"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

Friday, September 23, 2016

That's me in the spotlight....

I should be inspired by an internet article that tries to discuss TV's ideas about religion, especially when I basically agree with the premise as presented in the sub-headline: "TV portrays religion in a number of ways. What hasn’t been considered as often is the purpose of faith."  Too true; all too true.  Of course, there are problems with defining "faith" apart from "religion," because the definition of "faith" usually has to do with what you believe (not who you trust, or "have faith in"), and then we start arguing over whether religion is a social construct while "faith" is something individuals engage in, and the whole thing goes right off the rails.

The actual discussion, however, is about TV shows:  "The Exorcist," "Penny Dreadful," "Preacher," and "The Good Place."  I'm not familiar with any of them (I plan to catch up on "Penny Dreadful" on Netflix at some point, but then again, I might not.  It's not compelling me; and I never considered it as having anything to do with religion.).  "The Exorcist" is an extension of the novel/movie, but with two different priests (both fairly young, apparently; gotta get the demographic) fighting demons; oh, and the Catholic church bureaucracy, which I suppose is a bone to Clint Eastwood fans, or something.      Well, always gotta fight the power, or the Man; amirite?  Oh, "Exorcist" is thematically connected to "Outcast," where a village is apparently plagued by demons.  Sounds a little like Stephen King to me, but what do I know?  I don't know how these two are connected to "Preacher," except that in that one the title character carries around a being called "Genesis" (Biblical, get it?) and sets up a conversation between a church congregation and God.  According to the article that conversation doesn't go well (if it did the TV show would end abruptly, I guess); but then again Jonathan Edwards would have something to say about sinners in the hands of God.  Annie Dillard would, too; but maybe I'm getting too literary for television.

You might be noticing a pattern here, and it isn't just that TV loves action and prefers violence when it can get it.  Apparently "Penny Dreadful" includes a character who clings tenaciously to her faith, only to lose it in what the article calls "that most Victorian of evils, a broken heart."  I have to say, that's not a peculiarly Victorian evil; it certainly ranks high in modern Hollywood storylines, too.  So high my first thought is hardly that it's Victorian in nature at all.  The list goes on:  "Game of Thrones" apparently was set in motion by a loss of faith (The Red Priestess realizes her vision are false*), and this leads to an interesting (but also false) conclusion:

Notice that these shows all hang on supernatural themes. Indeed, genre television and film has long provided creators with the means to approach many existential questions, including dissections of faith, in such an oblique fashion.
Well, yeah, supernatural as opposed to religious themes, I agree.  But that's the way TV handles religion now.  Once it was schmaltzy piety, or dreary doe-eyed piety (Heavenly choirs singing in the background as the sun breaks through the clouds and enlightens a beatific actress's face, which is turned heavenward); now it's all about power.  Which, in modern understanding, is what the "supernatural" is for:  access to power, physical, visible, undeniable power.

It's a post-Romantic idea.  Scan European literature, and witches are either the Witch of Endor, in 1 Samuel, or the Delphic Oracle in Greece, two characters with a shared root:  knowledge.  The Witch of Endor is no Harry Potter-esque witch, but someone who passes on messages to Saul from Samuel.   Likewise the Delphic Oracle gave messages from the gods to humans.  Later, in European folklore collected during the Romantic interest in anthropology, witches appear as symbols of evil.  But the witch in Hansel and Gretel doesn't wave a wand over the children, and few if any of the witches in Grimm's tales exhibit the kind of power over the elements, or even objects, that we connect with the Sorcerer's Apprentice or Harry Potter.  Tolkien's Gandalf is an elder wizard of this kind; he sets off fireworks, and sparks his staff into light, but he fights with a sword and exhibits courage and knowledge, not access to supernatural powers whenever the dwarves or the Fellowship are in a tight spot and could use, say, a transportation spell.

Supernatural is our modern term, for exerting power with no seeming connection between object and human except will.  It's a metaphor grown out of the Industrial revolution.  We even comfort ourselves that "primitive tribes" (and aside from a few cargo cults, there's no real evidence for it) would think our technology "magic" if they were to see it.  But that's what we call magic; their culture may simply call it "power."

That's the connection between all those stories:  access to power.  It's what we've been seeking ever since we found energy sources that would give us machines of power, and since we found the power latent in petroleum, it has made us power mad, indeed.  So our presentations of religion in popular culture, which amount to discussions of religion in the public square, turn on access to power and the use of power:  power to control demons, or power to confront God, or just the old complaint that the gods don't listen and don't care, and won't share their power.  What good is God, after all, if God won't share power?

And what if the omnipotent being whom we call by so many names, refuses to intervene when we need it most? What if it doesn’t know anything?
Because knowledge, you know, is power.  We think that's universal, too, except in the most famous case of the Oracle speaking for the gods, and of Tiresias speaking truth to power, Oedipus found knowledge left him powerless.   If God won't intervene when we need it, if God won't even make a display of God's power, what good is God?

64:1 O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence--

64:2 as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil-- to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence!

64:3 When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.

Isaiah 64:1-3.  Like I said, it's a very old question.  And it's a very old demand:  a demand that God display some power.  Not that Isaiah continues in that vein:

64:4 From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him.

64:5 You meet those who gladly do right, those who remember you in your ways. But you were angry, and we sinned; because you hid yourself we transgressed.

64:6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

64:7 There is no one who calls on your name, or attempts to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity.

64:8 Yet, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.

64:9 Do not be exceedingly angry, O LORD, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people.

That's the part nobody on TeeVee wants:  the patience, the humility, the trust.  The trust!  Yes, the faith in God.  "No ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him."  That line in particular hearkens back to the scripture where God did "come down" and kindle the brushwood.  It didn't happen on command, or with a snap of a priest's fingers, or with the incantation of a spell.  And who wants to say on TV:  "You meet those gladly who do right, those who remember you in your ways....O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand."

That is an expression of faith; that is an expression of trust.  From the cry of anguish in verse 1, to that statement of absolute faith (trust) in verse 9; how do you fit that into a TV script, and make the conflict anything any audience would sit still for?

So you get the Hollywood version.  And in the Hollywood version God is not just power but access to power, and if we can't invoke God's power, where's the drama, where's the interest, what do we do with this Jep ("woman in jeopardy," an old standard of TV writing which still holds true to this day.  Go ahead, look for the "Jep" in the first few minutes of the next TV drama you care to watch.  You'll probably find one pretty quickly.  Hollywood learned early on that when there's a Jep in the first 15 minutes of less, the audience stays to the end to find out what happened.)?  So God in Hollywood is all about access to power.  Without that, where's the drama?**

Take "Constantine," the Keanu Reeves movie I always enjoying watching over and over again.  Of course it's the Catholic church as video game, chockfull not of matters of faith, but of the power of the supernatural; and God is the most supernatural of all.  Constantine wins because he invokes the power, and finally the powerlessness, of God (yeah, it's funny that the powerlessness is what wins; just like it does for Harry Potter.  But that's another story....).  Because if God can't come down and kindle the brushwood, then Constantine will have to do it with a few spells and efforts of will; because, after all, the people paid to see a show.

*Which brings to mind another story by George R.R. Martin, about a future in which a priest roots out Christian heresies on various planets and is sent to destroy the Gospel of St. Judas, a completely fictionalized account, as its author and priest readily admits.  The idea is that such a fake undermines the faith anyone could have in the Gospels (or the church as Martin imagines it; another fake RC construct, basically), which can be no better defended against charges of falsehood than this new "gospel."  The idea is not too dissimilar to Arthur Clarke's much earlier story "The Star," where a Jesuit astronomer travels to a dead star, only to find evidence it wiped out a glorious civilization on an orbiting planet when it went nova, and did so at just the right time to signal the birth of the Christ for Matthew to record.  This creates a crisis of faith in the astronomer, which shows a laughable disregard for the realities of Jesuit training and the historicity of the gospels.  But primarily both stories show a ludicrous notion of what religious faith is.

**Otherwise the drama is just about personal anguish, as in "Agnes of God" or "Doubt."  And while both movies were fairly dramatic (if uneven), who wants to see that every week for 26 weeks?

"Thou has committed fornication....

Because that's what you mean when you say black people hate white people in America.

"But that was in another country."

In this country, we have racists to deal with, who seem to think if they speak to foreign journalists, they can't be heard in America:

“The grievance in their mind, the animus, the anger — they hate white people because white people are successful and they’re not,” Pittenger, in a shocking display of racism, said on BBC Newsnight.

Pittenger, who once said firing gay people is a “freedom we enjoy” in America, followed up his Charlotte comment by talking about Americans’ dependence on government.

“It is a welfare state,” said Pittenger, who has represented parts of Charlotte since 2013. “We have spent trillions of dollars on welfare, but we’ve put people in bondage, so that they can’t be all that they’re capable of being. America is a country of opportunity and freedom and liberty. It didn’t become that way because of a great government who provided everything for everyone. No, the destiny of America, the freedom to come to this country ― where they’re still coming to our shores ― is because they can take their work ethic, their hard effort, and put up their capital and their risk, and build out their lives.”

Pittenger was talking to the BBC.  The former Trump chair in Ohio made her racist remarks to the Guardian.  Do these people not understand the concept of "global media"?

As for Pittenger's remarks, it's okay, he apologized:

"What is taking place in my hometown right now breaks my heart. My anguish led me to respond to a reporter's question in a way that I regret," he said in his apology statement.

He didn't apologize for being a racist.  He said it was the protestor's fault.  No, seriously:

So he doesn't regret what he said; no, he regrets that his words could be heard in America, not just in Britain.  Provincial is as provincial does, I guess.


Honestly, are we know supposed to think that disgustingly racist statements are okay once the person who makes them gets some kind of pushback?

“Black people beating whites when a thug got shot holding a gun by a black officer haha shit cracks me up! Keep kneeling for the Anthem!” Clevenger tweeted from his account, @Clev_45.

In another tweeted, he said, “BLM is pathetic once again! Obama you are pathetic once again! Everyone involved should be locked behind bars like animals!”

And of course the problem is not what is said, but how people react to it:

“I am sickened by the idea that anyone would think of me in racist terms. My tweets were reactionary to the events I saw on the news and were worded beyond poorly at best and I can see how and why someone could read into my tweets far more deeply than how I actually feel,” he said. “I once again apologize to anyone who was offended today and I just ask you not judge me off of a social media posting."

I dunno, but "black people beating whites" and "thug" and "locked behind bars like animals" is pretty much racist language where I come from.  And aside from the fact Obama is black, what does he have to do with what's happening in Charlotte?

These people are the mole people.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Just because

My first political memories stem from 1964 (look it up, ya snot-nosed punks!  I ain't gonna do everything fer ya!)

Pay no attention

Does anybody really know whose chair this is? the man behind the curtain.  Please.

Speaking at a roundtable of pastors in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Vice Presidential candidate Michael] Pence said police officers are "the best of us" and the public should avoid focusing on talking about racism, which he called the "rhetoric of division."

"Donald Trump and I both believe that there's been far too much of this talk of institutional bias or racism in law enforcement," Pence said, according to the AP.
Or in society in general, amirite?

“There wasn’t any racism until [President Barack] Obama got elected,” she said. “Now . . . with the people with the guns and shooting up neighborhoods and not being responsible citizens, that’s a big change. And I think that’s the philosophy that Obama has perpetuated on America.”

Miller further blamed black people for any real or perceived oppression.

“If you’re black and you haven’t been successful in the last 50 years, it’s your own fault,” she argued. “When you look at the last 50 years, where are we and why? We have three generations of all still having unwed babies, kids that don’t go through high school. I mean, when do they take responsibility for how they live?”
That is the former Trump chair in Monaghan County, Ohio.  She resigned her position the day that interview was published.

I'm just not sure this is the day Pence needs to be talking about racism at all, especially with his boss renouncing his latest position on Obama's birth; or telling an African America audience that stop and frisk is especially good for them; or blaming drugs for the protests in Charlotte.  And that was just in the last 24 hours.

Ye gods!  Charlie Pierce is right; we have sailed off the edge of the known world.

It's not about race, because it's never about race.  It's only about how white people are unfairly accused of being racists.  That's all it's ever been about.

And because it's never about race, I have to ask:  does anybody understand why this is a race joke?

"We also honor Wynton Marsalis, who unfortunately, could not make it here today, and Morgan Freeman, who undoubtedly is off playing a black President again," the President quipped while awarding the National Medals of Arts and Humanities. "He never lets me have my moment."
Tim Huelskamp, soon to be a former member of Congress, thinks it is.  I guess because it was made by a black man, or something.   I dunno; maybe you had to be there to be offended.

The More Things Change, the More They Remain the Same, Dept.

We sure don' care 'bout no book larnin'! 
Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we begin by declaring that "all men are created equal." We now practically read it "all men are created equal, except negroes." When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read "all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and catholics." When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty-to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocracy (sic).
--Abraham Lincoln

All that's needed to make that perfectly up-to-date is a crowd to point out Lincoln didn't solve that problem, and therefore his morality and ideology were not pure enough to get the job done and he should have been dumped for a replacement candidate right before the election because what a disappointment he turned out to be.

Oh, and just change "catholics" to "Muslims."  But to most people, that's a distinction without a difference, because the difference doesn't matter.  The venality attached to the label is all that matters.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016


Well, now that I find out this is available, I probably won't be available for weeks now.

Just thought you'd want to know.

Pity the semester has started; well, I'll grade those papers next month; or the month after.....

Sweet dreams and flyin' machines

Then again, the weekend talk shows make their nut on having people on who are never challenged by the hosts, unless said guest is not an Honorable Presence in D.C., or running on the ticket of a major party (or speaking for, in any tenuous way, such a person).

Because the moment a Sunday gasbag starts treating a "guest" (and doesn't THAT term tell you all you need to know?) the way the BBC treats political leaders (the iron fist in the velvet glove of the BBC "RP"), that show dries up and blows away, having lost all reason for existing.  The only place you won't see this is PBS, where they don't have a Sunday gasbag show.

So maybe the fantasy is that we'll go back to ignoring the Sunday gasbag shows because, really, if you can't call Chris Christie a liar to his face, of what use are you?

Well, maybe if we turn off the TeeVee:

In at least five articles in the New York Times on Sept. 17, including the lead story in the print edition, the words “lie,” “false,” “falsely claimed” and “untrue” appeared in headlines, lead paragraphs, and top sections of the paper’s Trump coverage. The day before, CNN’s Jake Tapper called Trump “the most prominent pusher of the birther lie,” the Associated Press reported that Trump “peddled another lie,” and a Washington Post headline declared, “It’s time for TV news to stop playing the stooge for Donald Trump.”

It’s a marked change in language, even for outlets that have aggressively reported on Trump’s appeals to violence and bigotry. And it’s especially startling coming from the ultra-traditional Times, which even in the new digital age remains a north star for much mainstream media coverage.

“I think our investigative work—see [the Sept. 17] story on Trump’s tax breaks—has always been hard hitting,” says Dean Baquet, the New York Times’ executive editor. “But we have decided to be more direct in calling things out when a candidate actually lies.”

The shift in language coincides with Trump’s reversal on his false, five-year-old claims that president Barack Obama was born outside the US, which came with a new fabrication on the topic: that his opponent, Hillary Clinton, started the rumors about Obama’s birthplace.

Says Baquet, “The birther issue represents, well, outright lying. And he lied over a long period. It is a real word and we will use it when warranted.”
If this becomes widespread, Chuck Todd won't know whether to shit or go blind.

OTOH, don't get too excited; another entry from the "Earth:  Round or Flat?  Opinions differ" Department of "Objective" Journalism:

These are the factors that Ryan said would determine the conditions under which the word is used:

■ It is not used for matters of opinion, but only when the facts are demonstrably clear.

■ Intentionality is important — in the case of Trump and birtherism, he repeated the lie for years, in the face of overwhelming facts that disproved it, suggesting this was a deliberate attempt by Trump to deceive.

■ It is not used to police more frivolous disputes among political candidates or political factions.

“Lie” is a loaded word, all right, a favorite of campaign operatives. You score every time you can get the media to catch your opponent in one, and it’s into the bonus round if you can get them to actually call it a “lie.”

Language of any sort is among the most powerful tools in politics. Consultants are specialists in what words to use — it’s called messaging — and it’s with careful consideration that news organizations make decisions about how and when they allow reporters and editors to use particular terms. The Associated Press, in one example, continues to cause a stir after it banned the phrases “climate deniers” and “climate skeptics” from its articles last year.

“Lie” falls into this general category, especially with Trump on the scene. It’s a loaded word, but in the case of Trump and birthers it passes my smell test. The Republican nominee has propagated a bogus claim about Obama’s nationality that is meant to undermine the nation’s first black president and ignite a strange political movement. Yet it is unequivocally false and Trump knows that.

I do like the "intentionality" requirement:  we can't judge by what they say, we must examine their hearts to know if they mean to speak truth or not.  Proving fraud in civil court is a snap compared to  that requirement.  As Charlie Pierce said:  "I swear, I spent a lot of my life around Jesuits, and damned if I can figure out how thinly Ryan and Spayd have sliced the salami here."  But it almost has one side, so that's pretty good, eh?

"Suckled on a creed outworn...."

I just liked the picture.

"So might I, standing on this pleasant lea...."

Monday, September 19, 2016

Ladies and Gentlemen: The MOB!

Legend has it that, the year after the SuperDome opened in New Orleans, Rice University was playing a game in the then-still functioning Astrodome, and the MOB (the "Marching Owl Band") took to the field at half-time as their announcer took over the PA system, welcoming the attendees to the world's smallest indoor stadium.

Judge Roy Hofheinz, the county judge who built the Astrodome and was as proud of it as a proud parent could be, reportedly seized the microphone and cut off the rest of the announcements meant to go along with the antics of the MOB on the field.

They're up to their old shenanigans again:

Rice University's marching band used its halftime performance in a Friday night football game against Baylor University to mock Baylor's recent sexual assault scandal.

Video uploaded to social media after the event shows Rice's Marching Owl Band forming the Roman numeral IX, a reference to the Title IX ban on sexual discrimination, followed by a star and a rendition of the song "Hit the Road Jack," in reference to the departure of university president and chancellor Ken Starr in the wake of the scandal.

A representative from Baylor was not immediately available on Saturday morning for comment on the halftime performance.

Rice University's Office of Public Affairs released a statement on Saturday saying the Marching Owl Band has a tradition of satirizing Rice's football opponents with performances that are not subject to prior review by the university administration. But the statement said Rice regretted any offense to the Baylor fans at the stadium in Houston and that the band did not mean to make light of the serious ongoing issues of sexual assault.
I dunno.  I think Baylor deserved it.  And God bless the MOB!

In other news

Chris Christie is a liar.

End of story.

Okay, not entirely the end, because even WaPo agrees with Charlie Pierce:

This is such bogus spin that we have to wonder how Christie manages to say it with a straight face. Regular readers know we shy away from using the word “lie,” but clearly Christie is either lying or he is so misinformed that he has no business appearing on television.
Can we make this into some kind of national movement, and at least start cleaning up our Sunday morning talk shows? 

Messin' with Texas' expectations

Well, usually....

Nobody wants to believe it.  The "smart money" still says Trump will walk away with Texas' electoral college votes.  And he may well win them; but it may not be in a walk.  Could Trump lose Texas?  It's a question being discussed in the state, if not outside it:

The Midland Reporter-Telegram:

It’s a question most Texas politicos aren’t used to asking, let alone having to debate: How close, really, is the presidential race in the Lone Star State?
The Houston Chronicle:

A poll released Thursday put Republican Donald Trump ahead of Democrat Hillary Clinton by seven percentage points among likely Texas voters, again signaling the potential for a single-digit presidential showdown in the Lone Star State in November.
The Austin American Statesman:

Less than eight weeks before the November election, GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump has a 7-point lead over Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in Texas among likely voters, but only a 1-point lead among all registered voters, according to results of the Texas Lyceum poll released Thursday.

The poll is the latest to suggest that the deep red state of Texas might witness a closer-than-usual contest this fall. It comes even as new national and battleground state polls show the race tightening and Trump gaining in ways that indicate that a Clinton victory, which just after the party conventions in July seemed almost a foregone conclusion, is now anything but a done deal.
Three polls now (the Lyceum poll, an NYT/CBS News poll, and a WaPo poll) show the race is much tighter than it should be in Texas.  And these poll results presume a balance in GOTV efforts by both candidates; but Trump just appointed his state chair for his campaign three days ago.  The Lyceum poll also predicts a high turnout of Latino voters in Texas.

And never in my life, at least not since the GOP started to turn the tide in Texas (and we went overnight from a one-party Democratic state to a one-party GOP state) have I seen the words "a foregone conclusion is now anything but a done deal" in a story about Texas politics.  You can see that in all the reports that expect, at worst, a "closer than usual" result in November.  I dunno.  Dan Patrick as your campaign manager might help Trump in Texas with die-hard Republicans; but even Dan Patrick can't invent a state wide GOTV effort in 30 days or less (early voting in Texas starts October 24th).  If you think GOTV doesn't matter, then you haven't been paying attention to the Voting Rights Act/Voter ID suit currently churning in federal court or to how much effort North Carolina legislators put into ending "souls to the polls" in that state.).  These things matter, and are baked into statistical models about "likely voters" and election results.  But what happens when those expectations are themselves unreliable?

I'm not saying we will find out in Texas; I'm just saying there's a strong likelihood we will find out.  When Hillary Clinton (!) is within striking distance (in the latest poll; earlier polls put it closer) of the MOE, the times they are a-changin'.  Anecdotally, I assigned an essay on a speech by Hillary Clinton (a standing assignment I've used for years, because it's in the textbook).  Not one essay had anything but praise for Hillary Clinton.  If the young people vote in Texas, it may be Trump's race to lose; and he may be the only Republican who could lose it.

I'm not trying to "unskew" the polls, or predict an unexpectable outcome.  I just find it interesting, and it will be interesting to see what happens in November.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Modern Times

Just another Sunday afternoon....

So, this was interesting....

Went out to the Big Box hardware store for gardening materials only they carry, and which they only had (and barely that; the website lied!  LIED, I tell you!) at this store, one conveniently located right on the huge 10 (or is it 14, or 16, with service road lanes?  I can't remember anymore) freeway that runs through town (that detail will matter in a minute).  I'm standing at the outside register, one within gates for the garden center, but an entrance you could drive a truck through and nothing by it except those sensors that make an annoying noise if your purchase wasn't properly scanned before it left the store.

So I'm standing there while they try to find a purchase price for my purchase (see above; they were sold in packages, but only available loose.  Huh?) and two guys (black guys, to identify them properly) come sauntering out carrying two chain saws in boxes.  They are striding rapidly up to the register, but there's a bit of a line and they aren't making for it.  The cashier knows what's happening (he saw it yesterday, too, he later tells the Lovely Wife and I), and calls out.  Suddenly they accelerate like Usain Bolt and race through the gates and into the parking lot, jumping into a car that speeds away.

The Lovely Wife, incensed, chases after them, determined to get the license number and the like.  She sees the driver, a white guy, but doesn't remember the runners; she wasn't looking at them coming, like I was.  The  cashier, meanwhile, is yelling at her to get back in the store; for her own safety.  As a more street-savvy customer tells her, who was walking in as they were running out, they could have guns.  It isn't worth it.

Indeed, it isn't.

Oddly, my thoughts turn to the fault in the store.  They are foolish not to put such expensive items on display, and require customers to bring a ticket to a cash register, and then wait while an employee brings the item from a secure location in the store.  Costco does this for watches and jewelry and cameras; no fools, they.  You pay, then you get your hands on it.  And why should the store do this?  Because they make it too easy to steal at that location (it is, as I say, just off the freeway, and a less densely populated part of town.  Even on a weekend, the street traffic is light, the customers numerous enough a car can be parked in a crowded lot and drive away quickly, over the hills and far away.). (at the same store closer to my house, on any weekend, you'd stand in line for up to 10 minutes just waiting to get out onto the service road.  Enough time for several customers to leisurely walk up and snap your picture.)  Being so easy, what if the thieves have guns, and decide to fire?  People seldom hit what they are aiming at, which means the wounded could be you or me, and not some employee trying to save his employer a few dollars.

And honestly, while the saws were boxed, they were large and heavy; those guys took off like linebackers in a broken backfield.  They could have hit somebody, or knocked them over.

The theft is bad; the stupidity of making it so easy, is worse.  And all so they can make things more convenient for the customer (and hire fewer staff to work in the store, and do things like bring you the chain saw you just bought to the register).

Friday, September 16, 2016

Let Donald be Donald!

Nick Confessore on "Charlie Rose:  The Week" just called Donald Trump a liar.  He said the words:  Trump lied, in reference to what Trump said about Obama's place of birth and Hillary's part in first promoting the suspicion that it wasn't Hawaii.  And that Trump ended the theory, rather than poured gasoline on it for 5 years.

Scott Detrow for NPR puts it this way:

After years of peddling a false conspiracy theory that President Obama wasn't born in the United States, Donald Trump — just 53 days before Election Day — now says he believes the president was born in the U.S.

"President Obama was born in the United States. Period," Trump said at a campaign event in a ballroom in his new hotel in Washington. "Now, we want to get back to making America strong and great again."

But Trump did not apologize to President Obama.

Trump also claimed, falsely, that Hillary Clinton — "her campaign in 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it. You know what I mean." That false equivalence is not true. See here and here and here. There's a big difference between what fringe supporters of Clinton said at the time, who were disavowed by the candidate, and the campaign Trump himself undertook in the subsequent years.
Emphasis mine.

CNN was all over this for an hour this afternoon.  John King preferred the term "fraud" to describe Trump:

"There you got after, what, four or five years of leading a fraudulent, reckless campaign against the legitimacy of the United States President, you got about, what, six or seven words from Donald Trump saying he's decided it's over. I guess he gets to decide that," he added. 
Slate lined up all of Trump's birther tweets since 2011; it's an ugly archive, and it proves he's a liar, but it's Slate, not a mainstream new source.  Salon lined up all the angry responses of journalists and pundits, proving this time, it's personal.

And maybe it is; but I have never heard so many reporters call a public figure a liar so consistently and suddenly; it's like the restraints are off and now they feel free to tell us all the emperor is naked.

Then he went to a rally and said this, and even "Washington Week" had to pay attention and fact-check him:

“She’s very much against the Second Amendment,” Trump said in Miami. “She wants to destroy your Second Amendment. Guns, guns, guns, right? I think what we should do is, she goes around with armed bodyguards like you have never seen before. I think that her bodyguards should drop all weapons, they should disarm. I think they should disarm immediately.”

“Take their guns away,” he continued. “She doesn’t want guns. Let’s see what happens to her. Take their guns away, OK, it would be very dangerous.”
As Gwen Ifill pointed out, Hillary does not want to take everyone's guns away; and then she asked her panel if this didn't sound like an assassination threat.  They all agreed that it did.  They didn't say "Well, it could be interpreted that way, but there's no reason to say that's what he really meant."  They didn't wait for a response from the Clinton campaign.  They just nodded and said yes, that sounds like a threat.

This might just start getting interesting.

Update:  Josh Marshall has noticed it, too, this time in an AP story.  Maybe the line finally has been crossed.  I think JMM is right about what's going on, too; and this is what will sink Trump, in the end.

Speaking of....

Portrait of the blogger as a young man

For no reason other than to opine on something besides Trump:

Texans can do Texas accents; non-Texans simply cannot.

Tommy Lee Jones can sound like a Texas sheriff; Sissy Spacek can sound like someone raised in East Texas (it's a distinct accent); Matthew McConaughey can sound like a Texan.

Non-Texans, even Brits with all their training; can't get it right.  It's subtle; but as a native Texan, I can tell the difference.  Tommy Lee Jones just lands it right.  To listen to him in "No Country for Old Men" is to listen to a native born Texan talking, even when Mr. Jones can talk like he's not from Texas at all.  McConaughey almost always sounds like he's from Texas; and Ms. Spacek can do the "southern girl" from somewhere south of the Mason-Dixon just fine; but to my ear, she almost always betrays her East Texas roots (she grew up not far from where I did).

I've had people tell me I don't sound like I'm from Texas.  I think I spent too much time watching TeeVee as a child, acquiring that Midwest non-accent accent of TV news anchors in the '60's and '70's.  Then I talk to family members or old friends (my wife is still amazed how much my accent changes when I talk to my brother; she did the same thing talking to her sister, though; and like me, never noticed it).

The Texas accent is subtle and inimitable and very regional.  There's one from Dallas (my father had it; he could sound way too much like Ross Perot, although without Perot's nasal qualities).  There's one for Central Texas, and another in the German areas of Central Texas; and a variety for south Texas, and the Panhandle, and East Texas; and variants within those regions.  Southern accents are as variable as states and regions in the states, too; and nobody sounds like a proper Cajun except a proper Cajun.  I garonteee.  (and yes, you have to be of a certain age and region to even know what that means).

Brits can sound American, in the generic sense.  It's always surprising to hear David Tennant's native, and thick, Scottish brogue.  I can't place his English accent (apparently Christopher Eccleston sounds like someone from Northern England, or did as the Doctor), but it's very different from his native accent.  I suppose to some I sound the same way, unless I'm talking like a Texan.  An East Texan; there's more drawl in my twang than there is bobbed wahr, but I do talk about awl fur the car, and add syllables to almost every word, and ahm usually fixin' to git around to it.

Which is whut ah need ta be dooin' raht about nahw, think to come of it.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

None dare call it "Deplorable"

How rude!

“The media has been her number one surrogate in this," Trump Jr. told station 1210 WPHT in Philadelphia, referring to Hillary Clinton. "Without the media, this wouldn’t even be a contest, but the media has built her up. They’ve let her slide on every indiscrepancy, [sic] on every lie, on every DNC game trying to get Bernie Sanders out of the thing.”

He continued: “If Republicans were doing that, they’d be warming up the gas chamber right now.”
I'm sure Hillary will say something more insensitive than that at some point, so the media should keep its powder dry and the fainting couch clear.

A place to dream, and a place to tell lies....

Since I brought it up, and implicitly bashed the press in doing so, it's only fair to note NPR's report on the visit of Trump to Bethel UMC in Flint, Michigan:

"Something was up," Trump told Fox and Friends on Thursday morning, calling Pastor Faith Green Timmons a "nervous mess." "I noticed she was so nervous when she introduced me. When she got up to introduce me she was so nervous, she was shaking. I said, wow, this is kind of strange. Then she came up. So she had that in mind, there's no question."
Pastor Timmons introduced Trump to the predominantly African-American crowd of about 50 people, and she didn't appear nervous at all.

After that, Trump shifted into a version of his now-standard stump speech, blasting free-trade deals like NAFTA, and pointing out that then-President Clinton completed the international trade deal.

As Trump began to criticize his opponent, Hillary Clinton, Timmons slowly walked back onto the stage.

"Mr. Trump, I invited you here to thank us for what we've done for Flint, not to give a political speech," she said.

"Oh, oh, OK, OK, OK. That's good," Trump said. "Then I'm going to go back onto Flint, OK."

"The audience was saying let him speak, let him speak," Trump told Fox and Friends.

That isn't true. In fact, several audience members began to heckle Trump, asking pointed questions about whether he racially discriminated against black tenants as a landlord.

And that's when Timmons — who Trump said Thursday had planned to ambush him — stepped in to defend Trump, saying the Republican nominee was "a guest of my church, and you will respect him.

"Thank you. Thank you, pastor," Trump responded.

The pointed questions for Trump continued as Trump wrapped up his remarks, though — and that's the moment when the press traveling with Trump was hastily escorted out of the room.
The video I have seen cuts off before any heckling occurs, or the Rev. Timmons returns to the podium to defend her guest.  What is interesting is how Trump turned heckling, which the Rev. Timmons directly addressed, into support.

Every word the man says is a lie, including "and" and "the."

I should add that, finally, a reporter says of a politician's statement:  "That isn't true."

Truly this is an age of wonders and miracles.

"Brave, Brave Sir Robin!"

It's interesting that we must all take to our fainting couches because Hillary Clinton called some of the supporters of Donald Trump "deplorable."

Like the white supremacists; or the KKK; or the man who punched a 69 year old woman on an oxygen tank to the ground.

The people upset, as Charlie Pierce pointed out, are not the racists and xenophobes and Islamophobes who rally around Trump with such zeal.  Pay attention to who is upset, and gauge the matter accordingly.   It's the pundit class who are tut-tutting at how impolite Hillary was; while, for reasons known only to the pundit class, Donald Trump can call all Mexicans rapists and cut-throats and declare that African Americans all live in crime-ridden ghettoes (has he not watched so much as a TV crime drama since 1970?), and we are still supposed to treat him and his supporters with the kindest regard and not notice the elephant in the room.  Probably because, as Mr. Pierce helpfully points out, that elephant has been allowed to stay in the room for so very, very long.

Or watch the video above, where Trump folds immediately when politely challenged, and returns to the topic he is supposed to be talking about.   He changes what happened, however, when he is no longer confronted by her but is asked a question on FoxNews:

“Everyone plays their games,” Trump replied, calling Timmons “a nervous mess.” “It doesn’t bother me. I'll tell you what really made me feel good, the audience was saying, ‘Let him speak, let him speak.’ The audience was so great and these are mostly African-American people, phenomenal people and they want to see change.”

If you watch the video, it's clear Trump crumples like an empty suit.  It's also clear the applause is for the pastor, not for him.  And there's no sound of "Let him speak!" anywhere on the tape.  Members of a church, especially a black church where vocal support of the pastor is common, never speak that way to their pastor.  Maybe in private, never in public.  And Trump describing Timmons as a "nervous mess."  Pop psychology calls that projection; ancient Christian wisdom calls it the log in your own eye.

Imagine this man negotiating with Putin.  A man who can only talk back to a black pastor when he's safely away from her is going to negotiate on the world stage for the United States?

And can we call what he said a clueless message?  Congress has to deal with the matter of Flint's water supply, because Congress has to decide whether or not to use federal funds for a local matter like how a city gets its water and even who pays for it (which was part of the problem with Flint's water in the first place).  A Trump Administration couldn't do anything about that preemptively, and probably couldn't get Congress to do anything about it either (in a House hell-bent on impeaching the IRS Commissioner because, by Gawd, they're gonna impeach somebody or bust!).  In a few sentences Trump all but said he would ride roughshod over the entire Constitutional structure and separation of powers and do what he wanted because he would be Supreme Ruler of the Nation; or something.  And either we take him at his word (in which case he's either dangerously ignorant or dangerously megalomaniacal) or we just pass over it because, well, that's Donald Trump.  But let Hillary decry the racists and xenophobes and white supremacists who praise Trump (and whom even Mike Pence won't denounce), and my heavens, where is the fainting couch?

No, no, this will not do.  Hurling insults may be one thing, but describing a situation for what it is, is simply speaking truth.  There are deplorable people supporting Donald Trump, and he is running a campaign of deplorable ideas.  He is, himself, clearly a racist and a buffoon and his business dealings leave him ridden with so many conflicts of interest it would be impossible for him to serve as President of the United States.

And yet it is Hillary Clinton who is the questionable candidate.  I'll retire to Bedlam.