Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Supremely Religious

Everything that can be said about the Supreme Court throwing out Roe v. Wade has been said. Nevertheless, some points ought to be reiterated, if for no other reason than to confirm that America is now a theocratic plutocracy. And whereas there are, in theory, things that can be done about it, in practical terms there really aren’t. Theocratic plutocrats have locked it in.

1) Of the six radical-right Justices, five were appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote. The one who wasn’t likely got there by lying (because why would Anita Hill risk it all by making it up). So did at least two others, who, in their hearings, said Roe was settled. And it was only by way of Mitch McConnell’s staggering hypocrisy that the most recent two were seated.

2) Until now, no constitutional right, adjudicated and reaffirmed over a period of fifty years or any time-span, had been rescinded. If that’s not judicial activism, nothing is. If the Sacred Six hadn’t had a bought-and-paid-for political/religious agenda, they could have refused to hear the case. But their agenda is why they’re there. (Grammar lesson.) 

3) If respectful discussion between people on opposite sides is impossible, both sides might agree that believing the “personhood” of a fertilized egg is indistinguishable from that of a twenty-week fetus is religious-based. Until now, there wasn’t a right to impose one’s religion on others.

4) At least one-third of pregnancies die in utero; some so early that the woman didn’t know she was pregnant; others at any time during pregnancy: miscarriages. And stillbirths. Not to mention babies dying from neonatal birth defects. If there’s an all-powerful God who knows us before we’re born and has a plan for us all, then He’s as guilty as people who provide or undergo abortion. Also, those who consider abortion at any stage murder, ought to be satisfied knowing that all participants will face celestial judgment. Given the preceding, though, they might as likely receive a heavenly high-five as a ticket to Hell.

4+) If, as many believe, the enwombed human lives ended by the hand of God make it to Heaven, so should innocent, humanly-aborted ones; which would be a reason to rejoice. (Question for another time: if fertilized eggs, fetuses, and babies go to heaven, do they become the people God knew before they were born? If so, why must the rest of us spend a comparative milli-micro-nano-second on Earth?)

5) Pro-choice demonstrations are useless. We can be sure at least three of the Supremes would drink liberal tears if they could, and Trumpists of the airwaves and in their homes love watching them.

6) Alito’s justifications for ending Roe were laughable. Foremost, that abortion isn’t mentioned in a document written on parchment by white, landed, mostly slave-owning men at a time when women and Blacks had no electoral voice. Second-most, that they merely returned the issue to “elected representatives” of the respective states. In which the will of the majority has lately been legislated away, aided and encouraged by the Court. Total cynicism. Proof: the same six just overruled a lower court that tossed Louisiana’s redistricting plan for violating the Voting Rights Act by eliminating a predominantly black district. They know the system is rigged: they’re the riggers.

7) The Sanctified Six don’t believe in religious separation. As shown by their decision favoring Bremerton’s most famous coach, who likes to make a show of praying, with his team, on the fifty-yard line, after games. Ignorant, evidently, of Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:5-8.

Writing for the majority, Justice Gorsuch lied, saying he “offered his prayers quietly while his students were otherwise occupied.” He also wrote, “The Constitution and the best of our traditions counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and suppression, for religious and nonreligious views alike.” “Mutual respect” and “nonreligious views alike.” What audacious disingenuousness. Their decision is the opposite.

In any case, school prayer is back. Let’s see if the halleluiahs extend to a Muslim teacher unrolling a prayer rug at halftime. Or leading their class in salah.

8) Nor do the Sanctimonious Six accept the Fourteenth Amendment. Wrote Justice Thomas in his concurrence, referring to the decisions that affirmed the right to birth control, LGBT rights, and same-sex marriage, the objections to which are, again, religious-based: “[T]he purported right to abortion is not a form of ‘liberty’ protected by the Due Process Clause … we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process [decisions].” At this point, let’s take the final step and criminalize non-belief. It’s only a matter of time.

