Monday, April 30, 2018

I also understand there may be gambling in this establishment

Andrea Mitchell's other bete noir this week (aside from reality)
After Israeli Priminister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a presentation Monday revealing documents suggesting that Iran has concealed an archive of its research into developing nuclear weapons, the White House released the following statement:

The United States is aware of the information just released by Israel and continues to examine it carefully. This information provides new and compelling details about Iran’s efforts to develop missile-deliverable nuclear weapons. These facts are consistent with what the United States has long known: Iran has a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program that it has tried and failed to hide from the world and from its own people. The Iranian regime has shown it will use destructive weapons against its neighbors and others. Iran must never have nuclear weapons. 
Mitchell read the statement on air and noted that it contradicts what former CIA Director Mike Pompeo testified to before Congress earlier this month. On April 12, Pompeo said of Iran’s commitment to the deal, “I have seen no evidence they are not in compliance today.”

Though Netanyahu’s presentation suggests the Iranians have been less than candid, it did not include any evidence that the country has violated the deal, and it does not suggest that the country has a “robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program.”

“This is basically a lie about US intelligence,” Mitchell said of the White House statement. “It’s stunning.”

Pearls were made to be clutched.  And no, this is stunning (Politifact as 9 pages of Trump's "False Statements.")  WaPo reported Trump had 2000 lies, in office alone, as of January 10, 2018.

The gob, she is so smacked she is numb.

And to keep from posting too many tiny posts on tiny subjects, we return to the topic of Donald Trump's avoidance of responsibility at all costs, or:

Consequences, consequences, we can't suffer any consequences.

Remember when Trump was talking loudly about the world taking advantage of us on trade?  NPR ran a sound bite this afternoon for a story they'll do in the morning, where Trump claimed the country had lost $500 billion (?  I think.  Some ridiculous number he plucked out of the air, like his own statements of his net worth) under prior Presidents due to international trade.  Yes, chest-thumping he can do, but when it comes time to fish or cut bait, he postpones the fishing trip:

President Donald Trump will take another 30 days to decide whether to impose steel and aluminum tariffs on US allies. The president pushed back the deadline to June 1 to allow more time for negotiations with the European Union, Mexico, and Canada, reports the Wall Street Journal.

A 10 percent tariff on aluminum and 25 percent steel tariff had been set to go into effect May 1, at midnight.

The announcement offers some relief from a looming trade war with America’s closest allies. Trump had already suggested that Mexico and Canada would be temporarily exempt from tariffs set to go into effect on March 23, as the three countries work through NAFTA renegotiations. Then, as that tariff deadline loomed in March, the Trump administration extended the implementation deadline to May 1 not just for Canada and Mexico, but for all the European Union countries, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, and South Korea to facilitate possible negotiations.

Now the Trump administration has pushed back that deadline once again, to June 1 for Canada, Mexico, and the European Union. The New York Times reports that Australia, Argentina, and Brazil have reached “initial agreements” with the administration that will let them at least temporarily avoid tariffs. As for South Korea, the Wall Street Journal reports that the administration has finalized a deal that will allow it to avoid tariffs altogether.
Pushed off not once but twice.  And expect it to move again near the end of May; that, or an announcement that the problem has been solved and the world made safe for trade again (nobody really listens to steel makers complain, do they?).  After all, had Trump imposed those tariffs, there would have been consequences.....

If Josh Marshall is right

The GOP is in worse shape than I thought:

There’s only so much we can draw from McNaughton’s painting, though the sales reproductions of his work and his growing fame on the Trumpist right give some indication of how much he resonates. This kind of hagiography is one small part of a story we are fools to miss. Even as President Trump in some ways losing grip over the Presidency, he is tightening his grip on the Republican party. He’s not losing ground on that front. His grip is intensifying and transforming what the core of the GOP is.

Well, maybe.  I'm not sure the analysis is all that keen.  Take this, for example:

The paintings are of course at one level just comical schlock. Most levels, really. But what I want to focus on is the idealized Trump we find in these paintings, a sort of gentle teacher, humbly dispensing lessons, reprising various biblical motifs. This is needless to say, quite different from any actual Trump who has ever walked the earth. Even if you like, perhaps especially if you like Trump, he is the archetypical dominator of enemies. He’s a disruptor. He’s a lot of other things. But this is the most positive read. But here we have the creation of this alternative, godly Trump, which you actually see increasingly in various Christian art produced over the last year which incorporate Trump into scenes communing with or taking guidance from Jesus.

There's always a market for this stuff, especially in "Christian Art."  I had a seminary professor who pasted all kinds of pictures from ads and magazines on his office door (every college has at least one).  They showed a very white Jesus playing soccer with very white very American kids, or helping the boy swing a bat at baseball, stuff like that.  All good athletic stuff; no manly Jesus beaming in the kitchen while a blonde young girl learned to bake a cake or anything like that.  And that was over 20 years ago.  The market for this stuff isn't new, in other words; and I wouldn't read too much into it being a market where Trump is the Christ figure (you can go to Marshall's post to see the pictures).  There's another thing, too, that's going to sharply limit the reach of these pictures:  the only people in them are white people.

Well, here's one without very many white people, for obvious reasons:

White people are normative in these pictures, and obviously are the civilizing force.  Even the "Forgotten Man" in two of the paintings Marshall shows, are white men.  Blacks, Hispanics, Asians even, need to be "forgotten."  This is a white man's world, and the sooner it returns to that, the better. I know that's the attitude of the most fervent supporters of Trump, but they deserve to be seen as a vocal minority.  That racism is resurgent in America after the triumph of the Civil Rights movement and the active dismantling of racist language and ideas and institutions, is not really a surprise.  It is of a piece with the return of militancy in a country that had turned so decisively against war that the TV show "M*A*S*H" was about the hospital; the war that produced the casualties was always off screen and far away, and chest-thumping "war heroes" were never allowed.  And then came "Rambo," and then came space opera again with "Star Wars" ("We're here to rescue you!") and once again America had to fight because bad people had to be fought and one wants to revive the draft or join the military.  Well, some people do, but most would rather not, thank you very much.  We love our militarism; we just want someone else to be the military.

Just as we despise racism, we just want to be free to say, once again, that we don't want our daughter or sister to marry one.  Even as no one bats an eye any longer at mixed race marriages, or even the children of such unions.  We're not bringing back the legal designations of "mulatto" and "octaroon" any time soon, and no one is arguing for a repeal of Loving v. Virginia; there's really barely a peep now about Obergefell (although we're still getting used to what that decision means).  We despise racism, but we love a racist.

Or do we?  I'm sure there's a market for Jon McNaughton's art.  Chick Young made money off his horrific pseudo-Christian tracts (I refuse to call them "Christian" at all).  Thomas Kinkade made a good living selling kitsch.  McNaughton has hitched his wagon to Sean Hannity's falling star (it's only a matter of time until Hannity goes the way of Limbaugh).  That's a good way to make a good living, no doubt; but his art won't change the course of American history, and may be only the visual signifier of why the GOP is losing ground even before November.  Trump and McNaughton want to revive a white world, but that is nothing more than a blush on the cheek of a dying age.  That world is gone and it isn't coming back, no matter how many pictures Mr. McNaughton sells.  It's rather like the gun companies going bankrupt because Obama is no longer in office.  McNaughton may make money as long as Trump is in office, but if he does represent what is "transforming" the "core of the GOP," then the GOP will soon be a discarded apple core, and go the way of the Whigs.

And I don't think baseball playin' Jesus loves me that much.

The First Thing We Do, Is Kill All The Dinners

My time capsule confirms what my memory told me:  Journalists didn't like Stephen Colbert's "roast" at the WHCD, either; even though the journlists got exactly what they paid for.

I would also note that most of the journalists cited in this Slate article are, well, let's say, not "spring chickens."  I don't bring that up lightly, I'm not a youngster any more myself.  But comedy is ultimately transgressive; it's about mockery and irony and jape, and it doesn't always wear well.  I grew up howling at the humor of Groucho Marx, but recently I've read that his banter with Margaret Dumont was insulting to Ms. Dumont.  Which is funny because they were actors reading lines; she wasn't a guest on Groucho's TV show decades later, where he could be quite cruel and cutting without a script.  And I'm old enough to remember when SNL was considered cruel and bitter, rather than funny, a judgment made mostly by older comedians who didn't understand this "young" humor (and I mean back in the says of origin, with the "Not Ready For Prime Time Players," even before "Mr. Mike" had his appearance on the show.  By 1988, Mr. Mike's humor was mainstream enough for Bill Murray's re-make of "A Christmas Carol."  So it goes.)

So, was Ms. Wolff funny?  Depends on who you ask, but I think the answer depends on age as much as sensibility.  Lots of huffing and puffing by people who want to be taken seriously, this morning; people who should simply know better and stay out of the story.  But journalists long ago stopped not being the story (the days of Murrow and Cronkite are indeed dead), so it's no surprise who is weighing in the morning after the morning after.  I have to agree with Joe Scarborough, though:

“I must say, there were quite a few people that I’ve known and I’ve considered friends for some time saying they were shocked and stunned and deeply saddened and they were so shocked by the personal insults that they left early,” he said. “Then they went to afterparties and had a great time there, but these friends of mine for 20 years certainly didn’t call me up and say, ‘Hey, Joe, we’re thinking about you, so sorry he attacked your fiancĂ©e’s appearance. Hey, Joe, we’re sorry that Donald Trump said you’re a murderer and you had to explain to your 9- or 14-year-old boy.'”

“I understand it, I’m a big boy, I didn’t bitch about it at the time,” he added. “But these people so shocked and stunned and deeply saddened that a comedian did what comedians do, and yet they just apologized for Donald Trump over and over again and kept their mouths shut, what a joke.”
I even agree we can do without the WHCD, although I'm also convinced they hire people like Ms. Wolf to make sure they get some press coverage the next day.  I mean, this isn't the first time the comic act has insulted people:

This is also part of the tiresome ritual, which seems to work itself into a full blown hissy-fit every few years. Mitchell [in her tweet used elsewhere on this blog today, ed.] is referring to the Radio and Television Correspondents’ Dinner in 1996 where the comedian for the night was radio personality Don Imus, who rudely referenced the president’s infidelities in front of Hillary Clinton and said that the Clinton administration’s diverse cabinet looked like “the scene out of Star Wars.” Hillary glared and Bill covered his face and everyone was very upset. The correspondents’ association even sent the president and first lady an apology.

But here’s the thing. Clinton regularly appeared with Imus during his campaigns, and the longtime shock jock was even credited with putting Clinton on the map back in 1992. Imus’ show featured a regular parody song about Hillary Clinton with lyrics about how she “fornicates,” “menstruates” and “urinates,” with the refrain: “That’s why the First Lady is a tramp.” He called the president a “fat pantload” and a “lying weasel.” It didn’t stop Bill from calling in and kibitzing with the guy.

Don Imus was a reprehensible racist and misogynist. Yet politicians of both parties lined up to be on his show. And it wasn’t just them. For years after his allegedly despicable performance at that dinner, members of the political press corps kept on appearing with him. It wasn’t until 2007, when Imus described the Rutgers women’s basketball team as “nappy-headed hoes,” that he was finally forced off the air, if only temporarily. (Which made many of his media pals very sad.)

The last time the D.C. establishment had a full WHCD meltdown, it was over the appearance of Stephen Colbert in 2006, who performed as his Bill O’Reilly-esque character from Comedy Central and skewered the attendees to the bone over the sycophantic relationship between the media and the George W. Bush administration. That performance is legendary today, but at the time, everyone in Washington was appalled. Again.

As Wikipedia reminds me, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen called Colbert “rude” and a “bully.” Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., House Democratic whip at the time, told the Hill that Bush was “the President of the United States, and he deserves some respect.” Right-wing operative Mary Matalin called Colbert’s performance a “predictable, Bush-bashing kind of humor” and columnist Ana Marie Cox said that Colbert was no hero and sagely observed that “comedy can have a political point but it is not political action.”

Colbert’s routine was savage toward the press, but in subsequent years they all couldn’t wait to get booked for interviews on his show.

Can we mention at least Clinton showed up for the Imus roast?  And if Sarah Huckabee Sanders is brave for not walking out, Donald Trump is still a coward for not showing up, and for encouraging this kind of behavior where he was:

I guess the tree fell in a forest but no journalist was there to hear it, as they were all at dinner in D.C., so it didn't make a sound.

I'd forgotten about the Ana Marie Cox comment; I remember now I lost some respect for her over that.  Apparently jokes about sex on the internet were one thing, but jokes at a dinner, live, were beyond the pale.  If history is any guide, Michelle Wolf is destined to be memorialized for an historical performance.  The press corps, merely an hysterical one.  So it goes.

And the interesting thing is how much the Press is talking about its Dinner, and how upset they are by the talent they hired; and almost nobody is talking about Trump's rally in Michigan the same night, the rally where these things happened:

Republican commentator Ana Navarro ... explained that the major things that concerned her were that when Trump asked if there were any Hispanics in the room “the entire crowd booed at the mention of Hispanics.” The second piece that concerned her was the Trump supporter rushing to the media pen and telling them that they are horrible and need to get out of his country.

“Maybe the part at the end of this rally where one of his supporters went over to the media pen and started telling them you degenerate filth, get out of my country,” she continued. “If you want to have a real conversation about the White House Correspondents’ dinner, about the tenor of what happened there about the tone, about civility, we also have got to condemn and look at what he’s doing, because you see, I can’t bring myself to hold comedian for one night to a higher standard than we hold the president of the United States for his entire term.”

Joy Behar explained that as a person in power today, Trump can get away with anything.

“So, you know, I was saying that I was fired for saying something one time that he has said 20 million different ways,” she continued. “So, he can get away it. The rest of us cannot. He was saying the Democrats are against the military. This is a man who dodged the draft five times. Who denigrates the Gold Star family. Who denigrated Meghan’s father, John McCain. He just gets up there and says, oh, Democrats hate the military and veterans, I mean, and he gets away it.”

I'm guessing Joy Behar won't be invited to the dinner next year, huh?  Michelle Wolf was much worse than that rally because the press was insulted!  Yeah, we can do without that stupid dinner.

Let's All Sing Like The President Sings! Or not....

I'm proud to be an American, where at least I know my President knows how to insult people.

A-Z, and it's very long.  Good to know he is keeping busy, eh?  Oh, and Ms. Greenspan:  no apology due from the President? Is he worse than Imus, or not as bad as Wolf?

Say What?

I listen to "1A" on NPR, and one of their more annoying habits is to ask listeners to call in about stories they want to cover; the call ins are meant to solicit information they can use for the upcoming show, but it often feels like they are soliciting audience interest, and might cancel a show if it doesn't generate enough phone calls beforehand.

So now the POTUS is running U.S. foreign relations like a call-in show?

I went to his Twitter feed because I'd seen this tweet:
And I'd thought:  Don't you have a summit with North Korea to plan?  Why do you care about a dinner you refused to attend?  And what does "DEAD as we know it" mean, anyway?  We didn't really 'know it' until they started inviting comics like Stephen Colbert, and got the notoreity they were obviously looking for.  If it goes back to being a dull party where Washington insiders rub elbows and swap knowing looks while dining with Hollywood stars they will go back to complaining about on Monday morning, what loss would that be to the republic?  It's not a government function, after all.

But more to the point:  why is the President asking the public for their input on the best location for the Korean summit?  Symbolism?  Or ratings?  Or just more flattery of Dear Leader?

More and more I think impeachment is the best remedy for all concerned.

What is the value of "shock value"?

Trump said that last night:  

 “Tester started throwing out things that he’s heard. Well I know things about Tester that I could say too, and if I said them, he’d never be elected again.”

And I don't think anybody on the Sunday talk shows even noticed.  It hasn't gotten any attention at Raw Story.  TPM picked it up because LiveWire reports almost everything that happens, and even they noted:

It recalled the President’s ultimately empty threat that fired FBI Director James Comey “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”

More than five weeks later, Trump admitted that no such tapes existed.
Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt.  If it showed up on any panel on CNN or MSNBC, Raw Story again didn't see fit to publish the video.  This should be evidence that Trump is "normalizing" such talk; but it's not.  It's evidence that Trump is running out of ways to get our attention.  The stories are getting stale; his schtick is getting old.  We've heard these jokes, doesn't he have any new ones?  Trump is running out of reasons for us to care.  Would losing the House in 2019 be a personal disaster for Trump?  Maybe, but it's not apparent he sees that.  The personal disaster for Trump will be losing his pizzaz, his appeal, his moxie.

It happens:  ask Rodney Dangerfield or Madonna.  Sooner or later fame passes you by, your talents are no longer in demand, your show no longer sells the tickets it once did.  That is Trump's personal nightmare:  that no one will even notice when he says something completely outrageous and meant to be shocking.  If there's a reason he's mad at Michelle Wolf, it's because his show was upstaged, and she's the outrage everyone is talking about the morning after.
That's gotta hurt.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

????????????????????? (More spoilers about "Avengers: Infinity War," if the picture wasn't warning enough)

Somebody somewhere in the depths of the internet has noticed this, but damned if I'm going to look it up.  I finally realized what's wrong with this picture, aside from the fact I never saw this shot in the movie (Black Panther led his forces into battle; he didn't play second fiddle to Steve Rogers f/k/a Captain America at any point).

The Hulk only appears in the first few minutes of the film.  Once Heimdall blasts the Hulk to earth on the Bifrost (his last act before Thanos kills him), Banner lands in the New York sanctum of Dr. Strange, slowly reverting to Banner and never changing into the Hulk again for the entire movie (it's a running....gag?  No.  Plot point?  Barely.  Anyway, it's a bit odd, but makes sense as Hulk would make mincemeat of Thanos' "children," the heavies he sends to earth to fetch the Infinity Stones there.  Regular non-superpowered-as-Hulk-or-Thor superheroes dispatch them all, right down to Scarlett Johansson.  And if he hadn't already acquired the Power Stone (Mighty Morphin Power Stone Rangers!  I know; I can't get that outta my head.  There is something really dumb about all this.), Hulk probably would have ended Thanos before the movie started.

Still:  what is this picture from, and why is it on the intertubes?  It's meant to depict the defense of Wakanda (where Vision is being treated to have his stone removed. No, seriously!), but it doesn't happen this way.

So why did Marvel release it?

Like I said, in the grand scheme of things, who cares?  But this is the internet!  Everything is an outrage to somebody!


No, wait:  no collusion, no collusion.  You're the collusion!

I really gotta get off the intertoobs more.....

Cheer Up, Things Could Be Worse!

So he skipped this:

In order to go here:

Which was "great" because the crowd decided he deserved a Nobel Peace Prize for Kim Jong Un stepping across the DMZ to meet the President of South Korea and agree to dismantle a nuclear testing sight North Korea no longer needs.

Even Trump's public supporters (the ones who put their names to their statements) weren't going that far.  But Trump sought adulation because he couldn't bear the thought of showing as much spine as his Press Secretary did.

And oh yea, proving Trump has the "Reality" stone, and thinks what he imagines is reality:

Gotta be Rasmussen from three days ago.  That one still shows "disapproval" at 52%, approval at 47%, which Trump thinks is good.  538 still aggregates them into 54% disapproval, 40% approval, which Trump probably thinks is good, too.

He also thinks the GOP won't lose the House and Senate in November.  He's about the only Republican office holder who does.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

May You Live In Interesting Times

North Korea is now a nuclear power, which means they can talk to South Korea about removing all nuclear weapons from the peninsula (never negotiate from a position of weakness), and they can even discuss peace.

The leader of North Korea has spoken to leaders in Russia and China, and has Trump agreeing to meet with him, giving North Korea the credibility among nations it has sought for decades (and been denied by wiser Presidents of the United States).

The leader of North Korea scored a major diplomatic coup, crossing the DMZ to meet face to face with the leader of South Korea, where they discussed everything North Korea wanted to discuss, but reached no agreements North Korea didn't want to reach.  North Korea now looks reasonable and rational, and anything Trump doesn't give them makes Trump look the fool.  North Korea will be in the superior position if there is a summit with Trump.

And Donald Trump did all that:

Yeah; sure he did. Well, the part he did is not the part he'll be bragging about. Mostly, he's bragging about what he doesn't understand.

This is not a good thing.

ADDING:  Because this is where we're heading, and it's more than obvious this is what's going on (Macron isn't the only one who knows how to play Trump):

Appearing with Kingston, columnist Brent Bodowsky also downplayed the Nobel talk, calling it the result of “atmospherics” around the announcement while also saying Trump’s claim that North Korean strongman Kim Jong-un is “honorable and very open” was “ludicrous and inaccurate.”

