Archive for February, 2016

Agave II


Here is the agave four days ago, on its way up into the sky.


Here it is this afternoon–I had to stand back to get it all in.


Here’s a closer look at the buds now on the stalk.

More to come!


Read Full Post »


Bernie Sanders said of his defeat in South Carolina that his campaign was “decimated” among older Black voters. Hillary earned 90% of the votes cast by older Black people in that state.

The Latin word for “ten” was “decem.” Hence, one in ten equals a decimation.

“To decimate” originally meant that one of every ten Roman soldiers was singled out for punishment (usually death) when the legions did not perform up to their commanders’ expectations. As is ordinarily the case with languages, as time passes useful words expand their possible referents. This has happened to “decimate” in English, where it can now be used to refer to any sort of catastrophic damage.

Bernie, however, used it in its original sense. Way to go, classically educated person!

PS: There were only ten months in the Roman calendar before Julius Caesar got around to fixing it. Which is how we got “December.” Sorry–these and a lot of otherwise useless facts are rolling around in my head from all those years of Latin classes.



Read Full Post »

The Worms Turn

Wow. This afternoon I’ve seen a string of Thugs on the teevee machine all going after Trump. These folks can turn on a dime.

Democrats should be so organized.

Read Full Post »

What Do They Want?



Would you buy a used car from this man?

This here is Chuck Grassley, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Chuck represents the state of Iowa and has done so since he graduated from Northern Iowa University in 1958, whence he was elected to the Iowa House. In 1975 the good folks of Iowa elected him to the US House of Representatives, and in 1981 he was elected to the Senate. At 83, he is even older than me.

Ol’ Chuck must be something of a tool given that he has been in the Senate for–egad!–35 years. The other Thug members of the judiciary inspire no hope among the sane:  they are Cornyn of Texas, Cruz of Texas, Lee of Utah, Hatch of Utah, Graham of South Carolina, Perdue of Georgia, Tillis of North Carolina, Diaper Dave Vitter of Louisiana, Sessions of Alabama and Arizona’s aptly surnamed Jeff Flake.

Note: except for Grassley, every one of these guys is from the south or the west. Not good odds for any Obama appointment to the Supreme Court. The only women on the committee are Democrats (Feinstein of California, Klobuchar of Minnesota) and the Dem men are from the northeast and upper midwest. But of course they are in the minority.

So what if Mitch McConnell makes good on his threat to hold no hearings of this committee on Obama’s appointment to the Supreme Court? And what if he succeeds in this truculence until the election in November? And what if Hillary is elected? Does McConnell, assuming he still holds the majority, refuse to consider her nominees too? And what if any if the justices who are eighty years old or nearing it (Breyer, Ginsburg, Kennedy) decide to retire in the meantime? Can the court function with seven justices? six? five?

Breyer and Ginsburg are reliable leftish votes, and Kennedy has been known to swing. Any of these retirements would move the court rightward unless they are replaced by a Democratic prex.  So: what if, goddess forfend, a Thug wins the presidency in November?

One thing is certain in that scenario: abortion is gone, gone, gone. And if five or six conservative justices can get their hands on the right case, contraception will no longer be covered by insurance. Women will continue to work for 80% of the pay men get. Affirmative action, such as it is, will be dead as a door nail. The civil rights act will remain gutted so that black people will be further disenfranchised. More young men of color will be locked up in prison with long sentences. More will be shot down in the streets and their families will have no remedy. Brown people will be deported. Those poor sods in Guantanamo will remain there until they die.

And that’s just for starters. Elections will continue to be corrupted by money, which means that Thugs will control the presidency, Congress, and statehouses for the foreseeable future. Polluters will not be punished.

I could go on but I’ve typed myself into a funk. So let’s muse about what can be done to forestall all of this. Obama can read the Constitution literally. That document does not say that the Senate “confirms”;  rather, it gives “advice and consent.” So say Obama makes a great appointment and McConnell/Grassley let a month pass without calling hearings. Obama can say “Well, they didn’t consent but they didn’t dissent, either,” and go ahead and appoint his candidate. (Scalia’s ghost might or might not be amused by this strategy).

I can see no downside to this ploy. I don’t know if it has ever been done, but then the Senate has never refused to advise and consent, either. There would be an outcry from conservatives, of course, but when isn’t there? The upside might be worth any negatives in any case: Obama would get a solid liberal justice onto the court, and the Thugs would look like the losers they are.

Read Full Post »

Obama Has Homework



Yesterday I watched a bit of the television coverage as Justice Scalia’s remains were carried into the entry hall of the Supreme Court. His colleagues and clerks were there, all wearing black. It was all very stately and solemn.

I passed the time by guessing which of the assembled multitudes were only pretending to be sorry he passed. I’m told he and Ginsburg were friends, but I imagine she is happy in some corner of her mind that she will no longer have to put up with his bullying. I mean, come on: just read some of his dissents (USA Today has helpfully rounded up several of his most notable recent dissents [http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2016/02/13/antonin-scalia-opinions-dissents/80350756/]). Scalia regularly accused his colleagues, in writing, of failing to use logic or adhere to principle.

Scalia was no friend to women or African-Americans or gays or non-Christians, to name only a few of his bete noirs. He relied on a phony theory of justice–originalism–as cover for his exercise of all-too-familiar prejudices. He was firmly in the corner of states-rights, which made him an odd choice for the federal bench. And he was, of course, one of the justices who imposed Bush 43 on us by fiat. (As the media harassed Trump last week for his 9/11 snipe at W., I wondered once again if any journalists out there will ever acknowledge that a President Gore would not have ignored all those warnings from the CIA).

Corey Robin, writing at Crooked Timber, is forthright in his denouncement: Scalia “was as outrageous in his rhetoric (his unvarying response to any challenge to Bush v. Gore was “Get over it!”) as he was cruel in his comportment. Sandra Day O’Connor was the frequent object of his taunts. Hardly an opinion of hers would go by without Scalia calling it—and by implication, her—stupid. “Oh, that’s just Nino,” she’d sigh helplessly in response. Even Clarence Thomas was forced to note drily, “He loves killing unarmed animals.” He was a pig and a thug. . . . And he was obsessed, as his dissent in PGA Tour v. Casey Martin shows, with winners and losers. They were the alpha and omega of his social vision. He was the Donald Trump of the Supreme Court.”

Robin has more to say about Scalia in his book on conservatism, called The Reactionary Mind (Oxford, 2011). There he defines conservatism as “the felt experience of having power, of seeing it threatened, and trying to win it back.” (4). For conservatives, humanity is divided into patricians and plebes;  patricians possess agency (and they ought to) while plebes, by definition, cannot. Hence the first duty of the lower orders is to submit to elite rules and desires (7). Conservatives get nervous when those they disdain (women, African-Americans, gays) exercise agency and claim a share of power. For example, conservative judges complained in the early twentieth-century when workers began to formulate their own definitions of rights and to create their own shop-floor rules.

According to Robin, this disdain for the lower orders worked out in Scalia’s jurisprudence as follows:  Scalia abhorred their  repeated failures to follow “the rules,” which was his textualized version of the class struggle. As Robin puts it:  for Scalia rules were “arbitrary impositions of power reflecting nothing (not even the will or standing of their makers) but the flat surface of their locutionary meaning–to which we must nevertheless submit.” Further, Robin argues, Scalia accepted such rules “zealously enforced, as the divining rod of our ineradicable inequality. Those who make it past these blank and barren gods are winners;  everyone else is a loser” (143). No wonder that Jack Bauer, the hero of 24, was Scalia’s hero (130).

Harsh as it is, Robin’s is one of the most interesting takes on contemporary conservatism I’ve read. And he certainly nails Scalia’s approach to judicial decision-making. I’m sorry, folks, but I’m among those who aren’t pretending to be sad at his passing. Indeed, I’m sure that whoever is in that binder under Obama’s arm (lots of women, I hope) will be more skilled and more humane justices than was Antonin Scalia.



Read Full Post »



I planted this agave in my front yard fifteen years ago. Over the years I’ve trimmed its lower leaves and watered it only when the weather is very very dry.

For all this inattention it has doggedly grown larger. And now, as you can see, it is ready to bloom. The stalk, which has only begun to unfold, can reach fifteen or twenty feet and will boast some beautiful blooms.

I hope to record all of this in a series of photos, of which this is the first.

Agave bloom only once in their long lives. And then they die.  Sort of like heroines in nineteenth-century novels.



Read Full Post »

Citizen Kane - 4

The Rethug  rules for assigning delegates to candidates are confusing, to say the least. (There are helpful articles here:  http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-gops-primary-rules-might-doom-carson-and-cruz/ and here:  http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2015/12/11/3731121/the-brutal-delegate-math-that-could-deny-donald-trump-the-nomination-at-a-brokered-convention/).

To simplify (maybe): this year a candidate needs to garner half of the delegates to the convention, or 1236 votes. For perspective: Trump currently has 17 delegates, while Cruz has 11 and Rubio has 10. Red states are awarded relatively more delegates than blue ones because the Thugs name extra delegates to states that elect Thug reps to congress and the like.

According to Think Progress, then, “deep red states can rack up bonuses that give them delegate counts out of proportion to their population. The red state of Mississippi, a state with less than 3 million people, will send 40 delegates to the Republican National Convention. Meanwhile, the swing state of Colorado, which has nearly 5.4 million people, will only send 37 delegates to the party’s convention.”

So the South is delegate-rich. However, it is also home to the most conservative Thugs. So Cruz may remain a threat to Trump there, even if he doesn’t “win” all of those states, because he still may have a lot of pledged southern delegates when the convention rolls around in July. As we shall see, presidential elections are not won like football games;  in politics “winning” is more complicated than it looks. Trump is doing well with more moderate Thugs (sadly, even moderate Thugs are still wingers) and so he will probably do better in blue states than Cruz does.

But: there is a loophole in the Thug setup, if that’s what it is, that awards three “bonus” delegates to every district no matter how red or blue. So even though these delegates from Massachusetts represent fewer voters than do the those from Alabama, they have equal clout in any votes that are taken at the convention. Theoretically, these delegates will support less conservative candidates such as Bush. They are, I imagine, part of the reason the establishment guys are hanging in.

And, as has been true since elections were held in ancient Greece, the votes of party leaders are bound by no one and nothing. That is, delegates with ribbons dangling from their badges can support whoever they damn well please. A good bet would be that people who love/respect the Thug party will not vote for Trump or Cruz.

And, if no one garners 50% of the vote on the first ballot, delegates are no longer bound by election results in their states and can vote for anybody they want on subsequent convasses. In that case, Katie bar the door!

I hope that the city of Cleveland does not allow weapons to be carried in the convention enter.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »