"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

Saturday, September 21, 2019

"Galaxy-brained" is the tell....

In other words:

(Let us note Aaron never addresses the substance of Silver's argument, just asserts a superior moral posture, usually identified as "holier-than-thou.")

I will carry this on a bit, because no horse is dead until I stop beating it:
One could, after all, recall all the people who "did the right thing" by refusing to vote for Clinton on 2016. Things are always more complicated than you want them to be.

(And the REAL issue is not defeating Trump, (the nominee has that job), but holding at least one house of Congress. GOP retirements don't mean automatic Dem pickups. Besides, Clinton's impeachment didn't hurt him, despite his lies, and Scott Walker's recall rendered him invisible and bulletproof. So Nate has a point.  Again: more complicated than you want it to be.)

I think this situation requires

a really futile and stupid gesture on somebody's part!

Or is he playing you like a fiddle?

And are you self-aware enough to ask? Hmmm?

Nope. QED

The Democrat who ran for the State office in my district, a fresh new face, ran against Trump somewhat. He lost, albeit barely. AFAIK, the Dems in Texas who unseated GOP incumbents DIDN'T run against Trump.

And most people vote for, not against; which is why we have Trump in the first place.

Besides: primary voting hasn't even begun yet. And if you do defeat Trump, what's your second act? I mean, after your hand comes off the Bible? Something besides "undo everything Trump did"?

Inquiring minds want to know.

This Modern World

But The Problem Is Beto O'Rourke

Makes Me Wish For Another Transcript

Friday, September 20, 2019


I still think this is the important part.  It's out in the open, and the legality of it (or rather lack) is perfectly clear. It also may, or may not, have anything to do with this:
We still don't know, although by now Congress at least should. I agree with at least the content of this tweet:
But we have to be clear: we still might be talking about 3 different crimes.

Keep your eye on the doughnut. Odds are , there's a box of 'em somewhere.

Journamalism 101

Vogel's statement reminds me of a joke Reagan used to tell. A young boy on Christmas morning is led to a room piled high with horseshit.  He grabs a shovel and starts digging furiously.  "Why?," he's asked.  "'Cause with all this shit, there's got to be a pony somewhere!"

Reagan told the story to illustrate unbridled optimism.  I think it also works as a cautionary tale.  Sometimes (Whitewater, Saddam's weapons, Uranium One, all brought to you by the NYT), a big pile of shit is just a bit pile of shit.

Never Say Never

His own worst enemy.

But, you know, that's just politics

And here it is: The issue is the lawlessness.Trump wants the issue to be his lies. That is a distraction. And it's very dangerous.

A Mob Boss with the DOJ in his pocket

It's typical of the maelstrom of malfeasance that is Trump's mis-administration that I can't now remember the cases pushing through the courts in New York and Maryland awhile back. One went to the Supremes and was sent back down, and shortly after the government folded its tents and conceded the field. Something was going on feverishly behind the scenes because more than one DOJ lawyer withdrew from the case as Trump fulminated about how he would fight forever. The judge spoke if imposing fines, and in general it was not the way government lawyers are supposed to try cases in court.

Part of the problem was the lawyers were making legal arguments that were almost wholly unfounded in law, but offered for obstruction. Lawyers who do that generally get slapped around by judges who don't like arguments not made in good faith in their courts. A judge threatening to hold government lawyers in contempt is a judge facing lawyers who shouldn't be working for the government.

That's the real issue, to me, with this whistleblower case: not who said what to whom, but how the DOJ can dare to keep this from Congress. That is not a legal argument made in good faith. It is, instead, a corruption of government.

And there is no "ambiguity" in the law. That argument presumes a "loophole" has been found, a legitimate legal posture is being made. That's not the case here. This is a position taken solely to hide the President's actions from scrutiny. It is no more legitimate than the legal fight in New York and Maryland where the DOJ finally admitted it had no case.

That corruption is the furtherance of the 10 obstruction charges reported by Mueller. And that actually is the case the Democrats want to make in order to further their charges against him. But that will have to work next November, because a Congress seen as doing nothing but going after Trump is a Congress that will please only partisans, but not the sought after "swing" and "independent" voters. And what is the point of gaining the White House but losing the Congress?

The Part that Worries Me

Is that against all odds and reason, Trump does decide to "go in," without Congressional approval.  The House votes to block it, McConnell refuses to take it up because Trump won't approve it, and another section of the Constitution dies.

And we're one step closer to a true diktator.

How Quaint

Kyle Cheney is a reporter for Politico.  Of course he thinks McCarthy "misunderstands."  I mean, what other reason would explain McCarthy's statements?

I'm so naive I can't imagine.....

No, it still won't work

a) it won't "cause pain."  Not unless it is handled well in itself.  An impeachment proceeding is not the "system" that will save us all from feckless politicians and corrupt politicians.  We voted for this shit, we have to wade through it to the bitter end.

b)  Impeachment MIGHT cause subpoenas and other things to suddenly take wings and fly, but don't count on it.  The Trump position is that the President is sacroscanct and even investigations can't be inveighed against him (well, not when they want to see the financials.  I have a memory of Mueller deciding that was not a hill he wanted to die on, because it would protract his investigation beyond the end of Trump's first term.). The issue with the IG IC statute seems pretty damned clear, yet DOJ is playing games with the concept of jurisdiction to argue no one can know what the IG IC knows, even apparently the IG IC, because jurisdiction is lacking.  IOW, it involves the POTUS, and none may investigate the King!, POTUS.  It's all of a piece.

Impeachment has been proposed as the magic bullet which will sweep away all judicial objections to Congressional inquiry, but that doesn't mean the Administration won't go to court anyway, to get the courts to approve (or disapprove) of every inquiry, subpoena, individual hearing, hell, individual questions, if they think they can swing it.  The simple fact is, the system works because everyone (essentially; even the Mafia, because they don't want to get caught) respects the workings of the system.  Trump doesn't.

He will throw feces at everybody, non-stop, until he is removed from office.  Impeachment will not be the stately process of the Watergate hearings (which were stately and steely and implacable only in retrospect; I was only 16 going on 17, but I remember that much).  It will be the same Lewandowski-esque testimony, or more likely witnesses refusing subpoenas because "privilege," which will have to be litigated person by person, because Trump will do it that way, and as irate as Congresspersons might get, some will still call them feckless, and Lindsay Graham will still call for military strikes against the House side of the Capitol, and Ainsley Earnhardt will continue to have Daddy issues on basic cable, and candidates for the Democratic nomination will continue to talk about the issues rather than Trump (much to the annoyance of political Twitter), and Trump will continue to declare victory and "game over!" even though the ref hasn't blown the whistle yet.

I mean, do you think impeachment hearings will stop this, or throw gasoline on the fire?

Not that I fear such baseless complaints per se, but do they gain more credibility in the highly partisan atmosphere or months of impeachment hearings punctuated by long pauses for court cases to play themselves out, witness by witness?

Same as it ever was, in other words, but with more room to declare Congress is doing nothing.  Hell, Mitch McConnell might even relent on his new found interest in voter security.

And we still won't get rid of Trump until next November; no matter what.

Adding: the Democrats who won in Texas (at least) in 2018 didn't run on "getting Donald Trump," although the sub-text was anti-Trump. People voting against Trump next November may not also vote for the Democrat in their district if all the House did is investigate Trump.  Every representative has to make that calculation themselves. Twitter and political bloggers don't run the country.

His Lips Are Moving

I'm listening to journalists on NPR tell each other that Giuliani "appeared to admit" he'd pushed Ukraine to find dirt on Biden. I suppose that means Trump appears to admit he doesn't know the difference between words and mere sounds. It's all the same to him.

Still Confused

Was it "pitch perfect," or not?
So far, I'm going with yes, but "pitch perfect" is an admittedly ambiguous phrase here.  Trump thinks he made his pitch; that doesn't mean it's one he should have made.

And maybe it wasn't even this one.  Ukraine says it wasn't. We, and Congress, still have no idea, because according to Bill Barr, no one has jurisdiction over the POTUS.  No one.

That's the real problem.

Idling in neutral for nearly 4 years

But he's already done more than any President in the history of anything!  What is there left to do? Save the universe? The Avengers beat him to it.

Spin Cycle

Maggie Haberman is a reporter, not a pundit. But when even she has your number, you're not winning.

Also, you know shit's hitting the fan when Trump is responding to it on Twitter this early in the news cycle.

It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over

Just a reminder the primaries haven't even started yet...

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Color Me Surprised!

Don't Look Into the Abyss

The yawning maw of ignorance that is this man is a wonder to behold.

No Wonder DOJ is acting like Travis at the Alamo

What I find myself asking

when reading something like this, is:

When Brad Pitt, as the astronaut Roy McBride, flies to the moon in James Gray’s elegant space epic Ad Astra, he takes Virgin Atlantic. Though the company’s logo looks roughly the same, an onboard blanket-and-pillow pack will, by the time this movie’s undated near-future arrives, cost $125. The moon base where Roy’s commercial flight lands also boasts an Applebee’s, a Subway, and other familiar fixtures of the landscape of 21st-century capitalism. These brand names go uncommented on, mere background details in the dense weave of a story that pairs intense action sequences—we’ll get to the moon-buggy car chase momentarily—with long stretches of near silent cockpit-bound solitude. But the inclusion of those familiar corporate signs gives this sometimes driftingly abstract movie a grounding in the recognizable world, not to mention a welcome dash of humor.

Is the reviewer too young to remember "2001" (which this movie, from the description, clearly echoes)?  Or too young to know that PanAm (the space shuttle to the space station), and Hilton and Bell Telephone (all make an appearance at the space station) were real companies then (not so much by 2001)?

Although I must admit this paragraph:

Many of the auteur-driven space exploration sagas of the past decade–Gravity, First Man, Interstellar, The Martian—have focused on the loneliness of the individual astronaut, cut off from all earthly sources of comfort and meaning and forced to reinvent life from the ground up in a place where there is no ground; where in moral as well as gravitational terms, up is down and down is up. Ryan Gosling’s existentially adrift Neil Armstrong, Sandra Bullock’s solitary survivor of a space station–destroying disaster, Matt Damon’s left-behind scientist sowing his potatoes in the red Mars dirt: All these were movie stars-in-space in the same tradition as Pitt’s Roy McBride, who also supplies a noir-tinged voiceover that’s reminiscent of the older sci-fi classic Blade Runner. The rarefied states of film celebrity and cosmic solitude somehow go naturally hand in hand. The hyper-recognizability of world-famous faces under those globe-shaped helmets is part of what makes their predicament so identifiable: If Brad Pitt can get lost in space, anyone can.

Makes me long for the non-introspective, no-interior life, of the astronauts in Kubrick's film.  The common thread of all those films, as described there, is that "the trip outward is accompanied by an equal and opposite journey within."  That lack of an interior journey is what marks Kubrick off from all the others, which is probably why his film gets no mention here.*

I hate getting old.  But I do have a copy of Kubrick's film I can watch, and suddenly I fell compelled to.

*Which is an odd lacunae still, because this brief summary of the plot sounds a lot like an echo of the 1968 film:

The dad in question, H. Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones), is a legendary scientist and space explorer who disappeared decades ago on a mission so classified that Roy has to take the first leg of his Neptune-bound journey undercover. Donald Sutherland, as an old friend of Clifford now charged with serving as his son’s mentor, provides some sinuous exposition about the possible connection between the elder McBride’s fate and the errant energy bursts now endangering the solar system.

A secret mission?  (Kubrick kept the reasons away from even the astronauts, until they reached Jupiter space).  Mysterious energy transmissions from (or to) space?  "Mind-bending cosmic spectacles"?  (That's from later in the same paragraph).  Check, check, and check; if there's a checklist, and there sure seems to be.  Even the scene of Poole drifting in space, dead at the hands of a pod controlled by HAL, is in "Ad Astra" one of the many "long shots that emphasize the tininess of human beings and their creations amid the vast abyss of space."  Or even this:  "hinting at a melancholic truth that slowly reveals itself to the viewer (and even more slowly, to Roy): No matter how far away from Earth we travel, there’s no escaping our own human problems, limitations, and weaknesses," which is true for Kubrick's astronauts as well as for humanity's creation, the HAL 9000 computer.  Or, more ironically, this:

The sickness of patriarchy, Ad Astra suggests, lies not only within individual men: It’s built into a system that values humans insofar as they can act and react like machines.

In the end, I admire the Kubrick film more just by comparison, especially as "Ad Astra," at least per this review, ends with the inward journey actually discovering something:

But the confrontation the movie builds toward, as Roy’s journey takes him ever closer to the father who’s spent a lifetime getting as far from humanity as possible, is the opposite of a superhero-style apotheosis. “I will not rely on anyone or anything,” Roy repeats to himself early in the movie, both as a personal mantra and a professional vow. “I will not be vulnerable to mistakes.” It’s the slow and painful abandonment of that cult of self-sufficiency that makes the final scenes so moving, and that brings the soaring abstractions of Ad Astra back down, beautifully, to earth. 

Kubrick's ending looks better and better.  At least to an old person like me.


And in case your wondering about the electoral college:

I'll retire to Bedlam!

Because if it isn't, he has to give all that money back to the Pentagon.

As for the homeless:  when did American citizens become part of the "invading horde" that threatens to destroy our American way of life?  Are the poor the new "fear of a brown planet" victims?  Are they to be removed or caged the way he removed and caged asylum seekers?

And WTF is the connection between El "A" building a subway system, and homeless people?  We have federally funded freeways and homeless people in Houston.  Is Houston next?  (Answer:  no, obviously, because the problem is California not voting for Trump.)  See?

“It’s a terrible situation that’s in Los Angeles and in San Francisco,” Trump, who is currently fighting California to reduce state fuel efficiency standards, told reporters on Air Force One. “And we’re going to be giving San Francisco—they’re in total violation—we’re going to be giving them a notice very soon.” Trump didn’t give any indication of where he got his information, but San Francisco Mayor London Breed said in a statement that the sewer system functions effectively, keeping waste from making it to the Bay or the Pacific Ocean. “In San Francisco we are focused on advancing solutions to meet the challenges on our streets, not throwing off ridiculous assertions as we board an airplane to leave the state,” Breed said.

The environmental angle seems to be the latest attempt by Trump to paint America’s diverse, liberal-leaning cities as decrepit and dysfunctional. In typical Trump fashion, the attack uses something that his opponents hold dear—in this case environmental protection—and then affixes it to something unrelated in an attempt to stir up controversy and confusion. The cherry on top is Trump’s roping in the Environmental Protection Agency—which has actively worked to undermine environmental protection under the Trump administration—to sanction a city run by people who disagree with his politics and policies. “The EPA usually sends such notices to companies, not cities,” the Wall Street Journal notes. “In 2015, the EPA sent a notice to Volkswagen AG charging the auto maker with rigging their cars to pass emissions tests.”

“They have to clean it up,” Trump said. “We can’t have our cities going to hell.” Spoken like someone expressing true concern for the plight of homeless people and the environment around them, not at all like your racist uncle. 

Despite the election in 2018, where Democrats pretty much swept the board, Houston is still not identified as a "liberal city."  Unlike, say, every major city in California is; at least to Trump.

Today's Pop Quiz

a) What has he done on prescription drug prices?  Insulin is still wildly expensive, and my thyroid generic that used to be free on my drug plan, is now so expensive it has to apply to my deductible.  Drug cos. have realized that, as long as they don't pull a Shekli, they can charge whatever they want.

b) What has he done on healthcare, besides bitch that the late John McCain stopped him from setting back American healthcare by 100 years?

c)  Is it Infrastructure Week again?  Already?  

That would be...

the incident that is so fake you won't let the Inspector General testify to the House committee about in a closed hearing?  That incident didn't happen but Congress can't hear about what the Inspector General says DID happen, because it didn't happen and the law says the IG MUST report to Congress, but the IG CAN'T report, because it didn't happen even though the IG says it did?

Sure, you sound innocent; and competent.  To another set of clowns, maybe.  I mean, how could ANYONE think you were that stupid?

This was all just a year ago; at a press conference; in full view of the world.

And that pales in comparison to the Russian ambassadors in the Oval Office, a year before that:
So do we think Trump is that stupid, that much of a danger to national security?  Objectively:  yes.

That Would Be the Constitution He Took a Sharpie To?

To which we can add a bit of Shakespeare:

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Vanity of Vanities

"If there when Grace dances, I should dance."  Still.  --W.H Auden

So this is, again, old news:

Over the course of a single generation, the country has gotten a lot less religious. As recently as the early 1990s, less than 10 percent of Americans lacked a formal religious affiliation, and liberals weren’t all that much likelier to be nonreligious than the public overall. Today, however, nearly one in four Americans are religiously unaffiliated. That includes almost 40 percent of liberals — up from 12 percent in 1990, according to the 2018 General Social Survey.1 The share of conservatives and moderates who have no religion, meanwhile, has risen less dramatically.

The article I first saw reference this Nate Silver article declared all such "unaffiliated" persons to be "atheists," which we know is a gross exaggeration.  Even Silver acknowledges that:

To be sure, religious belief and practice can still exist without a label. Many people who are religiously unaffiliated still believe in God, or slip back into the pews a few times a year. But liberals are also cutting ties with religious institutions — since 1990, the share of liberals who never attend religious services has tripled. And they’re less likely to believe in God: The percentage of liberals who say they know God exists fell from 53 percent in 1991 to 36 percent in 2018.

And what does this shift really mean?  Have we really gotten a lot less religious, or Just a lot less interested in activities that involve strangers and getting off the couch?  Silver acknowledges "the shift is too large and too complex" to explain with one, unifying explanation.  However, the discussion persistently lends itself to either/or.  I would offer a few observations based on some of the material Silver presents, and the argument he makes that conservative Christians are driving others out of the churches or, more accurately, not back into them.

There are a lot of reasons for declining church attendance.  One is the simple shifts in society that churches simply haven't kept up with.  Sunday morning, especially immediately after WWII when returning soldiers and a society shifting from a war footing craved nothing so much as "normalcy," became the sacred hours all "good" people spent in the Church of Your Choice (there was actually a PSA campaign with that slogan.  Ah, yes, I remember it well.).  It was another factor of social conformity that started to come apart in the '50's (despite Ozzie and Harriet and Leave it to Beaver) and began to really strain in the '60's.  It wasn't a straight line progression, of course.  TV evangelists came along, preaching to crowds to watch TV, not attend church (Billy Graham appealed to rally attendees to go to church, but I really don't think he had much to do with improving church memberships), and finally to just listen to the preacher and get rich to prove God loved you and you loved God. Now Sunday morning means brunch or complacencies of the peignoir, if not activities for the kids, and besides what's the incentive to sit in a pew with strangers for an hour?

Worship broke into either "contemporary" worship (as they called it in my youth; or the "folk mass" of Vatican II heritage) or regular worship.  One was not inspired enough to ever gain any traction (it depended too much on the skill of the worship leader), the other was deathly dull.  The exciting replacements favored of mega-churches are all heavy on entertainment, light on real worship (and here we could insert another discursive discussion on Karl Rahner, from a post I wish I'd found earlier.  But I need to read Rahner before I discuss him again.)  We could divert to a discussion on what worship is for, but I can't find the post on that I was looking for, and let's not, anyway.  There are more salient matters to attend too.

There were smaller trends, too, like the return of women to the workplace.  Pushed back home after the war, to lives of some quiet desperation in the suburbs (there is a great episode of "Mad Men" where Betty defrosts her refrigerator freezer because there is literally nothing else for her to do with her day).  Annie Dillard's memoir records how dull and isolating suburban life could be for women in the '60's.  Anyway, economic necessity as much as the "women's movement" forced women back to work (by and large) in the '70's and '80's, and suddenly life got busier.  Athletic events went from Johnny playing baseball or football or basketball, to Janie playing sports, and more sports (lacrosse, field hockey, soccer) being played, and more teams playing (not just school teams), and less time after school because curricula became more demanding to meet the "challenges" of a brave new world that had so many Asians in it (I don't speak disrespectfully, but the times were charged with fears of Confucian inspired cultures that took education seriously when we apparently didn't).  Suddenly even Sunday mornings couldn't be spared the enroachment of soccer games or other athletic activities Johnny and Janie had to be participating in in order to be "well-rounded" and have a resume that would impress the Ivy Leagues (if it wasn't athletics it was something that looked good on paper).  Sunday, in short, lost its sacred aura, and became another day of the week.

It had been for the working class for a long time, of course.  Women who could stay home shopped during the week, and spent weekends "with the family."  That dissolved and weekends became the time to do what couldn't be done after 5 o'clock on weeknights.  And the first thing to go was church, unless church was a good show with a rousing speaker and a reason to show up like "God Wants You To Be Rich!"

I exaggerate, but only slightly.  And the cultural shift of the '60's carried into the children of the Boomers.  The 19th century (and earlier, but mostly from that century) hymns that fed the church experience of many a Protestant child, were just too old to appeal to their children (except as "Christmas carols", a special season of nostalgia).  Sitting and listening, or reciting the same words every Sunday, in a world rapidly offering more and more distraction (and emphasizing less and less transcendence, the loss of the individual in the whole), became less and less attractive. Churches that weren't pushing the "prosperity gospel" were largely peddling some form of nostalgia (if they weren't peddling left-over '60's activism and social justice concerns) for a past that never existed. And worship, leitourgia which should be the work if the people, the community, the church, became another source of "What's in it for me?" Church has always had a janus-like quality:  looking backwards to the past and traditions that connect believers to the clouds of witness; and trying to look forward so the service is in the living language of the people, and I don't just mean in English v. Latin.  That tension became greatest as the revolutions of the 19th century (mostly the cultural ones:  the Industrial and Romantic revolutions, the yin/yang, still, of our age) finally caught up with Christianity. And it seems it finally broke.

Over the course of a single generation, the country has gotten a lot less religious. As recently as the early 1990s, less than 10 percent of Americans lacked a formal religious affiliation, and liberals weren’t all that much likelier to be nonreligious than the public overall. Today, however, nearly one in four Americans are religiously unaffiliated. That includes almost 40 percent of liberals — up from 12 percent in 1990, according to the 2018 General Social Survey.  The share of conservatives and moderates who have no religion, meanwhile, has risen less dramatically.

"No religion" and "no religious affiliation" are indistinct terms. As I said, this conversation lends itself to the bifurcation of eiter/or.  I've presided over whole churches with arguably "no religion."  I still remember discussing problems of my first parish with a church member, and she muttered "Unchurched!" as if it were the foulest word in the language.  She was referring to other members of the church, such as one who told me I made too many references to the Bible on Sunday morning, that he had read it years ago, and really didn't need to hear about it any more now.  (You can't make this stuff up.)  But that's a point for sociologists of religion and the powers-that-be of church hierarchies.  I wouldn't say, though, that America is "less religious" than once it was.  Say, rather, as I've said before, that America is moving back to what is probably the trough of the wave of American religion culture, as it declines from the explosion in church attendance following WWII, a wave that peaked somewhere in the '90's, and has been in decline since.

Is that decline tied to political positions?  It appears to be:

The result is that today, most people’s political ideology is more tightly tethered to their religious identity. The overlap is far from complete — there are still some secular conservatives and even more religious liberals. In fact, the majority of Democratic voters are religiously affiliated. But the more liberal you are, the less likely you are to belong to a faith; whereas if you’re conservative, you’re more likely to say you’re religious.
I can still remember the post-war heyday of American Christianity, and denominations were practically markers of political party or even a conservative to liberal spectrum.  There is perhaps a difference today, but today it is more socially acceptable to be even non-religious.  Silver thinks the explanation for this is that conservative Christianity has become so identified with politics that liberals have rejected all of Christianity, because the publicly advanced face of it, is politically conservative preachers who, today, vocally and openly support Donald Trump.  I think it's a valid point so far as it goes, and Trump is just the apotheosis of something that's been going on for a long time (as he is in so many cultural and political matters).  The simple fact is, the media in America doesn't cover religion unless it's tied to power.  The Bishop of Rome gets attention because he's a world figure, presumably commanding the Roman Catholics around the world (Pope Francis' embattled position, with Bishops openly demanding he step down from the papacy, would seem to belie that image, but the narrative is entrenched and won't be set aside soon).  Most of the "religious leaders" in America today are not even pastors:  Dobson of "Focus on the Family;" Franklin Graham; Jerry Falwell, Jr., don't even lead congregations, yet their words are regarded as representing, if not guiding, the faithful.  Why?  Because they have money, or political clout, or both.  Billy Graham was noted as much for his connections to Nixon as for the crowds he could amass (the latter is something Trump still thinks should prove his power).  Rick Warren was famous and regarded because he wrote a best-seller.  On the strength of that fame he hosted a discussion with McCain and Obama during their electoral campaign.  Whither Rick Warren now?  He hasn't sold another book, so who cares what he says to his church?  Is the media at fault for this conflation of religion and power, this idea that conservative Christianity requires conservative politics?  Not entirely; the church has always been a conservative place, culturally.  Look at the problems the Pope is stirring trying to get his church to practice the gospel as he understands it (and the Pope is not a radical theologian by any stretch).  Much of what he advocates goes against the cultural grain of other church leaders, who don't want to make common cause with Muslims nor really put the poor first ("the first shall be last, and the last first," in the basiliea tou theou.  I suppose you can interpret that to mean something other than concern for the poor as the primary concern of the believer, but which is more "conservative" a position?).  And, of course, concern for the poor doesn't create political controversy unless you mean to use government to express that concern.  Conservative Christians who want political power, want to use government to express their concerns about abortion, or gay marriage, or transgender access to public bathrooms, or....  You get the idea.

No surprise, then, they get the media attention, or that Christianity gets associated with their particular (and to this Christian, peculiar) cultural opinions.  Then again, I grew up with it, and grew up against from almost as far back as I can remember.  My earliest political experience was the day after the election in 1964, when I asked my father how the elections went.  "The goddamned Democrats won everything!," he snarled.  I stood thinking, but not saying:  "I though WE were the "goddamned Democrats."  I've been one ever since, and grow more liberal as I get older, or at least more attentive to people than to ideas or things (well, I try to.  My success rate is not high, but that's a valuable lesson in Christian humility.).  And no surprise politically liberal people don't want to associate with that, or people like that.

There is, indeed, a deeper problem at work here, and that's the dissociation from community of American society.  I'm not a sociologist nor a scholar in the field, which is to say I have no data beyond my own experience to rely on.  Robert Wuthnow, for one, is a sociologist on matters of religion in America worth his salt, but he may be the exception in sociology that proves the rule (he also offers a great deal more wisdom on this subject than Mr. Silver does).  No matter, my point is that my knowledge is largely experiential, not looking into the information available by questioning large numbers of people and assessing the results.  Still, America is no longer the land of the Elks Lodge and the Optimist Club and the Order of Odd Fellow, or even the Woodmen of the World, all groups extant in my youth and vanished like summer smoke long, long ago.  Labor unions have fallen off as we look to ourselves to save us, or friends we select to be with us.  Church is a place you elect to go, but you can't elect who else goes there.  More and more of us, it seems, elect not to be a member of a club who would have such members (no, not us; those other people!) in it.  That may have nothing to do with political persuasion; in fact, it probably doesn't.  We have to be careful here not to see everything through the prism of one lens, not to be the person with the hammer who now sees nothing but nails.

Silver points to the work of two sociologists to explain how the backlash to religion among liberals began in the '90's:

It was a simple but compelling explanation. For one thing, the timing made sense. In the 1990s, white evangelical Protestants were becoming more politically powerful and visible within conservative politics. As white evangelical Protestants became an increasingly important constituency for the GOP, the Christian conservative political agenda — focused primarily on issues of sexual morality, including opposition to gay marriage and abortion — became an integral part of the the party’s pitch to voters, but it was still framed as part of an existential struggle to protect the country’s religious foundation from incursions by the secular left. Hout and Fischer argued that the Christian right hadn’t just roused religious voters from their political slumber — left-leaning people with weaker religious ties also started opting out of religion because they disliked Christian conservatives’ social agenda.

I would, again, point out that it was in the '90's that church attendance peaked, and when it began falling off.  Because of the political activism of church leaders, leaders as identified by the media?  I don't doubt it; never really have.  But there's causation, and there's correlation:  the decline was due about that time, and the rise to power of conservative Christians was more the blush on the cheek of the dying age, than a renaissance of conservative politics and conservative religious culture.  Recent reports have it that children now coming up in conservative churches are much more liberal on cultural matters (and so some political ones) than their parents, and aren't as interested in declaring Democrats "godless" because they can't claim an evangelical leader among their number (and if they did, the evangelical would be considered apostate, because conservative Christianity is, in the most public circles, tightly wound round conservative politics).  This was something that could have been predicted, even expected, by looking at the trends of religious affiliation in American history.

Silver ends on what he probably thinks is a sage note, but it strikes me as naive and revisionist in the extreme, looking back to an idealized past that really wasn't that idyllic:

The political implications of this shift are already evident. As more liberals become nonreligious, the Democratic Party’s base is growing more secular, complicating the party’s efforts at reaching more religious voters. But what it means for religion is less clear. Paul Djupe, a political scientist at Denison College, said that the impact might be blunted by the fact that the people who are becoming nonreligious mostly weren’t that involved in religion to begin with.

But Campbell warned that this shift is already reducing churches’ ability to bring a diverse array of people together and break down partisan barriers. That, in his view, threatens to further undermine trust in religious groups and make our politics more and more divisive. “We have very few institutions left in the country where people who have different political views come together,” he said. “Worship was one of those — and without it, the list is smaller and smaller.”
The "diverse array" of people may have occurred in the Roman Catholic churches, but never in the Protestant ones.  My last parish told the story of deciding to re-carpet the sanctuary; some were for it, some against.  The ones who thought it a waste of money split, went down the street a few blocks, and started their own church.  The church I grew up in shed members every time a new pastor was called, largely because he (never a she! This was the 'old days') was not their first choice.  Bringing diverse political opinions together, breaking down "barriers"?  How many pastors in southern churches lost their pulpits for standing with the civil rights marchers, with the blacks who marched in those streets demanding equal justice under law?  Re-read King's "Letter", please.  If people with different political views came together in the churches I attended, or pastored, they were careful to keep it to themselves (as I did.  My liberalism in politics was deeply hidden, because one thing I found conservatives could not tolerate, was disagreement on politics.).

I've been down this road once or twice before, and my original position still stands.  When we get to the point that 59% of the population reports "no affiliation," wake me up.  We'll be back to 1906.  As I said, waves and troughs.

It's at least one way to look at it.  And there is indeed nothing new under the sun; that's another, slightly more traditional, viewpoint.

While Everybody's Freaking Out About Lewandowski

Lewandowski was not really just a "distraction," but neither is he germane to the function of government nor the punishment of Trump (that ship has sailed; the election, for better or worse, has already started.  Even trying to impeach Trump will just give him ammunition, nothing more.).  What's more important is Trump ranting about homelessness, because there's more to it than Trump seeking empty and futile vengeance on California.  There's a report, and it has a lot to say.  But we'll settle for the executive summary, which could almost be a Trump twitter thread.

First, it's not the free market that raises house prices, it's the regulation of the market (ya know, like zoning laws and rent regulations!):

The first cause we consider is the overregulation of housing markets, which raises homelessness by increasing the price of a home....We estimate that if the 11 metropolitan areas with significantly supply-constrained housing markets were deregulated, overall homelessness in the United States would fall by 13 percent.

Among other things, square that with what the President has said about homelessness:

The homeless are living in "our best highways, our best streets, our best entrances to building," Trump told reporters traveling aboard Air Force One with him to a string of fundraisers in California. "People in those buildings pay tremendous taxes where they went to those locations because of the prestige.”

That "prestige" is purchased by, among other things, government regulation.  And yet, the solution to homelessness IS government regulation:

Second, more tolerable conditions for sleeping on the streets (outside of shelter or housing) increases homelessness. We show that warmer places are more likely to have higher rates of unsheltered homelessness, but rates are nonetheless low in some warm places. For example, Florida and Arizona have unsheltered homeless populations lower than what would be expected given the temperatures, home prices and poverty rates in their communities. Meanwhile, the unsheltered homeless population is over twice as large as expected—given the temperatures, home prices and poverty rates in their communities—in States including Hawaii, California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington State. Policies such as the extent of policing of street activities may play a role in these differences.

Those states are, of course, all notoriously "Democratic."  AZ and FL are presumably Republican.  Is it a coincidence they are grouped together this way?  Yeah, I don't think so, either.  And in a classic inversion of causal reasoning:

A larger supply of substitutes to permanent housing through shelter provision also increases homelessness. Boston, New York City, and Washington, D.C. are each subject to right-to-shelter laws that guarantee shelter availability of a given quality. These places each have rates of sheltered homelessness at least 2.7 times as high as the rate in every other city, and this difference cannot be explained by their weather, home prices, and poverty rates. Boston, New York City, and Washington, D.C. also have substantially higher rates of overall homelessness than almost every other city, suggesting that most people being sheltered would not otherwise sleep on the street. While shelter is an absolutely necessary safety net of last resort for some people, right-to-shelter policies may not be a cost-effective approach to ensuring people are housed.

Just to explain that, shelter policies lead to homelessness that would be solved with less government regulation of housing leading to fewer "prestige" locations, but solving homelessness also means more government regulation of persons, because buildings matter, people don't.  Besides, who would 'otherwise sleep on the street'?  Are people choosing the street because of government regulations?  And please note the "reasoning" in this entire report is carefully tailored to a preferred outcome, not to a careful analysis of data and the problems indicated by that data, or solutions possible despite the data.  Basically, in this report, the data is the problem, and every state that doesn't have a New York City or Boston in it (Arizona has the 5th largest city in the country, Phoenix.  Florida doesn't get on any list until No. 40, Miami; but again, Republican).  As the report notes, 42% of the homeless live in 11 metropolitan areas.  Oddly enough, the report name-checks New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.  That goes from No. 1 and No. 2 in population, to No. 15, skipping over Chicago and Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, and Fort Worth to get there.  Why is that, except San Francisco is more recognizable than any of the Texas cities, although it is much smaller than any of them?  Or is it because California, v. (again) presumably Republican Texas?

Methinks this report has a certain bias in the executive summary.  But we haven't gotten to the interesting part yet:

To reverse the failed policies of the past, the Trump Administration is addressing the root causes of homelessness. President Trump signed an executive order that will seek to remove regulatory barriers in the housing market, which would reduce the price of homes and reduce homelessness. Individual risk factors that shift the demand for homes inward are being addressed as well, through successful efforts to stem the drug crisis, improve the Federal response to mental illness, improve the chances of people exiting prison, and increase incomes for people at the bottom of the distribution. The administration has also consistently supported the police in promoting safe cities. Finally, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has improved Federal homeless assistance programs by providing flexibility for communities to utilize service participation requirements and more strongly encouraging self-sufficiency. These reforms may more successfully reduce homelessness and address the underlying problems that people experiencing homelessness face.

I'm kinda  curious about that.  What EO is going to revoke zoning laws in Austin, Texas, for example (I lived there for almost 2 decades; the primary politics of the city was around zoning and development controls).  Stemming the "drug crisis" is a joke.  Again, from personal experience, I once spent some time talking to a former narcotics officer ("Narc" was the term then, but it's an anachronism now).  He told me his experience had convinced him that people who wanted to get high would use Sterno (another anachronism!) if that's all they could get.  Besides, the major drug crisis today seems to be opioids which were sold legally, if irresponsibly.  Is the bankruptcy of Purdue Pharma now considered "stem[ming] the drug crisis"?

"Improve the Federal response to mental illness."  What does that mean, take guns away from shooters who have proven they are dangerous by shooting a lot of people?  Again, reflecting on the experience of Texas, Beto O'Rourke is not exaggerating to say the primary mental health provider in the second most populous state in the Union is the 254 county jails of Texas.  Remember Sandra Bland, and how well we cared for her?  And Trump will what, declare a Medicaid-type program that all 50 states must comply with?  Wasn't that the problem with Obamacare?

As for "supporting the police in promoting safe cities," is that what Trump was doing when he described Baltimore in the worst terms he could use and still get those words on television?  Besides, what does that mean when the problem of enforcement is going to be one for local police forces, which last I looked, were governed by the laws and elected officials of states and cities, not the EO's of the POTUS.  And of course, that final sentence of the paragraph:  "may" is doing a lot of work there, most of it trying to deflect from the fact that this report really has noting to offer except smoke and mirrors and blank ideology.

Or maybe it's more important that the Dems were punched by a punk in a televised hearing almost no one in America watched or to this moment, knows that much about.

Yeah, as I was saying....

As should be clear by now, this blog is neither an effort at surrealism nor the consequence of random actions sometimes (!) clarified by editing.

I paste a lot of tweets because it's easier than linking, and I do some of these posts on my phone, whereon I can't link at all.  But my memory gets clogged with the last think I copied and pasted, and it gets pasted again because I dash on without checking what I just did.

So we have this repetitive mess, albeit repetitive no more, so future generations will just wonder what this post is about.

The comment here belongs properly to the tweet below, but I put that tweet here originally, so the confusion is all mine.  Since I can't comment on this computer (another maddening issue!), let me say thanks for the (now misplaced; again, mea culpa) comment, and offer thanks for the elucidation of the survey I didn't bother to look up.  Which reminds me, I need to look one up about religion and allergies (well, as a metaphor) that Nate Silver apparently posted.  Let's see if I can screw that up!

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Electability and the "Generation Gap"

RIP Cokie Roberts, and unrelated observations

I liked Cokie Roberts when she was a reporter on NPR. Never much cared for her second career as a pundit and grand pooh-bah of the American Experiment. Still, she deserves better than to even have her name in the mouth of this man. Speaking of whom:
What the fuck does that even mean? What authority does he imagine he has? What "state's rights" or even legitimate 10th amendment rights is he gonna run roughshod over, to the applause of elected Republicans?

The Devil's Advocate

True enough; then again, aside from people on Twitter or AF1, who's paying attention to this? Waen probably got more people to come hear her speak in NYC. I can guarantee more people watched all 3 hours of the last debate than will see 5 minutes of Lewandowski before Congress.

For which let us all be thankful.

(Frankly, until the Dems turn over the questions to a highly qualified lawyer, ill know they aren't serious.)

Will this be a collision....

between two busses?  Or between a Mini and a freight train?

How many supporters does Trump have, really?  More than show up at his rallies?  Twice that many is still nothing, and no, "approval ratings" don't mean squat for votes at the polls, except that an historically minority percentage of the population even like the way he's doing the job.  And have been that way since the month after he took office.

Monday, September 16, 2019

I'm old enough to remember....

...when we were about to go to war with Iran to avenge Saudi Arabia.

And not to be at all surprised.

Just Sayin'....again

Which, it seems to me, would mean NOT worrying about Joe Biden's familiarity to old folks and his "electability."

As I've said this before. I am a broken,, record player! No, wait, record!  If you are old enough to understand the metaphor....


"Doing The Best Job That Has Been Done in Decades"

LBJ created the modern American world we live in:  Civil Rights, Voting Rights, PBS, Education, Medicare; the list is actually very long.

Carter effected the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel which holds to this day.

George H.W. Bush oversaw the collapse of the Berlin Wall and a relatively smooth transition from the Soviet Union to Russia.

Clinton sent George Mitchell to chair the meetings that led to the Good Friday accords.  Clinton also balanced the federal budget.

George W. Bush rallied the country after 9/11 (let's focus on the upsides here a moment; the actual accomplishments.  Brickbats are another list.).

Barack Obama passed the Affordable Care Act, the first major act on healthcare in America since LBJ.  He also oversaw the pursuit and assassination of Osama Bin Laden, responsible for the attacks on 9/11.

Donald Trump has enacted a huge tax cut for the rich.  The federal deficit is expected to soon exceed $1 trillion.

The genius of the internet

And that can't possibly change in 14 months! Eliminate the primaries and make Biden the candidate by acclamation! What's wrong with you people?!

Sunday, September 15, 2019

If I had a nickel

for every time Trump rattled his imaginary saber this way (how many months did it take Bush to just get troops to the Middle East to drive Saddam back into Iraq?  How many months did it take W. to get troops in place to "shock and awe" Iraq the second time?  "Locked and loaded"?  Who is he kidding?) and then backed down (anyone old enough to remember his brave stand on vaping?  Or how he said, multiple times, he could wipe out all life in Afghanistan in a matter of weeks, without nukes, but then all but gave Afghanistan away to the Taliban?  Is he still threatening to increase our military efforts there?  Or is he still desperate to end them?), I'd be a rich man today.

And probably spending all my time on the internet, which would be a pity.

The more things change

I'm sure it was a "national emergency."  Or something.

I CAN imagine 'my' President

saying the Muslims (by which he means Arabs, as he doesn't realize how much of the Asian and African world is Muslim) and the Mexicans (by which he means anyone living south of the Rio Grande, or even just south of Florida's northern border, and having dark brown skin) are.

So there's that.

A) I don't like any of the Democratic Candidates all that Much Right Now

B)  "Electability" is, in my mind, a chimera, mashed together from different parts fear, ignorance, and class and generational division.  A candidate who will inspire young voters to vote, for one, is not the candidate who soothes the nerves of elderly voters like yours truly (I really think Biden and Sanders are too old.  Period.)

C) It's still too damned early for polls to mean bupkis.  That's why we have a general campaign which, despite the fact politicians have been "debating" since early summer, hasn't even started yet, and won't start until late NEXT summer!



E)  Fuck you very much.

Oh, and:

Why the hell doesn't this fear and trembling ever happen to Republicans?  They've shut down 4 state primaries so far, just to preserve the tender feelings of Dear Leader, yet no one seems to think that's going to send shivers up and down the GOP ballot, because apparently the tiny margins by which Trump won in 2016 guarantee his supporters will overwhelm the Democratic candidate no matter who it is.

As I was saying, too damned early for any of this to mean bupkis....

Heaven Forbid Democrats Should Talk About Guns the way Beto Does!

Politics Makes Strange Bedfellows

I used to have a button (sadly, lost long ago, AFAIK) declaring I was a "yellow dog Democrat."  It had a yellow dog on it, and hearkened back to the Southern enthusiasm for Democrats back in the days before the Civil Rights Movement:  "I'd vote for a yellow dog if he was on the Democratic ticket."

I got my button sometime in the '70's, just to be clear.

Now Republicans are turning into yellow dogs?  Makes me feel like the "progressives" who aren't "enthusiastic" enough to vote are kind of like anti-vaxxers who don't remember epidemics of measles and whooping cough and mumps, or know anyone at all who had polio.  Easy to be glib about the future when you are so ignorant of the past.   Or to pout about politics because your candidate doesn't win and get to rule the world.  Allow me a long digression about being a liberal in Texas for a lifetime.

No, never mind.  I'm not your connection to history.

That is something, actually, Christianity used to do: connect you to the past.  Yes, it too soon became hide-bound and bound-up with whatever culture you grew up in and associated with "God's will," (so the pastor of the church in Sutherland Springs who lost his daughter that day, thinks God wants him to fun for public office to protect our God-given right to keep and bear arms of war), but it did give you a sense of history that we have now stripped away, and we are reaping that whirlwind.

Well, to a degree.  Actually anti-vaxxers fight well above their weight class, and they're losing in even liberal bastions like California (other states are going to follow suit eventually, and tighten up what they loosened).  There are worse problems connected to our lack of a sense of history, for consideration in another post.  Still:

You gotta grow up enough to recognize you do some things because it's a civic duty, or a public obligation, or you just have to in order to help us save the Republic.  It ain't always about your feelings, snowflake.

We voted for yellow dogs just to keep the Republicans at bay.  In Texas the ones we got regardless were George H.W. Bush and John Tower and eventually Phil Gramm, and then Ted Cruz and Louie Gohmert.  If that's not reason enough to turn out and vote, I don't know what is.