Saturday, September 30, 2017

Keepin' it Klassy, 'kay?

This is the woman Trump and Bauer are complaining about.  
When you can show me even a shot of Trump in this posture, I'll reconsider.  Maybe.

Admittedly, this gets under my skin:

“Look, I believe the federal government has a role and responsibility to come in and help, but local leadership is supposed to lead, not the federal government, and so it really falls on the backs of the people that have been elected, and make no mistake, resources have been given,” Bauer said about the catastrophe. “Eleven major highways cleared, 10,000 people down there, you’ve got on the ground a four-star general, 11 points of distribution, 500 gas stations with gas, air-dropped supplies in places where they can’t get to major hubs, $40 million available right now, so things have been done.”

Two weeks later.  But hey, better late than never, right?  Besides:

“The federal government has come in, but my feeling is the federal government’s role is not to come in and take over,” he continued. “As a local guy that’s served in local elected office, I wouldn’t want the federal government to ever come in and take over.”

Next time a hurricane hits South Carolina, we'll leave you alone, okay?  And besides, what you want is not necessarily what Puerto Rico wants, right?  I mean, state's rights, right?  By the way:  fuck you:

Unlike what they faced after recent storms in Texas and Florida, the federal agencies found themselves partnered with a government completely flattened by the hurricane and operating with almost no information about the status of its citizens.

“The level of devastation and the impact on the first responders we closely work with was so great that those people were having to take care of their families and homes to an extent we don’t normally see,” said an administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he did not want his statement to be interpreted as criticism of authorities in Puerto Rico. “The Department of Defense, FEMA and the federal government are having to step in to fulfill state and municipal functions that we normally just support.”

The next time this happens to South Carolina, maybe we'll remember you don't want any help from the rest of us.  And frankly, you don't know what the fuck you're talking about:

Army Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, who was named this week to lead recovery efforts, told reporters Friday that there were not enough people and assets to help Puerto Rico combat what has become a humanitarian crisis in the aftermath of the storm.
What's that?  You've got more to say?  Oh, please, do go on:

“Well keep in mind the mayor is the one that actually struck first,” Bauer explained. “Here the president is doing everything he can, two other major catastrophes. My house was flooded four feet, I helped myself. I realized theirs is much worse than mine, but I think the mentality too often is to turn to Washington every time you turn around, and local leadership needs to take this by the horns.”
Because you, like Trump, think it's all about Trump?  She "struck first"?  What are you, 6 years old on a playground?

“If the federal government comes in and helps, that’s great. But again, this is a territory, they have to take care of themselves and we have given them an unbelievable amount of supplies, but to fault the president when he’s personally coming down on Tuesday, sent members of his staff, wait a minute, we want a full understanding before we immediately send funds down there,” he added.
You and President Coolidge, huh?  "President Coolidge say, 'Little fat man, isn't it a shame/What the river have done to this poor crackers' land?' "

“She [the mayor of San Juan] has been invited to FEMA command center several times to see operations and be part of efforts but so far has refused to come, maybe too busy doing TV?” the spokesperson said.
Better than being too busy playing golf and tweeting about football players?

Cruz has notably been seen working the streets of San Juan helping survivors of the devastating disaster and organizing relief efforts in the absence of adequate federal help from the Trump administration.
Children; all of them.


First, step back a day to a real report on conditions on the ground in Puerto Rico:

“You’re seeing folks from FEMA who are there nine days later assessing the situation where there are already some pretty obvious needs as they go into these areas,” said CNN’s Brianna Keilar Friday. She explained that when FEMA landed in Puerto Rico they were there to “assess” the island’s problems. They didn’t bring any supplies. The only delivery that was made was a satellite phone to the Governor, so he could reach Washington. She was shocked it took nine days just to get him a phone. “It sort of defies belief,” she said.
And that was before Trump's tweets this morning.

“FEMA and the Department of Defense actually has a lot of authority right now,” [Rep. Ruben] Gallego [D-AZ] explained. “The problem is the Trump administration just dropped the ball 100 percent. They did not properly plan for what was going to happen after the hurricane. And every excuse I’ve heard so far has been nothing short of really almost criminal.”

He went on to say that he was on the phone with NorthCom and they explained they were sending things to the island. Gallego asked if they had water filtration and “they do not know where they were going or if they had been requested by FEMA.” He then got on the phone with FEMA director William B. “Brock” Long, who said the reason they can’t get supplies in are due to the lack of truck drivers.

“We have a whole continent here on the mainland full of Teamsters in the United States who have volunteered to go down and drive the goods out there,” Gallego said.

He went on to call the response rate “absolutely disgraceful.”

“You know what are the necessities of the island, if you’re going to wait for the red tape to be cleared, people are going to die,” he continued. “This is not the time for that. And if the president actually cared about it, he would step off the golf course, that he is going to be on this weekend, and actually fully put pressure down on FEMA, Department of Homeland Security, as well as DOD to make sure that all the assets are necessary and on the island to stabilize the island. This is getting bad. People are running out of insulin. There’s no running water on many parts of the island. There are still isolated villages. This is an island that is only two hours away from most of the mainland United States. These are 3.5 million American citizens that we have abandoned. We should be ashamed of ourselves. This is absolutely not acceptable.”
Trump sent his tweets from his golf course in New Jersey.  Here is what the mayor of San Juan is doing, when she's not responding to her President's insults:

Why doesn't the media report on how great things are in Puerto Rico?  Why doesn't the media understand this is all about Trump?

How to win friends and demagogue a people

Make sure it's all about you, no matter what "it" is.
Savage people who don't say nice things about you.
Engage in subtle racism about lazy brown people who speak languages other than English
Emphasize as often as you can how bad the problem is, because it's not your fault!
Never let anyone forget it is all about you!
Don't neglect chances to insult the brown people who are NOT "working hard."
If you can't work in the flag, at least work in the military.  Hey!  Worked for the NFL!

Friday, September 29, 2017


One of those locals would be the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, who might wish to disagree with the governor:

Damned media, being so unfair as to put this on the air!

