Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Political update for June, 2018

I don’t think I’ve done a political update since Fall, 2017 and it occurred to me, people might not know what to think about with respect to the president, metoo and the Baker case in the Supreme Court, all covered below, if I am no here to guide you, so . . . .

Trump, Trump and Trump. But . . . Trump.

There are almost no discussions about politics these days that don’t revolve around Trump. Trump, Trump, Trump. Meeto! I mean, me too. I read the NY Times every morning and multiple times a day. I I still love the paper and have since I was about 7, but, it is virtually insane when it comes to Trump. There is not a lot of difference between their headlines and SNL skits. “Trump Still Sucks!” might as well be the generic headline. The subtext in many articles, about the most far-fetched subjects is “Trump Leads us towards Totalitarian/Authoritarian/Nazi/Fascist Society!” as was just subtly present in an opinion by one of their more moderate columnists, Bret Stephens. In fact, after I wrote the above sentence, The Times had two articles one day – one comparing him to Bull Connor, as if he is sicking dogs and using water cannons on protesters and another which boldly proclaimed in the headline – Trump out to destroy the West. Seriously – while he is in Singapore negotiating to rid the Korean Peninsula of atomic weapons, just added sanctions against some Russians and doing so would destroy his own huge fortune.

Most presidents are controversial because we have an incredibly diverse country. In my lifetime, starting with Eisenhower – the following: JFK, LBJ, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, Bush II and Obama were hated by their opposition to varying degrees. Eisenhower, Ford and Bush I all had their critics too, but I don’t think the level of vitriol was the same. Some critics are from President’s own parties. People infused with an ideology, political, religious, even scientific ideas, tend to dislike those who generally identify with them but differ on one or more major issues, sometimes more than they hate their opponents; they see them as apostates and it occasionally leads them to say that they would rather vote for the other side, such as Ann Coulter saying she would vote for Hillary Clinton over McCain, even though it would be detrimental to most of their own policy preferences. It’s ridiculous as many political things views are, unusual, but not all that uncommon.

Out of those in the despised group listed above, eventually, two of them, Reagan and Clinton, won over some of their most fervent haters, more by force of personality than by policies, as both tended to play nicely with their opposition, even when they were politically at odds with them and a certain amount of charm. They both left office fairly popular and remain so to this day, despite the Iran-Contra Affair and despite the fact that many people, even former supporters, think Bill Clinton was likely a rapist – at least once, which is enough. It was from Reagan on, in my view, that it became more difficult in modern times to say that the opposition was the “loyal opposition.” You frequently, from the moderate/independent perspective, got the feeling that a certain amount of American suffering under Bush, Obama or Trump, would make their opponents happy, just so it would be a black mark against the executive. Then they could say . . . see, see, see. Those on the other side didn’t just dislike the president, they seem to want them to suffer. They wanted their family and friends to suffer.  I think it began to accelerate under Bush. Prior to Reagan, I have to mostly rely on reading, though I have my memories of a few presidents back to Kennedy. And since Reagan, I’ve been paying attention. I don’t think it was much different before then, but the animosity is more intense now than at any time since Nixon.

But, more so than with any president I’ve ever seen before, hatred of Trump has probably “trumped” them all, perhaps even that aimed at Nixon, who was, after all, president during a period of great cultural upheaval (much more violent and perhaps partisan than now) and got caught up in the Watergate scandal. My argument is, admittedly, anecdotal and from personal experience, garnered not just from people I know, but from reading. As a nation, we are actually less violent than we were in the ‘60s, but I think it may be heading that way. It started to look like it at the last presidential election.

And, much more so than any of the others, Trump brought it on himself. With him, the animosity is not just about policy, although that is a big part of it. It was his mud-wrestling campaign. It was his refusal to denounce completely and unreservedly white nationalists, his embrace of “lock her up” and his smug, obnoxious smirk that not only helped him to win the campaign, but literally unhinged those who opposed him. Even his convention, which he told us was going to be wonderful, was a train wreck. Some of his speakers, Flynn and Giuliani, seemed somewhat deranged. As soon as he won I hoped they would not be in the administration (along with Bannon and Gingrich). Flynn was, for two seconds. So was Bannon, for some time longer. I guess Giuliani is now his personal counsel.

Enough background. We are closing in on a year and half into his first, and possibly only term. I’m sure we will start hearing soon how, if he loses the next election, he will declare martial law and himself president for life, because I heard that with Nixon, Reagan, Bush II and Obama. Maybe I just didn’t hear it with the others and it was said about them too.

