Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Monkeyshines

The only narrator of this story has been Elmo. Apple never announced it was banning Twitter from its App Store, or even considering removing it. And Apple hasn’t commented on this meeting with Elmo. So everything we know about this story, from soup to nuts, is from Elmo.

And Elmo isn’t an unreliable narrator. He’s a liar.
As Orwell said, sometimes the hardest thing to see is what is right in front of your nose. As Paul Simon said: “A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.”

And, of course, you can’t fix stupid.
I’ve read that statement six times, and it still makes no more sense than a speech by Herschel Walker. He doesn’t say what the microchip does, how it protects us against a “superior intelligence,” or what he hopes for it. In fact, he sounds like a twelve-year old who got an idea from a comic book.

Meanwhile, the genius of Elmo the manager of companies rolls on:
His self-awareness needs work, too:

The Only Appropriate Response

There is a lot of brute ignorance in this world.

As I Was Saying About Legal Experts On Twitter

I Failed To Account For Elmo’s Megalomania


First Trump, now Elmo. Maybe nature is healing and we are getting a bit better. But first tell us more about that colony on Mars you were determined to build. And why The Boring Company is a fake enterprise that's never dug a tunnel on any contract. And why Tesla "self-driving" cars keep running into things. And why they catch fire and can't get put out until there's nothing left to burn. 

And then you might start to be credible about what "Twitter 2.0" is going to look like.

Europe Does Not Have A First Amendment: Part Two

It's almost surprising how many legal geniuses on Twitter (responding to this tweet) don't grasp this simple concept.

Almost.

 (I wrote a longish post on the question of Apple's App Store violating anti-trust laws, a subject on which I'm almost completely ignorant.  But then I realized I was arguing with people on Twitter insisting Apple was in trouble in the Epic v. Apple suit (still pending with the 9th circuit) over anti-trust violations; people who had no clue what the legal issues are in that suit.  So I'm not going to argue with them here, about free speech.  This is, as I say, an international company, and the EU is entitled to enforce its laws on content moderation.)

(Although some of the responses are better than others:
Heh.)

What Xmas Is Really All About

Calendar note: Dec. 25 is a Sunday this year.  Keep watch for how many churches that insist on putting the "Christ" in "Christmas" (the Xmas variant was invented by Christians, because it refers to the "chi" that is the first Greek letter in the word "Christos"), will not hold Sunday morning services because, you know, Christmas is for family time.

I've been tracking this for 20 years now.  I don't expect it to change.

Georgia On My Mind

All that pent-up desire to elect the guy from Texas to be a Senator from Georgia is finally bursting forth.

First Wednesday Of Advent: 2022

Behold, now is the acceptable time spoken of by the Spirit, the day of salvation, peace and reconciliation:  the great season of Advent. This is the time eagerly awaited by the patriarchs and prophets, the time that holy Simeon rejoiced to see. This is the season that the church has always celebrated with special solemnity. We too should always observe it with faith and love, offering peace and thanksgiving to the Father for the mercy and love he has shown us in this mystery.

--Charles Borromeo 


The day after Thanksgiving the New York Times told of a 33-year-old local cab driver whose shoulder-length hair was tied in a ponytail.  (Don't get distracted by the ponytail!)  About five years ago, this cabby "prayed to God for guidance on how to help the forgotten people of the streets who exist in life's shadows."  As he recalls it, God replied:  "Make eight pounds of spaghetti, throw it in a pot, give it out on 103rd Street and Broadway with no conditions, and people will come."  He did, they came, and now he goes from door to door giving people food to eat.

I am not asking you to stuff the Big Apple with spaghetti.  But a New York cabby can bring light into your Advent night.  He prayed to a God who was there; he listened; he gave the simple gift God asked of him; he gave "with no conditions"; and people responded.  Here is your Advent:  Make the Christ who has come a reality, a living light, in your life and in some other life.  Give of yourself...to one dark soul...with no conditions.

--Walter J. Burghardt

"With no conditions...."

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 who 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 welcomed me; I was naked and you clothed me; I was ill and you visited me; took care of me, I was in prison and you came to see me.'

"With no conditions...."

Then the virtuous righteous will say to him, 'Lord, when did we see 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 clothed you? When did we find you ill or in prison and came 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.' (Matthew 25:31-40, SV)

"With no conditions...."

