Thursday, March 31, 2022

Privilege, Not White Or Black


Whoopi Goldberg and Sunny Hostin have been hanging out with the wrong people.

On Wednesday's edition of The View, Whoopi Goldberg (beginning at 3:09 of the video below) remarked of her friend Chris Rock

And I want to ask people why you think that he would have indulged in a brawl on stage in front of three billon people. Why wouldn't he be the adult? I keep hearing that and people keep saying- people are gonna you know, think of black people the wrong way. Well, let me tell you, they should be looking at us, saying, oh, O.K. because he didn't indulge, he didn't, there's nothing wrong with what he did. 

So there's no issue with black people You have an issue with Will Smith and what he did. Yeah, he doesn't represent every black person on the planet. Stop doing that and assume the right thing was done because the man knows how to act in public.

Other than telling in public a joke in bad taste, a disease common to the stand-up community, he certainly did act with class.  He did so, though, in front of fewer than three billion people because such viewership would have represented approximately 38% of humanity, which would be disturbing for the planet.

Nonetheless, Goldberg is right that we shouldn't be surprised that Rock was sufficiently sensible not to respond in kind to Smith in front of hundreds of millions of people.  Her main point was that Smith "doesn't represent every black person on the planet," which was the focus of this response from Sunny Hostin:

That's right. I heard the same thing, you know, my goodness, Will Smith exhibiting that sort of violence really plays into the narrative that black people are inherently violent and black men in particular are dangerous and scary. 

And if Will Smith behaves like that, oh my goodness, that's sort of, you know, where black people and I reject that as well. I reject that. What Will did was immature, it was childish, it was violent but that was on Will Smith and no one else.


 


"That sort of violence," Hostin argues, "really plays into the narrative that black people are inherently violent. and black men in particular are dangerous and scary.

It shouldn't, because, as Goldberg, pointed out, Will Smith doesn't represent every black person. However, if two white actors had gotten into a fight similar to the Smith-Rock kerfuffle, the blame in much of liberal Twitter, cable news and other media would have been attributed to "white privilege."

The first part of that reaction- "white"- would have been wrong, as are the acquaintances of Hostin and Goldberg who associate the confrontation to black men allegedly being inherently violent, dangerous, and scary.  Smith was acting out of a sense of privilege- the privilege of a popular and very wealthy individual who knew he wouldn't be arrested or even run out of the room because he is popular and very wealthy.

So many things the past several years, and especially the past twenty-two months, have been chalked up to privilege. Yet, while here we have an apparent criminal act taking place with an extraordinary number of witnesses, there are few if any people recognizing that the assailant committed the act with no apparent concern that he might face legal consequences. 

Of course, this all hinges on the assumption that the confrontation was real and not scripted which, given that the two subjects are accomplished actors, is too much to assume.




Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Some Are Sisters, Some Not


President Joe Biden's nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson for a seat on the US Supreme Court was an exceptional one. That's especially the case because Biden was fulfilling his promise to select a black woman, a demographic group comprising in 2019 only 5% of active district and circuit court judges. Although the percentage undoubtedly has grown in the past three years, the universe of lawyers the President could seriously consider (selections typically come from the federal bench) would be under 10%.

That's an awfully large number of extremely well-qualified non-black women considered off-limits, and an unusually large number of hyphens for one sentence.  Understandably if unfortunately, there was nothing cable news, and even to a lesser extent print media, considered as important as the nominee's race and gender. And so we had:

President Biden on Friday said he would nominate Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, elevating a well-regarded federal appeals court judge who, if confirmed, would make history by becoming the first Black woman to serve as a justice. (The New York Times)

President Biden on Friday announced his historic pick of federal judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to serve on the Supreme Court, following through on a campaign pledge to nominate the first Black woman to the nation’s highest court in its 223-year history. (The Washington Post)

In Jackson, Biden delivers on a campaign promise to make the historic appointment and to further diversify a court that was made up entirely of white men for almost two centuries.... (PBS)

President Biden on Friday nominated Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court in a historic choice that could make her the first Black woman to ascend to the nation’s highest court. (Los Angeles Times)

When the news media accurately characterized the nomination as "historic" and the President stated "for too long, our government and our courts haven't looked like America," neither was referring to her height or hair style. More starkly, Democratic senator Cory Booker theatrically- at 2:06 of the video below- told Judge Jackson during the third day of her hearing before the Judiciary Committee

It's not going to stop. They're going to accuse you of this and that and heck, in honor of the person who shares your birthday, you might be called a communist. But don't worry, my sister, don't worry, God has got you. And how do I know that? Because you're here.

In the same video (beginning at 3:08), Chris Hayes had remarked

Even by those standards, the hearings for Judge Ketanji Jackson, the first black woman ever nominated to the Supreme Court and over 200 years in this country's history, has been stomach-churning.

We knew going in that because her race and gender would be an issue for some Republicans but I have to say, I have been taken aback by the facially racist nature of much of the questioning that Judge Jackson faced. I say "racist" because there is no other way to accurately describe it, if you want to call it "racially tinged" or whatever.

