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“Anti-Catholic bigotry”? No. It’s called separation of church and state

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A remark my Senator, Dianne Feinstein, made caused a bit of a ruckus at Notre Dame, the Catholic university, and thence to the Wall Street Journal and National Review, two periodicals that often are apologists for Catholic causes. Feinstein’s offense? During hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, on Amy Barrett’s nomination by Trump to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, Feinstein raised questions about whether Barrett, a conservative Catholic who teaches law at Notre Dame, could keep her religious ideology separate from her judicial opinions. Feinstein’s most controversial statement was, When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that dogma lives loudly within you.”

Well, National Review went nuts, accusing Feinstein, a Jew, of “anti-Catholic bigotry” and charging her with hypocrisy for being the first to decry prejudice and discrimination against other minorities,” such as gays, while allegedly encouraging it against Catholics.

The Wall Street Journal was predictably outraged. They ran a letter from Notre Dame’s president, John Jenkins, expressing his “deep concern” over Feinstein’s “chilling” remarks.  As for Feinstein’s “dogma lives loudly” statement, Jenkins was in solidarity with Barrett, declaring, “I am one in whose heart dogma lives loudly.” Rather than being a bad thing, he wrote, “dogma…is a condition we call faith.”

Then, in the same paper, came an op-ed excoriating “Democrats” for their objections to Barrett and calling several out by name—Dick Durbin, Feinstein, Sanders, Elizabeth Warren–for subjecting judicial nominees to “religious tests” and imposing a “threatening…dogmatism” on “countless Americans’ freedom.” Who was this op-ed piece written by? Not an objective scholar of American history and values, not a specialist in government ethics, but a theocrat named C.C. Pecknold, described as “an associate professor of theology at the Catholic University of America.”

I mean, come on! That’s like having David Duke write an editorial defending the KKK. If you want to talk about imposing “dogmatism” on “countless Americans,” a more accurate example is the Roman Catholic church’s imposing their medieval and murderous hatred of homosexuality on gay people, and consigning them to hell. (And we won’t even get into the horrors of Catholic priestly pedophilia!)

Barrett has made no secret of the fact that she fully accepts the Vatican’s edicts, not U.S. laws, when it comes to such matters as a woman’s right to choose and other reproductive rights, as well as marriage equality. She signed her name to a letter, in 2015, declaring that “We give witness that the Church’s teachings – on the dignity of the human person and the value of human life from conception to natural death; on the meaning of human sexuality, the significance of sexual difference and the complementarity of men and women; on openness to life and the gift of motherhood; and on marriage and family founded on the indissoluble commitment of a man and a woman – provide a sure guide to the Christian life.”  Barrett has declared that abortion, which is legal in this country, “is always immoral.”

In a speech, she noted that “Republicans are heavily invested in getting judges who will overturn Roe.” She has called the contraception mandate of Obamacare “unacceptable,” and, in the opposite way from which History is marching, defined “marriage” as “the indissoluble commitment of a man and a woman.”

I could cite dozens of instances of Barrett’s homophobia and her reactionary attitude toward women’s rights. Sen. Feinstein was absolutely correct to raise questions about Barrett. Jenkins, the Notre Dame president, can say that “dogma” and “faith” are the same thing, but ISIS also says that, as does every other religious fanatic, and that doesn’t make it right.

Look, I’m sick and tired of this constant, never-ending attempt by religious extremists to poke their noses into government and tell the rest of us how we can, and cannot, live. America is a secular country. We need to remain a secular country, if we’re to avoid religious wars such as devastated Europe for a thousand years, and are now tearing apart the Muslim world. I don’t give a hoot what religion Barrett or Jenkins or anyone else believes. But let them keep it to the privacy of their homes and places of worship. If we let judges drag their religious ideologies into their judicial decisions, where does it stop? What if we had judges who were Wiccans, or Whahabbists, or Dervishes, or Satanists, or NAMBLAites, or Lubavitch Jews, or Animists, or Mansonites, or whatever–would Barrett and Jenkins still feel it was all right for them to rule according to their dogma, in the name of faith? Of course not. It’s only their religion—Christianity—they want special treatment for.

It’s horrifying that the Republican Party, and their mouthpiece organs like the Wall Street Journal and National Review, don’t understand that religion and government must be kept strictly separate. Freedom-loving Americans need to band together and insist that the First Amendment and the Founders’ secular vision be honored.


Trump’s uneasy relationship with hurricanes

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The good news, from his point of view, is that he can look presidential. He flies down in Air Force One to Texas or Florida or wherever the next one hits, strides around the disaster zone in his windbreaker and MAGA cap and with the glamorous Melania at his side, smiling indulgently and surrounded by toadies and sycophants, including the increasingly trance-like Pence (who must have studied Nancy Reagan’s famous “gaze,” to judge from the unblinkingly adoring stare he always fastens on Trump).

The Nancy Gaze

The Pence Gaze

The bad news for Trump is that every time these monster hurricanes (and other weather extremes) occur, Trump gets asked about his climate-change skepticism, for which he has no coherent answer. Even the conservative Republican mayor of Miami, Tomas Regalado, criticized the administration for its head-in-the-sand denialism, stating bluntly, “This is the time to talk about climate change.” And yet, Trump won’t; he continues his war on science. The Environmental Protection Agency, supposedly one of the nation’s leaders in scientific research, doesn’t even have a section on climate change anymore, after disabling the old Obama-era one last April. If you search for information on the EPA website about climate change, you get this message:

“THIS PAGE IS BEING UPDATED.”

Which gives a new definition to the word “updated.” “Disappeared” is more like it.

Trump has certainly painted himself into a corner on climate change, but it’s not entirely his fault: He inherited a Republican ideology that climate change is not real, and, even if it is (which it isn’t), it’s not caused by human activity. We don’t know what Trump himself really believes. He may believe in global warming and he may not; his beliefs may change several times a day. But what we can know is what he actually does. Leaving the Paris climate accord was another example. Can that have been anything but pandering to his under-educated followers that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese?

Like so many of his campaign promises—repeal and replace Obamacare, build the wall, ban Muslims from entering the U.S., end DACA—Trump’s war on science also seems destined to abject, embarrassing failure. We’ve seen lately how Trump deals with failure. This reality-show president calls it “success,” diverts attention with some stunt, and then hopes his Breitbart audience will believe him—and believe him they do, for they lack the cerebral capacity to engage in critical thinking. But who cares about logic, when Trump validates your anger and resentment and makes you feel good about your moral failures?

Meanwhile, on another front of Trump’s war on science, the POTUS has instructed his Centers for Disease Control not to speak to any reporters, ever, “even for a simple data-related question.”

I find myself having to do some armchair psychoanalysis here. I do not think Trump is stupid. He’s highly intelligent. Why would he not at least make the attempt to educate his dumber followers? Educating voters—lifting them out of ignorance and making them smarter—is a core mission of any American President. But not this one. Again, why not? I can come up with only one theory: an ignorant voter is much more likely to vote Republican than an educated voter. (This also explains the right’s war on colleges and universities.) For all his recent dalliances with “Chuck and Nancy,” Trump remains a conservative, right-wing Republican who desires a right-wing Republican Congress to be re-elected next year, with even greater numbers of Republican Senators and representatives than now serve. The best way to do that is to keep red-district voters scared, angry and stupid. One way to accomplish that is to muzzle government scientists; this is precisely what we’re seeing. Trump believes in only one thing: himself. The consequences to the nation and the world can be damned.


The circus is coming to town

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The rightwing crazy show is coming to Berkeley! And what a show it will be! The lunatic trifecta of Milo Yiannopoulos, Ann Coulter and Steve Bannon. It’s a wet dream for white supremacists, fascists, resenters, and the other dregs that still robotically support a President who’s circling the drain.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported the news yesterday: a shadowy, possibly fake group that calls itself The Berkeley Patriot has invited the clowns to speak on the U.C. Berkeley campus two weeks from now, for what they call “Berkeley Free Speech Week.” With no information on their website about who they are, it’s hard to figure them out—although a link on the site leads to their Facebook page, where the only “team member” is identified as Bryce Kasamoto, who claims he attended (but apparently did not graduate from) U.C. Berkeley, and was active in the Orange County (California) Republican Party. Thank goodness for Twitter, where Kasamoto also has an account, which tells us a little more about him. The first item on his feed—something he retweeted—is from an anti-black website so vile, Twitter makes you sign off on a warning before it lets you see it.

(Segue: It’s always amusing to me when someone from a non-white ethnic background, which Kasamoto seems to be, is anti-black. I mean, does he not perceive the irony?)

It’s clear that Kasamoto, Milo & Co. are itching for a fight. They talk about “free speech” but what they’re really looking for is to rile people up, provoke violence and grab headlines—and make a little money while they’re at it. That they aren’t serious about a true issues-oriented forum is proven by some of the inane topics Milo told the Chronicle they’ll address in the talks, including:

“Feminism Awareness Day,” to be presided over by “a drag queen,” and in which “male-only speakers…will be telling women what they’ve been doing wrong”

“Islamic Peace & Tolerance Day,” which will feature “criticism of Muslim practices”

and an “awards ceremony” called “Mario Savio Is Dead.” Savio was, of course, the firebrand of the Free Speech Movement on the U.C. Berkeley campus in the 1960s; he died in 1996.

The issue of free speech lies at the core of the controversies that have erupted at U.C. Berkeley ever since scheduled rallies by Milo and Coulter were canceled, last spring, due to fears of riots and violence. One aspect of the debate has been over who caused the violence that had earlier erupted prior to Milo’s speech: the rightwing brawlers who showed up prepared for battle, or “antifa,” the anti-fascist, masked fighters who came to resist them. It’s impossible to pinpoint who started what, since in these large crowds, fighting can erupt at several places at the same time, for multiple reasons. What’s beyond debate, though, is that if the rightwing provocateurs didn’t show their faces in Berkeley, there would be no violence. So why do they insist on coming here?

Obvious reason: They want violence. They welcome it. Some bloody noses, a concussion or two, broken shop windows, a tire set on fire, cops under attack—it’s all fuel for the hatred that the right loves to stir up on Breitbart, and Trump on twitter. The right badly needs a villain. The left has a whole collection of villains: Trump and his greedy family, white supremacists, the KKK, xenophobes, misogynists, homophobes, neo-nazis, survivalists, religious fanatics, angry old white haters like Jeff Sessions—all of them tempting targets to saddle the Republican Party with. That’s good political tactics! But the right has no viable targets anymore. Obama’s gone, living in dignified semi-silence. Hillary’s still around, but really, nobody except a few op-ed freaks at the Wall Street Journal gives a damn about the emails or servers. The right is trying out Comey for the villain role, but that’s a dead end. And their resurrection of Bill Clinton’s affairs gets them no points at all, except to reveal their desperation (and prompt investigative journalists to dig up lurid tales of their own indiscretions).

So the right badly needs an enemy, and it thinks it’s found one in the form of antifa. Don’t get me wrong: I’m as against masked idiots trashing downtown Berkeley and Oakland as anyone. These people are not doing the left any favors; they should be arrested, charged and maximally punished. But antifa is a very weak reed to attach a conservative movement to. The right can stigmatize antifa all they want, but being anti-antifa is not a powerful rallying cry to mobilize tens of millions of Americans.

On the other hand, the threat from the right wing is. It’s clear and present: It was Adolf Hitler’s lasting gift to give the world a symbol of the horrors of fascist, white supremacist madness. The right wing in America, whether they like it or not, has inherited Hitler’s mantle, and that has galvanized The Resistance.

The Berkeley Patriot event should not be permitted, in order to prevent violence. If U.C. Berkeley, under threat of a lawsuit, must allow it, then it should be countered with a massive anti-Trump demonstration. We do not need to resort to violence to be effective. A turnout of five or ten thousand freedom lovers, of all races and ethnicities, will overwhelm a dreary gathering of two or three hundred paunchy, pathetic MAGA-capped ranters. That’s all we need to do, folks—a show of force. Let Breitbart shriek as much as they like about “censorship.” Nobody listens to them anyway, except the white supremacist clowns, and they simply don’t matter.


Here’s the speech Donald Trump should give (but won’t, because it’s true)

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My fellow Americans,

Thank you for taking the time to hear what I have to say to you this evening, as I address the American people from here in the Oval Office, a place from which so many of my predecessors spoke to you about matters of great importance.

This time, I wish to talk, not about war, or peace, or the economy. I wish to talk about myself. More than that, I wish to apologize to you. For I have said and done awful things, and it is now time for me to admit them, and atone for them.

I have not always been a nice person. I have had racist and xenophobic tendencies, which I inherited from my parents. I also have struggled to keep my sexual impulsivity under control. I have not always been successful in these efforts. But, at least, I have tried—and I continue to try, each and every day.

I have lied to you. Repeatedly, on matters both great and small. In fact, my political career rests on a foundation of lies. Let me start with the biggest lie I ever told—one which I repeated time and time again, even as I knew it was untrue. Over and over, at speeches and rallies, and on Twitter, I looked you—the American people—in the eye and told you that President Obama was not a real American…that he was born in Kenya…that my experts, whom I had sent to Hawaii to research the facts of his birth, had proof that Obama was not a citizen, and therefore not legally qualified to be President.

It was all a lie.

Why did I manufacture such a monstrous untruth? Because I have no regard for truth. Who cares about “truth” anyway? To me, it’s all about winning. I knew that many, many of you would be stupid enough to believe my lies. My private polling indicated that Obama was widely hated by the very people I had to appeal to, in order to get elected President—under-educated, angry white rural voters. In fact, my pollsters told me that, unless I told that lie, I had no chance to even get the nomination. And so, being ambitious—blinded with ambition, really—I passed this lie on to you, the American people. And it worked. And for that, I am truly sorry. Words cannot even express how disappointed I am in myself. For the rest of my days, I will carry this weight of shame.

President Obama, Mrs. Obama, Sasha and Malia: I am sorry. Truly, truly sorry. I hope you can find it in your hearts to forgive me—for I know that your hearts are bigger than mine.

I have told you so many lies, during the course of the primaries, the campaign, and since the Inauguration, that I hardly know where to begin to list them. Actually, the New York Times did a pretty good job of that for me last July. They missed a few—and I’ve lied many times since they published their article. And, let me tell you, I have a great deal of respect for the New York Times, a paper I have read at my breakfast table all my life, and will continue to do so. Another one of my lies was about how terrible the New York Times is. I told you they lie and they publish fake news. That is not true. It is Fox News that lies. I lied about the New York Times, in order to appeal to the same uneducated, angry white voters who believed me when I said Obama was not a citizen. And once again, I am sorry.

Well, I could go through every lie and apologize for it, but we’d be here all night and into tomorrow, so I’ll stop now. But lying isn’t the only thing I want to apologize for. Another is degrading the Presidency. Most of the occupants of this office—maybe all of them—were great, moral, honorable, decent men of towering integrity. I think of their names: Washington. Jefferson. Madison. Lincoln. Teddy Roosevelt. Wilson. FDR. JFK. Reagan and, yes, Barack Obama. And it fills me with anguish and shame that I have sullied the Oval Office with my presence—me, a sexual predator, a bully, a con man, a cheat, a grifter, a serial adulterer. I pretend to believe in God when, in fact, I don’t, and have scorned believers all my life. In fact, if you could see inside my head, you’d know how really sick, dark and twisted I am—filled with hatreds and resentments you can’t even begin to fathom. Sometimes I scare myself, especially when I think that it’s my small, fat hands that have access to the nuclear codes. And so I apologize for disgracing the office of the President of the United States. I can only affirm my hope that, after my departure, this revered office will once again become clean and sacrosanct.

I want also to get a word in about my denial of climate change. I have empowered the most ignorant, anti-science elements of our society with my declarations that climate change is a Chinese-inspired hoax. I kind of knew I was lying before, but now–in the wake of the Texas and Florida hurricanes–I know for sure that the U.S. coastal areas are in for a tough time. Maybe it took the threat to Mar-a-Lago to convince me, but I’ve changed my mind. I lied about climate change, and to future generations, I sincerely apologize.

Finally, I want to apologize for something that may be the worst thing I’ve done: and that is to polarize this country even worse than it was before I was elected President. I know, in my heart, that I should try to unify America, the way Barack Obama tried to do. Bless him, really: He was attacked so ruthlessly and unfairly, by me and my people, that he might easily have lost his temper and given into resentment and grudge. But he never did. He held his head high—so did Michelle—and they were such noble symbols of our great country. Sometimes it almost broke my heart to have to tell so many lies about him, to insult him and Michelle as much as I did. Even Melania, who likes both of them a great deal, asked me to tone it down. But I couldn’t! You see, I’ve always had it my way, every step of my life. There was never anyone to put the brakes on me, to tell me to stop. If somebody got in my way, I crushed them. I wish now there had been someone to stop me; I might have learned to restrain myself against my darkest impulses. But I couldn’t, and in my anger and paranoia, I appealed to those Breitbart types who seem eager for a civil war; and I insulted and antagonized the good people in America, who might have supported me but were disgusted by my antics, and rightfully so. So I’ve pushed America further in the direction of civil unrest. I feel really, truly awful about that. It pains me to think how historians will write about me. “The Great Divider.” Ouch. But maybe it’s not too late for me to bring all sides together. Ultimately, it’s going to be up to you, the American people.

My fellow Americans, I have let all of you down—not just those of you who voted for me, and who continue to support me, but Democrats, liberals, independents, everyone. I can hardly look in the mirror anymore, so repugnant has my own face become to me. In the end, all I can do is ask for your forgiveness, and pledge to try and reform myself, so as to be a better man—and a better President. That, I promise to do, and I hope that, this time, you’ll know I’m telling the truth.

I hope to remain in this office. But if you, the American people, in your wisdom feel otherwise, I will do the right thing, and step aside in favor of my Vice President, Mike Pence—a very good man.

And so, in conclusion, let me thank you, and may God bless the United States of America!


Unity? Hell, no!

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You know that DACA ruling from Trump last week, the one where he suspended it, then put off enforcing that for six months so that Congress can deal with it? My own reaction is pretty straightforward: His murder of DACA was an offensive and hateful act towards (mainly) Mexicans, a group that Trump’s white supremacist supporters despise. With his disastrous poll numbers, he felt he had to throw them a bone, and he did.

His action triggered the following letter to the editor in yesterday’s San Francisco Chronicle (I’ve shortened it for clarity). The writer surmises that, since Trump sort of gave Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer what they wanted—a six-month extension of DACA during which the Dreamers will be safe while Congress figures out what to do—the Democrats are now going to have to give Trump something in return.

“But what will Democrats do?” the writer asks. “President Trump wants something from Democrats…but we are not sure what it is.” Then the writer warns Democrats about the potential downside of being too resistant to Trump. “Play hardball with the president and Republicans on DACA and the children become the big losers.”

The letter writer is so wrong, so misguided, that I can’t let his conclusions go unchallenged. First of all, Trump did what he did for his own reasons; we can’t know exactly what they are, but it doesn’t matter: the deal is done, the Dreamers have six months, and I for one expect Congress to fix this problem permanently. So, no, “the children” will not be “big losers.” As for Trump wanting something from Democrats, whatever it is:  No. Democrats owe him nothing. Democrats shouldn’t lift a pinky to cater to his increasingly erratic, confused behavior. The Resistance continues; the various investigations into RussiaGate continue. Democrats continue to organize for next year’s elections, and when and if they take control of the House, Pelosi should immediately begin impeachment hearings.

So much for owing Trump anything!

Look, ever since this catastrophic president has been in office, the American public’s support for him—never high to begin with—has continued to plunge, as more and more decent people who voted for him realize their mistake. Democrats have the political ball in their court, the headwinds at their backs: Trump is struggling uphill, with Mueller looming over his orange head. Trump caved on DACA—why, we’ll never know. Maybe it was as simple (and reckless) as him being mad at Ryan and McConnell. But it certainly wasn’t 14-dimensional chess. So Democrats should accept this “gift” from him (if that’s the right word) and run with it: put enormous pressure on Republicans in Congress to fix the Dreamers’ situation and, possibly, even enact comprehensive immigration reform.

Even if nothing comprehensive emerges out of this, we can still help the Dreamers—and that’s the important thing right now. That goal is doable, within reach. Everybody hates what Trump did to DACA, except for the racists with their dreary little MAGA caps and shotguns in their trucks. Employers hate it; liberals hate it; clergymen hate it; in fact, by a 58% majority, Americans think Dreamers should be allowed to stay here.

So what do Democrats owe Trump? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. He has no loyalty to anything or anyone, except for his money and his family (and we’ll see how far his loyalty to the latter extends when Donald Jr. is indicted). Democrats in turn ought to have no loyalty towards Trump. Let him twist, slowly in the wind. Accept whatever crumbs he lets Democrats have, and then continue to resist. For all anyone knows, his pivot to “Chuck and Nancy” was for no reason other than to distract attention from RussiaGate and—in his fantasy—score some points with independents. Won’t work. And yesterday, on the anniversary of Sept. 11, he’s calling for “unity”? Tell you what, tomorrow morning I’ll publish the speech he should give if he’s serious about “unity.” He never will, because it would be the truth—and truth and Donald Trump don’t co-exist in the same universe.

 


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