I am still hearing and reading that so-and-so has “defied” President Donald Trump, and I am tired of it. Wake up media people: it doesn’t make much sense anymore to speak of “defiance” unless you are convinced that Trump has moral authority to defy. Do you really believe that? Even if there are many fine arguments of both sides of the issue (i.e. whether Trump possesses any moral authority), the principles of objective journalism demand that a less biased formula be found. Or that there be a disclaimer, such as “some people say that our president still has some moral authority left to defy, while others maintain that he lacks all moral authority.” I don’t want to hear any ungrateful uppity defiant backtalk from anybody about this.
Really, Mr. Attorney General? You give a speech about free speech, in Georgetown, D.C., and you shut out students who signed up to see you speak? That is disrespectful of the republic, and very disrespectful of the principles for which the flag stands.
When I call Donald J. Trump uppity, it hasn’t got anything at all to do with race. Did I say Trump is a disgrace to the Scottish people, or the German people, or the people of Queens, New York? Did I call him ungrateful for the sacrifices others made instead of him when he got his bone spur deferments fifty years ago? Did I say he disgraced our best heritage way back when he insulted all military veterans by saying McCain wasn’t a hero because he got captured? If I did, it wouldn’t have a single thing to do with his race.
Is “ungrateful” the new “uppity”? Of course it is (h/t Jelani Cobb).
The President has every right to say what he likes, even and maybe especially when he defaults to the false and nasty binary choices he loves to use so he can pretend to be a uniter instead of what and who he really is.
And of course it’s not at all about race and the president, of course, has said nothing about race. And I have such a bad case of historical amnesia that I can barely tell that he’s BSing us when he isn’t flat-out lying. I can barely tell that it’s really all about the dog whistles.
First, I defend President Trump’s First Amendment right to say whatever sick, twisted, ugly ideas pop into his head. Maybe our country will ultimately turn out better off for having to deal with his wretched, heathen, malicious words and actions. I also support the right of Colin Kaepernick, Tim Tebow, LeBron James, and all other athletes and non-athletes to express their political and social opinions, in any setting they choose. I also reserve the right to turn off the TV, unplug the device, block (or try to) the targeted ads, and go out for a walk while the sun shines.
Maybe pro athletes would be better off “staying in their own lane,” but that is a trivial debate compared with the problem of Trump staying in his own proper sphere. Of course he isn’t really up to it, which explains the unending sideshows. He is doing very few of us any good by refusing to pay attention to actually improving people’s lives. If President Trump would stay in his own governance lane (which should not be “playing the fool” but here we are) and focus on improving the opportunities open to the American people, he might achieve some actual success. He could focus on the help people in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands need. He could focus on rebuilding our worn-out infrastructure. He could admit that his cabinet secretaries have abused their position to rip off taxpayers by taking private jets for no good reason, and fire them.
All that might be harder work than deflecting and distracting us, and I am not at all sure he is up to studying the actual details of, say, a health care proposal for more than 30 seconds. He promised all kinds of great improvements to the supposedly abominable Affordable Care Act, yet he has harmed millions of his own supporters by sabotaging the law that is still “on the books,” while denying that any bad outcomes could ever be his fault–as if the glory of being president brings no corresponding accountability. If he would pay any attention at all to specifics he would know that the latest Graham-Cassidy plan falls way short of his promises. His fellow Republicans have given up pretending that they have a plan that will cover everybody, or even the same number of people now covered. Paul Ryan and other Republicans have attacked the idea that healthy people should have to pay for sick people getting care–that’s the way most insurance works, guys. We all hope we stay well and our cars don’t get rear-ended and our homes don’t get hit by an asteroid. In the meantime, we pay for insurance. We will be better off the sooner we get to a universal risk pool. Attention definitely needs to be paid to free-rider problems and to setting incentives and nudges and limits, but we can do all that and move much nearer to universal coverage.
For immediate release: Apple Inc., despite apparent failure of Face ID in iPhone X demo, announces its intention to go full 1984. Visitors to Town Centers will be subject to compliance with all OS Human Interface Guidelines, 2017 Edition, according to which any negative thoughts regarding the new introductory price points and inadequacies of RAM storage will be punished subliminally via deep-techstate thought control. Don’t even think about having any suboptimally negative cognitive episodes inside a Town Center. Suboptimal thinkers will be assigned to retraining at sub-genius bars staffed by former Apple employees now serving as volunteer reeducation camp interns. If Highland Clearances don’t get rid of bad thoughts, Lowland Clearances will ensue.
Any and all references to dystopian fiction or horror movies strictly coincidental. But the 1984 Super Bowl commercial will be shown to negative-thinking visitors on endless infinite loop until they repent by preordering at least $477 of Apple Inc. profit-margin in goods and services.