Yesterday, Jackson repeatedly faced a line of questioning that assumed she was soft on crime or sympathetic to criminals or maybe even likes crime. And the only reason I can determine is that it plays into the assumption that a black person is inherently associated with criminality, which is of course, racist.



Hold on a second there, buckaroo. Hayes perceives a "facially racist nature of much of the questioning."  He did so barely more than one minute after favorably showing Cory Booker addressing Judge Jackson as "my sister," a designation the Senator does not appear to have applied to any white woman.

Hayes' description of the line of questioning as "facially racist" is not the issue, though I'd much prefer the "racially tinged" and would undoubtedly disagree with him on specific criticism. And Booker certainly is entitled to refer in whatever respectful manner he wishes, even to imply that he identifies with "my sister." Jackson was no doubt pleased.

Chis Hayes and Cory Booker are on the same team, whether the Democratic, liberal, anti-Trump, anti-racist, or whatever.  However, fairness and accuracy don't allow one to accuse the enemy of racist questioning by showing a black Senator addressing as "my sister"  a woman he would not so address were she born of a different color.. Many people like jelly and many people like steak; jelly with steak, not so much.

Call it hypocrisy, tone deafness, or whatever. But Democrats or liberals aren't going to convince most of the country that Republicans or conservatives are "racist" while they themselves are making it clear that they believe someone can be judged (in this case, as a sister) because of their race.

Republicans will continue to quote Martin Luther King's admonition to judge people on the content of their character and not race if some Democrats continue proudly to make their racial preferences clear.. If Democrats want to alienate even further large swaths of the country, they are doing an effective job.

 


Monday, March 28, 2022

The Actual Bork Lesson



The Republican Party (Lindsey Graham in particular) would like you to believe that the Democratic Party is responsible for the attacks upon Ketanji Brown Jackson in the Senate Judiciary Committee because of how Democrats treated poor ol' Robert Bork in the 1980s. Predictably, mainstream media- even supposedly liberal CNN and MSNBC- have done little to push back on this myth. Fortunately, we now have John Heilemann imposing reality (at 24:41 of the video below) when on Friday evening's Real Time with Bill Maher he explained

This is the thing. This is the thing about the lessons of the Bork experience, Like, if you go back and watch the Bork hearing, you'll find it was like a constitutional law seminar. I mean, you had Larry Tribe down from Harvard and you had Ted Kennedy and you had at that time Joe Biden, who was leading that charge. they were dissecting Robert Bork's constitutional views and trying to say if this became a prevailing view of the Constitution, America would go backwards.

It was substantive. It definitely had an ideological edge. But it was substantive- not what we see now. And I think you have people who say, well, it's become a partisan circus because of Bork. That's not what happened because of Bork.

What happened because of Bork was people decided they couldn't ever- justices*- one good thing about Bork was that he always said what he was for and what he was against and that's why he lost- because he told the truth, that he was retrograde, he did want to take America back in time,

Now you have justices who are coached, do not say anything. And so in a constant- where justice is like if I speak my mind I could get voted down, they- alright, it's all performance for them. It becomes Kabuki.

That's the unfortunate legacy of Bork is that we now have substance-less hearings in a time when a televised hearing could be a great lesson.



Heilemann then started talking about Merrick Garland, but you get the point. There was never any interest on either side in anything substantive. Democratic senators and Mrs. Jackson were confident that without any flubs or gaffes, the Judge would end up being approved in the Senate, with or without a tie-breaking vote from the Vice President.

Republicans also understood approval was virtually assured unless they could get a juicy soundbite from Jackson. They knew they could not get that by boring down on issues with the relentless questioning, which a witness on the jury stand might face.

At 6:53 of the video below, Republican senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee can be seen asking the nominee 'can you provide a definition for the word 'woman'"? Jackson replied "I can't" and when asked again stated "not in this context. I'm not a biologist."



That should bring to mind the stock answer given by Republicans when a few years ago they were asked whether climate change is real. "I'm not a scientist" they would often respond, to the justified derision of everyone unafraid to acknowledge the obvious.

Thomas' refusal to get nailed down as to whether there is a difference between men and women is analogous to the refusal of another post-Bork Supreme Court nominee to answer another simple question.   As reported at the time of his Judiciary Committee hearing, Clarence Thomas "told Mr. Leahy that he had never debated the Roe decision with any acquaintance, did not remember discussing it as a law student and had no present position at all on it."

The controversial C.T. was clearly lying (by a long shot, not his most famous lie) and because of- not despite- his deception, he was confirmed.

That less is lost on no one, as Heilemann was saying. Nonetheless, Judge Jackson inadvertently offered  to Senator Blackburn an opening upon stating "I am not a biologist." Were Blackburn intent on exposing a nominee she already had made up her mind to vote against, she would have noted that physical scientists (i.e., biologists)  generally agree with Blackburn's view of a biological distinction. It is social scientists, dreaded by many conservatives such as Blackburn, who question the traditional, dichotomous view of men and women.

