Tuesday, February 28, 2023

๐ŸŒ Republicans

Now I wanna know what the Boebert amendment is.

I already know why the House GOP can’t get anything done.

“Math Is Hard”

A safe space where she can rant and rave and spew her nonsense? In that first tweet MTG rants at the man next to her, telling the story of a cousin who voted in 2020 but was told at the polling place he’d already voted absentee. Except, she insists, he hadn’t. The context isn’t provided, except it seems to be an investigation of election integrity. MTG’s integrity and knowledge can be judged by the NBC story, because she claims to the room that a hand recount of Fulton County alone found an additional 2000 votes for Trump. But the statewide recount found only 1300 additional votes for Trump.

There’s also some yadda-yadda-yadda about suitcases full of votes, the slander Trump alleged against the innocent mother-daughter election workers. But you can’t fix stupid, and you expect her to repeat whatever Trump says.

I just find it interesting that she proves once again that math is hard.

The Energy Department And The FBI

Not the government agencies I look to first for information on disease process, infection issues, and laboratory procedures or integrity. Especially biological or biomedical laboratories.

It’s kind of like NASA and the Census Bureau weighing in on climate change.

And why is Christopher Wray announcing this on FixNoise? (No one can seriously consider them a news organization anymore.) Honestly, what special expertise does the FBI bring to this matter? There may be an intelligence component, but the greater component here is biological.

The short knives left behind by Trump seem to be coming out. I don’t know why else these agencies are airing their conspiracy theories in public. Seems a most extraordinary effort to influence foreign policy.


Could This Be Why The House GOP Is Not Running Biden Out Of Town On A Rail Yet?

Or could it be this? Or (my favorite) this? "A mind is a terrible thing to waste."

P.S. The devil is in the details.

As I Said, "News" Is Not A Legally Defined Term

And no, the Dominion lawsuit, either in court filings or in final resolution, is not really going to change anything.  And the Damascus road experience is always an individual, never a corporate, experience.

Dese are de conditions dat prevail.

"There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root."

It can't.  The simpler solution is: Quit paying for cable.

Cable has always charged for stations you don't want to watch/support.  It's the business model of cable.  It's how it works.  Frankly, with streaming services and digital broadcast cable is an absolute dinosaur, and I say this as a boomer who literally grew up on cable.

In my small East Texas town we had one one-horse local station with a very weak signal.  Everyone in town that I ever knew had cable, which mostly brought us the channels from nearby Dallas (the major three plus a local channel there that played lots of "old" movies.  Either "classics" from the '40's, or more desirable to us, monster movies and '50's "horror films" about giant ants and alien invaders.)  Basically, if you didn't have cable you didn't have TV.  Cable with Cinemax and HBO was another matter entirely.  This situation prevailed when I went to college, further south and deeper into the Piney Woods.

So we connected to cable in apartments and rent houses in our pre-home owner days, because who put up an antenna anymore?  I went so far as to cut the cable to put up a dish.  I was well and fully enculturated into the idea that TV was worth paying for (twice, since everything on cable I paid for ran ads.  I couldn't afford "premium" channels which, frankly, reycled their content on a monthly basis.  That is, they had a handful of movies to show and they showed them over and over for a month, then changed the lineup.).  Finally I went back to where I'd never been before, and put an antenna on my roof.

And I get as many channels over the air as once I got on a satellite or a cable connection.  It was a short step to a box for Netflix, then to a "smart TV" still connected to an antenna.  And yes, being a Boomer, I still watch too much TV (my childhood is pretty well summed up in the childhood memory of Bill Murray in "Scrooged," except my father was a kind man, not an asshole).  But I wouldn't install cable if the government paid for it.

I have a lot of options built into my TV remote for services I don't pay for, like Hulu.  Streaming is nice that way; lots of built in apps you don't pay anything extra for, and streaming services you can pay for, or not.  With cable I pay for so much shit I don't want to watch, why do I pay for cable?

Yes, FoxNews sucks, but you also have to pay for QVC (which is broadcast, too, but I don't have to watch it) and other crap you don't watch (I don't watch ESPN, either.  Why should I pay for it?).  There is a simple solution:  cut the cord.

It's not like Comcast is going to drop FoxNews because customers complain.  Judging by TeeVees in public locations (waiting rooms for various services, for example), the ones that pay for cable generally keep it on FoxNews or CNN.  And I hardly ever see it on CNN.  Somebody wants to watch that crap, and that's enough for cable providers.

Why do you think ATT replaced Newsmax (or whoever it was) with another right-wing outlet?  They don't care, they just cater to an audience.  The only way to get ATT's attention, or Comcast's, is to stop paying for their services.

You don't need it, anyway.

Fool's Gold

I'll freely admit this is the first time I came across the term "Cochrane analysis." Clearly Dr. Hotez is using it here to indicate such an analysis is not a "gold standard," which makes me wonder where the NYTimes reporters got the idea that it is. Probably from one source, which was good enough for them.  Which puts me in mind of my freshman English students when I assigned a research paper and tried to force them to actually do, you know, research.  As opposed to taking the first three hits on Google and writing 2000 words from them.  Now I know that at least some of those students ended up writing for the NYT; or might as well have.

So what is a "Cochrane analysis"?  It's not a universal term for a type of analysis of data.  No, it's this:

A systematic review attempts to identify, appraise and synthesize all the empirical evidence that meets pre-specified eligibility criteria to answer a specific research question. Researchers conducting systematic reviews use explicit, systematic methods that are selected with a view aimed at minimizing bias, to produce more reliable findings to inform decision making.

Except they call it a "Cochrane review":

A Cochrane Review is a systematic review of research in health care and health policy that is published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

Effectively, it's a proprietary term.  It's the "gold standard" because the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews says it is.  Again, I'm not trained in science to the degree I can review and critique this database or one of its "reviews," but I do know as someone trained in research techniques that this is as far from the "gold standard" of academic research as you can get.  It may be good; it may be bad; but "gold standard" implies universal acceptance of the method and the results it produces.  And when someone on the internet can show the reasoning behind the study is so poor as to be either intentionally misleading in its conclusions, or the authors are pitifully out of their depth (like the NYT reporters), it really calls in to question the validity of a "Cochrane review."  Which is what Dr. Hotez was getting at.

Start here (or read the whole Twitter thread if you want).  The conclusion of the Cochrane review is that "masks don't work!" (which will come as a surprise to healthcare workers the world over).  The analysis is a bit detailed (as it should be), but it's also Twitter, so how detailed can it be?  But if you can shred the analysis itself in a series of tweets....

There is a pattern in this "review," in other words; and it becomes more and more noticeable, kind of like the reality that FoxNews is a propaganda outlet, not a journalism effort. The study referred to in that tweet supports masks; but, as other tweets point out, the Cochrane review decides it really means masks don't work. The "poor adherence to protocol" was among Muslims on pilgrimage to Mecca. They were given masks, but this was in 2015; pre-covid, IOW. Yeah, seems those facts should be taken into account.  But no, and in fact this study carries great weight in the final analysis.  And then there is the fourth study: And then there's fun with numbers! Remember this is supposed to be a "a systematic review of research in health care and health policy."  Such a review should not weight studies by simply counting them twice: There's even magic involved! Hey, presto! And what do we conclude from this farrago? And it could just be Dr. Hotez knows more about this than we non-experts do. Non-experts like the clueless reporters at the NYt.

Saying It Makes It So!*

Those tapes are as secure with Carlson as if they were in cardboard boxes in Trump’s office at Mar-A-Lago!

*Just ask Trump! Or DeSantis! Or MTG! They’ll tell you that’s true!
That tail is not going to wag that dog, and DeSantis knows it. He just lies to his advantage. (The board is the new taxing authority, same as the old one, for DisneyWorld. It’s stacked with DeSantis cronies who appreciate the cushy gig but have no authority even over the taxing district, because any real change would shift the tax burden for DisneyWorld to the locals. And DeSantis doesn’t want that to happen.) I'm surprised we aren't hearing more about this scandal!

Clearly A National Divorce Is In Order

"They had no respect for the restaurant or the staff or the other people dining or people like me who simply have different political views,” Greene said. “They are self righteous, insane and completely out of control. I was sitting at my table, working with my staff, and never even noticed these people until they turned into demons.”
Then we can herd all such people into a blue state and never be bothered by political intolerance again. And clearly we need to:
"People used to respect others even if they had different views," she said. "But not anymore. Our country is gone.”

They treated her as if she were the POTUS addressing a joint session of Congress.

FREEEEEEDDUUUUMBBB!

School Daze, Texas Style ๐Ÿซ

"School choice" does not mean the schools will choose you.

UT-Austin is a public college.  It is also very hard to get into.  You may choose UT, as a graduating high school senior.  That doesn't mean UT will choose you.
It's a fairly good review of the current effort in Texas to provide "vouchers" and "school choice," although it focusses far too much on the travails of one school board member in one atypical (but convenient to Austin, hem-hem) school district. There's not enough attention paid to Dan Patrick and promoters of vouchers, and why they promote them, except to note the effort was pretty much started after Brown v. Board finally got to Texas (where it hit my East Texas small town school district years before it got to "liberal" Austin, because school desegregation was still a court matter when I moved there in the late '70's, and continued to be so for another decade. My East Texas ISD just shut down the black schools and never looked back, although Robert E. Lee High school, the one I attended, was finally torn down (terrible architecture) and replaced with "Tyler Legacy."  The other high school was named for President John Tyler, a noted segregationist and racist who championed Texas' entry into the Union to have another slave state involved.  So, yeah, racism runs deep there.) To answer my own question, why do they promote them?  Follow the money.

Abbott's new plan is to give parents "Education savings accounts" which contain the money they pay to their ISD in property taxes (easily the largest part of any property owners property bill.  My house is taxed by the city, the county, the ISD, and a handful of quasi-government agencies including the Port of Houston.  My school taxes are easily the lion's share of the bill.).  This is particularly attractive to people who imagine that money is what they need to get Jr. into private school and away from all those...deplorables.  They like the term; they just don't like it applied to them.

Unless, however, you have a house worth multiples of millions, the taxes you pay to a school district won't cover the tuition for a good private school in the area at all.  Besides, you have to get your kid there, buy the uniforms, pay for the activities, etc., etc., etc.  "Poor" kids in such schools are social pariahs (I know from the experience with my daughter) and feel their "poverty" as the children age into social awareness and glib discussions of luxury vacations and even luxury toys.  But first, you have to get your kid in.  Having the money is not enough.  Your kid has to be accepted.

The people who imagine moving their kids to the "Harvard" of the local private schools will be quickly disappointed to find out that, like Harvard, private schools don't accept all applicants.  They'll also be disappointed to find out their school taxes don't pay the tuition.  So what's the point?

The point is to give a tax break to the parents who already send their kids to private schools, and who live on the most expensive real estate in the school district.  Not so they can afford the schools; but so they can put some money back in their pockets.  Why should they support public schools they have no interest in, after all?  Why should the rich support the poor?  Are there no workhouses?*

But then can't people take their money to "new" private schools, which will be less costly but provide as good an education?  Been there, done that.  Texas tried this before, with "charter schools."

Some well-managed and well-funded charters lived up to their promises, but many became mired in scandal. This may have been because, as one school historian noted, “the State Board of Education granted charters to just about everyone who applied.” The objections to charter schools are akin to those regarding vouchers: when students leave public schools, the money goes with them, often to institutions of debatable quality. As critics of both vouchers and charters have asserted, this setup often proves more lucrative for the companies that run them than beneficial to the students who enroll.

Yes, unlike private schools, the SBE was not very discriminating, and it was a fiasco so bitter and public the program was ended in the next legislative session and basically never spoken of again.  Dan Patrick & Co. think public memories have faded enough we can try again.  No one really expects the results to be any different.

You have to understand people in Texas have no clue how schools are financed, except when they see their annual tax bill.   Payment of school taxes goes directly to the district, but that money goes to Austin where it is redistributed under "Robin Hood," because Texas has rich and poor school districts and the Texas Supreme Court decided several decades ago the financing system violated the Texas Constitution because rich districts did very well, thank you,  and poor districts, as we say in Texas, sucked hind teat.  Austin has been redistributing funding ever since, taking local dollars away from local districts.  When my district pointed this out to parents and taxpayers about 10 years ago, there were screams of protest that the district was "wasting money" or sending it to Austin rather than using it here.  They didn't understand that had been going on for 3 decades (at that time), or why it was going on at all.  Ignorance is bliss.  And it's perpetual.

Most people in Texas still don't understand school finance.  They just think they're paying too much and getting too little because that's what everybody tells them.  The local school board put four crazies on the board (of the type discussed in the TM article) who vowed to "fix" the "reading scores" which they were convinced were down in the district.  The fact is those scores stayed strong through the pandemic shutdown and rose when students returned to the classroom.  The new board members faced that reality and now don't know what to tell the people who elected them expecting radical change and "improvement."  But they'll make up something.

And the mouth-breathers will believe it, because they prefer to.


*Further complicating the matter, "Robin Hood" works by considering the value of taxable property in a district.  The more valuable the property the "richer" the district, and the more likely it is to be tagged as needing to give up some of that money to the general fund to be sent to other, poorer districts.  But if you both assess the wealth of a district on the basis of its property values and allow the taxes for that property to be removed from the district before distribution to the state, aren't you screwing over the urban districts likely to have residents who want their kid in private school?  Rural districts usually have only public schools, some so small the superintendent is also the high school principal. They won't face that problem, so you screw over the big city districts (Dallas/Fort Worth area; Houston area (there are nearly a dozen ISD's in the Houston SMSA alone), Austin, San Antonio, El Paso) who lose money two, maybe three times, before it's over.  Somehow I don't see the Legislature working out that little wrinkle in one session; much less meeting the concerns of rural districts who can't afford to lose any tax dollars.  Basically, I don't see this happening.  But I'm an optimist.

Donald Trump Is A Stupid Man

And you can’t fix stupid.
"I will implement a bold series of reforms to completely eliminate dependence on China,” Trump says, phasing out imports from China including electronics, steel and pharmaceuticals. 
Trump also promises to “ease in a system of universal baseline tariffs on most foreign products. On top of this, higher tariffs will increase incrementally depending on how much individual foreign countries devalue their currency.” 
Demonstrating that he still does not underhand how tariffs work, Trump claims his plan will bring “trillions and trillions of dollars pouring into the United States treasury from foreign countries.” 
... 
In the full video posted to his Truth Social platform Trump falsely claims that when he was President “China paid to the United States hundreds of billions of dollars and no other president got ten cents, legitimately, ten cents.”

Trump thinks tariffs are paid by governments to governments. He doesn’t understand they act like a tax on imported goods, paid by the consumer to the government.

He fills in his ignorance by imagining the “hundreds of billions of dollars” his tariffs brought to the Treasury. Such ignorance is impenetrable, and has no business being behind the Resolute desk of the Oval Office.

And this is such a neatly crystallized example of the fact.

Then again, so is this:

They’re definitely eating the crayons ๐Ÿ–️.

Monday, February 27, 2023

Your Reminder That…

"News" is not a legally defined term. But "actual malice" is: And there is so much evidence of actual malice in the public record of this case that it could be used in law school textbooks.

If I Owned A Tesla, I'd Be Selling It Now

Because this is just getting weirder: Or maybe I'd get drunk and drive it into a Girl Scout cookie stand at a Wal-Mart: Either way, I'd be embarassed to have it in my driveway. There I go jumping to conclusions about Elmo and Adams again! Inquiring minds want to know! Objectively true!

Unless He Puts Us Back On The Gold Standard....

... and makes us use bees for money, this is all just empty promises.

(Or does Trump must hate Tim Cooke?)
Meanwhile... We can't believe it, either.

"A Handful Of Physicists At The Energy Labs"

From what I know of physicists and like-minded "hard" science guys, this is objectively true. Also explains how the idea escaped the labs, and what labs it escaped from. 

Besides, it's Peter Hotez, hometown hero who's level-headedness helped guide those of us in Houston who knew better out of the morass of the pandemic response.

But Seriously, Folks

I think Americans are united in the knowledge that MTG doesn't know her ass from a hole in the ground, either.

How the hell does this "divorce" into "red" and "blue" states work, anyway?  Closed borders?  Passports?  What's the distinction between now and the imagined then?  A "weak" federal government that provides for the common defense (how?  By current taxation methods?) and puts bases in several states but, what, only in blue states or red states and only with permission do they transfer personnel/equipment from one to the other?  Interstate commerce but not "woke" interstate commerce like the Civil Rights Act (which is based on Congress's authority to control interstate commerce)?

You see how quickly it comes back to race?  Do red states get to refuse non-whites from their restaurants and stores and hotels, or even from their military bases? Do they get to bar LGBTQ from crossing their borders? To punish women who cross their borders seeking a legal abortion in a blue state?

And who settles disputes between states as to riparian rights?  The "weak" federal government?

This "idea" is so half-baked it's a joke to even discuss it.  It's like trying to seriously consider Scott Adams' argument that blacks are a "hate group" and Elmo's claim that there is "anti-white racism" afoot in America.

Some ideas are so stupid they don't merit the attention of explaining why they are stupid.

"Ashes, Ashes, All Fall Down"

You can't conceive, my child, nor I nor anyone, the appalling strangeness of the mercy of God.--Graham Greene

Been working on this for some time, but it was going in circles until now. So I take my opening text from Thought Criminal:
In regard to the incapacity of secular philosophy to do that, I've pointed out before, I. F. Stone observed when commenting on Socrates in Plato's set-up job ran circles around a shoe-maker, that the shoe maker could make a pair of shoes while the entire 2400 year tradition of Socratic philosophy had never come up with even one universal truth. Adding scientific method to that has not seemed to improve their odds of getting to one. And morals are hardly the easiest aspect of philosophical inquiry to find them in. 
I will also point out that the various modern attempts to replace revealed religion with formal philosophy, the various and uniformly idiotic schemes of utilitarianism, the modern field of ethics which seems to have turned back to the eugenicist and Nazi projects of drawing up lists of those it is desirable to kill, something which you can do and not only keep but flourish in a modern, university based philosophy department almost eighty years after the largest of the modern scientifically conducted genocides was revealed to the world, only one of a myriad of the 20th centuries modern genocides that outdo past ones.

Socrates didn’t offer himself as a sacrifice, he always offered his companion in dialogue as a sacrifice. In just (!) one example, he tosses Euthyphro on the funeral pyre of the latter’s ethics, a pyre Socrates has built during the dialogue, then happily watches him burn. He goes on to mock the city of Athens in the next dialogue, and then accept their judgment as a matter of ethics that polishes his apple quite nicely. It’s a rare feat to be a relentless critic of both ethics and morality in life (at least the life portrayed in Plato’s dialogues) and yet die a moral and ethical exemplar, to be even considered for millennia a pre-cursor Christ figure.

One admires Socrates his ethics while it’s easier to consider Thomas More a sanctimonious prig (and I think he was). But More is moral; Socrates is self-satisfied. More reminds us of our selfishness. Socrates makes us wish we could be as admired because ultimately:”My death; is it possible?” As long as we can’t really conceive our own death, our own personal extinction, we can imagine ourselves in the company of the admiring as we make the “ultimate sacrifice” without really making it, because we want to prolong being the center of that admiration, and because we can’t really imagine our own death. Especially since death, as Wittgenstein observed, is the only experience of life that is not lived through. It’s a fine thing, to be admired; but when you’re dead, how do you experience that admiration?

When does Socrates ever guide someone out of a moral dilemma, or ever offer an ethical solution, even useful ethical guidance? More argues against the ruling power for the sake of morality; Socrates argues for a personal reward for teaching people how unethical he’s shown them to be, without teaching them what moral (the opposition to ethical, implicitly, in the Euthyphro dialogue) would be. Socrates (as Kierkegaard pointed out) is purely negative, and the telos of that is purely self-satisfaction. Who wouldn’t prefer that to the sacrifice required of being moral?


Scott Adams is satisfied that he is “ethical,” because “everyone agrees with him.” What he means is, the people who agree with him are the only ones that matter. The rest are presumably a hate group who should get as far away from him and the “right people” as possible. Who wouldn’t prefer that to the sacrifice required of being moral? Far easier to sacrifice others than to make a meaningful sacrifice yourself.

There is, to use the metaphor, the Church of Meaning and Belonging, and there is the Church of Sacrifice for Meaning and Belonging.  We don't have to use the word "church" here as only an ecclesial institution.  We can apply it to any grouping of people, such as the people who believe Donald Trump was the greatest President in U.S. history, or Scott Adams is right and "everyone agrees" with MTG about a "national divorce."  It's a way of identifying a grouping of similarly minded persons, in other words, which is pretty much what Protestant churches in America have always been (one reason they use to split and fission so freely.  My last church had a history of people going literally down the street to start a new church because the congregation voted to carpet the sanctuary.  I was never sure if it was the fact of the carpet, or the color, that was the breaking point.  That church was a Baptist church when I was the pastor of the "parent" church; it's now a Korean one.  My old church is still in the same denomination, but is a "gay" church, something that was anathema to the people when I was there.  Things continually change.).  So "church" in this discussion means a loose collection of people gathered by ideology, not necessarily religious commitment or even belief.

"Church" as a metaphor, then.  "Meaning and belonging" provided a source of identity; even if that identity is white and the belonging comes from thinking there is such a thing extant in America as "anti-white racism."  Contrast this free floating association of those who simply agree with sentiments expressed by someone somewhere on the internet, with the Church of Sacrifice for Meaning and Belonging.  "Sacrifice" is the key, and that's a tough nut.
The framing of that tweet intrigues me.  When, pray tell, was the era of extreme rationality where "accuracy, science, and truth" had unlimited influence?  The year of Buck v. Bell?  The years of Nazi genocide, based on genetics from England (Darwin, et al.) and laws from America (back to Buck v. Bell).  The years of the Tuskegee experiments?  The years of slavery when it was established by phrenology (then a science) that blacks were inferior to whites because of brain capacity in skulls, or just the shape of skulls?  (Stephen Gould wrote a fascinating book on the subject; I wish I still had it.) I could go on, but you get the idea.  Sacrifice, as I say, is the key, and one sacrifice that must be made is that my pet ideas, like "accuracy, science, and truth" all walk hand in hand, never err, and are "objectively sound," are perhaps indeed subject to scrutiny, criticism, and even rejection.  "Sacrifice" is a very personal term here, and it exacts a very high cost.

So it is in the arena of morality (which I distinguish from ethics, but take it as read for now).  Thought Criminal is right, "morals are hardly the easiest aspect of philosophical inquiry to find" a universal truth in.  Which is why I started with Socrates, a man so lauded by Western philosophy (and theology, to be fair) that he was considered a pre-Christian (see., e.g., Dante) and a moral exemplar second only to Christ (a laughable assertion, to be honest).  Socrates entire effort (again, per Kierkegaard) was to undermine the very concept of a universal truth.  One might say, indeed, that per Socrates the only universal truth was that there was no universal truth (I know this runs up against his seeming sentiments in the Crito, but as I say, Socrates was burnishing his apple there, as he prepared to leave the stage).  Why is morality such a difficult subject to find a universal truth in, in philosophy at least?  Because it requires sacrifice and Socrates is the philosophical exemplar of a man who always expected sacrifice of someone else, but never of himself.  Even his death was a noble offering, versus the screaming anquish of a man nailed to a cross crying out "Eli, eli, lama sabachtani?" There is sacrifice, and then there is accepting the cup of hemlock because you really don't want to live in exile from Athens.

Which is why philosophers are not so big on sacrifice except when they can make the other person make it.  But then, how is that different from most of us?

ASHES, ashes, all fall down. How could I have forgotten? Didn't I see the heavens wiped shut just yesterday, on the road walking? Didn't I fall from the dark of the stars to these senselit and noisome days? The great ridged granite millstone of time is illusion, for only the good is real; the great ridged granite millstone of space is illusion, for God is spirit and worlds his flimsiest dreams: but the illusions are almost perfect, are apparently perfect for generations on end, and the pain is also, and undeniably, real. The pain within the mill-stones' pitiless turning is real, for our love for each other-for the world and all the products of extension-is real, vaulting, insofar as it is love, beyond the plane of the stones' sickening churn and arcing to the realm of spirit bare. And you can get caught holding one end of a love, when your father drops, and your mother; when a land is lost, or a time, and your friend blotted out, gone, your brother's body spoiled, and cold, your infant dead, and you dying: you reel out love's long line alone, stripped like a live wire loosing its sparks to a cloud, like a live wire loosed in space to longing and grief everlasting.

--Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm, HarperCollins, 1977.

IN some monastic communities, monks go up to receive the ashes barefoot. Going barefoot is a joyous thing. It is good to feel the floor or the earth under your feet. It is good when the whole church is silent, filled with the hush of people walking without shoes. One wonders why we wear such things as shoes anyway. Prayer is so much more meaningful without them. It would be good to take them off in church all the time. But perhaps this might appear quixotic to those who have forgotten such very elementary satisfactions. Someone might catch cold at the mere thought of it.

--Thomas Merton, Seasons of Celebration 

And then we return to where I'd meant to have started, until I found the right way to start.  I wanted to meditate further on these two passages.  One by the Discalced Cistercian monk praising the shoelessness of his monastery, a place I visited once and found to be one of the truly remarkable places on earth.  The other a poetic exultation by a writer who elsewhere reminds us that all places on earth are truly remarkable, and no one of them "out of the way" unless you privilege your place, and who gives you the privilege to do that?  Which is appropriate, since the monk is preaching humility, too.

But what does it mean to arc "to the realm of spirit bare"?  Or to be "stripped like a live wire loosing its sparks to a cloud, ...a live wire loosed in space to longing and grief everlasting."  Do wires long and grieve?  Is longing and grieving like the electricity sparking off and through a live wire?  We think it is, and at the same time we think it isn't.  But holding "one end of a love" is like holding a live wire.  You are still sending the energy down it even though "your father drops, and your mother."  Even when "a land is lost, or a time, and your friend blotted out, gone, your brother's body spoiled, and cold, your infant dead and you dying."  Some of this I remember as a pastor, standing by the coffins of babies, of adolescents, or husbands and wives and fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, and trying to say words of comfort, trying to understand what it was like to hear what I was expected to say, what needed to be said.  You are surely a live wire then, and if it isn't love you are sparking, what are you doing there?

Which is to say it isn't just about you; it is, and always is, about them.  Language is that.  Language is not what you tell yourself; it's what you tell others.  You may think in words and hear your thoughts in your voice, but do you need language for yourself?  You only need it for others; and it's no coincidence our memories don't really begin until we being to speak, to share with others through words.  Perhaps you have pre-verbal, pre-literate (speaking), memories; but it's rare.  Memory is preserved mostly by telling them to yourself, over and over again.  As you get older it gets harder to keep them all, because you can't tell yourself memories of 60 years of 365 days each.  Even eidetic memory is stored in words, not just sensations.  We know because we speak; and we only speak to each other.  Like a live wire loosing its sparks to a cloud, loosed in space to longing and grief everlasting."

But grief is not everlasting.  That, surely, is the good news.  And I don't mean because time heals all wounds because, more accurately, time wounds all heals.

Memento mori. I do think at least once on the liturgical calendar we should publicly acknowledge that we are mortals and bound to die. “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return” is an ancient funeral formulary. It is not a condemnation so much as a reminder that our humility has a physical basis, and that is in our common humanity. Rather more difficult to think you have conquered life or found the secret to existence or deserve what you have while others don’t, if you are asked to remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return.  It is not, I think, a lesson Joel Osteen ever ponders, especially since his charity is limited to what’s convenient for him, or what he can be publicly shamed into.

Ashes, ashes, all fall down. Into these senselit and noisome days. Into a world where we are not in control. Where we are caught holding one end of a live wire, stripped to spirit bare, and grief seems to be everlasting. Grief is isolating. We endure it alone, for ourselves, for what we have lost.  In grief, we become most fully human, and most fully connected to the dead, and the living.

The difference between the philosopher and the poet is evident here.  The philosopher makes us examine what it means to be human, by challenging us to examine our own ideas on any given subject.  The poet makes us feel what it is to be human: to be one end of a live wire loosed to the sky, loosed in space to longing and grief everlasting.  And in that image to know this is a constant of the human condition; this is something in which you are not alone.  This is something we all, in the cell of ourselves, understand.

To understand what I mean we need to divorce grief from depression.  Depression is a natural consequence of loss, especially great personal loss, especially depression that is simply sadness, not something so clinical it requires careful treatment.  Depression as sadness is an indication that we are alive, and that we did know love, and that we will not soon forget those who are gone.  Grief is the public acknowledgement of our loss.  It joins us together with others:  with family, with friends, with those who share our grief and our need for comforting.  When my mother died my cousins and surviving aunts and uncles (her siblings and in-laws and neices and nephews) were gathered around one table in a restaurant after the graveside service, and it was a memory from my childhood when my mother's two brothers and two sisters and their spouses and children were all gathered at her parent's house for one winter holiday or another.  And in our grief we actually rejoiced, and felt our common humanity, our common connection forged over years of being, however briefly, all together for one purpose.  Yes, it was like holding a wire loosing electricity to the clouds, but it was an affirmation of being human.  If you do not grieve your family, your friends, when it is time for grieving, what is the point of being human?

It is as much about our commonality and our shared lives as praying barefoot in the chapel, and going barefoot down the aisle to receive the ashes and a gentle reminded of your mortality. "My death, is it possible?"  It's not the worst thing to meditate on, once in a while.  And if that's what scares you, what truly upsets you, then perhaps experiencing the question among so many others, in such a peaceful condition, in a ritual, might not be such a bad thing.  We all need to grieve.  We all need to face our mortality.  It is a part of the human condition.  We join in our common humanity when we open ourselves, even a little bit, to such things.

The sacrifices are not easy, and sometimes the smallest ones are the hardest to bear.  No one can make them for you, no one should force them on you.  It is up to you to choose them.  But you should choose the sacrifices for meaning and belonging; those are the ones that are the hardest, but also the most worthwhile.  "Meaning" of what?  "Belonging" to what?  Aye, there's the rub.  Something more than just a city you finally acknowledge you owe a debt to.  Call it a common humanity; not just a common locality.


“But Will You Say That I Am Mad?”

Your reminder that Poe’s original is the best example of an unreliable narrator in literature.

It’s very likely all of the events of that story are just a product of the narrator’s imagination; or insanity. Take your pick.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

There Is Still A Third Rail In American Public Life

And grasping it with both hands does not mean you don’t conduct electricity. Although maybe now the NYT will decide we can decide what Elmo stands for. You’d think, wouldn’t you? Of course, it’s not an absolute rule, is it? Maybe it’s the quality of his character, or something. Elmo is from South Africa, right?

Chuck Todd Told Jake Sullivan On MTP That Covid Now Confirmed To Be Lab Leak

Oops. Apparently Nate Silver didn’t read the article, either. But, you know, his opinions on the future (elections) are still reliable. Although “discussion of the issue” really should stick to “known facts,” even now.

“Sir, This Is An Arby’s”

Wrong grand jury. The next one reviews the evidence and votes on indictments. The recommendations of the special grand jury are not binding on the criminal grand jury.

At best this complaint might be grounds for an appeal after the trial. I don’t see it delaying trial on interlocutory appeal.

Fear Of A Brown (Or Even Thinking) Planet

Yes, she really did. Meanwhile, Tulsi Gabbard: Again, she really did:
Gabbard shared with Fox News host Jesse Watters her theory that "what we're seeing here is [Democrats'] philosophy, identity politics. And this is one of the main reasons why I left the Democratic Party because you seeing how their agenda of identity politics is directly undermining the traditional Democratic values that were expressed so beautifully and clearly, by Dr. Martin Luther King, that we should judge each other not based on the color of our skin, but based on our character."
No word on what’s wrong with the character of anyone in Biden’s Cabinet.

Maybe this all explains this:
Especially when the people associated with the ideas of Trump or DeSantis do this: Or even this:
Due to risks of complications with passing the fetus at home, she said she decided to check in to a hospital to perform a dilation and curettage procedure to remove the fetus from her womb. 
Jessa tearfully recalled the moments leading up to the procedure, saying, "I was able to thank God in that moment for giving us this life, even if we wouldn't be able to hold this baby in our arms."

Apparently she lives in a blue state where she isn’t at risk of criminal prosecution.

Saturday, February 25, 2023

The Right Wing Is A Bubble

Every video on the internet from Ukraine is a fake?

I’m thinking fewer people have heard of Tucker than Michael Flynn.

But Twitter Told Me Carlson Rules The World!

At the same time, perhaps because she follows him so closely, Abughazaleh is skeptical of the conventional wisdom that Carlson is one of the most powerful people in the United States. She and the other Media Matters researchers all seemed convinced that it was more the 8 p.m. Fox time slot that bestowed power. For millions of viewers, “it’s just a Pavlovian response to put on Fox News at eight o’clock,” Lawrence said. “Tucker needs the eight-o’clock hour on Fox News way more than Fox News needs Tucker.” 
Fox News has been the country’s most watched cable channel for twenty-one years. That impressive streak belies how few Americans actually watch it—the network averaged 1.49 million viewers a night in 2022—but it remains something of a thought leader for the conservative movement. The network, its producers, and opinion hosts are adept at sussing out which culture-war wedge issues will keep viewers tuning in. Those viewers seem to represent the G.O.P.’s primary voter base—often older, more dedicated partisans—that has propelled increasingly extreme candidates into the mainstream over the past two decades.

And that conservative movement has given us the House GOP and Trump as the GOP nominee for the third straight time.  I don’t understand why we’re still supposed to be losing.

So Goes The WSJ

The House, several prominent (in the news, at least) GOP Senators, all of the announced GOP POTUS candidates, along with the base of the party, is quite a “small group” of the party. A GOP candidate who won’t distance herself one inch from Trump, and speaks this way in public because: a) South Carolina, and b) Trump.

Newspapers are dropping “Dilbert” faster and for less provocation. “Small group” is whistling past the graveyard of the GOP. Even the newspapers carrying “Dilbert” know better than that.

The racism of the GOP is part and parcel of their isolationism and xenophobia. That the WSJ doesn’t realize that says more about the WSJ.


So Now This Is A Thing On Twitter

If you look hard enough for it. It’s very much a Twitter thing. Call me when it starts replacing news coverage of the war. That would work, too.

TDS Is Not Just For Breakfast Anymore

Lawyer up, Sluggo.
The judge who oversaw a special grand jury investigating efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia says he instructed jurors they were prevented from discussing deliberations but did not face restrictions in talking about the panel's final report. 
"The contents of the report are not deliberations," Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney told CNN. 
McBurney also said that the special grand jury, which has faced criticism from Trump and his legal team, did its job consistent with the rules governing special grand juries in the state.

And maybe get some lawyers who know the laws of Georgia, and who try cases in court, not in the headlines. 

And honestly, nobody gives a shit for your fanciful legal opinions. Trot those out in court yourself and see where they get you. Even your lawyers have refused to do that. They know better.

Friday, February 24, 2023

What Else Ya Got?

"...yet we are the ones that are supposed to be for Putin. I don't think so."

Well, the rest of us do, so: majority rules.  In fact, very hard to think otherwise.
MTG is a clown. She may be a big noise in the GOP, but she’s still not even Tailgunner Joe, and she’s never going to be. She discredits the GOP and herself, because the adults are in charge and there’s nothing she can do about that.

MTG and Bannon and Gosar and much of the GOP house imagine themselves to be Very Serious People, but they are children in a sandbox. The media aren’t serious, either. Biden’s approval rating is rising (a meaningless measure at any rate) because of course it is. It’s all a game of “What else you got?,” and since the 15 ballot debacle the House has proven it’s got nothing. Biden gives speech after speech and knocks it out of the park every time. MTG hoots like a white-ruffed howler monkey and Biden publicly revels in their hatred.

Why shouldn’t he rise as they sink? He was doing this before MTG was born.

What else ya got?

Thursday, February 23, 2023

“Are There No Workhouses?”

"Reimpose work requirements"

Because poverty is caused by laziness, donchaknow? And retired people should get back to work, too! Lazy bums. If they can’t save enough from a lifetime of labor (or Medicare fraud, or government service grifting), then they shouldn’t retire! Teach ‘em a lesson!

I could start the “Dickens Christmas Carol Project” at the rate this is going.

๐Ÿง 

This could easily be a student essay I read and graded over and over again over 20 years.

It’s that full of vague and glittering generalities and tendentious bullshit. The essay natters on but actually says nothing. It strings words together in the proper order but clearly doesn’t know what they mean (and doesn’t care). The ideas presented are not supported by any explanation, nor are they examined. The HAL-9000 is “sentient”? What does that mean? It kills the crew in order to save the mission? How does that work? By what reasoning does the fictional computer make this determination?

Mind you, answering those questions requires an analysis and evaluation of the plot of the entire movie. There’s a plausible argument that Kubrick just needed something to happen and in Act 3 to propel the plot forward to Act 4. There are other plausible arguments for why HAL turns suicidal, including that the computer just can’t cope with the mission that is finally explained to the audience (but which HAL knew) as Dave removes HAL’s higher functions (essentially his AI). Which raises questions as to what the story is telling us about computer functions that, 22 years after “2001,” we have yet to achieve (and what does that tell us about 1968?).

In other words, there is analysis, which essays are supposed to provide, and there’s weak attempts at baffling ‘em with bullshit. And I don’t see the value of a computer doing that; human beings are already quite proficient at trying to fool others.

Did Somebody Forget…

...to check the LSD levels in the water coolers at “Fox &!Friends” again?  Because they’re making sense, and that’s bad for the brand.

The Internet Is Making Us Stupider

In one tweet he managed to get European and American history wrong.

Never tell everyone to “read a book.” It’s a sure sign you haven’t.

How To Make Matters Worse

Let’s don’t, and say we did. Sargent argues doubling down on a bad decision is fighting fire with fire. Except no news outlet is going to review 41,000 hours of tape (Carlson’s claim) and spend days/weeks on a dedicated program picking excerpts for publication/broadcast.

Carlson will, and besides his meager audience and Twitter, who pay an attention to Carlson? Is the MSM really going to engage an endless round if responses to Carlson’s shows? Doesn’t that just elevate Carlson?

I have the J6C report; I’ll read that. Even fewer people want to see more selected scenes than will read that report.

Quit giving Carlson the attention. He’s not worth it. It’s bad enough McCarthy gave this stuff to Carlson. Another wrong won’t make it right.

I’ll Keep This Short And Sweet

I’m not an unalloyed fan of Thom Hartmann; but I’m not only not going to quote from this at all, I’m going to recommend you read it. If I started pulling quotes, I’d end copying the whole thing. Easier to just tell you to follow the link.

So follow the link.