"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

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

If a tree falls....

I'm quoting the tweets, but I get them from TPM:

The thing is:  if it doesn't happen in front of the camera, it doesn't happen.  "Pics or it didn't happen," as the internet demands.  So without the press to report on it, of what importance is the trip?  I'm not being cynical, I'm being serious.  The only reason we know Donald Trump's name is because of the press.  If he wants to go off the reservation and leave the press at the border, so be it.  I don't think it's a "disturbing precedent."  I think it's a fine example of what a fool Donald Trump is.  I don't care if it's unprecedented, just as I don't get why reporters would be mad about it.  Don't get mad, get even.  You control the access to the airwaves; use that control.  Trump shuts you out:  you shut him out.

Actually, he has already shut himself out.  Maybe he'll to go Mexico and score a truly diplomatic win for his campaign.

Too bad there's nobody there to report on it.....(since we know the foreign press, even when its our Cousins across the Pond, is never to be trusted).

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Bowling Alone alone

I've mentioned Clifford Simak before (but none of those references are related to this post, so I won't link them), and his prescience about technology and its affect on human society.  His major work is "City," really a collection of related stories, the central one (it won a place in the Science Fiction Hall of Fame) being "Huddling Place."

Simak imagines a future imaginable then (not now; though; and our present is unimaginable as his future; something interesting there, but we can't stop now), when technology has allowed humans to scatter into personal strongholds, away from cities because the need for them is no more (whereas, in modern times, we seem to be more dependent on cities as the base technology of sewage and sanitation and transportation make city dwelling more important than ever; well, that and industrialization, as more and more us of continue to move away from agriculture and land-based sources of income; again, the future is never what we imagine).  This is possible partly because of air travel (helicopters as flying cars) and through communication technology (that has more to do with Star Trek holodecks than Skype).

The result is, in "Huddling Place," a man who has developed such an attachment to the family estate, and such a fear of leaving it, that when he is called to perform life-saving surgery on a friend and philosopher (whose philosophy will change the shape of human existence, if he can live to write it down), he fails.  He can't leave, he can't even bear the thought of human society, and his friend dies (the drama of the story is a bit more poignant than that, but that's a fair plot summary).

Who'd have thought, with all the differences in our present and Simak's imagined future, that we were actually moving closer that that nightmare, thanks to technology Simak never imagined?

In the survey, nearly 31 percent of millennials said that the reason they use the drive-thru isn’t speed or convenience, but because doing so requires the least amount of actual human interaction. Such a tendency will, no doubt, encourage companies to further automate the fast-food purchasing process. In many airports, for example, orders are already placed in kiosks, paid by credit card in the kiosk, and picked up at the counter.

For the moment, the food is delivered by a human being — but it’s not difficult to imagine a time in which the same job couldn’t be performed by a none-too-high-tech robot of some sort. If nothing else, surveys such as this one will encourage companies to find ways to phase out employees.


“I’ve been inside restaurants where we’ve installed ordering kiosks … and I’ve actually seen young people waiting in line to use the kiosk where there’s a person standing behind the counter, waiting on nobody.”

Pudzer added that his goal is open fully automated restaurants that require no human employees.

We should pause here to point out that what happened to most U.S. manufacturing jobs was automation, not foreign competition.  Auto assembly lines use robots now, not laborers at every station performing repetitive tasks for hours.  It's probably inevitable fast food will be fully automated one day.  But it's interesting the millennials are hastening that.

I can only say my daughter, nearing the quarter century mark, would rather order on-line than go to a store (except for groceries), and I suspect she'd be more comfortable ordering from a kiosk than dealing with a human being.  And of course there are the tables of younger people in restaurants all studiously studying the screens in their palms, rather than talking to each other (the way they still do in TeeVee commercials).

This is a trend that makes "bowling alone" look like a communal activity.

It's really a question of whose appearance....

So, based on the shoddy reporting of the AP, there is an appearance of impropriety and/or conflict of interest which requires the Clintons to sever all ties with their eponymous charity (one of the more successful in the world) should Hillary Clinton be the next POTUS.

I understand there was a day when even the appearance of impropriety or conflict of interest was the gold standard for politicians.  But, in truth, that merely meant the politicians made sure they kept their business dealings very private.  LBJ made himself a rich man when he was out of office by buying a local broadcast company (KLBJ still operates a radio station and a TV station in Austin.  In the days when nobody watched TV except on broadcast, and only on VHF, LBJ made sure any other TV station in Austin had to broadcast on UHF.).  And he steered a lot of government contracts (which benefited people along the lower Colorado River, to be sure, as well as the entire City of Austin) to the company which became Brown & Root (and they returned the favor).  Rick Perry has never worked for anything but the Texas government (or the National Guard) his entire adult life, yet he doesn't have to work now that he's unemployed.  Oddly, no one ever called these benefits of public life the appearance of a conflict of interest (we got close when Perry issued a mandate that all school age female students in Texas take the vaccine Gardasil before enrolling in public schools.  Merck was a major campaign contributor to Perry, and the Lege overrode is order as soon as possible; mostly because of the connection between teenage sex and the human pamplona virus, however, not because of Perry's ties to Merck.).

So it's a fluid standard that isn't yet being applied to Trump, possibly because the NYT (and others) don't imagine Trump has a snowball's chance in hell of winning the White House. Trump, however, has said he'll let his kids run his business, but he won't put it in a blind trust.  He says he won't care about his business anymore, and since he's always consistent in his public statements we can trust him, right?

I don't know why no one takes him seriously, but is having a serious fit of the vapors over what Hillary Clinton's connection to a charitable foundation might mean.  Except this concept of "appearance" pretty much died with Bill Clinton's impeachment, an impeachment he was was responsible for as the pedestrian is responsible for being in the crosswalk when the driver of the car refuses to slow down.

Republicans took the concept of "appearance" and responsibility for same to its logical conclusion in that impeachment; and to this day it is only applied to Democratic presidents.    There was an "appearance" of conflict when the Bush Administration contracted with Halliburton to fight in Iraq but somehow it wasn't taken all that seriously.  Maybe it's because the GOP always raises the issue, but the appearance in this case seems to be more troubling to the NYT and others, than any appearance of conflict by a GOP President (up to and including George H.W.'s ass saving pardon of everyone involved in Iran-Contra, before they could reveal how "out of the loop" the elder Bush wasn't).  And frankly, after that, the American public pretty much took "appearance" of either conflict of interest or impropriety to be as out-dated a notion as hotel dicks making sure Mr. and Mrs. Jones were married to each other.

You can be sure, however, that the newspaper that gave us Whitewater and the subsequent non-scandals of the first Clinton administration would keep the "appearance of conflict" story in the news through the second Clinton administration.  The NYT is already trying to tie Anthony Weiner's bizarre predilections to Bill Clinton's term in the White House.  You can't make this stuff up.

Because, after all:  both sides do it, donchaknow?

Love, Uncle Ruckus

I'd read about this but, until this morning, I hadn't seen it.  The blackface is getting all the attention, but once you get past that, read the t-shirt.

So it's offensive to as many people as possible.  But it's okay, the pastor (!) who posted this has apologized:

"It was not at all my intention to offer or to not offend anyone, the last thing I want to do is to offend people."

And we all know, it's now what you do, it's what you intend to do, that counts.

So nice to know we're in a post-racial America since Obama was elected, and that Uncle Ruckus was just a fictional character on the "Boondocks."

Monday, August 29, 2016

Just checking in

on the temper tantrum that is the Trump campaign.

Because size matters:

Because exams matter:

True, but that's been known since at least 2003, when Hillary published it in her autobiography.  It wasn't on FoxNews or Breitbart or Trump's Twtter feed, though, so apparently that's why it's news to him.

Because when you have a very good brain and you've said a lot of things, brains matter:

I really can't wait until the debates.....

I ended too soon.  Black lives in the inner city matter, too:

 Sure they do.  Because they still only live in the inner cities, from which TRUMP! will liberate them.  Or something.

Well, ignorance and racism go hand in hand, don't they?

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?