But the Tennessean didn't go there, instead remarking

The fact that you can't give me a straight answer about something as fundamental as what a woman is  underscores the dangers of the kind of progressive education that we are hearing about. Just last week an entire generation of young girls watched as our taxpayer-funded institutions permitted a biological male to compete and beat a biological woman in the NCAA's swimming championships. What message do you think this sends to girls who aspire to compete and win in sports at the highest levels?

But Jackson had given "a straight answer" (or a gay one, whatever) and a potentially revealing one by throwing the question back to biologists, which gave Blackburn a chance to nail her down. However, making a point about gender in sports and berating the public school systems "("taxpayer-funded institutions") was a higher priority.

Dissecting Ketanji Brown Jackson's constitutional views was of little interest to Blackburn or any of her colleagues, even to Ted Cruz, who has argued in front of the US Supreme Court. Since Bork, every nominee is coached to avoid answering questions and in this case, the opposition changes the subject even when the nominee slips up and says something interesting.

 

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Jackson Was Right


Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once declared ""The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic." The phrase long ago was bastardized, and popularized, as "you can't yell 'fire' in a crowded movie theater." 

The concept has been contradicted more than once by the Supreme Court. Nonetheless, it still is oft-cited by individuals arguing that government can, when facts of a matter indicate, establish a limit to free expression.

However, it turns out that in some circumstances, you can be hostile, noisy, and threatening with virtual impunity.. Upon questioning of Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson

Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., pressed Jackson on her views about abortion, arguing that Roe v. Wade should be overturned.

She quoted from a filing Jackson made in a case that referred to a group of anti-abortion rights activists as "noisy" and "hostile." She then asked Jackson whether, when she saw anti-abortion rights women at her church, she viewed them the way the women in the filing were described.

"Do you look at them thinking of them in that way, that they're noisy, hostile, in your face? Do you think of them? Do you think of pro-life women like me that way?" Blackburn asked.

Jackson said the line Blackburn quoted was part of a brief filed on behalf of a client, not a statement of her own opinion.

"That was a statement made in a brief I made on behalf of my client," Jackson said.

But Blackburn found the response insufficient.

"I think even zealous advocacy doesn’t allow that kind of rhetoric on a free speech issue," Blackburn said.



Shame on anyone, a judge or a layman, to call a conservative "noisy" or "hostile."  It seems it's not only the left which is appalled at "microaggressions." 

An Associated Press fact-checker explains

Asked about the brief on Tuesday and Wednesday, Jackson said she worked on the case after joining a private law firm that represented a group advocating for a buffer zone. She said the Massachusetts law was not directed at abortion rights opponents but rather women and men protesting on both sides. The Supreme Court in later years struck down the law after the buffer zone was widened to 35 feet.

The law was struck down in 2014 by a unanimous, 9-0 vote. Yet as PBS legal consultant Nina Totenberg noted upon reporting the ruling, in Massachusetts "two people were shot and killed and five others were wounded at abortion clinics in 1994. After first trying a moving, 'no approach' buffer zone, the state in 2007 adopted a fixed, stationary 35-foot buffer zone outside clinics."

At the time, there were five conservative, and four liberal,  judges on the Court. A majority opinion and three concurring opinions were issued by the Justices because their reasons for deciding against Massachusetts varied.

The scoreboard now stands not at 5-4 but at 6-3. Whether Roe v. Wade is completely overturned- as is widely speculated- soon, we now can turn Oliver Wendell Holmes' wisdom on its head: when it obstructing women's reproductive health freedom, you can yell 'fire' in a crowded movie theater.



 


Thursday, March 24, 2022

Taboo


On February 25, 2022 U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ)

praised President Joe Biden’s nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to be the first Black woman to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court, calling it “a Jackie Robinson moment.”

“He clearly found the best person for the job,” said the New Jersey Democrat, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee that will hold hearings on the nomination.

“This is a Jackie Robinson moment for our nation,” Booker said, referring to the Brooklyn Dodger who integrated Major League Baseball in 1947. “For generations, America has been blessed with extraordinary legal talent in people of all backgrounds, but for the first time in our history an extraordinarily talented Black woman will serve on the Supreme Court. I’m profoundly moved by this; my heart aches with joy.”

Well, O.K. Maintaining that theme, during the Judiciary Committee hearing on March 23,

Enthusiastically describing his “joy” at Jackson’s nomination, Booker said that, while jogging earlier that day, he was “practically tackled” by an African American woman who enthusiastically told Booker that Jackson’s nomination meant a lot to her.

Booker wasn't flying solo. In introducing Jackson, Judiciary Committee chairperson Dick Durbin proclaimed "In its more than 230 years, the Supreme Court has had 115 justices — 108 have been white men, just two justices have been men of color, only five women have served on the court and just one a woman of color.”

Judge Jackson should have been nominated because of her experience, judicial temperament, and her apparent ideological inclinations (and because Joe Biden promised a black woman). However, your mileage may vary, and Booker, Durbin, and their colleagues are entitled to their own priorities.

For them and others, factors other than experience temperament, ideology, and judicial rulings are important. Race and gender, both inherited characteristics for which no one can claim credit or assume blame, are critical.

It's in that context that we need to consider the exchange between the nominee and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who on the day before Booker's eloquent remarks

drew widespread criticism for opening his questions to US Supreme Court justice nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson by asking about her faith, including whether she can “fairly judge a Catholic” and requesting her to rate the importance of her faith “on a scale of one to 10”.

His remarks, which often cut off Judge Jackson from responding, appeared to suggest that conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who was nominated to the high court by Donald Trump, was unfairly treated by his political opponents during her confirmation hearings.

“What faith are you, by the way?” he asked on 22 March. “Could you fairly judge a Catholic? … I’m just asking this question because – how important is your faith to you?”

“Senator, personally, my faith is very important, but as you know, there’s no religious test in the Constitution,” Judge Jackson responded.

He continued to interrupt her responses while the senator asked more probing questions, including whether she attends church regularly and “on a scale of one to 10, how faithful would you say you are, in terms of religion...."

A statement from Interfaith Alliance president Rabbi Jack Moline slammed the senator’s line of questioning, stressing “there is no religious test for office in the Constitution – a fact that Judge Jackson rightly pointed out in response to Senator Graham’s questions about her faith.”

Jackson had responded well, accurately and fairly decisively.  Nonetheless, in context, it should have been discouraging to read of Rabbi Moline

“While senators can ask how a nominee’s religious beliefs would influence their rulings, using faithfulness as a metric to evaluate a future Supreme Court justice is completely inappropriate,” he said.

Hold on, there. Cory Booker and numerous Democrats set the precedent for consideration of demographic features. For them, it was race and gender. For Lindsey Graham, it is religion, although his primary intent probably was to make a point over the questioning of Amy Coney Barrett.

Race and gender are immutable characteristics, fixed from birth. Religious faith, and even religious affiliation, are not.  It behooves Democrats and the left, if they insist on continuing to argue that the measure of a person can be race (gender, less often), to concede the importance of religious belief. If they choose to be offended at the invocation of religious belief, they need to drop their obsession over chromosomes and skin color.

 

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Sons And Daughters Of The Elite



Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson invoked a great passive-aggressive moment on Tuesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing into her nomination to replace Justice Breyer on the USA Supreme Court. Questioned about the remarks made during Senate Judiciary Committee hearings by two Trump-nominate judges, Jackson stated "I do agree with both Justice Kavanaugh and Justice Barrett on this issue,  Roe and Casey are the settled law of the Supreme Court concerning the right to terminate a woman's pregnancy."

Nonetheless, there was more controversy prompted by the interrogation (first 17:09 of the video below) of Judge Jackson upon Texas senator Ted Cruz 

interrogating Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson about critical race theory.

The Texas senator first took issue with references made to Nikole Jannah-Jones during a speech Jackson gave at the University of Michigan on MLK Day in 2020. Hannah-Jones wrote The 1619 Project, which won the Pulitzer Prize.

"It is not something that I've studied. It doesn't come up in my work," Jackson said about The 1619 Project. "I was mentioning it because it was, at least at that time, something that was talked about and well-known to the students that I was speaking to at the law school."

Cruz then moved on to discussing critical race theory, an academic framework that examines how race and racism function in various institutions. Republicans have decried critical race theory, passing laws to ban the theory from schools.

Jackson repeatedly emphasized that she has never studied critical race theory and that it doesn't apply to her work as a judge.

"It wouldn't be something that I would rely on if I was on the Supreme Court," Jackson said.

Democrats were repulsed by Cruz's line of questioning and

The Republican National Committee on Tuesday also attempted to tie Jackson to critical race theory. The committee posted a GIF depicting Jackson with her initials "KBJ" being crossed out and replaced with the initials "CRT," meaning critical race theory.

The committee was also criticized for the post, with many decrying it as "racist."

"Critical Race Theory is being used as a slur against Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson," Kentucky's Charles Booker wrote on Twitter. "For some politicians, it's the new way to say the N-word. It's not right, and this Senate confirmation is too important. The American people deserve better."

Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell tweeted at the committee, "Why do you hate black people?"

This was sound and fury signifying nothing- or perhaps everything  As Cruz pointed out, Jackson is a member of the Board of Trustees of Georgetown Day School, which the Senator attempted to prove teaches critical race theory. In roughly 80 seconds more telling than is obvious, the Judge commented (at 10:23)

Georgetown Day School has a special history that I think is important to understand when you consider my service on that Board. The school was founded in 1945 in Washington, D.C. at a time in which by law there was racial segregation in this community. Black students were not allowed in the public schools, to go to school with white students. 

Georgetown Day School is a private school that was created when three white families- Jewish families- got together with three black families and said that despite the fact that the law requires us to separate, despite the fact that the law is set up to make sure that black children are not treated the same as everyone else, we are going to form a private school so that our children can go to school together.

The idea of equality- justice- is at the core of the Georgetown Day School mission and it's a private school that every parent who joins the community does so willingly with an understanding that they are joining a community that is designed to make sure that every child is valued. Every child is treated as having an inherent worth and none are discriminated against because of race...


 


 Judge Jackson notes that no child should be discriminated against because of race, and establishing in 1945 a school dedicated to that notion was both laudatory, especially so because it probably was controversial.

Nonetheless, it is now 77 years later, 68 years after Topeka v. Board of Education, decades after the nation understood that schools should not be racially segregated. Yet, they still are segregated, in some locales more than in the past.

This is not primarily because of racism or racial discrimination. Instead, schools are separated by race primarily because of housing patterns fostered by economic class distinctions- and the proliferation of private schools, of which (as Jackson pointed out) Georgetown Day School is one.

The class divide in the USA is large and getting larger. "None are discriminated against because of race" at the school, the nominee remarked. 

And so they are not. But the annual tuition at the prestigious school runs from $39,896 to $46,682. It is gratifying that there are black families who can afford that. However, there are more black families who cannot, proportionately even more than of white families who cannot.  

Disturbingly, Judge Jackson, an extremely impressive and well-qualified nominee worthy of Senate approval, is proud to be intimately associated with an institution closed off not only to the poor of all races but to the vast majority of the middle class and working-class of all races.

This is not to suggest that Ted Cruz, evincing a loathing of Georgetown Day School because of its alleged approach to teaching American history, deserves any credit. He'd love to derail approval of a nominee proud of the school's social justice mission, yet failed to notice that the "children (who) can go to school together" at a school "designed to make sure that every child is valued" excludes all but the elite.

It's a reminder that when a Republican oozes sympathy toward, or empathy for, everyday Americans or the working-class, he or she probably is working a con.  But it's a reminder also that, notwithstanding the passion for racial justice among most Democrats, their passion for economic justice, though greater than among Republicans, is fairly meager- except insofar as it advances racial justice.



Monday, March 21, 2022

Tweet Of The Day- Apartheid, Israeli-Style



Objectivity is not a priority for anti-Zionist fanatics. A prominent example is Kristyan Benedict, an activist born in England of Indian and Trinidadian descent and described by Wikipedia as a "crisis response manager for Amnesty International UK.  Benedict's "main area of responsibility is Syria' and “has helped plant olive trees and has dined with Palestinian families and listened to their stories."


Israeli "apartheid" is of a rather unique variety:









Saturday, March 19, 2022

The Quiet Parts Aloud



On Wednesday, Paul O'Brien, Director of Amnesty International USA, spoke remotely to a Women's National Democratic Club meeting. He alleged that most American Jews prefer that Israel be "a safe Jewish space" based on "core Jewish values," and that "Israel shouldn't exist as a Jewish state," though "Amnesty takes no political views on any question, including the right of the State of Israel to survive.”

"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows," Robert Zimmerman/Bob Dylan (himself Jewish) once wrote. "Amnesty takes no political views," a claim brazenly dishonest.  His remarks followed a recent report which had accused Israel of "apartheid," a charge without which no anti-Semitic philosophy is complete.

Referring to both the report and O'Brien's comments, all 25 Jewish members of the U.S.A. House of Representatives wrote to the secretary general of Amnesty International, recognizing the organization "cannot credibly advance human rights around the globe while simultaneously denying the only Jewish state their right to self-determination."

Organized by Florida's Debbie Wasserman Schultz, signatories to the letter asked "Amnesty International to clarify whether it 'seeks to advance peace for both Israelis and Palestinians,' 'whether or not it accepts Israel as a democratic, Jewish state' and whether it supports a two-state solution.'"

Alas, the questions appear (appropriately) to be rhetorical, for the group noted "a tacit attempt to delegitimize and ultimately destroy Israel as the only Jewish state in the world.”

We now know what prompts the frequent, irresponsible and dangerous charge that Israel practices "apartheid."  It is the attempt to delegitimize Israel as a Jewish state. O'Brien stated that Amnesty takes no position on "the right of the State of Israel to survive."  However, he did not dispute whether, for instance, Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan or Uzbekistan. has a right to survive. Only Israel.

Admittedly, O'Brien may be less anti-Jewish than confused. At one point, he refers to "the threats that the Jewish people experienced over the last several generations," inferring inaccurately that a) the threat was in the past- experienced, not has experienced; and b) persecution occurred only the past several generations, rather than for hundreds of years. He cites "Jewish Americans," thus implying that Jews constitute a nationality. At another point, he maintains "I don’t believe that Israel should be preserved as a state in which one race is legally entitled to oppress another," thus implying that Jews constitute a race. A self-described "human rights activist" who doesn't recognize a religion when he sees one is an odd human rights activist, indeed.

No matter Paul O'Brien's thinking- muddled, ignorant, or hostile to Jews- recent words from Amnesty International are a reminder that there are groups in the world which find the existence of a tiny patch of land in the Middle East a a threat they'd like to see vanish.



 



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Friday, March 18, 2022

Pleased With Himself


Merriam-Webster explains

Hyperventilating can be a response to fear and anxiety. A test pilot who panics and hyperventilates faces a dangerous situation. When the level of carbon dioxide in your blood goes down and the oxygen level goes up, blood vessels constrict because of the chemical changes and the body can't get enough oxygen (even though it's there in the blood), and the pilot can become lightheaded and may even faint.

I wish I had read this news piece four months ago when Ewan Palmer of Newsweek wrote

The 18-year-old gave evidence for the first time on Wednesday in the divisive case, with the proceedings needing to take a break as Rittenhouse began hyperventilating while giving his testimony.

The defendant started crying while describing to the jury the circumstances that led up to him killing Joseph Rosenbaum in August 2020. Later that night, Rittenhouse also shot and killed Antony Huber and injured Gaige Grosskreutz during the Black Lives Matter protests in the Wisconsin city.

I would have pointed out the obvious, that the casual reference to Rittenhouse "hyperventilating," a case of diagnosis by media corporation, was bad journalism. "Appeared to cry" would have been responsible journalism. As a blogger of pinion, I would have suggested (without pretending to be an expert in psychology) that the likelihood that that Mr. Rittenhouse was sincerely sobbing was minimal.

While my first point was never debatable, the second, admittedly, was. But it is no longer, given the video of Rittenhouse which he approvingly posted (with a reference to his squabble with LeBron James):



It's not as if it will harm the killer's reputation at all because many people believed Rittenhouse's tears were real, and still do. Many of us already were dubious or even doubtful. Evil has been a human trait since the time of Cain, and continues to this day.

At least what once was fairly clear is now confirmed. The video posted by Rittenhouse is not from an individual feeling a sense of guilt, regret, or even sadness. It is from someone pleased at what he has done and who wants everyone to know he is.

It says something ugly about our jury system that Kim Potter, who did not intend to kill, is in prison while Kyle Rittenhouse, who did intend to kill, is free, a hero to one of our major political parties, and shouting "I was guilty, you fools." But that is an issue for a different day.

 


Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Gas


There are few things conservatives, aside from arguing for reducing taxes on the very wealthy, are more fond of than accusing liberals of "elitism" or simply making things up. And so it was that on the March 11 episode of Real Time with Bill Maher, Batya Ungar-Sargon maintained

This week, as we saw gas prices climb really high, we heard a lot of these rich, very liberal celebrities out there being like, you know, "I am willing to pay up to 15 dollars or President Biden saying "it's going to hurt, it's going to hurt" or Bette Midler saying "I'm willing to pay more." She's worth 250 million dollars. It's class warfare masquerading as vanity morals. It's the morals of the elite and who has to pay the price- the working class..... It's like the 'let them eat cake' of 2020. Let them drive electric cars, right?

Encouraging through government tax policy or subsidy the electric vehicle industry is an issue in its own right, although ridiculing it while gas prices "climb really high" seems like awfully bad timing, or would be if fellow panelist Frank Bruni brought anything to the table.

I myself have questioned survey results indicating that Americans are very willing to pay significantly higher gas prices as a cost of cutting off energy supplies from Vladimir Putin's Russia. Nonetheless, they say they would do so, and it's likely they include many members of the working class. We learned on March 8:

The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll on the security crisis in Ukraine shows Americans would like political leaders to provide a united front supporting Ukraine, ahead of domestic political rivalries (80%). The survey also shows three in five Americans (63%) continue to be willing to pay more for gasoline to continue to support a democratic country, including a large majority (80%) who support stopping oil and gas purchases from Russia.

It turns out that Ungar-Sargon was not only engaging in an ad hominem attack, but also a made-up one.  Seemingly, she was repeating a popular social media complaint about Midler based upon a tweet of hers which said nothing about gasoline for $15:

 

Typically, conservatives blast the left personally while alleging something which does not exist. Unfortunately, it frequently works because no one expects the charge because it is made up. It's hard to defend someone against a claim which comes out of left field from the feverish right-wing imagination. That's especially true when the liberal on the panel is someone such as Frank Bruni, who, truth be told, takes up space.



Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Common Thread


"Joe" does a little research, finds that "Jim" commits murder for hire, finds Jim, and pays Jim for a murder which is then consummated.

If both Joe and Jim plead guilty or are found guilty by trial, they will be incarcerated- but a longer term is usually in the cards for Joe than for Jim. If the state wishes to nail one for a particularly long sentence, the prosecutor is virtually certain to offer Jim a deal in which he testifies against Joe. (Of course, criminal history of each is taken into account.)

In most cases, when money changes hands, the individual behind the murder will be considered more liable and treated more harshly than the individual committing the act.

Not so in one of the great cultural, to a lesser extent economic, issues of the past half century or longer. USA Today reports

Idaho became the first state to pass abortion legislation modeled after Texas' six-week ban on Monday.

The Idaho House voted 51-14 with no Democratic support to pass a bill that would allow potential family members to sue any doctor who performs an abortion during a pregnancy longer than six weeks. The state Senate had already approved the bill, which now goes to Gov. Brad Little, who is likely to sign it.

Little, a Republican, signed a similar so-called “fetal heartbeat” bill into law last year. That measure includes a trigger provision that requires a federal court to rule in favor of it – which hasn’t happened yet.

The new proposed legislation is similar a Texas law that bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, usually around six weeks of pregnancy but before many people realize they are pregnant.

Sue any doctor who performs an abortion after six weeks. The two operative phrases include "after six weeks," given that many women don't know by then that they are pregnant. Also: "sue any doctor."

The story continues

The U.S. Supreme Court has allowed the Texas law to remain in place until a court challenge is decided on its merits. The Texas Supreme Court ruled against abortion providers last week, dealing what many consider to be the final blow to their legal challenges.

The Idaho bill would allow the potential father, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles of a preborn child to sue an abortion provider for a minimum of $20,000 in damages within four years of the procedure. Although a rapist wouldn’t be able to file a lawsuit, their relatives could.

There it is again- an "abortion provider." In what amounts to no concession, the rapist himself wouldn't be able to sue. A lawyer who took up such a lawsuit would face consequences if he or she represented a rapist suing the victim of his violent crime for not carrying the fetus to term.

Unfortunately, there is more because

Idaho is one of several states that have taken recent steps toward restricting abortions.

In Missouri, anti-abortion proposals in the state House would allow lawsuits against those who help residents cross state lines for the procedure, as well as making the abortion of nonviable pregnancies a crime.

The Republican-controlled Senate in Oklahoma last week approved a half-dozen anti-abortion measures, including a Texas-style ban that allows private lawsuits against those who perform abortions.

Arizona lawmakers are pushing a bill that would prohibit abortions after 15 weeks, modeled after a Mississippi law.

And legislation similar to the Mississippi ban have been introduced in 11 other states this year, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights.

The legislation in Mississippi and Idaho targets doctors, that in Oklahoma and Missouri targets doctors and other people. But they all have one thing in common. In none of those states is the woman who carried a fetus held responsible for seeking, participating in, and paying for an act which the forced-birth advocates presumably believe is killing. There is a reason for this, and it has nothing to do with when life begins or whether the expectant mother is a victim or any reason ever given. 

Already recognized as hostile to the rights of women, anti-abortion rights advocates fear that holding women responsible for their own actions would embolden their critics.  Instead, they deny women agency, fitting for a movement which believes women cannot be trusted to make their own decisions about their body.

The legislation in Idaho reflects a continuation of the animating principle of the forced-birth crusade among public officials of the past few decades.  Much of it is rooted in cowardice, and will remain so.



Monday, March 14, 2022

More Than Chuck Todd


Responding to that tweet, many tweeters unjustifiably condemned Chuck Todd, NBC, and/or Meet The Press merely for inviting the former Attorney General. But many justifiably dumped on Todd for allowing Barr to get away with complaining without evidence that he restrained President Trump. Barr stated

Before the election, you know, he cast his net broadly, and talked to a lot of people, and cabinet secretaries, all of us frequently had to wrestle with him to accomplish things that we thought would keep him on track. And we were successful, generally....

Todd needed to ask Barr what those "things" were. He may have cited specific instances, thus adding to our store of knowledge about the 45th President. Alternatively, Barr would have claimed those things are confidential or otherwise avoided answering the question, in which case he would have been revealed to be full of s_ _ _, uh, er, malarkey.

Perhaps the key to the willingness of prominent guests to return, though, is not to put them more fully on the spot. However, the Chuckster was willing to press Barr on whether the latter would support Trump were he to be nominated in 2024 for President. It "is a mark of totalitarian leaders," the host noted, to "want to be surrounded by people who tell them what they want to hear. We're dealing with this with Putin right now. Does that not give you pause about his ability to ever be commander in chief again?" Then:

WILLIAM BARR:

Well, I don't support his renomination, you know, to be nominated as the standard bearer in '24, and I'm going to support somebody else.

CHUCK TODD:

No, I understand that.

WILLIAM BARR:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

But you sort of shocked a lot of people because you spend a lot of time in your books painting this person as unfit for office.

WILLIAM BARR:

Well, I also --

CHUCK TODD:

And making it clear that he, himself, that he's got temperamental issues, he's got character issues, and yet you would risk that again over any – over Joe Biden?

WILLIAM BARR:

Well, I think there are a lot of American people right now that might prefer having him back in office than what we see --

CHUCK TODD:

I understand that.

WILLIAM BARR:

– under Biden.

CHUCK TODD:

But I'm talking about you.

WILLIAM BARR:

And --

CHUCK TODD:

But I'm talking about you, you've had firsthand account. You saw it up close.

WILLIAM BARR:

Right, well, I think elections are a binary choice, and unfortunately sometimes it's choosing the lesser of two evils. I believe that the progressive wing of the Democratic Party is dangerous for the United States.

CHUCK TODD:

You've said this quite a bit. It's an uncomfortable thing to hear from somebody who was needing to provide equal justice under the law as Attorney General, because you said it while you were Attorney General. You really think the left in this country is somehow more dangerous than some issues around the world? I mean, you feel like --

WILLIAM BARR:

No, I just said in terms of the leadership of the country, I think they would be a dangerous choice for the United States. Our system, the person who's in charge of the administration of the criminal law, is a politically accountable official, and an official has to be politically accountable. But at the same time dedicated to providing equal justice based on law and facts with no favoritism or partisanship, which I did.