Steve Bannon, in his interview with Charlie Rose of CBS, claimed that the Access Hollywood (“grab them”) tape had no lasting impact on last year’s campaign “yet, if you see the mainstream media that day, it was, literally, he was falling into Dante’s inferno.” Let’s fact-check that statement.
The first circle of hell isn’t really hell proper but limbo, for virtuous pagans, and Trump does not qualify because he is a baptized Christian, sorry bad luck Mr. President, better luck in some other universe. The second circle of Dante’s hell is reserved for the lustful. Enough said. Circle #3 is for gluttons, little doubt there (two scoops!). Circle four is for the greedy, whom Trump literally tried to shove out of his way in a futile effort to get back to circle 2, but he fell back downward instead and encountered a few more of his fellow hoarders and spendthrifts (did I mention that Trump Dubai is using a Chinese-government-owned contractor, contrary to one of Trump’s campaign promises?) before descending to the lowest circle of upper hell, the one occupied by the wrathful (“lock her up”; “I’m the fucking president”).
And now unbar the gates of Dis and welcome to Nether Hell. The River Styx will soon be the happiest memory you have left, Donald, as we cross from passive sin to active sin, starting with heresy and idolatry. Trump might at first seem innocent of heretical ideas, but if we scratch just a little we remember his denial that ever needs to repent for anything. If that is not heresy and idolatry, what is? Trump is guilty of obdurate refusal to ever acknowledge humbleness. And this is not yet the worst of the active sins. Next is the seventh circle of Dante’s inferno, home to the violent: the war-makers, tyrants, plunderers, blasphemers, sodomites, the violent against art, and usurers. Perhaps Mr. Trump has not yet committed all of these horrible sins, but we haven’t seen all the tapes yet either, have we?
Over the waterfall we go, over the great cliff, down to the eighth circle, where we are met by Geryon, the Monster of Fraud. A truly Trumpian circle, containing the malicious, the panderers, the seducers, the flatterers, the falsifiers, the sowers of discord, the grafters, the barrators (think “emoluments clause”!), and the simoniacs (not sure about this, but Mueller ought to look into it too IMHO). And finally, the ninth circle of hell, in which the traitors dwell. Not that I feel any great sympathy for Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, but do you think in their hearts they harbor any doubt at all that Donald J. Trump belongs right here? Anyone think they would lend him a hand or a rope? Let’s leave Mr. Trump here where he belongs, bearing in mind of course that Dante wrote two more books. And that Trump himself admitted that becoming president was probably his last best shot at getting into heaven–yes, he did really say that!
To the best of my knowledge I have never promised Facebook anything or accepted any of Facebook’s Terms of Service or acknowledged Facebook’s “Rights and Responsibilities.” But just because I have been uninterested in belonging to Facebook doesn’t mean Facebook has been uninterested in subsuming me (and all other humans on our planet) in its grand social project. (See Pericles of Athens: “just because you are not interested in politics does not mean politics is not interested in you.”)
Facebook’s chief security officer, Alex Stamos, posted an “update on information operations on Facebook” yesterday. Stamos acknowledges that Russian interference in last year’s election included about $100,000 worth of Facebook ads (which I assume is the tip of the iceberg). He also acknowledges that “we know we have to stay vigilant to keep ahead of people who try to misuse our platform,” but he does not yield the high ground, asserting that “we believe in protecting the integrity of civic discourse, and require advertisers on our platform to follow both our policies and all applicable laws.” OK, Mr. Stamos, let’s back it up a bit. You “require”? I think you didn’t. I think you and Mark Zuckerberg did not make that “requirement” a high enough priority. I am glad to hear that Facebook is “exploring several new improvement to [y]our systems for keeping inauthentic accounts and activity off” Facebook. If you are serious about spending some real money to keep Russian troll farms away from our next election, that’s great. I suspect that you and Mr. Zuckerberg did not do enough to protect our election last year because of a particular blind spot: you feel overregulated. You are mistaken. We can and should debate how to implement net neutrality and how to keep the internet and social media from becoming even more dystopian than current trends portend. But the bias of Silicon Valley that “we are a whole lot smarter than government, let alone the masses, and the world is best off when we pay minimal taxes because we will choose philanthropic projects that are far better than what government would come up with.” Maybe that’s partly true, but Silicon Valley’s success in evading regulations (and Congressional paralysis and tech illiteracy, to be fair) led to a disastrous outcome last year. I am not referring to the victory of Trump so much as the grossly suboptimal investment in real time in technologies and human-engineer-power that could have kept trolls, bots, and other “inauthentic” activity at bay. Does your “suboptimalness” bother you yet, Mr. Zuckerberg? Do you have the “bandwidth” to deal with the serious problem on your hands? Are you willing, despite continuing underregulation of your remarkably profitable enterprise, to look at a picture that is possibly even bigger than the glorious philanthropic initiatives you have doubtless planned? Do you actually have enough social imagination to lead Facebook where it needs to go?
