KingMidget's Ramblings

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Make It Stop

On Tuesday, the U.S. stock market dropped a few hundred points. The headline writers said it was because the “market” was getting ready for the anticipated increase in interest rates the Fed would announce the next day. On Tuesday, the Fed did increase the benchmark rate by 1/2 of a percentage point. The largeset increase since 2000. The market went up 900 points. Today, the market is down 800 points.

There are experts who claim that the “market” is a rational thing. And maybe over the long, long haul, it is. But on a day to day basis, it is the furthest thing from rational. A butterfly flaps its wings in a rainforest in South America and the market drops 500 points. A hippo in Africa sneezes and the market rises 500 points.

Meanwhile, the talking heads on the news and the headline writers for blogs and newspapers are continuing to trumpet “Supreme Court votes to overturn Roe!” No. It didn’t. At least not based on anything that has been reported. All we know is that five justices voted to uphold the Mississippi law. What the scope of the resulting decision is won’t be known until issued by the Court sometime this summer.

[Edited to add: And there’s this other thing. I’m not going to say that the U.S. is a liberal nation (see below), but polls have consistently shown significant support for many ideas pushed by the left side of our political debate. And abortion is one of them. Many people may be personally squeamish about abortions, but polls for decades have shown a clear majority support choice when it comes to abortion. In other words, a majority of Americans support getting government and courts out of this issue. Yet, the minority continues to be the tail wagging the dog on this issue. And there are others. I’m all for the majority not dominating a country and the minority having a say and an impact on decisions, but this is getting ridiculous.]

And over in Ukraine, on the same day I can see a headline in one major newspaper saying that Russia’s advance in eastern Ukraine is slowing down, while seeing a headline in another major newspaper saying that Russia’s advance in eastern Ukraine is speeding up.

Crime is up! No, it’s really not. America is a conservative nation! No, it’s really not. America is a liberal nation! No, it’s really not.

It’s all maddening. Maddening I say!! And makes that shack in the woods, completely unconnected from the world, so much more attractive.

In The News #14

The interwebs and social media are abuzz with a report of a draft opinion written by Samuel Alito in the abortion case pending before the Supreme Court. The draft puts forward an argument for overturning Roe v. Wade.

Photo Courtesy of Wesley Tingley via unsplash.com

I’ve got some thoughts. I bet you aren’t surprised.

First, as far as I know, a draft opinion has never been made public. The only things the public ever sees are the final opinion(s) issued by the Court. The leaking of the opinion is unprecedented, and it has led to all sorts of gnashing of the teeth. Which may just be premature.

Second, a draft opinion is just that. It is not the final opinion. Those who don’t follow the Supreme Court may not know this, but the Justices route draft opinions to each other, trying to cobble together votes for their preferred approach. Nothing about this draft opinion suggests that it is anything other than that. Alito has taken the hardest line on the abortion issue and hoping to attract a majority of justices to his position.

Third, none of the reporting I’ve seen has stated specifically that a majority of justices have voted to overturn Roe. At this point in the process, that’s not what they’re voting on. Their vote, instead, was on the merits of the case before them. Whether Mississippi’s law banning abortions after 15 weeks is constitutional. A majority of justices can vote to uphold Mississippi’s law without agreeing that Roe should be overturned. Again, the vote before the justices was on the law itself and the challenges plaintiffs made to it — not on whether Roe should be overturned. As a result, it is entirely possible that one of the justices in the majority has circulated a draft that upholds Mississippi’s law while not directly overturning Roe.

Fourth, do I think that is likely? I don’t know. The conservative majority on this Court has risen through the ranks of the Federalist Society and other hard-right, very conservative organizations that have lived and breathed animosity to Roe ever since it was decided. They view Roe as the pillar of wrong-headed left-wing judicial activism and have been laying the foundation for its overturn for decades. Now is their chance. I can’t see Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett backing away from that position. But … again, nothing is final until the final opinion is issued. A draft is just that. A draft.

Fifth, the left is now trumpeting how, if this opinion is the result of the Mississippi case, it will change the dynamic for the November midterms. Democrats just might hold on in both the House and Senate. Maybe it will be a landslide for Democrats!! Eh … probably not. This is one of the fallacies the left so desperately wants to believe. That their issues, their beliefs, are the same as those held by a majority of Americans. They may be right, but … and it’s a big but … holding those beliefs and voting based on them is a completely different matter. As we’ve seen for decades now, regardless of what the polls say, too many Americans vote contrary to what they claim to believe in and stand for. The November midterms will not be decided based on what the Court does in this decision. No, it will be decided by the same issues that have decided elections my entire adult life. Crime. Inflation. The economy. Maybe even a little bit of insecurity based on what is going on around the world. This is what brings Americans to the polls to vote. These are the fears that stoke Americans. There simply aren’t enough Americans who think that abortion is the biggest, most important issue around — not when inflation roars, when the propaganda masters have convinced them that criminals are around every corner, not when the world seems so unstable. Abortion ain’t what will drive voters in November. It just ain’t. I mean, seriously, that there are people on the left who think this changes the equation in November is an indication of just how out of touch the left is.

Politics as Performance Art

I wrote awhile back about Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” Bill. My point was that the bill wasn’t as bad liberals and progressives were making it out to be. It prohibits classroom instruction regarding sexual orientation and gay identity through the third grade while allowing it in age and developmentally appropriate circumstances from fourth grade on.

“Classroom instruction” is the key phrase here. Earlier versions of the legislation used the word “discussion,” but somewhere along the line the bill was amended to replace that word with “instruction.” I think the change is meaningful, and the use of “classroom” to modify it also is significant. The bill doesn’t prohibit saying “gay.” It just precludes instruction time from being spent on these two topics with young children and … seriously … I need to know why instruction time needs to address these issues with children that young. Can we just let children be children for a few years? Why is that so impossible?

Here’s what the bill doesn’t prohibit: teachers discussing these issues outside of instruction time or formal instruction; counselors, principals and other school personnel discussing these issues with students; discussing these issues during instruction time with students in 4th grade and above.

From my perspective, the legislation (regardless of the motives of the Florida GOP) does nothing that shouldn’t already be happening. But the propaganda masters of the left came up with a catchy phrase, the MSM and social media amplified the catchy phrase, and everybody got their panties in a bunch over a bill that really, actually does nothing. Performance art on the left.

Followed by performance art on the right, which pushed this legislation to feed their seething base as though it actually will make a difference.

(I stop here to acknowledge that there is one thing that is troubling about the bill — parents can now sue if they think the provisions in the legislation have been violated. This could create a fear of litigation on this topic and, as a result, reduce the willingness of teachers and other personnel to engage on questions children may have. But I think that’s a minor risk.)

The performance continues. Disney, which at first remained silent, was pressed by some of its employees to make a statement in opposition to the legislation. They did, and they went further, promising to work with other groups to get the legislation repealed. One wonders if anybody within Disney, including all of their high-priced attorneys, pushed back at all or pointed out that the legislation isn’t actually that bad.

The Florida GOP was having none of this, as you likely know, quickly drafting and passing a bill that would eliminate an “improvement district” that had been established in 1967 and that allowed Disney to essentially self-govern the 25,000 acres on which its resorts and hotels are located. The bill wasn’t necessarily entirely focused on Disney, it also terminated a handful of other special districts that were formed prior to 1968. But the public statements of members of the Legislature, the Governor, and the Lieutenant Governor make it abundantly clear there was a single reason for this legislation — to punish Disney for its exercise of free speech.

Why is this performance art? Because, particularly given all of those public statements, Florida is basically acknowledging that they are violating Disney’s free speech rights. (Let’s ignore for a moment, the lunacy of saying a corporation has free speech rights. It does, thanks to the Citizen’s United case in which the hard core right-wingers on the Supreme Court granted such rights to a corporation. Because of that, this is the state of the legal world we live in — a corporation has a protected right to free speech.)

But … this is what the right-wingers say over at PowerLine … Disney can speak all it want. They have not been denied their right to free speech. True. Sure. But, that’s not what the courts have said for decades. Government punishment of an exercise of free speech is just as much a violation of the First Amendment as preventing the speech in the first place.

The smarter people in the GOP know this (no jokes about that), but they don’t care. They are playing to their base. The same politicians and base that believes it is horrible for a public university to deny a speaking forum to right-wing fringe speakers are perfectly fine with punishing Disney for speech it doesn’t agree with. Those smarter people though? They know this is all smoke and mirrors that only the gullible believe has any real meaning.

Unfortunately, both sides are engaged in this politics as performance art. The GOP puts something out there, the left over-reacts, and both sides go along merrily, reinforcing the rage and conspiracies of their bases. And, as I keep saying, America continues to suffer the results.

Why I Won’t Leave Twitter

I tweeted earlier today that I’d love to be one of those people who leaves Twitter because Elon Musk bought the house. I think Musk is one of the most dangerous people in our world today. He is a narcissist with a massive treasure chest and he is more than willing to use it to get what he wants. He seems to think that free speech is more important than responsible free speech and I’m just kind of done with those who use free speech for irresponsible or dangerous ends.

But I won’t leave Twitter. I can’t leave Twitter. It’s about connections, which I’ve figured out over the years really matter to me.

  • When my kids were young and they cycled through different “best friends” over the years, I thought it was a shame that those friends came and went, many of them now lost to nothing more than fading memories.
  • I’ve been blogging here for more than ten years. During that time a lot of other bloggers I followed have disappeared, many of them without a word. Just suddenly, they stopped blogging without a word of explanation. Which is fine, but some of those people I felt I made connections with through the words and bits we shared with each other in our posts and comments. I miss those connections, regardless of how many more have been made along the way.
  • Twice I’ve worked in places for more than ten years. At the law school where I got my degree, I worked for eleven years, before, during and after my legal education. When I left, I referred to it as my home away from home and leaving was difficult, regardless of how much I needed to do so for myself and for my family. (Too much travel, too little salary.) There were a number of employees I left behind that I missed and every now and then, even 25 years later, I’ll get together with one or two of them, and it’s just like old times.
  • More recently, I worked at the same state agency for almost 18 years before entering semi-retirement. Over the years, I’ve looked at my work relationships and, while I had positive and friendly relationships with almost everybody I worked with, I never considered very many of my co-workers to be friends I’d keep in touch with after I left. Then retirement hit and something else happened. I found I had a desire to keep in touch with a lot more of those co-workers than I had imagined over the years. It’s good to get together with people I worked with for so long to re-connect, share memories and talk about the future.
  • I had a conversation with one of my sons about this … how you spend more hours at work than you do anywhere else. More time with your co-workers than your actual family. And the logical result, if you’re remotely human, is that you make connections with some of those people that can outlast the actual work. And that ain’t a bad thing at all.
  • The summer after I graduated from high school, I joined up with a group of my peers. We got together to play softball every Friday night and then went to a nearby restaurant just about every week that summer. That was now 40 years ago. Our close friendships lasted throughout our college years but when we started getting married and having children, we grew a bit apart. Over the last ten years or so, we’ve come back together. While we don’t spend as much time together as we did way back when, my most enjoyable moments these days are when I’m with these friends. We laugh, we remember, we cry, we support, we encourage and we have a past with each other, connections that were made and withstood the test of time, that means those moments are more valuable than almost any other.
  • Which brings me to Twitter. I blog here and participate in social media for engagement. To talk about things — politics, beer, pizza, religion, beer, pizza, writing, beer, pizza, painting, beer, pizza — and to share pieces of each other. My favorite people on Twitter are those who tweet their own thoughts and words, their own experiences and fears in a way that is not meant to attract attention, but more to just say … this is who I am and this is what I am doing, feeling, seeing today … and then actually engage with others in a discussion of each other’s lives.

What it comes down to is that these interactions and connections that spread out over years, whether in person or on social media, are things that begin to tell a story. And I want to know how all of those stories end. Not end as in death, but will XXXX find true love, will XXXX find a path forward to success based on her creative pursuits, will XXXX travel to wonderful places, will all of the writers out there find success, will my Ohio peeps ever stop obsessing over the Reds and the Bengals, will my Florida peeps ever find happiness in a state ruled by the GOP. And in between those things, what adventures will befall all of us. What losses will we support each other through. And what, at the end of the day, will be the ending of all these stories that unfurl in the daily tweets of the people I have connected with.

I lost some connections through bloggers who have disappeared without a word. I don’t want to lose the connections I’ve made on Twitter because some narcissistic fool purchased the platform.

[Edited To Add: Argh, I hate it when I forget to say something I was thinking of while writing a post … the only way I’m leaving Twitter is if I can figure out a way to collect all of my social media friends and give them access to this blog, so we can engage in the same kind of conversation here that we do over on Twitter.]

Pink Floyd

Over on Twitter, I saw a tweet sharing a current version of Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd. It looks to be the guys playing guitars and a couple of women providing some background vocalizations. It’s one of my favorite Pink Floyd songs and listening to it caused me to spend some time listening to Pink Floyd today. That time will likely extend for the next few days until I get distracted by some other musical interlude.

But while I listen to Pink Floyd, a thought hit me today. They are an interesting band and most of their albums that I have enjoyed have created an environmental feel. For instance, my first favorite Floyd album was Wish You Were Here, released in 1975.

There’s a song on that album, Welcome to the Machine, that begins with this set of sounds. It’s kind of an industrial sound and leaves me feeling, as I listen to the album, like I am on an old elevator in a run-down industrial building of some sort. (To be honest, at the moment, I feel like it just might be the steel factory in Mariupol, and isn’t that odd. As I think about this, the more I imagine that could be the place.)

It doesn’t matter what song I listen to on that album, I have that feeling of an industrial complex and an elevator that goes up and down.

Next up is The Final Cut, an album that I never hear anybody talk about, but which is also one of my favorites. It’s a massive anti-war piece of music and it bleeds with anger and memories. And when I listen to it, I feel like I’m sitting in a darkened room (kind of like my grandmother’s front room). There’s a record player and a disc spinning with the music coming out in scratchy clarity, while an old man tells me about the horrors of war.

And finally, there is The Division Bell and A Momentary Lapse of Reason, both of which make me feel like I am in a giant music hall listening and watching the band play. An acoustically perfect building where the sound just travels into the corners and along the walls and envelops me.

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