. He did that all on his own.

Nonetheless, it doesn’t dissuade followers. One was quoted in the Guardian as saying, “It’s [the pandemic] a ploy to take away from (Trump’s) success.”

These delusions are not only impervious, but tend to strengthen when opposing points of view appear.

The delusions, constantly reinforced by the right wing disinformation bubble and Trump himself, are red-flag markers of cultic thinking. Roughly 40% of Americans have joined a cult.

While most cults are reasonably harmless, some are predatory and malicious, and all, given enough power, become very dangerous, given that they are predicated on such tenets as separation from the greater society, most often in the form of a paranoid “us versus them” worldview, replete with conspiracy theories, and mistrust of established authority, be it governmental, scientific or educational. Most have some form of bigotry backing the sense of separation. It’s not uncommon to see cultists who fervently believe that a clandestine cabal of “those people” secretly control the world through wealth and hidden power, and simultaneously believe that those very same people are intellectually and morally inferior to themselves. Nearly all powerful sects believe the existing order must be torn down and replaced with, well, something.

That “something” is almost always utopian in theory, and horrific in practice. Cults aren’t emotionally or mentally equipped to deal with dissent, and people who refuse to submit to the utopian demands of the cult are rapidly targeted for punishment, either though ostracization or more severe measure, including imprisonment and death.

In the most dangerous types of cult, the cult of personality, the goal is a utopia run by the leader. The Leader, whether it be Hitler or Jim Jones or Donald Trump, is seen as wise, generous, benevolent, and caring for his followers. Usually none of those characteristics are accurate. Such leaders are authoritarian, narcissistic, and manipulative.

While cults of personality are usually the most dangerous, they are also the most vulnerable. The leaders tend to conflate their ideas with themselves, and the ideas often don’t hold up well in the absence of the leader. The leader doesn’t usually have a good second-in-command, an item seen as a vulnerability, a reminder that the leader won’t be there forever, and a possible threat from within. Number two in cults tend to be ruthless enforcers, devoted to carrying out the leader’s will and never having any particular will of their own.

Remove the leader in a cult of personality, and the cult usually collapses in relatively short order. There are exceptions, of course. Scientology and Mormonism survived the deaths of their founders. And Christianity is sort of an oddball situation, where the leader had already been dead for some 300 years before the cult really got going and they maintain their status by assuring everyone he’ll be back any old time now.

But in nearly all cases, a cult collapses when the central figure is removed. Sometimes the ideas survive, and resurrect themselves in different forms down the road. Hitler may be dead, but after three generations, Nazism is enjoying a bit of a revival. New iterations of the People’s Temple will horrify the world every decade or so. Mao is long gone, but the Chinese government survived by turning its back on everything Mao stood for and prevailing through sheer authoritarian muscle. Stalin died, and communism used authoritarianism to cling to power for nearly 50 years, and I’ve no doubt new communist movements will arise in the future.

Toxic ideas survive, but the leaders do not.

But removing the leader does suppress his followers. If Trump loses the election, he may fight it, but his followers for the most part will have the wind taken out of their sails. The ones that threaten to fight in the event of Biden winning will find themselves on television, fighting American troops, and they won’t have the support to continue. Their families will spend generations pretending they never existed.

Trump won’t accept the election, and in the event he declares he won’t leave the White House, the government must remove him, by force if necessary, and don’t even wait for the Inauguration. Remove Trump and jail him for trial, and let Pence try to hold the government together until January. Jail Barr, too—he’s Trump’s real second in command, a vicious thug who will cheerfully commit atrocities to keep Trump ascendant. He knows without Trump, he has no future.

But Trump is the center of his cult, and without him, there is little for his followers to cling to.

If he fights the election results, take him out. Do it now. It will save the country from a brief but very painful civil war. Remember, the cult is Trump, and Trump is the cult. Defeat Trump, and you defeat the cult.

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What the hell is wrong with cops? — Police are losing support—deservedly

September 14th 2020

The other day, two sheriff’s deputies were gunned down in Compton, apparently while just sitting peaceably in their vehicle. Both are in critical condition. One was a rookie, the other a mother of a six year old. A heinous crime by any standard.

A couple of hours later, the Sheriff’s Department tweeted: “To the protesters blocking the entrance & exit of the HOSPITAL EMERGENCY ROOM yelling ‘We hope they die’ referring to 2 LA Sheriff’s ambushed today in #Compton: DO NOT BLOCK EMERGENCY ENTRIES & EXITS TO THE HOSPITAL. People’s lives are at stake when ambulances can’t get through,” It was a horrific accusation, utterly appalling, and it stirred up the most volatile and stupid right winger in the country, who tweeted from the West Wing, “Animals that must be hit hard!”

Presumably that would be the residents of Compton. It doesn’t take much imagination to guess who Trump is calling animals, and his Central Park Five behavior makes it clear he doesn’t care which animals are guilty of what, just so long as he can get a few of them executed.

