Thursday, January 31, 2019

Same Song, 22nd verse

He's been saying that for 2 years now; and now he's back to it.  Odd, if you think about it:

“That is all you need to know about where Trump is on the wall negotiations today,” Wallace noticed. “His meandering, at times incoherent ramblings in front of the press poll this afternoon had that same head-scratching theme to it.”

“Asked if he, the president, who presided over the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, costing an estimated $11 billion, could’ve done anything differently, here’s what he said,” she continued.

“Could we have done it differently? No, not really,” Trump argued in the Oval Office. “I think by having the shut down we’ve set the table for where we are now.”

“If I didn’t do the shutdown people wouldn’t know, they wouldn’t understand the subject,” he continued. “Now they understand the subject, they realize what a humanitarian crisis it is.”
Almost as odd as that, of this, from the same event:

A reporter asked if he spoke to the officials, which the president said he did.

“I did and they said they were totally taken out of context,” Trump said.

He added that the officials claimed reports were fake news.

The reporter interrupted to say that the officials testified before Congress and were recorded on television saying something contrary.

“Excuse me, excuse me!” an irritated Trump said. He went on to tell the reporter they were there to talk about China.

He said that the assessment by intelligence chiefs about border security doesn’t mean anything because “we need a wall.”

“But they didn’t bring it up as part of the national security assessment,” the reporter said.

“Next,” Trump said pointing to someone else. 
At least when Reagan retreated into fantasy it seemed grandfatherly and benign (when it didn't seem like Alzheimer's).  And whither the "national emergency"?  Well, that could split the GOP, according to today's reports (tomorrow's reports may well say the GOP is all for it).  But the tweet seems to indicate where the White House is today:

“His aides have to feel he did a whole lot more than set the table,” suggested Wallace, a former White House communications director. “He did damage to his poll numbers and he didn’t build any support for the wall.”

“At this point, Nicolle, White House officials tell me the president has to make a decision — the way he keeps talking about a wall is about existing fencing at the U.S.-Mexico the border,” he explained. “If Democrats offer something to bolster existing fencing can he walk away and call it a deal or not. If not we face another shut down.”
Which is probably why Nancy Pelosi said this:

As for another shutdown:  even Sen. Kennedy from Louisiana can't justify the last one, or another one.

So much winning!

"Does the silence scare you?"

rustypickup put me on to this in comments.  The opening passages, the discussion of the "paradox" of Merton the loquacious monk in an order devoted to silence, made me think of Julian of Norwich, and the idea of the anchorite.  The idea of the anchorite is a very medieval one; it didn't survive the period it arose in, unlike even the extreme disciplines of the Trappists at Gethsemani.  The anchorite "died" to the world; he (usually she, however) went through a funeral service before entering the cell she would spend her life in.  For Julian that was something of a double passage, as she suffered an illness that took her to the brink of death and provided the experience for her Shewings, an experience she meditated on for the rest of her days.  but her cell was not the hollow of a tree somewhere deep in the forest, or in an obscure spot far from human dwellings:  it was in the chapel.  The anchorite could, from her cell, participate in the celebration of the Mass, and could also receive requests from parishioners and offer spiritual counseling to them.  There was no vow of silence, but the ritual funeral was meant to impress upon her death to an old life, and resurrection into a life wholly devoted to God.  Sort of like this:

In addition to his obligations to the community, Merton would always be involved in extensive correspondence with readers. Throughout his life at Gethsemani, he received international visitors seeking his opinions and advice, and he fielded frequent requests for books and articles from New York editors and publishers.

He befriended writers, scholars and prominent religious figures from around the world with whom he would correspond, and some of them would come to Gethsemani. The Trappists, too, looked to him to write religious histories and commentary. The pressures and demands of the writing life were enough to send him dreaming of a hermitage.

The hermitage would truly be a place others would have to seek out.  The anchorite was always accessible (if not always immediately available).

Monastic life is a radical reorientation that questions the priorities valued by the world beyond its walls, but the world also challenges the monastery and is inextricable from it in many ways.

Pondering the practice of the anchorite shows us this challenge is as old as religious devotion itself.  The martyrdom of Stephen in the Acts of the Apostles questions the priorities valued by the world, but it is the world that challenges the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, forcing the gospel writers to explain how it is a beginning and not an end, forcing the church to establish doctrines explaining what it means (the idea of the atoning sacrifice wasn't settled until the 4th century, and still faces legitimate, IMHO, challenges today). The individual may challenge the world's priorities, but the world insists on an explanation that doesn't mark the individual as simply lunatic.  There has to be a paradox involved in the sacrifice, else the sacrifice is simply misguided at best, a dangerous example at worst.

Merton's words, which make me think even more of the ancient role of the anchorite:

The contemplative life is not, and cannot be, a mere withdrawal, a pure negation, a turning of one’s back on the world with its sufferings, its crises, its confusions and its errors … The monastic community is deeply implicated, for better or for worse, in the economic, political, and social structures of the contemporary world. To forget or to ignore this does not absolve the monk from responsibility for participation in events in which his very silence and ‘not knowing’ may constitute a form of complicity.
And these words as well:

  ‘The monk is essentially someone who takes up a critical attitude toward the world and its structures,’ he remarked, ‘somebody who says, in one way or another, that the claims of the world are fraudulent.’
The anchorite, beyond the practice of the monk, is dead to the world; speaks to the fraudulence of the world from beyond it.  "I am Lazarus, come back to tell you all, and I shall tell you all...."  Or perhaps that is not it at all; perhaps that is not what I meant at all.

It is so difficult to say just what I mean!  But the nature of the paradox is surely central to the life of faith, whether it is faithfulness lived in a cell, in a hermitage, or among other people of all faiths and no faiths and deep antipathy to faith.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

If you don't remember it's like it never happened

Over and over and over again....

And, of course, almost a year ago:
Because it had to go down to go back up, TWICE, to the same level on one year.  So much winning!

