Adventus

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

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

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

Thursday, June 30, 2016

You say you want a revolution


I'm a radical restructuring guy.  My model for social and economic (from "oikonomos," or the rules (law) of the household.  But that's another discussion.) is the basiliea tou theou where the first are last and the last first, where the race to the bottom is the right race to be in (because no matter how much you spread the wealth out, you're still living in Omelas otherwise).  But I have to be practical and notice this:

The biggest losers (other than the very poorest 5%), or at least the “non-winners,” of globalization were those between the 75th and 90th percentiles of the global income distribution whose real income gains were essentially nil. These people, who may be called a global uppermiddle class, include many from former Communist countries and Latin America, as well as those citizens of rich countries whose incomes stagnated.

In all the hue and cry over Brexit and "what it means" (the answer seems to be either a rejection of neoliberalism (however that is defined) or racism.  One explanation is as good as another, but I have to note Britain has an unemployment rate of 5.4%, while Greece still has an unemployment rate of 24%, equivalent to the U.S. Great Depression.  And yet if Greece wants to leave the EU, they're cutting their own throat, while if Britain passes a non-binding referendum that says it might do so, markets around the world collapse on the fainting couch and chaos ensues.  Yeah, it's still pretty much about whose ox is getting gored, and who leaves Omelas, and who stays in the basement.).

Sorry, I'll start again:  in all the hue and cry over that the Brexit vote means, economic reality is badly distorted.  Yes, industrial jobs in Britain have gone away; welcome to the 21st century!  But part of that is because we can no longer exploit the resources and economies of foreign countries.  And that transition means people will find their lives disrupted, and their economies not as cushiony and comfy as they once were; but other people are finding their economies actually offer jobs and a chance at a decent living, so again the issue is:

Ox.  Gored.  Whose?

You can blame neoliberalism and corporations and free trade if you want, but you might as well blame the sunrise and the tides; your complaints will be just as effective either way.  My vision of the basilea tou theou is even more radical than a global economy where everyone gets to participate (rather than merely be exploited), but I gotta say:  This is what a revolution looks like.

If you want a revolution that just decides who gets to sit next in the deck chairs, then it isn't a revolution at all.  A real revolution means you don't necessarily come out on top.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Poetic Justice


This won't get any attention (nor does it really deserve it, except from me) but buried in the majority opinion of the Supreme Court in Women's Whole Health v. Hellerstadt is a rather arcane legal discussion.  The issue is whether claimants were barred from making a facial challenge to the admitting-privileges requirement of the Texas statute on the grounds of res judicata.  Yes that's one of those "technicalities" you hear about now and again, but while it's important (it's the first issue the opinion addresses in the legal discussion of the ruling), it's still arcane.  Still, this little gem proves the Justices read the newspapers:

We find this approach persuasive. Imagine a group of prisoners who claim that they are being forced to drink contaminated water. These prisoners file suit against the facility where they are incarcerated. If at first their suit is dismissed because a court does not believe that the harm would be severe enough to be unconstitutional, it would make no sense to prevent the same prisoners from bring- ing a later suit if time and experience eventually showed that prisoners were dying from contaminated water. Such circumstances would give rise to a new claim that the prisoners’ treatment violates the Constitution.
Prisoners being force to drink contaminated water; wherever would they get that idea?

And as a bonus, Notorious RBG preemptively tells Ken Paxton ("HB2 was an effort to improve minimum safety standards and ensure capable care for Texas women. It’s exceedingly unfortunate that the court has taken the ability to protect women’s health out of the hands of Texas citizens and their duly-elected representatives") to stuff it, but as usual, he doesn't get the memo:

The Texas law called H. B. 2 inevitably will reduce the number of clinics and doctors allowed to provide abortion services. Texas argues that H. B. 2’s restrictions are constitutional because they protect the health of women who experience complications from abortions. In truth, “complications from an abortion are both rare and rarely dangerous.” Planned Parenthood of Wis., Inc. v. Schimel, 806 F. 3d 908, 912 (CA7 2015). See Brief for American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists et al. as Amici Curiae 6–10 (collecting studies and concluding “[a]bortion is one of the safest medical procedures performed in the United States”); Brief for Social Science Researchers as Amici Curiae 5–9 (compiling studies that show “[c]omplication rates from abortion are very low”). Many medical procedures, including childbirth, are far more dangerous to patients, yet are not subject to ambulatory- surgical-center or hospital admitting-privileges requirements. See ante, at 31; Planned Parenthood of Wis., 806 F. 3d, at 921–922. See also Brief for Social Science Re- searchers 9–11 (comparing statistics on risks for abortion with tonsillectomy, colonoscopy, and in-office dental surgery); Brief for American Civil Liberties Union et al. as Amici Curiae 7 (all District Courts to consider admitting privileges requirements found abortion “is at least as safe as other medical procedures routinely performed in outpatient settings”). Given those realities, it is beyond rational belief that H. B. 2 could genuinely protect the health of women, and certain that the law “would simply make it more difficult for them to obtain abortions.” Planned Parenthood of Wis., 806 F. 3d, at 910. When a State severely limits access to safe and legal procedures, women in desperate circumstances may resort to unlicensed rogue practitioners, faute de mieux, at great risk to their health and safety. See Brief for Ten Pennsylvania Abortion Care Providers as Amici Curiae 17–22. So long as this Court adheres to Roe v. Wade, 410 U. S. 113 (1973), and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, 505 U. S. 833 (1992), Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers laws like H. B. 2 that “do little or nothing for health, but rather strew impediments to abortion,” Planned Parenthood of Wis., 806 F. 3d, at 921, cannot survive judicial inspection.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Going down smooth

In a preview of an interview set to air Thursday evening, NBC's Lester Holt asked Trump what proof he'd seen that Clinton's server had been hacked. Trump proceeded to argue that it was illegal for Clinton to have a private email server in the first place and lamented that she would not be charged because of a "rigged system."

"You don't know that it hasn't been [hacked]," Trump said. "What she did is illegal. She shouldn't have had a server."

When Holt pressed Trump to say what evidence he'd seen of a hack, Trump struggled to respond.

"I think I read that and I heard it and somebody—" Trump said.

"Where?" Holt asked.

"Somebody gave me that information," Trump said. "I will report back to you."

We also would have accepted:  "All of them, Katie."

Third time is the charm


And before anybody tries to tell me Abigail Fisher had a justiciable claim because the 5th Circuit said so:

No.  Just, no:

Except there's a problem. The claim that race cost Fisher her spot at the University of Texas isn't really true.

In the hundreds of pages of legal filings, Fisher's lawyers spend almost no time arguing that Fisher would have gotten into the university but for her race.

If you're confused, it is no doubt in part because of how Blum, Fisher and others have shaped the dialogue as the case worked its way to the country's top court.

Journalists and bloggers have written dozens of articles on the case, including profiles of Fisher and Blum. News networks have aired panel after panel about the future of affirmative action. Yet for all the front-page attention, angry debate and exchanges before the justices, some of the more fundamental elements of the case have been little reported.

Race probably had nothing to do with the University of Texas's decision to deny admission to Abigail Fisher.

In 2008, the year Fisher sent in her application, competition to get into the crown jewel of the Texas university system was stiff. Students entering through the university's Top 10 program — a mechanism that granted automatic admission to any teen who graduated in the upper 10 percent of his or her high school class — claimed 92 percent of the in-state spots.

Fisher said in news reports that she hoped for the day universities selected students "solely based on their merit and if they work hard for it." But Fisher failed to graduate in the top 10 percent of her class, meaning she had to compete for the limited number of spaces up for grabs.

She and other applicants who did not make the cut were evaluated based on two scores. One allotted points for grades and test scores. The other, called a personal achievement index, awarded points for two required essays, leadership, activities, service and "special circumstances." Those included socioeconomic status of the student or the student's school, coming from a home with a single parent or one where English wasn't spoken. And race.

Those two scores, combined, determine admission.

Even among those students, Fisher did not particularly stand out. Court records show her grade point average (3.59) and SAT scores (1180 out of 1600) were good but not great for the highly selective flagship university. The school's rejection rate that year for the remaining 841 openings was higher than the turn-down rate for students trying to get into Harvard.

As a result, university officials claim in court filings that even if Fisher received points for her race and every other personal achievement factor, the letter she received in the mail still would have said no.

It's true that the university, for whatever reason, offered provisional admission to some students with lower test scores and grades than Fisher. Five of those students were black or Latino. Forty-two were white.

Neither Fisher nor Blum mentioned those 42 applicants in interviews. Nor did they acknowledge the 168 black and Latino students with grades as good as or better than Fisher's who were also denied entry into the university that year. Also left unsaid is the fact that Fisher turned down a standard UT offer under which she could have gone to the university her sophomore year if she earned a 3.2 GPA at another Texas university school in her freshman year. (emphasis added)

Abigail Fisher was never going to attend UT-Austin; not ever.

This case was largely tried in the press, where standards of evidence are notoriously poor.  The real shame is that this case lasted as long as it did.  The saving grace, in all honesty, is that Antonin Scalia was not still alive to issue an opinion based on his obvious racial bias, expressed at the oral arguments that led to this decision.

The legal genius behind this case was the same lawyer who got Chief Justice Roberts to declare the Year of Jubilee and pronounce the Voting Rights Act no longer necessary (and damned inconvenient, to boot!).  May this decision be taken as a sign that the year of Jubilee is short lived.

The Hidden Agenda of Hiding the Wound


The hidden factor in the Fisher v. UT case is Texas public schools.

The state legislature passed a law, in an effort to avoid affirmative action counter-claims like Fishers, that required UT-Austin (part of the UT system, but the law does not apply to the system) and Texas A&M to accept the top 10% of Texas high school graduates.  Period.

This is a "color blind" system.

UT obtained a change in that rule.  Now it only has to automatically accept the top 7% of Texas high school graduates.  Why?  Because so many students from small school districts were coming to UT and flunking out.  They simply weren't prepared for the academic rigor of UT-Austin.  (And here's where the system gets interesting, because students who don't win automatic acceptance to UT can apply to a college in the UT system and, if they do well enough, can transfer to Austin after 1 year.)

The fact that the top 10% of high school graduates across the state cannot function at UT is an indictment of the Texas public school system.  But instead of noting that problem, we pay attention to whether or not white Amy Fisher was unfairly denied her "legacy."

The deeply hidden factor is the idea that tests like the SAT are "objective" and "unbiased" and establish a pure meritocracy where the fit prove their merit.  Or that all grades are equal, and thus all students equally compete on a level playing field when we only consider grades and test scores.  (I'm old enough to remember when you couldn't "prepare" for the SAT, because it didn't work that way.  Does anyone truly imagine middle-class whites don't have an advantage in preparing for the SAT that is denied to lower income students?  Does anyone anymore seriously think test scores are an objective and absolute measure of college merit, and is wholly colorblind and class-unconscious?  I've seen the "meritocracy" of wealthy white parents supporting their children's education, and "merit" is the least of its salient features.)

Which doesn't explain why UT is allowed, even under Alito's dissent, to consider other factors in admissions, as long as (per Alito) that factor is not race which excludes white students (Amanda Marcotte informs me that 47 students were admitted over Ms. Fisher, 42 of whom were white.  Ms. Fisher had no objection, and apparently neither did Justice Alito, to their admission.)

The hidden wound of racism remains hidden, because to look at it would indict us too deeply, and expose our complicity in the system too clearly.

"You say you want a revolution...."


Our earth is the home of revolution. In every corner of every continent men charged with hope contend with ancient ways in the pursuit of justice. They reach for the newest of weapons to realize the oldest of dreams, that each may walk in freedom and pride, stretching his talents, enjoying the fruits of the earth.

Our enemies may occasionally seize the day of change, but it is the banner of our revolution they take. And our own future is linked to this process of swift and turbulent change in many lands in the world. But nothing in any country touches us more profoundly, and nothing is more freighted with meaning for our own destiny than the revolution of the Negro American.

In far too many ways American Negroes have been another nation: deprived of freedom, crippled by hatred, the doors of opportunity closed to hope.

In our time change has come to this Nation, too. The American Negro, acting with impressive restraint, has peacefully protested and marched, entered the courtrooms and the seats of government, demanding a justice that has long been denied. The voice of the Negro was the call to action. But it is a tribute to America that, once aroused, the courts and the Congress, the President and most of the people, have been the allies of progress.

Thus we have seen the high court of the country declare that discrimination based on race was repugnant to the Constitution, and therefore void. We have seen in 1957, and 1960, and again in 1964, the first civil rights legislation in this Nation in almost an entire century.

As majority leader of the United States Senate, I helped to guide two of these bills through the Senate. And, as your President, I was proud to sign the third. And now very soon we will have the fourth--a new law guaranteeing every American the right to vote.

No act of my entire administration will give me greater satisfaction than the day when my signature makes this bill, too, the law of this land.

The voting rights bill will be the latest, and among the most important, in a long series of victories. But this victory--as Winston Churchill said of another triumph for freedom--"is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

That beginning is freedom; and the barriers to that freedom are tumbling down. Freedom is the right to share, share fully and equally, in American society--to vote, to hold a job, to enter a public place, to go to school. It is the right to be treated in every part of our national life as a person equal in dignity and promise to all others.

But freedom is not enough. You do not wipe away the scars of centuries by saying: Now you are free to go where you want, and do as you desire, and choose the leaders you please.

You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, "you are free to compete with all the others," and still justly believe that you have been completely fair.

Thus it is not enough just to open the gates of opportunity. All our citizens must have the ability to walk through those gates.

This is the next and the more profound stage of the battle for civil rights. We seek not just freedom but opportunity. We seek not just legal equity but human ability, not just equality as a right and a theory but equality as a fact and equality as a result.

That's only part of LBJ's commencement address at Howard University in 1965.  But contrast it with what I can find of Justice Alito's dissent in Fisher v. UT.

"When UT decided to adopt its race-conscious plan, it had every reason to know that its plan would have to satisfy strict scrutiny and that this meant that it would be its burden to show that the plan was narrowly tailored to serve compelling interests," Alito wrote. "UT has failed to make that showing. By all rights, judgment should be entered in favor of petitioner."

He said that the university was engaging in stereotypes by arguing that the top 10 percent plan was not enough to ensure the diversity it sought in its student body.

He said the university had failed to define "with any clarity" its interest in ensuring a racially diverse student body and had also not demonstrated how its current program achieved that goal.

He said the goals the university had articulated "are not concrete or precise" and that they offer "no limiting principle for the use of racial preferences."

"For instance, how will a court ever be able to determine whether stereotypes have been adequately destroyed? Or whether cross-racial understanding has been adequately achieved?" Alito said.

He accused the school of paying "little attention to anything other than the number of minority students on its campus and in its classrooms" in its effort to increase diversity. He also said that courts had ignored the effect the program had on Asian-American students and had allowed the University of Texas-Austin to "pick and choose which racial and ethnic groups it would like to favor."

Alito said the school depended on "few crude, overly simplistic racial and ethnic categories," and that it had designed an offering of courses that "ensures a lack of classroom diversity."

The problem with racism in America is that white people created it, employed it, built a country on it, wrote our laws to enshrine it, and now we have to repudiate it.  But we can't do that by, as President Johnson said, bringing people who are just released from their chains to the starting line of the race and saying "Now you, too, can compete."  We can't do that by saying:  "You're free."  That freedom is truly barely 50 years old, and already the Supreme Court has declared what Charlie Pierce calls the "year of Jubilee."  And how is the gutting of the Voting Rights Act, which was meant to implement , almost a century after it's passage, the 15th Amendment, working out?  We built racism into this country's culture over 400 years; we can't eliminate it with a statute or a Constitutional amendment, because we are clearly determined not to.

To argue that we can eliminate racism by not doing anything to affect white privilege  is hardly "equal justice under the law."  Alito's argument is the redoubt of white privilege:  if we cannot be sure we are "color-blind," then we cannot be sure we aren't harming whites, like Ms. Fisher.  Notice that UT's policy does consider race as one factor among many; but to Justice Alito, that factor outweighs all others when it involves a white person.  "Cross-racial understanding," for example, is a lovely idea; but in this dissent it clearly means "When the non-whites understand the whites."  Ms. Fisher's position was that she was harmed because she is white.  Perhaps it is unfair to her, individually, to bear some of the burden of race in American history; but how much fairer is it to push that burden back onto non-whites, and insist that "strict scrutiny" requires we not scrutinize our past, the historical injustice of racism.  As President Johnson put it:  "We seek not just legal equity but human ability, not just equality as a right and a theory but equality as a fact and equality as a result."

It is the result that Ms. Fisher and Justice Alito object to.

And given the demographics of the country, as well as the history of the country, that's going to mean more than a few whites will feel like they've been treated unequally.  But that's the only way we get equality as a fact and equality as a result.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

"They don't even know what we're talking about"


The irony is that Valerie Taricot didn't originate these ideas; they aren't even the product of her analysis of the Hebrew Scriptures.

Like bigotry, which has to be taught, she was taught this nonsense.  And it's a set of ideas with a very, very old pedigree.  It's very Christian, that pedigree, but its origin is in the separation of the Jews from the Christians.  You can see the beginning cracks of that separation in the Gospel of John, where the gospel continually makes distinguishing (and disparaging) remarks about "the Jews," separating them from the audience the gospel was intended for.

The analysis of the "God of the Old Testament" as war-like, intolerant, and bloodthirsty didn't limit itself to anti-semitism, but the roots of the distinction between "us" and "them" based on Jesus representing the "God of Love" and the Hebrew Scriptures presenting that "God of Vengeance" lies in that effort to distinguish the children of Abraham from Christians.

So it is, to this day, if applied to Jews, an anti-semitic argument.  You'll find it used by many virulently anti-semitic groups, if you dig beneath the surface just a bit; especially groups that base their anti-semitism on their Christianity.

Which means this reading of the Scriptures (which is barely a reading at all; Taricot makes sweeping generalizations, rather than specific references to Scriptures.  She doesn't even bother with taking things out of context, because she doesn't bother with context) is fundamentally racist.  Well, it would be if she applied it to Jews, rather than to Christians.

Then again, as Walt Brueggemann, scholar of the Hebrew Scriptures, said, "They don't even know what we're talking about."  Brueggemann's work is a fine example of the continuity between the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian scriptures.  But Taricot just wants to trade in prejudice and bigotry, all in the name of being "enlightened."

Isn't it ironic?  Don't you think?

Monday, June 20, 2016

Outrage your neighbor as you outrage yourself


I knew from the article that this sign was on the grounds of a United Church of Christ.  It wasn't until I looked in the background that I saw the church was Open and Affirming (a UCC phrase that means accepting and affirming of LGBT people and their relationships).

Probably a less controversial stance than it was before Obergefell, but now I wonder if Mr. Jansen could decode that message, if he wouldn't be upset all over again.  Or, it might calm him down, because obviously a church with both these signs can't really be Christian.

Or maybe it's doubling down on their heresy.

"Theology is the lining out of another way to live in the world"



I am repeating this from Thought Criminal because it so echoes the concerns I've been chasing lately (when I stop reading political blogs and comments) about Tolstoy's famous question "How should we then live?"

I differ on the transcript from TC in one minor regard (and who is to say who is right?):  I think Brueggemann said Dawkins & Co. don't know what "we're" talking about.  That certainly conforms with my experience and my thinking.  At some point it isn't even "language games;" it's that Dawkins, et al., have the completely wrong end of the stick, or have hold of the wrong stick altogether, and they won't let go of that stick.  It's a bulldog trait, but stubbornness is not as admirable as we something think it is, and isn't as distinguishable from conviction as we imagine it to be.  My conviction is not a result of my refusal to concede; it stems from my experience with consideration.

One thing you cannot say about Dawkins or the "new atheists" is that they are open to consideration of ideas that challenge their own.  They know what they know, and they will not be bothered to consider that they could be wrong; and then they see that stubbornness in their opponents, and decide it proves them right.

In the meantime, where are the atheist organizations in times of crisis, when people need help in the world?  I don't agree with much of what Southern Baptists teach (from soteriology to Christology), but it was the largest Southern Baptist church in town that was working hard, through its members (all volunteers) to help people being relocated to Houston from New Orleans after Katrina.  I went to one of their meetings to organize still more volunteers to go to the Astrodome.  And while I don't have personal experience with it now, I also know the Southern Baptist Convention is working again in Texas to help flood victims.

I've not seen any prominent atheist groups rallying volunteers to make similar efforts.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

(Not quite) "All is revealed"*

Not coincidentally, it's about a guy who has power, 
and thinks that entitles him to rule the world.
  He also wants to burn it all down and raise a better world from the ashes. 
 You can't make this stuff up.  Well, in this context, anyway....

I wrote it; then I thought, "Oh, leave it alone!"  And I was going to; until I read this; and it convinced me that while Orlando and Trump's Hindenburg imitation are garnering all the attention, Bernie is still out there somewhere, flailing his arms and insisting he's relevant until July in Philadelphia.  So, for that reason:

I'm done:

Sanders spent the weekend back at home, huddled with supporters in Vermont and he reportedly plans to address supporters via teleconference on Thursday about how “the political revolution continues.” But on Tuesday, the senator traveled to D.C. where he delivered a speech calling for specific electoral reforms in the Democratic presidential primary process.

“I think the time is now, in fact the time is long overdue, for a fundamental transformation of the Democratic Party,” Sanders said, after opening remarks forcefully condemning attempts to scapegoat all Muslims for Sunday’s mass shooting in an Orlando nightclub.
So, obligatory remarks about the Orlando shooting and Trump's idiocy, and then on to the main event:  closed primaries stole my election!

Uh, no:

There have been 40 state contests so far, 27 primaries and 13 caucuses. Nineteen of those primaries  were accessible to independent voters. Yet Sanders only won six of them, and two were his home state of Vermont and neighboring New Hampshire.

Hillary Clinton has only won six more states than Sanders, and she won all eight closed primary states. Would throwing all those contests open have made a big difference? 
If you want to see the complete list of open and closed primaries, and who won which ones (victories depend much more on geography/demographics than on party rules for who can vote), it's here.

The kicker is here:

The reality is that, in general, primaries were unfriendly terrain for Sanders. His wheelhouse was the caucus, pocketing 11 out of 13. The low-turnout meeting-style contests are known to favor liberal candidates, having buoyed George McGovern and Barack Obama to their nominations. Sanders recently said, “We want open primaries in 50 states in this country.” If he means that literally, and would end caucuses altogether, that would certainly increase voter turnout in those states. But it also would risk ceding what’s now populist turf to establishment forces.

These facts are important for Sanders’ his fans to know. Not to rob them of their comforting rationalizations and make them wallow in their misery, but so they can best strategize for the future.

They want the Democratic Party to change. They want a party that shuns big donors. They want a party that routinely goes big on progressive policy goals.

But if they believe that the nomination process is the obstacle preventing the will of the people from enacting that change, then they are letting gut feelings overwhelm hard facts.

The only explanation for the sudden obsession with closed primaries is that we’ve just had five of them in the last two weeks. The truth is the race was lost long before, when Clinton build an essentially insurmountable lead by sweeping the largely open primaries of the South and lower Midwest. Sanders’ recent defeats stung badly because his die-hard supporters wrongly believed his caucus streak meant he was gaining momentum. They should not let that sting cloud their vision.
I left that whole for the context, but it's the first line of the last paragraph that points out this article was published on May 2.  It is now June 15, and Sanders has yet to recognize he lost, fair and square.  It wasn't just his supporters who believed his caucus streak meant he finally had "Big MO"**; that came from the top down.  It isn't Sanders' supporters who have been deluding themselves all this time; the delusions started with the candidate.

Sanders is clinging to this idea like a shipwreck victim clings to a floating piece of flotsam.  But it's all my balls, in Charlie Pierce's eloquent phrase.  Clinton has secured the Democratic nomination, Sanders is too old to ever run again, he has never been a Democrat, and now, in the context of the worst single-shooter massacre in U.S. history, he's abandoned any pretense that he's interested in social justice or even healthcare reform, and focussed all this energy on rewriting the  rules of the Democratic party so he can, what?  Win next time?

