Thursday, May 6, 2021

Lie Or Leave

Last week’s column began with a quote from an actual conservative. Here’s another, from Michael Gerson, former adviser to George the Second: 

“… The GOP is increasingly defined not by its shared beliefs, but by its shared delusions. To be a loyal Republican, one must be either a sucker or a liar. And because this defining falsehood is so obviously and laughably false, we can safely assume that most Republican leaders who embrace it fall into the second category. Knowingly repeating a lie … is now the evidence of Republican fidelity…”

He’s referring, of course, to the perpetuated prevarication that, but for rampant fraud, Trump won the election. “Laughably false,” indeed. Yet believing or pushing it is now the standard by which Republican politicians are judged. Leave the lie, live lurched and languishing like Liz. In the United States of America, exceptional exemplar of democracy and integrity, it’s inexplicable. So let’s try. 

Republicans’ descent began long before Trump; otherwise, he’d have been laughed out of contention. Now they’re desperate to maintain the delusion. Why? The pandemic. It’s revealing truths about current conservatism so indisputable that the only available responses are lies and attacks on democracy. As in Arizona.

The pandemic has floodlit the falsehood of fundamental post-Reagan dogma; namely, that government is the problem. True enough, about bad government, of which we’ve seen plenty. And now we’re seeing the good kind. In differing responses to the pandemic, that truth is writ larger than Trump’s name on a bankrupt building. A wholly-owned subsidiary of multi-sued Trump, Inc., today’s Republican Party is doing its best to obscure the writing.

In that, they’ve had a head start for decades. But it’s been a struggle to rationalize more than half a million deaths and the incompetence, dishonesty, and contumacious denial that caused them.

Yes, the ground-breaking mRNA coronavirus vaccines, for which federally-financed research and development began years earlier, became available during Trump’s “presidency.” We acknowledge his big-government spending on final production, which any president would have ordered. But then he stopped.

Because of absent planning, misinformation, and what’s been described by taskforce participants as Trump’s disinterest, distribution lagged, while he deliberately sabotaged other efforts to stop the spread. When leadership in (mild) sacrifice was called for, he provided the opposite. Someday, psychiatrists might explain why.

But it supports the hypothesis: without government, the vaccines might never have been created; and had there been better government, distribution would have been wider and faster. For that, it took President Biden. Had Trump not spent months lying about or ignoring the virus, had he not hired sycophants and liars, had he not ridiculed protective measures, experts say, half the deaths wouldn’t have occurred. The contrast couldn’t be greater, the lesson more easily learned.

For Republicans, the consequences are monumental. When people were hurting, the economy in ruins, systems overwhelmed, Trumpublicans did next to nothing. Worse than nothing, after Biden took office, as they voted, unanimously, against his measures to restore the economy and help the desperate; laying down an unmistakable marker. (Unbelievably, as benefits arrive, they’re touting them, implying they deserve credit.) People needed good government, and are grateful for it. The pandemic brought recognition of current, effective leadership, and of its previous lack. Bad news for those voting “no.”

Or so you’d think. Never hesitant to dissemble, Republicans answered President Biden’s speech to Congress with plenty of it. A tale of two ditties, the best of words, the worst of words. What our president proposed were policies any functioning, democratic society should expect from a government of, by, and for its people. As he spoke of addressing child poverty, Republicans sat, stony. When he spoke of internal threats to democracy, of the value of government, tax fairness, education, healthcare, Ted Cruz nodded off. Seventy-percent of listeners, however, liked what they heard. Republicans represent the thirty-percent. 

Knowing the implications, their response warned of “socialism” and government takeovers. Understanding the threat to their rich-people-first agenda, they’re committed to blocking any progressive (i.e. helpful, popular) legislation “one-hundred-percent,” as Mitch McConnell just said. Lacking attractive alternatives, they’ll prevent as many Democratic voters as possible from voting, while ensuring their voters will distrust any lost elections.

The preceding thoughts are fact-based. Now for speculation: Perhaps what’s behind Republicans’ pathological push to forestall mask-wearing and vaccine-taking, now said to have made herd immunity unlikely, is discrediting President Biden’s people-positive leadership, which Republicans haven’t provided for decades; and, mainly, keeping his example of competence from taking hold among voters, even if it kills them.

Far-fetched? In today’s GOP-Q, we’re already seeing destructive anti-democracy treachery in abundance. 

[Image source]

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Bad To Worse

Peter Wehner, formerly of Hanford High and U-Dub, who worked for Reagan and both Bushes and a couple of conservative think-tanks as well as Christian foundations, shared his thoughts in an Atlantic piece titled “The GOP is a Grave Threat to American Democracy.

“Having alienated college-educated suburban voters,” he wrote, “many consequential Republicans decided their best bet is to keep their contracting coalition in a state of constant agitation and fear, combatants in a never-ending culture war… And that, in turn, requires them to feed the base even greater falsehoods.” 

Post-truth; post-democracy; post-community. Anyone who thought Republicans might turn toward sanity after the anti-constitutional, violent exit of Trump has been shown a fool. They have, in fact, gotten worse, bottom to top. 

Scraping the bottom of the bottom, the lower Tucker Carlson goes, the higher he rises in the estimation of Trumpists. Masks, he has discovered, turn us into drones. Also, making kids wear them is child abuse, so call the cops when you see it. It’s immaterial whether he believes his offal or spews it for ratings and income no matter the damage to his viewers’ health (probably the latter). Unlike hydroxychloroquine or drinking bleach, it works great on Trump-drones, perfectly exemplifying what Wehner said. 

Meanwhile, Sean “I need ratings, too” Hannity questioned the science behind vaccines, but refused to say whether he got them. Care to guess? If he didn’t, he’d have said so, bravely. Like Tucker, he knows his listeners are unquestioning and dupable. They count on it. 

Another example: House minority leader Kevin McCarthy is working hard to whitewash Trump and Trumpists out of any involvement in the January Six insurrection, and to sabotage serious inquiry into what happened before, on, and after that day. Why? It’s not mysterious: complicity. 

More: Wafting through rightwing media like smoke from a backyard barbeque is the lie that Biden’s climate plan bans burgers. Debunked repeatedly, it lives on, even in the mouths of Republican governors and Congress-dwellers. As does the one about Kamala Harris’ book being given to migrant children. (The reporter who produced that malarkey resigned from the New York Post, saying she’d been forced to write it.)

They don’t care: once told, their falsehoods, like N. fowleri, burrow into the brains of their softened targets. Retracted or not, they propagate like weeds in manure. Metaphors are for mixing.

Further evidence of unshakably embedded insanity is a private, Trump-mega-donor, anti-vaxxer-funded Florida school firing vaccinated teachers. Because, doncha know, “reports have surfaced” of the unvaccinated being harmed by contact with the vaccinated. A zombie thing, possibly.

Upping the Floridante, spreading red-ily from there, a “Citizen’s Alliance” says teaching children about climate change is “indoctrination” and wants it to stop. Those kids don’t have a chance to become science-literate. Which, one assumes, is the point. It’s all yours, China.

It gets worse: The so-called audit of Arizona presidential ballots is a funded, promoted, and populated Qanon playground. A shady rightwing company name of “Cyber Ninjas,” the outfit doing it initially refused a court order to reveal its methods, saying it’s not obligated to follow federal rules. To “restore trust,” is why Arizona Republicans hired them. 

There’s more. Consider the disingenuous, tiny infrastructure proposal Republicans made in response to President Biden’s plan: even more parsimonious than it appears, it counts money already allocated, unlike Biden’s numbers, which are for new spending. But it allows Rs to pretend they’re the ones bipartisanshipping. Offering five-hundred bucks on a house selling for half a mill, convincing their voters it was a good-faith negotiation.

Then there’s SCOTUS-packer Amy Coney Barrett’s refusal to recuse from a case involving the rightwing firm that helped underwrite the campaign promoting her nomination. “Bottom to top.” Even including that of the previous “president,” corruption gets no higher than that.

Finally, because it needs saying and James Carville just did, let’s acknowledge how some liberals facilitate Trumpists’ cynical propaganda. Like “defund the police,” competing for who’s the most “woke” is perfect fodder for rightwing disinformation. President Biden has approval ratings Trump could only lie about. Unlike Republican “policies,” for lack of a word, Joe’s proposals enjoy broad, bipartisan enthusiasm outside D.C. All Republican leaders have in response is distraction. So stop handing it to them.

It’s really okay to have schools named after Honest Abe and Dianne Feinstein, and for colleges to host unwelcome speakers. We really need police – just not bad ones. And, sometimes, 3 is just three. Let’s concentrate on the doughnut, not the hole. Focus. After four years without it, people are seeing what good government looks like. When not blinded by Republican diversions, they like it. 

And there’s the message.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

A Country Gone Nuts

People who refuse masks and vaccination, who still claim the election was stolen, who see nothing wrong with voter-limitation laws, who consider climate change a hoax, who stormed the Capitol, who believe the stormers were anti-Trump, who’re high-fivin’ white-guy Tucker Carlson’s “replacement” ravings, who fear transsexuals in bathrooms, who insist Trump never lied, who accuse Hillary Clinton of child-trafficking and cannibalism, who think if we stay long enough in Afghanistan we’ll “win,”

Who “do their own research” about science, who say ignoring pandemic social behavior is about “freedom,” who think black people killed by police asked for it – even an unarmed child with his hands up, who are convinced undocumented immigrants are allowed to vote, who insist there’s never been or no longer is racism in America, who say the only racists are non-whites, who don’t mind the Republican Party becoming overtly white-supremacist

Who elect people to Congress who harass and lie and block but produce little of value, who drive into crowds of demonstrators (now legal in Florida), who consider Black Lives Matter a terrorist organization, who imagine Christianity is under siege and that it’s only white people who face discrimination, who fear “Sharia law” while legislating based on their personal Bible interpretations, who say the ACLU is a Communist front and that Democrats want communism, who demand we consider America a Christian nation, who call Kyle Rittenhouse a hero, who believe Democrats want to take away their religion and guns and free speech and create open borders, 

Who think it’s easy to distinguish between good guys and bad guys with guns and background checks are fascist, who are convinced vaccines are mind-control, who’ve concluded Dr. Fauci is an evil liar, who reckon the “wrong kinds” of people are voting, who impeached Bill Clinton for lying about sex but deem the impeachments of Trump political hit-jobs, who believe there’s a “deep state” in cahoots with an international Jewish cabal, who reject proof that Russians interfered with Trump’s election and colluded with his campaign,

Are the same ones insisting if assault-style weapons are banned “the government” will track them down and haul them to reeducation camps or gas chambers, and that the Second Amendment was created, expressly, to provide citizens with the muskets to stop it from happening. And that the recent spate of mass murders, added to the mounting all-time total, is reasonable, unpreventable, maybe a bit unfortunate but not-worth-doing-anything price we should be happy to pay for keeping ourselves armed against, well, that thing that will never happen.

Except it did when Trump brutally cleared peaceful protestors so he could wave a Bible at us and later sent troops to Portland and Seattle against mostly peaceful demonstrators but it’s fine because it was people seeking justice which is communism and it showed them who’s boss and wasn’t the thing they’d been arming themselves for because government gassing non-violent citizens is okay because Trump is on our side and they deserved it and also inciting deadly insurrection against the Constitution.

Half of our country is nuts. We may disagree about which half, but, surely, we do agree this ever-widening, bridgeless divide is incompatible with democracy, and that we’re nearing the impossibility of finding our way back. If half the country doesn’t check every one of the foregoing boxes, they check plenty more than a few.

If there is a way back, it won’t come from Cruz, Hawley, Jordan, Nunes, Gozar, Gaetz, McCarthy, Graham, Greene, Boebert, Cotton, Barasso, Thune, Paul, Kennedy, Hyde-Smith, Cornyn, Gohmert, King, Scott, Ernst, Blackburn, or any of the rest who prefer dissimilation and cries of “socialism” instead of producing useful ideas.

But it could, in fact, come from Pelosi, Murray, Ocasio-Cortez, Porter, Sanders, Warren, Whitehouse, or the others whom Trumpists love to hate and dismiss with prejudice, but who are offering serious, fact-based proposals, like them or not. In Congresses past, their ideas would initiate constructive, good-faith debate; leading, if you can imagine, to workable compromise. If Republicans were to stop fearing their Fox-, Newsmax-, OAN-indoctrinated supporters and rise above taking orders from their corporate sponsors, perhaps they’d remember their job is to legislate for the good of everyone. Ticking, is the clock.

Meanwhile, on Mars, NASA flew a self-driving helicopter carrying a tiny piece of the Wright brothers’ first airplane. If that doesn’t cause you to admire science, what will? How many members of the design and build team are immigrants or first-generation or non-white? Lots. Its name, “Ingenuity,” came from an Alabama high-schooler named Vaneeza Rupani. Makes a person think.

Finally, for now, one word on the Chauvin verdict: just.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Infrastructure. Gotta Do It.

Rumor has it that Congressional Republicans will soon present their own infrastructure plan. If true, it’s a positive development, depending on what is and isn’t in it, and how they plan to pay for it. (Not by raising corporate taxes, they’ve already said.)

In any case, it'd be refreshing for a party that had, for decades, given up producing legislation of its own, other than military spending and limiting voting rights of Americans. It’s much easier and more attractive to their base, simply to decry and block, if they can, whatever Democrats produce. They did it during President Barack Obama’s administration, kept at it through Trump’s, and the production/block cycle continues today.

So far, the Republican response to President Biden’s wide-ranging plan has been to argue about the meaning of “infrastructure.” And, from Mitch McConnell, a promise that not a single Republican senator would vote for it; period, end of discussion. Which surprised exactly no one except, possibly, the President himself, who, like President Obama but perhaps less naively, still contends there’s a possibility of Republican helpfulness.

On the other hand, it was a gift: Mitch’s proclamation freed President Biden from wasting time trying to cajole cooperation from the right. And it makes coffee-out-nose-laughable the complaints, regularly heard on rightwing media, that Joe is forsaking his commitment to bipartisanship.

Sure, we could argue about what fits the definition of infrastructure. Setting aside South Dakota’s Republican Governor Kristi Noem’s forehead-fracturing claim that pipes and housing have nothing to do with it, one might question the inclusion of various items. But why? It is what it is: a much-needed, serious attempt to make up for precious lost time in addressing increasingly costly, previously neglected needs of our country.

To his credit, Trump campaigned, among other disingenuous promises, on rebuilding infrastructure. Who can count the number of disappearing “infrastructure weeks” he announced during his tenure? But at least it was Republican recognition that action has been too long in coming. Remember, it was the last of the honest and pragmatic Republican presidents, Dwight Eisenhower, who convinced Congress to pony up for the interstate highway system; making the case that it was a matter of national security. Which is a pillar of conservatism.

Aging dams and bridges are security threats, too. The same for an inadequate electric grid and unsafe water. Underfunded schools. Insufficient housing. Limited healthcare access and not caring for our elderly. And, maybe more than anything else, the climate change emergency, broiled in which we now find ourselves. 

However we choose to label them, America has chronically neglected needs, and it’s way past time to address them. The longer we wait, the more it’ll cost, and the more likely is disaster to happen in the meantime. As with his pandemic relief plan, President Biden’s proposals for rebuilding America (which will actually MAGA) enjoy broad public support, even among Republican voters.

It’s not mysterious: most everyone has had to pay for needed repairs or upgrades; many have seen the consequences of delaying them. In our homes, for our families, we do what we must. In rejecting it, Congressional Rs would, yet again, flout the will of the people. And please countries hoping for America’s decline.

The problem, compounding hourly, is that rebuilding costs money. Staggering amounts of it. Far more, even, than President Biden is asking for. We all know it, and we know putting it off makes it worse. The only question is how to pay for it. And, no, dear Republicans, the answer isn’t another fairy-dust, trickle-down tax cut. Or a piper-postponing, bond-selling smokescreen. And, no, dear Democrats, the money can’t come entirely from corporations and millionaires.

President Biden ought to rescind his pledge about people making less than $400 thousand a year. Everyone drinks water, uses roads and electricity. And breathes. Plus, it’ll create millions of jobs. In fact, taking a page from the Republican bumper-sticker book, but honest and descriptive, it’s named “The American Jobs Plan.” Worth a read. 

Not wanting to spend money doesn’t change the need. We do it to keep our families safe; we must do it for our country, too, which amounts to the same thing. China understands this, evidently better than we, as they build and pave their way past us, everywhere.
And now, the Trump story of the week: Saffron-spined Republican senators gave him a made-up award, titled like a Marvel comic, engraved on a tiny silver bowl. In gratitude, spewing his usual undead election lies and worse, he called Mitch McConnell a “dumb son of a bitch.” 

Mitch McConnell isn’t dumb.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Corporations Are People, My Friend

Not so many years ago, five-ninths of the Supreme Court informed us that money is speech and corporations are people. Shortly thereafter, finishing off, to the best of its ability, the remnants of governance by and for the people, the court, having experienced another 5-4 epiphany, declared racism over and lynched the Voting Rights Act. 

These partisan rulings delighted Republicans, fulfilling their most liquid dreams; for it’s the subsequent deluge of corporate money, and being freed from federal oversight of naked suppression of voters of Democratic inclination, that has kept them in office ever since. Funny thing about that, though: their recent exuberant escalation of decades-long efforts has shone a light; if not on the money itself, then on the hypocrisy surrounding it.

The apotheosis, the sine-qua-non, the Platonic ideal of Republican subterfuge is Georgia’s, arising after their recent electoral defeats. Lacking – apparently not even wanting – a message to attract more voters to their side, they chose to narrow the avenues of access that had increased minority votes. And, more egregiously, to give their legislature the power to overturn unhappy results. But, they insist, it’s only about preventing widespread fraud (the big lie) and keeping illegal immigrants from voting (doesn’t happen). Paraphrasing a recent letter implying those very things, “huzzah for hysterics.”

Not everyone who saw what happened was okay with it.

In response to criticism came the “liberal lies,” “who-me,” cat-who-ate-the-canary-in-the-coal-mine disavowals; the counterfactual claims that they’d actually increased opportunities to vote; the “Fox said it, I believe it, that settles it” assertion that Colorado, to which MLB moved the all-star game, is just as restrictive. Repeated robotically by right-wing pundits and Trumpists, it’s false. The truth (remember truth?) is the opposite

Then, the unexpected: several Georgia-based corporations, generally given to giving Republican, spoke out in criticism. “Spoke” is the operative word. Said it was wrong, didn’t actually do anything. But it was enough to cause apoplexy and consternation among rightists, self-styled protectors of free speech and corporate autonomy, and bulwarks against “cancel culture.” Immediately, their dudgeon turned to eleven, Georgia’s legislature voted to rescind a tax break for Delta Airlines: well-deserved punishment for the crime of firing off a high-capacity load of words.

Then, in Texas, as their legislature prepared even more oppressive restrictions aimed at minority voters, corporations based there also expressed pro-democracy opinions. Which let loose a flood of two-faced outrage, led by the heartless harbinger of hypocrisy himself, Moscow Mitch McConnell. There’ll be consequences, he warned, ominously but without specifying, for speaking their people-minds. Corporations should best stay out of politics, he intoned. Except, of course, for continuing to bankroll us, he added hurriedly, realizing too late what he’d just said. The money kind of corporate political activity is perfectly legal, he assured us, as if speaking out for democracy isn’t.

Having let slip his truth, he immediately tried to wiggle free. “Unartful,” he said. It was a hilarious episode, in a cephalexplosive kind of way.

So far, it’s only words. But corporate refusal to keep grubstaking Republicans, or, even more dramatic, were they to boeing-boeing away to other states, might be the only remaining recourse to right the wrongs. Democracy-loving voters in democracy-hating states are increasingly unable to do anything about it; which is the whole point.

Are corporations concluding there’s more profit in retaining customers than in purchasing legislators? Maybe. Politics beds strange fellows. The world has flipped on its axis: Republicans are yelling about corporations using political influence and Democrats are cheering them on.

Trump, of course, speaking about whom we’re informed ought to no longer be allowed, had to put in his two-kopeks-worth. Boycott, he demanded; something he was against when liberals suggested it. Cancel the lot of ‘em. Delta, Coca-Cola, UPS, MLB, and more.

But Trump is Trump. Always the faker and ever the cheat, he was caught, in a subsequent photo-op with Stephen Miller, the worst of his many in-house swamp-dwellers, trying to hide his extra-large bottle of Diet Coke. Also hilarious, in a “people actually voted for that guy” kind of way.

With Trump, there’s always more. We learned this week how he suckered credulous cultists into giving monthly or even weekly donations to his campaign, using fine print so small it was barely noticeable. Having bankrupted many people, including the sick and dying, his campaign was forced to return $122 million when the scam was uncovered. As usual, Trump got away unscathed. 

Hey, here’s an idea: no matter the topic, every column should end like this one, with a “Trump revelation of the week” feature. Everyone would love it, right?

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Voting From Space

It goes without saying – which is why it needs saying – that without fair and unencumbered elections in all states, wherein the people’s votes actually matter and count roughly equally, democracy dies.

If we were watching from outer space, studying a country having two distinct, opposing parties, it shouldn’t be difficult, assuming it’s the case, to tell which of them believes in democracy and which doesn’t. Which one favors giving average citizens the ultimate voice, and which one does everything it can to create and maintain a self-serving plutocracy. 

We find ourselves in the International Space Station, looking down on exceptional America. And what do we see? Two parties, working hard for legislative action affecting elections and the safety and ease of voting, but with diametrically opposite intent. For fun, let’s not figure out the party names yet. (Incidentally, the science keeping us afloat and alive up here is the same as the kind telling us about Covid-19, the vaccines, and climate change. Which is why we'll remain safe and breathing.)

Oh, look: way down there, in the House of Representatives, one party has already passed legislation aimed at reducing the influence of dark money, striving for uniformity among states for voting by mail, limits on unfair gerrymandering, numbers of voting locations and drop-boxes per population, ethics reform, and more; including requiring presidential candidates to release their tax returns.

Even up here, you can see the other one is trying to make voting by mail harder if not impossible, to limit or eliminate drop-boxes, and, despite how well mail-voting works in several states without it, including ours, to require ID. While making access as difficult as possible for minority voters. Which one, shall we conclude, believes in the indispensability of voting rights in a democracy and which one doesn’t? (No peeking!)

As to the act of voting, per se, all we need to know is that, in a state it just lost for the first time in nearly forever, one party made it a crime to provide food and water to people waiting for hours to vote, in lines possibly visible from up here. This tells us that forcing selected portions of the population to wait like that is deliberate.

It also reveals that their rationale – that it’s to prevent people who provide food and water from politicking the standees – shows who they really are. Specifically, they’re certain no one in their party would even think of providing comfort to hot, tired, hungry voters. And that they choose not to consider ways it could be done without giving political advantage to the providers. We can think of several. It’s not hard.

By simple observation, then, we know one party favors equal access to voting by all eligible citizens, and one clearly doesn’t. (No fair reading ahead!) To the former, eligibility includes law-breakers who’ve fulfilled their debt to society. Ironically, it's the party that insists we're a Christian nation and, therefore, ought to believe in redemption, that demagogues the very idea. 

As to the aforementioned dark money, a conference call about it, between mega-donors and an adviser to Mitch McConnell, can be heard from the ISS (we have the technology). According to The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer, one party is very, very worried. They call it a power grab by the other party, but their problem, in fact, is with its bipartisan appeal

“The speakers on the call expressed alarm at the broad popularity of the bill’s provision … about secret political donors. The participants conceded that the bill … was so popular that it wasn’t worth trying to mount a public-advocacy campaign to shift opinion. Instead, a senior Koch operative said that opponents would be better off ignoring the will of American voters and trying to kill the bill in Congress. … because the broad public is against them when it comes to billionaires buying elections.”  

“Ignoring the will of American voters.” “… kill the bill in Congress.” “Billionaires buying elections.” Can it be any more obvious to whom Congressional members of that party really listen, and why? Could it be any clearer in whose interests they’re acting? Can you barely wait to learn which is which? After finding out, will you care enough to vote for the democracy-saving one?

As with choosing between former Vice-President Joe Biden and Trump, true conservatives must yet again decide between party and country; between preserving election fairness or letting their party destroy it.

Back on Earth, we see it clearly: the party trying to protect democracy rather than end it has been the Democrats all along. Surprised?

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Guns, Lies, Excuses, And Sidney

Two weeks, two mass murders using America’s massacre weapon of choice; at least one of which was purchased only six days before putting it to the only use for which it was designed. And ten days after a judge, adjudicating a lawsuit filed by the NRA, struck down a ban on its sales in Boulder, where the most recent murders occurred.

Last year was one of our deadliest ever for gun violence. Nothing will change, of course, as long as senators like Ted Cruz resort to the usual “Democrats want to take all guns from everyone” falsehoods, as he did this week. Nor as long as the NRA contributes millions in campaign donations, 98.1% of which, in 2020, went to Republicans. When Cruz began his deluge of deceit with “Every time there’s a mass shooting…” a lot more was revealed than he intended about America’s exceptional production and tolerance of slaughter by combat-style weaponry.

Also making a strong bid for the hearing’s b.s. prize was Louisiana’s Senator Kennedy, who equated restrictions on gun purchases with banning all law-abiding citizens from driving in order to stop drunk ones. It shouldn’t need explaining how dishonest and, if he believes it, stupid that is.

Rather than repeating calls for a minimal amount of sanity, which will inevitably fall upon filibustered ears, let’s talk about the lying that’s come to characterize the right side of our political spectrum, and not just about gun-control.

As a starting point, consider Trump-hired election-cancelation attorney Sidney (embarrassing, right?) Powell. Splattered like blood over the crime scene of right-wing media, her high-volume claims that Dominion Voting Systems conspired to steal the election from Trump, led to being named in a billion-dollar lawsuit by the defamed company. Her novel defense could become the template for all the liars up with whom we’ve had to put since the election of Trump. Especially Trump. 

And it should definitely supplant the ever-changing definition of “chutzpah,” the most recent iteration of which was Trump referring to House Democrats as “do-nothing” after Moscow Mitch spiked every bill they produced.

Strap yourselves in, dear readers. Here it comes, in a filing to the court by her lawyers: "No reasonable person would conclude that the statements were truly statements of fact…” In other words, they argue, she can’t be held to account because her lies were so ridiculous that “reasonable” people would know she was blowing smoke up their assumptions. 

Well, it’s bold. But here’s the thing: I knew, and I’d guess most people reading this did, too. Trumpists didn’t, though, and they still number in the millions. Sid-the-other’s prevarication was aimed straight at them, and, accustomed to devouring mendacity un-masticated, manna from the heaven-sent, they gorged on it. Stormed the capitol over it. Refuse over it, even now, to admit President Biden was legitimately elected. Which is why it’s necessary, contra a recent letter, to keep calling out Trumpism: like the carcinogens he deregulated, the poison remains, and will for decades.

Were Ms. Powell’s lies any more grievous than Trump’s about the election, the pandemic, climate change, immigrants, Democrats and socialism, China, Russia, and every other word that caused his lips to move? By no measure. One assumes her lawyers would argue he’s off the hook, too. Not his fault his followers aren’t “reasonable” people.

Among Republicans there’s rarely a political cost for lies as effluvious as Powell’s, Cruz’s, Kennedy’s, and Trump’s. In fact, they’re what keep getting them elected. And now we’re to believe there should be no legal consequences, either, because no one but idiots – their idiots, they’re confirming -- would believe. We may well see the theory tested in the coming months and years. When the full measure of Trump’s corruption is revealed, along with that of those he extracted from the swamp and sluiced into his “administration,” will his followers come to recognize how badly and cynically they’d been deceived? We should live so long.

Like those about Covid-19, Trumpist’s voting fabrications are existentially dangerous, and yet another definition of chutzpah: lying for months about the ubiquity of fraud, specifically and intentionally to destroy confidence in the process, they justify their newly-hatched, nationwide voter-suppression laws by saying confidence needs to be restored.

HR-1 is the bill written by House Democrats to ensure election fairness. Knowing they can’t win when it’s as easy for Democratic constituencies to vote as it is for theirs, Republicans will make it another victim of the fairnessbuster, while Ted Cruz, true to form, lies about it

Equitable election laws and reasonable gun-control: prevented by Republicans since ink dried on the quills. The devolution continues.

Thursday, March 18, 2021


Our founders included the filibuster in the Constitution for good reason: Democracy, they agreed, in which government responds to and reflects the will of the people, depends on the ability of a minority of senators, representing a minority of the population, to block legislation; especially bills supported by a majority of voters. Seventy-six-percent, in the case of the American Rescue Plan. Those wise men knew what they were doing. 

Omigosh. So sorry. Doggone spell-check. The founders did no such thing. In fact, they couldn’t imagine requiring a sixty-percent majority to pass legislation. This we know because the singular role they created for the Vice President was to cast the decisive vote in the case of a Senate tie. By simple majority, is what they considered the logical way to ratify legislation. Supermajorities were for impeachments and overriding vetoes.

Nor, when the filibuster appeared, like a carbuncle, could a forty-percent minority simply say, “Don’t do that or we’ll grind things to a halt,” and not actually have to do it. Back then, like Jimmy Stewart’s Mister Smith, they had to hold the floor continuously.

Because there were no rules limiting debate, when persuasion wouldn’t work, legislation could be suffocated by filibuster. Eventually, as pressing issues facing the country grew in number, so did demands for ways to force an end to debate. Cloture, it’s called.

That came about in 1917, when cloture was allowed if agreed to by two-thirds of the senators. Over the following forty years, it was invoked only five times. Inevitably, filibusters (from “filibusteros,” Spanish for pirates) became increasingly frequent, especially to block civil rights legislation, including laws against lynching.

It wasn’t until 1964 that a filibuster was overcome to get the Civil Rights Act approved. In 1975, the required amount of senators voting for cloture was reduced to three-fifths. Now, insidiously, that super-majority has become the default to pass all legislation except, once per fiscal year and subject to many qualifications, for “budget reconciliation.” For Mitch McConnell, filibuster is the weapon of choice. So much for the will of the people. 

“Gee whiz,” weep the Mitch-like. “Without the filibuster, the majority would have all the power. There’d be no effort at bipartisanship.” They’re right, of course. That’s why, if the Mariners are behind when the game ends, they threaten to stay on the field until the runs they need are added to the score. It’s only fair.

If anyone knows about bipartisanship, it’s Mitch. Ask the Republican leaders he gathered, literally on President Obama’s first inauguration day, agreeing to block whatever he proposed, sight unseen. Ask Mr. Justice Gorsuch. Ask President Obama, too, who included Republican demands in the Affordable Care Act and the Recovery Act, disappointing liberals, thinking (silly man) it’d garner Republican votes.

Having received much of what they wanted, they still voted no, every single one of them. Which they’re now doing to President Biden. Republicans dumped bipartisanship decades ago. Crocodile tears.

Just you wait, warns Mitch. If Democrats end the filibuster, it’ll become a “scorched earth” Senate when Republicans regain control. Really? He scorched the earth during every Democratic presidency. When that recently-defeated guy was “president,” he did it by spiking over 400 bills the majority House Democrats sent over. He did it with every Federal judge foisted by the Federalist Society, no matter how unqualified.

President Joe Biden said he prefers bipartisanship, but no Republicans voted for his plans. Therefore, he was lying. Funny thing, though, about that seventy-six-percent approval of his rescue legislation: it’s more than twenty-percent higher than his winning election margin. Which means it appeals to many Republicans; just, unsurprisingly, not the impactions in Congress. It’s only by Foxian definition that that’s not bipartisan. Joe Biden aims to be a president for all Americans, not just the far right-wing. That was the recently-soundly-defeated guy.

And how’s this for bipartisanship: after passage, several voting-no Republicans are touting the Rescue Act to their constituents as if they deserve credit. The hypocrisy is stupefying.

After their Georgia defeats, it was re-confirmed to Republicans that fair elections are their enemy. Therefore, across America, they’re busy creating legislation designed specifically to hinder voting by Democrats. If they’re able to filibuster the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which, because Democrats believe in democracy, would make voting equally accessible to all citizens and each vote given equal weight, America would become a minority-rule plutocracy. Undeniably, that’s their goal.

As used by Mitch McConnell, the filibuster has become incompatible with democracy. It needs to go. Or return to what Jimmy Stewart did, all those years ago. 

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Seuss Time, Loose Rhyme

I do not like you, Cancun Cruz, 
You make me mad, oh yes you do.
I don’t like seeing you on the news.
The things you say are never true.

The “doctor’s” family changed their mind.
But you said Biden canceled Seuss.
They thought some pictures were unkind.
A lie like yours has no excuse.

Some books will stop, but just a few.
I think that is a thing you knew.
Before you talk about the book, 
Maybe you should have a look.

But you are not the very worst.
You didn’t even get there first.
Your party gave up long ago.
Their actions now are all for show.

Joe Biden’s plans they’d like to ditch
Unless they help the really rich.
Their sponsors’ wishes they’ll engage,
But never raise the mini wage.

What’s that? Did I just hear a Who
Complaining loud about the debt?
Or maybe it was only you.
But Cancun Ted did you forget 

The cost, gee whiz, for goodness sakes
Of budget-busting taxes breaks
For those who needed them the least?
While people starve, your owners feast.

And I don’t like you, Fox’s Tucker.
You always make my sphincters pucker.
(The reader may my praises sing:
I did not rhyme that other thing.)

The watchers of your icky show
Just want to hear you bashing Joe.
When you pretended books were banned,
Just as you hoped, the flames were fanned.

Oh Tucker, you’re a nasty guy.
You could be honest if you’d try.
But you prefer your misdirection
And lies about the insurrection.

Why you do this I don’t know,
But I admit it is your show.
Your viewers only want your fibs,
And love it when you “own the libs”.

It is too bad that’s all you’ve got,
Because it’s causing minds to rot.
Were you like this when you were small?
Did you never care at all?

(I know I mixed the rhyming scheme,
And now there’ll be a meter change.
Does it make you want to scream?
Seuss did it, too; don’t think it strange.)

It looks like we’re stuck with both Tucker and Ted,
Who hope we’ll be madder ‘bout books children read
Than the virus that Donald so carelessly spread.
That’s how they all try to get into your head.

And to think that I saw it on Capitol Hill.
The Rs were obstructing, they’re doing it still.
They all voted not to begin the debate
And forced their poor clerks into staying up late.

Then none of them voted for giving out checks
To people in need who are up to their necks.
They’re not very nice, and of that I am sure.
They act like they’re grinches; I guess always were.

They all voted no, every woman and man,
Weren’t even trying to come up with a plan.
And now that it passed they are trying to take credit, Believe it or not a “no” voter just said it.

“Young man,” someone told me, “you’re sort of a fool. You’ll never catch plans in Republicans’ pool.
They drown all ideas there, and more by the hour.
I guess they’ll keep doing it; it’s their superpower.

If I wait long enough, if I’m patient and cool,
Some say Mitch McConnell will restock the pool
Like Republicans did when they offered a hand
To presidents all, who were leading the land.

But that was back then, when it looked like they cared, And tried to improve how America fared.
Yet now, one and all, they are turning their backs
On people with problems that each of them lacks.

Though most of the voters are in Biden’s groove,
The right-wing decided that they’ll never move
Away from obstructing no matter the harm
To the country whose Trumpists they try hard to charm. 

But they’re charming with falsehood, they know that the truth
Brings voters they fear to the next voting booth.
In every red state they are up round the clock
To figure out ways how those votes they can block.

They want to because of the good we are seeing:
Joe’s getting things done and he’s not even mean.
And unlike his former, he keeps a low profe,
Yet no one must settle for just half a loaf.

Joe meant what he said and he said what he meant
And so far he’s faithful one-hundred-per-cent.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Spewing At CPAC


If last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference is representative, the formerly respectable Republican Party is done. CPAC was a festival of white grievance, denialism, big lies and bigger, conspiracies, and tortured attacks on liberalism. Pretending that sometimes-stupid but often-appropriate (like when Fox canceled O’Reilly) “cancel culture” is a greater threat to America than Covid-19, climate change, or Trump’s sedition.

What there wasn’t, except for ways to keep Democrats from voting, was policy. Meanwhile, Democracy-protecting House Democrats passed a bill making voting more accessible to all eligible citizens.

Featuring no actual conservatives, CPAC welcomed heroes of the election-canceling insurrection. Cruz, Hawley, Brooks. Paul Gosar, fresh from speaking to a white supremacist rally. Young Madison Cawthorn, who entered politics Trumpically, with lies, phony accusations, and demonizing his opponents. It was a retinue of retrogression. 

Then, the big finish: Trump. Caring less for God’s First Commandment than the founders’ Second, the flock idolized him in a much-selfied, gilded, Bob’s Big Boy simulacrum, amusingly made in China. After ninety minutes of unearned boastfulness, repeating his debunked, judicially-rejected election lies, and decrying “cancel culture,” Trump listed political opponents he wants canceled. Standingly, the audience ovated. We love you, they testified. You won, you won. 

They love the lifelong conman who made the pandemic worse, the contrast to whose uncaring mismanagement of vaccine distribution is stark, compared to President Biden’s effective guidance. Who, with his current wife, received the vaccine in secret, presumably to avoid publically debunking his dishonesty about Covid-19. The man who told them the lies they wanted to hear and fueled their Foxified resentments since before he was “elected.”

Hyping donations to his personal PAC, his control of which is total, he dangled a run in 2024, which will end when he’s grifted enough easy money from the beguiled. In mere days, he’s already garnered millions.

If CPAC is today’s Republican Party, we’re all in big trouble. If it is, our best years, leading the world in nurturing democracy, innovation, overcoming daunting challenges, and fulfilling dreams are behind us. Then, there were two conscientious, opposing but intellectually honest parties. Then, American democratic republicanism depended on and did damn well with it. Now, always delighted to approve budget-busting tax breaks for the wealthy, not a single House Republican voted to provide pandemic relief to those in need. 

Accomplishing nothing but delaying the help, Senator Ron “small” Johnson required the seven-hundred-page bill to be read aloud. Perhaps he can’t read. In any case, helpful Republican participation is no more.

No one looking for good governance could have found it at CPAC. Absent ideas, “cancel culture” was endlessly looped, (“Freeeedummmb,” screeched Crazed Cruz) to keep the masses from noticing the competence emanating, after a four-year absence, from the White House. 

(Noted, with irony: the decision to stop publishing a few Dr. Seuss books, met with choreographed rightwing outrage, was a free-market, unregulated, capitalist business decision, made entirely by the publisher.) 

What are conservatives to do? If CPAC is the Republican Party, they have no place in it. Surely, they can’t countenance Republican leadership of Texas and Mississippi, the two states most severely affected by bad governance during the big freeze, and, despite remaining near the top in Coronavirus deaths, the first fully to reopen.

Could they rationalize aping Mitch McConnell, who unequivocally called out Trump’s culpability for the insurrection and the lies that led to it, then voted to acquit, suggesting America’s criminal justice system is the remedy; and now says he’d support Trump if he were the 2024 Republican nominee? In what way is it conservative to say, sure, the man is a dangerous, mendacious, anti-democracy criminal, but of course I’d support him?

Presumably, Trump’s promise not to start a third party was greeted with relief by McConnell. Or, more likely, resignation. Because while Mitch recognizes the debasement Trump has wrought upon Republicanism, he understands he has nowhere else to go.

So he’ll stay with the party, sixty-two-percent of whose members say they either won’t or have serious reservations about getting vaccinated. The majority of whom believe the outrageous lies he, McConnell, decried, who’ve proudly renounced reality. Nearly all of whom revere the man whose malfeasance he confirmed to the world. 

Unchanged, Republicans will have a steadily diminishing role in the future of our country, except to the extent they may rob us of one. It’s a swamp from which there seems no escape for real conservatives.

Let’s hope they find one anyway. Proposing serviceable solutions to the existential problems we face, rejecting McConnell’s obstructionism, shrinking Trump’s CPAC into a cultish anachronism: that’d be a hopeful start.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Texas And Then Some

Last week, the invisible hand got frostbite. Lost its grip on conservatism’s Second Commandment: “Thou shalt deregulate. Trust thee in corporate kindness.” If what happened in Texas doesn’t out the scam, nothing will.  

Nothing will. Right-wing propaganda amplifiers are turned up to eleven. As burst pipes propagated icicles, Texas’ governor blamed the not-enacted Green New Deal. Foxifieds’ favorite fibber, Tucker Carlson, who just speculated Qanon is a leftwing disinformation myth, dismissed wind turbines as “silly fashion accessories” that don’t work in cold weather. Are his strategically endumbed believers aware that windmill energy is generated year-round in Sweden, Alaska, Antarctica? That colder-than-Texas Iowa gets forty-two-percent of its generated electricity from wind?

While Ted Cruz lied his way to Mexico and back, AOC, the right’s favorite whipping girl for recognizing the seriousness of anthropogenic climate change, raised $5-million for Texas and went there to help. Travelin’ Ted posed with a box of bottled water. Rick Perry, former governor and Trump’s Ukraine-connected Energy Secretary, pronounced, warm, hydrated, and fed, that Texans would rather suffer than subject themselves to federal regulations. Does he think they feel the same about their post-freeze, price-gouged electricity bills

After a previous freeze, ten years earlier, Texas was warned of the need to winterize its entire generating infrastructure. Because it’s Republican deregulatory paradise, attracting businesses that prefer to profit unrestricted, nothing was done. So it all froze, including windmills. Which, you’d think, would entomb another undead Reaganism: Government is the problem. Wrong. BAD government is the problem. Of which we’ve seen plenty in Texas.

By contrast to Trump’s even more massively failed governance, we’re seeing the opposite from President Biden, who, while simultaneously rectifying disorganized and inadequate vaccine distribution, immediately sent FEMA to Texas and made federal funds available (now they accept help); whereas Trump, because its governor declined backside osculation, delayed the same to California while wildfires raged.

Failed governance was even more obvious as we passed 500,000 deaths from Covid-19. Had Trump not denied it, botched and lied about his response, mocked wearing masks and social distancing, and had most red-state governors and Trumpists nationwide not followed him over his cliff of ignorance, maybe half of those lives would have been saved.

For perspective: were that many names recorded on the Vietnam Memorial Wall it’d be almost ninety feet high. If that number of people were in buses, it’d make a caravan one-hundred miles long. And still there are deniers. Still Americans unwilling to make minor sacrifices to protect their neighbors. Because “freedom.” 

Like acne, more rightwing denialism erupted in the capitol this week. A strong contender for most repulsive senator, Wisconsin’s pustulent Ron Johnson infected Senate insurrection hearings by reading into the record a claim the rioters were “fake Trump protestors.” Right. Trying to overturn an election they won.

Similarly, Ta-Ta-Texas Ted used his time with Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland, whose integrity and moderation shine a light on the darkness of Trump’s nominees, to suggest the “Obama-Biden” administration had politicized the DOJ, ignoring Trump’s most politicized ever, as attested by a score of former US Attorneys, Republicans all. 

Another sort of denialism took a hit this week, as the latest mission to Mars ended its six-month, thirty-four-million-mile journey, finding its target perfectly, sending stunning, high-resolution images back immediately, including of the landing itself. Brilliant engineers, mathematicians, physicists, biologists, technicians made incredibly precise calculations and extrapolations from afar, including how to fly a helicopter on Mars, built an amazing machine, programmed complex maneuvers to be managed entirely by onboard computers. Impressive.

Unless you believe -- like Ron Johnson and the insurrection being staged, Ted Cruz and Trump’s DOJ being pure, Trumpists and climate change, the virus, and Russian interference being hoaxes -- that the whole mission was created on a Hollywood soundstage.

Which is the mindset you must have, and millions of today’s Republicans do, to believe there’s a difference between the science that gave us the Mars mission and that which predicted and proves climate change, including freezing conditions in the US resulting from Arctic warming; gave us guidelines for controlling the pandemic; developed and assured the efficacy and safety of the vaccines. Science is science, like it or not.

Yet another mindset, that “cancel culture” is strictly a liberal thing, produced amusing irony this week when CPAC, whose 2021 bumper-sticker slogan is “America, Uncanceled,” canceled a participant for his flagrant anti-Semitism. Americans are free to say offensive things. Others are free to reject them. Some call it canceling. Others call it consequences.

Finally, on the passing of Rush Limbaugh, we defer to the more pleasantly quotable Clarence Darrow.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Fight The Fight

“Lean to the left, lean to the right, stand up sit down, fight fight fight.” According to Trump’s impeachment trial lawyers, we who’ve
chanted it are as guilty as Trump.  

Coherent arguments weren’t required. Though Trump’s guilt was as obvious as shattered glass, they knew acquittal was assured. So they lied, whataboutized, Trumpified. Their audience was Trumpists and Trump, figuring, one assumes, that if they didn’t do it his way they’d be joining the fraternity of stiffed contractors. No-lose for them, it was much-lost for the country. 

We needn’t recount the evidence or praise the persuasive House managers, as compared to Trump’s overmatched team. Everyone understands that without Trump’s months-long crescendo of incendiary election lies, the insurrection wouldn’t have happened. It’s worth noting, however, that most Republicans who voted to acquit had joined Trump in perpetuating the big lie that led to the murderous violence. To affirm his guilt would be to admit their own. In a courtroom, those senators would have been preemptively rejected as jurors.

Likewise, if courtroom jurors colluded with defense lawyers, as did Graham, Cruz, and Lee, they’d be held in contempt. Which is exactly what they displayed: intentional, smug indifference, as they and others sat, desk-footed, reading magazines, dumb-phoning, ho-humming their oaths and the Constitution. They’d welded their minds shut five years earlier, when they locked in with a dishonest, amoral “businessman” nominee.

Several Congressional Republicans who gave Trump a pass for provoking a bloody insurrection with countless lies, had voted to impeach and/or convict President Clinton for a harmless one. Protecting the future of democracy and, for that matter, their own party, required finding seventeen honest Republicans. Like finding rock candy in a window-well. (Tried, failed, age seven.)

57 – 43 is a historically bipartisan vote for conviction. Senators who did so represent seventy-six-million more Americans than those who let him off. So we ask: do Trump’s treacherous lies about fraud, attempting to discredit fair elections forever, really exemplify what’s left of conservatism in his party? Do his tweets and inaction during the depravity, failing his duty, inflaming the rioters, tossing Pence to his mob like paper towels in Puerto Rico, abandoning everyone in the capitol but the insurrectionists, constitute the Republican presidential ideal? Guess so. Seventy-five-percent still want him, a sedition-provoking sociopath, as their leader. 

Are there no future Republican stars as admirable as the Democratic House managers? Will Trump’s successor be the fisting Josh Hawley? Ted Cruz or Lindsey Graham? Marjorie Tantric Greene? Matt Gaetz? Evidently. Cowed by Trump’s deluded, angry cultists, Republicans must, for a very long time, provide only such mendacious embarrassments as those.

One after another, state parties are censuring members who voted against Trump. (Cancel culture!) Said a Pennsylvania GOP chairman, of Senator Toomey, “We did not send him there to do the right thing...” Integrity and conservatism: officially ostracized. We who long for two honorable parties find it dispiriting. 

After voting for absolution, McConnell excoriated Trump with words that could have been the prosecutors’, calling his behavior leading to and during the riot unprecedented dereliction of presidential duty, for which he’s fully culpable. Avouching every prosecutorial argument, he then justified voting “not guilty” with the refuted, outvoted claim that it’s unconstitutional to impeach a non-sitting president; not mentioning it was he who prevented a timely trial. We sometime-hypocrites tip our hats, shirts, pants, socks and shoes to the greatest of all time.

As real conservatives repudiate the party, Republicans are increasingly defined by their worst, like those who still believe, or claim, the election was stolen; who say the Capitol riot was “staged,” a hoax, antifa. Rand Paul, who just called senators who wear masks “science deniers.” Thus we understand unwavering support for Trump: asininity. And oleaginous, Grahamic cowardice. 

What else can it be? His biggest accomplishment was maintaining the Obama recovery for three-fourths of a quadrennial. His response to Covid-19 was, using his favorite word, a disgrace. Denial, lies, multi-level mismanagement. Silencing scientists, mocking the measures needed to slow the spread. Finally, giving up. He got manhandled by China, Russia, and North Korea; increased the risk of a nuclear Iran; made the US pitied, and the only country in the world not taking climate change seriously. Any Republican would produce tax cuts and deregulation. (And deficits.) Even after his hand-crafted insurrection, though, Trumpidolatry remains. 

Finding him guiltless, those non-conservative senators and their no-longer-conservative party announced, in effect, “Trump is the best we’ve got. The Republican party commits to the uninformed, conspiracy-believing, anti-democracy, white-supremacist, insurrectionist mob we spent decades creating. Come, join us.”

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Gallbladder: The Donald Trump Of Viscera

Though the outcome of Trump’s impeachment trial isn’t in doubt, it’s still going on, making now the obvious time to talk about your gallbladder, the Donald Trump of internal organs. Mostly unnecessary, it makes millions of people sick, and when it does, most are delighted by its removal and better off without it. Also, it has its own fake news.

Having separated a few thousand gallbladders from their owners in my surgical career, I claim more authority on the subject than, say, Trump on election fraud, Covid-19, or climate change. But this is bile of a different sort. 

Tucked underneath your liver, just below the midpoint of the bottom of your right-front ribcage, the gallbladder is a slightly pear-shaped sac. Unlike your other, generally earth-toned viscera, when healthy it’s a startlingly beautiful robin’s-egg blue. Empty, it’s about the size of my thumb, which is likely bigger than yours. Full, it can be more like that pear. 

Its purpose is storing bile, a liquid made in the liver to the tune of around a quart per day, passing into the gut via a tube called, appropriately enough, the bile duct. Most drips steadily into your intestine, where it facilitates fat absorption. Via a branch off the bile duct, a few tablespoons detour to your gallbladder, where it waits to be squirted into your intestine in response to eating, particularly a fatty meal. 

Before civilization and supermarkets, gallbladders were essential. Back then, humans and other bile-producing fauna might starve for a while between meals, so a bilious bolus when gorging on a kill made sense (during fasting, your gallbladder gets very full). Nowadays, since we eat regularly and frequently, food exits the stomach comparatively constantly, rendering bile storage mostly inutile. Remember: the gallbladder doesn’t make bile. With or without it, that daily quart gets to your gut; just a matter of pacing.

A complicated solution of salts and other stuff, bile makes fats soluble in water. Like detergent. Evolution, or whatever alternative you believe in, is imperfect. For reasons including heredity, diet, hormones, and gravidity, ingredients can become insoluble, forming crystals. Which, concentrated in the gallbladder, can grow into what we call gallstones. Looking like kaleidoscopic, multi-faceted agates, some are quite beautiful. I’ve seen them made into jewelry. Others are ugly, clay-like, or both. There can be hundreds of them. Or few, or single, large enough to fill the entire gallbladder.

Unlike Trump, gallstones aren’t always an affliction. Many – possibly most -- gallstone-bearers are asymptomatic, some never knowing they have them; so the discovery doesn’t always demand surgery (cholecystectomy, commonly an outpatient laparoscopic procedure). Except for the presence of certain risk factors, it’s typically done if stones are causing problems, which they can do in several ways.

Most often it’s pain, occurring if a stone blocks the outlet of the gallbladder when it decides to squeeze out some bile. That can be extremely painful, felt below the right ribs and straight into the back. Or shoulder. Or lots of places. Called biliary colic, it usually goes away in a few minutes or an hour or two, as the cramped gallbladder muscles relax. The pain pattern is not always “textbook,” leading to potential misdiagnosis. Which explains, I think, most of the people dissatisfied with treatment.

More easily diagnosed and more serious is a stone lodged tight, in which case the pain persists, the gallbladder become inflamed, sometimes infected (cholecystitis). Worse still is a stone (has to be fairly small) passing out of the gallbladder into the bile duct. If it passes out into the gut, the problem resolves. If not, obstructive jaundice, pancreatitis, or severe liver and blood infection can result (cholangitis).

As explained, with some exceptions people get along fine without a gallbladder; therefore, treatment is almost always surgical removal. Pills can dissolve certain kinds of stones, but it can take months and there’s a high recurrence rate; true of any treatment that eliminates stones, or claims to, without removing the gallbladder. Which brings us to the foreshadowed fake news: gallbladder and liver “flushes,” “detox” cleanses. All-consuming, alt-med bogosity.

If you drink olive oil along with some sort of acidic juice, curdled lumps of oil may appear in your stool. The internet and some naturopaths will assure you those turd-curds are gallstones and you’re cured. Convinced, people have brought me theirs in Dixie cups. Nope and nope. There’s a belly-full of reasons why; pathophysiology, anatomy, and biochemistry among them. Demonstrably false (have them tested, get another ultrasound), it’s nevertheless believed like Q among the credulous.

Lacking enough space here, I offer an ancient post on my surgery blog, where there’s more explication. And, found by searching “gallbladder” on the blog, more still. 

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