 


When an interviewer twice says "but I'm talking about you," it's a tell.  And when Barr remarked "I believe that the progressive wing of the Democratic Party is dangerous for the United States," Todd refused to let his guest switch focus from Donald Trump to Democratic Party progressives, instead asking "You really think the left in this country is somehow more dangerous than some issues around the world."

Ideally, more time would have been allotted for this interview, in which case Todd probably would have continued to press Barr as to why he'd vote for Trump in November of 2024, as he previously had said he would. But that's not how it works on cable news or, for that matter, broadcast news. Short interviews allow the particular network to do two things: a) promote the appearance of numerous guests in the hope that as many viewers as possible will tune in to see the man or woman they're interested in; and b) prevent the interviewee from getting too uncomfortable by being asked the same question, in different ways, until a straight answer must be given.

Considering that, Chuck Todd conducted a reasonably good interview, unfortunately not a habit of his.  A larger problem than bad news hosts is the format of the shows, in which the interviewer- by design- is given insufficient time with the interviewee.  And that is a problem which we the viewers rarely confront, and rarely even acknowledge.

 

Saturday, March 12, 2022


Ana Navarro "missed it by that much."


On Friday, co-host of The View Ana Navarro posed (at 11:23 of the video below) the bottom -line question for Stephanie Grisham, a press secretary to President Trump and author of "I'll Take Your Questions Now: What I Saw at The Trump White House."  Navarro asked "You know, after you know about Mexicans, after hearing the sexual assault posts on tape, after seeing him making fun of a disabled reporter, you need four years to get (indistinguishable)."

Grisham responded

You also don't know the things I stayed in there and stopped. So, you know, if we want to fight this out for the rest of this, I'm good to go, but I'm sorry, I'm sorry, but I don't want to see him ever elected again.

Or at least that was close to what the last seven words were. Navarro then stated the question is "a little personal for me" because "I took attacks for four years" from her criticism of Trump. Sunny Hostin changed the subject, asking Navarro why a Latina still could be a Republican, and the moment was lost.

Hostin's question was legitimate and appropriate but not in that instance. Kudos to the group, in particular, Navarro, for leading one of the people in the Trump Administration to state "you also don't know the things I stayed in there and stopped."

The applause and laughter of the live audience (fortunately, not a dead audience), the women talking over each other, and addressing a range of subjects are much of the charm of the show.  However, when the guest host says there are "things I stayed in there and stopped," she should have been asked to specify those things she stopped

Nonetheless, it was about Ana N. having been attacked for her very real courage, or her unwillingness to bolt from the Trump-dominated party, however vile it is. Instead, it should have been about President Donald J. Trump, about those things he would have done had he not been constrained by employees.

"What were those things, Stephanie?" must be asked so that we might learn considerably more about Mr. Trump. In the alternative, if Grisham fails to give it up, we'd learn that she was there only for fun and profit but did not want to rein in arguably the most dangerous of all Presidents. And that, too, would be information worth having when trying to figure out how so many people decided to assist in so much evil.



Friday, March 11, 2022

Into Trump And Herself


The offensive joke comparing rape and bad weather, "If it's inevitable, just relax and enjoy it," was made in 1990 by the Republican candidate for governor, Clayton Williams. Williams, partly as a result, then lost the election to Ann Richards.

Alas, his spiritual heir, Donald J. Trump, who once bragged of sexual assault "[W]hen you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything." has been far more successful. Trump went on to win a presidential race he had been losing and now is clearly the leading GOP candidate for the party's nomination in 2024.

That shows us how far we've come- backward, in some sense- in the last 32 years.  There are reasons for this, and here is one of them:

 

McDaniel (whose maiden name, dropped at the request of President Trump, is "Romney"), had her reason.  “I’m only the second woman to be RNC chair, Kellyanne [Conway] the first to run a successful race," she told her guy.

Lest we forget, in only his first year as President, Trump had

already decimated reproductive rights and access to family planning in the U.S. and around the globe. He reinstated and massively expanded the Global Gag Rule, restricting $8.8 billion in U.S. foreign aid funding for international health programs that provide or even mention abortion. He defunded the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), a global maternal health organization that provides contraception and pregnancy care to low-income women in 150 countries. The group had relied on U.S. money to help to prevent 295,000 unsafe abortions ― a leading cause (13 percent) of maternal deaths around the world.

He wasn't done in being so great to women.  In March of 2019 the Administration

issued its final draft of a rule that makes sweeping changes to Title X, the federal program that provides birth control and other reproductive health services to millions of low-income Americans.

Under the new rule, posted Friday by the federal Department of Health and Human Services Office of Population Affairs, any organization that provides or refers patients for abortions is ineligible for Title X funding to cover STD prevention, cancer screenings and contraception. Federal funding for abortion already is illegal in most cases.

However, President Trump gave Romney McDaniel an excellent job. So he has been "great to women," or at least to one woman.




No One Is Above The Law, Except When He Is

In an interview on Monday night , CNN's Don Lemon and former  try to assure you that the former President cannot be incarcerated. And...