How’s he doing? Being a clown does not mean you are doing badly. I've lost cases to attorneys who came off to everyone as clowns, obnoxious or idiots (those really hurt). And, he doing much better than I thought, particularly given the intense activity by the left to inhibit him in any way possible (they do say this) and the right often tepidly or not at all defending him. In my view, he’s doing much better than his predecessor, who I personally liked much better. In particular, I’m not that pleased with Trump’s Department of Justice, although I find I often do not like an attorney general either because I didn’t like their policies or because they were grossly incompetent (Gonzalez) or political (e.g., Meese, Holder).  That may be an effect of there being too many unfair laws. I am having difficulty accepting that Pruitt (EPA) should not be dismissed for ethical reasons, if even some of the things claimed about him are true and understand why so many are displeased with his policies so far (although not because of “global warming” which I’ve always been agnostic about). I have some difficulty with Betty Devos, though I have liked some rule changes, they had little to do with actual education, but, education is such a difficult task, they are going to be failures until we change a lot of things we do in educating children. And I don't understand the trade balance logic. We seemed to have done really well trading in this world. The whole world banking system is ours, which gives us a tremendous advantage. While I admit there is a lot I don't know about it, I'm having trouble appreciating the effort on such a world-wide basis. Is there a country which has unfair and unbalanced tariffs against us? Which one? I'm listening. And his positions on transsexuals in the military seem so antiquated and counter-productive, it is just an embarrassment. His own military has actively resisted his attempts and a court has at least temporarily stopped his attempt noting that all his reasons seemed to be completely contradicted by the military's studies. I don't know that the court should be able to do this, but they have.

I find it hard to acknowledge that there are some things Trump is doing well, because he so often comes across as idiotic and obnoxious. But I get over it because the “resistance” makes it easier by being over the top on every aspect of his administration. I do like some of his foreign policy. For all his misstatements and outright falsehoods, even those are exaggerated and I like the plain speaking about North Korea and Iran. I think he’s being tough with both China and Russia, while doing what all presidents in my lifetimes have done – equivocated, because they are huge powers too and to some degree we need them more than many allies. I agree with his putting our embassy in Jerusalem. It’s long been the law. Why should this one country not have our embassy where it wants it. Though it has unsettled the area, I do not think there will be war, and, as always, Palestinians will stop dying when Hamas decides it has had enough of them dying. That’s a horrible shame and waste and the people themselves have my sympathy, unless they are aligned with the wipe Israel off the face of the earth faction of the Middle East. Then again, I have no sympathy for many right-wing Israelis who want to remove all Palestinians from the territories or build more settlements in them.

I liked his policies with ISIS, which Obama blew (this post isn’t about Obama but his Middle East policies were destructive for everyone). That was a policy decision that cost a lot of lives and I feel it is a major Trump victory, simply because he took handcuffs off the generals.  I like his policies with MS-13, and though leaving aside that all humans are animals, to suggest that by calling them animals he literally means that they are not human, is so idiotic as to be beneath long discussion. Nancy Pelosi made herself into even more of a cloying kowtower of the first order because her state is largely Hispanic, by her false piety over it.  If you don’t understand he means they are humans who act worse than actual man-killing beasts, I can’t help you. I don’t care if they’ve had tough lives. When you pick up a machete to prey on other people you deserve far worse than name calling and lose all sympathy from me. 

His deregulation program seems, on the whole, to be going well and there are many industries happy for it. Maybe they've made mistakes. But, on the whole, he’s trying to make things work better. I read the other day that he’s made it easier to fire federal employees. It’s about time someone did that. I read he pardoned, posthumously, Jack Johnson. It’s about time, even if not important. And he’s pardoned others. As with all presidents, some pardons I will like and some not. The economy is doing well, and growing at a faster rate than during Obama’s terms. Yes, it started growing then, but it was like molasses, and that was due, in my opinion, not just to cycles, but because business knew Obama wasn’t their friend and Trump is.

So, yes, I might find it hard to acknowledge Trump’s successes because he is so unlikeable to me and I spent years stating that he is the worst thing to ever happen to the Republican Party. He can be a stupid, bullying, name-calling, undignified, egotistical jack ass - a caricature out of Dickens of the pompous rich man. He’s an embarrassment. But, it doesn’t mean he is doing a bad job either, at least relatively speaking. If you tell me that Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren is going to be his opponent in 2020, I still don’t think I can vote for him, but I might hope he wins, because for all his faults, anyone who is part of the “resistance,” would be far worse than him, even if, like Obama, I like them personally much more (Sanders, yes, Warren, no). If I started writing in depth about the hysteria and insanity of the resistance, this would be many pages longer. All I need say is that one article about a woman claiming she couldn’t have a relationship while he was president was the first of many similar expressions of angst that are somewhat comical and somewhat pitiful. Or the explanation a Trump hater gave me a few days ago about the way he knew something unrelated to Trump of which he had no evidence – it was, he said, the same way he can know there was collusion with the Russians. In fact, just yesterday, another very rational person I know most of my life told me that if Mueller doesn't find evidence of it, then he is just wrong, because it has to be the case. I've heard the same explanations for supernatural behavior. It is just so.

