First let’s start with some good news, since there seems to be precious little of that these days: Canada reports zero COVID-19 deaths for first time since March. At least some countries are handling this thing better than we are.
So, you may remember that some of us were sharing stories about how Malania Trump oversaw tearing up the White House Rose Garden that has for decades adhered the Jackie Kennedy’s design (including digging up a bunch of healthy crabapple trees and who knows what actually happened to them) and replaced it with something that was super ugly? Well… Three weeks after its unveiling, Melania’s rose garden is dying and needs emergency repairs.
But what else do we expect from people who are already known to never pay their subcontractors?
Speaking of the corrupt one… Donald Trump stole art pieces from the ambassador’s residence in France.
And this reaction to the “revelation” that Trump knew the pandemic was deadly but didn’t care is spot on: Oh, Come On. The Only Thing Trump Cared About ‘Panicking’ Was The Stock Market – We know Trump only cares about himself, and what affects him. Let’s stop pretending, shall we?
Meanwhile, in my neck of the woods, I’m staying indoors, have the windows closed, have all the air cleaners going, and hope that the weather turns soon: Dangerous air quality as smoke from fires in California and Oregon pours into Western Washington.
Seattle air among world’s worst: How to check your town’s air quality and protect yourself from wildfire smoke – Saturday morning, air quality ranged from unhealthy for sensitive groups to very unhealthy in western Washington, according to AirNow.
Related, it would be funny if it weren’t so dangerous: ‘Antifa Arson’ Hoax Rumors Spread About Wildfires In Besieged West Coast Areas – Right wing extremists are doing all they can to pin the west coast wildfires on liberals, Black Lives Matter, and Antifa. The “proof”? Police scanner recording where rangers, firefighters, and various levels of police are exchanging information and refer to territory that is under control of the Federal Bureau of Land Management (a rather large swath of each of the western states) and “BLM land”. The idiot MAGA-boys think that forest rangers are talking about Black Lives Matter protestors whenever they refer to federal land. Oy!
And I’m just going to close with this:
Wildfires on US West Coast turn day into night | DW News:
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)
Okay, not quite done. I decided the above meme needed a bit of Betty White, so I made this:
‘A tale of 2 recessions’: As rich Americans get richer, the bottom half struggles – The trend is on track to exacerbate dramatic wealth and income gaps in the U.S., where divides are already wider than any other nation in the G-7.
‘Conmen, grifters and criminals’: why is Trump’s circle so at odds with the law? – Apart from legal trouble, what Bannon, Manafort, Flynn, Cohen, Stone, Gates and Papadopoulos have in common is the president.
Trump: Americans Who Died in War Are ‘Losers’ and ‘Suckers’ – The president has repeatedly disparaged the intelligence of service members, and asked that wounded veterans be kept out of military parades, multiple sources tell The Atlantic..
I don’t have a funny exit line, and I’m just not up to ranting about it.
And as retail and other essential workers will all tell you, it’s not just that they don’t get a three-day weekend, most of them don’t get weekends. They get days of, but since they aren’t usually the same days that the rest of us think of a time when we could schedule fun activities with friends, it’s just not the same.
Thanks to the pandemic, and the huge number of us that are working from home, and all the school kids who are attending virtual classes from home, things get even more confounding.
So I think before I spiral down any rabbit holes, I will just repost this bit about what Labor Day is supposed to represent which I wrote a few years ago:
If you don’t know labor history, you’re doomed to repeat the bad parts
Originally post September 4, 2017Both of my grandfathers were life long union workers. Dad moved in and out of union and non-union portions of his industry. When Mom re-entered the work force after my parents’ divorce, she became a union member and other then a few stints in management, remained one until she retired. I, on the other hand, work in an industry that has fought to keep unions out, and for various social reasons, the same co-workers who complain loudest about how everyone is classified as “professional” and therefore exempt from overtime pay and the like, are also convinced that unions would be a disaster.
Which is really sad. Mostly I blame the decades-long war on unions waged by mostly the Republican party. They have managed, somehow, to convince people to believe, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that businesses have always given out wages and benefits out of the goodness of their hearts.
I don’t understand how anyone who has worked for any business larger than a mom-and-pop operation can believe that.
It’s not that profits are driving business decisions, it’s that maximizing benefit to business leaders while milking short-term profits without investing in workers and their skills for long-term benefits.
You can keep talking about the economic insecurities of angry white guys, but you have to recognize that the source of economic insecurity is not market forces, or immigrants, or equal opportunity laws. It’s the people in that top 1%. And somehow we’ve got to get those scared angry white guys to recognize that they are being duped.
