Thursday, December 2, 2021

All About the Supreme Court plus a Quote

High Court Deliberates

In a few months, the Supreme Court will come up with a decision regarding abortion rights.  Right now, they are digesting the lawyers’ arguments.  I suspect that they are aware of the political implications, coming in an election year, that their decision would have.  Because of the former president’s three appointments to the SCOTUS, they are clearly political as well as judicial creatures.

Justice Sotomayor

Delivered by Republicans, this new political view of the Court was emphasized during the arguments before it when Justice Sotomayor questioned whether the legitimacy of the Supreme Court would endure if it overturned abortion rights during a landmark hearing on a Mississippi law restricting the procedure.  “Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts?” Sotomayor said during oral arguments Wednesday morning. “I don’t see how it is possible.”

If their decision amounts to a repudiation of Roe vs Wade, and makes abortion more difficult nationwide, they will be handing the Democrats a tool to use in amassing the votes of the nation’s women whom numerous surveys indicate favor allowing Roe vs Wade to remain the law by large margins.  They would be fools not to use it. This will result in continued Democratic control of both Houses of Congress.  I wonder if some Democrats quietly hope that this is the way the cookie will crumble.  They need the votes of as many women as possible.

Aware of this, the Republican-appointed Justices might dance around the issue but leave Row vs Wade to stand.  This would anger many conservative Republican voters, leave them unhappy, further split their Party and perhaps contribute to Democratic victories in 2022.

I suspect the SCOTUS will try to land somewhere in the middle, leaving both sides with something about which to crow and not affecting the 2022 elections greatly. Remember, their decision will be political and not based on jurisprudence. As Justice Sotomayor questioned, will the court “survive the stench … in the public perception” of it that such a decision would bring about. Exchanging the doctrine of basing decisions upon precedent, “stare decisis,” of which Roe vs Wade is part for political expediency might be the act that leads President Biden, if he maintains a Democratic majority in Congress in 2022, to attempt to increase the number of Justices on the Court, which the Constitution does not specify.

And speaking of those elections, and the SCOTUS, it is time for the Democrats to convince Justice Breyer to retire so that they can replace him while they still control the Senate, something that is not guaranteed after the 2022 elections. After their experience with the Mitch McConnell, who always puts Party ahead of country, Democrats now know that continued control of the Senate and the presidency is crucial to the make-up of the SCOTUS.  Justices are not immortal, as the late Justice Ginsberg might have believed.

The ages of SCOTUS Justices seem to indicate dominance of the Supreme Court by Republicans for a long time, unless there is a change in the number of Justices.  The Democrats have two Justices in their 60’s and one in his 80’s.  The Republicans have two Justices in their 70’s, one in his 60’s but three Justices under age 60, which is ominous for future Democratic legislation unless the Court is enlarged.  Not good.

JL 

         

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A Choir of Angels

There was a shooting at a Michigan High School this week by a fifteen-year-old.  At least four students were killed.  Of course, possession of an automatic handgun by a fifteen-year-old is illegal, but he probably would not have had it were it not for the wide proliferation of weapons in this country and the legal acceptability of their being carried supposedly for self-defense.  And that can be blamed on the Supreme Court of the United States.

The only self-defense we need is against vile Supreme Court Justices like Roberts, Alito, Thomas (all three still serving on the SCOTUS), Kennedy (retired) and Scalia (deceased) whose votes in D.C. vs Heller in 2008, supporting Justice Scalia’s opinion, meant that the last fourteen words of the Second Amendment could stand alone and had no connection with the Amendment’s first thirteen words.  This decision has put hundreds of millions of weapons, some legal and some illegal, into the hands of American citizens.  The Justices who went along with Justice Scalia’s opinion cannot walk away from the murders they brought about.

The Second Amendment in its entirety reads as follows: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

I am not a lawyer, nor are most of you, but I do read English.  What do you think the words of the Second Amendment mean? 

If the first thirteen words have nothing to do with the second fourteen words, why did the framers of the Constitution bother to put them there in the first place, separated from the last fourteen words by only a comma?  Contrary to Scalia’s warped reasoning, the Amendment was intended to allow people to have weapons to bring with them if they were called to serve in a State’s militia.  Without these arms, a militia would be weaponless and powerless.

Everyone at the Constitutional Convention in 1789 knew that the Amendment’s wording was a compromise concerning slave-holding States, whose votes were necessary to pass the Constitution, potentially enabling them to be able to stand up against the Federal Government, if its troops were ever used to enforce an outlawing of slavery.  (That did happen three-quarters of a century later.)

