"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Trolling, trolling, trolling....

Oddly, I learned this morning (NPR, "1A") that Melania Trump has a staff of 10 (skeletal compared to the usual 25 or so a First Lady needs) and does what she wants to do when she wants to do it.  Two different reporters (interview on "Fresh Air") mentioned that.

So no staff member had the clout to say "No, we're not doing that today", and Melania knew exactly what she was doing.  Which, given the chaos of this past week (and a North Korea agreement Trump clearly doesn't understand, another disaster we haven't come back to assessing yet), this could end up being the cherry on the sundae of the week.

A shit sundae, you should pardon the expression; but still.

Well, that didn't take long....

“We’re suspending prosecutions of adults who are members of family units until ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) can accelerate resource capability to allow us to maintain custody,” an unnamed official tells the [Washington Post].

Word was, Trump was looking to the military to house people.  They've got military bases, right?  Military bases house people, right?

To which apparently the DOD replied:  "Sure, we've got military bases.  That doesn't mean we have facilities to house families under guard indefinitely."

Trump's ignorance ran headlong into the buzz saw of reality.  The real problem is, no one in the White House had the good sense to realize this couldn't possibly work.

Not One Inch

Trump doesn't care about due process, or laws, or anything except brute force.  He thinks government is a club he should be able to wield with impunity.  His concept of immigration is "none," his concept of a border is the Berlin Wall, and his only interest is in no entry by immigrants whatsoever.  He's a racist xenophobe, and that hasn't changed because he had to back down, and it isn't changing.
A "good" immigration bill is, by definition, one that passes the two houses of Congress, not one the President likes (but doesn't understand).  And what about reunification?

“The client meetings have been crushing,” Hanshew wrote. “One man sobs, asking how his small child could defend himself in a detention facility. One cries so uncontrollably, he is hardly able to speak. Question after crying question piles up from one client to the next.”

The attorney described how one man wept as he admitted he was unable to read or write, or even spell his missing son’s name.

“This administration appears to have no infrastructure, policy or plan in place to deal with the destruction of families seeking refuge or a new life in our country,” Hanshew wrote.


“At one point, (the judge) slammed his hand on the desk, sending a pen flying,” Hanshew wrote. “This type of emotional display is unheard of in federal court. I can’t understand this, the judge said. If someone at the jail takes your wallet, they give you a receipt. They take your kids, and you get nothing? Not even a slip of paper?”
No one in the Administration took a nano-second to think about the logistics required in separating families and eventually re-uniting them.  They don't know where these children are, or whose these children are and they apparently don't care.  There are reports of children being put on planes and sent back to their countries of origin, the parents told, essentially, "go get 'em."   This is pretty much how the "system" works:

Every undocumented immigrant who enters government custody is assigned what’s called an alien number. But the girl’s family didn’t know hers. Armed with only the girl’s name and birth date, Kephart dialed a 1-800 hotline set up by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (O.R.R.), the federal body in charge of handling unaccompanied immigrant children. This hotline, Kephart told me, is difficult to access for parents who are in a detention facility (hold times can last half an hour; it’s impossible to leave a call-back number) or who have been deported (international calls are expensive, and 1-800 numbers don’t often work from abroad).

“We hit a dead end,” Kephart said. “The person I spoke with just made a note in the file of the girl they thought it might be. But we didn’t get confirmation that we were talking about the same child. They were looking at the record of someone whose first name was spelled differently, and whose date of birth was a month off.”
There is no process for reunification.  There's nothing in Trump's order about reunification.  The policy of "no tolerance" remains.  What has changed, Trump hopes, is the optics.  Because what he really cares about is the optics of immigrants entering this country; that picture he simply can't stand. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Deep Distrust of Place

Because we deserve our place, do we blame the parent for this girl's pain?

A friend of mine speaks truth:

Finally, two haunting questions: What are these families running from, or to, that they are willing to risk so much? And, how far back does their family lineage on this continent go, compared to mine?

And asks the pertinent question in doing it.  What is going on here, that our hearts are so hardened to the sufferings of others?  More particularly, what is going on here that we assert our primacy of place and our supremacy of power against people whose family lineage on this continent goes back to pre-Columbian days?  Is that a factor?

How is it not?

I don't mean the blatant racism of Trump and his talk of infestation, or the subtle racism of his supporters, that we we will be overrun if we don't "control" our borders.  The further from the border you get, the louder that clamor grows.  But on the border they understand the complexity of place; they understand the supremacy of power, and they prefer to deal with both in ways we don't, we who live far from the frontier.  I've told the story about a businessman on the Texas border, a man of obvious Brooklyn ancestry, who broke into Spanish when a customer entered his store during our interview.  He told me he had to know Spanish to live there; he thought nothing of it.  Elsewhere in the country in that decade "English Only" was as divisive and contentious a topic as DACA or immigration is now.  The border makes its peace with such issues, because on the border you can't argue such issues:  it simply won't let you.

So how far back does you family lineage on this continent go?  I know mine goes back barely 150 years; but Europeans have been on this continent for 400 years.  People were were when the Europeans got here; and Europeans immediately asserted supremacy of power to claim primacy of place.  Our racism is rooted in those two claims, and it is what we are defending every time we worry about "border protection" or "border security" or even why we should not feel the heartstring tug of crying children (all children in all cultures make the same cries; have you ever noticed?  They all communicate pre-verbally in one voice, a voice we all understand and respond to.).  Whether we are confrontational racists or just want to assert our privilege to be comfortable and not afflicted, we are asserting our primacy of place and our supremacy of power.

It is no accident that the most virulent and violent racists are the people with the least social and even physical power.  It is also no accident that people who think they aren't even racist at all can still be so concerned with protecting their place, and not losing it to "invaders" and "immigrants" and "infestations." Or just to "illegals," because the law is the law and it must be followed; especially when following it protects their place, in space or in society.  Their concern is based in part on legitimacy:  legitimacy under the laws of this nation, but also legitimacy under the eyes of God.

