Monday, January 31, 2022

Meanwhile, In Florida…

That was this morning. By mid-day, the rest of Florida government was much less circumspect: By this evening: Omar? No idea how she’s connected.

I know he fancies himself the next Trump. But I don’t think he’s ready for Prime Time. I mean, even in Texas that shit wouldn’t fly.

Children Of Hobby Lobby v Burwell

No, this one is not Trump’s fault. And it’s not because Burwell was decided on similar grounds. It’s the sweeping change to the legal analysis that Burwell introduced. I’m not arguing this law is validated by Burwell. But it is certainly inspired by it.

“Religious beliefs” is nothing more than a vague and glittering generality, the kind we teach Freshman English students to avoid. But that’s what Burwell protected, so Oklahoma is following suit. The problem bits in this statute are “promoting” and “opposition.” If I mention in class that biblical literalism is a 20th century response to 19th century German scholarship, am I “promoting” an idea in “opposition” to “closely held religious beliefs “? What if I point out you can’t read the two nativity stories as both “literally” true because the events in them are irreconcilable? (Matthew’s holy family lives in Bethlehem; Luke says they went there for the census; and so on and so on.) Am I promoting an idea? Or promoting thought?

We all know the answer to that. And we all know education is not about promoting thought, except at the graduate level. And we keep it there so we can safely despise it.
What could possibly be causing the burnout? Covid? Not by itself.

All Ideas Are Dangerous

Some are just more dangerous than others.

 This is usually what happens when a book is banned:

In York, Pa., last month [e.g., September 2021], a group of high school students got together to save “anti-racism” books that parents of other kids in the Central York School District had protested. These were “children’s tomes that celebrate the lives of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, as well as an autobiography of Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, a ‘Sesame Street’ town hall on racism, and a few dozen other books, many written by Black and brown authors,” Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Will Bunch wrote last month (“In Central York, kids rose up to save books on MLK, Rosa Parks from their parents,” Sept. 21).

The district’s action to remove these books from school libraries and curriculums was called a book “freeze,” not a ban, and aimed to protect students from “dangerous ideas.”

Christina Ellis, a Central York student, said to Lancaster, Pa.-based WGAL at the time: “We believe this is wrong. We believe that this shows discrimination, in a way, for banning 80% to 90% of books that are from BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) authors,” she said.

The students’ protest led to adults joining their ranks and resulted in many Little Free Libraries around the city of York to stock and make widely available, for free, the books that were on the school’s restricted list.

Students and “pro-book” parents protested the list outside a September school board meeting. And they won.

The school board reversed the book ban and made a statement that included the following, “The Board embraces diversity in its many forms, including diversity of thought. We have always welcomed myriad quality diversity materials embracing differences and fostering equality, tolerance, inclusiveness, communication and kindness.”

Fahrenheit 451 has been banned for language, depiction of firemen, and for depicting the burning of a Bible.  Odd because the book Montag memorizes and so preserves in the novel is Ecclesiastes (although actually Bradbury has him quoting Luke; but anyway....)  How often a book is banned is a little hard to pin down, since it usually occurs in some small school district or other (almost never in the largest school districts).  Best I can tell, 451 has been banned four times.  Some accounts indicate it has been far more often than that.  Go figure.

One of the all-time winners for book banning is To Kill a Mockingbird.  Maus is not the only book about the Holocaust to be anned.  Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank, made the ALA list for most banned or challenged books of 2010-2019.  So, ironically, did the Holy Bible.

Book banning is as American as apple pie and barring school children from learning about Marxism.  It's a stupid action that usually backfires on the people doing it, does nothing to stop the book from being read, and often sparks greater interest in it than there might have been.

I guess I'm just bemused by the people who are shocked!  shocked! to discover there is book banning in America!  The federal government pretty much gave it up after Ulysses was allowed into the country.  School boards are, again, usually where the action is on this stuff.  But even they don't really have the power to ban books; or to keep kids from being curious as to what all the fuss is about.  Personally I hope more people are reading Maus; or To Kill A Mockingbird; or Fahrenheit 451, because of all this. 

It’s what happened in Bradbury’s novel, even after they burned Montag’s Bible.

These Are The People Threatening The Republic

Again, the internal contradictions of the argument are stunning: The quiet part out loud. As the criminal investigation into the election and after is going on.  He’s just providing more evidence for his indictment. In writing, no less. All the Twitter accounts we have agree: Judges would also accept:”Dumb as a box of rocks.” His stupidity is vast. It contains multitudes.

Hillary just called them "deplorables":

The Trump supporter, Rhoda Benfield, was asked what she makes of "how angry the country is right now at each other." "Let them fight it out," Benfield responded. 

"You're looking at another civil war anyway. Let them fight it out. America is not what it used to be. It used to be a great place to live. Now it's not."
Rep. Ruben Gallego is quite comfortable with going much farther:

Asked about his reaction to Benfield's comments, Gallego said, "People like that are just unpatriotic. I can’t believe they’ve given up on America." 
"My family came here from different countries because they believe in America, and they still believe in America," Gallego added. "The fact that you don’t have your preferred candidate and suddenly because of that reason, this country is horrible, tells you a lot about who you are, not who the country is. Most of these people hate America because they’re losers and they want to give excuses for everybody else as to why they're no longer doing well. And instead of actually looking internally and realizing that they probably have some faults, they have to blame people of color, they have to blame a political party, when in fact most of the time it's their own causes. And this is what Donald Trump is really good at, he's really good at finding these losers and giving them a reason to blame everybody else except for themselves."
And the cherry on top is that, again, Trump is never careful about what he asks for: Of course, by Trump’s logic, he alone has the power to declare elections fraudulent. The courts wouldn’t do it, but Trump gets to declare it anyway. That’s the real problem: Trump doesn’t need government. He just needs to get what he wants, when he wants it. Rep. Gallego isn’t wrong. What he said is what the courts have been saying to the January 6th defendants. That doesn’t give Trump power. It affirms he doesn’t have any. Yeah, this is really not going to go the way he expects it to.
Saying the obvious part out loud. Still, it needs to be said.