Of course, this is the same President who insists he has the votes to repeal Obamacare, if not for one hospitalized Senator:
Who is not hospitalized, and even Trump's own staff don't know what he's talking about.    At this point, after so many lies (starting with the inauguration!), what credibility does Trump have left about anything he says?  And why is it always about him?  The mayor of San Juan weeps for the people in her city, the people on her island; and she praises the press for getting the story out, and wishes only for more responders.  Trump complains the press doesn't praise him enough for what he claims to be doing, and weeps only for the injustices done to Trump.

And if you've forgotten that it's money that matters in the U.S.A., the POTUS would like to remind you:

 Because, you know, debts:

Which was his first tweet after Maria had struck Puerto Rico; six days after it struck Puerto Rico.  The Mayor of San Juan, who puts people above money, responded to Trump's latest tweet:

Sadly, this may be the only way to get Trump's attention.

It's Funny What Matters

Sen. Al Franken, in an interview, described the healthcare system in America as follows:  if you're on Medicare/Medicaid, you're on the Canadian system (single payer); if you're in the military, you're on the British system (socialized medicine); if you're on employer provided insurance, you're on the German system; and if you aren't in any of those three, you're on the Cambodian system.

For reasons I cannot now recall I was using the "debate" over Graham-Cassiday as an example of...well, something, to my English class.  I pointed out the argument for it was it returned control of healthcare to the states, which are closer to the people and will do a better job because government close to the people is better than government in D.C., far from the people.  And yet, I said, I'm 62, so the best system for me is one controlled by the state (Texas), for three more years.  Once I turn 65, the best healthcare for me will be provided from the hated Washington, D.C.  Because apparently once I'm 65, my regional proximity to the seat of government doesn't matter, and I will get medical care coverage that I've yet to hear anyone on Medicare complain about.  Medicare coverage that is still so popular no politician in Washington would THINK of changing it.

So, how is this?  And why do we think some people deserve to be on the Cambodian system, in this greatest and richest and bestest of all possible countries?  Because they are lazy?  Because they are darker shades of brown?  Both?

And by the way, why is Medicare too expensive for all but the over 65 crowd?  Because it's money that matters and people are too damned expensive?  If money isn't for people, who is it for?  According to classical Christianity, the earth and all that fills it is for humans, who are responsible for maintaining it, not charged with exploiting it.  How does that accord with classical economics, which seems to be that money matters for the sake of money (or for the sake of those who have it, and screw those who don't)?

Clearly insurance is too expensive to be wasted on the poor and unemployed and underemployed (employed, but not enough to get insurance coverage), because it's money that matters and people are too damned expensive.  Good thing we have our priorities rights and are concerned with who is standing when on football fields during professional football games, and what is has to do with what the President says.

These things that pass for priorities I don't understand.

White guys disappoint, black guys disrespect

“I don’t think there’s much to clarify  — it was pretty black and white there.”

Taking a knee on the football field?


Cabinet secretaries taking millions of dollars in air travel on the public dime?

We'll have to get back to you.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Pretty much the last word

At least, it should be.

Too True to Be Good (again)

What did Santa bring Russia?

As I was saying, the internet is an outrage machine, an amplifier, if you will:

"They were taking both sides of the argument this past weekend, and pushing them out from their troll farms as much as they could to try to just raise the noise level in America and to make a big issue seem like an even bigger issue,” Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) said before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, the Associated Press reported.

Well, I'd say making a mountain out of a molehill, but let's not quibble now.

“The goal is heightened tensions,” said Clint Watts, a former FBI agent and current senior fellow at the Foreign policy Research Institute. “They’ll use organic American content to amplify to American audiences.”

“They would much rather use organic American content,” Watts explained. “It hits the audience better and it’s cheaper and more effective.”


Watts explained President Donald Trump is easy to exploit with “active measures” campaigns designed to destabilize democracies from the inside.

“The Russians can just sit back and say: ‘Amplify on both sides. Make people angry.’ And it works, man, God, it works,” Watts said.
Yes, yes it does.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The NFL is the new War on Christmas

The NFL is not really interested in a fight with Donald Trump.  It's not their business model.  They don't exist to be the left-wing opponent of a right-wing white supremacist (pace, Jonathan Chait) President.  But now they are the major stores saying "Happy Holidays!" to their customers, and Donald Trump and his fans are having none of it.


The posted meme (seen below) was addressed, “Dear NFL” and slurred the players as “millionaire ingrates who hate America,” adding that they are “arrogant, ungrateful anti-American degenerates.”

More than once:

“I’m going to organize a protest at Ford Field at the Lions next home game to encourage a fan boycott in response to the millionaire players and billionaire owners who show disrespect towards patriotic fans and our National Anthem and flag,” said Pannebecker, who is representing Michigan Freedom to Work. “It will include veterans and conservative patriots and we hope to be stationed at the 4 main entrances.”

Massachusetts, as well:

The Brockton Enterprise reports that Brockton Parks and Recreation Commission member Stephen Pina this week left a comment on a Facebook story about kneeling Patriots players in which he referred to them as “turds” for taking a knee during the national anthem.

“Turds, your dumbass isn’t paid to think about politics,” Pina wrote. “Dance monkey dance.”

Buffalo, New York:

Erich Nikischer protested the demonstration by walking off the job he’s held for 30 years at New Era Field, reported WGRZ-TV.

“I waited until the National Anthem ended, I took off my shirt, threw my Bills hat on the ground (and) walked out,” Nikischer told the TV station.

Several players declined to participate in “The Star-Spangled Banner” last season to protest police brutality, but the demonstrations took on a new dimension this weekend after President Donald Trump threatened their free speech rights and livelihood.
And even on C-SPAN:

The caller on Washington Journal‘s “independents line” explained to host Pedro Echevarria that she was boycotting the NFL because she agreed with President Donald Trump’s assertion that players should have more respect for the American flag and national anthem.

“I’m a big huge football fan but I can’t watch it anymore because it brings tears to my eyes,” Sharon from Williamstown, New Jersey explained. “It’s too painful so I can’t do that.”

According to Sharon, the flag “is a symbol of imperfect people in an imperfect country always trying to do the right thing.”

“It’s just shameful and it hurts me to see people taking a knee when we are supposed to be joyful about living in this country,” she said. “After I saw what happened [with players kneeling during the anthem], I tried to watch it and I just couldn’t because I just kept crying.”

All people upset because Donald Trump told them they should be.  Kneeling during the anthem in football games has been around long enough to be anodyne, and yet Donald Trump declares it an outrage and people around the country are inflamed.  Because Donald Trump is a master manipulator of both the media and the popular will?  No.  It's because in outrage we feel truly alive.

Soren Kierkegaard identified the sickness of the individual as a longing for meaning and self-affirmation in a modern world bled dry of purpose and value.  He did that in 19th century Copenhagen.  Kierkegaard's analysis still applies, but the response of modernity is not ennui and angst, but outrage and anger.  We have all become powder kegs waiting for the match.  The tiniest spark sets us off.  Social media, from blogs to Twitter, runs on outrage.  People can't wait to take to their keyboards to spew their anger at what Trump just said, or at what Trump's critics just said.  Blog posts go viral because they are angry and expressions of anger and because we want to be angry.  It seems to be the only conclusive evidence that we are alive, that our thoughts and opinions and experiences and feelings matter..  Kierkegaard thought we went with the status quo for the sake of our identity, in order to establish a purpose we could hide in, never realizing the necessity of establishing our self, our true existence.  We don't know who we truly are, Kierkegaard thought, and we suffer the sickness unto death, dead in the midst of life to the real purpose of life.  Having suffered quietly since the industrial revolution and the discovery of our complaint in the Romantic revolution, we have decided to suffer noisily and bay our outrage to the world, as a declaration that we are alive, and that we matter.

But we still only matter as a member of a group, as one of those outraged and incensed, directing our impotency at whatever target is identified for us.  Immigrants, the poor, the other political party, corporations, Wall Street:  and now a handful of athletes, who play the fewest games in the shortest season of almost any professional team sport.  And yet those few persons are suddenly in control of our happiness, of our national unity, of our ability to be citizens united.  Or something.

Each time the group identified is the source of our ills, our problems, our struggles.  And each time we yell at them, because the shouting gives us a sense of meaning, of self-worth, of personal value.

How is kneeling, the most submissive posture a human can take, short of lying prostrate on the ground, an act of defiance, an act so insulting to the flag (and where is the flag in these events?) and to other Americans that it could make a person cry, or quit his job, or organize a protest?

It was the War on Christmas that stirred these emotions previously.  Never mind that Bing Crosby was singing Irving Berlin's "Happy Holidays" on the most popular Christmas album ever recorded (and in 1942!); the phrase became anathema because Fox News said so.  It was never really the phrase:  I'd grown up with it, learned to use it in pre-inclusive times in order to be polite (before we were inclusive, we were simply nice to other people) to Jews (who knew any Muslims?) in December, or to include the New Year's celebration among the holidays at the end of the year.  Kwanzaa came along and we simply absorbed that as another reason to use the broader phrase.  Oddly, no one arguing for "Merry Christmas" was trying to put the "Christ" back in "Christmas," they were just arguing for cultural hegemony.   They weren't expressing concern with the proper sentiment:  they were just expressing outrage.  In fact, it's all about the individual:

A Pennsylvania man angered his neighbors by painting a swastika on a Pittsburgh Steelers flag to show his displeasure over the team’s protest during the National Anthem.

Anton Uhl, who served in the U.S. Army, said he was insulted by the team’s decision to remain in the locker room as “The Star-Spangled Banner” was performed before Sunday’s game, reported WPXI-TV.

“I’m upset the Rooneys didn’t want to participate in the national anthem,” Uhl said, referring to the family that founded and still owns the team. “So to me, they’re anti-American.”

Uhl’s neighbors weren’t happy that he displayed a Nazi symbol to demonstrate his anger.

“It’s worse than anything the players did,” said neighbor Richard Bartkowski. “They just took a knee or not showed up.”

“The intentions of Steelers players were to stay out of the business of making a political statement by not taking the field,” said Steelers president Art Rooney II. “Unfortunately, that was interpreted as a boycott of the anthem — which was never our players’ intention.”

Uhl said he’ll keep flying his swastika-emblazoned flag until the Rooney family grovels.

“If the Rooney family comes out in person and apologizes to the nation for allowing his team to do this, then, yeah, I’ll take the flag down,” Uhl said.

Because, you know, his actions matter that much to the Steelers.  If they don't, it's an outrage!  Among those outraged, Uhl is not the exception but the rule.  Howver, it's not like these people represent the majority of the country:

A majority of Americans disagree with President Donald Trump’s assertion that football players should be fired for kneeling during the national anthem, even though most say they would personally stand during the song, according to an exclusive Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Tuesday.

The Sept. 25-26 poll found that 57 percent of adults do not think the National Football League should fire players who kneel. This included 61 percent of NFL fans who watch at least a few games per season.
Or even a majority of Trump voters:

CNN had a panel of Trump voters on the show to discuss President Donald Trump’s attacks on NFL players who knelt this weekend during the national anthem — and many of them were not impressed by the president’s behavior.

Trump voter Mark O’Brien, for instance, wondered why Trump called NFL players “sons of b*tches,” even though he declined to use such forceful language to describe neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville, Virginia.

When asked by CNN’s Alisyn Camerota why he believed Trump spoke more harshly against NFL players than neo-Nazis, O’Brien admitted he had no idea.

“That is a huge concern of mine,” he said. “What is going on in that man’s mind?”

But outrage sells:  it fuels viral tweets and posts, it fires up social media and gets noticed, it "sends a message" and the message is that the people are restless.  The message is also:  in outrage the people are small:

“A man who gave his blood, sweat and tears, and lying now in the eve of his life,” Cummings said. “And yet still we have a president who goes around beating him up. That, to me, is unconscionable.”

“People want to raise concerns about patriotism and honoring the flag, how about (a man) who basically laid over five years, confined, as a prisoner of war, beaten, tortured,” Cummings continued. “The president said that he has no, basically no respect for a soldier who gets caught. Come on, now — we’re better than that.”