Which is to say, the broader human society.  Legitimacy in the eyes of God is a contentious issue all on its own:  a battlefield of theology and exegesis and philosophy and competing systems of ethics (not to be confused with competing systems of morality).  Legitimacy in the eyes of humankind, however, is the legitimacy we all ultimately crave.  We appeal to humanity for our "right" to place.  We appeal for "justice," and justice means we have rightly wielded power to get for ourselves a comfortable position, among people and on the earth.  One such appeal is based on lineage; if ours is not long enough, we have to appeal to power to come out on top.  We have to appeal to law.

Law protects us because it is a tool, and we understand that.  We treat it as a power, as an objective standard, as justice itself to which we must all bend, but secretly we know better.  Law is a tool, and those with the power wield it.   It is the law that says those people entered the country "illegally."  Are the laws on immigration the product of racism and racist intent?  It doesn't matter; it is the law that demands a pound of flesh from these immigrants, not us.  That's just fair.  And if the action of the law defends our place, our position, our personal integrity against sharing too much of our space with people with greater historical claim to this land, then so be it.  The law is just; the law is fair; and most importantly, the law is with us.

And that's power.

Being the law, it purifies the racist animus that sponsored it; the dross of pettiness is refined away in the flame of authority to do what we want.  The eugenics that got into the law of immigration is the same eugenics that got into the laws of this land ("Three generations of imbeciles is enough!") and spread like an evil vine across the Atlantic until it came back to us in the foul shape of Nazism and the "Final Solution."  And so we disavowed those laws and cut off our historical memory of them, just as we forgot the stories of how we treated the slaves and the Native Americans and the poor; we forget our connection to great crimes, the better to justify our sense of place and the privilege of power.   But we know it all rests on such a precarious foundation, on such a trembling soil, that we have to remind ourselves, again and again, of just how vicious we can be if we have to:

We feel sorry for them, but it's fake news so really, it's okay in the end.  Our place is re-secured, our power has protected us.  Our legitimacy is assured; not because we have any, but because the crisis doesn't, either.

Where does justice come from?  Where does righteousness come from?  From God?  From human society?  Either basis finds no justice in what we have done.  If justice comes from human society, these people have a greater claim to the land than we ever could, and we have a duty to share it with them, to make the injustices of history right.  If justice comes from God, the God who commanded Israel to share everything with the widow and the orphan and the alien among you, to declare a year of Jubilee and start the whole business of property ownership over again (even Israel wasn't ready for that one, so God tried again, teaching us to be first of all by being last and servant of all), from God who can overturn the power and pull the mighty from their thrones, and raise up the poor and powerless (and where's the justice in gaining power then?); well, then, the question of who was here first is still a legitimate question seeking a legitimate answer.

And we still are no further along in providing one.

Donald Trump Feels Your Pain

The child in that picture is not a two-year old immigrant; it's actually Donald Trump.

No, seriously:  Rudy Giuliani says so:

“It’s a tragedy,” he said. “Nobody feels it more than Donald Trump, believe me.”
Whatever you do to the least of them, you do to Donald Trump?  Yeah, I'm not buyin'.....

“I’ll be signing something in a little while that’s going to do that. I’ll be doing something that’s somewhat preemptive and ultimately will be matched by legislation, I’m sure,” he said, according to a White House pool report.

Cracked like an egg, and practically on schedule.  But can all the king's horses and all the king's men put Humpty Dumpty back together again?  Reporters are regularly calling Trump on his lies, now.  His racism is no longer campaign-trail talk or deniable as a "misunderstood" message; when he tweets over and over again that immigrants "infest" this country, it doesn't take a map to find the destination.  Nielsen won the support of only Trump in her press conference.  Even Sarah Sanders won't defend this policy, and is leaving because of it.  The tolerance for this man's lies and animus have been challenged, and won't be easily put back together; especially since it doesn't take much to provoke him.  Consider this:

“Trump was sitting there with his arms crossed, clearly not liking the fact that he felt like they were ganging up on him,” Bremmer reported. “Eventually he agreed. He said, okay I’ll sign it.”

“At that point, he stood up, he put his hand in his suit jacket pocket and he took two Starburst candies out, threw them on the table and said to Merkel, ‘Here, Angela, don’t say I never gave you anything,'” Bremmer explained.

That's Trump at the G-7 summit in Canada.  That's not the behavior of a 70 year old man; that's the behavior of a 7 year old.  That's not the behavior of a President of the United States.  That's the behavior of a person who has no idea what he's doing or why he's doing it.  When he railed against a proposed bill for more immigration judges, he didn't even understand those are not Art. III judges, and do not need Senate approval to be appointed. He doesn't understand governance at all, and isn't learning.  His ignorance is his belief system, it is his whole way of understanding the world.  Even if he withdraws his hideous immigration policy entirely, he will still be the problem, and that problem is now so plainly in sight even the courtier press can't ignore it anymore.*

There is something badly broken here, and it will be a long time healing.  Reports are now that some of these immigrant families may never rejoin; that children and parents may be separated forever.  Their traumas will be deep, traumas we inflicted on them for no reason other than cruelty and indifference.  "Quit trying to make us feel teary-eyed for the children" a Trump supporter in Arizona said, as if reporting on the tragedy is the problem, not the tragedy itself.  If the wells of compassion are so dried up in some people, we must supply their compassion, too, in addition to our own.  It is not the law's fault that these children are being damage, it is ours; the law is our master, not we the laws.  There are humane responses to this issue, whatever you think about the nature of the border (and if you think it is and should be an absolute and impermeable barrier you would be surprised and probably disappointed by the daily life along it).

This is coming to an end, for the time being, which only means it will retreat from the headlines.  That is as it should be, compassion fatigue and outrage fatigue would soon set in, anyway.  These children and these matters should not be forgotten, but neither can those fires be kept burning until November; that won't help the children, and it won't help the political situation either.  But Donald Trump is going to do what he always does:  crack and run and declare victory and blame his "enemies" for his failures and come back at it again before November because this is who he has always been:  a xenophobic racist who cannot stand the idea of sharing a planet, much less a country, with people who don't look exactly like him.

Update:  Or, Trump will find a way to shoot himself in both feet at once:

The New York Times reports that the Trump administration’s plan to end family separation via executive order will involve the creation of a system for indefinitely detaining families together, a move that seemingly violates the 1997 Flores court settlement which prohibits the federal government from keeping children in custody for extended periods of time. (The Obama administration attempted to institute large-scale family detention in 2014, though without the “indefinite” part that would seemingly violate Flores; it was widely decried as a disorganized disaster.)
Or, as JMM points out, Trump wants to violate the Flores order so he can blame the courts now.

Never quit before you've made the situation as bad as you possibly can.

"The horror!  The horror!"

*I add this as a footnote; an article in WaPo, via Charlie Pierce:

President Trump — a man already known for trafficking in mistruths and even outright lies — has been outdoing even himself with falsehoods in recent days, repeating and amplifying bogus claims on several of the most pressing controversies facing his presidency. Since Saturday, Trump has tweeted false or misleading information at least seven times on the topic of immigration and at least six times on a Justice Department inspector general report into the FBI’s handling of its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server. That’s more than a dozen obfuscations on just two central topics — a figure that does not include falsehoods on other issues, whether in tweets or public remarks.
Hmmm....maybe the Emperor really is clothe-less? 

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

"The Evil Men Do"

I wanted to write a wise and piercing exegesis of Romans 13 when I'd heard Jeff Sessions used it to justify this horror on the border.  I didn't get to, and better hands than mine turned to the task, so I'd just be piling on by now.  Besides, I hate that kind of use of scripture, and even writing a refutation of that use somehow supports the use of scripture except now you'll use it the way I do.


Fr. James Martin speaks for me, and why I've been so upset about this since I returned to blogging (various minor reasons, none of any significance, caused the absence).  This is an occasion to revive the concepts of "sin" and of "evil", because it is evil that is being promoted and promulgated from the Oval Office down to the Texas border right now.

I should sit silently in prayer, I suppose.  It's a better response than blogging.

Who Will Rid Me of This Troublesome Policy?

It's all about the pictures.  The kids?  Well, they look innocent, but they're crisis actors, ya know.  And whose idea was it to suddenly detain 'em all?  I'm telling' ya, somebody really screwed up, and it's up to youse guys to fix it!

(A meeting between Trump and legislators is like a Texas summer forecast:  just repeat the forecast from the time before, because ain't nothin' gonna be any different.  It's gonna be All About Trump, All the Time, with the same outcome at the end of the day:  

“He said a lot of things. He said he supported the bill, I guess. It was very rambling, he talked about everything from the lawsuit to tax bills,” said Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC). “It was kind of hard to follow everything he says — it was like a bouncing ball.”

And a swipe at a defeated GOP House member who wasn't in attendance, for good measure.  “ 'He was very ugly,' said Jones."  Progress!  For the kiddies!)

No, He Really, Really Meant It

This is not the POTUS; this is your crazy racist uncle after the third glass of wine at Thanksgiving.  That little girl on the tape who'd memorized her aunt's phone number?  Yeah, she learned that script Trump recites, too.  I'm surprised he didn't mention fake families while he was at it.

We've surpassed Germany for the number of asylum seekers?  Didn't we used to be proud of something like that?  And the slam at "Crooked Hillary Clinton"?  She had her chance, but you can't let go of her?  She lost, so she should shut up in perpetuity?  Is this guy six years old?

That meeting with GOP Congresscritters is not going to do anything to change this, and I think the WSJ editorial board is right:  this is going to cost them the Congress in November.  Even Ted Cruz had to scramble to put together a bill to keep families in immigration detention together because his opponent Beto O'Rourke got so much coverage for going to Tornillo on Father's Day while Cruz was playing basketball with Jimmy Fallon (look it up, I'm not linking everything).  This issue is white-hot and Trump keeps pumping the bellows.

I'd say it was a good thing, but I keep thinking of all those crying children and of the Sociopath-in-Chief in the Oval Office.  At least everybody knows exactly what he's talking about.  Blather about "deep state" and "Crooked Hillary" doesn't really mean much against children in cages.  But that's about all that's good about it; otherwise, it's indefensible and reprehensible.  When even Ted Cruz wants to file "emergency" legislation to look like he's doing something, you know you're on the wrong side of the issue.

And I can't resist dropping this in, because Trump is in love with that "10% rise in crime in Germany"  lie.  As Vox explains it:

The White House didn’t respond to a request for clarification, but our best guess is [Trump is referring to] a German government-sponsored report from January that showed violent crime increased 10 percent between 2015 and 2016 in the German state of Lower Saxony. The study attributed 90 percent of the increase in violent crime to young male refugees. However, unlike Trump, who is using this statistic to argue against accepting refugees altogether, this study suggested language classes, sports, and job opportunities for these migrants. It also said these refugees should be reunited with their families.
It's the last sentence that makes it art.

It's his world, and we just live in it?

Roach Motels, according to the President

First, he has to get his Adolf on:

But that's just the wind up; here's the pitch:

Yeah, all those 2 year olds are gonna vote in November!  For MS-13!  Yaaah!!  Boogey-boogey-boogey!  If it wasn't so racist and xenophobic and coming from the POTUS, it would be laughable and as ignorable as Ann Coulter saying these kids are all actors.  But maybe with statements like these we can finally drop any pretense that the President is:  a) rational and b) not a racist.  "Infest"?  Really?  These children are roaches?
I bet they aren't even real kids!  We can't prove they're real families!


Still most likely a member of MS-13 who doesn't even have a Mommy.

Remember when Trump said:

“They look so innocent. They’re not innocent.”
Consider that the policy of this Administration, whether Kirstjen Nielsen considers it a "policy" or not (or can agree on what the meaning of "is" is):

We will separate those who claim to be a parent and child if we cannot determine a familial or custodial relationship exists.

For example, if there's no documentation to confirm the claimed relationship between an adult and a child, we do so if the parent is a national security, public or safety risk, including when there are criminal charges at issue and it may not be appropriate to maintain the family in detention together.
So if I'm fleeing violence and death in my own country, and I don't stop on the way out to pick up my kid's birth certificate, I am presumptively a liar to claim my child is, indeed, my child?  Yeah, that's really what she means:

“We do not have the luxury of pretending that all individuals coming to this country as a family unit are in fact a family,” she said. “We have to do our job. We will not apologize for doing our job.”

The next level down is that the documents are all fakes, because that's what "those people" do:  they buy fake documents and bring fake families to America just to get a chance to stay here and "violently change" our culture.

The Mole People have to dig down to find these people.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Well I think I'm goin' out of my head....

Katy Tur points out:

“Perhaps the administration is also arguing this policy that they’re trying to use as a bargaining chip doesn’t even exist,” Tur said. “The Homeland Security tweeted yesterday: ‘we do not have a policy of separating families at the border.’ Guys, a part of consequence of this administration’s policy is separating families at the border, there are now nearly 12,000 kids under the Department of Health and Human Services and it is rising. At the current pace, it would hit 20,000 by August 1st. Let that sink in.”

And all this screaming about "crime" and the "border"?  Not an accident that it reflects exactly the arguments of Hitler in his rise to power.  No, I didn't go there:  Trump did.

Yeah, that's interfering with foreign elections, fer sure:

“Germany last month reported its lowest crime rate since 1992,” Boykin reminded. “Austrian-born Adolf Hitler also used lies and misinformation about crime to complain about groups of people in Germany who had ‘changed their culture.'”

The host of the Michelangelo Signorile Show on SiriusXM had even hasher words.
“Crime is not up. This is another lie. And the last line is a chilling call to white supremacists,” Signorile observed. “He’s gone full on Nazi.”

Really; what was your first clue?

"The United States will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility ... not on my watch," Trump said at the White House Monday. "Immigration is the fault, and all the problems that we’re having because we cannot get them to sign legislation, we cannot get them even to the negotiating table, and I say it’s very strongly the Democrats' fault."
No, the Democrats don't sign legislation right now, but ignore the incoherence and stay for the xenophobic racism:  "Immigration is the fault."

This is not going to end the way he wants it to; but damn, is it gonna be ugly before it does.  Even NPR is pointing out his lies on a regular basis.  Long, hot summer ahead, especially in South Texas in those cages.

Me, Or Your Lyin' Eyes Edition, Part II: The Senator from Maine

Collins' argument is that:  a)  Jeff Sessions DID announce a "zero-tolerance" policy in May, but all that announcement meant was that children "could be separated from their children in some cases."  Sessions made no such distinction.  His statement was that those parents were "smuggling" children into the country, and would not be allowed to do that; hence, the policy of separation.

"Smuggling," by the way, means bringing an 8 month old baby with you on a dangerous journey across at least one country (Mexico) and probably at least one other.

She then tries to muddy this issue with the Obama-era issue of children crowding the border, fleeing violence in El Salvador and elsewhere in Central America.  That it is not this situation.   ICE and the Border Patrol are taking children from their parents, using that act to claim the children are "unaccompanied minors" under the law, and dumping them in detention centers like the tent city in Tornillo, Texas.  Detention centers are not placement with "relatives or adult sponsors in the U.S."

Yes, "Our nation's immigration laws must be applied in a manner that is humane, fiscally responsible, and consistent with our American values."  But that isn't happening, hence the controversy about detentions and tent cities.

Even Anthony Scaramucci gets that:

Former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci has become the latest Trump ally to urge the president to bring an end to the policy of separating families at the Mexican border. “[Trump] has to step in there and has to end this thing because I think it is an atrocious policy. It’s inhumane, it’s offensive to the average American. When you think about American values, it does not represent American values.” 

You Can't Hide Your Lyin' Eyes

That kid has all she needs; Kirstjen Nielsen just said so.

“It is important to note that these minors are very well taken care of,” she said. “Don’t believe the press. They are very well taken care of.”

“We operate according to some of the highest standards in the country,” she continued. “We provide food, medical, education, and all needs that the child request.”

Nielsen resolutely defended the practice of separating children from their parents.

“We will not apologize for the job we do or for the job law enforcement does for doing the job that the American people expect us to do,” she said. “Illegal actions have and must have consequences. No more free passes, no more get out of jail free cards.”
Probably don't want to believe your lyin' eyes, either. And children don't need parents; they just need "three hots and a cot," amirite?  Besides, it's the kid's fault their parents came to this country, and they must be punished for their parent's sins.  It's only about enforcing the laws, after all:

 “President Trump has said this cannot continue,” [Attorney General Jeff Sessions] concluded [to the same group Nielsen was speaking to]. “We do not want to separate parents from their children. If we build the wall, if we pass legislation to end the lawlessness, we won’t face these terrible choices.”
You know, there's a concept in the law called "the best interests of the child."  It's meant to give minors some agency, some personhood, in a judicial system that might well chew them up and spit them out otherwise.    It's meant to put the interests of the child first, front and center, and given the highest and deepest consideration.  It is the alpha and the omega of children brought into a legal system through no fault of their own, to protect them in that system.

And Jeff Sessions and Kirstjen Nielsen are pretending they've never, ever heard of it and, if they had, it wouldn't apply anyway because, you know, brown children.

I'd say they were the Mole People but, frankly, they're lower than that.

The Art of the Squeal


A master class in negotiating legislation:
The security of our boarders must be preserved! 

Me Or Your Lyin' Eyes Edition

 I've taken to putting photos from my camera on my "home screen" on my camera.  If I could, I'd do that with this picture on this blog.  Because this is what we're down to:

So this doesn't exist:

And this photo of a Border Patrol processing center for children provided by the U.S. Border Patrol isn't what you think it is:

And the 2000 children already separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border?  Well, those parents wanted their children to be taken from them?  Besides, as the President said:

“They look so innocent. They’re not innocent.”

And of course, there's just the record:

On May 7, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a speech that "If you're smuggling a child, then we're going to prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you, probably, as required by law. If you don't want your child separated, then don't bring them across the border illegally. It's not our fault that somebody does that."