And no, that meeting with Clinton after the D.C. primary was not a reconciliation:

The Clinton statement said that the two talked about "unifying the party," but the Sanders statement did not....

Somebody get him off the stage, the adults have real problems to worry about.

*Last words of the bad guy in the movie.  Makes me wonder if somebody knew just enough Greek.....

**I love the irony of "momentum" in primary races.  GHWBush first announced "Big MO" was on his side in 1980, when he won in New Hampshire.

He went on to serve as Reagan's VP for 8 years.  Sanders could take a lesson from that.

"Pray without ceasing"


Our text comes from Samantha Bee.

Prayer is an activity.

Prayer is not words.  Prayer is not a pose.  Prayer is not an excuse for doing nothing.  Prayer is not an alternative.  Prayer is not a last resort, a redoubt, a final attempt when all else has failed.

Prayer is not an option.  It comes as standard equipment.

The worst, most inappropriate, most indefensible position on prayer is to say "All we can do is pray." Because prayer is not about them, or about getting God's attention so something will finally happen in this world (as if God is too busy watching TeeVee to pay attention, until you make the phone ring enough times):  prayer is about you.

The words of the "Lord's Prayer" are less a prayer than they are instructions.  We don't take it that way; but what if we did.  Consider it briefly:

"Your name be holy."  God's name is not known, that's how holy God's name is.  It is so holy it must be kept pure, undefiled, unmixed with lesser words on the human tongue.  And we start our prayer with our relationship to God:  God is holy, and must be understood as holy.  So holy even God's name is holy.  God may be our "father in Heaven," but do not approach the Creator of the Universe casually.

"May your will be done here on earth as it is done above."  Is that a prayer telling God what to do; or submitting to God?  And if we submit to God, what does that mean about God's will being done on earth?  Are we agents of that will; or passive recipients of God's decisions to intervene (of which, one notes, there are so few examples in the scriptures)?

"Give us our bread for today."  That's all we're told to ask for:  food for the day.  Humble food.  Bread.  Bread should be enough.  Ask for bread.  What more do you need than that?  Ask for bread; it's all you really need.  Any more is greed; any more is excess.  Bread.  Pray for today's bread.

"Forgive our debts, just as we forgive our debtors."  Almost snuck that one by.  Forgive our debtors?  Why should we do that?  Because our debts to God will be forgiven insofar as we forgive others?  Because it's not about us, but about them?

When do we get to pray about the guns and the shooters?

"Don't lead us into temptation; instead, take us away from evil."

This is how you pray for yourselves.  Not much about ponies or taking care of other people and their guns, is it?

And none of this is about prayer as last resort, as final option, as what to do when all else fails.  It is that vision of prayer I especially despise.  When you "haven't a prayer," it's your own damned fault, not the result of evil consequences you can't escape.  If you are helpless it is because you choose to be helpless, not because no one can do anything and it's time to let God take the blame or bail you out of your stupidity.  Prayer is not a "Get out of Jail Free" card, it is an activity of worship and communion.

As Samantha Bee notes, "Faith without works is dead."  Prayer is work; but it is not the only work.

Monday, June 13, 2016

And now for something completely different


Jim Walsh on Here and Now very sensibly limned the Orlando shooter (I don't mention his name) as a disturbed person who expressed animosity toward Jews, blacks, women, gays, was unstable and violent, and....has ties to terrorism?

According to this report, the shooter has expressed (at one time or another) sympathies with the Boston bombers, ISIS/Daesh, Hezbollah, and a group (forget the name) who fights ISIS.  As Walsh sensibly pointed out, the hatred expressed for certain groups is simply hatred, and has nothing to do with religion (particularly) at all.

This guy was just not a person who should have had anything sharper than a rubber ball.  ISIS/Daesh is happy for the shout out (they need the good publicity), but otherwise to link this to Islam or even terrorism, is to misdiagnose the cause and apply the wrong solution to the problem.

This sensible line of reasoning, of course, will never get further than that report; or this blog post.*

*And then there's the fact the father's version of events isn't necessarily reliable, either.  Acorn's proximity to tree, and all that.

One small observation


The very reason Donald Trump is the nominee (presumptively) of the GOP is the reason a man shot up a gay nightclub in Florida.

Fear of the other.

The shooter, according to his father, was upset because he saw two men kissing each other.  Is that any different from being upset that Obama is a black man in the White House (which is the root of birtherism, something Trump championed until he gave it up as a lost cause)?  Is that any different than Kim Davis refusing to issue marriage license in accordance with the law?  Is that any different than demanding a wall be built along the Mexican border to keep brown people from entering our country (because white Canadians don't "take our jobs," and besides, they speak English)?  Is that any different from declaring a ban on "Muslims" (the majority of whom are Asian, the rest of whom live in Africa, but it's the minority of Muslim Arabs who are the face of Islam, apparently)?

Is there really any separation of the mindset of Donald Trump from the mindset that says I should shoot up gays in a nightclub because two men kissing upsets me?  It is a distinction of intensity, since neither Trump nor his supporters (no word on the shooter's political inclinations, but who cares?) have taken to violence themselves.  But the frustration that fuels Trump's campaign is of a piece with the anger that causes a man to murder as many people as he can.

Donald Trump wants to get elected on that fear.  Indeed, the shooter is described as "belligerent, toxic, and racist."  Precisely the attitude Trump represents.

Denise McAllister on NPR this morning, in support of Donald Trump and in response to the Orlando shootings, argued that Americans need to unite behind fear; that fear is needed to draw us together so we can fight the other, the enemy.  We need, she said, to declare war so we can give police the free rein they need to investigate killers like this shooter.  Cokie Roberts was too useless in opposition to point out this shooter had already been investigated twice by the FBI.  Apparently we are to suspend the Constitution because this crisis is more serious than any war this country has ever faced, including the Civil War.

That is the fear Donald Trump wants to be elected on.  That is the fear that drove a man to mass homicide.  Fear is never something we need to encourage.  FDR famously said we only needed to be afraid of fear; Donald Trump wants us to be afraid of everyone, so he can protect us from them.  Which I'm truly afraid he cannot possibly do.

Because spiders really freak me out.....

"Do not be deceived"

As I've said before, citing scripture outside the context of a worship service or a study group is abusive to scripture and to the audience it is quoted at.  More and more scripture is being "weaponized" (a dreadful but sadly appropriate term), which means it is used as a club to beat down some group and so build up the group gathered around the words.  If you have any regard for the words of the Bible as the "word of God," this is an abuse you should find repugnant and heretical.

Sadly, no.

But the worst part is, it encourages proof-texting.  Take Paul's words of out context, they become abusive.  Put them back into context, and they really don't allow the use Lite Guv. Patrick made of them; in fact, insofar as scripture is God's word, it is Patrick who is mocking God:

6 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Look to yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. 3 For if any one thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 5 For each man will have to bear his own load.

6 Let him who is taught the word share all good things with him who teaches.

7 Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

11 See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. 12 It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that would compel you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 For even those who receive circumcision do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may glory in your flesh. 14 But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which[a] the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 16 Peace and mercy be upon all who walk by this rule, upon the Israel of God.

17 Henceforth let no man trouble me; for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.

18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen.

There is, frankly, no spirit of gentleness in quoting scripture by verse and posting it out of context to a general audience.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss


I'm having trouble distinguishing between Sanders supporters and Trump supporters, because both seem to support the candidate as Idea, not the candidate as capable person.

Sanders, arguendo, represents a revolution .  He's long ago stopped talking about healthcare and tuition, and gone to talking about process and procedure.  It isn't attributed to him directly (not by a quote), but the Politico piece says Sanders has gone from not caring about Clinton's "damned e-mails," to hoping she is indicted and so derailed.  It is a last desperate hope for power; not the actions of a politician who wants to do some good in the world.

Clinton is slammed because she had support in the Democratic party before she started.  That support, of course, runs counter to the "new people" Sanders supposedly brought to the party.  But why do those people get more credit than the rest of the voters in the primaries because they are "new or "young"?  Because Sanders?  Because reasons?  If Pennsylvania reflects the nation, and 10% of those "new people" would just as soon vote for Trump, what does Sanders bring to the party at all?

Trump, too, brags that he's brought new voters to the GOP.  Funny, they look like the same old white aggrieved GOP voters to me.  Trump just finally tore the mask off, berating even Federal judges because of their ethnicity, a bridge too far for GOP office holders (well, all but a few of the more extreme Representatives).  You can object to government in the abstract, but when you go to undermining the justice system in the specific, that's too far for even GOP senators like Jeff Sessions, a man who damned near supports secession and nullification.  Damned near; and that's as near as they dare get.

Trump goes much further.

So does Sanders.  He rails against the "establishment," and wants to re-write the rules of a party he's never wanted to be a member of, so he can have access to all that party offers (mainly, ballot access in all 50 states to its Presidential candidate).  What else could he be seeking?  If the Democrats are so corrupt and sclerotic as he implies, why not start a new, pure, clean party?  Why try to flush the stables, unless you want the horses for free?  Sanders wants to reshape the party in his image because he rallied people and got acclaim and won some primaries, and now he's entitled.

Entitled to what, it is reasonable to ask.  Entitled, apparently, to be the Establishment.  He doesn't like the one we have, so he wants to replace it with one of his own.  His Establishment, something he's entitled to because....well, why, exactly?

Trump clearly thinks he's entitled to win the White House because crowds love him and he won the GOP primary and Hillary Clinton is corrupt (film at 11, or on Monday, whichever comes first).  Sanders think he deserves to win because people cheered for him, and he raised $200 million dollars in small donations (and spent it all without winning the race).

I keep saying I'm more radical than Sanders, yet I keep making arguments that defend the status quo. Actually, my objection to Sanders is that he isn't radical enough.  He doesn't want to restore democracy or return power to the people; he just wants to let somebody else sit at the head of the table.  And he wants to command control of that seating arrangement, which in the end is neither ethical nor a sign of integrity:  it's just grasping for power.  It's all Donald Trump wants; it's all the Tea Party wants: to be in control and to impose their agenda on the nation.  (I even heard a Sanders supporter on Diane Rehm this morning looking forward to a future where there would be a "liberal" Tea Party.)

Hillary Clinton wants to lead the nation; Sanders wants the nation to shut up and listen to him until they realize how right he is.  It's an interesting contrast, which makes me prefer Clinton over Sanders ever more as time goes on.  But, as I said, I'm more radical than that.

Or he would tell a parable for those who had been invited, when he noticed how they were choosing the places of honor:

He said to them:  "When someone invites you to a wedding banquet, don't take the place of honor, in case someone more important than you has been invited.  Then the one who invited you both will come and say to you, "Make room for this person," and you'll be embarrassed to have to take the lowest place.  Instead, when you are invited, to take the lowest place, so when the host comes up he'll say to you, "Friend, come up higher."  Then you'll be honored in front of all those reclining around the table with you."

"Those who promote themselves will be demoted, and those who demote themselves will be promoted."

Then he said also to his host:  "When you give a lunch or a dinner, don't invite your friends, or your brothers and sisters, or relatives, or rich neighbors.  They might invite you in return and so you would be repaid.  Instead, when you throw a dinner party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and blind.  In that case, you are to be congratulated, since they cannot repay you.  You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just."
Luke 14: 7-14, SV.

That latter, I should note, has a direct connection to Derrida's concept of the gift as something freely given which cannot be part of a system of exchange (i.e., repayment).

Jesus said that in the basiliea tou theou the first would be last and the last first.  What he envisioned was a constant churn, but not a race to the top; rather, a race to the bottom.  Bernie Sanders wants to be exalted so that he can rule from the place of honor (and yes, Hillary Clinton wants to rule, too, from the place of honor; you don't run for President without wanting power and having a powerful ego).  My argument against him is that what he seeks isn't radical; it's just rearranging the deck chairs.

If Bernie wanted to be truly radical, he'd be promoting that vision for social justice, rather than free college and health care paid for by Wall Street.  So far as I'm concerned, both Clinton and Sanders are incrementalists.  But revolutionaries don't get elected; they seldom even get listened to.  So my pragmatism says:  quit promising things you can't possibly deliver, and which really won't solve that many problems (how much social justice is achieved by free college tuition?).  And my radicalism says:  you still aren't radical enough.

It's the Idea that compels me; but the Idea compels me to change; it doesn't compel me to change others.

'Tis a quandary,  I tells ya.

'Tis the season

Of life, that is:


Thou goest home this night to thy home of winter,
To thy home of autumn, of spring, and of summer;
Thou goest home this night to thy perpetual home,
To thine eternal bed, to thine eternal slumber.

Sleep thou, sleep and away with thy sorrow,
Sleep thou, sleep and away with thy sorrow,
Sleep thou, sleep and away with thy sorrow,
Sleep, thou beloved, in the rock of the fold.

The great sleep of Jesus, the surpassing sleep of Jesus,
The sleep of Jesus’ wound, the sleep of Jesus’ grief,
The young sleep of Jesus, the restoring sleep of Jesus,
The sleep of the kiss of Jesus of peace and of glory.

The shade of death lies upon thy face, beloved,
But the Jesus of grace has His hand round about thee;
In nearness to the Trinity farewell to thy pains.
Christ stands before thee and peace is in His mind.

Sleep, O sleep, in the calm of all calm,
Sleep, O sleep, in the guidance of guidance,
Sleep, O sleep, in the love of all loves;
Sleep, O beloved, in the Lord of Life,
Sleep, O beloved, in the God of all life!

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

It's not easy having no green


This raises a relevant question:

Could Sanders have raised $1 billion for a national campaign?  Because the upshot of this is clear:  a President without a Congress is a weak power, indeed.

Haven't we learned that in the last 6 years?

If Trump can't raise the money, he can't bring the party into office with him.  Maybe redistricting saves the House, but it might be tilted so far that the Freedom Caucus can no longer wag the dog.  And money buys loyalty:  if you didn't help me win office, why should I work with you?

That's pretty much the attitude of Bernie Sanders, it seems:  he deserved to win because people, for once in his 74 years, were paying attention to him on a national scale.  Not unlike the Tea Party crowd, he is convinced that once everyone hears him, they will understand; and those who don't (like the South, in the primaries) are simply anathema and discarded.

Imagine the support Hillary Clinton would garner with that attitude.

The entire primary process of the Democrats has been attacked because Hillary had so many super delegates before the primaries began.  To the victor goes the spoils, however, and Hillary has been a victor with many people in the Democratic party, and with many donors.  Trump, as JMM notes, doesn't have as good a relationship with donors, and thinks he doesn't need it.  But he doesn't understand:  he's going to be the leader of the GOP, because he's going to stand atop a ticket that wants to win in D.C. and in Paducah; it wants to win the Congress as well as the White House.  And Trump simply can't do that without money.

And how would Bernie do it?  And who in Congress would listen to him if he could win without all that money?  Because it wouldn't be for him, but it would certainly buy him a lot of friends.  Which, yes, is supposed to be distasteful; but weregild is an old concept, and Bernie isn't running for pastoral office.

And money is the mother's milk of politics, whether you like it or not.  Even pastors, after all, expect to get paid.

ADDING:  NPR tells me voter registration was up in California, but voter turnout didn't rise accordingly.  Sanders was counting the registrations as votes, but last I heard, he was down to $6 million going into the final primaries.  That kind of money won't buy a lot of GOTV effort in a state as populous as California, especially in the urban areas, which Sanders lost.  So, yeah, that $1 billion number buys support for down ballot candidates; but it also buys the nuts and bolts you need to actually win on Election Day.  And in the final analysis, despite all his $27 contributions, Sanders couldn't come up with it.  How would he come up with it nationwide?

It's not easy being green

Don't make Bernie angry.  You wouldn't like him when he's angry.

Yeah, Charlie Pierce punks it, but this Politico article has too much that sounds too right to be dismissed as the words of aides now desperate to find another job.  Take this, for example:

Top Sanders aides admit that it’s been weeks, if not months, since they themselves realized he wasn’t going to win, and they’ve been operating with a Trump’s-got-no-real-shot safety net. They debate whether Sanders’ role in the fall should be a full vote-for-Clinton campaign, or whether he should just campaign hard against Trump without signing up to do much for her directly.

They haven’t been able to get Sanders focused on any of that, or on the real questions about what kind of long term organization to build out of his email list. They know they’ll have their own rally in Philadelphia – outside the the convention hall—but that’s about as far as they’ve gotten.

“He wants to be in the race until the end, until the roll call vote,” Weaver said.
The only part that surprises me is the idea of opposing Trump without supporting Hillary.  And how does that work, exactly?  Write-in Bernie?  Vote for Jill Stein (in 20 states?)  What?  How does one oppose Trump but not support Hillary?  Don't vote at all?

And the reason to hang on is, apparently, so Bernie can re-write history:

The meetings in Philadelphia have already started, with the platform drafting committee set to have its opening session on Wednesday. The Sanders team is headed by Mark Longabaugh—Devine’s business partner, but who’s veered closer to Weaver when it comes to eagerness to headbutt. There are negotiations with the Clinton campaign and the DNC over what they’re going to force them to agree to, from speaking slots at the convention to long-term control over party operations to the order of early state voting (Aides say Sanders believes the race would have been radically different if the order were different, and more states were by themselves on the calendar instead of lumped together on super-ish Tuesdays).

“Everything is on the table,” Longabaugh said.
Tell me what chance Bernie would have had if he didn't carry the south, even if it weren't all on Super Tuesday?  What's next, move Vermont's primary to precede New Hampshire's?

And I love this bit:

“They would be very smart to understand that the best way to approach Bernie is not to try to push him around,” Devine said. “It’s much better if they try to cooperate with him and find common ground. They should be mindful of the fact that the people he’s brought into this process are new to it and they will be very suspicious of any effort to push him around.”

How about we just go around you, Senator?  Would that be alright?  Remind me, again, of what you have accomplished in the Senate?  Anything?  And as for your supporters, the ones you've "brought in to the party," it wasn't hard for NPR to find one who said he'd rather vote for Trump than Hillary (which takes us back to the original issue with you).*

Bernie is the servant, high priest, and acolyte of the Big Idea, and nothing is going to dissuade him from that:

Convinced as Sanders is that he’s realizing his lifelong dream of being the catalyst for remaking American politics—aides say he takes credit for a Harvard Kennedy School study in April showing young people getting more liberal, and he takes personal offense every time Clinton just dismisses the possibility of picking him as her running mate—his guiding principle under attack has basically boiled down to a feeling that multiple aides sum up as: “Screw me? No, screw you.”
The Big Idea cannot fail, it can only be failed.  We've got Tom Cotton and the Tea Party for that nonsense.  We don't need anymore of it.  You want respect, Senator?  You need to show some.  The primary wasn't all about you.  The election isn't all about you.   For the first time in your life you got some attention beyond the borders of Vermont, and it went to your head.  That's not enough reason for you to have any power in any political party.

The more I hear Sanders, the more I hear Trump.  He isn't even interested in his ideas, anymore:  he's just interested in power.  He doesn't like the process, so he wants to reshape it to suit him.  Problem is, he can't do that retroactively.  And why he should be able to do it prospectively is the question;  But don't challenge him, because that would be pushing him around, and you don't want to do that.

Apparently.**

*And according to a Pennsylvania poll, 10% of Bernie supporters will vote for Trump.  Tell me again how much clout he should have in the Democratic party, and how many voters he brought to the party.  And how many were supporting his ideas, and how many were just supporting his posture?

I mean, are these really people we need to be courting for November?

**And if this is all hogwash and Bernie is a victim of his staff, his advisers, and his supporters, then he's clearly unfit to be President.  Either way, this doesn't make Bernie look any better.

"How can we know the dancer from the dance?"


Ideas don't really exist in a valley of their own making, no matter how much we may wish they did:

The 2016 presidential election was the perfect time to make that point, over and over again, and that's what the Sanders campaign forced into the national dialogue. As of this moment, Hillary Rodham Clinton is on record as backing tougher Wall Street reform than she might have been otherwise. Expanding Social Security is now the default position of most Democratic politicians, as is repealing Citizens United and putting the teeth back into the Voting Rights Act. And, of course, there is that pesky open seat on the Supreme Court. The only thing on which HRC hasn't changed is her innate hawkishness which, I admit, would give anyone pause.

I do hope Sanders campaigns all the way to the convention. I hope he talks to every superdelegate he can, but I hope he doesn't pitch himself as a reason to reverse the results of the process. He should get every one of them in a room and pitch them his policies, so they can take them back to their state legislatures or their county commissions as something to fight for.

He lost, but his ideas didn't. That should make a great deal of difference.
I left in that first paragraph to be fair to Pierce's point, and give you the reason why he hopes Sanders keeps campaigning to the convention.  I find his hope interesting, but his analysis lacking.  Because, for better or worse, Sanders is his ideas; just as Hillary Clinton is hers.  Let's face it, the difference between Clinton and Sanders is a thin one (the usual number is that they voted alike 93% of the time in the Senate), so the distinctions come down to personality and person.  We don't, after all, elect ideas:  we elect people.

Sanders has shown no ability to pitch his policies without pitching Sanders.  He's been in Congress for some 30 years now.  What has he accomplished?  I can point to laws passed because of the Liberal Lion of the Senate, the late Sen. Kennedy.  I can even point to a law sponsored by Sen. Kennedy and Sen. Hatch.

Who has Bernie worked with?  What has he shepherded through a bill into law?  Anything?  Anything?  Bueller?  Ferris Beuller?

That's what I thought.  Bernie's ideas aren't that compelling, and neither is he as their spokesman.  As Nate Silver has pointed out:

Clinton will be the Democratic nominee because substantially more Democrats have voted for her. In addition to her elected delegate majority, she’s received approximately 13.5 million votes so far in primaries and caucuses, compared with 10.5 million for Sanders.
It wasn't corporations or the establishment or even the media that prevented Sanders from getting more votes than Clinton; it was the voters.

Sanders can, of course, push his ideas.  But pushing them into the convention is starting to look like a temper tantrum; or a sore loser; or worst of all, a spoiler.  Sanders can't divorce himself from the ideas he wants promoted.  It's ethos, one of the basic concepts of Aristotelian rhetoric:  you don't listen to the argument of a person of poor character.  The argument itself, its logos, may be as sound as possible; but the audience doesn't get past the ethos, the character of the speaker.

Sanders is on the road to destroying his character entirely.  He's turning into a shrill caricature of himself, a person unwilling to consider opposing views, unable to reconsider his own positions.  His ideas will die with his reputation, his public character.  Ideas don't speak for themselves.  They need people to promote them.  If Bernie can't promote his ideas, because no one will listen to him, who will promote them?

In an ideal world it would not make a difference that Bernie lost, because his ideas wouldn't.  But this is not an ideal world, and Bernie is at risk of burying his ideas beneath his hubris.

What we got here....


Is Donald Trump a racist?

Or does he just say racist things?

Things have come to a pretty pass when I find myself agreeing with Bill Kristol:

“Official position of the leadership of the Republican Party: Trump is an inexcusable bigot, and Trump must be our next president.”
Although we will be treated to a few more weeks of discussions in the news of Trump's "racially tinged" remarks, because racism is an evil that dare not speak its name.  And that's because it's not about race, because it's never about race.

Right, Joe Scarborough?

Scarborough looked into the camera to address Trump directly: “Hey Donald, guess what, I'm not going to support you until you get your act together. You are acting like a bush league loser, you’re acting like a racist, and you’re acting like a bigot.”
Medieval Scholastics and theologians could spend centuries trying to parse the difference between acting like a racist and actually being a racist.

If the national conversation is ever honest about race in America, it would scare us all silly to acknowledge our hidden wound.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

"I'm rubber and you're glue!"


Yeah, we're at that point in the campaign already:

House Speaker Paul Ryan said Tuesday that he wouldn't defend presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump's attacks on a federal judge's ethnicity because they were "indefensible."

"Claiming a person can't do their job because of their race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment," Ryan said at a news conference. "I think that should be absolutely disavowed."


"Speaker Ryan is wrong and Speaker Ryan has apparently switched positions and is supporting identity politics, which is racist," Trump supporter Jeffrey Lord, a member of the Reagan administration, said on CNN Tuesday when asked about Ryan's concerns.

"I am accusing anybody, anybody who believes in identity politics, which he apparently now does, of playing the race card," Lord said. "The Republican establishment is playing this. Senator McConnell is playing this. These people have run and hid and borrowed the Democratic agenda of playing the race card. It is wrong."
I'm just trying to make sure I can kinda sorta find this stuff later, because I'm probably going to think I dreamt it.  Ryan's position, by the way, is that Trump says racist things, but the GOP still deserves to run the country and the country would still be better off with Trump in the White House.

Because it's not about race because it's never about race; or it's just okay Trump is a racist, because GOP. 

Or something.

It's all uphill from here.

Turn out the lights....?

Donald Trump supposedly "broke" history by winning the GOP nomination (it still doesn't surprise me; this is the party that elevates Ted Cruz and Louie Gohmert to positions of national attention, and did you see that clown car in the GOP primary?  Who would have been better?  Huckabee?  Santorum?  Perry?  Cruz?).

So I suppose it's possible he'll break history again, and fail so badly in the national campaign that it will almost be over before the convention.  I mean, he's certainly trying:

On the call with his surrogates, the real estate mogul also reportedly contradicted instructions distributed to surrogates by his own staff member. A memo sent Sunday by a staff member and obtained by Bloomberg told surrogates that they were not at liberty to discuss the Trump University lawsuit publicly.

"Are there any other stupid letters that were sent to you folks?" Trump said, as quoted by Bloomberg. "That's one of the reasons I want to have this call, because you guys are getting sometimes stupid information from people that aren't so smart."

The memo was distributed to some of Trump's campaign staffers, including Hicks, campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and a top aide to Paul Manafort, who is Trump's top strategist.

"Take that order and throw it the hell out," Trump said, as quoted by Bloomberg.

I mean (and I record it here for posterity, though I don't have a system for finding this stuff in six months, when the future will be clearer than it is now), even the GOP is running away from him:

“I still believe we have the institutions of government that would restrain someone who seeks to exceed their constitutional obligations,” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) told the New York Times last week in a piece highlighting how legal scholars are growing increasingly worried about Trump's authoritarian tendencies. “We have a Congress. We have the Supreme Court. We’re not Romania."

In May, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made a similar proclamation when he was asked in an interview whether he had concerns about the divisiveness Trump's message evoked even from within the Republican Party.

"What protects us in this country against big mistakes being made is the structure, the Constitution, the institutions," McConnell told CBS News last month. “No matter how unusual a personality may be who gets elected to office, there are constraints in this country. You don’t get to do anything you want to.”

Republican strategist John Feehery (who believes Trump won't be that bad) argued in a blog post that if thing got really bad, Trump could always be impeached.

"I am not of the opinion that the Republic would fail if the voters select somebody like Trump and if Trump turns out to be half as bad as some conservative pundits would have you believe, there are plenty of legal mechanisms to either contain his worse impulses (the Congress and the Supreme Court, for example) or remove him from office should his transgressions become too toxic," Feehery wrote.
So Trump has no control over his campaign, and no sense of restraint (Josh Marshall quotes him:  "We will overcome. And I’ve always won and I’m going to continue to win. And that’s the way it is."  The ancient Greeks called that hubris, and would place it at the very beginning of the tragedy, to explain the inevitable outcome.), and even the GOP recognizes what a Frankenstein monster they've created.  And I can't help but think, as I listen to Bernie Sanders on the radio this morning screaming about the "momentum" he has (screaming?  Or is it just, as Larry David said on SNL, that Sanders talks like he's on the far side of the river?), I can't help but think how much he sounds like Trump.  Both men think their vision, or attitude, or defiance, is all that is needed to lead.  But we don't elect Presidents to be revolutionaries (it's a contradiction in terms); we elect them to show guidance.  Trump promises to act on behalf of people who agree with him, just like Sanders.  And they show disregard for anyone who doesn't agree with them (Sanders dismisses the South, Trump dismisses Muslims, "Mexicans," women; anyone who isn't a white male, basically).  Yes, there is a difference in kind between Sanders and Trump, but in style, they are much the same.  That's the reason Sanders got no further than he did, and the reason Trump will get no further than he has.

Although I'm still not convinced Trump won't continue to implode, and by the time of the GOP convention be a very loose, and very empty, cannon.

A Man with No Reasons


I think we've got a shot at winning the remaining states. The big challenge, of course, is California. We have 40 people on the ground right now. I suspect more will be coming there. And we intend to run a unique campaign. We're going to do the rallies that I did in Sacramento all over the state. I suspect that by the time we're finished in California, I, personally, will have spoken to several hundred thousand people. We're going to run a campaign that nobody has ever run. Speaking to more people than anyone has ever spoken to. How will it end up? Who the hell knows. But we're gonna give it our best shot.

Leave out the last three sentences, and it sounds like Donald Trump.  Bernie has spoken to a lot of people.  Surely a revelation is at hand!

Surely the Second Coming is at hand!

Do you have any closing thoughts?

Yeah. And that is the American people are prepared to support real change. The difficulty that we have is not just the objective crises that we face – the disappearing middle class, income and wealth inequality, crumbling infrastructure, lack of universal health care and paid family and medical leave – the whole list of those things. That's not the major problem. The major problem is that we have an establishment that works 24 hours a day, seven days a week, led by a corporate media, which tries to condition the American people not to believe that we can accomplish those goals – or to even consider that those goals can be part of what American society is about.

You might think that there would be a lot of discussion about why the United States is the only major country on Earth not to provide health care to all people. People might say, "Look at the French system: It stinks, it's terrible. The Canadian system is terrible; that's why we don't want to do it." But you don't have that discussion. Why is it that the United States, which spends far more per capita on health care than other nations, why don't we have a national health care system? Have you seen that debate once in your lifetime? On television?

Not outside the context of your candidacy.

Have you seen a debate coming on where a guy says, "Look, I think the British system is good, and it costs about one third of the American system"? And some American guy comes on and says, "No, I think it's a terrible system!" and argues it out about why our system is better. Let's have that debate! There's two sides to every story. You don't see that debate.
Largely because people aren't really interested in that debate.

`Here's the Sewer!' cried another. `Here's the New York Sewer! Here's some of the twelfth thousand of to-day's Sewer, with the best accounts of the markets, and all the shipping news, and four whole columns of country correspondence, and a full account of the Ball at Mrs. White's last night, where all the beauty and fashion of New York was assembled; with the Sewer's own particulars of the private lives of all the ladies that was there! Here's the Sewer! Here's some of the twelfth thousand of the New York Sewer! Here's the Sewer's exposure of the Wall Street Gang, and the Sewer's exposure of the Washington Gang, and the Sewer's exclusive account of a flagrant act of dishonesty committed by the Secretary of State when he was eight years old; now communicated, at a great expense, by his own nurse. Here's the Sewer! Here's the New York Sewer, in its twelfth thousand, with a whole column of New Yorkers to be shown up, and all their names printed! Here's the Sewer's article upon the Judge that tried him, day afore yesterday, for libel, and the Sewer's tribute to the independent Jury that didn't convict him, and the Sewer's account of what they might have expected if they had! Here's the Sewer, here's the Sewer! Here's the wide-awake Sewer; always on the look-out; the leading Journal of the United States, now in its twelfth thousand, and still a-printing off. Here's the New York Sewer!'

`It is in such enlightened means,' said a voice almost in Martin's ear, `that the bubbling passions of my country find a vent.'

Martin turned involuntarily, and saw, standing close at his side, a sallow gentleman, with sunken cheeks, black hair, small twinkling eyes, and a singular expression hovering about that region of his face, which was not a frown, nor a leer, and yet might have been mistaken at the first glance for either. Indeed it would have been difficult, on a much closer acquaintance, to describe it in any more satisfactory terms than as a mixed expression of vulgar cunning and conceit. This gentleman wore a rather broad-brimmed hat for the greater wisdom of his appearance; and had his arms folded for the greater impressiveness of his attitude. He was somewhat shabbily dressed in a blue surtout reaching nearly to his ankles, short loose trousers of the same colour, and a faded buff waistcoat, through which a discoloured shirt-frill struggled to force itself into notice, as asserting an equality of civil rights with the other portions of his dress, and maintaining a declaration of Independence on its own account. His feet, which were of unusually large proportions, were leisurely crossed before him as he half leaned against, half sat upon, the steamboat's bulwark; and his thick cane, shod with a mighty ferule at one end and armed with a great metal knob at the other, depended from a line-and-tassel on his wrist. Thus attired, and thus composed into an aspect of great profundity, the gentleman twitched up the right-hand corner of his mouth and his right eye simultaneously, and said, once more.

`It is in such enlightened means that the bubbling passions of my country find a vent.'

As he looked at Martin, and nobody else was by, Martin inclined his head, and said:

`You allude to--?'

`To the Palladium of rational Liberty at homr, sir, and the dread of Foreign oppression abroad,' returned the gentleman, as he pointed with his cane to an uncommonly dirty newsboy with one eye. `To the Envy of the world, sir, and the leaders of Human Civilization. Let me ask you sir,' he added, bringing the ferule of his stick heavily upon the deck with the air of a man who must not be equivocated with, `how do you like my Country?'

`I am hardly prepared to answer that question yet,' said Martin `seeing that I have not been ashore.'

`Well, I should expect you were not prepared, sir,' said the gentleman, `to behold such signs of National Prosperity as those?'

He pointed to the vessels lying at the wharves; and then gave a vague flourish with his stick, as if he would include the air and water, generally, in this remark.

`Really,' said Martin, `I don't know. Yes. I think I was.'

The gentleman glanced at him with a knowing look, and said he liked his policy. It was natural, he said, and it pleased him as a philosopher to observe the prejudices of human nature.

`You have brought, I see, sir,' he said, turning round towards Martin, and resting his chin on the top of his stick, `the usual amount of misery and poverty and ignorance and crime, to be located in the bosom of the great Republic. Well, sir! let 'em come on in ship-loads from the old country. When vessels are about to founder the rats are said to leave 'em. There is considerable of truth, I find, in that remark.'

`The old ship will keep afloat a year or two longer yet, perhaps,' said Martin with a smile, partly occasioned by what the gentleman said, and partly by his manner of saying it, which was odd enough for he emphasised all the small words and syllables in his discourse, and left the others to take care of themselves: as if he thought the larger parts of speech could be trusted alone, but the little ones required to be constantly looked after.

`Hope is said by the poet, sir,' observed the gentleman, `to be the nurse of young Desire.'

Martin signified that he had heard of the cardinal virtue in question serving occasionally in that domestic capacity.

`She will not rear her infant in the present instance, sir, you'll find,' observed the gentleman.

`Time will show,' said Martin.

The gentleman nodded his head gravely; and said, `What is your name, sir?'

Martin told him.

`How old are you, sir?'

Martin told him.

`What is your profession, sir?'

Martin told him that also.

`What is your destination, sir?' inquired the gentleman.

`Really,' said Martin laughing, `I can't satisfy you in that particular, for I don't know it myself.'

`Yes?' said the gentleman.

`No,' said Martin.

The gentleman adjusted his cane under his left arm, and took a more deliberate and complete survey of Martin than he had yet had leisure to make. When he had completed his inspection, he put out his right hand, shook Martin's hand, and said:

`My name is Colonel Diver, sir. I am the Editor of the New York Rowdy Journal.'

Martin received the communication with that degree of respect which an announcement so distinguished appeared to demand.

`The New York Rowdy Journal, sir,' resumed the colonel, `is, as I expect you know, the organ of our aristocracy in this city.'

`Oh! there is an aristocracy here, then?' said Martin. `Of what is it composed?'

`Of intelligence, sir,' replied the colonel; `of intelligence and virtue. And of their necessary consequence in this republic. Dollars, sir.'

Martin was very glad to hear this, feeling well assured that if intelligence and virtue led, as a matter of course, to the acquisition of dollars, he would speedily become a great capitalist. He was about to express the gratification such news afforded him, when he was interrupted by the captain of the ship, who came up at the moment to shake hands with the colonel; and who, seeing a welldressed stranger on the deck (for Martin had thrown aside his cloak), shook hands with him also. This was an unspeakable relief to Martin, who, in spite of the acknowledged supremacy of intelligence and virtue in that happy country, would have been deeply mortified to appear before Colonel Diver in the poor character of a steerage passenger.

`Well cap'en!' said the colonel.

`Well colonel,' cried the captain. `You're looking most uncommon bright, sir. I can hardly realise its being you, and that's a fact.'

`A good passage, cap'en?' inquired the colonel, taking him aside,

`Well now! It was a pretty spanking run, sir,' said, or rather sung, the captain, who was a genuine New Englander: `con-siderin the weather.'

`Yes?' said the colonel.

`Well! It was, sir,' said the captain. `I've just now sent a boy up to your office with the passenger-list, colonel.'

`You haven't got another boy to spare, p'raps, cap'en?' said the colonel, in a tone almost amounting to severity.

`I guess there air a dozen if you want 'em, colonel,' said the captain.

`One moderate big 'un could convey a dozen champagne, perhaps,' observed the colonel, musing, `to my office. You said a spanking run, I think?'

`Well, so I did,' was the reply.

`It's very nigh, you know,' observed the colonel. `I'm glad it was a spanking run, cap'en. Don't mind about quarts if you're short of 'em. The boy can as well bring four-and-twenty pints, and travel twice as once.--A first-rate spanker, cap'en, was it? Yes?'

`A most e -- tarnal spanker,' said the skipper.

`I admire at your good fortun, cap'en. You might loan me a corkscrew at the same time, and half-a-dozen glasses if you liked. However bad the elements combine against my country's noble packetship, the Screw, sir,' said the colonel, turning to Martin, and drawing a flourish on the surface of the deck with his cane, `her passage either way is almost certain to eventuate a spanker!'

The captain, who had the Sewer below at that moment, lunching expensively in one cabin, while the amiable Stabber was drinking himself into a state of blind madness in another, took a cordial leave of his friend the colonel, and hurried away to dispatch the champagne: well knowing (as it afterwards appeared) that if he failed to conciliate the editor of the Rowdy Journal, that potentate would denounce him and his ship in large capitals before he was a day older; and would probably assault the memory of his mother also, who had not been dead more than twenty years. The colonel being again left alone with Martin, checked him as he was moving away, and offered in consideration of his being an Englishman, to show him the town and to introduce him, if such were his desire, to a genteel boarding-house. But before they entered on these proceedings (he said), he would beseech the honour of his company at the office of the Rowdy Journal, to partake of a bottle of champagne of his own importation.

All this was so extremely kind and hospitable, that Martin, though it was quite early in the morning, readily acquiesced. So, instructing Mark, who was deeply engaged with his friend and her three children that when he had done assisting them, and had cleared the baggage he was to wait for further orders at the Rowdy Journal Office, Martin accompanied his new friend on shore.

They made their way as they best could through the melancholy crowd of emigrants upon the wharf, who, grouped about their beds and boxes, with the bare ground below them and the bare sky above might have fallen from another planet, for anything they knew of the country; and walked for some short distance along a busy street, bounded on one side by the quays and shipping; and on the other by a long row of staring red-brick storehouses and offices, ornamented with more black boards and white letters, and more white boards and black letters, than Martin had ever seen before, in fifty times the space. Presently they turned up a narrow street, and presently into other narrow streets, until at last they stopped before a house whereon was painted in great characters, `ROWDY JOURNAL.'

The colonel, who had walked the whole way with one hand in his breast, his head occasionally wagging from side to side, and his hat thrown back upon his ears, like a man who was oppressed to inconvenience by a sense of his own greatness, led the way up a dark and dirty flight of stairs into a room of similar character, all littered and bestrewn with odds and ends of newspapers and other crumpled fragments, both in proof and manuscript. Behind a mangy old writing-table in this apartment sat a figure with a stump of a pen in its mouth and a great pair of scissors in its right hand, clipping and slicing at a file of Rowdy Journals; and it was such a laughable figure that Martin had some difficulty in preserving his gravity, though conscious of the close observation of Colonel Diver.

The individual who sat clipping and slicing as aforesaid at the Rowdy Journals, was a small young gentleman of very juvenile appearance, and unwholesomely pale in the face; partly, perhaps, from intense thought, but partly, there is no doubt, from the excessive use of tobacco, which he was at that moment chewing vigorously. He wore his shirt-collar turned down over a black ribbon; and his lank hair, a fragile crop, was not only smoothed and parted back from his brow, that none of the Poetry of his aspect might be lost, but had, here and there, been grubbed up by the roots: which accounted for his loftiest developments being somewhat pimply. He had that order of nose on which the envy of mankind has bestowed the appellation `snub,' and it was very much turned up at the end, as with a lofty scorn. Upon the upper lip of this young gentleman were tokens of a sandy down: so very, very smooth and scant, that, though encouraged to the utmost, it looked more like a recent trace of gingerbread than the fair promise of a moustache; and this conjecture his apparently tender age went far to strengthen. He was intent upon his work. Every time he snapped the great pair of scissors, he made a corresponding motion with his jaws, which gave him a very terrible appearance.

Martin was not long in determining within himself that this must be Colonel Diver's son; the hope of the family, and future mainspring of the Rowdy Journal. Indeed he had begun to say that he presumed this was the colonel's little boy, and that it was very pleasant to see him playing at Editor in all the guilelessness of childhood, when the colonel proudly interposed and said:

`My War Correspondent, sir. Mr. Jefferson Brick!'

Martin could not help starting at this unexpected announcement, and the consciousness of the irretrievable mistake he had nearly made.

Mr. Brick seemed pleased with the sensation he produced upon the stranger, and shook hands with him, with an air of patronage designed to reassure him, and to let him blow that there was no occasion to be frightened, for he (Brick) wouldn't hurt him.

`You have heard of Jefferson Brick I see, sir,' quoth the colonel, with a smile. `England has heard of Jefferson Brick. Europe has heard of Jefferson Brick. Let me see. When did you leave England, sir?'

`Five weeks ago,' said Martin.

`Five weeks ago,' repeated the colonel, thoughtfully; as he took his seat upon the table, and swung his legs. `Now let me ask you, sir which of Mr. Brick's articles had become at that time the most obnoxious to the British Parliament and the Court of Saint James's?'

`Upon my word,' said Martin, `I --'

`I have reason to know, sir,' interrupted the colonel, `that the aristocratic circles of your country quail before the name of Jefferson Brick. I should like to be informed, sir, from your lips, which of his sentiments has struck the deadliest blow --'

`At the hundred heads of the Hydra of Corruption now grovelling in the dust beneath the lance of Reason, and spouting up to the universal arch above us, its sanguinary gore,' said Mr. Brick, putting on a little blue cloth cap with a glazed front, and quoting his last article.

`The libation of freedom, Brick,' hinted the colonel.

`Must sometimes be quaffed in blood, colonel,' cried Brick. And when he said `blood,' he gave the great pair of scissors a sharp snap, as if they said blood too, and were quite of his opinion.

This done, they both looked at Martin, pausing for a reply.

`Upon my life,' said Martin, who had by this time quite recovered his usual coolness, `I can't give you any satisfactory information about it; for the truth is that I --'

`Stop!' cried the colonel, glancing sternly at his war correspondent and giving his head one shake after every sentence. `That you never heard of Jefferson Brick, sir. That you never read Jefferson Brick, sir. That you never saw the Rowdy Journal, sir. That you never knew, sir of its mighty influence upon the cabinets of Europe. Yes?'

`That's what I was about to observe, certainly,' said Martin.

`Keep cool, Jefferson,' said the colonel gravely. `Don't bust! oh you Europeans! After that, let's have a glass of wine!' So saying, he got down from the table, and produced, from a basket outside the door, a bottle of champagne, and three glasses.

`Mr. Jefferson Brick, sir,' said the colonel, filling Martin's glass and his own, and pushing the bottle to that gentleman, `will give us a sentiment.'

`Well, sir!' cried the war correspondent, `Since you have concluded to call upon me, I will respond. I will give you, sir, The Rowdy Journal and its brethren; the well of Truth, whose waters are black from being composed of printers' ink, but are quite clear enough for my country to behold the shadow of her Destiny reflected in.'

`Hear, hear!' cried the colonel, with great complacency. `There are flowery components, sir, in the language of my friend?'

`Very much so, indeed,' said Martin.

`There is to-day's Rowdy, sir,' observed the colonel, handing him a paper. `You'll find Jefferson Brick at his usual post in the van of human civilisation and moral purity.'

The colonel was by this time seated on the table again. Mr. Brick also took up a position on that same piece of furniture; and they fell to drinking pretty hard. They often looked at Martin as he read the paper, and then at each other. When he laid it down, which was not until they had finished a second bottle, the colonel asked him what he thought of it.

`Why, it's horribly personal,' said Martin.

The colonel seemed much flattered by this remark; and said he hoped it was.

`We are independent here, sir,' said Mr. Jefferson Brick. `We do as we like.'

`If I may judge from this specimen,' returned Martin, `there must be a few thousands here, rather the reverse of independent, who do as they don't like.'

`Well! They yield to the popular mind of the Popular Instructor, sir,' said the colonel. `They rile up, sometimes; but in general we have a hold upon our citizens, both in public and in private life, which is as much one of the ennobling institutions of our happy country as --'

`As nigger slavery itself,' suggested Mr. Brick.

`En -- tirely so,' remarked the colonel.

`Pray,' said Martin, after some hesitation, `may I venture to ask, with reference to a case I observe in this paper of yours, whether the Popular Instructor often deals in -- I am at a loss to express it without giving you offence -- in forgery? In forged letters, for instance,' he pursued, for the colonel was perfectly calm and quite at his ease, `solemnly purporting to have been written at recent periods by living men?'

`Well, sir!' replied the colonel. `It docs, now and then.'

`And the popular instructed; what do they do?' asked Martin.

`Buy 'em:' said the colonel.

Mr. Jefferson Brick expectorated and laughed; the former copiously, the latter approvingly.

`Buy 'em by hundreds of thousands,' resumed the colonel. `We are a smart people here, and can appreciate smartness.'

`Is smartness American for forgery?' asked Martin.

`Well!' said the colonel, `I expect it's American for a good many things that you call by other names. But you can't help yourself in Europe. We can.'

`And do, sometimes,' thought Martin. `You help yourselves with very little ceremony, too!'

`At all events, whatever name we choose to employ,' said the colonel, stooping down to roll the third empty bottle into a corner after the other two, `I suppose the art of forgery was not invented here sir?'

`I suppose not,' replied Martin.

`Nor any other kind of smartness I reckon?'

`Invented! No, I presume not.'

`Well!' said the colonel; `then we got it all from the old country and the old country's to blame for it, and not the new 'un. There's an end of that. Now, if Mr. Jefferson Brick and you will be so good as to clear, I'll come out last, and lock the door.'

Rightly interpreting this as the signal for their departure, Martin walked down-stairs after the war correspondent, who preceded him with great majesty. The colonel following, they left the Rowdy Journal Office and walked forth into the streets: Martin feeling doubtful whether he ought to kick the colonel for having presumed to speak to him, or whether it came within the bounds of possibility that he and his establishment could be among the boasted usages of that regenerated land.

It was clear that Colonel Diver, in the security of his strong position, and in his perfect understanding of the public sentiment, cared very little what Martin or anybody else thought about him. His high-spiced wares were made to sell, and they sold; and his thousands of readers could as rationally charge their delight in filth upon him, as a glutton can shift upon his cook the responsibility of his beastly excess. Nothing would have delighted the colonel more than to be told that no such man as he could walk in high success the streets of any other country in the world: for that would only have been a logical assurance to him of the correct adaptation of his labours to the prevailing taste, and of his being strictly and peculiarly a national feature of America.

They walked a mile or more along a handsome street which the colonel said was called Broadway, and which Mr. Jefferson Brick said `whipped the universe.' Turning, at length, into one of the numerous streets which branched from this main thoroughfare, they stopped before a rather mean-looking house with jalousie blinds to every window; a flight of steps before the green street-door; a shining white ornament on the rails on either side like a petrified pine-apple polished; a little oblong plate of the same material over the knocker whereon the name of `Pawkins' was engraved, and four accidental pigs looking down the area.

The colonel knocked at this house with the air of a man who lived there; and an Irish girl popped her head out of one of the top windows to see who it was. Pending her journey down-stairs, the pigs were joined by two or three friends from the next street, in company with whom they lay down sociably in the gutter.

`Is the major in-doors?' inquired the colonel, as he entered.

`Is it the master, sir?' returned the girl, with a hesitation which seemed to imply that they were rather flush of majors in that establishment.

`The master!' said Colonel Diver, stopping short and looking round at his war correspondent.

`Oh! The depressing institutions of that British empire, colonel!' said Jefferson Brick. `Master!'

`What's the matter with the word?' asked Martin.

`I should hope it was never heard in our country, sir: that's all,' said Jefferson Brick: `except when it is used by some degraded Help, as new to the blessings of our form of government, as this Help is. There are no masters here.'

`All "owners," are they?' said Martin.

Mr. Jefferson Brick followed in the Rowdy Journal's footsteps without returning any answer. Martin took the same course, thinking as he went, that perhaps the free and independent citizens, who in their moral elevation, owned the colonel for their master, might render better homage to the goddess, Liberty, in nightly dreams upon the oven of a Russian Serf.

The colonel led the way into a room at the back of the house upon the ground-floor, light, and of fair dimensions, but exquisitely uncomfortable: having nothing in it but the four cold white walls and ceiling, amean carpet, a dreary waste of dining-table reaching from end to end, and a bewildering collection of cane-bottomed chairs. In the further region of this banqueting-hall was a stove, garnished on either side with a great brass spittoon, and shaped in itself like three little iron barrels set up on end in a fender, and joined together on the principle of the Siamese Twins. Before it, swinging himself in a rocking-chair, lounged a large gentleman with his hat on, who amused himself by spitting alternately into the spittoon on the right hand of the stove, and the spittoon on the left, and then working his way back again in the same order. A negro lad in a soiled white jacket was busily engaged in placing on the table two long rows of knives and forks, relieved at intervals by jugs of water; and as he travelled down one side of this festive board, he straightened with his dirty hands the dirtier cloth, which was all askew, and had not been removed since breakfast. The atmosphere of this room was rendered intensely hot and stifling by the stove; but being further flavoured by a sickly gush of soup from the kitchen, and by such remote suggestions of tobacco as lingered within the brazen receptacles already mentioned, it became, to a stranger's senses, almost insupportable.

The gentleman in the rocking-chair having his back towards them, and being much engaged in his intellectual pastime, was not aware of their approach until the colonel walking up to the stove, contributed his mite towards the support of the left-hand spittoon, just as the major--for it was the major--bore down upon it. Major Pawkins then reserved his fire, and looking upward, said, with a peculiar air of quiet weariness, like a man who had been up all night: an air which Martin had already observed both in the colonel and Mr. Jefferson Brick:

`Well, colonel!'

`Here is a gentleman from England, major,' the colonel replied, `who has concluded to locate himself here if the amount of compensation suits him.'

`I am glad to see you, sir,' observed the major, shaking hands with Martin, and not moving a muscle of his face. `You are pretty bright, I hope?'

`Never better,' said Martin.

`You are never likely to be,' returned the major. `You will see the sun shine here.'

`I think I remember to have seen it shine at home sometimes,' said Martin, smiling.

`I think not,' replied the major. He said so with a stoical indifference certainly, but still in a tone of firmness which admitted of no further dispute on that point. When he had thus settled the question, he put his hat a little on one side for the greater convenience of scratching his head, and saluted Mr. Jefferson Brick with a lazy nod.

Major Pawkins (a gentleman of Pennsylvanian origin) was distinguished by a very large skull, and a great mass of yellow forehead; in deference to which commodities it was currently held in bar-rooms and other such places of resort that the major was a man of huge sagacity. He was further to be known by a heavy eye and a dull slow manner; and for being a man of that kind who, mentally speaking requires a deal of room to turn himself in. But, in trading on his stock of wisdom, he invariably proceeded on the principle of putting all the goods he had (and more) into his window; and that went a great way with his constituency of admirers. It went a great way, perhaps, with Mr. Jefferson Brick, who took occasion to whisper in Martin's ear:

`One of the most remarkable men in our country, sir!'

It must not be supposed, however, that the perpetual exhibition in the market-place of all his stock-in-trade for sale or hire, was the major's sole claim to a very large share of sympathy and support. He was a great politician; and the one article of his creed, in reference to all public obligations involving the good faith and integrity of his country, was, `run a moist pen slick through everything, and start fresh.' This made him a patriot. In commercial affairs he was a bold speculator. In plainer words he had a most distinguished genius for swindling, and could start a bank, or negotiate a loan, or form a land-jobbing company (entailing ruin, pestilence, and death, on hundreds of families), with any gifted creature in the Union. This made him an admirable man of business. He could hang about a bar-room, discussing the affairs of the nation, for twelve hours together; and in that time could hold forth with more intolerable dulness, chew more tobacco, smoke more tobacco, drink more rum-toddy, mint-julep, gin-sling, and cock-tail, than any private gentleman of his acquaintance. This made him an orator and a man of the people. In a word, the major was a rising character, and a popular character, and was in a fair way to be sent by the popular party to the State House of New York, if not in the end to Washington itself. But as a man's private prosperity does not always keep pace with his patriotic devotion to public affairs; and as fraudulent transactions have their downs as well as ups, the major was occasionally under a cloud. Hence, just now Mrs. Pawkins kept a boarding-house, and Major Pawkins rather `loafed' his time away than otherwise.

`You have come to visit our country, sir, at a season of great commercial depression,' said the major.

`At an alarming crisis,' said the colonel.

`At a period of unprecedented stagnation,' said Mr. Jefferson Brick.

`I am sorry to hear that,' returned Martin. `It's not likely to last, I hope?'
Martin knew nothing about America, or he would have known perfectly well that if its individual citizens, to a man, are to be believed, it always is depressed, and always is stagnated, and always is at an alarming crisis, and never was otherwise; though as a body they are ready to make oath upon the Evangelists at any hour of the day or night, that it is the most thriving and prosperous of all countries on the habitable globe.

`It's not likely to last, I hope?' said Martin.

`Well!' returned the major, `I expect we shall get along somehow, and come right in the end.'

`We are an elastic country,' said the Rowdy Journal.

`We are a young lion,' said Mr. Jefferson Brick.

`We have revivifying and vigorous principles within ourselves,' observed the major. `Shall we drink a bitter afore dinner, colonel?'

The colonel assenting to this proposal with great alacrity, Major Pawkins proposed an adjournment to a neighbouring bar-room, which, as he observed, was `only in the next block.' He then referred Martin to Mrs. Pawkins for all particulars connected with the rate of board and lodging, and informed him that he would have the pleasure of seeing that lady at dinner, which would soon be ready, as the dinner hour was two o'clock, and it only wanted a quarter now, This reminded him that if the bitter were to be taken at all, there was no time to lose; so he walked off without more ado, and left them to follow if they thought proper.

When the major rose from his rocking-chair before the stove, and so disturbed the hot air and balmy whiff of soup which fanned their brows, the odour of stale tobacco became so decidedly prevalent as to leave no doubt of its proceeding mainly from that gentleman's attire. Indeed, as Martin walked behind him to the bar-room, he could not help thinking that the great square major, in his list-lessness and langour, looked very much like a stale weed himself: such as might be hoed out of the public garden, with great advantage to the decent growth of that preserve, and tossed on some congenial dunghill.

They encountered more weeds in the bar-room, some of whom (being thirsty souls as well as dirty) were pretty stale in one sense, and pretty fresh in another. Among them was a gentleman who, as Martin gathered from the conversation that took place over the bitter, started that afternoon for the Far West on a six months' business tour, and who, as his outfit and equipment for this journey, had just such another shiny hat and just such another little pale valise as had composed the luggage of the gentleman who came from England in the Screw.

They were walking back very leisurely; Martin arm-in-arm with Mr. Jefferson Brick, and the major and the colonel side-by-side before them. when, as they came within a house or two of the major's residence, they heard a bell ringing violently. The instant this sound struck upon their ears, the colonel and the major darted off, dashed up the steps and in at the street-door (which stood ajar) like lunatics, while Mr. Jefferson Brick, detaching his ann from Martin's, made a precipitate dive in the same direction, and vanished also.

`Good Heaven!' thought Martin. `The premises are on fire! It was an alarm bell!'

But there was no smoke to be seen, nor any flame, nor was there any smell of fire. As Martin faltered on the pavement, three more gentlemen, with horror and agitation depicted in their faces, came plunging wildly round the street corner; jostled each other on the steps; struggled for an instant; and rushed into the house, a confused heap of arms and legs. Unable to bear it any longer, Martin followed. Even in his rapid progress he was run dawn, thrust aside, and passed, by two more gentlemen, stark mad, as it appeared, with fierce excitement.

`Where is it?' cried Martin, breathlessly, to a negro whom he encountered in the passage.

`In a eatin room, sa. 'Kernell, sa, him kep a seat 'side himself, sa.'

`A seat!' cried Martin.

`For a dinnar, sa.'

Martin started at him for a moment, and burst into a hearty laugh; to which the negro, out of his natural good humour and desire to please, so heartily responded, that his teeth shone like a gleam of light.

`You're the pleasantest fellow I have seen yet,' said Martin clapping him on the back, `and give me a better appetite than bitters.'

With this sentiment he walked into the dining-room and slipped into a chair next the colonel, which that gentleman (by this time nearly through his dinner) had turned down in reserve for him, with its back against the table.

It was a numerous company, eighteen or twenty perhaps. Of these some five or six were ladies, who sat wedged together in a little phalanx by themselves. All the knives and forks were working away at a rate that was quite alarming; very few words were spoken; and everybody seemed to eat his utmost in self-defence, as if a famine were expected to set in before breakfast time to-morrow morning, and it had become high time to assert the first law of nature. The poultry, which may perhaps be considered to have formed the staple of the entertainment--for there was a turkey at the top, a pair of ducks at the bottom, and two fowls in the middle--disappeared as rapidly as if every bird had had the use of its wings, and had flown in desperation down a human throat. The oysters, stewed and pickled, leaped from their capacious reservoirs, and slid by scores into the mouths of the assembly. The sharpest pickles vanished, whole cucumbers at once, like sugar-plums, and no man winked his eye. Great heaps of indigestible matter melted away as ice before the sun. It was a solemn and an awful thing to see. Dyspeptic individuals bolted their food in wedges; feeding, not themselves, but broods of nightmares, who were continually standing at livery within them. Spare men, with lank and rigid cheeks, came out unsatisfied from the destruction of heavy dishes, and glared with watchful eyes upon the pastry. What Mrs. Pawkins felt each day at dinner-time is hidden from all human knowledge. But she had one comfort. It was very soon over.

When the colonel had finished his dinner, which event took place while Martin, who had sent his plate for some turkey, was waiting to begin, he asked him what he thought of the boarders, who were from all parts of the Union, and whether he would like to know any particulars concerning them.

`Pray,' said Martin, `who is that sickly little girl opposite, with the tight round eyes? I don't see anybody here, who looks like her mother, or who seems to have charge of her.'

`Do you mean the matron in blue, sir?' asked the colonel, with emphasis. `That is Mrs. Jefferson Brick, sir.'

`No, no,' said Martin, `I mean the little girl, like a doll; directly opposite.'

`Well, sir!' cried the colonel. `That is Mrs. Jefferson Brick.'

Martin glanced at the colonel's face, but he was quite serious.

`Bless my soul! I suppose there will be a young Brick then, one of these days?' said Martin.

`There are two young Bricks already, sir,' returned the colonel.

The matron looked so uncommonly like a child herself, that Martin could not help saying as much. `Yes, sir,' returned the colonel, `but some institutions develop human natur: others re--tard it.'

`Jefferson Brick,' he observed after a short silence, in commendation of his correspondent, `is one of the most remarkable men in our country, sir!'

This had passed almost in a whisper, for the distinguished gentleman alluded to sat on Martin's other hand.

`Pray, Mr. Brick,' said Martin, turning to him, and asking a question more for conversation's sake than from any feeling of interest in its subject, `who is that:' he was going to say `young' but thought it prudent to eschew the word: `that very short gentleman younder, with the red nose?'

`That is Pro--fessor Mullit, sir,' replied Jefferson.

`May I ask what he is professor of?' asked Martin.

`Of education, sir,' said Jefferson Brick.

`A sort of schoolmaster, possibly?' Martin ventured to observe.

`He is a man of fine moral elements, sir, and not commonly endowed,' said the war correspondent. `He felt it necessary, at the last election for President, to repudiate and denounce his father, who voted on the wrong interest. He has since written some powerful pamphlets, under the signature of "Suturb," or Brutus reversed. He is one of the most remarkable men in our country, sir.'

`There seem to be plenty of 'em,' thought Martin, `at any rate.'

Pursuing his inquiries Martin found that there were no fewer than four majors present, two colonels, one general, and a captain, so that he could not help thinking how strongly officered the American militia must be; and wondering very much whether the officers commanded each other; or if they did not, where on earth the privates came from. There seemed to be no man there without a title: for those who had not attained to military honours were either doctors, professors, or reverends. Three very hard and disagreeable gentlemen were on missions from neighbouring States; one on monetary affairs, one on political, one on sectarian. Among the ladies, there were Mrs. Pawkins, who was very straight, bony, and silent, and a wiry-faced old damsel, who held strong sentiments touching the rights of women, and had diffused the same in lectures; but the rest were strangely devoid of individual traits of character, insomuch that any one of them might have changed minds with the other, and nobody would have found it out. These, by the way, were the only members of the party who did not appear to be among the most remarkable people in the country.

Several of the gentlemen got up, one by one, and walked off as they swallowed their last morsel; pausing generally by the stove for a minute or so to refresh themselves at the brass spittoons. A few sedentary characters, however, remained at table full a quarter of an hour, and did not rise until the ladies rose, when all stood up.

`Where are they going?' asked Martin, in the ear of Mr. Jefferson Brick.

`To their bedrooms, sir.'

`Is there no dessert, or other interval of conversation?' asked Martin, who was disposed to enjoy himself after his long voyage.
`We are a busy people here, sir, and have no time for that,' was the reply.
So the ladies passed out in single file; Mr. Jefferson Brick and such other married gentlemen as were left, acknowledging the departure of their other halves by a nod; and there was an end of them. Martin thought this an uncomfortable custom, but he kept his opinion to himself for the present, being anxious to hear, and inform himself by, the conversation of the busy gentlemen, whonow lounged about the stove as if a great weight had been taken off their minds by the withdrawal of the other sex; and who made a plentiful use of the spittoons and their toothpicks.

It was rather barren of interest, to say the truth; and the greater part of it may be summed up in one word. Dollars. All their cares, hopes, joys, affections, virtues, and associations, seemed to be melted down into dollars. Whatever the chance contributions that fell into the slow cauldron of their talk, they made the gruel thick and slab with dollars. Men were weighed by their dollars, measures gauged by their dollars; life was auctioneered, appraised, put up, and knocked down for its dollars. The next respectable thing to dollars was any venture having their attainment for its end. The more of that worthless ballast, honour and fair-dealing, which any man cast overboard from the ship of his Good Name and Good Intent, the more ample stowage-room he had for dollars. Make commerce one huge lie and mighty theft. Deface the banner of the nation for an idle rag; pollute it star by star; and cut out stripe by stripe as from the arm of a degraded soldier. Do anything for dollars! What is a flag to them!
One who rides at all hazards of limb and life in the chase of a fox will prefer to ride recklessly at most times. So it was with these gentlemen. He was the greatest patriot, in their eyes, who brawled the loudest, and who cared the least for decency. He was their champion who, in the brutal fury of his own pursuit, could cast no stigma upon them for the hot knavery of theirs. Thus Martin learned in the five minutes' straggling talk about the stove, that to carry pistols into legislative assemblies, and swords in sticks, and other such peaceful toys; to seize opponents by the throat, as dogs or rats might do; to bluster, bully, and overbear by personal assailment; were glowing deeds. Not thrusts and stabs at Freedom, striking far deeper into her House of Life than any sultan's scimitar could reach; but rare incense on her altars, having a grateful scent in patriotic nostrils, and curling upward to the seventh heaven of Fame.

Once or twice, when there was a pause, Martin asked such questions as naturally occurred to him, being a stranger, about the national poets, the theatre, literature, and the arts. But the information which these gentlemen were in a condition to give him on such topics, did not extend beyond the effusions of such master-spirits of the time as Colonel Diver, Mr. Jefferson Brick, and others; renowned, as it appeared, for excellence in the achievement of a peculiar style of broadside-essay called `a screamer.'

`We are a busy people, sir,' said one of the captains, who was from the West, `and have no time for reading mere notions. We don't mind 'em if they come to us in newspapers along with almighty strong stuff of another sort, but darn your books.'

Here the general, who appeared to grow quite faint at the bare thought of reading anything which was neither mercantile nor political, and was not in a newspaper, inquired `if any gentleman would drink some?' Most of the company, considering this a very choice and seasonable idea, lounged out, one by one, to the bar-room in the next block. Thence they probably went to their stores and counting-houses; thence to the bar-room again, to talk once more of dollars, and enlarge their minds with the perusal and discussion of screamers; and thence each man to snore in the bosom of his own family.

`Which would seem,' said Martin, pursuing the current of his own thoughts, `to be the principal recreation they enjoy in common.' With that, he fell a-musing again on dollars, demagogues, and bar-rooms; debating within himself whether busy people of this class were really as busy as they claimed to be, or only had an inaptitude for social and domestic pleasure.

It was a difficult question to solve; and the mere fact of its being strongly presented to his mind by all that he had seen and heard, was not encouraging. He sat down at the deserted board, and becoming more and more despondent, as he thought of all the uncertainties and difficulties of his precarious situation, sighed heavily.

Now, there had been at the dinner-table a middle-aged man with a dark eye and a sunburnt face, who had attracted Martin's attention by having something very engaging and honest in the expression of his features; but of whom he could learn nothing from either of his neighbours, who seemed to consider him quite beneath their notice. He had taken no part in the conversation round the stove, nor had he gone forth with the rest; and now, when he heard Martin sigh for the third or fourth time, he interposed with some casual remark, as if he desired, without obtruding himself upon a stranger's notice, to engage him in cheerful conversation if he could. His motive was so obvious, and yet so delicately expressed, that Martin felt really grateful to him, and showed him so in the manner of his reply.

`I will not ask you,' said this gentleman with a smile, as he rose and moved towards him, `how you like my country, for I can quite anticipate your feeling on that point. But, as I am an American, and consequently bound to begin with a question, I'll ask you how you like the colonel?'

`You are so very frank,' returned Martin, `that I have no hesitation in saying I don't like him at all.
Though I must add that I am beholden to him for his civility in bringing me here--and arranging for my stay, on pretty reasonable terms, by the way,' he added: remembering that the colonel had whispered him to that effect, before going out.

`Not much beholden,' said the stranger drily. `The colonel occasionally boards packet-ships, I have heard, to glean the latest information for his journal; and he occasionally brings strangers to board here, I believe, with a view to the little percentage which attaches to those good offices; and which the hostess deducts from his weekly bill. I don't offend you, I hope?' he added, seeing that Martin reddened.

`My dear sir,' returned Martin, as they shook hands, `how is that possible! to tell you the truth, I--am--
'
`Yes?' said the gentleman, sitting down beside him.

`I am rather at a loss, since I must speak plainly,' said Martin, getting the better of his hesitation, `to know how this colonel escapes being beaten.'

`Well! He has been beaten once or twice,' remarked the gentleman quietly. `He is one of a class of men, in whom our own Franklin, so long ago as ten years before the close of the last century, foresaw our danger and disgrace. Perhaps you don't know that Franklin, in very severe terms, published his opinion that those who were slandered by such fellows as this colonel, having no sufficient remedy in the administration of this country's laws or in the decent and right-minded feeling of its people, were justified in retorting on such public nuisances by means of a stout cudgel?'

`I was not aware of that,' said Martin, `but I am very glad to know it, and I think it worthy of his memory; especially'--here he hesitated again.

`Go on,' said the other, smiling as if he knew what stuck in Martin's throat.

`Especially,' pursued Martin, `as I can already understand that it may have required great courage, even in his time, to write freely on any question which was not a party one in this very free country.'

`Some courage, no doubt,' returned his new friend. `Do you think it would require any to do so, now?'

`Indeed I think it would; and not a little,' said Martin.

`You are right: So very right, that I believe no satirist could breathe this air. If another Juvenal or Swift could rise up among us to-morrow, he would be hunted down. If you have any knowledge of our literature, and can give me the name of any man, American born and bred, who has anatomised our follies as a people, and not as this or that party; and who has escaped the foulest and most brutal slander, the most inveterate hatred and intolerant pursuit; it will be a strange name in my ears, believe me. In some cases I could name to you, where a native writer has ventured on the most harmless and good-humoured illustrations of our vices or defects, it has been found necessary to announce, that in a second edition the passage has been expunged, or altered, or explained away, or patched into praise.'

`And how has this been brought about?' asked Martin, in dismay.

`Think of what you have seen and heard to-day, beginning with the colonel,' said his friend, `and ask yourself. How they came about, is another question. Heaven forbid that they should be samples of the intelligence and virtue of America, but they come uppermost, and in great numbers, and too often represent it. Will you walk?'

There was a cordial candour in his manner, and an engaging confidence that it would not be abused; a manly bearing on his own part, and a simple reliance on the manly faith of a stranger; which Martin had never seen before. He linked his arm readily in that of the American gentleman, and they walked out together.

It was perhaps to men like this, his new companion, that a traveller of honoured name, who trod those shores now nearly forty years ago, and woke upon that soil, as many have done since, to blots and stains upon its high pretensions, which in the brightness of his distant dreams were lost to view, appealed in these words:

`Oh but for such, Columbia's days were done;
Rank without ripeness, quickened without sun,
Crude at the surface, rotten at the core,
Her fruits would fall before her spring were o'er!'

Charles Dickens limned American exceptionalism in 1844, and little in American culture has truly changed in the nearly 200 years since.  Are we all just waiting for Bernie Sanders to explain British National Health to us?  The Canadian system?  The Swedish, German, or French?  Is that all we need?  Knowledge, which will be as a lamp unto our feet?

Or do we first need to figure out how to make the horse drink from the trough of water we have led it to?

I agree with Bernie's position on healthcare.  I don't agree with his prescription, because it assumes that once everybody hears it from Bernie, scales will fall from eyes and all will stand revealed!

This is reality.  Reality doesn't work that way.  Pronounce any position you deem sensible in a public enough place on the internet (i.e., not this blog!), and see how many people come up with how many ways to disagree with you, to denounce you, to disparage you.  Consider the child who fell into the gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo.  How many people expressed sympathy for the child?  How many people wanted to prosecute the mother for some crime, any crime, because a gorilla was dead? How many, unburdened by knowledge of veterinary science and animal physiology, wondered why the gorilla wasn't simply tranquilized?   The same set of facts; radically different interpretations.

Bernie Sanders doesn't win that debate just because he gets to have it.  He imagines a debate where only one outcome is possible, where finally his message won't be blocked by the "establishment" and the "corporations" and "corruption."   It will be a debate where his "facts" will provide only one possible outcome.  He imagines a fantasy, and wants to make that into reality.  He really is no different from Major Pawkins, who assures Martin Chuzzlewit that Chuzzlewit has yet to see the son shine, until he gets to America.  Bernie also seems sure that, like Jefferson Brick, once people hear his words, they will strike the deadliest blow "At the hundred heads of the Hydra of Corruption now grovelling in the dust beneath the lance of Reason, and spouting up to the universal arch above us, its sanguinary gore."  Or at least Hillary Clinton; which ever comes first before his lance.