Saturday, January 7, 2017

Comic Relief - Candy Matson - The Devil In The Deep Freeze

A while back someone asked me why I hardly ever post stuff from the "golden age of radio".  No reason except a lot of what people post from that period isn't very good.  They really churned it out.

Here's one that makes me smile, old fashioned and full of stereotypes as it is, the wise-cracking, tough-cooky, San Francisco woman-detective Candy Matson.  It even has an organ player.

Saturday Night Radio Drama - Joanna Glass - American Modern

I posted a play by Joanna Glass a few months back,  Canadian Gothic.   Here's another one about a hoarder.  It seemed appropriate in a month when the Trump regime is going to start. Maybe it's what started about 12:00.  It's no more crazy than people who voted for Donald Trump.  

It strikes me as insane that we are about to have a president who is certainly insane, certainly corrupt, certainly a traitor, certainly the most dangerous person to have the office and everyone agrees there is nothing to do about it.  Beside that, what can be held to be insane?   

A Challenge - "Who Do You Think Is The Greatest American Writer If It's Not Twain?"

I am challenged to say who the best American author is.  Which I can't say as I've never read everyone who wrote while American.  Like everyone except my incredibly well-read niece and my late friend who was the only person I've ever known who outread her - she was in her 90s, I've never even read everything you're supposed to have read.   If the question were who do I think is the greatest of those I've read, that isn't hard to say, Emily Dickinson is at least heads if not also narrow shoulders above everyone else.

Others on the top ten would include, not in any particular order,  Tony Morrison, Eudora Welty, Katherine Anne Porter and Marilynne Robinson, William James, John Steinbeck, and Eugene O'Neill.  I don't consider the category to be limited to those who wrote novels or fiction, plays or poetry.

I am not one of those who say that Huckleberry Finn is the "greatest American novel," not by a long shot.  Marilynne Robinson's recent novel Lila is its superior, as were the two other "Gilead" novels. She is a far better writer than Mark Twain.  I'd say that among his contemporaries, Herman Melville was a better writer and far less conventional in his thinking.  Though I am not, then,  a slavish devotee of Moby Dick.

Mark Twain was certainly capable of greatness but he wasn't able to sustain it throughout a novel and often dispensed with it completely in his short pieces, especially those he wrote late in life when the deaths of his son, first one then, near the end, another of his daughters and his wife made him angry and bitter.  I have to conclude that far from being a religious non-conformist, he was entirely caught up in one of the worst of Calvinist errors, believing that good luck in this life is a sign of election. When the typical 19th century disasters of losing children young and of losing a wife at the not old but older than average age of 58 struck him, along with his bankruptcy (his own fault, the results of his greed and ignorance) and other tragedies and hardships struck, he reacted with anger and disappointment and denial instead of learning from them.  Considering how intelligent he was that choice is especially disappointing.

Robinson's novel Home, in which the old and dying Presbyterian [Twain was raised a Presbyterian] minister Reverend Robert Boughton is facing the vicissitudes of his ending life and the tragic waywardness of his son Jack, is deeper than anything in any of Twain's novels.  Jack's common-law marriage to a black woman with whom he can't live openly to raise the son he loves is a far more complex, far more subtle and instructive redemption than what Huck Finn goes through.  And it is far more meaningful than Twain's Huck can articulate, perhaps more than Twain was capable of.

Mark Twain choosing to put his best novel into the mind and understanding of a boy was a bad choice.  I'd much rather have heard what the adult Jim was thinking about things.  I don't know if anyone ever tried to write that book, especially a Black American author, but if one of them did, I'd certainly read it.  Only, if someone does, I hope they get rid of Tom Sawyer and that stupid ending Twain gave the story.   I do have to say that I find the huge corpus of lit'rature put into the mind and words of imaginary boys to have gotten really stale and old.  Even one told from the POV of a girl is less tedious, though it's still a self-limiting choice.   Having the story, Lila, start out in the mind of the girl who would become Lila, a child more absolutely destitute than Huckleberry Finn, develops as the novel continues into the mind and experience of the adult and very experienced woman.  We never get Huck Finn grown up to have an adult's understanding of even his own experience.

The scene in which Boughton's oldest friend, the Congregationalist minister John Ames, for whom Jack was named, the wayward son's godfather, comes to give his dying friend communion is one of the most intensely moving passages in any book by anyone writing in English I'm aware of.  I don't know if Twain was uninhibited enough to write something like that.  I think he would have thought it was unmanly, as would a lot of his intellectual inferiors who write hagiographic criticism.

I don't know but that I think William Borroughs or Henry Miller might be the worst of those presented as distinguished or significant but if I haven't read enough to know who the best is, the contenders for worst are so many that I suspect I don't event know who that actual worst one might be.  Well, there is Simps but, then, there are also Drudge and Dowd. Some of the worst are bad enough to at least be mildly amusing on account of their stupidity but that doesn't go far.  Especially when the jokey jokes are so old and chemical filled.  Such stuff is like those legendary Twinkies that never really rot but were never edible to start with.

P.S. I should note that "Home" is told through the mind of Boughton's youngest daughter, Glory, which is an interesting choice.  You get her take on some of the same things that John Ames narrates in the first of the novels in the series, "Gilead".   Glory is able to both understand and wonder about things as a middle-aged adult and to articulate so much more than a young boy would have believably been presented as understanding.  An adult can have the same thoughts as a child, a child can't possibly know enough to think like a mature adult.   I think if there's one thing America needs, it's to grow up.

Update:  Oh, give me a friggin' break.  Read the novels.  Put Lila, Doll, Glory, John Ames, Robert Boughton, Jack, even Teddy who makes a brief appearance up against the entire cast of major characters in Twain and you'll see the difference between full characters and cartoons.   Huckleberry Finn is about the only substantial character he ever wrote and he's a cartoon most of the time.  So is Jim.