I would love to associate myself with Donald Trump’s totally true remark today that “there are a lot of good reasons” to eliminate the debt ceiling. Convenient? Of course. Hypocritical? Hmm, let’s take a look: 2011 Trump said “the debt limit cannot be raised until Obama spending is contained.” “TIME TO CUT, CAP, AND BALANCE.” “There is no revenue problem.” 2012 Trump: “the Republicans once again hold all the cards with the debt ceiling. They can get everything they want. Focus!”
Donald Trump has zero reason to regret or retract anything, ever. Chuck and Nancy will confirm that if you ask them.
In his recent Charlie Rose interview, Steve Bannon criticized Timothy Cardinal Dolan of New York and other U.S. Catholic bishops for their opposition to President Trump’s decision to rescind DACA protections for “Dreamers.” Bannon said that “as much as I respect Cardinal Dolan and the bishops on doctrine, this is not doctrine. This is not doctrine at all. I totally respect the pope and I totally respect the Catholic bishops and cardinals on doctrine. This is not about doctrine. This is about the sovereignty of a nation. And in that regard, they’re just another guy with an opinion.”
Bannon does not want American Catholics to follow the bishops and cardinals on the immigration issue. He wants Catholic voters, as well as evangelical Protestants and others, to follow his own nativist opinions. But he is misleading or mendacious or untutored (or a combination) about what is and isn’t doctrine. Christian doctrine is Christian teaching. Whether it is sound or unsound doctrine depends first on how faithful it is to the Christian scriptures. Sound Christian teaching also needs to be congruent (especially for Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians, but also, in sometimes complicated and conflictual ways, for Protestant Christians) with church traditions, as expressed, for example, in creeds, confessions, encyclicals, and other teaching statements. If Bannon had said “dogma” instead of doctrine he might have been somewhat less wrong, but even putatively infallible Catholic dogmas [which are few] are statements of Christian teaching to build up faith and practice, not primarily metaphysical speculations. Of course there is a distinction between “doctrine” and “life,” but a separation would be unscriptural, untraditional, and unfaithful.
Sound doctrine rooted in Scripture can certainly rely on the many Biblical injunctions to “welcome the stranger” going back to the book of Exodus. If Steve Bannon believes that Christian doctrine has no pertinence to governmental restrictions on immigration and no claim on his attention when it is employed to criticize his nativist anti-immigrant viewpoint, he is really saying that Christian doctrine has nothing to do with any actual issue. Bannon has plenty of company if that’s what he believes, but not good company, and he has effectively renounced his claim to grasp Catholic Christian tradition. Bannon is not wrong to associate the immigration issue with “the sovereignty of a nation” (but leaves Catholicity behind when he separates nation-sovereignty completely from sovereignty of God). And the U.S. Catholic bishops are certainly capable of misconstruing Scripture and Catholic tradition in this or that way. But when Bannon calls the cardinals and bishops “just another guy with an opinion” regarding welcoming or deporting immigrants, he has defined “doctrine” as conveniently irrelevant to all real-life controversies and left Catholic and Christian tradition in the dust.
P.S. Don’t trust me? Let me quote from a guy with an opinion, St. Augustine, Book One, section 30 of his De Doctrina Christiana: after quoting Matthew 22:37-40 on love of God and neighbor, Augustine tells us that “it is clear that we should understand by our neighbor the person to whom an act of compassion is due if he needs it or would be due if he needed it. It follows from this that a person from whom an act of compassion is due to us in our turn is also our neighbor. For the word ‘neighbor’ implies a relationship…who can fail to see that there is no exception to this, nobody to whom compassion is not due?” Is Augustine Catholic enough? Does Augustine know what doctrine is about? Does not even Thomas Aquinas say (Summa Theologica, first part, first question, articles 1, 4, and 5) that sacred doctrine is not just philosophical and speculative but also practical–and thus nobler than other “sciences”? And if Mr. Bannon wishes to delve into doctrine in a serious way, I suggest he study the First Part of the Second Part of the Summa T., treatise on the virtues, q. 56, article 4: “Whether the irascible and concupiscible powers are the subject of virtue,” or not.
Putin said today that Trump “is not my bride, and I am not his groom.” Of course not. In this new day, the etiquette of gay marriage permits both parties to be the groom, should “they” so desire.