About Me

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Jack is a graduate of Rutgers University where he majored in history. His career in the life and health insurance industry involved medical risk selection and brokerage management. Retired in Florida for over two decades after many years in NJ and NY, he occasionally writes, paints, plays poker, participates in play readings and is catching up on Shakespeare, Melville and Joyce, etc.

Monday, May 30, 2022

05-30-2022 - Repeal of the Second Amendment


There is only one overriding issue of political concern right now, encompassing much of what appears in postings on this blog. That is how to defeat Republicans on Nov. 8, about 23 weeks from now. The future of democracy in the United States is at stake. Really. 

To win in November, Democrats must capture the votes of women and persons of color, groups whose interests Republican actions consistently attack. 

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Letter I Emailed to NYTimes, PBPost, and SunSentinel

'Despite all the sound and fury, meaningful legislation to adequately control gun violence will not be passed until the Second Amendment is repealed. There is no need for it today because the Armed Forces and the National Guard no longer depend on members to bring their own weapons. Its final fourteen words, on which the gun lobby’s arguments are based, should not stand alone, despite a misguided SCOTUS saying that they could back in 2008.  We all make mistakes, even Supreme Court Justices.'

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From the New Republic magazine

Democrats Need to Start Talking About Repealing the Second Amendment

By Walter Shapiro  

Walter Shapiro is a staff writer at The New Republic. He is also a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice and a lecturer in political science at Yale.

May 26, 2022

 It’d likely be a decades-long campaign, but it’s long past time to take disarming America seriously.

For four decades, the conservative Federalist Society has been playing the long game with both the judiciary and the Second Amendment. Now that it has led the way in populating the federal bench with hard-right legal ideologues, the Federalist Society is reaping the dividends of its long investment strategy. Next month, the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court is poised to overturn New York State’s strict limitations on carrying a concealed handgun. And an expansive decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen may eviscerate almost all forms of state regulation of guns.

In sharp contrast, gun control advocates for the last two decades have been playing the short game. From the Columbine high school massacre in 1999 to this week’s wrenching tragedy in Uvalde, Texas, liberals have been fixated on finding an incremental reform that could surmount a Senate Republican filibuster. The battle cry used to be, “Close the gun-show loophole.” Now, after Uvalde, the long-shot dream is finding 10 Republican senators who would join with the Democrats to pass a red flag law that would allow the legal confiscation of guns in extreme mental health situations.

Voters sense that these tepid reforms will only help at the margins to reduce the carnage from our out-of-control gun culture. A new YouGov poll found that 55 percent of Americans (including 33 percent of Republicans) believe that the only way to end the bloodshed in elementary schools is a “drastic change in the laws.” The key word here is “drastic,” which means gun control legislation far more ambitious than red flag laws and enhanced background checks.

This is the moment when liberals despair and start raging against the vast power of the NRA’s money. But following the money in classic Watergate fashion gets you nowhere, since the NRA is bankrupt and the organization’s depleted campaign contributions have become the equivalent of nickels found under seat cushions. The political power of the gun lobby is based on the passion of single-issue voters and not the clout that comes with $10 million in super PAC contributions.

Yes, polling is on the side of reforming our porous gun laws. A Reuters/Ipsos poll, conducted after the Uvalde illings, found that 84 percent of Americans support universal background checks for gun purchases and 70 percent back red flag laws. But the problem with these numbers is that they don’t measure passion. It is hard to find more than a handful of voters who will make red flag laws their top priority in November.

With an estimated 400 million guns stored in closets, glove compartments, and night tables, even rigorous background checks for new purchase are not going to disarm America. Red flag laws, even if rigorously enforced, are not likely to find most would-be mass murderers. So the carnage would continue at horrifying levels even if the Senate filibuster had not become Mitch McConnell’s favorite weapon.

The hard truth is that the core problem is the Second Amendment itself. And America is going to reel from one mass murder to another unless the Second Amendment is repealed or the Supreme Court drastically reduces its scope. Fifteen years ago, I first proposed a long-term crusade to eliminate the Second Amendment. Of course, it seemingly wasn’t a practical idea since repeal requires a two-thirds vote of Congress and ratification by 38 states. But given the abysmal lack of progress with any gun-safety measures over those 15 years, thinking small has not proven very practical either.

It is time for gun control advocates to start talking about life without a Second Amendment. Maybe the long-term solution to the pandemic of gun violence might be confiscation of assault weapons or tight regulations on the sale of bullets. The idea is to paint a portrait of an America of the future with sane gun laws and no need for active-shooter drills in elementary schools. Unless voters can aspire to a different America, gun control will never be a compelling single-issue cause.

As a starting point, Democrats should drop the mealy-mouthed formulation, “Nobody supports the Second Amendment more than I do, but still....” Claiming fidelity to the Second Amendment has never convinced a single NRA supporter of a candidate’s sincerity, but it has stopped bold thinking about lasting solutions to America’s gun crisis. Since right-wingers have long been screaming that Democrats are after their guns, the political damage from talking realistically about the Second Amendment may be exaggerated. At minimum, outside cause groups advocating for rolling back the Second Amendment would make background checks and assault-weapons bans seem like politically safer middle-of-the-road options.

