Adventus

"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

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Ghost in a nutshell


The real point of "Ghost in the Shell," the point lost entirely in the live action movie (this is my strongest critique of the movie, frankly), is the idea of the Cartesian split that can be created by technology.

In the universe of the movies, all humans (or a heckuva lot of them) can access "cyberspace" without logging on via a computer terminal or putting on VR goggles (again, don't worry about how they do that, but it is a technological matter).  "Cyberspace" is the right term here, that being the term William Gibson coined to talk about electronic communications via computers that human beings could directly experience.  The idea clearly bled over into GITS (unfortunate acronym!).  In the anime movies, characters are always communicating with each other in cyberspace, or accessing data, or hacking computer systems there, etc., etc.  It's clearly a visual referent for a visual media, but it works extremely well.  It also underscores the idea that the "ghost in the shell" is not the cyborg Major, but humanity in general, for which is more "real":  cyberspace, or "meatspace"?  The former, in many plot lines, allows great control over "the real world," and most of the action of the plots (not in the ScarJo movie, sadly) is pushed forward by data mining and other actions in cyberspace.

The Major serves as a concrete reference to this issue, as she lives wholly in a cybernetic body, transferring her consciousness (or her brain?) from body to body as she upgrades or has to replace it (ScarJo just gets repairs).  But all the characters in the movies live in both spaces:  communicating with each other via what would be telepathy, if it weren't internet assisted Skype of a sort, or just VOIP when there's no visual.   They think their thoughts and it is received as speech by other characters.  Characters meet clandestinely in cyberspace, the equivalent (sort of) to the "dark web."  Characters, especially bad guys, manipulate control in cyberspace (again, the live action version missed a chance to put this on screen).  There are two distinct realities:  the reality of the solid world where taking over traffic control screws up traffic (from the latest movie), and the reality of cyberspace (a reality never truly exploited in the live-action movie).  In fact, cyberspace, like mind, is the ultimate reality:  it is the reality that controls the "real world."

In other words, it's the Cartesian split:  the reality of the flesh, and the reality of mind, and the latter is in control of the former.  Descartes had the split foisted on him by Christianity and Platonism; he did the best he could with it through his cogito, which put the emphasis on mind and relegated body to a machine (hence the derisive term meant to dismiss Cartesianism, the "ghost in the machine").*  The philosophical critique intended is to point out how absurd it is for the "ghost" to interact with the "machine," but now that computer hardware needs computer software to function (and one is useless without the other), that critique doesn't seem quite so strong (it made more sense when machines were merely mechanical).  But if the fictional concept of cyberspace could become a reality, would we be human in both spaces?  Or more human in one than the other?

We have an inkling now, where the internet has replaced conversation and interpersonal interaction with, well, words.  Video blogs never really got anywhere; podcasts are popular, but those are just words without faces.  Words as text, like you are reading now, are more anonymous still.  Is this the "real" me, writing these words to you?  I am well aware, after years of writing letters to friends, that what I sound like in print, especially in personal correspondence, is not at all what I sound like in person; and I don't mean the timbre of my voice.  Am I more or less me, here?  Are you reading my thoughts?  Or are you reading my thoughts as translated through my fingers, as structured into sentences and paragraphs?  This is not the way I talk to my daughter, my wife, my friends.  This isn't even necessarily the way I write letters to family and friends.

But we are taking this as reality.  "Fake News" is really only fully possible as an internet construct.  It is news that was marginalized before the internet.  There was gossip; there were pamphlets, there were rumors and tabloids; and only now is any of that "real" because of social media, a term that exclusively means the internet, a place where anything can be said, and will be.  And where lies are given as much validity by some, as the "newspaper of record" once was by what seemed to be most of us.

We don't have to keep waiting for the future. Like the basilea tou theou,  it's here.  The question is:  do we see it?  And if we do, what do we do with it?

*which was more extreme than Plato or Christianity ever meant to go.

No matter, never mind

Okay, in this case purple hair and hazel eyes.  Clearly characteristics of the Japanese, eh?  
But Ms. Johansson certainly has that chin.

Took in a preview of the live action "Ghost in the Shell" movie last night.  I'm a fan of the anime, especially "Stand Alone Complex," which I used to stay up late for on Adult Swim (thim was the days!).  Discussed the whole "cultural appropriation" controversy on my way back with my daughter.

First, I have to say Ms. Johansson manages, somehow, to have the heart-shaped face and almost triangular chin of the Major from anime (an almost cliche of anime). Oddly, she has jet-black hair, not the Major's shade of blue (my daughter pointed out she had blue highlights, which I noticed and wondered about.).  But if you watch the anime, the team consists of Asians and Westerners.  One character has a full beard, and looks more like he belongs in the Pacific Northwest in a flannel shirt with an axe on his shoulder.  Many characters in the film are not distinctly Asian, and in the series of films it turns out the Major has been a cyborg since birth.  There are photos of her looking like she does as an adult, except in miniature (fakes, as it turns out; but still, how many Asian women look like an anime figure with blue hair?).

So it's more than a little weird to get all upset that the star of the show is not Asian.  Indeed, it seemed the purpose of the original 1995 movie was to show a multi-national, if not wholly multicultural, Japan; a Japan altered in the future from the Japan of the present, but in some ways just an extension of that culture, too.  It was never clear the Major was Asian; it was more clear she was a cyborg with an impressive (but also strangely sexless) physique.

As I said to my daughter during the opening sequence where the "Major" is rescued and made a cyborg (her brain in a robot body; don't think about it too hard), "And make her look like Scarlett Johansson because, why not?"  Later, the Major meets her mother, a lovely little Asian woman who apparently always welcomes perfect strangers in for tea (again, don't think about it....).  But the bad guys (spoiler alert!) are Americans, or at least Westerners, and Juliette Binoche barely covers her French accent as the doctor who makes the cyborg live.  Which, I guess, explains why the cyborg looks like ScarJo and not Lucy Liu.

No matter, never mind; because the movie makes way too much of that title, itself a derisive slur against Cartesianism which became, as irony often has it, the definition of Cartesianism (well, to those not in the know).  And speaking of not being in the know:

A few weeks later in an interview with Marie Claire, Johansson commented on the “Ghost in the Shell” whitewashing controversy. When asked whether she felt the charge of whitewashing with regard to her playing a Japanese character was fair, she answered, “I certainly would never presume to play another race of a person. Diversity is important in Hollywood, and I would never want to feel like I was playing a character that was offensive.”

And then she pivoted: “Also, having a franchise with a female protagonist driving it is such a rare opportunity. Certainly, I feel the enormous pressure of that — the weight of such a big property on my shoulders.”

That’s some A-list level evading of the point. Because guess what’s even rarer than a white woman leading an action film? An Asian woman or a woman of color leading any kind of film.
No, that's some A-Level racesplaining (you read it here first!)  In the original anime the "Major" is a Japanese cyborg in the same sense that a Toyota is a Japanese car.   Should Hollywood be more "woke" and put an Asian lead in this film?  Considering how much money is on the screen, I don't see that film getting backed for production in Hollywood.  It's a pretty standard Hollywood action film, and yes I do think they do that kind of thing better in Japan and Korea and elsewhere (or they did, I don't keep up with the cutting edge), but that kind of film is going to get made with a very famous star at the helm, probably white.  Do I like that as a concept?  No.  Do I understand it as a  reality?  Yes.  Would Ms. Johansson turning down the film have made any difference to the film being made with another white woman in the lead?  No.

And, the truth is, she doesn't play another race (and "race" is not a mind concept, according to this movie.  That is, it isn't a fundamental issue of identity.  If some people think about that too long, the conversation could get REALLY heated.).  The truth also is:  women keep acting (Meryl Streep is the exception that proves the rule) when they can become action figures (Ms. Johannson is a classic case; Anne Hathaway is doing it more and more; Sigourney Weaver did nothing but action roles for a long time).  Think of how many actresses have vanished from the screen after a few movies; because they didn't become action figures, and didn't stay perpetually 19 (at least on screen).  There are larger problems with Hollywood casting here.

And then there's the American take on the film, which doesn't redound to its credit.  This film doesn't have the sensibility of the original anime.  It's not as bad as the American version of The Great British Baking Show, which was so bad it disappeared without a trace; but the flaw is the same.  Some stories come out of a particular culture (and British Baking is a story as much as any reality show is), and do best there.  "Ghost in the Shell" is a good movie, which doesn't sully the anime with its presence.  Doesn't replace the anime either; but since the films already exist, a live action version has to stand on its own, and alongside.

And snide remarks about the lead actress don't really reflect on her, or the movie, or the issue of diversity in Hollywood; at least not in a way that's really helping.

In a new iteration, blue hair and blue eyes; which I suppose is distinctly Japanese....

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Massacre of Innocence



Back in the day, I got in fights with Pastor Dan  (I don't think he noticed much, and they were hardly epic battles) when he ran an offshoot blog of the Great Orange Satan.  Not serious fights, just disagreements about his optimism and hopefulness for what he would be able to achieve with his fervor for Christian ministry and leftist politics.

I admire Pastor Dan if only because he made it in the ministry, and I didn't.  I admire him for other reasons, too; but none of this is sour grapes or gloating.  In fact, I'm a bit sorry to see I was right; but Pastor Dan has, shall we say, aged.

So no, there isn’t really a Religious Left to emerge beyond the groups mentioned in the Reuters piece pushing out press releases and holding rallies in D.C. They may have been “astounded” when 300 clergy showed up to protest the AHCA, but that does not a movement make, sorry. Nor can the number of churches offering to provide sanctuary to asylum-seekers and undocumented workers, since communities of all stripes—conservative and liberal—heed the call to provide shelter from ICE goons. Nor does the cited diversity of the coalition prove much; a small slice of many different faith segments is, after all, still a small slice.

And if that's a bit out of context and not too clear, here's another bite:

The abolitionists weren’t really leftists. Some of them were racists, and the same broad stream of activism helped bring us eugenics and the often anti-Catholic temperance movement. The Civil Rights movement wasn’t run by the Religious Left so much as the black church, underwitten by the National Council of Churches and mainline denominations. I can’t think of a damn thing the Religious Left did to end the war in Vietnam that wasn’t named Berrigan. And while Pope Francis is an inspirational figure on economics and immigration (I love the guy), try asking some Catholic feminists or the LGBT community how liberal they think he is. I mean, at least cite Dorothy Day here!
I'd have put it differently, and I did, once upon a time, with more references to Niebuhr (Reinie) and Derrida, and probably some Wittgenstein and Kierkegaard thrown in somewhere.  But, you know, he's right.

Take this, for example, which Pastor Dan cites.  All I can say is:  quelle surprise?


What do pastors think about social or political issues?

Americans don’t particularly want to know.

Only 8 percent of adults say they are interested in hearing pastors’ views on issues such as same-sex marriage, LGBT rights, abortion, guns, tax policy, climate change, drug policy or religious freedom, according to the Barna Group’s State of Pastors study, released Thursday (Jan. 26).

And that supports one of the study’s biggest findings, Barna President David Kinnaman said during a webcast about the study: “There is a huge amount of skepticism and indifference to today’s faith leaders.”

I knew an extremely nice man in another congregation than the one I was shown out of, who told me once quite heatedly that he had it on good authority that the panhandlers under the nearby freeway overpasses made easily $30,000 a year.  He clearly thought this both a princely sum, and a reason not to offer them a thin dime, since they weren't truly "needy."  Did I explain to him my ministerial practice of giving money to people who asked (some came to the parsonage door, which was on the church grounds) without doing a financial check first?  I knew pastors who would only give coupons to fast food joints, so the money wasn't spent on liquor; I still consider that both condescending and an invitation to diabetes.  But did this man care what my views on social issues was?  Only if they conflicted with his.  Which has pretty much been true for as long as I can remember, and I remember pastors who didn't speak up about the Civil Rights movement because they didn't want to get fired.  Just read Dr. King's famous letter; the more things change, the more they remain the same.  And what King identified goes almost as far back as there have been pastors.

Franklythis revelation about Pastor Dan makes me a little sad.  Still, it's something all pastors have to learn coming out of seminary, be they right wing and supported by major portions of the national culture, or left wing, and supported by almost no one:  it really isn't up to you to change the world, or even to bring about the basiliea tou theou.  As they taught me in seminary, that is already here:  it's whether you see it and live in it, that matters.  Bringing it about really isn't up to you; otherwise it wouldn't be the "empire of God," would it?  Not unless you think you deserve to sit at the right hand of the throne.

True humility is damned hard to learn; and the lesson can lead to cynicism, and even arrogance, if you aren't careful.  And heaven knows, I've never been all that careful.....

Down the rabbit hole



Sure, why not?

The core unanswered question or the moment remains “who” and what “documents” are the source for Nunes claims: a question that might actually be answered by a simple trip to the checkout counter of your local supermarket! For the fact is that all the essential elements of Nunes’s story had already appeared in the National Enquirer edition of March 27 – available on the grocery store newsstand as early as March 20 – two whole days before Nunes held his initial press conferences.

I really think something is badly broken.....

Seventeen Days in March


If only our President would pay attention to his job, instead of the reporting about his job.

Trump didn’t understand the American Health Care Act nor the legislative maneuvering that would be required to pass it. He endorsed the most unpopular piece of legislation in memory and then declared defeat after only 17 days. 

You have to reflect on that, because it's easy to either ignore what's going on in D.C. (in which case you probably aren't reading this), or to get so caught up in it you don't realize how rapidly this "repeal" movement moved toward collapse.

17 days.  March Madness takes longer than that.  The NFL season (one of the shorter ones in professional sports) takes longer than that.  I'm not sure there are 17 days between the last playoff game and the Super Bowl every year.  Back when people used to take long vacations, they ran for 2 weeks, which is 3 days short of 17.  I teach a "mini-mester" course regularly.  It moves at breakneck speed, and consumes 15 days of class time (with two intervening weekends, it takes 19 days to complete).

17 days in legislative action is no time at all.  It's about the length of time of the average Christmas break between semesters.  17 days of effort, and Trump said "Fuck it!"

And then, only five days later, all is forgiven; or, at least, forgotten:

"I know that we’re all going to make a deal on health care. That’s such an easy one. So I have no doubt that that’s going to happen very quickly," Trump said at a reception at the White House for senators and their spouses. "I think it will, actually. I think it’s going to happen. Because we’ve all been promising, Democrat, Republican, we’ve all been promising that to the American people."

"We are going to be doing a great job. Hopefully it will start being bipartisan," the President added.
Our President has the attention span of a two year old, and the memory of a fruit fly.  He's also going to be "doing a great job."  Someday.  One day.  Well, as long as it doesn't take 17 days.  Because in 11 weeks he's managed to play golf 13 times.   17 days of attention to anything else can mess with your game, ya know?

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Strange Days Indeed


Apparently there is something to that "Washington Bubble" concept

In the news:  Water is running uphill, dogs are sleeping with cats, and Paul LePage is making sense:

“If the ACA is unsustainable, as some fear, I’ve heard some politicians say, that are Republicans, ‘Let it fail, and let the Democrats own it,” WVOM’s Ric Tyler told the governor during an interview.

“Oh yeah, yeah, so let’s keep hurting the American people,” LePage responded. “That’s about as sensible as ‘Go jump off a bridge.’ That makes no sense. You’re telling people, ‘Let it fail so the American people can get hurt more and when they get hurt more maybe we’ll do something.’ Why don’t you go jump off a bridge? That’s just about as sensible.”

Saturday night's alright, alright, alright!



Distraction action, what's your faction?

In Watergate, it was the Saturday Night Massacre.  I was against Nixon early on, because I was against the war and convinced Nixon was lying about ending it (well, that started in '67, didn't it?).  I was also a wild-eyed liberal (and have only gotten worse with age), and Nixon was not.  OTOH, I was 17 when Nixon was re-elected in literally the greatest landslide in U.S. history, and only a few of my friends agreed with me, and I kept my opinions to myself, or them.

Then Archibald Cox subpoenaed the White House tapes, and all hell broke loose.  By the time the dust had settled, I still remember my father talking to a friend, and his contemporary, and saying that it sure looked like Nixon had something to hide after all.  I remember the friend was still unconvinced, but not my Dad.

If trying to silence Sally Yates isn't as dramatic as the Saturday Night Massacre, it's as panic-stricken an act.  But instead of ending up with Robert Bork as acting Attorney General, we have Devin Nunes simply closing the House Intelligence Committee hearings for the foreseeable future.  Why?   Because Sally Yates, being a good lawyer v. a lawyer who works for Donald Trump, knows the President doesn't enjoy attorney-client privilege from a DOJ lawyer like Sally Yates formerly was, and the executive privilege has no application in this situation whatsoever.*

And they can't afford to let her talk.

Which kind of undercuts the whole "fake news!" meme that Trump keeps screaming.  Unless, of course, Trump is part of the conspiracy against himself.....

*Just a reminder:  John Dean's last government position was as White House Counsel to Richard Nixon.  Nixon was a lawyer, too.  He knew better than to claim any privilege to stop Dean from testifying.

"Buy your dreams, a dollar down...."

Time to check in on Trump's tweets again.  The "big news" tweets are about Democrats and Russia.  I was going to post them, but you can find them here and here.  Same ol' same ol', frankly.  You know on their face it's sheer nonsense.  The other stuff is MUCH more interesting:



This, of course, is how you win friends and influence people.  Pay attention, class:  this is world class politicking.  LBJ is taking notes in the afterlife.



Well, except....




So much winning!  We're getting sick of all the winning!  Besides I'm not quite sure what the second sentence has to do with the first.  Oh, well:  communicating directly to the people!  Hooray!


"We"?  Does he have a mouse in his pocket?  

Trump’s may have been the most irresponsible remarks uttered by any political leader in the long debate over the Affordable Care Act, because it signaled to insurance companies and to enrollees that the administration would make little or no effort to avoid an avoidable outcome.

“That rhetoric in and of itself has a destructive impact,” Andy Slavitt, the last acting administrator of Medicare and Medicaid under the Obama administration, told me. That’s because Trump’s words could drive insurers out of the individual market. “If you’re a competitor in the marketplace and you hear that the regulator wants the market to explode, you say, ‘Why should I participate?’”
Remember when Trump was going to restore jobs?  Trump remembers:


Except, still, not so much:


Really, really not so much:

Ford decided to expand in Michigan rather than in Mexico. But the decision has more to do with the company’s long-term goal — particularly its plans to invest in electric vehicles — than with the administration. Here’s what Ford chief executive Mark Fields said about the company’s decision to abandon plans to open a factory in Mexico: “The reason that we are not building the new plant, the primary reason, is just demand has gone down for small cars.”
....
Trump’s bravado on these jobs announcements is becoming a bad joke. He claims credit when little or no credit is due to his policies. Moreover, he is counting these jobs as jobs in the bank, when corporate plans frequently change according to market or economic forces.
Trump has promised to create 10 million jobs over the next four years, and that ultimately is what he will be judged on.

And, of course, being POTUS means you have access to information the rest of us don't!


Or not.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Or we could just use the signal!


This started out as a comment in the post below, but it went long:

My favorite part of that "story" is the idea the pizza parlor was conducting their nefarious business in the basement.

As the shooter who went there found out, the place doesn't have a basement.  None of this puts Mike Cernovich off the theory (I actually watched that '60 Minutes' segment last night).  He insists it is true because he thinks arguing is fun, or something.

I figured out that, on the internet at least, some people want to argue, and the classical argument meant to be a dialogue achieving some kind of Hegelian synthesis requires a willingness to reconcile.  Lots of barmy theories bouncing around the internet about how science "proves" "liberals" and "conservatives" (as if those were scientific categories, and not cultural/political ones) think differently, and that's why they can't agree.  Of course, such theories depend on oversimplification, vague and glittering generalities, and generally the kind of thinking usually properly labeled "racist" if not "elitist"; but they are popular.

The base line is:  people think what they want to think, and most people don't deeply examine their thought processes.  Self-examination is hard!  Far easier to adopt a position and then, if you are so inclined, defend it to the death. Or just keep it going because arguing is fun!   Does the pizza parlor where the sex ring is operating in the basement have a basement?  Doesn't matter!  Besides, who told you they don't have a basement?  The fake news media?  Liars!  They're covering for Clinton and the Democrats!  The guy with the gun was a false flag!

See how easy it is?  And frankly, if such people win the day and get like-minded people elected, it's Gresham's law applied to sociology (which probably has one of it's own that I don't know):  bad ideas drive out good.  The vast majority of people have never heard of "Pizza-gate," even after the arrest, and simply don't care.  If they do hear about it, it sounds completely nuts to them.  But even that doesn't motivate them to care.  It's Batman v. reality.  As Patton Oswalt noted recently, the tragic death of someone you love doesn't motivate you to travel the world seeking out fighting masters and to reshape yourself into the ultimate street fighter.  The effect of grief makes you sit on the couch and eat cookie dough out of a bucket and be really, really sad.  Sorrow is not a motivator to action.  Except we want it to be, so in fiction, it is.  Just as in fiction, good ideas enter the arena to fight bad ideas, and drive them out.  Hurray for free speech!  Good always wins!

It doesn't, of course,  In any group dynamic, like, say, a church, the nasty people can drive out the good people, if the good people don't really care and don't really oppose them.  And why should they fight?  Most people have better things to do with their time.  So in politics:  people have awakened to the horror of Donald Trump and repealing Obamacare and the general idiocy that has been on the ascendant in the GOP since Goldwater.  They will fight it now, but only for a while.    The true believers who truly believe because it gives their life meaning, or because it's what they care about, or because they think they're right, will keep fighting the other true believers.  But the reconciliation won't fail to come because conservatives are from Mars and liberals are from Venus:  it will fail because some people on both side refuse to be reconciled.

And the people in the middle aren't adult enough to take responsibility for the mess.  The real problem in American culture is that one:  there aren't any adults left in the room.  Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump and the Freedom Caucus have replaced LBJ and Sam Rayburn and people who ran for Congress to govern, not to establish ideological purity.

We're not really in two different universes.  We're just in a world where children have been allowed to take charge, because the adults can't be bothered.  Any government where Donald Trump presents the Chancellor of Germany with an "invoice" for what he thinks Germany owes NATO is not a government where maturity and adult thinking are running things.

"The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers."


Because, you know, government doesn't work:

Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has apologized for his website’s role in spreading a fake news story that inspired an armed man to storm a pizzeria in search of abused children in December.

Jones, who operates the website Infowars, had suggested that Comet Ping Pong in Washington, D.C., was hiding child sex slaves in its basement as part of a pedophilia ring supported by top Democratic politicians.
....
In a statement posted to his website and read Friday in a video broadcast, Jones blamed other outlets and social media sites for the “not appropriate” level of attention given to the restaurant and its owner, James Alefantis.

“Neither Mr. Alefantis, nor his restaurant Comet Ping Pong, were involved in any human trafficking as was part of the theories about Pizzagate that were being written about in many media outlets and which we commented upon,” he said.
Did Jones see the light?  Did the scales fall from his eyes and reveal he trafficked in lies and deceit and nonsense?  Did the invisible hand of the market slap some sense into him?  No, not really:

Jones said Alefantis wrote to him in February, demanding an apology and retraction of his broadcasts and postings on Pizzagate. Texas law dictates that Jones, who is based in Austin, had exactly one month to respond to Alefantis’ letter to avoid facing punitive damages in a libel suit. That deadline was Friday, the Post reported.

Friday just happens to be the day Jones posted his apology to his website.   Damned lawyers!  Damned tort law!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Apres le deluge


All we have to do is wait for the disaster, then as people are crawling through the wreckage the GOP will pick up the pieces!  And tell us it's for our own good!

GOVERNANCE!!!



Or that.

UPDATE:  The interesting thing this Sunday morning is that nobody on the morning talk shows is talking about this tweet.  Indeed, the panel on Press the Meat seemed to think Trump would now fire Sebastian v. Gorka and Steve Bannon and Steve Miller and Sean Spicer and become a Democrat, the better to be an effective President.  But of his statements that Obamacare will "explode" and then Trump will usher in the healthcare millennia:  *crickets*.

And I waited patiently to confirm nothing was said about it on "This Weak," either.  Thus is our national discussion of the issues important to the people carried on.

Friday, March 24, 2017

"Evening. Thanks again."

It seems the GOP is defaulting to the Terminator option....

I will admit, when Trump said it immediately after the bill was pulled, I didn't think much of it.  But Trump couldn't blame Ryan, and he couldn't blame the House GOP, so he blamed the Democrats, and he blamed the American people by damning them to what he thinks will be healthcare hell.

““I’ve been saying for the last year and a half that the best thing we can do politically speaking is let Obamacare explode,” Trump said at the White House. “I think the losers are Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, because now they own Obamacare. They own it, 100 percent own it.” 

 And he really, really meant that, because he repeated it for emphasis:

“Perhaps the best thing that could happen is exactly what happened today, because we'll end up with a truly great health care bill in the future after this mess known as Obamacare explodes,” Trump said. “So, I want to thank everybody for being here. It will go very smoothly.”
Once all that human suffering has happened, and the people cry out for a savior, and all eyes turn to Trump.  You gotta break a few eggs to make an omelette,  you know, and sometimes you have to destroy the village in order to save it.  Anyway, the sentiment  apparently inspired Lindsay Graham to pick up a shovel and jump in the hole, too:


Which means they would rather the healthcare of tens of millions of Americans suffer in order to teach the Democrats a lesson and to teach the American people a lesson they'll never forget.  In this scenario Trump sees himself as the implacable terminator, and the American people as...the janitor.

Sounds about right.  Well, in Trump's mind, anyway.


“When you look at legislative efforts, I think the president has given it his all,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters Friday. “And I think it shocked a lot of people, frankly, how very, very detail-oriented, how personal it was for him ― calling members, you know, as early as 6 in the morning and going to 11 at night the last several nights, sitting down meeting after meeting with them, coming back and revising it, having his team back and forth.”

Is that what you call it, Sean?  Because we still have the pictures of Trump playing in an 18-wheeler on the White House lawn as the GOP tried to frantically whip up support for the  first vote on the AHCA, the one postponed for a day.  And even without that, if this is as much as Trump can do when he gives it his "all," then he really can't do much, can he?

Thanks for the memories

Why I Love Twitter


ADDING:  And when he couldn't do that, he blinked, and pulled the bill from the floor.  Reports are:  it's dead.  Obamacare will have to implode (and if it doesn't?).

This calls for music!



And, for lagniappe, Ezra Klein on why it matters.  Here's the meat of the matter:

But Trump has never specialized in those kinds of deals. He’s specialized in deals that made his life easier and his name bigger, and the particular way he specialized in those deals was by caring much, much less about the consumer experience than his nearest competitors. The health care bill is a case in point. It’s a bad product, and Trump himself grew bored of it, and the work that was required to improve and pass it, quickly:
Late tonight Trump told confidants that he is now ready to see who's with him and who's against him, that the wooing & chatty calls are done
— Robert Costa (@costareports) March 24, 2017
How is he going to bear four years of this job? How are we?
Frankly, until I read that tweet, I didn't realize how bad the situation is.  And it changed rapidly:

Up until he didn't.  And what to make of Trump calling CNN and the NYT to announce the failure?

And bolstering that Costa tweet:

According to multiple Trump administration officials speaking to The Daily Beast on the condition of anonymity to talk freely, the president is angry that his first big legislative push is crumbling before his eyes—and his chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon is advising him to take names and keep a hit list of Republicans who worked for Trumpcare’s defeat.

“[Bannon] has told the president to keep a shit list on this,” one official told The Daily Beast. “He wants a running tally of [the Republicans] who want to sink this…Not sure if I’d call it an ‘enemies list,’ per se, but I wouldn’t want to be on it.”
Dale Carnegie would love it!  And now, if you can't blame Republicans, blame the Democrats!  Thanks, Obama!

“We were very close; it was a very, very tight margin,” [Tump] said. “We had no Democrat support. We had no votes from the Democrats. They weren't going to give us a single vote, so it's a very difficult thing to do.”

Just wondering how many Democrats he reached out to, and when the press is going to start noticing that the way they did with Obama 8 years ago.....

So much winning!

Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) admitted as much as he left the meeting Friday. Reporters asked why, after Republicans held dozens of nearly-unanimous votes to repeal Obamacare under President Obama, they were getting cold feet now that they control the levers of power.

“Sometimes you’re playing Fantasy Football and sometimes you’re in the real game,” he said. “We knew the president, if we could get a repeal bill to his desk, would almost certainly veto it. This time we knew if it got to the president’s desk it would be signed.”

Music!  And laughter!



Who's hogging the popcorn?


So, let's see.

The CBO has reviewed the next version of Trumpcare, and found it will deny coverage to the same number of people as the first version of Trumpcare, but cost $186 million more.  The total tax cut would amount to $999 billion.  You read that right.

The vote on Thursday was postponed because the Freedom Caucus demanded the elimination of requirements that "health insurance" include coverage for:  hospitalization; ER care; prescription drug coverage; maternity and newborn care; pediatric care; or laboratory services.  That's not an exhaustive list, but one has to ask: without that, what "health insurance" are you paying for?  These exclusions have pleased some member of the Freedom Caucus, but now moderates don't like it; which is why the vote was delayed.

This is an important moment in the Administration's history.  As Howard Fineman says:

Presidencies often are defined, for better or worse, by their first big legislative move. Like first impressions in everyday life, they count bigly, and they establish political dynamics that can last.
But what about all that "Presidential power"?

“Presidential power is the power to persuade,” the late Harvard professor Richard Neustadt wrote in what is still considered the classic study. To do so, Neustadt wrote, presidents must be careful, anticipatory, listen, adapt, and collegial not dictatorial. And they must carefully nurture and guard their public image of wisdom, probity, patience and smarts.

Whether he wants to or not, Trump has to learn how acquire those qualities if he is to succeed. He is getting the first on-the-job lesson this week, as he tries to herd Republican cats.
The situation is changing so rapidly and unexpectedly Fineman didn't have time to consider what Trump has done now:  demand a vote Friday, or forget about Obamacare.  Which is not so much persuasion as it is in line with bullying and threatening.  So, there will be a vote in the House on Friday, and if the bill fails, Trump will abandon Obamacare reform and move on.

Which will, like it or not, establish political dynamics that can last.  As Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) put it, either the bill passes "“Or we will have the opportunity to watch a unified Democratic caucus impeach Donald Trump in two years in the majority.”

Where's the popcorn?



The Art of the Squeal


If you can't win 'em over, shame 'em!

The problem with so much news from so many sources, is that there really isn't any news at all:  just conflicting stories.

Like this:

Rep. Chris Collins is a close Trump ally. Collins said Thursday night that if the AHCA doesn’t pass, President Trump will give up on health care reform and leave the nation stuck with Obamacare — that there will be no second attempt.

This certainly sounds like a thing Trump would say. But is it a thing Trump would actually do? 

Dara Lind, at Vox, wasn't too sure last night at 10 p.m. EDT, whether Trump is actually drawing a line in the sand, or just said to be drawing a line in the sand.  Two hours earlier, however, Huffington Post was quite sure that was the case:

President Donald Trump, according to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, is done negotiating, and House Republicans are scheduled to vote Friday. If the vote fails, Mulvaney said, the president was prepared to leave Obamacare in place.
Now, will Trump leave Mulvaney hung out to dry?  Is Trump really gambling on this?  Is it a brilliant ploy to force the necessary 30-40 House votes to join with "ayes" and approve the bill?  Or is Trump just being petulant and bored and tired of this negotiation he can't win, so he's going to take his ball and go home?

Honestly, I think it's the latter, but what do I know?  But here's where things stood two days ago:


And, of course, the bill didn't even come up for a vote on Thursday.  Ezra Klein notes how many sources are saying Trump is completely clueless in this matter, and as useless as tits on a boar hog (no, Ezra was never so earthy, but what else does this quote from Politico mean?):

Several people with knowledge of the discussions said having Trump on the golf course wasn’t a bad thing for his team, who could wade more into the nitty-gritty and have “real talk” with the conservatives. They fear that when he meets with legislators or interest groups that he’ll promise them too much — or change the terms under discussion altogether. “It’s easier to negotiate sometimes without Trump,” one adviser said.
And of course, reports are that Trump his own self was the one who told the Freedom Caucus "Screw it, we'll throw out all the regs!"  Which is why the ground shifted after Lizza's tweet, but which is also what led to the elimination of Essential Health Benefits and put the whole mess crosswise with the Senate and "the Byrd Rule," because the Senate wants to avoid a filibuster (and can't do so if the bill touches on anything but the budget.  Oh, read up on it here.  It's the best summation of that issue I've found.).  That elimination also blew up the "moderates" in the GOP House, which ended the chance of a vote Thursday, and is leading to the probable doom of the AHCA today.  And in a nice neat package, it also explains why Trump wants to take his ball and go home.

I mean, as Ezra Klein puts it:

The problems here lie with Trump. He is strongly committed to his personal project of being the president, being seen as a great dealmaker, and appearing on television, but he is weakly committed to his ideological project and obviously uninterested in the details of legislation.
But Trump can't be doing that badly, because he's the President, and you're not!  Right, Chevy?

Because it's a ban on Muslims?



Or a ban on Britons?

“The war is real and that’s why executive orders like president Trump’s travel moratorium are so important,” Gorka, a deputy assistant to the President whose counterterrorism expertise has been heavily criticized, told Fox News’ Sean Hannity.

If it's the latter, can we use it to get rid of Sebastian v. Gorka? (The "v.", as Samantha Bee explained, is important, and another reason we probably should have banned immigrants like Gorka).

Thursday, March 23, 2017

When "essential" means "For Men Only"

 What the President did today.  No, seriously.
“[Eliminating] essential health benefits means Republicans are making being a woman a preexisting condition,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters Thursday. “Again, stripping guaranteed maternity care is a pregnancy tax, pure and simple.”

I don't know where Nancy Pelosi gets these ideas:





But Sen. Roberts apologized, so it's all good:


Except he didn't apologize to Alice Ollstein personally, or even attach his sentiment to her tweet, and he only apologized on Twitter, which means some staff person wrote it for him to c.his a. after speaking so injudiciously, but hey, it's the new etiquette, or something.  Right?

Now, is he going to refuse to back a bill that doesn't include the 10 essential health benefits required under Obamacare?  Because I keep hearing the AHCA will be a "better" bill.....(and the funny part is, that bone thrown to the Freedom Caucus has caused "moderate" Republicans to withdraw their support, and killed the vote scheduled for today.  So much winning!)  And it's all good because:

"The president's engagement [in the legislative process] is unparalleled in the history of our country," Freedom Caucus leader and North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows said at the Capitol moments ago.

Although, actually:

SO much winning!

God is just glad to be off the cover....

"And then TIME magazine, which treats me horribly, but obviously I sell, I assume this is going to be a cover too, have I set the record? I guess, right? Covers, nobody’s had more covers."--Donald Trump


No, that really is the cover of TIME Magazine.  The cover story is the interview with the President of the United States, Donald Trump.  An interview that contains statements like this:

Yeah, it’s a cool story. I mean it’s, the concept is right. I predicted a lot of things, Michael. Some things that came to you a little bit later. But, you know, we just rolled out a list. Sweden. I make the statement, everyone goes crazy. The next day they have a massive riot, and death, and problems. Huma [Abedin] and Anthony [Weiner], you know, what I tweeted about that whole deal, and then it turned out he had it, all of Hillary’s email on his thing. NATO, obsolete, because it doesn’t cover terrorism. They fixed that, and I said that the allies must pay. Nobody knew that they weren’t paying. I did. I figured it. Brexit, I was totally right about that. You were over there I think, when I predicted that, right, the day before. Brussels, I said, Brussels is not Brussels. I mean many other things, the election’s rigged against Bernie Sanders. We have a lot of things.
NATO is obsolete.  Sweden had a massive riot, and death, and problems; which no one, to this day, knows anything about.  Why bother investigating the rest?

Why do you say that I have to apologize? I’m just quoting the newspaper, just like I quoted the judge the other day, Judge Napolitano, I quoted Judge Napolitano, just like I quoted Bret Baier, I mean Bret Baier mentioned the word wiretap. Now he can now deny it, or whatever he is doing, you know. But I watched Bret Baier, and he used that term. I have a lot of respect for Judge Napolitano, and he said that three sources have told him things that would make me right. I don’t know where he has gone with it since then. But I’m quoting highly respected people from highly respected television networks.

Hey, people are saying, right?  What's wrong with the President saying people are saying?  Because they are, right?  So you can't blame Trump for saying what people are saying!  And did you know he was right about Brexit and Sweden?  Did he say that yet?

No I am saying I was right. I am talking about Sweden. I’m talking about what Sweden has done to themselves is very sad, that is what I am talking about. That is what I am talking about. You can phrase it any way you want. A day later they had a horrible, horrible riot in Sweden and you saw what happened. I talked about Brussels. I was on the front page of the New York Times for my quote. I said Brussels is not what it used to be, very sad what has happened to Brussels. I was absolutely lambasted. A short time later they had the major attack in Brussels. One year ago today. Exactly one year ago today. And then people said you know Trump was right. What am I going to tell you? I tend to be right. I’m an instinctual person, I happen to be a person that knows how life works. I said I was going to win the election, I won the election, in fact I was number one the entire route, in the primaries, from the day I announced, I was number one. And the New York Times and CNN and all of them, they did these polls, which were extremely bad and they turned out to be totally wrong, and my polls showed I was going to win. We thought we were going to win the night of the election.
Okay, second time's the charm, so about that "riot" claim:

The neighborhood, Rinkeby, was the scene of riots in 2010 and 2013, too. And in most ways, what happened Monday night was reminiscent of those earlier bouts of anger. Swedish police apparently made an arrest on drug charges at about 8 p.m. near the Rinkeby station. For reasons not yet disclosed by the police, word of the arrest prompted youths to gather.

Over four hours, the crowd burned about half a dozen cars, vandalized several shopfronts and threw rocks at police. Police spokesman Lars Bystrom confirmed to Sweden's Dagens Nyheter newspaper that an officer fired shots at a rioter but missed. A photographer for the newspaper was attacked and beaten by more than a dozen men and his camera was stolen.

Bystrom later said that a police officer was slightly injured and that one person was arrested for throwing rocks, news agencies reported. Some civilians were also assaulted while trying to stop looters, he said. 

But Trump was right to "predict" the riots, because people were saying!

Trump clarified on Twitter that he drew his claim about immigrant violence in Sweden — made at a campaign-style speech in Melbourne, Fla. — from a Fox News segment in which two Swedish police officers were interviewed. The segment was part of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” and featured filmmaker Ami Horowitz, who was introduced as someone who had documented an “incredible surge of refugee violence” in Sweden.

The two Swedish officers whose interview provided the basis for the report spoke out Monday and claimed that their testimony had been taken out of context. One of them, Anders Göranzon, said that the interview was about areas with high crime rates and that “there wasn’t any focus on migration or immigration.”

“We don’t stand behind it. It shocked us. He has edited the answers,” Göranzon said. “We were answering completely different questions in the interview. This is bad journalism.”
And in an interview with any other POTUS, this would be the takeaway sentence:

That is different that the president wiretapping you which would be a crime outside of a court.

Well I don’t know where these wiretaps came from. They came from someplace. That is what they should find out. And you know the real story here is about the leakers. OK? You don’t write about that. But the real story here is, who released General Flynn’s name? Who released, who released my conversations with Australia, and who released my conversation with Mexico? To me, Michael, that’s the story, these leakers, they are disgusting. These are horrible people.
The President is clearly surrounded by horrible people.  And newspapers and magazines which lie regularly, but which also report the truth, because that's what people are saying, and Trump is only repeating what he reads and hears on TV, so you can't blame him, except for his predictions, which are all true.

Besides, everything is fine:

Hey look, in the mean time, I guess, I can’t be doing so badly, because I’m president, and you’re not. You know. Say hello to everybody OK?

At least, that's what people are saying....

Just for the youth, who have no memory of history.  Besides, it was the first TIME cover without an image.

LATE ADDENDUM:  WaPo did a fact check of the TIME interview.  You don't even have to read the interview:  just read the fact-check.

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