mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Strange Justice, Indeed”: The Day Clarence Thomas Gained Power, He Lost Dignity

Should he stay or should he go?

The wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas may have denounced the rumor that the controversial conservative may be planning to leave the bench next year, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the rumor is false. If Thomas does decide to call it a career in 2017, it will bring an end to one of the greatest legal tragedies in modern American history.

As Thomas noted in his 2007 memoir, My Grandfather’s Son, there was a time when he was on the left side of the political spectrum, even voting for George McGovern in 1972. The ultimate catalyst for his shift to the far right was when he began to question the logic of federal desegregation programs, which made him a receptive audience for the pseudo-intellectualism of syndicated columnist and wingnut icon Thomas Sowell in the mid-1970s:

I felt like a thirsty man gulping down a class of cool water. Here was a black man who was saying what I thought–and not behind closed doors, either, but in the pages of a book that had just been reviewed in a national newspaper…It was far more common in the seventies to argue that whites, having caused our problems, should be responsible for solving them instantly, but while that approach was good for building political coalitions and soothing guilty white consciences, it hadn’t done much to improve the daily lives of blacks. Sowell’s perspective, by contrast, seemed old-fashioned, outdated, even mundane–but realistic. It reminded me of the mantra of the Black Muslims I had met in college: Do for self, brother.

My Grandfather’s Son is a morbidly fascinating work, one that provides insight into the odd personality that has occupied Thurgood Marshall’s seat on the High Court for over two decades. Indeed, this Friday marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of President George H. W. Bush’s nomination of Thomas to the Court.

In My Grandfather’s Son, Thomas wrote that prior to the announcement of his nomination, Bush promised him, “Judge, if you go on the Court, I will never publicly criticize any of your decisions.” One wonders if Bush privately regrets making such an awful nomination, just as he openly regrets the rise of Donald Trump. Remember when the 41st President referred to Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann as “sick puppies”? Considering the horrible votes he has cast over the past 25 years, that term is far more applicable to Thomas.

One also wonders if Thomas will ever take a hard look at his legacy once he steps down from the bench. Had Thomas never fallen for Sowell’s shtick, perhaps he would have gone on to become one of America’s great champions of civil rights, as opposed to an explicit enemy of equality. Maybe Thomas didn’t deserve some of the harsh race-based insults he received over the years–after all, no one ever accused Antonin Scalia of being a self-hating Italian-American–but he certainly deserves strong criticism for his profoundly bizarre interpretation of the Constitution, most recently on display in Utah v. Strieff. (Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s dissent was seemingly written to challenge Thomas to confront the real-world implications of his disregard for the Fourth Amendment, or to suggest that one day, Thomas will have to face those very implications firsthand.)

It is interesting to note that in My Grandfather’s Son, Thomas actually admitted that the Republican Party he chose to embrace after being seduced by Sowell’s sentences didn’t have much use for African-Americans. Describing his days as head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission during the Reagan administration, Thomas observed:

Too many of [President Reagan’s] political appointees seemed more interested in playing to the conservative bleachers–and I’d come to realize, as I told a reporter, that ‘conservatives don’t exactly break their necks to tell blacks that they’re welcome.’ Was it because they were prejudiced? Perhaps some of them were, but the real reason, I suspected, was that blacks didn’t vote for Republicans, nor would Democrats work with President Reagan on civil-rights issues. As a result there was little interest within the administration in helping a constituency that wouldn’t do anything in return to help the president. My suspicions were confirmed when I offered my assistance to President Reagan’s reelection campaign, only to be met with near-total indifference. One political consultant was honest enough to tell me straight out that since the president’s reelection strategy didn’t include the black vote, there was no role for me. 

Clarence Thomas is 68 years old. He knows what his national reputation is. He knows that for many Americans, he is a symbol of extreme ideology and extreme ambition. He knows that the day he gained power, he lost dignity. When he leaves the bench, how will he live with himself?

 

By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 26, 2016

June 29, 2016 Posted by | Clarence Thomas, Conservatives, Right Wing Extremisim, U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Ben Carson; Hitler Is Coming”: The U.S. Is On The Verge Of A Nazi-Like Takeover, And Carson Is Ready To Save Us

There’s a great potential threat in the United States, more dangerous than the Leftist agenda and more powerful than Obamacare, immigrants and ISIS combined. It’s Adolf Hitler or at least the carbon copy of such a dictator. And Ben Carson has been warning about it for years.

