Friday, October 20, 2017


My next newspaper column. It's decidedly local but, perhaps, an issue with wider relevance. The backstory is there's a guy in these parts who makes a fine living (a quarter mill a year, it's reported) cranking out voter initiatives (yeah, WA is one of those states, for better or worse, mostly worse) that play on the anti-tax, anti-government sensation that's sweeping the nation.
When we arrived here thirty-five years ago the Mukilteo Speedway passed mostly through forest. Harbor Pointe and Seaway/Merrill Creek didn’t exist, nor did many of the apartments downtown and along Casino Road. Mill Creek and much of what’s now part of Mukilteo hadn’t yet been incorporated. The Navy wasn’t here, or its developments in Marysville, or the crowded shopping malls to the north.  
Back then we could drive to Seattle in about half an hour almost any time. Bumbershoot could be enjoyed for $2.50 (free on Fridays) with room to spread out. The population of Snohomish county was about 350,000. One of the fastest growing counties in the country, it’s now nearly 800,000. If there’s an end in sight, it’s invisible to me.  
The “Negotiated Agreement,” which, we were told by our realtor, meant Paine Field would never become a commercial airport, was smoke. Bringing even more people, Alliant Air and United Airlines are first in line. And, because it looks like Northwest Washington will be the last part of the US to become uninhabitable due to climate change, still more will flock here, needing places to live; good news for builders. Both Everett mayoral candidates favor upzoning for taller buildings downtown, for more “density.” There’s gotta be point at which it becomes unsustainable: overcrowded, gridlocked, polluted, parched. 
But unabated population growth in these parts looks to be a permanent condition. If land in Everett and Mukilteo is about tapped out, there are still nearby farms to be converted, a few uncut trees, more zoning laws to change. Our freeways are maxed already. Social services, too. Police and fire protection, water resources, air quality, sewage treatment and, eventually, even power supplies, can’t support this rate of expansion forever. Much as I’d like, selfishly, to see a moratorium on growth I know it won’t happen. Too much depends on it. Candidates say no to more taxes, but yes oh yes to more taxpayers. 
The good news is there’s effective action we can take in response to unstoppable growth, and we must do it, now, before it’s too late. Happily, it requires almost no effort: Just say no. 
To Tim Eyman.  
Say no to his latest ploy for self-enrichment, cranking out initiatives, counting on American heads remaining in the sand.  
Apparently caring as little about quality of life here as Donald Trump cares about air, water, climate, education, equal rights, and access to healthcare everywhere, Eyman has offloaded yet another self-serving initiative, this one aimed at reversing our commitment to mass transit. Betting we’d prefer a permanent traffic jam over paying for a half-way livable future is a safe bet: he makes his money on the presentation, not the outcome. He wins either way, even if we don’t. (Which is why, I believe, he’s written initiatives that get struck down by courts: whipped outrage equals more donations. Even his latest b.s over “b.s.” fits the pattern: repeatedly bleating victimhood = ink = cash flow.)  
Because half of America has come to prefer ignoring those things which sustain us, it appears Eyman figures campaigning against taxes assures him of continuing to take (us via) the initiative. It has to stop. This is about far more than car tabs. It’s (sticking) a fork in the road. This is one of those times when, as citizens (and patriots!) we’re called upon to look beyond self-interest, for the sake of the future: our own and our neighbors,’ our children’s, and theirs. When the right thing to do is not, as a recent letter-writer proudly bragged, to “vote with my wallet,” but to vote with one’s heart and head (not to mention carbonized lungs). 
If just societies are conceived for the betterment of individuals through the power of many, it’s by individual willingness to share responsibility that societies survive. (Having splurged on an electric car, my RTA tax took a breathtaking leap. But, hey…)  
No crystal ball is required to see the consequences of voting for Eyman’s latest. If we can’t do anything about growth, we simply must do more about mass transit. Decades of cunctation have already increased costs. Not paying now will bankrupt us when there’s no choice. Money “saved” is a future lost. 
And, yes, it’s about time for a conversation about when enough growth is enough.  
[Image source]

Friday, October 13, 2017

Speaking Of Neiling: Winning Is Everything

The upcoming newspaper column:
It’s clear to all but the Foxified why Mitch McConnell bested his prior Himalayan heights of hypocrisy to block President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. Women’s health, immigration, LGBT rights, same-sex marriage? Just frosting on the wedding cake; Mitch cares about them only to propitiate the basest Republican base. It was to protect the means by which his party has the presidency and both houses of Congress: egregious gerrymandering and dishonest voter suppression laws. Both issues are at or approaching the Supreme Court, where Neil Gorsuch isn’t even pretending he’s not a partisan zealot. 
You lost, they say. Get over it. Yes. We did. Everyone lost. Democracy lost. Getting over it before addressing what happened is exactly what Trump and Republicans in Congress and state legislatures want. Vladimir Putin, too.  
But it was the Electoral College, people say. Yes. Conceived when there were no political parties, no popular elections, or, for that matter, announced candidates. If we’re to keep it, let’s return to original intent: states choose electors who, on their own, sequestered from the rest of us, meet to select our president. They could wear wigs and work by the light of whale oil.  
But it empowers small states, they say. Yes. Which already have disproportionate power in the Senate. In the House, too, where gerrymandered red states’ districts unequally produce Republican winners, and where fewer citizens are represented by their elected, giving residents of small states relatively more influence over legislation. Gerrymandering turns minorities into majorities.  
If any position deserves popular election, with every vote having the same weight, it’s the president of all of us. Why should a Nebraskan have more impact on the choice of president than, say, a Washingtonian? This time, the Electoral College got us exactly what the founders wished to prevent: kakistocracy.  
But it is what it is. So let’s talk about voter suppression. Again. Because it’s as un-American and dangerous as a president threatening (non-existent) “licenses” of news networks he doesn’t like; i.e., all but one.  
Notwithstanding Trumtalitarian lies, multiple investigations have found approximately zero in-person voter fraud, the wink-wink reason for red states’ voter ID laws. In the past election, hundreds of thousands of legitimate voters were denied. The vast majority were Democrats, and the number of those denied far exceeded the numbers by which Trump narrowly won those states. If Trump’s patently phony “voter fraud” commission has its way, it’ll get worse. 
Get over it, they say. We’ll get around to caring when it’s your nominee who benefits. Besides, what’s wrong with requiring identification, they ask? Nothing, if it’s as easily obtainable for the poor, elderly, and people in minority districts as it is for white Republicans. But the requirements and locations for obtaining ID were designed specifically to make it harder. Legislators in those states admitted it. Some lower courts have recognized the fraud. Do states even have a right to deny the franchise in a federal election? Enter the Mitchdefied Supreme Court, where democracy confronts hypocrisy.  
There’s more. Russian interference: sophisticated, relentless, carefully targeted. Until Robert Mueller makes it undeniable, let’s ignore collusion: it’s bad enough without it. Clearly they wanted Trump in office. (Will we learn why?) What they did should alarm everyone. (Instead of “Jews will not replace us,” this time Nazi re-marchers in Charlottesville chanted “Russia is our friend.” Donald Trump, busy reversing rules that protect our planet, neglecting Puerto Rico, and ignoring California wildfires, said nothing.) 
The extent of Russian use of social media to plant fake news has become disturbingly clear. If it’s hard, for now, to know the effect, suffice it to note the multimillions of times those messages were shared. They attempted to corrupt voter rolls in Democratic precincts, and may have succeeded. But Trump and his airwave propagandists, dismissing the constitutional threat, insist reporting it is the real fake news. Who can wonder why? 
Donald Trump (considered a moron by his SecState), his cabinet of grifters, and many R congressdwellers are in office because of voter suppression, gerrymandering, and direct and indirect meddling by a foreign enemy. If it’s reassuring on some level that such people couldn’t have won by legitimate means, all Americans should be alarmed that illegitimacy prevailed. Because, who knows, next time it could be Democrats.  
(Some have noticed: I haven't been including hotlinks lately. For the paper version of the newspaper column, I'd added tinyURLs for readers to use if they chose to, which some people complained were distracting. And since the Foxified ignore them and the well-informed don't need them, I've stopped. For the blog version I'd been converting those URLs to direct links. I prefer to provide that documentation, but for now...)   

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Unoriginal Questions

If kneeling disrespects the flag, what does it mean that people do it in church? Or before the Queen? Why doesn't she lop off their heads?

[Image source]

Friday, October 6, 2017

Guns. And Lies

Tomorrow's newspaper column, today:
Now isn’t the time to talk about it, the White House said, and Sean Hannity agreed. They were right, of course, because only hours after the horror in Las Vegas there was a multiple murder in Massachusetts. Then Kansas. Best to wait till there aren’t any. 
Shortly after signing a bill making it easier for the mentally ill to buy guns (the problem isn’t guns, said Paul Ryan, it’s mental illness), readying to sign one allowing wider use of silencers, Trump tweeted “warmest condolences” and “God bless you” to the victims. It was, he said, “In many ways a miracle,” because cops got to the murderer after only fifty-nine dead and five hundred wounded. (Had he used a silencer, would they have?) 
After speech writers composed a less prosaic response, our pretend-religious president teleprompted prayers for peace, healing, and banishing evil. Momentarily suspending his peddling of hatred and fear, he also suggested praying for an end to hatred and fear. Which left no time for addressing guns.  
If evil is to be banished, it’d have happened by now. If preemptive prayers don’t keep killers from filling hotel rooms with automatic weapons, perfectly legal in Nevada, after-action ones will likely go unanswered, too. Still, since it wasn’t the time to mention America’s tolerance for gun violence as the price we willingly pay to have protected ourselves from Obama’s terrorist army and from the next time a Democrat becomes president, there wasn’t much else to talk about. So prayers it is. Just not the other thing.  
Like how, after Australia outlawed assault-type weapons and tightened gun laws following a massacre, murder rates dropped by over half and mass murder disappeared; citizens relinquished hundreds of thousands of guns and they’ve yet to be enslaved. But legislating is hard. During the shooting, Congress had its hands full ending healthcare funding for nine million children.  
Chiding reporters who brought up gun laws, Press Secretary Sanders brought up Chicago’s gun laws. Following NRA guidelines, she didn’t mention their giant geographic loophole. Would gun laws have prevented Las Vegas? Maybe not. Like climate change, no single event is due to it, they say. But it’s getting worse. On day 274 of 2017, this was mass shooting 272. 
But, no, not the time. Then let’s talk about lying, which Trump does more often than the heavily-armed shoot at us.  
We had the votes, he said after his latest Obamacare failure, but a Senator was hospitalized. This he repeated, semi-automatic, even after the Senator noted he wasn’t in the hospital and, had it been crucial, he’d have returned to vote. Trump’s hospital excuse was fabrication; his insistence they had the votes was dishonesty, squared. 
Why does he lie so bizarrely? Why don’t his apologists care? That’s just Trump being Trump, they say. Recently I conversed with someone who said since all politicians lie, he’s glad Trump does it better. He wasn’t kidding. But good lying is hard to disprove. Trump lies about crime statistics, American business taxes, estate taxes, clean coal. He lies about what he said yesterday. He stands in cloudless sunshine waving the weather report, insisting it’s raining. His tax plan won’t help him or fellow top one-percenters at all, he declares. Every credible analysis says otherwise, but who ya gonna believe: Trump, or your lying arithmetic? His believers say, well, heck. Emails. 
The number and weight of Trump’s lies threaten democracy, annihilate trust. They portend a new and dangerous American exceptionalism. How frightening to have as president a demonstrable, recidivist, outlandish liar; having the nuclear codes, currently in a schoolyard name-calling brawl with another unstable person. Trumpists don’t care. Incredibly, when he claims his tax plan will hurt him personally while balancing the budget, they believe him. When he tells us North Korea, or Iran, or Democrats did something horrible, something war-worthy, there’s no precedent of any sort for assuming he’s being truthful. The danger is obvious.  
Then, for four hours, he visited Puerto Rico, whose citizens he’d called lazy moochers, lamented the expense of helping them, said not enough people died to make it a real catastrophe and other equally stupefying things, importuned praise while praising himself, overstated the relief effort, and tossed paper towel rolls at people like a t-shirt gun at a basketball game. 
It's obvious. Oh, say: can you see?
[Image source]

Thursday, October 5, 2017


Interesting, isn't it, that the people who are so offended by anything they see as disrespecting our flag are the same ones claiming government is "the problem." Who agree with Trump that a free and adversarial press is "the enemy of the people." Who work to devalue education, who are fine with suppressing the votes of people who might disagree with them.

