Wednesday, July 31, 2019

No fight for the soul of the party

I didn’t watch the debate of the Democratic candidates for president last night. I’m not watching tonight. I didn’t watch the two nights of the previous round. But I have perused sites, such as Daily Kos to see if there are any big ideas that came out of the debaters or the debates.

Mark Sumner of Daily Kos discusses one of those big ideas. It isn’t so much what the candidates said as it was the moderators trying to get them to say. And what the moderators wanted was a “fight for the soul of the party.”

A week ago I wrote about the media’s ten rules of hate. The big media companies have found that they sell more product and earn more product if it dished out in terms of hate. This is a supremacist thing – hate, the struggle to dominate, being on constant conflict – is one side, one type of viewer, being able to feel superior to others. The second rule in the list is “These two ideas are in permanent conflict.”

In a debate where all the candidates are Democrats there aren’t Republicans to be the other side. But there are moderate Democrats who espouse catering to the nasty guy’s base as the way to win. That’s close enough.

But again, they’re all Democrats. There really isn’t a huge difference in policy proposals. There isn’t a lot of conflict among them, certainly not enough for Big Media. Most of those demanding support of a social hierarchy have already joined the GOP, which is all about supremacy. Many of those left in the Democratic Party – especially black women – are much more interested in abolishing the social ranking. So, in contrast to the GOP, there isn’t a lot of conflict.

To be sure, most, maybe all, the white guys in this group maintain an air of privilege, especially Sanders and Biden. Which is why my favorites are the women and men of color – Warren, Harris, Booker, and Castro.

Back to what the moderators were doing at last night’s debate. Since there wasn’t enough conflict (see above) the moderators tried to manufacture the conflict. They did this by turning to the lesser candidates (the lesser known white men) and asking them to explain why the front runners were wrong. As Sumner wrote:
Throughout the evening, the typical Jake Tapper question took the form of “Elizabeth Warren once said this, now Candidate No One Knew Was Running, please explain why that’s too commie to play in Sheboygan.” And if the candidate didn’t give the desired soundbite against Warren or Sanders, they were rapidly shut down, and someone else got the call. And the designated time for reply meant that Sanders or Warren rarely got to finish a sentence before Tapper was throwing the next dead fish their way.

Comparing communication by Bach and Jefferson

A couple more posts before leaving home.

Alonso del Arte of the Daily Kos community talks about efficiency in 18th Century communication. He begins with figured bass, which was used in music at that time.

I taught some aspects of figured bass when I was a college level music theory instructor so I understand the extensive examples del Arte goes through. I’ll summarize it quickly to get on to his major point.

JS Bach, Antonio Vivaldi, and their colleagues, even somewhat into the time of Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Mozart, wrote out a bass part intended to be played on two instruments. One was a typical bass instrument, such as cello, or bassoon. The other was a keyboard instrument such as a harpsichord or organ. So a “trio” – soprano, alto, and bass – actually needed four performers. This keyboard player didn’t just plunk out the bass line, he read the figures – numbers and other symbols written with the notes – to work out what harmony is to be played by the right hand. The composer wrote out only what was necessary to tell the performer what to play. The musical standards and tastes of the time also constrained what the keyboard player did.

Del Arte turns his attention to another document written during this time, the US Constitution. In the same way as composers of the era Jefferson or Madison put in the Constitution only as much as they thought they needed to get their point across. A lot of context was assumed to be understood by citizens (at least well educated citizens).

So a judge or justice who declares himself to be an “originalist” should be looking at phrases from the Constitution within the context of the society of the time. A couple examples:

“The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America” says the Constitution. Which means the president has sole authority. Well, no. The guys who wrote the Constitution had just been dealing with a tyrannical King George III and wanted to make sure such abuse of power couldn’t happen here.

Then there is the Second Amendment, the one about the right to bear arms. The rifle of the 18th Century took a while to load and fire one bullet at a time. If you got hit by that bullet and didn’t die, you could be patched up with a few stitches and be on your way. But in the 21st Century we have assault rifles that, by holding down the trigger, will spray lots of bullets in a short amount of time. One doesn’t even need to aim carefully. These bullets cause a lot of damage. If you didn’t die you probably lost a limb. Jefferson and Madison didn’t know about assault rifles and their capability of mayhem. So, in this case does a text that makes sense in the 18th Century apply to the 21st?

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Picnic at the border

I leave on Thursday for extended travel. I may not be able to post again before I go.

I am going to Germany with a side trip to England. My brother currently lives in Munich and he has gotten as interested in genealogy as I am. So he, his daughter, and I will travel for two weeks with the goal of visiting several of the small villages my mother’s ancestors are from. And that little jaunt into England will include a cluster of villages where one branch of my dad’s ancestors are from. Of course, there will be lots of other things to see in Germany and England. And I shouldn't forget France – our first stop out of Munich will be Strasbourg because the first village to visit is across the Rhine River from there.

For the duration of the trip this blog (as I’ve done before) will become a travelogue, perhaps even with pictures.

Some bits of news (something I hope to ignore for a few weeks). First the bad:

Last Thursday I wrote about how the nasty guy and his minion Attorney General William Barr needed a distraction, so announced the resumption of criminal executions at the federal level, something that hadn’t been done since 2003.

Twitter user Jaded Vet thinks there is a much more chilling reason for resuming the death penalty:
Anyone else think that Barr's reinstatement of the #DeathPenalty is a precursor to Trump accusing his political opponents, criminal investigators, critical journalists, human rights activists, etc. of treason?
A response from user Malcolm Nance’s Woodchipper of Justice:
That was my *first thought*. They'll start with people everyone hates – murderous rapists and pedophiles – then gradually move along the path to drug dealers, et al. and eventually end up at political opponents.

Now the good:

Last week, in the same post I referenced above, I wrote that after Special Counsel Robert Mueller talked about Russia continuing to meddle in American politics Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had a hand in preventing yet another attempt to have the Senate vote on bills to protect our elections.

That prompted conservative pundit Joe Scarborough to coin a new nickname: Moscow Mitch. That’s a lot easier to type than “democracy gravedigger,” which I’ve used a few times now. This new nickname has been gaining a lot of usage, even trending on Twitter. Even better, the word “treason” is used along with it. As in: MoscowMitchMcTreason. A few tweets exploiting that are here.

California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill that says for a candidate to appear in a state primary election they must disclose at least five years of tax returns. The reason for the bill is to force the nasty guy to release his taxes.

Commenters debate what might happen. Some think this will achieve nothing because the nasty guy doesn’t need California to win, and certainly won’t get it. So what if he doesn’t appear on the ballot at all? Though the GOP state legislators might not agree with that. Others note that in California the primary rules say the two who get the most votes, even if they’re from the same party, go on to the general, so the nasty guy may not get on the ballot anyway.