On Wednesday at a campaign stop in New Hampshire the neurosurgeon turned conservative hero warned of the potential of a Nazi-esque force coming to power in the United States. And for those who think it could never happen here, he had something he needed to say.

“I beg to differ,” Carson said. “If you go back and look at the history of the world, tyranny and despotism and how it starts, it has a lot to do with control of thought and control of speech.”

“If people don’t speak up for what they believe, then other people will change things without them having a voice. Hitler changed things there and nobody protested. Nobody provided any opposition to him.”

He suggested that there is already somebody currently in the United States who is like Adolf Hitler. But is it Obama? No, of course not!

“I’m not going to go into that. I think that example is pretty clear,” Carson said when asked this question. When pressed, he denied that he was implying Obama was like Hitler. “No. I am saying in a situation where people do not express themselves, bad things can happen.”

This fear is not new for Carson. In fact, he’s been pretty damn scared of Nazis and the potential of their ideology taking hold in his country for years. In nearly all of his several published books, he makes references to Nazi Germany and Hitler.

He often suggests that the overreaching acts of the U.S. government into the private lives of citizens could give way to a mirror image of WWII Germany.

In the 2014 classic One Nation: What We Can All Do To Save America’s Future, he writes: “Throughout history many societies have failed to push back and have allowed an overly aggressive government to expand and dominate their lives. Nazi Germany is a perfect example of such a society. One can only wonder what would’ve happened if people had not tolerated the foolishness of Adolf Hitler’s appeal to the baser instincts of greed and envy and his institution of an official weapons confiscation program.”

And it could happen soon. Dictatorial regimes in the United States are imminent.

“Such domination is considerably more difficult when people have arms and can put up significant resistance,” he writes in 2015’s What I Believe. “This is the reason that brutal dictators like Fidel Castro, Josef Stalin, Mao Zedong, Adolf Hitler and Idi Amin tried to disarm the populace before imposing governmental control. Such domination could occur in America in the not too distant future if we are not vigilant.”

The real problem is socialism, which Carson says involves people giving up their personal liberties. When that happens, the country is just steps away from a Nazi-esque takeover.

“Sure, there are several different brands of socialism—at least as many types as there are would-be people-planners who wish to impose their plans to control the moral and economic lives of other people,” the doctor writes in 2014’s America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What This Nation Great. “But are you willing to surrender your precious liberties to a socialist state which promises ‘security’ for everyone and government-enforced equality? Isn’t this what Hitler and other socialists promised the German people in his Nazi (national socialist) platform—a country in which government guarantees security and ‘equality’ in exchange for giving up individual freedom? Will Americans fall for the same scam?

“Since Americans are by nature individualistic and entrepreneurial, by definition, then, the socialist program is anti-American, to say nothing of totalitarian.

“Socialism is an old dream. Some dreams are nightmares when put into practice.”

This is a nightmare Carson will stop at nothing to prevent. His campaign has not responded to a request for comment about Carson’s concerns about Nazis.

While he’s generally concerned about it, Carson is a forgiving individual, one who is willing to let bygones be bygones.

“Every person makes mistakes, so it should come as no surprise that every nation of the world has made mistakes as well,” Carson writes in America the Beautiful, in which he also questions whether the rise of the Islamic State is similar to that of the Nazis. “Talk with a German national about the hope their country placed in Hitler’s rise to power on the heels of the Great Depression. Or consider our own nation’s internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, and you’ll agree that the question is not whether a nation makes mistakes; the question is whether a nation learns from its mistakes, builds on that knowledge it gains over time, and grows in wisdom.”

For Carson, this question remains. Has the U.S. learned anything or is another Hitler just waiting around the corner?

 

By: Gideon Resnick, The Daily Beast, October 4, 2015

October 5, 2015 Posted by | Adolph Hitler, Ben Carson, Socialism, U. S. Government | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Born Of Same Bigotry As Segregation”: Kim Davis Is Not A Christian Martyr; The Kentucky Court Clerk Deserves To Be In The Clink

There are going to be some people who celebrate scofflaw County Clerk Kim Davis sitting behind bars. Most of them are her allies. Not even the American Civil Liberties Union lawyers wanted to send poor Kim to the pokey—likely because they wanted to deny her (and her allies) the exact image they’ve now been granted: the long-faced Davis in handcuffs, dourly professing that she loves Jesus more than she does the law.

“Civil disobedience” is fine—but they don’t call it being a “civil servant” because the county courthouse is run by Christian Grey. She’s supposed to do her job, not decide what it is. But Davis, temperamentally, is obviously more of a top, anyway, and probably should have sought a job in line with her personality. Maybe at the DMV.

The only thing louder than Davis’s protestations is the jingle of the coins being dropped in all the various collection boxes that lay claim to some similar cause. In our curious hate-donating economy, Davis will undoubtedly receive some monetary reward for showmanship—whether it comes via GoFundMe or a book contract—but it will be a fraction of what’s raised by the political ambulance-chasers dutifully filing in behind her.

Already many of the GOP presidential candidates have weighed in, creating the curious spectacle of lawmakers pre-emptively breaking their oaths of office: How can you promise to “uphold the Constitution” if you have already admitted that it has a loophole big enough for Davis to fit through?

The judge who ordered Davis to be held in contempt, and the deputy clerks who started issuing marriage licenses, may be the only Republican left who realizes that Davis’s stunt is something besides a fundraising appeal. Or, rather, he seems to understand that Davis offers only the literal fundraising appeal to end all fundraising appeals. Follow her logic to its fiery end—the Bible as the ultimate legal authority—and there would be no political offices left to run for, just law enforcement positions.

There are regimes like that in the world; we’re fighting wars with a few of them.

Others have pointed out that Davis’s brand of Christianity is itself not too far removed from the sort of blinkered false-purity doctrine that rules radical Islam: the prohibition on makeup or clothes that come in anything besides a hazmat-suit cut. But if you want to understand just how antithetical to democracy Davis’s ideas are, don’t think about what her church doesn’t allow. Instead, imagine what kind of world would make Kim Davis happy.

Davis, after all, was not merely registering an objection to same-sex marriage, she is objecting to the notion of civil society, to “liberalism” not as a policy position but a modern ideal. In my understanding of liberal democracy, a Christian county clerk signing the marriage licenses of gay couples is to be celebrated—for the exact same reasons we celebrate the right of non-Muslims to draw Mohammed: The idea that any one person’s individual religious preference should end the instant it imposes on the rights of another. The true test of religious liberty isn’t whether or not you can practice your own, but if your society has room for yours and a few others.

To judge by her written statements, I am not not much over-worried that Davis’s turn in a jail cell will produce anything besides more vague boilerplate religious freedom stew. In response to questions from Think Progress, fellow members of her denomination couldn’t even identify the precise theological dogma they were sure she was trying to defend: Apostolic Christianity, a lay leader explained, “does not have lengthy, codified statements on marriage, divorce, or homosexuality. Instead, he said, members usually look to one document for answers…The King James Bible.”

The sect’s aversion to reasoned argument means we will probably not be treated to Davis’s own “Letter from an Ashland Jail,” which is just as well, since neither she nor her movement would benefit from a direct comparison to Martin Luther King’s pointed yet lyrical rejoinder to the clergymen who objected to his civil disobedience, both as a tactic and with its target.

King justified the Birmingham business boycott that led to his imprisonment (he and others defied a court injunction against the protest) with a list of humiliations suffered by black men and women in the South—and it does not include anything remotely like “being forced to sign a piece of paper.”

Rather, it includes the kind of bodily harms—and quotidian insults—that reverberate for both people of color and those in the LGBT community today. Indeed, King presciently articulates exactly why obtaining the same marriage license granted to opposite-sex couples matters, because without the complete protection of equality under the law, those discriminated against are “living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments.” They are, King writes, “forever fighting a degenerating sense of ‘nobodiness.’”

One of the members of the couple to whom Davis denied a marriage license put it in only slightly less poetic terms: “When you’re gay and you grow up in Kentucky, you kind of get used to hiding who you are, accommodating other people and making them feel comfortable. You don’t realize how much of your own dignity you’ve given away. It catches up to you.”

King pleaded with the other men of faith to come around to his cause: “Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.” Davis, it must be noted, is in jail precisely because she believes in monologue. Her belief that she should not be forced to interact with those she disagrees with is born of the same bigotry as segregation—even if on the surface it looks like the most banal interactions: paperwork.

That she could interpret the presence of her signature on a marriage certificate as evidence of her own sin isn’t a testament to the strength of her convictions, but to the height of her arrogance.

 

By: Ana Marie Cox, The Daily Beast, September 4, 2015

 

September 5, 2015 Posted by | Christianity, Discrimination, Kim Davis | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Atheists In Tornadoes And Foxholes”: If You Believe Only When There’s An Enemy Army Or A Tornado, You Don’t Believe

If you’ve watched the endless interviews with survivors of natural disasters, you may have noticed that the news media representatives, faced with someone who may be too shocked or nervous before the cameras to offer sufficiently compelling testimony, often do some gentle prompting. “When you saw your home destroyed, were you just devastated?” “You’ve never seen anything like this before, have you?” “Your whole life changed in that moment, didn’t it?” Not everyone who survived a disaster is YouTube clip-ready, so some need to be coached. There was one such interview after the tornado ran through Moore, Oklahoma that got some attention. Interviewing a woman as they stood before the tangled pile of debris that used to be her home and discussed her family’s narrow escape, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer said, “You guys did a great job. I guess you got to thank the Lord. Right?” When she hesitated, Blitzer pressed on. “Do you thank the Lord for that split-second decision?” She paused for a moment before responding, “I’m actually an atheist.” Awkward laughs ensued.

Blitzer’s assumption was understandable; most Americans profess a faith in God, and there is an awful lot of Lord-thanking after a natural disaster. Atheists find this puzzling, to say the least; if God deserves your thanks and praise for being so merciful as to allow you to live through the tornado, maybe He could have been kind enough not to destroy your home and kill 24 of your neighbors in the first place. But at times of crisis, everyone looks for comfort where they can find it.

It’s often said that there are no atheists in foxholes, and I suppose Wolf Blitzer thought the same would be true of tornadoes. But when you stop to think about that old expression, you realize how insulting it is, not just to those who don’t believe in an almighty but also to those who do. It says that the primary basis for religious faith is fear of death, and one’s beliefs are so superficial that they are a function only of the proximity of danger. If you believe only because there’s an enemy army or a tornado bearing down on you, you don’t believe.

Wolf Blitzer will no doubt be more careful next time. And perhaps he’ll learn that those who hold to no religion are a fast-growing group, as many as one in six Americans in most polls, so there’s at least a fair chance that the next disaster survivor he interviews will also be an atheist. Some of those secular folks are becoming more open about it as their numbers increase; for instance, when last week it came Arizona state representative Juan Mendez’s turn to open the legislative session with a prayer, he instead chose an eloquent invocation of “my secular humanist tradition,” including a quote from Carl Sagan. Afterward, Mendez said, “I hope today marks the beginning of a new era in which Arizona’s non-believers can feel as welcome and valued here as believers.”

It’s a nice thought, but it may take a while. There are signs of progress, though. Last week, Pope Francis made news around the world when in a homily, he delivered to his flock the shocking news that atheists are capable of doing good. They may not get to heaven, but on this planet they are not necessarily gripped by evil. This was certainly a step in the direction of mutual understanding that his predecessor was not inclined to make; Pope Benedict was aggressively hostile to those who don’t believe in God, essentially blaming the crimes of the Third Reich on atheism.

But I was surely not the only atheist who was a little underwhelmed by Francis’ generosity of spirit. Atheists are capable of goodness? How kind of him to say. If you heard a man say, “You may not believe it, but women can be intelligent,” you probably wouldn’t respond, “What an admirable statement of his commitment to equality—thanks, Mr. Feminist!” But the bar is pretty low for religious leaders; we expect them to hold that all who do not share their particular beliefs are doomed to an eternity of the cruelest punishments the divine mind can devise. We speak of religious “tolerance” as the most we can expect when it comes to the treatment of other people’s religions. But we “tolerate” not that which we love or respect but that which is unpleasant, painful, or worthy of mild contempt. We tolerate things which we’d just as soon see disappear. You tolerate a hangnail.

Nevertheless, we can give the Pope credit for making a start, even if in public life the most vapid expressions of faith will continue to be the norm. Singers will thank the Lord for delivering unto them a Grammy, smiting the hopes of the other nominees, who are plainly vile in His sight. Football players will gather to pray before a last-second field goal, in the hopes that God will alter his divine plan in their favor and push the ball through the goalposts. And presidents Democratic and Republican will end every speech with “And may God bless the United States of America.” As The Atlantic‘s James Fallows has noted many times, this utterly content-free bit of religiosity means nothing more than “This speech is now over.”

I don’t know if hearing that at the end of a speech makes anyone feel more reassured or hopeful about our country’s future. Perhaps it does. But that woman Wolf Blitzer interviewed? The group Atheists Unite put out a call to help her family rebuild their house, setting a goal of raising $50,000. They’re already approaching $100,000. She no doubt feels thankful, but she’ll be thanking her fellow human beings.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, May 27, 2013

May 28, 2013 Posted by | Religion | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In Seach Of Human Liberty And Equality, The Constitution Is Inherently Progressive

Progressives disagree strongly with tea party views on government, taxation,  public spending, regulations and social welfare policies. But we credit the  movement for focusing public debate on our nation’s history, the Constitution  and the core beliefs that shape American life.

