Saturday Report 7/1/23 - Are lunch counters denying service to Black people next?

Republicans on the Supreme Court tell students to go screw themselves. Apparently, when it comes to money, there are two sets of rules: one for white Republicans and the other for Black and low-income people.
Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz received a $475,932 loan from the federal government that was fully forgiven. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s was $182,300, also forgiven. Mike Pence’s brother, Indiana Republican Representative Greg Pence got $79,411 forgiven. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) got $2.6 million forgiven. Rep. Kevin Hern (R-OK) took $1.07 million and had it forgiven. Rep. Roger Williams (R-TX) hauled in $1.43 million that was forgiven, although he was beaten by Kentucky’s Republican Rep. Brett Guthrie’s $4.3 million, also forgiven. Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) made off with $974,100, and Missouri Republican Rep. Vicki Hartzler got to keep $451,200. Rep. Carol Miller (R-WV) stuffed $3.1 million into her money bin, and that’s just part of the list: other Republicans made off with millions, too. White Republicans got a windfall, and a huge one at that, but every single one on this list has spoken out or voted against student loan debt relief.
   Thus, when President Biden proposed forgiving $10,000 in federal student loans to mostly Black women, a group of wealthy white Republican state officials sued all the way to the Supreme Court. I say “mostly Black women” because, as ABC News noted, “Black women, in particular, carry a disproportionate burden of student debt. They hold nearly two-thirds of the nearly $2 trillion outstanding student debt in the U.S., according to data from the Census Bureau.”
    Even more obscene, in order to screw students the Supreme Court broke their own rules. None of the states suing would have suffered any harm from the loan forgiveness, because they were federal loans. There literally was “no injury” to any of the parties bringing the lawsuit, meaning they had no legal standing to be in court. The company (MOHELA) John Roberts cited in his bizarre, deceitful, and nakedly lying opinion also suffered no loss and explicitly asked not to even be listed as a party to the case, although the Republicans on the Court insisted on keeping them in to provide a fig leaf.
    For a case to be presented and litigated before a court — particularly the Supreme Court — there must be an injured party. Without that injured party there is no “standing” to sue and the case is typically thrown out. Even though MOHELA suffered NO injury here — it was a state-based lender that did not participate in federal student loans and thus did not lose a penny — Roberts weaseled them into the case just so he and his five Republican buddies could screw America’s student borrowers to satisfy the billionaires who put them on the Court and help maintain their lavish vacations and lifestyles.

Are lunch counters denying service to Black people next? In another case where there was no standing — no injured party with a legal right to sue — Neal Gorsuch on behalf of his 5 Republican partisan hacks brought back the argument Greensboro, North Carolina unsuccessfully made back in the 1960s, but this time turned it into federal law. Back then, when Black people sued to eat at whites-only lunch counters, the argument North Carolina and other states made was that there was no “real injury” to them because there were plenty of other lunch counters that gladly served Black people. Thus, they argued, the segregation laws were fine and Black people had no standing to sue.
      Today it’s queer people, but women, Blacks and Jews could easily be next, by this week’s Supreme Court’s logic. A person who did not even own a web-designing business sued to the Supreme Court with money from rightwing billionaire-funded groups claiming that she was thinking of starting a web-design company to put up sites for weddings but was “afraid” that the state of Colorado would “force” her to design them for gay weddings since LGBTQ+ people are protected by anti-discrimination laws. When challenged to show an injury, she produced the name of a fellow she said had asked her if she could design such a site for a gay wedding, but last week it was revealed the person named under oath in her complaint before the Supreme Court didn’t know anything about it, is a web designer himself, and has been happily married to a woman (and they have a child together) for over 15 years. It was all a lie, in other words, but that was a-ok with the 6 rightwingers on the Court, even though it is a criminal action that should subject her lawyers to prosecution or at least disbarment.
In the decision itself, Gorsuch goes out of his way to essentially agree with a plaintiff in the case who told an interviewer, as Robert Hubbell notes in his excellent Substack newsletter: “There are lots of other web design businesses where gay couples can take their business.”
Just like there are other lunch counters that will serve women, Black, or queer people. Or schools. Or stores. Or places of employment. Or churches. To paraphase Pastor Neimoller, “First they came for the gays.”
     As Justice Elena Kagan noted in her blistering dissent, we are now back to the 1950s, and the precedent is HUGE:
     “Today is a sad day in American constitutional law and in the lives of LGBT people. The Supreme Court of the United States declares that a particular kind of business, though open to the public, has a constitutional right to refuse to serve members of a protected class. The Court does so for the first time in its history.
“By issuing this new license to discriminate in a case brought by a company that seeks to deny same-sex couples the full and equal enjoyment of its services, the immediate, symbolic effect of the decision is to mark gays and lesbians for second-class status. In this way, the decision itself inflicts a kind of stigmatic harm, on top of any harm caused by denials of service. The opinion of the Court is, quite literally, a notice that reads: “Some services may be denied to same-sex couples.”

Stochastic terror is their strategy, just like it was for the Nazis before them. Neither Hitler nor Mussolini had an army to lead themselves to power, although both had volunteer militias much like the Proud Boys or the 3 Percenters. Mostly, though, in their early days they relied on random punks and street gangs to disrupt society; terrify Jews, liberals, and gays; and assassinate people in those groups to spread the terror throughout society and discourage political opposition. (Shirer’s Rise and Fall of the Third Reich is a great resource in this regard.)
      We’ve seen this in America since Trump came down his escalator and proclaimed racial hatred the foundation of his campaign for president, from the mass murder of Hispanics in El Paso, Blacks in Mother Emmanuel Church, and Jews at the Tree of Life Synagogue, among literally hundreds of other examples over the past 7 years.
     Trump put it on steroids, publishing the address of former President Obama’s Washington, DC home, provoking a man formerly charged in the January 6th coup to head there this week with guns and explosive materials, apparently intent on repeating the attack on Paul Pelosi or worse. Stochastic (lone wolf) terrorism is an ancient weapon of demagogues and dictators, and Trump and his Republican buddies know it.

Geeky Science: Democracy prevailed in the Americas long before Europeans showed up. A new study summarized over at Raw Story documents how not only were a majority of pre-Columbus Mesoamerican societies run democratically, but wealth was broadly distributed with little evidence of poverty or extreme wealth. The researchers who compiled the most recent studies note that this bottom-up distribution of both political and financial power gave those ancient societies a strength and resilience that their neighbors — run by local despots, warlords, or religious figures — lacked. As I noted yesterday, there really is something to this democracy stuff.

Crazy Alert! Imprisonment for peeing your pants? A cop couple handcuffed their 3-year-old and threw him into a jail cell to “punish” him for not being sufficiently potty trained. Seriously. As The Washington Post reports, Lt. Michael Schoenbrod and Detective Sgt. Jessica Long, a married couple working for the Daytona Beach Shores police department, thought this was a really neat idea:
      “‘He was crying,’ Schoenbrod said, according to body-cam footage obtained by The Washington Post. ‘I was getting the response I expected from him.’”
As I noted a year ago last month in a piece titled Have You Noticed America Has Gotten Meaner? that: “Violence is the cardinal characteristic, the logo, the brand identity of fascism. Every fascist movement in history has lifted itself to power on the scaffold of violence.” And it always starts at the individual level.

By Thom Hartmann

July 1, 2023

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