Category Archives: Politics

A parable for the insurrection

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There was the Big Boss, I’ll call him Boss Carl. Then there was the lower boss, I’ll call her The Dragon because that was, in fact, her nickname. Seven or eight people worked for The Dragon. They loved their jobs because it was exactly one of those jobs people decide they must do, but few get to do, and they happen to get to do it. Like being a firefigher if that is what you always wanted to do, but firefighing jobs were rare. But they all hated their jobs because The Dragon … well, you can imagine where she got her name.

But even though they hated their jobs it was hard to leave them for the aforestated reason.

The Dragon hated when people took lunch. She would get mad at them if they took lunch. She wanted people to keep working but just eat their sandwich while they were working. The Dragon hated when people took vacations. She hated when people used their vacation time. She never did, why should they. But in between all these hates, The Dragon saw everybody as being incompetent, slow, and dumb. But they were all competent, worked with alacrity, and they were all very, very smart.

One day an employee, I’ll call her Mary, got cancer. The Dragon tried right away to fire her, but she couldn’t’. She wasn’t the Big Boss, she was only the Small Boss. She only ran a one unit (an important part, but only one part) of the larger institution. Then Mary needed Chemotherapy and had to take off a couple of hours once every two weeks. The Dragon tried again to fire her, but didn’t get away with it. Then Mary got sicker and needed Chemotherapy weekly, but only for a few weeks then the treatment would end for a while. The Dragon tried again to fire her, and this time managed to do it while Boss Carl was out of town.

This sort of thing went on for years. It went on for about 20 years.

Then, one day, the wife of Boss Carl, who occasionally partook of the services provided by The Dragon’s institutional unit, had something go wrong. The Dragon’s staff had made a goof, and Boss Carl’s wife was upset and may have said a thing or two. The Dragon, thinking the wife of Boss Carl was out of earshot, called her a “bitch.”

Boss Carl heard about this. Boss Carl went to the building when he knew The Dragon was out at a meeting, and lined all the employees up, and had them recite things The Dragon had done over the years. He knew there were things, but they had not been important to him before now. A scribe recorded the stories. By the end of the week The Dragon was fired.

This parable has been brought to you by #BLM, Children in Cages, and every person ever pulled over Driving While Black.


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Dear Senator (about that insurrection thing)

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I’m contacting all of my representatives, but I thought this note to Senator Klobuchar was bloggable, so here it is:

Dear Senator Klobuchar,

First, I appreciate the comment you made last night on the RMS, when you turned back an expression of concern about your welfare, noting that you and your colleagues are fine, it is the American people at risk.

What happened in the Capitol was little more than a group of hoodlums egged on by the Hooligan In the White House to act badly. That the bad acting turned into an invasion was a failing of the police and security. The security failed in part because the People’s House has open door and open spaces, which is a feature, not a bug, but also, because (it appears) the police helped them, or at least, did not try to circumvent their plan. That was white privilege, especially obvious in comparison to the way everyone, white, black, or brown, are treated when we stand up to say that Black lives matter.

This was just the tip of an iceberg, but a very problematic iceberg, to say the least. Four years of Trump; decades of a Republican party that chooses to gain power at all costs, and that first forgot how to govern, then forgot how to be ethical, then forgot how to be moral; and centuries of slavery, Jim Crow, and deep and damaging racial bias in all aspects of society.

I write to ask you to engage forcefully in whatever action is necessary to remove Donald Trump and the rest of the Trump crime family from the White House, and from government, and to disqualify Trump from ever running for public office again. He is the disease, you are the immune system. Short term, the Congress must regurgitate (or something) Trump at the nearest curb. Long term, the Congress needs to help our governmental institution’s build immunity to this sort of pathogen in the future.

Cheers,

Greg Laden

Also watch this:


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2021 will be an excellent year

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If 2021 involves a tragic airplane crash killing 27 beloved celebrities, has half a US state burn to the ground because of global warming, a medium-bad flu season, and fewer than 8 devastating tropical cyclones, it will be a good year compared to 2020. But I think it will be better than that.

President Biden will not be able to form a cabinet since Mich McConnell will not let him, unless the two Democratic Senatorial candidates in Georgia win, so do work on that. But either way we’ll be fine. If Georgia sends two Democrats to Washington, we can get a national clean car law, start building out utility scale wind and solar, see some real farm support funding that both reduces fossil Carbon release and cleans up farms while reducing debt. We’ll see movement on health care reform (thought that is going to take a more progressive Senators) and major changes in electoral reform. It is not going to be a progressive’s wet dream, but 2021 will not be the political nightmare each of the last four years has been.

If Georgia fails us and we end up with two years of McConnell stopping every little thing Biden tries to do, that two year period will be the final two years of the Republican party, forever, and we’ll see that deterioration so fast it will be a memorable feature of 2021.