Meanwhile, anyone who thinks the January 6 Committee revelations are changing minds should watch this video.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Democracy, We Hardly Knew Ye

The Backfire Effect. Far more characteristic of self-described conservatives than liberals, it’s the demonstrated tendency of people who hold false notions to cling more tightly to them when presented with evidence proving them wrong. After five public hearings from the January 6 Committee, it’s particularly relevant. Why it’s mostly conservatives to whom facts are anathema is mysterious, but studies confirm it. In the US, those studies are superfluous: it’s undeniable

So much for the hope that the hearings might disabuse Trumpublicans of their belief in obvious falsehoods. That the election was stolen. Voter fraud is rampant. Mike Pence had the Constitutional authority to refuse to certify electoral votes. Because it’s who he is and what he does, it’s unsurprising that Trump still flagellates those expired equines; in fact, he’s backfiring even more loudly now, incriminating himself ever more deeply in the process.

If his party weren’t so irreversibly in his thrall, however, its leaders would have jumped ship after the first hearing and taken their voters with them. But the Backfire Effect is the territory in which they’ve pitched their tents, and there’s no out-house. Committee members have been assigned bodyguards because of death threats.

With the first three hearings still fresh, Texas Republicans approved a party platform that’s Dark-Ages-regressive and exuberantly nasty. First off, they declared Trump the rightful president from whom the election was stolen by fraud. Warmed up, they designated homosexuality a “lifestyle choice.” Sex education of any sort may not be taught at any level in public schools, other than – not kidding -- requiring students to listen to fetal ultrasounds. Beyond that, no sex, please. We’re Texan.

They were just getting started. Their legislature should be stripped of the power to regulate firearms in any way. The federal income tax should be abolished, along with the Federal Reserve. So, too, the Civil Rights Act. They "oppose all efforts to validate transgender identity," and would make gender-affirming care for trans children a crime. They support full parental control over educating their children; code for not teaching about slavery or racism or any other snowflake-melting facts. Christian prayer would be required. Unregulated home-schooling, privatization of Social Security, no future mask mandates or climate legislation. “Inappropriate or harmful” (undefined) reading materials removed from schools.

The document is testimony to how deeply Trumpists fear truth, science, and the prospect of educated, thoughtful citizens. It's not just Texas. Forced to resign as governor, now running for senate, Missouri’s Eric Greitens posted a campaign video of himself and paramilitary goons storming a home where non-MAGA people live, firing flash-bangs and assault weapons. In a New Mexico county, officials refused to certify an election, based on “gut feelings,” not “facts.” Notwithstanding a post-Uvalde Fox (!) poll showing overwhelming public support for tough gun regulation, including red flag laws, age limits, even banning semi-automatic rifles, elected Republicans are intransigently rejecting public opinion. Minority rules. America is a Venn diagram with non-intersecting circles.

Even before Trumpism, the US had become irreparably fractured. Breakup now seems inevitable. Serious thinkers are addressing it, seriously. That Texas platform demands a voter initiative on seceding from the Union. That, we mustn’t allow. We must require. Toss in another state or two to house all Trumpublicans, and facilitate moving there. Free passage on Amtrak, the last time it’d be available to them. Rational people, like those in Austin and elsewhere, would be welcome in places where reality also is. 

The hearings. Texas. The Trumpublican Party has fled the real world and burned the bridges. Has no interest in cooperation; shouts down and votes out those who do. Because we’re no longer a country in which majority opinions can find their way to legislation, our two-party system has become hopelessly dysfunctional. Exceptional America has become exceptionally unable to address complex problems. Good people, the majority, want to, but can’t. No democratic republic can long survive in today’s political environment.

For several decades, in fact, it hasn’t. Round-the-clock lying and hate-mongering from right-wing media have made it so. And from Trump, who belongs in Texas. After what he did to Lady Ruby and her daughter, a microcosm of what he’s done to America, he deserves much worse. 

The unreachable need a place of their own, where they can raise legally brainwashed, other-hating, scientifically illiterate, parched, pregnant, closeted, but well-armed children, without electricity. Where they can pray away climate change and diseases created by unregulated pollution, genuflect to Tucker, and elect Trumpic tyrants; while the libs to whom they stuck it, along with the few remaining honorable Republicans, like Rusty Bowers, will be up here being nice and raising empathetic kids capable of solving problems. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Hearing The Truth. Also, Guns.