Be Careful What You Ask For....

The fun part of the internet is being able to quote things; it's easier than writing it yourself.  I was just browsing this Atlantic article on the idea of teaching the Bible in public schools, because it said pretty much what I'd already said, except I wish I'd said this, too:

And this only addresses issues of historicity and interpretation. The social teachings of the Bible could also create issues in a public-school setting. A recent thesis project in sociology at Baylor University suggested that increased Bible reading can actually have a liberalizing effect, increasing one’s “interest in social and economic justice, acceptance of the compatibility of religion and science, and support for the humane treatment of criminals.” Every community that reads the Bible places unequal stress on certain books or passages. While evangelicals are generally more politically conservative, teachers in public schools might choose to emphasize the Bible’s many teachings on caring for the poor, welcoming the immigrant, and the problems of material wealth.

It's the reference to sociology at Baylor (a Southern Baptist university, ironically) that really piqued my interest, because the claim is not one based on my own theological predilections.  It's also just the matter of hermeneutics, and once you stop treating scripture as sacred and claiming the only hermeneutic to be applied to it is the one your religious community approves of, all manner of uncomfortable things can happen.  I mean:  I think that's the proper interpretation of Scripture; but this study provides evidence that interpretation arises from simply reading Scripture without a narrow frame of interpretation applied to it.  Read the Scriptures as a text, and all manner of uncomfortable things might arise from it.

I prefer to call these things "truths," but we can just agree it could make you think thoughts, and not just about the historical nature of the scriptures (does Genesis describe a literal event, or a theological claim on the nature of God and of creation?), your parents might not want you to think.  Which, most parents would agree, is not what public education is for.

"Conventional wisdom," after all, as Jaroslav Pelikan point out, "is the dead faith of the living."

"I wish people wouldn't hate me

but it does give me another excuse to hate them."

I was formerly a liberal my whole life, but my views changed over time and now I’m a Republican and ardent supporter of President Trump.

I have been wearing a Make America Great Again aka MAGA hat almost everywhere I go for approximately the last year.

In person I have received only positive feedback other than a few dirty looks and under-the-breath mutters.

Social media is a whole different story. Somehow, on social media, people feel emboldened to say things they would never have the courage to say to my face and many people hide behind fake/anonymous names and photos.
It is the Democrats who are obsessed with “people of color” and gender. Republicans look at people for who they are not for their gender or skin color.
White men are the most hated and discriminated against group of people in the United States now. If you don’t believe that, you simply aren’t paying attention or looking at it objectively.
I truly would like everyone to be civil and respectful to one another, but I must admit in one way I get a kick out of the hate I get from liberals by wearing my MAGA hat – it shows either they misunderstand or they’re just closed-minded, hateful and intolerant.

And they said irony was dead.

I am not saying Franklin Graham is a Monkey

In an interview on MSNBC, host Craig Melvin pointed out to Graham that The Washington Post counted 8,158 false or misleading claims made by the president during his first two years in office.

“Well, I don’t know how to reconcile that, because I don’t know,” Graham replied. “You have a fact checker for the president but I don’t know if you have a fact checker for the media at the same time.”

“Pastor Graham, you and I both know this president has said things over and over that aren’t true,” the MSNBC host pressed.

“No, I don’t know that,” Graham insisted. “I don’t sit around and try to find every fault in the president every day, looking for everything that he might have misspoken or mis-said. I don’t do that.”

“But you can acknowledge that the president has said things that aren’t true,” Melvin asked.

“I don’t think the president is sitting there behind the desk trying to make up lies,” Graham said. “I don’t believe that for a second. Has he misspoken on something? Sure, all of us do that, you do it, I do it.

“So I think the president is trying to do the best that he can under very difficult circumstances,” the pastor added. “But no one person can fix this, it’s too complex. We need god. As a nation, we’ve turned our back on god.”

But you can draw your own conclusions.  I am, however, old enough to recognize this monkey statue; and to remember when lies were not considered a Christian virtue, or even a necessity, and willfully ignoring lies was not considered a Christian value.

But then, I'm an old man....

Come Together

Apparently the Schultz platform:

Starbucks is “the only company in America that gave comprehensive health insurance, equity in the form of stock options, and free college tuition,” Schultz continued. “Elizabeth Warren wants to criticize me for being successful? No. It’s wrong.”

Is that we all have to work for Starbucks.

What was their first clue?

"A man hears what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest."--Paul Simon

And, of course, the source of all REAL information:

Just Another Figure of Speech In The Metaphor

If you look at The Daily Beast, GOP Senators are ready for Trump to declare a "national emergency" over his wall.

However, according to WaPo (via Raw Story; paywalls suck), McConnell sez:

“I’m for whatever works, which means avoiding a shutdown and avoiding the president feeling he should declare a national emergency.” 

Now the logical question is:  which is it?  And the answer is:  both and a little bit of neither.

According to DB, GOP Senators don't love the idea of a national emergency, but they'll take it if that's what it takes to end this nonsense without them being in the position of overriding a Trump veto (that part is implied, never stated).  The presumption is this would be Pelosi's flowers on the border (a lovely image):  Trump declares victory, and the government goes on its merry way, having finally left this stinking turd of an issue on the roadside behind it.  (Trump has been bragging for two years that his wall is being built, so he'd just declare that we've always been at war with Eurasia and move on.)

Except, of course, the courts are likely to ball that up in short order; which is fine, because who really cares if Trump gets his wall or not?  This whole fight isn't about the wall, anyway, but about governance.  The Democrats stated plainly and to anyone who would listen that they couldn't give in to Trump's idiotic (and baseless and unfounded) demand to "Build a Wall and Crime will Fall!"  In that, they were right.  Now comes Lindsay Graham saying the issue should be tied to the debt ceiling, because that'll put the fear of God into the Democrats and make 'em give Trump his wall; but that raises the same objection, for the same sound reasons.  That idea, too, is getting some support among Senate Republicans; anything but voting against Trump, apparently.

