Jail for drag-queen story hour?

Honestly, I don’t “get” drag-queen story hour. When John was young we took him to the library often, and made sure he knew all the librarians and thought of them as his friends — but I strongly doubt that we would have taken him to drag-queen story hour. It’s just … I don’t know what. “Weird” isn’t exactly the right word, but that’s the sense of it.

But drag-queens are part of the tax-paying public that makes libraries possible, and have the same right everybody else has to reserve and use the library’s public meeting rooms, and the parents who take their children to drag-queen story hour are exercising GOP-approved discretion to raise their children as they think best, so why is the Missouri GOP threatening librarians with jail if they permit such events?

Public libraries that display “age-inappropriate material” could lose state funding and even see their librarians fined or jailed, under a bill proposed by a Missouri lawmaker.

The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Ben Baker, a southwest Missouri Republican, said Thursday that the “Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act” did not target books but was drafted in reaction to Drag Queen Story Hours being held across the state.

Like I said, I don’t “get” it and probably wouldn’t have taken John when he was young — but I do understand that this sort of censorship is exactly why libraries are important and must be protected. I hope Missouri lawmakers don’t humiliate themselves by passing this law and setting-up years of court fights they will inevitably lose.

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Bad epistemology

This is as good a précis of the difference between science and religion as you’re likely to ever encounter.

When an engineer grabs his computation pad and begins to analyze a problem, whether it needs a dozen pages or 100-pages, every single line has a documented pedigree — a long train of observations, tests, hypotheses, more tests, public analyses — from Pythagoras’ meditations on right triangles to Einstein’s speculations on the photoelectric effect.

Your neighborhood Holy Man can’t even prove that Our Invisible Friend is real. This is why science and engineering went from Isaac Newton’s encounter with the apple to the moon in ~ 350-years, and religion has nothing to show for itself but Niagaras of bloodshed.

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The loophole

Scientists and engineers learn quickly that propositions must be tested at the boundaries, that generalizations can go ruinously haywire when circumstances approach the edge of the normal range. Lawyers, maybe not so much; some seem to think that’s a good place to sow confusion. Consider, for instance, the argument that Alan Dershowitz intends to make before the Senate — and which Republican Senators, a great many of whom are lawyers, are tending increasingly to rally around: Only statutory crimes are impeachable.

Honestly, the argument is so nuts on its face that I wonder how Dershowitz or anybody else is able to defend it without bursting into laughter.

To see why this is so, imagine the following scenario at the boundary of plausibility and imagination. Duncan Smith is elected president, and his victory in uncontested. Immediately, Duncan begins daily tutorials in preparation for assuming office. He is drilled on the theological differences amongst Muslims, on energy policy, on the science undergirding climate change, on the etiquette of greeting royals throughout the world, on trends in the arts, on community organizers he should meet and activists with whom he should never shake hands. Day, after day, after day, he receives instruction in the nuances of policy, in the theater of leadership; it is not what he expected. One day he realizes, in fact, that he hasn’t any interest whatever in being president, that he doesn’t want the responsibility, that he sought the office only because all the people around him said he could win.

So Duncan goes through the ceremonial rigamarole of inauguration — and then draws his paycheck while refusing to fulfill the responsibilities of office. He sets foot in the Oval Office only once, and then just to take a few photographs for his Facebook page. He refuses to move into the White House. He makes no cabinet appointments, never meets a general, is at home tinkering with his day-trading account the day a couple of neo-Nazis shoot-up a Jewish retirement center and learns about it from the 6:00 o’clock news. He never meets a foreign head-of-state, never shakes hands with a mayor or governor, never says ‘hello’ to a cub scout pack, never discusses bills with the Congressional leaders of his party.

Effectively, the presidency is vacant.

Duncan has committed no crime — but does anybody, anywhere, doubt that Congress can and should remove him from office? Does anybody, anywhere, seriously think that the absence of a statutory crime is a ‘loophole’ that can protect Duncan from impeachment for gross dereliction of his responsibilities?

The Founders could not reasonably have been expected to anticipate all the future misbehaviors of presidents, and the president does not have to commit a specified crime to be removed from office. It is sufficient that a majority of the House, and two-thirds of the Senate, in consultation with their constituents, are satisfied that the conduct of the President endangers the country — and that’s a high enough bar without layering-on the self-interested pettifogging of sycophants.

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Quote for the day

Trump by now was in one of his rages. He was so angry that he wasn’t taking many breaths. All morning, he had been coarse and cavalier, but the next several things he bellowed went beyond that description. They stunned nearly everyone in the room, and some vowed that they would never repeat them. Indeed, they have not been reported until now.

“I wouldn’t go to war with you people,” Trump told the assembled brass.

Addressing the room, the commander in chief barked, “You’re a bunch of dopes and babies.”

For a president known for verbiage he euphemistically called “locker room talk,” this was the gravest insult he could have delivered to these people, in this sacred space. The flag officers in the room were shocked.

A Very Stable Genius
Excerpt published by Washington Post
Hits bookshelves January 21st

I don’t have the slightest difficulty believing this, and I hope it’s a sunny omen that the book will be published on the same day that the First Felon’s trial begins in the Senate.

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Dershowitz for the defense

Can this be true?

Seriusly? Alan Dershowitz is going to stand in the Senate and argue that abuse of power and obstruction of Congress are not high crimes and misdemeanors that the Founders would have thought warranted impeachment and removal? I wonder what he believes a president has to do to meet that bar, then?

I’ve seen Dershowitz on television a few times over the past few months and, though I once viewed him with considerable regard, it seems clear to me that he is well past the peak of his abilities. Mostly, this tweet by Washington Post reporter Dawsey saddens me: the once-formidable Dershowitz appears likely to end his public life as a feeble-minded fool.

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