All posts by Dr. ESP

Nature v. Nurture

This century has not been kind to the American system of justice.  It has been accused of being two-tiered.  At times, it defies logic, as in the case of Kyle Rittenhouse.  Yesterday, we learned that “law and order” is not the only American value which is applied depending on who you are, not what you do.

Case in point, Senator Tom Cotton (MAGA-Arkansas).  On May 10, 2023, Cotton introduced the Campus Free Speech Restoration Act, which according to his accompanying press release, “protects the First Amendment rights of students at public universities from unconstitutional speech codes and so-called free speech zones.”  Among the provisions of the proposed legislation are (again from his press release):

  • Prohibit public colleges from restricting free speech and expression on campus.
  • Create a cause of action in federal court for the Attorney General or other parties to challenge restrictions on speech and expression on campus.
  • Make sure the requirements of the Act do not apply to colleges and universities controlled by religious institutions.

Okay, the First Amendment promotes free expression.  And anyone violating another’s right to free expression should be subject to due process for alleged violations.  But seriously Senator, if a student at Notre Dame University accuses the head football coach of being an overpaid incompetent, you’re okay if the Board of Trustees determines such blasphemy is punishable by suspension or expulsion.  But religious exemptions for rules that apply to everyone else is a matter for a different day.

Why?  Because yesterday the distinguished gentleman* from Arkansas took a quite different approach when it came to protesters in four U.S. cities who blocked highways to express their disapproval of what they believe is a disproportionate Israeli response to October 7 and support for a Palestinian State.

You have to get to these criminals early.  If something like this happened in Arkansas on a bridge there, let’s say there would be an awful lot of wet criminals tossed overboard, not by law enforcement, but by people whose road they were blocking.  If they glued their hands to car or pavement, well, pretty painful to have their skin ripped off, but I think that’s the way we would handle it in Arkansas.  And I’d encourage people anywhere, who get stuck behind criminals like this who are trying to block traffic, to take matters into their own hands.  It’s time to put an end to this nonsense.

Now I understand people might get upset when a protest inconveniences them.  But in the MAGA universe, peaceful protesters are “criminals,” and violent protesters on January 6th are “patriots” and “hostages.”  And where was Tom Cotton when New Jersey authorities shut down the George Washington Bridge to punish Fort Lee mayor Mike Sokolich for not supporting Governor Chris Christie’s bid for reelection?  Or when neo-Nazis blocked downtown streets in Nashville?  Or when “The People’s Convoy” blocked access to Washington, D.C. to protest COVID-19 restrictions? In other words, when Tom Cotton encourages people to attack protesters, he makes a clear distinction between “my people” and “you people.”

And so much for due process.  Cotton might as well have been one of the faux federales in John Huston’s  1927 film The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, “We don’t need no stinking charges.  Or stinking trials. Or stinking judges and juries.”  Just imagine if pro-Israel Christian nationalists were blocking a roadway in Dearborn, Michigan preventing the city’s large Muslim population from access to their mosque.  Does anyone believe Cotton would approve of Muslim vigilantes tossing them over the Miller-Rotunda Bridge?

All of this aside, I once again was struck by an observation by Joe Scarborough.  He prefaced his comment by acknowledging his personal friendship with Tom Cotton’s parents before adding, “I know they did not raise him to be like this.”  Based on that information, it is highly unlikely the senator’s warped perspective on American justice is attributable to familial DNA.  Which brings me back to the title of today’s post.  How many Americans, who 10 years ago would be appalled by Cotton’s call for vigilante violence, now support his message and might even participate in the equivalent of modern day lynchings?

This November was already a choice between clear alternatives.  Democracy v. Autocracy.  Allegiance to the Constitution v. Personality Cult.  National Security through Global Alliances v. Isolationism.  As someone who believes in the adage, “Children are not born with hate; someone teaches us to hate,” I now attribute a propensity toward political violence as largely a question of environment, an environment normalized by the MAGA Party.  So add one more item to the list of choices.  Due Process v. Vigilantism.  One presidential candidate calls for retribution and beating the hell out of people.  The other tells us, “We can be better than that.”

Given the choice between “Rip their skin off” or “That’s not who we are,”  I trust most Americans will eventually opt to be members of Team Better Than That.

*”Distinguished gentleman” is Congressional parlance for “son of a bitch.”

