Cutting Through The Crap

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Brave And The Bullshit




The brave ones are the women marching, faces uncovered, banners held high. Peaceful, enthusiastic, determined, saying "Look at me, look at us, here we are. Listen." Telling their employers, employees, patients, clients, families, everyone, they're willing to, want to, be seen. Have something important and valuable to say.

The cowardly and stupid ones are dressed in black, faces covered, lighting fires, running up to windows and smashing them and going off to hide in the crowd, like kids who put burning bags of dog shit on a porch, ring the doorbell, and run away.

I don't know who they are, what they think they're accomplishing, what message they're sending. For that matter I don't know whose side they're on, if any. But I hate them for making it easier for Trumpists to ignore the meaning of the rallies, to pretend that what they did is the message, not the voices of the marchers in protest. Perhaps that was, in fact, exactly their intention. Happily, they stayed away from the Women's March. Afraid their mothers would see them, maybe.

But they're there, somewhere. Burning garbage cans, looting, breaking windows, hiding. Wherever there are good people, committed, brave people (braver, still, in these times), so are there these self-described but delusional anarchists, who are, at best, nothing more than idiots, pretending to be something they most decidedly are not, afraid to take an actual stand, and be seen.

In this era of fake news as subterfuge and distraction, following false stories of "liberal" protesters being paid to disrupt, who can say these destructive assholes aren't, in fact, organized by Trump supporters, to discredit the waves of protest around the country? I find it entirely possible, with worse to come. On the other hand, such people as these have always been around, as they were here in Seattle during the WTO protests which turned into riots. Deliberate or not, on the "right" side or not, the only thing they achieve is damage.

Whoever they were in D.C. during the inauguration, they're the equivalent of a Trump tweet: superficial, simple, nasty, accomplishing nothing positive.

[Image source]

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Scream, Or Your Head Will Explode



Swear to God: if anyone can watch the video of Kellyanne Conway, this planet's most gifted and unrepentant bullshitter, in this link and not scream or throw something or, at least, feel disgust, horror, and fear for the future, they don't deserve to live. Or vote, anyway.

[Image source]

Friday, January 20, 2017

I Felt It, Too.

Stab Wounds



My latest newspaper column, to be published Saturday. Since it has to be sent in before the inauguration, I didn't want to rant about something that might be contradicted by events yet unknown.