During the course of 2021 more than three different Covid-19 vaccines will be deployed and by the end of the year, enough people will be vaccinated that this plague will end. That will be a record breaking plague ending, compared to the other big ones, which usually have gone at least a few years. All plagues end, on their own, or at least have so far. Notice that we are not having a Bubonic Plague right now, and we are not having a 1918 flue pandemic right now. But that usually takes a bit longer. School will be back in session next school year, though perhaps normalcy delayed by a month or a month and a half. By the end of November all the kiddies will be in classrooms.

I suspect the spring back of the economy will be strong. In particular, I’m hoping that at a global level the spring back happens in areas that are now suffering from the kind of para-apocalyptic strife that breeds terrorism and war. Torn up regions of the Levant may become centers of energy production or other economic boom behavior, and less cauldrons of discontent and radicalization. That will take a few years, but it will start in 2021.

I assume the press will give Trump his due, which means, basically, ignoring him. The oxygen of attention starved of his Covid-streaked lungs will kill him, as public entity, and his followers, now the biggest threat to national unity, will forget he existed and crawl back into their politically dark holes. Every year the political orientation of the US shifts from deplorable to reasonable by about 1% (because of differential death rates vs. immigration and education). That means that after an 8 year long Biden-Harris administration with mostly Democrats in Congress, we will be done with them.

We need to see changes start that will take two decades to complete. The coming year, 2021, will be the year the seeds are planted.


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Evidence that Trump might be a dictator emerges. Everyone is really surprised.

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Trump’s fake justice department is going after John Bolton, to stop the publication of his book “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir.” It is said the book contains significant damning evidence of Trump wrongdoing.

Important subplot: Trump says he officially classifies all conversations he ever had with Bolton about anything. Therefore, if Bolton reveals any conversation at all, that he is a criminal, and will hopefully be prosecuted.

This is what dictators do. They play with the law. Trump, as dictator, could just declare Bolton to be a traitor and have him arrested and sent to Gitmo (maybe Trump doesn’t know he has that power?) but he plays around with it like this, makes the point more clear: Anyone who interferes with Trump’s power is in trouble.

And that, dear fellow voter, includes you.

Details here.


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Radical Conditions: Books

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A selection of fairly new books that seems suddenly more appropriate than usual:

Food or War by Julian Cribb, author of Open Science [OP]: Sharing Knowledge in the Global Century

Ours is the Age of Food. Food is a central obsession in all cultures, nations, the media, and society. Our future supply of food is filled with risk, and history tells us that lack of food leads to war. But it also presents us with spectacular opportunities for fresh human creativity and technological prowess. Julian Cribb describes a new food system capable of meeting our global needs on this hot and overcrowded planet. This book is for anyone concerned about the health, safety, affordability, diversity, and sustainability of their food – and the peace of our planet. It is not just timely – its message is of the greatest urgency. Audiences include consumers, ‘foodies’, policymakers, researchers, cooks, chefs and farmers. Indeed, anyone who cares about their food, where it comes from and what it means for them, their children and grandchildren.

Anarchist Pedagogies: Collective Actions, Theories, and Critical Reflections on Education edited by Robert Haworth.

Important and challenging issues in the area of anarchism and education are presented in this history of egalitarian and free-school practices. From Francisco Ferrer’s modern schools in Spain and the Work People’s College in the United States, to contemporary actions in developing “free skools” in the United Kingdom and Canada, the contributors illustrate the importance of developing complex connections between educational theories and collective actions. Major themes in the volume include learning from historical anarchist experiments in education, ways that contemporary anarchists create dynamic and situated learning spaces, and critical reflections on theoretical frameworks and educational practices. Many trailblazing thinkers and practitioners contributed to this volume, such as Jeffery Shantz, John Jordon, Abraham de Leon, Richard Kahn, Matthew Weinstein, and Alex Khasnabish. This thoughtful and provocative collection proves that egalitarian education is possible at all ages and levels.

Anarchism and Education: A Philosophical Perspective (Routledge International Studies in the Philosophy of Education (Numbered)) by Judith Suissa.

Arguing that the central role of educational practice in anarchist theory and activism has been overlooked by many theorists, this examination of contemporary educational philosophy counters the assertion that anarchism reflects a naïve or overly optimistic view of human nature. By articulating the philosophical underpinnings of anarchist thought on issues of human nature, freedom, authority, and social change, the case is made that the anarchist tradition can be a rich source of insights into perennial philosophical questions about education. This theoretical exploration is then bolstered with a historical account of anarchist education, focusing on key defining features of anarchist schools, their ideological underpinnings, and their pedagogical approaches. Finally, a clear explanation of how anarchist education is distinct from libertarian, progressive, Marxist, and liberal models defines the role of anarchist education in furthering and sustaining a just and equal society.


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Republcian Rep Matthew Grossell: Be prepared to defend the Republic!

