News You Probably Haven’t Heard Yet.

Anyone reading this blog doesn’t need a detailed recap of the news lately. More apologies for Russia; yet another unreported meeting with a stadium full of Russians accompanied by an still-evolving set of lies about the meeting; Tr-mp publicly dope-slapping Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Russian thing; rumors are rampant that Tr-mp is considering firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller because Mueller is getting in his bidness; we know Tr-mp is thinking about pardoning everyone around him including himself, which I suppose we should call “masturpardonation”; an unpolished liar for Tr-mp named Spicer is gone and a slicker liar for Tr-mp named Scaramucci is on the scene—Scaramucci is a much better kisser; Tr-mp commissions a new Navy ship and essentially orders the sailors and naval officers to do his political bidding for him.

Just another bizarre week in a declining America.

And if you think all of that stuff is bad, here’s the latest:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Democrats are furious over what they are saying is the latest outrage involving Donald Tr-mp. Nancy Pelosi and Charles Schumer are both demanding Republicans in Congress take quick action after Tr-mp fired Robert Moeller, had him arrested, ordered him to be pilloried on a site near the Lincoln Memorial early Sunday morning, then hours later allegedly had him decapitated with a dull steak knife from Mar-A-Lago. CNN cameras on the scene seem to have captured a golf-suited Tr-mp tee up Mr. Moeller’s bloody head and drive it an estimated 250 yards into the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. Tr-mp then held what the administration said was a record-setting rally at the same site Sunday afternoon with derisive chants of “Fore! Fore! Fore!” echoing throughout the National Mall.

Witnesses initially arriving at the grisly scene earlier in the day say they overheard Tr-mp tell Vice President Mike Pence, “Off with his head!” just before Moeller was taken out of the stocks and placed on a large cutting board that, according to two White House sources, was supplied by one of Tr-mp’s hotel kitchens. Those same sources told the Associated Press that Tr-mp gave Pence a gold-plated steak knife believed to have come from Mar-A-Lago and that Mike Pence immediately agreed to the beheading, allegedly saying it was “an honor to serve the broad-shouldered” Tr-mp. 

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself and the entire Justice Department from the matter, saying, “We all serve at the pleasure of the president.” Speaker Paul Ryan was asked for a comment and he attributed the “mishap” to Tr-mp’s relative inexperience as a Washington politician. “If true, it’s just another rookie mistake,” he told a gathering of reporters at the Capitol. “You guys just don’t get it. This guy is new to all this. And he doesn’t play by Washington rules.” When asked if the incident would slow down legislative business in the House, Ryan said, “The American people sent us here to do a job on them and that’s what we’re focused on.”

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would not comment on the apparent murder and subsequent events, saying only that he and his Senate colleagues are continuing to work hard on “passing a healthcare bill that can get signed into law” and then “moving on to other parts of our aggressive agenda.” When asked if he thought the administration’s alleged beheading of Moeller might constitute obstruction of justice, if not murder, McConnell replied he had “no comment on pending investigations.” 

There was one critical voice coming from Capitol Hill. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said that if Tr-mp was involved in the firing, pilloring, and beheading of Special Counsel Moeller that his actions would be “inappropriate.”

Meanwhile, reporters from all the over the area flocked to Washington in order to interview Tr-mp supporters before they could leave the rally and return home to their economically-challenged rural communities. Many Tr-mp supporters openly doubted the reports of the beheading, one older man, wearing a Rush Limbaugh tee shirt, calling it, “another phony story planted by the drive-by media.” Still another rally attendee said he doubted the media reports because “everybody knows you can’t hit a human head 250 yards with a normal driver.” Then, after hesitating, said, “But if anyone could, Tr-mp could.”

Another woman attending the rally told a Washington Post reporter that the whole thing was a “Chinese hoax.” A man who left the rally early to get to his job at a fast-food restaurant he said is secretly frequented by Tr-mp, told the New York Times, “You know, it may have been Tr-mp. But it really could have been anybody. It could have been a 400-pound man who got tired of hearing all of the fake Russia-Tr-mp news coverage and just couldn’t take it anymore,” the man said, adding, “Whoever it was, though, it probably wasn’t Putin.”

White House spokesmen have issued no on- or off-camera comment, but Tr-mp tweeted just after his rally: So many people were asking why didn’t the Special Council [sic] look into the Hillary Clinton and Comey crimes? Well, maybe he WAS and THEY had him killed! Sad!”

 

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This Is Why We Have The Right-Wing Government We Have

While it is absolutely proper to focus on the disintegration of our democracy, in terms of how Tr-mp and his defenders aided and abetted (and still are) Russia’s attack on our electoral process and Putin’s poisoning the well of trust in the mainstream press, I think I should point out something happening here in my own state. We have our own version of Tr-mp and Tr-mpism. Our governor is a mini-Tr-mp. Our legislature is a mini-House Freedom Caucus. Reactionary forces dominate our state as if, as I have said before, we were Louisiana.

The Kansas City Star published a story this morning (“Thousands of Missourians are about to be cut from prescription drug program“) that is breathtakingly sad for a couple of reasons. Here is how the story began:

More than 60,000 elderly Missourians got a letter from the state last month informing them they were about to be cut off from a program that had helped them pay for prescription drugs.

Marjorie Prunty, 74, of Platte County, remembers what she thought when her letter arrived.

“I’m going to die.”

Now, think about that. An elderly citizen, a citizen of our state, a citizen of the wealthiest and most powerful nation on the face of the earth, fears for her life. And she fears for her life because of this:

In May, state lawmakers voted to save $15 million in the state’s $27 billion budget by cutting a state program called MORx.

Those earning between 85 percent and 185 percent of the federal poverty level, or up to about $22,000 a year for an individual, had previously qualified for MORx, which covered 50 percent of out-of-pocket prescription drug costs.

Now those 63,000 people — including more than 6,000 in Jackson County alone — are no longer eligible.

Way back in 2006, when MORx was created as a “wrap-around” benefit to George W. Bush’s Medicare Part D prescription drug entitlement program, our Republican governor, Matt Blunt, said:

We are pleased to help low-income seniors and those with disabilities continue to receive their needed medications.