Here’s another heavily modified piece from my surgery blog. Entering the Trump era, I need time to let it sink in.
When I picked up my laundry I’d have a little small talk with the proprietor. She always called me "Doctor.” This time, though, she was notably distant, which I didn't understand till I got home and hung up my jacket. On the inside she'd pinned an envelope, into which she'd put a photo taken months before, forgotten in one of my pockets. 
What it showed was a young female torso bearing sixteen stab wounds and the handle of an 8-inch butcher's knife in-stuck to the hilt, a couple of inches below her left breast, ticking, when the picture was taken, with every heartbeat. She’d tried to make herself the second person she killed that day. A cop had accompanied us to the OR. 
Worried that I could cause a catastrophe if I did it blindly, I hadn't removed the knife in the emergency room; the officer needed to maintain "chain of custody." I opened her belly first: with stab wounds to the lower chest, it’s likely there are injuries within the abdomen. Indeed, the knife had skewered her stomach, barely missed her colon, stopping with its sharp edge whispering to her spleen. Holding the spleen out of the way, I withdrew the knife, handed it off to the cop, cool as Steve McQueen: calmly cutting the lady open in front of the officer, handing him the weapon like I did it every day. He tagged it and bagged it, like he did it every day. 
As I attended to the abdominal injuries, the anesthesiologist announced blood pressure zeroing out, cardiogram widening into a functionless sine wave. In the ER, I’d treated her punctured lung with a drainage tube. Now I guessed she’d nicked her heart as well. With no time for tidy entry, I made a fast and ugly, trauma-center-trained, trap-door opening through her ribs. Expecting a blood-filled pericardium, the sac around the heart, I opened that, too, carefully, despite the urgency, to avoid paralyzing the nerve to her diaphragm, which runs along its surface. 
A cut lung can allow air into the pulmonary veins, through which it returns to the left ventricle of the heart, wherefrom it gets pumped out to the body. Departing first from the aorta are the coronary arteries; an air bubble there acts no differently from a blood clot, potentially causing a heart attack. The next exits lead right to the brain. 
While requesting (or screaming, I don’t recall) that the anesthesiologist tilt the table head down so bubbles would rise away from our patient’s head, I clamped the aorta downstream from the vessels going there, called for drugs to raise her blood pressure as high as safely possible, and to run 100% oxygen (in addition to protecting tissues, it speeds up absorption of air). Raising blood pressure might force the bubbles through her heart before doing permanent damage. Clamping the aorta raises blood pressure as well. It's a dangerous combination of maneuvers, but as they say about desperate times... 
Indeed, bubbles were moving through her coronary arteries, lined up like ticket-holders to the Stygian boatman, as frightening a thing as I’ve seen, operating. But, as hoped, they marched on through, and I began, incrementally, to release the clamp; now she was able to maintain her pressure, as she hadn't before. Without obvious signs of brain injury, she awoke later in the ICU, her cardiogram returning rapidly to normal. Sixteen stab wounds, a near-fatal cardiac emergency: not a single after-effect. 
Being young, before experience ground such misconceptions away like centuries of sea on stone, I figured, having rummaged around in her entrails and having held her heart in my hand, squeezing it alive, I of all people should be able to get through to this lady, humbly receiving her gratitude while clearing the demons in her mind. Well, of course, no. Neither could the psych consultant. 
I’d taken that graphic and ill-forgotten picture thinking I might use it in a lecture or an academic paper on penetrating chest injuries, but never did. I kept taking my laundry to the same place, never mentioned the envelope, and our conversations soon found their way back to normal.   
[Image source]

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Showering Us With Lies


My latest newspaper column, scheduled for Saturday:
Only hardcore Trumpophiles deny Donald Trump lies, regularly, about matters large and small. Recently he claimed album sales of the young singer scheduled for his inauguration have soared since the announcement. The opposite is true. Simultaneously he announced that inaugural after-parties are such a hot ticket that you can’t find a single fancy gown in all of D.C. Calls from reporters showed the claim to be false, by the thousands. Simple observation confirms he WAS mocking that disabled reporter. Like all pathological liars, he doesn’t care, and won’t stop. 
The record of Trump’s pronouncements proves truth is not his default setting. About Jackie Evancho and ball gowns, who cares? About mocking the disabled, financial ties to Russia and cahoots with Vladimir Putin, we all should. 
In publishing the alleged report on alleged travesties in Russia, Buzzfeed gifted Mr. Trump. So much is salacious, all of it, the public version at least, unsubstantiated, that he could dismiss it and its implications as “fake news.” (Might the barrage of fake news distributed pre-election by Trumpites, including Russia, have been designed not only to tilt the outcome but as future cover for discrediting actual news?) Until proven otherwise, the “report” reminds me of those fake Obama birth certificates touted by rightwing media: unconvincing. That this specific document stinks, though, doesn’t prove there’s no dead rat nearby. But it gave our next president a platform for, yet again, trying to pre-discredit the press and the intelligence community over future revelations. 
In college, having studied the Russian language for several years, I traveled in the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War. From sad personal experience (involving a Soviet citizen, not me) I can confirm that our rooms were bugged. Surely they still are, especially for high-profile visitors like the vulgar, narcissistic, flattery-craving owner of the Miss Universe pageant, a perfect target for gathering compromising data. I don’t much care if the Donald arranged for the defiling of the bed used by the Obamas, per se; I do care if he said or did anything while there that could be used to blackmail him, and so should we all. I do care if he has financial entanglements with and is indebted to powerful forces in Russia, and so should we all. Given his well-established penchant for lying (and his refusal to release tax returns), the last thing we should do is to take his denials at face value. 
If it was effective strategy before the election constantly to flood the public with so many lies that it became meaningless to track them all down, for a sitting president it’s kind of a drawback. Or would be, if his voters hadn’t been taught not to care, and if his party’s representatives in Congress weren’t so euphoric over having an ill-informed, incurious occupier of the White House, likely to sign whatever he’s sent, that they’re already looking the other way on a number of outrages. 
Eight years ago, as the minority leader, Mitch McConnell sent to the majority leader a list of quite reasonable vetting requirements before holding hearings on President Obama’s nominees. Now, to the surprise of exactly zero sentient beings, he says such scrutiny is not only unnecessary; the very act of suggesting them is childish. Democrats, he said, need to “grow up.” Tax returns? Vetting by the Government Ethics Office? Conflicts of interest? That was then! 
Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s mouthpiece, an undeniable genius at obfuscating the outrageous, recently chided the media for focusing on what Trump says. “You always want to go by what's come out of his mouth rather than look at what's in his heart," were her exact, bizarre, and anatomically impossible words. I’ve listened to countless hearts stethoscopically, held a few, beating, in my hands. But I don’t know how to discover what’s in non-patients’ hearts other than by what they say. Daily, we’ve learned that Donald Trump’s heart accommodates a plentitude of lies. How can we know when he’s being truthful, about Russia, bribes, or anything else; and isn’t it imperative, despite his threats, to keep trying? 
Media professionals have to resist Trump’s intimidations; his supporters must become willing to consider the obvious. Sustaining our democracy depends on it. 
[Image source]