Even so, I appreciate the California legislature’s efforts and wish other states would do the same.

And the wonderful!

Resistance comes in many forms. Mauricio Martinez tweeted a short video of an art exhibit designed by Ronald Rael. The art is three bright pink seesaws that go through the border fence. This allows a child on one side of the border to play with a child on the other side.

A comment to the Martinez tweet took me to another bit of border resistance. Artist JR created a piece of art showing two eyes, one on either side of the border. On the last day it was on display JR turned it into a giant picnic table so guests in Mexico and the US could share a meal together. People shared food between the slats of the fence and a band accompanied the meal with half the players on each side.

Samantha Schmidt wrote about the picnic for the Washington Post. Her article included a couple more photos that show another nearby bit of work also by JR, one that I had written about before (though I haven’t found that previous post). This art is of a huge photo of a little boy who, from the American side, appears to be peering over the border fence. We see the picnic table was placed in front of the huge photo.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Rocket Men

Earlier this week I told you about the first book I read during my trip to St. Louis. Now to tell you about the second book, which I finished after I got home.

The book is Rocket Men by Robert Kurson. While marking the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 landing on the moon it seemed appropriate to read the story of … Apollo 8. This was the mission to first take men to and around the moon. Kurson does a pretty good job saying Apollo 8 was much more important and much more risky than Apollo 11.

Kurson delves into the background of the three men on this mission – Frank Borman, Commander, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders. Lovell would later command Apollo 13, the one that where an explosion prevented the crew from landing on the moon. In the movie Lovell was played by Tom Hanks.

Kurson also portrays the astronaut’s wives, Susan, Marilyn, and Valerie and the effect their husband’s careers had on them. During the flight Susan was convinced Frank wasn’t coming home. Kurson had a lot of information to work with because Life magazine had a great deal of access to the women while their men were in space (I would have called it a significant invasion of privacy).

The book sets the flight in historical context – they were at the moon on Christmas of 1968. Other than this success, that year was horrible – the murders of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy, race riots in several cities, protests against the Vietnam War, riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, the election of Richard Nixon, and much more.

In the summer of 1968 NASA had a series of flights mapped out that would test the big Saturn V rocket, the Command Module and its joint Service Module, and the Lunar Module. The rocket had problems in its last test (supposedly fixed) and the Lunar Module wasn’t ready yet. The Soviets looked like they would soon launch men to circle the moon. And there was only 18 months remaining in President Kennedy’s pledge to get men onto the moon by the end of 1969.

So George Low of NASA thought of a way to switch the schedule around. Fly Apollo 8 to the moon without the Lunar Module – they weren’t going to land so it wasn’t needed. But that meant there was only four months to train the crew for a significantly different mission. NASA usually did such training over a year. Anders, in particular, had to learn about the hardware in a big hurry.

As they’re deep into training, the Soviets successfully launched an unmanned rocket that circled the moon. And then the Soviets announced they would send men to the moon – and do it two weeks before the scheduled date for Apollo 8. That Soviet flight didn’t happen.

The book shows all the preparation for the flight and half the book is of the flight itself. Their capsule did ten orbits of the moon, each taking two hours. So in those mere twenty hours while they’re at the moon what astronaut is going to volunteer for even a short sleep shift? Both Lovell and Anders insist they couldn’t possibly sleep. Borman has to order them to set their cameras and equipment aside and take a nap.

Kurson wrote that each of the three men granted extensive interviews and answered many more questions by phone and email. Valerie Anders and Marilyn Lovell also freely discussed their side of the mission – Susan Borman was already lost to dementia. Kurson had access to NASA archives and audio of the entire six days of the mission (which is online somewhere).

In all, a book I highly enjoyed.

Sources of truth are off the table

Mark Sumner of the Daily Kos staff wrote a post about the nasty guy and asymmetrical information. This is similar to asymmetrical warfare except it is being waged with words rather than bullets.

To explain a little more… The nasty guy has information and is making sure nobody else has it. Congress is feeling suffocated by the lack of data. The administration has produced nothing that Congress has subpoenaed. Congress issues contempt citations and the nasty guy’s Department of Justice ignores them.

Yet, the nasty guy has told his Attorney General William Barr he has free access to classified info and do with it as he pleases. Which includes passing tidbits to GOP Congresscritters. We can be sure it it helps the nasty guy it will be passed along. If it will be damaging it will be hidden. Sumner explains:
The ability to selectively release any information out of context is indistinguishable from the ability to simply make things up. Trump, Barr, or anyone they are feeding information to can make *any claim* without being disputed. Against anyone. … Where would anyone turn for the truth?

In addition, because of the DoJ policy that a sitting president cannot be indicted, the nasty guy has no reason pay any attention to a Supreme Court that orders him to release documents. And if an underling is ordered to release documents the nasty guy has a way around that too – a presidential pardon.
The result of Trump's actions, in concert with Barr and McConnell, is that the United States is extraordinary vulnerable to misinformation, propaganda, and plain old lies. Because the sources of truth are off the table.

It leaves impeachment as the only possible option. But it also means that any impeachment inquiry is also likely to face a repeat of the stonewall. There seems to be no force left that can move Barr to take any step to help in such a proceeding, and no threat from the judiciary that they can’t simply shrug off.

How an autocrat in absolute control of the sources of information and the ability to mete out justice is dislodged is anyone’s guess.
I see that there is a way around the problem that Sumner poses. Treat the refusal to produce the requested documents as an impeachable offense.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Just another political tactic

The nasty guy wanted to put a citizenship question on the 2020 census forms. The Supreme Court stopped him. But wait! There’s more! The Census Bureau routinely creates and tests census forms to see how well they work before running the real thing. The nasty guy minions will ask about a quarter million (selectively targeted) households to fill out a test form. Seeing the citizenship question on the test form will likely trick some immigrant families into believing the same question made it onto the real form. And they’ll be less likely to fill out either form.

Georgia Logothetis of the Daily Kos community highlighted a little bit from Laurence Tribe of Newsweek. Tribe says the writers of the Constitution wisely added the impeachment mechanism because sometimes things have to be done within a four-year cycle. So the strategy that Speaker Nancy Pelosi is using – that voters will “impeach” the nasty guy by voting him out of office –
is not just wishful thinking but smacks of the very logic that the framers wisely rejected when they provided Congress with this surgical tool for protecting constitutional democracy and the rule of law between elections and not just every four years.

Twitter user UnidentifiedSource describes circles of hell around the nasty guy. In the inner ring are those willing to help the nasty guy murder someone.