More recently I was explaining about something my husband and I had been talking about, and a different friend said, “That’s practically a recipe blog!” Since I was unfamiliar with the term, I had to ask what he meant. Turns out that it’s a joke which has spawned an entire genre of memes out there I’d never seen. The idea is you search for a recipe on line, but several of the hits are long, rambling blog posts about the day that the blogger first encountered this dish, and all the things about the experience that have remained important in their life, only to finally, deliver a very short (and sometimes not all that helpful) recipe.
I felt attacked.
Of course, I have just committed that kind of Recipe Blog, in that I have shared not one, but two anecdotes about the topic I intend to write this post about, without having yet gotten to the point.
On the other hand, several years ago after I had brought a casserole I call “Great Grandma’s Chicken Noodle” to a social event, a bunch of people asked for the recipe. Which wasn’t easy for me to share, because I had learned to make as a child by helping one of my great-grandmothers in the kitchen. At no time had I ever had a list of ingredients and the exact measures, because that’s not how my grandmothers and great-grandmothers cooked. So I spent an afternoon making the dish again, writing things down as I went along, and then converted my notes into a long post. I did include the approximate measurements of all the ingredients I used, but I also explained how substitutions could be made. And a lot of the process of the recipe were steps like, “stir the ingredients that are currently in a pan furiously until all the chicken pieces are white and the is a smooth, thick consistency–if your arm isn’t sore, you probably haven’t stirred long enough.”
After I posted it, more than one person who read it commented that never in their life had they been able to successfully follow a traditional recipe, because the writer assumed a lot of skills they didn’t have, but they felt this kind of recipe might be something they could do. One reported two weeks later they had followed my super-verbose recipe and it had tasted delicious.
Particularly if the subject I’m writing about is political or social commentary, I start with the anecdote because:
- It provides some context for my perspective, which may make it easier from someone who disagrees when I get to the point to at least see why I feel that way,
- It pre-empts accusations that I’m talking about something that never happens (a frequent tactic of bad faith trolls),
- It demonstrates that I have some experience with the topic under discussion,
- It helps to establish and nurture social glue.
Humans are social beings. We build trust and understanding through, among other things, sharing truths about ourselves. The more we know about someone, the more we feel we understand them. A blog is a type of social media (even if the long form that I am writing here has mostly been supplanted by tweets, instagram posts, and the like), so some social interaction is implied.
A lot of people misunderstand what it means that humans are social animals. It doesn’t just mean that we like to hang out together. Being social is a major survival trait of our species. We instinctively form communities, friendships, and so one, and we take care of each other. A lot of people think that taking care of each other is just about personal favors and charity. But it’s a lot more than that. All sorts of social customs, many of our ethical rules, and so forth, form an involuntary system of caretaking, as well. We punish individuals who do things that harm or imperil others–sometimes that punishment is formal, such as through the justice system, but far more of the punishments are informal and manifest in various social ways.
And we forget that notions such as private property, capital, and money as a means of regulating the exchange of goods and services are all artificial, and relatively recent inventions. Don’t confuse private property with personal property, those are vary different things. There is evidence that even before humans arose 200,000 years ago, some of our ancestral hominids had a concept of personal property: this sharpened stone tool I have made and use for various thing is my tool, that wooden carving I made with it and gave to the child of my sister is the child’s figurine.
Private Property is stuff such as Real Estate–specifically the notion that every square inch of the surface of the planet is available to be declared the private property of a specific person. There have been many human civilizations that existed for thousands of years that held as a basic concept that contrary idea that much of the land is common, rather than private, and if it belongs to anyone, it belongs collectively to the community. There are other types of metaphorical property that were also thought of as held in commons, that we have metaphorically fenced off and now require most people to pay for its use.
We have organized modern society so that most individuals must sacrifice a lot of their labor, time, and even their health merely to survive, while a smaller number are allowed to do way more than survive without expending the same amount of labor, time or health. The idea of taxation was originally an extension of those instinctive societal norms to keep us taking care of each other, but we’ve weaponized them in a way that instead allows some people to not just avoid doing their fair share, but to exploit that rest.
It can be argued (and has been) that the modern artificial notion of private property isn’t merely a bad idea, it is a deadly idea–for the majority of people. It is mathematically impossible for someone to become fabulously wealthy without exploiting and effectively stealing the value generated by hundred, thousands, or more individuals. And the system that has created that wealth is built on the notion that the wealth of those who have it must constantly expand, which means more and more exploitation of everyone else, which eventually means killing everyone else… and when there is no one left to exploit, the whole thing will collapse.
We have got to figure out how to unweaponize these systems, and make the parasites stop leeching off of everyone else, and actually pay their fair share to their fellow humans. Ignoring the problem is a recipe fo extinction.
And no one wants extinction for breakfast.
Continuing to embrace the fact that most traffic coming to my blog right now is driven by a scandal in the news, let’s get some new headlines out of the way first:
I’m not going to sum up the scandal yet again (if you really need to know, I quoted a great sum-up by one of thew writers at the Wonkette a couple days ago.)
