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Supreme Court about to legalize discrimination

It’s more than likely the case that the Supreme Court is about to legalize anti-Gay discrimination in the name of free speech and/or religious freedom. The case arises out of the refusal of a baker to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. It’s terribly unfair, he says, that he should be asked to use his creative talents to create a piece of art endorsing something to which Jack Philips, the baker’s owner, is opposed:

“It’s more than just a cake,” he said at his bakery. “It’s a piece of art in so many ways.”

The government, Phillips contends, should not be allowed to compel him to endorse a message at odds with his beliefs.

“I’m being forced to use my creativity, my talents and my art for an event — a significant religious event — that violates my religious faith,” he said.

via The Boston Globe

In any other legal era this argument wouldn’t carry the least bit of water, but given the present Supreme Court, it’s likely to win.

What is never mentioned in these articles, even by the people who are opposing these pernicious claims, is the fact that this is really just a foot in the door. Gays are an easy target, because 1) they are gays, and 2) the law is still unsettled with respect to them on a number of points.

But this argument, if trusted home, destroys all civil rights laws. If Mr. Philips can’t be expected to create his “art”on behalf of gays, what’s to say he can’t withhold it if the couple is interracial, or interdenominational, or choosing to say their vows before a justice of the piece or an Imam rather than a Christian cleric? This definition of speech is so broad that it’s hard to see what services are not covered. Why should a chef be required to implicitly approve of the idea of black people eating in the same restaurant as white people by being required to cook for them, which is every bit as much speech as baking a cake?

The argument is that the state can’t force one to “endorse a message at odds with [one’s] beliefs”. If I don’t believe that a person should be allowed to eat in my restaurant or sleep in my hotel, or work in my corporation because of the color of their skin, or their religious preference, etc., then this argument implies that I need not serve or hire them, as that would be an endorsement of the view that such people should be allowed to mix with good Christian white people.

This argument waits in the wings. The folks advancing these legal arguments play the long game. The racists on the court, see all this coming, but they realize too that it must be done, as the wicked witch said, “Slowly”.

It is an irony of our times that while the court expands this sham right to speech, it simultaneously restricts the fundamental right to speech: the right to express one’s political preferences at the ballot box.

A prediction

Three executives of the credit-reporting agency Equifax sold nearly $2 million worth of company stock within days of a massive data breach potentially affecting 143 million Americans — one that wasn’t publicly disclosed until more than a month later.

In a statement, Equifax says the executives “had no knowledge that an intrusion had occurred at the time they sold their shares.”

Equifax revealed the security breach late Thursday. On Friday, its stock price went sliding by double digits as millions of Americans struggled to get answers from the company about whether they were affected and what to do next. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has opened an investigation into the hack.

The credit reporting company has said that it discovered “unauthorized access” to its systems on July 29. The intrusion potentially jeopardized sensitive details including names, birthdates, Social Security and driver’s license numbers. The hackers also stole credit card numbers for 209,000 consumers.

Regulatory filings show the three Equifax executives — Chief Financial Officer John Gamble, U.S. Information Solutions President Joseph Loughran and Workforce Solutions President Rodolfo Ploder — completed stock sales on Aug. 1 and 2.

via NPR

Okay, so maybe you find it hard to believe that these guys, particularly the Information Solutions President were kept in the dark by their underlings about the massive hack. So does (almost) everyone else on the planet. But these guys aren’t worried. You see, in order for someone to be prosecuted for insider trading, someone has to charge them with a crime. What are the odds that the Trump/Sessions Justice Department will do that, because, funny thing, the greatest concentration of people who believe what these guys are saying happen to work for the Justice Department. At least, that’s my prediction. I’m happy to take bets on this one.

Friday Night Music Returns!

This used to be a regular feature, but it got harder and harder to find music that I 1) was familiar with and liked, and 2) was a live performance and not just music with an album cover as the video.

Anyway, I doubt that I’ll be doing this every week, but today, while I was working at home and listening to music, this song came up and I couldn’t resist looking to see if there was a live version of it by Paul Simon. As it turns out there are many.

