Global Suppression of Women's Rights

Global Suppression of Women’s Rights

                        Robert A. Levine

Even as more women appear to be participating in the political process worldwide and holding high offices, women’s rights in many nations appear to be under attack by the patriarchal order. This is true in both democratic and autocratic countries where men want the power to control women and their bodies.

The most obvious and brutal suppression of women’s rights appear to be occurring in nations such as Iran and Afghanistan. But it is true in all Muslim nations where men still rule the roost, allowed to have up to four wives and to determine where and when women my go to school, the jobs they hold, and even whom they may marry. Saudi Arabia recently lifted some of its most restrictive rules regarding women’s lives, but men still control women to a large degree.

In Iran, riots and demonstrations have erupted led by women in multiple cities protesting the death of a young woman who was arrested by the morality police because her hijab wasn’t covering all of her hair. Her captors claimed she died of a heart attack while imprisoned but there were signs that she was beaten severely. In response, women have been burning their hijabs, setting fires to police cars and demonstrating in the streets along with men. The Revolutionary Guards have reacted by firing against the rioters with live ammunition and tear gas, killing a number of them. The rules regarding modest dress and Islamic law have been promulgated by elderly hard line mullahs who will not give way to the women and the youth of Iran who want more freedom. Women’s lives in Iran are completely dominated by men in what can be called “gender apartheid.”

In Afghanistan, since the Taliban took control of the country, they have reneged on all of their promises regarding freedom for women. Girls can only go to primary schools with no further education, cannot pursue careers, need male chaperones when they go out, and have arranged marriages decided by their fathers. Their fathers or their husbands run their lives.

In the United States, a conservative Supreme Court in the Dobbs decision had six Catholic justices overturn precedent in delegitimizing Roe v Wade, leaving abortion law up to individual states. Subsequently, a number of states have restricted abortions with various laws, taking control of women’s bodies. A restrictive abortion law in Kansas was soundly defeated by referendum, but legislatures are fighting against referenda in other states to maintain strict abortion laws. Whether or not Congress will pass a federal law in the future to legalize abortion nationwide again depends on the make-up of the House and Senate. And the glass ceiling still exists in many US businesses though women have been slowly climbing the ladder.

In China, their one child policy per family was too successful and their population started to shrink. The law was subsequently modified to allow two or three children per family to stabilize the population and help the economy. But many women remain happy having one or no children because of the cost and the desire for additional freedom. The Chinese Communist Party is anti-feminism, believing that all ideology should come from the Party itself. There have been no women leaders of China since the Party took over in the 1940s with the Communists supporting the primacy of men.

In Mexico, one of the most violent states in the world, women are being murdered, raped and often disappeared in what is known as “femacide.” The perpetrators are rarely caught or brought to justice.

Trafficking of women for sexual purposes is rampant in Eastern Europe and parts of Asia, but is a problem in virtually every nation. These enterprises are often run by gangs or cartels controlled by men and can be quite profitable.

Various other nations have also been trying to suppress women’s rights, viewing women as baby-making machines and being unwilling to provide them with agency. This is most prominent in conservative or religious countries where men are accustomed to power and do not wish to see women with equal rights challenging them. Many men are afraid of women achieving equality or superiority and taking control of politics and businesses. At universities, women generally perform better than men and their life expectancies are greater in all economically advanced nations.

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On and On and On

On and On and On

            Robert A. Levine

Donald Trump has been out of office now for almost two years, yet he continues to dominate the news. We can’t get rid of him from the front pages of our newspapers or the lead segments of our news programs. He sticks around like a piece of gum on your shoe that you can’t get off. Most of the news regarding the Donald is negative at this time, with him involved in multiple lawsuits and possible criminal actions. Though he continues to complain that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him, it appears that he stole classified documents from the White House when he was packing up and moving out. Though he claims to have declassified these documents, there is no actual evidence that he did so. The Department of Justice is pursuing Trump regarding these documents and it remains to be seen whether or not he will be indicted for this action.

