Sunday, December 31, 2017

Time Marches On!

Yeah it's that bad.  But you have to read it to believe it:

DONALD J. TRUMP: I thought it was a terrible thing he did. [Inaudible.] I thought it was certainly unnecessary, I thought it was a terrible thing. But I think it’s all worked out because frankly there is absolutely no collusion, that’s been proven by every Democrat is saying it.

Rule of law?  Evidence?  We don' need no steenken' evidence!  We've got the President's perceptions of what "every Democrat is saying...."  Ain't that good enough for ya?

MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT: You’re O.K. with me recording, right?

TRUMP: Yeah. Virtually every Democrat has said there is no collusion. There is no collusion. And even these committees that have been set up. If you look at what’s going on — and in fact, what it’s done is, it’s really angered the base and made the base stronger. My base is stronger than it’s ever been. Great congressmen, in particular, some of the congressmen have been unbelievable in pointing out what a witch hunt the whole thing is. So, I think it’s been proven that there is no collusion.

Again, no rule of law, no evidence needed:  just what congressmen who support Trump are saying, and what his base says.  That proves everything!

No wonder he gets his intelligence reports from FoxNews.

And by the way, I didn’t deal with Russia. I won because I was a better candidate by a lot. I won because I campaigned properly and she didn’t. She campaigned for the popular vote. I campaigned for the Electoral College. And you know, it is a totally different thing, Mike. You know the Electoral College, it’s like a track star. If you’re going to run the 100-yard dash, you work out differently than if you’re going to run the 1,000 meters or the mile.

And it’s different. It’s in golf. If you have a tournament and you have match play or stroke play, you prepare differently, believe it or not. It’s different. Match play is very different than stroke play. And you prepare. So I went to Maine five times, I went to [inaudible], the genius of the Electoral College is that you go to places you might not go to.

And that’s exactly what [inaudible]. Otherwise, I would have gone to New York, California, Texas and Florida.

SCHMIDT: You would have run completely differently.

TRUMP: It would have been a whole different thing. The genius is that the popular vote is a much different form of campaigning. Hillary never understood that.

SCHMIDT: What’s your expectation on Mueller? When do you —

TRUMP: I have no expectation. I can only tell you that there is absolutely no collusion. Everybody knows it. And you know who knows it better than anybody? The Democrats. They walk around blinking at each other.

Morse Code?

SCHMIDT: But when do you think he’ll be done in regards to you —

TRUMP: I don’t know.

SCHMIDT: But does that bother you?

TRUMP: No, it doesn’t bother me because I hope that he’s going to be fair. I think that he’s going to be fair. And based on that [inaudible]. There’s been no collusion. But I think he’s going to be fair. And if he’s fair — because everybody knows the answer already, Michael. I want you to treat me fairly. O.K.?

SCHMIDT: Believe me. This is —

TRUMP: Everybody knows the answer already. There was no collusion. None whatsoever.

If wishes were horses (a/k/a "whistling past the graveyard").

TRUMP: Maybe I’ll just say a little bit of a [inaudible]. I’ve always found Paul Manafort to be a very nice man. And I found him to be an honorable person. Paul only worked for me for a few months. Paul worked for Ronald Reagan. His firm worked for John McCain, worked for Bob Dole, worked for many Republicans for far longer than he worked for me. And you’re talking about what Paul was many years ago before I ever heard of him. He worked for me for — what was it, three and a half months?

SCHMIDT: A very short period of time.

TRUMP: Three and a half months. [Inaudible] So, that’s that. Let’s just say — I think that Bob Mueller will be fair, and everybody knows that there was no collusion. I saw Dianne Feinstein the other day on television saying there is no collusion. She’s the head of the committee. The Republicans, in terms of the House committees, they come out, they’re so angry because there is no collusion. So, I actually think that it’s turning out — I actually think it’s turning to the Democrats because there was collusion on behalf of the Democrats. There was collusion with the Russians and the Democrats. A lot of collusion.

SCHMIDT: Dossier?

TRUMP: Starting with the dossier. But going into so many other elements. And Podesta’s firm.

SCHMIDT: That’s true. But in terms of, the lawyers said it would be done by, your guys said, it would be done by Thanksgiving, it would be done by Christmas. What are they telling you now? What are they telling you?

TRUMP: [Inaudible.] There was tremendous collusion on behalf of the Russians and the Democrats. There was no collusion with respect to my campaign. I think I’ll be treated fairly. Timingwise, I can’t tell you. I just don’t know. But I think we’ll be treated fairly. 
 "Collusion," "timing," "fairly."  Does he know any other words?

SCHMIDT: But you’re not worked up about the timing?

TRUMP: Well, I think it’s bad for the country. The only thing that bothers me about timing, I think it’s a very bad thing for the country. Because it makes the country look bad, it makes the country look very bad, and it puts the country in a very bad position. So the sooner it’s worked out, the better it is for the country.

But there is tremendous collusion with the Russians and with the Democratic Party. Including all of the stuff with the — and then whatever happened to the Pakistani guy, that had the two, you know, whatever happened to this Pakistani guy who worked with the D.N.C.?

Whatever happened to them? With the two servers that they broke up into a million pieces? Whatever happened to him? That was a big story. Now all of sudden [inaudible]. So I know The New York Times is going to — because those are real stories. Whatever happened to the Hillary Clinton deleted 33,000 emails after she got [inaudible] — which you guys wrote, but then you dropped — was that you?

He has access to the best intelligence reports on the planet, but he blathers about conspiratorial nonsense and garbage from Fox News? Dementia? Or just rank stupidity?

SCHMIDT: You control the Justice Department. Should they reopen that email investigation?

TRUMP: What I’ve done is, I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department. But for purposes of hopefully thinking I’m going to be treated fairly, I’ve stayed uninvolved with this particular matter.

TRUMP: For purposes of the Justice Department, I watched Alan Dershowitz the other day, who by the way, says I, says this is a ridiculous —

SCHMIDT: He’s been very good to you.

TRUMP: He’s been amazing. And he’s a liberal Democrat. I don’t know him. He’s a liberal Democrat. I watched Alan Dershowitz the other day, he said, No. 1, there is no collusion, No. 2, collusion is not a crime, but even if it was a crime, there was no collusion. And he said that very strongly. He said there was no collusion. And he has studied this thing very closely. I’ve seen him a number of times. There is no collusion, and even if there was, it’s not a crime. But there’s no collusion. I don’t even say [inaudible]. I don’t even go that far.

Oh delicious coincidence!  And "collusion" again!  6 times just in that paragraph!  It's a talisman word!  (or it's one of the few he can remember).


TRUMP: So for the purposes of what’s going on with this phony Russian deal, which, by the way, you’ve heard me say it, is only an excuse for losing an election that they should have won, because it’s very hard for a Republican to win the Electoral College. O.K.? You start off with New York, California and Illinois against you. That means you have to run the East Coast, which I did, and everything else. Which I did and then won Wisconsin and Michigan. [Inaudible.] So the Democrats. … [Inaudible.] … They thought there was no way for a Republican, not me, a Republican, to win the Electoral College. Well, they’re [inaudible]. They made the Russian story up as a hoax, as a ruse, as an excuse for losing an election that in theory Democrats should always win with the Electoral College. The Electoral College is so much better suited to the Democrats [inaudible]. But it didn’t work out that way. And I will tell you they cannot believe that this became a story.

Has anybody else noticed he's not said a word about the indictments of Manafort and Gage, or the plea bargain of Flynn, or the several grand juries (does he even understand what a grand jury is?)?  What, are they fake grand juries?

SCHMIDT: So they had to do this to come after you, to undercut you?

TRUMP: No, no, they thought it would be a one-day story, an excuse, and it just kept going and going and going. It’s too bad Jeff recused himself. I like Jeff, but it’s too bad he recused himself. I thought. … Many people will tell you that something is [inaudible].

Yes, it's really too bad AG Sessions decided to follow the law. We don' need no steenkin' laws!  What matters is that you protect Trump!

SCHMIDT: Do you think Holder was more loyal to. …

TRUMP: I don’t want to get into loyalty, but I will tell you that, I will say this: Holder protected President Obama. Totally protected him. When you look at the I.R.S. scandal, when you look at the guns for whatever, when you look at all of the tremendous, ah, real problems they had, not made-up problems like Russian collusion, these were real problems. When you look at the things that they did, and Holder protected the president. And I have great respect for that, I’ll be honest, I have great respect for that.