In The Old Days We Called This A Persecution Complex


Help government? You mean the guy who told California to fuck off because he didn’t want his employees to be protected from Covid? Or do you mean the guy who hoodwinked cities with The Boring Company? I think Neiwert gives Elmo too much credit here because I don’t think The Boring Company was ever such a grand conspiracy. Nor is it clear how selling a lie to cities would ever make them give up on mass transit. I put it in the box with the colonization of Mars. Elmo is not a visionary genius. He’s narcissistic child with the attention span of a hyperactive toddler.

I actually read another conspiracy theory about the Boring Company (on Twitter, of course). In this one Boring started off with a small machine because it would fit in the rocket SpaceX had. Why? Because the only way to live in Mars is underground, due to the radiation (note: I have no idea whether this is true or not). Now Boring has a bigger machine because SpaceX has a bigger rocket πŸš€. (Except I don’t think that one has ever gotten off the ground.) Because Elmo really is gonna move to Mars!

I’m not sure how Twitter fits into the master plan to move to Mars, but I’m sure it does 

Spoiler: Musk is never going to Mars.

The simplest answer (paging Occam) is Elmo is a narcissist child with a great deal more money than sense. His tweets prove he’s incapable of thinking more than two minutes ahead, or thinking ideas more complicated than “How does this affect me?!”

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Apparently Her Farts Can KillπŸ’¨?

And she's proud of this?

"Fuck Off, Little Boy"

Or, in the cirucmspect language of the courts: the appeal was "manifestly without merit."

You just gotta know how to read it.
Trump starts screaming about courts in South Carolina in 3...2...1...

(More and more it looks like Trump's ass is grass and Georgia is the lawnmower.  What's left of him after Jack Smith is done, anyway.)

And since this is all Trump-related court stuff:
So I'll tack that on when it comes. Aside from Rhodes, I don't know who is who here (mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa). It looks like everybody got caught on something, and Rhodes did himself no favors taking the stand. The big verdict here is on the seditious conspiracy charge, just because that one is so seldom used (for good reason).  Everybody was guilty of obstruction of an official proceeding, and Meggs and Watkins of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding.  Some face mutiple guilty verdicts, but everyone got dinged on something.

So, more reasons for Trump to howl.  Except he won't, since it doesn't involve him.  I wonder what MTG will do, since she whines incessantly about those arrested for Jan. 6th.

"More Catholic Than The Pope"

“The master troll got trolled,” the adviser said. “Kanye punked Trump.”

Infamous right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos told NBC News that he was “the architect” of the plan to have Fuentes show up to dinner with Trump.

“I wanted to show Trump the kind of talent that he’s missing out on by allowing his terrible handlers to dictate who he can and can’t hang out with,” Yiannopoulos told NBC News.

“I also wanted to send a message to Trump that he has systematically repeatedly neglected, ignored, abused the people who love him the most, the people who put him in office, and that kind of behavior comes back to bite you in the end,” he added.

Yiannopoulos said he arranged the dinner “just to make Trump’s life miserable” because news of the dinner would get out and Trump would most certainly jumble his response.

Fuentes agreed, saying, “I hate to say it but the chickens are coming home to roost. You know, this is the frustration with his base and with his true loyalists.” 

We have reached that stage of the GOP proceedings.  The support for Trump only gets smaller as the "true" supporters stake their claims.

🍿

πŸŽπŸ“²

I'm pretty sure I don't have any trouble accessing the internet on Safari on my iPhone. Including accessing Twitter.

I get the appeal of apps; but they're hardly a gateway to the law existing only for you but through which you may not pass (it's a metaphor, go with it).

Elmo and his Elonoi are as whiny as MAGAheads, aren't they?
Um, sure...it's not like they have a debt ceiling to raise before they crash the world economy, or a laptop worked on by a blind guy (who gets to wear his kilt to Congress!) to investigate for...reasons. But since I brought up DeSantis: Yeah!  Manufacturing division is a politician's job!