Sessions announced the policy in Scottsdale, Ariz. 

John Kelly backed that up:

Are you in favor of this new move announced by the attorney general early this week that if you cross the border illegally even if you're a mother with your children [we're going] to arrest you? We're going to prosecute you, we're going to send your kids to a juvenile shelter?

The name of the game to a large degree. Let me step back and tell you that the vast majority of the people that move illegally into United States are not bad people. They're not criminals. They're not MS-13. Some of them are not. But they're also not people that would easily assimilate into the United States into our modern society. They're overwhelmingly rural people in the countries they come from – fourth, fifth, sixth grade educations are kind of the norm. They don't speak English, obviously that's a big thing. They don't speak English. They don't integrate well, they don't have skills. They're not bad people. They're coming here for a reason. And I sympathize with the reason. But the laws are the laws. But a big name of the game is deterrence.

Because there's nothing better than using government power to punish adults by using their children as pawns, amirite?  Besides:  "They look so innocent.  They're not innocent."

Oh, and this interview never happened:

"The law says if you cross between the ports of entry you are entering without inspection and that is a crime," [DHS Secretary Kirstjen] Nielsen said. "First time is misdemeanor."

"After that it's a felony," she added, "and then it goes on from there. So that hasn't changed; that's the underlying law. Our policy has not changed and that is if you break the law we will refer you for prosecution."

Nielsen clarified that the policy is targeting families who try to illegally cross away from a port of entry. Families who present themselves at a ports of entry can ask for asylum. They will get a "credible fear" interview, and they will not be prosecuted, she said.

They know we can hear them, right?

6 weeks later this is not a "policy" because, well, the shit has hit the fan.  As NPR reported this morning,   even Laura Bush:
I live in a border state. I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.

 and Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Franklin Graham (as well as, though NPR didn't note it, the SBC).  And because Trump can never be responsible for anything he does:

Look at that kid in the picture!  She's not innocent!  She's probably coming here to join MS-13!

Monday, June 11, 2018

Rjekyavik Redux?

Trump is leaving Tuesday because Kim is leaving Tuesday. They have two meetings that day, one alone, one with staff. What do you think is going to happen? Anything at all?

Kim clearly thinks he's gotten all he wanted. Trump thinks he's gotten anything at all:

Hostages freed? Not exactly the first time that's ever happened. "Misle" launches "stoped"? Well, for the time being.

Told ya it's gonna be all about Trump's claims of victory.

Bitch Slap

Houstonians waiting for the Coast Guard to navigate the city streets.

The Houston Chronicle is the newspaper that subsumed the slightly more liberal Houston Post years ago; but it's never been confused with The Village Voice or The Nation:

So now we know: Thousands of heedless Houstonians were out pleasure-boating during that fateful Hurricane Harvey weekend and had to be rescued by U.S. Coast Guard sailors.

How do we know?

President Donald J. Trump said so last week. During a conference call with state and federal leaders preparing for another hurricane season, he thanked the Coast Guard for helping save 16,000 people after hurricanes Harvey and Maria and other storms. The Coast Guard doesn’t “get enough credit,” he said.

Then he said this: "Sixteen thousand people, many of them in Texas, for whatever reason that is. People went out in their boats to watch the hurricane. That didn't work out too well.”

Anyone who can make sense of such absurdity is a better Trump exegete than we.
In other words, here in Houston we noticed what Trump said about Hurricane Harvey.  Me, I'd excoriate Cornyn and Cruz for their silence, but not the Chron:

Unfortunately, we’ve grown accustomed to bizarre Trumpian bloviations. (No, Mr. President, Canada did not burn down the White House.) The ad hoc remarks are often best ignored. U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz did just that, discretion being the better part of Republican valor in these peculiar times. And yet the president’s Hurricane Harvey inanity is too serious for Houstonians to let slide.

A region still recovering from catastrophic flooding doesn’t need its plight minimized or ridiculed. It needs help.

Yeah, you're clearly looking to the wrong man for that.  Not that they are kind to Greg Abbott, who did say something (but shouldn't have, considering what he said):

Help from the federal government, from the White House, from the Texas congressional delegation. If the man in charge is abysmally ignorant about what happened in the wake of a Category 4 storm and the epic deluge that followed, who’s to say that government agencies — Housing and Urban Development, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Flood Insurance Program, among others — will understand the urgency of Houston’s needs? Who’s to say that Ben Carson and other Trump appointees will be any better informed?

Who’s to say we have a prayer of getting a third reservoir, new bayou infrastructure or a coastal storm surge barrier before the next big storm?

All ideas for preventing another flooding disaster in Houston, none of which will be implemented soon.  Yeah, we're thrilled about that, too.  But the Chron is not done yet:

The people of Puerto Rico, those who survived a hurricane that killed thousands, know something of the importance of political leadership. They remember a president who responded to biblical devastation by tossing rolls of paper towels at them. They know how arrogance and ineptitude at the top can magnify a dire situation.

Mr. President, those Texans in rescue boats weren’t out looking for trouble. They were looking for help. A year later, the Houston region is still looking.

Show some leadership. Make us your priority, not your punchline.
Yeah, I still say running against Trump is not the worst thing a Democrat in Texas could do.

Three Day Weekends Are The Worst!

So that's what Trump said happened in Charlevoix (bet you didn't know where it was, did you?  "Canada" is a nation, not a particular place.  Surprise!)  But this is what Canada says happened:

Coming into the summit, Trump had already angered allies with his decision to slap tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from some of America’s key allies, including Canada.

At talks on the economy Friday afternoon, one official from a European G7 delegation said Trump aired a string of “grievances” about trade. The others responded in kind, the official said.

All leaders in their final news conferences referenced that afternoon’s trade talk as “frank” and direct.

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May told reporters that the other six leaders had expressed their opposition to Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs. “We had some difficult conversations and some strong debate.”

You'll want to read the entire article to get full details; I'm selecting for my purposes.  Let's cut directly to Trudeau, since his actions are the source of controversy from the U.S.

Trudeau offered the U.S. president a small token of friendship, a framed photo of Trump’s grandfather’s hotel in Bennett, B.C., which Trump’s press secretary tweeted as a “great moment” between the two.

As Canadian officials tell it, Trudeau went over all of Canada’s arguments in opposition to Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs, even though the Canadians had the feeling the American team had already “done some homework about how the Canadian public had reacted” to tariffs, and were surprised by the backlash.

Trudeau told Trump directly what he said in American television interviews the week before: that Canadians felt Trump’s declaration that Canadian steel and aluminum is a national security threat was “kind of insulting” — as Trudeau described it in his news conference Sunday.

An official said Trudeau used the example of the Canadian airbase where Trump’s Air Force One had touched down for the summit about an hour north.

“Why is Bagotville there? Bagotville is there to protect aluminum smelters that were building American warplanes in the Second World War,” Trudeau told Trump.

Trump’s trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, protested about Canada’s tariff markups on foreign dairy imports.

“The Prime Minister said, ‘Look, here’s the essence of our trading relationship. We sell you a lot of oil and energy and you sell us a lot of food and manufactured goods. It is a trillion dollar relationship. We could pick any one of those things and argue over the numbers. But shouldn’t we be talking about the relationship as a whole, which is an unmitigated positive for both of us?”

Canadian officials believed at the time Trump “got that.” They agreed to accelerate NAFTA talks, but there was no clear path as to the next steps with the tariffs in place.

After their meeting, Trump and Trudeau attended the G7 leaders working dinner on peace and security in the world, a topic where all leaders could find some common ground.

And there was apparently a homoousias/homoiousias moment:

Trudeau and Trump had been talking separately, then urged everyone to come into a leader’s lounge off their meeting room in the sprawling Manoir Richelieu so the leaders could try to reach agreement on a final statement.

The Americans, led by Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow, said they couldn’t agree to language that supported the global rules-based trading system because they were trying to reform the system, said a source, but agreed to a nod to the World Trade Organization. Trudeau argued that the two were linked.

The leaders went back and forth for up to an hour. The Americans could agree to language on the WTO, and “a rules-based global system” not “the rules-based global system,” said the source. All agreed to “commit to modernize the WTO to make it more fair as soon as possible.”

What seemed to have been agreed to fell apart by breakfast the next morning.  This led to negotiations that went nowhere, and Trump's press conference just before he left for Singapore:

Trump held a news conference in which he promptly appeared to reject even the ideas on trade embodied in the communiqué he had agreed to, threatening to cut trade ties with any country who didn’t agree to a “zero tariffs” approach, telling reporters “the gig is up.”

“We’re like the piggy bank that everybody’s robbing, and that ends.”

Safely away, Trump blew up on Twitter, using Trudeau as an excuse:

Trump left, skipping the climate change and oceans sessions, but Trudeau took the stage Saturday evening to proclaim all G7 leaders had reached a joint statement, calling the summit a success and outlining his own talks with Trump.

It drew Trump’s wrath. Referencing Trudeau’s account of pushing back at the U.S., he tweeted Trudeau made “false statements.” He scorned Trudeau as appearing “meek and mild” in their meetings, but was “dishonest and very weak.”

Canadian officials insist, and Trudeau’s spokesperson tweeted, that Trudeau said nothing he hadn’t already said in public or in private to Trump.

According to the article, Trudeau's take is that the G7 summit made Trump look "weak", at least in Trump's eyes, on his way to Singapore.  Having Larry Kudlow declare Trump was not weak, was an excellent way to rebut that point, n'est pas?

Which leads me to why I am telling you all of this.  Trump's people made sure they seized the narrative as soon as possible.  The hue and cry about a "special place in hell" was notably over the top, but no one really thinks Peter Navarro is going to lose his job for those impolitic and undiplomatic remarks.  Indeed, the White House has already started fence-mending efforts with Canada.  But the reason I'm telling you this is to warn you to expect the same from Singapore.

No, I don't expect Trump to call Kim Jong Un "Little Rocket Man" again, or threaten North Korea with "fire and fury."  I just expect Trump to declare victory and flee back to D.C. and access to Fox News as fast as he can.  No, I'm not exaggerating; I saw an article explaining Trump complains about foreign travel because he can't get FoxNews while he's out of the country.  And he's already announced he will leave Sinagapore as soon as tomorrow, which means the whole "summit" is jut a gigantic photo op.  Trump will announce what happened, as he did in the tweet about Trudeau, and his staff will generate a cloud of squid ink to obscure whatever actually occurred (effectively, nothing, except the recognition of North Korea that NK has craved for decades), and that will be the narrative everyone will be talking about.

Oh, and probably about Trump's Nobel Prize, again.  Which is pretty much a part of the "Fuck Obama" doctrine that motivates this White House.  But what will actually happen in Singapore?  You'll have to read the news articles to find out.  CNN and MSNBC and FoxNews will all be talking about what Trump said happened, a narrative that will no more reflect reality than Trump's tweets reflect the events of the G7 in Charlevoix.  Because nobody is talking about this:

Or this:
Or this:

Or even this:
Sure, the G7 may be more style than substance, one more meeting of rich privileged people to discuss in the abstract the lives of non-rich non-privileged people while never letting such people anywhere near the place, but if you read the Charlevoix communique, with topics like:

"Investing in Growth that Works for Everyone"
"Advancing Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment"
"Working together on Climate Change, Oceans and Clean Energy"

You start to understand why Trump didn't want to sign it, and why it had nothing to do with Canada's dairy tariffs or Prime Minister Trudeau's "False Statements."  He's not going to sign anything of significance in Singapore; but what are the accomplishments he's going to claim, and how real will those accomplishments be?

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Crazy like a fox? Or just crazy?

He does know Trudeau can read these, right?
Canada makes cars?

Pictures v. Words

This is going well:

Speaking to reporters at the annual G-7 meeting, the president said that totally eliminating trade barriers between the nations would be “the ultimate thing” and “that’s the way it should be.” He called many current tariffs on U.S. goods and services “ridiculous.”

“We’re like the piggy bank that everybody’s robbing ― and that ends,” the president said.

He later said, “It’s going to stop, or we’ll stop trading with them. And that’s a very profitable answer, if we have to do it.”
I think all the heads on all the bodies of all the Wall Street Journal editorial board just exploded. 

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world:

“It’s going to be something that will always be spur of the moment,” he said about any potential agreements with Kim. “You don’t know. This has not been done before at this level.” At the top of the agenda for the meeting is Washington’s demands that Pyongyang surrender its nuclear weapons program, though Trump said he believes the summit will at the very least help build a “relationship” between the two countries. Whether or not it will yield a more significant agreement is something he said he’ll know “within the first minute.” “Just my touch, my feel. That’s what I do. And if I think it won’t happen, I’m not going to waste my time. I don’t want to waste his time,” he said.

Yeah; may you live in interesting times.  I don't know if that's an old Chinese curse or not, but it comes now translated from the Russian

Oikonomos as a Christian value

Brian Palmer drags up an old shibboleth: 
But outside of the mainstream media and the coastal cities, Pruitt has supporters who like him so much that they’re willing to ignore his petty scandals and Napoleon complex. They like him because he thinks like them: He puts people before the environment, just like God does.

Which, frankly, is no better a statement on Christianity or Christians than saying that someone puts whites before blacks (or Asians, or Hispanics) "just like God does."  I can think of a number of Christian white supremacists who would agree with that sentiment; but no major Christian denomination that would.  Does that alleviate Christianity of the charge about Pruitt and the environment?  No; but the reality is far more complex than that.

Palmer goes on to cite an article I read back in high school (I remember it well; my first research paper was on the then burgeoning subject of environmental science.  It wasn't a very scientific research paper, but at the time the EPA had just been established, and concerns about environmental destruction were thick in the air.  If I recall correctly, the title of my paper included the words "eventual destruction" of the environment.  We have always lived in pessimistic times.)  The article is by Lynn White, published in 1967 (halcyon times!).    In it, White argues that the "environmental crisis" (50 years ago!) is the fault of Christianity, which, in a fight with "paganism," had to destroy the notion of nature being filled with spiritual beings.

To say that's a sloppy reading of history or anthropology or world religions is to state the obvious; but we won't belabor that point now.*  He starts his article with an anecdote about Aldous Huxley and rabbits (the latter were introduced to England, he says, in 1176.  That didn't work out as well in Australia, however.  Huxley, at the time of the anecdote, was on his way out.  So it goes.).  White goes on to discuss the reclamation of the Zuider Zee, and the fish and animals which may have been destroyed in that process (even among environmentalists that would probably be considered a "so it goes" today).  Now, White was a professor of history, not of science or religion, or even especially religious history, so his argument really turns on a lot of popular opinions about religion, most of them formed in the Enlightenment and later in 19th century Europe (I think Nietzsche had a better grasp on religion, to be honest, and his tended to be all slippery.).    But following White's argument with Huxley about the rabbits, Huxley's lament calls to mind Thoreau's lament at the noise created by trains in the countryside he so loved.  150+ years later, who doesn't hear a train whistle with a nostalgic pang for a vanishing past?

So it goes.

This isn't as strong an argument as everyone makes it out to be, in other words, and it deserves more critical attention (or perhaps less) than it still gets.  The central argument is that Christianity is fundamentally anti-environment, and encourages everyone to plunder the planet because, as Leonard Bernstein so memorably put it, "God made us the boss!"  Well, that's certainly a strain of Christianity; but then so are the teachings, and perhaps more important, the symbolism, of Francis of Assisi.

Like most saints the Francis we admire is more plaster than person; which is a pity.  But still, everyone knows a figure in a robe (however vaguely represented) with a rope belt (a cincture, but no matter), with a bird on his shoulder and maybe a rabbit in his arms (or more pointedly, a wolf at his feet) is Francis, the man of God so pure in spirit the animals befriended him.  Francis represents peace with nature, not destruction and dominance.  There is even a patron of gardening, St. Fiacre (an Irish saint with a French name; go figure), and even of brewing (St. Arnold).  I don't know of one for felling trees, poisoning the water, or polluting the air.  And true, Francis has not been the tranquilizing figure we might imagine him to be.  It was Franciscan monks who settled what is now San Antonio, on a mission from the Spanish kings.  They weren't all or always as kind and gentle to the natives as their founder might have counseled.  And that is a fault of Christianity, but it is not the heart of Christianity.  As Palmer quotes White, in a stunningly silly statement:

“Christianity is the most anthropocentric religion the world has seen. … By destroying pagan animism, Christianity made it possible to exploit nature in a mood of indifference to the feelings of natural objects.”

That sort of imagines all Native Americans, to pick a group, were nature loving "noble savages" from the most perfervid Romantic imagination, when nothing could be further from the truth.  In southern Illinois there is a magnificent structure of mounds built by the Cahokia tribe.  It was a city in a "primitive" land, complete with irrigation for crops, and a wall of timber (felled trees) around it's perimeter (you can see pictures of what it was like, and is like now, here).  In the spirit of White's concern for the reclamation of the Zuider Zee, one can only wonder how many insects and animals were destroyed in the building of those mounds, some of which were large enough to farm.  And then, at some point, they abandoned the place.  Probably the land was used up, the area couldn't sustain the population; maybe even pollution from human and animal waste played a part.  Funny thing is, this was a pre-Columbian village; they had not a hint of Christianity to teach them to be so profligate and destructive (destructive enough they had to move on, anyway).

A "mood of indifference to the feelings of natural objects" is not the opposite of "Paganism."  Unless you really don't know what you're talking about; and on the subject of world religions, most people don't.