Liberals have been losing the rhetorical battle over guns for decades. It’s sobering to realize that in the early 1990s, according to the Gallup Poll, more than 40 percent of Americans supported banning handguns. In an October 2021 poll that asked the same question, that figure had dwindled to 19 percent. But the pendulum can also swing the other way. In the early 1990s, gay marriage was a quixotic dream. Not only is it now the law of the land, but gay marriage is accepted by 70 percent of Americans.

Maybe we may never get to the point when a Twenty-Eighth Amendment is ratified with this language: “The second article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.” But talking about repeal will galvanize the sad, tired, and predictable debates over limited anti-gun legislation. After decades of legislative failure, it is time to dream about truly disarming America.

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Can it be Done by Voting? 

Whatever gun reform legislation is passed will have to surmount the Supreme Court’s current misinterpretation of the Second Amendment which says that ‘the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.’ Until that changes, all gun reform efforts will fail in the courtroom.  Until the Supreme Court rules otherwise, or unless the Second Amendment is temporarily suspended, gun reform is not going to happen. The President might issue an executive order, as I have asked him to do by email, enabling gun reform to bypass this obstacle. Or the problem can be solved at the ballot box by the overwhelming defeat at State and Federal levels of all legislators who oppose gun reform, giving  Democrats insurmountable and permanent (?) majorities.

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A Last Word

Senator Cruz Praying - How Sincere, I Wonder
Republicans are beyond hypocrisy, and they are getting away with it. When will they understand that the Creator does not accept the prayers or listen in on the thoughts of the likes of Abbott, Cruz and McConnell?  But the Devil might.

Remaining supporters of democracy in the United States have a choice.  They can become activists to work to preserve it but doing so requires taking great risks.  Or, they can just hang onto the rightward-swinging pendulum of history waiting for it to start swinging back.  It always does. Ultimately, as Isaac Newton postulated, for every action, there is a reaction. That swing back might take many decades to occur, be violent if not bloody, as were many battles of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, both of which punctuated changes in the direction of the pendulum of history’s swing.  Meanwhile, the necessity of dealing with immediate crises, like gun violence, our changing climate, nuclear proliferation, abortion rights, Russian expansionism, Chinese economic competition, etc. takes our eyes from the pendulum as it continues its rightward swing.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for effective legislation to reduce gun violence being passed.  As this posting repeatedly states, the only real answer is repeal of the Second Amendment or at least a temporary suspension of it to pressure Congress into passing meaningful legislation to end gun violence. 

My immediate advice is never to vote for a Republican on any level whatsoever.   In State legislatures and in the Congress in Washington, with extremely rare exceptions, they oppose the kind of laws which might have prevented the massacres of children at Uvalde, Parkland, Sandy Hook and many more places.  Republican hands are drenched with blood.  Drops of  it spread to yours when you vote for them.

Meanwhile, I am looking for an organization dedicated to the repeal of the Second Amendment that I can join.  When I find one, I will let you know.


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IF YOU LIKE THIS BLOG, PLEASE FORWARD IT TO AT LEAST ONE OR MORE FRIENDS OR FAMILY MEMBERS WHOM YOU FEEL MIGHT ENJOY READING IT.  Suggest that they visit www.jackspotpourri.com.  A simpler method might be to click on the envelope at the bottom left corner of each posting, which looks like this      Clicking on it makes it easy to forward a very basic, abbreviated version of the blog.


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And if You Didn't Get the Message ...



                                 THAT WAS ITS PURPOSE!

The exact text of the Second Amendment 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.’  

In 2008, the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote an opinion (D.C. vs. Heller) in which he said that this right could stand alone, not necessarily having anything to do with that ‘well regulated Militia’ described a few words earlier in the Amendment. Scalia’s gross misinterpretation of the law has caused thousands of deaths in the United States by encouraging the uncontrolled proliferation of weapons among civilians.

Equally culpable are Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Alito and Thomas, still on the Court, along with now-retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, all four of whom joined in Justice Scalia’s misguided opinion, forming the majority.  The blood of the children killed in Newtown (2012), Parkland (2018) and Uvalde (2022), as well as that of many, many others is on their hands. When they watch the news on TV, they must feel like Lady Macbeth, tormented with guilt and unable to sleep.

There is no purpose for the Second Amendment any longer since the Armed forces and the National Guard now provide their own weapons.  It must be repealed because of the violence its misinterpretation has caused.  It is time to ‘infringe’ upon the  right  that the Second Amendment established for the sole purpose of assuring that armed men would be available to serve in Militias. It was never intended by the Founding Fathers to apply to the general public, beyond serving that limited purpose until Justice Scalia got his hands on it.

One cannot believe in its final fourteen words and ignore its first thirteen words, as Scalia did.  The passage of meaningful remedies for gun violence demands the repeal of the Second Amendment. Until that happens though, its temporary suspension by Presidential order might speed the passage of necessary legislation.



