"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

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Darkness Visible

Carl Bernstein:
“So, we are in an extraordinary moment in which we will see how the wounds in the past couple of days that Trump has inflicted on himself, whether they may be somewhat mortal, be hard to imagine given what he’s survived and thrived on so far, but he is bleeding badly in front of all of us,” Bernstein said. “And we are watching a horrible spectacle play out in which we don’t know exactly whether we can trust the loyalty of the president of the United States whether through incompetence, whether through incoherence or whether through nefarious relationships. We just don’t know the answer.”

He noted that it’s impossible to know what occured in the body language and the winks between the two men.

“Can you imagine that here we are talking about whether or not the president of the United States can be trusted with a despot, a tyrannical murder rogue thug and the president of the United States we’re unsure of perhaps whose side he’s on or whether he’s ambiguous whose side he’s on,” he closed.

The interesting point is:  we have Putin's version of what they talked about privately.  Trump hasn't said a word about it.  Given the debacle of the press conference, how much worse was the private meeting?  If we're unsure whose side Trump is on, shouldn't we be inquiring into what we don't know and what he hasn't told us?  Or hasn't told his security advisors, for that matter?

“Katy, you asked if [Trump] had consumed the media coverage,” NBC News Pentagon correspondent Hans Nichols said. “He did not make his way to the West Wing until well after noon today, that gave him plenty of time to digest the media and perhaps watch a little cable TV.”

“And what’s interesting is that he had an intelligence briefing on his schedule yesterday, this morning, the intelligence briefing was no longer there and no reason given for why that changed,” Tur noted.

“Just scrubbed from his schedule,” Nichols noted. “Officially, that was on the schedule, and then it wasn’t — and that is where we stand the now as the president is going to about to try to talk to the press the American people about just what his intentions were with Vladimir Putin.”

In addition to canceling his Presidential Daily Briefing, the commander-in-chief also blew off a planned lunch with Vice President Mike Pence.

Be The World You Want To Live In

No, seriously:

Oh, really, a tweet's just not good enough for this.  Here's Trump's complete statement on the matter:

I thought that I made myself very clear by having just reviewed the transcripts—I have to say, I came back and I said, “what is going on, what is the big deal?” So I got a transcript, I reviewed it, I actually went out and reviewed a clip of an answer that I gave, and I realized there is a need for some clarification. It should have been obvious, I thought it would be obvious, but I would like to clarify just in case it wasn’t. In a key sentence in my remarks I said the word would instead of wouldn’t. The sentence should have been, “I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t,” or “why it wouldn’t be Russia.”* So just to repeat it, I said the word would instead of wouldn’t. And the sentence should have been, and I thought I would be maybe a little bit unclear on the transcript or unclear on the actual video [ed.: ?], the sentence should have been, “I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia.” So sort of a double negative. So you can put that in, and I think that probably clarifies things pretty good by itself.
*Whatever the sentence was.  Does somebody have a transcript?

And then the original quote, in context:

So let me just say we have two thoughts. We have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server. Why haven’t they taken the server? Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee? I’ve been wondering that. I’ve been asking that for months and months and tweeting it out and calling it out on social media. Where is the server? I want to know, where is the server, and what is the server saying? With that being said, all I can do is ask the question, my people came to me, [director of national intelligence] Dan Coats came to me, and some others, they said, they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this. I don’t see any reason why it would be, but I really do want to see the server, but I have—I have confidence in both parties. I really believe that this will probably go on for a while, but I don’t think it can go on without finding out what happened to the server. What happened to the servers of the Pakistani gentleman that worked on the DNC. Where are those servers? They’re missing. Where are they? What happened to Hillary Clinton’s e-mails? 33,000 e-mails gone, just gone. I think in Russia they wouldn’t be gone so easily. I think it’s a disgrace we can’t get Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 e-mails. So I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today. And what he did, is an incredible offer. He offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators, with respect to the 12 people. I think that’s an incredible offer. 

Yeah, just change that word, "clarifies things pretty good by itself."  On his planet, anyway.

Oh, and his prepared remarks said he accepted the conclusions of his intelligence services.  He added it could be other people, too; not just Russians.  "Plenty of people out there."  And he added again, that there was no collusion.

He really has no clue when to stop.  Then again:  his planet, his rules.

Monday, July 16, 2018

"The last will be first and the first last."--Matthew 20:16

The man being interviewed in the radio story said he was the pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista in Galax, Virginia.  He said he was against "illegal" immigrants because he and the people he knew had worked hard to get to America, and it wasn't right to let other people enjoy more easily the privileges he had earned.

He also said he was torn, because some people he knew, people he called "family" in the largest sense of the word, were not strictly legal in their presence in this country.  Nonetheless, he made me think of this parable:

For heaven's imperial rule is like a proprietor who went out the first thing in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard.  After agreeing with the workers for a silver coin a day he sent them into the vineyard.

And coming out around 9 a.m. he saw others loitering in the marketplace, and he said to them 'You go into the vineyard too, and I'll pay you whatever is fair.'  So they went.

Around noon he went out again, and at 3 p.m., and repeated the process.  About 5 p.m. he went out and found others loitering about and says to them, 'Why did you stand here idle the whole day?'

They reply, 'Because no one hired us.'

He tells them, 'You go into the vineyard as well.'

When evening came the owner of the vineyard tells his foreman:  'Call the workers and pay them their wages starting with those hired last and ending with those hired first.'

Those hired at 5 p.m. came up and received a silver coin each.  Those hired first approached thinking they would receive more.  But they also got a silver coin apiece.  They took it and began to grumble against the proprietor.  'These guys hired last worked only an hour but you have made them equal to us who did most of the work during the heat of the day.'

In response he said to one of them, 'Look, pal, did I wrong you?  You did agree with me for a silver coin, didn't you?  Take your wage and get out!  I intend to treat the one hired last the same way I treat you.  Is there some law forbidding me to do with my money as I please?  Or is your eye filled with envy because I am generous?'  (Matthew 20:1-15, SV)

It's the last line that's the lesson; well, part of the lesson.  I love the parables.  They don't comfort us.  They challenge us.  We are too prone to be comfortable; we are better off challenged.

Donald J. Trump is a very stable genius

The President of the United States:

“I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today,” President  Trump said.

Well, who are you gonna believe?  17 U.S. intelligence agencies and the indictment of 25 Russians by the U.S. Justice Department?  Or a former KGB agent who has a lot to gain by denying that the government he heads did anything nefarious to interfere with U.S. elections?

I wonder if he looked into Putin's soul while they were alone.

“We can no longer completely rely on the White House,” Heiko Maas told the Funke newspaper group. “To maintain our partnership with the USA we must readjust it. The first clear consequence can only be that we need to align ourselves even more closely in Europe.”

He added: “Europe must not let itself be divided however sharp the verbal attacks and absurd the tweets may be.”

“Can I just disagree slightly?” began Wallace. “I think the bar was even lower than what you describe. All he had to do was not put on jammies and crawl under the covers with Vladimir Putin and he couldn’t do that. He didn’t have to push back at all for his supporters and all the Republicans we put up before to simply give him a pass. He didn’t even meet his own low bar for not screwing this up.”
And it all comes down to Trump's fragile ego:

“Russia is not our friend. Russia attempted to undermine the fundamentals of our democracy, impugn the reliability of the 2016 election, and sow the seeds of discord among Americans. Our intelligence community, including the current one, concluded this, as did the Majority House Intelligence Committee report, as did our fellow Americans who served on grand juries which returned true bills on two separate occasions. I am confident former CIA Director and current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, DNI Dan Coats, Ambassador Nikki Haley, FBI Director Chris Wray, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and others will be able to communicate to the President it is possible to conclude Russia interfered with our election in 2016 without delegitimizing his electoral success.” 
Yeah, if we can just pry those steel balls out of his hands and replace the strawberry ice cream, Captain Queeg will be alright, I tell ya!
So mote it be.

Darkness at Noon

Ezra Klein has an interesting analysis of Trump and Russian collusion which conclusively proves one thing:  Ezra Klein is way too young to remember Watergate.

Donald Segretti.  Charles Coulson.  H.R. Haldeman.  G. Gordon Liddy.  Jeb Stuart Magruder.  John Ehrlichmann.  Those were some of the players in that scandal, people largely forgotten now.  Today you hear John Dean's name, and Nixon's, of course.  But the scandal started with indictments of underlings, people who committed crimes that didn't connect them to the White House, though they should have been connected because they were.  Nixon maintained plausible deniability even as Haldeman, Ehrlichmann, John Mitchell (Nixon's AG), Colson, Gordon Strachan, Robert Mardian, and Kenneth Parkinson were indicted for obstructing the Watergate investigation (sound vaguely familiar, that?).  Two things finally proved too much for Nixon's defense that he was surrounded by crooks but clean himself:  the Saturday Night Massacre, and the White House Tapes.

I remember the former as the dividing point between friends who said now Nixon looked guilty, and friends who said it proved nothing (and, strictly speaking, it didn't.  VERY strictly speaking, but still....).  I had a copy of the transcripts of the tapes.  The bigger shock was that they existed.  The lesser shock was how the President cursed like a sailor on shore leave in the Oval Office.  And what the tapes proved? can read about it now on Wikipedia and any number of websites that bring the story together.  I had to watch "All the President's Men" to get a sense of what really had happened.  It was all too complicated and too full of names of people no one had ever heard of doing jobs no one really understood (some for the White House, some for CREEP (Committee to Re-Elect the President; you can't make this stuff up).).  So, as Ezra argues, we had the information, and no, there never was a fact point or a story which crystallized the entire debacle and turned on a system of legal justice which led to....well, Ford's pardon.  In the long run, Ford (who was a feckless POTUS) led to Carter, who led directly to Reagan, and the line to Trump is a clear one.

So there you are.  Justice is not the straightforward process you might wish it to be, even when it's straightforward enough to get rid of a President.  Would a trial of Nixon have been any better?  Yeah, probably not.

Klein's argument is:  "The big issue, at this point, isn’t what we don’t know; it’s that we have no idea what to do with what we do know."  He's not wrong.  We didn't know what to do with Nixon, either.  In a sense, we still don't.  But Klein goes on to argue the same result will result because the political system doesn't desire justice, just power:

Congressional Republicans know their future is tied to Trump’s survival. Anything that weakens his administration weakens their 2018 reelection prospects, their ability to fill judgeships, their ability to pass tax cuts. Their political lives depend on Trump’s political strength.

While it’s an interesting counterfactual to imagine the way the GOP would be reacting if all of these revelations were attached to President Bernie Sanders’s 2016 campaign, it is fantasy to imagine they will do anything save protect Trump to the best of their ability.

Congressional Democrats don’t have the power to do anything right now, and as such are focused on taking back Congress in 2018. But even if they win the election, their priority will turn to retaking the presidency in 2020, and that’s going to mean focusing on health care and Social Security, not Russia and the 2016 campaign.

For that precise reason, the 2018 and 2020 elections cannot and will not act as a clear vehicle for accountability on Trump and Russia. From Supreme Court justices to tax policy to Obamacare’s future to environmental regulations, there is too much at stake in any given election, and there are too few choices available to voters, for them to answer a problem as complex and unusual as this one.

As for the rest of the legal system, keep in mind: There’s nothing necessarily illegal about Donald Trump publicly asking Russia to hack the Clinton campaign’s emails, just as there’s nothing illegal about him pursuing a stunningly pro-Putin foreign policy in the aftermath of receiving Russia’s aid. The actual hacking of the emails was illegal, but who’s going to hold Russia accountable for it? The Trump administration that asked for, and benefited from, their help?

The ridiculousness of both the question and the answer makes the point. Mueller’s indictments were announced just before Trump and Putin’s summit, and it first led to talk of whether Trump might cancel the meeting (of course he didn’t), and then speculation over whether and how he might confront Putin over Russia’s actions.

But everyone knows that Trump’s actual response to Russia’s intervention on his behalf has been gratitude and solicitousness — what other response is there to a world power doing exactly what you asked of them in a time of political need?

Now, part of that conclusion rests on the assumption we know all there is to know about Trump's actions, and that they don't amount to any violation of Federal criminal law.  Klein is not a lawyer, and I am, but even I would not presume to understand Federal criminal law enough to positively assert that conclusion.  So that's one problem; the other problem is a bit larger, and it's being undermined even now by the reaction to Trump's press conference with Putin today.

1 is still only 1, and nothing will happen to Trump before November; but still, this press conference seems to be a catalyst for something:
That would make an interesting study.  Maybe Rick Wilson could conduct it:
And David Axelrod is almost moved to be uncivil:
Even Neal Cavuto doesn't seem to know what to do with it:

“This had gotta be the most incredible thing I ever witnessed,” the host said during a Fox Business interview following the summit. He compared Putin’s proposed quid pro quo — an “exchange [of] information from each side’s accused hackers” — to a perpetrator helping firefighters investigate an arson.

“I don’t know,” Cavuto continued. “I’ll give the benefit of the doubt to maybe jet lag and time differences.”

“But holy moly,” he added.
Joe Walsh knows what to do:

As soon as the press conference was over, Anderson Cooper told his audience:
“You’ve been watching perhaps the most disgraceful performances by an American president in front of a Russian leader that I’ve ever seen,” the host said.
If the Democrats do win the Congress and are only concerned with getting a Democrat into the White House in 2020, they will simply set us up for the next Ronald Reagan in 2024.  History doesn't repeat itself, they say, but it does rhyme.  Rhyme, however, is a form of repetition.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Almost cut his hair, too

An enduring example of immigrants 
ruining European culture

So Trump crossed the Pond and let his racist freak flag fly:

But in a controversial outburst, he added: “I think what has happened to Europe is a shame.

“Allowing the immigration to take place in Europe is a shame.

“I think it changed the fabric of Europe and, unless you act very quickly, it’s never going to be what it was and I don’t mean that in a positive way.

“So I think allowing millions and millions of people to come into Europe is very, very sad.

“I think you are losing your culture. Look around. You go through certain areas that didn’t exist ten or 15 years ago.”
He might as well attack the Jews as well as the Muslims (who ruled what is now Spain for centuries) while he's at it.  Just go whole hog, ya know.

Is there any question left about his immigration policies in this country?  Although I will note that  CNN, and Slate all focused on his comments about Brexit and May, while Huffington Post went with the racism.   Well, the Grey Lady and WaPo both headlined the personal story, too ("What Donald Said About Teresa!"); Trump's racism is not really worth commenting on anymore, I guess.

That or it's the new love that dare not speak its name.  You decide.   NPR decided to mention it, but only after a longer discussion of Trump's slight to Teresa May (the headline on the article would lead you to believe otherwise, oddly):

HORSLEY: This is exactly the reason that the president is being met with, you know, protest balloons in the city of London. But he then broadened this out to sort of a nativist attack on immigration and the effect it's having throughout Europe.


TRUMP: I think what's happened to Europe is a shame. I think the immigration - allowing the immigration to take place in Europe is a shame. I think it changed the fabric of Europe. And unless you act very quickly, it's never going to be what it was. And I don't mean that in a positive way.

HORSLEY: Now, this of course is not terribly different than the argument that the president makes about illegal immigration in this country.

CHANG: Do we know anything about how this interview came to be? Was it a long time in planning? Do we have any information about it?

HORSLEY: Well, it doesn't appear to have been an ambush interview. It seems to be, you know, something where the president sat down and spoke at some length with the interviewer from The Sun. It's not unusual when a president is visiting another country to do an interview to sort of lay the groundwork for the diplomatic talks that are going to go on.

CHANG: Sure.

HORSLEY: It is unusual, though, to have that interview sort of laced with hand grenades that are sure to create some awkward scenes tomorrow.

CHANG: That's NPR's Scott Horsley. Thank you very much, Scott.

The highlighted portion is worth noting, but Chang's response is to ask why this interview saw the light of day, not why Trump is so nakedly racist when he's overseas.  As for lacing it with hand grenades, NPR is too gentlemanly to mention who did that.  "Nativist" is a polite touch, too.

Same as it ever was, I guess.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Been there, done that

Remember that summit?  Yeah, none of that happened:

As U.S. intelligence agencies reported that North Korea showed no signs of giving up its nuclear program and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo found a barren reception in Pyongyang, President Donald Trump indulged in his favorite source of comfort — Twitter. “I have confidence that Kim Jong Un will honor the contract we signed &, even more importantly, our handshake,” Trump declared, trying to prop up the narrative of success he has sold ever since his historic summit in Singapore with the North Korean leader on June 12. “We agreed to the denuclearization of North Korea. China, on the other hand, may be exerting negative pressure on a deal because of our posture on Chinese Trade-Hope Not!”

But there is no legally binding contract and no agreement. There is only a handshake and a vague 400-word summit statement that papers over huge disagreements about the meaning of denuclearization and what sequence of steps is required to defuse U.S.-North Korea tensions. And while Beijing is being unhelpful, not least because of Trump’s rash trade war with China, in the end Trump has nobody to blame for the dead end but himself.
Trump spent two days in Singapore (one day so bored he wanted to do the meeting that day, and get it over with), declared victory, and went home to his charred steaks and Big Macs.  Even Secretary of State Pompeo says nothing is happening with North Korea that wasn't happening before that summit. And one day ago Trump was saying about NATO:

Well, today he declares that NATO has bent to his will and he leaves for England trailing clouds of glory.  Except President Macron, playing the role of Justin Trudeau this time, says that never happened:

Is Trump going to contradict Macron?  No, because then Trump would have his bluff called.  He would have to put up or shut up.  And Donald Trump never shuts up; nor does he ever put up.  He declares victory and runs from the disaster he has caused, before he can be responsible for the catastrophe his mouth worked so hard to create.  Having pissed all over NATO, he now wants to revel in the pomp and circumstance it provided him:

Trump doesn't want to destroy anything; he just wants to be sure all the attention is on him.  So he goes to Brussels, spits in the eye of Germany over breakfast, tweets during meetings (or his staff did for him) about how NATO sux and the U.S. was stupid before he, the Truly Stupid Man, got here, and then when it's time to fish or cut bait, he leaves.  He doesn't even care what chaos he causes, he just cares that he can claim to have fixed the chaos he caused.  He did it in North Korea (why is Kim no longer "Little Rocket Man"?), now he's done it in Brussels.  He's not arguing with Macron the way he did with Trudeau because NATO is a bit more serious a player than the G7 is, and Trump knows the difference.  Ultimately he won't fuck with NATO; but he will declare himself NATO's savior, despite the fact he's the one who put NATO at risk in the first place.

He'll always walk up the edge of the cliff.  He will never go over it, because that would be a danger to him.  He will always walk back, and declare victory over the cliff.  It's his psychodrama; he just drags the rest of the world into it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

He Goes Off His Meds When He's Out of Town

Preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States?  That promise ring a bell?  And they're the ones "using children"?  Yeah, that deflects.
What does Russian gas have to do with Germany's support of NATO?  And the U.S. is paying for Europe's protection?  Most of those military bases support U.S. actions in the Middle East and Africa.  As Commander in Chief you've been briefed on that, right?  Besides, no country in NATO is going to pay 2% of it's GDP to the U.S.  You understand that, too, right?
(Yeah, he originally wrote "LAYER".  Unless it's his staff again, trying to write stupid to make ir more, you know, authentic.  It'll probably be corrected soon, unless that staff thing is right.)  Again, it's that legal system you don't seem to understand.  Nunes could enforce the subpoena, but so far he hasn't.  There are actually rules about how all this is done.  Reality is not a TV show, ya know.

Or do you?

"History is Bunk!"

I have this to say about this Pew Poll: a) it skews young; b) it skews conservative; c) it skews toward hype.  Young because Obama wins it walking away.  Hype (and conservative) because JFK, who basically avoided nuclear war in the Cuban Missile Crisis and then died and left a beautiful widow, comes out much better than LBJ, who passed:  the Civil Rights Act; the Voting Rights Act; Medicare.  Those three alone put him in the ranks of FDR as one of our most transformative and important legislation Presidents.  He appointed Thurgood Marshall to the Supreme Court, the first African-American to sit on that bench (Clarence Thomas is only the second.  So much winning!).  Let me just continue this by quoting from a speech by Joseph Califano:

Today, as we celebrate LBJ’s 100th anniversary some forty years after he left office, eleven of the twelve programs that OEO launched are alive and well--and funded at an annual rate exceeding eleven billion dollars. Head Start, Job Corps, Community Health Centers, Foster Grandparents, Upward Bound (now part of the Trio Program in the Department of Education), Green Thumb (now Senior Community Service Employment), Indian Opportunities (now in the Labor Department), and Migrant Opportunities (now Seasonal Worker Training and Migrant Education) are all helping people stand on their own two feet.

Community Action (now the Community Service Block Grant program), VISTA Volunteers and Legal Services are putting power in the hands of individuals—down at the grassroots. The grassroots that these programs fertilize just don’t produce the manicured laws that conservatives prefer. Of all the Great Society programs started in the Office of Economic Opportunity, only the Neighborhood Youth Corps has been abandoned—in 1974, after enrolling more than 5 million individuals.

Ronald Reagan quipped that Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty and poverty won. He was wrong. When LBJ took office, 22.2 percent of Americans were living in poverty. When he left five years later, only 13 percent were living below the poverty line—the greatest one-time reduction in poverty in our nation’s history.

I suspect most people who think LBJ wasn't so great also think Reagan was the greatest President of their lifetime.  Hype, as I said, covers so many sins.  Speaking of Reagan, he of the "trees cause pollution" nonsense, what about the environment and national parks under Johnson?

Theodore Roosevelt launched the modern environmental movement by setting aside public lands and national parks and giving voice to conservation leaders like Gifford Pinchot. If Teddy Roosevelt launched the movement, Lyndon Johnson drove it forward more than any later president—and in the process, in 1965, he introduced an entirely new concept of conservation: “We must not only protect the countryside and save it from destruction,” he said, “we must restore what has been destroyed and salvage the beauty and charm of our cities. Our conservation must be not just the classic conservation of protection and development, but a creative conservation of restoration and innovation.”

That new environmental commandment spelled out the first inconvenient truth: that those who reap the rewards of modern technology must also pay the price of their industrial pollution. It inspired a legion of Great Society laws: the Clean Air, Water Quality and Clean Water Restoration Acts and Amendments, the 1965 Solid Waste Disposal Act, the 1965 Motor Vehicle Air Pollution Control Act, and the 1968 Aircraft Noise Abatement Act. It also provided the rationale for later laws creating the Environmental Protection Agency and the Superfund.

Johnson created 35 national parks, 32 within easy driving distance of large cities. The 1968 Wild and Scenic Rivers Act today protects 165 river segments in 38 states and Puerto Rico. The 1968 National Trail System Act has established more than 1,000 recreation, scenic and historic trails covering close to 55,000 miles. No wonder National Geographic calls Lyndon Johnson “our greatest conservation president.”
This is going to get exhausting, but let's go on to the arts:

What would cultural life in America be like without the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, where each year two million visitors view performances that millions more watch on television, or without the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden that attracts 750,000 visitors annually? Both are Great Society initiatives.

The National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities are fulfilling a dream Johnson expressed when he asked Congress to establish them and for the first time, to provide federal financial support for the arts to increase “the access of our people to the works of our artists, and [to recognize] the arts as part of the pursuit of American greatness.”

LBJ used to say that he wanted fine theater and music available throughout the nation, and not just on Broadway and at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. In awarding more than 130,000 grants totaling more than four billion dollars since 1965, the Endowment for the Arts has spawned art councils in all 50 states and more than 1,400 professional theater companies, 120 opera companies, 600 dance companies and 1,800 professional orchestras. Since 1965, the Endowment for the Humanities has awarded 65,000 fellowships and grants totaling more than four billion dollars.

Johnson established the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to create public television and public radio which have given the nation countless hours of fine arts, superb in-depth news coverage, and programs like “Sesame Street” and “Masterpiece Theater.” Now some say there is no need for public radio and television, with so many cable channels and radio stations. But as often as you surf with your TV remote or twist your radio dial, you are not likely to find the kind of quality broadcasting that marks the more than 350 public television and nearly 700 public radio stations that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting supports today. They, as well as the rest of the media, have been helped by the Freedom of Information Act, the Great Society’s contribution to greater transparency in government.

No, really, you're going to wish I'd stopped:

For urban America, LBJ drove through Congress the Urban Mass Transit Act, which gave San Franciscans BART, Washingtonians Metro, Atlantans MARTA, and cities across America thousands of buses and modernized transit systems. His 1968 Housing Act, the creation of Ginnie Mae, the privatization of Fannie Mae and the establishment of the Department of Housing and Urban Development have helped some 75 million families gain access to affordable housing.

In the progressive tradition in which Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt confronted huge financial and corporate enterprises, Johnson faced a nationalization of commercial power that had the potential to disadvantage the individual American consumer. Super-corporations were shoving aside the corner grocer, local banker, independent drug store and family farmer. Automobiles were complex and dangerous, manufactured by giant corporations with deep pockets to protect themselves. Banks had the most sophisticated accountants and lawyers to draft their loan agreements. Sellers of everyday products—soaps, produce, meats, appliances, clothing, cereal and canned and frozen foods—packaged their products with the help of the shrewdest marketers and designers. The individual was outflanked at every position.

Seeing that mismatch, Johnson pushed through Congress a bevy of laws to level the playing field for consumers: auto and highway safety for the motorist; a Department of Transportation and National Transportation Safety Board; truth in packaging for the housewife; truth in lending for the homebuyer, small businessman and individual borrower; wholesome meat and wholesome poultry laws to enhance food safety; the Flammable Fabrics Act to reduce the incendiary characteristics of clothing and blankets.

He created the Product Safety Commission to assure that toys and other products would be safe for users.

When he got over his annoyance that it took him five minutes to find me in the emergency room of George Washington University Hospital, with my three-year-old son Joe who had swallowed a bottle of aspirin, he proposed the Child Safety Act—which is why today we all have such difficulty opening up medicine bottles.

And I should include this, seeing as our President now is a xenophobic racist:

For almost half a century, the nation’s immigration laws established restrictive and discriminatory quotas that favored blond and blue-eyed Western Europeans. With the Immigration Reform Act of 1965, LBJ scrapped that quota system and put substance behind the Statue of Liberty’s welcoming words, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” This Great Society legislation refreshed our nation with the revitalizing energies of immigrants from south of our border, from southern and eastern Europe, from Asia and Africa, converting America into the most multi-cultural nation in the history of the world and uniquely positioning our population for the twenty-first century world of new economic powers. In the year before Immigration Reform was passed, only 2,600 immigrants were admitted from Africa, less than 25,000 from Asia and 105,000 from Central and South America. With the lifting of the quotas, in 2006, 110,000 immigrants were admitted from Africa, more than 400,000 from Asia and 525,000 from Central and South America. I can’t see LBJ eating at an Ethiopian or sushi restaurant, but I can see him tapping into the intellectual acumen, diversity and energy of this new wave of immigrants.
And this, since we think children should do janitorial work to earn their school taxes, and Medicaid recipients should pay back what we give them:

Closely related to LBJ’s Great Society health programs were his initiatives to reduce malnutrition and hunger. Today, the Food Stamp program helps feed some 27 million men, women and children in 12 million households. The School Breakfast program has served more than 30 billion breakfasts to needy children.

Oh, and it wasn't just Medicare he established:

The Heart, Cancer and Stroke legislation has provided funds to create centers of medical excellence in just about every major city—from Seattle to Houston, Miami to Cleveland, Atlanta to Minneapolis. To staff these centers, the Health Professions Educational Assistance Act provided resources to double the number of doctors graduating from medical schools and increase the pool of specialists, researchers, nurses and paramedics.

Without these programs and Great Society investments in the National Institutes of Health, would our nation be the world’s leader in medical research? In pharmaceutical invention? In creation of surgical procedures and medical machinery to diagnose our diseases, breathe for us, clean our blood, transplant our organs, scan our brains? In the discovery of ingenious prosthetic devices that enable so many of our severely wounded soldiers to function independently?

Tired yet?  And I left out what he did for education.  Remember, that was all in 5 years.  Imagine if Vietnam hadn't been his Waterloo, and he'd won another four years.

Let me ask you:  The President who did the best job in our lifetimes is Obama?  Well, I guess so; but if you're that young, get offa mah lawn, ya punks!  And if you're as old as me and still think Reagan and JFK rank higher, I have nothing more to say to you.

Goddam punk kids don't know nuthin'!

Not even slow sculpture

What is the act of understanding?

Can I make you understand?  How?  How would I do that?

I'm listening to Terry Gross interview the Rev. Rob Shenck about his anti-abortion activism, and how his opinions have changed.  He just said, in paraphrase, that he came to realize his activism was just leading to seeking one more victory, one more law, one more exertion of power (my words, there) over others, and in a long period of prayerful reflection he came to realize he was pursuing power, not the Gospel he loved.  Again, I don't mean to capture perfectly what he said but to focus on the nature of "understanding."  Shenck started with one version of understanding:  that abortion was wrong and must be opposed through law however possible; and ended with another:  that the choice of abortion is between an individual and God (he's still a Christian, after all).  And what he was describing in my poor paraphrase was the process of understanding that changed his, well....understanding.

So, what is the act of understanding?  And how can I make you change it?

I have a friend in ministry who just mentioned a church member, a "good guy," who has told my friend that he's started carrying a gun in case the "black kids" try to "start something."  "Ugh," my friend said.  I know my friend well; he is a good person.  I don't doubt this third party is a good person, too.  But how do you get him to understand he is wrong?  What is the act of understanding, in the first place?

Were I that man's pastor, I might preach about the power of powerlessness, about the faith in God that leads you away from fear of others, especially those you "other" by race.  Would that change his understanding?  I doubt it.  That would require him to understand as I do, and I don't quite understand why he thinks as he does.  Oh, I think I do.  I think I'm in a superior position to him, and he needs to "learn" to "understand" as I do, because my understanding is better than his.  If you've ever tried that with somebody, how did that work out for you?

What is the act of understanding?  As a pastor, I would feel compelled to try to understand that man's point of view, not to get him to understand mine.  I would still hold to mine, but how do I get him to understand it?  At what point does he?  Consider the example of the parables.  Most of them were taught to me as allegories.  It was a hermeneutic, a way of interpretation that was simple because it had the weight of tradition behind it, and because the interpretive work had already been done.  No need to re-examine the stories:  just take the explanation and move on.  So the story of the 99 sheep is a wonderful story about how much God loves us, and what God will do to save us (from dangers metaphysical or physical, depending on your theology).  Nobody worried about the insanity of leaving 99 sheep unprotected to rescue one.  What are the 99?  Chopped liver? If you think you're the one sheep, it's comforting.  Now think of yourself as one of the 99.

Or the woman who lost a coin, and burned lamp oil all night to find it rather than waiting for the sunrise.  Having found the coin (and used up the oil), she then throws a party, spending the worth of the coin in celebration (probably more than the coin's worth, if you count the oil).  Nobody ever pointed that obvious issue out to me.

Or the pearl of great price, which the merchant buys by selling everything he owns.  Now what?  You can't eat a pearl, you can't live in it, you can't trade it for clothes without losing the pearl.  What was the allegory again?  Something to do with attaining heaven, if I recall; although that's not in the parable at all, but it makes more sense than the parable does.

But the parables weren't meant to be understood; that's another hermeneutic, and one I find more applicable.  The parables weren't meant to be allegories, they were meant to be confounding.  They were meant to break understanding.  The kingdom of God is like a mustard plant that rivals the cedars of Lebanon:  except mustard was a weed, and it was a bush, at best, not a towering tree.  What the heck?  Worse, the kingdom of God is like an assassin who practices with the knife all night, then goes out at morning ready to commit the deed.  What?

What is the act of understanding in these parables?  That we don't understand?  That we can't understand?  That we need to move away from understanding as the source of our confidence, our comfort, our identity in the world?

What is the act of understanding?  Is it merely accepting what you find acceptable, what you've been told is acceptable, and rejecting (conversely) what you deem objectionable?  And how do you understand?  I can tell you as a teacher that I work very hard to make ideas understandable to my students; but whether or not they understand is up to them.  I cannot make them understand; I cannot force their understanding.  I cannot understand for them, or enter into their act of understanding and correct it or make it work for them.  It is a personal pursuit, dare I say an existential one?  Rev. Shenck understood the failure of his Christian humility (again, my terminology, not his) over time, and in prayerful reflection (his words there).  Could anyone have made him understand that?  Or did he have to understand it himself?

It can't be done for you.  You can only do it yourself.  And like love, you'll know it when you experience it.  But it is not the same thing as thinking you understand; and it is not an act of will.  If anything, it is a revelation, an insight you don't control, cannot wish on yourself, cannot make yourself have.

Think of it as the power of powerlessness.

"Let's All Be a Little Less Piggy"*

I'm always fascinated by these arguments, especially when they directly reference King and/or Gandhi:

People will behave better, Nussbaum argues, if we admit our vulnerability and work to create a society where everyone experiences less fear and uncertainty, and a greater sense of positive citizenship. She takes as her model the nonviolent activism of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi, and advocates a “mandatory program of youth national civil service” of three years’ duration. One of this program’s purposes would be to expose citizens at a relatively early age to “the diversity of people in their country,” and foster the sense that we all have a stake in each other’s well-being. She knows that most people consider such a program “politically impossible,” but “if people don’t talk about it, it certainly won’t be possible. So, I put my cards on the table.” These are the moments when Nussbaum seems most out of touch with the nation she inhabits. Even the wokest young Berner clamoring for socialism would surely balk at this prospect.

Yes, we would all balk.  This was the ideal of Brown v. Board, a Supreme Court holding now honored more in the breach than in the keeping.  The idea was that, when black and white children went to school together, racism would disappear.  Instead, white parents fled into private schools, or neighborhoods black families couldn't afford, and solved the problem of Brown by continuing the problem of Brown, even though now we have no "separate but equal" schools in America.

Nussbaum's argument reeks of Rawl's "Theory of Justice:"  if we all just understood our proper relationship to each other, we'd all realize we're in the same boat with the same problems, and we'd rationally reach a conclusion that benefits everyone equally.  Which, of course, is not at all what King and Gandhi advocated.  To begin with, while neither King nor Gandhi spurned reason, they started from a religious viewpoint:  Hinduism for Gandhi, Christianity for King.  So if we take their model of nonviolent activism, we have to take their method for making that non-violence effective, and that involves religion.  If you are going to reference King or Gandhi and say "Oh, we should do what they did!", then you have to consider what they did, and how they did it.  It wasn't just that they were non-violent, but how they were non-violent, and why they were non-violent.

I take it back:  Nussbaum's argument reeks of "Kumbayah."  You know, we all hold hands around the campfire and sing and the whole world will be healed.  Except that experience doesn't outlast the campfire, much less change hearts and minds.   I'm a bit of a cynic in the matter, actually, as I'm not sure what does change hearts and minds except relentless effort to be changed.  Dr. King described the process of his followers admitting their vulnerability:

We began a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves: "Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?" "Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?" We decided to schedule our direct action program for the Easter season, realizing that except for Christmas, this is the main shopping period of the year. Knowing that a strong economic-withdrawal program would be the by product of direct action, we felt that this would be the best time to bring pressure to bear on the merchants for the needed change.

Who among us is willing to do even that much?  Only a few people did when Dr. King was alive, but they were enough.  He died, and the non-violent movement he led died, too.  There is a huge amount of effort behind those simple words "We began a series of workshops on nonviolence."  Who among us would attend those diligently?  Much of the problem here is that Dr. King was promoting the power of powerlessness; and even the "young Berner" (Bernie supporter, I guess?) is interested in power, not powerlessness.

And the "mandatory program of youth national service."  Yeah, that'll work.  We already have a mandatory program involving youth:  it's called "public school."  I teach the products of that program every year.  Most of them appear rigidly resistant to it, and barely touched by it.  They haven't been shaped into people with open and curious minds, eager for knowledge and new ideas.  Mostly, they are resistant to even more education, even though, at the college level, education is no longer mandatory.  I know people who went through the Peace Corps; but they volunteered for that service, and were accepting of the challenges it posed to them.  Some people go to church voluntarily, and probably even today some do not (children).  Some are changed by the experience; but some are not.
Some realize, with or without church, that we have a stake in each other's well-being; some do not, and never will.  I'm not sure how we nurture that ideal, except on a very individual basis.  In the meantime, the product of a mandatory program of youth service is the very Trump supporters Nussbaum is concerned about.

If we're going to do this, we have to return to basics.  Western philosophy really began with Socrates, the teacher of Plato.  Interestingly, Socrates never espoused a program of thought that could be applied to everyone (Plato did that).  His approach was entirely personal, wholly individual.  The best dialogues are Socrates in conversation with one other person (well, except for the "Apology," where he takes on all the men of Athens; and he only persuades them to sentence him to death).  If you take his statements in "Crito" as valid, you could argue that Socrates saw himself as "work[ing] to create a society where everyone experiences less fear and uncertainty, and a greater sense of positive citizenship." (No, not Nussbaum's words, so I'm being a bit unfair to her.)  But Socrates did that on a personal basis, not on the basis of a described ideal everyone would subscribe to once they heard it.  In the "Euthyphro" Socrates destroys the idea that there is an "ideal" which can be known by all (or by anyone), and yet in "Crito" he avers that every individual must have an ideal that is the raison d'être of the individual's life.  But that is for the individual, not for the community.  But must we all follow the example of Socrates in order to live a just life in a just society?  And how would we do that?  How would we change our hearts and minds order to be as ironic as Socrates?  No, that certainly wouldn't work out well:

Irony...has no purpose, it's purpose is immanent in itself, a metaphysical purpose. The purpose is none other than irony itself. When an ironist exhibits himself as other than he actually is, it might seem that his purpose were to induce others to believe this. His actual purpose, however, is merely to feel free, and he is through irony....

With doubt the subject constantly seeks to penetrate the object, and his misfortune consists in the fact that the object constantly eludes him. With irony, on the other hand, the subject is always seeking to get outside the object and this he attains by becoming conscious at every moment that the object has no reality. With doubt the subject is witness to a war of conquest in which every phenomenon is destroyed, because the essence always resides behind the phenomenon. But with irony the subject constantly retires from the field and proceeds to talk every phenomenon out of its reality in order to save himself, that is, in order to preserve himself in his negative independence of everything....