Our biggest problems are not Trump - they are the mutual antipathy and uselessness of our two main parties and their respective ideologies, which not only who gave us the two worst candidates in our history, but who can't get along well enough to do anything actually good for us, like immigration (they could only agree to spend even more money).

Trump's opponents seem to have had no similar anger at Pres. Obama or Kerry, who did make a bad deal with Iran, helped destroy Libya, essentially our ally - maybe for generations, backed off the redline with Assad for a deal he clearly didn't keep, pretty much abandoned Iraq and Afghanistan, watched the growth of ISIS, lied to us about both Syria and Iran, supported Morsi in Egypt, and left office with our enemies stronger. It's not all their fault, but a lot was.

I've never been a Trump supporter. We should have leaders like Kasich or Webb - moderates, but who are therefore reviled by their own parties. But, he's the president and with Congress almost always absent, he's in charge of foreign policy. Not Kerry. Not the resistance. For all his faults, better him than them.

In any event, the legendary commenter on this blog, Bear (which is only funny if you realize how few commenters there are on this blog), has predicted to me that Biden will be his opponent. He doesn’t blog anymore, so I will post his prediction for him.  I would be aghast at a return to Obama’s policies and I don’t know how I would feel about Biden. He does say some of the most unintentionally funny things of any politician since Dan Quayle.

I am hopeful the Russian investigation, the biggest waste of time since Whitewater, goes down in flames. If we had heard a single fact indicating it existed, I’d feel differently. I was against the special counsel when it was aimed at Clinton for no other purpose than to unseat him and I'm opposed to it now. It shouldn't matter who the target is, or which party is pressing it, or what the "scandals" are if it is a prosecution in search of a crime. It doesn't matter that Congress passed a law authorizing it or that Mueller has a good reputation (we now know that almost his entire staff is Democrat). These witch hunts, and that's what they are, are so destructive to our way of life and government, far more than any president can be.

It’s going to be embarrassing if McCain lives.

As is well known, McCain has brain cancer and is expected to die. He released a book recently, but has been very silent and not in Washington D.C. at all. Many of his friends, including political opponents have made a trek to see him. Some of them are quite emotional about it, including the often phlegmatic, McConnell, giving one the idea they know they are saying good-bye. So, although I’m sure everyone (maybe except Trump??) would be happier if he lived, in some ways it would kind of make welcoming him back a little awkward. Like a miracle recovery after someone’s loved one’s have decided to “pull the plug.” And, for those on the left, who have practically adopted McCain as the successor to Ted Kennedy, that is only expediency, as he hates Trump as much or more than most of them, and the enemy of their enemy is their friend. For now. Were he to return, and resume his mostly conservative ways (he votes with the right far more than the left – though I’m sure the further right would doubt it – they’d have to take back some of the heapfuls of praise they give him and begin to loathe him again the way they did when he was running for president.

McCain had long been my favorite politician for three good reasons. First, to me he seemed unusually honest. Maybe for a person, but definitely for a politician. Second, he could be friends with his opponents, something sorely missing today. One of the many reasons I can’t stand John Kerry, is that when he ran for president, McCain had his friend’s back, saying there would be nothing to worry about if he won (although, I disagree). When McCain ran, Kerry politically stabbed him in the back. McCain just shook it off as – that’s politics. Third, he bucks his own party, which for me is a requirement of anyone who wants to be president. This is why he is called a RINO by many on his side. What they don’t like, I respect, even if I disagree with their decisions. I might disagree with many of his votes and I do think he was severely lacking in his economic knowledge, but I still thought he would have been a much better president than Obama. Then, again, right now I think Trump is a better president than Obama was, yet there’s a reason we keep hearing reports that people around him refer to him as an idiot.

She’s a danger to the country – please.

