Adventus

"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

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Please make it stop



Been wondering about this for a while; an article finally makes the argument clear.

Bernie's argument over the weekend is that he should get the super delegates of the states he won "by a landslide."  Which states are those?

"But we won states -- you know -- like Washington, Alaska, Hawaii, New Hampshire in landslide victories," he continued. "And I do believe that the super delegates, whether it's Clinton's or mine -- states that we won -- super delegates in states where a candidate wins a landslide victory should listen to the people in those states and vote for the candidate chosen by the people."

Only New Hampshire held a primary; the rest are caucus states.  Among other problems with caucuses, they don't have a vote count.  I've always understood "landslide" to indicate an overwhelming popular vote count.

In three of those four "landslide" states, there is no popular Democratic party vote count.  So this argument makes sense, why?  I mean, in three of the four states he's citing, he won caucuses by getting more people to show up and argue for his candidacy; not by moving the general public to go to the polls and vote.  The whole idea of a "landslide" is the popular acclamation it brings.

No one has ever confused caucuses with the vox populi.

It's a wonder tall trees aren't layin' down....

Amanda Marcotte points out that Bernie Sanders hung his 'revolution' on Thomas Frank's analysis that Kansas doesn't see the Democrats talking about economic issues that matter to Kansas.  (Frank's analysis, of course, having been obliterated by Kansas in the past four years, but Bernie's from Vermont.)  Marcotte attributes this to racial animus which is more powerful than economic worries, and which in fact colors how one sees economic issues.  Well, maybe, sez I.  But maybe it's just because people are fundamentally "conservative," and not in the political left/right sense.  They are more like Frost's neighbor mending the wall, who Frost imagines as a savage grasping boulders in a dim twilight of ignorance, but who comforts himself with his familiar phrase:  "Good fences make good neighbors."

Call it the "we've always done it this way" syndrome.

I live in a state where "no fault" auto insurance has been the law of the land for at least 3 decades (more or less; I'm too lazy to look up the actual date that started).  And yet a few years ago I was involved in a collision, and the other driver called his lawyer, who proceeded to tell me I couldn't move my car out of traffic because the police needed to see it to make a report and assess responsibility.

Insurance defense law was clearly not her bailiwick (I worked for an insurance defense firm for three years before law school), but she should have known better.

We've always done it this way.  Even when we haven't done it that way for nearly 3 decades (that lawyer was too young to remember when we ever did it "that way" but it didn't matter:  she knew we'd always done it anyway.)

Texas has had a "Robin Hood" system of school finance for almost as long.  It's been in the news since the Edgewood case forced the Texas Supreme Court to force the Legislature to rewrite the state school financing law in 1993.  Texas doesn't have a state income tax, and can't have a state property tax, so the solution was to take local property tax revenues from local independent school districts (almost every level of government in Texas is in some ways independent of every other level of state government) and redistribute it to poorer school districts.  (Texas is very proud of keeping the state close to the people in this way.)  This has been the way Texas finances i's schools since that year.  It has been in the news repeatedly, as recently as this year, when the Texas Supreme Court finally had to decide if the current plan was constitutional.

And yet most people in Texas still imagine their property taxes fund only their school district.  Despite repeated attempts by many school districts to educate tax payers on how rising property values do mean higher taxes, but also mean more money is taken away from the school district, most people in Texas remain wholly unaware of this system of school financing.  The school district where I lived tried to send mailers to taxpayers explaining the system and how it affected school district finances; all it prompted was a flood of confused phone calls about "higher taxes."  Almost no on e who called seem to understand where their money was going, or why.

And so people in Texas don't understand why their local schools continue to cut programs, lay off teachers, and shrink in general, even as the state imposes new and more significant burdens with requirements like standardized test and longer school years, and even as property values (and their taxes) rise.  The way the formula is written, the more valuable the property in your district, the more money you have to give up.

Hence:  "Robin Hood."  Everybody has heard of the "Robin Hood" law; aside from school administrators and school boards, almost no one seems to understand what it does.

We've always done it this way.  Even though we stopped doing it that way almost 25 years and two Texas Supreme Court cases ago.

I know democracy is supposed to function because of an educated public with access to a free press.  I find that rather it stumbles along, mostly on inertia, in the face of a public ignorant of the most basic functions of law (you cannot violate a law that doesn't carry a criminal prohibition or provide for criminal punishment, and that only when the conduct proscribed is clearly laid out in the statute; and yet how many people expect Hillary Clinton to be indicted because she "broke" the rules (and aren't rules law?) of the Department of State?) and the most widely discussed changes in law?

57 channels of news and nothing on.  Then again, you can lead that horse to water; but you can't make him think.  Or learn anything.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Would somebody please just pull the plug?

No, that's not a joke.

Sanders said he wanted to go into the Democratic National Convention this summer with more pledged delegates than Clinton. He acknowledged that it would be an "uphill fight" to do so.

Sanders also said his campaign would talk to the superdelegates in states where he had won "landslide victories" and tell them to, "Do what the people in your state want. They voted for Bernie Sanders, you as the superdelegates should follow their wishes."

The Vermont senator went on to say that he would also talk with the superdelegates who sided with Clinton before the primary votes were cast.

"We're going to make the case for the superdelegates, "Your job is to make sure that Trump is defeated, that Bernie Sanders, in fact, for a variety of reasons, not just polling, is the strongest candidate.'"

Todd told Sanders he was contradicting himself.

"You're saying you want them to respect the vote in their state, then at the same time, you say, 'But oh, by the way, for those of you that are a superdelegate in a state that Clinton won, why don't you think about the general election?' It's a little bit hypocritical to be on both sides of those issues," Todd said.

"No, no, no, that's not what I'm saying," Sanders responded, arguing that the superdelegates have a "grave responsibility" to make sure presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump doesn't become president.
According to Real Politics, Clinton has 1769 pledged delegates, and 541 super delegates.  This means she needs 72 delegates to win the nomination.  Sanders has 1499 pledged delegates, and 43 super delegates.  He needs 840 delegates to win the nomination.*

There are only 784 delegates left to win.  He would have to win them all, plus swing 56 of Clinton's super delegates to his side.  There are no winner-take-all primaries in the Democratic primary.  Sanders fight for pledged delegates alone is pyrrhic.  His fight for super delegates is down right delusional.

Nevertheless, to his supporters he's a man of principles.

"These are my principles.  If you don't like them, I have others."

*Fun with numbers:  if you leave out the hated super delegates (hated by the Sanders supporters), the total number of delegates in the Democratic party is 4051 (with the supers, it's 4763).  2382 is the bare minimum number of delegates needed to win the nomination, but take out the supers and the minimum would be 2026 delegates.

Clinton has 1769; Sanders has 1499.  If super delegates didn't matter at all, Clinton would need 257 delegates, or 33% of the remaining delegates, to win; Sanders would need 527, or 67% of the remaining delegates.  I don't know the allocation rules of the remaining primaries, but that would require a victory by Sanders on every remaining primary that he hasn't seen outside of Vermont.

This race is over.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

What if they gave a revolution and nobody came?


So we are told on the one hand that "Millenials" (no, I really don't like generational groupings; might as well say "Virgos" or "Sagittarians" or "those born in the year of the Monkey") have more "nones" in them than ever before (bollocks).  On the other hand, there is hopeful speculation that Bernie Sanders has done what Occupy Wall Street could not, and actually started a revolutionary political movement, maybe even a return (or just resurgence) of the "secular sacred."