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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Ending Gun Violence Plus Commentary about Newspapers, China, the Hispanic Vote, the CPAC Meeting, the "Creation," and Who's 'Soft on Terrorism'

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There is only one overriding issue of political concern right now, encompassing much of what appears on this blog.  That is how to defeat Republicans on Nov. 8, about 25 weeks from now.  The future of democracy in the United States is at stake.  Really. 

To win in November, Democrats must capture the votes of women and persons of color, groups whose interests Republican actions consistently attack.  Vice President Harris should lead this effort keyed to preserving both abortion rights and voting rights.


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The Only Way to End Gun Violence

A Little Background:  In 1994, a Federal ban on assault weapons went into effect.  It was somewhat effective at least from a public relations standpoint, but its many loopholes still did not offer citizens adequate safety from shooters.  In 2004, Congress let even that ban expire.  In 2008, in D.C. vs. Heller, the Supreme Court ruled illegal a Washington D.C. law limiting the possession of some weapons by individuals, basing their decision on a gross misinterpretation of the Second Amendment.

So What Happened: This encouraged the possession of weapons, including assault weapons, by many Americans. Since then, there have been many mass shootings, some carried out by mentally ill murderers and some based on various kinds of hatred.  The latest took place only yesterday at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.   It now must end.  It now must end.  It now must end.  It now must end.

Family grieving at Texas school shooting site, reminiscent of 
Sandy Hook, Parkland, Pulse, Las Vegas, Buffalo, El Paso, Columbine,
Aurora, and Pittsburgh shootings and many more resulting from
absence of sorely needed gun reform laws

Where Are We Now:  It is time to forget about whatever the Supreme Court and legislators on State and Federal levels have to say about the problem of gun violence.  They have had their chance and they have blown it allowing this danger to all Americans to continue, culminating in a national crisis that can strike anywhere in the country at any time. It is time to stop playing around.  It is time to ignore the politicians.

What MUST Be Done:  I believe that until adequate legislation to control the possession of weapons by civilians is passed, the Second Amendment to the Constitution should be temporarily suspendedAs presently interpreted, it says that ‘the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.’  This provides a right to the American people that they have repeatedly proven is too dangerous for them to have.  Thousands of dead bodies, many of them children, are proof of this. It is time to 'infringe' on that right.  This would mean that government agencies on all levels would have the power to confiscate most weapons in the hands of civilians. This might seem harsh but starting to do it by demanding that weapons must be turned in, with non-compliance resulting in arrest, would serve to move legislators to rapidly enact real gun reform.  Once that is accomplished, the Second Amendment would be reinstated.

The Hard Choice Before Us:  President Biden spoke to the nation last night, prayerfully declaring that something must finally be done to stop gun violence and end the influence of the gun lobby.  But we have heard these words before and the SCOTUS and Congress, as I point out, have ‘blown it.’  It is too late for more appeals to legislators and judges.  We have been there before and nothing happens.  I repeat, nothing happens.

The President must go before Congress, with the Justices of the SCOTUS invited to attend, and ask that the radical and extraordinary step of suspending the Second Amendment be taken without delay until a solution that will end gun violence is found.

Will He Do It?

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You may disagree with me on this, but you know down deep, damn it, that I am right!  It is the only way. Trust your gut!  Suspend the Second Amendment until we have a solution. Otherwise, we will not have one, ever.

(And those who will argue that the Second Amendment allows the possession of weapons by civilians to oppose the possibility of a tyrannical government must step aside in the face of this national crisis.)

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I have made donations and participated in demonstrations to fight gun violence for years. The many shootings over the years were brought close to home with the 2018 murders at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, just a few miles from where I live.  I still have signs in my garage from the demonstrations I participated in at that time and occasionally still wear a tee shirt identifying the wearer as a ‘Grandparent Against Assault Weapons.’  I even had a sign in the rear window of my car reading ‘Want an Assault Rifle? Join the Army’ which I still display, probably the only such sign remaining in all of Palm Beach and Broward Counties four years after the Parkland shooting.  (Right now, a judge is having great difficulty empaneling a jury to determine the sentence for the Parkland murderer, over four years later.)  


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IF YOU LIKE THIS BLOG, PLEASE FORWARD IT TO AT LEAST ONE OR MORE FRIENDS OR FAMILY MEMBERS WHOM YOU FEEL MIGHT ENJOY READING IT.  Suggest that they visit www.jackspotpourri.com.  A simpler method might be to click on the envelope at the bottom left corner of each posting, which looks like this     Clicking on it makes it easy to forward a very basic, abbreviated version of the blog.


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More Good Advice for Democrats from Me


Last week, according to Charlie Sykes on MSNBC, in the aftermath of the May 14 mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket by an admitted white supremacist, all but one House Republican voted against a bill aimed at addressing domestic terrorism, which this attack clearly was demonstrated by what the shooter had written.  Sykes said that it was ‘a noticeably and infuriating pivot of which Democrats should take note.’