Update Two:  I haven't decided whether or not to post the stupid comment by Simple Simels in which he makes the claim, "American literature begins with NAKED LUNCH" only, if that's the case, what's his beef with what I said about Henry Miller and Mark Twain?   I suppose it's Simp's idea of a joke, only, in that case, I wonder who was so stupid as to have said it in the first place.

Heaven help us.  If Borroughs hadn't murdered his wife he'd probably have never had a "literary" career.   Perhaps it's a relief for Simps that someone was so much more of an a asshole than he is.

And, yes, I was aware that this would set such dopes off.  I've got to have my fun, too, I'll resume serious writing when this cold lifts.

Update Three:  Well, you silly billy, I'm not the only person who said that if Borroughs hand't murdered his wife he'd probably have never had a "literary" career, this was said by the ultimate expert on that topic:

I am forced to the appalling conclusion that I would never have become a writer but for Joan's death, and to a realization of the extent to which this event has motivated and formulated my writing. I live with the constant threat of possession, and a constant need to escape from possession, from control. So the death of Joan brought me in contact with the invader, the Ugly Spirit, and maneuvered me into a life long struggle, in which I have had no choice except to write my way out.

Yeah, right.  You ask me he killed her because their marriage was on the rocks, he'd started sleeping around with other women and men and she'd taken to insulting him while she was high on speed. And, once his brother sprung him by bribing the Mexican cops and officials, he figured he'd cash in on the possibility of turning his murder of her into a literary career.  And it worked.  So much of modernism is run on amoral and not unoften violent thrill seeking and vicarious thrill seeking.  It wasn't his writing ability that made his career as he had none.

Update Four:  Simps, when I can hire a copy editor you'll be last on the list.

William Bolcom - Free Fantasia on Oh Zion Haste and How Firm A Foundation

Jonathan Holmes, organ
Newcastle Cathedral Organ

He uses a much more forward registration than in any other recording of this piece I've ever heard.  I think the music more than stands up to it.  It certainly brings out the two hymns the piece is based on better than a more subtle registration.

I post this in loving memory of my old fried R.R. whose death I just learned about.   She was a saint in life and I don't have any doubt she is now, as well.

Friday, January 6, 2017

I've got a really, really bad cold, which is why I've been cranky and not writey.   I'll try to post something later.  

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Late Hate - I Challenge You To Read A Whole Book Of His Short Stuff Without Skimming While Pretending It's Hillarious

I took the time to see if I could find what Jorge Luis Borges said about the ending of Huckleberry Finn.  This isn't what I recalled reading in a different interview (I recall reading it in the Boston Globe) but it is interesting and true.

Look here, I’m talking to an American: There’s a book I must speak about—nothing unexpected about it—that book is Huckleberry Finn. I thoroughly dislike Tom Sawyer. I think that Tom Sawyer spoils the last chapters of Huckleberry Finn. All those silly jokes. They are all pointless jokes; but I suppose Mark Twain thought it was his duty to be funny even when he wasn’t in the mood. The jokes had to be worked in somehow. According to what George Moore said, the English always thought: “Better a bad joke than no joke.”

[I'll break in to say that would seem to be Simp's philosophy of writing, except his jokes are used bad jokes.  A Xerox machine is as original and has a better chance of repeating better jokes. But only if it's not Simps choosing what to feed into it.]

I think that Mark Twain was one of the really great writers, but I think he was rather unaware of the fact. But perhaps in order to write a really great book, you must be rather unaware of the fact.

Much, if not most of Huckleberry Finn is great, the ending falls through.   The parts with Tom Sawyer are probably the worst parts of it, though the plot twists at the end are really bad.  I think he got to the end of the river and he knew he had to do something and he couldn't figure out what to do.  I'd have them hire onto a boat to South America.  He could have done a sequel to it.  Maybe he should have asked himself what Melville would have done.

I do agree that Mark Twain could be a great writer, but his published work is uneven.  Try reading through his complete works and I'll bet you will be skimming not far into it and you'll resort to skimming until you're relieved to reach the end of it.  A lot of it is just not very good, he wrote a lot of forgettable stuff, especially short pieces he certainly wrote for the money. He definitely could have used some editing advice in just about every book.

If the Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County hadn't already been written by the famous Mark Twain, if it were submitted to any publisher or magazine, today, as written, it wouldn't get published.  If it were submitted for criticism by any competent writing teacher, they would tear it to shreds in editing it. And it's far from his worst piece.  Lots of the worst ones are a lot longer and no one really reads them.  I challenge Simps and the Eschatots to read through "The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg And Other Stories And Essays" without resorting to skimming.  They can't even get through one of poor Duncan's little attempts at writing, he having given up when they wouldn't read his longer pieces - some of which were, actually, pretty good.   If any of them claims they read every word, with attention, I'll sentence them to reading "My First Lie And How I Got Out Of It" aloud while pretending they really think it's funny or amusing or in any way droll.  I'm sure it can be done, the French did it with Jerry Lewis for decades.

I still think "Life on the Mississippi" is his deepest, greatest and best book.  I can say that every time I've read it, it holds my attention like most of his other books don't.  I'd put Huckleberry Finn second. The fall off starts after those two, though many of them have some really funny passages and some very good writing, just not a whole books worth.   I do think the short piece "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses" is good and funny and and spot on as criticism, if sometimes quite unfair, though there is a lot in it that becomes quite ironic when considering a huge part of Twain's own output. Take #9.

They [the rules of good writing] require that the personages of a tale shall confine themselves to possibilities and let miracles alone; or, if they venture a miracle, the author must so plausibly set it forth as to make it look possible and reasonable. But these rules are not respected in the Deerslayer tale.

Measure the ending of Huck Finn to that rule.  And not just Huck Finn but most of his other novels, especially The Prince and the Pauper.   And measure practically the entire Hadleyburg volume and a lot of his other humor pieces, especially those employing his tall-tale style against #14,

Eschew surplusage.

