Where is the humanity?

“Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God’s recreation of the new day.” — Cat Stevens/Eleanor Farjeon

Sometimes you need the lime wedge before you take the tequila shot. Sometimes you need it before, after, and then again a few minutes later. That happened when I stumbled upon a news story that a friend stumbled on yesterday. It seems someone in the Texas state legislature really doesn’t like transgender kids.

Of course, that’s not the way they would describe it. They would say they are looking out for children. The story in question references a bill that has been proposed before the state legislature. It seems they want to remove kids from their parents if they get a gender reassignment. They consider that tantamount to child abuse. See, I told you that you needed that lime wedge.

I can’t hardly decide where to begin on all of this. Should we take this on its merits or should we address the strategy behind it? The person (I’m not dignifying them by name) knows this has no chance in passing. So, why bother? Well, they are making a political statement and a social one as well. They also want to distract us from what is really going on in the legislature. They hope we will expend our energy defeating this monstrosity of a bill and ignore the real stuff they are trying to do.

Texas has done this for years. They take real issues like education, infrastructure, and the energy crisis and throw them on the backburner for wedge issues only a few care about deeply. Most of the time it is a bill allowing a three year old to bring a semi-automatic machine gun to daycare or having women that seek abortions drawn and quartered. You’ve seen them before. They are the type of bills that make you wonder if a majority of Texans are just stupid, mean, or if they are breathing at all.

However, this gets to the heart of what is inside the typical conservative. There isn’t much going on upstairs and what lies inside the chest is black indeed. I get the discomfort. We have a few students on campus that are transgender. It can be hard to deal with how you address them or what to talk about with them. I get discomfort on that level.

Acceptance and comfort are two different things. I also get an uneasiness that comes with reconciling believing in a God that doesn’t make mistakes and dealing with someone that feels like they are one. However, this is where the ignorance rolls in. Transgender people don’t go down to the local Walgreens, take a pill, and then become what they want. They don’t get cut from the basketball team, put on a dress, and then try out for the girl’s team. Yet, this is how this bill and others that have actually passed state legislatures seem to think about the process of reassigning your gender.

I don’t know everything that goes into it, but I have some idea. Parents aren’t demanding their kid change genders and they aren’t buying hormones on the black market to get it done. This involves doctors, mental health professionals, and probably counselors. It involves deep reflection, soul searching, and numerous intermediate steps. Parents and children willing to go through with it deserve much more than what they are getting. It takes courage for a parent to let go of what they thought they had to allow their child to become the person they feel they need to become.

I can only empathize at this point. I am a parent and I know how much our conception of our daughter is wrapped up in her identity as our daughter. Should she want to become our son there would be a lot that would need to be sorted through. Yet, keeping our child would not be one of those. Loving our child would not be one of those. It would be a cold day in hell before anyone would take her or him away from us.

So, at the end of the day it is difficult to imagine what is more detestable in this case. Is the thought process itself the most obnoxious thing? Is the ignorance about the process of becoming transgender the most obnoxious thing? Is the hypocrisy of citing a loving and benevolent God while completely ignoring the love that he taught us to show the most obnoxious thing? It could be all of those, but it could be the simple truth that they want us talking about these things while they rob us blind behind our back. Either way, feel free to go back to the top and suck on your lime wedge. If you’ve made it this far you deserve it.

I’m doubly mad

“They are the kings ’cause they swing amputation
Lose your arms, your legs to their miscalculation
I can prove it to you watch the rotation
It all adds up to a funky situation.” — Public Enemy

I thought long and hard about folding this over into this morning’s piece. After all, I already references the Minnesota police shooting in that piece. Yes, that situation did involve a gun, so maybe I could just rant against guns and call it good. I also could have waited until tomorrow to write the piece. Heck, sitting on the perfect song lyric and story idea is a luxury these days.

Yet, it just didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel right to rail against guns and somehow let this situation go another day without comment. See, here we have another situation when an unarmed person of color gets killed by the police. It’s enough to make you wonder what in the hell is going on,

I could simply refer you to my earlier post, but for those too lazy to go that one, I have another article to reference the event. It might be just a horrible coincidence that this shooting happened in the shadows of the George Floyd murder case going on just ten miles away. Who knows what one has to do with the other. It certainly is fair to claim that racism is a systemic problem in that police department and yet we cannot know for sure whether this particular officer was motivated by racist attitudes or not.

In an earlier post, I commented in detail about an encounter that I had with local law enforcement. The encounter didn’t go well and yet I came away unharmed. That could be because I am white. It could also be because I didn’t pose a threat to the officer. Each scenario is equally viable and yet one cannot deny the possibility that each of those are intertwined somehow.

If we take the officer in Minnesota’s testimony as gospel then we have to conclude that it was not murder. She intended to tase him. Of course, that begs the question of why. He was supposedly being pulled over because he had an expired car registration. From there, it was discovered that he had a warrant for a missed hearing on a misdemeanor gun charge.

We can set aside how genuine the blue lives matter crowd really is after the capitol attacks on January 6th. Even assuming they are coming into the discussion in good faith we would have to ask whether it makes sense for someone to lose their life in a routine traffic stop following a bench warrant on a misdemeanor charge. The usual course is to point out that the victim comes in with unclean hands. Yes, he had a misdemeanor charge on his record. However, is that horribly relevant to this particular situation? Did he pose a threat in the moment? Why was it necessary to tase him?

Herein lies the point. We can have discussions over qualified immunity and how armed we want police to be. I certainly have no problem discussing choke holds and other common sense and quick reforms we could make to policing. Something tells me this isn’t a quick fix. This goes back to the attitudes and typical responses from the officers themselves. Why exactly do their instincts drive them to this place? Imagine if this had gone as it was “supposed” to have gone. The victim would be tased instead of shot. Great. At least he wouldn’t be dead.

Is this something they are taught at the academy? Is it something they are taught by older officers that might have outdated and out of touch opinions on who they are policing? Is this a jaded opinion that the officers have themselves in more cases than we would like to admit? The bottom line is we have to find a way to respect the balance between keeping officers safe while they do their jobs and keeping the public safe.

I hate to make these parallels because I know situations are not completely analogous. Yet, when I talked to the officer’s superior in my personal situation, I pointed out that as a teacher I had to go through extensive training before I could put a student in restraint. That was primarily for my safety and the safety of the student. It is also because if we handle the situation correctly there will never need to be a restraint in the first place. I’m proud to say I’ve never had to restrain a student in 24 years of teaching.

I’ve certainly had to discipline students. So, it’s not a situation of just letting them do whatever they want. However, it is about building a relationship with them. They trust that I won’t hurt them. So, they return that trust by not hurting me. So, we both get what we want. It’s hard to couch that in a policy or in legislation. It’s simple common sense that comes from the realization that you sometimes have to let go of certain things in order to gain more control. The alternative is to keep reading stories like this in the news.

Too Much Information

“Who needs information
When you’re living in constant fear?
Just give me confirmation
There’s some way out of here.” — Roger Waters

Coming into yesterday I was lamenting the fact that I didn’t have much to write about. That’s always the kiss of death. There is an old Chinese proverb that says, “may you live in interesting times.” Well, there’s no denying that we live in interesting times. Two news stories intersecting yesterday from different parts of the country.

Minnesota seems to be in the crosshairs again with another police shooting. This time, an officer says they were reaching for their taser and pulled out of their gun instead. I suppose it could happen to any of us if we were packing that much heat.

On the same day we had another school shooting make the national news. This leaves people like me to connect the dots. How are these events related? What if anything can be done to stop them? At the end of it all, most of us have that same powerless feeling you have when you see an accident happening in slow motion.

I suppose we can be thankful that there was only one victim in each case. However, I can’t help but think there is one unifying source to the problem. Guns. There is very few things that make me more angry. As a commentator, I get tired of commenting about it. We say the same things over and over again and nothing seems to change.

I think what’s more frustrating is the overarching attempts to be politically correct and accommodating of the gun owning population. I say I don’t want to take your guns. I say all I want is common sense gun control legislation. I say all I want are background checks and an automatic assault weapons ban. I say all of those things because I know the response I will inevitably get.

That’s not the truth though. I for one am sick and tired of hiding it. I’m tired of kowtowing to Rambo wannabes that seem to think they need to open carry their AR-15 to the florist so they safely buy flowers for their wife. I’m sick and tired of the dumb son of a bitch that thinks they need to carry their assault rife into Wal-Mart because we need a good guy with a gun. I’m also tired of short-sighted legislatures that seem to think the answer is more open carry and fewer restrictions. I’m just sick and tired of being sick and tired.

I’m sick and tired of muting my own feelings because they aren’t politically popular. I hate guns. I have always hated guns and there is nothing that will change that. This isn’t assault rifles or automatic weapons. It’s not handguns. It’s not rifles and shotguns. It’s all guns. If every gun disappeared from the world I would be much happier.

I’ve never suggested banning guns or confiscating guns because I know it’s a non-starter. I also know plenty of people with guns that are responsible adults that wouldn’t be caught dead looking like that stupid Missouri couple. I also know that a part of this is driven on pure emotion. Sure, it worked in Australia, but I know these issues are much more complex than that.

I also know that situations like the Minnesota shooting are a lot more involved and a lot more needs to be said and done. I will say those things in due time. Others will too. For now, I just needed to come out and say it so I don’t have to hide it anymore. I hate guns.

Disbelieve your own eyes and ears

““Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else.”– George Orwell

Imagine my surprise when I was perusing Twitter this weekend and found a tweet that asserted that the attack on the capital was not in fact sedition. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the wherewithal to save that Tweet, but subsequent searches found the article in question.

I would guess that most of you read 1984 at some point during school. It seems George Orwell is a common author that we run across in English classes at some point. I never actually read the book in school. I think I’ve read plenty of Orwellian short stories, so the concept of his kind of dystopia is pretty common and known by most people.

The concept of 1984 has been used by proponents on both sides of the aisle. Perhaps both sides could be right. Perhaps reality is no longer unbiased. Perhaps there are so many biased sources of information that we can hardly believe what we are told about the events of the day. Yet, occasionally we get to witness things first hand. It is particularly incendiary to see someone or some people attempt to tell us that what we saw is not what we saw and what we heard is not what we heard.

Yet, former President Trump attempted to tell us exactly that in his all out war with the mainstream media. He actually said that we can’t believe what we see and hear. When you eliminate the mainstream media then the only thing left is state sponsored media. From there, it is just a quick jump to the world that Orwell created in his novel.

Denial is one way of erasing the past. Most attempt to whitewash it. It isn’t that people didn’t invade the capitol. It is that they did it nonviolently. They had no weapons. The former president told us that they hugged the officers as they came in. They handed them all flowers and chocolates as they came in. If they are guilty of anything it isn’t paying for the tour.

Others resort to whataboutism. What about the protesters in Portland and Minnesota? What about the protesters everywhere else that caused property damage and hurt people. Some of them even had guns. Isn’t that worse than what the people did at the capitol?

Finally we get the conspiracy theorists. Sure, people invaded the capitol and sure they committed insurrection and sedition, but they weren’t the good, honest conservatives that came there to protest. Those were liberal agitators from Antifa and BLM that were trying to get conservatives in trouble.

Add it all up and it’s just pathetic deflection. First of all, we watched the attack. We know the numbers of officers that were either hurt or killed. The irony of the what about argument is that they show their hand on the last argument. Remember, conservatives always accuse you of what they are in fact doing. Certainly not all of the bad actors at protests out of Washington are in fact conservative agitators, but many of them were.

Yet, that doesn’t matter. Let’s say all of them were Antifa and BLM. It is difficult to separate in your mind what was behind the violence and who the violence was against. One group were protesting an election they lost. Others were protesting continual mistreatment by the police. One group attempted to overthrow a government in the midst of a constitutional event. The other group had members get violent in protest and may have damaged private property or injured innocent bystanders.

Let’s put together the conspiracy theory and dust for prints. So, people who are anti-fascists were attempting to interfere with the constitutional process of an election they won. Meanwhile, the president at the time clearly enjoyed what he was seeing and didn’t act to stop it. Had it been a left-wing conspiracy wouldn’t the president immediately have sent troops? Wouldn’t he have come out and said, that he didn’t want this? Instead, his video response appeared to be a sorry not sorry response.

The point is that when we don’t want something to be true we will try anything to convince ourselves that it isn’t true. Maybe we deny it happened in the first place. Maybe we rearrange our memories to change what what happened. Maybe we change the subject and try to get people to focus on something else that happened. Maybe we just change who did it. This is your shame. It’s right here and you can’t run from it anymore no matter how hard you try.

What are we doing?

“You turned the tap dance into your crusade
Now here you are with your faith
And your Peter Pan advice
You have no scars on your face
And you cannot handle pressure.”– Billy Joel

Someone did a study. It’s one of those things I wish I had written down or ratholed along the way. I knew I would reference it eventually, but these things rarely occur to me until well after the fact. It seems that ignorance really is bliss. That was the study. The scientists involved found some way to measure knowledge in a systematic way and compare that with the brain. Those that knew less really were happier. Go figure.

The more you pay attention to politics the less happy you become. Eventually, I’m going to come up with a catchy name for it, but there is an ever growing gap between what the public wants and what the government delivers. Some of this is due to representation and the nature of how our government is set up. Democrats in the Senate represent nearly 40 million more Americans than the Republicans and yet they are split 50/50.

The same phenomenom is true in the House to a lesser extent. Of course, they don’t have the same procedural issues as the Senate. That’s the other problem that gets thrown on top of the whole thing. So, you look up to see issues where the vast majority of the country agrees on both sides and yet nothing seems to be done.

The Senate got the green light to begin working on infrastructure while using the process of budget reconciliation. That means they don’t have to follow normal Senate rules and be subject to the filibuster. That makes the prospect of legislation more favorable and yet there are still all kinds of political minefields still waiting for them on an issue where 80 percent of Americans agree.

At the center of it all is West Virginia senator Joe Manchin. Manchin is a Democrat officially, but the proof of his membership is sometimes difficult to pinpoint. He has been particularly hostile towards gun control and now is at the center of the controversy over the filibuster. Most Democrats either want it eliminated or severely curtailed. He is standing in the way. Considering the Senate is 50/50 that’s a particularly formidable threat.

Rumor has it that Manchin will not be running for reelection. So, the threat of primarying him is all but gone. His seat will be up in 2022. I don’t know that I would ever trust a politician to keep his or her word. The threat of retirement is always effective when someone becomes unpopular within their own party.

The proof of the pudding in terms of the gap can be seen in the overwhelming amount of legislation that the House has passed that has been stuck on the Senate’s desk. Before 2021, that could be blamed on one man. Unfortunately, that won’t fly as much as it did before. All people know is that they want stuff to be done and that stuff isn’t done. They don’t know whether to blame Mitch McConnell, Joe Manchin, Joe Biden, Donald Trump, or the tooth fairy.

This is why we see the yo-yoing in representation in Congress. One side gains control and nothing seems to change. So, they vote for the other side. Yet, one side has never been interested in passing popular measures. They really don’t want infrastructure. They really don’t want common sense gun control. They REALLY don’t want to expand voting rights and access. They don’t want to remove money from the political process and they don’t want to remove gerrymandering either.

So, voting for them only accomplishes that goal. Who in the heck knows why Manchin does what he does. Maybe he sees West Virginia as more conservative than other states. Maybe he’s a dedicated centrist that doesn’t like the progressive agenda. Maybe he’s desperate to keep some of these Republican senators as friends. It could be that he just likes the idea that people have to listen to him now. Whatever the case, I think he would find that even West Virginians are in favor of many of the aims of the legislative agenda. In that case, if their senator can’t find a way to get that agenda moving then they need a new senator.

The Democrats need to craft a strong message. They need to highlight everything the House has passed in the last few years since they have taken control. They need to highlight all of these things and show how the Senate is the one thing standing between Americans and lasting and systemic change. As hard as it will be, they need to explain how Senate works and doesn’t work. Maybe then Manchin will be pressured to move.

Monsters Among Us

“Oh Arnold Layne. It’s not the same. Takes two to know. Why can’t you see?” — Syd Barrett

Those that live in the Houston area are well aware of the Deshaun Watson situation. Commenting on these cases is always difficult. He has been sued by 22 women. Two of those 22 women have gone to the police and filed criminal complaints. We learned yesterday that there were five additional women that the principal attorney, Tony Buzbee, chose not to pursue. For his part, Watson’s attorney came to the party with 18 women that had given Watson massages and reported no incident. I’m not so good at math, but 22 + 5 + 18 equals at least 45. This is in addition to whatever staff the team has. That’s a lot of massages,

We know only a few things. We know that Watson regularly gets massages. We know he has gone to Instagram to find therapists. We know what the women have all said. We know that he has denied it. From there, it’s all conjecture. The first woman to file a suit spoke yesterday. Her emotions were raw and real. It’s difficult to watch and listen and come away believing Watson. Then again, Watson hasn’t come out in public and made a statement.

We introduce all of these caveats to say this. there are a number of alarming things with these cases. We can extend it beyond Watson and include Matt Gaerz and Andrew Cuomo if we want to be balanced and thorough. However, we could include any high profile potential abuser in this discussion. Watson’s opening statement on Twitter seems innocent enough by itself, but when taken in concert with the overwhelming amount of accusations and the repetitive nature of the modus operandi.

Notice the line in the middle. “I have never treated any woman with anything but the utmost respect.” This was actually following the first filed lawsuit. 21 further lawsuits have come. On the one hand it is predictable. It was almost as if Watson were daring those other women to come forward. We see this behavior frequently from famous abusers and it is all too predictable. The huge question comes in what they believe themselves.

Does he honestly believe that he is treating all of these women with respect? Is he saying it just because he feels like it is in his best interest to say it? In some cases, you can see the wheels spinning in their head. Some people are duplicitous jackasses. They know very well what they are doing. Cuomo and Gaetz have certainly been painted that way for good reason. With Watson I’m not so sure. I’m guessing a large part of him has been caught off-guard with all of these accusations. I’m sure a large part of him still believes he has done nothing wrong.

That’s the scary part of this whole deal. Most of us know monsters exist in the world and we’ve made our peace with it. There are all kinds of monsters. There are people that routinely do evil in the world. Not much can be done for them. We often call them sociopaths or psychopaths. They know right and wrong and see human weakness. For whatever reason they have chosen to exploit weakness instead of protecting and nurturing it. Fine. The world is made up of all kinds of people.

There are also normally decent people that occasionally do horrible things. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know I have blurred the lines a time or two in my life. Like most other people it wasn’t an overt decision to blur the lines. One decision or circumstance led to another decision or circumstance. Suddenly you look at where you are and start getting the cold sweats. Maybe some of us were lucky in that we had someone that cared that told us we were approaching the line. Nine out of ten us didn’t cross it. When we saw ourselves getting close we retreated immediately.

The ones that cross the line can be put in two groups. The sociopaths and psychopaths couldn’t give two craps about the line. They want to be gratified and see something they want. They recognize there is a line and they always know where it is so they can stay out of trouble. They just won’t let it stop them. They just cross the line. Those people are easy to understand once you admit to yourself that some people have no conscience.

The ones that always get me are the ones that seem to be ignorant of the line. When you have 20+ women accusing you of some form of assault or abuse we aren’t talking about stumbling over the line once on accident. This is a compulsion. Yes, we don’t know all of the facts, but we can probably put a picture together in our head. At the very least, it appears Watson has a compulsory need to recreate the same situation over and over. Yes, in isolation that situation might be perfectly legal, but when repeated and done purposely it is abuse. The fact that he may not know this is frightening.

Many of us go through the world always worried that we will do something to offend others. I am always checking myself and scrutinizing my words and deeds to determine if I am doing or saying the right thing. Sometimes I fail. I’m human. The thought of doing something so horrible to someone else without knowing is truly frightening. I couldn’t imagine doing it to 20, 30, or even more. Maybe that’s the difference between normal people and predators. Maybe he knows and just doesn’t care.

The Unholy Trinity

“And who is the master of foxhounds?
And who says the hunt has begun?
And who calls the tune in the courtroom?
And who beats the funeral drum?”– Roger Waters

Shortly after the death of Julius Caesar, the Romans experimented with a power structure they called the Triumvirate. It involved three equal leaders that shared power in a system of rudimentary checks and balances. As you might have imagined, it didn’t work for long. Our system of checks and balances have worked remarkably well in the United States, but they have certainly had their moments.

They never perfectly work together. That was never the point of the exercise. Usually two could gang up on one bad actor to make sure they never become too powerful. This notion is at play in the current Republican party. They have three factions that work together to help them win elections and maintain power. They couldn’t win with just one alone, but if you put them together it has been just enough to get by for the last forty or so years.

The oldest faction is the faction the party was built on. The Republican party has always been the party of big business. Leave it to that group to be the possible ultimate undoing of everything else. They always say that politics make strange bedfellows. It is bizarre to see racists, xenophobes, and homophobes get in bed with big business, and then saddle up to religious zealots in a kind of perverse love triangle. I shudder to say this now, but it looks like big business might become the voice of reason.

All of this stands in the backdrop of corporate America’s standoff with the Georgia GOP over their new voter suppression law. Some have dubbed the bill “Jim Crow 2.0.” Whether it is motivated purely by racism or if it is simply a sinister power grab that happens to disproportionately affect African Americans and people of color is open to debate. The impact cannot be debated. Fewer people will vote and that is exactly what the GOP wants.

We can marvel at the simplicity of it. We can marvel at the naked ambition and undemocratic principles of the notion. I choose to marvel at corporate America’s collective response. MLB has pulled it’s all-star game and MLB draft out of Georgia. The collective impact has been estimated at 100 million dollars of revenues for the city of Atlanta and the state. That kind of loss in revenue has its way of trickling down. Funny how this trickle down method could topple the Republican party as it stands.

See, Corporate America never does anything for anyone else if it doesn’t benefit themselves. MLB and those companies looked at the bottom line and discovered their customer base would be more upset if they just went along with it than if they embraced democracy and free and fair elections. NASCAR made a similar calculation when they came out in opposition to racism and in support of the aims of Black Lives Matter. The comments have been eerily similar from critics of both organizations.

Conservatives from the racism and religious wings have asserted that these companies will suffer at the box office if members of their wings boycott those companies. Businesses don’t stay in business long if they make short-term and rash decisions. Someone thought this through and someone figured out that they would come out ahead. They thought it through and determined that racism, xenophobia, and homophobia was bad for business. That might be the death knell of this entire unholy triumvirate.

Of course, this doesn’t stop the other wings from putting their foot in their mouth. Governor Greg Abbott (I’ll let you choose which wing he belongs to) not only refused to throw out the first pitch at the Rangers game. He also said that Texans didn’t want any part of hosting the all-star game. I’m sure Ray Davis and Bob Simpson were happy to hear that. The Astros aren’t likely to be in line to host the game, but the Rangers surely would have been. They just built a new stadium and MLB has a habit of rewarding cities that build new stadiums. Not all 100 million of that economic impact would have been theirs, but much of it would have been. Abbott’s big mouth just took money out of their pocket.

Nothing pisses off big business faster than stupid people that take money out of their pocket. Never in a million years would I have dreamt that it would be big business that would balk first, but it looks like that is about to happen. Big business is about to drag the Republican party kicking and screaming back into the 21st century and back into democracy. Of course, the racists and religious zealots are powerful and stubborn. Who knows where this finally ends up.

Abbott began his reign as governor as somewhat of a compromise candidate between all of the factions. He’d tip his cap to each as he walked the tightrope between all three. This is certainly true when you compare him with his lieutenant governor. You can’t walk that tightrope long. Eventually you have to choose either one or two sides to favor. Abbott has made his choice and it ultimately will be his undoing. The question comes whether that comes in 2022 or later.

I know you are but what am I?

“It’s not the way that you say it
When you do those things to me.
It’s more the way you really mean it
When you tell me what will be.”– Justin Hayward

As the Matt Gaetz tale seems to unravel before our very eyes, one point is coming more and more clear. Most people just don’t have that much depth in their imagination. As much as it might seem that some people are capable of lying on a grand scale, that’s really not the case. Make no mistake, they are capable of lying, but they can’t make it up out of whole cloth. The seeds of truth are there even in the lie.

Many of us are still dumbfounded by the Q stuff that gets circulated. One thing that is difficult to decipher is whether someone we know has just become a victim of the malarkey or if they are active distributors of the drivel. However, the Gaetz situation makes it very clear what the source of the drivel is. It is from their very lives. It isn’t so much that they are making all of this up out of whole cloth or based on some thread of nonsense they may have heard somewhere. They are doing it themselves.

