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26.May 2022 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Dealing responsibly with the [most recent] tragedy Permalink to this item

Not going to link to George Rasley's original on ConservativeHQ, but you could look it up by his name, and the headline: Texas Mayor Says Beto O'Rourke a "sick son of a bitch." Rasley thought that was "the most colorful response."

The mayor of Uvalde, is relevant. Rasley's blog post is about the dramatic confrontation in a news conference in which Texas' governor and other dignitaries were offering up their thoughts and prayers, presumably, when O'Rourke "charged toward the stage" to call out those officials' complicity in our culture of violence.

“You are doing nothing," O'Rourke shouted. "You are offering up nothing. You said this was not predictable. This was totally predictable when you choose not to do anything."

The most remarkable seven words of the piece are in the setup for the money quote (after the inestimable Ted Cruz and Texas' Lt. Gov. had their blurts, before Uvalde's mayor), between em-dashes:

And, as The Texas Tribune’s Patrick Svitek reported, the elected officials in the room—who are dealing responsibly with the tragedy—were underwhelmed by Beto’s publicity-seeking outburst...

After gleefully quoting the headlining epithet, The Rasley/conservative response is "what? What can we do?" This latest mass killing is just another one-off, a bulied "known wolf" [sic] gone rogue (who one time posted a picture of himself wearing black eyeliner).

"The bottom line is just as eliminating cars would end traffic deaths, confiscating all guns would surely end what Leftists call “gun violence,” but it would also be a clear violation of the Constitution and the natural right to self-defense the Constitution protects."

Yes, that "clear violation" established by the NRA and an activist Supreme Court so long ago some of us can pretend to hardly remember.

Not mentioned in the story is how the Known Wolf waited until his 18th birthday to buy the guns and ammo he used. What if, I don't know, he'd had to wait until he was 21 to do that legally? Maybe that would have given us some time to "plug some holes in the mental health and criminal justice systems."

The AP report, Beto O’Rourke interrupts briefing, echoing US debate on guns, is more even-handed, and useful then Rasley's diatribe. For one thing, we learn that Texas has done something about gun violence in recent years:

"Tuesday’s mass shooting in the small town west of San Antonio was just the latest to occur in Texas in recent years. After a gunman killed 23 people in a racist 2019 attack that targeted Hispanics at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas lawmakers loosened gun laws.... [Abbot] and other GOP officials said the proper place to focus is on mental health and “hardening schools,” or making them more secure, rather than on restricting guns."

Hardening schools. Wasn't there talk about arming teachers too? Of course there was. We just need more guns! Abbot pointed fingers at Chicago, New York and California, to claim that their gun laws were ineffective. Based on... what he hears in the fake media? What the real media said:

"California and New York consistently register lower rates of firearms deaths than Texas, and have among the lowest per capita rates of firearms deaths in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even with the violence in Chicago that Abbott cites, Illinois too posts a lower firearms death rate than Texas."

One blog post worth a read (and link) is Dartagnan's, on Daily Kos: The Gun God is not accustomed to having its sacrifices questioned. The photo of the finger-pointing is perfect, and oh, the wind-up of Wednesday's scene:

"...O’Rourke unexpectedly intruded into the very temple of the god, the inner sanctum where the high priests of the gun cult — call it Moloch if you want — gathered to perform their ritualistic rending of their robes as they bemoan the loss of life and offer platitudes designed to appease their Deity. Flanked by burly sheriffs and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott presided solemnly over this most sacred of catechisms, their faces all a study in concern. The shocking appearance of O’Rourke impugning their holy mission seemed, at least momentarily, to disturb their assembly, and he was roughly ushered out so the ceremony could proceed, the syllables could be muttered and the event consigned to the endless, fickle memory hole always left in the wake of the media’s next news cycle."

25.May 2022 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Remembering Alan Place Permalink to this item

The Spring 2022 newsletter from the Mechanical Engineering department of my alma mater included an item about "Three Pillars" of department set to retire this summer, and I looked to see that none of their names were familiar; they'd all started after I was done and dusted. But on the back page, there was a name and face I did recognize: Alan Place. He tought at the University of Idaho for 3 decades, and I caught him for ME-261 Engineering Materials a third of his way through, in the spring of 1981. His three colleagues remember him fondly, as "an outstanding, knowledgeable, and organized educator."

Photo of T. Alan Place

His pedagogy was memorable to me too, and I pulled out my folder of 40-year old class notes, and graded problem sets to have another look. There was a lot of important knowledge to impart in the space of a few months. Opening day, he offered his "quick copy notes" for 5¢ a page, "avail. before exams," for about $4 in total. It seems I preferred my own note-taking, and wrote 60 pages in pen, and then (in order to use both sides of the thin paper) pencil. Lots of vocabulary and diagrams. Not as many complete sentences as I'd like to see now. The Structure of Solids, classes of lattices, terminology of crystal structures and so on. Silicates, organic polymers, and then on to defects and imperfections, vacancies, interstitials, dislocations, grain boundaries, and the mother lode of Mechanical Properties. Elasticity. Anisotropy. Hysteresis, plasticity, flow, strain hardening, cold work, recrystallization, hot work, viscosity and viscoelasticity, creep, hardness, fracture.

Fracture was his wheelhouse. "A 90° corner is a crack," he taught us, illustrated with the story of the square cornered windows in early, high-flying, jet aircraft that disintegrated mid-flight. "RADIUS EVERYTHING IN THE UNIVERSE," he commanded of his mechanical engineering pupils.

In that image for the newsletter, he looks like a happy man, passionate about running, and the environment. His obituary in the Moscow-Pullman Daily News quotes a fellow runner who recalled him as "vigorous in body, spirit, and wit."

An avid skier, badminton player, hiker, bicyclist, "he played an integral role in the establishment and expansion of the Rails-to-Trails network in the Moscow-Pullman area and was an organizer of such events as the Moscow Mountain Madness run.... His nephews recall Alan teaching them to skip stones on the Clearwater..." And another love we shared: "[Alan] developed a fondness for trains at a young age. As a boy he was a “loco-spotter” in Northern England and documented his railway sightings." "He supported the national parks, Sierra Club, Latah Trail Foundation and many environmental organizations throughout his life. He was a lifelong avid proponent of recycling. Although a scientist, Alan had a very artistic side...." I'm sorry I only got to enjoy all that for one semester.

Excerpt of p.38 (reverse) of my ME261 notes

Let us prey Permalink to this item

Growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, I remember some shootings. The guy in the tower at the University of Texas arrested the country's attention. Kent State. That's kind of the whole list out of my recollection, even though when I look it up, I see there were plenty more. Those two off the top of my head were both "school" shootings. Universities. No whiff of gun danger ever impinged on my elementary school, or high school, or the colleges I went to. There would have been news, but about distant places I didn't know.

Then Columbine, in 1999. 15 dead, 24 others injured. We used to tally by the decade. Now we need to do it year by year. 2012, for example, was a hell of a year. Sandy Hook, in Newtown, Connecticut. NPR reports that of the 212 mass shootings this year counted by the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 27 school shootings with injuries or deaths. This year.

Jennifer Bendery wrote a piece headlined "Despite Mass Shootings, Republicans Still Won't Touch Gun Laws." Seven years ago.

Is there a level of violence that would cause you to reconsider your opposition to gun control bills?

A mass shooting every week?

Another attack on an elementary school, in your state?

I spent a day asking GOP senators these questions. They all gave excuses for doing nothing.

— Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) May 25, 2022

We're not quite 21 weeks into this year, and we've had an average of ten mass shootings a week. More than one school shooting every week. I didn't happen to see anyone quoted saying it was "too soon" to talk about a response to the latest mayhem (as it was last time, last year, the year before, the year before that, ad nauseum), but it's never too soon for "thoughts and prayers." The inestimable Senator Ted Cruz said he and his wife were "fervently lifting up in prayer the children and families" in Uvalde, Texas.

Remember how dark and barbaric you thought human sacrifice was when you first heard about it? We're still trying to come to terms with the Mayan practice, obvlivious to how much darker and barbaric we've become. They "valued life highly, according to their religion" it says there. They were Pro-life! Since they believed in an afterlife, it wasn't murder so much as a promotion. For a special occasion. A "truly holy act" for the dedication of a building perhaps, or "the ends or beginnings of warfare," or the accession of a new ruler.

Do you put yourself in the shoes of conquistador Hernán Cortés witnessing a grisly Aztec ceremony, or do you fancy yourself one of the priests with an obsidian blade and fervently lifting up a still-beating heart to the gods?

"Leader" McConnell (and others) echoed the basic talking points. It's "horrified and heartbroken" this time. (Helpless would have fit the alliteration well, too.) Praying. Thank you first responders, those who who see and smell and touch the blood of children and teachers and perpetrators as it waters the trees of our liberty.

Update: After the history in HCR's daily, she has a link to this powerful testimony from basketball great Steve Kerr. If you hven't seen it, you should take a look.

24.May 2022 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Hack and a quack Permalink to this item

Central District Health removes face mask recommendations from its website, with an anti-government extremist and an anti-vax pathologist leading the way.

Raúl Labrador, former immigration lawyer, former "Freedom Caucus" member in the US House, who came home to run for Governor, and lost, in part because of his infamous assessment that "Nobody dies because they don't have access to health care," is now running for Attorney General. And serving on the Central District Health Board for the state's most populous county, and three not so populous counties. (Because neither of Ada County's commissioners wanted to be bothered with service.)

Idaho's 7 public health districts' map

"I believe in freedom," Labrador said at the most recent meeting, to introduce his willfully ignorant take on "science." "I think the data is negligible at best on, on the effects" of masking, he said. This is an astounding devolution of the technological progress of the last two centuries.

You can watch the discussion in the CDH meeting on YouTube if you've got the stomach for it. (Link starts at the point masks come up.) Labrador says he wants the district health board to "remain silent" and let the parents decide, based on whatever they like. Whatever they believe. He thinks a recommendation from the board would be "a crutch." Another board member pipes up to recount some of our history, and that's even more mind-blowing.

"...but I think we've gotten through it now to where everybody has been very well educated" [Labrador nods his whole body, rocking in his chair] "and they can, they can claim any kind of thing they want, one side or the other of the argument, but I think we just need to watch what happens at hospitals, and then, if it gets bad again, like it did in 1920 [sic], then we, then we can have to meet again and discuss making it more strong, stronger."

He meant 2020, of course, but there's a déjà vu feel about this Idaho Republican model of "education," as if we were just out of WWI. Freedom! But just removing "advice to people" isn't enough for Labrador. "People don't understand 'recommendation' versus everything else." He says CDH recommendations are taken as "rules," a claim that could—if any one cared about integrity, or facts—be disproven. Credit where due: he certainly proves his point about "people." They're the worst.

His argument is against expertise, in its entirety. Because of what he imagines "comports with the science."

Then Ryan Cole pipes up, remote from "a meeting in London," no doubt another leg of his tireless anti-vax grifting campaign. (Who is funding his campaign?) He agrees with Raúl, "especially with the masking issue" that he falsely claims has science that says "it never has worked, and never will work."

"The science is clearly, clearly established that, uh, the risk-benefit, the risks are much higher for these children for emotional, social development, learning development, etc."

Unadulterated hogwash. Cole ups the ante on Labrador's "people take recommendations as rules" to "gospel, law." "That's my two cents' worth in terms of commentary." Worth both pennies we paid for it, except he probably billed $200 for "professional services."

Cole is not just a pathologist, he is a straight-up one man pathology. The reports of his misbehavior and falsehoods sound criminal. The best case would be that he's just a colossally incompentent con man, enabled by Republican lowlifes. Cole should have had his medical credentials stripped for cause a long time ago. Not only has that not happened, he remains in place as the sole medical professional on the health board. (By administrative design; we want to ensure we don't give too much weight to the medical profession. On our district health board.) Along with the anti-masking, the latest in anti-vax:

"This is a dangerous gene-based shot," said Cole. "That is not a vaccine. We cannot scientifically recommend this to anybody. I mean, I am adamant about this. This is the hill I will die on."

