Saturday, March 06, 2021

FREEEEEEDUUUUUMB!

I’m guessing most of the people calling and posting and e-mailing are not patrons.  Also, that they just saw “Mexican” and went “ICE!”  Yeah, I know, “kitchen staff.”  But I’ve lived in Houston long enough to know the restaurants are run by a dizzying variety of nations/cultures making excellent food not at all connected to suppositions about their culture and cuisine.  People stupid enough to threaten a restaurant they can just decline to patronize are people stupid enough to see “Mexican” and decide the whole place is run by undocumented mestizos.

So On March 4 Absolutely Nothing Happened

And no one seems to want to say why. The reason is obvious.

 Trump didn’t tell all his supporters to be there, and he didn’t hold a rally and tell them to “STOP THE STEAL!”

I just thought that should be pointed out.

Don’t Do The Crime If You Can’t Do The Time

Part I Part II. 

And another entry in the continuing series "They Don't Catch The Smart Ones":

Friday, March 05, 2021

Meanwhile, Back Among The People

This is not the "win-win" Gov. Absent was looking forward to. 

This is the statement from the Harris County "executive" (highest public office in county government) regarding Absent's abdication of duty decision: 

We are Texans, and the concept of freedom is an essential piece of our identity. We all want the freedom to go out to eat and to socialize, the freedom for our economy and our schools to open without the fear of getting deathly ill, the freedom to use amazing science and vaccine developments to our full advantage. But taking away critical public health interventions that we know are working in the name of personal freedom won’t make our community safer, nor will it hasten our return to normalcy. The state’s decision on Tuesday to end the statewide mask mandate and increase business capacity to 100% is a threat to all of the sacrifices and progress we’ve made, as well as to everyone who has not yet received a vaccine. At best, Tuesday’s decision is wishful thinking. At worst, it is a cynical attempt to distract Texans from the failures of state oversight of our power grid.

Every time COVID-19 public health measures have been pulled back, we’ve seen a spike in hospitalizations. If we start the climb now, we’d be starting from the highest starting point ever when it comes to our hospital population, an unacceptable and dangerous proposition. Even more troubling is the revelation that Houston has the unfortunate distinction of being the only city recording every major strain of COVID-19. Our positivity rate is still sky high and moving up, not down -- we’re now at 13% positivity. We’re still seeing hundreds of new cases a day. With the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines, we’re finally inching closer to the finish line of this deadly, destructive pandemic -- now is not the time to reverse the gains we’ve worked so hard to achieve. We’re able to finally see the light at the end of the tunnel now because of the common sense steps we’ve taken to prevent the spread of this virus, like wearing masks. We can’t take one step forward just to take two steps back.

History will remember those who took part in the unified effort to save lives in our community and pull us through this awful pandemic. It will also remember those who undermined and prolonged this crisis in the name of scoring political points with their base. Our Harris County community is smart -- we can see through the politics of this. I know we will keep at it and continue to be good neighbors, good citizens, and do the right thing, including wearing masks. Let’s also reward those that do the same. Shop at businesses still requiring masks and keeping capacity low to protect their employees and their patrons. 

We’ve been through so much, but we are so close. Keep holding on. Our success at beating this virus is all up to us now. 

Abrazos,

Lina Hidalgo

Pretty much the sentiment I'm hearing everywhere.  Bars are gonna open; cases are gonna spike; mandates are gonna go back "on" at the local level.  And Gov. Absent washes his hands of it, except when he can use it to beat up Democrats at the local level.  I hope we the people are wiser than our leaders.

Covid Is Over! Power Is Restored! Water Is (Mostly) Running!

Not that we have anything else to worry about:

Texas is vaccinating more people than ever before against COVID-19. And while millions in the state have been vaccinated, when it comes to per capita vaccine distribution, Texas is one of the worst states in the country.

That's according to data from the CDC, which shows Texas had a vaccination rate of 20,543 people per 100,000 as of Wednesday morning. 

That places Texas 47 out of the 50 states in terms of per capita distribution, beating out only Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee.

Compare that to other large states like California, Florida or New York. Each of those states is above 23,000 doses administered per 100,000 people, and California is above 24,000. 

As of Tuesday morning, Texas actually had the single worst distribution rate in the country, according to the CDC. But its vaccination rate increased as Gov. Greg Abbott reported a new daily record for the number of people getting vaccinated in Texas.

That was the same day Abbott ended the statewide mask mandate and other coronavirus restrictions.

The only thing he hasn't mentioned yet is Dr. Seuss.

Good to know the Governor of Texas is taking care of the people of Texas.

(And yes, it's a stupid law):

Remember That Scene in "Goldfinger"...

...when Goldfinger tells Bond "I own the country club."

He cheated at golf, too; but not nearly so openly.

A Bond villain with more class than the 45th POTUS. 

Just sayin'....

