Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Chilly Children



It’s hemi-heartening that there’s been an uproar over the Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling regarding in-vitro fertilization (IVF); namely that frozen, fertilized eggs are “children” in need of protection from murder. Even hard-core, anti-choice Republicans, though far from all of them – including whoever placed that bomb outside the home of the DA who said he’d not enforce it -- are backpedaling. Many of them previously signed legislation declaring that life begins at fertilization, putting IVF at risk. 

Even referring to frozen, fertilized eggs as embryos is a stretch, in that they’re generally fewer than a dozen cells. To make sure those “children” are doing their chores and going to bed on time, you’ll need a microscope.

Only one of those judges, all of whom are Republicans, foresaw the closing of IVF programs, which help not only women trying to get pregnant but also ones undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, who have eggs harvested before treatment. Because some of the intended implants are found unsuitable or die, they’re discarded, making IVF personnel murderers; a risk many are unwilling to face.

There’s not been a clearer preview of America under MAGA-trending theocratic governance. That this specific outrage has some Republicans scrambling doesn’t change the fact that reactionary, Bible-based thought underpins most of their agenda, whether it’s women’s health, LGBTQ+ issues, school prayer and curricula, books, and more.

With enviable insight into God’s thinking, the Chief Justice of Alabama’s court explained his Biblical concurrence: “... In summary,” he wrote, “the theologically based view of the sanctity of life adopted by the People of Alabama encompasses the following: (1) God made every person in His image; (2) each person therefore has a value that far exceeds the ability of human beings to calculate; and (3) human life cannot be wrongfully destroyed without incurring the wrath of a holy God, who views the destruction of His image as an affront to Himself... [E]ven before birth, all human beings bear the image of God, and their lives cannot be destroyed without effacing his glory...”

As the Alabama legislature hurries to exempt people who live in freezers, one wonders if such a law would require their court to reverse itself. “We got it wrong. Turns out God doesn’t believe that.”

Tom Parker, the aforementioned Chief Justice (but not Elvis’ manager), revered by far-right, forced-birth conservatives, had an interview with a Qanon-positive podcast, where he espoused the “Seven Mountain Mandate,” which promotes the wedging of Christian nationalism into all aspects of American life, to bring about the End Times. He is, of course, free to believe whatever he wants, but it has no place in judicial rulings or legislation. Nevertheless, he and all of those justices were elected, by people who must either want theocracy or are too high on Trump’s anticipated government weaponization against liberals to care. In this case, “End Times” refers to democracy.

“Theocratic” also describes the latest CPAC attendees, who cheered a man holding up a crucifix, saying it signifies the law they want. Neo-Nazis were there, too. Which didn’t stop Trump, Cruz, Gaetz, Tuberville, MTG, faux Christians all, from showing up to preach their gospel. Trump’s was a promise that, “[for] liars and cheaters and fraudsters and censors and imposters who have commandeered our government, [the day after my election] will be their judgment day”. “They want to steal my liberty,” he added. Which, coincidentally, is what happens to criminals when justice prevails. No one projects like Trump.

Even America’s worst leaders, like Governors Abbott and DeSantis, plus former “president” Trump, atypically wind-fingering majority opinion, are expressing support for IVF. To his credit, Trump has also spoken in favor of a sixteen-week abortion ban, more liberal than hardly any of his supporters would accept. Seeing if he changes his tune as his handlers panic, will be interesting. His reason, though, is consistent with his usual effort to understand complex issues: he likes sixteen weeks because it’s “a round number.” 

Theocracy and autocracy go hand in hand (as long as it’s not people of the same sex interdigitating). It’s perfect for America’s most repetitive scammer. The least religious, most profane person ever to become “president,” Trump has convinced millions of the opposite. His pretense of belief is like his hugging and kissing the flag, of which he made another shabby show at CPAC. This, while promising to turn government into a vehicle of vengeance; while degrading the indispensable protectors of our flag: free elections, and the law. That kind of “love” is the kind that kills.

But since his only consistent agenda is to punish those who, following the laws of our land, are attempting to hold him to account, Trump will happily cede policy decisions to Christian Nationalists while he goes about having enforcers of the law and us liberal “vermin” pilloried in the public square.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Putin Love


Vladimir Putin is a murderer, killing with impunity, by defenestration, poison, bombs on planes, imprisonment in life-threatening circumstances. Whatever the proximate cause of death, and no matter the length of his arm from Alexei Navalny, Putin, to whom Trump seems ready to hand Ukraine, is directly responsible for his death.

Navalny was praised and mourned by every leader of the free world. Except Trump, Putin’s biggest fan other than North Korea’s Kim and China’s Xi. The Kremlin attributed Navalny’s death to “sudden death syndrome,” a practically meaningless medical term. After three days of silence, using the Kremlin’s exact words, and then, per usual, making it all about himself, Trump wrote: “The sudden death of Alexei Navalny has made me more and more aware of what is happening in our Country. It is a slow, steady progression, with CROOKED, Radical Left Politicians, Prosecutors, and Judges leading us down a path to destruction...” 

No mention of Putin. None of what Navalny stood for. He died a day after Trump invited Putin to invade any of our NATO allies he chooses.

If Trump ignored Putin’s role, Tucker Carlson, Putin’s most enthusiastic osculator outside Trump's circle and Republicans of Congress, excused it. Asked about Navalny and the many journalists similarly dispatched, he said, “Every leader kills people. Some kill more than others. Leadership requires killing people.” Which raises the obvious question: what does Carlson know about Jeffrey Epstein’s “suicide” that the rest of us don’t?

Visiting Moscow, Carlson rhapsodized over Russian subway stations and a supermarket where goods are cheaper than here, finding himself “radicalized” against America’s leaders, as a result. A self-described “journalist,” he’s evidently unaware that the average weekly income of Russians is equivalent to $200, and that a majority spend half of that on food.

Residing in clean and groceryful parts of Russia comes at a cost: living where dissidents die or disappear; where people peacefully protesting their government’s actions are arrested by the hundreds. This is Putin’s governance, admired by MAGA Republicans. Not unlike the use of government for vengeance against his critics, as promised by Trump.

Not to be outdone by Fox’s formerly biggest star, Newt Gingrich, probably the individual most responsible for the degradation of his party into scorched-earth, dishonest, no-compromise behavior, chimed in: “Watch the Biden Administration speak out against Putin and his jailing of his leading political opponent while Democrats in four different jurisdictions try to turn President Trump into an American Navalny.” Trump is already trying.

That perfidious piece of deceitful excreta is no outlier among MAGA Republicans, who consider the convicted January 6 criminals “political prisoners,” and investigating Trump’s criminality equivalent to Navalny’s summary imprisonment and death. That’s more than just dishonest, more than “hardball” politics. It bespeaks either appalling but intentionally created ignorance of America’s system of justice or rejection of it: the indispensable foundation of our enduring democracy. It confirms what many, including me, have said, time and again: MAGA Republicans’ view of America is the opposite of patriotic. Echoing Trump and his congressional enablers, they’d prefer Putin-style dictatorship, as long as it’s Trump, revered leader of the cult, pusher onto enraptured believers of outdated, useless, $19 high-top tennis shoes for $400. 

When Navalny was poisoned, twice, he barely survived. Later, he was arrested and sent to prison, where he died. Public mourners have been rounded up and arrested; but treated, so far as we know, somewhat less terminally. Unlike Alexei Navalny, Trump and the J6 insurrectionists have been duly investigated and represented by counsel. (For those who believe the lie that President Biden is behind it all, note that many of the charges are state-level, not federal.)

Evidence has been presented to grand juries comprised of ordinary citizens who concluded indictments were warranted. In some cases, subsequent law-following juries have found Trump, et. al., guilty. Because our system allows nearly endless appeals and delays for those who can afford it, unlike the J6ers, Trump remains at large. In the unlikely event of imprisonment, like members of previous Republican administrations, he’ll probably enjoy a gentlemanly one.

To see Trump as comparable to Navalny in any way is to love Putin and Trump too much and America too little.

Now, an important subject-change: Adding to his string of unexpectedly exculpatory witnesses, House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer’s star testifier to Joe and Hunter Biden’s “corruption” has been indicted by the same Republican special counsel who’d praised his believability, for lying about everything he said, spreading lies fed to him by Russian agents. 

Similarly, “True the Vote,” the MAGA group whose claims of election fraud in Georgia were and remain central to Trump’s continuing big lie, admitted in court that they have no proof of anything they’ve said. 

Fortunately for Trump, Fox “news” still pushes the lies, and MAGAs can’t see the difference.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Memories...

 


Appointed by Attorney General Garland to investigate President Biden’s handling of documents, Robert Hur, after exonerating him, dwelt on memory lapses, as if they were relevant to the law. And unique. In prior depositions, Trump may have set the record.

When my parents came to my college graduation, I introduced my mom to a group of friends as my wife. Returning to D.C. for Jon Stewart’s and Stephen Colbert’s “Rally to Restore Sanity,” first time there since I was twelve, I was surprised to find my memory of the Library of Congress couldn’t have been more wrong. It’s beautiful. I’d remembered it as a standard-issue, city-style library. Same with my memory of JFK’s penultimate public speech before Dallas, when he spoke in honor of our Robert Frost Library. Wrong campus location, wrong status of the building.

Following several days intubated in an ICU, my dad died. The picture of him and our family surrounding him is branded into my mind, every detail, probably because as doctor/son, my opinions guided the decisions we made. But I can never remember the year except by recalling that he was almost ninety and was born in 1915.

Despite those cognitive failings, and being within two years of President Biden’s age, I’m able to write columns intelligibly enough to engender repetitive emails calling me a liar. (When I reply, asking for specifics, none are forthcoming. Ever.)

After yakking about President Biden’s memory, spurred by Hur’s hit-job, Sean Hannity introduced Kellyanne Conway as Kellyanne Trump. Trump has told us he beat Barack Obama, and that he saved us from World War Two. Looking at a photo, he confused one of his many wives with E. Jean Carroll, and, in real life, Nikki Haley with Nancy Pelosi. He spoke admiringly of Viktor Orban, Republican hero and Europe’s only dictator, but thought he led Turkey, not Hungary. Dodging the war by way of fake bone spurs, he said “dating” multiple women at the time and avoiding STDs was his personal Vietnam. He didn’t mention impregnations.

The point: Memory is mercurial, mangled by more than just age. No doubt, it has tricked or abandoned every person reading this. More than once.

Since he let Mr. Hur’s report stand, allowing hundreds of spurious attack-pages after the exoneration, A.G. Garland is owed a MAGApology for saying he’s in the tank for Joe. The report has more than accomplished its anti-Biden intent. Dudgeon on the left and right and everywhere between is higher than the running count of Trump’s lies. A lifelong hardcore conservative, originally appointed by Trump, Mr. Hur knew exactly what he was doing.

But okay: as he has throughout his political career, President Biden produces verbal gaffes. Some, if not most, relate to the constant, intense effort he and all of those so afflicted must make to control stuttering. And, like you, me, Trump, and everyone you know, he sometimes forgets and confuses things, every instance of which is reported at DEFCON 1 by all media; whereas Trump, having “misspoken” so often it’s become white noise, gets nearly no mention. On rightwing media, none at all.

I wish President Biden had the gift of elocution we’ve seen in Barack Obama and his wife, in Pete Buttigieg and his husband. JFK. Pre-second-term Ronald Reagan. Were it the case, MAGAs would have only the border to scream about; although, in killing a border bill that gave them everything they’d been demanding, they’ve lost that issue. Except for the impervious Foxified, who probably haven’t even heard the news. Desperate to regain the issue, cynicism cubed, they’ve impeached DHS Secretary Mayorkas.

If your preferred pronoun is “MAGA,” you admire Vladimir Putin and the other dictators over whom Trump fawns. You welcome Trump’s intent to use NATO membership as a protection racket. “Nice alliance you got there. Don’t do my bidding, I’ll invite Putin to invade you and won’t lift a finger. Except, you know, that one.” Words to that effect. It’s yet another example of Trump’s renunciation of our Constitution.

If your pronoun is “American,” you’re appalled. Confirmed by his own pronouncements, Trump is a threat to democracy, our allies, and the world; whose most consistent promise is “vengeance.” By contrast, no matter his age and gaffitations, the accomplishments of President Biden on behalf of America and the world are myriad. More to come, if Democrats retake the House. Except for the FoxoMAGAfied, who’ll never see it, the choice is easy.

As is recognizing that voting third party is voting for Trump. RFK Jr’s SuperPac’s Superbowl ad was largely funded by wealthy, election-denying Trump supporters Timothy Mellon, Patrick Byrne, and others. Any questions?

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Swiftie

 

It was a bad week for Trump. Immunity. Mayorkas. Holy Mike. But there’s more important stuff to talk about.

A few weeks ago, our granddaughter went to see the Taylor Swift movie. Her mother sent videos of her, happy beyond words, dancing and singing in the aisles. She’d worn her T. S. shirt and a cute skirt, and, based on hundreds of other girls similarly attired, was definitely among friends.

When it was over, and the undocumented Hondurans came through the theater with voter registration forms, she happily signed up. So did all of the other girls. She’s not entirely sure who she’ll vote for in November, but she has time. She’ll be eight by then. She’s still into fairy dust and unicorns, so she’s considering Marian Williamson. We’re trying to talk her out of it, but you know how it is with kids that age: can’t push too hard or they’ll do the opposite, just to tick you off. At least she’s not mentioning Dean Phillips.

Her grandmother and great-grandfather are Forty-niners fans, so she’s torn about the Super Bowl. She cried a little when Travis Kelce broke Jerry Rice’s post-season reception record. Taylor is for the Chiefs and when our granddaughter watches Fox “news” she hears about the nefarious plot vis a vis (as she likes to say) Trump.

Whoever she votes for, she’ll use a drop box. At her age, voting in person is tricky. Not that it hasn’t been done; it’s just that, based on every instance of discovered fraud, Republicans are a lot better at that sort of thing. And she’s definitely a Democrat. Goes to a very diversely-populated public school in Portland.

Much as I’d like to think otherwise, our granddaughter had very little to do with convincing those billionaire Republican NFL owners (Mark Cuban excepted) to throw games in order to get the Chiefs into the Super Bowl, platforming a Swift/Biden endorsement. She stopped after a couple of calls because a few of them had read my columns and hung up on her.

In other news, Putinophilic mouthpiece Tucker Carlson is in Russia. At the time of this writing, we don’t know when he’ll be interviewing Vladimir Putin, which he says he’s doing “because no one has told [people] the truth.” But we can be sure they’re already talking Trump. It’s likely a one-way thing, with Putin’s demands of Trump received and Tucked in eagerly. Making no secret of his devotion to Putin and his Europe-conquering plans, rhymes-with-Tucker will be only too happy to deliver the latest mail, the color of which need not be stated.

In return for another round of election meddling to reinsert Trump, Mr. Putin will be insisting on bigger things. Bigger than previously removing sanctions on his oil. Bigger than sharing state secrets with Russian agents in the Oval Office. Merely threatening to pull out of NATO will no longer suffice. Maybe adding another S into USA and changing the A to R, too. Tucker’s just the syco to phant the manifesto to Mar-a-Lago. Would destroying a certain tape quid the pro? Doubtful. Not until Putin gets everything he wants. Toward that end, Trump had barely begun.

We may soon learn whether the conditions for repeat scale-thumbing from that side of the world include making Carlson Trump’s VP, giving Putin an inside twofer. Were that to happen, what would Elise Stefanik do? Stop calling the jailed J6-ers hostages and return to her pre-groveling position that they deserved punishment to the full extent of “the law;” a term the following of which is headed to antiquity in a second Trump “presidency”? Unlikely. Though Rudy’s probably a lock for A.G., she could still be Secretary of Defense. Unless it’s Alina Habba. Only the best.

If the preceding seems peripheral to the posturing produced by a political party pandering to a perverse predator, there are times when, watching the residua of that party behaving with such dereliction, attempting humor is self-preservation. How else to respond to the abject uselessness they’ve demonstrated by rejecting a border bill they’d demanded and which gave them everything on their wish list; so much so that they’re justifying their no votes by lying about what’s in it?

With disgust, at minimum. And despair for our country. A lame attempt at badinage? If only it were possible to laugh off consequences like possibly handing Ukraine to Putin and allowing Trump and his prostrate propagandists to keep lying about the border. In a saner world, such blatant proof of their hypocritical unseriousness would mean they’d get not a single vote in November.

Speaking of which, our granddaughter, deep-sixing the deep-state plot, now says she plans a write-in for Taylor Swift.

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Borderline Crazy


Immigration! The border! Solutions have eluded presidents and congresses of both parties for decades. If producing effective policy is confounding, though, one aspect is self-evident: Republicans do NOT want resolution. They want only to rail and derail. Lacking positive accomplishments on which to run, stuck defending a convicted sex-offender facing 91 felony indictments and likely huge penalties for fraudulent business practices, they have nothing but lying about Biden’s border policies; declaiming lack of action while making sure none happens.

Don’t take my word for it. After President Biden facilitated a bipartisan agreement in the Senate, Trump, who hopes to ride immigration into November, has been pressing Congressional Republicans to block it. Said election-denying Texas Rep. Troy Nehls about any border deal, “I'm not willing to help Joe Biden's approval rating... I'm not going to do it.” He speaks for them all. Milder, though, than Speaker-From-God Mike Johnson, who holds photo-ops at the border while accusing President Biden of treason, and, later, promising that the Senate agreement is DOA.

Could anything be more cynical? From House Republicans? Sure: newly-hatched articles of impeachment against DHS Secretary Mayorkas for “doing nothing” about immigration after they’ve blocked all of Biden’s and Democrats’ efforts to address it. How Trumpified are Republicans? The Oklahoma GOP censured their Senator Lankford for participating in that bipartisan border agreement. This is a party interested only in retrogressive performance.

Nor should you take my word for their lack of accomplishments. Here’s Republican Rep. Andy Biggs, on superMAGA Newsmax: "We have nothing to go out there and campaign on. It's embarrassing.” “Right,” agreed anchor Chris Salcedo. “... the Republican Party in the Congress of the majority has zero accomplishments."

When there’s nothing to say, say anything. Hurt America for points on the scoreboard, be it immigration or Trump hoping for economic calamity.

Here are some facts about our president’s “wide-open” border: He got Mexico to agree to spend $1.5 billion in border technology, which Trump failed to do. Under President Biden, more illegal migrants have been removed from the US than any administration in history: almost 2.5 million Title 42 expulsions, which is 35 times as many as people put into “Remain in Mexico” by Trump. Under Title 42, Trump released a higher portion of border-crossers into the US than President Biden. And, under Biden, more potential terrorists and dangerous drugs have been interdicted than Trump could dream of or lie about. “Open border”? Hardly.

Like budget priorities and legislation, immigration policies disclose who we are. By far, the majority of people seeking entry are escaping crushing poverty and political abuse. And most of those are arriving from the “Northern Triangle” countries of Central America. Recall that President Barack Obama put in place initiatives and funding to improve conditions in those countries, lessening the need for their citizens to flee. Recall, also, that in his perverse desire to undo all of Obama’s accomplishments (still false-promising something better and cheaper than the ACA), Trump ended those initiatives, almost while his smaller-than-Obama’s inauguration crowd was still dispersing. For him and most legislative Republicans, it’s about making things worse. And more inhumane.

Sending National Guard troops and confused truckers to the border, insurrectionist Governors like Texas’ Abbott and others, with Trump’s encouragement, are angling to cancel the Constitution. In particular, the Supremacy Clause. Four of the scary six SCOTUS sitters saluted it. This bodes ill. As does a convicted criminal who wants another shot at the presidency calling for a potentially lethal confrontation between Americans. As on January 6, he’d delight in the results.

Other than MAGA Trumpublicans, who fear everyone who doesn’t look, speak, and pray like themselves, who are the rest of us? Progressives and real conservatives have always recognized that immigration is essential to our country. It’s not only about Christ-like love and caring for the poor and the strangers (remember Jesus, MAGAs?)

Welcoming immigration is about self-preservation; it’s about advancing our future. How many to absorb and how to screen them remain unanswered questions, and no solution will be perfect. But as long as MAGA Republicans continue to demagogue it, we’ll have none at all.

In 2021, President Biden proposed billions for enhanced border security, including more agents and more officials to adjudicate applications for entry. Nowhere, is where it went with Republicans. The current bipartisan Senate agreement reportedly includes those items, plus the ability of a president to “shut down” the border when it’s overwhelmed, which Biden has said he’d do.

Passage of such meaningful changes will happen only if Democrats regain control of the House and retain the Senate and White House. As if there aren’t other, equally important reasons to make sure that happens, like preserving democracy, education, healthcare, the environment, and, if Trump and governors like Abbott have their way, the Constitution itself.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Lifesaver



Of the many thousand operations I did in my surgical career, most were life-improving rather than life-saving. To me, life-saving implies immediate or imminent risk of death. Gunshot wounds, stabbings, gastrointestinal bleeding or perforations, punctured lungs. Cracking a chest in the ER for a stab wound to the heart. Stuff like that. Potentially life-saving but less dramatic is removing a malignancy that, untreated or treated later, would likely have killed the person.

Most patients on whom I operated eventually returned to the care of their primary physicians or an oncologist. Much as I loved long-term relationships with any of my patients, it was uncommon. Beyond a few months, I usually had no idea how they fared. It’s among the few things I regretted about my chosen life. Last week, things changed, if only in one instance.

After vacating the premises while my wife hosted her book group, when I returned she said, urgently, “You have to listen to this phone message.” Uh oh, I thought. My weekly political commentary engenders a range of voice mails, most of them hypo-appreciative. “Hello, Dr. Schwab,” it began. “This is (Jeff Jones, let’s say), in Salem, Oregon, and this call is long overdue.” I’d started my surgical practice there, moving to Everett forty-two years ago, largely to be closer to my wife’s parents and eight siblings, all of whom live nearby.

“You may not remember me,” he went on, “But you saved my life from a ruptured spleen due to metastatic melanoma, in 1981.” Oh, I remembered him. Nearly every detail. It was remarkable then; astounding to hear from him now. Melanoma is the deadliest skin cancer. But it’s also the most unpredictable.

The emergency room called on New Year’s Eve night, 1980. A man had arrived with severe abdominal pain, in shock. They’d done a CT scan before calling me, showing a ruptured spleen. My goal for celebrating a new year’s arrival has always been to sleep through it, but this was a good reason not to.

Having received adequate intravenous fluids, his vital signs were satisfactory when I got there, so we had time to stabilize him further; in his case, that meant transfusing about five pints of blood. By the time we took him to surgery, first case of 1981, he was pink, calm, and stable. I don’t recall whether his history of melanoma was mentioned preoperatively. If so, I’m not sure I’d have connected it. For one thing, it had been treated several years earlier.

I grew up in Portland. Our next-door neighbor, a friend, was, coincidently, the surgeon who’d provided Jeff’s original cancer care. The treatment rendered was, at the time, experimental. The presenting melanoma was on his arm, and, after standard wide surgical excision and removing the lymph nodes under his arm, he was given chemotherapy agents infused directly into the artery supplying the malignancy’s former location. There were no untoward consequences. Years passed.

After opening Mr. Jones’ belly, I cleaned out the expected large amount of blood. What I hadn’t expected were several golf-ball-size masses within his leaking spleen: melanoma, which had to have spread there before his initial treatment. Given their size, they were possibly his only metastases, culled from his bloodstream by his spleen doing its job; any others likely would have been equally large and easily detected.

Nevertheless, after removing the spleen I spent time looking for suspicious areas, taking a couple of biopsies, and washing out his abdominal cavity, copiously, with sterile water, which will osmotically explode free-floating tumor cells. After such a rupture, odds are they’d have been there. Recurrence was more likely than not.

When I checked him later that day – and, given commonly-heard fears, I hesitate to say this without emphasizing its particularity – he shocked me again. “I felt everything when you cut into me,” he said, accurately recounting the first minutes of conversation I’d had with the team. Assuming the anesthesiologist would be similarly dismayed, I later told him of it. “Right,” he said. “It was a ruptured spleen, so I only gave him paralyzing agents at first, so he didn’t crash on induction.” Unbelievable. He was totally stable, had been for hours. Alert, not in shock. As if it just happened, Jeff recalls the pain to this day. Inexcusable.

His recovery was smooth. After a couple of office visits I didn’t see him again, but I’d recalled his exceptional case many times. Hearing from him decades later, in his 80s, was indescribably wonderful. I called him back, of course. We talked for a long time, about life, mostly. His children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. I sent him a copy of my book.

General surgery was hard work, physically and mentally. Eventually, it burned me out. But, because Mr. Jones thought to call, I’ll assume there are others out there, too, living lives they otherwise might not have had. Thanks, Jeff, for staying alive and letting me know.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

I'm Not Deranged. You Are.


“TDS.” In its Jon Stewart/Trevor Noah heydays, the acronym meant “The Daily Show,” and I liked it. Now, though, consistent with the way Fulton County (Ga.) Inmate No. P01135809 has melted the minds of millions, it’s come to stand for “Trump Derangement Syndrome,” a term liberally (!) applied to these columns and to all Americans who find the former “president” abhorrent. Because he’s a threat to democracy; a liar; an instigator of violence. A promiser of vengeance and retribution against those who’ve rejected his claims of electoral fraud; a man of lifelong immorality, scams, business failures, and cozying to mobsters foreign and domestic. Who just claimed the endorsement of a former Gambino crime family Mafia hitman as a badge of honor.

TDS. As I responded recently to a less-than liker of my writing, it’s like saying people who found Jeffrey Dahmer bothersome were suffering from DDS. (No offense to dentists.) Nevertheless, Trump Derangement Syndrome is real, a condition of pandemic proportions. And, like an endemic virus, despite our best efforts, it defies attempts to eradicate it.

Criticizing Trump, rejecting his venality and mendaciousness, trying to awaken people to his unfitness, is no more of a “syndrome” than calling for help when your house is on fire. It’s observational. It’s recognizing imminent danger and sounding warnings. Supporting Trump, on the other hand, defending or denying his inadequacies and incompetence, or, worse, sharing his hate for the Constitution and most of the people protected by it, constitutes a confounding depth of definitional derangement. Believing his laughably conspicuous lies about elections, Joe Biden, birth certificates, the economy, the Presidential Records Act, etc., ought to have its own diagnostic code. It’s neither normal nor healthy for the body politic. And it’s evidently incurable. In this case, an effective vaccine would require Billgatesian, brain-altering microchips.

Example: my online conversation with a lady who insisted Trump had lowered the US budget deficit when, in fact, his unnecessary tax cuts for the wealthy exploded it. Inflation was lower under Trump, she said, correctly, but was unable to process that it was due to the economic impacts of the pandemic, made even worse by his mishandling of it. She blamed Biden for the subsequent rise in inflation even though it coincided with economic recovery and was and remains higher everywhere else in the Western world. Our lower rates of inflation may be attributed, at least in part, to Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, of which she’d not heard.

Many Republican politicians who once forcefully criticized Trump, describing what a disaster his “presidency” was or would be, have shed their evanescent flicker of integrity and kissed the ring. Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, Doug Burgum, among others, all endorsing him, derangedly. True, many people who worked directly with him in or near the White House are warning of the danger Trump represents; they’re enduring his and his supporters’ wrath and death threats because of it. But those temporary, timid truth-tellers tumbled when tested by Trump. Fear of those afflicted by the real TDS sent their honesty to the exits like the latest of Trump’s lawyers.

When asked why they support Trump, MAGAcal thinkers point to “the direction” this country is headed. Asked for specifics, it’s always the border. Wide open, so the undocumented will vote Democratic, they say, deluded and deranged. Some mention the economy, but are unable to elucidate, which is unsurprising, given its red-hotness and unprecedented job creation. Having no accomplishments on which to run, it’s understandable that “the border” is the MAGA rallying cry.

To the surprise of no one, Trump won Iowa. To the disappointment of no one, Vivek Ramaswamy dropped out. So did decent-guy but unnoticed Asa Hutchinson. 81% of Iowa voters agree with Trump that immigrants are “poisoning the blood” of America. 68% believe the 2020 election was “stolen.” This is who they and virtually all Trump voters are: TDS sufferers, worshippers at the feet of a xenophobic, demagogic liar, welcomers of dictatorship coming to America. People very much at home on derange.

It’s worth noting, with bridled optimism, that nearly half of Iowa Republicans who voted (only about eight percent of the registered did) chose not-Trump. Nevertheless, there’s no doubt that, unlike previous winners of Iowa caucuses who weren’t -- Cruz, Huckabee, Santorum, Dole, and others -- Trump will be the nominee of the party that once produced people of honor. And elected them. Though it’s been sounding since Trump first dragged it down that Trump Tower escalator, the death knell of that long-ago party was completed in Iowa. Only non-MAGA Republicans can resurrect it. They could do it, just this once, by voting for Biden.

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

God's Will


It’s widely accepted -- common knowledge, really -- that Trump has been chosen by God to save America. I’m not personally privy to the Patriarch’s proclivities, but I trust those Evangelical preachers who’ve assured us they’re in constant contact and know first-hand.

Preachers don’t lie. They’re not hypocrites. They’re deadly serious men and women of God and are to be believed, and not just because they want a “president” who’ll let them keep their tax breaks. Indeed, it’s been a couple thousand years since He sent anyone to save us; He must be walking to the mound, signaling to the bullpen.

To some, it’s surprising that He chose Trump, who has broken every one of the Ten Commandments, multiple times. But those were handed down a long time ago. Things change. Rules change. Maybe, tired of waiting for America to save itself via His original Choice, He looked for the person most opposite to His Son. Give that a try. It wouldn’t be the first time original hires were passed over. You know what they say about insanity.

Saving America is not a job for a humble man, and Trump is far from humble. On “Truth Social” he posted a video in the style of Paul Harvey’s (I’m that old) “God made a farmer” speech, making a solid case for the heavenly choosing of Trump. We’ll forgive the video’s few misstatements, like saying Trump loves America, attends church every Sunday, works tirelessly day and night, never resting. After all, Trump, the chosen-by, makes worse misstatements several times a day; who, then, are we to question the methods found acceptable by God, Himself? (Some readers may choose not to visit Truth Social, lest they get on some list or other, so I offer no link to the wondrous video. It’s easily found there by the willing. It’s quite something. Trump loves it.)

At the risk of spending eternity or more in Hell, I do have questions, though. Reasonable ones, based on the Bible. God knows us before we’re born, it tells us; has a plan for us all. When, therefore, did God conceive (not in the virgin-birth way, naturally) of Trump as the modern-day Messiah? Was it a pre-conception? Now, this is just me, and I’m sure God will absolve those who choose to read further; but if Trump was being groomed, as it were, for neo-saviorhood, you’d think the groomer would send him on a righteous path of preparation for such great responsibility, right?

Mysterious are the ways of God; mysteriouser still are videos made to speak for Him. But doubts can be raised about His methods, so raise them I will. Of what purpose, for example, was creating Trump to be a bone-spur faking draft dodger? The same goes for serial infidelity within three marriages: how do those episodes prepare one for saviorhood? What of his dozens of business failures? Sowing falsehoods like bread upon the waters? Refusing to pay contractors and suing them when they sought relief? Did God decide, for His second go-around, to imbue saviority with selfishness and a cold heart? Did He send the pandemic as training for crisis management? If so, how did Trump’s failure to handle it hone his future skills? Were the estimated 500,000 American deaths due to incompetence part of God’s intended learning experience? It wouldn’t have been the first time He wiped out humans to teach a lesson.

Of course, there’s that “free will” thing, a conundrum that’s challenged philosophers and religious scholars for eons. Perhaps God didn’t micromanage Trump’s pre-“presidential” behaviors at all. Maybe, busy elsewhere with the billions and billions of other galaxies He supervises, He began checking for potential saviors only recently. Circled back this way, checked it out, and said, “Oh my Me! For a tiny, meaningless speck, things there are looking Me-awful. Perhaps I should undo the whole thing? It wouldn’t make a ripple in time. Looks like an experiment gone wrong.”

But God has a sense of humor, it’s said. Why else, after all, would He have hung testicles out there in a wrinkly sac, all ridiculous and vulnerable? So, He could have thought, those people have been expecting My Son to return, but let’s shake things up. Looking for candidates, maybe He checked out those pre-gathered Jeffrey Epstein listees: “That one looks promising,” He might have said. “Oh, but he’s term-limited. How ‘bout that one? Kept his underwear on. Nah, Jewish. Never get elected. Hey, now: that guy. Only spends a minute with each girl. Not a time-waster. He’ll do fine.”

It also could be that God has given up on America and, rather than pestilence and famine, He’s sending Trump.

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Section Three

(Image source: https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2024/1/2/2214953/-Cartoon-Disqualified-voters)

If the concept of constitutionally disqualifying Trump from running for president is complex, multi-layered, and controversial, one aspect isn’t. The wording of Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment is unambiguous:

“No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President,” says Section Three, “or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.”

It couldn’t be more clear: if, after taking an oath, you participated in insurrection or rebellion against the US or any state, or aided or encouraged people who did, you are barred from federal or state office. Period. It’s the Constitution. It’s the law. It can’t be selectively enforced, can’t be ignored for any reason, including applying it to a former or current candidate. Political impact isn’t a consideration. In a constitutional republic, the law is to be enforced, undisirregardlessly. Must be.

None of which is to pretend the particulars are clear-cut. Whereas some claims from the right are specious at best – questioning whether a president is an officer of the United States, for example – others deserve consideration. There’s plenty of thoughtful discussion out there, and even non-lawyers should be able to sort through it.

The fundamental question may be who defines an insurrection; it’s at the heart of a related question: is Section Three self-actualizing or does it require some sort of enabling legislation from Congress? Must Congress define the word and state by what standards it’s applied, and by whom? Courts? Secretaries of state? These are fair questions. Coincidentally, they provide a way for the Supreme Court to escape adjudicating Trump’s eligibility to become “president” again. Or, in his case, a dictator as promised.

Looking for a place to hide, the SCOTUS Six may rule that, absent enabling legislation, Section Three is unenforceable. Credible legal scholars, both liberal and conservative, have concluded otherwise, some going so far as to predict an unlikely 9-0 decision that disqualifies Trump. (8-0 if Clarence Thomas, whose wife actively attempted to overturn the election, recuses, in an uncharacteristic display of integrity.) 

Unlike the compelling erudition of the preceding link, a lower-court Colorado judge, before she was overruled by its supreme court, stated that Trump engaged in insurrection but, bizarrely, that presidents aren’t “officers” of the US, as described in Section Three. That, to say the least, is hard to defend, given that the Constitution specifically prescribes the presidential oath, beginning thus: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States...” (My emphasis.) It’s an office, by Constitutional definition. People in office are officers. And Trump took the oath.

Less compelling than the enabling argument is the political one: it’s dangerous; it’ll inflame Trump voters, cause an uprising. Same with “let the voters decide,” which they have, twice rejecting Trump by majority vote. Here’s his lawyer, Christina Bobb, on topic: “The president is elected by the entire nation and it should be the entire nation who determines who they want for president, whether they are guilty of insurrection or not.” Right. Except for, you know, what the law says. About insurrection.

Maybe it shouldn’t be judges who define or decide who participated. (Note that Section Three includes “rebellion.” If January 6 wasn’t that, what is?) On the other hand, we remember Justice Potter Stewart’s response when asked for a definition of obscenity: “I know it when I see it.” In trying then and now, many times, many ways, to overturn a Constitutionally valid election and, therefore, the Constitution itself, Trump is disqualified, by law. Call it insurrection. Call it rebellion. We know it when we see it. Or make it really easy: “Aid or comfort.” His continuing election lies, called out even by his own people, are at the heart of it. That’s a slam, as they say, dunk. 

Would there be violence? Is Fox “news” like a bear in the woods except in our brains? Probably. But unless you believe in selective application of the law, based on status or politics, meaning you don’t believe in law at all, what choice is there? The NRA doesn’t believe the Second Amendment has exceptions. Per the Third, no one’s being forced to quarter troops. Trump pleaded the Fifth hundreds of times. If the Fourteenth is different, how exactly? It’s not politics. It’s the law.
 

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

You Say You Want A Resolution

 

We present two Christmas messages, one from our current president, the other from a twice-loser of the popular vote, going for the trifecta. 

First: “The Christmas story is at the heart of the Christian faith, but the messages of love, hope, peace, and joy are universal. It speaks to all of us whether we are Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, or other or no faith at all. ... To care of one another, to look out for on another, to love one another. Our politics has gotten so angry, so mean, so partisan. And too often, we see each other as enemies, not as neighbors. So, my hope this Christmas season is that we ... [f]ind that stillness at the heart of Christmas and really look at one another ... as who we really are—fellow Americans, fellow human beings. Worthy of being treated with dignity and respect. I sincerely hope this holiday season will drain the poison that has affected our politics and set us against one another. ... So, this Christmas, let’s spread a little kindness, let’s be ... that friendly voice when no one else seems to care for those who are struggling in trouble and need. It just might be the best gift you can ever give. I wish you—and for you—and for our nation, now and always, that we will live in the light. The light of liberty and hope, of love and generosity, of kindness and compassion, of dignity and decency. So, from the Biden family, we wish you and your family peace, joy, health, and happiness. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and all the best in the new year! God bless you all, and may God protect our troops.”

Second: “Merry Christmas to all, including Crooked Joe Biden’s ONLY HOPE, Deranged Jack Smith, the out of control Lunatic who just hired outside attorneys, fresh from the SWAMP (unprecedented!), to help him with his poorly executed WITCH HUNT against ‘TRUMP’ and ‘MAGA.’ Included also are World Leaders, both good and bad, but none of which are as evil and ‘sick’ as the THUGS we have inside our Country who, with their Open Borders, INFLATION, Afghanistan Surrender, Green New Scam, High Taxes, No Energy Independence, Woke Military, Russia/Ukraine, Israel/Iran, All Electric Car Lunacy, and so much more, are looking to destroy our once great USA. MAY THEY ROT IN HELL. AGAIN, MERRY CHRISTMAS!”

Can you spot subtle differences? If it wasn’t from the beginning (it was), it’s clear now what a damaged person is Trump. Continued support cannot be despite his deranged railings but because of them; because of sharing his perverse vision of America, full of perceived enemies; seeing in him justification for conspiratorial self-pity. From Trump there are no plans to improve the lives of anyone but himself; only promises to rid America of all people and institutions that challenge his pusillanimous ego.

So make a New Year’s resolution: be honest. Cut through the disinformation. Recognize, for example, that the border is not “wide open,” and that saying it is encourages false hope for migrants to flee their oppression. Based on simple observation, Republicans block funding for increased border security because they see lying about it as a winning message.

Spend some time with credible scientific sources to learn that climate change is real and dangerous. Easily obtained, the information is everywhere except right-wing media. Discover that there’s been more drilling under President Biden than Trump. Unfortunately. 

Realize that during Biden’s presidency, the US economy recovered from the pandemic faster and more robustly than anywhere else in the world. Employment and job creation are at historic highs. By the Inflation Reduction Act that no Republican voted for, inflation has been brought under control. Credit it elsewhere if you prefer, but don’t deny it.

Agree, too, that whereas leaving Afghanistan was a mess, it followed a timetable guaranteed by Trump. Before which he facilitated the release of five thousand Taliban prisoners. Accept that there’s no evidence of impactful election fraud; rather, there’s irrefutable proof –- including from MAGA-funded investigations -- that it didn’t occur.

Believe Trump’s promise to eliminate the institutions that protect democracy. If you like it, admit it. Contemplate the consequences if, as Trump claims, presidents have “absolute immunity” for any crimes committed while in office. (Extra credit: recognize Trump’s “Christianity” as his biggest con yet.)

In 2024, resolve to vote thoughtfully. If for Trump, don’t pretend it’s for any reason other than stripping equal rights from minorities of all kinds, and for making it harder for them to vote; that you prefer autocracy over democracy, and punitive religious beliefs over women’s lives. Acknowledge that what you’ll get from Trump is, mostly, (short-lived) satisfaction from seeing people you dislike get what you’ve been taught to think they deserve; and that, for you, that suffices.

AGAIN, HAPPY NEW YEAR.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Justified

 

“You can’t just say you’re innocent and not have to prove it.” So says Ralph Norman, R-SC, conjuring Salem. (Also the guy who urged Trump to declare “Marshall” law.) Does he hate America? If it’s the stupidest justification for Republicans’ impeachment “inquiry,” it’s not the most revelatory. That’d be the answer given by Troy Nehls, R-Texas, when asked what he hoped they’d get from it: “Donald J. Trump 2024, baby!”

Oh, but they impeached God-given Trump, twice, for no reason, intone the cultists. Right. Well, except for reasons. Which, in the second trial, convinced ten Republican senators to vote for removal, bringing him closer to conviction than any prior president. Based on evidence. Of which, regarding President Biden, Republicans have produced none but innuendo. The purely political motives behind this made-for-Foxification exercise couldn’t be more obvious. The only fact on which it’s based is that the Foxotrumpified will swallow it like a cheeseburger and diet Coke.

Every one of those pro-impeachment people is in office not on their record, which is all but nonexistent, but thanks to a nonstop barrage of disinformation from deliberately dishonest media. Looking at Fox “news,” it’s apparent that Rupert Murdoch set about to destroy democracy by creating enough permanently propagandized citizens, unable to and uninterested in discerning truth, to turn the tide toward Republicans. His goal, presumably, was not to destroy America, but to turn it into an unregulated capitalist paradise whose sole purpose is enriching and protecting people like himself.

Seeing proof, every day, that repeating lies incessantly eventually makes his viewers believe anything, Murdoch made it the modus operandi of his “news” organizations. From there, it became the central strategy of the Republican Party. They may be unable to legislate, but they sure can prevaricate. A steady drip, they’ve learned, erodes skulls.

Conscience having taken the day off (the whole year, actually), not a single Republican stood against this shambolic theater. The outcome is irrelevant. Unlike Trump’s near miss, we know it already. All that matters is creating the impression, based on nothing, that President Biden is corrupt. Lauren Boebert, whose presence in Congress is living, vaping, groping proof of Murdoch’s genius, says random people approach her in grocery stores and gas stations asking her, “How is such a corrupt man still holding office?”

Eating Trumpic brains like Naegleria fowleri, that embedded impression is the only thing they’ve accomplished since their majority. Which is why none had a problem voting for the “inquiry:” It replaces Trump’s indefensibility, including his latest anti-immigrant, Hitler-echoing demagoguery, away from commenting upon which they run like noses.

In that speech, he also praised Putin, Xi, Kim, and, admiringly, a new one: "the great" Al Capone. For those who cry foul at comparing Trump to Hitler, recall that the first of his several cheated-upon wives, now resting tax-avoidingly near the first tee at Bedminster, revealed he kept Hitler speeches by his bed.

The outcome of the 2024 election depends on the answer to this question: comes there a point when facts about President Biden’s and Democrats’ successes are so numerous and Trump’s lies so undeniable that even the fully Foxified will be unable to dismiss them? If they’re in the midst of a hundred sunny days, during which Fox “news” and the whole coterie of media liars, plus Trump, Speaker Mike, et al., tell them around the clock that it’s raining, will they finally notice they’re not getting wet and set aside their red umbrellas? It’s not impossible. But, dang: seeing interviews with them, it sure seems unlikely.

As gas prices (not in gas-taxy Washington) are below pre-Covid rates across the country, Trump is telling his infecteds, “We now have gas prices at 5,6,7, even 8 dollars a gallon.” Has anyone in his crowds looked around and said, “Huh?” And he promised to bring manufacturing jobs “back to America.” So I’ll say it: huh? Record numbers of small businesses have sprung up under President Biden. Between the infrastructure bill and CHIPS act, job creation and manufacturing numbers are hot as a blast furnace; unemployment is at historic lows.

What’s a policy-free party to do in the face of such good news? Lie. Convince the convincible it’s fake news. Lie. Change the subject. Put on an impeachment. Lie. Damn the consequences to democracy. Lie some more.

Here’s a moderate Republican, who sees through it. If there are enough like him, resistant to lies and subject-changing, manufactured outrage (Taylor Swift, Jill Biden’s Christmas), we’ll maintain the American greatness restored when Joe Biden took over.

Postscript: Regarding Colorado removing Trump from its primary ballot. I’d rather see him in every state – no excuses! – and trounced, ending his and his party’s trading hate for votes, forever.

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Poster Boy


I’ll spare readers the details, but I’m in recovery from an unpleasant illness (not Covid, per home testing). Hopefully, the worst has passed, but if this column makes more sense than usual, credit whatever pathogen took up corporeal residence.

Ken Paxton, Texas Attorney General, is a heartless Christo-fascist. Under several indictments, like Trump, he’s the “Death to America” poster boy for America’s future if Trump and Republicans like him control America’s government. This is not subject to question. It’s as obvious as Trump’s escalating, dangerous rhetoric, spewing forth at rallies and from “Truth Social” like lava from Kilauea but not as awesome.

You’ve heard the story: a Texas woman, pregnant with a fetus bearing a death-dealing genetic mutation, “Trisomy 18,” was advised by her doctors to have an abortion; not only to terminate the doomed pregnancy but to protect her own health, as she’d already had three visits to emergency departments to deal with consequences of carrying this malformed tragedy. Because Texas abortion laws are red-state restrictive, she needed a judicial order. Which she got.

Immediately, Paxton threatened to jail the woman and any doctor who’d do the abortion; and punish hospitals who’d allow it in their facilities. Then, the Texas Supreme Court, a panoply of rightwing religious zealots, one of whom was arrested 37 times for (with judicial impartiality) harassing women at abortion clinics, stayed and later aborted the lower court order.

For what possible reason? To the benefit of whom? Forced to be born, the baby would either be a stillbirth or die shortly after. Carrying the baby to term in emotional misery, the mother could well lose the ability to become pregnant again.

Other than vindictive cruelty and a desire to impose a most perverse form of “Christian” theocracy on all Texan women because they can, what justification can there be to demand such an outcome? If it’s God on their “minds,” well, He sentenced the baby to death at the moment of conception. Is the God they believe in the sort to do that and then glory in the mother’s gestational suffering? That’s not one I’d want to believe in.

Nor is it a party, were I a past, present, or future mother, of which I’d want to be a part. The party that, wherever it’s in control, is passing draconian anti-abortion legislation, imposing its legislative will, born of religious extremism, on all who do or, more importantly, don’t share their radicalism. J.D. Vance, once a respected author, now Senator from Ohio and hardcore Trumpist, just said, on national TV, that he knew of no Republicans working to end access to birth control.

One-hundred-ninety-five of them, including their current Speaker, voted against a bill guaranteeing a right to contraception. The bill passed because, at the time, Democrats were in control. Outside of D.C., several state legislatures have tried to ban access. If Republicans gain all-branch power, it’s coming, sure as Santa.

It’s mystifying that a party dominated by religious extremists has also become the Party of Putin, arguably Satan on Earth. (Trump ain’t exactly the Sermon on the Mount, either.) It’s not unreasonable to wonder if some are intentionally working for Russia; but there’s no question Putin craves the re-installation of Trump, who previously gave him everything he wanted. Whatever the reason, like Trump, they’re all but kneeling before him.

And he’s not the only strongman they fluff, bringing representatives of Hungary’s Viktor Orban to discuss defunding Ukraine’s struggle against Putin’s criminality. Using our southern border as a non-sequitur excuse for not providing help in the war, Senate Republicans are validating Putin’s war crimes. How delighted he must be. In fact, Russia has heaped praise on Republicans for denying the help Ukraine needs. After all, it’s clear they prefer dictators. And support candidates who promise to become one. It’s a twofer, they’re saying in Moscow: Republicans will bring down Ukraine, and when it falls, it’ll bring down Biden and re-install our guy Trump.

Speaking of whom, Special Prosecutor Jack Smith took the bold move of appealing directly to the Supreme Court, bypassing lower courts a la the Nixon tapes precedent, for an expedited ruling on Trump’s claim that he has blanket immunity for any crimes committed while in office.

If this were like the Nixon tapes time, when Republicans and their courts included people of integrity, there’d be no question SCOTUS would reject such a ridiculous claim. But, like the Republican Party itself, times have changed since then, for the much worse. In Congress, on the right side of the aisle, integrity is a liability. Just ask Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger, or Jaime Herrera Beutler.

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Clichés Are So Last Year

 


Much as I try to avoid clichés, it oughta be a slam dunk. A no-brainer. Go without saying. Certain to be the nominee of the party of no “law” and unrelenting dis-“order,” Trump ought to be defeated by staggering numbers. Trump and Trumpism should be shown the door, wiped off the map, sent packing. The danger he represents is enormous. Nevertheless, in exceptional America, it’ll be a squeaker, a close shave. Nip and tuck.

Something I un-recommend for anyone whose mental stability is questionable (which includes me but I have commitments) is watching interviews of Trump supporters. It smacks gobs. Blows minds, beggars belief.

Without exception, they’re un- or misinformed on virtually everything. “Biden is destroying America.” How? “In lots of ways.” Can you be specific? “Well, I can’t think of any right now, but it’s true.” Have you heard of the CHIPS Act? “What’s that?” What about the Inflation Reduction Act, the infrastructure bill? Have you heard that Republicans who voted against them are taking credit for their successes? “The whats?” Are you aware inflation is at its lowest in years; same with unemployment? That our economy is the fastest growing on Earth? “Fake numbers.”

And, while Trump promises destruction of every foundational institution, the most counterfactual of all: “He loves America.” Along with, do you believe the election was stolen? “Absolutely.” But there’s no evidence, even by inspections commissioned by Trump. “We’re done here.”

In fairness, some mention the border, which remains a mess, as it’s been for decades. But they have no idea that, under Biden, there have been more interdictions of border-crossers and drugs than under Trump, by far. It’s a wide-open border, they insist, and nothing will disabuse them. Nor do they know that all Republicans but two voted against Biden’s border funding bill. Why? Because, other than the Big Election Lie, “wide open” is their go-to obfuscation.

It’s clear as day, sure as shootin’, that efforts to help Trumpists see the forest for the trees are wasted. Perhaps there are enough unpolluted conservatives and Republicans to outvote them. Which is why there’s a coordinated effort by wealthy right-wing donors to finance third parties like “No Labels” and self-deluded people like RFK, Jr., Jill Stein, and Cornell West. Right about only one thing in her political life, Liz Cheney, who knows better, is considering a run, too.

A vote for any is a vote for Trump, who’d lose on merit or policy. He’s running only for vengeance (and avoiding trials); getting it would be America’s downfall.

Also tipping the scale is nonstop “coverage” of Joe Biden’s age, from all sides, with scant mention of Trump’s obvious decline in mental acuity (which was never dazzling), and the fact that the more incoherent he becomes, the more disjointed, the more outrageous his lies, the more his cult loves hearing his mendacious balderdash. Horsepucky.

Granted, Joe isn’t a riveting speaker; he’s made embarrassing verbal gaffes throughout his career, and his struggles with stuttering compound the perception. But his accomplishments that benefit all Americans and the world are arguably greater than any prior president except FDR. Here’s more detail for those open to convincing.

Nor, as mentioned many times, is 2024 about Trump vs Biden: It’s about dictatorship vs democracy. Top to bottom (which is a very long way down) Trump and Congressional Republicans have made that undeniable. Trumpists, who have no idea, don’t care. As long as Trump keeps bashing the people and institutions they’ve been convinced to hate or fear, telling the lies they hunger for, whatever happens to our Constitution and the democracy it protects is hunky-dory. The cat’s meow. They’re clueless about what democracy entails.

Some might consider it hopeful that George Santos, as prolific a liar as Trump, more imaginative but less sinister, was booted from Congress. But it’s worth noting that a majority of Republicans, including every top leader, voted against expulsion. The same ones, no doubt, who’ll defend Trump, hand him matches as he burns the Constitution; stand by as he actually, not imaginarily, weaponizes our government as all dictators do: rounding up enemies, unleashing the DOJ, CIA and IRS on people and media who criticize him. He and his people are promising it. Already suffering MAGA wrath, most if not all of those who voted to remove Santos, will remain silent.

Proceeding with their vaporous, made-for-Fox, evidence-free impeachment of President Biden, Republicans provide hope. As their latest truckulent “bombshell” self-destructed like all the others, impeachment will lay bare, shine a light, blow the lid off their phony evidence. When Democrats take it apart, piece by piece, Trumpophiles will witness the truth. Unless they decide, “We’re done here” and turn it off.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

The War Of Fog



Crossing nine time zones to return home after three weeks away, arriving around midnight after twenty-four hours of sleepless travel, leaves one with a fogged brain. This one, anyway. Which explains the absence of a column last week. And, perhaps, the following fatuous, foggish frivolity, as I’m not yet ready to give up my gelato high and get serious. So: 

There was a time when I was really good at math. In high school, I took advanced calculus, did more than passably well on the math SAT. By my calculation, that was in 1962. The last time higher math had any personal importance was the last day of freshman year in college, where I also took calculus, which, to the chagrin of English majors, was required at the time. Last exam, last thought, last relevance. Not even in medical school. My guess is the same can be said for all takers of calculus who aren’t currently working for NASA. Nowadays, I couldn’t integrate my way out of a wet paper derivative. Its terminology is as foreign to me now as Mandarin Chinese.

I did, however, get one thing out of it of lasting importance. Mister Rogers, the other one, my high school math teacher, demanded the invention of original puns. Never one to pass up an opportunity for approval, I ran through a bunch of phrases that might be fertile, and came up with one. (I interject that since it’s now past Thanksgiving, any reference to Christmas, however indirect, is acceptable.) (Also parenthetically, as a woke liberal, hearing “Merry Christmas” doesn’t offend me. I say it right back. Same with “Happy Holidays.” It’s not a war and never was.) But I digress. Here’s the pun:

Natasha and Rudolph live in a cabin in the woods not far from Moscow. One morning Rudolph gets out of bed, goes to the window, opens the curtains, and says, “Wow, Natasha, it’s raining really hard!” Still in bed, Natasha says, “From here, it looks like snow.” “Nyet. It’s definitely rain. Not snow.” “Are you sure,” asks Natasha? “Look,” he says, annoyed. “Rudolph the Red knows rain, dear.”

This remarkable event happened down there in Portland, where I grew up. Thirty years later, more or less, I was driving through, listening to a local radio station, when the DJ told that very joke. This led me to consider (calculate?) several possibilities: 1) my brilliance lived on in the town of its birth, finally grapevining its way onto the radio; 2) someone else had thought of the same thing; or 3) it wasn’t original at all when I came up with it. Maybe I’d heard it before and didn’t remember.

Having just entered my eightieth year, crossing that threshold bearing the typical (I hope) memory failings of the age, I can relate to the idea of having heard and forgotten. But I didn’t. For one thing, I was more than sixty years younger. I made it up, as surely as f(x) indicates ... something. Which is not to say someone else might not have, as well. But, surely, that’s not important right now. What is, is the song.

Much as I liked Burl Ives, who ended up living and dying in nearby Anacortes, and who, I think, is most associated with singing it, I’ve finally realized it makes no sense. Notwithstanding our love for redemption stories, tales of people overcoming handicaps or other obstacles to become successful, Rudolph’s saga isn’t. Sure, his pinkish proboscis made him a pariah until that pre-Christmas night; and, yes, he became – assuming the story is true – a popular polar protagonist, proactively.

But, really: Around here we know fog, which is sort of how this column began. We’ve experienced multiday stretches of impenetrable and unrelenting fog, such that one can’t see oncoming headlights till they’re mere feet away. It’s treacherous. But who among us would address the problem by placing a red light bulb on the hood of their car? How would that “guide” us anywhere but into a tree, or worse? Unless Rudolph’s nose was the “on” button of a radar dome, sticking him up front would have done Santa less good than a quadratic equation does me. That’s just a fact, and it’s time we recognized it as such.

Christmas is Christmas; but, c’mon! Rudolph? Unlike climate change, his story, the song, is a hoax. How could we, even as children, have fallen for it? Was it the strength of Ive’s Burly charm?

In contrast, Donald Trump is a would-be dictator and his most ardent followers are fascists.

Ah! The fog is lifting.

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