Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Impeachment

The top 2 results when I searched google news for impeach:

Forget impeachment: Donald Trump can be driven from office, but probably not that way is the headline of a piece by Bob Cesca at Salon.

And The Inevitability of Impeachment is the title of a piece by Robert Kuttner on the Huffington Post.

Alright! Glad we got that sorted out.

So what do I think? I think that "inevitable" is a greatly-overused term. Perhaps even more in politics than in general. Remember how it was "inevitable" that Hillary was going to be elected President, and that the Republicans were going to get it together and nominate someone other than Trump?

The thrust of Cesca piece for Salon can be summed up in 5 words: the Republicans won't impeach Trump. Cesca insists they will put party loyalty above all else. He places a great emphasis on Democrats gaining ground in state and local elections this years, on the mid-terms in 2018, and in 2020. Trump can beejected as soon as the Democrats control Congress, he says.

Over at the Huffington Post, Kuttner insists that the Republicans will impeach Trump, because Trump is just that bad of a President.

I don't claim to know that anything is inevitable, but I tend to lean toward Kuttner when it comes to what is probable. I think Trump will be impeached, before the 2018 mid-terms. Keep 2 things in mind:

1) Assuming that the entire Democratic portions of both houses will be in favor impeachment, conviction and removal -- hardly a daring assumption on my part -- we won't need anywhere near the majority of the Republicans to join us to get it done.

2) Look at it from the Republicans' point of view: which is going to be better political advertising for the 2018 mid-terms: "We stood by the President" or "We helped get rid of that maniac, because we're not insane!" ? Republicans will not agree about which slogan will help them more. But with each passing day, the second one looks better.

Along with my belief that nothing is inevitable comes my belief that we have to keep working hard on removing Trump from office. We can't just lean back and say, "Oh, look, isn't that great? He's self-destructing!" as if it were inevitable that he's going to be removed from office, and that we can relax now. We need to help him with that self-destruction, as much as we possibly can. We can't let up with watching his administration, protesting his actions, and letting our other elected representatives know what we think of it all.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Dream Log: Cast Reunion Of "Gilligan's Island"

I dreamed that I was a cast member of "Gilligan's Island," and that some surviving members of the cast had gotten together at a resort hotel for some reason. It was not clear what role I had played on the show. Outside of the guest rooms and suites, all of the walls and doors of the hotel were white, as was much of the furniture.

Besides people associated with "Gilligan's Island," some people I actually know in waking life were there. Some of the latter were doing some pole-vaulting at a track-and-filed facility close to the hotel. A friend of mine suddenly got upset for some reason, and I hugged him and did my best to console him. I did some pole-vaulting. In waking life, I have never attempted pole-vaulting. In the dream, I was clearing 10 or 12 feet, rather unrealistic for right now, given my age, 55, and weight.

Suddenly I realized that I had no money on my person except for a trouser pocket full of nickels and dimes.

Robert Downey, Jr was there, and was connected to "Gilligan's Island" in some way. He had been pole-vaulting with us, and now he was sitting on a white chair in the white hallway outside of our hotel suites, dressed all in white: white button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up over a white T-shirt, white trousers with a white belt, white loafers and white socks. He was handling some of the finances related to the show. It was not clear whether, in the dream, he, and not Russell Johnson, had played the Professor on the show. I mentioned my residuals to him, and he said that I could get a daily payment of $170.00 if I so chose, beginning the next day. We agreed that I would take the $170.00 per day. The lodging at the hotel was being provided without charge. Whether the money was being taken out of our residuals payments, or if some person or company or other entity was footing the bill for the hotel, was not clear.

I went out to the beach next to the hotel. Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann on "Gilligan's Island," was sitting on the white sand of the beach on a white towel wearing a white one-piece bathing suit. I said hello to her a couple of times but she didn't answer. It wasn't clear whether she was ignoring me, perhaps because she'd heard I was broke, or if she had become hard of hearing, or what.

Suddenly I felt very hungry. I didn't know what the prices for food were around here, but, it being a resort hotel, I thought they might be rather steep. I didn't know whether my pocketful of small change would buy me any food at all. I went back inside and asked Robert Downey, Jr, whether he could loan me the price of a sandwich. He handed me a $100 dollar bill. Then he pointed to the door beside him, the door to his suite. Suddenly for some reason he had a British accent which lasted for the rest of the dream. He said, "The kitchen in there is very well-stocked, you could make yourself a sandwich." I thanked him and tried to give him back the $100, but he refused to take it, and also told me that it wasn't a loan. He also mentioned that there was some pasta salad in the fridge in his suite which was very good, and that I should try at least a bite before I even started to make a sandwich.

Then he pulled me close and muttered, "There's a full bar in there, too. Go nuts. Mi casa su casa. I insist."

Then another man, I don't remember who, pulled me aside and thrust a $100 bill at me. Somehow he had heard I was nearly broke. "Thanks," I said, "but someone already beat you to it."

"Good," he replied, forcing the bill on me. "That just means you're another $100 ahead. Please. It'll hurt my feelings if you don't take it."

I went inside Robert Downey Jr's suite. In stark contrast to the whiteness outside, in here the walls were painted dark colors and the floor was covered with dark carpet, and there was a lot of exposed wood and leather and stained glass. The lighting was pleasantly subdued. I was intensely looking forward to the first bite of that pasta salad when I woke up.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Diplomacy

A: Republicans: "All lives matter!"
World: "Cool here are some refugees from Syr..."
Republicans: "lolol not those lives"

B: not all Republicans voted for Trump, let alone support these type of statements. There must be another word that can be subbed here instead of Republicans

A: You are right, no need for the word Republican there.


I disagree. There is some need for the word Republican here, because, of all the Republican elected officials in office who criticized Trump before the election, almost all of them -- not all of them, but almost -- immediately got a brand-new, supportive attitude about him as soon as he won. If you're thinking, "It's like they were sure he was going to lose, and they were just distancing themselves from a loser, instead of sincerely distancing themselves from policies they could never support," Then I agree. It's a lot like that. It's exactly like that.

I'm talking about Republican Senators and Republicans in the House of Representatives. If you look at all Republicans, including former office holders and never-office-holders, it's easier to find criticism of Trump. The thing is, if Trump is to be regarded as unfit to rule, it doesn't matter how many rank-and-file Republicans and Republican governors and mayors want him out -- it's going to take some Republican Senators and Congresspeople in order to impeach, convict and remove him.

That's why it's so important that so many Republicans in the Senate and the House became so much more supportive of Trump as soon as he was elected.

Also, of course, it means that they were either being completely insincere before, or they are completely insincere now: either, before the election, they didn't really think he was unfit to rule, and only said so because they were sure he was going to lose -- or, they really thought he was unfit now, and they still think so, but getting some bills passed and appointments filled is more important to them that the President is -- all of those things they said he was: despicable, unbalanced, dangerous, utterly unfit to lead...

Of course, the diplomatic thing for me to do right now, as a Democrat, would be to forget about that insincerity for now, and practice some insincerity of my own, and be friendly to the Republican Senators and Congresspeople who criticized Trump before the election, because we need them in order to impeach, convict and remove Trump.

So: nevermind what I said before: there's no need for the word "Republican" in that joke. Do I mean that? No, I'm lying, because this is politics. But maybe, if I think it over, I'm actually not lying, because politics is very important, and the main thing right now, the political priority, is dealing with Trump. And maybe those Republican Senators and Congresspeople will seem much more like allies again very soon, when they can't pretend to like Trump anymore. And maybe I'm actually having a little bit more understanding for their shifts in position. I mean, if I want to whip out the l-word, there's the President and his people lying much more egregiously on a daily basis than any Senator or Congressperson of any party does in the average month.

You know how I'm always talking about moral relativism in relation to philosophy and especially in relation to Nietzsche? Well, it also applies to the actual real world, like this. What is truth? Good question, Pilate! Good question!