Again, does it matter whether this is the product of dementia, or merely criminal stupidity?  And:  Collusion!  Drink!  (I'm already under the table.)

SCHMIDT: Tell me about what you were saying that the Democrats. … [Inaudible.] … Tell me about the Democrats on the tax bill, which you were telling me about. Explain that to me, I thought that was interesting.

TRUMP: So. … We started taxes. And we don’t hear from the Democrats. You know, we hear bullshit from the Democrats. Like Joe Manchin. Joe’s a nice guy.

SCHMIDT: He is a very nice guy.

TRUMP: But he talks. But he doesn’t do anything. He doesn’t do. “Hey, let’s get together, let’s do bipartisan.” I say, “Good, let’s go.” Then you don’t hear from him again. I like Joe. You know, it’s like he’s the great centrist. But he’s really not a centrist. And I think the people of West Virginia will see that. He not a centrist. … I’m the one that saved coal. I’m the one that created jobs. You know West Virginia is doing fantastically now.

SCHMIDT: It’s a big. … It’s a very popular place for you.

TRUMP: It’s the biggest turnaround. West Virginia, their average, their G.D.P. is the biggest turnaround after Texas. Texas [inaudible]. … The second percentage gain in G.D.P. [Inaudible.] And I won that state by 43 points against crooked Hillary Clinton. And I’ll tell you, I think Joe, ah. … I think there’s a lot of talk. … A lot of talk. I think we have four or five senators that [inaudible]. Just so you understand, Alabama. … I wasn’t for him. I was for Strange.

Actually, he won Texas by exactly 9 points.  Clinton took 43.2% of the vote, Trump won 52.2% of the vote. Coincidentally, almost the same amount by which Luther Strange lost the Alabama GOP primary.  As for his history with that contest, well:  he makes shit up.

SCHMIDT: Do you think he should stop the recount? You know he said that they’re. … He was protesting the election today. Moore.

TRUMP: Well, I. … Look. … Let him do whatever he wants to do. I was for Strange, and I brought Strange up 20 points. Just so you understand. When I endorsed him, he was in fifth place. He went way up. Almost 20 points. But he fell a little short. But I knew what I was doing. Because I thought that. … If you look at my rhetoric, I said the problem with Roy Moore is that he will lose the election. I called it. But as the head of the party, I have a choice: Do I endorse him or not? I don’t know. Um. …

SCHMIDT: Was it a mistake?

TRUMP: And by the way, when I endorsed him, he went up. It was a much closer race.

SCHMIDT: Was it a mistake to endorse him?

TRUMP: I feel that I have to endorse Republicans as the head of the party. So, I endorsed him. It became a much closer race because of my endorsement. People don’t say that. They say, Oh, Donald Trump lost. I didn’t lose, I brought him up a lot. He was not the candidate that I thought was going to win. If you look at my statements, you’ve seen them, I said, “Look, I’m for Luther Strange because I like him, but I’m also for Luther Strange because he’s going to win the election.” There wouldn’t have been an election. He would have won by 25 points.

SCHMIDT: He would have won big?

TRUMP: The problem with Roy Moore, and I said this, is that he’s going to lose the election. I hope you can straighten that out. Luther Strange was brought way up after my endorsement and he almost won. But. … Almost won. … He lost by 7 points, 7 or 8 points. And he was way behind. Because of two things, you know, what happened. … [Inaudible.] … But I never thought Roy was going to win the election, but I felt. … I never thought he was going to win the election, but I felt. … And I said that very clearly. … And I wish you would cover that, because frankly, I said, if Luther doesn’t win, Roy is going to lose the election. I always felt Roy was going to lose the election. But I endorsed him because I feel it’s my obligation as the head of the Republican Party to endorse him. And you see how tight it was even to get a popular. … In Republican circles, to get a very popular tax cut approved, actually reform. Two votes. Now we have one vote, all right?

O.K., let’s get onto your final question, your other question. Had the Democrats come through. …

SCHMIDT: Tell me about that, yeah.

TRUMP: Had they asked, “Let’s do a bipartisan,” Michael, I would have done bipartisan. I would absolutely have done bipartisan.

English speakers across the globe are wondering what it means to "do bipartisan."  Most are too squeamish to take it very far.  All of us wonder what causes a person to use their native tongue like this.

TRUMP: And if I did bipartisan, I would have done something with SALT [the state and local tax deduction]. With that being said, you look back, Ronald Reagan wanted to take deductibility away from states. Ronald Reagan, years ago, and he couldn’t do it. Because New York had a very powerful group of people. Which they don’t have today. Today, they don’t have the same representatives. You know, in those days they had Lew Rudin and me. … I fought like hell for that. They had a lot of very good guys. Lew Rudin was very effective. He worked hard for New York. And we had some very good senators. … You know, we had a lot of people who fought very hard against, let’s call it SALT. Had they come to me and said, look, we’ll do this, this, this, we’ll do [inaudible]. I could have done something with SALT. Or made it less severe. But they were very ineffective. They were very, very ineffective. You understand what I mean. Had they come to me for a bipartisan tax bill, I would have gone to Mitch, and I would have gone to the other Republicans, and we could have worked something out bipartisan. And that could’ve been either a change to SALT or knockout of SALT.

But, just so you understand, Ronald Reagan wanted to take deductibility away and he was unable to do it. Ronald Reagan wanted to have ANWR approved 40 years ago and he was unable to do it. Think of that. And the individual mandate is the most unpopular thing in Obamacare, and I got rid of it. You know, we gained with the individual. … You know the individual mandate, Michael, means you take money and you give it to the government for the privilege of not having to pay more money to have health insurance you don’t want. There are people who had very good health insurance that now are paying not to have health insurance. That’s what the individual mandate. … They’re not going to have to pay anymore. So when people think that will be unpopular. … It’s going to be very popular. It’s going to be very popular.

Now, in my opinion, they should come to me on infrastructure. They should come to me, which they have come to me, on DACA. We are working. … We’re trying to something about it. And they should definitely come to me on health care. Because we can do bipartisan health care. We can do bipartisan infrastructure. And we can do bipartisan DACA.

SCHMIDT: What are you willing to do on infrastructure? How far are you willing to go? How much money?

TRUMP: I actually think we can get as many Democrat votes as we have Republican. Republicans want to see infrastructure. Michael, we have spent, as of about a month ago, $7 trillion in the Middle East. And the Middle East is worse than it was 17 years ago. … [Inaudible.] $7 trillion. And if you want $12 to fix up a road or a highway, you can’t get it. I want to do a trillion-dollar infrastructure bill, at least. We want to fix our roads, our highways, our bridges, which are in bad shape. And you know some of them are actually, they’re x-ed out, they have, you know, possibilities of collapse under bad circumstances. And in 10 years they will collapse. So, I want a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. I think it can be bipartisan. I believe we can do health care in a bipartisan way, because now we’ve essentially gutted and ended Obamacare.

[Cross talk.]

SCHMIDT: But what’s the goal? What’s the goal?

TRUMP: Wait, wait, let me just tell you. … Also, beyond the individual mandate, but also [inaudible] associations. You understand what the associations are. …

[Cross talk.]

At this point it goes from partly to  completely incoherent.  And English only because the words are in English.  Otherwise, it's almost pure baffle-gab.

TRUMP: So now I have associations, I have private insurance companies coming and will sell private health care plans to people through associations. That’s gonna be millions and millions of people. People have no idea how big that is. And by the way, and for that, we’ve ended across state lines. So we have competition. You know for that I’m allowed to [inaudible] state lines. So that’s all done.

He means he signed an executive order.  It's not "all done."  It isn't even started.  Not to get side-tracked, but here's a summation of where we will be if Congress ever catches up to Trump's order (which is so vague and unenforceable it's more of a joke than not):

"The agencies have to explore the issue, read the existing law, and they have to come up with an interpretation of the existing law," [Sen. Rand Paul] said Wednesday in Kentucky. "I’d like to you to be able to join Costco and be one of 85 million people and have Costco negotiate with the insurance company."

