In which I am out of clever and patience, and running low on hope

I almost just started this post by posting pictures of Covid-19 graphs; needless to say the state spiked monstrously yesterday and CNN finally heard me griping about how they clearly hadn’t been including Notre Dame’s numbers in our averages, because we had a similarly terrifying jump in our county numbers there as well. Meanwhile, the county health department says that our current seven-day rolling average of new cases is at over a hundred, and they want it below twenty before schools should reopen.

That’s a rolling average, remember, which implies, since the numbers have been going up daily for a while, that we’re seeing significantly more than 100 cases a day recently, according to the health department.

Dandy.

So I guess I need to find a way to get used to sitting in front of my computer for eight or nine hours a day, don’t I? I mean, granted, this is what I want, compared to the alternative, but it continues to blow my mind how people cannot simply act right so that we can get this thing dealt with like every other country on Earth. Because Americans are a uniquely toxic blend of selfish and stupid. I’m never going to pretend otherwise again. There’s simply no available evidence that we have any sort of national will left, if we ever actually did in the first place.

We are not going back to school in 2020. We just aren’t. And every day I move closer to declaring that we’re not going back this year at all. Colleges and universities will start shutting down in a couple of weeks. Just wait for it.

I dunno. I’m tired and my neck hurts and my back hurts and I’m already kind of half-assing my instructional videos and my attendance is already dropping off pretty significantly. So, that’s all bad. But it’s still better than being at work. My son’s only a couple of days into his school year (he’s home too) and he seems to be doing better than I thought he would be, but we’ll see where we’re at in a week.

Gah. I have to record a video about square roots now, because I need to make sure the kids know what they are for the next thing we’re doing, but what that’s going to lead to is a blowoff assignment for half of them and the ones who need to learn this aren’t going to bother trying. It’s way too early in the school year for cynicism to be setting in already, dammit. I need to get this together so that I can play video games for a bit and then go to bed early. Hopefully I’ll be in a better mood tomorrow.

Adventures in barbershopping

The boy’s hair is getting into his eyes, and we have been threatening him with a haircut for a few weeks now, but higher-priority things keep getting in the way. This morning, as my wife is leaving to take the Great Old One to the vet for a check-up, she asks me if I can get his hair cut. Yes! I can do that, and for once we do not have ten thousand other things that need to be done today.

I call the place we’ve been using. Someone answers the phone.

“Hi, do you have appointments available this afternoon?” I ask.

“We’re open until three,” the person on the other side says.

That is … not what I asked, and something about her tone gets directly on a nerve for some reason. A moment or two of slightly confused but pointed questions reveals that yes, they’re more or less free all afternoon and I can pick whatever time I want, and I make an appointment for noon.

The correct response here, by the way, is something along the lines of “We’ve got open spots all afternoon, what time would you like to come in?” I feel like this isn’t a complicated interaction, y’know? Probably happens a few times a day, at least? I asked about appointments. If you’re wide open, say that. Don’t get snotty with me and tell me your hours as if they weren’t right there on the website I used to find your phone number.

We’ve been using this place for a while, because they’re nearby, reasonably priced, and kid-friendly. There has always been a bit of Jesusiness about the place, but it’s never been too terribly overwhelming; they sell shirts and the shirts have a Bible verse on them for some reason along with the logo of the barbershop. That’s been about it. I live in fucking Indiana; I’m used to it.

Today when I got there their front door had been redone to include the two images in the above picture, and, well, welcome to the Don’t Want None Won’t Be None zone, folks. If I were to deliberately design a logo for American Christofascism I could not do much better than a cross with a thin blue line graphic imposed on it. My rule for when I allow my politics to influence decisions that shouldn’t be political (like where should I get my kid’s hair cut once every two or three months) is that if you make sure I know where you stand, I’m going to judge you accordingly, and if you don’t, I’m not going to go looking for trouble. And these folks have now officially crossed a (thin, blue) line that makes it perfectly clear that my business isn’t wanted there, and they’re going to get what they want from here on out.

Now, note here that 1) I have never had any problem with any of the employees, and I’m not even certain who actually owns the place; and 2) I am perfectly willing to let this rule apply to me; I wear my politics on my sleeve around here and anyone who is, say, unwilling to buy my books because of that is absolutely encouraged to make that decision. Everyone is welcome to not spend their money on my work for whatever reason they like, regardless of what I might think of the reason. I don’t actually get to have a say here! It’s your money!

And, well, when it’s my money, if you’re gonna make sure I get greeted with Jesus and Blue Lives Matter before I walk into your place of business, well, I’m gonna keep on walking. Sorrynotsorry, I guess.

On Bernie

The following things are, I believe, all true:

  • I will vote for Bernie Sanders if he is the Democratic nominee for President. I will do this cheerfully, with a spring in my step and a song in my heart, and there is nothing on this planet or in the heavens that can prevent me from voting against the shitgibbon next November short of my own death.
  • I would prefer nearly every other serious Democratic candidate currently running to be the nominee. I might end up choosing Bernie over Biden at this point, honestly.
  • While I am not a fan of Sanders, I bear the man no actual ill will. I’m happy for him to remain in the Senate for as long as he’s able, and I’m grateful for his role in bringing the more leftward elements of the Democratic party more to the forefront.
  • I’m glad he’s recovering and out of the hospital.
  • He is 78 years old, will be 79 when inaugurated, just had a heart attack, had two stents put in, and his campaign lied about it for three days.
  • That is not as catastrophic of a medical disaster as it would have been even ten or fifteen years ago. My mother and my father-in-law both have stents in various parts of their bodies. It’s a fairly simple procedure, as these things go.
  • He needs to drop out anyway, and everyone who knows him and loves him needs to be telling him this until he listens.

I’m genuinely sorry to have to be saying this right now, despite the fact that I have gleefully called for Sanders to drop out of the Presidential race more than once in the past, and fully expected to be doing so several months into the future. But I was expecting for some votes to have been cast before we reached this point. I don’t like the idea that the guy needs to drop out so that the race doesn’t literally kill him. But this is it. It’s enough. He’d be the oldest President ever inaugurated, and it’s the toughest job on the damn planet, and a 78-year-old man who just had a heart attack and whose campaign’s first instinct was to hide from it is not up to the job. I am aware that one of my preferred candidates is 70, and believe me, I wish she were a decade or so younger. But this guy is five years older than the monster in the White House is now, and that guy’s visibly falling apart on a daily basis, and I’d expect Bernie to actually pay attention were he to become President.

It’s time for Bernie Sanders to withdraw gracefully from the race, before his body betrays him again and he has to do so under less voluntary circumstances.

#REVIEW: The Hidden History of the Supreme Court and the Betrayal of America, by Thom Hartmann

Back in June I was lucky enough to receive an early review copy of Thom Hartmann’s The Hidden History of Guns and the Second Amendment. I mentioned in the review that the book was part of a series– a series that I have since discovered is planned to run ten books— and that the second volume was to be out in October.

That was true! The Hidden History of the Supreme Court and the Betrayal of America was released on October 1 and should now be available anywhere you might happen to buy books. I was able to snag a copy of the second book in the series through the same folks that sent me the first one, and I sat down and read it tonight after getting home from work.

The book, and as I’m writing this I’m feeling like nonfiction needs a word similar to novella, is 156 pages long plus a dozen or so pages of footnotes and an index, and is divided into three sections. The first section is devoted to the founding fathers’ view of the Court and how the principle of judicial review became one of the Court’s powers. The second discusses the Court’s frequent rulings against the people in favor of the rich and powerful and corporate interests, and the third section– by far the shortest– is about how we might break the current right-wing stranglehold on the Court and, uh, save the world in the process.

I enjoyed Guns and the Second Amendment quite a bit. I was less a fan of this one, to be honest. To begin, it shares many of the weaknesses of the first book, weaknesses that are intrinsic to deliberately writing a book this short– I don’t have a wordcount handy, but I would suspect this book to be no longer than 30 to 40,000 words if it’s even that long, and it took me no longer than an hour or two to read. The sources, again like the first book, are almost entirely to websites, meaning that that entire part of the book will be useless in a few years, and this book feels a bit unfocused in a way that Guns and the Second Amendment didn’t. There’s simply a lot more to discuss when you’re talking about the Supreme Court– and as a result this book feels much more cursory and, to be honest, slapdash than the first volume did. This is, in large part, due to the deliberate decision by the author to write a short book, of course; I leave it up to you to decide if that aspect of it is going to be a problem for you or not.

A second problem is that I simply don’t have much sympathy for Hartmann’s core argument. I don’t believe that the first section ever actually directly states that Marbury v. Madison was decided wrongly, but it’s hard to escape that conclusion after reading it; describing the court as “despotic” in more than one place is pretty clear. And the thing is, I just … don’t care if it was the right decision, to be honest. The Constitution was fourteen years old when Marbury v. Madison was decided. We are, I think, well beyond the point where “The Court shouldn’t be able to overturn acts of Congress!” is a reasonable argument. If we’re talking about rewriting the entire Constitution, then okay, let’s discuss judicial review. But as an argument in what is supposed to be a history book? Meh. I just think it’s a silly discussion to be having.

The book is on stronger footing for the second part, although I’m not sure how hidden any of the history really is. The Court really has mostly privileged the wealthy and powerful over much of its tenure, although it’s not unlike basically all of human history in that regard, and there are certainly places where Court decisions have contributed materially to, well, justice. There is a brief review of judicial appointments to the Court since the Nixon years that was quite interesting– I wasn’t aware just how many of the Republican presidents (nearly all of them since Nixon, basically) initially took office under a cloud of some sort, which makes the hard-right turn that the conservative justices have taken over the last 40-50 years all that much more pernicious. And in more recent history, of course, we have Mitch McConnell stealing Obama’s last Supreme Court appointment, and the current occupant of the White House’s selection of perjuring rapist Brett Kavanaugh for the job.

The book wraps up with the rather grandiose claim that it is the composition of the current US Supreme Court that is causing the global climate crisis, or at least preventing us from fixing it, and goes into a few ways– court-packing and jurisdiction-stripping, basically– that we might choose to combat that. I, uh, kinda feel like Step One on this is to get Congress and the White House back, and if I were to line up a whole bunch of people in order of how responsible they were for the fucking mess human civilization is currently in I suppose the US Supreme Court would be on the list but they wouldn’t be as high as Hartmann seems to want them to be. It’s a bit of a stretch, is what I’m saying, and again the length of the book works against the author’s goals here, because you’re gonna need a few more pages to get me to blame the Supreme Court for climate change, particularly when you also make the point that the Supreme Court allowed the EPA to exist in the first place. We’d be worse off without them, in other words.

So … yeah. I wasn’t a huge fan of this book, although there were definitely some interesting parts to it; the series continues to be intriguing, however, and I’ll happily read the third volume– dedicated to the war on voting, which feels like a better fit to this series than the Court does– when it comes out even if my Mysterious Benefactors choose not to bestow a copy on me.

The Hidden History of the Supreme Court and the Betrayal of America is available now.

#REVIEW: The Hidden History of Guns and the Second Amendment, by Thom Hartmann

Thom Hartmann’s The Hidden History of Guns and the Second Amendment is the second of two books that I was sort of randomly offered ARCs of in the last couple of months. They asked me to have it read and the review ready today, and I’m happy to announce that unlike the last time I’m actually managing to successfully fulfill that request.

To put it mildly, the gun issue is one place where I am pretty consistently far to the left of anyone I ever talk to about it. I want guns banned, period. I want the Second Amendment repealed. When you hear “moderate, reasonable” gun control advocates say things like no one is coming for your guns to the gun nuts? That’s not true, because I’m totally coming for your guns. I’m sick to death of people thinking the Constitution enshrines a right to murder other people, guns don’t ever make anyone or anything safer, and there is no such thing as a “good guy with a gun.” There is only a dangerous idiot who hasn’t killed anyone or shot his own dick off yet.

So now that I’ve pissed everyone off, this is actually a pretty interesting little book. I used to listen to Hartmann’s radio show back when I was commuting to the South Side and back every day in Chicago, so I’m familiar with how he works– and the fact that he kept me listening to a liberal talk show when I have learned over the years that listening to talk radio from people who mostly agree with me is actually not something that will keep me awake during a drive is a good sign for him. Despite the pull quote on the cover, this is actually a history book and not a polemic about gun control, although it does have a few chapters at the end about what people call “sensible” gun control measures, like registering them similarly to the way we register cars, insisting that gun owners carry insurance, and regulating semiautomatic weapons the same way we regulate automatic weapons.

(Wanna fight about technicalities over what a “semiautomatic weapon” is? No problem; I’ll start pushing to ban anything that uses a controlled explosion to fire a projectile faster than a human being can throw it.)

At any rate, Hartmann traces America’s gun culture back to– surprise!– slavery and Native American displacement and genocide, and discusses the history of (and some interesting looks at early drafts of) the Second Amendment in particular, and probably spends 80% of the book’s text discussing why America is different about guns than damn near the entire rest of the world and how our history affects the gun fetishism that infects our culture today.

(Deletes a rant)

This is at all times a clear and readable book; if anything, my sole major criticism of it is that it could be a bit more in-depth. The book itself is less than 200 pages long and most of the chapters are less than five pages, and while there are several pages of endnotes at the end most of them are to websites, meaning that the index and the sources are mostly going to be useless a few years down the road. I went back and forth on whether this was a fair criticism; after all, it’s not like Hartmann wrote a short book accidentally, and the fact that there’s a companion volume of similar length coming in October called The Hidden History of the Supreme Court and the Betrayal of America indicates that he’s thinking of this as a series and not a one-off. There is certainly a place for cursory looks at American history, but given how … well, revisionist is the wrong word, but certainly nontraditional this look at history is, I wanted a bit more meat on the book’s bones than I got. For example, he devotes a single intriguing sentence to saying that Texas’ declaration of independence from Mexico was over Mexico outlawing slavery. That’s interesting! I want to know more about it, and I hadn’t heard that before! But it’s literally a single throwaway sentence.

(Note that I am far from an expert on Texan history.)

At any rate: The Hidden History of Guns and the Second Amendment is available now at all the places you might buy books. Those of you with an interest in modern politics and American history should check it out; anytime my only criticism of a book is I want more, that’s probably a sign of something that I can honestly recommend. Check it out.