Monday, July 31, 2023

Was Ronnie Taking Pills In The Hearing?

Was he even in the room? Beau got cancer to distract from Joe’s corruption. Fauci gave it to him.

Truer Words

I am out of town for a death in the family, which required the Lovely Wife and I to drive two days to get here. And we’re returning at the end of the month, for the memorial service. And that it should be mid-August, when it’s only the last day of July.

So we’re feeling very out of pocket and fifth-wheelish. And what warrants a heat advisory here, is a June day back home. We’re going home just in time for the hottest time of the year.

August is going to be six weeks long this year. πŸ₯΅ 
Well, for that reason, too.

What The Constitution Says About The “supreme Court”

In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.
It’s not dispositive, but it puts the Congress on stronger ground than Alito or Roberts.

Here’s section one:
The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.

As Steve Vladeck points out, this establishes a court, but doesn’t give it a courtroom, staff, or even a bench of justices.  Congress cannot direct the outcome of court cases. But Congress can still regulate the Court.

Section two details the jurisdiction mentioned in sentence one of section two. Section three defines treason and limits Congress’s ability to legislate it. And that’s it for Article Three.

The Court’s role in the tripartite government structure is largely a matter of tradition and, rather conveniently, court rulings. But the lower courts are subject to ethical rules. There is no constitutional reason why the Supreme Court shouldn’t be.

Who watches the watchers, after all?

Sunday, July 30, 2023

“Follow The Money”

Which explains this: Facts="attack"? Trump is a self-proclaimed billionaire. This is the best grift he’s ever found. And it’s perfectly clear he’s running so he can grift small money donors to pay his lawyers. And then if he wins, he can pardon himself. The best con ever!

But the con doesn’t work if the mark isn’t conned:
$40 million in 6 months sounds like real money πŸ’°. Inquiring minds want to know!

You Mean Other Than That Time….

"If there was an attempt for him to not turn over documents or he wanted something deleted, do you not think that that's something he couldn't have gotten done? Let's just use common sense," she said. "But he never would act like that. He is the most ethical American I know." 
"I mean, that's the allegation is that he did try to," Bream noted. 
"Shannon, I know the facts, and the facts are when President Trump gets a subpoena, it goes to the organization, the organization turns it over," Habba insisted.
...he refused to comply with a grand jury subpoeana and the FBI had to execute a search warrant on his property to recover the documents he said he didn’t have, and he’s now been indicted for?

Aside from the fact “the organization” (?) didn’t have a subpoena served on it, Trump personally did.

You’d think with all that money he’s spending, he’d have better legal representation.

πŸ€‘

"Dollar dollar bills, y'all!" Interesting he won’t pay his own legal fees. And I love the idea lawyers should work for him for the publicity. I wonder if OJ ever thought of that? And he’s not calling it a legal fund because: a) he’s not a “loser,” and b) who would contribute then?

And he’s spent $40 million on two indictments. What happens when the tsunami hits (4 indictments at once) and the trials (where the billable hours really kick in) come? There are two trials in 2024 alone, and the federal case just got more expensive.

πŸ’Έ

CAT FIGHT!

Although one does think about the admonition against arguing with pigs… How it’s done. πŸ‘

When You Put It That Way

But, but…Steve Inskeep!
🀦🏻‍♂️ 

Saturday, July 29, 2023

Stuff I Missed Today

Suddenly I miss the impact of Masters and Johnson. These are the times that try men’s souls.

Sam Alito Is Power Mad

And that makes him ignorant: Of course, more than a few people are ignorant: One might almost suspect Alito is setting up a “legitimacy” argument against any action Congress might take. Which could really call into question the legitimacy of the Court.

So Many Questions

Guests cheered when Trump made false claims that the 2020 election against President Joe Biden was “rigged,” promising that he would not allow the same to happen in the 2024 election. The former president ran through a list of his accomplishments as president from appointing U.S. Supreme Court justices that overturned Roe v. Wade to supporting ethanol and E-15 fuel.
I guess they don’t want to hear about electric cars in Iowa?

And if Trump couldn’t “stop the steal” in 2020, with the full power of the Presidency (and his attempts to do so are what two possible indictments are about) what’s he gonna do as a non-office holder in 2024?

Friday, July 28, 2023

It’s The “Phillips 66” Sign That Makes It Art

And American.

Thursday, July 27, 2023

This Day Just Keeps On Giving

How bad is it? In other words, Trump wants to keep doing what he’s accused of doing:
Oh, no, that’s not all the day brought:
I want you to listen ... this is Trump discussing the classified documents over at Bedminster, his country club in New Jersey, which he's now — he's now facing additional charges for possessing these documents over at beBedminster," said Blitzer, playing the audio footage of Trump bragging about possessing the document. “He's having a discussion along these lines, as you see, this is audio that the special counsel has obtained. Pretty powerful evidence going forward ... highly classified information." 
"Wolf, this to me is the single most important incident alleged in this entire indictment," said Honig. "Here's Donald Trump months after he left the White House and talking about war plans. He's alluding to documents. You can hear papers being shuffled, but the question is does he actually have a classified document in front of him that he's showing to these civilians with no security clearance?" 
The new indictment confirms the answer, Honig continued: "Those papers he was shuffling, yes, they were classified documents, they're related to war plans, and DOJ has that document. That is now a new charge in this indictment." 
"And that makes that incident so much worse than just Donald Trump exaggerating or bragging or bluffing, as he has suggested," Honig added. "This means he actually had that classified document in his possession. He was showing it to others, he was bragging about it, he was disseminating it, to use the legalistic word."
And if you think Trump’s getting his legal advice primarily from Tom Fitton: It is amazing, isn’t it?

Why DeSantis Is Not Doing Better Is A Mystery

The Only Thing Better Than A D.C. Indictment

...is a Florida superseding indictment. It just keeps on keeping on.

What We’re Paying For

I’m ashamed to say Wesley Hunt is my representative. Gerrymandering is a bitch. Wait, what? Seriously, WTF? Desperately playing every possible side, as the wheels come off.

Traps πŸͺ€

This is known as chewing the wrong leg off to escape the trap. Giuliani is up against it on discovery orders (basically orders to turn over documents/information) and is squiritng squid ink (sorry to mix zoological metaphors) to escape.  Except that won't work.  He's admitted to the plaintiff's case, but says the First Amendment protects him even from his slanders.  Although, even under Sullivan, it doesn't.  (His "confession" is trying to tell the court:  "I concede the plaintiff's case, now let's talk about my defense (and forget that matter of the non-compliance with the Court's orders)."  Yeah; it doesn't work that way.)

I'm old enough to remember when Giuliani was so respected as a lawyer they changed the name of Bracewell and Patterson to Bracewell and Giuliani when he joined.  You won't find the firm under that name anymore. They changed that a long time ago.

Speaking of squid ink:
Although I think of Trump as the fella in the round room told to go pee in the corner. I know you have to go to Threads to read that one. Sorry; best I can do. More of the same, though. Except Trump will never metaphorically gnaw a leg off; to do so would be to admit he stepped into the trap. He did; but he can never admit it.  So he just runs 'round and 'round the room, screaming.  His prospects of success are: nil.

"Lots of hullabaloo over charges that aren’t likely to have been brought against someone whose last name wasn’t Biden."

 I have stayed away (mostly) from the Hunter Biden stuff because it really is in the news because of Joe Biden (Jimmy Carter had the same issues with brother Billy, whom the media sought out and stayed with because he was a "character." He deserved better.).  But this is an excellent summation of what happened in that attempted plea agreement yesterday, and part of the reason it went pear-shaped has to do with the threat of Trump in office again.

So I recommend it.  The title is the last line of the post, a reference to the fact these are misdemeanor charges which several former AUSA's have said publicly would never be prosecuted (waste of resources on such small beer), much less warrant a special prosecutor and a high-profile plea deal.

The whole thing stinks to high heaven, and the judge acted like a judge, to the credit of her and the legal system that actually exists to see justice done, which also means protecting people from persecution.  Why, then, did I post the tweet about Trump and his lawyers?  Because he is the dead opposite of the situation with Robert Hunter Biden: he is the reason a justice system seeks justice against the unjust.

The damage to our country is done by prosecuting people who have famous last names and close connections to public officials, especially for crimes which judicial economy says aren't worth the time of those involved in the system.  Again, kudos to the judge for taking it so seriously, but it never should have come to that. 

Trump is getting his just desserts.  Hunter Biden is being pilloried for being his father's surviving son.

A Laptop With Wheels πŸ›ž

"Trust the algorithm.”

AI Is A Tool, Not An Entity

 The threat of AI is a human one, not a technological one.

 In books and movies, AI always becomes “human,” and conquers humanity (either with kindness, as in “With Folded Hands,” or more commonly through violence.). We create our own creation, in other words, of ourselves (Frankenstein), and we can’t control it.  We finally, IOW, become creators ourselves.  AI becomes, not a software program, but an entity.  Because what is intelligence if not a mark, an element, of being?

Technology and SciFi have made bad phenomenologists of us all.

First, the sitution:

The concern for AI in the WGA/SAG strike is not that computers will direct movies. It’s with how AI will be used to generate images and put actors out of work.

The fear in campaigning is that AI will easily create “deep fakes” and fool voters.

Do you see the problem? The problem is not technology. AI is not going to empower computers to create bodies or control traffic lights or lob ballistic missiles at countries. It’s not going to generate movies or campaign ads sua sponte. It’s simply another tool. 

AI is the new tool people are going to use against other people, and that possibility scares us. Well, some of us.  AI is a computer program.  It has to be written.  It has to be fed information.  It doesn't seek knowledge the way a young child does (it's called "childhood development" and it's a magical thing to see.  For instance, how does a child learn to use language?  It's one of the great mysteries, but it's so commonplace we don't consider it marvelous at all.  When my daughter was young she created new phrases based on her understanding of words (content) and syntax (word usage/order).  We would tell her to pick something up she'd left on the floor, and if she was carrying things already she'd object "I'm full of hands."  Which is a perfectly accurate use of English, if a bit dated.  "Awful" started out as "awe full," meaning "awe filled," or:  "Filled with awe."  We still prefer the latter syntax for the phrase, and use the word to define something bad, something...awful.  You might well say, to emphasize the point, that you are "full of love" or even "full of joy."  Why can't you exchange either noun for a more concrete one, like "hands"?  And yet we don't, and she figured out the accepted phrase ("My hands are full") without any particular coaching from us.  We still like her original phrase; it's part of the family lexicon.), and doesn't acquire knowledge even as a child does. 

If you recall "ST:NG," the character "Data" was an AI.  But he attended Star Fleet Academy to "learn" how to be a Star Fleet Officer (rather than just download, well...data).  That was AI as a human being; or trying to be a human being (Data's character arc always somewhat followed that of Pinocchio).  He was an entity, which is always the leap of science fiction where "intelligence" is involved.  Intelligence must mean human, or near human, or worse super-human, abilities.

And yet my cats have displayed intelligence.  Not the same as a computer programmer does, but intelligence nonetheless. I had a cat who could track a ball in my hand with laser precision, and catch it in mid-air in his front paws every time I threw it.  I could see the fierce, feline intelligence in that cat's eyes. 

Part of this (mis)understanding of what AI must be, is the dualism Descartes inherited:  only humans have intelligence, which comes from the soul (via Aristotle and Augustine and Aquinas), and so only humans are truly "entities."  Non-human creatures are just...creatures. Soul-less, and ultimately, mind-less. Which is where our language and concepts betray us.  The "monster" in Frankenstein is not called "the monster," but "the creature."  And it turns out to be just as human, if not more so, than its creator.  Indeed, it is treating it as a creature, rather than human, that causes the central conflict of the novel.  And it isn't the creature's intelligence that is his defining characteristic, but his heart:  his emotions, his feelings, his soul (which is how you know it's a product of the Romantic, not the Enlightenment, era).  The creature is intelligent, yes; but is driven by compassion and fear and finally anger.  He displays intelligence, but that is not his defining characteristic.  It is how he is wronged, that shapes the novel, and the creature.

We keep meeting the enemy, and the enemy keeps being us. We don’t create our own unstoppable doom. We just keep creating tools, and then fear how we will use them: against us.  Maybe if we paid a bit more attention to being, and a bit less to...well, technology.

ADDING:

There was an entire episode featuring a trial to determine Data's status as entity with rights, including this line: "Data is a toaster. Have him report to Commander Maddox immediately for experimental refit." AI chatbots are becoming less accurate because they keep scraping everything everywhere, including wrong answers, rather than learning (which is the way I always assumed "real AI" would do it, like CDR Data). My toaster is smarter because it never gives me bad info, but always gives me yummy toast.

Back when computer programming was done by punch cards and screens were called "CRT's" (because they were; basically televisions without the tuner), I learned the computer programmer's FUBAR (a phrase from WWII):  GIGO. It meant (means): "Garbage in, garbage out."  Computer programming was tricky because you always got back what you put in. 

Compared to those days, the word processor I learned to write on in the '80's was sheer magic.  And this program I use to post blog posts?  Inconceivable.

And yet, my computer doesn't think, even if my phone offers prompts to finish words I type with my finger (I can't do the thumbs thing on a virtual keyboard.  I just can't.).  And AI that is simply scraping data, all data, and treating it all as equal because...data?  Doesn't that mean it isn't aware of...well, anything?

As I say, my daughter learned to use language pretty much the same way, and she learned it faster and better. She was also self-aware from a very young age (back to theories of childhood development....).

And I still think we should focus a bit more on phenomenology (no, seriously!) and a bit less on the importance of our tools to our self-esteem/self-identity.

On the other hand: toast! 

Having Ridden The Tiger, The Tiger Now Wants You To Pay The Fare πŸ…

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

The Problem Is Not The Schools. The Problem Is Public Schools At All.

It’s a rare week when at least one school in the local school district doesn’t call an ambulance. In my childhood if an ambulance had shown up at any school in the district, it would have been the talk of the town for months. Today? It’s practically ordinary.

When I was teaching college, I had to have training in cleaning up body fluids, because of AIDS and infectious diseases, etc. My wife, who works in the school district administration building, has had to take the same training. Teachers have to keep epi-pens available, have to watch for parents not to bring food for the class with peanuts, or gluten, or any other allergens.

When I was in school, parents didn’t even worry about kids having too much sugar in the cupcake icing. But times have changed, and ambulances that used to be no more than station wagons with a siren are now rolling ER’s. We expect more, and get more from healthcare, than we once did.