Uh, yeah, I've got a big picture of that happening.  Little problem of state laws, which can only be overridden by an act of Congress.  Trump doesn't understand that basic fact of our constitutional system.  Basically, all that's going to happen is that insurance companies face more uncertainties; which helps consumers of health insurance not one whit.  Thanks, Donald!

Now I’ve ended the individual mandate. And the other thing I wish you’d tell people. So when I do this, and we’ve got health care, you know, McCain did his vote. … But what we have. I had a hundred congressmen that said no and I was able to talk them into it. They’re great people.

Um...huh?  Seriously, what is he even saying there?  It beggars understanding.

Two things: No. 1, I have unbelievably great relationships with 97 percent of the Republican congressmen and senators. I love them and they love me. That’s No. 1. And No. 2, I know more about the big bills. … [Inaudible.] … Than any president that’s ever been in office. Whether it’s health care and taxes. Especially taxes. And if I didn’t, I couldn’t have persuaded a hundred. … You ask Mark Meadows [inaudible]. … I couldn’t have persuaded a hundred congressmen to go along with the bill. The first bill, you know, that was ultimately, shockingly rejected.

I’ll tell you something [inaudible]. … Put me on the defense, I was a great student and all this stuff. Oh, he doesn’t know the details, these are sick people.

So, the taxes. … [Inaudible.] … The tax cut will be, the tax bill, prediction, will be far bigger than anyone imagines. Expensing will be perhaps the greatest of all provisions. Where you can do something, you can buy something. … Piece of equipment. … You can do lots of different things, and you can write it off and expense it in one year. That will be one of the great stimuli in history. You watch. That’ll be one of the big. … People don’t even talk about expensing, what’s the word “expensing.” [Inaudible.] One year expensing. Watch the money coming back into the country, it’ll be more money than people anticipate.

But Michael, I know the details of taxes better than anybody. Better than the greatest C.P.A. I know the details of health care better than most, better than most. And if I didn’t, I couldn’t have talked all these people into doing ultimately only to be rejected.

Yeah, sure he does:

“There’s no focusing on any issue and knowing anything in-depth. It thoroughly establishes how Donald makes things up,” Johnston said. “He doesn’t know Jack about taxes. His own account, Jack Mitnick, told me that. I had lunch with Donald. He couldn’t follow the tax advice I was giving him. He just makes stuff up.”

I think I believe David Cay Johnston over Donald J. Trump.  Especially after reading Trump's statements.

Now here’s the good news. We’ve created associations, millions of people are joining associations. Millions. That were formerly in Obamacare or didn’t have insurance. Or didn’t have health care. Millions of people. That’s gonna be a big bill, you watch. It could be as high as 50 percent of the people. You watch. So that’s a big thing. And the individual mandate. So now you have associations, and people don’t even talk about the associations. That could be half the people are going to be joining up. … With private [inaudible]. So now you have associations and the individual mandate.

I believe that because of the individual mandate and the associations, the Democrats will and certainly should come to me and see if they can do a really great health care plan for the remaining people. [Inaudible.]

Yes, he's repeating himself there.  Either he can't remember saying this, or he can't think what else to say.  Nothing in that long discussion persuades me the President understands English, much less the concepts he thinks he's talking about.  Wind him up he spouts gibberish?  Why?  I have no idea. I've seen people do this due to extremely low blood sugar, so what do I know? Charlie Pierce says he's seen it in family members with Alzheimer's.  I'm not arguing with Charlie Pierce here, I'm just saying I have no idea what the cause is.  The result is clear:  the President isn't competent to form a thought.  And that is absolutely terrifying.

SCHMIDT: And you think you can do it?

TRUMP: Well, we’re perfectly set up to do it. See, it was hard for them to do it as long as the individual mandate existed. But now that the individual mandate is officially killed, people have no idea how big a deal that was. It’s the most unpopular part of Obamacare. But now, Obamacare is essentially. … You know, you saw this. … It’s basically dead over a period of time.


TRUMP: But the Democrats should come to a bipartisan bill. And we can fix it. We can fix it. We can make a great health care plan. Not Obamacare, which was a bad plan. We can make a great health care plan through bipartisanship. We can do a great infrastructure plan through bipartisanship. And we can do on immigration, and DACA in particular, we can do something that’s terrific through bipartisanship.

SCHMIDT: It sounds like you’re tacking to the center in a way you didn’t before.

TRUMP: No, I’m not being centered. I’m just being practical. No, I don’t think I’m changing. Look, I wouldn’t do a DACA plan without a wall. Because we need it. We see the drugs pouring into the country, we need the wall.

SCHMIDT: So you’re not moving. You’re saying I’m more likely to do deals, but I’m not moving.

TRUMP: I’m always moving. I’m moving in both directions. We have to get rid of chainlike immigration, we have to get rid of the chain. The chain is the last guy that killed. … [Talking with guests.] … The last guy that killed the eight people. … [Inaudible.] … So badly wounded people. … Twenty-two people came in through chain migration. Chain migration and the lottery system. They have a lottery in these countries.

They take the worst people in the country, they put ‘em into the lottery, then they have a handful of bad, worse ones, and they put them out. ‘Oh, these are the people the United States. …” … We’re gonna get rid of the lottery, and by the way, the Democrats agree with me on that. On chain migration, they pretty much agree with me.

[Cross talk with guests.]

CHRISTOPHER RUDDY, the president and chief executive of Newsmax: Canada, U.K., Australia. … All do best and brightest. …

TRUMP: Yeah, they have a merit system, we’ll eventually go to a merit-based system. When we bring people in. … That No. 1, don’t need our resources and No. 2, have great capabilities.

People like us, in other words; instead of people like foreigners.  When he's not clueless, he's a repulsive racist.  Or maybe those are flip sides of the same coin.

SCHMIDT: Do you think I’m wrong to think next year could be the year of you being a real deal maker, in a way you maybe weren’t in the past year?

TRUMP: I was. I make deals with the Republicans. I had nobody to make a deal with the Democrats. The Democrats could have made a much better tax deal for Democrats if they came to see us, but they didn’t come. They never thought I’d be able to get this over the line. And especially when McCain, when John McCain left and went to Arizona, they thought they had it made.

Or they knew they couldn't stop it, and they didn't want their fingerprints on it.  "Chain migration" is rejoining families, by the way.  A relevant topic any time, but especially so in the season that recalls the census in Bethlehem and the flight into Egypt.  And there's nothing xenophobic or racist in Trump's immigration policy!  This, by the way, is not how you "do" bipartisan:

SCHMIDT: Explain your North Korea tweet to me today.

TRUMP: Which one?

That would be this one:

SCHMIDT: You said about the oil, that China. …

[Cross talk.]

SCHMIDT: What’s going on there. Tell me about that.

TRUMP: Yeah, China. … China’s been. … I like very much President Xi. He treated me better than anybody’s ever been treated in the history of China. You know that. The presentations. … One of the great two days of anybody’s life and memory having to do with China. He’s a friend of mine, he likes me, I like him, we have a great chemistry together. He’s [inaudible] of the United States. …[Inaudible.] China’s hurting us very badly on trade, but I have been soft on China because the only thing more important to me than trade is war. O.K.?

[Cross talk with guests.]


SCHMIDT: Can you finish your thought on North Korea. What’s going on with China?

TRUMP: I’m disappointed. You know that they found oil going into. …

SCHMIDT: But how recently?

TRUMP: It was very recently. In fact, I hate to say, it was reported this morning, and it was reported on Fox. Oil is going into North Korea. That wasn’t my deal!

SCHMIDT: What was the deal?

TRUMP: My deal was that, we’ve got to treat them rough. They’re a nuclear menace so we have to be very tough.

RUDDY: Mr. President, was that a picture from recent or was that months ago? I don’t know. …

TRUMP: Oil is going into North Korea, I know. Oil is going into North Korea. So I’m not happy about it.

SCHMIDT: So what are you going to do?

TRUMP: We’ll see. That I can’t tell you, Michael. But we’ll see. I can tell you one thing: This is a problem that should have been handled for the last 25 years. This is a problem, North Korea. That should have been handled for 25, 30 years, not by me. This should have been handled long before me. Long before this guy has whatever he has.