“The CIA equivalent in North Korea was telling Kim Jong-un, ‘I think we have a sucker here. He wants a deal too much and he is praising you,'” Budowsky added.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Comic Book Movies 'R' Us

I have only one thing to say about "Avengers:  Infinity Wars," and it isn't about the movie.  It's about the reception to the movie.  And that one thing is:  "Star Wars."

I don't recall a great deal of criticism, then or now, to how "Star Wars" was serialized.  The first movie (now canonically the "third," but come one, that 9 movie trilogy of trilogies is never going to happen) ended with fanfare and celebration, all of which is wiped away at the beginning of "The Empire Strikes Back," which Vox notes almost in passing "and the next film more or less reversed all of that over the course of its running time."  The key to this is what keeps serialized movies going, and T.V. shows, and comic books.  Again, per Vox, but worth setting off as the key point here:

Most serialized television involves setting up big, epic changes that are then almost immediately reversed.
And I gotta say, that's more or less been accepted about "Star Wars," despite the clear problems of the continuity of the first three films, and the crap of the next three (I gave up after "Phantom Menace", which my daughter, then the age for those films, fell asleep in).  Characterization is terrible in "Star Wars" (it always has been; as Harrison Ford reportedly said to George Lucas during the first film's creation, "You can type this stuff, but you can't say it!"), and frankly continuity is not much better than in the MCU.  It seems there's always a big-bad to fight in a "Star Wars" movie, and whatever jubilation there is (as at the end of 1 and 3) is erased again by the next film (yeah, partly because of the discontinuity of the next three films, but it's also pretty much the way each film goes.  And don't get me started on the "Star Trek" movies after the cast of "TNG" stopped making them.  CGI has made it so easy to destroy the "Enterprise" it's become standard practice in every film.  How many of those massive ships does the Federation have in dry dock for the next movie's destruction?).  But the MCU gets the rap for it, rather than reviewers saying "Meh, that's how it is."

Because, especially in comic books but also in serialization, that is how it is.  The main difference is, the MCU is trying to make a slightly coherent universe (so the ultimate deus ex machina of Franklin Richards restoring the universe won't show up on film; then again, some god of the machine is going to have to, now.) and make the characters a bit more like real people (while keeping them, even the human beings, as super heroes).

Which, okay, there is a problem with the character of Tony Stark, who seems to be determined to quit saving the world at the end of each film, only to do it all again by the next film.  On the other hand, I still can't figure out how Leia is a princess and Luke is not a prince, and both have Darth Vader as a father, who is neither a prince nor a king.  What the hell?

While we're wandering away from the subject, frankly Thanos is one of the most interesting villains in the MCU (which reportedly has a villain problem; and they do dismiss villains with a vengeance, something more to do with movies than comic books.  In the latter, neither villains nor heroes ever die; in movies, ya gotta move on (the exception that proves the rule so far is the Joker at the end of "The Dark Knight," who is captured by the police.  Sadly, Heath Ledger could not return to that role, so the exception seals the rule, too, in a horrible way.)  I find him more sympathetic (if no less insane) than Killmonger in "Black Panther," whom reviewer after reviewer told me I'd sympathize with, even as I knew he was wrong.  It's interesting, because Thanos' ability to kill is on a scale Killmonger could never imagine.  Making villains on screen for comic book movies seems to be a problem no one has solved.  Zemo in "Captain America-Civil Wars" was one of the most interesting, but he died at the end.  Dr. Doom is one of the great comic book villains, but no one has found a way to bring his character to the screen and make him half the villain he is in print.  Then again, I can't figure out the praise and adoration for the screen version of Killmonger, so....*

Okay, more than one thing, or more than a few words, anyway.  But I'm detecting a pattern here.  I got married the year the first "Star Wars" movie dropped, and I never took it as more than a fun movie that had worn out its welcome by the third movie.  I've been watching the MCU movies (most of them) for 10 years largely because I grew up on Marvel Comics characters (though my favorites were SpiderMan and the Fantastic Four, and most of those movies have, frankly, sucked, especially for the latter group).  But the young adult reviewers now dissecting the MCU movies grew up on Luke Skywalker and Han Solo and Yoda and Jedis.  They seem to have a blindspot for them that doesn't apply to the MCU; or maybe it's because the MCU has struggled so hard to connect these movies into a common universe, and "Star Wars" has just established a mish-mosh galactic government where princesses and senators are both elected officials (huh?) and there's an Emperor to be the bad guys, and magic and swords and ray guns and space ships, and frankly the emotional underpinnings are really not much better than this:

It’s when you step back and take a look across the studio’s many movies that they start to feel a little more hollow, a little more like an adolescent understanding of complex emotions that a teen would just barely be starting to grasp (which may be one reason the character of Peter Parker has been handled genuinely well across several different movies).

But in one set of movies its the emotional underpinnings they grew up with, and in the other set of movies it's CGI that made them possible (well, that and acting).  Then again, how many action movies do engage "little more than an adolescent understanding of complex emotions"?  How many Hollywood movies do that, to be frank?  I saw "Phantom Thread" and it engaged all manner of complex emotions, but it was not an action movie and it didn't involve comic book characters.   And it was a rarity for the emotions it did evoke, or at least try to.  Besides, I can name several MCU movies that give more play to complex emotions (within the action movie limits, admittedly) than almost any of the "Star Wars" movies.

I mean, honestly.

Comic books love to develop massive crises that involve cosmic conflicts and massive conclusions, and lots of inside stuff, which made "Avengers: Infinity Wars" almost inevitable (and let's be picky and note the only "war" in the film is at the doorstep of Wakanda).  I'm listening to a podcast on Slate** where they talk about the title card "SPACE" showing up in the movie when the Guardians of the Galaxy appear, and that's meant to be a joke.  The joke is that each Guardians movie uses title cards to identify the planets the action is about to take place on, usually with some numbers meant to represent coordinates.  If you haven't seen those films, you miss that; then again, if you haven't seen the films, you miss the story here altogether.  But if you haven't seen "Star Wars" you've been living under a rock not to recognize "Han Solo" and "Luke Skywalker" and "Darth Vader" and "C3PO" (At least I know those; I've been under a rock since).  So where's the rub, again?

Now in comics there already was an "Infinity War", twice apparently, one ending with half the universe destroyed and that restored by the child of Reed and Sue Richards (or so I read somewhere).  Then there was the death of Superman (covered in "B v. S" and "Justice League" in the movies), which created six different heroes to replace the Man of Steel, one of whom proves an enemy to the resurrected Superman.  Following that, Batman's back was broken by Bane (again, "The Dark Knight Rises") and he had to spend lots of comic book time recovering.  Villains and heroes can't die, however, so the conflicts go on forever. Movies can't do that, and so you get comic book movies where villains die and heroes don't; although some do, when they get tired to playing that character.

And there we are.

But really:  is the MCU that much more disjointed and poorly drawn than the "Star Wars" universe?

*SPOILER, so I'm gonna put it down here; but is no one (I listened to an hour long Slate podcast, and no mention of this) gonna talk about the scene where Thanos does snap his fingers to fulfill his mad dream, and he's transported to a place rather like where Harry went when Voldermort killed him, but Thanos meets his infant daughter Gamora (whom he sacrificed for power, or a stone, anyway) and she asks him what his victory cost:  "Everything," he replies, and she says "Good."  I think the story of the whole movie rests in that tiny space (he is snapped back to Wakanda, where his wish starts to come true, so it was a vision, not an alternate reality).  No, really.

**MORE SPOILERS, if you're really interested in the movie and don't want any.  Not for the first time do I wonder about critics and what movies they see, v. the movie I've just seen.  No, not that scene at the end after Thanos snaps his fingers; but at the beginning.  The movie opens with a voice-over distress call, which we soon see (without seeing anyone sending the message; maybe that's the problem!) is from a ship full of dead people, which we soon figure out is the ship with the Asgardians from "Thor: Ragnarok" (which means two great comic characters are dead!  Korg and Meek, we hardly knew ye!).  They are dead because Thanos has arrived, looking for an Infinity Stone  Later, the G of the G enter the story, responding to that distress call, where they pick up Thor (after we've seen Thanos blow the Asgardian ship to smithereens, as we said in my feckless youth).  The "critics" on the podcast think it a great hole of a plot point that the G of the G just happen to show up where Thor is floating in space waiting to smash on their windshield (space ships have windshields?) like a bug on the freeway, and they can't figure out how Thor got there or why Thanos didn't kill Thor outright.

Although no one apparently survives that explosion except Thor, and the G of the G are there because of...the distress call!  Coming from the ship that has since blown up, leaving one survivor!

No, it's not genius plotting, but it is pretty clear how A gets to C, and yet....

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


The classics never go out of style 
"You can ask President Putin about that. There's been nobody."

We have to start there, with a title like that, right?  But just to make the point that nothing the President says is true or can be trusted:

"(Michael Cohen) represents me -- like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal he represented me."

That would be the case he didn't know anything about, including the payment?

President Donald Trump said on Thursday he did not know about a $130,000 payment made to the adult film actress Stormy Daniels for her silence, his first public acknowledgment of the scandal surrounding an alleged sexual affair that has plagued him for months.

"No," a terse Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One when questioned about his knowledge of the payment, which was made by his private attorney Michael Cohen in the month before the 2016 election.

And this follows, which I put here just because it's weird:

"But I'm not involved and I'm not involved -- and I've been told I'm not involved."

He's been told?  He doesn't know, but he's been told, but Cohen represented him in this matter in which he's not involved, because that's what he's been told?  Huh?

And then, of course, Comey:

He said he gave it to a friend, and he gave it to a friend to leak classified information. It's all classified. It was totally classified. So illegally — he did an illegal act, and he said it himself in order to get a special counsel against me. So the special counsel — and by the way, and Intelligence Committee and everybody else has found no collusion. There's no collusion with me and the Russians. Nobody's been tougher to Russia —

Oh, let's get the rest of it:

TRUMP: — than I am. You can ask President Putin about that. There's been nobody. Between the military and the oil and all of the other things that I've done — the aluminum tax. They send us a lot of aluminum, and I put tariffs on aluminum coming in. The 60 people that we sent out — the 60 so-called diplomats. Nobody's been tougher. Nobody's even been close to as tough as me, and we hear this nonsense. So there's no collusion whatsoever. Well, Comey — what he did, Brian, was terrible. He leaked classified information in order to try and get a special counsel —

DOOCY: He says it wasn’t classified, Mr. President. He says it wasn’t classified.

TRUMP: Oh, it's — well, it's totally classified. And he also leaked the memos, which are classified. Nobody unclassified them. And those memos were about me, and they're phony memos. He didn’t write those memos accurately. He put a lot of phony stuff. For instance, I went to Russia for a day or so — a day or two because I own the Miss Universe pageant. So, I went there to watch it, because it was near Moscow. So I go to Russia — now, I did go there — everybody knows. The locks are there, the planes are there. He said I didn’t stay there a night. Of course, I stayed there. I stayed there a very short period of time, but, of course, I stayed. Well, his memo said I left immediately. I never said that. I never said I left immediately. So he said — and you know, the funny thing, he does these memos and then fake news CNN, who's a total fake — you know, they give Hillary Clinton the questions to the debate, and nobody — can you imagine, by the way, if you gave me the questions to a debate? They would have you out of business —
Steve Doocy is right!

"He's just wrong. Facts really do matter," Comey responded in his interview with Baier. "Which is why I'm on your show, to answer your questions. That memo was unclassified then, it's still unclassified.

"It's in my book. The FBI cleared my book before it could be published. That's a false statement," he added.

Or, if you prefer:

The Feb. 14, 2017, memo was one of seven memos that Comey wrote about his encounters with Trump. The Department of Justice last week sent all seven to Congress — four of them contained some level of classified information, but not the one dated Feb. 14, 2017, that was given to Richman. That memo was labeled “unclassified//FOUO.” As explained by the National Archives and Records Administration, FOUO stands for “for official use only,” which is one of several markings used by some federal agencies for documents “requiring a degree of control” but “do not designate classified national security information.”

It was also unclassified at the time that Comey gave the memo to Richman. In the memo, Comey writes: “NOTE: because this is an unclassified document, I will be limited in how I describe what I said next.”

At the CNN town hall event, Comey reiterated that the memo he gave Richman was unclassified and he noted that Richman relayed the “substance” of the memo to the Times, but not the memo itself. “I sent one memo unclassified then, still unclassified and it’s recounted in my book, to my friend Dan Richman and asked him to get the substance of it but not the memo out to the media,” he said.

Comey also disputed Trump’s use of the term “leak” when referring to the Feb. 14, 2017, memo. Asked if he leaked the memo, Comey said, “Well, not to get tangled up in it but I think of a leak as an unauthorized disclosure of classified information. That’s how I thought about it as FBI director; we investigated leaks.”

Which is why the reference to Comey's book matters.

So, back to the claim of "No Collusion!"  I'm sorry, why should we believe you?

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Is This The Point Where We Say He's Lost the Narrative?

Competition is SO unfair!  It's Un-American!  They should just give it to us!  After all, we won WWII for 'em!  YOU'RE WELCOME!  Buncha dirty ingrates!

P.S.  Do NOT compare this to President Macron's speech to Congress. It will just make you clutch your head and tear clumps of hair out.

Believe me.....

Donald Trump Ruined Ronny Jackson's Career

It's really quite simple.  Trump first said Dr. Jackson was qualified, but he shouldn't have to go through any kind of examination process to head a major government agency:

“I don’t want to put a man through a process like this,” Mr. Trump said. “The fact is, I wouldn’t do it. What does he need it for?”

What he meant was, Jackson hadn't gone through any vetting process by the White House, so why should he face one now?  Trump appointed him, that should be good enough for the Senate.  But this is government, not one of Trump's enterprises.  He still doesn't understand he's not in charge of a privately owned business.

The process Dr. Jackson was subjected to is really no more rigorous than the examination a business employee goes through when interviewing for a job.  But the position Dr. Jackson was appointed to was a public job, and that invites public comment.  There's a reason the Senate has advise and consent power; it's to give the people, through their representatives, a voice and a chance to examine who is running their government.

Now the allegations against Dr. Jackson were so new and unknown NPR refused to even mention them when the Senate began preparing to take his testimony and the stories started to tumble out.  They came out because the Senators couldn't believe what they were hearing and reading, and they were frankly amazed that the White House, playing the role of a "headhunter" consultant recommending a new hire to the client, had failed so badly to investigate the background of the person they were putting forward.  Were the allegations against Dr. Jackson true?  He denies all of them; but this is not a court case, or even a "#MeToo!" allegation.  This is not a celebrity or a powerful Hollywood figure being driven from a position of power or privilege because the public persona and the private person were so much at odds, and the private behavior so damaging to individual employees.  This was a man being appointed to an important government position, accused of drunkenness, DWI, and handing out opioids like Percocet as if they were Hallowe'en treats.  In the context of a Senate hearing to approve a nominee to a government position, these allegations were never going to be tried through an due process hearing or even an FBI investigation.  This man should never have been subject to this kind of public scrutiny over matters that will never be proven or disproven.

And the person responsible for this happening is Donald Trump.  Ted Lieu says:

Put simply, the Trump administration is embarrassing itself and wasting precious time and resources that would be better used nominating serious candidates for the multiple critical vacancies that still exist throughout our government.

But it isn't the Trump Administration that is embarrassed here; it is Dr. Jackson.  By failing to vet him, they put forward a candidate who was going to be destroyed by these stories, whether they are true or false.  And the person who sets the standard of conduct for that administration is only one person: Donald Trump.  The New Yorker argues that Trump's appointments, like Scott Pruitt and Ben Carson and Betsy DeVos:

send messages consistent with the themes of Trump’s never-ending Presidential campaign: he sees the U.S. government as a “swamp” that is best drained by destruction.....We seem to be learning the lesson that Trump wants to teach us: that not only is Washington rotten but it has always been, and will always be.
Or perhaps we're learning that competence in government does matter, and putting incompetent people in the White House destroys the careers of everyone involved.  Are the allegations against Dr. Jackson true?  Is he proof Washington is a swamp and everyone there corrupt?  Or is the lesson that Washington does things in a certain way because that's the way government works best, clanking and creaking machinery that it may seem to be.  Because this is not government working at all; this is government flying apart, with the springs splaying out and the gears flying off and the mechanism shuddering to a halt.

While the man behind the curtain blames the dog for tugging at the cloth and the electricians for the failure of the light show and the plumbers for the lack of steam, when the idea of Trump the Great and Powerful was the problem all along.  Put simply, the Trump Administration is incompetent to organize a three-car funeral, because the President is an ignorant boob who thinks working more than 4 hours a day is too stressful, and that learning about what government actually does and how it actually does it is far too much trouble for his magnificent brain.

When Jeff Sessions tells the House Appropriations Committee:

“Look, I think the American people are concerned, and the president is concerned,” Sessions said. “He’s dealing with France and North Korea and Syria and taxes and regulations and border and crime, every day, and I wish — this thing needs to conclude,” Session said. “So I understand his frustrations, and I understand the American people’s frustrations.”

You just have to look at Trump's Twitter feed or his mishandling, no, his abusive mishandling, of Dr. Jackson's nomination, to know that the President isn't concerned with anything except his poll numbers and his electoral college victory.

“Remember, we won the election. And we won it easily. You know, a lot of people say ‘Oh, it was close.’ And by the way, they also like to always talk about Electoral College. Well, it’s an election based on the Electoral College. I would rather have a popular election, but it’s a totally different campaign,” Trump said. “It’s as though you're running — if you're a runner, you're practicing for the 100-yard dash as opposed to the 1-mile.” 

Oh, and his obsession with Hillary Clinton:

It's been two years, he can let it go now; except he can't.  Worse, his Twitter voice is bleeding over into meatspace.  It took him 48 hours to tweet this much incoherence; he managed it all in 30 minutes on Fox & Friends.

Yeah, that's what everybody is saying.

 Nor, of course, can he take any responsibility for this:

“He’s a great man,” Trump said of Jackson at a White House event Wednesday. “He got treated really unfairly. He’s a hell of a man, too.”

Yes, he did get treated unfairly; but not by the Senate nor by Senator Tester.  Dr. Jackson was treated most unfairly by Donald Trump.

The problem is not government, or Washington.  The problem is who is the head of the government, and working, if only occasionally, in the Oval Office in Washington.

Jesus, Jesus Rest Your Head

This is not exactly a new concept; just, maybe, a new continent for it:*

A sculpture of a homeless Jesus sleeping on a bench has been unveiled outside St Ann's church in Manchester after a service of dedication by the bishop of Manchester.

The sculpture by Timothy Schmalz depicts a figure lying on a bench, with its pierced feet indicating it is Jesus.

The churches of Manchester are actually quite concerned with the homeless, which is a good thing:

Churches across Greater Manchester are active in caring for homeless people and St Ann's itself is working on a pilot project that will provide a warm space, hot drinks and toast early in the morning before any of the city's day centres open.

As I mentioned four years ago, the "controversy" over this statue seemed to be limited to one person. Twitter has another aspect of this matter:

I can't verify that cost (bronze is not cheap, I'm sure).  The only numbers on the cost of the statue I've found is for the one in Baltimore, Maryland:

Archdiocese officials declined to disclose the price of the bronze statue, but versions of "Homeless Jesus" on display in other cities have cost as much as $40,000. An anonymous donor purchased the permanent statue on behalf of the archdiocese.

I found this in connection with the Manchester statue:

The piece was paid for by an anonymous donor and St Ann’s has raised the funds to put it in place.

Make of it what you will.

It's purpose is not to stir controversy, but to make people mindful of Matthew 25.  I mean, if all you wanted to be was controversial, you'd make a statute that didn't look like this:

But like this:

But you'd probably have to do more than show pierced feet for people to get the idea the figure was supposed to be Jesus of Nazareth.

*Not the first on that continent, as it turns out.  That distinction goes to Glasgow; the city, not a church.  No mention of the cost of that statue, except that funds were raised to get the statute, cast in Canada, to Scotland.   Turns out, too, there are already 75 statutes from India to Australia.  Hmmm.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

"F**cking Millenials!"

Those of you who are old enough will remember back to this morning, when I quoted this:

In a world where an advanced degree is mandatory for anyone seeking a future, the generation graduated into a one of the worst job markets since the Great Depression.

Turns out the Universe was clearing its throat quite significantly:

Like most other American high school students, Garret Morgan had it drummed into him constantly: Go to college. Get a bachelor's degree.

"All through my life it was, if you don't go to college you're going to end up on the streets," Morgan said. "Everybody's so gung-ho about going to college."

So he tried it for a while. Then he quit and started training as an ironworker, which is what he's doing on a weekday morning in a nondescript high-ceilinged building with a cement floor in an industrial park near the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Morgan and several other men and women are dressed in work boots, hardhats and Carhartt's, clipped to safety harnesses with heavy wrenches hanging from their belts. They're being timed as they wrestle 600-pound I-beams into place.

Seattle is a forest of construction cranes, and employers are clamoring for skilled ironworkers. Morgan, who is 20, is already working on a job site when he isn't here at the Pacific Northwest Ironworkers shop. He gets benefits, including a pension, from employers at the job sites where he's training. And he's earning $28.36 an hour, or more than $50,000 a year, which is almost certain to steadily increase.

As for his friends from high school, "they're still in college," he said with a wry grin. "Someday maybe they'll make as much as me."

To be fair, the "go to college to get a good job!" mantra was being drummed into the Boomers, too, back when I was teaching the tail end of the Boomer generation in my first teaching job (in graduate school).  I told my near-peers then that was bogus thinking, but did they listen?  Of course not.  If Millenials and Gen X'ers haven't figured this out for themselves yet, I don't think Boomers are really to blame.  Here, let me underline the point:

"There's that perception of the bachelor's degree being the American dream, the best bang for your buck," said Kate Blosveren Kreamer, deputy executive director of Advance CTE, an association of state officials who work in career and technical education. "The challenge is that in many cases it's become the fallback. People are going to college without a plan, without a career in mind, because the mindset in high school is just, 'Go to college.'"

Yeah.  Damned Boomers screwed that up, too!  Or maybe it's just that walking blindly toward a goal you are told to walk blindly toward is not necessarily a good idea; or somebody else's fault, either.


It's a pity the audio isn't available for that GIF.  Then again, the context would help, too.  Still, it's priceless.

Mmmmm, cookies.....

(I know; I just like the picture.  Besides, socialists are Reds, right?)

I really do need to find a transcript of Macron's speech to Congress (first, let's understand how lazy I am):

I believe in this rights and values. I believe that against ignorance we have education. Against inequalities, development. Against cynicism, trust and good faith. Against fanaticism, culture. Against disease, medicine. Against the threats on the planet, science.

Why can't we get an American politician to speak English this well?  Or even this well?

Some people think that securing current industries and their jobs is more urgent than transforming our economies to meet the global challenge of climate change. I hear these concerns. But we must find a smooth transition to a low-carbon economy. Because what is the meaning of our life, really, if we work and live destroying the planet, one sacrifice things for the future of our children. What is the meaning of our life if our decision, our conscious decision, is to reduce the opportunities for our children and grandchildren.

By polluting the oceans, not mitigating CO2 emissions, and destroying our biodiversity — we are killing our planet. Let us face it. There is no planet B.

Or show this much wit in their native tongue:

“Let us work together in order to make our planet great again,”

And in a lesson from the Old Country:

“To protect our democracies, we have to fight against the ever-growing virus of fake news, which exposes our people to irrational fear and imaginary risk,” he said. He continued:

Without reason, without truth, there is no real democracy, because democracy is about true choices and rational decisions. The corruption of information is an attempt to corrode the very spirit of our democracies.

He even does a better job of quoting us back to ourselves than we do:

“Anger only freezes and weakens us,” he said, to applause. “And as Roosevelt said, the only thing we have to fear it is fear itself.”

That one I'd like to apply to the whiny Millennials I read about (on-line only; and they said irony is dead) complaining about how the Boomers screwed them.  Of course, I'd have to explain who Roosevelt was, and the context of the quote.

But Macron can freakin' reason!  In a speech!

Therefore, let me say we have two possible ways ahead. We can choose isolationism, withdrawal, and nationalism. This is an option. It can be tempting to us as a temporary relief to our fears. But closing the door to the world will not stop the evolution of the world. It will not douse but enflame the fears of our citizens. We have to keep our eyes wide open to the new risks right in front of us. I’m convinced that if we decide to open our eyes wider, we will be stronger. We will overcome the dangers. We will not let the rampaging work of extreme nationalism shake a world full of hopes for greater prosperity.

"Eyes wide shut" may become my new idee fixe, my new figure of speech for modern American politics in general.

And even show us the way forward, as Vox notes after those words:

It was a message that received overwhelming Democratic support, and a less than tepid response from the Republican side of the aisle.
Quelle surprise, as the French say.

And is this just about Iraq, about the Middle East?

We must ensure stability and respect sovereignty of the nations, including that one of Iran, which represents a great civilization. Let us not replicate past mistakes in the region. Let us not be naive on one side. Let us not create new walls ourselves on the other side. There is an existing framework called the JCPOA to control the nuclear activity of Iran. We signed it at the initiative of the United States. We signed it, both the United States and France. That is why we cannot say we should get rid of it like that.  (emphasis added)

Yeah, I don't think so, either.

And here I want to say:  "Feature, kemosabe; not bug", as I must add emphasis again:

I believe facing these challenges requires the opposite of massive deregulation and extreme nationalism. Commercial war is not the proper answer to this evolution. We need a free and fair trade for sure. ... At the end of the day, it will destroy jobs, increase prices, and the middle class will have to pay for it. I believe we can build the right answers to legitimate concerns regarding trade imbalances, excesses, and overcapacities by negotiating through the world trade organization and building cooperative solutions.

Which takes me back to this; and what are we going to do about it?  It's not enough to cheer the speech, or enjoy who made it and where.  We have no excuse for not putting it into action, and should be ashamed our politicians, even our best politicians, appear so mendacious against this Frenchman.

How The Cookie Crumbles

(I'm being told it's not THAT macaron.)

I'll look for a transcript of this speech later; but this is what French President Emmanuel Macron said to Congress, after his "bromance" (or was it a power struggle?) photo-ops with Trump yesterday:

"The 21st century has brought a series of new threats and new challenges that our ancestors might have never imagined," Macron said. "We can build the 21st century world order based on a new breed multilateralism, based on a more effective, accountable, and results-oriented multilateralism."

He continued: "This requires more than ever the United States involvement as your role was decisive for creating and safeguarding this free world. The United States is the one who invented this multilateralism. You are the one who has to help now to preserve and reinvent it."

Macron specifically mentioned the Iran nuclear deal, which he's been trying to convince Trump to change his mind about, but has been facing an uphill struggle. Trump railed against the deal Tuesday, calling the agreement negotiated by the Obama administration "insane" and "ridiculous" for failing to contain Tehran.

The French President said his country is staying in the deal -- "because we signed it," Macron said.

"Our objective is clear. Iran shall never possess any nuclear weapons. Not now, not in five years, not in 10 years, never."

"We should not abandon it if we don't have something more substantial instead. That is my position," Macron added. "Your President and your country ... will have to take its own responsibilities regarding this issue."

He also stressed the importance of taking care of the environment, a pointed remark given Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord and his appointments of officials prioritizing deregulation over environmental concerns.