Here in 2017, Republicans are no longer pleased to help low-income seniors and disabled Missourians. That’s how far we have fallen as a state, how far the GOP has fallen as a political party. And Marjorie Prunty, 74, of Platte County, now thinks, “I’m going to die.” That is pathetic. It is sad. But what is more pathetic, what is sadder than that, is how the Star story ended:

Prunty says she’s been reaching out to her representative and the governor’s office to share her story. She doesn’t believe she has much hope, but has no ill-will towards politicians in Jefferson City.

“I voted for these people. I’m not mad at them,” she said. “They just don’t understand. They don’t know what it’s like to be poor. They can’t identify with us.”

What do you say to someone who thinks that way? She fears for her life. She knows why she fears for her life. But apparently because she “voted for these people,” she isn’t “mad at them.” This isn’t a case of a low-information or stupid voter not knowing what is going on. This woman, Marjorie Prunty, knows what is going on. And despite her fear she will die, despite knowing who is causing her fear that she will die, I can just about guarantee you that when it comes time to vote next year, she’ll vote for the same people who threaten her life with their right-wing cruelty.

Whatever it is that makes Marjorie Prunty think the way she does explains why we have not only a cruel right-wing state legislature, but a cruel Republican-led national one—and why we have Tr-mp-Pence-Putin in the White’s House.

I have no words to explain this reality. I can only just walk away, head down.

Will Pat Robertson Pray Away Tr-mp’s Hurricane? Tune In Tomorrow!

“God is using the president to do great things.”

—Televangelist Pat Robertson, March 23, 2017

What is the last refuge of a scoundrel? Why, it’s the 700 Club! Naturally.

As Tr-mp apparently contemplates (okay, that’s too strong a word for him) how to get his family right with God, if not the law, he has turned to Pat Robertson, the faith healer who has grown wealthy off the trade. If there is anyone who knows how to heal a grifter, it is a fellow grifter. Tr-mp sat down for an “interview” today with Robertson, because, well, God and stuff. No, not really. When he’s in trouble, Tr-mp always goes to “the evangelicals” because, as a con man, he knows how gullible is the conservative variety of Bible-toters. Robertson himself, now 87 years old, proves that fact—Beliefnet pegs his net worth at $100 million, but it could be much, much more due to his complicated relationship with his businesses and his “non-profit” “ministry.”

Full (embarrassing) disclosure: When I was an evangelical zealot in the 1980s, I gave money, often monthly, to Robertson’s “ministry.” I faithfully watched the 700 Club. Believe it or not, I teared up reading Pat’s autobiography, Shout It From the Housetops! By the time his conspiracy book, The New World Order, came out in 1991, I was getting very suspicious of either his intellect or his motives or both. Like a lot of grifting “prophets” in the evangelical world, Pat foretold how life as we knew it would end (spoiler: the Satan-directed Illuminati would establish a one-world government in order “to destroy the family, to destroy the state, to destroy capitalism and to destroy the church”).

You can go on Amazon.com and read a relatively recent review of The New World Order written by an unfortunate soul named Melinda, from Santa Cruz. On March 8, 2016, she wrote:

Amazing that it was published in 1991 and so pertinent to what is happening today. Anyone reading this book will vote for Tr-mp because he or she will see that everyone else is connected to the NWO through Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street entities.

I know, I know. It is sad. These folks vote. They vote! But it is kind of a funny thing that Pat Robertson is a Tr-mp supporter and it is a funnier thing that Tr-mp is a Goldman Sachs-Wall Street dream-come-true and, thus, by definition is part of Pat’s faith-destroying New World Order! Don’t ya think that’s hilarious?

In any case, before or after the “interview,” Pat will no doubt lay his miracle-working (and fabulously wealthy) hands on Tr-mp, either on camera or off, and try to impart a little more of God’s anointing on this obviously God-touched “leader.” A snippet released today of what the Christian Broadcasting Network will air tomorrow features Robertson asking Tr-mp if we can “trust” Putin. Now, first, if you don’t know by now that Putin is unworthy of anyone’s trust, your ignorance is unhealable, even by God. And, second, if you don’t know by now that exactly the wrong guy to ask about “trust” is a pathological liar, then your cultish affection for Tr-mp is, to use a biblical term, idolatrous.

But Robertson, an evangelical con artist, is precisely the guy who Tr-mp wanted to see for his first “interview” in a couple of months. Why? I bet you think it’s because Tr-mp thought he would find it friendly territory, right? Well, yes, that’s right. Robertson pretty much invented Bullshit News, which spawned today’s right-wing media complex that is seriously dumbing down the country. But there’s really more to it than that. You see, the Washington Post published a story this morning with this headline:

‘Category 5 hurricane’: White House under siege by Trump Jr.’s Russia revelations

The lede:

The White House has been thrust into chaos after days of ever-worsening revelations about a meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a lawyer characterized as representing the Russian government, as the president fumes against his enemies and senior aides circle one another with suspicion, according to top White House officials and outside advisers.

The “Category 5 hurricane” reference in the headline was provided by an “outside ally” of Tr-mp. And I am purely speculating here, but I think that same ally suggested to Tr-mp that he go to Robertson to fix his hurricane problem. In case you don’t know or forgot what an expert Robertson is on fixing hurricanes, here ya go—and, you’re welcome:

The Decline Of American Leadership Explained In Two Stunning Minutes

The words of Chris Uhlmann, commenting for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, speak for themselves. There’s nothing I can think of right now that I could say to improve upon his analysis of our current decline:

 

The G20 became the G19 as it ended. On the Paris climate accords the United States was left isolated and friendless.

It is, apparently, where this US President wants to be as he seeks to turn his nation inward.

Donald Tr-mp has a particular, and limited, skill-set. He has correctly identified an illness at the heart of the Western democracy. But he has no cure for it and seems to just want to exploit it.

He is a character drawn from America’s wild west, a travelling medicine showman selling moonshine remedies that will kill the patient.

And this week he underlined he has neither the desire nor the capacity to lead the world.

Given the US was always going to be one out on climate change, a deft American President would have found an issue around which he could rally most of the leaders.

He had the perfect vehicle — North Korea’s missile tests.

So, where was the G20 statement condemning North Korea? That would have put pressure on China and Russia? Other leaders expected it and they were prepared to back it but it never came.

There is a tendency among some hopeful souls to confuse the speeches written for Mr Tr-mp with the thoughts of the man himself.

He did make some interesting, scripted, observations in Poland about defending the values of the West.