SCHMIDT: Do you think we’ve been too soft on China on North Korea?

TRUMP: No, look, I like China, and I like him a lot. But, as you know, when I campaigned, I was very tough on China in terms of trade. They made — last year, we had a trade deficit with China of $350 billion, minimum. That doesn’t include the theft of intellectual property, O.K., which is another $300 billion. So, China — and you know, somebody said, oh, currency manipulation. If they’re helping me with North Korea, I can look at trade a little bit differently, at least for a period of time. And that’s what I’ve been doing. But when oil is going in, I’m not happy about that. I think I expressed that in probably [inaudible].

You like him (China) a lot?  Does China like you back?  Did you ask Vietnam in gym class?

TRUMP, as aides walk by: And, by the way, it’s not a tweet. It’s social media, and it gets out in the world, and the reason I do well is that I can be treated unfairly and very dishonestly by CNN, and, you know, I have — what do have now, John, 158 million, including Facebook, including Twitter, including Instagram, including every form, I have a 158 million people. Reporting just this morning, they said 158 million. So if they a do a story that’s false, I can do something — otherwise, Andy, otherwise you just sort of walk around saying what can I do? What, am I going to have a press conference every time somebody, every time Michael writes something wrong?

I can't resist one fact check in all this:

Even if you’re counting generously, Trump does not have that many followers on social media. Adding up his Twitter account (45 million followers), his Facebook account (23 million followers), the White House Facebook account (8 million followers), his Instagram account (8 million followers), the White House Instagram account (4 million followers), the official “POTUS” Twitter account (22 million followers), and the official “POTUS” Facebook account (2 million followers), Trump is at 112 million followers. Since many of these people undoubtedly follow him on more than one platform, the total number of actual humans is even further below 158 million.
And, as I pointed out earlier, Obama has over 98 million followers on Twitter alone.  Make of it what you will.

So, China on trade has ripped off this country more than any other element of the world in history has ripped off anything. But I can be different if they’re helping us with North Korea. If they don’t help us with North Korea, then I do what I’ve always said I want to do. China can help us much more, and they have to help us much more. And they have to help us much more. We have a nuclear menace out there, which is no good for China, and it’s not good for Russia. It’s no good for anybody. Does that make sense?

Notice he never says what he "has to do," and repeats the sentence about China twice, as if he can't remember saying it the first time.  I've seen this in the elderly; it's not a reassuring sign of mental acuity.  And why does he ask if that "makes sense"?  "That" what?  A nuclear menace is not good for Russia or China?  That's like asking if it makes sense to be concerned about cancer.

SCHMIDT: Yeah, yeah, it makes a lot of sense.

TRUMP: The only thing that supersedes trade to me — because I’m the big trade guy, I got elected to a certain extent on trade. You see, I’m renegotiating Nafta, or I’ll terminate it. If I don’t make the right deal, I’ll terminate Nafta in two seconds. But we’re doing pretty good. You know, it’s easier to renegotiate it if we make it a fair deal because Nafta was a terrible deal for us. We lost $71 billion a year with Mexico, can you believe it? $17 billion with Canada — Canada says we broke even. But they don’t include lumber and they don’t include oil. Oh, that’s not. … [Inaudible,] … My friend Justin he says, “No, no, we break even.” I said, ‘Yeah, but you’re not including oil, and you’re not including lumber.” When you do, you lose $17 billion, and with the other one, we’re losing $71 billion. So the only thing that supersedes trade to me is war. If we can solve the North Korea problem. China cannot. …

SCHMIDT: You still think there’s a diplomatic solution?

TRUMP: China has a tremendous power over North Korea. Far greater than anyone knows.

SCHMIDT: Why haven’t they stood up?

TRUMP: I hope they do, but as of this moment, they haven’t. They could be much stronger.

SCHMIDT: But why not?

TRUMP: China can solve the North Korea problem, and they’re helping us, and they’re even helping us a lot, but they’re not helping us enough.

TRUMP: We’re going to win another four years for a lot of reasons, most importantly because our country is starting to do well again and we’re being respected again. But another reason that I’m going to win another four years is because newspapers, television, all forms of media will tank if I’m not there because without me, their ratings are going down the tubes. Without me, The New York Times will indeed be not the failing New York Times, but the failed New York Times. So they basically have to let me win. And eventually, probably six months before the election, they’ll be loving me because they’re saying, “Please, please, don’t lose Donald Trump.” O.K.

Incipient Alzheimer's?  Drug abuse?  Simple primal fear?  I don't know.  This seems coherent enough a few days later:

Then again, he's just repeating himself again.  Perhaps this proves Pierce right, It's a sign of stubbornness in a man who really doesn't understand. It's certainly another indication of the man using English the way a chimpanzee would:  with no understanding of what it's for.  Ezra Klein sums it up rather nicely:

This is the president of the United States speaking to the New York Times. His comments are, by turns, incoherent, incorrect, conspiratorial, delusional, self-aggrandizing, and underinformed. This is not a partisan judgment — indeed, the interview is rarely coherent or specific enough to classify the points Trump makes on a recognizable left-right spectrum. As has been true since he entered American politics, Trump is interested in Trump — over the course of the interview, he mentions his Electoral College strategy seven times, in each case using it to underscore his political savvy and to suggest that he could easily have won the popular vote if he had tried.

I am not a medical professional, and I will not pretend to know what is truly happening here. It’s become a common conversation topic in Washington to muse on whether the president is suffering from some form of cognitive decline or psychological malady. I don’t think those hypotheses are necessary or meaningful. Whatever the cause, it is plainly obvious from Trump’s words that this is not a man fit to be president, that he is not well or capable in some fundamental way. That is an uncomfortable thing to say, and so many prefer not to say it, but Trump does not occupy a job where such deficiencies can be safely ignored.
I think Messrs. Harwood and Johnston should have the last word, if only because they don't pretend to any medical knowledge either:

“I think this interview is profoundly disturbing,” Harwood said. “If you read it and think about it. The way the president speaks in such grandiose terms about himself suggests a level of delusion. ‘I saved coal.’ ‘I was treated better than anyone in the history of China.’ ‘I did things that Ronald Reagan couldn’t do.’ ‘The news media has to keep me president because the entire media system would fall apart without me.’ This suggests a level of mental functioning which is not particularly acute and when he starts talking about the Russia investigation and he says 16 times ‘there’s been no collusion, absolutely no collusion, everyone agrees there’s no collusion.’ And some point you’re just kind of babbling and this is the president of the United States and it cannot be reassuring to even people who support his policies to hear him speak in this way.”

Harwood noted that Trump doesn’t seem to be aware of what he’s giving away in interviews liked.

“Anyone who speaks about himself in the kind of terms that he does, ‘absolute right to control the Justice Department, ‘I know more than the greatest CPA.’ These are statements that are obviously cartoonishly ridiculous. And the fact that the president would feel free to say them to The New York Times suggests that he is not perceiving his own best interests or the interests of the white house.”

Host Ari Melber recalled Trump’s remark about being smarter than a CPA, saying, “it’s not even a brag I’m that familiar with that people who have ascended to high office or being president would feel the need to go there.”

“Well, Donald lives in this world where he creates his own reality and if he says it that means it’s true,” Johnston said. “And he’s delusional. John is exactly right about this. Donald is delusional. I know — I’m attacked by all sorts of people for saying this but he is. He is delusional and you are seeing his, you know, this manifestation of his belief. Donald, remember, believes and he’s actually said at times he’s superior to the rest of us. That, of course, he should be president. And you’re seeing in this interview ridiculous and John had the right phrase: cartoonish statements about himself.”

Be afraid. Be very afraid. And what better way to start a new year, right?

New Years Eve 2017

Time is told by death, who doubts it?  But time is always halved--for all we know, it is halved--by the eye-blink, the synapse, the immeasurable moment of the present.  Time is only the past and maybe the future; the present moment, dividing and connecting them, is eternal.  The time of the past is there, somewhat, but only somewhat, to be remembered and examined.  We believe that the future is there too, for it keeps arriving, though we know nothing about it.  But try to stop the present for your patient scrutiny, or to measure its length with your most advanced chronometer.  It exists, so far as I can tell, only as a leak in time, through which, if we are quiet enough, eternity falls upon us and makes its claim.  And here I am, an old man, traveling as a child among the dead.

We measure time by its deaths, yes, and by its births.  For time is told also by life.  As some depart, others come.  The hand opened in farewell remains open in welcome.  I, who once had grandparents and parents, now have children and grandchildren.  Like the flowing river that is yet always present, time that is always going is always coming.  And time that is told by death and birth is held and redeemed by love, which is always present.  Time, then, is told by love's losses, and by the coming of love, and by love continuing in gratitude for what is lost.  It is folded and enfolded and unfolded forever and ever, the love by which the dead are alive and the unborn welcomed into the womb.  The great question for the old and the dying, I think, is not if they have loved and been loved enough, but if they have been grateful enough for love received and given, however much.  No one who has gratitude is the onliest one.  Let us pray to be grateful to the last.

--Wendell Berry, Andy Catlett:  Early Travels

Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Deserving Poor

This came up first with Chuck Grassley:

"I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing,” Grassley (R-Iowa) told the Des Moines Register, “as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.”

If there was ever any doubt that is a true GOP sentiment, let that doubt be removed:

Then [Rep. Robert] Pettinger [R-NC] claimed that all Americans own corporate stock.

“Are you saying that the majority of American people own stock in corporation?” [Katy] Tur asked.

“The American people are shareholders, they own stock,” Pettinger argued.

“Why not do job creation by giving the money to the middle class and to lower class so they can reinvest in themselves?” Tur asked again.

“I understand your narrative and frankly that is the concept of socialism,” Pettinger claimed.

Because only rich people deserve money, right?  Isn't that the American Way?

I'm old enough to remember when the middle class was considered the economic backbone of America.

I'm gonna go watch "It Happened on Fifth Avenue" again, followed up with "You Can't Take It With You."  One is seasonal and while not exactly a paen to the first being last and the last first, is at least so egalitarian Pettinger would consider it socialism, too.  The latter is just fun and uplifting, with a title that says it all.

Christmastide 2017: December 30

I've just had an astonishing dream as I lay in the straw.
I dreamed a star fell on to the straw beside me
And lay blazing. Then when I looked up
I saw a bull come flying through a sky of fire
And on its shoulders a huge silver woman
Holding the moon. And afterwards there came
A donkey flying through that same burning heaven
And on its shoulders a colossal man
Holding the sun. Suddenly I awoke
And saw a bull and a donkey kneeling in the straw,
and the great moving shadows of a man and a woman---
I say they were a man and a woman but
I dare not say what I think they were. I did not dare to look.
I ran out here into the freezing world
Because I dared not look. Inside that shed.

A star is coming this way along the road.
If I were not standing upright, this would be a dream.
A star the shaped of a sword of fired, point-downward,
Is floating along the road. And now it rises.
It is shaking fire on to the roofs and the gardens.
And now it rises above the animal shed
Where I slept till the dream woke me. And now
The star is standing over the animal shed.

--Ted Hughes

Friday, December 29, 2017

Using Up Somebody Else's 15 Minutes

Mr. Dershowitz to the white courtesy phone, puh-leeze!

Politico was desperate for a male public figure to balance out the four female public figures in its article about women who have challenged the awesome tweeting power of Donald Trump; so, of course, they chose Alan Dershowitz, who hasn't suffered at all from the bile of Trump's Twitter attentions.  Oh, no, quite the opposite:

Over the past year, Dershowitz has become a regular talking head on Fox News, arguing that bringing an obstruction of justice charge against Trump would trigger a constitutional crisis for the country — and that Trump had every right to fire former FBI director James Comey. The counterintuitive take from a one-time Democratic icon has made him a Trump favorite — an uncomfortable position for a man who says he voted for Hillary Clinton and hopes Vice President Joe Biden challenges Trump in 2020.

“My really, really close friends say, ‘You’re 100 percent right in your analysis, but can’t you just shut the f–k up and not talk at all,’” he said. “They tell me, ‘This is a time for selective silence.’ My nephew thinks I’m helping keep in office one of the greatest dangers in American history. I tell him I’m just standing up for principle. He tells me that I don’t have to stand up so loud.”
I'm assuming Dershowitz's "really, really close friends" are not lawyers; or not criminal lawyers; or they all work for FoxNews, the only news source Trump and Dershowitz seem to rely on.  Because recently, Dershowitz was spouting off once again about things he really doesn't seem to know anything about:

“He’s playing right into their hands,” Dershowitz said. “I have to tell you, I had an enormous amount of respect for Mueller having seen him up close when he was in Boston and in the government. He is not playing this effectively, he is being sloppy.”

He again cited purported improprieties hyped by Fox News in recent weeks, including politically charged text messages from an FBI agent removed from the probe, and the obtaining of transition team emails from the General Services Administration and then from Trump’s lawyers.

“You wear belt and suspenders when you are going after the president, you get a warrant,” Dershowitz said.

Because, of course, this didn't happen:

But Peter Carr, spokesman for the Special Counsel's Office, told Axios early this morning: "When we have obtained emails in the course of our ongoing criminal investigation, we have secured either the account owner's consent or appropriate criminal process."

According to the Journal’s sources, Strzok’s talk of an “insurance policy” against Trump’s electoral victory “was meant to convey that the bureau needed to aggressively investigate allegations of collusion between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia,” and was not intended to “suggest a secret plan to harm the candidate but rather address a colleague who believed the [FBI] could take its time because Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was certain to win the election.”

In the original text message, which was sent to FBI lawyer Lisa Page, Strzok wrote of Trump that, “I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office — that there’s no way he gets elected — but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40.”

“When they ran the transition, the GSA, the Government Services Administration gave them the computers, the software and the server. And every time they went on those computers, every time you go in any GSA-owned computer, you get a notice, there’s no privacy, the e-mail you send belongs to a federal government,” Napolitano reminded.

“So Mueller’s people either — we don’t know what — knock on the doors and say you have the e-mails or got a subpoena. Perfectly legal and done every day of the week,” Napolitano concluded.

“As a matter of course, to not get them would be derelict,” Smith noted.

“Correct,” Napolitano replied.

and furthermore:

“I’m critical of our colleagues that say there’s no ‘there’ there,” Napolitano admitted. “You know what, Shep? This is a jigsaw puzzle with 100,000 pieces and we see a piece here and a piece there and people say it doesn’t make any sense. It takes time to amass all of these pieces of evidence so that we see the jigsaw puzzle completed, that’s what Mueller and company are trying to do.”
Well, he watches certain FoxNews programs, but not others; just like the President!  But Alan Dershowitz knows all and sees all!  He's a Harvard Law Professor Emeritus!  Kneel before his mighty knowledge!

What a putz.  I don't know what the principle is, but he's certainly lost the plot.

Christmastide 2017: Holy Family

Because you are God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with heartfelt mercy, with kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.  Bear with one another; forgive whatever grievances you have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord has forgiven you.  Over all these virtues put on love, which binds the rest together and makes them perfect.  Christ's peace must reign in your hearts, since s members of the one body you have been called to that peace.  Dedicate yourselves to thankfulness.  Let the word of Christ, rich as it is, dwell in you, in wisdom made perfect, instruct and admonish one another.  Sing gratefully to God from your heart, in psalms, hymns, and inspired songs.  Whatever you do, whether in speech or in action, do it in the name of the Lord Jesus.  Give thanks to God the Father through him.

--Colossians 3:12-1

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Christmastide 2017: December 28, Massacre of the Innocents

 *Not Mary, but the mother of the slain children, is the one singing.

But then consider how the medieval drama "The Play of Herod" ends:  the escape to Egypt, the hasty retreat of the magi, then the intrusion of the military into the village.  The children are murdered and Rachel--the biblical mother--weeps and laments.  A comforter is sent by God, but she refuses to be comforted because her children are no more.  But this is not the end of the play.  Did they somehow invent a happy ending? Nothing of the kind. The ending is not happy, it is a great mystery. For there is a Te Deum sung: "We praise you, God, we confess you as Lord." The greatest chant of praise. This is sung by Mary and Joseph, processing through the audience, but they are joined in their song and procession by the animals and the angels, by the shepherds, by the lamenting Rachel and the parents of Bethlehem, and they are joined by the soldiers and their victims and by Herod. Knowing that (Hopkins again)

we are wound
With mercy round and round. . . .

they all, incarnate God and all creation, even death, tyrants and martyrs, all process and all sing praise. And we sing too, and find ourselves in the procession.

"Today we can't imagine it. We take our Christmas with lots of sugar. And take it in a day. Though we've been baptized into his death, we have little time for or patience with how that death is told at Christmas, a death that confuses lament and praise forever. And no wonder we are careful to keep Christmas at an arm's length. What is Herod in these times?"
--Gabe Huck

No, we can't imagine it at all:

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Roman Catholic, appeared on Tucker Carlson’s show to address the importance of defending DACA youth and DREAMers.

“Jesus was himself a refugee child,” O’Malley recalled, comparing it to the plight of the DREAMers. “What would you do if he came to your border?”

Carlson laughed. “That’s so stupid. That’s hard to respond,” he replied.
So stupid the Church devotes an entire day to it's observance, and has done every 28th of December for several centuries.  The text is in Matthew:

"After [the astrologers] had departed, a messenger of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph, saying, 'Get ready, take the child and his mother and fleet to Egypt.  Stay there until I give you instructions.  You see, Herod is determined to hunt the child down and destroy him.'

"So Joseph got ready and took the child and his mother under cover of night and set out for Egypt.  There they remained until Herod's death.  This happened so the Lord's prediction spoken by the prophet could come true:  'Out of Egypt I have called my son.'

"When Herod realized he had been duped by the astrologers, he was outraged. He then issued a death warrant for all the male children in Bethlehem and surrounding region two years old and younger. this corresponded to the time [of the star] that he had learned from the astrologers. With this event the prediction made by Jeremiah the prophet came true:

'In Ramah the sound of mourning
and bitter grieving was heard:
Rachel weeping for her children.
She refused to be consoled:
They were no more.' " (Matthew 2: 16-18, SV)

The power of the state is part of this story: for Luke, it is the census that forces Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, and her "great with child." For Matthew, it is Herod's fear and insecurity.

If you know Benjamin Britten's "Ceremony of Carols," perhaps these words will start to insistently pound in your head, as they do in mine:

This little Babe so few days old,
Is come to rifle Satan's fold;
All hell doth at his presence quake,
Though he himself for cold do shake;
For in this weak, unarmed wise,
The gates of hell he will surprise.

With tears he fights and wins the field,
His naked breast stands for a shield;
His battering shot are babish cries,
His arrows made of weeping eyes,
His martial ensigns cold and need,
And feeble flesh his warrior's steed.
His camp is pitched in a stall,
His bulwark but a broken wall;

The crib his trench, hay stalks his stakes,
Of shepherds he his muster makes;
And thus as sure his foe to wound,
The Angels' trumps alarum sound.

The words are Robert Southwell's, but Britten sets them to an insistent, pounding rhythm, gives them a sense of urgency that threatens to break with sense and almost induce panic. In Britten's version the words rush out, tumbling over each other in their potency, their sheer physical need to be spoken, rising to a crescendo on the last line as the Angel's trumps alarums sound. That is the noise that wakes Herod from his comfortable dream.

It isn't about us; and it isn't about our triumph, and life is not supposed to be sugar-coated and dandy just because we now "believe in God." We don't want there to be a cost to everything, especially to what we want, but that makes us Herod. We don't want to be Herod, but we don't want to acknowledge that there is a price to everything we want. We want to forget that. But Rachel can't forget. Jeremiah (whom Matthew is quoting), can't forget. Matthew can't forget. Not even Luke can forget. When Jesus is presented at the Temple, Simeon sings the last song in Luke, the Nunc Dimmitus, and it is the only song in Luke that is a song of death, but still a song of triumph:

Now, Lord, you are releasing your servant in peace,
according to your promise.
For I have seen with my own eyes
the deliverance you have made
ready in full view of all nations;
a light that will bring revelation to the Gentiles
and glory to your people Israel.

And then he turns to Mary and says:

34And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;

35(Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

Why does this story never wear out? Well, in this case, because it is always coming about, again and again. Much like the Massacre of the Innocents. It is a part of the world we are called to redeem; called by the child in the manger, by the little two year old who threatens kings and whose life prompts horrors as well as blessings. "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace...." No, says the Lord; not yet. Not just yet. There is still much for you to do.

Consider the world, and the children.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Standing in line once too often

Don't you wish real life was like this?

Stumbled across another interminable comments discussion at RD about the responsibility of "Christians" for whatever political ills the complainers want to complain about.  And I stumbled across this, from 13 years ago, where I made the observation that:

The Rev. Debra Haffner (a Unitarian Universalist minister who directs a national interfaith group, the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice and Healing, and quoted by Mr. Rich) "detects an overall "understanding" in the media that religion "is one voice — fundamentalist." And, says Frank Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice: "There is the belief that the conservative view won, and the media are more interested in winners."

So this is a silly thing, but a silly thing with momentum. Demonize your opponent, turn anything they say into blasphemy (anti-Christian, anti-American; it's all one), reduce the issue to "us v. them," and get people to vote on their fears. It's perhaps the oldest political strategy of all; and the most effective. We have always been at war with Eurasia. 

And in light of this report from NPR this week, I wonder (not for the first time):  do we really need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows?  The discussion was of this op-ed:  "Facebook wins, democracy loses," but all I could think listening to the report was:  replace "Facebook" with "internet" and you get the same results.    Here, you try it:

VAIDHYANATHAN: Yeah, and that's happening. It's just not happening as effectively or efficiently. Basically what we are facing here is that Facebook is a communicative medium that is really well-designed for motivation. Whether that motivation is to occupy a park in Lower Manhattan to protest Wall Street or to generate essentially genocide against the Rohingya, motivation is something that works really well on Facebook. What doesn't work really well is deliberation because Facebook itself - the algorithms amplify strong emotional content. Those are the things most likely to be shared. And if they're most likely to be shared, then exponentially they get shared because Facebook's algorithms pick up those signals. It becomes really hard for messages that are deliberative and careful to spread on Facebook. Those things drop like a rock.

GREENE: And do you feel that Facebook is coming to this recognition because Mark Zuckerberg made a number of concessions? I mean, September he laid out this nine-step plan to be more transparent, saying he's working with government agencies and election commissions to make sure that he monitors and patrols this problem. Is that encouraging to you?

VAIDHYANATHAN: It's encouraging that there seems to be a recognition of some of the problems, but the problem with Facebook is Facebook. It's not any particular attribute along the margins that can be fixed and reformed. Any time that you can imagine a social media platform that connects 2.2 billion people and has a remarkably powerful and precise ad platform, you're going to have trouble.And I don't even have a communications degree!

I Just saved you the trouble of getting a "media studies" degree, and I don't even have Marshall McLuhan to pull from behind a movie poster!  Yeah, yeah, cheap shot, but is it really the fault of Facebook or Google or any of the "Five Names" that the internet is an international outrage machine? That it's only purpose is to amplify the sound of back-fence gossip to the roar of a stadium crowd?  Before Facebook it was blogs and comments and "Somebody on the internet is wrong!"  Now it's websites thinking they are boldly publishing "the truth!" getting played like fiddles by trolls, and we are all Donald Trump and believe in some sort of conspiracy theory.  How far removed are we, really, from blogs that used to trash "the media" because of their coverage of Clinton or Shrub or Obama?  Is Facebook really the cause of our troubles, or is it this brave new world of "more speech!" in which everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned?  "The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity."  But that's not a vision of apocalypse, it's simply the way things have always been; it's only the megaphone that's gotten bigger.

And honestly what has changed except that we've elected Newt Gingrich for President?  Maybe this is the change we needed.  Even CNN anchors are arguing with interviewees, and even if the media still thinks all religious persons in America are either radical Muslims or fundamentalist Christians, the latter isn't quite getting the free pass it once did.  Fundamentalist Christians are on the verge of looking like losers, and that's deadly in the eyes of the media.  Blood in the water time.  Maybe the Beast's hour had to come round at last, so we'd finally start taking things involving the commons a bit more seriously.

