Saturday, February 29, 2020

We’re On The Road To Nowhere

And still the real issue is the continuing Battle of the Septuagenarians.
It would appear he has a point.

Told Ya!

Double heh.

And is anybody going to point out Joe Biden is South Carolina’s idea of a “liberal Democrat”?

It’s a big country.

I Thought Bernie Had It Wrapped Up

Remember when Bernie said the one with the most votes should win?

Shit? Or Go Blind?

Trump today said there are 22 cases of the virus in America (the correct number is at least 68). On Wednesday last, he said the number was 15, and would soon be zero. It’s only numbers to him. As long as he can name them, he will insist his numbers are true.

Trump has no idea what to do, so he’s whistling past the graveyard.

We’re done for! We’re done for!

Yes, we really should have declared a candidate and obviated the rest of the primaries by now. 4 iterations of primaries is enough! Screw democracy! In order to save it, we must destroy it!

Besides, this part of the show has been going on so long it’s boring.

(Steyer, no surprise, is out. Pretty much how primaries are supposed to work.)

Our President Is An Absolute Moron

How Far the GOP Has Fallen?

I would say I his is due to Trump, but Ted Cruz had Agenda 21 conspiracy nonsense on his campaign website 8 years ago, and nobody so much as noticed. (Ted said they were going to take all our golfs.)

“Who Writes This Stuff?”

I’ve read analyses of this (mostly yon Twitter) that this kind of error betrays dementia, cognitive impairment, etc. But I think it just shows Trump doesn’t recognize the concept of duty, and after he read “first” and saw the “y” he jumped to “Lady “ because the printed word made no sense to him. That, and had to escape for he import of that sentence: that someone, anyone, is more important than him and what he wants.

That Horse Done Left the Barn

Xenophobia is always the best response to an epidemic.
Which is relevant to this, too.
If he can’t get that simple fact right (and has reason not to), what is the real source of this “hoax “? Also: huh? To sum up: for Trump it’s all about numbers, not human beings; no mention of potential stress on healthcare systems from number ill but not dead; and no concern with human suffering. Trump said “hoax “ because he didn’t like criticism. It’s always all about Trump.

The Power Of The Democrats...

...and the media to perpetrate this hoax is truly impressive.

Clearly Part of a Democratic Hoax

And rather than talk about it this way:
Let’s call the virus a hoax and a plot against Trump. Because that just makes sense.

Friday, February 28, 2020

I Blame The Media

I mean, who else do you blame?

Meanwhile, ALL IS WELL!

But If You Don't Talk About It...

It's really not that bad.

Did Mick not get the memo?

Well, except for Trump, and Mulvaney, and Secretary "I'm not saying we won't get our hair mussed" Pompeo:

"F*ck Your Feelings!"

This is my representative, thanks, in part, to Pete Davidson's apology (it's a slender thread, but in what was a heavily GOP district, Crenshaw barely won in a year when most of Harris County went blue).

I haven't seen any polling, but my guess is Crenshaw is worried.  I hope he should be.  He's been a useless toady for Trump, and most of the local race campaign literature I've received (for primaries) has been about how the candidate wants to stop Trump.  With any luck, Crenshaw is on the wrong side of history.

The Whole World Is Out To Get Trump

And it's very rude to ask Cabinet officers about it:

The problem is not the virus; the problem is that the whole world wants to take Trump down:

Thursday, February 27, 2020

On The Day Of The Largest Stock Market Drop In History

Absolutely clueless.

“Heckuva job, Brownie!”

Just wait for it...

He's a Russian Troll!

Read the thread.  Of course, it's the internet, so this guy could be the Russian troll.

This, by the way, is what's meant by Russian "interference" or "hacking" our elections.  Not invading election machines and changing the outcomes (we screw those up ourselves), but playing the aliens on "The Monsters Are Coming to Maple Street," who only have to make a few lights blink to scare us into turning against each other and dissolving into chaos.  Not quite that dramatically chaotic, but enough to prove democracy a loose cannon on the deck of nations, and persuade Russians they are better of with Putin as leader for life...or Tsar, but don't use that word.

Bernie Sanders says if he's POTUS Putin won't be allowed to interfere, but how will President Sanders stop it?  Cut off the internet in America?  Short of that, there's nothing he can do except yell about it.

