Wednesday, June 29, 2022

A Very Large Can of Worms


The Conservative wing of the GOP is chortling about a recent SCOTUS decision (no, not that one!) about a Washington high school coach who was fired for leading prayer meetings on the 50-yard line after his school's football games.  According to Fox News:  "in a 6–3 ruling, the conservative majority high court backed a former Washington high school football coach Joe Kennedy, who lost his job for saying a quick, silent prayer on the 50-yard line after football games.    As a junior varsity coach and varsity assistant coach for the Bremerton School District, Kennedy would say the quick prayer after the game by himself, but the practice quickly became popular with many students, who also began taking part in the prayer.

"Eventually, the prayer time turned into a sort of religious-themed motivational speech for the players, and it didn’t take long for an opposing coach to report the harmless and positive gathering to the school district. The district ordered Kennedy to cease the prayer time, and he did for a short time.  He then made the decision to resume the prayers, and that’s when the situation eventually entered messy legal territory, as the school believed that holding a prayer on the field violated the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, which protects the separation of church and state.

"After enduring years of litigation, the majority opinion of the Supreme Court sided with the coach on Monday, writing, in part, 'Both the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment protect expressions like Mr. Kennedy’s. Nor does a proper understanding of the Amendment’s Establishment Clause require the government to single out private religious speech for special disfavor.'”.

I'll bet that he reason the court decided in Kennedy's favor is that he led his prayer meetings after the games;  he wasn't imploring the Almighty to let his team win -- at the expense of presumably good Christians on the opposing team.  

In any case, the Conservatives who are cheering for this "triumph of religious liberty" don't realize what a mess they've gotten themselves into.  The very first clause of the very first sentence of the very first amendment to the Constitution says: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion".  That means the government shall not play favorites among religions.  That, in turn, means that whatever the government allows or forbids to any one religion it must equally allow or forbid to all of them -- every last one of them -- and that is opening a large can of worms indeed.  

Consider: if the homeroom teacher allows your Protestant kid (Baptists are Protestants, remember) to stand up and recite a Protestant prayer, then she must also allow the Catholic kid beside him to stand up and recite a Catholic prayer (and even one Decade of the Rosary takes a bit of time), and also the Russian Orthodox kid at his other side to stand up and recite an Orthodox prayer, and the Jewish kid ahead of him can stand up and recite a Jewish prayer (the Shema at least is mercifully brief), and the Muslim kid behind him can recite a Muslim prayer, and the Buddhist kid (Do you have a Chinese restaurant in your town, with real Chinese people working in it?  Then you have Buddhists.) can recite The Eight-Fold Path of the Buddha, and the Hindu kid (Does your town have a clinic with people from India working there?) can recite an invocation of any of the dozen major Hindu gods, and the Pagan kid (We're everywhere!) can recite The Charge of the Goddess at least, and the town atheist's kid can recite The Twelve Points of Atheism, and the rebellious kid can recite an invocation to Satan, just to mess with everybody's heads.  Never mind how confusing this will get;  think of the time it will take.  Homeroom will take an hour every day, and never mind Assembly!

There are two ways out of this mess, and until now the schools have opted for the easiest: 1) Forbid all prayers in school, or 2) Provide a class in "Religions of the World", that will cover all of them over the course of the school year, giving all of them equal time and equal respect.  To date, a few schools -- all of them high schools -- have taken this second course. 

I have not heard a peep out of the Conservatives concerning this tactic.  Nonetheless, they're going to have to consider it -- either that or give up their hope to "bring prayer back to the schools".  The Supreme Court might not be so tolerant of the next case they bring up.

--Leslie <;)))><    



Friday, June 17, 2022

Lenin's Time Bomb


It starts with intellectual arrogance.  

Since the development of literacy, at least, the educated -- literate -- class has believed itself to be not just better educated but more intelligent -- than the mere peasants: the folk who actually do the work of catching game, herding livestock, gathering crops, making tools or furnishings, and all those other lowly tasks that keep humanity alive.  For that reason, at least since Plato elaborated on the concept of the Philosopher King -- the intelligentsia have believed that they were more fit to rule society than those loutish workers and soldiers and sons of successful soldiers who normally run things.  They just couldn't figure out how to elevate their so-intelligent selves into positions of real political power.  The best they could do was make themselves kings' advisors, and hope the kings were manipulable.  

Then came the Age of Revolution -- from about 1776 to the present -- when it became obvious that enough peasants, if decently armed and organized, could overcome even kings' armies, and overthrow kings.  That's when intellectuals started plotting revolution anywhere they could, in the hopes of overthrowing the old kings and putting themselves up in power.  The success of various attempts differed notably.  The American Revolution was a howling success: the French Revolution... not so much.

Then the intelligentsia got a real shot in the arm from Karl Marx, who wrote extensively on the subject of organizing the Oppressed Working Class into the intelligentsia's army by exploiting the workers' real grievances and offering to lead them to victory.  One of the best such plotters was Vladimir Lenin, a lawyer -- whose mother had been a schoolteacher, and whose father was an Inspector of Schools -- in Russia, where the money and power gap between the rulers and the workers was the most obvious in Europe.  Now Russia at the time -- turn of the last century -- was mostly agricultural, didn't have that much industrialization or much of a proper Marxist Proletariat, but Lenin could see that there were enough "oppressed masses" to organize and use.  

Lenin saw that his best weapon was education, carefully sculpted to fit different audiences.  The Masses were to get enough education -- provided by the intelligentsia, of course -- to recognize their oppression, get angry about it, and look to the intelligentsia to lead them.  The intelligentsia were to become a "dedicated cadre", trained in techniques of "leadership".  Under no circumstances were the Masses to be allowed to lead themselves.  Whenever rural peasants organized co-ops or granges for their own benefit, or urban industrial workers put together labor unions, Lenin gave his "cadres" instructions on how to steer such organizations off into political dead ends or simple reforms, while keeping them handy for the revolutionaries' use.  

When the actual Russian Revolution came, it was a surprise to Lenin & Co.  Those workers-and-peasants' organizations ranged themselves behind a minor -- and non-"cadre" -- intellectual named Kerensky, who indeed led them (the "Mensheviks") to victory over the Czar's armies.  Once in power, Kerensky organized a mildly democratic government and started instituting those reforms his followers wanted.  Lenin's cadres (the "Bolsheviks"), not to be satisfied with that, staged an internal coup that threw out Kerensky and put themselves in power, with Lenin and his enforcer Stalin in charge.  Lenin came up with the strategies, and Stalin calculated how to enforce them. 

Other countries in Europe, not to mention the Americas, were not at all sympathetic.  Lenin soon figured out that Russia must "spread the revolution" to those other countries, to keep them from attacking Russia and throwing out the new regime.  At the time, the rest of Europe -- and the US -- was busy fighting the last of World War One, and was too distracted to deal with Russia;  Lenin knew that wouldn't last;  he had to disarm the western industrial nations fast.  

