Wednesday, May 18, 2022
“False flag.” It’s among the preferred excuses offered by the don’t-blame-us right, to defend the indefensible. After the murders of Black Americans in Buffalo, by an admitted white supremacist, racist antisemite bedeviled by bogus “replacement theory,” it took only a day for it to be applied, Alex Jones/Sandy Hook style. Jones, himself, dredged it up again. Republican candidates and legislators, too.
Guns are now so deeply embedded in America, it won’t ever change. Shortly before the massacre, two Trump-appointed judges struck down a California law banning sales of military-style weapons to people under twenty-one, like the Buffalo assassin, calling it a violation of the Second Amendment. Maybe it was. But the judge who wrote the opinion offered this bit of Trumpismic illogic: "America would not exist without the heroism of the young adults who fought and died in our revolutionary army," Judge Ryan Nelson wrote. "Today we reaffirm that our Constitution still protects the right that enabled their sacrifice: the right of young adults to keep and bear arms."
Right. Because youngsters joined the Revolution keeping and bearing muskets, we must allow modern killing machines to be purchased by everyone of any age. McConnell-selected, Trump-appointed. Nothing more needs saying.
“Consider your man card reissued,” creeps an ad for the Bushmaster war-weapon clone the murderer used. “If it’s good enough for the professional, it’s good enough for you.” That's a testicle-tanning-Tucker two-fer. BTW: studies show shooting accuracy of professionals drops by 40%, in pressure situations. And amateurs?
In Ohio, you can now carry a concealed weapon without a permit or training. You no longer have to tell a cop who stops you that you’re armed. Lying about it is now a misdemeanor instead of a felony. So guns will only become more available and less regulated. By now, blaming gun laws for Buffalo is like blaming water for drownings.
Innocent lambs, Foxian talkers blame mental health issues. It’s no excuse: knowing mentally ill and impressionable people are out there, they pound their lies anyway. Any sentient human – which, setting the bar low enough, includes Carlson and fellow promoters of “replacement theory” – recognizes the deadly combination and its inevitable tragedies: guns for the having, plus disturbed people vulnerable to fear- and hate-mongering. Violence in response is entirely predictable. It's happened many times before.
If a tinder-dry forest catches fire, you don’t exculpate the person who walked through it with a flame-thrower. Because America will do nothing about the tinder, the only hope for change is confronting the people who, knowing the forest is a firebox, keep firing flames into it. If it’s impossible to rid ourselves of guns and mentally fragile people, it’s possible, theoretically, to do something about the harm people like Tucker are doing.
Our constitution gives them the right to spread their lies, though it’s homicidally close to shouting “fire” in a packed theater. We’re blameless, they insist. But they know who’s out there, on whom their words are falling, and they keep doing it. Lacking morality, they won't stop. Pressuring their sponsors might be the only option. That, and less “bothsiderism” from “liberal” media.
So let’s consider the “replacement theory” they’re pushing, convincing armed and fragile people and everyone else there’s a plot to “replace” them with people unlike them. (We can hope.) Deniers of most reality, Trumpicists have correctly noticed that American demographics are changing. Behind which, they see a dastardly liberal plot. Which is ironic, as it’s their party’s policies that ensure the birth, among others, of more people of the sort they abhor. Who, if they are voting, are Americans, enjoying the same freedom as they. But Trumpophiles reject all Americans’ freedoms except their own.
Then what about immigrants? If it’s true, which it isn’t, that America-hating liberal groomers of innocent children are opening floodgates to create more voters, it’d be the flipside of Republican lawmakers doing everything they can to ensure only their voters vote. Lacking the most minimal empathy, ignoring the fact that, except for Native Americans, we’re all immigrants, they can’t imagine the possibility that it’s BECAUSE we're descendants of immigrants, that liberals welcome them. And because immigrants aspire to the “American dream” far more than those who didn’t have to fight to get here.
As Republicans insist on mis-educating their own, America counts on immigrants, not just to become voters, but to keep the dream alive. Quoting NYT's Brett Stephens, "What the far right calls "replacement" is better described as renewal." (tinyurl.com/nytbrett)
Replacement theory is just another time-tested, dishonest scare tactic to secure votes from people about whom they’ve never cared, for whom they haven’t had helpful policies for decades.
Wednesday, May 11, 2022
There’s lots to say about Mike Esper’s book, with its too-tardy revelations of Trump’s lunatic, despotic inclinations. But it’s too depressing, because, rather than reflecting on our narrow escape, Trumpists don't care. Their ideal of a “great” America is Saudi Arabia. So, for a needed mental health break, here’s a surgical diversion:
High on my list of favorite operations was surgery on the stomach: the anatomy is neat, the re-plumbing alternatives clever, technical challenges rewarding, and, because it’s well-supplied with blood, complication-free healing is pretty predictable. Also, several procedures were conceived by and named for history’s pioneer surgeons, and it’s nice to feel the connection, heir to the discoveries and invention of the greats. Herewith, the story of a recipient of one of my favorite operations.
Already slight and small, Arthur A. had been diagnosed with stomach cancer, located where removing his entire stomach was necessary. He was a "whatever-you-say-Doc" sort of guy, but his wife was literally beside herself. Vibrating in such a way as to appear to be two people must be how the "beside herself" expression came to be. That's what she was doing. "How can he live like that? He'll starve to death!! Look at him!! How can I feed him? What can he eat? I can't cook like that. What'll I do? What'll I do?"
It's entirely reasonable, of course, to be shocked by the idea of an absent stomach, but she was letting my words bounce off without sticking, like tennis balls off a wall. I was telling her that most people, especially older folks, get along surprisingly well without a stomach, that he'd probably be able to eat whatever he wanted, but in smaller portions. There’d be no special diet. No absolute restrictions. He should try whatever sounds good to him, and we can see what works, modify if necessary.
Boing, boing, my words ricocheted, un-received. But there wasn't much choice; it’s what he needed, and as our meetings continued, I managed -- calling upon my fabulous communication skills -- to lower the vibratory amplitude. Relative calm prevailed.
The operation went fine, despite finding that the tumor had grown directly into the left lobe of Mr. A’s liver, requiring that I take a pie-shaped slice of it along with the whole stomach. The reconstruction techniques are part of why surgeons like being surgeons. The way I did it for him and most other candidates involves fashioning a sort-of neo-reservoir for food at the bottom of the esophagus, along with some fancy intestinal rearrangement to restore continuity. It’s somewhat of a big deal, but it works. Lacking a particular hormone it makes, people missing their entire stomach need monthly B-12 shots, but that’s the only certain nutritional requirement.
Arthur made an uneventful recovery and was ready for discharge in a quick few days. Stopping by his room for a final goodbye, I found his wife -- who'd relaxed a bit as she watched him sailing smooth -- wide-eyed and pale-faced, vibrating anew as a dietician instructed her on a "gastrectomy diet." For which, because of my prior efforts with the wife, trying to preserve the peace, I specifically hadn’t asked.
Delicately as possible, I invited the dietician to join me in the hall, where I explained that this was exactly what the woman did NOT need; that I'd take care of the dietary management myself. Had anyone requested the visit? No, she said. She'd just noted that the man had had a gastrectomy, and had taken it upon herself -- per some protocol or other -- to make the connection. I explained the peculiarity of the situation while she nodded nicely; then returned to the room, taking up where she'd left off, as Mrs. A. levitated to the ceiling.
This sat unwell with me, and there were subsequent, uh, communications. It's my parenthetical opinion that there are many extremely useful services provided by many excellent professionals attached to a hospital. And they should be used. When invited. Carved-in-stone protocols can, on occasion, be counterproductive. But I digress.
After the dietician left, I managed to restore trust that he’d be okay at home, and off they went. At subsequent post-op visits, Mr. A. continued his uncomplicated recovery. His wife, too. And how did he do with his extensive cancer and complex surgery? Two answers: first, about ten years later he dropped by to have his gallbladder removed. Second: around a year after the gastrectomy, my wife and I were eating at a local steak joint. Couple of tables away was Arthur, doing justice to a New York strip and a baked potato, as his wife, calm and cool, did likewise.
They had dessert, too.
at May 11, 2022
Wednesday, May 4, 2022
So Justice Alito’s opinion overturning Roe v. Wade has been leaked. Inevitable since Mitch McConnell embarked on court-packing during President Obama’s terms and, therefore, no surprise, leaking it was unhelpful. Like the dog who caught the car, anxious to change the subject, Republicans are calling the leak the “real insurrection.”
But it won’t impact the decision, assuming Alito’s philippic is the final product. And everyone except Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski saw it coming when McConnell blocked Merrick Garland for the flimsiest of reasons, then did an extraordinarily hypocritical (even for him) one-eighty for Amy Coney Barrett.
I happen to agree that, ideally, the right to abortion should be legislated rather than adjudicated. Which is what Mr. Justice implied, knowing his court had previously made sure it would never happen, butter not melting in his mouth. Nevertheless, butter dripped from his lips like MAGmA when he insisted the decision is no threat to other SCOTUS rulings; and when he specifically eschewed caring about its impact. What happens to babies force-born into poverty, when Republicans, as always, refuse to pay for help? And women who’ll die? Irrelevant. Abortion is a “profound moral issue,” Alito wrote; but those, evidently, aren’t.
His rationale – that abortion isn’t mentioned in the Constitution -- can be applied to virtually every non-enumerated right the court has previously sanctified: access to birth control, same-sex marriage, interracial marriage, integrated schools, fair housing, even the very right to privacy. The system is now so perfectly rigged in favor of disfavored, minority preferences that there’s practically no way Congress will enact legislation to guarantee any of those things, despite the fact that a majority of Americans support them all, not just the right to abortion (with widely-accepted restrictions).
Blatantly unfair gerrymandering; voter suppression laws precisely aimed at Democratic constituencies; wildly disparate numbers of polling and registration places between white and minority districts, “legal” since Roberts’ gutting of the Voting Rights Act; the “Citizens United” decision allowing unlimited political bribery by the nameless super-rich; attacking public education; Trump’s Big Lie. All serving their ultimate goal: turning the United States into a theocratic oligarchy, run by powerful corporations and ultra-wealthy individuals, based on a “Christianity” that’s as far from Christ-like as a drug cartel. Tweet it!
Americans consider voting the ultimate defense of democracy, placing our country’s direction in the hands of its citizens. While still theoretically true, the ability to maintain small-“el” liberal democracy via the ballot box is under relentless attack from the right. Kept distracted and disinformed by their anti-democratic, pro-authoritarian media, the people most adversely affected by the agenda of today’s Republican Party, which includes the majority of Trump voters, are being convinced to vote against their own interests. In order to save their children from being “groomed.” Or eaten. Or taught empathy. Or American history. To save themselves from the One World Order, the Great Replacement. Or George Soros.
It’s self-perpetuating. As people like Margorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, and depressingly more are welcomed to center stage of their party (let’s not forget Trump), good people are leaving. Any ethical Republican, a term rapidly becoming oxymoronic, will be primaried by Trumpists and endorsed (assuming he can remember their names) by Trump. The more deplorable, the better. Name nearly forgotten by Trump, J.D. Vance accused President Biden of deliberately letting fentanyl through the southern border in order to kill MAGA voters. And won the Ohio Republican senate primary. (MAGA voters are addicts? Explains a lot.) In fact, interdiction of drugs by the Biden administration has increased tenfold over Trump’s time. But lies and liars win, yet again.
If it hadn’t yet been obvious to everyone, now there’s no denying America is a country whose policies are decided by a minority of its citizens. Proving the point, four of SCOTUS’ hard-right, Roe-ending ideologues were appointed by “presidents” who lost the popular vote. Able to block nearly all legislation, including the rights-restoring Women’s Health Protection Act, Republican Senators represent forty million fewer voters than the Democrats. That’s not democracy. But it’s America now.
Perhaps the elimination of abortion rights will awaken voters to the precarious standing of all protected personal decisions. Maybe it’ll be the long-overdue catalyst for enlightening the “They’re all the same,” “I’m voting third-party,” “Why bother to vote,” “It doesn’t affect me” people who’ve repeatedly ceded elections to those who’ve facilitated appointing a court bent on returning us to the eighteenth century and a former “president” eager to preside over a kleptocratic plutocracy. Preventing all that will take an unprecedented turnout of caring voters, now, this year, against massive efforts from the other side to keep it from happening. In Trump’s America, it seems increasingly unlikely.