And Mr Tr-mp is in a unique position — he is the one man who has the power to do something about it.

But it is the unscripted Mr Tr-mp that is real. A man who barks out bile in 140 characters, who wastes his precious days as President at war with the West’s institutions — like the judiciary, independent government agencies and the free press.

He was an uneasy, awkward figure at this gathering and you got the strong sense some other leaders were trying to find the best way to work around him.

Mr Tr-mp is a man who craves power because it burnishes his celebrity. To be constantly talking and talked about is all that really matters. And there is no value placed on the meaning of words. So what is said one day can be discarded the next.

So, what did we learn this week?

We learned Mr Tr-mp has pressed fast forward on the decline of the US as a global leader. He managed to diminish his nation and to confuse and alienate his allies.

He will cede that power to China and Russia — two authoritarian states that will forge a very different set of rules for the 21st century.

Some will cheer the decline of America, but I think we’ll miss it when it is gone.

And that is the biggest threat to the values of the West which he claims to hold so dear.

Our Sybil War

Published on July 4, 2017

Malcolm Gladwell, the popular Canadian writer, appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press last Sunday. He was on the program, as Chuck Todd noted, as an outsider who could offer “some insight into who we are as Americans and how we approach our problems.”

Gladwell did offer some insight, take it or leave it:

As the outsider, the thing about American society that has always baffled me is that Americans love nothing more than accentuating their differences. Whereas I come from a culture, Canada, where all we do is celebrate what we have in common, even when we don’t have anything in common, you know? We love talking about how we’re Canadians, we’re in this together, we’re all the same in the end. You know, Americans are all the same in the end, but you guys like to pretend that you’re not. And you know, I don’t think it’s that hard to get back to that position of understanding how similar you all are.

Well, there is some truth to what Gladwell says. We do have many similarities as Americans. And we all may be “in this together.” But he’s wrong to claim that “Americans are all the same in the end.” I’m going to attempt to explain why he’s wrong by using two examples.

The first one comes from a scientist named Riccardo Sabatini, who seemed to prove what Malcolm Gladwell was saying, that basically we human beings are all the same. Sabatini, famously, printed out the genome of a famous friend of his. In case you don’t know what a genome is, here is a handy definition:

A genome is an organism’s complete set of DNA, including all of its genes. Each genome contains all of the information needed to build and maintain that organism. In humans, a copy of the entire genome—more than 3 billion DNA base pairs—is contained in all cells that have a nucleus.

It turns out, as Sabatini proved, that if you print out a human genome, it fills some 175 books, comprising 262,000 densely printed pages, about a thousand pounds of instructions that, essentially, make you who you are, or aren’t. The amazing thing, the human genomething Sabatini highlighted, is that 174 1/2 of those 175 books contain genetic instructions that are identical to your neighbor’s. Yes, that’s right. Genetically speaking, the tall guy living behind my house, my neighbor, is almost identical to me. Only about 500 pages of the 262,000 pages of instructions make us different. We are 99.998% the same. And one would think that such a sober, Gladwellian truth would tend to make us all, Canadians or Americans—or even the Russians!—believe that, heck, we really are “the same in the end.”

Except, obviously, we’re not.

The neighbor I mentioned, the one who is nearly identical to me—remember that our genetic code is only .002 different—not only put up a TR-MP-PENCE sign in his front yard, he put one up in his back yard. He did that for me—and only me—to see (because I park in the back). Why did he do that? Well, since his sign appeared a day or two after I put up my HILLARY sign (in my front yard only), I guess he did it because he wanted to send me a message: he was a Tr-mp guy.

Now, is there something in that .002 genetic difference that made my neighbor a Tr-mp guy? Beats me. I suppose it’s possible that in those 175 volumes of genetic code—which, according to Riccardo Sabatini, “we just know probably two percent: four books of more than 175”—there is an “I prefer buffoons for president” gene. But I doubt it. More likely, something in my neighbor’s background has made him a Tr-mper. Some experience or experiences affected his brain chemistry enough that Tr-mp’s vulgarity and ignorance, toxically mixed with his insecurity-masking machismo, seems not only attractive, but subversively attractive. And something in my background has made me a fierce anti-Tr-mper, a counter-subversive. And no amount of Gladwellian talk about our similarities, no perfectly rational presentation of our genetic sameness, will bridge the enormous gulf between me and my neighbor. The differences between someone who thinks Tr-mp is the answer and someone who thinks he is dangerously unfit for the presidency are unbridgeable. We’re not “all the same in the end.”

In fact, it’s very much the opposite. In the end, for whatever reason, we are very, very different. Northerners and southerners were unbridgeably different in 1861—and even after four years of a bloody civil war, after hundreds of thousands of dead Americans, the differences remained. And in some important ways, many of those differences are still with us today, along with many others.

That brings me to my second example of why Gladwell was wrong and to the baffling title of this essay.

Shirley Ardell Mason was a mentally troubled artist who was born in 1923. If you are like me, you know who she was because of the two-part TV film, Sybil, broadcast in 1976. That film, based on a 1973 book written by journalist Flora Schreiber, starred Sally Field and Joanne Woodward (another Sybil movie came out in 2007). Field played Sybil Dorsett, which was the pseudonym chosen for Shirley Mason. Sybil, allegedly, suffered from what was then called “multiple personality disorder”—now called “dissociative identity disorder” (DID). She supposedly had 16 distinct personalities or “selves.”

I will tell you now there has been a lot of controversy surrounding “Sybil,” her psychiatrist, Dr. Connie Wilbur, and the diagnostic legitimacy of multiple personality disorder. Some have claimed the whole thing was a fraud, perpetrated for notoriety and money. Others have claimed that Dr. Wilbur induced Sybil’s alleged multiple personalities through her therapeutic suggestions. There’s no need for me to go into all the details of that controversy. Suffice it to know that in 1994, according to Psychology Today, “multiple personality disorder” was changed to “dissociative identity disorder.” The reason:

to reflect a better understanding of the condition—namely, that it is characterized by a fragmentation, or splintering, of identity rather than by a proliferation, or growth, of separate identities.

My point of bringing this up is that I would attribute America’s obviously severe political and cultural divide to something like a national dissociative identity disorder, “characterized by a fragmentation, or splintering, of identity.” I think this problem with national identity has been with us from our beginning as a nation, largely because of the sin of slavery, which was first coded in our collective DNA in 1619, when the first African “servants” arrived in Jamestown, Virginia.