So do the Senate Republicans really care about this damned wall?  No.  Does it matter if the wall is ever real, ever concrete or steel slats or even just flowers?  No.  The wall is irrelevant and immaterial; all that matters is Trump declare himself "Winner!" and Anne Coulter and FoxNews not point out to him how naked an Emperor he is, again.  And then this whole road apple can be nothing but a memory in the rear view mirror.  Would that mean the wall is being built, contracts being let, land being appropriated, immigrants and asylum seekers and drug mules facing finally the impenetrable barrier keeping their brownness from our white country?

Who cares?  (And:  no, anyway).  So the wall is not now, and never will be in the future, a wall.

It's just a metaphor.  And metaphors are better left to literature; messy bastards when they get loose in real life.  Helluva way to govern, too.  A complete clusterfuck in its own right.  The system is not saving us; so what will?

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Remember When.....?

After flagging tens of thousands of registered voters for citizenship reviews, the Texas secretary of state’s office is now telling counties that some of those voters don’t belong on the lists it sent out.

Officials in five large counties — Harris, Travis, Fort Bend, Collin and Williamson — told The Texas Tribune they had received calls Tuesday from the secretary of state’s office indicating that some of the voters whose citizenship status the state said counties should consider checking should not actually be on those lists.
The burden here is still on the counties; the Texas SOS can't tell them what to do, no more can the Texas AG; but the big counties can look into it carefully, and it's clear they will:

In Harris County, which encompasses Houston, the Texas secretary of state’s office initially flagged 29,822 names as potential noncitizens on the rolls. But Douglas Ray, a county attorney, said state officials told them those names included people who initially got a driver’s license as noncitizens and then registered to vote at the DMV after becoming naturalized. State officials had validated the citizenship of those people, Ray said, and they were erroneously included on the list.

Ray could not provide an exact number but said county officials believed a “substantial number” of the people flagged by the secretary of state’s office met those criteria. 
What we have here, as the fella said in "Cool Hand Luke," is a failure to communicate:

It’s unclear at this point how many counties have received these calls. County officials said Tuesday they had not received anything in writing about the mistake. It's also unclear how many people will be removed from the original list of approximately 95,000 individuals flagged by the state. The secretary of state's office did not respond to questions Tuesday about how much this would reduce the initial count.
Better known as a clusterfuck.

Smaller counties, unfortunately, aren't waiting around:

Most of the counties with the most registered voters in the state said they were holding off on sending “proof of citizenship” letters to the voters who were flagged. Just Galveston County officials said they were dropping some letters in the mail Monday, starting a 30-day countdown for voters to provide proof of citizenship such as a birth certificate, a U.S. passport or a certificate of naturalization. Voters who don't respond will have their voter registration canceled.

Galveston County officials did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday. 
And for those who think this is all about fraud and the destruction of our democratic way of life:

His office hadn’t determined how many voters would be removed from the list of flagged voters, but he noted officials had found two noncitizens on the rolls. In both of those cases, the individuals had indicated they were not citizens on their voter registration applications but were mistakenly added to the voter rolls, Oldham said.

“That happens,” Oldham said. 
No doubt, no doubt.  And that's why we have courts, and lawsuits:

In a lawsuit filed in federal court in San Antonio, lawyers for the League of United Latin American Citizens' national and Texas arms alleged that Texas Secretary of State David Whitley and Attorney General Ken Paxton violated a portion of the federal Voting Rights Act that prohibits the intimidation of voters.

They point to an advisory issued Friday in which Whitley’s office said it was flagging individuals who had provided the Texas Department of Public Safety with some form of documentation — including a work visa or a green card — that showed they were not citizens when they were obtaining driver’s licenses or ID cards. The state put the number of registered voters who fell into that category at approximately 95,000 — 58,000 of whom had voted in one or more elections from 1996 to 2018.

In its announcement, the secretary of state’s office said it had immediately turned over the data to Paxton’s office. On the same day, Paxton posted the news on Twitter prefaced with “VOTER FRAUD ALERT,” the lawyers noted in the lawsuit.

“These two Texas officials have carefully crafted and orchestrated a program that combines an election advisory ostensibly directed at ensuring that all those registered to vote in the May election are citizens eligible to vote with the use of data that is suspect on its face and a blackout on public access to the data,” LULAC’s lawyers wrote in the complaint.

The secretary of state's office declined to comment, referring a question to the attorney general's office.

The same AG who started this turkey walk.  Heh.  I'd say again that Paxton is a clown; but I say again, it's a representative government.  Because the voter registrar of Travis County is right:

“These allegations of widespread voter fraud are premature and irresponsible. I certainly stand by that statement,” he said. “The story has changed significantly, and we haven’t even started to investigate yet. We don’t know where this is going to end up. It could be we have a serious issue in Texas and maybe we don’t. But statements like that only serve to undermine the integrity of our elections.”

It's bad enough when the Russians are doing it to us; but when we do it to ourselves....

You get what you vote for.

Reading Law

Something there is that does not....

The problem with reading statutes is that what the statutes words say is not necessarily what the courts think those words say; or instantiate, to be a bit clearer.  We think of statutes as imprecatory and even as imperative:  the statute says it, and it is so.  But what the statute says is determined by the court, sometimes by the case before the court.  So, could Trump use the National Emergencies Act to build a border wall?

Probably not.  Elizabeth Goitein makes an interesting, but wholly non-legal, argument that Trump has dithered for so long he cannot now claim an "emergency" exists which Congress doesn't have time to act on and so Trump must.  Sounds interesting, but at no point does she ever cite a case where the courts have defined what an "emergency" is within the scope of the National Emergencies Act.  I think her thesis is fundamentally sound:

Trump no doubt thinks he looks more reasonable if he gives Congress plenty of time to act before declaring an emergency. He might also think that Congress’s repeated failure to provide funds shows the need for emergency action. The truth is the exact opposite. By giving Congress time to definitively establish its unwillingness to fund the border wall, Trump is both taking away any legitimate justification for emergency action and proving his intent to subvert the constitutional balance of powers.

