May 23, 2018

Tired of trying to understand conservatives?

A number of people have recently written about that.

My take is different.

A certain amount of red-state "everyday" conservatives are easy to understand. I get fears of your economic future. I also "get," while rejecting, bashing immigrants for doing jobs that white Americans won't — or bashing Obama as a secret Muslim, etc.

It's called being a mudsill, which I have written about here, here and here. (I have at least one further installation, and probably two, if not more, already planned.)

I halfway get believing in trickle-down economics. You've been brainwashed over nearly 40 years now, and you've also been brainwashed to think the only reason it hasn't worked better is because of Clinton, Obama, Mezzcans and some black Americans.

Well, you let yourself be brainwashed at some point.

I get the intersection with neocons. Both of you believe that America is a Christian nation, unless you're a Jewish neocon, in which case you believe it's good that others believe this.

That's not going to get you 'everydays' a better job. It might get one of your kids signing up for another unnecessary war because he or she can't get a better job. It will get you more taxes, because the rich big-biz conservatives aren't going to pay for more bombs, more weapons and more wars themselves.

The big-biz conservatives are more cosmopolitan on social issues. Of course, they, as they shade into full-on libertarians at one end and into right-neoliberals at the other, are internationalists who don't care if America crumbles more as long as their stock and hedge fund portfolios continue to ride high.

What I do not get, the two-dimensional picture above (a generalization, but NOT a stereotype), is why some libruls (not leftists!) think listening tours or whatever are necessary. Like Arlie Russell Hochschild with "Strangers in Their Own Land." Conservatives in general will by no means become more open-minded because of this. And, they're certainly not going to reciprocate on open-minded listening tours.

So, why try?

I guess librulz think this is what they're supposed to do. And, they think that after understanding comes "respect." Wrong. And in the MSM, at the WaPost, surprisingly, Paul Waldman totally gets that that's a mug's game.
The right has a gigantic media apparatus that is devoted to convincing people that liberals disrespect them, plus a political party whose leaders all understand that that idea is key to their political project and so join in the chorus at every opportunity.
And Waldman is NOT some leftist. Maybe some librulz halfway get it.

Many don't, though. 

And, that's another reason why I'm a leftist.

Isaiah's "Come, let us reason together" applies to all parties, not just selectively.

And, the Trump Train doesn't want to reason. In many cases, it wants to play the martyr.

And, per Jaguar's comment and my response, that's the bottom line as I see it. And Trump's vocalness on both bigotry and misogyny has given them even freer reign to do this.

Beyond that, the real issue, which I failed to note?

Lack of reciprocity.

Show me a conservative, especially stereotypical Trump voter, who talks about trying to understand liberals, or beyond.

And, given that, I'll probably do a follow-up, with different header, and that idea, after my next couple of mudsills posts are in the hopper.

May 22, 2018

TX Progressives talk Santa Fe shooting, runoffs

The Texas Progressive Alliance's heart wants actual action on gun control, male entitlement and cultural violence for the people of our state after the Santa Fe shooting as it brings you this week's roundup.

SocraticGadfly called out Greg Abbott for both hypocrisy and egotism after the Santa Fe shooting.


Casey Fleming, a teacher and grandparent of a gun violence victim, is tired and frustrated about all of the school shootings.

No More Mr. Nice Blog calls out the New York Times  for perpetuating myths about Texans’ attitudes toward guns.

Other progressive bloggers offered takes on other issues in this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff looked at the potential for online voter registration in Texas in the wake of the "motor voter" lawsuit.

Jobsanger looked at early voting in the runoffs, while nationally, Five Thirty Eight offered its assessment.

The TSTA Blog says we should worry more about fake "education reform."

Pau Gasol pens an open letter about female coaches.

Jim Schutze laughs at the idea that Dallas’ new Trinity Forest golf course, new home of the just-concluded Byron Nelson, will get rich whites of north Dallas to get involved with south Dallas development.

Better Texas Blog warns of a lose-lose situation in the individual market for health insurance.

Jeff Balke has had it with the excuses drivers make for all of the fatal crashes with bicyclists.

Nonsequiteuse knows there's only one way we're going to bring about real change going forward.

Zachary Taylor called out the MSM for giving protection covereage to political thugs.

David Bruce Collins salutes the Senate’s reinstating of Net Neutrality but says it will be a tougher sled in the House.

May 21, 2018

Robinson Cano, the HOF and roiding

Robinson Cano
Three years ago, I wrote a piece about how Seattle Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano might have been overpaid in his big free-agent contract, with the first signs of slippage that weren't uncommon to second basemen, given that they suffer more defensive pounding than anybody except catchers.

I noted that Roberto Alomar's last good season was at age 33. Bobby Grich and Lou Whitaker, both of whom should be with Alomar at Cooperstown, were only part-timers at the second sack after 35. Ryne Sandberg's last really good year was at age 32, his last semi-good one at 33, and his first retirement one third of the way into his age-34 year. Rod Carew had more WAR at second, but moved to first at age 30. Frank Frisch's last good season was at age 33, and last decent one at 36. Plus, between days off and time at third base, he was a 3/4 time second baseman by 33.

Even the cream of the cream in the Hall aren't all immune. Rogers Hornsby hit the wall at the end of his age-35 season. Nap Lajoie had a terrific year at 35, but was a two-thirds time player after that.

Cano eventually righted that slippage boat and looked like he might join  Eddie CollinsJoe Morgan and Charlie Gehringer by playing into his later 30s, though even they had a harder decline before age 40.

And now we know why Cano started looking semi-ageless.

Last week, he got an 80-game suspension for a masking agent used to cover up the use of various performance-enhancing drugs. And MLB waited until it thought it had proof of intent before issuing the suspension.

Cano's old Yankees teammate, Mark Teixeira, says we shouldn't be surprised. Tex listed Cano's connections to Biogenesis, which helped both Alex Rodriguez and Melky Cabrera, both of whom got suspensions themselves. Tex goes beyond saying we shouldn't be surprised to strongly hinting that he thinks Cano did it.

Before this, Cano seemed to be punching his ticket for not just the HOF, but first-ballot entry to Cooperstown.

Has he now joined the likes of Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and Manny Ramirez? Jerry Crasnick says very possible. Smarter HOF voters who, like me, know the generally early age-out history of second basemen, will likely see Cano's post-32 numbers as proof he was roiding, and taking good stuff.

I would agree. And, in light of the points Tex noted, now I'm not surprised, either. And, maybe we shouldn't be surprised that the Yankees didn't come close to matching the M's offer, either.

