Category Archives: Politics

A Modest Proposal for Democratically Packing the Supreme Court in the Interest of Its Institutional Legitimacy

Bob Bauer, former counsel to Barack Obama, makes the standard case against packing the Supreme Court as well as it can be made in (what else?) Don’t Pack the Courts. It’s short–read it.

He is right on principle and correct about the pragmatics, which has blinded him to the correct solution. Assuming a Democratic Congress and President in 2020 (a stretch, I grant you, but roll with it), on their first day in office, the new President should send the Senate two nominations to the Supreme Court: Merrick Garland and H. Cusrog Lien–the Bizzaro World Neil Gorsuch, whose faithful duty will be to vote exactly the opposite from Neil Gorsuch on every occasion. The announcement should go something like this:

“My fellow Americans, we all know the truth of the matter, whether we admit it or not: The Republican Party stole a seat on the Supreme Court. They violated its integrity and turned the highest court in the land into a political body. This cannot stand. This must be reversed.

“We have a temporary advantage, during which we now have the power to act as ruthlessly and unethically as the Republican Party has acted. We have it in our means–and many of us have it in our hearts–to go beyond simply evening the scales. I feel that temptation myself, every time I think of one of the many, many people  damaged needlessly by arbitrary cruelties enabled by this corruptly-composed court.

“And yet, I will not be party to further degrading the Supreme Court. Enemies of rule of law depend on its defenders sinking to their level. As we do so, with sincere yet premature desperation, we degrade ourselves. We damage the justice of our cause. This we will not do.

“Instead, we will go forward to restore the Court’s integrity. We will not press our advantage. We will simply undo their corrupt act, and no more. We have proposals for reforming the Supreme Court, with which we hope to depoliticize the nomination process.

“In that spirit, I present to you tonight, not one, but two nominees for the Supreme Court:

“Merrick Garland, whose nomination was stolen from him by the Republican Party, and H. Cusrog Lien, who will make Neil Gorsuch’s stolen vote disappear. Until the the day Mister Gorsuch leaves the Supreme Court, Mister Lien will vote for whatever Mister Gorsuch is against, and against whatever Mister Gorsuch is for, even down to whether to call out for Chinese or barbecue during late-night conferences. Their votes will cancel each other’s out, and Justice Garland will be heard, as justice and democracy demand.

“I hope Mister Gorsuch likes anchovies on his pizza.

“Thank you, and good night.”

If you believe in the institutional legitimacy of the Supreme Court*, attacks on its legitimacy which follow the letter of the law and yet violate its spirit present a dilemma: Escalate and worsen the bind, or submit and invite further violation.

This proposal threads that needle. It nullifies a previous Bad Act. It does not submit to injustice. It reverses it. Yet it does not escalate. It doesn’t use temporary political advantage to pack the court full.  It offers a compromise.

So tell everyone you know: Garland and Lien/Supreme Court 2021! It’s perfect for some clever presidential campaign.

*Or any such institution. We are in a legitimacy crisis. Whether the Surpreme Court (for example) is still legitimate is being decided now.

Life During Wartime: A Video Soundtrack

Armagideon Time?

That Talking Heads song is about touring. It took me a long time to realize that. It’s still not just about touring for me, which I guess comes from Romantic childhood delusions not being properly corrected at an early age. But it’s worked out for me.

Anyway, I’ve been keeping track of song videos that have struck me as right for this moment in time for a year now. The first four:


20-JUN-2017: Who am I to disagree?

Oh, to be seventeen forever. Oh, to be thirty-four forever.


24-SEP-2018: You think they’re dumb, you think they’re so funny.

Just wait until they got you running to those…


20-MAY-2018: Johnnie wants to think of a joke.

Johnnie’s an American. Johnnie’s an American.


01-JUL-2018: If you want to teach ’em how to fight, you gotta treat ’em all alike.

I hate tear gas. Don’t you?


More to come!

Good Riddance to Anthony Kennedy, Who Was Not Going To Save You

It might be better if Anthony Kennedy stayed on the Supreme Court, but things would still be so dire that better is not quite the right word for it.