No, probably not; for a very simple reason that I'm not surprised would escape a UCC pastor (like the Rev. Laarman; or your humble correspondent.  No fingers being pointed here.).  The 19th century movements cited by Rev. Laarman were not movements promoted by a figurehead who rallied people to a cause (John Brown is a fine example of the failure of such singular efforts).  They were movements of the people, and we don't really associate any one figure with them.  Abraham Lincoln gets credit for freeing the slaves, but we know the abolitionist movement started in the churches almost as soon as the Constitution was ratified, and the backbone of the abolitionist movement was in the religious sacred, not the secular sacred.

The same was true of the civil rights movement:  the hard and public backbone of that movement was not the power of the personality of Dr. Martin Luther King; it was the support of the churches behind the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Occupy Wall Street fizzled because it was a bunch of angry people who were mad as hell and who weren't going to take it anymore.  If you recall, that got Howard Beale his own TV show, a freak show that ended with his murder on air.  It didn't prompt a revolution, and it didn't change a damned thing.

Neither did Occupy Wall Street.  It had no roots; it had nothing to hold it in the ground.  It dried up, it blew away; almost literally, not unlike the revolutionary movements of the '70's mocked in "Network."s

Whither Bernie's "revolution"?  I think Trump threw the final shovel of dirt on that coffin yesterday, when he appropriated the language of the Sanders campaign even as he put his foot in Bernie's face (metaphorically) and shoved him down the slide at the Santa display in "A Christmas Story."  Bernie wanted, not a Red Rydger BB gun, but one more chance for free air time; and Trump basically told him "You'll shoot your eye out, kid," then planted a boot in his upturned face, and pushed.

Sic transit gloria.

Trump established himself as the man who gives and the man who takes away, and he rendered Sanders a helpless child who has been discarded as the store is closing.  The "secular sacred"?  Even that requires roots in a desire to effect real change in the world.  The Sanders campaign is down to squabbling about process and vote counts and the openness or closed-ness of primaries, and who super delegates should pledge their fealty to, and why.  Sanders is down to people like this:

“A dark side of me wants to see what happens if Trump is in,” said Mr. Vizcarra, who works in information technology. “There is going to be some kind of change, and even if it’s like a Nazi-type change. People are so drama-filled. They want to see stuff like that happen. It’s like reality TV. You don’t want to just see everybody be happy with each other. You want to see someone fighting somebody.”

That's neither revolutionary, nor sacred, nor even profoundly secular; it's just pathetic.  A presidential campaign is not reality; it's just reality TV.  The difference between a Trump supporter and a Sanders supporter is absolutely erased at that point.  And what revolution is Trump bringing?

When Bernie is forced to stand down, his "movement" will not live after him.  Even Ross Perot's third party struggled without their candidate; but no one was surprised when it disappeared without effect.  If Sanders were a MLK like figure, he'd have been asked to lead a movement already burgeoning from the ground up, and he might have spent a decade or so doing it.  But he's a flash in the pan who inspired college age voters with promises of free tuition and a 4 page plan to "fix" the banks too big to fail.  It was a vision too small to cope with reality, and in the end, that's what any revolutionary movement has to do:  cope with reality.  The abolitionists struggled for 4 score and 7 years, or more; the civil rights movement struggled from the end of World War II into the 1970's, and the struggle goes on.  Bernie promises a revolution which will accomplish its goals within a few years, if only the "corrupt" system and the evil "Establishment" can be defeated like villains in a  comic book.

There is everything secular about that, but nothing profound, nothing with lasting purpose or breadth of vision.  It's just the last desperate attempt of a man who's never accomplished what he set out to accomplish, trying one more time before it's too late to put a lifetime's effort into one last push.

Sadly, this is real life; not the final episode of a TV series.

Friday, May 27, 2016

The Presidential Candidate as Internet Troll

“Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second-place finisher,” Mr. Trump said.

“Likewise, the networks want to make a killing on these events and are not proving to be too generous to charitable causes, in this case, women’s health issues. Therefore, as much as I want to debate Bernie Sanders — and it would be an easy payday — I will wait to debate the first-place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be,” Mr. Trump said in his statement.
Gee; who woulda thunk it? (And Trump even stole Bernie's "scorched earth policy."  I think that meme just died right before the weekend.)

Bernie tried to get tough:

“Well, Mr. Trump, what are you afraid of?” Mr. Sanders said. “If you’re so tough, let’s sit down and have that debate.”

But he really needs to leave that to Elizabeth Warren.

Say goodnight, Bernie.

Don't try this at home! Leave it to the professionals....

That light might be for you; doesn't mean it's for everybody.

When I first heard about this:

The breakdown of the appropriations process started earlier in the day when Rep. Rick Allen (R-Ga.) opened the weekly GOP conference meeting with a prayer about the LGBT issue, prior to the vote.

He read a passage from the Bible and questioned whether members would violate their religious principles if they supported the bill.

Moderate Republicans were stunned by Allen's remarks, and some walked out of the meeting in protest, according to GOP lawmakers.

"A good number of members were furious," said one Republican, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity. "There was some Scripture that was read and the like. ... Nothing good was going to happen to those that supported [the LGBT provision]. A good number of members were furious."
I thought it was a fine object lesson in not using Scripture as a cudgel to beat people into agreeing with your way of thinking.  Then I found out what passages he was quoting:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;

19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.

20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,

23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:

25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:

27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;

29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,

30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,

31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:

32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. (Romans 1:18-32)

Honestly, if you're gonna call down the wrath of God, ya gotta do it with the King James, amirite?

But, as usual, there's the "not-so-fast" part of this.  Let's continue with Romans 2:

Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.

2 But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things.

3 And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?

4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

5 But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;

6 Who will render to every man according to his deeds:

7 To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:

8 But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,

9 Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;

10 But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:

11 For there is no respect of persons with God.

Yes, the left hand giveth, and the right hand taketh away.  You who judge, commit sins as surely as those you are judging.  Or, as the Catechism I learned put it: "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."  So maybe the best thing to do is not to quote Scripture at people in order to judge whether or not they are worthy of your approval?

But wait, you will say; he wasn't judging, he was just quoting Paul as part of the prayer to open the meeting.  Well, then, explain why he added this:

18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:

19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. (Revelations 22:18-19)

I know it's a popular thing to use Scripture as a sword and shield, especially when you wield it with what you think is righteousness.  But Paul was writing to a specific audience, as was the author of the Apocalypse of John.  When you universalize their words you take them out of context and use them in the wrong context; indeed, as Paul warned, you use them to do precisely what Paul was warning against.  His diatribe in Romans is an attention grabber, not a laundry list of indictments of particular sins which are worse than others, or even that important.  He is describing chaos and disorder from a very particularly Roman perspective; there is a great deal about Roman mores in the 1st century that we would not countenance today.  Are we, then, more sinful because we don't live more like Romans did 2000 years ago?

Or is there more to it than just shouting words at people and antagonizing them with your judgment?


Giordano Bruno's problem was he annoyed everybody


Just to pick up with that poster, which I was rather surprised to find on-line:  it's a perfect example of how science wants to re-contextualise religion in order to make science both its replacement and its superior.


At the age of eleven he went to Naples, to study "humanity, logic, and dialectic", and, four years later, he entered the Order of St. Dominic, giving up his worldly name of Filippo and taking that of Giordano. He made his novitiate at Naples and continued to study there. In 1572 he was ordained priest.