When Simon first wrote this song we were in a what we thought were pretty bad political straits. Some of us feared, even at that point, that things could get worse, and I can certainly count myself among those who may have applied the “facist” label at times, but there’s something about the human psyche, at least the psyches of most humans, that refuses to believe that things can get really horribly worse. But one can’t help but think that if Simon could have had a glimpse of our actual future, he would have thought that he was living in the best of times, or near the best, anyway.

I chose this version because I liked the way he sings it in a sort of depressed voice. While the performance predates the election, it is still perfect for the age of Trump.

Paul Simon: American Tune.

Time to stop these activist judges!

Okay, I’ll start this by admitting that I’m not the most experienced federal litigator in the world, but I find this puzzling:

The City of Dallas voted Wednesday to immediately remove a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee from a public park, but the work was abruptly stopped by a federal judge.

Soon after the vote, workers in hard hats and yellow vests cordoned off the area around the Lee monument, which stands in Robert E. Lee Park, a green space in Dallas that is bounded on one side by Lee Parkway.

But their efforts came to a halt when Judge Sidney Fitzwater of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas granted a temporary restraining order halting the statue’s removal, according to Richard Hill, a spokesman for the city. A hearing on the proposed removal of the monument was scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Thursday, according to The Dallas Morning News.

via The New York Times

Liberal judges are constantly accused of being “activists”, and I suppose there’s a marginal chance this judge is a liberal, though given the fact that Texas judges have been selected by whackjob Republican Senators for the past 27 years or so, that seems doubtful.

Here’s my question: How does a federal court have jurisdiction to involve itself in this case?

Federal courts have jurisdiction to hear two general categories of cases. The case must involve a “federal question” or there must be diversity of citizenship between the parties (i.e., the plaintiff must be from one state and the defendant from another). In the latter case, the plaintiff must also establish that there is an “amount in controversy” of $75,000.00 or more. It is unlikely that anyone is in a position to claim that he or she will be damaged to the tune of $75,000.00 by the removal of this statue, and it’s hard to see how a citizen of another state would have standing to bring the action in the first place.

How, particularly in the land of state’s rights (I know-state’s rights only applies when it suits their purposes) is the decision of a municipality about statuary a federal issue? What federal statute or right is implicated in the City Council’s decision to remove this statue? If the City of Boston wants to remove the Make Way for Ducklings statue (which, heaven forbid), does it need permission from a federal judge? Could a judge require a city to put up a statue on the petition of a random racist? Let’s turn it around, could a federal judge forbid the erection of a statue proposed by a municipality?

I can conceive of an argument for an affirmative answer to my last question. Back when a lot of these statues were erected, they symbolized, as they do today, the triumph of Jim Crow and the subversion by local authorities of the U.S. Constitution. Perhaps you could make something of that. But how do you argue that taking down a symbol of hate and repression presents a federal question? Imagine too, the reaction we’d hear from Tucker Carlson and his ilk if a judge ordered the removal of one of these statues If the local authorities refused to do so.

This movement to remove monuments to hate and treason is one of the few hopeful signs of the age of Trump. This activist judge should step aside and let the enlightened people of Dallas do the right thing.

Only one side!

Almost everyone on the left is aware of the “both sides” mentality of the mainstream press. Why, there are some bloggers who specialize in exposing the absurd lengths to which the media will go to insist that “both sides” are equally bad. (I highly recommend driftglass, see one of his many great takedowns of David Brooks here.) You know how it goes. Does the Republican Party cater to racists, and has it done so for the past 40 years? Well, what about the Democrats, who … who, well, who refuse to feel the pain of those racists, or something. There’s always something.

So, this morning I picked up the Boston Globe and read this headline: In age of Trump, politics has become a game with no shame So, naturally, I figured, somewhere in the article we would be assured that both sides are guilty of Trump’s transgressions, which in this case consist of refusing to admit he is wrong or apologize to those he has wronged, regardless of mountains of proof that he is wrong or that an apology is in order. The story documents the fact that lots of Republican politicians throughout the country are following Trump’s lead, and standing by outrageously false claims or outrageous and baseless insults directed at political opponents.

But, guess what?!!!! The article tells it like it is. I looked in vain for even a hint of an assertion that Democrats are doing it too. It’s not there! Could this be the beginning of the end of both siderism, or is this just the work of a new young journalist who has not yet caught on to the rules?

Great Advice, Steve!