ACLU Blocks Trump Immigration Order

It's been joyously greeted as a great victory. In the ACLU's own words:

UPDATE (1/28/17): A federal judge granted the American Civil Liberties Union’s request for a nationwide temporary injunction that will block the deportation of all people stranded in U.S. airports under President Trump’s new Muslim ban.

Yes, it's a victory, and thank you very much, ACLU! Well done!

However, it I understand it correctly, it's just a temporary blocking of the executive order, and it only helps people who were detained at US airports. People from one of the countries affected by Trump's order who are now outside the US and attempting to board flights to the US, even if they are already longtime US residents and green card holders, get no help from this ruling.

GREEN CARD HOLDERS! They don't exactly hand out green cards like peanuts at a bar. A green card entitles its holder to permanent residence in the US, or at least it used to, before we elected the Grand Exalted Cheeto.

So while we're taking a victory lap, let's just remember that we still have a long way to go. Part of one of Trump's executive orders has been temporarily blocked.

This story from the San Jose Mercury News goes into much more detail about the hearing which resulted in the temporary blocking of Trump's order, and what it does and doesn't mean.

It's just a start. It's great, it's wonderful, I'm sure many of you are running around in a daze, looking for anyone even remotely associated with the ACLU so that you can hug them while jumping up and down. And well you should. But it's a long way from here to a legal finding that Trump must be removed from office.

And anything less than removing him from office cannot be considered a total victory for sanity, decency and the rule of law.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

"Get Over Yourself!"

When someone tells you to "get over yourself," maybe you should.

Maybe. But maybe you should think it over for a little while first.

You're a person too, after all. Never forget that.

Maybe in some cases, "Get over yourself!" is good, sound, insightful, helpful advice. In some cases, the person telling you to get over yourself may be on to something. They may be wise and a true friend.

And in other cases, maybe it would be simpler and better for you just to get over THEM. And in the long term, that might be better for THEM too. Who knows? (Who cares?)

Big hugs to all my little monkeys out there in Internet-Land! Be good to each other! And be good to yourselves! You're good enough, you're smart enough, and doggone it, enough people like you just fine exactly the way you are that you don't necessarily have to change for someone if they're offering hurt instead of hugs!

This was posted for no reason whatsoever. Nothing happened just now. Everybody just move on. Thnx.

Republican Senators, Republican Congresspeople --

-- we're all waiting on you. The entire non-insane world is watching, listening, waiting for you to speak up against Trump. If just a few of you suddenly grow some backbones and/or moral scruples, we can impeach Trump and convict him of any of a wide variety of crimes -- or invoke the 25th Amendment and say right out loud in public that he's insane. That'll work just as well -- and get on with a non-insane Pence presidency. We Democrats won't like the Pence presidency at all, but most of us are non-insane enough to recognize that Pence is non-insane and non-totalitarian and has respect for the rule of law. Very few Democrats won't be able to see that Pence is a huge, huge improvement over Trump.

Robert Reich says he talked to an unnamed former Republican Congressperson who told him that the plan is for you to get what you want out of Trump, and then get rid of him. Is that right? And are you actually expecting to emerge from that smelling like roses? Do you actually expect people to forget that many of you assumed that Trump wouldn't be elected, and publicly denounced Trump's craziness right up until he was elected, surprising you as much as it surprised anyone? Do you actually expect people not to notice how suddenly your attitudes toward Trump once he was President-elect, and how suddenly they're going to change again once you've decided that the time has come to remove him from office?

Let me just point out the extremely-obvious to you: with every day of the Trump presidency, the more you stand by him and grin and applaud as if this were all perfectly sensible, as if Trump didn't constantly and abviously lie, and constantly contradict himself, and didn't show utter contempt for our countries laws -- the longer you wait until you stand up in opposition to him, the more of Trump's stink will attach to you. The longer you act as if you see nothing wrong with Trump's actions, the harder it will be to wash that stink off, the harder it will be ever again to convince anyone that you stand for anything. Not to mention that which each passing day it will be harder to remove him. Harder and more costly, above all, for you Republican office-holders.

I'm just trying to help, by reaching across the aisle and talking sense to you. Hey, if you don't want to listen, if you wait too long, if you ride the tiger for too long, we Democrats will ride this out, and, assuming Trump hasn't killed the entire human race with nukes, we'll be perfectly happy to see Democrats vs Greens, with an irrelevant Republican Party, replace Democrats vs Republicans, with an irrelevant Green Party.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Arnold And Francis

What do a former Republican Governor of California and the Pope have in common?


They're both intensely interested in something Trump says doesn't exist: global warming. They're both promoting alternative energy as energetically as they can.

Of course you can't sell sunshine and wind with big profits the way you can do with petrochemicals. Who cares if it's killing us all, with oil, with Trump, and Putin, there's money to be made!

But -- is there, really? Are the Dakota and Keystone pipelines going to be able to pay for themselves if demand for petrochemicals is drying up, because everybody switching to solar and wind and tidal and geothermal and biodiesel and vegetable oil and switchgrass and corn ethanol and hydroelectric and nuclear? Not every item on that list is popular with environmentalists, but every one of them isn't petroleum. And with the possible exception of hydroelectric, nuclear and corn ethanol (the only ones on the list which aren't popular with environmentalists), each one is growing fast.

How does this leave us with expanding demand for oil such as that there is any economic reason for Trump's energy policies even if we leave "secondary" considerations such as the health and survival of the human species completely out of the equation?

The oil companies lied to us for so long about the effects of their products. I think they may be lying to us now about the long-term demand for their products. Losers. Sad.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Dream Log: Lost

I dreamed I was traveling from Berlin to Paris. I had taken advice from a man I shouldn't have listened to because he was foolish, and as a result, I found myself by the side of the road in the middle of an extraordinarily complex highway interchange, with a cardboard box in my arms, filled with some of my favorite books. For a moment I thought I could see the television tower in the Alexanderplatz in Berlin behind me, and the Eiffel Tower off in the distance ahead, so that I knew at least that I was pointed in the right direction. Then I realized that Berlin and Paris are much too far away from each other for me to see them both at the same time, and that those things I was looking at in the distance couldn't both be what they seemed.

Traffic was very heavy and going very fast. Running from one side of a one-lane offramp to the other without being run over was not easy, even without carrying the heavy box. It was quite annoying to have to simply abandon those books by the side of the road. I was angry at the person who had given me poor advice, and angry at myself for having listened to him. But I told myself that, although some of the volumes might be hard to replace, it would be even harder to replace my life, and decided that I had to leave them there.

A middle-aged woman wearing a conservative dress and high heels walked past me. She began to cross the road in a leisurely manner, but right away beeping, speeding traffic chased her back to the side of the road, and seemed to let her know that she was in a very precarious situation.

I helped her get off of the highway. I held one of her hands and encouraged her to run as fast as she could. She held her shoes under her other arm.

After a long and frightening struggle, we found ourselves on a sidewalk. She put her shoes back on and thanked me for my help, assuring me that now she was alright. I was far from convinced about that, but she insisted she'd be fine.

It didn't seem at all certain that I would be fine. I was in a French-speaking town, but I didn't know which town. There seemed to be a pronounced lack of street signs saying that such-and-such a town was this way or that way. But, I told myself, maybe those signs were there, and the problem was just that I didn't know where to look for them.

Eventually I found a train station.

A man of indeterminate age with very long curly greying hair was standing behind a counter inside the station. I approached him and asked, "Parle-on anglais?" The man smiled heartily and said Yes, he spoke English. I asked how to get onto a train bound for Paris. He chattered away in broken English, but it was very hard for me to understand anything he was saying. I couldn't tell whether he had even understand my question.

On top of having lost a boxload of books and being tired, hungry and thirsty, having difficulty communicating and not knowing exactly where I was, I was not sure whether there was a sufficient combination of cash and plastic in my pockets even to pay for a train ticket to Paris, let alone to secure lodging and sustenance once I was in Paris.

I thought to myself that, if I eventually began to starve, knocking on the door of a church might at least get me a meal, depending on which church I knocked at.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Trump' s Executive Orders

The Supreme Court can rule that an Executive Order made by a President is unconstitutional. And Congress can effectively nullify an executive order by not funding the action ordered.