Friday Of The Second Week of Lent


And the Lord appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;

2 And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground,

3 And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant:

4 Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree:

5 And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said.

6 And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth.

Genesis 18:1-6, KJV


27 These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season.

28 That thou givest them they gather: thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good.

Psalm 104:27-28, KJV

The pretzel is a very ancient bakery item, which traditionally was eaten only during Lent.  It appeared each year on Ash Wednesday and disappeared on Good Friday.  It goes back at least to the fifth century: there is a Roman manuscript in the Vatican library dating from that period which shows a lenten pretzel.  As to the shape: it is made in the form of two arms crossed in prayer. The word bracellae, "little arms," became in German Bretzel; then Pretzel.  These early Christians ate no dairy products in Lent, so the pretzel was made only of flour, salt and water.  It was as simple as it could be.

--Evelyn Birge Vitz

The home baker in me wants to point out that the French baguette (or boule, for that matter) is made with only flour, salt, water, and yeast.  And my pretzel recipe is made much like a bagel (the recipe I have for bagels is a French one so, again, a minimum of ingredients):  four ingredients, and then after it is shaped it's dropped in boiling water for a few minutes before it is baked.  I seldom make the connection to Lent, though.  But maybe I should retire to the kitchen today....

Such is life.  It is no cleaner than a kitchen; it reeks of a kitchen; and if you mean to cook your dinner, you must expect to soil your hands.

--Honore de Balzac

Jesus gaves us a new norm of greatness.  If you want to be important--wonderful.  If you want to be recognized--wonderful.  If you want to be great--wonderful.  But recognize that he who is great among you shall be your servant. That's your new definitino of greatness.  And this morning, the thing that I like about it....by giving that definition of greatness, it means everybody can be great.  Because everybody can serve.  You don't have to have a college degree to serve.  You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve.  You don't have to know Einstein's theory of relativity to serve. You don't have to know the second theor of thermo-dynamics in physic to serve.  You only need a heart full of grace.  A soul generated by love.  And you can be that servant.

--The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Each thing I have received, from thee it came,

Each thing for which I hope,

  from thy love it will come,

Each thing I enjoy, it is of thy bounty,

Each thing I ask comes of thy disposing.

--Celtic prayer

Speaking of Things Trump Accomplished

Trump liked to complain about "forever wars." He never really did anything either sensible or substantive about them, though.

Adding:  in keeping with that theme, this is too funny to pass on:

"They finished in the middle of the night and in the end, Sen. Chris Val Hollen, a Democrat from the state of Maryland, rose to ask for some consent to restart this debate beginning at 9 a.m. today in the U.S. Senate," she said. 

The key, Fox explained, was that Van Hollen asked for three hours to debate the bill instead of the expected 20 hours of time. Johnson was not in the Senate at the time of Hollen's proposal and could not object to it -- and so it was adopted. 

"In the end, instead of having 20 hours of debate, because there wasn't a Republican there to object at the end of this process, they are now just going to have three hours of debate," she said. "Then they will start at noon with this vote-a-rama."

Thanks, Sen. Johnson! 

Oh, I'll go on, with something else Trump never accomplished:

Hail To The Chief

Except:

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo released a sturdy message for those who do not comply with private businesses’ policies on wearing masks after Gov. Greg Abbott rescinded the statewide mask order. 

In the video, Acevedo wanted to remind residents that private entities and private businesses have a legal right to require customers to wear a mask. He said if a person goes to a business that requires you to wear a mask, to please wear the mask or take your business elsewhere. 

Acevedo said for those who do not comply or leave the business are subjected to arrest for criminal trespass. He said the department is not interested in arresting people and ask for residents to make good choices.

“If you go to a business and they tell you to wear a mask, please either wear the mask or decide to take your business elsewhere. Just remember that if you remain in the business after being asked to leave, you are subject to arrest for criminal trespass,” Acevedo said.

He said by May, every American will have access to a vaccine and will be close to winning the battle against COVID-19.

“If at all possible, mask up Houston. The life you save may be someone you love,” Acevedo said.

And then the Texas AG decided to tangle with him:

Yeah, Chief started it; he also ended it: Always liked the Chief.

I Think The Culture War Is Over

Gotta be honest, I'm having a hard time seeing Dr. Seuess books becoming a topic of national and unquenchable outrage.
First the copyright holders of the books said "We don't think we'll publish these six titles anymore," and I said nothing because I'm not the copyright holder of those books.  Then a streaming service said "We should add mild warnings to some of these episodes from this show we're streaming that first aired decades ago, because times have changed," and I said nothing, because I don't own the streaming service.  Then the makers of a toy said "How about we drop the 'Mr.' from this toy," and then they changed their minds, and I still said nothing; because I'm not a five-year old child.  But I'm beginning to think the right wing thinks we all are five years old.