It seems, however, that, even as a novice, he attracted attention by the originality of his views and by his outspoken criticism of accepted theological doctrines. After his ordination things reached such a pass that, in 1576, formal accusation of heresy was brought against him. Thereupon he went to Rome, but, apparently, did not mend his manner of speaking of the mysteries of faith; for the accusations were renewed against him at the convent of the Minerva. Within a few months of his arrival he fled the city and cast off all allegiance to his order.
Bruno was not a guy who got along with people:

From this point on, his life-story is the tale of his wanderings from one country to another and of his failure to find peace anywhere. He tarried awhile in several Italian cities, and in 1579 went to Geneva, where he seems to have adopted the Calvinist faith, although afterwards, before the ecclesiastical tribunal at Venice, he steadfastly denied that he had ever joined the Reformed Church. This much at least is certain; he was excommunicated by the Calvinist Council on account of his disrespectful attitude towards the heads of that Church and was obliged to leave the city. Thence he went to Toulouse, Lyons, and (in 1581) to Paris.
....
In 1583 he crossed over to England, and, for a time at least, enjoyed the favour of Queen Elizabeth and the friendship of Sir Philip Sidney. To the latter he dedicated the most bitter of his attacks on the Catholic Church, "Il spaccio della bestia trionfante", "The Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast", published in 1584. He visited Oxford, and, on being refused the privilege of lecturing there, he published (1584) his "Cena delle ceneri", or "Ash-Wednesday Supper", in which he attacked the Oxford professors, saying that they knew more about beer than about Greek. In 1585 he returned to France, and during the year which he spent in Paris at this time made several attempts to become reconciled to the Catholic Church, all of which failed because of his refusal to accept the condition imposed, namely, that he should return to his order. 

He went to Germany in 1587 but was excommunicated by the Lutherans (!).  He was finally extradited from Venice to Rome to stand trial before the Roman Inquisition:

 In the spring of 1599, the trial was begun before a commission of the Roman Inquisition, and, after the accused had been granted several terms of respite in which to retract his errors, he was finally condemned (January, 1600), handed over to the secular power (8 February), and burned at the stake in the Campo dei Fiori in Rome (17 February). Bruno was not condemned for his defence of the Copernican system of astronomy, nor for his doctrine of the plurality of inhabited worlds, but for his theological errors, among which were the following: that Christ was not God but merely an unusually skilful magician, that the Holy Ghost is the soul of the world, that the Devil will be saved, etc.

A modern day philosopher, or a thinker of any note, he was not:

Thus, his system of thought is an incoherent materialistic pantheism. God and the world are one; matter and spirit, body and soul, are two phases of the same substance; the universe is infinite; beyond the visible world there is an infinity of other worlds, each of which is inhabited; this terrestrial globe has a soul; in fact, each and every part of it, mineral as well as plant and animal, is animated; all matter is made up of the same elements (no distinction between terrestrial and celestial matter); all souls are akin (transmigration is, therefore, not impossible). This unitary point of view is Bruno's justification of "natural magic." No doubt, the attempt to establish a scientific continuity among all the phenomena of nature is an important manifestation of the modern spirit, and interesting, especially on account of its appearance at the moment when the medieval point of view was being abandoned. And one can readily understand how Bruno's effort to establish a unitary concept of nature commanded the admiration of such men as Spinoza, Jacobi, and Hegel. On the other hand, the exaggerations, the limitations, and the positive errors of his scientific system; his intolerance of even those who were working for the reforms to which he was devoted; the false analogies, fantastic allegories, and sophistical reasonings into which his emotional fervour often betrayed him have justified, in the eyes of many, Bayle's characterization of him as "the knight-errant of philosophy." His attitude of mind towards religious truth was that of a rationalist. Personally, he failed to feel any of the vital significance of Christianity as a religious system. It was not a Roman Inquisitor, but a Protestant divine, who said of him that he was "a man of great capacity, with infinite knowledge, but not a trace of religion."
If you don't catch the full import of that final sentence:  nobody much liked him.  And what he left behind was gobbledygook.  And what he was executed for, had everything to do with his stated theological opinions, and nothing to do with his secular, non-theological opinions.

But it makes a more convenient story for "science" to make him a martyr of medieval religious dogma and anti-empirical ignorance; even if it isn't a fact, at all.

An no, Galileo wasn't imprisoned for promoting the Copernican system.  A brief quote from the long article at New Advent tells the true tale of that:

 Nevertheless it was a churchman, Nicholas Copernicus, who first advanced the contrary doctrine that the sun and not the earth is the centre of our system, round which our planet revolves, rotating on its own axis. His great work, "De Revolutionibus orbium coelestium", was published at the earnest solicitation of two distinguished churchmen, Cardinal Schömberg and Tiedemann Giese, Bishop of Culm. It was dedicated by permission to Pope Paul III in order, as Copernicus explained, that it might be thus protected from the attacks which it was sure to encounter on the part of the "mathematicians" (i.e. philosophers) for its apparent contradiction of the evidence of our senses, and even of common sense. He added that he made no account of objections which might be brought by ignorant wiseacres on Scriptural grounds. Indeed, for nearly three quarters of a century no such difficulties were raised on the Catholic side, although Luther and Melanchthon condemned the work of Copernicus in unmeasured terms.
I would note the objections from the Protestants Luther and Melanchthon.  Most of the stories of the perfidious Catholic church fighting to dispel the light of science come from Protestant cultures, where there is still no love lost for Catholicism.  Which means a lot of the popular history of the Middle Ages turning into the Renaissance is filtered through some very cloudy lenses.

And a lot of nonsense is still taken as fact; when, in fact, it has its roots in Protestant anti-Papist sentiments.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Sen. Sanders, Admiral Akbar would like a word with you....


This is apparently the story of Trump v. Sanders in a debate sans Hillary:

On ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" Trump was asked if he would consider holding a debate with Sanders. Trump agreed to the idea. "If he paid a sum toward charity I would love to do that," said the business mogul, noting that a Sanders vs. Trump debate "would have such high ratings." Sanders quickly responded with a tweet reading, "Game On. I look forward to debating Donald Trump in California before the June 7th primary."

Here are the problems with it:

1)  Twitter says CBS has reports from the Trump camp that "nah gonna happen."  Yeah, it's Twitter, and it's completely unattributed.

2) But if CBS is right, Twitter has a point:  "Which makes Sanders look pretty dumb. 'Ooh, me, me, pass the ball to me!' 'Um, it was a joke. You're not even in the game, kid.' "

3)  Note the condition Trump put on this:  "If he paid a sum toward charity...."  Plenty of room there for Trump to say whatever sum Sanders offers to put up wouldn't be enough, and for Trump to shame Sanders for being cheaper than Trump (and allow Trump to move away from having to talk about his own charitable donation problems.)

4)  Note, too, Sanders' tweet said nothing about any contributions to charity.

And then there's the one Charlie Pierce raises:

The alternative is to believe that Sanders has gone crazy from the heat and decided that the best thing he can do as a national politician is to collaborate in a silly and dangerous carny sideshow act that can have only one result: the spectacle of two aging white men slamming the first woman ever to have an odds-on chance to be president of the United States.
So, yeah, this is completely "heads I win, tails you lose."

THE NEXT DAY:

As I was saying:

At a press conference in North Dakota on Thursday, Mr. Trump suggested that he was serious about the debate on the condition that the networks would donate $10 million to $15 million of the proceeds to charities that support women’s health causes.
Trump the "billionaire" wants people to forget the problems he had donating $1 million as he promised he would do from his last non-debate appearance.  Anybody think he's not putting this number out there knowing the networks won't go for it?  And what is the Sander campaign saying?

"We hope that he will not chicken out," [Sanders campaign manager Jeff] Weaver said. "We hope Donald Trump has the courage to get on stage now that he said he would."

Gotta know when to hold, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away; and in this case, Sanders should just run.  Especially because Bernie would come out of this as their man on our side.  I mean, if he wants to burn whatever bridges he has left in the Senate, and become completely useless to Vermont.....

"TURN THOSE MACHINES BACK ON! TURN THOSE MACHINES BACK ON!!!"


One of the favorite tropes of the more insane Sanders supporters is that the media is promoting a narrative that favors Clinton.  You know, like the new poll from California that shows Sanders and Clinton tied for the primary race (the margin of error is 5-7%).

Funny nobody is writing stories about the other recent California poll that puts Hillary ahead of Sanders by 18 points.   The PPIC polled 550 likely voters; the SurveyUSA polled over 800 likely voters.  And a somewhat older poll polled over 1600 likely voters, and gave Clinton a 10 point victory.  538 is giving much greater weight to the SurveyUSA poll than the PPIC poll, for reasons which I’m sure have do with the patriarchy and rigged primaries and being generally undemocratic.

Then again, the 538 analysis is not driving the narrative.

O machine! O machine!

I am neither a genius, nor do I play on on TeeVee; but:  no.

I knew there was a reason I was giving Stephen Hawking's new PBS series a pass.  I found out what it was last night, within 10 minutes.

The episode had something to do with Isaac Newton; or maybe it was the Enlightenment.  I wasn't paying close attention at first, except that the story began with medieval times when people "believed" in "magic" (an idea that is really more modern than ancient, especially the way Hawking presented it; more as Harry Potter than with any authenticity.  That seems like a minor quibble but it isn't; it just isn't something I can develop here, although this is fairly close**.)  Hawking follows the crowd, giving Newton credit for replacing "magic" (his term, and obviously less volatile than "religion," but it's clear what he really means, and eliding the fact that Newton was an alchemist) with "science," and so setting us on the road to explaining, as he repeats, "why we are here."

"Magic," of course, has nothing to do with religion.  Nor is religion (specifically Christianity, since both Newton and Hawking are products of a Christian culture, like it or not) about an explanation of the universe.  Search the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament all you want, there is no explanation of the cosmos equivalent to anything the Pre-Socratics came up with.*  The two Genesis stories are not about how the earth came to be, but why God is connected to the Creation:  because God is the Creator.  "Creator of the Universe" is the felicitous phrase of the Jews.  But why are we here?  The best answer I can give you is:  because we are.  There's nothing magical about it; but in the same sense, it is all miraculous.

“My mother was always at work, by day helping my father on the croft, and by night at wool and spinning, at night clothes and at day clothes for the family. My mother would be beseeching us to be careful in everything, to put value on time and to eschew idleness; that a night was coming in which no work could be done. She would be telling us about Mac Shiamain, and how he sought to be at work. If we were dilatory in putting on our clothes, and made an excuse for our prayers, my mother would say that God regarded heart and not speech, the mind and not the manner; and that we might clothe our souls with grace while clothing our bodies with raiment. My mother taught us what we should ask for in prayer, as she heard it from her own mother, and as she again heard it from the one who was before her.

“My mother would be asking us to sing our morning song to God down in the backhouse, as Mary’s lark was singing up in the clouds, and as Christ’s mavis was singing it yonder in the tree, giving glory to the God of the creatures for the repose of the night, for the light of the day, and for the joy of life. She would tell us that every creature on the earth here below and in the ocean beneath and in the air above was giving glory to the great God of the creatures and the worlds, of the virtues and the blessings, and would we be dumb!

“My dear mother reared her children in food and clothing, in love and charity. My heart loves the earth in which my beloved mother rests.”
Quoted from Carmina Gadelica: Hymns and Incantations collected in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland in the Last Century, by Alexander Carmichael (Hudson, NY: Lindisfarne Press 1997), pp. 197, 621.

Stephen Hawking might make little of that, but to me there is more of value there than in all of the Principia Mathematica, at least insofar as Newton helps explain why we are here.  I'm not even concerned with rejecting Newton, or keeping science in its sphere and religion in its sphere (all this talk of spheres is as ludicrous as Paul's mention of the "seventh heaven," at least in any literal sense).

I just grow so weary of ignorance parading itself as knowledge, and foolishness putting on the raiment of wisdom.  What is clear to me is that Hawking, in line with a school of thought rooted in the 19th century, wants to replace religion with science as the total explanation for all things worth explaining (beauty, truth, love, music, joy, sorrow, mourning, most of human experience, in other words, need not apply, except as science can reduce them to absurdities and simplicities).  To the extent religion ever took that role, it took it (wisely) as ambiguity and only foolishly as a totality.  If science is truly forced to fill out that role, science, too, will fail.

I was working up some notes the other day on themes in the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian gospels.  Not "a theme," because there isn't one; but themes.  There are several, but to keep it to two closely related ones, there is "justice" and "covenant."  "Covenant" is the more restrictive:  it is what binds the God of Abraham to the children of Abraham, and them to their God.  Justice, however, is of central importance to the prophets (the bulk of the Hebrew Scriptures), and to the gospels.  Justice is not about why we are here, but how we should live since we are here.  Covenant is the guidance to the children of Abraham to attain justice; and it is that attainment, per the vision of Isaiah, which will draw the nations (i.e., the Gentiles) to the "holy mountain."  Not from coercion, or even conversion, but from desire to have what Israel has (and which, obviously, that nation-state does not yet have, but that's yet another discussion).  There is no magic in the teachings of the prophets or the Law, any more than there is clear and rigid guidance in the parables of Jesus.  Those parables are not simple allegories about how to be good, but subtle, complex stories that don't lead to any clear conclusion but keep us aware of how much we don't know, how much we never know.  This is the essence of Hebraic thought:  that we will always misunderstand justice, that we will always turn it to what benefits us.

And justice is never "just us." (sorry!)

Why are we here?  That's not the important question.  The important question is:  what do we do now that we're here?

And science has bugger all to say about that; because the answer is not in "magic."  And "magic," at least in its modern conception, is all that science has really replaced.

*Specific mentions of magic in the Hebrew Scriptures involve imposters who are not backed up by the Creator of the Universe.  Strict monotheists that they were, the Hebrews had no room for alternative explanations for how the world worked:  it all came from God.  Which is part of the grievance of Job, but also the reason Jonah is so pissed off.

**Just building on some ideas there, but if, 700 years from now, "Game of Thrones" were to be resurrected and taught in schools (the video version or the print version), would it be proof that we believed dragons and zombies and magic were real?   Is Dracula proof the English believed vampires were real in the 19th century?   Is "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" proof that people in the 14th century believed the beheading game was real, and not a literary trope?

Where do ya go when ya gotta go?


I'm beginning to think some of this problem is perceiving all men as predators:

 “this opens the door to all kinds of issues with men deciding one day to be women and switching back the next day”
That's the indicted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton talking to FoxNews.*  Because, you know, that's what men do, just so they can get access to bathrooms, where people are coming in and going out all the time.  It's a perfect place for a sexual assault, right?  Because the only thing that keeps men from preying on women and children now, is how they identify with the sign on a door.

I'll retire to Bedlam.

*not surprisingly this ignorance is a feature, not a bug; and is central to their lawsuit, which I'm beginning to think doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell, even in the 5th Circuit.  And, as that article points out, there have been more criminal charges brought against Ken Paxton than against any transgendered person who tried to excuse their entry into a bathroom so they could commit assault.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

I can resist anything but temptation


As goes East Texas, so goes.....

In hindsight, a Texas flag shirt might have been a better choice....

There is, even in East Texas (which is culturally western Louisiana) an embarrassment factor, as well as a competency factor.  On a statewide scale, one reason Rick Perry didn't run again for governor was "Oops!".  We really don't like politicians who embarrass us on the national stage.  And reaching back to the pre-social media age, there was Clayton Williams' famous refusal to shake Ann Richards' hand at a debate.  He was pretty much done after that.

It's the little things that count.

So while Mary Lou Bruner's Facebook posts about Barack Obama didn't keep her from getting into a runoff, when she was one of two candidates, instead of one of several, it began to be embarrassing:

"It would appear that a perfect storm occurred to defeat Bruner," Jones said in an email Tuesday night. "Superintendents and teachers (and their friends and families) across the district rallied against her due to disagreement with her positions on education policy, the belief she would not be a good representative of the district’s interests, and the embarrassment they felt her election would bring to the region."

TPM noted before the runoff election that:

The only crack that has formed in Bruner's stronghold on the race is a recent meeting with a group of East Texas superintendents that went off the rails. During her speech to the superintendents, Bruner cited incorrect statistics, drawing protests from the audience.

When she claimed that close to half of the students in the state were enrolled in special education programs, people in the audience told her that was incorrect, according to video posted by Texas television station KLTV. Bruner then asked, "Is that wrong?" before telling the superintendents that she would like to be informed.

And when Bruner claimed that she met with the superintendent of the Mineola school district, that superintendent stood up and told the crowd that the two had not in fact had a meeting.

The meeting lost Bruner the endorsement of a Tea Party group in Texas, Grassroots America, We the People, last week. The group said they asked Bruner to correct the statistics she used at the meeting with East Texas superintendents, and then they withdrew their endorsement when she did not issue a statement.

"We are all disappointed to have to take the strong measure of withdrawing our endorsement for a candidate," the group's executive director, JoAnn Fleming, said in a statement. "Since the institution of this organization in 2009, we have never had to take such an action however, this organization requires accountability and personal responsibility from the candidates it endorses. We have always made that abundantly clear."

Bruner apologized for the remarks she made at the meeting with superindetendents in an interview that aired Sunday on Dallas television station WFAA. She said that she meant to refer to students in special programs, not special education, and asked for Grassroots America to reconsider its endorsement.
It would seem even the Tea Party groups are starting to expect some minimal competency in their candidates.

How did she get that far?  Last person standing in a crowded race where nobody really knew who the candidates were (how many people go into the voting booth determined to elect someone to the Texas Board of Education?).  In the runoff they found out, and they voted for their children, not for their ideology.  Is this a lesson for the nation?  Is Kevin Ellis the best choice for the position?  No, probably not, to both questions.

But it does prove the system works; at least sometimes.

And in other news (just to save another post), Elizabeth Warren said this:

The rest of us were horrified by what happened in the 2008 financial crisis, by what happened to millions of families that were forced out of their homes.

But Donald Trump was drooling at the idea of a housing melt down because it meant he could buy more property on the cheap. What kind of a man does that? What kind of a man roots for people to get thrown out of their house? What kind of a man roots for people to get thrown out of their jobs? To root for people to lose their pensions?

What kind of man does that? I will tell you exactly the kind of man. It is a man that cares about no one but himself.

What kind of a man does that? A man that will never be the president of the United States.
NPR played a clip (in headlines, which are not on-line, and I can't find a news story on it yet) where Trump replied he was a businessman, he was supposed to make money in real estate.  Which isn't exactly a thunderous riposte.

And note this CBS story on the Trump/Warren battle, which includes information about Trump's lies regarding his charitable donations to veterans.  That is not only not going away, it's growing legs.

This could almost start to be fun, soon.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Looking for the handle


I didn't actually start this with this, but now that it's there, I will.  And rather than start where I did, I'll start by repeating a comment I left there:

Because if we make things simpler, they are easier to "handle" (a euphemism for "control"), and if things are easier to handle, then we have power over them.

And having power isn't everything, it's the only thing.

The answer to this (not surprisingly) is philosophy (or theology, but that's a narrower recourse I don't think is quite as universal, because making it universal weakens theology and forces it to be what it is not).  The "other" of phenomenology (French, mostly) is the key here, the idea of the "other" being not to objectify people who are not you into "things" you can control (i.e., handle).

Life, as my Pastoral Care teacher insisted, is messy.  We go wrong when we think religion, any more than science, is a method of control, and that control is the telos of understanding.

Maybe that will put this in context:

I'm just making note of incidents regarding uses of power, or the descriptions and/or justifications of same.  Something of an internet commonplace book, I suppose; except then I'd have to update this
post, and no doubt it will get lost in the sequence in time:

For the circle of leftists who surround him, being horrible online has become a kind of ethos. “Vulgarity is the language of the people … to wield righteously against the corrupt and the powerful,” Amber A’Lee Frost wrote recently in Current Affairs. A piece on Medium titled “In Support of Matt Bruenig” quoted that passage approvingly, adding,  “Bruenig, better than almost any contemporary writer, understands this power, and wields it unflinchingly.”

In context, "vulgarity" is mere rudeness (such as calling people you disagree with "old"), not employment of the 7 words you still can't say on TeeVee.  It's interesting to me that this is considered an exercise of power at all (maybe in the sandbox it is), but more interesting that power is so reduced by such claims.  Vulgarity is a "power...wield[ed]...unflinchingly"?

Really?  Then what is an automatic firearm?  Or the police power to arrest and detain?  Or the power to change hearts and minds?

It's interesting how we use that word, and what we mean when we use it.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

God Doesn't Answer Me....

The Revolution Will Not Be Crowdsourced



There are lots of ways to measure the support a candidate has.  Votes are one, fundraising another.

Bernie used to brag about his fundraising as an indicator of his support.  Not anymore:

Even as he racked up primary victories last month and sharpened his attacks against the former secretary of state, online donors started holding back. Sanders raised considerably less in April than his record-setting $46 million in March or $43.5 million in February.

And I've read many an on-line comment that Clinton is spending far more than Sanders, and getting less for it.  Nope:

The two were on roughly equal fundraising footing last month, with Clinton and Sanders each raising more than $25 million. But the Vermont senator spent almost $39 million to Clinton's $24 million, the reports showed.

This year, Sanders has averaged more than $40 million in spending per month, underlining how quickly he could blow through the cash he had on hand at the beginning of May.

Since he started his presidential bid, Sanders has spent nearly $207 million, about $25 million more than Clinton's $182 million in expenditures. For her part, Clinton has averaged $26 million in spending per month since January.
Sanders is now down to $6 million in cash, which sounds like a lot, but when you've been spending $40 million per month, that's less than a week to go before you're flat broke.

And California hasn't voted yet.

No wonder Sanders is making so much noise about what he's entitled to.  He really is that desperate.   And interestingly, all that grass roots fundraising seems to have withered away.  Well, I'm sure it's because of the DNC or Clinton or corruption or Wall Street or undemocratic rules, or something.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Wrong Box

It's a close race as to which is the worst decision of the modern Supreme Court.  I can think of several contenders, but right now, Hobby Lobby v. Burwell is running away with the prize:

Legislators in Oklahoma have taken the freakout over the Obama administration's guidance on accommodating transgender students to a new level with legislation aimed at undermining the guidelines and a resolution calling for the President's impeachment.

