Tuesday, August 31, 2021

One More American We Have To Rescue From Afghanistan

And this guy think he's the second coming of Steven Segal:

Mullin's efforts to travel to Afghanistan come a week after Reps. Seth Moulton (D-MA) and Peter Meijer (R-MI) also journeyed to Kabul to witness the rescue efforts and returned on a military flight, drawing criticism from congressional leaders. Unlike Moulton and Meijer, Mullin is not a veteran, with a pre-congressional career as a mixed martial artist instead.

Yeah, he's a real "hero":

"Mullin told the [Tajik] embassy that he planned to fly from Tblisi, Georgia, into Tajikistan's capital, Dushanbe, in the next few hours and needed the top diplomat's help, according to the two U.S. officials familiar with the incident, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose private conversations about a sensitive matter," reported Tayler Pager and John Hudson. "Embassy officials told Mullin they could not assist him in skirting Tajikistan's laws on cash limits on his way to visiting one of the most dangerous places on earth."

The Post's sources said that Mullin was "outraged by the response" and even threatened U.S. ambassador John Mark Pommersheim and embassy staff and "demanding to know the name of staff members he was speaking with."

According to the report, Mullin previously attempted to fly into Afghanistan through Greece, but was rebuffed by U.S. officials on that occasion as well. 

When he gets in country, what does he do?  Take Americans overland to the border with...Iran?  Pakistan?  China?  This clown presents a more immediate threat to more Americans than Madison Cawthorn ever will.  We don't even know where he, but he'll be grateful for the Marines to show up and haul his ass out of the trouble he gets himself into.  If we can find him, and then get to him.

Maybe the Taliban will help us.  They set up a secret gate at the airport to get Americans onto planes.  They might be glad to get this guy out of the country. Whether we really want him back is another question.

I'd almost say it's not worth it; but that would be sinking to his level.  Rather, we rescue him, then hand him the bill.  He can take it up with the IRS. 

His office (now) says he’s fine:

There is a lawyer representing several Jan. 6th defendants who has disappeared. Various stories have come out about him, but he’s not in a local hospital and his office phones have been disconnected. Still, the story is that he somewhere alive. But who can say, without a corpus delecti at least?

Same suspicion applies to Mullin, as far as I’m concerned.

So This Got Interesting Real Fast

The January 6th Committee is not here to play.

I Have Lived Long Enough To See Everything

Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

Vietnam? Why Would You Compare Afghanistan To Vietnam?

No plan survives its encounter with reality. I feel like that's a lesson from Vietnam.
"When we left Vietnam in 1975, you could argue that every member, every citizen of South Vietnam worked for the Americans during that war and we took a few thousand people out," Stengel continued. "We left while we were being fired upon by the enemy. You know, the country was taken over. So, those are disastrous withdrawals. I just wanted to put that in perspective. I'm not exonerating or explaining away what happened, but that's just some historical perspective."
I don't think the xenophobia was quite so bad in '75, but there was a lot of resentment of Vietnamese shrimpers on the Gulf Coast for awhile.  Now they're part of the industry.  Besides, Viet-Cajun crawdads are a thing! And it's funnier sooner.

Loving v. Virginia Was Handed Down In 1967

A high school principal in Colleyville says his bosses ordered him to remove a photo of him embracing his wife from social media.

Colleyville Heritage High School Principal James Whitfield has faced sharp criticism from some parents who are accusing him of teaching critical race theory.

One of those parents complained about the photo and the district ordered Whitfield to take it down. He said the district wouldn't tell him why.

It was supposed to be a celebration for Whitfield, who had just been named principal of Colleyville Heritage Middle School two years ago, and his family. But before he could pop open the champagne his boss called and asked him to check his email.

He looked online and immediately saw a photo of him and his wife on the beach -- a photo shot by a professional photographer on their anniversary.

"I look at the picture, and I look at the words above it, and it says, 'Is this the Dr. Whitfield we want leading our schools?' I showed it to my wife, who immediately begins to well up with tears," he said.

Whitfield's wife Kerrie said she took the photo to mean a black man with a tattoo on his arm was inappropriate. But James Whitfield said he took it to mean the issue was he was in an interracial relationship.

All it took was one person, and the school board flinched.  This speaks to the character of the members of the board.

Irony #1:

Whitfield, who was named principal of Colleyville Heritage High School ahead of the 2020-21 school year, has been accused online and in board meetings of teaching critical race theory and promoting a belief that white people are inherently racist.

Irony #2: 

A petition in support of Whitfield has hundreds of signatures, and he said he's humbled for the support he's received and regrets he held this in for so long.

One person complains, the school board jumps.  Hundreds support the principal, the school board, even show up at a board meeting to support him, and, well...

In a letter to parents Monday, Superintendent Robin Ryan wrote that Whitfield has been placed on leave but that he would “not go into the specifics because it is a personnel matter.”

Whitfield told The Dallas Morning News on Monday night that he was told he was put on leave indefinitely “because the superintendent has ‘determined that doing so is in the best interest of the District.’”

“I have done nothing wrong by anyone,” Whitfield said.

The move comes a week after the principal and a crowd of supporters attended a school board meeting to address claims from a group of parents who say he is teaching critical race theory.

The curriculum, an academic framework that says racism is a systemic problem perpetuated by government policies and institutions, is not taught in Grapevine-Colleyville ISD, multiple sources in the district have said.

At a board meeting a few weeks before last week’s, the parent group accused Whitfield by name — which is against school board meeting rules.

“I’ve only chosen to speak out against baseless allegations after [the district] allowed a man to speak my name at the July 26 board meeting,” Whitfield said.

The critics claim Whitfield is teaching CRT because....but they are not racists!  Right?  No racism here.

Basically, this is why you don't want to work for a public school system.  When I was in graduate school, my first year out of college, I met a fellow grad student who had been a public school teacher only recently (then; this was going on 50 years ago now).  He outlined scenarios of students attacking teachers, literally assaulting them, and when we said the teacher should defend themselves or even sue the student, he said:  you don't want to work in public schools, do you?  He made it clear any response by a teacher to an assault was grounds for being fired.  I thought things had changed; maybe on that front, but even so, no fundamental change.

These people are afraid of their black principal.  EOD.

And "on leave indefinitely" means "you really need to find another job in another school district."  He might have kept his job if he'd kept his mouth shut.  Damned high price to pay.

This fight clearly started in 2019, when he became principal.  It was up to the Board and the Superintendent to support him, to tell the racists in the district to take a flying leap, that we don't negotiate with racists in this district, and we don't make decisions based on racist diatribes.

But they couldn't do that.

I Stand By My Untutored Assessment

Geography is the obstacle, and I don’t mean neighboring countries. Consider Switzerland.

There’s a reason no one has ever conquered Switzerland, and part of it us you can go around it. But that’s because of geography. In modern times you could disrupt daily life more easily from a central location, but if the Swiss turn out the lights and retire to their cantons, the military effort to control them would never cease, and never win. Ask Alexander; ask Britain; ask the USSR. Because the same holds true for Afghanistan; for the same geographical reasons.

And it’s a larger country with more people, making it even harder to control. The Taliban will control Kabul. They’ll control the rest of the country mostly to the extent they leave them alone.

The Swiss are in agreement as to how to be a country. The Afghanis are in agreement largely as to how many of them want to be left alone. Where I live, 100 years ago a hurricane was an inconvenience (well as long as you didn’t try to live on a barrier island like Galveston). This was farmland in the memory of some only recently dead. A hurricane meant wind and rain and debris. And when it passed, you went out, cleaned up the trees, and got on with it.

Kate Chopin’s most famous story, “The Storm, takes place during a violent storm in rural Louisiana in the early 30th century. The only thing the storm does is force two characters to shelter together until it passes. Only the length of time tells you we would call the storm a hurricane. When it passes, the characters return to normal life with nary a disruption.

A hurricane that doesn’t blow buildings apart still floods our concrete cities and leaves us literally powerless so we can’t work, shop, drive (no power for gas pumps), seek medical care, open our refrigerators. These conditions can prevail for weeks.

Life outside Kabul is probably more like rural America 100 years ago. Today, to bring us to crisis, cut off our cell service (Seriously; this is one of many major problems in New Orleans post-Ida. How do you call 911 without phone service?). How do you bring a country as rural and decentralized as Afghanistan to its knees, or even to heel?

No one has figured that one out in millenia.
Much closer to correct.

Journalism Is Not Even The First Draft Of History

What I remember about Vietnam (in no particular order):

Protests
The war on TeeVee; nightly.*
Dr. King’s Riverside Church Sermon
The helicopter in Saigon
The wall in D.C. (i.e., the 50,000+ dead)
The boat people (pretty sure my auto mechanic was one of them)
The end of the draft (my 18th year)
My brother-in-law who was a Green Beret Captain telling me he was there 15 minutes when he knew 2 things: 1) it was the most beautiful country he’d ever seen; 2) we had no business being there.
That the chaos in Saigon fit the war perfectly.

I don’t remember deaths in Saigon a la the airport in Kabul. Then again, the Vietcong weren’t known for their IED’s. That was a staple of Afghanistan; so, again, a fitting end (the helicopter was the symbol of the American effort in Vietnam).

Is there an argument here? Yes: journalists make lousy historians. Odds are the end of the war in Afghanistan will barely be remarked on by December. The departure from Saigon was more ignominious, but it didn’t blank the ignominy of the war.

*This was before video. Film was shot in Vietnam, flown to New York City, processed, edited, and broadcast to the country. There were only 3 networks at the time. The war was in our living rooms, Monday through Friday, complete with enemy “body counts,” for a decade. A Doonesbury cartoon summed it up. A military officer is reporting the daily body count to HQ. He stops to ask B.D. (the character of the strip in this episode) what day it is, then turns that date into the “official” body count for the day.

We won’t learn the lessons of Afghanistan because we didn’t learn the lessons of Vietnam. We have been fed a creed that trillions for infrastructure is too expensive, but trillions for war is never enough. We must do violence for women in foreign countries, but we must do violence to our own in our country.And on and on and on…

I Think He Means The Invasion Of Afghanistan

Although that and torture are perfectly in keeping with “western values.”

I guess I’d have to know what he means by “western values.” Because apparently he means occupying a country militarily until there’s a Starbucks in every village and even the contractors’ wildest dreams of avarice are sated.

Which is pretty much in keeping with western values, whether you like it or not.

How You Know It’s A Conspiracy

Because the theory doesn’t make any sense.

It’s Worth Pointing Out

While I’ve seen this video posted as an absolute example of fascism, it’s really just empty prating.

For one thing, if angry mobs descended on any school board and tried to "remove" the members, that would be a criminal act (or several) under the laws of any state of the union.  Second, of course, "removing" the members could only mean removing them from the meeting room; no mob can remove members from their official positions.

And frankly, if they tried, if they declared the school district under "mob" control, I imagine most states have provisions in law like Texas does.  In Texas, such an action would probably end with the TEA taking over the district and appointing a board to run things in accordance with Texas law.  Some of the more unruly board meetings lately, with just board members yelling at each other, have led TEA to threatent to take over those districts (it didn't happen; just the threat made everybody calm down, which is what TEA wanted).

This is clownshow stuff, in other words.  I wouldn't want to be a school board member if a mob came into the room and demanded my removal.  But the risk of this happening is probably lower than the risk of a "breakthrough" case of covid.  While the latter is something to be taken seriously, the former is not worth giving serious attention to.

As the insurrectionists found out, despite having a fool for a POTUS, we still have a system of laws, and most of us still respect them.  Those laws protect us from fools like Lynch, too.  Sadly, they don't protect us from fools like Lynch achieving elected office.  Preventing that is entirely up to we, the people.  Maybe we're learning that lesson again.

Things That Make A Difference

Narratives are only as good for as long as they have a shelf life. The narrative of Trump’s indominability is about to end. Sorta like the narrative that Biden screwed the pooch in Afghanistan.  That is NOT the narrative the GOP was going for. Yeah, and "fetch" is not gonna happen, either.

Monday, August 30, 2021

“They’re Tryin’ To Wash Us Away…”

Talk Is Cheap

I would call that a legitimately fascistic statement, since Cawthorn is taking upon himself the powers of the House and the Senate with his claim "I will remove Joe Biden from office," but the proper response is: "Sure you will, little boy.  Sure you will."

Mark my words:  Cawthorn will end his political career not even having put his name as co-sponsor on any significant piece of legislation.  Remove a sitting President from office?  Run along, little boy, the grown ups have work to do.

This Is The Way The War Ends

10% responded: “Afghanistan?”

"That Word Does Not Mean What You Think It Means"

For one thing, Judaism does not have a communion ritual.

For another, it doesn't have bishops with the power to deny an individual access to communion.

This is what happens when religious terms wander into the civic sphere.

Outrage Is So Easily Generated

"My heart goes out to their families," she remarked, "but if you have been silent about the averaging of nine soldiers dying every month for the last 20 years, if you have never once talked about the 20,000 soldiers that have come back wounded from this war, if you don't talk about the veteran suicide rate that is currently plaguing our veterans stateside, I hate to tell you this but you are not the advocate for the military that you think you are." 

"Your strings are being puppeted by the propaganda machine and you are being told to be angry," Triplett continued. "I'm going to politely ask you to stop using those heroes' deaths to prop up your political agenda. It's disgusting."

I continue to think the manipulation is by a handful of office holders and media (more on-line than anywhere else, even with FoxNews in the mix) trying to continue the behaviors and strategies that succeeded so well for the right-wing and the GOP in this country we got four years of Trump because another Clinton was an unacceptable option.

I think, with that awkward introduction, that after four years of Trump such manipulations have finally run their course.  Yes, angry white men (and women) continue to rant about their "freedoms" and their "constitutional rights" which they don't have and don't understand, but they saw the culmination of their efforts in Trump, and now they know the game is over.  The calls for Biden's resignation or impeachment are farcical, even as he proves a POTUS who knows how to lead can accomplish things the clown Trump couldn't imagine.

I hate to even publicize this (well, as much anything on this blog can be considered "publicized"), but this is the former President calling into a radio show last night:

"Because Afghanistan is not even something that can be discussed in a rational way," Trump said. "The level of stupidity — and we had a great agreement. And Biden admitted the other day, he made a mistake because they didn't want him to say that no people have been killed since this agreement was signed."

"And the media, which is fake and crooked and corrupt, they're the worst people, they're the most corrupt people," Trump added. "The only thing I don't understand is why. They've got to hate our country. And they are in fact the enemy of the people. But the corrupt media shows the hurricane all night long."

Two things there:  one, the vacuous criticism of the media, and two:  connecting that criticism of a media that "hate[s] our country" and are "the enemy of the people," with "show[ing] the hurricane all night long."  The entire city of New Orleans is without power of any kind (so no power to cell towers, to pumping stations, to emergency services, to anything) and we haven't even started to look at the destruction from wind, much less flooding, not to mention the devastation to smaller communities:

(Now you have the visuals) and this raving jackass is complaining about that?  Yeah, do you miss him yet?  Because I think fewer and fewer people do, all the time.  We're thinking about the people, about the losses, about the trauma; Trump is thinking about how it draws attention away from what he wants to rant about.

The game the GOP played successfully since at least Gingrich was in the House (it was the game that made him Speaker, however briefly) is played out.  The efforts at manipulation are looking farcical not just because Biden is acting like the adult in the White House (Obama did, too, especially if you compare him to his Democratic predecessor, Bill Clinton), but because Biden is unashamedly championing the policies of LBJ and FDR for the first time since, well, LBJ.

This may not, in the end, be a sea change in government in D.C.  But the old game is over; and it's going to be a long time before the GOP puts together a new one.  In that time, maybe we can get a few things done.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

I Am Not Rejoicing In Death and Violence

But as a practical political matter the departure from Afhganistan is supposed to be a "catastrophe" that marks "paid" to Biden's administration already, and the suicide bombing last week which claimed the lives of 13 Americans as well as 100 or so Afghanis was supposed to be the final nail in Biden's political coffin.

But this story, and the airstrike with the "ninja bomb," and even this:
Don't strike me as "damage control" at all. I don't, as I say, rejoice in the violence and deaths; but I recognize the political value of these actions, as well as the practical ones for the nation and the Afghanis and Americans still trying to leave Kabul.  It's also interesting we will have so much functional intelligence, given how much of that intelligence seemed so worthless just a few weeks ago.

Maybe the Republicans and critics of Biden calling for his impeachment, resignation, removal....are thinking Trump is still in office.

Trump diminished the expectations of the Presidency.  Biden is restoring that office.  It's always the Democrats who bring the knife to the gun fight.  I'm beginning to think the Republicans don't even have as much as a rubber knife.

“It’s my constitutional right to be as mean as I want to you guys.”

That quote is from the AP story:

In Vail, Arizona, speakers at a recent meeting took turns blasting school board members over masks, vaccines and discussions of race in schools — even though the board had no plans to act on, or even discuss, any of those topics. “It’s my constitutional right to be as mean as I want to you guys,” one woman said.

I know of a local school superintendent who went to her car after work and found it had a flat tire.  Her husband came up to repair it, but first he checked all the tires, and the flat one, looking for signs of vandalism.  It was a nail, but he suspected someone had slashed her tires.

Don't get me started on the rising number of people who just say "I pay taxes!" as if they were your sole employer or the only reason the schools were still open.  The sense of entitlement has always been there, but it's a rising tide now.

No one, of course, has a constitutional right to be mean to public officials.  As the article points out, most school board members are volunteers.  They pay money to run campaigns (yard signs, etc.), then get nothing when they win except the drudgery of school board work.  Most people don't know what the school board is doing, and don't care.  At local meetings if there is room on the agenda for public discussion, the room is packed with people waiting to bitch and moan, if only for one minute (the time limit at the board meetings I know about).  When that segment of the agenda is over, they clear the room.  Stay and see what's actually being done for the schools that teach their children?  Are you mad!  There's TeeVee to watch!  Or at least better things to do.

Don't get me started.

"It's my constitutional right to be as mean as I want to you guys."  My response would have been "It's my constitutional right to tell you to sit down and shut up, bitch!"

A board member in that school board meeting is quoted after the meeting:

“There is starting to be an inherent distrust for school boards, that there’s some notion that we are out to indoctrinate children or to undermine parents or things like that, when we are on the same team,” said Pratt, who has been on the board six years. “We are here to help children.”

But the shouters and the screamers are not there to help the children, any more than the parents in a divorce action are helping the children when the battles of the divorce use the children as proxies.  These people don't care about the children, they care about themselves.  I've heard stories of students in the local schools acknowledging it's their parents who are crazy on the subject of masks, not the students.  They're happy to do what keeps them safe.  The parents argue over what that is, and do so from ignorance or Facebook or FoxNews, or in the case of the doctors, from science.

Vail board President Jon Aitken is among [the board members across the country facing recall votes]*, targeted by critics who say the mental and physical health of students has declined under pandemic restrictions. The Arizona board has faced contentious issues in recent years, including the Red for Ed movement three years ago, when 50,000 people rallied at the state Capitol for increased education funding. But he said this is different.

“That was a very real issue, with legitimate concerns on both sides,” Aitken said. Much of what is said today, is false or simply made up, he said.

As the words of Paul in his original Greek said over the door of the dormitory of my seminary:  "The things unseen are forever."  Or as I've put it before:  Things don't matter.  Ideas don't matter.  People matter.  But when we place ideas before people, people become things, and all that matters is "us."  And "us" is just an idea.

*which strikes me as explicitly bizarre.  Board elections here barely rate any notice, turnout is miniscule, and terms are only for two years.  Why force the expense on the school district of a recall election (the regular elections are expensive enough:  machines, vote counters, etc.) for a term that's so short and, actually, almost so meaningless?  Apart from mask mandates, school boards do very little that directly affects the students, except inasmuch as they maintain, or fail to, the school buildings (the district I grew up in finally replaced the schools I attended 50 years after I was gone.  They still have one building that was 50 years old when I was there, still in use.  One of the three schools I attended was brand new; the high school I attended needed to be replaced while I was there.  It's still an embarrassment to me, and I'm glad I didn't raise children there.).  And frankly, the question of masks will be behind us in another year, if not sooner.  It could be much sooner if the same people screaming at board meetings about masks would get vaccinated and stop being so publicly stupid.

Not Really The National Question

Even though Maria Bartiromo wants it to be (also Murdoch, of course): This is much closer to the national question, and much closer to home: Closer to home wins. And though it’s a human disaster, not another political football, when Ida is a spent force, don’t expect Joe Biden to be in New Orleans throwing paper towels to the crowd.

First Rule Of Holes

I think the kids call this "doubling down." I suppose we all get old enough to just embarass the shit out of ourselves. Hopefully I've stepped away from the intertoobs when that time comes.

And returning briefly to my original argument, this is the flaw in Sartre's ethic (which is actually a morality, because he's trying to preserve "God" while eliminating "God" from the question):  If I am to take on the burden of deciding what all humanity is by my every decision as to how to treat another human being, what do we do with the example of Lawrence Tribe, who is clearly screaming from a place of deep emotion, not reasoning from a place of cool objective reserve? 

With what ethic about "choosing for all humankind" do we respond to him?  I think he'd happily say all humankind should agree with him, and refuse to take the matter any further.  And what morality (or ethic, if you prefer) is that?

When I Read The Arguments Against The Vaccine

...and how it’s riskier than Covid. We can’t imagine our own death; we can’t imagine our own suffering. And when that is all that matters: our death, our suffering, we cannot even imagine concern for others.

We can blame Alex Berenson; we can blame Facebook and Twitter and Trump and the entire GOP. In the end it comes down to us. To those of us who will believe anything but the truth, to those of us determined to be convinced that what is true is not true, cannot be true. That the vaccine is not the answer, that masks and caring are not the cure, because those things don’t come from us, the us who don’t want to believe. We want to believe something else: that we can find the answers, that we can save ourselves, that we are still in control.

Once I realized, truly realized, that I was not in control of my life, that I was not in charge, I began to cope with the life I was living. All my problems were not solved, all my questions were not answered; but my anxieties began to melt away. It wasn’t a cure, it was only an awareness of the truth. But we want to be in control. We want to be in charge. We want to think that is the truth, that we are in charge. What the last year has done is remove so much of that sense we are the masters of our fate, some of us will do anything to get it back.

And here we are.

Pastoral Care Is Not The Province Of Governors

It's not exactly a separation of church-state argument, but pastoral care is neither the duty nor the province of state officials.

"I'm often asked by some of my friends on the other side of the aisle about COVID … and why does it seem like folks in Mississippi and maybe in the Mid-South are a little less scared, shall we say," Reeves said at a fundraiser, the Daily Memphian reported.

"When you believe in eternal life — when you believe that living on this earth is but a blip on the screen, then you don't have to be so scared of things," he said, adding: "Now, God also tells us to take necessary precautions."

The Governor offers that insight in the context of a fundraiser.  It's good he didn't offer it to a grieving mother asking why God had to take her infant child.  If he had answered that "living on this earth is but a blip on the screen" and so "you don't have to be so scared of things," she'd have slapped the shit out of him.

Believe me.

Which is to say:  Yes, he's full of it. What he said is not even good theology; it's certainly terrible pastoral care.  It underscores the observation of the question "My death; is it possible?"  Obviously he doesn't think it is.  Eventually he'll learn otherwise; but his "teachings" won't protect him from the knowledge, and the knowledge won't erase the harm of his "teachings."

Not even if he got the shit slapped out of him for them.

I Have Family In The Path Of This Storm

...and all I can do is pray for them. πŸ™ 

Let Them Eat Horse Dewormer

(That's just so we all have the right context for TEXAS Congressman Gohmert's remarks, IN TEXAS!) Yes, this is how Texas appears to the world. I am so proud. Hand to God, I have no idea what planet Gohmert is living on. Tyler, Texas, which Gohmert represents, has had 2720 cases between August 14 and August 27, alone. They are averaging 215 new cases a day. I'm kinda surprised Texas is not among the top five; and relieved.

Since We're Still Talking About Facebook

Or around the subject, anyway.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Timing Is Everything

Noble sentiment, but by the time it was published I-10 east and west were parking lots. After Hurricane Rita caused a traffic jam from Houston to Dallas (at least as great a distance as from the east to west borders of Louisiana) Texas established "evacuation routes" where counter-flow measures can open all lanes to evacuating traffic.

I'm saddened to see Louisiana, which has much more exposure to hurricanes than Texas does, has not learned from our lesson.  Here's hoping they are all somewhere else by the time the hurricane strikes (they would not have been had Rita hit Houston as expected).

When Your Heroes LIve Long Enough To Thoroughly Disappoint You

I read recently that Harvard has appointed an atheist "humanist chaplain" (I put it in quotes because the humanities, like all university education, came to be under the auspirces of the Church) as head chaplain over a whole staff of them (of various faiths and creeds) at Harvard. I mention it not because I think it all that newsworthy (his job sounds mostly administrative to me; that was the bane of my pastoral career, such as it was), but because his previous claim to fame was what sounded like a watered-down version of Sartre's "Existentialism Is A Humanism." His book, he explained in the article about his appointment, was an argument for being a good person, without a god to make you so. It's a lame argument based on a poorer form of Christianity which posits that without god we'd all be beasts and brutes, and we need God in our lives to civilize us.

And I mention it here because while the argument against the atheist's argument is a bit abstruse and requires more information about his argument in order to make mine, examples like this from Laurence Tribe point out to me that we need a bit more awareness of God in our understanding of morality, if only to raise us from our own self-centeredness.  Mr. Tribe may or may not consider himself a Christian; the point is irrelevant to me here.  But the idea that justice requires punishment, even unto death 53 years after the crime, is an argument from a morality that recognizes no higher authority or purpose than one's own satisfaction.

I'm not sure how you craft a morality that rises above this level of selfishness without appeal to a higher authority, even if, as Graham Greene wrote, “You cannot conceive, nor can I, of the appalling strangeness of the mercy of God.”

Justice without mercy is not justice.  Where that mercy comes from, has to be from somewhere other than human caused.

(And yes, based solely on Jesus pronouncing in Luke that he had come to bring freedom to the captives, which I don't think was a metaphor or a "spiritual insight" (that's always the easy way out of Jesus' hardest sayings, to say he didn't mean it "literally"), I am of the anti-carceral persuasion.  No, there are not nearly enough of us to constitute a party.  And if it had to be a libertarian one, I'd agree with Groucho Marx that it was a party I wouldn't join because it would have me.  I certainly wouldn't have it, anyway.)

Under The Circumstances (which are ☠️)

I would/will do the same. Except I’m an adjunct; I effectively get re-hired every semester. And I’m ready to retire from my part-time job anyway.

So long as the red death is running rampant, if I can only get lecture (v. online) classes, I just won’t take them.

I gotta quit sooner or later anyway.

Never thought there was an advantage to being an adjunct. Of course, now I’ll never be a legend.  OTOH, I accepted that a long time ago.

Meeting The Enemy

 When I wore a younger man’s clothes, I practiced family law; and not long enough to get good at it. But I saw one thing quickly enough: in any divorce case with children, the children were always the battlefield.

They weren’t fought over, they were fought on. The parents fought each other and the children weren’t just caught in the fight, they were where the fight was conducted. Now we’re doing it in the schools.

There’s no doubt masks and social distancing are valuable tools against Covid. Resistance to both is the primary reason we are in worse shape now than last winter. So we clamor for mask mandates in the schools.  But here’s the thing: we can’t enforce them, because the parents won’t go along.

Do you suspend students who won’t wear masks? Is refusing a mask the same thing as starting a fight or bringing a gun to school? What if the child has been told by the parents not to wear a mask? Dallas ISD went to court to defend its mask mandate, but allows parents to opt out for “philosophical” reasons. They admit that’s a loophole you could drive a truck through; but they also admit an absolute mandate is unenforceable.

Eanes ISD has solved the problem by segregating masked students from unmasked. That requires two sets of teachers, lots of physical space, and even two different lunch schedules. Most school districts don’t have the staff or the facilities to do that.

So is the answer to punish the kids? Most of them don’t have agency in this situation; they’re doing what their parents tell them to do. Do we force those students to stay home, endangering their education for another year?

I suppose if we had a top-down push (from the Governor) for masks a mandate might be more effective. But I think that horse has already left the barn and besides, we burned that barn down a long time ago. Demanding a mask mandate is not solving the problem. Refusing to observe basic public health standards is not solving the problem. I’m not sure we’re capable of solving this problem. But we’ll sure find lots of other people to blame for that in the meantime.

More Fun With Twitter

Been there, done that. Though mostly I’m appalled at the restaurant recommendations people make to strangers. I’m convinced everyone one on NextDoor is 75 and dines at the same restaurants they did in 1965. It’s a fair cop. People who have heard from themselves should always be taken seriously. Or handled gingerly. One or the other, and probably both.

Not to be outdone: bad legal takes.
Twitter tells me it’s a HIPPA [sic] violation to ask a President to resign. One does suspect some just want the attention of Bad Legal Takes. And some people really are just idiots.

Compare And Contrast

And on “Washington Week” last night they were discussing Biden’s “steely resolve.”

I think the GOP has lost this fight. Some are demanding Biden be impeached; but honestly, that’s just farcical. They’re beclowning themselves.

Reptile Brain Redux

My problem with this argument (apart from being full of vague and glittering generalities masquerading as "science") is two-fold.

One:  it assumes a normal baseline Trump somehow “re-wired.” That “baseline” was not present in the people who supported Trump and still clamor for him to be reinstated into the Presidency. The baseline that was there is not the same as in non-Trump supporters.  It is clear to any sentient being Donald Trump is no more equipped to be POTUS than a cat; and I hold cats in very high regard.  But the people who support Trump weren't "re-wired" by him; they were unleashed.  It's the same phenomenon every "apocalypse" movie is based on, where the thin veneer of civilization is ripped away and we all descend into bestial chaos and blind panic as we claw each others eyes out because... reasons.

It doesn't happen that way in real life, as any disaster (floods, hurricanes, forest fires) can attest.  The "veneer" of civilization isn't that thin and isn't even a veneer; it's bone deep, it's, dare I say, "human nature."  But it makes a good story so we keep telling it to ourselves because too many of us do fear "the other," convinced that given half a chance they will rape our women and take our stuff and laugh at our impotence.

Yeah, that doesn't happen, either, but too many live as if it's going to any moment now.

Trump supporters are quite sincere in their anger and paranoia and fear.  I've been around such people all my life, one way and another.  The driving force of Trump is nothing other than racism.  He simply expresses the fear of a brown planet some white people in America have.  He didn't "re-wire" them; he gave public expression to their anxiety, and they flocked to him like moths to a light bulb.  He set free their anger and fear.  He allowed them to speak publicly.  They weren't "re-wired."  They were just released.

Two:  "Re-wiring" is a metaphor that assumes the people supporting Trump have no agency in their decisions, no control over their impulses (unlike we wise sages who contemplate the nature of time and space and history and study the wisdom of the ages from our ivory towers).  This is just another way of making "them" the "other" we don't really have any connection to, but whom we should help because, poor dears, they can't help themselves.  The've been "re-wired."  You know, that's how some people's brains work.  Not ours, of course!  But it does theirs.  Such a pity.

I'm just surprised they stopped at "amygdala" and didn't bring up that favorite of the last decades of the last century, the "reptile brain."  Ah, dem was de days!  Good times, good times....(as much bullshit as The Bell Curve, but at least not quite as much overt racism.  Still rooted in racism, but then, what method of distinction of large groups of people isn't, really?).

Winter’s Tale 😷

Last winter we had lockdowns, mask mandates, and social distancing.

We didn’t have three vaccines.

Now all we have are three vaccines. Oh, and the same situation as last winter. Or worse:

Judges Would Also Accept:

We would also accept:

via GIPHY

Frontiers Of Self-Medication

Well, at least it’s not that untested vaccine: I mean, who’re ya gonna trust? The CDC? Or this guy?

Friday, August 27, 2021

Well, There Is That [Addendum to a prior thread]

Never say "never," after all.

When The Son Of Adam Comes In His Glory

...accompanied by all his messengers, then he will occupy his glorious throne.  Then all peoples will be assembled before him, and he will separate them into groups, much as a shepherd segregates sheep from goats.  He'll place the sheep to his right and the goats to his left.  Then the king will say to those at his right, 'Come, you have have the blessing of my Father, inherit the domain prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  You may remember, I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a foreigner and you showed me hospitality; I was naked and you clothed me; I was ill and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to see me.'

Then the virtuous will say to him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you or thirsty and give you a drink?  When did we notice that you were a foreigner and extend hospitality to you? Or naked and clothe you? When did we find you ill or in prison and come to visit you?

And the king will respond to them: 'I swear to you, whatever you did for the most inconspicuous members of my family, you did for me as well.'

Next he will say to those at his left, 'You,, condemned to the evelasting fire prepared for the devil and his messengers, get away from me! You too may remember, I was hungry and you didni't give me anything to eat; I was thirsty and you refused me a drink; I was a foreigner and you failed to extend hospitality to me; naked and you didn't clothe me; ill and in prison and you didn't visit me.'

Then they will give him a similar reply: 'Lord, when did we notice that you were hungry or thirsty or a foreigner or naked or weak or in prison and did not attempt to help you?'

He will then respond: 'I swear to you, wheatever you didn't do for the most inconspicuous members of my family, you didn't do for me.'

The second group will then head for everlasting punishment, grumbling about their personal liberties and their right to be free of government oppression and mandates and responsibililty for anybody but themselves, and the King on his throne will be heard to say: "Aren't they gone yet?"

Matthew 25:31-46a, with emendations (SV)

"Hope Is The Thing With Feathers"

I would not say this is even "on point" with Texas law, for reasons I'll explain (briefly) in a moment; but this is close to the argument I expect will eventually be made in a Texas court:

One of the central arguing points in the state's side of the case was the "Parents' Bill of Rights" that became law this year. Judge John Cooper said the new law does "not ban mask mandates at all." The governor had previously said the new law gave him the authority to issue his executive order.

"Parents' right are very important but they’re not without some reasonable limitations," usually in regard to health care or safety, the judge noted.

Cooper also added that the law doesn't mean the state can penalize school boards. Instead, those schools boards should have the due process to indicate their policy is reasonable, however, the state has not done so with Alachua and Broward school districts.

If Texas has a law like Florida's, I haven't heard of it.  But that doesn't mean it doesn't exist (these things tend to spread like, well, a virus, from state to state) nor that Paxton isn't using it in briefs I haven't read as one leg upon which the Governor's authority stands.  But that "reasonable limitation" language is what I've been arguing for all along.  I don't think the Governor can decide he knows best and just ban masks because he wants to, especially if there is evidence of their efficacy and aid in abating the spread of a deadly communicable disease.

So there's that.  There's also the due process business.  Abbott has threatened to fine school boards and county commissioners (persons, no entities, IOW) who defied his order; but I haven't heard of any enforcement actions on that front.  Still, the due process argument would apply, as the Florida court said it does for penalizing school boards by withholding state funds.

And there's this:

During his ruling, Judge Cooper systematically debunked evidentiary reports and studies used by the governor to prove masks are ineffective or are not recommended by experts, pointing out that several of them actually said the opposite. He also said that some of the studies took place before the delta variant became the dominant strain in Florida.

"We had a different, less infectious virus than we had last year," Cooper said during Friday's virtual hearing. He later said, "What is appropriate for one county, may not be appropriate for another county." 

Lawsuits depend on facts.  "Change the facts, change the outcome" means, in law, you change the result the facts produce.  One set of facts is exoneration, or support for a governor's executive order; but another set, and that order falls.  The court in Florida rejected the evidence presented in favor of the executive order; so the order falls.

It could happen in Texas; we just haven't gotten a case past interlocutory appeals for extraordinary relief yet.  And one other way in could be this reasoning:

DeSantis has dismissed the masking recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as not applicable to Florida, but Cooper cited numerous Florida laws and statutes covering health care in nursing homes, prisons and elsewhere that say state decision-makers should give great weight to CDC guidelines.

Especially since Abbott's orders on vaccines and masks all exclude nursing homes.  Gee, what's the basis for that, Governor?  Old people vote, but kids under 18 don't?

And I think few trial judges in Texas would put the opposite of this sentiment in print:

The judge pointed out that most experts agree masks protect other children, not just those wearing them, and he rejected the claim made by a psychologist at a closed-door DeSantis-led roundtable that "masking is child abuse."

"I’ve seen no scientific evidence of that," Cooper said.

Really, I like this opinion; what I've read of it, anyway:

"We all zealously protect our personal rights," he said. "We can drink until we're intoxicated...but we cannot get in our car and start driving around while we've had alcoholic beverages that impair our ability to drive. We all have the right to drink alcohol, but the driver’s right to drive intoxicated is limited by the government."

"When we talk about absolute and fundamental rights, there’s always a footnote," Cooper added. "Well let's see if exercising this right harms other people." 

By the way, this ruling came after four days of testimony.  No case in Texas has gotten that far yet.  All the rulings of the Texas Supreme Court are preliminary and limited to the case before them; they've made no ruling for the state as a whole.  That's because no case has developed a record which the Court can review.  Not yet, anyway.

Hope is the thing with feathers, and I'm feeling rather feathery myself. 

Now Do You Miss Him?

Trump thinks we’re working our way through the alphabet. No idea what he thinks happened to ISIS A-J. It probably doesn’t cross his mind.

ISIS-K is an acronym for Islamic State Khorasan. 

The group has been in existence since 2014. It has been present in several countries since that time. It’s threats to attack Americans in Afghanistan is one reason Biden wanted to leave. Trump would have been briefed on all of this.

His ignorance is truly astounding. And truly impenetrable.

A Quick, Long, Interesting Thread 🧡

Since I was getting blocked (by Twitter) I had to sign up to read stuff like this. So I’m posting the thread 🧡 to make sure you can see it all. Welcome to modern times.

If global warming doesn’t kill us, I’m sure Facebook will.

Legal Explainer

"Gone to the attorney general” on a public information request is not the nefarious tactic of crooks and fiends and those with something to hide it sounds like. It’s actually a common action that’s more CYA than cover-up.

The request of the AG is allowed under the statute, and all it means is that any information released is authorized for release. Now you see where the CYA comes in. If the constable’s office releases information contrary to law (quite a few laws apply), the office could face liability. The AG’s opinion means whatever information that is released has been authorized.

It’s not a delaying tactic. It’s not an obstruction tactic. It’s SOP. If I were advising the constable, I’d probably request an AG opinion just as a matter of good legal practice.

Ignorance of the law really is a dangerous thing.  And it makes you look stupid.  Like, Trump-stupid.

Don't be Trump-stupid.