Drawing on his family's experience, Lenin came up with a tactic that was pure genius.  He ordered all his remaining cadres to worm their way into not only the western news media and entertainment systems but to infiltrate the schools of education.  The news media and entertainment businesses, being almost 100% privately owned at the time, were only variably sympathetic to Marxist ideals;  but nobody famous was paying much attention to such uninteresting businesses as teachers' colleges.  The takeover began in 1920, and continued long after Lenin's death, well into the 1930s. 

So what did Lenin's cadres teach to class after class of would-be teachers in the western countries?  I heard this second-hand from my mother, when she was studying to get her music-teacher's license in the '60s, and from college classmates and friends who became teachers in the years thereafter.  First, of course, there's a lot of child psychology and studies of how children learn.  Then there's a slightly-slanted history of education itself, with a large dollop of Marxist class consciousness under any other name.  I recall my mother telling me about how teachers had to always beware of "religious and political" groups (always on the right wing of the political spectrum, of course) trying to "undermine" the public schools so as to get their own "biases" taught there.  Then there were tactics of "defending free education" that worried my mother with their "almost Socialist" bent.  These included forming teachers' unions of course, but also trying to get teachers and former teachers elected to school boards -- local at first, then working up to state and even federal levels -- and of course getting involved in local (etc.) politics.  Teachers were also supposed to keep children "informed" about current politics, and even get them involved: writing letters, signing petitions, and even joining political demonstrations.  

What worried her more was a particularly nasty tactic for giving children "class consciousness" and "awareness of oppression".  First, the teachers at a particular schools would secretly confer with each other to determine which children were "privileged" and which were "oppressed".  In those days, that usually meant the rich kids and the poor.  The teachers would divide up along "good cop/bad cop" lines, with the "good" teacher usually being the younger and prettier.  The (older and uglier) "bad" teacher would make a point of being nasty to the "oppressed" kids while fawning all over the "privileged";  then the "good" teacher would act as the comforter and rescuer of the "oppressed" while sternly reproving -- and inculcating guilt in -- the "privileged".  The whole point was to divide up the kids along class lines, and teach the "oppressed" kids to hate the "privileged".  The kids were also supposed to learn tricks for "getting their own back" from the "privileged".  And of course the "good" teacher, their guide and sympathizer, was the kindly intellectual who shared her/his knowledge.  

Years later, when I was in college and studying political science myself, I learned to call this "The Red Tactic";  it was meant to make things worse so as to encourage the "oppressed" to rebel, to bring on the revolution -- which the intelligentsia could then ride to power, like Lenin.  

I noticed that a lot of my old school pals who were studying to become teachers eventually quit the public schools and took up work in odd intellectual corners: teaching night-school to adults, teaching citizenship classes to immigrants, teaching at charter-schools or home-school "pods", teaching at martial arts dojos, and teaching at mental hospitals.  When I asked, they complained that the public school system was "too corrupt" and "too political" for them to stomach any longer.  It wasn't too hard to trace the source of their complaints to the long-term effects of Lenin's tactic.

Frankly, I think the FBI could earn its budget by conducting a covert investigation of every School of Education in the country, identifying and tracking down the Leninist elements (and instructors!), and exposing them.  The resulting scandal should create a long-needed overhaul of the school system -- its structure, its funding, and above all its ideology.  

It will be fun watching the rest of the intelligentsia react.

--Leslie  <;)))><                    



Saturday, June 11, 2022

Devastating Fashion

Some of this I've said before, but I think it bears repeating.

If ever you want to embarrass a Mormon, there are two names you can mention. 

One is Solomon Spaulding, a failed preacher who, more than 200 years ago, tried to recoup his fortunes by writing a historical novel about the lost tribes of Israel -- only to see his manuscript stolen from the printer, shortly after which he died of broken heart.  A few decades later, his family -- whom he had often subjected to readings of his various drafts -- discovered that his book had resurfaced under a new title: The Book of Mormon.  The Spaulding heirs cried plagiarism and threatened to bring their case to court, whereupon the Mormon church settled out-of-court for the then-staggering sum of a million dollars, provided that the Spauling heirs never mentioned the subject again.

The other name is J. Golden Kimball, second son of an Elder in the Mormon church, who expected that his older brother would inherit his father's business, and so went off to make his living as a cowboy.  His father died, and then unexpectedly his older brother died, so J. Golden inherited the job of Mormon preacher -- but he still tended to talk like a cowboy, which left him a legacy of memorable quotes, such as: "I won't go to hell for swearing because I repent too damn fast", and "I may not always walk the straight and narrow, but I sure as hell try to cross it as often as I can", and -- to a careless driver who almost clipped him: "Son of a bitch!  Ain't you got no respect for the priesthood?"

J. Golden's most memorable quote is very rarely repeated, for reasons which will become obvious.  The church had heard of a Mormon town where the ladies had become too obsessed with fashionable clothes, so they sent him there to straighten them out.  He did indeed preach a fiery sermon against yielding to the temptations of fashion, so fiery a speech that he got carried away and ended by saying: "You wicked ladies, I swear, you would wear a feather sticking out of your @ss if it was in fashion!"  Half the fun of this quote, as I've heard more than one reporter tell me, is "imagining the Mormon ladies so attired."

In fact, that would be far from the worst disaster people have inflicted on themselves -- and their children -- in the name of fashion.  The Victorian English fashion of cinching young girls into ever-tighter corsets left countless women with crippled backs and deformed livers.  Enough has been said about the Chinese fashion for binding women's feet, and the 17th-century French fashion for white face-powder that contained arsenic, or the upper-class Mayan custom of deforming babies' skulls with cradle--boards.  Not enough has been said about the Aztec custom of bobbing women's noses, or the Fundamentalist Russian custom of gelding second sons to as to keep them "pure" -- and unmarriageable, so they would stay home to take care of their families in their parents' old age.  Most of these destructive fashions were foisted on children by their parents -- and ultimately for the parents' benefit, one way or another.

Right up there with foot-binding daughters or gelding second sons is the modern upper-middleclass fashion for childhood transgenderism.  It usually starts with a child claiming that he wants to be a girl, or -- more often -- that she wants to be a boy, and the parents happily going along with this claim even unto prolonged hormone treatments and major surgery, both of which (despite the claims of their supporters) are irreversible;  a transgendered person is gelded, permanently.  The process is also expensive -- $75,000 at last count -- which may be another reason why parents of lower income brackets have no truck with this fashion.

Now I've met many people in my long and public career, and exactly three of them "transitioned" to the opposite sex and remained happy with that choice decades later.  All three of them had five characteristics in common:  1) all of them were well over legal age -- in fact, over 30 -- when they made the change, 2) they had all had successful love-affairs in their original genders 3) they were highly regarded in their communities in their original genders, 4) they were all considered quite handsome -- even notable beauties -- in their original genders, and 5) they were successful in their careers.  These were not troubled teenagers or petulant children.  Their parents had no influence on their choices -- in fact, in most cases their parents were already dead.  It was not parental "acceptance" that made them want to change genders.     