Maybe.  I'm still more comfortable with plus ce change, plus ce la meme chose.  The old political strategies are still the most effective, and the most effective of all is to organize and vote and work within a party structure.  I was bemused by media anointed DACA leaders who warned the Democrats not to take their votes for granted; if DACA wasn't reformed, they would take their votes and go home, they said.  Which made me wonder who they were leading, and why.  If Dreamers want 7 more years of Trump, that's the threat to make.  Otherwise, quit throwing temper tantrums and insisting on getting your way just because you have the media spotlight:  work, vote, especially in primaries, get your candidates elected.

Nobody is going to do it for you.  After all, we've always been at war with Eurasia.  The only way to stop it is to replace the propagandists.  We've never had a clearer view of who they are, that's for sure.

Or we could just wish real life was like the movies, where all we had to do was watch.

Christmastide: 2017

Consider what is said to you:  Love God.  If you say to me:  Show me who I am to love, what shall I say if not what Saint John says:  No one has seen God!  But in case you should think that you are completely cut off from the sight of God, he says:  God is love, and he who remains in love remains in God.  Love your neighbor, then, and see within yourself the power by which you love your neighbor; there you will see God, as far as you are able.

Begin, then, to love your neighbor. Break your bread to feed the hungry, and bring into your home the homeless poor; if you see someone naked, clothe him, and do not look down on your own flesh and blood.

What will you gain by doing this?  Your light will then burst forth like the dawn.  Your light is your God; he is your dawn, for he will come to you when the night is over.  He does not rise or set but remains forever.

In loving and caring for your neighbor you are on a journey.  Where are you traveling if not to the Lord God, to him whom we should love with our whole heart, our whole soul, our whole mind?  We have not yet reached his presence, but we have our neighbor at our side.  Support, then, this companion of your pilgrimage if you want to come into the presence of the one with whom you desire to remain forever.

Fourth century
Office of Readings
Roman Rite

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

3 more years....

A)  He's on vacation for 10 more days.  Again, no work schedule has been released, so he'll probably spend his time on the golf course, as usual.

Did you ever think you would hear a president use the words “very fine people” to describe participants in a torch-lit rally organized by white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan? Did you ever think you would hear a U.S. ambassador to the United Nations thuggishly threaten that she would be “taking names” of countries that did not vote on a General Assembly resolution the way she wanted? Did you ever think the government of the world’s biggest military and economic power would reject not just science but also empiricism itself, preferring to use made-up “alternative facts” as the basis for major decisions?


Did you ever think you would hear a president use the words “very fine people” to describe participants in a torch-lit rally organized by white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan? Did you ever think you would hear a U.S. ambassador to the United Nations thuggishly threaten that she would be “taking names” of countries that did not vote on a General Assembly resolution the way she wanted? Did you ever think the government of the world’s biggest military and economic power would reject not just science but also empiricism itself, preferring to use made-up “alternative facts” as the basis for major decisions?

We knew that Trump was narcissistic and shallow, but on Inauguration Day it was possible to at least hope he was self-aware enough to understand the weight that now rested on his shoulders, and perhaps grow into the job. He did not. If anything, he has gotten worse.

By all accounts, the president spends hours each day watching cable news, buoyed by the shows that blindly support him — “Fox & Friends,” “Hannity,” a few others on Fox News — and enraged by those that seek to hold him accountable. His aides have had to shorten and dumb down his daily briefings on national security in an attempt to get him to pay attention. Members of his Cabinet try to outdo one another in lavishing him with flowery, obsequious praise that would embarrass the Sun King.

Trump and his enablers have waged a relentless war against truth in an attempt to delegitimize any and all critical voices. He wields the epithet “fake news” as a cudgel against inconvenient facts and those who report them. Can a democracy function without a commonly accepted chronicle of events and encyclopedia of knowledge? We are conducting a dangerous experiment to find out.

To understand how deviant the Trump administration is, consider this: Since its founding, the nation has treasured civilian control of the military as a restraint on adventurism. Now we must rely on three generals — Trump’s chief of staff, his national security adviser and his secretary of defense — to keep this rash and erratic president from careering off the rails.

The president’s Republican allies in Congress, who have the power to restrain an out-of-control executive, have rolled over in passive submission. Many see clearly Trump’s unfitness but continue to support him because they fear the wrath of his hardcore base and see the chance to enact a conservative agenda. History will remember this craven opportunism and judge it harshly.


Mr. Robinson urges us to end on a positive note, so how's this?  Trump tweeted a Merry Christmas wish.  "As of late afternoon on Monday, Trump’s tweet had received more than 128,000 likes and more than 34,000 retweets."  However, former President Obama also tweeted a Christmas wish:  

Obama’s tweet—a picture of him with his wife and two daughters, standing in front of five adorable children—with the caption, “We wish you joy and peace this holiday season,” got more than 724,000 likes and more than 149,000 tweets.

And:  "Trump has 45.1 million followers [on Twitter, less than half of Obama’s 98.2 million."

St. Stephen's Day: 2017

Christmastide 2017

There is nothing I can give you, which you have not; But there is much, very much, that while I cannot give it, you can take. No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in today. Take heaven! No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present instant. Take peace! The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within reach, is joy. There is a radiance and glory in the darkness, could we but see, and to see we have only to look. I beseech you to look. Life is so generous a giver, but we, judging its gifts by their covering, cast them away as ugly, or heavy or hard. Remove the covering, and you will find beneath it a living splendor, woven of love, by wisdom, with power. Welcome it, grasp it, and you touch the angel's hand that brings it to you. Everything we call a trial, a sorrow, or a duty, believe me that angel's hand is there; the gift is there, and the wonder of an overshadowing presence. Our joys too: be not content with them as joys. They, too, conceal diviner gifts. And so, at this time, I greet you. Not quite as the world sends greetings, but with profound esteem and with the prayer that for you now and forever, the day breaks, and the shadows flee away.

--Fra Giovanni 1513

Monday, December 25, 2017

And so this is Christmas....again, again.....

Although Trump is pushing me to say "Happy Holidays," just out of spite.

No, Daily Beast, just:  no.

Christmas has almost nothing whatsoever to do with "pagan" celebrations.

First:  Constantine set the date for Christmas?  I don't think so:

The December 25 feast seems to have existed before 312—before Constantine and his conversion, at least. As we have seen, the Donatist Christians in North Africa seem to have known it from before that time. Furthermore, in the mid- to late fourth century, church leaders in the eastern Empire concerned themselves not with introducing a celebration of Jesus’ birthday, but with the addition of the December date to their traditional celebration on January 6.

Besides, Constantine was dead by 337 C.E., which is another problem for the theory.  The biggest problem with it is:  history doesn't become simpler and less complicated the further back in time you go, and it isn't "made" just by the people you've heard of:

In Cyprus, at the end of the fourth century, Epiphanius asserts against the Alogi ... that Christ was born on 6 January and baptized on 8 November. Ephraem Syrus ....proves that Mesopotamia still put the birth feast thirteen days after the winter solstice; i.e. 6 January; Armenia likewise ignored, and still ignores, the December festival.... In Cappadocia, Gregory of Nyssa's sermons on St. Basil (who died before 1 January, 379) and the two following, preached on St. Stephen's feast (P.G., XLVI, 788; cf, 701, 721), prove that in 380 the 25th December was already celebrated there....

Please pause to note 380 C.E. is 43 years after the death of Constantine.  And as we will see later, some authorities note the first mention of the date (25 December) in Rome was in 354, or 17 years after Constantine's demise.


In 385, Silvia of Bordeaux (or Etheria, as it seems clear she should be called) was profoundly impressed by the splendid Childhood feasts at Jerusalem. They had a definitely "Nativity" colouring; the bishop proceeded nightly to Bethlehem, returning to Jerusalem for the day celebrations. The Presentation was celebrated forty days after. But this calculation starts from 6 January, and the feast lasted during the octave of that date.... Cyril declares that his clergy cannot, on the single feast of Birth and Baptism, make a double procession to Bethlehem and Jordan.... He asks Julius to assign the true date of the nativity "from census documents brought by Titus to Rome"; Julius assigns 25 December.... But Julius died in 352, and by 385 Cyril had made no change; indeed, Jerome, writing about 411 (in Ezech., P.L., XXV, 18), reproves Palestine for keeping Christ's birthday (when He hid Himself) on the Manifestation feast. 