Though he is being sued for tax fraud by New York State, the case has also been referred to the federal system in the Southern District of New York for possible criminal charges. For decades, Trump and his organization was shown to have falsified documents in terms of valuing his real estate assets up or down in ways that would save him money in taxes or for insurance. In addition, Trump is being investigated by a grand jury in Fulton County Georgia for possible criminal charges in trying to overturn the results of the election in Georgia. There is also legal action against Trump pending in Washington and various other venues.

Yet with all the legal problems involving Trump, both civil and possible criminal, the vast majority of the Republican Party continues to support him and defer to his judgement when conflicts arise. Most of the candidates for various offices that he backed in the Republican primaries won their contests and these election deniers will be the official candidates of the GOP. And the elected Republican politicians at all levels for the most part are elections deniers though privately they realize that Trump lost.

Trump is both a symptom and a cause of the precarious position of American democracy with threats of violence coming from his acolytes if he is criminally indicted. Unfortunately, most Trump supporters are misinformed about Trump’s illegal and unethical activities, as they get their news from sources that do not verify their stories. Misinformation and disinformation is circulated by the Trumpies on social media and considered accurate by those who are unwilling to dig deeper into supposed news. In a bizarre twist, on Fox News, Trump claimed the ability to declassify documents merely by thinking about it. I guess he also has the same power to change people’s ballots merely by thinking about it. Or perhaps change people’s minds by witchcraft.

But the main story is that Trump remains prominent in the public eye, often blocking out more important and relevant news. How do we get this piece of gum off our shoes when so many Americans still listen to what Trump has to say and believe him? Americans need to let Trump drift into obscurity instead of paying so much attention to his every move. His presence in our kitchens and living rooms just seems to go on and on.

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Choosing Trump and Party Over Country

Choosing Trump and Party Over Country

                                    Robert A. Levine 9-12-22

Republican politicians and a large portion of the Republican Party know that Donald Trump lost the 2020 presidential election by millions of votes. The popular vote totals showed 81,200,000+ for Joe Biden and 74,200,000+ for Donald Trump. The Electoral College totals were 306 for Biden and 232 for Trump. Yet despite these overwhelming totals, Donald Trump claimed and still claims that he won the election and that it was stolen from him. Refusing to accept the will of the people in the election, he tried to have election officials change the vote totals in several states where his losses were relatively close. In Georgia, a criminal investigation is now going on regarding Trump’s attempts to overturn the election.

Given Trump’s propensity to lie and cheat, his actions and refusal to acknowledge his loss is not surprising. What is truly astonishing is the willingness of other Republicans to support Trump’s denial of his loss and spout the fiction that the election was stolen. These are supposedly intelligent men and women who hold high offices in the federal, state and local governments. Yet they are willing to bolster Trumps claims and provide them with credibility knowing that this will lead to more support from the Republican base that has accepted Trump’s lies all along. It also casts doubt on the reliability of America’s election system and of democracy itself.

The willingness of Republican elected officials to support Trump’s lies about a stolen election is a major threat to American democracy, convincing many Americans of the veracity of Trump’s claims. It has made numerous Americans question the legitimacy of Biden’s presidency and the various accomplishments of the current administration. It has made partisanship much more rabid and more difficult for Republicans and Democrats to work together at all levels of government.

Why have all of these knowledgeable Republicans who are aware of Biden’s victory refused to accept it as fact and continue to argue that the election was stolen. They surely realize the corrosive effects it has had on American democracy and ignore what it has done and is doing. The GOP politicians are supporting Trump’s claims because they want his backing and that of his base in their future runs for office. Not only do Republican officeholders and aspirants want his verbal backing, they are also hoping for financial aid from Trump and his wealthy acolytes. They know that they are lying for Trump’s benefit, that their lies increases partisanship and divisiveness between Americans, increases the possibility of riots and violence, and are detrimental to America, but they simply do not care. Their belief in Trump’s power and his ability to hurt their political aspirations outweighs their devotion to America and the Constitution. Trumps political supporters are willing to ignore the damage they are causing to American democracy to further their own political goals.

Some in Trump’s base can be excused for their allegiance to their leader and the acceptance of his lies because they are ignorant of the truth and do not know any better. But those Republicans who are educated and knowledgeable about politics, particularly politicians and business people, cannot be forgiven for their collusion with Trump and willingness to sacrifice the nation’s democracy for the furtherance of Trump’s, the Republicans’ and their own ambitions. Shame on them.