Outrage doesn't enlarge, it belittles.  We see that best in this circumstance with the rational analysis of Michael Hayden.  I don't agree with Hayden on the propriety of Colin Kaepernick's original protest (I have no objection to it at all.  A football stadium is not a "sacred space"), but he sums up the situation nicely:

Until Sunday, when the ugly side of American politics intruded into my fall eden. I blame some of that on Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who last year began to protest social injustice and police brutality by sitting or taking a knee during the pregame national anthem. His comments on America were a bit more dystopian than I thought was warranted, and I wasn’t enthusiastic about turning a unifying and celebratory moment for most Americans into a venue for protest.

Still, this is a big country with a big heart and the issues he raised were both real and sincerely held. It didn't take much to just let this ride, even after some other NFL players joined in. Everything seemed to be within the tolerances of normal American political discourse and, certainly, American free speech.

Until last Friday. And then President Trump, before a red-hot Alabama crowd of his political base, decided to treat the “SOBs” who wouldn't stand for the anthem the way he has previously treated other groups like Mexicans (murderers and rapists), intelligence professionals (Nazis), immigrants (deeply unfair), refugees (dangerous) and Muslims (they hate us).
As Hayden says:

The president had created what logicians call a false dilemma, that support for free speech or for teammates equated to disrespect for flag, anthem or country. And he did it for political advantage.

Outrage trumps logic, every time.  Not that it should, but it does.  Outrage confirms one's identity as a member of the group being attacked, and identifying the attack confirms one's membership in the group, which confirms one's identity as an outraged individual who's mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.  Is the source of the outrage a false dilemma?  Who cares?  I'm outraged!

Hayden is right, even though it hardly seems to matter.  He is also right:  sometimes the only response to this kind of prompting is to refuse to participate:

Pittsburgh is a patriotic town. There was a lot of anger about the Steelers not showing up. But I believe that everyone on the Steelers did the right thing. They were dealt a bad hand and played it as best they could. Or, more accurately, they tried not to play.

You can't beat outrage with outrage.  You can't reason with it, either.  In Hayden's conclusion is our affirmation (well, of our reasoning):

And the dealer here was President Trump. A week ago, a handful of NFL players protested in one form or another. On Sunday, three full teams did not go out for the anthem, almost all players and coaches locked arms, and more than 200 in the NFL knelt, sat or otherwise demonstrated their displeasure.

And, to be specific, their displeasure was largely with President Trump and what he had said about them, their teammates and their rights. Forced again to defend the indefensible, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Monday said the president’s Huntsville stand was about “honoring the men and women who fought to defend” the flag.

As a 39-year military veteran, I think I know something about the flag, the anthem, patriotism, and I think I know why we fight. It’s not to allow the president to divide us by wrapping himself in the national banner. I never imagined myself saying this before Friday, but if now forced to choose in this dispute, put me down with Kaepernick.

This latest national outrage is best  met either with cool rationality, or with polite indifference.  It is not worthy of anger and outrage in response.  Then again, very little is.  Our President is outrageous; but we learned early on not to try to out-bully the bully, nor to be upset by his supporters.  Our self, our identity, our existence, does not lie in the brief incendiary of public outrage.  We are made for better things than that.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Where's my box?

Oh, there it is.
President Donald J. Trump:

"I have plenty of time on my hands.  All I do is work."

So:  which is it?

And by the way, Puerto Rico is in the Caribbean Sea, not the Atlantic Ocean.  This may explain why the Navy and FEMA aren't there a week after the hurricanes struck.

And by the further way, the Marine in that tweet* did not consent to the use of his image for Trump's stupid power trip on the NFL (who snubbed him completely).  One more insult of the military in a long string of his insults.

*As JMM pointed out, do we know if the person who tweeted that originally is even real, or just another fake, maybe even a Russian fake?  We are not even beginning to deal with the problems of the internet in democracies, but we need to.  And what JMM had to say about the use of that image is spot on, and not part of the danger of the intertoobs, but merely of good old fashioned demagoguery of the kind we've been treated to since last Friday night.

Plus ce change....

I want to agree with Richard Parker; I really do:

Harvey is forcing Texans to rethink our political dogma of small government at any cost. Harris County, which surrounds Democratic Houston and includes bedrock Republican suburbs, has placed everything on the table to prevent disasters in the future: from radical rezoning to land conservation and a giant Dutch-style engineering project to protect the region from another direct hit. That will take at least tens of billions of taxpayer dollars.

Even the state’s right-wing lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, has found religion, singing the praises of expensive engineering. Mr. Abbott is being too clever by half so far, refusing to tap the state’s $10 billion rainy day fund while asking for the federal government to pick up the entire tab for the hurricane. Though as a politician he has done nothing but oppose the federal government, his re-election may end up hinging on how effective he is at bringing home the federal bacon. The same is true of the state’s junior senator, Ted Cruz, notorious for opposing aid to areas hit by Superstorm Sandy.

Yes, Harvey has flooded the garden of the Texas economy. But the garden was already unkempt. And fall, in Texas, is a good time to start over with honest perspiration. To quote that most famous Texas gardener, Lady Bird Johnson, “Where flowers bloom, so does hope.”
But I was here in the '70's, when Texas was as liberal as it ever got.  We passed a consumer protection law that was a model for the nation, rewarding treble damages to a consumer who could establish fraud in the transaction.  The severity of that law inspired, and lasted two years.  It was whittled away, legislative session after session, until it vanished.  Texas also jumped on the bandwagon early, and passed motor voter, long before it was a federal law.  Now we pass the harshest voter restriction laws in the country, and out-ICE ICE with laws about "sanctuary cities".  And if you think Harvey is going to make people look to Austin to fix things, or even to add a tax that isn't property tax or sales tax: well, as we say around here, you're barkin' up the wrong tree.

Yes, the Texas miracle is over.  But what else is new?  This is oil country:  boom is always followed by bust.  Why do you think state politicians are focussing attention on who uses what bathroom where?  There is a crisis in school funding, but with a legislative session and a special session, we couldn't fix that, and nothing about Harvey is going to make the Governor call the Lege back into session before 2019.  Homeowners are concerned with their property taxes this year, because their homes have been destroyed.  Unfortunately for them, assessments take place based on value as of January 1 of each year, not as of the date after a hurricane leaves behind the flooded wreck that was your property.  That's going to be the flash point:  taxes paid to school districts port districts (in Houston), counties, cities, a half-dozen other local taxing authorities (depending where you live).  Taxes paid on houses that are ruins, that are water-logged with toilet water (the e. coli count was HUGE!), personal property, from refrigerators to shoes, ruined and lost and piled up on the yard waiting for the trash trucks to arrive.  But it's going to be a very local flashpoint, as tax assessments are a county matter.

The anger is going to be local, against counties that didn't prevent the flooding, cities that didn't contain the flooding, or river authorities that didn't divert the flooding, and any taxing entity that isn't seen to give some kind of relief to distressed homeowners of flooded homes.  There may be some attention turned toward Austin, but only insofar as Austin can get money from D.C.  We expect FEMA to help us recover, not Harris County.  Abbott need only blame D.C. for not opening the money taps, and all will be well with him.  Everybody in Texas hates the federal government, until the feds are gonna build a new interstate highway or fund a dredging operation at the port or establish a new military base in San Antonio, or just send us money to recover, and money to build flood control.  Houston homeowners are increasingly expecting their flooded homes to be bought out; that comes from the federal government, and the anger at the process (which won't be swift or easy, or inevitable) will be directed to D.C., maybe to Austin, probably to the county.  But it won't change opinions about the role, or the efficacy, of government.

I wish it would change; I wish it were that dramatic, that profound, fundamental, radical.  But it isn't. Dan Patrick is no fool:  there'll be time again to protest bathroom usage.  Greg Abbott is not an idiot:  he can damn the feds and still take their money, Texas Governors have been doing that for generations; Ted Cruz can damn spending in New Jersey and still ask for it for Texas, and he'll probably get it, too.

This is not an upheaval, a fruit-basket turnover, a golden opportunity for Texas to see the light and change its ways.  This is same song, second verse.

I have a book about a Texas childhood, a memoir titled:  This Stubborn Soil.  The people of Texas (and odd, since so many are not native Texans, but they take to the culture like a fish to water) are stubborn, too.  Stubborn as mules, and just as unwilling to see what's good for them even when it's obvious the current situation ain't that.  If the economy is bad now, oil will recover and lift us.  It always does, it always has; we're convinced it always will.  And if it doesn't, well; it will later.

The more things change, you know, the more they stay the same.

It isn't nice

Somebody always says the protest itself is more offensive than the issue being raised.  A Fox News town hall:

Retired Army Ranger Sean Parnell interrupted: “What is this protest all about? It was first about racial inequality and then it was about police brutality. And now what? They are all locking arms protesting Donald Trump.”

“There are other ways to address these problems,” Valletta complained. “There are things you can do outside of taking a knee that will be much more of a legacy building for these athletes whose careers will be over by the time they’re 27.”

Funny, but I've heard of Colin Kaepernick, and he's unemployed.

I've never heard of Sean Parnell.

Somebody's building a legacy....

The Playground Presidency

 Obviously the fault of debt and Wall Street.

This is pathetic.  And lest we forget Puerto Rico:

So, bottled water and "Sucks to be you!"?

Let me put the situation in Puerto Rico in some perspective:

In its wake, more than 3 million Americans now live without electricity or adequate food or water, and under the specter of looting and disorder. Some 80 percent of island’s agriculture has been destroyed, decimating a source of food as well as a chunk of Puerto Rico’s economy. Ninety-five percent of cellphone towers on Puerto Rico are out, depriving locals of a way to ask for help—and crippling any government response, too. The situation will likely worsen as emergency supplies run out and as the local government finds itself unable to deliver support or maintain order across such a wrecked landscape.

So far, the Trump administration has dispatched an anemic Federal Emergency Management Agency mission and sundry military units to assess the situation and provide support. But in some cases it took the federal government days to even contact local leaders in Puerto Rico’s major cities, let alone deploy aid. Only the most rudimentary military support is now on the ground. This is inadequate and calls to mind the lethargic response by the Bush administration to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The U.S. military has a unique expeditionary capability to deliver humanitarian support, logistics, and security anywhere in the world, far above what FEMA or any other civilian agency can muster. American citizens are suffering and dying and need all their government can do for them (including the military). Unfortunately, their president and the military at his command appear focused elsewhere. Unless this changes, more Americans will die.
But "debt."  And "Wall Street."  (Where Mnuchin comes from.)  And the Dallas Cowboys football game.

This is beyond childish; this is criminal.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Kneeling is the new disrespect?

Which of these images is disrespectful of the flag, the anthem, or our military?

That one drew an immediate reply, and a response that keeps me from having to say the same thing:
Kneeling is an act of courage; and humility.

Kneeling is the new middle finger?

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. being disrespectful in public.

Rich Lowry said on "Meet the Press" yesterday that, if the protests of NFL players and other athletes can be defined as disrespect for the flag, Trump wins.*  I used that argument as an example to my freshman English class of how defining the argument in a problem/solution argument, defines the solution.  One student, inspired to surf the web during my class (eh, whatever) read a news article on the controversy and raised a very salient point with me after class:

What's wrong with kneeling?  What is a more respectful, more demure, less confrontational method of protest than to kneel?  No player, so far, has turned their back on the flag or the singer of the anthem.  Indeed, three teams on Sunday stayed in the locker room until the anthem had finished, before taking the field; arguably a far more disrespectful act than simply bending the knee.

So what the hell are we talking about?  This swamped the news on Sunday, forced Administration personnel to respond to it on TV news, and meanwhile Puerto Rico has been set back 20-30 years by Hurricane Maria according to its own government officials, and may not see electrical power restored for up to a year.

Yet the President is obsessed with his alpha-male status and must defend his idiotic remarks at all cost, and drags the rest of us along with him.  We allow children temper tantrums because they are young and are still developing their abilities to function in society as human beings.  We have yet to come to grips with the fact our POTUS is the Toddler-in-Chief.  Temper tantrums, after all, are about getting attention for the toddler.  As Slate put it:

Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protests were never explicitly about Donald Trump, but, thanks to the president’s comments at an Alabama rally on Friday night (as well as an ensuing series of tweets), Trump has made sure that he will be the focus of any and all protests this NFL Sunday.

And Trump is determined to make sure it stays there:

NASCAR threatened to fire any driver who kneels during the national anthem (because kneeling is bad?).  Of course, we'll just see how far that extends:

What is wrong with us?  What has our Constitutional system of government wrought?

*and if you think Trump supporters aren't desperately trying to do just that:

“Clearly, what the president did was, and I read this on an op-ed page, President Trump has taken the side of the flag and anthem and provoked millionaire athletes to oppose the symbols of patriotism, like the National Anthem,” Doocey said. “He made it very clear out at the airport, spoke to the White House poolers, said this is not about race, this is about patriotism.”

As Toure points out, the other new issue is the wealth of the players ("millionaire athletes").  No, I don't think either effort is working.  Except that we're still talking about this nonsense as if the fate of the nation depended on it, or even as if giving Trump the middle finger mattered more than Puerto Rico or Florida or Texas or the other national problems that plaque us.

So disrespectful....

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The POTUS as Miss Manners

Do they even play football in Puerto Rico?

And then he bothered to re-tweet two other tweets on the matter:

Each of which make as much sense as the President, so, he followed with this:

Except no mention of Steelers simply staying off the field, or why locking arms good, kneeling bad.  Or about Puerto Rico, for that matter:
Which is just a bit more important than what a handful of Americans are doing on the football field just before the game starts.

By the way:  the Jaguars and Ravens knelt, in London, during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner, then stood and locked arms for the playing of "God Save The Queen."  Polite guests, donchaknow?  So maybe Trump was approving of that show if diplomacy and courtesy?  The Seahawks and the Titans simply stayed off the field, (as did the Steelers) the singer of the national anthem and her guitarist dropped to their knees as it ended.  The singer at the Detroit game did the same thing. And the Jets didn't kneel, but locked arms, because one of the owners is nominated to be ambassador to the UK.  KEEP POLITICS OUT OF SPORTS!  Amirite?

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Don't you just hate it

,...when a white man kowtows to uppity ni**ers?

Donald Trump does.

Communicating directly with the people

The problem is not the forum, but what he has to say.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Sharing my hearth, thinking my thoughts

but the city casts out
that man who weds himself to inhumanity
thanks to reckless daring. Never share my hearth
never think my thoughts, whoever does
such things.

--Sophocle, Oedipus Rex

I generally avoid citing scripture around here, and this is why:

“Over the last 10 years I’ve just independently studied the Bible and Petra myself, and come to my own conclusion,” she explains. “Over this time I have collected a large amount of what I believe to be solid Biblical, historical, cultural, archaeological, geological, and astronomical evidence, that Petra is the Place of Safety.”

Not because people use the 12th chapter of the Apocalypse of John (I do miss the old names, as Satan tells Constantine) for errant nonsense, but because scripture was never meant to be read in isolation and "independently."  This person may believe her evidence is "solid," but that means nothing to the rest of us, nor should it.  I know this kind of exegesis is rooted in the Protestant Reformation, but I think the kerosene was thrown on that fire by the Romantic Revolution, if only because so much of this foolishness is so American, and American culture is so Romantic at its core.  At least it is after the 18th century, when that revolution reached these shores and we embraced it as our own (it started in Britain, why wouldn't we love that?).

Scripture is meant for a community, not for individuals.  Recall the words of Jesus in Matthew:  when someone offends you, go to them privately and work it out.  If that doesn't work, get a few more people involved; if that still doesn't work, go to the whole community.  The final decision is theirs.  But this assumes there is a community in the first place, that no one is in charge alone, that there is a group and it is a radical democracy.  We are meant to be in community. No one is meant to be doing this alone. And scripture is meant to be for those in the community of believers, not for any one of us on our own, or especially outside a community which can test our reading and argue about it with us. This is a tree with many branches to it.

Of course, the community is not proof against the errors of individuality either.

Hostility toward immigrants isn’t the only area where Bannon’s Catholicism is suspect, although according to Joshua Green, the author of Devil’s Bargain, the new book about Bannon and Trump, Bannon grew up in an observant Catholic family and, despite some dalliances with world religions like Buddhism, considers himself a practicing Catholic.

As America magazine’s Michael O’Loughlin notes in a Washington Post profile of Bannon’s somewhat opaque relationship with Catholicism, while Bannon proclaims that both the Catholic Church and the West are suffering from a crisis of faith and morality, he has been divorced three times and to the best of many of his associates’ knowledge doesn’t attend church—pretty much the definition of a practicing Catholic.
And this explains much of the conservative Catholic movement over the past twenty years, from Bannon to Paul Ryan, who recently told a Catholic nun (who questioned his commitment to the Catholic teaching of the preferential option for the poor because he wanted to decimate the ACA) that he was following Catholic teaching by cutting taxes and getting rid of social programs:

"We exercise prudential judgment in practicing our faith. For me—for the poor that’s key to the Catholic faith. That means mobility, economic growth, equality of opportunity.

I think we need to change our approach on fighting poverty. Instead of measuring success on how much money we spend or how many programs we create or how many people on those programs, let’s measure success and poverty on outcomes."

Except that as far as outcomes go, none of the Republican’s various tax-cutting or welfare-reduction schemes have been shown to reduce poverty or create upward mobility. They aren’t a means to an end; they are an end in themselves.
So apparently Paul Ryan goes to the same cafeteria as Steve Bannon, where large helpings of words like subsidiarity and prudential judgment allow them to ignore Catholic teaching, just as sure as someone who sits in mass every week but uses the Pill. But in their case, it’s not a matter of an individual “sin” that carries little social consequence but of consequential actions that harm whole societies.

Here I would like to tell Paul Ryan that the opposite of poverty is not wealth, but justice. Only, Paul Ryan is not here.  I can probably rely on a nun or two to point it out to him, though.  Which makes good copy for showing Paul Ryan is hardly in line with the community he is ostensibly a member of; but unfortunately, it doesn't make Paul Ryan change his mind.    Nor does it legitimize his ideas, either; at least not from that source.

