"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

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

The President Via Twitter

And in other important news:
(Please note the President in these video clips is on his way to Ohio, for a fundraiser and to once again tell the good people of Lordstown jobs are coming; but they're sure coming slow.  Nebraska, Missouri?  Can't raise funds in a disaster area, now, can ya?)

And now we have the transcript, and I can affirm Mr. Wilson's observation:

“No collusion, I have no idea when it will be released,” the president said. “It’s interesting that a man gets appointed by a deputy and he writes a report, you know, never figured that one out. Man gets appointed by a deputy and he writes a report.”

“I had the greatest electoral victory in the history in the country, tremendous success,” Trump added. “Tens of millions of voters and now somebody’s going to write a report who never got a vote. We’ll see what the report says. Let’s see if it’s fair. I have no idea when it’s going to be released.”

“This was on election night in 2016, everything red is ISIS,” said Trump in response to a reporter’s question, pointing to a map. “Now on the bottom, that’s the exact same, there is no red. In fact, there’s actually a tiny spot which will be gone by tonight.” Trump said he’d received the map twenty minutes prior to his appearance, and returned to the topic of the Mueller probe.

“I just won an election with 63 million votes or so, 63 million. I had 206 to 223 in the electoral college, 306 to 223, and I’m saying to myself, ‘wait a minute, I just won one of the greatest elections of all time in the history of this country,’ and even you will admit that and now I have someone writing a report that never got a vote?” Trump said. “It’s called the Mueller report. So explain that because my voters don’t get it, and I don’t get it.”

“I think it’s ridiculous, but I want to see the report, and you know who wants to see it? Tens of millions of people that love the fact that we have the greatest economy we’ve ever had,” Trump went on. “I’m going to Ohio right now and they’re going to close the plant and it’s where they make the tanks and it was going to be closed and I stopped them from closing it and now it’s thriving and doing great, and the people of Ohio, they like Trump because I’ve done a great job in Ohio and I’ve done a great job all over the country and that’s what the people want to hear.”

Let's see:  the record shows Trump had 304 electoral votes, to Clinton's 227 (so if you re-run that campaign but give Texas' 45 electoral votes to the Democrat (i.e., Beto), the Democrat wins; just sayin'....).  It's a small thing, but this President has to lie about everything.  And it gives me a chance to note the importance of Texas in the vote, and why Trump and the GOP are so scared of Beto (whether he can carry the states Clinton carried, is another question).  Trump, of course, thinks winning an election means he's free to do as he pleases for four years.  And the plant in Lima is making tanks, but the plant in Lordstown has stopped making Chevys, and that's all anyone is concerned about.

Well, you can read it for yourself.

The boy's just not right.

Keeping Up With the Intertoobs

Because I don't think anybody who isn't on Twitter is aware of this (who do you think is putting Joe Biden at 22% right now?  Millenials?)  It's not on anybody else's radar.  "Big drama" is a matter of context, after all.  Although I don't mind the tweets:

I just don't think that many people in the electorate know who George Conway is, or care.  By way of example, the Devin Nunes suit, where he claims parody Twitter accounts almost (!) cost him his re-election bid (a classic example of precisely what the First Amendment is supposed to allow, per the Supreme Court; a supreme irony in Nunes claim, but that's another matter):

In the complaint, Nunes even argues that the “defamation” hindered his 2018 reelection campaign, which he won but by narrower margins than in previous years. (He does not note that his congressional seat was a top target for Democrats, which is a more likely reason for the narrow margin of victory than three Twitter accounts, one of which only had 1,700 followers at the time the complaint was filed.) (emphasis added)
People on Twitter think the world revolves around Twitter; but people not on Twitter barely know it even exists.  So the Twitter war between Trump and Conway?  Not really that big a deal, and it does more to denigrate the President ("Doesn't he have a job?") than benefit him.   Besides:

"Mr. Kellyanne Conway" is the worst insult Trump can imagine.  And I suppose among old (really old; older than me, and Trump is less than 10 years my senior) white men (whiter than me, too, if that's possible), it is.  But for the rest of us?  It says more about Trump than about his target; but it doesn't say anything we didn't already know.

On the other, other hand, this is certainly strange behavior:

Twitter In The Morning

So, all 3?
Does he understand how the courts work?

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

With Friends Like These....

Everything I've heard about Brexit on BBC World Service is that a "no-deal" Brexit (a/k/a, "crashing out" of the EU) would wreck the British economy and severely damage the world economy, in no small part because it would end all trade between Britain and the EU immediately (or else why does the EU have trade agreements as the EU?).  And then there's the question of the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland; if that suddenly closes, it's The Troubles all over again.

But sure, Trump, Jr. is right, his dad's sage advice should have been followed.  And what was that again?  Oh, yeah:  "Crash out!"  Which is, not coincidentally, what John Bolton is telling Britain to do.  Noted international economic experts, all three.

With friends like these, Teresa May doesn't need any enemies.

(On the other hand, it explains this:

That fish just keep on rottin'!)

The Fish Rots From The Head

Or so they say:

Reporting on a database compiled by the Institute for Policy Integrity at the New York University School of Law, the [Washington] Post reports that “the normal ‘win rate’ for administration officials to get new policies implemented with court approval is 70 percent. Under Trump, it has fallen to an almost non-existent 6 percent.

“In case after case, judges have rebuked Trump officials for failing to follow the most basic rules of governance, including providing legitimate explanations for shifts in policy, supported by facts and, where required, public input,” the Post reports, adding, “The rulings so far paint a remarkable portrait of a government rushing to implement sweeping changes in policy without regard for longstanding rules against arbitrary and capricious behavior.

While pointing out that many of the losses are under appeal, the report notes that there seems to be little interest at times in actually succeeding on policies that appear to have been done for show.

According to Seth Jaffe, a Boston-based lawyer who represents large corporations looking to undercut environmental laws, “This administration has given regulatory reform a bad name.”

The attorney accused some policymakers in the administration of putting ideology way before governance — which is why they are going down to defeat at a record pace.

“It’s not just that they’re losing. But they’re being so nuts about it,” Jaffe lamented.

Matthew Collette, the former deputy director of the Justice Department’s Civil Division appellate staff who served for over 30 years, admitted the rate of losses is unprecedented, remarking. “I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.”

In a case over the Trump’ administrations plan to end some $200 million in Health and Human Services grants to 81 teen-pregnancy-prevention programs, one judges was incredulous at the government argument for pulling the plug.

“During a hearing in Washington last April, U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson expressed incredulity about the manner in which the agency had acted,” the Post reports. “Can an agency suddenly say ‘too bad, so sad,’ Jackson asked a lawyer for the government, and cut off money without cause? When the lawyer answered yes, the judge called the situation ‘weird’ and ordered the grants restored.”

Gross incompetence makes Trump our man on their side!  For the win!  (or at least delay of game until time runs out)

Flyover Country?

NPR had pretty decent coverage of the flooding in Nebraska and Missouri this morning; even mentioned the 30-mile long plume of smoke extending over Houston from the chemical tanks burning on the ship channel.  But on Trump's Twitter feed and the White House Twitter feed?


As I type this, Trump has added 7 tweets since posting his check to DHS (about which more below).  All relate to him and his political standing; none relate to the state of the country, especially in Nebraska or Missouri.  The White House feed notes only that Trump celebrated Greek Independence Day at the White House (alone, apparently, or only long enough to miss Shep Smith on FoxNews),  and that Ivanka and Melania are doing...something.  Flood victims?  Fuggedaboutit!

I haven't even seen a report of Trump saying anything about it.  He is concerned about reports of his generosity, however; but the fault is in his press office, not in the press:

Maybe it's just as well he's ignoring the midwest as it drowns.....

Monday, March 18, 2019

Enough About You, Redux

First notice of life beyond the TeeVee.  But Missouri? Nebraska? Naaah!

I have French envy

"So French" is not a bad thing....

Somewhere in the Second Week In Lent: 2019

Memory told me I'd written extensive Lenten posts on an almost daily basis some years ago.  My archives, such as they are, failed to turn these up.  I did find a few posts I thought worth revising and reviving, some related to explicit Lenten themes, some not.  This is one of those posts.  More to follow, as the Spirit moves. 
Then he said, "A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of your estate that should come to me.' So the father divided the property between them.
After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings and set off to a distant country where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation.
When he had freely spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he found himself in dire need.
So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens who sent him to his farm to tend the swine.
And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any.
Coming to his senses he thought, 'How many of my father's hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger.
I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.
I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers."'
So he got up and went back to his father. While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.
His son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.'
But his father ordered his servants, 'Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.
Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.' Then the celebration began.
Now the older son had been out in the field and, on his way back, as he neared the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing.
He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean.
The servant said to him, 'Your brother has returned and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.'
He became angry, and when he refused to enter the house, his father came out and pleaded with him.
He said to his father in reply, 'Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends.
But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.'
He said to him, 'My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours.
But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to
life again; he was lost and has been found.'"

The parable of the prodigal asks a very important question: Which is more important to you? What you own? Or who your children are?

It’s a dangerous question, because it can lead to answers like this. And when you answer like that, which looks remarkably like the way the father answers in the parable, people aren’t going to be happy with your decision.

The parable speaks in no uncertain terms: the younger son tells the father, "Give me what is coming to me." He means his share of the estate, the property he will inherit upon his father's death. He is saying to his father, in absolutely no uncertain terms: "Drop dead." The father means nothing to the son; his continued life only an obstacle to the son's financial freedom. Then, as now, it was money that mattered, money that would set him free. And the father? Certainly a reasonable father would at least say: "Oh?" This father, however, says: "All right." I wonder how the New York Times would write up that story.

Now realize, from this point on, the father owns nothing. He is relying on the kindness of his elder son, or at least his sense of obligation. Because Dad is living on the land the older son owns, living off the property owned by his son. If Dad doesn't have the good sense to live by reasonable rules, the son will; and that is Dad's salvation.

The younger son, of course, is as unreasonable as the father; but at least his unreason fits the expectations of the world. Living prodigally (hence the usual title of this parable), he is soon broke, soon reduced to feeding unclean animals (he is the servant to the pigs; how much worse can things get for him?). And so, his pride broken, he decides he will go home and beg from his father.

But he never gets the chance to beg. This is the part we all love, because we all identify with the wastrel son, we all carry some guilt about what we have done, could have done, should have done, wish we could do over. And we all want to enjoy unconditional forgiveness, to not even have to say "I'm sorry" to be accepted. Home, wrote Robert Frost, is the place that, when you have to go there, they have to let you in. We all want that much, at least, to be true for us, if we ever need it.

The father embraces him, puts the family ring on his finger (Daddy was rich!), puts the best robe on his back, and tells the servant to slay the calf and start the feast! (Daddy can throw money around, too!  This is more like it!)  But the audience has not forgotten what the father and prodigal clearly have; the father is not the owner of anything anymore.

It is a pointedly ironic statement that we usually gloss over in our rush to identify with the prodigal, but when the father tells his older son, "My son who was dead is alive!," it's a reversal not of what has happened to the younger son, but of what the younger son wished for his father, for the wish of the younger son was granted. Maybe we should look at this as a "be careful what you wish for" story. But that still doesn't let the father off the hook for being completely insane. It is property we value, although when the prodigal puts property above paternal fealty, we call condemn the prodigal. When the father refuses to put property above paternal love, we all stand perplexed. It is right to love your child, but surely there should be boundaries to such love. Surely the prodigal should be taught a lesson by the father, not just by circumstances. Surely absolute forgiveness should not just be offered to the prodigal without some act of contrition, some offering, some exchange. Without that, the forgiveness given her by the father is simply a gift! Shouldn't this forgiveness be part of some economy, some cycle of exchange?

But would it then be forgiveness at all? Or simply compensation for a loss suffered, for property taken, squandered, not valued, treated...prodigally? Who is the prodigal here? The younger son? Or the father?

So the older son, the dutiful one, the one who honored his father even after his father dishonored the entire system of property and exchange and ownership and familial structure, even after the father willingly and knowingly accepted the complete rejection of that system for the selfishness of the younger son (a selfishness even keener when we realize the concept of the "individual" we have today stems, not from the 1st century, but from 19th century England, from post-Enlightenment Europe, from the reaction to the dehumanizing machine world ushered in by the Industrial Revolution). The older son still honors the social system and the fifth commandment ("Honor thy father and thy mother").  The younger son tore that one up first thing in the story.. And for the pains and forbearance and loyalty to property and society of the older son, what reward? To see the prodigal feted, and his property (!) given to the son who placed property above propriety, who understood the lesson all too well, who took literally the message the it's property and money that matters? And it still does, because without it, what feast of welcome would there be? But the feast is with the elder son's fatted calf, the elder son's robe, in the elder son's house! The father has declared himself dead and divided the property.  It is no longer his property to give away. What is this father doing? Why does he continue to place love and forgiveness above property rights and ownership and even punishment for such violations as the younger son has committed.  The younger son has brought shame on the family a hundred times over; the older son has been the model of propriety.  And yet who is being celebrated here?