Moms for Liberty makes about as much sense as MTG on the floor of the House.

Poetry

πŸͺ¨

So I guess it’s provided by auto mechanics? Or plumbers?

I guess she thinks surgery is performed with plastic scissors, and the wound is closed with mucilage.

The woman is dumber than a box of rocks.

πŸ›

According to the magazine's sources, Trump "wants the trial to be used as a platform to promote his false claim to have won in 2020," and has demanded that "lawyers should display 'proof' of Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was stolen."

Given that the 2020 election was not stolen and that Trump's voter fraud claims were debunked by top officials at his own Department of Justice, many lawyers fear this defense has no chance of succeeding.

Point A: they can't. 

Lawyers can only present evidence admissable under the Rules of Evidence.  And for a variety of reasons, they can't present evidence of election fraud that didn't happen, especially as a defense against charges of election fraud (broadly speaking, not a a legal charge in the J6 case).  What (I presume) Trump wants to do is argue the fraud against him obviates the fraud he allegedly committed and is charged with (again, I'm using "fraud" in the non-legal use of the word, the same way Trump is using it).

Problem is: it doesn't.  You can't claim the bank defrauded you of your money, and that's why you robbed cash from the tellers, therefore you aren't a bank robber.  I mean:  they started it!  Right?  It's a simplistic analogy, but so is Trump's "argument."  Any "fraud" that may have been committed against him, is not legal justification for the crimes he is (will be) charged with. His legal recourse was the courts, and in 60+ cases he couldn't present evidence of fraud sufficient to even keep the case in court beyond the first challenge.

His potential lawyers aren't afraid to present this "defense," any more than they "fear this defense has no chance of succeeding."  They know it doesn't.  They know the court won't let them present the first witness, or ask the first question on cross-examination, about such a hare-brained idea.  They know it's a loser, and if they know Trump is going to demand they present it anyway, why take the case and antagonize the court? Trump is not going to find his William Kunstler, and this trial won't be the Chicago 7 redux.

Point B: 

Trump has no evidence of fraud.  As I said, he tried that 60+ times, and every case failed.  Rules of evidence, bay-bee.  Even Giuliani famously stopped talking about "fraud" when he had to stand in front of a Federal judge and say the word. Giuliani knew if he said the word, he'd have to present evidence to support it as a legal claim; and he knew he couldn't do that.

No lawyer is going to raise Trump's claims of "fraud" as a defense to Trump's actions against any charges arising from J6.  You lose the case and commit malpractice (and probably face sanctions from the court for trying such a stunt.  Federal judges control access to their courtrooms, never forget.).  What a deal!

And Trump's argument really is:  "they" committed fraud first, so he can commit fraud (crimes I'm tossing under that umbrella) to "fix" their fraud.  Right?

Kids on the playground know better than this.

Clearly Biden Needs To Resign

(Sincerely, I hope he's all right. I can't stand the man's politics, but that doesn't mean I wish him physical illness.)

Dems In Disarray

πŸ“š

I am proud to say a friend (and former employer) is a plaintiff in this suit, challenging one of the dumbest laws to come out of the Texas Lege (and that's a high bar to clear).

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Apropos Of The General Quality Of The Conversation

Well, Ron is right, but: Stalingrad? Is Ukraine invading Russia? Oh, that makes it clearer. RFK, Jr. is an ignoramus.

Meanwhile, also on Fox:
It’s delusional public figures night on Fox: Not quite through with RFKj on that front , either: We have the tape. That’s exactly what you said. Do those accomplishments include calling Lauren Boebert a “bitch” on the House floor? Who’s going to explain to Charlie that USPS has nothing to do with state laws regarding vote by mail? They just, you know, deliver mail? (This is the quality of analysis (i.e., pure drivel) I usually get on NextDoor.) "Again...there is a pattern here that would suggest a bribe isn’t out of the question.”

I just had to type that out to see if it was as ridiculous as I thought it was. It also prompts me to post two responses:
Why we don’t settle for vacuous statements like that, but demand you put your proof. Apropos of the general quality of the statement.

Is Anyone Really Surprised?

MAGA won’t care. But MAGA is a dead branch on a dying tree.

Smiling And Walking

Well, not quite. But first, context: I am wondering how the House enforces document demands in the face of stonewalling from the Administration. I don’t think the Supremes would step into that short of another Nixon tapes situation (and we are so far from a Nixon tapes situation it’s not even funny).* The 2019 precedent is a valid point. But McCarthy doesn’t have any bullets in his gun to start with.

Which means it comes down to door number 2:
This whole effort is pure vengeance porn for MAGA. They don’t want to remove Biden, they want to expunge Trump’s shame by impeaching Biden. Payback is all that matters.

But can they get that far? If I understand House rules on impeachment, they need a majority to pass the articles and start the Senate trial. The GOP has a slim majority. They’ll need every GOP vote. Can they get it?

And will MAGA forgive Kevin if their impeachment dreams go up in smoke?

Now let me pepper this with relevant evidence: Dark Brandon, ascendant.


*And no, impeachment doesn’t give the House magic investigatory powers. Nixon was never impeached. And there was a great deal more evidence before the Committee got to the tapes, than McCarthy has against Biden yet.

Many Years From Now

At 68, it’s much easier to sit and watch two movies consecutively. Sitting there is not the challenge.

Staying awake is the challenge.

I’m seriously debating seeing “Oppenheimer” because I’m pretty sure I couldn’t stay awake. My wife told me I was snoring πŸ’€ during “Asteroid City,” and I love Wes Anderson. 

And it wasn’t a three hour movie.

Dan Patrick Doesn't Give A Shit

Dan Patrick tried to end tenure at Texas public universities in the last legislative session.  This is just the cherry on that shit cake.  This just reaffirms he really meant it.  He's in charge, and you don't fuck with him.

(The tl;dr on the article is that a student at a lecture on opiods by a nationally recognized expert teacher on the TAMU faculty, speaking at UTMB Galveston to first year med students, was upset about something about reportedly said about Patrick.  No; seriously:

When students at UTMB received the email hours after the lecture, several started texting each other, trying to figure out what Alonzo had said that was so offensive.

According to one student who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation from the school, some students wondered if it was when Alonzo said that the lieutenant governor’s office was one of the reasons it’s hard for drug users to access certain care for opioid addiction or overdoses.

A second student who also asked to remain anonymous for the same reason said Alonzo made a comment that the lieutenant governor’s office had opposed policies that could have prevented opioid-related deaths, and by doing so had allowed people to die.

A third student who also spoke on the condition of anonymity said Alonzo talked about how policies, like the state’s ban on fentanyl test strips, have a direct impact on the ability to prevent opioid overdoses and deaths. A push to legalize the test strips died earlier this year in the Patrick-led Senate despite support from top Republicans, including Abbott.

All of the students interviewed said they felt Alonzo’s comments were accurate and they were not offended by anything in the presentation.

But one student was:

On March 21, two weeks after she was placed on paid leave, Alonzo received an email saying her leave had been lifted.

The following day, pharmacy school Dean George Udeani said in a memo to Alonzo that during the lecture she “related an anecdote and an interaction with a state official.”

“I understand that your comment did not assign blame. However, some members of the audience felt that your anecdote was offensive,” he wrote.

“While it is important to preserve and defend academic freedom and as such be able to discuss and present to students and the public the results of research observations and strategies, you should be mindful of how you present your views,” Udeani said.

Alonzo is not a tenured faculty member.  And reports of the "offense" went to Patrick (there are receipts) and back down to her supervisor, via the Chancellor of TAMU System, before she could finish her 2.5 hour drive back home from Galveston.  The message is clear:  "Watch your ass.")

Falter Call

 "I’m hearing every day from evangelical Christians who are exhausted and almost in despair over the state of American Christianity," he told the publication. "They know something has gone terribly wrong but they are losing hope that anything could be different."

Moore went on to add that he believes "Trump to be a unique threat, both to American institutions and to the church’s witness."

Speaking as a former pastor, let me just say:  Trump is not the problem with American Christianity.

It's the people in the pews, stupid.


Well, yeah, and people like Robert Jeffress at First Baptist in Dallas.  But Jeffress only reflects the views of his constituents congregation.

There is, to begin with, a rich irony in blaming Trump for all the ills that beset American Christianity.  NPR ran a story about a small (50 member) Methodist Church in Fountain Valley, CA, which wants to "dissociate" from the UMC because it's not stern enough on the subject of LGBTQ+ Christians.  Who, you know, need to repent of their sin of being...themselves...before they can be fully acceptable.  I'm not sure Russell Moore would despair over the attitude of that church, which rests its ecclesiology on a line from a hymn ("Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing") but clearly wants "blessings" restricted to people in their group, and not showered on people unacceptable to their group.

Which I grew up being taught was a very Pharasaical way of looking at Christianity.  So little has changed.

The Southern Baptists in my hometown dominated the culture, and were quite sure the rest of us who were not Baptists (especially the Catholics and the Jews; we had a chapel and a synagogue in town.  The chapel is now a cathedral, so....) were going to hell (and they weren't too sure about the Baptists who didn't go to "their" church, either).  I buried a friend, who late in her short life came out as a lesbian.  She and her parents, life-long members of one of the largest Baptist churches in town, were shunned after that revelation.  I did her funeral in part because the Baptist ministers of her childhood church, wouldn't.

Don't tell me Trump is the primary problem.  Trump didn't invent this evil; he just took advantage of it, and how many people were happy to dance to that piper's tune?

"While the witness of the church before a watching world is diminished beyond recognition, congregations are torn apart over Donald Trump, Christian nationalism, racial injustice, sexual predation, disgraced leaders, and covered-up scandals," reads the book's description. "Left behind are millions of believers who counted on the church to be a place of belonging and hope."

I'm guessing Russell Moore doesn't remember the '60's, when churches literally divided over racial issues and Dr. King wrote an open letter to them all, a letter which shamed them so badly they simply ignored it.  And by "they" I mean the congregations, the individual church members.  Granted, that missed the "evangelicals" by and large, who were happy to repeat the lies about "happy slaves" and "the war between the states" being about "state's rights" rather than owning and selling human beings like chattel and treating them worse than one would the proverbial rented mule.  Then they sailed on to glory in the days of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson and cable TV evangelists who happily fleeced viewers (The Bakkers, Oral and Richard Roberts, just to name a few.  They were legion, there were so many of them.).  Yeah, that wasn't a problem for American Christianity, right, Russ?  There was a lot of sexual predation and disgraced church leaders in the '80's and '90's and right on into the 21st century, but NOW it's a problem because of Donald Trump alone?

How convenient that narrative is.  How easily it absolves the rest of us of responsibility.  Donald Trump is the author of a multitude of sins, many of which he will face terrestrial judgment for.  But he is not the scapegoat who bears away the sins of we, the people in the pews.

So [John] would say to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, "You spawn of Satan! Who warned you to flee from the impending doom?  Well then, start producing fruits suitable for a change of heart, and don't even start saying to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' Let me tell you, God can raise up children for Abraham right out of these rocks.  Even now the axe is aimed at the root of the trees.  So every tree not producing choice fruit gets cut down and tossed into the fire."

The crowds would ask him, "What should we do?"

And he would answer them, "Whoever has two shirts should share with someone who has none; whoever has food shouild do the same."  Toll collectors came to be baptized, and they would ask him, "Teacher, what should we do?"  He told them, "Charge nothing above the official rates." Soldiers also asked him, "And what about us?" And he said to them, "No more shakedowns!  No more frame-ups either! And be satisfied with your pay."

Luke 3: 7-14, SV

There's your altar call, Dr. Moore; and your sermon.  And nary one reference in John's words to the problems caused by Herod.  It's almost as if the blame lies, well...closer to home?

To the extent American Christianity has abandoned that foundation, I don't think you can blame it all on one man.

Update:

Abbott is now calling this "an obscure statute" (a reminder: Abbott sat on the Texas Supreme Court before becoming governor. I wonder how Justice Abbott would regard that argument).  Which means, of course, under the Obscure Statutes Act of 1664, it cannot be enforced.

Right?

The same report also noted that migrants from Mexico are walking down river to cross pass the buoys, and then crawling over the razor wire he has deployed on the river bank in order to enter the U.S. so they can claim asylum. 

Texas styles itself "The Friendly State," a motto I've always been rather proud of.  Razor wire being so friendly and welcoming, and all. (And it's been placed on private property without permission, blocking access to water for livestock.  Abbott is just coming up aces all around!)

If It Bleeds, It Leads 🩸

And even the political press desperately needs something to bleed. 🩸 

Welcome To The Legal System, White Boy

It's not just for brown people. Oh, no! Not appliances that do more at less cost to me! The horror! No notes. "X” marks the…?

Performances Daily

Yeah, this is a stunt. Maybe because Paxton can’t sue Biden right now. I am curious to see how the Texas AG responds to the suit, because all Abbott’s doing is playing mini-Trump:
Abbott defended his decision to do so as the “commander-in-chief of our State’s militia” and blamed the Biden administration’s immigration policy for the conditions at the border. 
“It has been under your watch that migrants have suffered an unprecedented crisis of inhumanity,” Abbott said in the letter to Biden. “If you truly care about human life, you must begin enforcing federal immigration laws.” 
Hours after the lawsuit was filed, Abbott took to Twitter saying, “Texas will see the Biden Administration in court to aggressively defend our sovereign authority to secure the border. Biden’s open border policies created this humanitarian disaster. Texas will continue to exercise our constitutional right to respond,” accompanied by video of him on Fox News discussing the case.
Tweets are not legal arguments, and legal Twitter is the worst. Abbott knows that, although he is the “commander-in-chief of our state’s militia,” the federal government still has superior authority. And Texas gave up its “sovereign authority to secure the border” when it joined the Union (though we should still be able to close our border to Okies. Arkansas is not looking too good, either.). So this is all, as the kids say, performative bullshit. Yeah, pretty much. Still interested to see how the Texas AG responds to this.

Monday, July 24, 2023

Define “Extremist And Repulsive”

Slaves were just employees without pay who learned valuable life skills they used to support their families.

Right?

Somebody Got It Right

I've been ignoring the whole "Twitter is now 'X'" thing because, frankly, I don't give a shit.  But this is absolutely the response the whole topic deserves.

You Gotta Dance With The One What Brung Ya

 Until you can't:

And, until last month, no state politician had received more money from those groups [on "a long-term crusade to push Texas to the extreme right"] than [Texas AG Ken] Paxton, who has in turn used his office to push ultraconservative priorities while declining to defend state agencies in numerous lawsuits filed by groups connected to Dunn and the Wilks brothers, including those seeking to undermine the state’s campaign finance laws.

Now, with the clock ticking toward Paxton’s September impeachment trial before the Texas Senate, Stickland and his far-right friends are fighting hard and spending big to protect their most important ally — and to stave off a major loss amid their ongoing fight for control of the Texas GOP.

One more surprise in the impeachment of Ken Paxton:  who is against him, v. who is behind him.

And it's all because Dems are in disarray:

The Paxton drama comes at a crucial time for the state’s ultraconservative wing, which has been increasingly criticized by moderate Republicans who have grown weary of their purity tests and attacks even as the state drifts further to the right. The Wilks and Dunn orbit also has been hobbled by a series of divisive, costly — and largely unsuccessful — primary races and the removal of former Rep. Bryan Slaton, whose political life was subsidized by Defend Texas Liberty until he was expelled from the House in May for having sex with a 19-year-old aide he got drunk.

Those losses, coupled with intraparty animus, have raised the groups’ stakes in the Paxton trial. 

Paxton's trial is political, IMHO, in that the House cannot overlook Paxton's corruption any longer.  It is too blatant and too prolonged and too damned public.  The FBI has already arrested Paxton's BFF that he did all the criming for.  Smart money says the FBI will arrest Paxton after the impeachment trial, whether he wins or loses it.

Art. 4 of the Texas Constitution provides:

Sec. 22.  ATTORNEY GENERAL.  The Attorney General shall represent the State in all suits and pleas in the Supreme Court of the State in which the State may be a party, and shall especially inquire into the charter rights of all private corporations, and from time to time, in the name of the State, take such action in the courts as may be proper and necessary to prevent any private corporation from exercising any power or demanding or collecting any species of taxes, tolls, freight or wharfage not authorized by law.  He shall, whenever sufficient cause exists, seek a judicial forfeiture of such charters, unless otherwise expressly directed by law, and give legal advice in writing to the Governor and other executive officers, when requested by them, and perform such other duties as may be required by law.   

Let's go a bit deeper than that:

Attorney General Ken Paxton is the lawyer for the State of Texas and is charged by the Texas Constitution to:

defend the laws and the Constitution of the State of Texas

represent the State in litigation

approve public bond issues

To fulfill these responsibilities, the Office of the Attorney General serves as legal counsel to all boards and agencies of state government, issues legal opinions when requested by the Governor, heads of state agencies and other officials and agencies as provided by Texas statutes, sits as an ex-officio member of state committees and commissions, and defends challenges to state laws and suits against both state agencies and individual employees of the State.

The Office of the Attorney General has taken on numerous other roles through the years. Texas statutes contain nearly 2000 references to the Attorney General. In addition to its constitutionally prescribed duties, the Office of the Attorney General files civil suits upon referral by other state agencies. In some circumstances, the Attorney General has original jurisdiction to prosecute violations of the law, but in most cases, criminal prosecutions by the Attorney General are initiated only upon the request of a local prosecutor. 

Now, specifically, the Attorney General doesn't do any of that.  The Office of the Attorney General does all that work, in court and out, through a staff of lawyers and others staffing the office.  But the Texas Constitution is quite clear: "The Attorney General shall represent the State in all suits and pleas in the Supreme Court of the State in which the State may be a party...."  This means, in practice, that Ken Paxton's name is on any court pleading filed by the State of Texas in state or federal court.  But only lawyers can put their names on pleadings.  More specifically, only licensed lawyers may do so.

Licensed lawyers in the State of Texas cannot have criminal convictions.

Now there's a lot of slipperiness here.  I don't have the resources to research this legal question, and it may well be the Courts have interpreted Section 22 of Art 4 of the Texas Constitution to mean the AG may not be a lawyer, although clearly his office staff must.  But that's rather like putting a non-lawyer in charge of a lawfirm, something the law does not allow.  Non-lawyers can operate the business side of a lawfirm, but they cannot direct firm lawyers in their practice.  Lawyers are rather jealous of their licensed status, especially because they are the ones responsible for what is done in their names and, at least in Texas, under color of their Bar numbers (Texas pleadings require a lawyer signing the pleadings to include her/his Bar card number, so it's literally "over" their Bar number that they sign.)

So, and it's a series of "ifs" at this point, if the FBI charges Paxton (how could they not?), and Paxton loses the criminal trial or even takes a plea deal, the State Bar of Texas is going to want his license back.  And then one wonders if Ken Paxton could be re-elected as the crooked Attorney General of Texas?

All by way of saying these right-wing billionaires who think Barry Goldwater was a pinko (look it up, punks!) and LeMay should have just nuked North Vietnam, may have already lost.  Because even if they win the impeachment trial by blackmailing the jury (what?  Paxton's own lawyers have already tried to disqualify three Democratic Senators for bias, even though the Texas Constitution says they all must attend the trial.  Paxton's own wife is a State Senator and will attend the trial; she just won't be allowed to vote because of the obvious conflict of interest. But Paxton's lawyers don't get to pick the jury for this trial; the Texas Constitution has already done that.), they can't browbeat a US Attorney and a federal judge and jury.  And if Paxton is convicted of a crime, the State Bar of Texas will sue to remove his license instanter.  And they'll win.

And there go a few more of the dreams of the crazy rich oil guys in Texas.  

Alternatively, Paxton loses his trial, because the State Senators know the one thing they DON'T do is vote for corruption.  Texas voters will vote for crazy.  They won't stand for corruption.  If you're old enough to remember Tom DeLay, he was Gingrich's hatchet man and majority whip when Bill Clinton was POTUS, and DeLay was ruthless in using his power against his enemies, who were mostly Democrats.  And then some pictures of DeLay living it up in a hot tub (no, I'm not making this up) surfaced, and DeLay declined to even run for re-election that year.  He explicitly said his voters wouldn't stand for any hint of misconduct, a term found, as ever, in the eye of the beholder.

State voters in Texas will feel the same way about Paxton, and Texas state senators know it.  They can save Paxton, or they can save themselves.  They can't do both.  And the threats of the right-wing billionaires to fund extremists in primaries?  That would probably get some moderate Democrats elected.

I think the extremists have caught the car, and they don't know what to do about it.  It ain't everything, but it ain't nothin', either. Besides:

For six years, Zachary Maxwell saw firsthand how West Texas oil money slowly reshaped the state’s political landscape — including through the numerous conservative campaigns he helped lead and, later, as chief of staff for former Rep. Mike Lang, the leader of the House’s ultraconservative Freedom Caucus. He also briefly worked for the Empower Texans-affiliated Texas Scorecard as a staff writer.

Maxwell ultimately left that world because of what he said was hypocrisy from the Dunn and Wilks cohort, who he said were almost singularly focused on conservative “chest beating” as a means of pulling the party’s mainstream views to the right and accumulating political power.

“It is rules for thee, not for me,” he said of Empower Texans and its affiliated groups, including Defend Texas Liberty. “They do not care about how Austin is run — they care about running Austin. They care about who can scream the loudest, and usually that ends up being people with the least amount of integrity. And the entire Legislature is sick and tired of it. Nothing is good enough. And the second you get off course, you’re going to get hammered.”

The reference to "Austin" is a loose one.  In this context, it means the Legislature when it is in session, which is only for six months every two years.  The impact of the Lege on the city of Austin, outside of downtown (where the capitol is located) is negligible, to nuisance.  The telling point is the last:  "...the entire Legislature is sick and tired of it."  I think the country at large is sick of MAGA and it's "I SCREAM LOUDER MEANS I WIN!" attitude.  So the expectation that the State Senate is not inclined to save Ken Paxton, is not without foundation.  Here's another telling quote:

“They [the billionaires] romanticize the rural Texan,” Brandon Darby, editor of Breitbart Texas, a right-wing news site that had previously employed Sullivan, said at the time. “They wear the hat, the boots and the Wrangler jeans, but their policies actually strangle rural Texas communities.”

The session ended with no funding for public schools in part because the voucher program to allow public money to be spent at private schools, didn't pass either.  Most of the resistance to that plan came from rural Texas, where there are no private schools to flee to, and the public schools are a source of community pride and employment.  So, yeah, the policies of these extreme right-wingers is damaging to rural Texas as much as it is to the rest of Texas; and the people in rural Texas aren't fools.

Which raises the question of what Ken Paxton has done for them lately.  It also raises the question of who Paxton is working for: 

Just an example of one of Paxton's pet projects.  Probably not too many people in rural Texas love Joe Biden.  Then again, they liked LBJ, and know the difference between politicians who use them as props, and politicians who actually help them.  Biden is closer to LBJ, so don't write them off prematurely.  Still, Paxton is only winning the applause of a handful of rich cranks with lawsuits like this, and this one is clearly no longer interesting to him since he couldn't get it assigned to the crank judge he prefers.  That's another grain of sand on the scales, but Paxton doesn't need any more weight added to that side of the scales right now.

In the end, this all comes down to Paxton trying to dig into the state coffers for $3.3 million to pay off a mess of his own creation.  In a session that ended without funding public education at all (beyond standing allocations from prior sessions), and took two special sessions to finally pass a property tax decrease (obviously a political prize, but you still have to pay for schools, roads, police, and fire somehow; and Texas doesn't not have another source of tax income bigger than property taxes), that number is small enough and, simultaneously, big enough, to mean something to voters.

And the Senators of the State of Texas are well aware of it.