"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

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.


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.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

But at my back I always hear

So that was Wednesday morning.

This is Wednesday by noon:

"Over the phone, she read me some passages from Mrs. Obama’s speech as examples. I wrote them down and later included some of the phrasing in the draft that ultimately became the final speech. I did not check Mrs. Obama’s speeches," McIver said in the statement. "This was my mistake, and I feel terrible for the chaos I have caused Melania and the Trumps, as well as to Mrs. Obama. No harm was meant."
I don't believe it for a minute.  I think the Trumps just finally dredged up a fall guy, not least because Trump was mocking the whole issue earlier.  But here's the question:

Who's in charge here?

The candidate dismisses the contretemps by comparing it to the FBI e-mail investigation.  The campaign manager goes on TeeVee to say it never happened, uh-uh, not at all.  And then the Trump Organization releases a statement blaming it on a former ballet instructor and ghostwriter/in-house staff writer at the Trump Organization.

But plagiarism is the most grievous sin any writer can commit:

“The most cardinal rule of any speech-writing operation is that you cannot plagiarize,” said Mr. Latimer, the Bush speechwriter, who is now a partner at Javelin, a communications firm. If you do, he said, “you lose your job.”

Well, unless you work for Trump.

Which returns us to the question:  is this who we want to be in charge?  (and does he want to be in charge?  Signs point to "No."  But that's another story, still.)

World enough, and time

You know the old saw about an infinite number of monkeys at an infinite number of typewriters finally producing "Hamlet"?*

“What is true: Did the language, did a portion of the language of that speech come from Michelle Obama’s speech, yes or no?”

“As far as we're concerned, there are similar words that were used,” Manafort said. “We've said that. But the feelings of those words, and the commonalty of those words do not create a situation which we feel we have to agree with you. You want to have that opinion, fine.”

“It is not an opinion. That's the problem,” Cuomo replied.

Apparently the campaign thinks Melania Trump is a monkey.**

*The link to Wikipedia is to give us this sterling quote:

If there were as many monkeys as there are atoms in the observable universe typing extremely fast for trillions of times the life of the universe, the probability of the monkeys replicating even a single page of Shakespeare is unfathomably minute.
So, yeah, it could happen; but no, really, it couldn't.  Trump bends the laws of the physical universe because, like Bugs Bunny, he never studied law.

**And yes, the refusal to let this go does give us insight into how Trump would ("shudder") govern:

“When faced with something that you did wrong, you just deny it, no matter whether it is true or not,” Cuomo said. “Whether it is the man who has a developmental disability who works for The New York Times, and Donald Trump mocks him and says, ‘No, I didn't.’ Whether it is a star that represents the star of David, and you say, ‘No, it is a sheriff's star.’ There is a pattern, whether it is Baron, John Miller, really Donald Trump. There is a pattern of denying the obvious. What happens when you're running the government of the United States and you don't want to deal with what happens then? That's the concern.”
At least it's out there for people to see.

Chris Christie's speech at the RNC

I liked the original better; it was funnier and more self-aware.

As far as I'm concerned, this is the true logo for the GOP convention

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

I was enjoying the plagiarism side show....

Too much?  I would have thought so at one point; more and more, I'm not so sure.

I'm not anymore.  I'm not because Josh Marshall is right:  Trump is dangerous.  Trump is not "outlandish" and "disruptive":  he is transgressive.  He is beyond the pale, across the boundaries, off the rails.  All the more reason he be repudiated as thoroughly as Barry Goldwater or George McGovern.  His defeat needs to be one for the ages.

Not least because of crap like this:

"These are values, Republican values by the way, of hard work, determination, family values, dedication and respect, and that's Melania Trump," Pierson told The Hill. "This concept that Michelle Obama invented the English language is absurd."

Girl, please.  And they just happened to express themselves in the very same words?

Events last night were the garbage fire we were warned about, and I don't mean one stupid and otherwise forgettable speech.  The sad part is that blatant act of theft that's getting all the attention.  The exploitation of pain and grief, the demands to incarcerate the opponent, the racism that creates an entire class of immigrants to fear because they are coming to kill us and nobody in government cares; that's going unmentioned now, or being accepted as what the GOP is doing and since the GOP is a major political party, this too must be normal.  When important enough people do it or back it or support it, it has to be treated as reasonable, or at least normative.

It isn't; it shouldn't be.  Honestly, it's becoming an object lesson on why you never argue with fools.  The problem here isn't the plagiarism; it's the transgressions of all norms, all boundaries, all decency and common sense.   The problem is the discussion is about how Trump's carelessness caught up with him, as if lifting two paragraphs was the worst thing about the night, was finally going to be Trump's Achilles Heel.  The discussion isn't about the racism, the exploitation, the fear-mongering, the sheer horror show that was on display last night.  These things aren't Nixonian; this isn't Goldwater; this isn't even Pat Buchanan.  We're way past that.  This is the garbage fire they warned us about.  Whether or not we realize that may be important, soon.

GOP Logic

noun: plagiarism; plural noun: plagiarisms
the practice of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own.
synonyms: copying, infringement of copyright, piracy, theft, stealing;

the action or crime of stealing.
"he was convicted of theft"
synonyms: robbery, stealing, thieving, larceny, thievery, shoplifting, burglary, misappropriation, appropriation, embezzlement;

Matt Lauer, co-host of NBC's "Today," asked Christie if he could "make a case for plagiarism."
"No, not when 93 percent of the speech is completely different than Michelle Obama’s speech. And they expressed some common thoughts," Christie said in response before pivoting to say that the first day of a convention is typically the worst day.

During a televised panel event in Cleveland Tuesday morning hosted by The Atlantic, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, a prominent GOP pollster, told the audience that just "about 7 percent" of Melania's speech was from Obama's.
As long as you steal only 7% or less of another person's property, it isn't really theft.

In other news, Republicans now aver you can, in fact, be only "a little bit pregnant."

And the band plays on.....

All You Need is Love

I was going to comment on Melania Trump's speech last night, but I couldn't find a good link to the NPR story comparing the two speeches (her's and Michelle's), and you really have to hear them played together to get the full effect.

But speaking of listening for the full effect, you need to listen to this story.  It's a local one, not likely to be heard beyond Houston (oh, Here and Now may pick it up in a week or so).  But really, you just have to listen to it:

Monday, July 18, 2016

"Religion is responsibility...."

Interestingly, the poets had already come to Niebuhr's conclusion, albeit on a very different basis.

Moral Man and Immoral Society challenged religious idealism with political realism. Change, if it happens, will happen because those who are oppressed figure out how to get and use power. If change isn't happening, we should seek the causes in the interests of the powerful. And once change does happen, we should not expect the golden age of peace and justice, but a repetition of the cycle, with a different set of people in the seats of the powerful.

That was not how Christians expected change to happen. Protestant Christians in 1932 still put tremendous faith in the power of right-minded individuals to change their society. Compared to moral ideals, law and power played relatively minor roles in securing justice. If poverty, ignorance, and racial hatred were not disappearing as quickly as people of good will might expect, that was largely because the people of good will did not yet know enough sociology to put their ideals into practice. Walter Rauschenbusch had put it this way: "If the twentieth century could do for us in the control of social forces what the nineteenth did for us in the control of natural forces, our grandchildren would live in a society that would be justified in regarding our present social life as semi-barbarous."

Eliot's wasteland; Yeat's gyres; Pound's theory of usury in history; even Hemingway's clean, well-lighted place and Fitzgerald's boats beating against the current but being borne ceaselessly back into the past.

Precisely because that Social Gospel idealism was based in a particular idea of God and of God's dealings with humanity, it proved remarkably durable. Among middle class Protestants in North America, neither World War I, nor the upsurge of racial violence after the War, nor the beginnings of the Great Depression could dislodge it. But Reinhold Niebuhr did.
It was dislodged by World War I and Spain ("Yesterday all the past") for the poets and writers, and never put back together again (except for Eliot and Auden, who turned to a more durable form of Christianity than they were raised with.  For Auden, Kierkegaard also helped.)  But it was an optimism that proved to be durably American, as Niebuhr would point out in his analysis of American exeptionalism, The Irony of American History.  (And just in passing, I don't agree with Hauerwas, though I'd like to read his critique.  I suspect he wants to put God back in charge so humanity can be God's agent and vice-regent.  I find Niebuhr's analysis if power too trenchant to be dislodged by claiming he's a closet heretic.)  The other irony of modern history, as the author points out, is that Niebuhr became the air we breathe, the water we swim in:  the success of his ideas made him invisible:

For the next several decades, Niebuhr was the one who defined how people with a realistic faith would deal with the world. From Martin Luther King in jail in Birmingham to John Foster Dulles at the State Department, hundreds of people in leadership positions consciously drew guidance and inspiration from Reinhold Niebuhr, and thousands more followed his ideas without knowing exactly where they came from. The result, with an irony that Niebuhr himself might have appreciated, is that the widely shared ideas that make the mature Niebuhr appear to fade into the background of his age are in fact often his own.
Niebuhr remains relevant, no matter how much the world no longer resembles the post-war world he grew old in.  I've heard too many complaints in internet comments about having to use one's vote (regarded as a sacrament, a holy thing which should never be sullied by the impure and the insufficiently ideological) on the "lesser of two evils," as if such a choice is anathema and damning to the individual soul.

"We are responsible for making choices between greater and lesser evils, even when our Christian faith, illuminating the human scene, makes it quite apparent that there is no pure good in history, and probably no pure evil either. The fate of civilizations may depend upon these choices between systems of which some are more, others less just."

Clinton or Trump, in other words.  You don't get to claim purity by writing in a candidate, or refusing to vote at all because none are worthy of your effort.  Nor do you abdicate a citizen's responsibility by refusing to participate.

And I catch a glimpse of how I would critique Hauerwas:

On the one hand, it is pretty clear that the political arena as Christian realism pictures it falls far short of the continuity and coherence that MacIntyre would require for a genuine moral discussion. It even more clearly falls short of the theological unity that Hauerwas demands of Christian ethics. 
Hauerwas and MacIntyre are not wrong to regard ethics as the result of a consensus opinion by a community:  that's the very definition Aristotle gave it when "ethics" in his Greek meant "behavior" in our modern English.  Aristotle's ethics describes no more than the behavior of his fellow Athenians; and his book is more akin to a self-help book than a treatise on the difficulties of being moral.

Aristotle wasn't concerned with being moral.  That was more the concern of Sophocles and Euripides (and to a lesser degree, at least in modern terms, Socrates).  Hauerwas demands a theological unity of Christian ethics, but already I hear a claim for power, for setting the terms of the debate and the boundaries of the discussion that suit Hauerwas, but might well exclude someone else.  Very hard to make the first last and the last first if you first insist on unity, theological or otherwise.  A genuine moral discussion does, I think, require continuity and coherence, but you can't even find that in the history of the children of Abraham they wrote for themselves, their history as the people with a covenant with God.  How do you hope to establish a basis for such a "genuine moral discussion" if that is what history teaches us we can accomplish?  Or, as Niebuhr put it:

"God's order can never be identified with some specific form of social organization," he wrote. It is very important to arrive at concepts of justice which draw upon the common experience of mankind and set a restraint upon human self-interest. But it must be recognized that insofar as such principles of justice are given specific historical meaning, they also become touched by historical contingency."
You can see the bones of modernism poking out of the soil there, ready to raise mountains.

"Officers, they're looting the Food King!"

I just have to add:  what did I tell you?

It turns out Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus had to explain that a man convicted of a felony could not speak at the convention, three anonymous GOP strategists familiar with those conversations told the Times. He reportedly reminded Trump that King had stomped a man to death, and Trump eventually conceded.

Another one of Trump's picks that reportedly was vetoed by GOP officials was Kathleen Willey, the woman who alleged former President Bill Clinton had groped her in the White House (Clinton denied that allegation in a 1998 deposition). The Times reported that top Trump aide Paul Manafort confirmed some speakers would reference Bill Clinton's "harassment" of women and Hillary Clinton's "enabling" of that behavior, though.

Even those who've been approved for speaking slots seem to be in the dark about what's expected of them, according to the report. As of Friday, some speakers hadn't been given guidance by the campaign or been asked to submit speeches for vetting.
Who needs links or tags when you have pictures? 
 Although this is more appropriate:

Police Lives Matter. Above All.

Getting back to what Dan Patrick said, because that attitude is still in the news (and getting more racist by the day), read this, and tell me that the problem is "Black Lives Matter" and the delicate fee fees of police officers and it's not about racist law enforcement and law enforcement officials.

The Tamir Rice Story: How to Make a Police Shooting Disappear

Because it's not about race because it's never about race.

I'll retire to Bedlam.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

In anticipation of the Republican National Convention 2016

Nobody really knows who's going to speak or what they're going to say (Benghazi?  Monica?  Watergate?  Was Tim Tebow's slot a baseless rumor?  Or the incompetence of the Trump Campaign?).  But we had a preview, and it looks like it's gonna be ugly:

Yes, that was the music playing as Trump came out to make his VP announcement.  And then, according to Ezra Klein, it got weird:

What started as farce continued as farce. Trump emerged without Pence. He spoke, alone, at a podium adorned with Trump’s name, but not Pence’s. And then Trump proceeded to talk about himself for 28 minutes. There is no other way to say this than to say it: it was the single most bizarre, impulsive, narcissistic performance I have ever seen from a major politician.

At this point Klein is right:  you just have to follow the link and watch the video for yourself.

It was all about Trump, and then the closing:

When Trump finally stuck to Pence, at the end of his lengthy speech, he seemed robotic, bored, restless. He recited Pence’s accomplishment like he was reading his Wikipedia page for the first time, inserting little snippets of meta-commentary and quick jabs as if to keep himself interested.

The final humiliation was yet to come: Trump introduced Pence and then immediately, unusually, walked off the stage, leaving Pence alone at the podium.
As Ezra says, Trump is not running for the host of "America:  The Show."  But if this is any indication, four nights in Cleveland is going to be an epic garbage fire that concludes with a massive train wreck.  It's going to be so bad it'll be hard to look away.  I already predict it will lead to cries for Clint Eastwood to return, because all is forgiven.

By the fourth night I expect the convention hall to be empty except for Trump and the clean-up crews.  This is going to be epically bad.  Because this is the man the GOP is proposing be the leader of the Free World:

"So many friends in Turkey," Trump said. "Great people, amazing people. We wish them well. A lot of anguish last night, but hopefully it will all work out."

Yeah, I know they've already dropped this logo.  I'm keeping it, though.

A quick political observation:  The Trump Campaign couldn't organize a two-car funeral procession.

Item the first:  Trump wanted out of his pick of Mike Pence because his pick leaked (he couldn't surprise everybody); he got cold feet; he wanted to dangle it in front of Gingrich and Christie a little longer; or some combination of all of these.

And how do we know this?  Maybe because Trump called somebody looking for help at reneging on a promise he hadn't publicly made yet, or maybe because his campaign leaks like a sieve.

Item the second:  The Trump campaign leaked a list of speakers at the Republican Convention.   They told the NYT and CNN the "partial list" included Tebow.  Turns out that list was a wish list, not a list of people who'd agreed to be there.

So, at this point, no one really knows who is speaking at the convention; or what the "themes" (reported to be Benghazi and Monica Lewinsky the first night) will be.


Item the third:  the RNC needs Sheldon Adelson to pony up $6 million so they can pay for the convention.  Trump says he's raised $51 million, but reports say he's about $18 million short of that figure.

So why do the polls show Trump closing with Clinton?

FBI director Comey.  The old adage is, where there's smoke, there's fire, and Comey put a very wet blanket on the garbage fire of the Clinton e-mail "scandal" and made a lot of smoke out of it, all the while artfully dodging the simple fact that he had no business pre-empting the decision of the DOJ and career prosecutors by announcing Clinton should not be prosecuted, even though her actions were questionable.  Talk about damning with faint praise.

Hillary has the GOP House against her, and they have the ability to dominate headlines in a way only Donald Trump can come close to, but they do it without shouting "Crooked Hillary!"  Turns out that isn't as effective an epithet as Trump would like it to be.  Josh Marshall thinks Trump is trying to prevail by practicing dominance politics.  That really won't work against Clinton, because she isn't afraid to call Trump on his bullshit (unlike the GOP candidates, who needed Trump's voters to stay in the primaries and hopefully vote for them).  Throw enough mud, some of it gets the target dirty.

But the GOP has shot its last bolt on the scandal front.  Even the attempts to investigate Comey and Lynch just made the House committee look foolish.  In the long run, this fight is between Clinton and Trump, and Trump doesn't have the organization or the ability for the long game.  He flailed so badly on the Pence pick he almost recalled the ghost of McGovern and Thomas Eagleton (which is undoubtedly why his advisors told him to suck it up).  A few more stories like that, and people will seriously wonder if they want him answering the phone at 3 a.m.