Friday, January 26, 2018

Expect The Unexpected

Not something readers of my blog and column would have expected, I'm thinking.

The Art Of The Shutdown

My next newspaper column:
Trump’s shutdown came and went, because Democrats trust Mitch “Lucy with the Football” McConnell. It’s hard to decide who’s most at fault, but these words ring true: 
 “… I actually think the president would be blamed. If there is a shutdown, I think it would be a tremendously negative mark on the President of the United States...”  
That was the guy currently posing as president, back when Barack Obama held the office. Later, he declared: “Here’s the truth, the gov't doesn’t shutdown. All essential services continue. Don't believe lies.” 
Circumstances were different, of course. For one, Trump’s is the only shutdown to occur when one party owned the presidency, Senate, and House. But there’s similarity: last time, it was over Republicans’ desire to deny medical coverage to millions of adults. This time, it was about denying it to millions of children, plus throwing almost a million innocent people (for starters) out of the country. The common thread: concern not for people but for ideology, demanded by wealthy benefactors and enabled by confused supporters. (The stopgap agreement includes more budget-busting tax cuts; and, though it funds CHIP, it leaves community health centers, which serve many CHIP recipients, unfunded.)  
Having non-fake concern for our military, Dems put forward a bill to ensure they and their families would receive pay and benefits during the shutdown. Rs rejected it. But Trump called it #Schumershutdown, which (not kidding) immediately became the top trending hashtag on Russian influence-peddling networks. (#no-collusion.)  
Donald Trump, artist of the deal, promised to bring his business prowess to the presidency, and he did. In particular, his talent for bankrupting ill-conceived and poorly-managed enterprises, pocketing the money and walking away, leaving others to deal with their devastation. The genius deal-maker, who, in May, said “our country needs a good shutdown,” cajoled the opposing party with tweets like this: “… Dems want a Shutdown in order to diminish the great success of the Tax Cuts ... (capitalization his.)” That’s a firkin of fiction in a bolus of bullpucky. “The shutdown is good for us,” explained Trump scion Eric, disembagging the cat. 
Democrats made a proposal directly to Trump which included his gossamer wall and increased military spending in exchange for reaffirming DACA and CHIP. Reportedly, he accepted the offer, after which General Kelly, who, when heading DHS, loved nothing more than deporting people, overruled the “president.” So we learned who’s in charge. And that the “president” is dangerously untrustworthy. 
Following his embarrassing failure, Trump produced a vile ad claiming Democrats are “complicit” in murders committed by illegal immigrants. No doubt his supporters love it, but brave Paul Ryan stood tall, saying, Look, I’m not going to comment... I don’t know if that’s necessarily productive.” Powerful stuff. (Off topic but enlightening: Ryan raked in $500,000 from the Kochs mere days after his tax bill passed.)    
Commanding the moral high ground, Democrats stood firm until, as usual, they didn’t. (Some say it was brilliant strategy. We’ll see.)  Against Trump’s loathsome lie that they “want illegal immigrants to pour into our nation unchecked,” they held out for a whole two days for Dreamers, who are supported by nearly ninety-percent of Americans. 
(In fairness, Democrats are always disadvantaged during government shutdowns, all of which have happened under Republican control, ending when Democrats give in. They consider government useful, and have empathy for those affected when it closes. Republicans, who don’t and don’t, are happy to use their decency against them. And Dems did have a bad hand.) 
It’s only the most irredeemably Foxified who don’t know, or care, that Dreamers are young adults brought here innocently, years ago, as babies and children, now qualified for DACA by being law-abiding, tax-paying, productive people, deportation of whom accomplishes nothing good for America. But it enhances Trump’s adulation by his rock-bottom remainders. 
If it once was, illegal immigration is no longer among our major problems. It became a trickle under President Obama and remains so under Trump. To the extent immigration needs fixing, let’s do it. Right after health care, climate change, inequality, and pollution; and preserving voting rights, public education, and press freedom. 
His instinctive turning to hypocrisy, lies, and slander after his failure was Trump at his worst. But wait, this just in! He’s for a path to citizenship for Dreamers? I’m impressed. Will his supporters be? And will Kelly let it stand? 
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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Build The Fking Thing

I'm ready to give him his damn wall. For one thing, it'd be entertaining to see how his diehards react to the cost overruns and delays, the government takeovers of their border property, the fact that it won't be a "big, beautiful" impenetrable wall. The gaps. The failures to control drugs coming in. And, of course, the realization that their taxes will be paying for it, not Mexico.

Even considering the wasted money, if that's what it takes to get continuation of DACA, funding of community health centers, and -- a person can hope -- a return to sanity regarding alternative energy, among so many other things, it'd be worth it.

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Friday, January 19, 2018

The Art Of The Deal

What a great negotiator. What great deals he'll make. Asshole.

His Piehole Is A Shithole

My next newspaper column:
“Being president doesn’t change who you are. It reveals who you are.” (Michelle Obama.) The same can be said about a president’s supporters.
The point isn’t that Donald Trump, Very Stable Genius, compared countries containing dark-skinned people to the last stop indigestible fiber and billions of bacteria make before exiting the colon. In part, it’s how it made undeniable his racism, and that of those who’ve been bending over backwards to pretend it isn’t. And it’s the clarity in the unabashed delight of his base when they heard the news: David Duke was orgasmic.  
Even that, though, is less important than how it shows Trump neither understands nor loves what America has, until recently, always meant; and how that contempt is revealed in his policies. The American idea is both foreign and anathema to the Very Stable Genius, and, now revealed undeniably, to his rebarbative supporters. To Trump, America is riches to be plundered. It’s a zero-sum game, a grift, an endless source of aggrandizement; the humanitarian miracle for which it stands means nothing to him. And he’s made it a place where he needn’t fake it. Enough people love him precisely for his racist gutter talk and his bluff ignorance that he assumes it’s okay.  
How okay? Congressional Republicans lightly tapped Trump with the “unhelpful” stick. Fox “news” apostles told us it’s just how people talk. Rand Paul said calling him a racist makes negotiations on immigration difficult. (No, sir. It’s his racism that makes it difficult.) Senators Cotton and Perdue (the latter once encouraged praying for President Obama’s death) claimed they “don’t recall” hearing the words, hours after attending the meeting. Then, when the VSG decided to lie about it, memory miraculously restored, flat-out insisted he didn’t. Later, in a display of condescending logomachy, they weaseled that “-house vs. –hole” makes some kind of difference.  
People who leave destitute countries to come here risk everything. In so doing, they identify themselves as courageous strivers; indeed, such families produce high-school and college grads and professionals at a higher rate than typical white, native-born Americans. Their crime rate is lower. They, not Trump, are the people making America great. They always have; now more than ever, as Trump and his cohorts attempt to make us a country ruled by white male billionaires, insulated and protected by purposeful stupefaction of everyone else: bible-schooled, science-illiterate, history-deprived, propagandized into docility, “faked” out of the means of resistance.  
Immigrants the Very Stable Genius derides fled that life, intent on bettering themselves. (Trump profits by employing Haitians on the cheap.) Norwegians? Other than to experience the character-building effects of impoverishment following medical care, and retirement insecurity, why would they come? (The happiest country on earth, Norway is a flourishing democratic-socialist atheist-majority country where, according to Trump, the people “work very hard.” Norway refutes every argument Republicans make for their policies.)  
There’s no doubt Trump said it: Lindsey Graham, lately a supine, unapologetic Trump apologist, attended the meeting and confirms it. Hardcore right-winger Erick Erickson tweeted that Trump called friends to brag about it.  
You can’t say things that are false ― knowingly false ― and be able to smile as money pours into your bank account,” said the Genius last week, obliviously believing he can change libel laws. Trump, whose falsehoods since taking office now exceed two thousand, who raised membership fees at Marks-are-Loco to $200,000 and has charged the Secret Service at least that much for using its golf carts. Whose D.C. hotel is Pay-to-Play Central. 
Fox’s most adorably aggrieved talker, Tucker Carlson thinks fact-checkers target conservatives. It’s true: and firefighters target houses that are burning. Like complaining that reporting on Jeffery Dahmer didn’t mention his other consumables, Foxophiles moan that “mainstream” media’s coverage of Trump is ninety-percent negative. 
Our democracy can’t sustain wondering if a president is telling the truth, and when his party lies to protect his lies. When -- the one thing they’re right about -- they’ve come to count on getting away with it. When ordinary citizens convince themselves, in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence, that their leaders aren’t lying. (Cue Trumpists: “But Obama said you can keep your doctor…”) 
To today’s Republican electeds, and, evidently, their voters, the founding ideals by which our nation once illuminated the world have become abhorrent. So has truth. Donald Trump, Very Stable Genius, is both cause and result.
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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Very Stable Genius Loves Norway.

How ironic is it that the Very Stable Genius hails Norway as an exemplary nation? It is, after all, a fantastically successful democratic socialist nation, with high taxes and lots of "free stuff." They're hard workers, he says, after he and his party have been claiming for years that socialism makes people lazy. I hope poor Paul Ryan wasn't listening too hard. It could bring back scary memories of how he got by with the help of social programs.

And why in gods' name (Norway is now, by majority, an atheist nation) would any of them want to come here?

... We like where we live. In fact, Norway is the happiest country in the world. We are that way because we live in an egalitarian society where we strive to give everyone good and equal opportunities -- regardless of ethnic, gender and social background... 
... Today, Norway is one of the richest countries in the world, and we will not give up on our cradle-to-grave welfare. Our parental leave is a generous year, kindergarten is cheap, and our higher education is free. Health care is also free for every Norwegian citizen. Our society strives to be tolerant. Every political party promotes liberal values, gender-equality and human rights. The plumber´s son goes to school with the CEO´s daughter, and social mobility is high. Hence, our leaders have diverse backgrounds and anyone could meet the NATO secretary general skiing in the woods or our Prime Minister at the supermarket doing her own grocery shopping. 
So instead of trying to import our whiteness, the US President should try letting some of our ideals in...
If Norway isn't proof of the emptiness of Trumpic Republicanism and the falsehood of everything it stands for, I don't know what is. So, yes, let's finally give Trump what he wants and bring in the Norwegians. By the bucketful. Enough of them to bring their form of government to ours. That must be what he has in mind.

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Friday, January 12, 2018

Happy Talk

My next newspaper column. Chillin' at the end of a nice vacay in Hawaii.

