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Why do we allow radical Catholics to be judges?

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Here’s how the radical Catholics on the Supreme Court arrive at judgments. First, they decide what they want the outcome of the case to be. Then, through sophistry, they figure out a way to justify that decision through existing law and precedent.

As an example, Justices Alito, Thomas and Roberts (all Catholic, and who all voted against legalizing same-sex marriage in 2015’s Obergefell v. Hodges case) hate homosexuals. (They would all lie and claim that they “hate the sin but love the sinner” but that’s the same lame excuse their predecessors, like Torquemada, used as they sent thousands of “heretics” to the stake.) These arch-Catholics were raised to believe that homosexuality is an abomination because it “says so” in the bible. All their lives, they shunned homosexuals, or people they thought were gay. So, too, do arch-Catholic judges who joined the Supreme Court subsequent to Obergefell: Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, and so too does Coney-Barrett, who soon will join her homophobic co-religionists on the High Court. Because they “know” in their heart of hearts that homosexuality is “wrong,” they will find any argument, no matter how anachronistic or made-up, against it. That’s what lawyers do: they can argue either side of a case.

I don’t even understand how a Catholic can be allowed to be a judge in America. This is an organization, the Roman Catholic Church, which has murdered literally millions of people over the last thousand years. This is an organization that has allowed pedophile priests to molest and rape children for its entire existence, including, in all likelihood, up to the present day. More than that, it is an organization that systematically committed genocide against the native populations of the world and then laughed that it was “God’s will” to wipe them out. It was an act of some bravery on the part of Mexico’s President, Lopez Obrador, to call yesterday on Pope Francis “to apologize for abuses of Indigenous peoples during the conquest of Mexico,” but it’s obviously too little, too late for that. It took the same church 360 years to apologize to Galileo for imprisoning him for his belief that the Earth revolves around the Sun, which was in contrast to the Church’s profoundly incorrect notion that it was the Sun that revolved around the Earth.

How any organization of such stunning cruelty and stupidity should have any power at all in America is a stunning rebuke to the Enlightenment values that guided the Founding Fathers. They believed that Reason, not superstition or religious quackery, should inform government. Privately, they may or may not have believed in Christianity (Jefferson most certainly did not, whereas Adams did, albeit in a libertarian way), but whatever their personal views, they understood they had to set them aside in order to create a (small “r”) republican government under the rule of law.

Sadly, the Catholics on the Supreme Court have lost sight of that wisdom, if indeed they ever had it. Rule of law be damned. “All men are created equal” be damned. “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” be damned. Instead, Leviticus 18:22, the insane barbarism of a pre-rational cult that by the way enslaved women and murdered non-Jews. How the 2,500-year old rules of a nomadic desert tribe are in any way compatible with the needs of a modern society, these Catholics are unable to explain. But that’s precisely the point. They don’t feel the need to explain it, in any way that makes rational or common sense, because they know all they need to know: homosexuality is wrong, their Church condemns it, they have ultimate power as members of the Supreme Court, and if you don’t like it, then you can move to some communist country like Canada.

I won’t watch the Coney-Barrett hearings because why bother? The fix is in, she’s confirmed. And I can’t stand to watch those pious, pontificating Republicans. But I did have an interesting thought. Trump is going down, or so it would appear. He’s the Titanic, and every Republican with a sense of self-survival is rushing for the lifeboats. Maybe what these conservatives are thinking is, “You know what? We’ve gotten everything out of Trump we’re ever going to get, now that we have Coney-Barrett. Trump is like the pit in a sweet peach that you spit out. As soon as the confirmation hearing is over and Coney-Barrett is sworn in, we’re going to start to leave Trump hanging, hanging in the wind. We never liked him anyway. Our kids can’t stand him. We used him as long as we could, but not any more. Oh, sure, we’ll have to remain nominally loyal until the election, but as soon as that’s over, we’ll be able to tell everyone that we never much liked him personally, or had any respect for him, and it’s a good thing he’s gone.”

Yes, that’s my prediction. These Republicans who enabled Trump for the past four years are suddenly going to come to Jesus. But it will be too late to save their asses. A lot of them are going down in the Trump debacle on Nov. 3, and the ones who survive that bloodbath will find their reputations ruined forever. They’ll end up as lobbyists or corporate shills, only to get spat on in restaurants and booed publicly and shunned on the golf course. They’ll never live down the shame, nor should they. And some of them are going to jail, where they might learn firsthand, so to speak, about homosexuality.


Can we agree on this: No violence! Not ever!

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A person near and dear to me whom I love—I won’t say who—told me he finally bought himself a gun because he’s afraid that “Antifa/BLM” are going to “carry on after the election.” What he meant by “carry on” is this: that if there is violence, in his opinion it’s going to be “Antifa/BLM” who start it. It’s them he’s afraid of.

Now, I have to say that this near and dear person lives in an exclusive neighborhood in a very red state, so it’s very unlikely that “Antifa/BLM” will come anywhere close to him. We certainly have had our political differences over the years, but I respect his views and he respects mine. Moreover, he’s pro-gay, for which I’m grateful. But here’s what I want to say to him and all those who think like him.

First of all, the Trump propaganda apparently is working: Trump has tried hard to drum up fear of Black Lives Matter by calling them “Antifa,” which of course is a meaningless term. There is no such thing as Antifa: no post office box, no website, no organization, no leaders. Nobody carries a card defining them as an Antifa member. The term is a contraction of “anti-fascist,” which I proudly declare myself to be. I can’t imagine any decent American being pro-fascist. The classic examples of fascists in modern history have been Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, with a nod to Juan Peron and Saddam Hussein, so if you’re pro-fascist, you’re in favor of the types of governments those dictators imposed on their countries, and of the persecutions and deaths they caused to, literally, millions of people. So, yeah, call me Antifa, although that’s not a word I’d use to define myself.

But SuperSpreader Don is out there, day after day, spreading viruses and disinformation. Antifa is coming to your neighborhood! Even if you live in a lily-white suburb in a Republican state, they’re going to build slums next to your split-level house, and they’re going to rape your children and murder your friends and shut down your churches. That’s nonsense, of course, but it’s what we’ve come to expect from the liar-in-chief, because it’s all he has.

Now, readers of this blog know I have no patience whatsoever with the looters, arsonists and vandals who so often wreck our cities during demonstrations. I should know: Oakland, my city, is probably the worst in the country, in terms of how often we’ve suffered at the hands of these fools. I want them jailed for as long as possible under our legal system. That view, which I find impossible to suppress, has gotten me a lot of grief here in Oakland, where people call me a reactionary old racist; but I don’t care what they say. I myself don’t have a gun, nor will I, but I wouldn’t blame the manager of a 7-Eleven, say, for shooting a black-masked rioter who was trying to smash his front window. I recognize that in the current political climate, that manager would probably get arrested for defending his own property, but even so, I wouldn’t blame him or her, and if I found myself on the jury of such a person, and the evidence showed that all the person was doing was defending his store, I’d find him or her not guilty, even if the person he shot died, and if the person didn’t die, I’d want to file charges of attempted robbery.

So in that sense, I don’t blame my near-and-dear friend for fearing what he calls “Antifa.” He doesn’t want those thugs in his neighborhood, and he’s right. Where I think he’s a little bit in cloud cuckoo-land is his fear that the thugs who are tearing Oakland, Portland and a few other cities apart are going to come to his house, or even his state. They’re a small minority of crazies, and the few cities they infect are learning how to deal with them.

But, as I told him, I hate and fear Trump and his evangelical thugs and his “proud boys” a lot more than I hate the looters and arsonists. The looters and arsonists are pests, and clueless about how real political change occurs, but sooner or later, they’ll fade away, when their fifteen minutes is up. But Trump’s movement is in this for the long haul, and they’re not going away. They want, literally, a religious-autocratic theocracy in America, a place where women (like Amy Coney-Barrett) are non-entities who obey their husbands, where homosexuals are imprisoned or sent to re-education camps, where the rich have their taxes lowered even further while the poor labor under inhumane conditions, where the only healthcare you get is what you can afford under a for-profit system, where our Earth is crushed and polluted until it dies, where children are taught Biblical nonsense instead of secular information based on science, where domestic militias carrying machine guns make sure no one is departing from the Republican catechism, where the obesity, diabetes, infant mortality, out-of-wedlock pregnancies and school dropout rates that characterize southern states like Mississippi become the national norm, where opioid addiction is out of control, where liberal commentary is snuffed out the way they do it in Turkey and Russia. That’s what I hate and fear, not a couple idiots who try to fill their empty lives with excitement for a few moments by torching a dumpster or smashing a store window with a crowbar and pretending they’re important.