I think Trump is up to 11 executive orders now. The first one, as you may know, didn't or didn't do something to Obamacare, it's not yet clear. The most recent one I know of orders that that wall be built (I'm not sure whether Donald has actually ordered Mexico to pay for it), and also orders tougher measures against illegal immigration. Others have rescinded funding for abortions provided by international organizations, put gag orders on EPA employees and peer-reviewed articles by USDA scientists, and approved construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Pipelines.

Do we still have checks and balances in this country? How extreme and crazy will Trump get before (a Republican-majority, I know) Congress and the (deadlocked, 4 to 4, I know) Supreme Court begin to oppose him?

This page on Paste Magazine's website says they'll be keeping track of all of Trump's executive orders. I'm not familiar with Paste Magazine or how ell they keep their promises, but that's what they say they'll do. They're at least one order behind as of 3 PM, 25. January 2017: they don't mention the order about the wall yet. Maybe the page is a one-time thing, not a running list updated as we go.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Trump Orders "Media Blackout" At EPA

Trump has ordered a freeze on spending at the Environmental Protection Agency, and has ordered a "media blackout" at the agency: EPA employees, Trump says, are not allowed to say anything to the media or on social media about what he's doing at their agency.

I have a few questions:

1) Is Trump actually authorized to order either the spending freeze or the gag order?

2) Are any EPA employees disobeying the "media blackout"?

2a) If so, what is happening to them because of it? Are they being suspended? fired? arrested?

3) Are this spending freeze and "media blackout" things which can be added to the list of reasons to impeach Trump? Isn't he overstepping his authority, or at the very least using it in a way which can and should be sharply questioned?

Who's going to be told next to shut up -- you? Me?

Speak up, people! While you still can!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Checking Google For Frank Assessments Of Current US Politics

It frustrates me that mainstream media journalists keep using euphemisms for "lie," "lies," "lying," "liar" and so forth when referring to Trump and his assistant liars who are so busy lying just to keep up with the boss.

It's changing, gradually. The other night the l-word in its various permutations was tossed about without much apparent objection during a panel discussion on CNN. Perhaps Trump referring to them as "fake news" made them angry, and perhaps their becoming angry has encouraged them to describe the Trump administration so frankly that people who aren't journalists or very heavy consumers of journalism can understand what they're saying.

Of course, mainstream media is far from being the whole world.

Jan 23, 2017, around 4:30 PM: about 1,730,000 Google results for "trump is a liar," in quotes.

About 108,000 for "trump is a pathological liar."

About 12,700 for "trump is a lying sack of crap."

I'll try to update this post often. I'm assuming the numbers will rise dramatically. I'm hoping they will very soon become a flood of derision which will sweep this administration away -- I'm sorry, was that too indirect? I'm hoping that Trump will be impeached and removed from office very soon.

PS, 24 January 2017. About 22 hours later, "trump is a liar" has increased to about 1,800,000 hits, about a 4% jump. "trump is a pathological liar" yields 108,000 results, the same as yesterday. And "trump is a lying sack of crap" is actually down 100 to 12,600. Hmm.

PPS, 25 January 2017: "trump is a liar" has increased to 2,030,000 hits, up 17% from Monday. "trump is a pathological liar" is still holding steady at 108,000. "trump is a lying sack of crap" yields 12,600 results, same as yesterday, down from Monday.

PPPS, 27 January 2017: "trump is a liar" yields 2,030,000 results, exactly the same as Wednesday, 2 days ago. "trump is a pathological liar" is holding steady at 108,000 hits. "trump is a lying sack of crap" is down to 12,300.

PPPPS, 28 January 2017: "trump is a liar," 2,010,000; "trump is a pathological liar," 131,000, up 21% from yesterday; "trump is a lying sack of crap," 12,400, up 100 from yesterday. "trump is a lying bastard," 4,210.

PPPPPS, 29 January 2017: "trump is a liar," 2,240,000 results on Google, up more than 11% in one day; "trump is a pathological liar," 121,000, down 10,000; "trump is a lying sack of crap," 12,300, down 100; "trump is a lying bastard," 4,260, up 50; "trump is crazy," 373,000.


Trump's Tweet On The Women's March

I had thought that perhaps Trump's behavior was becoming more erratic because they took away his devices after the Inauguration so he couldn't tweet anymore, but no, he's still tweeting away. Here's the text of a tweet from yesterday morning:

"Watched protests yesterday but was under the impression that we just had an election! Why didn't these people vote? Celebs hurt cause badly."

"Why didn't these people vote?"

Smooth move, keep reminding people that 2,864,903 more of them voted for her than for him. Well played, Sir! His question makes no sense, there's no reason not to think that almost all of those millions of protesters voted.

An interesting question would be how many of the protesters voted for Trump, and have already figured out that he lied to them and used them? I have no idea how many of his voters have already figure that out, and how many more will, but one thing is certain: that number will rise, not fall.

"was under the impression that we just had an election!"

Was Trump under the impression that he was just elected dictator? We didn't vote to eliminate people's rights to assemble and protest.

That's in the Constitution, that stuff about people's rights to assemble and protest. The same Constitution Trump swore to "preserve, protect and defend" when he took the oath of office. The same Constitution he's been in violation of ever since he took that oath, by refusing to release his tax returns. Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 reads, "No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state." And without disclosure of the relevant documents, Trump cannot demonstrate that he is in compliance with this clause.

Is Trump under the impression that we just voted to ignore the Constitution?

"Celebs hurt cause badly."

Trump was only elected because he was already the cheapest, emptiest kind of celebrity there is. Him and Ronald Reagan.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Dream Log: Huge Campus

I dreamed I was on the campus of a large university; indeed, it may have been somewhat larger than the largest real university campus in the world. I was supposed to meet some friends of mine, but I was lost, and the people I asked for directions weren't very helpful.

At one point I was inside a library. I saw a sign over the doorway to a room which said "THEOLOGY," and I went in, because oftentimes, items shelved under the heading of theology 1) aren't actually theology and 2) are written in Latin. I saw some volumes whose covers looked promisingly old -- but then I remembered that I was already late: my friends and I had agreed to meet for lunch at 1:00 PM, and my Seiko 5 read 1:06.


(This is my Seiko 5. There are many others like it, but this one is mine. Squeeee!)

Reluctantly, I abandoned my search for interesting things written in Latin, noting the location of the library and the room labeled "THEOLOGY" for a possible future search, and continued to look for my friends.

This search for my friends was particularly difficult because I had forgotten where we had agreed to meet.

Most of the people I saw were young adults -- students, most of them, I supposed -- who seemed to be in significantly better physical shape than I. For example, there was a large store, several stories high, which seemed to sell mostly sporting goods, and the staircase which descended from the 2nd floor to the ground floor had hand rails which stopped 8 feet or more above the ground floor, and students (probably students), instead of climbing down the stairs, were standing upright on these handrails and sliding down and jumping 8 feet or more down to the floor and landing without injuring themselves. Sometimes they absorbed the shock of landing by letting their legs bend very deeply; other times they rolled as they landed, like expert parachuters. And I wasn't about to try that.

It's not that I'm in bad shape for my age: I do pushups and crunches and cardio every day. But these young people all seemed somewhat athletic even compared to average young people. It was unusual that they all seemed that way, that I couldn't spot an exception.

I went into another very large store which seemed to sell mostly appliances. These stores weren't across the street from the campus, as I've seen in some college towns: they were in the middle of the campus, they were university operations. People continued to be not much help in finding my friends, not that I gave them much to work with.

Gradually I started to get the impression, from the expressions on their faces, sometimes pleasantly dreamy, sometimes very unpleasantly fanatical, that these fit young people were in some sort of religious order, and that all of the vigorous and sometimes dangerous physical exercise was a part of their religious practice.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Let's Make America Great Again: Let's Impeach This Fool

The effort to impeach President Donald John Trump is already underway, the Washington Post reports:

"At the moment the new commander in chief was sworn in, a campaign to build public support for his impeachment went live at ImpeachDonaldTrumpNow.org, spearheaded by two liberal advocacy groups aiming to lay the groundwork for his eventual ejection from the White House.

