Archive: May, 2024



Anyone/everyone here watch The Handmaid's Tale on Hulu? (If you don't, you're missing out, it's excellent if scary.) You know the scenes that are flashbacks to the before-time, pre-Gilead, when things were incrementally sliding into theocratic fascist dystopia? We're on the cusp of living those flashback times for real thanks in very large part to our extraordinarily corrupt and willfully obtuse Supreme Court.

"Justice" Samuel Alito, third in seniority and first in fascistic ideology, brought us the latest SCOTUS ruling to roll back progress. Utterly ignoring the Reconstruction-era amendments to the Constitution, Alito declared for the Court that states can draw their district maps using racial demographics as their guide and it's just fine, so long as they put forth a "possible" claim that they're not using race as their "primary motivation" in their overtly-partisan redistricting agenda, and if a court rightly says "this is BS and violates the Constitution," just appeal it to the Supreme Court and they'll overturn that.

This is the latest in an apparently ongoing series of rulings SCOTUS has made to gut voting rights in this country and aid the modern Republican party in its efforts to disenfranchise, you know, "those people." In 2013, the Court delivered a ruling written by Chief "Justice" John Roberts that said the Voting Rights Act's key provisions were no longer necessary and struck them down, leading to a new wave of disenfranchisement legislating (the late Justice Antonin Scalia called the Voting Rights Act a “perpetuation of racial entitlement” during that case). In 2019, SCOTUS, in Alito's voice again, declared partisan gerrymandering didn't violate anything and could proceed without interference, placing limits on the challenges brought in the case ruled on this week that were still met.

Justice Elena Kagan delivered brilliant dissenting opinions in more than one of these cases. In the 2019 case, she wrote "If left unchecked, gerrymanders like the ones here may irreparably damage our system of government." She continued:

"The majority’s abdication comes just when courts across the country ... have coalesced around manageable judicial standards to resolve partisan gerrymandering claims. Those standards satisfy the majority’s own benchmarks. They do not require—indeed, they do not permit—courts to rely on their own ideas of electoral fairness, whether proportional representation or any other. And they limit courts to correcting only egregious gerrymanders, so judges do not become omnipresent players in the political process. But yes, the standards used here do allow—as well they should—judicial intervention in the worst-of-the-worst cases of democratic subversion, causing blatant constitutional harms. In other words, they allow courts to undo partisan gerrymanders of the kind we face today from North Carolina and Maryland. In giving such gerrymanders a pass from judicial review, the majority goes tragically wrong."

Similarly, Alito and company once more ignored the judicial standard of conduct in this week's ruling, specifically the principle that a lower court be overruled only in cases of "clear error." From Kagan's dissent:

"In dismissing [the lower court's] strong case, the majority cherry-picks evidence, ignores credibility findings, misunderstands expert views, and substitutes its own statistical theories. Its opinion gives not a whit of respect to the District Court’s factual findings, thus defying the demands of clear-error review.


"What a message to send to state legislators and mapmakers about racial gerrymandering. For reasons I’ve addressed, those actors will often have an incentive to use race as a proxy to achieve partisan ends. And occasionally they might want to straight-up suppress the electoral influence of minority voters. Go right ahead, this Court says to States today. Go ahead, though you have no recognized justification for using race, such as to comply with statutes ensuring equal voting rights. Go ahead, though you are (at best) using race as a short-cut to bring about partisan gains—to elect more Republicans in one case, more Democrats in another. It will be easy enough to cover your tracks in the end: Just raise a 'possibility' of non-race-based decision-making, and it will be 'dispositive.' And so this 'odious' practice of sorting citizens, built on racial generalizations and exploiting racial divisions, will continue."

This is just the latest abuse of power for partisan gain by the Roberts Court. It will continue, and continue, and continue until something is done.

We need Democratic majorities in both Houses of Congress and in the White House. Only then will the bad actors perpetuating the ability of this lawless Supreme Court majority be circumvented and corrections can start to be made. Whether that comes in the form of impeachments of Alito and Clarence Thomas or expansion of the Court to 11 or 13 Justices or both or some other measure, the status quo cannot continue.

That way lies Gilead.


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Jazz it up a little

Sure, it's empty here, but just wait until late afternoon, when it will be filled with people lying around, spikeballers, dogs chasing frisbees, bikes, and lots of asshats playing soccer

Whenever I have an umpire shift, I file a report to the league afterward. Usually this is just a pro forma task, e.g. "No problems today, all is well," like one of Constable Odo's log entries. Sometimes it's more involved, like if someone got hurt or I had to eject somebody or there was a forfeit or something, but usually it's just "all good here," and I try to add in a little bit of color to keep it from being too dull.

Last night I was feeling a bit more creative, I guess, and put the earworm in my head of the Beatle song that had been playing in my car when I drove to the park to use in writing the report. Jazz it up some. Give the people in the office a laugh, or at least a smirk. Or maybe they're all Beatle-haters, I really don't know. Anyway, I think it came out pretty well, given that I "wrote" it in my head during the shift and on the way home while replaying the original a few times to get the cadence right. I reproduce it here for the edification of anyone who wonders what it's like to umpire at the Capitol Hill field which is usually filled with people when I show up, some of whom simply don't care about permits and reserved areas.

I give you The Ballad of Cap Hill Softball (apologies to John and Yoko).



Arriving at the park at 6:40
Gear bin fully stocked thanks to Mitch
The weather is fine, people are strewn line to line
Clearing the field is going to be a bitch

Christ, you know it ain’t easy
I try to keep my tone light
But the rate this is going
It’s gonna be a long night.

The soccer guys are hostile as always
Occupying our center field
I tell ’em, “move back to play, your goal’s obstructing our way”
One throws our cones as if they’re weapons to wield

Christ, you know it ain’t easy
They always put up a fight
The rate this is going
It’s gonna be a long night.

We finally get our games underway
Twenty minutes behind our sched
A batter crushes a ball, as we are watching it fall
It nearly hits a lazing guy in the head

Christ, you know it ain’t easy
People just aren’t very bright
The rate this is going
It’s gonna be a long night.

Times like this I wish it was a rainy day
Fewer people causing havoc here
But when the catcher says “No jest,
Of all umps you’re the best”
It makes the troubles somehow less important, SWEET!

Had a call when there were two runners
Throw came in where I hadn’t planned
The infielder said, “hey she was out by a thread!”
I said, “the replay center says the call stands.”

Christ, you know it ain’t easy
Sometimes I don’t get it right
There’s just one of me out there
I don’t have Superman’s sight.

By the time the third game was ending
The good points well outweighed all the bad
Most of the players were great
They didn’t mind we ran late
All in all I think a fun time was had

Christ, you know it ain’t easy
I hope I don’t sound uptight
’Cause despite how it started
It was a pretty good night.

Despite how it started
It was a pretty good night!

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Brain fog


As regulars here know, I deal with clinical depression. I often use the metaphor of orbiting a black hole to try to convey the experience to normals; when things are fine, I'm in high stable orbit. When things are bad, the orbit has decayed and the black hole threatens to drag me all the way down to spaghettification. With good meds, it's a relapsing/remitting kind of thing and since my former doc and I hit on a particular prescription some years back, I've not had a really bad episode. So on the whole, things are good on that front.

But no bad episodes doesn't mean no episodes, nor does it mean no symptoms. 

Lately I've been in a kind of upper-middle ground between "fine" and "spiraling down into noodle form," like the orbit has decayed but only 10 or 15 percent. It's perfectly functional if a bit drab. In the before-time, I'd never have noticed this; it happens gradually, the orbital velocity slows, well, slowly, and I'd have to fall a good distance before it registered. But over the years I have learned to detect precursors to failing orbit episodes and sometimes that's enough to at least arrest the decay if not jump-start a push to achieve higher altitude. With luck I can do that now.

At this altitude, the main symptom of the back hole's increased gravity is a kind of brain fog. (If I lose more altitude the next-worst symptom seems to be excessive irritability.) And today there was a lot of it, sort of cold-morning-in-San-Francisco fog.

I forgot someone's name, not a big deal; I lost track of a bank deposit, which turned out to be fine but wasted a fair chunk of time; I caught myself almost emailing the wrong person named Karen; in preparing to go to the Mariners game, I noted when I should leave home in order to allow for enough time to comfortably arrive in my seat by first pitch under the assumption of a 7:10 start time even though I had just reminded myself that we live in the age of the hated 6:40 starts for most games (yes, I missed the top of the first inning, dammit, but starting pitcher Brian Woo did me a solid by throwing a lot of pitches to get those three outs); and when I got to the ballpark neighborhood, though lucking into my usual free parking space, I left my keys in the car.

I noticed I didn't have my keys after the game ended and we were leaving our seats. Panic started to set in. My car has already been stolen once, and that time the keys were nowhere near it and it was parked in a residential neighborhood instead of a comparatively grungy section of town south of Pioneer Square.

So I left my friends to the mercies of Metro transportation (it's OK, they're used to it) and jogged back to my parking space, expecting to find my car missing. But it was there, untouched, the keys right there on the driver's seat. Faith in humanity restored, at least for now. Whew. Big shout-out to my next-door neighbor and fellow night-owl Sean, who happened to be home when I called and was perfectly willing to go into my place, grab my spare key, and drive it all the way down to me without the slightest complaint. Sean is good people.

So I survived the day without much hassle despite all the fogginess, the Mariners won handily against the Oakland-for-the-moment A's, and I was informed that for my gig as a softball umpire I am getting a small pay raise.

Now if I can just muster up the energy to raise the orbit some maybe I'll be looking at a good stretch of time for a while.

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