By now, anyone who is not an idiot, knows that Trump is an idiot. (In fact, it’s the first word that pops into the heads of most Americans when you mention Donald Trump) But lest you think that his advisers might outshine him so far as rationality or common sense is concerned, think again. Consider neo-Nazi (oh, why the “neo”, let’s just say Nazi) Stephen Miller, one of Trump’s “advisers”, though no one can quite put their finger on what exactly his credentials are to be giving advice to anyone. I mean, just look at the guy:

Okay, that ad hominem attack out of the way, let’s get back to cases.

It seems that Donald Trump authored a letter firing James Comey before Ron Rosenstein did so. On a scale of 1 to 10, how stupid do you think that was? Remember this scene from This is Spinal Tap?

Stephen Miller apparently advised Trump that he should go ahead and write that letter. Now, Mueller has it, and it’s dollars to donuts it contains incriminating evidence against the idiot. Every time he opens his mouth about Russia, Trump digs himself in deeper. Here’s hoping Miller hangs around for a while.

Injustice in Georgia

This seems totally unfair:

A Cobb County, Georgia police officer is being investigated after dash cam footage showing him making questionable statements during a suspected DUI traffic stop was released. During the stop the officer, dealing with a nervous but not uncooperative passenger, had this interaction:

Officer: Use your phone. It’s in your lap right there.

Woman: OK. I just don’t want to put my hands down. I’m really sorry, I’m just—

Officer: –You’re just really [unintelligible]

Woman: –no, no, no I’ve just seen way too many videos of cops—

Officer: –But you’re not black. Remember, we only shoot black people. Yeah. We only shoot black people, right? In all the videos you’ve seen, have you seen the black people get killed?

Woman: Yeah. 

Officer: You have.

via Daily Kos

I understand the poor guy has retired rather than go through the investigation. So unfair. Why should he be punished for telling the truth?

DISCLAIMER: Should anyone stumble onto this blog who might take the above seriously, please look up the word “sarcasm”.

Addendum to disclaimer: Yes, believe it or not, some people are incapable of recognizing sarcasm.

Watch what they do, not what they say

The American media continues to refuse to face the reality that is the modern Republican Party.

It is simply a matter of historical fact that the Republican Party is and has been the party of racism since at least 1968. There is no getting around that fact. Yet this morning the Boston Globe highlights a meaningless resolution from the RNC condemning hate groups. This resolution was passed by the way, while another one has been proposed in Congress (by Republicans, of course) making it clear that so far as the Republicans are concerned, both fascists and anti-fascists must be condemned.

Worse than the text of the Globe’s article is the headline in the paper (not used on line). Here’s a picture. Leads you to think they’ve actually done something, doesn’t it? (This is the front page story, by the way)

As bad as they were, the Nixonites at least had a somewhat valid point when they urged the press to “watch what we do, not what we say”.  (Of course, what they did was bad too) We don’t need to watch what modern Republicans do, we can recall what they’ve done. Just for starters they appointed racist Supreme Court judges (even a black one), who have eviscerated the Voting Rights Act. They have failed and refused to do anything to revive that act. They have systematically changed voting laws to disenfranchise black people. They have engaged in dog whistle politics for years, most famously when Ronald Reagan began his presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi talking about states rights and in the Willie Horton ads.

This resolution is simply saying that they desperately want to go back to whistling and that the screaming should stop. Anyone with a brain knows that, so that’s how it should be covered. There is absolutely no reason why this resolution should be considered a sincere act of contrition on the part of the Republican Party, at least not one meriting absolution for their past and current sins. The precondition to that is a full confession, and they have yet to make that.

Nose deep in the big muddy

We all know about stopped clocks. If they can be right twice a day, it stands to reason that Donald Trump can be right once in his life, which actually happened when he opined that we should get the hell out of Afghanistan. It also stands to reason that this rare occurrence couldn’t last, and that while he would not retreat from building walls, destroying health care, or coddling racists, he would likely retreat from the one sane position he advocated (though not all that loudly) during his campaign and even after January 20th.

Many on the left have been slow to criticize the Afghanistan mess because Obama actually ran on pressing the war there and could never bring himself to simply get out. It was probably the fact that Obama stayed in that led Trump to his initial position that we should get out. Trump has a weird fixation on Obama, his jealousy of Obama leads him to want to reverse everything Obama ever did.

