"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

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

"The Check is in the Mail"

Trump is crazy like a fox and just distracting us from all the clever things he's accomplishing while we aren't looking, because our "looking" has magical powers that prevents Mike Pence from getting Trump to do the bidding of the Koch brothers.

Or something.

Anyway, gaze up on his genius and be awed by his mighty powers:

Chris Baldridge told the Post that when Trump called him a few weeks after his son, Army Cpl. Dillon Baldridge, was killed by an Afghan police officer on June 10, he had mentioned to the President that his ex-wife was listed by their son as the beneficiary of the Pentagon’s $100,000 death gratuity.

“He said, ‘I’m going to write you a check out of my personal account for $25,000,’ and I was just floored,” Baldridge told the Post, referring to Trump. “I could not believe he was saying that, and I wish I had it recorded because the man did say this. He said, ‘No other president has ever done something like this,’ but he said, ‘I’m going to do it.’”

(Actually, according to Josh Marshall, "I believe I remember that there are records of President Obama sending sums of money to private citizens who were struggling."  But let's not get bogged down in the fine print, or Trump's need to stroke his own ego even in private phone conversations.)

As you can guess, the check never arrived.  But it's only a cold sore, we're from the IRS and here to help you, and the check is in the mail.  No, really!

In a statement to the Post, White House spokesperson Lindsay Walters said “[t]he check has been sent,” and that it was “disgusting that the media is taking something that should be recognized as a generous and sincere gesture, made privately by the President, and using it to advance the media’s biased agenda.”
"Disgusting" is, next to "nasty," the favorite adjective of the Trump White House.  Scholars will be parsing that for years.   And will the check ever arrive?  Probably right after Trump presents proof Obama's birth certificate was a fake, and that what was reported about his phone conversation with a grieving widow was the opposite of what actually happened.  But wait, there's more!

Trump also claimed — while admitting Monday and Tuesday that he had not yet been in touch with the four military families who lost loved ones in Niger on Oct. 4 — that he had spoken to “every” family of a service member killed during his presidency.

According to the Post, that’s not true: The paper found five families who lost service members during Trump’s tenure as President who had not heard from Trump over the phone. The Associated Press earlier on Wednesday contacted one family who had not been in touch at all with Trump, via phone or letter.

But he's managing to keep us from thinking about what a disgusting and nasty person he is, right?  Nobody has noticed how he flip-flopped on Obamacare subsidies, did they?

Man, that guy's a Houdini!

"I am come to tell you all...."

Oops!  That's the other Lazarus....

I am bemused that the "religious right" has now been "exposed" as the den of money-lenders and merchants in the Temple that they always were.  This is supposedly a great revelation and Bannon at the Value Voters summit has made the scales fall from many an eye as they finally have their Emmaus road experience and see in a flash who it is they were dining with, and it ain't Jesus.

Does no one remember Ralph Reed?  If I have to explain that, my point is made.  If you remember him for what he actually did (rather than what he said he did), my point is made.  Yes, Jennifer Rubin may have denounced the apostates, and Michael Gerson may have seen the light, and Jane Meyer may have written the definitive article on the perfidy of Michael Pence (I heard her interview on "Fresh Air" today, and no doubt she has the goods on him).  Then again, Mayer wrote the book on the Koch Brothers, and they're still around (backing Pence and influencing Trump, to hire Pruitt among other things. Hell, per Mayer, this is the Koch Brothers Administration, and removing Trump won't change a thing).  Ralph Reed is still around, too.  And still part of the "religious right."

The once-proud Religious Right, which bullied the country—and the often-cowed Democratic Party—with its claims of moral superiority and family values is now “a pitiful appendage” to the “squalid” Bannon–Trump agenda, “seeking preference and advancement from a strongman.”

Eh, it always has been.  I refer you, again, to Ralph Reed.

Even if someone returned from the dead, they wouldn't change their tune.  I think Jesus said something like that.....

Okay, let's wrap this up

The President as defiant, petulant child

It's gonna be "they said/they said," because sure, why not?

“What proof does President Trump have when he says Congresswoman Wilson is not telling the truth?” a reporter asked White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders during her daily briefing. “Are there recordings of his phone call?”

“No, but there were several people in the room from the administration that were on the call, including the chief of staff, Gen. John Kelly,” Sanders replied.

Sanders later claimed “multiple people in the room believe that the President was completely respectful” and “very sympathetic.”

She did not specifically deny any points of Wilson’s account of Trump’s phrasing, and insisted that she was speaking “specifically to the sentiment” that he offered.

“I didn’t get into the details of a personal call because I don’t find that to be that appropriate,” Sanders said.

So, several people whose job depends on agreeing with whatever damn fool story the President wants to put out (including John Kelly, whom one would think had already reconsidered his career options after Trump shamelessly used him as a prop in Trump's ongoing narcissistic war with the world), v. the mother of a slain soldier and a Democratic representative no one had ever heard of before, and by implication a grieving widow who just wants to mourn her loss and wonder what she does now, with three kids and no husband.

Yeah, let's continue to have this discussion.  Because God forbid Trump should have his feelings hurt.  I actually don't disagree with Sanders on this topic; but heavens above, how can she work for a man so unfit to be among human beings?  How can any of those 'multiple people in the room'?  More to the point, how can she not specifically deny the stories and still say "the sentiment" was appropriate? The defense is not what he said, but how he said it?  Is this one of those "love the sinner, hate the sin" kind of distinctions?

It is a puzzlement.

Trump retreats to the sandbox

Perhaps appropriately, we could just let this be fought out on Twitter:

And the Representative from Florida accommodated the President:

And we're back to:  "What was the proof, Mr. President?"

Meanwhile, the White House is already waffling on what Trump said during the phone call:

According to a source close to the president, President Donald Trump was "misunderstood" in his comments to an army widow, and only meant to console her - though an early morning tweet issued by the president bypassed his condolences to tear into Congresswoman Wilson.
"This president cares deeply. Maybe he said something that was misunderstood, but he certainly cares about fallen servicemen and women," the source said speaking on background.

It is the first indication from anyone in the administration the president misspoke when speaking with U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson’s widow Tuesday.

Clearly anonymous for a reason, since Trump is insisting he did nothing wrong.  Even his own staff don't believe him; or they overheard him, and know what he said.  Why are we all stuck on the playground with this man-child?

Raw Story says Trump was "pouty" when he repeated that he wasn't rude on the phone.  The video makes that point for them.  He looks like a child called on what he said to a schoolmate, and denying the whole thing because he won't admit what actually happened.  And not the least part, that he can't call the widow by name; news reports now say the widow, crying in the car, after the call, complained that Trump didn't know her husband's name.  Does anyone doubt it?

So I guess both women are liars....

Not that this really deserves to continue on, because the real story is the poor widow's grief: 
Cowanda Jones-Johnson was present when the president called her daughter-in-law, Myeshia Johnson, during the ride to greet the slain serviceman’s body, reported the Washington Post.

The call, which was taken over speaker phone, was overheard by Rep. Frederica Johnson (D-FL) and a county official riding in the car.

“President Trump did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband,” Jones-Johnson told the newspaper.

The soldier’s mother declined to elaborate, but she told the newspaper that Wilson’s account of the conversation was accurate.
But somebody somewhere is going to insist it was "he said/she said."

Amoris Laetitia

“I don’t understand those Catholics such as...Fr. Martin,” Yiannopoulos said, "who imply that if people don’t like what the Church says, maybe the Church is wrong or should apologize. The Church was founded on a rock and a cross, not on a hug.”

Leave aside the implication that Fr. Martin "implies" adherence to Church doctrine is not essential to Roman Catholics (it's a cheap shot), and notice that the real purpose of church is to decide who is in and who is out.  Which leaves Isaiah out, to begin with:

"Come for water, all who are thirsty;
though you have no money, come, buy grain and eat;
come, buy wine and milk,
not for money, not for a price.
Why spend your money for what is not food,
your earnings on what fails to satisfy?
Listen to me and you will fare well,
you will enjoy the fat of the land."--Isaish 55:1-2, REB)

Yes, I drag that one out repeatedly, but it's as compact a statement of inclusiveness without boundaries as anything in Scripture.  The invitation is not predicated on armed guards keeping "bad people" away, or ticket holders only being allowed in, or the approved streaming through while the disapproved are barred at the gate.  There is no gate, there is no judgment, there's not even a cover charge.   There can be a rock and a cross, but they aren't barriers to entry, or standards to which you must comply before you can eat and drink.  There is certainly no cross wielded as a sword rather than borne as a burden.  Since I don't have my REB with me and can't find that version on-line, here's the KJV of the entire chapter, just to keep it in context:

Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2Why {Wherefore} do ye spend money for that which is not bread? And your labor for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto Me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. 3Incline your ear, and come unto Me; hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David. 4Behold, I have given him for a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander to the peoples. 5Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee because of the LORD, thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for He hath glorified thee. 6Seek ye the LORD while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near: 7Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the LORD, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. 8For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the LORD. 9For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.

10For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not there {thither}, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater, 11So shall My word be that goeth forth out of My mouth; it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. 12For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. 13Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree; and it shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

I especially like v. 9 there, where the LORD says God's thoughts are higher than our thoughts, God's ways higher than our ways.  Not a lot of room there for exclusion based on human preferences or even human interpretations of God's word.  In the end we must be humble before God, not childishly arrogant and sure of who is in, who is out.

Of course, "in" and "out" are crucial terms if you think your side is about to be overrun:

“We’re in the beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict...[if the church does not bind together and really form what I feel is an aspect of the church militant, to really be able to not just stand with our beliefs, but to fight for our beliefs against this new barbarity that’s starting, that will completely eradicate everything that we’ve been bequeathed over the last 2,000, 2,500 years.”
That, too, is a directly un-Biblical view of history and creation.  It's a view that God is absent, or powerless in the most fundamental way (unable to act, v. powerlessness as real power) and that evil will win the cosmic battle if good doesn't join the fight directly through those who think exclusion is the way of God.  It's also the idea that God is not present in history at all unless we act for God; which puts God not higher than us, but merely a passenger in our hip pocket.  I'm sure that's appealing to some people, but to put it in terms the British Yiannopoulos would understand, it's got bugger all to do with Christianity, or a rock, or a cross, or a hug.

Yiannopoulos is welcome into the body of Christ; he's just not welcome to his own, exclusionary brand of Christianity.

Today on Twitter

Still not as crazy as Trump 

No, the NFL has decided you don't really matter:

The N.F.L. for now will continue to let players kneel or sit during the national anthem without a penalty, capitulating to demands by the athletes for free expression but potentially further alienating fans who object to the protests and feel they are disrespectful to the flag and the military.

But, after a meeting Tuesday with union representatives and players, the league did promise to help support some of the causes targeted by the protesting players, including reform of the criminal justice system.

The owners’ decision to not toughen the league’s stance on anthem demonstrations showed yet again the contortions they have been going through to display support for their players while wrestling with the political fallout of the sideline protests that have persisted since last season.

The players, largely on social media, had made clear they would not abide penalties for sitting or kneeling during the pregame anthem, while legal experts wondered if any punitive change would hold up in court. The gestures began last season, spurred by Colin Kaepernick, then the quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, to draw attention to racial oppression and police brutality against black Americans.

Kinda hard to play football without football players; not so hard to play without a VP in attendance.

Yeah, that story just keeps getting better:

“He was almost like joking,” Wilson said. “He said, ‘Well, I guess you knew’ — something to the effect that he knew what he was getting into when he signed up, but I guess it hurts anyway. You know, just matter of factually, that this happens —anyone who is signing up for military duty is signing up to die. That’s the way we interpreted it, and it was horrible. It was insensitive, it was absolutely crazy, unnecessary. I was livid.”

Even though the Representative seems to favor crazy cowboy hats for all occasions, she still has more credibility than Trump, who also had proof Obama's birth certificate was a fake.

Sadly, Joe Scarborough is right:

“Mika (Brzezinski) and I were walking out of a restaurant a couple weeks ago,” he said. “We heard people at every table talking about Trump — none of it was positive, none of it was positive. Everybody was concerned, everybody was nervous. This was in a Republican area, by the way. We get out of the restaurant, and I turn to her and I said, ‘You know, he doesn’t care that everybody in there thinks he is destroying America. The only thing he cares about is that they’re talking about him.”

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

There are literally no words

And yes, it's verified:
Rep Wilson herself said:  “So I heard what he said because the phone was on speaker.”

The president called about 4:45 p.m. and spoke to Johnson’s pregnant widow, Myeshia Johnson, for about five minutes. She is a mother to Johnson’s surviving 2-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter. The conversation happened before Johnson’s remains arrived in a commercial Delta Airlines flight at Miami International Airport.
The White House issued a statement on the reported conversation:

Well, not that private:

 “President Trump spoke to all four of the families of those who were killed in action in Niger,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, according to a pool report. “He offered condolences on behalf of a grateful nation and assured them their family’s extraordinary sacrifice to the country will never be forgotten.”
We thought he'd reached his low point:

“The thing about Donald Trump that we’ve learned is it’s always about him and he can never be wrong,” former Barack Obama advisor David Axelrod noted. “Those two qualities ultimately will defeat him, but in the meantime, it’s a shame for the country and these families and it’s a shame that he would sully his predecessors this way.”

“The president himself is without shame,” [Anderson] Cooper replied. “There’s nothing off limits when it comes to when he feels he’s being attacked or asked a question.”

“What does it mean for the presidency as an institution?” Cooper asked David Gergen, who served in the Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton administrations.

“I don’t know where this compulsion come from, it must be a place of deep insecurity on his part,” Gergen suggested. “He has this compulsion when he’s facing criticism and must be feeling embarrassed about it to lash out at others and to blame others.” 

Donald Trump can always go lower than you imagine possible.  “He was talking off the cuff, saying the same thing over and over again."  Because, of course he was.

Donald Trump is even more of a failure than he appears to be.

This is the end, my beautiful friend, the end....

Donald Trump is crazy like a fox.  This is a favorite meme of the internet, where wisdom is seen as identifying something that isn't there, but you say it is, and you alone have returned alive to tell us all, and you shall tell us all.

Or something.  Anyway, Howard Fineman tried to engage it recently at HuffPost (I won't even bother) and now Slate, where the ghost of Michael Kinsley still whispers in someone's ear once in a blue moon, has fallen hard for the fear, the fear!  that Trump is not the fool you take him for.

Item one:

In the span of a few days, Trump has dealt a major blow to Obamacare by cutting government subsidies to insurance companies.
Which would be a really awful thing, if not for today's news, which is actually just context:

On Tuesday, Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) announced a deal that would fund the cost-sharing reduction payments for two years, make it easier for states to waive some health care regulations, and restore some of the budget for open enrollment outreach Trump gutted earlier this fall.

This is what Trump's been talking about since he "gutted" the ACA (I've read stories since that subsidies will continue, but CSR's won't.  Huh?  Seems to be some confusion over how actually deadly this executive order he almost forgot to sign, was.).  It seems Trump was relying on this bit of legislating to allow him to claim victory and seem relevant again.  So, for the moment, he's out in front of the crowd and can claim to be leading the parade.  I, for one, see no reason to help him in that endeavor by attributing to him qualities he clearly doesn't have.

Item two:

He has gone further in attacking the media than ever before.

Well, yes, that's bad, especially since his racist attitudes seem to be encouraging racism on the margins more and more.  But the upside is reporters are now doing their jobs and instead of tugging their forelocks at powerful people, they are challenging their blatant lies:

Item three:

He has rolled back key restrictions on coal plants. He has imperiled NAFTA. He has begun to unravel the Iran deal. And he has taken the United States out of UNESCO.

Coal plants are dead because coal is dead because natural gas is cheap.  EOD.  The market rules.  Get over it, Pruitt.  NAFTA isn't going anywhere because one of the major beneficiaries of NAFTA is the second most populous state in the Union.  And that's as red as state as there is.  He hasn't "begun to unravel the Iran deal," he's used a stupid law the GOP passed hoping to stick it to President Hillary that has now blown up in their face, and the easiest cure is to repeal the stupid law.  It has nothing to do with the Iran deal, which everyone in the Administration, including Tillerson and Haley, have insisted is not going anywhere (even if we pulled out, what good would it do us, it's not a bilateral agreement.).  And yes, pulling out of UNESCO is stupid, but you gotta expect minor stupid things under Trump.

Calm down.

But worst of all, apparently, is the ongoing football crusade:

This poll scared me more than just about any other I have seen in the past months. If Trump can turn his base against the NFL, then what can’t he get them to do? And if he can get his base to go along with just about anything he does, how can we be so sure that he won’t take more and more radical steps to overcome opposition to his agenda?
Well, yeah, I guess that is scary.  Until you remember Trump didn't win the popular vote, and his support in states he carried is down since the election.  As for the NFL kerfuffle, the players aren't backing down, the owners don't know whether to shit or go blind (because they can't force the players to stand, or even take the field for the anthem), and Trump is not winning that fight among people who aren't his base, i.e, the majority of the country:

Asked to identify from a list the main reason the players are protesting, a 57 percent majority of Americans surveyed said it was in response to “police violence.” That’s up from 48 percent in a HuffPost/YouGov poll taken in late September. (Respondents were allowed to select multiple options.)

The percentage of self-described football fans who say they believe the protests are meant to target police violence has risen to 66 percent, a 13-point increase.

Just 26 percent of the public now considers the protests to be in large part against President Donald Trump, down from 40 percent in the previous survey. As before, relatively few ― 14 percent in the latest poll and 12 percent in September ― agree with the Trump administration’s assertions that the protests are aimed at the American flag.
It's a tempest in a teapot, but I actually see reason to feel confident there.  Awareness of what the players are doing is rising.  The players are pressuring the owners (described by the one Muslim among them as "85 year old guys who think they aren't racists") to do give money to social justice actions (NPR news tells me the NFL is setting up such an effort).  Which part of this is nuts, again?  Oh, yeah, the shrinking number of people who still think Trump can do no wrong.

Yes, it's going to be a long four years; but there's no reason to make it worse than it already is; or not to see that most things Trump touches go the other way from what he intended.  This, too, is reason to be confident in the future.

Things You Don't Do, Dept.

(1) Tug on Superman's cape; (2) spit into the wind; (3)  Play "tough guy" with a man who was in the Navy and spent years in a Vietnamese POW camp:

Appearing on talk radio station WMAL in Washington DC, Trump was asked about the criticism McCain leveled at him this week, in which he lashed out at “half baked, spurious nationalism” that’s being “cooked up by people who had rather find scapegoats than solve problems.”

“People have to be careful because at some point I fight back,” Trump told WMAL radio host Chris Plante. “You know, I’m being very nice. I’m being very, very nice. But at some point I fight back and it won’t be pretty.”
Especially when you need every GOP vote in the Senate to get anything resembling your legislative agenda passed into law.

I don't think highly of John McCain's politics; but in a political fight between McCain and Trump, my money is on McCain.

Monday, October 16, 2017

"Who you gonna believe? Me, or what people tell me?"

'L' is for 'liar!'

Here's what happened in the Rose Garden press conference today:

QUESTION: Why haven't we heard anything from you so far about the soldiers that were killed in Niger? What do you have to say about (OFF-MIKE)?

TRUMP: I've written them personal letters. They've been sent, or they're going out tonight, but they were written during the weekend. I will, at some point during the period of time, call the parents and the families, because I have done that traditionally.

I felt very, very badly about that. I always feel badly. It's the toughest -- the toughest calls I have to make are the calls where this happens. Soldiers are killed. It's a very difficult thing. Now, it gets to a point where, you know, you make four or five of them in one day -- it's a very, very tough day. For me, that's by far the toughest.

So the traditional way -- if you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn't make calls. A lot of them didn't make calls. I like to call when it's appropriate, when I think I am able to do it.

They have made the ultimate sacrifice. So generally I would say that I like to call.

I'm going to be calling them. I want a little time to pass. I'm going to be calling them. I have -- as you know, since I've been president, I have.

But in addition, I actually wrote letters individually to the soldiers we're talking about, and they're going to be going out either today or tomorrow.

QUESTION: Why did it take you -- Mr. President, why did it take you so long...

And that's where he left it, until later in the same press conference:

QUESTION: (inaudible) a quick question. Earlier, you said that President Obama never called the families of fallen soldiers. How can you make that claim?

TRUMP: I don't know if he did. No, no, no.
I was -- I was told that he didn't often, and a lot of presidents don't. They write letters.

QUESTION: (inaudible)

TRUMP: I do -- excuse me, Peter.
I do a combination of both. Sometimes it's -- it's a very difficult thing to do, but I do a combination of both.

President Obama, I think, probably did sometimes, and maybe sometimes he didn't. I don't know. That's what I was told.

All I can do -- all I can do is ask my generals. Other -- other presidents did not call, they'd write letters. And some presidents didn't do anything.


TRUMP: But I like -- I like the combination of -- I like, when I can, the combination of a call and also a letter.

So, follow that up with this from TPM:

“The President wasn’t criticizing predecessors, but stating a fact,” Sanders said in an email to TPM.

“When American heroes make the ultimate sacrifice, Presidents pay their respects,” she continued. “Sometimes they call, sometimes they send a letter, other times they have the opportunity to meet family members in person. This President, like his predecessors, has done each of these. Individuals claiming former presidents, such as their bosses, called each family of the fallen, are mistaken.”
That last sentence is probably a reference to the comments of Alyssa Mastromonaco:

Trump also said the letters had been written over the weekend, but said only they'd be getting in the mail "soon."

Sanders did not respond to TPM’s questions about how frequently Trump delays contact with grieving military families for 12 days and counting. 

No one has claimed President Obama, or any prior President, called every family of the fallen.  That's the reverse of Trump's claim, and it was a lie.  Which the White House tries to deflect, by saying the same lie is being made in criticism of him.

Which is another lie.

But remember:  the people who dishonor our soldiers are professional football players kneeling on a football field.*

*And yeah, it'd be nice if he talked about how tough it is on the families of the fallen, rather than how tough it is on him.

And Mike Popovich speaks to the problem of Trump, and lackeys like Huckabee Sanders, better than I can:

“This man in the Oval Office is a soulless coward who thinks that he can only become large by belittling others,” Popovich continued. “This has of course been a common practice of his, but to do it in this manner–and to lie about how previous Presidents responded to the deaths of soldiers–is as low as it gets.”

“We have a pathological liar in the White House: unfit intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically to hold this office and the whole world knows it, especially those around him every day,” the NBA coach added. “The people who work with this president should be ashamed because they know it better than anyone just how unfit he is, and yet they choose to do nothing about it. This is their shame most of all.”

Geez, even Bill Kristol gets it:

“At times the president seems removed from realizing he’s the head of state, the commander in chief,” former Bush deputy assistant Juan Zarate said. “He’s ultimately responsible for these actions. The fact that four brave men died in Niger on behalf of our country fight with our allies, that happened on his watch. He’s commander in chief. He not only has responsibility to communicate to the families of those fallen soldiers but also to the country with respect to what they were doing on the ground. I’m disappointed. I’m hurt.”

“He owes those two presidents [Barack Obama and Bush] an apology before the end of the day,” [Nicolle] Wallace said. “That’s a smear and slander, the likes of which I haven’t heard since, I don’t know maybe yesterday. But it’s appalling he said that.”

“I know we don’t diagnose him but it does put a little bit of steel behind your suspicion that there’s something wrong with him,” she added.

“He has no soul,” [Donny] Deutsch replied, matter-of-factly.
“Did we elect the worst person on this planet?” he later asked. “Any time you think you can’t go lower—I want to cry. This is not about politics. There’s something so deeply wrong, evil, soulless about this person that’s got his hand on the switch and there’s nothing else to say.”

“It is appalling,” Bill Kristol agreed, noting Trump used the word “I” 18 times throughout his remark on fallen soldiers. “It’s all about him,” Kristol said.

“7-year-olds have more humanity,” Wallace said. 
And now that he's cut off the CSR's under Obamacare, Democrats are going to be desperate to work with him.  Right?  After all, he's a legend in his own mind.


But they will work with him on health care!

Trump speaks, nobody understands him: 

I cutoff the gravy train. If I didn’t cut the CSRs, they wouldn’t be meeting. They would be having lunch and enjoying themselves. They are right now having emergency meetings to get a short-term fix of health care. Where premiums don’t have to double and triple every year like they’ve been doing under Obamacare. Because Obamacare is finished. It’s dead. It’s gone. You shouldn’t even mention it. It’s gone. There is no such thing as Obamacare anymore. I said this years ago. It’s a concept that couldn’t have worked. In its best days it couldn’t have worked.

Okay, fine; but a "short term fix" can only mean a method of funding CSR's without Presidential oversight or control is in the offing, because nothing else will fix what cutting off the CSR's has caused:  a rise in premium costs (yes, it's already happened.  Many insurance companies planned for this and set out two tiers of rates; now they're going with the second one).

If Obamacare is dead, then health care is dead.  It took two years to implement Obamacare, and several more to make it actually functional.  And Trump, who hasn't been able to repeal it yet, is going to replace it in the spring?  Because, what, spring is a good time to pass legislation just before an election later that year?

It was called Obamacare, but I think we will have a short-term fix and a long-term fix and that will take place probably in March or April. We will have a very solid vote. It will be probably 100% Republican. No Democrats. 

Wait:  now the Senate will vote for it, but no Democrats will, even though Democrats will pass the short term fix?  I don't know who's more confused:  me or him.  And this will happen because:

I know the Republican senators and most of them are really, really great people that want to work hard and want to do a great thing for the American public. A few people disappointed us. Really, really disappointed us.

You still can't count, because it only takes a few.  Three at most, and you've insulted at least four of them, by my count, including some who voted with you on healthcare last time around.  Oh, and now the Democrats are going to help?

I feel very confident of that. I think we have the vote for health care. Sadly the Democrats can’t join us on that which will be the long-term fix, but I do believe we will have a short-term fix because I think the Democrats will be blamed for the mess.

Again and again with the magical "short term fix":

So I think we will have a short-term fix with Republicans and Democrats getting together and after that have a successful vote.

Funny, I don't see that happening:

Yup, they're meeting right now to repeal and replace Obamacare.  You showed 'em!  Never get in the way of a man punching himself in the face.  Especially a man who is sure everyone else is to blame:

“Despite what the press writes, I have great relationships with, actually, many senators, but, in particular, with most Republican senators,” Trump told reporters during a meeting with his Cabinet. “But we’re not getting the job done. And I’m not going to blame myself. I’ll be honest, they are not getting the job done.”
I'm sure that attitude is going to continue to win friends and influence people for him!

The Fart of the Deal

"Nice poor people ya got there!  Be a shame if anything was to happen to 'em!"

Friday, October 13, 2017

Grand Unified Theory of Trump

Who's the fairest of them all?

Josh Marshall asks quite reasonably about Trump cutting off subsidies to Obamacare:

The go-to answer in all things Trump is:  how does this affect Donald Trump?

“If you take a look at CSR payments, that money is going to insurance companies to prop up insurance companies,” Trump told reporters on his way to Marine One.

A reporter responded that the payments were meant to help low-income people afford insurance.

“That money is going to insurance companies to lift up their stock price,” Trump said. “And that’s not what I’m about.”

“Take a look at who those insurance companies support and I guarantee you one thing, it’s not Donald Trump,” he added.

End of discussion.  Any more questions?

Congratulate me!  Congratulate ME!!!!

They will laugh at his mighty thumbs

We have to start with this undeniable, irrefutable observation made in comments at TPM:

Twitter - the playground on which adult kids can hurl insults, tell lies and act tough with a big audience to observe the stupidity.
And then go to the perfectly valid observation that Trump enjoys his power to torment by speaking, while failing utterly to understand what power as President he actually has:

The tantalizing and awful theater of this high-stakes decision-making enthralls the president. Examining every claim Puerto Rico can make on U.S. aid, accounting for the island’s preexisting debt, assessing the worthiness of the governor and mayors—here is all the intoxicating choreography of leadership and none of the heart. For Trump, relishing the suspense he’s creating, these will-he-or-won’t-he wobbles are expressions of a deeper malice. His lament that Hurricane Maria has derailed the federal budget dressed his sadism up in cool, Olympian judgment. The common folk were begging for their lives, but he had a deficit to consider. Could he in good conscience afford to send more help? Hmm—he’s going to need to get back to us on that one.

A simplistic thinker if ever one lived, Trump has a pattern of equivocating on matters that repel nuance. He ventured that some of the participants in a white supremacist rally were “very fine people.” Now he is waffling on whether hurricane victims deserve the resources of their own federal government.

It shouldn’t surprise us that the president would linger over the myriad branching “complications” of saving Puerto Rico. Many of his grand pronouncements don’t chime with reality. Consider his threat to revoke NBC’s broadcasting license, which a commissioner on the Federal Communications Commission summarily shut down. In hurricane relief, though, the president has discovered a lever susceptible to the shifts in his moods. He can regulate the flow of supplies to desperate Americans after a cataclysmic storm, which means he can write these people’s fates with extreme precision.

Clearly, the vulnerability of his own citizens is an irresistible lure. It is not enough for Trump to praise himself for delivering Puerto Ricans from danger, even when what he’s doing is distributing basic supplies—this president can transform the clearing of the lowest possible bar into a feat of benevolence. He must also preserve his capacity to hurt and subdue. Sparing the gladiator looks so much more impressive when the emperor could have just as easily had him killed. And anyway, who cares what happens to the guy in the ring? Trump just wants to remind us who has the mighty thumbs.

Link that up with Trump's desire to punish football players even though neither he nor even the team owners have the power to make men stand on a football field.  The end doesn't matter, it's all about the means, as his Twitter feed continues to make obvious this morning:
That was in response to this tweet from O'Reilly, another "reliable source" who also has no idea what he's talking about (but Trump approves of any ability he might have to do "major damage"):

And let's not miss a chance to demagogue immigration, or the Democratic Party:

"Sanctuary," of course, is not a crime.  It's a humanitarian effort, and a reasonable law enforcement effort.  Unless you want to revive the original meaning of "outlaw," which means one outside the protection of the law; an invitation to true lawlessness.  But hell, they're immigrants, so who cares, amirite?  I mean, it's not like they live in Puerto Rico, where everything sucked even before the hurricane.
We just can't keep the military there forever.  Afghanistan?  After 16 years, we need to increase the troops we've had there.  Puerto Rico?  Sorry, gotta cut our losses on you.  Trump will be with you!  FEMA, the military, any other help; not so much.

It's all about what makes the President look good; or at least, feel good.  And whether he wants to go thumbs up, or thumbs down.  We'll all just have to wait and see how our benevolent dictator feels.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Folks like that

Remember when Jerry Jones decided he "owned" the Dallas Cowboys football team, which means he "owned" the players, too, and could go all Donald Trump on their ass?  Well, it's not just the player's union that's interested in that attempted bit of tyranny:

Chief organizer of Local 100 Wade Rathke asked the National Labor Relations Board to “investigate preemptively in order to prevent illegal firings of players,” arguing Jones’ directive violates a clause that prohibits employers from taking action against workers engaging in “concerted activity.”

“Jones through his efforts to bully his playing workforce is attempting to unilaterally establish a previously nonexistent condition of work,” Rathke told the Star-Telegram in a statement announcing the charge.

“The point is he is threatening anybody and everybody,” he continued. “We are trying to send Mr. Jones a message that there is a law here. The law here is that you have the ability to act with your co-worker. You can’t just roll over someone’s rights when they are a worker. You can’t bully workers on the job. President (Donald) Trump might not get that. Jones might be confused. But these are workers with rights with the National Labor Relations Board.”
Not only can Trump not act unilaterally, neither can Jerry Jones.

There's a lesson to be learned here.

I was just going to archive this, but then:

The president was speaking to one of his strongest supporters in the American media, Fox News’ Sean Hannity, at the Air National Guard in Middletown, Pennsylvania.

Mid-interview the “Retreat’ anthem started to play, and while others have stopped in their tracks to salute, stand to attention or pay their respects for the bugle, Trump sat with Hannity and continued to speak throughout it.

"What a nice sound that is," Trump said.  "Are they playing that for you or for me?"

"They're playing that in honor of his ratings,” he said, referring to Hannity. "He's beating everybody.”

When it plays, soldiers stop and salute, and civilians place their hands on their hearts in a patriotic act observed by the military. But the president did neither for the sound that has served as a tradition since before the American Revolutionary War, in spite of his criticism of NFL players for protesting during the national anthem.
Ass.  Thrice ass and fool.  Everything he touches turns to merde.

How long, O Lord, how long?

Because P.R. is surrounded by water!  Big Water!  Ocean Water!  If it were only landlocked, like Afghanistan, maybe we could keep troops there for a decade or more.  But you know, things were bad before the hurricane, you can't expect us to do anything about that now.  They should have foreseen two hurricanes would walk over their island and destroy everything.  Not our fault!  Sad!

Notice the POTUS is getting his information, not from the intelligence agencies that could supply it, or even FEMA, but from Sinclair Broadcasting TV host Sharyl Attkisson, which was merely a commentary, so Atkisson could say whatever she wanted to.  Wait, isn't that bad?

Presumably she didn't direct any ire toward Trump, so no hatred there.  Ire toward Puerto Rico and the citizens who are still without water there?  Hey, perfectly justified!  I mean, it's not like we can help them forever!  It's been almost a month!  What more do they want?  Of course, this is the funny part:

Well, for about three weeks; then we get tired and resentful, apparently.  Either that, or Puerto Ricans aren't "real Americans," so they have no goodness, no courage, no love:  fuck 'em!

And I just have to add:

“I watched Colin Kaepernick and I thought it was terrible. And then it got bigger and bigger and started mushrooming,” Trump told Hannity.

“And frankly the NFL should have suspended him for one game and he would have never done it again,” he continued. “They could have then suspended him for two games and they could have suspended him again if he did it a third time for the season, and you would never have had a problem.  But I will tell you — you cannot disrespect our country, our flag, our anthem, you cannot do that.”
They FIRED him, you moron!  He no longer plays for the NFL, on any team!  He was let go last year.  And yet players continued to kneel this year!  Honestly, how stupid are you?

I hope Steve Bannon is right; I hope there's only a 30% chance this putz stays in office through the end of the year.

More Songs About Building and Food

I didn't realize until just now how much that title has to do with church(es).  Anyway....

On the matter of generations, and speaking broadly (which is not to say sociologically, but I'll put mine up against theirs any day):  Boomers were the generation that actively and as a cohort (we imagined ourselves a "generation" because we were told we were.  American public demographics, the division of groups into "generations" based on birth year, a form or astrology, really, began with the Boomers.  Other generations were labelled around that cornerstone.) "rebelled" against their parents.  "We're not gonna take it!" was our mantra.  We had our own music, our own clothes, our own antipathy to a war we had to fight for reasons we couldn't understand, etc., etc., etc.  Debate the validity of those assertions all you want, it was the perception.

Subsequent generations, "Gen Xers" and "Millenials," took that sense of breaking from the parents, as their birthright.  Each saw it as their choice to define their culture, and although all three pretty much did it within the confines of American culture (how much has really changed for minorities, Native Americans, and even women, since the '60's?  Some things dramatically, most things not so dramatically.  The idea of men as "macho" and football watching knuckle draggers is even more emphasized than it was in my childhood.  "Macho" Christianity has even risen from the ashes of the early 20th century, echoing a vision of Christianity that goes back to the "Dream of the Rood."

So it goes.

Boomers left the churches of their parents as soon as they could.  Some returned when they had kids and wanted the stable life they remembered from childhood, giving rise to the "vulture theology" that, like funeral directors, churches would get you in the end (you need us for baptisms, marriages, and funerals, and you want your kids raised "right").  But the Sunday Schools of my youth, packed with the kids of parents who were in church themselves (or sometimes just dropped the kids off for a quiet Sunday morning at home) had disappeared by my daughter's childhood.  Because of "liberal theology"?  Hardly.  More due to the disappearance of the weekend and the end of Sunday as a "sacred space" set aside for church in the morning and pro football in the afternoons.  Kid's soccer and other athletic events crowd the weekend calendar now, and Sunday morning is no longer sacrosanct.  Parents work 7 days a week, and if they don't, weekends are dedicated to all the things Mom used to do during the week (at least for that halcyon post-war era we grew up thinking was the way things has "always been").  "Time, time, time, see what's become of me," is no longer the lament of an adolescent who finds he has to grow up and doesn't like it.  It's the curious result of all out "time-saving" devices not making our life as push-button easy as that of George Jetson, but more frantic and filled with work.  Church is a leisure activity:  it fell by the boards slowly but surely over the decades.

And it wasn't because the churches became more "liberal."  If they were liberal today the words of Dr. King's letter wouldn't be as relevant now as they were when they were written.  If they became less affirming of the world people wanted to hang on to, a world where whites were in charge and everyone knew their place (and I don't mean a white supremacist world; it doesn't have to be that malicious and restrictive to apply), churches did so reflecting the changes in culture of the world they were in, and suddenly being "in the world" but not "of the world" became extremely important.  Except mostly the people demanding that wanted to the church to be "of" a very different world than the world they found themselves living in.

Churches haven't lost members because they became too liberal; they have lost the battle for attention and time.  Even the entertainment factor of "conservative" churches is starting to fade.  Liturgical worship, while it will never been seen in a Baptist congregation, is becoming more widespread and being rediscovered by traditions that had abandoned it.  Churches that never had a "church year," that even would have considered the concept too "Popish," are taking up the idea of Advent and Lent as ways to make worship more meaningful and less the annual routine of sermons about salvation and how to be successful broken only by Christmas and Easter celebrations.  The very purpose of church is being re-examined, and where that purpose centers on community, it centers on the locale of the congregation.  Some congregations form communities which thrive and prosper and reap the fruits of the Spirit.  Some communities are always seed thrown on dry ground:  they never set roots and produce plants that thrive.  This has always been true in the church, too, for 2000 years; but the sense of the place and propriety of institutions which was assaulted by the Boomers, has become almost absolutely unnecessary to Millenials, whose icon is not the CEO but the entrepreneur who, by individual genius, becomes rich by selling to millions.  The church thrived in a post-war world where corporate achievement defeated Germany and rebuilt Europe and left America prosperous and powerful.  Business leaders of corporations gave way to Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, who had a great idea that made them rich and powerful.  In "Blade Runner 2049" the CEO of Tyrell, connected personally to even his humbler employees and seeing himself as still the salesperson for his company, is replaced by the hermit in his isolation chamber who only needs the tools of technology to enact his vision of what the world should be, whether the world wants it or not.  He is god, and he stands alone.  What need of community has he?  Even Ryan Gosling's character has to learn the lesson:  what are people for?

Religion is one way of answering that question; but American culture in general just now seems to think it knows the answers religion offers, and it rejects them.  So if there is a rise of "nones," it isn't because American churches became too theologically liberal, but because the entire concept of religion became too irrelevant.

That seems to be the common wisdom.  Whether it actually is wise, is another matter.

As for the idea that morality and God must go hand in hand, or religion is doomed: this is the inverse of an old canard dating back to the Victorian Era.  In that age of revolution religion itself seemed doomed (Nietzsche is the prophet of this movement, but not in the sense of seeing a future the rest of us can't.  He was simply pronouncing the present; or so he thought.).  This loss was not bemoaned by the ruling class in England (where the revolution began, with the Industrial Revolution and its twin, Romanticism, the revolutionary idea of the centrality of the individual) so much as feared, because without the terror of God as Judge and Hairy Thunderer, how could the many-headed be kept civilized?  They feared the separation of God from morality because they feared the loss of power morality gave them (the freedom basically to do as they pleased, but to tell the hoi polloi to do as they said, not as they did.  The irony being that today the British royal family is more petit bourgeois than anyone in England.).  Sartre was of like mind, and tried to establish an ethic that replaced the authority of God with the authority of the other.  But the assumption that morality is what kept us from anarchy and chaos, and that only an iron fist in the velvet glove would keep us from nature red in tooth and claw, was a Hobbesian holdover we had no more reason to rely on than the assertion that liberal churches slit their own throats by their liberalism.

So, today, is religion losing ground because so many Democrats declare they don't need God to be moral?  What ground did religion have, that it could allow so much injustice (see Dr. King's letter) and still declare itself moral?  What ground do these non-religious but moral people have today?

I'm listening to people on the radio discuss fires in California, and what they are saying is that there is an environment there which expects wildfire, and the more we reject that reality, the more damage we do to ourselves.  Clearing brush, thinning trees, controlled burns:  these are all the practices that allow life in fire-prone areas to go on.  We ignore these lessons to our damage, even our peril.  The analogy to the teachings of the law, the prophets, the gospels, the epistles, is that those teachings are as prescriptive as the rules about living in ares where fire is the norm (or, in Texas, flooding).  The "morality" of the Scriptures is not a series of "do's" and "don'ts" imposed by a prim schoolmarm with a sharp rap of the ruler on your knuckles.  It is the way of wisdom:  of happiness and prosperity for all (not just a few at the top) and life into the ages (not necessarily the metaphysical sweet bye-and-bye).  If morality is simply a series of "thou shalt nots" or "thou shalt face eternal punishment," then we are just extending human power structures into eternity itself, and what then for the power of powerlessness, which is one of the real messages of the Scriptures?  We are prone to live against the world we live in, and it costs us dearly to be so selfish.  Scripture teaches us to live with the world and each other, a way that benefits all.  It isn't about morality and who's doing "right," it isn't about punishment for doing wrong; it isn't even about institutions to keep us in line.  If there is change going on and it isn't a "goosey" feeling, perhaps that is the true movement of the Spirit.  The Spirit has been compared to a goose, but not one you feel or inflict.  The Spirit has been called a wild goose; going where it will when it will.  We need to be lifted from our selfishness and our self-centeredness and our conviction that if we can just create the right technology, the right app, our singular vision can save the world and leave us in comfort for the rest of one life.  We need a larger vision.  We need, perhaps, new styles of architecture, a change of heart.

We don't need to go backward, to recapture the past, in church or in society or in culture.  "Yesterday, all the past...."  Today, the wild goose calls.  Whether we will hear it, whether we will follow, is entirely our responsibility.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers

"If there when Grace dances, I should dance."--W.H. Auden

Another fairly silly article about the "rise" of "nones" (I honestly expect better than this from Vox) which presumes the post World War II "boom" in church attendance (which predated, barely, the "baby boom," make of that what you will) and subsequent rise in evangelical churches and non-denominational "mega-churches" (quick, what denomination is Joel Osteen?) in the '80's (no love for the "Jesus Freaks" of the early '70's?), was the norm in America, and the change was because mainline churches were too "liberal", donchaknow?

Such numbers speak to the relative theological liberalism of white mainline churches — many of which have traditionally been associated with progressive politics — as well as the tricky needle many mainline Protestant churches must thread. While they are often more socially as well as doctrinally more liberal than their evangelical counterparts, placing less of a public emphasis on dogma, such a “middle ground” has often left them short of members: Another 2015 Pew study found that, nationwide, mainline churches hemorrhage 1 million members annually. Other religious groups were not polled for this particular part of the survey.

Yes, mainline churches are losing members, I'll take the Pew study as a fact on that issue.  But why?  The rest of that paragraph is remarkably fact free, but "everybody knows" what caused it, so why argue the point now?

That assertion is not exactly "fake news," but it is blithering ignorance.  Mainline churches formed their identity in a culture that no longer exists.  Non-denominational churches were "counter-culture" for the Jesus Freaks.  They became a bastion of conservatism as American society began to change from the roots (or appeared to do so) with the waves of feminism and then "homosexuals" who became "gays" who became "lesbians, too!," who became "LGB" and later "T" (I list it for chronological purposes, lest some think it all happened at once), and there were even movements to recognize the legitimacy of Native Americans.  Whatever happened to them, anyway?

In any case, everyone was clamoring for a new definition of "American" and "human" and demanding a "place at the table" and, sadly, most mainline denominations were not too anxious to go with these cultural changes.  For example, men had always been pastors, and always should be, and women shouldn't presume to be.  My last church had its final rupture with a called pastor (after me) largely because she was a woman.  The congregation was mostly old (older than me by 15-20 years, at least, many old enough to be my parents), and they weren't having it.  And that was a UCC congregation, one of the most "liberal" denominations in the country!  So, no, it isn't that denominations became more "liberal," it's that the world changed around those churches, and most of them became enclaves of "we've always done it this way!"  An attitude that didn't exactly attract younger generations, who left as soon as they were old enough to be allowed self-determination, or stayed away in the first place.

And for people who like the world the way it was, there are plenty of denominations to accommodate them; but somehow, even if they are the Southern Baptists, they are not "mainline" because they are not "liberal," and any losses in their membership skews the narrative, so let's just set them aside, shall we?

Then there's the rise of the "nones," which may or may not be a rise at all.  But you can't simultaneously fault mainline denominations for being too "liberal" and ignore the fact more and more people find themselves able to do without church altogether.  Much as most Americans did in 1906, when nearly 60% reported they didn't attend any church whatsoever (although they probably snuck in for Christmas and Easter).  So where does this leave us?

A series of Pew Research Center polls released last week shows how ideas about religious belief and morality are increasingly falling along racial and political lines. Fifty-six percent of Americans now say that belief in God isn’t a necessary component of morality, up from 49 percent in 2011. The uptick reflects the wider prevalence of the spiritually unaffiliated, or “nones,” as nearly a quarter of Americans identified as atheist or agnostic in 2011.

"Nones" are all atheists, now?  Or were in 2011.  Yeah, I don't think so.  And even if it's only people who don't go to church, nearly 25% is not nearly 60%.  Call me when we get back to 1906, then you'll have some news for me.  As for people thinking God isn't necessary in their lives:  do tell.  Ask any pastor to honestly say God is important to his congregation's life, and that pastor, in honesty, will tell you God isn't. Not really.  Even the Hebrews didn't think God was necessary for morality.  Go listen to Walter Brueggemann again, and tell me where he talks about morality.  Justice, yes.  Wisdom, yes.  Right living, I suppose we could call it:  yes.  Morality?  Not really.  I would not casually divorce God from morality so much as I would say:  what does morality have to do with justice, with truth, with caring for my neighbor?  If I say I do care, in my heart, in my conscience, in my public speech, but do nothing, what is my morality, anyway?  What most people mean by "morality" is that they mean well, they try to be nice, they have "good hearts."

What they don't mean is that they do very much about it.  If that's your "morality," God clearly doesn't mean anything to it.  So what was it we were talking about again?

The poll suggests, too, that the increasingly political polarization of American society over the past decade and a half has resulted in a much more secular contingent of the American left, something that is often left undiscussed when we talk about the radicalization of the religious right under the recent political climate.

Which also suggests there was no love for the Berrigan brothers, Catholics to the end, but not models for how to do "radical" Christianity, for some reason that didn't have a lot to do with them (although maybe a lot to do with the denominations that refused to honor such men and women; and we're back to Brueggemann and the world that hates us).  Or really for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  That first title is often snipped off of him, now, and the sermons he gave and the reasons and faith that founded his movement leadership are ignored because his famous Letter from jail still makes us uneasy, and because "First Amendment" and we really don't want to mix religion and politics now, do we? (Anymore than we want politics in our football, our secular religion in the fall).  Yes, there are lots of cultural reasons why a "liberal" church, either theologically or politically (see., e.g, the UCC) is neither popular nor influential in America.  And we still don't trust Catholics, and the new Pope talks too much about the poor, and not enough about punishment and abortion (evils thereof, that is).  Then again such churches, such pastors, such people as the Berrigans, have never been popular; and when they have, like the Rev. Dr. King, we re-make them in our images so we can be more comfortable around them.

Maybe the Desert Fathers were on to something after all:

In those days [the 4th century C.E.] men had become keenly conscious of the strictly individual character of "salvation." Society--which meant pagan society, limited by the horizons and prospects of "this world"--was regarded by them [the Desert Fathers, living as hermits in the Egyptian desert] as a shipwreck from which each single individual man had to swim for his life. We need not stop here to discuss the fairness of this view: what matters is to remember that it was a fact.

Thomas Merton, The Wisdom of the Desert (New York: New Directions 1970), p. 3

I mean, is our society really any less pagan today?

"The Spirit is not some fuzzy* feeling!"

I wrote this rather poorly considered note about the work and ideas of Ta-Nehisi Coates, one I would simplify to the issue that I think Stephen Colbert was getting at:  if all you can offer is problems, without solutions, then what good is that?  Anybody can complain, but a "public intellectual" should offer something more than:  "Everything sucks!"  After all, it doesn't take much insight and intelligence to offer that, and nothing more.

I tried to offer my counter to that pessimism; I should have left it to Walter Brueggemann.  Everything I learned worth knowing in seminary is summed up there.

*Yeah, it should be "goosey."  I'm stickin' with "fuzzy," though.

Cartman for President

It should be clear by now that Donald Trump has no more understanding of how government works, or why it works that way, than the guy who was sure his black neighbor wouldn't think a Confederate flag was racist.

I.e., he's clueless:

President Donald Trump said he wanted what amounted to a nearly tenfold increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal during a gathering this past summer of the nation’s highest ranking national security leaders, according to three officials who were in the room.

Trump’s comments, the officials said, came in response to a briefing slide he was shown that charted the steady reduction of U.S. nuclear weapons since the late 1960s. Trump indicated he wanted a bigger stockpile, not the bottom position on that downward-sloping curve.

According to the officials present, Trump’s advisers, among them the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, were surprised. Officials briefly explained the legal and practical impediments to a nuclear buildup and how the current military posture is stronger than it was at the height of the build-up. In interviews, they told NBC News that no such expansion is planned.

Well, less is not more, less is less, right?  And he's the President, why can't he just order up more nukes?  And more soldiers, while he's at it!  It's the same attitude as his crowds chanting "Lock her up!" and expecting Trump to waive a magic legislative wand (or something wandlike, hem hem) and make it happen.

What makes me bring this up, aside from the obvious?

Because what's the point of being President if you can't get respect for your authority?

But don't take my word for it:

We license only individual broadcast stations.  We do not license TV or radio networks (such as CBS, NBC, ABC or Fox) or other organizations with which stations have relationships (such as PBS or NPR), except to the extent that those entities may also be station licensees.  We also do not regulate information provided over the Internet, nor do we intervene in private disputes involving broadcast stations or their licensees.  Instead, we usually defer to the parties, courts, or other agencies to resolve such disputes.

"We" is the FCC, the government agency that licenses stations, not networks (which only broadcast on stations).  As I said:  the man is completely clueless.  Then again, he gets his information from cable TV, not his intelligence agencies, so what do you expect?

Just the tweets, ma'am

Portrait of a ravenously self-centered man:

Honestly, did anyone need that?  A re-release of a press release?  But he's sure to get his name in there.
Is he likely to break his arm patting himself on the back like that?
It's about Trump.  It has to be good!
It's a picture of him.  How could he resist?

And, in other news, or, as MAD Magazine would put it:  "DON'T YOU HAVE A JOB? DEPT.:
And, in still other news, he continues to display absolute ignorance about the powers of the Presidency:
How many lobbyists does the President have?
Are you going to start by supporting Obamacare, instead of undermining it?
The RNC chair was on CNN yesterday asking Democrats to "please help" the GOP run the country.  Is this your idea of supporting her, like you're supporting Tillerson?

More and more it is clear this is the Steve Bannon presidency.