When Thomas Jefferson gave us “All men are created equal” in 1776, it served at the time as a cry for revolution and seemed like a unifying declaration. Eleven years later, our Constitution promised to “establish Justice” for “We the People.” America appeared to be a nation with one identity—E pluribus unum. But, of course, most of the pluribus were not part of the unum. There was a civil war to come to partially settle that for African-Americans, and it would still be another 55 years after the shooting part of that war ended before women were allowed to vote, in 1920. And to this day we live with the anti-democratic Electoral College, which “amplifies the votes of white people and reduces the voice of minorities.” (And, thus, gave us George W. Bush and Donald Tr-mp.)

Psychology Today points out that dissociative identity disorder “reflects a failure to integrate various aspects of identity, memory, and consciousness into a single multidimensional self.” If that doesn’t describe our history, and our contemporary situation, then I don’t know what does. Think about some of our differences:

♦ People who believe in the fact of evolution versus people who believe in a six-day creation by God.

♦ People who believe in the fact of climate change versus those who think it is a hoax.

♦ People who believe in sensible gun control versus those who reject almost all restrictions on guns, and who think guns belong in schools and bars and even churches.

♦ People who believe women should be able to control their own reproductive health versus those who think aborting a zygote is tantamount to murder.

♦ People who believe access to affordable health care is a right versus those who don’t think so, or who think a more important right is that fabulously wealthy people have lower tax rates.

♦ People who live in more culturally diverse urban areas, who overwhelmingly vote for Democrats, versus people who live in less culturally diverse rural areas, who overwhelmingly vote for Republicans.

♦ People who think thugs like Vladimir Putin should be condemned versus those who openly admire him because he “is a God-and-country Russian patriot” who “stands against the Western progressive vision of what mankind’s future ought to be.”

♦ People who believe the press is essential to the health of our democracy versus those who think it is “the enemy of the people.”

♦ People who believe Tr-mp is a sick and vulgar grifter who dirties the presidency versus those who embrace and celebrate his behavior.

I ask: How do you make a nation whole—the alleged therapeutic result in the Sybil story—when there are differences as stark and as wide as these? How do you integrate the “various aspects of identity, memory, and consciousness” into a single multidimensional national self? I don’t know. It looks impossible to me. But let’s go on.

Psychology Today lists the essential criteria that must be met to make a diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder. I will slightly modify these criteria to reflect how they might apply to our ailing nation:

  • The [nation] experiences two or more distinct identities or personality states (each with its own enduring pattern of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and self). Some cultures describe this as an experience of possession.
  • The disruption in [national] identity involves a change in sense of self, sense of agency, and changes in behavior, consciousness, memory, perception, cognition, and motor function.
  • Frequent gaps are found in memories of [national] history, including people, places, and events, for both the distant and recent past. These recurrent gaps are not consistent with ordinary forgetting.
  • These symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

You, of course, can be the judge of whether I’m way off or have at least suggested something that requires further thought. I would add, however, that there is treatment available for individuals with this disorder that perhaps can be applied to a nation:

The primary treatment for DID is long-term psychotherapy with the goal of deconstructing the different personalities and uniting them into one. Other treatments include cognitive and creative therapies.

In other words, there is no magic pill, no full-proof cure. As a nation, we can try to deconstruct our differences and make an attempt to unite them into one, making E pluribus unum a reality rather than a mythical motto. I have my doubts about that long-term social psychotherapy. Someone will have to come up with a form of cognitive or creative therapy that I cannot now possibly imagine. Or—perhaps we do have something of a cure available: the idea of America.

On this, our first Tr-mp-plagued July 4, perhaps we can take a fresh look at how we might learn to live with our pluribus selves in something resembling unum. I will draw (at length) upon the words of Minnesota Senator Al Franken, from his latest book, a book full of humor and optimism.

Franken noted that just before the end of the 2016 election, Tr-mp made “his first public appearance in our state just in time to spread his trademark blend of hate, fear, and ignorance—this time targeting our Somali-Minnesotan community.” These Somalis were mostly refugees who had escaped a horrific civil war in their country. Some fifty thousand of them settled in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, Franken noted, “but not all. Many smaller cities and communities around the state have signficant Somali populations.”

Earlier in 2016, Franken attended a high school graduation in a town in Kandiyohi County, “the largest turkey-producing county in the largest turkey-producing state in the nation.” He was at Willmar Senior High to introduce the student speaker elected by the graduating class, a Muslim girl named Muna Abdulahi.

Now, as Franken estimated, that high school in Willmar comprised 60 percent “garden-variety Scandinavian/German white Minnesotans, about 25 percent were Hispanic, and about 15 percent were Somali, with a few Asian Americans tossed in.”  Franken wrote:

When it came time to hand out diplomas, the crowd was told to hold their applause until the end. But they couldn’t help themselves. The moment Muna’s name was called, everyone erupted. Clapping, shouting, stomping on the bleachers—and it continued like that through each one of the 236 graduates. These kids loved each other.

The two hours I spent at that high school commencement were a tonic for the year of trash I’d been hearing about our country.

The previous year, I’d been in Willmar to help respond to an avian flu crisis that threatened the turkey industry that employs so many in Kandiyohi County. A number of producers were worried that they might lose their entire operations. But we were able to get some emergency funding to help keep them on their feet.

Were these turkey producers Democrats? Were they Republicans? No idea. Didn’t care. Don’t care. Will never care. Do they care that they have Somali refugees in their community? Yes, they do care. They want them. They need them. They need people like Muna’s dad, who works in IT at the Jennie-O Turkey store.

Perhaps Donald Tr-mp confused Minnesota with somewhere else. About a week after the election, I spoke to Gérard Araud, the French ambassador to the United States. He told me that in France, a Frenchman is someone who can tell you what village his family is from going back centuries. Immigrants never really get to become Frenchmen. It made me think back to the hideous massacre in Paris the year before.

Here in America, of course, we’re all immigrants. Except, of course, for Native Americans against whom we committed genocide. I’m a Jew, but I’m also an American. Muna is Somali, but she’s also an American. On election day, I ran into her on campus at the University of Minnesota, where I was getting out the vote for Hillary. She told me that her sister, Anisa, had been voted homecoming queen.

That’s who we are. In places like France, they isolate their refugees and immigrants. In America, we elect them homecoming queen.

Yes, that echoes what Ronald Reagan famously said in 1988, “Anybody from any corner of the world can come to America to live and become an American.” Yes, it is a romantic and perhaps overoptimistic view of our country. But it is essential that we hold fast to it. It is vital that we defend it even in the face of an ugly Tr-mpism. Otherwise, we fail as a democracy, at least as a democracy of decency. It simply has to be the case that Tr-mp does not represent who we are as Americans.

It is true our differences divide us in dangerous ways. But it is also true that if we can figure out how to live with those differences—by defending and strengthening those institutions that “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity”—we can turn the present gloom into at least a glimmer of progress.

Oh. I almost forgot. Whenever my Tr-mp-supporting neighbor sees me, he offers a genuinely friendly wave. He really does. And on my good days, on my better days as an American, I actually wave back.

 

Another Pep Talk. This One To A Conservative

In reply to my recent “Pep Talk” piece, a local conservative wrote in with a bunch of really depressing things to say. Here is my attempt to help him out:

1. My post was not a “statement of despair.” Quite the opposite. The Resistance to Tr-mpism is strong. Your post, though, is full of despair. You sound weary and discontented. Even for a conservative.

2. I will skip some of the things you wrote in order to first deal with something I find central to the differences between you and me, between liberals and conservatives, and, I suppose, the difference between Democrats and Republicans. Here goes:

You want to emphasize “terrible choices” that people make “that result in woe for sure.” You then call on Americans to “take more responsibility for their own conditions.” Hmm. Let me see now. People, as far as I know, don’t get to pick their parents. Thus, they didn’t make a decision as to how they would be raised, what kind of conditions they were raised in, what kind of economic advantages or, more often, disadvantages they had, and so on. Add to all that the fact that none of us got to pick our brains, which includes not only the quantity and quality of intelligence we have or don’t have, but other things in the chemistry of our brains that shape who we are.

In this vein, you decided to pick “the problem of drugs and alcohol,” saying I haven’t tried to “tackle” it. You mention the current opioid crisis. It’s a funny thing about that crisis. It wasn’t on most Republicans’ radars until it started affecting rural white people. Now that it is affecting such folks, Republicans have decided they want to “tackle” it. A generation ago, when black folks in cities were having a hard time with drug addiction and all the problems that go with it, the response typically was “let’s build more prisons.” That response wasn’t just limited to Republicans; some Democrats responded that way also (think: Bill Clinton). But despite all that, I am glad Bill Clinton apologized and I am ecstatic that Republicans have decided people actually need help, rather than incarceration. That’s progress.

That leads me next to the idea that drug addiction is a “choice” people make. Well, I suppose there’s no use telling you, since you seem to be set in your ways, that doctors these days see it as a chronic disease, a disease of the brain. I don’t know anyone, perhaps you do, who chose to have a brain disease. So, you can stop with the “terrible choices” argument. Because if you persist I will simply ask you why do they make those terrible choices? And if you say because of this or that I will ask you again, why are they this or that way? You get the idea. People don’t wake up one day and decide to be a drug addict. They don’t wake up one day and decide to be sick in other ways. Nor do they hop out of bed on a sunny morning and say, “I think I’ll be poor!” It’s utter nonsense. People do make lots of bad decisions, like voting for Republicans, but it is usually because they have faulty decision-makers in their skulls.

Next, you are skeptical about how successful drug treatment programs are. You wrote,

“Treatment” for addiction is a facade, pure and simple. It doesn’t work. There must be a fundamental change within each addicted individual and the medical profession has yet find a way to promote such changes.

First, notice how you contradicted your earlier claim that drug addiction is a “choice.” Here you say there “must be a fundamental change within each addicted individual.” That is a claim that there is something wrong inside that person, something beyond that person’s control, something like a disease. Yes! And, thankfully, there are professionals, like those at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (a government research institute), who disagree with your depressing claim that treatment “is a facade, pure and simple.” Here’s what the NIDA says:

Like other chronic diseases, addiction can be managed successfully. Treatment enables people to counteract addiction’s powerful disruptive effects on the brain and behavior and to regain control of their lives. The chronic nature of the disease means that relapsing to drug abuse is not only possible but also likely, with symptom recurrence rates similar to those for other well-characterized chronic medical illnesses—such as diabetes, hypertension, and asthma (see figure, “Comparison of Relapse Rates Between Drug Addiction and Other Chronic Illnesses”)—that also have both physiological and behavioral components.

I have high blood pressure. My doctor told me I will always have it, despite the fact I take medicine for it. And I’m pretty sure I didn’t choose to have it. Some days, despite the medicine, it is higher than others. Hopefully, it won’t kill me anytime soon, but who knows? The point is that chronic diseases are difficult to deal with, and drug addiction is especially tough to deal with. Not all treatments work for everyone. I know this from personal experience.

A relative of mine was a severe drug and alcohol abuser. She had all kinds of help and support available. She went to rehab several times. I remember giving her a ride to my mom’s house one weekend on the day she finished a stay in rehab. She had a pint of whiskey with her when I picked her up. So, the treatment she got didn’t work. Nothing eventually did. Drugs and alcohol killed her. She died when she was 40 years old.

Now, does that mean all is hopeless for everyone with a drug problem? No. Listen again to the National Institute on Drug Abuse:

Unfortunately, when relapse occurs many deem treatment a failure. This is not the case: Successful treatment for addiction typically requires continual evaluation and modification as appropriate, similar to the approach taken for other chronic diseases. For example, when a patient is receiving active treatment for hypertension and symptoms decrease, treatment is deemed successful, even though symptoms may recur when treatment is discontinued. For the addicted individual, lapses to drug abuse do not indicate failure—rather, they signify that treatment needs to be reinstated or adjusted, or that alternate treatment is needed…

Look at this graph:

If more of us began to see drug addiction like we see diabetes or high blood pressure, perhaps we wouldn’t be so quick to go to our ideological corners and argue about “personal responsibility” and all that. Maybe we would be able to agree that all chronic diseases are a problem and the people who have them, whether they live in our cities or in rural areas, deserve our compassion—and our help.

3. Like many conservatives, you attacked government employees. Mercilessly. You said they lack “spirit,” you said, “They are there only for the paycheck, the benefits and the retirement package with no consideration whatsoever for the ‘services’ they are suppose to provide.” As a former government employee, I can tell you that you are quite wrong—at least as far as the agency I worked for. And my guess is that civil servants in other agencies are like the ones I worked around: mostly hard-working, dedicated professionals who go to work to serve the public. Not all, mind you. But most. And do they do their work for the paycheck and benefits and retirement package? You’re damned right they do! Is that a problem for a conservative? Is working and expecting just compensation for your work a sin?

Oh, as a preface to your attack on government workers, you wrote about some of the problems you imagine are wrong with us as a people. You then said:

Government can no more fix those issues than fly to the moon.

Image result for July 20, 1969Huh? Were you awake in the 1960s? The government did in fact fly to the moon. And on July 20, 1969, three government employees not only flew to the moon, two of them landed on the damned thing, got out and walked around on it, then poked an American flag in the powder. They did that because of the hard work and dedication of countless government employees, or contractors hired by the government. And, yes, they all got a paycheck. And bennies. (Except for the moonwalkers.)

4. Finally, you said my “spirit” was good. You said you admired my “spunk” in fighting for what I believe is “right.” Thank you. But you said something else. You said “I will never change him or he change me in our fundamental beliefs.” You speak for yourself here. I don’t have a “you’ll never change me” gene in my body. How do you think I went from a raging right-winger to a sober liberal? So, I suggest you not project on me your own unwillingness—or inability!—to change, spunk or no spunk. If you want to change my mind, produce convincing arguments, offer irrefutable evidence, and otherwise behave rationally.

For now, though, cheer up and join the Resistance! We have a madman in the White’s House!

Duane

 

Just Who Is Beneath Their Office?

Predictably, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski again got under Tr-mp’s toilet-paper skin. If you watched Morning Joe’s broadcast today, which was quite hard on Agent Orange, you could sort of feel it coming. It came in two Tr-mpian tweets:

I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came…..to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!

Now, just as predictable as a Tr-mp hate tweet, was how The Woman Who Lost Her Soul To Donald Tr-mp, known as Sarah Huckabee Sanders, defended her master: “This is a President who fights fire with fire.” I suppose she had that one at the ready just in case Tr-mp really did shoot someone on Fifth Avenue. Too bad she had to waste it on a tweet.

In any case, it was also predictable that some Republicans would, reluctantly in some cases, mildly condemn the sexist tweet. Senator Lindsey Graham said it was “beneath the office.” Senator Ben Sasse said it was “beneath the dignity” of the office. Such comments from Republican legislators are probably the best we’re going to get, considering that Tr-mp has said and done much worse, in terms of his interactions with women, and yet still most Republican lawmakers have stood beside him, grinning from ear to ear, through it all.

But such mild condemnation is just not good enough. It’s won’t do to merely label Tr-mp’s revealing tweets as beneath the office or beneath whatever dignity is left in the office, now that Tr-mp has been sitting in it for five months. Until congressional Republicans go mika tweetfurther, until they say out loud (as opposed to whispering it behind closed doors) that Tr-mp himself is beneath the office, that he is a mentally unstable man who is not up to the job, that he is a national embarrassment, then they are to blame for the likely irreparable damage he has done and will continue to do to the presidency. They are to blame for every unseemly utterance, every twisted tweet, every vulgar violation of the emoluments clauses, every audacious attempt to obstruct justice. If they do nothing but condemn a tweet or two, they are beneath the dignity of their offices.

And they are especially responsible for not holding Tr-mp accountable for doing absolutely nothing about a cyber attack on our democracy and sovereignty by a foreign adversary—an adversary he openly begged for help during his horrific campaign—and for not preparing the country for the inevitable cyber attacks to come during the election seasons of 2018 and 2020.

In short, Republicans own Tr-mp. They own every nasty and petty tweet, every stupid and demeaning and illegal thing he does. And when the Russians try to muck up our elections again—perhaps next time to help Democrats—they will own that, too.

A Pep Talk, Mostly To Myself

A thoughtful reader and I exchanged thoughts on our present political situation. His last response made me think about how weary Tr-mp and Tr-mpism can make us. My reply:

Michael,

I’m sorry you feel the way you do.

I can only tell you my response to all we have seen and are seeing, a response that often fluctuates between despair and anger. There are days when I confess I just don’t get what’s going on and why it’s going on, and I begin to really consider the fact that we are doomed, or at least so grievously wounded that recovery is doubtful, or at best a long, long way in the distance.

Other days I just get pissed. I get pissed at Republican leaders and others in Congress who should—and most of them do—know better. Some are cynically using fear and ignorance to make their cruel ideological dreams come true. Some are paying back their wealthy donors. Some are hiding from Tr-mp cultists who might demand primary challenges against them next year. Most of them are cowards. Most of them are, as the current “healthcare” bill demonstrates, immoral politicians. Trading American lives for a tax reduction for wealthy people is indefensible. Except we see it defended every day, in some form or another. That tends to generate a lot of anger inside me.

So, as optimistic as I have been since I began this blog early in 2009, that optimism has taken a major hit. But, and I don’t want to overstate this, there is some hope out there. Polls are showing not only that Tr-mp is relatively unpopular outside his cult following, but that the GOP “healthcare” plan is wildly unpopular. And polls are showing a wide preference for Democrats to lead Congress next time. Add to that the fact that Democrats have overperformed in all the special elections recently. That’s not enough to, on an hourly or daily basis, overcome all the despair and anger I sometimes feel, but it helps. Well, it helps me at least.

The bigger picture is that more people voted against Tr-mp last year than voted for him. And people forget that Hillary Clinton, whatever you think of her, received more votes than any white candidate in history. And that was after fairly unprecedented attacks, from the right and from the left, from the Russians and from Russia-friendly Americans, on her integrity and decency. Her ideas and policy proposals, many of them innovative, were drowned out by all those attacks.

You said,

My instinct say that Democrats must do something different, something to disrupt this cycle. We’ve entered a domain of sameness that is deadly to real thinking and new ideas.

I guess I don’t agree with that. I also don’t agree with people who say the Democratic Party has to undergo some kind of fundamental change. We are who we are. And who we are, at least today, is a party of people who are outraged at what Republicans want to do to the country. We are outraged at the lack of compassion for those who need it. We are outraged at the fact that working class people in this country are barely making ends meet, let alone achieving what we now laughingly call the American Dream. And we are outraged that all this is happening while billionaires are, directly and indirectly, running the show.

