Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Age Matters

Joe made a couple of gaffs at the end.

It was late. He was tired. And besides, all web addresses look alike, don't they?  (Isn't that what the kids call them?)

I Guess They Could Hold Hands

...and chant "Trump sucks! Trump sucks! Trump sucks!"

It wouldn't be anymore of a debate, but then how would we know who to vote for as Most Likely To Succeed?

Finally, an Historic Accomplishment!

Apparently he's the only person

...who says that.

Don't bother, they're here....

Apparently one of the horrors of living in Baltimore is people thinking vacant lots are public property where they can do whatever they want:

HUD officials hoped to stage their event on a vacant lot, but didn’t ask for permission from Morning Star Baptist Church of Christ, which owns the land and hopes to build a parking lot there, said church member Gregory Evans. Evans asked the HUD group to move.

“It’s nothing personal,” Evans said from the church lobby, where he was reading The Baltimore Sun and checking children in to a vacation Bible school camp. “I didn’t know it was Secretary Carson. I just know there were a bunch of people over there that were taking over our site. And we said, ‘Why are they here?’ They’ve not even asked for permission to be here.”

Evans said the church has had persistent troubles with the lot, with construction crews for other projects leaving materials on the site.
But the HUD official trying to hold the "event" there was Ben Carson (who apparently thinks empty lots make good backdrops for talking about housing), and he thinks it was animosity, not property rights, that were involved:

Carson was not pleased. He cited what happened as an example of people refusing to work together to solve Baltimore’s problems.

“We just have all this animosity all the time,” Carson told reporters during the press conference. “For instance, you guys know, you were set up on this property, and right here is this church that said: ‘Get off our property.’ You know, a church? When we’re talking about helping the people. I mean, this is the level to which we have sunken as a society.”

When pressed to clarify his comments, Carson responded: “What I’m saying is, you know, we have a society in which people, instead of trying to be helpful, think only about themselves. That is a problem.” 
Which is a Trumpian level of irony and obtuseness.  Carson was thinking only of himself, his staff has no clue about advance work, and they thought they'd just help themselves to the empty lot (nobody owns empty land in a city, right?).

But wait!  It gets better!

Evans said the church serves the community, distributing clothes and food, offering addiction counseling and providing youth programs. He said HUD has done little to help the neighborhood under the Trump administration.

HUD officials pointed to the nearby Hollins House apartment building, which was renovated through a federal program. That work began under the administration of then-President Barack Obama, a Democrat. 
No, not just that:

Carson’s hastily arranged trip — the Sun was notified Tuesday night of his plans — included not only the snafu over permission to use the location. It also involved a last-minute invitation to Cummings, whose district it is in, and confusion on the part of HUD officials over whether it was in an Opportunity Zone, a federal economic development program Carson sought to tout.

According to Cummings’ office, the congressman was invited Tuesday night but could not attend because of schedule conflicts.

Caitlin Thompson, a HUD spokeswoman, told reporters the neighborhood where Carson spoke is in an Opportunity Zone; however, government maps show both the vacant lot and the Hollins House building are just outside the boundaries of one. 
Clowns.  The entire Administration is a clown car.

Of course.

This Man

...answers to the President of the United States, and is responsible for the department of the federal government concerned with Housing and Urban Development.

And yet both he and his boss offer no solutions to the problems that beset an urban area like Baltimore, they only offer partisan political carping.

This is not how government works.  Period.  This is not governance, period.  This is what it looks like when the inmates are put in charge of the asylum.

Framing is Everything

Not exactly the same thing as giving workers ownership of the means of production or nationalizing the farms and factories of America.

Moscow Mitch is Upset

On the Senate [floor], McConnell indignantly asserted, “I don’t normally take the time to respond to critics in the media when they have no clue what they’re talking about, but this modern-day McCarthyism is toxic and damaging because of the way it warps our entire public discourse. Facts matter. Details matter. History matters. And if our nation is losing the ability to debate public policy without screaming about treason — that really matters.”

My favorite part of that is how much of that screaming, especially and specifically the use of the term "treason," is coming from the Oval Office.

Earth to Mitch:  suck it up, buttercup.

Adding:  I found that tweet via Google.  Turns out I didn't have to work that hard.

The fish rots from the head, Mitch.  That's another old country saying you should become familiar with.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

So Here We Are

Either choice is a risk. Elections always are. So how large is the number Axelrod identifies, and how large is the number who would be inspired by the possibility of those positions? It's all about which question you ask.

Tim Ryan Just Won My Heart

"Money Talks"

Yeah, I mentioned this before:
This at least gets at a basic issue in this debate which has drawn very little focus, at least in the political realm if not among policy analysts. Current Medicare itself actually doesn’t eliminate private care. Roughly a third of beneficiaries choose a Medicare Advantage private plan. This is still significantly different from anything that now exists in the private market. These are private plans but they have to abide by a tight regulatory framework defined by Medicare. Of course, beneficiaries can opt back into traditional Medicare or choose a different Advantage plan if they choose, so that provides competition beyond the regulatory regime.

The other side of this is that Medicare pays the bills for a population that needs medical care, but can't pay for it.  The burden on the hospitals alone would be ruinous without Medicare, which is why hospitals accept the lower reimbursement rates of Medicare:  it's better than being stuck either turning people away (the optics of that are horrific, because these aren't the invisible homeless) or treating them without compensation.

My 90 year old mother has been in the hospital more in the past 2 years than my family has been in 42 years.

That is the other issue, the one no one wants to mention; the same issue that made Obamacare such a horse-designed-by-a-committee mess that it is.  I heard this morning about two patients presented with medical bills in the range of $1 million because their hospitals were "out of network."  The problems of surprise billing are all the rage.  But the problems of fixing it present the problems of "Medicare for All":

Those stories got the attention of [California] lawmakers, who put together legislation that would take two key steps. First, it would prohibit providers from seeking those extra payments directly from patients. Then, it would instruct insurers to pay providers a set amount, based on what the providers would normally get from insurers, with an option for the providers to petition for additional payments if they thought the amount was too low.

It is the same approach California’s existing legislation takes for the limited groups of people it already covers and, broadly speaking, it is the same approach now under consideration at the federal level, where legislation to end surprise bills has slowly generated bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress. Even President Donald Trump has said he wants to do something about the problem, which means the proposals are likely to become law if they make it to his desk.

But, as the California story shows, that is a huge “if.”

Providers, especially hospitals, have gone to war over the state’s billing proposal. They insist they are all in favor of protecting patients from surprise bills. The problem, they say, is the remedy. The California bill would, in effect, force out-of-network providers to accept some form of Medicare or in-network reimbursement rates, or some blend of them. That would be less than the providers can charge now, obviously, and it would also set a precedent ― namely, allowing the government to dictate their fees.

Doctors and hospitals have a lot of clout in Sacramento, as they do in most state capitals. As Anthony Wright, executive director of the consumer advocacy group Health Access, quipped to HuffPost, “We have 450 hospitals in California and we suspect that each of those CEOs has the personal cellphone of the assembly member from the district.”

Supporters managed to get the bill through the State Assembly but two weeks ago its co-sponsors, Assemblymember David Chiu and Sen. Scott Wiener, tabled the measure (meaning they will hold it over until 2020) just as the Senate was preparing to take it up.

They didn’t mince words about why. “This bill curtails a practice that generates billions of dollars of profits for hospitals, and lobbyists and CEOs for the most profitable hospitals in California have made it abundantly clear they will protect profits over patients,” Chiu and Wiener said. “That level of moneyed opposition proved insurmountable at this time.” 
The "level of moneyed opposition" is what turned Obamacare into such an unholy mess.  Not all of that opposition came from insurance companies, but they got the lion's share of the blame.  Would that it were so simple, in the end.  If Kamala Harris, as Josh Marshall argues, is misreading polling on support for "Medicare for All," the rest of us are misreading reality.  I don't really buy the argument that everyone "loves" their private insurance; if that were true, no one would love Medicare, and people on Medicare love it because it pays the bills and, especially if they buy an inexpensive (well, compared to market costs for full insurance) supplemental plan, they never pay a dime (I pay my mother's bills.  I've never paid one to a hospital or doctor, and never received any "suprise billing."  I have had that experience on my insurance, but not on her Medicare.).  Doctors and hospitals accept Medicare because the cohort is small and payments reliable, and because it isn't socially (or morally; doctors are people, too) acceptable to just let old people die.  Expand that to the whole population, and suddenly reimbursement rates plummet.  The moral imperative also shifts rather dramatically, and at least since the time of Nixon we've had it drummed into us that the business of American business is business; and medicine functions in this country as a business.  That is a problem that will "solve" Medicare for All long before Medicare for all solves that problem.

Some institutions, especially the ones with clout, are going to be in opposition; but it won't be just  the "evil insurance companies."  And besides, everyone loves their insurance; they just despise the companies they don't get their insurance from.  How much more do they love their doctors, and their hospitals? Everybody loves their doctor, hospitals are ridiculously expensive, but who wants less hospital care? Do you want to go back to renting a TV? Or return to 1950's technology? If we make healthcare affordable, can we also make housing affordable? Both should be done, but is either just a matter of one simple law?

There's not going to be a simple solution to this, and it's not going to be because of politicians misreading poll numbers.

But Texas Is Not Even Purplish!

Is it? (This is the second Texas GOP rep. to announce retirement this week.) And this is what I meant earlier: While I have you here: She's right. And it's not radical. The law wasn't enforced by W., or Obama. Trump is the outlier, not the norm.

To be honest, so are the rest of us

"...or all the rest is desolation."

Well, yeah, but...
And to sharpen that point a bit:

Several White House officials expressed agreement during a staff meeting on Monday morning that the president’s attacks were a bad move, according to people informed about the discussion, but they were uncertain who could intervene with him — or if anyone would even dare try.

They privately scoffed at the idea that it was strategy rather than impulse, concluding that any political benefit he might derive by revving up his conservative, largely white base could be offset by alienating more moderate voters in the suburbs of states like Wisconsin and Michigan that he needs to win a second term.

Again, but:

And on the Hill, rats flee the sinking ship and stop to curse the captain:

 Congressional Republicans told the Hill that morale in the caucus is low after functioning as the minority party in the House, and President Donald Trump isn’t helping.

“The odds are against us retaking the majority,” an unnamed senior Republican lawmaker told the Hill.

The lawmaker partly put the blame on Trump, who’s “made an already hostile political environment worse.”

“Every day there is some indefensible tweet or comment to defend or explain,” the Republican said. “It is exhausting and often embarrassing.”

Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) told the Deseret News on Monday that he wouldn’t seek reelection.

And the House Republican caucus was hit especially hard last week when Reps. Martha Roby (R-AL), Pete Olson (R-TX) and Paul Mitchell (R-MI) all announced that they were leaving Congress.
Future's so bright, I gotta wear shades!  And nothing is certain except more uncertainty!  Although:
Disparaging the Rev. Dr. King would be dropping an enormous turd in the national punchbowl, an act even Trump isn't dumb enough to try.  You do almost wish he would, though, just to see Republicans try not to notice it.

Grandpa Ranty on the front lawn

You'd move away from the guy at the bar talking this way, and hope he had a way to get home safely and sleep it off.
Especially when he insisted he doesn't have a racist bone in his body.....

Godwin's Other Other Law

We need a new law that when a lawyer publicly invokes the Constitution as a magic shield against or for a position, the argument is automatically suspect if not invalidated, for pretty much the same reasons as Godwin's Law.  It doesn't stop the argument, or give you a rhetorical win; it just makes you look stupid.