Among the stories linked above, there is an official statement from the some leaders of Liberty University which claims that until last week there was absolutely no way to know that the former president of the University (and son of the scam evangelist who founded it as part of his multi-decade pro-racial segregation campaign) had been doing anything possible illegal or questionable with university funds, et cetera.
This is a blatant lie. If nothing else, because both major news organizations and dozens of bloggers like myself have been reporting on this issue for nearly three years. And one of the stories all of us covered in the last year was as a result of dozens of current and former employees of the university going to various Christian news sites to report the shenanigans. One former board member was widely quoted as saying they were no longer running a religious university, because Falwell Jr had turned it into a hedge fund that used student fees to finance his personal real estate deals.
And after that story broke, Falwell, Jr called the FBI to try to get the Feds to arrest all those employees… not for spreading false information, but for violating their non-disclosure agreements by revealing information they were supposed to keep secret.
Side note: I still have no idea why he thought calling the FBI of all people was the thing to do, but there you have it.
In other words, he essentially admitted that at least some of the allegations were turn.
That bit alone was months ago, not last week.
And again, the other news stories were published in the last few years. And at least when the mainstream news organizations were first publishing the stories, various board members and other officials of the university were contacted for comment.
Cynical people will say that “Of course they knew! But they are in on the deals, too!”
Most of the evidence is that, know, Falwell wasn’t spreading any of the money to anyone but his own family and apparently the young men who were schtupping Mrs Falwell.
No, it’s more complicated than that. And it is related to the structural forces in evangelical institutions (and probably other religious institutions, but let’s stick to what I know of personally) which enable abusers and turn the victims of abusers into villains.
First, most evangelicals believe that god is in control of the world. Which contradicts their equally sincerely held belief that satan causes all sorts of bad things to happen in the world, but such contradictions don’t bother them. Anyway, because god controls the world, then any person who is in charge of anything has been placed there by god. And god had to have a reason, even when it seems the person is completely unfit for the position. Therefore, if you question the actions of the leader, you are saying that god made a mistake putting him there. So the first line of defense when any wrongdoing of a leader is brought to light is to remind you that god works in mysterious ways, and eventually it will all turn out to be part of god’s plan.
Second, there is a section of the New Testament which is sometimes referred to as the Ministry of Correction, which details a process by which the faithful are to approach another member of the congregation/et cetera, when that person appears to have gone astray. And the first step in this process is to keep the problem private, do not share any concerns or issues with anyone outside the community. You are supposed to talk to the person directly, admit that you know that everyone including yourself sins from time to time, explain why you think what they are doing is wrong, invite them to pray with you about it, and trust in god to open their eyes.
You are only supposed to go to another person (and it is supposed to be someone who knows the person who you think has done something wrong, is a member of the same faith community, and preferably has some connection to the incident) if this conversation doesn’t lead to change and if, after you have spent time praying about it, you still think what they did was wrong. And you only take it to the entire church if none of that leads to changes and if the second person you brought into it agrees.
This process is easily subverted by a leader who doesn’t care whether what he is doing is right with god. He can pretend to take your concerns seriously, and then while you’re praying privately about it, start a whisper campaign undermining your credibility. That whole thing about everyone sin from time to time is practically inviting someone to claim some good ol’ what-about-ism—the leader may have made an unwise financial decision, but what about that time you did thus-and-so, hmmm? The Ministry of Correction is completely ineffective if any member of the leadership are acting in bad faith.
So even when you don’t have a legal non-disclosure agreement hanging over your head, if you grew up in these kind of churches, and you sincerely think that what the person is doing is wrong, your first instinct isn’t to save documents and emails and when you have enough to establish a case that the president of the university is diverting school funds to finance is luxurious millionaire lifestyle, turn said evidence over to the Department of Revenue or another agency that can investigate it, instead you go tell the grifter that you think he might be sinning and you ask him politely to think about not doing it any more.
This also how pastors who sexually abuse parishioners manage to abuse people again and again without consequence. The pastor or an ally goes to many members of the congregation, each time pretending that this person is the only one he’s talking to, and talk about their concerns about young Billy who seems to be light in the loafers, or whatever. Which is also how you end up with high ranking officials of a church telling reporters with a straight face that 11-year-old altar boys lead priests into sin, so it’s really the priest who is a victim, not the child.
I know that may seem like a big leap, but it is the same system. The default reaction from those around Falwell would have been to first assume that whatever the accusation is, it can’t be true, because god wouldn’t have allowed him to become president if he were that kind of man. And if any portion are true, it may not be quite what it seems because go works in mysterious ways. And if more of it turns out to be true, well, obviously the problem isn’t Falwell, but people around him who led him astray.
So Mrs Falwell is castigated as having a sexual addiction (and she joins in on the self-castigation!). The former pool boy, and various students who have begun to come forward are all characterized as tools of temptation that trapped poor, innocent Falwell (who was only trying to help them) into an impossible situation, and so forth.
Because the respected leaders can’t possibly be in the wrong, otherwise god wouldn’t have let them become leaders. It must be nice to be the benefactor of such blatant circular reasoning.
Note: Part of this post’s title comes from the hymn, “Soldiers of Christ, Arise” by Charles Wesley, #416 in the 1956 Baptist Hymnal.
August is almost over and I’m trying not to freak out at how fast the year has gone. Along with trying to maintain a reasonable level of anxiety (rather than completely falling about) as the political situation and the related pandemic and civil situations continue to get worse, dealing with the stresses at work, and so on. I keep meaning to write about things more mundane and personal that all the news related and sci fi related stuff that has been dominating this blog for the last many weeks. Let’s see if I can pull that off!
One of the challenges of me working from home every work day (and because of being in a high risk group the current guidelines are that I try to avoid going shopping et cetera more than once a week) has been just trying to keep track of what day of the week it is and what time it is and what I’m supposed to be doing on particular days.
Being home constantly does strange things to my notions of housework, as well.
For instance, I was finding myself getting more and more annoyed at how cluttered two parts of the kitchen counter were all the time. It was on either side of the sink, making it difficult to deal with dishes and the dishwasher, because there was always the chore of assessing and dealing with the clutter before I could get to the chore I had gone into the kitchen to do in the first place. And given how easily I distract myself and go down metaphorical rabbits holes and forget why I went into a particular room in the best of circumstances, this was getting much worse.
One day I made myself stop and look at all the clutter and ask myself why it was there. A small part of it is that both my husband and I have a habit of drinking multiple glasses of water a day, and so each of us has a glass or mug that sits next to the sink to be reused through out the day, then put in the dishwasher and a new one is used the next day.
But that was a miniscule part of the problem. A lot of the clutter were things that aren’t dishwasher safe. We have a rather lot of those. And what I realized was happening day after day was that I’d notice several of them beside the sink, and then not be certain if they had been washed out or not, so I would wash it out, and since and then I would sit it on the counter to dry… and later in the day Michael might to exactly the same thing, so I was come in and notice that one of the plastic water pitchers, for instance, which I thought I’d washed in the morning, is wet again. So I’d leave it. But then the next day I would find myself worrying that maybe I was mixing up a time it had been rinsed and waiting to dry a week ago, so I’d wash it again.
Several other things were items that don’t normally go in the cabinet after being washed, but instead have a spot in the pantry, which is slightly more work to get into, and so they were stuck in a similar cycle. And I realized there was a simple solution that we just hadn’t thought to put in place. So I bought one of those folder bamboo dish racks, cleaned everything and towel dried some things and put everything away.
The rack takes up one of the two places that used to be filled with random clutter all the time, but not the space is serving a purpose. If something in the rack and is dry, neither of us has to worry that it hasn’t been cleaned. We put it away, hand wash anything else that is on the other side of the sink, put in in the rack, and the rest of the counter is available for whatever.
It shouldn’t have taken me several months of being frustrated to think of that, I know.
So, we have replaced a bad habit with a more useful one, which is good. But I noticed a little wrinkle that has developed since. Every Sunday I put all the parts of the coffee maker that are dishwasher safe in the dishwasher and run in. I get down one of the antique bone china tea cups (which belonged to my late first husband’s grandmother), a saucer, and my infusing pot, and I drink tea all day instead of coffee.
At the end of the day I wash out the teacup and saucer and put them on the rack to dry, right? And the pot goes into the dishwahser when the coffee maker (and other cleaned dishes) come out. Throughout the week my husband and I wash other things, take dried items from the rack and them away… except we both keep leaving the teacup and saucer in the rack all week.
Most Sundays when I get ready to make tea, I put the teacup and saucer that have been sitting in the rack all week in the cupboard, each on the bottom of their respective stacks, and take another from the top of the stacks down to make tea. The latter part because I’m justifying hanging on to these small number of specialized dishes for all the years since Ray died by making sure I rotate so that all of them get used regularly.
Now, where I keep the teacups and saucers is on a high shelf in one of the higher cabinets precisely because unlike many other dishes and utensils they aren’t used every day. So I suspect I’m not putting them away sooner is because it’s fractionally more work. And I strong suspect Michael doesn’t want to put them away for fear that he’ll mess up my rotation system.
And it’s not really a conscious decision. At some point after we’d had the rack for a couple of weeks, I just started putting away everything on the rack except the cup and saucer, and now it’s like my brain literally doesn’t perceive them as being a separate object from the rack itself until the day that I go to make a cup of tea.
I know that it’s a very minor glitch in our improved habits on this issue. It just… when I notice that my brain isn’t doing what I want it to do, I get tetchy.