July 06, 2018

Bart Ehrman hits a foul ball with rise of Christianity book

Type your summary here Type rest of the post hereThe Triumph of Christianity: How a Small Band of Outcasts Conquered an EmpireThe Triumph of Christianity: How a Small Band of Outcasts Conquered an Empire by Bart D. Ehrman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Nice try in theory, falls well short in reality

This was a book tough to rate.

I generally like Ehrman. I generally think that mythicists unfairly belittie him, though I disagree with some specifics of his own supporting material offered for a historic Jesus.

The idea of the book isn’t new, but presented in popularizing form from a knowledgable New Testament scholar, promised to be good, possibly very good.

But, it fell short. Short enough in some ways that I took fairly detailed notes at chapter breaks.

Without explicitly saying so, Ehrman seems to indicate that Christian evangelism and Christian miracle-working both had modest-to-moderate boosts for the early decades of Christianity, but no more than that, and then it was primarily word-of-mouth, just like you and I buy a car or toothpaste today.

However …

First, the evangelism issue is nowhere near as simple as Ehrman paints.

First of all, we know that Christianity was NOT the only evangelistic religion of antiquity, contra what Ehrman implies, and even semi-directly says.

Ashoka’s Buddhist missionaries to the West went as far as Macedonia and Cyrenaica circa 200 BCE. Four hundred years later, Clement of Alexandria and other Christian fathers knew about ongoing Buddhist proselytizing. And, Will Durant even speculated it may have been an element in Christian missions. See more here.

Either Ehrman is surprisingly uninformed here. Or else, Ehrman’s definition of antiquity is narrow. Neither speaks well for this book.

That said, per reading between the lines in Acts, and in some of Paul’s letters, and my take on J. Massyngberde Ford’s Anchor Bible volume on who wrote the original core of Revelation, we know that at least a few followers of John the Baptist evangelized.

Paul himself mentions Apollos and Peter, even talking about Peter getting paid to take his wife with him.

So, Ehrman has a foul ball here.

On the miracle working, whether real or not, Ehrman doesn’t mention that this was common outside Christianity. Indeed, Jewish charismatics such as Honi the Circle Drawer come to mind. Or Morton Smith’s “Jesus the Magician.” Or the name Simon Magus. Ehrman doesn’t go into a lot of depth here. He even mentions Apollonius of Tyana, the contemporary of Jesus, but never goes into detail about his own reported miracle-working.

So, if Christian miracles were more powerful than Jewish, Greek philosophical, or pagan religious ones, why? They were all common. Ehrman doesn't discuss why Xn magic was considered more powerful, whether it had a big effect on recruiting or not.

And Ehrman knows "winners write history" on this just as much as anything else. The Old Testament illustrates that with the famous, and surely legendary, battle between Elijah and the prophets of Baal.

It’s true that no ancient author writes an unbiased account of this in detail. But Ehrman, while noting that no actual such miracles likely happened, doesn’t explain why Christians were perceived to be (as he would seemingly have us believe) better miracle-workers or magicians.

The real issue is that, in the Greek world, outside of Apollonius and presumably other neo-Pythagoreans, plus healing miracles claimed at the temples of Asclepius, miracles weren't a big part of the religious framework. Outside of shape-shifting and adopting human guise, the Olympians have no preachers to even perform miracles. And, the likes of Honi aside, this wasn't a big deal in much of Judaism, either.

So, to the degree Christians performed sleight-of-hand, they had relatively minimal competition. To the degree they performed faith healings, they did it away from temples.

Beyond the miracles issue?

If evangelism were as low as Ehrman thinks it was after Paul, and pagans and philosophers did magic, too, then why was word-of-mouth as successful as Ehrman thinks it was? Word of mouth 2,000 yrs ago presumably was based on testimonials just as much as today.

Reality is that, with people like Polycarp, or Clement of Rome, their letters to other churches were surely part of an ongoing program not just of church maintenance but church planting and spreading. Look at the pseudo-Pauline letter to “Ephesians.” Originally a circular letter, it probably was written in similar spirit.

This may not have been as big a deal as modern Christians sending missionaries to New Guinea, but it wasn't nothing. I see it as more than Ehrman implies.

And, the third failing, a partial one.

I agree with Ehrman that many of the details of Rodney Stark’s projected growth rates of Christianity don’t withstand scrutiny.

However, even though Decius’ persecution wasn’t specifically against Christianity, Diocletian’s was. In a sort of analogy, American whites will start to flee suburban neighborhoods and even whole communities when an influx of minority population, and above all, African-American population, hits a certain percentage, usually around 10 percent.

Ehrman doesn’t ask if a similar phenomenon were in play here. If it was, his believed population percentage of Christians, empire-wide, was too low at the time of Diocletian to be such a trigger. Now, the persecutions were carried out most commonly in the eastern half of the empire, and we have some fairly good indications Christianity was stronger there.

Nonetheless, Ehrman doesn’t follow up.

A fourth problem? Per a commenter to my review?

Of course it was "word of mouth" how Christianity spread. There were no newspapers then, let alone radio, TV or Facebook. Handwritten books were expensive and time-consuming to produce. Ehrman does note that in a early Christian worship service, the leader might be reading from a copy of a letter of Paul or a gospel to an audience that was mostly illiterate and thus couldn't check the book themselves, either.

But, why would one pagan trust another who had joined not the "nutty enough" (from many pagans' point of view) Judaism, but a "nuttier yet" derivative of Judaism? Being someone's neighbor, or coworker at work outside of home, didn't necessarily mean trusting them that much. How much would a neighbor believe a neighbor who said something like "But THIS miracle was REAL!"?

So why WERE Christian "magoi" believed more than pagan ones at Asclepian shrines, similar ones from followers of John the Baptizer, or philosophical wonder-workers?

A fifth partial failing, in my opinion?

Ehrman seems to believe Christianity was not just majority-gentile, but strongly so, by circa 100 CE.

Yet, he fails to mention the “desynagoging” that happened circa 100 CE, per John. If this really did happen, it undercuts Ehrman’s thesis. If it didn’t, he should have offered a bit of exegesis on John here to explain this.

Despite John speaking bluntly of “the Jews,” I think something did happen.

I mean, in "Zealot," Reza Aslan appears to get this more correct! (He later goes on to get it incorrect, despite evidence he presents; but, that's Aslan in a nutshell.)

My personal guesstimate? At 100 CE, overall, Christianity was 25 percent Jewish, 65 percent "godfearer" Gentiles, and 10 percent Gentiles with little to no previous contact with Judaism. In a place like Corinth, I believe Paul had already been bringing people like this in, and that scared Jerusalem far more than godfearers being considered their equals.

Finally, Ehrman makes a partial version of the same error Stark does on population growth, and it’s connected to his overlooking or ignoring Buddhist evangelism.

He focuses on growth within the Roman Empire.

Armenia became officially Christian in 301 CE, nearly a century before Theodosius so proclaimed Rome. Various kingdoms that today make up Georgia became officially Christian before that time. Ulfilias proselityzed Goths, presumably with some Goths previously Christian, before Theodosius. Legends of Thomas Christians aside, there were Christians in India before this time. Ditto for ancient Nubia, beyond Rome’s Nile frontier.

In critiquing and criticizing Stark, I have noted all of this and said that at least 10 percent of Christians at the time of Constantine were outside imperial borders.

And, of course, by the period that closes Ehrman’s book, Christianity had not swept “the world.” It probably hadn't swept the Eastern Roman Empire; I suspect it had many closet pagans still. That's true in spades for the Western Empire.

Finishing up this last section of the notes as I got ready to post this led me to take Ehrman down from three to two stars. Several three-star readers seemed too kind in their detailed reviews.

Ehrman – and his agent who suggested this – should either have committed to an additional 20-30 pages and more rigor, or else suggested this as a series of magazine essays only, or similar.

Sixth and in brief? Christianity had the upper hand on established paganism in being able to mutilate statues of Zeus, etc., and say, "Look, nothing happened." That said, yes, Christians did the same to more rustic pagan icons among the Germans, etc. On the other hand, Joe Stalin could have said the same after shuttering churches across the USSR.

That said, this not the only clunker, in my opinion, that Ehrman has wrote. I didn't care for "Jesus, Interrupted" either.


View all my reviews

July 05, 2018

World Cup and penalty kick shootouts — a whole new idea

I'm a casual fan about the sport, but not an idiot about it. One of the biggest frustrations is the number of top-level matches, especially at the World Cup, that get decided in shootouts.

Shootouts are luck of the draw, on whether a keeper guesses right or not on his jump side anticipation, followed by luck on whether or not, if either does deke moves, a keeper or the shooter can fake the other out.

One way to avoid that would be to increase scoring chances.

IMO, the easy way to do that without going way overboard is widening the goal by, say, 4 feet to make it 28 feet wide. Or, less drastic might be to make it 26 feet wide. Emphasizing the other dimension, a 9-foot high goal would offer even less reward, but some more than now. A 9x26 might be less than 8x28, but fairly wide open.

I don't know if making the penalty box shallower than 18 yards, or narrower, or both, would benefit offense more, or defense more.

Eliminating offsides rules and allowing "cherry picking" sounds too drastic.

==

Option B is reform the shootout.

Here's how.

Get rid of keepers.

Move shooters back to midfield.

Additional requirement is that ball cannot hit the ground more than three times, or something, before crossing the goal line and into the net.

A premium mix of accuracy plus leg strength on the line, without trying to outguess or outpsych a keeper, and thus, without luck.

And, contra England manager Gareth Southgate, while there is a degree of skill in a shootout, there's also still much more luck than would be in my system.

A friend of mine has since suggested another idea. Kind of like Capture the Flag, have a ball at center pitch and a player from each team on his goal line. They race for the ball at the center, and whoever gets it tries to score, one-on-one. Again, a time limit, say, 1 minute, would seem to be in order.

July 03, 2018

Happy Fourth! Enjoy those freedoms!

Well, not totally. If you're a secularist, don't forget that NONE of the Supreme Court believes that the First Amendment's freedom of religion guarantees you freedom FROM religion. None. Sorry, but it's true.

FDR's first two of his Four Freedoms might not totally apply to you, either.

But, the last two?

Freedom from fear?

Fear takes many forms ... including medical bankruptcy fears because your precious "benefits," if you have them, don't cover enough.

Freedom from want? Contra wingers, actual want exists in America, among young and old, white and non-white alike.

Freedom of time? Not if you're working more hours than ever before, more than most OECD nations, and without guaranteed paid vacation days, enslaved by and also a bit self-enslaving to the late-stage capitalism rat race, especially in an ever-bulging metropolis that has less and less uniqueness.

Freedom of thought? Not hardly, if you succumb to social media bombardment, whether over the materialism of that late-stage capitalism, the hollow ideas and claims of most political thought and other things.

You want freedom?

Be Sartrean or better, Camuean. Albert Camus with my bits of nuance. Be a Neo-Cynic, with my update on Diogenes. In various ways, sub rosa or openly, fight the power that be. Or an updated Janis Joplin, through those philosophers, remembering that "freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose."



MAGA-heads, enjoy being suckers for capitalism. Enjoy shooting off those made in America fireworks that Trump has surely gotten you, along with the made in America "gimme" US flags.

What? They don't exist?

Maybe MAGA is just another word for nothing left to learn.

Sing it, Janis!



And remember she was spoofing the capitalism that has become more late-stage today.

Mueller Time new angle: How serious to take Emptywheel?

Over the past year, I've believed, until recently, almost totally in the claims by Consortium News, and somewhat lesser by people like Mark Ames and Yasha Levine, that Putin Did NOT Do It on massive election interference in the US.

(See bottom of post for occasional updates that will eventually be turned into new posts. Especially see the July 26 update in red, and related materials also in red.)

I still think there's blatant Hillbot claims that are overblown about what the Russians DID do, and I also know that much of what Robert Mueller has on Paul Manafort is him grifting for Ukraine, rather than Russia, as I noted here.

That said, there's an increasing belief in my mind that Seth Rich did  NOT steal any DNC emails. (Or, per that, other people at the DNC.) Related to that, at a minimum, there's the strong belief that the Consortium News / Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity claims that Putin henchmen couldn't have downloaded the initial, spring 2018 emails quickly enough is on thin ice and was on thin ice from the time the claims were made.

Seeing all of this in light of Consortium News being riddled with conspiracy theorists is why I de-blogrolled it.

That's the backdrop for something new, and seemingly big.

Marcy Wheeler, aka Emptywheel, has put forth a bombshell claim. Big enough to top Memeorandum.

She says she personally knows a journalist who was helping Russky operators. Helping them enough she turned said person into the FBI.
Sometime last year, I went to the FBI and provided information on a person whom I had come to believe had played a significant role in the Russian election attack on the US. Since that time, a number of public events have made it clear I was correct. 
I never in my life imagined I would share information with the FBI, especially not on someone I had a journalistic relationship with. I did so for many reasons. Some, but not all, of the reasons are:
  • I believed he was doing serious harm to innocent people
  • I believed (others agreed) that reporting the story at that time would risk doing far more harm than good
  • I had concrete evidence he was lying to me and others, including but not limited to other journalists
  • I had reason to believe he was testing ways to tamper with my website
  • I believed that if the FBI otherwise came to understand what kind of information I had, their likely investigative steps would pose a risk to the privacy of my readers
To protect the investigation, I will not disclose this person’s true identity or the identity and/or role I believe he played in the attack. … 
The other reason I’m disclosing this now is to put a human face to the danger in which the House Republicans are putting other people who, like me, provided information about the Russian attack on the US to the government.
Well, that's pretty serious. IF it's meaningful.

If this is even 50 percent true, it finishes sinking the Consortium News / Ray McGovern / VIPS battleship.

But is it?

Let's examine a bit further.

"Serious harm to innocent people"? Can't be physical harm, unless Wheeler is refusing to file charges against someone for aggravated assault. If she means something like gaslighting, well ... we don't know what it is since she didn't spell it out.

Most the rest of this is similarly vague.

And, "privacy of my readers"? Like she thinks the FBI is going to look up the IP addresses of every person reading, or even every person commenting? Yikes if you're really saying that.

And questionable. Unless the FBI thought you were a "person of interest" in this "Mister X's" shenanigans, there's little likelihood they would investigate all of your readers. They might investigate the set of readers that commented on your site and/or Twitter AND ALSO commented on "Mr X's" blog and/or Twitter or Effbook.

This comes off as a "Trust me, dear readers" post. Well, I'm not a regular reader, so I don't. I don't MIStrust, but I don't really trust this at face value, either. And, judging by July 5 and onward Twitter response ... yeah, some readers are going that route.

(Update, Aug. 22: Sorry, Marcy, but the Manafort conviction proves nothing new.)

Now, we have a counterbombshell at Consortium News, originally from his own site. Jack Matlock, former ambassador the USSR, says the "17 intelligence agencies" report of early 2017 was politically motivated. First, an overview, for those to whom this isn't already known:
The report states that it represents the findings of three intelligence agencies: CIA, FBI, and NSA, but even that is misleading in that it implies that there was a consensus of relevant analysts in these three agencies. In fact, the report was prepared by a group of analysts from the three agencies pre-selected by their directors, with the selection process generally overseen by James Clapper, then Director of National Intelligence (DNI).
In other words, the cherry-picking was set up in advance. Remember the "aluminum tubes" of 15 years ago?

From there, Matlock said he found unusual both the omission of the State Department's intelligence arm and the inclusion of the FBI.

That leads to this:
As I was recently informed by a senior official, the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence Research did, in fact, have a different opinion but was not allowed to express it. So the January report was not one of the “intelligence community,” but rather of three intelligence agencies, two of which have no responsibility or necessarily any competence to judge foreign intentions.
But wait, that's not all.

Matlock calls Guccifer 2.0 a "fabrication." I'll venture that the "retired NSA technical experts" may be the people who worked to compile evidence for VIPS. Does that mean that Forensicator is one of them? (Oh, and contra one Twitter buttinski, of course's it's of value to know who Forensicator is, given VIPS split report and other things. This isn't like blind-screening male vs female first violin candidates, or other issues in the arts. Unlike you, I try to avoid buying anonymous pigs in pokes on science or technology issues, and since he pops up nowhere before the DNC emails download question, I can't find other stuff on him.)

(Update, Aug. 6: Forensicator, if Computer Weekly is right, is possibly a front man for a British self-described black hat hacker and pro-Trumpist Tim Leonard playacting as. And, Duncan Campbell says that Bill Binney, at least, within VIPS, flipped his stance on the "impossible to download internationally claims" after taking a second look at the files, with Campbell. But Binney claims that Campbell misinterprets him. But, Binney himself misinterprets the VIPS statement. Per the "minority report" linked above, it's clear that not all of VIPS accepted that this had to be a hack, not a download.

And, as for Disobedient Media lamenting a "smear" of Leonard/Carter? Good for the goose, good for the gander — Bill Binney apparently believes in microwave mind control weapons. And, the person whose show he is on thinks this is a plot to remove gun rights.)

And, speaking of, Matlock notes that Ray McGovern helped in preparation of the document. On the third hand, with this originally at his own website / blog, heading there, Matlock decried "Russiagate hysteria" a month ago.

To which Wheeler says, on Twitter:
And, this, when I told her I'd take Matlock first.
And, I've exited the conversation there, and made sure that I don't see more conversation for right now. That's because I DO care about facts, and since I'm not one of your "Dear Readers," I don't buy your claims at face value.

Speaking of?

The really big issue is Wheeler calling on people to refute her.

HOW, as I told her back on Twitter. You have an unnamed "Mr. X" with no details of what info you gave the FBI. There's nothing to be refuted without empirical data. Again, back to the "Dear Readers, just trust me" angle.

The real bottom line?

As Ryan Cooper notes? The 2016 election issues were about AMERICAN corruption. And, no, TrumpTrain riders, other wingnuts, and fellow travelers, no Deep State involved.

But, that corruption, though manifesting itself more in the GOP, is bipartisan within the duopoly.

UPDATE, July 26: Actually, in a new piece about the FBI's history on FISA warrant applications on Carter Page and the value of the Steele Dossier, Wheeler offers material to refudiate herself even while squirming to escape that trap. She does this with her cite of former CIA agent Daniel Hoffman:
There is a third possibility, namely that the dossier was part of a Russian espionage disinformation plot targeting both parties and America’s political process. This is what seems most likely to me.
Exactly. And, it's what a lot of we "skeptics" have said all along. Whatever was being done, to the degree it was semi-official Russian government disinformation, it was done to monkey-wrench in general, not elect Trump.

Wheeler wriggles out by claiming that rather, any disinfo in the dossier was to make the Dems complacent. 

Hey, Marcy? The Dems were willfully complacent after a Sanders staffer got on DNC servers in 2015. They were complacent before that, but willfully so afterward.  ☹️

As far as some of the other stuff, as Aaron Mate noted on Twitter, that Trump wanted to talk to Syria is nothing new. And? Maybe not in the exact way Trump is doing it, and not for forming an anti-Iran coalition, we need to get out of Syria, period.

In fact, much of the piece seems to focus on "Mr. X" and his relation to Syria issues.

Given that Ray McGovern is so nutbar as to think Devin Nunes is a genius, here's Marcy's latest take on him, "the half-wit running our intelligence oversight." I'd agree with that. So would a lot of others like me, who do NOT think "Putin Did It," certainly not to the degree Wheeler claims.

That said, Marcy Wheeler is ultimately a Democrat. She's a Democrat who is a Kossack alumnus. Is Markos still looking for sekrut librulz in the CIA? She's a Democrat who tosses around allegations as though they were proven fact — not as badly or as baldly as a David Corn, but not incredibly behind him, either.

She's a Democrat who is right about the Jill Stein recount, but overblown at best and wrong at worst about Jill Stein the person. (Update: It was actually fellow former Kossack "Bmaz" who wrote this post. Given that the byline line of her site isn't highly visible, yes, I missed that this was a guest post. And, Marcy, if that's the first thing you found to nitpick ... that to me is just further indication of how thin your stance is.)

I searched Marcy's site, and she has basically no postings about the Green Party. She has just a couple of late-2016 ones about Stein, which come off as sour grapes. So, I quote (from the Bmaz post):
Jill Stein, admittedly, always struck me as a bit of a naive and somewhat unhinged candidate.
Naive? Not at all. Ardent, but short of unhinged? Yes. And, I've criticized both her campaign and her recount.
What Jill Stein is doing is blatant self promotion, list building, reputational repair where it is undeserved, and slush funding for an incoherent Green Party.
This is pure ignorance, re the Green Party. Given that the Party executive committee refused to support the recount, they get no money from this. Only Stein does. (And I just Tweeted her this.)

And, her response? She does note that the post is by Bmaz. OK .... my countertweet:
That's that. And Bmaz was an even bigger deep-fried anti-Green Dem-only Kossack disciple than Wheeler was, IIRC. AND !!!! Bmaz on his Twitter lists Emptywheel as his web location. So, that's that, Marcy. Bite me.

And, ironically, in another blog post of mine where I had previously linked to that post AND noted that Bmaz had written it, I have confirmation of Bmaz being a deep-fried anti-Green Dem-only Kossack dumb fuck. I excerpt the following:

Kos, yes, THAT Kos, (said) that West Virginia coalminers deserve to lose their insurance and die early if that's a result of voting Trump.

Then, there's Kos alum Bmaz:
Not even worth responding to, though I've gotten part of a group fire on Twitter on this.

Hilariously, on Emptywheel, he tells people in this post (the same as I misidentified the authorship this time) its time to move beyond 2016. But, on Twitter, he still can't do that. THAT, in a nutshell, is Clintonistas' own Clinton Derangement Syndrome.

That said, I agree with "moving on." But, I don't practice unilateral disarmament, or singing Kumbaya.

Actually, Bmaz does deserve a response, now.

I'd like to be crystal clear: You're a fucking asshole and have been so ever since Kos days. And, you and Marcy probably both support Jill Stein being hauled before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Back to the original thread.

And, yes, I think you are touchy, Marcy, if you're going to bitch about a byline on a secondary link — and one with which I said I partially agree. I think you're even more so if that was the first thing you picked out when you Tweeted back to me.

At the same time, Wheeler fully rejects the Hillbot route:
The vote differential, again in Wisconsin for instance, between Clinton and Trump currently stands at 27,259 votes. Yes, that is less than the total of Stein, so despite the wild claim she threw the election that some Clinton supporters have thrown, I will not. Some Stein voters were never going to vote for Clinton; so while Stein’s vanity run deserves ridicule, it does not, in and of itself, “prove” Clinton would have won but for Stein.
At the fourth time, the picture for this blog post is Stein at Putin's table. (That said, one Green Party presidential nomination candidate, Bill Kreml, is on record as it being a dumb idea.)

At the sixth time, Wheeler has a past history as a Democratic Party operative at the county level, per Wiki.

I think all of this is necessary for background.

I await finding out who Wheeler's fellow journalist is. And, even more, beyond Wheeler's blog post, how likely Wheeler's claims are about this person.

That's because, while the VIPS claim is not fully proven, it may well still be true, among other things. And, state election departments have already rejected claims their systems were hacked.

So, per a further review of Wheeler's site, already in December 2016 Wheeler was making claims not proven then nor proven today, such as: 
This is the part that has always been missing in the past: how the documents got from GRU, which hacked the DNC and John Podesta, to Wikileaks, which released them.
That came up when I did the "17 intelligence agencies" search.

Wheeler seems to have had some degree of skepticism, but ... scratch that. Any possible skepticism of hers is pretty modest. Anyway, her claims about "hacked the DNC" remain unproven, at least for public consumption. There also, at least at one time, were other candidates besides Seth Rich and Putin both on the possible hacking.

Anyway, that was one of only two hits on that search. Why? Maybe Marcy lost interest. Maybe, as other people noted even more than her the Mack-truck sized loopholes on that, she moved on.

Or because she believes "Putin Did It" is a slam dunk after all. (And she may be calling interest in the Steele Dossier overrated because of reported Clinton campaign connections to it.) And, she'd be wrong. Bmaz also drinks deeply from the Putin Did It Kool-Aid.

Also, she thinks the Internet Research Agency indictments are a much better deal than Aaron Mate, per my Manafort link above, believes. (She also ignores that such indictments violate at least the spirit of the First Amendment, or so I see them doing.)

In other words, on her "journalist" claim, I just don't know at this time how much of Wheeler's skin in the game is her actual cybersecurity knowledge and writing about that, and how much of it is Democratic Party former operative background. (For the one snarker on Twitter, that's a use of quote marks as reference quotes, not scare quotes. Derp.)

But, given what I've grokked, I'll call it a 50-50 split off the top of my head.

And so, while thinking her reporting is interesting, I'd take it with a grain of salt, starting with the header: 
Putting A Face (Mine) To The Risks Posed By GOP Games On Mueller Investigation
Yes, the GOP has played games. So have Democrats, specifically, various iterations of the "Russiagate Hysteria" mentioned by Matlock. And, since I'm not part of the duopoly, I can say there are more than two sides here.

And, although page clicks are much less important than in the past, I put a "no follow" on Marcy's post.

So, again, no more than 50-50 on seriousness level. If some wingnutistan blogger was the attempted computer hacker, and allegedly was helping Putin from his parents' basement, we'll laugh about Marcy later.

That said, it's almost certainly not a stereotypical wingnut blogger. She claims to be "friendly" with the person.

And, no, I'm not wasting further time fishing through all her posts and guest posts to see exactly where she falls on "Putin Did It." I did tell her that I still stand pretty much where I did before reading.

Meanwhile, Jon Chait and David Corn are doing their best to stay ahead of Wheeler in the Putin Did It nutbar competition.

Updates below:

TX Progressives tackle SCOTUS, free-trade-free Fourth

The Texas Progressive Alliance considers the Supreme Court to be on the ballot in every election and wishes every MAGA head a “fun” Fourth of July without those Made in China fireworks and “gimme” American flags as it brings you this week's roundup.

SocraticGadfly talked about the Supreme Court travel ban ruling, along with a bit about the other rulings of last week, and then analyzed Anthony Kennedy's career after he announced his retirement. He'll have a couple of additional Court posts in days and weeks ahead.

Grits for Breakfast calls the veto of "good Samaritan" legislation one of the biggest mistakes of Greg Abbott's term as Governor.

Off the Kuff analyzed the UT/Trib June poll, and found some good news for Democrats that the pollsters themselves appear to have overlooked.

G. Paris Johnson reminds us of the long history of separating minority children from their families.

Texas Standard wonders why social media bosses are meeting with GOP leaders.

Brains did a cartoon roundup about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s New York primary win.

Somervell County Salon wrote about an anti-SLAPP case that prevailed at the Texas Supreme Court.

Stephen Young at the Dallas Observer covered the million-gallon sewage spill  at White Rock Lake. 

Juanita has a Blake Farenthold update.

Keep Austin Wonky wants city-owned land to maximize residents' happiness.

Juanita has a Blake Farenthold update.

Keep Austin Wonky wants city-owned land to maximize residents' happiness.

Dan Solomon bids adieu to the UT-adjacent location of Conan's Pizza.

July 02, 2018

LeBron and winning vs being

First, I'll agree with Drew Magary at Deadspin that this may be about "being" as much as "winning" for LeBron James to go to the Lake Show.

Right now, they're certainly behind the Rockets, if they resign Clint Capela, as well as the Warriors. They may be no better than the Thunder with a resigned Paul George.

LeBron is an iron man, but there's only so much he can do. If they don't land Kawhi Leonard this year, this is a 45-, maybe 48-win team. No more. I don't agree with 538's 52-win projection.

Without 3-ballers, for example, one of an opponent's other wing defenders can drop back as far as possible within the NBA's zone rules, ready to double up if/when James drives from up top.

Ditto if LeBron posts up. Since the Lakers don't have a lot of 3-ballers OR a lot of reliable post scorers, he can be doubled in many ways. If the rest of the Lakers offense gets stagnant on not making cuts, boy, this is gonna look bad.

Next year? Sure, either Kawhi or an opted-out Kevin Durant is a possible. But a given? Of course not.

And, he's an iron man who is top 10 in career minutes and No. 1 in career playoff minutes. At some point, he runs out of gas.

SI says his relationship to Magic Johnson, who he puts far above Pat Riley, let alone whomever in Cleveland, was a tipping point.

It also listed the Laker mojo of Kobe Bryant, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaq.

Well, Wilt only helped win one title, and "helped." He wasn't the lead. Kareem didn't win until Magic — and others — for additional titles.

After Shaq left, Kobe didn't win more until peak Pau Gasol.

So, hold my beer, LeBron.

Hell, I'm just going to watch to see if Lance Stephenson blows in his ear on the same team.

ESPN staff predicted either zero or one titles in LA for LeBron. Without either Leonard or Durant, I say zero.

Kennedy retiring, Dems whip out "Oh the SCOTUS"

They're already doing that in comments at places like Splinter. I told all the GFY-ing Hillbots that I was a gentleman and they should therefore go fire.

First, beyond the GFY, my vote for Stein was not a vote for Trump. Somebody on Twitter I had friended in the last month and didn't appear to be "one of them" made that claim. I quote Tweeted him to say no, and that if he persisted, I had no problem unfriending.

Second, "librulz," this leftist knows that the librul four on the Supreme Court aren't all they are made out to be.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg? The "Notorious RGB"? Notorious for calling Colin Kaepernick "dumb and disrespectful." And for saying the same about flag burning. Don't forget Hillary Clinton wanted to selectively criminalize flag burning even after SCOTUS said that a general ban on flag burning was unconstitutional. More on this and related issues at my blog post.

Stephen Breyer and the new alleged lion of high court liberalism, Sonia Sotomayor? Both squishes at times on the Fourth Amendment. And Elena Kagan is a half-breed of half neoliberal, half neoconservative.

So, yeah, Tony the Pony Kennedy was the swing(ing dick) justice. Others aren't necessarily always that much better. Hell, even Thurgood Marshall, who as an African-American should have known better, wasn't always pristine on the Fourth Amendment.

That's why Dems' "Oh the SCOTUS" never has, and never will, persuade me to vote Democratic for president barring major changes in the party. There are many more civil liberties and civil rights issues before the court other than reproductive choice and LGBT rights.

Riffing on Ginsberg, there's the freedom of assembly portion of the First Amendment. Riffing on myself, there's freedom of religion as freedom FROM religion on the First Amendment. And, re Michael Newdow, Breyer and Ginsberg, along with Tony the Pony, were squishes there. (The other three sitting justices, with Scalia having recused himself, were also squishes on 1A, but not on whether or not Newdow had legal standing.)

And, there's issues in the past, too. The lauded Thurgood Marshall was sometimes a Fourth Amendment squish, most notably in Terry v. Ohio. Especially as Terry involved a police search, that Marshall as an African-American would uphold its undercutting of the 4th never ceases to perplex me.

So, Hillbots, with her right-wing lite religious guru and all, as a secularist, there is NOBODY on the current court who I trust on part of the First Amendment.

Because of things like this, no, I won't join Democrats-only activist groups like PFAW, whether alone or in their alliance with the shape-shifting Indivisible cohorts, in anti-Kavanaugh lobbying.

Also for the Hillbots, Bill and Hillary encouraged Donald to run. So, STFU, along with GFY, until you own that, too. The "Oh, the SCOTUS" is ultimately on you anyway. Beyond THAT:
C'mon Hillbots, you know that beyond snark, Hillary might have tried something just like this. And, after the obligatory Senate GOP bashing, including a few emails-related questions, she would have been confirmed.

A more serious issue is that we need to get beyond the idea that the best Supreme Court justices are to be found off U.S. appeals courts.

Earl Warren had no judicial experience at all. Neither did Thurgood Marshall. Nor Bill Douglas. Hugo Black was briefly a municipal judge and that was it.

Sadly, but not really surprisingly, Popehat Ken White thinks the appeals background is A Good Thing, all while pretending that libertarian-leaners on First Amendment issues (ie "money = speech" folks) don't practice results-oriented jurisprudence while others do.