It is easier to say one is not a good Catholic, than to say one is not a good Christian.  Catholic doctrine applies to Catholics, but not necessarily to others who consider themselves Christian.  Spencer Dew thinks to make this point about what he thinks is the problem:

So is this Christian thought? Is this religion? Decades ago, at the peak of the move to stigmatize contemporary religious claims under the derogatory label of “cult,” scholars spoke of the so-called “cultic milieu,” understood as a kind of shadowy underworld of kooky theories, conspiracy lore, and revamped tales from old times. The king sleeping under the mountain became a UFO under the mountain.

While used as a tool to explain very real religious claims, the larger purpose of this theory was to protect what scholars and much of the public considered to be “real” or “good” religion, the stuff of “mainstream denominations” or the reified Big Five “World Religions” imagined as monolithic structures with clear orthodoxy (and standardized ethics). The “cultic milieu” was not our milieu, such arguments went.

But it is, and Lythgoe’s work makes this strikingly evident: we live in her world, and while we may not agree with her calculations, her faith both in individual rationality (born of the Reformation and reiterated by the Founders of America) and in faith itself (her willingness—even desire—to foreground belief and work backwards at rationalizing) are basic dynamics of thinking within those communities we categorize explicitly as “religious” as well as a few others, which we might prefer to label “secular”—like law or politics.

To dismiss Lythgoe’s thinking as “unchristian” is a theological move, but to dismiss it as somehow representative of “cult” thinking rather than religious thinking more broadly acts as a parallel move—one of an invested believer seeking to mark and protect the boundaries around acceptable orthodoxy.
Yes, it is Christian thought, of a type.  It is religion, of a sort.  "Real" or "good" don't enter into it as far as whether or not we can expunge such thinking from the world by such terms:  we can't.  "V" was right:  ideas are bulletproof.  That's the problem.  But that doesn't mean all ideas are equal.  Dew ties Lythgoe's thought back the Reformation:  well, maybe, but actually it comes more from Romanticism's radical insistence on the authority of the individual.  Luther set up a church very similar to the Roman Catholic one he knew.  Calvin ran Geneva with a firm hand.  Puritans despised individuality more than affirmed it, especially when such individuality created unorthodox thought.  The power of the individual to defy all, even God, is Byron's hero, not one of Luther's theses.  As for the claim that rejection of Lythgoe is simply the act of "an invested believer seeking to mark and protect the boundaries around acceptable orthodoxy," where's the problem here?  Acceptable orthodoxy no longer has the power to enforce its views on the world with the power of government (Luther did pretty much end that, but then again, talk to Calvin and the New England Puritans who haunted Hawthorne so).  But are invested believers not allowed to form their communities and protect their boundaries?  Is "acceptable orthodoxy" illegitimate simply because some community finds it "acceptable"?
Should we dismiss Sophocles as just an invested believer?  He is not wrong; that is how we decide who is with us, and who is against us, whether we should do so or not (Jesus had something to say about that, directly; but that's quoting scripture and inviting exegesis, so I will leave that only raised, and not answered).  Or allow the free use of the "n-word" because only "invested believers" want to "protect the boundaries around acceptable orthodoxy"?  Even if the orthodoxy is not yours?  There is more to this question than simply whether or not Lythgoe gets legitimacy because her views cannot be shown to be absolutely illegitimate by any standard of measure.
Which brings us to the case of the Rev. Robert Lee.  I didn't realize he was a UCC pastor, until this article by another UCC pastor, Daniel Schultz.  Key to Schulz's analysis is that the UCC is a congregational polity, which means the congregation, not a bishop, decides who the pastor will be, and how long she will stay.  This is a point Schultz makes most eloquently:
It makes no difference that the pastor or anyone else thinks they’re going down the wrong road. Congregations get to choose their direction, they get to define themselves. The bolder the confrontation over a matter like this, the stronger the resistance. This is terribly unsatisfying for those who would like to nudge the body of Christ in a certain direction, but it is the reality of working respectfully in community.*
It's the final sentence there I'm interested in.  The factual context is that Lee gave a sermon that bluntly told his congregation to agree with him, or leave; because if they disagreed with him, they were doing church wrong.  I have a "bootleg sermon" on tape that another pastor and old friend sent me back when things weren't going so well for me in pastoral ministry.  I put it in quotes because the "sermon" was not captured in real time; it is completely fictional.  But rare is the pastor who hasn't wished to preach it, at one time or another.  The pastor giving the "sermon" simply unloaded, telling the congregation what was wrong with them and what he knew about them and what he thought about them.  As P.G. Wodehouse once described it, it was like a Scots Presbyterian elder had discovered sin in the congregation, and didn't like it.  The "sermon" was cathartic for me at the time, but also impossible.  It's what almost every pastor wants to say, at some point; but never can, or should.  We are not in charge of the community, we are just responsible for it.  That has to be a warning for anyone who wants to control the boundaries of discourse:  are you responsible, or merely in charge?  But that doesn't mean boundaries cannot be set, or won't be set (more often against outsiders, including pastors, than not).  It just means they have to be set with great awareness that you aren't in charge.  Dew seems simultaneously determined to establish that fact against orthodoxy, and somewhat upset by the fact that he can't set the "proper" boundaries.  But nobody's in charge; at best we are simply responsible.  Which is why I remember, at the heart of matters ecclesiological (pertaining to the church), the words of Jacques Derrida:  "Religion is responsibility, or it is nothing at all."

It is only in responsibility that we begin to learn the true meaning of Christian humility.  Maybe that's why Christianity is not as popular as once it was.  Maybe that's why what passes for Christianity denies almost all responsibility for others and proclaims the self-worth, especially in terms of wealth, of the individual.  I don't know.  That's another "bootleg sermon" that might seem a good idea to give, but isn't, in reality, either wise or Christian.  Then again, neither are the popular perceptions of even religious faith:

Attempts "to mark and protect the boundaries around acceptable orthodoxy" is exactly what natural disasters fail to do. In fact just the opposite. For when faith and fate look the same, faith has a problem. These natural calamities should remind us that our species continues to exists in the realms of fate, subject to and contending with all the natural forces in the universe. While not denying God, they should remind us that, given such a reality as God, our all too human theological construct of Divine intention is rather meaningless in the face of a category 5 hurricane. The choice of coming under the protection of Divine omnipotence is not yet on offer.
That's one of the comments at the Dew article.  Dew mentions the Lisbon earthquake, the one that shook not just Portugal but Europe (Voltaire especially), and began to shake loose the notion that God was benevolently overseeing nature for the sake of godly Europeans.  Even the Israelites were never so narrowly focused on God taking such care of them, but it became a popular tenet of Christianity for awhile.  Some, of course, still proclaim it, because hurricanes are punishment for the wrong politics, or because some religious leaders (Pat Robertson, from decades back, comes to mind) think prayer can push off calamity (onto someone else, always, but who cares for them?  Another non-Christian "Christian" attitude).  When fate and faith look the same, the problem is not with faith, the problem is with what you think "faith" is, or how you understand the "protection of Divine omnipotence."  Consider Psalm 29:

A Psalm of David.} Give unto the LORD, O ye mighty, give unto the LORD glory and strength.

2Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.

3The voice of the LORD is upon the waters: the God of glory thundereth: the LORD is upon many waters.

4The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.

5The voice of the LORD breaketh the cedars; yea, the LORD breaketh the cedars of Lebanon.

6He maketh them also to skip like a calf; Lebanon and Sirion like a young unicorn.

7The voice of the LORD divideth the flames of fire.

8The voice of the LORD shaketh the wilderness; the LORD shaketh the wilderness of Kadesh.

9The voice of the LORD maketh the hinds to calve, and discovereth the forests: and in his temple doth every one speak of his glory.

10The LORD sitteth upon the flood; yea, the LORD sitteth King for ever.

11The LORD will give strength unto his people; the LORD will bless his people with peace.

There's a lot of burning and shaking going on there (let's not forget how much of the American West is, or has been ablaze recently).  Trees breaking, waters flooding (the Lords sits on them, the Lord doesn't stop them), etc.  What does God do in the midst of this dramatic display, all the result of the "voice of the Lord"?  God gives strength to God's people, and blesses them with peace.  Which is not quite the same thing as making the hurricane go hit somebody else, the flood waters to divide and ruin someone else's life downstream.

As I like to point out when I am quoting scripture, Jesus said God knew when the sparrow fell from the sky, and had the hairs on your head counted.  But the sparrow still falls, and knowing how many hairs are on your head doesn't exactly protect you from cancer.  The promises of the "protection of Divine omnipotence" are not an "all too human theological construct" rendered meaningless by encounters with reality.  But neither are the promises that nothing bad will ever happen to you, ever.

At least not in any religious community I've ever been a member of.  Because the only promise I ever heard, was that the community, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, would be there with you:  always.

*Pastor Dan adds a helpful note to his article, indicating the circumstances of Lee's departure from Bethany church are less than clear, and no conclusions based on news reports (which almost all depend on Lee for their information) should be made.  I mention this only so no one is distracted by my reference to this story.  My point is about the necessity and complexity of community, not about the virtues (or lack thereof) of any individual.


This is no time for subtlety.

Mike Pence on Graham-Cassidy:

“I mean the question that people ought to ask is, who do you think will be more responsible to the health care needs in your community? Your governor, your state legislature, or a congressman and a president in a far-off nation’s capital?”

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Aw, goddammit, why'd you have to go and open your mouth?

2008, not 2017

I hate that the internet has turned into a place of outrages and "rants" and more so that I contribute to it, but goddammit, Jeb Hensarling is a purblind idiot!

“The federal government is encouraging and subsidizing people to live in harm’s way,” he said. “I just went to Houston, I visited with some of the survivors, I mean, people whose homes have flooded three times in eight years.”

Hensarling did not mention the role of climate change in making hurricanes more intense and destructive, and instead placed the burden for dealing with the aftermath of hurricanes solely on individual homeowners.

“At some point, God is telling you to move,” he said. “If all we do is force federal taxpayers to build the same home in the same fashion in the same location and expect a different result, we all know that is the classic definition of insanity.”

In the first place, most of the residents and property owners of Houston don't have flood insurance, which is going to be a major problem in reconstruction around here.  In the second place, some of the worst flooding in Houston occurred because of flood control, not in spite of it.  And thirdly, but hardly last, Houston hasn't had 3 hurricanes in eight years, you pinheaded boob!  The last major hurricane here was Ike, and that was nearly 10 years ago!  We have, however, had three 500 year flood events in the past 3 years, and only one of those (Harvey) was a hurricane event.  The flooding problems in Houston have as much to do with flood control (a federal concern, since they operate the major flood control structures around here) as it does with climate change, and more to do with either than hurricanes and obscure "messages" from God.

What was that you were saying about "insanity"?  For a guy who doesn't know his ass from a hole in the ground, you really should watch what you say, because you have condemned the entire Texas coast line and well into the inland areas with your stupidity.  We should, what, evacuate the 4th largest city in the country?  And clear out all the cities between Beaumont (also hard hit by Harvey) and Corpus Christi, as well as the agricultural and industrial properties?  And inland how far?  They almost had flooding in San Antonio from Harvey.  You imagine all those people hit by that event had flood insurance?  How many millions will we displace to please you, you cloth-eared git?

And Florida?  We should just abandon the entire peninsula, give it up as a state and let it become a federal holding?

Lord, why did you make some people so stupid?

At least I managed not to drop an "f-bomb."  He's really not worth it.  But, damn is he stupid.

Just to add to this:  I live in a neighborhood which had never known flooding before the 21st century (it was built in the mid-20th century).  In the 16 years I've lived here houses on this street have flooded at least 4 times (maybe 5), and only two of those were due to hurricanes (Ike and Harvey); two were due to rain events not associated with hurricanes or tropical storms.  And we don't live in a  recognized flood plain, or even on the coast (the coast is an hour away from here).

You have to be a complete idiot to say we live here because of flood insurance and that hurricanes are telling us we can't afford that luxury.