Wednesday, January 31, 2018

"Oh, God, Make This Stop!"

Pee-pee tape!

Pretty weenie!

President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union speech had a particular set of goals: talking up the economy and job creation, outlining a plan to keep the U.S. safe and, apparently, getting Democrats to frown on camera.

For the most part, he succeeded.

Democrats did their best to show their displeasure with Trump’s address—with many lawmakers rolling their eyes, shaking their heads, and groaning at some of the president’s remarks. Others looked down at their cell phones for much of the evening.

Even before Trump started, the indifference and rancor was evident. When the president made his way to the podium, Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) remained seated, reading a newspaper.

The structure of the speech seemed designed, at times, to produce this imagery. Trump led with positive economic news and a rundown of companies investing in the United States or awarding their employees raises or bonuses. With cameras attuned to the members of Congress in the crowd, the economic talking points produced memorable dichotomies between the ostensibly positive news heralded from the podium and the sour faces of congressional Democrats in the crowd.

The reactions delighted members of the administration who felt, early on, that the visuals of the evening would be as important as the speech itself. The day before the address, the White House had summoned some of the president’s trusted allies and outside advisers to the Entrance Hall in the official residence in order to give marching orders and a pep talk. Trump noted that they all had to “fight” because the news coverage of his presidency has been so negative, and mentioned that it was nice to be surrounded by friends who go on TV to say “nice” things about him for a change.

The one reaction to a SOTU I still remember is:  "You lie!"  Despite the blatant racism, insult, and violation of decorum of that outburst, Republicans went on to win big in the mid-terms that year.

Frowning on camera?  That's your measure of success?  That doesn't bury the bar, it throws it on the trash heap.

The Fat, Hanging Slow Pitch

During an interview with Fox & Friends on Wednesday, President Trump’s son said that he was “focused on the Democrats” while his dad was speaking to the nation.

“And I honestly think they’re scared,” he opined. “And if I look around [during Tuesday’s speech], they don’t have the personality to go against him. They were sitting there. They looked, quite frankly, defeated.”

“I mean, they didn’t stand for anything,” the younger Trump continued. “When he said ‘In God We Trust’ — when my father mentioned ‘In God We Trust,’ the guiding principle of this country, no one stood.”

The hosts of Fox & Friends were ready to support Eric Trump by playing a “montage” of Democrats refusing to stand.

“You know what, I think it’s actually very sad,” Eric Trump stated. “There are things as Americans we should be united on. And if we can’t be united on God, if we can’t be united on African-American unemployment being at the lowest it’s ever been.”

Sometimes the universe puts one right over the plate.  Or maybe it's just Eric.....

State of the Uniom

Well, that, too....

This is what I didn't miss last night:

“Our nation has lost its wealth, but we’re getting it back so fast.” 

Before Trump, we were all standing on bread lines. Ah, yes, I remember it well....

(Although NTodd does it better.)

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Let us all give thanks for Netflix

In the days of my feckless youth I considered the State of the Union Address something of a patriotic duty to attend to.  I was a dedicated Democrat thanks to Richard Nixon, so I suffered through the things under Reagan and both Bushes, and tolerated them from Carter, Clinton, and Obama.

I've finally decided I don't have to do that much, especially because the current President is a moron with the eloquence of a carnival barker and the moral perspicacity of a toad.

It's a curiously silly thing, the SOTU.   As Slate points out, it arises from a literal reading of Article II, Section 3, of the Constitution:

He shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.

We don't need the damned thing, not even as a political speech (which is all it is anymore).  Thomas Jefferson, Wikipedia tells me, declined to deliver an address personally to Congress, considering it too monarchical.  It wasn't until 1913 that Woodrow Wilson revived the speech, then known as "The President's Annual Message to Congress."  Note the tradition of "annual," although the Constitution doesn't set any kind of calendar on the thing.  FDR started calling it the "State of the Union."  He also gave the first one at night, leading us to all suffer through it in prime time to this day.  As Jim Newell points out, there's no reason to expect anything from Trump's speech, at all:

Trump is as mercurial and lacking in attention span as the news cycles that would bury his message, and he is just as likely to be the one trampling on it. There is no reason to believe that he agrees with anything in his speech, or will remember on Wednesday morning what he said Tuesday night. Why should you?

Why, indeed?

I do wonder now what "Constitutional Crisis" it would prompt to ditch the damned thing, or just revert to sending a written message over for a clerk to read to Congress, as was done for almost 150 years.   Should Congress change hands in November, Trump might decide the crowd is too hostile to attempt to play to.  If we could get Trump to just send a written message, even just a tweet, he might actually be a boon to the nation after all.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Ariel Poems: Animula

'Issues from the hand of God, the simple soul'
To a flat world of changing lights and noise,
To light, dark, dry or damp, chilly or warm;
Moving between the legs of tables and of chairs,
Rising or falling, grasping at kisses and toys,
Advancing boldly, sudden to take alarm,
Retreating to the corner of arm and knee,
Eager to be reassured, taking pleasure
In the fragrant brilliance of the Christmas tree,
Pleasure in the wind, the sunlight and the sea;
Studies the sunlit pattern on the floor
And running stags around a silver tray;
Confounds the actual and the fanciful,
Content with playing-cards and kings and queens,
What the fairies do and what the servants say.
The heavy burden of the growing soul
Perplexes and offends more, day by day;
Week by week, offends and perplexes more
With the imperatives of 'is and seems'
And may and may not, desire and control.
The pain of living and the drug of dreams
Curl up the small soul in the window seat
Behind the Encyclopædia Britannica.
Issues from the hand of time the simple soul
Irresolute and selfish, misshapen, lame,
Unable to fare forward or retreat,
Fearing the warm reality, the offered good,
Denying the importunity of the blood,
Shadow of its own shadows, spectre in its own gloom,
Leaving disordered papers in a dusty room;
Living first in the silence after the viaticum.

Pray for Guiterriez, avid of speed and power,
For Boudin, blown to pieces,
For this one who made a great fortune,
And that one who went his own way.
Pray for Floret, by the boarhound slain between the yew trees,
Pray for us now and at the hour of our birth.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

11:17 past milk

Because the smoking gun of any conspiracy is when the conspirators name the conspiracy in text messages on government phones.  Why else mention the secret society meeting if it wasn't actually a secret society?  And what else would you call a conspiracy, anyway?

I wonder if they had decoder rings?  Or at least calendars.....

On the hunt for the secret society's secret sauce

In Advance of the Broken Soul; or, The Fountain Head

It is not, IMHO, possible to improve on Marcel Duchamp's "Fountain" (or any of Duchamp's other works), but offering a solid gold toilet to Donald Trump to use in the residence of the White House (yes, he asked for a Van Gogh for his private pleasure, not for public viewing.  It's good to be King, amirite?) is so good it's almost Dada redux.

Especially when you add what the artist said about why the work of art was offered to the Trumps:

“What’s the point of our life? Everything seems absurd until we die and then it makes sense.”

The only surprise to me was that Trump didn't take it.  I mean, given his affection for gold leaf and decorating rooms with bling, it must have been hard for him to turn down "an experience of unprecedented intimacy with a work of art."  He wasn't going to get that with a Van Gogh!

More likely he already has one at Mar-a-Lago.  But if somebody would ever tweet a link to the Guggenheim's catalog entry for this art installation, he might realize the opportunity it provided to reinforce his relationship to his base:

Cattelan’s toilet offers a wink to the excesses of the art market but also evokes the American dream of opportunity for all—its utility ultimately reminding us of the inescapable physical realities of our shared humanity.

Yeah; art making America great again, bitchez!

