Blog #120 — Roe vs. Wade, An Alternate Approach2: Recusal


Roe vs. Wade,  An Alternate Approach2: Recusal

The nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court has caused much concern among defenders of Roe vs. Wade. They realistically are concerned that that landmark women’s rights decision is in danger of reversal if Kavanaugh is appointed. But that concern should also focus on the actions of President Trump that make a reversal likely, not only on the possible positions of a new judge, whether it be Kavanaugh or another.

Contrariwise, the President’s announcement that he would not nominate anyone to the Supreme Court who would uphold Roe vs. Wade may In fact be a path to protect that decision from reversal for at least the next three rounds of national elections.

The danger of a reversal of Roe vs. Wade is one which Trump has created, and Trump’s involvement may offer the route to a positively desirable solution

Here’s how.

It is inappropriate for a sitting judge to prejudge a case before him, and likewise for a candidate for a judicial position to have a commitment to a particular outcome in any case likely to come before him before hearing that case. We do not know whether Trump asked Kavanaugh for a commitment to overrule Roe vs. Wade, But we do know that  Kavanaugh, in accepting his nomination, knew that  it was made by someone who would not have made it if he believed the candidate would not rule as he had proclaimed was his expressed desire. The appearance is certainly that Kavanaugh would be responsive to that desire. The scale of the controversy about his appointment is testimony to how widely that appearance is shared in the general public.

There is an ethical, constitutional, and just, means of resolving the dilemma that President Trump has created by using his constitutional power of nomination to the Supreme Court to interfere in that Court’s decision in a particular case bound to appear before it . Trump has promised publicly in advance that he would not appoint anyone to the Supreme Court who would support Roe vs Wade. Any person appointed after he made that statement owes his or her appointment to a willingness to prejudge a case that is likely to come before him/her.

Any person then appointed would be required ethically, to recuse himself for consideration of the case n question. The candidate cannot be asked, prior to appointment, what his position would be should such a case arise. Any answer he might give would taint his participation if the case did arise.  The Judicial Code of the United States Code  provides[1], in the section captioned “Disqualification of justice, judge, or magistrate judge,” that a federal judge “shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” And Canon 1, of the Model Code of Judicial Conduct holds that “A judge shall uphold and promote the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety’.[2] Kavanaugh should disqualify himself from hearing Roe vs. Wade if it comes before him.

So, President Trump, by his attempt to impose an unethical restraint on any appointee in his power to appoint to the Supreme Court has undermined his own ability to achieve his own objective, undermining Roe vs. Wade. Kavanaugh should ethically refuse to accept the appointment unless he first affirms in advance that he will not follow the desires of his appointing authority, an unlikely scenario.[3] The result will be that it will be a court with only eight voting members that will review and decide a new Roe and Wade. Justice will have been served

If, however, Kavanaugh nevertheless accepts the appointment, he may still recuse himself from hearing Roe vs. Wade if it should come before him. If he or she does not, the other 8 members of the Court will have it in their power to ask the new appointee to disqualify himself from joining them in the consideration of that case

If they do not, :a lawsuit might  be filed enjoining the Supreme Court from permitting a new appointment to sit on any case involving Roe and Wade, because of the inevitable taint arising from Trump’s intervention. . If that suit reaches the Supreme Court, it is obvious that the new appointee whose qualification to sit on the case is at issue must recuse himself from hearing or voting on the matter.  That suit will thus again be heard by the other eight sitting members of the bench.

In any case, Roe vs. Wade will have been saved from being put to a vote by a Court                                                    under the unconstitutional pressure of a hostile President’s invasion of the independence established by the Constitution for the Court.

The advantage of focusing on the appropriateness of recusal as a solution to the problem of Kavanaugh’s anti-Roe vote is two-fold. First, to protect that decision in keeping with the Constitutional provisions for separation of powers[4] and the Judicial Code’ provisions on impropriety, and in accordance with intuitive feelings of fairness and justice, with those political consequences.  But, Second, to place the responsibility for the problem squarely on the shoulders of the President, and in fact to go further and prevent his achieving his desires for the rest of any term in office he may enjoy. Any new appointee to the Supreme Court will face the necessity of recusal just as Kavanaugh does. Thus Roe vs. Wade will be better protected at least from any future action of Donald Trumps if a new appointment should again come within his power.

 

[1] Two sections of Title 28 of the United States Code (the Judicial Code) provide standards for judicial disqualification or recusal. Section 455, captioned “Disqualification of justice, judge, or magistrate judge,”

[2] Canon 1 of the American Bar Association’s Model Code of Judicial Conduct.

[3] There are   in fact calls by Senator Schumer  for Kavanaugh to recuse himself because of his own freely-offered opinions about  Roe vs. Wade in a 2017 lower court case (see https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/7/12/17564048/brett-kavanaugh-roe-wade-views), and for opinions in another matter, the Mueller investigations, but on the grounds of Kavanagh’s own prejudgment. Those do not rest on the constitutional argument made here.

[4] While Trump ’s commitment to achieve a particular result in a matter before the Supreme Court could well be considered a violation of the Constitution. It is not readily apparent how such a challenge might be made effective other than through the political process.

 

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Blog #119 – Roe vs. Wade, an Alternate Approach: Recusal


Blog #119 – Roe vs. Wade and Supreme Court Appointments

Trump’s promise not to appoint anyone to the Supreme Court who would hesitate to overturn Roe vs. Wade is unethical and an act which invalidates any appointee to the Court who if appointed ruled pursuant to it.  It would violate the U.S. Judicial Code and the ABA’s Model Code of Judicial Conduct. Were Kavanaugh to be appointed, he would have to recuse himself from take part in the consideration of that case, leaving the decisions on it in the hands of the remaining 8 court members. And that obligation to recuse himself would be an on gong one, as long as Trump remains in office – an obligation which might be thrust upon him by the remaining members in considerations from which he would need to recuse himself. .

Those concerned about the future of Roe vs, Wade to the next Supreme Court if Kavanaugh is on it are properly barking loudly out of concern, but up the wrong tree. The problem is one which Trump has created, not Kavanaugh, and which an attack on Trump’s involvement offers the route to the best solution: the prospect of a recusal of anyone he nominates from consideration of the case any time within his own term of office. .

for a more detailed statement of the argument, see pmarcuse.Wordpress.com, Blog #120 – “Roe vs Wade, An Alternate Approach: Recusal2,”

 

 

Blog #116 – Robert Mueller’s Report Song to Congress


The Robert Mueller song, as he presents his final Report to Congress.

 

To the Tune of the Chiquita Banana commercial:

I’m Chiquita Banana, and I’ve come to say

Bananas must ripen in a certain way….”[1]

——————–

My name is Robert Mueller and I’ve come to say,

Investigations must be undertaken in a certain way.

You can’t just claim that what so and so did was wrong

You have to have evidence that is clear and is strong.

You have to say what this man or woman did on a certain day

Violated a certain law at a certain place in a certain way.

This is what he did, and this is the person that saw him do it,

This is what he said he did, and this is why it’s obvious his story blew it.

These are the penalties that can be applied  that the law prescribes,

Only made more severe if you try to evade them with lies.

 

So here is my report:  I know that it’s 430 pages long

But what it describes was also very wrong wrong wrong.It’s the Congress that determines what’s wrong and what’s right.

My job is only to see how the facts fit what Congress set out, and how tight.

Now what happens, when, and to whom is up to the courts to determine

Whether those who did it were well-intentioned or were vermin.

I’ve finished the job I was hired to do,

Now it’s up to those that hired me to see the matter through.

 

If I can be of any more help, please do let me know,

Otherwise, I admit, I’m very happy to go.

Good bye, and best wishes.

Robert Mueller.

 

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFDOI24RRAE    It was a United Fruit commerciaI. If you have trouble finding it, it’s from 1940 and the oldest a google search for Chiquita Banana commercial produces; ‘ll try to get the exact url for it shortly. It;s great on its own.

Blog #115 – Facing the Causes of Immigration Problems


Facing the Causes of the Problems with Immigration

The ultimate causes of the emigration producing immigration crises in the U.S. and elsewhere are the gross inequalities among and within nation in resources and power. The only real solution to the crisis is to move to equalization and sharing among nations, through agreements and institutions at the international level. It is the opposite of the direction in which Trump is moving U.S. policy.

The issue of separating children from their parents within the process of dealing with immigration should be beyond the pale of reasonable disagreement, and the basic answer should be non-controversial: very simple, DON’T DO IT! Indeed, the details need working out, but that is no excuse for not dealing with the causes of the immigration problem as such. Looking at causes seems almost taboo today. Either it is too complicated, and we have no time to think about causes, or, if we do, the remedies seem so farfetched as to be utopian and not worth even thinking about.

But the cause of the immigration problem is in fact very simple. The need to emigrate from one country to another arises out of the gross inequality among countries of the world: inequalities in income and wealth, inequalities in power, unequal levels of security and dignity afforded their residents. And at least the first step dealing with these fundamental causes of emigration might seem to be equally clear: they can ultimately, but the sooner the better, be dealt with at the international level, what we newly call the global level. After the end of the First World War, there was a brief flurry of interest for collective international action at that level. The nations of the world went so far as to adopt a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, whose language is on a par in its nobility with the language of the United States Declaration of Independence, and deserves to be as familiar:

“Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable right of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world. “

It is the foundation on which any quest for the solution to the problem s of immigration should rest.

That sounds fine, but totally theoretical. One might start with the briefly discussed but ill-fated efforts to agree on national quotas, which at least reflected an incipient belief in an international approach to the problem. Agreement might be sought, perhaps, for international standards at some absolutely minimal level, e.g., no separation of children from parents, some guarantee of due process. Some international standards actually already exist, for instance in the definitions agreed upon in the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees for concepts such as fear of persecution and justifications for seeking asylum. Or agreements against the use of poison gas and chemical weapons in warfare, etc. Why not international standards for the treatment of those seeking to emigrate out of similarly defined urgent need?

There are also already a variety of national and inter-national limited agreements for immediate remedial measures. Germany finances aid to Turkey to promote its measures reducing flight from that country. Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel briefly signed an agreement, unfortunately sort-lived, helped by the High Commissioner for Refugees, to support financially measures in Eritrea and Sudan to staunch the flow of refugees from those countries to Israel, and to cooperate with other western countries to accept refugees emigrating from them.1.  Other ideas have surely been advanced along similar lines, and deserve study attention,

And could one not at least envision further principled moves to support universal free education through grades 12 with an international fund and matching local contributions for financing? Wasn’t there once a broad Marshall Plan in which victorious countries aided devastated ones after the Second World War? Wouldn’t such be aspirations at least to put on the table in international conferences, and even in our own election campaigns?  Wouldn’t positive relations with our allies and neighbors, not a route the Trump administration seems interested in taking, be enhanced by such discussions?

As further steps, could one not at least envision universal free education through grades 12 with an international fund and matching local contributions as financing? Wouldn’t that be an aspiration at least to put on the table in international conferences, and even in our own election campaigns?  Wouldn’t positive relations with our allies and neighbors, not a route the Trump administration seems interested in taking, be enhanced by such discussions?

Might even  Donald Trump find some value in such a direction, as relieving him, all alone, from having to face problems that  he clearly is not on the way to  solving by himself ? Cynically, perhaps, but usefully, kicking the can of immigration reform upstairs?

1.See Michael Stard,The Wall and the Gate: Israel, Palestine, and the Legal Batle for Human Rights, review by David Shulman, New York Review of Books, June 28, 2018.

 

 

 

Blog #114 – Prediction North Korea


Prediction on Future of North Korean Negotiations

The big picture:

Negotiations will continue at least through November 2018, more likely through November 2020. Task forces will be formed, and will issue periodic reports of steady but slow progress, first weekly, then bi-weekly, then sporadically. Perhaps once every two or three months Trump will announce the negotiations  have broken down, will then intervene directly, meet with Kim-jung and rescue them, and negotiations  will resume in the task forces. Ultimately, a final agreement will be announced. It will be claimed to be a successful result to extended negotiations in which both sides have made concessions, some of which will necessarily be non-public. But they will essentially affirm the situation exactly as it is today with modifications at the edges and celebratory rather than fear-inducing language.

In his bi-weekly press conferences, Trump will again announce his achievements:

  • [There is a] new era in relations with North Korea;
  • [I] have a special relationship with Kim Jong-un
  • [Our talk was] a tremendous success
  • [Kim and I] have a terrific relationship
  • Kim and I] have a very special bond
  • Kim and I] have an excellent relationship
  • He’s a very talented man. I learned that he loves his country very much.
  • [We are   making] The deal of the century…
  • Working together, we will get [the nuclear impasse] taken care of.
  • It’s going to work out very nicely.
  • [We have taken} major steps forward in resolving the remaining open questions between the two countries;
  • Step by step, and simultaneous actions
  • We have the start of an emerging deal.
  • Kim has a great feeling for [the North Korean people].  He wants to do right by them
  • North Korean Human rights violations do not have any parallel in the contemporary world.[1]

In the end, the United States will announce it has accomplished a major contribution to world peace, enough to justify a Nobel Peace prize, and the end of its involvement in the negotiations, will boast of how they have protected the American people and saved them tons of money, and North and South Korea will negotiate a comprehensive settlement satisfactory to both of them and to China.

In detail:

Within  a short time, less than a month a firm  agreement will be announced under which North Korea will suspend further development  of its transoceanic missile delivery systems and agree to point what it retains only north toward Canada and not at the United States .

The parties will continue negotiating through and after November 2016 and possibly into November 2020. Each side will be given two opportunities to cancel the meetings, send flunkies to negotiate for several months, intervene personally to restorer them. Trump will claim unqualified success because he has persuaded Kim to point is transoceanic range missiles across the pacific to target Canada, rather than the United States.

The Group of 7 will be invited to supervise compliance with the peace treaties, at their own expense. If they refuse, the United States will withdraw from it, and invite the Untied Nations to supervise the peace, at its expense. If they refuse, the United States will withdraw from it, and publish how much money it will save the United States   taxpayer by it limiting its international commitments.

In drafting his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize, Trump will profusely thank  Jared Kushner for his on-going advice, based on his experience in settling conflicts in the near and middle east, and preserving the  existence of four nations who without  him  might be at war with each other: North and Susah Korea, Israel and Palestine, with treaties in which all parties agreed that  they will not use nuclear weapons or poison gas in whatever confrontations may still face, thus establishing the status quo as the permanent solution to all the problems of world peace. Trump will also acknowledge the help of the Dalai Lama for his spiritual charity in setting the tone for discussions with South Korea during the negations with North Korea

The economic task force will be very active throughout, inviting investment from the United States  pressing for more and more openness of the economy to market  and financial interests.[2] It will announce that agreement has been reached to support a United States   government underwritten factory by Adidas manufacturing hand-woven sneakers, and another agreement by North Korea to stop all mining of raw materials within its borders and instead convert the the mines into depositories for landfill made of non-recyclable waste shipments from the United States, an excess to be deposited off the north coast of North Korea in deep waters.

The political task force will begin by seeking soften some of Kim’s more blatantly undemocratic ruling practices, but will quickly be told that  those  are internal affairs for North Korea to decide, foreign intervention is not desired. The task force will slowly limits its attention to supplying textbooks on civil rights law to North Korean educational institutions, and perhaps financing some translations of United States historical documents such as the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights into Korean. It may be told that such actions might backfire, and will slowly drop out of public sight.

Kim will proudly boast that he has talked Trump into building the tallest skinniest hotel on the Pacific coast and will save Korea’s supplies of gas by permitting Trump to heat it with coal, which Trump will import from West Virginia to show how many jobs he has created in the United States through the negotiations.

South Korea will form a joint venture with North Korea to develop infrastructure, namely, roads going north-south between the two countries each country paying for development within its own borders with loans from the Chinese government.

Peter Marcuse                  June 13, 2018

Brief afterthought: Is it possible Trump actually never saw or ever was concerned about any threat to the United States  by North Korea, and just wanted the headline he was able to get June 14  in the New York Times  “Trump Sees End to North Korea Nuclear Threat” for bragging rights at home? And that will be the end of his interest in the matter?

[1] All but the last are quotes from formulations Trump has already used. The last is from a 2014 United Nations report.

[2] The interest along these lines is  already described in a leading article  in the  New York Times , “What if North Korea Opens Its Economy, Even a Little”? June 13, 2018, -.p.  A10.

Blog #111 – Men Quit, Women Don’t ???


Blog #111 – Men Quit, Women Don’t ???

Abstract

A narrow blog, specifically for those  interested in the treatment of gender in the media who have seen a recent piece in the New York Times  headlined “Why Men Quit and Women  Don’t,” which purports to explain why a statistical finding that  the drop-out rate for women in the Boston Marathon this year is lower than for men has nothing  to do with gender but simply shows that women “thrive on adversity,” in this case “the need to juggle training in non-ideal circumstances [the worst weather in decades].” The statistics are pretty shaky, and it’s not clear why such an explanation is not strongly gender related. It is worth examining because, intentionally or not, it plays into the concern with the social stereotyping that  goes into the gendered attitude towards women, and tends to minimize that  problem by minimizing the role of gender.

*****

Why Men Quit and Women Don’t –

reads the headline by Lindsay Crouse in the Opinion section of the New York Times on April 20, 1018).[1]

The story is based on the fact that men dropped out of the Boston Marathon this year and previous years at a faster rate than women did: “Men quit and women don’t,” the story announces, and tries to explain the difference by examining the correlation between various physical or psychological or social characteristics of men and women. It finds that won’t do, and ends up claiming that “the simplest explanation [for women dropping out less than men] is not based on gender at all.”

But, in fact, it is directly related to gender, the social and cultural definition of male and female rather than the biological definition of female. You might think that a writer, if concerned about gender equality, might happily display the headline above to show that the gender stereotype of women as weaker than men is false, and argue that, the headlined facts prove that the idea that men do better than women in contests of strength and endurance, as in marathons, is a false and gendered idea. In fact, the article perversely argues that gender has nothing to do with the disparate results for men and women.

Yet gender does matter. Because Marathon drop-out rates are not simply a reflection of the physical difference between men and women.

To begin with, the article is based on a flawed statistical analysis. It does not in fact show that “men quit and women don’t.” It is elementary statistical nonsense, both in its sample selection and its lack of control for other variables. I   The men and women being compared are not randomly selected, 16,587 men chose to enter the Boston race, only 13,391 women entered it. The reasons for that difference need to be factored into any explanation for the different results which gender-related differences, .e.g. in income, time availability and responsibilities, status, expectations,  all are llikely to play some role.  The aticle itself lists some of them.

The artcle  finds that finishing rates for this year’s Boston Marathon “varied significantly by gender,” and then spends the rest of its time trying to show that, contrary to that finding, women don’t in fact quit less than men.  It is like arguing that women have shorter stays in hospitals than men because women are stronger than men, and it has nothing to do with the gendered treatment of women. It is, on its face, absurd, if done without controlling for why women go to hospitals in the first place, whether they can afford hospitalization as well as men, are insured as well as men, whether the hospitals are military hospitals or specialized or general care hospitals, charity hospitals or research hospitals or psychiatric hospitals whether they are admitted on an emergency basis or are long-term than men, etc.

Both proportionally and in total numbers, more men run in marathons than women do.  Maybe men who run in marathons are richer than women who do, women being paid less and poorer, can less afford the time to run or train to run, so the women who do actually get to run in the Boston Marathon are exceptionally well fit compared to the men who run, more of whom are able to afford to run and do so even without special training.  If men and women were exactly alike, proportionately more men would drop out than women, because the men who started were a less selective group among all men, than women were among all women?  The fewer women who entered marathons had been more highly selected, i.e. healthier, more ambitious, hardier, than the average woman, but therefore proportionately also once entered in the race, proportionately dropped out less?

But then, the question is, why do not more women enter marathons?

The history of gender discrimination in marathons should not be ignored.

The population that enters marathons is in any event hardly representative of a cross section of all people, and to draw conclusions about all people from a sample that is not representative of all people, or compare two samples, e.g. men and women that are not similarly selected, are violations of the most elementary rules of statistical analysis. And to conclude that the difference between men and women in drop-out rates is not gender related after just writing that men start marathons more aggressively than women because that is in the nature of men, and that and women are often discouraged from being athletic and competitive as unwomanly, is to abandon any pretense of understanding either gender or statistics.

And not gender-related? Gender differences are of a different order than differences of sex, and require quite different approaches if equality with justice is a concern. The history of gender discrimination in running competitions and women’s active struggle to overcome it needs to be told, and helps explain the additional motivation of women holding up without quitting in marathons. Women indeed had to be more aggressive than average men if they wanted to run in a male dominated and often legally exclusively male field. The first Olympic marathon was held in 1896. It was open to men only. Women were allowed to begin competing in marathons starting in 1972.[2]Women were excluded from participation in the Boston Olympics Marathon until 1984.[3] The history is not well known; it is not mentioned in the article.

The article concludes:

…the simplest explanation is not based on gender at all. This Boston Marathon was ideal for people who thrive in adversity. Top spots for men and women went to amateur runners who juggle training in non-ideal circumstances around work and family… the female runners who made it in Boston had already overcome more social obstacles than men. They may simply be tougher. hardly a random selection.

And that’s not a characterization of the normal gendered role of women?!

Maybe if men had to successfully “juggle training in non-ideal circumstances around work and family,” as women disproportionately now do, which  Lindsay argues makes women’s experience less likely to let them drop out than men, then men should just get more training in circumstances like  those facing women, and thereby toughen up to stay the course better than they do now. And women might be provided with greater and fairer social support, economic support, status and recognition, opportunities to train and to run.Those  might not be a bad ideas in  any case…

————————-

Footnotes

“Woman who blazed a trail for equality in marathons hits London’s starting line. Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to officially compete in the Boston marathon, will fire the gun on the elite race,” The Guardian. reads a headlilne in the Guardian. Available at https://www.theGuardian.com/sport/2018/apr/21/kathrine-switzer-boston.

“The thousands of spectators who line marathon routes are famous for screaming encouragement, but it has not always been that way.”‘One guy shouted at me, ‘you should be back in the kitchen making dinner for your husband’.”It is one of many moments that Kathrine Switzer recounts as she talks about her memories of becoming the first woman to officially run a marathon. It was 1967 and women were not allowed to run more than 1,500 metres in sanctioned races. Marathons were for men.“https://www.telegraph.co.uk/athletics/2018/04/21/marathon-trailblazerkathrine-switzer-just-20-year-old-kid-wanted/

In 1972, women were officially allowed to run the Boston Marathon for the first time.

Opinion | Why Men Quit and Women Don’t – The New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/20/opinion/boston-marathon-women-nurse.htm [1]

[2]An excellent detailed history of the struggles needed before wwomen were evenly  allowed to run in major marathons, ncluding the Olympics, is in Olympic Marathon, by Charlie Lovett, excerpted and available at “The Fight to Establish the Women’s Race” http://www.marathonguide.com/history/olympicmarathons/chapter25.cfm

 

[1] Available at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/20/opinion/boston-marathon-women-nurse.html.

[2] “Women and exclusion from long distance running.” Lisa Wade, PhD on April 21, 2017. Sociological Images. https://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2017/04/21/women-and-exclusion-from-long-distance-running/

[3] Before 1972, women had been barred from the most famous marathon outside the Olympics-Boston. That rule did not keep women from running, though. In 1966, Roberta Gibb hid behind a bush at the start of the Boston Marathon, sneaking into the field and finishing the race in an unofficial time of 3:21:25. She was the first woman known to complete the arduous Boston course. Gibb had been inspired to run by the return of her race entry with a note saying that women were not physically capable of running a marathon. Charlie Lovett Olympic Marathon, “The Fight to Establish the Women’s Race”, available at http://www.marathonguide.com/history/olympicmarathons/chapter25.cfm

 

Blog #110a – Cultural Wars and a new Tribalism?


Blog 110a – Cultural Wars and a New Tribalism?

The Times Op-Ed page (on 3/2/18­­) was marvelously symbolic. On the left side, David Brooks reduces all the frightening disagreements about where our country is going, the battles over gun control , trade and tariffs, armaments, nuclear weapons, into manifestations of a “cultural war”,: in which the conservatives “have zero cultural power , but immense political power.” The big prize is not gun control. It’s “winning the cultural war, with the gun fight as the final battle.” Several days earlier (Feb 20,), he had written, “We don’t have policy debates anymore. We have one big tribal conflict…,” and the answer is, “just as the tribal mentality has been turned on, it can be turned off.” How? “Respect First, Then Gun Control.” If the Blues and the Reds simply respected each other, they’d settle their problems easily. His recommendation: Blues should stop shaming Reds.  Politics is not about who get what from whom and how they get it, but about how the left stupidly engages in “elite cultural intimidation , claiming “moral superiority.”

On the other side of the Op-Ed page, counter-symbolically the right side, Paul Krugman’s column is headed: “Taxpayers, You’ve Been Scammed.” It’s a straightforward contribution to a policy debate about the new tax law. It gives some facts about whom it will help, whom it will hurt, and how political and economic power are being wielded to achieve what those that possess it want, for their own benefit, at a cost to the middle class. Not a word about a “cultural wars.” It’s about who get what from whom and how they get it

And symbolically between these two column’s is Mat Glassman’s column, which explains the “larger problem” behind the White House Chaos,” blaming it on the weakness of Donald Trump as President to his inability to attract a competent staff to advise him.  It’s a management problem.

What the “culture wars” argument does, as does “lamenting the ‘roots of the problem’ in ‘management skills,’ ” is to completely side step the very real factual economic and social and political differences that divide the country. For cultural theorists, there’s no moral difference between advocating for teachers carrying guns in school and asking for a ban on assault rifles; no more weight to be given to logically grounded analysis of tax policies than to the hurt sensitivities of those that support them. Tranquility is what’s needed, above all; never mind who’s goring whose ox, whether some go homeless while others thrive in mansions using their labor. Such evenhandedness violates any effort to shape public policies that promote the values of social justice and human rights.

Indeed there are troublesome cultural differences that exacerbate the problems in our society, but the real issues aren’t differences of opinion or how they are expressed, but how the wealth that  society produces is shared. We don’t have “big tribal conflicts” because all of a sudden some “tribal instincts ” have emerged from some repressed deep identities, or because  we’ve suddenly decided to turn these instincts on, having turned them off all these years.  Focusing on the symptoms of conflicts shouldn’t obliterate recognition of their causes.

And it obliterates very specific causes: any reference to inequalities of wealth or power, or to their use in exploitation or domination, to create very hierarchical divisions not simply differences at the level of what the divisions are about, not “souls committed to the basic democratic norms–respect for truth, personal integrity, the capacity for deliberation and compromise, loyalty to nation above party or tribe,” up against other souls who believe “what matters is the survival of your nation and culture.” [David Brooks, “Worthy is The {Conor} Lamb,” New York Times, 3/17/p. A27] That something as mundane as class or race might be playing a role in the divisions that divide “us” never appears.