But, to put the matter bluntly, that's a common sense argument, not a legal argument (and there's a reason legal arguments don't always track with common wisdom, but I can't belabor it now).  The court needs a bit more than "it's been too long" to go on.  I think the case is clear that Congress has chosen not to act on the President's demand, and he can't simply declare an emergency in order to get his way.  But will the courts agree?  No one can say; aside from the Youngstown case, I've yet to read an analysis that cites any relevant case law, especially cases directly regarding the National Emergencies Act (which post-dates Youngstown by a few decades).

But the National Emergencies Act is not itself a blanket dispensation of authority.  As Goitein points out:

The only powers the president can access during a national emergency are those Congress has granted. However potent some of these powers might be, the source of the president’s authority in all cases remains a legislative delegation—one that is granted in advance because true emergencies require immediate action. A president using emergency powers to thwart Congress’s will, in a situation where Congress has had ample time to express it, is like a doctor relying on an advance directive to deny life-saving treatment to a patient who is conscious and clearly asking to be saved.

Again, lovely analysis, but not really a keen legal argument.  Still, the point in the first sentence is sound:  the President only has the emergency powers the Congress grants; the President cannot grant himself the power to suspend Art. I, or Amendment 5, for that matter.  And the National Emergencies Act explicitly recognizes this, because there are laws the President cannot suspend under the terms of the Act:

(a) The provisions of this chapter shall not apply to the following provisions of law, the powers and authorities conferred thereby, and actions taken thereunder:
(1) Chapters 1 to 11 of title 40 and division C (except sections 3302, 3307(e), 3501(b), 3509, 3906, 4710, and 4711) of subtitle I of title 41;
(2) Section 3727(a)–(e)(1) of title 31;
(3) Section 6305 of title 41;
(4) Public Law 85–804 (Act of Aug. 28, 1958, 72 Stat. 972; 50 U.S.C. 1431 et seq.);
(5) Section 2304(a)(1) [1] of title 10; [2]

This is the pertinent part of the text of one of those provisions (50 USC 1431, to be exact):

The President may authorize any department or agency of the Government which exercises functions in connection with the national defense, acting in accordance with regulations prescribed by the President for the protection of the Government, to enter into contracts or into amendments or modifications of contracts heretofore or hereafter made and to make advance payments thereon, without regard to other provisions of law relating to the making, performance, amendment, or modification of contracts, whenever he deems that such action would facilitate the national defense. The authority conferred by this section shall not be utilized to obligate the United States in an amount in excess of $50,000 without approval by an official at or above the level of an Assistant Secretary or his Deputy, or an assistant head or his deputy, of such department or agency, or by a Contract Adjustment Board established therein. The authority conferred by this section may not be utilized to obligate the United States in any amount in excess of $25,000,000 unless the Committees on Armed Services of the Senate and the House of Representatives have been notified in writing of such proposed obligation and 60 days of continuous session of Congress have expired following the date on which such notice was transmitted to such Committees. For purposes of this section, the continuity of a session of Congress is broken only by an adjournment of the Congress sine die at the end of a Congress, and the days on which either House is not in session because of an adjournment of more than 3 days to a day certain, or because of an adjournment sine die other than at the end of a Congress, are excluded in the computation of such 60-day period. 

Sorry for the legalese, but the upshot is:  the President will have to declare the border wall to be a matter of national defense (is Mexico invading us?  Still, I can see the court declining to define that phrase narrowly); and cannot authorize contracts in excess of $25 million without notice to Congress and then the contracts (the language says "obligate" the US, not sign a single contract for that amount) and wait 60 days after that.  This is not a measure meant to be used only for emergencies, but neither can it be suspended on the declaration of an emergency.  And here is where the legal reasoning comes in.

A viable legal argument could be based on this provision of law, and the above provision of the National Emergencies Act, indicating there is no emergency because the wall itself is not a military necessity, and the President cannot enter into a contract to build it on an emergency basis.  If he has to wait 60 days (at least), he can't claim construction is needed immediately, because he can't start construction immediately (as a matter of law; he can't start construction immediately as a matter of fact, either, but the courts will probably be more comfortable with what the law does, or does not, allow).  If construction can't start the day of the declaration of emergency, and if Art. I establishes that Congress decides how to spend the money, then even if Trump says it must be done instanter, it can't be, as a matter of law; and so there is no legal reason to recognize a declaration of emergency under the circumstances, because the declaration would be seeking the power to enter into contracts post-haste, and that's a power explicitly excluded from the National Emergencies Act.  Which means the President can't use the Act to declare an emergency to get his wall built, or even started, or even planned (it has to be planned, first, though Trump talks as if his words will cause the wall to spring forth in a "Fiat Lux" manner), because he can't use the Act to bypass the authority Congress has already granted to enter into contracts on behalf of the federal government.  His declaration is, under the law, a nullity.

Off the top of my head that's an interesting legal argument, anyway.  Moving away from legalisms a moment, the situation of a government shutdown (or the debt ceiling, an issue added to the mix by the Senator from South Carolina) raises another question: if the government can't spend money (or borrow money) Congress hasn't authorized (hence a shutdown or a debt crisis, respectively), on what Constitutional theory can the President do so?

Just wondering....

I'm Old Enough remember when then-Mayor Bloomberg was the great white hope of the Democratic party.

Ah, dem was de days!

Monday, January 28, 2019

Heart In The Deep Of

Ken Paxton, Texas AG, is a political hack.  He's also still awaiting trial on felony charges, which is not a good look for the chief law enforcement officer of the state; but he got re-elected anyway.  So it goes.  But on the subject of these 58,000 "illegal votes," some clarity is required.

First, the Texas SOS (Secretary of State) used DPS (Department of Public Safety, basically Texas Highway Patrol) data "in connection with a motor vehicle record," meaning vehicle registration and/or a driver's license (DPS keeps all such records).  Is this data conclusive proof of non-citizenship status?  No; even the SOS admits that:

All records submitted through this process will need to be treated as WEAK [sic] matches, meaning that the county may choose to investigate the voter, pursuant to Section 16.033, Election Code, or take no action on the voter record if the voter registrar determines that there is no reason to believe the voter is ineligible.
When the POTUS capitalizes a word in a tweet, we all understand he means to emphasize it.  So where does the 58,000 number come from?

In an advisory released Friday afternoon, the office said it was flagging individuals who had provided the Texas Department of Public Safety with some form of documentation — including a work visa or a green card — that showed they were not a citizen when they were obtaining a driver’s license or an ID card. Among the individuals flagged, about 58,000 individuals cast a ballot in one or more elections from 1996 to 2018, the secretary of state's office said.

And what, aside from allowing grandstanding by Paxton (and Trump), does this mean?

That means counties may now choose to investigate the eligibility of the individuals who were flagged, which would require them to send a notice asking for proof of citizenship within 30 days, or take no action. By law, the counties aren't allowed to automatically revoke a voter's registration without sending out such a notice.

It's possible that individuals flagged by the state — who provided DPS with documentation that indicated they were authorized to be in the country — could have become naturalized citizens since they obtained their driver's license or ID card. A spokesman for the secretary of state said officials are "very confident" that the data received from DPS is "current."
I just looked at my Texas driver's license.  It was issued (re-issued) in 2017; it expires in 2023.  If I were not a citizen by birth, but had my application for naturalization in process in 2017, and it had come through by now, how "current" would DPS records be?  Citizenship doesn't affect my driver's license, I don't think I'd have a need to renew it or notify DPS of my changed status until 2023; so how "current" is DPS information?

That's why counties have to investigate these records themselves.  (Yes, power in Texas does devolve to the lowest level of government possible, usually the counties.  Yes, Texas does have a post-Reconstruction Constitution which really needs to be modernized.  Then again, a new Constitution might give Greg Abbott powers he can only dream of now.  Maybe best to leave well-enough alone.)  That's also one more reason this information isn't all that up to date.  The on-line form to renew a Texas DL does list "You are a U.S. Citizen" as a requirement for renewal, but the only information you have to supply is your current license number, a credit card, and your social security number.  It's safe to assume DPS checks your application against a federal database for citizenship information, but that doesn't mention anything about renewing your license because you have been naturalized during the term of your existing license.

Besides, the GOP has been consistently winning elections from 1996 to 2018 in Texas.  Does this mean 22 years of elections are suspect, and the GOP has won based on illegal votes?  Inquiring minds want to know.....

This might be more consequential than the border wall fiasco

Pass the schadenfreude.

Wait, what?

How did I miss this?

First, this is in-line with the President's tweet about the "cost" of immigration in the U.S., or his rage about women 'gagged with duct tape' and smuggled across the border.  I don't give his "facts" much credence.

Second, I'm not opposed to this, as long as "Biblical literacy" doesn't mean "indoctrination into specific Christian doctrines.  I've found it rather difficult to teach literature to students who've never heard of Noah, Moses, Abraham, or Jonah, students who don't know who Lazarus is ("To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,/Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”.  It ain't all just to understand Milton, is all I'm sayin'....).  I've even taught the Bible as literature, albeit in college courses; and I think it's a worthwhile endeavor, if only because of the importance of Christian scriptures in Western culture.

So if that's what "Biblical literacy" means, I'm all for it.  However, I doubt that's what it means.  To find out, I turned to Politico (sue me, I'm lazy; besides, you're not paying for this....):

A handful of states are making pushes to introduce elective courses in schools that lawmakers say would teach the Bible in terms of its historical context, and though none have passed, critics have pointed out that such bills could blur the constitutional line separating church and state.

USA Today reported that “Bible literacy” bills of some sort have been introduced in six state legislatures across the country that “would require or encourage public schools to offer elective classes on the Bible’s literary and historical significance.” And one state, Kentucky, recently passed a law creating a framework for such classes.
As I say, I've taught the Bible as literature in a public college, so there isn't necessarily a 1st Amendment issue here.  There could have been, if I'd tried to teach the Bible as sacred text, but I didn't.  Teaching the Bible in terms of its own historical context would be quite beyond the capacity of most high school English teachers (no offense), and certainly beyond the carrying capacity of most high school students and their parents (the church/state barrier wouldn't have to come up, or it would as they fought to protect their religious interests from state intrusion).  Teaching its literary and historical significance is not a bad idea, but too easily that turns into how Moses taught the U.S. the basis of law (there's a more direct connection to the Iroquois, when it comes to the form of our federal government, and to English common law, when it comes to our laws.  Moses is about as important as the Code of Hammurabi, and frankly Noah should be taught alongside The Epic of Gilgamesh, though again, that's probably more suited to a college level course.).  Teaching the Bible as a literary object (well, portions of it; the stories like Moses on Sinai, Abraham on Moriah, Jonah and the Whale, would obviate teaching Ecclesiastes or the Prophets or the Letter to the Romans), is not in itself a violation of the 1st Amendment.  But not teaching the Bible as sacred text would certainly violate the religious beliefs of many parents, not all of them evangelicals and fundamentalists.

Back to where we started:  is this tweet accurate?  Not really; as Politico notes, it follows from a story on Fox & Friends, and what's happening is that such classes are being proposed as electives in some states; but apparently, no such classes have been authorized by law.  I'd just speculate that in Texas, second most populous state in the country, there won't be any big push for this.  The GOP here realizes they are one election away from being voted out of office (did I mention the long-time incumbent state representative for my district won re-election by only 47 votes against a guy no one had ever heard of, whose campaign consisted primarily of visiting every house in the district?  He came to my house twice.).  Controversy like this is not something they want to court.  And if Texas isn't buying the textbook for this, who's publishing it?

(and there's this):

Maps explain many things.

Does History Even Rhyme?

 The redoubtable Digby:
On Sunday, we got confirmation that yet another multibillionaire is seriously considering a run: Howard Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks.

I will confess:  I'm a fairly "plugged in" person when it comes to national politics, and yet when I heard someone called "Howard Schultz" was thinking of running for President, and was considered a "spoiler" by Democrats, I thought of Lyndon Larouche.  This is, I thought this Schultz character must be some perennial candidate like Larouche whom I'd simply never heard of.  I finally had to Google the guy.

And my first thought is:  who is he kidding?

Am I the only one old enough to remember who much work it took for Ross Perot to get on the ballot in all 50 states, and he never did do it?  (Am I the only one old enough to remember Ross Perot running in 1988?)  Schultz has even less credibility than Michael Bloomberg, who had at least held public office; and he is another "business man" who wants government like a business?

Like shutting down government as a legislative tool, haven't we learned the lesson on running government like a business, yet?  Besides, as I say, who is Howard Schultz?  The guy who ran Starbucks?  I think Elon Musk has more name recognition, and on that alone a better chance of running for President and actually taking some votes.  There's a reason Bernie Sanders suddenly decided he was a Democrat, and it's for precisely the same reason Ross Perot couldn't get his name on all the ballots in all 50 states.  There's also a reason no one is demanding another white billionaire who retired early save us from our political nightmare.

I know this has tout le internet abuzz with why Schultz shouldn't do this, but I'm honestly left thinking:  "Can he do it?"  As Magic 8 ball used to say, "Outlook not so good."

The Greatest Generalization

So here's what Grandpa said after getting up too early on Sunday morning:

“I would just say that we also need to adjust what we think of as America,” Alcindor said. “You’re talking about assimilation. I grew up in Miami, where people speak Spanish, but their kids speak English. And the idea that we think Americans can only speak English, as if Spanish and other languages wasn’t always part of America, is, in some ways, troubling.”

And here's how he tried to apologize for it:

So:  Yamaha?  Or Bang and Olufsen?  Or maybe something in English?
As long as we're all speaking English?
We'd have also accepted "I blame the intern."
You just meant to be sure we know who to blame?
That speaks English?

Yes, like Trump, you won.  And, like Trump, at no time did you actually acknowledge you were completely wrong, even though you were.

Pass the Popcorn

And TSA agents and air traffic controllers may find they aren't feeling all that well on February 16, and need to stay home for awhile.

What's that adage about the second kick from the mule?  Maybe Trump is uneducable.  As for the national emergency, Marco Rubio got that one right:

I don't think it's a good idea. I think it'll be a terrible idea. I hope he doesn't do it. I don't think it's leverage --


But would you fight him on it?


-- either. Sure. Because I think that it's important. Look, I don't think we'll have to fight because I'm not sure they'll end up doing that. I know it's an option they've looked at. But now you're at the mercy of a district court somewhere and ultimately an appellate court. So it really may not even withstand if you look at some of the other rulings we've seen. The other is the precedent that it sets. And it's just not a good precedent to set in terms of action. It doesn't mean that I don't want border security. I do. I just think that's the wrong way to achieve it. It doesn't provide certainty. And you could very well wind up in sort of a theatric victory at the front end and then not getting it done. I think the best way to do it is to have a law passed that funds border security so we know it's going to happen.

A district court is sure to follow Youngstown, and the appellate court might agree.  The Supremes will not fast-track it for a final decision, but by the time the Supremes have ruled on it (if they do),  Congress will have taken its balls out of hock and decided to act as a co-equal branch of government.  Even "Little Marco" is making those noises, and Roy Blount almost agrees with him.

During the shutdown Sen. Ron Johnson reportedly yelled at McConnell about the pressure Johnson was under.  By the next shutdown Senators will probably figure out the keys to their jail cell are not held by Donald Trump or Mitch McConnell, but by them, and that whatever Trump does, they will be responsible for it in 2020.  It will only take a few to decide there is no education in the second kick of that mule, and there isn't much support now for government shutdown as a legislative tool (the last persons to try it were Ted Cruz and Ron Paul, respectively; and how powerful are they now, hmmm?).

So those TSA workers and air traffic controllers may not have to get sick after all.


Meanwhile, sort of behind the scenes:

The trend is moving away from Mulvaney's tough talk.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Old Man Shouts Like a Racist

So Tom Brokaw just told the MTP panel that Spanish speaking residents of America won't "assimilate" ("Resistance Is Futile") because they won't learn English. It was so bad Yamiche Alcindor pushed back on it, and Chuck Todd joined her.  (When the transcript or episode goes up, I'll link to it and amend.)  UPDATE:  okay, here it is, though Brokaw's comments are at the very end of the show.

Time for Grandpa to join the rest of "The Greatest Generation" and leave the stage.

And apparently...

...they're voting GOP, so is the remedy to undo recent elections?

Ariel Poems: Epiphany 2018

Quis hic locus, quae regio, quae mundi plaga?

What seas what shores what grey rocks and what islands
What water lapping the bow
And scent of pine and the woodthrush singing through the fog
What images return
O my daughter.

Those who sharpen the tooth of the dog, meaning
Those who glitter with the glory of the hummingbird, meaning
Those who sit in the sty of contentment, meaning
Those who suffer the ecstasy of the animals, meaning

Are become insubstantial, reduced by a wind,
A breath of pine, and the woodsong fog
By this grace dissolved in place

What is this face, less clear and clearer
The pulse in the arm, less strong and stronger—
Given or lent? more distant than stars and nearer than the eye
Whispers and small laughter between leaves and hurrying feet
Under sleep, where all the waters meet.