Legislation introduced on Thursday by Republican lawmakers in the state senate and house would provide religious accommodations for students who do not want to share a bathroom with transgender students.

Schools would have to provide a restroom only used by people with the same sex "as identified at birth" for students who request a religious accommodation, and the bill states that letting those students use a single-occupancy restroom "shall not be an allowable accommodation."
Because, you know, whatever we don't like now, we have to overrule with an accommodation to someone's religious fee-fees.  Which has already become "whatever I say it is, and you can't question it!"

Dahlia Lithwick thinks the Supremes can't function with an even number of Justices.  I still think they just don't want to revisit Hobby Lobby and have to justify it; because they can't.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Oh Good Grief!

I know, I know, but two things: First,  remind me again why Bernie is deserving of the nomination of the Democratic Party?

The difference, however, is that Sanders and many of his hardest-core revolutionaries are not loyal to the Democratic Party.

"Generally, there's so-called unity because the candidates are not really that far apart. This time, there's a fundamental difference," said Jonathan Tasini, who ran unsuccessful primary challenge against then-Sen. Hillary Clinton in 2006. He now supports Sanders. "While people seem to think it's just a slogan, there is really a political revolution going on and this revolt is not going to stop after this election."

Which, let me say, is all well and good; but it strikes me as something similar to a small group worshipping in a church and then deciding they are entitled to determine how the church is run, how the worship is conducted, how the money the church raises is spent, even what the pastor preaches on (I do speak from personal experience here, in part).  Are they revolutionaries?  Or just assholes?

Two conditions that often appear alike.  But here's the really interesting bit from Sanders' history:

After all, Sanders' first successful political campaign came at expense of the incumbent Democratic mayor of Burlington, Vermont, whom he unseated in 1980. Democrats on the city council vociferously opposed the new mayor's agenda, until his allies defeated many of them, too.

Tensions were so high between Sanders and Vermont Democrats that when in 1984 he attended "a formal Democratic Party function for the first and last time time in my life," a woman slapped him across his face, he wrote to his autobiography.

Sanders continued running against Democrats until 1988, when he came in second in a three-way congressional race ahead of the Democrat. Two years later, he and the party struck a truce. Democrats cleared the way for him to win a congressional seat, and later one in the Senate, where he caucuses with and votes with the party to this day.
They say that in a crisis one's true feelings are known.  Howard Dean excuses his friend Bernie Sanders as a sore loser who had the cup of victory dashed from his lips (which reminds me of the Peanuts cartoon where Violet's father almost bowled a perfect game the night before.  He didn't, she explains to Charlie Brown, because he got so excited he blew the second frame.  Get a friend who understands bowling to explain it to you, if necessary.)  I'm not so sure Bernie is a sore loser, so much as he's reverting to his old ways under the pressure of the campaign.  He seems to think he's paid his dues in the Senate and now he's entitled to get something from the Party, by hook or by crook.  Or just by complaining.

On Tuesday night, after splitting the Kentucky and Oregon primaries with Clinton, Sanders said the party had to meet his demands, not the other way around.

"The Democratic Party is going to have to make a very, very profound and important decision. It can do the right thing and open its doors," he said. "Or, the other option, the other for the Democratic Party which I see as a very sad and tragic option is to, is to choose to maintain its status quo structure, remain dependent on big money campaign contributions and be a party with limited participation and limited energy."

Many of Sanders strongest supporters come from outside the ranks of registered Democrats, which explains explain why, until Tuesday night, he had only won primaries that allow independent voters to participate.
In the end, Sanders' supporter are free to vote for him; but they aren't free to rewrite the party rules so their preferred candidate can win.  They also aren't free to demand victory, or the right to take over the party.  Last I looked, over 3 million other party voters disagreed with them on the choice of candidate.  That kind of margin doesn't put you in control just because you like your ideas better.

And second:

Mr. Sanders’s irresponsibility is sadly unsurprising. He has stirred up populist energy over the past several months with anti-corporate scapegoating and extravagant claims about policy. He has indulged and encouraged hyperbolic feelings that the country is badly adrift, that most of the nation agrees with a left-wing agenda but is trapped in a corrupt system, and that nothing but a political revolution will do. He has attracted some big, passionate crowds. But as he has lagged in votes, he increasingly has questioned the legitimacy of the process and encouraged his supporters to feel disenfranchised. The result is a toxic mix of unreason, revolutionary fervor and perceived grievance.
Now, you know, at some point your opponent always displays a "toxic mix of unreason...and perceived grievance."  And I'm old enough to remember the "revolutionary fervor" of the '60's, which turned into the revolutionary groups (gone and almost forgotten) of the '70's (when bombings were so normal we shrugged at 'em.  No one told us they were "terrorist bombings" and we should be afraid, be very afraid.  No, really.  Those were the days.).  But what galls me is said well there: "He has indulged and encouraged hyperbolic feelings that the country is badly adrift, that most of the nation agrees with a left-wing agenda but is trapped in a corrupt system, and that nothing but a political revolution will do."  That kind of thing encourages a lot of foolishness, and not much benefit. The American people are not prevented from voting for Bernie Sanders; the problem for the Senator is that not enough people want to vote for him.  The system worked, and like the old saw about how God answers all prayers, this time the system (or God, in the bromide), said:  "No."  No, there won't be a political revolution, but also, there never was going to be a political revolution.  And that's where Bernie has gone completely off the rails.

There are no excuses, no reasons, no justifications left, especially if he has to do it this way:

“In the past three weeks voters in Indiana, West Virginia and Oregon respectfully disagreed with Secretary Clinton," communications director Michael Briggs said in a statement. "We expect voters in the remaining eight contests also will disagree. And with almost every national and state poll showing Sen. Sanders doing much, much better than Secretary Clinton against Donald Trump, it is clear that millions of Americans have growing doubts about the Clinton campaign.”

It's over.  Accept it.  Please to be going away now.  You really aren't ready for prime time, and you never will be now.



Thursday, May 19, 2016

Bern the feel


H.A Goodman has made a minor cottage industry (google the name and Salon, I'm not going to try to link to it) out of insisting the FBI will indict Hillary Clinton (ignoring the fact indictments must come from a grand jury empaneled by a prosecuting attorney) for her e-mail server, and that "scandal" will ruin her bid for the White House.

Apparently Bernie Sanders has decided that is his "Hail Mary" to win the Democratic nomination:

Advisers to Mr. Sanders said on Wednesday that he was newly resolved to remain in the race, seeing an aggressive campaign as his only chance to pressure Democrats into making fundamental changes to how presidential primaries and debates are held in the future. They said he also held out hope of capitalizing on any late stumbles by Mrs. Clinton or any damage to her candidacy, whether by scandal or by the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald J. Trump.

And all that talk about rigged primaries and undemocratic processes is not coming from a fringe of crazy Sanders supporters anonymously posting on internet sites:

For weeks, some current and former Sanders campaign workers have privately acknowledged feeling disheartened about Mr. Weaver’s determination to go after the Democratic National Committee, fearing a pitched battle with the party they hope to support in the general election. The intraparty fighting has affected morale, they say, and raised concerns that Mr. Weaver, a longtime Sanders aide who more recently ran a comic book store, was not devoted to achieving Democratic unity. Several described the campaign’s message as having devolved into a near-obsession with perceived conspiracies on the part of Mrs. Clinton’s allies.
Conspiracy theories are a poor basis for a campaign, and don't do much more to inspire confidence in the offered leadership.

