My Liberty Your Liberty

“By choosing to privilege a novel constitutional right over the religious liberty interests explicitly protected in the First Amendment, and by doing so undemocratically, the court has created a problem that only it can fix,” they wrote, noting that the ruling “enables courts and governments to brand religious adherents who believe that marriage is between one man and one woman as bigots, making their religious liberty concerns that much easier to dismiss.”  From NY Times


This is from the dissenting opinion by Justices Thomas and Alito in Obergefell v. Hodges.  Did you notice that they said “believe that” and did not say “discriminate against” as if a dissenting view could actually oppress a majority through the sheer power of its dissentingness (my word).

It is so offensive to Christians that a same-sex couple could be recognized as married that the Supreme Court — according to justices Alito and Thomas (and, probably, Barrett, soon)– must spare them this indignity.

What if you substituted race for sexual orientation?  So a restaurant owner with a “whites only” sign should perhaps be spared the indignity of having to allow minorities into his restaurant because it is an infringement on his “religious liberty”?

The most obvious problem here is that it really doesn’t cost these bigots anything to allow gay couples to marry.  Their right to marriage is not diminished in the slightest, except in the deep corners of their tiny imaginations where they might have to admit to their own bigotry.   What is the difference between refusing to serve blacks or Jews or Italians, and refusing to serve gay men and women?   We all recognize that bigotry is at the heart of the former.

And it is of the latter as well.

Sexual Politics

“Crucify” by Tori Amos

When it was first released, I thought this song, and the entire album it was released on was very compelling.  Over the years, I’ve begun to rethink this one– “Crucify Myself”.

It initially impressed me as a complaint– why do men abuse us so much?  Why are we figuratively “crucified” when we don’t measure up to your standards?

It took me years to realize that the “standards” she attributes to men don’t belong to men at all.  They belong to women.  And what she is really complaining about is why do I have to feel bad about not pleasing you?  The next question, honestly is, who asked you to please me?

It is not unusual to discover that a person who resents someone’s lack of gratitude is really more angry about the lack of obligation felt by the recipient of his or her ministrations.  Why can’t I control you?  I made you breakfast.  Why don’t you verbally thank me when I made you coffee when you didn’t ask for it?




Fascinating Logic

“I can’t say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event because I am not in a position to do so as a school district employee,” Mr. Latson stated in one of the emails, which were obtained by The Palm Beach Post. Mr. Latson said he had to stay “politically neutral” and separate his personal views about the Holocaust from his job as a public school official.  From NY Times

I think most people would find this statement pretty weird, but it’s really not much different from the Trump supporters who don’t quite want to sound as stupid as Mr. Trump himself but are terrified of being accused of disloyalty.  Especially with that rabble lining up for 2024.   So they say stuff like, “I can’t say if there was fraud or not, but Mr. Trump is certainly entitled to make sure that every vote is counted correctly and whether some of these allegations of voter fraud are true or not”.

If the Democrats did the same thing under similar circumstances, the Republicans would go ballistic and scream at the authorities to shut down the recount.  Well, come to think of it, that’s pretty well what they did in Florida in 2000.

What Mr. Latson is really saying is, “please don’t judge me because I believe the Holocaust never happened.”  He knows his acquaintances would find his belief both ridiculous and bigoted: it’s not an innocent belief.  It is a belief founded in centuries of Antisemitism.

No one says “I can’t say if the Holocaust is a factual, historical event” if they believe it really happened.

And no one says, “I can’t say if Joe Biden really won the election or not” if they believed Joe Biden won the election.  But if they openly said, “Donald Trump actually, really won this election” they would have to explain to their constituents why they are ignoring the results of a free and fair election, when that’s how they got elected.

And that is too awkward for them.

Film Uncategorized


Not sure why so many critics seem to love “Mank”. Maybe they didn’t do their homework: the central thesis of “Mank”– that Herman Mankiewicz didn’t get enough credit for “Citizen Kane” — has been thoroughly debunked. And it’s kind of beside the point anyway. So what if Mankiewicz wrote some or most of the dialogue? Welles produced, directed, co-wrote, and starred in “Citizen Kane”, and did all these things beautifully and brilliantly. 

“Mank” doesn’t want to admit that Welles was the real genius.  And he has been correctly regarded as such ever since “Citizen Kane” was released.


The Trump Monument

A wealthy donor should sponsor a big monument in Washington D.C. near the White House, showing McConnell, Rubio, Lankford, Cruz, Pence, and many of the others, raising Trump on a throne to the sky with joyous expressions on their faces.
Why would the Republicans object? It will represent them beautifully.  But make sure it is durable, because in 4 and 8 and 12 years, we will want to be reminded of where that party was now, and who was complicit, and who their gods were (because your gods tell you what to believe).
And nearby, a statue of Susan Collins, slightly askance, a bit quizzical– gazing in wonder– with her comment on not voting to impeach on a plaque: “I’m sure he learned his lesson”.

What we tell Ourselves Afterwards

According to Kazuo Odachi, a former Japanese kamikaze pilot, when the officers at his cohort presented their idea of suicide missions against the allies and asked for volunteers, the suggestion was met with “stunned silence”. It was only after considerable heckling and other forms of “persuasion” that pilots signed up for it. I remember having the impression, once upon a time, that Japanese pilots enthusiastically signed up to become a kamikaze.

Probably that’s something some people really wanted to believe, afterwards.



If I were a Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, I would ask Amy Comey Barrett something like this.

You have declared repeatedly that your judgments will be based strictly on the Constitution, and not on any partisan political ideology.   The Republicans like to claim that Democrat judges “legislate” from the bench– creating new law based on political considerations rather than the Constitution.

“Spokesmen for A.F.P. [Americans For Prosperity – a Koch Brothers propaganda tool] echo that line, emphasizing that the Koch network isn’t looking for policy outcomes, but for honest jurists who will follow the Constitution to the letter.”  NY Times

We are both Christians– you are a Roman Catholic and I am an Evangelical Christian.   In a sense, our Constitution, in religion, is the Bible and the teachings of Jesus Christ.  Yet, Roman Catholics believe in transubstantiation, that the wafer and the wine become the body and blood of our Lord Savior Jesus Christ, while we Protestants believe they do not.

Roman Catholics might say, well, I’m right and you’re wrong.  They would say the Bible and Jesus Christ– our religious “constitution”– mean only one thing, and that is, that transubstantiation is real and true.  Those who appointed you to the Supreme Court of Religion could count on you to vote that way because you hold a partisan, ideological belief.

If there was a Supreme Court of religion, and you were on it, how would you rule?  Would you have any regard for the idea that there is legitimate dissent on the issue?  Would you say, well, you never know which way I might rule– because there is a large part of the population who don’t believe what you believe the Bible and Jesus Christ teach about the sacrament of the Eucharist.  Should we look for someone who believes that we can’t know for sure which side is right, so we have to give due regard and consideration to both possibilities.

In the same way, Republicans believe the Constitution, for one example, prohibits Court prescribed affirmative action programs to address issues of racial or gender discrimination.  Many Democrats believe that it does not prohibit such measures.

Should it be legal to fire an employee because he or she is transgender.   If we have a personal belief that marriage is always only between one person who is biologically male at birth and one person who is biologically female at birth would we not find some way to interpret the constitution to support that view?


Do you insist that if asked to rule on an issue like that,  that we would have no idea of how you would rule?

Convince me that you would judge the matter objectively, without loyalty to the ideology of the people who seek to appoint you to the Supreme Court or your own personal religious beliefs.

Would Barrett insist that she is not loyal to a Republican ideology and would judge the matter as if she had no bias, no ideological preference?   If not,  and if she insists that the constitution has only one interpretation and she has the one and only correct interpretation, is she not admitting that she is a Republican appointee, and those who wish to appoint her to the Supreme Court fully expect that she will rule in conformity with their political expectations?

At this point she could adopt the Thomas/Kavanagh strategy and just yell at the Democrats and accuse them of bigotry because they don’t like her Roman Catholic religion or– shamelessly– that they are biased against her gender.



Justice Politics

Amy Barrett

Members of the group swear a lifelong oath of loyalty, called a covenant, to one another, and are assigned and are accountable to a personal adviser, called a ‘head’ for men and a ‘handmaid’ for women,” the report read. “The group teaches that husbands are the heads of their wives and should take authority over the family.

This is a group that potential Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett belongs to.

This Supreme Court (with Ginsburg writing a stinging dissent) once ruled that a woman employee who had been paid less, for years, secretly, than a male in the same job, could not sue for back pay because she “waited” too long. Sometimes “Supreme” doesn’t really apply. No, I”m not making that up. Think the court would ever allow you to not pay a bill because a company “waited” too long to collect it? Ha ha.

The last time I heard a bunch of conservatives bragging about the intellectual acumen of one of their own, it was for Paul Ryan; so when they say the same thing about Barrett… yeah, let’s wait and see. They also said that about Chief Justice Roberts, who once ruled that there was nothing wrong with a white police officer taking down and hand-cuffing a 13-year-old girl because she was eating a french fry on a subway platform (I am not making this up).

Do you need to ask what race the girl was? I didn’t think so.

Barrett argued, in one of her speeches, that a justice should recuse herself from any case that conflicts with a personal religious belief. So the “pro-life” party may be very disappointed to find her recusing herself from death penalty cases. Or will she simply be selective about which religious beliefs actually “conflict”– like supporting immigration polices that separate children from their parents?

That said, I really think the Democrats should stop arguing that a president can’t appoint a Supreme Court Justice in an election year: we shouldn’t all be hypocrites. (Ginsburg really should have retired in 2012 like Obama wanted. And Breyer as well.) But they should at least acknowledge (unlike the Republicans who seem to have completely forgot about the process) that there should be hearings first.

Let’s all note here that the Republicans are trying to do what they have always bitterly complained the Democrats try to do: legislate through the courts.  The Republicans have come to realize that their agenda is so unpopular that they could never ram it through the legislature anymore without destroying their chances of ever winning another election.  On wage disparity, climate change, gun law, health care, and a host of other issues, they are on the losing end of popular support.  Their solution is to do nothing (this Republican Party literally does just about nothing except re-brand trade agreements and rescind worker protections and environmental law) and appoint extremist conservatives to the courts.  And it is working.  The Roberts Court will soon be prepared to overturn Obama-care and Roe vs. Wade.

These will be the most activist actions by a court since Brown vs. Board of Education.

It’s also a bit depressing that her record is so consistent. Consistent with the Republican Party platform, not with anything remotely “conservative” or “Catholic” and certainly not “pro-life” in any real sense. It’s political and ideological.


The Logic Gap

Kind of strange logic: if you vote for Biden, there will rioting and arson in Portland, Minneapolis, and Kenosha. But there is rioting and arson in Portland, Minneapolis, and Kenosha, and we elected you.

What are you saying exactly?

  • That you failed?
  • That there’s nothing you can do about it anyway?
  • Or that your followers will be blissfully unaware of any gap in the logic at all?

It’s probably all three.


Stairway to Mediocrity

I stumbled upon this:

Stairway to Heaven – Heart 

And I wrote this in the comments:

Utterly reeking of smug, self-congratulation. And the resounding conviction that if you played it perfectly with a 5-piece band, nobody would understand just how monumentally great it is; so you load the stage with the biggest number you can get and make it a mess of layers and noise and gesture until everyone in the room realizes that yes, I have good taste because I liked this song that is reputably a classic, so everyone says. I would have replaced the entire ensemble with 4 Hawaiians with ukuleles and kazoos in a desperate quest for something fresh and interesting.

It’s very hard to tell if “Stairway to Heaven” really is a good song anymore because it has become completely encrusted with myth and grandeur and self-importance and ridicule over the years.  I thought it was a pretty grand song when I was in college, after I heard it for the first time.  Nice picked guitar.  Nice flute.  Nice big electric guitar entry.   The lyrics?  Suggestive of some kind of cosmic sensitivity, about selling out, about “buying” self-respect and redemption, about some “heaven” that is not defined or articulated or even really expressed.  Some allusions to natural beauty.  That condescending final big statement: “to be a rock and not to roll”.

A room-mate of mine who became a pastor in a Christian Reformed Church listened to it carefully one day and them solemnly pronounced, “that’s what it’s all about isn’t it Bill: ‘to be a rock… and not to roll'”.  That was my first clue that the song was hopelessly mired in pretension and posturing and fake sensitivity.

I should have quoted back to him Gordon Lightfoot’s “Sit Down Young Stranger”:

The answer’s in the forest, carved upon a tree
John loves Mary,
Does anyone love me.