We are a party who, yes, wants to redistribute some of the wealth in this fabulously wealthy country. We don’t like to see a small number of rich donors control our collective future, which means they have much control over our individual futures. We don’t want to see sick people go without care. We don’t want to see poor people—men, women, and children—go without food. We don’t want to see working people hopelessly struggle to own homes if they want to and send their kids to college if they want to go. And we want assurance that as we age, we won’t be forgotten—if we didn’t go to a great college, or go to college at all; if we didn’t manage a hedge fund or any fund beyond the one that kept food on our tables; if we didn’t own a successful business; if we didn’t win a state lottery; if we weren’t born rich.

You see, I just don’t think this “domain of sameness” that you hear, from me and other Democrats, is “deadly to real thinking and new ideas.” I think it is essential to hold on to who we are as a political party. I think it is crucial that we continue to emphasize compassion. I think it is necessary to keep reminding people that a society of cynical and selfish people is not a society at all.

Now, I think it is fair to say that most Republicans, as hard as it may be to believe right now, want to live in a decent society. I say that with the understanding that you have to see them in isolation from their party-tribe to accept my claim. Once they get together as a group, once they put on their Sunday Republican garb and listen to ideological preachers indoctrinate them with nonsense like trickle-down economics, something happens to them. We’ve all seen this phenomenon. Growing up we knew people who were decent and kind enough when we met them one-on-one, but once they got around a certain group of their peers, the dynamics changed. They treated us differently. They embraced the spirit of the group. I think that’s what we see at work today. Yes, there are deplorable Americans who are beyond redemption. And that number seems to be shockingly large. But I continue to hope, perhaps imagine, that the deplorables are not a majority of the Republican Party. We will soon see.

In the mean time, we know that the deplorables are not a majority of the country. Not even close. They can only define us as a people if we allow them to define us. As of right now, I’m in the fight to not let that group of deplorable Americans, or even those non-deplorable Republicans who reflexively support the harmful policies of their leaders, define who we are as Americans. If I, and those who are fighting this fight, lose that definitive struggle, then we are truly doomed.

That fight, that need to fight, is why we cannot give in to despair or anger or any other counterproductive, if understandable, emotion. I’m not saying I’m not tempted to give in. Some hours of the day I am. Some days in the week I am. Like you, I sometimes feel “numb” to it all, too. But to give in is a win for the deplorables, whoever they are and whatever their numbers. And I, for one, cannot bear the thought of telling my little granddaughter, not quite eight years old, that I gave up the fight for her future, gave up the fight for her kids’ future. I may be ashamed of what is going on now in our country, but I would be more ashamed if I weren’t part of the resistance to what is going on.

And that is why, despite all of its problems and imperfections and shortcomings, I remain a strong believer in the Democratic Party. As I have said many times, it is the only institution that can harness, much like a labor union does, our individual resistance to indecency and empower us with the collective ability to change what we see. And while you and I may have an “innate desire for something new and different,” what we really need is an old and familiar idea, expressed by Franklin Roosevelt in his nomination acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in July of 1932:

My program…is based upon this simple moral principle: the welfare and the soundness of a Nation depend first upon what the great mass of the people wish and need; and second, whether or not they are getting it.

As old as those words are, the fight today is pretty much that simple for me.

Duane

new deal remedies.jpg

Republicans: Have Bill, Will Kill

It’s time we all face it. The Republican Party is morally bankrupt.

If the party wanted to cash a check of compassion, the Bank of Morality would return it marked “insufficient funds.”

If there were a Bank of Health, the Republican Party would be the guy with a gun in his hand at the teller window, wearing no disguise and demanding all the goods.

Pick your metaphor. Or make one of your own. It’s easy.

You can go to many sites to see analyses of the two GOP “healthcare” plans (which as Senator Al Franken said yesterday, really are tax plans), but now that the Congressional Budget Office has weighed in on both, there is no escaping the reality that any member of Congress who has voted for or will vote for any iteration of the overall plan, and anyone outside of Congress who thinks that the plan is good for the country, is a moral failure as a human being.

It’s just that simple.

And speaking of simple, as for an analysis of what is going on, here is the bottom line:

GOP will kill bill.jpg

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[images from MSNBC]

The Most Important (And Scary) Thing The Supreme Court Did Today

Most of the attention this morning and going forward, as far as the Supreme Court’s actions today, will focus on Tr-mp’s Muslim travel ban (the Court partially lifted the stay and will hear the case next fall). You can see the first reaction in this Huffpo header:

huffpo and sc

Other big news from the Court today was that it will hear a case about a bigoted baker who didn’t want to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in Colorado because Jesus said not to, or something like that. It’s unclear how the Court will rule, of course, but if the bigoted baker said Jesus didn’t like dark-skinned people marrying light-skinned people, would the Court see that hypothetical case (once upon a time—1967!—it wasn’t hypothetical) in the same way? It’s hard to imagine that it would, but after what we have seen for the last two years, who knows? At least this Court (only by a 6-3 vote) knocked on their pious posteriors the religious zealots who passed a law in Arkansas “that treated same-sex couples differently than opposite-sex couples on their children’s birth certificates,” as USA Today put it. So, the country hasn’t gone completely nuts, although…

The most disturbing thing that happened today, as far as this former evangelical is concerned, was the Court’s decision in the Missouri case of Trinity Lutheran Church wanting public funds—yours and mine if you live in Missouri—to improve its playground at its church school. Most folks have had the attitude that, “It’s just a playground. Stop making such a big deal out of it.” (And that was, essentially, the argument of five of the justices in the case.)

The details are these: Trinity Lutheran, of Columbia, applied for a grant from a Missouri state fund that subsidizes the purchase of recycled tires for use on playground surfaces. Image result for separation of church and stateThe church operates a learning center for youngsters and it apparently had pea gravel on the playground, much like most of the playgrounds at my elementary school had in Kansas back in the 1960s. The Missouri constitution, going way beyond our national Constitution, expressly forbids “any church, sect or denomination of religion”—that means Allah-based denominations, too, which I’ll get back to—from getting public dough. Period. Except, the conservatives on the Court and, sadly, a couple of the allegedly non-conservatives, Breyer and Kagan (not the first time they’ve strayed), decided that they would take the period away from that provision in the Missouri constitution and add a few more sentences, like these from the majority opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts:

The consequence is, in all likelihood, a few extra scraped knees. But the exclusion of Trinity Lutheran from a public benefit for which it is otherwise qualified, solely because it is a church, is odious to our Constitution all the same, and cannot stand.