Wednesday, April 27, 2022
How wrong I’ve been. Wrong about climate change, wrong about the value to our country of immigrants, wrong about the idea that separation protects religious freedom. I’ve been wrong in thinking Americans would reject a lifelong liar and cheat who knows nothing about our Constitution, or foreign affairs, or our system of governance.
I was right, too. The power of the dishonest right-wing propaganda machine can’t be overstated. The ease with which they made it possible to reject facts, ignore lies, consider expertise dangerous, is something I’ve pointed out, repeatedly; my wrongness was in thinking there were enough people able to recognize and reject it.
It’s hard to accept that I live in a country where a minority, who don’t value the things I value, rules: diversity, lending a hand, education, science, protecting the environment, believing our greatness isn’t military power, but the power of our ideas, the potential for success in people of all races, religions, backgrounds. But it’s true, and I’ll have to deal with it.
People who, because of my liberalism, consider me a traitor, have won the day. We’ll see how it plays out, a vengeful narcissist at the head of our government, one who’s promised to use the powers of our government against those who challenge him. (Maybe I should disappear my columns.) He has Congress in his pocket, too; time will tell how he’ll deal with those in his party that didn’t support him. He’s made it clear he’ll go after “enemies.” His past business behavior indicates he will.
I don’t think I’ve been wrong about the horrors that will follow the election of such a man, but since I’ve been wrong about everything else, maybe that, too. There have been times when I’ve thought that if he won it’d finally make clear how wrong he is about what makes our economy strong, and about what makes America strong in the eyes of the world; that Trumpism will disappear. If not, we’re in deep trouble as a nation and as a world. We’ll know soon enough.
Unlike Republican electeds during the Obama years, I accept the results: he won the Electoral College, and that’s how it works. I hope against all likelihood that Donald Trump will either make the effort to become educated on political matters or that he’ll defer, as he’s suggested, to other people while he savors the trappings but not the responsibilities of office; that he’ll abandon deliberate division as the path to maintaining power.
Over the years I’ve told countless patients facing grave illness, let’s work for the best while preparing for the worst. Given the stakes, and unlike Mitch McConnell and his ilk, who wished it for President Obama, I can’t hope for Trump to fail. I have grandchildren. I want them to grow into a world that’s welcoming, safe, unpolluted, with a climate that’s compatible with human life. I want my granddaughter to be valued for who she is, not devalued because of her sex. If either of them turns out to be gay, I want them to live without fear, to have the same rights as the rest of us. I want their schools to teach truth and, because democracy depends on it, empathy.
I don’t want to see our country consumed by hate and fear of people of differing backgrounds. I want science to be valued, religious differences to be respected. So I must hope that the seriousness of his office will find a way into Donald Trump’s selfish heart, and that he or the people to whom he turns over the job won’t turn our country back to the worst of times.
Hope is all I have now. Because, as it turns out, I’ve been entirely wrong about who we are.
Update, 4/29/22: I under-predicted the bad. America is now riven by divisions far greater than before he took office, the flames of hate fanned and vote suppression brought to levels at which democracies don’t survive. He listened to crooks, liars, xenophobes, racists, and incompetents.
Trumpists in Congress block progress, just to “stick it to libs;” pushing hate, not help. And they’ll be reelected. Marjorie Taylor Greene. What more proof is there?
Caught lying outright, future Speaker Kevin McCarthy still denies he said what he said, on tape! For Republicans, denying reality isn’t disqualifying: it’s required. The Big Lie: gospel. In Ohio, Trump just called for one-day, in-person voting, which would disenfranchise millions.
Their obvious, direct threat to democracy ought to see every Trumpublican voted out, yet the opposite appears likely. Other than spite, what do Trumpists think they're getting out if it?
Wednesday, April 20, 2022
And, lo, great happiness came upon the land. And the people uncovered their faces and lifted them joyfully to the heavens (closer to which they had risen by about thirty-thousand feet). Hosannas were shouted, and citizens wept as one in gratitude. Sang they their praises to the blessed source, whence came the glad tidings, whose Name remained on their lips like manna, thenceforth and forevermore. All glory they pledged to That who gaveth even as it tooketh away. For They are and shall be known as … the Federalist Society.
It's what happens when a “president” who neither understands nor cares about the law is lazy enough simply to rubber-stamp recommendations from a far-right group of lawyers and judges, a group whose criteria for judgeships are two: longevity and predictable predilection to legislate from the bench in their favor. Packaged and delivered by Fed S., the judge who contravened mask mandates was approved by McConnell’s Senate despite a “not qualified” assessment by the American Bar Association, despite being only eight years out of law school, and despite having never tried a single case in a court of law. Legal scholars have called her opinion a “train wreck,” a “concocted justification.”
Denying entry to an airplane if unmasked, she “reasoned,” is equivalent to unlawful detention and quarantine. Whatever your opinions about masking in a flying sardine can, that level of legal twisticuffs in order to grant the goals of those who bought her judgeship ought to disturb everyone. But, as the anti-democratic end has come to justify any non-democratic means, it won’t.
Thanks to Mitchotrumpic court-packing with hardcore right-wing ideologues and religious zealots, there’s worse to come. Compared to everything else a majority of Americans support but which Trumpublicans and their courts don’t, masks are nothing: availability of abortion and birth control; equal voting access including mail-in ballots; LGBT rights; government action on climate change; renewable energy; public schools. And the holy grail: separation of church and state. The Christian right considers itself an oppressed majority, and now they have the courts.
A local football coach’s case is teed up to bring it all down. Why else would this Federalist Society’s handpicked SCOTUS have agreed to hear his case against the Bremerton School District, after previous, less radicalized ones refused? They have a plan.
Told he couldn’t hold prayer meetings with his players on the fifty-yard line of the high school field, after games, the coach did so anyway. Students from the stands and a rightwing legislator ran onto the field to join in after he defied the order. He and all of Christendom were the victims, they cried; not kids who’d have chosen not to participate, had they not felt pressure to do so. Predictably, as night follows dei, hate mail and threats from the saintly aggrieved followed the ruling.
It's the same argument, whether prayer in school or creches on courthouse lawns or Christmas O’Reilly’s fake war: Christians are the victims, not people of other or no faiths. Performing their piety everywhere but in government spaces isn’t enough. Despite Jesus’ admonition. (Matthew 6:5-8)
In fact, BSD invited coach to hold his meetings off-campus. Doesn’t matter: it’s persecution. Nor could the inevitable ruling be coming at a better time. Since the “election” of Trump, there’s been a steady rise in attacks on Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, and their places of worship. And cemeteries. Will it become nationwide mobs? With “presidential” encouragement?
Can any observer of current trends deny Trump’s America is capable of mob rule, or of a government that leads the way while courts look the other? If Trumpublicans, already producing intimidating, death-threatening hordes at school board meetings and polling places, control all branches of government? Their states are busily banning books and words by the hundreds. With courts curated for pre-determined outcomes, can religious tests for office be far behind? (Good news: if Trump can fake being a Christian and fool millions, anyone can.)
It’s not just their judges who signal that party’s decline. Funded in the millions, supported by powerful Republicans, there are, so far, seventy-eight Q-anon-affiliated candidates running for office in at least twenty-six states. Thirty-six are running for Congress; all are registered Republicans except four Independents.
And there’s Sarah Palin, proudly uninformed Fox contributor seeking national office, Scott Pruitt, disgraced former Trump EPA head, and Eric Greitens, similarly disgraced Missouri governor. Not to mention dozens of current Representatives, uninterested in legislating but pushers of The Big Lie while fomenting division and hate; all likely to be reelected.
Democracy has rounded the final turn, heading into the home stretch. It’s 2022, or never. And it’s looking more and more like never.
Wednesday, April 13, 2022
Being in Congress is a good gig: prestige, power, perks. Lavish retirement. Money on the side, if you’re so inclined. If coming up with well-considered, beneficial legislation for all Americans weren’t so hard, it’d be perfect.
But wait! Today’s Republicans figured out how to retain the benefits while not legislating at all. Getting reelected by way of electoral manipulations and by inflaming their distractable voters with disinformation and scapegoating, they’re realizing no downside to filling the wells of Congress with conscienceless, unproductive people. And they’ve hit upon the latest campaign targets to accomplish it: gay and trans Americans.
Fully given over to Qanon and Qanon-adjacent conspiracies, it’s “Pizzagate” gone mainstream, hollered from the halls of Congress, where inflammatory, rightist mendacity has become routine. Anyone who voted for Judge Jackson, declared Margorie Taylor Greene, is “pro-pedophile.” When Judge Jackson was officially confirmed, as Democrats stood and applauded, every Republican senator except Mitt Romney made a nasty, low-minded show of walking out. How nasty and low-minded must they consider the voters for whom they were performing?
Florida’s preferred nomenclature for its “Don’t say gay” bill has become “Anti-Grooming,” a truly despicable slander; as if it’s true that liberals want to “groom” your kids to become gay, and as if “grooming” sexual orientation is even possible. “If you’re against the Anti-Grooming Bill, you are probably a groomer, or at least you don’t denounce the grooming of 4 to 8 year-old children,” accused Repugnant Ron DeSantis, DeSmugly. It’s their latest vote-getting trigger-word; probably focus-group-tested with Fox viewers.
Grooming is, in fact, how they see any teaching of reality, because educated voters threaten their policy-free electoral schemes. Promoting misunderstanding of gender identity issues, Republican leaders sense a winning strategy for getting their base to vote, against their own interests, for people that otherwise dismiss them. Transgender girls in sports, for example, is a complicated issue, deserving honest discussion. Lacking ideas for our more existential problems, they’ll run on it, cynically. “I hope the left doesn’t understand how big of a deal it is,” said Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins.
Bullying America’s most vulnerable gets the votes they need, from the ill-informed people they’ve groomed. Rushing to make it a felony even to counsel transgender youth, red states play doctor, while pretending they’re the party of limited government.
More DeSantis: he just threatened “cold war” with Georgia if they elect Stacy Abrams governor. Yet self-described conservatives rationalize remaining in that “limited government” party, one of whose governors tries to intimidate voters in another state over their potential electoral choices. One who’ll likely seize the mantle of Trumpism and lead the party to even worse breaches of constitutional democracy. (Admittedly, if Georgia replaces Senator Raphael Warnock with debate-avoiding, ill-informed, domestic abuser, Trump-endorsed Hershel Walker, cold war comes to mind.)
How disinterested are today’s Republicans in solving problems meaningfully? Texas governor Abbott says he’ll round up migrants and bus them to D.C. How fact-averse? Playing to cultivated stupidity, a candidate for Wisconsin Attorney General promises to prosecute doctors who refuse to prescribe ivermectin for Covid, despite its multiply-confirmed ineffectiveness. Given the undead persistence of Trumpism, it’s probably a winning strategy.
How lawless have they become? All but two R Representatives voted against holding Peter Navarro and Dan Scavino in contempt of Congress for refusing Constitutional subpoenas. “The militant left wing in our country has become the enemy within,” said senator and convicted Medicare-fraudster Rick Scott, borrowing successful terminology from history’s worst tyrants while providing no examples of left-wing activities comparable to what militant right-wingers did on January 6. Republicans’ perpetual self-labeling as the party of law and order is laughable.
Sixty-three voted against a resolution in support of NATO, guardian of European freedom, and, by extension, our own. Ten voted against aid for Ukraine until Trump’s easily-breached wall is finished. (In fairness, the Senate voted unanimously to withdraw “most favored nation” trade status from Russia. Brave patriots all.)
Because of Republicans’ and their media’s grooming of credulous believers, none of the preceding outrages matter. Proof: under President Biden, job creation has occurred at the greatest pace in history; yet more Americans believe there’s been a net loss than know the truth. Why bother with policy when Trumpofoxification works so well?
Is there a solution? Well, an experiment was done with regular Fox “news” viewers, getting them to switch to CNN for a month. As the researchers reported, “… participants concluded that Fox concealed negative information about President Trump. Partisan media does not only [give] its side an electoral advantage—it may present a challenge for democratic accountability.” Gee. Ya think?
So, there it is: unFoxify voters, save democracy. If only
Wednesday, April 6, 2022
another warning from climate researchers that we’re heading toward an “unlivable world.” Timely, a letter-writer to this paper recently threatened to cancel her subscription because of its coverage of climate change. Weather has always had “ups and downs,” she wrote. And, by golly, as I began this column, the sunny sky darkened and there was a flash of lightning, followed by a thunderous downpour. The temperature dropped four degrees in a minute. And now there’s some blue sky again. She’s right!
And she correctly thinks climate alarmism is about cashing in. But she suspects the wrong people. It’s not Governor Inslee, ma’am. It’s oil companies and their wholly-owned Congresspeople, who’ve unalarmed you.
Deviating from the norm, she omitted the well-petrolated trope that in the ‘70s scientists were predicting another ice age. For one thing, it was a small minority of scientists. For another, the effects of greenhouse gases were less-well understood back then. And such a reversal over fifty years pretty much proves how fast the climate is changing. Unlike Trump’s lies and Fox’s “news,” science evolves with new information.
Likely, she’s a nice lady; loves her grandkids, if she has some, as much as I love mine. If so, why hasn’t she made the effort to become informed? Her children and theirs will be the ones who’ll suffer. Are there news media in Hell? Forced to watch MSNBC forever to see what they’d done would be well-deserved eternal punishment for Foxophilic deniers.
Though the window for action is closing fast, there’s good news: education is still possible. Also, bad news: it requires turning off right-wing media and pretty much every elected Republican. And reading honest sources.
So strong is the evidence, the predictions wrong only to the extent they underestimated speed and severity, it’s starting to look like all climate-change deniers are on the take, paid-off by crude CEOs and petro-dictators. We know Trump is in the sack with Putin, but by now one wonders even about denialist letter-writers to this paper. Ignorance neither excuses nor explains it anymore. Any reason is depressing, but which is worse: that people are terminally gullible, ignorant by choice, born without information-processing ability, or simply I-don’t-care greedy? What other explanation can there be?
Climate-change denial is on a par with another letterer on the same day, who still thinks Trump won and that evidence of Russian electoral assistance is a “patently false narrative.” How, one wonders, does he dismiss this undisguised admission on Russian TV?
But let’s believe Trumpublicans that climate change is a hoax. Thanks to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, we’re seeing the consequences of a world dependent on predatory, dictatorial countries that produce fossil fuels. Even as Putin commits genocidal war crimes, those countries refuse to condemn him. We’re still selling weapons to some, and buying their oil.
How much closer might we be to permanent energy independence if Trump hadn’t undone everything President Obama did to promote renewable energy? In fact, like most everything wrong with today’s Republican party, that damaging trend started with Saint Ronnie, as he did the same to President Carter’s efforts to reduce the need for oil fifty years ago.
Even if climate change weren’t threatening life on Earth, fossil fuels will run out eventually. The cost of renewables is rapidly coming down and efficiencies are increasing. What might the price of gas be today if Carter’s and Obama’s intentions hadn’t been quashed? In Snohomish County, 98% of our electricity comes from renewable sources. There’s no good argument against aiming for it for all of America. Think of the jobs it’d create.
It’s a good bet, too, that the problems of nuclear waste will be solved, making nuclear power highly attractive. Meanwhile, we know of several golf courses on the east coast and in Scotland, Ireland, Bali, and Dubai where it could be stored.
Yes, there remain significant issues with renewables. Birds killed, for one. Storage of energy when the sun and wind are off duty, for another. But in both areas, things are looking up. Something as simple as painting windmills differently is making a difference. Spinning towers instead of mills are promising, too. And, like computer storage from a few years ago till now, battery technology is evolving energetically. Lighter, denser, cheaper. Using current tech, some homes in the US are solar-electric 24/7. It’ll only get better.
Bombarded constantly with disinformation, we can sympathize with the letter-lady. But it only takes a moment to consider who benefits and who loses from continued use of fossil fuels to realize what’s going on.
Wednesday, March 30, 2022
What an embarrassing performance by truly loathsome people. As others on the Senate Judiciary Committee sat by, buttockly-self-thumbed, lifetime members of the Republican Deplorable Caucus harangued Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, repeating the same discredited charges, over and over, each climbing higher into the grandstand. Interminably interrupting her answers. Rudely. Deliberately disrespectful. To impress their disrespect- and rudeness-loving base.
Cruz, Graham, Hawley, Blackburn, Cotton. Wasting opportunities to question her substantively, they chose to play for airtime on Fox “news,” et screech. Generate money-raising campaign ads. Cruz, about whom there aren’t words, printable or otherwise, adequately to convey his repugnance, was caught searching for online self-mentions immediately after he’d finished his act. Q, as they say, E.D.
Ignoring the number of national police organizations supporting her, encephalopathy-vector Josh Hawley, who openly encouraged violent lawbreakers on January 6, claimed she’s “soft on crime.” Loves her some child pornographers, said all the rest; most especially the smarmy, self-righteous Lindsey Graham. No matter her explanations, cut off so often she may as well have not even tried, they perseverated in their made-for-TV charges.
Previewing the game-plan for future elections – namely, pushing culture wars, transgenderism most especially, because they have little else to offer -- Blackburn demanded a definition of the word “woman.” As only he can, Cruz notched it up. And they all harped on base-inflaming “critical race theory,” nonexistent in K-12 schools, and forehead-slappingly irrelevant to the proceedings. For particulars, read this.
Then, for those interested in what’s really behind it all, watch Senator Whitehouse (D-RI) lay it out like a picnic blanket, confirming why we so desperately need conscientious congresspeople.
Have those preening protectors of Supreme integrity spoken out about the ethical travesty of Ginni Justice Thomas pressuring Trump’s chief of staff to overturn a lawful election? Or her husband, alone, voting against allowing Congress to see those communications? What may we extrapolate about his own mindset, when his wife extols and parrots a certifiable lunatic, in those emails he wanted hidden? On the list of concerns about the ultimate arbiters of American law, doesn’t this rank higher than children’s books?
Those questions don’t matter to that claque. Closing the feedback loop that runs directly from internet conspiracies to Congressional deplorables to Fox “news” and thence injected into Trumpofoxified brains, which restart the loop, Laura Ingraham did her part. To her contentedly credulous viewers she horrored that if Judge Jackson is approved, "It's goodbye to voter enforcement. It's goodbye to the Second Amendment. It's goodbye to moms and dads raising their kids as they see fit. Goodbye to the right of the unvaccinated to live freely in society. And someday goodbye to the right to maybe even drive a gasoline-powered car.” Didn’t have time, evidently, to include forcing your children into sex acts while drinking their blood.
But that’s not the worst current example of the downward-spiral churning between Republican leaders, right-wing media, and their dupable believers. It’s biolabs in Ukraine, which do exist, but about which Putin lies that they’re manufacturing weapons to attack Russia, therefore justifying his invasion. Debunked but regurgitated (which should become their corporate motto) by Fox’s tyrannophilic talkers, the lie lives on. Last week, Russia’s Defense Ministry took it to Q-worthy levels: Hunter Biden bankrolls the labs.
Care to guess who lapped it up, passed it on like a kidney stone? “What are the outlines of that story,” asked Tucker. “We’re not sure. We know it’s legitimate to ask what it means, why wouldn’t it be? You’re not a Russian agent repeating discredited Putin talking points if you ask. You’re a good citizen.” Butter wouldn’t melt, as he oh-so-innocently, just-askingly poisons his followers. Putin seems to have designed the perfect disinformation dissemination scheme.
And so it goes. The SCOTUS hearings revealed the cynical depths to which right-wing media descend in order to deceive their listeners; how the lies start, who repeats them in Congress, and how Foxification embeds it too deeply to be excavated. We’re seeing how irresistible and effective it’s become. Force-feeding an oligarchic Trumpublican agenda which will, in fact, make life worse for most of their viewers, and for democracy. But not themselves. It’s a dangerously effective, democracy-destroying, self-perpetuating, perverted system of virtual brainwashing; a solution to which, having become “normalized,” is hard to envision.
Finally, an off-topic word about President Biden’s speech and the ad-lib which, according to “analysts and experts,” pushes our relationship with Russia “closer to collapse.” After the invasion, other than Trump’s continued praise of Putin, and, yet again, asking him for electoral help – this time mid-war-crimes -- what relationship remains? Here’s fuller-than-Fox context, for when President Biden said what we’re all thinking.
Wednesday, March 23, 2022
A few days ago, Vladimir Putin, “president” of Russia, held a rally for himself. In a stadium that holds 81,000 people, he and his state media later claimed there were 200,000 enthusiastic attendees. Something like that has never, could never happen here. Nor would the equivalent of millions of Putinists ever believe easily refuted lies from an American “president.” It’s unimaginable.
Behind Comrade Putin were signs praising his brave fight against “Naziism,” a false claim made repeatedly from the stage as well as before and after the rally. This is also something that has never, could never happen here: a “president” so unironically insisting something is true when it’s clearly not. Nor would we ever see American leaders advocating, as is currently happening in Russia, for teaching the equivalent of Putin’s falsehoods in schools while outlawing truth-telling. Especially not in any red state. We’re lucky that way.
Putin also railed against people he defined as enemies and traitors; namely, Russians who don’t agree with him. Implying they should be locked up, he fed the crowd scapegoats for his own failings, stoking their easily-manipulated, innate fears and hatreds. Later, he fired and arrested several high-ranking military and intelligence officers, over his own Ukraine debacle.
We cannot think of examples or even imagine an analogous set of circumstances in America, with our Constitutionally-mandated separation of equal branches of government, and a Congress fully committed to checking and balancing any “president” who’d seek unrestrained power by repeatedly lying and ignoring the law, firing members of the Department of Justice who insisted on following it. No way. Not here. Someone like that couldn’t even be nominated by a “conservative” party, much less become “president.” Good for us.
In the United States of America, where education and the ability to think for oneself are among the immutable values on which democracy depends, millions of citizens could never fall victim to such undisguised disinformation. There’s no way media would spring up, dedicated to amplifying the lies across all platforms. As we witness the unmistakable components of maintaining tyranny on display in Russia, resulting in the horrors in Ukraine, we rejoice at how steadfast are our leaders and media, right and further-right, past and present, in rejecting comparable threats to democracy here.
Or not. Putin and Trump aren’t just analogous: they’re carbon copies, as are their media. The only difference is that now, in Russia, real news has been effectively squelched. Most Russians will never see or hear it; those who do will have had to resort to short-wave BBC broadcasts and the occasional, breakthrough hack of state media. In the US, all that’s necessary, so far, anyway, is to change channels. But since that’s inconsistent with maintaining the make-believe Trumpist worldview, it’s not happening. Even with the consequences so clearly on display overseas.
How did Putin manage to inhabit Trump so successfully? Was it merely recognizing that Trump craves flattery so desperately that he’d do anything after getting it, or something bribe-worthy? Whatever the reasons, in his four years Trump gave Putin much of what he wanted; including lifting sanctions on his pals, handing him Syria, attempting to weaken NATO, making oil great again, and threatening to withhold weapons from Ukraine unless President Zelensky claimed to be investigating family Biden. Every single Republican member of Congress, save one, voted to let him off the hook.
It’s reported that many of the people attending Putin’s rally were there under threat. Similarly, it’s likely that many in Russian media push the party line out of fear of consequences if they don’t. Which isn’t the case with Fox “news” and its star griftnesses. Carlson, Hannity, Ingraham, Pirro; they’ve all been repeating Russian talking points nearly word for word, without evidence of being forced. So much so that Putin is demanding his media feature their words as often as possible.
As we struggle to understand this Foxian defense of a global adversary and brutal dictatorship, we may have gained unexpected insight, thanks to Putin’s Trump-like rally. Some may suppress it, or rationalize it, or have never even thought about it, but the similarities between Putin and Trump (and, much more so, future Trump if we let it happen again) are now undeniable.
Which means that if Foxworld – including many Congressional Rs -- were to criticize Putin, it would equate to criticizing Trump, a bolshoi nyet-nyet. Doing so would call attention to their interchangeability. So they don’t.
Makes sense, doesn’t it? More than believing it’s about hating the equalizing potential of democracy and wishing for a home-grown dictator who’ll enrich and protect them and get rid of liberals. Right?
Wednesday, March 16, 2022
Despite not needing a gas station for eight years, your columnist is aware of prices and that people are leaving stickers on pumps blaming President Joe Biden for rising costs. Of course they are. Like every bit of malicious misinformation spun from rightwing media, the Trumpic swath of our population accepts it as gospel. And Jeff Bezos will sell them the stickers.
The truth, though, as experts (people Trumpublicans don’t like very much) tell us, is that presidents have little direct control of or effect on the price of gas at the pumps. Indirect, well, yes; a perfect example of which is how the economy tanked under Trump, in large measure because of the pandemic which, due to his inept mishandling, led to massive unemployment. Which led to diminished demand, and, therefore, dropping prices. Supply and demand: it’s capitalism!
Cheap gas meant not much incentive for oil companies to produce it; so production decreased. As the economy has recovered under President Biden’s stimulative guidance, with unemployment now at near-record lows, demand and prices are increasing. So far, companies seem to see no reason to increase output to bring prices down. They’re raking it in as it is. It’s how it works. Otherwise, we’re talking socialism, which let’s not even.
But Brandon canceled the Keystone XL pipeline, scream the screamers. True. Had he not, it wouldn’t have been finished, even now. And if it had, funneling shale oil, the world’s dirtiest, through America’s fertile heartland (pipelines leak, by the way), its product would have been processed on the Gulf Coast, from where much would have been exported.
Then how about President Biden’s devious plan to increase renewable energy, because, you know, climate change? Which threatens all currently living things on our planet except, maybe, cockroaches. Yes, how about that? Concern for our future. Like an actual president.
Or how about the fact that the Biden administration issued more drilling permits in his first year than the Trump whatever-it-was did in his? Should he be forcing oil companies to drill? Republicans claim to espouse free-market capitalism.
Speaking of which, in 2021, profits reported by BP, ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Shell totaled over sixty billion. Could they have afforded to keep prices where they’d been? Does a bear sit in Ukraine? Would it surprise Trumpists to learn that the US remains a net exporter of oil under President Biden? For those interested in reoility, there are reputable sources which, unlike Fox “news,” et ugh, are accurate. Here are two.
So let’s return to the other existential threat to humanity in general and America in particular: the leader of the Republican Party, the party of small government and democracy and freedom, Donald J. Trump. Still revered, mysteriously still their preferred future presidential candidate. In South Carolina, at his latest gathering of the gulled, adding something new to his usual catechism of self-praise and election lies, he said this, about his next term: “We will pass critical reforms making every executive branch employee fireable by the President of the United States…” Not said: “… and sendable to Siberia.”
They cheered, of course. Because an unrestrained “president,” able to rid the government, at all levels, on a whim, of people who might stand up to his transgressions, or, worse, know what they’re doing, doesn’t bother them at all. And why would it? They’ve made Tucker Carlson Fox’s most popular seditionist, whose nearly word-for-word promotion of Russian propaganda has made him a go-to for Russian TV. Where that kind of “president” already exists.
Because he’s never admitted a mistake (understandable, as there’d be no time for doing anything else), excusing his earlier praise of Putin’s invasion, Trump now claims Vladimir Putin “has changed.” The loveable guy to whom he’d granted everything he wanted wouldn’t possibly have invaded Ukraine. Right. No way it could be that, like Kim and Xi, Putin played Trump for the needy, praise-craving narcissist he is. To any open-eyed observer, Putin hasn’t changed at all.
Nor has the Republican Party, since its conversion to one of blockage and trickle-down. As proof, one-upping the six-week rules running rampant in red states, Missouri legislators are considering a proposal to ban abortions even in the case of ectopic pregnancy. If it becomes law, women will die. Hopefully, it won’t. But it shows where we’re headed if they regain federal power.
What has passed is Florida’s “don’t say gay” bill. Denials from Governor DeSantis about that characterization notwithstanding, it’s snowflake/cancel culture squared. And evil. It’ll require another column to say why, but only common sense to know Trumpublicanism must never again control the federal government.
Wednesday, March 9, 2022
One result of Putin’s criminal war is that it’s conceivable – if unlikely – that devotees of America’s rightwing misinformation mills posing as “news” organizations might notice the lies flowing from Russia’s state-controlled media, and draw comparisons. Putin sycophants, doing his bidding, denying the obvious, reinforcing his lies. Somewhere, deep in disused parts of their brains, the Foxotrumpified might sense certain similarities and look elsewhere for information. It could save America, if not Ukraine.
Facing worldwide outrage, Putin doesn’t care. As his lies are documented, he lies more. His only supporters among leaders are the world’s worst dictators. Sound familiar? Trump still defends him, while insulting America. And he continues to envy Kim Jong Un’s “total control.” Fair warning.
Speaking of the world’s worst, we’ve just seen Lauren Bobert and Marjorie Taylor Greene, about whom “world’s worst” understates, screaming at President Biden during his State of the Union address to Congress. Belligerently. Proudly. Fund-raisingly. Not-reprimanded-by-Republicansly. Owning-the-libs-but-never-legislatingly. The more blowback they get from liberals, the more pleased with themselves they and their ilks, Tucker, Laura, Jeanine, et al., are.
Creating destructive outrage is their horrors d’oeuvre. It’s their most reliable vote-getter/money-maker, because it’s what keeps their misinformed voters/audience coming back. That, and the hypocrisy, never more apparent than when those truckers were blockading Ottawa. Having decried BLM and almost-imaginary Antifa whenever they blocked a road for a while, as if it were America-crumbling revolution against all that’s good, they treated those truckers like the heroes they weren’t. “Law and order” Hannity all but encouraged violence against the Canadian police who were arresting them.
During Canada’s convoy, there were still rules in place to protect citizens from Covid-19; deserving, therefore, protest because freedom. America’s freedom-saving “people’s convoy,” on the other hand, came to D.C. to protest that which was already going away. Possibly realizing their tardy ridiculousness, they didn’t actually blockade. Circling the Beltway for a while, meeting with world’s worsers Ted Cruz and Ron Johnson, confirming everything you’ve thought about that pair. Heading next to Atlanta, maybe, to protest the New Coke.
Meanwhile, Tucker Carlson reached a new low (or high, for those who love his lowness) when he demanded to see President Biden’s SCOTUS nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson’s LSAT scores. Golly: he never asked about Amy Coney Barrett’s or Brett Kavanaugh’s or Neil Gorsuch’s. Can anyone spot the difference?
That was even worse than his fawning defense of Putin because he, Putin, has never harmed him, Tucker, personally; and Tucker is what matters to Tucker. It’s not in spite of such spewage that people watch him; it’s because of it. Truth-seeking people would have abandoned him long since.
But Tucker isn’t the only one disparaging Judge Jackson, whose judicial record is one of excellence, her professional background broad and unique. Because she was once a public defender, though, she’s “soft on crime,” Republican senators claim, unfurling a favorite rightwing shibboleth. And Mitch “Dark Money Poster-boy” McConnel is VERY concerned there’s “dark money” behind her nomination; whereas the dark money behind the aforementioned Trump appointees could pay for an unseized Russian oligarch’s yacht.
For some reason, McConnell forgot to mention Judge Jackson’s endorsements by police. But, having rushed Ms. Coney Barrett through in a minute, he and his obediences remembered to accuse Democrats of rushing Judge Jackson, whose nomination is following a typical schedule. Why wasn’t Mitch turned to stone after his “dark money” and “rushed” twofer? Are there no gods?
Everything is upside down. Climate change is fake, Q is real. Masks don’t work, vaccines kill. Refusing them is patriotic freedom-stuff. Putin’s war is President Biden’s fault. (John Bolton says Putin delayed invading because he was waiting for Trump to withdraw from NATO in his second term.)
Consider the sacrifices made by Americans during WWII; ponder how and why so much has changed. Women turned in their nylon stockings to be made into ropes and parachutes. Pots and pans, too: metal for manufacturing war machines. People accepted, without complaint, rationing of milk, gas, coal, butter, sugar, firewood. And shoes. Planted victory gardens. “Freedom isn’t free,” bray anti-mask whiners, while refusing the minor sacrifice of protecting America by masking up.
Joining hands against actual Nazis, that generation were unreservedly willing to endure hardship, to defend actually-threatened freedom. Now, the Trumpofoxified mistake Dr. Fauci for a Nazi, and themselves for patriots defending not-at-all threatened freedom. What happened? Newt Gingrich happened. Karl Rove, Rush Limbaugh, Mitch McConnell. Rupert Murdoch. And finally, cherry on the cheeseburger, Donald Trump.
Those Foxified and Fox-loved trucking convoyeurs have it all: selfishness, arrogance, delusion, misdirected anger. Which exposes another thing we’re learning from Putin’s atrocities: what real heroism and patriotism look like.
Wednesday, March 2, 2022
(Couldn't decide between the pictures.)
Having only a weekly column, it’s tempting to leave Trump/Putin/Ukraine to others. Pretty much everything that can be said has been and is still being said. On all sides. Including the only side Trump is on: his. Still fanning election lies; rewriting his history with Putin and Ukraine; pretending he’s the one who made NATO strong, who’s been “tough” on Putin.
Right. By calling his invasion “very savvy” and “genius.” He can’t unsay that, nor can those who agreed or refused to condemn it. The forehead has no more slaps to give.
Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State, just said, on Fox “news,” of all places, she believed she’d never again see the unity among NATO members that there is now, thanks to President Biden. After Trump left it weakened and in disarray (though not as much as Putin had ordered).
Tempting. But since a recent poll had sixty-two percent of Americans believing Putin wouldn’t have invaded if Trump were still “president,” biting the tongue draws blood. Trump is strong, they say. Biden is weak. Which means truth and thought have lost the Foxotrumpian war on them. Equally sad and terrifying.
Perhaps some among those polled said it because they understand that if Trump were still in office, Putin wouldn’t have needed to invade. Having done so for four years, Trump would have continued to give Putin everything he wants; would have held the door while he Kazatsky-ed on in. And it’s more certain than heliocentrism that he wouldn’t have imposed the sanctions that President Biden has.
Strong? Can anyone other than the most lower-colonically self-inserted imagine Trump leading a country under siege with Volodymyr Zelensky’s bravery? He’d have faked another bone spur note and run to Bunker-a-Lago.
Weak? Short of deploying American troops, which worked out great in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, President Biden has done about everything possible, after getting all of Europe – even Switzerland and Sweden! – to buy into the unprecedented economic sanctions which have already left the ruble worthless and the Russian economy wobbling; and he has been and continues to send economic aid and military equipment to Ukraine, and troops to bolster NATO.
Is it enough? Who can yet say? But do we want a shooting war with Russia? Half a million troops for a mano-a-mano conflict? If we do, will Tucker and Sean sign up? If so, for which side? How about Cancun Ted Cruz? Fisting Josh Hawley? Would Lauren Boebert grab her campaign-prop AR and head there, too? Tough talk is easy. (We who served in Vietnam recall Trump’s five excuses fakery.)
My favorite political blogger, Charles P. Pierce, refers to the “prion disease” (think “mad cow”) that has infected the Republican party. It’s good for a chuckle; but is there a better explanation is there for the insanity that’s overtaken the formerly sane? Reliably deplorable, the cabal known as CPAC just had the usual Republican stars peddling hate and fear with barely an attempt at policy. Other than “Lock her up for real.” “They want to destroy you,” Ted Cruz screamed, to besotted cheers. Not a sniff of useful ideas.
Representatives Gosar and Taylor-Greene just spoke at a convention of white supremacists, which almost makes Republicans’ continued fealty to a lying former “president” who praises Russia while criticizing America seem quaint. Senators Cruz, Hawley, and Cotton grandstandingly and mendaciously attacked Biden judicial nominee Nina Morrison, because, as a lawyer for the Innocence Project, she got wrongly accused inmates freed. How can any Americans, especially conservatives, tolerate such awful people unless they’re infected, too?
In states where their lawmaking is unrestrained, the encephalopathic cruelty is even worse. In Texas, whose latest voter suppression laws are already disenfranchising thousands, governor Abbot launched an uninformed, intentionally cruel anti-transexual crusade. It’s a full Republican bingo card: anti-science, scape-goat seeking, base-riling, policy-distracting. Designating sexual reassignment surgery on anyone younger than eighteen as “child abuse,” requiring laypeople and doctors to inform on any young person expressing interest in transitioning, it will – like his Big-Brother abortion vigilantism – cause pain and, likely, death.
Meanwhile, as Putin readied his invasion, Steve Bannon praised him for and laughed about his LGBT malice.
How bereft of empathy, not to mention knowledge, must these people be? Derisive. Mocking. Anti-government professing, mask-tyranny crying, vaccine mandate railing. Yet, because it doesn’t affect them, enforcing government control of transgender youth; a deeply private, difficult issue. Which should only be between parents, children, and their doctors. Which affects 0.3% of the population. “Small government!” “Parental choice!” “Pro-family!”
Why does Greg Abbott care? Why does he lie? Only to please an incurably prion-diseased party of democracy-fearing, sociopath-idolizing hypocrites. It’s infuriating.
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