Friday, December 30, 2011

More To Contemplate

[click image to enlarge. A little.]

It's from a while back, but, as we are forced to listen to non-stop lying from the right, it never hurts to take a moment to think. (Well, yeah, okay, it hurts them; but not you and me.)

Good Point

This covers two eulogies pretty well. I already miss Hitchens, sorry for the fact that any words I hear or read from him (words such as these) will henceforth be pre-spoken. As to Kim, well, his literal deification has always been obvious; but Hitch's point about North Korea being a living distillation of religious life and its view of heaven hadn't quite occurred to me.

Sure, believers will object to the characterization. But isn't it just a matter of degree? Isn't it, in fact, pretty much true: the demand of constant praise on pain of punishment -- even for mere thoughts? And what happens when you live with the knowledge (belief) that one person (being) holds total power over you? Not to mention when those around you expect you to show your subservience?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Even in the bizarro world of current Republican politics, some things defy explanation. How is it, in particular, that Congressional Rs, especially (but not only) those in the House of Representatives, so blatantly line up against the middle class (offering phony explanations)? It's not the only time they've been so unabashed in their crass defense of tax cuts for the wealthy at the expense of providing for the needs of everyone else.

I've wondered about it many times: it seems so self-defeating. Is it simply a matter of brazen clinging to failed ideology, like insisting the earth is six thousand years old; true believers blind to facts? Damn the torpedoed claims, full scream ahead? This article makes a list of other explanations, all of which seem to be at play:

1. Republican lawmakers assume voters aren’t paying any attention. Politicians can get away with quite a bit if they think the public won’t know either way.

2. They assume Democrats, when faced with any pressure at all, will invariably surrender and give Republicans whatever they demand. That’s generally not a bad strategy, but it failed miserably in the fight over the payroll tax cut.

3. They assume the media will, under all possible circumstances, continue to tell the public “both sides” are always to blame for everything. This, too, is a pretty safe bet, but when even Republican media outlets turn against the GOP (take the Wall Street Journal editorial page, for example), this starts to fail.

4. They fear primary challengers. Under this model, Republicans know their extremism will offend the American mainstream, but if they’re defeated by even-more-conservative primary opponents, their careers are over anyway.

5. They figure major right-wing money — from the Koch Brothers, Crossroads GPS, assorted Super PACs, etc. — will come in before the election, destroy their Democratic challengers, and keep them in office no matter what they vote for.

6. They're just nuts.

Some absolute partisans might take exception, evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, to #6. The others, though, in all seriousness, must be part of it. It's like I've been saying for years: a dumbed-down electorate, fed misinformation constantly by the right-wing scream machine, lied to until it sounds like truth, whose hatreds and paranoia are played like a harp (what more self-pitying group is there than teabaggers?), are perfectly created to accept and/or ignore whatever their manipulators do.

Stockholm syndrome as political plan.

It really will come down to a pretty stark choice in the 2012 elections; I'd say the starkest ever. Voters will be choosing the direction our country will take at a time when the options couldn't be more divergent. It's not an exaggeration to say that one fork in the road leads to (at least the possibility of) viability, while the other leads to slow but certain suicide. The current crop of Republicans, from their extant and expectant leaders to their public propaganda organs and to their willingly deceived share of the electorate, see a country where government has little if any role, corporations run unregulated and rampant, the environment is allowed to putrify (who are these people??), climate change is ignored and actively denied -- censored! -- and, most dramatically, revenues are, in the name of protecting tax-cuts for the wealthiest, allowed to dry up to the point of having no money to pay for research, roads, bridges, dams, education, cops, libraries, firefighters, medical care for the needy, unemployment benefits ...

They're not hiding it, as discussed above; their priorities are out there for all to see, and they see the elections as just as critical: either they (and their tax-cuts, their voter suppression, their gutting of government protections for all but themselves) win, or the country does; not both. There's no secret what the R agenda is, and what the impact will be on, yes, the 99%. For whatever reason, they simply don't care. Maybe it's because they have theirs and figure they always will. Maybe it's because they believe the end of the world is at hand, so there's no reason to plan for the future: may as well rob as much as they can and enjoy it while it lasts. Not hard to ignore the needy: from the top floor of Trump Tower, you can barely see them.

So the question is not what the choices are really about. The question is whether, now, finally, when it matters most, Democrats might be able to come up with a message -- the truth! -- that is able to overcome the disinformation which pollutes the airways 24/7/365 from the right-wing propagandists. The question is whether, at last, before it's too late, people can be made to realize how they've been played for fools, how they've been made to vote against their own and their country's interests by people who couldn't care less -- about them or the country. People who will ignore facts, reject science, actively distort any reality that doesn't fit with their failed ideologies; ideology that simply doesn't stand up to the scrutiny they try to prevent (successfully, mostly), all ways, at all levels.

The issues are not in question. The ability of people to see them for what they are most certainly is.

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Season For Remembering

Americans forgot by whom and by what policies our economy came crashing around us within mere months of the catastrophe. So it's worth remembering, for however long it's possible, what the typical R reaction was to Obama's plans for bailing out the auto industry, as American carmakers are having their greatest successes in years:

Rep. John Boehner (R-OH): “Does anyone really believe that politicians and bureaucrats in Washington can successfully steer a multi-national corporation to economic viability?” [6/1/09]

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL): “It’s basically going to be a government-owned, government-run company. …It’s the road toward socialism.” [5/29/09]

RNC Chairman Michael Steele: “No matter how much the President spins GM’s bankruptcy as good for the economy, it is nothing more than another government grab of a private company and another handout to the union cronies who helped bankroll his presidential campaign.” [6/1/2009]

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC): “Now the government has forced taxpayers to buy these failing companies without any plausible plan for profitability. Does anyone think the same government that plans to double the national debt in five years will turn GM around in the same time?” [6/2/09]

Rep. Tom Price (R-GA): “Unfortunately, this is just another sad chapter in President Obama’s eager campaign to interject his administration in the private sector’s business dealings.” [6/2/09]

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX): The auto company rescues “have been the leading edge of the Obama administration’s war on capitalism.” [7/22/09]

Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ): When government gets involved in a company, “the disaster that follows is predictable.” [7/22/09]

These are the guys whose economic policies we're asked to follow, the piss-poor prognosticators whose ability to ignore what happened less than four years ago, when those theories were in place, are once again given credibility by RWS™ and teabaggers alike.

Not a single R candidate for the presidency -- Mitt Romney, let's remember, called for Detroit to go bankrupt -- has admitted they were wrong; nor have they suggested any meaningful plans for our future other than more tax cuts (except for the 99%, of course) and deregulation. Romney was, if it's possible, even wronger than most:

IF General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye. It won’t go overnight, but its demise will be virtually guaranteed.
So speakethed the guy who's the likely R nominee. Afraid to take a position on the payroll tax cut, he's willing to wade into the most compelling issue of our time, balls a-poppin', and pander that say he'd deport Obama's uncle. Gutsy. The guy who changes positions like dirty (yet magic) underwear, actually did take a stand on the auto bailout, and was completely wrong. So now he takes the safer path, and just lies. And lies. And lies. (That last link, from a conservative, draws the same conclusion I have: he has so little regard for people that he doesn't care. He cares so little, in fact, that his campaign unabashedly, proudly, admits they lie.) It is, no kidding, his preferred modus operandi. And guess what? Rs (the aforementioned single individual, far as I can tell, excepted) are fine with it. More than fine: it's what they do.

So here we are, as the new year approaches, poised to sign the country up to be screwed once again, as if it never happened. It's a goddam parallel universe, where idiocracy rules.

Pass the eggnog, please, with plenty of bourbon in it.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas, Merry

Some readers might be surprised to know I love Christmas. I say "Merry Christmas" to store clerks, to operating room personnel. As long as I don't have to live next to this, I think it's really cool to see houses all decorated up; been known to take a drive just to have a look. And I totally love singing Christmas carols, to which I can supply a very impressive (trust me) bass or baritone harmony. Heads used to turn (in a good way), when I'd bellow it out in a group of carolers a few years back. Great stuff.

For as long as I've been married to her (forty years), my wife's family has had some sort of Christmas extravaganza. The oldest of nine kids, aunt to several offspring of her siblings, Judy totally gets into gift-giving, spending hours running around to find the perfect and perfectly personal gift for each person. At her folks' home, presents used to extend so far beyond the would-be drip line of the tree (decorated with ornaments a few generations old, and new ones every year) that it bordered on obscene. But watching the kids open their presents was (mostly) heartwarming.

Once it got too far out of hand, someone came up with the idea a few years ago that the siblings wouldn't give gifts to each of their others; now each sib rotates, yearly, the one to whom a gift is given. Even that has tapered off lately; but the grandkid generation still gets from all. There's nothing wrong with a little love of family, overt, unabridged. And good food, too. For some, it might be that Christmas is the only time everyone gets together for it. (In my family-by-marriage, it happens more or less monthly.)

The religious aspect -- what little of it seems to remain, even for Christians -- I can take or leave. Nativity scenes are fine with me, long as they're on the lawns of churches, homes, businesses. Courthouse terraces? Not so much. The annual Foxian war rhetoric notwithstanding, Christmas seems to have become, on its own, not much more than a marketing tool. Hard to see a "war" when debriding newspapers, daily, hourly, of advertising inserts. And who, other than RWS™, can blame merchants for not wanting to turn away anyone? "Happy Holidays." Why is it a problem? On the other hand, when clerks wish me Merry Christmas, I sent it right back at 'em, with a smile.

My brother sent me the above photo. I replied that, now that I think about it, Yah-weh sounds pretty Chinese.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Good Thing About Getting Old

Okay, yeah, well, if I really didn't give a shit I wouldn't be blogging. So it's more like wishful thinking: I'm definitely getting old; I'm still waiting to stopping caring about the future our country. Maybe I've started to care less about mine.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

No News Is Good News

Okay, prepare to be flabbergasted. Fox news makes you stupid. Stupider than if you watched no news at all. (A direct link to the study (pdf) can be found in this article.)

According to the latest results from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind Poll, some news sources make us less likely to know what’s going on in the world. ... The conclusion: Sunday morning news shows do the most to help people learn about current events, while some outlets, especially Fox News, lead people to be even less informed than those who say they don’t watch any news at all.

... But the real finding is that the results depend on what media sources people turn to for their news. For example, people who watch Fox News, the most popular of the 24-hour cable news networks, are 18-points less likely to know that Egyptians overthrew their government than those who watch no news at all (after controlling for other news sources, partisanship, education and other demographic factors). Fox News watchers are also 6-points less likely to know that Syrians have not yet overthrown their government than those who watch no news.

"Because of the controls for partisanship, we know these results are not just driven by Republicans or other groups being more likely to watch Fox News," said Dan Cassino, a professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson and an analyst for the PublicMind Poll. "Rather, the results show us that there is something about watching Fox News that leads people to do worse on these questions than those who don’t watch any news at all."

By contrast, some media sources have a positive effect on political knowledge. For
example, people who report reading a national newspaper like The New York Times or USA Today are 12-points more likely to know that Egyptians have overthrown their government than those who have not looked at any news source. And those who listen to the non-profit NPR radio network are 11-points more likely to know the outcome of the revolt against Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. ...


Listening to NPR also helps, but the biggest aid to answering correctly is The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, which leads to a ... 12-point increase in the likelihood of giving the correct answer.

... "The fact that Fox News, the preferred media outlet for many of the candidates, doesn't do better in informing viewers is very surprising."

Really? Surprising?? Must be that the study was the researchers' first experience with Fox.

Of course, making people stupid isn't an accidental result. As I've been saying here forever, at least since Karl Rove, Republicans made the explicit calculation that an ill-informed -- a misinformed -- electorate is their surest and onliest way to get and keep power. In that they've been doing a heckuva job.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Generals Get It

Pretty much everything the R candidates for president say is egregious in some way: an outright lie, a clueless embarrassment, a failure to understand something basic about how our democracy works. Somewhere near the top of the list, though, is their constant and unanimous refrain that in matters of military decisions, they'd go with what the generals told them. By implication, they like to condemn President Obama for making his own decisions, after input from the generals. And others. Horror of horrors: he hasn't always followed their advice!

I wonder what part of "Commander-in-Chief" those Rs (and the RWS™, the brainwashed teabaggers) don't understand. What part of "civilian control" eludes their comprehension? Refreshing, isn't it, that actual generals, including the current Chairman of The Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, understand how it works, and like it that way:

"I'll probably make news with this but I find some of those articles about divergence or control of the generals to be kind of offensive to me," Dempsey told reporters traveling with him in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

"And here's why. One of the things that makes us as a military profession in a democracy is civilian rule. Our civilian leaders are under no obligation to accept our advice; and that's what it is. Its advice. It's military judgments, it's alternatives, it's options. And at the end of the day, our system is built on the fact that it will be our civilian leaders who make that decision and I don't find that in any way to challenge my manhood, nor my position. In fact, if it were the opposite, I think we should all be concerned." (emphasis mine)

In politics, we'll always have idiots. Nature of the beast. Lately, though, it seems they're the rule, rather than the exception. But democracy depends on the ability of voters to recognize that idiocy, to know when they're being played for fools. Sadly, as teabaggers have shown us, that ability, becoming a vestigial organ, is withering away at an unsustainable rate.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Arrest Them All

As if we need reminding of his instability, Newt Gingrich has once again untethered his massive ego from reality, taking flight ever further from grounding in our Constitution. The man is a megalomanical nutjob. To imagine Newt Gingrich as president is to be scared shitless, or depressed motionless. Were it to happen, he could well become the first ever to be impeached and removed from office. By his own party. (One can hope.) Unless, of course, he managed -- and I bet he'd try -- to declare martial law and somehow make it stick. Given the evermore evangelicalization of our military, it's not beyond possible.

There’s “no reason the American people need to tolerate a judge that out of touch with American culture,” Gingrich said on CBS’ Face the Nation, referring to a case where a judge ruled that explicit references to religion were barred from a high school graduation ceremony. And Gingrich recently has said judges should have to explain some of their decisions before Congress.

Host Bob Schieffer asked Gingrich how he planned to enforce that. Would you call in the Capitol Police to apprehend a federal judge, he asked.

“If you had to,” Gingrich said. “Or you’d instruct the Justice Department to send the U.S. Marshall in.”

Really? Does it need to be explained? You know: separation of powers; judicial review; rule of law, even when unpopular? Especially when unpopular, ferchrissakes! One might well ask of this man who claims our president is trying to destroy America: how does the idea of eliminating the judiciary at the metaphorical point of a bayonet square with your professed (!) desire to take America back to where it once was?

More than anyone who's ever sought or occupied the White House (Dick Cheney excepted), Gingrich's wet-dream is absolute and unfettered power, unrestrained by any piece of parchment, any branch of government. What, after all, goes better with omniscience than omnipotence?

But Newt's insane grandiosity -- or is grandiose insanity? -- isn't really the issue. It's that a man like him could, even for a second, become the darling of the Republican electorate: the latest in a steady stream of deliberate liars, intellectual lightweights, religious fanatics, or combinations of all three, to be the next not-Mitt. Or, for that matter, the Mitt. How riddled with Obama-hatred and paranoia, how brainwashed by the RWS™ and the propaganda mill known as Fox "news," how dumbed-down and polluted by magical thinking, how ill-informed about our democracy do you have to be even to consider such people, much less refrain from throwing them off the field like a streaker? Are there no thoughtful conservatives left? If so, for gods' sake come out of hiding and stand up for yourselves. Let it be known that knowledge and reason aren't automatic and universal disqualifiers on your side.

These people are an embarrassment, and Newt tops them all: his self-exceptionalism exceeds even the brain-stoppage of Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, the craven malleability and corrupt prevarication of Mitt Romney. Except to those within it and too blind to see, their party has become a laughing stock. Which is not to say they'll lose. Because the whole damn country is on the verge as well. When fully half the population has happily and deliberately taken leave of reality, considers this crew credible contenders for the highest office in the land, unless more people start paying attention, what hope for the future can there possibly be?

Sunday, December 18, 2011


[Click image to enlarge.]

No commentary necessary. It's obvious to those to whom it's obvious; and to those to whom it's not, it never will be.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Mysterious Ways

In the local paper:

Living Nativity performer burned at Richland

A performer playing a shepherd at Richland church's living Nativity suffered burns to his hands and face when his robe caught fire.

Medics took the 20-year-old to Kadlec Regional Medical Center with first- and second-degree burns.

KVEW reports ( he was standing next to a campfire at the Cathedral of Joy Thursday night when the fire spread to his robe. He rolled down a hill and others helped put out the flames.

After a short delay the show went on.

Life's Still Good

Dogs in Cars from keith on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Well Said

I entirely share this writer's view of the disgraced former Speaker of the House. Sadly, though, it seems Newt's flame is beginning to flicker. How entertaining it might have been. Or might still be.

I don’t claim infallibility, and a good thing too, because when it comes to bad calls, I’ve made some beauts, to paraphrase Mayor Jimmy Walker. The most recent was when someone on Twitter summoned the possibility of Newt Gingrich resurging in the Republican primaries and I tweeted a terse “No.” ...

Allow me to say this in my puny defence, however. One reason I’m such a wayward prognosticator of rightwing trends is that I’m incapable of blacking out enough neural sectors to see the world through reptilian-brained eyes, a prerequisite for any true channeling of the mean resentments and implanted fears that drive hardcore conservatives. (emphasis mine, because I think it's absolutely true.) I also make the mistake of believing that they believe what they profess to believe, which they clearly don’t, otherwise they wouldn’t be inclining to crown Newt king of the marsh. That a thrice-married Catholic convert with a history of marital infidelity would win the flinty hearts of Tea Partiers while true evangelicals such as Michele Bachmann or Rick Perry would find themselves standing on the platform as the train whooshes by, abandoned and bewildered--well, go figure. That a third-rate futurist spieler who rides every wave of pop guru bullshit and management theory would appeal to those who pride themselves on their unyielding, unchanging bedrock values also falls into the “does not compute” category. ...

Some have compared Gingrich’s comeback to Richard Nixon’s after Nixon’s gubernatorial loss in California in 1962... After Nixon lost, he dedicated himself to making hundreds of speeches on behalf of Republican candidates, earning the respect and loyalty of candidates.

...Contrast this with Newt. Who basically has done everything for himself, for the greater glory of Newt and to feed the insatiable maw of Newt Inc and his Tiffany account. And unlike Nixon, Gingrich does not possess a lucid intellect; he’s all over the fucking place.


Item: Congressional Rs filibuster the proposed head of the consumer protection agency, claiming it's not about the man's qualifications (indisputable) but about objections to the very idea of that agency. In addition to calling the whole idea "Stalinist," Lindsey Graham spoke as if the legislation to create was pending. And yet, it was created by legislation a couple of years ago, which passed with bipartisan support! So, in effect, they're saying We don't like what the majority did, and we're gonna block it. Screw the Constitution and the way legislation happens.

Item: In the second wave of resistance to Obama's horrendous war on Xmas, RWS™ are now outraged that the president is celebrating it too much! Not kidding. That's what they say. And still some people think the President is responsible for the failure of bipartisanship!

Item: The best endorsement quote, ever, directed at Mitt Romney by a formerly-known person who's not a witch: "He's been consistent since he changed his mind."

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


[Click image to enlarge.]

Recently I alluded to the falsity that is the perceived genius of Newt. Here's a much better distillation:

I have been perplexed for some time why Newt Gingrich is routinely acknowledged even by his bitter enemies within the Republican Party as a "genius," but the answer turns out is simple: he acts exactly like one of those obnoxious elitist intellectual know-it-alls that the right-wing no-nothings think is the hallmark of an intellectual. He is constantly reminding us of his doctorate in history; he routinely claims he understands issues more deeply than anyone else; he has made a career of denouncing or (when he had the authority) eliminating professional expertise that might challenge his own certain pronouncements; and he is a veritable fount of crackpot "big" ideas (mining minerals on the moon, protecting the United States from sci-fi doomsday scenarios, and "fundamentally transforming" everything as a first step to doing anything.

Another useful rule of thumb: real geniuses, as opposed to simple egomaniacs, do not generally refer to themselves in the third person.

And, to be filed under "Gee, really?": Newt's transformational! tax plan, like every one proposed by every Republican since Ronald "That's From A Movie?" Reagan, would enormously increase the federal deficit. Who could have seen that coming? Well, maybe anyone who noted his plan has million-dollar earners paying a lower tax rate than those earning $40 - 75K.

Or, to put it another way:

It's not hard to understand why the wealthy love the guy -- or any R candidate (i.e. any and all of them) who'll make them richer -- but why the rest of the Republican party? Is is more important to them to hate gays and religious freedom for anyone but themselves than it is to secure a future for their country?

That must be it.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Daydream Believers

Okay, I'm not sure they actually believe what they say -- not all of them, anyway; but they sure think their followers will. I speak of the Republican noise machine, and their breathtaking ease in countering truth with falsehood. It's the Rovian model: figure out your opponent's greatest strength, and tackle it head on. Not by addressing it honestly, that is, or trying to make a viable counter-argument, but by turning it upside down and telling lies. Admirable in its brazenness, maybe, at some level, it has no equivalent on the other side that I can think of. What's not admirable, though, is the hunger with which it's gobbled up by their credulous side of the electorate, repeated endlessly by their media, and ignored by what's left (is there any?) of the mainstream (meaning thoughtful and bearing some self-respect) media.

Virtually all the the talking points of the right have been discredited as policy or proven false as charges. Name one: apology tour, job creators, tax cuts, regulations, health care... the list is endless.

More recent cases in point:

Think it's hard to spin away the fact that President Obama gave the okay to the raid that killed OBL? Child's play: George Bush gets the credit. Not only that, if Obama "had his way" OBL wouldn't have been gotten at all. No kidding: that's what they say. Coming from Fox "news" you can be sure no one would question either premise, or ask for the tiniest shred of evidence for Obama's purported preference.

How about Elizabeth Warren, toward the effort defeat whom Wall Street is pouring money like twenty-year old bourbon? She's a Wall Street shill. Really: that's what they say.

You're aware of President Obama's war on religion, right? Any one ask Rick Perry WTF he's talking about, what's the nature of this war, where's the evidence that it's anything other than (like Fox "news" annual rolling out of their Christmas outrage) manufactured for teabagger consumption? Doesn't matter. That's what they say.

Now, consider one of the Rs' most central economic points: taxes on small business are killing job creation. Guess what's found when an actual news organizations seeks specific examples: nothing. Unsurprising, given the fact that the entire premise is false:

-- Jody Gorran, chairman of Aquatherm Industries: "This mantra that every dollar in tax increases is a dollar away from job creation -- give me a break. ... It's not taxes that affects job creation, it's demand."

-- Kelly Conklin, owner of Foley-Waite Associates: "I don't decide to hire or buy equipment based on tax policy. ... We know how to make shit out of wood."

-- Debra Ruh, owner of TecAccess: "We need to hire people, but we don't have the cash or the credit to do it. ... I don't mind paying taxes. ... I like living in the United States and having the opportunities here. I don't understand why running a business has to be about avoiding paying taxes."

-- Michael Teahan, owner of Espresso Resource: "What we do in business, how we spend our money, how we allocate our resources -- that has very little to do with tax policy. ... I map my business based on my customers and what my customers want to buy and what they can afford to buy."

-- Rick Poore, owner of Designwear Inc.: "If you drive more people to my business, I will hire more people. It's as simple as that. If you give me a tax break, I'll just take the wife to the Bahamas."

-- Lew Prince, owner of Vintage Vinyl: "The economic premise that people won't hire because they might have to pay more taxes if they make more money is beyond laughable. ... You hire when you think there's a way you can make more money with that hire. The percentage the government takes out of it has almost nothing to do with it."

As I've said, as is obvious, as the businesspeople above say: it's not taxes or lack thereof that drives hiring: it's demand. Which is exactly why Congressional Rs continue to kibosh Obama's attempts to increase infrastructure spending: it's the most obvious way government can create jobs, which puts money in people's pockets, which creates demand for other goods, which creates more jobs, which helps America. In which, for purely cynical political reasons, Rs couldn't be less interested:

“Basically we’re still stuck in the situation we were three years ago and we haven’t made any progress at all except that our problems are much worse because of political reasons, because we now have a crazy party in charge of one of the Houses of our Congress and they won’t allow anything to happen because it’s in their vested interest to make things worse,” Bartlett explained in his typically exasperated way. “Plus they have a theory that is completely nuts….

The "Bartlett" is Bruce, Ronald Reagan's chief economic adviser, back when there were still a few honest and thoughtful Republicans. Reagan, after all, saw the failings of his extravagant tax cuts, and proceeded to raise them some eighteen times, if memory serves. I'm no fan of Reagan or of the Reaganismic approach to governance; but clearly there's not a single Republican in Congress or running for president who'd make such a move; and it's needed now more than ever.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Hello And Goodbye To Our Future

What complete bullshit. Obama's war on religion? Can't pray? This is exactly why Republicans get no respect from me at the moment. (There was a time...) It's sinking to a level of fomenting hatred and resentment based on nothing but the knowledge that there are a lot of Christians out there who like to feel victimized; particularly when asked to have a little tolerance of others.

He won't win, but it's still despicable that this is how he thinks he might. Newt and Mitt will say the same things, of course. And, like Perry, Newt actually believes it. (Mitt will say any damn thing to get elected, so it's a distinction without a difference.)

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans filibustered Obama's nominee for the consumer protection agency, who only got a 53 - 45 vote. And then they did the same to a compromise on the payroll tax cut; they'll raise taxes on workers but never on higher earners. How can you not look at those guys and mourn for our country? They have only two things on their hive-mind: defeat Obama and refuse to help anyone but their wealthy supporters. And they don't even bother to pretend they give a shit about the country.

And, by golly, they've just kiboshed a bill designed to prevent legislators from insider trading base on info they get in closed meetings.

Horrible, horrible people.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Doctors And Death

I just read an article that's worth reading by everyone. Titled How Doctors Die, it's ultimately about end of life care, futile care, making impossible decisions. And it evokes in me thoughts that I've had many times, in many ways.

The title comes from the writer's (a physician) claim (which he makes no attempt to document, by the way) that doctors tend not to opt for all the extraordinary, expensive, and odds-fighting care they often provide for their patients, preferring to go quietly. I've said many times -- and I hope it's true -- that my plan is to not get sick; and when I do, to have the wherewithal to take things in my own hands and never set foot in a hospital.

From the article:

Almost all medical professionals have seen what we call “futile care” being performed on people. ... All of this occurs in the Intensive Care Unit at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars a day. What it buys is misery we would not inflict on a terrorist. I cannot count the number of times fellow physicians have told me, in words that vary only slightly, “Promise me if you find me like this that you’ll kill me.” They mean it. Some medical personnel wear medallions stamped “NO CODE” to tell physicians not to perform CPR on them. I have even seen it as a tattoo.

Then the article gets to the real point -- unreasonable expectations, impossible choices, insurmountable pressures:

To see how patients play a role, imagine a scenario in which someone has lost consciousness and been admitted to an emergency room. As is so often the case, no one has made a plan for this situation, and shocked and scared family members find themselves caught up in a maze of choices. They’re overwhelmed. When doctors ask if they want “everything” done, they answer yes. Then the nightmare begins. Sometimes, a family really means “do everything,” but often they just mean “do everything that’s reasonable.” The problem is that they may not know what’s reasonable, nor, in their confusion and sorrow, will they ask about it or hear what a physician may be telling them. For their part, doctors told to do “everything” will do it, whether it is reasonable or not.


But of course it’s not just patients making these things happen. Doctors play an enabling role, too. The trouble is that even doctors who hate to administer futile care must find a way to address the wishes of patients and families. Imagine, once again, the emergency room with those grieving, possibly hysterical, family members. They do not know the doctor. Establishing trust and confidence under such circumstances is a very delicate thing. People are prepared to think the doctor is acting out of base motives, trying to save time, or money, or effort, especially if the doctor is advising against further treatment.

Some doctors are stronger communicators than others, and some doctors are more adamant, but the pressures they all face are similar.

As President Obama has discovered, this is an extraordinarily difficult subject, the perfect platform for political posturing. Ironically, it's the party that most loudly claims to want to cut Medicare spending that has taken the president's reasonable efforts to address this morass as an opportunity for demagoguery. Hard to imagine it addressed seriously. There's global climate change; the political climate shows no sign of cooling.

Mentioned in the article is a patient of the author who'd always made it clear he didn't want extraordinary measures. But then he had a massive stroke and was brought to an ER where no one knew him.

Doctors did everything possible to resuscitate him and put him on life support in the ICU. This was Jack’s worst nightmare. When I arrived at the hospital and took over Jack’s care, I spoke to his wife and to hospital staff, bringing in my office notes with his care preferences. Then I turned off the life support machines and sat with him. He died two hours later.

Even with all his wishes documented, Jack hadn’t died as he’d hoped. The system had intervened. One of the nurses, I later found out, even reported my unplugging of Jack to the authorities as a possible homicide. Nothing came of it, of course; Jack’s wishes had been spelled out explicitly, and he’d left the paperwork to prove it. But the prospect of a police investigation is terrifying for any physician. (Emphasis mine.)

When it came time to withdraw care, I always felt the need to involve the nurses caring for the patient, to ask if any had reservations, and to discuss them. It wasn't as much ass-covering as it was acknowledgment that they'd invested more time and emotion in the patient than I had, and needed to be heard. But, yes, ass-covering was surely on my mind, too.

It shouldn't have to be. It ought to be possible, based on knowledge, compassion, data, patient wishes, and proper education of patients and potential patients, managing expectations, to provide comfort care only when it's the right thing. Not just possible: expected; part of the job; a no-brainer. As it were. Maybe, somewhere, in a society more rational than ours, it can be.

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