Adventus

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

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

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

Thursday, July 28, 2016

And while I'm on the subject


Take what Thought Criminal said here (no, go read it first; I'll wait.  Done?  Good.), add this:

“We have not drawn any evidentiary connection to any Russian intelligence service and WikiLeaks — none,” said one U.S. official. Doing so will be a challenge, in part because the material may not have been passed electronically.

Also unclear, the officials said, is the motivation, even if Russia is behind the leak. It may be that the Kremlin wishes to disrupt and discredit the U.S. political process without seeking any particular result.

Michael V. Hayden, former CIA director, said, “Frankly, I don’t think they’re motivated by thinking they can affect the election itself.” He said the Russians, already masters at “information dominance” or using information as a political and military weapon, may be flexing their muscles “to demonstrate that they can — not necessarily to make Trump win or Hillary lose.” 
If they are truly behind the email dump, he said, “they’re taking their game to another level.”

The email dump, current and former national security officials said, is highly troubling, regardless of its provenance. And it could warrant considering whether the elements of the electoral process should be raised to the level of “critical infrastructure,” such as power grids and key financial systems, which merit special protection from cyberattacks, some officials said.

“We’re not used to thinking of the election system as a critical infrastructure,” said one senior administration official. “But I could make the case that it ought to be considered that. We ought to start talking about that.”

Whoever shared the emails with WikiLeaks, the senior administration official said, “sure as hell didn’t do that for our benefit.”

Yeah; this is serious.  Not exactly a fit subject for sarcasm from a major Presidential candidate.

More random news

To the hardcore partisans in the audience, this is the GOP campaign we're supposed to be worried about:


Um....yeah.

The times they are a-changin'.....


NPR is reporting that:

 a)  Trump was asked at the press conference if his challenge to Russia was a joke.  He declined to say it was. (Update:  now he says it was "sarcasm."  He's had time to think about it, apparently)

b) An intelligence briefer told the NPR reporter he wasn't sure Trump should see even the intelligence information that is normally shared with Presidential candidates.  This is something she has never heard before.  Ever.

Whoo boy.


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

He started a joke....


Funny thing Donald Trump said today: 
"Russia, if you're listening, I hope you can find the 33,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press," he said at the presser.
No, really, it's supposed to be funny!

Funniest thing:  the FBI isn't looking for those "missing e-mails":

I should add here that we found no evidence that any of the additional work-related e-mails were intentionally deleted in an effort to conceal them. Our assessment is that, like many e-mail users, Secretary Clinton periodically deleted e-mails or e-mails were purged from the system when devices were changed. Because she was not using a government account—or even a commercial account like Gmail—there was no archiving at all of her e-mails, so it is not surprising that we discovered e-mails that were not on Secretary Clinton’s system in 2014, when she produced the 30,000 e-mails to the State Department.

It could also be that some of the additional work-related e-mails we recovered were among those deleted as “personal” by Secretary Clinton’s lawyers when they reviewed and sorted her e-mails for production in 2014.

The lawyers doing the sorting for Secretary Clinton in 2014 did not individually read the content of all of her e-mails, as we did for those available to us; instead, they relied on header information and used search terms to try to find all work-related e-mails among the reportedly more than 60,000 total e-mails remaining on Secretary Clinton’s personal system in 2014. It is highly likely their search terms missed some work-related e-mails, and that we later found them, for example, in the mailboxes of other officials or in the slack space of a server.

It is also likely that there are other work-related e-mails that they did not produce to State and that we did not find elsewhere, and that are now gone because they deleted all e-mails they did not return to State, and the lawyers cleaned their devices in such a way as to preclude complete forensic recovery.

We have conducted interviews and done technical examination to attempt to understand how that sorting was done by her attorneys. Although we do not have complete visibility because we are not able to fully reconstruct the electronic record of that sorting, we believe our investigation has been sufficient to give us reasonable confidence there was no intentional misconduct in connection with that sorting effort.

Nowhere in Comey's statement does he mention "33, 000 e-mails," missing or otherwise.  He does use the category of "work related e-mails," but I don't think even Trump imagines the e-mails about Chelsea's wedding involved national security.  There were some 30, 000 missing at one point, but, as Comey says, the FBI recovered almost all of those.  Trump decided that number wasn't big enough, so he inflated it.  But, of course, that inflated number is already becoming a "thing":


Truth is getting its boots one while a lie is already half-way around the world.

Either way:  t'aint funny, McGee.

But this is.


Update:  


See?  Is joke!  Because the e-mails were deleted "illegally" (No, they weren't; even Comey wasn't upset about the deletions.) .  But hey, he's only a candidate for President, pay no attention!

Meanwhile, back at the arena.....


I have lived long enough to see that. I also have lived long enough to know that some people will bring their own punchbowl to the party just to piss in it.

This, apparently, is what democracy looks like.
Well, yeah, it is; because democracy is people, and people are messy.   Especially the ones who think "winning" means "getting everything I want."  Although usually we give those people a special label:  "Children."

I post this mostly to say, however:  what NTodd said.

The Gob, She Is Smacked!


Courtesy of Thought Criminal:  David Gregory has had it.

DAVID GREGORY: I've run out of words to express my shock and how completely beyond the pale that Donald Trump is as a potential leader of the free world, the commander in chief of our country. This was truly beyond the pale. I mean, he is encouraging Russia, which by all accounts was behind the leak of one of our major political parties, to do more, to go beyond, to try to hack into Hillary Clinton's server to find missing emails to kind of get in the middle of the scandal. It's as if this is a child playing with matches who doesn't understand how badly he and the country can get burned. It's a very serious thing. And I think that the one thing about Trump is that he is very clear for all to see. He is making very clear what he thinks, how he comes by information, and I think, frankly, the lack of seriousness and the intemperance with which he speaks about important national security matters should certainly give people pause. And I don't think there's anybody who would think that was anything but a fair reading of what we've seen here. Vladimir Putin is dangerous. He's been dangerous to a Democratic president, to a Republican president, President George W. Bush who thought he had a better relationship with him. And now this nominee of the Republican Party wants a closer relationship with Vladimir Putin which is what he said. And he thinks that he has the ability to have a better relationship. There's no evidence to believe that's the case.

We don' need no steenken' badges!

I think that donkey's about to kick like a mule.

And then Donald Trump made it even more interesting:

If it is Russia, which it’s probably not, nobody knows who it is. But if it is Russia, it’s really bad for a different reason. Because it shows how little respect they have for our country where they would hack into a major party and get everything. But it would be interesting to see – I will tell you this. Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.

Because all that really matters is what most directly concerns Joe Sixpack, amirite?

I don't think this is working out quite Julian Assange planned:

First, citing his “personal perspective,” Mr. Assange accused Mrs. Clinton of having been among those pushing to indict him after WikiLeaks disseminated a quarter of a million diplomatic cables during her tenure as secretary of state.

“We do see her as a bit of a problem for freedom of the press more generally,” Mr. Assange said.
So there is a motive involved, aside from whatever interest Putin would have in getting Trump, who is dismantling NATO as we speak, elected.  Then there's the fact Assange doesn't really know what Wikileaks is actually doing:

Mr. Assange’s remarks last month received only scattered attention, in part because in the interview Mr. Peston appeared to mistakenly assume that WikiLeaks had obtained still-undisclosed emails from the private server Mrs. Clinton had used while secretary of state and kept cutting Mr. Assange off to ask about it.

But it now seems clearer that Mr. Assange was trying to talk about the Democratic National Committee emails.

(The confusion stemmed in part because Mr. Assange said in the interview that WikiLeaks had “published” her State Department emails. But it made a copy of the ones the department posted on its website and made them easier to search.) 
And then there's the fact, verified by more than one source, that part of Russian tradecraft is to forge e-mails (indeed, what could be easier?):

The most damaging aspect to the DNC leak is the certainty that Moscow has placed disinformation—that is, false information hidden among facts—to harm the Democrats and the Clinton campaign. Disinformation is a venerable Russian spy trick that can be politically devastating to its target.

Disinformation is most effective when it plays upon essential truths. Since Hillary really is corrupt and less than honest, and the DNC actually has done her bidding in shady ways, lies that amplify those themes will be readily believed by many Americans. It’s obvious that Moscow prefers Trump over Clinton in this election, which ought not surprise given the important role of Putin-friendly advisors in the Trump campaign, and what better way to help is there than to discredit Team Clinton?

It’s apparent already that some of the most salacious emails in the DNC mega-dump are fake—as is to be expected. It’s normal Russian spycraft to place juicy fake messages among a lot of genuine ones. Here we need rigorous independent analysis of this latest Wikileaks operation to assess what’s real and what’s made up by somebody in Moscow. 
This is the link in the original article, to a document taken as "original" and part of the Wikileaks trove, which is on its face a fake (it's too good to be true), followed by another undoubted fake in the body of the blogpost (again, too true to be good).  The quality of "chatter" out there about the content of this e-mails is taking on the value of an urban legend.  Of course the chatter itself is resolving to a few angry Bernie supporters in Philadelphia who have placed themselves in a sort of self-exile, so the whole thing may well go away.

I'm not, however, quite sure it should; if only because we should start to question the veracity of documents leaked by Wikileaks; especially if that "note" from James Carville is any example.  But we'll have to wait and see if the Russians can come up with the missing State Department e-mails.  Because, really, what's the harm in Trump asking?

Be careful what you ask for


I love this internet meme that the purest of the pure Bernie backers can't vote for "the lesser evil" (i.e., Hillary Clinton).

Not only is it a religious argument (where the vote is a sacrament, and it is defiled by being used for the benefit of someone who is not pure of ideology), it's an ahistorical argument.  Many of the same people who insist on not supporting "the lesser evil" point to LBJ as an example of a politician who overcame evil, proving it can be done.

LBJ, of course, passed the Civil Rights Act because JFK was assassinated.  He deliberately and publicly linked it to JFK's death.  But it was also the result of Truman integrating the armed forces, and the push for integration that started among African Americans after World War II, a push that lead to the creation of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the rise of Dr. King, a civil rights act passed under Eisenhower (the one Kennedy wanted to amend and extend), the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and the March on Washington (which we forget was in 1963).

LBJ, in other words, didn't act in a vacuum, or completely cut off from history.   Even the Voting Rights Act, which was pure LBJ and was finally the implementation of the 15th Amendment, didn't happen without the march from Selma to Montgomery, and other actions by Dr. King and his associates. LBJ wasn't a single brave white man (like John Wayne in the movies) saving the black man from ignominy (again, like John Wayne in his later movies, where it was acceptable to treat Indians not as savages, but as oppressed people.  Oppressed by people like John Wayne's characters in the movies, but no matter:  white man must save brown man.  Always.), but set that aside too (along with all the African Americans who wouldn't vote for Bernie.  His most ardent supporters do.) He didn't act alone, and he didn't act despite the prevailing sentiments of the country.

And the final irony is that LBJ didn't run for re-election, the first time in modern American history, because of the Democrats who despised him over Vietnam.  Which quest for purity of ideology and in the name of "no lesser evil!", gave us 5 years of Richard Nixon (would have been 8, but for Watergate).

So, yeah, let's refuse to vote for the "lesser evil."  What could go wrong?

Where the sun shines bright


Salon recently noted that white fragility is real.

Yup, it is:

“They can't stop talking about slavery, and largely in a context of, 'Hey, you know what? It isn't settled yet.' And, 'Hey, you know what, we haven't fixed it yet," Limbaugh said. “I mean, that's their starting point, and I think that's a no-win situation for us because we've made great strides.”

You know what?  It isn't settled yet.

"Slaves that worked there were well fed and had decent lodgings provided by the government, which stopped hiring slave labor in 1802. However, the feds did not forbid subcontractors from using slave labor," O'Reilly said. "So, Michelle Obama is essentially correct in citing slaves as builders of the White House, but there were others working as well."
And after work in the evenings they sat around campfires singing "My Old Kentucky Home" like good, happy "darkies" should.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Because we can?

Still wondering why technology and/or what is revealed, makes this stuff ethical.

Sometimes it helps just to see all this stuff in one place:

RICHARD ENGEL: Three cybersecurity experts told us that the DNC emails were hacked by Russian intelligence. What do you say?

JULIAN ASSANGE: Well there is no proof of that whatsoever. We have not disclosed our source, and of course, this is a diversion that's being pushed by the Hillary Clinton campaign. That's a meta-story. The real story is what these emails contain and they show collusion. The very top of the Democratic party, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, is now being forced to resign. And other people from the party, which is meant to be neutral, subverting the process in order to make sure Hillary Clinton won the campaign.
Ignore the "three cybersecurity experts are lying and only I, Julian Assange, fugitive from justice*, am telling the truth." (and no, there isn't any "proof," but this isn't a court of law; there is, however, evidence). Focus instead on:  why is Julian Assange so interested in the election of Hillary Clinton?  And are the Russians cozy with the Trumps?

On Monday, fallout from the hack also reverberated at the Kremlin, where a spokesman declined to comment on the hack except to refer reporters to comments by Trump’s son, Don Jr., calling the allegations part of a pattern of “lie after lie.”

“Mr. Trump Jr. has already strongly responded” to the Clinton campaign’s claims, the Russian spokesman said, according to the news agency Tass.
An interesting non-denial denial, that.

And what's wrong with a "meta-story"?  Isn't the real story the theft of private communications?  Or is that okay when we're outraged by 1% of what is stolen and published?

And here is the interesting question, because it is unprovable, but it is also disturbingly possible;

Presumably the DNC email hack and leak involve genuine emails. But what if the hackers interspersed fake but even more damning or inflammatory emails that were hard to disprove? What if hackers break in to computers to steal or destroy voter registration information? What if they disrupted computer-based voting or election returns in important states during the presidential election? The legitimacy of a presidential election might be called into question, with catastrophic consequences. The DNC hack is just the first wave of possible threats to electoral integrity in the United States—by foreign intelligence services, and others.
After all, of all the nearly 28,000 e-mails, it's about 30 or so that are getting all the attention.  There is nothing so easy to forge as an e-mail, so it's a valid question.  And we know Wikileaks published personal financial information in this release of data.  What else did the hackers (whoever they were) get from the DNC?  Or from anyone else, for that matter?

The FBI warned the Clinton campaign and dozens of lawmakers in recent months that they were being targeted by hackers, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Back to that matter of ethos.....

Adding:  Maybe it's just payback.  And:  what Franklin Foer said.  Either way:  watch the donut, not the hole.

*Ethos; one of the four elements of Aristotle's rhetoric important to an argument.

Blame NTodd

Monday, July 25, 2016

Yes; yes it does.


Good preaching isn't about telling people what to think; or even telling them what they want to hear.  It certainly isn't about berating them for their sins or their shortcomings, or otherwise browbeating them into line.

Good preaching is about giving people the words to understand their own lives better.  It is about giving them narratives that open up their world rather than contract it.  Mark Shields just told the panel on PBS that further violent attacks such as the one in Japan today (a knife attack that left 18 dead?  News to me....) will redound to the benefit of the "law and order candidate."  Well, only if we let the narrative, the presumptions, of "law and order" prevail and explain the world to us:  a world in which we must be concerned if not afraid, until someone comes to impose "law and order" through swift and merciless justice.

Except "Law and Order" is a phrase, and idea, a narrative; and we don't have to accept it as the only possible narrative, the only "right" idea.  Law does not lead to order any more than military might leads to freedom.  No one has died for my freedom since World War II ended.  Law does not equal order, because it can as easily equal disorder and injustice.  If the law only prevents the rich and the poor from sleeping under bridges, it is not bringing order, only cruelty and inequality; and those conditions breed disorder.  We can reconsider what we know is true; and we don't have to accept attitude as the answer to discontent and wishes for a world long gone.

The speakers on the first night of the Democratic convention remind us of America's richness:  black men, Latinas, Minnesota senators and sassy comedians who tell the hold outs they're being ridiculous, just before Paul Simon croaks out (there's no other word for it, sadly) his most hymn-like song.

It is preaching, of a kind.  It is good preaching.  It gives us words to understand our own lives better, to see the world as a better, not a scarier, place.  It gives us narratives that don't depend on empty cliches like "law and order."

We can lean on that.  We can stand on that.  We can rise on the steps of our dead selves to better things, as people; as a nation.  We can learn that Love Trumps Hate.

Reading other people's mail

If I'm reading somebody else's e-mails, should I be shocked?  Or ashamed of myself?

The funny part about the Wikileaks e-mail dump is how many people on NPR this morning were all "Whuuut?" about the connection between Wikileaks and Russia.*

It turns out there’s hardly any mystery there. It’s no secret that the DNC was recently subject to a major hack, one which independent cybersecurity experts easily assessed as being the work of Russian intelligence through previously known cut-outs. One of them, called COZY BEAR or APT 29, has used spear-phishing to gain illegal access to many private networks in the West, as well as the White House, the State Department, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff last year. Another hacking group involved in the attack on the DNC, called FANCY BEAR or APT 28, is a well-known Russian front, as I’ve previously profiled.

These bears didn’t make much efforts to hide their DNC hack—in one case leaving behind a Russian name in Cyrillic as a signature—and Kremlin attribution has been confirmed by independent analysis by a second cybersecurity firm.

The answer then is simple: Russian hackers working for the Kremlin cyber-pilfered the DNC then passed the purloined data, including thousands of unflattering emails, to Wikileaks, which has shown them to the world.

Yeah; no possible connection whatsoever:

Although Wikileaks' posting of the emails Friday did not disclose the identity of who provided the private material, those knowledgeable about the breach said last month that Russian hackers had penetrated the DNC computer system. At the time, DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said the breach was a "serious incident" and a private contractor hired to sweep the organization's network had "moved as quickly as possible to kick out the intruders and secure our network."

On Sunday, Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook told CNN's "State of the Union" that he believes Russian hackers are behind the disclosure, and they did it to benefit Donald Trump.
And why in the world would the Russians want to benefit Trump?  Probably because Trump's major source of financing since the 1980's has been from Russia; among other ties.  And besides, there's Trump's statements about what he'd do as President:

...Trump seems really, really focused on a series of issues of great concern to Putin: the level of US involvement in Ukraine, the robustness of our security commitment to the Baltic NATO member states, the continued existence of the EU, the continued existence of NATO. For me, the notorious New York Times interview was a key thing. It showed a presidential candidate not only threatening to blow up a highly successful security framework which has served the United States, Europe and actually the world extremely well over almost 70 years. He showed the kind of swaggering, confusion and uncertainty generating talk which is probably the most likely path to a true super power confrontation in Eastern Europe which probably wouldn't lead to a nuclear exchange ... but, well, might.

Whenever we are looking for undue influence or malign alliances, we are always trying to unearth the quid quo pro. Quids are a dime a dozen. You seldom find the quos. With Trump and Russia we're overflowing with quos and as Trump might say the best quos. We definitely do not know if they're connected. But what Trump is giving is exactly what Putin would want for his help. This is really indisputable.
Or, just this:
6. Over the course of the last year, Putin has aligned all Russian state controlled media behind Trump. As Frank Foer explains here, this fits a pattern with how Putin has sought to prop up rightist/nationalist politicians across Europe, often with direct or covert infusions of money. In some cases this is because they support Russia-backed policies; in others it is simply because they sow discord in Western aligned states. Of course, Trump has repeatedly praised Putin, not only in the abstract but often for the authoritarian policies and patterns of government which have most soured his reputation around the world. 

Is Trump being backed by Putin?  Is Putin putting his thumb on the scales of the American election? If that's too bizarre a question, too much like the kind of question jingoistic racists might ask about Chinese influence on Democratic candidates or something, then simply consider the above and ask:  Cui bono?

Who benefits?  That the Russians hacked the DNC servers is almost beyond purview (although JMM thinks it might not be).  John Schindler thinks it is beyond doubting, as he thinks there is no question Wikileaks is a cat's paw for Putin (he makes a good case for that, too.).

Does it matter, though?  Wikileaks has released 27,286 e-mails which date from January 2015 to March 25, 2016.  (The hack of the DNC server was reported, if you were wondering, on June 14, 2016.  The DNC reported it has blocked the hackers as of the June 11-12, 2016.)  Of those e-mails, all the discussion is about less than 30.  A list of what can be found there has been posted (accuracy not verified, btw), and it's a fairly tedious list, indeed, including blockbusters like "Consultant calling megyn kelly a bimbo. Has PDF attached that says the same" and DNC telling each other, “I love you too. no homo.” (Frankly, I'm surprised that one isn't getting more play.)  What it proves, so far, is that only idiots commit their thoughts to e-mail; and that maybe the DNC should clear their servers a bit more often, and make sure they actually have deleted what is supposed to be deleted (one never know, do one?).

Wikileaks has promised 3 more batches of e-mails, so we'll have more tedium to come.

But I'm still wondering:  what does Russia have to do with this?  And when will that question be taken seriously?**

*And yes, Wikileaks has problems on more fronts than simply probable ties to Putin.  Well, that, and this:

The use of Wikileaks as the publishing platform served to legitimize the information dump, which also contains a large amount of personal information related to democratic donors such as social security and credit card numbers. This suggests that Wikileaks didn’t perform a thorough analysis of the documents before they released them, or simply didn’t care.
The author of that article argues Wikileaks has been "weaponized" by Putin; and I think it's a fairly well grounded argument.  Still, it's an area in which few of us have a narrative to guide us, so like the critics of Josh Marshall's thesis connecting Trump to Putin, the first response is to nit-pick about any information you think you can get hold of.  I'm not saying the connection is crystal clear; I'm saying a lot of serious questions need to be raised.  And I think the political press would prefer to leave them undisturbed until, oh, February or so.

Kind of like we did with Watergate, although I'm not so sure President Trump could be forced out of office quite the way Nixon went.

**And no, it won't start with this.  Then again, it went from "Whaaa?" this morning to two stories on NPR this afternoon.  So hope springs eternal.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Through a glass, darkly




This is actually a greater concern than anything Donald Trump said Thursday night or Friday morning.

Of course, what he said will probably damage him more in the election; but it is what he hasn't said that is so concerning.  For one thing, Trump hasn't pledged to put his businesses and investments into a blind trust.  And if he already knows his financial status depends on the goodwill of people very close to Vladimir Putin, what difference would a blind trust make to his diplomatic decisions anyway?

Friday, July 22, 2016

Ein volk, ein reich....


The monsters are coming FROM Maple Street

I listened to Trump's speech last night, as much of it as I could stand.  Garry Kasparov gets to fill the role of the late Molly Ivins this time around, because things have only gotten worse since 1992:

I’ve heard this sort of speech a lot in the last 15 years and trust me, it doesn’t sound any better in Russian.
And because Trump mentioned the evangelicals (but only insofar as they've given him political support), Andrew Sullivan (the source for most of this post, frankly) gives us Marilynne Robinson:

 “First, contemporary America is full of fear. And second, fear is not a Christian habit of mind.”
Let the people say:  AMEN!

To put that in the context of one of the more bizarre things Trump spoke about:

Now he wants a total fusion of politics and religion, by allowing tax exempt churches to be directly involved in political campaigning. I think he sees the evangelical movement rather like Putin sees the Russian Orthodox church.
As Sullivan points out, there was no mention in the speech of technology or automation.  Where are the jobs that Trump says will return to Ohio and the country?  Replaced by robots, for the most part.  And coal will return?  Gonna be a surprise to the coal companies going bankrupt because nobody wants their product (natural gas is cheaper).  That's not regulation, that's market forces.

Andrew has the fact checking on the speech (ISIS came into being in 2014, after Clinton stepped down as SOS in 2013; most of the turmoil on the Middle East was caused by the Arab spring, not by Obama removing troops from Iraq, etc., etc., etc.), but fact checking such a speech is ultimately irrelevant.  The interesting thing to me is how lackluster it was.  Trump seemed false, artificial; like he was imitating a demagogue instead of being one.  Yes, his proposals were entirely fascistic:  he is going to renegotiate trade deals (the POTUS doesn't attend those discussions); he is going to fix America's infrastructure (not if Congress won't pay for it, and they won't); he is going to fix the VA (see previous parenthetical), and of course, by the awesome power of the awesome sauce that is the Donald, he's going to solve the problem of violence in America;


Guy's run one too many beauty pageants.

This was a pathetic four day exercise at arousing the base to support The Donald, and I'm not sure Trump didn't put a wet blanket on all that last night, despite his best efforts to sound enthusiastic.  It was an overlong speech (I think he beat Clinton's record) and that means it was dull.  He didn't reach anybody beyond that arena, and he's certainly not going to appeal to women, blacks, Hispanics, or even people who vaguely understand our Constitutional system with his claims he alone can fix what ails us.

If he continues in that vein, he's going to augur right into the ground.  All indications from Cleveland are that he will.




Thursday, July 21, 2016

"A real story millions of people refuse to believe"


Some people say Ted Cruz actually looks respectable now, because of his speech last night and his appearance before the Texas GOP delegation this morning.

Bollocks.

And I say that for the same reason I thought Bernie Sanders supporters screaming about the "rigged" Democratic primary process were full of it, too.

Cruz wants to put himself above everything, even the party.  Nice position if you can get it, but what do you do from that lofty position?  Tell everyone else what to do and to snap to it, because you are alone in the catbird seat?

No one is alone in a system of power, or even in human society.  If Ted Cruz wants to be in charge all on his own, let him go to a desert island and be virtuous by himself.  If he wants other people to put him in the Oval Office, he has to respect other people.

Last night and this morning, Ted Cruz showed that he only respects himself.

I agree with him, that I wouldn't make common cause with a man who insulted my wife and father the way Donald Trump insulated Cruz's family members.  But the solution to that is to decline to speak at the GOP convention.  A lot of people didn't even show up; Cruz could have been one of them.  But Cruz had to show up and make it all about him.  And even this morning, as he wants the party to nominate him in 2020 (his ambition is so naked it's ugly), he wants to stand apart from the party as a paragon of virtue who doesn't need the party to certify his sanctity; he is self-sanctifying (and, some Texans think, more than a little self-righteous).

Not unlike, actually, an itinerant evangelical preacher who never has to minister to a congregation, but just has to rouse a crowd to answer the alter call before moving on to the next revival tent.

No, I don't think Ted Cruz is showing any integrity just now, and I'm more than a bit disappointed in the people who think he is.  Then again, I grew up around this kind of snake oil sales; I'm practically immunized against it.  Ted Cruz isn't a Byronic hero standing up against even the Fates in a noble gesture.

Ted Cruz is Marjoe, fleecing the rubes one more time.

Movie Time


By the sign, you know what time it is.

In my never-ending pursuit of movies long after everyone else has seen them, I'm watching "The Big Short" on Netflix.  And the one-sentence summary of the film is:  "The system is clueless."

Why did Donald Trump win the GOP nomination for President?

The system is clueless.

In the same way that mortgage bonds got built on a very bad idea (treating mortgages as investments in themselves) and eventually metastasized into what Margot Robbie in a bubble bath sipping champagne (I love this movie!) calls "shit," so did the GOP trust the system to keep it's "base" angry but controlled at the same time.  But just as the movie shows how bad the housing market was down at the level of, you know, houses and homeowners (houses "underwater" before that became a term, owners defaulting on mortgages because the properties were investments, not their homes, strippers owning five houses and a condo because loans were being written and bought up by banks the way as if they were children in a candy factory), so too the powers that be were clueless about what they had stirred up and eventually set loose, when they got Trump, the man whose name Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan and almost no one in the GOP power structure will mention in Cleveland.

And Trump is, to draw in an even older movie, "Bulworth."

Of course, Warren Beatty's character was a politician who got tired of lying, and found out telling the truth was liberating.  Trump wouldn't know the truth if it walked up and shook his hand.  Trump isn't telling the truth; he's telling people what they want to hear.  And the truth of that is in the NYT article that claimed Trump Jr. told Kasich's people Kasich could run the country, The Donald would "make America great again."

Is it true this happened?  Slate says take it with a grain of salt, it comes from the Kasich camp.   Okay, fine, but ask yourself this:  if it was any other candidate, be it Clinton, Sanders, even Huckabee or Santorum, would the NYT print it?  Would anybody believe it, even for a moment?*

People imagine Trump is Bulworth, and they think his insane statements are "truth" or some equivalent thereof.  Well, the few thousand people in the Quicken Loans arena in Cleveland right now do.  Trump is the AAA rated mortgage bond that has been rated by Standard and Poors (the GOP) because if they don't rate it, someone else will; not because he deserves that rating.  In fact, he points up the fraud of political parties the way S&P is revealed to be engaging in fraud in "The Big Short":  because it's all about appearance and staying in business, and the GOP can't stay in business if they can't run a candidate for POTUS.  Because, honestly, what did Ted Cruz say that Paul Ryan didn't say?  It was the same pitch:  "vote Republican, because it's better than voting for Hillary (even though she's going to win, and we all know it)."

The system is clueless.  The system will trade in shit, and call it a sandwich.  As Howard Beale said:  "Woe is us!"

But even Howard Beale couldn't beat the system.  He couldn't even slow it down.

*perhaps more frighteningly:  what difference does it make, to anyone?  "Three Days of the Condor" traded on the notion that the U.S. would do anything, even provoke war, for oil, and the people responsible would kill to keep that a secret.  It ends with Robert Redford submitting that secret to the press, and Cliff Robertson asking him if the press will print it.   30 years later we know that even if they did, nothing would really change.  40 years later, we don't even notice that the candidate for a major party may have no interest in being President at all.  It's not even a secret; it doesn't mean as much as whether or not a Senator endorsed the candidate at the Convention.

Time's winged chariot hurrying near



Everyone this morning will want to talk about Ted Cruz's refusal to endorse Donald Trump.  I want to talk about how weird that speech was.

It was weird because he wanted so badly to use the emotional hook of the 9 year old girl mourning her dead father; but that's an almost radioactive story.  Where do you go with that?

Conventions are times of excitement. But given the events of the last few weeks, I hope you’ll allow me a moment to talk to you about what’s really at stake.

Just two weeks ago, a nine-year-old girl named Caroline was having a carefree Texas summer – swimming in the pool, playing with friends, doing all the things a happy child might do.

Like most children, she took for granted the love she received from her mom, Heidi, and her dad, a police sergeant named Michael Smith. That is, until he became one of the five police officers gunned down in Dallas.

The day her father was murdered, Caroline gave him a hug and kiss as he left for work. But as they parted, her dad asked her something he hadn’t asked before:

“What if this is the last time you ever kiss or hug me?’”

Later, as she thought of her fallen father, and that last heartbreaking hug, Caroline broke down in tears. How could anything ever be OK again?

Michael Smith was a former Army ranger who spent three decades with the Dallas Police Department. I have no idea who he voted for in the last election, or what he thought about this one. But his life was a testament to devotion. He protected the very protestors who mocked him because he loved his country and his fellow man. His work gave new meaning to that line from literature, “To die of love is to live by it.”

As I thought about what I wanted to say tonight, Michael Smith’s story weighed on my heart. Maybe that’s because his daughter, Caroline, is about the same age as my eldest daughter and happens to share the same name. Maybe it’s because I saw a video of that dear, sweet child choking back sobs as she remembered her daddy’s last question to her. Maybe it’s because we live in a world where so many others have had their lives destroyed by evil, in places like Orlando and Paris and Nice and Baton Rouge. Maybe it is because of the simple question itself:

What if this, right now, is our last time? Our last moment to do something for our families and our country?

That's where he tried to go with it.  By that point, you can be forgiven for wondering just what he thinks he's doing.  Is he going to blame Hillary for Michael Smith's death?  Black Lives Matter?  (he almost does that when he mentions the protestors mocking the police in Dallas; an outright lie, as the police were marching with the protestors, even tweeting about the march as it happened.)  Is he going to identify himself with Michael Smith, or with Smith's daughter?  No, he takes this very concrete story and goes full abstract with it, fully destroys whatever purpose he had in mentioning it.  It turns out we are all Michael Smith, which means we're all dead?  We'll all leave a mourning 9 year old behind at the end of 2016?