For irony everything becomes nothingness, but nothingness may be taken in several ways. The speculative nothingness is that which at every moment is vanishing for concretion, since it is itself the demand for the concrete...The mystical nothingness is a nothingness for representation, a nothingness which yet is as full of content as the silence of the night is eloquent for one who has ears to hear. Finally, the ironic nothingness is that deathly stillness in which irony returns to 'haunt and jest' (this last word taken wholly ambiguously.)(Soren Kierkegaard, The Concept of Irony, tr. Lee M. Capel (Bloomington, Indiana; Indiana University Press 1968, 273-75)

"Whole sight; or all the rest is desolation."  And irony is certainly not about whole sight; but religion, arguably, is.  It doesn't have to be; it is certainly used to be exclusive as much as it is used to be inclusive.  But the statement "let us reason together" is radically exclusive, as "reason" in that phrase is a highly restricted term. The reasoning of Aquinas is not the reasoning of Russell (as Wittgenstein well understood, though Russell didn't). Can religion bring us together? No; it can bring some of us, but certainly not all of us. But then, bring us together to do what? Wield power over Trump supporters? Or to effect the power of powerlessness?  The latter is more likely to increase the positive sense if our nation's diversity and foster a sense that we actually are all in this together. But how do you see that the first will be last and the last first outside of a vision of the basileia tou theou and the God of Mary's Magnificat who will reveal the hearts of the proud and cast the mighty from their thrones?

*Richard Nixon's Council of Economic Advisors pitiful attempt to rein in inflation by appealing to the angels of our better nature.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Compare and Contrast

From CNN:

“It doesn’t trouble me because, he himself, secretary Pompeo said great progress was made, and I take his word before I take an unnamed source or before I take the north Korean foreign ministry’s assessment,” [Steve] Cortes [Member of President Trump's 2020 Re-elect advisory council] maintained.

Vinograd noted that Trump tweeted that the threat was gone and asked if Cortes believed Pompeo or Trump. Cortes agreed that the threat was gone, again, because North Korea “isn’t firing missiles into the ocean.”
Also from CNN:

On Tuesday, CNN reported that Secretary of State Mark Pompeo, who’d helped oversee Donald Trump’s meeting with King Jong-un, thinks that his own meeting with the North Korean officials had not gone according to plan.

According to sources, Pompeo said it went “as badly as it could have gone.”

Oh, and also this:

"Look, this is a decades long challenge, getting the North Koreans to make a fundamental strategic decision, which is that the nuclear weapons that they possess today frankly present a threat to them and not security," Pompeo said.

Now Pompeo just needs to talk to the President.....

Oxygen is flammable

Alan Dershowitz thinks the Supreme Court should decide what a "high crime and misdemeanor" is for impeachment purposes.  His argument is absolutely laughable:*

“The decision by the framers to have the chief justice preside over the trial of a president may suggest that the decision was not intended to be entirely political. Indeed, it would be wrong for the chief justice to participate, much less preside over, an entirely political process. Judges are required to stay out of politics,” Dershowitz writes.
The impeachment trial of Bill Clinton, over which then Chief Justice William Rehnquist presided, was not a trial conducted according to any rules of procedure formulated by any court, and was not subject to Federal Rules of Evidence (the Senate may have agreed to follow such rules, but the Court could not have negated a conviction on the grounds the Senate chose not to.  This is part of a well-established doctrine that the House and Senate conduct their Constitutionally established business according to rules of their making, and the courts do not interfere in that process or the application of those rules.).  The charge of perjury was laughably unsound as a legal matter, and in any court of law probably would have resulted in a directed verdict for the defendant on the grounds of lack of evidence or materiality of the misrepresentation (how was a man denying a sexual encounter with a woman not his wife material to any investigation?).  It was an entirely political proceeding whose conclusion was a surprise to no one.

His argument is sheer moonshine, in other words (or the end of the constitutional republic, one or the other).  But would violation of one's oath of office constitute an impeachable offense?  The oath is to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and yet Trump has pardoned people with no observable sense of the validity of the Constitution.  He vilifies the federal government as a "deep state", castigates law enforcement agencies as "corrupt" and their investigations are "rigged witch hunts."

On its face, that's a violation of his oath of office.  If Trump is not going to faithfully carry out the duties of his office, why is he allowed to stay there?

And on the issue of the pardons, where this all started, the sage words of Mr. Charles Pierce:

In related news, the Hammonds walk free while a few thousand children are still in federal custody for the crime of stepping over a line on a map. That is unspeakable.

Let the people say:  "Amen!"

*More reasonably the Chief Justice is assigned to oversee the impeachment trial in the Senate because the Chief Justice is the only position, besides President, created for an individual in the Constitution, and the Chief Justice presiding makes the trial an act of the full Constitutional government, not a judicial trial subject to the rules of evidence and procedure and appeals.  The office of President is not a Constitutional right to any person, although removal can only come through the electoral process or impeachment.  But impeachment does not need to follow all the requirements of due process and equal protection because if arguably it doesn't, what's the remedy?  To be restored to office, despite the clear Constitutional intention that conviction in an impeachment trial shall lead to removal from office, and no other outcome (criminal proceedings are allowed separately, but cannot be a part of the impeachment conviction)?  There is no provision in the Constitution for that outcome, and every reason to argue it is not provided for.

And there's actually legal precedent for this argument, and against Dershowitz':

In the Judge Nixon case, the Court held that a claim to judicial review of an issue arising in an impeachment trial in the Senate presents a nonjusticiable “political question.”  Specifically, the Court rejected a claim that the Senate had departed from the meaning of the word “try” in the impeachment clause by relying on a special committee to take evidence, including testimony. But the Court’s “political question” analysis has broader application, and appears to place the whole impeachment process off limits to judicial review.

Please note there is no distinction between a Presidential impeachment and the impeachment of a federal district judge.  And the argument Nixon (the judge, not the POTUS) raised was whether evidence taken by a special committee, rather than the full Senate, was sufficient to "try" the case in the Senate.

Dershowitz is trying to sell a book to the ignorant, nothing more.

Monday, July 09, 2018

The Very Model Of A Modern Major Elitist


Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, shared a Facebook post Monday claiming that Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) was being falsely accused of lying about his knowledge of rampant sexual assault while coaching wrestling at Ohio State University.

“Jim Jordan is under attack, with false accusations, because he threatens the elite,” she wrote on the post with the video below.

Only 9 people at any one time sit on the Supreme Court.  Once appointed, they are all there for life.  It is the very definition of "elite."  It has vast power over the lives of everyone in America, and often beyond America, and is the last word in law in the American judicial system.

You can't get more elite than that.

So, is Jim Jordan threatening the Supreme Court?

"Children Just Want To Be With Their Parents"

Watched the documentary on Fred Rogers over the weekend, "Won't You Be My Neighbor?"  It was all about children, of course, and it strikes me now that even the title is ironic in the light of the current news.  Did you know Mr. Rogers was the reason our children are now spoiled brats?  That was a small part of the story, but it stuck with me.  I could have sworn that was Benjamin Spock's fault and my generation that suffered, but no, Fred Rogers did it to the next generation past the Boomers.  That, at least, was a vogue for awhile. Mr. Rogers wanted children to know they were loved, and apparently that made them weaklings.  There's something painfully American in that criticism, and something entirely wrong with it.

But they were still children, and that makes them precious. Interesting watching that movie while we're still putting children in cages, can't find their parents after we separated them, and sent 19 of their parents out of the country while we kept the children here.

Tonight I was watching "The Doctor Blake Mysteries." Set in 1950's/'60's Australia, this episode concerned an orphanage with aboriginal children. Dr. Blake utters the line in the title at the end, explaining the drama of the story. Odd timing, to have that story just now, especially with part of the orphanage story being children taken from their parents by the state.

Not so odd, really: children are inviolable in our culture. They are the only innocents. Well, not black children; we consider them dangerous. But that's why Trump keeps mentioning MS-13. He wants us to be afraid of brown children, too. Only that's not working, and it's not going to work.  Meanwhile, in the immigration courts of this country:

A 1-year-old boy in federal custody who appeared in immigration court without his parents in Phoenix briefly played with a ball, drank from a bottle, then “cried hysterically” as he was about to leave the courtroom Friday, according to The Associated Press.

But he was eventually granted a voluntary departure order so the government can fly him to Honduras, where his father has already been sent.

The little boy, identified in court only as Johan, was one of the children who appeared in the Arizona court Friday without parents. One boy held up five fingers when the judge asked him his age.

Judge John Richardson said he was “embarrassed to ask” if Johan understood the proceedings, AP reported. “I don’t know who you would explain it to, unless you think that a 1-year-old could learn immigration law,” he told Johan’s attorney.

In family law courts, where it is not uncommon for the child to have both parents present, children can be appointed guardians ad litem, adults who report to the court about the status of the child and argue for the best interests of the child, and even an attorney ad litem to represent the child's legal interests apart from the parents. In immigration courts, the child is lucky to have an attorney present.  But that's not the worst part of it:

Some 3,000 migrant children remain in government custody after being separated from their parents, and about 100 of them are under the age of 5, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. The New York Times has reported that some records on the separated families have been lost or even destroyed, raising the possibility that some children may never be reunited with their families. In addition, the U.S. has already deported at least 19 parents of children under the age of 5 and in federal custody.

So those children go where?  Into foster care systems in Texas?  Pennsylvania?  California?  New Jersey?  Where?  And why?  Because the Administration is so incompetent it fails at the most basic governmental function of all, keeping records on people?

I would say this is Trump's Katrina, or Trump's Japanese internment camps, but this horror show is unprecedented.  This is slavery, where families are separated by law and government action (or at least approval under law) and no records are kept about the members of the family unit.  This is not comparable to the Nazis; this is all-American, through and through.  This is a return to the worst part of our history.

What is that doing to the children?  What is it doing to us, that we would treat children this way?  This is painfully American; it is also entirely wrong.

We need to be aware of that; and we need to remember that.  Which will be more damaging to our culture, to our national psyche?  The next Supreme Court justice?  Or how we treat other people's children?

Also updating:  this is simply not acceptable:

Justice Department attorney Sarah Fabien said that while only two children out of the 102 the government has identified have been reunited so far, she believes another 54 can be returned to their parents by Tuesday’s deadline. As for the rest, she claimed, three were brought by someone who is not their biological parent, three have parents with serious criminal records that bar reunification, five have parents with something on their record that requires further investigation, 12 have parents either in local or federal criminal detention who must serve time before being transferred to ICE, 18 have parents who were lost by the administration after their deportation or release into the U.S., and four have been approved for release to a non-parent sponsor.

As for the last of the 102, Fabian said, “We’re still trying to track down what information we have about that parent. To my knowledge we do not have any information.”

3 children, or 102 children:  the government has a responsibility, if it takes a child, to keep track of that child and their parents.  3 children are not disposable goods you toss in the trash because you got more from Costco than you could use.

Cui Bono?

What was it Orwell said about the hardest thing to do is seeing what's right in front of you?

Josh Marshall:

The more obvious conclusion is that, for whatever reasons, President Trump is hostile to the very concept of our primary alliances in Europe and Northeast Asia, in which we do pay substantial sums to be the guarantor of security in those regions. He simply hasn’t reconciled that with his braggadocious clamoring for higher military spending which, whether he knows it or not, assume those continuing commitments.

Jonathan Chait:

It is often said that Donald Trump has had the same nationalistic, zero-sum worldview forever. But that isn’t exactly true. Yes, his racism and mendacity have been evident since his youth, but those who have traced the evolution of his hypernationalism all settle on one year in particular: 1987. Trump “came onto the political stage in 1987 with a full-page ad in the New York Times attacking the Japanese for relying on the United States to defend it militarily,” reported Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “The president has believed for 30 years that these alliance commitments are a drain on our finite national treasure,” a White House official told the Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin. Tom Wright, another scholar who has delved into Trump’s history, reached the same conclusion. “1987 is Trump’s breakout year. There are only a couple of examples of him commenting on world politics before then.”

What changed that year? One possible explanation is that Trump published The Art of the Deal, which sped up his transformation from an aggressive, publicity-seeking New York developer to a national symbol of capitalism. But the timing for this account does not line up perfectly — the book came out on November 1, and Trump had begun opining loudly on trade and international politics two months earlier. The other important event from that year is that Trump visited Moscow.

The question is the old one:  cui bono?  Why should Trump despise NATO and wish to destroy it, the very thing NATO leaders fear he might do?  It doesn't benefit Trump, who has no business dealings involving NATO.  It doesn't benefit the U.S., who uses NATO to maintain a stability in the world that is really quite strong for the most part.  Who does it benefit?  Vladimir Putin and Russia, is the only credible answer.  And why would Trump want to do that?  "For whatever reasons"?  Or for reasons that are so plainly in front of the collective nose we strain to see it?

(And just to clarify:  as JMM points out, the U.S doesn't "spend far more on NATO" than any other "Country."  We spend more on our military than any other country, and use that military in bases that girdle the globe for stability and to extend our military power (most significantly right now, to keep North Korea from trying unify the peninsula under its dictatorship, simply by our military being there).  The bases in Germany support efforts as far away as the Middle East.  The value of this to the U.S. may be debatable, but the funding of NATO is not.  Does Trump know this, or even care?  Wrong question.  Why is Trump using his lies to undermine NATO, is a much more important question.)

ADDING:  and not to put too fine a point on it:

NATO has found renewed purpose since Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, sending battalions to the Baltics and Poland to deter potential Russian incursions.

President Donald Trump left the door open to recognizing Russia’s annexation of Crimea, telling reporters that such a move would be up for discussion when he meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin next month.

“We’re going to have to see,” Trump told reporters Friday on Air Force One when asked if the U.S. would accept Russia’s claim on the territory it seized from Ukraine in 2014. 
Cui bono?