On June 26th, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its 5-4 majority decision in the landmark case of “Trump v. Hawaii”, about President Trump’s commonly misnamed ‘Muslim ban’. This decision probably established a new precedent: that national security is an interest that overrides the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Here is how it does this outrageous thing, which is so shocking for such persons — who are oath-bound to uphold the U.S. Constitution — to do:
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says, in full:“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
The traditionally-called “Establishment Clause” is the part of the First Amendment that says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
On the opening page of its 92-page decision, the Supreme Court says, “We now decide whether the President had authority under the Act to issue the Proclamation, and whether the entry policy violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.” On the 7th page, it says, “Plaintiffs [the ‘Hawaii’ side in the case of ‘Trump v. Hawaii’] further claimed that the Proclamation violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, because it was motivated not by concerns pertaining to national security but by animus toward Islam.” Page 26 says, “The First Amendment provides, in part, that ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.’ Our cases recognize that ‘[t]he clearest command of the Establishment Clause is that one religious denomination cannot be officially preferred over another’.”
The Court’s decision asserts, first, that Trump’s Muslim ban, of any immigrants from any of the five nations of Iran, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya — all of which 5 nations have Muslim majorities — is not discriminatory on the basis of religion; and that therefore no religious denomination is being officially preferred over another, in that ban or “Proclamation.”
Second, here is how the decision asserts — at least provisionally, and (as will be shown) likely permanently — that national security overrides the Establishment Clause (and therefore overrides the Constitution itself): On page 29, it says, “plaintiffs seek to invalidate a national security directive. … Their claim accordingly raises a number of delicate issues regarding the scope of the constitutional right [right to “the free exercise thereof”] and the manner of proof. The Proclamation, moreover, is facially neutral toward religion. Plaintiffs therefore ask the Court to probe the sincerity of the stated justifications for the policy.”
The Court’s decision then entirely ignores — and never even so much as touches upon — the “sincerity” matter, at all, or in any form. Therefore, the majority decision is implicitly asserting that the sincerity of the rationale that Trump gave for his “Proclamation” (his so-called ‘Muslim ban’) is immaterial to this case, not relevant to determining whether or not the Proclamation “officially” prefers any religion over any other. The 5-member majority are, in effect, asserting that, by the term “officially,” is meant “explicitly,” or publicly admitted. For example (in another hotly-debated historical instance): If Adolf Hitler did not publicly admit that his intention was to exterminate every Jew on Earth, then (according to this reasoning from those five jurists) he was not responsible for the Holocaust (the attempt by his followers to exterminate Jews, within each of those officials’ own sphere of authority, as granted to them by Hitler). Those five jurists are saying that, since Trump never publicly admitted that he was a bigoted person and never explicitly asserted that religion had anything to do with his Proclamation, Trump’s Proclamation simply did not violate the Establishment Clause. That’s the end of the story — Hawaii’s assertion that Trump’s publicly declared reason needs to be challenged on the basis of its sincerity is simply, and peremptorily, rejected — to “ask the Court to probe the sincerity of the stated justifications for the policy” is placed, by them, simply out-of-bounds.
However, prosecution for any crime requires any court to consider what the motivations of any possible defendant for that crime were in the given matter. To obtain a criminal conviction, the prosecution must establish the presence of two elements at the time of the alleged crime — namely, actus reus (“guilty act”) and mens rea (“guilty mind”); but these five members of the U.S. Supreme Court effectively rule out-of-bounds the very possibility that a U.S. President (or, specifically, this U.S. President) might, on any occasion (but specifically, this occasion), have been “insincere” (or had “a guilty mind” — guilty of actually having violated the First Amendment, in this case). So: these five jurists proved their own guilty minds — and they thereby impose upon the entire nation this nullification of our nation’s Constitution, simply casting aside both executive accountability and the Constitution’s supreme legal authority in our land. Is that treasonous? It certainly violates their oaths-of-office. But is it treasonous?
It is, in any event, the way that these 5 judges dismissed any consideration of Trump’s motive for his ‘Muslim ban’ — this particular “entry policy” issued by the Proclamation. However, what about the question itself, of “whether the entry policy violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.” Well, if you aren’t being allowed to question what its motive was, then you aren’t being allowed to question the Constitutionality of the ban, either.
The Court’s mega-scandalous decision closes: The Government has set forth a sufficient national security justification to survive rational basis review. We express no view on the soundness of the policy. We simply hold today that plaintiffs have not demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of their constitutional claim.
Because plaintiffs have not shown that they are likely to succeed on the merits of their claims, we reverse the grant of the preliminary injunction as an abuse of discretion. Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 555 U. S. 7, 32 (2008). The case now returns to the lower courts for such further proceedings as may be appropriate.
They declare (but are they sincere about this?) that “We express no view on the soundness of the policy.” They bounce the matter back down to “the lower courts,” without even so much as having considered the mens rea issue — which was central to the case before them. The President’s having avoided admitting the fact that bigotry was involved in his Proclamation, has been accepted as final on the matter, for these five jurists. But would it be final if Hawaii were to continue in “the lower courts” to challenge the Proclamation? According to CNBC’s news-report about the decision: “Neal Katyal, attorney for the challengers, said in a statement. ‘Now that the Court has upheld it, it is up to Congress to do its job and reverse President Trump’s unilateral and unwise travel ban’.” Obviously, Ketyal won’t take the matter back down to the lower court in the case. Perhaps his challenge to the ban had actually been only political, to embarrass Republicans, in order that the Democratic Party can continue to holier-than-thou moralize their supposed superiority above the bigotry and/or sheer stupidity, of the President’s (and Republican-supported) “ban.”
Here is the actual type of “establishment of religion” that I believe that Trump is here imposing (and which the five far-right jurists today are trying to help him to impose upon the nation) — it’s more against Shiite Muslims than against Sunnis — who constitute the vast majority of Muslims and virtually the entirety of the ones who have perpetrated terrorism anywhere other than in Israel (and this President is not supposed to be the President of Israel):
This case is not, as Hawaii (Ketyal) was asserting, a Trumpian bigotry against Islam. Only five nations were included in the ban, and so it applies to only a small percentage of the world’s Muslims. Though the Court accepted the President’s flimsy assertion that these, and only these, nations pose such a national-security threat to the United States as to warrant a total immigration-ban, the actual evidence regarding Islamic terrorism in the United States has been overwhelming that virtually only fundamentalist Sunnis have perpetrated it; no Shiites have
. With the lone exception of Somalia, none of these five banned nations is Sunni majority and Sunni controlled — they’re all either Shiite majority or Shiite-dominated, or (in the case of Libya) failed states without any nationwide government because of the U.S.-and-allied invasion in 2011. (And so, Trump is banning refugees from that country which his Democratic predecessor Obama had destroyed — let them escape to Europe instead!) The U.S. Deep State has been trying since 1949 to overthrow Syria’s Government and replace it with one that would be controlled by the fundamentalist-Sunni Saud family who own Saudi Arabia and are allied with the U.S. aristocracy (America’s “Deep State”). Yemen right now is being bombed to smithereens by the U.S.-Saudi-UAE alliance, and this operation is supporting, instead of opposing, fundamentalist Sunnis (such as ISIS in Yemen, and Al Qaeda in Yemen, neither of which group of jihadists is in the Shiite region of Yemen, which we’re bombing and destroying, while we’re claiming that this is ‘anti-terrorist’). The actual facts indicate that any “Muslim ban” should be focused against Saudi Arabia — and this ban would be authentically to protect against terrorism, not to disadvantage any particular religion — but Trump instead sold the Sauds $350 billion of U.S.-made weapons. That global all-time-record high U.S. military sale to the Sauds gives them far more clout over the U.S. Government than the U.S. Government has over them. No wonder why the U.S. Government protects them for 9/11, etc.
Regarding Somalia, the only article online about “Somalia-United States Relations” is at Wikipedia and doesn’t indicate any terrorist incidents in the U.S. as having been at all Somali. Furthermore, Wikipedia’s article “Foreign Relations of Somalia” goes country-by-country, but doesn’t indicate anywhere any link to terrorism, against any country, at all.
However, notwithstanding the actual facts in this case, these five far-right jurists just trashed the U.S. Constitution, and thereby allowed this President’s bigoted and/or stupid Proclamation, which possesses no authentic national-security justification whatsoever, to become imposed, regardless even of whether it is sincere, or comports with the Establishment Clause. The precedent here is carte-blanche to this President and to any of his successors. A U.S. President’s will, supersedes the U.S. Constitution, if a ‘national security’ excuse — no matter how flimsy or even counterfactual — is being asserted. His/her sincerity — and even the facts as opposed to the mere allegations from a President — cannot be challenged in U.S. courts.
Hawaii’s (Ketyal’s) challenge, under the Establishment Clause, was sloppy, presuming as it did, that Trump is “anti-Musim” instead of anti-Shiite, which seems to be more like the reality. But, in any event, both the challenge, and the way that the U.S. Supreme Court handled it, were incompetent, at best. This pathetic Court decision establishes not only the precedent for banning consideration in U.S. courts of whether a sitting President may effectively be challenged as to his sincerity on a given matter, but also precedent for treating “national security” as being more important than the U.S. Constitution itself. If Trump had intelligently formulated his ban on the basis of the relevant data, then maybe these five jurists could have put together some sort of intelligent case to uphold his ban. But, instead, those jurists made a mess of everything, and a zero of the U.S. Constitution that they are duty-bound to uphold.
No lower court can make good on the harm that those jurists — Roberts, Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch, and Kennedy — did and do. Mark Joseph Stern’s article at Slate opened with an accurate summary of it: On Tuesday, the Supreme Court affirmed and expanded the president’s power to exclude entire classes of immigrants from the country. Its 5–4 decision in Trump v. Hawaii is a historic triumph for Donald Trump and a crushing blow to immigration activists, who had hoped the courts might rein in the president’s sweeping order. Justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s appointee to the court, cast the decisive fifth vote to uphold the ban. While Chief Justice John Roberts’ opinion for the court strives to rise above politics, Hawaii will almost certainly be remembered as a deeply partisan opinion in which five Republican appointees willfully ignored the flagrant bigotry of a Republican president.
Why are some Muslims, from India to the U.S Voting against their Natural Allies
Recent national elections in the U.S. and regional elections in India have presented an interesting conundrum. The numbers show that some Muslims, are voting in a counter-intuitive fashion. Given the rise of Islamophobia and right-wing religious nationalism, both in the U.S. and in India, one would surmise that Muslims would vote overwhelmingly to the left of center. But both, in India and in the U.S., many Muslims have however chosen to send a message to the center-left – your sympathetic rhetoric and your verbal condemnations of Islamophobia is not enough, we want to see concrete policies that improve our political and economic conditions. Neither the promises of Joe Biden, nor the fear of Hindu-nationalism is influencing their vote. These Muslims are, for sure, in a minority albeit a growing one. Politicians on the center-left may ignore them at their own peril.
In the U.S.
In the U.S., President-Elect Joe Biden’s campaign outreach to Muslims went far beyond that of any presidential candidate in the past. Biden’s campaign had a manifesto for American Muslims and a designated outreach person. Biden spoke at Muslim conventions and even quoted from Islamic scripture. He dropped an “inshallah” in the debates. Biden promised to end the so called ‘Muslim-Ban’ on day one and has repeatedly condemned Islamophobia. Biden spoke up for Uyghur Muslims in China and Kashmiris in India and has opposed the annexation of West Bank. He has promised to resume relations with the Palestinians and restore aid to them. Even Imran Khan, the PM of Pakistan, a self-proclaimed champion of Muslims, does not have such an impressive pro-Muslim curriculum vitae, he has repeatedly refused to speak up for the Uyghurs.
While a majority of American Muslims campaigned very aggressively for the Biden-Harris ticket and raised millions of dollars for the Democrats, the exit polls indicate that only 69% of American Muslims voted for them. On the face value that is a huge win, but if you look at in comparison to the past it is troubling. Despite the fact that Biden went far beyond any other candidate in his outreach to Muslims, and the Islamophobia of President Trump is well documented, Biden has garnered the least percentage of votes by a Democratic presidential candidate in the last four elections according to exit polls conducted by the Council on American Islamic Relations.
A possible explanation for this relatively weak performance is that, for some Muslims his “iron-clad” support for Israel and his willingness to work with pro-Hindutva operatives in the U.S., make his opposition to Islamophobia sound less credible. Words are not enough. If his electoral promises do not actually translate into actual policies, one can expect further decline in Muslim support for Democrats. American Muslims are a rapidly growing and politically engaged community that is over represented in swing states.
A closer reading of the exit polls suggest that things are worse than they seem. The exit polls show that while 17% American Muslims voted for Trump (up from 13% in 2016), 11% declined to reveal who they voted for. It is possible that they lean heavily towards Trump, hence the secrecy. That would mean that in spite of all his Islamophobic rhetoric, Trump may have doubled his support among American Muslims. One Trump supporter told me he voted for Trump because Trump did not invade a single Muslim country in four years unlike Biden who supported the invasion of Iraq.
The recent elections in Bihar has an interesting story to tell. The state is clearly polarizing as most gains have been made by parties on the extremities. Prime minister Modi’s right-wing Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) went from winning 53 wins in the 2015 elections to winning 74 of the 243 seats in 2020. A significant swing in favor of Hindutva ideology. The Communist Party (CPI-ML) gained 9 seats, it had 3 seats in 2015 to 12 seats in 2020. The communist parties combined had a 400% increase, they went from 4 to 16 seats. The parties in decline are the so-called secular centrist parties. The Rastriya Janata Dal (RJD) which is the biggest single party in the state lost five seats (80-75) and the Indian National Congress (INC), the grand old party of India, also lost ground (27-19).
Clearly the secular center is shrinking. The biggest surprise of the elections was the performance of Asaduddin Owaisi’s All Indian MajlisIttehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), a Muslim party, which in the past five years has gone from 0-5 seats. The Majlis won in predominantly Muslim area of Seemanchal and is being accused by commentators of stealing the secular vote away from secular parties. Some are describing Majlis as BJP’s B-Team.
It is interesting that now in Indian politics, the code for Muslim vote is ‘the secular vote’. Indian Muslims are now the last line of defense for the rather rapidly shriveling secular space. The criticism of Owaisi and the Majlis for denting the prospects of secular parties in Bihar is both misplaced and inaccurate. The question that is important is not why Owaisi’s Majlis, a party historically based in Hyderabad (South India) is contesting elections so far in the North of India. The key question is why are Muslims in Bihar voting for Majlis? A party that has no record of governance in their region.
In a speech months before the elections, Owaisi predicted a tectonic shift in Seemanchal’s politics and he said that it was coming because of the profound injustices and inequities that plague Muslims of that region. If secular parties that have governed the state for decades had delivered good governance to Muslims, Owaisi would have stayed at home.
Muslims are increasingly disillusioned by secular and left politicians. Islamophobia was on the rise even before Trump became President and 37% of American Muslims, pre-covid pandemic, were found hovering near the poverty line. There is much discontent. I think just as 17-25% American Muslims voted for Trump rejecting the centrist politics of Democrats – many Muslims in Bihar too are frustrated by the failure of secular parties to improve their material condition. The region of Bihar where Owaisi’s party won five seats is the poorest and infrastructurally the least developed area of the state. Voting for secular parties for decades did not help them much. They have been voting without hope. They too are tired of the lip service.
Muslims of Bihar are fortunate that they have an alternative in Majlis and they are able to reject both Indian secularists and Hindu nationalists unlike some American Muslims who feel that they are stuck between Republicans who are Islamophobic and Democrats who promise much but deliver little. The minority of Muslims who appear to be voting counter intuitively, seemingly against their own interests, either for Donald Trump in the U.S. or the Majlis in Bihar, are clearly sending a signal to secular politicians – do not take our vote for granted, you need to earn our vote.
The center-left may be a natural ally of Muslims, but if it does not deliver for Muslims, they may lose their vote in ever increasing numbers.
Which Coronavirus Policies Succeed, And Which Fail: N.Y. Times Analysis Confirms Mine
According to an analysis by and in the New York Times on November 18th, which is headlined “States That Imposed Few Restrictions Now Have the Worst Outbreaks”, “Coronavirus cases are rising in almost every U.S. state. But the surge is worst now in places where leaders neglected to keep up forceful virus containment efforts or failed to implement basic measures like mask mandates in the first place, according to a New York Times analysis of data from the University of Oxford.”
At Strategic Culture, on May 21, I had published my own analysis, which was based upon tracking the data globally and within countries, and within the various states of the United States, which analysis concluded that countries (and states) which apply the least-stringent regulations in order to keep as low as possible the spread of the virus are failing the most to contain or limit that spread. I labelled those the “libertarian” countries, and I noted that what I called the “socialist” countries — the nations which were the most strictly imposing scientifically confirmed regulations in order to keep those numbers down — were having the best success at limiting the spread of this virus. My study was global, and its headline was “Ideology and Coronavirus”. Unlike the Times article, I was forthright about the ideological implications of the coronavirus data — because those implications are vastly important. (The handling of this pandemic is providing reams of data that test the effectiveness of the various locales’ predominant ideology at dealing with a global life-or-death years-long public-health emergency in regions throughout the world. This is like a global laboratory experiment testing the two opposite ideologies: libertarianism, which is against government regulation, versus socialism, which applies government regulation. No government is purely one or the other, but those are the two poles.)
The analysis in the Times article shows a chart, and represents on it almost all of the states, as dots that indicate both the amount of regulation which has been applied, and the lowness of the infection-rate which has resulted; and, at the upper left corner on it, are the two Dakotas, as “Weak recent containment measures and many cases,” while at the bottom rightmost corner is Hawaii as “Strict measures and fewer cases.”
The Times chart is showing, only locally within the United States, during just the past few weeks, what my analyses had shown, regarding not only the international and longer-term data, but also within the United States itself and recently, not only longer-term and internationally. One of my articles, on November 1st and titled “The Highest Covid-Infection-Rate States”, showed the infection-rate for all 50 states, and noted that, “In 2016, the top 17 [the states with the highest rates of this infection in 2020] voted for Trump, and the bottom 5 voted for Clinton. All but 3 of the top 24 voted for Trump, but from numbers 25 to 45, there was a political mixture. The highest infection-rate state, North Dakota, has a Covid-19 infection-rate that is 14.6 times higher than the lowest Covid-19 infection-rate state, Vermont.” Of course, the Republican Party (Trump’s Party) is the more libertarian Party, and the Democratic Party (Clinton’s Party) is the more socialist (though actually just as totalitarian) of the two Parties. (Both Parties represent only their billionaires, who also own and control the media; and this is the way that America’s aristocracy controls the Government. For example, the very pro-Democratic-Party website PoliticalWire quoted from and linked to the NYT’s article, but always fails to include any of mine, because I am critical against both Parties. Truly independent news-media are almost non-existent in the United States.)
Whereas the Times’s chart of “Avg. new cases per 100,000” failed to include Vermont, Vermont is the state that has, for the longest time, been among the best three on not only cases per million but also deaths per million, from this virus, and substantially better even than Hawaii, and both states are among the two or three that in recent decades have been the strongest for Democratic candidates, and the weakest for Republican candidates. However, Vermont especially is politically independent, and, so, it has a Republican Governor, Phil Scott, whose record on containing this virus has been the best in the nation; and he was just re-elected in a landslide, 69% of the votes (largely because of this terrific record). Right now, however, the number of daily new cases has shot up suddenly about fivefold in just the past week; so, Phil Scott’s record is in jeopardy. If that surge quickly ends, then he could become the strongest Republican to run against Kamala Harris or Joe Biden in 2024. He would not only receive almost all Republican votes (since that’s his Party), but also at least a third of Democratic votes, and almost all independent votes. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that he would be the likeliest to win the Republican nomination, because (just as is true about the Democratic Party) that Party’s billionaires will be making that choice. (It was blatantly true also with regard to Biden and Harris.) This epidemic will be a major political challenge both in 2022 and in 2024. Anyone who wants to see Governor Scott’s press conferences regarding this crisis, so as to know precisely what his coronavirus-policies have been, can see them here. His November 20th press conference is here. He and his governing team receive and answer there many intelligent questions, so that the policies which have led to the best results in America are amply explained there.