I old enough to remember when the reflex on the "internet left" was to not ignore anything the "internet right" did because that's how they sneak up on you. I think we can relax now. I mean, real life is proving much more entertaining:
No, this is farce; even for Rubio. I almost feel sorry for them. Maybe Biden should wear a tan suit. And how bad is it that the GOP is living in the Geico “Caveman” ads of long ago?

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

But tell me again how Trump is in charge of the GOP and is a juggernaut rolling over all opposition on the way to 2024, and a Colossus bestriding the country.

And “Q” is going to destroy us all:

Thursday, March 04, 2021

Dems In Disarray

Because no other narrative is allowed? Because this is what they're up against: Because, you know, “narrative.”

OTOH, while this is burning up FoxNews and NewsMax and OANN (I presume; I don't keep up with any of them), it doesn't seem to be setting the Senate on fire.  Most of the obstacles to Dems passing laws right now seems to be Joe Manchin, not the "cunning" of Mitch McConnell.  Wasn't he supposed to be a super-genius Senate Rules dark wizard?  Whatever happened to that narrative?  I'm hearing more from Cruz and Hawley, and they aren't exactly in leadership roles.

Open For Business?

Or tired of being responsible? (Gov. Absent, I mean; Texas businesses have always been responsible for responding to this pandemic, because government refuses to be.)

I was going to post that alone today, but Gov. Absent continues to prove that Texas politicians are Not Ready For Primetime.  They shame us all in the Lone Star State, but that's the price we pay for electing idiots.
Just want to be sure we're clear on that before we proceed.

First, Abbott can't keep his stories straight:

Abbott's spokeswoman Renae Eze said the governor was "clear in telling Texans that COVID hasn’t ended, and that all Texans should follow medical advice and safe practices to continue containing COVID.""The fact is, Texas now has the tools and knowledge to combat COVID while also allowing Texans and small businesses to make their own decisions," she said in a statement.

But wait; he told CNBC:

COVID is completely over," Abbott told CNBC Thursday morning, attacking Democrats for "moving the goalposts" about when he can and can't reopen. There are currently five COVID-19 variants in the state and about 13.4 percent of Texans have been vaccinated with the first vaccine and 13.5 percent have tested positive. ICU occupancy rates in Texas are at 88 percent, reported the San Francisco Chronicle. 

He also decided his line of assault would be "Fear Of Foreigners!"  He even expanded it beyond the borders of Texas this time:

He's lying about the enforcement issue. His orders made mask wearing enforceable as a matter of law. That was a big issue when this started. All he's done is shift the burden to business, while telling people they don't have to wear masks if they don't want to.  If he wanted to maintain the status quo, and there was no enforcement issue before his announcement, why make the announcement?  As for scary immigrants spreading disease (could he be more racist and xenophobic?), Gov. Absent remains....absent:

DHS has already set plans in motion to use Federal Emergency Management Agency funds to support community efforts to test, isolate and quarantine migrants released from Border Patrol custody, the official told CNN. But the grant money needs to be approved by the state before it can be distributed to border communities. CNN previously reported plans were underway to use FEMA funds to help localities acquire tests.

As of Wednesday, Texas had not yet provided a response to the administration since engaging with the Department of Homeland Security.
I keep thinking of GOP "leaders" who brag about how "business-friendly" Texas is. February (and now into March) is revealing Texas to be governed by a clown college and operating at a level that would embarass third-world countries.

I Withdraw My Previous Bitter Cynicism

...and replace it with the cold laughter of irony.

Anybody Remember The Deaths By Hypothermia?

Pictures of frozen water pipes?  Long lines of cars waiting for food and bottled water?  Stories of people still without plumbing?  The complete “failed state” image of Texas thanks to Abbott and the GOP being in charge for decades?

Yeah, I didn’t think so.  Instead, let’s talk about how stupid they are on the TeeVee.

I Knew The “War On Christmas” Would Come Back Into It

See? Two sources is verification!

Texas Our Texas

The funny part of this is watching everybody in the chain passing the blame to somebody else. Football players push back by blaming the athletic officials, athletic officials blame donors, and one donor thinks he's got the clout to block any football player from ever working in Texas again.

Shit, that part's downright hilarious! 

The best part is the students saying they didn't want to stand around while the song was played.  Considering UT hasn't had a football team worthy of much attention since Darrell Royal made them significant for oh-so-brief a period (which UT football has been dining out on/wistfully remembering ever since.  I lived in Austin for 15 years, and I was stunned to realize Royal left in '76 and the last time UT was a national champion under him was '69. The way he was still lionized 2 decades later you’d have thought he won the national championship almost every year.)  He didn't exactly establish a Penn State or Alabama-style legacy, which has always left me wondering what alumni thought they were paying for.  UT used to light up the Tower in orange with office lights left on to make a giant "1" on each face only for football championships.  While I was living in Austin they gave that up and honored any athletic victory (even for women's teams!) with an orange tower (for championships) or even the "1" (when appropriate), because it was clear the football team wasn't going to win another national championship anytime soon.

