"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, January 23, 2018

This may mean nothing...

But Texas Monthly, usually a fairly reliable GOP (bidness, not craziness) house organ, seems to be hedging its bets.  There are two covers on the newsstands just now, as shown above.  Those are the presumptive candidates for the Democratic and GOP tickets for U.S. Senate from Texas.  Odd that the Democrat is getting so much attention, in a race that should be Cruz's for the asking.  Odd that Texas Monthly should go to the trouble of giving so much attention to the Democrats.

This is Texas, after all.

Maybe TM just feels burned because they went out on a limb for Dan Patrick, and he proceeded to saw it off.

I think TM was trying to get out in front of the parade with that one.  They ended up making Patrick their "Bum Steer of the Year" for 2018, mostly, according to TM, because he pushed too hard on the "bathroom bill."  What happened was, Patrick was never bigger than his mouth, and he used that mouth to get absolutely nothing through the Lege that he wanted passed, even forcing a special session on the "bathroom bill" that he lost, too.  Bob Bullock is the legendary Lt. Gov. of Texas who knew where the bodies were buried and how to make the Lege work; an LBJ clone on the state level, he set the standard for what the Lt. Gov, is supposed to be able to do.  Patrick ended up flopping around in Bullock's shoes and suit, all entirely too large for him.  TM still couldn't face the fact Patrick was an unreconstructed boob whose previous claim to fame was being a radio shock jock, a Limbaugh/Hannity Mini-Me.  Patrick has about that much depth and insight.  He's all ideological hat and no political cattle.  TM can't even bring itself to point out how Patrick made threats against Texas school districts which were following the law.  Granted, some of that was in 2016, and this award is for actions in 2017, but TM put Patrick "in charge" precisely because of stupid stunts like that.  Stupid stunts he tried to use again in the legislative session, to about as much effect as they had on the independent school districts which knew the Lt. Gov. had no authority over them whatsoever.

Oops, as our former Governor said.

So maybe TM is putting a finger in the wind and hedging their bets.  It's not impossible to imagine a Democrat more interested in governance than ideology winning even a U.S. Senate seat from Texas.  I've always maintained Texas sent at least one Senator to Washington because that person was too obnoxious even for Texas (I call this the "Phil Gramm Hypothesis"), and Senator is a choice made by all of us, not just some of us (on the Representative level there are pockets of voters as boorish as Blake Farenthold his own self).  But it is possible to be too obnoxious even for Texas to send you to D.C.  Or Austin, for that matter (there's a grassroots effort to mobilize school employees across the state to vote against Patrick in the open GOP primary in March, just because of how anti-education he really is.).  Business interests finally prevailed last summer in the Lege, and TM is nothing if not interested in Texas bidness.

Or maybe they finally hired a weatherman to tell 'em which way the wind is blowing.

Greatest Legislative Victory Evah!

The government can stay open for three more weeks!

I'll retire to Bedlam.

OTOH:  Had the Democrats just held out, the GOP would have capitulated, resigned en masse, and left the Democrats in charge of the House and Senate in perpetuity!

Yeah!  That's how it works!

Which way is Bedlam?

Oh, and Trump is back on Twitter making an ass of himself and the nation, so there's that.

Was there maybe a door prize?

Later that same day:

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told the White House this week that he has retracted his offer to provide funds for the border wall well above the $1.6 billion that President Trump originally requested, Politico reported Tuesday. Sources say that “Trump will simply not get a better deal than that on his signature campaign promise.” Last Friday, Schumer originally offered the border-wall funds while meeting with Trump, hoping to get “a broader deal to help Dreamers.” Since the government shutdown, a Democratic aide said that Trump has “missed an opportunity to get the wall.”

But Schumer didn't kick Trump in the nuts on national television and declare DACA the law of the land by divine Democratic Minority Leader in the Senate proclamation, so he sux.


Monday, January 22, 2018

Heart in the Deep of Texas Report: Government Shutdown Edition

Yeah, I know, Democrats "caved" today, and gave the government three more weeks of funding.  Which actually means McConnell holds the vote, or Dems walk away in three weeks and let the GOP hold the bag.

And if this is total capitulation for the Dems, why is Ted Cruz talking this way?

“They’re angry, they hate the president and demanding Senate Democrats oppose everything, resist everything, shut everything down,” Cruz said, and Hunt told him that reminded her of what he said more than four years ago. “Now i recognize that is a media narrative you love to tell, but it’s worth noting in 2013 –”

“‘Green Eggs and Ham?'” Hunt interrupted, reminding Cruz of the children’s book he read during a filibuster in 2013.

“In 2013, I voted repeatedly to fund the government, and in 2013 it was Harry Reid and the democrats who voted no, who voted to shut the government down just like this week Republicans voted to fund the government, and it was Chuck Schumer who voted to shut the government down,” Cruz said.

“We should not be shutting the government down,” Cruz said. “I have consistently opposed shutdowns. In 2013 I said we shouldn’t shut the government down. I went to the floor asking unanimous consent to reopen the government.”

Hunt wasn’t letting Cruz wriggle out of that.

