"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, April 29, 2016

It's alive!

I started two different posts, which then became related; and now, with this comment, I can stitch them together and save some column inches; or however this stuff is measured in cyberspace (even that term dates me now!).  It's a bit of a Frankenstein monster, because I didn't even try to hide the sutures.  Here is the comment, at least:

This is part of the larger issue for the campaign of a lack of introspection or self examination. All failures are external and blamed on someone else. It's the poor, the South, mainstream media, lack of understanding or education or misunderstanding on the part of supporters of Clinton, corruption, and on and on. Never an examination of deficiencies in their own message. Never trying to understand how the campaign failed to connect. No introspection on how to better promote the message to those that aren't currently Sanders supporters.


All I can add is:  the fish still rots from the head.

So, here's the thing:

Bernie Sanders' wife and adviser Jane Sanders says his campaign will do well in the remaining contests because they are open primaries, which she describes as "more democratic."

In an interview with MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Thursday, Jane Sanders noted that Bernie Sanders won Rhode Island on Tuesday, which was an open primary, allowing independents as well as Democrats to vote for her husband.

"If you close the primary and you only have people who have been in the Democratic Party for years, what you are doing is effectively shutting the door on the millions of people that Bernie has brought into the political process during this election," she said.
You really can't have it both ways at once:

Well, here’s what I think,” Sanders replied. “I think at the end of the day, what Democrats all over this country want to make sure is that somebody like a Donald Trump or a Ted Cruz does not end up in the White House. And I think what more and more Democrats are seeing is that Bernie Sanders is the stronger candidate.”

“She’s getting more votes,” the host pressed.

“Well, she is getting more votes. A lot of that came from the South,” Sanders parried. “But if you look at the polling out there, we do a lot better against Trump and the other Republicans in almost every instance — not every one — than she does. And the reason is that we both get a lot of Democrats, but I get a lot more independents than she does.”

Because many of the states in the South are open primary states.  Oops!  Which either means there are no independents in the South (except you don't register by party in open primary states, and I've never known anyone who had a Democratic Party membership card.  Do you pay dues, or something?), or this theory is shite.  As far as votes go, I'm a Democrat; but technically, I'm an independent, since I've never registered as a Democrat in my life.  And nothing kept me from voting in the Republican primary in Texas, except that I wouldn't have been able to vote in the Democratic primary as well, and that's the one I wanted to vote in.  (which is why I question the "crossover vote" stories.  I don't get to pick one from Party A, one from Party B.  You can only do that in the general.  And the old argument is that your candidate is sure to win, so "cross over" and screw around with the other primary.  Except that theory has been blown to shreds this year in the GOP.)  I prefer open primaries, but "more democratic"?  Then why didn't more Southern voters feel the Bern?

I'm sure it had something to do with poor people.

When Hillary Clinton was just Bill's wife (and almost no one knew who Bill was, aside from the governor of a state almost no one knew anything about), she made a famous remarks baking cookies that, almost 25 years later, she's turned to her advantage.

Maybe that's going to happen with Jane Sanders' comments; but somehow, I don't think so.  In the meantime, she's not doing her husband's campaign any favors:

"Now, Donald Trump has a point. The electoral process — the way it is conducted now in both parties is not good, it is not democratic, it is not smart," Sanders said on Fox Business Network. "We want to change the electoral process by having there be open primaries, same day registration. If independents could vote there is no doubt that the results in the democratic process at least would be very different."

I'm all for same day voter registration, but that's an issue for general elections, too.  I'm also fine with open primaries, but I don't think closed primaries and caucuses are less inherently democratic (and if they are, then Bernie needs to give up the delegates he won in caucus states.).

And then there's this still preaching it round and square stuff:

Jane Sanders also again railed against the superdelegate system.

"It doesn't seem fair that superdelegates can play such an outsized role. I mean, you know, we learned in a democracy one person, one vote. Evidently not in the primary system," she said.
The primary system is not yet based on one person, one vote, because if it was, we'd eliminate delegates altogether and just go with winner take all, as we do in the general (we don't award electors proportionately every fourth November).  If we were to make the system that "democratic," Bernie Sanders would have been shut out months ago.  Again, what's the complaint here, except that her husband didn't win?  And the super delegates?  Can the Sanders campaign please decide whether they want the super delegates, or not?

And then she had to get cute:

We want to let it go through without politicizing it and then we'll find out what the situation is," Sanders said during an interview with Fox's Neil Cavuto.

"That's how we still feel. It would be nice if the FBI moved it along," she said, smiling. 

Presumably she's just channeling her inner H.A. Goodman at this point (I won't link to his nonsense, you can read Charlie Pierce's version of it).  And I don't really want to imply she's carrying water for Chuck Grassley, but I had this in draft form before today, so I'm going to go ahead and use it to say:

There will be no "prosecution" of Hillary Clinton, whether the FBI wants it or not.  Not just because the FBI is not conducting a criminal investigation (and said so last July), but because a criminal prosecution on any serious crime can't take place without a grant jury indictment.