‘The traditional party of law and order has gone noticeably soft on terrorism — or at least this kind of terrorism,’ wrote Sykes. ‘The Trumpified GOP may brush off allegations of racism, but its new squishiness on terrorism undermines a key pillar of its electoral strength, and — unless the Democrats are idiots — its about-face should be a potent wedge issue this year.’  


I wonder if charges of being ‘soft on terrorism’ carry as much weight as charges that one is ‘soft on communism.’  In my opinion, despite this ‘potent wedge’ being given to them, Democrats should stick to my recommendation that they concentrate their resources on mobilizing the votes of (1) all people of color, Black, Brown, or whatever, whose voting rights are being threatened as well as those of (2) women, all of whom are threatened by anti-abortion laws in State legislatures and politicized courts.  Republicans at all levels do not act in the interests of these two groups Democrats do. It is that simple.


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Republicans Shout “Sieg Heil”

When Charles Lindbergh visited Germany in 1938, Herman Goering honored him with that country’s ‘Grand Cross of the German Eagle.’  That was the highest medal Germany awarded to foreigners.  Henry Ford received the same decoration in absentia.  Both these men were admirers of Adolf Hitler and opponents of democracy, not only in Germany, but in the United States as well.

Goering Pinning Nazi Medal on Lindbergh in 1938

Many of today’s Republican leadership are attending the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) meeting in Budapest where Hungarian President Victor Orban, whose domestic policies identify him as a similar opponent of democracy as were the Nazis in Germany in the 1930s, is the keynote speaker. Many of these Republicans at the CPAC gathering have political views that are not unlike those of Lindbergh and Ford in 1938.

Too bad that when they arrive back home, the immigration people at the airport will not check them for any repressive ideas they picked up from Orban, as they routinely check suspicious-looking characters for drugs.


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Putting China on Guard

President Biden answered a reporter’s question the other day by saying that the United States would defend Taiwan militarily, a step further than what we are doing in Ukraine, should China attack Taiwan. That statement is sure to be gradually ‘walked back’ to our earlier more ambiguous position. That’s fine because the message still got through to the Chinese.  While not quite a ‘red line’ that they must not cross, it is nevertheless a more distinct line than what existed before.


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Newspapers, Newspapers, Newspapers!

Comparing the Sun Sentinel to the Palm Beach Post

While I am on a kick about newspapers (see my previous posting), let me report that the South Florida Sun Sentinel just published a letter from me on its Opinion page.  Here is a copy.

“It should be noted that the actions of scam movers and property stealers, both written about in this week’s Sun Sentinel, would not have been possible without the services of the lawyers they hired to provide the tools to carry out their schemes.

Add to this the complicity of lawyers in the questionable roof replacements that are wrecking the property insurance market in Florida, and we have a profession that ought to be ashamed of itself.  Protecting the rights of the accused is not the same as aiding them in carrying out their crimes.”

The articles to which I referred were about (1) movers who raise the price of a move after they have picked up the load, citing the fine print in the contract and refuse to deliver it until the higher price is paid, meanwhile storing the furniture, etc. in an out-state warehouse maintained for that purpose, and (2) sellers who fraudulently claim to own properties and sell them to unsuspecting buyers. In both situations, corporate name changes are involved to aid in evading responsibility.

But getting back to ‘newspapers,’ they remain a far more reliable source of information than other media.  The same material might be available on TV or the internet, but it lacks the permanence of something printed on paper held before your eyes. Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote, “Once something is kissed by printer’s ink, it lives forever” doesn’t quite apply to TV and internet reporting.

I might add at this point, that I have cancelled my subscription to the Palm Beach Post, replacing it with a three-month subscription to the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Thus far I have found the Fort Lauderdale-based Sun Sentinel to be better than the Post when it comes to local coverage of the southern part of Palm Beach County and has a better sports section. The Palm Beach Post, however, provides nationally syndicated columnists, both liberal and conservative, which the Sun Sentinel does not. Their editorial policies seem to be similar as does their national, State, and foreign news coverage. The Post does have a ‘cleaner’ appearance than the Sun Sentinel does, which looks ‘tighter.’

The ownership of the Post by Gannett seems to have affected it more than the Sun Sentinel’s ownership by the Chicago Tribune has affected that paper, leaving it as a local newspaper while the Post has been turned into a local version of a State-wide newspaper. That’s the important difference between the two papers that I have noticed. I am aware that ownership of the Chicago Tribune was purchased by a cost-cutting hedge fund about fifteen months ago so this all might change soon.  The real tragedy is what has happened to the newspaper industry in this country and the way many Americans get what passes for news.

While you still can, read a real newspaper every day.


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Florida’s Hispanic Votes Up for Grabs

I have my doubts about whether President Biden’s modification of American policy toward Cuba and Venezuela will change the way Hispanic voters in Florida cast their ballots. 

Those who believe that the only course of action would be the complete replacement of the present governments of these two countries with true democracies were voting for Republicans anyway. They feel that any ‘gradual’ steps that might eventually lead up to that happening are just a waste of time and actually serve to strengthen these two dictatorships. They are convinced that the Democrats are similar to the socialists and communists they or their parents fled. That is another Republican lie too many Hispanics have been suckered into believing.