“The whole thing is insulting. In fact, it’s deranged,” whined whiney Tucker Carlson, during Fox’s counterprogramming to the truth presented by the January 6 committee. “… They are lying, and we’re not going to help them do it.” Not knowing what was being presented, but saying it anyway, tells us everything about him. Fox “news” so feared its viewers might break away for a few minutes and learn something that it carried no commercials. Which tells us everything about them, and how they’ve viewed viewers from the moment of fertilization of Rupert Murdoch’s propaganda egg.

There was no election fraud. Trump was fully aware. The hearings leave no doubt. So, is he a monumental liar or delusional? Both, probably. He knows he’s lying and is so pathologically unwell that he believes he, who claims to know everything about everything but knows nothing about anything, deserved to win. Lying, suborning violence, rejecting democracy, he justified anything required to retain the office to which he felt entitled. 

Having nothing with which to refute the committee’s laid-out facts, Foxing heads focused on denying January 6 was an insurrection. Or an attempted coup, or even a riot. Or on Ashli Babbitt, “martyred,” they’d say, when a good guy with a gun, sworn to safeguard members of Congress, facing a rampaging mob chanting for murder, shot her as she breached the final barrier protecting the members.

Does terminology even matter, though? By another name, let’s call it a rose. In fact, January 6 isn’t really the point, any more than whipped-up cream is the point of a banana split. It’s everything that preceded and followed the up-rosing. Launched long before the election and aided by his coterie of unprincipled enablers, it’s Trump’s willful deceit. It’s his intent to malign and silence the majority of voters who ejected him, soundly and legally. It’s his Putinesque plan to dismantle democracy in order to acquire permanent power, about which the hearings are removing all doubt.

Yet millions believed his transparent, discredited lies and still do. MAGA? Hardly. Playing his followers for gullible patsies, Trump’s vision of “greatness” is only his own. Inexplicably, his big-lie-pushers still win elections. Their voters weren’t watching, evidently. The need to believe is stronger than truth. 

Keeping belief alive is essential for Trump’s post-presidency grift. The “Election Defense Fund,” in the name of which he suckered hundreds of millions of dollars from small-dollar victims, never existed. The haul went to himself and to his protectors’ “charities,” rather than “election defense,” whatever that is. A scam more tasteless than Trump steaks, more flightless than Trump Air, more content-free than Trump University. Who’d have guessed? 

Still seditiously attacking a decisive, clean election, still bawling about a “landslide” win, Trump has undertaken his only well-conceived ruse in a lifetime of fraud: teasing another presidential run (yes, please!) as a way to escape indictment. Counting on Merrick Garland’s ethical standards, he’s betting the Attorney General won’t charge a clearly criminal, but front-running presidential candidate, lest it appear “political.” He might be right.

Or not. A Republican front-runner for governor of Michigan was just arrested by the FBI for his participation in the rose. Maybe enough of the hearing’s twenty million viewers, not counting who-knows-how-many online, have become convinced of Trump’s criminality to demand indictment. What would be worse for democracy: the inevitable Trump-encouraged violence, or letting a corrupt “president” off the hook? The answer is obvious.

Meanwhile, following the Texas massacre and decades of Republican obstruction, a bipartisan group of senators has agreed upon tweaks to gun laws. Quoting arch political blogger Charles P. Pierce, “The bill Is a good start like tying your shoes is a good way to start a marathon.”

They couldn’t agree, of course, to re-ban assault-style rifles, much less, God forbid, raise the purchase age, despite it already being twenty-one to obtain handguns. The bill increases background checks. For teenagers. It “encourages” states to create red-flag laws. Increases “mental health” funding; how the spending will reduce mass murders isn’t specified.

Will it pass? We’ll see. Many red-state governors refused Obamacare’s Medicaid funds, through which the money is likely to flow. If it passes, will they accept the dollars this time? Doesn’t matter. Per Senator Cornyn (R-TX), “We protected law-abiding Texans’ right to bear arms.” And that’s what counts.

A helpful letter-writer recently reminded Herald readers that AR-15s aren’t “assault rifles.” Okay. Let’s call them pool noodles. Powerful enough to pulverize children beyond recognition. Everyone, especially legislators, should be made to see full-color pictures of those victims. I’ve operated on people whose livers were literally exploded by less-powerful weapons; gruesome as that is, by comparison it’s nothing.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Those Who Don't Learn...