There’s just one problem. The crowd at the ER, the chanting, blocking emergency vehicles—none of that happened. There were cameras there. None of it occurred. The Sheriff’s Department lied. They invented it, in hopes presumably of raising some sympathy for themselves and murderous rage against people in Compton.

It’s the sort of behavior you expect from Nazis, not Police.

Horrific fires have slashed through much of the west, destroying at least a half a dozen towns and killing at least 35 people. The fires are still burning: where I live the air quality is frightening, and a neighbor made the unnerving observation that if a fire broke out nearby, the smoke would hide it.

According to the Daily Beast, “A sheriff’s deputy in Clackamas County, Oregon, was suspended Saturday after video showed him propagating baseless rumors that anti-fascist activists had started the wildfires now devastating the state.

Video shows the deputy—an unidentified bald man calling himself Mark—saying, “Antifa motherf–kers are out causing hell, and there’s a lot of lives at stake and there’s a lot of people’s property at stake because these guys got some vendetta.” He also warns of “antifa or other crazy left-wing people” attacking firefighters.”

No, Antifa isn’t starting the fires, and there’s no sane reason to assume they are. No firefighters were attacked. The conspiracy theory came from Qanon, who apparently base it on nothing more than the fact that the present fire siege has largely spared Western Canada, which apparently doesn’t have a problem with fascists, and thus no need for antifa. But Qanon are utter filth who don’t mind using a massive tragedy for political gain.

And they have police broadcasting this filth because the police want to believe this sort of filth. Liberals must die!

It’s the sort of behavior you expect from Nazis, not Police.

In Phoenix Arizona, a fantastically cruel arrest happened in August of last year, just now making the news due to a following lawsuit. According the the Guardian, “Roniah Trotter, 17, said a policeman grabbed her and held her face down on the sidewalk while trying to arrest her, placing his knee on her back. By the time officers allowed her to get off the ground, she had suffered second-degree burns across her shoulder and arm, her medical records show. There were record-breaking 113F (45C) temperatures that day.”

She suffered permanent scars to her face. She never was charged, apparently because all she was guilty of was being black in the proximity of a minor disturbance. Scarred for life. For no reason at all.

It’s the sort of behavior you expect from Nazis, not Police.

There are a lot of reasons why, in a time when public criticism of police tactics is growing, police are responding in exactly the wrong way. Their jobs are more dangerous, due not only to the increasing deprivation of the American people, but to the proliferation of gun nuts and the rise of Trumpian insanity, coalescing around Qanon, which is a sort of labor union for mental cases.

But part of it is the “Thin Blue Line” mentality which protects bent and twisted cops. Not just corrupt cops, but sick motherfuckers who want to follow in the footsteps of Hitler.

Former neo-Nazi Frank Meeink is on record saying, “I know that there are neo-Nazis who I used to run with who are now cops,” he told The Daily Beast. “And that’s just in my crew. Imagine how many neo-Nazis and white nationalists have been becoming cops? Three of the people in my crew alone became cops.”

The FBI has for some time been warning of infiltration by white supremacists into police forces all across the country. A lot of them hide their extremist leaning until they are vested and nearly impossible to fire, coddled by police unions who will stop at nothing to protect police from the public.

We know what sort of behavior to expect from Nazis. Anyone who thinks Hitler’s animus was aimed solely at Jews needs to read the book “A New Order”–the one Trump famously kept by his bedside for years. Hitler envisioned eliminating all but the 5% of humanity he adjudged to be “pure blooded” Further, even the right DNA wouldn’t protect you if he didn’t like your politics. German citizens who were socialists, intellectuals, communists and trade unionists were the first to be herded into the camps.

Nazis are Nazis are Nazis. They haven’t changed.

Imagine getting pulled over by some Nazi Pig in a cop costume for failing to come to a complete stop. That’s all you’ve done wrong. But he’s noticed your Bernie Sanders bumper sticker, and in his mind, you’re already “resisting arrest” and “reaching for a knife.”

It’s the sort of behavior we expect from Nazis.

It should never be the sort of behavior we expect from Police.

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Ducks in a Row — Trump continues to self-destruct

September 6th 2020

In a month that has been an utter catastrophe for Donald Trump, what with the convention and the Atlantic’s report on his attitudes toward the military, and all it needed was one more mishap that would not only put the GOP in a negative light, but be ridiculous and hilarious. Despising Trump and all that he stands for is wearisome. We needed a good laugh.

So the Texas Republicans decided that what was needed was a boat parade for Donald. So they had an excursion on Lake Travis, which for some reason isn’t named for a country and western singer. This has been a thing with GOP’ers, who think that having a bunch of RWCs poncing about on luxury boats is just what the GOP needs to do to reach out to the working class. But some weather cropped up. Nothing real dramatic—no twisters or hurricanes. Just rain and gusts of wind, but as we’ve had ample opportunity to learn over the past few years, money doesn’t buy knowledge or competence. Several of the boats—at least four, probably more—foundered. I would say that no souls were lost, but this was a GOP parade—you would have to find some souls first. Let’s just say there were no injuries. Which is a good thing, I guess.

As a result, I couldn’t help but think of Stephen Leacock’s The Sinking of the Mariposa Belle. Stephen Leacock was Garrison Keillor or Stuart McLean long before either was born, and doubtlessly inspired both. Mariposa Belle is a 1911 story known to every Canadian schoolchild, about a steamboat which sets out on the waters of Lake Wissanotti with 150 revelers on board to celebrate Excursion Day, which was probably Dominion Day, which is now Canada Day, but is still held July 1st (April 11th in the metric calendar). Fate strikes about mid afternoon when the ship sinks. Frantic villagers send a rescue boat out to rescue the revelers, but it, too, sinks. However, tragedy is averted when the would-be rescuers hop out of the boat and wade over to the Belle, which is sitting on the lake bed in several feet of water, and they all end up wading to shore. The ship’s engineer had been busy below decks, using pitch to patch over the hole and a bilge pump to get rid of the four feet of water, and once everyone is off, the Belle pops right back up and floats back to the home dock, and one hundred and fifty people have lurid and spectacular tales to tell about how they survived the Sinking of the Mariposa Belle.

What a metaphor for Trump’s reelection effort that is! People were already invoking the Titanic in a variety of ways, many of which were time-honored, and now we can combine that image with one of ducks in a shooting gallery. Or if you happen to be one of the many working-class Americans who own a yacht, shooting skeet.

OK. Let’s take Skeet as an example.

Pull! “Let’s force schools to reopen and reassure the public that it’s GOOD of many of them die in the name of herd immunity!”

Pull! “Let’s turn the convention into a weird promotion of cult-of-personality and conspiracy-mongering!”

Pull! “Let’s fuck with the Post Office and side with a crazed murderous vigilante on a law-and-order platform.”

Pull! “Let’s assure the veterans that they’re OK by us but they really are losers and suckers!”

The rest of us can just visualize a line of Titanics, each in turn hitting the iceberg and sinking.

This sort of buffoonery merely underscores the undisciplined and essentially vacant mind of Donald J. Trump. He fits the stereotype of “the idle rich,” complete with high levels of corruption and depravity.

But what is going to kill him politically is another trait of a social class willfully alienated from a society at large—contempt for the military. The items in the Atlantic piece aren’t all that revelatory, except for the memorable “losers and suckers” quote. Trump’s willingness to disparage the military in general, his open contempt for POWs, Gold Star Parents and Generals was already well-known. The Atlantic simply put it all together in one damning package.

Now, the Trump cult are trained like circus seals to automatically reject any reporting that is detrimental or disparaging toward Beloved Leader, so nobody expected them to accept the Atlantic reporting. And Trump, cunning enough to realize he was taking monstrous damage from pissing on the troops, vehemently denied the story, going so far as to demand Fox News fire one reporter who corroborated the story. (Fox, to their faint credit, didn’t fire the reporter). But nobody expected Trump’s followers to suddenly start thinking, and to nobody’s surprise, they didn’t.

But it was amazing how many people outside of the cult looked at the Atlantic piece and went, “Oh, my goodness! I had no idea!”

The fact is that Trump’s contempt and loathing for the military have been staring us in the face right along. He openly mocked the Gold Star family that appeared at the Democratic Convention in 2016. He refused to appear at a cemetery in France to lay a wreath to the fallen American dead because he didn’t want to get his hair wet. Hundreds of retired line officers have spoken out against him, describing him as unfit to be commander-in-chief because he has no respect for those who serve.

If you are in the military or have relatives and friends in the military, hearing that Trump thinks of them as suckers and losers because they are in the military, would you trust Trump to have the safety or welfare of the troops in mind when and if he faces a military crisis? Or would he just throw them away like used condoms?

Finally, Trump has nothing but contempt for just about any value Americans have. Environment, human rights, civil rights, basic decency, rule of law—Trump pisses on all of those. He comes from a long line of draft dodgers. Granddaddy got kicked out of Germany as a draft dodger and wound up running whorehouses in the Yukon. Daddy threated to cut anyone from the will if they joined the military or the peace corps. Donnie himself got a completely bogus medical deferment so he didn’t have to go to Vietnam. His entire class of society regards the military as a tiresome and expensive way of maintaining their wealth, and as a general rule, see military service as something little people with no future do. Not for their pampered and dissolute spawn. Donald is much too good to hobnob with the likes of Tammy Duckworth or Colonel Vindeman.

Maybe this will be what finally destroys Trump. Something must, because his moral and ethical vacancy will eventually destroy us.

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