One ring out are those who would never murder, but would help chop up a body. They consider themselves morally superior to those in the inner ring.

One ring out are those who would never chop up a body but would help hide a body. They also consider themselves morally superior to those in inner rings.

The rings widen with those who would do all they can to avoid finding out if there is a body, those who declare the nasty guy deserves privacy and nobody should search for a body. They also feel morally superior to those in inner rings. And:
Surrounding all of this are those who believe that if the answer to a question is 50, and the Democratic position is that the answer is 49.998 and the GOP position is that the answer is “a mayonnaise filled electric eel” then “Clearly BOTH sides are wrong.”

These are the folks who feel that if you would rather not be beaten to death with a baseball bat, the only compromise permitted is for you to allow yourself to be instead beaten half to death.

I think this is a blurb from the New York Times:
These Michigan Voters Show Why Trump’s ‘Go Back’ Strategy May Work
* As President Trump presses his attacks against four women of color in Congress, many conservative voters in Port Huron, Mich., are embracing his message.
* They said they did not see it as racist, expressing their own misgivings about the women and voicing support for Mr. Trump’s re-election.
Oliver Willis tweeted a thread in response. Here’s part of it:
This is how you normalize open racism. Just treat it -- one of the worst things you can do in our society -- like its just another political tactic. Like appealing to soccer moms or black union workers.

What @nytpolitics and @patrickhealynyt refuse to understand -- or care about -- is that this does harm to people in this country. it is not weighing in on one side or another for the ny times to be against racism. by writing stories like this, the ny times takes a side. w hate.

Race + gender + sexual identity aren't just a bunch of issues good people can disagree on like - taxation, property rights, etc. they are fundamental to our existence. if you're against racial equality, gender equality you oppose my right to exist in this world and country.

A tweet from Anna Kruk Corbin
I just told someone that some people are so poor, they can't afford to get jobs.

He laughed.

But I wasn't kidding.

Gas money, child care expenses, and lack of clothing to meet dress code requirements are often barriers to employment for low income individuals.

Now you know.
A response from drowning in books
I used to work with low income students. The commute for many was 2 hrs on buses. I lived further away but I had a car so—only 30 mins.

Some people think, oh “they” just need to work harder. What “they” need is better transportation, higher wages, child care help — and empathy.

Anna is the mother of Jackson Corbin. He’s a 13 year old health care advocate because he has a medical condition that would kill him if he didn’t have health insurance. His Twitter account has a tweet at the top that includes his testimony in support of keeping the Affordable Care Act. He wonders why the GOP wants to replace the ACA with something that protects preexisting conditions (like his) when the ACA already does that.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Terrified to speak the obvious

So former Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller testified before Congress yesterday. And a lot of political voices are talking about his performance.

Many of those voices concluded: it was underwhelming. There were no bold pronouncements that galvanized the watching public into concluding the nasty guy really does need to be impeached.


Though Mueller was “shaky” and “hesitant,” Daily Kos writer Mark Sumner says these hearings provided enough information to begin impeachment proceedings (as did the actual report, which came out months ago). Re. Hakeem Jeffries pointed out that the nasty guy’s actions met every requirement for a charge of obstruction of justice. Rep. Ted Lieu got Mueller to say the nasty guy would have been indicted if there weren’t the Office of Legal Council instructions (which are not law) that a sitting president can’t be indicted.

But there were many more things Mueller refused to talk about. That leaves us wondering what else he knows.

Sarah Kendzior, in an article for the Globe and Mail, published in Canada (tellingly, not in America) talks about that hesitancy Mueller displayed.
Throughout the hearings, Mr. Mueller acted as if outside forces constrained his ability to answer questions. But he is no longer an employee of the Department of Justice, and they can no longer tell him what to say. The decision to narrow the scope of the questions and even his method of response (he refused to read his own report out loud) was Robert Mueller’s.

He acted like a man terrified to speak the obvious.

The question remains: why? An informed public is a powerful public, and a powerful public is crucial when a country is transitioning into autocracy. Any attempt of officials to hide the truth – whether through deliberate lies, institutional obfuscation, or pure gutlessness – hurts the body politic. Mr. Mueller had the opportunity to deliver insight and validate his own work. Instead, he was timid in the face of both Republican smears and Democratic inquiries. He kept noting that he knew the answers to questions that are of great public interest, but that he had no intention of revealing them.

The public has the right to know whether its own government constitutes a threat to national security and if the president is complicit in a crime. Testifying to Congress was Mr. Mueller’s patriotic obligation, and he should not have required a subpoena to show up. His question-dodging mirrored the reticence of his probe: he did not want to indict anyone even when their offences were blatant, and he did not want to explain why. It is disconcerting that one of the few things Mr. Mueller would confirm is that Americans are not safe.
Alas, Kendzior does not know the answer to her question.

One thing Mueller confirmed was that Russia meddled in the 2016 election, is meddling now in American politics, and will continue to meddle through the 2020 election. Senate Majority Leader and democracy gravedigger Mitch McConnell has prevented votes on at least a couple dozen bills to fix the problems. In response to Mueller’s testimony Democrats tried to force a couple election protection bills onto the Senate floor for a vote. But Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi blocked that move. She later tweeted that the bills were “partisan.”

Even though Mueller wimped out, the nasty guy and his minions saw the need for a distraction. So this morning Attorney General William Barr announced the resumption of executions of federal prisoners on death row.

There have been no federal executions since 2003, for a variety of reasons. These include not wanting to mistakenly execute an innocent person and being skeptical that existing execution protocols are humane.

The executions probably can’t happen before December and will definitely face court challenges.

Hunter of Daily Kos wrote about this announcement and ends with this:
If we were to be extraordinarily cynical about it, we would note that regimes around the world have long staged new rounds of prisoner executions to distract the public during times of rising opposition to government leaders. Sometimes the prisoners are indeed very bad people. It makes for good press, something new to discuss and have emotions over in the cafes while the government brags about the obvious good it is doing. If we were to be extraordinarily cynical about it.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Hate, Inc.

Matt Taibbi is a contributing editor for Rolling Stone. He has written the soon to be released book Hate, Inc., Why Today’s Media Makes Us Despise One Another. He wrote an essay based on the book for The Washington Spectator titled How the Media’s 10 Rules of Hate Sow Discord and Make Us Despise One Another. The Spectator usually has 2 major essays and a few smaller ones in the eight pages of a monthly edition. In the July 2019 edition Taibbi’s essay takes over the entire eight pages.

In his introduction Taibbi reminds us that today’s major media companies are businesses that make money. They have found that they make more money when they train their audiences in hate. That extra money is more important to Fox News, the company that started down this path, than a civil society.
We need you anxious, pre-pissed, addicted to conflict. … We’ve discovered we can sell hate, and the more vituperative the rhetoric, the better. This also serves larger political purposes.

So long as the public is busy hating each other and not aiming its ire at the more complex financial and political processes going on off-camera, there’s very little danger of anything like a popular uprising.

Hate is a great blinding mechanism. Once you’ve been in the business long enough, you become immersed in its nuances. If you can get people to accept a sequence of simple, powerful ideas, they’re yours forever.
On to the ten rules:

1. There are only two ideas. Democrat and Republican, liberal and conservative, left and right. All other ideas, such as Thoreau urging us to connect with nature or the sarcasm of Jonathan Swift, are ignored.

2. These two ideas are in permanent conflict. Which means the discussion is about the conflict, not about the policies.

3. Hate people, not institutions. Fox News struck gold in the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal. But big media found no profit in doing big exposes on corporate corruption because, (1) big corporations tend to sue, and (2) the public didn’t seem to care.

4. Everything is someone else’s fault. Can the story be blamed on someone? It’s a win! For example, the condition of concentration camps for refugees at the southern border can be blamed on Obama. (Cue the old joke: I didn’t say you did it. I said I’m blaming you.)
The best news stories take issues and find a way to make readers think hard about them, especially inviting them to consider how they themselves contribute to the problem. You want people thinking, ‘I voted for what? Most problems are systemic, bipartisan, and bureaucratic, and most of us, by voting or not voting, paying taxes or not, own a little of most disasters.
But you never see that in the media.

5. Nothing is everyone’s fault.
The bloated military budget? Mass surveillance? American support for dictatorial regimes like the cannibalistic Mbasogo family in Equatorial Guinea, the United Arab Emirates, or Saudi Arabia? Our culpability in proxy-nation atrocities in places like Yemen or Palestine? The drone assassination program? Rendition? Torture? The drug war? Absence of access to generic or reimported drugs?

Nah. We just don’t do these stories. At least, we don’t do them anywhere near the proportion to their social impact. They’re hard to sell. And the ability to market a story is everything.
And that marketing depends on how the story fits into the two party conflict. Nomi Prins wrote a book about the 2008 economic crash. But she doesn’t get much news airtime because, as one TV host put it, “I can’t tell if you’re progressive or conservative.”

6. Root, don’t think. Political shows are intentionally becoming more like sports shows. Elections are now discussed in sports metaphors, such as trackers for the “% chance of victory.” Because of that…
By 2016 we’d raised a generation of viewers who had no conception of politics as an activity that might or should involve compromise. Your team won or lost, and you felt devastated or vindicated accordingly. We were training rooters instead of readers. Since our own politicians are typically very disappointing, we particularly root for the other side to lose.

7. No switching teams.
Two years ago, unnerved by a lot of the same comments about “false balance,” I wrote: “The model going forward will likely involve Republican media covering Democratic corruption and Democratic media covering Republican corruption.”

This is more or less where we are now, and nobody seems to think this is bad or dysfunctional. This is despite the fact that in this format the average person will no longer even see – ever – derogatory reporting about his or her own “side.”

Being out of touch with what the other side is thinking is now no longer seen as a fault. It’s a requirement.

8. The other side is literally Hitler. Sean Hannity of Fox News began spewing that line after the 9/11 attacks. If liberals refused to accept the existence of terrorist evil, then they are also evil, and thus just like Hitler. But…
There’s nowhere to go from Hitler. It’s a rhetorical dead end. Argument is over at this point. If you go there, you’re now absolving your audiences of all moral restraint, because who wouldn’t kill Hitler?
Taibbi then discusses the nasty guy. He’s Hitler? A case can be made. But what about his base? “Did it really make sense to caricature 60 million people as racist white nationalist traitor-Nazis?”

Here’s where I depart a bit from Taibbi and his excellent analysis. No, not all 60 million of those who voted for the nasty guy are racist. But he built his campaign on supremacy. It was also supremacy that trash talked Hillary Clinton so much that many voters couldn’t bring themselves to vote for her. Supremacy was essentially his only issue and has been his only issue while president. I maintain that his core supporters (which isn’t the entire 60 million – some of them regret their vote) love him because of his enforcement of the social hierarchy and the way he implies they’re with him at the top of the hierarchy.

Taibbi shows a great understanding of supremacy (including his next two points). But with this miss on nasty guy supporters I wonder if Taibbi understands how thoroughly the striving up the social hierarchy is entrenched in modern white male culutre.

Taibbi finishes this section with:
It’s a fight for all the marbles. Politics is about one side against another side, and only one take is allowed now – pure aggression.

9. In the fight against Hitler everything is permitted.
Meanness and vulgarity build political solidarity, but also audience solidarity. Breaking barriers together builds conspiratorial closeness. In the Trump age, it helps political and media objectives align.

The problem is, there’s no natural floor to this behavior. News and commentary programs will eventually escalate to boxing-style expletive-laden pre-fight tirades and open incitement of violence.

If either side is literally Hitler, this eventually has to happen. What began as *America v. America* will eventually move to *Traitor v. Traitor*, and the show does not work if those contestants are not eventually offended to the point of wanting to kill one another.

10. Feel superior.
We’re mainly in the business of stroking audiences. We want them coming back. Anger is part of the rhetorical promise, but so are feelings of righteousness and superiority.

We invented the “Wimp Factor” for George H. W. Bush and saddled Dan Quayle with the “bimbo” tag. This was propaganda, of course, as the idea was that politicians could only not be losers by bombing someone. But we were also telling audience that a loser was someone who didn’t attack.

Politicians should be fair game. But the obsession with winners and losers runs so deep in the press that it has become the central value of the business.
Taibbi concludes with:
The idea behind most political coverage is to get you to turn on the TV and within minutes have you tsk-tsking and saying, “What idiots!” And, from there, it’s a short hop to, “Fuck those commie-loving tree-huggers!” or “Fuck the Hitler-loving freaks!”

We can’t get you there unless you follow all the rules. Accept a binary world and pick a side. Embrace the reality of being surrounded by evil stupidity. Feel indignant, righteous, and smart. Hate losers, love winners. Don’t challenge yourself. And during the commercials, do some shopping.

Congratulations, you’re the perfect news consumer.

Monday, July 22, 2019

At the Arch

I’m home again. My trip to the St. Louis area was successful, though the details aren’t of a general interest to this blog.

I flew to St. Louis on a Friday. I spent part of that afternoon and a good chunk each of Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and the following Sunday doing genealogy research. That included three trips out to the town where my grandfather was born and grew up, twice to pore through church records at the town historical society, and once to visit the county records office. The church records show various family births, marriages, and deaths, though nothing about my 3-great grandfather’s first wife. The county records showed that this 3-great grandfather bought and sold property just south of town.

Wednesday through Saturday was spent at a handbell seminar. About 425 people took part. We attended classes on various aspects of improving handbell performance. There were early afternoon and early evening concerts each day by some excellent handbell ensembles – well, most of them were excellent. One was bad enough people wondered why they had been invited, perhaps the idea of karaoke accompanied by handbells couldn’t be refused (though it should have been). Another group combined bells with electronic music, which perhaps worked, though the group did way too many loud and fast pieces.

This hotel was the closest one to the St. Louis Gateway Arch (the hotel even includes the phrase “At the Arch” in its name). So one could see it (well, part of it) simply by glancing out a window. The entire group stood near the base of the Arch while a member of the organizing committee took photos from the top. Many days were so hot (well above 90F with the legendary humidity of St. Louis) we were glad that we didn’t have to leave the hotel.

On Sunday (a couple days ago) I enjoyed about an hour at the museum at the base of the Arch. It had been redone a couple years ago and looks pretty good.

The book I read during the first half of the trip was Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey. I bought it in Australia last year. A blurb on the cover describes it as “an Australian To Kill a Mockingbird.” Well, not quite, though racism is a large part of the story. The story opens with Jasper, about age 15, knocking on the window of Charlie, age 13, asking for help. Jasper leads Charlie to a glen out in the bush, an area Jasper considers his own private space. But a crime has happened here and Jasper, who is mixed race with a drunken father and dead mother, is sure if the authorities find out about it he would be immediately accused and locked up. So Jasper and Charlie try to figure it out on their own. This wasn’t so much about the boys at the center of a mystery as it was a general coming-of-age story.

The story is quite well written, though the beautiful language was of Charlie as an adult looking back on the events. A thirteen-year-old wouldn’t have used words and shared insights like that.

I was amused the author had lots of references to American authors – Harper Lee and Mark Twain in particular – but no references to Australian authors.

Here’s a quote that amused me. Jasper offers Charlie his first cigarette, then offers a swig of whiskey.
I take a small incendiary pull. Of course, it attacks my mouth and burns down the length of my throat. I gag immediately, wiping my lips trying to keep my lungs at bay. I slant my head and pretend to read a label that isn’t there through my clouding eyes. This shit is poison. And I realize I’ve been betrayed by the two vices that fiction promised me I’d adore. Sal Paradise held up bottles of booze like a housewife in a detergent commercial. Holden Caulfield reached for his cigarettes like an act of faith. Even Huckleberry Finn tapped on his pipe with relief and satisfaction. I can’t trust anything. If sex turns out to be this bad, I’m never reading again. At this rate it will probably burn my dick and I’ll end up with lesions.
Charlie tries to understand the crime he witnessed (he didn’t see the crime being committed, but did see its horrible results). He reads newspaper articles about those who commit such crimes. He has been bullied for what some kids believe is showing off in class. Charlie’s friend Jeffrey is Vietnamese and is great at cricket, but none of the other kids let him play. He laments not finding any answers:
What kind of lousy world is this? Has it always been this way, or has the bottom fallen out of it in just the last couple days? Has it always been so unfair? What is it that tips the scales so? I don’t understand it. … What kind of world gives birth to Fish and Cooke [two criminals he reads about], lets them fester and hate, lets them torment the innocent and make good people afraid? What kind of world punches someone for using big words?

Verbosity. Verbosity. Verbosity.

A world that kills parents and makes orphans of children and kicks away cricket balls and lies through it sharp teeth. That makes a decent person feel rubbish all his life because he’s poorer and browner and motherless. That hosts three billion folks, each of them as lonely as each other. A world that’s three quarters water, none of which can quench your thirst.

Bugger it.
Thirteen-year-old Charlie doesn’t understand, though I think I do. The search for supremacy is one of the strongest human drives. Everything that Charlie laments, everything in this book, is driven by the seeking of supremacy.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Second trip of the summer

I leave tomorrow morning to fly to St. Louis. I'll be attending a national handbell event. I'll also be visiting my cousin and with her doing genealogy research. My mother's family is from St. Louis and elsewhere in Missouri. I'll be gone ten days. I probably won't post during that time.

Monday, July 8, 2019

If you won’t stand up for an abused stolen baby

Fernand Amandi tweeted:
Don’t know of a single reputable Constitutional expert, scholar or lawyer who strongly agrees with @SpeakerPelosi’s current approach towards impeachment. Do you?
Catherine Pikus replied with a thread explaining impeachment proceedings. Here’s part of it:
McConnell has nothing to do with and cannot stop an impeachment inquiry in the house.

Suggesting he can or will block it shows a complete lack of understanding of the process

Impeachment inquiries are televised and carry addition weight in the courts. There are hundreds of
witnesses to call and it will all be controlled by the House Judiciary Committee.

McConnell is powerless to stop house hearings. Period.

After 3 months of Prince, Deutsche Bank, Cambridge Analytica, Flynn, Cohen, Manafort, Popadopolous, Gates, McCabe, Brennan, Priebus, Hicks, McDaniel, Jr, Butina, Sessions, Comey, Spicer, Yates, and on and on testifying in daily live televised hearings do you really believe Trump will be stronger?

After 6 months of GOP on the defensive do you really think they'll be more likely to hold the Senate?

After 12 months of educating the Am public on sex crimes, money laundering, emoluments violations, abuse of power, lying, & obstruction do you really believe less Americans will support impeachment?

Nancy Pelosi isn't making the case. She's not even trying to. She's discouraging her caucus from it.
Her master plan is wait til 2020 & hope voters bail out dems Coincidentally, stall til 2020 is Trump's plan too The fact that they have the same goal should concern everyone. Esp when not even opening an inquiry means a large % of Americans believe it means there's no evidence.
Back to Amandi’s question, Sarah Kendzior answered:
I don't know of any constitutional scholar who agrees with her. I also don't know any social scientists who specialize in autocracy who agree with her. Everyone I know is deeply alarmed by her appeasement.
In another tweet Kendzior wrote:
I've never seen such clear-cut victims and villains responded to with such gutlessness.

If you won't stand up for an abused stolen baby -- then for whom?

If you won't stand up against a sadistic, white supremacist, mafia-backed rapist -- then against whom?

What does it take?

This is directed toward officials who have the power to stop or slow these horrors and won't, and those who defend them and minimize the harm. I know there are lots of ordinary people who do care and try to help the best they can -- and some reps actually doing a good job too.
One of those reps is Rashida Tlaib, who represents me. Jamil Smith tweeted:
What did Tlaib, Omar, Pressley, and Ocasio-Cortez do to Pelosi to make her so dismissive and cruel to them? It’s evident that she views their worth purely in terms of their votes in Congress—labeling their public support as “whatever.” She goes out of her way to insult them. Why?
The closest Smith gets to an answer is pointing out that these four went to a concentration camp and talking a lot about what they saw there. And Pelosi didn’t.

Pikus says Pelosi’s strategy is to beat the nasty guy in 2020. Journalist Jonathan Katz responds:
I don’t know what the “we’ll just beat him at the polls” folks are thinking. If Trump loses in November 2020, we’re in for three of the most dangerous months in American history. To put it another way, there are about 809,000 minutes between now and noon ET on Jan 20, 2021, in which Trump can launch a nuclear missile at any moment he likes.

This is a good place for a quote from Teddy Roosevelt published in 1918.
Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official, save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. It is patriotic to support him insofar as he efficiently serves the country. It is unpatriotic not to oppose him to the exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise he fails in his duty to stand by the country. In either event, it is unpatriotic not to tell the truth, whether about the president or anyone else.
We are sorely lacking patriots.

From that same Daily Kos post is a story of kids protesting climate change. It prompted their local city council to pass a climate change resolution that actually meant something.

Just ignore the Supreme Court

The Supremes batted away the nasty guy’s desire to put a citizenship question on the 2020 census. Those who work for and understand the census says such a question is a bad idea because minorities will be less likely to fill out the form, leading to an undercount (which, according to uncovered memos, is the reason why the question was proposed). Alas, the Supremes didn’t say you can’t do that. They said the nasty guy’s stated reasons were contrived. So the nasty guy’s lawyers spent the holiday weekend trying to contrive a reasons that wasn’t so obviously contrived.

And along comes Attorney General William Barr to say there really is a legal way to get the citizenship question onto the census. Translation: this president can ignore the Supreme Court. That prompted Melissa McEwan of Shakesville to respond:
See, when there's no one empowered to hold the president accountable who is willing to do it, what happens is that the president turns the Justice Department into a rubber stamp for his authoritarianism.
Commenter Widminter shares an idea heard elsewhere. So what if some of the census forms are already printed? Not everyone in the country has to get the same form. Perhaps the forms with the question go to the states with the most immigrants.

McEwan does a summary of the nasty stuff perpetrated by the nasty guy and the GOP. She titles them with the number of days the nasty guy has been in office. Today is day 900. Yeesh!

In today’s summary she notes an article by Drew Harwell at the Washington Post describing how the FBI and ICE have turned to state drivers license databases and facial recognition software into a gold mine. This has become “the bedrock of an unprecedented surveillance infrastructure.” McEwan responded:
A lot of folks will read headlines about this item, see "ICE," and assume the technology is only being used to "nab illegals." It isn't. It's already being used against citizens. And, even if it were only being used against undocumented immigrants, that's bad enough. But the population's indifference to abuses against undocumented immigrants will mean this surveillance programs expands without much pushback. So, let's make some noise.
You do know your representative and your Senators. Don’t you?

Sarah Kendzior tweeted in response to an AFP news agency story:
At least 15000 media jobs will be eliminated this year, over three times as many as in 2017, and the most since 2009
Kendzior studies authoritarianism and knows they don’t like independent journalists. Even if independent media companies fire people for economic reasons, it fits a nasty guy plan.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Want it both ways

Melissa McEwan of Shakesville wrote about the concentration camps at the border and included a couple pictures – thankfully showing only overcrowding (though that by itself is bad). She explains the lack of logic:
The sadistic architects of the Trump Regime's immigration policy want it both ways: They claim they are harming migrants and refugees as an allegedly effective deterrent, while simultaneously asserting that they can't help but torture people in concentration camps because their numbers are overwhelming the U.S.'s resources.

So, not an effective deterrent then. But we aren't meant to scrutinize the inherent contradiction in their bullshit justifications for their institutional abuse, nor are we meant to talk about how the detentions are unnecessary, as people could (and should be) released with a notice to return for a later court date, nor are we meant to talk about anything else that exposes the Trump Regime's deadly cruelty for the rank fascism that it is.

But let's talk about it, anyway. Let's talk about it with anyone and everyone who will listen, because our silence will be deadly for increasing numbers of people detained in these hells.

NPR’s All Things Considered this evening talked about the overcrowding. Host Michel Martin talked to Randy Capps, Director of Research at the Migration Policy Institute. He completely missed the point about detentions being unnecessary. However, he did talk about some of the nasty guy policies that have made the situation worse.

As much as I distrust Capps’ viewpoint because of his omission, he did say something important. What should the border patrol do with children? Because they are children they can’t simply be released. They must be released into someone’s care. But again, the nasty guy’s policies are making the situation much worse than it needs to be – by doing such things as pulling children from parents.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

76 unknowns

I and my friend and debate partner had an enjoyable afternoon and evening together. In the afternoon we attended a performance of the Capitol Steps as part of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival. The Capitol Steps is a group of five actor/singers plus a pianist who do political satire. They started the show by saying “We put the mock in democracy!”

They come on stage wearing a variety of costumes (mostly thrown over a basic outfit) and wigs representing the major political figures. They do a short skit and a song. The song is usually parody words to a well known tune. For example, the first song was about the huge field of candidates for the Democratic nominee for president. The tune was 76 Trombones, the words began “76 unknowns.”

The skits were funny, the song lyrics were clever, the singing was good. All made for an enjoyable couple of hours. Even if I had to sit through someone impersonating the nasty guy (which brought out some boos).

I had seen a performance of this group more than 20 years ago. Back then they said all the cast members were congressional staffers. Now they are all professionally trained singers and actors. I checked their schedule of upcoming shows. From that it is obvious they have more than one cast. One group performs every Friday and Saturday in the Ronald Reagan building in Washington and perhaps travels around the country. Another will do daily shows at the Cranwell Resort in Lenox, Mass for the entire summer.

And in the evening my friend and I had a pleasant supper together.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

A new era of despotism

Melissa McEwan of Shakesville quotes political scientist Brian Klass to discuss another reason why the nasty guy should be tossed out. This time it is a global reason.

Wrote Klass:
The rational behavior for a dictator or despot is often to silence critics, rule by fear, and generally be a monstrous tyrant. What has held many back is: 1) International norms; and 2) The risk of consequences from foreign powers (almost always in the West).

When Trump acts like Putin and Kim and MBS are his best friends, it doesn't just legitimize those regimes. It also signals to other authoritarians that there will be no consequences. That international norms no longer matter. You can murder journalists. Trump will do nothing.
McEwan adds:
This is urgent threat of the Trump presidency: It's not just that he's endeavoring to destroy everything democrats value in the United States, but that he is working in concert with other powerful and tenacious democracy-killers around the globe, like Putin and Benjamin Netanyahu, to usher in a new era of despotism.

The Oregon legislature, controlled by Democrats, put forward a bill to create a carbon cap-and-trade system. This is a proven way to reduce atmospheric carbon and reduce potential climate change. In response, the GOP lawmakers fled the state, depriving the Democrats a quorum needed to pass the bill.

Yeah, a similar thing happened in Wisconsin a few years ago, though it was Democrats who fled because the GOP was about to do something nasty to one union or another.

Militiamen are men with guns wanting to enforce their point of view. These are not regulated police officers. These are citizens with guns. They rallied around the GOP lawmakers. Democrats pulled the carbon bill.

Jason Johnson, a journalism professor at Morgan State University, tweeted:
Oregon is just a dry run. Republicans know they are no longer a silent majority. So they'll resort to encouraging extra legal violence and eventually tacit acceptance of terrorism to advance policy. This is the harvest of unchecked white supremacy. GOP embrace of terrorism to intimidate officials when they don't have the votes worked. The DEMOCRATIC run Senate in Oregon has killed their own Cap & Trade bill. THIS WILL HAPPEN again in your state soon!

I had previously reported on credible rape allegations against the nasty guy and that the story amazingly didn’t appear in the mainstream press. Sarah Kendzior tweeted that the story was explicitly removed from the New York Post on orders from upper management.

Elizabeth “I’ve got a plan for that” Warren, candidate for president, offers a plan to protect voting. In introducing it she tweeted in a way that makes a complex issue easier to understand:
Our elections are less secure than your Amazon account. They're under-resourced and undermined by partisan and racist officials who try to stop people from exercising their right to vote.

Unless home is the mouth of a shark

I’ve posted about the state of the concentration camps used to hold refugees. Today, the group Move On organized protest rallies across the country under the slogan “Close the Camps!” I heard there were about 175 events. I took part in one in Southfield at the office of Brenda Lawrence, Democratic Representative of Michigan’s 14th District. This isn’t my district, but it was the closest rally to me.

Melissa McEwan of Shakesville, in her Monday summary of authoritarian news lists several other protests that have happened recently. This same post lists many more reasons why those protests are necessary.

The main speaker (perhaps the local organizer) said several times that Ms. Lawrence was at that time with a group visiting one of the camps (or trying to). So she is on our side. Here is a post about representatives who visited a camp (though it doesn’t look like the visit Lawrence was a part of).

Several speakers read letters from children and teens who are stuck in these camps. A Jewish man who was a boy in Nazi Germany and hidden by people like us compared the actions of Nazis with the actions of ICE.

A woman read the poem, “Home” by Warsan Shire. She was born in Kenya to Somali parents. They moved to Britain when she was one year old. This poem captures the anguished dilemma refugees face. The first couple lines are distinctive enough that I could find it online. Some excerpts:
no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land

no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
saying —
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here

After the speakers there was a suggestion (not well organized) that we protest along the major street and over to the nearby highway exit ramp and overpass. So we did, or at least some of us did. Here are a couple photos, one along the curb at the highway exit ramp, the other of the group on the overpass.

After I had been there about 75 minutes in the heat the rally didn’t seem to have any more direction, so I went home.

McEwan adds some important context to the refugee issue:
One of the (many) things that is absolutely enraging me about the public discourse around the obscene mistreatment of migrant children is that it utterly lacks this notion: We can afford to welcome every last one of those children and their families into this country.

We have the resources. We have the space. We have need for workers who are looking for stable work, if we can muster the political will for infrastructure and green jobs. The only reason to pretend we don't have these things is because it's politically expedient to exploit fear.

Please, if you talk about this subject today and I hope you will, make sure to include in that conversation the fact that the crisis is a lack of empathy and welcome. We do not lack the ability to integrate migrants and refugees. We lack the compassion.

We have to change this conversation. We cannot keep talking about it using the dishonest frames of the nativist wrecks who are driving policy. There is no need to detain children and/or their parents indefinitely. NONE. That is a fact.

This rally was therapeutic for me. It was wonderful to be around people like me (though I didn’t know anyone) who believe in equality, believe in acting humanely, and are as disgusted with the nasty guy and his malice as I am. After so much time hearing about news of the nasty guy I was glad to be among people who could clearly say this is not normal, this is not appropriate, and we want to make sure you know we don’t agree with it.

McEwan understands that too. Yes, when faced with the relentless malice from the nasty guy administration and the GOP that protects him, it is reasonable to feel thwarted, demoralized, and that effort is futile.
Do not let your interactions with your representative and senators be guided by who they are. Let them be guided by who you are.

They hope that their relentless malice will change you. Resist that above all else.

Badger the absolute fuck out of your Republican reps and senators, not because they can be moved from their intransigent malice, but because YOU cannot be moved from your decency, from your empathy, from your compassion, from your expectations of MORE.
I expect resistance against tyranny, institutional bigotry, dominionism, and war-mongering, because it is my duty as a citizen, as a human being. I expect more from myself, and from all of us, as oppressors careen toward obliteration of all that I value, because complacency is complicity.
That's who I am. Who are you? Make your calls and write your emails and resist in every way that you can from that place. From the place inside you that cannot be changed, cannot be cajoled or compelled or convinced to acquiesce to any of this.

This is resistance.

As I’ve mentioned before I have a poster I’ve taken to rallies in opposition to guns. One of those was just a few weeks ago. But a slogan against guns wasn’t appropriate for this rally. So I turned to the internet for ideas. I turned my gun poster over and wrote on the back, “Will trade racists for refugees.” The phrase is not original with me. Several people asked to take a picture of it.

Here are some of the other protest phrases I found online. Many are from the page of protest posters on Pinterest. The first few are appropriate for today’s rally. The rest succinctly summarize a current issue.
No human is illegal

Keep Families together

Racism is not patriotic

I love my country, I'm ashamed of my government

Will Swap 1 Donald Trump for 10.000 refugees

Hate won't make us great

If people working full-time jobs still need food stamps to get by, they're not the ones leaching off the government. Their employers are.

The only minority destroying America is the rich

Stop pretending your racism is patriotism

(Looking like a tree is holding it:) Need money for my family in the rainforest

If someone tells you they got rich through hard work, ask them, 'Whose'?

Fox News: rich people paying rich people to tell middle class people to blame poor people

You said you needed your guns to fight a corrupt government. So... where are you?

I support helping the needy. I oppose subsidizing the greedy

Equal rights for others does not mean for fewer rights for you. Rights are not like pie.