The Question of Judgement

I started this and meant to add a prelude of sorts. Never happened, so we begin as I did: in media res.

According to the Vox Article, Ansari and “Grace” were sitting naked on the couch, he having agreed to "slow down,” when he pointed to his penis and she understood his meaning, and gave him a blow job.  She didn’t feel good about this, she now says, and yet she did it.

So how does one signal “affirmative consent” in this situation?  How much more affirmative can you be than to take a stranger’s penis into your mouth?  Or if it’s not affirmative because of her private feelings about the act, which I’m not dismissing, how is the other party to know?  How, in other words, does one evaluate “affirmative consent”?  I suppose if she withdrew and he forced her head back down, that would indicate a lack of affirmative consent (and probably consent, for that matter).  But that didn’t happen; consent was only withdrawn the morning after, or maybe several mornings after.  Even if we establish affirmative consent as the gold standard for all sexual contact, how do we ever determine when it was given, and when it was validly withdrawn?

There was a case, reported widely at the time (my archives are too poorly indexed, i.e., not at all, to retrieve it) of two college students who slept together one night, drunk, if I recall correctly.  It didn’t happen again and nothing was said about it until the next semester, when the woman accused the man of sexual assault.  I don’t know if he was dismissed from the college or simply became a pariah labelled as a rapist by students on campus (which would constitute libel per se, but that’s another matter), but there were repercussions.  And why and when did the student withdraw her consent?  When her mother read the student’s diary about the sexual encounter, and confronted her virginal daughter and persuaded her to charge the man with rape.

Was that a case for “affirmative consent”?  And how, again, would you determine it was given, or withheld?  And that "you" includes us; if we are asked to judge after the fact, we are not only put in the place of the actors, we are put above them and asked to approve or disapprove.

“Affirmative consent” doesn’t move us any further toward clarity than “ ‘No’ means ‘no.’ “  Yes, in matters of sex, ‘no’ should mean ‘no.’  That’s what consent is all about.  But is affirmative consent a stronger ‘yes’ than merely saying ‘yes’, or than agreeing to the sexual contact wordlessly? If it is, how do you make the distinction, and how do you make the distinction clear in every case of sexual contact between two persons?

The sad fact is, we’re back to the power issue.  Rape is not about sexual desire, it’s about power differential.  That’s what I was taught in high school, especially as a response to defenses like “she was asking for it” or “her skirt was too short” or “she shouldn’t have been in that neighborhood at that time of night.”  Rape is not about an uncontrollable urge to fuck; it’s about power.  And all arguments about “affirmative consent” do is shift that power differential to the other party.  Which is fine, if you’re the other party; but it doesn’t solve the problem of rape, nor of sex between consenting adults who can’t even agree on what “consenting” means.

This is not just an issue between strangers, like the first date nightmare of Ansari and “Grace.”  What about consent in marriage, or in a long term non-marital relationship?  If the wife says “No” and the husband does nothing more than persist, is that non-consensual sex that makes him a rapist?  (the distinction between the words “rape” and “sexual assault” is pretty much that the former sounds worse than the latter.).  Is the wife seeking marital concordance, or is she being pressured against her will into accepting an assault (i.e., the tort of offensive contact)?  Yes, it can be forced sex (or rape, if you prefer).  That can happen, even in marriage. Would “affirmative consent” make it better, or let him off the hook?  How?  Isn’t “affirmative consent” somehow more consensual than “regular” consent?  But how?  What do you do to show the former, not just the latter?  If the former is shown by simply saying “all right, all right, all right” at every shift or movement from foreplay to penetration to ejaculation, followed by “Thank God that’s over!”, did that last phrase destroy the affirmation?  I mean, nobody likes to endure bad or unwanted sex, but how finely are we going to slice this, how deeply are we going to invade the bedroom to decide, as a society, if we approve of what two people just did to each other?

I don’t raise this as a way of calling a halt to the conversation, I raise it as a way of asking that we pay attention to what we are asking for.  When I was in college, all of my friends were horny (the guys, anyway), and few of the women were willing (at least on the first date).  Which is not to say nobody had sex, but that few people ran around complaining that they had slept with somebody.  Oh, maybe they told their friends it was a terrible night, but they didn’t tell the whole campus.  Now, we want to involve the whole world; well, at least anonymously.  “Grace” tells the story of her bad date with a celebrity, which is pretty much the fodder of celebrity gossip since Hollywood created movie “stars.”  And society has always weighed in on what celebrities do in their spare time, and who they do it with, and whether or not they are being good role models (i.e., if they should do it).

This is as old as Adam and Eve, in other words, when they figured out they should find some fig leaves.  But what improvement are we making by raising the standard of proof to one that shifts the burden from the accuser to the accused?  One that really can’t be proven by any measure except what one party to the action says they thought, and we are asked to ignore what they did?  What improvement are we making by deciding the complaint should not be among friends, but an issue taken up by society at large?  College students want the college administration to redress their grievances; women on bad dates want....well, what, exactly?  Affirmation that the bad date was not their fault?

Which, I know, is an ugly way of putting it, too; but I'm really left wondering why you tell this story, even anonymously, to tout le internet.  What result are you looking for?  Societal affirmation?  Punishment?  Identification with a popular hashtag?  Part of the issue here is that issue of involving society at large:  why are we being engaged in this?  What are we being asked to do, and why are we being asked to do it?  What is our role here?

I don't ask in order to stop the discussion; I ask because I want to know what we, who are being involved in this, are expected to do about it?  Is the only possible response opprobrium for Ansari's reported actions, or a reaction against "Grace" for reporting this?  Maybe the more fundamental question should be asked:  why do we care?  Because the answer to that question is the answer to the question: whom should we punish?
This raises, I think, an important and difficult question about what we’re doing as a society when we punish. Do we want to use punishment — be it in the criminal courts or through processes at colleges or companies — to create new social rules about what’s right and what’s wrong before there’s a clear understanding of, and something approaching an agreement upon, the new norms?

Why do we punish?  Retribution?  Correction?  Dissuasion?  Confirmation of power?  I learned before my daughter was born not to punish her with physical power (literally, abuse) because that was simply an assertion of power, not an attempt at guidance and correction.  I’ve never raised my hand to my daughter, and never had to.  My parents didn’t practice that restraint on me when I was growing up, and yet looking back I don’t think they had to beat me in order to correct me.  I’m not, in other words, a fan of beatings as a method of moral correction.  In fact, I never punished my daughter intentionally.  I tried to correct her, or protect her (such as yelling at her to “stop” before she ran into the street), but I never tried to simply confirm my power over her.  My qualification is that I did, but by raising my voice, not by raising my hand.

Governments punish.  Governments have the power to sue in civil court and levy fines, but we mostly think of the power of the government properly implemented in the judicial system when they prosecute criminal cases, and most criminal cases involve imprisonment.  Government alone has the power to imprison.  Imprisonment is punishment for a crime, but what do we mean the punishment to do?  Deter the crime?  Correct the offender?  Provide retribution for the victims?  Confirm society’s power?  Certainly in the case of processes at colleges or companies, we are affirming a social power against conduct we don’t approve of.  But does that change the conduct, or just put us in a position of moral superiority and righteousness?

We shouldn’t disdain the conversation about moral superiority or righteousness because we don’t like the conclusion that points us to.  The power to punish, whatever the justification for it, is an exercise of power, and that it always a moral issue.  An adult has the power to punish their child.  Few states would intervene to stop a parent from inflicting corporal punishment on their children, even if the law disallowed such conduct.  And why else do you beat a child, except because you can?  it’s the same reason to get into a street fight:  you do it because you’re able to, but with the assurance the person you are beating can hardly fight back.  You can beat your child (well, with limitations), but try inflicting the same beating on a child on the street who is a stranger to you.  Suddenly you are a pariah, because the reason for beating the child is so obvious, the power differential so severe it is repellant.  We have no moral authority to beat another person’s children, nor should we.  But we claim a moral authority to beat our own children; and on what grounds?

We can’t turn away from the moral issues when discussing the proper use of power; it is what distinguishes proper from improper, after all.  So we’re back to the question:  why do we punish?

The first question of punishment is whether we, as a society, will allow it.  I'm not allowed to punish my neighbor for annoying me by punching him, but I am allowed to slap my minor child for annoying me.  Society may not like it, but they won't allow me to be sued or charged with assault over that slap.  Punishment, then, is sometimes a private action, but only in specific cases.  If "Grace" sent her brothers to beat up Ansari as punishment, that wouldn't be allowed either.  But by publishing her account she wants some kind of response from society for the story she recounted.  She has involved us, for better or worse, so what do we, as a society, do?  Have a conversation?  Or impose punishment?

As the Vox article says, if Ansari were a college student, the likely result of reporting this date would be his expulsion.   If it is reported, wheels are set in motion, a result occurs.  Why else report it, why else have a societal mechanism for responding to it?  We need a society outcome, and that outcome is, most often, punishment.  Maybe we'll have a conversation because of Weinstein and Lauer and Rose and Spacey, but first we want them punished.  We want them punished as a way of enforcing the conclusion we want that conversation to come to:  this is what happens if you behave that way, too.  Or we just want to hurt them, the way they hurt others; or both, and a little bit of neither.

If we are going to punish, we have to ask that question.  We have to ask it, because we have to know what the punishment is for:  An expression of societal outrage?  A deterrence?  An assertion of power over actors whose actions we condemn?

Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose have been punished with the loss of their reputations, their jobs, their position in society, their employment.  We can include Kevin Spacey in that group, too.  Weinstein faces criminal investigations; perhaps the others do, too.  They have been, and may still be, punished.  Is that enough?  Their actions infringed on recognized interests in employment held by others (I know that’s a legalistic way of defining it, but bear with me), which is the basis for sexual harassment laws.  Those interests don’t exist in the case of “Grace” and Ansari.  And here we get to the question of presumptions:  not just the presumption of innocence, but the presumption of culpability. Do we presume culpability based on a societal standard, or based on an individual one?  The difference is important.

The individual standard is:  whatever bothers "me".  But what bothers you might not bother me, so what does society do?  Society has to agree on a standard, at least a concept of a standard, and apply that.  That discussion, in part, is what's being hashed out in the Ansari case:  one one hand, he is almost as bad as Harvey Weinstein, if only because he's arguably more typical of American men than Weinstein.  On the other, this is a de minimus case (from the legal Latin "De minimus non curat lex, the law doesn't not cure small matters.).  What happened is what happens between human beings; communication is never perfect, intents are not signaled as clearly as we think they are, people make mistakes.  This comment by D.L. Hughley was pointed out to me, and it's apropos here:  "Non-verbal cues? I've been married for 35 years and I don't know my wife's non-verbal cues. I don't even know her verbal ones!"  Shit, in other words, happens; learn to deal with it.

Which side is right?  If we put legal teeth behind "Grace's" complaint, the Vox article would be right about the unfairness of this.  But we can't, because "Grace" and Ansari don't have a mutual relationship to an employer (sexual harassment law) or a school (Title IX law, IIRC).  Their relationship to us is as human beings, and as a celebrity (for one of them).  So I ask again: how is society involved in this issue, and why?  Should we punish Mr. Ansari?  He hasn't committed the sins of Lauer, Weinstein, Rose, or Spacey, all of whom offended fellow employees (at least).  Ansari and "Grace" were not college students.  How do we judge them, except by our own perceptions?  Why do we judge them, except it makes us feel powerful?

There are two questions here:  why are we seeking to sit in the place of judgment?  And:  what do we do when we get there?  It's a lovely thing to sit in judgment irresponsibly:  I won't suffer consequences for what I think about Ansari's conduct, or "Grace's".  But why are we judging at all?  What do hurt feelings and regrets have to do with society's interests?

Which connects us to the next question (yes, I'll get there!):  the question of forgiveness.

Dad, get me outta this!

I'm just trying to keep up at this point:

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he would be willing to be interviewed under oath by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

Once more, with feeling:

“I would love to do it, and I would like to do it as soon as possible,” Trump said.

"Send lawyers, guns, and money...."; you know the rest.

“Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer leading the response to the investigation, said Mr. Trump was speaking hurriedly and intended only to say that he was willing to meet,” the New York Times‘ Maggie Haberman wrote on an update to the original report that broke the story.

“He’s ready to meet with them, but he’ll be guided by the advice of his personal counsel,” Cobb told the Times, adding that Mueller’s team was working out “arrangements” with Trump’s personal representation.
So, who's in charge here?

Guilty Dog Barks First

Are we gonna blame Trump for this?

Well, are we?

NBC News’ Peter Alexander cited recent school shootings in Kentucky, Texas and Louisiana, as well as the October 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, where a gunman killed 58 people and left more than 500 injured.

“After the Vegas shooting, you said it was an unspeakable tragedy from that podium, said it was a day for consoling survivors and mourning those who we lost. You said there’s a time and place for political debate,” he asked. “What has the President done in the time since October to try to prevent any of these shootings from taking place?”

Sanders said Trump’s administration has “tried to crack down on crime throughout the country” but claimed it is contending with “two years of increased violence prior to the President taking office.”

“The President instructed his administration to make the recent crime wave a top priority,” Sanders said, and cited violent crime prosecutions, federal firearm prosecutions, gang- and drug trafficking-related convictions as examples of actions.

“But what is the President specifically doing?” Alexander pressed. “You guys said at the time, today was not the day, but we should have these policy—”

“Look, I just read off a lot of the things that he’s doing,” Sanders interrupted.

“You said we should have the policy conversations,” Alexander continued. “So the question is, what is the policy the President is willing to pursue or actively direct others to pursue to help make sure that these students are safe?”

“The Department of Justice instructed ATF to do a thorough review on a number of firearm provisions,” Sanders said, referring to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. “That is ongoing.”

She again cited a “crime wave that took place long before the President ever came into office,” and claimed, “You’re seeing the Department of Justice that is being active, empowering its law enforcements, to crack down on crime, and that’s what those results that I just read out to you show.”

“But our schoolchildren seem to be their own category,” Alexander said.

“I think they’re part of a crime wave, absolutely. I don’t think you can completely separate the two,” Sanders replied. “And you can see some of the things that we’ve done since taking office.”

“Will the President come before the nation and tell Americans how he feels about this issue and try to do what he can with the bully pulpit to help—” Alexander interrupted, before Sanders broke in again.

“I think he has, Peter,” she said. “Hold on. I was polite and let you finish, but let me be very clear on this. The fact that you’re basically accusing the President of being complicit in a school shooting is outrageous.”

“I’m not accusing the President of anything,” Alexander replied.

“The President has been very clear and instructed the top law enforcement agency in this country to crack down on crime and to do everything they can to prevent these types of things,” Sanders continued. “We’ve talked about it here numerous times and we’re going to continue moving forward in that process. Thanks, guys.”

Yeah, that would be a pretty outrageous argument to make.  Wonder why Huckabee suddenly decided that's what Alexander was doing?

*yes, one involved a pellet gun, one was an accidental discharge, 5 of the 11 didn't involve injuries; but are we going to ignore discharges of guns and focus only on "shootings" where somebody is shot?  Isn't that called "normalizing", or something?  Just asking for a friend.....