The tragedy is that these five Justices knew all of this but voted as they did for political reasons because gun rights voters were (and still are) an important part of the Republican base.  If you believe there is such a place, I suspect that Scalia is already burning in Hell.  The other four will eventually join him there, until this decision is ultimately reversed.  

And when that day comes, all those murdered because of Justice Scalia’s opinion will form a choir of angels announcing the good news.

 JL 

         

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 Quote of the Day:   

Representative Liz Cheney in response to the former president’s challenge to debate members of the House Committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.  “Any communications Mr. Trump has with this committee will be under oath and if he persists in lying then, he will be accountable under the laws of this great nation, and subject to criminal penalties for every false word he speaks.”


 JL 

         

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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

11-30-2021 - Things to Worry About

 

Dana Milbank’s Washington Post column today praised President George W. Bush’s attitude toward Muslims following the 9/11 terrorist attack on our country. But today’s American Nazis (sorry about that, I mean Republicans) are not so charitable. Here are some comments from that column:

“There have always been clowns like Greene, Gosar and Boebert. Over the past two decades, the Rev. Jerry Falwell referred to the prophet Mohammed as a “terrorist,” the Rev. Franklin Graham called Islam “evil,” Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson likened Muslims to Hitler, and conservative activist Paul Weyrich condemned Bush’s “constant promotion of Islam as a religion of peace and tolerance” because “it is neither … Twenty years later, Boebert, Gosar, Greene and too many of their colleagues have abandoned those shared values. And Republican leaders, divesting themselves of shame, now tolerate the worst of humankind.” 

And Professor Heather Cox Richardson included the following in her “Letters From an American” postings this morning regarding the Covid Omicron variant: 

“Upon announcement of Omicron, Representative Ronny Jackson (R-TX), former White House physician for Trump, tweeted that the news was manufactured by Democrats to enable them to “push unsolicited nationwide mail-in ballots. Democrats will do anything to CHEAT during an election—but we're not going to let them!” he concluded.

…  There were no COVID-related deaths yesterday in New York City, where the vaccination rate is 90%. For adult Democrats the vaccination rate is about 90%, while the vaccination rate for adult Republicans hovers around 60%. Counties that went strongly for Trump have a death rate three times that of counties that voted heavily for Biden.”  

Could it be that God is punishing them? Or are they just too stupid to get vaccinated?  When I read about women, even health workers, refusing vaccinations out of fear of it affecting future pregnancies, in the absence of any evidence of that whatsoever, I begin to understand the effect on the ignorant and gullible which American Nazi (sorry about that again, I mean Republican) lies are having. 

Meanwhile, vital voter protection legislation sits on Congress’ back burner as both Houses try to provide enough funding to keep the government from shutting down and pursuing the rest of President Biden’s "Building Back Better" agenda.  Richardson, after documenting this, grimly points out that “Protection of our elections is imperative as Trump and the Republican radicals in Republican-dominated states are cementing their hold on election systems, making it virtually impossible for Democrats to win. 

What are YOU going to do about it?  Republicans must be driven from all elective offices by loyal Americans, regardless of how difficult the American Nazis (sorry again, I mean the Republicans) make it to vote. 

The day is past when remaining sane Republicans can step up and save their party. They fear both primary challenges from the American Nazis on the extreme right and for the very safety of their families, as moderate Germans did in the 1930’s.

JL

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Monday, November 29, 2021

11-29-2021 - Political Junk Food


 

Political Junk Food

Here’s a comment from a subscriber that appeared this morning on Professor Heather Cox Richardson’s daily posting (Letters From an American). It is worth passing on to others (which is why you are seeing it).  I ask you to do that.

“For quite a while now, I've been wondering why the Democrats have been so inept at getting their message across, while the distortions and outright lies from the GOP seem to hit home every single time. As I was reading this piece, the reason suddenly jumped into clear focus for me. 

Memes, sound bites and slogans are the Doritos, candy, cake and ice cream of our society; actual governance is the broccoli and peas. While the Republicans have been serving up massive helpings of Doritos, candy, cake and ice cream (Sleepy Joe, "own the libs," "my freedoms!," "socialism!," etc.), the Democrats have been all about the broccoli and peas of actually governing. 

And unfortunately for the Democrats, the lure of those junk food items is extremely strong, so the ignorant among us, led by the far-right, will continue to gorge on them -- until finally, like a kindergartner after a birthday party, they get the inevitable tummyache (or worse). Also unfortunately, a country-level "tummyache" is likely to have far-reaching and deadly consequences.” 

JL

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A Quote for Today:  

Whether you take it from Edmund Burke, George Santayana or Winston Churchill,

"Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.”

JL

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Sunday, November 28, 2021

11-28-2021 - It Runs in the Family

Talent Runs in Some Families 

Just as Serena Williams’ tennis abilities ultimately exceeded those of her older sister, Venus, who was pretty good too, Tualia Tagovailoa’s (called "Lia") abilities as a quarterback exceed those of his older brother, Tua, who was drafted by the Miami Dolphins and is their starting quarterback. He throws a better long pass than Tua, can thread a needle with them and runs just as well too. After his career at the University of Maryland is over, he will be some NFL team’s first draft choice. Someday, the two brothers will start against each other on the gridiron.

The Kid Brother

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A Letter Was Published … again 

The Palm Beach Post published this letter from me on Nov. 27. Here is its text as submitted. They edited out the part I have colored blue. Actually, that was a good bit of editing since it raised other issues and editing it out served to emphasize the point I was making in the last sentence: 

“Though sports rarely creep onto the Opinion pages of the Post, a recent article in the Sports section concerning the almost wholesale firing of college football coaches raises questions. Could it be that college sports, particularly football and basketball at large universities, have strayed far from the purposes such educational institutions are intended to serve? Are the schools in it only for the money? The ability of student-athletes to switch schools through a “portal” and the spread of legal online wagering reinforce such thoughts. Once a university “sells out” in regard to its athletic programs, it is a small step toward “selling out” in other areas, such as politically-motivated appointments to its medical school faculty.” 

JL

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Friday, November 26, 2021

11-26-2021 - Cancer Center Addendum and a Lot More!

 

Enforcing the Law, The Pledge to the Flag, Political Parties, Vigilantes and the Supreme Court All Come Together

Not having any law enforcement powers, a political party by itself cannot deal with pseudo-patriots or worse who threaten our nation’s commitment to being “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” (If you wish to, you can include ‘under God’ in that pledge, those words officially added to the “Pledge to the Flag” in 1954.)   

Only a government can enforce laws when they are violated.  And that is why I hope enough Americans vote to keep a Democratic majority in Congress, and in charge of our government, in 2022 and 2024.  I have written elsewhere how the votes of women and people of color are crucial, in massive numbers, to make this happen.

Be that as it may, however, a political party can still and should rid itself of those within it who make that threat to the nation’s commitment quoted above.  It is up to Republicans to rid their party of those who do not believe in the words of the Pledge to the Flag. Only then can they be a legitimate opposition party to the Democrats and deserve the opportunity to someday become the majority party.

Here's a worthwhile and pertinent column by the New York Times’ opinion columnist Charles Blow published last week.  It recognizes that also, vigilantes have no place in law enforcement in our democracy.

Charles Blow

"Kyle Rittenhouse, the 18-year-old who shot and killed two men and wounded a third last year during protests of the police shooting of Jacob Blake, was found not guilty Friday of all charges by a Wisconsin jury.

One can argue about the particulars of the case, about the strength of the defense and the ham-handedness of the prosecution, about the outrageously unorthodox manner of the judge and the infantilizing of the defendant. But perhaps the most problematic aspect of this case was that it represented yet another data point in the long history of some parts of the right valorizing white vigilantes who use violence against people of color and their white allies.

Rittenhouse has emerged as a hero and cause célèbre on the right, with people donating to help him make bail and one Republican strategist telling Politico that he “could see a future in which Rittenhouse becomes a featured speaker at the conservative confabs where activists congregate.”

The idea of taking the law into one’s own hands not only to protect order, but also to protect the order, is central to the maintenance of white power and its structures. The killers of Ahmaud Arbery on trial in Georgia are also vigilantes.

George Zimmerman, the man who shot and killed Trayvon Martin in 2012, was also a vigilante, and also embraced by the right. Money also poured in for Zimmerman’s defense.

In 1984, subway vigilante Bernard Goetz shot four Black teenagers who he said were trying to rob him. He was hailed as a hero, but then more details about him began to emerge. One of his neighbors wrote in New York magazine that he had heard Goetz say at a community meeting that “the only way we’re going to clean up this street is to get rid of the spics and niggers.”

This list is long, and doesn’t only include individuals, but also organizations and entire periods of American history. I am sure that many in the white Citizens’ Councils and the Ku Klux Klan also saw themselves as vigilantes.

Perhaps the most prolonged period of violent white vigilantism occurred in the decades following the Civil War, as lynchings surged.

This vigilante impulse, what some call justice and others terror, has been a central feature of the American experience. So has the way people have made heroes of vigilantes, encouraging, supporting and defending them. 

