Wednesday, May 18, 2022

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Justice Samuel Alito: One Angry Man

In the wake of the mass shooting in Buffalo there is much talk of the right/GOP's obsession with the "white replacement theory" which depicts white Christians as being targeted victims of a conspiracy to replace them with non-white citizens and voters.  A column in the New York Times provides a good history of immigration and America's always changing demographics over the last two and one-half centuries.  Sadly, those who most need to understand such accurate history, particularly white working class males, not only will not read the column but seek to ban the teaching of the nation's true from the public schools.  One such angry white male is Supreme Court justice Samuel Alito who allows his personal anger and ideology to make a mockery of the judicial requirement that a judge be able to impartially weigh the facts and apply the law without bias.  Disturbingly. there doesn't appear to be an unbiased bone in Alito's make up.  A piece in Politico looks at Alito and the threat he poses to the impartial rule of law.  Here are excerpts:

It’s easy to caricature Justice Samuel Alito, author of the draft opinion striking down Roe v. Wade, as an arch-conservative. His relentlessly right-of-center votes tell as much. . . . Alito is not just a conservative. He’s not a consistent “originalist” in the vein of Scalia or Justice Clarence Thomas, only a “practical” one. The key to understanding Alito is not judicial philosophy or ardent conservativism: it’s his anger — an anger that resonates with the sentiments of many voters, especially white and male ones, who feel displaced by recent social and cultural changes.

In both his public actions and his opinions, Alito has a confrontational, take-no-quarter approach. It offers a sharp contrast with his fellow Catholic, fellow alumnus of the executive branch and fellow former court-of-appeals-judge John Roberts.

In the popular imagination, Brett Kavanaugh is the angry justice — thanks to his searing opening statement at his 2018 confirmation hearing. But Kavanaugh’s reasoning on the bench is legalist, his tone measured, his scholarly interests running to the technical, even esoteric. Not so Alito: In the Dobbs draft, in his earlier abortion decisions, in his opinions on affirmative action and elsewhere, there is a starkly personal and emotional quality lacking in other justices. Roe is “egregiously wrong and deeply damaging.” Same-sex marriage should not be recognized as a constitutional right because such a decision “will be used to vilify Americans … unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy.” The hypothetical risk of critical, First-Amendment protected speech, for Alito, sufficed to deny the dignity of marital recognition to same-sex couples.

A seething and resentful anger can be traced to a tetchy 2006 confirmation hearing, from which his wife fled in theatrical tears. It registered during the first official State of the Union address delivered by a Black president, when Barack Obama’s comments on a campaign finance ruling caused Alito to visibly respond “not true.” When his female colleagues Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan have read opinions from the bench, Alito repeatedly would purse his lips, roll his eyes, and (again) mouth “no.” Perhaps Alito subjects white male antagonists to the same openly disdainful — and nakedly unjudicial — displays of contempt. But there is no public record to suggest as much.

Instead, Alito’s anger consistently sounds in a register of cultural decline, bemoaning the growing prominence of women and minorities in American life. Writing the majority opinion in Hobby Lobby, which endorsed a company’s right to deny employees contraception coverage, Alito waxed lyrically about the “men and women who wish to run their businesses as for-profit corporations in the manner required by their religious beliefs.” The women denied medical care that facilitates participation in the labor market, in contrast, weren’t a concern. . . . .Black involvement in municipal politics, for Alito, appears as a sinister threat to public order.

In stark contrast, when the charge of discrimination is made on behalf of racial or religious minorities, Alito expresses no such solicitude. He does not search for evidence of bias. Instead, he takes an impossibly narrow view of job-related discrimination that demands women somehow instinctively know they are being paid less than male counterparts. Despite his claim to a “just the facts ma’am” approach, Alito has a distinctively constricted take on what the “facts” are. To read his opinions is to inhabit a world in which it is white Christian men who are the principal targets of invidious discrimination, and where a traditional way of life marked by firm and clear gender rules is under attack.

When it comes to the criminal justice system, Alito is a reliable vote for the most punitive version of the state. . . . It’s difficult to think of cases where Alito has voted for a criminal defendant, or any other litigant that elicits liberal sympathies.

Looking forward in anger, Alito’s voice anticipates and resonates with a growing constituency in the Republican Party. Political scientists such as Ashley Jardina call it “white identity politics.” Central to this worldview is a (false) conviction that whites are increasingly the victims of discrimination. Also important is a belief that speaking English, being Christian and being born in the United States are predicates to being American.

Where might this anger lead? In November 2020, Alito gave a keynote speech to the conservative legal organization the Federalist Society. Much criticized at the time for its partisan tone “befitting a Trump rally,” in the words of one critic, those remarks are useful because they prefigure where a court on which Alito is a dominant voice might go.

In that speech, Alito criticized pandemic restrictions by bemoaning the rise of “scientific” policymaking. He complained about the “protracted campaign” and “economic boycotts” of Catholic groups and others with “unpopular religious beliefs”

If that speech is any guide — and there is no reason to think it won’t be — the future of the Supreme Court will be increasingly one of religious censor: keeping women in their lane, standing up for Christian rights, and making sure that uppity “scientists” in the federal government don’t get their wicked way.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty


Tuesday, May 17, 2022

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The GOP Needs to Banish Those Embracing "White Replacement Theory"

Back in the years when I was a Republican city committee member overt white supremacists and Christofascist - perhaps a majority of whom were/are segregationists - were not welcome in the Republican Party and efforts were made to keep such people from becoming members of city and county committees and most certainly out of leadership positions.  That laudatory policy began to crumble in the late 1990's in Virginia Beach and those who were  previously unwelcome began to infiltrate the party with leaders foolishly believing they could control these foul elements.  Fast forward a little over two decades and those who were once viewed with disgust and contempt now largely control the GOP base and many amoral party leaders who certainly know better have embraced the hate and bigotry that are synonomous with Christofasist and white supremacists.  Fox News and similarly foul "news" outlets actively promote the hate and prejudices of these elements of the GOP, including the white supremacist "white relpacement theory" which claims the white race is under attack and that a conspiracy exists to flood the voter ranks with non-whites/non-Christians.  The horrific murders in Buffalo has caused a few voices, including Liz Cheney - who seems to be one of the few who wants to return the GOP to what it once was - and former GOP columnist Michael Gerson to call out the GOP leadership to banish supporters of the "replacement theory" and similar lies.   A piece at CNN looks at Cheney's condemnation of the GOP leadership:

Less than 48 hours after a deadly shooting by a White nationalist in Buffalo, New York, Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney minced no words in her assessment of where blame lies.

"The House GOP leadership has enabled white nationalism, white supremacy, and anti-semitism," tweeted Cheney on Monday morning. "History has taught us that what begins with words ends in far worse. @GOP leaders must renounce and reject these views and those who hold them." 

[T]here is some evidence to suggest that House GOP leaders -- of which Cheney was one before being ousted last year for her willingness to criticize former President Donald Trump -- have, at a minimum, been willing to look the other way as some of their rank and file have flirted with major figures in the white nationalist movement.

Over the weekend, Illinois Republican Rep. Adam, Kinzinger suggested that New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, the number three Republican in House leadership who replaced Cheney last year, pushed "white replacement theory" -- the idea that White people are being purposely replaced in America by minorities.

Here's the thing: When you don't condemn and punish members of your own party when they flirt with White nationalists and White nationalist ideology, you open the door for it to happen more often. 

That fact doesn't mean that the likes of McCarthy or Stefanik bear direct blame for what happened in Buffalo over the weekend. But, there is no question that Republican leaders have allowed intolerance -- and noxious notions like White replacement theory -- to fester within a part of their ranks over the past few years. 

And, as Cheney rightly notes, those actions -- or, more accurately, that inaction -- have consequences.

Meanwhile, in a column in the Washington Post Gerson - who once worked in the Bush White House - makes a similar call (the history cited in the piece is exactly what many on the right do not want today's school children to learn):

The memorial dedicated by the White townspeople of Colfax, La., in 1921 was at least direct. . . . . on the white marble obelisk in Colfax was engraved: “Erected to the memory of the heroes, Stephen Decatur Parish, James West Hadnot, Sidney Harris, who fell in the Colfax riot fighting for white supremacy.”

The Colfax conflict was less a riot and more a frenzied murder spree against Black citizens who were resisting white supremacy. Most of the “rioters” took refuge in the local courthouse. The building was set aflame. Whites shot anyone who tried to put out the fire. Many Black people who tried to escape were slaughtered at close range. Later in the evening, drunk, younger White men executed the remaining prisoners by marching them two by two out of a makeshift jail and shooting them from behind. By the end of the massacre, as many as 80 Black people were dead.

All these heinous crimes were committed with impunity. Local law enforcement had no intention of arresting and convicting the guilty.

I recount this story not only because it is tragic but also because it demonstrates some enduring characteristics of white supremacy. The White people in this case were not merely acting out of racial animus (though their cups runneth over with hatred). The prejudice and violence of many White Southerners were incited and sustained by a certain historical narrative. They generally believed that violent actions by Whites — eventually organized by the Ku Klux Klan and the White League — were fundamentally defensive in nature.

This vision of victimization was set out in films such as “The Birth of a Nation,” screened by President Woodrow Wilson at the White House in 1915. Such cultural products lent credibility to White fears and knit these fears into a compelling conspiracy theory . . .

These thoughts came to mind with the Buffalo grocery store massacre. The accused killer wrote a manifesto endorsing the “great replacement theory,” popular among today’s right-wing activists and media personalities. . . . In some instances, the story alleges that the whole plot is being orchestrated by Jews.

Replacement theory checks many of the boxes of useful racist ideology. Most of all, it presents White people as the victims of a plot. . . . Their failures and suffering are no longer their fault. There are always enemies to blame. The future of White, Christian America is at stake. Those willing to fight for it, in this self-justifying myth, are heroes.

Do the purveyors of replacement theory bear some responsibility when their revisionism motivates murderers? Of course they do. . . . There is no moral world in which those who libel outsiders, justify rage, incite bigotry and allege that enemies have broken down the outer gate are innocent of the likely influence of their words.

If the Buffalo supermarket killer’s motivation was to undo the anti-racism of modernity, he is part of a long, ignoble history of racist killers.

The perpetrator of this mass murder will not be given impunity. But the racist ideas closely associated with such killing are being granted impunity daily within the Republican Party. The problem is not just that a few loudmouths are saying racist things. It is the general refusal of Republican “leaders” to excommunicate officials who embrace replacement theory. The refusal of Fox News to fire the smiling, public faces of a dangerous, racist ideology.

This much needs to be communicated — by all politicians and commentators — with clarity: No belief that likens our fellow citizens to invaders and encourages racist dehumanization is an American belief.

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty


Monday, May 16, 2022

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The Buffalo Shooter’s Views Are Mainstream In The GOP

While families of the dead remain stunned and grieving after the mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, and some ponder how such hate and violence could happen, the frightening answer is that it all was made easy - perhaps even encouraged - by policies and rethoric widespread among today's Republican Party: The deadly combination consists of (i) few sensible limits on gun purchases which allowed the shooter to purchase three weapons legally despite a past referral for a mental health evaluation, and (ii) the increased dissemination of the so-called "great replacement" myth.  Fox News has fanned the later ideology with Tucker Carlson and other similarly reprehensible talking head claiming there is a Democrat/liberal conspiracy to replace white Americans with minorities.  A number of Republican elected officials repeat the lie.  On top of all of this, Donald Trump legitimized white supremacists when in the wake of the neo-Nazi invasion of Charlottesville he described the violent racists as "very good people."  A column in the Washington Post looks at the GOP's mainstreaming of hate and violence.  Here are highlights:

It was a conservative writer who coined the phrase “ideas have consequences.” The mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket on Saturday, which left 10 people dead, shows the consequences of two of the horrific ideas that have taken root on the American right: support for the “great replacement” theory and opposition to gun control.

The 18-year-old arrested for the mass shooting posted a lengthy manifesto explaining his reasons for wanting to murder African Americans. . . . Like many on the right, he is enraged by what he imagines to be “mass immigration” and is convinced that it will “destroy our cultures, destroy our peoples.”

He believes there is a plot to replace White Americans with people of color; he even referred to his victims as “replacers.” He is also violently antisemitic and blames “the Jews [for] … spreading ideas such as Critical Race Theory and white shame/guilt to brainwash Whites into hating themselves and their people.” He condemns “elitists and globalists” and singles out George Soros — a favorite target of the right — for “his funding for the radical left.

The young man wrote that he got his beliefs “mostly from the Internet,” specifically from the 4chan bulletin board where white supremacists congregate. But his repugnant views are not confined to an obscure corner of the Internet. They have become mainstream within the Republican Party.

[T]he Buffalo gunman attacked ethnic diversity. “Why is diversity said to be our greatest strength?” his manifesto demanded. “Said throughout the media, spoken by politicians, educators and celebrities. But no one ever seems to give a reason why. What gives a nation strength? And how does diversity increase that strength?”

This is close to what Tucker Carlson, the most popular host on the Fox “News” Channel, said in 2018 and has often repeated: “How, precisely, is diversity our strength? . . . Can you think, for example, of other institutions such as, I don’t know, marriage or military units in which the less people have in common, the more cohesive they are?”

In 2021, Carlson went even further and openly embraced the “great replacement” theory that inspired the Buffalo shooting as well as the earlier white-supremacist attacks in Pittsburgh, El Paso and Christchurch. He suggested that “the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World.” (His Fox News colleague Laura Ingraham has said the same thing.)

A number of Republican politicians, including Rep. Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Rep. Scott Perry (Pa.) and Sen. Ron Johnson (Wis.), have openly espoused the “great replacement” theory too.

Little wonder that a poll taken in December found that nearly half of all Republicans believe that there is a plot to “replace” native-born Americans with immigrants. Fox talking heads and Republican politicians have mainstreamed white supremacist ideology.

Republicans, of course, will insist that they never intend for anyone to commit murder, but a growing number of GOP politicians have engaged in violent rhetoric. Even those who don’t advocate violence have made it easier to carry out by eviscerating the gun laws.

The Buffalo terrorist, like so many other mass shooters, used an assault weapon. In his manifesto, he expressed concern that, after his attack, “gun control policies will be brought forth to the state and federal government,” including “Calls to ban high-capacity magazines, assault weapons including AR-15’s, and even items such as body armor.” He need not worry: Republicans will never permit these sensible reforms to pass.

Instead, they will offer “thoughts and prayers” and claim that the way to stop mass shootings is to make guns more widely available to law-abiding citizens. This theory was tested in Buffalo and found wanting: A retired cop working as a security guard was killed trying to stop the gunman, who was wearing body armor.

Unfortunately hate continues to enjoy a safe harbor on the American right. And the casualties pile up.

Monday Morning Male Beauty