Bowsprit cracked with ice and paint cracked with heat.
I made this, I have forgotten
And remember.
The rigging weak and the canvas rotten
Between one June and another September.
Made this unknowing, half conscious, unknown, my own.
The garboard strake leaks, the seams need caulking.
This form, this face, this life
Living to live in a world of time beyond me; let me
Resign my life for this life, my speech for that unspoken,
The awakened, lips parted, the hope, the new ships.

What seas what shores what granite islands towards my timbers
And woodthrush calling through the fog
My daughter.

--T.S. Eliot

Friday, January 25, 2019

Flowers on the border

John Cornyn is no. 2 in the Senate. He represents Texas, second most populous state in the union, and a bastion (still?)of Trump supporters. Cornyn put a knife in the suggestion that Trump could declare a national emergency, and Trump backed away from the idea.  Despite what he said repeatedly today, he won't return to it soon.

Trump has two modes: belligerent bellower, and coward. Remember when Trump discovered his pardon power, and threatened to use it to undo whatever Mueller might do? Trump pardoned Arpaio of a criminal contempt charge, and Dinesh D'Souza of a criminal charge most people didn't know he had served. Very low risk, in other words, and pleasing to his small base, but no more.  He hasn't pardoned anyone since. Roger Stone would do well to remember that.

Remember when Trump thundered that there were red lines Mueller dare not cross? Does anyone still think Trump is going to fire Mueller? Does anyone think he's going to pardon those Mueller has convicted?

Trump's entire reputation is built in lies. He tells us he know the "art of the deal, " and despite two years of proof he knows nothing about negotiations, the myth prevails and we expect Trump to prove his strategy. But all he has is lies, and we shouldn't be fooled by them anymore.  He won't do anything that leaves him with responsibility. He never has before, he won't start now. All he has done since capitulating on the shutdown is to deny he did it, so he can't be blamed for it.

Trump knows declaring a national emergency would cost him in the Senate, and probably in the House, too.  He has no idea how to work with Congress, but he has learned he is not a king. Bluster about circumventing Congress is just a desperate jab at saving face.  Even Ann Coulter can't force him into it, because there would be immediate consequences and no one else to blame for it. He can still blame the shutdown on Democrats; he alone would be responsible for creating a true Constitutional crisis that would cost him dearly and, once again, gain him nothing.

Even Trump is not dumb enough to welcome the second kick from the mule.

And why did Trump fold?

"Yesterday all the past"

Today, he knows where LaGuardia airport is.

This is still a stupid and completely unnecessary way to run a government.  Especially if we're all back here in 3 weeks.

Final nail in the coffin

"I'll do it! Don't think I won't do it!"

Which is how you know he won't do it.  "Stop, or I'll shoot!" "Shoot, and I will stop!"

He didn't pull the trigger the first time. He never will. 

That silence

Is the sound of Trump's presidency pushing up the daisies.

He didn't try to negotiate, doesn't know how to negotiate, hasn't even the first clue how government operates.  He doesn't understand how facts support an argument for a government expenditure, he thinks it simply works by commands.  He doesn't even understand investigating a proposal in order to know why it is needed or how it will work. He only knows:  "Build wall, crime fall."  That is not a government policy, it's not even a statement of reality.

Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats just taught Trump how government works, and that he is surplus to needs.

While waiting for word on the shutdown...

and:  Look!  Over there!  Reporters!
But this has nothing to do with the White House, right, Mr. President?

(And no, Dershowitz's argument doesn't make sense to me.  A criminal indictment rests on facts.  Obstruction of justice and witness tampering rests on the larger narrative, not just the specific facts of the alleged crime.  The distinction between facts and "narrative" and criminality is a completely false one.  This indictment doesn't prove a conspiracy beyond what is charged against Stone; but it doesn't stand apart from any conspiracy charges, either.)

Context is all.


Keep reminding yourself this is the POTUS, not some guy at the end of the bar, or sitting on the couch at Fox & Friends.  Or Alan Dershowitz, for that matter.

Thursday, January 24, 2019


That whole business of "Let's Make A Deal!" still sounds like the last time Trump was in the room with Pelosi:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and a bipartisan group of senators talked up a new potential agreement to fund the government for a few weeks so they could negotiate around the wall and other immigration measures. Graham said he talked to Trump, who didn’t rule out the measure. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) huddled in McConnell’s office to try and break the logjam. Schumer was tight-lipped as he exited the meeting with McConnell, repeating “we’re talking” with a smile roughly a dozen times as he walked back to his own office. And for the first time in weeks, it seemed like some progress was being made.

Then the White House chimed in.

“As was made clear to Senator Lindsay Graham, the 3 week CR [continuing resolution] would only work if there is a large down payment on the wall,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement as McConnell and Schumer met.

That was met with an icy stare from Democrats.

Sen. Angus King (I-ME), a moderate who caucuses with Democrats, talked up the new potential compromise to reporters after exiting the Senate floor Thursday afternoon. A reporter then read him Sanders’ statement.

“That presupposes the outcome of the discussions. The down payment for me is my expression of good faith, entering into this in a good-faith way,” King said, accusing Trump of “short-circuiting the process” once again.

“I wish the President would quit thinking of the shutdown as a weapon. He’s basically saying ‘give me what I want,’ or in this case ‘give me a part of what I want, or I’ll shut the government down.’ That’s what we’re trying to get away from here,” King continued. “I don’t like rewarding shutdown politics.”

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), another dealmaker, was even more frustrated by the White House’s latest stance.

“So we hold people’s wages hostage for a large down payment on a wall that the majority of Americans don’t believe is the most effective thing? So then what does he hold their wages hostage for next?” she asked incredulously. “How many times will he continue to hold federal employees’ wages hostage if he is able to feel that this is a successful strategy? It’s just plain wrong. He’s got to stop it.”

And yeah, the "national emergency" is still out there:

“The massive amount of aliens who unlawfully enter the United States each day is a direct threat to the safety and security of our nation and constitutes a national emergency,” a draft of a presidential proclamation said according to CNN.