It's been up and down since Royal, but the stadium was named for him, so he's still the most famous coach in UT history; his wins are still the "wins" UT remembers best.  But it's been 52 years, guys.  Maybe the school song isn’t that important in the grand scheme of things....

#Neanderthal

Gov. Absent washes his hands of the matter:

Abbott's office responded Wednesday afternoon, saying the he was "clear in telling Texans that COVID hasn’t ended, and that all Texans should follow medical advice and safe practices to continue containing COVID."


Yeah, I'm not even trying to be subtle about it. 

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Oh,The Things You'll Learn!

Statement from Dr. Seuss Enterprises

Today, on Dr. Seuss’s Birthday, Dr. Seuss Enterprises celebrates reading and also our mission of supporting all children and families with messages of hope, inspiration, inclusion, and friendship.

We are committed to action. To that end, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, working with a panel of experts, including educators, reviewed our catalog of titles and made the decision last year to cease publication and licensing of the following titles: And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, If I Ran the Zoo, McElligot’s Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super!, and The Cat’s Quizzer. These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong. 

Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises’s catalog represents and supports all communities and families.

I don't know; I just thought that was important to note.

I still don't care about this "issue," except now my Jr. Senator has weighed in on it because actually representing the interests and concerns of the people of Texas who are facing new strains of coronavirus (here in Houston, Ted!  Better run to Mexico again!), outrageous electricity bills, and still no water for many (mostly apartment tenants so screw them, right Ted?) is so boooring, or something.  Besides, it's not affecting his daughters, so what does he care?

Once again, all he really did was prove he should stay off Twitter. Sharp eyes will note, of the titles Dr. Seuss Enterprises has chosen not to republish or license, absolutely....NONE...are captured in his tweet.

According to the Raw Story article, a lot of people on Twitter were very upset with Cruz's blaming Biden for a "ban" on Seuss books.  I don't care that Cruz knows better (1st Amendment, anyone?), or that he's an "unChristian liar" (kind of a given, isn't it?)  I find it funny he missed the point entirely, because none of the books being pulled from continued publication are selling that well, anyway. (I still love "On Beyond Zebra!," but frankly I never tried to buy a copy of it as an adult, I just assumed it went out of print years ago because, AFAIK, it was never that popular.  I might buy one now that I know it'll be hard to find, but to be honest, who gives a shit about these books?  The diminishing audience of FoxNews?)  Which frankly, raises a question about whether this is a marketing move as much as anything else.

Eh, even I'm not that cynical.  But this decision isn't hitting Dr. Seuess Enterprises in the pocketbook and, if anything, is probably boosting interest in the rest of their product.  So maybe I am that cynical....

Social Experiment

That's what Gov. Absent wanted everyone to know yesterday. But that's not what he announced.  And the interesting thing is:  who was listening, and what did they hear?

I went to a store today, a Lowe's, to pick up some lumber and paint brushes (home improvement is the homeowner's burden).  I wore a mask because I'm going to no matter what.  The radio talk show host (local NPR station) was very upset (in an NPR local host way) about Absent's order. The people in the store were all construction workers and DIY'ers like me:  and they were all wearing masks.

Have they not heard?  If they did, did they catch the nuance that this starts next Wednesday, not today?  Will they all gleefully shed their masks at midnight next Tuesday and never wear them again?

I doubt it.  More likely they'll go back to the bars, at worst.  My sympathies are with the bar owners.  Word came today that Alamo Drafthouse, my sentimental favorite for movie theaters (I actually enjoy going to movies again thanks to Alamo, and I get to see "art house" films there) has filed for Chapter 11.  They carefully restrict capacity in their theaters, but with so many films shifted to 2022 (I speak of the MCU films that bring in large audiences, especially) they really have nothing to draw even small crowds with.  (They had Chris Nolan's last film, but apparently nobody went to see that anywhere.)  This change in orders won't do much for them; I suspect, like Costco did early on in this pandemic, they'll act to protect their employees first, not their bottom line.  But even if they do throw caution to Abbot's winds, what films are they going to show that will fill seats again?  And how much sympathy do I have for bar patrons who shop at my Lowe's during the week?  Not much, actually.

This is what I'm concerned about, largely.  Sort of like Alamo limiting audience size both to protect their patrons, but also to protect their employees (waiters bringing food to moviegoers, mostly).  I read that HEB, the grocery chain where I shop, won't force customers to wear masks after Wednesday.  I don't blame them; they can't post police at the doors and tell people to put on a mask or leave (Alamo can control their patrons a bit better).  But I also don't see them telling workers to remove their masks nor will they start taking down all the plexiglass.  I suspect most stores will do the same.  It's not much, but it's something.  Will Texans suddenly scrap their masks and declare their freedom from public health tyranny?  I'm not seeing much impetus to do that 24 hours after Abbott declared the year of jubilee.  It could be this will take time.  I expect more maskless people in stores starting next week, but I don't expect a massive outpouring of support for our governor.  Mostly I fear the apathy of voters who decide it doesn't make any difference, chowderheaded neanderthal Republicans are in charge and always will be and since we don't have Beto to vote for (charisma counts for something, Beto is what we've got at the moment), why bother at all?

It's a sentiment I know all too well.
I just heard some major chains in Texas will still require customers to wear masks, and retail workers are being included now in groups who get priority for vaccines. Still, I think more of us in Texas agree with Biden than with Gov. Absent. (Twitter sez "#neanderthal" is trending in Politics. 😂)

Who Knew Antifa Was Dressing Up As Government Officials?

 The commanding general of the Washington, DC, National Guard testified Wednesday that he did not need authorization from Pentagon leaders before deploying troops in response to protests at the nation's capital last summer but that changed in the days before the January 6 insurrection.

The shift in guidance, according to DC National Guard Commanding Maj. Gen. William Walker, was communicated in a January 5 memo that stated he was required to seek approval from the Secretary of the Army and Defense before preparing troops to respond to a civil disturbance.

"It required me to seek authorization from the Secretary of the Army and the Secretary of Defense to essentially protect my guardsmen," he told senators during a hearing on security failures related to the Capitol building attack.

Oh, that's not all:

I mean, what other explanation could there be? 

IMHO.

Two comments on the same article which I was just going to leave here with a brief comment of my own about the myopia of white privilege and the determination to tell people what is best for them, be it from "liberals" or "conservatives." But then I read this post on the way here, and I want to incorporate it by reference (as I used to say when I was a practicing lawyer).  It provides a more nuanced examination of the issue.  And while nuance doesn't play well in public discussions, it's desperately needed here.

For the record, my sympathies in the Niebuhr/Hauerwas argument are with Niebuhr.  His argument is a simple one:  you don't get to decide what sacrifices other people should make in the name of your sense/theory of morality.  I like the example of Thomas More, who stood firm on his sense of morality even though it cost him his life.  But it also cost his family their income.  I don't think Henry VIII provided a generous stipend for them, and even if he did, imagine the impact on you if your father/spouse decided his/her purity of heart was more important than you, on what is, after all, a fairly minor point in the grand scheme of things (I'm not that impressed with More's ethics, if you hadn't guessed. I'm open to disagreement on my position, but I don't see him as an unalloyed saint.  There is actually a good reason Roman Catholic priests don't marry, when you get down to it, although they are the outlier, not the norm, in most religions, and especially in Xianity.  But I digress....)  Niebuhr's argument is fairly simple:  you can't ask another person, much less an entire society, to make a moral sacrifice, when "sacrifice" is pretty much the main schema of moral systems (hence the infamous and ludicrous "trolley car dilemma", but I won't digress again.).  That's a degree of selfishness that is, to put it bluntly:  selfish and, IMHO, immoral.

I'm all for society being moral on matters of individual protection (prohibitions against murder, rape, assault, etc.) and criminal laws, local, national, international, that try to maintain social order based on moral principles (legalized cruelty is to be shunned, not overlooked; for example).  So it's a nuanced discussion, still.  Which is, in part, the problem being identified in that New York Magazine article.  IMHO, anyway.

“Everybody Knows The Dice Are Loaded...”

But everybody knows Trump will be sworn in as the 19th President on March 4, 2021. Right after they arrest the Pope and a bunch of other international scofflaws, which arrests Trump is coordinating from Florida with the help of the military.

At least I assume that’s the crowd Pence is addressing.

“Very Dangerous For Democracy”

Let me be blunt:

1) "Cancel culture" doesn't exist.  Stop trying to explain what it is/isn't or what it should be.  Like the now-defunct "War on Christmas," it's not a thing and it never was and deserves no more attention than the W on C ever did.  Please leave it alone.

2)  Nothing we are doing now or have done in this century is a "danger to democracy."  That's a phrase, a meme, a favorite cliche that's easier than thinking and simply denotes "very serious concern" for something else that isn't real.  The assault on the Capitol was bad, but so was the Civil War.  Something like 300 people (and counting!) are being charged in connection with that assault, and the fact that they are not already in jail serving their sentences is not a failure of the system or a refusal to take their acts seriously.  Nor is it a "threat to democracy."

CPAC and Trump's tedious speech aren't threats to democracy, either.  His attempt to overturn the 2020 election by any means necessary (well, he stopped short of trying to declare martial law) was such a threat, but it went nowhere.  No court gave him succor, no military officer tried to initiate a coup on his behalf, no nation intervened to overthrow the government and make Trump a puppet ruler.  There were actually fewer riots and less violence in the late months of 2020 than in the decades of the '60's and '70's combined (or in the four years of Trump's presidency, for that matter), and no one then spoke of democracy in danger or society collapsing.  Mostly they cursed/sympathized with the "kids" or the minorities, and left it at that.

We've been fed on visions of apocalypse and eschaton for so long (since the '50's when they had reason to expect world-wide destruction) we've absorbed it into our thinking and like the John Wayne myth of the cowboy ("Brokeback Mountain" was much closer to the truth;  cowboys are journeymen workers working long hours for low pay, not rugged individualists wandering the West with no visible means of support), we've absorbed the myth that society will collapse soon, it's must a matter of when.  And yet despite floods and hurricanes and winter storms and elections where everyone washes their hands of it and the improbable ass wins through by default, the social order refuses to unravel and government refuses to come to a sudden and dramatic end.

We are not going to be "canceled," and we are not going to fall into anarchy or tyranny.  The only currency likely to collapse is a crypto-one, which aren't really even currencies anyway.  The internet has just made things louder and not funnier and brought the fringe to our living rooms, much as TV did for war and civil rights movements.  Nothing has fundamentally changed, and we aren't living in the Most Important Times In All Of Human History, although we keep flattering ourselves that we do.  The accurate description for most of our problems is navel gazing.

There's a reason people froze in Texas and why so many in Texas (and Mississippi, and Michigan) are still without water, and the reason is mostly the rest of us just don't care about real problems, we only care about problems we can't solve but can get upset and talk about.  My e-mail is flooded with faux outrage  meant to part me from my money for one political issue/politician or another; to me that's the real scandal.  It no more helps anyone than the politicians in Austin still trying to blame somebody for the problems they promoted under the guise of "freedom!" for so long.

Stop looking for things to be afraid of.  Fight the real power, as Sinead O'Connor once famously said (on SNL, if you're wondering).  Try to help somebody.  Try to do a small portion of good in the world.  What's really "very dangerous for democracy" is forgetting how much you can do, and substituting how outraged you are for real acts of citizenship.  Or real acts of simple, common humanity and decency.

For pity's sake, it's Lent; take stock of yourself, instead of everybody else.

(The more judgmental I am, the more likely I am to be talking to/about myself; let the reader understand.)

Just Putting Two...

...and two... ...together.

I’m Getting Old

These people in that place reminds me my time, too, is passing.

If I Ran The Media Circus

I purposefully stayed away from the "Dr. Seuss" outrage yesterday, because I didn't care, and because I feared I’d find something in the story to piss me off (spoiler:  it didn’t), and who needs the grief?

I can unequivocally recommend the Vox article linked in the tweet, because first it quotes the people managing the intellectual property of the late author and why some books have been removed from republishing.  It’s a kind of Huckleberry Finn/n-word decision, an issue I used to think ridiculous but now regard as not my fight/I won’t even disagree with the objections issue.  Same with this:  the objections seem to be that the depictions of characters are too much aligned with depictions acceptable at the time but objectionable now.  And frankly, I’m okay with that.  Again, not my fight.  I’m not, as an old white male, being misrepresented (and if I was, I’m still an old white male, I have considerable privilege in this culture). Not my fight, in short.

As the Vox article documents, the rest is faux outrage of the “cancel culture”/War On Xmas” variety.  That’s another fake fight I refuse to engage.

Suffice to say all is well with the world, and FoxNews and others miss Trump terribly.  I say leave them to it.

P.S.  Yesterday was Theodore Geisel’s birthday.  Stupid way to remember it, huh?

“Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves”

Except:

1) This “100% open” doesn’t take effect until March 10.

2) Counties can still impose restrictions if they have a rise in cases that exceed 15% of hospital capacity for more than 7 days.  So we have to suffer for 7 days first, because suffering is good for freedom.  Or something.

3) Businesses can still require masks.

4) Schools are under the control of the TEA, not the Governor.  Sez the Governor, who knows a hot potato when he sees one. Parents are one group not clamoring for this.  Along with doctors, hospital staff, grocery store employees, and anyone still in this state with a scintilla of sense.

5) Like most things Gov. Absent does, this is not going to end well.

Tuesday, March 02, 2021

“I Won’t Do Jackshit For People Still Without Water

and I won't even propose legislation to fix our electricity crisis. I won't do a goddamned thing to make Texas look any less like a failed state or a third-world nation than it already does, but I will throw a bone to my rabid GOP base and try to get Alan West off my back.  No water, no food, no money?  Look over there, the bars are open!”

It’s amazing how fast a man in a wheelchair can run away from real responsibilities.
The only people in Texas who matter: white, Republican, and very conservative. I'm not taking mine off.  In fact, I scheduled my first vaccine shot this morning, and the information provided explicitly said I should continue wearing a mask/social distancing even after the vaccine is effective (no earlier than 7 days after the second shot).  I’m not going to a restaurant or any crowded indoor space anytime soon.  I count myself among the 88% who aren’t nearly as stupid or irresponsible as our governor.

I'm willing to bet all I have that when cases rise again, and deaths, Abbott will blame people for going to bars (he did it once before) and people not getting vaccinated fast enough.  Anything to disavow responsibility.

To whom do we complain about our voices not being heard?

Tuesday Of The Second Week Of Lent



I was looking for something to say on Monday of the second week of Lent, when I read this.  Two reasons I open with it:  1) it made me realize today is Tuesday, not Monday (life lived without schedule is a life of days.  I think time and date became important to us because of the Church, and especially monastic life.  Monks keep the hours so they can keep the discipline of prayer and contemplation.  The church keeps the days, not just the seasons of agriculture, so it can organize the life of the body of Christ.  Nobody I know agrees with this interpretation, especially scholars of history.  It is mine, and I don't offer it, I just find it explains things for me, and makes sense as the daily schedule slips away from me (retirement, it's called).); 2) it tied in with what I'd just been thinking after reading this (looking for something to say, as I said at the beginning of this paragraph.  Are you lost yet?  I am.):

7 For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease.

8 Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground;

9 Yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant.

10 But man dieth, and wasteth away: yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he?

11 As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth up:

12 So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep.

(N.b.:  I post the KJV because I don't much care for other translations readily available on-line, and it's easier than transcription.  Hey, you're not payin' for this!)

I saw the passage was from Job before I read it, and it made me think of my experiences with the book.  I've always loved it; the "book of God and man," one scholar called it, the first exegesis of the wisdom book I ever read.  I found it intriguing for its majesty ("Were you there when I laid the foundations of the earth?"  There is no more dramatic and theophanic an appearance of God in the whole Bible.) and its poetry ("I know that my redeemer liveth," quoth Handel) and its gutsiness and humanity.  It was the appearance (the only one in the Hebrew scriptures) of Satan that appealed to me the most, because it was the root of the misinterpretation of Satan in Christianity.  Satan in Job is not a demi-god nor a fallen angel with powers near equal to the Creator, nor just a trickster god, but merely a dramatic personage for the narrative.  Satan is not power in his own right (that would violate the notion of one god, of monotheism) and whatever authority Satan has comes directly from God.  Satan in Job reaffirms the monotheism of the God of Abraham; but Christianity, over and over again, violates that monotheism by making Satan almost as powerful as God, capable even in Milton of creation on some scale (Pandemonium is Satan's act alone).

A misinterpretation, in other words, based on the appearance of the Greek word in the gospels.  A retrojection, "and what you get on first superficial reading is so inadequate that even if it matches the common sense meaning of it, that's no where near enough to know just what he's really saying."  So start the Lenten meditation with a reflection on wisdom as guidance, and remember there is Biblical warrant for it, too (Acts 8:26-40, if you're wondering).  Scripture was not written to be read like a newspaper or a novel (or a blog!), but to be interpreted within a community.

With that said, put Job in context with "Spring," by Edna St. Vincent Millay:

To what purpose, April, do you return again? 
Beauty is not enough. 
You can no longer quiet me with the redness 
Of little leaves opening stickily. 
I know what I know. 
The sun is hot on my neck as I observe 
The spikes of the crocus. 
The smell of the earth is good. 
It is apparent that there is no death. 
But what does that signify? 
Not only under ground are the brains of men 
Eaten by maggots. 
Life in itself 
Is nothing, 
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs. 
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill, 
April 
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers. 

A month early, but spring is already trying to show up on the 3rd coast.  Roses I thought lost in the Great Freeze are already showing green leaves among the brown, even as the weather wavers back towards winter, wobbles between hope and despair, fights to be warm while the cold still demands its last days.

 O lord God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before thee:

2 Let my prayer come before thee: incline thine ear unto my cry;

3 For my soul is full of troubles: and my life draweth nigh unto the grave.

4 I am counted with them that go down into the pit: I am as a man that hath no strength:

5 Free among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, whom thou rememberest no more: and they are cut off from thy hand.

6 Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps.

7 Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves. Selah.

8 Thou hast put away mine acquaintance far from me; thou hast made me an abomination unto them: I am shut up, and I cannot come forth.

9 Mine eye mourneth by reason of affliction: Lord, I have called daily upon thee, I have stretched out my hands unto thee.

10 Wilt thou shew wonders to the dead? shall the dead arise and praise thee? Selah.

11 Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave? or thy faithfulness in destruction?

12 Shall thy wonders be known in the dark? and thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?

13 But unto thee have I cried, O Lord; and in the morning shall my prayer prevent thee.

14 Lord, why castest thou off my soul? why hidest thou thy face from me?

15 I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up: while I suffer thy terrors I am distracted.

16 Thy fierce wrath goeth over me; thy terrors have cut me off.

17 They came round about me daily like water; they compassed me about together.

18 Lover and friend hast thou put far from me, and mine acquaintance into darkness.

Psalm 88

“Yesterday All The Past”

Trump's grievances at CPAC were all about Trump. He got most excited about his election failure, which he still claims was atually a win. How much longer does that story travel? Two more months? Six? Until March 4? March 20? Not until 2024, to be sure.

What else has he go?  “Cancel culture”?
I grew up reading Dr. Seuss.  Then  again, I’m old enough to get the COVID vaccine based on age alone.  My daughter?  She read some of them, but they are hardly her childhood favorites (I still remember “On Beyond Zebra” as a favorite of mine.  I understand it won’t be republished, but I’m not especially upset about that.  I can’t imagine who is.).  The Muppets?  Disney just put disclaimers on some of the episodes it runs on Disney+.  More to the point, who’s watching “The Muppet Show” anymore, and turning that into a political issue?  As SNL said, doesn’t the idea of a warning make you want to watch those episodes to see what the “problem” is?  I’m reminded of when Jerry Falwell said Bert and Ernie were gay (and trying to mainstream the “gay lifestyle”).  That didn’t last very long, either.  Mr. Potato Head?  Already history.

What does Trump have, going forward?  The GOP won’t challenge the COVID relief bill (Joe Manchin is doing that for them); it’s too popular.  In fact, they won’t stand against anything, only for negatives (“cancel culture”).  Ken Paxton is suing a wholesale electrical supplier for:  supplying electricity according to its contracts with its customers. He’s doing it because his owns staff is in court claiming he’s a crook, and the FBI is breathing down his neck.  But nobody is confusing Paxton with a populist leader looking out for Texas ratepayers who signed up with wholesale electricity brokers (a minority of Texans anyway).

"Cancel culture" is quickly devolving into "Cancel what I don't like!", the purest negative of all: Even white grievance is old news, and Trump doesn’t dare run openly on that (it’s old but it’s perennial). The argument in that tweet may appeal to rich white UT donors, but it doesn't appeal to UT students or the public at large, even in Texas.  Whatever appeal it is, it’s not an appeal with legs. 

Grievance and complaint may generate a headline or two, but complaining about negatives and “what is no longer” is only popular once, or for a little while.  You can’t get the band back together on that one.  Arguably, Trump never got the band together on that one in the first place.  He won the Presidency once by default; he lost it by decision.  He lost the House, he lost the Senate.  Why would his grievance about an election four years ago be the winning formula in 2024?  Who in four years is going to give a wet snap that they have to look for a used copy of “On Beyond Zebra”?

Monday, March 01, 2021

"PHRASING!"

No idea who Debra Katz is, but I assume she's competent and experienced and will represent her client well. OTOH, I know who Harvey Weinstein is, and I find it interesting we don't know what public figure, if any. Ms. Katz has represented, but the former clients of Cuomo's lawyer is very important information.

I assume Cuomo hired counsel who has experience in these matters, always a plus in such a situation.  I do not assume this means Cuomo is Weinstein-lite or needs the protection of someone who "protected" Weinstein.  Maybe most people don't either; but I doubt it.

I wish we were doing phrasing again.....

Pretty Sure This Is A Dog Whistle To Q

Not to mention the whole "The REAL Presidential Inauguration is March 4/March 20 (pick your date, ya know) and Trump will be there" theory.

Now I'm Going To Have Nightmares

That somebody's going to make me eat this.

The Tweet That Got Away

This is the tweet I meant to post about the “deep bench” of the GOP as exemplified by the straw poll at CPAC.   Too many tweets in a post spoils the broth; or something.  Anyway, with Trump complaining about voting (a strategy which worked well in Georgia) and continuing to whine he lost (good strategy for fundraising, by which I mean the greatest grift Trump ever stumbled on; lousy strategy for a politician), this is the GOP second string (I really don’t think, if it wasn’t clear, that Trump will run in 2024.  He needs the grift.  He’s also about to be knee-deep in criminal and civil suits. And his shtick is already old and threadbare.  If won’t continue to generate outrage and political power for him into the future.  He struck a chord once; he won’t strike it again.) But everyone who's ever watched TV knows an ad campaign runs out of of juice eventually. You can't run the same pitch for four years. Trump's grievance/"I was robbed" message won't play much longer.

WITCH HUNTS!

It can happen here.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Same Song, Second Verse

He looks, but he does not see. I don't even want to post videos of the speech. So I’ll tell the tale in tweets. I'm guessing that didn't work out so well, if only because his speech ran for 90 minutes. Or because of what he said: Unity! So much unity! Here's a new idea!  Let's unify against somebody! Math is hard, since he's never won the popular vote and he only won the electoral college once. And how will be pull off this fake three-peat? Not that he actually promised anything: Grifters gotta grift. Unity!  Well, for me, but not for thee.

Trump has a good thing going (though for how long is subject to conjecture). And he doesn't share with others.

Well, he has a good thing going for now: More popcorn!
SO SAY WE ALL! (even a lot of people at CPAC)