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

Tax Day 2024

Happy April 15, a day most salaried workers in America believe should be recognized as April Fools Day when they compare their effective tax rate to those of real estate developers, day traders and hedge fund managers whose net worth dwarfs their own.  But that’s not what I came here to talk about.  Over the past 48 hours Americans have been subjected to a flood of “malarky” that has taxed the human brain beyond any sense of credulity. 

New Hampshire Governor Chris SuNoNo

During Sunday’s edition of ABC’s “This Week,” anchor George Stephanopoulos asked the New Hampshire governor about his support of Donald Trump in spite of his previous statements affirming Donald Trump’s role in the failed January 6, 2000 coup d’état. “You believe that a president who contributed to an insurrection should be president again?”  In a response that could only be imagined as a future teaching moment in Tying Oneself into a Pretzel 101 at the University of New Hampshire, Sununu explained:

His actions absolutely contributed to that. There’s no question about that. I hate the election denialism of 2020. Nobody wants to be talking about that in 2024. I think all of that was absolutely terrible. The reason I am supporting not just the president, but a Republican administration.

To be clear, an elected official, upon taking office as governor of the Granite State, must affirm, “I, NAME, do solemnly swear, that I will bear faith and true allegiance to the United States of America and the state of New Hampshire, and will support the constitution thereof. So help me God. (exact working and emphasis contained in Article 84. Oath of Civil Officers in the NH Constitution),”   Despite taking that oath, John Sununu admitted he will take the Constitution for granted (or is that “for granite” in native New Hampshirese), putting it before party, in return for lower taxes and less regulation.

But that is just half the story.  Does Sununu really believe a second Trump administration is going to be anything but a RINO (Republican in name only)?  Does he also believe Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, Jeffrey Clark, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Vivek Ramaswamy will govern according to the traditional Republican values of Ronald Reagan, much less his own father former NH governor John Sununu. Let me paraphrase the late Texas senator Lloyd Bentsen, “During my time at the National Governors Association, I got to work with John Sununu, I knew John Sununu, I respected John Sununu.  Chris Sununu, you’re no John Sununu.”

The Road Very Seldom Taken

A quote often attributed to Oscar Wilde is, “When opportunity knocks, open the door.”  This was never more true than this weekend when Iran and its supported network of terror organizations launched a barrage of drones and missiles at Israel in retaliation for the targeted strike that killed an Iranian general in Damascus.  Fortunately, there was minimal property damage and a single injury (ironically a young Bedouin girl).  This outcome was due in part to support from U.S., British and (yes) Jordanian defense forces, one more sign Sunni Arab nations understand the value of alliances with Israel to deter Iranian aggression.

On Sunday morning, Iran’s mission to the United Nations released a statement declaring the drone and missile attack to be sufficient retaliation.  “The matter can be deemed concluded.”  In a subsequent phone call with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Biden advised the Israeli government to “take the win” and avoid any regrettable action that might increase the potential for a full-scale regional war.  The Israeli war cabinet has suggested otherwise but only time will tell if that is bluster or a promise of an actual military response.

Biden also suggested Israel’s next moves should be strategic rather than tactical.  It does not take a McArthur Genius Award winner to understand the Iranian attack is an opportunity to address multiple Israeli strategic goals. 

  • Secure release of all the surviving hostages.
  • Reverse widespread condemnation of Israel’s execution of the war by the international community.
  • Grow and solidify alliances with its Sunni Arab neighbors.

On today’s edition of “Morning Joe,” Israeli government spokesman Avi Hyman seemed to have opened that door.  First, he reminded viewers that Israel is still David, not Goliath.  In reference to Iran, Hyman said, “This is a large country attacking a small country.  It is funding its proxies in terror since the Islamic revolution, whether it’s Hezbollah, Hamas the Houthis, etc.”  He then thanked the U.S., Britain, and “allies in the region” who helped repel the missile attack.

However, when Politico reporter Jonathan Lamere asked whether Israel would heed Biden’s advice, Hyman replied:

As a sovereign nation we will have to make decisions in the best interest of defending our country.  At the beginning of the war we were told not to rush into Gaza, do not go in hotheaded. And we didn’t.  We waited it out.  We went in cool, calm and collected.

Yes, the ultimate decision how best to defend itself lies with Israelis and their government.  To suggest that the response to the October 7 terrorist attack was “cool, calm and collected” is less than credible in light of airstrikes less than 24 hours after Hamas’ attack and the use of bunker bombs in civilian-populated areas.

Political leaders seldom get a chance for a “redo.”  And on those rare occasions, they seldom learn the lessons of their own mistakes.  Hopefully, this time will be different.