Why some parents actually do go along with this fashion is a good question.  The book "Johnny the Walrus" (currently a best-seller on kindly suggests that the parents are misled by too much trust in Internet friends.  I can think of less charitable reasons, seeing the fame -- and political support -- that such parents have managed to get for themselves by telling their stories on Internet websites.  

In any case, pre-pubescent children -- and even some adolescents -- definitely don't have the knowledge to make any such choice for themselves.  Most, in fact, seriously don't want any such change.  I recall that at the age of 9 I was a tomboy, because I knew that the version of "femininity" that my mother and aunts tried to foist on me left me totally disgusted.  I absolutely despised the "Little Lady lessons" my mother tried to teach me -- walk just so, talk just so, moo and coo -- when I much preferred running off into the local greenbelt to climb trees and hunt for snakes, and loved riding horses (astride, thank you) most of all.  Even then I knew that I certainly wasn't "really a boy", and I didn't even want to be one;  why should I want a body that was clumsy, smelled bad, and had its tender parts hanging out where they could be easily kicked or poked or snagged on thornbushes?  I didn't want to be a boy;  I wanted to be treated like one -- like a default-setting generalized human being, judged by better standards than how pretty-pretty my clothes were, or how mincingly I could walk. 

One thing I learned early, and have seen no evidence to disbelieve since, is that gender is real and natural, but gender roles are totally artificial social constructs.  For anyone who doubts this, I recommend the undeservedly-blacklisted book, "The Dominant Sex" by Mathilde and Matthias Vaerting.  Quoting a mass of evidence from ancient and modern societies, it shows that the characteristics of whichever gender is dominant in a society are almost exactly the same, whether that gender is male or female.  In fact, in those rare societies where neither sex is dominant, the characteristics of both genders are almost identical.  The only differences which those researchers could find were: 1) females, knowing that they'll have to devote large portions of their time to bearing and nursing children, make arrangements in their marriage contracts for the males to take on larger shares of the family's support;  and 2) in female-dominant societies there is no prostitution -- simply because males aren't capable of performing sexually as often as females, and therefore can't make a living at it.  Those are the only behaviors which seem to be inevitably linked to physical gender.

As for the question of natural physical strength, speed, endurance and so on, those studies of female-dominant and ambiarchal societies show that the females had at least the same size, bone-density, and muscle attachments as males.  This is evidence that the way children are raised has more to do with physical abilities than genetics does, especially considering the effect of the environment on the expression of genes.   

And herein lies a solution to the modern problem of "transgender" men competing in women's sports, not to mention careers.  It's quite simple, really.  We must raise our male and female children -- for at least two generation, and better it be six -- exactly alike.  Give them the same nutrition, exercise, training, education, dress and expectations.  Show no difference in treatment to the genders, and in fact don't mention sex at all -- until the children themselves ask;  then give them the simplest answer possible.  So when your 4-year-old asks: "Why is my wee-wee different from Sandy's?" answer: "That's so that when you're all grown up and married you can put them together and make babies of your own."  Any self-respecting 4-year-old will promptly reply: "I'm no baby!" -- and lose interest in the subject.

Now that would be a fashion well worth following -- and a hell of a lot safer than the "gender-fluidity" fashion of today.

--Leslie <;)))><  




Saturday, June 4, 2022

Really Protecting Schools

Another week, another "mass shooting", gives the Democrats more ammo(!) for their decades-long Victim Disarmament campaign.  It's become so predictable that one could almost imagine the Dems deliberately nudging known lunatics -- or "Manchurian Candidates", if anybody remembers that one -- to go out and shoot up some public place just to add fuel to the political fire.

Here's what we know.  The FBI's original definition of "mass shooting" was "a single incident in which four or more people are shot dead" -- not including the perpetrator himself.  Then a few years ago Congress changed the definition to "a single incident in which three or more people are shot".  For obvious reasons, this change inflates the number of "mass shootings" tremendously.  It helps inflate the numbers that (CDC figures) fully 90% of all gunshot victims recover, 80% of them with no permanent debilitating damage.  I can attest to that myself;  some 15 years ago a surprised punk burglar shot me through the calf with a .22, hit neither bone nor artery (just muscle), and the wound healed leaving no more than two tiny scars -- one on either side.  Had the punk done the same to himself and one other person, within an hour, the media today would call that a "mass shooting", with all the usual hype. 

Second, even with the new definition, "mass shooting" falls into limited categories: personal arguments, robberies gone wrong, gang wars, political assassinations (like the cop-shootings inspired by BLM), and the classic lunatic-shoots-up-crowd situation that gets so much press.  In fact, it's the last category that gets 90% of the press, even though he vast majority of mass shootings -- or all shootings, for that matter -- fall into the previous four.  

Both the media and politicians of a certain stripe offer only one solution to any of these: the reliable old chestnut of  "sensible" gun-control laws.  Since the more than 23,000 gun-control laws already passed have had no positive effect on gun crimes, as the Department of Justice can attest, we can only wonder why these same politicians want to pass more of them.  

Other citizens have come up with better solutions, and are working to put them into practice.  These include:

1)  "Hardening" the targets.  In the case of schools, this means limiting entry -- only the front door opens inward, all the rest open outward and lock as soon as they shut -- putting security cameras in every hallway and classroom, putting bullet-proof panels in doors and desks (and students' backpacks), hiring more professional guards, encouraging teachers (and all other school employees) to obtain Concealed Carry permits and arm themselves, and holding "live shooter" drills as often as fire drills.  In short, fortifying our schools as much as our banks.  This approach can work for other public places too.

2)  Improving the police departments. Instead of defunding the police, expand the police departments and give them more money -- and fierce oversight on how it's spent:

    A)  Hire more Black cops -- and Latino cops, and Asian and Native American cops, if you can get them -- such that no department will be more than 50% White, and all patrol teams will be racially mixed.  This won't prevent accusations of police brutality, but at least this will take the "race card" off the table.  

    B)  Arm the police with the latest in "stun" weaponry: hand-held stun-guns, tasers, stun-batons and stun-shields -- and provide intensive training, and plan tactics, in the use of the same.

    C)  Also arm the police with fleets of camera-drones, coordinated by and reporting to a computer center where all the videos will be archived. 

    D)  Overhaul police procedures to deal with fast-developing mass-shootings, particularly at schools, and increase regular street patrols.

3)  Arm, train, organize and inform the potential victims.  

    A)  Require all schools which receive tax money to teach all students basic gun-safety before the end of 3rd grade, basic gun competence before the end of elementary school, defensive shooting before the end of middle school, and tactical shooting before the end of high school, so that virtually all students can qualify for and obtain a Concealed Carry permit upon graduation.

    B)  Provide every neighborhood with a dedicated phone line and website so that armed citizens can provide a posse comitatus pool and coordinate with local police in case of any civil emergency.  In short, restore the Militia to its original role.

4)  Catch the crazies.  Restore the institution of the county mental asylum and broaden the circumstances justifying involuntary commitment.  Thanks to a Reagan-era ACLU case, we've been allowing people with obvious mental issues and dangerous behavioral patterns to wander around loose, given no treatment except prescriptions for medications and no oversight to make sure they take them.  The result has been a lot of preventable slaughters.  This must end.  

These are techniques that we know will work, because they've been found to work in our past and in other countries.  For example, embattled Israel began arming teachers and providing more armed school guards 40 years ago -- and has not had a single case of school shooting in all the years since.  Switzerland, which requires its citizens to take a basic tour in the military and then sends them home with their full-auto military guns, is the most peaceable country in the world.  The town of Kennesaw, Georgia, more than 30 years ago, required every household to contain at least one working firearm -- and has seen its violent-crime rate drop steadily ever since.  

Incidentally, the DoJ estimates that armed civilians in the US use firearms to prevent crimes approximately 2.5 million times per year.  Compare that with 19,000 gun homicides per year, and out of a total population of 340 million.  Incidentally, the US now has the third largest population in the world -- behind only India and China (which are not renowned for accurate crime reporting).  

We know what tactics will actually work to reduce mass shootings and violent crime in general, but how many political pundits have you heard promoting these tactics?  Instead they repeat the same old demands for "sensible gun-control laws" that we know won't work.  We really have to wonder why.

--Leslie <;)))><        

Friday, May 27, 2022

New Song: Leslie Went A-Courtin'


As promised, here's something completely different: my latest song, which has absolutely nothing to do with politics, promise.  It's to the tune of "Froggy Went A-Courtin'", and never mind what inspired me to write it.  Let's just say that enough friends have nagged me for the details on how I, a lifelong rebel, wound up getting conventionally married.  ...Well, not entirely conventional;  our wedding was a Pagan ceremony, held at the Phoenix Unitarian Universalist Church, and our contract made the presiding minister laugh, but -- as I often say -- close enough for filk music.  Enjoy!

Leslie went a-courtin'.  She did ride -- uhuh, uhuh.

Leslie went a-courtin'.  She did rde -- uhuh, uhuh.

Leslie went' a-courtin'.  She did ride,

A sword and a pistol by her side.  Uhuh, uhuh, uhuh.

She went to Rasty's daughter's house -- uhuh, uhuh. (2X)

She rode to Rasty's daughter's house, and called out: 

"Rasty, are ye man or mouse?"  Uhuh, uhuh, uhuh.

He came tottering down the stairs, (etc.)

Grumblin': "I'm slow on my old Shank's Mares." (etc.)

She said: "I want a man to have some fun." (etc.)

He perked up, grinning: "I'm the one!" (etc.)

So off to a motel they did go,  (etc.)

And there had fun for three days or so.  (etc.)

No, I won't say how they did that deed, (etc.)

On an open board where the kids may read.  (etc.)

She said: "Rasty, let's get wed." (etc.)

"I'm tired of lovin' in a rented bed." (etc.)

He said: "Why you wanta marry me?"  (etc.)

"We're doin' fine, far as I can see." (etc.)

She said: "Our survival chances are (etc.)

Much better if we're hitched, by far." (etc.)

He said: "Well, that sounds okay, (etc.)

But let's see what my daughters say." (etc.)

His daughters cried: "Get a house and lands, (etc.)

And take this old goat off our hands!" (etc.)

So off to the U. U. Church they went.  (etc.)

His daughters paid for all they spent.  (etc.)

They bought a house and land next year.  (etc.)

Ten years later, they're still here.  (etc.)


--Leslie <;)))><   

Friday, May 20, 2022

I Couldn't Have Said It Better

Friends and fellow-fen, I rarely quote a whole article by somebody else, but this is just too apt, too accurate, and too important not to pass on in its entirety.

The Demented - and Selective - Game of Instantly Blaming Political Opponents For Mass Shootings

by Glenn Greenwald

All ideologies spawn psychopaths who kill innocents in its name. Yet only some are blamed for their violent adherents -- by opportunists cravenly exploiting corpses while they still lie on the ground.

At a softball field in a Washington, DC suburb on June 14, 2017, a lone gunman used a rifle to indiscriminately spray bullets at members of the House GOP who had gathered for their usual Saturday morning practice for an upcoming charity game. The then-House Majority Whip, Rep. Steven Scalise (R-LA), was shot in the hip while standing on second base and almost died, spending six weeks in the hospital and undergoing multiple surgeries. Four other people were shot, including two members of the Capitol Police who were part of Scalise's security detail, a GOP staffer, and a Tyson Foods lobbyist. “He was hunting us at that point,” Rep. Mike Bishop (R-MI) said of the shooter, who attempted to murder as many people as he could while standing with his rifle behind the dugout.

The shooter died after engaging the police in a shootout. He was James T. Hodgkinson, a 66-year-old hard-core Democrat who — less than six months into the Trump presidency — had sought to kill GOP lawmakers based on his belief that Republicans were corrupt traitors, fascists, and Kremlin agents. The writings he left behind permitted little doubt that he was driven to kill by the relentless messaging he heard from his favorite cable host, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, and other virulently anti-Trump pundits, about the evils of the GOP. Indeed, immediately after arriving at the softball field, he asked several witnesses whether the people gathered "were Republicans or Democrats.”

A CNN examination of his life revealed that “Hodgkinson's online presence was largely defined by his politics.” In particular, “his public Facebook posts date back to 2012 and are nearly all about his support for liberal politics.” He was particularly "passionate about tax hikes on the rich and universal health care.” NBC News explained that “when he got angry about politics, it was often directed against Republicans,” and acknowledged that “Hodgkinson said his favorite TV program was 'The Rachel Maddow Show' on MSNBC.”

Indeed, his media diet was a non-stop barrage of vehement animosity toward Republicans: "His favorite television shows were listed as 'Real Time with Bill Maher;' 'The Rachel Maddow Show;' 'Democracy Now!’ and other left-leaning programs.” On the Senate floor, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) divulged that Hodgkinson was an ardent supporter of his and had even “apparently volunteered” for his campaign. A Sanders supporter told The Washington Post that “he campaigned for Bernie Sanders with Hodgkinson in Iowa.”

The mass-shooter had a particular fondness for Maddow's nightly MSNBC show. In his many Letters to the Editor sent to the Belleville News-Democrat, reported New York Magazine, he “expressed support for President Obama, and declared his love for The Rachel Maddow Show". In one letter he heralded Maddow's nightly program as "one of my favorite TV shows.”

While consuming this strident and increasingly rage-driven Trump-era, anti-GOP media diet, Hodgkinson “joined several anti-GOP Facebook groups, including ‘Terminate The Republican Party’; 'The Road to Hell Is Paved With Republicans’;, and 'Join The Resistance Worldwide!!'" Two of his consuming beliefs were that Trump-era Republicans were traitors to the United States and fascist white nationalists. In 2015, he had posted a cartoon depicting Scalise — the man he came very close to murdering — as speaking at a gathering of the KKK.