Taking a mental health break from Donald J. Trump, VSG:
"Thangzz doc yer th greatiss .... No, rilly man... yer the... zzzzz ..." "Wha? Operation's over? No way. You're kidding, right? Oh yeah, lookit that. Wow. The operation's over? No way. You're kidding, right? Over? You're kidding, right? Is the operation over? You're kidding. Right? Oh yeah..." "I robbed a bank, y'know. Had to kill a guy. Put the money in a Swiss bank. The account number is...."  
I've been asked frequently: "Did I say anything when I was out?" Readers of my blog wondered the same. Evidently, it's a pretty common concern: do people reveal stuff or otherwise embarrass themselves when under the effects of anesthesia drugs? Relax, people: the answer is "no." Mostly.  
Sodium pentothal, formerly used extensively in the operating room but now largely replaced, has been referred to as “truth serum.” Whereas it's still true that under the influence of para-surgical drugs people can get a little disinhibited, it's not the case that they'll get all revelatory. I haven't learned any secrets from my patients. When asked, however, I've been known to say, "Well, you did mention a Swiss bank account." Only once did that result in a worried look. 
Most surgical patients get a little something to relax them before they get wheeled into the OR. It's not unlike a couple of my perfect martinis. So yeah, tongues loosen a little. Giggles sometimes; rarely, tears. "Wow, this feels great..." Stories get told. Amusingly, when the story is interrupted mid-sentence by the arrival in their brain of the knock-out punch, I've seen people wake up later and begin exactly where they left off, unaware of the passage of time. And yet, I've never heard anyone say anything they'd be sorry about. Except telling me how wonderful I am (for my regular column-haters, there’s no drug that potent.)  
When possible, I enjoyed operating on awake patients. We’d talk, usually light-heartedly. Given some sort of anti-anxiety drug, the conversations can be loose, chatty, funny. People will say the same thing over and over, ask the same questions repeatedly. My goal is to keep them comfortable; if they want to ramble on, it's fine with me. Most often they doze, wake up, talk a little, doze some more. It's pleasant, not confessional. 
Because such talk is commonplace, even when particularly entertaining it went out the other side of my mind as quick as it enters; my head -- and, I'd aver, those of everyone else in the OR -- is a sieve that way. Talk like that is texture, not substance.  
The flip side of this is a theoretical utility. Studies of suggestibility under anesthesia are equivocal. Still, I liked to give some positive thoughts to my patients as they went off to sleep and when they emerged: "We'll take good care of you. You'll be comfortable when you wake up." And, after it's over, "Everything went great. You'll be happy we did this. Comfortable, no nausea." I have no idea if it had an effect or not. 
I always made it a point to talk to my patients when they were awake in the recovery room, not only telling them how it went but -- unless it wasn't true -- telling them I expect things to be fine, give them some positive vibes. With practically no exceptions, no matter how engaged and appropriate they were in those conversations, people never remembered what was said, or even that I'd been there. Or that they'd asked me the same thing five times in a row. But I always did it.  
If it were possible, I'd love to see a study of people wherein, within a standard time of awakening, they'd hear suggestions. Some would hear words saying they'd be comfortable, be up and out of bed soon; others would hear something neutral, unrelated to pain. The floor nurses wouldn't know who heard what. Pain medication use would be recorded, along with nausea, time before getting out of bed. I'd like to think the former group would outperform. (The studies I'm aware of played recorded messages during surgery.)
The problem with any sort of surgical studies is that even when operations are "the same," they really aren't. Different surgeons, different operating times, incision size; different people getting the procedure, for differing reasons. It's really hard to standardize. Still, it'd be interesting. Valid or not, I liked doing it. 
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Monday, January 8, 2018

Under The Radar?

Here's something fairly obvious that hadn't occurred to me: by appointing so many "acting" officials, including several US attornies, Trump has bypassed confirmation hearings, and has a bunch of high-level people accountable only to him. Just another example of flouting the rule of law, yet one more cynical piece of the march to unchecked power.
... Senators have a right to ask prospective U.S. Attorneys how they plan to enforce federal law on marijuana, and, of course, the legislators have the right to vote these officials down if they don’t like their answers. But Sessions has installed acting U.S. Attorneys in much of the country—including in such high-profile locations as Manhattan and Los Angeles—and senators can’t exert any oversight of them. This gesture of contempt for the Senate’s role in confirmations is reflected well beyond the Justice Department. Throughout the government, Trump has nominated many fewer officials to Senate-confirmed positions than his predecessors; instead, Cabinet secretaries have filled these crucial positions with acting or temporary officials who avoid scrutiny from senators...
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Come To Think Of It...

Here's a good point, from a former US Attorney:
“The thing is, with Steve Bannon, we keep forgetting he was on the national security council,” said Moore. “And then to come out and say, ‘I don’t really know him, he’s Sloppy Steve’ or whatever, he was their pick to be on the national security council. He helped run the campaign.
Yep, just some guy we gave a top security clearance to, and put on the Security Council. No idea who the fk he is.

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Thursday, January 4, 2018

It's Now Or Never

Here's my upcoming newspaper column:
Now is the time for all good men and women to come to the aid of their country. Constitutional protections against tyranny have never been so seriously threatened. 
Donald Trump, would-be dictator and wouldn’t-be cogitator, began the new year by describing our Justice Department as a “deep state” adversary, while demanding it prosecute certain people he doesn’t like. There followed silence of the lambs who once mewled that President Obama used government agencies against enemies; now mum, as a “president” demands DOJ, CIA, FBI do exactly that. In a foreign leader, we’d all see it for what it is. Even Trumpists. 
This year is the turning point. Either people who once supported Trump, and people previously disinterested or naively persuaded by disinformation will wake up to the danger, or they’ll ratify, actively or passively, the end of Constitutional governance. What would follow was once considered impossible in the United States: dimming the beacon of a free press, hastened by indifference and too-easily constructed belief in fakery; a Department of Justice, helmed by a beholden Attorney General, becoming the enforcement arm of despotism, punishing adversaries as demanded by a delusional, vindictive, “semi-literate” (direct quote from inside the W.H.), narcissistic, sociopath. Lawful protests, quelled. Voting legislated into meaninglessness, voices stilled by complacency belatedly acknowledged. 
In no way is this overstatement. It’s begun, if not yet irreversibly. But if awakened voters don’t turn out in Alabama-like numbers for year-end national elections, it’ll become permanent. It will have been the last chance for the will of the people to have an impact, much of its meaning having been already lost when Trump was parchmented into office. 
Only by the still-remaining direct election of federal legislators might his authoritarianism be stopped. Watching Congressional sycophancy and acquiescence, it’s clear the current crop of Republicans won’t do it. Happy to have a resolutely know-nothing in the White House, actively ignoring the implications, they’re pursuing only self-enrichment. And, to protect it, they’re making a mockery of oversight. Ignore, if you must, today’s throwback links, but not this one.
Who’d have thought millions of Americans would succumb to a rightwing propaganda machine, even such a well-financed and coordinated one? Who can process the extent to which truth is no longer a valued or expected fundament of our political process? Swallowed whole by supporters, Trump’s untruths are approaching two-thousand.  
One may wonder why Trump chose “the failing New York Times” to host his recent interview, but in doing so he made clear how unsuited he is for the presidency. Those who read his mostly unchallenged word salad, his delusions, his inability to form complete sentences and aren’t horrified are a greater threat than Trump himself. Because, having the power, possibly for the last time, to vote Trump’s enablers out of office, not to do so, out of disinterest, or inanition, or ignorance of what’s happening, or, worst of all, selfishness, ought to be unthinkable. Given the stakes. 
It falls upon all of us – not just Republicans and self-described conservatives – to make preserving Constitutional republican democracy our highest priority. Liberals must interrupt the pursuit of political purity and the rejection of candidates who don’t believe exactly as they do. More, they have to turn out. 
Conservatives have to recognize that deregulation and tax cuts (and, for many, blaming immigrants and the poor for their problems) are less important than living in a free society wherein citizens, however remotely, still have voice. 
In 2018, we all must become active in preserving our uniquely successful form of government: at minimum, by paying attention, and voting. Now or never, enough Americans have to hit the “pause” button, putting aside everything but restoring sanity and balance. If you haven’t read that interview, do.  
Then read this summary of Trump’s first year. Before dismissing it as “fake news” or lies, Trumpists, do some fact-checking. Make the effort all citizens should, now more than ever, to inform themselves before casting their votes. Step outside the Foxolimjonesian bubble; seek other voices. Revisit how the Constitution is meant to work, consider the evidence that Trump would tear it up if he could. It’s there for the gathering. Across the country, 
Democrats, open wider your arms. Start now. And, no matter what, don’t stay home come November. Unlike last election, in this one popular vote will make all the difference.
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Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Credit Where Credit Is Don't

Having done nothing significant for airline safety other than failing to appoint a new director of the FAA, Trump takes credit for 2017, "the safest" year for airline flight. As it happens, there were no US deaths for the past several years, and the only recent steps to improve safety were by Obama. Also, the record was for world-wide travel, for which Trump has done less than nothing. But, sure, okay.


If you want to take credit for airline safety, about which you've done nothing, Donald, what claim you regarding the fact that coal mining deaths in 2017 were double those in 2016? In that area you actually HAVE taken action. Namely, rolling back coal mining company safety requirements.


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