For I was hungry and you cut my food stamps. I was a stranger and you deported me. I was sick and you denied me healthcare. I was a child afraid to go to school and you voted with the NRA. (This is a twist on a passage from the book of Matthew in the Bible)

At the start of every disaster movie is a scientist being ignored

The hardest decision a woman can make isn't yours

The paradise of the rich is made out of the hell of the poor – Victor Hugo


Monday, July 1, 2019

What is the line in the sand?

This is quite serious. And quite bad.

In response to the news that refugee children were being held in concentration camps without adequate food, bedding, and sanitation Congress decided it was time to do something. The Democratic House put together a bill authorizing funding for better care of the children and requiring improved conditions. It passed the House.

And Democracy Gravedigger Mitch McConnell refused to let the Senate touch it.

The Senate crafted its own bill. It had $4.6 billion on strengthened border security (which is not and has never been the real issue) and nothing about the living conditions of the refugee children. This one passed the Senate. It showed that every last GOP senator agrees with and approves of the way the nasty guy is treating these children. Those GOP senators want that.

The Senate bill went to the House. Moderate Democrats, those from purple districts, pressured Speaker Nancy Pelosi to bring the Senate bill up for a vote. She caved to their pressure. It passed.

Melissa McEwan of Shakesville described it this way:
In other words, Donald Trump just got a $4.6 billion check to spend on his nativist malice, with zero restrictions, while he's torturing children in concentration camps.

Moderates in the Democratic caucus should be ashamed of themselves, but aren't — because they believe they need to look tough on border security be reelected.

Honestly, when you're voting to fund the abuse of children knowing that malice is Trump's agenda, I don't know what difference there is between you and a Republican, anyway.

Trump is now going to say, forever, that whatever he does to children at the border has bipartisan approval.

And anyone who is still saying at this point that Pelosi is a great strategist who's just giving Trump enough rope with which to hang himself has to understand that they are implicitly making an argument that children's lives are negotiable.

What is the line in the sand? What is it?

Pelosi should be launching impeachment hearings of Trump for his vicious nativism at the southern border. Instead, she's giving him what might as well be a blank check to escalate it.

I cannot believe I am saying this, but Pelosi must be removed and replaced immediately.
I read about this during my trip. I had to be very careful that night to keep myself from thinking about it so that I could get to sleep. I feel more frightened and angry and less hopeful about our future after this than I have since the nasty guy took office 2½ years ago.

Children’s lives should not be negotiable. Torture should not have any Democratic support (well, shouldn’t have GOP support either).

Up to this time there was always the hope that the Democrats would get it together and start impeachment hearings, better yet actually vote to impeach.

That hope continued even as the nasty guy violated norms of conduct, violated laws, violated the security of our country, and violated human rights. That hope continued even after each of those violations and the Democrats still did nothing, at least nothing meaningful.

And then this vote. It signaled that the Democrats – Pelosi and every Democrat that voted for this nasty bill – not only haven’t stood up to the nasty guy, but won’t.

I agree with McEwan. Surely, there is a line over which a humane person says no, that’s too far, we can’t let you do that. But we haven’t found such a line that will prompt Democrats to act. That line didn’t include massive corruption, proof of obstructing justice, evidence of being controlled by Russia, audio clips of praise for despots, orders that require pulling babies from refugee parents, or abuse after abuse. That line doesn’t even include torturing children. If that won’t do it…?

Hope has diminished.

Many of the comments wonder if Pelosi and some of the other Democrats have been compromised by Russian operatives or other outside influences. A few of the other comments consider that Pelosi has some sort of strategic plan to position her party for the 2020 elections. Adam Jones spells out what that strategy might be, then concludes:
I think it's a bad decision on Pelosi's part--frankly, if she has to appease people in her party with legislation that is this bad, then she doesn't really have a meaningful majority anyways.

Successful travels

I’m home again. The trip was a good one!

The first part of the trip was to visit a brother and sister-in-law near Pittsburgh. A couple days before he left he said he and his wife wouldn’t be home before 5:00, but they’ll keep a door unlocked and I could come in and make myself at home while I waited for them.

I considered leaving home a bit later. Instead, I contacted an aunt and uncle in northern Ohio and suggested lunch together. They agreed. It was a simple meal with a chance to talk and share news. One topic was to ponder who owned the family farm between the time my great-great-grandfather, the first white owner, died in 1850 and when my great-grandfather took it over about 1905. No answer yet.

And I got to my brother’s place at 5:30 with greetings from both of them. We spent most of Thursday around the house. On Friday we drove to McConnells Mill State Park for some pretty views and pleasant walking. We had supper at Log Cabin Inn north of Zelienople.

Last week I said I was traveling with my performance group. I try to stay anonymous on this blog, which is why I was vague. This evening I remembered that I’ve discussed my passion for performing on handbells before, and verified I indeed had, though the last time was five years ago. So, yes, the purpose of the trip was for my semi-professional concertizing handbell ensemble to give a concert for a multi-state handbell festival in Pennsylvania.

I was on the road heading east at 10:15 Saturday. That was much better than leaving the Detroit area at 6:00 as most of the rest of the group did. After lunch the Pennsylvania Turnpike traffic signs started displaying warnings of severe thunderstorms. Ahead looked like pleasant weather, but over my shoulder the sky was dark. I needed one last stop before Harrisburg. I made it a quick one. I drove through some rain and got to our hotel and performance site around 3:15. We were to be there by 4:00 and the group that came from Detroit beat me by about 10 minutes. The storm hit about 3:20.

Our concert went very well and our audience of over 200 was quiet appreciative. We could show them what it is like to hear their instrument played at a high level. The concert was over about 9:00. In spite of delays getting to use the hotel’s freight elevator for our huge mound of equipment, the trailer was loaded by 10:00. I went promptly to bed.

Alas, I didn’t sleep well, thinking too much about really needing to sleep because the alarm was to go off at 4:45. We were on the road by 6:30 to get to our second concert of the weekend. So I saw very little of the city in which we performed.

That second concert was in a church south of Cleveland. One of our members grew up there and her parents still attend (we saw her confirmation picture on the wall as part of a collection extending from 1953). We were to get there by 1:00. I made it by 1:01.

This second concert also went very well and the acoustics of the church were much better than the hotel ballroom. There were about 60 in the audience, including my aunt and uncle. They had never seen me perform before and delighted to finally have the chance.

The church served us supper. I went to my car at 6:50. A couple cars and the trailer had already gone. A few of our group were still sitting at the church. We were to meet at our home rehearsal space to store the bells for the rest of the summer. I was wanted there because I knew how to pack the closet.

By the time I got there, however, the equipment was stowed. I did have one stop for gas. And I guess I’m much more of a stickler of posted speed limits.

My total trip was 1050 miles, with three-quarters of that in two days.