The Center Of “The Nation’s Life” Holds, At Least Today

Yep, the Supreme Court found that federally discriminating against same-sex couples who are lawfully married is unconstitutional. A great day for equality under the law, even if there is much unfinished business—38 states representing two-thirds of the population of the country still prohibit same-sex matrimony—before genuine law-based equality becomes a reality for all.supreme court white

I do, though, want to remind everyone just how “damaging” was Tuesday’s decision on the Voting Rights Act, which was a victory for reactionary forces still hard at work across the land. And I want to remind everyone that whether it is Tea Party-dominated Texas—which will, despite the heroic efforts of a Democratic state senator, eventually severely limit reproductive rights in that state—or other laboratories of intolerance in other cuckoo-conservative jurisdictions, the right-wingers are unrelenting in their pursuit of a reactionary agenda. They won’t quit trying to apply their Iron Age evangelical theology to contemporary governance.

Finally, I want to remind everyone that even though today’s DOMA decision is a winner, those Four Conservatives of the Judicial Apocalypse—Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and Roberts—still wield considerable power on behalf of the reactionaries among us.

Justice Scalia’s dissent in the DOMA case, in which he unbelievably and hypocritically denounced his colleagues in the majority as embracing “black-robed supremacy”—as if he had not embraced such supremacy in the Voting Rights case the day before (not to mention in Bush v. Gore, which “settled” the 2000 presidential election)—is dripping with disdain for what the majority did to DOMA, that is, strike down the Clinton-era law without what the black-robed Scalia claimed was a legitimate reason to do so. He said the majority had expressed,

a desire to place this Court at the center of the Nation’s life.

For better or worse—and there are examples in history representing each extreme—the Supreme Court is sometimes at the center of the Nation’s life. And that center can be a fresh stream of equality and justice and liberty under the law, as Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 or Roe v. Wade in 1973 or today’s DOMA decision demonstrates.

Or at the center of the Nation’s constitutional life can exist a stagnant pool of narrow-minded conservatism, as Dred Scott  v. Sandford in 1857 or Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896 or the Voting Rights Act demolition yesterday represents.

supreme court blackAnd as long as there are four reliable defenders of retrogressive philosophy, of constitutional stagnation, sitting on the Supreme Court—with a sometimes reliable reactionary like Justice Kennedy making a majority—it will be hazardous to have the Court in a position to make monumental declarations about what the law, including constitutional law, finally means.

For that hazard we can thank the folly of the Founders, or their genius, depending on one’s view.

But ultimately it is the people who vote conservatives into high office, and, more important, the people who sit at home and don’t vote at all, who are responsible for the anti-progress we have seen, will see.

Even if today we can, but only for a moment, celebrate.

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  1. Duane, I know you hate it when some of us throw this word around, but the Citizens United ruling is the most in depth and most accurate picture of the current corrupt and “fascist” SCOTUS. Fat peacocks like Scalia vote how they vote in the name of a twisted distortion of “freedom”.

    “Isn’t it interesting how fascists always steal the word freedom.” (Christopher Plummer’s character in the most recent version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.)

    There is conservatism and there is fascism. They sometimes marry, but not always. In reality the fascists support a “freedom” for the mighty at the expense of servitude for the many and the weak. The danger in allowing “fascism” to be misrepresented as mere “conservatism” is that there is in the corner of our minds some indulged legitimacy for those claiming to be conservatives. I don’t trust Kennedy and Roberts, but am absolutely convinced that Scalia, Thomas and Alido are as pure bought and paid for fascists as ever sat on any court in a “free” nation. If we don’t recognize them for what they are we proceed at our own peril.


    • Thgeneralist,

      My friend, I understand where you are coming from. The problem with bringing up the word fascist, with all its historical connotations, is perfectly illustrated by Anson’s reaction to what you said:

      I find it rather amazing that “General” above describes as “facist” those on the Court that do not share his views on constitutionality. I wonder his, or others herein, reaction if I called the four liberal members of SCOTUS “communists”.

