Cutting Through The Crap

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Separate Question About Orlando


Many questions remain about the motives of the Orlando killer. I suppose whether or not to call him an Islamic terrorist is of political importance, playing, as it does, into the hands of those (like the guy who chose Sarah Palin as his veep) who shout that President Obama is directly responsible for the murders. Directly. 

From what I can tell, the shooter was a very disturbed and angry person, known to be so for years, possibly a closet homosexual, who quite likely had no direct association with Islamic terrorism but fancied himself carrying out their mission of hate as a way of justifying his own sick motives. 

Much has been written about him, about gun control, about lone-wolves, how to fight terrorism. The usual. But this article, more than tangentially related, is scarier to me than the possibility of a guy like Mateen showing up at some place around here. If it's no more directly responsible for the horror than Obama is, the Republican mantra of privatization of all things is pretty scary stuff, as applies to prisons and security. If it has nothing to do with Orlando, per se, it's at least as impactful. 


... In the aftermath of the Orlando killings, many questions remain unanswered—about the role that religious extremism played in the crime, the mix of personal despair and political ideology that motivated the killer, the efficacy of gun-control laws to prevent such violence, the competence of the F.B.I. in recent anti-terrorism investigations. And there is also the question of how G4S, the world’s largest private security firm, could have employed an armed guard who, for almost a decade, angrily and openly threatened to commit mass murder... 
...The G4S juvenile facilities in Florida have been notable for disturbances, escapes, high levels of violence among the detainees, and sexual assaults by staff members. During an August, 2013, riot at the Highlands Youth Academy, in Avon Park, G4S employees lost control of the detention center and fled the premises. ... A grand-jury report on the causes of the disturbance was released in 2015. It said, “The buildings are in disrepair and not secured, the juvenile delinquents are improperly supervised and receive no meaningful tools to not re-offend, the staff is woefully undertrained and ill-equipped to handle the juveniles in their charge, and the safety of the public is at risk. . . . 
Yet G4S has a 9% profit margin and expects to make $800,000.00 in profit this year from the operation of the Highlands Youth Academy.” The G4S juvenile facility was “a disgrace to the state of Florida,” the grand jury concluded, and should “cease to exist.”... 
... [O]n July, 28, 2012, three peace activists, including an eighty-two-year-old nun, broke into Y-12, cut through three perimeter fences, made their way undetected to the uranium-storage building, and spray-painted anti-nuclear slogans on its walls—a security breach of unprecedented severity. ... Subsequent investigations found that video cameras at the complex had remained broken for weeks, alarms were routinely ignored, and G4S guards had been cheating on proficiency exams for years....
So, yeah, I worry about Islamic terrorism. But in terms of our national security, I worry a lot more about the thoughtless and ideological zeal for privatization in all things. It's neither cost-effective nor effective-effective. Same with charter schools. Remember how well it worked for the TSA? It's fine with Donald Trump, of course; he may know nothing about anything but (so R leaders hope) he'll toe the party line on these matters if elected.

[Image source]

Friday, June 24, 2016

Tough Life


Just read an article on "Medscape" about burnout among general surgery residents. (I'd link to it, but it requires "membership.") It says, in part:
More than two thirds of general surgery residents in a national survey meet the criteria for burnout, and many of them have considered leaving their residency program because of it, a study shows. 
... The study adds to a growing body of research suggesting that burnout among physicians in training has reached epidemic proportions, they write. 
In a 2015 study reported by Medscape Medical News looking at burnout rates among medical residents by specialty, general surgery residents had the highest burnout rates ...
I find this interesting, puzzling, and worrisome. (Also, the fact that second on the list was radiology, one of the least demanding/best-paid specialties there is.)

Okay, here's the part where I point out that in my day, we worked literally twice as hard in training as they do now. My "easy" rotations were the ones where I (in theory) got to leave for 12 hours out of every 48 (more like 8, in practice). Otherwise it was 12 out of 14 days in the hospital except, when chief resident on trauma, it was 60 days out of 60. I suppose that means it's more than just the work hours.

In a way it's like teacher shortages: years of being demonized by right-wing screamers and leaders (Wisconsin, Kansas, et al) has led -- who could have seen it coming? -- to people looking away from teaching as a profession.

Yes, most docs make more than most teachers. But there's been a similar stupidity in approaching budgetary issues: people don't want to pay teachers what they're worth; R governors, unwilling to raise taxes on anyone, would rather see public education die. And the only way, so far, people have addressed rising health care costs has been to cut payments to docs and hospitals, along with producing more and more onerous (and, often, meaningless) rules requiring more and more paperwork and useless documentation of compliance with criteria having little to do with quality of care.

I'd have thought that residents, i.e., docs not yet fully subject to the rules and regs and stresses of practice, would have been relatively insulated. But I guess not.

I don't know where it'll all end up. I loved being a general surgeon, and it also burned me out after about 25 years of practice, causing me to bail at what some might agree was the height of my skills and knowledge. Residents, evidently, are bailing before getting into it at all. This doesn't bode well for the future. Meanwhile, because of the shortened work hours for residents, it's becoming clear that people finishing training are less well-prepared than we of the iron age were. One wonders, at this point, what sort of people finish training without burnout, and why? And, given the less preparation, who is it that decides to foist themselves on the public? Are those who didn't burn out ones who don't care as much about commitment? I have no idea.

Fortunately, I've worked out how to deal with it, were I ever to need the services of a general surgeon: stay home and die.

[Image source]

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Let's Talk Toilets


My latest newspaper column:
This is a good week to eschew writing about Donald Trump. Instead, we can watch party leaders fumbling to disavow while still supporting him, as it becomes increasingly undeniable he’s a know-nothing, insecure, vindictive, petulant scammer with no core values beyond self-accretion. (He’ll always have these people, though. Warning: not safe for sleep.) [For some reason, that parenthetical and link weren't in the paper version, but were included online.]
And why address the Orlando mass murder? The gun control debate ended with Sandy Hook, when the reaction to the slaughter of innocent youngsters was to do nothing at the national level; many Republican-led states actually loosened laws. If not dead schoolchildren, why would the massacre of gay Latinos lead to sensible regulation of killing machines? America looked, America decided. Congressional Republicans sent their thoughts and prayers and moments of silence. Democrats filibustered for a vote. Republicans blocked the legislation. Again. Let’s talk about something pleasant. 
Excretion. 
Nothing better defines the differences between our two parties today than the ginned-up outrage over transgender people and public restrooms. Republican politicians ignore data, legislating out of ignorance, fear, and diversion, because it always works for them. They’d treat people different from themselves as undeserving of civil rights; they’d like their followers to focus on toilets instead of on their relentless march toward plutocracy. Democrats pay attention to what’s known about transgender people, don’t fear them, and feel no need to discriminate against them. To liberals it’d be a non-issue were it not for the discharge dripping from the other side. 
It’s increasingly clear that sexual preference and sexual identity are not binary: a growing body of research confirms the impact of genetic, epigenetic, and gestational factors. How else to explain three-year-old children who insist they are of the sex opposite to outward appearance, and grow up to live that way?  Religious claims to the contrary, the science is compelling: these are not matters of choice; how nice if people who believe otherwise were to factor evidence into their attitudes. The kindest thing to say about right-wing talkers who insist that transgender people are fakers, or that they change their minds daily, or that they represent a special threat to our children is that they’re badly misinformed. The likely truth is uglier. 
Notwithstanding Foxolimbeckian warnings and internet misinformation, there are no examples of an actual transgender person attacking anyone in a restroom. There are, however, numerous instances of transgender people being beaten, sometimes to death, here and abroad. Given the disrespect and violence being fomented against them, the act of undertaking gender reassignment is one of enormous bravery and life-affirming belief in oneself. Their alternative is living a shadow life, hiding the identity they know to be true. Characterizing them as perverted, as molesters looking for cover, comes from the willful ignorance encouraged by right-wing media. It’s dishonest and shameful. 
I’ve known transgender people in my professional and in my personal life. Like most of us, they want nothing more than to be who they are, wishing ill on no one. I read the comments of someone the other day, suggesting that transgender men would like to go into girls’ restrooms and urinate in front of them. How, I wonder? Since they have only stalls, where does he envision it happening? Is he indulging a secret fantasy? My guess is that that sort of projection is at the heart of much of the hatred toward LGBTQ people. 
“Transsexuals are such a small portion of the population,” some argue. “Why do they deserve consideration?” Only because they’re fellow human beings, and because they represent danger to no one. Their sexual identity is who they are, no more chosen than yours or mine.
Here are two brief videos dissenters should watch, and then ask themselves which restrooms make sense. Who’d question them? Would anyone even notice? Do they make you afraid? Are birth certificate bathroom laws workable, or nothing more than political theater, manipulative and contemptuous of voters?
 
Decades of deliberate disinformation and propagandizing have created plenty of citizens made to “want their county back;” who, among other implanted misconceptions, see recognizing these people’s simple desire to use a compatible restroom, not bothering anyone, as yet another sign of America’s moral decline. I see it as long-overdue moral awakening.

[Image source]

Thursday, June 16, 2016

PTL


I keep thinking about that little boy, same age as my grandson (that's my grandson above, on his second birthday, a couple of weeks ago) killed by an alligator at the magic kingdom, the happiest place on earth. And I wonder which of the following assurances, so often heard, will provide the most comfort to his parents and grandparents and family:

He died doing what he loved.

He's in a better place.

God called him home.

There's another angel in heaven.

God has a plan for us all.

It's not ours to understand God's mysteries, but we can rejoice in His love.

The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

God Talk



Below is an email I received from a man with whom I've had occasional conversations about religion. They usually break off after a couple of exchanges, and, reading his thoughts, it's not hard to understand why. The picture above is the "conversion" to which he refers. Below his note is my response, to which he's not replied yet, but he will. I post this not to mock him, because he's as sincere as can be. But, I think, it explains the difficulties when one tries to apply logic to belief. They're not compatible; nor are they intended to be. This back-and-forth isn't much different from ones we've had before.

Good afternoon Sid,

Although I had no intention of swaying your convictions; I believed hard core atheists could not discern the truth on their own; I was caught by surprise with this evident conversion. As I reflected upon this I realized that this conversion was not of his own rational processes and must therefore come from another source. Has he been misinformed, or misled?

Other personal testimony by well educated former Muslims as to having searched for the truth (truth is vital to a Muslim) and having discovered that the truth lay not in the Muslim (way of life) Islam, but through revelation by revealed established facts.

Similarly, one might consider a Muslim, one who follows a "way of life" rather than the way that God intended for them to follow. Therefore, that leads to radical formation that elevates self; Id, Ego, and perhaps even the super-ego to support efficacy of life style. 

That makes it appear that I place Atheism and Islam in the same bucket. Not really. Separate buckets is more like it. Why? Well, it would seem that; there is the main difference between a faith that has been instilled by the creator God, and a faith that has been instilled by a creator man.

You are a very intelligent person, Sid. A savant if I may say so. therefore, I ask you to reflect on these comments, and without a scathing diatribe, comment upon these from your perspective.

Sam



Sam, I’m sure you know I could send you testimonies from atheists who converted from every faith on the planet. In fact you’ll agree that virtually all atheists began as believers of every sort, eventually finding that the faith into which they were born made no sense to them. 

I could also point out many devout Christians who accept the fact of evolution, starting with the Pope.

I find it interesting that this “Ron” fails to supply us with a last name, and that the email is a solicitation for donations. Is he real? Do you know? If so, is his testimony real? Given the slick solicitation, might he, like PT Barnum, have discovered how to separate suckers from their money? Or if not Barnum, then any of the countless high-living multimillionaire TV and megachurch preachers, many of whom have been discovered to be frauds, or sexual perverts…. 

Whether or not the man exists and is sincere, it’s as unpersuasive to me as my lack of faith is to you. You see atheism and Islam as similar enough to occupy buckets in the basement of your mind, to be kept as trophies. I see all religions as belonging in the same bucket, and atheism as in another. There are, who knows how many, countless religions and sub-religions and modifications thereof, personal and otherwise, in the world. Each adherent believes as sincerely as do you that they’ve found the one and only that is true. Logic tells us it’s impossible that they’re all right. Logic also tells us that IS possible that they’re all wrong. In fact, the fact that there are so many, so fervently held, makes it pretty clear that they are, in fact, all wrong. All made-up.

You claim your faith is given by God and that atheism is created by man. We both have brains, Sam. So do all the believers around the planet: Christians of how many varieties including Mormons, Baptists, Methodists, Holy Rollers, Shakers, snake handlers, Presbyterians, Catholics, Pentecostals, followers of David Koresh and Jim Jones and many more cults meeting in basements….., Muslims, Rastafarians, Hindi, Zoroastrians, Jews (reform, conservative, orthodox), Shinto, Wiccans, Satanists, dozens of Native American beliefs, countless tribes in Africa, the jungles of South America. Who’s to say which of those was created by God as opposed to by man?

In the face of so many religions, it makes most sense that it’s because the human brain EVOLVED to look for patterns. It’s a survival mechanism. It seeks explanations for that which is not understood. And given that certain answers are yet to appear, and that the need to form groups is an instinct with obvious survival benefits, there evolved a tendency to create beliefs that organize people; and, importantly, that keep people from spending all their time in fear of death. Religion evolved in perilous times, serving a needed survival purpose. The question, in these times, is whether it still serves humanity well. It serves you, clearly. Does it serve those dying daily in the Middle East? Did it serve those fellow humans in Orlando? Is it serving the planet as, in this country, the Christian right refuses to address climate change?

So what explains the difference between you and me? I’d certainly not claim my lack of belief is a higher form of intelligence than is your need for belief, your accepting of the truth of one derivative of one kind of belief over the truth of the thousands of other choices. I’m sure I’m not smarter than you. But we think very differently; I don’t know why. I began as a believer. At some point I was able to take a look from some sort of outside view and I concluded it made no sense. For many reasons, including the conclusion (obvious, I’d argue) that the very existence of so many faiths so devoutly held while so incompatible with each other speaks loudly for faith being a creation of man. To fill a need. To be able to face the recognition that we die. To view the pain and suffering and fallibility and hatred and ignorance and starvation and disease, the decay of Alzheimer’s, the cancers in the brains of children, and to be able to conjure an explanation that makes it okay, that tells us, because we’re believers, it won’t happen to us; or, if it does, that there’s another life in which it’ll all be fine. 

And I think your need to convert me (or, if you’re not, really, then that of the doorbell-ringers and the TV preachers) speaks to the fragility of clinging to a belief so clearly selected, by circumstances of random birth, mostly, from a planet-size buffet: the fact that there are people who believe differently from you (and I mean “you” in a larger sense that the specific Sam) and people who don’t believe at all, threatens, if ever so slightly, to force “you” to consider whether you’re the one that’s wrong. And for most “you”s out there, that’s intolerable. For what is faith, if not “faith”? By definition, it overlooks certain aspects of reality. When those aspects contradict or challenge one’s faith, they must, because that’s what faith is, be ignored or explained away as heresy; especially, for most believers, the kind deserving of present or future punishment. (Why is it, I wonder, that some believers have no problem knowing there are billions who believe differently, while others find it so threatening that they wish death upon them?)

I can’t explain why I don’t need that sort of papering-over. For some reason, reality doesn’t create the need in me. I understand that for the majority of humans, facing death requires some sort of assurance that it’s not the end; and I’m sure I’d be happy if I could believe it, too. I do think, however, that if I’m not smarter or more evolved than you, it’s good for you that there are non-believers like me who don’t stop looking for answers. It’s no coincidence that most scientists are non-believers. It’s they who continue to seek knowledge of the sort that’s led to cures for diseases, solutions to hunger, and so much more. No, not all scientists are non-believers, and not all religionists look away from science. But I think it’s pretty obvious that without us non-believers, the world would be a much worse place. So you can thank your God for creating us.

And as to “Ron,” I’m sure he’s collecting handsomely on his “conversion.” It’s a good life, ain’t it?

Sid

I guess I failed his request for no diatribe. "Scathing?" Eye of the beholder.

Immediately after sending my reply, I read of the two-year-old boy, same age as my adorable grandson, who was killed by an alligator at Disney world. The thought of it makes me physically ill, as I picture my beautiful grandchild. I could never, no matter how much rationalization was offered, believe in a god who allowed or caused that to happen. Never. And if there is a god and that's who he is, I'd hope to have the decency, were I to stand before him, to tell him to stuff it.

I sent Sam a followup. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

What Intelligence Looks Like



Our president's speech today on fighting terrorism. Compare and contrast: Barack Obama's depth and Donald Trump's superficiality. Understanding vs. ignorance. Real vs. phony. The big picture vs. a very small mind.

Donald Trump as president? Literally sickening.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Joe Tells It Like It Is



Joe Biden calmly and persuasively explains that which ought not need explaining: the importance of an independent judiciary, the reasons and ways the founders of our country made it so, and the incredible danger of a president like Donald Trump who neither understands nor cares about it.

Trump's threats against all who disagree with him are undending; but none are as potentially destructive as his view of the judiciary. It's profound, it's fundamental, and it's horrifying. It's the first step toward totalitarianism. Joe makes it pretty understandable. But who on that side will take the time to think about it?

Thursday, June 9, 2016

A Long Time Coming



Hillary at age 21. How many of us could have spoken that eloquently? Not me, sure as hell. What was Donald Trump doing at that age? What were most of us doing at that age? The hatred toward Hillary Clinton, built more on the constant stream of right-wing dissembling than on reality, is far out of proportion to who she is and what she's done. She's neither the perfect candidate nor has she behaved perfectly throughout her life. (I guess I'm the only one who has.) But her priorities, her intelligence, her knowledge, her commitment to things beyond herself is like those attributes in Donald Trump as Plymouth Rock is to a grain of sand.

The entire text of her speech can be found here. The above clip doesn't do it justice.

So, yeah. If she's flawed and occasionally annoying, if she's stumbled along the path, it's nevertheless easy to imagine her doing mostly the right things as president, giving her all, bringing intelligence to the job. With Donald Trump, it's like imagining Michelangelo carving his Pieta out of a turd. As best and as gently as I can put it.


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

It's The Little Things...



Taking a brief break from the horrors of Trumpism, here's my latest newspaper column, ripped (and modified) from the pages of my better blog, Surgeonsblog
Much as I find doing surgery exhilarating and fun, in the back of my mind resides the awareness that it's a dangerous thing I do. A mentor of mine liked to say, "The patient takes all the risk, Dockie." But to harm another is worse than harming yourself. The danger is shared. 
Imagine being the parents of a perfect baby. All the worries of pregnancy and expectations of birth have resulted in a beautiful boy, thriving. Looks like his dad. He coos, he looks lovingly back at you as you feed him. And now he's six weeks old, and you're being told he needs an operation.
Having fed quite normally for the first month or more, the baby is vomiting, more and more forcefully, until it seems he's keeping nothing down, and isn't gaining weight. Hypertrophic pyloric stenosis, the surgeon says, speaking Greek, or Martian. Like a doughnut tossed into the fryer, the circular muscle, the pylorus, at the bottom of the stomach has expanded, but too much, and it's blocking the stomach’s outlet. The treatment is surgery, a fancy word: pyloromyotomy.

As operations go, it's quite simple. You make a small incision on the baby's belly, find the enlarged muscle, and slice into it, split the fibers and spread them apart. Imagine a tight ring over a glove on a finger. You want to cut the ring, but not the glove. You want to see the glove fabric bulge up into the cut you made, indicating it's free. But if you cut the fabric, you've done a bad thing. The glove is the inner lining of the stomach: a hole in it means leakage of stomach contents. You need to cut the entire muscle or the operation won't be effective, but if you go too far, you make a hole. That can be deadly.
 
There's something completely wrong about a tiny baby on a big table in a huge OR. I could cover him entirely with my two hands. All the machinery, the tools, the drapes, the surrounding team seem terrifyingly outsized. It's like a joke. We're playing dolls. Except it's real and the stakes are high. As with all operations, there’s a point at which one must put out of mind the surreal transgression being undertaken and just focus on the job at hand. It went well. 
At two a.m. the phone rings. The nurse tells me the baby has a fever of 103 and his abdomen is rigid. "I'll be right there," I tell her, the words barely squeezing out through my suddenly constricted throat. It's easy to describe how I felt, because I feel that way again whenever I think about it. Heart pounding, my stomach was hollow, my hands white ice. I could barely tie my shoes, fingers not following commands. I splashed cold water on my face, made it to my car, raced to the hospital. As I drove, hands so tightly on the wheel that they were getting numb, I was thinking I'd do whatever was in my power to save the kid, never leave his side until it was over. And then I'd never, never, ever, ever do a pyloromyotomy again. And if he did poorly, I'd never operate again. Could I even live? This was a baby. Someone's precious baby.
As I headed to the pediatric floor and entered the child’s room, saw the nurses standing by, I felt as if a million eyes were on me, accusing and hateful. (They weren't. But that's how I felt.) And there he was. Fussy face flushed with fever, but moving around like a baby, looking not so bad. His belly was soft as, well, a baby's bottom. Who knows what that fever was? It disappeared as quickly as it came, and the kid was fine. 
I drove home nearly limp, still shaking, barely able to control the car, wrung out like a wet sock. I lay on the bed exhausted, relieved, but absolutely spent. An hour or so later, I dragged myself to work. And next time a pediatrician called for a consult for a kid with pyloric stenosis, I took a deep breath, considered it carefully, and said... "I'll be right there." 

[The photo, marginally related to the post, really, is of my grandson, a week ago, on his second birthday. Cute, huh?]

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Don't Worry, We Got This



I'm starting to think (wishfully?) that the Trump candidacy just might eventually collapse under the weight of its eponymous leader. It seems the collective heap of his garbage is starting to be too much even for our lazy press; and, even more unexpectedly, for a few electeds in his party. Will it be enough? Are there enough Republicans with the self-respect and dignity to draw the line?

Who could have predicted: decades of deliberate dumbification and crafting of the electoral equivalent of an angry mob, pitchforks and torches in hand, led to the choice of a nasty, vengeful, shallow, narcissistic, despotic idiot, an amoral con man who has zero understanding of how our government works, and who plans, by his own words, to use the instruments of government to attack fellow Americans he doesn't like. Meaning those who don't genuflect and profess unconditional adoration.

Too weak to admit their propagandistic guilt, too frightened to face down the mob they created, they're now resorting to reassuring the rest of the country that they'll be able to keep their candidate from going full tyrant.
... “I still believe we have the institutions of government that would restrain someone who seeks to exceed their constitutional obligations,” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) told the New York Times last week in a piece highlighting how legal scholars are growing increasingly worried about Trump's authoritarian tendencies. “We have a Congress. We have the Supreme Court. We’re not Romania." 
In May, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made a similar proclamation when he was asked in an interview whether he had concerns about the divisiveness Trump's message evoked even from within the Republican Party. 
"What protects us in this country against big mistakes being made is the structure, the Constitution, the institutions," McConnell told CBS News last month. “No matter how unusual a personality may be who gets elected to office, there are constraints in this country. You don’t get to do anything you want to.”...
Okay, then. We'll be fine.

Well, gods know they have experience in blocking a presidential agenda. All they need to do is switch from blocking attempts to do good to blocking attempts to do harm. Shouldn't be that hard, other than getting pushback from the Trump clones in both houses of their Congress, elected by the same people who chose the Donald. So they'll need Democrats. Amusing. They stood by for the election of embarrassments like Louie Gohmert, Michele Bachmann, et al, ad nauseum, because they were votes. They had their chance.

As the truth leaks out -- the truth that's been obvious from day one but denied and ignored and both-sidesified by national media -- it might just be that even a few Foxolimbeckified Trumpists will see supporting him as a bridge too far. Lindsey "They'll kill us all" Graham thinks the attacks on that judge provide an excuse for right wingers to rescind their support.

As if Mr Trump hasn't provided excuses daily, since well before he became a politician.

[Image source]

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Speech That Writes Itself



All that's needed to defeat Donald Trump is to tell the truth, if only the Foxolimbeckified would listen. They won't, though, because they choose sources of "news" and opinion that make sure they don't.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Trump? Knowing Nothing Helps



Here's my latest newspaper column:
So, let me get this straight. Donald Trump now says his ban on Muslims was “just a suggestion.” Then, having eschewed big-donor money, he accepts a hundred million bucks from Sheldon Adelson, “proud” of his support. He’ll eliminate gun-free zones; his private resort in Florida is gun-free. He says climate change is “bulls**t” but wants a permit for a retaining wall at his Florida* golf course to mitigate the rising seas from “climate change.” Renegotiating our loans in order to end the national debt in eight years wasn’t what he really meant when he said exactly that. Calling reporters, for years, faking a persona to extol his wonderfulness (and admitting it!), he now pretends it never happened. Trump lies with each breath, including, evidently, on his taxes. In the same breath as claiming stuff that happened 25 years ago is irrelevant, he accuses Bill Clinton of rape. 
And now his signature ideas, deporting millions and building a wall, aren’t really going to happen; they’re merely “virtual.” So what is it, supporters, that attracts you? Is there a position he’s taken, one you considered vote-worthy, which he hasn’t changed? Seriously. Can you name a single one? Maybe it’s his promise of deals. Terrific deals, believe him. Leading to greatness as yet undefined. His deals are great. Other than his casinos, all of which went bankrupt. And his “university.” And steaks. Great steaks. That I can tell you. 
Right-wing screamers claim President Obama used the IRS for political purposes, which, as it turns out, he didn’t. Recently Donald Trump threatened, overtly, to use it against Jeff Bezos, owner of the Washington Post, for criticizing him. Not bothered, Trumpists, by threatening our free press? Or is it okay, as long as it’s the “liberal” press? What about a hair-trigger, temperamental, revenge-seeking president as Commander-in-Chief, a guy whose response to any criticism is to get even? Not a worry? How much of this before his supporters to realize they’re being conned by a guy who’ll say anything and believes nothing, not even his own words? 
Which brings me to the results of the most recent PPP poll: Republicans (defined as voters for Mitt Romney in 2012) are clueless. Approval of President Obama broke along party lines, of course; but what proves the remarkably successful effects of Foxolimbeckification was their response to questions about the budget deficit and the stock market. By wide margins, Romney voters believed the former has gone up and the latter has gone down under Obama. The opposite is true, of course. Democrats, being reality-based, answered correctly. This is scarily portentous. 
It’s one thing to have philosophical differences and policy disagreements. Democracy is predicated on it; but it presupposes the commonality of shared information. How can there be meaningful discussion about anything when one side has no idea of or desire for basic facts?  When, as a matter of policy, that party makes a point of disregarding facts and expertise; and not just disregarding: mocking. Snowballs in the Senate. Sarah Palin and Donald Trump in the limelight. 
Look, I get it: there are plenty of reasons to disagree with liberalism on lots of things, and Hillary Clinton is far from the perfect candidate. There are “conservative” ways to address climate change, and legitimate differences on where the line is between security and freedom. Given the impossible situation in the Middle East left behind by George Bush, there are other impossible ways to have dealt with it. Same with the economy. But c’mon, people. Donald Trump? Is your frustration so deep, your desire to return the Fifties, when everyone knew their place, so great that a lying, vengeful, bullying, conspiracy-theory promoting, know-nothing producer of empty promises that change by the minute your best answer? A man so in need of attention and so insecure that he brags constantly? Is he the symbol of American greatness that gives you pride? Really? 
Vote for Republican representatives if you must. Send them money. (I hope you’d pick ones, assuming there are any, who still believe in civil rights and science.) But take a deep breath and ask yourself: by what measure is Donald Trump the right person for the Oval Office?
*Correction: Pieter Breitner, reader and occasional commenter, has pointed out that the golf course for which he applied for the retaining wall is in Ireland, not Florida. 

[Image source]

Friday, May 20, 2016

Thursday, May 19, 2016

It Begins...


The more I see of Donald Trump and his followers, and of the rationalizations otherwise (probably) intelligent people provide for voting for him, the more I find this opinion piece to be true. I've said as much myself, if less persuasively.

... Today, less than 5 percent of eligible voters have voted for Trump. But if he wins the election, his legions will comprise a majority of the nation. Imagine the power he would wield then. In addition to all that comes from being the leader of a mass following, he would also have the immense powers of the American presidency at his command: the Justice Department, the FBI, the intelligence services, the military. Who would dare to oppose him then? Certainly not a Republican Party that laid down before him even when he was comparatively weak. And is a man like Trump, with infinitely greater power in his hands, likely to become more humble, more judicious, more generous, less vengeful than he is today, than he has been his whole life? Does vast power un-corrupt?  
This is how fascism comes to America, not with jackboots and salutes (although there have been salutes, and a whiff of violence) but with a television huckster, a phony billionaire, a textbook egomaniac “tapping into” popular resentments and insecurities, and with an entire national political party — out of ambition or blind party loyalty, or simply out of fear — falling into line behind him.
It's not merely speculative. Trump has already threatened to use the IRS against Jeff Bezos and Amazon, because Bezos' WaPo has criticized him. I'd hope the irony isn't lost on his followers, all of whom, I assume, believe (falsely) that President Obama used the IRS for political purposes and called him a dictator because of it. He's promised uses of our military so reckless that generals have suggested they'd have to ignore his orders.

Trump's supporters, clearly, don't care. Quite the contrary. For them, as I wrote, it's about getting even. At everyone who's, in their minds, taken "their" country away. Blacks, immigrants, legal and otherwise, non-Christians, LGBT citizens. That resentment and the flogging of it is the history of the rise of tyrants throughout the world. It's an illusion to think it can't happen here. Trump, deliberately or not, is following the blueprint line by line, while once-credible conservatives look the other way, selfishly, and as the RWS™ across all their media whip up the frenzy.

Trumpists love it. They aren't frightened by the implications of a leader who'd trample on the press and single out various minorities for punishment. Unless they figure on being part of the Stormtroopers, they should be.

[Image source]


Friday, May 13, 2016

Facts Be Damned!


The above is from the latest PPP poll. The approval ratings of Obama are to be expected, and it's nice to know that disgust with Congress is universal, even if it's for opposite reasons between the parties.

But the glaring lack of knowledge of unemployment and the stock market? Well, not unexpected either, I suppose, given the effectiveness of the right-wing scream machine, especially Fox "news" and talk radio. What it does is help to explain those who support Donald Trump.

It's one thing to have political disagreements. It's healthy, even. But until Lee Atwater and Karl Rove came on the scene, and before that black guy moved into that white house, I wouldn't have claimed that the parties differ so widely on simple knowledge of demonstrable facts. Nor is it limited to the above two items.

It kinda removes the firmament from under all those who vote with today's R party, doesn't it? When they're so lacking in basic knowledge, how can one accept their arguments for Trump (other than by claiming agreement that facts don't matter)?

"Both sides do it" is the mantra of the right, and of their enablers in the media, which includes pretty much all TV media. But it's demonstrably false. Only one side deliberately pushes and exalts lack of knowledge. Only one makes up its own facts, proudly.

Yet again, we see why Donald Trump is their preferred candidate, and why he has a frighteningly real chance of winning the presidency.