The Latest Moon Shot

In his September 1962 speech at Rice University, President John F. Kennedy said, “We go to the moon, not because it is easy, but because it is hard.”  On Friday, House Speaker Mike Johnson gave Ukraine, Israel and U.S. national security a different kind of moon shot by again complicating the passage of the Senate supplement aid package.  He might as well have explained his actions this way.  “We stall this legislation, not because it is hard, but because MAGA likes to make the easy things hard if not impossible.”

Johnson was not the only MAGite citing the threat to Israel from the largely repelled Iranian drone and missile attack without acknowledging the constant destruction and death in Ukraine resulting from drones and missiles launched from by Putin’s Russia.  Therefore, one must ask, why is it okay for the U.S. to actively participate in the downing of Iranian armaments but the MAGA leadership in the House delays funding for Ukrainians to protect their territory without U.S. military forces involvement?  Could it be the influence of extreme evangelicals on MAGA party policies?  If so, would the situation be reversed if the “rapture” was dependent on every Ukrainian returning to their homeland, instead of Jews returning to Israel?

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

You Break It, You Onan It

But for the times in which we live, the following lede would have appeared in The Onion rather than the Arizona Republic.

The Arizona Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a 160-year-old law that bans abortions and punishes doctors who provide them, saying the ban that existed before Arizona became a state can be enforced going forward.

Therefore, based on this new high bar for fictional satire, I have decided to propagate my own spin-off of The Onion.  I call it The Scallion, a smaller, less pungent satirical platform.  Below is a brief summary of the main story on the front page of the inaugural edition.

Arizona Supreme Court Bans More Privacy Rights.

On Friday, the Arizona Supreme Court upheld a 5,645-year-old law requiring men to sleep with their widowed sisters-in-law.  According to archivists at the Creation Museum in Boone County, Kentucky, God enacted the law to repopulate the human species which had been decimated by dinosaur attacks.  During oral arguments, Zavapai County Attorney Dennis McGrane, who successfully represented those in favor of the 1864 statute banning abortions, also represented plaintiffs who claimed that “spilling one’s seed” should be left up to the states.  The court ruled that without repeal of Genesis 38:8-10, the violation of oneself remained in effect including punishment specified in Verse 38:10.  “And the thing which he did displeased the Lord; therefore He slew him also.”

The justices rejected Onan’s two defense arguments. First, Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes likened Onan’s refusal to impregnate his widowed sister-in-law to conscientious objection to war.  She reminded the justices Onan’s decision was based on his personal belief the practice of “levirate marriage,” in which the brother of a deceased man is obliged to marry his brother’s widow, was dishonest by pretending his seed was that of his brother, which it clearly was not.  Second, Onan felt that no one had the right to invade one’s privacy when it came to his sexual behavior.  Mayes added, “Just because Santa Claus knows when you are sleeping and knows when you’re awake, that does not give him the right to judge the actions of TWO NON-CONSENTING adults.”

Arizona Chief Justice Robert Brutinel, in a unanimous decision, left no room for ambiguity.  “In the 1864 statute case, we made it clear abortions are illegal in our state.  Based on the current case, even thinking about having sex and not completing the act as God intended, is not only illegal, it is a mortal sin punishable by death.”

In Tallahassee, Florida, State Supreme Court chief justice Carlos G. Muñiz bemoaned the fact he did not think of this first.  “I would hate to see Florida lose its reputation as the epicenter of radical legal nonsense.”

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

Not the First Time

This is not the first time the MAGA Party (and its predecessor the GOP) tried to overturn women’s rights to equal protection under the law.  And if you wonder why this post is listed under “sports” instead of “politics” or “culture,” that is because the focus of this entry has nothing to do with Roe v. Wade, the Dobbs decision or the draconian efforts by MAGA-dominated legislatures to “punish” women who dare to want control over their own health care.

Today’s topic is Title IX of the Civil Rights Act.  Based on the Fourteenth Amendment principle of equal treatment under the law ratified four years AFTER the Arizona ban on abortion (sorry, I could not miss that opportunity), Congress passed and President Richard Nixon signed the bill which amended the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by adding Title IX which reads:

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

There was just one problem.  At a time when the Supreme Court actually read the text of the Constitution or of laws, the justices rightfully focused on the word “program,”   In 1984, the Court ruled in the case of Grove City College v. Bell that “program” must be taken literally.  In other words, alleged discrimination under the act only applied when someone was denied access to the specific program or activity to which federal funding or subsidies applied.  Therefore, athletic programs, which seldom received federal funding (as was a school lunch program), were not subject to Title IX, even if that was more limited than Congress intended.

To remedy the situation, Senate Edward Kennedy introduced Senate Bill 557, the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987, adding that Title IX and all other parts of the Civil Rights Act applied when federal funds were accepted for programs that were “any part” of an institution’s operations.  For example, Title IX would apply to athletic programs regardless whether federal funds were dedicated to that specific program or activity. The bill passed in the Senate on January 28, 1988 by a vote of 75-14.  Likewise, it passed in the House of Representatives on March 2, 1988 by a vote of 315-98.  On March 16, President Reagan vetoed SB 557, despite a warning from then House Speaker Jim Wright a veto would be “ill advised.”  In his veto message to Congress, Reagan restated the paradox that today still haunts the MAGA party.

The Congress should enact legislation designed to eliminate invidious discrimination and to ensure equality of opportunity for all Americans while preserving their basic freedoms from governmental interference and control. Regrettably, the bill presented to me fails to achieve that objective.

In other words, people are entitled to basic freedoms as long as there are no mechanisms to enforce them.

Fortunately, enough Senate Republicans joined with Democrats to override the veto by a vote of 73-24 despite then Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s warning:

S. 557, the so-called Civil Rights Restoration Act, would take away people’s civil rights to be left alone by the Government, to worship as they see fit, and to pursue their livelihood without having to file forms in triplicate with a giant, impersonal bureaucracy every step of the way. Overall, this bill promises less freedom and more government in every corner of America.

The same day the House followed suit and overrode Reagan’s veto by a vote of 292-133.  Note, however, that in both chambers some Republicans who had voted “yea” for the original bill switched their vote in support of the veto (10 in the Senate and 35 in the House).  Sound familiar?  A precursor of MAGA flip flops on the border security bill.  “I am for it until the head of our party tells us to kill it.”

Believe it or not, I am not sharing this detailed account of a political debate from four decades ago just to prove that MAGA hypocrisy about small government is nothing new.  My real objective is to demonstrate to the growing number of Americans who believe that a party’s policy positions do not matter that they, in fact, matter a lot.

Last week, the ESPN broadcast of the women’s NCAA basketball championship game drew an audience of 18.867 million viewers.  In contrast, the men’s broadcast, which was simulcast on three cable networks, pulled 14.823 million viewers.  But for Title IX and the 1988 amendments, the prospect for women’s basketball to have outpaced its men’s counterpart would be unimaginable.  Likewise, the quality of talent on the LPGA tour would be diminished without the opportunities for young girls to compete in golf during high school and college.  Not to mention the success of the USA women’s soccer team in World Cup and Olympic competition (17 of the 18 members of 2021 Olympic champion USA squad played collegiate soccer).

So, this year, when Donald Trump, MAGA members of Congress or their surrogates talk about government overreach, they may pretend they are protecting your freedom.  When, in fact, they are doing just the opposite, reducing your opportunities and choices.

POSTSCRIPT: @NotMe Era

There was an uncomfortable moment at the end of the South Carolina-Iowa women’s NCAA final that had nothing to do with the score or the officiating.  Once the final outcome was no longer in doubt, both coaches called timeouts to pull their stars off the court to standing ovations.  As they walked down the line of coaches and teammates, there were hugs for every female.  Yet when they came to a male assistant coach, they kept their distance.  I wondered if this was a precaution precipitated by the inappropriate actions of the head of the Spanish soccer federation Luis Rubiales, who kissed a member of his country’s World Cup team on the lips.  If so, it is a sad commentary how the “rules of engagement” have changed in response to unacceptable behavior by celebrities, coaches or a former president of the United States who believe “when you’re famous, you can do whatever you want.”

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

The Other Split Screen

Much is being made about the difference in Easter messaging from President Joe Biden and presumptive MAGA nominee* Donald Trump.  The official statement from the White House reads as follows.

Jill and I send our warmest wishes to Christians around the world celebrating Easter Sunday. Easter reminds us of the power of hope and the promise of Christ’s Resurrection.

As we gather with loved ones, we remember Jesus’ sacrifice. We pray for one another and cherish the blessing of the dawn of new possibilities. And with wars and conflict taking a toll on innocent lives around the world, we renew our commitment to work for peace, security, and dignity for all people.

From our family to yours, happy Easter and may God bless you.

Biden added a more personal statement on Twitter.