What is wrong with raising the amount of money Americans can send to their families still in Cuba, allowing such remittances to be sent to Cuban entrepreneurs as well as to families and easing travel restrictions for families in both direction?  Nothing.

And what is wrong with encouraging the Venezuelan dictator to engage in talks with the opposition leader there, who is backed by the U.S.?   Again, Nothing. Of course, Maduro won’t agree to this, even if it results in an easing of sanctions on his country, but that will put him in a bad light in the eyes of Venezuelans, which is a good thing.

Florida’s Hispanic voters should know that Cuban and Venezuelan dictatorships just aren’t going to disappear by themselves.  They’ve waited in vain for years for this to happen. President Biden’s ideas at least open the door to that eventually happening.  Republicans prefer to keep the door locked and let the dictators call the shots in their countries, continuing the miserable lives of the people who live there. Then they use that to campaign for Hispanic votes and blame the Democrats for allowing it. Were Biden to begin to change that, they would lose an issue.

Other than the inconvincible Hispanic voters who will vote Republican come hell or high water, the ones still celebrating the failed Bay of Pigs landing in the parking lot of the Versailles Restaurant on Calle Ocho in Miami, the rest of Florida’s Hispanic vote depends upon how strongly the Democrats explain that voting for those who support guaranteeing fair elections for all citizens, particularly non-white minorities of which they are one, as well as for a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion, will benefit them far more than believing Republican lies.


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The Origin of the Universe

While there is a cosmological explanation for the existence of the universe, the ‘Big Bang Theory’ (the real one, not the TV sit-com), it is far too complicated for ordinary people to understand.  But ordinary people generally do accept the fact that the universe does indeed exist and that its existence can be traced back to some power or event which created it. Those that believe that it ‘was always there,’ requiring no further explanation, are just ‘begging the question’ and dodging the task of looking for an explanation.

The idea of a cosmologically-defined ‘power’ is harder for people to grasp than one associating the creation of the universe with the idea of a quasi-anthropomorphic ‘creator,’ working behind the scenes, or up in the heavens as painted by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome.

That is the direction which religions, which are no more than organized ways of coming up with answers to questions which must be accepted on the basis of faith alone, have chosen.  Really then, except for the very, very few who can understand the scientific explanation mentioned above and those who blindly accept what ‘science’ says without fully understanding it, most of us are left with religious explanations.

Some may call that ‘creator’ by the generic term ‘god,’ capitalizing it as ‘God,’ but the title ‘Creator’ seems to be more descriptive and accurate for those who accept this religious explanation for the creation of the universe. The Hebrews believed this and considered him (or her, or it) too holy to even utter its name, or even to be seen.  They were so much in awe that they were content to simply call him (or her or it) something that amounted to ‘Creator.’

The Hebrew introduction to most prayers simply refers to the deity as ‘our lord, our god, king of the universe’ (Adonoi, Elohanu, Melech H’olom) but never mentions a name nor describes him, her, or whatever. That’s why I prefer ‘Creator.’ It gives human beings a broad range of choices to make for themselves as to what to believe regarding the creation of the universe. And that’s why we have a multitude of religions on this planet.


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Saturday, May 21, 2022

Social Justice, Covid, Replacement Theory, Newspapers, Homeowners Insurance and the SCOTUS

There is only one overriding issue of political concern right now, encompassing much of what appears on this blog.  That is how to defeat Republicans on Nov. 8, about 25 weeks from now.  The future of democracy in the United States is at stake.  Really. 

To win in November, Democrats must capture the votes
of women and persons of color, groups whose interests
Republican actions attack.  Vice President Harris should
lead this effort keyed to abortion rights and voting rights.



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IF YOU LIKE THIS BLOG, PLEASE FORWARD IT TO AT LEAST ONE OR MORE FRIENDS OR FAMILY MEMBERS WHOM YOU FEEL MIGHT ENJOY READING IT.  Suggest that they visit www.jackspotpourri.com.  A simpler method might be to click on the envelope at the bottom left corner of each posting, which looks like this   . Clicking on it makes it easy to forward a very basic, abbreviated version of the blog.


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There’s Nothing Wrong with Social Justice

Here is a self-explanatory word of free advice that I’ve given to those running in the Florida Democratic primary election to select a candidate to run for governor.  I don't know if their paid advisers are as candid as I am.  Here's what I sent to all three of them:

"This email is being sent to the three candidates for the Democratic nomination for governor  I will vote for whichever of you wins, but I do have my preference, which really doesn’t matter so long as the primary winner defeats the present governor.

Please try to incorporate the following verbatim in your campaign literature and your speaking engagements!  It will help!

'The Anti-Woke bill which Governor DeSantis signed includes guidelines explicitly barring social studies material that teach the concept of ‘social justice ' from Florida’s schools. Republicans claim that social justice is closely aligned to Critical Race Theory.  That’s something they use to try to scare voters, pretending it is part of some evil subversive scheme, which it isn’t. They use it to cover up their racism.  That bears repeating. They use it to cover up their racism.  That’s what racists do.

