"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Ash Eve, or Shrove Tuesday

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 EveA

Monday, February 27, 2017


Of course, they don't provide healthcare, they pay for the healthcare they want to pay for...oh, never mind!

Just the quotes, ma'am.  Just the quotes:

“Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated,” Trump insisted, demonstrating an ignorance of past struggles articulated by both his predecessor, Barack Obama, and his campaign rival, Hillary Clinton; not to mention nearly every health care policy expert and politician on either side of the aisle.

“I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject,” Trump continued to the National Governors Association members who were in town for their annual conference. “We’re going to be talking about it tomorrow night during the speech. I think you’ll like what you hear.”

“Obamacare has failed,” Trump said earlier in his remarks, later adding, “As soon as we touch it . . . they’re going to say ‘it’s the Republicans problem.’ That’s the way it is. But we have to do what’s right because Obamacare is a failed disaster.”

The president argued that “it’s only getting worse” and that 2017 will be “a catastrophic year.”

“There’s nothing to love, it’s a disaster, folks. OK? So you have to remember that,” Trump told the Republican governors.

“I’m asking Secretary Price to work with you to stabilize the insurance markets and to ensure a smooth transition to the new plan. The new plan will be a great plan for the patients, for the people and hopefully for the companies. Going to be a very competitive plan. And costs will come down and I think the health care will go up very, very substantially,” Trump said. “We’ve taken the best of everything we could take.”

Trump added, “If things aren’t working out I’m blaming you anyway.”
I'll retire to Bedlam....

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Jester as King

This is not the way a President behaves.  Nor is this:

Or even this:

(By which I mean, promoting his own news stories when he likes them.)

And I don't mean some vague notion of "Presidential behavior," of sobriety and seriousness, of dullness and dull demeanor.  These are not the actions of a national leader.  Of course, neither is this:

During a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday, Trump repeated his criticism of Europe’s handling of attacks by Islamist militants saying a friend “Jim” no longer wanted to take his family to Paris.

Which drew a rebuke, not just a response, from the President of France:

“There is terrorism and we must fight it together. I think that it is never good to show the smallest defiance toward an allied country. I wouldn’t do it with the United States and I’m urging the U.S. president not to do it with France,” Hollande said.

“I won’t make comparisons but here, people don’t have access to guns. Here, you don’t have people with guns opening fire on the crowd simply for the satisfaction of causing drama and tragedy,”Hollande said, responding to questions during a visit at the Paris Agric fair.

Do I need to even say that France is our oldest ally in the world?  Or that Trump's DHS Secretary went to Mexico, probably our largest trading partner in the world, and asked why they wouldn't take all our deportees and hold them until we could conduct international deportation hearings?

Trump's behavior is not that of a President.  It's the behavior of a fool.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Two For The Price Of One

First, I don't disagree with TC's read on this story, and I appreciate the longer selections from the homily posted there.  Taking the reported narrative as read, however, and purely arguendo for my own purposes, I've mentioned before my neighbor from long ago, a determined atheist whom I described in more than one sermon as one of the most Christian people I'd ever met (as I've also said before, there are reasons I no longer have a pulpit!).  My neighbor was selflessly generous with his time and talents to anyone he knew, especially the poor and the elderly, but even to me and my Lovely Wife when we were young (but not so well off as all that).

In another life, I coulda been Pope!

According to a transcript posted online by Vatican Radio, the pontiff called it a “scandal” during his morning mass on Thursday:

“Scandal is saying one thing and doing another; it is a double life, a double life. A totally double life: ‘I am very Catholic, I always go to Mass, I belong to this association and that one; but my life is not Christian, I don’t pay my workers a just wage, I exploit people, I am dirty in my business, I launder money…’ A double life.”

The pontiff said “many Christians” were living this double life.

“How many times have we heard ― all of us, around the neighborhood and elsewhere ― ‘but to be a Catholic like that, it’s better to be an atheist,’” he said.

He gave an example of a Christian boss taking a vacation as his workers went unpaid — and issued a stern warning about where that will lead.

“You will arrive in heaven and you will knock at the gate: ‘Here I am, Lord!’ ― ‘But don’t you remember? I went to Church, I was close to you, I belong to this association, I did this… Don’t you remember all the offerings I made?’ ‘Yes, I remember. The offerings, I remember them: All dirty. All stolen from the poor. I don’t know you.’ That will be Jesus’ response to these scandalous people who live a double life.”

He then called on Catholics to examine themselves.

Francis has addressed atheism in the past, and in 2013 he seemed to suggest they may have a path toward Christian salvation.

“Just do good and we’ll find a meeting point,” he said. 
No, I'd never have gotten close.  But I do agree with him on these matters of soteriology.

And another thing:  I won't even excerpt from it.  I'll just link to it and say mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.  I'm not even Catholic, but the sentiment is sound.  An excellent analysis that reminds us when you point a finger at someone, 3 more are pointing back at you.  And I'm sure the comments at Salon are going to hate it; which ensures it will repay the reading effort.  It may even be nothing concrete is offered there (in the end, I'm not sure it is), so it is a problem argument without a solution.  Regardless, the self-reflection it invokes is never time wasted.

Friday, February 24, 2017

As I was saying...

Trump seems to be referring to the news that Reince Priebus tried to get the FBI to quash statements about the connections between Russia and the White House.  But that kind of communcation is not "classified information."  And saying it in a Tweet is not a Presidential directive classifying that communication.  It's not even the right way to handle a concern about leaks in the White House and FBI authority to contain or even criminalize such leaks.  Sort of like this tweet:

What does he think he's going to do:  replace Rahm Emmanuel?  Appoint a new police commissioner in Chicago?  Declare martial law there and flood the streets with soldiers?  Is this even a directive to Congress to investigate how to help Chicago and stem the violence there?

Does Trump even understand he is the President now?

"You know, Mandrake...."

We are five weeks into the Trump Administration, and not one bill has passed through Congress and landed on his desk for signature.  In fact, there's perishing little evidence ANY bill is being considered by Congress and headed toward the other chamber or a joint committee for reconciliation.

And yet Donald Trump is going to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and, to hear Digby tell it, inevitably start World War III.


Donald Trump has accomplished one thing:  he signed an executive order that threw international travel into chaos, an order that was halted in almost every court that reviewed it, and was tossed out by the 9th circuit.  All indications are the "new, revised" order is the same thing as the old order, just with a clarification excluding green card holders, which puts Stephen Bannon in the corner, or something.

Otherwise, nothing.  Trump still has some 500 appointments to make and get approved by Congress; he doesn't even have names for those appointments.  He is busy keeping his Cabinet officials from picking their own staff because their choices are considered insufficiently loyal to Trump or worse, said unkind things about once upon a time.

This is the guy who's going to get Congress to fund a massive wall that, as Seth Meyers notes, most of the Texas delegation doesn't want (have you seen how much of that border is in Texas?)?  Not to mention the costs are expected to double when eminent domain proceedings have to start to condemn private land so a wall can go up.

And what is Trump doing to get that legislation moving through Congress?  He's tweeting about who should be the new head of the DNC, finding out that slavery was bad, mkay?  And blathering on about "fake news" and the immigration problems of Sweden.  Which, quite frankly, makes this hilarious, rather than disturbing:

“If you think they’re going to give you your country back without a fight, you’re sadly mistaken,” [Stephen] Bannon said. “Every day there is going to be a fight.”

Bannon denounced the “corporatist, globalist media” for being “adamantly opposed to an economic nationalist agenda” the president is pushing. He repeated a reference to the media as the “opposition party,” and bashed it for being “always wrong” about the workings of the administration.
How is Trump pushing an economic agenda?  By tweeting about the closing of a factory?  By falsely declaring the replacement Air Force One was going to cost $4 billion before he whacked $1 billion off the price tag? (The entire AF budget for AF1 is $1.9 billion, by the way.)  What workings of the Administration are evident?  Have they figured out the light switches at last?  Have Priebus and Bannon (as PBS reported tonight) figured out the pecking order of the White House staff?  And what is an "economic nationalist agenda" anyway?

Don't tell me, I don't want to know.  I know more about the "alt-right" than I want to know, already.  But how will they implement this agenda?  Strength of will?  Purity of essence?  Take over an Air Force Base?

Week five, and he hasn't signed one bill into law; and there doesn't seem to be anything moving through Congress, not even Trump's nominees.  Week five, and they still don't understand they are part of a government, not party of a reality TV show or a children's version of the adult world, or the Masters of the Universe.  Week five, and even Trump's magic will exerted against companies to keep jobs isn't working all the time.

Perhaps he's expecting to sign a bill making his Tweets into legislative action.....

"We're gatherin' 'em up from miles around...."

I shouldn't have to tell you how that line ends....

Sessions issued a memo replacing one issued last August by Sally Yates, the deputy attorney general at the time. That memo directed the federal Bureau of Prisons to begin reducing and ultimately end its reliance on privately run prisons.

It followed a Justice Department audit that said private facilities have more safety and security problems than government-run ones. Yates, in her announcement, said they were less necessary given declines in the overall federal prison population.

But Sessions, in his memo, said Yates' directive went against longstanding Justice Department policy and practice and "impaired the Bureau's ability to meet the future needs of the federal correctional system."

Or why I think it's appropriate here....except soon they'll be free to be put in private cages all over the country....

Thursday, February 23, 2017

He never said he was a "Compassionate Conservative"....

I'm guessing this is a clue..... 

You really just have to take it in:

Spicer, though, has not specifically said what Trump was doing between 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 28, other than to say he was in the White House residence ― not in the Situation Room. That’s the hour ― 1:30 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. local time ― when the firefight in Yemen resulted in the deaths of some 30 people, according to news reports. U.S. forces had called in air strikes because of the ferocity of the resistance they encountered. At least 10 of those killed were women or children.

Trump had been in office one week, had approved the raid over dinner, after as minimal a briefing as imaginable, and couldn't be bothered to monitor the situation, but was wandering around probably trying to figure out the light switches.

And the White House thinks nothing of admitting this through the Press Secretary......

Run in circles, scream and shout!

I've decided the only explanation for all these acrid town hall meetings with GOP Congresscritters is that voters expected Hillary to win, and expected a GOP Congress to keep her in check just as she kept them in check (there wasn't going to be a threat that Obamacare would really be repealed, for starters).

And that didn't happen, and they didn't get the deliberately divided government they really seem to prefer.  And now they really don't know whether to shit or go blind; because the crazies are in power, and there's nothing to stop them.

Except fear and intimidation.....

Future so bright!

Somewhere in his mind, this must have made sense:

“I worked at the World Bank, and they’re very interested and they have departments that do clean air and clean water. And guess what the No. 1 thing you can do to have clean air and clean water is? Increase your economic growth. Rich people, it turns out, like clean air and clean water,” [Rep. Dave] Brat [R-Va.] said, immediately earning loud boos from the crowd.

Poor people love that dirty water. donchaknow.  And rich people get things done!

Brat responded by saying he didn’t think he had said anything controversial, and then went on to ask the crowd, “Do you want to be poor or do you want to be rich?”

Because, really, there are only two choices, right?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Meanwhile, back at Obamacare

Don't get me started....

Promises, promises....

"Many of the questions were without clear answers from Blackburn, who served on Trump's transition team and is carrying key legislation that will be a part of the repeal effort from the GOP-led House. She said the replacement will include provisions allowing people of certain age groups with pre-existing conditions to get insurance.

"She said the replacement plan will be 'more responsive and more affordable' as well, without going into many specifics."
Because it's money that matters in the U.S.A.:

As Republicans look at ways to replace or repair the Affordable Care Act, many suggest that shrinking the list of services that insurers are required to offer in individual and small group plans would reduce costs and increase flexibility.

"Increase flexibility" is weasel-speak for "Not cover so damned much, because people are too damned expensive!"  For example:

That option came to the forefront last week when Seema Verma, who is slated to run the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in the Trump administration, noted at her confirmation hearing that coverage for maternity services should be optional in those health plans.

Pre-natal care?  Maternity care?  Why should we pay for other people's pregnancies?  And then, of course, there are the children.  We love our children; but other people's children?

Pediatric oral and vision care requirements, another essential health benefit that's not particularly common in employer plans, could also be weakened, says Caroline Pearson, a senior vice president at the consulting firm Avalere Health.

If you're noticing a pattern here, it's that government should be run like a business, and business doesn't like to provide greater health insurance coverage than it has to; so a lot of this discussion is turning around what is common in employer health-care plans.  Because that's our consumer society morality:  What Would A Reasonably Pecuniary Board of Directors Do?

Before the health law passed, just 12 percent of health policies available to a 30-year-old woman on the individual market offered maternity benefits, according to research by the National Women's Law Center. Those policies that did offer such benefits often charged extra for the coverage and required a waiting period of a year or more.

The essential health benefits package plugged that hole very cleanly, says Adam Sonfield, a senior policy manager at the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research and advocacy organization.

"Having it in the law makes it more difficult to either exclude it entirely or charge an arm and a leg for it," Sonfield says.

Maternity coverage is often offered as an example of a benefit that should be optional, and that's what Verma has advocated. If you're a man or too old to get pregnant, critics of the requirement say, why should you have to pay for that coverage to be included in your policy?

But that a la carte approach is not the way insurance is designed to work, says Linda Blumberg, a senior fellow at the Health Policy Center at the Urban Institute. Women don't need prostate cancer screening, she points out, but they pay for the coverage anyway.

"We buy insurance for uncertainty and to spread the costs of care across a broad population so that when something comes up, that person has adequate coverage to meet their needs," Blumberg says. 

Viagra is a drug insurance should cover; birth control is not.

It's just good business!

The Most Special of Snowflakes

I said Rick Santorum was taking his cues from Trump on anti-semitism in America and its source.  I was wrong.  Santorum isn't taking cues from Trump; Santorum is taking directions from the President.

You may have missed it amid the distraction of Trump’s insult to a Jewish reporter, but in the same press conference, SiriusXM’s Jared Rizzi circled back to the hate crimes question. “I’ll follow up on my colleague’s question about anti-Semitism,” Rizzi said. “It’s not about your personality or your beliefs. We’re talking about a rise in anti-Semitism around the country. Some of it by supporters in your name. What can you do to deter that?”

Trump’s reply: “Some of it is written by our opponents. You do know that? Do you understand that? You don’t think anybody would do a thing like that?” In case he wasn’t being sufficiently clear, he added, “Some of the signs you’ll see are not put up by the people that love or live Donald Trump. They’re put up by the other side, and you think it’s like playing it straight? No. But you have some of those signs, and some of that anger is caused by the other side. They’ll do signs, and they’ll do drawings that are inappropriate. It won’t be my people. It will be the people on the other side to anger people like you.”
You know, like Muslims, who are definitely not Donald Trump supporters; and probably not even American, to hear Rick Santorum talk about it.

The real problem, as ever, is how events in the nation throw mud on the reputation of Donald Trump.