Friday, December 29, 2017

Comes Now The Hard Sell

Tomorrow's newspaper column, today:
Kicking off a multi-million-dollar campaign to sell their cheaply-bought, self-enriching, middle-class deceiving, poor-people-harming tax cuts, it’s fitting that the Koch brothers began with an ad featuring a young girl thanking Trump for “allowing” her to say Merry Christmas again. In the alt-universe, the apparitional war on Christmas remains a favorite manipulation, perfectly illuminating their (the Koch’s, Trump’s, McConnell’s, Ryan’s, Hannity’s, et kleptera) confidence in their ability to distract bedazzled voters from their rapacious, destructive agenda.  
Allowing! Well, clutch my pearls and call me Sarah!! Because until Trump, borne to us on wings of angels, beleaguered Christian-Americans had been prohibited – under penalty of (?) – from saying those sanctified words, even amongst themselves, evidently. Kenyan brain implants. Inserted as you watched Fox “news,” neuro-receptors ironically impervious to disturbances. 
Confident that the programmed will continue to buy the fiction of attacks on Christmas and other imaginary horrors, Republicans are relentlessly undoing environmental protections, blessing the poisoning of ourselves and our children. As they deploy voter suppression laws across the land, as they remain silent about (or, improbably, ignorant of) the effluvium of lies coming daily from Trump, they distract the distractible, via a phony “war.” (For those who believe the lie that Obama eschewed the words, it’s disproved in two seconds of googling.) 
Allowing!! Believe it! For, whilst you turn your gaze to heaven, Rs have more regulations to extinguish. Like ones penalizing nursing homes for lousy care. Which they just did. Say it loud: Merry Christmas! (Not you, grandma. Hands off the call button!)  
Allowing!!! All praise be to Trump, giver of those things which He hath not yet taken away. How sweet the sound, how long the silence.  
In this, the most believer-dense democracy on earth (teetering, but not yet pushed over the cliff), wherein Christianity is sprinkled on laws like ash from fires ravaging parched land, and where prayers in the Cabinet Room are led by a neurosurgeon-cum-housing expert giving thanks to God and Trump (not necessarily in that order) for erasing budget deficits after the signing of a bill INCREASING them: people will weep in agreement, thank Dear Leader for allowing them, once again, to mouth those forbidden, commercialized words. (Not fake news: during Barack Obama’s presidency, when an actual president was tweeting “Merry Christmas,” Trump tweeted “Happy Holidays.” You can look it up.)  
Around that Cabinet Room sang they their hosannas and genuflected them their knees. (Only missing were fifty-foot posters and a stiff-armed and -legged military parade.) And He smiled upon them. (More of a smirk, really, but it warmed in them that which had replaced their souls.)  
So cocksure of his deceptions is Trump that he hied himself to Mired-in-Loco immediately post-signature to announce to his pals, “You all just got a lot richer.” Fast flew he, outracing his biggest lie of all, that the bill was about helping the middle class, that he and his buddies would suffer. 
So anxious he was to reap his millions, he signed the bill this year, allowing its effects to commence in 2018 instead of 2019; those who care to look may feel the hurt in time for the next election. Oops. (“Oops” assumes cultists will find their way out of their thrall, to search beyond the promises. Shall one hope?)  
The thing about predictions concerning what I and nearly all analyses consider a regressive, budget-busting, Koch/Trump/Corker-enriching, capitalism-threatening tax bill is that at some point we’ll learn who’s right. If I’m wrong, I’ll admit it loud and clear. Will Trumpists, if it’s they? It would require unprecedented rejection of claims of fakery, but there’s a first time for everything. So, while we await the reckoning, let’s take a moment: the year is almost new, a time for resolutions and resolve. 
Here’s mine: knowing the unlikeliness of puncturing the reality-resistant bubble in which Trumpists live, I’ll keep trying. Because, years from now, wandering amongst the rubble, I don’t want my grandchildren (or theirs) to think I was among those gone silent as democracy crumbled around us; when our government, helmed by an amoral, ultracrepodarian mammothrept excused and enabled by an avaricious, conscienceless Congress, turned away from science, from the needy, from inclusive governance; polluted our land, ignored the climate crisis, dismissed our future as less important than making themselves and their paymasters “a lot richer” now. While average Americans paid the price. 
Silence is acquiescence. So, no.
[Image source]

Friday, December 22, 2017

The Temperature At Which It All Burns Down

My next newspaper column.

Vulnerable, Entitlement, Diversity, Transgender, Fetus. Evidence-based. Science-based.

Attendees at a meeting confirmed researchers at the Centers for Disease Control were told not to use those words. Days later, CDC’s head issued a non-denial denial, claiming reports “mischaracterized” what was said. Either way, it’s hardly Trump’s first attack on knowledge.

The EPA website scrubbed references to climate change and links to resources for understanding it. Ryan Zinke just upbraided a national park superintendent for using the phrase. On Monday, though the Pentagon disagrees, Trump removed global warming from the list of security threats to our nation. Leadership! Problem solved.

Is it hot in here? Feels like 451ยบ Fahrenheit.

None who still support Trump will find this disturbing. Certainly not Congressional Republicans, whose latest secretion is a greedy, grift-, graft-, and loophole-laden, dishonestly sold, economically unsound (see: Kansas) tax bill, refusing input from experts, holding no hearings, addressing concerns of none but their corporate benefactors. Overstated? We’ll find out. Maybe even before it’s too late.

How obvious is their disregard for you, Trumpophiles; how cheaply bought they believe you to be? Temporary trifles for you; permanent payola for the corpocracy.

In happier times, liberals and conservatives wanted the same thing: the best future for America and its children. Differences lay in how to achieve it; especially the role of government in protecting and providing. The end, if not the means, was shared. If it still applies to some, it most surely does NOT to Congressional Republicans currently in our employ, nor to the temporary indweller of the Gold House.

If you act to silence scientists, defund and ignore their research, you’re not concerned about your kids’ future. More so if you choose to allow widespread poisoning of their forever home. Whitewashing history books, diverting taxpayer funds to Bible schools and Scientology-based charter schools steals from kids intent on learning to think for themselves. That’s not forward-looking, either.

If your idea of tax reform is ninety percent of it benefitting the top one percent, busting the budget to prepare for defunding social programs, gifting unpublicized carve-outs to America’s most wealthy, you’re concerned only about self-enrichment, future be damned. If you supported a candidate for the senate notorious for flouting Supreme Court rulings, ruing the end of slavery and subservience of women, advocating repressive theocracy, you favor neither democracy nor the Constitution.

But that’s just nibbling at the parchment’s edges. We’re now witnessing a Constitutional-crisis-inducing effort to delegitimize inquiry into interference in our democratic institutions by a foreign enemy. Fox “news,” Trump’s Soviet-modeled propaganda organ and disinformation generator, is leading the calumniation. Attacking Robert Mueller as “a partisan hack,” leader of “a coup,” and worse, Fox talkers speak with one increasingly seditious voice. Long since having crossed all lines, one even implied a Jones-worthy FBI assassination plot against Trump.

Robert Mueller, Republican, Vietnam Marine veteran decorated for bravery, whose reputation for dogged honesty serving presidents of both parties has been unquestioned throughout his career: pilloried by miscreants fearful of what he’ll find, afraid of being thrown off the money train, of their arrant mendacity being revealed. Preprogrammed, the Foxified swallow it: hooked, party-lined, America-sinkers.

In the world’s longest-lasting (so far), most admired (until now) and emulated democracy, we’re witnessing suppression of facts our government dislikes, of voting by people it dislikes, and, now, coordinated attempts to subvert a constitutionally empowered inquiry it dislikes, into its very legitimacy. How can any lover of what America once stood for not be appalled?  

Unable to refute content, unhappy readers charge that, consumed by hatred of Trump and Trumpists, I’m not even-handed or civil enough. (Thoughts on Hannity? Pirro? Limbaugh? Asking for a friend.) They miss the point: it’s not hatred, it’s love. Of a country to whose sick I dedicated a career of healing; in one of whose wars I was wounded while serving; in which my vulnerable grandchildren will grow up. I wish its democracy to endure, with breathable air, tolerable climate, diversity valued, its wealth more generously accessible, policies evidence-based, treatment of transgender people and fetuses science-based, entitlement to health and happiness a given.

Trump and his co-conspirators are looting America, attacking our founding principles, burning it all down. This isn’t a time to discuss the occasional value of fires. Such exigency demands non-stop shouting, “Wake up!!” Screaming at the top of our lungs.

Oh. And Merry Christmas.

[Image source]

Monday, December 18, 2017

First Thought, Second Thought

Always about him until someone reminds him to pretend to care. But he's monitoring, so.

[Screenshot source]

Of Dull Knives And Gunfights

Talking Points Memo is one of the most informative, insightful, and intelligent liberal websites out there. Here's a slice of a post from Josh Marshall, its creator:
Behind the new faux controversy over Mueller getting Trump transition emails is a key and probably too little discussed aspect of the Russia story: Mueller’s team has some of the most accomplished and aggressive prosecutors and legal minds of their generation. They’re facing off against a team of has-beens, 3rd or 4th rate lawyers and in some cases simple incompetents. Why? Because Trump values sycophancy above competence and because none of the top lawyers were willing to work for him...
He goes on, compellingly: namely, that Mueller's people know what they're doing and, likely, already have the goods. Of that, I think there's little doubt. The big question is what Congressional Rs will do with the info when it comes out; and to what extent, if any, Trumpists will find it enlightening, and wise up.

The answer remains to be seen. About that, I'm less optimistic.

[Image source]

Friday, December 15, 2017

Tough Call

My upcoming newspaper column:
Here’s what I wish Al Franken had said: “Yes, the USO picture is real, and so are some accusations, and I’m ashamed. I’ll never do it again. I understand my colleagues’ calls, but I work hard at my job, fight the right fights, and I’ll work just as hard to regain my reputation. If I fail, voters will replace me. Until then, I’ll keep working for progressive causes and exposing the dangers to democracy and our planet that this administration represents. I hope my colleagues will continue to work alongside me, as they have until now.”  
Or something.  
I take him at his word that some of the claims against him are false, but, because there’s no acceptable number, it doesn’t really matter. I do wish there were a way to ascertain truth in a he-said, she-said situation, because it has enormous implications and potential for abuse, in either direction. Which is why I’m troubled by the pre-touchdown end-zone dances of people like Roger Stone and Steve Bannon, who somehow knew in advance that charges were coming, against Franken and others.  
If, along with other examples of men behaving badly, this leads to changes in how women are treated in the workplace and elsewhere, it’s a good thing. If the recent spate of public exposure will wise men (holiday reference) up and give women the respect and safety they deserve, maybe it’s worth it. But the loss of a hard-working, smart, progressive senator who’s done more for women in a day than Trump has done in his life, over pale claims compared to those against Trump, is a high price.  
And that’s the problem: politically, it’s an unfair fight. Liberals have lately been quick – too quick, in some cases – to rid themselves of alleged abusers, broadening the definition to near-meaninglessness. There’s a difference between rape (of which the occupier of the Awful Office has been accused) or grabbing women by their pudenda (about which the occupier was recorded bragging. On tape. In front of people. Before suggesting it’s fake), and patting someone’s behind. The former are criminal offenses. The latter is, at minimum, oafishness. Does it merit summary firing? I don’t know. I really don’t. I do know, though, that there’s an orchestrated take-down effort happening. 
Is it coincidence that the charges against Franken came after he was so hard on Jefferson Sessions? Someone just pitched (clumsily) a fake abuse story about Chuck Schumer to news organizations. NPR canned Garrison Keillor, a Trump satirist, for what was evidently an isolated offense, a pretty minor one, about which he’d apologized, and the apology accepted. Until someone mysteriously stepped in. MSNBC fired Sam Seder, Trump antagonist, for a satirical comment excoriating Hollywood(!), sent to them, out of context and years later, by the same Republican operative who later forwarded that Schumer fakery. Now it’s The New Yorker and Ryan Lizza, outer of Scaramucci. 
 These overreactions reflect the sort of self-righteous “liberalism” Trumpists criticize but are happy to weaponize. In this arena, Democrats are the ones who’ve found a conscience. Republicans take advantage. Democrats take the bait. Franken takes the fall. 
Mitch McConnell, after effectively endorsing Roy Moore, called on Franken to resign. Does that compute? Is it because Franken, ashamed, admitted failings while Moore and Trump, unashamed, didn’t? Is that the criterion by which we should believe women?  
To defenders of Trump and Moore (let’s not forget Clarence Thomas), the only believable women are those accusing Democrats. That’s looser than Donald’s dentures. Many Republicans deny, others just don’t care about, or define away, abuse of women and young girls. Or, per preachers(!) excusing Moore, it’s okay because teenagers are “pure.” Besides, the Bible says women’s proper role is obedience and being vessels for the seed of man. 
It’s a microcosm of where the parties stand on issues affecting women. Reproductive rights, pay equity. Women’s health in general, child care for working moms, CHIP (after outrage, it might get funded). Rape, even: there can’t be rape in marriage; make the best of a bad situation; if rape is inevitable, (and I quote) “relax and enjoy it.” 
Do women who vote for this perversion of conservatism accept people like Roy Moore’s claims of their inferiority? Does their racism/Bible-based homophobia Trump everything? Sixty-three percent of white Alabamian women (and eighty percent of self-identified evangelicals) voted for Moore. So which is it?
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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Bar And The Low Bar

When pushback comes to shove-it, there are no "moderate" Republicans. This guy, one of the very few ever unanimously deemed unqualified to be a judge by the ABA, is now a lifetime federal one.
... Every Republican present voted to confirm Grasz, 56, to a lifetime seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit. That includes moderates like Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), as well as retiring Sens. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and Bob Corker (Tenn.). Every Democrat opposed him in the 50-48 vote...
These are horrible people, every damn one of them. There are no standards. If he'd okay their latest voter suppression plans, or gerrymandering, or assault on civil rights, they'd give their yea to Charles Manson, may their version of a god rest his soul.

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The Man In The Moon

Trump directs NASA to refocus on putting people back on the moon. Then MARS.

First thought: Okay, cool. New technology. Neat live video, if I live that long.

Second thought: Trump directs NASA to stop paying attention to how we're destroying the planet, and how much worse it'll get with his deregulation/fossil fuel madness.

Third thought: Yep. Important to think at least twice.

[Image source]

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Man Who Would Be King

My upcoming newspaper column:
First came kakistocracy, as Trump drained thieves and incompetents into his government. Then, following in goosestep, oligarchy and, to facilitate it, prevariocracy. Finally, undisguised despotism, as Trump does everything he can to gain unfettered control of our government. If the following doesn’t cause alarm even among Trumpists, nothing will. (It won’t. Nothing will.)  
Remember Eric Prince, brother of public education’s enemy number one, Betsy DeVos, former CEO of Blackwater, Bush’s private army in Iraq? Trump is, according to multiple reports, considering his proposal to establish a private intelligence agency, designed to counter the “deep state” actors in the CIA, working, in the minds of Trump, Hannity, Jones, and millions of paranoid denizens of the alt-universe, to “bring down” the Trump presidency. (In that world, “deep state” and “bring down” are terms to describe seekers of truth; people patriotic and brave enough to expose the anti-democratic, destructive activities of Trump and his swampizens.) 
Taking care not to overheat your brain, think about it: our historically low-approval, popular-vote-losing, Nazi-excusing, dictator-admiring, political-opponent-threatening, promise-breaking, violence-promoting, prevaricator-in-chief of the USA, until recently considered the moral and economic leader of the world (America, that is, not the recidivist confabulator), would install for his own use a separate, privy spy agency, unconstrained, following its own rules, outside the oversight of Congress, to gather intelligence on anyone he chooses, answering only to him. A group headed by a man indicted for money-laundering and, along with four former executives of his company, for weapons violations and making criminally false statements while under investigation. 
The sorts of people who claim Trump has never lied and is making America respected again, or who write letters asserting the mere promise of corporate tax breaks is stimulating our economy (ignoring the fact that such breaks are great for investors but neutral-to-bad for the economy) will see nothing worrisome in dismissing input from intelligence and law-enforcement agencies sworn to independence, and trying to get us to ignore it, too. One must hope actual (if theoretical) conservatives resistant to Foxolimjonesification are as horrified as those of us who recognize and warn of impending Trumpic danger. If not, we’re done for.  
Adding ignorance to outrage, after which Richard Nixon sat up in his grave and said “I told you so,” Trump’s attorney just claimed a president can’t obstruct justice, by definition. He IS justice. And, by inference, sole arbiter of constitutionality (assuming the Constitution is, to them, more than a quaint set of unenforceable guidelines). A president who considers himself above the law and has the lawyer to prove it, would spawn a mechanism to spy on and take down anyone he deems a threat. 
No one who loves America, no one who considers him- or herself a patriot (admittedly a word made devoid of meaning at the hands of the party of Gingrich, Rove, Cheney, and now Trump, Pence, McConnell, Moore…) should be okay with this. It’s safe to assume, though, that the thirty-three percent of Americans who still approve of and defend Trump are, and will be even if they wake up in Gitmo, mistakenly or otherwise. (Not unlike the Alabamans who’ve said they’ll vote for Supreme-Court-ignoring, twice-removed-from-office Roy Moore even if he did molest young girls.) 
When will the putative Republicans among the sixty-plus percent who disapprove of Trump do more than answer opinion polls? When will they choose country over party and join those of us who are trying to arrest this steadily increasing threat? There’s not a lot of time left. 
The FBI, which Donald described as “in tatters,” just foiled a right-wing American terrorist who, armed with five high-power rifles, planned mass murder at a Florida mosque. Because it doesn’t fit his fabricated narrative, Trump ignored it. It’s counter to his falsehoods about the FBI and about immediate origins of terrorism; claims intended to consolidate power. 
Not satisfied with demeaning the FBI and CIA, Trump has gutted the State Department, whose counsel he rejects as well. It’s a terrifying trifecta: arrogance, megalomania, ignorance. As if we need more proof, Trump, unilaterally, against advice from all quarters, just pronounced Jerusalem the capital of Israel and intends to move the US Embassy there. Poof: US credibility as an honest broker disappears. It’s almost as if he WANTS the Middle East to blow up. 
War, after all, is the trough at which dictators feed. 
[Image source]

Thursday, December 7, 2017

You Can Call Me Al

I can't escape the feeling that this was orchestrated by people like Roger Stone and Steve Bannan. I take Franken at his word that many of the claims are false. But he did what had to be done, I guess.

I trust the good that comes from the absolutely necessary awakening to the ongoing abuse of women in the workplace and elsewhere will make up for the loss of a smart, hard-working, formerly effective liberal Senator.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Time To Wake Up

Here's my next newspaper column:
Time Magazine offered me “Person of the Year” before Trump, but they wanted me to say they invented “Foxolimjonesian” and “Foxification.” I declined.  
When Trump makes a similar claim, and Time responds that nothing he said is remotely true, that’s serious. Unlike my fib, his lies are legion, and affect us all. Since the election, his untruths number more than 1,600. You can look it up. It’s beyond pathological. In a “leader,” it’s alarming. The only thing more so is people who deny it.  
Retaining ownership of the above-noted appellations, I present my latest: Prevariocracy. Because they can’t win honestly with their donor-demanded, economically irresponsible, environmentally destructive, stockholder-enriching, poverty-punishing, no-growth fiscal agenda, Republican leaders created the prevariocracy to push their no-hearings, no-jobs corporate tax breaks. Among other untruths. Trump, his cabinet, and his rapacious Congress aren’t draining the swamp. They ARE the swamp. 
Faced with choosing between protecting the institutions on which America was founded – preserving democracy, in other words – and an agenda constructed expressly to foster and maintain oligarchy, they’ve chosen the latter. It’s a Mephistophelian bargain, at the expense of 95% of us, supporters included. 
Erasing the boundaries between truth and falsehood is but the starting point for today’s Republican leaders. It underpins Trump’s nonstop attacks on non-Foxolimjonesian media, promoting the myth of “fake news” to defame reporters brave enough to expose their fictions. (The Washington Post just parried a Koch-funded O’Keefian scam aimed at discrediting reporting on Roy “Unqualified-even-without-predation” Moore. Trump has contributed ten grand to O’Keefe.) Creating distrust of non-propagandist media, Trump feels free to lie about Russian connections and election interference. And pretty much everything else. 
Deliberate as an IED, Republicans are turning the electoral process into a weapon for retaining power, rather than the means by which we are empowered to influence our government. They’ve chosen to win by gerrymandering, and by promulgating the Orwellian falsehood of massive voter fraud to justify laws impeding access to polling places by Democratic-leaning citizens. In states Trump won by a whisper, it worked to the tune of hundreds of thousands of legal voters turned away. 
Worse: recognizing that people capable of thinking, having access to free-flowing information, are a threat to their deceptions, Republicans have been attacking public education for decades, creating a warehouse of pliable voters, ignorant of science, suspicious of expertise. From rewriting history textbooks to teaching mythology over science, cynically manipulating the faithful, whom they regard as fertile soil in which to plant their dishonesty (when will they see it?), their war on truth and the desire and ability to obtain it has been unrelenting. 
And now they’re targeting access to the internet, where facts counter to their deceits are in abundance, for people immune to the plague of disinformation they’re spreading, aided by Russia. The FCC was inundated with as many as a million fake letters and emails demanding an end to net neutrality. Predictably, suspiciously, the Trump-appointed head of the FCC is refusing to cooperate with investigations. If they succeed in undermining fair access, it’ll hit poor people the hardest. Anyone surprised? 
Simultaneously, almost unnoticed, right-wing media conglomerates like Sinclair metastasize across the land (they’re here), substituting Fox-like propaganda for news. Democracy depends on informed voters; these attacks on accurate information are multi-varied and disturbingly effective.  
And they know maintaining this subversion requires larding federal courts with incompetent ideologues who’ll look the other way from attacks on voting, minority rights, women’s health, environmental protection, separation, consumer protection (a Trump appointee just did), and more. 
Since the American Bar Association has been evaluating judicial nominees, initiated by President Eisenhower in 1953, less than one percent of all nominees had been deemed not qualified. Until Trump’s. Of them, it’s eight percent. (Trump told the ABA he’ll ignore their recommendations. He already has a swampful of choices.) The Republican Senate consented. To them, judicial qualification means willingness to legislate from the bench. Their way.  
Realizing that legislating wealth accretion for themselves and their financers requires destroying the indispensable components of a free society, Trump and Republicans are doing so, enthusiastically. It can’t be overstated how dangerous this is. People who ignore it are facilitators; those who see and excuse it fatally misunderstand, or reject, the true source of American greatness. Trump retweets Nazi anti-Muslim videos. Fox spews state-sponsored agitprop. Congressional deconstruction is relentless. “It can’t happen here?"
It is. Right now.
[Image source: Facebook, somewhere]

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Tax Cuts, Profits, Markets, and Lies

You don't need to be an economist. A couple of carotid arteries with decent flow, at least one eye and/or ear, and you know that the Republican tax-cuts-for-corporations/soaring-job-growth/pay-for-themselves bullshit is just that. Bullshit.

First of all, corporate profits are already at all-time highs (Thanks, Obama). Unemployment is at its lowest in years (T,O). When there's unmet demand for their products and profits to be made, businesses expand capacity and hire more workers. Cutting corporate taxes has nothing to do with it. Cutting them for working people, maybe so: more to spend, more demand. But the Republican tax plan, by all accounts, gives little or nothing to the middle and lower (ie, purchasing) class. It's a selfish and self-evident ruse.

Corporate CEOs have already made clear that any windfall they get from tax cuts will go to investors (and, therefore, themselves.) The stock market is about investors. Its response to the promise of corporate tax cuts is about potential investors' profits, not a statement of confidence in the economy at large. In fact, one would predict, assuming these dishonest tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations become law, there'll be a lot of profit-taking after an initial rally. Because a tanking economy has always followed Republican tax cuts, and smart investors know it.

Of course, as silly Marko Rubio just said, unbagging several cats, they realize deficits will soar under their plan. "Plan" being the operative word: step two in this pre-programmed calamity will be to tell older Americans, present and future, how sorry they are, but they have no choice, in order to balance the budget, but to cut Social Security and Medicare. Did we promise otherwise? Fake news.

And thus will the circles of hell be completed. It's obvious. It's greedy. It's disastrous for all but the already wealthy. And it'll be cheered by those who'll be hurt the most, i.e., the Foxified, the die-hard Trumpists, the willingly deceived.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2017


Turns out screaming at the top of my lungs and throwing stuff against the wall doesn't help all that much. Shit like this still makes me nuts:

Our asshole-in-chief (sorry for the language, but, I mean, geez: it's the mildest appellation that applies) had this to say via Twitter, regarding a meeting scheduled for today:
"Meeting with “Chuck and Nancy” today about keeping government open and working. Problem is they want illegal immigrants flooding into our Country unchecked, are weak on Crime and want to substantially RAISE Taxes. I don’t see a deal!"
Surprising only in that it's about time, they had this to say in response:
“Given that the president doesn’t see a deal between Democrats and the White House, we believe the best path forward is to continue negotiating with our Republican counterparts in Congress instead.Rather than going to the White House for a show meeting that won’t result in an agreement, we’ve asked Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan to meet this afternoon.”
McConnell and Ryan, naturally, said NFW. And Sarah "Huckabee? No, Huckayou" Sanders came back thusly:
“The president’s invitation to the Democrat leaders still stands and he encourages them to put aside their pettiness, stop the political grandstanding, show up and get to work.” 
Right. THEIR pettiness, THEIR political grandstanding. "People need to be responsible toward the property of others," says the arsonist, pouring gasoline on your house and lighting a match.

There is no god. If there were, especially if he were remotely like the one fantasized in the Bible, Ms. Sanders would have been struck dead the moment the words approached her lips.

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Friday, November 24, 2017

A Column In A Different Vein

My latest newspaper column. Took a break from the horrors of Trump, re-tooling one from Surgeonsblog days.
Never, after doing thousands of operations, did my awe and amazement at the human body diminish. Nor did I ever take for granted the gift I’d been given: trusted by another to breach, in the most literal sense, the boundaries between us. From the simplest office procedure to the most complex of operations aimed at defeating some horrible disease, it was hard not to stop in the middle and wonder at it all. 
Nor did I think being a surgeon conferred status higher than my patients. I had the opportunity to learn to operate and to take care of surgical patients, and I committed to it (at the expense of family time) above all else. Many of my patients could have done the same. Recognizing how rare is the privilege, how great the responsibility, granted entry to the body’s secret spaces, I’ve tried, on my surgery blog and elsewhere, to share it. 
Modified below is one of those efforts, respite from the compulsion to address the political horrors to which we’re being subjected daily; from the frustration that pointing it out is invariably greeted by Trumpists as fake news, responded to with absurdities (“It was warmer millions of years ago, libtard!”) Revisiting my surgical writing reminds me there was a time when it made a difference. So:  
The inside of a vein is perfect. No matter the state of the rest of the body, when you open one it's smooth and shiny. The inner wall glistens, lavishing the eye with a creamy khaki surface. Not that it's common to get into one on purpose: but for things as minor as a cut-down (directly opening a vein to insert a large IV), or as major as a portal vein decompression (a finger-in-the-dike procedure to stave off the effects of cirrhosis of the liver), the lumen of a vein seems impervious to the ravages going on around it. It's like searching a house stacked full of junk and finding a hidden closet, empty, clean, sparkling. A private, preserved space, kept pristine against the odds. (Arteries, not so much.)  
Bile ducts, too, if less certainly. When there's obstruction, or with infection, they get swollen, sticky, and thick, the inner surface knobbly and cobbled. Mostly, though, it's a similar wonder: crisp and shiny on the inside. There's something about these specialized tubes that fosters their own brand of admiration. Springy and soft, yet turgid and tough. Sewing a vein, unlike anything else, (as long as it's not during a mad rescue attempt) is almost meditative. Their thin, fragile walls demand particular concentration. It's quiet work. The suture is finer, the instruments more delicate than typical needle-holders. Sewing requires the perfection of needlepoint: evenly-spaced bites, close, careful, exact. With such concentration (true of all surgery, but especially here) the rest of the world drops away for a while.  
There's rubbery resistance to the needle, which gives way with a little recoil. No tissue is quite like it. If creating, say, an arteriovenous fistula for dialysis, or sewing a vein patch onto a narrowed artery, you go through the vein first with the needle, and the textural difference is striking. Sometimes you hold the slender suture between thumb and index finger of one hand, propping the pinkie for stability, gently tugging upward to tent and approximate the edges, while suturing with the other. Or maybe your assistant holds the suture, and you a pleasingly extra-fine forceps. When you release flow, the vein bulges, and holds. It’s satisfying.  
With a bile duct, you might be closing a previously-made access hole, sewing edge to edge. More often it's to make a connection between duct and bowel, and the two couldn't be more different. (If they were, you probably couldn't connect them at all.) Then, it's more of a puzzle: putting together two structures of entirely different thickness and texture, one of gross and separating layers and another of imperceptible ones. It's a challenge with its own rewards, but not the quiet kind that veins provide.  
A vein, laid open but stilled of flow. A silky surface even when lying next to corporeal corruption. It's not a big thing, really; but seeing it on those rare occasions is somehow reassuring. A signal that things might be made right. If one place in this person is still okay, maybe we can help the rest to get there.   
[Image source]

Monday, November 20, 2017

As Goes California, So Goes...

As Trump turns the US from a beacon of hope for the world to a cesspool of disappointment, European leaders are turning to individual American states and cities -- those run (and rescued) by Democrats. That's pretty amazing. Giving up on a US president, looking to members of the "opposition" (i.e., the one that hasn't gone completely fking nuts) party for partnerships and sanity:

... Nearly a year into the Trump presidency, countries around the world are scrambling to adapt ... Now some nations are finding that even if they are frustrated by President Trump’s Washington, they can still prosper from robust relations with the California Republic and a constellation of like-minded U.S. cities ...

... The trip followed the California governor’s June decision to sign a joint statement with the German government on climate cooperation... Next September, Brown plans to host a global climate summit in San Francisco intended to support the same Paris climate agreement that Trump plans to exit.
Top officials who met with Brown said they were delighted to encounter a friendly American voice.
“The engagement against climate change must be global,” said European Parliament President Antonio Tajani ... “In the United States, there are several governors working in the right direction, even if the Trump government decided to change the line. What they are trying to do in the government of Mr. Brown is very interesting.”...
Can this be a sliver of light? Maybe. Maybe it'll result in progress and jobs and economic growth that even our most blinkered citizens of our most Foxified states might eventually recognize. But if the comments I get to my newspaper columns are any indication of how Trumpists respond to evidence, there ain't no hammer heavy enough to knock sense.

[Image source]

Friday, November 17, 2017

He's Back Home, But Still At The Brink

My next newspaper column:
Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump’s backhoe, backed and filled his way across China last week, insisting Trump’s groveling praise of Communist China’s leader was tongue-in-cheek. Given overlapping anatomic nomenclature, it wasn’t entirely clarifying. Later, Trump yukked it up with the self-admitted murderer/dictator of the Philippines. Donald’s mimesis of despots is well-honed by now.  
During what we may presume was his first annual performance review from Putin, in Danang (where I spent my portion of the Vietnam War), Trump called our former intelligence leaders “political hacks” and, despite mountains of evidence to the contrary (which he’s seen), genuflected in Vlad’s general direction, regarding election-meddling innocence. Inexplicably, his followers believe this does us proud. Had President Barack Obama said such things, the right-wing scream machine would have called him a traitor and Congress would be half-way through impeachment. Can there be any doubt?  
Like Putin, Xi must see in Trump a useful buffoon, distractible from their global agendas with a little low-cost flattery. Throw him a parade, dandle his ego. Do a deal with Boeing here, GE there, let him crow about his believe-me negotiating skills. Meanwhile, as Trump greatens America back to the nineteenth century, Xi is leading China to twenty-first century dominance. As Trump pulls out, Xi fashions trade agreements around the world, excluding the US. One such deal was finalized in Vietnam, even as Trump’s tough-guy America-first words were thudding like a deflated football. 
Xi is playing three-dimensional chess, Trump is playing slapjack. It’s embarrassing. Obvious to all but Trump and his co-dependents, the world’s most authoritarian leaders are manipulating his narcissistic neediness like silly putty. 
China is investing huge amounts of money into solar and other alternative energy sources, and working to improve the air quality of its cities. (It produces a third of Earth’s solar power, and, far ahead of second-place US, leads the world in wind power.) Slashing alternative energy funding, boosting coal and other fossil fuels, Trump is deliberately polluting our atmosphere as the rest of the world cleans up. Over Trump’s silence on human rights during his trip, actual world leaders are speaking out. One wonders what Trump expects from capitulating to our adversaries. A golf course in the Forbidden City? Sanctuary in Moscow?  
While Trump drags us into destructive (but, to his dead-enders, crowd-pleasing) rejection of global ties, China is investing a trillion dollars into infrastructure connections with Europe, giving Xi greater access to world markets and more ways to project economic power. Trump belittles science (eschewing a tradition of respect, he won’t be greeting this year’s American Nobel Prize winners). China now has the world’s fastest supercomputers. Trumpists believe he’s putting America first.  
Back home, Congressional Republicans stopped pretending their plans, created in secret, without hearings, help ordinary Americans. “I misspoke,” said Mitch McConnell, after promising tax cuts for middle and lower class Americans. Republicans designed their scheme, expressly, to benefit rich donors, most of whom won’t reinvest their largesse. Lindsey Graham said so. Mike Lee and Chris Collins said so. 
They admit choosing enrichment of their bankrollers (and, thereby, themselves) over helping average citizens: students, veterans, parents who adopt. Teachers, university workers, people with high medical expenses. The disabled, businesses that invest in poor communities. Recipients of Medicare and Medicaid. All harmed, specifically, intentionally, by Republican tax “reform.” Frosting stale cake, Trump just ended a program that supplies veterans with therapy dogs. This is gratuitous cruelty. 
So: Trump demeans our intelligence services while glorifying our adversaries; pig-headedly makes the US a bit player on the world stage. (We’re now the only country to reject the Paris Climate Agreement, benefitting polluters, harming us.) Congressional Republicans gift wealthy donors, paid for by hurting average people, including their supporters, who, incomprehensibly, don’t mind. Is manipulating fears and hatreds really all it takes to deceive them? 
C’mon, old-school Republicans! The man who would be king is even pressuring DOJ to go after his opponents. Surely you see the danger in what’s happening.  
Trumpists claim he’s turning the economy around after Obama ruined it; insist Trump is respected around the world. That’s impressively ossified Foxification, but clarifying: attempting to enlighten such people is effort wasted. What must take precedence is reaching the reachable: those who didn’t vote, regretful Trump supporters, people capable of processing the urgency of turning these deplorables out of office. People like those who just voted in Virginia.
[Image source]

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Modelling Kansas

I've just written about the dangers facing our planet. A nearly equal warning of impending danger is this article about Kansas, the sealed-off laboratory of Reaganomics, the window into what will happen when Republicans pass their tax and budget bills. If humanity is destroying the planet, Republicans have destroyed Kansas, and are ready to do the same to America.

... What’s hidden are stories of regular Kansans who have suffered inside the silence. 
In the course of its investigation, The Star found that: 
▪ Children known to the state’s Department for Children and Families suffer horrific abuse, while the agency cloaks its involvement with their cases, even shredding notes after meetings where children’s deaths are discussed, according to a former high-ranking DCF official. One grieving father told The Star he was pressured to sign a “gag order” days after his son was killed that would prevent him from discussing DCF’s role in the case. Even lawmakers trying to fix the troubled system say they cannot trust information coming from agency officials. 
▪ In the past decade, more than 90 percent of the laws passed by the Kansas Legislature have come from anonymous authors. Kansans often had no way of knowing who was pushing which legislation and why, and the topics have included abortion, concealed weapons and school funding. Kansas is one of only a few states that allow the practice. 
▪ When Kansas police shoot and kill someone, law enforcement agencies often escape scrutiny because they are allowed to provide scant details to the public. The release of body-cam video has become common practice around the country after several high-profile, police-involved shootings. But in Kansas, a new state law is one of the most restrictive in the nation, allowing agencies to shelve footage that could shed more light on controversial cases. 
▪ Kansas became the first state to fully privatize Medicaid services in 2013, and now some caregivers for people with disabilities say they have been asked to sign off on blank treatment plans — without knowing what’s being provided. In some of those cases, caregivers later discovered their services had been dramatically cut. 
The examples, when stitched together, form a quilt of secrecy that envelops much of state government...
There's much more chew-worthy stuff in the article, which deserves a full read. It translates exactly to the inevitable consequences of Republican economic plans; and to the attempts by Trump to discredit investigative journalism and to censor what its departments may tell citizens. What words and phrases are not allowed. As the article says, a spokesman for the Kansas highway department was fired after explaining they don't have the money to fix a deadly stretch of road. Because, you know, tax cuts pay for themselves.

It's well-known to all but the Foxolimjonesified how dramatically Kansas' government is failing its people. And yet our R-controlled national government can't wait to do the same. In the name of enriching their donors.

And in the name of Jesus.

Monday, November 13, 2017

We've Been Warned

At the root of all of our ecological problems, including climate change, is continued rapid population growth. Any way you look at it, it's unsustainable. It impacts everything:
... By failing to adequately limit population growth, reassess the role of an economy rooted in growth, reduce greenhouse gases, incentivise renewable energy, protect habitat, restore ecosystems, curb pollution, halt defaunation, and constrain invasive alien species, humanity is not taking the urgent steps needed to safeguard our imperilled biosphere...
Along with perpetual demand for products that use up resources, capitalism depends on it as its most fundamental principle. But, in one way or another, so does nearly every society. The above-quoted sobering article, a statement by 15,000 scientists around the world, is unequivocal and compelling. The only factor it refers to as having improved since their statement from several years back is the ozone hole. From the world's response to it, they take some hope.

But really, stopping the use of hydrofluorocarbons wasn't all that hard: there were alternatives available which didn't require much in the way of re-prioritizing our lives. Going deeper and broader will demand major change, and there's little evidence of willingness to engage in it. Particularly among the current leaders of the USA.

Some things need an undeniable, disastrous occurrence to wake people up. In the case of the health and sustainability of the planet, by the time enough people are awake it'll be too late.

Despite all the evidence of what's needed, the US has announced to the world its intention to ignore it all; to make it worse, in fact. Deliberately. In-your-face-edly. So, in a historic role reversal, it falls on the rest of the world to save us. But it's what Trumpists consider making America great again. When I'm not angry, I'm just deeply sad.

The best-case scenario I can envision is that the generation of my grandkids, ages one and three, is the last one that has a chance of enjoying life as our planet has always provided it. Following theirs, it seems doubtful. Maybe they'll even be the last generation entirely, either by choice or law or having been rendered chemically unable to reproduce by pollutants.

[Image source]

Friday, November 10, 2017

Stay Real, Democrats

Tomorrow's newspaper column:
Collusion or not, it’s obvious Vladimir Putin intended to influence the election that put Trump into the White House. Collusion or not, Mitch McConnell sure didn’t want the public to know about it. And, given what we’re learning of Russia’s massive distribution of fake news, we can infer their ultimate goal was, and remains, to divide us against ourselves; to exploit the strengths of democracy and turn them into vulnerabilities. To let us do their work for them.
With Trump they got a twofer: an incurious narcissist, and a man who, because of his thin-skinned vindictiveness, could be expected to add his own poisonous divisiveness, which, along with embarrassing America worldwide, he has. (“Never knew we had so many countries!”) Trumpists consider America’s free press the enemy. They’re certain millions voted illegally. They’re convinced news which challenges Trump is fake and people who write columns about it are liars. Surely, Putin succeeded beyond his expectations.  
Russia’s reach was broad and deep and, planned or not, enhanced by decades of credulity-enhancing, truth-erasing efforts by rightwing media. Not to mention, particularly in Trump-loving red states, devolution of public education. On average and not by accident, we’re getting dumber.  
I’ve fallen for deception in the past, too, but have learned to be skeptical, to seek confirmation when a claim seems either too good or too bad to be true. I try to correct falsehoods whether on “liberal” or “conservative” sites. Trumpists email regularly, credulously forwarding ridiculous claims they received about Barack Obama, or Hillary Clinton, or liberals in general. Ignoring the factual debunkery I send, they’re back, predictably, with more flimsy falsehoods. 
And if there’s guilt on both sides, there’s no parity. Liberal bogosity is rarely received. When corrected, senders write back with apologies. There’s neither a quantitative nor qualitative liberal equivalent to Foxolimjonesian nescience.  
Of late, though, there’s a disturbing trend, as several websites have appeared featuring click-bait headlines touting news liberals would love to be true. The promised stories either contain nothing of the sort, or a bunch of unsupported hearsay. Since there’s plenty of real news, it’s troublesome. We have no need to make stuff up, for, as Stephen Colbert famously said, “Reality has a well-known liberal bias.” Maybe they’re just looking for ad revenue; if so, it’s no excuse. Among the worst are Occupy Democrats, Bipartisan Report, Blue Dot Daily, Politicus USA, Addicting Info. Use with caution. Call your doctor for misdirection lasting more than four hours. 
Related or not, some liberals appear ready to blow the next national elections, too. Out of perceived moral superiority and/or political purity, extremists in the party are, yet again, falling upon the impure, even if it means letting democracy die. Despite so much being at stake – climate, environment, healthcare, clean energy, free and fair elections, free press, theocracy, fair taxation, women’s rights, LGBT rights, public education, food and drug safety, help for the needy, science, my grandchildren’s quality of life – it looks like a pride of proclaimed progressives prefer to re-litigate 2016. There’s data suggesting enough embittered Bernie supporters voted for Trump to have swung the election. “Burn it down, that’ll show ‘em.” Look what it got us.  
Trump’s support is down to the rock-bottom incorrigibles, as only a third of Americans remain unawakened to the dangers he represents. It ought to mean Democrats will retake Congress next year, and the White House in 2020, no matter who occupies it by then. But, no. 
Rife with already-debunked claims of rigging the primary, talk on the left is all about Donna Brazile’s book. You’d almost think the Russians (and their adjuvants in rightwing media) are stoking it, just as they promoted fake rallies around the country and got people from both sides to show up and start fighting.  
The DNC’s fecklessness notwithstanding, after mere months of Trumpic corruption, incompetence, and threats to democracy itself, I’d vote for a pastrami sandwich over anyone offered up by the party of Trump, Bannon, Pruitt, DeVos, Zinke, Price, Moore… Progressives need to look ahead, not back. Tuesday was a good day. Stop the infighting; increase the outfighting. They’re toasting you with fine vodka in the Kremlin and expensive champagne in Trump’s cabinet room. 
Focus on the doughnut next year, Democrats, not the hole, and get to work. Lives are at stake, Republicans, so stick with the usual thoughts and prayers.
[Image source]

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Played Like A Guqin

Trump's in China now, heaping praise on their leader and blaming the US for all inequities in trade relations. (Tillerson, Trump's backhoe, is pretending it was "tongue in cheek.") Having no ability to think long or deep, as Xi plays three-dimensional chess to Trump's slapjack, Donald's the perfect stooge for world leaders anxious to overtake America's role in the world. His aims are personal glory, or the perception thereof. A smart and powerful guy like Xi must be rubbing the skin off his hands in delight.

To American exceptionalists, this ought to be sobering:

... At the World Economic Forum in January, Mr. Xi proclaimed China the new champion of free trade and globalization. His “One Belt, One Road” initiative — with funding from the made-in-Beijing Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank — will invest $1 trillion in linking Asia with Europe through a network of sea routes, roads, railways and, yes, bridges. China will gain access to resources, export its excess industrial capacity and peacefully secure strategic footholds from which to project power...  
... The Trump administration has belittled the United Nations, withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, jettisoned America’s commitment to the Paris climate accord, tried to renege on the nuclear deal with Iran, questioned America’s core alliances in Europe and Asia, disparaged the World Trade Organization and multicountry trade deals, and sought to shut the door on immigrants. 
Mr. Xi? He has grabbed leadership of the climate-change agenda, embraced the World Trade Organization’s dispute-resolution system and increased China’s voting shares at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Beijing is forging ahead with a trade pact that would include the major Asian economies plus Australia and New Zealand, but not the United States...
All those world leaders whose power Trump envies and glorifies surely see him as their wildest-dream opportunity to turn the US into a second-rate power. And they needn't try all that hard, as Trump is doing most of it himself.

The above-linked opinion piece is by a former Assistant Secretary of State. Read the whole thing. It's hard to find fault with his reasoning.

Make America Great Again. As Trump does the opposite in every way, every day, his supporters, blinded by their fears and hate, stupidly stand by, cheering it on, missing the point entirely.

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