What, I wonder, do they think the flag stands for, if not those things?

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Redefining "Balance"

Deficits, it turns out, matter only when Democrats are in charge. Screaming about increasing debt, as was heard under Obama (despite, as has always been the case with Ds vs Rs, the deficit dropping after rising under Bush), will be a thing of the recent past. From the Tax Policy Center:
This paper analyzes presidential candidate Donald Trump’s revised tax proposal, which would significantly reduce marginal tax rates, increase standard deduction amounts, repeal personal exemptions, cap itemized deductions, and allow businesses to elect to expense new investment and not deduct interest expense. His proposal would cut taxes at all income levels, although the largest benefits, in dollar and percentage terms, would go to the highest-income households. Federal revenues would fall by $6.2 trillion over the first decade before accounting for added interest costs. Including interest costs, the federal debt would rise by $7.2 trillion over the first decade and by $20.9 trillion by 2036.
But... but... Donald and Paul promised us budgetary balance. It's almost as if they were knowingly lying. It's almost as if they assume their base LIKES being lied to.

Which, it's obvious, they do.

The entire analysis is found at the above link. In fairness, it does predict short-term growth in GDP, which falls after the first few years.

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Patriot Act

My next newspaper column:
“Thinking NFL players are protesting the flag is like thinking Rosa Parks was protesting public transportation." 
That’s from Facebook, source of all wisdom. But it’s true. Same with saying they’re disrespecting veterans. Being one myself, I understand why some vets believe it; but they’re missing the point, wide right. Worse, they’re being used by a president with less standing to define patriotism than any president, ever. 
Our justifiable wars (which excludes Vietnam and all that followed except, maybe, Afghanistan until Bush abandoned it) were fought in the name of freedom. Founded by people resisting unjust governance, America began with protests. The action we’ve seen on NFL fields is as American as football, embodying a most fundamental Americanism: belief that wrongs can be righted by rallying support. Peacefully challenging inequality honors the flag, those who fought under it, and the promise of justice for all. For which it stands.  
Oh, but our country has been good to them, say the Foxolimjonesified. Yes. Which makes their activism more significant: it’s for those who haven’t voice or means, who live with inequity daily. Thus, the source of this cynically fomented outrage: the Republican party denies racial inequality exists. To get what those athletes are about, one must acknowledge imperfection, including racism and unequal justice. Denying them is deliberate blindness. Fixing them requires loving America enough to believe it can improve, and willingness to help it happen. 
NFL owners didn’t have to support their players. They did. Instead of men attending to equality, Trump could have called for firing people honoring Nazi flags, hailing inequality. He didn’t. 
I served in Vietnam because I was drafted. Unlike Donald Trump, who undoubtedly used family wealth and influence to get five phony deferments for “bone spurs” which mysteriously didn’t prevent him from playing varsity sports, I hadn’t tried to get out of it. Unlike Trump, I figured if I did, someone worth no less than me would be going in my place. 
While I was dodging rockets in Danang (successfully but for one), my wife was working for anti-war candidates and participating in war protests. As I was there involuntarily, her bravery and patriotism were greater than mine. Risking reprisal from Richard Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover, believing America could be better, she exercised rights I was told I was fighting for. Candidate Trump literally wrapped himself around a flag in a laughably phony tableau of patriotism. Unlike him, my wife and millions then, and star athletes and millions now, know patriotism is more real, difficult, and committed than that.  
Dining with a thrombus of right-wing leaders recently, Trump bragged that his “NFL thing” was “really taking off,” that he was “winning” on it. Winning what? A war of propaganda and deception? Distraction from the latest failure of a pre-failed campaign promise, repeal and replacement of The Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act; or the just-revealed White House private email accounts? Or, despite his bragging about it, a disorganized, ineffective relief effort in Puerto Rico? Or possibly his imaginary secret plan to defeat ISIS in thirty days. (Maybe he meant thirty days from tomorrow.) “Winning,” he called his NFL demagoguery. Such are the priorities of a losing narcissist. 
Except as a word to manipulate supporters, Donald Trump knows nothing of patriotism. Calling white supremacists “very fine people” but men protesting inequality “sons of bitches” is the opposite of patriotism. Hoping to wrench health coverage from millions of Americans, including low-income veterans, isn’t patriotism, nor is promoting a tax plan that experts say will add two trillion in debt while enriching his fellow plutocrats at the expense of Americans struggling to succeed. Patriotism isn’t running scam businesses and hiding tax returns. Neither is a “I know you are but what am I” contest with the world’s second most immature leader. And it absolutely isn’t receiving election assistance from a foreign enemy (who’s now helpfully pushing NFL outrage online). 
His list of transgressions makes Donald Trump particularly unqualified to define patriotism for us. With phony outrage, the man who got rich avoiding taxes and bilking Americans wants us to ignore the inequality those NFL players are identifying. In claiming they disrespect our flag, Trump stands truth on its head, which, it’s clear, is right where his remaining supporters prefer it to be. 
[Image source]

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Health Care. And Now, Tax Reform.

Who knew "America First" and "Make America Great Again" meant ending taxation on money American corporations earn overseas? I guess I just don't understand job creation.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Perfect Version of "Graham-Cassidy"

Because I'm not the sort to put party above the good of our country, I have a "repeal and replace" health-care plan that will help Republicans, who control our government, fulfill their promise to the American people. It's based on their efforts (which some consider a bit shameless and cynical and desperate) to win over reluctant Republican senators by exempting their states from the worst parts of "Graham-Cassidy." (Or is it "Cassidy-Graham?" Or both, since there are two versions now.)

And here it is: write your bill and exempt all fifty states. Simple. Done deal. You're welcome.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Trump's Katrina? No. Far Worse.

Note to Donald Trump: Puerto Rico is part of the United States. Its citizens are American citizens, and they're in extremis. Instead of acting like a child over athletes standing up to you, how 'bout marshaling all the powers of the government, including the military, to get food and water there? How 'bout sending generators and fuel by the boatload?

You idiot. You self-absorbed third grader. Would it help if we sent skin-lightening cream first?

[Image source]

Friday, September 22, 2017

Kung Fu Surgeon

Tomorrow's newspaper column, today. A happy break from Trump and Trumpisim, by way of my Surgeonsblog.
Somewhere in my home is a letter I received from a Shaolin priest, at the time one of five (so I was told) highest grand masters of the martial art of kung fu on the planet. The letter is embossed with the gold seal of the temple of which he was the head (if that’s the word). With its beautiful calligraphy and that timeless seal, I should have had it framed. Sadly, at the moment it’s missing in inaction. 
The master came to me from another country, that I -- and only I -- might operate upon him. (To put it a little more dramatically than circumstances might warrant.) According to the man who sent him to me, he taught very few select pupils, and demonstrated his skills only in private. The referring person, a student of kung fu (but not of the master), had had the opportunity to witness the man's ability to toss a group of attackers like Pike Place fish, and other unearthly wonders. The priest was in his sixties, as I recall. 
I'm not sure what I expected. A spectral aura? Levitation? A shimmering cone of calm? Surely, though, were I to give satisfactory care, I'd be granted some sort of special status, maybe presented with a holy relic, invited to the temple for a secret ceremony rooted in ages past. I let myself imagine wondrous things. Truths revealed. Powers conferred. 
He arrived in my office dressed like a Florida retiree. Age-appropriately fit, but appearing neither athletic nor powerful, he was of unimposing stature. Less surprised than embarrassed for my silliness, I put aside my fantasies and proceeded into my usual doctor/patient partnership, treated him like everyone else, operated in due course and saw to his recovery, after which he returned to his homeland. 
The letter, which lavishly compared my commitment and work to that of great artists, was accompanied by a package. The elegance (and flattery) of the letter was more than enough; but, once again, I unloosed my imagination, now at what might be in the box, which I opened with partially contained expectation. 
It was a Montblanc fountain pen. 
I'd not heard of them. Very expensive for a pen, I discovered, and quite beautiful. A nice gesture, no doubt, but of not much use to me. A little too showy, it was also impossible to use for writing orders at the hospital, because (before computerized records) I needed to push hard enough for several copies. Nor was I interested in lugging a bottle of ink on rounds. I confess to being disappointed. It seemed so impractical, so materialistic, so... unlike a Shaolin priest. Not that I had any information other than a TV show. 
In its elegant box, the pen sat on my bedside table for a decade or more, alongside its exotic and suggestively erotic ink bottle. Then I wrote a book, found an actual publisher, gave some readings, did book signings. And it occurred to me: it was karma, or whatever kung fu masters believe in. He foresaw this moment, it was perfect, meaning and purpose of the gift revealed. 
I took it to my first reading. With its elegant, filigreed gold nib, its meaty heft, its unmistakable emblem, the silky lines of ink it imparted to the page, it’d be perfect for a signature and a few well-chosen words. Testimony to a writer of distinction. On stage, I read choice bits and answered questions. Humbly, I say my readings were mutual fun. I'm enough of a ham to enjoy it and get plenty of laughs. That first one was at “Wordstock,” a book fair of some renown in Portland. My presentation, in a small side room, was at the same time as Gore Vidal's, in an appropriately huge one. “This is my first reading of my first book," I told the audience, "So I'm looking forward to hearing what I have to say." 
When I finished, by then an old pro, sitting at a table stacked with books ready to be signed and inscribed for purchasers, I took up that auriferous pen as if having it were normal as breathing. 
It leaked all over my hands. The first book I signed was so smudged I had to throw it away.
[Image source]

Thursday, September 21, 2017


It's become very clear that Robert Mueller is deadly serious and that his investigation will reveal multiple transgressions: not just Russia collusion and Russian hacking of the electoral process (more effectively than is currently believed by most), but Trump's own shady (and worse) business dealings, and those of his hench.

And it's clear, because it's already happening, that Trump, Trumpists, the right-wing media machine, and Congressional Rs will do everything they can to discredit Mueller and his findings.

What's not yet clear is the extent to which the latter truth will be effective. On the 35% hardcore, the answer is irrelevant: they'll believe Trump is Jesus-sent and Mueller is doing the work of the devil. The important question is how many Trump voters of the not totally blinded and deafened sort will think twice. And whether enough Congressional Rs will find the genitals to do something about it.

I cling to the belief that not all Republicans have gone entirely insane and that the word "conservative" still has meaning; so I'm inclined to think that if Mueller's findings are as damaging to Trump and his gang of deceivers as I'm pretty sure they will be, we'll be seeing the last of Trump, sooner than later.

A guy can dream.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Perchance To Dream

Tomorrow's newspaper column, today:
Steve Bannon and all of Breitbartdom were deliriously joyful, Jeff Sessions smirked his way through the announcement, their uncontained happiness telling. Ending DACA is, after all, about nothing so much as nativist white supremacy. Appealing directly to the worst among us, Trump’s initial decision was gratuitous cruelty.  
“Compassion,” said Sessions, the word inexplicably not burning through his nasal conchae and into his brain. And “law.” Well, the latter argument is not without weight: DACA was a controversial executive order by the Muslim Kenyan terrorist, a result of Congress even less able to legislate than it is now.    
Fake news notwithstanding, no court has ruled Obama’s order unconstitutional. Now, though, with Neil Gorsuch having taken his seat thanks to unprecedented obstruction by Mitch McConnell, the Supreme Court is stacked against it. Congressional inaction or an appearance before the Court would mean the end of DACA. Too bad. It’s been humane and mutually beneficial; which, considering its origin, is unsurprising. Note that CEOs of major companies, and the Chamber of Commerce are among those calling for continuing the program. 
As usual, right-wing media are disgorging deliberate disinformation about DACA recipients: they’re on welfare, they get food stamps, free college. Because it’s lies that created and animate Trumpism, truth won’t matter. But this is about children, innocently but unlawfully brought here years ago, who’ve honorably made our country a home. These are eight-hundred-thousand honest young adults, contributing no less to society than wave after wave of immigrants have throughout our history.  
On arrival, their average age was six. They’ve been here, typically, twenty years, during which time they’ve become American in all but citizenship. To qualify for DACA, they’ve passed and maintained legal scrutiny; they’re paying five-hundred dollars every two years to continue their inclusion; none have committed crimes; nearly all are employed, paying taxes. They include nurses, teachers, med students, engineers, tech specialists, soldiers. Debunked repeatedly is the claim that Dreamers take jobs from American citizens. There is, in other words, no downside to DACA. Having arrived as children, they’ve come to personify the American dream, as opposed to the deplorables to whose ugly demands Trump is acceding.  
Had Republicans in Congress shown legislative ability on much of anything, especially issues that require empathy, intelligence and forward thinking, Trump’s no-look pass to them could be seen as something other than cynical politics. “Above all else, we must remember that young Americans have dreams too,” stated Trump, vaporizing prior phony justifications, and implying benevolence is a zero-sum proposition. 
It’s only those aggrieved (in their own minds) nativists and supremacists who like the idea of punishing descendants for the crimes of their parents, but those are the people on whom Trump has rested his presidency. Muslim bans, Charlottesville, LGBT people, Sheriff Arpaio, and (maybe, maybe not) DACA: there’s no mistaking, to date, at whose approval his policies have been aimed. A third of Trump voters, according to polls, would deport Dreamers.  
And yet, as he reads the writing on the wall, senses he might be making an early exit through the presidential grift-shop, maybe Trump is listening to the better angels in Congress and the voices of the vast majority of Americans who disapprove of and disagree with him. Even if it’s because he fears an end to the cash cow his presidency has become for his businesses and family, has he reneged, yet again, on a major promise? As happened with the debt ceiling, Democratic leaders may have convinced him to reconsider this senseless deportation. 
But wait: after showing what looked like an uncharacteristic sense of decency, Trump is now demanding a cost-free act of humanity be tied to his expensive, pandering, and unnecessary border wall. So who knows? Does he care about Dreamers as fellow humans, or is their future only a bargaining chip? With Trump, whose only constant is self-enrichment, no one, not even supporters, can count on anything. 
Nativist Trumpites are already up in arms at his possible about-face. As we welcome their overdue recognition that Trump hasn’t the ability to produce coherent policy or keep his facts straight from one moment to the next, let them explain how Obama’s order has hurt them.  
Meanwhile: if this column is even more discohesive than usual, hey, the man has ping-ponged three times since I began it! 
[Image source]

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Sinking To Their Level

I gotta say there's a bunch of really annoying lefty websites lately, ones posting articles with click-worthy headlines, pitching stories we all wish were true but which, when read, are empty, the titles having been dramatically misleading, the "story" nothing more than hearsay. It's starting to piss me off.

"Trump furious over something or other." "The final days of Trump's presidency or something." "White House in disarray after Mueller somethings a something."

I'd like to believe it all, but I don't need to be hooked into something that's unsourced hearsay bullshit. I'd like to believe liberals are a little smarter than that, and that they'd reject trumpic-level fakery. But it's not so: Facebook, for example, is full of links to those articles, posted, re-posted, garnering all sorts of "like"s. I'll assume the likers didn't bother to read the articles. Otherwise, they're at Foxolimjonesian levels of wishful thinking.

Are they deliberately false, just to raise hopes only to dash them? Are they cynical click-bait for ad revenue? Whatever the answers, "we" ought to be better than these useless places.

Here's a list of some of the worst bullshit liberal sites:

"Bluedotdaily dot com" "Progresstribune dot com" "Bipartisanreport dot com" And this bunch of bogosity: Occupy Democrats, PoliticsUSA, Blue Nation Review, Addicting Info, Liberalspeak. I guess it's not impossible any of them might on occasion post something useful, but they require reading with a high level of salinity and a low level of expectation.

Happily, there are plenty of reputable and intelligent liberal sites which do excellent original reporting of their own. A couple of the best are and Plus, (which, if sometimes a little shady, has been known to link to my blog on occasion),, and, of course, Mother Jones.

And there's the best of the opinionators, Charles P. Pierce. That he happens also to be funny as hell is frosting on the apple.

No fan of bothsiderism, I have no problem with well-argued liberal-leaning sites: they're where reality is to be found. Which is why those superficial, shallow, low-standard, b.s. "liberal" places are so depressing. Actual, documentable, well-sourced truth is good enough, and all we need.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Mine Eyes Have Seen

Sharia law, they scream. Christians are the most abused of all religions. Religion is under attack in America, they weep; they're coming for your gums.

Meanwhile, under Trump (who gives as much a shit about religion as he does about non-white Americans), our government is becoming an undisguised fundamentalist Christian theocracy, and it ought to be beyond worrisome to everyone, especially conservatives. If they were, in fact, actually conservative.

His latest nominee to the Federal bench thinks judges' religious beliefs should and do outweigh the law. And if that's not enough to scare the crap out of you (especially if you're a woman, or, for that matter, most other forms of human), how about the CIA becoming the enforcement arm of evangelical Christianity?

The only thing Trump's government is good at is prestidigitation: hey, look, there's voter fraud, they shout, waving ballots in your face, while with the other hand they're hiding the actual hacking of elections by Putin's pals. Oh, my, the Islams are gonna impose that Sharie stuff, they warn, as our government becomes biblically blind to the Constitution.

As a non-Christian, it gives me extra connection to the pit of my stomach. Because Trump and Trumpists no more believe in freedom of religious thought than they do in free and fair elections. Absent a great upheaval, a great awakening among the blind and deaf -- as likely as anthropogenic global cooling -- we're on our way back to the Middle Ages, in more ways than several.

And if Trump goes while Pence stays, it'll just be a change in the likeness of the Grand Inquisitor.

[Update: it looks like the claim about that judge may have been wrong. That's embarrassing. The CIA thing is real. So, now that you mention it, is the fact that that ousted Alabama supreme court justice, who refused to take down the Ten Commandments from his courthouse, is the likely next senator from there. So, a datum was wrong; the general point isn't.]

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Friday, September 8, 2017


Tomorrow's newspaper column, today:
No city, state, or country could be fully prepared for a disaster like Hurricane Harvey. Texas is trying hard. Thankfully, Trump appointed a person to lead FEMA who, nearly alone among other appointees, is experienced and competent, and Trump pressed Congress for billions in aid. (Will it come from border wall funds or from critical services? Either way, might people notice how unimportant that wall is, compared to this sort of need?)

Also nice, though parsimonious compared to his claimed wealth and to donations of billionaires like Michael Dell, millionaire athletes, and “Hollywood liberals,” is Trump’s pledge of a million dollars of “personal money.” Much is going to reputable charities, though Franklin Graham, worth tens of millions, all-in Trumpist, blamer of gays and immigrants for nearly everything, gets a hundred grand. 
One hates to dwell on Trump, but his initial trip to Texas showcased his predictable, narcissistic first instincts: comments on crowd size, a platform for selling hats, no mention of people hurting from the floods. “We’ll congratulate ourselves when it’s finished,” said he. Evidently stung by criticism, he returned to stage a simulacrum of empathy. Some people were impressed. “Sincerity. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” (George Burns.)

Local governments know best, Republicans say. But after eliminating environmental rules statewide, Texas’ state legislature moved to prevent cities and counties from enacting their own. Businesses need not say what toxins they harbor. When plants blow up in Texas, firefighters may be unaware of what they’re facing, even after they’ve finished.

Houston has minimal zoning laws. Neighborhoods have discovered they’re living next to stored poisons only after they leak. And if smarter development wouldn’t fully mitigate monster floods like Harvey, it’s a fact that land formerly capable of absorbing water was covered over with no requirements for redress. It adds up. Now, as the deluge recedes, pollution left behind will be monumental and, had there been wiser governance, largely preventable.

Before Harvey, Trump reversed Obama’s rules for building in flood zones, cut refinery regulations, supported nearly a billion in cuts to FEMA and three-hundred-fifty million in federal money for fighting wildfires. Already shrinking, the EPA is led by a life-long panderer to the interests of fossil fuel producers; a man who, like Trump and most Republicans, asserts man-made climate change is a hoax. All of whom claim bringing it up right after a disaster is unseemly, and bringing it up any other time is worse.

Last week’s column ended with, “Trump is Hurricane Harvey. Houston is America.” In fairness, it’s not just him: it’s the entire Republican Party since Ronald Reagan’s simplistic idea that “government isn’t the solution, it’s the problem.” Deficit-increasing tax cuts and dangerous deregulation have followed ever since. If Reagan didn’t know of man-made climate change, he didn't mind a little pollution, and ridiculed conservation, saying, “You’ve seen one redwood, you’ve seen them all.” 
For years, Texas has been a laboratory of Reaganoid “business friendly” deregulation and tax breaks. Then came Harvey, blowing away the peeling veneer of credibility for post-Reagan Republicanism, washing off everything but the writing on the wall. 
The measure of post-Harvey leadership won’t be photo-op mulligans, handing out food (ever tone-deaf, Trump called the tragedy “a beautiful thing” and told people to “have a good time.”) Leadership will mean replacing the “If Obama was for it I’m against it” mentality with willingness (and ability) to become analytical and responsible. It’ll be committing to years of recovery, with government solutions from many departments. It’ll require acknowledging the magnitude of man-made climate change, having the humanity to recognize and admit former wrong-headedness, and providing a clear-eyed plan of action. Including ending Trumpic coal-fired lunacy. It’ll mean reversing the assault on regulating dangerous practices, and rethinking reductions in critical services to pay for millionaire tax cuts and symbolic walls. 
Harvey’s lessons are unambiguous. Only fossil fuel producers and other polluters benefit from climate change denial and strangling the EPA. Around here we’ve broken records for rainless days. The Bay Area suffered record high temperatures, the West is on fire, another enormous hurricane is bearing down. As climate science predicts, storms, floods, drought, and wildfires are worsening globally. Man-made climate change is obvious, the consequences undeniable. 
People who still reject this reality are either impossibly ignorant or unimaginably evil.
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Monday, September 4, 2017

Nasty. Harmful. Stupid. It's Just Who He Is.

My first thought about Trump's plan to end DACA was anger at his usual needless nastiness, his playing to the worst of his base. And the typical thoughtlessness of him.

My second thought was, after reading the deportations would be deferred for six months so Congress could deal with it was, well, that makes a certain amount of sense, so, okay maybe.

My third and probably final thought was, wait a minute. That's bullshit. Because either the crazy wing will manage to codify the end of DACA, or, more likely, Congress, already with too much on its plate and having shown its inability to do much of anything, will gridlock up to and past the six-month deadline.

So it's cynicism2 effluxing from the Gold House: gratuitous meanness and a ploy to place blame on Congress. Either way, deporting people who arrived here illegally as children but who've become productive residents is despicable. It serves no good purpose. But when has "good" ever entered into Trump's thinking, other than when followed by "for me"?

In this case one would hope it's not even good for him. Sure his alt-right marchers and rally attendees will love it. But I think it'll be too much for (theoretically existent) decent people who, for some reason, talked themselves into voting for him. Among them there simply must be a few with compassion. Or, absent compassion, the ability to do math.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Idiots, All The Way Down


Tomorrow's newspaper column, today:
It’s a big, diverse country, so there’s no surprise it contains people who support Donald Trump’s ever more egregious demagoguery. Of course, it’s that very diversity which animates those non-diverse supporters who show up at his rallies. These are scary people; scary as a “president” who, in Arizona, read words claiming to love all Americans, after which he spewed venom at pretty much everybody. Especially reporters who, he says, don’t like America. Reporters, whose job it is to correct lies and uncover corruption. Who, coincidentally, will be reporting results of investigations. 
Phoenix was the worst yet: meandering, wallowing in self-pity, blaming others for his failures, threats against enemies perceived and real. (No mention, though, of ten sailors who died the day before.) But they cheer him. Even when, after promising Mexico would pay for his wall, he threatened to shut down OUR government if WE won’t pay for it. And now, pardoning a racist, law-flouting (but birther!) sheriff whose malfeasance and crimes are manifold, “Law and Order” Trump has sent us a clear, specific message; and it’s grotesque. 
On cue, they cheer and boo, making clear who really doesn’t like America. They’ll say otherwise, of course: they love it. Except its laws; except immigrants and minorities; except the mainstays of democracy: a free and adversarial press; voting by citizens they don’t like; and public education. What they don’t love is the foundation on which the republic stands. It follows, then, that they’re fine with a sociopathic leader who doesn’t love those same things. 
Trumpists posted scenes of tens of thousands filling the streets of Phoenix for the rally. The pictures were actually of throngs in Cleveland for the NBA champ Cavaliers; that’s how much they prefer lies, the more the better. As usual, Trump lied about crowd size, too. 
If it’s creepy having an insecure “president” who’s so needy he holds rallies to wallow in adulation, it’s beyond bizarre that he whines, rambles, fumes, can’t stay on message, contradicts what he said moments earlier. He invokes hatred (Lock her up, they chanted. McCain should die.) He misleads, he fails to understand those things of which he speaks ( And they cheer him. He offers up scapegoats, validates their prejudices. Are they brainwashed, or just willingly uninformed? Decide for yourselves. 
That there’s an audience in America hungry for Trumpo-totalitarianism is obvious. We’ve seen the neo-Nazis and white supremacists up close now, the salutes and chants and flags (“We all salute the same flag,” said Trump) of the ideology hundreds of thousands of braver Americans died to defeat. The ideology that killed millions of innocents; whose fascistic descendants loved Trump’s Charlottesville response. The difference between Arizona attendees and marchers in Virginia is geography. Those who’ve seen Trump’s disjointed ravings and still applaud are marchers in their minds, and they won’t be back.  
Trumpism was never about “economic insecurity” or “America first.” Only a day before the rally, Trump announced a “plan” for open-ended war in Afghanistan that was no plan at all. And now, after encouraging police violence, he’s re-arming them into a military force. Remember when Foxolimjonesians warned of Obama imposing martial law? 
Rational people see what participants in Trumpic love/hate-fests never will. They’re raising alarms about his sanity, concerned he’s in over his head, worrying that a vengeful, confabulating man is in charge of our military. They see historic parallels in his gullible, enthusiastic followers. And these aren’t liberals whose safe spaces were invaded. They’re conservative foreign policy experts, CIA officials who’ve served presidents of both parties. 
Not all Americans can resist the appeal of tyrants, especially people who believe they’ll never be targeted. Which is how it begins. If Trump’s inveighing words are reminiscent of dictators throughout history, we must consider whether he can accomplish on our soil what others have elsewhere. Not if enough decent people who voted for him are, finally, shocked enough by what they’re witnessing to join those who’ve seen it all along. 
Getting through to those who attend or approve his rallies is impossible: he’s their demagogue, tells their lies. But it’s well past time for Republicans and conservatives who love actual America to put country above party and reject Trump’s dangerous demagoguery. He’s Hurricane Harvey. Houston is America.  
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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

No One Saw It Coming

Once again, CPP tells it. The waters are just the beginning; and whereas there's blame to go around (not to mention that much is blameless, other than God, that is) in many ways Houston is the result of rampant deregulation and anti-science that have become the mainstays of Republicanism. It's all, including the floods, been predictable. And predicted.

But, you know, experts...

The linked article ends thus:
... Once, long ago, the conservative activist Grover Norquist famously said that he wanted to shrink "government" to a size at which it could be drowned in the bathtub. Well, people actually are drowning in Houston now, and so is the political philosophy that reached its height when Ronald Reagan said in his first inaugural that government wasn't the solution, but the problem itself. We all moved onto a political flood plain then, and we're being swept away.
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Monday, August 28, 2017

The 411 On The New 911

Anyone see a pattern here? Trump speaks to cops, tells them it's okay to rough up people they arrest. Trump calls people who protest him (or Nazis) lawless thugs. And now he reverses Obama's restrictions on the military giving offensive weapons to police forces. Tanks, grenade launchers, bayonets (!). Not only rescinds but makes it easier. This, after pardoning a lawless sheriff who bragged about that very lawlessness.

Anyone remember when Foxolimjonesians were warning that Obama was coming for us in tanks? That he'd suspend our government and impose martial law?

Railing against the press, against those who oppose him, against free and fair voting. Invoking all manner of conspiracies meant to frighten people into relinquishing the protections afforded us all in a democracy. And now, turning police forces around the country into extensions of the military. "Serve and protect" becomes "seek out and destroy."

Nope. No pattern at all. Nothing to worry about. Move along. Now. Or you'll get a bayonet up your nose.

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Friday, August 25, 2017

Taking It For Granted

Tomorrow's newspaper column, today:
Readers of the letters portion of this paper were recently treated to the reanimation of a well-worn Foxolimjonesian climate change denial trope: climate scientists are in it for the grant money. If appealing to logic were effective, such letters might never be written, but let’s talk about it anyway.  
If the argument makes sense, its logical (sorry) extension would be that we should only believe scientists who work for free; even more so, maybe, if they paid for the privilege. In fact, when you think about it, the writer and those who accept that silly argument are communists: researchers should give us what they can and take what they need. Amazing. Foxolimjonesians: commies. It’s a relief to have figured it out.  
I have a niece who’s a world-renowned (among scientists in her field, anyway) researcher in immunology. A PhD professor at a major university, she’s published by the most highly regarded scientific journals, shares her findings at symposia around the world. She’s knocking on the breakthrough door, with work that will likely have enormous benefits in treatment of auto-immune disease and (maybe already) certain childhood leukemias. And she spends a ridiculous amount of time writing grant proposals. Time that’d be far better spent in her lab. Time, were there a more sensible system, wasted.  
I know other academics, and they too spend valuable time applying for grants. Most live well below the high parts of the hog. My niece lives in a small apartment with her husband and two kids. It’s close to her lab because she needs to go there day and night. (Mice, mainly, are the reason. I understand. For me, in college, it was fruit flies.)  
Bad research doesn’t win grants. Tough-minded committees review applications and money isn’t awarded to poorly-done investigation. When researchers succeed in getting them, grants pay expenses of running a lab, salaries of their post-doc assistants, and, in some cases, part of their own salaries. Unlike Trump’s cabinet of climate-change deniers, they’re not wealthy. But that’s our system. And now, as our short-sighted, science-denying leaders (science-fearing, as it threatens their economic and environmental dishonesty) are cutting funding for all sorts of important scientific inquiry, their situation will only worsen, their scrambling for private money even more distracting from the good they do. 
Republicans hate paying for anything other than tax cuts for their benefactors and for military equipment. (Stop the presses: more troops to Afghanistan. Again. Defense stocks surge.) You’d think it’d be a priority to spend public money on the kinds of research that has and will continue to make life healthier and safer. But you’d also think we wouldn’t have a science rejecter as president. 
From the letter-writer’s argument it’s a short hop to another claim of the hypo-rational: we doctors are suppressing cures for diseases. Like cops encourage crime and firemen fires. (The existence of some letters suggests educators have been creating ignorance for the same reason.) As to doctors, well, we and our families get sick, too. Die, even, from the same diseases that kill other humans. And whaddya know? Cancers, and more, that were considered incurable in my day are being laid low by newer discoveries. 
I don’t know whether it’s the insult or the gullibility that’s the more depressing. But I do know how dispiriting it is to see evidence, every day, of how easily fooled so many of today’s Republicans have become. Fox “news,” or Alex Jones, or Rush Limbaugh, or any of the crazy wing of today’s Republican Congress say something ridiculous, imagine a nutty conspiracy -- count on reading or hearing someone regurgitating it on these pages and elsewhere. Including the Gold House. 
It’s ominous. Society can’t long function with one of its major parties so loosened from terra firma; when lying from the very top and from a well-planned disinformation media campaign has created masses of credulous people no longer able to recognize falsehood, nor interested in re-learning the skill. 
It’s not the specific assertion of that letter that’s so sad; it’s what it portends for the future. If people can dismiss the validity of climate research because scientists earn a living doing it, what’s next? Defending a man who claims some American Nazis and white supremacists are “very fine people?” Could it ever get that bad?
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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Long Game

Admittedly a thought not entirely original with me, it's something I've been thinking and finding entirely worth considering: another reason Putin was so anxious to help Trump attain the presidency.

Yes, I think Putin figured he could manipulate Trump into doing what he, Putin, wanted. He already has. Very possibly because he has "stuff" on him that Trump wants never to see the light of day. But I see Putin as much more of an evil genius than that.

I think he took the measure of Trump and the people with whom he's surrounded himself -- Nazis, xenophobes, Islamophobes, anti-Semites, wealthy people with no regard for those Americans in need of help -- and concluded, rightly, that a Trump presidency had the potential to render our country asunder. To divide us and cause us to fall upon each other with brutality and hate unlike any we saw during the Obama presidency. To begin the end of democracy, the end of America itself. By civil war: figurative at minimum. Literal, very possibly.

(Need it be said: with each president it's been the same people fueling the division: the haters who hated Obama and now, who feel empowered to crawl out from under their anonymous websites and march in the streets. In the Obama presidency, it was reactive racism. Under Trump, it's racism unfettered.)

And, while that would be brewing, Putin figured Trump would very likely cause America to be reviled by the rest of the world. We'd sink one way or the other, with our former friends glad to see us go.

Is Putin that Machiavellian, Trump that much of a tool?

Is carbon dioxide a greenhouse gas?

Besides which, it seems to be working. Putin must have watched the events in Charlottesville, Trump's stupid responses, the outrage in response to that, the subsequent braying of the alt-right, and rubbed his hands together like you-know-who.

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Friday, August 18, 2017


Because I'm sure I have the ears (or eyes) of Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, I've written a simple and easily memorizable statement for them to make together:
Mr. President, it's time for you to resign  your office with "dignity" or be removed in disgrace. Your choice. 
There. Wasn't that easy? (They can use air quotes for "dignity," or not.)

And, no, the departure of Steve Bannon doesn't suffice. Especially since the White House statement, as delivered by Sarah "Going to hell for sure" Huckabee "And not coming back, ever" Sanders, tried to pretend Trump wasn't involved. To, you know, keep the racists happy.

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Good For Mitt

Mitt Romney rose to the occasion. I take back some of the stuff I've said about him.

Unlike the mealy responses of other Republican leaders, who bravely said some words suggesting they don't like racism and Nazis all that much, but failed to address the "president" directly, he had this to say, as posted on Facebook. In full:

I will dispense for now from discussion of the moral character of the president's Charlottesville statements. Whether he intended to or not, what he communicated caused racists to rejoice, minorities to weep, and the vast heart of America to mourn. His apologists strain to explain that he didn't mean what we heard. But what we heard is now the reality, and unless it is addressed by the president as such, with unprecedented candor and strength, there may commence an unravelingof our national fabric. 
The leaders of our branches of military service have spoken immediately and forcefully, repudiating the implications of the president's words. Why? In part because the morale and commitment of our forces--made up and sustained by men and women of all races--could be in the balance. Our allies around the world are stunned and our enemies celebrate; America's ability to help secure a peaceful and prosperous world is diminished. And who would want to come to the aid of a country they perceive as racist if ever the need were to arise, as it did after 9/11?  
In homes across the nation, children are asking their parents what this means. Jews, blacks, Hispanics, Muslims are as much a part of America as whites and Protestants. But today they wonder. Where might this lead? To bitterness and tears, or perhaps to anger and violence? 
The potential consequences are severe in the extreme. Accordingly, the president must take remedial action in the extreme. He should address the American people, acknowledge that he was wrong, apologize. State forcefully and unequivocally that racists are 100% to blame for the murder and violence in Charlottesville. Testify that there is no conceivable comparison or moral equivalency between the Nazis--who brutally murdered millions of Jews and who hundreds of thousands of Americans gave their lives to defeat--and the counter-protestors who were outraged to see fools parading the Nazi flag, Nazi armband and Nazi salute.

And once and for all, he must definitively repudiate the support of David Duke and his ilk and call for every American to banish racists and haters from any and every association. 
This is a defining moment for President Trump. But much more than that, it is a moment that will define America in the hearts of our children. They are watching, our soldiers are watching, the world is watching. Mr. President, act now for the good of the country.

Good on ya, Mitt. You crystallized the deeper and future impact of having a president who claims there are "very fine people" among Nazis and white supremacists. The world, and, more importantly, America's children are listening. The ones, that is, not already brainwashed to ruination by their parents of the Charlottesville marching kind.

Online and elsewhere, people still defend Trump. Either they're too stupid to see the implications, as Mitt Romney stated, or they don't give a shit. More important to them to be able to make up for their self-loathing by hating everyone else.

The "president" of the United States has, yet again, branded us as a rogue nation, a stupid, hateful nation. We need a hell of a lot more than lip service from Congressional Republicans. They need to rid us of him.

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