Why I can’t take criticism of new CIA director, Gina Haspel, seriously? Because the left has attacked almost every person he’s nominated for an important post, that’s why. They use every legal tactic they can to make it as difficult as possible for Trump to put together a team from the beginning. And, that’s fine, in one sense. The Senate make its own rules (which are often dumb rules) and either side can use them as they see fit. Just as the Republicans had a right to not even give a hearing to Obama’s last pick for Supreme Court, Merrick Garland, the Democrats have a right to use the rules to block Trump’s choices anyway they can, and the Republicans can ignore the “blue slips” trying to hold up judicial nominees (because that isn’t really a rule). But, it doesn’t mean I have to take any of it seriously when they whine about the other side. When you attack everyone (or, okay, almost everyone) the other side nominates, you lose credibility with me, if politicians as a group can be said to have any credibility to begin with.  Haspel is obviously a very competent person and apparently, highly respected by those who served with her. She’s been castigated for having been run a military base where enhanced interrogation took place and having supported destroying tapes showing the interrogation (she says to protect the CIA personnel). She says she would not allow it on her watch, even if ordered to, but also stopped short of throwing her associates under the bus as having been immoral. I personally liked the way she stood up to questioning.

In short, I get the Ds are going to try to stop most all of Trump’s selections. Don’t expect me to believe them or treat seriously the reasons why. The same, frankly, goes for Rs when a D is president, but, the Rs weren’t as tough on Obama. Just compare cabinet votes for Trump’s picks with those for Obama. Yes, they are often very partisan, but the Rs, as opposed as they were to Obama, were much more likely to vote for confirmation.

Just as examples, Obama’s two selections for Secretary of State were both bête noires for the Rs. But, Clinton was approved 94-2 and Kerry 94-3. Imagine that today. Trumps two picks, not so good. Tillerson 56-43 and Pompeo 66-32. They got as many votes as they did because in the end, some Ds, more the old guard, were trying to respect the traditions, despite the bad blood, perhaps hoping that someday, things will not be as temperamental. There were some Obama appointments which were closer, that is, got less R votes. Loretta Lynch, for example. And it was the Rs that gave the hardest time to their fellow R, Chuck Hagel, for being an apostate in opposing Bush’s war (leading to Obama nominating him), 58-41. But, generally speaking, they were much easier on Obama’s nominees than Ds now are with Trump, Mattis (US) and Haley (U.N. Ambassador) being exceptions of the important posts, at least, no doubt Mattis for his apolitical reputation and perhaps Haley because she was willing to say negative things about her boss.

Haspel was confirmed, 54-45 (McCain not voting). 6 Ds, most up for re-election in Trump states, voted to confirm, and two R Trump haters, Rand Paul and Jeff Flake (who isn’t running again), voted against.

By the way, despite the fact that I support Haspel’s nomination, I am opposed to enhanced interrogation – agree its torture – except, at least hypothetically, in the most time sensitive critical situation; the ticking bomb situation, which, if it ever happens, is extremely, almost disappearingly small. At the time she is now being criticized for, it was technically legal. I’m glad the law changed and I think she is too. And, I have little doubt her opponents know it too. Had they real worries on the issues, Brennan, who actually authorized the destruction of the interrogation tapes, would not have been a CIA director before her – nominated by Obama and voted for by both Ds, 49-2, and Rs. The Republican, no better than the Ds when it comes to obstructionism when in the minority voted against him 13-31. But, at least some of them voted for him, mostly moderates like Flake, McCain, Graham and Murkowski. Back to the main point, when Ds don’t vote for Haspel on grounds which should have made them vote against Brennan too, how do you take their criticisms seriously.


No surprise, the metoo movement is a double-edged sword. I've heard too many horror stories from women, especially in college to think anything but that sexual assault has always been a huge problem. When metoo began I was happy to see that at least some things were coming out of the closet and a stigma was being replaced with outrage, women singing out and getting help.

I'm still glad for that part of it, but we have a tendency in our society to protect victims by punishing everyone. It took two seconds for metoo to shoot past good into bad as it sought not just to right wrongs but to demonize normal behavior, and then to further demonize those who say - wait, too far. Cowardly and selfish schools and corporations, terrified of litigation, don't help. Neither does the refusal of people to that acknowledge good parenting matters.

Like others - I'm glad I'm not young and single today, b/c at the same time as this necessary change is happening, normal flirtation and relationships are too often being sacrificed on an altar of political correctness. Mild offensiveness is being treated as assault. I do not believe the great majority of young men do not assault and harass others and they shouldn't be assumed to do so. And many young women have been and should be taught to say "no" and to be careful. But they should not be taught that work or school, where people can get to know each other in a genuine environment, should be a robotic and cold either. I see that happening in our younger culture and the demonization of those who do not accept it, both young and old. Everything needs balance.

Perhaps the overkill is just human nature, the way societies, or at least our society, deal with cultural change. That doesn’t mean it should be accepted. We see it not just in the sexual or gender arena but also in the race and ethnicity arenas. And they are arenas, where battles are taking place.
This is my theory. When a group of people who identify with each other, like women, blacks, Hispanics, LGBT(etc.), that has a history of being oppressed find themselves no longer oppressed (or almost), they do not want parity; they do not see parity. They want revenge. They want power. They want others to suffer the indignities they suffered (or at least their predecessors).

What would make a perfect world? If the essence of the meeto movement, the outing of sexual abusers in the work and other places continued and if the overkill, treating so-called offensive remarks, flirtation or consensual sex as harassment – subsided. I wouldn’t count on it. Not with Miss America ending the bathing suit contest (I wouldn’t watch either way) and at least one international fashion show doing away with models. It seems like it is getting worse, and though there are probably few supporters, people don’t like to publicly say so because then they face ostracism and the power of social media, if not worse.  

All the energy is usually on the side of people who want to change things, not on the side of those saying – leave it be. Several countries in Europe already have laws which seem to put the burden of proof of consent to sex or that a reasonable person would believe so, on the defendant. I can only read the one law in English, Sections 75 and 76 of Great Britain’s Sexual Offense Act of 2003, which are easy to find online if you want to read them. That might be unconstitutional here, as we have a right to remain silent, but politicians don’t really worry about constitutional problems (sometimes judge’s don’t either) and the energy is on making it tougher on men to deny claims of rape. If you believe women never lie about rape, well, then it’s a great thing. We’ve already seen it in America on college campuses where many schools have decided to demand affirmative consent for sexual interactions. California, often the leader in legal craziness, passed a law a few years ago which would withhold funding (therefore, death of the college) if the school didn’t agree to pass various laws, most of which really aren’t bad, in fact are good. But, the provision concerning consent states:

“(2) A policy that, in the evaluation of complaints in any disciplinary process, it shall not be a valid excuse to alleged lack of affirmative consent that the accused believed that the complainant consented to the sexual activity under either of the following circumstances:
(A) The accused’s belief in affirmative consent arose from the intoxication or recklessness of the accused.
(B) The accused did not take reasonable steps, in the circumstances known to the accused at the time, to ascertain whether the complainant affirmatively consented.”

I would have no problem with (A), that is, you can’t say I was drunk or reckless, so I didn’t realize she was screaming stop (or say, passed out, crying, etc.). But, B is really difficult to understand. What are reasonable steps to ascertain whether someone affirmatively consents? I’d like to think someone kissing me was consent or taking off her clothes – but is it under this law? We just watched the actor, Aziz Ansari, who acted like a perfect gentleman with a women, get excoriated for having consensual sex and actually stopping when she finally told him she wanted to, It sounded like he was really nice to her. Not good enough, she said. Apparently, he had to read her mind. So, I couldn’t tell you what is considered reasonable anymore. And what is affirmative consent? Do we want young women to have to say “_ _ _ me?” I promise not to give tmi, but I know very few times in my life was I given a verbal go to it. It was almost all body language and innuendo. And, yes, there are some women (I’m sure men too) that like the feeling of resisting a little, or putting up a show of it. It’s a courtship and maybe a bit of a dance. I know it’s so because enough women have they told me they felt this way. Perhaps they are new stigmatized group. Again, no tmi, but a couple of women I knew wanted to put up more resistance and have more of a say, combat, than I was comfortable with, but not to stop. Again, I know, because they told me. In today’s world, had I any renkown (still your laughter), I’m sure I would be excoriated for saying the above – though most of us know it is true, in general. I’m also sure that no one has ever accused me of rape or sexual abuse, unless you count the young women in college who held my hand and the next day read me the riot act because she had a boyfriend. Our other friend, who was holding my other hand at the same time (this is really an embarrassingly innocent story) told me that the other friend just felt guilty after the fact and that she had liked it. Honestly, I know me. I just didn’t grab their hands either. Go figure. I’m a predatory hand holder and maybe today I’d get in trouble.

