Wednesday, February 1, 2017

@POTUS 45 in his own words

First, January 21st, 2017, full CIA Langley HQ visit transcript. Draw your own conclusions.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, I want to thank everybody. Very, very special people. And it is true, this is my first stop, officially. We're not talking about the balls, or we're not talking about even the speeches -- although they did treat me nicely on that speech yesterday. (Laughter.) I always call them the dishonest media, but they treated me nicely. (Laughter.)

But I want to say that there is nobody that feels stronger about the intelligence community and the CIA than Donald Trump. There's nobody. (Applause.)

The wall behind me is very, very special. We've been touring for quite a while, and I'll tell you what -- 29? I can't believe it.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Twenty-eight.

TRUMP: Oh, 28. We got to reduce it. That's amazing. And we really appreciate what you've done in terms of showing us something very special. And your whole group, these are really special, amazing people. Very, very few people could do the job you people do. And I want to just let you know, I am so behind you. And I know maybe sometimes you haven’t gotten the backing that you've wanted, and you're going to get so much backing. Maybe you're going to say, please don’t give us so much backing. (Laughter.) Mr. President, please, we don’t need that much backing. (Laughter.) But you're going to have that. And I think everybody in this room knows it.

You know, the military and the law enforcement, generally speaking, but all of it -- but the military gave us tremendous percentages of votes. We were unbelievably successful in the election with getting the vote of the military. And probably almost everybody in this room voted for me, but I will not ask you to raise your hands if you did. (Laughter.) But I would guarantee a big portion, because we're all on the same wavelength, folks. (Applause.) We're all on the same wavelength, right? He knows. It took Brian about 30 seconds to figure that one out, right, because we know we're on the same wavelength.

But we're going to do great things. We're going to do great things. We've been fighting these wars for longer than any wars we've ever fought. We have not used the real abilities that we have. We've been restrained. We have to get rid of ISIS. Have to get rid of ISIS. We have no choice. (Applause.) Radical Islamic terrorism. And I said it yesterday -- it has to be eradicated just off the face of the Earth. This is evil. This is evil. And you know, I can understand the other side. We can all understand the other side. There can be wars between countries, there can be wars. You can understand what happened. This is something nobody can even understand. This is a level of evil that we haven’t seen. And you're going to go to it, and you're going to do a phenomenal job. But we're going to end it. It's time. It's time right now to end it.

You have somebody coming on who is extraordinary. For the different positions of "Secretary of This" and "Secretary of That" and all of these great positions, I'd see five, six, seven, eight people. And we had a great transition. We had an amazing team of talent. And, by the way, General Flynn is right over here. Put up your hand. What a good guy. (Applause.) And Reince and my whole group. Reince -- you know -- they don’t care about Reince. He's like this political guy that turned out to be a superstar, right? We don’t have to talk about Reince.

But we did -- we had such a tremendous, tremendous success. So when I'm interviewing all of these candidates that Reince and his whole group is putting in front, it went very, very quickly, and, in this case, went so quickly -- because I would see six or seven or eight for Secretary of Agriculture, who we just named the other day, Sonny Perdue, former governor of Georgia. Fantastic guy. But I'd see six, seven, eight people for a certain position. Everybody wanted it.

But I met Mike Pompeo, and it was the only guy I met. I didn’t want to meet anybody else. I said, cancel everybody else. Cancel. Now, he was approved, essentially, but they're doing little political games with me. He was one of the three. Now, last night, as you know, General Mattis, fantastic guy, and General Kelly got approved. (Applause.) And Mike Pompeo was supposed to be in that group. It was going to be the three of them. Can you imagine all of these guys? People respect -- you know, they respect that military sense. All my political people, they're not doing so well. The political people aren’t doing so well but you. We're going to get them all through, but some will take a little bit longer than others.

But Mike was literally -- I had a group of -- what, we had nine different people? Now, I must say, I didn’t mind cancelling eight appointments. That wasn’t the worst thing in the world. But I met him and I said, he is so good. Number one in his class at West Point.

Now, I know a lot about West Point. I'm a person that very strongly believes in academics. In fact, every time I say I had an uncle who was a great professor at MIT for 35 years who did a fantastic job in so many different ways, academically -- was an academic genius -- and then they say, is Donald Trump an intellectual? Trust me, I'm like a smart persona. (Laughter.) And I recognized immediately. So he was number one at West Point, and he was also essentially number one at Harvard Law School. And then he decided to go into the military. And he ran for Congress. And everything he's done has been a homerun. People like him, but much more importantly to me, everybody respects him. And when I told Paul Ryan that I wanted to do this, I would say he may be the only person that was not totally thrilled -- right, Mike? Because he said, I don’t want to lose this guy.

But you will be getting a total star. You're going to be getting a total gem. He's a gem. (Applause.) You'll see. You'll see. And many of you know him anyway. But you're going to see. And again, we have some great people going in. But this one is something -- is going to be very special, because this is one, if I had to name the most important, this would certainly be perhaps -- you know, in certain ways, you could say my most important. You do the job like everybody in this room is capable of doing. And the generals are wonderful, and the fighting is wonderful. But if you give them the right direction, boy, does the fighting become easier. And, boy, do we lose so fewer lives, and win so quickly. And that's what we have to do. We have to start winning again.

You know, when I was young and when I was -- of course, I feel young. I feel like I'm 30, 35, 39. (Laughter.) Somebody said, are you young? I said, I think I'm young. You know, I was stopping -- when we were in the final month of that campaign, four stops, five stops, seven stops. Speeches, speeches, in front of 25,000, 30,000 people, 15,000, 19,000 from stop to stop. I feel young.

When I was young -- and I think we're all sort of young. When I was young, we were always winning things in this country. We'd win with trade. We'd win with wars. At a certain age, I remember hearing from one of my instructors, "The United States has never lost a war." And then, after that, it's like we haven’t won anything. We don’t win anymore. The old expression, "to the victor belong the spoils" -- you remember. I always used to say, keep the oil. I wasn’t a fan of Iraq. I didn’t want to go into Iraq. But I will tell you, when we were in, we got out wrong. And I always said, in addition to that, keep the oil. Now, I said it for economic reasons. But if you think about it, Mike, if we kept the oil you probably wouldn’t have ISIS because that's where they made their money in the first place. So we should have kept the oil. But okay. (Laughter.) Maybe you'll have another chance. But the fact is, should have kept the oil.

I believe that this group is going to be one of the most important groups in this country toward making us safe, toward making us winners again, toward ending all of the problems. We have so many problems that are interrelated that we don’t even think of, but interrelated to the kind of havoc and fear that this sick group of people has caused. So I can only say that I am with you 1,000 percent.

And the reason you're my first stop is that, as you know, I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on Earth. (Laughter and applause.) And they sort of made it sound like I had a feud with the intelligence community. And I just want to let you know, the reason you're the number-one stop is exactly the opposite -- exactly. And they understand that, too.

And I was explaining about the numbers. We did a thing yesterday at the speech. Did everybody like the speech? (Applause.) I've been given good reviews. But we had a massive field of people. You saw them. Packed. I get up this morning, I turn on one of the networks, and they show an empty field. I say, wait a minute, I made a speech. I looked out, the field was -- it looked like a million, million and a half people. They showed a field where there were practically nobody standing there. And they said, Donald Trump did not draw well. I said, it was almost raining, the rain should have scared them away, but God looked down and he said, we're not going to let it rain on your speech.

In fact, when I first started, I said, oh, no. The first line, I got hit by a couple of drops. And I said, oh, this is too bad, but we'll go right through it. But the truth is that it stopped immediately. It was amazing. And then it became really sunny. And then I walked off and it poured right after I left. It poured. But, you know, we have something that's amazing because we had -- it looked -- honestly, it looked like a million and a half people. Whatever it was, it was. But it went all the way back to the Washington Monument. And I turn on -- and by mistake I get this network, and it showed an empty field. And it said we drew 250,000 people. Now, that's not bad, but it's a lie. We had 250,000 people literally around -- you know, in the little bowl that we constructed. That was 250,000 people. The rest of the 20-block area, all the way back to the Washington Monument, was packed. So we caught them, and we caught them in a beauty. And I think they're going to pay a big price.

We had another one yesterday, which was interesting. In the Oval Office there's a beautiful statue of Dr. Martin Luther King. And I also happen to like Churchill, Winston Churchill. I think most of us like Churchill. He doesn’t come from our country, but had a lot to do with it. Helped us; real ally. And, as you know, the Churchill statue was taken out -- the bust. And as you also probably have read, the Prime Minister is coming over to our country very shortly. And they wanted to know whether or not I'd like it back. I say, absolutely, but in the meantime we have a bust of Churchill.

So a reporter for Time magazine -- and I have been on their cover, like, 14 or 15 times. I think we have the all-time record in the history of Time Magazine. Like, if Tom Brady is on the cover, it's one time, because he won the Super Bowl or something, right? (Laughter.) I've been on it for 15 times this year. I don’t think that's a record, Mike, that can ever be broken. Do you agree with that? What do you think?

But I will say that they said -- it was very interesting -- that Donald Trump took down the bust, the statue, of Dr. Martin Luther King. And it was right there. But there was a cameraman that was in front of it. (Laughter.) So Zeke -- Zeke from Time Magazine writes a story about I took down. I would never do that because I have great respect for Dr. Martin Luther King. But this is how dishonest the media is.

Now, the big story -- the retraction was, like, where? Was it a line? Or do they even bother putting it in? So I only like to say that because I love honesty. I like honest reporting.

I will tell you, final time -- although I will say it, when you let in your thousands of other people that have been trying to come in -- because I am coming back -- we're going to have to get you a larger room. (Applause.) We may have to get you a larger room. You know? And maybe, maybe, it will be built by somebody that knows how to build, and we won't have columns. (Laughter.) You understand that? (Applause.) We get rid of the columns.

No, I just wanted to really say that I love you, I respect you. There's nobody I respect more. You're going to do a fantastic job. And we're going to start winning again, and you're going to be leading the charge.

So thank you all very much. (Applause.) Thank you -- you're beautiful. Thank you all very much. Have a good time. I'll be back. I'll be back. Thank you.

"ISIS is making a tremendous amount of money because of the oil that they took away, they have some in Syria, they have some in Iraq, I would bomb the shit out of them.

I would just bomb those suckers, and that’s right, I’d blow up the pipes, I’d blow up the refineries, I’d blow up ever single inch, there would be nothing left.

And you know what, you’ll get Exxon to come in there, and in two months, you ever see these guys? How good they are, the great oil companies, they’ll rebuild it brand new … And I’ll take the oil."
Well, again, January 21st, 2017 to the CIA: "So we should have kept the oil. But okay. (Laughter.) Maybe you'll have another chance. But the fact is, should have kept the oil."

"Maybe you'll have another chance"?

Can anyone state with any confidence in what Donald Trump truly believes (other than His Own Greatness)?


"I Alone Can Solve..."

"Look, having nuclear—my uncle was a great professor and scientist and engineer, Dr. John Trump at MIT; good genes, very good genes, OK, very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart—you know, if you’re a conservative Republican, if I were a liberal, if, like, OK, if I ran as a liberal Democrat, they would say I'm one of the smartest people anywhere in the world—it’s true!—but when you're a conservative Republican they try—oh, do they do a number—that’s why I always start off: Went to Wharton, was a good student, went there, went there, did this, built a fortune—you know I have to give my like credentials all the time, because we’re a little disadvantaged—but you look at the nuclear deal, the thing that really bothers me—it would have been so easy, and it’s not as important as these lives are (nuclear is powerful; my uncle explained that to me many, many years ago, the power and that was 35 years ago; he would explain the power of what's going to happen and he was right—who would have thought?), but when you look at what's going on with the four prisoners—now it used to be three, now it’s four—but when it was three and even now, I would have said it's all in the messenger; fellas, and it is fellas because, you know, they don't, they haven’t figured that the women are smarter right now than the men, so, you know, it’s gonna take them about another 150 years—but the Persians are great negotiators, the Iranians are great negotiators, so, and they, they just killed, they just killed us."
Just try to diagram that.

Below, a Trump Department of Edukashun nominee tweet.

Is it too early to start drinking?

...From last Saturday through Tuesday night, it’s been one surreal event after another, starting with Trump’s visit to the CIA headquarters where he stood in front of the Memorial Wall — marked with 117 stars honoring agents who have died in the line of duty — and acted like he was at a rally in a high school gym in Indiana.

He didn’t seem to have a clue that he was being inappropriate. He compounded the bad impression by sending out his press secretary Sean Spicer to insist that the crowd for his inauguration was bigger than any in history. When Kellyanne Conway defended Spicer by saying he had simply offered “alternative facts,” members of the media were stunned. It’s not that they assume officials always tell the truth. But they were clearly shocked that the White House would chastise them for reporting something that was obviously and provably correct.

When the president was reported to have told congressional leaders on Monday that he still believed 3 million to 5 million illegal votes had been cast in the election, causing him to lose the popular vote to Hillary Clinton, it became clear that Trump’s erratic behavior was not stopping. Leaks have been pouring out from inside the nascent administration, giving a picture of an insecure, irrational man who is obsessed with his image and little else...
- Heather Digby Parton

As reported by Matthew Rozsa:

"President Donald Trump held his first televised network interview since being elected, when he sat down with ABC News’ David Muir on Wednesday night..."
...So, I went to the CIA, my first step. I have great respect for the people in intelligence and CIA. I’m — I don’t have a lot of respect for, in particular one of the leaders. But that’s okay. But I have a lot of respect for the people in the CIA.

That speech was a home run. That speech, if you look at Fox, OK, I’ll mention you — we see what Fox said. They said it was one of the great speeches. They showed the people applauding and screaming and — and they were all CIA. There was — somebody was asking Sean — “Well, were they Trump people that were put—” we don’t have Trump people. They were CIA people.

That location was given to me. Mike Pence went up before me, paid great homage to the wall. I then went up, paid great homage to the wall. I then spoke to the crowd. I got a standing ovation. In fact, they said it was the biggest standing ovation since Peyton Manning had won the Super Bowl and they said it was equal. I got a standing ovation. It lasted for a long period of time. What you do is take — take out your tape — you probably ran it live. I know when I do good speeches. I know when I do bad speeches. That speech was a total home run. They loved it.”
Does not bode well for the future of humanity.


President Trump convenes a meeting to "commemorate" Black History Month. Transcript:
Well, the election, it came out really well. Next time we’ll triple the number or quadruple it. We want to get it over 51, right? At least 51.

Well this is Black History Month, so this is our little breakfast, our little get-together. Hi Lynn, how are you? Just a few notes. During this month, we honor the tremendous history of African-Americans throughout our country. Throughout the world, if you really think about it, right? And their story is one of unimaginable sacrifice, hard work, and faith in America. I’ve gotten a real glimpse—during the campaign, I’d go around with Ben to a lot of different places I wasn’t so familiar with. They’re incredible people. And I want to thank Ben Carson, who’s gonna be heading up HUD. That’s a big job. That’s a job that’s not only housing, but it’s mind and spirit. Right, Ben? And you understand, nobody’s gonna be better than Ben.

Last month, we celebrated the life of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., whose incredible example is unique in American history. You read all about Dr. Martin Luther King a week ago when somebody said I took the statue out of my office. It turned out that that was fake news. Fake news. The statue is cherished, it’s one of the favorite things in the—and we have some good ones. We have Lincoln, and we have Jefferson, and we have Dr. Martin Luther King. But they said the statue, the bust of Martin Luther King, was taken out of the office. And it was never even touched. So I think it was a disgrace, but that’s the way the press is. Very unfortunate.

I am very proud now that we have a museum on the National Mall where people can learn about Reverend King, so many other things. Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I noticed. Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and millions more black Americans who made America what it is today. Big impact.

I’m proud to honor this heritage and will be honoring it more and more. The folks at the table in almost all cases have been great friends and supporters. Darrell—I met Darrell when he was defending me on television. And the people that were on the other side of the argument didn’t have a chance, right? And Paris has done an amazing job in a very hostile CNN community. He’s all by himself. You’ll have seven people, and Paris. And I’ll take Paris over the seven. But I don’t watch CNN, so I don’t get to see you as much as I used to. I don’t like watching fake news. But Fox has treated me very nice. Wherever Fox is, thank you.

We’re gonna need better schools and we need them soon. We need more jobs, we need better wages, a lot better wages. We’re gonna work very hard on the inner city. Ben is gonna be doing that, big league. That’s one of the big things that you’re gonna be looking at. We need safer communities and we’re going to do that with law enforcement. We’re gonna make it safe. We’re gonna make it much better than it is right now. Right now it’s terrible, and I saw you talking about it the other night, Paris, on something else that was really—you did a fantastic job the other night on a very unrelated show.

I’m ready to do my part, and I will say this: We’re gonna work together. This is a great group, this is a group that’s been so special to me. You really helped me a lot. If you remember I wasn’t going to do well with the African-American community, and after they heard me speaking and talking about the inner city and lots of other things, we ended up getting—and I won’t go into details—but we ended up getting substantially more than other candidates who had run in the past years. And now we’re gonna take that to new levels. I want to thank my television star over here—Omarosa’s actually a very nice person, nobody knows that. I don’t want to destroy her reputation but she’s a very good person, and she’s been helpful right from the beginning of the campaign, and I appreciate it. I really do. Very special.

So I want to thank everybody for being here.
Okeee Dokeee, then...


TRUMP: Thank you, Mark. So nice.
Thank you very much, thank you.

Thank you very much, it's a great honor to be here this morning. And so many faith leaders -- very, very important people to me -- from across our magnificent nation, and so many leaders from all across the globe. Today we continue a tradition begun by President Eisenhower some 64 years ago.
This gathering is a testament to the power of faith and is one of the great customs of our nation. And I hope to be here seven more times with you.
I want very much to thank our co-chair Senator Boozman and Senator Coons. And all of the congressional leadership; they're all over the place. We have a lot of very distinguished guests. And we have one guest who was just sworn in last night, Rex Tillerson, secretary of state.
Gonna do a great job.
Some people didn't like Rex because he actually got along with leaders of the world. I said, no, you have to understand that's a good thing. That's a good thing, not a bad thing. He's respected all over the world and I think he's going to go down as one of our great, great secretaries.
We appreciate it.
Thank you, thank you, Rex.
Thank you as well to Senate Chaplain Barry Black, for his moving words. And I don't know Chaplain whether or not that's an appointed position -- is that an appointed position? I don't even know if you're Democrat or if you're Republican, but I'm appointing you for another year, the hell with it.
And I think it's not even my appointment, it's the Senate's appointment, but we'll talk to them. You're very -- you're -- your son is here. Your job is very, very secure. OK?
Thank you, Barry. Appreciate it very much.
I also want to thank my great friends the Roma. Where's Roma, beautiful Roma Downey, the voice of an angel. She's got the voice -- every time I hear that voice; it's so beautiful. That -- everything is so beautiful about Roma, including her husband because he's a special, special friend. Mark Burnett for the wonderful introduction.
So true, so true. I said to the agent, I'm sorry, the only thing wrong -- I actually got on the phone and fired him myself because he said, you don't want to do it, it'll never work, it'll never, ever work, you don't want to do it. I said, listen.
When I really fired him after it became the number one show, it became so successful and he wanted a commission and he didn't want to this.\
That's when I really said -- but we had tremendous success on The Apprentice. And when I ran for president, I had to leave the show. That's when I knew for sure that I was doing it. And they hired a big, big movie star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to take my place. And we know how that turned out.
The ratings went down the tubes. It's been a total disaster and Mark will never, ever bet against Trump again. And I want to just pray for Arnold if we can, for those ratings, OK?
But we've had an amazing life together the last 14, 15 years. And a -- an outstanding man and thank you very much for introducing. Appreciate it. It's a great honor.
TRUMP: I also want to thank my dear friend, Vice President Mike Pence, who has been incredible.
And incredible wife, Karen.
And every time I was in a little trouble with something where they were questioning me, they'd say, "But he picked Mike Pence."
"So he has to know what he's doing."
And it's true, he's been -- you know on the scale of zero to 10, I rate him a 12, OK?
So I wanna thank you, thank you very much, appreciate it.
But most importantly, today I wanna thank the American people. Your faith and prayers have sustained me and inspired me through some very, very tough times. All around America, I have met amazing people whose words of worship and encouragement have been a constant source of strength.
What I hear most often as I travel the country are five words that never, ever fail to touch my heart, that's "I am praying for you." I hear it so often, I am praying for you, Mr. President.
No one has inspired me more in my travels than the families of the United States military. Men and women who have put their lives on the line everyday for their country and their countrymen. I just came back yesterday, from Dover Air Force Base, to join the family of Chief William "Ryan" Owens as America's fallen hero was returned home.
Very, very sad, but very, very beautiful, very, very beautiful. His family was there, incredible family, loved him so much, so devastated, he was so devastated, but the ceremony was amazing. He died in defense of our nation. He gave his life in defense of our people. Our debt to him and our debt to his family is eternal and everlasting. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
We will never forget the men and women who wear the uniform, believe me.
Thank you.
From generation to generation, their vigilance has kept our liberty alive. Our freedom is won by their sacrifice and our security has been earned with their sweat and blood and tears. God has blessed this land to give us such incredible heroes and patriots. They are very, very special and we are going to take care of them.
Our soldiers understand that what matters is not party or ideology or creed, but the bonds of loyalty that link us all together as one. America is a nation of believers. In towns all across our land, it's plain to see what we easily forget -- so easily we forget this, that the quality of our lives is not defined by our material success, but by our spiritual success.
I will tell you that and I tell you that from somebody that has had material success and knows tremendous numbers of people with great material success, the most material success. Many of those people are very, very miserable, unhappy people.
And I know a lot of people without that, but they have great families. They have great faith; they don't have money, at least, not nearly to the extent. And they're happy. Those, to me, are the successful people, I have to tell you.
TRUMP: I was blessed to be raised in a churched home. My mother and father taught me that to whom much is given, much is expected. I was sworn in on the very Bible from which my mother would teach us as young children, and that faith lives on in my heart every single day.
The people in this room come from many, many backgrounds. You represent so many religions and so many views. But we are all united by our faith, in our creator and our firm knowledge that we are all equal in His eyes. We are not just flesh and bone and blood, we are human beings with souls. Our republic was formed on the basis that freedom is not a gift from government, but that freedom is a gift from God.
It was the great Thomas Jefferson who said, the God who gave us life, gave us liberty. Jefferson asked, can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God. Among those freedoms is the right to worship according to our own beliefs. That is why I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution. I will do that, remember.
Freedom of religion is a sacred right, but it is also a right under threat all around us, and the world is under serious, serious threat in so many different ways. And I've never seen it so much and so openly as since I took the position of president.
The world is in trouble, but we're going to straighten it out. OK? That's what I do. I fix things. We're going to straighten it out.
Believe me. When you hear about the tough phone calls I'm having, don't worry about it. Just don't worry about it. They're tough. We have to tough. It's time we're going to be a little tough folks. We're taking advantage of by every nation in the world virtually. It's not going to happen anymore. It's not going to happen anymore. We have seen unimaginable violence carried out in the name of religion. Acts of wantonness (ph) (inaudible) just minorities. Horrors on a scale that defy description.
Terrorism is a fundamental threat to religious freedom. It must be stopped and it will be stopped. It may not be pretty for a little while. It will be stopped. We have seen...
And by the way, General, as you know James "Mad Dog", shouldn't say it in this room, Mattis, now there's a reason they call him "Mad Dog" Mattis, never lost a battle, always wins them, and always wins them fast. He's our new secretary of Defense, will be working with Rex. He's right now in South Korea, going to Japan, going to some other spots. I'll tell you what, I've gotten to know him really well. He's the real deal. We have somebody who's the real deal working for us and that's what we need. So, you watch. You just watch.
Things will be different. We have seen peace loving Muslims brutalize, victimize, murdered and oppressed by ISIS killers. We have seen threats of extermination against the Jewish people. We have seen a campaign of ISIS and genocide against Christians, where they cut of heads. Not since the Middle Ages have we seen that. We haven't seen that, the cutting off of heads. Now they cut off the heads, they drown people in steel cages. Haven't seen this. I haven't seen this. Nobody's seen this for many, many years.
TRUMP: All nations have a moral obligation to speak out against such violence. All nations have a duty to work together to confront it and to confront it viciously if we have to.
So I want to express clearly today, to the American people, that my administration will do everything in its power to defend and protect religious liberty in our land. America must forever remain a tolerant society where all face are respected and where all of our citizens can feel safe and secure.
We have to feel safe and secure. In recent days, we have begun to take necessary action to achieve that goal. Our nation has the most generous immigration system in the world. But these are those and there are those that would exploit that generosity to undermine the values that we hold so dear.
We need security.
There are those who would seek to enter our country for the purpose of spreading violence, or oppressing other people based upon their faith or their lifestyle, not right. We will not allow a beachhead of intolerance to spread in our nation. You look all over the world and you see what's happening.
So in the coming days, we will develop a system to help ensure that those admitted into our country fully embrace our values of religious and personal liberty. And that they reject any form of oppression and discrimination. We want people to come into our nation, but we want people to love us and to love our values, not to hate us and to hate our values.
We will be a safe country, we will be a free country and we will be a country where all citizens can practice their beliefs without fear of hostility or a fear of violence. America will flourish, as long as our liberty, and in particular, our religious liberty is allowed to flourish.
America will succeed, as long as our most vulnerable citizens -- and we have some that are so vulnerable -- have a path to success. And America will thrive, as long as we continue to have faith in each other and faith in God.
That faith in God has inspired men and women to sacrifice for the needy, to deploy to wars overseas and to lock arms at home, to ensure equal rights for every man, woman and child in our land. It's that faith that sent the pilgrims across the oceans, the pioneers across the plains and the young people all across America, to chase their dreams. They are chasing their dreams. We are going to bring those dreams back.
As long as we have God, we are never, ever alone. Whether it's the soldier on the night watch, or the single parent on the night shift, God will always give us solace and strength, and comfort. We need to carry on and to keep carrying on.
For us here in Washington, we must never, ever stop asking God for the wisdom to serve the public, according to his will. That's why...
Thank you.
That's why President Eisenhower and Senator Carlson had the wisdom to gather together 64 years ago, to begin this truly great tradition. But that's not all they did together. Lemme tell you the rest of the story.
Just one year later, Senator Carlson was among the members of Congress to send to the president's desk a joint resolution that added, "Under God," to our Pledge of Allegiance. It's a great thing.
Because that's what we are and that is what we will always be and that is what our people want; one beautiful nation, under God.
Thank you, God bless you and God bless America. Thank you very much. Thank you.
Thank you.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The 7.9% Solution

On the yet-again looming federal shutdown and national debt standoff

The U.S. House and Senate comprise 535 members. 42 divided by 535 = roughly 7.9%

The "House Freedom Caucus" consists of ~42 right-wing House of Representatives zealots who have announced that they explicitly intend to shut the federal government down and default on the national debt if "necessary" next month in order to extort their way to their radical goals of things like defunding Planned Parenthood (and eliminating womens' reproductive rights more broadly) and trying yet again to kill "Obamacare" (and whatever else they don't like). They are now melodramatically obstructing the GOP effort to replace John Boehner as House Speaker, demanding that any successor share THEIR extremist minority view 100%.
The narcissistic chutzpah of these people is rich. They call themselves "principled." The salient "principle," though, is one of a my-way-or-the-highway absolutism. Indeed, they openly argue that political "compromise" is the cardinal Dirty Word, one they simply will not brook. There's a word for this. That word is not "democracy."
Let's be very clear here: While "defunding" and transiently shutting down the government by failing to pass budget legislation is a political act within the bounds of tripartite government (notwithstanding its inanity), intentionally defaulting on the public debt is a separate and explicit Constitutional violation of legislative branch members' Oaths of office -- notwithstanding the GOP extremists' conflating attempt to glom it all together. to wit,

Section 4 of the 14th Amendment declares that "the validity of the public debt shall not be questioned." Section 5 subsequently states that the Congress has the sole responsibility over this question.

More broadly, as set forth in Article I, Sections 7 and 8, only Congress has the authority to appropriate funds and levy taxes. They can appropriate funds by raising taxes and/or borrowing from the private credit markets in the name of the nation. If they choose the latter, they are required to see to it that payment is always honored, even should that mean raising taxes or cutting other program expenditures. Neither the President not the Supreme Court has any Constitutional authority here. Should honoring the public debt require a presidential veto override, so be it. Muster the requisite votes. Should it require taking out "poison pill" provisions in order to pass debt service legislation, so be it. Those are among the legitimate mechanics of governance, in this case devolving to the Congress and no other entity.

The "poison pill" demands of the "House Freedom Caucus" in this public debt matter are simply extortion. There is no other word for it. Extortion is a crime. That it is now being perpetrated under cover of elected office makes it no less so.

Google "House Freedom Caucus." There's a Wiki page right at the top of the search results. These 42 domestic political terrorists all have names and contact info. You can bet they'll be hearing from me. All of them.

You think defaulting on the federal debt won't affect you? You fucking better think again. You have a 401k or IRA? Those are the first places you'll see the adverse effects. They will neither be trivial nor short-lived.

Interest rates would go up significantly across the board (with the inflationary upshot that would ensue), and unemployment will again worsen as the effects ripple out. The debilitating worldwide economic effects will dog us for years.

Last time I checked, 7.9% did not constitute majority rule. Last time I checked, defaulting on the national debt was still a violation of the Constitution by those sworn to uphold it, by those who have the only Constitutional authority to deal with it lawfully.

You should be acutely pissed by these preening, disingenuous derelictions. You should take action. This is not a joke.

There. I fixed their Twitter logo.


I know that a lot of this is just "who will blink first?" brinksmanship, but this time there is an element outright nihilism here. But, again, whatever you think about Planned Parenthood, using it as a weapon with the threat of default is extortion, pure and simple. If we want to defund Planned Parenthood (or any other federal program), that is entirely within the legitimate purview of Congress. But honoring the national debt is not a topic for horsetrading. That's not just my opinion, it's the plain text reading of the relevant provisions of the Constitution.

Monday, September 7, 2015



I am always amused (albeit rather irascibly so) by the maudlin Irony-Free Zone spectacle of “social conservative” Wingnuttia, with their legions of Perpetually Indignant news camera-loving lawyers racing off to the courts at the drop of a bigot’s bleat or besmirched Bible verse, their fine leather valises bulging at the clasps with myriad War and Peace-length amicus “briefs” purporting to drill down into the ostensibly inscrutable import of the placement of a comma, or the presence of the conjunctive “and,” or the plain text meaning of a Constitutional clause or expression of "legislative intent."

Two summary observations: [1] It necessarily follows that doing so validates the due process legitimacy of the Judiciary as a component of lawful governance. All part of the “checks and balances” system we otherwise take pains to laud when it suits us.

In an adult world, you don’t get to come out to the press conference mics in the wake of an adverse decision to pound the lectern and stammer on poignantly about the “Judicial Tyranny” of X number of "Unelected Judges,” adolescently invoking the apparition of Adolf for icing on the toxic red herring rhetorical cake for inflammatory, dog-whistling media effect.

You win some, you lose some. Deal with it. Libeling the judiciary via the Hitler Card is not dealing with it.

[2] Notwithstanding that it’s tiresome to have to keep pointing this out, ours is predominantly a federated “representative democracy” — a “republic.” We do not, in the main, govern by the plebiscite du jour. We elect and appoint people to vote and govern in our proxy, with concomitant provisions for their removal from office should they fail us egregiously. You can in fact “throw the bums out” should the need and sufficient body politic impetus obtain.

Moreover, as it pertains to those having been “appointed” to their offices — specifically our federal jurists apropos of this argument, they too have typically been vetted via multistage recursive majority vote proceedings, all the way from local bar association nominating committees to state bars to the ABA and finally, to Senate Judiciary Committees, ultimately culminating in the majority confirmation vote of a full Senate. Once confirmed and sworn, our jurists go on to decide and rule by (proxy) majority vote.

That this basic element of iterative majority-rule representative democracy escapes the gullible and willing prey of the demagogue and the political grifter in no way nullifies its lawful propriety and necessity. People need to grow up. You head to court, by that act you are making the statement that the court is legit. You don’t get to disavow that affirmation post hoc when a venue-specific lawful majority outcome is not to your liking.

Notice how the complaint is always voiced against "Five Unelected Judges." Not "nine." Opprobrium only goes to those who vote in ways you don't like.


From a Fox News segment in which Fox legal analysts wholeheartedly derided the claims made by the "Liberty Counsel" attorneys regarding their now-jailed-for-Contempt Kentucky marriage equality scofflaw client Kim Davis.

When you've even lost Fox, you know your schtick has no merit.

With respect to the controlling SCOTUS merits of the Kim Davis debacle:

[May 30, 2006] 
on writ of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the ninth circuit Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion of the Court.
It is well settled that “a State cannot condition public employment on a basis that infringes the employee’s constitutionally protected interest in freedom of expression.” Connick v. Myers, 461 U. S. 138, 142 (1983) . The question presented by the instant case is whether the First Amendment protects a government employee from discipline based on speech made pursuant to the employee’s official duties...

When a citizen enters government service, the citizen by necessity must accept certain limitations on his or her freedom. See, e.g., Waters v. Churchill, 511 U. S. 661, 671 (1994) (plurality opinion) (“[T]he government as employer indeed has far broader powers than does the government as sovereign”). Government employers, like private employers, need a significant degree of control over their employees’ words and actions; without it, there would be little chance for the efficient provision of public services. Cf. Connick, supra, at 143 (“[G]overnment offices could not function if every employment decision became a constitutional matter”). Public employees, moreover, often occupy trusted positions in society. When they speak out, they can express views that contravene governmental policies or impair the proper performance of governmental functions.

At the same time, the Court has recognized that a citizen who works for the government is nonetheless a citizen. The First Amendment limits the ability of a public employer to leverage the employment relationship to restrict, incidentally or intentionally, the liberties employees enjoy in their capacities as private citizens. See Perry v. Sindermann, 408 U. S. 593, 597 (1972) . So long as employees are speaking as citizens about matters of public concern, they must face only those speech restrictions that are necessary for their employers to operate efficiently and effectively. See, e.g., Connick, supra, at 147 (“Our responsibility is to ensure that citizens are not deprived of fundamental rights by virtue of working for the government”)...

Ceballos did not act as a citizen when he went about conducting his daily professional activities, such as supervising attorneys, investigating charges, and preparing filings. In the same way he did not speak as a citizen by writing a memo that addressed the proper disposition of a pending criminal case. When he went to work and performed the tasks he was paid to perform, Ceballos acted as a government employee. The fact that his duties sometimes required him to speak or write does not mean his supervisors were prohibited from evaluating his performance...

We reject ... the notion that the First Amendment shields from discipline the expressions employees make pursuant to their professional duties. Our precedents do not support the existence of a constitutional cause of action behind every statement a public employee makes in the course of doing his or her job.
"We reject the notion that the First Amendment shields from discipline the expressions employees make pursuant to their professional duties."
The lawful and proper discipline here is incarceration until the offender decides to no longer be in Contempt. She holds the cell door key in her own hands.


Kim Davis is campaign and marketing a tool of presidential candidate Mike Huckabee (above, left) and lawyer Mat Staver (above, right) of the 501(c)(3) "charitable non-profit" "Liberty Counsel." Staver appeared onstage with Huckabee on Sept 8th at Davis's jail release party during which Huckabee explicitly promoted his candidacy. That is a direct violation of IRS 501(c)(3) restrictions. That it used the conflated cover of Liberty Counsel's "pro bono legal services" accorded the anti-marriage equality scofflaw Kim Davis matters not one whit.

Liberty Counsel is located in Orlando, FL. Its two lawyer Principals are Staver (Chairman) and his wife Anita (President). They call their neat-o little family business a "Christian Ministry."

From their "About Us" web page:

"Recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) organization, this Christian ministry is funded by tax-deductible donations from concerned individuals, churches, businesses, foundations and other organizations."

Last year they paid themselves $317,087 in direct compensation (plus expenses, we can be sure). Of the roughly $4.1 million in gross revenue (from "contributions and grants"), they list about $1.3 million in "salaries and benefits," and ~$2.5 million in "other expenses. They list a number of "independent contractors" to to whom they paid about $1.6 million. I will be looking into whether they have any financial stake in those.

Under wholly-owned "related tax-exempt organizations on their 2014 Form 990 " they list six organizations; two more 501(c)(3)'s, three 501(c)(4)'s and a 527 PAC. They also list three directly and wholly controlled "trusts."

This is a money laundromat.

cc: Internal Revenue Service



Anita Staver. The Twitter avatar of Liberty Counsel President and wife of Founder and Chairman Mat Staver. How tasteful and  "Christian."

From the Wiki:
Liberty Counsel is headed by attorney Mathew D. Staver, who founded the legal ministry with his wife, Anita, in 1989 and currently serves as president. A close partnership exists between Liberty University, which was founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell, and Liberty Counsel; Staver served as Liberty University's law school dean from 2006 to 2014. In 2004, Liberty Counsel became affiliated with Liberty University/Falwell Ministries and Liberty Counsel opened an office at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia...
Liberty Counsel supports barring people from the military on the basis of "homosexual activity." Liberty Counsel opposes efforts to prohibit employment discrimination against gay workers. The organization further opposes 'the addition of "sexual orientation," "gender identity" or similar provisions' to hate crimes legislation. In 2005 the Southern Poverty Law Center listed the Liberty Counsel as one of twelve groups comprising an "anti-gay crusade" and in April 2014 added the Liberty Counsel to its list of active anti-gay hate groups. Liberty Counsel also devotes its time to fighting against same-sex marriage, civil unions, and adoption by gay people.
501(c)(3). A "charity."

Monday, August 31, 2015

On Donald Trump®

"Someone who lies and someone who tells the truth are playing on opposite sides, so to speak, in the same game. Each responds to the facts as he understands them, although the response of the one is guided by the authority of the truth, while the response of the other defies that authority and refuses to meet its demands. The bullshitter ignores these demands altogether. He does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it. He pays no attention to it at all. By virtue of this, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are...

Why is there so much bullshit? Of course it is impossible to be sure that there is relatively more of it nowadays than at other times. There is more communication of all kinds in our time than ever before, but the proportion that is bullshit may not have increased. Without assuming that the incidence of bullshit is actually greater now, I will mention a few considerations that help to account for the fact that it is currently so great. Bullshit is unavoidable whenever circumstances require someone to talk without knowing what he is talking about. Thus the production of bullshit is stimulated whenever a person’s obligations or opportunities to speak about some topic exceed his knowledge of the facts that are relevant to that topic. This discrepancy is common in public life, where people are frequently impelled—whether by their own propensities or by the demands of others—to speak extensively about matters of which they are to some degree ignorant. Closely related instances arise from the widespread conviction that it is the responsibility of a citizen in a democracy to have opinions about everything, or at least everything that pertains to the conduct of his country’s affairs. The lack of any significant connection between a person’s opinions and his apprehension of reality will be even more severe, needless to say, for someone who believes it his responsibility, as a conscientious moral agent, to evaluate events and conditions in all parts of the world…

The contemporary proliferation of bullshit also has deeper sources, in various forms of skepticism which deny that we can have any reliable access to an objective reality, and which therefore reject the possibility of knowing how things truly are. These “antirealist” doctrines undermine confidence in the value of disinterested efforts to determine what is true and what is false, and even in the intelligibility of the notion of objective inquiry. One response to this loss of confidence has been a retreat from the discipline required by dedication to the ideal of correctness to a quite different sort of discipline, which is imposed by pursuit of an alternative ideal of sincerity. Rather than seeking primarily to arrive at accurate representations of a common world, the individual turns toward trying to provide honest representations of himself. Convinced that reality has no inherent nature, which he might hope to identify as the truth about things, he devotes himself to being true to his own nature. It is as though he decides that since it makes no sense to try to be true to the facts, he must therefore try instead to be true to himself."

Frankfurt, Harry G. (2009-01-10). On Bullshit (pp. 60-66). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.
"The bullshitter ignores these demands altogether. He does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it. He pays no attention to it at all. By virtue of this, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are."
Mr. Trump has attracted the nominal support of millions of frustrated, angry people for whom logical consistency, adherence to facts (and the difficulties involved in accurately discerning them), and acknowledgement of the complexities of life amid a world population of some seven billion contending people are simply irrelevant relative to their feelings of being left behind by our duplicitous, rapacious Elites. His brash confidence, putative "sincerity," and visible, garish evidence of "success" are all that matter.

Leadership expert Michael Maccoby:
No one pushes Trump around, and no insult goes unanswered. He fights back. He is not cautious or fearful of offending a critic or any of America’s adversaries. In this, Trump has a personality type that’s common to the charismatic leaders who emerge in times of turmoil and uncertainty, when people are ready to follow a strong leader who promises to lead them to greatness. Sigmund Freud called people with this personality type “normal narcissists” and he described them as independent and not vulnerable to intimidation, also noting that they have a large amount of aggressive energy and a bias for action. Freud included himself in this group and saw these narcissists as driven to lead and to change the world. Such narcissists can be very charming, and indeed, research has shown most of us like to follow narcissists.
An interesting, albeit troubling year awaits. The current front-runner in the GOP Primary season finds it mature, appropriate, and apparently effective thus far to obsessively use social media and the fawning mainstream media to publicly and crudely lambaste his political opponents and anyone else who dares criticize him, in unabashed adolescent fashion -- deploying the full arsenal of juvie epithets comprising his rhetorical bandiolier. He wears his lecherous misogyny proudly, and never passes up an opportunity to extol himself and his "wealth," while dismissively blowing off those who point up his myriad hypocrisies, inconsistencies, logical contradictions, and outright lies.

He continues to get away with all of it. An interesting year awaits, indeed.
"Convinced that reality has no inherent nature, which he might hope to identify as the truth about things, he devotes himself to being true to his own nature."

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A speculation on the "afterlife."


In the moment of transition between life and death, only one thing changes: you lose the momentum of the biochemical cycles that keep the machinery running. In the moment before death, you are still composed of the same thousand trillion trillion atoms as in the moment after death— the only difference is that their neighborly network of social interactions has ground to a halt. 

At that moment, the atoms begin to drift apart, no longer enslaved to the goals of keeping up a human form. The interacting pieces that once constructed your body begin to unravel like a sweater, each thread spiraling off in a different direction. Following your last breath, those thousand trillion trillion atoms begin to blend into the earth around you. As you degrade, your atoms become incorporated into new constellations: the leaf of a staghorn fern, a speckled snail shell, a kernel of maize, a beetle’s mandible, a waxen bloodroot, a ptarmigan’s tail feather. 

But it turns out your thousand trillion trillion atoms were not an accidental collection: each was labeled as composing you and continues to be so wherever it goes. So you’re not gone, you’re simply taking on different forms. Instead of your gestures being the raising of an eyebrow or a blown kiss, now a gesture might consist of a rising gnat, a waving wheat stalk, and the inhaling lung of a breaching beluga whale. Your manner of expressing joy might become a seaweed sheet playing on a lapping wave, a pendulous funnel dancing from a cumulonimbus, a flapping grunion birthing, a glossy river pebble gliding around an eddy. 

From your present clumped point of view, this afterlife may sound unnervingly distributed. But in fact it is wonderful. You can’t imagine the pleasure of stretching your redefined body across vast territories: ruffling your grasses and bending your pine branch and flexing an egret’s wings while pushing a crab toward the surface through coruscating shafts of light. Lovemaking reaches heights it could never dream of in the compactness of human corporality. Now you can communicate in many places along your bodies at once; you weave your versatile hands over your lover’s multiflorous figure. Your rivers run together. You move in concert as interdigitating creatures of the meadow, entangled vegetation bursting from the fields, caressing weather fronts that climax into thunderstorms.

 Just as in your current life, the downside is that you are always in flux. As creatures degrade and your fruits fall and rot, you become capable of new gestures and lose others. Your lover might drift away from you in the migratory flight of tropic birds, a receding stampede of wintering elk, or a creek that quietly pokes its head under the ground and pops up somewhere unknown to you. 

Many of your same problems apply: temptation, anguish, anger, distrust, vice— and don’t forget the dread arising from free choice. Don’t be fooled into believing that plants grow mechanically toward the sun, that birds choose their direction by instinct, that wildebeest migrate by design: in fact, everything is seeking. Your atoms can spread, but they cannot escape the search. A wide distribution does not shield you from wondering how best to spend your time. Once every few millennia, all your atoms pull together again, traveling from around the globe, like the leaders of nations uniting for a summit, converging for their densest reunion in the form of a human. They are driven by nostalgia to regroup into the tight pinpoint geometry in which they began. In this form they can relish a forgotten sense of holiday-like intimacy. They come together to search for something they once knew but didn’t appreciate at the time. 

The reunion is warm and heartening for a while, but it isn’t long before they begin to miss their freedom. In the form of a human the atoms suffer a claustrophobia of size: gestures are agonizingly limited, restricted to the foundering of tiny limbs. As a condensed human they cannot see around corners, they can only talk within short distances to the nearest ear, they cannot reach out to touch across any meaningful expanses. We are the moment of least facility for the atoms. And in this form, they find themselves longing to ascend mountains, wander the seas, and conquer the air, seeking to recapture the limitlessness they once knew.

Eagleman, David (2009-02-10). Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives (Kindle Locations 1009-1041). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. See also "Possibilianism."

On the cusp of the afterlife...

[Homage to Sir Thomas Browne]

Shall I tell you once more how it happens?

Even though you know, don’t you? You were born with the horror stamped upon you, like a fingerprint. All these years you have lived you have known. I but remind your memory, confirm the fear that has always been prime. Yet the facts have a force of their insolent own.

Wine is best made in a cellar, on a stone floor. Crush grapes in a barrel such that each grape is burst. When the barrel is three-quarters full, cover it with a fine-mesh cloth, and wait. In three days, an ear placed low over the mash will detect a faint crackling, which murmur, in two more days, rises to a continuous giggle. Only the rendering of fat or a forest fire far away makes such a sound. It is the song of fermentation! Remove the cloth and examine closely. The eye is startled by a bubble on the surface. Was it there and had it gone unnoticed? Or is it newly come?

But soon enough more beads gather in little colonies, winking and lining up at the brim. Stagnant fluid forms. It begins to turn. Slow currents carry bits of stem and grape meat on voyages of an inch or so. The pace quickens. The level rises. On the sixth day, the barrel is almost full. The teem must be poked down with a stick. The air of the cellar is dizzy with fruit flies and droplets of smell. On the seventh day, the fluid is racked into the second barrel for aging. It is wine.

Thus is the fruit of the earth taken, its flesh torn. Thus is it given over to standing, toward rot. It is the principle of corruption, the death of what is, the birth of what is to be. You are wine...

Dead, the body is somehow more solid, more massive. The shrink of dying is past. It is as though only moments before a wind had kept it aloft, and now, settled, it is only what it is— a mass, declaring itself, an ugly emphasis. Almost at once the skin changes color, from pink-highlighted yellow to gray-tinted blue. The eyes are open and lackluster; something, a bright dust, had been blown away, leaving the globes smoky . And there is an absolute limpness. Hours later, the neck and limbs are drawn up into a semiflexion, in the attitude of one who has just received a blow to the solar plexus.

One has...

Examine once more the eyes. How dull the cornea, this globe bereft of tension. Notice how the eyeball pits at the pressure of my fingernail. Whereas the front of your body is now drained of color, the back, upon which you rest, is found to be deeply violet. Even here, even now, gravity works upon the blood. In twenty-four hours, your untended body resumes its flaccidity, resigned to this everlasting posture.

You stay thus.

You do not die all at once. Some tissues live on for minutes, even hours, giving still their little cellular shrieks, molecular echoes of the agony of the whole corpus. Here and there a spray of nerves dances on. True, the heart stops; the blood no longer courses; the electricity of the brain sputters , then shuts down. Death is now pronounceable. But there are outposts where clusters of cells yet shine, besieged, little lights blinking in the advancing darkness. Doomed soldiers, they battle on. Until Death has secured the premises all to itself.

The silence, the darkness , is not for long. That which was for a moment dead leaps most sumptuously to life. There is a busyness gathering. It grows fierce.

There is to be a feast . The rich table has been set. The board groans. The guests have already arrived, numberless bacteria that had, in life, dwelt in saprophytic harmony with their host. Their turn now! Charged, they press against the membrane barriers, break through the new softness, sweep across plains of tissue, devouring, belching gas— a gas that puffs eyelids, cheeks, abdomen into bladders of murderous vapor. The slimmest man takes on the bloat of corpulence. Your swollen belly bursts with a ripping sound, followed by a long mean hiss.

And they are at large! Blisters appear upon the skin, enlarge, coalesce, blast, leaving brownish puddles in the declivities. You are becoming gravy. Arriving for the banquet late, of course, and all the more ravenous for it, are the twin sisters Calliphora and raucous Lucilia, the omnipresent greenbottle flies, their costumes metallic sequins. Their thousands of eggs are laid upon the meat, and soon the mass is wavy with the humped creamy backs of maggots nosing, crowding, hungrily absorbed. Gray sprays of fungus sprout in the resulting marinade, and there lacks only a mushroom growing from the nose.

At last— at last the bones appear, clean and white and dry. Reek and mangle abate; diminuendo the buzz and crawl. All, all is eaten. All is done. Hard endlessness is here even as the revelers abandon the skeleton.

You are alone, yet again.
Selzer, Richard (1996-04-15). Mortal Lessons: Notes on the Art of Surgery (Harvest Book) (Kindle Locations 1368-1483). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

Friday, September 12, 2014

SHS 1964: reflecting on our high school 50th reunion

I had a glorious time back in Somerville, NJ last week seeing so many of you former classmates and reminiscing about those long bygone 60's days. Hats off to those who planned and oversaw the fabulous events (link to my shots posted to Facebook here). 

I left home immediately after Commencement in 1964 (seriously bitten by the Rock 'n Roll bug, to the utter fury of my now-late Dad), and this was only my 3rd time back in New Jersey since leaving the state. I have had a busy, interesting, and fulfilling life, but I have to now admit to much regret that I never maintained friendships with my classmates. Feeling the loss now. You are an impressive bunch. I wish you all the very best going forward.

apropos, I wanted to share with you a book I just finished, Garret Keizer's amazing "Getting Schooled: The Re-Education of an American Teacher." Got it yesterday. Had to put the world on 'pause.'

I continue to be a lifelong learner. There remain more books I still have to read than there are hours in the day. I've been studying a lot of late on the myriad facets of learning and teaching (the pedagogy, the politics), mostly for my Health IT blog work as they pertain to the requisite elements for an adequately staffed and competent health care workforce.

"Getting Schooled" blew me away. It simply overflows throughout with elegant prose and humbling, reflective insight. I'd like to share just a bit with you. Highly recommended. Here's an excerpt from the close -- Commencement Day:
As in the past, I view commencement exercises as an act of penance for the sins of the teaching year. Not a full expiation, for sure, but at least an act of contrition. The lengthy monotony of the proceedings, the stifling heat of a gymnasium in mid-June, the oxygen deprivation that comes of sitting with hundreds of spectators in a scarcely ventilated space— what else besides a guilty conscience could keep a person coming year after year? Add to these the inevitable if unintended insult that comes of being publicly “thanked” for an education whose quality is thrown into doubt by every other sentence accompanying the thanks, the self-congratulatory tone and smug insider jokes of the valedictory speakers, the steady deflation of making the rounds afterward to congratulate students in whose eyes it’s clear that anything you might have meant to them or they to you is dissolving like a mirage. Most of all, the oppressive loneliness that is relieved only by remembering that any number of the students up on the dais are feeling lonelier still. At the conclusion of what many of them have repeatedly been assured are the best years of their lives— which in some cases will prove sadly true, the relative crappiness of those years notwithstanding— small wonder that more than a few of them will be stone drunk by nightfall.
Of course, there’s plenty to move even a jaded heart: the sight of kids who are the first in their families to graduate high school or the first to be going on for further study, the pride in their eyes and in the eyes fixed on them. The kids overcome with more emotion than the occasion would seem to warrant, as if this were their first encounter with transience. The kids who unashamedly give flowers to their mothers, embracing the only individuals in the world besides themselves who truly know how hard it was to get to this day and how close they came to not making it. The uncanny self-possession of those students who put their high school years in perspective a long time ago, who will go on to do the quiet useful work they’ve set their sights on all along, who will keep their yearbooks but not open them often, who have instinctively understood that life gives a person several true friends at most and who will remain true to their friends all their lives...

Had I been invited to speak at graduation, as teachers sometimes are, and had I accepted, what might I have said? Probably nothing too heavy. High school graduations are not the place for diatribes or manifestos. Neither are high school classrooms. I have always believed it is a teacher’s duty to teach the curriculum and not to pontificate, to inspire debates and not to settle doctrines. I did on one or two occasions tell my students that the society they were living in valued people of their age, region, and class primarily as cannon fodder, cheap labor, and gullible consumers and that education could give them some of the weapons necessary to fight back. Those things I did say, and I might have ventured at least that far in a graduation speech. I find myself wishing, though, that I had had a simple refrain, some terse slogan I could have repeated to my classes day after day, like the Roman senator Cato, who is supposed to have ended every speech by saying “Carthage must be destroyed.”

In fact, Cato’s refrain might have done nicely. As it happens, the people of Carthage worshipped the same god their Phoenician ancestors had, a Canaanite deity they called Moloch, whose signature burnt offering was the dearest thing his worshippers had. When the Romans eventually took Cato’s advice, they found within the walls of the doomed city a multitude of clay urns containing the tiny charred bones of children. The Romans worshipped their own version of Moloch, needless to say, as do we if our poets are to be believed. “Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone! Moloch whose soul is electricity and banks!” So wrote Allen Ginsberg when I was a mere three years old, half a century before the financial meltdown of 2007– 08, an unknown number of years before the last American soldier leaves Afghanistan.

Carthago delenda est. I couldn’t say that to kids without more explanation than I had time for and more trouble than my long-suffering hosts deserved, but at least I can say it to you. The sentimental hypocrisy that holds children to be our most precious resource even as every indicator from the conduct of foreign policy to the debate over guns puts them several notches down in value from the availability of cheap oil and the goodwill of the NRA—delenda est. The fatuous assurance that children are happiest when their parents behave as if no happiness matters so much as their own and that of their live-in lovers— delenda est. The two-headed effrontery of believing that equal opportunity in the society at large can be promoted merely by reforming schools and that schools can be reformed without radically transforming the structures of society— delenda est, both heads at a single stroke. 

And who better suited to wield the sword than we who are charged with giving our students a “head start” only so that— as one civil rights worker put it years ago— the most disadvantaged of them can run sooner into a brick wall? Who better than us to demand the wall’s destruction? May I live to see the day when a teachers’ strike is at the vanguard of a general strike. 
Till then, I have a room to straighten and grades to turn in. I have an inventory to complete. I have one last installment of my productivity rubric to enter on PowerSchool. I have a few scattered opportunities to tell a few drop-by visitors that I hope they’ll have a safe and happy summer...

Keizer, Garret (2014-08-05). Getting Schooled: The Reeducation of an American Teacher (pp. 288-293). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.

This dude can write!

On today's technology:
This fastidious obsession with visual resolution and digital sound, irrespective of the quality of the content depicted— what is it but the inevitable result of our gizmo-hawking market? Vacuity with special effects. We inculcate in our children the sensibilities of raccoons, a fascination with shiny objects and an appetite for garbage, and then carp about “the texting generation” as if thirteen- and fourteen-year-olds who couldn’t boil an egg are capable of creating a culture. They grow on what we feed them. It has never been otherwise. The only thing that changes is the food...
We sell the disease and we sell the cure, the carcinogenic chemical and the chemotherapy, the high-calorie soda and the exercise bike. We make kids illiterate by shrinking and/ or wiring their libraries; then we build wired support centers to teach the illiterates how to read. An iPad for the one and an iPad for the other, twice the profit from the same slick deal. I make it sound more conspiratorial than it is. In fact, it is the absence of conspiracy, of anything approaching a plan or vision, that yields these absurd results. A crapshoot is not a conspiracy, but as social policy it’s crap... [ibid, pp. 224-225]
One thing is clear from the outset: the biggest change in education since my departure from the classroom, bigger even than the place of technology in the curriculum, is the move toward uniform instruction. Students and teachers are obliged to be on the same page, or the same screen if you will, in terms of the “desired outcomes.” In many ways the changes are mutually supportive: the technology allows for greater standardization and oversight; it also provides the rationale for greater standardization and oversight. Our kids need to be prepared for the digital age and we need to be sure our teachers are preparing them.

Despite some strong misgivings— the “digital age” is not my god any more than the “global marketplace”— I want to work in concert with my colleagues. I want to do a good job. I recognize the dangers of the self-styled contrarian whose “different drummer” lesson plans amount to little more than a list of pet peeves and arbitrary waivers. I’ve met more than one English teacher, for example, who claimed that “writing can’t be taught” or that “grammar isn’t important.” At the same time, I’m not sure students are best served by a faculty of conformists, by teachers who are less shepherds than sheep. [ibid, pp. 33-34]
But, wait! There's more!!!
For someone who’s spent much of his adult life trying to mine personal experience for “larger,” often political implications, it’s hard not to feel a stinging challenge to my politics. Most teachers are some variety of centrist liberal, if only because they rightly see their own livelihoods as dependent on a generous social contract. But it is only with a great leap of faith that they achieve even the most lukewarm progressivism, which by its very definition requires the belief that human beings can progress— or want to. It’s in making that leap that I lose my footing. I have never doubted that many a disadvantaged kid was saved from the gallows by going to school. But to create a society in which gallows were permanently abolished— how many holdouts would first have to hang? At the risk of sounding impertinent, Comrade Guevara, how many people did your “great feeling of love” inspire you to execute? To reduce ignorance is one thing, but what remedy for inertia— for the tendency in many of us to find the demands of all but the most pedestrian forms of learning or liberation simply too much work? The question is way above my pay grade. I can’t even find a remedy for plagiarism. [ibid, pp. 201-202]
Not kidding. I could go on. But, I'd end up posting the entire book. A great read. Just thought you might like to know about it.

We were lucky to be in high school when we were. I taught "Critical Thinking" and "Argument Analysis" as an Adjunct at UNLV from 1999 - 2004. It was great fun, but, I'd look out over my undergrad classes sometimes and think 'man, you people need to re-take high school...'

We were indeed lucky. We have our parents and our teachers -- and each other -- to thank.

Be well, my friends. Hope to see you again soon.