If you really want to cringe, go to the Hadleyburg volume and read "The Esquimaux Maiden's Romance".    And, if you don't have the heart to go on, believe me, there is as bad if not worse.

Before Last Year I Never Would Have Thought That This Was Possible Never Mind A Likely Scenario I Do Now

What Mark Twain Left Out Of His Angelic View Of Sex - Or, Simps Cribs A Well Worn Passage Though I Doubt He Read The Book

Yeah, I read Letters From The Earth.  It's a bit amusing, not the best Mark Twain but OK.  And like some of his other polemical writing, not exactly a comprehensive view of things but a set-up job, influenced as much by his bitter disappointment that he was, as we all are, NOT favored to go through life without sorrow and hardship.   Considering how much death and hardship he certainly saw in his life, his skeptical thinking and cynical reflection didn't prepare him for the deaths of his children and wife very well.  Lots of those he would have looked down on handled worse far better.

I will say, having read all of the Twain that was available to me from our local library, including Letters From The Earth and some of his posthumously published stuff, when he was good he could be great, when he wasn't he could be pretty bad.  Lots of his humorous stuff has dated right out of being funny.  I think "Life on the Mississippi" is his best book and lots of it droops and sags.   I think Is Shakespeare Dead? is a lot better than Letters and hits the mark more squarely on.  Only you didn't think so, as I recall our go-round on it.  He was far too unconventional for you to process in that piece.   Oh, yeah, and Huckleberry Finn sort of falls apart at the end.  I don't think he was especially good with endings.  That's something he shared with Thornton Wilder.

I also have to point out that Mark Twain's view of sex and sexuality in that passage leaves out a lot of stuff he must have known about.   As a man he would seem to not consider the morality of the grotesque sexual inequality of his time which inevitably was part of the phenomenon of sex.   Since you're a straight, white man, it's no surprise to me that you can leave that out.  Sex during his time was subject to all kinds of consequences, many of which fell far harder on women than on men.  Not to mention the problems of men who had sex with men or women with women.

For instance, take this sample: he has imagined a heaven, and has left entirely out of it the supremest of all his delights, the one ecstasy that stands first and foremost in the heart of every individual of his race -- and of ours -- sexual intercourse! It is as if a lost and perishing person in a roasting desert should be told by a rescuer he might choose and have all longed-for things but one, and he should elect to leave out water!

I have a strong feeling that like most men, Twain had a greatly exaggerated estimate of his sexual performance and the pleasure whoever he had sex with derived from it.  I'm certain you do, though, thankfully, not from personal experience.

I wonder why he didn't talk about the risks and consequences of syphilis, something he, perhaps from his days as a riverboat man, if not before, would certainly have known about.  I can't imagine a man of his experience in the world wouldn't have known people who contracted, suffered the ravages of and died of the disease.   I mean, have you ever really looked at [warning, some of these are truly horrific pictures]  photos of what syphilitic lesions look like?  And that's not including the other aspects of the disease, especially those cases of congenital infection inutero.

And that was only one of the consequences of freely engaging in sex in a human body and not as an angelic fiction constructed by Twain to debunk the religion that he felt, personally, had let him down. Considering how much he made of hookworms, you wonder why he left out an even more serious and widespread affliction which was far more easily avoided by practicing strict monogamy, as promoted in the Bible and by the religion he mocked.   Well, I doubt that point would be as well received by the readers, especially the literary men he probably figured would read it, eventually.   No one likes to hear about the possible consequences of their slipping around.   I mean, how many people quote Eugene O'Neill on the topic from The Iceman Cometh?

Unknown to Twain would have been many other possible diseases that were contracted through sex with an infected person.  Who knows what diseases were being spread unknown or unnoticed, how many deaths were attributed to other things or unexplained?   I doubt the entire catalog of those is known to us today.

Then there is unintended pregnancy, outside of or within marriage.  That's another thing which I would imagine Twain would have known about from a male perspective, the gender those consequences generally fall less seriously upon.  You can read the contemporary advocates for birth control on those consequences, especially for women for whom a pregnancy could prove life threatening or fatal.  You can find that all over the world, today.

And there is rape, sexual bondage, prostitution, forced marriage, .... For real people living in real life sex isn't the unmitigated fun that Twain presented it as being and he would have known that.  But, as with straight men today and a rather disgusting number of gay men who love to practice or imagine themselves as the dominant partner in sex that is always on their terms, for their pleasure and for their benefit, he chose to leave it out.

But, then, Twain has an angel making his case.  As a Catholic I've never been especially impressed by the Protestant conception of angels.  As I've grown up and considered the discription of them in the Bible, where they don't seem to appear without fear and even dread being part of the experience,  I'm not especially impressed with how most Catholics think of them.  A cousin of mine was disgusted when her parish - reorganized so the lousy Bishop could sell the church to pay out the fines to sex-abuse victims - voted to change its name to "Our Lady of the Angels".  She said, considering how most people thought of angels they may as well have called it "Our Lady of the Fairies".   What the fuck would a Protestant angel know about the less than heavenly consequences of human sex?   Most people don't seem to be able to think about those in a realistic manner without encouragement.

In looking for the text of "Letters" online, I came across the fact that Dan Savage did a stage version of it.  Dan Savage is, as I've pointed out, the greatest advocate for marriage inequality within gay marriage through his claims that the best marriages, committed, caring, FAITHFUL, uninfected, relationships among gay men are extremely unlikely if not impossible.   I strongly suspect he has done as much as anyone recently to encourage dangerous and irresponsible sex, so it doesn't surprise me he'd promote Twain on the topic.

Update: Yeah, when Huck and Jim just happen to wash up at the plantation of the aunt and uncle of Tom Sawyer who just happens to be visiting and can identify them and the news comes that Jim was set free and can live happily every after, it's just such a totally convincing set of coincidences, isn't it.

By the way, though he didn't specify that,  it's a point that that literary illiterate Borges pointed out as well,  that the end of Huckleberry Finn was problematic and sort of falls apart.  Up till that point the book is quite great, though, like Homer, he nods in places. On the other hand,  Thornton Wilder has a habit of just killing people morosely off to tie up the loose ends.  I'll never quite forgive him for doing that in The Eighth Day which could have, as well, been a great novel if he'd only been able to figure out a better ending for it.  I think he mistook having bad endings for his most attractive characters as a sign of quality, replacing gloom for profundity in the British manner.

You don't know how funny it is that someone like you who made a living passing judgement on other peoples' work, takes such offense at someone pointing out that not all of Twain stands the test of time.  Lots of his writing was throw away junk for quick money.  And I expect he knew it.   Though I wouldn't dignify the crap that you write with the word "criticism" even those guys who know what they're talking about are vampires on people who take the risk of producing something, most of which is bound to fail.  It's hard to produce good, never mind great work in the arts.  It's easy to produce crap, like you do.

You Have To Wonder How Much Snowden And Greenwald Contributed To The Election of Trump

I haven't read Edward Jay Epstein's book debunking the legend of Edward Snowden and I didn't read his recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal until after I started writing this piece.   But, from what I've read about the book and the passages I've seen excerpted, he provides evidence to back up my long standing skepticism about Snowden's intentions from the beginning and my repeated warnings that he was a traitor to the United States and democracy who certainly was providing the enormous cache of documents he stole from the NSA to the dictatorial Chinese and Russian governments.   Far from the hero exposing government surveillance on private citizens in the United States and elsewhere, I said from the start he is the man who stole it to either try to sell it or to profit from giving it to some of the most oppressive regimes in the world.

That large parts of the alleged left took his word and that of his accomplices, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras (later Oliver Stone),  and made him into a hero tells more about their shortsightedness and bad judgement and paranoia than it did to explain his course of conduct.   Now that we know more about what he stole and took to China and Russia, certainly to exchange for, at the very least, their protection and for his own profit, it is obvious that he was a traitor from the start, one who never deserved the blind faith of anyone.   The Snowden treason should also call into question the company he worked for, the very politically connected Booz Allen Hamilton, and the entire idea that for-profit corporations can be trusted in such matters.  Especially those connected to some of our most powerful political players.

After addressing the massive size of Snoweden's theft, he took so much there is no way he could have known what was in most of what he certainly gave to the Chinese and Putin governments, Epstine notes:

It was not the quantity of Mr. Snowden’s theft but the quality that was most telling. Mr. Snowden’s theft put documents at risk that could reveal the NSA’s Level 3 tool kit—a reference to documents containing the NSA’s most-important sources and methods. Since the agency was created in 1952, Russia and other adversary nations had been trying to penetrate its Level-3 secrets without great success.

Yet it was precisely these secrets that Mr. Snowden changed jobs to steal. In an interview in Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post on June 15, 2013, he said he sought to work on a Booz Allen contract at the CIA, even at a cut in pay, because it gave him access to secret lists of computers that the NSA was tapping into around the world.

If he was able to steal that and information like that, who knows what else he took with him and handed to the Chinese and Russian governments?   Who knows what role his stolen information has played in things like the Russian hacking of Democrats?  Who know who else they or others are able to access because the legendary Edward Snowden stole who knows what from the NSA?

If people are uneasy about the NSA under civilian control in a (former?) quasi-democracy doing that kind of spying making a hero of a man who stole that information and gave it to two of the most oppressive regimes in the world should certainly scare the crap out of them.

The hypocrisy of so many on the alleged left in regard to Snowden first occurred to me when I considered the likelihood of that cache of stolen intelligence having information about the domestic opposition of the Chinese and Russian regimes.   Exposing those who provided information on the criminal and other activities of those governments and their extensions.   Compared to that the idea that the NSA might be keeping track of who was calling whom overseas isn't even worth worrying about.  I would say that just about everything I've heard rattling out of the more paranoid and less bound to the discipline of reality on the left is less worth worrying about than that Vladimir Putin's criminal regime might, now, have the ability to hack what the NSA only theoretically could.  The NSA is answerable to the formerly quasi-democratic government of the United States and, theoretically, at least, our courts,  the Putin regime is a law unto itself, the same can be said of the Chinese intelligence services.

I haven't seen Oliver Stone's movie  supposedly about Edward Snowden but from what I've read of it, it is a load of crap in the typical Hollywood hagiographic-paranoic style.  Anything that holds Snowden up as any kind of idealist or hero is a lie  Show biz and realism seldom, very, very seldom intersect.  But such is the level of stupiding-down of American culture under the regime of entertainment that it probably is all that many even allegedly educated people will believe they know about it.  I will bet that on many a lefty comment thread arguments would be made from that as readily as they are other inaccurate Hollywood products.  Those who know something else will now what Greenwald or Poitras or some other highly unreliable source will have said about it.  One of the things I think is worth thinking about is how Snowden's treason might effect people who are at real risk from governments, warlords and criminal enterprises.  As I said, that was my first occasion for skepticism about what they were saying when those stories were breaking.   While I can't vouch for the veracity of it, this comment at Daily Kos might indicate that, for people on the ground, working in some of the most dangerous places on Earth, things were far less of a breeze than it was for pseud-journalists living in the comfort of a mansion in Rio or in Berlin.

ivorybill  Things Come Undone Jan 01 · 10:37:20 AM
Real whistle-blowers release information relevant to specific acts of government malfeasance, not enormous archives of secret information.  I have a lot of respect for whistle-blowers, and had Snowden only stolen and released materials relevant to illegal collection of domestic communications, I would agree with you.

But that’s not what he did.  That’s not what Manning did.

I work in Iraq.  When Chelsea Manning released her huge dump of classified information, I had to call a human rights attorney to tell him that the Shia’ militias likely had his identity.  He had been working on a project to prevent abuse of children in Iraq’s criminal justice system, and to defend victims of human trafficking.  This attorney has more courage than Manning and Snowden combined. He continued the work; another attorney fled the country.  It was not a fun phone call. 

I was never a defender of Snowden, Manning or Assange.  But seeing all that happened in 2016, I want even more strongly for all three to find themselves facing criminal prosecution in federal court.  Whistle-blowing is one thing.  This radical idea that secrets should be exposed as a matter of some sort of weird philosophy is dangerous and misguided.  The way Snowden and Assange have collaborated with Vladimir Putin is truly horrible and alleged progressives should think long and hard about exactly who these two serve and what they are. They don’t serve you, that’s for sure. 

Just for the contrast:

Image result for glenn greenwald house rio

While I am far more sympathetic to Chelsea Manning and think it's necessary to monitor her treatment in prison, she has my sympathy far more than I am anyone else in the story.  I'll remind you that the international scum ball, Trump supporter, Julian Assange also figures into it.  But even more so than Manning, I am far more worried about the people whose privacy and security and lives have been endangered by all of them.  I am far, far more worried for the real advocates of the poor and against the powerful in other places, those whose lives are or potentially are put in danger from this kind of irresponsibility.  A lot of them are real advocates for real rights, not people who profit from feeding the thrill-paranoia of would-be lefties with few but first-world problems.

I would really like to know if and who and how many may have had their lives endangered, destroyed or ended by the things that get the likes of Greenwald what he's gotten out of this.  I'd like to really know what the lifestyle Edward Snowden's treason, not only against the NSA or the United States government but to anyone whose work for and advocacy for real rights and even lives, allowed him to get from those who he traded secrets to.

To a great extent the game of paranoia and outrage about what the United States government does to endanger our rights is no less absurd on the left than it is on the far right.  That is especially true of the quite majority white, quite privileged play-left.   I think a lot of that was justifiable to some extent in the past, though I think even a lot of it was ginned up on behalf of communists and, even more so, anarchists who were not infrequently engaged in breaking the law or in some level of espionage or a lame-brained, pudding-headed attempt at subversion, not to mention, occasionally, actual violence.  I will hold back on the legend of the innocence of the Rosenbergs and the time and credibility wasted on that by the silly-left on behalf of the real left, for now.

I warned people that the adulation of Snowden could blow up in our faces because everything that was known about him from just about the start revealed that he was a liar whose actions spoke ever so much more to his betrayal of democracy than it revealed some kind of hero of civil liberties.   I also warned that the adulation of his accomplices and the trust put in them was as stupid, especially the libertarian phony Glenn Greenwald.  Now I am more certain of that than ever before.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

When Are "Christian" Republicans Going To Pressure Their Party To Deliver Justice For The Least Among Us When Are They Going To Be Called On Their Failure To Do That?

I read the Atlantic interview with Michael Wear "The former director of Barack Obama’s 2012 faith-outreach efforts" after reading Charles Pierce's piece on it.  While I think Charles kind of misses a mark or so, Wear misses more of them.   I wasn't much aware of Michael Wear before reading it so I can't say much about him except that he seems to be rather callow, as might be expected (he was 24 when he got the job and 28 now) and rather shallow.   He seems to follow the most superficial of media lines that identifies "religion" with right-wing Evangelical Christianity and Catholicism, which is assumed to mean somewhat the same thing only different.  It's no surprise that Wear, himself, identifies as a conservative Evangelical.   Why Obama would appoint someone of Wear's superficiality and obvious inexperience and orientation to the post, I can't think, except that he didn't take it all that seriously or he delegated the choice to someone who didn't take it that seriously.  I think the latter is probably the case.   My guess is whoever made the choice was looking to fill a slot with a conservative Evangelical guy and not much caring about the results.   Charles Pierce doesn't say it but he has a quote in his story that quotes Karl Rove whose words betray the  kind of "religious" thought that went into the choice.

  (To his credit, Kuo [ David Kuo, who filled a similar role in Bush II's regime]  related one anecdote that will be hard for Wear—or anyone else—to top. In his book, Kuo says he once heard another aide ordered by Karl Rove, "I don't know. Just get me a fucking faith-based thing. Got it?" This is exactly how St. Francis would have sounded, had he been a capo regime in Assisi.)

Pretty much most of the political use of religion is a cynical pose, a means of roping in suckers who can be counted on to vote for you and then thrown a few bones but otherwise ignored.  Which is probably why someone like Wear was hired.  You might include the Atlantic's religion person, Emma Greene who did the interview.  Her intro has such passages as:

Several years later, he watched battles over abortion funding and contraception requirements in the Affordable Care Act with chagrin: The administration was unnecessarily antagonistic toward religious conservatives in both of those fights, Wear argues, and it eventually lost, anyway. When Louie Giglio, an evangelical pastor, was pressured to withdraw from giving the 2012 inaugural benediction because of his teachings on homosexuality, Wear almost quit.

The definition of religion as wanting abortion made illegal again and to be able to discriminate against LGBT people ignores that a very large percentage of seriously religious people hold the opposite of those positions held by Wear and the so often touted "81% of white Evangelicals" who voted for the most blatantly irreligious candidate in our history and a party which is dedicated to the polar opposite of what Jesus, his disciples and, in fact, the entire line of Hebrew prophets taught. Economic justice, social justice, the distribution of liberal aid to the least among us.

Far from that alleged 81% showing that Democrats have a "religion problem" it shows that that 81% would seem to have a Jesus problem.  A huge, entirely discrediting, Jesus problem.

A large percentage of white "Evangelical" voters would seem to have no problem voting for the most anti-Christian agenda in modern American political history and a candidate who would be better suited as a modern day Nero or Herod.  I have no doubt that the only god Trump really believes in is himself.

I see no move among Evangelical Republicans or Catholic Republicans to pressure their party to abandon the screwing of the poor, the destitute, the foreigner living among us.  I see every indication that they support those positions that are exactly opposite of what Jesus taught.  Why would a nominal Catholic who votes for Republicans allegedly on the basis of their opposition to abortion NOT DEMAND THAT THEIR PARTY ADOPT EVEN THE ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL JUSTICE POSITIONS OF THOSE TWO POPES SO WILDLY POPULAR WITH THEM, JOHN PAUL II AND BENEDICT XVI?  Where is the respect of the Republican Party for the most basic requirements of the Gospel, the Law and the prophets, to give sufficient aid to the poor that they can live in dignity? 

Green notes a story from Wear that she uses to repeat the facile line of Democratic irreligiosity:

Some of his colleagues also didn’t understand his work, he writes. He once drafted a faith-outreach fact sheet describing Obama’s views on poverty, titling it “Economic Fairness and the Least of These,” a reference to a famous teaching from Jesus in the Bible. Another staffer repeatedly deleted “the least of these,” commenting, “Is this a typo? It doesn’t make any sense to me. Who/what are ‘these’?”

While I can well believe that some ignorant smart young person, or even older person might be so abjectly ignorant of the text of the Gospels, the fact is that Democrats have economic justice for the least among us in their platform and agenda, justice for them touches at no point in current Republican politics.  In every way Republicans actively and intentionally screw the least among us. Paul Ryan's favorite dream is to be the man who throws lots of the poor into destitution and to grind the destitute into the dirt.  And he's not only not alone, he's probably a "moderate" in today's entirely depraved Republican Party.

The hypocrisy of conservative, nominal Christians within the Republican Party is ignored by just about everyone in the media and beyond, it is never mentioned as a basically discrediting condition. The complete violation of the Gospel by the Republican Party that has tried to make Jesus its icon in recent years is never brought up by the media or in the upper realms of official Washington.   Instead it is the line that slams Democrats branding them as anti-religious, anti-Christian etc. that is the common wisdom in the media and among the elite.   That is the line repeated by Green and Wear and one which I'm kind of disappointed that Charles Pierce didn't refute more obviously.

A good question to ask is why liberal Christians are so unwilling to make that critique, why would we value the false tranquility of enabling that kind of hypocrisy instead of making it a basic and continual rallying cry against the results of the media enabling it?   Are we so wedded to our own personal tranquility of the cowardly pose of broad-minded fairness over a demand for the truth of the teachings of Jesus and the prophets?   The reluctance of liberals to get down and fight for that truth is what liberal Christians can be criticized for,  Too many liberals have forsaken the moral responsibility to make that critique through the mere fact that such talk has been deemed unfashionable among liberals.  If it's a matter of not making non-Christians and atheists uncomfortable by engaging in Jesus talk, the price that has been paid for that accommodation is far more than its worth.  If they don't like the talk, the political results are certainly more worthy of their petty annoyance.  The fact is, the majority of Americans are Christians and likely will be for a long time to come.  Leaving that fact out of consideration is not a viable political option for liberals.  Considering that the Gospels and the prophets are far, far more radical than today's articulation of liberalism in many, central aspects, to leave it out to accommodate anyone is stupid and irresponsible.

Even if liberal Christians make that point as forcefully as it was made during the last great success of liberalism, the Civil Rights Movement,  the fact is that today's media will disappear such liberals, turning them into an American version of non-persons.  I think that is what is largely behind all of this talk about Democrats needing to cave on even basic principles to racists and misogynists and gay bashers in the name of "religion".   We need to push it as hard as possible.

Donald Trump and the now, in fact, Republican-fascist party are an embodiment of the anti-Christ as is Trump's owner, Vladimir Putin.  No "Christianity" which enables them deserves to be taken seriously as a manifestation of the Gospel of Jesus.  Such "Christianity" fails the tests Jesus set for such claims of following him,  you judge them by the fruits of their actions and in every way American Republicans fail that test.  It's time liberal Christains got over their reluctance to force that fact.

For me, looking at the scandals of white Evangelical support for Trump and conservative Catholic support for Republican-fascism and such things as the conservative Russian Othodox embrace of Putin discredits the Christian nature of those groups and their theological interpretation of the Gospels.   I do think it's legitimate to judge the legitimacy of their theology, allegedly Christian, on the basis of what they do, the people they support, the institutions they embody.  In every way they discredit their claims to embody authentic Christianity.  In asserting that I invoke no less than the authority of Jesus who instructed his followers to make that judgement in a decisive manner.  It's time that they were called on their violations of the most essential teachings of Jesus.  Having looked at their fruit, I have no faith in their authenticity as Christians.   I see more of that in liberal Christians, though they should really push that case a lot harder than they do.  They should have the courage of their professions of faith.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Schedule Note

I'd post that comment, Simps, but it's Oatmeal Day and there isn't room for it in the schedule. Maybe I'll save it for April Fools.  

Random Roundup of Ideas We Need To Do And Avoid To Restore Democracy

Yesterday's post, in reaction to the ludicrous interview Barack Obama gave to David Axelrod contains nothing I would take back, if anything, slightly cooled down, I'd have put a stronger case with more detail to support my contention that he is if not the last person to do it, he is no one who should be in serious contention to rebuild the Democratic Party.  His choice of the corporate lawyer, revolving door traveler, Eric Holder, to be his agent in that effort should confirm he lacks the sense of reality or judgement to do it.  I think the conventional thinking of both of them, their inability to break out of that was responsible for a lot of the trouble.  It is a rare man in his 50s who is capable of changing their thinking radically enough to make the change necessary to do that, it is certainly not going to be done by someone who is trying to salvage their reputation by not  owning up to their past which is largely the cause of it.   One thing that is essential is that we never again put someone in the presidency who is mostly concerned with his own legend or who has the kind of personal irresponsibility of a Bill Clinton.  Between the two of them. both edges of the double edged sword that charisma is injured the party.

I am uninterested in continuing to catalog the many things that Obama did wrong, though I think if he makes it necessary to convince people that he will only further damage Democrats, that will have to be done by someone. I'm interested in going on to the real post-Obama, post-Bill Clinton Democratic Party.  

Either the 50-State Strategy that Howard Dean promoted or something like it is essential to winning control of the Congress, both House and Senate. Obviously merely holding the presidency isn't enough now that the Republican-fascists have truly decided to rule as fascists, uninhibited by the Constitution or the honor that piece of parchment always depended on.  Rebuilding at the local level is essential, rebuilding the credibility that was lost with the Democratic base is essential.  All of that was in the process of being done in 2008, it withered away in the past eight years.   Having ONE BIG PERSONALITY at the top of the party clearly doesn't do it.  I'd say for Democrats that has been a big part of the problem.

What I said a while back about Democrats having to fix the nomination process is as true. We have to regain control of the presidential nominations through having a modern, large-participation, by-U. S. Mail primary controlled by Democrats and not by state legislatures - participated in only by registered Democrats.  I think that level of innovation is what is needed to save the party.  Ending the stranglehold of Iowa and New Hampshire or any other state that manages to break the calendar for its own gain is essential. They've done a lousy job at it in the past seventy-years and a wider demographic determining the outcome is essential.  Perhaps if the candidate of the Democratic Party was determined by a larger number of people, more representative of the entire population, that candidate and the eventual president they may become would have the support of more people.   There is nothing wrong with the Democratic Party protecting its nominations from the attempt by people outside it to hijack the process.  I don't see anything wrong with requiring someone to have been a registered Democrat if they want to participate in a primary.

As I pointed out, this would also have the advantage of getting rid of the awful, anti-democratic caucus system.  State legislatures that insisted on caucuses could be overridden in the interest of greater voter participation in the process.  Political parties are not state entities, they should not be bound by the stupidity of tradition-bound legislatures, especially when those are frequently in the hands of our opponents.

I have also pointed out that now that we know that foreign dictators and others can and will hack Democrats on behalf of Republican-fascism that e-mail communications have to stop.  The convenience of those have certainly cost us everything this year.  If some form of unhackable encryption can't be had, and I doubt it can be, then other means of communication have to be set up.

The frequent stupidities of casual venting that e-mail gives rise to, venting in a permanent and frequently embarrassing form, is not helpful, either.   Way too many of the people involved in the higher eschalons of the Democratic Party have exposed themselves as being far too much like the 12-year-old jr. high school style gossips of so many an entrenched, eutrophic online chatroom.  If it's too much for these people, frequently, far too frequently the beneficiaries of the most elite educations. TO ACT AND TALK LIKE ADULTS then they have to be pushed aside for those who can.  I strongly suspect that the Ivy-Might-as-well-be-Ivy old-boy and gal network are a source of a lot of the woes of the Democratic Party.   I'm getting to the point where I don't really think anyone with an income of over five figures is likely to have much of a clue as to why the Democratic Party even exists.  There are exceptions but they are far too few.

I think many if not most of the figures involved in the Obama and Clinton campaigns should be moved aside, too.  In both cases their success was due at least as much to Republican failures or weak candidates than they were the result of brilliant strategies and understanding.  Anyone who sent stupid e-mails to John Podesta or others which became such a liability for Democrats should never have anything to do with another Democratic campaign.  Anyone who is likely to leak sensitive information to unreliable people should be avoided like the plague they've been.

Update:  This got posted this morning and we had a power outage which fried my modem  before I could edit it.  The modem is fixed now and I hope this post is somewhat fixed, too.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Yonder Come Day

We Need To Leave The Clinton and Obama Eras Behind And Move On With New Leadership

I liked Barack Obama a lot more before he became president than I do now.  I was never bowled over by him, his campaign persona and the carefully constructed effort to turn him into an icon of HOPE.  Perhaps that's because I'd actually paid attention to his center-right politics as a Senator and going back to read about his time in the Illinois Senate where it seemed to be Republicans who had the nicest things to say about him.

Once he was the nominee of the Democratic Party he had my full if somewhat skeptical support, both times.  The first time it was with skepticism, the second time with no skepticism because at that point I didn't expect his voluntarily weak conduct in office would change.  He was not going to be the great president that we needed him to be, he never intended to put that kind of effort into being president, to make the kinds of risks it would take to do that.

The reason he ran as a strong, powerful, decisive figure who would deliver on the HOPE which was his campaign slogan while, with obvious intention, governing as someone far more interested in placating Susan Collins, Olympia Snow, Joe Lieberman and Kent Conrad than in actually fighting to make the recalcitrant support the aggressive change he implied he intended to deliver is rooted in his personality.   His concern with his cool demeanor is a big part of it.  I can't see him giving even a weak version of LBJ putting pressure on, thumbscrews if necessary to deliver the Voting Rights and Civil Rights Acts or the Great Society.   I don't think he really cares much about anyone other than himself.  His assertions that he and his equally bad Attorney General, Eric Holder, are going to take command of the Democratic Party and do things like rebuilding it on the state and local level are ridiculous.  He and his chosen appointees are the ones who tossed aside the 50 state strategy that returned the House to Democratic control in 2006 and which gave him the presidency and those majorites in the Congress that he squandered so irresponsibly in his first two years.

His recent interview with his former campaign strategist and Advisor in his first administration, David Axelrod, is so infuriating and his statements about things like the Republican neutering of his power to appoint judges and do other things so absolutely clueless that Barack Obama trying to fix what he so heedlessly broke is a flashing, blaring warning signal to keep him and his people away from it.  If Obama showed some sign that he understood how he wasted the opportunity handed to him and had some idea of how to do it, that might not be as true.  But his last six months in office, as some of the most outrageous of Republican obstruction has been mounted is as weak and as irresponsible as the rest of his time in office. His complement to Mitch McConnell on his strategy of blocking his court nominations, , a man who used every opportunity he had to de-president Obama - largely on the basis of race - something which neither Obama nor Axelrod* seems to understand, is absolutely the final straw.   I am calling this an attempt by a voluntarily weak and largely disappointing president to use the Democratic Party to try to salvage a legacy, one which his eight years in office didn't secure.  

Barack Obama largely betrayed his political base and a decisive percentage of those betrayed turned on him and the Democratic Party.   Barack Obama took Democrats for granted as he hankered after the approval of his enemies, approval anyone with a sense of reality would know he'd never have.   His strongest desire didn't seem to be in delivering what he'd promised to the working class damaged by Republicans or to other groups who voted for him but to get called a bi-partisan leader by the media.  His weakening of the stimulus act to court the non-support of Snowe and Collins, his almost certainly fatal weakening of the health care bill he'd promised, largely caving to the blackmail of Lieberman - not to mention what he gave away on things like drug pricing even before the fight had started.    And the results were that Democrats lost the Congress, they lost state houses in the absolutely crucial election of 2010, what is largely responsible for it being harder than ever to win against them.   I have mentioned before that state and local politicians I know have talked for years about how Obama and his people were entirely uninterested in putting a major effort into that level of the Democratic Party.

Obama had eight years and more to do something to build the Democratic Party, he did the opposite and an election that Democrats should have swept was lost.  If he had not chopped the stimulus bill to get the approval of Snowe and Collins, which didn't work, and get called "bipartisan" I think we would be preparing for the Hillary Clinton presidency.   Under him and as a result of his administration, things are bleaker than ever.   He neither deserves the chance to try or the belief that he has the slightest idea of what needs to be done.  He as well as Bill Clinton should go into retirement and step aside for people who might mean what they say and have some idea of how to build an alternative to Republican-fascism.  Both of them had their day and used their time unwisely.  Both are very smart, it takes more than that to be a great president or a great leader of the Democratic Party.   Both of them played a decisive role in the destruction of the Democratic Party.  Both of them have to be pushed to the side.  Most of all Bill Clinton, with his irresponsibility even damaging Hillary Clinton's chances this year, needs to just go away.  Democrats don't need the baggage either of them brings with them anymore.

*  The interview makes it seem like Obama and Axelrod have no understanding of the past eight years as the Republicans have revived the most dangerous of past American organized racism and even neo-Nazism to benefit from a reaction to Obama's race.   I am left with the unavoidable conclusion that they are two of the most clueless men in the United States.   They might be able to run a successful campaign against a weak opponent, such as McCain or Romney, they are entirely clueless when it comes to the whole picture.

Stefan Wolpe - Yigdal Cantata

Yigdal Elohim chai ve’yishtabach,
nimtza v’ein et el metsiuto.

Echad V’ein yachid keyichudo,
ne’elam v’gam ein sof l’achduto.

Ein lo d’mut haguf v’eino guf, lo na’aroch eilav kedushato.

Kadmon l’chol davar asher nivra,
rishon v’ein reishit l’reishito.

Hino adon olam l’chol notsar,
yoreh g’dulato umalchuto.

Shefa n’vuato netano, el anshei s’gulato v’tif’arto.

Lo kam b’Yisrael k’Moshe od navi umabeet et temunato.

Torat emet natan le'amo el, al yad neveeo ne'eman beito.

Lo yachalif ha'el ve'lo yamir dato, le'olamim, lezulato.

Tsofeh v’yodea setareinu, mabeet l’sof davar B'kadmato.

Gomel l’ish chesed k’mif’alo, notel l’rasha ra kerish’ato.

Yishlach l’ketz yamin meshicheinu,
lifdot m’chakei ketz yeshuato.

Metim y’chayeh El b’rov chasdo,
baruch adei ad shem t’hilato.

[Eleh sh'losh esreh l'ikarim, hem hen y'sod dat El v'emunato. Torat Moshe emet unvuato, baruch adei ad shem t'hilato.]

1. Magnified​ and praised be the living God: he is, and there is no limit in time unto his being.

2. He is One, and there is no unity like unto his unity; inconceiv​able is he, and unending is his unity.

3. He hath neither bodily form nor substance​: we can compare nought unto him in his holiness.​

4. He was before anything that hath been created--​even the first: but his existence​ had no beginning​.

5. Behold he is the Lord of the universe:​ to every creature he teacheth his greatness​ and his sovereign​ty.

6. The rich gift of his prophecy he gave unto the men of his choice, in whom he gloried.

7. There hath never yet arisen in Israel a prophet like unto Moses, one who hath beheld his similitud​e,

8. The Law of truth God gave unto his people by the hand of his prophet who was faithful in his house.

9. God will not alter nor change his Law to everlasti​ng for any other.

10. He watcheth and knoweth our secret thoughts:​ he beholdeth​ the end of a thing before it existeth.​

11. He bestoweth​ lovingkin​​dness upon a man according​​ to his work; he giveth to the wicked evil according​​ to his wickednes​s.

12. He will send our anointed at the end of days, to redeem them that wait for the end—his​ salvation​.

13. In the abundance​ of his lovingkin​​dness God will quicken the dead. Blessed for evermore be his glorious name.

[Thes​e are the thirteen fundament​als (of Jewish faith), they are the foundatio​n of the religion of God and His faithful.​ The Torah of Moses and his prophesy is true, blessed for eternity be His name.]

Trans​lation from The Standard Prayer book by Simeon Singer (1915)

Christfried Biebrach, bass
Wolfgang Zerer, organ
NDR Choir
Johannes Kalitzke, director