Ten years old during the “Army-McCarthy” hearings, I think I remember watching them live. Could have been reruns. Similar uncertainty applies to my recollection of watching Army counsel Joseph Welch, later to play the judge in the movie “Anatomy of a Murder,” demand of red-baiting, lying, fear-mongering (sound familiar?) Senator Joe McCarthy (R-WI), “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

I hope the memory I have of McCarthy looking abashed is accurate. Maybe even Roy Cohn. When Mr. Welch finished, the audience cheered; thus beginning the end of the horror. Also dispositive was President Eisenhower calling out a member of his own party; in addition, several senators of that party joined the vote to censure him. Those were the days, now almost impossible to believe: two conscientious parties, recognizing the role of Congress and the importance of democracy, disinclined to lie. If memory serves. It might have been another country.

Memories of the Watergate hearings are firmer. Again, justice was served by the conscience of conservatives, including some working within the Nixon White House. Today's ethical reversal of that party is staggering.

This column had to be delivered to The Herald before the opening of the public January 6 Committee hearings, so comments thereon must wait. But if lying, grandstanding, allegedly alcoholic Joe McCarthy had the capacity for a modicum of shame, we know the same can’t be said for Trump and his cadre of collaborators in their coordinated cabal conspiring to cremate the Constitution. Including the current McCarthy. On the contrary: since televised hearings were announced, Trump and Republican leaders have been planning a counterattack based on smoke, mirrors, and Fox “news.” Given how easily they created acceptance of Trump’s Big Election Lie, they may well succeed, again, in suffocating truth in its crib. An attempt to distract from inflation, they’ll call it. A baseless, Soros-paid, partisan hit-job, they’ll say. Just like the unfair prosecution of Jeffrey Dahmer, bankrolled by big meat. 

The difference between then and now couldn’t be more dramatic. Lacking both shame and spine, elected Trumpublicans will be unmoved by the public hearings. How could it be otherwise? Eighteen months later, after countless investigations found nothing, the vast majority of Trumpists still believe the election was stolen, though not an iota of fraud has been demonstrated, other than the occasional Republican voting in a dead relative’s name. In that subset of humanity, minds won’t change, assuming they watch at all because why would they?

If Jesus Himself, whose teachings they’ve cast aside to support Trump, were to return to confirm the absence of fraud; and if Trump, whose professed faith is his second biggest lie, were to call Him a liar, is there any doubt whom they’d believe?

Impenetrable Trumpists are lost to reality, but perhaps enough minds remain open among his less hermetic voters that, when the hearings are live, they’ll tune in, turn on, and drop out of the cult. Become convinced that Trump must never hold office again; that Republican politicians who still push Trump’s big lie must be removed; and that Trumpist political newcomers, including snake-oil selling carpetbaggers and other unqualified liars, must never hold positions of power. Failure to do so harbings democracy’s end-times, which is neither speculation nor hyperbole. It’s as obvious as a brainwashed believer beating a capitol cop with a flagpole.

Unlikely as it is, and assuming enough not-fully-Foxified stumble upon other channels (Fox “news” won’t be broadcasting them), perhaps the hearings can open a few million pairs of eyes. (No offense to the blind or one-eyed.) Of course, enough is already known to convict the whole bunch of numerous crimes and literal sedition, from Trump’s top to Bannon’s bottom. Which portends that, absent previously unknown major revelations, only futility, not brains, will be exercised.

The penchant of so many millions of Americans for authoritarianism must be an evolutionary hangover from when danger was everywhere and compliantly following a leader had survival benefits. Now, though, like the vermiform appendix, its remnant produces nothing but sickness.

These hearings are necessary only because of those who fell under the spell of an amoral, lifetime liar and scammer. Defendant in thousands of business-related lawsuits. Forcer of non-disclosure agreements to bury his profligacy. Wielder of hate as a means to power. Also neither speculation nor hyperbole.

Trump’s pathological need for adulation is so great that he was willing to destroy democracy to maintain it. Aided by similarly amoral, anti-democracy members of his party and right-wing media, he almost accomplished it. He still could. It shouldn’t require hearings to convince people, but it sure would help.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Guns, Guns, Guns

Admittedly micturition into the mistral, it’s impossible not to write about America becoming the only country in the world where guns are the leading cause of childhood mortality, and being the world leader in mass murders.

Because we have more guns in circulation than there are people, the barn is out of the bag. Nevertheless, whatever legislation might become law, no one is “coming for your guns.” Kamala Harris won’t march up your driveway and wrestle away your AR. If assault-style weapons were outlawed again (unlikely), they’ll still be out there. On the other hand, the teenage Texas terrorist had just purchased his; if the legal age were twenty-one, he couldn’t have. Legally, anyway. And there were many “red flags” about his prior behavior.

Here’s a partial list, in order of decreasing likelihood of passage, of legislation that might reduce the number of children giving their lives to protect your Second Amendment freedoms:

Red flag laws; raising the age to purchase military-style weapons; universal background checks; banning gravity; licensing of owners; mandatory training; limiting magazine size; banning assault-style weapons; amending the Second Amendment to eliminate ambiguity regarding “well-regulated militia”; beating swords into plowshares.

But nothing will happen until the Senate is rid of its hypocritical, gaslighting, scourge of NRA-owned “conservatives.” Which will occur only if the generation that includes those nineteen now-dead Texas children outlives the many ways errant Republican lawmakers are trying to kill them. And survives long enough to elect reasonable people.

“Reasonable” means responsive to the 90% of Americans, including many of their own, who favor some form of gun-control legislation. “Reasonable” means senators who value their constituents more than NRA money

So, while we wait, let’s recount the worn-out excuses and ridiculous arguments produced by wholly-owned Republican enablers. Topping the list is the only cogent argument we’ve heard for keeping and bearing an AR-15. Offered by Senator Doctor Cassidy of Louisiana, it’s to kill feral pigs. Makes splendid sense. 

Not far behind is the faux (pronounced “Fox”) outrage over President Biden “politicizing” tragedy when he spoke about the Texas murders. This, from people for whom there’s never a right time, who’ve politicized gun rights above all, and who’ve evidently forgotten, because of a recent four-year exception, that a president’s job description includes moral leader.

Junior Trump blames massacres on “crazy teachers” indoctrinating our kids. Evidently, though, like most gunophilic Republicans, he’s fine with arming them. Senator Ron Johnson blames Critical Race Theory, wokeness, and “liberal indoctrination,” which “have been going on under the radar for quite some time.”

A favorite Republican “guns aren’t the problem” dodge is mental health. Right. The first bill Trump signed revoked Obama-era regulations making it harder for mentally ill people to obtain firearms. And, having signed several bills that loosened gun laws, Greg Abbott, governor of Texas, which ranks last among states in access to mental health care, cut $211 million of funding for it. It’s a diversional talking point, not an action item.
Schools ARE acting, but they need help. In blue Washington, the legislature provides mental health funds. Will red states follow suit? 

Insurrectionist Rep. Mo Brooks rejects gun safety laws because “we always have the right to take back our government should it become dictatorial.” Sure. Thousands of times over, our government outguns us. Should it become dictatorial, it’d unhesitatingly turn that firepower on us. Under Trump, it almost was and almost did.

We don’t need new laws, they say. We need to enforce the ones already in place. Because of Republican senatorial obstruction, the ATF hasn’t had a confirmed director for sixteen years.

After the Texas slaughter, Senate Republicans (the free speech party) blocked debate on a bill addressing domestic terrorism. Why? Do they consider domestic terrorists their base? After the bloodbath, Michigan’s legislative Republicans (the free speech party) blocked Democrats from speaking about it. So one of them spoke from home. Please listen to her

Speaking at the NRA convention in Houston, three days after the Constitutionally-protected carnage, Trump called gun control legislation “grotesque” and “cynical.” Weapons, per usual and unironically, were banned from the venue. And here’s more depressing Americana (warning: includes Ted Cruz offloading bovine-excrement).

Even more: Republicans have consistently blocked funding for research on gun violence. Perhaps it’s because of studies like the one finding no benefit from arming school employees.

Celebrated by both sides for crushing Trump’s pick for Georgia governor (Trump is claiming fraud, of course), Brian Kemp checks every gun-nut, hardcore, right-wing box

Will elected Republicans ever accept democracy and listen to the ninety percent? When and if I regain breath, I won’t be holding it.

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