Sunday, October 22, 2017

Kelly's defense of Trump

The New Yorker comments on Kelly's defense of Trump, who was criticized by a congresswoman for his condolence call to wife of a fallen soldier ...

John Kelly and the Dangerous Moral Calculus of Working for Trump

[...] Kelly, who rarely speaks publicly, stepped into the briefing room yesterday to defend the President. The most newsworthy comments he made concerned Wilson, who he said was an “empty barrel” who had once turned a ceremony meant to commemorate the deaths of two F.B.I. officers killed in the line of duty into a celebration of her ability to steer tax dollars to her district ....

As was quickly reported, the video of Wilson’s nine-minute speech is online. Wilson did tell a story about how she; John Boehner, the House Speaker at the time; and Obama worked together to make sure that the building was named after the two slain F.B.I. agents in time for the event. She said nothing about securing funding (she was, in fact, not in Congress when the money was authorized) and nothing about “how she took care of her constituents.” She asked law-enforcement officials present to stand up “so we can applaud you and what you do,” adding, “we’re proud of you, we’re proud of your courage.” She then told the tragic story of the two agents who lost their lives. The speech bears no resemblance to the speech Kelly described. The White House chief of staff maligned a congresswoman, whose only crime seemed to be criticizing Trump, with a series of lies.

When a reporter at the White House on Friday asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders about the glaring discrepancy between Kelly’s account and the actual speech, she said that the White House stood by his remarks. “There was a lot of grandstanding,” she said. “He was stunned that she had taken that opportunity to make it about herself.” The reporter pressed: “He was wrong yesterday in talking about getting the money. The money was secured before she came into Congress.”

Sanders shot back with the kind of statement that would be normal in an authoritarian country, suggesting that Kelly’s previous military service placed him beyond criticism. “If you want to go after General Kelly, that’s up to you,” she said. “But I think that that—if you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that that’s something highly inappropriate.”

No, it is not .....

I was watching the press briefing when Kelly spoke - it was just creepy - at the end, when reporters usually ask questions, Kelly refused to take questions from any reporters who didn't personally know a "gold star" family. Trump, with three generals in his administration, seems to be trying to overcompensate for his weakness by identifying himself with the military. Banana republic, here we come :(

More from The New Yorker: John Kelly and the Language of the Military Coup

Saturday, October 21, 2017

History Lesson

Some years ago I spent a year or two doing graduate study in Japan. My Japanese wasn't bad in those days, although it depended on what the topic was. If someone wanted to talk about baseball, they were out of luck. If someone wanted to talk about the development of the Japanese legal system in the context of the larger development of capitalism in Japan in the 19th century, I was their man. My memories of my time there seem to involve a very few very long conversations.
I mostly talked to professors. Once, I met a professor who came from an ancient (by ancient, I mean "trace my lineage back 1,200 years" ancient) noble family. He seemed to be someone that I should cultivate. But sucking up to professors was hard. On one hand, small talk (which I hate) was important. On the other hand, I had to try to look like a scholar. It was very easy to slip the rails here.
A topic to try to avoid was World War 2. In general the War doesn't excite strong emotions in people there, who mostly view it as a universal tragedy. But sometimes I would run into people who had been maimed themselves or who had had their families and property obliterated in our bombings. I suppose one needs an eye for history (as I used to have) to look around Japanese cities and see that there are almost no pre-War buildings anywhere, since we destroyed them all. So some people hate us, although they don't go out of their way to say anything as a rule.
The professor from the noble family was a historian of modern Japan and that was my problem. Could I have an in-depth but yet facile conversation about the War (which had resulted, among other things, in the fall of families like his) if it came up? Would he have strong feelings about the War that he would transfer to me? Would other people at the conference, seeing him talking to an American, come up and join in out of curiosity?
We exchanged business cards to establish our ranks and occupations as all Japanese do. We established some shared connections in Japan and the university I was going to. We noted that there was weather outside and many people inside. Then we somehow slipped into the topic of art. Rocky shoals here, because Japanese art is something that I may not know much about but I know what I like. But we were able to converse smoothly, keeping it pretty shallow, like a teardrop on a mirror. It looked like smooth sailing until he brought up the War.
"My family has a few good, ancient pieces still. But alas, we really lost everything in the War."
Was this an ambush? Did he bring this up to open the gate to expressing strong feelings to the foreign barbarian?
"The War? Do you mean World War 2? Where was your family living?"
"Oh, he sighed. I mean the Onin War."
The Onin War was in 1467.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Virtue Is Its Own Reward

Unagidon here.

[I now have access and I deeply appreciate it.

I have not written for Commonweal for some time.  When they changed their format, they started paying me for my articles. But while they paid me for a group of four or five that I sent them in June, they have not published any of them.  I know that this entirely depends on what's happening in the current edition and is not a reflection on the articles themselves.  Unfortunately, this happened while I was having a crisis of confidence about my writing.

What I would like to do here is to post as I did on the blog, but to also post things that I would probably not submit to Commonweal.  I hope you will bear with me.]

Those who follow the religion called Libertarianism love to talk about the Libertarian version of the Holy Spirit that they call Innovation.  They claim that higher profits, deregulation, lower wages for workers, and tax cuts as things that will release the Forces of their Holy Spirit, as though there are people out there with revolutionary ideas who are holding back waiting for profit margins to go up 100 basis points before they unleash their creativity.

I would like to talk about how innovation actually works in large corporations, based on my own observations and experience.  Corporations love the idea of innovation, including the misty eyed dreams of greater profit.  And corporations do innovate from time to time.  But the picture is not like the one painted by the Libertarians (which is after all, as I have said countless times on Commonweal, an Infantile Disorder).

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Paul Moses in Egypt!

Paul Moses, CWL writer, journalist, newspaper man, and all around nice guy, wrote The Sultan and the Saint (Francis). A good read: it is now a movie currently showing in Egypt!. Here's the story on Al Monitor: "Film about interfaith dialogue opens in Egypt to praise." 

Bravo Paul!

P.S. For those with time (and 2 hours of patience), a panel discussion with Paul Moses about the book and the event of Francis meeting Sultan Malik Al-Kamil

This is a video tape of a forum sponsored by the Fordham Center on Religion and Culture:  When the Saint Met the Sultan: A Medieval Summit with 21st Century Lessons

Monday, October 16, 2017


Listening to Trump answer questions from reporters today. One of the things he mentioned was the number of judges he is appointing all up and down the judicial system - this is actually one of the scariest things he's doing (Trump’s Real Personnel Victory: More Conservative Judges).

That reminded me of a review I saw on the PBS NewsHour a few days ago about Marshall, a movie on the first Black Supreme Court Justice ...

The film looks like it will be worth a watch, both as compelling contemporary history and because Marshall is being played by Chadwick Boseman, aka the Black Panther.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Who Is the "Other Side"?

For many years, I read George Will and a handful of other conservative columnists (e.g., Jennifer Rubin, Charles Krautammer, Peggy Noonan) so I could find out what the "other side" was saying. But here are a few choice quotes from George Will's latest column:

With eyes wide open, Mike Pence eagerly auditioned for the role as Donald Trump’s poodle. Now comfortably leashed, he deserves the degradations that he seems too sycophantic to recognize as such. . . . 
Trump’s energy, unleavened by intellect and untethered to principle, serves only his sovereign instinct to pander to those who adore him as much as he does. Unshakably smitten, they are impervious to the Everest of evidence that he disdains them as a basket of gullibles. . . . 
With Trump turning and turning in a widening gyre, his crusade to make America great again is increasingly dominated by people who explicitly repudiate America’s premises. . . . 
With Trump turning and turning in a widening gyre, his crusade to make America great again is increasingly dominated by people who explicitly repudiate America’s premises. . . .  
I find I don't disagree with most conservative columnists. Where do we go nowadays to read "the other side"?  

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Unprecedented, for sure

 Mollie Wilson O"Reilly has a strange, short rant where we used to hang out. She picks on one of the jillions of odd things the President of the United States has said and demonstrates that he doesn't know what he is talking about. She continues:

There is no precedent for covering a president as incompetent as Trump. And so reporters go on treating him like they would any other commander-in-chief, instead of making his unprecedented incompetence the headline story it should be.
 The first sentence is true, oh yes. But I take issue with the second. Even the staid, down the middle Associated Press has been adding "unsupportedly"s to "Trump said," or pointing out that there is no evidence for something he says or that it has been thoroughly disproved. More after the break.