Again, is this the fault of Christianity?  Should the Church have blocked the Industrial Revolution (which is really when the "ecological crisis" White complains of, got started)?  On what grounds would it do so?  Was the Church a handmaid to destruction?  No less than paganism ever was.  If there is a flaw in our makeup, that flaw lies in science, not religion.  Science taught us we could replace the beneficence of God with the power of engineering and technology.  Was it God who gave us weapons of mass destruction and biological weapons and chemical weapons?  Was it Christianity that taught us to multiply savagery upon savagery, poison the ground to grow food, foul the waters to fertilize plants?  As I recall my history, much of that was seen as a gift from God, a product of the gift of reason which is prized in Christianity until the 1920's in the rise of American fundamentalism (which echoes the disgust with "elites" under Trump today, echoes in the reaction against reason that fundamentalism ushered in.  Is that disgust the result of Christianity; or have evangelicals simply jumped on that train to worldly power?).

Christianity is no more anthropocentric than the Greek gods, humans with immortal powers but human weaknesses.  The idea of the God of Abraham, even of Jesus of Nazareth, is that they transcend human limitations in all things.  Which is more anthropocentric:  the God of the vision of Isaiah's holy mountain or Ezekiel's plain of dry bones?  Or Zeus and Apollo, who damn Oedipus before his birth and punish him for circumstances far beyond his control?  They transcend humans only by being ultimately indifferent to them, and vindictive in ways even the God of Abraham is never charged with.

Palmer touches on the true issue, but shies away from it in favor of something he thinks more damning:

But there’s something that bothers me about the simplicity and convenience of explaining this all by the transitive logic of evangelicals are Republicans, Republicans hate environmental regulation, so evangelicals hate environmental regulation. It suggests that Christians are willing to cast off their moral obligations for political convenience. Maybe that’s true. Or maybe they don’t feel a moral obligation to protect Earth in the first place.
Actually, that penultimate sentence is the right one, and it's connected to a very Christian idea:  the concept of original sin.  The beating heart of that concept is selfishness:  the refusal or inability to place yourself second, and everyone else first.  Selfishness allows you to think of the world as a series of objects, and very shortly people themselves become objects (industrialists were not known for their humanitarian impulses, in the 19th century or now).  If that isn't the antithesis of Christianity, I don't know what is.  But still it is the attitude of many a "Christian," so we cannot say it is not a reality.  As for a "moral obligation to protect the Earth," again, that's a post-Industrial Revolution idea.  Until then, we had no need to protect the earth from us; we couldn't do that much damage, except in locales like the Cahokia mounds.  And then we left, and the landscape recovered.  It still does, but not quite so easily, anymore.  Palmer is essentially arguing a Romantic argument, and that doesn't make it an unsound one; it just makes it an anachronistic one, especially if you try to extend it into pre-19th century European thought (he never concerns himself with Asians or Africans, interestingly).

There is a burgeoning idea, in part in reaction to White's 1967 article, that Christians are called to be stewards of the planet, not exploiters.  It is no more popular now than it would have been in early 19th century England (where the IR started).  The idea that the ecological crisis is a peculiarly Christian one is a silly notion, and reminds me again of Thoreau:  those snipping away the branches of the tree of evil, for every one hacking at its roots.  Palmer's bete noir is Scott Pruitt, the man determined to finish the job James Watt started (remember him?  I don't think Palmer does.).  But Pruitt is not acting out of Christian motives, he is acting out of selfish motives.  His every act in public office is an act of corruption and lining his own pockets or those of his cronies.  That, too, is not unknown in Christianity; but no one should mistake it for being Christian.

Modern day theology understands, and teaches, the idea of oikonomos, or law of the house, as the basis of stewardship.  Oikonomos (the cognate of "economy," which opens up Christian critiques of that subject, too) is about responsibility, not power; about stewardship and care, not exploitation and plunder.  It is much more central to Christianity than "God made us the boss" is, even if the latter seems to be the more likely practice of Christian cultures.  But Christianity addresses that, too:  we call it "original sin."  And while Christianity has never eliminated it, much less controlled it, it never promised to do either.

That, like everything else, is up to us.  The fault is not in our stars, nor in our religion.  We have met the enemy, and he is us.

*White's premise might appeal to the Frazer Golden Bough crowd, but I can only imagine modern anthropologists would cringe at it, and politely walk away.

Friday, June 08, 2018

Will Anyone Be Polling...

any changes in opinion?

Or do we just assume he can't do it?

"And all the news is full of deaths..."

Suicide is the most selfish act imaginable.  How do you leave a note to your teenage daughter explaining what you have done that can't be undone?  How do you explain away the obvious:  that what was most important to you was yourself, and your death?  How do you explain that, in the end, you were the center of the world, the universe, and that without you, it will not go on?

Because how else could you convince yourself the hearts and souls of those who love you mean nothing, and you choose death?

I'm sure some tumult in the soul drives people to suicide, but this is not a grand Romantic gesture, the last act of defiance, taking control of the world by refusing your place in it.  This is selfishness:  pure and simple.  This is an act of ego.  This is the final proof that no one matters more than you do, in a world where making everyone else matter but you is the ultimate sin.  Suicide is the final pronouncement of the importance of being first of all and more important than all.  It is the supreme arrogance:  that when I am gone, the world goes with me; that those left behind won't be left behind, because I won't be there to feel their agony, their loss, their horror and sadness.  It won't matter, because all that matters is me.  But no one is an island:

No man is an Iland, intire of itselfe; every man
is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine;
if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe
is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as
well as if a Manor of thy friends or of thine
owne were; any mans death diminishes me,
because I am involved in Mankinde;
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

We are all involved in these deaths, because we are all diminished by them.  Something failed, that these people failed at life, at the worthiness of existence.  Or that they saw no hope in depression, no redemption in suffering, no choice but to end it.  Did one lead to the other?  Probably.  We say mass shooters inspire more mass shootings; why shouldn't celebrity suicides inspire more suicides?  And we are all the lesser for it.  If you strive to be last of all and servant of all, what servant rejoices at the suicide of his master?  What service is there in abiding self-death?

And what of those left behind?  What, in this case, of the daughters?  What can we, the living, do for them?  What could we have done for their parents?

"Any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde."  Whether we think we are, or not.