Dear Sen. Grassley:  your reading assignment is the 5th Amendment to the Constitution.  Thank you.

No grand jury indictment, no prosecution, no matter what the FBI may think (and the 12 agents on the case are very influential, I'm sure.)  And is there a grand jury waiting patiently to receive the evidence the FBI has amassed?  What's that?  There is not not?  How is this possible?!

Will there be?  Well, not if the FBI is not conducting a criminal investigation there won't be.  But there won't be a prosecution, period, without a grand jury.

So can we please put this canard to rest?  No, I know we can't; but geez, this is becoming tiresome!  PRESIDENT CLINTON, Grassley.  GET USED TO IT!

That same advice now goes for Jane Sanders.  Sour grapes and whinging about losing are not the best way to behave on the national stage.  Just sayin'.....

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Americans are afraid of the poor

And this is why (courtesy of Southern Beale):

In eastern Kentucky and other former Democratic bastions that have swung Republican in the past several decades, the people who most rely on the safety-net programs secured by Democrats are, by and large, not voting against their own interests by electing Republicans. Rather, they are not voting, period. They have, as voting data, surveys and my own reporting suggest, become profoundly disconnected from the political process.

The people in these communities who are voting Republican in larger proportions are those who are a notch or two up the economic ladder — the sheriff’s deputy, the teacher, the highway worker, the motel clerk, the gas station owner and the coal miner. And their growing allegiance to the Republicans is, in part, a reaction against what they perceive, among those below them on the economic ladder, as a growing dependency on the safety net, the most visible manifestation of downward mobility in their declining towns.
I have found the people most concerned with their status are usually concerned with the status of the people closest to them on the socio-economic ladder.

They don't want it to rub off.  That and fear of failure, which is a powerful fear indeed.  Especially in America, where it can ruin you.

And it isn't just that poor people don't vote, but that they don't always vote the way you would want them to.  We would do well to mind the admonition of Dorothy Day:

I keep reminding the young people who come to work with us that they are not naturalized citizens...They are not really poor. We are always foreigners to the poor. So we have to make up for it by "renouncing all compensations..."

We are sure they would think as we would have them think, and that they would be wrong not to.  Judgment is the first compensation we allow ourselves, and the first we should renounce.

Divine Meditations: I

Thou hast made me, and shall thy work decay?
Repair me now, for now mine end doth haste,
I run to death, and death meets me as fast,
And all my pleasures are like yesterday;
I dare not move my dim eyes any way,
Despair behind, and death before doth cast
Such terror, and my feebled flesh doth waste
By sin in it, which it towards hell doth weigh.
Only thou art above, and when towards thee
By thy leave I can look, I rise again;
But our old subtle foe so tempteth me,
That not one hour I can myself sustain;
Thy grace may wing me to prevent his art,
And thou like adamant draw mine iron heart.

Not Ready for Prime Time

Because if they did vote they'd vote for Bernie is not really the direct (or even necessary) outcome you think it is.

It is, however, a good way of saying "It's not MY fault!" and of blaming the poor, which is one of the Great American Pastimes.

And this is how he would lure them to the voting booth.

I dunno, man.....

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Divine Meditations: X

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

Divine Meditations: VII

At the round earth's imagin'd corners, blow
Your trumpets, angels, and arise, arise
From death, you numberless infinities
Of souls, and to your scatter'd bodies go;
All whom the flood did, and fire shall o'erthrow,
All whom war, dearth, age, agues, tyrannies,
Despair, law, chance hath slain, and you whose eyes
Shall behold God and never taste death's woe.
But let them sleep, Lord, and me mourn a space,
For if above all these my sins abound,
'Tis late to ask abundance of thy grace
When we are there; here on this lowly ground
Teach me how to repent; for that's as good
As if thou'hadst seal'd my pardon with thy blood.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Friday, April 22, 2016

Still looking for the keys

I like The Cubit because it is usually very sensible, as in the case in point.  And more and more I like the story of the drunk looking for his keys under the lamplight, because it is such a good explanation of how we form grand theories of everything, like the origins of religion:

And Barash is alarmingly comfortable engaging in wild speculation and generalizations. Nowhere is this clearer than in his treatment of the origins of religion. Riffing on the alpha-male-polygamy theme, Barash argues that religion comes from fear of a powerful male father. God, he suggests, was “created in the image of a dominant, alpha male polygynist.” Contemporary religion is the legacy of that terror.

Reading this little account, I was struck by three things. The first is that Barash’s evidence almost entirely comes from cherry-picked passages of Abrahamic scripture, which might not be the most rigorous way to analyze All of Religion. It’s one thing to note that people have used metaphors of romance and rage to describe their relationships with the divine, and quite another to conclude that these literary expressions represent the fundamental human fear-impulse toward faith.
There are two conjoined problems there, and it's not just cherry-picking (proof-texting, we seminary graduates like to call it) the scriptures for whatever suits your thesis.  That problem is related to the problem of interpretation which too many people not trained in philosophy or literature or even just textual criticism or scriptural studies, are prone to overlook:  everything you think is a matter of interpretation.

So if I say the "Old Testament" presents God as hairy-thunderer smiting the wicked and declaring war on all kinds of people in favor of Israel, well:  I'm ignorant.  I'm also wrong.  True, I can "read" the scriptures for that interpretation, but what I'm doing is interpreting scripture:  I'm not establishing objective truth.  Post-modern thought is pretty much an acknowledgment of this fact (Wittgenstein is particularly interested in it):  we interpret a text just by reading it, and if we don't change the frame of our interpretation, or better critique that frame and recognize it's influence on what we "read," then we fall into error.

Like the error of thinking the Hebraic picture of God is one of a fearful cosmic tyrant.  Indeed, the idea of God as "powerful male father" is almost laughable to anyone who has read the scriptures without looking for confirmation of that particular bias (i.e., with ideological blinders on.  And why that kind of interpretation is not anti-Semitic has always been a mystery to me).  A God who dares Israel to put him on trial, and who declares faithfulness to Israel even when they have betrayed their covenant, a God who restores Israel even after the breaking of the covenant, is not exactly a power-mad father figure reaching for the belt to teach the children a lesson.  The lesson of the Exile is not that God dealt out to Israel what Israel dealt out to others when it was being established, but rather that God leaves Israel to the consequences of its decisions, so that perhaps Israel will learn that both faithfulness and faithlessness to the covenant have their consequences.  God doesn't smite Israel; God redeems Israel.

Or consider the story of Israel under the judges, and then Israel demands a king, like all the other kingdoms around.  God gives Israel what they ask for, after warning Israel against it.  Walter Brueggeman has done a lot of work explaining how Solomon has a reputation for wisdom and goodness because he purchased that reputation, not because he earned it.  And yet God is the angry father figure?  How much of the Hebrew Scriptures do you have to ignore to draw that picture?

Which brings us to the drunk under the lamppost.  As The Cubit asks, is focussing on Abrahamic scripture really the best way to analyze "All of Religion"?  I think Buddhists and Hindus, to name just two, might be surprised by that.

But to someone raised in America, the light is so much better under the Bible's lamp.....

Thursday, April 21, 2016

"And I am sure that I never read any memorable news in a newspaper."

I'm sort of intrigued about how news stories get reported; but not news stories so much as news stories about news stories.

Here's the segment of the original story that got "re-reported":

Clinton won by a wide margin— and there was much eff-you high-fiving in the ballroom of the Sheraton New York. But Sanders’ defeat (accompanied, as always by the big crowds and even bigger torrent of online donations) was the bitterest one yet and deepened the already yawning fault lines between the Bernie stalwarts and a Clinton team increasingly itchy to see him gone. Not going to happen anytime soon, apparently: The tweet being incredulously digested at a Clinton victory party was an MSNBC report quoting Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver defiantly claiming his candidate would take the fight to the convention floor — even if Clinton secured an overwhelming lead among pledged delegates and supers.

“We kicked his ass tonight,” a senior Clinton aide told me Tuesday night. “I hope this convinces Bernie to tone it down. If not, f--- him.”

The original is a story with five different "stories," rather evenly split between the two victors in New York's primary.  But the words of the "senior Clinton aide" are the only ones anyone was interested in.  So, at Salon, where it's no surprise Ben Norton is outraged:

“We kicked his a** tonight,” bragged a senior Hillary Clinton aide.

“I hope this convinces Bernie to tone it down. If not, f**k him.”

A Politico reporter says this is what he was told Tuesday night, after Clinton won the New York primary, with around 58 percent of the vote to Sanders’ 42 percent.

Sanders won the vast majority of New York state, but Clinton won the densely populated urban areas, particularly New York City. In Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse, the candidates were neck-and-neck, but Clinton pulled just ahead.

Voting day was plagued with enormous problems, leading to widespread accusations of voter suppression and disenfranchisement.
Not too surprising, as I say; and the focus there is on alleged voting irregularities; but clearly the Clinton camp are sore winners who want Bernie Sanders to go away.  But then, at TPM:

Among Politico reporter Glenn Thrush's takeaways from Tuesday's New York primary, which saw big wins for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, was a senior Clinton aide's sharp take on Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT): "tone it down" or "fuck him."

Reflecting on Clinton's double-digit victory, the anonymous senior aide told Politico: "We kicked ass tonight," adding, “I hope this convinces Bernie to tone it down. If not, fuck him.” 
And both TPM and Salon highlight the language in their headlines, the better to draw attention to the stories.  Except both leave out the context, which is doubly odd at TPM because they ran the original story which Politico reports was read in a tweet at Clinton NY Campaign headquarters:

During an interview on MSNBC, Steve Kornacki asked Weaver whether the campaign will still try to persuade superdelegates to side with Sanders if Clinton wins the overall popular vote and pledged delegate count in the primary.

"We're going to go to the convention," Weaver said in response.

"It is extremely unlikely that either candidate will have the requisite number of pledged delegates to get to this number," he added. "So it is going to be an election determined by the superdelegates."

Kornacki pressed Weaver and asked how Sanders could persuade superdelegates to switch their support if Clinton is winning overall.

"They’re going to want to win in November," Weaver replied, citing polls that show Sanders performing well against Republican opponents in the general election.

The MSNBC host asked once more if the Sanders campaign will try to flip superdelegates even if Clinton wins in terms of both pledged delegates and the popular vote.

"At this point, yes, absolutely." Weaver responded.

It was those comments that prompted Josh Marshall to label Weaver as "toxic."    So it's fair to say the Clinton aide's remarks were in response to Weaver's toxic declaration of defiance of even a show of democracy.

This is not all that big a story in the grand context of things.  But in this age when reporters now interview reporters on the radio, and when stories are re-told by other media outlets, it would seem the stories are more and more like gossip, and what you hear at the end isn't the story as it started out.

Which seems to be a very particularly internet related problem, and maybe one more reason the internet is fragmenting us into tinier and tinier groups, rather than helping us bridge our differences.

It's raining down in Texas....

I don't disagree with this article, but I have to quibble:

This is at least the fourth major flood in the Houston area in just the past 12 months, with previous flooding events last May, June, and October pummeling Texas hard. The triangle between Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio is sometimes referred to as “flash flood alley” because of its dangerous mix of hilly terrain, sprawling urbanization, and frequent heavy downpours, adding to the region’s already considerable vulnerability to climate change.

That area is known as "Flash flood alley" largely because that triangle describes the three largest metropolitan areas in Texas, and because all three sit on very, very flat ground (who really cares about a flash flood in a low density rural area?).  Dallas and San Antonio sit primarily on the flood plains of rivers (San Antonio's river famously runs through the downtown).   I was driving in San Antonio once in a rain storm, and water seemed bubble up out of the ground and form deep puddles on the roadway.  "Killer puddles," because my car got splashed by oncoming traffic in a manner I've never experienced before.  It was like driving in a dry creek bed during a flash flood.  The water simply didn't drain at all; it stayed where it fell.

Dallas is not notoriously hillier than San Antonio, and Houston is all coastal plain (which extends from the coastline inland to Austin.  It's called "The Hill Country" because the terrain changes rather suddenly to hills from plain).  The areas flooded in Houston just now lie along bayous or creeks which are overrunning their banks.  Most water courses have flood plains, and Houston exists along several of them.  We've got sprawling urbanization and ever more frequent heavy downpours.  But the highest elevation in Houston is the freeway overpass near my house, that towers about 10 stories in the air.

Seriously.  It's practically a scenic overlook in the county.

The "hilly terrain" is all in West Austin and beyond.  Austin itself floods because of hilly terrain and Shoal Creek (been there, done that).  The rest of the area floods because the water on a table top has nowhere to go but everywhere at once.

So yeah, when it rains down here, it freakin' floods.  And it's been raining much harder, and longer, than usual.  If this becomes usual (and it probably will), we're gonna have problems.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Because I was in the grocery store

They've come to take me home....

"These are my principles. If you don't like them, I have others."

You remember that whole "The Democratic Party needs some democracy," and the railing against the "undemocratic" super delegates?


During an interview on MSNBC, Steve Kornacki asked Weaver whether the campaign will still try to persuade superdelegates to side with Sanders if Clinton wins the overall popular vote and pledged delegate count in the primary.

"We're going to go to the convention," Weaver said in response.

"It is extremely unlikely that either candidate will have the requisite number of pledged delegates to get to this number," he added. "So it is going to be an election determined by the superdelegates."

Kornacki pressed Weaver and asked how Sanders could persuade superdelegates to switch their support if Clinton is winning overall.

"They’re going to want to win in November," Weaver replied, citing polls that show Sanders performing well against Republican opponents in the general election.

The MSNBC host asked once more if the Sanders campaign will try to flip superdelegates even if Clinton wins in terms of both pledged delegates and the popular vote.

"At this point, yes, absolutely." Weaver responded.
Still can't figure out how that's a model for democracy.  And I hope they plan to improve their tactics.