Just A Reminder

The violence on January 6th came from a very impassioned crowd.

The passion for defending Trump against criminal charges seems to be quite…well, absent.

I agree it was a terrible thing for him to say. Getting people to do it, though, is the real problem. People may think “their” President was taken from them. They feel a great deal less personally aggrieved if a former President is in the dock.  They may think an election, a fairly opaque public process, was "rigged." They will be far less inclined to arise en masse and march against a public trial taking place almost literally before their eyes. It’s not like they’re rising up to protest the January 6th verdicts.

I Really Think We Can All Agree...

...that Republicans are whinging because Biden is going to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court are logically incoherent, completely inconsistent, hypocritical, and basically full of shit. Oh, and racist, too; because the examples of Reagan and Trump promising to appoint women (and Trump did it avowedly to overturn Roe. IMHLO Justice Barrett is singularly unqualified to sit on the Court. Along with Justice Thomas she is simply an ideologue, not a qualified or experienced judge, not even much of a lawyer. Robert Bork was unqualified for the same reasons.) were not a promise to appoint a Black woman.

See? It’s different!

And let it not be forgotten that Clarence Thomas called his Senate hearings an "electronic lynching."  Every GOP officeholder in Washington would collapse (on camera) on a fainting couch if Biden's nominee made similar charges.

It comes down to power now.  Yes, once upon a time it came down to bipartisanship and collegiality and what hill you wanted to die on (pictures of Breyer being congratulated by no less than Strom Thurmond upon winning his Senate vote come to mind).  But now it's simply about power.  The confirmation of Justice Barrett in 37 days didn't bother Mitch McConnell at all.  Her all but guaranteed determination to be as right-wing as possible didn't make him turn a hair. The Democrats have the votes, and they have the White House.  If they promote a "radical leftist," he can just cry himself to sleep.

GOP officeholders can cry crocodile tears to their supporters.  They can also suck it; especially since this may invigorate the children among us who think Biden hasn't done enough for them lately.  Honest to Gawd you'd have thought four years of Trump would have taught people something about the dichotomous nature of our national politics, the cleaving either/or that is now our government in D.C. You get Biden, or you get Trump. There is no alternative where you get everything you want all the time.

Besides, aren’t these idiots aware we have a Congress?

Our Man On Their Side

“Former President Donald J. Trump continues to make forceful public comments about the ‘stolen election,’ chastising individuals who did not reject the supposedly illegitimate results that put the current administration in place,” Judge Emmet Sullivan wrote in a recent opinion ordering the detention of Jan. 6 defendant Jack Whitton, charged with one of the most brutal assaults that day.

 “[S]uch comments reflect the continued threat posed by individuals like Mr. Whitton, who has demonstrated that he is willing and able to engage in extreme and terrifying levels of violence against law enforcement with a chilling disregard for the rule of law … seemingly based on mistaken beliefs about the illegitimacy of the current administration.”
This is going to become a theme.

Sunday, January 30, 2022

“First, Do No Harm”

"You can’t force me to get the vaccine but I can force you to give me medical treatment you think ineffective or dangerous” is a helluva take.

Celebrities Cannot Die

That's why they're celebrities. And if they really do die, they retreat rapidly from our attention: Which is why we can't let them die. 

I'm just disappointed nobody's rooting for Elvis to reappear.

A Brief Explainer About The Nature Of Fraud

And no, this has nothing to do with the First Amendment.  This is just good ol' hornbook common law fraud.  Popehat is right: selling people what they want is perfectly legal, unless you are selling them something truly harmful to their health and outlawed by law, like moonshine instead of liquor from a liquor store.

Selling ideas that are disgusting, like, say, birtherism?  Well, can't do much about that; not at law, anyway.
(because I never get tired of jokes about Tucker Carlson and M&Ms)

This Is What We're Thinking About....

...when we're thinking about teaching thought. It's a very long Twitter thread which, rather than condense or reproduce here, I commend to your reading. The other end of it is this comment: You might think that brings us back to this: Actually, it brings us back to this: Good v. evil is a discussion we need to have openly and often. Retreating into "I'll teach my kid what I want them to know, and you do the same for your kid" creates the kind of conflicts between individuals and society, as expressed in its laws, that end up with law enforcement officers unable to conceptualize the true nature (again, according to law) of their jobs. 

For starters.

"I Am A Christian Woman Of Gawd!"

As entertaining as that is (and it IS entertaining), you might not hear everything she said. The whole incident is available here, from the police officer's bodycam: This woman is a candidate for her local school board. Gawdelp that school board.

Oh, and she's dead wrong about the common law. (The best part is when the cops get tired of her bullshit. ๐Ÿคฃ
I’m not pro-incarceration, but she was about to go full “sovereign citizen” there. How does she reconcile that with being on a school board where she can impose her will on others? Without a moment’s consideration, I’m sure.)

Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way

So we’re thrown back on Maggie Haberman (could be worse). Turns out (surprise!) he couldn’t stay away from the 2020 election. It’s really all too predictable. The only newsworthy bit seems to be this: He’s going to be very disappointed. Especially when the protests that don’t come to pass have no effect on the courts even if they do occur. And “threatening unrest” is the kind of empty phrase public officials use when they don’t like the person speaking. It’s not really grounds for any legal action, and it doesn’t make you clever to use it.

Still, this tells you what Trump is reduced to. And what’s on his mind.
He doesn’t know whether to shit or go blind. And because “Texas” I have to mention Rick Perry, if only because: What Perry was advocating was election fraud (whether he thought it was legal, or not, is irrelevant). More evidence for the conspiracy charges. Yeah, not much track record there. Yet another reason not to vote for him. Does that explain the sheer incoherence? He can’t get it printed, much less published, but “go out and buy it”? That’s some teleprompter. He’s really not helping himself on any possible conspiracy charges. Seriously; he’s a prosecutor’s best friend. Or best defendant.

Sunday Morning Goin' Down, OR: The Upside of Book Bans

The upside? We can get your attention for stuff like this.

(The gentleman is the Rev. Matt Laney, senior pastor at Virginia-Highland Church in Georgia. Sorry, don't know where in Georgia.)

The Fruit Of The Ignorant Tree

By this argument, there’s nothing wrong with teaching that the moon ๐ŸŒ is made of green cheese ๐Ÿง€, or that 2 + 2= 22.

Or why not teach anti-semitism, white supremacy, or birtherism? To not do so is censorship, no?

Glenn Greenwald is not a serious person. ๐Ÿคก 

Saturday, January 29, 2022

OTOH

If your job is patrolling the border to keep people out, you can understand the frustration with your job. Of course, the job of a police officer is not to lock up bad guys, or shoot anyone who looks like a threat. We have a fundamental problem with law enforcement officers understanding what “law enforcement” means. OTOH: Darwin Award winners. I was promised a flying car by the end of the 60’s. And the cure for cancer is largely removing carcinogens from the environment. But since most carcinogens are the by-product of industrialized society, and money talks, we’re not going to make progress on either of those promises.

Punk kids.

I’m Pretty Sure This Is An Annual Thing

But thanks for noticing.

My favorite is seeing Fahrenheit 451 on the table. Topped only by the mother who came to the bookstore when I was working there and asked if there was an audio version available for her daughter. (Only later did it occur to me that her daughter might have been dyslexic, or even visually impaired. She did make it seem her daughter had simply given up on reading, though.
The bookstore is a reminder these books aren’t actually banned, which is why I find the practice so foolish( i.e., the vacuous morons don’t win this battle, but they’ve already won the war). I will add that apparently nobody tried to ban Uncle Shelby’s ABZ’s. That would mean war!

To Ban A Book Again

In this century alone, To Kill A Mockingbird was NOT banned or challenged in 2001, 2003, 2007, 2011, and 2013-2016. Or only 8 years out of 22. It is on every list of Most Banned Books in America.

My point stands: nobody goes to court to defend this book or the principle that books should be challenged by discussion, not denying access to it. We go to court to challenge teaching creationism (rightly so) or to be sure science and mathematics are taught “properly.”  No one goes to court to defend the principles of the liberal arts. The only reason we notice these bans now is politics. It’s the political point we care about. Defense of the freedom of thought? We don’t even know what the issue is.

We know why we should teach science. We know why we shouldn’t teach pseudoscience. We don’t know why we should teach thought, and we casually accept the teaching of pseudo-thought. We don’t consider banning a book to be a serious act. We only take it seriously when we can use it for another purpose.

Banning the book is never the problem. Banning thought should be the problem, but we don’t see it that way, and because we ignore it we say that ban is not important at all. We don’t support thought either. We only want to use the ban to promote our idea.

Banning a book is a symbolic act, not an effective one. It stops nothing, it accomplishes nothing. It is an announcement, nothing more. But what do we let it announce by our silence, or by our faux outrage? Do we engage a discussion? Or do we respond in kind?

Of course we don’t go to court over banned books because the ban means nothing. It is a useless, petulant act. But we don’t use the opportunity to engage the discussion of ideas, defend the pursuit of thought, champion the examination of ideas. We don’t need to do that in court, or in politics. But we need to do it. We need to promote and defend the liberal arts as fiercely as we defend the sciences. Of course, in this technological age, science is where the money is.

And where our treasure is is where our heart is. Until the heart is nothing but a muscle, and we don’t know even what we’ve lost. It’s one reason we ban the books, and also why we barely notice. The books remind us of what we’ve lost, and we don’t like stirring those ashes.
It isn’t about the books. It’s all about the politics. That’s the problem.

Annals Of Religious Labels

which led to this: Well, yes, Pence is a bit of a "wandering Catholic."

Growing up in an Irish Catholic family that reportedly revered the Kennedys, Pence served as an altar boy and went to parochial school in Columbus, Ind., according to Fehrman. He then made a “commitment to Christ” while taking part in a nondenominational Christian student group in college.

Pence told The Indianapolis Star that he and his family attended Grace Evangelical Church in the 1990s, but by 2013, he told Fehrman, they were “kind of looking for a church.”

The vice president returned to his Catholic roots earlier this year, meeting Pope Francis at the Vatican before the coronavirus pandemic halted travel. The visit “made me a hero” in the United States, he enthused to the pope.

But the term "evangelical Catholic" was, probably unbeknownst to Pence, already taken: 

The term Evangelical Catholic (from catholic meaning universal and evangelical meaning Gospel-centered) is used in Lutheranism, alongside the term Augsburg Catholic, with those calling themselves Evangelical Catholic Lutherans or Lutherans of Evangelical Catholic churchmanship stressing the catholicity of historic Lutheranism in liturgy (such as the Mass), beliefs (such as the perpetual virginity of Mary), practices (such as genuflection), and doctrines (such as apostolic succession). Evangelical Catholics teach that Lutheranism at its core "is deeply and fundamentally catholic". The majority of Evangelical Catholic Lutheran clergy and parishes are members of mainstream Lutheran denominations. 

On the other hand:

As used by the Roman Catholic Church, the term evangelical Catholic refers to Roman Catholics in full communion with the Holy See in Rome who exhibit, according to Alister McGrath, the four characteristics of evangelicalism. The first is a strong theological and devotional emphasis on the Christian scriptures. Secondly, evangelical Catholics stress the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the cause of salvation for all mankind. A personal need for interior conversion is the third defining mark, and, consequently, the fourth is a deep commitment to evangelization.

On the other, other hand:

In recent years, the term Evangelical Catholic, has been adopted by high church elements of the Methodist and Reformed Churches. This is especially apt among the Reformed, given that one of the older documented uses of the term is by John Williamson Nevin and Philip Schaff, during their efforts (from roughly 1841 forward) to repristinate the theology of the German Reformed Church in the United States. In 1849 the Mercersburg Review was founded as the organ of their "Mercersburg Theology".

And to further complicate matters;

Some members of various Christian denominations may use the term Evangelical Catholic to indicate the fact that they are evangelical and maintain their catholicity. For example, Methodists and Presbyterians believe their denominations owe their origins to the Apostles and the early church, but do not claim descent from ancient church structures such as the episcopate. However, both of these churches hold that they are a part of the catholic (universal) church. According to Harper's New Monthly Magazine:

The various Protestant sects can not constitute one church because they have no intercommunion...each Protestant Church, whether Methodist or Baptist or whatever, is in perfect communion with itself everywhere as the Roman Catholic; and in this respect, consequently, the Roman Catholic has no advantage or superiority, except in the point of numbers. As a further necessary consequence, it is plain that the Roman Church is no more Catholic in any sense than a Methodist or a Baptist.

— Henry Mills Alden

As such, according to one viewpoint, for those who "belong to the Church," the term Methodist Catholic, or Presbyterian Catholic, or Baptist Catholic, is as proper as the term Roman Catholic. It simply means that body of Christian believers over the world who agree in their religious views, and accept the same ecclesiastical forms.

 None of this sounds like anything like what is described in the quoted tweet. Sean owes us all an apology. 

Making America Sick Again

Owning the libs by spreading a contagious and fatal disease.

Friday, January 28, 2022

January 28: "All The Instruments We Have Agree"


 In Memory of W. B. Yeats
W. H. Auden - 1907-1973

I

He disappeared in the dead of winter:
The brooks were frozen, the airports almost deserted,
And snow disfigured the public statues;
The mercury sank in the mouth of the dying day.
What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.

Far from his illness
The wolves ran on through the evergreen forests,
The peasant river was untempted by the fashionable quays;
By mourning tongues
The death of the poet was kept from his poems.

But for him it was his last afternoon as himself,
An afternoon of nurses and rumours;
The provinces of his body revolted,
The squares of his mind were empty,
Silence invaded the suburbs,
The current of his feeling failed; he became his admirers.

Now he is scattered among a hundred cities
And wholly given over to unfamiliar affections,
To find his happiness in another kind of wood
And be punished under a foreign code of conscience.
The words of a dead man
Are modified in the guts of the living.

But in the importance and noise of to-morrow
When the brokers are roaring like beasts on the floor of the bourse,
And the poor have the sufferings to which they are fairly accustomed
And each in the cell of himself is almost convinced of his freedom
A few thousand will think of this day
As one thinks of a day when one did something slightly unusual.

What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.


II

You were silly like us; your gift survived it all:
The parish of rich women, physical decay,
Yourself. Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.
Now Ireland has her madness and her weather still,
For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its making where executives
Would never want to tamper, flows on south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
A way of happening, a mouth.

 
III

Earth, receive an honoured guest:
William Yeats is laid to rest.
Let the Irish vessel lie
Emptied of its poetry.

In the nightmare of the dark
All the dogs of Europe bark,
And the living nations wait,
Each sequestered in its hate;

Intellectual disgrace
Stares from every human face,
And the seas of pity lie
Locked and frozen in each eye.

Follow, poet, follow right
To the bottom of the night,
With your unconstraining voice
Still persuade us to rejoice;

With the farming of a verse
Make a vineyard of the curse,
Sing of human unsuccess
In a rapture of distress;

In the deserts of the heart
Let the healing fountain start,
In the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise.

How Could I Forget Jules Feiffer?*

Funny how the best comments/observations on American politics are from people of my childhood. People like Molly Ivins or Jules Feiffer. I look at that cartoon above, and I think of Trump losing (again) in the Supreme Court. But Feiffer is right: Richard Nixon was us. Now Trump is us.


Mostly because of Nixon. We are all Nixon. We were all Nixon. The truth of America as a “shining city on a hill” starts with that recognition.


The defense of Nixon after Watergate was by and large the defense of the office of the President. Or, more accurately, the idea of the office of the President. That was easily identified with God. Now it’s just identified with “us.” “Us” being the right people, not all those other people. The “us” who identify themselves with God; or probably more accurately, as God. The racism now is even more pronounced than it was in 1974. So that’s different.


Can we prosecute Trump? Or is a POTUS, in office or out, the 800 lb. gorilla no one can mess with? ๐Ÿฆ Gotta have unity, ya know! All the politicians and pundits say so. Wouldn’t want to tear the country apart; or even be called the ones who did. Responsibility is a terrible burden. Better somebody else should carry it.

So it’s 1…2…3…what are we fightin’ for?


Our belief in Santa Claus? ๐ŸŽ… 

*with thanks to rustypickup


Who Among Us Hasn’t Inartfully Expressed Our Racism?

Campaign against who?

“Former Cato Institute director Ilya Shapiro, now executive director of Georgetown’s Center for the Constitution, wrote, 'Objectively best pick for Biden is Sri Srinivasan, who is solid prog and [very] smart. Even has identity politics benefit of being first Asian (Indian) American. But alas doesn’t fit into last intersectionality hierarchy so we’ll get lesser black woman. Thank heaven for small favors?'" reported Blake Montgomery.

"In a second tweet, Shapiro added, 'Because Biden said he’s only consider [sic] black women for SCOTUS, his nominee will always have an asterisk attached. Fitting that the Court takes up affirmative action next term.'" 

According to the report, Shapiro has now deleted both tweets and called them "inartful," while Georgetown Law Dean William Treanor denounced the comments as "demeaning," "appalling," and "at odds with everything we stand for at Georgetown Law" in an email.
Well, he was just inartful! He meant to hide his racism more carefully.

The Tweets are at odds with everything we stand for at Georgetown Law and are damaging to the culture of equity and inclusion that Georgetown Law is building every day,” [Bill] Treanor [Dean of Georgetown University Law Center] wrote.
But, you know, cancel culture, so the school can’t distance itself too far. Or it can. Stay tuned.

I will agree using the word “intersectionality” in any context is inartful. It’s just a word you shouldn’t even use in jest.

Why I Find Book Banning Hilarious

Is this directly correlated to the school board in Tennessee? Yeah, probably. Insofar as many people are suddenly curious about cartoon depictions of nude mice-people saying bad words (hint: the kids know all those words and probably a few more, and can find better pictures on Instagram).

This is what happens when ignorant people read books. They don’t hurt the books, and they look foolish. Well, they are foolish  That, and they damage education. Which, considering the state of public education, is like putting another dent in a wrecked car.

It is actually the low regard for the liberal arts that is the problem. Does anyone challenge a science book or a math book? Yes, there were challenges to science books (and are),  but they don’t tend to lead to book banning by school boards, or do end up in court. But history, fiction, poetry, memoirs: all fair game for banishment by any gang of rubes and locals who know what they don’t like, and that’s good enough. Since it’s not about physics or biology or geology, your opinion is as valid as mine. Except it isn’t. The only thing offensive in Maus is the historical fact of the Holocaust. But since it doesn’t involve science, no one will take it to court. Opinion, right? Can’t legislate opinion from the bench.

Greg Abbott wants “pornography” expunged from schools and those responsible for it being there driven from decent society, banned forever from public schools in Texas. This while some schools are on four day weeks because of staff/faculty shortages. So, sure, let’s make it worse. And what is “pornography”? Not biology texts or sex education texts. Non-fiction memoirs about LGBTQ students? Why are such people allowed to live in Texas?

I’m watching a short film about animation as I type. One example, a few seconds long, is a couple kissing. Porn? It was a line drawing, you couldn’t tell if they were clothed. There’s nothing in Maus half as suggestive. If a teacher played that film in class, one I watched on PBS, would that get them in trouble? How easily we damn some expressions of human existence (stories, history) and virtually sanctify others. There’s a reason philosophy, surely the foundation of the liberal arts, is not even broached in public schools. Most of the liberal arts (and performing, and fine) are scanted. By this we teach our children what is valuable. We will fight in court over teaching science. Literature, history, philosophy? Who defends these?

Book banning isn’t even the tip of the iceberg. It’s just a distraction from our real failures.

As Sinead O’Connor famously said on SNL:  “Fight the real power!”

Annals Of Bits 'N' Pieces

Full disclosure: I'm a big fan of Mr. Young's music from way back ("Harvest" and "After The Gold Rush" still figure prominently in my LP collection). About his personal life, I know he's from Canada; after that, not so much. I certainly didn't know this: And those who don't learn from history really ARE doomed to repeat it: In the '80's and through the early '90's we had what Wikipedia now quaintly calls "day-care sex-abuse hysteria."  The apogee of the hysteria was the McMartin day care case, which started in 1983 and ended in 1990 with two separate trials.  Which is a bit misleading because the investigation began in 1983 and the first trial didn't start until 1987; but it ran for three years.  The second case sought a conviction denied in the first case.  The conviction was denied again.

Let me just cut to the chase:

The case lasted seven years and cost $15 million, the longest and most expensive criminal case in the history of the United States legal system, and ultimately resulted in no convictions. The McMartin preschool was closed and the building was dismantled. In 2005, one of the children (as an adult) retracted the allegations of abuse.

If you think Q-Anon is sui generis, consider this summary of the allegations that were made:

Some of the accusations were described as "bizarre", overlapping with accusations that mirrored the emerging satanic ritual abuse panic. It was alleged that, in addition to having been sexually abused, they saw witches fly, traveled in a hot-air balloon, and were taken through underground tunnels.  When shown a series of photographs by Danny Davis (the McMartins' lawyer), one child identified actor Chuck Norris as one of the abusers.

Some of the abuse was alleged to have occurred in secret tunnels beneath the school. Several excavations turned up evidence of old buildings on the site and other debris from before the school was built, but no evidence of any secret chambers or tunnels was found. There were claims of orgies at car washes and airports, and of children being flushed down toilets to secret rooms where they would be abused, then cleaned up and presented back to their parents. Some child interviewees talked of a game called "naked movie star" and suggested they were forcibly photographed nude.  During trial testimony, some children stated that the "naked movie star" game was actually a rhyming taunt used to tease other children—"What you say is what you are, you're a naked movie star"—and had nothing to do with having naked pictures taken.

Judy Johnson, who made the initial allegations, made bizarre and impossible statements about Raymond Buckey, including that he could fly. Though the prosecution asserted Johnson's mental illness was caused by the events of the trial, Johnson had admitted to them that she was mentally ill beforehand. Evidence of Johnson's mental illness was withheld from the defense for three years and, when provided, was in the form of sanitized reports that excluded Johnson's statements, at the order of the prosecution. One of the original prosecutors, Glenn Stevens, left the case in protest and stated that other prosecutors had withheld evidence from the defense, including the information that Johnson's son did not actually identify Ray Buckey in a series of photographs. Stevens also accused Robert Philibosian, the deputy district attorney on the case, of lying and withholding evidence from the court and defense lawyers in order to keep the Buckeys in jail and prevent access to exonerating evidence.

These kind of lurid allegations were the news that  dominated the discussion of day-care centers and child-care for almost a decade.  And it wasn't the only case that drew attention, or included outlandish allegations:

Between 1984 to 1989, some 100 people nationwide were charged with ritual sex abuse and 50 were put on trial, according to Debbie Nathan of the National Center for Reason and Justice, which works to free those wrongly imprisoned. 

Frances and Dan Keller were convicted of child abuse in Travis County in 1992, and spent 21 years in jail before they were released and the charges against them dropped:

“There is a reasonable likelihood that (the medical expert’s) false testimony affected the judgment of the jury and violated Frances Keller’s right to a fair trial,” Rosemary Lehmberg, the district attorney for Travis County, which is located in central Texas and includes the city of Austin, said in a statement.

The release comes on the heels of a similar move in San Antonio where prosecutors agreed this month to release three lesbian women imprisoned since 1998 on sexual assault convictions that critics say were based on junk science and false views on sexual orientation.

Michael Mouw, the doctor whose testimony helped convict the Kellers, said in an affidavit presented to court this year that he had little training at the time on how to examine sexual abuse in children and came to the wrong conclusions in examining a child in the Keller case.

“While my testimony was based on a good faith belief at that time, I now realize my conclusion is not scientifically or medically valid, and that I was mistaken,” he said in the affidavit, which was obtained by Reuters.

That 'good faith' was the conviction by one and all that if there was smoke, there must be fire; and regarding childcare and "satanic rituals" there certainly was a lot of smoke. And honestly, a lone gunman showing up at a pizzeria looking for a non-existent basement isn’t as bad as this kind of testimony being presented in court as evidence.

The charges, by the way, were dropped because the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that Mouw's testimony was "mistaken."  In 2018 the Kellers were declared "innocent" and received $4.3 million in compensation from the state.

You really need to understand how bad this was, whether you remember it or not;

The Kellers’ ordeal began when a three-year-old girl who was an occasional drop-in at their home-based day-care center told her mother that Dan had spanked her “like daddy” used to, as they were driving to the child’s therapist. Under intense and suggestive questioning by her mother and the therapist, the story morphed into tales of rape and orgies involving children.

Other children questioned under similarly suggestive circumstances told fantastic tales of the Kellers sacrificing babies, dismembering animals, holding satanic ceremonies in a local cemetery, making children drink blood-laced Kool Aid and even flying them to Mexico to be sexually abused by military officers, yet returning in time for their parents to pick them up. Children who denied that such things happened were ignored.

In 2008, a reporter with the Austin Chronicle who was reinvestigating the case was stunned to learn that police and prosecutors still believed the outrageous allegations. The Austin Police Department resisted the reporter’s attempts to obtain investigative reports in the case. The reporter sued and won.

The investigative notes were “an ALL-CAPS, run-on-sentence fever dream of breathless accusations and absent any actual investigation that could prove or disprove the claims,” according to an article in The Intercept. Police investigators never questioned the three-year-old girl’s statements. The girl had recanted her claims in court and admitted she had no memories of the Kellers abusing her; nonetheless, they were convicted.

The insanity was, in other words, mainstreamed to the extreme.  To all those who warn about "It can't happen here," I would add: this could happen again. Easily.  Laurence Tribe likes this rather fatuous quote:  “We are living through a revolt against the future. The future will prevail.” — Anand Giridharadas.  I would say that the future may prevail, but the past will always make claims on it, and often prevail in at least the short-term.  Speaking of fatuous and of blasts from the past: When fentanyl is contagious and can reach me in the air I breathe on my trips to the grocery store, then we can talk. In the meantime, most of us can walk and chew gum at the same time, and asking society to protect itself against both health threats seems pretty reasonable to the reasonable among us.  Besides:
Fuck fentanyl. And fuck Abbott for his failures to protect Texans.

A majority of school board members at a school in Tennessee said Maus should not be in the schools’ libraries or taught in the classroom. Majority rule is always right? Brown v. Board was never popular, either. Of course, if you put it to a poll, people might be wary of saying they liked "separate but equal." But they did; they do. The success of Jerry Falwell is a testament to that. The explosion in private schools, as well; and in recent decades the push to allow "charter schools" and even funnel public money to private schools. All signs the majority likes things the way they were, when white people were the majority (how color-blind are polls, anyway?). I'm sorry, what was your point again? That we're a post-racial society, maybe? The Voting Rights Act was gutted by the actions of state Attorneys General, not by the Supreme Court sua sponte. Brown v. Board is far more honored in the breach than in the keeping.  The Civil Rights Act is being reduced to desegregating lunch counters, which by and large no longer exist.  LBJ famously said you can't take the chains off a man's leg and tell him to enter the 100 yard dash, or in more accurate terms the "rat race."  The inequity of treatment of blacks in this country since before this was a country is not some past event like the meteor that killed the dinosaurs (which, by the way, thanks, or we wouldn't be here to argue now.  The past is never over.).  It is an ongoing event, and the proof of it is how loudly whites scream about "unfair" treatment based on race.

They don't want to give their advantage up.

QED.  Now put a sock in it.  When California's treating all its migrant farmworkers equitably, we can talk about "freaking California."  Meanwhile it remains as American as the rest of the country; and as racist.


Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) warned President Biden on Thursday not to "outsource" his Supreme Court nominee to the "radical left" following the retirement announcement of Justice Stephen Breyer. 

"Looking ahead - the American people elected a Senate that is evenly split at 50-50. To the degree that President Biden received a mandate, it was to govern from the middle, steward our institutions, and unite America," McConnell said in a statement. 

 "The President must not outsource this important decision to the radical left. The American people deserve a nominee with demonstrated reverence for the written text of our laws and our Constitution." 

 Dear Sen. McConnell: fuck you.
On this subject McConnell lost his credibility a long time ago. As for "qualified" Supreme Court justices v. Biden's likely nominees: The argument, of course, is not on some objective standard of merit; otherwise, no Justice Thomas, Justice Kavanaugh, or Justice Barrett; not even Gorsuch, in my estimation.  "Best" and "most qualified" are matters of opinion akin to favorite food or person you are in love with.  On that subject, my wife IS my soul mate.  Whether I am hers is a subject upon which I won't opine, because it would impair her purity, much like a Greek goddess who actually touched the ground when she walked.  (In case anybody rats to my wife about this!)  What's silly and superstitious is pretending there is an objective standard of merit. Except mine, of course.

“But She Knew I Didn’t Give It To Her!”

"And now she says she didn’t know and you can’t believe her because, you know…speaks-to-dead-people.”

That adage about the lawyer representing himself having a fool for a client? Based on actual experience….

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Annals Of Casual Racism

A reminder that the problem with affirmative action is how it affects white people. Add to that casual pettiness as casual racism: One tweet was withdrawn, one wasn’t. I’m kind of surprised how much the news of Breyer’s retirement has provoked so much public expression of racism. But, you know, everything changed after Bork. I’m sure the racism is Biden’s fault, too; then, now, or both now and then.

Annals Of Sheer Insanity: Supreme Court Edition

And so predictable: Of course, the bottom’s always further away than you think: And there’s always someone even more insane than Marsha Blackburn: One do wonder.  Nothing to do with (white) identity politics, I'm sure.

Annals Of Alternate History

I’m beginning to see a pattern here.

1987? Robert Bork. Ask your grandfather. As for me, that bare reference marks the end of this discussion. (Bork was disqualified for his “originalism.” IMHLO. Among other things.)

And “The Atlantic” really is the go to for all your “How will we all die now?” needs.
Definitely seeing that pattern now. Although I think the worst possible scenario is a killer asteroid heading for earth that no one will do anything about. Oh, wait, that’s a Netflix movie. Still definitely the worst case scenario.

Alternative apocalyptic futures are clearly the only rational response to…reality as portrayed on the internet? like this?
Evans nonetheless defended her decision to post false information about the school district and she said she was "merely relaying information" she'd heard from another parent. 
Which is a quality we all want in our public officeholders. 

And in other other non-alternative news:
Well, just wondering hypothetically, theoretically, would someone who was an attorney general of a large state and who served with many key Senate votes be an attractive candidate?" Doocy asked, clearly referring to Harris.

 "I see what you did there, Peter," Psaki deadpanned as reporters could be heard laughing. "But the president has every intention -- as he said before -- of running for re-election and for running for re-election with Vice President Harris on the ticket as his partner."

News is just gossip. Although Jen Psaki is alternatively my hero:
You really should just read the article. To give you an incentive: Yeah; it’s that bad.  (And it proves news is just gossip. You know, some people say.)

Oh, alright:
So was the Bork nomination. He wasn’t fit to sit on the bench, much less the highest court. EOD.

“The Country’s In Sad Shape”

There is a very early “Peanuts” cartoon (like 1950’s early) with Schroeder listening to the radio as it announces the “#1 song in the country.” The music plays and Schroeder jumps. In the last panel he’s walking away , speaking the line that titles this post.

I think about those four panels a lot when I’m on the internet.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

VOTE EARLY AND OFTEN!

 


I received this in the mail recently, from the locally infamous Steven Hotze.*  I know it's pretty much illegible in the photograph, but I just looked at it again (before tossing it in the shredder) and I found the blue side hilarious.

First, let me explain:  this is a solicitation that I fill out an application to vote by mail, something "seniors" like yours truly, "love" to do (vote by mail, I mean.  The damned application is a pain in the a**.  I'm quite sure this will be removed from the law by 2024, because of what the Lege is going to hear this year and next.).  Anyone over 65 in Texas can vote by mail just because they're over 65.  So I'm on the list.  The local county officials can't send me one of these, under new Texas law (they did until this year); but private parties can.  Don't get me started on how stupid that is; or how likely it is by the next legislative session this provision (must apply annually to vote by mail) isn't rescinded, especially since Hotze and so many GOPers in Texas assume I'm gonna vote GOP because now I'm...on Social Security?  Remind me again who started that?

Anyway....a partial reading of the "blue list" from the above.

The column is captioned "LIBERALS, LEFTISTS, SOCIALISTS, COMMUNISTS".  It's just a spectrum, ya know, from bad to worst.  The red column is "CHRISTIANS, CONSERVATIVES, PATRIOTS."  Because Communists are godless ("under God" wasn't shoved into the Pledge for nothing!), donchaknow?  This is a "good/bad" arrangement, as you can guess.  I'll just give you some of the "bad":

"Atheistic, Secular World View--"Might makes right."

That one amuses me most.  Apparently us godless commie liberals are in charge, and squashing our opponents because we can.  I always thought "Might makes right" was a peculiarly right-wing, militaristic, even patriotic, stance.  I'm confused....

"Support New World Order agenda."

That would be the thing Poppy Bush first labeled and announced?  We have an "agenda"?  Funny how "agenda" is automatically a bad thing, huh?

"Tolerate criminal behavior, rioting and looting during protests.  Defund the police."

The almost wholly Democratic special committee of Congress couldn't be reached for comment.  Nor the dead and wounded Capitol Police officers, nor all the incarcerated or arrested protestors from January 6 who engaged in criminal behavior, rioting, and looting, all in the name of protest.

"Open borders to create chaos."

You mean like the chaos of stripping families of their children under no legal authority whatsoever, then forcing government agencies and NGO's to struggle to reunite those families?

"Teach children to accept the perverted transgender lifestyle."

We've moved on from gay marriage; that's a lost cause.  And yes, this is the guy who tried to scare all of Houston about transgendered persons going into public bathrooms to rape young white girls.  As if public bathrooms were private dungeons, and as if transgendered persons were all child molesters.  This one, by the way, is contrasted with the "Good" position: "Protect children from being perverted by liberal sex programs in school."  Which basically means we're teaching children to be gay.  Moving on...

"Support business' and government's [yes, just one, even though there are at least 3 in Texas alone, aside from the federal government] authority to mandate experimental 'vaccines' and medical treatment."

This from the same people clamoring for experimental treatments for covid (have monoclonal antibodies been more rigorously tested or used longer than mRna vaccines?).  

"Approve homosexual 'mirage.' Everyone must accept, affirm and celebrate perverted sexual lifestyle.  Promote pedophilia by supporting Drag Queen Story Hour for children.  (Romans 1:18-32)"

I honestly don't know if "mirage" is supposed to be some kind of swipe at "marriage," or if he means homosexuality is fake.  In either case, that Drag Queen Story Hour really sticks in his craw.  In 2018 he sent out a flyer to get people to vote for the GOP slate of district court judges.  The Democrats swept the elections for those positions:  all black women.  And as far as I know, no one was rounded up and forced to bring their child to Drag Queen Story Hour. (Come to think of it, no one's forced us to "gay marry," either.  Whatever happened to might making right?  Are we godless liberals using it wrong?) I guess we didn't think might makes right 4 years ago.  I'm not gonna bother with the reference to Romans.  It's the usual proof-texting bullshit that's not worth responding to.

"Pro-death - For killing unborn babies.  Communists kill political opponents."

Babies are the political opponents of liberals?

"Increase taxes to redistribute income.  Tax the producers to buy votes."

You know, all taxation redistributes income.  My income for 20 years has come from a state-supported community college.  The Lovely Wife works for a school district, supported by tax dollars.  My federal taxes go to federal employees, defense contractors, even national park rangers (yay, park rangers!).  I'm perfectly happy to see some of my income redistributed, even to clowns like my U.S. Senator and Representative.  Even my personal spending redistributes my income.  That's how economies work.

"Support government controlled healthcare."

You mean, like Medicare?  Does he realize the people he's sending this to are most likely on Medicare?  Remind me again who started that? 

And most of us go on it ASAP because we're tired of the "free market solutions to health care" CHRISTIAN, CONSERVATIVES, and PATRIOTS uphold.  Because we've dealt with that "solution:" it's called "health insurance."  And it sucks!

Anyway, I'm convinced that, once again, I need to vote.



*Hotze signs himself as an M.D.  What is it about medical degrees and rabidly conservative people?  Does medical training addle your brain?