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The Teflon Donald

The Teflon Donald

            Robert A. Levine  8-29-22

The Mafia mastermind John Gotti was labeled by the media as the Teflon Don years ago because of his ability to evade punishment for his criminal activities. His abilities to find a way to make criminal charges and illegal activities not stick to him appears to have been transferred to our previous president Donald Trump. When you think about it, it seems amazing how many illegal or unethical situations he has wiggled his way out of over the years. Not only that, he has managed to accumulate tens of millions of followers who accept his false statements as truth had worship his corrupt persona. Is he coated with some sort of invisible material that forces the truth to bounce off him but allows his lies to escape?

Prior to entering the political arena Trump was considered a successful businessman by large numbers of Americans, even though many of his businesses were abject failures. Though he claimed to be a billionaire real estate mogul, four of his real estate ventures filed for bankruptcy in the past. These include the Trump Taj Mahal in 1991, the Trump Plaza Hotel in 1992, Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts in 2004, and Trump Entertainment Resorts in 2009. In some of these restructurings, billions of dollars of debt had been accumulated with Trump having personal liability and loss of some of his stake, as well of those of his investors. The Trump Airline Shuttle was never a profitable business and defaulted on its debt in 1990. The Trump University, aka the Trump Wealth Institute functioned from 2005-2010, supposedly teaching students how to make money in real estate and other investments. It was not an accredited institution and used high pressure tactics to recruits students, though it was actually a scam. There were several lawsuits against Trump and the company which he settled by paying $25 million in 2016, post-election. Successful businessman? Give me a break. Yet millions of Americans still see him in that light.

Since his election to the presidency in 2016, there have been multiple questions about illegitimate activity, many of them not yet resolved. The Mueller investigation regarding Trump’s involvement with Russian officials for help in his 2016 election campaign concluded there was insufficient evidence of a conspiracy. However, the investigation noted that Trump accepted Russian assistance and believed it would benefit him. He was impeached twice in the House because of his questionable actions but not convicted because of Republican support in the Senate. The first impeachments in 2019 were initiated with charges of abuse of power and obstruction of justice. The second impeachment was on charges of incitement of insurrection relating to the Jan 6 raid on the Capitol.

In addition, after the 2020 presidential election, Trump claimed and continues to claim that the election was stolen from him, though there has been no evidence of fraud and the courts have turned down his suits multiple times. Notwithstanding, Trump still denies that he lost and has encouraged his followers to change election laws and place supporters in positions at state and local levels to decide any future elections.

Currently, a grand jury in Georgia is investigating whether Trump tried to influence officials to change the vote totals to favor him, an obviously criminal act of election interference. The DOJ and FBI have taken boxes of classified and top secret documents in a search of Trump’s home in Mar-a-Lago that Tromp brought with him illegally when he left the White House. The taking of these documents which were left in various parts of his home may have compromised national security. This may open him to a number of criminal charges if the DOJ pursues it further including obstruction and violation of the Espionage Act.

Alan Weisselberg, the Chief Financial Officer of the Trump Organization, recently pleaded guilty to 15 criminal charges involving tax evasion and has agreed to testify against the Trump Organization. Whether this will include Trump himself is uncertain, but it does appear that Trump valued his holdings differently for tax purposes and to acquire bank loans. It could lead to charges against him for tax evasion. In a deposition regarding this, Trump invoked the Fifth Amendment multiple times.

In addition to the above possible criminal actions, Trump also faces a host of civil lawsuits for various actions. However, the bottom line is with all the charges and lawsuits that are pending, Trump has not been found guilty on any of them yet, has not spent a day in jail and has not paid a dollar in any of the suits against him. So far! He also has the backing of his Republican base and the vast majority of Republican politicians. Teflon perhaps?

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Trump and Authority Figures

Trump and Authority Figures

                        Robert A. Levine 8-22-22

The conflict occurring between Donald Trump and the Justice Department should not be surprising to anyone who has followed The Donald over the years. This narcissistic behemoth has had difficulty with authority figures all of his life, especially those who disagree with him or contest his authenticity or beliefs. Perhaps it can be traced back to his relationship with his father who provided the funds to start The Donald on his quest for success, and bailed him out at times when he failed. Like his father, Trump has never had any compunctions about bending the rules or ignoring them completely in actions that favor him financially or politically. His father Fred lied about his German heritage after WW II, claiming that he was Swedish. In his real estate dealings he was manipulative and deceptive, paying off politicians at times to get his way. He saw life as being continuous combat and his son followed in his footsteps. People were either successful or losers and both father and son never wanted the latter identification.

As a child, Trump was a disciplinary problem and loved to fight, getting into trouble with school authority figures. To bring him under control, his father sent him to the New York Military Academy, hoping to instill discipline in The Donald. He spent his first year of college at Fordham then transferred to the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, where it is rumored that he was admitted because of a donation from his father. Subsequently, he went into the real estate business with seed money from his father with a number of his projects going bankrupt. The same is true of his airline and online university, though he claims to have been a successful businessman.  

His ability to spout various claims and lies, and overt actions that conflict with the norms of society have frequently placed him in confrontations with various authority figures whom he tends to dismiss as lying or being beneath him. But while he may call these people names and label them in vicious and terrible ways, he has been unwilling to substantiate many of his claims in areas where they called him to task. Why has he never released his tax returns unlike every other presidential candidate? Trump says he’s a billionaire and it may be true but he’s never presented evidence of it. He calls himself a genius but has threatened to sue any institution that releases his grades or SAT scores. Of what is this “genius” afraid? Trump did not even know that Finland was not part of Russia according to some of his national security advisors.

He claims the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him. However, aside from speaking in ambiguities, he and his minions have offered no proof of any significant fraud that could have altered the election. He continues to harp on the contention that he won the election because he doesn’t want to be labeled a loser and can use election denial to raise funds. But in multiple cases where he has gone to the courts for redress, he has been turned down for lack of any evidence. Even so, the majority of his base believes the lie that the election was stolen.

In the past when dealing with federal officials regarding violations and housing discrimination in the buildings owned by his firm, he has called them Gestapo agents. Similarly, he has labeled the FBI as Gestapo for searching his home in Mar-a-Lago for classified documents under court order. In keeping these documents, he did not believe that the rules applied to him. He constantly taunts the authority of the mainstream media, describing their information as fake news when it places him in a bad light. He dismisses the actions of the courts when they rule against him.

Trump is a malignant narcissist who believes he is above the law, can say and do what he wants and no authority can touch him. The sad thing is that the vast majority of Republicans believe him.

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America Needs Immigrants

America Needs Immigrants

                        Robert A. Levine

If America is going to continue to be an economic colossus, we need more workers. The “great resignation,” Covid retirements and low birth rates have all contributed to a need to fill open jobs. That can only be accomplished by increasing immigration. Throughout American history, immigrants have always played a large role in America's workforce.

Population growth has been declining in America as birth rates have become lower, a trend that will only be exacerbated in the future. In the 1970s and 1980s, population growth of people in their prime working years-25-54, in the United States was over 2 percent, fostered by both elevated birth rates and immigration. Currently, population growth in these prime working years has slipped to 0.2 percent. With birth rates continuing to decrease and immigration being restricted, a further dearth of prime age workers can be expected in the future. Recent surveys have noted that over 20 percent of young women want to remain childless and never have children.

Even in this age of automation and increased use of robotics, our economy cannot continue to operate efficiently and grow without the availability of more workers. This includes both unskilled laborers and highly skilled and educated high tech workers. The most recent unemployment rate was 3.5 percent, an extremely low level. And job openings are going unfilled as there are not enough workers to take these positions.

It is true that the pandemic of Covid 19 has played a role in the increased number of job openings, with large numbers of workers resigning from their jobs, looking for higher pay, better working conditions, or just retiring. But an insufficient number of workers are returning to work and there are not enough men and women stepping into the work force to replace them. And this will only get worse given the nation’s low birth rate. It is not only the United States that is having lower birth rates in recent years. This trend has been present in virtually every advanced nation.