When Donald Trump was running for office in 2016, he encouraged his supporters to assault rabble-rousers at his rallies while promising, “I’ll pay the legal fees.”

The St. Louis couple who waved guns in front of Black Lives Matter protesters in the summer of 2020 were invited to speak at the Republican National Convention.

One could argue that the entire Jan. 6 insurrection was one enormous act of vigilantism.

You could also argue that our rapidly expanding gun laws — from stand your ground laws to laws that allow open or concealed carry — encourage and protect vigilantes.

It goes without saying how ominous this all is for the country. Or, to turn the argument around, how intransigent the country is on this issue of empowering white men to become vigilantes themselves.

Black vigilantes are not celebrated, but feared, condemned and constrained by the law.

Perhaps one of the more prominent Black groups that one could argue had a vigilante impulse was the Black Panthers. They were seen as a threat. As I have written before, in 1967, when the Panthers showed up armed at the California State Legislature, a largely white place of power, the public was aghast.

Then-Gov. Ronald Reagan said: “I don’t think that loaded guns is the way to solve a problem that should be solved between people of good will. And anyone who would approve of this kind of demonstration must be out of their mind.”

The California Legislature passed, and Reagan signed, the Mulford Act, which banned the open carry of firearms in the state. The N.R.A. supported the measure. The bill’s author, Don Mulford, said at the time, “We’ve got to protect society from nuts with guns.”

Whether vigilantes are viewed as radical or righteous is often a condition of the skin they’re in.

And the verdict in the Rittenhouse case is only likely to encourage more vigilantes, those who want to keep or impose “order,” those irked by the idea that disorder could flow from injustice, those who don’t want to see streets filled with people demanding equity.

The great threat, and real possibility, is that there are other Rittenhouses out there — young men who watched this verdict and saw how the right has embraced and celebrated a murderer, and now want to follow his lead.

The worst thing for America would be that this case becomes exemplar and precursor."

Charles Blow

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A few days after the Rittenhouse decision came the conviction in Brunswick, Georgia of the murderers of Ahmaud Arbery back in February of 2020, which showed that vigilante justice has no place in our country.  It took a better prosecutorial team there, which originally had not been available, to successfully carry out this fight for justice, using skills which were absent in Kenosha, Wisconsin for the Rittenhouse prosecution.

Actually, these trials would never have had to take place. nor the deaths which led to them, and thousands of other deaths as well, were it not for the 2008 Supreme Court decision in D.C. vs Heller, in which the SCOTUS separated the first thirteen words of the Second Amendment from its final fourteen words, saying that “the Amendment’s prefatory clause (in red below) announces a purpose, but does not limit or expand the scope of the second part (in blue below), the operative clause.”  This enabled the final fourteen words to stand alone, making guns readily available to murderers.

Without this decision, there wouldn’t be so many civilians running around the country with guns in their hands, as was the case in Kenosha and Brunswick.

There is blood on the hands of the Court’s majority in that decision (Justices Roberts, Alito and Thomas as well as retired Justice Kennedy and the late Justice Antonin Scalia who wrote the Court’s opinion).  Their action has made weapons available to the killers of thousands of people since 2008.  In view of this, I wonder how they can peacefully go to sleep each night and how well Justice Scalia can even rest in his grave.

The Second Amendment in its entirety reads as follows:A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” 

You may not be a lawyer, nor am I, but I do understand English.  Read it and tell me what it means.  You’ll probably get it right, as it was intended to be read, as were Supreme Court decisions up until movement conservatives were able to make appointments to the SCOTUS, who twisted the meaning of the Second Amendment far beyond what it was intended to mean.

Here's a clue: Start with the idea of a militia seeking recruits who already had weapons, because they had none of their own with which to arm them. The Amendment was to make sure such already armed recruits were available.  It was included to satisfy Southern slave-holding States who feared that someday, the Federal government would attack their economic bulwark, slavery, and that is why they needed an armed militia with which to defend "States' Rights."

JL

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More on Cancer Centers (See prior posting)

Note: The distinction between “Cancer Centers” and “Comprehensive Cancer Centers” mentioned in this blog’s posting of Nov. 24, and which I pointed out was an oversimplification, comes from the Department of Health and Human Services’ criteria for grants for National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Centers.  Its language reads as follows (highlighting added by me):

"The NCI recognizes two types of Cancer Centers:


Cancer Centers have a scientific agenda primarily focused on basic laboratory; clinical; and prevention, cancer control, and population-based science; or some combination of these areas. All areas of research are linked collaboratively. While not all basic findings require a translational endpoint, basic laboratory Centers develop linkages with other institutions that will foster application of laboratory findings for public benefit where appropriate.

Comprehensive Cancer Centers demonstrate reasonable depth and breadth of cancer research activities in each of three major areas: basic laboratory; clinical; and prevention, control and population-based science. Comprehensive Cancer Centers also have substantial transdisciplinary research that bridges these scientific areas. They are effective in serving their catchment area, as well as the broader population, through the cancer research they support. They integrate cancer training and education of biomedical researchers and community health care professionals into programmatic efforts to enhance the scientific mission and potential of the Center."

Full documentation of this source may be found at https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/pa-files/par-20-043.html.

In addition, the importance of either of these NCI designations is highlighted by the fact, according to Wikipedia, that receiving the NCI-designation places such cancer centers among the top four percent of the approximately 1,500 cancer centers in the United States. So, as I said in the prior posting, “There are Cancer Centers and There are Cancer Centers.”

JL

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Tuesday, November 23, 2021

11-23-2021 - About Cancer Centers and Watching Football

 

Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center in Miami

There are Cancer Centers and There are Cancer Centers

Now here’s something which might offend some of you, but I do want to get it said. It’s about what the Federal Government’s National Institutes of Health refers to as NCI (National Cancer Institute) Cancer centers. 

In our English language, any doctors who treat cancer, usually oncologists, can call their facilities cancer centers. If they feel they are treating all, or most aspects of the disease, they can tack on the word ‘comprehensive.’ Thus, ‘cancer centers’ or ‘comprehensive cancer centers’ can call themselves whatever they choose if they decide to on their own and that is what they believe they are. 

Ah, but the Federal Government’s National Institutes of Health and its National Cancer Institute see it otherwise. The NCI has established criteria which must be met if facilities are to be officially designated as Cancer Centers or ‘Comprehensive’ Cancer Centers. 

Oversimplifying a bit, these criteria require that applicants for these designations meet the NCI’s apparently high standards (or there would be more than the small number designated) for (1) cancer prevention, (2) clinical services and (3) cancer research.  Meeting all three qualifies an institution as an NCI designated Comprehensive Cancer Center while meeting them, but to a lesser extent, still qualifies an institution as an NCI designated Cancer Center. 

At present there are 71 such Centers officially so designated by the NCI. Seven are Basic Laboratory Centers at which patients are not usually treated. Fifty-one meet all three standards mentioned above and are designated as NCI Comprehensive Cancer Centers. The remaining thirteen, having met at least one of the standards mentioned above are designated as NCI Cancer Centers. 

Obviously, there is a difference between what a facility might call itself and what the National Cancer Institute considers it to be. But let’s look at this locally, specifically in Florida where many followers of this blog reside. 

There are only two NCI designated Cancer Centers in Florida, the Moffitt Comprehensive Cancer in Tampa and the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center in Miami. The Moffitt Center is designated as a Comprehensive Cancer Center according to the NCI’s standards but the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, despite its so naming itself, is simply just an NCI designated Cancer Center, not meeting all three of the standards which would enable the NCI to add the word “Comprehensive” to its designation. 

There are two other major facilities in Florida which are satellites of NCI-designated facilities located in other States, both of which qualify as Comprehensive Cancer Centers in those States. They are the Mayo Clinic branch in Jacksonville, affiliated with the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, and the Cleveland Clinic branch in Broward County which is affiliated with the Case Western Reserve University Comprehensive Cancer Center in Ohio. 

In advertisements in newspapers, magazines and on TV, Sylvester is careful to correctly limit mention of its NCI designation to “Cancer Center” but in these same ads, they always manage to mention their own self-bestowed title of “Comprehensive Cancer Center,” a designation they do not have from the NCI. This is intentionally deceptive and I find it objectionable since it could mislead patients as to Sylvester’s actual NCI designation. 

In a TV commercial frequently seen in South Florida, Dr. Stephen Nimer, Director of Sylvester’s Cancer Center, speaks of the importance of having an NCI designation as a cancer center, pointing out that Sylvester is the only one in its region so designated. He is joined by the heads of similar facilities, all in their white jackets, located at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Johns Hopkins, Northwestern, and Rutgers Universities as well as at the Roswell Institute in Rochester, N.Y.  All of these facilities are NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers, except Sylvester, which of course manages to tack on its self-bestowed designation of 'Comprehensive’ somewhere in the commercial (Look under the word 'Sylvester’ for it). 

This is what I would refer to as a half-truth. Sylvester attempts to make its NCI designation appear to be more than it is. Becoming a Comprehensive Cancer Center does not come from being in the same TV commercial along with directors of NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers.  It has to be a designation given by the NCI.