Here It Comes



During his hearing, Attorney-General-to-be Jeff Sessions, a God-botherer of the first order, was asked about the possibility of impending theocracy. Oh, he said, people of different (i.e., wrong) views will be given a fair shake. Asked specifically if he thought secular (i.e., non-Christian) lawyers have the ability to discern truth, he responded, "Well, I'm not so sure."

That is all you need to know.

[Image source]

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Who's Stupid?


So our next president informs us that anyone who doesn't want better relations with Russia is stupid. Well, sure, who doesn't agree we should all just get along, right?

Of course, it depends a little on the intentions of those with whom we're told to get along, and in what way we choose to do it. Or so it'd seem to me. I could be stupid, though.

Anyhow, until we know a little more about why Russia was so anxious to see Trump become president, and why Trump and his basket of horribles are so intent on convincing us it's no big deal, I'm gonna look at his position as the Kent Brockman approach to possible threats.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Looking For Reasons To Be Optimistic


My latest newspaper column, due to be published Saturday:
Looking ahead to the new year, I’m trying to be optimistic. 
We might survive turning public education into religious school, although there’d likely be a half-generation of kids who’d be lost before educators regain influence on education policy. Maybe humanity can even outlast more war in the Middle East or a new one in Asia, to which, based on Trump’s appointments and his personal lack of rigor, not to mention his half-cocked tweets, we look to be headed. And, having seen various rivers and lakes recover from deadly pollution in the past, perhaps it could happen again, if the offing of the land that appears to be in the offing is recognized by enough people to elect better stewards next time around, people who think the environment is worth protecting. Assuming we’ll still be having elections. 
I was pleasantly surprised to see that even Donald Trump disapproved of the latest shameless digital frickative shown to America by Republican congressfolk when they decided, just in time for his ascent to office, to nuke their own ethics committee. Too bad he didn’t show the same concern when North Carolina legislators told their voters to shove off after they booted their Republican governor; or when his campaign co-chair from New York made vile comments about the Obamas. 
Having never met an ethical boundary beyond which he wouldn’t go, Trump’s disapproval of the ethical edict was less about the action than the timing thereof. Still, the episode afforded a glimmer of hope. Enough people retched at the wretchedness that the lawmakers temporarily skulked away. A guidebook, one hopes, for the future, and a reminder to pay attention. 
It all may be moot though, because that from which we’ll not be able to recover is the empowerment of climate change denial and inaction. Scientists (the people Republicans, almost to a woman and man, tell us are to be distrusted and disregarded) have been warning of the point of no return, as we approach a positive feedback loop that makes it self-sustaining no matter what we do or do not. Melting glaciers mean less sun reflection and more heat absorption by exposed land. Warming oceans and tundra release more trapped methane, a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, causing more trapped heat and more melting, more warming... 
Every month, every year, a new record for highest global temperature is set despite dishonest claims of a “pause." How much more obvious must it become before Donald Trump, his appointees, supporters, and practically everyone in his party acknowledge it? When did it become such an irreconcilably partisan issue? Why is ours the one developed nation that refuses to accept it; and where did the fossil fuel industry, the only people who stand to benefit from continued denial, get the power to control the argument? 
The answer to that, at least, is obvious: they have the money, about which the elected of today’s Republican Party care more than they do about the lives of the population they’ve convinced to elect them and sworn to serve. Even less do they care about the planet on which many of us live. The current EPA refused Trump’s ominous demand for the names of its climate-change researchers. The next one, about to be run by a climate change denier, won’t. Because it’s not enough to deny truths that threaten the self-enrichment agenda; they must be hunted down and destroyed. 
Having no time for security briefings, Trump has plenty to tweet about a bad restaurant review, and more than enough to tour the country holding the same self-congratulatory rallies he did before the election, wallowing in cheers, mocking those on the losing side, insulting the press that exposed his lies. Disinterested in healing, our president-elect, since November eighth, has been a neenering fourth-grader. (No offense intended to fourth graders.) Surrounded by rich sycophants on New Year’s Eve, he promised to cut their taxes, rid them of regulations, and end Obamacare, which none of them need. Climate change didn’t come up. Average people weren’t invited. 
The long view is hard. Comprehensive policy is hard. Since winning, our president-elect shares thoughts one-hundred-forty characters at a time, as deep as he goes. 
Optimism? What was I thinking?
[Image source]

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Ethics, Shmethics



It wasn't a mystery, only a matter of time. Seeing themselves fully in charge, Congressional Republicans decided their first order of business was to nuke their own Ethics Committee. Who could have seen that coming, amirite?

Even Donald Trump, who wouldn't know an ethical boundary if it wrapped itself around his neck and honked on his nose, suggested their timing was off. (He didn't criticize the action, per se, as his team made clear; just that it shouldn't have been the first thing out of the gate.)

But then, amazingly, they backed off, after outrage and mockery poured in. (One member felt the need to make it clear that their decision wasn't prompted by Trump's tweet, as if to assure us that he'll have no influence over them, and to remind him that his job is to stop tweeting long enough, between congratulatory rallies, to sign the damn legislation they send him.)

The point, though, is that it seems even those self-centered and mendacious legislators of the hardest right can be moved by enough input. So there's a lesson: in this era of total Republican control, figureheaded by a narcissistic, shallow moron, it behooves us -- even thoughtful conservatives, now in hiding -- to remain vigilant and to speak up as the outrages mount up.

Because, who knows? It's not inconceivable they'd listen to voters if they decide the money from wealthy donors and corporations doesn't do much good if they're voted out of office. Of course, if they've already stashed enough of it away, they needn't give any more of a shit than they already do.

[Image source]

Thursday, December 29, 2016

End Times


My latest newspaper column. It'll appear Saturday, but why wait? 
Our democracy had a nice run, didn’t it? However, when one political party values truth, public education, press freedom, equal rights, economic fairness, and unencumbered elections while the other sees them as obstacles and it’s taken full control, survival is improbable. 
We knew it was coming when Fox “news” appeared, calling itself “fair and balanced” while off-gassing disinformation and context-altered video. Simultaneously, right-wing attacks increased on so-called mainstream media; i.e., any that didn’t parrot the party line. There’s now a hardened core of voters who reject any evidence, no matter how solid, which refutes their preferred disbeliefs. To them, climate change is a hoax, Hillary is crooked and Donald isn’t, Putin is our pal, trickle down economics works. They deny Trump lies, or they’re okay with it; can’t tell the difference or don’t care. How many believe he won “one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history”? Amazingly (or not), fifty-two percent of Republicans think he also won the popular vote. 
“The big lie” was beanbag. This is nuclear war on reality. If most politicians lie sometimes, in Trumpland it’s foundational, and it’ll continue until followers demand better. Forever, in other words. 
Inculcated ignorance is America’s weapon of mass self-destruction: deliberate falsehoods repeated enough to enough credulous people to take hold, no matter how absurd. If you’ll believe Hillary Clinton was running a child sex ring out of a pizza joint, believe it enough to bust into the place locked and loaded, you’ll believe anything. And it’s not just that guy. It’s Trump’s choice for national security advisor and his ex-transition team son, who said of pizzagate, “Until proven false it’ll remain a story.” It’s Trump’s go-to source for the latest lunatic conspiracy, Alex Jones ; it’s his senior policy advisor, Steve Bannon, straight from the internet’s second most deranged website, right after Jones’. 
Nor is this the fringe of today’s Republican Party. It’s their Speaker of the House, who claims Trump’s lies should be ignored, and their vice-president-elect, who considers them “refreshing.” Taking it to its ineluctable conclusion, a member of Trump’s staff recently said, “There’s no such thing as facts anymore.” Another announced that what’s important is not whether something is true, it’s whether enough people BELIEVE it’s true. Knowing full well the power of this proposition, they’re doing everything necessary to unbuild the wall between truth and fiction. As effective as it’s already been, it’ll be catastrophic when the disseminators have all the power. If you’re not worried, you’re assimilated. 
So this is how it ends: when the people in charge see truth as inimical to their intentions, their leader producing lie upon lie amidst ominous threats of retribution against media and all who criticize, including Congressional Republicans. Some out of fear, as several Congressfolk have admitted, others out of gullibility, a critical mass of Americans is joining in or staying silent. Inducing silence by creating fear of reprisal has always preceded the march to tyranny. We’ve embarked on the road. 
Not satisfied that his Goebbellian attacks on critical media will keep his flock adequately narcotized, after the CIA confirmed Russian hacking, Trump went after the intelligence community, too. Because if there remain any credible sources of information that runs contrary to his perpetual prevarication they must be swept away. Attention diverted, Trumpophiles are eager to be swept along. If truth is dispensable to one political party, it most certainly is not to democracy. History tells what follows. George Orwell, it turns out, was a documentarian. 
If you believe, for a few examples, Trump’s conflicts of interest don’t matter, millions voted illegally, Sharia law can be imposed here, homosexuality is a choice, the press is our enemy, we can ignore climate change, there’s a war on Christmas, the CIA is wrong, Trump will “drain the swamp,” he has a secret ISIS plan, his Russia connections aren’t worrisome, “the president can’t lie if he doesn’t know the truth,” you’ve been cozened by a carefully constructed con. For the next four years, we’ll have a president more likely to be lying than truthful, while too many members of a once-respectable political party, hating “liberals” more than they love democracy, blind to the consequences, thinking (until it’s too late) they’re winners, won’t care. 
Happy New Year, though. 
[Image source]

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Barack's Gift To Donald



Trump will inherit Obama's economy, the one he, in turn, inherited from George Bush on its way to near collapse. Unlike Obama, Trump will start on the rise, gifted by Obama with the lowest unemployment in decades, the Dow more than three times what it was post-Bush, the GDP growing at a healthy rate...

And yet Trump made a campaign out of describing a terrible economy, massive job losses, and rising deficits. On day one he'll point out how great things look and take credit. In fact, he's started already, congratulating himself on the latest consumer confidence score.

And then, in the inevitable aftermath of the same tax policies that have never failed to increase deficits and tank the economy, what will he and his enablers say; whom will they blame?

Need we even ask?

But, hey, who ever said life is fair?

[Image source]

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Says It All


Question: what does it say about our frail-brain, nasty, small-minded, petty, childish, emotionally bereft president-elect that he remains silent after his recent New York State campaign co-chair says despicable things about President Obama and Michelle Obama, yet responds immediately and petulantly when our president states the obvious: namely that were it not for that pesky post-FDR amendment, he'd have wiped the floor with Donald J. Trump had they engaged in electoral battle. (What President Obama actually said was milder and more cerebral than my characterization. What Trump tweeted was as described. His deep thoughts on the UN [same link] were stupider.)

What does it say? Nothing we didn't already know. Everything we need to know. Everything his voters should have known but if they did they didn't care.

[Image source]

Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Winter's Tale


My latest newspaper column, heavily modified, for space, from a seasonal post back in my Surgeonsblog days.
It was exactly ten years ago today. On emergency backup, I was called in to see a man with an unusual injury. It was the middle of the night, and I wasn’t particularly pleased. Reading his chart before going into the room, I could hear the man referring, it seemed, to every nurse within shouting distance as a "ho'." So I must admit I was a little rude to him. Just lifted up his garish shirt and had a look (what was this guy, a pimp? He called me a "ho," too. Several times.) 
Occupying the entire circumference of his enormous belly was a band of mottled skin, maybe five or six inches in width, oozing, and dirty. Despite wearing gloves and boots and the most ridiculous pants I'd seen in a while, the man was hypothermic. Given the potential for rapidly progressing infection, the dead skin needed to go. I put in a page for Larry, the anesthesiologist, and called the OR. "You're going to hate me for this," I told Larry. "He's huge, I'm going to have to reposition him two or three times during the case, and he has an enormous beard [anesthesia folk hate beards]. "Great," said Larry, as he hung up the phone. 
By the time I next saw my patient, they'd removed his clothes and put them in a couple of bags. Boots, gloves, heavy coat with fur-crested sleeves (who wears that? Heard of PETA?); and now, in the warmth of the room the stuff smelled like a barn. Larry was much more mellow than I, probably getting a laugh over my obvious displeasure. He gave the man the usual once-over and piloted the gurney to the OR. It took four of us to move him onto the OR table. He'd told us he was two-eighty, but he was three-fifty if he was an ounce. 
I won't belabor the surgical details. Suffice it to say it was unpleasant. Rolling the man from side to side, to Larry's grumbling (he'd crossed over to my mood half way through), I cut away a belt of skin and subcutaneous crud which, had I been able to do it all in one piece, could have wrapped twice around a telephone pole. It had taken the poor nurse fifteen minutes to scrub clean the man's stomach: No running water where he lives? Everyone had his or her own reason to be repulsed by the whole thing. After I finished, having assured myself it looked like he'd wake up, I went to take a shower. 
When I came back to the recovery room, the man was gone. 
Kathy, the world's best recovery nurse, seemed uncharacteristically befuddled. "What happened?" I inquired (you might call it). "Where's my patient?" I was ticked: I hadn't yet decided whether to send him to the floor or the ICU. Who'd made that decision without me??  
"He checked out," Kathy said. "Checked out? What are you talking about?? He died??"  
"No. I mean he checked out. Pulled out his IV, insisted I take off his bandages. Said he had important work to do that couldn't wait. He said he'd been so cold in the ER he couldn't even remember who he was, could barely talk."  
"You gotta be kidding. There's no way he... How could you let him...”?  
"I don't know. He just talked me into it, like I was a child. I just went blank, like he..."  
"Oh, man! This is bad. He's gonna die out there..."  
"I know you won't believe this, but he looked great. And the wound? It looked like it was healing already. Almost like it never happened."  
"Jeez, Kathy! We gotta..." 
"Sid?" Kathy asked as I tried to storm out the recovery room door.  
"What??" 
"How about his story? About how he got the injury?"  
"What story? I didn't even hear the story. What story?"  
"Getting stuck in a chimney, being pulled out by some animals. They were trying to slay him, I think he said. Oh, and he left these for you," Kathy grinned, tentatively, as she handed me half a dozen wrapped boxes.  
"Yeah, right. Keep 'em. The man is nuts. I gotta get home and get Danny's presents under the tree before he wakes up. Merry frickin' Christmas."  

-->

Saturday, December 17, 2016

No Strings?


Here's the final version of my column as it appears in the newspaper, somewhat modified from when I posted it here a few days ago.
Here’s an incomplete list of concerns regarding Russian interference with our electoral process: 
RUSSIA INTERFERED WITH OUR ELECTORAL PROCESS!! 
Also: the CIA has evidence their intent was to help elect Donald Trump and that Vladimir Putin was directly involved; in Russia, they’re cheering the result; we don’t know why they wanted Trump; Donald Trump and everyone around him wants you to believe the CIA is lying; Mitch McConnell and others in Congress knew about it before the election; Mitch threatened to call making it public an act of partisan politics (unlike their response to James Comey’s “leak”); after Mitch shut down release of the CIA’s findings until after the election, his wife was appointed to Trump’s cabinet; when the hacking was known, the RNC declined a request from the DNC jointly to condemn it; Rex Tillerson, Trump’s choice for Secretary of State, does mega-deals with Putin; our president-elect has made comments suggesting his foreign policy ideas (if that’s what they are) are more aligned with Mr. Putin’s than with our own… 
I could go on. 
Humbly, I suggest Trump-supporting readers ask their inner selves to assess their reaction had the principals been Hillary Clinton and Harry Reid. (Go into your bathroom, close the door, cover the mirror, wrap your brainal zone with tinfoil. No one will know.) Yes, we have glasses of differing colors through which we view the news of the world around us, but this is unprecedented: an unfriendly foreign power, for reasons unknown, has messed with our democracy, arguably to an extent that affected the outcome of a presidential election. Can you tell yourself, and would yourself believe you if you did, that you’d simply “move on”? Does the pleasure of gloating over the election cloud your mind that much? 
Other than his financial ties to Russia, and those of his family, his advisors past and present, and his pick for Secretary of State, we know little of Trump’s connections to or intentions regarding Putin. What we do know is that we can’t expect truth about it from the incoming administration. Bolton called the hacking a false flag. “It’s fake news,” says Sean Hannity, who makes a living creating it. Congressional Republicans have made it clear there’ll be no Benghazi- or email-level investigations. 
Dismissing the CIA report, Donald Trump snorted these are the same people who said Saddam had WMD. Wrong! In fact, the CIA warned the evidence was suspect. It was de-facto president Cheney who ignored their signals and sandbagged Colin Powell. More disturbing, our president-elect just stated he doesn’t need intelligence briefings because he’s “like, a smart person.” Before you leave the bathroom, Trumpists, ask yourself how you’d have received such a statement from that tyrannical, arrogant, cocky guy still in the White House. Flush the toilet if you don’t want to hear your answer. 
It is as simple as oil? Russia, a petro-state, has been hurting since the price of oil tanked (thanks, Obama!) Trump denies climate change and so do all his (highly inexperienced but super-rich) cabinet appointees. He’ll have us drilling everywhere. His choice for State is the foreign policy abecedarian CEO of Exxon-Mobil. When Russia invaded Crimea (which Trump said would never happen. After it happened.) Obama’s sanctions killed a $500 billion Arctic drilling deal between that oil company and Russia’s. Think it’ll be back on? Might Trump’s cabinet of generals agree to pressure OPEC to raise oil prices? Has PEOTUS been promised a cut? 
Or maybe it’s just about Putin’s dream of weakening NATO. 
Clearly, Vladimir Putin understands that Donald Trump is narcissistic, superficial, and greedy, uninterested in thinking past his own simplistic notions and incapable of internalizing new information (security briefings take concentration and effort); and that he craves adulation above all. He’s said of Putin, “If he says great things about me, I'm going to say great things about him.” For a former KGB intelligence officer, in other words, Trump’s a manipulator’s dream: stroke his boundlessly needy ego, grease his palm, get whatever you want. Is Donald Trump the Manchurian Candidate who required no brainwashing, a pre-strung marionette? 
In a non-Foxolimjonesified world, all Americans would be demanding answers. As it is, half the country, primed to look away, does. 
[Image source]

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

From Putin, With Love


I'm gonna start pre-publishing my newspaper columns here, because it drives me crazy that by the time they make it to a Saturday, much of it is old news and/or my thoughts (because they're not so brilliant as to never occur to anyone else) sound like I've copied them from elsewhere. So here's what'll probably show up in the paper on Saturday, possibly tweaked a little: 
Here’s a necessarily incomplete list of serious concerns regarding Russian interference with our electoral process: Holy crap, Russia interfered with our electoral process; the CIA has evidence their intent was to help elect Donald Trump; we don’t know why they wanted Trump; Donald Trump and everyone around him wants you to believe the CIA is lying; Mitch McConnell and others in Congress knew about it before the election; Mitch threatened to call any attempt to make it public an act of partisan politics (unlike their response to James Comey’s “leak”); after Mitch shut down news of the CIA’s findings until after the election, his wife got an appointment to Trump’s cabinet; Rex Tillerson, Trump’s choice for Secretary of State, does deals with Vladimir Putin; our president-elect has made several comments suggesting his foreign policy ideas (if that’s what they are) are more aligned with Mr. Putin’s aims than with our own… 
I could go on. 
Humbly, I suggest Trump-supporting readers ask their inner selves to assess their reaction had the above names been Hillary Clinton and Harry Reid, and if “R” were “D.” (You could go into your bathroom, close the door, cover the mirror, and wrap your brainal zone with tinfoil.) Yes, we all have glasses of differing colors through which we view the news and the world around us. But this is unprecedented. An unfriendly foreign power has messed with our democracy, arguably to an extent that affected the outcome of a presidential election, and we don’t know why. Can you tell yourself, and would yourself believe you if you did, that you’d be silent about it? That you wouldn’t be glued to Fox “news,” screaming? Can you justify silence now? How? 
Other than his financial ties to Russia, and those of his family, his advisors past and present, and his pick for Secretary of State, we know little of Trump’s connections to or intentions regarding Putin. What we do know is that we can’t expect truth about it from the incoming administration. Bolton called the hacking a false flag. "It's fake news," says Sean Hannity, who makes a living off it. Nor will Congressional Republican hypocrites ever allow a Benghazi-level special investigation. 
Dismissing the CIA report, Donald Trump snorted these are the same people who said Saddam had WMD. Wrong! In fact, the CIA warned that the evidence, especially the claims by “Curveball,” which became the signal justification for the invasion, was suspect. It was de-facto president Cheney who stovepiped the intel and sandbagged Colin Powell. More disturbing, our president-elect just stated he doesn’t need intelligence briefings because he’s “like, a smart person.” Stay in your bathroom long enough, Trumpists, to ask yourself how you’d have received such a statement from that tyrannical, arrogant, cocky guy still in the White House. Flush the toilet if you don’t want to hear your answer. 
Could it be as simple as oil? Russia, a petro-state, has been hurting since the price of oil tanked (thanks, Obama!) Trump denies climate change and so do all his cabinet appointees. He wants to drill everywhere. His choice for State is the foreign policy abecedarian CEO of Exxon-Mobil. When Russia invaded Crimea (which Trump said would never happen. After it happened) Obama’s sanctions killed a $500 billion Arctic drilling deal between that oil company and Russia’s. Think it’ll be back on? Might Trump’s cadre of hawkish generals agree to pressure OPEC so Exxon and Russia control oil prices? Has PEOTUS been promised a cut? Or is it about Putin's dream of weakening NATO?
Vladimir Putin understands that Donald Trump is narcissistic, inattentive, and greedy, unable to think past his own simplistic notions and incapable of internalizing new information; and that he craves adulation above all. He’s said of Putin, “If he says great things about me, I'm going to say great things about him.” For a former KGB intelligence officer, in other words, Trump’s a pushover. Stroke his boundlessly needy ego, grease his palm, get whatever you want. Trump is the Manchurian Candidate who required no brainwashing, a pre-strung marionette. 
In a non-Foxolimjonesified world, all Americans would be outraged, demanding answers. As it is, half the country, primed to look away, does.
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