"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

"Which leg comes after which?"

I remember a really charming illustration from a children's book for this.
I couldn't find it.

If "boot" rhymes with "coot" and "foot" rhymes with "soot," why don't the rhyming pairs rhyme with each other?

I'm not sleeping much at night.....

Cui bono?

There is something of a cause celebre over the case of Nate Parker and an alleged rape in 1999.  I write "alleged" because Parker was acquitted of the crime in a jury trial, but the issue has resurfaced with enough vehemence to cause the American Film Institute to cancel a screening of Parker's new film "Birth of a Nation." (Salon now has a banner headline announcing it will discuss the 17 year old trial today.  A true discussion among solons and serious legal experts, I'm sure.)

I don't care about the film, or Mr. Parker.  What interests me is the ancient question of power:  Cui bono?

This contretemps hinges on the idea of rape victims being "survivors."  It's a curious use of the word, since "survivor" usually refers to someone who has evaded death.  The young boy in the ambulance in Syria is a survivor.  Someone whose cancer treatment defeats the cancer is a survivor.  Victims of crime are now survivors.  Well, victims of certain crimes.

It's a curious locution, and it raises the question:  Cui bono?  Here is a statement on the status of Nate Parker by Wagatwe Sara Wanjuki, co-founder of Survivors Eradicating Rape Culture:

“Nate Parker’s case is a really great example of what happens when colleges fail to hold assailants accountable. Assailants go out into the world with the implicit condonation of their actions because they get away with it while survivors continue to suffer,” said Wanjuki in a Facebook private message. “Penn State’s role in this must not be ignored — they had signs that they did not properly handle sexual abuse before the [Jerry] Sandusky coverup came to light. This is what happens when institutions don’t care about doing the right thing; they assist in creating a world where rapists and sex abusers thrive.”

I don't have a problem with the concept of "rape culture," although it's an ambiguous term and one meant to assert power in new ways.  It's the assertion of power, in fact, that concerns me.  Lord Acton was right, but too ambiguous:  Power does corrupt, and absolute power does corrupt absolutely.  So in a fight for power, we always have to ask the base question:  Cui bono?

Now, there are two things going on in that assertion by Ms. Wanjuki:  one is that the college had to hold Nate Parker responsible for his actions even while the criminal courts found him not guilty of the charge of rape.  That's a curious attitude about accountability and the legal system.  Conflating his actions with those of Jerry Sandusky is understandable, but not really logically tenable.  Perhaps Penn State did create an environment where "rapists and sex abusers thrive."  But where was the environment created:  in the athletic department, or on the whole campus?  We have evidence for the former, but not for the latter.  And besides, Mr. Parker is not a rapist.  A court of law said so.

Which gets us to the other interesting question:  when is the judgment of a court of law final?  Most of us are quite sure O.J. Simpson killed his wife, despite the jury verdict.  Most of us are quite sure George Zimmerman is guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin, despite the jury verdict.  Can we then say that Nate Parker is not a rapist, because of the jury verdict?  Can we say that he is, despite the jury verdict?

Like the appellation of rape victims as "survivors," the question applies:  cui bono?  I heard a woman argue this idea on a radio interview recently, and all I could think was, it gave her power to label women as survivors.  It gave her power in the world (she was being interviewed on the radio; I wasn't.  I've had positions of responsibility, as a teacher, a pastor, a lawyer; nobody has ever interviewed me for any reason).  It gave her power over the women she said were "survivors."  Power to prolong their memories of their assaults ("rape" is a charged word in this context, I'm simply trying to be a bit more neutral), power to define them as she thinks they should be defined, power to tell them how to feel about themselves, now and until their dying day.

I've lived long enough to learn that nothing defines you unless you let it; that no event in your past is definitive unless you insist that it is.  And when people want to tell you what you are, want to insist that you are this category now and forever, they do not have your best interests at heart.  Cui bono?  They do, because naming puts them in control of you.

So we will name Nate Parker a rapist, and control him to the end of his days.  We will name O.J. Simpson and George Zimmerman murderers, and feel good about doing so.  We will name rape victims "survivors." and make that terrible event the defining event of their lives.  Oddly enough, today, even people who have been treated for cancer and lived don't like being called "survivors," because cancer wasn't the defining event of their lives.  I know "victims" has become a problematic word in our modern vocabularies; but "survivor" is a term that brings many of it's own problems along with it.

And yes, having followed the trials of O.J. Simpson and George Zimmerman, I am convinced Simpson killed his wife and her lover (although I still can't figure out how he committed such a bloody crime and left only two drops of blood, his own, IIRC, in his Bronco), and I know Zimmerman was not convicted only because of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which is an offense to civil order and the whole concept of criminal law.  But still, they were acquitted by a court of law; and I should show more respect to that decision.  If I hold them guilty in my mind, how can I say Nate Parker is innocent, or at least not guilty?  We have a problem with reconciling what our legal system says, with what we want to believe.  But just as being a rape "survivor" locks you into that event for the rest of your life (one more reason cancer "survivors" prefer not to be called "cancer survivors"), should we hold Nate Parker accountable for what he did, or didn't do, 17 years ago?

Is Snoopy right?  Is there no balm in Gilead?  And if there isn't:  cui bono?

The Odor of Mendacity

Sadly, Diane Rehm doesn't do instant transcripts, so you'd have to sit through the hour-long segment, as I did, to appreciate the mendacity participating in it.

Clinton Derangement Syndrom is real.

Although the host acknowledges that most of the e-mails currently being discussed from Hillary Clinton's tenure as SOS were released by Judicial Watch, no one pointed out just how much the narrative of these e-mails is structured around what Judical Watch says the e-mails say.

Which is not what the e-mails say.

So where Drudge ruled our world when Bill was President, now Judicial Watch (who just took the baton from Drudge) rules our world now that Hillary would be President.  Start there, and the rest of this nonsense makes sense.

It was pointed out to the panel of journalists, by both a guest and a listener, that the effort Clinton put into promoting Boeing and GE products overseas was an effort put forth by the Secretaries of Commerce and Transportation (IIRC on the latter), and was the kind of effort to promote American business since there was American business to promote.  But this is different, the journalists insisted, because Boeing and GE gave money to the Clinton Foundation.

Which is a charity; and the only money the Clinton's can be shown to have taken from it is some travel expenses, presumably when they travel on Foundation business (but who knows?!  Check the kerning on the itineraries!).  Donating to charities is a think corporations do, for their public relations gain.  Getting the SOS to promote your goods is a thing corporations do for American jobs (as well as profits).  Actually even meeting with the SOS is a thing donors (like Melinda Gates!  Check her kerning!) do, because a lot of what foundations do is coordinated through the State Department.

And did I mention it's a charity?  And none of the money from the charity goes directly to the Clinton's, because that would involve violations of law that could be investigated?

Do I exaggerate?  No:

No one is alleging that the Clinton Foundation didn’t (and doesn’t) do enormous amounts of good around the world…

To be clear: I have no evidence — none — that Clinton broke any law or did anything intentionally shady…
But the rest of Cilizza's column is about how BAD this looks!  Because if you look at it just the right way, it really, REALLY looks bad.  Besides, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence; or something.

Here, put these glasses on, and it will be clear to you that Hillary Clinton is GUILTY OF SOMETHING!

Now, take 'em off; they'll make your eyes go all funny.

Did I mention I'll be retiring to Bedlam?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Keepin' it Klassy!

The fish rots from the head down:

After Trump took to Twitter to slam Mika Brzezinski as “neurotic” and call her the “very insecure long-time girlfriend” of co-host Joe Scarborough, Fox News host Megyn Kelly recounted how Conway had argued Trump doesn’t employ personal attacks.

“Now, you know that’s not true,” Kelly said on her show.

Conway replied that Trump “doesn’t do it without being attacked first,” a well-worn defense Trump himself has used since his campaign's infancy.