California makes the standard not reasonable doubt, as it would be for criminal matters, but the preponderance of the evidence, in other words, more likely than not. So, all it would mean was that if the female student said it happened, and there wasn’t a tape or someone present, the accused student was screwed – particularly if there was a criminal proceeding scheduled and he couldn’t testify.
The Obama administration tried to make that the law nationwide, making it a condition of receiving funding, but Trump’s Education Department pulled it back partially, giving states the option of making the standard clear and convincing, instead, which is somewhere between preponderance of the evidence and beyond a reasonable doubt. Imagine – they gave them a choice.
You might think I’m just taking the side of men, and it is, of course, possible that I am biased. But, I sure think I take rape and other sexual assaults very seriously and think punishments should be severe on a conviction. Yes, it is hard to prove because there aren’t likely any witnesses. That’s true of many crimes. And some states have decided the lower standard is better. But, we do not lower the standard for murder and we shouldn’t lower it for any or serious matter. Getting thrown out of college is really serious, possibly worse than someone who is convicted of a crime but does no time.

I also have trouble with any college claiming they are simply trying to protect women by making it easier to throw a man out of school, that doesn’t first ban alcohol and doesn’t have reasonable security in dorms and on campus parties (which would be a lot more than was wanted by the great majority of people who are neither assaulting anyone or being assaulted). If colleges really want to protect people, men and women, they could do it.  And, I hate that parents don’t educate their female students to be careful who they are alone with. I sure did and taught my daughter what to do if attacked. It didn’t mean she would be completely safe, but I think it made her a safer. Some people think that it is blaming the victim to say the above. I believe it is stupid not to teach it to our kids. Idiotic, in fact. And though my own thinking was based on common sense and anecdotal evidence – what women told me, it seems pretty clear that alcohol is one of the main problems, either as a cause or facilitator, or both:

“Data from a 2007 study for the National Institute of Justice on drug-facilitated, incapacitated and forcible rape indicate that only a small fraction (0.6 percent) of female undergraduate students who were sexually assaulted when they were incapacitated were certain they had been victims of drug-facilitated sexual assault.
Another 1.7 percent suspected they were incapacitated after having been given a drug without their knowledge.
That same study, however, indicated that the vast majority of incapacitated sexual assault victims (89 percent) reported drinking alcohol and being drunk (82 percent) before their victimization.”

Of course, the reason that schools don’t ban alcohol – they want people to go there. Oh, well. We can just cast blame and leave it at that. Why try and fix it? Well, if you don’t want to prioritize banning alcohol, accept that you will have more sexual assaults than you would without the change – probably a lot more.

The triangle of culture death: oversensitivity, lack of sense of humor and self-victimization, apologies and all that other stuff.

Maybe I’m just getting older, but it seems every day that there is a new story about someone’s feeling being hurt and the demand for someone to be fired, and it is just discouraging. What’s wrong with people? Grow up. “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names can never hurt me.” Remember that one? Maybe not.

What was it a couple of weeks ago that Kelly Sadler, who worked in the WH, joked in a meeting that John McCain was tying, so no worries about him. From the reaction in the media, you’d think she actually talked about assassinating him. Eventually, about a month later, she is fired or asked to resign (although the WH claims it was unrelated). John McCain, who liked to jokingly call his friends “jerks,” joked about bombing Iran to a Beach Boys tune and had a ferocious temper. Please. And not long before that the WH was up in arms about someone at a meeting insulting Trump, although insults and apologies are flying so fast and furiously, I forget who and can’t even find it online. In any event - Please!!!! Our insulter-in-Chief himself. Honestly, I doubt that McCain or the president, both of who have been insulted a lot, including by people they considered friends, were really hurt by these minor league comments.

I don’t know – people insult me all the time. Probably 99% of them are friends, including, especially, my evalovin’ gf. I can’t think of a time I haven’t gotten over it, even when it was deliberate or pernicious. I remember once close friends (not readers) saying so many things about me, repeated to me by so many people, that I finally got angry and started going over and over again in my head for about two hours. And, then, when I realized I was obsessing, I got over it. I said something about it to one of them, but in a gentle way. It didn’t make much difference. The reason I got over it is because I realized, it was not so much about me, as about them. I was just the target for their insecurities. And, if I wanted to get mad, that would be understandable and fine. But, in the end, we could probably find a reason to get mad at and end our relationships with almost everyone we know, including our family. I remember recently saying to a close friend, “It’s okay. You can think I’m a racist. I already know you do and I kind of think you are too for different reasons.” It didn’t mean we couldn’t be friends for either of us.     

I’m not saying I don’t have sensitivities. I ignore most insults and (quasi-insults where it is a misstatement of fact that is demeaning). If you insult my integrity (honesty, general concern for other people, things like that), sure, I will be offended. There are other things too, but that is probably the most important. In any case, I probably will still be your friend if you did, and it is unlikely I will yell at you. More likely, I will defend the proposition, if I disagree, and tell you, you can think what you, or the like.