Attacking ‘social justice’ is the same as attacking the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and of course, the Gettysburg Address, government of the people, by the people and for the people!   The teaching of how these historic documents came about is what DeSantis is banning!  The Civil War, why it was fought, the history of immigration in this country, the rise of the labor movement, the Federal laws protecting workers and consumers … They’re all part of ‘social justice’ and Republicans don’t want kids to learn that in school because it’s part of the role of government that they want to do away with.

The governor and his legislature want to deny history.  America fought the Second World War to defeat enemies who passed the same kind of censorship laws DeSantis and his legislature pass and which encourage parents to squeal on teachers they think are violating them.

Watch carefully. You might see a swastika flying over the State House in Tallahassee before long!”

 (The generally accepted definition of ‘social justice’ is the view that everyone deserves equal economic, political, and social rights and opportunities. The documents and the events cited in my email above all promote efforts to fulfill that definition.  I don't see anything wrong with that.  Only foes of democracy might.)


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Covid Not Going Away So Fast

(The other day I made a donation to the Neuroendocrine Tumor Research Fund.  That was the uncommon type of cancer that claimed my wife’s life almost twelve years ago.  From the stories on their website, I see that while some progress has been made, there are still many unanswered questions about this disorder. The same is also true of Covid19, on which we are only beginning to get a handle. The lesson in both cases is to recognize how little we really know and how much more there is to learn.)

And speaking of Covid, it is wise to keep an eye on the rate that people are being infected in your area.   Re-infections are occurring, as well as infections of some of those vaccinated.  While the virus’ most current variants seem milder than the ones of 2020 and 2021, causing fewer deaths, any increase in infections warrants continuing masking.  The theory behind this is that the fewer infections that occur reduce the spread of the virus, lessening the number of potential ‘hosts’ which might provide an opportunity for it to mutate into new variants.  And of course, vaccinations, while not turning out to be permanent protection, do reduce the severity of infections. 

Bear in mind that Covid ranks third in causes of death in our country, following heart disease and cancer.  Keep things in perspective.


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Replacement Theory Explored – The Fuel of anti-Democratic Bigots

Here’s a New York Times article, published a few days ago, explaining the danger of ‘Replacement Theory’ to those who are unfamiliar with it and relating it to the murderer in the recent Buffalo supermarket shooting.  It is apparent that some politicians and commentators sandpaper Replacement Theory’s rough edges so that it seems more acceptable to some of their followers who would otherwise be turned off by outright racism and antisemitism.  But it still remains the same ‘Replacement Theory’ and works toward accomplishing its undemocratic and evil goals.  But we seem to be stuck with it though, if only because of the First Amendment’s guarantee of a free press. Read on:

A Fringe Conspiracy Theory, Fostered Online, Is Refashioned by the G.O.P.

Replacement theory, espoused by the suspect in the Buffalo massacre, has been embraced by some right-wing politicians and commentators.

Nicholas Confessore and Karen Yourish

Inside a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018, a white man with a history of antisemitic internet posts gunned down 11 worshipers, blaming Jews for allowing immigrant “invaders” into the United States.

The next year, another white man, angry over what he called “the Hispanic invasion of Texas,” opened fire on shoppers at an El Paso Walmart, leaving 23 people dead, and later telling the police he had sought to kill Mexicans.

And in yet another deadly mass shooting, unfolding in Buffalo on Saturday, a heavily armed white man is accused of killing 10 people after targeting a supermarket on the city’s predominantly Black east side, writing in a lengthy screed posted online that the shoppers there came from a culture that sought to “ethnically replace my own people.”

Three shootings, three different targets — but all linked by one sprawling, ever-mutating belief now commonly known as replacement theory. At the extremes of American life, replacement theory — the notion that Western elites, sometimes manipulated by Jews, want to “replace” and disempower white Americans — has become an engine of racist terror, helping inspire a wave of mass shootings in recent years and fueling the 2017 right-wing rally in Charlottesville, Va., that erupted in violence.

But replacement theory, once confined to the digital fever swamps of Reddit message boards and semi-obscure white nationalist sites, has gone mainstream. In sometimes more muted forms, the fear it crystallizes — of a future America in which white people are no longer the numerical majority — has become a potent force in conservative media and politics, where the theory has been borrowed and remixed to attract audiences, retweets and small-dollar donations.

By his own account, the Buffalo suspect, Payton S. Gendron, followed a lonelier path to radicalization, immersing himself in replacement theory and other kinds of racist and antisemitic content easily found on internet forums, and casting Black Americans, like Hispanic immigrants, as “replacers” of white Americans. Yet in recent months, versions of the same ideas, sanded down and shorn of explicitly anti-Black and antisemitic themes, have become commonplace in the Republican Party — spoken aloud at congressional hearings, echoed in Republican campaign advertisements and embraced by a growing array of right-wing candidates and media personalities.

No public figure has promoted replacement theory more loudly or relentlessly than the Fox host Tucker Carlson, who has made elite-led demographic change a central theme of his show since joining Fox’s prime-time lineup in 2016. A Times investigation published this month showed that in more than 400 episodes of his show, Mr. Carlson has amplified the notion that Democratic politicians and other assorted elites want to force demographic change through immigration, and his producers sometimes scoured his show’s raw material from the same dark corners of the internet that the Buffalo suspect did.

“It’s not a pipeline. It’s an open sewer,” said Chris Stirewalt, a former Fox News political editor who was fired in 2020 after defending the network’s decision to call Arizona for then-candidate Joseph R. Biden, and who wrote a forthcoming book on how media outlets stoke anger to build audiences.

“Cable hosts looking for ratings and politicians in search of small-dollar donations can see which stories and narratives are drawing the most intense reactions among addicted users online,” Mr. Stirewalt said. Social media sites and internet forums, he added, are “like a focus group for pure outrage.”

In just the past year, Republican luminaries like Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker and Georgia congressman, and Elise Stefanik, the center-right New York congresswoman turned Trump acolyte (and third-ranking House Republican), have echoed replacement theory. Appearing on Fox, Mr. Gingrich declared that leftists were attempting to “drown” out “classic Americans.”

In September, Ms. Stefanik released a campaign ad on Facebook claiming that Democrats were plotting “a PERMANENT ELECTION INSURRECTION” by granting “amnesty” to illegal immigrants, which her ad said would “overthrow our current electorate and create a permanent liberal majority in Washington.” That same month, after the Anti-Defamation League, a civil rights group, called on Fox to fire Mr. Carlson, Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, stood up both for the TV host and for replacement theory itself.

“@TuckerCarlson is CORRECT about Replacement Theory as he explains what is happening to America,” Mr. Gaetz wrote on Twitter. In a statement after the Buffalo shooting, Mr. Gaetz said that he had “never spoken of replacement theory in terms of race.”

One in three American adults now believe that an effort is underway “to replace native-born Americans with immigrants for electoral gains,” according to an Associated Press poll released this month. The poll also found that people who mostly watched right-wing media outlets like Fox News, One America News Network and Newsmax were more likely to believe in replacement theory than those who watched CNN or MSNBC.

Underlying all variations of replacement rhetoric is the growing diversity of the United States over the past decade, as the populations of people who identify as Hispanic and Asian surged and the number of people who said they were more than one race more than doubled, according to the Census Bureau.

Democratic politicians have generally been more supportive of immigration than Republicans, especially in the post-Trump era, and have pushed for more humane treatment of migrants and refugees. But the number of immigrants living in the United States illegally, which rose throughout the 1990s and 2000s, first began to decline under President Obama, a Democrat whom critics nicknamed the “deporter-in-chief.” There is no evidence of widespread voting by noncitizens and others who are ineligible. And while Mr. Biden has laid out plans to expand legal immigration, federal agencies have expelled more than 1.3 million migrants at the southwest border on his watch, while continuing some of the more restrictive immigration policies begun by former President Trump.

Throughout his presidency, Mr. Trump filled his public speeches and Twitter feed with often inflammatory, sometimes false rhetoric about immigrants, and he employed the term “invaders” in arguing for a border wall. Such language has been more broadly adopted by his most ardent supporters, such as Wendy Rogers, an Arizona state senator, who last summer said on Twitter, “We are being replaced and invaded” by illegal immigrants.

Efforts to reach Ms. Rogers on Sunday were unsuccessful. Reached by email, Mr. Gingrich declared replacement theory “insane,” adding that he was opposed to all anti-Semitism as well as “the white racist violence in Buffalo.”

Responding to criticism of Ms. Stefanik’s ad in the wake of the Buffalo shooting, a senior adviser for the congresswoman sent two responses: a sorrowful statement from Ms. Stefanik about the killing in Buffalo, and a fiery rejoinder from the adviser that “despite sickening and false reporting,” the congresswoman “has never advocated for any racist position or made a racist statement.”

Experts who study digital extremism and media described a complex interplay between the darker version of replacement theory that features on white nationalist or nativist websites, and the attenuated versions now echoing around the conventional right, including on cable news and in pro-Trump media outlets.

“Someone like Carlson can introduce viewers to ideas that they then explore more fully online, searches that lead them into far-right spaces that either reinforce their existing views or radicalize them,” said Nicole Hemmer, a historian at Columbia University. “But someone like Carlson is also important because he legitimates those ideas, making them seem less radical when viewers see them.”

Measuring the extent of Mr. Carlson’s influence in spreading replacement theory may be impossible. But controversies around the host’s use of “replacement” rhetoric appear to have at least helped drive public curiosity about the idea. Until the Buffalo shootings, according to Google data, there had been three big spikes in Google searches for “replacement theory” or “great replacement,” a European variation popularized by the French writer Renaud Camus in recent years. Two followed the shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, and El Paso, each covered by news outlets around the world. The third came in April 2021, when Mr. Carlson drew calls for Fox to fire him after defending the idea of demographic “replacement” on the network.