He could be right about that, at least. The CDH board is going to put anti-vax on the agenda for their next meeting, three months from now. Alf, is that the other guy in the room's name? Following Cole's 2¢, he expresses this concern:

"I understand where you guys are coming from because I s-[audio glitch] how they can see recommendations as rules, and it's really kind of ridiculous, but what I'm concerned about is losing our... not authority, but our, our credentials, our reputation, as a health organization if we don't have any kind of recommendations for coronavirus..."

Labrador responds with the lost word: credibility. "That credibility has already been lost," Labrador says, stopped-clock accurately assessing the shambles of our district health board, thanks to his and Ryan Cole's assiduous sabotage.

There's another hour of CDH meeting. I needed to lower my blood pressure, and bailed out before the end of minute 47. Good luck if you go further.

21.May 2022 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Which side of history is the right one? Permalink to this item

Just after I climbed into bed last night, there was an enormous explosion a few miles away. A lot bigger than a squirrel committing suicide by transformer. I rolled over to see the plug-in clock still had numbers, so it hadn't taken our power out. I fell asleep without hearing any more booms, sirens, etc., thinking (not for the first time) how fortunate we are that we don't live in a war zone.

There aren't any reporters in Boise to cover such a minor incident these days. No police blotter, and I'm not on NextDoor to hear from the people who were closest to it, who must have been mightily shook.

It wasn't that long ago that we witnessed the decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq, as George W. Bush just confessed, awkwardly. From Tamara Qiblawi's "Meanwhile in the Middle East" newsletter:

"As in Ukraine, the war in Iraq wreaked death and destruction across the country.

"But unlike Ukraine, where Putin's brutal invasion was met with Western outrage and skepticism of Russia's narrative, the Western mainstream media had few scruples about reproducing the Bush administration's WMD allegations about Iraq, paving the way for that country's invasion.

"A brutal dictator was removed from power in Iraq in a war that critics said was more about oil than WMD. The Arab world continues to suffer the consequences of that botched war to this day, and the grievances are alive and well."

Unlike the former guy, President Joe Biden has taken his time to pal up with MBS, but that CNN piece goes on to talk about a confab in the works "as soon as next month." Our love of cheap gas has overcome many a moral scruple.

Speaking of unscrupulous former guys, the one notorious for all sorts of things, especially avoiding accountability for high crimes and misdemeanors and his inability to testify truthfully about anything of substance, had a super power of just about never writing anything down, beyond his spastic signature and the occasional hurricane rerouting. If we can believe John Eastman (ha ha), the pile of documents Eastman wants to keep secret from the January 6 committee includes two that have "hand-written notes from former President Trump about information that he thought might be useful for the anticipated litigation" to overturn the 2020 election and give him and his family another four years of grifting.

HCR's latest daily leads with Eastman's just-filed 50 page brief, "a litany of grievances against the court," as she put it, arguing that he "should be able to hide documents associated with the attempt to overturn the 2020 election on the grounds that he was working for former president Trump and so their communications are protected by attorney-client privilege."

But oh. He thus admits "there is written evidence that Trump himself was directly involved in the plotting to overturn the election." Eastman also provides a section arguing that the Crime Fraud Exception Is Inapplicable For The Documents Still In Dispute, subhead (a) "The Court’s Previous Crime Fraud Finding Does Not Apply to the Current In Camera Documents." Under that XI. a., we are reminded by Dr. Eastman (with my emphasis, not his):

"In its March 28 order, this Court found that Dr. Eastman and former President Trump had more likely than not violated two federal criminal statutes by conspiring to obstruct the joint session of [C]ongress."

+rumpian revision of NWS Hurricane Dorian forecast

19.May 2022 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Who let the dogs out? Permalink to this item

Mercifully, Bar and Poppy did not live to see their boy drop the Freudian slip of the century yesterday (more like Freudian Confession, John Fugelsang put it), took his eyes off the script at the wrong moment and gave away the plot. "75," he added by way of explanation. He's 75 years old now. It's been a hard 20-some years since his pals rigged the election that wedged him into office. With friends like a third of the Supreme Court now who needs enemies?

Nobody in the audience pulled off a shoe and heaved it up at the dias; now that would've been funny. It did give an opening for our next gen failson to pop off about being "honest and critical about himself," hammering the very last nail in Irony's coffin.

It’s not a mistake. His conscience knows what he did. The Dead hear.

— Michael Moore (@MMFlint) May 19, 2022

17.May 2022 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Yet another tipping point election Permalink to this item

Here's something you don't see every day: a Black woman shilling for the fascists. Kathy Barnette's delusion is strong, running for the Senate in Pennsylvania. The apocalyptic language caught my eye:

In a since-deleted tweet from the day before the Capitol riot, Barnette boasted of her upcoming attendance at the rally. "Democrats are Demons in Drag... They look like fellow Americans," she wrote. "But, those Democrats who believe the voices of MILLIONS of Americans should be forced, shamed & bullied into silence carry an agenda straight from the pit of hell. PERIOD #Resist #WildProtest #Jan6th #DCProtests."

(The video did not catch my eye; CNN is too wildly scripted for it to run. If NoScript can't get it to go in three rounds of temporary permissions, you have to be kidding me.)

Murmurs of Revelation from the politically disengaged and factually challenged evangelicals have reached my ears. "It would behoove everyone to study" the book, I heard yesterday, leaving me to wonder if I've ever used "behoove" in a sentence seriously. I hope not. Then this popped up from my office mate, Ezra Klein pull-quoting Hannah Arendt's 1951 classic:

Arendt writes of entire populations who “had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and that nothing was true.” She describes “the masses’ escape from reality” as “a verdict against the world in which they are forced to live and in which they cannot exist.”