So much for respecting the rights of states to control their own church-state destiny. This ruling will almost certainly have an effect on more than 30 other states across the country, who have sane and saintly restrictions on giving public money directly to church organizations. Let’s hope the Court’s conservatives (and Breyer and Kagan, whatever they are) keep all this in mind when it comes time to rule on bigoted bakers, who may or may not live in gay-friendly states.

In any case, I think it is important to read the introduction of the dissent in the Trinity case, written by Justice Sotomayor and joined by the great Ginsburg:

To hear the Court tell it, this is a simple case about recycling tires to resurface a playground. The stakes are higher. This case is about nothing less than the relationship between religious institutions and the civil government—that is, between church and state. The Court today profoundly changes that relationship by holding, for the first time, that the Constitution requires the government to provide public funds directly to a church. Its decision slights both our precedents and our history, and its reasoning weakens this country’s longstanding commitment to a separation of church and state beneficial to both.

Sotomayor goes on, craftily, to state the mission of this particular church:

Founded in 1922, Trinity Lutheran Church (Church) “operates . . . for the express purpose of carrying out the commission of . . . Jesus Christ as directed to His church
on earth.” […] The Church uses “preaching, teaching, worship, witness, service, and fellowship according to the Word of God” to carry out its mission “to ‘make disciples.’”

She notes that the learning center the church operates is, by its own admission,

“a ministry of the Church and incorporates daily religion and developmentally
appropriate activities into . . . [its] program.” […] In this way, “[t]hrough the Learning Center, the Church teaches a Christian world view to children of members of the Church, as well as children of non-member residents” of the area…. These activities represent the Church’s “sincere religious belief . . . to use [the Learning Center] to teach the Gospel to children of its members, as well to bring the Gospel message to non-members.”

As you can see, it isn’t just about recycled rubber and children’s knees. It’s about whether people who don’t believe in the mission of this or any church are nevertheless forced to support it, through the agency of the state. It is here where, for me, Allah comes in. What if, instead of a religious entity called Trinity Lutheran Church, we had a religious entity called, say, the Islamic Center of Central Missouri, also located in Columbia (reminder: “Friday Prayers at 12:10pm and 1:10pm”). The mission of that mosque is as follows:

The Islamic Center welcomes visitors at all times in order foster a culture of tolerance and understanding in central Missouri.

Now, one might ask who would object to giving this mosque, if it ran a school (it so happens it does), funds for safer playgrounds? I know who would. Me. I wouldn’t want public funds spent on the mission of this mosque, no matter how noble it might be. But you know who else would object? The same people who are praising this 7-2 disturbing decision on behalf of a Christian church and school: the Radical Religious Right, like the reactionary Christian “non-profit” group called Alliance Defending Freedom, who led the fight in the Trinity Lutheran case. We can safely assume the ADF would be full of silence if a mosque wanted rubberized playgrounds subsidized by the state.

Oddly, the ADF’s senior counsel actually argued that “an old constitutional amendment from the 1800s,” should not be “applied in a strict way.” Would to God he felt the same way about certain biblical passages from the Iron Age, like “If a man lies with a male as with a woman…they shall surely be put to death” (Leviticus 20:13). But he doesn’t. His group has been labeled as “virulently anti-gay” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and self-admits that it “seeks to recover the robust Christendomic theology of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries.” Yikes.

The ADF group was founded by extremists like James Dobson, who these days have allied with Tr-mp to crucify their own weird incarnation of Jesus. Dobson, who founded the godawful group, Focus on the [heterosexual Christian] Family, said that one of the reasons conservative Christians preferred a thrice-married sexual assaulter over Clinton was that she supported “the killing of babies through the entire period of gestation and delivery,” a position Tr-mp actually held until the day before he decided to court extremists like Dobson. But these religious fanatics trust that Tr-mp will appoint another justice or two who will actually overturn Roe v. Wade. “Trust Tr-mp.” Now that takes a lot of faith, a lot of Moses-parting-the-Red-Sea faith, a lot of Joshua-stops-the-Sun faith.

The point is that not only are these right-wing Christians hateful zealots—when it comes to gays and women who value their reproductive freedom—but they are hypocrites. They would not be spending their collection-plate money on any mosque in Columbia who wanted a rubber playground. The ADL (partially funded by the DeVos family) would not have taken on the case of ISLAMIC CENTER OF CENTRAL MISSOURI vs. COMER, DIRECTOR, MISSOURI DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES. Nope. We know better than that. Their hypocrisy is all part of a belief system that Christian civilization is under attack by non-Christian enemies, either secularists or Muslims or both.

As a footnote to this madness, here is a paragraph from an NPR story on the decision having to do with a dangling footnote that a couple of zealots want to disown:

Two justices, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas, refused to sign on to a footnote explicitly stating that the court’s approval applied only to playground funding and should not be read as applying to parochial schools in general.

You get that? First we have Tr-mp’s and McConnell’s illegitimate justice, Gorsuch, making it clear that everything we heard about his reactionary views is absolutely true. And then we have both Gorsuch and Thomas declaring that they would go further, in terms of church and state entanglement. Perhaps, someday, we will pay the principals of religious schools for the public good. Or pay pastors to preach hate. Who the eff knows? Gorsuch wrote:

The general principles here do not permit discrimination against religious exercise — whether on the playground or anywhere else.

Some of us tried to scream from the rooftops just how dangerous it was for non-Republicans to flirt with anti-Hillary rhetoric long enough to hurt her in the general election and risk a Tr-mp win—and with it the guarantee of a Neil Gorsuch justice. Now, it is too late.

We have to do better next time.

Now, we have to hope against hope that the rumours that Justice Anthony Kennedy—not exactly a flaming liberal—is considering retirement are false. Now, we have to hope that Justice Ginsburg, and others on the Court who reject the damaging dogma of Gorsuch and Alito and Thomas, have a happy and healthy and long, long, life in public service.

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