The Buffalo suspect appears to have immersed himself on web forums like 4chan and 8chan, where versions of replacement theory abound. That is also where the suspect, before setting out to slaughter Black shoppers in Buffalo, posted a 180-page compendium of racist arguments and internet memes.

He wrote that he got his news from Reddit. He began browsing 4chan in May 2020 “after extreme boredom,” he wrote, and quickly found a gateway to anti-Black and antisemitic replacement content. Reflecting the most extreme versions of replacement theory, the suspect deemed Black people, like immigrants, as “replacers”: people who “invade our lands, live on our soil, live on government support and attack and replace our people.”


According to a detailed analysis by the Anti-Defamation League provided to The Times, the suspect’s screed plagiarized almost two-thirds of another manifesto — the one left by an Australian man who in 2019 murdered dozens of Muslims as they prayed in two mosques in Christchurch. In some instances, the Buffalo suspect replaced the Christchurch killer’s references to Angela Merkel, the former German chancellor, with George Soros, the billionaire philanthropist. One page of the Australian’s document includes a purported count of Jews working at the senior levels of major media outlets, including Fox itself.

Oren Segal, vice president of the ADL’s Center on Extremism, said that the Buffalo suspect’s repurposing of the Christchurch manifesto to justify an attack on Black Americans “demonstrates the evolving and interactive nature of extremist propaganda.”

Mr. Carlson’s replacement rhetoric comes without the explicitly antisemitic elements common on racist web platforms. There is no indication that the Buffalo gunman watched Mr. Carlson’s show, or any other on Fox, and Mr. Carlson has denounced political violence even as he fans his viewers’ fears.

But there are also notable echoes between Mr. Carlson’s segments and the Buffalo suspect’s long litany of grievances, reflecting the blurry boundary between internet-fueled griping and lines of attack now common in conservative media and politics.

“Why is diversity said to be our greatest strength? Does anyone even ask why? It is spoken like a mantra and repeated ad infinitum,” the suspect wrote. The line nearly matches one of Mr. Carlson’s go-to attacks on Fox. “How, precisely, is diversity our strength?” Mr. Carlson asked in a 2018 segment, one of many in which he has hit on the question. “Since you’ve made this our new national motto, please be specific as you explain it.”

A Fox spokeswoman declined to comment.

Amy Spitalnick, the executive director of Integrity First for America, a group that waged a successful civil suit against organizers of the 2017 Charlottesville rally, argued that the broader promotion of replacement rhetoric normalized hate and emboldened violent extremists.

“This is the inevitable result of the normalization of white supremacist Replacement Theory in all its forms,” Ms. Spitalnick said. “Tucker Carlson may lead that charge — but he’s backed by Republican elected officials and other leaders eager to amplify this deadly conspiracy.”

(Alan Feuer, Emily Cochrane, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Chris Cameron and Azi Paybarah contributed reporting.)


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Who Reads Newspapers Anyway

Pew Research indicates that in 2020 the total circulation of all newspapers in the United States (print and digital combined) was about 23 million copies each day. Sunday circulation was about a million and a half greater.  Contrast this with the approximately 155 million who voted in the presidential election that year, and even assuming each paper was read by more than one person, that leaves a very large number of voters either uninformed or dependent on less reliable sources of information such as the internet, social media, TV, or radio.  It’s no wonder we elect the kind of people we find it Congress, State legislatures and governors’ chairs.  Newspaper circulation is trending downward, as that medium begins to sniff its extinction, so this is a growing problem.


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Blame for Florida Homeowners’ Insurance Woes and a Solution

The Florida legislature is going into a special session on May 23 to deal with insurance company failures, the cancellation of many homeowners’ property insurance policies, and skyrocketing rates for existing policyholders.  They should examine why a typical Florida homeowner is confronted with these problems.  I suspect that whatever remedies the legislators come up with will be to help shore up insurance companies rather than to benefit homeowners.

It is pretty clear to me from what I read in the newspapers that Florida’s dilemma is caused by questionable claims submitted by contractors who solicit such business and once having the claim, usually involving roofs, assigned to them by the insured, then submit it to insurance companies.  Insurers pay many of these claims, even if they appear questionable, rather than contesting them, getting off more cheaply than paying for lawyers to go to court, where they might lose anyway. Some Florida law firms specialize in these questionable cases against insurers.

The solution to this problem is criminal action, leading to possible incarceration, against contractors, lawyers and even homeowners who cooperate in submitting fraudulent claims.


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Little Hope for SCOTUS Change

Get over the idea of doing anything about Supreme Court for a long time.  The appointment of three Justices by the defeated former president would seem to assure the right-wing of a conservative, if not reactionary, SCOTUS for many years to come.  Unless the Democrats amass sufficient Congressional majorities to expand the SCOTUS, an unlikely happening, that kind of change is unlikely. 

The effect of public opinion upon the Court, whose reputation has been sullied by its politicization and most particularly by the conservative leadership of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, might bring about some change, but don’t bet the farm on that happening either.  Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett are tough nuts to crack.


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