“Sir, you stood in the way of that,” Hunt said, and Cruz insisted she was “factually incorrect. “It’s not, though.”

Cruz blamed Democrats for the previous shutdown — but Hunt again called him out by reminding him of his scheme to undo Obamacare before it could fully take effect.

“Sir, that’s simply not the case,” she said. “This was about Obamacare funding.”

Cruz accused the reporter of trying to debate him without any facts, but Hunt kept pushing.

“Why were all of your GOP colleagues angry with you if you didn’t?” she said.

Cruz then tried to escape blame by shoving it back on fellow Republicans.

“In 2013, unfortunately, Republicans were divided,” he said. “That was a mistake and I wrote a book a couple years ago called ‘A Time for Truth.’ I walked through what happened and said the mistake made then in 2013 by Senate Republican leadership was to turn and attack House Republicans, and fellow Republicans and to turn Republicans on each other. That was a mistake. I wish it had not happened and I’m glad it didn’t happen this time. This time Republicans actually stayed united.”

Let's start with Forbes in 2013:

The government “shutdown” properly should be called “the Cruz Crisis.” This indeed is a crisis in the Chinese nuanced sense.

The Chinese character, weiji, usually is translated “dangerous opportunity.” Actually it means “precarious pivot point.”  That describes perfectly where Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx) stands… and has pushed the Republican Party.  Ted Cruz has made himself the point man for the whole, melodramatic, government “shutdown.”  It is part of his high stakes play for the presidency driven by, those who know him say, an admixture of ambition and idealism.

The "shutdown" enamored the angry populists in the Tea Party with Cruz as it was meant to do.  Yet the round is not yet over.  Neither the GOP, nor Cruz, are out of the woods yet.  To pocket his winnings, Cruz needs to help extricate the GOP from peril (into which he helped placed it), neutralize, not heighten, the political negatives, play a major role in holding the House and installing a Republican majority in the Senate. Cruz, if he hopes to reunite America, first must reunite the party he helped divide.

Or maybe you prefer NPR from the same year:

In the second day of a partial government shutdown, Congress is at a stalemate.

On Tuesday night, House Republicans tried to pass three small bills funding popular parts of the government, such as the national parks. But they failed. The White House had already threatened a veto.

That strategy, as with others in this fight, is credited to Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.

Cruz looms large in this government shutdown drama. He's the one who spent the August recess campaigning for Republicans to insist on tying funding for the government to defunding the health care law.

On Monday night, just hours before the shutdown began, Cruz appeared on CNN and suggested the House take up smaller spending bills — one at a time — to fund bits and pieces of the government.

"We should pick the top, the critical priorities, the areas where, if the Democrats force a shutdown, the areas where there'll be the most pain, and let's address that — let's take them off the table," he said. "I think the House tonight ought to pass several continuing resolutions."
Ted is an old hand at blaming the media for his troubles:

Ted Cruz faced a barrage of hostile questions Wednesday from angry GOP senators, who lashed the Texas tea party freshman for helping prompt a government shutdown crisis without a strategy to end it.

At a closed-door lunch meeting in the Senate’s Mansfield Room, Republican after Republican pressed Cruz to explain how he would propose to end the bitter budget impasse with Democrats, according to senators who attended the meeting. A defensive Cruz had no clear plan to force an end to the shutdown — or explain how he would defund Obamacare, as he has demanded all along, sources said.

Things got particularly heated when Cruz was asked point-blank if he would renounce attacks waged on GOP senators by the Senate Conservatives Fund, an outside group that has aligned itself closely with the Texas senator.

Cruz’s response: “I will not,” according to an attendee.
The closed-door Wednesday meetings hosted by the Senate’s conservative Steering Committee are supposed to be private, so senators interviewed for this article asked not to be named.

“It seems that there is nothing the media likes to cover more than disagreements among Republicans, and apparently some senators are content to fuel those stories with anonymous quotes,” Cruz told POLITICO. “Regardless, my focus — and, I would hope, the focus of the rest of the conference — is on stopping Harry Reid’s shutdown, ensuring that vital government priorities are funded, and preventing the enormous harms that Obamacare is inflicting on millions of Americans.”

Then there's this from Texas Monthly about the present.  Reminder:  TM is a usually reliable Republican house organ:

That Ted-I-Am, that Ted-I-Am, he did not like Green Eggs and Ham. Senator Ted Cruz read aloud the Dr. Seuss book as part of 21 hours of extended remarks leading up to the government shutdown of 2013. He liked the book and said he was simply reading it as a bedtime story for his young daughters. But his reading, and the shutdown that followed, propelled the freshman senator to the front ranks of presidential contenders with the support of anti-government tea party activists who backed Cruz’s attempt to use a budget fight to kill Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

But here we are in the government shutdown of 2018. We can’t find that Ted-I-Am here. We can’t find him there. We can’t find him just about anywhere. Other than showing up in the Senate to give the leadership his vote to extend federal government spending until mid-February, Cruz was staying out of the news in the current budget battle. The old Ted Cruz seems to be missing in action.

Yeah, and they noticed something else, too:

This shutdown [in 2018, not 2019, please note], however, is just about everything Cruz might want to avoid as he faces a challenge from Democrat Beto O’Rourke for Senate reelection. It puts Cruz in a test of allegiance between the Republican congressional leadership and President Trump over issues that can only be resolved by negotiating with Democrats.

Just a bit more about that:

O’Rourke had no trouble deciding. He voted against the continuing resolution in the House to keep the government function.[sic] He said he wanted other issues resolved and a federal budget that would keep government operating for a full year, not a few months at a time.

“We have over $1 billion in transportation infrastructure projects authorized but not funded because of this erratic budget path,” O’Rourke said in an email. “And $81 billion in disaster relief, much of it allocated for those who are rebuilding after Harvey, continues to languish in the Senate while Congress remains unable to do its most basic job: fund the government for the full fiscal year. I voted against continuing on this reckless course because I believe that Congress must come to a bipartisan solution to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year.”
Which is actually a pretty sensible position.  Interestingly, O'Rourke represents El Paso, on the farthest western edge of the state.  Yet he's concerned about recovery on the Gulf Coast, the far eastern side of the state.  And Sen. Cruz?  About this he has nothing to say, although it's a big concern down here.

So what is Cruz doing?  Cruz comes from as reliably red a state as Alabama.  He's almost as certifiably right-wing as Roy Moore, with his own family history of Christian crazy to put up against Judge Moore's.    He's also up for re-election to his Senate seat.  So there are three convenient connections between the Jr. Senator from Texas and the would-be Senator from Alabama, who barely lost (but close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades).  So maybe it's another comparison he's worried about:
Yeah, it could be that.  It could be Ted is sweating re-election, is very aware of the ghost of Roy Moore, can see that Beto O'Rourke has nowhere to go but up.  Yeah, he's been peddling the line since 2014; but it has a certain piquancy now that reporters aren't letting it pass unnoticed:

“That was an interesting exchange,” [Kasie] Hunt said. “I would just like to say, I was going back and forth with the senator. He’s technically correct about the way that the procedure of this played out, but there is no question about how the government shutdown unfolded in 2013, which is that Senate Republicans pushed to defund Obamacare.”

“Ted Cruz angered many of his own colleagues, there were testy meetings, he was essentially an outcast,” she continued. “Mitch McConnell was not happy with him, and the government shut down because clearly Senate Democrats were not going to go along with a budget agreement that defunded Obamacare. The dynamics were a little different, but if there’s any comparison to be made here it would be in this particular case Democrats obviously do not control the Senate. They were making certain demands about what is included in a measure, refused to provide the votes for a shutdown. So I think if you want to make a comparison, you can compare Senate Democrats to Ted Cruz.

We'll let Shep Smith have the last word on what Ted said:

“[Cruz is] very much against shutdowns,” Smith joked. “I heard him say it today so I know it’s true.”

And if you look at the pictures here, Cruz in the Democratic stronghold of McAllen was predictably not showered with affection; but O'Rourke, in the GOP stronghold of Lubbock, was.

Shutdowns are not good for anybody.  The primary burden should fall on the GOP who, controlling both houses and the White House, can't even put a budget together.  Three weeks from now, we'll be doing this again; and everyone will be blaming everyone else for it.  What's interesting is how badly burned Ted Cruz is.  One wonders why he didn't follow John Cornyn's example and keep his mouth shut.  He probably thought he should remind the voters he's available.  Funny way to do it, though.  Tells you something about government shutdowns, doesn't it?  And maybe something about the political future of Ted Cruz.

Ted Cruz isn't the only one who realizes now the shutdowns are not popular, and you don't want to be blamed for them:

This shutdown was always going to be decided by the “blame game,” as annoying as that is to say. As each side made their arguments in recent days, Republicans had the more straightforward one—Democrats were responsible for the shutdown because they filibustered a funding bill in order to secure something else. A DACA fix is popular; shutting down the government over one is much less so, especially in many of the states Senate Democrats are trying to hold in November. The polling was beginning to gravitate in Republicans’ favor.

“I hear our numbers are dropping like a rock,” Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York told Bloomberg on Monday.
The real problem is, the Republicans haven't let the Democrats pass a budget in years, and now they aren't capable of passing one themselves.  That's the issue that will resonate with voters in November:  not who shut the government down, but why the government is being funded by CR's instead of a budget.  Trump was right about that, though he stupidly linked it to the filibuster rule without realizing he lost 4 GOP votes on the CR the first time around, and without a budget to vote on, even 51 votes is useless (although that's exactly what reconciliation is about in the Senate):

CR's are the problem the Democrats need to run on; not who is to blame for government closures.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

This is going well....

The simple fact is, there shouldn't be a government shutdown because there should be a federal budget. And the party in charge of Congress and the White House is responsible for the fact there isn't one.

Budgets are negotiated documents, not documents passed by the party with the most votes in either house of Congress.  We have a bicameral legislature, not a parliamentary system where winner takes all.



Read this, from The Daily Beast, and be shocked and appalled:

Pope Francis addressed a group of cloistered nuns in Peru on Sunday, telling them that gossip is akin to terrorism. “You know what a gossiping nun is? A terrorist,” Francis said in Lima to the 500 nuns, who rarely leave their convents. “Because gossip is like a bomb. One throws it, it causes destruction and you walk away tranquilly. No terrorist nuns! No gossip, and know that the best remedy against gossip is to bite your tongue.”

The Daily Beast links to the Reuters article where those quotes are found, so let's read on for more appalling news!

At the start of his last day in Peru Francis addressed some 500 nuns, known as “contemplatives,” who usually live a life of prayer and rarely leave their convents except for medical reasons.

“Seeing you all here an unkind thought comes to my mind, that you took advantage (of me) to get out of the convent a bit to take a stroll,” he said, drawing roars of laughter from the nuns, many of whom were elderly.

Later in his talk to the nuns gathered in a Lima church, he sent a long-distance greeting to four cloistered nuns in his native Buenos Aires. He thanked them for their prayers for him and added, “The rest of you aren’t jealous, are you?”

“Nooooo,” they shot back, like schoolgirls to a teacher.

He also urged them not to succumb to gossiping in their convents, comparing it to “terrorism” - something he regularly tells priests and nuns on his global travels.

“You know what a gossiping nun is?” he asked. “A terrorist.”

The nuns laughed again.

“Because gossip is like a bomb. One throws it, it causes destruction and you walk away tranquilly. No terrorist nuns! No gossip, and know that the best remedy against gossip is to bite your tongue,” he said.

Trying to make his appeal local, he joked that gossiping nuns were worse “than the terrorists of Ayacucho.”

Some Peruvians did not find it funny, comparing a gossiping nun to members of a guerrilla group, especially on a pastoral trip aimed at unifying a politically divided Peru, and turned to social media to call the comments insensitive or disrespectful.

But with all due respect, he wasn't talking to you.  The nuns knew what he meant.  He was speaking to a specific group of people, living under the specific rules of their order (and the Rule of St. Benedict, orders for religious communities that go back centuries and try to keep humans who love to gossip from turning against each other like, I dunno, ordinary people).  He was giving them advice as their spiritual leader.

Calm down; they got the joke, even if you didn't.  And if you don't like the joke, I have no argument with you.  My point was in pointing out the framing.  The Daily Beast headlined their article this way:

Pope Francis: ‘Gossiping Nuns’ Are Like ‘Terrorists’

And removed, as I noted, all context.  Reuters headlined their article this way:

Pope brings down the house, joking with cloistered nuns

Reuters is a news service; The Daily Beast is a website.  Internet websites function by generating outrage.  News services deal in gossip, but try to defenestrate it until it is merely "news."

O brave new world, that has such creatures in it!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

In 1968, Muriel Rukeyser wrote, “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.” At the beginning of “A Short History of Weird Girls,” Chris tells Dick, “I don’t care how you see me.” Looking into the camera, and the audience, she continues, “I don’t care if you want me. It’s enough that I want you.” It’s one of the million potential readings of the 21 minutes of television: a turn from being desired (the assumed goal of any female character, assumed because no one bothered to ask her) to desiring. Chris’ desire makes a man into a sexual object and humiliates and unmoors him along the way. The desires of her female peers threaten even more chaos: new artists, new curators, new voices, new art. The episode’s closing note, “Your time is running out,” speaks directly to men’s fears of being replaced, dethroned, and disregarded. It’s a conversation that bounces back and forth between the world that Jill Soloway created and the one that they inhabit; Soloway and their non-cis collaborators are, in fact, gunning for the funding and acclaim that was previously the almost-exclusive purview of cis white men. And as we’ve seen in the past few months, telling the truth about women’s lives, splitting the world open, has consequences—we’re not talking about a peaceful transfer of power. As Lindy West insisted, “Yes, this is a witch hunt. I’m a witch and I’m hunting you.”

No wonder Soloway has described "I Love Dick" as “a tool of the matriarchal revolution.” But, as Soloway illustrates so deftly, this patriarchy-toppling female gaze is not a blunt, man-hating instrument. The female protagonists approach their cis male specimen with a combination of derision, anger, admiration and desire. They are the rebuttal to every two-dimensional portrayal of women by men. Like Moira Donegan, the creator of the “Shitty Media Men” list noted in her recent self-outing, “This is another toll that sexual harassment can take on women: It can make you spend hours dissecting the psychology of the kind of men who do not think about your interiority much at all.” Again, it’s an idea that "I Love Dick" was already wrestling with—the cumulative days and months that we have all spent in careful consideration of men who rarely look back at us.

But Donegan continued: “There is something that’s changed: Suddenly, men have to think about women, our inner lives and experiences of their own behavior, quite a bit. That may be one step in the right direction.” Speaking on the fear that has finally pushed cis men to consider the humanity of their female friends and colleagues, Molly Fischer wrote for The Cut, “I wondered if the fear men now felt was borne of an alarming recognition: that women whom they may or may not have seen as equals could nonetheless prove a threat.” Which brings us right back to the closing argument of “A Short History of Weird Girls”: “Your time is running out.”

In other words:  it's "our" time to be in charge.

What about a revolution where the first of all is last and servant of all?  What would that look like?

In "I Love Dick," women and their unleashed interiorities wreak havoc on Marfa. Men like Dick, who previously populated the desert with phallic statues and ruled over everyone in it, are suddenly left impotent. It’s a feminist fantasy of a powerful man finally having to reckon with the messy desires (not to mention the vision and intelligence) of the women around him. Soloway seems to acknowledge that they’re essentially creating feminist propaganda. “I know it more than ever with Transparent and Dick, is that I’m a writing a reality,” they told the HuffPost. “I’m writing a reality that I want to live in. And men have been doing that to us since forever, and then you start to kind of wake up to it, you know? And you realize even something that might be an earnest, creative submission to the canon by another white, heterosexual cis male really is also propaganda.”

Not like that, to be sure.  I thought this was supposed to be revolutionary.

The Ariel Poems: Song for Simeon

Lord, the Roman hyacinths are blooming in bowls and
The winter sun creeps by the snow hills;
The stubborn season has made stand.
My life is light, waiting for the death wind,
Like a feather on the back of my hand.
Dust in sunlight and memory in corners
Wait for the wind that chills towards the dead land.

Grant us thy peace.
I have walked many years in this city,
Kept faith and fast, provided for the poor,
Have given and taken honour and ease.
There went never any rejected from my door.
Who shall remember my house, where shall live my children’s children
When the time of sorrow is come?
They will take to the goat’s path, and the fox’s home,
Fleeing from foreign faces and the foreign swords.

Before the time of cords and scourges and lamentation
Grant us thy peace.
Before the stations of the mountain of desolation,
Before the certain hour of maternal sorrow,
Now at this birth season of decease,
Let the Infant, the still unspeaking and unspoken Word,
Grant Israel’s consolation
To one who has eighty years and no to-morrow.

According to thy word.
They shall praise Thee and suffer in every generation
With glory and derision,
Light upon light, mounting the saints’ stair.
Not for me the martyrdom, the ecstasy of thought and prayer,
Not for me the ultimate vision.
Grant me thy peace.
(And a sword shall pierce thy heart,
Thine also).
I am tired with my own life and the lives of those after me,
I am dying in my own death and the deaths of those after me.
Let thy servant depart,
Having seen thy salvation.

--T.S. Eliot

Thursday, January 18, 2018

I'm going to regret this in the morning

So let me get this straight:

1)  It's too hard to say "No, I don't want to go to your apartment."
2)  It's too hard to say "No, I don't want to have sex with you."
3)  It's too hard to say, "I have to go now, I had a lovely time (or I had a terrible time)."

“It’s harder than you think to leave when you’re uncomfortable or scared,” [Samantha] Bee replied.

4)  So you have to say, "Oh, okay, fine, you can fuck me."  Because you're scared or uncomfortable?

And then when you feel terrible about it in the morning, it's all the guy's fault?  Have I got this right?

And this is the world Samantha Bee had "to wade through a sea of prehensile dicks to build [and] enjoy"?

I really am getting too old for this.

Psalm 133

How good and pleasant it is to live together as brothers in unity!
It is like fragrant oil poured on the head
and falling over the beard,
Aaron's beard, when the oil runs down
over the collar of his vestments.
It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling
on the mountains of Zion.
There the LORD bestows his blessing,
life for evermore.

I'm going to start by quoting myself; something I would do more extensively if I could find the post where I think I discussed this story (and the sermon I used it in) before; but I can't.  Instead, I found this:

Jesus never discussed doctrine, ideas, arcana, abstractions.  Jesus told stories.  Most Biblical scholars think the ideas, the doctrines, the explanations, came later.  They vary so much from gospel to gospel; there is so little in Mark (the oldest gospel), so much in John (the newest gospel), that the long discussions and discussions and declamations are generally taken as added material, not very original to Jesus of Nazareth at all.

He told stories.  He presented object lessons.
There are two stories here, actually, both from television.  The first is from the re-boot of "The Twilight Zone," a story titled (IIRC) "To See The Invisible Man."  The premise was fairly simple:  to punish crimes against society, in this case simply the crime of being irascible and somewhat misanthropic (a condition my wife often accuses me of, with good reason), the protagonist is branded on the forehead with a mark that designates him "invisible."  No one can speak to him, trade with him, allow him any human contact whatsoever.  In this society there are cameras floating about, enforcing society's rules, able to call police to punish any infraction:  and flouting the law against "invisibility" is punishable by invisibility itself.  The man is sentenced to one year, and while he starts off defiant, he ends crushed.

At one point he tries to befriend a blind man in a cafe, until someone else whispers to the man "Invisible!", and the blind man curses the convict and rushes away.  At another, he confronts a woman and begs her to recognize him; she is, of course, too afraid and runs away.  The year ends, his brand is removed, and he returns to society a changed man.

Only to run into the woman who was afraid of him, and now she is branded "invisible."  His heart overflows (a Biblical metaphor), and he hugs her and tells her he can see her, even as the cameras swirl around barking out warnings and signaling for the police to come.

It's a powerful metaphor about community, especially now, while we're all reading about the family of fifteen (?) people, 13 of whom were kept locked in the house, some so emaciated and malnourished they don't resemble the adults they actually are.  How could such a thing happen, we ask?  How could so many people remain so invisible?  Not for the same reasons as the story, obviously; but still they were.  And they were in large part because we let them be so.  California reportedly allows parents to establish a "private school" with no more than a signed form, and no one ever investigates the welfare, which would include the education, of the children.  That's how we did it.  We put privacy and individual authority above the concerns of the community for each member of the community.  Until they are adults, we don't protect children unless they are known to be abused, and if we don't know, and don't ask, and literally don't care; well, what do we expect?

The other story is the "White Christmas" story from "Black Mirror."  One premise of the story is that everyone has artificial eyes which can be controlled from a central source, or by the individual; controlled to "block" individuals you don't want to see or hear.  The block replaces the person with a blurred outline, and white noise where there should be a voice.  Jon Hamm's character is punished, at the end of the story, by being put on "the register."  He can see no one, and no one can see him.  As he leaves the police station under this sentence at the end of the story, he enters a busy square at Christmas, bustling with people.  But he can see none of them, can only hear the music being played; can't even see the young vendor who notices Hamm's red outline (the others are silver; his marks his status) and weighs two objects in his hands, as if thinking he could throw them and who would care?  Hamm can't see him, and the others can't see Hamm.

Jon Hamm, like the "invisible" man, is outlaw.

There is a reason I'm not keen on the desire to punish, especially to inflict social punishment.  More and more people of my daughter's generation have decided Woody Allen should be the next target of their righteous wrath, as they learn for the first time (the first story was 25 years ago; you do the math) of the accusations of Rowan Farrow.  The accuser, when she is a woman, must be believed, so Mr. Allen must be punished, or at least branded at last with ignominy.  Why?  So we can have our pound of flesh, of course.  So we can right a wrong that occurred 25 years ago (if it did) which now this "new generation" will set straight.  Not exactly opposing an unjust war or marching for civil rights, but much easier to write about on the internet.

In essence, they wish to make Mr. Allen invisible.  To do that, they must first make him outlaw:  literally, in the original sense, place him beyond the law.  Easy enough:  simply declare the law flawed and incapable of dealing in justice.  Granted, none of this will hurt Mr. Allen.  If he can't make another film in his life, I suppose it will be a personal loss to him, but he won't be tarred and feathered and driven out of New York City on a rail.  Still, there is a desire to create a community, and then to use that community to punish another.  It's a curious drive, but also a disturbing one.  It falls along generational lines (young actors are regretting their work with Mr. Allen, donating their salaries from being in his films to charity; older actors are defending him.  Mr. Allen himself is silent, apparently) in part because all the perpetrators of sexual assault and harassment who have hit the headlines are guilty of offending much younger women.  The young, mickle in their wroth and righteous in their indignation, are determined to cleanse the Augean stables, horses and all.  Or so they seem to see it.

There is wrong, and it should be punished:  but what community are we setting up in order to do it?  How badly to we want someone to be "outlaw," so we can make them a scapegoat?  How badly do we want to label the outlaw, so we can say someone was punished?  And having punished them, will we be able so see they are human again?  Walter Brueggeman point out (apologies in advance for the long quote):

The Bible has notions of life and death which are very different from those we have today.  Whereas we think of life as the continuing functioning of the individual organisms and death as the cessation of such functioning, the Bible understands life and death in covenantal categories  Life means to be significantly involved in a community of caring, meaning, and action  Death means to be excluded from such a community or denied access to its caring, meaning, or actions.   Life means a capacity to enter into covenants and the ability to make covenants which are also community-creating possibilities for others.  Life and death do not have to do, in biblical perspective, simply with the state of the individual person but with the relation between the person  and the community which identifies that person and which gives personhood.   A German scholar,  Jungel, has recently shown that life in the Bible means relatedness. Conversely death is to be unrelated.  Thus the Bible calls into question two of our dominant presuppositions:  (a) that life is concerned primarily with biological functioning and (b) that life concerns a personal unit in and of itself.

The central life-death moment in the biblical perspective is entry into and participation in a community of identity and mission.  Birth is embrace of covenant community, whether we speak of birth or rebirth.  And death is departure from the community, either by force or by choice.  Thus to “choose life or death” (Deuteronomy 30:19) means to decide upon relationship for or against the life-giving community.

In the Old Testament, such an embrace of life means incorporation into the covenant community whereby people are invited in and take vows of allegiance and oaths of fidelity (Exodus 24:1-8, Joshua 24:1-38).  In the New Testament, such a dramatic, intentional act is likely to be identified with baptism which means “putting off an old nature”  and coming into life in “ a new nature” (Ephesians 4:1-24).  The community of meaning and destiny thus has it within its power to give life and consign to death.  In the earliest community this had to do with the pronouncement of blessings and the declaration of curses (especially Leviticus 26,  Deuteronomy 28).  While this may strike us as primitive, it is psychologically and sociologically correct, given a biblical understanding of personhood, that life is the experience of being identified with community and that death means exclusion, banishment, excommunication.  The key issue is relationship, and the primal events are dramatic (liturgic) acts of inclusion and exclusion.  While this sounds alien to us, the same dynamic is clearly operative for a teenage who does not get included in a peer group, a young boy not chosen for a team, a small child rejected by a parent.  The breaking of a significant relationship is an experience of death.
When Jesus says "Do you see this woman?," he's already started inviting her, a prostitute, an outcast, back into the community.  He has already declared he sees the one society would declare invisible.  When the wonderful father throws his arms around the prodigal son, he declares his son has returned to life, has come back from death, even though we know the son has merely been, well....prodigal.  Life is "the experience of being identified with community and...death means exclusion, banishment, excommunication."  I heard an interview on Fresh Air this morning with a former Neo-Nazi skinhead, who attributed the attraction of the group to his feelings of exile from his family, from parents who had to work 14 hours a day, 7 days a week (his description) just to pay the bills.  The group he found gave him identity; one might as accurately say it gave him life.

We have to think about the communities we are so anxious to create, especially so we can exclude people from them.  It is true we should not countenance the actions of Harvey Weinstein or Matt Lauer or Charlie Rose, not even those of Donald Trump, for whom fresh examples seem to come every day.  But if our community is built simply on who we are not, on who we exclude, then what community is that?  Consider the parable of the prodigal:  he tells his father to drop dead because being alive puts him in the way of the son's inheritance.  The father divides his estate and the son cashes in his half and walks away, only to be broke in a short time.  He returns home where the father welcomes him to the elder son's estate, and obliges the older brother to either accept his sibling, or stand outside the party he is paying for, churlishly refusing to accept the glorious news.  The wonderful father has brought his son back to life rather than punish him.  Who among us wouldn't wish that to be done for us?  Who among doesn't think, in this light, that the father's actions are indefensible?  No one is punished, and yet a lesson is learned.

But what lesson?  And can we learn it again?

Asking for a friend....


Parts will be, of necessity, see through and it was never intended to be built in areas where there is natural protection such as mountains, wastelands or tough rivers or water....
Doesn't that description cover pretty much the entire U.S.-Mexico border?

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Speaking of tests

You knew it was going to come to this:

[Trump] blamed his three immediate predecessors, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, for failing to resolve the crisis [of North Korea] and, a day after his doctor gave him a perfect score on a cognitive test, suggested he had the mental acuity to solve it.

“I guess they all realized they were going to have to leave it to a president that scored the highest on tests,” he said.

He declined to comment when asked whether he had engaged in any communications at all with Kim, with whom he has exchanged public insults and threats, heightening tensions in the region.

Of course, North Korea is talking to South Korea, and they will have a joint team in the Olympics in South Korea.  I'm sure that's due to Trump's high score, too.  Give him time, you know he'll find a way to take credit for it.  He's a stable genius, after all.

And that cognitive test he took; not worth all that much:

“I think it’s important to understand what the MOCA does and doesn’t tell you,” Columbia University psychiatrist Dr. Paul Appelbaum told Newsweek. The test was developed as a simple screening tool for mild cognitive impairment—a condition that may or may not lead to dementia. “The fact that anybody gets a perfect score on the MOCA suggests that they are not having changes in cognitive function associated with early signs of dementia,” he said. “It can be very reassuring in that regard. But it’s important to recognize that that’s all it tells you.”

But you knew that, didn't you?

Mole people update

At this point they're just bragging about it....

The Governor of the Commonwealth* of Kentucky:

“Bevin has consistently attacked the expansion as a waste of money, questioning why ‘able-bodied’ adults should be given free government health care that used to be largely limited to children, the elderly and the disabled,” The New York Times explained.
“It doesn’t seem like this will move the needle all that much,” Velshi noted to Gov. Bevin.

“But here is the wonderful thing, what if it moves it for one individual or their children? And think about the trajectory of that family into the future for them to have better opportunity,” said Bevin of his new impediments to health insurance coverage. “It is a great opportunity and will apply to a few but will transform their lives in powerful ways.”

“The intent is not to save money,” Bevin claimed. “The intent is to get people engaged in their own health outcome, because what we’ve seen for fifty some odd years of these programs, Medicaid, we are not helping people’s health become better. We’re not. Especially for those who are able-bodied.”

“That is strange to say, it doesn’t help people’s health get better,” Velshi replied.

“In Kentucky, we have more people than ever on Medicaid and we are — we are increasing in leading the nation in things like lung cancer and things like premature deaths and things like diabetes and hypertension and cardiovascular disease and pick the category,” Bevin claimed.

“Since we have expanded Medicaid we’ve only gotten worse, so the argument would be that well if you provide coverage, somehow people will be healthier. That is not the case,” Bevin claimed.

Medicaid gives you cancer!  You heard it here first!  It also screws with your blood sugar and raises your blood pressure!  It's obvious!  Without Medicaid, Kentucky would be the healthiest state in the union!

Or all the poor people would die off and quit costing us so much money.  Same difference.

But health insurance turns people into drug addicts!  Especially poor people, who have low morals (else why are they poor?!):

“Lawmakers never intended this, but I’m guessing there will be many who will not want to acknowledge it,” said Johnson. “Why? Because Obamacare included a large-scale expansion of Medicaid. During the 2017 debate on repealing and replacing Obamacare, proponents of expansion cited its role in funding treatment for addiction.”

This line of reasoning has been used as a Republican argument to repeal Obamacare in the past. Last March, Conn Carroll, the communications director for Senator Mike Lee, wrote that, “expanded coverage helped cause the opioid crisis. Free pills means more addicts.”

... Medicaid expansion began in 2014, and the opioid addiction was declared an epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2011. The Centers have also said there is no evidence that Medicaid leads to opioid abuse.
Well, that and those nagging facts:

“It’s not Medicaid expansion causing these overdoses, it’s the rise of fentanyl,” a very deadly opioid that Medicaid does not pay for, said Andrew Kolodny, co-director of Opioid Policy Research at Brandeis University. 
Yeah, but what do doctors know?  I think it was the time machine they included in Obamacare that did it! Now get back to work, you lazy welfare cheats!

“While many view Medicaid as the solution to the drug problem, a better solution may be the very thing that Medicaid so often undermines—work,” [Sam Adolphsen, senior fellow at the conservative, anti-welfare group Foundation for Government Accountability] said. “We know that for most people, the best answer to so many of the problems they face is employment. That is where Medicaid has created a very real problem because it fosters dependency.”
People who depend on healthcare are the worst kind of people!

Literacy tests weren't so bad, after all.....

Whatever does Jeff Sessions mean?

“What good does it do to bring in somebody who is illiterate in their own country, has no skills and is going to struggle in our country and not be successful? That is not what a good nation should do, and we need to get away from it,” Sessions said, speaking on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”

Sessions criticized Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for reportedly reciting during a meeting Emma Lazarus’ poem that’s historically affiliated with American immigration and the Statue of Liberty.

“Not really a case you would expect a Republican to be making,” Carlson said, referencing Graham’s use of the poem. “Why aren’t there more articulate Republican members of Congress making the case that you just made?”

“Well, I wish there were, actually,” Sessions said, before claiming the U.S. should be more like Canada in its immigration policies. “We should evaluate them and make sure they are going to be lawful. They are not threats to us. They have the education and skills level to prosper in America. That’s good for them and good for America.” 

I can't imagine:

Hispanic Caucus members said Wednesday they felt it was not productive to bring up President Trump’s “shithole” remarks, and said Kelly did not say anything overtly vulgar in their meeting. But the lawmakers emphasized that several terms that the administration is using are offensive and revealing of their attitude towards immigration and immigrants.

“He wouldn’t use the word DREAMer,” Chu noted in a statement following the meeting. “Instead, he used ‘DACA people.'”

Speaking to reporters in the ornate hallway outside the meeting room, Chu added that she raised with Kelly that “the term ‘chain migration’ is offensive to us” when referring to the process of citizens and permanent residents sponsoring their relatives to come the United States. “In fact, when the law was passed in 1965, it was called family-based immigration,” she said.
Even seemingly neutral language, Gutierrez said, has taken on a different tone following the infamous “shithole” meeting.

“He said, ‘I am a firm believer in merit-based immigration.’ I was like, ‘Aw, no, that’s not good,'” he said.

When asked what he hears when Kelly uses the term “merit-based,” Gutierrez replied: “The president has been pretty clear that they want people from Norway and not ‘shithole countries’—and he mentioned Africa and Haiti. So that’s what I hear. Now the veneer has been ripped away about what they really mean. They don’t really mean it’s about security. They don’t really mean it’s about jobs for Americans. It’s about the color of people’s skin and what places they come from.”
Because literacy is the problem, right?

According to a study by the U.S. Department of Education, 32 million adults in the U.S. can’t read.

The current literacy rate isn’t any better than it was 10 years ago. According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (completed most recently in 2003, and before that, in 1992), 14 percent of adult Americans demonstrated a “below basic” literacy level in 2003, and 29 percent exhibited a “basic” reading level. 
Who knew that 32 million adults in the U.S. were immigrants?

Monday, January 15, 2018

MLK Day Trump Style

Trump arrived at his Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach around 9 a.m. Monday, the White House press pool reported. His next public event was scheduled for 4:20 p.m., when he and first lady Melania Trump would depart Palm Beach International Airport for Washington.

Which gave him time to return to Twitter and remind us why we are all talking about what a racist he is (or may be) today, and now Sen. Dick Durbin is the Democratic party:

Yeah, about that:

But, in what appeared to be a direct jab at Sens. Tom Cotton and David Perdue, Graham said, "My memory hasn't evolved. I know what was said and I know what I said." Sen. Tim Scott, R-North Charleston, said Friday that Graham told him media reports of what Trump said were “basically accurate." 
And besides:

And one more time!

Lovely way to spend the day, Mr. President.

Martin Luther King Day: 2018

Andrew Young takes us to church.