L/R photo

Here we have Idaho, on its primary election day, in which the super-majority sorts out which faction of the Republican party will be jerking its people around come January. We have some doozies in the mix, and it is my fervent hope that we see the back of several of the rump right-wing extremists who thought they were ready for a bigger job. One of Mary Souza and Dorothy Moon will be gone, losers for Secretary of State. Phil McGrane, currently Ada County Clerk, is the one actually qualified, and experienced candidate. If he prevails we'll get a threefer.

Priscilla Giddings should lose her bid for Lt. Governor to our good old boy Speaker of the House. (So that position will be up for grabs, and I don't know who's likely next there.) And Janice McGeachin, bless her pointy MAGA heart, will ride her One Big Endorsement into the sunset of political office and into the sunrise of grifting, sort of like Sarah Palin, except moar crazy.

Just like a tornado finds a trailer court, we have a "constitutional sheriff" candidate running, even in leans-blue, and urban Ada County. Are the fringes wide enough to depose an apparently compentent, and no-news fellow who's the incumbent? (His incumbency is by appointment only; the Sheriff we elected in 2020, Steve Bartlett, abruptly resigned a year ago, the "mystery" of his motivation unresolved in any news I've seen.) But _ has 22 years in the Sheriff's office, and took over on short notice, and with no major problems on his watch. His Republican opponent, Doug Traubel, declined to respond to The Idaho Press' request pair of softball questions for their (free) Voter Guide.

Traubel is endorsed and promoted by "True Idaho News," which, hey, it's right there in the name! The TIN is working to foil "left-leaning groups" who they say took Traubel's writings out of context to smear him. Such as... IDK, maybe the 2016 book he wrote, "Red Badge: A veteran peace officer’s commentary on the Marxist subversion of American Law Enforcement & Culture"? According to TIN, "the book explores the militarization of America’s police forces, the growing trend of incarceration for profit, and the steady erosion of individual rights, among other topics." Sounds more left than right, actually.

The video on his About page is a two minute mashup of warm palaver and weird non sequiturs, starting with underlined Constitutional and a statement of the virtues of concealed carry, then off into the cultural jungle. "I don't need this job, I want this job," he says, sincerely, and I'm thinking the other way around would be better.

Last July, during the race for the interim appointment, Carolyn Komatsoulis reported on the rise and fall of his candidacy. And Boise State Public Radio News' report: Ada Sheriff Nominee's Anti-Semitic, Racist And Sexist Writings Take Center Stage During Interviews. We don't need this guy re-rising.

Update: There's so much more than I can roll up into to a humble blog post. Have a look at reporter Christopher Mathias' twitter thread, and then HuffPost article datelined today: Living With the Far-Right Insurgency in Idaho. It leads with words from a recent California transplant.

White nationalist Vincent James Foxx had a new video for his nearly 70,000 subscribers on BitChute, one of the few tech platforms that hasn’t banned him. On Feb. 16, he appeared wearing a baseball hat emblazoned with the state’s outline tilted on its side so that it resembled a pistol.

“We are going to take over this state,” Foxx declared. “We have a great large group of people and that group is growing. A true, actual right-wing takeover is happening right now in the state of Idaho. And there’s nothing that these people can do about it. So if you’re a legislator here, either get in line, or get out of the way.”

One small measure of how far right the state has moved: Rod Beck was a right-wing firebrand back in the day, and was one of the main proponents of closing the Republican primary, to drive the party further right. In this latest account, he appears as "more of a centrist" in regard to the corruption of the four-county public health board. Not so much of a centrist that he didn't help get anti-vax (but pro-testing! since he made a ton of money off that) Ryan Cole onto the Central District Board as its "medical professional" member. As if.

16.May 2022 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Domestic terrorism rising Permalink to this item

I'm new to @EgbertoWillies, but this first look from the weekend is worthy, wrapped around what Steve Schmidt said, talking on MSNBC, framing the pathology we're facing. Before even talking about Saturday's terrorism in Buffalo. Part of what Schmidt said:

"This is a coherent, organized ideology. And that ideology has a name. It’s called fascism. The argument that Tucker Carlson is making and that JD Vance and others are making is that American freedom that American culture in that in order for it to be saved, we have to deal with the problem of American democracy.

"And the great flaw in American democracy, according to them, is that it treats everyone equally. And because it treats everyone equally, his vote, their vote, a group vote, a group of people that look alike to them, white people who have a similar worldview, their vote, their power, in their view, is lessened. And so, therefore, democracy becomes the opposite of freedom, because freedom cannot be something where they and people who are less than them are treated equally.

"...After you dehumanize everybody, that's when the killing starts."

As big as a 747 Permalink to this item

The WaPo story is not about airplanes, but companies flying high on advertising money, fueled by the exhaust of your personal data. It's not all about one company, but that one company, oh my: Google Is Sharing Our Data at a Startling Scale.

"By way of online activity and location, a person in the U.S. is exposed 747 times each day to real-time bidding, according to the data." If you're getting your 8 hours of sleep at night, that'd be 47 times an hour while you're awake. On average. On the one hand, it's rather amusing to imagine that advertisers think they can get that much of a piece of me. Definitely the shotgun approach.

The story also mentions that parent company Alphabet Inc. had $68 billion in revenue in the most recent quarter ending March 31, of which $54 billion came from advertising. $600 million a day. The tracking is all about keeping that firehose of ad dollars flowing and growing, lubricated by "real-time bidding" for a place in your datastream. Targeted real-time bidding:

"Each time a smartphone user opens an app or website that shows ads, their device shares data about that user to help show them a targeted ad. The advertiser with the highest bid for the available ad space wins.

"The data can go to dozens or even hundreds of companies for each auction. Google says it transmits the data of American users to about 4,700 companies in total across the world. Each “broadcast” — as they are called in the industry — typically shares data about a person’s location —including “hyperlocal” targeting, according to Google own pitch to advertisers — personal characteristics and browsing habits to help ad firms build user profiles. The ad industry also has a lengthy taxonomy that the networks use to categorize people, including sensitive labels like “anxiety disorders” and “legal issues,” or even “incest” and “abuse support,” according to a public document published by the ad network consortium that sets standards for the industry."

I think about the essay I wrote at the turn of the millennium, Ad Attack, and how impossibly quaint it all seems 20 years on. The saturation of mobile phones, where users have the least amount of control inside the machine has raised the traffic—and stakes—by orders of magnitude.

11.May 2022 Permanent URL to this day's entry

So help me Checkbox Permalink to this item

Morning rabbit hole courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which is currently advising New Jersey to adopt a nondiscriminatory oath. But what caught my eye was the year-ago April story of their win in Alabama, giving voters in that state the "option" to not have to swear "so help me God" in order to register to vote.

As part of a settlement, the secretary of state has amended all of the voter registration forms to allow voters to avoid swearing a religious oath. The new “mail in” form provides a check box that says, “OPTIONAL: Because of a sincerely held belief, I decline to include the final four words of the oath above.”

It's more than a little cheesy. You are required to "Read and Sign Under Penalty of Perjury" that you solemnly swear to support and defend the constitutions of the US and Alabama, and you "further disavow any believe or affiliation with any group which advocates the overthrow of the governments ... by unlawful means" and that the information you gave is true, "so help me God." And...

From Alabama's voter registration form

Not that I'm ever going to find myself registering to vote in Alabama, but for my religious freedom, I wouldn't have agreed to that settlement. If somebody wants to add "so help me God," they can feel free, whispering to themselves, and/or an imaginary being of their choice. "I affirm under penalty of perjury that the information contained herein is true." Period. Full stop. (The "overthrow" part is interesting; no January 6 insurrectionists need apply, right?)

I don't have to be "sincere" in my beliefs, or nonbeliefs, thanks to the Constitution of the United States of America, where no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States. (They could look it up.)

"Would you like to say "so help me God," or not? is unconstitutional. Just like "swearing on" a book. You have the right to say (or do) it if you want to, but the government coercing you to say, not say, do, or not do is against our original law.

10.May 2022 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The right to peaceably assemble, and protest Permalink to this item

The current right-left political warfare lit up by the leaky Supreme Court "deliberation" has a hell of an asymmetric beat. "The Left" (as The Right likes to call it) is supposedly burning down cities left and right, although nobody ever points to a burned down city. There's nothing like the 1921 scene in Tulsa, Oklahoma that you didn't hear about in history class, for example, when

"a white mob began a rampage through some 35 square blocks, [devastating] the community known proudly as Black Wall Street. Armed rioters, many deputized by local police, looted and burned down businesses, homes, schools, churches, a hospital, hotel, public library, newspaper offices and more. While the official death toll of the Tulsa race massacre was 36, historians estimate it may have been as high as 300. As many as 10,000 people were left homeless."

And Fox News has definitely moved on from that time when bloodthirsty right-wing extremists attacked the US Capitol in an attempt to overthrow a free and fair election because Sore Loserman was desperate to keep his legacy grift going, and stay out of jail, which oddly enough he's still doing. We hold him in contempt, for a laughable $10,000 a day. Make it a $million, and let's talk.

While the chaotic outrage over The Leak rolls on, its Plus One is outrage over protesters in comfy suburbs, outside the homes of Important People Who Have Privacy Rights. (Unlike half of the their subjects.) From Will Bunch's newsletter/column, In defense of protesting outside judges’ houses:

"One political party has all but killed debates for the 2024 presidential election while it looks to avoid tough questions here in Pennsylvania. Freedom of information laws — one of those Watergate-era reforms meant to tear down the metaphorical walls — are increasingly a joke, with Democratic and Republican administrations vying to see who can turn down more requests. And, yes, I do think President Biden should have more news conferences. But let’s never forget that he’s following The Former Guy who lied to the American people more than 30,000 times in office, and got away with it....

"At [Associate Justice Brett] Kavanaugh’s residence in upscale Chevy Chase, Md., the protests have been organized not by outside agitators but by a nearby neighbor, Lacie Wooten-Holway, a 39-year-old teaching assistant and mother of two who says she has had an abortion and is a survivor of sexual assault. She says the stakes are too high to remain silent. “I organize peaceful candlelit vigils in front of his house,” she told a neighbor who questioned her tactics, recorded by the Washington Post. “We’re about to get doomsday, so I’m not going to be civil to that man at all.”...

Dozens of protesters kept moving on public roads and sidewalks, "and no one was arrested, because no laws were being broken." But that did not stop the president or his press secretary from being suckered into taking the bait,

"with a statement that [Biden] supports a right to protest that should “never include violence, threats, or vandalism” and then invokes the judges’ safety. This badly conflates two issues, since there’s been no violence, threats, or vandalism at or near the judges’ homes — but the president amplified a Fox News talking point. Meanwhile, tens of millions of American women are still waiting to hear much more forcefully from Biden on how he is going to fight for their rights...."

"Look, you can certainly debate whether it’s smart political strategy to protest in front of a Supreme Court justice’s home, but let’s get one thing straight. The people marching peacefully on public streets airing their grievances outside the homes of Supreme Court justices have every constitutional right to do so. Period, full stop. And as long as the keepers of American autocracy keep erecting those 8-foot barriers to keep you away, the louder you need to get. They are the ones who declared war on your established rights. When silence is not an option, they need to hear from you."

GOOD NEWS Permalink to this item

Spam digest from one of my volunteer job email addresses never fails to brighten my day, from the GREETINGS: BENEFICIARY FROM JPMORGAN CHASE BANK(R), and THE TRUTH OF YOUR FUNDS, to the I Was Told To Contact You Through Email. I am their Dear Friend, and they all have a Lot of Money they want to Send Me if only I will Answer the Call. They don't come right out and say MAKE MONEY FAST these days, but the subtext is unmistakable.

Photo of a snowman yesterday

It was none other than Louis DeJoy Director general of United States Postal Service, Postal service company (USPS) who shared the GOOD NEWS of my parcels "that have been registered with us By United Nations in collaboration with the US Federal Government for shipment to your residential address." Louis is somewhat cagey, there's a letter too, but "we cannot quote the content to you via email for privacy reasons." Nevertheless, he says "We understand that the content of your parcel itself is a money order worth $650,000.00 US Dollars), $650,000.00 US Dollars for each envelope, all in (3) three envelopes which total a sum of $1,950,000. United States Dollars" and wants me to "Text me urgently with your address, full name and email address including your phone number to: and also send email to below email;" which is not the smithmaria1290 gmail address of the sender, but rather starts with courierser and Google has rendered the punchline flaccid with ellipsis.

Sonia Sotomayor wrote to me too! You know, The Supreme Court of justice US? "Because all your unclaimed Funds worth a sum of $15.5 Million USD were brought to my desk for cancellation so I feel like texting you for the last time" in addition to the email, oddly from branhuntere at gmail.

9.May 2022 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The Belligerents Permalink to this item

Former SCOTSOI Justice Jim Jones, on the "closed" Republican primary in Idaho, and a few other things: People should not be discouraged from exercising their lawful rights.

"The interviewers asked why I thought I had the right to cast a vote in a GOP election when I was not a current member of the Party. My answer was that I had volunteered to fight for my country and earned the right to vote in any party primary that the law allowed. Every other Idahoan should have that same right. ...

"Some of the most belligerent voices against independents voting in the GOP primary are the top brass in the Kootenai and Bonneville County GOP Central Committees — Brent Regan, Doyle Beck and Bryan Smith. They also happen to be board members of the Idaho Freedom Foundation. They regard the GOP as their private playground. However, the three understand the concept of taking advantage of benefits made available under the law. Even though they are dead set against government money being doled out, calling it socialism, they were happy enough to request and spend bunches of the dole money. Smith got $205,200 of pandemic relief funds for his medical debt collection operations, Beck scarfed up $168,200 and Regan pocketed $74,800. All told, IFF fat cats grabbed over $2 million in “socialist” largesse."

The most belligerent voices turn out to be some of the biggest whiners and grifters. What a surprise! Jones is one of the board members (and instigators) of Take Back Idaho, working to take it back from etremism. Check out their voter guide for the May 17 primary election.

6.May.2022 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Once in a lifetime Permalink to this item

Picked up a not-in-my-phonebook call yesterday evening, 208 number (likely spoofed caller ID), because I had some free time and thought it might be amusing. It was later evening than most spammers attempt, and the woman identified herself as working for the Gallup organization in a professional, and convincing manner. My lucky day to be nationwide polled!

For randomizing purposes, she wanted to speak to the person in the household who was going to have the next birthday, which, lucky me again. (Odds are, that would be me 86% of the time, so it's a curious bit of randomization.) Was this a cell phone? Do we have a landline? And then we got into the business of polling. Put my economic and political views on the spectrum. Do I believe in god? Am I religious? How religious? Do I think abortion should be legal? What do I think is the most important issue facing the country?

That was one of the very few (only?) unconstrained answer. Fill in the blank. "The Republican Party's attack on our democracy" was my short answer, without needing a lot of deliberation. Right before the hammer of climate change starts to make us pay for decades of profit-induced denial.

Tulip photo

And my demographics: age, race, ZIPcode, gender, household income and so on. The "race" question was multiple choice, and she chuckled when I said "plain vanilla" and only chose one. Gender is ternary to them: male, female, or non-binary. ("Other" could've worked.) I chuckled at that question; it's not as obvious as it used to be. There were a few questions that I didn't really feel like either of two alternatives offered were right, but she wasn't taking "no answer" for an answer, so I made the forced choice.

After the basic survey, I was invited to be on a Gallup panel, and play some version of this game 3 to 4 times a month. I considered it, considered the distraction, the sense of obligation I knew it would give me, said no thanks. She pitched a bit more ("you can skip any request, and opt out at any time") but I held firm. Then asked if I might ask her a couple questions. Does she run through this script over and over, I wondered? (Sounds like "somewhat," with job rotation to other tasks.) I was impressed with how well she did it, and I'm sorry I didn't say that directly. But another question was on my mind: did she form opinions about the people she talked to, based on their answers to the questions? She said she did not; just tallied the responses.

So, next time a Gallup poll hits the news (this month, I suppose?), I will be represented, and representing some tens of thousands of "people like me," who hope to bend the moral arc of the universe toward justice, instead of the way it seems to be going of late.

5.May 2022 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The call is coming from inside the house Permalink to this item

Today's working theory of The Leak, courtesy of TPM's Josh Marshall, is that "the leak came from determined anti-Roe advocates trying to lock in Alito’s ‘take no prisoners’ elimination of Roe. Clear as day."

Leek photo

I'm not a WSJ subscriber (certainly not for their reliably execrable editorial content), but Marshall quotes for flavor, and notes the message in the medium: "It’s very clear that the jockeying among the six Republican appointees has been shared in the elite GOP legal circles that have a direct line into the Journal oped page."

Tuesday WaPo coverage when the Chief confirmed the authenticity of the draft says the Court was shaken, but not stirred.

“To the extent this betrayal of the confidences of the Court was intended to undermine the integrity of our operations, it will not succeed,” Roberts said. “The work of the Court will not be affected in any way.”

Alrighty then, no need for spluttering outrage, eh Ted, and Josh? I mean, no wiggling ambiguity in will not be affected in any way, coming from the Chief Justice, right? I'm kidding of course; focusing on the sideshow and stoking chaos is the hallmark of the +rumpian GOP. Mitch McConnell loves to flap his jaw about "yet another escalation in the radical left’s ongoing campaign to bully and intimidate federal judges and substitute mob rule for the rule of law," before any facts are in evidence.

Democrats are outraged by the suddenly indisputable evidence that This Is Happening. And most preciously, those Republican ladies in the swinging middle, Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski shocked, shocked that SCOTUS nominees lied right to their faces about their fealty to "precedent." Then there is the elephantine odor in the room:

Justice Sonia Sotomayor said that if the court’s new conservatives overturn Roe, “Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts? I don’t see how it is possible.”

Or as law professors Melissa Murray and Leah Litman put it,

"The truly shocking thing ... is not that it leaked, extraordinary as that is. It’s that the opinion by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. adopted such an aggressively maximalist position, not only giving states extraordinary leeway to prohibit abortion but also implicitly inviting a flurry of challenges to other precedents, including cases protecting contraception and LGBTQ civil rights. Perhaps the most stunning feature of the opinion is that its indignant tone and aggressive reasoning make clear how empowered this conservative majority believes itself to be....

"The caustic tone and aggressive reasoning suggest this conservative majority feels unconstrained. It does not fear political pushback for its angry tirade against abortion. It does not feel any sense of obligation or concern for the women who will suffer as a result of the opinion. And it has no sense of institutional propriety that might lead it to act with more humility and caution."

Update: Jonathan Chait's take on the WSJ pre-leak. As the latins used to say, cui bono?

4.May 2022 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Outrage polarity and the death of the Union Permalink to this item

There are two kinds of outrage in spew at the moment: the spluttering indignation over a first draft of a Supreme Court opinion being leaked to the public, and the outrage at the substance of that draft opinion. (Just like the Pentagon Papers, remember?)

Rafael Edward "the Wolverine" Cruz is in the spluttering camp; it was "an unprecedented breach of the trust every justice, every law clerk, every employee of the court owes that institution. Very little in life leaves me speechless," he continued, speaking. "When I saw that news I was truly flabbergasted. It is impossible to overstate the gravity of the violation." At any rate, he was not rendered speechless in yesterday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

Still from the Senate Judiciary video

"The wound to the independence of the Court, and to the integrity of the Court, may well be wound from which the Court never fully recovers."

Take your time reading that one sentence, and insert extra pauses to match the pace and timing of the Great Pontificator.

"The decision," he continued, before a longer pause, making one wonder if he was going to speak to the substance of what was leaked, but no, "of an immoral and unethical individual to leak the Court's confidential working documents is the predictable consequence of a multiyear effort by Senate Democrats to politicize and undermine the Court."

The "systematic" attack by the Democrats, in Cruz' telling, includes the idea that the people and the money behind amicus briefs be made public OMG! And politicizing the Court! The humanity! But mostly it's projection: the multiyear effort to politicize and undermine the Court, and turn it to judicial activism in favor of the Right is why the hearing was on.

That conservative legal movement invested more than half a billion dollars to bring us to this moment, as Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse repeatedly pointed out in yesterday's hearing, which was supposed to be about ethics and accountability in our courts (cough Clarence and Ginni Thomas cough), but the timing made discussion of The Leak inevitable.

Cruz snapped back to the suject of the hearing, and the bill it was nominally about, calling upon the Supreme Court to come up with a Code of Conduct for themselves, among other mild correctives. He decried the "ongoing false character assassination directed at Justice Clarance Thomas, by Democrats in both houses of Congress. Ted's fatuous view is that Thomas "is one of the finest Justices ever to serve on the Court." Talk about grading on the curve!

The Supremes are well enough cloistered that they won't be much disturbed by the protest and counter-protest at the bottom of their protected stairway. They voted on the case at hand before assigning Alito to start documenting how they would confirm their prejudice. As Adam Serwer notes for The Atlantic, "the draft likely reflects the direction of the final decision, even if the scope of that decision changes."

"The opinion itself reads like a fancy press release from a particularly loyal member of the GOP Senate caucus. Alito’s writing reflects the current tone of right-wing discourse: grandiose and contemptuous, disingenuous and self-contradictory, with the necessary undertone of self-pity as justification. Alito, like the five other conservative justices, was placed on the Court by the conservative legal movement for the purpose of someday handing down this decision. These justices are doing what they were put there to do."

That description of Alito's writing certainly fits Ted Cruz to a T. Or Josh Hawley, who quizzed one of the witnesses, a former clerk for Thomas to emphasize that such a leak had never, ever, ever happened before. He asked Prof. Jennifer Mascott to opine on the effect this will have "on the independence and integrity of the judicial branch."

She obliged by a facile mind-reading of the as yet unknown leaker to discern their intent, and to express her trust that the Justices could certainly overcome the disturbance. Not exactly hewing to the indignant outrage prompt. Halway lobbed the same softball to the other friendly witness, adding "radical escalation" and "radical breach" in case Mr. Thomas H. Dupree, Jr. wasn't picking up on what Hawley wanted. Dupree knows the score. "Devastating, what happened last night!" Quite the range between those two responses, hmm.

"As you know, the Supreme Court, in order to fulfill its Article III authority, needs to deliberate in private," Dupree said. That's what I learned from lawyers is called a conclusory statement. Just asserted, without basis in fact. "It violates the sanctity... it's outrageous!" And Dupree also has figured out the intent of the unknown leaker, based on... IDK, what he would do? At any rate, that was exactly what Hawley was fishing for, "it truly is outrageous" and then plowed on into "all these liberal dark money groups that are piling on today and gleefully celebrating this..."

Yeah, I don't know about that; the glee is mostly on the anti-abortion crusaders side, about the sneak preview of the coming opinion. And Hawley's attempted hammering on the vaunted "integrity" of the Court, well great balls of fire, that ship sailed when Mitch McConnell snubbed Merrick Garland in 2016, and sank to the bottom of the ocean with the Federalist Society's latest three additions, funneled through a Russian puppet.

To arrive at the further shore of "state's rights" supremacy over federalism, likely 26 states that will decree that women lack bodily autonomy in favor of the state's interest in coerced pregnancies. Serwer quotes Georgetown University law professor Aderson Francois: “This draft ... envisions a notion of federalism so weak, so toothless, so bereft of substance that the federal government has no legitimate role in protecting women from states imposing forced births upon them.” Serwer looks to what's next:

"Aside from rights specifically mentioned in the text of the Constitution, Alito argues, only those rights “deeply rooted in the nation’s history in tradition” deserve its protections. This is as arbitrary as it is lawless. Alito is saying there is no freedom from state coercion that conservatives cannot strip away if conservatives find that freedom personally distasteful. The rights of heterosexual married couples to obtain contraception, or of LGBTQ people to be free from discrimination, are obvious targets. But other rights that Americans now take for granted could easily be excluded by this capricious reasoning. ...

"The right-wing majority’s radical repurposing of the so-called shadow docket to set precedents and nullify constitutional rights rather than simply deal with time-sensitive matters foreshadowed this outcome. In the Court’s religious-freedom decisions related to the coronavirus pandemic, and in its choice last year to allow Texas to nullify the right to an abortion, you can see the outlines of this new legal regime: On the grounds that it constitutes a form of religious discrimination, conservatives will be able to claim an exemption from any generally applicable rule they do not wish to follow, while imposing their own religious and ideological views on those who do not share them."

I don't know if Serwer had seen yesterday's Senate Judiciary hearing, but the "industry of commentators" "insist[ing] that the unprecedented leak is more important than the world the draft threatens to create" could have been written about Cruz and Hawley. And Alito's draft emphasis that "our decision concerns the constitutional right to abortion and no other right" is laughable.

"Give this statement the same weight that should have been given to Alito’s scolding of the press shortly after the Court’s shadow-docket decision on the Texas abortion ban, and his insistence that it had no bearing on Roe and did not nullify the right to an abortion in Texas. Alito’s word means absolutely nothing."

Update: Interesting opinion round-up from Elizabeth Nolan Brown, headlined "a Disaster of Legal Reasoning."

3.May 2022 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Supreme malfeasance Permalink to this item

The Senate Judiciary committee is doing a little something this morning, having a hearing on ethics and accountability in Supreme Court and lower courts. Coincidentally, the morning after Samuel Alito's bombshell. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse acknowledges the elephant in the room: "Today is a hell of a day to be considering ethics questions around the Supreme Court..." From the top of David Rothkopf's Twitter thread:

"The leaked Supreme Court abortion decision is founded not on precedent nor the law nor any concept of justice but rather on corruption & the flagrant, abuse of power. It would not happen but for serial acts of political violence against the intent & spirit of the Constitution.

"It would not have happened were an election not stolen in Bush v. Gore. It would not have happened were an election not stolen in 2016. It would not have happened had Mitch McConnell twisted and perverted the rules of the Senate with this moment as his explicit goal.

"It would not have happened without denying Barack Obama the ability to appoint a highly qualified nominee, Merrick Garland, to the Supreme Court. It would not have happened without whatever murky deal it was that led to the stepping down on of Justice Kennedy.

"It would not have happened without the lies that put Brett Kavanaugh on the court. It would not have happened had the GOP done their duty and impeached Donald Trump for his abuses of power. It would not have happened had DoJ prosecuted Trump for the obstruction cited by Mueller.

"It would not have happened had Coney Barrett not been rushed onto the court after an election, rendering McConnell's so-called objections to Garland hypocritical in the extreme. It would not have happened w/o the seas of dark money right wing organizations invested to get here.

"It would not have happened without the murky activities of the Federalist Society. It would not have happened without willful lies hidden behind a play of grotesque naïveté of the Susan Collinses of this world.

"It took the acceptance and defense by virtually every member of the GOP of the most corrupt presidency in American history to get to this point. And don't for a minute think that it was not this and related past and future attacks on the rights of voters, gay people people of color, victims of gun violence, and defenders of democracy that motivated the GOP and their benefactors to look the other way in the face of Trump's crimes. This is why they disregarded their oaths of office. ..."

After Sen. Whitehouse's opening statement, the jowly Senator from Louisiana, the Ranking Member, John Neely Kennedy, says he "won't be a part of destabilizing the Supreme Court," and goes on to breezily dismiss the "woker" portion of the citizenry.

He insists he will "never attack the Supreme Court," but I wonder if he will defend the institution. He's more fired up about the leaker of Alito's opinion, and "let's hope that our Department of Justice does its job."

But damn, they've got such a huge backlog of unfinished business.

2.May.2022 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Check your metadata Permalink to this item

April 2022 photo

Idaho Rep. Greg Chaney, hoping to become Sen. Greg Cheney soon brought up a story from January on Twitter this morning. Ryan Suppe's Idaho Statesman byline, but the reprint on the Coeur d'Alene Press website: Giddings helped craft rape allegation response, record shows. That's current state Rep. Priscilla Giddings, running for Idaho Lt. Governor. It seems she lent a hand, or fingers, or some software to her colleague Aaron Ehlinger, in whipping up a press release to counter the allegation that turned into to a guilty verdict last week.

"The statement was drafted in a Microsoft Word document and authored by “Representative Priscilla Giddings,” according to the digital file’s “metadata” — identifying data within the existing Word document, which can still be found online. File properties state that the document was “authored by” and “last modified by” Giddings, or someone using her computer or web account, on April 16[, 2021]."

It seemed like a smaller thing while Ehlinger was just accused than now that he's been found guilty. But it wasn't a small thing back in January, after Giddings had been censured for conduct unbecoming a member of the Idaho House, and was complaining about a "nuisance lawsuit" involving a public records request "for records that don't exist." How would we know they don't exist if we don't ask? She could be telling some truth, even if it's not the whole truth:

"As reported by the [Lewiston] Tribune last summer, the Idaho Legislature does not have a records retention schedule. That means lawmakers can delete emails, social media posts and other records whenever they see fit. So long as a pending records request isn't seeking the information, there's nothing illegal about that."

As the Statesman/CdA Press article notes, Giddings enjoyed immunity from civil action during the legislative session. Now that that's done, there may be more on the gentle lady's calendar than just campaigning.


Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007