Once Trump was inaugurated in early 2017, the mass shooter's online messaging began increasingly mirroring the more extreme anti-Trump and anti-GOP voices that did not just condemn the GOP's ideology but depicted them as grave threats to the Republic. In a March 22 Facebook post, Hodgkinson wrote: “Trump is a Traitor. Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It's Time to Destroy Trump & Co." In February, he posted: “Republicans are the Taliban of the USA.” In one Facebook post just days before his shooting spree, Hodgkinson wrote: “I Want to Say Mr. President, for being an ass hole you are Truly the Biggest Ass Hole We Have Ever Had in the Oval Office.” As NBC News put it: “Hodgkinson’s Facebook postings portray him as stridently anti-Republican and anti-Trump.”

Despite the fact that Hodgkinson was a fanatical fan of Maddow, Democracy Now host Amy Goodman, and Sanders, that the ideas and ideology motivating his shooting spree perfectly matched — and were likely shaped by — liberals of that cohort, and that the enemies whom he sought to kill were also the enemies of Maddow and her liberal comrades, nobody rational or decent sought to blame the MSNBC host, the Vermont Senator or anyone else whose political views matched Hodgkinson's for the grotesque violence he unleashed. The reason for that is clear and indisputable: as strident and extremist as she is, Maddow has never once encouraged any of her followers to engage in violence to advance her ideology, nor has she even hinted that a mass murder of the Republican traitors, fascists and Kremlin agents about whom she rants on a nightly basis to millions of people is a just solution.

It would be madness to try to assign moral or political blame to them. If we were to create a framework in which prominent people were held responsible for any violence carried out in the name of an ideology they advocate, then nobody would be safe, given that all ideologies have their misfits, psychopaths, unhinged personality types, and extremists. And thus there was little to no attempt to hold Maddow or Sanders responsible for the violent acts of one of their most loyal adherents.

The same is true of the spate of mass shootings and killings by self-described black nationalists over the last several years. Back in 2017, the left-wing group Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) warned of the “Return of the Violent Black Nationalist.” In one incident, “Micah Xavier Johnson ambushed Dallas police officers during a peaceful protest against police brutality, killing five officers and wounding nine others.” Then, “ten days later, Gavin Eugene Long shot six officers, killing three, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.” They shared the same ideology, one which drove their murderous spree:

Both Johnson and Long were reportedly motivated by their strong dislike of law enforcement, grievances against perceived white dominance, and the recent fatal police shootings of unarmed black men under questionable circumstances, specifically the shooting deaths of Alton Sterling of Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota . . .

Needless to say, the ideas that motivated these two black nationalists to murder multiple people, including police officers, is part of a core ideology that is commonly heard in mainstream media venues, expressed by many if not most of the nation's most prominent liberals. Depicting the police as a white supremacist force eager to kill black people, “grievances against perceived white dominance,” and anger over “the white supremacism endemic in America’s system of governance from the country’s founding” are views that one routinely hears on MSNBC, CNN, from Democratic Party politicians, and in the op-ed pages of The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Yet virtually nobody sought to blame Chris Hayes, Joy Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Jamelle Bouie or New York Times op-ed writers for these shooting sprees. Indeed, no blame was assigned to anti-police liberal pundits whose view of American history is exactly the same as that of these two killers — even though they purposely sought to murder the same enemies whom those prominent liberals target. Nobody blamed those anti-police liberals for the same reason they did not blame Maddow and Sanders for Hodgkinson's shooting spree: there is a fundamental and necessary distinction between people who use words to express ideas and demonize perceived enemies, and those who decide to go randomly and indiscriminately murder in the name of that ideology.

Since that 2017 warning from the SPLC, there have been many more murders in the name of this anti-police and anti-white-supremacist ideology of black nationalism. In June of last year, the ADL said it had “linked Othal Toreyanne Resheen Wallace, the man arrested and accused of fatally shooting Daytona Beach Officer Jason Raynor on June 23, to several extremist groups preaching Black nationalism." He had “participated in several events organized by the NFAC…best known for holding armed marches protesting racial inequality and police brutality.” He had a long history of citing and following prominent radical Black anti-police and anti-White ideologues." Also in June of last year, a 25-year-old man named Noah Green drove a car into a Capitol Hill police officer, killing him instantly. The New York Times reported that he follows black nationalist groups, while a former college teammate “recalled that Mr. Green would often talk to fellow players about strategies to save and invest, emphasizing the need to close the wealth gap between white and Black America.”

Just last month, a self-identified black nationalist named Frank James went on a terrifying shooting spree in the New York City subway system that injured dozens. He had “posted material on social media linked to black identity extremist ideologies, including the Nation of Islam, Black Panthers, Black Liberation Army, BLM and an image of black nationalist cop-killer Micah Johnson.” Angie Speaks, the brilliant writer who voices the audio version of the articles for this Substack, reported in Newsweek that James had “posted prolifically on social media and hosted a YouTube channel where he expressed Black Nationalist leanings and racial grievances." In 2019, the New York Times reported that “an assailant involved in the prolonged firefight in Jersey City, N.J., that left six people dead, including one police officer, was linked on Wednesday to the Black Hebrew Israelite movement,” and had written “anti-police posts.”

Most media outlets and liberal politicians correctly refused to assign blame to pundits and politicians who spew anti-police rhetoric, or who insist that the U.S. is a nation of white supremacy: the animating ideas of these murders. Yet in these cases, they go much further with their denialism: many deny that this ideology even exists at all.

“The made-up 'Black Identity Extremist' label is the latest example in a history of harassing and discrediting Black activists who dare to use their voices to call out white supremacy,” claimed the ACLU in 2019. PBS quoted a lawyer for an advocacy group as saying: “We're deeply concerned about the FBI's 'black identity extremist' designation. This is mere distraction from the very real threat of white supremacy...There is no such thing as black identity extremism.” The same year, The Intercept published an article headlined “The Strange Tale of the FBI’s Fictional ‘Black Identity Extremism' Movement,” which claimed over and over that there is no such thing as black extremism and that any attempt to ascribe violence to this ideology is a lie invented by those seeking to hide the dangers of white supremacy.

It is virtually impossible to find any ideology on any part of the political spectrum that has not spawned senseless violence and mass murder by adherents. “The suspected killer of Dutch maverick politician Pim Fortuyn had environmentalist propaganda and ammunition at his home,” reported CBS News about the assassin, Volkert van der Graaf. Van der Graaf was a passionate animal rights and environmental activist who admitted “he killed the controversial right-wing leader because he considered him a danger to society.” Van der Graaf was particularly angry about what he believed was Fortuyn's anti-Muslim rhetoric. As a result, “some supporters of Fortuyn had blamed Green party leader Paul Rosenmoeller for "demonizing Fortuyn before he was gunned down in May just before general elections.” In other words, simply because the Green Party leader was highly critical of Fortuyn's ideology, some opportunistic Dutch politicians sought absurdly to blame him for Fortuyn's murder by Van der Graaf. Sound familiar?

