Friday, December 27, 2019

Pees On Earth

My upcoming column/poem in The Everett Herald:

This weekend betwixt I should try to be nice,
Refrain from complaining or giving advice.
Until Twenty-twenty, of rants I’ll steer clear,
Maintain equilibrium, spread naught but good cheer.
Perhaps we can find things on which we agree,

If nothing else happens, as friends we can see,
Such pleasures as sitting before a nice fire.

Americans all, we do share the desire,

For grandkids to thrive in a land that is fair,
Relying on reason to clear up the air.
And when it comes down to it, who can deny,
Under stripes and bright stars do our colors still fly.
Deciding to shout less, to look for the best,

And be a good person: can we pass the test?

Let’s not forget this while looking around,
It’s lucky we live by the grand Puget Sound.
And that’s reason enough to be taking a pause,
Refraining from ranting (though for a good cause).

As Christmas has passed and left kids a few gifts,
No better time now to be healing our rifts.
Do join me in wishing to everyone here,

A pleasurable start to another new year.

To emailers past who have pieced me their mind,
Restraining my tongue, I’ll not answer in kind.
And to those who have liked what I’ve offered to say,
I pass on my thanks for oft making my day.
To everyone, though, since we all share a heart,
Or when we do differ we’re not far apart,
Rely on my words when I say most sincerely,
Our differences can’t stop what to me are most clearly,
United States values we all want to hold,
Since we were all made from the same sort of mold.

From common ground sprang we not far in the past,
And whatever our future, we want it to last.
Kindness, therefore, could be just the solution,
Each one of us makes as our next resolution.

(Read carefully, or you'll miss it.)
[Image source]

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

A Winter's Tale

This is from years ago, my surgery blog. Because why not?

Tending toward the heavy myself (losing it when I get back into cycling, periodically), I have sympathy with those who are overweight. Nevertheless, it's a fact that the obese present a broad spectrum of problems for surgeons: higher risk of wound infections or hernias, slippery hands when tying knots, harder to find the proper tissue planes for dissection. Difficult anesthetic management, blood sugar issues, blood pressure, too. Lots of things make it less than pleasant to have patients who are significantly overweight. So when the guy showed up in the ER and I was called, I wasn't thrilled. On the other hand, his problem was one I'd not seen before. I like a challenge, most of the time. Not necessarily in the middle of the night, in the middle of winter.

It being late when I got the call, and cold outside, my first thought was that I could punt the case to the plastic surgeon. But they'd already tried him, and he was having none of it. So with my usual expletives and foul wee-hour mood, I got out of bed and headed to the hospital. "Circumferential pressure sore," they'd said. Fat necrosis, risk of a necrotizing infection. Gonna have to take him to the OR, cut away a huge amount of tissue, maybe a few times. Dressing changes for weeks. Skin grafts. Royal pain in the ass. Such were my thoughts on the dark drive, watching out for black ice, sliding on snow.

In the ER, reading his chart before going into the room, I could hear the man referring, it seemed, to every nurse within shouting distance as a "ho'." So I was primed for an unpleasant encounter when I walked in, and I must admit I was a little rude to him. Didn't ask how he'd gotten the injury, didn't exchange pleasantries. Just lifted up his garish shirt and had a look (what was this guy, a pimp? He called me a "ho," too. Several times.) Occupying the entire circumference of his enormous belly (the kind that transmits waves across it, like Jello -- not a good prognostic sign, in terms of pleasant surgery) was a band of mottled skin, maybe five or six inches in width, pocked here and there with open sores; oozing, and dirty.

Mixed in a disgusting brew, with what looked like a bunch of tiny hairs, was a fine black powder, like pencil-filings without the wood. Like uniformly ground dirt. Like soot. And despite wearing gloves and boots and the most ridiculous pants I'd seen in a while, the man had cold skin, without the erythema you'd expect in someone successfully being re-warmed. Clearly, he'd been out in the cold for a long time, raising all sorts of other possible untoward scenarios. Given the potential for rapidly progressing infection I reluctantly opted for immediate surgical debridement, put in a page for the anesthesiologist, and called the OR.

Uncharitably, as I contemplated the problems this guy was going to entail, possibly for weeks, I noted he was a "John Doe," from out of town, no local contacts, no insurance. Of course not: if he'd been insured, they'd have called one of the fancier docs.

"You're going to hate me for this," I confessed to Larry, who happened to be one of my favorite anesthesiologists. "He's huge, I'm going to have to reposition him two or three times during the case, and he has an enormous beard [anesthesia guys hate beards: they make it hard to fit a mask while inducing anesthesia, obscure the view while intubating, and resist taping to secure the tube] which he refuses to let anyone near. Dirty as hell, too. Soot or some crap like that." Trying to be candid up front, letting the man know what he was in for. "Great," said Larry, as he hung up the phone. "I'll be there when I get there."

By the time I next saw my patient, in the pre-op holding room, they'd removed his clothes and put them in a couple of bags. Boots, gloves, heavy coat with fur-crested sleeves (who wears crap like that? Heard of PETA?); and now, in the warmth of the room the stuff smelled like a barn. So did he, for that matter. Looked like cow-shit on his boots, too. I don't mean to denigrate the man -- he was a human being, after all -- but a fat smelly guy at three a.m. or whatever it was by then: I like to think of myself as more empathetic than your typical surgeon, but it was just a bad situation, getting worse at every turn. Larry was much more mellow than I, probably getting a laugh over my obvious displeasure. He gave the man the usual once-over and piloted the gurney to the OR.

It took six of us to move him onto the OR table. He'd told us he was two-eighty, two-ninety pounds, but he was three-fifty if he was an ounce. I work with bariatric surgeons of late, and we have these very ingenious Hovermats for moving the patients: they literally float on cushion of air, and glide so easily you have to worry about zooming the patient off the other side. No such thing this night, in this OR. My back hurt, to make a bad situation still worse.

I won't belabor the surgical details. Suffice it to say it was as depressing as I'd imagined it would be: fat upon fat, greasy, slippery, smelly. Rolling the man from side to side, to Larry's grumbling (he'd crossed over to my mood half way through trying to intubate), I cut away a belt of skin and subcutaneous crud which, had I been able to do it all in one piece, could have wrapped twice around a telephone pole. It had taken the poor nurse fifteen minutes to scrub clean the man's stomach: ground-in dirt, intertriginous gooey grime. What had he been doing that he couldn't stop for a shower once in a while? No running water where he lives? Everyone had his or her own reason to be repulsed by the whole thing.

Having written post-op orders and assured myself it looked like he'd wake up OK, I went to take a shower. Unlike the description in my recent post I wasn't covered in blood. It was just the stink of the whole situation that needed cleansing, I guess. When I came back to the recovery room, the man was gone.

Gone!! Kathy, the world's best recovery nurse, seemed uncharacteristically befuddled. "What the hell happened?" I inquired (you might call it). "Where's my patient? What's going on around here???" I was pissed: I hadn't yet decided whether to send him to the floor or the ICU. Who'd made that decision without me??

"He checked out," Kathy said.

"Checked out?! What are you talking about?? He died??"

"No. I mean he checked out. He said he felt fine, and had to leave. Pulled out his IV, insisted I take off his bandages. Said he had important work to do that absolutely couldn't wait. He said he'd been so cold in the ER he couldn't even remember who he was, could barely talk."

"You gotta be kidding. There's no way he... How could you let him..."

"I don't know. Really, I don't. I know he couldn't, shouldn't... he just talked me into it, like I was a child. I know it's wrong, but it's like I couldn't argue. I didn't even think to call you, or security, or anyone. I don't know, I just went blank, like he..."

"Oh, man! This is really bad. We gotta call the cops or something. He's gonna die out there..."

"I know you won't believe this, but he looked great. And the wound? Either you did an amazing job or, or, I don't know what. It looked like it was healing already. Almost like it never happened."

"Jeez, Kathy! What have you been drinking? I don't believe this. This is.... I'm calling the supervisor. We gotta..." I was as flummoxed as I've ever been; didn't know what to do. Finally, I just decided to go home. It was the most screwed up thing I'd ever heard of, and I just wanted to pretend it hadn't happened.

"Sid?" Kathy asked as I tried to storm out the recovery room door.

"What!!??" I responded, with zero patience.

"How about his story? About how he got the injury?"

"What story? I didn't even hear the story. What story?"

"Getting stuck trying to get into someone's chimney, being pulled out by some animals. The way he said it, he seemed serious. Oh, and he left these for you," Kathy grinned, tentatively, as she handed me half a dozen wrapped boxes.

"Yeah, right. Keep 'em. Guy's a liar, some sort of sociopath. I gotta get home and get Danny's presents under the tree before he wakes up. Merry frickin' Christmas."

Friday, December 20, 2019

Counting (On) Sheep

My next column in The Everett Herald:
Read the transcript, he said. Don’t be sheep. Think for yourself. Do your own research.  
Have you read the transcript? 
But it’s important to read it, and decide for yourself? 
But, to be clear, you haven’t read it. 
Don’t need to.
It was a real interview, of him and other rally-going Trumpists.  
Housing within his skull so many contradictory beliefs that he can’t see the irony, he’s the archetypal Trumpist. And now that impeachment is upon us, he’s the exact supporter Trump and his enablers are counting on: proudly, aggressively, uninformed. Inside a bubble so perfectly designed that he thinks he’s on the outside, he’s done with thinking. 
As only the third impeachment in our history, it’s serious business. Those who think Democrats aren’t giving it the gravity it deserves, like that prototypical Trumpist (let’s call him PT), accept, unquestioned, Republican screaming and dissembling and outright Foxotrumpian lies. 
Democrats presented dedicated, respected public servants (many of whom were Republicans), along with experts in Constitutional law. Republican committee-members responded with mockery, character assassination, and attempts to convince PT he didn’t hear what he heard.  
“This is an assault on America,” says the man who called the press “the enemy of the people,” the FBI “scum,” who declared, “liberals want to destroy you,” and who claims absolute power. Impeachment is, in fact, a counterattack on Trump’s assault on America. The articles leave out more of his corruption than they name.  
Senators Collins and Ernst, a pair of perfectly emblematic Republican hypocrites, will be among the jurors. During the Clinton impeachment, Collins demanded more witnesses before making up her allegedly open but predictably docile mind. Now she finds it unnecessary. Senator Ernst is counting even more on PT- style credulity: there’s no need to call new witnesses, because if Democrats didn’t call them, it’s their screw-up. Yep, that’s her position. Invited to send his lawyers, Trump refused. Democrats subpoenaed key witnesses, Trump blocked them. Therefore, it’s on Democrats. One assumes PT buys it.  
But none of these is as destructive, if entirely expected, as Moscow Mitch and Lilly-liver Lindsey admitting outright they have no intention of following the oath they’ll be taking as jurors in the Senate trial. Which means they hold our Constitution in even greater contempt than does Trump, who has regularly demonstrated he has no clue what’s in it, and doesn’t care to find out. 
For those who haven’t inquired, the oath pledges the following: 
"I solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald John Trump, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws: So help me God." 
On government TV dba Fox “news,” Moscow Mitch proudly announced he’ll be taking orders from the White House. Lilly-liver Lindsey crowed, “… I’m not trying to pretend to be a fair juror here.” Let’s recall his words last time ‘round, when he stated, correctly, about White House refusal of subpoenas, “It is not your job to tell us what we need, it is your job to comply with the things we need to provide oversight over you.” That was when elected Republicans at least faked it. 
These raised middle fingers to the rule of law reflect their confidence that the likes of PT won’t care, or even notice, how dangerously un-American this is. Nor will it occur to PT et ilk how clearly it confirms that Trump has plenty to hide, and that Republicans are happy to help. 
Hook, line, and sinking citizenship, their voters have gobbled the shouted lies and curated ignorance we saw in the House hearings. Then, they claimed the process was a kangaroo court. Now their Senators would make it exactly that: conclusion forgone, new witnesses and new facts forbidden, “presidential” malfeasance ignored, corruption approved and encouraged.  
Because of Moscow Mitch, the Senate trial will be a sham, while the citizens’ right to know will be tossed aside like the Constitution itself. It’s increasingly persuasive that the House should refuse to send impeachment to the Senate unless Mitch remembers his job, or until after the election, when he might be minority leader. Or gone.  
In a court of law, McConnell and Graham would be dismissed preemptively. Instead, they’re facilitating the end of democracy, confident that the ubiquity of PTs within their party allows ignoring the few remaining honorable Republicans, like former CIA and FBI director William Webster, and these actual Christians. 
[Image source]

Friday, December 13, 2019

Snow? What Snow?

My next column in The Everett Herald:
It’s predicted this will be a hell of a winter. The PUD is gearing up, we’re told, for more outages than usual, lasting longer. Maybe it’s time to buy a generator. One thing is sure, though: if it hits as hard as expected, if we find ourselves suffering bone-chilling winds and frozen pipes, cars stuck in deep snow or spinning out on icy roads, we’ll see Trump supporters strutting in bathing suits and flip-flops, smelling like coconut oil, claiming it’s sunny and warm.  
So here we go. Democrats have produced their articles of impeachment, enumerating, in plain language, abuses of “presidential” power and obstruction of Congress. Much more could have been included; Mueller’s report was replete. That improper actions occurred is as obvious as a snowdrift; likewise, that Congressional Republicans will pretend it’s green grass and blue skies.  
But they’re in a tough spot. Given the evidence, their only rational defense would be to agree Trump did those things but they don’t amount to impeachable offenses. That’d make more sense than choosing to assert nothing happened. It’d suggest residua of integrity, while not requiring their current Pythonesque denial 
There’s a problem, though: they’d be saying they’re okay with a “president” – and, because they’re certainly not hypocrites, even a Democrat – unconstitutionally seeking election help from foreign countries, including those that undeniably wish us ill. And they’d be disavowing their oversight requirements, ceding to ANY president virtually unlimited power. Improbably, given the propagandophilia of their base, they seem to believe that’s an abridgement too far. Thus, the circus we saw at the impeachment hearings: screaming, insulting, ignoring, complaining about process.  
The impeachment articles arrived right after the DOJ Inspector General’s report, about which the expected disemboguement of boilerplate rightwing agitprop commenced immediately. While finding inexcusable errors and omissions, the report dismantled Trumpic claims of FBI “spying” or unjustified, politically-motivated investigations. Of course it did: had intelligence agencies ignored possible wrongdoing at that level, it would have been malpractice. 
Between the impeachment articles and the IG report, Republicans have a lot of dissembling to do. No worries: William Barr, full-time Trump defender, no-time Attorney General for Americans, is on it like white on Nazis. Fox “news” is doing its usual up-is-downism as if it was pre-scripted, and Trump’s rally-lies and language about it were deranged, even for him.  
If they’re not good at America, Congressional Republicans are peerless at distraction. Their tantrums at the hearings were low-aiming performance art. Claiming there was no “there” there, they resurrected Mueller-report-style, preemptive obfuscation. They should have been laughed off the dais: crime-us interruptus isn’t a crime; Trump, the embodiment of corruption, was only seeking to root it out, despite testimony that, knowing his base, all he wanted was the announcement of an investigation. Possibly because his conspiracy theories had already been debunked. 
It was hard to watch. Did they think their attempts at parliamentary interruptions would accomplish anything? Were Trumpists who viewed it on Fox “news” impressed? Had Republicans any compelling arguments, there might have been better tactics. They didn’t, so there weren’t. Hatred of Trump, they claim. Attempts to undo an election. But how hard can it be to understand that if a “duly” “elected” “president” is found to have committed crimes, undoing the election is exactly why impeachment was codified? Doesn’t national interest require finding out? Unlike most Republicans, true conservatives get it  
So now it’s real. Will Republican Senators, as FBI Director Wray just did, understand that their oath of office was to defend the Constitution, not a “president”? Will Trumpists acknowledge what’s at stake and relinquish Foxification long enough to decide for themselves? Take it seriously enough to read the articles of impeachment, which they didn’t with Mueller’s report, rather than accept Trump’s and Barr’s perversions? Would they apprehend the significance if they imagined the charges were against Hillary Clinton? 
Those who decry lack of bipartisanship ignore the unprecedented effectiveness of a 24/7 disinformation network and a ceaselessly lying “president,” and the fact that he prevented key witnesses from testifying. Truth was under siege.  
Today’s extraordinarily vicious divisiveness is on Trump, whose rantings and invective toward Americans and institutions who don’t kowtow have created such toxicity that “patriot” militias are threatening harm to senators who vote to convict. Fainthearted Congressional Republicans won’t stand up unless forced by an awakening among their voters: namely, remembering the highest obligations of American citizenship. 
Discouragingly, that part is on them.
[Image source

Friday, December 6, 2019

The Ball Is In The Court

My next column in The Everett Herald: 

From Federal Judge Jackson’s ruling on Trump ordering White House personnel to ignore congressional subpoenas: 
“… However busy or essential a presidential aide might be … the President does not have the power to excuse him or her from taking an action that the law requires…  
Presidents are not kings. This means that they do not have subjects … whose destiny they are entitled to control. Rather, in this land of liberty, … current and former employees of the White House work for the People of the United States, and they take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States...”  
Your indefatigable columnist has previously asked on what basis any president could command current or former underlings to refuse congressional oversight. None, as it turns out. Not according to this judge, appointed for her competence rather than for past and future rightwing dogmatism. 
Which means the issue remains unsettled until we hear from the Supreme Court. It may well come down to Chief Justice Roberts, who once claimed that his job would be to “call balls and strikes.” If he believes that, it’ll be an easy call.  
After discarding truth and compromise in favor of Newt Gingrich’s scorched earth policies (leading presently to that literal thing) and catering only to the wealthy, everything the Republican Party has become has set the stage for an amoral, confabulating, autocratic “president.” And now, when it arrives in the Supreme Court, this far-reaching case will determine the future of our democratic republic. It’ll announce whether the Constitution still means anything; whether, notwithstanding Congressional Republicans’ subservience, having co-equal branches of government remains an American value. 
If the male Justices pledged allegiance to the law and not the Federalist Society, it’d be unanimous. Other than within today’s Republican Party, and possibly among its most tendentious judges, there’s nothing controversial about “original intent” regarding separation of powers, nor the requirement of Congress to oversee the executive. The Constitution was written by men familiar with monarchy and committed to the prevention of it footholding here. 
That presidential power is limited by and subject to congressional oversight is carved in parchment; that it’s indispensable to protecting Americans from autocracy is undeniable. No true conservative would contest that, nor would anyone who understands and believes in our form of government.  
And yet, here we are. After decades of Republicans tilling the soil for a lifelong miscreant like Trump, America’s future comes down to one court decision: may Trump obstruct Congressional oversight, or not. If Trump, “president” of the Electoral College of the United States, can compel members of the executive branch not to appear before or release documents to lawfully constituted oversight committees, and if it’s affirmed by the judges he’s appointed, mainlined for their partisan ideologies by Mitch McConnell’s hypocritical senate after blocking highly-qualified, widely-admired nominees of President Barack Obama, America as originally construed will have been erased. Which has been the aim since Newt’s “contract.”  
Trump couldn’t have happened to us, nor would he still be in office, without preceding decades of Gingrichian abandonment of principle, and Mitch McConnell’s cynical continuation of it. While Republicans cower, Trump has declared himself above the law. “I have an Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president,” were his exact words. As his lifelong cheating and lying and his bragging about sexual assault should have ended his candidacy, that claim should have ended his presidency. No patriot could accept it, and none have. It’s only Trumpists, who don’t now and may never have had love for America as it was intended to be, and once was. 
This isn’t about the case for impeachment. It’s more fundamental than that; it goes to the very definition of the United States of America, and might be the most impactful court decision since Marbury v. Madison. 
You can call impeachment a witch hunt. You can rationalize mountains of evidence of presidential misconduct, or, as Congressional Republicans are doing, pretend it’s not there. You can convince yourself Ambassador Yovanovitch, et al., are liars. You can even love Trump because he “sticks it to liberals” and reinforces your enmities. These things you can do, albeit mistakenly, without abandoning the essence of American governance. 
But if you accept his refusal of Constitutional oversight, you must finally admit you prefer dictatorship over democracy. Unless it’s a Democrat. That applies equally to Republican Congress-people and voters.
[Image source]

Thursday, December 5, 2019

ICYM The Ellipses

Herewith, proof that Republicans have no real defense of Trump. They resort to replacing facts with conspiracies, evidence with obfuscation.

For those who might have missed the counsel for the R "Intelligence" members grilling one of the professors by quoting from former US Solicitor General Neal Katyal's book, "Impeach: The case against Donald Trump," here are his words, which were also displayed behind him on one of their nutty charts:
“Is what Hunter Biden did wrong? Absolutely. Hunter Biden had no real experience in the energy sector, which made him wholly unqualified to sit on the board of Burisma. The only logical reason the company could have had for appointing him was his ties to Vice President Biden. This kind of nepotism isn’t only wrong; it is a potential danger to our country, since it makes it easier for foreign powers to buy influence  No politician, from either party, should allow a foreign power to conduct this kind of influence peddling with their family members.”
Note the ellipses. Here's what the dishonest prick (no offense meant to pricks everywhere) left out:
. ..The thing is it is not illegal. That’s why Hunter Biden didn’t hide his involvement in Burisma. And it’s why President Trump’s children — Ivanka, Don Junior, and Eric — continue to conduct business around the world with impunity. As does President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who works in the White House... 
Still with the Hunter Biden distraction. And they can't even make it without, in effect, lying. 

They got nuthin'.

[Image source]

Friday, November 29, 2019

Impeachment Debrief

My upcoming column in The Everett Herald.
On a reality-based planet, even the most resolutely Foxified, the definition of which this columnist has previously provided, would have watched the impeachment hearings and recognized Trump did what he did. Withholding aid to Ukraine, desperately at war with Trump’s Svengali, Vladimir Putin, to force President Zelensky to launch, or, at least, announce an investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden. In these days of instant media, the announcement alone would suffice for Trump’s purposes. 
There’s been no credible, contradictory testimony. We saw disagreement among witnesses as to how outrageous Trump’s actions were; though those saying it was extremely serious – for Ukraine and for the future of American foreign policy – far outnumbered those saying it was bad but not super-duper. Other than Republicans on the committee, none suggested it was normal.  
Lacking facts on their side, Republicans took to smearing the witnesses, especially Lt. Colonel Vindman. In the case of Fiona Hill, though, after she pointed how they were gifting Putin, they clammed. Bolted from the room, some did. Though the Foxified need no convincing, they tried to persuade the rest of us that if a criminal plan fails it’s not a crime. 
Ignoring the “favor” he asked, they’d have us believe Trump, who made a career of corruption, only wanted to confirm Zelensky’s honesty, despite responsible agencies already reporting favorably. In fact, we heard how much he truly cared: he didn’t “give a s**t.” Then they brushed the whole thing off as impeaching a “president” because “he didn’t take a meeting.” Are their voters that dumb? Well, when Ambassador Sondland quoted Trump as saying he “wanted nothing,” they ignored how Sondland went on to confirm there were quids and quos aplenty. But Trump mouthed innocence. To a certified Trumpist, that’s good enough. 
Republicans demanded the Bidens be called, despite knowing what they did or didn’t is immaterial to what Trump did. Cynically, they kept demanding the whistleblower’s appearance. They were unbothered, however, by Trump’s defiance of our Constitution, obstructing appearances by White House personnel who were important material witnesses. Unconstitutional authoritarianism by their “president”? Who cares? After all, Trump said the law allows him to “do anything I want.” Imagine President Barack Obama saying that, and their reaction. Did your hair just catch fire?  
As arguments lead-ballooned, they coughed up the “Steele Dossier.” Echoing Trump, calling Russian interference a hoax, they handed Putin yet another win. But it raised and answered important questions: Was what Trump did okay, or not? And, because it matters, would those who argue it was okay make the same assertion, had it been President Barack Hussein Obama? The answer is obvious.  
In orchestrated outrage, Republicans wailed about candidate Hillary Clinton, private citizen, spending privately-raised money, hiring a group previously assembled by Republicans to get dirt on Trump, to get dirt on Trump. Since they find that horrifying, we needn’t wonder how they’d react to the theoretical Obama scenario. (Surprise: Devin Nunes, Trump’s most housetrained lapdog, helped by Giuliani’s bagmen, may also have been trying get dirt on Biden, while sitting on the very committee. If it’s a hoax as he says, perhaps he’ll stop peddling hoaxes of his own.) 
Trump, Republican Congress-creatures, and their permanently propagandized voters have chosen to dismiss the obvious. Knowing their denial of Russian interference and repeating multiply-debunked Ukrainian conspiracies further Putin’s goals, they do it anyway. If your central argument comes from a Russian disinformation campaign, you might need a better one. Or check your allegiance at the committee-room door. For a clarifying explanation of a favorite conspiracy and its implications, still promoted by Trump and his committed Russophiles, watch this.
From the impeachment hearings, it’s undeniable: elected Republicans and their voters are lost to reality. Like their “president,” they’re all in on lying; on demagoguery over democracy. Devin “Naked Pictures” Nunes, most clearly. Jim “It Was Just A Shower” Jordan, too. Intentional or not, the results are the same: Russia gains, America loses.  
Hope for our country resides with voters who sat out 2016, or voted third party. Democrats need to demonstrate to them what’s at stake: the environment, climate, the health of their children; truth itself, science, democracy, America’s place in the world. Surely some of them care about these things. Trying to awaken Trumpists is a waste of time. 
Final, marginally-related thought: if, as Rick Perry just said, God chose Trump, it explains why He also chose famine, earthquakes, cancer, and hemorrhoids.
[Image source]

Friday, November 22, 2019


My upcoming column in The Everett Herald:
“Foxification.” Noun. [fahks-ih-fuh-KAY-shun] The influence of rightwing media, especially Fox “news,” in creating indifference to facts; becoming blind to the obvious.  
“Foxified.” Adjective. [FAHKS-ih-fiyd] Made unable and unwilling to see what’s happening before one’s eyes. 
After Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch’s testimony during the impeachment hearings, a tweet went viral: “I hired Trump to fire people like Yovanovitch.” And there it is. Foxification. Be afraid.  
The tweeters were being truthful, though: getting rid of incorruptible, impartial, gifted public servants is, indeed, why they “hired” Trump. Like Trumpists emailing me after the publication of every column, they’d insist Trump is “draining the swamp.” Asked to define the swamp or point to drainage, emailers provide none. 
To the extent that Trump has gotten rid of swamp-dwellers, it’s by hiring them, then seeing them forced out or sent to prison for crimes undertaken on his behalf. Well-known for dirty tricks and dishonesty, Roger Stone, the latest, was hired to keep at it. (In case you missed it, testimony in his trial suggests Trump lied to Robert Mueller. It’s of a piece.)  
Such is the power of Foxification that its sufferers watched Ambassador Yovanovitch and couldn’t see the exemplary avatar of America; were incapable of recognizing her dedication to implementing official policy in the interest of the US. Not hers. Not one person’s or one party’s. The same is true of those whose testimony preceded and followed hers. Most have served presidents of both parties, with honor. 
Not only are they protecting US interests (as opposed to those of a corrupt “president” and swampizens who anticipate bounty from enabling him), they are, given the ubiquity of death threats and unsubtle “presidential” incitement thereof, brave. In Trump’s America, truth-telling is a courageous act.  
Ambassador Yovanovitch’s sin was tackling Ukraine’s corruption; in particular, that of Prosecutors General Shokin and Lutsenko, sequential paragons of venality. Threatened, Lutsenko, Rudy Giuliani, and Rudy’s button-men launched smears against her, likely because she stood in the way of their kleptocratic plans for Ukraine’s natural gas. 
Trump, laughably called a corruption-fighter by worried Republicans, sold the smears like a bankrupt casino. Praising those racketeers, he ousted Yovanovitch to clear a path to extorting Ukraine for political gain. That’s corruption. Congressional Republicans pretend it’s normal. 
Now America has its own corrupt Prosecutor General. In concert with Trump, William Barr is dragging us toward the kind of governance against which Yovanovitch, Taylor, Kent, Vindman, and others have worked so diligently. Barr was a promoter of unchecked presidential power and lawbreaking (torture) long before Trump up-swamped him. In a hyper-partisan speech grossly inappropriate for an Attorney General, he just described impeachment as undoing the will of the people. We know, of course, the people chose Hillary Clinton. Trump was willed by the Electoral College, created explicitly to make the will of the people thrice-removed from choosing a president. 
Impeachment, Barr continued, undermines the rule of law; yet it’s specifically to maintain the rule of law that it was enshrined in the Constitution. Such deceptive dissembling from Trump’s Attorney General is chilling, harkening to not-so-distant history: as is his bemoaning Congress “drown[ing] the executive branch with oversight demands.” Right. Oversight. How quaintly constitutional.  
Descended from the zero-sum politics of Gingrich, Rove, and Atwater, Barr, protecting a self-admitted amoral “president,” added, without apparent irony, “… conservatives tend to have more scruple over their political tactics and rarely feel that the ends justify the means.” Which is like insisting Trump only grabs women by the hand.  
Foxification purposefully blinds victims to obvious signs of nascent dictatorship: a power-hungry, hate-mongering, scapegoating “president;” a derelict Attorney General; Congressional Republicans standing mute; attacking journalists; stacking the judiciary with partisan lackeys; and the latest: against the wishes of “his” generals, pardoning soldiers convicted, in courts-martial, of war crimes. The message is clear: when the time comes, break the law for me, and I’ll pardon you, too. This isn’t “supporting our troops.” It’s insulting them to their core. It’s Trump’s final solution.  
If unrestrained by Constitutional requirements, Trump would become a dictator like those to whom he genuflects. With riches to be plundered and jobs to keep, elected Republicans look away. But what of regular-citizen Trumpists? By now they know what’s happening. So, what is it? Do they like what they see, ready to raise stiffened right arms, convinced they and their children will be protected? If so, their Foxification is so powerful it’s wiped human history from their minds.
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Friday, November 15, 2019

The Monkey House

My next column in The Everett Herald:
As impeachment heats up, memes are hopping around cyberspace like bedbugs at Mar-a-Lago. A few, paraphrased:  
“Trump and Republicans would have us believe people willing to testify under oath are liars, and those who refuse are truth-tellers.” Or: “If someone has information that would exonerate you, why would you prevent them from testifying?” Also: “The perpetrator of a coup takes power. If it’s really a coup, it’s Pence.” Best: “The house is on fire, Trump is lighting matches, and Republicans are demanding to know who called the fire department.” 
On what basis can a “president” prevent people from appearing before Congress as it carries out its Constitutional oversight duties? Would he have them arrested? Under the aegis of what laws? Can a “president” order a citizen not to speak? Isn’t there something about that in the Bill of Rights? (Okay, under the Bill of Barr, we know it could happen.)  
When Susan McDougal ignored a subpoena by Republicans chasing Bill Clinton’s penis around D.C., she went to jail. Why not now? Maybe because the party that no longer believes in enforcing the Constitution currently controls the DOJ. If Democrats ordered arrests, Barr would simply ignore them. What’s past is prologue.  
Perhaps more than any event, impeachment exposes political hypocrisy. It also reveals the limited understanding voters have of why the process exists or how it works. That hypocrisy, mated with reinforced ignorance, is a powerful brew which too many people, particularly the Foxified, find pleasingly potable. Our pal Lindsey Graham has become the primary chef de cuisine. As the former prosecutor of the Senate trial of Bill Clinton’s impeachment, and much holier than we, he should know better. Which means whatever Trump has on him is more powerful than fairy dust. 
To wit: When Gordon Sondland testified he knew of no attempted extortion, Republicans lauded him as the ender of the Democrats’ game. Subsequently, as others revealed how Sondland lied, and going to jail wasn’t what he thought he’d bought with his million-dollar investment in Trump, leading to “clarification,” Graham wondered “was there a connection” with Democrats. Figuring, one assumes, anyone telling the truth is either a Democrat or cahooting with them.  
As if that piece of cogito-gymnasty wasn’t enough, Lindsey then stated, “I consider any impeachment in the House that doesn’t allow us to know who the whistleblower is to be invalid.” After such a bull-shot aimed at the selectively stupid, a reality-check is needed. 
For reasons so obvious that enumeration is unnecessary, whistleblowers’ identities are protected by law. Moreover, by now it doesn’t matter who the whistleblower is: everything he or she reported has been corroborated, severally. So what do Republicans get from outing him/her? Intimidation of the next potential truth-teller, is what. It’s the horse-head in the bed. It’s how mobsters behave; people who’ll do whatever it takes to keep insiders from turning state’s evidence and upping their jig. 
Same with crocodile tears about the pre-impeachment investigations. Like a grand jury, what’s done is assessing, securely, evidence of possible crimes. If convincing, the process becomes public. Which, for fairness to all parties, is exactly how it should work. Not investigating possible malfeasance by any president would be dereliction of Congress’s Constitutional duty.  
If the House impeaches, the Senate becomes a jury, with House members as prosecutors. Evidence is presented, witnesses are called. The Senate convicts or doesn’t. Neither Lick-boot Lindsey nor any individual, including the “president,” gets to decide what invalidates the process. Only by Constitutional amendment could the system be changed. 
To be clear: attempted extortion of a vulnerable country trying to defend itself against Trump’s pal and America’s enemy, Putin, successful or not, is a signal example of why impeachment is a Constitutionally-defined remedy. It’s also worth noting that what any Biden did or did not do is immaterial to whether the “president” did what he did. Nor does wising up at the last minute nullify the attempt. Failed bank robbers serve time, too.  
Anyone who thinks Republicans are serious about truth must watch Devin Nunes’ opening statement at Wednesday’s public hearing. Calling it “unhinged” insults doorways everywhere. Short of massive public outrage – if that -- nothing will force integrity on Congressional Republicans. Virtually all have pre-excused Trump; Lindsey Graham says he doesn’t even need to see the evidence. 
In codifying impeachment, our founders presumed Congressional commitment to a purpose higher than themselves. Sadly, they didn’t foresee today’s elected Republicans.  
[Image source]

Friday, November 8, 2019

Laugh Riot

My upcoming column in The Everett Herald:
As defending his Ukraine extortion gets increasingly desperate for Donald and his excusers, who’d be calling for imprisonment were it anyone else, it’s time for some levity. Everyone needs a good laugh, especially those trying to defend the indefensible. It’s gotta be dispiriting.  
Remember that big, beautiful, Mexico-funded wall, the money for which Trump diverted from veterans’ benefits, military-base schools, and over a hundred other Pentagon projects? Remember how he ballyhooed the design, declaring it’d be impenetrable? Well, how ‘bout that professional climber who free-climbed it in twenty-seven seconds; or the eight-year-old girl who did it in a minute? Even a Trump supporter topped it, using suction cups. One hopes Trumpists got a cleansing laugh out of that.  
Heard the one about smugglers using battery-powered, readily-available saws to butter through those beautiful slats, and, because the slats are so tall, bending them easily after a single cut, allowing passage? (It’s physics!) Did Trump think they’d need miles-long extension cords? What a kidder! 
For more grins, observe the flailing contortions of Trump’s defenders as they pirouette around damning testimony. First it was a “perfect” phone call. Then there was a friendly request but no quid pro quo, because if there had been, well, that’d be bad. Then, okay, there might have been something quid-like and quo-ish, but not very much. And now it’s, yeah, well, obviously, there was a quid pro quo, but let’s not, you know, call it anything like a shakedown. For one thing, he didn’t have evil in his heart.  
Yep, one of Trump’s most comedic senatorial excusers, John Kennedy (ironic, huh?), actually said, “... Did the president have a culpable state of mind? … Based on the evidence that I see, … the president does not have a culpable state of mind.” Get it? He said “… does not have…”, not “didn’t.” To have any state of mind, a functioning one is required. Slipped that little joke right on by. Who says Trumpists are humorless? 
“Culpable state of mind.” The creativity is impressive, if gelastic. While extorting a foreign leader into smearing political opponents, no one would have that, right, whatever it is. If a Republican Senator says someone’s state of mind isn’t “culpable,” game over. Because those guys are curators of the mind. Heck, Lick-boot Lindsey says he doesn’t even need to read the evidence, because he knows “it’s b.s.” That’s powerful mind-grok.  
So, sure, the “president” attempted extortion, perverting foreign policy and using taxpayer money, but lacked the requisite thoughts when doing so. Besides, according to a just-passing-through Attorney General, abuse of power isn’t a crime. True enough: everyone kept their wallets. Classic comedy, that. Then Gordon Sondland recanted his lies, choosing truth over Trump. First in a sitcom series?  
If tears of laughter aren’t yet streaming, check out Trump’s spawn appearing on Fox “news,” criticizing Hunter Biden for making money off his family name, declaring their disgust at political nepotism, deadpan as Buster Keaton, self-aware as stone. Ivanka, Jared, Lara, Ben Carson, Jr., Candy Carson, John Pence, Kyle Yunaska … Good one, guys.  
Another: Trump finalized reneging on the Paris Climate Accords just as scientists warned of impending “untold human suffering.” And handing the world’s economy to China? Priceless. Talk about comic timing! In China, they’re still laughing. 
For another knee-slapper, get a load of Trump’s mobsters ignoring Congressional requests to testify. Ponder that preposterous piece of parchment providing protection from presidential perfidy. Who claims, with a straight face, it applies to Republicans? And who doesn’t get the joke as they demand legally-protected whistleblowers appear in person, while going all Marceau over those Trumpic refuseniks? Plans to sabotage the public hearings they’ve been demanding? A million laughs. 
Magnificent mummery, Republicans saying they’re the law-and-order party. Comedy pyrite. Like Trump bribing impeachment-jury Senators with campaign money and pressuring Barr to prostitute himself again. Hilarious. Did coffee just come out your nose?  
Stop me if you’ve heard this: Trump is considering reading an incomplete “transcript” that isn’t one. Selling “Read the Transcript” T-shirts to his gullibles. We’ll have even more gut-busting giggles when his accountants, under court order, release his tax returns.  
Finally, if your sides aren’t already splitting, there’s that photo of a gag of millionaire evangelical preachers blessing Trump. Now THAT is high-level humor. Not a godly person in the room. Stop! Yer killing us!  
They say laughter is the best medicine. With Trump in office, it’s amazing anyone gets sick.

[Image source]

Friday, November 1, 2019

Impeachment Becomes Him

My next column in The Everett Herald: 
“You don’t even have to have committed a crime to lose your job [as president] in this constitutional republic, if this body determines that your conduct is clearly out of bounds…” More recently, the quotee said of Trump, “He’s not fit to be President of the United States.” Everyone knows whose words those are. What happened?  
The leaders of today’s Republican Party have become a crime syndicate and protection racket. The difference between their protection game and the Mafia’s is that the latter threaten to ruin their victims themselves, whereas Republican leaders have convinced their voters it’d be liberals. Either allows getting away with murder, real or virtual. Witness their recent storming of the secure room in which impeachment inquiries are taking place.
That shameful show was a stunt for the stupid. Claiming they were denied access while, along with a quarter of Republican Representatives, several already had it. But rarely showed up. Whining about closed-door hearings which included Republican members of the relevant committees. Pretending they themselves hadn’t ever done it (Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi!), and that the rules allowing it hadn’t been written by them. By law, those storm troopers should lose their security clearances. 
The cherry atop the steaming pile is their claim that impeachment inquiries are unconstitutional. A coup. Deep state shenanigans. Only those who’ve not read the Constitution or who, like Trump, believe it doesn’t apply to Republicans, could swallow such nonsense. Trump’s latest press secretary described following Constitutional provisions as “waging war on the Constitution.” This is gnathonic absurdity hoisted to cosmic levels, demonstrating how ill-informed and manipulable they believe their voters to be. If truth is your foe, smear its bearers. And the process. The more deplorably, the better. Like trying to out the original whistleblower, putting party over country in a most sickening, lawless, dangerous way.  
Suppurating under that steaming cherry is the pretense that closed hearings are improper. In obvious ways, they protect both the witnesses and those about whom they’re testifying, until decisions are made. Those crying foul will rue the loss of secrecy during open hearings, when damning facts become public and unspinnable.  
This crime syndicate is fine with Trump rejecting Congress’s mandated oversight, as even former employees refuse subpoenas. They remain silent when Trump calls members of their party who’ve criticized him “Human scum,” and when Trump’s recent acting AG says abuse of power isn’t a crime. To no outcry, lifelong bullying “businessman” Trump has stiffed local governments for over a million dollars in campaign-rally-related costs. Nor has any of the made-men denounced Betsy DeVos, cited for contempt of court, and fined. Knowing the DOJ is headed by a man who shares Trump’s disregard for the Constitution, it’s a protection racket for their personal use. Supporters fiddle while the Republic burns.  
Surely their singular patriotism has led Trumpists to the Federalist Papers. They’ve learned that, despite being the strongest advocate for presidential power, Alexander Hamilton was also the force behind including impeachment as a remedy for its abuse. They’ll have noted and understood his concerns, as he wrote, When a man unprincipled in private life. . . despotic in his ordinary demeanour — known to have scoffed in private at the principles of liberty — when such a man is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity — to join in the cry of danger to liberty — to take every opportunity of embarrassing the General Government & bringing it under suspicion — to flatter and fall in with all the nonsense of the zealots of the day — It may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion that he may ‘ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.’” Trump and Trumpism are Hamilton’s warnings enfleshed. 
Trumpic crimes against democracy are unending, but we must also note the killing of al-Baghdadi: unequivocally good news, notwithstanding Trump’s bizarre, rambling, self-congratulatory announcement of it. We’ve since learned, though, that his hasty withdrawal of troops, against “his” generals’ advice, abandoning the same Kurds who provided mission-critical intelligence, nearly ruined it. Necessarily hurried after his ill-considered impulsiveness, the operation’s success was in spite of, not because of Trump. Without the Kurds and our Trump-slandered intelligence services, al-Baghdadi would still be alive.  
Reinforcing the point, we end as we began, with relevant words from times past: “Why don’t we ask the Navy Seals who killed Bin Laden? They don’t seem happy with Obama claiming credit. All he did was say O.K.” 
Guess who.
[Image source]

Friday, October 25, 2019

Past Due

My next column in The Everett Herald:
I’ve just returned from NYC, where my brother was mowed down by a taxi on his morning run. He was in the ICU, intubated, for three days; has undergone four operations. He knows he’ll never run again and will be lucky to recover to the point of walking. With a walker. 
The obvious, the cliché, is that things can change in an instant: live every day as if it’s your next to last. Would that we all could; though nowadays I doubt every human would spend it lovingly. 
Also obvious: anyone who dismisses Democrats’ urgency in improving our healthcare system has never been really sick. My brother and his wife can afford supplemental nursing care. They can afford a lawyer, not only for the legal issues but for help with the dizzying paperwork. Pages and pages of it. Bills coming from all directions, staggering bills. Traveling only four blocks between hit and hospital, the ambulance charges alone were in the thousands. 
Despite passing much of the work along to the lawyer, my sister-in-law has spent hours dealing with approvals and refusals; speaking, emailing, texting to various agencies and offices. For many, probably most people, it’d be all but impossible.  
The care he’s received in NYC has been excellent. Still, communication has been occasionally spotty, and were it not for the extra help they hired, my brother’s needs would be met more erratically. Too slowly, in some cases, as he is entirely, helplessly, bedridden.  
To those people whose reaction to healthcare reform proposals from any Democrat is a kneejerk cry of “socialism, communism, they hate America,” one hopes none have to experience what my brother and his family are going through. If they ever do, and if Mitch McConnell has managed to keep things the same (or, as Republican legislators prefer, improved them only for insurance executives and stockholders), and if Trump’s lies about Democrats and “socialism” continue to infect their minds, I hope they have the education and monetary means of my brother and his wife. 
I’m not saying reform won’t be disruptive or complicated, or won’t include unanticipated glitches. What I am saying is it’s undeniably necessary. 
Enough said. Of that.  
While biting the Big Apple, I spent time with my niece, an extraordinarily brilliant, internationally-honored researcher and professor of immunology at NYU. (Also, sweet as honey.) Her work is published in highly-regarded journals; work that might – no hyperbole – lead to defeating a particularly deadly form of childhood leukemia. I asked how things are going.    
Not well. Like many devoted scientists, she’s feeling the effects of Trump’s funding cuts for research. Also, because, seeing the writing on the wall (not that one), American students are increasingly disinterested in pursuing science, her post-docs are all immigrants. Which, again because of Trump and his weak-kneed defenders, have become difficult to hire. To Trump’s self-centered, short-sighted, uninquisitive cultists, none of the preceding is worrisome. How amazing. How deplorable.  
Speaking of worrisome, on a related, less complicated but locally important note, I have a simple, understandable algorithm for evaluating our state’s voter initiatives: if it’s one of Mukilteo Tim’s, I vote no. Why? Because I’m a member of society. Because I understand the role government plays in keeping us mobile, not to mention safe, educated, healthy, not poisoned or on fire. If I don’t particularly enjoy paying taxes and fees, I recognize their value.  
Eyman once bugged me to write a column about one of his initiatives. Eventually, I did. And never heard from him again. A monument to self-indulgent esurience, his latest, I-976, is ruination in the making. Perhaps some voters never drive, or if they do, it’s never to Seattle. Maybe they don’t see potholed roads or rickety bridges, never use our ferry system. So maybe, rationalizing penuriousness, they’ve convinced themselves there are no direct or indirect benefits to them for keeping those things functional and improving. 
I may not use mass transit much, but I understand its value and am willing to pay my share. Also, I drive an electric car. On tax-supported roads. I’m okay with the EV fees I’m charged, and don’t think reducing them to $30 is fair to those who pay gas taxes.  
This neo-Republican greed must be brought to an end. America is letting infrastructure decay to third-world levels, ceding science to China and India, world politics to Russia, and the future to people who’ve stopped caring. Or don’t have grandchildren.

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