But the fact that my near-and-dear friend bought a gun is significant. I’ve heard anecdotally that gun stores across the country are running out of stock. People are arming themselves, and where there are guns everywhere, and everybody is paranoid, the slightest shock can cause a big explosion. Is that what we’re looking at in three or four weeks? We have to realize—left, center and right—that violence solves nothing, but only causes more violence. No violence! I can’t say it enough. No violence!


He’s freaking out

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He’s really desperate, isn’t he? Trump, I mean (obviously), reading the same polls as you and I or, possibly, reading his private internal polls, which might well be even worse for him than the public ones. He sees himself losing in every swing state—and possibly losing in such rightwing stalwarts as Texas! He sees, moreover, “his” Republican Senators looking at a blowout, a Blue Tsunami that will give both Houses to President Joe Biden. And then, Trump is looking, post-presidency, at the very real threat of prison time, not to mention the collapse of his tottering business empire, and the ruination of the only people on earth he cares—a little—about: his family.

Of course, this is why he’s so maniacally driven on getting the arch-Catholic Coney-Barrett confirmed. She is, in his estimation (and you’ll pardon the pun), his trump card on the High Court. He’s gambling (I’d say “praying,” except that he’s an atheist) that “his” Republican Justices will exonerate him from anything and everything. They’ll award him “his” presidency after a “contested” election in which no one but he and his acolytes is contesting anything other than the legitimate result. Looking back to 2000, Trump believes that the Republican Justices signaled, for all time to come, that justice be damned, they’re going to protect the hand that fed them their august office; and if it was true in 2000, imagine how truer it is today, when not jurisprudence but religious (that is to say, radical Catholic) ideology rules the benches.

We’ll see. Supreme Court Justices have the decided advantage of holding office for life. They may have made certain, ahem, private assurances to the President during their interview process; but once on the High Court, they can do whatever they wish to. Even fanatics like Coney-Barrett, Alito and Clarence Thomas may feel the glint of Honor in their bones. (Well, probably not Thomas, but you get the idea.) There is thus no absolute guarantee that the Supreme Court will give Trump a victory, should he lose the election decisively and fairly. But there is also no guarantee that Trump will lose the election, or that Biden will win it, despite the polls. So we still have go vote, if we have not already done so,

Trump’s hopes are dwindling but in his head there are a few things that could revive them. He could win the Nobel Peace Prize, just days before the election. (I don’t think he will, but you never know.) He could announce a vaccine for COVID-19. He can brag about some putative “victory” in Afghanistan or someplace else. With luck, none of these things will occur before election day or, in the case of the Nobel, ever. Even without those bragging rights, Trump can still hope to convince some wavering, mentally unstable voters that “Crooked Hillary” remains a menace, that Biden and Obama must be “indicted” for committing the greatest crime in U.S. history, that Democratic Governors like Whitmer and Newsom are unConstitutional threats. All of this is nonsense, of course. Nobody could possibly believe any of it, except pervs like the Proud Boys (it annoys me to have to capitalize those words), and how fortunate it is that Trump’s own F.B.I. thwarted the treason which the Wolverine Watchmen (another forced capitalization) planned to pull off in Michigan. Republicans will, of course, echo Trump’s tweet that since it was “his” F.B.I. that busted the plot, how could he, Trump, possibly have aided and abetted it? But this, too, is nonsense. All it does is reassure us that at least a part of the F.B.I. is still doing its job, not propping up a criminal President, as is the man whose Justice Department runs the F.B.I., Robert Barr. But then, Trump loathes the F.B.I.’s director, Christopher Wray, whom he just accused of being a part of the “Deep State” along with Hillary, Biden and Obama.

Trump always seems to have done the lowest, basest thing possible, than which there can be nothing lower or baser, until a day or two later, when he manages to be even more vile. Can he seriously be contemplating launching a civil war? Of course. He has maniacs–white men all–like Stephen Miller, Sean Hannity, Steve Bannon and Franklin Graham whispering in his ear. “This is the time to do it, Mister President. Strike while the iron is hot.” His two male older spawn, Eric and Donald, Jr., also are urging him to “do it,” and waiting in the wings to step in should he falter. Field Marshall Donald Trump, Jr.! There’s a howler. I can see the Ruritanian Generalissimo now, bedecked in Kaiser Wilhelm-style military garb, complete with golden sashes, medals and ermine-lined red cape, a gilt sword in his hand—the same hand that slaughtered great innocent beasts on the plains of Africa. But what shall the “Heil Trump” gesture be?

It’s fun for a satirist to have this First Family. The late night talk show hosts are having a marvelous time. But beneath the fun-poking is genuine alarm. Trump told the Proud Boys to “Stand by.” We, too, have to stand by. Arms at the ready! Shore leave canceled! Keep your powder dry! We may be called upon soon to be heroes.


Winter is coming to California

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When I lived in the Green Mountains of Vermont the summers were long and warm but there was always a day—a particular moment, actually—when unexpectedly the air let you know that winter wasn’t far off.

It could have been in October, a lovely afternoon except that, suddenly, the leaves on the maples rustle and a chill hits the skin. There might be many weeks of Indian Summer to come, but the reminder is timely: Old Man Winter is coming.

In coastal California, the sign is subtler, but it’s there, and I felt it yesterday. I don’t think I’ve put on long pants for the last 5 or 6 months, nor have I often needed any outerware like a hoodie, except maybe when walking Gus early in the morning; but yesterday, it was long pants and a flannel shirt all day. It wasn’t particularly cold by Eastern standards: the high was around 65 degrees. But we Californians have thinner blood than those hardy New Englanders, and even 65 can feel cold, if you’re in a shadowed place with wind. You can feel the icebergs in the Aleutians. Winter is coming to us, too.

It’s been an incredible spring, weather-wise. The upside for us humans has been six months of dry, mild-to-warm-to-hot weather (at least here in Oakland), with very little fog–clear evidence of a changing climate. There were many, many days when I thought no place on Earth could have better weather than what we were having in Oakland. The downside, of course, has been the Fires and the resultant smoke (I capitalize “Fires” because of their historical import: 4 million acres burned so far—five times the size of Rhode Island, and more than double the previous record). The damage has been appalling. In Napa alone, 31 wineries, restaurants (including Meadowood) and resorts up in smoke.

As an old wine journalist whose stomping ground was Napa Valley, this makes me very sad. Some very famous names are gone. The arrival of cool weather is welcome news to the firefighters. There have been weather forecasts the last few days about possible rain this weekend, but I just checked the latest weather reports and they’re backing off, saying only that it will be partly cloudy. There is a storm up there in the Pacific Northwest, but its southern edge will reach down only to around Eureka, near the Oregon border—a classic weather pattern for this time of year. We’re going to have to wait a bit longer for the first rains in six months to hit Northern California. It will warm up again next week, but fortunately, nowhere near the triple digits that inland areas have experienced this summer and autumn.

For all the grief in Napa Valley—and it’s substantial—there’s also a lot of optimism. Many of those people have money and will rebuild. The vineyards that burned will take longer to restore, of course, but they’ll come back eventually. One should keep in mind that Old Europe’s wine country, from Bordeaux and Burgundy and Champagne to the German regions, have experienced 1,000 years of wars, plagues, plant diseases and economic collapses, but no matter how tough things get, those regions have survived and, most of the time, thrived. This isn’t to underplay the disaster of the Fires, but only to put things into perspective. Napa Valley, and Sonoma too (which was less affected this year) will get by, and rise again.

And from the consumer’s point of view (and that’s what I am, a consumer), the Fires might have the desired effect of lower prices on wine. I’ve never understood how a bottle of Napa Valley Cabernet could be $300 or even higher in many cases. When hundred-dollar Cabs became numerous in the 1990s, I scratched my head and wondered how it had happened. But wine pricing is one of the most irrational economic phenomena in the world. It’s completely based on supply and demand, not inherent quality; and wine’s appeal is as much to the ego and the imagination as it is to the senses. People lust after certain wines, which then become “first growths,” and their prices soar accordingly. People who can no longer afford them settle for the second most expensive, and those are the “second growths,” and so on, down the line. Thus are wine hierarchies, like Bordeaux’s, created. But as a reading of Penning-Rowsell’s “The Wines of Bordeaux,” with its price charts over the centuries, attests, prices go up rapidly and fall equally rapidly, in a cycle as dependable as the West Coast’s weather patterns.

And now—not to mix topics—on to the Election! Vote! And vote Blue. We mus stop this crazed, dangerous president and the religious fanatics who prop him up.


It’s becoming clearer what “stand down and stand by” means

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Trump told the Proud Boys to “Stand down and stand by.”

“Stand down”, according to the U.S. Department of Defense, is a specific command given to a military working dog (typically an attack dog such as a German Shepherd or Belgian Malinois) in a dangerous situation: personnel protection or enemy pursuit. When the suspect is down, the dog is commanded to sit on its haunches (“stand down”) and refrain from further activity until commanded again by its trainer. It will wait obediently if properly trained (as all military working dogs are) for a very long time.

“Stand by” is a military command used during ceremonial drills and ceremonies, according to a directive from the U.S. Department of the Army. Directed not at a dog but at armed troops, the command directs the troops to the final position before firing their arms. In a ceremonial situation (think of a military funeral), the ammunition would be blanks, shot toward the sky. In an active combat situation, the weapons would be fully loaded with live ammunition, aimed at the enemy.

Taken together, we can interpret Trump’s directives to the Proud Boys as, literally: “Wait for now. But be prepared to attack on a second’s notice.” Implicit in this command is “You will understand my order to attack when I give it.”

Now, Trump has taken a further step: he has created a website, armyfortrump.com. This website is a formal project of Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., the official website of Trump’s campaign for re-election. “armyfortrump.com” does not contain any formal references to troops, weapons or military mobilization. It invites its followers to “enlist” in the campaign in various areas, such as “Host a MAGA Meetup” and “Become a Digital Activist.”

“Enlist” is an interesting choice of words. The online dictionary.com defines enlist as “to enroll, usually voluntarily, for military service.” All of these military commands and implications are not lost on the Proud Boys or on the many other militia groups that form the core of Trump’s base. They are watching, listening and obeying. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there were 576 “extreme antigovernment groups active in 2019,” of which 181 were “militias.” The word “militia”, according to the dictionary, has three definitions, all closely related:

  1. a military force that is raised from the civil population to supplement a regular army in an emergency.
  2. a military force that engages in rebel or terrorist activities in opposition to a regular army.
  3. all able-bodied civilians eligible by law for military service.

In the case of “extreme antigovernment groups” such as the ones the Southern Poverty Law Center tracks, it’s nonsense to think of the Proud Boys and similar militias as “supplementing a regular army.” In America, there is no legal “supplement” to the regular U.S. armed services, except for legitimate National Guards, of which “extreme antigovernment groups” are not a part. The third definition also is irrelevant. The second definition of “militia” is the one we’re concerned with. These “rebels and terrorists” are precisely what the Confederacy formed during the Civil War. Had the South won that war, the “rebels and terrorists” would have become the “regular army.” But the South did not win. Lincoln would have been fully justified in prosecuting the leaders of the Confederate army, including Robert E. Lee, for treason, but he chose not to, in the interest of national healing.

We do not and cannot know with any precision how many people have “enlisted” in these terrorist paramilitary militias, for the simple reason that they’re secret. One estimate, in an article on the website quora.com, is 100,000 members, of which 40,000 are “active”; that article cites Timothy McVeigh as an archetypical militiaman. The author minimizes the threat of these militias because “the National Guard outnumbers them 10-1.” However, this presumes the loyalty of the National Guard. There are fifty National Guards, one for each State. States are run by Governors. Currently, there are 26 Republican Governors and 24 Democratic Governors. Given the propensity of Republican officials to cater unquestioningly to Trump, there can be no assurance that the National Guards of those 26 Republican States will not side with terrorist antigovernment militias, were there to be an uprising in America. In tallying up these numbers, we also have to remember that there are 1.7 million active duty military in the U.S. in addition to 588,000 reserve forces, and the President commands these active and reserve troops.

I present these facts and figures only because it’s important for Americans to be aware of them. We cannot know what’s coming. Every day seems to bring more astonishing developments; you couldn’t make this stuff up. There’s widespread expectation that Trump will lose the election to Biden but will not accept that result and will do whatever he thinks he has to in order to remain in office. If push comes to shove, he may conclude that illegal military action in our land is required. Hence “Stand down and stand by.”

Nor can we predict what individual men and women, whether they be regular U.S. military or National Guard, will do if a “situation” arises. Many may be patriots and obey the Constitution and refuse illegitimate orders to protect a criminal President. On the other hand, we can assume, with a high degree of certainty, what the paramilitary militias will do: stand by and defend Trump, even if it requires violence. The rest of us–not in the military or in a militia–now should ask ourselves, “What will I do?” if the unthinkable happens, because we may have only a few more weeks to decide.


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