I don’t know if all of us have family members that have succumbed to the Q phenomenon. Maybe some of us are lucky. However, for those that do, we know they aren’t involved in the child trafficking ring. So, if we can call them victims they have become victims of a plot of disinformation. It is simply a case of understanding that there is bullshit in the world and not being able to separate those shoveling it from those that give us good information. We can call that a failure in education.

I’m not sure what to do about those folks. All I try to do is continue to talk simply by appealing to their common sense and hope that something penetrates that barrier eventually. After all, if no one knows anyone personally that has been a victim of child trafficking then how big of a problem can it be? If you happen to know someone personally then you can usually trace that back to its source. Is it a vast liberal conspiracy? Usually quite the opposite.

Like the lie about voter fraud, a large part of the lie is not only reversing who is responsible but also amplifying the effects. Nothing in the news or current investigation indicates that the numbers are huge in Gaetz’s case. Naturally, even one is disgusting and hearing the stories of how he showed naked pictures of girls to his colleagues is disgusting. Still, the Q crowd paints the picture of hundreds of girls being transported for sex against their will. I don’t think that’s the case here.

So, what do we have? We have a case where someone is doing some of this on some level and then turns around and points the finger at the other side and says they are doing ten times as much as what they are currently doing. Sigmund Freud called this projection. Yet, I don’t think Freud could have ever imagined anything on this level of depravity.

As a teacher, I can’t help but feel like we failed. We tell our students about the difference between good and bad sources. We look at all kinds of factors including the trustworthiness of the source, how old the source is, and numerous other factors. Yet, somehow kids graduate and still go to YouTube and other dubious sources and get their “facts.” Maybe if we weren’t spending so much time teaching to a test we could do a better job. Maybe it’s just impossible to install an internal bullshit detector. Maybe it is just something you are born with.

Maybe more of us should have known better. One of the things psychologists tell us that most victims have an internal voice that tells them to beware when dangerous people are around. Most of us ignore that voice. We tell that voice that it’s wrong somehow. Most of us had that alarm going off in their head when Matt Gaetz came on screen. Some of us ignored it. Even most Republicans lawmakers knew something was amiss. Many refused to have their picture taken with him. They knew what was coming down the pike.

Of course, most of us already know these things. I imagine just about everyone reading this knows. The question is how we impart this knowledge to our friends and family that don’t seem to know. How do we impart this knowledge on to people that looked at Gaetz and liked the cut of his gib? That’s hard to say. Maybe it will never happen. Maybe common sense and bullshit detectors can’t be taught. Maybe you either have it or you don’t.

The Great Game

“Put me in coach. I’m ready to play today. Put me in coach, I’m ready to play today. Look at me. I can be centerfield.” — John Fogerty

A few of you may know that this used to be a baseball blog. After all, one can’t hardly look at The Hall of Fame Index as a web handle and immediately think politics and culture. For much of my adult life and kid life, baseball and politics have been two of my biggest passions outside of work and family.

Today marks a special day in American lore. It’s Opening Day. Opening day represents so many things for so many people. For some it is a signal of the beginning of spring. For others it is the renewal of hope that this year will be the year that everything goes right. Still others consider the routine of seeing box scores in the newspaper (or online) and a game on the tube (or radio) every single night. For many of us it is all of those things.

I’ve written four books about baseball and half of those have been related to the Hall of Fame. Independent of my love for the Astros or any other specific player there is the love for the game. Opening day should be a national holiday. When done right, nearly every team is opening their season on the same day. Fans can go into a collective coma with copious amounts of beer, peanuts, and other tasty treats seated in front of the television watching a triple header on ESPN.

I’ve spent all of those books talking about the history of the game and settling arguments within it, but I’ve rarely talked about why I love the game so much. For me, it brings order to disorder. There is a symbiotic relationship between cold, hard facts and the thrill of not quite knowing what will happen on any given day.

My cousin (an avid gambler) once asked me how you handicap baseball. I told him you don’t. You can look at pitching matchups, hitting lineups, career averages, and all kinds of numbers and lose every time. Yet, over a long enough timeline the numbers begin to level out and everything begins to make sense. That’s the paradox that brings you back every time.

Numbers fluctuate in every sport and yet the numbers in baseball have a magic all their own. The .300 batting average always means something. 100 runs and RBI always mean something. 20 wins, a 3.00 ERA, and 200 strikeouts always means something. Of course, those meanings become magnified when they turn into career sums. Then it becomes 3000 hits, 300 wins, 500 home runs, and so forth.

In no other sport are the numbers that magical. Running backs and receivers may gain 1000 yards and quarterbacks may throw for 4000 yards, but those numbers have waned in their importance over time. Offenses change and evolve. A yard just isn’t a yard anymore.

Similarly, in basketball scoring has changed dramatically as offenses have changed. The irony is that all three sports have embraced advanced analytics and the analytics have driven the strategy. Where did analytics get its start? You guessed it. Baseball.

I suppose it would be natural for a history buff to love baseball. The game goes back to the American Civil War. Football and basketball can’t possibly compete with that. No one really cares about soccer in the United States and few south of the Mason-Dixon line care about hockey. So, baseball was the best opportunity to marry a love of statistics, history, and symmetry.

Today is a day to take a break from Matt Gaetz, Joe Biden, voter suppression, gun violence and anything else we might care about just about every day around here. It is a day to feverishly check the scores to see how my fantasy teams did. It is a day to marvel at individual performances that might or might not be a predictor of things to come. It is a day to hope that my team will be perfect for at least one day. It is a day to allow all of that other stuff to go far far away. It will all be here when we get back.

Degrees of Depravity

“I took her love at seventeen
A little late these days it seems
But they said heaven is well worth waiting for.”– Robert Plant/Jimmy Page

Those of you that have been paying attention to the news have undoubtedly heard about the controversy surrounding Matt Gaetz. The embattled Florida congressman always seems to find himself in the center of some controversy. A lot of this is self-inflicted. The details are a bit circumspect at this point, but I’ll do the best I can.

At the center of it all is a report that he had a sexual encounter with a 17 year old girl (thus the Led Zeppelin reference). Gaetz is currently in his late thirties, but I’m not sure when this sexual encounter supposedly happened. On the other hand, unless it happened when he was 18, he is in the same hot water politically. Legally, it might be a whole other matter.

Meanwhile, Gaetz is spinning yarns about a blackmail scheme that is at the heart of it all. He is defending himself of charges that haven’t even been levied. I’m sure the psychologists among us will opine about what that fact means. I have had some psychology training, but I’m going to leave that nugget to the professionals among us.

Oddly enough, I find all of this to be a huge Rorschach test. For those unfamiliar with the term, it refers to those nebulous ink blots that we are supposed to interpret for the therapist. Supposedly, our answers say a whole lot about us. In this case, I think they say more about our particular feelings for these individuals than it does about us specifically.

Gaetz is a polarizing figure. Conservatives love him and everyone else seems to hate him. So, it makes perfect sense that those particular groups would handle these allegations differently. When I look at Matt Gaetz I see a jackass. So, it isn’t that difficult for me to imagine him doing anything like this. The fact that he is awkwardly defending himself tends to be icing on the cake. Still, there is always the possibility that everything he is saying is true.

We can see no greater contrast than looking at the situation Andrew Cuomo is in right now. We could throw in the likes of Al Franken as well. The level of sympathy we feel for any of these guys is directly proportional to the level of animus we felt for them before their controversies. In plain English, if we like them we tend to believe them. If we hate them we already see them as guilty.

This is usually when I remind myself of the guy from my dorm that I talked about earlier. He was accused of rape and ended up being cleared of all accusations. See, most of the guys in the dorm thought he was an asshole. My only interaction with him was memorable to say the least. So, when he was accused of assault it didn’t take a lot of mental gymnastics to imagine him doing it. Sexual assault and harassment seem to be one of those crimes. If there are no witnesses then physical evidence gives way to which party is more believable. Assholes automatically are at a disadvantage here.

Make no mistake. Matt Gaetz is an asshole. I’m sure in a proud moment he would admit to that. He might not use those exact words, but he has made his bones acting in an obnoxious fashion. Maybe he would call himself spirited or a gadfly. Then again, he might not be smart enough to get the gadfly reference. Either way, he already has one foot in the jail cell for many Americans. It will be hard to resist the temptation to push him in. However, we must do it if we ever expect anyone we like to be given the same consideration.