Speaking of, at the time I wrote that old piece, Jonah Keri didn't have Cano's deal in his list of worst contracts for teams. At that time, I questioned that. Now I know he should have.

May 19, 2018

#ThoughtsAndPrayers and #hypocrisy from Greg Abbott
after latest, Santa Fe, school shooting

Greg Abbott thinks unlucky accidents of nature are the same as deliberate killing of one human being by another.

The thoughts-and-prayers deluded crowd after the Santa Fe school shooting bought it, too.

Unfortunately, not only are they unlike Greg Abbott in suffering from wanton killing rather than natural tragedy, none of them is going to get a multimillion lawsuit settlement, either:
And, they still believe it.

Even as they continue to believe in a god who has allowed more than 200 school shootings in the US since the turn of the century. I'm sure that some of them, like the good conservative Lutherans who were in his audience, blame human original sin for that, or the inscrutability of god, rather than face the fact that said god either isn't omnipotent or else isn't omnibenevolent, and that said inscrutability is part of the theological and philosophical conundrum, not the solution.

That's the message for them.

The message for Abbott is posting a photoshopping I did during his last guv run.

Because, Greg, your call for new gun laws now is bullshit. Gun shootings have happened in Texas and elsewhere since you were first elected governor, and this is nothing but campaign rhetoric bullshit.

So, in my opinion, you need to note that mock cellphone text message that I photoshopped into that picture.

Beyond that, "calling for" new legislation and proposing new legislation are two entirely different things.
Abbott said he'd been planning to roll out several proposals for new gun laws in Texas before the shooting, including "speeding up background checks" and keeping guns out of hands of those "who pose immediate danger." He also praised the mental health screening and preparedness protocols for students implemented at Lubbock Independent School District.
Does anybody really believe Greg Abbott intended any of these #GunControl bill ideas to actually become public until a school mass shooting that happened just three days before the Democratic gubernatorial runoff? When Abbott has had four years, two regular sessions of the Lege and one special session, to do something, and hasn't?

And, he doesn’t really intend them to become law, per that same story:
Abbott hopes the roundtable discussions will involve state lawmakers, educators, Second Amendment advocates and the victims and families of shootings, perhaps including survivors of the November massacre at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs
Emphasis added. We know that means the likes of Dana Loesch from the NRA. (Nazi Redneck Assholes, more and more.)

Show some actual integrity, without hypocrisy, next time. If we're lucky, there won't be a next time, but, this is Merika, Tex-ass division. We won't be lucky on either the school shootings or this year's governor's race.

Unfortunately, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings is a bit schizophrenic on this issue. In two back-to-back Tweets, he first says, I quote —

"Spare us your thoughts and prayers."

But in the second, he drinks the Abbott Kool-Aid in believing he really does mean it about those wondrous new laws.

The Dallas mayor's position is officially nonpartisan, but Rawlings is a known Democrat. He should know better on Abbott.

We even have a 2015 Abbott Tweet to prove Rawlings should know better;
THAT is the real Greg Abbott on gun issues. The Greg Abbott of post-Santa Fe statement is the real Greg Abbott on political hypocrisy, but nothing else.

Or, per a new AP piece, this is the real Greg Abbott on guns:

Abbott and Texas Republicans have embraced a steady relaxation of gun laws in recent years. Since 2013, Texas has reduced the cost and hours of training needed to be licensed to carry a handgun, allowed "open carry" for handgun license holders, and allowed concealed handguns in college classrooms and dorms.
That's Greg Abbott.

Of course, both, per the standards listed on Rawlings' account, are actually from his staff, though perhaps dictated by him or something.

That said, Abbott still is 10 percent sane among Texas GOP leaders.

There’s always Danny Goeb, who now wants our schools to become firetraps rather than face reality, to show full-on nuttery.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, also a Republican, said, "We have to look at the design of our schools moving forward and retrofitting schools that are already built. And what I mean by that is there are too many entrances and too many exits to our over 8,000 campuses in Texas."  
"There aren't enough people to put a guard at every entrance and exit," Patrick added. "But if we can protect a large office building or a courthouse or any major facility, maybe we need to look at limiting the entrance and exits into our schools so that we can have law enforcement looking at people who come in one or two entrances."
I will give Goeb credit for telling parents to secure firearms. That's very small, though.

Ted Cruz at least was only hypocritical enough to be in the thoughts and prayers crowd. He said nothing about new federal legislation.

Hell, we're so gun-drunk we had a SECOND school shooting, at a high school graduation for Mount Zion High in Georgia, that same night!

And, what about the shooter?

Some of his teachers seemed to try to “normalize” Dimitrios Pagourtzis, per the New York Times. Daily Beast paints a darker picture. The Chronic adds to that picture by noting he had not only additional guns, but some sort of bomb-type devices. The AP adds yet more details, noting he had journaled about killing people and confirming that the explosives included a Molotov cocktail. (And Mark Ames, who I first saw tweet the NYT link, should know better. Intelligence — per the school honor roll issue — is no guarantor of either moral or psychological firm ground in a person. And making a high school honor roll doesn't fully statistically correlate with general mental intelligence, and not at all with Daniel Goleman's other types of intelligence. Mark also knows better than to give too much credence to an early story.)

Problems with American school students — especially ones like this, who aren't bullied, but are willing to voluntarily at least dabble in elements of the alt-right world, and possibly in his case, bits of the alt-left, too (hammer and sickle ain't fascist), are themselves a problem, especially in a state like Texas where such thinking runs rampant already.

==

Update, based on an acquaintance's Facebook reposting of someone else's comment.

To Christian parents of children wounded or killed in school shootings telling people like me to STFU?

I sympathize with your tragedy. As the victim of an armed robbery, I can even empathize with it to some degree.

However, two points back.

One, secularists suffer the same tragedies as Christians (and the non-Christian religious).

Two, the god you claim is both omnibenevolent and omnipotent failed to prevent those other tragedies as well as yours.

May 18, 2018

#MuellerTime — one year on

For months now, versus not only the MAGA-heads and their leader, Donald Duck, but people who should know better, like:
The two-siderism that Ray McGovern mouths at Consortium News and elsewhere (though he's not as bad as the MAGA-heads)
2. The deliberate handwaving obfuscation of ShirtLost DumbShit Zach Haller, self-appointed top disciple of Actual Crapulus, I mean #ActualFlatticus, who I'm getting more and more ready to simply call a MAGA-head and call bullshit on him being a "progressive," as I've already called BS on H.A. Goodman;

I have been contending that claiming Robert Mueller has taken way too much time on his probe is simply not true. I have specifically mentioned Watergate, Iran-Contra and Whitewater of Ken Starr infamy.

And now, Five Thirty Eight has a great deep dive on precisely those issues. Complete with that nice timeline graphic.

Note how short the Mueller frame is compared to Watergate, let alone the other two? So, to say that Mueller needs to wind things up because he's taking way too long is BS. The case at hand is certainly more complicated than the Valerie Plame leaks (which ended with Pat Fitzgerald refudiating Elizabeth Loftus in the Scooter Libby trial) or the Michael Deaver perjury cases.

The piece also has some instructional notes from the past. Once it looked like Lawrence Walsh would not pursue his investigation up to President Reagan, thanks in part due to gaslighting by Reagan's new chief of staff, Howard Baker, and once it became even more apparent that Congress, allowing itself to be gaslighted by old senatorial colleague Baker, would not pursue impeachment, Iran-Contra fizzled out. (One even wonders if Oliver North's conviction being overturned, even though it seemed that Congress and prosecutors had both framed well the "no dual use" on his Congressional testimony, was sabotaged deliberately on the Hill.) Devin Nunes is playing the role of a dumber, less suave, more partisan Howard Baker in this case.

At the same time, Watergate also offers parallels. Richard Nixon fired Archibald Cox during the infamous Saturday Night Massacre, which also saw the name of Robert Bork first rise to infamy.

And, as the Five Thirty Eight piece notes, the special counsel law was changed in 1999. Basically, Republicans pulled the ladder up after then when Ken Starr's best, or worst, fishing expedition got nowhere. Typical action. Like Clarence Thomas. So, Mueller can't come close to going on a Ken Starr fishing expedition.

Now, that said, so far, he's found nothing that proves Trump colluded with Putin to have the election thrown to him. Russiagate in that sense is stupid.

That said, if it turns up pay-to-play about getting dirt on Hillary Clinton, that's certainly within Mueller's scope. Emoluments Clause-related stuff involving Russia is too, as I see it.

May 16, 2018

Moral realism, moral non-realism, and
moral semi-realism/naturalism

In this post at Footnotes to Plato, Massimo Pigliucci talks about morals and not participating in the "Big Four" of Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon ever more dominating large chunks of the online world. The post is based on a new book about that.

A back-and-forth about moral framing issues between Massimo and Dan Kaufman in comments, with me largely agreeing with Massimo, led to me hinting that Dan is strawmanning Massimo on this issue (I still think he is, despite his denial), led to this last comment by Massimo:
“Massimo is also a moral anti-realist, as you know, as he’s said so here”

It would be more correct to say that I’m a moral naturalist, as I think morality is a human invention (thus not “real”), but constrained by human nature, desires, and limitations (thus partially factual).
(His quote is of a previous comment by me.)

I told him in an email that with that explanation, I agree, and that it's why I think something like "ev psych done right," or a relabeled, start-from-scratch, the "evolutionary biology of psychology and sociology" is real — as long as said field includes gene-culture co-evolution.

That said, let me note a comment of mine there, not too much earlier, the one from which Massimo quoted:
Dan, you choose not to see any type of argument, especially if you don’t see “specialness” in something like trashing the entire planet’s climate. To further riff on Isaiah, I don’t try to reason forever where and when it’s a waste of time.

Massimo is also a moral anti-realist, as you know, as he’s said so here. I’m a semi-anti-realist. Being a moral anti-realist is irrelevant here, other than the issue of language, and you choosing to make your division of where the word “moral” falls … And others disagreeing

IF one wants to fully go down that road, and also be a moral anti-realist, every person in the universe can hive off by one’s moral self. If one takes it far enough, we can introduce Mr. Wittgenstein to Mr. Hobbes.

That said, this is why I’m only a semi-anti-realist. Per the evolutionary development of human nature, I think we can find some moral values partially influenced by our human backgrounds.

And, as for Mr. Wittgenstein meeting Mr. Hobbes? Based on the paragraph above, homey can either not play that game, or else play it in deliberately contrarian way, usually based on Cynic ideas.
I can do exactly that. I can call a person like Dan immoral, if I think he or she is for willfully narrowing their "moral arc," per Martin Luther King.

And I do think exactly that. Per the Markan explainer (reduplicated by Q with the Parable of the Talents) of the moral of certain parables, that, "to him who has much, more will be given," and even more, per the Lukan different explainer on a different parable cycle, that, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded," and that virtue ethics morals, based on Massimo's moral naturalism, is somewhat of a sociological project (Massimo talks about writing and exemplifying) I think it is realistic to say that we as a society should expect a broader moral arc from people with higher intellectual gifts, especially if they have a more prominent social standing with it.

That said, whether it's "don't want to" or "can't," at times, Dan's psychological arc isn't highly expanded. He's said more than once that he just doesn't "get" families with less than a fairly high degree of cohesion, let alone families where blood is certainly not thicker than water. Taking it charitably as "can't" within his current psyche, and knowing of some of his gifts, I hope that both on that in particular and moral arcs in general, his arc does expand in the future.

Do I think Dan is as immoral as a person who drowns cats, let alone a suicide bomber? Of course not.

But, yes, and seriously — not just to play Wittgensteinian linguistic schadenfreude — I do think it's a moral failing of a small degree to not expand one's arc further, especially if part of that is willfully wanting to not expand one's arc.

May 15, 2018

TX Progressives talk early voting, Higher Loyalty

The Texas Progressive Alliance urges everyone to vote in the primary runoffs as it brings you this week's roundup.

P Diddie at Brains and Eggs wrote both before and after pieces about the Lupe Valdez-Andrew White Democratic gubernatorial primary runoff debate. Yours truly had some back-and-forth with him on his pieces.

Off the Kuff looked back at the recent Arizona Congressional election for evidence of crossover voting and the potential effect it may have in November.

And, looking ahead to growing numbers of women in politics and elsewhere, the Texas Women's Voices Project, presented by Texas Monthly, is a must read for all.

Socratic Gadfly reads Jim Comey's book and finds that any "Higher Loyalty" is ultimately to himself. (Coming up? A review of Amy Chozick’s “Chasing Hillary.”

Grits for Breakfast ponders the correlation between the DPS "border surge" and the reduction in DWI citations.

Neil at All People Have Value posted a picture of Houston, Texas. 

Christof Spieler asks what it will take for Houston to become more resilient against flooding.

Texas Vox notes a number of cities are looking at climate change issues.

One of those cities is Dallas, where Jim Schuetze calculates the latest in total fallout for the Calatrava bridges over the Trinity.

Juanita could have provided insights into Donald Trump's thinking at a much cheaper rate than Michael Cohen.

Paradise in Hell takes a crack at interpreting Melania Trump.

Dr. Carlos J. Cardenas argues that the best Mother's Day gift we could give would be a commitment to reducing the maternal mortality rate.

BeyondBones presents seven things you probably didn't know about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Ty Clevenger at Lawflog doubles down on being a conspiracy theorist, er, I mean, provides a brief update on his lawsuit against the FBI for Seth Rich records. Ty could just file briefs in support of Seth's parents, or even offer to represent them. (That said, given his winger-leaning background on national issues that I detail in the first link, I would advise Seth's parents not to accept such an offer were it ever to be made.)

May 13, 2018

#TxPolitics – Loopy Lupe vs Whiter than White:
The tale of the digital videotape

Who won? Andrew Whiter than White vs Loopy Lupe Valdez.
Neither Lupe Valdez nor Andrew White scored a knockout blow on the other at the one Democratic gubernatorial primary runoff debate Friday night, nor did either knock themselves out. Video of the debate is here from the Snooze; more analysis from the Texas Observer here.

Neither one appeared to have given themselves a good boost, though, either.

Background: Valdez seemingly had the more to lose. Her campaign had been in semi-freefall even before the runoff. White had continued to ask her for a debate and she continued to say no – until she caved. That's the optics.

So, who did lose more ... or gain more?

Valdez tagged White on abortion, claiming that he was condescending toward women who have made the choice to have one. That, in turn, brings up the issue of his membership in a church of the conservative denomination the Presbyterian Church in America, which contrasts with Valdez' lesbian background, and points out White's generally conservative stance on social issues.

OTOH, the Houston GLBT folks endorsed him. Yes, she got Equality Texas, but still.

White also didn't do well on his company that makes border security biometrics stuff.

And, he's at times called himself a moderate Republican. That said, other than that one donation to the Kentucky GOP a decade ago, he's not given any other money to Republican campaigns or orgs in more than 20 years. So, he's better than Tony Sanchez.

Valdez, on the other hand, didn't appear to overcome her lack of competence issues. She totally whiffed on a minority outreach issue, made worse by White talking about decriminalizing minor marijuana amounts, bail reform and other things. In addition to her incompetence, she continues to come off as too much of a law and order candidate – not surprising for someone who was a county jailer, a federal jailer, then, essentially, a detective for various federal agencies before running for Dallas County Sheriff. She's a career cop. And, minorities can be hard-ass law and order types, just like whites. Look at Sheriff Clarke up in Milwaukee. Valdez isn't THAT, but she still is law-and-order. Oh, and women and LGBT cops can be law and order, too.

Brains has said he'll vote Green if we/they have ballot access, for Jan Richards, if White gets the Democratic nod, or undervote if Greens aren't there. So will I.

He looks like he'll vote for Valdez if she wins and Richards isn't on the ballot. (I"m inferring; from his two posts leading up to the runoff, I can't tell for sure.) Anyway, from MY previous post ... and his comment on that ... and our back and forth ... that strengthens my inference.

And I likely won't. She had one last primary election chance to put two major issues to rest, and at least halfway failed on both. I don't see her ramping up her growth curve a lot against Greg Abbott if she gets the nomination. She caved on agreeing to the debate, and other than the one abortion zinger, still sounded befuddled, then tried to explain away her apparent befuddlement.

Please.

And, Brains, we'll presumably agree to disagree. (And, yes, this is another inference, but ... perhaps this, beyond allegations that I'm flirting with racism, is why Brains doesn't like my "Loopy Lupe" nickname. If he were going to undervote either her or White in the general, it might not be as big a deal for him.)

It's not just Valdez herself. I refuse to reward Gilberto Hinojosa playing queenmaker with a crappy candidate shoved down our throats in part because of ... tokenism.

May 11, 2018

Bernie, Trump, or bust voters: A WTF from H.A. Goodman

H.A. Goodman
I don't get these people. That said, some, like Bernie bro online syndicated columnist H.A. Goodman, whether ditching Bernie as a 2016 sheepdogger, or ultimately feeling the love for Donald Duck, already have #Trump2020 hashtags on their social media.

That's "OK," as long as it's counteracted.

Goodman was overrated in his own mind and others in the first half of 2016. And his refusal to consider third-party options two years ago sunk his ship, in my reckoning. He now has moved his personal Titanic to the bottom of the ocean floor.

As for others, hoping for a Bernie 2020, but insisting you'll vote Trump otherwise?

If you won't consider the Greens, or the Socialist Party USA, good riddance. Good riddance to the narrowness of your political thoughts and your refusal to look or work outside the duopoly.

If the Dems nominated a Hillary Clinton type again in 2020 and third parties did not exist, nor did write-in candidates, I would undervote the race.

Any alleged "progressive" supporting Trump in 2020 is a liar, pure and simple. That's you, H.A. Goodman, as I see it from here. Not a progressive. And, possibly a journalistic vulture as well.

I thought he sniffed too many of his own cyber-clippings in 2016. Now I know that's true.

The bigger issue is that he is in fact an actual representative of populism, whether he uses that word about himself or not. The actual populism of American history, which was not always progressive, and certainly had a lot of race-related issues.

Tis true that Bernie himself, outside of strawmanning by Hillbots, at times didn't always seem to hit racial issues square on. But on that, and on other issues, he's no Donald Trump. People who think they're in the same neighborhood are self-delusional.

Now, Goodman may be angry at Bernie for sheepdogging. That's understandable. Then Vote Green.

But, it's really not that. He's trying to build his Internet brand and knows that he can piss off Hillbots and get clicks from TrumpTrain riders as a new convert.

Frankly, I never heard of the dude until the middle of 2016.

That said, Hillbot overplay of the idea of, the description of, and the number of, Berniebros aside, some do exist. Shape changers like this guy. The fact that he wrote for a winger-lite site like Real Clear Politics back in the first half of 2016 seems to make clear he either never fully got the Sanders message, or else never fully bought it, or else bought it enough to do a selective PR sale of it. In other words, he had this Trump2020 move planned all along.

Let's call his BernieBro-dom an actual false flag.

More scary? That he once worked in the State Department's Foreign Service.

I'm sure there are others like him ... more real Bernie backers probably don't realize how many, even though we all know the Sanders primary to Trump general voters were MUCH smaller than the Clinton primary to McCain general voters in 2008. Right, Hillbots?

That still doesn't excuse Goodman or his ilk.

May 09, 2018

'A Higher Loyalty' — to his own self-image?

A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and LeadershipA Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership by James Comey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Four stars for the center Clinton-Trump material; loses a star for other items.

A few introductory notes.

First, at the presidential level, I did my "duopoly exit" at the start of this century. Related to that, I dislike a lot of the structure of the national-level American polis, above all, the whole strong-presidential system that is wrapped up with the modern electoral college having pushed America to a two-party system. (The civil liberties of our constitutional amendments are great, except that we need a few more like an explicit right to privacy; the body of the constitution is largely anachronistic dreck.)

Second, re the candidates of said duopoly? Beyond having little regard for their parties, I have even less regard for the Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton that were foist on us. Trump is a boor who has a history of racism that provoked a suit by HUD over racism in housing. He also has a history of mafia ties, which also include the further hypocrisy of him hiring illegal immigrants, as many believe he still does today.. Clinton has a sense of entitlement and a willingness to manipulate Democratic Party leadership and actions to that end. Both have long histories of corruption. Trump in his housing and other properties, his 4x bankruptcy, and his willingness to play footsie with foreign leaders, or yet more shady characters — that link above talks about his connection to Russian as well as American mobsters. Clinton has a history that goes back to her and WJ Clinton's Whitewater; you have to really be a died-in-the-wool "Hillbot" to believe it was just luck that led her to a $100K killing in cattle futures. The pair's corruption has continued through some of the less ethical activities of the Clinton Foundation.

Third, while I do believe in some sort of "deep state," I don't believe it is some sort of massive, unified apparatus out to "get Trump." Even worse are wingnut Members of Congress like Nunes et al playing with this. (And, about as bad are the likes of Ray McGovern, trading on his CIA knowledge to tout Nunes as a truthseeker rather than denounce him as a political hack, even as McGovern plays two-siderism on this issue. Worse yet, McGovern voted for Stein, and knows what two-siderism is.)

Fourth, I do not believe Vladimir Putin caused Trump to win. He may have orchestrated some meddling, but even there, the first round of DNC emails was likely stolen by Seth Rich or somebody else inside the DNC, not hacked. Even if most alleged Russian-related meddling was actually caused by Russia, its effects were minuscule. The Facebook groups' spending was a drop in the bucket. Also related? I highly resent "Hillbot" insinuations that third party candidates were tools of Vladimir Putin. And also related? Whatever meddling Putin did officially or semi-officially do is less than the US did in two 1990s elections in Russia, let alone elsewhere in the world.

I felt all of this introduction was necessary to background my review of what is certainly a contentious book. I see a lot of "two-siderism" in a lot of reviews, and I'm telling you there's more than two sides in American politics and thus in reaction to the book.

OK, the book!

First, James Comey himself. He comes off as a generally straight shooter. But not always and not totally; more on that below. Sometimes, it seems like the letter of honesty but not the spirit. However, he also comes off as sometimes sanctimonious, perhaps strongly so at times. I think this backfired on him after AG Loretta Lynch met Bill Clinton on the Phoenix tarmac. The title of this book attests to that. More on that below. Another s-word, besides sanctimonious, also comes to mind. Comey can be smarmy at times. And, often, these two s-words intersect with a "by the books" version of honesty and nobody is served well.

I think this is a largely accurate view of what happened in the 2016 election vis-a-vis James Comey's part in it, from the Clinton emails and server issues, through post-election Trump trying to get mafioso-type loyalty from Comey. (See what I said above about Trump's long history of mob ties, some of which Comey surely knows about, beyond Comey's own investigation of non-Trump mob cases.) George Will, recalling a sick suck-up event last June, supports this. I think Comey's personal assessment, and his assessment of DOJ assessment, of just how penalizable Clinton was, is also correct. That said, I do agree with Comey, despite the fact that the FBI can nail anybody for lying to it, that Petraeus should have been specifically charged with this, and should have done jail time.

At the same time, Comey is not totally write about Trump's personality. Per Quora, I am reminded that, if the roasting Obama gave Trump at the 2011 White House Correspondents' Association Dinner pissed Trump off, he still laughed about it in public. More here.

Comey is right that Hillary Clinton's issues were largely her fault. As for the "Colin Powell used private email," Comey responds — maybe the first time I've directly read this – that Powell and others who did this never sent classified material over a personal email account, but Hillary Clinton did. And, that's not to mention the private server, which Hillbots generally avoid like the plague.

I think the investigation was generally decently handled, per two paragraphs above, until the Phoenix tarmac. Lynch had already started showing her cards before that with the insistence on the word "matter." Comey did the best he could with that — or at least presents himself that way, but he should have kept that in mind post-Phoenix and acted differently. If he felt this was like Lynch dumping something in his lap, he should have told her so, and then asked that she have Deputy AG Sally Yates take over as the DOJ public face. He should then have talked to Yates directly. Or he should have asked for a special prosecutor. He should NOT have assumed this was "his baby." That's the sanctimoniousness. If the apparent lack of communication between Lynch and Yates became bigger, that too should have been kept as purely their baby, not his.

Yates, not him, then would have (presumably) spoken to Congress. Ditto on Yates deciding what public communication was needed when new Clinton e-mails popped up in the Weiner-Humedin chain.

If Yates refuses? And Lynch won't "person up"? You either resign on principle or leak about this on principle right then.

Trump probably still would have fired Comey soon enough. But, Comey's hands would have been even cleaner than they actually are.

Speaking of things Trump, the New York Times gets Bureau and DOJ staff on background saying Comey mishandled the early Russia and Trump campaign ties investigation that started in 2016. They say he should have used different agents from the Clinton investigation, and shouldn't have consolidated them in general and let alone at headquarters. What led to that?

And, was Comey's refusal to announce the investigation a form of bet-hedging? What would have happened had he not announced the late re-opening of the Clinton investigation? Even more, what if he had, as noted above, punted back to Lynch in summer 2016?

Comey also carefully phrased that what he did that he details in the book after the firing wasn't a leak. More recent discussion, and not just by Trump Trainers, says maybe so, maybe not. The fact that Comey insists on this comes off as sanctimonious, doubly so since he claims his memoranda about each Trump meeting is personal, not government, property, but doesn't include them in the book. Some other of his Trump-scenes paintings look smarmy.

Other matters? Comey is too nice to Lynch on the Phoenix tarmac issue. She should have known the optics were horrible, especially when the meeting stretched to 30 minutes. So, too, should have the Slickster. Did Lynch have an ulterior motive? Who knows. Bill surely did, even if it was not the one of creating a conflict of interest; it may have been one of strong hubby Bill fighting to protect Hillary.

In any case, Comey drops a smug, smarmy hint that Lynch might have problems in general on the investigatin, then says, "It's classified," on his source for that.

The book, outside of Trump-Clinton, is weak in other ways. In talking about a new post-Ferguson wave of minority distrust of cops, and the FBI's difficulty in recruiting minorities, Comey never mentioned COINTELPRO. Nor did he mention that FBI several arrests of alleged terrorists, in the minds of many, were entrapments. Nor – beyond the fact that many people will pay for it — does he make any real effort to understand the side of Apple et al on smartphone encryption strength. No discussion of the possible wrongs of the Patriot Act and related law.

The sanctimoniousness on the leak-or-not is more than just that, though, and ties with this. It's a bit of "the ends justify the means" stance. Comey makes that clear with phone encryption; on the things not mentioned, he probably believes alleged terrorists were never "really" entrapped; the FBI just did what it needed to. Ditto on COINTELPRO.

Above all, so is Comey's Al Haig-like "I'm in charge now" on the last months of the Clinton investigation. How much of that was in Comey's older cultural DNA and how much is him as FBI director, I am not sure.

That said, for both the Trumpers and Clintonistas who have worshiped the ground he has walked on at various times, the idea that he's ultimately a typical FBI director never comes to mind, apparently. That said, now that Trump is proving to be more a warmonger than in the election, and Clinton was always that way, and both have sometimes more similar than dissimilar stances on parts of their domestic background that is related (the Patriot Act came from materials already under discussion in Bill's presidency), this is probably something that both say is a credit rather than a demerit. But, that's yet another reason I did my "duopoly exit."

Peter Van Buren adds that it would have been nice to hear more about the Bush-Ashcroft-Gonzales-Addington stuff. I agree; other earlier stuff might also have been nice, including more on Giuliani.

Even more than that, without him claiming "it's classified," beyond the bare bones of the Steele dossier, I would have liked to hear more of Comey's take on "Putin did it." To the degree that Vladimir Putin actually did interfere with the 2016 presidential elections, it was surely less than we interfered with 1990s elections in Russia. However, neither Hillbots nor MAGA-heads want an honest discussion of this issue, and I suspect that establishmentarian Comey wouldn't give us much of one.

As for the personal anecdotes about Trump's perma-tan, and not having THAT small of hands? Maybe Comey was trying to personalize the meeting. Maybe he was trying to look neutral by the variety of descriptors. To me, it wasn't a big deal, unlike some reviewers. I did find it mildly interesting, no more.

In any case, because the book gives us, unintentionally, a decent look at Comey the man as well as the Trump and Clinton incidents, it's still worth a solid three stars. Comey the person, at least on the issues in this book, may only be worth two, though.

Many of the reviews on Goodreads and Amazon give good examples of the two-siderism that has been the bane of America for two full years.

View all my reviews

May 08, 2018

Texas Progressives salute Gov. Strangeabbott
hoist by his own Jade Helm petard

The Texas Progressive Alliance welcomes Gov. StrangeAbbott to Texas’ new McCarthyism. (Personally, I’m willing to help add extra material to Abbott’s own petard with the self-hoisting here.) And, C.D. Hooks and Justin Miller at the Texas Observer are piling on already. (This nuttery starts with former CIA and NSA head Michael Hayden. Nuff sed.)

As Brains notes, StrangeAbbott also got caught by Politifact in a lie about George Soros (who is too smart to burn money down here), as well as being played by Pajama Game Blake Farenthold.

And into the roundup!

At the Dallas Observer. Jim Schuetze looks in detail at the flip-flops by Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and his good old boys about whether or not to privatize Fair Park.

Also at the Dallas Observer, on the national NRA convo, Stephen Young notes how NRA head Wayne LaPierre is selling dystopia, while Beth Rankin says not every Dallas restaurant was an NRA fan.

Brains and Eggs wrote about the upcoming Democratic gubernatorial runoff debate between Lupe Valdez and Andrew White. Yours trulyhas his own take.

RG Ratcliffe considers two very different local responses to our state's Confederate history.

Horwitz penned a column in the Houston Chronicle criticizing Gov. Abbott, Lt. Gov. Patrick and Justice Willett for getting HISD into this hole in which it now sits.

Off the Kuff interviewed the two Democratic candidates in the primary runoff for CD22, Letitia Plummer and Sri Kulkarni.

Neil at All People Have Value offered his response to the note left on his car regarding his Democratic Socialists of America bumper sticker.   

Robert Rivard calls on the Legislature to allow cities to collect taxes on "sharing economy" businesses.

SocraticGadfly also takes a break from politics to offer a salute to Astros nemesis and Rangers killer Albert Pujols on his 3,000-hit milestone.

Therese Odell finds the discussion about Michelle Wolf and the WHCA to be lacking.

Greg Jefferson recognized that the 2020 GOP convention was of no value to San Antonio.

Juanita wants to know why a Republican JP from Fort Worth got a much more lenient sentence for violating election laws than Crystal Mason did.

Stephen Young also talked to the Euless City Council candidate who had Rep. Jonathan Stickland peeing his pants in fear and loathing. Salman Bhojani, the man smeared by the former fetus, won his race.

The Rag Blog talks about the Rhapsody in Blue fundraiser.

Downwinders at Risk touts a cleaner air fundraiser for Dallas’ Joppa Town.

Ted at Jobsanger says most Americans support LGBT protections.

Texas Standard reports on rampant wildlife smuggling in the state.

Grits for Breakfast reminds us that Miz Ann Richards was an Austin Hillary Clinton on criminal justice issues. (Those who know yours truly know what that means.)

Somervell County Salon returns to blogging.

May 06, 2018

#Txpolitics and Dem guv runoff debate time
Loopy Lupe Valdez vs Whiter than White

Time for Andrew Whiter than White vs Loopy Lupe Valdez.
Lupe Valdez of my nickname and Andrew White of Brains' moniker, the detritus leftover for a runoff in the Democratic governor's primary here in the Pointy Abandoned Object State™, will have a debate on Friday, May 11.

Brains calls the spot, the Friday before Mother's Day, a bad choice. Assuming both candidates agreed, this isn't quite like the DNC trying to bury Bernie-Hillary debates, and besides, it's right before early voting in the runoff.

He doesn't like my nickname for Loopy Lupe, which is part of why I put it in the header, especially as I – while respecting him for saying why he doesn't like it in a follow-up – disagree with his why. (If she were of Anglo heritage, let's say with the same last name as the current governor of Wisconsin, I might just call her "Wacky Walker," Brains.) As I told him, I've used it off and on since Loopy's Dallas County Sheriff's Office arrested and forgot about my teacher friend a decade ago, and thus got herself and her agency sued. (And I think my friend may have used it before I did, and given that she's of mixed ethnicity and other things, if she used it first, I likewise feel confident about her lack of conscious, or subconscious, racial animus.) But, that's OK. Brains knows that I disagree with him on the actual-from-childhood nickname of Robert Francis "Beto" O'Rourke, in that it's not (merely) an adult marketing scheme. And, while I've occasionally, since our talks about that, called him Beto-Bob ... I have yet to call him simply Bob and don't plan on changing.

In tagging Brains yesterday on Twitter with the top link, about the debate, I said we'd get "I personally" responses (White) vs. incoherent ones (Valdez). For the background on the incoherent, especially re Latin@ youth and immigration, see Jonathan Tilove and links.

Couple other nuances vis a vis Brains. He indicates he will quite likely undervote the race if White gets the nomination and there's no viable write-in or Greens with Janis Richards as the nominee don't regain ballot access. I'm with him. But, he stays silent on what he'll do if it's Valdez.

Sorry, kimo sabe, but Valdez ain't that far left herself on that many issues. Not far enough to offset a long, long track record of incoherence and incompetence. (Side note: I might appreciate her candor, but not her naivete, which should have been greatly reduced through two primary and four general election campaigns for sheriff. This ain't a rerun of "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.")

As per Brains' worrying about her past cooperation with ICE? She was in the Army, and as an officer, not a grunt. She then, after county jailer time, worked as a federal jailer, then, essentially, as a federal detective, per Wiki. One can be a minority, and yet law-and-order, even wingnut law and order, a la Sheriff Clarke in greater Milwaukee, to look at Wisconsin again. And, per the other reason he doesn't like my nickname (which is again a wrong deduction), one can be LGBT and conservative, even a wingnut. Look at Milo Yiannopoulis of alt-right infamy. Yes, ethnic minorities, and gender-identity minorities, are more likely to be liberal, even leftist, than conservative, or wingnut. But, that's not an absolute; it's not with atheists, either.

Besides, undervoting if she should be the nominee (which I doubt) would (I hope) send a message to Gilberto Hinojosa and the rest of the Texas Democratic Party apparatchiks to stop selecting and favoring tokenism candidates.

Speaking of write-ins, Brains then talks about the possibility of a Democratic Socialist of America candidate, linking to a NYT piece touting them in Texas in general and Houston in particular.

Problem? Which he knows.

The DSA is an activist group inside the Dem Party, basically. It isn't a third party. It never endorses to the left of the Dem Party. Likelihood of a DSA write-in? Slim and none.

Now, a Socialist Party USA write-in? Or a Green-affiliated one if the party isn't on the ballot? Maybe not much more, but perhaps a touch.

May 04, 2018

It's 3,000 hits for Albert Pujols! What's next?

Albert Pujols: what's up
for 2018 and beyond?
With a single May 4, Albert Pujols becomes the 32nd player, and second active behind Adrian Beltre, with the retirement earlier this week of Ichiro Suzuki, to hit that milestone.

So, what milestones remain for him, with nearly four contract years left? (That's assuming Haloes owner Arte Moreno doesn't do something like Hank Steinbrenner did with Alex Rodriguez and essentially convert his playing contract into a personal services deal, which Pujols actually has already guaranteed at the end of his contract if he plays it out.)

First, this season on hits. He will pass Roberto Clemente, Al Kaline, Wade BoggsRafael Palmeiro and Lou Brock by mid-June or so; indeed, he passed Clemente Friday night with a second hit in that game. Rod Carew, Ricky Henderson and Craig Biggio should then fall by the wayside by the end of July or so, putting him in the top 25. If, as is likely, he passes A-Rod, Ichiro and Dave Winfield by the end of the year, he's in the top 20.
Here's video:
In a bit of irony, he got that hit in Seattle the day after the Mariners pushed Ichiro into retirement. And the hit came off ex-Card Mike Leake.

Career in that department? Even allowing for nagging injuries and continued decline, he should get at least 3,550 hits, which would put him past Tris Speaker into fifth all time. (That's on an allowance of 155 hits this year and an average of 145 per year over the four remaining contract years. Another 81 — which might be a tough challenge — would give him 3,631, and Cardinals fans know who that's about.)

Beyond hits, he now joins A-Rod, Willie Mays and Henry Aaron as the only members of the 3,000 hits/600 HRs club. And, whatever his exact ranking at the end of the year on the RBI totals, with 65 more, he joins Aaron in a two-person club of 3,000 hits, 600 HRs and 2,000 ribbies.

With 620 homers, Ken Griffey at 630 is next on the chase list there. Mays at 660 is likely out of the chase until next year. If he plays out the contract, he should catch Mays for sure, probably A-Rod, and possibly Babe Ruth.

Aaron's mark for career extra-base hits is an outside possibility. Pujols needs 179 total, or about 45 a year, to pass Barry Bonds for second. He needs 216, or about 56 a year, to pass Aaron.

He likely wont catch Aaron on career total bases, but should pass everybody else for second.

And, Albert still has a decent shot at one all-time career record. Right now, he's 480 short of The Hammer on the career RBIs mark. Throwing out his injury-plagued 2013, he's met or beaten that mark every year with the Haloes. Ruth is in second, just 398 ahead of Pujols. Barring serious injury, Albert catches him. Even with more injury problems, he's just 270 RBIs away from passing A-Rod into sole third place.

And, on runs scored, he's got a shot of joining Ruth and Aaron in the 2,000-run, 2,000-RBI club.

Again, that's if he plays out the contract.

Per my comment above, how long WILL he stay around, if he can't play better than he did last year? (Allowing for Pujols' typically slow starts to seasons, he is playing somewhat – but not incredibly — better this season.)

Old Redbirds skipper Tony La Russa told the Boston Globe that he thinks Albert will know when it's time, if it is before his contract ends, and will accept that.

On the other hand, sports book author Jeff Pearlman tweeted this May 3:
And, to be honest, not primarily because I am a Cards fan but under general observations, Pearlman may not be all right, but he's not totally wrong, either.

That said, on his self-honesty, and his health? If he heats up, relatively speaking, from this April/early May, he could well finish with, let's say, a 110 OPS+. That's enough for him to play next year for sure.

And, on self-honesty, and related issues? This is all complicated by the fact he may be 40, not 38. Still takes nothing away from a great career. (And Trueblood is wrong that Albert's post-30 sticks out like a sore thumb if he's indeed 38; five other players on his list are like Pujols or worse.0

We'll examine 2020 and 2021 possibilities down the road.

Enjoy for now! Even you, Brad Lidge.



I still like the look on the face of Roger Clemens in the Astro dugout. And LOVE the look on the face of Nolan Ryan in the Astro exec box.

Or, Mike Shannon's version of the call:



Finally, some career highlights of The Machine:

May 03, 2018

We don't need no steenking chaplains!

Paraphrasing The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, that is, in essence, what James Madison said two centuries ago — at least about House and Senate chaplains.

And he was, of course, right. It's a violation of the First Amendment.

So, Congresscritters getting bent out of shape for soon to be ex-Speaker of the House Paul Ryan canning Father Patrick Conroy are bogus.

At a minimum, hire at least one chaplain outside the Judeo-Christian tradition. Start with an imam to refudiate Islamophobia, then hire a Buddhist monk or someone else from a non-monotheist tradition.

Then, if you want to continue lip service to the Town of Greece SCOTUS decision? Hire a humanist chaplain.

Better yet? Give more than lip service to James Madison and get rid of them.

Ryan claims he canned Conroy over pastoral care, not politics.

Some evangelical Protestants said a Catholic can't offer that type of care because he's unmarried and childless.

That alone illustrates one problem. But, arguably, by those lights, any Christian chaplain can't give pastoral care to those of other beliefs, especially if its a Religious Righter.

Also, I don't believe Ryan, especially given that he went Sierra Madre himself if he called Conroy "padre."

And, if this was over politics, maybe it won't have a huge effect in November, but just a couple of percentage points in borderline, Catholic-heavy House districts could matter.

May 02, 2018

TX Progressives watch Loopy Lupe Valdez, mayors,
school board president, shoot selves in the foot

The Texas Progressive Alliance reminds you to vote in May 5 municipal elections if you have them, then runoffs in late May, as it brings you this week's roundup.

Speaking of … the Jolt Texas event, by Latin@ youth, endorsed Whiter than White Andrew over the Latina Loopy Lupe Valdez, saying she “ came across as ill-prepared or ill-informed .” Senate candidate Beto-Bob O’Rourke also faced scrutiny at the event.

Off the Kuff is all about the redistricting arguments at the Supreme Court.

Neil at All People Have Value posted a picture of the violence initiated by Board President Rhonda Skillren-Jones against lawful and peaceful citizens advocating for Houston school children at a Houston School Board meeting.

Stace at Dos Centavos also addressed Skillren-Jones’ actions, calling them same-old, same-old.

The Contributor notes that more than 100 mayors nationally are on the record supporting Net Neutrality. Austin’s Steve Adler is on the list as is San Antonio’s Ron Nirenberg. Even Brenda Gutner from San Angelo and Shelly Brophy from smaller yet Nacogdoches. But Houston’s Sylvester Turner, Dallas, Mike Rawlings and Fort Worth’s Betsy Price are AWOL.

SocraticGadfly offers up a profile of gadfly lawyer Ty Clevenger.

The Texas Observer reports the city of Dallas says it will cost too much to remove its Confederate War memorial and may instead add a lynching memorial.

G. Elliott Morris interprets the latest Congressional special election results.

The Dallas Observer catches “former fetus” Jonathan Stickland once again being a current idiot.

Raj Mankad cries out for pedestrian fatalities to be treated with the same sense of urgency as flooding.

Sanford Nowlin has some fun with Brad Parscale's rants about San Antonio bidding for the 2020 GOP convention.

Julie Hendricks ponders the architecture of a more resilient Houston.

Better Texas Blog brings good news and bad news on family planning.

Texas Living Waters Project wonders if reservoirs are an outdated approach to meeting the state's water needs.

Grits for Breakfast says the Texas Lege could learn from its revenge porn statute being declared unconstitutional – but probably won’t.

April 30, 2018

A better bio of Luther than Metaxas

It's actually Michael Massing's new parallel biography of Luther and Erasmus.

Fatal Discord: Erasmus, Luther, and the Fight for the Western MindFatal Discord: Erasmus, Luther, and the Fight for the Western Mind by Michael Massing
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There's not a lot of new stuff here for me, especially on the Luther side, but the dual biography concept, when done well, can stimulate some 'aha' and Massing generally does well.

The two biggies on differences are first, one of personality and temperament. Erasmus' irenic style never could have led a Reformation and Luther never could have calmed his down enough even to be the best of organizers of what a Reformation needed in terms of management.

As a result, Erasmus in general was more kindly disposed to human fraility and at least occasionally meeting people halfway. Had he been in Luther's shoes, he never would have treated Melanchthon as shoddily as Luther sometimes did.

As an aside, Massing also gives a good base-level explanation of how differences between Luther and Zwingli, in terms of how they developed their reformations differently, were sociological as much as theological.

I did learn a few tidbits, one of which I could have learned in Lutheran seminary, had it been taught there. And that is that Luther's polemics against the Jews weren't just a late-life, poor-health issue. They started with his lectures on the Psalms years before the 95 Theses. He later tamped them down, after the Reformation took off, in hopes of converting Jews. Until they didn't.

That said, it wasn't taught there. Growing up in the conservative wing of Lutheranism, there's an obvious reason a conservative Lutheran seminary wouldn't tell people that.

And, it was Karlstadt, not Zwingli, who first questioned the "Real Presence" in the Eucharist, and he did so on the basis of Greek grammer and not metaphoric speech common to Greek, German and English. Karlstadt pointed out that the "this" in "This is my body," can NOT refer backward to "bread" because it's a different gender in Greek. The Greek for "bread," the word "ἄρτος" in the nominative is masculine. "Τοῦτό" – the "this" in the next sentence," is a neuter, as is "σῶμα,' the Greek for "body." That, too was never mentioned in Lutheran seminary, probably because, although Luther railed against Karlstadt for this, he never refuted it — because, of course, he couldn't.

Now, Paul, who got this "revelation" about the Eucharist, was a Greek-speaker first and foremost. So, what does the "Τοῦτό" of 1 Corinthians 11:24 refer to? I've never read a modern critical commentary that addresses that in depth.

Conservative Lutheran exegetes may claim there was an "attraction" of genders. Zwingli, to my knowledge, may have thought that, or that it referred to "body," which would give a different reading. That would be something like "My very body is being given for you," which in its own way would support the standard symbolic interpretation of the Eucharist.

There is one notable error here that doesn't affect the flow, and a matter of framing that kind of does.

Given that the second big difference between Luther and Erasmus was on free will, and that BOTH had an Augustinian background, it would have been nice for Massing to include a little bit more about just how "minor" of a saint Augustine is seen as being in the East. He does talk a small bit about Orthodoxy's take on Augustine, but not a lot.

The outright error? Paul never claimed to be a Roman citizen, contra Massing. The unknown author of Acts claimed it for him.


View all my reviews

In case you're not a regular reader here, this is my review of Eric Metaxas' horrible take on Luther.
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