Sunday, May 31, 2020

Coward in Chief

Interesting problem: does he understand he needs to respond to a problem that involves other people, not just him? Everything just swirls down the drain of dis self-concern, doesn’t it?
Brave, brave Sir Robin:
Of course he did. Living in a fortress is not enough. He’s got to go to the nuclear bunker. Because people outside are yelling things, and he might hear them.

The Hunting of the Snipe

That would be this guy (from Trump's twitter feed);

And here's what Axios said:

As recently as Saturday night, senior administration officials told me that the designation of a violent cohort of far-left activists, antifa, as a terrorist organization was not being seriously discussed at the White House. But that was Saturday.

Behind the scenes: The situation changed dramatically a few hours later, after prominent conservative allies of the president, such as his friend media commentator Dan Bongino, publicly urged a tough response against people associated with antifa (short for "anti-fascist").

A senior White House official told me that on Sunday morning, President Trump discussed the move with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Attorney General Bill Barr. 
Then, at 12:23pm, Trump tweeted: "The United States of America will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization  
Yes, but: There currently is no law under which Trump could formally designate antifa, a loosely defined and domestic movement, as a terrorist organization. Only the State Department can designate foreign groups as terrorist organizations.

Mark Bray, author of "Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook," wrote of Trump's tweet: "To explain a little: it's like calling bird-watching an organization. Yes, there are bird-watching organizations as there are Antifa organizations but neither bird-watching nor antifa is an organization."

About an hour after Trump's tweet, Barr said in a statement that antifa protesters were engaged in domestic terrorism.

"To identify criminal organizers and instigators, and to coordinate federal resources with our state and local partners, federal law enforcement is using our existing network of 56 regional FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces."

"The violence instigated and carried out by Antifa and other similar groups in connection with the rioting is domestic terrorism and will be treated accordingly."

In other words, they're chasing shadows and hunting snipe and generally carrying on as if someone had stolen the tarts, while 75 cities burn and roil and the people scream for justice.  Pretty much justifies this observation:

Where is Donald?

Nixon slipped out of the White House one night to talk to anti-war protestors and others on the Mall.

Where is Donald?

Oh.  Clearly not where the people are:

I'm only sorry I'm not in Minneapolis.  Seems like a good reason to break social distancing.

A Really Stupid and Futile Gesture

A) Does he understand the National Guard are under control of state governors?
B) Does he care about the other 75 cities where protests have been staged?
C) Are the National Guard there to protect us from the police?

Do not tell me again about people setting fires and otherwise protesting "improperly."  I don't wanna hear it.
And in lieu of actually doing anything:

And soon after the Black Panthers, the Weather Underground, the SDS, and the Symbionese Liberation Army!

I'm so glad Twitter regards this stuff as a public service:

He doesn't know what the word means; he does know how to do it.

The future isn't over yet.

Finally, a real public service.

"Largely" is hiding a really big elephant in the room, and not very successfully.

I blame Antifa.  And outside agitators!

Let us now praise decent men.

And is Trump looking out the window?

I love ya, Mags, but the war wasn't over in '69, and the violence on the streets in America didn't end in 1970 either. Nixon was visiting anti-war protestors on the Mall in his first term, for pity's sake.  And his re-election platform was a "secret plan to end the war." The National Guard murders (I have my opinions) at Kent State were May 4, 1970.  And later, the terrorism in the '70's, a continuation of the political violence of the late '60's, was dwarfed only by 9/11, and throughout most of the '70's Americans took it as much in stride as the weather.

Things were different, then.

Ox. Gored.

Sure they are.

Which came first?

Do we blame the people for being out of control?  Or the police for being out of control?

My money is on the latter.  Sure, blame is a useless exercise and tit for tat for tit for tat is an endless regression with no clear starting point; but the whole point of "law and order" is "order," and you quite honestly don't get that at the end of a billy club, from a can of tear gas, or via the bumper of a car.

"I and the school children know/What everyone must learn/Those to whom violence is done/Do violence in return."  Everybody's (mis)quoting Yeats these days; I prefer Auden for the occasion.

Yes, people running wild in the streets are responsible for their actions, just as the police are responsible for throwing gasoline on those actions, rather than water.  This fire is being put out with kerosene, from the White House down to the street level.  I don't care how many people are on the streets in how many cities:  the police have an obligation, a duty, a mission, to maintain order on those streets.

Not to meet crowds with greater escalations of violence as a way of beating the people into submission.  This isn't nearly so much on the people, as it is on the state, on the police, on the officials who are supposed to protect us, but seem to think that "protection" means bashing us in the head to satisfy their inability to cope; just like the President's.

I'm tired of reading tweets berating the people for the violence.  I blame the police.  They are the ones who need to be held to account first.  In New York City police were taping over their badge numbers:

Gee, I wonder why?

Is America great again yet?


Saturday, May 30, 2020

Now do Portland, Seattle, Nashville, Dallas,

Houston, New Orleans, Atlanta, Brooklyn, Boston, Las Vegas, Denver, Louisville, Chicago...

Just where the FUCK do you think these "outside agitators" are coming from?

The entire Administration is in so far over their heads they won't see daylight until 2021.

Is the plan to lock up 25% of the nation?  At once?

Yeah, these riots are all staged to ruin your re-election!  I hear they brought back the ghost of Stanley Kubrick to film it on a soundstage in the desert!

And the rest of the country?  Nothing to see there?  Or fake news? By the way, did they release the Kraken, too?  I understand he's pretty bad ass! (And you understand you don't control the National Guard right now, right?)



And about those “few bad cops,” again:

Yeah, this’ll help:
Mostly because:
Well, and:

Meanwhile, more bad cops:
New York’s Finest:
And speaking of not helping:

When Will We Ever Learn?

So is this a good cop, or a son of a bitch?
Definitely a bad cop this time:

Still don’t think this is the the time for preaching judgement and condemnation:
This is the better lesson:
And right now, this is the lesson.

Stony Ground

I agree with the sentiment, but that ground is more than a bit stony right now.
Besides, this is the President’s focus:
Not exactly helping.

Nation on Fire

One sympathizes.


Aux armes, les citoyens!

The first casualty of war....

But hey, Trump made some news!
What if they gave a G-7 and the G-7 never came?  Anyway, good to know he's got eyes on the prize...

Symbols Sometimes Have More Reality than Reality

I don't think this is about George Floyd alone, any more.
So they need to bust some heads to prove it?

So you want to go hard against people like Rep. Beatty?

Or maybe all these white poeple who are not heavily armed and wearing camouflage?

They could be dangerous:
"So wrong, so wrong,/but we've been down so long/And we had to make/somebody listen."

Gee, I wonder....

...where he got that idea?

Don't Wait Up

Doesn't look like MAGA to me.

Don't wait up.

Strange Days Indeed

And Trump says he “heard” MAGA supporters were coming to the White House tonight, not tact he invited them. And that he spoke to Indian Prime Minister Modi, although Modi denied it. And he’s not afraid of covid-19:
Oh, and:
Didn’t you get the memo?
Except that I agree with it.

It's Deja Vu All Over Again

Oh, go ask yer grandpa!  Ah cain't explain ever-thing to you punks!


(Three guesses where this is going:

(First two don't count:

"What Are You Doing?"

I will take a moment to combine this with another regular theme here. Trump wants to watch the world burn, and we have met the enemy and he is us. A surprising amount of our society would like to see it burn, and the corollary of it being less important if I am going up and more important that you are going down. It is to our own peril that we ignore the streak of malice and sadism in our culture and in the human heart.

Even after three and half years, I regularly get FB postings about how both sides are completely corrupt, a pox on both houses, there's not a dimes width of difference between the parties. Conversations yield up a lot of underlying anger and a sense of powerlessness that manifests as burn it down, I want my revolution, tear it down and start all over. When this is coming out of the mouths of your middle class and upper middle class suburban neighbors, it gets to be a bit scary.

I think a key factor is a severe erosion of trust in institutions and our fellow citizens. Our governments, religious institutions and companies have too often failed us, justifying at least a high level of skepticism, but this has all been supercharged by a organizations that find it beneficial (particularly right wing media) to stoke this lack of trust into outright paranoia. Lack of trust in anything forces us to fall back to only ourselves, atomized and powerless in our inability to trust anyone or anything and thereby exercise communal action.

In the last two weeks I have listened to college friends with medical practices describing anti-vaxxers that paranoid about the 5G and Bill Gates, they won't vaccinate their kids and certainly won't be getting any COVID vaccine should it arrive. Patients won't believe a coronavirus diagnosis, the doctor is lying to them, the test is wrong, it's all about money for the hospital and to take down the president. This is happening in navy blue states. Neighbors that in conversations start to relate conspiracy theories about the source of COVID from Chinese labs (it's possible they say!!), mentions of conspiracies by Hillary, Flynn, Comey, it makes the head spin. A 100,000 deaths are politicized and it feels as if it is only getting worse.

Hopefully the symptom of Trump is defeated this fall (I am now registered to vote in a purple state, I am doing my part!), but this disease of the body politic is metastasizing and even a new president is unlikely to bring even remission. We really need to figure out how to start rebuilding some basic trust in each other and our basic systems. We are failing, and failing badly.
I'm moving this back up for reasons I will explain below.

And I will take this as my text and climb into my virtual pulpit and do something I haven't done in almost two decades:  preach a sermon.

Get comfortable, choir, we may be here a while.

I have nothing add to this, other than the usual caveat "be careful what you wish for, you might get it."  Nobody really wants a revolution, because revolutions are when things get turned over and poured out and nobody can put Humpty-Dumpty together again.  They don't really change things, either.  How different was the Politburo from the Czar?  Stalin from Ivan the Terrible?  What has fundamentally changed in Chinese culture since the Maoist Revolution?  The Cultural Revolution?  The Great Leap Forward?  Even the American Revolution was just a re-arranging of the deck chairs, and a mutiny that put a new captain in charge of the ship.  Meet the old boss, same as the new boss.  The Brits tried it, too (everybody else was doing it!).  They ended up begging the King to come back after just a few years.  France came closest to getting it right, but after the Reign of Terror decided incremental change was probably better.  It took a long time for the people to finally be in charge, and even then:  Algeria.

Everybody wants a revolution that leaves everything the same but with new people in charge.  And then they want a revolution from that.

I honestly can't remember a time in my lifetime when American politics wasn't in a constant turmoil of ruthless bastards on their side and well-meaning ineffectuals on ours.  LBJ is more honored in absence than he was in presence.  JFK became a plaster saint because of Dallas; before that he bumbled far more than he succeeded, at least in public perception.  He became valiant because his death shocked everyone, not because he was good in office.  LBJ got the Civil Rights Act passed over  Kennedy's grave, and he knew it.  One wonders if Kennedy could have passed it had the shooter missed.  One wonders how different American history would be (Voting Rights Act, Medicare, PBS, highway beautification, education, etc., etc. etc.) had that fatal bullet gone askew.

People died on the campus of Kent State, and the prevailing public sentiment was "Serves 'em right!" Well, not among the Neil Young generation, but the "older" generation didn't weep much.  Law 'n' order is what put Nixon back in office.  Whatever change has come in American law and society has come without healing all the old wounds of division and dissatisfaction.  I don't know of anybody who was an adult in the '60's who was thoroughly satisfied with the civil rights laws that were passed and enforced.  I know people unhappy with them now, almost 60 years later.  Many people are still upset a black man was in the White House for 8 years, people who will deny they have a racist bone in their bodies.

Those same people would have denied it in the '60's, but they didn't like what that Martin Luther King was saying, and they weren't quite sure the police shouldn't be using water cannons to get those people out of the streets.  A lot of them, too (I grew up in the South, after all) were still unsettled about the "real reasons" for the Civil War, and the outcome (that started in the early 20th century, when people with no memory of the war decided it was a "noble effort" and began putting up statutes to "Confederate heroes," and Memorial Day stopped being a day that united a torn country, and started being a day to praise the Red White and Blue.  And go shopping, and cook hamburgers, and goof off in the backyard.  Yeah, that's part of the thesis here, too.).  And still they resented being told there was a promissory note that was coming due.  They still do.  Never heard Obama mention that, did you?  Imagine if he had.

That's the part of King's "Dream" speech we forget, too.  Easier to make him a secular saint if we don't remember the parts that should still bother us.

Part of the reason people are angry and feel displaced is because they are; displaced, that is.  The economy has been screwing the middle class that flourished after WWII since the '70's, when inflation took over and women had to go to work not because they longed to, but because they had to.  Wages stagnated, and never really kept pace with inflation or output or efficiency of whatever other measure economists came up with, and nobody really complained because we all became white collar workers or part-time hamburger flippers or managers of hamburger flippers and as the left hand took away (stagnant wages, rising costs, no union or public officials to stand up for the "working man and woman."  That latter was a mainstay of Texas politicians from the 19th into the mid 20th century, especially in the first half of the century just gone.  Impossible to imagine it now; they'd be tarred and feathered as "liberals" and "Democrats."  Of course, back then, they were both, but they looked out for the working class.  Not any more.) the right hand gave:  cars, VCR's, cable TV, TiVo, personal computers, eventually the internet and laptops and cell phones get the idea.  More things to spend money on that you didn't have, but it made up (sorta) for the fact you couldn't affor your house or a decent neighborhood anymore or take much time off for leisure activities (my father was self-employed, and took a 2-week vacation every summer, worked 9-5, took time off in December and late November, played golf or did yard work every weekend, made frequent trips to Oklahoma to visit his best friend who had married my mother's sister.  I've never even dreamed of a 2 week vacation.  Couldn't afford to go anywhere if I had the time.).  We've been screwed by the system for 50 years, in other words; a system that rewarded our parents for reasons we never understood but just accepted, has screwed us over for the same reasons and with as much understanding of what happened.

May I modestly propose that the problem is spiritual.

No, not "woo-woo" spiritual, and not spiritual in that if you take a tonic of the right theology, you will live happily ever after.  Not even spiritual that we all need to hasten back to the churches of our choices (anybody else remember that public service campaign?  Don't tell me I'm that old!) and recover.  But spiritual as in what does it profit someone to gain the whole world and lose their soul?  What is "soul"?  I don't care; Plato's definition or Wordsworth's or Nietzsche's, it matters not to me.  That which makes you, you.   What which makes life as a human being worth living.  That which, if you prefer (without the pantheism, please) even animals possess (else they are animate machines, and I don't accept that).  Is the point of life getting and spending, in which we lay waste our powers?  Is the point of life owning and possessing, which as the Native American chief said (sorry, I can't rememer his name), is a disease with us?  I mean spiritual as something very, very valid and very, very human.  As valid and human as the love you have for any one other person.  What is that, if not spiritual?  Are they still young and beautiful, still fair and bright as they were 30 years ago?  No, not really; but does it matter?  No, not really.  That's spiritual, or enough for our purposes here.  The theology and metaphysics (classical or non-classical) of it can be worked out later.

The point is, life means more than our comforts and our gains.  And of course, that's the problem.  If life is a zero-sum game, and I win only when you lose, what life is that?  "What life have you if you have not life together?"  We cannot stop living as social creatures.  We cannot depart to 327 million individual islands and declare ourselves sovereign of all we survey.  For one thing, what's the point of being a hermit sovereign?  For another, who really wants to be a sovereign?  I've seen the boss's job, as Bill Cosby once said of family life, and I don't want it.  A more spiritual life would allow me to admit the otherness of others, and to be more comfortable with that otherness.  Maybe not wholly comfortable, but certainly more comfortable.  And that, I think, is the root of our malaise:  we are not comfortable because we know others are not comfortable, and nothing we find in this world tells us what to do about that.  So we curse them and blame them for our discomfort, our anxiety, our animosity.  We don't need the example of Donald Trump to teach us to be selfish and to shirk personal responsibility. We all grow up knowing how to do that.  We also learn, or we should, that that doesn't get us very far, and doesn't much increase our happiness.  We learn, or should, that sharing and caring do.  But you can't do that, without some understanding of the spiritual.

I had a neighbor once who was the kindest, most generous, most selfless person I ever knew.  He was practically a spiritual teacher.  But he eschewed the spiritual (gently, as was his nature), and professed nothing more metaphysical than atheism.  It is, truthfully, the posture of the most spiritual people the world has ever known.  To the mystics, God is not at all whatever you think God is; and to even speak of the spiritual is to chase the wrong understanding down a maze of rabbit trails.  But I am convinced, and always was, that he was a spiritual person, as comfortable in his skin as any saint who achieved the greatest blessings of this life.  I don't want to put boundaries on "spiritual" so someone can claim it as their own possession, and deny it, however obliquely, to others.  But the simple truth is true: we must love our neighbors as ourselves.  And we can't do that by achieving Rawls' "original position," or anything close to it.  This is not a path begun in denial, it is a path begun where you are, and by including.  But how can you take the first step on that journey, and it not be a spiritual journey?

And who can you take with you?  Whoever will come.  It is not your responsibility to shanghai them, to drag them along, to make them follow.  It is your responsibility to not leave them out.  Truly, that is the original sin.  Truly, that is where the trouble starts.

So if you see it as a spiritual problem, a spiritual matter, a spiritual journey, you will see them, everyone, all others, as spiritual beings, too.  As one of my favorite self-generated lines used to say, but in a variation on it now, it could be God is already among them looking for you.  What are you doing?

What happened to marriage and family that it should have become a travail and a sadness?...God may be good, family and marriage and children and home may be good, grandma and grandpa may act wise, the Thanksgiving table may be groaning with God's goodness and bounty, all the folks healthy and happy, but something is missing...What is missing? Where did it go? I won't have it! I won't have it! Why this sadness here? Don't stand for it! Get up! Leave! Let the boat people sit down! Go live in a cave until you've found the thief who is robbing you. But at least protest! Stop, thief! What is missing? God? Find him!

--Walker Percy

The questions we are facing now are:  who are the "thugs," and who are the "protestors"?  I saw a report from the protests in D.C. last night where a Secret Service agent said something like "When I take this uniform off, I'm still a black man."  He was expressing solidarity, to at least a degree, with the protestors.  The President, of course, had other ideas:

He has a point:  don't lay the blame on others.  Which means we should take the blame on ourselves.  On "Washington Week" last night Margaret Brennan (IIRC) said the pandemic had exposed the inequalities in our society, and now they were exploding over the death of George Floyd.  It was an insightful point.  This is not just another case of police murder (although it is certainly that); this is also a matter of inequality, of racial violence (would Chauvin have treated a white man similarly?  Even his wife doesn't think so.), of the structural injustices which we have permitted in America because they serve us, or at least serve the people with more power than the people with less power.  And who are those people?

Us.  All of us.  We have no sovereign to blame for this, no government bureaucracy, no "deep state."  This is us.  And we can fix it.  But right now, we have to recognize the reality of it.  These are not thugs.  These are not people "out of control" (well, some are, but is that the fault of police brutally imposing order on anyone on the streets, including camera crews?  Or is that the fault of a handful of people?).  This is us.  Time we faced it.  Time we did something about it.  Now:  what to do?

Perhaps that will be good advice in November; but this is now.  This anger is destructive; but it is also illuminating.  We have danced to the music; now we have to pay the piper.  Will we pay in justice?  Or will we pay in punishment?

What to do?

Minneapolis Is Still Burning

Can anyone imagine Douglas MacArthur or George Patton as city mayors?  Does anyone want to?

And the common denominator between the two generals?  Both punished for improper conduct.  My father remember MacArthur and Patton from living memory, not history books.  He didn't have a good word to say about either of them.

Louisville. Atlanta. Brooklyn.

Denver. Washington, D.C.

Portland. Houston. Minneapolis.


This does not end Barr’s “open the churches or else” project.

But it is one helluva millstone.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Michael Flynn Lied

That’s where it begins. This is where it ends.
And everything in between is explication.

Phony Stark

You know, this happened to NASA a few times (or maybe the Air Force; NASA used AF missiles for Mercury and Gemini; the Saturn boosters were the first built for heavy payload lifting), but never with a booster they used to lift astronauts until the Challenger disaster.

I'm just sayin', we're pretty much worked the kinks out of this technology, I would have thought.  Seems to me the idea was to now offload the capital costs to private capital, the government having done the heavy lifting of getting the rocket to work in the first place.  You know, design, construction, etc.

I mean, they were always flying on the lowest bid, but still...

Apparently it still is rocket science!

What's weaker than a lame duck?

We need a new term for it, because "Lame Duck" is not strong enough.  But it's what Trump is now.  We just need something as inexplicable and as viscerally satisfying, and we're just the country to come up with it!

Is This Going To Be Before or After....

He summons everyone who ever worked in the Obama White House for questioning, and finishes calling every sitting federal judge over 60 (including Judge Sullivan?  Inquiring minds want to know!) to see if they're ready to quit yet?

Lindsey's gonna be too busy to tell reporters how the sun shines out of Trump's ass.

Joe Biden Hits the Target Again

(Funny how few reporters are talking about that) And again:

And again:

That last something even Trump wouldn't do today.

We're Gonna Need a Bigger Door

Toys for Tots

Honestly, I don't think he even has his own interests in mind.  I think we are seeing the depths of his incompetence be plumbed.  His first tweet was very plain:
And he pushed it over to the White House feed when Twitter kinda sorta blocked it, then got Scavino to tweet the text over a picture when Twitter did the same to the White House thread.  He knew exactly what he was doing:  he was satisfying is id.

But that drew rebukes, not praise, and then came the walkback:

And of course, he blamed the world for not agreeing with him.  Then he called a press conference, except:

Worse than that:

Which meant:

And led Jim Acosta to say:

According to Acosta, Trump’s claim that he wasn’t calling for the military to open fire on protesters is a “difficult pill to swallow,” adding that he suspects Trump “just knew that cleanup was not going to cut it, and that these reporters gathered in this Rose Garden were going to ask him this question.”

“He is a president at time, as we know, who likes to light the match, set the fire, and then run away from the flames, and that’s essentially what he did in the Rose Garden just a few moments ago.”
This, of course, is how it's supposed to be done:

But Trump can't manage a public statement, much less a private one.  And that tells you pretty much what his interests are:  getting attention, running from responsibilty, distancing from blame, and crying like a baby.  Yes, that means he doesn't care who dies.  It also means there is no plan, no Bannon-esque strategy, no 5th dimensional chess being played.  Trump couldn't manage mumblety-peg.  There's a reason he pulled out of the WHO today, and blamed China for controlling the organization.  There was a time U.S. Presidents would have taken control of such an organization, would have demanded control in this situation, would have brought the world to heel, at the head of the greatest superpower in the world.  But not Donald Trump.  He has no idea how to wield power, only how to admire it and lust after it.  But like a dog, when he catches the car he doesn't know what to do with it.  Like a dog, he's wholly unfit to be in a position of leadership and administration.

When a man tells you who he is the first time, believe him.  Trump is an empty suit.  Trump is a failed con-man living on Daddy's money.  Trump is a toddler, and we gave him a shotgun.

Weren't we clever?

But It's Black People!

Put in a round room; told to go shit in the corner.*

What's the GOP to do?

*No, I'm not feeling any more eloquent than that on this subject.

News You Can Use!

Seems Twitter was not having it.

Good people on both sides? No?