I can't imagine what Constitutional provision is impaired by a statute requiring candidates on a ballot to release their tax returns.  All states have laws restricting who can be on their ballots, and those laws basically protect the two majority parties (as well as eliminate the chaos of a ballot of thousands for any one office).  If that restriction isn't arbitrary and/or "unconstitutional," I can't fathom how this one could be.

Everyone but Me and Thee

The "African American community" is highly unified, so they need only one phone line to express an opinion they all hold.

Too much?  Consider:

Funny how a simple change in wording makes the original statement look as bizarre as it actually is.

Oh, and racist, too.  If Trump said "White people are calling the White House, they all love me!" we'd take it as referring to a small group, not the entirety of white people in America.  But when he says "the African American community," we're all rather comfortable with that phrasing.  That doesn't make us racists; but it does mean we still think too much in racial terms and categories.  And we seldom think about what that means.

Which is why it's going to be very hard to campaign against Trump as a racist.

Twitter is not the universe

I'm not even sure it's the majority of Democratic primary voters.  Yes, Trump is a disgusting racist; but how do you play that to your advantage?

Except maybe just don't get in the way of a man shooting himself in the foot?

Monday, July 29, 2019

Somehow I kinda figured

This is what was going to happen:
"I have been here five different times in four or five months, so it was not damage control," Owens told reporters outside the Oval Office. He also said he would find it "hard to believe" that the President is a racist, considering what he claimed the President has done for the African American community.

"When you look at the opportunity zones, when you look at what he's doing for our prisoners, which is a main factor," Owens said. "The fact that he met with us today is a factor. He wanted to know from us what should he do in America."

Owens, the founder of the Coalition of African-American Pastors, is a long-time Trump supporter who has equated former President Barack Obama's support of same-sex marriage to supporting child molestation.

"If you watch the men who have been caught having sex with little boys, you will note that all of them will say that they were molested as a child ... " Owens said at a news conference in 2012. "For the President to condone this type of thing is irresponsible." He later walked those comments back, saying he didn't think the President was condoning molestation.

Owens said Monday the group told Trump he needs to address its racial divide.

"This country needs healing," he said. "There's so much division in America along racial lines. It's worse than it was years ago, it's worse."

The reverend did say the President was ill-informed when he told four congresswomen of color to "go back" to the countries from which they came.

"I felt that he should have more information because only one was not born in America, so that tells me he had not done his homework on that issue. But I think those four people needed to be criticized," Owens said. But he also added that sometimes, the President doesn't get enough credit.

"He's right sometimes. He's never given credit for doing anything," Owens said.

Another participant in the meeting, Alveda King, side-stepped questions from the reporters, but said that Trump is "concerned about the nation as a whole," and pointed to high employment rates in the African American community.

"Inner city" was the tell.  You have to be at least this old (points at self) to recognize that term without blinking.  And call me suspicious, but when people leave a meeting talking almost exactly like Trump, I don't think it was really a meeting to learn anything, except how much these pastors admire Trump.

Pretty much all he wants to hear from anybody, anyway.

Twitter is the place for half-assed arguments

Is the pregnant 16-year old prosecuted for clear violation of rape laws? No? Maybe because most state laws exclude prosecution of minors engaging in sex with each other, but prosecute adults having sex with minors. Adults like, oh, Jeffrey Epstein.

First rule of legal analysis I learned: "Change the facts, change the outcome." Second rule: know when to sit one out.

Trump's Favorite Pastor

Will he ask them if they are Christians?

Trump's favorite pastor, or perhaps the pastor whose favorite President is Trump, is Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church in Dallas.  It's a storied "mega-church" once led by W.A. Criswell, a reprobate and racist who accepted integration but never really, to my knowledge anyway, repented of his segregationist ways.  Criswell like the world the way it was in Texas and wanted it pretty much left alone from what he'd grown up with, and Robert Jeffress seems to be much in the same mold.

That's what I draw from this Texas Monthly article I've mentioned twice already.  It's not a particularly good article.  The author interviews Jeffress several times, and avoids any easy critique of his subject's weltanschaung, which restraint is admirable.  He even likes Jeffress as a person, which is almost laudable, since we too easily equate ideology or theology or personal philosophy with character.  But the article doesn't give you any real insight into Robert Jeffress, either.  It may be he is a remarkably opaque person, someone who knows what he thinks and stands by what he believes and offers no more self-reflection than a brick wall; a kindly, polite, personable brick wall, but still.  Still, Robert Jeffress likes Donald Trump.  He considers Trump a friend, and that friendship breeds a loyalty that is apparently unshakeable and make Jeffress forgive, forget, or just ignore, whatever Trump says that is troubling, disconcerting, immoral, or even evil.  Which is, in a way, an insight into Jeffress:  he has faith in Donald Trump.  That faith may be an adjunct of his faith in God, or faith in himself, or faith in what he believes.  But the only faith we can verify from this article, is that Robert Jeffress believes in Donald Trump, and he's not going to allow anything to interfere with that.  He seems to think it is his duty.

It's almost admirable.  I have friends I've known since childhood, and I would not speak against them lightly for any reason.  I would admit their flaws, if you were a reporter and my friends prominent public figures you were interviewing me to learn more about.  I don't mean I'd reveal stories I alone know (I don't have any, actually), or uncover things they'd wish left covered in perpetuity (ditto), but I'd be honest about their weaknesses and their strengths, as I see them (though, being a friend, strengths would be easier to identify, weaknesses just an acknowledgment they still put their pants on one leg at a time).  Jeffress doesn't know Trump that well, and it is obvious from the anecdotes in the article Trump's relationships even with his most devoted sycophants (it's hard to think of Jeffress any other way, from this article) are all transactional:

A few months after that, in August, the White House hosts an elaborate dinner for a hundred or so evangelical leaders from across the country. Franklin Graham is there. So are James Dobson and Paula White, a TV host and pastor of a Florida megachurch. Jeffress is one of the preachers Trump thanks by name.

Reading prepared remarks, the president lists his evangelical-friendly accomplishments: issuing orders limiting government funding for groups that provide abortions, helping to free an American pastor being held in Turkey, moving the embassy to Jerusalem. Of course, there’s no record of him mentioning any of these issues before campaigning for president and meeting people like Jeffress.

At the end of his short speech, Trump thanks the religious leaders. He calls them “special people.” Then he looks up from his script.

“The support you’ve given me has been incredible,” the president says. “But I really don’t feel guilty, because I have given you a lot back.”

Jeffress gives Trump his unqualified support.  Why?

“Basic core spiritual issues” is usually his answer when I press him on why he goes out of his way, again and again, to defend Trump. He cares about religious liberty—which for him essentially boils down to whether churches and businesses should be required to provide birth control for employees and whether businesses can deny service to gay or trans people. And nearly every policy discussion eventually comes back to what he sees as the national battle that started in Dallas when he was a teenager. He believes Roe v. Wade, not the issue of sexual assault or of judicial temperament, was at the heart of the fight over the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. The Democrats were worried that Kavanaugh’s rulings would “somehow lessen the number of babies being murdered every year in the womb through abortion.”
Which is not much of an answer, frankly.  Jeffress, it turns out, is a careful public figure, a politicians himself.  He says his congregation welcomes all political persuasions, all races, all types (well, not gays; they're going to hell.  Jeffress is quite happily clear on that point,  Like many a conservative preacher I've known, they always seem comfortable with damning some people to eternal torment just because.)  He speaks in defense of Donald Trump on television at the drop of a hat; but he never quite says just why he's so devoted to Trump, except, at the end of the article, to say he considers Trump "a friend."  Maybe it's because he and Trump share a trait in common:

This is why Trump is the sort of warrior evangelicals have long craved, a warrior who will fight for their beliefs regardless of whether he holds those beliefs himself. This is why Jeffress doesn’t worry about Trump’s personal behavior. “When you’re in a war, you don’t worry about style,” he explains. “Nobody would have criticized General Patton because of his language. We’re in a war here between good and evil. And to me, the president’s tone, his demeanor, just aren’t issues I choose to get involved with.” (When I look this up later, I learn that some top commanders and many members of Congress did criticize—and discipline—General Patton for verbally abusing and slapping two soldiers. He was suspended from his command and made to apologize.) 
I could have told you Patton was reprimanded for slapping that soldier.  My father remembered the incident (he remembered nothing else about Patton) and he despised Patton for it, decades later (the subject came up when the George C. Scott movie came out).  Jeffress, like me, is far too young to have ever known that story except as history; and he gets the history wrong, but it's the example he needs, not accuracy.  Early in the article Jeffress is on Lou Dobbs show, defending Trump's border wall by declaring the Bible describes heaven as a place with a wall around it.  The Bible says no such thing.  Revelations 21 describes the "New Jerusalem," but that's a concrete metaphor of the "basiliea tou theou" announced in the Gospels; it's not a description of an existent reality. Revelation describes a city as it would exist in the 1st century, not an eternal structure that cannot be altered.  I know Jeffress takes the Bible literally, but this is laughable, and as impossible to literalize as the nativity stories (Luke moves the Holy Family back and forth from Nazareth; Matthew moves them from Bethlehem to Egypt, and then to Nazareth.  It can't be both.).  But Jeffress wants a wall to keep people out of America he thinks don't belong here (he also balks at AOC's reference to Matthew's nativity story, where the Holy Family flees to Egypt, refugees fleeing the death sentence of Herod.  AOC is a good Catholic, and knows her Bible stories well.  Jeffress scoffs, claiming Egypt didn't have a border patrol, so the Family couldn't be refugees.  No, it's not an argument that holds up to the barest scrutiny.  Then again, it's not meant to.  One reason Jeffress never defends his positions in an interview; he has no interest in defending what he says.  He believes it, that's good enough for him.  Self-reflection, self-examination, seem as foreign to him as the concept God loves all of creation, not just the part that is Jeffress' brand of "Christian.").  He has an anchor, in other words, for his claim "the Bible says," but that anchor depends on a very particular and peculiar hermeneutic, and I doubt Jeffress is any more reflective on that than Trump is on himself when he gathers his Cabinet to hear them praise him on camera.

The only conclusion I can draw from this article is a rather obtuse one:  Robert Jeffress has faith in Donald Trump.  Maybe it's the abortion issue, and Trump's Supreme Court nominees will eventually overturn Roe v. Wade, an issue Jeffress is adamant about but which he can't explain to his interlocutor except on the grounds that “We didn’t have the ability to view a life inside the womb as we do today and understand that that’s a real, live human being.”  Who are of value until they are born:

What about children at the border and the administration’s policy of separating families? Doesn’t he think we should protect babies at our borders too?

“Look,” he tells me, “if you have a woman who is convicted of a bank robbery and she has an infant child and she’s sent to prison, I mean, her baby is going to be ripped from her.”

But of course, we have gradations of crimes in this country, and crossing a border—even if it’s illegal—is a far different thing than robbing a bank. This policy was instituted as a deterrent. I remind him that many people, including some Baptists, believe it’s a callous way to treat children.

“If we don’t secure our borders, we’re enticing the needy people, the persecuted people, to make a dangerous journey to come to this country or try to enter illegally, and I think, in part, we are morally responsible for doing that,” he tells me. He compares it to laws that hold homeowners responsible when a child strays into an unfenced pool and drowns. “We’ve got to figure out a way to secure our borders and at the same time deal equitably and justly with people who want to enter this country for legitimate reasons.”

A wall at the border is a fence around a private pool is the New Jerusalem; somehow.  And the difference between a "real, live human being" in the womb, and out of the womb, is:  the womb.  Huh.  Wonder what he'd think about that?

Jeffress has told me he was drawn to Trump’s leadership and intellect. “He’s a very smart person,” he’s said. “You don’t become a billionaire and president of the United States by being an idiot.” But none of that quite explains why a pastor goes out of his way to publicly defend the president’s every indiscretion. He could easily vote according to his views on the Supreme Court or according to his conscience on abortion without also going on TV, over and over, in front of hundreds of thousands of viewers, to explain away things like Trump’s adultery and language that inflames foreign policy. He could be in favor of immigration reform, for example, and not feel compelled to rationalize the separation of families. He could believe that God has put someone in power and still hold that person to a high moral standard.

What, at the end of the article, is Jeffress' explanation?

 “I’m his friend,” he says. “I’ll never walk away.”
I won't walk away from my friends (even if they wish I would!).  But neither will I defend fervently and publicly everything they ever said or did.  It seems to me this is beyond friendship, that this is faith.  Faith as trust, I mean.  Maybe that's a bit disturbing, since it seems very much to be blind faith; but Robert Jeffress faith in God has earned him a prominent position of power and authority and prosperity, even if he doesn't sound anything like Joel Osteen (plenty of pastors of my childhood, especially of the Southern Baptist variety, were only a whisker away from the prosperity gospel, anyway).  His faith in God has been amply rewarded, even if I'd argue it was his faith in mammon and American culture, not God.  Who am I to judge?  I don't wish to.  I just find it interesting his faith in God has led him to have what I can only understand as the very same faith in Donald Trump.

Still, Jeffress told Trump that God wanted Barack Obama to be president, so maybe God is backing a Democrat in 2020, just to fulfill God's mysterious plans.  It could happen.

The Good Guys With a Gun

...were there within a minute.  Not enough to keep two people from dying, and 13 others from being wounded, some quite seriously.

And the shooter was 19?  Holy shit, this kid wasn't old enough to drink or buy cigarettes.

This is evil, and that evil's on us.

Hillary was right?

Now can we call them "deplorables"?

The President Works On Commission

And only for select clients who seek him out.  The price of his effort is flattery. This is a limited time offer.  Operators are standing by.

Just a (tired and befuddled) conman at work!

I know there's supposed to be some deep strategy here (Steve Bannon thinks racial division and racist outrage by Trump=electoral win), but this just reads like a ranty old man; and the subsequent tweets just get worse.
"King Elijah"? A Texas Monthly article on Robert Jeffress said Jeffress has seen Trump workshop Twitter insults, but this one needs to stay in the shed. And everything is about praising Trump (or failing to):

Sunday, July 28, 2019

This is normal...

Because Congress functions best when it is as sycophantic as Trump's Cabinet. Oh, and Elijah Cummings is the real racist. You can't make this stuff up. And why would you want to? And so we don't lose sight of it:

"I read the news today, oh boy!"

A) The courts won't waste any resources on that bullshit.

B) OTOH, if Ratcliffe wasn't crazy, he wouldn't be up for DNI.

C) Consider how lucky we are; Ratcliffe wanted the AG spot.

D) Remember the census cases? The courts will sanction lawyers who bring charges Ratcliffe is talking about. If Barr doesn't know that, it'll be time for mass resignations.


Worth a try

This sort of analysis can be analogized to Texas, although Denver area is 3 million, and Houston is 4 million all by itself (Dallas-Fort Worth is 6.8 million).  The urban areas of Texas (San Antonio, Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth, Austin) are blue (Austin ain't the blueberry in the cherry pie, by a long shot).*  The Valley is blue, as well.  The other cities (Midland-Odessa, Lubbock, Amarillo, Abilene) are probably more red; certainly surrounded by red.  Of course, Texas has 254 counties, so there are a lot of people spread out over a lot of land, especially in West Texas and the Trans-Pecos (Yeah, Texas has:  Central Texas; Hill Country; South Texas; the Valley; Trans-Pecos; West Texas; East Texas; North Texas; Panhandle, so about 10 distinct regions.).

But Texas went for Trump by less than double digits; had the Democrats tried, even barely, they might have flipped it.  Beto's epic run and near-success created coat-tails that flipped Houston/Harris County distinctly blue, although we are right next door to distinctly red counties.  Still, a good showing has inspired people that Democrats can win, and will inspire them again.  Any effort by the Dem candidate (especially if she picks a Texas running mate like Julian Castro) could actually pay off in electoral college dividends.

There's a lot of people down here who despise Trump, and just need a reason to vote against him.  Rick Wilson keeps saying this race is a referendum on Trump; that would actually sell pretty well in Texas, where good turnout could swamp the people who elect Louie Gohmert (East Texas, where I was born and mostly raised).

Worth a try, anyway.  Texas is an ATM for campaigns; might as well drop a little of that coin back in the local economy.  It might multiply.

*CO is definitely more liberal than TX; it even has its own version of Berkeley:  Boulder.  I love visiting Boulder, but I think it would drive even me a little nuts to live there.  It's also expensive as hell, and for urban Colorado, that's saying something.

Reality Goes There To Die

The White House is a bubble, and none dare tell the Emperor he's naked.

The Innocents in the Border Patrol

Better safe than sorry?

Ted Lieu: Sofi is not a criminal or a national security threat to the United States as a 3-year-old, correct?

Hastings: I don’t know the background in this case, sir.

Ted Lieu: Do you know any 3-year-olds that are criminal or national security threats to the United States?

Hastings: No, I don’t.

Ted Lieu: Sophie’s grandmother was not a national security or criminal threat to the United States, correct?

Hastings: I don’t know—again, I don’t know the background of what her grandmother or relatives were.

Brian S. Hastings is Chief of Law Enforcement Operations for Customs and Border Protection.  Rick Scott is undoubtedly very upset by any suggestion that Chief Hastings is not as innocent as a new-born babe, and just doing his job by treating a 3 year old and her abuela as criminal or national security threats until proven otherwise.

From the CPB website:

To safeguard America's borders thereby protecting the public from dangerous people and materials while enhancing the Nation's global economic competitiveness by enabling legitimate trade and travel.

What the Agency aspires to become...

To serve as the premier law enforcement agency enhancing the Nation's safety, security, and prosperity through collaboration, innovation, and integration.

Our shared identity, beliefs and aspirations...

We are the guardians of our Nation's borders.

We are America's frontline.

We safeguard the American homeland
at and beyond our borders.

We protect the American people against
terrorists and the instruments of terror.

We steadfastly enforce the laws of the United States
while fostering our Nation's economic security through
lawful international trade and travel.

We serve the American people with vigilance,
integrity, and professionalism.


Vigilance is how we ensure the safety of all Americans. We are continuously watchful and alert to deter, detect and prevent threats to our nation. We demonstrate courage and valor in the protection of our nation.

Service to Country is embodied in the work we do. We are dedicated to defending and upholding the Constitution of the United States. The American people have entrusted us to protect the homeland and defend liberty.

Integrity is our cornerstone. We are guided by the highest ethical and moral principles. Our actions bring honor to ourselves and our agency.
I'm trying to puzzle out what high ethical and moral principles aimed at protecting the American people against terrorists and instruments of terror enhance the nation's security by separating a 3 year old from her family for 47 days until a court ordered them to be reunited.

But I'm sure there's an innocent explanation.

Liar, liar, pants on fire

He's not "gaslighting." He's simply lying.

That was last night; this morning he made perfectly clear what is really bothering him:
"Innocent people"? Whoever can he mean?

The man projects like a Cineplex.

Compare and Contrast

The Trump Foundation was shut down by New York state because Trump was treating it like a piggy bank.

Mick Mulvaney Makes It Too Easy

Mick first, then Twitter:

“In fact median household income in the district is in the upper half nationally and Columbia, Maryland, which is part of the district, has been called the safest city in America. So what is the president talking about?”

“I think Maryland on a per capita basis the richest state in America yet you still see pictures on the internet of complete poverty in Baltimore, Maryland,” Mulvaney said, adding that the president attacked Cummings because of his “illegitimate” remarks about the border.

[Chris] Wallace brought the conversation back to Trump’s attacks on members of “The Squad,” four congresswomen who have been critical of Trump.

“Nobody objects to the president defending his border policy but this seems to be the worst kind of racial stereotype,” Wallace said. “Racial stereotyping. Black congressman, majority black district. I mean, no human being would want to live there? Is he saying the people who live in Baltimore are not human beings?”

Mulvaney argued that Trump should not be called a racist for attacking members of The Squad because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has also had disagreements with them.

“You say it has zero to do with race,” Wallace pressed. “There is a clear pattern here.”

Wallace reminded Mulvaney that Trump had attacked Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and his “crime-infested” district before his inauguration.

“Then, two weeks ago he goes after these four members of ‘The squad,’ all women of color, and says they should go back to the crime-infested countries from which they come,” Wallace continued.

“Then he talks about Elijah Cummings and he says his district is rat and rodent infested. It sounds like vermin. It sounds subhuman and these are all six members of Congress for people of color.”

“I think you’re spending way too much time reading between the lines,” Mulvaney replied.

“I’m not reading between the lines, I’m reading the lines,” Wallace shot back.

"We" does not include Mulvaney or Trump.

This was Fun

TLW even Chuck Todd is not buying your weasel words

I saw this on MTP this morning, too:

While speaking to Scott on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday, host Chuck Todd noted that Trump had recently referred to Cummings’ affluent district as “rodent infested.”

“He’s done it multiple times this month alone,” Todd said of the racist attacks. “He obviously thinks this is good politics.”

“Do you think it’s good politics inside the Republican Party?” the NBC host asked Scott.

“Let’s look at why he did it,” Scott replied. “Cummings sat there and attacked our border patrol agents.”

“That justifies a racial resentment tweet in response?” Todd pressed. “Is that presidential leadership?”

“Look, I — I didn’t do the tweet,” Scott stuttered. “I can’t talk about why he did what he did. But I’m disappointed in people like Congressman Cummings.”
Now Border Patrol agents are sacred cows who must be coddled by politicians and spoken of only with reverence?  And that overrides racism?

Really pathetic; but it was fun to watch Scott squirm.

Right, Rich Lowry?

Because only white people should decide what is and is not "racism."

It's all about the power of definition.  Which is to say, it's all about power; and white people like Trump and Mulvaney aren't about to give that up.

Old Times There Are Not Forgotten

Rich Lowry on MTP just now said the charge of racism us so overused it's no longer meaningful.

I'm older than Mr. Lowry, because I remember hearing that "argument" throughout my childhood. The rest of the panel was too polite to call "bullshit" on his claim. I will.

Like patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, denouncing "racism" as an empty word us the last refuge of a racist.

I will not, by the way, deny for one moment that I am racist in my attitudes, if only because I notice differences in people based on race, and draw conclusions accordingly. In America it is impossible to say racism is worn out, or is only the province of people in white sheets. Racism isn't worn out; it clearly isn't even broken in yet. To deny racism, and the pervasiveness of racism, is to reinforce it. Period.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

The View From New York City

Uber and Lyft are cited as partial support for the thesis. But somebody has to own a car for that to work. Declining car ownership world-wide is also cited. More likely that means the steady rise in ownership has peaked. Decline does not mean cars are disappearing, or that we are all Uber now. Most if us still live in any city but NYC, and need a car for almost everything modern life demands. Houston is the 4th largest city in the country, and no closer to mass transit that isn't freeway based than it was before I-10, the major east-west street, was widened to one of the largest on the planet. There's a 250 mile loop under construction around the city, the third one. Uber is not gonna fill that thing, nor are buses. If history is any guide, it will be filled as soon as it is finished.

And self-driving cars are so far away they will remain figments of our imagination for the foreseeable future. The argument is those will eliminate private ownership, too. Who will own them, I wonder? The same cities that can barely afford garbage trucks (yes, I speak from experience)? The cities that need federal funds to afford buses designed to carry 50 at once, not just one? The number of cars will stay the same, just the ownership will shift to: all of us?

Is this a joke?

Trump isn't interested... using government to solve problems.
or recognizing he sits at the top of a series of governments, all with overlapping responsibilities.
He'd rather make someone else responsible, so he won't have to be. He thinks this is how it works.

And for now, this is normal.

Who is going to be first to point out....

....that responsibility for living conditions in our cities, as well as in our villages and on farms and ranches, rests as much with the President of the United States as with any given mayor?  That when he points a finger at any public official and screams "J'accuse!", there are four pointing back at him?  That when he speaks and gets national attention by virtue of the office he holds, that office also makes him responsible for the conditions he decries?

The problem here is not just the racism, or the conditions in Baltimore, or even the responsibilities of Rep. Cummings; the problem is the stone ignorance and refusal to take any responsibility of the man in the most responsible position in the free world.  He is not some random blowhard spouting criticism of a member of Congress on social media.  He is the President of the United States.  If Baltimore is in trouble, it's happening on his watch.  It's his duty to protect those citizens, too.

"These things that pass for knowledge...."

PBS is advertising a "history of science" which seems to include the old canard that the Church opposed the discoveries leading to modern cosmology.  The truth, as ever, is too complicated for even a PBS show.

It's a long article at New Advent, the article titled "History of Physics," but it eliminates the simple dichotomy of religion v. science, superstition v. reason, whatever black/white, good/bad cleavage you want to apply.  The same people who claim religion has been at war with science since the Middle Ages overlook the fact Gregor Mendel was a monk, a Jesuit posited the Big Bang Theory, and that up until the Enlightenment most of the praised scientists from the Medieval era to the Protestant Reformation (and many beyond that period), were Catholics.

Take this one line, for example, from the New Advent article:

Kepler himself admitted that in his first attempts along the line of celestial mechanics he was under the influence of Nicholas of Cusa and Gilbert.

I pluck that sentence because this article incorporates into the "History of Physics" the school of Paris; Aristotle; Plato and Pythagoras; Leonardo da Vinci; the Great Western Schism; Ptolemy, and Nicholas of Cusa.

How many of those have your heard of, and what do you know about them?  How many of them do you think will be mentioned in a one-hour PBS show?

Christian science, the article says, took root in C.E. 325, with Origen in Alexandria.  Most of the sources for information about the physical world soon rested heavily on the work of Plato and Pythagoras.  Aristotle wasn't known to the Western world until the 13th century, so you have to wait about 1000 years to get him.  By the way, Aristotle was convinced the planets and stars, and the Sun, rotated around the earth.  It was the only way that made sense to him.

The Ptolemaic system came to the knowledge of Christian scholars (I hesitate to call them "scientists;" the word is an anachronism much before the late 19th century) around 1134.  Jumping around history peripatetically (there's a joke in there somewhere), Averroism arose "which consisted in a superstitious respect for the word of Aristotle and his commentator."  Curiously, there's something important in that:

Averroism had rendered scientific progress impossible, but fortunately in Latin Christendom it was to meet with two powerful enemies: the unhampered curiosity of human reason, and the authority of the Church.
Here, let me finish off that paragraph, and introduce the "School of Paris" at the same time:

Encouraged by the certainty resulting from experiments, astronomers rudely shook off the yoke which Peripatetic physics had imposed upon them. The School of Paris in particular was remarkable for its critical views and its freedom of attitude towards the argument of authority. In 1290 William of Saint-Cloud determined with wonderful accuracy the obliquity of the ecliptic and the time of the vernal equinox, and his observations led him to recognize the inaccuracies that marred the "Tables of Toledo", drawn up by Al-Zarkali. The theory of the precession of the equinoxes, conceived by the astronomers of Alfonso X of Castile, and the "Alphonsine Tables" set up in accordance with this theory, gave rise in the first half of the fourteenth century to the observations, calculations, and critical discussions of Parisian astronomers, especially of Jean des Linières and his pupil John of Saxonia or Connaught. 

Coming back to the motion of the spheres, and giving us a taste of the kind of discussions that were going on (again, that you'll never hear in a popular history of science in the "Dark Ages"):

The University of Paris was very uneasy because of the antagonism existing between Christian dogmas and certain Peripatetic doctrines, and on several occasions it combatted Aristotelean influence. In 1277 Etienne Tempier, Bishop of Paris, acting on the advice of the theologians of the Sorbonne, condemned a great number of errors, some of which emanated from the astrology, and others from the philosophy of the Peripatetics. Among these errors considered dangerous to faith were several which might have impeded the progress of physical science, and hence it was that the theologians of Paris declared erroneous the opinion maintaining that God Himself could not give the entire universe a rectilinear motion, as the universe would then leave a vacuum behind it, and also declared false the notion that God could not create several worlds. These condemnations destroyed certain essential foundations of Peripatetic physics; because, although, in Aristotle's system, such propositions were ridiculously untenable, belief in Divine Omnipotence sanctioned them as possible, whilst waiting for science to confirm them as true. For instance, Aristotle's physics treated the existence of an empty space as a pure absurdity; in virtue of the "Articles of Paris" Richard of Middletown (about 1280) and, after him, many masters at Paris and Oxford admitted that the laws of nature are certainly opposed to the production of empty space, but that the realization of such a space is not, in itself, contrary to reason; thus, without any absurdity, one could argue on vacuum and on motion in a vacuum. Next, in order that such arguments might be legitimatized, it was necessary to create that branch of mechanical science known as dynamics.
The articles of Paris made a vacuum conceivable, replacing (eventually) the "ether" which Aristotle argued for, and which was the accepted understanding until at least the late 13th century.  And what does that have to do with the Church?

Aristotle maintained that the first heaven (the firmament) moved with a uniform rotary motion, and that the Earth was absolutely stationary, and as these two propositions necessarily resulted from the first principles relative to time and place, it would have been absurd to deny them. However, by declaring that God could endow the World with a rectilinear motion, the theologians of the Sorbonne acknowledged that these two Aristotelean propositions could not be imposed as a logical necessity and thenceforth, whilst continuing to admit that, as a fact, the Earth was immovable and that the heavens moved with a rotary diurnal motion, Richard of Middletown and Duns Scotus (about 1275-1308) began to formulate hypotheses to the effect that these bodies were animated by other motions, and the entire school of Paris adopted the same opinion. Soon, however, the Earth's motion was taught in the School of Paris, not as a possibility, but as a reality. In fact, in the specific setting forth of certain information given by Aristotle and Simplicius, a principle was formulated which for three centuries was to play a great rôle in statics, viz. that every heavy body tends to unite its centre of gravity with the centre of the Earth.
Funny, but the School of Paris didn't upset anyone in the Church hierarchy.  Something else interesting here:

Aristotle maintained the simultaneous existence of several worlds to be an absurdity, his principal argument being drawn from his theory of gravity, whence he concluded that two distinct worlds could not coexist and be each surrounded by its elements; therefore it would be ridiculous to compare each of the planets to an earth similar to ours. In 1277 the theologians of Paris condemned this doctrine as a denial of the creative omnipotence of God; Richard of Middletown and Henry of Ghent (who wrote about 1280), Guillaume Varon (who wrote a commentary on the "Sentences" about 1300), and, towards 1320, Jean de Bassols, William of Occam (d. after 1347), and Walter Burley (d. about 1348) did not hesitate to declare that God could create other worlds similar to ours. This doctrine, adopted by several Parisian masters, exacted that the theory of gravity and natural place developed by Aristotle be thoroughly changed; in fact, the following theory was substituted for it. If some part of the elements forming a world be detached from it and driven far away, its tendency will be to move towards the world to which it belongs and from which it was separated; the elements of each world are inclined so to arrange themselves that the heaviest will be in the centre and the lightest on the surface. This theory of gravity appeared in the writings of Jean Buridan of Béthune, who became rector of the University of Paris in 1327, teaching at that institution until about 1360; and in 1377 this same theory was formally proposed by Oresme. It was also destined to be adopted by Copernicus and his first followers, and to be maintained by Galileo, William Gilbert, and Otto von Guericke. 

This is impossible, of course, because religion is unitary and unchangeable, and only science changes when observation affects theory, ultimately altering it.  Right?  Oh, and back to Aristotle and that notion of "ether":

If the School of Paris completely transformed the Peripatetic theory of gravity, it was equally responsible for the overthrow of Aristotelean dynamics. Convinced that, in all motion, the mover should be directly contiguous to the body moved, Aristotle had proposed a strange theory of the motion of projectiles. He held that the projectile was moved by the fluid medium, whether air or water, through which it passed and this, by virtue of the vibration brought about in the fluid at the moment of throwing, and spread through it. 

The dynamics written of here allowed us to begin to better understand the universe as it is, rather than as we might reason it to be.  Oh, and finally, we catch up to Nicholas of Cusa:

About the time that Paola of Venice was teaching at Padua [15th century], Nicholas of Cusa came there to take his doctorate in law. Whether it was then that the latter became initiated in the physics of the School of Paris matters little, as in any event it was from Parisian physics that he adopted those doctrines that smacked least of Peripateticism. He became thoroughly conversant with the dynamics of impetus and, like Buridan and Albert of Saxony, attributed the motion of the celestial spheres to the impetus which God had communicated to them in creating them, and which was perpetuated because, in these spheres, there was no element of destruction. He admitted that the Earth moved incessantly, and that its motion might be the cause of the precession of the equinoxes. In a note discovered long after his death, he went so far as to attribute to the Earth a daily rotation. He imagined that the sun, the moon, and the planets were so many systems, each of which contained an earth and elements analogous to our Earth and elements, and to account for the action of gravity in each of these systems he followed closely the theory of gravity advanced by Oresme.
These ideas had a clear influence on da Vinci.

Eventually you get to Copernicus, but I don't find any mention of his posthumously published masterpiece causing a stir in the Church, or being labeled as heresy by the Holy Father or the Bishops

Granted, this is one article from a distinctive point of view, but it is the work of scholars, and does not simplify the history of ideas, even as it presents only major thought and ideas over the course of centuries.  It necessarily reduces and traduces, but it is an encyclopedia article, not a definitive history.  Yet, for all that, it includes more history and validated information than the commonly accepted "The Church fought the science and the science won" presentation.  The idea that is the true version of history rests on gross oversimplifications, most especially on the idea that  religious notions are fixed and immovable, especially about the physical universe, and scientific ideas are fluid and changeable as nature's truth is revealed through its discipline.  Except that is not a truth, but an idee fixe of non-historians and other benighted souls who take their information from what "everybody knows" and what "some people say."  In this discussion, the only idea fixed and immovable, is that one that has no basis in history or reality.

Ironic, no?

But is Trump really racist?

“It’s exhausting to be a black person who has to show up time and time again, hear this racist vitriol from the president of the United States, feel like you’re not welcome in this nation, and then have to explain it in all these kind of earnest fashions — is it really racist, or technically is it?” said Lowery. “Where for so many people on these issues, you read tweets like that and you either know in your gut or your heart what’s being said or you want to play a semantic game. And I think that does — it’s really a point of demarcation in the divide in our country.
Which is the function of the office of President, right?  To divide us into warring factions, and reap the rewards of the electoral college for doing so.  Right?