No wonder we allegorize this story. No wonder we say the father=God, and prodigal=Sinner, the elder son=...? Well, who? Us? But aren't we sinners? Those who don't accept God's love and forgiveness? Yet the father tells him (and it is literally true; deeper and deeper the irony cuts!) that "Everything I have is yours!" (Kierkegaard notes that the "concept of irony" is that it undermines everything reliable, every truth, every piece of solid ground, until there remains nothing left to stand on, until irony destroys even itself. He was speaking of Socrates; but in the parables of Jesus we get the same feeling: that the ground is being cut out from under us, that we are left hanging, like a cartoon character who has run off the cliff, hanging over the abyss just before we start to fall.) Yes, everything the father has belongs to the elder son, because the prodigal liquidated his part and spent it on wine and women and who knows what all.  Everything the elder son, the symbol of society, has lived by, is called into question by the father's actions.

So what does this story tell us about God?   If father=God, what is the nature of God?  Well, maybe, just maybe, this story isn't theological at all. Maybe this isn't a revelation into the substance or essence or "mind" of God by God, at all. Maybe it is a lesson about living, about true life which is the basileia tou theou. Maybe it is a lesson about what is really important versus what we think is important. Maybe it is of a piece with the birds of the air and the flowers of the field, which neither sow nor reap, yet Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed as they; even Pharoah with all his grain stored in bins was not better fed than the birds. Maybe it's a lesson about the economy of scarcity versus the economy of community. Maybe it isn't about property at all, except that property is our treasure, and where our treasure is, is where our heart is. And so to get at our heart, God has to go through our property. And the idea of property, of ownership, of possession, of having and holding and controlling, is the idea that needs to be attacked, confronted, contradicted, over and over and over again, until we finally begin to let go, until we finally begin to hear, until we finally begin to think that maybe, just maybe, we don't need to be afraid.

Maybe it's not an allegory at all; or theology; maybe it's just a simple lesson: that everything we know is wrong. That love is the most important part of living, and that we all have to follow the most insane and self-destructive paths to learn this, and that if love isn't still offered when those paths come to an end, then it truly is a bleak and hopeless universe after all.

But it needn't be. Thanks be to God.

"Symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose" says what?

And speaking of the dog that didn't bark:

The governors of Iowa, Wisconsin and Nebraska declared states of emergency after a "bomb cyclone" caused severe flooding. Nebraska officials say the flooding is a "death knell" for some small towns.

But if your only news source was the White House twitter feed and Trump's twitter feed, you wouldn't know anything was going on at all, as there isn't one mention of the floods on either feed.

Isn't social media a wonderful resource for government reaching out directly to the people?

Keeping up with the Memes's

Texas may have the bullets, but it specifically and explicitly refused to decide who could, and could not, use which bathrooms based on gender at birth; and the politicians who pushed that issue 2 years ago have specifically and explicitly decline to raise it again (the Lege is currently in session).

So I have no idea what this graphic is trying to convey, other than "Texas Secede" was a tongue-in-cheek marketing campaign (i.e., it was a graphic put on bumper stickers and coffee mugs) about...40 years ago.

These things that pass for knowledge I don't understand.

Just Sayin'

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Color of the Sky On His World

The tweets not by Donald Trump were re-tweeted by him since 2:00 p.m. this afternoon.  The quality of these "sources" should be obvious, but one or two deserve special mention:
And one deserves special commentary:
Hey, as long as nobody in GOP gets challenged in a primary, right?

Just remember, this is the man who sits atop the greatest intelligence gathering services in the world.  And who gets his information from a fanatical group of racists and know-nothings.  And who, based on that alone, clearly should not be allowed to be responsible for anything more complicated than a paper napkin, nor permitted possession of anything sharper than a rubber ball.

And a secret everyone but Trump and his "supporters" seem to know:  the wall is not getting built (nor is it going to be); GM doesn't give a wet snap what Trump wants; and the wheels of justice grind exceeding small and don't even take judicial notice of loony conspiracy tweets.

But his "base" is something we have to respect because elections have consequences; or something.

Adding: a fuller rundown of these "sources":

One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other


Return to Gone Away

Still too early, but there may be one in my future....

I'm not (yet) a supporter of Beto (I did support him in his Senate campaign), because I'd still rather see him run against Cornyn and take the Senate seat, where I think he'd do more good as one vote among 100, than a non-vote in the White House.

Unless he can pull an LBJ; but I don't expect that.

I'm still more liberal/progressive/radical/what-have-you in my politics than anyone I know.  I'm against prisons, period.  I'm for complete equality and equity by leveling downward (first of all will be last and servant of all, after all), etc., etc., etc.  I mean that stuff.  I believe it.  I think it sound, wise, the best basis for human society, period.  It is the vision that draws the nations to the holy mountain of Isaiah so they won't study war no more (a slap at Solomon the weapons merchant, but don't get me started).

But I'm also tired of all-or-nothing politics.  I don't blame Trump for that; I blame Newt Gingrich.  Or maybe the people so disappointed by Barry Goldwater they decided to burn it all down, and it just took them 50 years to get close enough to doing it.

Will Mitch McConnell quit the Senate in disgust and despair?  I've seen the punditry on that; I put it in the same category as Ivanka/Jared/Melania are actually appalled by Donald, not supportive of him.  Wishful thinking, in other words.  Every time you think he and/or the GOP Senate can't to any lower, they get out the shovels, and show no concern with doing so.  If McConnell is concerned, it's with the fact Trump is more popular than he is in Kentucky.

Dese are de conditions dat prevail.

Personally, I'm more aligned with Warren or Sanders than anybody else.  I'm probably well to the left of both of them.  I also know my positions, or theirs, would never survive contact with governmental reality, and wouldn't move the country leftward by the experience of them in office, but quite the opposite.  LBJ, after all, got Medicare passed.  Now even Medicare for all is considered too radical for much of America.  People conditioned by 5 decades of GOP propaganda want to keep government out of their Medicare; they don't want everyone else to enjoy it.  We aren't told Social Security can be fixed easily by taxing the rich (a small increase, not one designed to drive them all off-shore), we are told it is doomed to fail and start planning to do without it now.  We don't see those two programs as socialism at work; we see socialism as the thing that ruined Venezuela, or that Millenials embrace because they've been so screwed by student debt and not enough white collar jobs (the despair of the Depression redux, in other words; and capitalism unleashed will once again save us).

LBJ gave us PBS, and now we've choked it down so tightly it has to spend as much time fundraising as it does broadcasting, just to have enough money to buy some more shows from the BBC.  LBJ gave us the space program successes that we don't want to pay for anymore.  LBJ gave us highway beautification; we want more billboards.  LBJ gave us improved education standards; now the solution lurking in the wings is to scrap public education in favor of "charter" schools and publicly funded private schools.  LBJ inspired us to educate everyone; now we want to "teach to the test."

Tell me again that this time, a liberal firebrand in the White House will inspire the nation to pursue the angels of our better nature and bring about the Millennium we were promised when Kennedy was leading us all into Camelot.

Will a Democrat be better than a Republican in the White House?  To be sure, so long as we break this cycle of electing a President from one party, a Congress from the other.  Didn't anybody notice the GOP took over Congress when Trump was elected?  That was no accident, and it wasn't the idea everyone voted for.  Everybody and his uncle expected Hillary to win, but didn't want her to have Congress do.  Divided government works, donchaknow?  It works to keep government out of your Medicare and from investing your Social Security in the stock market (as well as not expanding the former or raising taxes on the rich to fund the latter).  America voted for divided government 3 years ago, and then got what they didn't think they'd voted for, because how could a fool like Trump win?  Last November America went for divided government again; a divided Congress that couldn't mess with Trump too much, but also that wouldn't let Trump continue to be the enfant terrible that 70 year old man is.

And a Warren or Sanders in the bully pulpit is going to do what?  And is not going to get a Congress watched over by Mitch McConnell, or worse?

Which, I know, is not much reason to vote for Beto; it's not much reason to vote at all.  President Donald Trump is the reason to vote at all; not voting is what got us into this national, even international, mess.  We have a president who sounds like the President of Venezuela, except the latter blames the U.S. for his failures, and the former blames CNN and the Democrats.  We don't need another conspiratorial lunatic in the White House.

But neither do we need to believe a savior will arise and save us from ourselves.  As somebody pointed out, the last time a Presidential candidate lost a major political race (I think it was for the Senate) and then rose to enter the White House, that candidate was Abraham Lincoln.  So it could turn out well; it could turn out poorly.  Lincoln was not the anti-slavery avatar we might wish today he was.  He simply wasn't, by the standards of his day, that radical.

Maybe radical is a good idea in theory, not that good an idea in practice.  Or maybe I'm just too Niebuhrian for my own good.

Erin go...GOP?


White House Schedule Concerns

So, let's review:  Jeanine Pirro ranted against Ilhan Omar because the Representative is a Muslim. These were comments even FoxNews condemned. Then a man, citing Trump's words and actions, killed 50 people at prayer in a mosque in hopes of starting a race war. Perhaps related to that, perhaps not, FoxNews pulled Pirro's show last night. And so we come to Donald Trump's tweets thus morning.

Just so we know where his priorities are. So white nationalism is not an international problem, SNL colluded with Russia:

(You can read Trump's Twitter feed for the 3 tweets this morning on SNL.), and the President is concerned with the scheduling practices of a cable news network.

BTW, my PBS station is disrupting its schedule again to run fundraising pitches. It takes 2 to 3 weeks before they return to normal, but somehow the republic still stands and it's not a national issue.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Why Your Mother Told You...

...not to speak ill of the dead.

I'm old enough to remember when this was a controversial idea on tout le intertoobs. I seldom agreed with John McCain on politics, but this attack is ad hominem, and the man cannot defend himself. It's the ultimate act of cowardice.

And it comes in the context of several retweets from the White House account showing people praising Trump at the veto signing party.

Friday, March 15, 2019

More on "How You Do It"

"Your time is sand, your ways are leaves upon the sea"

Compassion is a subversive act.  And is the problem really a problem?

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday he does not see a rise in white nationalism but it may be an issue in New Zealand, where a gunman who is believed to espouse those views killed 49 people at two mosques.

Asked by a reporter if he sees an increase in white nationalism, Trump said: “I don’t really. I think it’s a small group of people.”

Trump also said he had not seen a manifesto in which the suspected gunman denounced immigrants and praised Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.”
The manifesto also reportedly cites the potential loss of absolute gun rights under the 2nd Amendment.  The killer was inspired internationally (figures from Sweden and France have been mentioned in news coverage), but he also wanted to incorporate as many people as he could, in hopes of sparking the "race war" that people like Dylann Roof were looking for, as well.  Is this the point where we point out Hitler was inspired, in part, by a book from America published in 1916:  "The Passing of the Great Race, which spread the doctrine of race purity all over the globe."

Yes, kiddies, we did all this long before electronic communications were widespread or even global.  Now pardon me while I run a bulldozer over Godwin's Law; because this is the start of the conversation, not the ending of it:

Grant’s purportedly scientific argument that the exalted “Nordic” race that had founded America was in peril, and all of modern society’s accomplishments along with it, helped catalyze nativist legislators in Congress to pass comprehensive restrictionist immigration policies in the early 1920s. His book went on to become Adolf Hitler’s “bible,” as the führer wrote to tell him. Grant’s doctrine has since been rejuvenated and rebranded by his ideological descendants as “white genocide” (the term genocide hadn’t yet been coined in Grant’s day). In an introduction to the 2013 edition of another of Grant’s works, the white nationalist Richard Spencer warns that “one possible outcome of the ongoing demographic transformation is a thoroughly miscegenated, and thus homogeneous and ‘assimilated,’ nation, which would have little resemblance to the White America that came before it.” This language is vintage Grant.

How we came to forget this chapter in American history (rather like we forget the true evils of slavery, or genocide of the natives here) is described in the very next paragraph, with its own dollop of that elision of our sins included in the passage itself:

Most Americans, however, quickly forgot who Grant was—but not because the country had grappled with his vision’s dangerous appeal and implications. Reflexive recoil was more like it: When Nazism reflected back that vision in grotesque form, wartime denial set in. Jonathan Peter Spiro, a historian and the author of Defending the Master Race: Conservation, Eugenics, and the Legacy of Madison Grant (2009), described the backlash to me this way: “Even though the Germans had been directly influenced by Madison Grant and the American eugenics movement, when we fought Germany, because Germany was racist, racism became unacceptable in America. Our enemy was racist; therefore we adopted antiracism as our creed.” Ever since, a strange kind of historical amnesia has obscured the American lineage of this white-nationalist ideology.

When Nazism reflected back that vision in grotesque form seems to imply the vision was not grotesque already, and only became so because Nazis were monsters, not us.  Nice work, if you can get it; and we get it so very easily, and so very often.  I'm proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free to deny any of our national, historical sins.

The language of Richard Spencer described as "vintage Grant" is, of course, also vintage Trump.  Problems of evil are problems for other people; never for Trump and "his" people.  Problems of evil are always "over there," even if "there" is only the other side of the street; or the tracks; or the opposite river bank.  This is not a uniquely American sin, as another quote from Serwer provides (indeed, this article is almost Nostrodamic in its prescience, given what has happened in the last 24 hours):

Grant was not the first proponent of “race science.” In 1853, across the Atlantic, Joseph Arthur de Gobineau, a French count, first identified the “Aryan” race as “great, noble, and fruitful in the works of man on this earth.” Half a century later, as the eugenics movement gathered force in the U.S., “experts” began dividing white people into distinct races. In 1899, William Z. Ripley, an economist, concluded that Europeans consisted of “three races”: the brave, beautiful, blond “Teutons”; the stocky “Alpines”; and the swarthy “Mediterraneans.” Another leading academic contributor to race science in turn-of-the-century America was a statistician named Francis Walker, who argued in The Atlantic that the new immigrants lacked the pioneer spirit of their predecessors; they were made up of “beaten men from beaten races,” whose offspring were crowding out the fine “native” stock of white people. In 1901 the sociologist Edward A. Ross, who similarly described the new immigrants as “masses of fecund but beaten humanity from the hovels of far Lombardy and Galicia,” coined the term race suicide.
Everything old really is new again; ideas really are bulletproof.  As another example (it's hard not to turn this post over to this article), consider this if you think the courts are bad today:

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court was struggling mightily to define whiteness in a consistent fashion, an endeavor complicated by the empirical flimsiness of race science. In one case after another, the high court faced the task of essentially tailoring its definition to exclude those whom white elites considered unworthy of full citizenship. 
Serwer gives an example of that:

In 1923, when an Indian veteran named Bhagat Singh Thind—who had fought for the U.S. in World War I—came before the justices with the claim of being Caucasian in the scientific sense of the term, and therefore entitled to the privileges of whiteness, they threw up their hands. In a unanimous ruling against Thind (who was ultimately made a citizen in 1936), Justice George Sutherland wrote:

"What we now hold is that the words 'free white persons' are words of common speech to be interpreted in accordance with the understanding of the common man, synonymous with the word 'Caucasian' only as that word is popularly understood.

The justices had unwittingly acknowledged a consistent truth about racism, which is that race is whatever those in power say it is. 
We need, finally, to return to Hitler, especially in light of the President's comments today:

It was america that taught us a nation should not open its doors equally to all nations,” Adolf Hitler told The New York Times half a decade later, just one year before his elevation to chancellor in January 1933. Elsewhere he admiringly noted that the U.S. “simply excludes the immigration of certain races. In these respects America already pays obeisance, at least in tentative first steps, to the characteristic völkisch conception of the state.” Hitler and his followers were eager to claim a foreign—American—lineage for the Nazi mission. 
So here we are, back again at the beginning, and in our end is our beginning.  I said this article by Serwer was eerily prescient.  It is so in the way the Hebrew prophets (though under very different inspiration following a wholly different purpose) could seem prescient:  because when you see what is right in front of you, it suddenly appears.  Consider these concluding words from Serwer, and how frightfully true they turned out to be:

When Americans abandon their commitment to pluralism, the world notices, and catastrophe follows. 
The only response now is subversive acts, like compassion; like Lent. 

Hallmark tries sympathy cards for massacres

also good for weddings and graduations.  But enough about you, let's talk about me now:

(BTW, this is how you do it:

Compassion is a subversive act

A brave soul from the Department of Homeland Security came forward with a story that has rocked the country this week. They are keeping a dossier on journalists, activists and others, flagging their passports, in some cases, revoking visas, travel privileges in others, deporting as many as they can.