Reasons for lower birth rates include more women who are career oriented and people marrying at later ages. In addition, America does not provide enough affordable child day care options for mothers who want to work and does not sufficiently subsidize the cost of raising children. This includes the costs of education, particularly for parents who expect their children to pursue higher education.

While it is possible that the nation’s birth rate could increase if government provided a sufficient supporting role for parents and children, those who were born in the next few years would not be ready to enter the work force for at least two decades. We need workers now. The only way to immediately augment the number of workers would be through allowing more legal immigration.

Lower skilled workers are needed for agricultural jobs, butchering and meat packing work, construction jobs, positions in the hospitality industry which is now growing again, truck driving and so forth. High-tech workers are also required. And workers in health care are in great demand. This includes physicians, nurses, and health aides. Shortages of primary care physicians and nurses are particularly acute in many areas of the country.

It should be remembered that high-tech immigrants are responsible for large numbers of America’s patents as well as producing start-up companies. The latter provide jobs for many American workers and help the growth of our economy.

Though there are white nationalists who would like to restrict the number of non-white immigrants and worry about changing demographics, a strong economy is what makes America exceptional and allows it to play an important role on the international stage. In addition to raising immigration quotas, the government should also do whatever is possible to increase domestic birth rates by putting better child care and financial subsidies in place.

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The Loser

The Loser

       Robert A. Levine

The term “loser” has haunted Donald Trump since his childhood, but even moreso as an adult. To “The Donald,” the worst epithet in the world is loser. He has some deep psychological fear of people thinking of him as a loser. This need to avoid being labeled, or thought of as a loser has motivated a number of his actions, some of which have been illegal or ethically questionable. He has lied about his grades and class standings in prep school and his colleges, and has threatened to sue his schools if they released his grades or SAT scores. He has bragged that he is a genius when his general knowledge is known to be paltry (Finland as part of Russia?).

To provide extra protection for himself against others describing him as a loser, he has exaggerated his wealth and dismissed his bankruptcies and debts as the machinations of a smart businessman taking advantage of establishment rules. He has denigrated the elites when he has been unable to buy acceptance and has denounced and insulted institutions that have rejected him. Trump has always been a boor and a bully, his behavior keeping him from the status he so ardently desires. Discerning people see him for who is and want nothing to do with him.

Since he has been involved in politics, it has become even more important for him to cast off any suggestion he is a loser. Trump refuses to acknowledge that he lost the 2020 election and claims that it was stolen from him by Biden and the Democrats. (According to Trump, losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton in 2016 was because illegal immigrants had voted.) Even before the 2020 election, when the polls had him lagging behind Biden, he claimed that the election was going to be rigged, giving him an excuse when he believed he might lose.

Many people in America perceive Trump as a riveting orator and entertainer, particularly those leaning right. If those in his base lack knowledge of the facts, they readily accept what he tells them as the truth. They are unwilling or unable to independently seek out the facts and instead listen to those in the media and politicians who back Trump’s lies. Trump does not care about the damage he has done to America’s democracy and democratic institutions.

His actions since the election, with his initial efforts to overturn the results and the January 6th attack on the capitol at his behest, have been unlawful. Trump’s behavior has completely ignored past political norms in his quest to prevent his being labeled a loser. Asking Republican state officials to “find” votes for him to overcome his deficits in those states certainly sounds like a president pressuring people in lower government positions to do his bidding and cheat the voters out of their choice.  Is this not a criminal act for which he should be punished? Even at this late date, he is still pursuing ways to overturn the election. Trump’s continued unwillingness to accept his loss suggest a disconnect from reality and serious psychiatric illness.

Because he has been able to convince so many of his followers that the election was stolen, Trump has driven a deeper cleft between the right and the left, in elected officials as well as in the general public. This has made it difficult for governmental bodies on a federal level to pass necessary legislation because of increased polarization between the parties that he has further inflamed. Aside from a few brave souls, Republican elected to office at all levels have publicly backed Trump’s assertion that the election was stolen, afraid that Trump might turn his base of believers against them if they acknowledge that he lost. Privately, however, many of them recognize that Trump did actually lose the election.