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Representative Matthew Grossell, of the Minnesota Legislature, tells us to “be prepared to defend this republic” from protesters calling for racial equity and criminal justice reform.

Ex cop Grossell calls for citizens to take up arms against anti-racism protests.
Grossell is a rep from District 2A, which is one of the most famous districts in Minnesota because it is where we find International Falls, often cited in national weather reports as having the lowest temperature in the connected 48 states.

Grossell has deemed the George Floyd Protests Are “Evil” & “Not About Race,” “a coordinated attack on our God given freedoms”, “a springboard for an alter agenda to destroy this republic and any other free nation around the world”, “not about race”, “an attempt to divide us as Americans”, and “the lies and deceit of evil.”

Grossell’s gross sell is being criticized by the Minnesota DFL (Democratic) party, who call this an “unhinged social media tirade … in which Grossell attacks the protests calling for justice and reform that erupted in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and appears to call for violence to be used against protesters.

We know Grossell is a typical Republican, and he proves it with his remarks. My question is, does his expressed point of view reflect the thinking of the good people of his district? I know several people who live in 2B, and no, it does not as far as I can tell. Grossell is out of step and needs to be replaced.

Just so you know I’m not cherry picking, here is the full text of Grossell’s Facebook post:

What’s on my mind is this folks, as I look at what is going on across the state, across the nation and across the world. One thing stays in my heart and mind, this is a coordinated attack on our God given freedoms as written in the Constitution of these United States. The tragic death of one man has been used as a springboard for an alter agenda to destroy this republic and any other free nation around the world. This is not about race though it is being used in an attempt to divide us as Americans. We must not let the lies and deceit of evil divide us and we must stand ready to defend this nation, this republic, the land of the free the home of the brave. I took an oath as a soldier, a law enforcement officer and now as a state representative to uphold the Constitution and I have never been relieved of that oath nor will I ever give it up. I call upon my brothers and sisters across this state, this nation and around the world to stand ready to face this evil, which will never be appeased by compromise nor will it ever stop taking until it has taken every freedom we hold dear, and stop it dead in its tracks. It was said somewhere by a wise individual ‘all evil needs to get a foothold is for good men to do nothing’. So I call upon my brothers and sisters to first and foremost pray and secondly to be prepared to defend this republic, the land of the free the home of the brave! We are one nation under God and it’s time for us to stand ready to defend this nation this republic which God has so graciously given us. Please share this as far and wide as you possibly can. Thank you, God’s blessings and protection cover us all.

This is a state representative calling for his fellow citizens to take up arms against those who want change. I think he should be censured.


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If I suggested you read this, it is because you used “ad hominem” wrong

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The term “ad hominem” means directed against a person.

If you are a racist, and I say you are a racist, then my statement is ad hominem. Note that the statement may be technically correct. I’m saying something about you, and you really are a racist, so my statement is correct. On the other hand, if you are not a racist, and I say you are a racist, that is an incorrect ad hominem statement. My statement is incorrect. Either way, I have not committed an “ad hominem fallacy.” I’ve simply made a statement about you, that may or may not have been correct.

So, what the heck is the meaning of the term “ad hominem fallacy” you may ask? (Note that the term “ad hominem” itself, or “ad hom” for short, has come to imply “ad hominem fallacy.”) In the above example, you might think that if I call you a racist and you are, that I have not committed a fallacy, but if you are a racist, I’ve not. In neither of the above examples, have I committed the ad hominem fallacy.

If I sent you to this post to read it, it is more likely because I think you’ve committed the fallacy of the ad hominem fallacy. This is a meta-fallacy. You have claimed that an ad hominem fallacy has occurred because someone has called someone a racist (or some other nasty thing, I’m using “racist” as an example here, obviously) whether the accusation is right or wrong. But your reference to the ad hominem fallacy is in fact a fallacy because none of that relates to what an ad hominem fallacy actually is.

An ad hominem fallacy is when you are arguing over an issue, like are cats better than dogs, and you go after the person you are arguing with and attack them as a person as part of your argument. That is not the same as the question of whether the person is in fact worthy of this attack.

Let me give you an example.

Me: Cats are better than dogs.

Hitler: No, dogs are better than cats.

Me: No. You are, in fact, Hitler, and Hitler is a total jerk, so therefore, cats are better than dogs.

Here, I am wrong in two ways. First, you can’t say that cats are better than dogs. Or visa versa. Second, I’m arguing that the other guy in this argument is wrong because he is a jerk. I was committing an ad hominem fallacy.

However, I am right about one thing. Hitler is a jerk. So, let’s play it out again from a slightly different angle.

Me: Cats are better than dogs.

Hitler: No, dogs are better than cats.

Me: Hitler, you are a complete jerk, did you know that?

Hitler: So I’ve been told.

