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    • How Gunpowder Ended the Middle Ages
      Some time back I read a book called The Foundations of Early Modern Europe, 1460-1559. One thread I picked out as particularly clear was their explanation of the effects of gunpowder. The first bit is what as known as pike and shot. Early gunpowder weapons were slow and inaccurate. But late medieval pike units had already changed warfare: not only could they […]
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The Killer Court Prepares to Strike Again

That will be the way that I think people should refer to the institution in this country which was always known as The Supreme Court. I know that they won’t, but why should we give honor to a body which is now filled with partisan hacks and zealots who were put in specifically to act as a rubber stamp for Far Right policies, and to block any legislation or federal rules which might run counter to the Religious Right people who put them on the Court?

This was so very predictable; and now that they have gotten their “supermajority,” the Court is prepared to impose their own version of America. They essentially threw out a very important decision which had been the law for fifty years, which permitted a woman to have a legal abortion during at least the first trimester of pregnancy. In so doing, they violated the formerly sacrosanct tradition of stare decisis, the power of previous legal decisions and the principles they expressed.

Now, they are ready to toss out the vaccine-or-test mandate for businesses employing over a hundred workers, which was issued by OSHA, created in 1970, and based on Congressional power to regulate interstate commerce as expressed in the Constitution. The statute gave the Agency the right to issue “emergency rules” when it deems them necessary to protect workers from “grave danger.”

So President Biden, attempting to deal with a horrifying pandemic which has killed over 800,000 people in this country, and trying to prevent its wider spread, and also to keep businesses functioning, issued this Order, requiring companies which employ over a hundred workers to mandate that each employee either show proof of vaccination or negative COVID testing.

This kind of thing is anathema to the Right Wing, which once claimed that all of FDR’s actions regarding business and the workplace were unconstitutional, including the National Recovery Act, the Agricultural Adjustment Act, and the minimum wage, which the Supreme Court, filled with “The business of America is business” Republican President appointees, ruled violated the “freedom to contract” between workers and companies. This fiction was that a desperately needy worker should have the “right” to accept the miserly employer’s offer of five cents an hour, for an eighty-hour work week, and that the federal government and the states had no right to interfere with this. This of course was social darwinism, validated by the Supreme Court.

Ultimately that decision was reversed by a somewhat different Supreme Court, and thus the greatest Court threat to democracy was averted. But the Right-Wing hatred of government which dares to interfere in the powers of businesses and corporations, has never gone away. They hated FDR, they hated LBJ. They want the government to have no power to control any of the decisions made by corporate boards. And now they have their packed Supreme Court to get rid of over a hundred years of American progress in protecting the rights of workers.

So that is why the Far Right brought this case regarding the vaccine mandates to the Court, and that is why the Court’s majority are getting prepared to invalidate them, at least judging from their hearings so far. Already, it seems clear that Justices Gorsuch, Alito, Kavanaugh, Thomas, and Roberts are ready to invalidate the Order, and I would expect Barrett to go along, too, though they only need five, as we know.

They seem to be ready to find that such an Order could only be passed by Act of Congress. That is perhaps less a constitutional belief on their part, than a devious way of dumping the law, which of course their handy tool of the filibuster would stop in its tracks, if Congress ever tried to pass it. Further, some of the language of the justices in hearings is almost incredible in the way it mirrors the anti-vaxxer dialogue of social media.

Obviously, the invalidation of the mandates for business would risk the lives of millions of people. Thus, the legitimate appellation “The Killer Court.” Even more upsetting than this, is the situation where a few attorneys, appointed to the so-called Supreme Court by a president who lost the national popular vote twice, and who were confirmed by a Senate which is controlled by a definite minority of the population, can make the decision regarding safety and medical guidance, rather than the elected Administration and its medical experts. Simply put, the Far Right intends to completely control national policy through this packed Supreme Court, whose members will impose their own personal views upon the entirety of the population.

One of the right-wing justices suggested that in lieu of a national mandate order, the states could impose their own mandates. But as one of the small minority of non-right-wing justices replied, there are some states which have banned any mandates. So we are going to leave each state to make up its own rules, and there is no way for there to be a government rule to protect citizens? Yes, that is the classic social darwinist position. We will not protect you.

That of course is inimical to the concept of democracy where an elected government has some power to try to insure the health and safety of its citizens. Of course, in an extreme case, this could go too far, as if a state somehow demanded that every employee be forced to eat kale. But no one does that, of course; whereas if there is a national pandemic, who is going to try to protect workers who need their jobs, cannot easily change them, and are forced to sit in enclosed spaces for at least eight hours a day, five days a week? The Killer Court, whose members are protected by a number of strict health rules and protocols, do not care about the rest of the population, they believe they are superior, their version of “droit de seigneur.” You might find it interesting that two of the attorneys who are arguing against the mandates in this case, are doing it from home, because they have Covid.

There is another half to this case, which involves a vaccine mandate for almost all workers at hospitals, nursing homes, and other medical providers which receive Medicare or Medicaid funds. The Court would perhaps let that stand, to muddy the waters about what they are doing to 80 million Americans who work for companies which employ a hundred or more workers, and whose limited but important protection from Covid will be eradicated by their imperial decision.

This decision, when it is announced, will not only be as devastating to the national perception as the recent and upcoming decisions on abortion, it will absolutely cement the intention of this Court to send us back to the Gilded Age, where a few immensely rich people rode in opulent carriages which literally or figuratively ran over the sick and dying people who were living on the streets of the major cities, and where people lived ten-deep in one room-apartments in tenement slums, and who if they were injured or sickened at work, were fired, and left to die.

That was an America which it took a hundred years of brave workers, committed presidents and legislators; unions, and courageous novelists and journalists, to somewhat ameliorate. But the royalist and social darwinist forces which had to cede some of their power, never stopped wanting to get it back. And now they are apparently going to reach another rung on their ladder, with a decision which will be as usual, filled with legal jargon, and false statements of reasonableness, but will in reality be no more than the Religious Right’s version of “l’etat, c’est moi.”

In this rare case, they may be even going against the wishes of many corporation owners, who realize the value in protecting the safety and confidence of their employees. But it is not just corporatists who packed and control the Supreme Court, it is know-nothing, pseudo-religious haters of science and medicine, the ones who fill the media with lies and stupidity about the danger of vaccines, the value of insane quack remedies (the current one is drinking urine each day to prevent Covid), and how getting vaccinated, and wearing a mask is the ultimate assault against “American liberty and freedom,” words they love to use, and have no comprehension of their historical meaning.

And let us give a nod of contempt to all those people who said and acted as if the Supreme Court did not matter, and all those media which treated those who said otherwise, with disdain and mockery. They are all participants in this, some more than others, but all guilty.

Among all the other things we need to do, we must find a way to limit the power of the Supreme Killer Court. States can try to impose their own mandates, though there are forces even in liberal states which will fight against any efforts to tell them what to do or not do, while they are thrilled that the Court is going to tell women that they cannot have an abortion. Maybe more businesses will impose their own mandates, and trust to the marketplace to push workers away from companies where it is every person for him/herself, and toward them.

Maybe tens of millions of Americans will be so upset at this dreadful impending decision, that they will figure out that they don’t want to keep voting for Republicans. That is what happened in the 1900’s, when the Progressive Movement, swept many of them out of office. One can always hope. But meanwhile we must imagine the effects of what the Court is going to do to Americans through this decision; and it certainly won’t just be the “libs” to whom Kavanaugh arrogantly promised, “What goes around, comes around,” who will suffer because of it.