Fascinating Logic

“I can’t say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event because I am not in a position to do so as a school district employee,” Mr. Latson stated in one of the emails, which were obtained by The Palm Beach Post. Mr. Latson said he had to stay “politically neutral” and separate his personal views about the Holocaust from his job as a public school official.  From NY Times

I think most people would find this statement pretty weird, but it’s really not much different from the Trump supporters who don’t quite want to sound as stupid as Mr. Trump himself but are terrified of being accused of disloyalty.  Especially with that rabble lining up for 2024.   So they say stuff like, “I can’t say if there was fraud or not, but Mr. Trump is certainly entitled to make sure that every vote is counted correctly and whether some of these allegations of voter fraud are true or not”.

If the Democrats did the same thing under similar circumstances, the Republicans would go ballistic and scream at the authorities to shut down the recount.  Well, come to think of it, that’s pretty well what they did in Florida in 2000.

What Mr. Latson is really saying is, “please don’t judge me because I believe the Holocaust never happened.”  He knows his acquaintances would find his belief both ridiculous and bigoted: it’s not an innocent belief.  It is a belief founded in centuries of Antisemitism.

No one says “I can’t say if the Holocaust is a factual, historical event” if they believe it really happened.

And no one says, “I can’t say if Joe Biden really won the election or not” if they believed Joe Biden won the election.  But if they openly said, “Donald Trump actually, really won this election” they would have to explain to their constituents why they are ignoring the results of a free and fair election, when that’s how they got elected.

And that is too awkward for them.

Mank

Not sure why so many critics seem to love “Mank”. Maybe they didn’t do their homework: the central thesis of “Mank”– that Herman Mankiewicz didn’t get enough credit for “Citizen Kane” — has been thoroughly debunked. And it’s kind of beside the point anyway. So what if Mankiewicz wrote some or most of the dialogue? Welles produced, directed, co-wrote, and starred in “Citizen Kane”, and did all these things beautifully and brilliantly. 

“Mank” doesn’t want to admit that Welles was the real genius.  And he has been correctly regarded as such ever since “Citizen Kane” was released.

The Trump Monument

A wealthy donor should sponsor a big monument in Washington D.C. near the White House, showing McConnell, Rubio, Lankford, Cruz, Pence, and many of the others, raising Trump on a throne to the sky with joyous expressions on their faces.
 
Why would the Republicans object? It will represent them beautifully.  But make sure it is durable, because in 4 and 8 and 12 years, we will want to be reminded of where that party was now, and who was complicit, and who their gods were (because your gods tell you what to believe).
 
And nearby, a statue of Susan Collins, slightly askance, a bit quizzical– gazing in wonder– with her comment on not voting to impeach on a plaque: “I’m sure he learned his lesson”.

What we tell Ourselves Afterwards

According to Kazuo Odachi, a former Japanese kamikaze pilot, when the officers at his cohort presented their idea of suicide missions against the allies and asked for volunteers, the suggestion was met with “stunned silence”. It was only after considerable heckling and other forms of “persuasion” that pilots signed up for it. I remember having the impression, once upon a time, that Japanese pilots enthusiastically signed up to become a kamikaze.

Probably that’s something some people really wanted to believe, afterwards.

Constitutional

If I were a Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, I would ask Amy Comey Barrett something like this.

You have declared repeatedly that your judgments will be based strictly on the Constitution, and not on any partisan political ideology.   The Republicans like to claim that Democrat judges “legislate” from the bench– creating new law based on political considerations rather than the Constitution.

“Spokesmen for A.F.P. [Americans For Prosperity – a Koch Brothers propaganda tool] echo that line, emphasizing that the Koch network isn’t looking for policy outcomes, but for honest jurists who will follow the Constitution to the letter.”  NY Times

We are both Christians– you are a Roman Catholic and I am an Evangelical Christian.   In a sense, our Constitution, in religion, is the Bible and the teachings of Jesus Christ.  Yet, Roman Catholics believe in transubstantiation, that the wafer and the wine become the body and blood of our Lord Savior Jesus Christ, while we Protestants believe they do not.