During the BLM and Antifa protests and riots of 2020, an Antifa supporter, Michael Reinoehl, was the leading suspect in the murder of a Trump supporter, Aaron J. Danielson, as he rode in a truck (Reinoehl himself was then killed by federal agents before being arrested in what appeared to be a deliberate extra-judicial execution, though an investigation cleared them of wrongdoing, as typically happens when federal agents are involved). In 2016, the New York Times reported that “the heavily armed sniper who gunned down police officers in downtown Dallas, leaving five of them dead, specifically set out to kill as many white officers as he could, officials said Friday.” The Paper of Record noted that many believed that anti-police protests would eventually lead to violent attacks on police officers: it “was the kind of retaliatory violence that people have feared through two years of protests around the country against deaths in police custody.”

Then there are the murders carried out in the name of various religions. For the last three decades at least, debates have been raging about what level of responsibility, if any, should be assigned to radical Muslim preachers or Muslim politicians when individuals carry out atrocities and murders in the name of Islam. Liberals insist — correctly, in my view — that it is irresponsible and unfair to blame non-violent Muslims who preach radical versions of religious or political Islam for those who carry out violence in the name of those doctrines. Similar debates are heard with regard to Jewish extremists, such as the Israeli-American doctor Baruch Goldstein who “opened fire in the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, killing 29 Muslim worshippers.” Many insist that the radical anti-Muslim speech of Israeli extremists is to blame, while others deny that there is any such thing as “Jewish terrorism” and that all blames lies solely with the individual who decided to resort to violence.

To be sure, there have been a large number of murders and other atrocities carried out in U.S. and the West generally in the name of right-wing ideologies, in the name of white supremacy, in the name of white nationalism. The difference, though, is glaring: when murders are carried out in the name of liberal ideology, there is a rational and restrained refusal to blame liberal pundits and politicians who advocate the ideology that animated those killings. Yet when killings are carried out in the name of right-wing ideologies despised by the corporate press and mainstream pundits (or ideologies that they falsely associate with conservatism), they instantly leap to lay blame at the feet of their conservative political opponents who, despite never having advocated or even implied the need for violence, are nonetheless accused of bearing guilt for the violence — often before anything is known about the killers or their motives.

In general, it is widely understood that liberal pundits and politicians are not to blame, at all, when murders are carried out in the name of the causes they support or against the enemies they routinely condemn. That is because, in such cases, we apply the rational framework that someone who does not advocate violence is not responsible for the violent acts of one's followers and fans who kill in the name of that person's ideas.

Indeed, this perfectly sensible principle was enshrined by the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark 1982 unanimous free speech ruling in Claiborne v. NAACP. That case arose out of efforts by the State of Mississippi to hold leaders of the local NAACP chapter legally liable for violence carried out by NAACP members on the ground that the leaders’ inflammatory and rage-driven speeches had “incited” and “provoked” their followers to burn white-owned stores and other stores ignoring their boycott to the ground. In ruling in favor of the NAACP, the Court stressed the crucial difference between those who peacefully advocate ideas and ideologies, even if they do so with virulence and anger (such as NAACP leaders), and those who are “inspired” by those speeches to commit violence to advance that cause. “To impose liability without a finding that the NAACP authorized — either actually or apparently — or ratified unlawful conduct would impermissibly burden the rights of political association that are protected by the First Amendment,” ruled the Court.

This principle is not only a jurisprudential or constitutional one. It is also a rational one. Those who express ideas without advocating violence are not and cannot fairly be held responsible for those who decide to pick up arms in the name of those ideas, even if — as in the case of James Hodgkinson — we know for certain that the murderer listened closely to and was influenced by people like Rachel Maddow and Bernie Sanders. In such cases, we understand that it is madness, and deeply unfair, to exploit heinous murders to lay blame for the violence and killings on the doorsteps of our political adversaries.

But when a revolting murder spree is carried out in the name of right-wing ideas (or ideas perceived by the corporate press to be right-wing), everything changes — instantly and completely. In such cases, often before anything is known about the murderer — indeed, literally before the corpses are even removed from the ground where they lie — there is a coordinated effort to declare that anyone who holds any views in common with the murderer has “blood on their hands” and is essentially a co-conspirator in the massacre.

A very vivid and particularly gruesome display of this demented game was on display on Saturday night after a white 18-year-old, Payton Gendron, purposely targeted a part of Buffalo with a substantial black population. He entered a supermarket he knew was frequented largely by black customers and shot everyone he found, killing 10 people, most of them black. A lengthy, 180-page manifesto he left behind was filled with a wide variety of eclectic political views and ideologies.

In that manifesto, Gendron described himself as a "left-wing authoritarian” and “populist” (“On the political compass I fall in the mild-moderate authoritarian left category, and I would prefer to be called a populist”). He heaped praise on an article in the socialist magazine Jacobin for its view that cryptocurrency and Bitcoin are fraudulent scams. He spoke passionately of the centrality and necessity of environmentalism, and lamented that “the state [has] long since heavily lost to its corporate backers.” He ranted against “corporate profits and the ever increasing wealth of the 1% that exploit the people for their own benefit.” And he not only vehemently rejected any admiration for political conservatism but made clear that he viewed it as an enemy to his agenda: “conservatism is corporatism in disguise, I want no part of it.”

But by far the overarching and dominant theme of his worldview — the ideology that he repeatedly emphasized was the animating cause of his murder spree — was his anger and fear that white people, which he defines as those of European descent, were being eradicated by a combination of low birth rates and mass immigration. He repeatedly self-identified as a "racist” and expressed admiration for fascism as a solution. His treatise borrowed heavily from, and at times outright plagiarized, large sections of the manifesto left behind by Brenton Tarrant, the 29-year-old Australian who in 2019 murdered 51 people, mostly Muslims, at two mosques in New Zealand. Gendron's manifesto included a long list of websites and individuals who influenced his thinking, but made clear that it was Tarrant who was his primary inspiration. Other than extensive anti-Semitic sections which insisted that Jews are behind most of the world's powerful institutions and accompanying problems, it was Tarrant's deep concern about what he perceived is the disappearance of white people that was also Gendron's principal cause:

"If there’s one thing I want you to get from these writings, it’s that White birth rates must change. Everyday the White population becomes fewer in number. To maintain a population the people must achieve a birth rate that reaches replacement fertility levels, in the western world that is about 2.06 births per woman….

"In 2050, despite the ongoing effect of sub-replacement fertility, the population figures show that the population does not decrease inline with the sub-replacement fertility levels, but actually maintains and, even in many White nations, rapidly increases. All through immigration. This is ethnic replacement. This is cultural replacement. This is racial replacement. This is WHITE GENOCIDE."

Within literally an hour of the news of this murder spree in Buffalo — far too little time for anyone to have even carefully read all or most of Gendron's manifesto, and with very little known about his life or activities — much of the corporate press and liberal pundit class united to reveal the real culprit, the actual guilty party, behind this murder spree: Fox News host Tucker Carlson. So immediate and unified was this guilty verdict of mob justice that Carlson's name trended all night on Twitter along with Buffalo and Gendron.

The examples of liberal pundits instantly blaming Carlson for this murder are far too numerous to comprehensively cite. “Literally everyone warned Fox News and Tucker Carlson that this would happen and they fucking laughed and went harder,” decreed Andrew Lawrence of the incomparably sleazy and dishonest group Media Matters, spawned by ultimate sleaze-merchant David Brock. “The Buffalo shooter… subscribed to the Great Replacement theory touted by conservative elites like Tucker Carlson and believed by nearly half of GOP voters,” claimed The Washington Post's Emmanuel Felton. “See if you can tell the difference between [Gerdon's manifesto on 'white Replacement’] and standard fare on the Tucker Carlson show,” said Georgetown Professor Don Moynihan. “The racist massacre in Buffalo rest [sic] at the feet of Donald Trump, Tucker Carlson, and the GOP,” decreed Hollywood's nepotism prince Rob Reiner. The shooter was inspired by “a white nationalist conspiracy theory that Tucker Carlson has defended on his show,” was the verdict of The Huffington Post's Philip Lewis less than six hours after the shooting spree began. And on and on.

That Carlson was primarily responsible for the ten dead people in Buffalo was asserted despite the fact that there was no indication that Gendron even knew who Carlson was, that he had ever watched his show, that he was influenced by him in any way, or that he admired or even liked the Fox host. Indeed, in the long list of people and places which Gendron cited as important influences on him — “Brenton Tarrant, [El Paso shooter] Patrick Crusius, [California Jewish community center killer], John Earnest, [Norwegian mass murderer] Anders Breivik, [Charleston black church murderer] Dylann Roof, etc.” — nowhere does he even allude to let alone mention any Fox News host or Carlson.

To the contrary, Gendron explicitly describes his contempt for political conservatism. In a section entitled “CONSERVATISM IS DEAD, THANK GOD,” he wrote: "Not a thing has been conserved other than corporate profits and the ever increasing wealth of the 1% that exploit the people for their own benefit. Conservatism is dead. Thank god. Now let us bury it and move on to something of worth.” In this hated of conservatism, he copied his hero Brenton Tarrant, who also wrote that “conservatism is corporatism in disguise, I want no part of it,” adding about conservatives:

"They don’t even BELIEVE in the race, they don’t even have the gall to say race exists. And above all they don’t even care if it does. It’s profit, and profit alone that drives them, all else is secondary. The notion of a racial future or destiny is as foreign to them as social responsibilities."

So desperate and uncontrolled was this ghoulish attempt to blame Carlson for the Buffalo shootings that my email inbox and social media feeds were festering with various liberal pundits demanding to know why I had not yet manifested my views of this shooting — as though it is advisable or even possible to formulate definitive opinions about a complex mass murder spree that had just taken place less than five hours before. “Still working on your talking points to defend your buddy Tucker or are you holding off on trying out your deflections until the bodies get cold?,” wrote a pundit named Jonathan Katz at 6:46 pm ET on Saturday night in a highly representative demand — just four hours after the shooter fired his first shot. Demands to assert definitive opinions about who — other than the killer — is to blame for a mass murder spree just hours after it happened can be called many things; "journalistic” and "responsible” are not among them.

As it happened, I was on an overnight international flight on Saturday and into Sunday morning; I deeply apologize for my failure to monitor and speak on Twitter twenty-four hours a day. But even if I had not been 40,000 feet in the air, what kind of primitive and despicably opportunistic mindset is required not only to opine so definitively about how your political opponents are guilty of a heinous crime before the corpses are even taken away, but to demand that everyone else do so as well? In fact, Katz was particularly adamant that I opine not just on the killings but on the list of pundits I thought should be declared guilty before, in his soulless words, “the bodies get cold” — meaning that I must speak out without bothering to take the time to try to understand the basic facts about the killer and the shootings before heaping blame on a wide range of people who had no apparent involvement.

But this is exactly the morally sick and exploitative liberal mentality that drives the discourse each time one of these shooting sprees happen. Rachel Maddow had far more known connections to Scalise's shooter James Hodgkinson than Carlson has to Gendron. After all, as Maddow herself acknowledged, Hodgkinson was a fan of her show and had expressed his love and admiration for her. His animating views and ideology tracked hers perfectly, with essentially no deviation. And yet — despite this ample evidence that he was influenced by her — it would never occur to me to blame Maddow for Hodgkinson's shooting spree because doing so would be completely demented, since Maddow never told or suggested to anyone that they go out and shoot the political enemies she was depicting as traitors, Kremlin agents, plotters to overthrow American democracy and replace it with a fascist dictatorship, and grave menaces to civil rights and basic freedom.

The attempt to blame Carlson for the Buffalo shootings depended entirely on one claim: Carlson has previously talked about and defended the view that immigration is a scheme to “replace” Americans, and this same view was central to Gendron's ideology. Again, even if this were true, it would amount to nothing more than a claim than the shooter shared key views with Carlson and other conservative pundits — exactly as Hodgkinson shared core views with Maddow and Sanders, or the numerous murderers who killed in the name of black nationalism shared the same views on the police and American history as any number of MSNBC hosts and Democratic Party politicians, or as Pim Fortuyn's killer shared core views with animal rights activists and defenders of Muslim equality (including me). But nobody is willing to apply such a framework consistently because it converts everyone with strong political views into murderers, or at least being guilty of inciting murder.

But all bets are off — all such principles or moral and logical reasoning are dispensed with — when an act of violence can be pinned on the political enemies of liberals. If a homicidal maniac kills an abortion doctor, then all peaceful pro-life activists are blamed. If an LGBT citizen is killed, then anyone who shares the views that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton had until 2012 about marriage equality is blamed. If a police officer unjustifiably kills a black citizen, all police supporters or those who dissent from liberal orthodoxy on racial politics are decreed guilty. But liberals are never at fault when right-wing politicians are murdered, or police officers are hunted and gunned down by police opponents, or an anti-abortion group is targeted with firebombing and arson, as just happened in Wisconsin, or radical Muslims engage in random acts of violence. By definition, "moral reasoning" that is applied only in one direction has nothing to do with morality and everything to do with crass, exploitative opportunism.

Though it does not actually matter for purposes of assigning blame, it is utterly false to claim that Carlson's ideology — including on “replacement” — is the same as or even related to the views expressed by the killers in Buffalo or New Zealand. Indeed, in key respects, they are opposites. Both Tarrant and Gendron targeted citizens of the countries in which they carried out their murder spree. They justified doing so on the ground that any non-white citizen is automatically an "invader," regardless of how long they have been in the country or how much legal status they have. “It would have eased me if I knew all the blacks I would be killing were criminals or future criminals, but then I realized all black people are replacers just by existing in White countries,” Gendron wrote.

To claim that Carlson ever said anything remotely like this or believes it is just an outright lie. Indeed, with great frequency, Carlson says that the priority of the U.S. Government should be protection of and concern for American citizens of all races. Tarrant and Gendron believe and explicitly say that any non-white citizen of a European country is automatically an “invader” who must be killed and/or deported to turn the country all-white. Carlson believes the exact opposite: that the proper citizenry of the United States is multi-racial and that Black Americans and Latin Americans and Asian-Americans are every bit as much U.S. citizens, with all of the same claims to rights and protections, as every other American citizen. His anti-immigration and "replacement” argument is aimed at the idea — one that had been long mainstream on the left until about a decade ago — that large, uncontrolled immigration harms American citizens who are already here. There is no racial hierarchy in Carlson's view of American citizenship and to claim that there is is nothing short of a defamatory lie.

But even if these liberal smear artists were telling the truth, and Carlson's view of immigration and “replacement” were similar or even precisely identical to Gendron's, one could certainly say that Carlson holds immoral and despicable views. But he would still no more carry blame for the Buffalo murders than liberal pundits have blood on their hands for countless massacres carried out in the name of political causes they support and theories they espouse, whether it be animus toward the police or anti-imperialism or opposition to Israeli occupation of the West Bank or the belief that the United States is a fundamentally racist country or the view that the GOP is a fascist menace to all things decent.

The distinction between peaceful advocacy even of noxious ideas and those who engage in violence in the name of such ideas is fundamental to notions of fairness, justice and the ability to speak freely. But if you really want to claim that a public figure has "blood on their hands" every time someone murders in the name of ideas and ideologies they support, then the list of people you should be accusing of murder is a very, very long one indeed.

--Leslie <;)))><  

Friday, May 13, 2022

Not The Hill To Die On

So the big news right now, pushing even Ukraine out of the headlines, is the"leaked" memo from the Supreme Court indicating that the SCOTUS was getting ready to dump the Roe vs. Wade decision -- which would let various states allow or forbid abortion however they want to.  Democrats in Congress tried to pass a federal law that would allow abortion everywhere in the US, but it was voted down in the Senate.  

Seeing that, the legislatures of various Republican-dominated states thought this was their big chance, and passed assorted laws limiting abortion.  This has raised a lot of outrage, since it's not just Democrats who want to keep abortion legal.  The latest Pew studies show that more than 63% of Americans, in all states combined, want to keep abortion legal, safe, and cheap.  Hopeful Republicans ignore these statistics at their peril.  

For the last six months the assorted gaffes of Biden, revelations about Woke school curricula and teachers, the mess in Ukraine, and galloping inflation have soured a lot of voters on the Democrats.  There's a large and growing groundswell that practically guarantees the Republicans big wins in the mid-term elections this November. The only policy that could derail this coming win is the more-conservative Republicans' position on abortion.  

That position, that an embryo is a human being from the instant of conception, and must be treated as such, is not based on science or logic or even assorted monotheistic bibles but only on emotion.  

The Koran and the Hadith claim that a soul doesn't enter a fetus until the 120th day;  before that time Muslims consider abortion a sin, but only a minor one which can be expiated with enough prayer.  The Jewish/Christian Old Testament gives a prescription ("bitter waters") for obtaining an abortion, which a priest is supposed to apply to any woman accused of adultery in order to "cleanse" her so she can go back to her husband.  The Catholic church during the Middle Ages pronounced that a soul does not enter a fetus until at least the 20th week, before which the fetus isn't considered a person.  Jewish Talmudic law holds that a fetus doesn't become a separate being from the mother until its head clears her body.  Studies by scientists show that a fetus doesn't develop even a nearly complete human brain until the 26th week, and even then a fetus removed from the uterus -- even given the best state-of-the-art care -- has only a 50% chance of survival, and if it survives has a less than 50% of developing normal intelligence, so it's best to draw the line there.  This isn't really necessary, since abortion can only be performed safely during the first trimester of pregnancy (he same period during which more than 50% of all fertilized ova are naturally miscarried).  After that time, abortion becomes dangerous to the mother, and no doctor of any standing will do it except when the life and health of the mother are threatened or the fetus is so severely deformed that it can't survive birth by more than a few miserable pain-filled hours.  Thus there is a natural limit to abortion which falls well before the 26th week.

Why then do otherwise rational people insist that even a single cell, if it's a fertilized ovum, is a "human life"?  Their only claim -- "it's alive and has human DNA" -- looks morally and mentally lazy, not to mention superstitious.  It's also been challenged by the development of In-Vitro Fertilization: the process of extracting ova from a woman's ovaries, fertilizing them (usually with the woman's husband's sperm) in a petri dish, then freezing the fertilized ova in storage cannisters, and implanting them in the women when conditions are best for the ova to attach.  This system is used almost exclusively by fertility clinics, but it raises the question about what to do with the rest of the ova and whether they should be regarded as human beings or not.  One Mississippi politician claimed that fertilized ova in a cannister are not human beings because they're not inside a woman.  This implies that an embryo is a human being only because it's inside of, and battening off of, a woman's body.  That looks blatantly misogynistic and biased.    

Consider the other end of life;  when a person is old, terminally sick or injured, undeniably dying, we do have rules about just when that person is effectively dead, and we can pull the plug.  That definition is when a reading of the brain shows a "flatline" -- no brain activity.  If that's true for the end of life, it's equally true for the beginning;  no brain activity means it's not -- yet or still -- a human being.  Since it's impossible to have brain-waves without a brain, we can soon expect to see the devout anti-abortion crowd trying to redefine "brain".  This won't stand up very well against the discoveries of science, and won't make the hard-line anti-abortionists look good.

Worse is the attempt by various state legislatures to reward people who "rat out" their neighbors for obtaining, let alone performing, abortions.  Such laws, history has shown, tend to destroy civil unity and inspire long-lasting feuds.  Still worse is the attempt by those same states to punish any resident woman who goes to another state -- or country, one assumes -- to get an abortion there.  This brings up the specter of the Dred Scott decision, and everything that led to.

And ultimately all these laws are doomed by advancing technology.  Already, the majority of legal abortions are done by chemistry rather than mechanics;  the "morning after pill" (actually two, used 24 hours apart) is good for up to four days after conception, and the pharmaceutical companies -- never prone to ignore a market demand -- are busy producing pills that will flush out an embryo a week after, or a month after, or even three months after conception.  Pills are much more easily smuggled than even small operating rooms, and they'll make their way into every state, regardless of the local laws.  Attempts to stop the flow will only make governments look stupid and incompetent. 

Altogether, there is no way that pushing hard on anti-abortion laws will improve the public image of the Republicans.  Such a course can only cost them voters and break the otherwise inevitable landslide in the November elections.  They should back off from the whole question until after the election, and then argue their case in public on something other than biblical or scientific grounds -- but of course, that doesn't leave them much ground to argue from.  Perhaps they should back away from the whole subject for the foreseeable future.  Opposition to abortion is not worth ruining their chance for victory, and all hope of success for all their other policies.

--Leslie <;)))><