It should be obvious that it makes no sense to pursue a war in which no one can even define victory (Tillerson to Taliban: “We may not win, but neither will you”), while at the same time producing material extremists can use to recruit terrorists elsewhere. If we could bomb our way to victory, as Trump seems to imply we will, the Russians would still be there and in control.

So, I find myself in somewhat bizarre company here, as Steve Bannon has already taken up the cudgel against Trump on this one. Hell, even Fared Zakaria has refused to pronounce Trump’s speech “presidential”, as he did the bombing raid on Syria, instead recognizing the corollary of Tillerson’s statement that “Trump just signed on to the forever war”.

This is one of those times that I somewhat regret that we no longer have a draft. The comfortable can safely stay out of harm’s way, so we can prosecute endless and fruitless wars without much blowback. Had we had an all volunteer force in Vietnam, we’d still be there.

A sick puppy

The mainstream media are finally beginning to say out loud what so many of them have recognized since before the election: that Donald Trump is a sick puppy.

Legendary journalist Carl Bernstein tweeted last week that “important Republicans” and higher ups in the intelligence and military communities had been “increasingly saying in private that @realDonaldTrump is unfit to be president.”

That was on Tuesday. By Thursday, GOP Sen. Bob Corker, chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, questioned Donald Trump’s fitness aloud with a quote that ricocheted around Washington at lighting speed.

The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability, nor some of the competence, that he needs to demonstrate in order for him to be successful…

By Sunday, CNN’s Brian Stelter devoted an entire segment to mounting questions about Trump’s mental suitability to function as leader of our nation.

“Is the president of the United States a racist? Is he suffering from some kind of illness? Is he fit for office? “And if he is unfit, then what?” Stelter asked on the program Reliable Sources. Bernstein appeared on the segment, providing more details about the chatter he mentioned earlier in the week.

via Daily Kos

Of course you heard it here first. Well, you might not have heard it here first, but you heard it here before you heard it on CNN. Still, better late than never, though one must wonder whether this ever would have come to the surface had Trump not equated Nazis with people opposed to Nazis.

I thought this picture, which appeared in the post to which I’ve linked, was interesting.

We are all familiar with the trope that the presidency ages people quickly. We’ve seen the before and after pictures, which sometimes seem to show dramatic changes over the course of a comparatively few years. This picture, I’d submit, shows a Trump that has changed in only a few months. In the case of other presidents it’s the stress of handling the responsibilities of the job. In the case of Trump, that probably has little to do with it. In his case, he’s having trouble handling the fact that he is not getting the adulation that he believes is his due. He appears to have believed that if he were elected president the world, or at least the country, would worship him. Why he would believe such a thing, particularly after the way he treated Obama, is a mystery to anyone who thinks rationally, but Trump does not think rationally. Narcissist that he is, he really believed he was different. He’s finding that it’s not easy to be a total fraud, as he has been all his life, when the spotlight is always on you. When he was a loud mouthed real estate developer he was merely an amusing sideshow. Even his criminal behavior, at its base no different than the criminal behavior of his less loudmouthed ilk, went uninvestigated. (Why spend resources going after white collar crime when its easier and cheaper to go after the wretched of the earth?)All that has now changed, and he can’t cope, nor can he control his behavior so as to mitigate the revulsion people feel for him. Never have we had a president so widely loathed nor have we had a president whose very sanity was openly questioned (and rightly so) in the major media. He can call it fake news all he likes, but it’s eating away at him. It is literally impossible for him to control himself, so he will provoke even more disgust as time goes on. Only Trump, given his present situation, would let it be known that he’s even considering pardoning Joe Arpaio. Only Trump, given his present situation, would actually do it. But I’m guessing he will, and that will be just one more milestone on the way to the inevitable wholesale breakdown.

We constantly hear that Trump’s base will never desert him, which is probably true for a large portion of that base. But there’s a portion of the right that can’t abide a politician that exposes it for what it is. How else explain that even graduates of the loathsome Liberty University are returning their diplomas to protest Jerry Falwell Jr.’s support for Trumps defense of Nazis. There are some things you’re simply not supposed to say out loud. But Trump can’t help himself, and as the pressure mounts, he’s more than likely to become even more unhinged.