Two insults are now getting a lot of attention. Both were personal and insulting. I’d be angry if they were directed at someone I knew. One is Roseanne, a comedian, comparing Valerie Jarret to the offspring of an ape (no one seems concerned she suggested she was parented by an Islamic fundamentalist group member. As VJ is black, there is no way in the world that RB did not know how insulting comparing her to an ape would be. Samantha Bee, also a comedian, called Ivanka Trump a “feckless [C word – can’t bring myself to write it, but I know men and women who do so with abandon]. Feckless is insulting, but I’m not sure most people know what it means, and it is just not a trigger word. Trigger word’s are not rational, they are emotional, but it generally involves someone implying a person or group is less than human than comparing them to something generally considered disgusting and/or sexual or committed some indecent or criminal act.

There seems general agreement among people that both went beyond even the extended range we give comedians to say what they want, especially if they aren’t generally apologetic about it. There are some partisans who argue otherwise. I was just watching Meet the Press and a couple of panelists argued that Bee’s “C word” wasn’t as bad as Barr’s racial comment. A number of people have even defended the use of the “C word,” who I doubt would have been okay with it if they or their families were called it. That’s funny, because you can say “ape” on tv but you can’t even say the “C word,” even if not addressed to anyone in particular. I have to give some credit to the conservative partisans on this one. At least I haven’t heard any of them claim the opposite, that Bee’s were worse, though maybe there are some. And, Barr got fired immediately by her network, whereas Bee isn’t fired and even got an award recently. Although, by the time I publish this, it may come to the same thing as Trump has demanded Bee be fired and a few advertisers have pulled their ads.

But, that’s a side point. My main one is that Barr shouldn’t have been fired either, never mind Bee. I’m not saying their bosses didn’t have the right to fire them. I just think it’s a bad idea that we are this sensitive and I despise corporations who pretend they really care for other than the bottom line. I don’t mind that VJ or IT are insulted and angry. But, people shouldn’t be insulted b/c they favor this or that side politically and that is most of it. Personal political insults made to politicians can be painful for the butt of the joke. They are terrible for civil discourse. They don’t help our society at all. But, Barr’s penalty, particularity as it affected not just her but all the people and families of the people who worked with her, was ridiculous. But, even if it were just her, the firing was overkill, worse than her insult. All VJ got was hurt feelings. Both Barr and Bee have admitted that they went too far, although the sincerity of both apologies can be questioned.

Isn’t that what should generally happen, or used to happen? Someone says something wrong then apologizes, even if grudgingly, or sort of apologizes that feelings were hurt, and we move on? Or they didn’t apologize, and most everyone eventually moved on anyway. 

As for me – I’m sick of it. I’m not saying I’ve never apologized in my life for something I shouldn’t have apologized for. A few times. Though I can remember doing it, and regretting it, I can’t remember the details. But I try not to do it anymore. I might explain what I said. I might even say
“I sorry if that is upsetting to you,” but it is not an apology. Nor do I want an apology that someone doesn’t mean directed at me. I hate it when parents tell their kids to apologize for things that the kid doesn’t feel bad about. I don’t want it.

And I want celebrities to stop. I liked that Donald Trump, obnoxious as he is, not apologizing when he didn’t mean it. Even if he was wrong, and sometimes he was idiotically wrong. If he didn’t mean it, what’s the point?

I hated it when Tiger Woods apologized for things that were no one’s business but his family’s in front of a press corp. who all undoubtedly had friends or other people they knew in their lives who committed adultery, if not themselves. I hated it when George Herbert Walker Bush apologized for complimenting Russian workers (in Russia) with a quip that indicated they were better than American workers. He was jokingggggggg. I hated it when Cam Newton, who was ignorant in commenting on women sports’ journalists, apologized, because you could see how enraged he was to have to do it. Stop apologizing when you don’t mean it.

LGBT 1 Bakery 0

Many people were horrified by the Supreme Court decision in what is known as the Bakery case. The name is Masterpiece Cakeshop, LLC v. Colorado Human Rights Commission. I wasn’t. I thought it was the right decision for the wrong reasons and given the Supreme Court make up right now, expected that the Cake shop would win.

But, I was surprised that the decision made actually gives the LGBT community a stunning victory and I’m not sure many people, focusing on the opinion overriding the Commission’s decision, realize it. So, I’ll tell you.