Like an angry old man sending back soup in a deli.....

Mike Pence Will Get On This Right Away

And blame the Democratic debates.  And then he'll denounce Nancy Pelosi, and send Trump's watch out for a new battery.


Texas has had “open” primaries as long as we’ve had primaries. Probably a holdover from being a one-party state since the Civil War, but voter registration has never included registering by party. The crossover factor has never been large, either.  It's a very cynical concept, when you get down to it, because if you want to support nominees in one party, you chuck all that to vote against one nominee in another party, by voting for them.  But you can't vote for anyone else, unless you think your vote is going to promote the worst candidates on the entire ballot for that party.  And there you have to be careful what you ask for.

I did it one year, to vote against Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick by voting for his opponent in the GOP primary. But I couldn't vote for any Democrats, and I didn't vote for many Republicans.  My effort, part of what was as organized a campaign as anything Trump is doing now, failed.  And, as I say, I couldn't vote for any Democrats.  Granted some voters just want to vote for Trump and go home; but most primary voters actually care about down-ballot races, and giving that up to vote a "chaos vote" that may not produce any chaos at all, isn't nearly as attractive as pundits and on-lookers think it is.

I think going on Russian TV as the wife of a political candidate is about as smart as going in North Korean TV, but that’s another matter.

But I Was Told It Was All Over

And Bernie had nationwide support.

Is This A Great Country, Or What?

Isn't the federal government supposed to be on top of this? That's what Trump said yesterday.

“No!” Camerota countered. “I’m intimating that there is different information coming out of the government. The press conference yesterday had all sorts of things that were just not factual. The president didn’t seem to know the fatality rate of coronavirus versus the flu. He’s been trying to tamp down concerns and I’m just trying to make sure everybody’s on the same page.”

Hurd replied that people should ignore what the president is telling them and instead go to to learn about the virus.
Oh.  So this guy:

Is a blithering idiot best ignored.

Good to know.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon

And kept going:

And he brought his compassion along to console and reassure the country:

Updating the Trump/NYT Libel Suit

I wasn't quite that cynical about it; for about a nanosecond.

A clown suit and a waste of the court's time, IOW.  But it will be another basis for fundraising, and the court will dismiss it at some point, without holding the plaintiff (The President) accountable.  Because that's a very high bar to clear, and while the court hates having its time wasted, it hates even more appearing to be barring plaintiffs from seeking relief in a court of law.

So there are reasons penalties for frivolous suits seldom happen.  But it's frustrating, nonetheless.

The Vandals of Springtime

Well, at least the purity and holiness of baseball is being respected....

Who's Bringing the Marshmallows?

Listening to BBC World Service, I finally realized how futile Trump's response to Covid-19 is, and is going to be.  And it's not just because he's slashed the CDC budget or put loyal idiots in charge of important government agencies, or will be forced to say "Brownie, you did a heckuva job" (though how cool would that be?).

Trump thinks his Administration talking about the dangers of the virus is spooking Wall Street.  But why would Wall Street be so afraid of people getting sick, when the only cases of the virus in America are being held in quarantine on military bases?  (There may be a case or two in hospitals, but vanishingly few at this point.  Pray it stays that way.)  Wall Street doesn't really give a wet snap for how many people die of flu, this flu or "plain" flu.  What Wall Street is looking at is factories shutting down in China.

Apple's value dropped precipitously because its factories and supplying factories closed in China, to reopen who knows when?  Now Milan is becoming Ground Zero for the spread of the virus again, even as cases fall in China.  Milan is a major economic hub of Italy, and lots of people travel there (more than to Wunan), and Milan is as shut down as Wuhan; and as likely to reopen just as soon (as in "God knows, and isn't talking.")  So now Europe is at risk, and quarantine means business activity comes to a complete halt.  British Airways has already canceled round trip flights to Milan just because of lack of interest.  They literally can't sell enough tickets to bother with sending the planes.  If you've flown in the last few years you know airplanes run constantly and ceaselessly and are always packed like sardine cans because everybody and his (comfort animal) dog wants to fly.  And now people won't fly to Milan?

That's what Wall Street is looking at.  No amount of happy talk from anyone in the Administration is going to make a difference, either.  And then there's part 2 of the whole thing:  Trump as the calming presence who can reassure an anxious nation.

I know, I can't envision it either.  This is a guy who calls kids on Christmas Eve to tell them there is no Santa Claus, the NORAD tracking is fake news.  His specialty is disruption and chaos, is sowing dragon's teeth and reaping the whirlwind.  This is the guy who's going to make America sit by the fireside in an hour and feel warm and cozy and not fear the Reaper or the pandemic that's coming?  This is the guy who's going to jawbone Wall Street into thinking happy thoughts even as the factory of the world closes for business, re-opening unknown, and as more and more of the world closes its business doors the better to simply stay alive?  This is the guy who's going to make us all ignore the fact the second largest economy in the world is sick as a dog (sorry, dogs, to keep picking on you) and won't be better anytime soon, and even when it is trade and manufacture will be so disrupted it may be months before it recovers (or years; I understand some trade affected by SARS has still yet to recover), and then what about Milan and when this thing goes big in Europe?

Yeah, we're gonna be fine.  And Mr. Throw Some More Gasoline On that Fire is just the guy who can reassure us.

Ash Wednesday 2020: A Meditation

You can't conceive, my child, nor I nor anyone, the appalling strangeness of the mercy of God.--Graham Greene

Joel 2:1-2, 12-17
2:1 Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming, it is near-

2:2 a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness spread upon the mountains a great and powerful army comes; their like has never been from of old, nor will be again after them in ages to come.

2:12 Yet even now, says the LORD, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;

2:13 rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the LORD, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.

2:14 Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the LORD, your God?

2:15 Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly;

2:16 gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the aged; gather the children, even infants at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her canopy.

2:17 Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep. Let them say, "Spare your people, O LORD, and do not make your heritage a mockery, a byword among the nations. Why should it be said among the peoples, 'Where is their God?'"

Isaiah 58:1-12
58:1 Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet! Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins.

58:2 Yet day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God.

58:3 "Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?" Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers.

58:4 Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high.

58:5 Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?

58:6 Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?

58:7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

58:8 Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.

58:9 Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,

58:10 if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.

58:11 The LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.

58:12 Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.

Psalm 51:1-17

1:1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.

1:2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

1:3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

1:4 Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment.

1:5 Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.

1:6 You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.

1:7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

1:8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.

1:9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.

1:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.

1:11 Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me.

1:12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.

1:13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.

1:14 Deliver me from bloodshed, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance.

1:15 O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.

1:16 For you have no delight in sacrifice; if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased.

1:17 The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10

5:20b We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

6:1 As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain.

6:2 For he says, "At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you." See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!

6:3 We are putting no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry,

6:4 but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities,

6:5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger;

6:6 by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love,

6:7 truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left;

6:8 in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true;

6:9 as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see--we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed;

6:10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

6:1 "Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.

6:2 "So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.

6:3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,

6:4 so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

6:5 "And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.

6:6 But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

6:16 "And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.

6:17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face,

6:18 so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

6:19 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal;

6:20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.

6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

All the triumphant Christianity should die right here. It should crumple against these words like a speeding car against a brick wall. If it sees itself as an unstoppable force, this is the immovable object it impacts, and who wins? And all the obsequious, timid, too scared to speak itself to anyone Christianity, should accept the mark of ash with pride, and get off its knees, and stand up and blow the trumpet in Zion, and sound the alarm on God's holy mountain, and remember the Lord is gracious and merciful and slow to anger and full of steadfast love, should remember that even humility can be selfishness, that too much contrition can make must as much a stone of the heart as too much triumph. No, this is not a day for humiliation, nor for victory. This is a day for restoring the balance. This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it, and accept our ashes as the turn from Epiphany to responsibility. We must accept them graciously. By the end, we will have too much responsibility to bear. This is not a day for weeping, This is a day the Lord has made. This is a day to begin, again.

Someone challenged me, once, when I had used the 51st Psalm in worship. They challenged me about verse 15: "Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me." They wondered if that meant an infant was born in sin, born damned, corrupted, doomed from birth to hell. I didn't give a very good answer then. I can give a better one now. We have made sin the essential postulate of salvation, and so over centuries have put such a burden on the word as to make it a concept we dare not mention. "Sin" is ultimate condemnation. But it isn't. Sin is error; sin is doing what does not promote life. Sin is mistake and misdirection. If I am a sinner from my mother's womb, it is not because I participate in sin by the act of procreation, nor that sin is passed to me as my blue eyes and brown hair were from my parents. If I am born into sin, it is because I am prone to error, born in a condition in which mistakes will be made, created in a world in which I need direction, but am unlikely to take it. That's why I need to be purged with hyssop and washed clean, so my light will break forth, so the goodness that God gives will glow on the paths of all those who know me, all those who see me. I need to come and confess and be made clean, so I can be made whole. And I need to do this in the presence of the blessed community, in the public act of worship. I need to share this.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

This is the fast God chooses; the fast that means I am sharing with my brother and sister, not hoarding while I pride myself on my self-restraint, on my ability to know what it is to go hungry when my pantry is full, to be thirsty when I have more cups than I can drink from in a day, more plates than I can use in a week, so much food I will throw some out if I don't stuff myself with it now. That is why I need guidance, direction, to be washed clean by God: so I will see and know my sister and my brother and share my food with them, bring Carnival to my soul by sharing panem and carnem with those who have neither. Farewell to me, but hello to them. This is the feast the Lord desires.

Humility that is aimed at me is not what God desires. Humility that is aimed at hospitality, at opening my home to the stranger, at making what is mine available to someone else in need, that is the wisdom of God. "You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart." That is the wisdom God would teach to my secret heart, if I will only open it, if I will only humble it and listen.

What reward then, should I look for? Feasting and drinking and celebration are their own reward, but the works of humility are done in secret, so that God and not humankind will reward me. But what reward will that be? In the hereafter, in the sweet bye and bye, in the kingdom yet to come? Perhaps. Seems a long time to wait, and the rewards here are so plentiful and so easily taken. But what greater reward is there than kindness and openness and hospitality? If we have to account for every good thing we might have enjoyed and did not, what reward will we have for that? Pleasures are neither sins nor selfish, but selfish pleasures are sins indeed.Can I be washed of my sins and still enjoy my pleasures? Can I be led by God and still be free?

We are putting no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry,

but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities,

beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger;

by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love,

truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left;

in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true;

as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see--we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed;

as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

But this everything is clearly "a condition of complete simplicity,/ costing not less than everything." That is quite a price to pay. Surely Ash Wednesday is about the price to pay, too. Surely that is the obstacle in the way. Surely there is no such thing as a free lunch!

Of course, there is not. But think of the price you are paying now, the interest accumulating on the debt you owe each other that can never be paid in full, the endless rounds of gift and exchange that can never be ended except by a violent irruption into the cycle! And how do you ever do that?! Without a complete interruption, without festival and celebration leading to humility and penitence, what hope is there?

Who is this who has said:
The house of God is a House of Sorrow,
We must walk in black and go sadly, with longdrawn faces,
We must go between empty walls, quavering lowly, whispering faintly,
Among a few flickering scattered lights?
They would put upon GOD their own sorrow, the grief they should feel
For their sins and faults as they go about their daily occasions.
Yet they walk in the street proudnecked,like thoroughbreds ready for races,
Adorning themselves, and busy in the market, the forum,
And all other secular meetings.
Thinking good of themselves, ready for any festivity,
Doing themselves very well.
Let us mourn in a private chamber, learning the way of pentitence,
And then let us learn the joyful communion of saints.--T.S. Eliot

Mourning we can do in private; indeed, when we mourn for ourselves, we have been instructed to keep it a secret. But the communion of saints can only be shared, can only be public. We cannot commune privately, individually, in our closed rooms. And we cannot learn from the saints by cutting ourselves off from the sinners, from the others as miserable and joyful, as misery-making and inspiring, as we are. Even Ash Wednesday is a day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it, and the pleasures it offers.

Rune before prayer (from Carmina Gadelica)

I am bending my knee
In the eye of the Father who created me,
In the eye of the Son who purchased me,
In the eye of the Spirit who cleansed me,
In friendship and affection.

Through Thine own and Anointed One, O God,
Bestow upon us fullness in our need,
Love towards God,
The affection of God,
The smile of God,
The wisdom of God,
The grace of God,
The fear of God,
And the will of God.

To do on the world of the Three,
As angels and saints
Do in heaven;
Each shade and light
Each day and night,
Each time in kindness,
Give Thou us Thy Spirit.


The Morning After

I'm glad I was eating dinner, away from the TeeVee.
On the other hand, I’m almost sorry I missed it.

Oh, hell, who doesn't?  What is this, the 90th debate since this time last year?  I ask again:  who is watching this stuff anymore, except pundits and political Twitter?  When do they do the debate for Super Tuesday (which is a week away)?  And who will care (early voting started in Texas a week ago)?

But there was some good commentary to be had:
How I permanently think of him now. I can’t help it.  Also the reason I think of Bernie as an old man returning soup in a deli, a line from "Seinfeld."  Or maybe it's because of this:

But this is not the nostalgia I wanted to feel last night:

Fortunately, this is:
I'm a Boomer. Am I not going to repeat a reference to my favorite Simon & Garfunkel album?

Yeah, that's a thing, too.

Which allows us to segue to Trump, something I want to do anyway, because  it's Ash Wednesday and I don't want to clutter the place with posts.  But please note Trump is angry that sickness in America may affect his re-election, and angry the stock market (which is not a leading economic indicator) doesn't have his back (even though it's 8 months to the elections, and what happens today on Wall Street may not mean anything at Hallowe'en.) He lives in an eternal Now of blind panic. Which makes this appropriate:

So that's a thing, now. And thinking of this:
Made me think of this (even though the movie is about as historical an account as "Inherit the Wind"):

“William Roper: “So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!”

Sir Thomas More: “Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?”

William Roper: “Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!”

Sir Thomas More: “Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!”
Yeah, that's where we are.  And still the Democrats are fighting over who Mom loves best.

I know, they're primaries; it's supposed to go this way.  But it's been going "this way" for 18 months.  (Seems like it.) Can it stop now, and let us just vote?

Ash Wednesday 2020

I didn't grow up in a liturgical tradition. In fact, my vague memory is that communion was an infrequent affair. I suspect, though my memory betrays me, that it was only celebrated in my Presbyterian church, in good Reformed tradition, once every three months or so. The "high holy days" I recall were Christmas Eve (ironically, now that I think of it), Maundy Thursday (of course; and appropriately), and maybe Easter Sunday (though I'm not sure about that). I think the other day was supposed to be Pentecost, but I don't recall hearing much about Pentecost, or Lent, or even the Easter season, in my youth in that church. Perhaps, as I say, my memory betrays me, because I have only the vaguest memory of Advent, either, and that usually started with "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" on the first Sunday after Thanksgiving (very American, in other words) and meant Christmas carols until Christmas Eve (never church on Sunday; I'm sure that was too Papist for our Reformed traditions). So I never really learned anything about Ash Wednesday until I came across Eliot's poem. Which is why I always connect it with the day, even now.

I first received ashes in seminary, ironically. I think it's because the seminary was historically Evangelical (not in the sense that word is bandied about today), which meant Lutheran in practice, and besides, St. Louis is such a Roman Catholic city that the Baptists stand out because they don't have a smudge on their heads today. If the Catholics in my hometown (one of the few in East Texas with a Catholic church), or the Episcopalians, got ashes, I either never noticed, or they wiped it off quickly. Again, perhaps it's simply my faulty memory.

So I am still coming slowly to the practice and observance of Lent, and still doing it more through Eliot's words than through habit and custom. I have the former; I don't have the latter. And I will try, again, to keep Lent; and will probably do a poor job of it. I wrote this 13 years ago now.  I no longer go to a service to receive ashes, because I am no longer a member of any congregation, any faith community.  That is enough reason to make my confession and take another stab at penitence, as I said I would do, originally, 13 years ago. It's a new year, and yet another beginning.  We'll see how I do this time.  For you, I cherish the admonition of the Evangelical tradition that ordained me, the words recited, ironically, at communion, and for reasons to do with the very idea of communion:  "May it be unto you according to your faith."

Amen; which is to say, "May it be so."


Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man's gift and that man's scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?

Because I do not hope to know again
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessed face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again

Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice

And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And I pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do hot hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.


Blessed sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated

And let my cry come unto Thee.

--T.S. Eliot, "Ash Wednesday," The Complete Poems and Plays 1909-1950 (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1971), pp. 60-61, 67)

MEMENTO, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.
Remember, human, that you are dust, and to dust you will return
--Genesis 3:19

HEAR my prayer, O Lord;
let my cry come to you.
Do not hide your face from me
in the day of my distress.
Incline your ear to me;
answer me speedily in the day when I call.
My days pass away like smoke,
and my bones burn like a furnace.
My heart is stricken and withered like grass;
I am too wasted to eat my bread.
Because of my loud groaning
my bones cling to my skin.
I am like an owl of the wilderness,
like a little owl of the waste places.
I lie awake;
I am like a lonely bird on the housetop.
All day long my enemies taunt me;
those who deride me use my name for a curse.
For I eat ashes like bread,
and mingle tears with my drink,
because of your indignation and anger;
for you have lifted me up and thrown me aside.
My days are like an evening shadow;
I wither away like grass.
But you, O Lord, are enthroned forever;
your name endures to all generations.
You will rise up and have compassion on Zion,
for it is time to favor it;
the appointed time has come.
For your servants hold its stones dear,
and have pity on its dust.

--Psalm 102:1-14

I said in my heart with regard to human beings that God is testing them to show that they are but animals. For the fate of humans and the fate of animals is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and humans have no advantage over the animals; for all is vanity. All go to one place; all are from the dust, and all turn to dust again.

--Ecclesiastes 3:18-20

THE cross, with which the ashes are traced upon us, is the sign of Christ's victory over death. The words "Remember that thou art dust and that to dust thou shall return" are not to be taken as the quasi-form of a kind of "sacrament of death" (as if such a thing were possible). It might be good stoicism to receive a mere reminder of our condemnation to die, but it is not Christianity.

--Thomas Merton, Seasons of Celebration, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1965

ASHES, ashes, all fall down. How could I have forgotten? Didn't I see the heavens wiped shut just yesterday, on the road walking? Didn't I fall from the dark of the stars to these senselit and noisome days? The great ridged granite millstone of time is illusion, for only the good is real; the great ridged granite millstone of space is illusion, for God is spirit and worlds his flimsiest dreams: but the illusions are almost perfect, are apparently perfect for generations on end, and the pain is also, and undeniably, real. The pain within the mill-stones' pitiless turning is real, for our love for each other-for the world and all the products of extension-is real, vaulting, insofar as it is love, beyond the plane of the stones' sickening churn and arcing to the realm of spirit bare. And you can get caught holding one end of a love, when your father drops, and your mother; when a land is lost, or a time, and your friend blotted out, gone, your brother's body spoiled, and cold, your infant dead, and you dying: you reel out love's long line alone, stripped like a live wire loosing its sparks to a cloud, like a live wire loosed in space to longing and grief everlasting.

--Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm, HarperCollins, 1977.

IN some monastic communities, monks go up to receive the ashes barefoot. Going barefoot is a joyous thing. It is good to feel the floor or the earth under your feet. It is good when the whole church is silent, filled with the hush of people walking without shoes. One wonders why we wear such things as shoes anyway. Prayer is so much more meaningful without them. It would be good to take them off in church all the time. But perhaps this might appear quixotic to those who have forgotten such very elementary satisfactions. Someone might catch cold at the mere thought of it.

--Thomas Merton, Seasons of Celebration

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Ash Eve, or Shrove Tuesday: 2020

THERE is nothing better for mortals than to eat and drink and find enjoyment, for these are from the hand of God.--Ecclesiastes 2:24

CARNIVAL celebrates the unity of our human race as mortal creatures, who come into this world and depart from it without our consent, who must eat, drink, defecate, belch, and break wind in order to live, and procreate if our species is to survive. Our feelings about this are ambiguous. To us as individuals, it is a cause for rejoicing that we are not alone, that all of us, irrespective of age or sex or rank or talent, are in the same boat.--W.H. Auden

IN Europe some of the most famous celebrations of the three days before Ash Wednesday occur at Nice in France (La Bataille des FIeurs), Binche in Belgium (where there is a rewarding museum on the worldwide cult of Carnival), and Cologne and Munich in Germany. In all these spectacular events, the mask plays a prominent part, symbolizing as it always does the opportunity for licence, buffoonery, ribald jokes and a general relaxation of inhibitions.

From ancient times the importance of Carnival in Venice, which lasted for almost two months from Christmas until Ash Wednesday, was really based on the tacit participation and consent of the rulers of the city. Political despotism was suspended, and a mask could provide a protective cover for all types of games, adulteries, love affairs and conspiracies under the guise of popular merrymaking.

One of the most remarkable of all European carnivals-the Fasnacht of Basle in Switzerland-is however celebrated after Lent has begun. In the sixteenth century the church banned all masking, and the fiercely independent Baslers were so furious that they decided to double their sins and celebrate Carnival on the Monday after Ash Wednesday.--Lionel Lambourne

COME, therefore, let us enjoy the good things that exist, and make use of the creation to the full as in youth.
Let us take our fill of costly wine and perfumes,
and let no flower of spring pass us by.
Let us crown ourselves with rosebuds before they wither. Let none of us fail to share in our revelry;
because this is our portion, and this our lot.--Wisdom 2:6-9

We shall have mead
We shall have wine
We shall have feast
We shall have sweetness and milk
Honey and milk,
Wholesome ambrosia,
Abundance of that,
Abundance of that.

We shall have harp,
We shall have lute,
We shall have horn.
We shall have sweet psaltery
Of the melodious strings
And the regal lyre,
Of the songs we shall have,
Of the songs we shall have.

And the King of kings,
And Jesus Christ,
And the Spirit of peace
And of grace be with us
Of grace be with us.--Celtic blessing on Ash Eve

You Haven't Heard the Last from Florida

Coming Around Again

Alright, so let's see how this information from the man who sits atop the entire Administration, fares:

Well, that doesn't help Stone's motion.

Apparently jurors ARE allowed to have opinions, and the law presumes until proven otherwise (not just alleged) that they are able to separate personal opinions from the duty to weigh the evidence on its own merits.  So Presidents may be simpletons, but jurors are not presumed to be.

Not helping; and it still doesn't seem Stone's lawyer is getting anywhere.  Because the best he's got is "Yeah, maybe," and while he wants that to be enough, it isn't.

That's not the legal standard.

And why is the judge doing all this?  Fairness.

Not that the POTUS understands that. (BTW, there are a number of tweets detailing the testimony of jurors who present NO evidence the foreperson (subject of Trump's tweets) pressured the jury in any way on their verdict.  That portion of Stone's motion is pretty much destroyed.)

The twitter feed goes on with coverage of questions the Judge is now asking the jury foreperson, a careful and detailed examination to, again, create a record for the court of appeals.  Or you could be like the President and just watch FoxNews and rant about whatever pushes your buttons there.  Fortunately our legal system is not as stupid as our President.

And He Made The Trains Run On Time, Too!

And the Gen. Buck Turgis "I'm Not Saying We Won't Get Our Hair Mussed!" Award goes to:
We got 49 more states, right? We can lose a few of the bigger ones, right?

Where We Are Now

Judge Jackson walked the intimidation up the ladder from Tucker Carlson to Alex Jones to the Oval Office.  This is not only absolutely extraordinary, it is absolutely reprehensible.  Since it doesn't involve her, would Sen. Collins say this was intimidation? Would any GOP Senator think there might be a need to hear witnesses to decide if there was enough evidence to find an offense worthy of removal from office? Is this how our Presidents are expected to behave?  And how long is it gonna be before Roger Stone refers to the juror's name, number, social media accounts, etc?  Alex Jones and Tucker Carlson won't mind doing it again.  And Donald Trump just wants a fair system; where "fair" means he gets whatever outcome he wants.

And speak of the devil:

The President is a sociopath; and he encourages sociopaths.


"And How 'Bout That Stock Market Yesterday, huh?"

Trump's only concern is with the "black swan" and how it affects his re-election chances.  He fears losing the protective shield of the Presidency, i.e., the DOJ memo that says Presidents are invisible and bulletproof and, essentially, above the law (with the concurrence of the Senate, of course).  Literally nothing else matters.

What?  And let the cat out of the bag?  Are you mad?

The POTUS is a sociopath.  And his people are incompetents.