With Kennedy on the court, this week was still one long bummer. A single Fourth Amendment case was firmly decided on the side of liberty. Every other case was either decided for bad or was sent back to return another day, to a more conservative court. One political gerrymandering case was crafted to show that its target matched Kennedy’s detailed description of a gerrymander that violated First Amendment rights. Kennedy voted to send the case back on narrow grounds. If it returns to the Supreme Court, he won’t be there.

Some say Kennedy punted.  That’s fair.

Who will win this game?

I say he went onto the field on third down, seconds remaining, to win the game with an easy field goal. The snap is good. Kennedy runs. And he kicks half a yard to the left of the ball, missing it completely as the other team swarms the holder.

TIme runs out! Kennedy leaves the field untouched, his dignity held high. He’s kept himself above the fray, yet determined the outcome.

The team doctor is still working on the holder. Poor Charlie Brown. Poor you.

Kennedy is a conservative and a believer in civility and compromise. He’s spent his career on the Supreme Court splitting differences in the interest of compromise.

(Except on issues which determine who controls the government. There he votes consistent conservative.)

In his last term, he gave up on compromise. As Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern point out:

There have been 13 5–4 decisions so far this term that have pitted the conservative justices against the liberals. Kennedy went with the conservatives all 13 times.

This is the true Anthony Kennedy: A Reagan appointee whose older, more genteel style of conservatism is next-door neighbors with hard-right radicalism, when push comes to shove, when it comes to who holds power. As Dahlia Lithwick says,

To the extent we wrote paeans to Kennedy, it was for his occasional defections in areas that materially affect the lives of millions of people—women, minorities, LGBTQ couples, voters, Guantanamo detainees. And to be sure, each of those votes was well worth it. But we knew that for each such vote, there was a Bush v. Gore, a Citizens United, a Shelby County.

Each of those cases was about who holds power. There, Kennedy was a conservative’s conservative, yet in “fan fiction…Justice Anthony Kennedy was a moderate centrist”. Does any other living conservative politician besides John McCain have such a hold on the wishful liberal imagination? And so here we are, “In Nineteen-Nineties Orlando with Trumpy and Stormy!

Mark down Justice Anthony Kennedy as one more thing which will not save you. Institutional power will not save you, either. We will have to save ourselves.

The UUA Call for the Abolition of ICE and This Weekend’s March

Last weekend, the Unitarian Universalist Association’s 2018 General Assembly passed this Action of Immediate Witness: End Family Separation and Detention of Asylum Seekers and Abolish ICE.

It includes a call to “Participate in the June 30th nationwide Mass Mobilization”, whose lead organization is Families Belong Together. In Little Rock, several organizations, from mainstream liberal to near left, are sponsoring a rally at the State Capitol.

I spent Thursday afternoon at a spirited  demonstration at the State Capitol, sponsored by local groups and the national group Mijente, with whom the UUA is partnering, as part of their Chinga La Migra/Abolish ICE* tour.

They and we are calling for the Abolition of ICE:

#AbolishICE

Families Belong Together is calling for Defunding ICE:

#DefundICE

The UUA has been most successful in producing justice over the years when it has taken a visionary approach to issues. Line 51 in the Action of Immediate Witness, in which we are called to “Host interfaith vigils to lift our prophetic voices”, claims a theological grounding in our Second Source, “Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion and the transforming power of love.”

We have a choice about how we participate in this weekend’s rallies. We can pick up the call to #AbolishICE or to Defund ICE or make some more general call. We can show up and blend in and not be visibly Unitarian Universalist. We don’t even have to show up.

What are you going to do? What is your congregation going to do?

Have you spent time working together to discern what you believe in common? Where you differ? What you can do? What you will do?

If not, then you have another chance to do so, this time under the pressure of time and events. It won’t get any easier if you wait.

*A language note: “Chinga” does not literally translate to “Abolish”.

It’s Not A Silver Lining. It’s Just Hope.

Over a decade ago, I first read about the rock-bottom level of W’s support at 28% as a rough estimate of current bugfuck crazy levels. I took that to heart and have repeated it as wisdom, so I’m not shocked that there are people cheering for caging children.

(Afraid? Yes. Still.)

What has been a pleasant surprise is seeing people building capacity to resist. That capacity wasn’t nearly enough during 43’s term to hold him back, and it wasn’t there to sustain the Occupy movement.*

Now we’re a third of the way through a Presidential term, and people successfully pushed hard enough to make a public policy change. It’s still a bad policy–I’ll still be at a pro-immigration rally after work today–but the spiritual boost people get from publicly backing an authoritarian down and the corresponding morale drop on the other side is pure power. If it’s used well, if politicians don’t drain all the effort into electoral politics only, this can be a turning point.

It’s not a position I’d’ve chosen to get into. The suffering at the border and elsewhere isn’t “worth it” for change. But it’s not a position we chose, is it? It’s where we’ve been forced to by cruel humanoids. That suffering is on their heads.

If we miss this moment, if we fail to learn electoral politics can’t be won without a robust non-electoral political movement to maintain us during the times we are out of power–and to remind politicians who claim they are on our side that they can’t pee on our leg when they are in power and expect us to thank them for the rain–then the suffering from that will be on our heads, and quite a few of us will fully deserve what we get from it (though most of us will not).

This is not the 2018 I’d hoped for, but it has great potential. Or you can call it high stakes. Pretty much the same.

*The Occupiers themselves weren’t the problem. They were plenty determined. It was a support failure.

If History Won’t Save You, What Will?

I fondly remember the death of Richard M. Nixon, on Earth Day, 1994, like the planet finally taking out trash gone rancid decades ago. It’s rare that a death makes me happy, but this one did. He was an actively evil man who got away with it and died old and free with a clear record.

Get caught with a nickel bag brother-man
Get caught with a nickel bag sister-lady on your way to get your hair fixed
You’ll do Big Ben, and Big Ben is time
But the man who tried to fix America will not do time

Gil Scott-Heron wrote those words and he did not die free and clear.


In the liner notes to Winter In America, Gil Scott-Heron made the earliest on-record call for the impeachment of Richard Nixon that I am personally aware of. There may be an earlier one, but I haven’t seen it, though I have seen later ones which claimed to be first. The same country that showed Nixon mercy because he had phlebitis showed Gil Scott-Heron–who said of phlebitis, “Rats bite us. No pardon in the ghetto”–to prison for crack addiction. Gil Scott-Heron died too young on parole with a felony record.

Continue reading If History Won’t Save You, What Will?

Rich Boss Cries Crocodile Tears Over Fate Of Worker He Fired After Twenty-Five Years

Cartoonist Rob Rogers was fired from the Pittsburg Post-GazetteThis is his website.
A cartoon to get fired over

This was his publisher:

“He’s just become too angry for his health or for his own good,” John Block, the publisher and editor-in-chief of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, told POLITICO in his first interview since the firing earlier this week.

How thoughtful!

“I wanted clever and funny instead of angry and mean,” he said in an interview in Lakeville, Connecticut, at a reunion of his boarding school Hotchkiss.

So the rich boss is a Hotchkiss man. How appropriate! Was he angry when he fired cartoonist Rob Rogers? Or was he just mean? Because if he was just mean, and not angry, he’s not a hypocrite. He’s still mean, though, still rich and powerful, willing and able to hurt people.

How able?

Rogers said that when he was hired in 1993 the Post-Gazette was a liberal paper, largely reflecting the Democratic leanings of its city. Then as now, John Robinson Block was its publisher. He has been photographed shaking hands with Hillary Clinton and beaming beside Trump on his private jet.

How willing?

In January of this year, the editorial board ran a piece defending Trump’s use of the term “shithole countries” when referring to African nations as well as Haiti and El Salvador. The editorial, titled “Reason as racism,” sparked outrage among current and former employees at the newspaper, including Rogers who described it as “blatantly racist.”

I realize many of my friends have faith in wealthy people and their market ventures, to make wise decisions that lead to more for everyone. I have a similar faith. I believe wealthy people make wise decisions that lead to more for themselves.

The markets are rising for a reason: Wealthy people of all persuasions can see profit on the horizon. They will not save you.

Hubris Watch for June 16, 2018

Democratic leaders have repeatedly declared that African American women are “the backbone” of the party. But when some of those same women run and win their primary bids for Congress, they haven’t had so much as a phone call from establishment leaders. In interviews with The Atlantic, five black women candidates who won their primaries said they still haven’t heard from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the body that works to elect Democrats to the House. “It’s the height of hypocrisy,” Lake told me. “We bring millions of votes into these campaigns, and we’re gettin’ no love.”