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat

This is actually rather frightening, but not for the reasons Josh Marshall  thinks (Loud Obbs, after all, doesn't hold public office).   If you pay careful attention to Goodlatte, you realize he never really says anything, just notes a correlation of events which he implies leads to causation.  Sen. Johnson swallows the crazy pill and dives head first down the rabbit hole, although he's since tried to pull himself out:

But Nicole Wallace makes it clear:  these people are doing some really good drugs! This is a conspiracy that even Fox Mulder would think was crazy (and did anyone else catch the alien in the spaceship as Trump on tonight's episode?  Devin Nunes is already sending aides to the Library of Congress to fine their copy of All the Answers.).  My only disappointment is that nobody's connected it to a non-existent basement in a D.C. pizza parlor yet (I still think that's where the FBI was holding their off-site meetings!  Pass it on!  And leave an "X" on your window in tape!  It's the signal!)!

I'm gonna go borrow Mulder's suit and hunt for Sasquatch.  It makes more sense than the news does.

PLEASE GOD!  LET HIM TESTIFY TO MUELLER!  And I'll be extra-special good and won't ask for anything for Christmas this year!!!!!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

This may mean nothing...

But Texas Monthly, usually a fairly reliable GOP (bidness, not craziness) house organ, seems to be hedging its bets.  There are two covers on the newsstands just now, as shown above.  Those are the presumptive candidates for the Democratic and GOP tickets for U.S. Senate from Texas.  Odd that the Democrat is getting so much attention, in a race that should be Cruz's for the asking.  Odd that Texas Monthly should go to the trouble of giving so much attention to the Democrats.

This is Texas, after all.

Maybe TM just feels burned because they went out on a limb for Dan Patrick, and he proceeded to saw it off.

I think TM was trying to get out in front of the parade with that one.  They ended up making Patrick their "Bum Steer of the Year" for 2018, mostly, according to TM, because he pushed too hard on the "bathroom bill."  What happened was, Patrick was never bigger than his mouth, and he used that mouth to get absolutely nothing through the Lege that he wanted passed, even forcing a special session on the "bathroom bill" that he lost, too.  Bob Bullock is the legendary Lt. Gov. of Texas who knew where the bodies were buried and how to make the Lege work; an LBJ clone on the state level, he set the standard for what the Lt. Gov, is supposed to be able to do.  Patrick ended up flopping around in Bullock's shoes and suit, all entirely too large for him.  TM still couldn't face the fact Patrick was an unreconstructed boob whose previous claim to fame was being a radio shock jock, a Limbaugh/Hannity Mini-Me.  Patrick has about that much depth and insight.  He's all ideological hat and no political cattle.  TM can't even bring itself to point out how Patrick made threats against Texas school districts which were following the law.  Granted, some of that was in 2016, and this award is for actions in 2017, but TM put Patrick "in charge" precisely because of stupid stunts like that.  Stupid stunts he tried to use again in the legislative session, to about as much effect as they had on the independent school districts which knew the Lt. Gov. had no authority over them whatsoever.

Oops, as our former Governor said.

So maybe TM is putting a finger in the wind and hedging their bets.  It's not impossible to imagine a Democrat more interested in governance than ideology winning even a U.S. Senate seat from Texas.  I've always maintained Texas sent at least one Senator to Washington because that person was too obnoxious even for Texas (I call this the "Phil Gramm Hypothesis"), and Senator is a choice made by all of us, not just some of us (on the Representative level there are pockets of voters as boorish as Blake Farenthold his own self).  But it is possible to be too obnoxious even for Texas to send you to D.C.  Or Austin, for that matter (there's a grassroots effort to mobilize school employees across the state to vote against Patrick in the open GOP primary in March, just because of how anti-education he really is.).  Business interests finally prevailed last summer in the Lege, and TM is nothing if not interested in Texas bidness.

Or maybe they finally hired a weatherman to tell 'em which way the wind is blowing.

Greatest Legislative Victory Evah!

The government can stay open for three more weeks!

I'll retire to Bedlam.

OTOH:  Had the Democrats just held out, the GOP would have capitulated, resigned en masse, and left the Democrats in charge of the House and Senate in perpetuity!

Yeah!  That's how it works!

Which way is Bedlam?

Oh, and Trump is back on Twitter making an ass of himself and the nation, so there's that.

Was there maybe a door prize?

Later that same day:

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told the White House this week that he has retracted his offer to provide funds for the border wall well above the $1.6 billion that President Trump originally requested, Politico reported Tuesday. Sources say that “Trump will simply not get a better deal than that on his signature campaign promise.” Last Friday, Schumer originally offered the border-wall funds while meeting with Trump, hoping to get “a broader deal to help Dreamers.” Since the government shutdown, a Democratic aide said that Trump has “missed an opportunity to get the wall.”

But Schumer didn't kick Trump in the nuts on national television and declare DACA the law of the land by divine Democratic Minority Leader in the Senate proclamation, so he sux.


Monday, January 22, 2018

Heart in the Deep of Texas Report: Government Shutdown Edition

Yeah, I know, Democrats "caved" today, and gave the government three more weeks of funding.  Which actually means McConnell holds the vote, or Dems walk away in three weeks and let the GOP hold the bag.

And if this is total capitulation for the Dems, why is Ted Cruz talking this way?

“They’re angry, they hate the president and demanding Senate Democrats oppose everything, resist everything, shut everything down,” Cruz said, and Hunt told him that reminded her of what he said more than four years ago. “Now i recognize that is a media narrative you love to tell, but it’s worth noting in 2013 –”

“‘Green Eggs and Ham?'” Hunt interrupted, reminding Cruz of the children’s book he read during a filibuster in 2013.

“In 2013, I voted repeatedly to fund the government, and in 2013 it was Harry Reid and the democrats who voted no, who voted to shut the government down just like this week Republicans voted to fund the government, and it was Chuck Schumer who voted to shut the government down,” Cruz said.

“We should not be shutting the government down,” Cruz said. “I have consistently opposed shutdowns. In 2013 I said we shouldn’t shut the government down. I went to the floor asking unanimous consent to reopen the government.”

Hunt wasn’t letting Cruz wriggle out of that.

“Sir, you stood in the way of that,” Hunt said, and Cruz insisted she was “factually incorrect. “It’s not, though.”

Cruz blamed Democrats for the previous shutdown — but Hunt again called him out by reminding him of his scheme to undo Obamacare before it could fully take effect.

“Sir, that’s simply not the case,” she said. “This was about Obamacare funding.”

Cruz accused the reporter of trying to debate him without any facts, but Hunt kept pushing.

“Why were all of your GOP colleagues angry with you if you didn’t?” she said.

Cruz then tried to escape blame by shoving it back on fellow Republicans.

“In 2013, unfortunately, Republicans were divided,” he said. “That was a mistake and I wrote a book a couple years ago called ‘A Time for Truth.’ I walked through what happened and said the mistake made then in 2013 by Senate Republican leadership was to turn and attack House Republicans, and fellow Republicans and to turn Republicans on each other. That was a mistake. I wish it had not happened and I’m glad it didn’t happen this time. This time Republicans actually stayed united.”

Let's start with Forbes in 2013:

The government “shutdown” properly should be called “the Cruz Crisis.” This indeed is a crisis in the Chinese nuanced sense.

The Chinese character, weiji, usually is translated “dangerous opportunity.” Actually it means “precarious pivot point.”  That describes perfectly where Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx) stands… and has pushed the Republican Party.  Ted Cruz has made himself the point man for the whole, melodramatic, government “shutdown.”  It is part of his high stakes play for the presidency driven by, those who know him say, an admixture of ambition and idealism.

The "shutdown" enamored the angry populists in the Tea Party with Cruz as it was meant to do.  Yet the round is not yet over.  Neither the GOP, nor Cruz, are out of the woods yet.  To pocket his winnings, Cruz needs to help extricate the GOP from peril (into which he helped placed it), neutralize, not heighten, the political negatives, play a major role in holding the House and installing a Republican majority in the Senate. Cruz, if he hopes to reunite America, first must reunite the party he helped divide.

Or maybe you prefer NPR from the same year:

In the second day of a partial government shutdown, Congress is at a stalemate.

On Tuesday night, House Republicans tried to pass three small bills funding popular parts of the government, such as the national parks. But they failed. The White House had already threatened a veto.

That strategy, as with others in this fight, is credited to Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.

Cruz looms large in this government shutdown drama. He's the one who spent the August recess campaigning for Republicans to insist on tying funding for the government to defunding the health care law.

On Monday night, just hours before the shutdown began, Cruz appeared on CNN and suggested the House take up smaller spending bills — one at a time — to fund bits and pieces of the government.

"We should pick the top, the critical priorities, the areas where, if the Democrats force a shutdown, the areas where there'll be the most pain, and let's address that — let's take them off the table," he said. "I think the House tonight ought to pass several continuing resolutions."
Ted is an old hand at blaming the media for his troubles:

Ted Cruz faced a barrage of hostile questions Wednesday from angry GOP senators, who lashed the Texas tea party freshman for helping prompt a government shutdown crisis without a strategy to end it.

At a closed-door lunch meeting in the Senate’s Mansfield Room, Republican after Republican pressed Cruz to explain how he would propose to end the bitter budget impasse with Democrats, according to senators who attended the meeting. A defensive Cruz had no clear plan to force an end to the shutdown — or explain how he would defund Obamacare, as he has demanded all along, sources said.

Things got particularly heated when Cruz was asked point-blank if he would renounce attacks waged on GOP senators by the Senate Conservatives Fund, an outside group that has aligned itself closely with the Texas senator.

Cruz’s response: “I will not,” according to an attendee.
The closed-door Wednesday meetings hosted by the Senate’s conservative Steering Committee are supposed to be private, so senators interviewed for this article asked not to be named.

“It seems that there is nothing the media likes to cover more than disagreements among Republicans, and apparently some senators are content to fuel those stories with anonymous quotes,” Cruz told POLITICO. “Regardless, my focus — and, I would hope, the focus of the rest of the conference — is on stopping Harry Reid’s shutdown, ensuring that vital government priorities are funded, and preventing the enormous harms that Obamacare is inflicting on millions of Americans.”

Then there's this from Texas Monthly about the present.  Reminder:  TM is a usually reliable Republican house organ:

That Ted-I-Am, that Ted-I-Am, he did not like Green Eggs and Ham. Senator Ted Cruz read aloud the Dr. Seuss book as part of 21 hours of extended remarks leading up to the government shutdown of 2013. He liked the book and said he was simply reading it as a bedtime story for his young daughters. But his reading, and the shutdown that followed, propelled the freshman senator to the front ranks of presidential contenders with the support of anti-government tea party activists who backed Cruz’s attempt to use a budget fight to kill Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

But here we are in the government shutdown of 2018. We can’t find that Ted-I-Am here. We can’t find him there. We can’t find him just about anywhere. Other than showing up in the Senate to give the leadership his vote to extend federal government spending until mid-February, Cruz was staying out of the news in the current budget battle. The old Ted Cruz seems to be missing in action.

Yeah, and they noticed something else, too:

This shutdown [in 2018, not 2019, please note], however, is just about everything Cruz might want to avoid as he faces a challenge from Democrat Beto O’Rourke for Senate reelection. It puts Cruz in a test of allegiance between the Republican congressional leadership and President Trump over issues that can only be resolved by negotiating with Democrats.

Just a bit more about that:

O’Rourke had no trouble deciding. He voted against the continuing resolution in the House to keep the government function.[sic] He said he wanted other issues resolved and a federal budget that would keep government operating for a full year, not a few months at a time.

“We have over $1 billion in transportation infrastructure projects authorized but not funded because of this erratic budget path,” O’Rourke said in an email. “And $81 billion in disaster relief, much of it allocated for those who are rebuilding after Harvey, continues to languish in the Senate while Congress remains unable to do its most basic job: fund the government for the full fiscal year. I voted against continuing on this reckless course because I believe that Congress must come to a bipartisan solution to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year.”
Which is actually a pretty sensible position.  Interestingly, O'Rourke represents El Paso, on the farthest western edge of the state.  Yet he's concerned about recovery on the Gulf Coast, the far eastern side of the state.  And Sen. Cruz?  About this he has nothing to say, although it's a big concern down here.

So what is Cruz doing?  Cruz comes from as reliably red a state as Alabama.  He's almost as certifiably right-wing as Roy Moore, with his own family history of Christian crazy to put up against Judge Moore's.    He's also up for re-election to his Senate seat.  So there are three convenient connections between the Jr. Senator from Texas and the would-be Senator from Alabama, who barely lost (but close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades).  So maybe it's another comparison he's worried about:
Yeah, it could be that.  It could be Ted is sweating re-election, is very aware of the ghost of Roy Moore, can see that Beto O'Rourke has nowhere to go but up.  Yeah, he's been peddling the line since 2014; but it has a certain piquancy now that reporters aren't letting it pass unnoticed:

“That was an interesting exchange,” [Kasie] Hunt said. “I would just like to say, I was going back and forth with the senator. He’s technically correct about the way that the procedure of this played out, but there is no question about how the government shutdown unfolded in 2013, which is that Senate Republicans pushed to defund Obamacare.”

“Ted Cruz angered many of his own colleagues, there were testy meetings, he was essentially an outcast,” she continued. “Mitch McConnell was not happy with him, and the government shut down because clearly Senate Democrats were not going to go along with a budget agreement that defunded Obamacare. The dynamics were a little different, but if there’s any comparison to be made here it would be in this particular case Democrats obviously do not control the Senate. They were making certain demands about what is included in a measure, refused to provide the votes for a shutdown. So I think if you want to make a comparison, you can compare Senate Democrats to Ted Cruz.

We'll let Shep Smith have the last word on what Ted said:

“[Cruz is] very much against shutdowns,” Smith joked. “I heard him say it today so I know it’s true.”

And if you look at the pictures here, Cruz in the Democratic stronghold of McAllen was predictably not showered with affection; but O'Rourke, in the GOP stronghold of Lubbock, was.

Shutdowns are not good for anybody.  The primary burden should fall on the GOP who, controlling both houses and the White House, can't even put a budget together.  Three weeks from now, we'll be doing this again; and everyone will be blaming everyone else for it.  What's interesting is how badly burned Ted Cruz is.  One wonders why he didn't follow John Cornyn's example and keep his mouth shut.  He probably thought he should remind the voters he's available.  Funny way to do it, though.  Tells you something about government shutdowns, doesn't it?  And maybe something about the political future of Ted Cruz.

Ted Cruz isn't the only one who realizes now the shutdowns are not popular, and you don't want to be blamed for them:

This shutdown was always going to be decided by the “blame game,” as annoying as that is to say. As each side made their arguments in recent days, Republicans had the more straightforward one—Democrats were responsible for the shutdown because they filibustered a funding bill in order to secure something else. A DACA fix is popular; shutting down the government over one is much less so, especially in many of the states Senate Democrats are trying to hold in November. The polling was beginning to gravitate in Republicans’ favor.

“I hear our numbers are dropping like a rock,” Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York told Bloomberg on Monday.
The real problem is, the Republicans haven't let the Democrats pass a budget in years, and now they aren't capable of passing one themselves.  That's the issue that will resonate with voters in November:  not who shut the government down, but why the government is being funded by CR's instead of a budget.  Trump was right about that, though he stupidly linked it to the filibuster rule without realizing he lost 4 GOP votes on the CR the first time around, and without a budget to vote on, even 51 votes is useless (although that's exactly what reconciliation is about in the Senate):

CR's are the problem the Democrats need to run on; not who is to blame for government closures.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

This is going well....

The simple fact is, there shouldn't be a government shutdown because there should be a federal budget. And the party in charge of Congress and the White House is responsible for the fact there isn't one.

Budgets are negotiated documents, not documents passed by the party with the most votes in either house of Congress.  We have a bicameral legislature, not a parliamentary system where winner takes all.



Read this, from The Daily Beast, and be shocked and appalled:

Pope Francis addressed a group of cloistered nuns in Peru on Sunday, telling them that gossip is akin to terrorism. “You know what a gossiping nun is? A terrorist,” Francis said in Lima to the 500 nuns, who rarely leave their convents. “Because gossip is like a bomb. One throws it, it causes destruction and you walk away tranquilly. No terrorist nuns! No gossip, and know that the best remedy against gossip is to bite your tongue.”

The Daily Beast links to the Reuters article where those quotes are found, so let's read on for more appalling news!

At the start of his last day in Peru Francis addressed some 500 nuns, known as “contemplatives,” who usually live a life of prayer and rarely leave their convents except for medical reasons.

“Seeing you all here an unkind thought comes to my mind, that you took advantage (of me) to get out of the convent a bit to take a stroll,” he said, drawing roars of laughter from the nuns, many of whom were elderly.

Later in his talk to the nuns gathered in a Lima church, he sent a long-distance greeting to four cloistered nuns in his native Buenos Aires. He thanked them for their prayers for him and added, “The rest of you aren’t jealous, are you?”

“Nooooo,” they shot back, like schoolgirls to a teacher.

He also urged them not to succumb to gossiping in their convents, comparing it to “terrorism” - something he regularly tells priests and nuns on his global travels.

“You know what a gossiping nun is?” he asked. “A terrorist.”

The nuns laughed again.

“Because gossip is like a bomb. One throws it, it causes destruction and you walk away tranquilly. No terrorist nuns! No gossip, and know that the best remedy against gossip is to bite your tongue,” he said.

Trying to make his appeal local, he joked that gossiping nuns were worse “than the terrorists of Ayacucho.”

Some Peruvians did not find it funny, comparing a gossiping nun to members of a guerrilla group, especially on a pastoral trip aimed at unifying a politically divided Peru, and turned to social media to call the comments insensitive or disrespectful.

But with all due respect, he wasn't talking to you.  The nuns knew what he meant.  He was speaking to a specific group of people, living under the specific rules of their order (and the Rule of St. Benedict, orders for religious communities that go back centuries and try to keep humans who love to gossip from turning against each other like, I dunno, ordinary people).  He was giving them advice as their spiritual leader.

Calm down; they got the joke, even if you didn't.  And if you don't like the joke, I have no argument with you.  My point was in pointing out the framing.  The Daily Beast headlined their article this way:

Pope Francis: ‘Gossiping Nuns’ Are Like ‘Terrorists’

And removed, as I noted, all context.  Reuters headlined their article this way:

Pope brings down the house, joking with cloistered nuns

Reuters is a news service; The Daily Beast is a website.  Internet websites function by generating outrage.  News services deal in gossip, but try to defenestrate it until it is merely "news."

O brave new world, that has such creatures in it!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

In 1968, Muriel Rukeyser wrote, “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.” At the beginning of “A Short History of Weird Girls,” Chris tells Dick, “I don’t care how you see me.” Looking into the camera, and the audience, she continues, “I don’t care if you want me. It’s enough that I want you.” It’s one of the million potential readings of the 21 minutes of television: a turn from being desired (the assumed goal of any female character, assumed because no one bothered to ask her) to desiring. Chris’ desire makes a man into a sexual object and humiliates and unmoors him along the way. The desires of her female peers threaten even more chaos: new artists, new curators, new voices, new art. The episode’s closing note, “Your time is running out,” speaks directly to men’s fears of being replaced, dethroned, and disregarded. It’s a conversation that bounces back and forth between the world that Jill Soloway created and the one that they inhabit; Soloway and their non-cis collaborators are, in fact, gunning for the funding and acclaim that was previously the almost-exclusive purview of cis white men. And as we’ve seen in the past few months, telling the truth about women’s lives, splitting the world open, has consequences—we’re not talking about a peaceful transfer of power. As Lindy West insisted, “Yes, this is a witch hunt. I’m a witch and I’m hunting you.”

No wonder Soloway has described "I Love Dick" as “a tool of the matriarchal revolution.” But, as Soloway illustrates so deftly, this patriarchy-toppling female gaze is not a blunt, man-hating instrument. The female protagonists approach their cis male specimen with a combination of derision, anger, admiration and desire. They are the rebuttal to every two-dimensional portrayal of women by men. Like Moira Donegan, the creator of the “Shitty Media Men” list noted in her recent self-outing, “This is another toll that sexual harassment can take on women: It can make you spend hours dissecting the psychology of the kind of men who do not think about your interiority much at all.” Again, it’s an idea that "I Love Dick" was already wrestling with—the cumulative days and months that we have all spent in careful consideration of men who rarely look back at us.

But Donegan continued: “There is something that’s changed: Suddenly, men have to think about women, our inner lives and experiences of their own behavior, quite a bit. That may be one step in the right direction.” Speaking on the fear that has finally pushed cis men to consider the humanity of their female friends and colleagues, Molly Fischer wrote for The Cut, “I wondered if the fear men now felt was borne of an alarming recognition: that women whom they may or may not have seen as equals could nonetheless prove a threat.” Which brings us right back to the closing argument of “A Short History of Weird Girls”: “Your time is running out.”

In other words:  it's "our" time to be in charge.

What about a revolution where the first of all is last and servant of all?  What would that look like?

In "I Love Dick," women and their unleashed interiorities wreak havoc on Marfa. Men like Dick, who previously populated the desert with phallic statues and ruled over everyone in it, are suddenly left impotent. It’s a feminist fantasy of a powerful man finally having to reckon with the messy desires (not to mention the vision and intelligence) of the women around him. Soloway seems to acknowledge that they’re essentially creating feminist propaganda. “I know it more than ever with Transparent and Dick, is that I’m a writing a reality,” they told the HuffPost. “I’m writing a reality that I want to live in. And men have been doing that to us since forever, and then you start to kind of wake up to it, you know? And you realize even something that might be an earnest, creative submission to the canon by another white, heterosexual cis male really is also propaganda.”

Not like that, to be sure.  I thought this was supposed to be revolutionary.

The Ariel Poems: Song for Simeon

Lord, the Roman hyacinths are blooming in bowls and
The winter sun creeps by the snow hills;
The stubborn season has made stand.
My life is light, waiting for the death wind,
Like a feather on the back of my hand.
Dust in sunlight and memory in corners
Wait for the wind that chills towards the dead land.

Grant us thy peace.
I have walked many years in this city,
Kept faith and fast, provided for the poor,
Have given and taken honour and ease.
There went never any rejected from my door.
Who shall remember my house, where shall live my children’s children
When the time of sorrow is come?
They will take to the goat’s path, and the fox’s home,
Fleeing from foreign faces and the foreign swords.

Before the time of cords and scourges and lamentation
Grant us thy peace.
Before the stations of the mountain of desolation,
Before the certain hour of maternal sorrow,
Now at this birth season of decease,
Let the Infant, the still unspeaking and unspoken Word,
Grant Israel’s consolation
To one who has eighty years and no to-morrow.

According to thy word.
They shall praise Thee and suffer in every generation
With glory and derision,
Light upon light, mounting the saints’ stair.
Not for me the martyrdom, the ecstasy of thought and prayer,
Not for me the ultimate vision.
Grant me thy peace.
(And a sword shall pierce thy heart,
Thine also).
I am tired with my own life and the lives of those after me,
I am dying in my own death and the deaths of those after me.
Let thy servant depart,
Having seen thy salvation.

--T.S. Eliot

Thursday, January 18, 2018

I'm going to regret this in the morning

So let me get this straight:

1)  It's too hard to say "No, I don't want to go to your apartment."
2)  It's too hard to say "No, I don't want to have sex with you."
3)  It's too hard to say, "I have to go now, I had a lovely time (or I had a terrible time)."

“It’s harder than you think to leave when you’re uncomfortable or scared,” [Samantha] Bee replied.

4)  So you have to say, "Oh, okay, fine, you can fuck me."  Because you're scared or uncomfortable?

And then when you feel terrible about it in the morning, it's all the guy's fault?  Have I got this right?

And this is the world Samantha Bee had "to wade through a sea of prehensile dicks to build [and] enjoy"?

I really am getting too old for this.

Psalm 133

How good and pleasant it is to live together as brothers in unity!
It is like fragrant oil poured on the head
and falling over the beard,
Aaron's beard, when the oil runs down
over the collar of his vestments.
It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling
on the mountains of Zion.
There the LORD bestows his blessing,
life for evermore.

I'm going to start by quoting myself; something I would do more extensively if I could find the post where I think I discussed this story (and the sermon I used it in) before; but I can't.  Instead, I found this:

Jesus never discussed doctrine, ideas, arcana, abstractions.  Jesus told stories.  Most Biblical scholars think the ideas, the doctrines, the explanations, came later.  They vary so much from gospel to gospel; there is so little in Mark (the oldest gospel), so much in John (the newest gospel), that the long discussions and discussions and declamations are generally taken as added material, not very original to Jesus of Nazareth at all.

He told stories.  He presented object lessons.
There are two stories here, actually, both from television.  The first is from the re-boot of "The Twilight Zone," a story titled (IIRC) "To See The Invisible Man."  The premise was fairly simple:  to punish crimes against society, in this case simply the crime of being irascible and somewhat misanthropic (a condition my wife often accuses me of, with good reason), the protagonist is branded on the forehead with a mark that designates him "invisible."  No one can speak to him, trade with him, allow him any human contact whatsoever.  In this society there are cameras floating about, enforcing society's rules, able to call police to punish any infraction:  and flouting the law against "invisibility" is punishable by invisibility itself.  The man is sentenced to one year, and while he starts off defiant, he ends crushed.

At one point he tries to befriend a blind man in a cafe, until someone else whispers to the man "Invisible!", and the blind man curses the convict and rushes away.  At another, he confronts a woman and begs her to recognize him; she is, of course, too afraid and runs away.  The year ends, his brand is removed, and he returns to society a changed man.

Only to run into the woman who was afraid of him, and now she is branded "invisible."  His heart overflows (a Biblical metaphor), and he hugs her and tells her he can see her, even as the cameras swirl around barking out warnings and signaling for the police to come.

It's a powerful metaphor about community, especially now, while we're all reading about the family of fifteen (?) people, 13 of whom were kept locked in the house, some so emaciated and malnourished they don't resemble the adults they actually are.  How could such a thing happen, we ask?  How could so many people remain so invisible?  Not for the same reasons as the story, obviously; but still they were.  And they were in large part because we let them be so.  California reportedly allows parents to establish a "private school" with no more than a signed form, and no one ever investigates the welfare, which would include the education, of the children.  That's how we did it.  We put privacy and individual authority above the concerns of the community for each member of the community.  Until they are adults, we don't protect children unless they are known to be abused, and if we don't know, and don't ask, and literally don't care; well, what do we expect?

The other story is the "White Christmas" story from "Black Mirror."  One premise of the story is that everyone has artificial eyes which can be controlled from a central source, or by the individual; controlled to "block" individuals you don't want to see or hear.  The block replaces the person with a blurred outline, and white noise where there should be a voice.  Jon Hamm's character is punished, at the end of the story, by being put on "the register."  He can see no one, and no one can see him.  As he leaves the police station under this sentence at the end of the story, he enters a busy square at Christmas, bustling with people.  But he can see none of them, can only hear the music being played; can't even see the young vendor who notices Hamm's red outline (the others are silver; his marks his status) and weighs two objects in his hands, as if thinking he could throw them and who would care?  Hamm can't see him, and the others can't see Hamm.

Jon Hamm, like the "invisible" man, is outlaw.

There is a reason I'm not keen on the desire to punish, especially to inflict social punishment.  More and more people of my daughter's generation have decided Woody Allen should be the next target of their righteous wrath, as they learn for the first time (the first story was 25 years ago; you do the math) of the accusations of Rowan Farrow.  The accuser, when she is a woman, must be believed, so Mr. Allen must be punished, or at least branded at last with ignominy.  Why?  So we can have our pound of flesh, of course.  So we can right a wrong that occurred 25 years ago (if it did) which now this "new generation" will set straight.  Not exactly opposing an unjust war or marching for civil rights, but much easier to write about on the internet.

In essence, they wish to make Mr. Allen invisible.  To do that, they must first make him outlaw:  literally, in the original sense, place him beyond the law.  Easy enough:  simply declare the law flawed and incapable of dealing in justice.  Granted, none of this will hurt Mr. Allen.  If he can't make another film in his life, I suppose it will be a personal loss to him, but he won't be tarred and feathered and driven out of New York City on a rail.  Still, there is a desire to create a community, and then to use that community to punish another.  It's a curious drive, but also a disturbing one.  It falls along generational lines (young actors are regretting their work with Mr. Allen, donating their salaries from being in his films to charity; older actors are defending him.  Mr. Allen himself is silent, apparently) in part because all the perpetrators of sexual assault and harassment who have hit the headlines are guilty of offending much younger women.  The young, mickle in their wroth and righteous in their indignation, are determined to cleanse the Augean stables, horses and all.  Or so they seem to see it.

There is wrong, and it should be punished:  but what community are we setting up in order to do it?  How badly to we want someone to be "outlaw," so we can make them a scapegoat?  How badly do we want to label the outlaw, so we can say someone was punished?  And having punished them, will we be able so see they are human again?  Walter Brueggeman point out (apologies in advance for the long quote):

The Bible has notions of life and death which are very different from those we have today.  Whereas we think of life as the continuing functioning of the individual organisms and death as the cessation of such functioning, the Bible understands life and death in covenantal categories  Life means to be significantly involved in a community of caring, meaning, and action  Death means to be excluded from such a community or denied access to its caring, meaning, or actions.   Life means a capacity to enter into covenants and the ability to make covenants which are also community-creating possibilities for others.  Life and death do not have to do, in biblical perspective, simply with the state of the individual person but with the relation between the person  and the community which identifies that person and which gives personhood.   A German scholar,  Jungel, has recently shown that life in the Bible means relatedness. Conversely death is to be unrelated.  Thus the Bible calls into question two of our dominant presuppositions:  (a) that life is concerned primarily with biological functioning and (b) that life concerns a personal unit in and of itself.

The central life-death moment in the biblical perspective is entry into and participation in a community of identity and mission.  Birth is embrace of covenant community, whether we speak of birth or rebirth.  And death is departure from the community, either by force or by choice.  Thus to “choose life or death” (Deuteronomy 30:19) means to decide upon relationship for or against the life-giving community.

In the Old Testament, such an embrace of life means incorporation into the covenant community whereby people are invited in and take vows of allegiance and oaths of fidelity (Exodus 24:1-8, Joshua 24:1-38).  In the New Testament, such a dramatic, intentional act is likely to be identified with baptism which means “putting off an old nature”  and coming into life in “ a new nature” (Ephesians 4:1-24).  The community of meaning and destiny thus has it within its power to give life and consign to death.  In the earliest community this had to do with the pronouncement of blessings and the declaration of curses (especially Leviticus 26,  Deuteronomy 28).  While this may strike us as primitive, it is psychologically and sociologically correct, given a biblical understanding of personhood, that life is the experience of being identified with community and that death means exclusion, banishment, excommunication.  The key issue is relationship, and the primal events are dramatic (liturgic) acts of inclusion and exclusion.  While this sounds alien to us, the same dynamic is clearly operative for a teenage who does not get included in a peer group, a young boy not chosen for a team, a small child rejected by a parent.  The breaking of a significant relationship is an experience of death.
When Jesus says "Do you see this woman?," he's already started inviting her, a prostitute, an outcast, back into the community.  He has already declared he sees the one society would declare invisible.  When the wonderful father throws his arms around the prodigal son, he declares his son has returned to life, has come back from death, even though we know the son has merely been, well....prodigal.  Life is "the experience of being identified with community and...death means exclusion, banishment, excommunication."  I heard an interview on Fresh Air this morning with a former Neo-Nazi skinhead, who attributed the attraction of the group to his feelings of exile from his family, from parents who had to work 14 hours a day, 7 days a week (his description) just to pay the bills.  The group he found gave him identity; one might as accurately say it gave him life.

We have to think about the communities we are so anxious to create, especially so we can exclude people from them.  It is true we should not countenance the actions of Harvey Weinstein or Matt Lauer or Charlie Rose, not even those of Donald Trump, for whom fresh examples seem to come every day.  But if our community is built simply on who we are not, on who we exclude, then what community is that?  Consider the parable of the prodigal:  he tells his father to drop dead because being alive puts him in the way of the son's inheritance.  The father divides his estate and the son cashes in his half and walks away, only to be broke in a short time.  He returns home where the father welcomes him to the elder son's estate, and obliges the older brother to either accept his sibling, or stand outside the party he is paying for, churlishly refusing to accept the glorious news.  The wonderful father has brought his son back to life rather than punish him.  Who among us wouldn't wish that to be done for us?  Who among doesn't think, in this light, that the father's actions are indefensible?  No one is punished, and yet a lesson is learned.

But what lesson?  And can we learn it again?

Asking for a friend....


Parts will be, of necessity, see through and it was never intended to be built in areas where there is natural protection such as mountains, wastelands or tough rivers or water....
Doesn't that description cover pretty much the entire U.S.-Mexico border?

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Speaking of tests

You knew it was going to come to this:

[Trump] blamed his three immediate predecessors, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, for failing to resolve the crisis [of North Korea] and, a day after his doctor gave him a perfect score on a cognitive test, suggested he had the mental acuity to solve it.

“I guess they all realized they were going to have to leave it to a president that scored the highest on tests,” he said.

He declined to comment when asked whether he had engaged in any communications at all with Kim, with whom he has exchanged public insults and threats, heightening tensions in the region.

Of course, North Korea is talking to South Korea, and they will have a joint team in the Olympics in South Korea.  I'm sure that's due to Trump's high score, too.  Give him time, you know he'll find a way to take credit for it.  He's a stable genius, after all.

And that cognitive test he took; not worth all that much:

“I think it’s important to understand what the MOCA does and doesn’t tell you,” Columbia University psychiatrist Dr. Paul Appelbaum told Newsweek. The test was developed as a simple screening tool for mild cognitive impairment—a condition that may or may not lead to dementia. “The fact that anybody gets a perfect score on the MOCA suggests that they are not having changes in cognitive function associated with early signs of dementia,” he said. “It can be very reassuring in that regard. But it’s important to recognize that that’s all it tells you.”

But you knew that, didn't you?

Mole people update

At this point they're just bragging about it....

The Governor of the Commonwealth* of Kentucky:

“Bevin has consistently attacked the expansion as a waste of money, questioning why ‘able-bodied’ adults should be given free government health care that used to be largely limited to children, the elderly and the disabled,” The New York Times explained.
“It doesn’t seem like this will move the needle all that much,” Velshi noted to Gov. Bevin.

“But here is the wonderful thing, what if it moves it for one individual or their children? And think about the trajectory of that family into the future for them to have better opportunity,” said Bevin of his new impediments to health insurance coverage. “It is a great opportunity and will apply to a few but will transform their lives in powerful ways.”

“The intent is not to save money,” Bevin claimed. “The intent is to get people engaged in their own health outcome, because what we’ve seen for fifty some odd years of these programs, Medicaid, we are not helping people’s health become better. We’re not. Especially for those who are able-bodied.”

“That is strange to say, it doesn’t help people’s health get better,” Velshi replied.

“In Kentucky, we have more people than ever on Medicaid and we are — we are increasing in leading the nation in things like lung cancer and things like premature deaths and things like diabetes and hypertension and cardiovascular disease and pick the category,” Bevin claimed.

“Since we have expanded Medicaid we’ve only gotten worse, so the argument would be that well if you provide coverage, somehow people will be healthier. That is not the case,” Bevin claimed.

Medicaid gives you cancer!  You heard it here first!  It also screws with your blood sugar and raises your blood pressure!  It's obvious!  Without Medicaid, Kentucky would be the healthiest state in the union!

Or all the poor people would die off and quit costing us so much money.  Same difference.

But health insurance turns people into drug addicts!  Especially poor people, who have low morals (else why are they poor?!):

“Lawmakers never intended this, but I’m guessing there will be many who will not want to acknowledge it,” said Johnson. “Why? Because Obamacare included a large-scale expansion of Medicaid. During the 2017 debate on repealing and replacing Obamacare, proponents of expansion cited its role in funding treatment for addiction.”

This line of reasoning has been used as a Republican argument to repeal Obamacare in the past. Last March, Conn Carroll, the communications director for Senator Mike Lee, wrote that, “expanded coverage helped cause the opioid crisis. Free pills means more addicts.”

... Medicaid expansion began in 2014, and the opioid addiction was declared an epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2011. The Centers have also said there is no evidence that Medicaid leads to opioid abuse.
Well, that and those nagging facts:

“It’s not Medicaid expansion causing these overdoses, it’s the rise of fentanyl,” a very deadly opioid that Medicaid does not pay for, said Andrew Kolodny, co-director of Opioid Policy Research at Brandeis University. 
Yeah, but what do doctors know?  I think it was the time machine they included in Obamacare that did it! Now get back to work, you lazy welfare cheats!

“While many view Medicaid as the solution to the drug problem, a better solution may be the very thing that Medicaid so often undermines—work,” [Sam Adolphsen, senior fellow at the conservative, anti-welfare group Foundation for Government Accountability] said. “We know that for most people, the best answer to so many of the problems they face is employment. That is where Medicaid has created a very real problem because it fosters dependency.”
People who depend on healthcare are the worst kind of people!