The Rules of Law

New Orleans       The rule of law has been getting a rough ride during Trump time.  Now with Supreme Court decisions dropping like flies all around us with one mixed message after another, many are not sure where we stand.  Are they confirming the rule of law when it comes to the administration, or are they simply saying there are “rules” of law depending on who is in power, how deep the pockets, and how many obstructions and delays lawyers are able to create?

One of the rules of law in Supreme Court world is that women are still second-class citizens.  The right to their bodies and equal protection of them is a catch-as-catch-can affair.  Louisiana can’t close all abortion centers, but up to 120,000 women can have their coverage for birth control under the Affordable Care Act taken away.  At the same time the Court has ruled that there can’t be discrimination in employment for the LGBT community.  It’s a crapshoot, no matter what the pundits say, when it comes to predicting a decision.

The Court convincingly setback President Trump’s claim to royal prerogatives and immunity from the law when it came to his finances and requests from New York prosecutors for his tax records, but passed the buck on Congressional subpoenas forcing a lower court to diddle around with the issue for the foreseeable future.  Some observers are claiming it as a win for Trump, because the big reveal won’t be until after the election, but that’s really not the case, and he knows it.  He’s already screaming like a stuck pig.  Having to disclose his financial records at any time, including in what hopefully is his post-presidency is going to be wildly painful to the Great Narcissist.  It will hurt him not being a faux emperor anymore, but it will be even worse for Trump to be forced to reveal how few financial clothes he will be wearing then.  It will be interesting to see if his empire can survive.  Oh, the shame!

We can only hope that the resounding thud of these 7-2 decisions will end the efforts of Attorney General Barr to assert the special privileges of his theory of the imperial presidency, but that’s doubtful, and that’s where the “rules” of law prevail.  As long as they can run the clock out of this nightmare, Barr and his cronies at Justice will feel they represented their client, Trump, without pretense that their real obligations are in fact to the American people and to the service of justice itself.

It used to be that whenever someone said to me, “Let me speak frankly,” it was a tell that a whopper was coming.  Now, whenever I heard someone say they care about the fact that the USA is a country following “the rule of law,” what I really hear is a tell that they are about to break or twist the law to suit themselves.

America, what a country!

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Disappearance of Third Spaces

New Orleans        Third spaces received a fair amount of attention not so long ago.  These were the places between work and play where community could be built.   How will they survive the pandemic?

Libraries are a good example.  In recent years their mission has adapted and evolved.  No longer simply a place for books on shelves, they are now hubs for internet and computer access for those lacking such facilities.  E-books can be checked out along with CDs, videos, and any manner of other things. They were places where people could hang out, read a paper, flip through a book, do homework, or whatever.  In most cases, they have not reopened and seem still navigating the new world.

Coffeehouses are another.  Certainly, their popularity has soared in recent decades, but as community alternative spaces for business, pleasure, social interactions, and cultural development they have been mainstays for hundreds of years.  Coffeehouses are hubs for students, teleworkers, artists, musicians, and generally something closer to community centers and fundamental meeting places.  At Fair Grinds Coffeehouse where we host visiting musicians, busking and building an audience, we have no idea when will be open in the evenings again.  The dozen twelve-step groups that met in our common space have largely adapted to Zoom meetings, but they want the fellow-feeling again that meetings bring.  A coffeehouse that is just takeout, where people run in and out, is important, but there’s a difference between a fueling station and community hub.  We had a group that had met every morning for more than a dozen years to read the papers, discuss events, drink coffee, and be together.  What happens to them?  Can they comeback?  Can we?  We wonder.  We’re not sure.

Bars and some neighborhood cafes are also third spaces for many people and part of how they build communities.  There are hundreds of towns all over America where a local café is a meeting place early in the morning for a wide range of workers, business-people, and others eating breakfast or having a cup of coffee, but more critically building social capital, keeping up with the community.  What coffee doesn’t fuel, sometimes libations provide.  Watering holes like many in our neighborhoods succeed in becoming community spaces as well.  Rules that only allow tables, and few of them, and no one sitting at the bar, make this hard, as do capacity limits of 25 or 50%.

Many of these small businesses that provide the layered infrastructure of neighborhoods and create unique communities are not going to be able to make it through this pandemic, as it continues to spool out longer and longer.  Will anything replace them, if the new normal insists on permanent social spacing?  Hard to imagine.

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