I think the entire Republican party is going to compete for who chases the car best, without realizing the car ran off into a ditch and is on fire and nobody is so much as crossing the street to piss on it. Of course, they may figure that out soon. But figuring it out, and doing something about it, as we've seen since Gingrich entered the House, are two very different things for the GOP. I don't know what this means for the Senate, but it's notable, and it should be lauded. It's also probably not good news for the GOP, who fear voter turnout more than a vampire fears daylight. I dunno, maybe people are that motivated to vote for Herschel Walker. I'm pretty sure the GOP doesn't think so. We'll see.

First Tuesday of Advent: 2022

A brother said to an old man:  There are two brothers.  One of them stays in his cell quietly, fasting for six days at a time, and imposing on himself a good deal of discipline, and the other serves the sick.  Which one of them is more acceptable to God?  The old man replied:  Even if the brother who fasts six days were to hang himself by the nose, he could not equal the one who serves the sick.

--Desert Wisdom

"After 1976 Dorothy [Day] virtually withdrew from the affairs of the world of the Worker movement.  Her lot, as she knew, was to await death.  Content to spend as much time as she could in the company of her daughter and grandchildren, she remained in her room at Maryhouse, coming downstairs only for the even Mass that was said at the house.  In her room, which overlooked Third Street, she could look out onto the dismal prospect of a narrow street, shadowed by five-story buildings, shoulder to shoulder, whose unkempt and desolate appearance suggested that they, like the people who passed before them, felt that their existence mattered not at all.  In front of these buildings, parked cars at the curbs were jammed against one another.  One structure, ugly with shattered windows and an aspect of grotesque garishness, was fronted by motorcycles--powerful brutish machines with signs and symbols that proclaimed their  owners' defiance of civilized norms.  The building was the home of the Hell's Angels, a motorcycle gang about whose doings fearful stories were told.

"It was in this part of New York that Dorothy had spent a half-century of her own life, where just blocks away she had lived in 1917 as the acting editor of the Masses and where in that cold winterof 1918 she had whiled away the nights with Eugene O'Neill and the young radicals and artists of the Village.  A few blocks to the west and south was New York's Lower East Side, the home of the Jews.  She had never left them.  Mott Street was two blocks away, the street of the Italians.  She remembered sitting on the front steps of the Mott Street house, watching them celebrate the feast of San Gennaro.  Perhaps she remembered that night soon after the war had begun, the cool clear air and the half-moon shining brightly over Mott Street.

"Dorothy died on November 29, 1980, just as night began to soften the harshness of the poverty and ugliness of Third Street.  Her daughter, Tamar, was in the room with her.  There was no struggle.  The last of the energy that sustained her life had been used.

"The funeral was on December 2 at the Nativity Catholic Church, a half block away from Maryhouse.  An hour before the service, scheduled for 11 o'clock in the morning, people began to assemble in the street.  Some were curious onlookers, the hollow-eyed people and stumbling people who roam the streets of lower New York, but others were drawn there by some sense of propriety of paying their last respects to the woman who had clothed and fed them.  There were American Indians, Mexican workers, blacks and Puerto Ricans.  There were people in eccentric dress, apostles of causes who had fealt a great power and truth in Dorothy's life.

"At the appointed time, a procession of these friends and fellow workers came down the sidewalk.  At the head of it Dorothy's grandchildren carried the pine box that held her body.  Tamar, Forster, and her brother John followed.  At the church door, Cardinal Terence Cooke met the body to bless it.  As the procession stopped for this rite, a demented person pushed his way through the crowd and bending low over the coffin peered at it intently.  No one interfered, because, as even the funeral directors understood, it was in such as this man that Dorothy had seen the face of God."

--William D. Miller


This morning to ward off the noise I have my radio on---Berlioz, Schubert, Chopin, etc.  It is not a distraction, it is a pacifier.  As St. Teresa of Avila said as she grabbed her castanets and started to dance during the hour of recreation in her unheated convent, "One must do something to make life bearable!"

...

I feel that all families should have the conveniences and comforts which modern living brings and which do simplify life, and give time to read, to study, to think, and to pray.  And to work in the apostolate, too.  But poverty is my vocation, to live as simply and poorly as I can, and never to cease talking and writing of poverty and destitution.  Here and everywhere.  "While there are poor, I am of them.  While men are in prison, I am not free," as Debs said and as we often quote.

--Dorothy Day 

Monday, November 28, 2022

You? Or The Word?

I’m no fan of Ye, but this has the stink of Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali to it.  That name change caused a lot more controversy than people remember (or than Ken Burns acknowledged), and no small part of it had to do with Ali’s self-determination. Critics seemed to think they had a right to say what his name should be, and how dare he contradict them? Yes, unthinkable today (which may be why Burns slighted it); but here we are.

I thought it was kind of silly when Prince changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol, but everyone got used to “the artist formerly known as Prince “ pretty rapidly.

Ye can say his name is Mordecai Jones for all I care. Sure, he’s a rancid antisemitic fuck bag, but he’s still entitled to decide what his name is.

Can’t Stop Won’t Stop 🍏

Notice? Or probably not. Or maybe they will: It also could be Apple has reasons for concern: Well, not that only: Dinesh has a plan: There are 1.2 billion iPhone users worldwide. There are 217 million Twitter users worldwide. You go first, Dinesh. Lead by example.

Meanwhile, Elmo is still worried about his free speech!
And proud of his clever arguments:
Proof that everybody is good for something: And since I link Elmo and Trump News constantly: I love it when Maggie brings the snark: I don’t think Trump is being covered now quite like he was in 2016. 

And we close with the ultimate conspiracy (because the one person will never be able to prove it):

🌭πŸ₯œπŸŒ΅πŸΏ

"Special Master Dearie is required to issue his report and recommendation to Judge Cannon by December 16. After that, the parties would have the opportunity to object to Judge Cannon and, if necessary, the 11th Circuit," he added. "That process would take months to play out. I cannot imagine the 11th Circuit allowing this circus to continue until Dec. 1, and that’s part of why I expect that the 11th Circuit will promptly overrule Judge Cannon, ending the entire process."

As for what comes after, the legal analyst speculated Trump's lawyers would quickly run to the Supreme Court for relief and will be promptly rebuffed.

"As soon as that happens, I expect that newly appointed Special Counsel Jack Smith and his team will indict former President Trump on multiple counts," he wrote. "I expect that the indictment would be issued from the District Court for the District of Columbia. The crimes related to the removal and retention of national security documents in violation of the Espionage Act were arguably committed when Trump removed them from the White House, making D.C. a possible venue for an indictment on those charges."

Trump keeps making their job easier: At some point you have to save yourself and withdraw from representing the guy. And speaking of looming disasters: GOP RIP. Are we living in a hellscape where corporations ARE the government and write the laws, and nobody told me? Because last time I looked Apple doesn't have a private legal system with judges, jails, prosecutors, and cops. Nor does it have a private legislature with the power to tax or pass enforceable laws.

I'll freely admit I had to look it up:

Epic Games v. Apple is a lawsuit brought by Epic Games against Apple in August 2020 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, related to Apple's practices in the iOS App Store. Epic Games specifically had challenged Apple's restrictions on apps from having other in-app purchasing methods outside of the one offered by the App Store. Epic Games' founder Tim Sweeney had previously challenged the 30% revenue cut that Apple takes on each purchase made in the App Store, and with their game Fortnite, wanted to either bypass Apple or have Apple take less of a cut. Epic implemented changes in Fortnite intentionally on August 13, 2020, to bypass the App Store payment system, prompting Apple to block the game from the App Store and leading to Epic filing its lawsuit. Apple filed a countersuit, asserting Epic purposely breached its terms of contract with Apple to goad it into action, and defended itself from Epic's suit.

The trial ran from May 3 to May 24, 2021. In a September 2021 ruling in the first part of the case, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers decided in favor of Apple on nine of ten counts, but found against Apple on its anti-steering policies under the California Unfair Competition Law. Rogers prohibited Apple from stopping developers from informing users of other payment systems within apps. Epic has appealed the ruling.

There is also a lawsuit pending in Australia.  I keep telling you guys these are international business concerns. 

Anyway, NOT an example of a "tax." Or a deep dark mystery.  

Due to the level of interest in this case, this site has been created to notify the media and public of procedures and rules for admission to proceedings, as well as access to case information.
That's on a webpage maintained by the 9th Circuit simply for the filed pleadings/rulings in the Epic appeal.  Oral arguments, by the way, have been postponed until further notice, as of 10/15/22.

I did all that with just Google and about 10 seconds.

And since we've wandered into Elmo country:
No, going to Elmo is keeping the topic on Trump, or Trump adjacent: See what you did, Tim Cook? You and your vicious conspiracy against free speech! Or maybe Elmo fired everybody in payroll and put a bot in charge.... Another secret ploy by Apple! Meanwhile (yes, I'm stuffing the sausage), in Arizona: "Whole world"? Even Texas is bigger than Arizona. More populous, too. But we don't have those cool cacti,…🌡  Ummmmm..... Still my favorite:

"I will not repeat your election crimes," Rosco said. "I will just say, not certifying the machines constitutes a form of interference and in case no one has enlightened you people, interference in an election in the United States of America, Mr. Gates, is a capital offense; it's considered treason punishable by the death penalty!"

The woman demanded a "new 2022 state election not run by the people at this desk."

"The voting booth is supposed to be a time for a peaceful revolution," she added. "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible, make violent revolution necessary."
Donald Trump's in a lot more trouble in Georgia than I thought.

No True Scotsman Republican, Part DhΓ 

Is there another Republican Party in an alternate dimension, like the one where Spock has a goatee?

🎢"And I Fall Asleep, Counting My Blessings!"🎢

I guess Elmo doesn't have Tim Cook's phone number. The only logical conclusion is that Apple stopped advertising on Twitter just to hurt Elmo. Or, you know, Apple didn't. Which is going to further reassure advertisers about Elmo, right? See? Twitter is better without all those extraneous staff persons! Elmo is a gene-yus!

Absolutely No Clue How The Constitutional, Electoral, or Legal Systems Work

"GIVE ME WHAT I WANT BECAUSE I WANT IT!"

Yeah, that's a winning campaign slogan in 2024.  I know Rick Wilson insists Trump will win the GOP nomination in 2024.  I want a front row seat.
And that's why. Nothing has changed; for Trump. Meanwhile, the world has plainly moved on. All that's propping up the GOP anymore is gerrymandering and the legacy of being a major political party (i.e., they still provide easy ballot access in all 50 states).

Raising The Credibility Bar

First Monday of Advent: 2022


There is an appointed time for everything,

and a time for every affair under the heavens.

A time to be born, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.

A time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance.

--Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, 4

Advent is the time for rousing.  We are shaken to the very depths, so that we may walk up to the truth of ourselves.  The primary condition for a fruitful and rewarding Advent is renunciation, surrender.  We must let go of all our mistaken dreams, our conceited poses and arrogant gestures, all the pretenses with which we hope to deceive ourselves and others.  If we fail to do this, stark reality may take hold of us and rouse us so forcibly in a way that will entail both anxiety and suffering.

--Alfred Delp



I Remember This*

...happening in the '60's when governors (not just sheriffs) refused to comply with court-ordered desegregation, and again with the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. Well, and lower state officials, too.

Which is not to excuse it, just to say time is a flat circle.  The more things change, the more they remain the same.  There is nothing new under the sun.  People suck, especially people with law enforcement authority.

*Yes, I am getting VERY tired of being able to say that.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Yeah, He Does That

Four years eatlier: Leopards seldom change their spots. πŸ† 

Remembering The Time Elmo…

Elmo's submarine didn’t work (man v. machine) and he called the diver who rescued the kids a “pedo.” You know, like a neo-Nazi or Q-Anon adherent. Or any random Trump supporter.

He and Trump really are twin sons of different hellish mothers. We don’t need to quit respecting billionaires because they are rich. We need to eliminate the category. There was time we had a tax code that almost did that. Then Reagan convinced middle class Boomers every little boy could be as rich as Croesus, if it wasn’t for taxes.

And here we are.

Remember When Inflation Was The #1 Concern In America?

Deal-hunting Americans shrugged off sky-high inflation on Black Friday, spending in record-breaking numbers online even as brick-and-mortar stores enjoyed the fading of COVID-19 concerns. 
Customers spent $14.42 billion between Thanksgiving and Black Friday — up from a combined $14.04 billion initially projected, according to Adobe Analytics.
I know, I know:  all the polls said so.  What else did the polls say about the last election?

Beware of people telling you what other people think, or how they will respond.

Or We Could Change The Gravitational Constant Of The Universe

Because this answer is "if we want humans to function better, we have to make them think like us."

Good luck.

I would also just point out the recent U.S. elections, which had more to do with partisanship (when my side wins it’s good sense prevailing, when your side wins it’s the collapse of civilization); gerrymandering; the power of incumbency, and frankly, the power of voters (“Gen Z saved us all”) than with the “manipulative power” of Big Tech (do Google and Apple and pre-Elon Twitter really give a shit who I vote for? Or is the “enemy,” as ever, us?).

Profit!

1) overpay for a web site by billions.

2) load same website with enormous debt incurred by overpaying to purchase website.

3) scare off at least 50% of advertisers from website.

4) personally call advertisers to berate them for leaving website.
Fire all employees, hire back some of them, fire some of those hired back, reduce staff by 99% to 50.

5) Declare website audience growing because you allowed back on all the users who scared off everybody else; even as you've scare off everybody else.

6) ?????

7) PROFIT!

Does He Also See Fairies At The Bottom Of The Garden…?

And elephants dancing on the lawn? Because some people say Tesla can't go on:
"Tesla has immense gross profit margins of 30%, when the rest of the industry is lucky to get 15% or 20%. We don't think that's sustainable. Investors are still looking for 40% to 50% growth for the next decade, which pretty much means Tesla is going to be the entire car industry by the early 2030s. We just don't think that's going to happen." (Chanos, who is short Tesla, underscored the relatively small size of the luxury-car market, and mounting competition from legacy automakers.)
Is Twitter run any better?  Really?

Talk Is Cheap

Have any of them left yet?

Twitter is a very self-contained little bubble. Nowhere is this more clear than the freak out over Elmo’s running of the platform. Most of the people I read (I don’t “follow” anyone in the sense I get notifications) have feared the future there and announced new homes elsewhere (proving that everybody’s conservative about something); but none have actually left.

Some big name users declare they will remain to the bitter end. Some have said they’ve left, only to never really go. Some are really upset by the reinstatement of racists and fascists and assorted deplorables. But few seem to be voting with their virtual feet. Advertisers are; but users? Not so much.

And of course there are the users of Twitter saying we should all be disgusted with the people on Twitter and all decent people should leave Twitter…on Twitter.

I dunno; has social media made us irrational, or just exposed our irrationality again?

Which kinda means Big Tech isn’t all that important, doesn’t it? At least we’ve got to admit the shocking possibility. I don’t miss them; although I’m sure Elmo does. He will either give up and leave Twitter alone (probably not; the debt load is too great, and there still isn’t a model that makes this profitable), or turn it into Gab 2.0. Of course all the Twitter users will have to figure out sooner or later that “free” is an unsustainable business model, even with advertising. But that’s our problem we aren’t facing.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem: First Sunday of Advent πŸ”️



Isaiah 2:1-5 2:1 

The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. 2:2 In days to come the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. 2:3 Many peoples shall come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths." For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 2:4 He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. 2:5 O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD! 

Psalm 122

I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go to the house of the LORD!" 
 122:2 Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem. 
 122:3 Jerusalem built as a city that is bound firmly together. 
 122:4 To it the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the LORD. 
 122:5 For there the thrones for judgment were set up, the thrones of the house of David.
 122:6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: "May they prosper who love you. 
 122:7 Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers."
 122:8 For the sake of my relatives and friends I will say, "Peace be within you." 
 122:9 For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good.

 Romans 13:11-14 13:11 

Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; 13:12 the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; 13:13 let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. 13:14 Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. 

 Matthew 24:36-44 

"As for that exact day and minute no one knows, not even heaven's messengers, nor even the son--no one, except the Father alone.

The son of Adam's coming will be just like the days of Noah.  This is how people behaved then before the flood came: they ate and drank, married and were given in marriage, until the day 'Noah boarded the ark,' and they were oblivious until the flood came and swept them all away.  This is how it will be when the son of Adam comes.  Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. So stay alert!  You never know on what day your landlord returns.

Mark this well: if the homeowner had known when the burglar was coming, he would have been on guard and not have allowed anyone to break into his house.  By the same token, you too should be prepared.  Remember, the son of Adam is coming when you least expect it.


Sorry for so many words. We may or may not get around to them all. This won’t be a sermon, then. More like light exegesis aimed at establishing, if we can, a theme. A theme for the next four weeks; for the days of Advent, the days of preparation. To start, I want to illustrate the method, such as it is.

But to do that, let me explain a limitation. Biblical theology, I learned in seminary, set out to find a central thread, even a set of themes, in the canonical scriptures. They wanted to find, if they could, the binding threads beyond the surface features: the relationships of the God of Abraham to humanity, of Creator to creation. That’s a little broad, and the stories and statements and poetry and wisdom are contradictory and complementary and, if they tell us about God, if they reveal something, can we say decisively what that is?

In brief, the answer was: “No.” Fundamentalists tried to be literal about it: every word, they said, should be taken literally, and as true. (This was not a school of Biblical theology; if anything, like the later Jesus Seminar, BT was a reaction to fundamentalism.)  But Jesus was born in Bethlehem because of the census of Augustus (there is no record of such a census), and Jesus was born in Bethlehem because his parents lived there. Which is it? And Luke’s theology is different from Matthew’s, sometimes radically so. What theology would reconcile these two?

In other words, is my reading “right”? No. Take it as offered and see what you think. “May it be unto you according to your faith.”

Look at Matthew again. It’s a familiar passage about the final days; isn’t it? Jesus brings up the Flood , which nobody outside Noah and his family really expected until it came; and that’s how the coming of the son of Adam will be. 

Sounds apocalyptic, doesn’t it? The son of Adam will come like a flood. But is that what Jesus says? The Flood of Noah carried away everyone not in the Ark. Jesus says one will be taken, one left. This is the basis for many end-time speculations, which usually imagine “taken” as a supernatural act. The ones taken are the “chosen.” The ones left behind are…well, worse luck for them. But is that what Jesus says?

Will they be physically taken, removed from their place? From life? From earth? Or will they be taken by the Spirit (something more commonly used in Luke, by the way)? Will they be taken by the call of Jesus, to start the journey towards Isaiah’s holy mountain, the place everyone will want to be? Maybe we don’t have to get to the holy mountain to see this. Jesus mentions the thief who comes because the owner of the house slept. That’s a warning to keep awake. But in the metaphor, Jesus is the thief. And what does he steal, what does he take? Perhaps he takes one, and leaves one.

One thing I’m sure of: there’s nothing apocalyptic about a thief. It can be upsetting to be burgled; but it’s not the end of the world.

Now look at Matthew again. And Isaiah, too. After centuries of missionaries and evangelicals anxious for the salvation of your soul, you might reflexively think we’ll all be forced to that mountain. But Isaiah speaks of desire, not coercion. The apotheosis of Israel comes not when all humanity is of one religion, all of them children of Abraham and inheritors of the covenant; but just because the example of Israel raises them up (the “mountain”) so all can see what Israel has done: found prosperity and peace in the wisdom of God. Or rather, in finally living in the wisdom of God.

Not exactly a thief in the night.

So where’s the common theological thread here?

Paul uses “night” and “day” metaphorically, just as Jesus does. But not at all like Jesus does. Jesus is actually crafting a parable because, of course, the thief can’t come if the owner is awake; but we all have to sleep! What advice is this?

Isaiah’s mountain is about life, not death. It is not in heaven, it’s on earth. And it’s not exclusive; it’s radically inclusive. Everyone is there, or wants to be. No one is left out, or left behind. It seems to be the opposite of Jesus’ statements; the radical opposite. But is it?

Jesus’ statement seems to be radically exclusive: one is taken, one is not.  But it's still not clear if "taken" is a good thing or a bad thing.  He puts it in reference to the Flood, so maybe "taken" means: dead.  And one left means only 50% will perish. Except the Flood seems to an apposite example:  Noah told people the flood was coming, and they ignored him.  People could see Noah building his ark; they knew he expected something, anyway.  They didn't care, or want to pay attention, so it was on them.  Jesus says the coming of the son of Adam will be like a thief in the night:  suddenly where there were two, there is only one.  Again: dead?  Disappeared?  Or started a new journey?

The Flood did come without warning, though.  It started with rain; but until that rain kept coming and coming and coming, who could know what it meant?  Who could know it meant annihilation?  When Harvey struck Houston, the areas that floodest soonest surprised no one; and we were told the rain would start and not stop.  But no one predicted how long the rain would fall, or how much rain would fall; nor could they predict who it would affect, and who wouldn't be affected.  And then the rain stopped and large parts of west Houston thought it was over, until the flood waters start rising after midnight.  The Army Corps of Engineers, without warning, opened the floodgates of the reservoir and the water flowed where it was meant to flow: overland to Buffalo Bayou, which winds its way through neighborhoods that were open farmland when the reservoir was built (to control flooding in downtown Houston, miles away).  The water flowed through buildings built next to the reservoir, across roads and highways, into the bayou and down to the Gulf.  And the bayou rose well above its banks and flooded whole neighborhoods in its flood plain, a flood plain no one had thought to worry about when the land was being developed right up to the banks of the usually placid, usually shallow watercourse. And it came when everyone was asleep.

That's not what Jesus is talking about but, if it was, was it apocalyptic?  Was it, as “apocalypse” means, a revelation?  Well, kinda.  House values dropped in those neighborhoods, more drainage was built, but the reservoir stands and would do it again if necessary.  That's how the reservoir works.  That’s what it was designed to do: store water, and then dump it into the bayou. And few of the houses along the bayou have been moved.

So are we awake, or asleep?

It's a metaphorical condition, being asleep in this sense. The flooding of west Houston was predicted 50 years before Harvey, but no one wanted to be awakened, and the predictions and the engineering behind them were quieted and put back to sleep (the reservoir dates back to the '30's. Development in west Houston began in earnest in the '70's).  There's still no major effort to "fix" the problem, except silly ideas like building giant drain pipes from west Houston to the Gulf.  That part of Houston is, at best, 50 feet above sea level.  The drain pipes would have to empty out well below sea level in the Gulf to not just wind up laying on the beach and filling up with water because they wouldn't drain.  The solution is to remove houses from the bayou flood plain.  But no one wants to be awake enough to even say that, much less try to do it.

Gives a whole new sense to "keep awake!," doesn't it?  And to the thief in the night.  Who, one wonders, is the thief now?

Isaiah’s vision is not about sleep or waking, but it depends on Israel following God’s vision and waking, metaphorically, from their rejection of God. That consequence is the Exile. Isaiah is telling Israel God remains faithful to the covenant and its promises will be fulfilled. One could say Israel is being challenged to wake from its slumber.

But still: who will be taken, and why? And who is the thief? Death? The context of the Flood sounds like it. But who was asleep in the time of Noah? Asleep to what? Are we talking about death? Or about right v. wrong living? That was the problem in Noah’s time, after all. That’s the corrective offered by Isaiah’s mountain. Faithfulness to the covenant leads to the mountain. The story of Noah means there are consequences to living in the “night,” even without the covenant.

Maybe it’s all just a question of how we get from here to there. Maybe it’s really just all about the journey: who goes, and who stays behind. There isn’t any condemnation in Jesus’ parable, or Isaiah’s vision. There is no in nor out. And who is the thief? Could it be us, robbing ourselves by not being awake? By not even being “woke”?  If we keep awake, won't we see things we'd rather sleep through? But if we don’t want to know, aren’t we stealing from ourselves, our past selves the thieves of our present? The dark is when we sleep, but are we the ones keeping ourselves in the dark so we can’t be awake?

Maybe that’s what Advent is about this year.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

In Trump-Related News πŸ“°!*

ETTD. Nobody wants to take responsibility for their actions. Nobody on the Republican side, anyway. Dinner for three, sir? The enemy of my enemy is…still sometimes an enemy. She’s not wrong; that doesn’t make her right about anything else. The funny part of King’s argument is that the DeLorean failed because it wasn’t that good a car. Kinda like Tesla (check its recall history. Highest of any car manufacturer, by a large factor.). As Twitter is proving, Elmo is better at hype than at producing a useable product. Filed under "Elmo is Trump, except his racism is South African." Also to be noted: Elmo started out with “it’s too messed up to fix,” but by then his mouth had written a check his ass couldn’t cash. Literally. So how soon does he square the circle? Fin

*Yeah, I’m just killing time until Sunday morning.

Yeah, Trump Won’t Let It Go

Nothing has changed: If anything, it’s only getting worse. Worse for Trump and the GOP. As a yellow dog Democrat, all I can say is: “Pass the popcorn.” 🍿  Fourth time is the charm, right?