“But does that excuse it? Just today he called Mika Brzezinski neurotic, which is another term, basically, for mentally ill,” the Fox News host responded. “He’s called other female news personalities things like crazy. The man does hurl personal insults.”

“But not unprompted,” Conway said. “I don’t like personal insults, let me make very clear. I don’t like them only because I’m a mother of four young children, I’d be a hypocrite if I liked them. And I actually think he can win on the substance of the issues.”

As soon as he can quit hurling insults at people on cable news, right?  Because it's all about the insults:

“I watched a lot of his debates during the primaries,” Clinton said. “And he insulted all of his opponents, he insulted all of the moderators, he insulted, I guess, about 80 percent of the American people and the rest of the world.”

“I am drawing on my experience in elementary school,” she continued. “You know, the guy who pulled your ponytail.”

All the way down:

"That is a black community. He went to the heart of Chicago to go and give a speech to the University of Chicago in a campus, which is predominantly African-American, to make that argument," [Ex-Trump campaign manger Corey] Lewandowski said, mistaking the name of the university where the speech was supposed to take place. "And you know what happened? The campus was overrun and it was not a safe environment."

'Cause, you know:  blacks are very scary to white people.*

*Which, it turns out, is merely echoing Trump:

"No group in America has been more harmed by Hillary Clinton's policies than African Americans," he said, apparently pointing to individuals in the crowd. "No group. No group. If Hillary Clinton's goal was to inflict pain to the African American community, she could not have done a better job. It is a disgrace."

"Detroit tops the list of most dangerous cities in terms of violent crime, number one," he said from a city 90 minutes away from Detroit with a population that is 93 percent white. "This is the legacy of the Democratic politicians who have run this city. This is the result of the policy agenda embraced by crooked Hillary Clinton."

He went on to claim "he should get votes from black voters because 'the inner cities are so bad.' "

Acorn.  Tree.  They aren't far apart at all.


And I can't resist adding this golden oldie, courtesy of Digby:

‘What’s the most dangerous place in the world you’ve been to?’

[Trump] contemplated this for a second. ‘Brooklyn,’ he said, laughing. ‘No,’ he went on, “there are places in America that are among the most dangerous in the world. You go to places like Oakland. Or Ferguson. The crime numbers are worse. Seriously.’

Fair and Balanced

The interesting thing here:  who does he think he's talking to?

The audience for Trump's tweets is not yours truly (who mines them for comedy and cognitive dissonance).  The audience for Trump's tweets would never consider buying a book (probably) about their beloved icon that was written by two reporters for the Washington Post (certainly).

And the audience for that book will never read Trump's Twitter feed, and certainly wouldn't take advice from the man if they saw this tweet elsewhere (like, here, for instance).

So what is the point of this tweet, other than petulance and egomania?  I mean, seriously:  people are worried about donations to a charity run by the Clintons when this clown wants to be President and represents the other major political party in the country?

Sunday, August 21, 2016

War on Xmas started early this year....

Of course you know, this means war!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Everything old is new again

The Berlin Olympic Games of 1936 are remembered, in popular memory at least, as Hitler's attempt to prove the superiority of the Aryan "race", undermined by Jesse Owens and the American Olympic team.

I'm sure some other nations showed up, but this is America and that's how we tell the story.

So with all the veiled (and not so veiled) comparisons of Trump to Hitler make this ironic.  It seems Trump has tweeted nothing about the Olympics, while Hillary is tweeting up a storm.

Why has Trump hit the mute button on the Olympics, while Clinton has pumped up the volume? There’s a good reason for that, and a surprising one. The spectacle of America vanquishing its global rivals is—ironically, amazingly—utterly terrible for the “America First” candidate.

A big part of his political message, the one you hear at his stump speeches, is that America has grown weak. America doesn’t win anymore, he says. “Crippled America” is the title of his most recent book. He alone can Make American Great Again. As someone who’s been around a few campaigns, believe me: The Olympics is about the worst thing that could have happened to the Trump train. Here’s a candidate whose message depends entirely on convincing Americans that they’re living in a failing nation overrun by criminal immigrants. And for the past two weeks, tens of millions of Americans have been glued to a multi-ethnic parade of athletes, winning easily. “Make America Great Again” has never felt more out-of-touch than it does against the backdrop of tenacious, over-achieving American athletes driven by their own journeys in pursuit of the American Dream.
Isn't it ironic?  Don't you think?  Could this be one more reason Trump is losing?

Thursday, August 18, 2016

"Every Sperm is Sacred"

I was going to make a joke when I realized I've done these, and it's not a laughing matter.
Neither is it a subject for enforcement by the State.

Yeah, this is a STERLING idea!

The new rules, proposed by the Health and Human Services Commission, would no longer allow abortion providers to dispose of fetal remains in sanitary landfills, instead allowing only cremation or interment of all remains — regardless of the period of gestation. Abortion providers currently use third-party special waste disposal services.

The basic problem is, as Amanda Marcotte points out, the usual product of an abortion is not a dismembered fetal corpse (much as lurid anti-abortion descriptions would have you believe):

Funeral directors are in the business of burying actual bodies, not disposing of what looks, in most cases, like a really heavy period. 
There is a simple public health reason, in other words, why this stuff is treated as medical waste.

This will, of course, affect spontaneous abortions, also known as miscarriages.  Ectopic pregnancies as well.  A miscarriage will require not only the pain and anguish of the loss, but a funeral director and a death certificate.  What name will you put on the certificate for a child with no gender (unless they're going to require genetic testing of the fluid, and at whose expense?)?  Do you name the product of a miscarriage?  Doesn't that just make the experience infinitely worse?  Aside from the added expense; and to whose advantage?

Is this going to happen?

With little notice and no announcement, the proposed rules were published in the Texas Register on July 1, triggering a 30-day public comment period. “Public comment will be taken and then the final rules are expected to take effect in September,” Black added.
I almost expect the funeral homes to join with the hospitals across the state to file a lawsuit against this one before October.

I wrote this last night, then this morning heard a discussion of the topic on a local radio news show (well, TeeVee couldn't discuss this; what kind of pictures would you use?).  The argument from Paul Bettencourt (whom I have other reasons to despise as a politician) are, in his mind at least, essentially Roman Catholic (he says as much).  That is, all human life deserve dignity, from "Natural birth to natural death" (Caesarians?  Death by other than natural means? I dunno.), and fetal tissue=human remains, so we must treat it as such.

Except there's a reason the state is concerned with disposal of human remains, and that reason is public health.  It isn't because we require people to treat human remains with respect and dignity.  Indeed, I can abandon my dead father's corpse with the undertaker and tell him to bury the thing, and here's the money for the services.  I can take the ashes of my deceased family member and flush them down the toilet, if I choose.  The state can't require me to act in a dignified or respectful manner at all, and where, indeed, is the dignity and respect in pauper's graves?

We dispose of human remains carefully because of health issues, not because of issues of human dignity.  Indeed, we don't treat people with dignity when they are alive; not as a matter of law, anyway.  SuperMax prisons are a fine example.  Why should we treat them with greater dignity when they are dead?

We should, of course, treat them with dignity while alive AND when dead; but we don't, and our entire penal system (to say the least) is predicated on removing as much dignity from prisoners as we can manage.

The "fetal tissue" of a spontaneous abortion, or an ectopic pregnancy, is, below 20 weeks and 350 grams, too small and too little to merit a death certificate under Texas law.  How is it more deserving of burial than a diseased organ, or an amputated limb?  There is as much potential human life in that clump of cells as there is in ejaculate, or menstrual flow.  Spontaneous abortions occur because the fetus cannot develop; and ectopic pregnancies are an abortion (in the literal, not medical) sense ab initio.  They are as much "human remains" as a lost limb or a removed organ.  What this rule change is, as the ACLU attorney points out, is a response to Whole Women's Health v. Hellerstedt.  They're just pushing the idea of how substantial an obstacle they can place "in the path of a woman's choice."

Bettencourt noted comments were still being taken on this rule (although he didn't allow for the rule change to be itself aborted, as it should be). Rather than just complain into the ether, I attach this comment from the Texas Tribune, and urge those affected who read this, to follow suit and comment:

Please take a moment to send comments to Allison Hughes, Health Facilities Rules Coordinator, Health Care Quality Section, Division of Regulatory Services, Department of State Health Services, Mail Code 2822, P.O. Box 149347, Austin, Texas 78714-9347, (512) 834-6775 or by email to Please specify "Comments on special waste from health care-related facilities" in the subject line.

All power matters?

As I was saying, if you're white and angry, it's just politics as usual; or maybe it's even a new wave in politics to which attention must be paid.

If you are black and angry, you're a danger to the status quo.  A case in point.

John Carlos says what he did was not a "black power salute."  But try to find a reference to it in Google without those words.  He says that's a label applied by the "right wing media."  It's certainly a label; and it certainly wasn't supplied by him.

And 48 years later, it's still controversial.  George Wallace's claims about segregation are relegated to the dust bin of the nation's history.  We are even surprised when anyone connects his racism to modern day racism, and no one wants to directly connect Wallace to Donald Trump; well, no one respectable, anyway.

But this simple gesture still shocks us; still stirs controversy; and is still connected to an assertion of "black power."  Which is still what disturbs us most of all.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

And now, on BBC1....

Honestly, can we just declare the GOP a rump and insane third party now?
CAMBRIDGE — An adviser to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump doubled down Tuesday on comments he made saying that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton should be shot for treason.

But New Hampshire state Rep. Al Baldasaro, a Republican who co-chairs Trump's national veterans' coalition, stressed that he was not saying someone should assassinate Clinton.

"The liberal media took what I said and went against the law and the Constitution and ran with it, and they said that I wanted her assassinated, which I never did," [New Hampshire State Rep. and advisor to Donald Trump Al] Baldasaro told The Republican/ "I said I spoke as a veteran, and she should be shot in a firing squad for treason."
Baldasaro said his comments were in accordance with U.S. law establishing the death penalty for treason. He suggested that Clinton's use of a private email server could be considered treasonous.

"That's aiding and abetting the enemy by those emails on letting (out) names of Secret Service special agents, our veterans, on those emails," Baldasaro said.

Asked if he was concerned about the impact of his rhetoric on someone who might take it upon themselves to act violently, Baldasaro said, "No. ... Americans are better than that."

"What you in the liberal media consider rhetoric, I consider freedom of speech," Baldasaro said.

Baldasaro said if people are worried about the impact of him talking about the law on treason, "Maybe they need to take it off the books if they're that worried." He compared it to someone saying a person who killed a police officer should get the death penalty, which is the law in New Hampshire.

Asked whether he had spoken to Trump about his views, Baldasaro said he had. "Donald Trump, he might not agree on the way I said it, but I said it as a veteran," Baldasaro said.

Baldasaro said the law is "in black and white."

"If people are that stupid and don't understand, that's not my fault," he said.

The "law on treason" is based on Article III, sec. 3 of the Constitution, which cannot be altered save by amendment:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.

The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted.

The Court has held that the provision requires the nation to be at war for there to be an enemy to which aid and comfort is given.  That is the law "in black and white."  If Rep. Baldoraso doesn't understand that, it's not my fault.

Meanwhile, Trump's campaign co-chair in New York shows the class of people Trump associates with:

“We’ve got an un-indicted felon as his opponent and you’re talking about Khan, about him making a remark about this man,” he said. [Un-indicted felon?  Wouldn't that be all of us?  I mean, if you have a particularly authoritarian view of government, at least.]

“All right, I don’t care if he’s a Gold Star parent," he continued. "He certainly doesn’t deserve that title, OK, if he’s as anti-American as he’s illustrated in his speeches and in his discussion. I mean, if he’s a member of the Muslim Brotherhood or supporting, you know, the ISIS-type of attitude against America, there’s no reason for Donald Trump to have to honor this man.”

Paladino, who made a failed bid for governor of New York in 2010, went on to say that he does not feel that Trump should change his rhetoric in any way and that no one can be sure that President Obama is not a Muslim.

'Wait, wait wait," he said. 'How do you know that's not true?! That's not fair, Connell! You've formed a conclusion about a man because he's told you that."

"This is a ridiculous talk," McShane said.

Yes, yes it is.

Every knee shall bend, and every head shall bow

Apparently this election is one of Biblical importance; or a sign of the Apocalypse, I'm not sure which:

“Donald Trump is running for president because he really, truly believes he can turn the country around," [Omarosa Manigault] said. "More importantly, every critic, every detractor will have to bow down to President Trump.”
Will he enter the White House trailing clouds of glory, or will he just walk like a mortal?  And I guess this will be his first executive order?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

"She Turned Me Into a Newt!"

 No, literally!

“The voters want someone that’s gonna fight back because they are tired of seeing left-wing reporters literally beat Trump supporters into submission into supporting policies they don’t agree with,” [Trump spokeswoman Katrina] Pierson told Fox Business Network. “It just shuts them down and that’s not what they’re seeing in this campaign.”
And "literally" is literally becoming a meme!  No, literally!

“That is the kind of coverage that CNN offers in this presidential race as they literally kiss Hillary Clinton’s ass and Obama’s ass every day,” [Sean Hannity] said.

As they say on the intertoobs:  "Pics or it didn't happen!"

The funny thing is, what's literally going on is that voters are being treated as sheeple.  Voters are routinely portrayed, not as citizens with a responsibility, but as sheeple pushed to and fro by the winds of vagary.

Both sides do it, but it's really kind of insulting.  Of course, everybody's a mindless drone except me and thee; although there are times I'm not so sure about thee.

(And yes, "literally" now means the exact opposite of what we all grew up thinking it means.  There is precedent for this.  "Awful" used to mean "filled with awe."  Now it means anything but that.  Although the better example is the rising use of intensifiers, of which this is another example.  "Really" used to mean "truly,"; something real was something true.  Now it is an intensifier, so something is really true, not just true.  Because apparently there are levels of truth, with some truth more true than other truth.  So it goes.)

Vote early and often!

I say it, the NYT reports it a few weeks later.  Coincidence?

Voting actually starts in less than six weeks, on Sept. 23 in Minnesota and South Dakota, the first of some 35 states and the District of Columbia that allow people to cast ballots at polling sites or by email before Nov. 8. Iowa is expected to have ballots ready by the end of September, as are Illinois and two other states.

The electoral battlegrounds of Arizona and Ohio are to begin voting on Oct. 12, nearly four weeks before Election Day. And North Carolina and Florida will be underway before Halloween.

Early voting has become a critical, even decisive factor in presidential elections: President Obama was sufficiently ahead in the early vote in Iowa and Nevada in 2012 that his campaign shifted resources from those states to others, according to former advisers, who also credited enthusiastic early voting in 2008 for his victory in North Carolina and elsewhere.

Nearly 32 percent of voters cast their ballots before Election Day in 2012, according to census data, compared with 29.7 percent in 2008 and 20 percent in 2004.

Yeah, almost purely coincidental;  but still....

I didn't realize voting started as early as September 23; that resets the calendar considerably.  Besides, Trump has no ground game (the candidate himself said he doesn't need a GOTV effort), and they are banking on his performance in the debates.  Which is downright funny, because Clinton is going to clean his clock by just letting Donald be Donald.

I can't think of anything more motivating to keep that clown away from the Oval Office.

Besides, even if Trump does have a "win" in a debate:

“I don’t know if Trump has a great debate or gets a spike in support after it,” said Mr. Murphy, the Republican strategist, “but he certainly doesn’t have the machinery to take advantage of it by getting those people to the polls.”

Oh, well, there's always the electoral machines and that gizmo you can get at Best Buy for $15. (although apparently only Democrats and Trump opponents can use it!)