This conversation is long overdue — and too often dominated by narrow  interpretations of what makes America great.

Since our nation’s founding, progressives have drawn on the  Declaration of Independence’s inspirational values of human liberty and equality  in their own search for social justice and freedom. They take to heart the  constitutional promise that “We the People” are the ultimate source of political  power and legitimacy and that a strong national government is necessary to “establish justice, … provide for the common defense, promote the general  welfare and secure the blessings of liberty.”

Successive generations of progressives worked to turn these values into  practice and give meaning to the American dream, by creating full equality and  citizenship under law and expanding the right to vote. We sought to ensure that  our national government has the power and resources necessary to protect our  people, develop our economy and secure a better life for all Americans.

As progressives, we believe in using the ingenuity of the private sector and  the positive power of government to advance common purposes and increase freedom  and opportunity. This framework of mutually reinforcing public, private and  individual actions has served us well for more than two centuries. It is the  essence of the constitutional promise of a never-ending search for “a more  perfect union.”

Coupled with basic beliefs in fair play, openness, cooperation and human  dignity, it is this progressive vision that in the past century helped build the  strongest economy in history and allowed millions to move out of poverty and  into the middle class. It is the basis for American peace and prosperity as well  as greater global cooperation in the postwar era.

So why do conservatives continue to insist that progressives are opposed to  constitutional values and American traditions? Primarily because progressives  since the late 19th century rejected the conservative interpretation of the  Constitution as an unchangeable document that endorses laissez-faire capitalism  and prohibits government efforts to provide a better existence for all  Americans.

Progressives rightly charge that conservatives often mask social Darwinism  and a dog-eat-dog mentality in a cloak of liberty, ignoring the needs of the  least well-off and the nation as a whole.

As President Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his 1944 address to Congress, “We  have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot  exist without economic security and independence. ‘Necessitous men are not free  men.’ People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which  dictatorships are made.”

Yet according to modern conservative constitutional theory, the entire  Progressive, New Deal and Great Society eras were aberrations from American  norms. Conservatives label the strong measures taken in the 20th century to  protect all Americans and expand opportunity — workplace regulations, safe food  and drug laws, unemployment insurance, the minimum wage, limits on work hours,  the progressive income tax, civil rights legislation, environmental laws,  increased public education and other social welfare provisions — as  illegitimate.

Leading conservatives, like Texas Gov. Rick Perry, claim that Social Security  and Medicare are unconstitutional. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) even argues that  national child labor laws violate the Constitution.

They lash out at democratically enacted laws like the  Affordable Care Act and claim prudent regulations, including oversight of  polluters and Wall Street banks, violate the rights of business.

This is a profound misreading of U.S. history and a bizarre interpretation of  what makes America exceptional.

There are few Americans today who believe America was at its best before the  nation reined in the robber barons; created the weekend; banned child labor;  established national parks; expanded voting rights; provided assistance to the  sick, elderly and poor; and asked the wealthy to pay a small share of their  income for national purposes.

A nation committed to human freedom does not stand by idly while its citizens  suffer from economic deprivation or lack of opportunity. A great nation like  ours puts forth a helping hand to those in need. It offers assistance to those  seeking to turn their talents, dreams and ambitions into a meaningful and secure  life.

America’s greatest export is our democratic vision of government. Two  centuries ago, when our Founding Fathers met in Philadelphia to craft the  Constitution, government of the people, by the people and for the people was a  radical experiment.

Our original Constitution was not perfect. It wrote women and minorities out  and condoned an abhorrent system of slavery. But the story of America has also  been the story of a good nation, conceived in liberty and equality, eventually  welcoming every American into the arms of democracy, protecting their freedoms  and expanding their economic opportunities.

Today, entire continents follow America’s example. Americans are justifiably  proud for giving the world the gift of modern democracy and demonstrating how to  turn an abstract vision of democracy into reality.

The advancements we made collectively over the years to fulfill these  founding promises are essential to a progressive vision of the American idea.  The continued search for genuine freedom, equality and opportunity for all  people is a foundational goal that everyone — progressives and conservatives  alike — should cherish and protect.

By: John Podesta and John Halpin, Center For American Progress, Published in Politico, October 10, 2011

October 13, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Class Warfare, Congress, Democrats, Equal Rights, GOP, Human Rights, Medicare, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, Social Security, Teaparty | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: