It Was The Best Of Times
I do not mean to say we are bound to follow implicitly in whatever our fathers did. To do so, would be to discard all the lights of current experience - to reject all progress - all improvement. What I do say is, that if we would supplant the opinions and policy of our fathers in any case, we should do so upon evidence so conclusive, and argument so clear, that even their great authority, fairly considered and weighed, cannot stand; and most surely not in a case whereof we ourselves declare they understood the question better than we.
By True, I Mean False
At The Grey Havens
Farewell, friends! The sails are set,
the wind is east, the moorings fret.
Shadows long before me lie,
beneath the ever-bending sky,
but islands lie behind the Sun
that I shall raise ere all is done;
lands there are to west of West,
where night is quiet and sleep is rest.
I've Been Dead Before
Listen My Children And You Shall Hear Bullshit
He said to his friend, "If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,--
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm."
I Fell Into A Burning Ring Of Fire
For Resistance is not of GOD, but he - hath built his works upon it.
After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley's ingenious sophistry to prove the nonexistence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it -- "I refute it thus."
- James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson (1791)
Senator Inhofe continues to entertain:
Inhofe chairs the Environment and Public Works Senate Committee and, by no coincidence, is the leading climate denier in Congress. On Thursday, he thought he stumbled upon the final nail in the coffins of the 97 percent of scientists who say climate change is happening: He noticed there was snow on the ground. In February.
Not one to let this perfect evidence melt through his fingers, Inhofe packed a snowball and carried it with him in a bag into the Capitol and onto the Senate Floor. During the latest in his now-almost daily speeches on the “climate change hoax,” Inhofe threw the snowball towards the front of the room with a triumphant smirk.
“Do you know what this is? It’s a snowball. It’s just from outside here, so it’s very very cold out … very unseasonable.”
Of course he gave the game away by pointing out the weather was unseasonable, which you know, climate change is kind of about. But whatever, to the Good Senator it's all God's will anyway. Thankfully plenty of Christians don't take his ignorant line.
Me, I'd like to refute Inhofe by kicking him in the stones.
PS--Click the pick to see the full-sized C&H strip.
Knowledge Is No Longer Republican
Many of the today’s biggest political issues, like our privacy rights, would not even be up for debate today had it not been for the attack on education. If more Americans had had a strong understanding of our history, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney would have never been able to pull off the Patriot Act. And, we wouldn’t be discussing the Orwellian government spy agencies like the NSA in this day and age.
While we can’t undo the damage to the Fourth Amendment overnight, we can protect our remaining rights by passing on accurate history, and protecting public education.
Thomas Jefferson recognized that education is vital to a functioning Democratic Republic.
In a letter to James Madison, Jefferson wrote: “And say, finally, whether peace is best preserved by giving energy to the government, or information to the people. This last is the most certain, and the most legitimate engine of government. Educate and inform the whole mass of the people. Enable them to see that it is their interest to preserve peace and order, and they will preserve them…. They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.”
In light of Oklahoma’s recent attack on AP History, it would be easy to argue that today’s Republicans don’t recognize the value of a good education. However, the reality is that they do, and that the spreading attack on public education is far more sinister.
When the Patriot Act was signed, Bush and his ilk claimed the power to violate citizens’ private lives because, they said, there is no “right to privacy” in the United States. In that, they – perhaps purposefully – overlooked the history of America and the Declaration of Independence, signed on July 4, 1776. And they missed a basic understanding of the evolution of language in the United States.
Yeah, I've noted this kinda thing before:
Shorter Rick Santorum: Know who else thought government had a role in educating children? Hitler!
It is a parent’s responsibility to educate their children. It is not the government’s job.
I admit to being puzzled as to why so many people think parent's responsibilities and government's jobs are mutually exclusive. Do we not each defend our children, for example, both at home and through constitutional mechanisms? Why, then, should each authority not have some role in education, especially when the health of the republic is at stake?
Indeed, as Vermont's own Ira Allen observed:
The greatest legislators from Lycurgus down to John Lock, have laid down a moral and scientific system of education as the very foundation and cement of a State...
But since the article above brought up Jefferson, I gotta return to Senator Sessions:
This week, Alabama Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III...decided to wage war against humanistic inquiry in general. In a letter to the chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Carol Watson, Sessions demanded to know why the NEH was doling out so much grant money for projects that struck him as obviously worthless.
Sessions has also uncovered evidence that the government agency’s “Bridging Cultures” program is “distribut[ing] books related to Islam to over 900 libraries across the United States.” Books about Muslims in Uncle Sam's libraries? What nefarious plot is this?!
Sessions makes no bones about the purpose of his letter, which is to establish his reasons for trying to gut the NEH’s budget.
Oh, bah, Imma just quote Sayshuns' namesake, Thomas Jefferson, for rebuttal:
- A Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge (1780): [W]hence it becomes expedient for promoting the publick happiness that those persons, whom nature hath endowed with genius and virtue, should be rendered by liberal education worthy to receive, and able to guard the sacred deposit of the rights and liberties of their fellow citizens, and that they should be called to that charge without regard to wealth, birth or other accidental condition or circumstance; but the indigence of the greater number disabling them from so educating, at their own expence, those of their children whom nature hath fitly formed and disposed to become useful instruments for the public, it is better that such should be sought for and educated at the common expence of all, than that the happiness of all should be confided to the weak or wicked.
- Letter to George Whythe (1786): Preach, my dear Sir, a crusade against ignorance; establish and improve the law for educating the common people. Let our countrymen know that the people alone can protect us against [tyranny, oppression, etc], and that the tax which will be paid for this purpose is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance.
- Letter to Pierre S. Dupont de Nemours (1816): Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day...I believe [the human condition] susceptible of much improvement, and most of all, in matters of government and religion; and that the diffusion of knowledge among the people is to be the instrument by which it is effected.
Being generally enlightened--not just trained to be a cog in the capitalist machine--is important in a republic such as ours. And if people want to deal effectively with the world at large, which includes 1.3 billion Muslims, it might even be a good idea to learn about Islam, oddly enough! Which was central to Jefferson's and Allen's point.
Anyway, here's a funny little tangent. Here's part of that Jefferson quote I grabbed from the Salon article again:
[The People] are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.
It sounded familiar to me, so I dug up yet another old post of mine
[On the People's] good sense we may rely with the most security for the preservation of a due degree of liberty.
Not only are the sentiments identical with extremely similar wording, they both purportedly come from a letter written to James Madison on December 20, 1787. I was a bit confused at first because when you look at each piece's source [Salon's, mine] you find a great deal of overlap and divergence.
It appears to matter which collection of TJ's letters you rely upon. The one Salon used likely comes from the Memorial Edition (or the Washington Edition) whereas my source is the Ford Edition. And about these myriad versions:
Unlike Henry Washington, Ford went to great lengths to check his transcriptions and page proofs against the original documents. In so doing, Ford insured that his was the most accurate and scholarly edition of Jefferson’s writings yet published.
Ford’s Writings of Thomas Jefferson was not a ﬂawless work. Owing to the editorial rigor that he brought to the documents, especially the various state papers, Ford was not able to include as many papers as Henry Washington had...Nonetheless Ford’s Writings of Thomas Jefferson was a dramatic improvement over previous editions.
Paul L. Ford’s edition of Jefferson’s writings appeared four decades after the Congress Edition of Henry A. Washington. Despite Ford’s editorial rigor and the sophistication of his collection, it was soon followed by another, larger, collection of published Jefferson papers.
In April 1903 a new organization, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, was launched. The Association was dedicated to raising money and support for the building of a monument to Jefferson in Washington. It failed to do so owing to a lack of funds. The Association did sponsor a new edition of Jefferson’s writings, edited by Andrew A. Lipscomb and Albert E. Bergh, usually referred to as the ‘Memorial Edition’...
They supplemented Washington’s original edition with some notable additions...In terms of its scope and coverage, the Memorial Edition was the most ambitious and comprehensive of the four major collections of Jefferson’s writing published between 18229 and 1904.
Unfortunately, the editing of the documents was uneven. In transcribing documents, Lipscomb and Bergh replicated Henry Washington’s earlier errors while introducing new mistakes of their own....Although widely circulated, the Memorial Edition was inadequate for serious study of Jefferson. While it was more inclusive than Ford’s recent Writings of Thomas Jefferson, it lacked the editorial sophistication and scholarly reliability that characterized Ford’s edition.“
Just goes to show that it's sometimes hard to be truly definitive when citing stuff from so long ago. One must always be cautious. And willing to learn new things instead of being stuck in old tropes, the way our republican founders intended for the good of our nation.
Subsidies Are A Part Of Originalism
I saw this incredible assertion by a commenter on FB: When THIS country was founded we subsidized nothing and yet the nation flourished!
We do this to support industry and encourage certain individual behaviors. I won't argue the merits of such policies right now, though I'll note Free Market God Adam Smith understood their value to society.
Just wanted to point out that any claim about subsidies being a recent commie invention somehow holding back our great nation is the height of ignorance.
8-day old Sam in his Skinner box, having returned to the hospital for more fun in the fake sun.
Smash The Thermometer
Up The Flinty Steep And Craggy Mountain
В довгу, темную нічку невидну
Не стулю ні на хвильку очей -
Все шукатиму зірку провідну,
Ясну владарку темних ночей.
Так! я буду крізь сльози сміятись,
Серед лиха співати пісні,
Без надії таки сподіватись,
Буду жити! Геть, думи сумні!
In the long dark ever-viewless night-time
Not one instant shall I close my eyes,
I'll seek ever for the star to guide me,
She that reigns bright mistress of dark skies.
Yes, I'll smile, indeed, through tears and weeping
Sing my songs where evil holds its sway,
Hopeless, a steadfast hope forever keeping,
I shall live! You thoughts of grief, away!
Sick kids' long naps make for late nights and parents' resorting to electronic opiates.
Paint Mars By Numbers
In 1964, NASA was still years away from its first moon landing. Failed missions and botched technology were common, but the agency was determined to learn more about the universe. On November 28, 1964, Mariner 4 set out to orbit Mars.
It took over seven months for the probe to reach Mars, and when it got there, it spent just 25 minutes observing the atmosphere. On July 14, 1965, scientists gathered at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to celebrate the probe’s historic flyby. But though the probe successfully transmitted 22 close-up images and 5.2 million bits of data, the team had to wait for a data translator to create a photograph.
McKinnon reports what happened next:
Instead of waiting for the entire image processing procedure to create the official photograph, the employees in the telecommunications group at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory mounted the strips in this display panel and hand-coloured the numbers to create a quick and dirty visualization.
Once the mosaic was complete, the Telecommunications System employees framed the completed image and presented it to their director, William H. Pickering.
Which brings to mind one of my fave Cosmos episodes...
Seared Memories Only Count If We Want To Remember Them
Of course he just doesn't get it:
"This Bill O'Reilly thing, I'll tell you the truth, I don't get it," [Joe Scarborough told his fellow co-hosts of MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Wednesday morning].
Last week, Mother Jones magazine published an article that cast doubt on things O'Reilly has said about having covered the Falklands War for CBS News in the 1980s.
"Are we debating rubber bullets versus real bullets?" Scarborough said. "I don't know."
At certain points O'Reilly has appeared to suggest he was "in the Falklands" in a "war zone." (He has clarified he was in Buenos Aires the entire time, along with the rest of the CBS correspondents, and insisted his accounts of the war were accurate.)
Scarborough took on the location question directly.
"No he was in the Falklands," Scarborough said. "There were riots!"
I have a memory seared - seared - in my mind from 2004 when people were attacking John Kerry (who actually served in an actual war zone) for having memories of serving in a war zone. One of them was Joe Scarborough, who apparently "got it" back then.
Justices Should Get Outside
Kagan Hears A Who
Seuss Court watching can be fun:
Kagan—whose breezy yet stinging dissents are quickly becoming legendary—advocates for a more “conventional” reading of the law, writing that “a ‘tangible object’ is an object that’s tangible.” She then drops what must be one of the more amazing citations ever issued by a Supreme Court justice:As the plurality must acknowledge, the ordinary meaning of “tangible object” is “a discrete thing that possesses physical form.” A fish is, of course, a discrete thing that possesses physical form. See generally Dr. Seuss, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish (1960).
So, it was all wit and sallies at the Supreme Court on Wednesday morning—except for John Yates, who came one vote away from facing up to 20 years in prison, and for grouper, which could soon go extinct due to overfishing. In the end, Yates turned out to be a startlingly close call for a case destined to become better known for fish jokes than for statutory interpretation.
Yes, that's wicked funny. But did anybody else notice this?
Stepping back from the words “tangible object” provides only further evidence that Congress said what it meant and meant what it said.
The Flag Frees
[South Portland High School] Senior class president Lily SanGiovanni sparked community outrage in January when she changed the way she invited students and faculty members to recite the pledge.“At this time,” SanGiovanni said over the intercom, “would you please rise and join me for the Pledge of Allegiance if you’d like to.”
It was the latest salvo in a monthslong effort by SanGiovanni and some of her friends to make it clear that reciting the pledge is optional under state and federal law, so students cannot be forced to stand and say it every morning. Although no students have filed formal complaints in recent years, SanGiovanni and her friends said they and other students have felt uncomfortable or pressured by their teachers to say it.
The addition of “if you’d like to” inflamed simmering opposition from staff members who had been wrestling with the pledge issue since June. It also triggered an emotional, anti-immigrant backlash in the community and left SanGiovanni and her friends searching for a way to carry their cause forward.
Schools never learn.
Indeed, Let's Close The Barn Door After The Horses Infect Us
We have a lot of work to do:
A bill that would make it more difficult for parents to avoid mandatory vaccinations for their children is unlikely to be debated this year. Legislative leaders say they have other, more pressing, priorities.
House Health Care Committee chairman Bill Lippert says the major focus of his panel this year is a bill that makes health care more affordable and more accessible to all Vermonters.
[Addison Sen. Claire Ayer, the chairwoman of the Senate Health Care committee] questions if it's a good idea to eliminate the religious exemption.
"I think we'd have to be in a real emergency state before we consider something like that,” she says.
Key lawmakers say the debate at the Statehouse could change dramatically if an outbreak of measles takes place in Vermont in the coming weeks.
Yeah, let's improve Vermonter's access to healthcare but not worry about mitigating preventable infections that cause dangerous health problems (not to mention drive up the costs of the access we're trying to improve). Why should we even bother when there's no such thing as jet, plane, or auto travel to Vermont from the places where there are already outbreaks?
Ohbytheway, people are getting sick.
Do Not Be Tempted By Possessions & Titles
We were witness to this event. We heard what needed to be done. There was actually a time, maybe this is still going on, when people consulted with the spirit world, the other world, on such occasions as the third month after birth. We collected the ingredients that would shape his destiny & began to assemble them. Much of them were from the river, the jungle, & of course, the cemetery. We heard what needed to
Ara Orun are hip to the images & subtle rhythms that stories & verses evoke. The same images & subtle rhythms running through our lives. Edikán said that barring some details of modernity, his life would follow a certain ancient story pertaining to the divination—
Ofun is like this/
Ofun ni jé bé—
The page continues to turn.The rhythm, the rhythm
will come from dreams.
It Has Earned My Veto
I am returning herewith without my approval S. 1, the "Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act." Through this bill, the United States Congress attempts to circumvent longstanding and proven processes for determining whether or not building and operating a cross-border pipeline serves the national interest.
The Presidential power to veto legislation is one I take seriously. But I also take seriously my responsibility to the American people. And because this act of Congress conflicts with established executive branch procedures and cuts short thorough consideration of issues that could bear on our national interest -- including our security, safety, and environment -- it has earned my veto.
Override that! And then impeach!
Angry Old White Man Shakes Fist At Lazy Black Hippies
Judgement Is Grim
But The Profit Motive Is Pure
President, Speaker of the House, Senate Majority Leader, Secretary of State, Prime Minster, and Falklands War correspondent Jonathan Gruber is accused of over-billing the Vermont government for his services. I’m sure the fact that the only person remotely associated with the ACA who ever said anything that could be construed as saying that tax credits would not be available on federally-established exchanges stood to reap financial benefits from states that established their own exchanges is just a massive coinky-dink. Gruber remains the only person not affiliated with the Cato Institute who can authoritatively determine the meaning of the statute.
And good on our Auditor. Doug's one of the few Democrats--certainly the only statewide office holder other that SecState Condos--to provide me with any reason to like the party these days.
[I]ndependence of the judges is...requisite to guard the Constitution and the rights of individuals from the effects of those ill humors, which the arts of designing men, or the influence of particular conjunctures, sometimes disseminate among the people themselves...
Happy birthday to the Right's least favorite SCOTUS ruling ever! Thanks to this part of Marbury:
It is emphatically the duty of the Judicial Department to say what the law is. Those who apply the rule to particular cases must, of necessity, expound and interpret the rule. If two laws conflict with each other, the Court must decide on the operation of each.
If courts are to regard the Constitution, and the Constitution is superior to any ordinary act of the legislature, the Constitution, and not such ordinary act, must govern the case to which they both apply.
From this I think flows much good in America. Other folks seem to believe the ruling enables "activist judges". They are, of course, wrong.
I certainly acknowledge that SCOTUS and the Judiciary are potential--in some cases, very real--threats to individual rights. But given Madison's fears of tyranny at the state level, which is very much more pronounced today, the Court has proven to be a significant firewall against the spread of some injustice. And the branch really is checked fairly easily when contrasted with the Imperial Presidency.
While the Judiciary is not democratic, that's part of the point. We've seen examples of direct democratic action in many states wherein the People in their collective wisdom voted to deny basic civil rights to their fellow citizens (and those denials are falling like dominoes, much to Scalia's chagrin).
The Court--even the Roberts Court--can mitigate problems of mob rule. Judicial review is a necessary power to check other branches and other levels of sovereignty to preserve liberty, and functions in concert with the other branches to foster working governance.
Review is also a logical component of the courts' role in our republican system, as I think the Framers really understood. While Justice Marshall might have made this more explicit than our Constitution--though he didn't use the phrase "judicial review" either--he didn't really assume any power the Court did not already possess.
When you look at the Council of Revision that was proposed which was proposed in Convention on June 4, 1787, you can really get the context. Basically it was a vetoing body that included the Executive and members of the Judiciary. Objections were raised from the start:
Mr. GERRY doubts whether the Judiciary ought to form a part of it, as they will have a sufficient check agst. encroachments on their own department by their exposition of the laws, which involved a power of deciding on their Constitutionality. In some States the Judges had actually set aside laws as being agst. the Constitution. This was done too with general approbation. It was quite foreign from the nature of ye. office to make them judges of the policy of public measures. He moves to postpone the clause...
Mr. KING seconds the motion, observing that the Judges ought to be able to expound the law as it should come before them, free from the bias of having participated in its formation.
When Madison later proposed having a Federal veto on State laws:
Mr. Govr. MORRIS was more & more opposed to the negative. The proposal of it would disgust all the States. A law that ought to be negatived will be set aside in the Judiciary departmt. and if that security should fail; may be repealed by a Nationl. law.
And when the Council was again debated:
Mr. L. MARTIN. [A]s to the Constitutionality of laws, that point will come before the Judges in their proper official character. In this character they have a negative on the laws. Join them with the Executive in the Revision and they will have a double negative. It is necessary that the Supreme Judiciary should have the confidence of the people.
Mr. RUTLIDGE thought the Judges of all men the most unfit to be concerned in the revisionary Council. The Judges ought never to give their opinion on a law till it comes before them. He thought it equally unnecessary.
Our government under the proposed confederation, will be guarded by a repetition of the strongest cautions against excesses. In the senate the sovereignties of the several states will be equally represented; in the house of representatives, the people of the whole union will be equally represented; and, in the president, and the federal independent judges, so much concerned...in the determination of [the laws'] constitutionality, the sovereignties of the several states and the people of the whole union, may be considered as conjointly represented.
A couple years after that, Madison said when he introduced the original Bill of Rights for consideration:
[I]ndependent tribunals of justice will consider themselves in a peculiar manner the guardians of those rights; they will be an impenetrable bulwark against every assumption of power in the legislative or executive; they will be naturally led to resist every encroachment upon rights expressly stipulated for in the constitution by the declaration of rights.
[The courts] will, in this elevated and independent situation attend to their duty--their honor and every sacred tie oblige them. Will they not attend to the constitution as well as your laws? The constitution will undoubtedly be their first rule; and so far as your laws conform to that, they will attend them, but no further.
The point being that "expounding" the law inherently involves deciding constitutional questions, and if the highest court in the land rules something is repugnant to the supreme law of the land, all lower courts have to follow suit. Then the other branches will have to figure out whether and how to respond (e.g., SCOTUS tossed out a flag burning ban, Congress tried again, lost again and gave up).
I have no love for Andrew Jackson (who is famously misquoted responding to Marshall's ruling in Worcester v Georgia regarding my Cherokee ancestors), but he was spot on with the message explaining his veto the Second Bank of the US:
The Congress, the Executive, and the Court must each for itself be guided by its own opinion of the Constitution. Each public officer who takes an oath to support the Constitution swears that he will support it as he understands it, and not as it is understood by others. It is as much the duty of the House of Representatives, of the Senate, and of the President to decide upon the constitutionality of any bill or resolution which may be presented to them for passage or approval as it is of the supreme judges when it may be brought before them for judicial decision. The opinion of the judges has no more authority over Congress than the opinion of Congress has over the judges, and on that point the President is independent of both. The authority of the Supreme Court must not, therefore, be permitted to control the Congress or the Executive when acting in their legislative capacities, but to have only such influence as the force of their reasoning may deserve.