In many Republican dominated states, elected officials and state legislatures have been changing the laws to make it more difficult for minorities and people of color to vote, because they tend to support Democrats. This is being done based on the lie that the last presidential election was stolen and to prevent it from happening again.

It is close to two years now after the 2020 election and Trump persists in spreading his lies and denying that he lost. He is willing to subvert American democracy merely so that he will not be known as a loser. But in fact, he is the ultimate loser, a traitor to his country, because of the harm he has caused to the American system of government. A loser is a loser and Trump has well earned his reputation as a loser by those Americans who are aware of the truth.

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Hate and Identity

Hate and Identity

            Robert A. Levine

The concept of identifying with a group and seeing outsiders as a threat is known to be present in many animal species below humans on the phylogenetic scale. This can be seen in a pack of wolves, in lions, monkeys and chimpanzees, who follow the alpha male in the group and may harass or attack other groups, particularly during mating season. Prehistoric man tended to live in small groups, always suspicious or antagonistic to outsiders. When man advanced to living in tribes, the members of these groups identified with their fellow members and were often hostile to those whom they saw as interlopers or those outside their tribes. This need for identity or to be part of a special group or community continued during the period when nation states were formed.

Bonds between people were formed on the basis of national identity (nationalism), the similar characteristics including race, religion and ethnicity or genetic origins. Again, people who were different in various ways, even if living in the same territory and citizens of the same state, were considered as interlopers who did not belong to the in-group. Because of their status as outsiders, they were often feared and seen as threats, and hatred of these ‘others’ grew more pronounced. In Europe, this antagonism and hatred of other ethnic groups has been occurring for centuries in many nations, leading to pogroms and massacres of minorities living in these nations. Though the population of every European nation participated to varying degrees in the hatred and conflict against outsiders, it seemed to be more prevalent in eastern European countries and Germany.

Certainly, tribal and national identities and hatred and killings of outsiders has not been limited to Europe. It is a general condition of mankind and has been present in Asia and Africa on a large scale as well as in North and South America. Unfortunately, white Christian identity movements have been growing throughout America as well as in European nations. Animosity towards other religious, racial and ethnic groups has been increasing and becoming more mainstream, with some white Christian groups feeling that America is being taken away from them. They tend to forget that indigenous peoples lived in America before whites colonized the land and if any group should feel hostility towards others it should be them.

The main reason for the hatred generated from ethno-nationalists is because some people are different than them and may come from other ethnicities, worship in other ways, or be of other races. There is nothing wrong with identifying with a particular group and feeling proud of your identity and of the accomplishments of your group. However, that does not preclude living in harmony with other ethnic, racial or religious groups and respecting the identity of the people in these groups. Hatred arises from fear of outside groups and supposed threats eminating from them. These threats are generally imaginary and are based to a large degree in difficulties in communication between groups.

There should be no reason that pride in one’s identity should threaten another group’s identity and cause hatred on one or both sides. Different people should be able to live together side by side in the same nation and cooperate in making life better for all citizens. Those who espouse hatred and foment conflict between peoples should be shunned by all of those who believe that a better and more peaceful world is possible.

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Sex and Abortion

Sex and Abortion

            Robert A. Levine

The recent Supreme Court ban on abortion is not the first time religious conservatives have tried to take away women’s rights. And we are not the first society where there have been attempts to make women subservient to men and dependent on them. And this is not the first time that religious zealots have tried to tie sexual relationships to having children, trying to deny women the right to sexual pleasure without bearing children. What is wrong with men and women having sex purely for pleasure and not to conceive?

Religion and ancient societies have always been patriarchal in structure, emphasized in the Bible and all religious texts. Remember that Eve was fashioned from Adam’s rib. She was just part of a man while Adam was the superior being. In some primitive societies, women are still considered chattel at the disposal of the men who are their protectors and actual owners. There is even an aura of evil in some religions regarding women, who are labeled as temptresses who will lead men to sin and infidelity. Religious texts do not emphasize pleasure for women in sexual congress, believing that sex is for men to have pleasure and to create children.