To all those gathering in churches and homes around the world today: Happy Easter.

May God bless and keep you.

Trump chose this occasion to post 77 screeds on his grossly overvalued Truth Social.  Rather than s message of renewal it focused on retribution.  He began with Wisconsin representative Mike Gallagher, who announced his retirement last month after being hounded by colleagues for not endorsing the impeachment of Homeland Security secretary  Alejandro Mayorkas, despite the lack of evidence either a high crime or misdemeanor.  Trump wrote, “Never forget our cowards and weaklings!  Such a disgrace.”

He then went after his laundry list of “enemies” including Jack Smith, Fani Willis and Alvin Bragg.

HAPPY EASTER TO ALL, INCLUDING CROOKED AND CORRUPT PROSECUTORS AND JUDGES THAT ARE DOING EVERYTHING POSSIBLE TO INTERFERE WITH THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION OF 2024, AND PUT ME IN PRISON, INCLUDING THOSE MANY PEOPLE THAT I COMPLETELY & TOTALLY DESPISE BECAUSE THEY WANT TO DESTROY AMERICA, A NOW FAILING NATION.

However, as Arlo Guthrie would say, “That not what I came here to talk about.”  The split screen I referred to in the title involves the difference in Easter messages from Joe Biden’s and that of my congressman Aaron Bean, who sent the following email to ALL his constituents.

As we enter this Easter season, families across the nation will soon gather in their homes, churches, and places of worship to remember the crucifixion and celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
 
From the very beginning, God so loved us that He planned and prepared a place for us to receive everything that we need for life now and eternally. We see God’s great love for us displayed on the Cross and His power demonstrated through an empty tomb.
 
In Isaiah 60:2, the prophet records, “For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people; But the Lord will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you.” As your voice in our nation’s capital, I look to the light of God to guide my steps. I trust Him for wisdom and strength and praise Him for the gift of His only begotten Son.
 
On behalf of the Bean family, we wish you and all Floridians a happy Easter.
 
Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed!

First Joe Biden addresses his good wishes to “Christians  across the world,” those who have chosen to accept Jesus as the son of God and their savior.  But more important is the theme in the second paragraph.  Without reference to Jesus’ divinity, he instead talks of Jesus’ sacrifice for spreading a message of love and acceptance, something with which both Christians and non-Christians can identify.  Sacrifice is not the sole purview of the divine.  Ask Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. or Nelson Mandela.

In stark contrast, Bean does not differentiate between his Christian and non-Christian constituents.  

As we enter this Easter season, families across the nation will soon gather in their homes, churches, and places of worship to remember the crucifixion and celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
 
From the very beginning, God so loved us that He planned and prepared a place for us to receive everything that we need for life now and eternally. We see God’s great love for us displayed on the Cross and His power demonstrated through an empty tomb.
 
In Isaiah 60:2, the prophet records, “For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people; But the Lord will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you.” As your voice in our nation’s capital, I look to the light of God to guide my steps. I trust Him for wisdom and strength and praise Him for the gift of His only begotten Son.
 
On behalf of the Bean family, we wish you and all Floridians a happy Easter.
 
Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed!

He wishes “all Floridians” a happy Easter.  Nor does he mention the one thing on which non-Christians, many of whom, myself included, can agree.  Acknowledgement of Jesus as a sage prophet and teacher and his message of peace, compassion and acceptance of all.  Can you imagine if Ilhan Omar told her constituents?

As your voice in our nation’s capital, I look to the light of Allah to guide my steps. I trust Him for wisdom and strength and praise Him for the gift of Islam.

Cries of “Sharia Law” would echo across the MAGA universe.

Aaron, before you try to convince me to accept Jesus as my Lord and savior, I suggest you try just a little harder to live by his words and teachings.  When you vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, remember Jesus said, “I did not some here to heal the healthy.  I came here to heal the sick.”  When you promote Christian nationalism, remember the parable of the Good Samaritan.  When the crowd asked, “Who is your neighbor,” he chose the “other,” not one of his own followers.  And when you endorse a man who hawks Bibles during Holy Week to make a quick buck, remember that the one you claim as “your light and guide” cast out all those who bought and sold in the temple and said, “My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.”

In other words Aaron, during this season of renewal, you might try being a better role model rather than a hypocrite. 

*Beginning with today’s post I will no longer refer to those on the other side of the aisle as the Republican Party.  It is an insult to the party’s founders and pre-MAGA members who understood politicians are elected to serve the voters not vice versa.

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP