The Catholic Church, Betsy DeVos, and Brett Kavanaugh

The sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church of Pennsylvania has been exposed in a 900-page grand jury report covering seventy years and upwards of 1000 victims. Here’s an excerpt:

In another case, a priest raped a girl, got her pregnant, and arranged for an abortion. The bishop expressed his feeling in a letter: “This is a very difficult time in your life, and I realize how upset you are. I too share your grief.” The letter was addressed not to the girl, but to the rapist.

There’s enough in the news about that today, and rightly so. Let’s take it a step further—to the point where, in their own myopic manner, Betsy DeVos and Brett Kavanaugh will provide an atmosphere in which scandals like that one will become more prevalent.

In the background, while we’ve been distracted by Omarosa, Putin, and the failing white supremacist movement, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has continued her assault on public schools. Her most recent accomplishment: removing strictures from for-profit universities, which no longer have to verify the success of their graduates. But her real efforts remain focused on vouchers—on decimating the public education system and shifting resources to private institutions.

Luckily she’s as hapless and vacuous as she is dim, and left to her own devices, she might easily drift through an entire presidency without accomplishing a thing. And that would be good…except…

Enter Brett Kavanaugh, Supreme Court nominee, and possibly DeVos’s savior. Kavanaugh has decried Jefferson’s metaphor of “a strict wall of separation between church and state,” which explains the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment; he has strongly suggested that atheist and/or agnostic students in public schools should be proselytized and prayer be imposed upon them; he fought to uphold Jeb Bush’s voucher program in Florida. (The state courts ultimately struck it down.)

In short Kavanaugh sees the separation of church and state as a quaint throwback to our country’s beginnings. He’s wrong there too, but were he to become Betsy DeVos’s brain, a simple “under God” in the pledge will be the least of our concerns.

Admittedly, public schools have their scandals—we hear about them all the time. But we can take some solace in the fact that we do hear about them, that they don’t fester for years, that there’s oversight instead of attempts to sweep everything under the rug and simply shift abusers from place to place. Teachers fired for cause don’t get rehired or “sent to another parish.”

But with DeVos and Kavanaugh working hand in hand, another safeguard will crumble; and the theocracy the Founding Fathers fought so hard to prevent, will take hold, buttressed by an evangelical right that has already seen fit to throw in with sexual predators, and a Supreme Court whose choices will decimate public education right through the middle of the century.

Preventing Brett Kavanaugh from ever winning a seat on the Court is about more than abortion rights: it’s about the future of a country where religious freedom has always stood for something, but may not for much longer.

Fires and borders and drones, oh my!

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen has had a busy month.

This past week most of her time was spent in North Dakota dealing with what has been on the minds of most Americans these days:


Admit it, you can’t remember the last time you went out to get the mail, check the moat, or talk with your full-time poolboy/chauffeur without gazing skyward in apprehension. Just thank Kirstjen for trying to keep you safe. Why North Dakota? Near as I can figure it has to do with some presidential tweets directed north of the border this past June, but I’m not privy to details. Nor will I be privy to maple syrup for much longer.

Also this week she was in California “building a culture of preparedness” to counteract the worst fire season in the state’s history. Some malcontents claim that accepting the reality of climate change and addressing the issue at its source might be the more efficacious way of handling it, but then not only do you lose that culture of preparedness, but you miss the chance to see those big jets fly dangerously low and drop that pretty red chemical on the flames. Whoosh! Fire out!

Busy busy busy: a trip to the Mexican border produced a tweet of adulation for the border patrol and the great job they do keeping us safe from those dangerous children. A while back she met with border sheriffs who, if my knowledge of the language remains viable, are sheriffs of border towns, most of whom have reiterated they have no problems. Maybe, but between those child interlopers and the weaponized drone strategy and the culture of preparedness, looks like the edges of our country are safe. At least three of them.

Except for the East Coast. For them she posted a photo of an MS-13 gang member. Sucks for you, snowflakes. In 2020 vote for the winner, huh? And also, FYI, the last time Secretary Nielsen spoke directly about the migrant children “crisis” was June 19th when she tweeted:

I will work tirelessly until our broken immigration system is fixed, our borders are secure and families can stay together.

Apparently the ginned-up fake news liberal immigration BS is over, and all the illegals have been reunited with their illegal parents; otherwise wouldn’t Secretary Nielsen be working tirelessly on that issue first?

Congrats Madame Secretary on a job well done.

Incidentally, we’re having a little cookout Sunday. Sometimes I overdo it on the charcoal lighter—just wondering if you could send one of those planes over with the red stuff. One pass. Nice and low. The neighbor kids would love it.

And they’re all legal.


The real crisis still lies ahead; how we respond to it determines America’s path.

Our Constitution, our system of government, our vision of America, has endured longer than many naysayers in the eighteenth century thought it would. Many of those doubters lived right here in this country, and as a result the American democracy was not a slam dunk.

In the nearly 250 years since the signing of the Declaration of Independence, we have faced many crises: you don’t have to be a student of history to know. (Many of my readers of a certain age lived through and survived our worst period when, fifty years ago, a political candidate deliberately sabotaged peace talks, extended a war, and in the process murdered thousands of American soldiers in order to ensure a political victory.) The current crisis pales by comparison.

So far.

If anyone is capable of an equally heinous act, it is Donald Trump. Starting a war to save himself and sacrificing American lives in the process is not beyond him, and the fact that only Congress can declare war is moot, especially with the current cast of Myrmidons who constitute that body. And yet the popular belief remains that because we’ve overcome all those previous crises: we’ll overcome Trump too. We can hope.

But the eighteen months of the Trump presidency has exposed a new America—a country where bigotry and racism no longer hide in the darkest recesses of our psyches but parade about at rallies and gatherings; a country whose leaders turn a blind eye to an unprincipled huckster who shamelessly tortures and imprisons children to teach their parents a lesson; a country where social media exposes the darkest inclinations of people’s souls without a scintilla of shame or mortification.

Before January 2017, we’d have been irate if some foreign country exercised such an immoral control of helpless children, but now we are the perpetrators. Before August 2017 Klansmen parading through the streets of a major American city would have been too repugnant even to consider. Before November 2017 we’d have run a pedophile out of the country, not run him for the Senate.

The pride we once had in being an American has been fractured. Now it molders away in our memory, that memory itself growing more and more illusory.

We got what we deserved, of that there is no doubt. We found politics boring, we ignored all elections except the presidential ones, we idolized vacuous celebrities, and when one of them decided he might give the presidency shot, we helped him.

Remember the currently beleaguered Les Moonves (no sympathy here) in February 2016? Trump’s candidacy “may not be good for America,” he said, “but it’s damn good for CBS.” How did we let the network of Douglas Edwards and Walter Cronkite get away with anything so unprofessional? so idiotic? He helped Trump become president.

But we helped.

This current crisis has not yet bottomed out, but even when Trump is gone—and he will be gone—we won’t have much to celebrate: we’ll be too busy rebuilding our country and trying to make it match up with the inscription on the Statue of Liberty, the words of Lincoln, the intentions of the Founding Fathers. It’s going to be a major undertaking. I hope we’re up to the challenge.