"I am sure one day, the US will come back and join the Paris agreement." Macron said, adding simply, "Let us face it: There is no planet B."

"We must find a smoother transition to a lower carbon economy," he said. "Because what is the meaning of our life, really, if we work and live destroying the planet while sacrificing the future of our children?"

Macron's address coincided with the 58th anniversary of then-French President Charles de Gaulle's address to a joint session of Congress.

Macron -- who has been dubbed by some observers as a "Trump whisperer" -- has been able to develop one of the closest relationships Trump maintains with a world leader. He started his speech thanking and praising his American counterpart. He stressed the importance of the relationship between the United States and France, a relationship forged since the start of the US.

"We have shared the history of civil rights," he said. "Thousands of examples come to mind. One would think of the exchanges between our cultures across the centuries."

Oh, and about those tariffs:

Macron directly disputed Trump’s argument that trade imbalances should be cause for withdrawing from multilateral agreements and imposing tariffs, arguing that the latter would ultimately decimate the middle class by destroying jobs and increasing prices, and was inconsistent with a commitment to global security. Trade imbalances are problematic, he said, but countries should address them through the World Trade Organization. “We wrote these rules. We should follow them,” he said.

And about "America First":

“We can choose isolationism, withdrawal or nationalism,” Macron said in his first address to Congress since his election last year. “But closing the door to the world will not stop the evolution of the world”

There was reportedly lots of cheering in the chamber throughout the speech, although one disgruntled GOP Representative tried to label Macron the future of the Democratic party, and he didn't mean it as a compliment:  

 “French President is a socialist militarist globalist science-alarmist… the dark future of the American Democratic Party.”(ellipsis in original)
Yeah, I think they've gotta do better than that.   "Socialist militarist globalist science-alarmist" is just so....fetch.

It's never gonna catch on.

Another doomed bromance?

We Were Talking

"We are speech creatures. We do wail to he addressed. 
And when we are decisively addressed by one with power and credibility,
 it does indeed change our world."--Walter Brueggemann

about the space between us all.  Well, I was talking; you were listening; er...reading.


And not for the first time; on all counts.  Comes now Thought Criminal with a post I should just refer to, but instead will steal copiously from (Eliot said bad poets copy, good poets steal.  I am not a good poet, and this is not theft; but it is a long quote.  Make of that what you will.).  The words of Brueggemann, the ideas of TC, all of this applicable to what, I...was talking about.  The bold is Brueggemann, as in the original; the rest is TC:

Israelite Hope Verses Enlightenment Despair

At the culmination of Israel's portrayal of reality is a certitude and a vision of newness, a full restoration to well-being that runs beyond any old well-being.  This culmination in well-being, assumed by the resolve of YHWH, is articulated in the conclusion of most psalms of complaint and in prophetic promises that eventuate in messianic and apocalyptic expectations.  Israel's speech witnesses to profound hope, based in the promise-maker and promise-keeper for whom all things are possible.

Israel refuses to accept that any context of nullity - exile, death, chaos - is a permanent conclusion to reality.  Israel, in such circumstance, articulated hope rooted not in any discernible signs in the circumstance, but in the character of YHWH (based on old experience), who was not a prisoner of circumstance but was able to override circumstance in order to implement promises.  This hope is not incidental in Israel's life;  it is a bedrock, identity-giving conviction, nurtured in nullity, that YHWH's good intentions have not and will not be defeated.  As a consequence, complainers anticipate well-being and praise.  Israel awaits home-coming, the dead look at new life, creation expects reordering.

All of this requires confidence in an agent outside the system of defeat.  Enlightenment liberalism, which sets the liberated, self-sufficient human agent at the center of reality, can entertain or credit no such agent outside the system.  Without such an agent who exists in and through Israel's core testimony, there are no new gifts to be given and no new possibilities to be received.  Thus, put simply, the alternative to Israelite hope is Enlightenment despair.  In such a metanarrative, when human capacity is exhausted, all is exhausted.  Ultimate trust is placed in human capacity, human ingenuity, and human technology.  It is self-evident that such a trust cannot deliver, and so ends in despair, for self-sufficiency is only a whisker away from despair.  Such a reading of reality engenders fear and hate, self-hate, and brutality.  But Israel, inside its peculiar testimony, refuses such a reading.

I state the contrast as boldy and sweeping as I know how.  The drama of brokenness and restoration, which has YHWH as its key agent, features generosity, candor in brokenness, and resilient hope, the markings of a viable life.   The primary alternative now available to us features scarcity, denial, and despair, surely the ingredients of nihilisim.

To be sure, for all its venturesome witness, Israel did not always choose cleanly.  Israel accommodated and compromised.  It practiced scarcity as much as it trusted generosity.  it engaged occasionally in denial, for all its embrace of brokenness.  It lived close to despair, for all its resources of hope.  The amazing thing, in my judgment, is hot that Israel compromised;  it is that Israel kept its testimony as sustained as it did amid the pressures and demands of its circumstance.  It kept its testimony enough of a coherent assertion that it was able to say, in the voice of YHWH, to itself, to its children, and to any others who would listen.

"See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity.  If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess  But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to ther gods and serve them,  I declare to you today that you shall perish;  you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.  I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death,  blessings and curses.  Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him;  for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob"  (Deuteronomy 30:15-20)

I will point out to you that those three men mentioned in that last sentence were a pretty rhum lot.  Abraham in such episodes as his forays into Egypt where he denied his wife was his wife because Pharaoh was attracted to her, having an out of wedlock child with his wife's slave Hagar, only to send her and the child away when Sarah became jealous,  Jacob in how he hoodwinked his brother and father into giving him the birthright that was intended for Easu, among numerous other incidence, he wrestled with an angel sent by God, so he contested with God, in effect.   Wrestling with God and God's message is as monotheistic as that story.  It is not a stained glass view of conventional piety, it is a sweaty, sometimes bloody struggle full of every emotion from the depths of despair but also with the promise of eventual fulfillment.

This Deuteronomic assertion, derivative from the vision of Moses, provided durable enough for Israel that in its season of rehabilitation, Ezra could still affirm:  "Nevertheless, in your great mercies you did not make an end of them or forsake them, for you are a gracious and merciful God" (Nehemiah 9:31).  The choosing between construals of reality is something Israel always had to do again.  And the choosing is not finished yet. 

In the book Brueggemann points out that none of that is a guarantee and that since what is guaranteed is that people will not be consistent in keeping up with their end of it, all of the human institutions that are created, even those intended to be dedicated to doing that, will, at times fail and at times fail disastrously.   Every accusation and charge against religion, against churches, though, are a result of them failing to live up to the morality that they, themselves, hold to be true but which other systems and ideologies deny.  The promise isn't a guarantee of perfection, it is an assertion that better is possible. Change is possible, that people deserve that change because they have rights given them by God.  Atheism has nothing in it that makes such an absolute assertion of people having rights and moral obligations to respect the rights of other people and after so many centuries of they being able to find them in atheism if they were there, they have come up with nothing.

Let the People say:  "Amen!"