Did we live up to our values? Did we do all we could?

That’s really what elections should be about. That’s why you and millions like you devoted so much time and sacrifice to this campaign.

We’re fighting, not for one particular candidate or one campaign, but because each of us wants to be able to tell our kids and grandkids, our own Carolines, that we did our best for their future, and for our country.
So, elections are about putting yourself in mortal danger for the safety of others?  Elections are about never seeing your 9 year old daughter again?

Honestly, when I heard this speech last night, my first thought was about all the stories I'd heard about what a brilliant speaker Cruz was, and I thought he was extemporizing, that he was looking for a theme and he wanted to hook this story in, this story from Texas, this story with such an obvious emotional appeal, but he started and he realized he couldn't do it.  It's a toxic story if you don't focus on the little girl:  either you turn attention to the shooter and what caused him to open fire, or you turn attention to the bete noir of the GOP this week, Hillary Clinton, or you turn attention (as he almost did) to BLM.  And whichever way you go, that's when things get ugly.

It's a pattern I recognize from giving sermons (and Cruz speaks like nothing so much as the son of an evangelical preacher, a man determined to make people agree with him).  You need a concrete story, something solid that you can attach your abstract ideas to (love; forgiveness; God).  You start with the compelling story and soon realize your story outweighs your message,  that your story is too concrete and that whatever you do with it, you can't send a message with it.  The story is too much of a message itself.  When you figure that out on paper, you start over; when you realize that on the stage, when you've started what you thought was going to be a brilliant peroration, you suddenly have a tiger by the tail, and your chances of jumping on its back are about nil.  I thought Ted Cruz had walked on stage and found himself holding a tiger.  I was amazed to find out this morning he was speaking from prepared remarks.

Somebody needs to fire his speechwriter.  Because that portion of the speech has nothing to do with this portion:

America is more than just a land mass between two oceans. America is an idea, a simple yet powerful idea: freedom matters.

For much of human history, government power has been the unavoidable constant in life – government decrees, and the people obey.

Not here. We have no king or queen. No dictator. We the People constrain government.

Our nation is exceptional because it was built on the five most powerful words in the English language: I want to be free.

Never has that message been more needed than today.

We stand here tonight a nation divided. Partisan rancor, anger, even hatred are tearing America apart.

And citizens are furious—rightly furious—at a political establishment that cynically breaks its
promises and ignores the will of the people.

We have to do better. We owe our fallen heroes more than that.
Of course, Obama and Clinton will tell you that they also care about our children’s future. And I want to believe them. But there is a profound difference in our two parties’ visions for the future.

It goes on in that vein; I won't bore you with the details.  But notice how Officer Smith and his daughter have ceased to be relevant to this argument.  Notice, too, how he tries to bring them back in by making partisan rancor a failing that demeans Michael Smith and makes Caroline cry, and how he tries to make poor grieving Caroline into all of our children.  Nice, coming from a man so partisan he goes on to refuse to endorse the GOP candidate as he lays the groundwork for his own candidacy in 2020.  And toxic, too; if he emphasized that point any further, he would look like the vile creature he really is.

He attacks Obama and Clinton, in uninteresting terms (and outright lies).  He moves to ISIS, Obamacare, the moon landing (big government! irony alert!), the internet, and the 10th Amendment, even the Civil Rights Act (wait?  States rights?), none of which has anything to do with Caroline or the death of Michael Smith (no mention of the 2nd Amendment, or whether Michael Smith might have passed his killer on the street and not noticed a man carrying a rifle because, you know, freedom); but in the end, he returns to Caroline, who of course he has to associate with love (certainly not with the 2nd Amendment and "FREEDUMB!"):

And it is love that I hope will bring comfort to a grieving 9-year-old girl in Dallas – and, God willing, propel her to move forward, and dream, and soar . . . and make her daddy proud.

We must make the most of our moment – to fight for freedom, to protect our God-given rights, even of those with whom we don’t agree, so that when we are old and gray . . . and our work is done . . . and we give those we love one final kiss goodbye . . . we will be able to say, “Freedom matters, and I was part of something beautiful.”

Thank you. And may God bless the United States of America.
Gotta wonder about any reference to "fighting" so close to a reference to a grieving 9 year old whose father was shot down by a man who thought he was fighting for freedom, but by then the crowd wasn't listening, and the pundits today will only talk about Cruz's failure to endorse Donald Trump.

I think we should give a moments thought to what a very, very callow person Ted Cruz is, and how he was the runner up in the GOP primaries this year.  That doesn't speak well for 2020.