ADDING:  And if you can't feel the Bern, mock the Bern!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Fish Always Rots from the Head


JMM finally has the scales fall from his eyes.

It's been obvious to me for some time that the animosity flowing from the Sanders campaign wasn't from outliers, as NPR continues to report this morning, but from the candidate down to his supporters.  This press release over the tempest in the teapot in Nevada proves it, although the pebble finally dropped for JMM when Sanders made a speech reaffirming that release.  However, any organization that releases an official communique can't then turn around and say the man in charge didn't know what was being said on his behalf.  Not if that man is running to be in charge of Executive branch of government.  So there was never a credible argument that Sanders wasn't fomenting this stuff; it's just that nobody really wanted to believe Grandpa was an asshole.

The crux of the fight in Nevada was that 58 Sanders delegates weren't seated for the state convention.  However, Clinton had won more delegates in the caucus than Sanders, and so was entitled to a majority of the delegates at the state convention.  But conventions are rather like the Senate and the House:  you can't vote if you aren't on the floor when the vote is called.  More Sanders delegates showed up than Clinton delegates for the state convention, and the Sanders campaign wanted to take advantage of that "no-show" rule.  Unfortunately, they couldn't, for reasons they conveniently leave out of their press release.  So now they complain they weren't able to gain an advantage over Clinton and reverse the "democratic" process of the caucus with...the rules.

So much for "transparency."  This is ugly, but not for the reasons Sanders wants it to be.  It's also petty, as Charlie Pierce was the first to point out.  4 more delegates for Sanders wouldn't even give him bragging rights at this point.  So why is he behaving like Nevada is the Reichstag fire?

And yes, I mean that comparison; I didn't choose it lightly.  As Marshall says:

Sanders narrative today has essentially been that he is political legitimacy. The Democratic party needs to realize that. This, as I said earlier, is the problem with lying to your supporters. Sanders is telling his supporters that he can still win, which he can't. He's suggesting that the win is being stolen by a corrupt establishment, an impression which will be validated when his phony prediction turns out not to be true. Lying like this sets you up for stuff like happened over the weekend in Nevada.
As Charlie Pierce said:  it's time for Sanders to go.

UPDATE:

So TPM has a good summary of what happened in Nevada.  Jeff Weaver is saying no official on the stage at the convention "had the right to feel threatened," which is a new right I've frankly never heard of.   Here and Now ran some tape of Debbie Wasserman Schultz criticizing Sanders for condemning the violence "BUT" (her word and emphasis) excusing it in the same moment.   And it is her comment that brings me back to this subject, because she is absolutely right (and Angela Rye is wrong).  Violence is a line that cannot be erased.

This is the crux of Josh Marshall's critique, and of the critique at Wounded Bird:  violence is over the line, and "But" is only included to pivot from the inexcusable to excuses.  Go back to that press release, which is Wasserman Schultz's point of reference:

Our campaign of course believes in non-violent change and it goes without saying that I condemn any and all forms of violence, including the personal harassment of individuals. But, when we speak of violence, I should add here that months ago, during the Nevada campaign, shots were fired into my campaign office in Nevada and apartment housing complex my campaign staff lived in was broken into and ransacked.
What is that second sentence except "HE STARTED IT!"  This is not two children squabbling in the backseat of a car.  This is a campaign for the highest elected office in the land, and the official response of the campaign is to say they're only responding in kind to what's already happened to them? That justifies the violence in Nevada, or explains it?  Seriously?

And after that, it's because the process that the Sanders people hoped to subvert, bringing more delegates to the state convention than Clinton did so Sanders could win more delegates in the final selection process, was not "fair and transparent."  But, as I said, they leave out why 56 delegates were not credentialed, which is another subtle excuse for the violence at the convention, which they don't really condemn even as Jeff Weaver tries to deny it ever happened.   In the end, I still don't know if there was any violence aside from shouting down Barbara Boxer (who felt threatened, though I'm sure Jeff Weaver thinks she had no right to), but I agree with Jon Ralston, who was there:

This is an M.O that comes from the top: We are pure; you are not. You are with us or you are corrupt Establishment criminals. If you challenge us, we will call you names, bully you, threaten you.

This is not all Bernie Sanders supporters. In fact, it’s a minority; many truly believe in the cause, in income inequality destroying the fabric of America, in universal health care being a universal right, in all of it. Fine.

But there were no great policy debates on the floor of that convention; they weren’t even debating emails servers or Wall Street transcripts. This was raw fury, nasty enough this weekend in Las Vegas to disrupt a convention in the name of … what? What is the endgame here?

Take over a state party that may be the best in America? Stop Hillary Clinton from winning the nomination? Make a lot of noise, eat a lot of pizza and look down on everyone?

These are small-picture people. Instead of accepting the plain facts that Clinton won the caucus and out-hustled Sanders at the state convention, they want to talk about arcane rules being imposed, whether chairs were really thrown and if anyone should make a fuss out of chalk on walls and sidewalks (even if the messages were hateful).

These are people who think it’s fine to scream obscenities at a sitting U.S. senator, Barbara Boxer, believe it’s part of their First Amendment rights to call a state party chair corrupt and who insist they are cheated out of something that was never theirs. If this is the Sanders revolution, give me the Establishment.
And that "Establishment" talk?  C'mon!  That was a cliche by 1972!

2nd and Final Update:  Howard Dean told NPR tonight that Sanders is (essentially) a sore loser.  But he sympathized, since Sanders almost won the nomination and almost won the Presidency.  Except, well, yeah, Sanders got further than almost anyone expected; but he's never had the lead in the primary race, and he's no closer to being President than he was when he announced his candidacy.

So either Dean just went too far in defense of a friend, or it's something in the water.  Either way, Sanders needs to withdraw from the race for his own reputation, if nothing else.  Sore losers do not make inspiring leaders.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Supreme Court regrets

Where's Bartleby?

it's unable to lunch today, Madame.

It also regrets Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby.  Oh, BOY!, does it regret that one!  Because Zubrik has turned into the very reason the Courts are not supposed to do legislative duties:

The conservative male justices suggested women could receive the coverage from contraceptive-only plans -- plans which don't currently exist and which the government, health policy wonks and even some of the women justices on the bench all decried as not feasible. Some of the court’s conservatives also scoffed at the idea the the coverage needed to be “seamless.” In their post-hearing supplemental briefing, the challengers said they would only settle for a compromise where women would have to engage in a separate contract with their insurer, or receive coverage from some outside plan or government-funded program.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in a concurring opinion Monday joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, said that any compromise that amounted to a contraceptive-only plan would leave women “in limbo.”

“And requiring that women affirmatively opt into such coverage would ‘impose precisely the kind of barrier to the delivery of preventive services that Congress sought to eliminate,” she wrote.
This is why Congress has hearings, and gathers evidence, and seeks compromise, and ends up making sausage:  because that's the only way laws get made.   Otherwise you end up with a handful of people making stupid comments about contraceptive-only plans which exist only in their imaginations.

And why is the Court engaging in this nonsense, or rather, trying now to refuse to?  Because they decided it was up to them to show sensitivity to religious beliefs when no one else in government would, and now they've opened Pandora's Box, and every objection to any application of law can become a theological issue that the Scholastics wouldn't want to argue about, but which the Supremes must adjudicate.