Here’s the skinny on the case, if you need it. At the relevant time, same sex marriage was not legal in Colorado, where the events took place. Masterpiece Cakeshop, LLC. is owned by baker named Jack Phillips. Nobody seems to doubt that he is very artistic in his work. It’s all over his shop and brochures. A gay couple inquired whether he would make a cake for their wedding. He would not. He claims he offered them anything they wanted off the shelf and bake them goods for other celebrations, but his religious values would not allow him participate in a same sex wedding no matter who asked. They claim he did not. It doesn’t seem to matter much as Masterpiece took the position that he would have had to do so. He was not saying that he was allowed to refuse to serve LGBT. He was only arguing that he did not have to express himself by making a cake for a religious ceremony that was against his religious beliefs. Remember, at that time, Colorado had an anti-discrimination law in favor of gays, but gay marriage itself was not legal.

A complaint was made to the Colorado Human Rights Commission. Masterpiece’s argument was likened by the commission to those used to defend slavery or the holocaust. They found against the cake shop, fined him heavily and put onerous requirements on it, such as giving diversity training to its staff. Appeals ensued. Colorado’s high court found in the commission’s favor.
I listened to the oral argument. I thought it was off the mark. It was all about religious belief, hypotheticals and who was an artist such that his business required expression and was protected by the first amendment.

In writing the opinion for the case, Justice Kennedy made it clear that he was not deciding that cake makers or vendors or artists had a right to violate anti-discrimination laws because of their religious beliefs. On the other hand, the statements made by the commissioners showed a hostility to religion which violated his religious beliefs. Thus, the court ruled in his favor, 7-2. Justice Kagan*, and Breyer joined the main opinion. Almost everyone on the court wrote an opinion. This is clearly a victory for the LGBT community. What HR commission, what state, is not listening and doesn’t now know to keep their mouths’ shut in these situations and instead to give some lip service appreciating religion or stating its importance. 

*The original post said "Justice Kagan, herself gay," etc. A friend who tried to comment (it doesn't always work for whatever reason) pointed out to me that she has not said so. I checked and am just wrong. Yes, it has been long rumored and she seems to fit the stereotypes, but obviously, that doesn't mean anything. If you put a gun to my head, I'd say yes, even though her friends have said no and she is silent as to it. Not that there's anything wrong with it (maybe some day we will be too far from Seinfeld for people to remember that's a line from that show). Anyway, apologies. I screwed up. 

If you disagree with my reading of Kennedy’s opinion, just read Kagan’s concurrence. She went along with the majority opinion because she agreed that the Commission was hostile to religion. She understood perfectly what had happened and made sure she stated it. She even told commissions what to say in future cases. Justice Gorsuch focused on another case the commission had. A William Jacks asked three bakers to make cakes derogating same-sex marriage. They refused. They had secular reasons that they found offensive. The commission in that case sided with the non-religious bakers and against the religious one simply because they agreed with the secular feelings of offense and not the religious one. I can’t deny that this seems to be the case, but I don’t think it is the best reason to rule for Masterpiece either. Justice Thomas concurred b/c he believed free speech was at issue. He gave an example of another case where despite a similar law, parade organizers were allowed to exclude some people from their parade, which was expressive, b/c the State could not forbid speech b/c some people found it offensive. It’s a good rule, probably the closest to my own opinion. Justice Ginsburg, not surprisingly, would be happier with an out and out victory for the commission, and Justice Sotomayor joined her. She did not see the hostility that the others did. I disagree with her, but, I understand her position and don’t think her dissent was crazy – just wrong, as they all were.

I didn’t see it as a religion or speech rights case. Just a basic freedom case that’s somehow based on the first amendment to the constitution. At most, a freedom of association (or not to associate) case. Here’s my view. It doesn’t matter that Phillips was an artist (I accept that he was). It doesn’t matter that he had “sincere” religious beliefs, which the court found him to have had. I actually hate that courts are now supposed to decide whether someone’s beliefs are sincere. It’s none of their business. Judge’s love to say “if the first amendment means anything. . . “ so I will. If the first amendment means anything, it means it is not the state’s business whether beliefs are sincere or not.
In any event, anyone, religious guy, atheist guy, jerk, good guy, etc., has the right to determine what he will participate in or not. Period. If someone, a gay, a straight, etc., should not be compelled, including by penalties, to participate in a traditional marriage or a same sex marriage. Or a parade or, for that matter, or government mandated health insurance. And, it doesn’t matter whether I agree with the baker or candlestick maker or not – or that a judge does. That’s the whole point of freedom.

And you have the freedom to stop reading this. I’ve gone on and on and on and on and . . . .

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .