"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The more things change, dept.

The Funny Thing Is

I'm old enough to remember when the internet was going to make us all members of a global village. I even remember my astonishment at reading an article in an Irish newspaper about a woman who lived her life on the "Catholic" side of Belfast, and when that line finally stopped being a Maginot Line she crossed at her peril, she was astonished to find out Protestants lived much as she did.  From her childhood experiences and what adults had told her, she practically expected them to be aliens from another planet.  She had so ingrained this idea she was shocked to learn they were just like her, but even the slight differences in how they lived made them strange, and she had to examine her expectations to relinquish them.

It was, to me, a stunning insight, and one I got to share in "real time," thanks to the internet.  Thanks to the writer's intelligent and sensitive insights, I saw Irish history through her eyes, and understood for once what had been going on in a part of the world I realized I only knew through my American perspective.

No more, though.

This article on "Big Data" and what it calls "Dataism" makes several cultural errors, starting with the idea that religion explained it all to us until Rousseau came along.  I'm not going to argue against the broad brush assumptions (it's a magazine article, not a scholarly treatise), I only want to point out the people in Asia and Africa and the Pacific Islands (i.e., non-Europeans or their cultural descendants) would look at that summation of human history and say:  "Huh?"

It's the sort of inverse of the old joke about the Lone Ranger and Tonto, the one that ends with "What you mean 'we,' white man?"

Not to mention, as one commenter does (and it is worth quoting):

But there are around 1 billion people in the world who don't have access to electricity.

There are another several billion who don't have access to computers.

Doubtless this will change over time--but partly because these people are increasingly moving to rich countries to get at least a few crumbs from the tables of the rich world.
The French created the philosophy of structuralism to try to undo some of the cultural chauvinism of their own efforts at anthropology (where cultures were inevitably "graded" on a Western scale of values, and usually weighed and found wanting).  Deconstructionism came along to challenge some of the assumptions still inherent in structuralism that still skewed the view toward the preferences of those doing the evaluating (i.e., the ones with the power).  Niebuhr caught on to this problem of power as well, analyzing it from what seemed old fashioned notions of evil and human fallibility, i.e., "original sin."

Even in the era of "Big Data" and the "global village," it seems clear we're going to continue to make the same fundamental errors again and again.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

It just got too weird for me

This is what a campaign does when it is has lost all sense of humanity:

(This is what he's talking about):

And this is what a campaign does when it goes completely off the rails:

Enough is enough; in so many ways.

And an hour later, the penny drops:
Of course, that one is practically on auto-fill:

When the tweets are not about him, they are remarkably leaden.

Friday, August 26, 2016

War On, Christmas!

"little silent christmas tree"

And what's a war on Xmas without a fight over what to call the tree?

"He opens up the paper each morning and sees our nation’s leaders giving a hundred billion dollars to Iran, or he opens the paper and some new school district has just eliminated the ability for its students to say the pledge of allegiance, or some fire department in some town is ordered by the mayor to no longer fly the American flag on the back of a fire truck," Eric Trump told The Stream's James Robinson. "Or, he sees the tree on the White House lawn has been renamed 'Holiday tree' instead of 'Christmas tree.' I could go on and on for hours. Those are the very things that made my father run, and those are the very things he cares about."

Because one of the important Constitutional duties of President is the naming of the national Christmas Tree.  Thomas Jefferson had his slaves cut one down, if I remember correctly.  George Washington cut the first National Christmas Tree down with his little silver axe.

You could look it up.

Andrew Jackson stole the Indian's Christmas Tree.  Well, some people say, anyway.....

Besides, if a "Christmas tree" was good enough for the baby Jesus, it's good enough for America!

(And yes, only some of this actually happened.  Or, actually, none of it; but still, some people say....)

Foghorn Leghorn Cues Up the Weekend

Yes, she has.
In that speech, I was talking about the impact violent crime and vicious drug cartels were having on communities across the country and the particular danger they posed to children and families.  Looking back, I shouldn’t have used those words, and I wouldn’t use them today.

My life’s work has been about lifting up children and young people who’ve been let down by the system or by society.  Kids who never got the chance they deserved.  And unfortunately today, there are way too many of those kids, especially in African-American communities.  We haven’t done right by them.  We need to.  We need to end the school to prison pipeline and replace it with a cradle-to-college pipeline.

As an advocate, as First Lady, as Senator, I was a champion for children.  And my campaign for president is about breaking down the barriers that stand in the way of all kids, so every one of them can live up to their God-given potential.

And, for those of you who still remember compare/contrast from Freshman Composition:

"Sometimes, in the heat of debate, and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don’t choose the right words or you say the wrong thing. I have done that, and believe it or not I regret it," Trump said.

"I do regret it particularly where it may have caused personal pain.”

Still not sure who he was talking to; or what he was talking about.

You sank my battleship!

In the aftermath of Hillary's speech on racism and the alt-right, the ripples continue:


Got to dance with the one what brung ya

Don't know why "Clintons" is possessive; or even what that means.  But he also accuses her of "sabotage of the inner cities," which, as we all know, is a blacks-only zone in every major city in America.  Well, that's only common sense....

In the wake of Clinton's speech on the "alt-right,"  Trump disavows any knowledge of their activities; even of their existence.

"Nobody even knows what it is, and she didn't know what it was. This is a term that was just given," Trump said when CNN's Anderson Cooper asked if he embraces the alt-right. "There is no alt-right or alt-left. All that I'm embracing is common sense."

The alt-right, however, begs to differ.  That HuffPo article has several quotes from alt-right "leaders" claiming Clinton's speech means they are now mainstream, or at least recognized by the mainstream.

If I were Trump, I'd disavow them, too.  Then again, the alt-right thinks what they are promoting is just common sense.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

I know you are, but what am I?

I am so ready for the school year to begin, so I can be busy again....

And before we all go to bed:

I guess that means he recognizes it was a good speech, as some people say.  As for stamina, I want to see him go 11 hours before a very hostile Congressional committee.  (Trump, of course, is dog-whistling the alt-right meme that Hillary is actually very ill and incapable of going the job of POTUS.)

But wait, there's always a little bit more!

You know, that Robert Byrd/KKK meme is so old it has grandchildren.  Who writes his stuff?

(And Charlie Pierce is right, the horsemen are out of the barn.  But I don't blame the media for normalizing Trump; I blame the GOP.)

Can Sex Be Evil?

More to the point:  can sex be funny?

TC raises an interesting question:  Can sex be evil?

To lay my cards on the table, I grew up as the "sexual revolution" was apparently revolutionizing our ideas about sex, but I grew up in a culture (maybe an outlier) where sex before marriage was still taboo, or the surest way to get married real early (well, if pregnancy was involved).  Not that there weren't girls who "went away" in high school, and not that high school students weren't having sex.  But it was taboo among "nice families," in a way it simply isn't anymore.

And most of that taboo was centered on sex as the gateway evil, not unlike marijuana was a "gateway drug" (yeah, it was weird).  Nowadays, of course, sex is natural; it is good; it is human.  We are almost back to the culture that produced "Gilgamesh," where Enkidu, made by the gods to be a companion to Gilgamesh, but not yet human, sleeps with the temple priestess (we would unkindly call her a "temple prostitute") for days on end, until he becomes human through the encounter.  That is actually, I think, a healthy view of sex, though it puts it back onto the "rite of passage" that sexual intercourse was for young men (never young women!) when I was growing up.

Yeah, it was really weird.

TC has some very good thoughts on the pernicious effects of pornography.  This is becoming a problem not just for the abuses it leads to (even promotes, in TC's argument), but because it is such an unrealistic picture of human sexuality, and yet it is how children, more and more, are learning about human sexuality.  We don't teach it as they would have in "Monty Python's The Meaning of Life", and our children end up, reports say, learning about it from the internet (apparently there's a lot of porn on the internet.  I thought it was all just politics and cat videos.).  And that raises two questions that need answers:  Is sex evil?, and what is sex?

If sex is just male/female intercourse, then sex is porn and rape and the wedding night.  So of course it isn't that simple, because rape is not sex (not even about sex; it's about power.  Let's be clear on that up front.)  But then there's the question "What is rape?"  Broadly defined, rape is nonconsensual sexual intercourse (let's leave it there and leave out non-bodily parts ('foreign objects') and using something other than the reproductive organs alone).  We can argue the nature of consent, but that's not the issue here.  The issue is:  what is sex, or maybe even: when is sex?

If two college students, male and female, engage in sexual intercourse, this is now good and natural, rather than shameful and to be hidden (well, sex in public is not good, but you get the idea).  But sometimes it isn't; when it is called rape, suddenly it is evil.  But is it still sex?  No, is the consensus; because rape is sexual intercourse without consent.  Okay, so what happened to consent in the sex that is now rape (and so both evil and not sex)?

We do two things there, neither of them wrong per se:  we remove rape from the category of sex, and then we declare the sexual intercourse that is ordinarily "just sex," to be evil.  Now, sex used to be justified on the "will you still love me tomorrow" basis:  if it's part of a loving relationship, etc., etc.  That was the way we decided sex outside marriage (well, before marriage is what we meant) was okay.  "Casual sex" was still "bad," but that barrier fell, too, and sex wasn't evil even if it was just for fun.  Women could consent without being "bad girls," ("fallen women" is the adult version, I guess; but that was archaic before I was born), but then the weight fell on the idea of consent.  Anytime consent was withdrawn, suddenly the sex was no longer good; now it was evil (because rape is an evil so profound the rapist should wear the scarlet letter forever) and, being evil, was rape; and being rape, was not sex.

That was the formula.  That is the formula.

It's the "No True Scotsman" fallacy:  sex cannot be evil, so whenever sexual intercourse is evil (child pornography, rape), it is not sex.

But can sex be evil?

Actually, anything human can; but drawing the line between "good" and "evil" is not easily done.  Child pornography is undeniably evil; pedophilia is evil.  Sex with minors is evil as a matter of law (they cannot legally give consent, even if they do).  Some still want to say Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky was evil (because he was her boss; or because she was so much younger than him).  We slide these boundaries around to suit our preferences.  And when we do it, we exclude what we declare "evil" from what we declare to be "sex."  Or we re-categorize sex:  it would take a peculiar definition to categorize pornography as sex, but we excuse it by saying the participants are consenting adults (the claim that Clinton sexually harassed Lewinsky steps lightly over the question of consent between adults) and if you don't like it, don't watch it.

That's not a line we take with child pornography; again, because of the consent issue.

So consent transmutes sex into good; lack of consent makes sexual intercourse evil, and so no longer "sex."  We can't allow sex to be evil, for fear of returning to what we call the "Puritan" past (the Puritans, like the Victorians, were actually far more sensible about this than we are; though I don't want to return to their mores, either).  We draw this simple line, and we apply it absolutely, so that pornography without consent (children) is bad, but with consent, it's accepted.  Does it warp and distort ideas about human sexuality, even encourage horrific acts?  Apparently that's the cost of doing business; or of having freedom.  Besides, the minute it becomes horrible, it isn't sex; so one is evil, and the other incorruptible.

The problem with that freedom is not limited to extreme examples of criminality, because now it has given rise to the concept of "rape culture."  Sex without consent is rape, and rape is bad.  But what is the timeline on consent?  If two college age kids consent to sex (even if both are drunk; and isn't drinking something adults do, and take responsibility for?), and one regrets it in the morning, was it still sex last night?  Kinda depends on who regrets it, doesn't it?  If the guy thinks it was a mistake, no one calls the girl a rapist, do they?  But if the regret is on the other party, the male part of that activity should be banned from college, shunned by society, driven out into the void reserved for those who can never get a college degree or any public recognition because they wear the "R" forever.

It's no accident that, as sex became freer, "rape culture" became a concept.  If we tell women to "just say no," that would be bad.  But if their agency is equal to the male's, then rape becomes almost entirely the stranger in the bushes or the roofie in the drink.  So the female's agency is superior to the male's; she can decide whether she wanted it, or not, and she can decide whenever she wants.  My mid-20's daughter tells me she tells her boyfriend's younger brother, now in his second year of college, "Don't stick your dick in stupid," meaning to warn him away from being called a rapist.  But maybe the only solution is:  "Don't stick your dick in, period."  Except that would make sex bad, again.  Now what?

Rape is evil.  Sex, on the other hand, is good; and college kids should engage in it.  But they shouldn't rape:  and we'll decide whether you did, or not.  We'll decide in kangaroo courts run by colleges who have no requirements of due process, rule of law, rules of evidence; or we'll decide in social media, whether or not you were tried in a criminal court.  We will declare rape evil, and sex good, because rape can never be sex (nor should it be), and evil must be forever punished.

Because that's the only way to keep sex "good."

Does this system make sense to anyone?  Cui bono?

Best laugh of the day

In a panel discussion on CNN, [Trump national spokesperson Katrina] Pierson said that Trump's nebulous immigration policy hasn't shifted.

"He hasn't changed his position on immigration," she said. "He's changed the words that he is saying."
The cheese stands alone.  Mitey cheese.

(Context is all.)

UPDATE: continuing the humor, it seems Trump is not yet on the ballot in Minnesota.

He has until Monday.

Which could raise the odds considerably that Hillary wins that state; though it really isn't necessary.

Some ground game he has, huh?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

"Which leg comes after which?"

I remember a really charming illustration from a children's book for this.
I couldn't find it.

If "boot" rhymes with "coot" and "foot" rhymes with "soot," why don't the rhyming pairs rhyme with each other?

I'm not sleeping much at night.....

Cui bono?

There is something of a cause celebre over the case of Nate Parker and an alleged rape in 1999.  I write "alleged" because Parker was acquitted of the crime in a jury trial, but the issue has resurfaced with enough vehemence to cause the American Film Institute to cancel a screening of Parker's new film "Birth of a Nation." (Salon now has a banner headline announcing it will discuss the 17 year old trial today.  A true discussion among solons and serious legal experts, I'm sure.)

I don't care about the film, or Mr. Parker.  What interests me is the ancient question of power:  Cui bono?

This contretemps hinges on the idea of rape victims being "survivors."  It's a curious use of the word, since "survivor" usually refers to someone who has evaded death.  The young boy in the ambulance in Syria is a survivor.  Someone whose cancer treatment defeats the cancer is a survivor.  Victims of crime are now survivors.  Well, victims of certain crimes.

It's a curious locution, and it raises the question:  Cui bono?  Here is a statement on the status of Nate Parker by Wagatwe Sara Wanjuki, co-founder of Survivors Eradicating Rape Culture:

“Nate Parker’s case is a really great example of what happens when colleges fail to hold assailants accountable. Assailants go out into the world with the implicit condonation of their actions because they get away with it while survivors continue to suffer,” said Wanjuki in a Facebook private message. “Penn State’s role in this must not be ignored — they had signs that they did not properly handle sexual abuse before the [Jerry] Sandusky coverup came to light. This is what happens when institutions don’t care about doing the right thing; they assist in creating a world where rapists and sex abusers thrive.”

I don't have a problem with the concept of "rape culture," although it's an ambiguous term and one meant to assert power in new ways.  It's the assertion of power, in fact, that concerns me.  Lord Acton was right, but too ambiguous:  Power does corrupt, and absolute power does corrupt absolutely.  So in a fight for power, we always have to ask the base question:  Cui bono?

Now, there are two things going on in that assertion by Ms. Wanjuki:  one is that the college had to hold Nate Parker responsible for his actions even while the criminal courts found him not guilty of the charge of rape.  That's a curious attitude about accountability and the legal system.  Conflating his actions with those of Jerry Sandusky is understandable, but not really logically tenable.  Perhaps Penn State did create an environment where "rapists and sex abusers thrive."  But where was the environment created:  in the athletic department, or on the whole campus?  We have evidence for the former, but not for the latter.  And besides, Mr. Parker is not a rapist.  A court of law said so.

Which gets us to the other interesting question:  when is the judgment of a court of law final?  Most of us are quite sure O.J. Simpson killed his wife, despite the jury verdict.  Most of us are quite sure George Zimmerman is guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin, despite the jury verdict.  Can we then say that Nate Parker is not a rapist, because of the jury verdict?  Can we say that he is, despite the jury verdict?

Like the appellation of rape victims as "survivors," the question applies:  cui bono?  I heard a woman argue this idea on a radio interview recently, and all I could think was, it gave her power to label women as survivors.  It gave her power in the world (she was being interviewed on the radio; I wasn't.  I've had positions of responsibility, as a teacher, a pastor, a lawyer; nobody has ever interviewed me for any reason).  It gave her power over the women she said were "survivors."  Power to prolong their memories of their assaults ("rape" is a charged word in this context, I'm simply trying to be a bit more neutral), power to define them as she thinks they should be defined, power to tell them how to feel about themselves, now and until their dying day.

I've lived long enough to learn that nothing defines you unless you let it; that no event in your past is definitive unless you insist that it is.  And when people want to tell you what you are, want to insist that you are this category now and forever, they do not have your best interests at heart.  Cui bono?  They do, because naming puts them in control of you.

So we will name Nate Parker a rapist, and control him to the end of his days.  We will name O.J. Simpson and George Zimmerman murderers, and feel good about doing so.  We will name rape victims "survivors." and make that terrible event the defining event of their lives.  Oddly enough, today, even people who have been treated for cancer and lived don't like being called "survivors," because cancer wasn't the defining event of their lives.  I know "victims" has become a problematic word in our modern vocabularies; but "survivor" is a term that brings many of it's own problems along with it.

And yes, having followed the trials of O.J. Simpson and George Zimmerman, I am convinced Simpson killed his wife and her lover (although I still can't figure out how he committed such a bloody crime and left only two drops of blood, his own, IIRC, in his Bronco), and I know Zimmerman was not convicted only because of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which is an offense to civil order and the whole concept of criminal law.  But still, they were acquitted by a court of law; and I should show more respect to that decision.  If I hold them guilty in my mind, how can I say Nate Parker is innocent, or at least not guilty?  We have a problem with reconciling what our legal system says, with what we want to believe.  But just as being a rape "survivor" locks you into that event for the rest of your life (one more reason cancer "survivors" prefer not to be called "cancer survivors"), should we hold Nate Parker accountable for what he did, or didn't do, 17 years ago?

Is Snoopy right?  Is there no balm in Gilead?  And if there isn't:  cui bono?

The Odor of Mendacity

Sadly, Diane Rehm doesn't do instant transcripts, so you'd have to sit through the hour-long segment, as I did, to appreciate the mendacity participating in it.

Clinton Derangement Syndrom is real.

Although the host acknowledges that most of the e-mails currently being discussed from Hillary Clinton's tenure as SOS were released by Judicial Watch, no one pointed out just how much the narrative of these e-mails is structured around what Judical Watch says the e-mails say.

Which is not what the e-mails say.

So where Drudge ruled our world when Bill was President, now Judicial Watch (who just took the baton from Drudge) rules our world now that Hillary would be President.  Start there, and the rest of this nonsense makes sense.

It was pointed out to the panel of journalists, by both a guest and a listener, that the effort Clinton put into promoting Boeing and GE products overseas was an effort put forth by the Secretaries of Commerce and Transportation (IIRC on the latter), and was the kind of effort to promote American business since there was American business to promote.  But this is different, the journalists insisted, because Boeing and GE gave money to the Clinton Foundation.

Which is a charity; and the only money the Clinton's can be shown to have taken from it is some travel expenses, presumably when they travel on Foundation business (but who knows?!  Check the kerning on the itineraries!).  Donating to charities is a think corporations do, for their public relations gain.  Getting the SOS to promote your goods is a thing corporations do for American jobs (as well as profits).  Actually even meeting with the SOS is a thing donors (like Melinda Gates!  Check her kerning!) do, because a lot of what foundations do is coordinated through the State Department.

And did I mention it's a charity?  And none of the money from the charity goes directly to the Clinton's, because that would involve violations of law that could be investigated?

Do I exaggerate?  No:

No one is alleging that the Clinton Foundation didn’t (and doesn’t) do enormous amounts of good around the world…

To be clear: I have no evidence — none — that Clinton broke any law or did anything intentionally shady…
But the rest of Cilizza's column is about how BAD this looks!  Because if you look at it just the right way, it really, REALLY looks bad.  Besides, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence; or something.

Here, put these glasses on, and it will be clear to you that Hillary Clinton is GUILTY OF SOMETHING!

Now, take 'em off; they'll make your eyes go all funny.

Did I mention I'll be retiring to Bedlam?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Keepin' it Klassy!

The fish rots from the head down:

After Trump took to Twitter to slam Mika Brzezinski as “neurotic” and call her the “very insecure long-time girlfriend” of co-host Joe Scarborough, Fox News host Megyn Kelly recounted how Conway had argued Trump doesn’t employ personal attacks.

“Now, you know that’s not true,” Kelly said on her show.

Conway replied that Trump “doesn’t do it without being attacked first,” a well-worn defense Trump himself has used since his campaign's infancy.

“But does that excuse it? Just today he called Mika Brzezinski neurotic, which is another term, basically, for mentally ill,” the Fox News host responded. “He’s called other female news personalities things like crazy. The man does hurl personal insults.”

“But not unprompted,” Conway said. “I don’t like personal insults, let me make very clear. I don’t like them only because I’m a mother of four young children, I’d be a hypocrite if I liked them. And I actually think he can win on the substance of the issues.”

As soon as he can quit hurling insults at people on cable news, right?  Because it's all about the insults:

“I watched a lot of his debates during the primaries,” Clinton said. “And he insulted all of his opponents, he insulted all of the moderators, he insulted, I guess, about 80 percent of the American people and the rest of the world.”

“I am drawing on my experience in elementary school,” she continued. “You know, the guy who pulled your ponytail.”

All the way down:

"That is a black community. He went to the heart of Chicago to go and give a speech to the University of Chicago in a campus, which is predominantly African-American, to make that argument," [Ex-Trump campaign manger Corey] Lewandowski said, mistaking the name of the university where the speech was supposed to take place. "And you know what happened? The campus was overrun and it was not a safe environment."

'Cause, you know:  blacks are very scary to white people.*

*Which, it turns out, is merely echoing Trump:

"No group in America has been more harmed by Hillary Clinton's policies than African Americans," he said, apparently pointing to individuals in the crowd. "No group. No group. If Hillary Clinton's goal was to inflict pain to the African American community, she could not have done a better job. It is a disgrace."

"Detroit tops the list of most dangerous cities in terms of violent crime, number one," he said from a city 90 minutes away from Detroit with a population that is 93 percent white. "This is the legacy of the Democratic politicians who have run this city. This is the result of the policy agenda embraced by crooked Hillary Clinton."

He went on to claim "he should get votes from black voters because 'the inner cities are so bad.' "

Acorn.  Tree.  They aren't far apart at all.


And I can't resist adding this golden oldie, courtesy of Digby:

‘What’s the most dangerous place in the world you’ve been to?’

[Trump] contemplated this for a second. ‘Brooklyn,’ he said, laughing. ‘No,’ he went on, “there are places in America that are among the most dangerous in the world. You go to places like Oakland. Or Ferguson. The crime numbers are worse. Seriously.’

Fair and Balanced

The interesting thing here:  who does he think he's talking to?

The audience for Trump's tweets is not yours truly (who mines them for comedy and cognitive dissonance).  The audience for Trump's tweets would never consider buying a book (probably) about their beloved icon that was written by two reporters for the Washington Post (certainly).

And the audience for that book will never read Trump's Twitter feed, and certainly wouldn't take advice from the man if they saw this tweet elsewhere (like, here, for instance).

So what is the point of this tweet, other than petulance and egomania?  I mean, seriously:  people are worried about donations to a charity run by the Clintons when this clown wants to be President and represents the other major political party in the country?

Sunday, August 21, 2016

War on Xmas started early this year....

Of course you know, this means war!