Lots of controversy over dates, in other words, well into the late 4th century.  I thought Constantine settled his much earlier, no?


In Antioch, on the feast of St. Philogonius, Chrysostom preached an important sermon. The year was almost certainly 386, though Clinton gives 387, and Usener, by a long rearrangement of the saint's sermons, 388 (Religionsgeschichtl. Untersuch., pp. 227-240). But between February, 386, when Flavian ordained Chrysostom priest, and December is ample time for the preaching of all the sermons under discussion. (See Kellner, Heortologie, Freiburg, 1906, p. 97, n. 3). In view of a reaction to certain Jewish rites and feasts, Chrysostom tries to unite Antioch in celebrating Christ's birth on 25 December, part of the community having already kept it on that day for at least ten years....

Finally, though never at Rome, on authority he knows that the census papers of the Holy Family are still there. [This appeal to Roman archives is as old as Justin Martyr (First Apology 34-35) and Tertullian (Adv. Marc., IV, 7, 19). Julius, in the Cyriline forgeries, is said to have calculated the date from Josephus, on the same unwarranted assumptions about Zachary as did Chrysostom.] Rome, therefore, has observed 25 December long enough to allow of Chrysostom speaking at least in 388 as above (P.G., XLVIII, 752, XLIX, 351).


In 379 or 380 Gregory Nazianzen made himself exarchos of the new feast, i.e. its initiator, in Constantinople, where, since the death of Valens, orthodoxy was reviving. His three Homilies (see Hom. xxxviii in P.G., XXXVI) were preached on successive days (Usener, op. cit., p. 253) in the private chapel called Anastasia. On his exile in 381, the feast disappeared.

What?  No Santa Claus in Constantinople? Surely Constantine was turning over in his grave!


[This is where it gets very complicated, so let's just cut to the chase:]

In the West the Council of Saragossa (380) still ignores 25 December .... Pope Siricius, writing in 385 to Himerius in Spain, distinguishes the feasts of the Nativity and Apparition; but whether he refers to Roman or to Spanish use is not clear.... By the time of Jerome and Augustine, the December feast is established, though the latter ... omits it from a list of first-class festivals. From the fourth century every Western calendar assigns it to 25 December. At Rome, then, the Nativity was celebrated on 25 December before 354; in the East, at Constantinople, not before 379, unless with Erbes, and against Gregory, we recognize it there in 330. Hence, almost universally has it been concluded that the new date reached the East from Rome by way of the Bosphorus during the great anti-Arian revival, and by means of the orthodox champions. 

But certainly not before the end of the 4th century, and not at all because of "Saturnalia."  First:  yes, Christians did start adopting pagan temples as places of worship, pagan heroes as saints (I can think of a couple of Irish saints off the top of my head), and pagan practices as Christian:

This would change only after Constantine converted to Christianity. From the mid-fourth century on, we do find Christians deliberately adapting and Christianizing pagan festivals. A famous proponent of this practice was Pope Gregory the Great, who, in a letter written in 601 C.E. to a Christian missionary in Britain, recommended that local pagan temples not be destroyed but be converted into churches, and that pagan festivals be celebrated as feasts of Christian martyrs. At this late point, Christmas may well have acquired some pagan trappings. But we don’t have evidence of Christians adopting pagan festivals in the third century, at which point dates for Christmas were established. Thus, it seems unlikely that the date was simply selected to correspond with pagan solar festivals.

They did all that in the 7th century; well, to be fair, probably starting in the late 6th century.  2 centuries after the date for Christmas was finally established, however.

Saturnalia?  No.  That was on December 17 to December 23, but by 354 C.E. it was only on December 17.  It was more like the Feast of Fools than anything we think of as a Christmas observance (and remember we're talking about a religious ceremony here, not a civic one.  Christmas as we know it is an amalgam of medieval practices (feasting, mostly, anymore) and Charles Dickens' childhood memories (Pickwick and Scrooge are the roots of our modern Christmas, as well as Clement Clarke Moore).  Saturnalia held on as a holiday on the Roman calendar until the mid-5th century:

December 17 was recognized as the date of the Saturnalia as late as AD 448, when it was notated in the ecclesiastical calendar or laterculus ("list") of Polemius Silvius. But now, deprived of its pagan significance, it is identified only as feriae servorum ("festival of the slaves").
By then Christmas had been observed on December 25 in Rome for at least 60 years, so I don't think they were confused about the dates.  So maybe it was "Natali invictii"?  Well, maybe, as the date is the same as Christmas.  However:

But even should a deliberate and legitimate "baptism" of a pagan feast be seen here no more than the transference of the date need be supposed. The "mountain-birth" of Mithra and Christ's in the "grotto" have nothing in common: Mithra's adoring shepherds....are rather borrowed from Christian sources than vice versa.
Whatever link there is doesn't really mean anything.  Oh, and about the yule log, I'm not going beyond this:

The yule log

The calend fires were a scandal even to Rome, and St. Boniface obtained from Pope Zachary their abolition. But probably the Yule-log in its many forms was originally lit only in view of the cold season. Only in 1577 did it become a public ceremony in England; its popularity, however, grew immense, especially in Provence; in Tuscany, Christmas is simply called ceppo (block, log...). Besides, it became connected with other usages; in England, a tenant had the right to feed at his lord's expense as long as a wheel, i.e. a round, of wood, given by him, would burn, the landlord gave to a tenant a load of wood on the birth of a child; Kindsfuss was a present given to children on the birth of a brother or sister, and even to the farm animals on that of Christ, the universal little brother....
Not too many pagans running around Europe by the 16th century, really.  And what's left?  The Christmas tree?  Oh, please; I'm not going to repeat myself on that.  The twelve days of Christmas, where did that come from?  (It is the span of time between Christmas Day and Epiphany, or January 6.)  Nobody knows, but I'm comfortable saying;  not from pagans.  Certainly not from a yule log that burned for 12 days (unless you were a lucky 16th century English tenant!).  No, that's too simple; so let's start here and work backwards a bit:

The reason for the fixing of this date it is impossible to discover. The only tolerable solution is that of Mgr. Duchesne ..., who explains simultaneously the celebration of 6 January and of 25 December by a backward reckoning from 6 April and 25 March respectively. The Pepyzitae, or Phrygian Montanists, says Sozomen..., kept Easter on 6 April; hence (reckoning an exact number of years to the Divine life) Christ's birthday would have fallen on 6 January. But, it may be urged, the first notice we have of the observance of this date, refers to Christ's Baptism. But this (if we may assume the Basilidians, too, to have argued from 6 April) will have fallen on the exact anniversary of the Birth. But why preeminently celebrate the Baptism? Can it be that the celebration started with those, of whatever sect, who held that at the Baptism the Godhead descended upon Christ? On this uncertain territory we had better risk no footstep till fresh evidence, if such there be, be furnished us.

Indeed.  But working backwards, as I said, the New Advent articles tells us that Epiphany as a celebration of the church began in the Eastern church, where the idea of what actually was the "epiphany" wasn't settled for some time.  The baptism, the miracle at Cana (the first miracle in John's gospel), the magi, were all considered events of the epiphany of the divinity of Christ, and each was celebrated.  The shorter version is that the Eastern church attached importance to the Epiphany and celebrated it on January 6, while the Roman church celebrated the nativity on December 25.  Both could technically be epiphanies (revelation of the godhood and incarnation).  And sooner or later, the two were adopted on either side:

It is simpler to say that, about the time of the diffusion of the December celebration in the East, the West took up the Oriental January feast, retaining all its chief characteristics, though attaching overwhelming importance, as time went on, to the apparition of the Magi. 
Epiphany and Christmas were being celebrated long before the church reached deep into the lands where people were burning logs to keep warm in winter or worshipping trees or counting sparks from fires (which is kind of a stupid assertion, anyway, made by someone who's spent little time by a wood fire).  I'm comfortable in saying the dates were set long before the "yule" was named a log.

The term Yule is of disputed origin. It is unconnected with any word meaning "wheel". The name in Anglo-Saxon was geol, feast: geola, the name of a month (cf. Icelandic iol a feast in December).

As so many things are.  And Anglo-Saxon was not a language of Christians until quite a bit later than the 4th century, when most of these dates were being set.