Roman Catholics might say, well, I’m right and you’re wrong.  They would say the Bible and Jesus Christ– our religious “constitution”– mean only one thing, and that is, that transubstantiation is real and true.  Those who appointed you to the Supreme Court of Religion could count on you to vote that way because you hold a partisan, ideological belief.

If there was a Supreme Court of religion, and you were on it, how would you rule?  Would you have any regard for the idea that there is legitimate dissent on the issue?  Would you say, well, you never know which way I might rule– because there is a large part of the population who don’t believe what you believe the Bible and Jesus Christ teach about the sacrament of the Eucharist.  Should we look for someone who believes that we can’t know for sure which side is right, so we have to give due regard and consideration to both possibilities.

In the same way, Republicans believe the Constitution, for one example, prohibits Court prescribed affirmative action programs to address issues of racial or gender discrimination.  Many Democrats believe that it does not prohibit such measures.

Should it be legal to fire an employee because he or she is transgender.   If we have a personal belief that marriage is always only between one person who is biologically male at birth and one person who is biologically female at birth would we not find some way to interpret the constitution to support that view?

 

Do you insist that if asked to rule on an issue like that,  that we would have no idea of how you would rule?

Convince me that you would judge the matter objectively, without loyalty to the ideology of the people who seek to appoint you to the Supreme Court or your own personal religious beliefs.

Would Barrett insist that she is not loyal to a Republican ideology and would judge the matter as if she had no bias, no ideological preference?   If not,  and if she insists that the constitution has only one interpretation and she has the one and only correct interpretation, is she not admitting that she is a Republican appointee, and those who wish to appoint her to the Supreme Court fully expect that she will rule in conformity with their political expectations?

At this point she could adopt the Thomas/Kavanagh strategy and just yell at the Democrats and accuse them of bigotry because they don’t like her Roman Catholic religion or– shamelessly– that they are biased against her gender.

 

 

Amy Barrett

Members of the group swear a lifelong oath of loyalty, called a covenant, to one another, and are assigned and are accountable to a personal adviser, called a ‘head’ for men and a ‘handmaid’ for women,” the report read. “The group teaches that husbands are the heads of their wives and should take authority over the family.

This is a group that potential Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett belongs to.

This Supreme Court (with Ginsburg writing a stinging dissent) once ruled that a woman employee who had been paid less, for years, secretly, than a male in the same job, could not sue for back pay because she “waited” too long. Sometimes “Supreme” doesn’t really apply. No, I”m not making that up. Think the court would ever allow you to not pay a bill because a company “waited” too long to collect it? Ha ha.

The last time I heard a bunch of conservatives bragging about the intellectual acumen of one of their own, it was for Paul Ryan; so when they say the same thing about Barrett… yeah, let’s wait and see. They also said that about Chief Justice Roberts, who once ruled that there was nothing wrong with a white police officer taking down and hand-cuffing a 13-year-old girl because she was eating a french fry on a subway platform (I am not making this up).

Do you need to ask what race the girl was? I didn’t think so.

Barrett argued, in one of her speeches, that a justice should recuse herself from any case that conflicts with a personal religious belief. So the “pro-life” party may be very disappointed to find her recusing herself from death penalty cases. Or will she simply be selective about which religious beliefs actually “conflict”– like supporting immigration polices that separate children from their parents?

That said, I really think the Democrats should stop arguing that a president can’t appoint a Supreme Court Justice in an election year: we shouldn’t all be hypocrites. (Ginsburg really should have retired in 2012 like Obama wanted. And Breyer as well.) But they should at least acknowledge (unlike the Republicans who seem to have completely forgot about the process) that there should be hearings first.

Let’s all note here that the Republicans are trying to do what they have always bitterly complained the Democrats try to do: legislate through the courts.  The Republicans have come to realize that their agenda is so unpopular that they could never ram it through the legislature anymore without destroying their chances of ever winning another election.  On wage disparity, climate change, gun law, health care, and a host of other issues, they are on the losing end of popular support.  Their solution is to do nothing (this Republican Party literally does just about nothing except re-brand trade agreements and rescind worker protections and environmental law) and appoint extremist conservatives to the courts.  And it is working.  The Roberts Court will soon be prepared to overturn Obama-care and Roe vs. Wade.

These will be the most activist actions by a court since Brown vs. Board of Education.

It’s also a bit depressing that her record is so consistent. Consistent with the Republican Party platform, not with anything remotely “conservative” or “Catholic” and certainly not “pro-life” in any real sense. It’s political and ideological.

The Logic Gap

Kind of strange logic: if you vote for Biden, there will rioting and arson in Portland, Minneapolis, and Kenosha. But there is rioting and arson in Portland, Minneapolis, and Kenosha, and we elected you.

What are you saying exactly?

  • That you failed?
  • That there’s nothing you can do about it anyway?
  • Or that your followers will be blissfully unaware of any gap in the logic at all?

It’s probably all three.

Stairway to Mediocrity

I stumbled upon this:

Stairway to Heaven – Heart 

And I wrote this in the comments:

Utterly reeking of smug, self-congratulation. And the resounding conviction that if you played it perfectly with a 5-piece band, nobody would understand just how monumentally great it is; so you load the stage with the biggest number you can get and make it a mess of layers and noise and gesture until everyone in the room realizes that yes, I have good taste because I liked this song that is reputably a classic, so everyone says. I would have replaced the entire ensemble with 4 Hawaiians with ukuleles and kazoos in a desperate quest for something fresh and interesting.

It’s very hard to tell if “Stairway to Heaven” really is a good song anymore because it has become completely encrusted with myth and grandeur and self-importance and ridicule over the years.  I thought it was a pretty grand song when I was in college, after I heard it for the first time.  Nice picked guitar.  Nice flute.  Nice big electric guitar entry.   The lyrics?  Suggestive of some kind of cosmic sensitivity, about selling out, about “buying” self-respect and redemption, about some “heaven” that is not defined or articulated or even really expressed.  Some allusions to natural beauty.  That condescending final big statement: “to be a rock and not to roll”.

A room-mate of mine who became a pastor in a Christian Reformed Church listened to it carefully one day and them solemnly pronounced, “that’s what it’s all about isn’t it Bill: ‘to be a rock… and not to roll'”.  That was my first clue that the song was hopelessly mired in pretension and posturing and fake sensitivity.

I should have quoted back to him Gordon Lightfoot’s “Sit Down Young Stranger”:

The answer’s in the forest, carved upon a tree
John loves Mary,
Does anyone love me.

 

Hillary

For God’s sake, she is the wife of a former president.

That is the problem at the heart of the four-part series “Hillary” on Netflix, a carefully crafted and manipulated portrait of the woman who lost the 2016 presidential election to the most ridiculous candidate in the history of the U.S.   The astute observer will immediately detect the subtle direction of the edits, the selectivity, the omissions, all intended to convince you that Hillary Clinton did not ride to prominence on the coattails of her husband, and that her influence and power within the Clinton Administration and her subsequent career as Senator and Secretary of State and presidential candidate were the fruits of some kind of legitimate mandate, and not the product of opportunism or privilege, and that the only reason she lost to Donald Trump was the embedded misogyny of American political culture, and the unmitigated gall of Bernie Sander’s fanatical followers to not turn up and vote for her.

What must not be displayed is the obvious: her entire career in politics was founded upon the success of her husband, Bill Clinton, who assembled a team of political operatives and ran for election as Attorney-General, and then Governor of Arkansas, and then President of the United States.  This is not to say that she was not a talented lawyer, or political manager.  This is to say that she would never have served as Secretary of State, or run for the Senate, or for President, if it had not been for the fact that her husband ran and won first.

“Hillary” tries– too hard– to convince you that Hillary Clinton was so remarkable, so amazing, and so diligent and perceptive and astute, that she earned her way into the White House, and to the Senate, and into Obama’s cabinet, and then as the presidential nominee for the Democratic Party in 2016.

So we are shown clips from the 1992 Bill Clinton campaign in which we offered two contradictory narratives, simultaneously true and not true.  One, that she was a liberated feminist who contributed mightily to the campaign on both a strategic and policy level, and, two, that she became a substantial liability after insisting that she had no intention of staying home and baking cookies.  While insisting that she did not compromise her principles, we are shown the new haircut, the demur stage presence, the tailored outfits, the girlish exuberance– bouncing on the stage with Tipper Gore– but told to believe that through some magical osmosis, America elected her to be an active and involved First Lady.

The right comment from a reporter or columnist at that moment would have been to point out that this established something about her character, a suspicion, that never went away.

Let’s go back further.  Bill Clinton won his first election as governor of Arkansas and then lost his second attempt, then won his third attempt.  “Hillary” would have you believe that it was because she became a better governor’s wife.  Every other political analyst knows it was because Bill Clinton reversed his position on capital punishment, purely out of political calculation.  What was that again about authenticity?  “Hillary” itself begins to raise suspicions about their interest in the truth.

That’s the seed of America’s disaffection with Hillary Clinton: the “documentary” (it is not a documentary: it’s a flattering piece of Hillary advocacy) shows us Hillary scoffing at the idea that she presented a calculated image to the American people and subtly affirms her view.  Why did people ever think she was not authentic or genuine?  It’s a mystery!   And then she proceeds to claim to be baffled as to why, after the scandalous bail-out of the banks after the 2008 crisis, people would want to know what she said to Goldman-Sachs for $200,000.  Why didn’t she just release the text of the speech she gave to them?  She says, because she was using it as leverage to force Bernie Sanders to release his tax returns.

Really.

“Hillary” would have you believe that all Bernie Sanders talked about during the 2016 campaign was her corrupt ties to the banking and investment industries.  No mention of Vince Foster’s suicide on July 20, 1993.   (as of the first episode and 1/2) and the travel office scandal.  We’ll see…

[2020-04-7]

I watched the episode (3) which covered the infamous Vince Foster suicide.  And no surprise: not a word about “travel-gate”.  In summary, the Clinton’s became convinced that the travel office, headed by one Billy Ray Dale (who had served under two previous presidents) which organizes flights for members of the press corps when the president travels, was disorganized and unaccountable and possibly even corrupt.  They wanted to replace the staff with some of the their friends from Arkansas.  It was also believed that staff members in the White House travel office were leaking gossip about the Clintons’ marriage to the press.   So the Clintons had seven members of the staff fired and replaced with Arkansas associates.  And then were very surprised to learn that the media– which was quite friendly to the staff of the travel office– thought the firings unjustified and driven by ulterior motives.  Republicans sensed an opportunity and cried foul.  The whole thing blew up and became the Clintons’ first unpleasant public scandal.

There were rumours that Hillary had been pushing the firings which she categorically, publicly denied, even to investigators.

But…

A two-year-old memo from White House director of administration David Watkins surfaced that identified First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton as the motivating force behind the firings, with the additional involvement of Vince Foster and Harry Thomason.[39] “Foster regularly informed me that the First Lady was concerned and desired action. The action desired was the firing of the Travel Office staff.  Wikipedia

It is important to note here that there is evidence that the travel office really was somewhat corrupt and that it did favors for the press, which may be one of the reasons the press seized on the story.  There were investigations before the Clintons but nobody had proceeded with charges or disciplinary actions.

During the investigation, Hillary Clinton was question by investigators and she vehemently denied that she had anything at all to do with the firings.  This was a lie.

Hillary Clinton lied to the press and to investigators about her role in the affair.  And, in “Hillary”, she lies again, pretty shamelessly, mocking those who thought there was anything to the scandal.

“Hillary” wants you to believe it is honest and truthful by carefully choosing the scandals we all already know about to relate to us (look– they even talk about Genifer Flowers!) while conspicuously ignoring the ones that will never play well.  “Hillary” proffers lots of straw men to knock down and badly wants you to believe that people didn’t like Hillary Clinton because she was strong or opinionated or a woman.  How easy to believe she is really a wonderful, honest person who never deserved any of the vitriol directed her way.  But the fact that they ignored the more unpleasant facts about her career (and the one overwhelming fact I stated in the first line of this piece) just confirms what people have always thought about the Clintons: they are not authentic or honest or straight, and a good deal of the misfortunes they encountered in their careers– including losing the 2016 election– were deserved.

But life is endlessly ironic.  The Republicans, without a doubt, harbored a vicious, vindictive, irrational hatred of Hillary Clinton, and, yes, there really was a conspiracy to destroy their political careers, funded by wealthy right-wing investors in cooperation with Republican operatives and ultra-conservative media personalities, and, eventually Vladimir Putin and the Russians.  Mr. Comey became an accidental accessory when he announced that he was re investigating her “missing” emails just days before the vote in 2016.

Hillary Clinton should have been elected in 2016 not because she was a good candidate for president but because her opponent was incredibly awful.  The truth is that Bernie Sanders would probably have won that election had he been the Democratic nominee.  Clinton was a bad choice, given her long history in Washington, the way she polarized voters, and her privileged access to Washington politics as the wife of the former president.

And, yes, her fundamental dishonesty.

 

Fleabag Season 1 Episode 4

There was a scene in “Fleabag” episode 4 that kind of stunned me.   Fleabag is at a “silent retreat” with her sister Claire, an unwelcomed gift from their dad.  Next door is a men’s retreat in which a leader hilariously tries to train men to not call women sluts or mock them when they receive promotions.  She sees Bank Manager there– someone she had previously flirted with while negotiating a loan for her cafe.  She strikes up a conversation with him, over smokes, and he tells her that he has been forced to attend the workshop as a consequence of some inappropriate behavior at work.  He touched a woman’s breast, twice.

Fleabag immediately offers him her breast to touch.  He frowns and says, “I’m trying to quit”.

I immediately tried to image a similar scene in a CBC comedy, or on an American Network.  I don’t think it’s possible.  I think there would have been shrieking and threats of violence and boycotts and a new hashtag and resignations all around.

I thought of Mayor Park Won-soon of Seoul, Korea, who committed suicide after a secretary went public with accusations of sexual harassment.  His offense seems to have consisted of repeatedly hitting on her.  He sent her pictures of himself in his underwear.  He pressed his body against her while taking selfies.  He kissed a bruise on her leg.

“I felt defenseless and weak before the immense power,” the woman said in a statement released through her lawyer at a news conference on Monday. “I wanted to shout at him in a safe court of law, telling him to stop it. I wanted to cry out how much he has hurt me.”

It is politically incorrect to think:  for this, he felt his only choice was to commit suicide?  Was the secretary not able to warn him that she would go to the police if he continued the harassing behavior?  We are not told if she did, but the prevailing wisdom among activists is that she shouldn’t have to.

The secretary is not apologetic.  In fact, she is angry that people feel bad about Park Won-soon– who was a sterling advocate for progressive women’s issues his entire career– and not sufficiently considerate of her feelings.

I was disappointed.  I thought she might say something like, “the way he treated me was wrong but I am horrified that an otherwise admirable person felt driven to this terrible act.”

I thought Fleabag’s reaction to the Bank Manager was admirable.  It was “what’s the big deal?”.    It was the act of a truly liberated woman, self-confident, independent, and wildly immune to the “system” that we are led to believe oppresses women.  She would have told Park Won-soon to fuck off and that would probably have been the end of it.

But then… later, Fleabag tried to convince Claire to take a job in Finland that she was reluctant to take because she would be away from her husband, Martin.  Fleabag told Claire that Martin had tried to kiss her, which was true.    Martin denied it and claimed Fleabag had tried to kiss him.  We learn later that Claire always did believe Fleabag but chose to stay with Martin for reasons of her own.

Unlike her interaction with Mr. Bank Manager, this was disappointingly conventional and hypocritical of Fleabag who has herself seduced married or attached men.

We know that Fleabag herself is not innocent of hitting on other peoples’ partners.

“Fleabag” is an outstanding series– you should see it.  It is fabulously original and witty and sometimes transcendent, as when the priest delivers the homily at Fleabag’s father’s wedding, and when Fleabag’s father tells her that he likes Claire.