We do tend to treat SCOTUS as the ultimate arbiter of constitutionality, but everybody is responsible for interpreting the supreme law as they execute their duties. And they all ought to be jealous of their powers. There is no final step, so even if SCOTUS strikes down, say...ACA tomorrow, that's not the end of the process of reforming healthcare.
I'm not wholly in the departmentalist camp, but checks and balances aren't supposed to be super easy. You can work to limit expansion of power in one arena, but it comes with a cost (political or otherwise). If it were too easy to stomp on another branch, we'd have no government. As Justice Jackson said:
While the Constitution diffuses power the better to secure liberty, it also contemplates that practice will integrate the dispersed powers into a workable government. It enjoins upon its branches separateness but interdependence, autonomy but reciprocity.
By themselves, yes, a handful of people with lifetime jobs in charge of our fate would be extremely dangerous. Fortunately, there are 2 other co-equal branches also doing their jobs. On the flip side, I'm glad that those other departments don't have the final word, either.
Zardok The Priest
For Lack Of The Traveller
I love roads:The goddesses that dwellFar along invisibleAre my favorite gods.Roads go onWhile we forget, and areForgotten like a starThat shoots and is gone.
Obama Was Asking For It...
...looking like he does:
This is the dumbest shit ever. The idea that the President Obama is partly to blame for the confusion over his religious faith isridiculous. While Andrew Jackson was our first Trinitarian president, and he only converted after leaving the White House, we have never had any president who professed to believe in any religion other than Christianity or its unitarian offshoots. If we elected a Buddhist or a Jew or a Hindu or a Muslim or a Mormon, everyone would know about it.
If you asked people what religion George W. Bush was, most people would think you were asking whether he was Methodist or Baptist or Episcopalian or Catholic, not whether he was secretly practicing druid rites on the White House lawn in the middle of the night.
People know that Kennedy was Catholic, but most probably can't identify the correct Protestant sect of our 20th-Century presidents. They just know that they were Christians.
If only Obama had held a press conference about his not being a Muslim so nobody would be confused.
Char Gar Marathon
Accept No Imitation
Didn't watch, but this sounds good:
Graham Moore won Best Adapted Screenplay for "The Imitation Game" at Sunday's Oscars, and he used the win to give a powerful speech about suicide awareness and depression.
"I tried to commit suicide at 16 and now I'm standing here," he said. "I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she doesn’t fit in anywhere. You do. Stay weird. Stay different, and then when it's your turn and you are standing on this stage please pass the same message along."
Speaking of which:
Relatives of wartime codebreaker Alan Turing, subject of Oscar-winning film “The Imitation Game”, will on Monday hand in a petition calling for the pardoning of 49,000 men prosecuted like him for homosexuality.
Nearly half a million people signed the petition via website Change.org.
Turing’s great-nephew Nevil Hunt, his great-niece Rachel Barnes and her son Thomas, are scheduled to deliver the petition to 10 Downing Street.
About damned time.
Play It Again, Russell
The People Power Revolution
Movements frequently gather steam in the wake of violent repression. People were galvanized, rather than cowed, by the Boston Massacre, the Amritsar Massacre, and even the Kent State Massacre. Neither Ninoy Aquino's assassination in 1983 nor the Escalante Massacre in 1985 stemmed a rebellious tide in the Philippines that began on February 22, 1986:
The overthrow of the Marcos dictatorship remains one of the world's more remarkable nonviolent uprisings. Despite more than a dozen similar successful movements during the subsequent years in South Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe, the Philippine "people power" revolution remains one of the most impressive in terms of the numbers of people involved, the level of nonviolent discipline and the way it capture the imagination of observers around the world.
President Ferdinand Marcos, who had ruled under dictatorial powers since 1972, had ordered a snap election in February 1986 as a means of legitimizing his control. When it became apparent that the election had effectively been stolen, the opposition called for a massive campaign of civil disobedience. However, in the international media, quotes were placed around the word "nonviolent," implying a dubious assessment, or at the least a skeptical outlook, of the strategy or its significance.
Even after Marcos fled, there was difficulty in the foreign press in describing exactly what happened. An editorial in Asiaweek noted that "political scientists will have to come up with new words to describe the four-days' wonder that convulsed Manilia...the whole phenomenon...fits no standard category." Similarly, on the left, there was widespread skepticism over the prospects of success, prompting Cory Aquino to state that "Those who are prepared to support armed struggles for liberation elsewhere discredit themselves if they obscure the nature of what we are doing peacefully here."
The Filipinos could have reacted completely passively, just accepting the old dictatorship and the games Marcos played in stealing the snap election. Or they could have opted for violence. Instead, they doubled their chance of victory by resisting nonviolently:
Our findings [using data on major resistance campaigns from 1900 to 2006] show that major nonviolent campaigns have achieved success 53 percent of the time, compared with 26 percent for violent resistance campaigns.
There are two reasons for this success. First, a campaign’s commitment to nonviolent methods enhances its domestic and international legitimacy and encourages more broad-based participation in the resistance, which translates into increased pressure being brought to bear on the target. Recognition of the challenge group’s grievances can translate into greater internal and
external support for that group and alienation of the target regime, undermining the regime’s main sources of political, economic, and even military power.
Second, whereas governments easily justify violent counterattacks against armed insurgents, regime violence against nonviolent movements is more likely to backªre against the regime. Potentially sympathetic publics perceive violent militants as having maximalist or extremist goals beyond accommodation, but they perceive nonviolent resistance groups as less extreme, thereby enhancing their appeal and facilitating the extraction of concessions through bargaining...We assert that nonviolent resistance is a forceful alternative to political violence that can pose effective challenges to democratic and nondemocratic opponents...
There is never a guarantee of success in any endeavor, nor is there such a thing as a risk-free revolution. Yet I'd rather use a combination of the 198 different NV tactics cataloged by Gene Sharp as part of a strategic nonviolence campaign than picking up the proverbial pitchforks and torches.
Just look at the odds. Violence dramatically favors the house. If you if you go with nonviolence most of the time you beat the house and walk away from the table much, much richer.
Grave Suspicion Of Heresy
On February 22, 1632, Galileo delivered his book Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems to his patron. That caused him a spot of bother.
The Church taught our planet was center of Creation. Some other folks learned that wasn't the case. But when we consider Galileo's getting into trouble for defending the Copernican model, what's the reality: the fact that the Earth orbits the Sun; or that the Church was powerful and had its own interests at stake?
I'm reminded of Wittgenstein:
There are certain cognitive errors which are, so to speak, errors of perspective. That is, the way something looks from a certain place is said to be a direct property of the object itself. ‘How it appears from a certain place’ is, nonetheless, also of interest in its own right and belongs to what is sometimes called ‘the reality of the appearance’. That something does appear this way to us is not just an accident, but necessary within our particular situation. The appearance is a symptom of - and an implicit commentary on - the world to which it appears.
Anyways...I merely wanted to relay to you the following Wittgenstein anecdote.
W. and his companion are on a stroll through Cambridge.
‘I’ve always wondered why’, says W., ‘for so long people thought that the Sun revolved around the Earth.’
‘Why?’ said his surprised interlocutor, ‘well, I suppose it just looks that way’
‘Hmm’, retorted W. ‘and what would it look like if the Earth revolved around the Sun?’.
Perception is reality. So it's sad when I read people seriously suggest we should offend religion more (while getting basic facts wrong), like that will solve anything. Doesn't seem very scientific or humane.
But what's of greater interest to me--in light of recent debates over global warming, evolution, who is or isn't a Christian, etc--is Galileo's 1615 Letter to Madame Christina of Lorraine, wherein he argues that science and faith are not mutually exclusive (whilst getting some digs in at his critics):
[T]hey make a shield of their hypocritical zeal for religion. They go about invoking the Bible, which they would have minister to their deceitful purposes. Contrary to the sense of the Bible and the intention of the holy Fathers, if I am not mistaken, they would extend such authorities until even in purely physical matters—where faith is not involved—they would have us altogether abandon reason and the evidence of our senses in favor of some biblical passage.
But I do not feel obliged to believe that that same God who has endowed us with senses, reason, and intellect has intended to forgo their use and by some other means to give us knowledge which we can attain by them. He would not require us to deny sense and reason in physical matters which are set before our eyes and minds by direct experience or necessary demonstrations.
I would say here something that was heard from an ecclesiastic of the most eminent degree [the Venerable Caesar, Cardinal Baronius]: “That the intention of the Holy Ghost is to teach us how one goes to heaven, not how heaven goes.”
What would it look like if more people--theists and atheists alike--took that to heart, instead of seeking out heresy everywhere.
Speaking Of Stupid Treatment Of Religious Violence
And speaking of RMJ:
There is a relationship between violence and religion, and it does not good to ignore it. I understand the Bhagavad Gita is presented as a vision that comes in the midst of an epic battle. The Hebrew and Christian scriptures include many descriptions of violence, both real and imaginary, between Genesis and the Apocalypse to John. And the Koran admits violence as well as peace. Quelle surprise? Is human history bereft of violence where religious practices do not exist? And where, pray tell, is that?
But to even ask that question is to engage in the debate; and I don't want to do that. It is a pointless debate, going nowhere and meant to go nowhere; because it isn't a debate. It is an accusation, an insult hurled out in hopes of getting a response to prove, "A-HA! You see! They ARE violent! See how violently they respond?!"
Which was, of course, precisely why Dr. King trained his followers in non-violence. Funny nobody ever brings up the Civil Rights movement in this context, or the liberation of India by Gandhi. Dr. King's pastorate is ignored, and we are all told what Gandhi accomplished was only because the British were not Stalin. Both dismissals are racists and hegemonic in their nature: no one observes that the Russians are not the Indians (who suffered a great deal for their liberation, and who knows might have suffered more? They proved no government can govern those who will not cooperate.), because the latter are not deemed European. And any acknowledgment of the church and the SCLC (the Southern Christian Leadership Conference) in the Civil Rights movement is usually allowed only if you emphasize the community structure the black churches provided to the movement; the spirituality that undergirded that community cannot be acknowledged at all.
I'll just note that often people who dismiss nonviolence against powerful regimes because Gandhi was lucky that the British were so nice also tend to dismiss nonviolence today because it isn't the 60s so that shit'll never work Just as ignorant as any dismissal of religious components in the movements they were involved in.
Just Watch Out For Quaker Terrorists
Besides being generally hateful and stupid, this Salon piece makes an astonishing claim:
Notwithstanding logic and the damage done to our prospects for self-preservation, we avoid frank talk about Islam – the main faith today inspiring terrorism.
It's wrong on a number of levels. Shocking, given how really smart Salon writers (and commenters) are about religious issues generally (right, RMJ and Anthony?).
Long Have I Known A Glory In It All
O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!Thy winds, thy wide grey skies!Thy mists, that roll and rise!Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sagAnd all but cry with colour! That gaunt cragTo crush! To lift the lean of that black bluff!World, World, I cannot get thee close enough!
Edna St. Vincent Millay.
Andrés Segovia Plays Bach
As Easily Distinguishable As Diamonds In A Dunghill
Die, heretic scum!
Redstate.com editor Erick Erickson went a bit further than Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) on Saturday, casting doubt as to whether President Barack Obama is a Christian.
I don’t think Barack Obama is a Christian. He certainly is not one in any meaningful way.
[Erickson's] comments followed The Washington Post reporting that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) said he didn’t know if Obama is a Christian.
FTR, I don't doubt Obama is a Christian. And once again: I don't fucking care if he is or not.
On the one hand, I find it interesting that Americans who profess a love of the Constitution would even try to impose even an unofficial religious test. But again, it's part and parcel of American political tradition.
F'rinstance, here's Presbyterian minister John Mitchell Mason warning Christians in 1800:
I dread the election of Mr. Jefferson, because I believe him to be a confirmed infidel: you desire it, because, while he is politically acceptable, you either doubt this fact, or do not consider it essential.
And Alexander Hamilton pleaded with New York Governor John Jay to change the rules to game how Electors were chosen:
I shall not be supposed to mean that any thing ought to be done which integrity will forbid—but merely that the scruples of delicacy and propriety, as relative to a common course of things, ought to yield to the extraordinary nature of the crisis. They ought not to hinder the taking of a legal and constitutional step, to prevent an Atheist in Religion and a Fanatic in politics from getting possession of the helm of the State.
Regardless, no true Christian would do what Obama does, amirite?
An Artificial Wilderness And A Sky Like Lead
Out of the air a voice without a face
Proved by statistics that some cause was just
In tones as dry and level as the place:
No one was cheered and nothing was discussed;
Column by column in a cloud of dust
They marched away enduring a belief
Whose logic brought them, somewhere else, to grief.
Fifteen Million Merits
Apropos of The Age of Acquiescence, I am also reminded of an episode of Black Mirror:
A satire on entertainment shows and our insatiable thirst for distraction set in a future dystopia, we are shown that most citizens make a living pedaling exercise bikes all day in order to generate power for their environment while earning a virtual currency called "merits". They dwell in small, single-person cells which afford little to no space for material possessions. However, the cell walls consist entirely of interactive display panels, so this society spends their disposable income on the consumption of entertainment and other digitized products. Throughout the day, mandatory advertisements are targeted at individuals. They cannot be dismissed or looked away from without incurring a fee. Those physically unfit to meet pedaling quotas are second-class citizens and are relegated to servile positions, working as cleaners around the machines (where they are objects of abuse), humiliated on obesity-themed game shows, and simulated as virtual targets to be gunned down in first-person shooter video games.
It's streaming on Netflix, but you can also watch it on YouTube...
Climate Versus Weather Redux
Yes, local weather can be cold--even colder than usual--in some places at some times even with global climate change. In fact, it's that way because of global warming. Same with droughts. Climate drives weather, but is not the same thing. Duh.
A Century Of Self Has Harmed Our Selves
Reading about The Age of Acquiescence: The Life and Death of American Resistance to Organized Wealth and Power at LGM, reminds me of this post of mine and this post of Anthony's. What's the real opiate of the masses? You and I are kinda using it right now...
Adam Smith And I Want A Threesome With The Post Office
[The Post Office] is perhaps the only mercantile project which has been successfully managed by, I believe, every sort of government.
- Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations (Book V, Ch 2)
The Post Office has been around since before we had even declared independence--with Ben Franklin made the first Postmaster General--showing just how important communication in general and the postal service in particular is. The Articles Congress passed An Ordinance for Regulating the Post-Office of the United States of America in 1782.
Once the US Congress ramped up under our Constitution in 1789, the House wanted to continue the existing regime:
[U]ntil further provision be made by law, the General Post Office of the United States shall be conducted according to the rules and regulations prescribed: by the ordinances and resolutions of the late Congress, and that contracts be made for the conveyance of the mail in conformity thereto...
But the Senate had other ideas, and on September 11:
Mr. Butler, in behalf of the committee appointed on the tenth of September, on the resolve of the House of Representatives, providing for the regulation of the post of flee, reported, not to concur in the resolve, and a bill upon the subject matter thereof;
And, on the question of concurrence in the resolve of the House of Representatives:
It passed in the negative.
Ordered, That the bill, entitled "An act for the temporary establishment of the post office," have the first reading at this time.
It's not apparent from the record how much, if any, debate there was on the bill. It zipped through the Senate, and was passed even more rapidly by the House. The act was extremely brief and its operation was limited through the next session, though it had to be renewed the following August, and again in March after that (when service was also extended to Bennington in the new state of Vermont!). It appears the Legislative branch has always had difficulty addressing some issues and needed to extend "temporary" solutions time and again.
Anyway, Congress put the Post Office under the Executive branch, which makes sense. What they didn't do was provide the department much power except basically making contracts for transport of the mail. The further expansion of the system, and delegation of authority to do so, was an unresolved constitutional question. Because, you know, it is the Legislative branch who was granted this power in Article I, Section 8: To establish Post Offices and Post Roads.
Which brings us to the Second Congress. President Washington lit a fire under legislators on October 25, 1791:
I shall content myself with a general reference to former communications for several objects, upon which the urgency of other affairs has hitherto postponed any definitive resolution. Their importance will recal them to your attention; and, I trust, that the progress already made in the most arduous arrangements of the government will afford you leisure to resume them with advantage.
There are, however, some of them of which I cannot forbear a more particular mention. These are: the militia; the post-office and post roads; the mint; weights and measures; a provision for the sale of the vacant lands of the United States.
The importance of the post-office and post reads, on a plan sufficiently liberal and comprehensive, as they respect the expedition, safety, and facility of communication, is increased by their instrumentality in diffusing a knowledge of the laws and proceedings of the government; which, while it contributes to the security of the people, serves also to guard them against the effects of misrepresentation and misconception. The establishment of additional cross posts, especially to some of the important points in the western and northern parts of the Union, cannot fail to be of material utility.
So the House finally got to work in earnest on December 6. Mr Sedgwick started things off with a motion to have the president establish postal routes, as opposed to Congress' specifying each road in legislation. There was objection:
Mr Livermore observed that the Legislative body being empowered by the Constitution "to establish post offices and post roads," it is as clearly their duty to designate the roads as to establish the offices; and he did not think they could with propriety delegate that power, which they were themselves appointed to exercise. Some gentlemen, he knew, were of opinion that the business of the United States could be better transacted by a single person than by many; but this was not the intention of the Constitution.
It was provided that the Government should be administered by Representatives, of the people's choice; so that every man, who has the right of voting, shall be in some measure concerned in making every law for the United States. The establishment of post roads he considered as a very important object; but he did not wish to see them so diffused as to become a heavy charge where the advantage resulting from them would be but small; nor, on the other hand, for the sake of bringing a revenue into the Treasury, consent to straiten them so as to check the progress of information.
If the post office were to be regulated by the will of a single person, the dissemination of intelligence might be impeded, and the people kept entirely in the dark with respect to the transactions of Government; or the Postmaster, if vested with the whole power, might branch out the offices to such a degree as to make them prove a heavy burden to the United States.
Mr Sedgwick felt himself by no means disposed to resign all the business of the House to the President, or to any one else; but he thought that the Executive part of the business ought to be left to Executive officers. He did not, for his part, know the particular circumstances of population, geography, &c., which had been taken into the calculation by the select committee, when they pointed out the roads delineated in the bill; but he would ask, whether they understood the subject so thoroughly as the Executive officer would, who being responsible to the people for the proper discharge of the trust reposed in him, must use his utmost diligence in order to a satisfactory execution of the delegated power?
As to the constitutionality of this delegation, it was admitted by the committee themselves who brought in the bill; for if the power was altogether indelegable, no part of it could be delegated; and if a part of it could, he saw no reason why the whole could not. The second section was as unconstitutional as the first, for it is there said, that "it shall be lawful for the Postmaster General to establish such other roads as post roads, as to him may seem necessary."
Congress, he observed, are authorized not only to establish post offices and post roads, but also to borrow money; but is it understood that Congress are to go in a body to borrow every sum that may be requisite? Is it not rather their office to determine the principle on which the business is to be conducted, and then delegate the power of carrying their resolves into execution? They are also empowered to coin money, and if no part of their power be delegable, he did not know but they might be obliged to turn coiners, and work in the Mint themselves.
At the heart of discussion wasn't just whether Congress could delegate such power, but was it even a good idea? Was the USPS a business, in essence, that should be run super efficiently with substantial executive discretion and maybe even generate some revenue for the national government? Or was it really an essential public service that needed to be more responsive to the needs of the People and thus required very particular oversight by their representatives in the legislature?
Finally, a bill with about 50 lines of designated postal routes was delivered to the Senate on January 10, 1792. Senators nitpicked, then the chambers came to agreement and Washington signed the rather expansive bill into law on this date.
But good on the people who want to destroy the Constitution's 222-year old (or older) institution, rather than trying to make it more responsive and useful to Americans.
PS--Completely reposting this bitch because yeah.
So Much For 'No Religious Test'
Resolved, That the third section of the sixth article ought to be amended, by inserting the word "other" between the words "no" and "religious."
- South Carolina ratification of US Constitution, May 23, 1788
Judicial Watch founder and right-wing legal activist Larry Klayman, ladies and gentlemen:
“Given the fact that the president is a Muslim at heart and half-Muslim by birth, he can’t even swear to the Constitution because you have to swear on the Holy Bible of Judeo-Christians,” he explained. “This president obviously believes in Sharia law, and as a result he has no respect for this Constitution, which was founded by our founding fathers under Judeo-Christian principles.”
But who the fuck cares? Even Mahometans can serve their beloved country, as the Framers had intended. Says so in the Constitution that Obama upholds.
Bless The Pauls' Heart
Zandar brings our attention to this gem:
It’s getting progressively more and more difficult for Sen. Rand Paul to ignore his father’s osmium-density baggage.
Former Republican presidential candidate and congressman Ron Paul says secession is happening and it’s “good news.” Paul later predicted the states would stop listening to federal laws.
“I would like to start off by talking about the subject and the subject is secession and, uh, nullification, the breaking up of government, and the good news is it’s gonna happen. It’s happening,” Paul, the father of potential Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul, told a gathering at the libertarian Mises Institute in late January. The event Paul was speaking at was titled “Breaking Away: The Case for Secession.”
Paul said secession would not be legislated by Congress, but would be de facto, predicting “when conditions break down…there’s gonna be an alternative.”
“And it’s not gonna be because there will be enough people in the U.S. Congress to legislate it. It won’t happen. It will be de facto. You know, you’ll have a gold standard when the paper standard fails, and we’re getting awfully close to that. And people will have to resort to taking care of themselves. So when conditions break down, you know, there’s gonna be an alternative. And I think that’s what we’re witnessing.”
Like the Walking Dead, only with Bitcoin and weed.
PS--"Secession [will] not be legislated by Congress." No shit?