The organizers behind the campaign, Free Speech for People and RootsAction, are hinging their case on Trump’s insistence on maintaining ownership of his luxury hotel and golf course business while in office. Ethics experts have warned that his financial holdings could potentially lead to constitutional violations and undermine public faith in his decision-making."


Inverse lists 4 further grounds for impeachment besides conflict of interest, which they mention as does the Washington post story. In addition, Inverse mentions war crimes, sexual assault, sharing confidential information with unauthorized parties, and pirating music.

It's true that Trump has been President for less than 2 hours, and so he probably hasn't actually committed any war crimes yet. But why wait until he does?

Why wait? We know the Trump administration is going to be a huge disaster. We know that it will only get worse and worse until we stop it -- or until Trump wipes out the human race with nukes. We know he's not fit to handle nukes. We know he's not fit to govern any political entity. We know he's a bad man, a racist, a sexist, a sexual predator, a swindler, a pathological liar.

Why wait? This is much too important to wait.

And -- I know that I keep harping on this, but I think it's important -- know, any time, any time at all, would be a great time to release that "Apprentice" video, the stuff that makes the 2005 "Access Hollywood" tape look mild. Why is it important? Because in order to eject Trump from the Presidency, we're going to need the support of some people who are in denial about who he is and what he is like. The "Access Hollywood" video shook some of these people out of their trance, but them time passed and they forgot about it again. It's one thing for them to hear us liberals talk about how horrible he is, it's another thing for them to see it and hear it for themselves.

And can we get to the bottom of Trump's dealings with Putin, please? That'd be swell.

A legal researcher at the University of Utah's S.J. Quinney College of Law says that current lawsuits against Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump are sufficient grounds to impeach him from the presidency if he is elected. That was back in September. The charges this researcher had in mind were fraud and racketeering. The amount of evidence to justify those charges and other criminal charges just keeps growing and growing.

What are we waiting for?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Carolingian Revival Of Classical Latin Literature

I became something resembling in some ways an historian because over and over, I've read books on historical subjects, and I'm full of questions on the historical subject at hand which the book at hand does not address, let alone answer.

A wonderful exception to this rule is Texts and Transmission: A Survey of the Latin Classics, edited by LD Reynolds, which consists of 134 entries by 14 authors including Reynolds, MD Reeve, RJ Tarrant and M Winterbottom, each entry succinctly describing what was known, in the early 1980's when the volume was prepared, about the manuscripts and editions of each of 134 Classical Latin authors and anonymous Classical Latin texts. "Classical" means pre-Christian poems, fiction, history, philosophy, rhetoric and technical and scientific writing. In the case of Latin, Classical means things written for the most part between the 3rd century BC, when the earliest Latin poems, plays and historical writings which have survived were written, and the fifth century AD, when Christians came to dominate not just the governments of Latin-speaking Western Europe, but its literature as well. Reynolds admits that not everyone will agree completely about which authors and texts belong to Classical Latin. However, few if any experts would add or subtract more than a half-dozen authors and texts to or from Reynold's list.

Texts and Transmission is chock-full of things I wanted to know. Particularly wonderful and informative is Reynolds' Introduction to the volume on pages xiii through xliii, an extremely succinct summing up of the entire subject of the transmission of Classical Latin texts. On pages xvii through xxxii, Reynolds writes a much better summary of the Carolingian Renaissance than I ever will.

The Carolingian Renaissance is the renewed study of the Latin Classics done with the support of Charlemagne and his heirs in the 9th and 10th centuries AD. In the midst of Reynolds' description of this renewal, on page xxviii, is a list of 68 Classical authors and anonymous texts, just over half of the total of 134 discussed in the entire book. For each of these 68 authors or texts, there are one or more 9th-century manuscripts known to scholars today.

The Dark Ages is the era from the fall of the Western Roman Empire in AD 476 until the rise of Charlemagne, who was crowned Emperor in Rome by the Pope in AD 800. It's called "dark" in part because the written records of that time are quite sparse. This scarcity of written records in turn makes it possible to speculate about just exactly how bad or good things were in the Dark Ages. And hey, what a coincidence: historians who are Christians tended, by and large, to portray the era as having been much more pleasant and productive and learned and so forth, than historians who are not Christians. Almost everyone on all sides is biased.

But if we're only talking about the survival of and interest in classical Latin literature, then there is no doubt that "dark" is a fitting adjective. There are dozens of surviving Classical Latin manuscripts made before the Dark Ages. From the 7th century, the middle of the Dark Ages, there is 1, a manuscript of Lucan. C Hosius, whose edition of the 2nd-century Roman author Aulus Gellius appeared in 1903, described one manuscript of Gellius as "s vii(?)," meaning he was guessing it was from the 7th century. In Texts and Transmission, PK Marshall describes the same manuscript as 4th-century, with no ?.

Of course, the numbers of manuscripts surviving today from a certain century are not the same as the total numbers of manuscripts made in that century. Manuscripts have been thrown away, used to make covers for other books, burned in furnaces for warmth, destroyed in wars. As recently as the Renaissance, writers described many manuscripts which are gone today. In the meantime, the efforts to preserve them have become more energetic. We don't know how many Classical Latin manuscripts were made altogether in the 7th century, or the 9th. But the fact that we can locate exactly 1 from 7th century (or just possibly 2, but probably 1), and manuscripts for 68 different authors and texts from the 9th, is a very strong indication that some things changed in the 9th century, and that a lot of things were rescued in the 9th century which were on the verge of disappearing altogether. It also fits with what contemporaries wrote about Charlemagne and his activities, how he built schools everywhere and whatnot, and also with what we know about powerful Dark Age figures such as Pope Gregory the Great, and their disdain for non-Christian literature.

(Today, we have hundreds of 7th-century Latin manuscripts from the Bible and other Christian texts, and dozens of 7th-century Latin texts having to do with law, medicine, grammar and surveying.)

Sunday, January 15, 2017

There Were Gangs In New York In 1928

I don't know what should surprise me more: Herbert Asbury's assertion in his Introduction to his book The Gangs of New York, first published in 1928, that "there are now no gangs in New York" (Thunder's Mouth Press edition, no date given, but with a copyright 1998 translation of a text by Borges serving as a Foreword, and a blurb on the front cover claiming that Scorsese' 2002 movie is based on Asbury's book, p xiii), or that I can't find anyone who has described this assertion as astonishingly ignorant, asinine and so forth.

Once again, I must do everything myself. Asbury's assertion is astonishingly ignorant. It would be astonishingly ignorant if it had been said by any American in 1928, let alone someone like Asbury who had written an entire book about organized crime in NYC. No gangs in New York in 1928? That's an incredibly asinine thing to say.

No gangs in New York City in 1928? Who, exactly, did Asbury think had furnished the Prohibition liquor he was drunk off his ass on when he wrote that whopper? He concedes (ibid, p xiv) that there are, in 1928, entities known as mobs, but he claims that gangs and mobs are two very different things. I've never heard anyone else claim that gangs and mobs are two different things. Asbury says that gangs had relied on the co-operation of corrupt politicians (p xiv), and seems to imply that political corruption, like gangs, are now, in 1928, a thing of the past.

(I refer the reader to any written account at all of Jimmy Walker, Mayor of New York in 1928. Walker does not appear in the index of The Gangs of New York. But Asbury does mention Tammany Hall -- a sort of huge factory which produced political corruption on an extremely efficient basis in NYC from no later than the 1790's until at least the 1960's, for whom Walker worked -- several times in his account of things which he says disappeared by 1928. It's not clear whether he realizes that Tammany Hall was still in operation in 1928.)

He says (pp xiv-xv) that mobs seldom consist of more than 6 or 8 members, that they are temporarily formed for a series of "robberies or other crimes," that they have no special allegiance to their leaders, and that they don't have rivalries with other gangs or fight with them over turf.

Martin Short, not the guy who's famous for saying hilarious things on purpose, but a British author described on Wikipedia as "best known for his exposés on the Mafia and on Freemasonry," notes that Asbury's assertion that gangs were absent from NYC in 1928, and that mobs were not gangs, is in error, but still says, in his modestly-entitled The Rise of the Mafia: The Definitive Story of Organized Crime, that Asbury is an "excellent [...] popular historian."

It gets sillier: In the New York Times in 1998, a columnist named Joe Sharkey wrote that Asbury was right about the absence of gangs in New York in 1928 -- more precisely, he quotes Asbury to that effect and gives no sign that anyone shouldn't take Asbury's word for everything -- and goes him one better by saying that the Mafia appeared after 1928, and now, in 1998, was completely gone.

Sharkey is just a prominent case, one case of many, of people taking Asbury's word for it. Short is one case of many of people not calling Asbury an idiot for saying there were no gangs in New York in 1928.

Perhaps in 1928 Asbury had spoken with J Edgar Hoover, and Hoover had told him that mobs were not gangs and that gangs no longer existed in New York, and Asbury had taken Hoover's word for it. Hoover said many times over the course of several decades that the Mafia didn't exist, and a lot of people took Hoover's word for a lot of things they shouldn't have.

Perhaps there are reasons why people can take Asbury's word about some things. I don't know.

Friday, January 13, 2017

So, I Finally Googled jessica chastain bryce dallas howard

And I found out I'm not the only one who thinks they look alike.

They're constantly mistaken for each other, it seems.

They're friends and they joke about it all the time.

There have been music videos made on the subject.

It wasn't just me.


Sorry, I don't know which one is which in those pictures.

Wasn't just me.

In fact, I went through the first couple of dozen hits from that Google search, and there wasn't one which was about anything else other than how much they resemble one another.

You're Not Always As Young As You Feel

"Okay, we're getting ready for the 4th quarter of this barn-burner between the Boston Celtics and the Phoenix Suns, and we've had a lot of good guesses to our trivia question: Who is the oldest player in the history of the NBA? but no correct guesses. And I'm really not surprised, because this was a tough one."

"Well, you know, age is just a number anyway."

"No, age is more than just a number."

"You're as young as you feel."

"Again -- untrue. Sometimes some people feel young who are in fact very old. The same way that sometimes some people feel pretty who are not."

"Oh, come on!"

"I'm just being real here."

"Well, if we're being really real here, I've got to call you on that one, because because beauty is irreductably subjective."

"Well played, Sir, you are absolutely correct. But age is irreducably objective."

"I grudgiungly concede the point."

"Anyway, people guessed Robert Parrish, Kevin Willis and Dikembe Mutombo, and those are all very good guesses. Those guys are all in the top 5."

"I guessed Nat Hickey."

"Yes, and so did a few of our callers. Hickey was the head coach of the Providence Steamrollers in 1947-48, in the very early days of the NBA, and he put himself in in 2 games, and he was nearly 46 years old at the time, and, until, let's see, until about 10 years ago he was the oldest player in the history of the league."

"So somebody broke Hickey's record in 2007 --"

"2006."

"2006. I'm trying to think of guys who'd been in the league for a long time in 2006. You already siad it wasn't Willis or Mutombo."

"This is a tricky one.'

"Stockton?"

"No."

"Malone?"

"No."

"Grant Hill?"

"No. Okay, I'm going to end your suffering soon. One reason why this is so difficult is because most of the oldest players in the NBA, or the oldest players in most major league sports, have been All-Stars, superstars. This is a solid player, no doubt, or they wouldn't keep hiring him. He's solid, but he hasn't started very many games. As a matter of fact, over the course of his career, he hasn't even appeared in as many regular-season games as he's sat on the bench. Not injured reserve, but active and sitting out the games on the bench."

"You mean?"

"And he's played in this game, tonight."

"You mean Steven Bollinger?"

"That's correct. Steven Bollinger is the all-time oldest player in the history of the NBA."

"I didn't realize he was that old. I mean, yeah, he's got a few grey hairs, he's obviously not a kid -- wait a minute. Wait just a minute. You said Hickey had the record until 10 years ago?"

"I did say that."

"Has Bollinger held the record for 10 years?"

"Yes he has."

"That means he's -- holy shit!"

"Careful, we're on the air!"

"I apologize, ladies and gentlemen. You're trying to tell me that Steven Bollinger, journeyman reserve point guard for the Phoenix Suns, is 56 years old?!"

"Yes. Except, someone who's been in the league as long as he has, I think you refer to him as 'veteran' instead of 'journeyman.'"

"I stand corrected. 56! Wow, no wonder his knees and elbows and wrists are all taped up so often."

"I was talking to him before the game and he said he wished there were some way they could also wrap a hip. Says it might be a trick hip that finally ends his career."

"Did he say that he hurts all over most of the time?"

"As a matter of fact, he did. Not in a whiny way. He wasn't complaining, we were just talking about what it's like to be 56 and trying to keep up with all of these -- kids, from Bollinger's point of view. He actually called me 'Kid,' too. I didn't mind that, because -- well, because he's freakin' old!"

"So, he was drafted -- when, along around the mid-80's? Where did he play in college?"

"He didn't play college basketball, and he wasn't drafted. He declared for the 1979 draft out of high school. 10 rounds came and went and he wasn't drafted, but he managed to get himself a tryout with the LA Lakers, made the practice squad, and by the time the 1979 regular season started, he was on the roster. And he's been either on an NBA roster or an NBA injured reserve, not just every season, but every day of every NBA season since."

"Wait a minute -- he's not the oldest and also the youngest player in NBA history, is he?"

"4th-youngest. And he's also been very outspoken about how he thinks college athletics are a bad deal for athletes. He's called it a brilliant scam to keep from paying professional athletes. And if you look at other countries and how they tend to have a number of different professional leagues for each sport -- very much like how there used to be very many different minor leagues in baseball before college baseball eliminated a lot of them --"

"-- Except that in other countries, instead of minor leagues belonging to a major league franchise, all the teams are independent of one another..."

"-- And teams move up and down from one league to another based on their season records. Exactly."

"Right. So... Steven Bollinger. My goodness. He does not look 56 years old from the neck down. Good for him. 1979 to 2007... So he's in his 38th season in the NBA. I'm guessing his lead in the record category of longest career as a player in the NBA is rather substantial."

"He is nowhere near the lead in most games played, but in number of seasons played, he is 17 years ahead of Robert Parrish and Kevin Garnett."

"17 years and counting."

"Yes. You are correct. You are incorrect when you say that age is just a number and that you're as pretty as you feel, but when you're right, you're right."

Reich Und Beruehmt

(Das DTV-Woerterbuch der deutschen Sprache, Muenchen: 1978, enthaelt einen Fehler: S 642: "Ruhm: durch hervorragende Taten errungenes hohes Ansehen in der Oeffentlichkeit [...]" Hervorragende Taten bedarf das gar nicht. Im Gegenteil, ein ganz ordinaerer Esel, der 'hervorragende Taten' nicht einmal buchstabieren koennte, geschwiege denn verstehen, was eine solche Tat waere, kann so sehr beruehmt sein dass er aus keiner vernuenftigen Ursache zum Praesident der US gewaehlt wird.)

Ich stelle Schrift, und traume davon, so erfolgreich dabei zu sein dass die Buecher stapelhochweise taeglich bei mir erscheinen, Stapel so gross, wie sie bei grossen Zeitungen, und Publisher's Weekly, und ganz hohen Tieren unter den erfolgreichen Schriftstellern erscheinen. Die meisten davon interessieren mich gar nicht, natuerlich, und so sehr oft schleppe ich riesige Menge von Buechern zum Salvation Army-Ramschladen. Die Maenner, die dort Gueter akzeptieren, gewoehnen sich sehr schnell an mich als den Mann, der Riesenmenen von Buechern bringt, und fast so schnell wissen sie auch, dass ich der sehr, sehr beruehmte Steven Bollinger, aka The Wrong Monkey, bin:

"Pass auf, Kerl, wusstest Du denn wirklich nicht? Dies hier ist Steven Bollinger, oder: Der Wrong Monkey, der sehr, sehr beruehmter Steller von Schrift!"

"Warte mal -- ja, ich habe Sie doch vor einigen Tagen auf Stephen Colbert gesehen! Wow, der wohnt wirklich hier in unserer kleinen Stadt? Tut mir leid, mein Herr!"

"Bitte, fuer nichts. und bitte hoere auch auf mit dem 'mein Herr,' bin nicht der Queen von England. Und vor sechs Monaten war ich noch aermer als Euch. Duzen ist von mor aus ganz okay. Nenn mich lieber Steven, oder Monkey, oder sowas. Und auch, sollste wissen -- unsere kleine Stadt ist ein sehr feiner Ort, und viele ganz fabelhaft reiche und beruehmte Leute wohnen hier!"

"In Ordnung, Mr Monkey! Sie -- aetsch. Du hast ganz recht, diese ist eine feine Stadt!"

"Keine Sorge, Steve, ich setzte ihn zurecht!"

"Neu hier, ist er?"

"Ziemlich neu, ja."

"Sorgfaeltig zugehen. Lieber vorsichtig und sanft, denn wer weiss: vielleicht in sechs Monaten wird er noch reicher und beruehmter sein, als ich!"

Kann sein, Mr Monkey. Kann sein. Du hast ganz recht, ich sollte aufpassen und sorgfaeltig sein."

Ich traume auch davon, dass es einen 56-jehriger Mann gibt, der Steven Bollinger heisst und Basketball in der NBA spielt. Dieser Steven Bollinger ist ein anderer Mann, nicht ich, der nur zufaelligerweise 1 Meter 91 hoch steht so wie ich, und graue Haare unter seinen braunen Haaren hat, so wie ich. Aber der ist gar nicht ich. Ich bin erst 55 Jahre alt.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

How Many Of Trump's Supporters Are Hard-Core?

By "hard-core" I mean the idiots who will always believe that he can do no wrong.

The thing is, not all of the people who are currently behind Trump are those hard-core supporters. I see stories about people regretting voting for Trump, but they're anecdotal: so far I haven't seen any estimates of the number of the people who voted for Trump, out of the 3 million less than voted for Hillary, who already regret it.

However, I have seen reports that approval ratings for Trump have already fallen into the 30's. That's low. For a President-elect who hasn't taken office yet, I'm pretty sure it's unprecedented. The hard-core supporters make a lot of noise and grab a lot of attention, but they're not the whole story. In the country as a whole people seem to be backing away from him. How about the fact that just about all of Trump's nominees for Cabinet positions seem to contradict him on some major policy position or another? Not just Congress, not just Congressional Republicans, but his own Cabinet nominees.

Paul Krugman has already mournfully declared that American democracy is over with, that it has ended because Trump has successfully pulled off a totalitarian coup-d'etat. Well, as I've often said on this blog: screw Paul Krugman! The President-elect looks weak to me, and I just can't imagine any way that his hold on power won't get very rapidly weaker as soon as he takes office and starts officially screwing up. The Breitbart crowd will continue to adore him no matter what he does or says, but they're not a majority of Republicans, let alone a majority of the country. For everybody else he will become more unbearable by the day.

And that will be that: impeachment, ejection from office, bring in the next right-wing asshole, Mike Pence, and we'll deal with him for the better part of 4 years.

Assuming Trump doesn't actually resign before his inauguration, because of this or that Russian entanglement, or because somebody finally leaks that "Apprentice" video which is, we're assured, far worse than the "Access Hollywood" clip, or because one of the many other time-bombs all around Trump suddenly goes off.

Approval ratings in the 30's before inauguration. Cheer up, my fellow Democrats.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Manuscripts Of Ancient Texts: Quantity & Quality

Beginning in this Wrong Monkey blog post and then in several others, I've had some things to say about how many manuscripts there are of this or that ancient text -- manuscripts of the Bible, for example, or of ab urbe condita, Livy's history of Rome. I wrote that first post back in 2009 because I'd seen some figures which I suspected, rightly, as it turned out, were way off.

And all along I've realized that the number of manuscripts, by itself, is far from a comprehensive statement about how well the text has survived from ancient times down to our own time. So why have I become so fascinated with learning numbers of this or that sort of manuscript? Maybe because I'm autistic and have an autistic relationship to numbers. However, it has occurred to me that I may have been misleading my reading by giving them such numbers without other information which is very important to understanding the significance of those numbers.

For one thing, sometimes one manuscript of a text is much more significant than many other manuscripts of parts of that text, simply by virtue of length. I was thinking for example of the 4th-century Codex Sinaiticus, which contains the Greek New Testament plus about half of the Greek Old Testament. Still, it's counted as one Biblical manuscript, since it all originally belonged to one copy of the Bible between one set of covers. Over the centuries, many Biblical manuscripts have been made which never contained the entire Bible: some contained the Old Testament, some contained the New Testament, some contained only the Old Testament Book of Psalms, some contained only the four canonical Net Testament Gospels, some contained some other book or a few other books, still others contained just passages from this book and that. Yet, each one is counted as one Biblical manuscript, because each one originally was one bookmaking project, 1 volume which stood alone. When we say "a manuscript of an ancient text," we are referring to a manuscript which contains the entire text, or a tiny fragment of the text, or anything in between.

Actually, the Codex Sinaiticus was not discovered all at once, but in several pieces. But those pieces are all counted together as one manuscript, because originally they were all one huge volume. If any pieces of the rest of that original volume are found, they plus what we now have will still be counted as just 1 manuscript.

When the Codex Sinaiticus was discovered in the 19th century, it was by far the oldest manuscript of any part of the Bible then known. Since its discovery, more Biblical manuscripts have been found which are as only and in some cases even older. But many of these manuscripts are just scraps of papyrus or parchment with only a few words on them. Sometimes it the writing is so brief and faint that it has only been with difficulty that someone has determined that it contains a text from the Bible. But that little scrap, if it can't be shown to have originally been part of the same book as some other little scrap, is counted as 1 manuscript. The Codex Sinaiticus, containing most of the Bible; a 12th-century Psalter (a volume containing just the Psalms is called a Psalter); and a little 4th-century piece of papyrus containing about a dozen words from the Bible: each one is counted as one Biblical manuscript.

But if two or more such little scraps can be shown to have originally been part of the same manuscript, then, just the same as with the pages of the Codex Sinaiticus found separately, those little scraps will now be counted together as 1 manuscript. The same way, if it is proven that a book containing the Psalms and another containing the Gospels were originally made as 1 book, then what used to be counted as 2 manuscripts is now counted as 1. The same way if different pieces of parchment or some other material with writing on them are demonstrated to have originally all been parts of a one-volume Bible.

Another consideration, when we talk about Biblical manuscripts, is that not everyone agrees what is or isn't a part of the Bible. From ancient times down to the present, different groups have included different books in the Bible. And then in the past couple of centuries, manuscripts of books which were rejected by those who eventually became the dominant churches and have been missing since ancient times have been found by archaeologists and others: the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Judas, the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, etc.

Now let's move from the Bible to ab urbe condita, the history of Rome written in the first century BC by Livy. In the case of the Bible, many manuscripts contain an entire Bible, both Old and New Testament, and the Codex Sinaiticus and some other very old manuscripts contain most of it. Of the 142 books of the ab urbe condita, all of the manuscripts currently known, all put together, add up to 35 of those 142 books, books 1-10 and 21-45, plus a couple pages from book 91 and a couple of sentences from book 11. And as far as I know, no single manuscript contains more than 10 books. So, although the total number of manuscripts of Livy is impressively large, the number of manuscripts which contain ALL of his work is 0 -- as compared to however many manuscripts contain the entire Bible, dozens or hundreds or however many it may be.

Another thing: often the greatest specialists in a certain ancient text not only don't know the total number of manuscripts of that text, or even a close guess about how many there are -- often times they don't particularly care how many there are. And they're being more sensible about this than I am, with my hunger to know exactly how many known manuscripts there are of Caesar's Gallic War or Lucan's Civil War. Why? Because every single manuscript doesn't always matter that much when it comes to editing the texts: coming up with the most accurate possible version of the text along with a reasonable number of guesses about variations, given in the footnotes. And editing texts is what a lot of these experts do all day long every day, while I flutter around the fringes of their profession being a weirdo.

Why doesn't every single manuscript always matter all that much? Well, for instance, let's take Ammianus Marcellinus, who in the late 4th century AD wrote a history which he may have considered to be a continuation of the history of the 1st-century-AD history of Tacitus, who may have considered his work to be a continuation of Livy's. Ammianus' history was 31 books long; today we have books 14 through 31 on 2 9th-century manuscripts and 14 15th-century manuscripts. However, it has been shown that all 14 of those 15th-century manuscripts come from 1 of the 9th-century manuscripts, that 4 of them are copied directly from it, and that all 10 of the remaining manuscripts are copied directly or indirectly from 1 of those 4. One page from that 9th-century manuscript is now missing, giving the 15th-century manuscripts most of the scholarly value they now have.

Sometimes an ancient text is known to us from only 1 manuscript. Sometimes an ancient text is known to us from no manuscripts at all. How can this be? It happens if early printed copies of the work survive, but all of its manuscripts have gone missing since they were first printed. That has happened a couple of times. Somewhat more common is that manuscripts survives, but an early printed version still contains some passages which are now missing from all known manuscripts.

And let's not forget Phillip Patterson, who recently spent 4 years' worth of his spare time copying out the King James Bible by hand. That means there's at least one more manuscript of the entire Bible than there were before Patterson started, because a text written with a pen on paper is a manuscript.

The numbers of manuscripts of ancient texts such as the Bible and Livy and Marcellinus tend to drop off sharply after the 15th century, because of the spread of printing, but occasionally a more recent manuscript plays a large role in establishing an ancient text.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

"I'm Not On Obamacare"


Now, if the GOP succeeds in doing away with the ACA, and can convince their supporters who were on ACA plans and are outraged that the ACA is gone, and who still think Obamacare and the ACA are two completely different things, that the ACA disappearing is completely Obama's fault -- well, I guess that would be just more of the same. And speaking of Holy Shit: the Republicans, not just Trump but Republican legislators, are talking about building that fucking wall. "Mexico will pay us for it after it's done." You'd figure at some point their BS would become too stupid to fly anymore. However...

Monday, January 9, 2017

Intellectual Laziness: The Sad Case Of Michael Paulkovich And Myself

The two first posts I wrote concerning Michael Paulkovich's claim to have studied 126 ancient historians, looking for evidence of Jesus' existence, which I posted here back in September 2014, continue to be the two most-discussed, most-viewed, most-linked things I have written. They both continue to generate pageviews on my blog. And that's great. I was about to describe them as "most-read" along with "most-discussed" and "most-linked" and so forth, but the thing is, I don't know how carefully-read those posts have been. And not reading written works or just skimming them, and then acting as if you familiar with their contents, is the theme of this post.

First, there's Paulkovich: he claims to have studied 126 ancient historians, looking for evidence of Jesus' existence, but he hasn't: he has listed 126 names. But of those 126 people, few are actually historians. There are writers of fiction, physicians, lyric poets, people who died before Jesus was born, 4 writers who actually do mention Jesus, and more than 40 of whose writing nothing has survived, so much for Paulkovich's claim of having studied it. That's a particularly spectacular case of intellectual laziness, as is Free Inquiry's having published Paulkovich's piece and their continuing to defend it to this day.

Then there are the many people, other than the editors of Free Inquiry, who have taken Paulkovich's word when he says that he has studied historical texts written by these 126 people. And those who take his word when he describes himself as an historian and Biblical scholar. All of those people who assume that Paulkovich's assertions are sound, who haven't gone to the trouble of checking them. And sweet Lord Vushnu, you don't have to check Paulkovich's list of 126 names very extensively before you start to notice that something is wrong. (If Paulkovich is an historian, I'm a freakin' unicorn.)

Among the people who have described Paulkovich as having done devastating damage to the case for Jesus' historicity is Jerry Coyne, one of the world's most highly-respected biologists, but when it comes to his rep as an authority on ancient history, not so highly-respected anymore, along with fellow big-time, no foolin' biologists like Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers. Besides being some of the world's leading biologists, Coyne, Dawkins and Myers are also New Atheists, which among other things means they don't know much about ancient history and seem determined to stay that way. They would never accept any statement about biology whatsoever, made by anyone whatsoever, by an unknown or a Nobel Prize-winning biologist, as uncritically as Coyne accepted Paulkovich's claims about ancient historians.

Coyne may now know better about Paulkovich, someone may have been able in the meantime to explain to him what's up there, but if so, I haven't heard about it yet.

Besides Coyne, many others have assumed that Paulkovich knows what he's talking about when it comes to ancient historians. I hope that not many of them are also academics, but I have no idea how many of them may be.

All of the above has been perfectly clear to me all along.

So. Then comes me, with my blog posts concerning that list of 126 names, and a lot of people have praised those two posts of mine and linked them and so forth.

But how many of the people who have been so enthusiastic about my blog posts have checked my work? I'm complaining because people have uncritically accepted what Paulkovich says, but how many people who accept what I say about Paulkovich are just as uncritical?

Before we even get to the question of whether readers have checked my facts, it's been clear all along that many people have commented on my posts without having read them carefully at all: for instance, because they describe me as convinced that Jesus existed and/or a believing monotheist, although I state in those posts that I am an atheist and that I'm not sure whether or not Jesus existed. These are mostly people who defend Paulkovich, and apparently assume that pious Christian belief is the only reason anyone could have for having any problem with him.

Those are obvious cases. But today it suddenly hit me that most of the people who take my side against Paulkovich probably haven't checked my work any more thoroughly than those who take Paulkovich's side have checked his. If they had checked my work at all, then they would've given an indication of it in their comments underneath those countless online articles and blog posts. They would've given an indication by saying: Bollinger is right, person X -- fill in the blank: has no writing which survives, or, wrote only fiction, or wrote only about medicine, or actuallly does mention Jesus, etc.

And a few people have made such comments, and I've had some very rewarding online discussions with them. But for the most part it's people saying: look here, Paulkovich has made a great case that Jesus never existed, against people saying, look here, Bollinger has made a compelling case that Paulkovich doesn't know what he's talking about.

And all sides are choosing their authority -- Paulkovich, or me, or someone else -- for no sounder reason than because that authority is saying what they want to believe is true.

It just dawned on me very recently how rare it has been, in this entire controversy over Jesus' historicity, for someone to actually go to any trouble at all of actually digging into the source texts and doing a little research for themselves. Hearing arguments about who wrote this or that text, and when, and whether or not it may have been altered, by mistake or on purpose. Actually attempting to figure out how reliable this or that modern or ancient authority might be. Weighing the non-literary evidence. Considering opposing points of view while attempting to keep an open mind. And then reaching their own conclusions rather than just accepting someone else's, and actually basing those conclusions on ancient evidence rather than contemporary politics.

Well, it's a shame when people don't do all of that, because that's the fun stuff in the study of ancient history.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Things I Have Said To Cats

(To help you picture this correctly: I'm 55 years old, 6'3", 280lbs.)

"You are a widdle kitty! Yes you are! Yes you are! You are a widdle kitty! You are my widdle schmoo-schmoo!"

"Hello, my little luxury item!"

"You are the smallest and strangest-looking horse I have ever seen! Your nose, those whiskers, your ears -- it's all completely different than any other horse I've seen! And those FEET are COMPLETELY different!"


"I will get you, you little kitty! I will get you! And when I get you -- I WILL RUB YOOOOUUUU!!!"