And they would prefer not to.

Call it the Bartleby theory of jurisprudence:  create the situation and then when it comes back to bite you on the ass, take cover in absolute passivity.  Yeah, that'll work!

Boys will be boys; and we all need a potty break....

"As soon as you flush the toilet, you're right in the middle of ideology."--Slavoj Žižek

No, it's not the scholarly research I'd prefer to do, but I'm lazy and Google makes things easy.

The conservative idea that civil rights protections sexually endanger women and children in public bathrooms is not new. In fact, conservative sexual thought has been in the toilet since the 1940s. During the World War II era, conservatives began employing the idea that social equality for African-Americans would lead to sexual danger for white women in bathrooms. In the decades since, conservatives used this trope to negate the civil rights claims of women and sexual minorities.

And if you want to get all historical about it, blame the Victorians!

The commode has been at the center of civil rights battles since the first modern public lavatory with flushing toilets opened in Victorian London.

Who were the interlopers back then? Women, of course, and they’re still fighting for “potty parity”. The US Congress, for example, has yet to pass the Restroom Gender Parity in Federal Buildings Act to make sure government buildings are built or leased with, at minimum, the same number of toilets in women’s restrooms as in men’s. Urinals are included in the count.

Public bathrooms are places 'where people’s level of discomfort is accentuated and magnified'  In the segregated south, Jim Crow laws banned black people from public “whites only” bathrooms until the 1960s, in perhaps the most elemental form of segregation. People with disabilities were not promised access to public lavatories until the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law by then-president George W Bush in 1990. Homeless people still struggle to find restrooms they are allowed to use. 
See?  Technology does make everything better!  Well, except for human nature and our tendency to identify an "other" who makes us feel vulnerable.

Public bathrooms are “a flash point” because they are places “where people’s level of discomfort is accentuated and magnified in ways it isn’t in other places,” says Kathryn H Anthony, professor of architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“People are afraid because they’re exposed,” says Anthony, author of Designing for Diversity: Gender, Race and Ethnicity in the Architectural Profession. “There’s a vulnerability we feel in public restrooms we don’t feel in other places.”

Why is this important? As she told the House committee on oversight and government reform in 2010, the average person uses a toilet six to eight times a day.

Toilets are everywhere. At least, they should be.

Or, to quote Katie Brossard:  "You pee differently than I do.  It's a very basic human thing."

So, more stalls with doors?*

*My college dorm had two bathrooms (there were baths there, not just toilets and sinks) on each floor. It was the largest room on the floor, and the walls and floor were covered with tile.  The shower was a room behind the sinks, but about as private as a public plaza.  The toilets were all stalls (IIRC), without doors.  Nobody used the first two toilets, because they had full visual access to anyone who walked in the door.  You also didn't really want to use them (when you had to be seated) when someone was taking a shower, as most of them had a prime view of that room.  Somehow we survived.

Although my favorite story was when some friends turned off the lights and threw a string of firecrackers in the bathroom when their friend went in to relieve himself.  With all that tile, it sounded like a bomb had exploded.  My guess is his ears stopped ringing after a few days.....


Two Corinthians walk into a bar

Can they get coverage under Obamacare?  Thanks, I'll be here all week.  Now for some real humor.



Because all the kewl kids are posting Samantha Bee videos; and because I'm ostensibly about religion here, and politics, and because this is just so good.

Monday, May 16, 2016

We don' need no steenkin badges!


My Procedure prof opened the class by telling us that he would spot you the law, and he would retain the rules of procedure; and he'd beat you in court every time.

Yup.

Nevada's process for sending delegates to the national convention in Philadelphia is among the most complex. When the state caucused in late February, the fourth state on the calendar for the Democratic Party, the results of that process favored Hillary Clinton. Twenty-three of the 35 total bound delegates were given out proportionally in the state's four congressional districts, giving Clinton a delegate lead of 13 to 10. The results of the caucus suggested that after the state convention — which bound the state's seven at-large delegates and five delegates who are elected officials or party leaders — Clinton would end up with a 20-to-15 lead over Bernie Sanders, with Clinton winning one more delegate from the at-large pool (4-to-3) and one more from the party-leader pool (3-to-2) than Sanders.

I agree with Charlie Pierce:  "This sounds like something Kim Jong-Il would have thought up on the golf course between his 11th and 12th holes-in-one."  But I also agree with Jimmy Durante:  "Dese are de conditions dat prevail!"  And, it turns out, it's also not so one sided as that:

Prior to the state convention, some Sanders supporters began an effort to shift the convention rules in a way that they viewed as more favorable to their candidate. One of those changes, the Las Vegas Sun reported, was a process for verifying voice votes; another took issue with the state party chairwoman, Roberta Lange, heading up the convention. Supporters at the event circulated petitions to the same end. The scene was set.

The first report from the credentials committee on Saturday morning indicated that Clinton had a slight edge in delegates. Sanders fans voted against that report, per Jon Ralston, and then demanded a recount — but this was simply a preliminary figure. As in the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1, the final total delegates went through a process of realignment as the day progressed.
This, in other words, is how these things are done; and also why you don't want to watch sausage or legislation being made.  Cutting out the drama which is not directly related to the outcome (shouting down speakers, etc.; you can get better information on that here, if you're interested), we return to the saga of the credentials committee:

The ultimate total reported by KOLO-TV was 1,695 Clinton delegates to 1,662 for Sanders, giving Clinton that one-delegate total in the at-large and party-leader pools. But the drama was far from over. Fifty-six Sanders delegates — enough to swing the majority — were denied delegate status, mostly because they weren't registered as Democrats by the May 1 deadline, according to the state party. (The Sun reports that eight potential Clinton delegates suffered a similar fate.) 
Now this is not the point where the rules changed.  Apparently that happened with the change to how voice votes were verified.  It actually isn't clear whether that change was implemented or not, but I'm guessing it wasn't because the Sanders delegates weren't seated and without them, Sanders didn't have the majority.  The point is, the rules changes started with the Sanders supporters, who decided they had the votes, they got to send out the part invitations.  Turned out it wasn't that simple, and they also didn't have the votes.  Credentials, ya know; you aren't a delegate until the right people say you are.*

See what I mean about having the rules v. having "the law"?

And then the casino where this event was taking place decided everybody had stayed up past their bedtime, and threw them all out.  No, seriously.

Now, predictably, this is blowing up in some circles, though again, I agree with Charlie Pierce:  time to pull the plug on this nonsense.  This argument is over 'four freaking delegates," and rules so arcane they would make a Procedures professor call for a stiff drink.  When we're down to screaming about that kind of arcana, we're done.


*The devil is in the details there:

Concerns remained. A Sanders supporter complained on the stage that 64 people weren’t allowed to participate.

A state Democratic party representative said that figure is misleading. Six of those were allowed in. Some had incomplete or unidentifiable information, including names and addresses, and hadn’t responded to requests to correct it. Others hadn’t registered as Democrats by the deadline.
Wading through this again, it boils down to this:  Clinton won more delegates than Sanders in the Nevada caucuses, but then fewer Clinton delegates than Sanders delegates showed up for the state convention.  Except too many of the Sanders delegates couldn't get credentialed, so the balance tipped back in favor of Clinton's delegates.

And that, per the Sanders supporters at Salon (at least), is grossly undemocratic.  Somehow.  All I know is, Charlie Pierce is right.