      What we have, when we use terms like fascist and communist, when they don’t exactly correspond to what most people know to be their historical meaning, is that your point—conservatives and fascists tend to distort the word “freedom” in order to support “the mighty at the expense of servitude for the many and the weak”—is ignored in favor of focusing on the use of the term fascist to describe folks like Scalia and Thomas and Alito.

      You will notice that Anson, and I am sure others who disagree with your point, didn’t even address your actual claim about distorting the word “freedom” as a way of exploiting the weak—an excellent and discussion-worthy point, by the way. And that’s my point, my friend. I would rather force Anson to defend conservatism’s tendency to favor the rich over the poor, the haves over the have nots, than get in a debate about whether it is proper to label certain conservatives “fascists.”

      We should be talking about the meat of your analysis and not the packaging.



      • Duane —
        I understand your point — well stated as always. I have a close friend who six years ago discovered she had multiple myeloma. She’d been experiencing symptoms of anemia and was fatigued. When the docs really got under the hood they named the disease and treated her with a new regimin of drugs and bone marrow transplants. Today, she is in remission and as close to “cured” as someone with that disease can be. The docs feel triumphant. She feels great. She’s pushing 60 and looks 40. I wonder how successful the treatment would have been if they’d just wrung their hands and suggested she had some troubling, abnormal cells. When Jesus “cast out demons” he named them first. Mustn’t we do the same?
        I sure don’t want to hurt Scalia’s feelings by suggesting he’s a fascist. I mean he’s such a sweet, compassionate, fair-minded fellow. (Pardon me while I go puke.) At the very least, these three (or maybe all five of the “conservative Catholics” on the bench) are sympathizers with the new American fascism demonstrated by the Koch’s, Adelson’s, Peterson’s, Cantor’s, Issa’s, GE’s, Monsanto’s, Exxon’s et al. It’s a role powerful conservative Catholics have embraced throughout history and notably in the last three quarters of a century in Germany, Italy (Mussolini and the Mafia), Spain and Argentina. Allegiance to a quasi-divine office (the Papacy) historically corrupt-but-infallible, has aptly prepared these religious villans for bending any situation to suit their power urges. We, meanwhile, merely wink at their malevolence. I’m sick of that.


        • ansonburlingame

           /  June 27, 2013

          Facists, a la Nazis (or Franco in Spain), distort freedom to gain power and use it, brutally against anyone opposed to them. Communists ignore the idea of freedom and instead demand total equality, no matter what. Exaggerations to a degree, but only a degree, in my view. Fundamentally that is the way I see both ideologies and I don’t support either one of them nor does ANY justice on SCOTUS, back then, now or later. We are all better than that, except for all those warmongering, facist, red neck members of the Republicn Party, right!! OMG.

          Check out the reaction of “the people” in France in around 1871. They called themselves the “communards”. Look what THEY did to France for a while. No they were not declared communists as no one really knew what that meant in those days. But it is interesting to note in the history that I read of that “movement” was they killed more Frenchmen than were killed in the FIRST French Revolution. They could shoot them faster than early Frenchmen could cut off heads. Check out David Mc (whatevers) book Americans in Paris, a very good book, by the way.



          • Anson —
            You described “Fa[s]cists, a la Nazis (or Franco in Spain), distort freedom to gain power and use it, brutally against anyone opposed to them.” A fair characterization of Antonin Scalia and his minders among right wing GOP Governors in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, Michigan, Maine, South Carolina, Virginia, Indiana and Arizona for starters — and in the Tea Party Congress.
            The power to suppress is the power the GOP craves. It is the same power lusted after by fascist governments historically. A level playing field for all voters is the fear of the Republicans. The shifting voter demographics in this country, fairly represented, ungerrymandered, unsuppressed spells a quick irrelevance for the representative power of the GOP. This is a battle to the death. The situation is almost beyond the grasp of these fascists. The only hope for the fat cat Republicans is a return to feudalism and the elimination of the idea of one person-one vote. Political and electoral complacency will be essential for their success.
            You may call me a left wing kook today, but hide and watch. The GOP leaders are not wise. They are rich and powerful brutes: Cantor, McConnell, Walker, Scott, Cruz, etc. They are the pathetic in-crowd kids in “bad” teen movies. Well-funded fools. Only, those movies were harbingers of the philosophical, social and economic war now raging. We’ll see. I hope for your sake and mine the battle ends like the movies — with the rich bullies exposed, discredited and dismissed: their power gone, appropriated by the real people who care about other real people.