I saw the article and thought one of the blurred photos of the targeted people looked familiar.

It was, because it was my passport photo. With a yellow X that the most powerful government in the world drew across my face.

But none of us would have known if someone in the department, someone with significant access to information, hadn't taken a very serious and personal risk to come forward.

There's a sermon at the other end of this link,  so I won't offer another one.  Let's just start with the admission that asylum is a legal status, one enshrined in the law of the land. It is not illegal to seek asylum here. It is not illegal aid those seeking asylum.

But under this Administration, it is considered illegal to show compassion. It is illegal to offer kindness to the stranger. It is illegal to be your brother's keeper.

This is Lent, and our government wants to make caring for others a subversive act. Lent us about compassion. Properly practiced, Lent is subversive. Compassion should not be; but for now, it is.

Somebody should write some Lenten meditations about that.

The Boy Can't Help It

The problem everybody has with Beto:  right now, he's sucking all the oxygen out of the room.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

A Stunning Display of Incompetence: A Timeline

March 13:

In the end, though, none of that mattered. Vice President Mike Pence’s assurances to Lee and his colleagues that Trump was open to the compromise went up in smoke when the president called in to a Senate lunch meeting Wednesday with a preemptive announcement: He planned to veto Lee’s bill.
March 14:

On Thursday morning, Donald Trump sent out a pointed missive ahead of the Senate’s vote to block his emergency declaration: “A vote for today’s resolution by Republican Senators is a vote for Nancy Pelosi, Crime, and the Open Border Democrats!“

Soon after, White House aides began blasting the tweet to GOP senators by text message to remind them of how the president viewed the impending vote, according to senators and aides who received the messages.

Trump was for the Lee legislation, and then he wasn't, and then he was; sort of.  And he was too busy tweeting to actually, you know, call Senators and get them to vote his way.  And yes, the vote by Congress plays into the hands of those bringing suits to stop this "emergency" (which Homeland Security has yet to take action on), because it gives the courts a reason to refuse this hot potato without refusing to rule on the issues raised by this declaration. And the lesson of all this?

You don't get enough votes in the Senate, either.

So much winning!

Covering The Horse Race

407-29 = "#Dems In Disarray"

47 Democratic Senators + 12 GOP Senators =

“I think this is a stunning rebuke to the president that reflects this turmoil that’s building, or so it seems, within the Republican Party right now under President Trump,” Axios reporter Alexi McCammond noted.

“This whole national emergency thing is reflective of the same pattern of behavior that we’ve seen from him since day one, where he loves using this sort of unilateral executive authority afforded to him by being the president of the United States,” McCammond explained. “Whether that’s legislating via executive orders … or governing via tweet or the pardon power and the way he dangles that with people and now this national emergency, it is not surprising to me that he’s not backing down.”

"Something's happening here/what it is ain't exactly clear...."

The Narrative is All.


Is it 2020 already?

Let the bitching begin:

“How is it that someone who did raise $80 million but then lost against Ted Cruz, how is it that, all of a sudden, he thinks he’s qualified?” she asked.

Well, let's see:

“Beto has the potential ― alone among the Democratic nominees ― to put Texas into play,” Rice University political scientist Mark Jones said. “If Trump is forced to go on the defense in Texas, that really complicates the rest of his election strategy. There’s almost no way for him to win mathematically if he loses Texas the way things are looking today.” 

The Democrats already have:  California (Harris); New York (Gillibrand); Vermont (Sanders); and Massachusetts (Warren).  Who else is going to bring Texas?

Indeed, the main gripe seems to be that Beto is a man, not a woman.

Which may make some pundits and guardians of the public discourse bristle, but complaining about it is not exactly a winning political strategy.  "Don't be sexist, vote for Harris/Gillibrand/Warren" is not a bumper sticker anybody needs to see.  And frankly, if the Democrats want to split so badly over a non-issue as that, they deserve to lose again in 2020.

Which is not to say I'm committed to Beto come hell or high water; but who else is likely to bring Texas to the Democratic column?  That alone is worthy of serious consideration.  But right now, in a field of 15, everyone has their partisans, and the only way to climb is to stand on somebody's shoulders.  Preferably with cleats on.

Let the games begin.

Lessons In Tautology

Try Another One

I've known (of) two people in Texas called "Beto." Both are white guys. Nobody cares.