That being said, there are many excellent oncologists and cancer treatment programs in our region, some affiliated with Sylvester and some affiliated with institutions without any NCI designation whatsoever. 

Recognizing that the research available to the nation's leading hospitals may take years to reach the local hospitals where most people seek treatment, arrangements such as the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Alliance are being formed to make this knowledge locally accessible sooner.

I might add that ten years ago, in my wife’s final illness, she was treated at Sloan-Kettering Memorial in New York for the hemotologic problems caused by years of various treatments for her cancer in Europe and elsewhere.  There, she was under the care of the staff of the very competent Dr. Nimer who headed that department in New York at that time and is now at Sylvester.

JL
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Watching Football

Planning on watching a lot of NFL and college football on TV over Thanksgiving weekend?  Here are some tips on picking winners.  It may help you beforehand if you've seen any of the teams play before.  If not, you ought to know who the winner will be after the first quarter.

1. To win, a team has to score points. The team with the best offensive line will enable their quarterback to pass and their runners to run and they will score points and win.  A good offensive line will make mediocre passers and runners look good.  End of story!  So first, watch the play of the offensive lines. That can tell the whole story.

A tough offensive line



2. But if both teams have excellent offensive lines, it follows that they both will score a lot of points and it will be a high-scoring game, like basketball, so you have to look deeper.

3. Given equally good offensive lines, it comes down to which team has the best defense.  We know both defensive lines will be outgunned by those great offensive lines, so it comes down to how good their secondary, their pass defenders and linebackers are. The team that covers the receivers best, that intercepts passes and limits the gains of the running backs best, will win.

And that's how to watch a football game.  


JL
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Thursday, November 18, 2021

11-18-2021 - Defining Our Nation's Heritage

Here's the culmination of some ideas which I have been kicking around for a while. 

Defining Our Nation’s Heritage 
With apologies to the Native Americans who were here before Europeans showed up in North America, defining our nation’s heritage requires that we recall the backgrounds from which Americans, all of whom are immigrants or the descendants of immigrants, came and what their motivation was. 

Religious discrimination is high on the list. Economics follows closely behind. Seventeenth century Europe reeked with discrimination between Catholics and Protestants, neither of whom were reluctant to persecute, or even execute, those who believed other than the way they believed once they attained power. The establishment church in England discriminated against the Puritans who, once in power, discriminated against those who had discriminated against them. Both groups discriminated against Roman Catholics. 

When asked what the longest word in the dictionary is, a common reply is 
“anti-disestablishmentarianism.” That might be defined as is a belief in cancelling the dominance of the Puritans, who ruled England for several decades in the Seventeenth century under the leadership of Oliver Cromwell, having taken over from the formerly established Anglican Church, thereby “disestablishing” it. This was part of the motivation which brought many across the Atlantic to North America, from both sides of this dispute. These were the bulk of the original settlers of what were a number of English colonies and who fathered the ‘founding fathers’ of this country. 

But it was not an entirely English emigration. The French Huguenots were similarly motivated to leave by the Roman Catholics there. Throughout Europe, continuing discrimination against Jews, which went all the way back to their refusing to accept Jesus as the Messiah, led many to leave over the years, particularly at the close of the Nineteenth century when their isolated way of life in ghettos and shtetls was no longer protective. And aside from famine, many Irish came to North America to flee the long simmering and bloody Protestant-Roman Catholic dichotomy on that island. Black slaves, imported unwillingly from Africa, were involuntary immigrants, but nonetheless immigrants who, once emancipated in 1865, had little or no recollection of their African background, but because of their skin color, were very conscious of it and of the continuing discrimination that it brought to them. 

These groups, whether here legally or illegally, brought their baggage with them to North America and form the basis of the population of the United States of America. Also, during the past half century, many Asians, Indians and Hispanics have added to the flow of immigrants to this country, mostly motivated by economic reasons and others simply seeking asylum from political repression, rather than by religious beliefs, and despite legal or quasi-legal efforts to keep them out, are now part of the population and they too, did come with a heritage, as did earlier immigrants. 

But let’s see what the original settlers brought with them. Their baggage included the English language and English surnames. That has stuck to this day. When an immigrant of Polish extraction with a name like Szoslowski decides to “Americanize” his name, he is likely to choose a new surname like “Smith,” of English origin, rather than a name coming from some other ethnic origin, like “Santorini” or “Suarez.” For a while, German was a competitor of English as our language, particularly away from the Atlantic coast, but ultimately, English came to dominate. 

More seriously, the fact that some of the English immigrants were fleeing the Anglican Church and others were fleeing the Puritans, has created lasting problems for us. Fortunately, both groups agreed that the new nation would have no established religion, resulting in the First Amendment to the Constitution clearly stating that, but that didn’t prevent social and economic differences from manifesting themselves. Oversimplifying greatly, those fleeing Puritanism and who had been the supporters of the executed monarch, Charles I, were called “cavaliers” and generally settled in the Southern colonies and often pursued agricultural pursuits on large estates. A larger number of settlers, those fleeing the Anglican Church, generally settled in the Northern colonies and favored living in towns, small farms and became tradespeople and craftsmen, continuing to be called Puritans. The economic pursuits of the “cavaliers” required extensive labor and that was why the Southern colonies, and eventually the States they became, favored slavery. Northern businessmen, though not requiring slave labor, did not object to doing business with the slavery-dependent Southerners. This was some of the baggage the English immigrants brought to these shores, and we are still dealing with it, even after a Civil War and amending our Constitution to try to cleanse it. 

Other immigrant groups brought different things to this country. Economic considerations directed their skills in different directions. While there are many exceptions to generalizations, it would appear that was why many Greeks became restauranteurs, why the garment trades were initially Jewish, why many Italians went into the building trades and why police and fire departments attracted the Irish. They did what they could do most easily and do well. Blacks, once freed, took whatever laboring jobs they could find. Put simply, immigrants and their descendants did what they had to do to survive. 

One common trait that they all possessed and still possess to this day is a connection with, if not a memory of, from where they, their parents or even earlier ancestors came. This was strengthened by their tendency to live in neighborhoods populated by their own kind, at least in early generations here, and the lack of a welcoming in other neighborhoods. 

I recall that during the Second World War, some neighbors insisted that many Americans of Italian extraction actually supported Benito Mussolini. In fact, until his alliance with Adolf Hitler, many possibly did and that was understandable since aside from the bad things he did, he famously "made the trains run on time." I personally know of those with Irish backgrounds who were raising money and providing weapons to support the Catholics in their struggles in Protestant Northern Ireland. And of course, most Jews feel a connection with the State of Israel. More recently, many Blacks have come to recognize their African heritage and are starting to honor it, reflected by choosing African names, clothing styles and cuisine, the latter being a common connection that many groups have with the place from which they or their ancestors emigrated. Without their alien origins, we wouldn’t have such “American” foods as pizza, frankfurters, spaghetti, tacos, sushi, kebabs, chow mein, beer, whisky, ice cream and an endless assortment of pastries. Despite Uncle Sam’s adoption of foreign cuisines, however, it is difficult not to recognize the heritage they represent and to disconnect from it. 

Which brings me to what started me on this train of thought in the first place. In his 2018 book, “The Corrosion of Conservatism,” arch-conservative Max Boot makes an interesting point. Nourished in his conservatism starting in his teens by the writings of William Buckley, one couldn’t get much further to the right than did Boot. He even wrote for Buckley’s National Review for a while. But later, he drifted over to writing for Commentary, another conservative magazine. Although Boot was not counted among them, many of the Commentary writers were ‘neo-cons,” former disenchanted liberals who switched and became conservatives. Boot said in his book that he was more comfortable with the people at Commentary, many of whose contributors were Jewish, than with the crowd at the National Review, who were mostly Roman Catholic. Though neither was a ‘religious’ publication, this came through in some manner in the two magazines’ political positions which, while not identical, were similar. Why was Boot more comfortable at Commentary, you may ask? Well, Boot is Jewish, having emigrated from Russia with his parents when he was a child. As I said earlier, it is difficult to disconnect from one’s heritage. 

When someone reads the “Letters to the Editor” in any newspaper, don’t they glance at the writer’s name to get a hint as to their ethnicity, which might be a clue as to where they’re coming from? Again I say, it is difficult to disconnect from one’s heritage. 

Ideally, the United States of America is developing into a nation where everyone has a loyalty to the same principles and where there exists equality regardless of from where else on the planet that person, or their ancestors, came. But accomplishing that is hard. The difficulty disconnecting from one’s heritage, as described above, is aided by the visible physical differences we display. A person’s skin color and or facial characteristics are labels of one’s heritage which are difficult for that person and others to disregard. But that is what we must do. We are not there yet. 

There’s a new production of the musical “Annie” in the works at NBC. It appears that except for Harry Connick, Jr., the cast is Black. The Broadway show’s original cast was White, and the 2014 film version had a racially mixed cast which included an Annie of color. From the marketing I’ve seen for the forthcoming NBC effort, they are “playing the race card,” seeking a Black audience which they hope will be attracted and pleased to see an almost entirely Black cast. This is not a step ahead for America. 

Operatic productions from the Metropolitan Opera on down to local companies do better by assigning roles based on the singers’ voices, disregarding skin color or ethnic background. This is good and should be commended and emulated by other groups. It might be a bit confusing, however, in a theatrical or operatic production of something like Othello, in which race plays an important part, but there are always skilled make-up people available to help. 

Let’s get to another area, the reporting of news on television. Supposedly, the voices and faces seen there have disconnected from their heritage and claim to be working from an objective standpoint. The few who manifest a sign of their heritage such as the conspicuous wearing of a cross or by the foreign sound of their name, however objective their words might be, may not be believed as readily as they might be if these hints as to their background were not present. An example might be Fox’s Laura Ingraham. From the size of the cross she wears, a viewer knows in advance what her views will be on issues such as abortion. Similarly, MSNBC’s Ari Melber’s first name might give the viewer a clue as to his heritage. 

The Palestinian-Israeli dispute is another area where the speakers’ heritage ought to be known if it is not apparent. There are Israelis who want the Palestinians gone and out of their country and others who are more than ready for a two State solution. Similarly, there are Palestinians who support Hamas’ terrorism and those who accept Israeli citizenship and who even are members of the Knesset. The same dichotomies exist for American speakers on this subject as well. One has to know to whom they are listening or watching. 

The same holds true when there is a panel discussing race-related issues. One would suspect what the position of persons of color would be before they even speak. The rare instances, which you occasionally can see on Fox News, where a person of color attacks progressive legislation, always leaves me in disbelief. 

Would it be good if a speaker on TV wore a tee-shirt stating his orientation: Progressive, Middle-of-the-Roader, Neo-Con, Conservative, Racist, etc.? Sometimes we are left to make the determination of where he or she is coming from by their hairstyle or clothing, either of which might be misleading. 

But not being able to entirely disconnect from one’s heritage might not be totally undesirable since America is a mélange of these heritages. They won’t go away. That would be fine once we recognize that their heritages do influence the speakers we listen to, the books and articles they write, the music they compose and perform, and the films and TV programs they create. We should recognize that they aren't trying to put something over on anyone.  They just are what they are.  Their heritage made them so.

There is a time and place to disconnect from one’s heritage and a time and place to hang onto it. When Americans discern where the line between these two positions is, we will be on our way toward better defining our nation’s heritage and reaching the point where the United States of America develops into a nation where everyone has a loyalty to the same principles and where there exists equality regardless of from where else on the planet that person, or their ancestors, came.

JL
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My Prescription for Democratic Victory in 2022 

It is time for Democrats and any other Americans interested in preserving democracy in our country to concentrate on maintaining control of Congress in 2022 and also diminishing Republican power in State Houses. 

Debating with those whose arguments are illogical and based on lies only serves to play their game, depleting the energy and resources of those dedicated to the preservation of democracy. The only important issue is the fact that legislation beneficial to women and to persons of color is always opposed, with rare exceptions, by Republicans. It is that simple. Because of this alone, Republicans must be defeated by mobilizing the voting power of these two groups. 

This is where the efforts of all Democrats and any other Americans interested in preserving democracy should be directed in 2022. Individual issues, however important, must take a back seat to mobilizing these voters. Passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Bill in both Houses of Congress is an important, but not the only, step which must be taken. This approach is the way, and possibly the only way, to win in 2022.

JL
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Fire the Coach - Hire the Doctor

Sports sections of many newspapers are reporting the almost wholesale firing of college football coaches, ones whose teams don't win enough games or fill the stadiums to capacity.  Could it be that college sports, particularly football and basketball at large universities, have strayed far from the purposes such educational institutions are intended to serve? Are the schools in it only for the money?  The ability of student-athletes to switch schools through a “portal” and the spread of legal online wagering reinforce such thoughts. 

Once a university “sells out” in regard to its athletic programs, it is a small step toward “selling out” in other areas, such as politically-motivated appointments to its faculty.  Recently at the University of Florida (whose football coach may soon be canned) an otherwise unqualified doctor who supported the Governor's views regarding Covid19 was quickly added to the medical school's faculty.  That same governor also tried, unsuccessfully it turned out, to silence professors scheduled to voice opinions contrary to his own at a hearing.  Fifteen yard penalty for that one, Ron!





JL
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All About the Supreme Court plus a Quote

High Court Deliberates In a few months, the Supreme Court will come up with a decision regarding abortion rights.   Right now, they are dige...