"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

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The times they are most certainly changin',,,,

Nobody wants to believe it:

Arizona, Florida, Ohio and Texas, which account for 96 electoral votes, remain as toss-ups. 

(Per the poll cited at the link, Trump leads Clinton by 2 points in Texas.)

Hillary Clinton holds a three-point lead over Donald Trump in Florida, while in Texas – a state that has voted Republican by wide margins in recent years – Trump leads by a mere three points.

(Which "lead" is literally the margin of error.)

because it's literally not supposed to be possible until we see it coming:

While the trend line in Texas presidential polling certainly justifies this speculation, there are good reasons not to go too far down the road toward speculating on – we’ll just use the phrase even though we don’t want to – Texas turning blue based on this polling. The main reason is timing: all of these polls were in the field during a period of sustained negative media coverage of Donald Trump. Two of the polls were conducted during a period in which the Access Hollywood tapes were released, Trump responded (and responded and responded), and during the second debate and its aftermath. One of them was in the field in the three days immediately following the Sunday debate. Needless to say, these were not good times for Donald Trump.

That is all just bafflegab for "No, it is not possible for Texas to vote for the Democratic POTUS candidate for the first time in several decades."  It is bafflegab because it presumes that voters have recorders in their heads that wipe out all information on a weekly basis, and since early voting doesn't start in Texas until tomorrow, these polls are too early and therefore meaningless.  We'll all have forgotten the stupid things Trump did by then, unless he does some new, and equally stupid, things next week.

And how likely is that, even for Trump?

Besides:  Texas.  One party state since God was born, and when it went from Democrat to GOP all that changed was the party label, not the reactionaries-are-too-damned-liberal neanderthal politics that has given us Gov. Abbott (who makes Perry look reasonable) and Ted Cruz (who makes us all want to forgive Phil Gramm, even for being an Aggie).

But then again:  Trump.  Voter registration in Texas is at an all time high.  Bexar County alone, whose major city is San Antonio, has registered over 1 million voters this year, a record, and a record turnout is expected on the first day of voting (Monday, October 24th).  In Houston taco trucks became famous for encouraging voter registration.  Voter registration in Texas hit 15 million, also a record.  Travis County (home of Austin) has 90% of its residents registered to vote.  Bexar County registration is up almost 13%, Harris County (Houston) registration up 6%.  Early voting turnout is expected to be high, too.  Do you think all those people are anxious to vote for Trump, when he's in a dead heat with Clinton?  And how many of those new registrants are "likely voters" being questioned by poll takers?

I don't think it's too early for me to call it:

Trump loses Texas.

If it doesn't happen, it won't surprise anyone.  If it does, you read it here first.

Out of the mouths of babes....

Yes, this was the speech where he said he can't wait to start suing people who have accused him of sexual assault and sexual harassment.

So I can only assume his policies as President include getting even with anyone he feels has aggrieved him.

If I didn't see it in his Tweet, I don't think I'd have fully believed that connection.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Somebody please take away his shovel....

It's not even necessary to write anything anymore.  Just put this:

Trump On First 100 Days: I Will Sue ‘Liars’ Who Accused Me Of Assault

Next to this:

Richard Branson Recalls ‘Bizarre’ Lunch With Revenge-Obsessed Trump

Along with this:

Salma Hayek: I Denied Trump A Date, So He Planted A National Enquirer Story About My Height

All these people persecuting poor The Donald.  What a nasty world it is, full of nasty women.

"Take your licks and let's move on..."--Paul LePage to Donald Trump

This is actually very interesting, long before you get here:

Trump has recently started encouraging his mostly white supporters to sign up online to be “election observers” to stop “Crooked Hillary from rigging this election.” He’s urging them to act as posses of poll watchers in “other” communities to ensure that things are “on the up and up.”

“Watch your polling booths,” he warned.

His supporters are heeding the call. “Trump said to watch your precincts. I’m going to go, for sure,” said Steve Webb, a 61-year-old carpenter from Fairfield, Ohio.

“I’ll look for . . . well, it’s called racial profiling. Mexicans. Syrians. People who can’t speak American,” he said. “I’m going to go right up behind them. I’ll do everything legally. I want to see if they are accountable. I’m not going to do anything illegal. I’m going to make them a little bit nervous.”
Which is, actually, an illegal activity; but we'll get back to that.  The interesting bit is here:

“How do you proclaim fraud before the incident takes place? It’s like my calling you a robber before you rob the bank,” said Al Cardenas, who was chairman of the Republican Party of Florida during the 2000 electoral recount. “In America, you call out a crime or malfeasance after it happens.”

Cardenas, having been immersed in the Florida recount for 37 days, said an average of 1.5 percent of votes cast in the nation are not recorded, due mostly to technical issues and procedural errors.

“That’s a significant number in a close election, but they are not wrongdoings,” Cardenas said. “Americans should feel that the ultimate outcome of the election is fair. That’s how we defend our democracy.”

Cardenas said he would not vote for Trump or Clinton — even if that means Clinton wins. “Hey, the radicals had their day,’’ he said. “This is the result of it.”

Fergus Cullen, former chairman of the New Hampshire GOP, said it was an incredibly important moment in 2000 when Democrat Al Gore gave a speech saying he accepted the results of the Supreme Court decision to award the majority of electoral votes and presidential victory to George W. Bush.

“Had he not done that, or done so halfheartedly, or even suggested that he’d been robbed, or otherwise tried to delegitimize the results, it would have been a huge blow to our democratic process,” Cullen said.

Cullen expects Trump’s warnings about a rigged election to get even uglier in coming weeks, and he fears they will incite violence if Trump loses.

“That’s really scary,” Cullen said, recounting the violence at Trump rallies around the country leading up to the Republican National Convention. “In this country, we’ve always had recriminations after one side loses. But we haven’t had riots. We haven’t had mobs that act out with violence against supporters of the other side.’’

“There’s no telling what his supporters would be willing to do at the slightest encouragement from their candidate,” he said.
 There's not much support in the GOP for what Trump is doing; and that means there'll be even less support for it on Nov, 9th.  No, the GOP is not the sole organization available for disgruntled voters after the elections; but it is an organization.  Random individuals who think the election was stolen may be able to connect with each other on social media; but they won't have an organization behind them to channel their anger toward a target.  They certainly won't have too many (if any) GOP office holders tacitly, if not explicitly, supporting their questions about whether the President was born in America or not.

And no one in the RNC wants anything to do with voter intimidation.  It's not likely they can be linked to Trump's statements, or what his statements inspire.  Trump is not the RNC's agent, he does not act on their behalf or with their approval in all matters.  But he's making life difficult for them, and that won't be forgotten on the morning after.  Indeed, even the continued support of McConnell and Ryan will end when the campaign ends.

Does anybody remember what happened to Mitt Romney in 2012?  The son of a Republican office holder (party apparatchiks don't count) and former GOP governor of Massachusetts became persona non grata in the GOP on the Wednesday after the election.  He made noises from time to time about Obama, but no one wanted to listen to him.  He was a loser, and the GOP never really liked him in the first place.  When he hinted that maybe he would return to the race in 2016 to save the GOP from the clown car that then only included Donald Trump, the groundswell of support for this idea was notable in its complete absence.  The general response of the party was:  "Don't make this worse than it already is."

What do you think is going to happen to Donald Trump on November 9th?

Who will want to listen to him for long?  He's insulted the news media, appalled the poo-bahs with his declarations that the election is only fair if he wins.   He has denigrated women, nationalities, individuals from John McCain to the Kahns to a former Miss Universe; denied everything he's ever said he did, from sexual assault to meeting Vladimir Putin, mocked the disabled, and generally shown himself a person unfit for society.  GOP senators from McCain to Ayotte had denounced him for refusing to consider conceding a loss, and the GOP wants nothing to do with his idea of self-appointed poll watchers catching vote fraud.  Michael Steele says Trump is appealing to America's "racist underbelly."

Who in the GOP, what public official, from Mitch McConnell to Paul Ryan down to the Republican mayor of any large city, wants to be associated with that?

Romney was discarded and disregarded, and he had a history with the party.  But Romney was also the unacknowledged progenitor for Trump because Romney was not an office holder when he took the GOP nomination.  His last claim to office was the governorship of Massachusetts.  He ran for President just after leaving that office, lost the nomination, and the won it for 2012.  His claim to public fame was the 2002 Olympics, which won him the praise of President Bush.  Romney, in other words, had some GOP credentials, but he ran more as a businessman than as a former governor.

Trump is the heir to Romney's claim that a businessman is what is needed in the White House, but Trump has no political experience at all.  That was supposed to be his salvation, but it has proven to be his damnation.  Political parties don't reward losers. especially those who have no political office to return to.  Jimmy Carter, Michael Dukakis, Walter Mondale; only Carter continued in public life, based entirely on his charitable and private diplomatic efforts.  He was never a force in the party afterwards, anymore than Bob Dole was, or George Bush (either one) has been.  Trump has even less claim to the party's attentions.

Jim Webb imagines he will be allowed to stand over voters and "make them nervous."  In over 40 years of voting, I've never been to a polling place where that would be allowed.  My current polling place blocks access to the room with the voting machines until you can get directly to a volunteer who checks your registration and gives you a number for the machine, and then you can only be in the room so long as you are voting.  No one would be allowed to stay there after they had voted, or if they weren't voting.  Mr. Webb imagines some scenario where he is the hero of his own action movie, but this is reality.

Donald Trump imagines he will be able to challenge the outcome of this election.  Unless it comes down to the votes cast in only one state, he'll have to file legal challenges in several states, and make all of them come out in his favor.  Whether or not he imagines that will bring him victory, this is reality.

If you read the article above carefully, you'll not they only find one person who "hopes" there will be a violent reaction to Trump's loss.  NPR found a similar sentiment among North Carolina Trump supporters, but with even less interest in revolution as a response to election failure.

And after Nov. 9th, the GOP will have never heard of Mr. Webb or Donald Trump.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Where's the fork?

First:  Charlie Pierce is right, Trump bloviating about not accepting the results of the election is status quo for the GOP.  He's just relishing it a bit too much, but then, the GOP has to dance with the one what brung 'em.

Second:  The fear of Trump reprisals if he doesn't win is exactly what the man-child wants, because it gives him attention.

The quote being played on the radio and TV today is Trump reveling in being the bad boy, in being the center of attention, in having all eyes on him because he's so outrageous.  Except he's a paper tiger.

If Trump contests the election, the cost will be on him.  Sure, he loves to threaten to sue people; but he'll have to file suit in any one of 50 states, and if he loses decisively, in several states at once, else what's the point?   We elect a President by states, not by national plebiscite.  Does anyone think Trump wants to foot that bill, especially now that New York state has shut down his Trump Foundation piggy bank?

Oh, but he'll inspire people to violence!  Puh-leeze.  Trump will have no support once the election is over.  His few followers who might vow today to fight the power, won't have anything to fight.  This won't even be Cliven Bundy staring down BLM agents come to arrest him.  This will be a fight against an absolutely discorporate entity.  This will be a fight against a completely inchoate enemy.  Who do you blame?  The Secretaries of State of the 50 states?  The courts?  The voters?  The voting machines?  Upon whom do you train your guns?

So perhaps Trump will try to run with this, the way he ran with Obama's birth certificate.  Who in the Congress will support him?  Who in the GOP will support him?  Who, of any prominence in the country, will support him?  Challenging the birthright of Barack Obama was a clownish affair.  Challenging the validity of the institutions that make up our democracy is very nearly a seditious affair.  Sure, Bob Dole said he was the President of those who didn't vote for Bill Clinton, and Newt Gingrich led the effort to impeach him, and Mitch McConnell vowed to make Obama a one-term President, and various loonies in the House vowed to get to the bottom of that birth certificate business; but there's the difference:  they were all office holders.  What office has Trump ever held?  How much of a political career has he ever had?  Who has he ever worked with as a public servant?  Given the seriousness of the charge he raises (and that's what scares the GOP, along with a few other things Trump could do to them), who will stand with Trump?  Who in public office owes Trump for anything? Who in public office will stand for Trump?

He will disappear the moment the election is over, whether he wants to or not.  The cameras will stop filming him, the microphones stop picking up his utterances, because he will be irrelevant.  He captures attention now because he is the candidate of a major party for the Presidency.  Without that he is a homeless man howling on the street corner.

He will be discarded like a broken doll, and disregarded like the barking mad man-child he is.


Everything old is new again: 
Democrats brought the lawsuit after the 1981 New Jersey gubernatorial election, when they said Republicans deployed off-duty cops to patrol around polling places in minority neighborhoods and engaged in a mailing campaign targeting black and Hispanic voters. According to the lawsuit, minority voters who did not return the mailer sent by the GOP were then put on a list the Republican poll watchers used to challenge their presence on the voter rolls.

The RNC agreed to “refrain from undertaking any ballot security activities … directed toward districts that have a substantial proportion of racial or ethnic minority populations,” according to the decree, though it is interpreted to allow Republicans to participate in more general poll watching activities.

The letter comes as Trump has amped up his rhetoric about a "rigged election" and urged his supporters to go monitor the polls themselves. At a rally in rural Pennsylvania, for instance, he told attendees that they "gotta watch the polling booths" because of the "stories" has heard about "certain areas."

Republicans have sought, unsuccessfully, to get the consent decree lifted. It is set to expire next year, the Wall Street Journal said, but if a violation is found, the RNC risks having it extended through 2025.

“I ask your full cooperation in making sure that it is not extended,” Ryder's letter said, according to the Journal.
It's true; Donald Trump really is a danger to the GOP.*

*And, of course, one hopes the Tarrant County GOP reads this letter especially carefully.

Meanwhile, back at the puzzle palace

Remember this?

The planting of false stories is nothing new; the Soviet Union devoted considerable resources to that during the ideological battles of the Cold War. Now, though, disinformation is regarded as an important aspect of Russian military doctrine, and it is being directed at political debates in target countries with far greater sophistication and volume than in the past.

The flow of misleading and inaccurate stories is so strong that both NATO and the European Union have established special offices to identify and refute disinformation, particularly claims emanating from Russia.

The Kremlin’s clandestine methods have surfaced in the United States, too, American officials say, identifying Russian intelligence as the likely source of leaked Democratic National Committee emails that embarrassed Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

The Kremlin uses both conventional media — Sputnik, a news agency, and RT, a television outlet — and covert channels, as in Sweden, that are almost always untraceable.

Still has nothing to do with what's going on in this country, right?

Trump didn’t mention, or perhaps he didn’t know, that in the hacked email Brazile appeared to leak a single question to Clinton about the death penalty. According to the email, that tip came a day before a CNN Democratic primary town hall with then-opponent Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), not a debate.

Brazile left her position as a CNN commentator this summer to chair the Democratic National Committee. CNN has denied giving out any questions ahead of time, and Brazile has denied both having access to any questions and sharing any questions with the Clinton campaign.

After the debate Wednesday night, Fox News anchor Megan Kelly confronted Brazile about that email. In response, Brazile insisted that some WikiLeaks emails have been shown to be doctored. It's unclear what, if any, evidence she had to back up that assertion.

If it didn't sound so damned conspiratorial, one might even say the absence of evidence is a tell.  If only anyone knew anything about the Kremlin leaking false information.

It is a puzzle.

"No, you're the puppet!"

I had no idea I was being prescient back in August.  And yeah, this is still true:

As for Trump denying he's ever met Putin?  Very old news.

Maybe, like all the women who were complaining about Trump's behavior before the Access Hollywood videotape, we're just now paying attention.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


I just don't think so anymore.

With less than a month left until the election, we need all hands-on deck! History has repeatedly shown that Democrats will do everything they can to buy, steal, and cheat their way to victory at the ballot box. It is up to us to ensure that every vote here in Tarrant County is PROTECTED and LEGAL. If you are an Appointed Election Judge or Alternate Judge, please let us know if you are not going to be able to work your Polling Location IMMEDIATELY.  Tarrant County Elections has been calling Judges right now to confirm workers.  If you decline an appointment and do not resign, it is highly likely the Democrats will be able to take control of that polling location - even if it is a Republican precinct.  It is very important if you are an Election Judge or Alternate Judge and cannot work the election, that you contact us immediately at (817) 595 -0303 or email

We will also be looking for Poll Watchers for Early Voting location sites and Election Day polling locations. We especially need poll watchers in Democrat-controlled polling locations.  Voter ID is still required in Texas.  We want to make sure OUR VOTER ID LAW IS FOLLOWED.  If you, or anyone you know, are interested, please let us know as soon as possible. We will be hosting training sessions very soon, so be on the lookout.
"Democrat controlled polling locations" is a thinly veiled reference to minority-majority precincts, as J. Gerald Hebert, the director of the voting rights and redistricting project at the non-partisan, non-profit group, the Campaign Legal Center, told the Justice Department in a formal complaint about this e-mail.  

The Trump Texas campaign chair is Lt. Gov. Daniel Patrick, who said when his appointment was announced:

"My primary goal is to unite our party in Texas," Patrick said in a statement Friday announcing the new role. "I want to ensure a solid Trump win and to remind Republican voters, and the new Trump voters who came out in the primary, to support the entire Republican ticket from the White House to the Court House."
Patrick is not only a fan of Voter ID:

(Follow that tweet to its source, you'll find he doesn't have many Twitter followers who agree with him.)

He wrote it into law in Texas:

AUSTIN – Nothing is more critical to our democracy than the integrity of the voting process. Citizens must be able to trust the certified outcome of every election and we must protect the voting rights of every eligible voter in Texas. That’s why I co-authored the Voter ID bill as a state senator and why we passed the Voter ID legislation.

I am deeply disappointed the Voter ID law was not upheld in its entirety by the court today. As the legal process moves forward on this important issue, voter integrity will remain a high priority for me and I am prepared to pass legislation to protect it.
There have been shenanigans already in Texas over the court's rewriting of the Texas voter ID law.  But Patrick's complaint, issued the day the law was overruled (again!*), points to a determination to keep Texas voter ID laws as restrictive as possible.

So is it possible that the Tarrant County Republican Party is acting without the knowledge or approval of the chair of the Trump Campaign in Texas?

Sure.  And I've got some land you'll want to buy in southern Louisiana, sight unseen.  Trust me, it's a great spot for a vacation home!

*It was tossed out in 2012, revised and reinstated in 2013, and tossed out again in July of this year.

Even visiting the White House would be too close to the Oval Office

The self-described master of business and overall very intelligent person, speaks:

“You can't believe anything you see," he said Tuesday. "I don't even believe the polls. I see these polls and they’re not terrible. They’re sort of good. Actually if the people come out and vote, they’re very nervous. I have a feeling this is another Brexit.”

“Let’s say we’re tied, then how come we have thousands and thousands of people, thousands and thousands?” Trump asked his supporters.

As Charlie Pierce used to say:  "This close to English."  "Actually if they people come out and vote, they're very nervous."  Is that a machine generated statement, or an utterance by someone who's native language is not English?

And then there's the argument that Trump will win because "we have thousands and thousands of people."  Voter turnout in 2012 was just over 129 million persons.  "Thousands and thousands" would put you somewhere behind Jill Stein this year.

You can't make this stuff up.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch....

Apparently Assange is wearing out his welcome.

Buying a new basket for my eggs

But to put that in perspective, Texas is closer than Pennsylvania right now (where Clinton leads by 7 to 8 points). And Clinton is more likely to win Texas than Trump is to win the election, at least according to the polls-only model, which puts Trump’s overall chances at 12 percent.--Nate Silver

I've heard news reports that San Antonio (Bexar County) is running out of registration forms, and is planning for a higher turnout of voters because of increased registration.  San Antonio is a conservative city, due to all the military bases (and being in Texas), but all the major metro areas of Texas went for Obama in both 2008 and 2012.

Taco trucks gained national notoriety for registering voters in Houston.  And the polls have been showing Clinton either ahead of Trump, or tied (the last poll I say had Trump ahead by four points, which was the margin of error for the poll).

Now Nate Silver is paying attention; which is interesting because Texas has been a one-party state since Reconstruction, and even a massive influx of non-"native Texans" that has made the state the second most populous in the country (with the third largest city in the country), hasn't changed that.  Texas flipped from solidly Democratic to solidly Republican simply by staying solidly arch-conservative (odd, actually, because the Texas Constitution was a populist document aimed at hobbling banks and the railroads, the two symbols of runaway capitalism in the 19th century.  Sadly we didn't have Hamilton & Co. at our constitutional convention, so that populism didn't last long/  Well, that and we discovered oil, and decided Big Money wasn't so bad after all.  Money talks.).  But Trump may just upend all of that.

Then again, maybe not; and even if he does, I don't think it would be a permanent change.  It would however, be a solid refutation of Trump (and of the vile Lt. Gov., who is Trump's point man for GOTV in Texas).

That alone would be worth it.

The first indication we'll have is of what happens next week, when early voting starts.  Then again, heavy turnout for early voting usually just means people are ready to vote; it seldom presages a heavy turn out on election day.  And, as ever, it will take massive turnout in the cities to outweigh the turnout of the true believer Republicans in the countryside.  I'm still not putting my eggs in that basket.

One can live in hope, though.

Monday, October 17, 2016

"These are the stakes...."

He's really beginning to resemble the guy on the street corner talking loudly to himself as he takes his shirt off and puts it back on, and glares at the passing traffic.

Just a random selection, but which is it?  Is Trump winning, and so Clinton is engaged in Watergate-like crimes to stop him in Durham, NC (a stronghold of Democratic NC voters)?  Are the stories of his improprieties having an impact, or is the problem voter fraud?  Of course, don't ask if there's evidence for any of this.

I saw my first Trump TV ad the other night.  Usually I don't watch the major networks (I'm too old for their target audience, I guess); but an ad came on that may have been running for months, and I wouldn't know.  An earnest young woman describes how she was assaulted and only fended off the attacker, who meant to kill her, because she had a gun.  I'm watching because I'm wondering what's going on, and at this point I smell a rat.  I noticed later she never gave her name nor any specifics that could prove this story true, and she's clearly a professional:  she's very comfortable on camera.  No Kenneth Bone, she.  She goes on to claim Hillary Clinton wants to take away our guns and our right to self-defense, which would of course leave this young woman dead on a street somewhere in the hellscape of modern America.  To prevent this, we must all vote for Trump.

As I watched I thought:  no, Heller was based on the individual right of self-defense, so Clinton can't take away that right, or your guns, even if she wanted to.  It was such a profound misunderstanding of the way Constitutional government works that it took me a minute to realize it was also a profound lie.  The incident itself was undoubtedly fictional, the whole ad a major leap beyond the implied instability of Goldwater in LBJ's famous "Daisy" ad.  That ad never mentioned Goldwater, and only slyly implied his Presidency would lead to nuclear war (although I'm not sure Goldwater wouldn't have used nukes in Vietnam.  He publicly stated he saw no reason not to, in order to win the war.).  Trump's ad, on the other hand, is an outright lie, with no basis in fact at all.  Every word in it is a lie, in the famous summation, including "and" and "the."

Or do we go into the dark?

Friday, October 14, 2016

I love to tell the story....

It has only belatedly occurred to me that the changing of the hosts at "A Prairie Home Companion" is very much like the changing of pastors at a church, with the new pastor coming in to "fill the shoes" of the pastor of decades duration.  And that analogy is not just one connected by the length of time Garrison Keillor ran the show, but because APHC was a church service.

I don't mean because it was heavily ritualized and one came to expect the appearance of Guy Noir or Dusty and Lefty.  Those characters were actually relative newcomers to the show; I still pine for the days of Bertha's Kitty Boutique.  I dunno, maybe the internet killed that joke.  But I do remember the show long before it was studded like a Christmas cake with the various fruits of recurring character skits keeping the mixed nuts of musical performances from crowding each other too much.  I know I have a video tape of the "last" APHC performance, the first time Garrison "retired" (I'm thinking there was a second time, too, but maybe that's just a faulty memory).  I should look at it again to see how he filled the time between musical acts without resorting to a rotating set of characters and semi-continous story-lines.

No, I'm not talking about the ritual pattern the show had settled into in recent years; I'm talking about the elephant in the room that no discussion of Chris Thile replacing Keillor has touched on:  what's going to happen to the news from Lake Wobegon?

You knew APHC wasn't over until you got the news from Lake Wobegon.  Sometimes it was memorable, sometimes it was long; sometimes it was short and over before it started.  But you always knew it's appearance meant the show was coming to an end.  It was the anti-climactic climax, or maybe the true climax; but it always signaled the third act, and a brief fourth act to follow before the lights went out and the sound went off.

It was the sermon.

Protestants, especially, go to worship for the sermon.  Try as I might to de-emphasize it in my liturgy, it was still the turning point of the hour.  The service, in whatever ritual it was cast, led up to it; anything afterward, even communion (practiced only monthly in my church), was falling action, was resolution.  You'd seen and heard what you came for; the rest was just polite tidying up before making for the exits.

Garrison Keillor's news from Lake Wobegon was the sermon you tuned in for every week.  When that was done you knew the show was over; or almost over.  You knew it was time to start thinking about gathering the kids and heading for the door.

If you listen to that interview linked above with Chris Thile, you will hear references to, and out-takes from, the news from Lake Wobegon.  It is so iconic it is practically the reason for the entire two hours:  to provide a setting for the monologue.  Just like the sermon in a Protestant worship service; it's all about the word, even when there's a sacrament involved.  You will hear references to the news from Lake W., but the interviewer is too polite to ask Chris Thile how he will replace that segment, how he will preserve so much of APHC without preserving that.

It's rather impolite to flat-out ask a preacher just how good a "preacher" he really is; especially in the context of following up on a man who's filled that pulpit for nearly four decades.  How good can anybody be, and besides, it was never really a sermon.   It was just Garrison spinning yarns.

Except it was the sermon; and everybody who listened do that show, dare I say "religiously"?; understood that.  Now we'll just see what they think about the new preacher; and whether or not somebody, anybody, will continue to tell the story.

While truth is getting its boots on....

The American media is half-way around the world.

So, this is interesting:  back in August, when tout le monde (i.e., the American media) was paying attention to Donald Trump (I looked, and if my archives are any indication, we were concerned with the Clinton Foundation, which was the subject of misinformation from AP), this was going on in Sweden:

With a vigorous national debate underway on whether Sweden should enter a military partnership with NATO, officials in Stockholm suddenly encountered an unsettling problem: a flood of distorted and outright false information on social media, confusing public perceptions of the issue.

The claims were alarming: If Sweden, a non-NATO member, signed the deal, the alliance would stockpile secret nuclear weapons on Swedish soil; NATO could attack Russia from Sweden without government approval; NATO soldiers, immune from prosecution, could rape Swedish women without fear of criminal charges.

They were all false, but the disinformation had begun spilling into the traditional news media, and as the defense minister, Peter Hultqvist, traveled the country to promote the pact in speeches and town hall meetings, he was repeatedly grilled about the bogus stories.
No, it wasn't Alex Jones and black helicopters stored in FEMA tunnels under abandoned Wal-Marts; it was the Russians.

 As often happens in such cases, Swedish officials were never able to pin down the source of the false reports. But they, numerous analysts and experts in American and European intelligence point to Russia as the prime suspect, noting that preventing NATO expansion is a centerpiece of the foreign policy of President Vladimir V. Putin, who invaded Georgia in 2008 largely to forestall that possibility.

In Crimea, eastern Ukraine and now Syria, Mr. Putin has flaunted a modernized and more muscular military. But he lacks the economic strength and overall might to openly confront NATO, the European Union or the United States. Instead, he has invested heavily in a program of “weaponized” information, using a variety of means to sow doubt and division. The goal is to weaken cohesion among member states, stir discord in their domestic politics and blunt opposition to Russia.
This is nothing new:

 The planting of false stories is nothing new; the Soviet Union devoted considerable resources to that during the ideological battles of the Cold War. Now, though, disinformation is regarded as an important aspect of Russian military doctrine, and it is being directed at political debates in target countries with far greater sophistication and volume than in the past.

The flow of misleading and inaccurate stories is so strong that both NATO and the European Union have established special offices to identify and refute disinformation, particularly claims emanating from Russia.

The Kremlin’s clandestine methods have surfaced in the United States, too, American officials say, identifying Russian intelligence as the likely source of leaked Democratic National Committee emails that embarrassed Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

The Kremlin uses both conventional media — Sputnik, a news agency, and RT, a television outlet — and covert channels, as in Sweden, that are almost always untraceable.
And you will notice, there at the end, that we caught up with current events. 

An email from Blumenthal—a confidant of Hillary Clinton and a man, second only to George Soros, at the center of conservative conspiracy theories—turned up in the recent document dump by WikiLeaks. At a time when American intelligence believes Russian hackers are trying to interfere with the presidential election, records have recently been fed to WikiLeaks out of multiple organizations of the Democratic Party. But now that I have been brought into the whole mess—and transformed into Blumenthal—there is even more proof that the Russians are not only orchestrating this act of cyberwar but also really, really dumb.

The latest emerged thanks to the incompetence of Sputnik—the Russian online news and radio service established by the government-controlled news agency Rossiya Segodnya—which took words written by me and attributed them to Blumenthal.

Trump then took those words and attributed them to Clinton.  It was lies based on lies based on Russian propaganda.  And whose to say we aren't back there now?

Hillary Clinton privately said the U.S. would “ring China with missile defense” if the Chinese government failed to curb North Korea’s nuclear program, a potential hint at how the former secretary of state would act if elected president.

Clinton’s remarks were revealed by WikiLeaks in a hack of the Clinton campaign chairman’s personal account. The emails include a document excerpting Clinton’s private speech transcripts, which she has refused to release.
That, by the way, is the AP again.  This is only the latest story among many about the e-mails released by Wikileaks, mostly likely via Russian government hackers.  That isn't to say the e-mails are all false, or all contain false information.  But reporting them as if they were true just because they are in "print"?  Well, let's just say the term "useful idiots" comes back into style, too.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

"I wish, I wish, I wish in vain...."

Charlie Pierce wrote about Dylan today:

One of the enduring mysteries of having followed this man through his career, and through your own life, has been how songs that meant nothing to you when you were young suddenly strike deeply into you when placed in the context of the accumulated experiences of your life as you get older.
I never thought that about "Bob Dylan's Dream."  I always considered it the work of a young man imagining how an old man would feel.  Today, myself an old man, I heard Judy Collins sing it again, and this time it did make me " he'd known what was coming."

The version above is not the one I was listening to, but Ms. Collins' voice was so much richer and warmer then that even the abbreviated version is a good one.  Besides, I didn't realize the melody was an old one.

This is Dylan's original; or at least an alternate version he recorded when he, too, was much younger.

The Terrible Conflagration up at the Place

And this was it....

I can't keep up.

I was writing a post based on the CNN interview with Kellyanne Conway at this link.  I went looking for another link to use to make a point, when I found this was happening:

"She's doing the story on Melania, who is pregnant at the time, and Donald Trump and our one year anniversary," Trump said at a rally in West Palm Beach, Florida. "And said I made inappropriate advances, and by the way, it was a public area and people all over the place."

"Take a look. You take a look. Look at her. And look at her words," Trump said. "And you tell me what you think. I don't think so. I don't think so."

Because obviously, amirite fellas?  When did Rodney Dangerfield decide to run for President?

And this:

"These people are horrible people," he said later, referring to the women who accused him of sexual misconduct. "They’re horrible, horrible liars and interestingly, it happens to appear 26 days before our very important election. Isn't that amazing?"
"I ask a very simple question. Why wasn't it part of the story that appeared 20 — or 12 years ago?" he asked the crowd. "Take a look. You take a look. Look at her, look at her words. And you tell me what you think. I don't think so. I don't think so."
"We already have substantial evidence to dispute these lies and it will be made public be in an appropriate way and at an appropriate time, very soon.”

As soon as they retrieve it from the pumpkin field in Whittaker Chambers backyard (it's a Roy Cohn thing, you could look it up).  But he ends talking like his campaign manager:*

"I will not allow the Clinton machine to turn our campaign into a discussion of their slander and lies but will remain focused on the issues facing the American people," he continued. "These attacks are orchestrated by the Clintons and their media allies. The only thing Hillary Clinton has going for herself is the press. Without the press, she is absolutely zero."

The New York Times deserves a word at this point:

"The essence of a libel claim, of course, is the protection of one's reputation," David McCraw, assistant general counsel at the New York Times, wrote in a letter. "Nothing in our article has had the slightest effect on the reputation that Mr. Trump, through his own words and actions, has already created for himself."
But the last word deserves to go to Michelle Obama:

"The fact is that in this election, we have a candidate for president of the United States who, over the course of his lifetime and the course of this campaign has said things about women that are so shocking. So demeaning," she said. "I simply will not repeat anything here today. And last week we saw this candidate actually bragging about sexually assaulting women. And I can't believe that I'm saying that."
"It would be dishonest and disingenuous for me to move on to the next thing like this was just a bad dream," she said. "This is not something we can ignore. It's not something we can sweep under the rug as just another disturbing footnote in a sad election season. Because this was not just a lewd conversation. This wasn't locker room banter. This was a powerful individual speaking freely and openly about sexually predatory behavior."
"I feel it so personally. And I'm sure that many of you do too. Particularly the women,” she said. "The shameful comments about our bodies. The disrespect of our ambitions and intellect. The belief that you can do anything you want to a woman. It is cruel. It is frightening. And the truth is, it hurts. It hurts. It's like that sick sinking feeling you get when you're walking down the street minding your own business. Some guy yells out vulgar words about your body. Or when you see that guy at work that stands just a little too close, stares just a little too long, you feel uncomfortable in your own skin."
"This is disgraceful. It is intolerable,” she said. “Doesn't matter what party you belong to. No woman deserves to be treated this way. No one deserves this kind of abuse. I know it's a campaign, but this isn't about politics. It's about basic human decency. It's about right and wrong. We cannot endure this or expose our children to this for any longer. Not for another minute, let alone four years."
"How is this affecting men and boys in this country? Because I can tell you that the men in my life do not talk about women like this,” Obama said. "I know my family is not unusual. To dismiss this every day locker room talk is an insult to decent men everywhere. The men that you and I know don't treat women this way. They are loving fathers sickened by the thought of their daughters being exposed to this kind of language about women. They are us fathers and brothers and sons who don't tolerate women being treated and demeaned. Like us, the men are worried about the impact this election is looking for boys, role models for what it means to be a man."
"We need someone who will heal the wounds that divide us,” she said. "Someone who truly cares about us and our children. Someone with strength and compassion to lead this country forward. I'm here today because I believe with all of my heart that Hillary Clinton will be that president."
Told you there was a lot going on today.

*Actually, the whole speech is crazier than I thought.  Charlie Pierce has the short version.

The time's they are a catchin' up

Dylan wins the Nobel for Literature.

The New York Times knows nothing about literature:

 The announcement, in Stockholm, was a surprise: Although Mr. Dylan, 75, has been mentioned often as having an outside shot at the prize, his work does not fit into the literary canons of novels, poetry and short stories that the prize has traditionally recognized.

But the Nobel Committee does:

“I came to realise that we still read Homer and Sappho from ancient Greece, and they were writing 2,500 years ago,” she said. “They were meant to be performed, often together with instruments, but they have survived, and survived incredibly well, on the book page. We enjoy [their] poetry, and I think Bob Dylan deserves to be read as a poet.” *

A two-fer!

*The preferred shorter answer is that we classify poetry as "lyric" to this day because poems were performed with a lyre for accompaniment, and yes, even Homer and Sappho's poetry (and Beowulf!) were originally chanted (as we would call it) or sung, as Homer would have put it.  They would not distinguish Dylan because he put his words to music; they would wonder why we think "lyric" poetry shouldn't have music.

The Classics Never Get Old

It's not like this is the first time I've noticed this, but then again, did I mention these "evangelicals leaders" were not pastors leading congregations?

Jerry Falwell, Jr. bears the name of his famous father, but so far as I can discern makes no pretense to being a pastor.  He's a licensed lawyer and the President of Liberty University, but apparently has no official connection to the church his father pastored until his death.

Tony Perkins is the President of the Family Research Council.  He holds a B.S. from Liberty University, and his career includes being a police officer.  I mention this only because his biography shows no indication he has ever pastored a church.

Of Ralph Reed perhaps the less said, the better, if only because of the dictum that if you can't say anything nice about somebody....(not that this usually stops me, though more often it should). He considers himself a born-again Christian, but his activities have never included pastoring a church.

James MacDonald, on the other hand, is the pastor of a church:

Mr. Trump’s comments released yesterday—though 10 years ago (he was 60)—are not just sophomoric or locker room banter.  They are truly the kind of misogynistic trash that reveals a man to be lecherous and worthless—not the guy who gets politely ignored, but the guy who gets a punch in the head from worthy men who hear him talk that way about women.
I would not admonish "worthy men" to punch Mr. Trump in the head, but neither does Rev. MacDonald excuse Mr. Trump's statements.  Perhaps the difference is that Rev. MacDonald is a pastor of a church, and would answer to his congregation for being on Mr. Trump's Evangelical Council, in light of Mr. Trump's revealed remarks.  Maybe Mr. Falwell could stand to learn that lesson, too:

Liberty United Against Trump
In the months since Jerry Falwell Jr. endorsed him, Donald Trump has been inexorably associated with Liberty University. We are Liberty students who are disappointed with President Falwell’s endorsement and are tired of being associated with one of the worst presidential candidates in American history. Donald Trump does not represent our values and we want nothing to do with him.
A majority of Liberty students, faculty, and staff feel as we do. Donald Trump received a pitiful 90 votes from Liberty students in Virginia’s primary election, a colossal rejection of his campaign. Nevertheless, President Falwell eagerly uses his national platform to advocate for Donald Trump. While he occasionally clarifies that supporting Trump is not the official position of Liberty University, he knows it is his title of president of the largest Christian university in the world that gives him political credentials.

Associating any politician with Christianity is damaging to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But Donald Trump is not just any politician. He has made his name by maligning others and bragging about his sins. Not only is Donald Trump a bad candidate for president, he is actively promoting the very things that we as Christians ought to oppose.

A recently uncovered tape revealed his comments bragging about sexually assaulting women. Any faculty or staff member at Liberty would be terminated for such comments, and yet when Donald Trump makes them, President Falwell rushes eagerly to his defense – taking the name “Liberty University” with him. “We’re all sinners,” Falwell told the media, as if sexual assault is a shoulder-shrugging issue rather than an atrocity which plagues college campuses across America, including our own.

It is not enough to criticize these kinds of comments. We must make clear to the world that while everyone is a sinner and everyone can be forgiven, a man who constantly and proudly speaks evil does not deserve our support for the nation’s highest office.

Jesus tells a story in the Bible about a man who tries to remove a speck of dust from his brother’s eye, while he has a log stuck in his own. “You hypocrite,” Jesus says, “first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

We Liberty students are often told to support Donald Trump because the other leading candidate is a bad option. Perhaps this is true. But the only candidate who is directly associated with Liberty University is Donald Trump.

Because our president has led the world to believe that Liberty University supports Donald Trump, we students must take it upon ourselves to make clear that Donald Trump is absolutely opposed to what we believe, and does not have our support.

We are not proclaiming our opposition to Donald Trump out of bitterness, but out of a desire to regain the integrity of our school. While our president Jerry Falwell Jr. tours the country championing the log in his eye, we want the world to know how many students oppose him. We don’t want to champion Donald Trump; we want only to be champions for Christ.
And see if you can catch the contradiction in Mr. Falwell's response:

“I am proud of these few students for speaking their minds but I’m afraid the statement is incoherent and false,” Falwell wrote. “I am not ‘touring the country’ or associating Liberty University with any candidate. I am only fulfilling my obligation as a citizen to ‘render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s’ by expressing my personal opinion about who I believe is best suited to lead our nation in a time of crisis. This student statement seems to ignore the teachings of Jesus not to judge others but they are young and still learning.”

Apparently only youth cannot judge, but Mr. Falwell is free to judge Trump and Clinton, and to find the latter wanting.  Jesus also spoke about the splinter in your brother's eye, the log in your own (as the students note).  Maybe Mr. Falwell needs to read up on Jesus' teachings about humility, and turning the other cheek.   Then again, for Mr. Falwell, the primary consideration is power:

"Donald Trump of five, ten years ago, even two or three years ago may have been a different person," Falwell Jr. said. "The bigger point is he is going to appoint the right justices to the Supreme Court. He's going to control immigration. He's going to bring our country back to a position of strength again. And that is why I'm supporting Donald Trump."
And don't think the students don't know that:  "he knows it is his title of president of the largest Christian university in the world that gives him political credentials."  Besides, the student who drafted the statement reports over 250 students, faculty, and alumni have signed it.  Mr. Falwell needs to check his assumptions again.  It isn't all that clear, after all, who he is leading.

"Leading evangelicals" is a media term for "people we have heard of who claim a large following, usually based on books sales or some level of fame only slightly more earned than Kim Kardashian." It is not a term for people who truly have leadership responsibilities. (When was the last time you heard the Pope, or any Catholic priest for that matter, described as a "leading Catholic"?)  It's even more interesting when they act like they do, and find out those responsibilities are more limiting than they imagined.