Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Artificial Intelligence: You should be concerned.

The basic definition of "intelligence" is "the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills."

A myriad of life forms can do this. Humans appear to have become better at it than others.

In the 20th Century we created language oriented machines - computers - to support and supplement our intelligence. And predictably in the beginning of the 21st Century those machines have become sophisticated enough that we now call it "artificial intelligence" abbreviated as "AI".

As noted in a recent Scientific American article:

    No one yet knows how ChatGPT and its artificial intelligence cousins will transform the world, and one reason is that no one really knows what goes on inside them. Some of these systems’ abilities go far beyond what they were trained to do—and even their inventors are baffled as to why. A growing number of tests suggest these AI systems develop internal models of the real world, much as our own brain does, though the machines’ technique is different.

The problem is this is correctly defined as both wondrous and dangerous. (Read the article if it is a concern to you.)

The suggested solution to the dangerous side is to have Congress pass some regulations. That sound you hear is this writer groaning.... For the fledgling AI systems already out there can and will outperform human legislative "group-think" because that's what their designed to do and can already do.

In his 1950 book I, Robot Isaac Asimov offered up a possibility for guiding the behavior of AI:

The Three Laws of Robotics:
  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Note that word "guiding" not "restricting" is used. Keep in mind that AI has already evolved beyond what the humans who designed it intended. The best we can hope for is that those three fundamental Laws of Robotics would be built into the basics of AI.

But we may already failed at that.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Capitalist involvement 20 years ago: Why Putin, and a majority of Russians, will keep fighting

At the outset, you need to understand that an article in The Guardian 18 years ago titled "US campaign behind the turmoil in Kiev" explained:

    But while the gains of the orange-bedecked "chestnut revolution" are Ukraine's, the campaign is an American creation, a sophisticated and brilliantly conceived exercise in western branding and mass marketing that, in four countries in four years, has been used to try to salvage rigged elections and topple unsavoury regimes.
    Funded and organised by the US government, deploying US consultancies, pollsters, diplomats, the two big American parties and US non-government organisations, the campaign was first used in Europe in Belgrade in 2000 to beat Slobodan Milosevic at the ballot box.
    Richard Miles, the US ambassador in Belgrade, played a key role. And by last year, as US ambassador in Tbilisi, he repeated the trick in Georgia, coaching Mikhail Saakashvili in how to bring down Eduard Shevardnadze.
    Ten months after the success in Belgrade, the US ambassador in Minsk, Michael Kozak, a veteran of similar operations in central America, notably in Nicaragua, organised a near identical campaign to try to defeat the Belarus hardman, Alexander Lukashenko.
    That one failed. "There will be no Kostunica in Belarus," the Belarus president declared, referring to the victory in Belgrade.
    But experience gained in Serbia, Georgia and Belarus has been invaluable in plotting to beat the regime of Leonid Kuchma in Kiev.

Nothing is ever simple. But the fact is the U.S. has been continuously involved in attempting to undermine the Russians in Serbia, Georgia, Belarus, and Ukraine since the 1990's.

In an article published this week by FRANCE 24 titled "War in Ukraine ‘stems from the Orange Revolution, a humiliating ordeal for Putin’" historian Françoise Thom offers the following:

    Vladimir Putin’s anti-Western rhetoric is long-standing. We can date the change in the Kremlin’s discourse to the colour revolutions between 2003 and 2004. At that time, a wave of anti-corruption and pro-democratic liberal movements were sweeping across several post-Soviet states, namely Georgia – the Rose Revolution – and in Ukraine where the Orange Revolution took place in 2004.
    n my opinion, the ongoing war stems from the Orange Revolution, which was a humiliating ordeal for Putin. The candidate he backed, Viktor Yanukovych, lost the popular vote to a pro-European candidate, Viktor Yushchenko, in the 2004 elections.
    The outcome was a slap in the face for Putin and he developed an intense hatred towards Ukraine and its people. Interpreting the turn of events as the result of US interference, the ex-KGB agent saw scheming by the US as the only reason for his candidate’s loss.
    Putin’s paranoid rhetoric took root from that point on. As illustrated by Kremlin ideologist Vladislav Surkov in a 2004 text: “The enemy is on our doorsteps, we have to defend every Russian and every household against the West”.
    During the 2007 Munich Security Conference, Putin challenged the West, especially the US. He then followed up by launching a reform of Russia’s military in 2008. The war against Ukraine therefore has very old roots. Far from an improvisation, the current conflict is part of a wider context tied to Russia’s row with the West.
    In 2013, an association proposed by the European Union to post-Soviet countries, namely Ukraine, set off the powder keg. The project clashed with Putin’s desire to integrate Ukraine into a customs union, the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), led by Russia.
    Putin seeks to build a large European space, from Brest to Vladivostok, where Russia can establish its supremacy while dispelling US influence. In 2013, Ukraine's then president Yanukovych, under pressure from the Kremlin, rejected the association agreement with the EU while opting to join the EEU. Massive protests erupted in Ukraine, which led to the 2014 Maidan Revolution, an insurrection that Yanukovych tried to repress but failed. He absconded and a new government, which Putin labelled as Nazi, came into power.
    Putin annexed Crimea several days later, claiming that it was to defend Russia from NATO and that Crimea has always been Russian despite the transfer to Ukraine in 1954, an error he said was committed by the USSR's then leader Nikita Khrushchev. Putin also attempted to conquer southern and eastern Ukraine, but had to settle for two separatist enclaves in the east. The armed conflict ended with the ratification of the Minsk agreements on September 5, 2014.

We Americans should be concerned about our role in precipitating wars. The war in Ukraine is not going to be resolved by us testing out our latest weapons. Russia is not going to back down. The Russians fight when challenged.

What is most troubling is that within the U.S. there is opposition to this war from the far right. What exactly do those who enthusiastically support Ukraine intend to do if it looks like Russia might prevail? Do we not feel the least bit on edge because we have been meddling for 25 years? Does it ever occur to people that Putin has made it clear that he will  use nuclear weapons as a last resort?

Or is it the truth that most Americans did not know what was going on in that part of the world at the turn of the Century and don't know what is going on there now.

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Windfarms 5, Gray Whales -? The Ocean is being sold to private interests who will sell you electricity.

Fifteen years ago I began this blog. The concern was that government was going to lease California's ocean to corporations to develop alternative electrical energy sources.

On Wednesday, August 1, 2007, the first post in this blog Limited Time Only - Act now to own your piece of the Pacific Ocean off the Mendocino Coast was offered. It addressed a plan to use "wave energy" generation systems to be placed in the Gray Whale Migration Route. In February 2012 an extensive post about the matter -The Cloud versus the Gray Whale - was offered.

The proposal disappeared from the news, much to my surprise. But guess what. Wind farm proposals were always on the horizon. 

Wind farms have been constructed along the Atlantic Coast. And as posted here May 29, 2021, Gray Whales threatened as Biden and Newsom push huge Pacific Coast wind farm developments.

Today the news headline is Going, going, gone: Feds hold first-ever auction for California offshore wind leases, an article that offers the summary:

    Several dozen companies are competing today for leases to build massive floating wind farms in deep ocean waters off Morro Bay and Humboldt County. The auction is the first major step toward producing offshore wind energy off the West Coast.

If you read the article you will learn that environmental opposition has been pushed aside in favor of economic expansion - in other words, electric energy for a constantly expanding world economy is all that really matters. Simply no one wants to give up electric devices including future electric powered modes of transport.

The fact is that very, very large wind generators are planned to be built This writer is of a generation that isn't going be able to address the problems that will inevitably result. Apparently no one else is either. Consider this from today's article:

    Brandon Southall, a scientist with the environmental group California Ocean Alliance and a research associate at UC Santa Cruz who studies the effects of noise on marine mammals, is performing a risk assessment on the lease areas for the federal government to assess how to avoid disruptions to endangered animals and noise-sensitive marine life.
    Despite the risks, Southall said they shouldn’t derail efforts to deploy the clean energy source given the severity of the climate crisis. He said it’s important that the federal and state governments develop a regulatory framework for companies to ensure they comply with environmental protections.

Simply put, as always Americans will sacrifice the environment and wildlife to generate electricity because we can't maintain our lifestyle without more devices. After all, you can get along without Gray Whales....

Thursday, October 27, 2022

"Chaotic Future." "Severe Disruption." Let's use the phrase "a future world of death and destruction!"

For humans who can read, the press today is letting us know the "news" that we have successfully put the Earth's climate on track for a devastating 2.5 degrees Celsius rise in temperatures by 2100, a future world of death and destruction.

It is very clear that the people of the United States and China will assure that the anticipated world of death and destruction will be achieved by the year 2100. 

But wait. Haven't we in California made some significant gains towards reducing Climate Change? Uh, yeah...about that....

Researchers at UCLA and the University of Chicago in a study released in August state as follows

    Our analysis suggests several notable bit findings. First, wildfires in California have become a major and growing source of GHG emissions. Over the long to very long term, regrowth could alleviate some of the emissions, but this is unlikely to occur on the time scale necessary to meet near and medium-term emission targets needed to avert passing the 1.5 degree C threshold.
    Second, the magnitude of the emissions makes wildfires the second most important source of emissions in 2020 behind transportation emissions, and one that appears likely to grow with future climate change. Average wildfire emissions from the past five years (~46 mmt CO2e from 2016 to 2020) ranks above the most recent individual contributions from the Commercial & Residential, Agriculture, Recycling & Waste, and High Global Warming Potential sectors. The latter includes fluorine-containing gases that destroy stratospheric ozone; sources include electricity transmission and distribution and semiconductor manufacturing.
    Third, wildfire emissions in 2020 essentially negate 18 years of reductions in GHG emissions from other sectors by a factor of two.
    Fourth, the additional global damages due only to the contribution of these emissions to climate change can be valued at $7.09 billion.

Simply put, California policies to replace most gas and diesel fueled motor vehicles - specifically cars and trucks - with carbon-free power sources sometime in the next two decades could possibly help limit Climate Change to a devastating 2.5 degrees Celsius rise in temperatures by 2100.

Over five years ago a post here titled In California we are overcoming words that blind and bind by discussing biosphere science reflected a foolish sense of hope even as it described efforts to reduce environmental impacts.

At some point in time, language regarding Climate Change needs to shift from phrases like "our analysis suggests" to reflect that reliable information shows an actual, nearly irreversible threat to lives and property around the globe.

As usual, Elizabeth Colbert who is best known for her Pulitzer Prize-winning 2014 book The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History continues her effort to educate the world, writing her 2021 Under a White Sky offering a look at technological advances that might save this world.

In a July 2014 interview on The Daily Show with John Stewart promoting her book, at the end they both acknowledge a kind of despair. Hopefully, she sees something better today. You may want to watch that interview again. Or not.

Saturday, October 15, 2022

About that racist meeting involving LA City Council members: Oaxaca is a historically significant state

California. Wikipedia has a whole separate article on the etymology of "California." But the subject here is about Los Angeles, California, particularly the City and the problem created this past week by the President of its City Council.

Specifically in a recording that was secretly made nearly a year ago involving three council members and a union president meeting about redistricting, Council President Nury Martinez made a series of racist remarks about blacks, Armenians, and Oaxacans that has thrown the city government into turmoil. The recording was recently leaked to the Los Angeles Times and you can read the many articles about it. Anyway, Martinez resigned.

More specifically, Martinez called indigenous immigrants from the Mexican state of Oaxaca who live in Los Angeles “dark little people,” adding “tan feos” (“they’re ugly”) and claimed she didn’t know where they came from.

A review of history - something not necessarily among the subjects familiar to Ms. Martinez - could lead her to Benito Pablo Juárez (picture at left), a Oaxacan of indigenous Zapotec origin, who was President of Mexico from 1858 to 1872 and who swapped correspondence with Abraham Lincoln.

There is some debate about how many letters they actually swapped and, because they couldn't visit each other and lacked cell phone technology, how much of their friendship story was fiction. We won't get into that here. The point is that one of the most prominent Presidents of Mexico was a well-educated Oaxacan.

It is troubling that Martinez claims she does not know where Oaxaca is while relying on her Mexican (or Latino, as she calls it) heritage to gain political advantage.

This is a disturbing reminder of how easy it is for humans everywhere to, within their minds, divide themselves into groups based upon race, ethnicity, language, religion, nationality, wealth, education, etc., for no particular purpose except to create conflict based upon artificial perceptions of superiority.

Anyway, the map below emphasizes the location of Oaxaca in the south of Mexico:

Friday, October 7, 2022

It appears the world is going to overreact and mishandle the Extended Economic Distortion

 In a newsletter this afternoon, the folks at Bloomberg observed, in part:

    Nonfarm payrolls increased 263,000 in September while the unemployment rate dropped to 3.5%, matching a five-decade low. Average hourly earnings also rose firmly.
    The figures are the latest illustration of the worrisome strength of the US job market, at a time when the Fed wants to see just the opposite—cooling wage growth and inflation.

They go on to note that the stock market "cratered" today, Federal Reserve officials blabbed about the need to raise interest rates because of inflation, with only President Biden offering what used to be the normal positive reaction to continuing full employment and higher earnings.

A lot more working and retired folks are worried about the stock market than used to be worried because they have money invested in stocks, mostly in retirement accounts of one kind or another.

As noted in numerous posts on Extended Economic Distortion, the problem is no one understands what is going on nor what is the likely path and outcome. One thing seemingly is becoming obvious - the Federal Reserve raising interest rates has not suppressed full employment or reduced wage growth. Based on the limited evidence to date, it may not have that impact. It could lead to a full blown depression because the experts are over-focused on inflation. The problem is inflation isn't a cause, it is an effect. Interest rates are, at best, only one cause of the Extended Economic Distortion.

Since the beginning of the 21st Century we have seen a significant change in retail sales symbolized by Amazon but, in fact, created by thousands of online retailers. They couldn't have made that change without there being an "online" which really on came into being at the beginning of the century and which has altered behavior in ways unexpected. Most significantly because of the pandemic it has brought about the "working from home" trend which has, of course, brought about empty office buildings, among other things. It also has reduced the time people spend away from home, people who then need to retail shop more online.

Also changed during this period was the reductions in inventory maintained by retailers and wholesalers and manufacturers which required the establishment of a supply chain system which barely avoided a full collapse during the pandemic because folks staying at home were bored and needed to buy stuff. The problem was the related workforce - truck drivers, ship crews, etc., couldn't be increased in such a short period of time while other workers in the supply chain were ...you guessed it... staying at home.

These are just a few more obvious examples of distortions in the traditional economy which the Federal Reserve has no way to address. Also in the midst of the pandemic folks now working from home decided they should buy new homes, particularly since interest rates were so low. Home sales skyrocketed. Now that the Fed is raising interest rates, those homes cannot be easily sold and sale prices are declining leaving huge numbers of folks with recently acquired overvalued homes.

We don't understand the math of the current economy. It is in an Extended Economic Distortion and the Fed needs to pause for at least six months to let the distortion effects provide some information.

But that isn't likely to  happen because of the stressed online hand wringing - people just can communicate too much. We're seeing the impact of this over-communication in a predictable outcome - the world-wide growth of support for right wing populist politics. In the extreme this is reflected in Putin's war in the Ukraine.

And we still have no understanding of the likely path and outcome of the Extended Economic Distortion. But we do seem to want to, so badly that we will overreact and mishandle it. And just as Climate Change impacts are becoming more obvious.

Friday, September 30, 2022

Hurricane Ian: Ignoring history is one of the most consistent behaviors of humanity including climate.

Ignoring history is one of the most consistent behaviors of humanity. And so it is with weather, a symptom of or, if you prefer, a creation of climate.

Written in the Big Wind: Hurricanes spell doom for coastal development appeared in the September 1991 edition of Harper's written by writer Bob Shacochis who in August 1986 with his wife moved to Hatteras, one of the long barrier islands of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, a hurricane impacted area.

From that 30-year-old article we can learn a comprehensive number of facts about hurricanes. Ironically since 1991 coastal development has expanded significantly as Americans like Shacochis ignore information he provided such as:

    ...Full-blown hurricanes are typically one hundred times larger than a thunderstorm; every minute they release energy equivalent to a hydrogen bomb.
    ...The Labor Day hurricane that struck the Florida Keys in 1935, the most prodigious tropical cyclone on record in the United States, manufactured winds in excess of 200 mph, rendering the night air a blur of effervescent fire. The sandy topsoil of the Keys had been blasted airborne off its coral foundation; the quartz particles collided with each other, discharging electricity. Without shelter, anything alive in the middle of such a scourge didn’t stay alive for long.
    ...Hurricane winds also bear responsibility for some of the tallest waves known on Earth, frequently lashing open-ocean swells to heights of 40 to 50 feet. “I am more afraid of West Indian hurricanes than I am of the entire Spanish Navy,” confessed President William McKinley at the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, acknowledging the truth that throughout history weather had sent more ships to the bottom than warfare. Thus, in 1898, a hurricane-warning network was established in the West Indies by a federal Weather Bureau itself only eight years old.
    ...As an American, I can no longer imagine a beach so pure and empty that I’m not somewhere on it, minding the blank horizon, waiting for the wind to rise, the storm to wake me — another fool, gambling it will never come.

This post is being written in the context of Hurricane Ian which "devastated" portions of Florida yesterday with winds up to 150 mph and significant water damage. Keep in mind that this was not comparable to the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane described by Shacochis above. But one thing is important to remember. Florida has about 14 times the population it had in 1935. The city of Ft. Myers, Florida, which suffered significant damage from Ian had a population of about 10,000 people in 1935 while today it has about 10 times that population.

Then there is retirement mecca Charlotte County, which suffered extensive damage, is among the oldest counties in Florida, with 40% of residents aged 65 or above. It had about 4,000 residents in 1935 while today it has bout 190,000.

It's safe to say that Florida has about 10-14 times the potential damage, injury, and death risk it had in 1935 not because of some stronger hurricane but because people moved (retired to?) to Florida at a rate of 2,000,000 a year. And it likely will continue even with pictures like these:

Yes, Climate Change is, and will continue to be, bringing stronger hurricanes more frequently.

Here in California the reality is no better. We're expecting a continuation of a severe drought which has created devastating wildfire conditions. Yet, until recently people flocked to our state And they are only leaving because of the living costs, particularly housing.

Where are they going? In greatest numbers to states that have bad droughts and hurricanes, and particularly Texas which has both!

But what can one say when we retirees have lived for decades in a gorgeous redwood forest, including half a decade in drought conditions?

Ignoring history is one of the most consistent behaviors of humanity. And so it is with weather, a symptom of or, if you prefer, a creation of climate.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

The Vietnam War: What it meant when the blind pro-war propaganda of a previous generation threatened your commitment to right and wrong?

For reasons not clear to me, today the publication Foreign Affairs offers a Summer Read of articles on America at War in Vietnam and the Sacramento Bee offers Robert McNamara waged war on Vietnam. His son is a California farmer facing that legacy. The McNamara article offers a perspective from a man near my age who has written the memoir Because Our Fathers Lied.

Nothing this complex is easy to understand. But as with millions of men who came of age in the 1960's, the Vietnam War is a triggering memory for me though maybe not as deep as Craig McNamara. My father, a WWII veteran, opposed the Vietnam War but warned me about the dangers of protesting.

Killing people to prop up your ego and to support your own economic dominance in a distant region of the world not even important to your national economy is never a morally correct public policy. So what do you do when you risk being forced by elected American politicians too do exactly that - kill people for exactly those reasons?

You can protest, of course. And if you do so, perhaps you won't be shot by troops as in the Kent State Massacre which involved  the killings of four and wounding of nine other unarmed Kent State University students by the Ohio National Guard on May 4, 1970 pictured to the left.

Or you could participate in the 1968 Democratic National Convention protests where you could be met with indiscriminate police violence against protesters.

That was later described by the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence as a "police riot".

Or you could even seriously consider moving to Canada in 1966 because you understood after working with a Quaker associated group, there was little or no chance of effectively altering American pro-war policy which gave U.S. politicians there only chance since 1920 to fight a war with "communists." (This kind of moronic ideological thinking among Americans still occurs today with war advocacy against China.)

What continues to be disturbing is that today essentially half the American voting population and a majority of the states represent a ideological view that would have no problem sending their young people off to a meaningless, foolish war. And those my age remember that it was Democrats who facilitated the war.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Will there ever come a time when Americans, or reporters, will know the facts about the nation?

 One can't help but admire the tenaciousness of Liz Cheney and I do hope she continues to work against Trump. But reading the news today gives me little hope that America will ever gain a sense of balance.

The combined populations of Wyoming and Alaska is about 1.3 million people or 0.4% of the U.S. population. They have in total the same 0.4% of America's registered voters. That poplation total is about the same as Dallas, Texas, or San Diego, California.

Wyoming and Alaska have 10 times the representation in the U.S. Senate as their population - 4.0% of the Senators compared to 0.4% of the nation's population.

Democracy? Who are we kidding? And Trump understands that well. These were primary election results, not even representative of voters of all parties. Consider headlines today like Trump gloats over nemesis Liz Cheney’s primary loss, calls her ‘fool’ . Even ...no... particularly the press feeds the ignorance.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Let's be clear - per the new sixth annual IPPC report the behavior of people as expressed in civilization is the cause of the climate crisis.

The following was posted one year ago. The situation is worse today as generally indicated in the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability.

This week should have stimulated in this writer hope for the future of civilization. It has not.

The latest update in a new United Nations–led report from the International Panel on Climate Change prepared by hundreds of climate scientists around the world tells us the human-driven climate crisis is now well under way. Essentially civilization is in trouble.

Civilization as explained in Wikipedia refers to organized densely-populated human settlements divided into hierarchical social classes with a ruling elite and subordinate urban and rural populations, which engage in intensive agriculture, mining, small-scale manufacture and trade. Civilization concentrates power, extending human control over the rest of nature, including over other human beings.

Cultural critic and author Derrick Jensen argues that modern civilization is directed towards the domination of the environment and humanity itself in an intrinsically harmful, unsustainable, and self-destructive fashion. Defending his definition both linguistically and historically, he defines civilization as "a culture... that both leads to and emerges from the growth of cities", with "cities" defined as "people living more or less permanently in one place in densities high enough to require the routine importation of food and other necessities of life". This need for civilizations to import ever more resources, he argues, stems from their over-exploitation and diminution of their own local resources. Therefore, civilizations inherently adopt imperialist and expansionist policies and, to maintain these, highly militarized, hierarchically structured, and coercion-based cultures and lifestyles.

In "Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire," the cultural historian Morris Berman writes that "up and down the scale in the United States, a lack of empathy, an almost congenital inability to imagine the pain or the reality of the Other, is bred in the bone." He refers to what he calls an "American hatred of freedom." And he asserts that "the value system of at least 90 percent of the American population (at a conservative estimate), down through the decades, has acted to exclude a number of options that are essential for a healthy society. On one level, one might say that America takes away love and gives its citizens gadgets in return, which most of them regard as a terrific bargain."

The reality is that Americans in positions of power have known for 40+ years that we would reach the current point of climate crisis. Of course, the scientists have to tell us that only a major reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions this decade can prevent climate breakdown, and that some changes may already be “irreversible.”

And, of course, those of us who live in the American created civilization know that is not true- there is absolutely no chance of a major reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions this decade.

The problem actually starts because of the human civilization described above by Morris Berman. More than one article about the new study begins with a summary denial of the truth about the source of the climate problem: "it’s caused by fossil fuels." Actually fossil fuels aren't down there under ground plotting how to get out into the sunlight, building refineries to refine themselves, then drive around in cars spewing carbon dioxide into the air. 

No. it's caused by human beings in a civilization that simply cannot survive as it currently exists.

The problem represented in the comic strip to the right as explained by artist KC Green as: "Well, what are you going to do?"

You cannot create a complex civilization without structure. The structure of the dominant 21st Century civilization places unrestrained wealth economics above all else.

Hence, the comparatively minor economic stress associated with the Covid shutdown created anger and aggravated feelings in favor of antivaccination.

The truth is the Covid pandemic gave the current population a chance,  by doing practically nothing (getting vaccinated), to reduce the danger for everyone (as understood by scientists). Anger and hostility was the result of pushing vaccination.

Imagine trying to envision such a civilization confronted with being told to cut carbon dioxide emissions in half by doing such things as riding a bus instead of driving. It is just easier to believe the chart below is a lie than to restructure how we live.

In 2007 the first post here was about the threat to climate and to Gray Whales. Two months ago the post was Gray Whales threatened as Biden and Newsom push huge Pacific Coast wind farm developments. Literally, the solution to the climate crisis being pushed in California by the Democrats in power is more electricity use while changing the generation of electricity from fossil fuels to other environmentally harmful sources. In the meantime, the LA Times offers Something is killing gray whales. Is it a sign of oceans in peril?

Actually, it is a sign that because of the structure of our civilization - the Earth as we know it - has begun and will continue to undergo severe climate changes that over a period of decades will force the destruction of the current civilization.

It would be nice to say we acknowledge that we clearly understand that the "human driven" climate crisis is the result of the behavior and lifestyle of people. Instead we talk about carbon dioxide emissions which come from fossil fuels, at most blaming vehicles avoiding any reference to the drivers and passengers who are the ones actively destroying the current climate.

In the 40+ years that we have known clearly we have a climate crisis we have pushed our civilization to be more dependent on climate-damaging behavior, not less so. In the process, we, the people, have caused a climate crisis.

Perhaps news sources like the LA Times and most others could start offering headlines that say "People are killing gray whales. Civilization has put oceans in peril." That's the truth even though telling it may result in a minor reduction in retail sales resulting in less income to the news industry which is totally contrary to the values of our civilization.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Extended Economic Distortion: It's Year 3 of ???

In a May 2, 2020, post here the term "Extended Economic Distortion" was introduced:

    In this writer's opinion, too many pundits talk about the economic situation in terms of a recession or even a depression. The problem is mankind has never before seen an economy like the economy of the first two decades of the 21st Century. So we have never seen a reaction to a radical pandemic-based shift during such an economy.
    The reaction is likely to lead to an Extended Economic Distortion, not a "great" recession or depression. Mistrust, a general sense of unease, is likely to be felt by most people. And the real meaning of "people" in this context is "consumers" whose spending drives the worldwide "consumer economy" which in the United States represents about 70% of economic activity.

On a May 7, 2020, I followed up with additional observations:

    Prognostications from some sources indicate that an economic recovery will begin by the second half of the year. More likely the Coronavirus Crisis will lead to an Extended Economic Distortion.
    ...By "distortion" it is meant that the entire political economy will be twisted out of shape, away from the expected direction.

In truth this writer, among hundreds of writers and commentators, failed to anticipate how the Extended Economic Distortion would flow because I like the others had "never seen a reaction to a radical pandemic-based shift during such an economy" in a multiyear pandemic with a rapidly evolving virus which had not been in the prognostications of 2020.

Nor was the U.S. consumer behavioral reaction to the lockdown anticipated.

In other words we didn't know anything useful for forecasting and we still don't.

We do think that someday the coronavirus will be able to be reclassified as endemic rather than pandemic. We also think that someday the hugely inflationary pandemic economy probably will reverse potentially leading to a recession or depression.

The difficulty is that medical science which quite rapidly created vaccines can follow closely the evolution of the virus. But it cannot exactly predict what evolutionary changes will come next.

And, of course, economists once again have proven that economics is not a "big picture" science but rather an art painted by informed guesses. In a June 20, 2020, post, renegade economist Kate Raworth was quoted from a pre-pandemic piece as follows:

     No one can deny it: economics matters. Its theories are the mother tongue of public policy, the rationale for multi-billion-dollar investments, and the tools used to tackle global poverty and manage our planetary home. Pity then that its fundamental ideas are centuries out of date yet still dominate decision-making for the future.
    Today’s economics students will be among the influential citizens and policymakers shaping human societies in 2050. But the economic mindset that they are being taught is rooted in the textbooks of 1950 which, in turn, are grounded in the theories of 1850. Given the challenges of the 21st century—from climate change and extreme inequalities to recurring financial crises—this is shaping up to be a disaster. We stand little chance of writing a new economic story that is fit for our times if we keep falling back on last-century’s economic storybooks.
    When I studied economics at university 25 years ago I believed it would empower me to help tackle humanity’s social and environmental challenges. But like many of today’s disillusioned students its disconnect from relevance and reality left me deeply frustrated. So I walked away from its theories and immersed myself in real-world economic challenges, from the villages of Zanzibar to the headquarters of the United Nations, and on to the campaign frontlines of Oxfam
    In the process I realized the obvious: that you can’t walk away from economics because it frames the world we inhabit, so I decided to walk back towards it and flip it on its head. What if we started economics with humanity’s goals for the 21st century, and then asked what economic mindset would give us half a chance of achieving them?

Of course, Raworth has continued to advocate her views within this current turmoil. In addition Climate Change factors came together this year to provide "in your face" evidence that it is already too late to avoid major weather impacts and extreme inequalities returning mass starvation in the third world.

It is not predictable what the turmoil within the Extended Economic Distortion will paint as a "big picture" but humans tend to become hopeless, then angry when they lose their new overpriced homes and/or cannot feed their families. This can lead to conflict and violence, and to the Mussolini's and Hitler's.

I don't know if it can lead to starting an "economics with humanity’s goals for the 21st century" then creating an economic mindset that "would give us half a chance of achieving them." It would require abandoning the economic theories of 1850 which prop up our current class and corporate structures and are protected by our governments - national, state and local. Along with dealing with Climate Change, that's a lot to dump on those born after 1980.

Monday, July 18, 2022

"Hot Helen" and "Scorching Sam" - naming and categorizing heat waves should be coming soon

Like hurricanes, heatwaves will soon be named.

Humans have been a bit slow to acknowledge the real threats of Climate Change. But we see today headlines in British newspapers like ‘Heat apocalypse’ warning in western France as thousands flee wildfire

In June we read In world's first, Spain's Seville to name and classify heatwaves. While here at home, if you read the article Heat waves could soon have names in June you would have learned

    Five other cities — Los Angeles; Miami; Milwaukee; Kansas City, Missouri; and Athens — have also started piloting a similar initiative, using weather data and public health criteria to categorize heat waves.
    They'll use a three-category system that organizers want to standardize. Each city's system will be tailored to its particular climate.
    A "category three" heat wave in L.A., for example, will look and feel quite different from the same designation in Milwaukee.

In California Assembly Bill 2238 was introduced in February to create and put a heat wave ranking system in place by Jan. 1, 2024. Recently amended in the Senate, there is a chance this bill will be adopted.

It's a fact that this comes quite late in California's attempt to deal with Climate Change and associated heatwaves and wildfires. But it is a reality that everyone seems to be behind. It was necessary for The Guardian to publish today the article Why is the UK so unprepared for extreme heat and what can be done? which had to include the following explanations:

    The stifling current heat is certainly attracting attention. But Bob Ward at the London School of Economics said: “More action is needed to inform the public about the dangers created by heatwave conditions. One part of the solution could be to name heatwaves in the same way that winter storms are now given names to gain the attention of the public.”
    [The University of Reading Prof Hannah] Cloke said: “We also need to have more sophisticated forecast-based warnings that are more focused on people. It shouldn’t just be about peak afternoon temperatures, even though these really are very high indeed.” They should also take into account other factors, such as humidity, and spell out the risk to people, she said: “Heatwaves are silent killers.”

"Heatwaves are silent killers." The PR problem is they tend to kill the poor, the infirm, and the old while solutions tend to negatively impact the Consumer Economy which benefits most everyone else and particularly corporate interests.

But apparently we will soon see a warning system evolve. Unfortunately, as I posted here in 2018: "Regarding Al Gore's campaign on climate policy beginning 40 years ago, he..., well, kids..., my generation failed him and you. But then I said that before...."

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

For Californians it is time to initiate a process to leave the "Union" to become a separate republic

It is not a surprise that the San Francisco Chronicle this week published a piece California has two choices in these dark times: lead or secede

Because the U.S. Supreme Court's embracing theonomy is the immediate cause of this discussion (see California must protect itself from the rise of "A Handmaid's Tale" theonomist judiciary as more is at risk than abortion and gay marriage), this writer does not see two choices.

Rather, it is time to review and move forward on the California Republic idea long supported in these posts.

The idea is not complicated. California should be as independent as Switzerland or Chile, its people free to create a 21st Cemtiry government of policies not hindered by lingering commitments to racial, economic, or religious bigotry nor by fear of not being the alpha country in a world of sovereign countries.

The proposal is to have the California Legislature petition the Congress of the United States to permit California's independence through a negotiated agreement. This is not a proposal to unilaterally secede potentially causing a second Civil War. Nor is it a "Nationalist" movement based upon some ethnic or extended tribal differences.

Instead, the idea is based upon the assumption that if Californians through their Legislature petition Congress for permission to withdraw from the Union and Congress approves, (perhaps after a referendum on the matter) California simply returns to being the California Republic. No civil war, no terrorist movement, no riots - just an agreement between rational, democratic people.

Why, you might ask, would anyone seriously propose this? (It is a fact that a growing chorus of Texans joined the long-existing large choir in California to advocate for nationhood for their state, but that's a different discussion.)

It is not a new idea that California should return to republic status. A serious proposal gained some headway in the late 1930's but was sidelined because of WWII. At the beginning of the 21st Century, in 2002, the Sacramento Bee Columnist Peter Schrag had the following to say about the idea of California becoming a separate nation:

California secedes -- A midwinter night's dream
           By Peter Schrag -- Bee Columnist - (Published December 23, 2002)
    It began as no more than a gesture of protest, when a group of California Democrats, led by U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, put on the November 2004 ballot the California Dignity Initiative, a measure calling on the state's congressional delegation to renegotiate California's relationship to the Union.
    The precipitating event was the Interior Department decision to authorize exploratory oil drilling in Yosemite National Park: The intent of the initiative was just to draw Washington's attention to its mistreatment of the Golden State.
    But by fall 2006, California, the world's sixth-largest economy, was an independent nation, Pelosi was running for president and Boxer was slated to become California's ambassador to the United Nations.
    In the Bay Area, the Boxer-Pelosi measure had won by a margin of 80 percentage points to 20 percentage points. But a lot of conservatives, drawn by the campaign slogan "No More IRS," also voted for it, and so it passed overwhelmingly. By then, congressional Republicans, led by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, had told California to go fly a kite, and the gesture began to gather irresistible momentum. "They burn the damn gas out there," DeLay said. "Why the hell shouldn't they help produce it?"
    What became known as the "Rape of Yosemite," of course, was only the latest of the insults. By the time of the vote, the Public Policy Institute of California had issued a half-dozen studies showing that California was sending between $17 billion and $40 billion a year more to Washington in taxes than it was getting back in federal contracts, grants and services.
    The feds weren't even willing to pay for the anti-terrorism costs of California's law enforcement agencies.
    The difference in what Californians pay and what they get would be more than enough to close the state's yawning budget deficit, provide for California's national defense -- mostly through tighter protection of key California facilities and landmarks -- and still promise an overall tax cut for most Californians.
    Meanwhile, the most conservative anti-tax states in the Union -- Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina, Georgia, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and Texas -- were getting far more than their share from Washington. It was also their votes that carried the Productive Americans Act, abolishing all federal taxes on those making more than $10 million a year.
    As expected, the California Dignity Initiative campaign was written off by national pundits as another crazy California stunt and by GOP spokesmen as a re-election ploy by a couple of beyond-the-fringe San Francisco Democrats.
    But Pelosi had no opposition in her 2004 congressional campaign and, in what amounted to the same thing, Boxer's opponent was Shawn Steel, the former chairman of the state GOP, who had threatened recall campaigns against any Republican who voted for a tax increase to close the state's budget deficit.
    Continuing a long California GOP tradition, the conservative Steel had easily beaten moderate Tom Campbell, whom he dubbed "California's Harold Stassen," in the March primary, before being obliterated himself.
    The fall campaign, however, did focus Californians' attention on their grievances: the government's campaign to override the state's auto emission laws; the Justice Department's crackdown on medicinal pot smokers and their suppliers, who of course were operating legally under Proposition 215; the renewed federal oil leases off the Santa Barbara coast; and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's contemptuous disregard of the state's pleas for refunds from price-gouging gas and electricity suppliers.
    The surprise was how willing Congress and the administration were to let California go.
     In his successful re-election campaign in 2004, President Bush, quoting Lincoln, had promised to preserve the Union. But once he won, White House political affairs director Karl Rove and other Republican strategists realized that without California's votes and the money from Hollywood liberals, the GOP could dominate national affairs indefinitely. By then, of course, it was clear that the most likely candidate in 2008 would be the president's brother, Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida.
    California's departure would almost certainly lead to a Supreme Court that would overturn Roe vs. Wade and the decisions restricting school prayer, and to a new reading of the Second Amendment barring any state law restricting the right to carry guns.
    Congressional liberals such as Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. Ted Kennedy objected vehemently. They understood that California's secession would leave them even more powerless than they had been in 2002-2004.
     But representatives from the Southern and Mountain states, who didn't know or didn't care how much they lived off the Golden State's wealth, were happy to be rid of tree-hugging California, where they banned automatic weapons, the schools taught homosexuality and the courts erased God from the Pledge of Allegiance.
    Of course, it took a lot of negotiating -- about water rights, about what the feds claimed was California's share of the national debt, about continental security and jurisdiction over the state's remaining military bases. But once Washington realized there was no way California could be kept out of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group or NAFTA, the Bear Flag nation was born.

Notice that the article mentions potential issues such as Roe v Wade, separation of church and state, gun restrictions, etc., in the context of policy changes because California would no longer be in the Union. Uh...

California is still in the Union. During this time, a Californian has been the Speaker of the House and California has a very large share of House members. A former California U.S. Senator is the Vice-President.

"Lead or secede" is not a real choice in a Union again divided as badly as it was in 1860. 

And it is a simple fact that "protests" in California against Supreme Court actions are futile for two reasons. 

  • The Supreme Court with members holding lifetime terms and a majority holding theonomist views is the one Constitutional body that is not responsible to the people. 
  • Supreme Court appointees can be confirmed by a vote of 51 Senators who represent the least populous of the 26 states containing only 17.6% of the U.S. population and who were put into office by less than 8% of eligible American voters; California has 12% of the U.S. population and cast 11% of the vote in the 2020 Presidential election
  • California public policy on issues such as abortion are consistent with 21st Century views of the vast majority of Californians. 

That is why at this point in time we must take up the separation of the California Republic issue.

Why a "failed Union" - instead of a country, nation or state

On June 17, 2018, in an extensive post here Why factually these United States is a more perfect Union, not a country, nation, or state.  The following quote from that post summarizes the facts:

For purposes of clarity and simplicity, as used here from this point on the following words have specific meanings based upon pre-17th Century concepts:
  • "Country" means "any considerable territory demarcated by topographical conditions."
  • "Nation" means "any distinctive population with a common language, culture, and considerable history."
  • "State" means "a central civil government or authority that exercises the legitimate use of force within defined geographical boundaries."
  • "Union" means "a number of states or nations joined together for defined purposes to be accomplished by a separately created autonomous authority."
Using those definitions, the Cherokee Nation is a nation. Italy is a country and a state. Japan is a country, a state, and a nation. The United States of America is none of these. It is a union of states.

...We need to understand "these United States" is a union created solely for purposes of a common military defense and assuring economic success of the numerous and separate states, not regulate mundane issues such as who can have sex with whom. That's one reason why in 1792 Americans insisted on leaving establishing government churches to the real states.

You can follow the link to read the entire post. A year later in 2019 preeminent historian Jill Lapore wrote A New Americanism: Why a Nation Needs a National Story discussing the same issues and offering this observation:

    But in the 1970s, studying the nation fell out of favor in the American historical profession. Most historians started looking at either smaller or bigger things, investigating the experiences and cultures of social groups or taking the broad vantage promised by global history. This turn produced excellent scholarship. But meanwhile, who was doing the work of providing a legible past and a plausible future—a nation—to the people who lived in the United States? Charlatans, stooges, and tyrants. The endurance of nationalism proves that there’s never any shortage of blackguards willing to prop up people’s sense of themselves and their destiny with a tissue of myths and prophecies, prejudices and hatreds, or to empty out old rubbish bags full of festering resentments and calls to violence. When historians abandon the study of the nation, when scholars stop trying to write a common history for a people, nationalism doesn’t die. Instead, it eats liberalism.

Lapore's article explores the issues in depth but at the end offers this warning:

    At the close of the Cold War, some commentators concluded that the American experiment had ended in triumph, that the United States had become all the world. But the American experiment had not in fact ended. A nation founded on revolution and universal rights will forever struggle against chaos and the forces of particularism. A nation born in contradiction will forever fight over the meaning of its history. But that doesn’t mean history is meaningless, or that anyone can afford to sit out the fight.
    “The history of the United States at the present time does not seek to answer any significant questions,” [the Pulitzer Prize–winning, bowtie-wearing Stanford historian Carl] Degler told his audience some three decades ago. If American historians don’t start asking and answering those sorts of questions, other people will, he warned. They’ll echo Calhoun and Douglas and Father Coughlin. They’ll lament “American carnage.” They’ll call immigrants “animals” and other states “shithole countries.” They’ll adopt the slogan “America first.” They’ll say they can “make America great again.” They’ll call themselves “nationalists.” Their history will be a fiction. They will say that they alone love this country. They will be wrong.

We are now two full decades into the 21st Century there can be no doubt that we must acknowledge Degler's warning. But Lapore's hope that some historian will save the day is foolish. We literally no longer teach history. In fact, those Amazon Echo's mostly named Alexa offer a question "How many stars are there on the American flag?" In generations past everyone had that kind of information drilled into them by second grade. But at some point in the past three decades, in grades K-12 we replaced history with sociology, and the U.S. has always been and could never otherwise be a sociological mess.

To unify Swedish, Hungarian, and Italian immigrants Americans don't need to know more about their cultural differences. If we can't learn to simply ignore culture, ethnic, and racial differences then the United States must cease as the Union that once attempted to serve as a model for unifying the world.

After only 70 years the United States descended into what was, at that point in time, the worst war in history. As Lapore notes: "The American Civil War was a struggle over two competing ideas of the nation-state. This struggle has never ended; it has just moved around."

As explained in a History.com article: "The struggle between pro- and anti-slave forces in Kansas was a major factor in the eruption of the Civil War."

Sure there was (and is) the Deep South. But Border-State Kansas-like struggles now exists in the southwestern states, states which were once part of Mexico until, a decade before the Civil War the Union started and won a war with Mexico.

The fact is that California and Texas were part of Mexico but then both became republics before joining the United States. Perhaps that stimulates the significant popular movements advocating for the withdrawal of the two states from the Union.

How to move forward towards a new California Republic

Many argue that the Civil War settled the issue about a state having the right to secede from the Union.  Secession is  unilateral act and it does seem that the Civil War did establish clearly that no state can unilaterally withdraw itself from the United States. However....

Article IV,  Section 3,  Clause 1 of the Constitution provides as follows:  "New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress."

"Implied powers" is an accepted legal concept.  One could reasonably argue that if Congress has the power to admit states to the Union and, further, has the power to create a state from an existing state or states with the permission of the state or states involved, then it is implied that Congress has the power to remove a state from the Union with the permission of the state involved.

Additionally, the 10th Amendment provides as follows: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."  This would seem to imply that where clarity in the Constitution is lacking, when a state is involved in something such as removal from the Union, if it has approved the idea of being out of the Union that ought to be sufficient.

In other words, if the Legislature of California were to request that the state be permitted to withdraw from the United States and Congress approves, then the separation of California from the Union would be pursuant to a bilateral agreement between the parties and legally sufficient.

Obviously, such an agreement would come about through the negotiation of an "Agreement Document" which presumably would cover the complex issues involved and would ultimately have the legal status of a treaty.  And, just to assure the democratic nature of the action, it should only be effective if approved by California voters in a referendum.  This would lay to rest the question of the existence of the implied power since the State and its people would have approved the action.

Secession is a hostile act involving insurrection and rebellion.  Separation could be accomplished in a process of mutual respect, understanding, and agreement.

So, the steps would seem fairly straightforward:

  1. The Legislature would initially adopt a resolution requesting that Congress consider removing California from the Union.
  2. A resolution then would be adopted by Congress providing for a process for developing an Agreement for the Separation of California from the Union.
  3. Upon completion of the proposed agreement, Congress would approve the Agreement and forward it to the Legislature.
  4. The Legislature would submit to the voters an amendment to the State Constitution approving the Agreement and calling for a constitutional convention to develop a new California Constitution.
  5. If the voters approve the amendment, then California would become a separate nation pursuant to the agreement and would establish its own national constitution.

It seem as though such a legal process is fairly straightforward, albeit difficult to get accomplished. But it would be a process preferable to a four-year civil war.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

California must protect itself from the rise of "A Handmaid's Tale" theonomist judiciary as more is at risk than abortion and gay marriage

Nobody Expects The Spanish Inquisition is a popular meme which, if you click the link, is supported by videos viewed by millions, graphic images, and even T-shirts. It has not been used in reference to the Supreme Court. Yet.

Contrary to everything I understand about religion vis-à-vis the Judicial Branch within the Union is reflected in this from Wikipedia:
   Of the 113 justices who have been appointed to the court, 91 have been from various Protestant denominations, 12 have been Catholics (one other justice, Sherman Minton, converted to Catholicism after leaving the Court). Another, Neil Gorsuch, was raised in the Catholic Church but later attended an Episcopal church, though without specifying the denomination to which he felt he belonged.
    At the beginning of 2010, Justice John Paul Stevens was the sole remaining Protestant on the Court In April 2010, Justice Stevens announced his retirement, effective as of the Court's 2010 summer recess. Upon Justice Stevens' retirement, which formally began on June 28, 2010, the Court lacked a Protestant member, marking the first time in its history that it was exclusively composed of Jewish and Catholic justices. Although in January 2017, after seven years with no Protestant justices serving or nominated, President Donald Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to the Court, as noted above it is unclear whether Gorsuch considers himself a Catholic or an Episcopalian.
    This development led to some comment. Law school professor Jeffrey Rosen wrote that "it's a fascinating truth that we've allowed religion to drop out of consideration on the Supreme Court, and right now, we have a Supreme Court that religiously at least, by no means looks like America".
That "we have a Supreme Court that religiously at least, by no means looks like America" is a bit of an understatement. Consider this chart:

While generally courts are expected to administer the law as written, or at least as the judge reads it, the Supreme Court applies standards to laws to decide if they violate statements such as "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States."

Some of us think that which religion one was raised in can influence what one believes is right and wrong. Some of us think that one's values are influenced by grade school and high school experiences. Some of us think that adults make judgements based upon their associations with their college professors and fellow university students, as much as they do based on which books they read.

So, yes, it is troubling not only for law school professor Jeffrey Rosen but of many Americans that five of the eight current Supreme Court Justices were raised Roman Catholic while the other three were raised in Judaism. It is also troubling that four of the eight (half) attended parochial schools. It is also troubling that not one attended a state institution of higher learning at any time in their college education.

Even if one ignores the fact that only three of the Justices are women, or only one is Hispanic and only one is black while seven are white, one could comfortably state that we have a Supreme Court that by no means looks like America in terms of formation of values and intellect.

Note that the caption under the picture at the top of this post states "Theonomists use Biblical moral pronouncements as the standard by which the laws of governments may be measured." It's surprisingly easy for many older persons to dismiss this theonomist concern about the Court when discussed only in the context of abortion or gay marriage. But it isn't quite as easy to dismiss it when considering Justice Neil Gorsuch's reasoned doctoral thesis that asserts that assisted suicide for the terminally ill is homicide - no mitigations are allowed:

What if within the next decade the Constitutionality of state laws allowing assisted suicide for terminally ill patients is resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court? Here are excerpts from The Right to Receive Assistance in Suicide and Euthanasia, with Particular Reference to the Law of the United States written in 2004 by Trump-appointed U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, when he was a candidate for a DPhil degree in law (legal philosophy), University College, Oxford, supervised by the natural law philosopher John Finnis :
    I consider legal doctrine surrounding autonomy and personal privacy, and conclude that it is likely too weak a foundation on which to build a judicially created right to assisted suicide (Chapter V).
    I submit that there is a secular moral theory which, to date, has been largely neglected in contemporary American debate over assisted suicide and euthanasia. This theory rests on the notion that the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.
    After considering arguments from history, fairness, autonomy doctrine and theory, and utilitarianism, I suggested that courts and legislators may wish to consider a less frequently voiced perspective on the assisted suicide and euthanasia question, one grounded in the recognition of human life as a fundamental good. Under this view, private intentional acts of homicide are always wrong. Recognizing human life as intrinsically, not instrumentally, valuable, I submitted, would rule out assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Take a hard look at that list of Justices above.

One of the three names most mentioned by the "Trump people" to replace Kennedy is Amy Coney Barrett. Raised a Catholic, she graduated from St. Mary's Dominican High School in New Orleans. She received her BA from Rhodes College (formerly known as Southwestern Presbyterian University after being founded as the Masonic University of Tennessee), a private college located in Memphis, Tennessee. She then went to the Catholic Notre Dame Law School, where she taught full time as a Professor of Law from 2002 until 2017. She continues to teach part-time since since November 2, 2017, when she received Senate confirmation after President Donald Trump nominated Barrett to serve as a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

She has seven children: five biological children and two children adopted from Haiti.

She is an active member of a particularly conservative Catholic religious group called People of Praise described as follows in Wikipedia:
    People of Praise was formed in 1971 by Kevin Ranaghan and Paul DeCelles. Both men were involved in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, in which Pentecostal religious experiences such as baptism in the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues and prophecy were practiced by Catholics. In its early history, it influenced the institutional development of the Catholic Charismatic movement in the United States and played important roles in national charismatic conferences.
    People of Praise practices a controversial form of spiritual direction that involves supervision of a member by a more spiritually mature person called a "head". People of Praise maintains that members retain their freedom of conscience under such direction. The community excludes women from the highest leadership positions and teaches that men are the spiritual leaders of their families. At the same time, it encourages women to pursue higher education and employment. Former People of Praise member and Catholic critic Adrian Reimers has accused People of Praise of being too ecumenical and of compromising Catholic teaching by embracing Protestant ecclesiology.
    It is not a church or denomination, and membership is open to any baptized Christian who affirms the Nicene Creed and agrees to the community's covenant. The majority of its members are Catholics, but Protestants can also join. It has 21 branches in the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean, with approximately 3,000 members including children. It founded a group of non-denominational Christian schools, Trinity Schools.
During Barrett's Circuit Judge confirmation hearing, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein questioned Barrett about whether her Catholic faith would influence her decision-making on the court. Feinstein, concerned about whether Barrett would uphold Roe v. Wade given her Catholic beliefs, stated "the dogma lives loudly within you, and that is a concern". The line of questioning became a point of outrage from many of her defenders, both Catholic and non-Catholic alike.

The subject of Feinstein and other Democrats' concern was a 1998 article by Barrett where she argued that Catholic judges should in some cases recuse themselves from death penalty cases because of their moral objections to the death penalty. Feinstein's line of questioning was criticized by some observers and legal experts while defended by others.

During her hearing, Barrett said: "It is never appropriate for a judge to impose that judge's personal convictions, whether they arise from faith or anywhere else, on the law." That might seem comforting to some, but as reported her academic writing is far less comforting to those who support Roe and Obergefell:
     "There is little reason to think that reversals [of past decisions] would do much damage" to the court's reputation, she wrote. "I tend to agree with those who say that a justice's duty is to the Constitution" rather than to a precedent she thinks is clearly in conflict with it.
People learn not only from the upbringing and education, but as young adults from who they work for. Barrett worked a year as clerk to late Justice Antonin Scalia. Over the years Scalia repeatedly called upon his colleagues to strike down Roe v. Wade. In Obergefell v. Hodges in which the 5-4 majority decision written by Justice Kennedy struck down laws prohibiting gay marriage, in his dissenting opinion Scalia noted there were no evangelical Christians on the Court (he also literally dismissed California which we'll explore later):
    Take, for example, this Court, which consists of only nine men and women, all of them successful lawyers who studied at Harvard or Yale Law School. Four of the nine are natives of New York City. Eight of them grew up in east- and west-coast States. Only one hails from the vast expanse in-between. Not a single South-westerner or even, to tell the truth, a genuine Westerner (California does not count). Not a single evangelical Christian (a group that comprises about one quarter of Americans), or even a Protestant of any denomination.
Unlike her male counterparts, Barrett admits she is occasionally conflicted about her role as a judge relative to her religion. In a 1998 article Barrett argued that Catholic judges should in some cases recuse themselves from death penalty cases because of their moral objections to the death penalty. Presumably she does not want the murderer to die. And presumably she would be conflicted about physician assisted suicide, but whether she would recuse herself if that subject reached a court she was on is doubtful.

It is worth noting the other blunt, though perhaps heartfult, dissents in the Obergefell case.

Chief Justice Roberts noted: "Today’s decision...creates serious questions about religious liberty. Many good and decent people oppose same-sex marriage as a tenet of faith, and their freedom to exercise religion is—unlike the right imagined by the majority—actually spelled out in the Constitution." He goes further stating: "The majority graciously suggests that religious believers may continue to “advocate” and “teach” their views of marriage. ...The First Amendment guarantees, however, the freedom to “exercise” religion. Ominously, that is not a word the majority uses." He does not elaborate on what he means by "exercise" religion in the context of its impact on others.

Justice Samuel Alito expressed concern that the majority's opinion would be used to attack the beliefs of those who disagree with same-sex marriage, who "will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools", leading to "bitter and lasting wounds" and defending the rationale of the states, accepting the premise that same-sex marriage bans serve to promote procreation and the optimal child rearing environment.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote: "Aside from undermining the political processes that protect our liberty, the majority’s decision threatens the religious liberty our Nation has long sought to protect." He extensively explored the history of religion in from the time of the colonies noting that "in our society, marriage is not simply a governmental institution; it is a religious institution as well" concluding that "today’s decision might change the former, but it cannot change the latter. It appears all but inevitable that the two will come into conflict, particularly as individuals and churches are confronted with demands to participate in and endorse civil marriages between same-sex couples.'

Thomas is unrestrained as he offers his key opinion about the primacy of his Catholic upbringing over other individual right issues such as the Constitutionality of state laws banning gay marriage:
    The majority appears unmoved by that inevitability. It makes only a weak gesture toward religious liberty in a single paragraph.... And even that gesture indicates a misunderstanding of religious liberty in our Nation’s tradition. Religious liberty is about more than just the protection for “religious organizations and persons . . . as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths.” ... Religious liberty is about freedom of action in matters of religion generally, and the scope of that liberty is directly correlated to the civil restraints placed upon religious practice.
"Religious liberty is about freedom of action in matters of religion generally, and the scope of that liberty is directly correlated to the civil restraints placed upon religious practice." What that literally says is that if a Christian majority in a community voted to start ducking witches (those that practice the Wicca religion), Thomas apparently would struggle with legally condemning the practice as he abhors civil restraints placed on religious practice. And he makes it clear that he thinks America's religious history deserves a place in the law as in his opinion he notes: "Many of the earliest immigrants to America came seeking freedom to practice their religion without restraint. ... When they arrived, they created their own havens for religious practice. ... Many of these havens were initially homogeneous communities with established religions."

Roberts, Alito, and Thomas are three of the four "conservatives" on the Court. Gorsuch, whose words about physician assisted suicide are quoted above, was not on the Court at the time of the Obergefell case.

The Threat of Christian Theonomist Rule

In the map below, the dark grey states are those that adopted certain theonomist laws in the years between 2011-2016, the years leading up to the 2016 elections in which the Republicans won the majority of U.S. House of Representatives, the majority of the U.S. Senate, and the office of  U.S. President, which will lead to a solid Republican majority on the U.S. Supreme Court:
The issue these maps present isn't whether anyone has the right to believe in words in the Bible or rules of personal behavior pronounced by men based on those words. Rather it is what determines the proper role of a state in regulating the personal lives of its people, most particularly when large numbers of people disagree.

In those dark grey states if the adoption of Islamic Sharia law was proposed, those that backed the adoption of certain theonomist laws in the years between 2011-2016 would threaten revolution. In their minds they see no comparison between implementing laws restricting abortion and Sharia law.

As explained by Canadian professor of comparative religion who from 1964–1973 was director of Harvard University's Center for the Study of World Religions Wilfred Cantwell Smith in his Islam in Modern History: "What theology is for the Christian, law is for the Muslim." The problem is within these United States despite the assurances of separation of church and state, controversial biblical pronouncements have a way of becoming law. Thus when I saw the original of the greyed map, I realized that Smith's statement in 21st Century America would be: "What should be Christian theology has become judicially imposed law within these United States."

My understanding is that the belief structure of the majority of the populous in those ten states resulted in the actions of two houses of each state's legislature and the governor of each state putting into law those restrictions.

For me the best understanding that belief structure can be found in the Kansans for Life: Issues web page (Kansans for Life is the largest anti-abortion group in the state) telling their followers (emphasis added) "Our society now recognizes that past discrimination on the basis of race, gender, ethnicity and social status was deeply unjust."

That web page also indicates their immediate political agenda:
    Pro-lifers oppose abortion because it takes the life of a human being before he or she is born....
    We oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide....
    We oppose embryonic stem cell research.... Human embryos are human beings.... And all human beings, regardless of appearance or location (e.g., a petri dish), ought to be treated with respect and not as mere raw material to use for the hypothetical benefit of others.
Notice that their newly discovered unjust discrimination basis does not include "religion" which you might want to argue isn't an indicator of anything. Except you might notice the picture at the top of that issues web page:

And then you might move your cursor over to the "Resources" link at the top of the page and discover this:

Now one might accuse me of making an unfair judgement about people wishing to impose their religious beliefs on others and considering them dangerous to Californians. But I would call the reader's attention to this 2012 article The Koch Brothers and Kansans for Life: The Alliance That Killed the Kansas Moderate or this Topeka rally for life brings thousands to state Capitol.

The first explains how seeking to eliminate government regulations and taxes on business in just one red state the very successful national Koch brothers Neoliberal network joined with a strong Christian political movement which seeks to expand and tighten state and federal government regulations on the lives of individuals.

The second indicates the deep involvement of Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann and the other Kansas bishops in the Kansans for Life political movement even using students from Catholic grade and high schools. Not that Kansans for Life is a Catholic organization which is clear from this:

Still, many have a problem with the abortion and gay marriage issues being used to demonstrate an insidious encroachment on freedom. Why would I think this is dangerous to Californians?

"California does not count." Justice Antonin Scalia 

I was born in California. I went to elementary school in California. My California high school 1962 graduating class was 393±  students.

It included 28 Japanese-American students (7%) who were born in the Internment Camps where Japanese Americans were relocated - well, American citizens who were as little as 1/16 Japanese heritage and orphaned infants with "one drop of Japanese blood" were placed in internment camps.

It included 41 Hispanic students (10%). Many of their parents and/or grandparents were impacted by the so-called Mexican Repatriation:
    The Mexican Repatriation was a mass deportation of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans from the United States between 1929 and 1936. Estimates of how many were repatriated range from 400,000 to 2,000,000. An estimated sixty percent of those deported were birthright citizens of the United States. Because the forced movement was based on race, and ignored citizenship, the process arguably meets modern legal definitions of ethnic cleansing.
If you add in the two Black classmates (issues: slavery and segregation), the two Chinese classmates (issue: the 1892 - 1940 Chinese Exclusion Act, the only U.S. law ever to prevent immigration and naturalization on the basis of race), and the three Native American classmates (issue: genocide, forced relocation, and removal of children), the governments in the Union (with U.S. Supreme Court approval in some cases) committed heinous acts based on racial bigotry against the parents and/or grandparents of about 20% of my classmates.

Am I paranoid about young black men being murdered by cops, by Hispanic deportation outside the norms of our federal court system, the bluster and potential fallout from "Trade War with China" and the anti-Muslim rhetoric? Or are my concerns valid?

I'm a Californian whose high school graduation in 1962 included a non-mandatory separate invocation event held apart from the graduation ceremony. It was jointly led by a Buddhist Priest, a Jewish Rabbi, a Protestant Minister, and a Catholic Priest. If we were holding such an invocation today it would include others, such as Islamic and an Amah Mutsun Tribal Band representation.

As noted in the chart above and similar to all the current "conservative" Justices, Justice "California-does-not-count" Scalia was raised a Catholic in New York City, attended Xavier High School, a Jesuit (Catholic) military school in Manhattan. He earned his bachelor of arts degree at Georgetown University, also a Jesuit school, and attended  Harvard Law School. Classmate and future New York State official William Stern remembered Scalia in his high school days: "This kid was a conservative when he was 17 years old. An archconservative Catholic. He could have been a member of the Curia. He was the top student in the class. He was brilliant, way above everybody else."

Scalia died in February 2016. But that comment "he could have been a member of the Curia" is troubling on many levels as I believe that it reflects a level of truth about the four "Conservative Justices" listed on the chart above who will remain after the retirement of Justice Kennedy.

Am I paranoid to think there is a real threat of Christian theonomist rule through the Court? Or are my concerns valid?

California now finds itself under a Union government based on minority rule, but it is more like Scalia said: "California does not count."

One of the more misleading 2016 election facts is frequently repeated in the press. And now with the resignation of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy it is being repeated again. For instance, New York Magazine tells us:
    Democrats have won the national vote in six of the last seven presidential elections, which, with the retirement of Anthony Kennedy, will have resulted in the appointment of eight of the Supreme Court’s nine justices. And yet four of those justices will have been appointed by presidents who took office despite having fewer votes than their opponent.
    The House has a massive Republican tilt, requiring Democrats to win the national vote by six or seven points in order to secure a likely majority. The Senate has an even more pronounced tilt, overrepresenting residents of small states, which tend to be white and rural.
Factually the Union has never been a democracy so it shouldn't surprise anyone that:
  • Donald Trump won the Presidency by winning the Electoral College even though Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by a substantial margin;
  • Republicans won a substantial majority in the House of Representatives even though Democrats received the majority of the popular vote cast for House candidates; and
  • U.S. Senators were not even elected until the 20th Century and the Senate was never intended to reflect the will of the voters nationally.
But there is also another set of facts.
  • Without counting California votes, Donald Trump won the popular vote in the 2016 Presidential Election.
  • Without counting California votes, the Republicans won the popular vote cast in the 2016 House elections.
It is no small irony that Justice Kennedy, a Californian appointed to the Court by President and Former California Governor Ronald Reagan, while on the Supreme Court usually voted far more conservatively than would be accepted in California.

Only about a third of California voters vote Republican. That reflects California's substantive cultural differences with the red states. We need to consider the following maps:

The map above indicates which political party controls the state legislature, with the blue states controlled by Democrats. This map would seem to belie the quote above when it says: "Democrats have won the national vote in six of the last seven presidential elections." These United States, after all, is not a country, nation, or state, but a Union of diverse states as explained here in Why factually these United States is a more perfect Union, not a country, nation, or state.

But diversity is one thing. This was the map of the Union that immediately preceded Obergefell v. Hodges:

Is there anything about this map that looks similar to the maps above? Considering all of the maps above, would this map surprise anyone:

While I have no problem with these folks trying to alter the behavior of individuals through persuasion (free speech), what they have accomplished within those states is imposing their beliefs about individual behavior on everyone through the law. And what now seems possible is that they could succeed in altering the Wilfred Cantwell Smith phrase "what theology is for the Christian, law is for the Muslim" to "what should be Christian theology has become judicially imposed law within these United States."

Lest you think I'm overstating the situation, consider this. Chief Justice Roberts stated: "Many good and decent people oppose same-sex marriage as a tenet of faith, and their freedom to exercise religion is—unlike the right imagined by the majority—actually spelled out in the Constitution." Justice Thomas wrote: "The First Amendment enshrined protection for the free exercise of religion in the U. S. Constitution."

Those statements are simply a lie. The First Amendment states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." The key word there is "Congress." At the time of the adoption of the First Amendment, several states had state "established" religions and had laws the favored one religion over another. Other states had laws protecting religious practices ...well, Christian religious practices.

The difficulty in challenging the belief structure of the Court's majority has its foundation in cat videos. Odds are the people today who in the future might find themselves in the same disadvantaged position others did before Roe or Obergefell likely can tell you about YouTube videos in great detail. They just couldn't provide any hint of understanding regarding the fact that Abrahamic religions are one of the major divisions in comparative religion, along with Indian religions, Iranian religions, East Asian religions, African religions, American religions, Oceanic religions,  and classical Hellenistic religions.

The fact is the majority of Americans upon seeing the man pictured to the left would absolutely assume he is a Muslim. In fact, his "freedom to exercise religion" initially was prohibited by the U.S. Postal Service (see news release).

Despite the fact that turban wearing bearded members of the Sikh faith have been a significant element in the British and Indian armies - by the beginning of World War I Sikhs in the British Indian Army totaled 20 percent of the force and by 1945 fourteen Victoria Crosses were awarded to Sikhs, a per-capita regimental record - the good Christian United States military defending our "free exercise" of religion until 2017 would not permit them to serve wearing the turban and beard offering up all sorts of reasons belied by the obvious British/Indian history. And then consider this news story:

    Sikhism was founded in the 16th century by Guru Nanak in Punjab, an area that is now divided between India and Pakistan. Nanak rejected the rituals involved with other South Asian religions and stressed the importance of good deeds such as serving others and treating all people equally.
    The monotheistic religion has more than 25 million followers worldwide and about 500,000 in the United States. Yet a majority of Americans -- 60% -- admitted in a 2015 survey that they knew nothing at all about Sikhs.
    Lawyer and activist Valarie Kaur says the threat of violence seems to have become mainstreamed.
    Her grandfather settled in California a century ago, and she knows firsthand from her family that discrimination against Sikhs existed long before 2001. But 9/11, she says, was a paradigm shift, a turning point.
    She used to talk about living in the "shadow of 9/11." Then the shadow turned out to be long, and what seemed temporary became permanent.

There are between 500,000 and 700,000 Sikhs in the United States, roughly half of them in California. Of course, the beloved Conservative Catholic Justice Scalia made it clear - California does not count.

I must now digress a bit. Being a Northern Californian I did work with a Sikh I considered a friend who was of my generation. Of course, he was a Californian, so his father was Sikh, his mother of Mexican descent, and he was married to a white woman. He was born and raised in the southern-most part of California where he attended a segregated public school (yes, like the rest of the country California has a past bloated with bigotry) and was a beneficiary of Mendez v. Westminster which is part of Scalia's California does not count.

In 1947 a federal circuit court in California ruled that segregation of school children was unconstitutional—except this case involved the segregation of Mexican American school children years before the U.S. Supreme Court ended racial segregation in U.S. schools with Brown v. Board of Education.

The infamous Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reached this historic decision. The Ninth Circuit is generally hated by the right in the United States for its far reaching consistent view that the most important right of all Americans is to be treated equally by other Americans in "the town square."

Historic in its own right, Mendez was critical to the strategic choices and legal analysis used in arguing Brown and in shaping the ideas of a young NAACP attorney, Thurgood Marshall. Moreover, the Mendez case—which originated with the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) but benefited from the participation of the NAACP—also symbolized the important crossover between different ethnic and racial groups who came together to argue in favor of desegregation.

But then again, California does not count, so the Mendez case is not taught in Kansas schools so let's return to the subject at hand.

Sikhism is one of the largest organized religions in the world, with 20 million members living in India and 27 million worldwide. But it is not among the Abrahamic religions that claim descent from the practices of the ancient Israelites and the worship of the God of Abraham, the largest of which are (in alphabetical order) Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. These religions have a long history of violence, so much so that the Wikipedia entry has a section headed Violent conflicts with subsection headings Between Abrahamic religions, Between branches of the same Abrahamic religion, and Between Abrahamic religions and non-adherents. This is religion as embraced in American history and law.

I may be paranoid, but...

Some may want to accuse me of paranoia and/or, as they did to Diane Feinstein, accuse me of religious bigotry. But I'm an old Californian whose high school graduation included a non-mandatory separate invocation event where a Buddhist priest led part of the ceremony. I'm an old Californian who had a Sikh friend. I am an old Californian who had friends in high school who because of their racial heritage were born in American concentration camps. I am an old Californian who had friends in high school whose American-born parents and grandparents were subjected to the so-called Mexican Repatriation and whose grand-children are now subjected to an out-of-control Trump immigration policy. I'm an old Californian who does not accept what the Union has become in the 21st Century.

Perhaps I'm paranoid, but just maybe I have a reason to fear the rise of "A Handmaid's Tale" theonomist judiciary regardless of which of the possible nominees for replacement of Justice Kennedy is selected. And that is because of the majority of the people living in the states on the map below do not even know that the "Star Spangled Banner" was written by an avid advocate of slavery and has a verse attacking escaped slaves:

Scroll up to compare this map with maps indicating the related facts - not that facts matter. And God forbid in this country, which according to a sitting Supreme Court Justice "enshrined protection for the free exercise of religion," we would have a mandatory 8th Grade course on comparative religions so we know what religion is and that it includes Islam and Zoroastrianism (one of the world's oldest extant monotheistic religions which enters recorded history in the 5th-century BCE and is practiced by about 11,000 people in the United States and many facets of which are incorporated into Christianity and Islam).

Or does the makeup of the Court itself and the map above together tell us which religions were actually enshrined and which are just tolerated. And which American citizens are deserving of legal protections?

7/10/2018 Update: Nominee Brett Kavanaugh

Somewhat to my surprise President Trump nominated Bret Kavanaugh to replace Justice Kennedy.

As explained above in the original post, some of us think that which religion one was raised in can influence what one believes is right and wrong, one's values are influenced by grade school and high school experiences, adults make judgements based upon their associations with their college professors and fellow university students, as much as they do based on which books they read.

It is very troubling that Kavanaugh's life as can be seen on the chart above adding to the chart in the original post, reads like five of the eight current Supreme Court Justices who were raised Roman Catholic, four of the eight who attended parochial schools, and eight of eight none of whom attended a state institution of higher learning at any time in their college education.

It isn't comforting that Kavanaugh is a regular lector (reader) at his Washington, D.C. church, the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

According to The Lector at Mass - United States Conference of Catholic Bishops this carefully constrained role is:
    In the procession to the altar, in the absence of a Deacon, the reader, wearing approved attire [see GIRM, no. 339], may carry the Book of the Gospels, slightly elevated. In that case, the reader walks in front of the Priest but otherwise walks along with the other ministers.
    Upon reaching the altar, the reader makes a profound bow with the others [see also GIRM, no. 274]. If he is carrying the Book of the Gospels, he approaches the altar and places the Book of the Gospels upon it. Then the reader takes his own place in the sanctuary with the other ministers. (GIRM, nos. 194-195)
    The reader reads from the ambo the readings that precede the Gospel. In the absence of a psalmist, the reader may also proclaim the Responsorial Psalm after the First Reading.
    In the absence of a Deacon, the reader, after the introduction by the Priest, may announce the intentions of the Universal Prayer from the ambo.
    If there is no singing at the Entrance or at Communion and the antiphons given in the Missal are not recited by the faithful, the reader may read them at an appropriate time (cf. nos. 48, 87). (GIRM, nos. 196-198)
    At the conclusion of the Mass, the lector does not process with the Book of the Gospels. The Lectionary is never carried in procession. The lector may join in the procession at the end of Mass in the same order as in the procession to the altar.
Nor is it comforting that Kavanaugh has tutored at the Washington Jesuit Academy, a Catholic private school in the District of Columbia.

In stark contrast, outgoing Justice Kennedy who Kavanaugh clerked for and would replace has been active off the bench as well, calling for reform of overcrowded American prisons in a speech before the American Bar Association. He spends his summers in Salzburg, Austria, where he teaches international and American law at the University of Salzburg for the McGeorge School of Law of the University of the Pacific (founded in 1851 with a Methodist affiliation) and often attends the large yearly international judges conference held there.

Defending his use of international law, in 2005 Kennedy told The New Yorker staff writer Jeffrey Toobin, "Why should world opinion care that the American Administration wants to bring freedom to oppressed peoples? Is that not because there's some underlying common mutual interest, some underlying common shared idea, some underlying common shared aspiration, underlying unified concept of what human dignity means? I think that's what we're trying to tell the rest of the world, anyway."

Not since Episcopalian David Souter has anyone been on the Court who was not raised in Catholicism or Judaism.

Besides the heavy dose of Catholic upbringing represented on the Court, I have one other problem with this Court. Since the Supreme Court was established in 1789, 113 persons have served on the Court. Of the first 100, 40 had no prior judicial experience. A complete list is below, but the 40 include Earl Warren, William O. Douglas, Felix Frankfurter, and Louis Brandeis, just to name a few whose name some Americans might recognize.

No one appearing on this list has been seated on the Supreme Court since 1972 even though the role of the Supreme Court is radically different than that of a judge.



1This is a reprint of a post initially published four years ago in my California First blog.