Islam allows men to have four wives and original Mormonism also allowed men multiple wives, showing that men were superior beings. Conservative Protestant religions expect their women to stay home and have children, rather than pursue education and careers separate from their men. Religious Catholics believe that use of contraceptives is a sin and that the purpose of sexual intercourse is to produce children. Orthodox Jews are split on abortion but it is felt to be a conjugal duty that a man provide pleasure for his wife in conjugal sex.

In none of the western religions is there any text on the right of men and women who are not married to have sex purely for pleasure. Banning of abortion by the Supreme Court furthers the idea that sex that does not produce children is evil and that the mother must be forced to carry an unwanted child because she sinned by having sex. Of course, many married women become pregnant and believe they cannot afford or do not want to have a child and so have an abortion.

It is not a surprise that all of the Supreme Court Justices who voted to overturn Roe v Wade are religious Catholics, though Justice Gorsuch labels himself as Anglican/Catholic. The fact that these six justices allowed their religious beliefs to guide their decisions against the views of the majority of the nation is a detriment to our democracy. Though it is certainly not necessary to have justices proportional to the nation’s population, it is aberrant to heave 6 or 7 Catholics on the highest court in the land, with all of them appearing to follow religious dogma. How could they not overturn Roe v Wade when they have been taught all of their lives that abortion is a grave sin?

When John Kennedy was elected president in 1960, many Americans called him a papist, believing that he would be adherent to church doctrine. This did not occur but it is now the Supreme Court that is following the precepts of their church against the popular will. Their decision to allow religious schools to receive state funding in Maine that was given to private schools is further evidence of their religious beliefs and is contrary to the Founders desire for the separation of church and state. No religious institutions should be receiving government funds. And no teachers or coaches should be able to hold prayer sessions on public property after or during a school function where students might feel obligated to participate.

These justices who are Catholic acolytes might do better to try and clear their church of its rampant pedophilia which seems to be an ingrained problem at all levels, instead of interfering with secular laws that have been on the books for fifty years and have the support of the majority of the population. It is also unfair that presidents who did not win the popular elections and senators who represent a minority of the population have been able by hook and crook to fashion a minority Supreme Court who follow their religious precepts in ruling on their cases, bringing America back to a less open and less modern age. There are a number of ways that the Court could be changed to be made more modern and realize that sex for pleasure between loving individuals is not such a bad thing after all, even if it results in an unintended pregnancy. Women should be able to have children when they desire it, and abortion and contraception should not be made more difficult because of prudish men and one woman.

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Trump's Lasting Legacy

Trump’s Lasting Legacy

                        Robert A. Levine

Excluding Trump’s role in changing America’s relationship with NATO and other nations, his largest and lasting domestic impact is and will be his three appointees to the Supreme Court. These appointments transformed the Court from a moderate political body into a deeply conservative one which with lifetime tenure for justices will remain so for decades to come. There are two ways this conservative predilection could change, neither one of them very likely.

One would be by placing term limits on SCOTUS justices. Instead of life time appointments, this could be changed by a constitutional amendment to a set number of years, probably a lengthy term of ten, twelve or eighteen years. Given the increase in life expectancy since the Founding Fathers approved the Constitution, from 30 to 40 years in the 1700s, to around 80 in the 2000s, this would not be an unrealistic move. Depending on a justice’s age when appointed to the Court, the expected length of a term in the early 1800s might have been considered to be around 20 years or less. An appointment to the Court currently could be 40 years or more if an appointment were made when a person was in his or her forties. These gerontologic justices may well be out of touch with changes in society by the time they retire or die. Setting term limits would restore some credibility to the Court which has seen diminished approval ratings by the general public in recent years.

Another suggestion in a similar vein is to allow every president to appoint two justices in every four year presidential term, with the two longest standing justices retiring. With current standards, a president like Trump could appoint three justices in one term, while another president might get to appoint none, purely by chance. Having a set law on the books to provide equitable appointments by presidents to the Court would be fairer and allow more representation from different political groups. Trump was elected in 2016 by a minority of the American population and the senators who approved his nominees also represented a minority of Americans. These appointments are not indicative of a democratic system.

Some SCOTUS analysts believe that the way to transform the Court is to increase the number of justices on the Court as the population of the nation has grown dramatically since the Constitution was written. Only a small number of cases presented are handled by the Court each year and having more Justices might allow a greater number of cases to be examined and ruled upon. Opponents have called this “packing the Court” but it does seem to have some basis in the reality of the nation’s increased population.

Unfortunately, the way the Senate is structured, with two members from each state regardless of population, make new laws or dramatic changes in old ones unlikely. The Founding Fathers in their infinite wisdom had two senators represent each state in the union regardless of population. This means that California with 20 million citizens and Wyoming with 600,000 each have the same power to write laws in the Senate. Small rural states tend to be generally conservative and send conservative senators to Washington to represent them. This results in more conservative Justices being appointed to the Supreme Court.

We can point to Mitch McConnell refusing to appoint Merrick Garland to SCOTUS when he was nominated by President Obama during his last year in office. McConnell said that appointments to the Court should not be made during a president’s last year in office as the electorate should make this decision depending on for whom they vote. However, McConnell turned 180 degrees when Amy Coney Barrett was nominated by Trump in the last few months of his term, rapidly pushing her nomination through the Senate. McConnell did not seem to be bothered by his barefaced lie.

So far in the recent SCOTUS term, we have seen the Justices overturn Roe v Wade which had been law for half a century, disregarding prior precedents. Open carry of firearms was supported by the Court, notwithstanding the mass killings and the plague of individual deaths that have occurred because of the easy availability of guns. The Justices have also approved state payments to private religious schools, disregarding the separation of church and state. The three Justices appointed by Trump have formed the majority in all three cases.  This is his lasting legacy and does not seem likely to change in the foreseeable future unless changes are wrought in the Constitution, another unlikely possibility. Conservatives gaming the system have won.

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Common Sense vs. Politics on Gun Control

Common Sense vs. Politics on Gun Control

                        Robert A. Levine

There appears to be great hoopla among politicians in Washington over the new proposed gun control bill which will likely become law on a bipartisan basis. Unfortunately, it accomplishes very little because Republicans remain afraid of the gun lobby and the NRA. While it may put a crimp in the ability of 18 to 21 year olds to obtain guns instantly, they will still be able to get guns after an extended background check. The ‘red flag’ law may be of some value, but will depend on domestic partners, relatives or neighbors reporting someone as unsuitable to possess weapons. People may be reluctant to report individuals to the police because of repercussions if the weapons are not taken away or are returned after a certain period.

It is clear that the best way to prevent mass shootings is to ban assault weapons from the general public. While a case can be made for possession of pistols in the home for self-defense and rifles for hunting, there is absolutely no reason why civilians should be allowed to possess assault weapons or extended magazines. Assault weapons are weapons of war and large magazines allow more bullets to be shot at a faster rate without reloading. Why aren’t these weapons purposefully engineered for mass killings and quick killings during wartime banned for civilian use.

We all know why. Pure politics. The NRA and gun lobby gives campaign funds and advertises for those who support the easy purchase of assault weapons and advertises against those who want to make possession of assault weapons more difficult. During the ten years that an assault weapon ban was in force, from 1994 to 2004, mass killings were decreased, rising again when the ban was allowed to lapse. The initial ban on assault weapons was supported by Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter and received bipartisan backing in Congress.

Common sense tells us that if assault weapons and large magazines were unavailable to civilians, mass killings would decrease. America is the only developed nation in the world that allows possession of assault weapons by civilians, and gun deaths in America exceed those of any ten developed nations combined. The two major causes of death among young people are gun deaths and automobile accidents. It must also be emphasized that at the time the Second Amendment was written, assault weapons did not exist. The Founding Fathers relied on common sense when writing the Constitution and it is likely that the Second Amendment would have been altered if assault weapons had been invented by that time.

The goal of those in this nation who truly want to stop mass killings should be the complete elimination of assault weapons and large magazines in civilian hands. Polls have shown that the majority of the population agrees. Unfortunately, Republicans who refuse to ban assault weapons either lack common sense or are so dependent on support from the NRA and gun lobbyists, or are afraid of them, that they will not act in an appropriate manner to keep assault weapons out of civilian hands.

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