Me: In any event, you are wrong. Cats are better than dogs.

Hitler: Really, you can’t say one is better than the other.

Me: You know, you are right about that. You are still a jerk.

Hitler: So I’ve been told.

Hitler is still bad.
Here, our discussion about cats vs. dogs actually came to a reasonable conclusion and, indeed, a consensus. Who knew both Hitler and I could be so reasonable? Also, I made an ad hominem attack on Hitler. I called him a jerk. In so doing, I did not commit an ad hominem fallacy. I made a statement of belief about Hitler’s jerkiness, and very likely, I was right. I did not use Hitler’s jerkiness as part of my argument about cats vs. dogs. Even if I was wrong, and Hitler is a nice guy with a bad reputation, my statement was still not an ad hominem fallacy. It might have been wrong, but it was not an ad hominem fallacy. It was about him, so technically, it was “ad hominem” but not a fallacy.

An ad hominem fallacy is when you use a personal attack on a person in order to devalue or dismiss an argument they are making. It is NOT when you make a statement about the person, which may or may not be a personal attack, in and of itself. I maintain Hitler is a jerk, and I don’t care about cats vs dogs. Maybe I’m right, maybe I’m wrong, but while that is an attack on the man, it is not a logical fallacy. If I say his opinion about dogs vs cats is wrong because he is a jerk, THAT is an ad hominem fallacy.

I sent you here because I think you got that wrong, and I wrote this post because I’m weary of that common fallacy, about a fallacy, being toted out in the middle of arguments.


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Ancient Chinese Historians and the White House Press Corps

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This is a story that I learned from a well respected scholar of Chinese history and archaeology, K.C. Chang. He was, briefly, my graduate advisor. I am not a scholar of Chinese anything, and I can’t remember if this story had a textual source, but I have a vague feeling it was in a book introduction or review article written by Chang, and the subject matter was Chinese historiography. Historiography is the study of historical writing, in other words, the study of methods in history. When one studies Chinese historiography, one is often looking at very ancient texts, written by ancient Chinese historians. Apparently, “historian” was a job, not necessarily that different from “scribe” in some other ancient contexts, and during some times and in some places, the Chinese historian sat in the court of the Emperor.

Every now and then, I look for the original story, or some version of it, but I can never find it. It is a story with a lesson so important that it should be retold many times. I do not attest to its veracity, but I will stand by its meaning. Lacking a source to refer to, I hereby make up, er, reconstruct, a version of it so I can put it here in this blog post and refer to it later.

The story goes like this.

An Emperor was sitting court, and attended to by one historian and the historian’s assistants, and others. A man had been accused of a crime, and the Emperor was to decide his fate. Those arguing on behalf of the man clearly demonstrated that he had not committed the crime, and should be let go, but the Emperor had taken a dislike to this man, and ordered his immediate beheading. And so, he was beheaded.

The historian recorded this event, and included in the record, made right then and there, a phrase such as “The Emperor had the man wrongly beheaded.”

Made aware of this, the Emperor insisted that the historian, right then and there, “correct” the record to indicate that the Emperor was just in his decision. The historian pointed out that this was wrong, and he could not change the record.

The Emperor ordered the historian beheaded, and so he was, right then and there.

The first assistant historian then took over the job of historian, and recorded, “The Emperor had the man wrongly beheaded. Then, on seeing that the Historian recorded this accurately had that Historian beheaded.”

Becoming aware of this entry to the historical record, the Emperor insisted that the new historian “correct” the record to show that the Emperor was just. That historian refused, and under the order of the Emperor, was promptly beheaded.

The next assistant historian then took over, and recorded that the Emperor had wrongly ordered the beheading of a citizen, then, wrongly ordered the beheading of the historian that recorded that fact, then ordered the beheading of the historian that recorded that fact. This historian fully understood that he would now be beheaded as well.

But he was not. The Emperor saw that his own reputation was becoming more and more severely damaged, and he understood that a line of historians would form at his court to record this, because this was the role of historians at this time and place. The Emperor relented, went on with other business, and the third historian lived.

And this is why we know today of what that Emperor did.


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E. Jean Carroll vs Donald Trump: He said she said?

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My close personal friend E. Jean Carroll is not going to go away. Trump lawyers tried to deflect her law suit, but they were rebuffed by a judge in a ruling Thursday.

Carroll says she is “filing this lawsuit for every woman who’s been pinched, prodded, cornered, felt-up, pushed against a wall, grabbed, groped, assaulted, and has spoken up only to be shamed, demeaned, disgraced, passed over for promotions, fired, and forgotten. While I can no longer hold Donald Trump accountable for assaulting me more than twenty years ago, I can hold him accountable for lying about it and I fully intend to do so.”

Trump says, “When you’re a star, they let you do it. “You can do anything. Grab ‘em by the pussy.”

I guess it is just another he-said, she-said.

More


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