On November 16th in South Dakota (and then repeated nationally on National Public Radio on November 20th), reporter Seth Tupper headlined “Two States, Different Paths: Vermont Keeps Virus Low While Rivaling SD’s Economy” and provided a thorough report, including graphs of infection-rates over time, comparing two states, South Dakota, which has the nation’s second-highest infection-rate (after only North Dakota’s 9%) of 7.8%, versus Vermont, which has the nation’s lowest infection-rate, of only 0.5% — one-fifteenth as high. Tupper explained the different policies that the Governors of those two states had applied, and how those policies produced vastly different results for the infection-rates and the death-rates in their states’ populations, but only moderately higher increase in unemployment in Vermont than in South Dakota, which at the peak in April had reached 16% unemployment in Vermont, versus only 10% peak in South Dakota; and, by the time of August, both states had nearly identical low unemployment-rates. Whereas the death-rates from the disease soared around a thousand fold, between April and November, in South Dakota, the death-rate remained virtually flat, almost no increase, in Vermont, throughout that entire period. However, both states were now experiencing soaring infection-rates during the current, second, wave of the epidemic.
Author’s note: first posted at Strategic Culture
Trump’s Election Shenanigans Pale Before The Threats From Melting Polar Glaciers
Despite Joe Biden exceeding the magic number of 270 that guarantees a majority in the electoral college, President Donald Trump has not conceded. Does he have a plan to overturn the wishes of the electorate?
According to Trump he did not lose, he was cheated out of a legitimate win by voter fraud and ballot stuffing. Accordingly, he has filed lawsuits in those critical states with narrow margins of victory for Biden — so far without tangible success — to block certification of the vote and persuade Republican legislatures to overturn the state vote as fraudulent and award the electoral votes to him.
Trump’s window of action is narrowing. A major target state was Michigan with 20 electoral votes. However, Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer has now certified Biden’s victory meaning he should get its electoral votes.
While Trump’s shenanigans continue, the world faces a real danger of melting ice sheets and glaciers. A long term denier of global warming, Mr. Trump now accepts it but believes the earth will right itself without any effort by humans.
Scientists meanwhile are particularly concerned with the Florida-sized Thwaites glacier in the Antarctic. Its collapse they fear could destabilize surrounding glaciers eventually causing catastrophic global sea level rises measured not in inches but feet.
The glacier rises 60 to 75 feet above water across its 75 mile face. Remembering that 90 percent of it is under gives some notion of the quantity of ice. The Nathaniel B. Palmer research vessel is conducting a survey this winter for the first time as part of a five-year international research program to learn just how fast the glacier is melting and how much it might be adding to rising seas.
The problem is the shape of the glacier under the water and the warming waters eating away that core while the ice on top gets thicker and thicker as the glacier retreats inland. At some point the glacier is likely to collapse of its own weight into the ocean. Scientists who have modeled the scenario fear the process is unstoppable once it starts. Worse it puts much of the West Antarctic ice sheet at risk of following it into the sea. Any wonder then that Thwaites is also known as the Doomsday glacier.
At the other pole the Greenland ice sheet had a record-breaking 2019, shedding the most ice since 1948 — an estimated 532 billion tons. It of course increases coastal flooding along the eastern seaboard particularly the Carolinas and Florida. Fortunately for the residents, the 2020 melt from Greenland, while well above the 1981 to 2010 average, was lower than recent years particularly 2019.
Donald Trump does not believe he lost the election and he does not believe in global warming. Christmas is just around the corner and it’s reassuring to know he believes in Santa Claus . . . and the tooth fairy.
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