  2. I like the way you’ve summarized the SCOTUS situation here, Duane. The influence of their decisions on our increasingly diverse culture has probably never been greater, nor at the same time more fragile, as conservative states, mostly remnant of the Old South, shrink in denial of browning and progressive trends in demographics.

    I am tempted to speculate on how the Court might change even though it is unpredictable. The ramifications are of course enormous. And even if one of the current owners of a black robe dies or retires, an Obama pick would very likely be filibustered given the present polarization. I wonder how long the process could remain in limbo? Indefinitely, I suppose.

    Just for kicks I looked up the ages of those over 70, just for butterfly-effect speculation:

    74 Breyer
    76 Kennedy
    77 Scalia
    80 Ginsburg

    Of these I note that only the liberal Ginsburg is in fragile health. She’s had both colon cancer and pancreatic cancer but is apparently tough as shoe leather. I hope she hangs in there.


    • Sadly, Jim, I agree that if one of the conservatives quit or got taken out by a mad God that it would be nearly impossible to replace him with a more liberal justice. (Obama would, though, find it easier to replace, say, Justice Ginsburg, since the ideological balance would not be at stake.)

      In fact, let’s say that God, in his infinite wisdom, decided that Justice Scalia’s views on sodomy were even too old-fashioned for Him and He decided to call the black-robed judge home for (permanent) reeducation. The fight over that subsequent appointment would be so monumental that it would shut down the entire government, such would be the intensity from the right in this country and in Congress.

      But, wait. The government is effectively shut down now so I suppose not much would change except the fireworks shows we would see day after day.

      What uninteresting political times we live in: stalemate. At least in chess you can start another game. We, as citizens watching our government in Washington, can only stare at the frozen pieces on the board.



      • Right on, Duane, except I don’t think “uninteresting” is the right adjective for our political times. Despite the dearth of legislation, the debates roiling the contentious issues just might be penetrating the national consciousness more than usual, and I think that might not be a bad thing. One piece of evidence for this is the headlines in USA Today. The drama yesterday in Texas over the abortion fiasco, for example, was riveting, and then there’s the SCOTUS ruling on gay marriage. The politics might be unproductive but they are the stuff of changing culture, something usually too slow notice as it changes. I suspect this kind of thing will be typical of the future, unless of course we elect a trigger-happy president and get into another boots-on-the-ground war. Wars are ever so distracting, you know. 🙄


        • Jim,

          Of course I am talking about how uninteresting is the stagnation in our politics. I believe such stagnation is with us for some time to come, but I hope I am very wrong about that. But given the reality of the House districts around the country, and given the rules in the Senate and the majority’s reluctance to change them, I don’t see an end in sight until demographics finally settle the matter.

          I predict that there will be no immigration reform bill coming out of Congress this year or next. Two-thirds of Senate Republicans voted against the Senate version and the eventual House version, if Boehner is true to his word, will be even more conservative than the Senate bill, which will peel off many, if not most, Democrats in the House. I don’t see anything changing, Jim. Nothing will happen on Voting Rights, nothing will happen on jobs, nothing will happen on the budget except more fights about cutting it.

          I find it all so uninteresting because it is so predictable. I hope I am wrong. I hope that things do get interesting, based on that “national consciousness” you talked about. But unfortunately there is only one national office which is influenced by that national consciousness and most legislators, who only have to appeal to a small slice of the electorate, don’t give a whit about what that national consciousness says or does.



  3. ansonburlingame

     /  June 27, 2013

    I find it rather amazing that “General” above describes as “facist” those on the Court that do not share his views on constitutionality. I wonder his, or others herein, reaction if I called the four liberal members of SCOTUS “communists”.

    I prefer to stick with liberal (progressive) views of Constitutional Law and conservative ones.

    Frankly, I agree with ALL THREE SCOTUS rulings this week, addressing Afirmative Action, VRA and DOMA.

    Take the last one first, DOMA. All people should be treated equally under the law, period. Call that a ‘good ole” 14th Amendment agreement. As a matter of “government” I don’t care who marries whom, as a matter of secular law. And for sure anyone becoming married, as defined by government should get equal benefits. But of course marriage is also a covenent under God, at least for some. Government has no business “regulating that” as well.

    I am sure you liberals would like to see the federal government define marriage for all of us, right. Fine. Go show me anywhere (other than a “penumbra”) the Constitution authorizes the federal government to do so. As for States, well go read the 10th Amendment!

    VRA. Federal oversite of changing election laws should be fair and equal oversite for ALL States not just the ones in the “Old South”, period. Bravo SCOTUS for promoting such equality in federal oversite.

    Finally Affirmative Action. Arguing whether or not it was needed “yesterday” is not the point. Is it needed today? SCOTUS said yes BUT it must be the only reasonable option to use to help minorities rise above their current conditions after all else has failed to do so.

    Show me someone with essentially equal past performance, grades, conduct, leadership, etc and THEN use race as a final discriminator to select the minority candidate. But many institutions of higher education have gone far too far in using race as a primary discriminator. SCOTUS now has said, NO, not today you won’t.

    By own blog has more details on each of those subjects.



    • Anson,

      Nope, we “liberals” don’t want to see the federal government define marriage “for all of us.” We just don’t want to see the federal government discriminate against certain kinds of marriages that evangelical legislators don’t like. And I think you missed the point of the DOMA decision, that is, that the federal government has no business trying to “disparage and to injure” (Justice Kennedy’s words) those that a particular state has “sought to protect in personhood and dignity.”

      As for your views on affirmative action, you grossly overstate the case when you say that “many institutions of higher education have gone too far in using race as a primary discriminator.” That simply isn’t true for public universities, Anson. They have been required to conform to a more narrow use of preferences to achieve diversity, which any institution of higher learning ought to value and ought to attempt to achieve.

      Finally, your views on the Voting Rights Act are typical of someone who has never, I repeat, never, had to face discrimination based on race in this culture, nor are you a part of a group of people who have suffered enormous discrimination historically, much of it legalized via state legislatures, in terms of the right to vote. Thus, you are not able to see it from any perspective outside your own, which, as I say, is typical, but not necessarily useful.

      I suggest you take the time to read the dissent in that case for a more expansive view and as you are reading it try to see it from the perspective of someone who has experienced persistent and clever methods of oppression that were used by racists and quasi-racists in various state governments. Ask yourself: Is it likely that if white-dominated legislatures weren’t required to pre-clear changes in voting laws, that they would do what they did for a hundred years?




  4. ansonburlingame

     /  June 27, 2013


    First read my blog on Diversity and the Naval Academy. USNA is a public university and has created a real mess in attempts to promote diversity. I have already received “endorsements” of that particular view from several retired 4 Stars as well and they “ain’t red necks”, either. SCOTUS has now said Affirmative Action of old will no longer be justified. Any yep, liberals don’t like that. But it sure sounds “fair” to me, a return if you will to equality, 14th Amendment style, over preferences based on race.

    Why should any federal oversite target particular States? Should banking oversite JUST be conducted on greedy “Yankee banks” on Wall Street, and let “polite” Southern banks go unchecked?

    As for reading SCOTUS opinions and the dissents thereto, why? Was my “essence” of the decisions, what they have done, generally, wrong? Why should I read through “stuff” by Scalia or Ginsburg to tell me what SCOTUS did wrong? Can’t I make up my own mind at least generally? If I am unable to decide for myself, however the right or wrong of a SCOTUS decision, THEN I might delve into both ascent and dissent opinions, but not routinely for sure.

    As for DOMA, well I am glad no liberals expect the federal government to start regulating marriage or divorce. Benefits resulting from such things paid federally, is fine with me, and you I suppose.



    • King Beauregard

       /  June 27, 2013

      “Why should any federal oversite target particular States?”

      You cannot possibly know so little about American history and how particular states have engaged in particular practices that require particular solutions.

      Do not respond until you have watched the video.


  5. ansonburlingame

     /  July 1, 2013

    I post this at the end, at least for me, to a long sting of comments that by and large relate to the state of politics today in our country.

    “General” intentionally or not said above, ” This is a battle to the death”. God help us if that is the case and of course I disagree with such “passion” over the divide between GOP and Dems, progressives and conservatives, today. We are not yet at the point of France in 1789 or 1871, I hope, where the cry for “liberty” resulted in massive death to the opposition and very little “liberty for all” as well.

    Let me just take one issue, immigration, as a case in point. Is THAT issue a matter of life and death? How about gay rights? Should we fight another Civil War over that issue, today? Of course not any sane person would respond. We MUST sort it all out, democratically if our way of life is to prevail in America.

    Look at Egypt right now, one year after a contested election. Is that the way we want to see America governed now? Of course not.

    I agree, sadly, with Duane that comprehensive immigration reform will not happen this year or next, not with the House majority in power right now. So here comes the election of 2014 and we the people get another chance to either do immigration reform one step at a time or all in one fell swoop so to speak. Is it a matter of life or death to get it done NOW, one way or the other? Again, of course not, at least in my view.

    One final comment along those lines related to VOTING. The Founders felt that democracy should prevail based on the views of thinking and intelligent people giving deep consideration to matters affecting the country. They were as afraid of “rabble power” back then as most are fearful of such today, unthinking and violent reaction to important issues. Duane and I will almost always vote against one another in elections but that is the way our democracy should work, two thinking men in political, but not violent, opposition.

    In most instances on important issues Duane and I will seldom agree, politically and yes, we may call each other names as well from time to time. But disgree, “to the death”, no way, not even close to such I hope.

    I recently engaged in a semi-public (by invitation only) forum on an important issue, education. I became “cussing mad” during that forum, ready to take on some really “dumb” (my view) ideas from the “other side”. It makes no difference for you folks, which side that might have been either, conservative or progressive.

    That is as far as I hope it ever goes however, to the extreme of semi-private “cussing”. No fire bombs back and forth for sure. And if “that side” prevails, democratically, well I will obey the law as well, until I get another shot at creating “better” laws, democratically.

    As for Presidential politics, politics at the highest level if you will, I think President Obama has gone too far in dividing the country. Others believe he has not gone far enough. Is that now a matter of life and death, to anyone herein?



    • Anson —
      What I meant by “battle to the death” is this: thanks to the Issa’s and Cantor’s and McConnell’s, compromise is already dead. Liberals have discovered that conservatives do not compromise in good faith. We all know this. Conservatives know this. They scoff at the integrity needed to work together. Compromise will not accommodate a John Birch style agenda. Social issues mean nothing to those on the right in power, but social issues can be used to divide the middle and under classes into peeling off enough votes (temporarily) to keep the feudal lords in power. The battle to the death is between the repressive feudal system favored by Romney, Walker, Cuccinelli, Corbett, etc. and the inclusive democracy of Obama, Brown, Kaine, Sanders, Markey, etc. — plenty of room for conservatives and Republicans on the democracy side of the fence. No room for fascists. BTW: Obama has only divided the country in the sense that the racist right has targeted any program or plan of his — a black man, by God — as something that must be stopped. Killing the race card deprives the extreme right of many of its weapons of division.


  6. ansonburlingame

     /  July 2, 2013


    Read my blog Diversity and the Naval Academy. Now go “kill” that racism, called diversity, let the “best men and women” serve and this country will be a much better country, in my view. Race, gender, social “status” should NEVER be a primary discriminator to advance people professionally. But when past performance is essentially equal well sure, go ahead and give diversity a better chance to succeed. I believe that is the essence of the recent SCOTUS decision and I support it for sure in that sense.

    And such thinking in no way makes me a racist or a facist, in my view though some herein will claim differently as well.



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