"I wuv you, you little thing! Yes I do! I wuv you so much!"

"Meow meow meow meow! Meow meow meow meow meow meow. Meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow."

"Hi there! Hi there! How are you? I just want to pet you. That's all. Come here! Come here!"

"It's pretty cool to be us, huh?" (This would be said when we were snuggled up and the cat or cats was or were purring.)

"Good thing you're so cute!" (This would be said at other times.)

"You are very nice. I am glad you are here."

"THAT TICKLES!" (When a cat is walking on me.)

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Trump And Alternative Energy

Bloomberg News, Nov 9, 2016: "Trump's Win 'A Disaster' for Plunging Renewable Energy Sector"

Bloomberg News, Nov 23, 2016: "Economics to Keep Wind and Solar Energy Thriving With Trump"

More headlines seem to agree with the second headline than with the first. A third headline, from fiverthirtyeight.com on Nov 14, seems to cover the prevailing opinion pretty well: "It's Hard To Tell Whether Trump Supports Renewable Energy — And That May not Matter Much"

It may not matter much, because wind and solar and other green energy options may very soon be so much more attractive economically than oil and coal that Trump and the petrochemical sector won't be able to kill them. The technology just keeps getting more efficient and cheaper. The tech geniuses just keep thinking stuff up, as Bruce Willis put it in Armageddon. Transparent solar panels, which can cover the entire exterior of a building because they double as windows. Rotating solar panels.

When I said "more attractive economically" above, I was referring to conventional economics, and to the kind of investor whose biggest hero is Adam Smith. Conventional economics or paleoeconomic theory, exemplified by Trump and Big Oil, create a theoretical model of the entire world in which things such as the environment are treated as "externals," as secondary factors, not to be treated as the primary things under consideration when investing. Of course, this is completely insane: conventional economics is an arbitrary way of doing things which functions only because enough people have agreed to do things that way. It can be completely scrapped and replaced by a totally different economic model whenever people agree to do so, and such a change will not harm the atmosphere or the oceans one bit. On the other hand, if the oceans die or the atmosphere becomes too polluted or temperatures rise too much, all of the people will die, and every form of economics on Earth will die with them. Conventional economic theory regards buying and selling and currencies and loans and interest and so forth as essential things, and environment and health as secondary. The plain and obvious truth is that conventional economics has this completely backwards.

It's dawning on more and more people that conventional economics has this completely backwards. Nevertheless, it continues to function in terms of rewarding those who follow its rules with greater accumulations of money than those who don't. It's either dawned on Democrats much more often than on Republicans, or Republicans pretend that it hasn't dawned on them because they're making money with that pretense. "We are what we pretend to be," as Kurt Vonnegut pointed out.

The ironic thing is that solar and wind energy and other clean energies are beginning to win, not because of their ecological benefit, but because of their appeal to those who continue to follow conventional economics and to treat the environment as if it were secondary to buying and selling and loaning and interest rates and wages and so forth. These clean energies are rapidly growing in appeal to those who seem to believe that conventional economics consists of laws of nature rather than completely arbitrary agreements between people, agreements which can be, and are, modified, re-invented or scrapped whenever people agree to do so. Green energy is growing in appeal to those appeal because it's making money and not because of anything to do with the environment or with the health of living things.

Presumably, if clean energies grow by several hundred percent in the next few years, resulting in petrochemical shrinking to a small fraction of the market share they now enjoy, Trump will take credit for the bluer skies and gentler weather and our greater ability to see the stars at night, and claim it was all his idea right from the start, whether he's still president or whether he was impeached and removed from office early in 2017.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Ihr Erwartet Wohl Meine Meinung Zu Den Cicero 500

Falls Du es noch nicht weisst: alle einigen Jahre veroeffentlicht ein doofes Ding das Cicero heisst eine doofe Liste welche

Die Cicero-Rangliste der 500 wichtigsten Intellektuellen des deutschsprachigen Raums

heisst.

Meine heftigste Reaktion zu der Liste ist dass ich nicht darauf bin. Das ist empoerend. Das darf nicht stehen.

Wenn Du darauf einwendest: Aber Steven, es heisst "Intellektuellen des deutschsprachigen Raums," was bliebe mir oder sonst jemand zu erwidern als etwa: "Oh, Ohhh, SO eine Liste ist es also? Im Klartext also "die 500 DEUTSCHESTEN Intellektuellen des deutschsprachigen Raums, eh?"

Ich spiele. Solchen Kram kann ich nicht wirklich sehr ernst nehmen. Aber nimm Dir eine Minute, denke darueber nach: wer sich selbst The Wrong Monkey nennt -- geht es ihm wohl stets vor allem um ernsthaften Dingern?

Es ist doof, intellektuell und national zugleich sein zu wollen. Diejenigen auf der Liste, die man am ehesten ohne Haeme "Intellektuelle" nennt, sind das was sie sind zum grossen Teil weil sie mehrspraechig und international sind. Also, eine Liste von Intellektuellen des Raums einer einzigen Sprache ist schon an sich albern.

Andererseits: Ciceros Liste ist wenigstens ehrlicher als eine, die international sein wollte, und 283 oder mehr von den 500 waeren Deutschoesterreichunddeutschschweizer. Ein wenig albern ist es, ueberhaupt eine internationale Liste von Intellektuallen zu erwagenen, weil die Welt sehr gross ist, und man kann nicht fairerweise erwarten, dass ein deutscher Listemacher sich gruendlich auskennt bei dem intellektuellen Leben von, sagen wir, Brasil. Oder ein brasilianischer Listemacher bei der intellekuellen Leben von, sagen wir, Indonesien. Usw.

Aber diese Liste von Cicero ist vom Grunde auf doof, weil sie "Intellekuelle" "ehrt," weil sie beruehmt sind. Also, wegen dessen, was sie gemeinsam mit Thomas Gottschalk und Kim Kardashian haben. Intellektuelle sind weder wichtig noch intellektuell weil sie beruehmt sind. Ich bin immer noch nicht ueberzeugt, dass Hegel ein wirklicher Intellektueller war, ich halte es noch mit Schopenhauer, wenn es um die Beurteilung Hegels geht. Aber was auch immer er war, Intellektueller oder sonst etwas -- er hoerte nicht auf, das zu sein, weil Berlins groesste Hoersaale zu klein waren, um alle seiner Fans auf einmal einzuschliessen.

Ist einer ein wirklicher Intellektueller, hoerte er natuerlich nicht auf, es zu sein, und buesst auch nicht an Wichtigkeit ein ein, falls er beruehmt wird bevor er stirbt. Das waere die widerliche Ansicht von Snobs: Leute, die REM 1982 liebten und sie seit 1985 hassen, die Sloterdijk Maerz 1983 liebten und ihn seit Mai 1983 hassen.

Ich waere gern beides: einerseits intellektuell, andererseits sehr sehr beruehmt, ein Rockstar. Und deshalb aergert es mich, das ich nicht auf Ciceros doofe Liste stehe, neben Menschen, die nicht notwendigerweise genial zu nennen waeren, aber geniessen irgendwo den Ruf, Intellektuelle zu sein, und trotzdem nicht selten auf derselben Zeitungsseite erwaehnt werden als Berichte von den letzten Unwichtihkeiten von Kardashian und Werbung fuer Haribo mit Gottschalk.

Niemand, denke ich, haelt Martin Walser fuer den tiefsten lebenden Denker, der Deutsch schreibt. Aber seit mehr als 60 Jahren veroeffentlicht er Unmengen von Fiktion, welche von einigen Kritikern ernstgenommen wird. Nicht immer sehr viele Kritiker, nicht stets dieselben Kritikern, nicht immer sehr ernst genommen. Aber immerhin: 60 ununterbrochenen Jahre von ja doch vielleicht als Intellekueller gelten, und Du bist der wichtigste Intellektuelle des deutschen Sprachraums, das heisst, der beruehmteste noch lebende Mensch, der im grossen und ganzen fuer einen Intellektuellen gilt.