In addition the draft says, “Now, therefore, I, Donald J. Trump, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C 1601, et seq.), hereby declare that a national emergency exists at the southern border of the United States.”

The presidential proclamation is also seeking more than $7 billion to fund Trump’s wall at the US-Mexico border.

That would prompt the real "Constitutional crisis," putting the problems of the shutdown (which it wouldn't necessarily end) in the shade.  Because what we need now is a new challenge to the separation of powers powers, with the third leg of the triad required once again limit the overreach of the first.

I especially like the touch of declaring an emergency and asking for still more money. Because that's the way you make deals: keep increasing your demands.

Yeah, this is all about the Democrats not trying hard enough.

The Chronicle Trudges On

There are 53 Republicans in the Senate, 45 Democrats, and 2 Independents.  Trump lost 3 votes, with no evidence any Democratic Senator is "breaking" (if one did, then so did 1 Republican).

As FoxNews (!) reported:

Doocy showed video of Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) saying that the one good thing the vote did is show the president that his idea is not a popular one, even among his own party.

Well, it would have; except you can't fix stupid.

I do wonder about the color of the sky on Trump's world.

A Chronicle of Our Times, Sort of

We begin the day with Wilber Ross, millionaire and Secretary of Commerce, commenting on the unemployed federal employees going to food pantries for food:

Well, I know they are, and I don’t really quite understand why,” he said. “[T]he obligations that they would undertake—say borrowing from a bank or a credit union—are in effect federally guaranteed, so the 30 days of pay that some people will be out is no real reason why they shouldn’t be able to get a loan against it.”

And why shouldn't that happen?

“[T]he idea that it’s paycheck or zero is not a really valid idea,” he said.

I'm only surprised he didn't say "Don't they have credit cards?"  Then again, he probably doesn't use one.

It got worse with Larry Kudlow, White House economic advisor:

And you know what else, with respect to people who do have financial hardships as some were asking, they are coming to work and giving the same 24/7 work they always did. And I will say to you, whatever semantic game you think you’re going to play with me—and I’m usually an easy going guy–give them credit, OK? They honor us. They honor us by their service, I don’t care whether you’re Republican or Democrat, I mean that sincerely. They honor us. Democrats have shut government down, it’s a—you know what I’m saying. They honor us. And they do it because of their love for the country and the office of the presidency and presumably their allegiance to President Trump, but whatever, they’re doing it. … You know, there’s a lot of wonderful people in this country. … I’ve become a great fan of the millenials. Thank you.

I'm sure none of those furloughed employees are thinking they either show up as 'essential employees' or they show up on the unemployment line.

Sec. Ross' comment prompted a response from Speaker Pelosi:

NANCY PELOSI: They have Wilbur Ross saying he doesn't understand why, when he was asked about people going to food lines and pantries and the rest, he says he doesn't understand why they have to do that. I don't know if it's a "let them eat cake" kind of attitude, or "call your father for money," or this is character building for you, it is all going to end well. Just as long as you don't get your paychecks. I don't quite understand why, as hundreds of thousands of men and women are about to miss a second paycheck tomorrow.
Which, in a normal Administration, would have at least meant the President would stay out of this no-win situation.  We do not, of course, have a normal Administration:

“That’s what happens at a time like this, they know the people, they’ve been working with them for years, and they work along. The grocery stores work along,” Trump claimed.
I've been going to the same shipping store to ship out Xmas presents for years now, so much so that some of the employees there know who I am.  I still get a discount at the bookstore I used to work for, if some of the old employees are there and recognize me (I don't ask for it, so I don't always get it).  I've been shopping at the same grocery store for so long I recognize some of the regular employees there.  But I've never "worked with them" to pay for my groceries, and they wouldn't know me from Adam if I suddenly had to go without a paycheck for a month.  Although I did get that nice e-mail (above) from a chocolate company in Pennsylvania (they have a store in D.C.) I sometimes order from.

It's a lovely thing to do; but it's also a single piece of candy.  I doubt this is what Trump imagines, but it's a bit above and beyond for any company.  Which nicely puts Trump's clueless comment in perspective.

And Marie Antoinette wants to know when she can get her reputation cleared by the living replacements.

Shutdown Follies

It is the President who doesn't understand why.  The quote from Pelosi needs to be put into context:

Pelosi was speaking of Ross's remarks, not of Trump's continued demand for a border wall.  In related news:

During an interview on NPR’s Morning Edition, host Steve Inskeep noted that the Air Traffic Controllers Association has expressed concern about how the government shutdown is impacting airplane safety.

“If a plane crashes and people are killed because of this shutdown, is the wall worth that?” Inskeep wondered.

Schlapp, however, deflected the question.

“What the president wants to do is have the Democrats come to the table,” Schlapp said.

“The president is the one who is making the demand,” Inskeep interrupted. “Is the wall worth people getting killed?”

“The Democrats’ demand is not going to work,” Schlapp replied, ignoring the query. “They don’t even want to have a discussion with the to come to a compromise. So we want to open the government, we want the Democrats to come to the table.”

Inskeep pressed: “If the shutdown leads to a terror attack that gets Americans killed is the wall worth that?”

“Yes or no?” the NPR host demanded to know.

“Again, I’m going to say that the Democrats need to come to the table,” Schlapp repeated. “We are ready to open the government.”

“Why are you uncomfortable answering yes or no to that question?” Inskeep asked.

“I — I think at the end of the day,” Schlapp stuttered, “not any American thinks that, you know, we want to [create] any safety concerns. And that is why the president wants to open up the government, secure our border, have the Democrats come to the table.”

And as if on cue (or Pelosi listens to NPR):

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday she was ready to meet with President Donald Trump in person any time to discuss an end to the ongoing partial government shutdown.

If Democrats come to the table, will Trump slap it again and walk out of the room, again? Because that worked so well before.....