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.

[Image source]

Friday, October 18, 2019

A Cult By No Other Name

My next column in The Everett Herald:
Poor Trumpists. The corruption seeping from the White House like a plague is so labyrinthine it’s almost impossible to assimilate, much less ignore. Thus the cheering as Trump gets ever more obscene and unpresidential at his rallies; nasty, conspiratorial, pushing lies, spewing poison. It’s easier to buy the Biden/Biden fables than to consider the millions Trump’s spawn are raking in, or how foreign governments’ grease Trump’s palm via his properties. Easier to cheer his words about Joe “kissing Obama’s a$$” than contemplate his hiring only sycophants willing to befoul the independence of important cabinet departments. To overlook the flagitious stink rising from the White House, smelling like Ukrainian natural gas. That’s what rallies are for.
Do you suppose, on their way home, pumped full of hate for Ilhan Omar, ralliers discussed the timing of the Putin/Erdogan/Rouhani meeting and Trump’s subsequent abandonment of the Kurds? Did they note how it gifted the region to that tyrannical trio, or worry about future implications as the US forsakes the most reliable fighters against ISIS? Are they reflecting on Russian and Syrian troops moving in? Did they wonder how Trump’s gaudy towers in Turkey played into it? Or what Putin must have on Trump? 
If they swallowed the lie that Obama “cut and ran” from Iraq (following a schedule negotiated by Bush), is it hard to excuse pulling out of Syria; an announcement made by Trump without discussing it with “my generals,” then flipping again? Does it strike them as “great and unmatched wisdom?” What will they say as not-actually-defeated ISIS regains strength? Have they noticed the subsequent gloating about American unreliability on Russian TV? Has Trump?  
After a couple hours of chanting “Lock him up,” were those rapturous attendees disturbed that, abandoned by Trump despite being steadfast allies, Kurds struck a desperate protection deal with the unleashed Assad, worst of the worst? How, one wonders, do they feel about the US joining Russia as the only countries refusing to support a resolution condemning Erdogan’s invasion? Are they puzzled that Trump’s so-far ineffective “sanctions” exclude Erdogan himself? Did they love Trump’s bizarre, made for TV, faux tough-guy letter to him? Of course they did.  
Was the escape of ISIS prisoners a topic that followed their enthusiasms? Was there mention of the sixty “high-value” ISIS captives US forces had to leave behind because of Trump’s precipitous, short-sighted directive? Or the fifty tactical nukes now in Turkish hands? After cheering Trump’s promise to “destroy socialism” (Medicare, the VA, Social Security, the Post Office, police, oil and farm subsidies, parks…??), did they spend time contemplating Rudy Giuliani’s Soviet-born henchman pressuring the firing of our ambassador to Ukraine as she investigated their corruption, versus the false claims of Biden’s? Did they question the relationship between Trump’s recalling the person probing Ukrainian crimes and Biden advocating the firing of one who wasn’t? Did anyone in the back seat raise the possibility they’re being played for fools?  
Might Trumpists find it troubling that a day after Attorney Second Lieutenant Barr met with Rupert Murdoch the only truth-teller at Fox “news,” Shep Smith, was gone? Does it bother them that the aforementioned official, theoretically the chief legal advocate for all Americans, has instead become a globetrotting go-fer? Of course not.  
Do Trump’s lie-filled, virulent, divisive rallies provide enough primal pleasure to brush away concerns about a “president” claiming the Constitution doesn’t apply to him? And meaning it? And invertebrate Republican legislators agreeing? Do they sense hypocrisy when submissive Lindsey Graham, prosecutor of Clinton’s impeachment, says even starting an inquiry is an attempted coup? Do they think only Democrats like Susan McDougal should be jailed for ignoring Congressional subpoenas? Will they ever have enough of Trump’s lies? Again: of course not
Did they get a secret chuckle from this contemptible thing, whatever the source? 
 Residue Trumpists are a definitional cult. Victims of human susceptibility to false prophets, blind to the dangers, tribal, they love him like a god. For so-inclined Americans, it’s nothing new: Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, David Koresh, Jim Jones, Charles Manson, Marshall Applewhite. Perhaps proto-humans benefitted from shedding individuality in total submission to an authoritarian leader; today, survival of more-evolved primates depends on the opposite. Once cult-ivated, though, independent thought becomes impossible. Their deceivers know what strings to pull.  
Outside the cult, Trump’s autocratic madness and corruption are obvious. Because today’s poison works more slowly than Jonestown’s, there’s still time to put down the cup, but that’s not how cults work. Unfortunately, with Trump’s, it’s not just their own survival at stake.
[Image source]

Thursday, October 10, 2019

"Do-Nothing Democrats." That's Chutzpah.

My next column in The Everett Herald:
Trump’s been impeaching himself lately, so despite his dictatorial attitude that our Constitution doesn’t apply to him, and Republicans’ hypocritical, laughable defense of it, let’s discuss something else: replacing the classic definition of chutzpah, wherein a guy kills his parents, then begs for mercy because he’s an orphan. 
Trump recently called Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s half of Congress a “do-nothing” branch. Like most of the effluent from the White House and adjacent, the opposite is true. Here’s a small sample of legislation passed by House Democrats, which Moscow Mitch McConnell has refused to bring to the Senate, while he and Trump accuse Democrats of accomplishing nothing. Definitional chutzpah.  
First was HR-1, a sweeping plan to decrease the role of dark money in national politics, limit lobbying, protect and expand voting rights, and more. Serious action against the political corruption Americans, except those in on it, claim to hate. Actually draining the swamp, as opposed to sluicing it into the White House. The bill died at the hands of Moscow Mitch, because the swamp is what put him and Trump in office and, they believe, what will keep them there. Assuming the Constitution is invalid.  
There’s more. Have Trumpists heard of HR-986: protecting pre-existing conditions; HR-987: lowering prescription drug costs; HR-7: closing the gender gap in pay?  
HR-9: addressing climate change; HR-1428: infrastructure investment and job creation; HR-840: veterans’ child care; HR-1585: reauthorizing Violence Against Women Act; HR-5: protecting the rights of LGBT people. 
HR-8: background checks for gun purchases; HR-1644: protecting net neutrality; HR-1944: making it easier to save for retirement, described as one of the most important changes to retirement rules seen in years; HR-2480: child abuse prevention and treatment; HR-790: Federal civilian workforce pay fairness; HR-1331: drinking water protection… 
You get the idea. Investigating Trumpic and para-Trumpic malfeasance hasn’t kept Democrats from other work. Most of their bills would have been beneficial even to Trumpists. They’ll never see daylight in Mitch’s Senate. Alleging Speaker Pelosi’s House of Representatives has done nothing is yet another Trumpic lie; like a Mexico-funded wall, China paying his tariffs, climate change as hoax, “perfect” phone calls, and kangaroo courts. 
Assuming impeachment has played out, a Republican message for 2020 will apparently be that Democrats have accomplished nothing. Democrats’ should be: “Look what we’d have done for all Americans, including women, veterans, voters, retirees, people who breathe air and drink water, use medications, prefer tolerable climate, believe in democracy, had Democrats controlled the Senate and had we a president who cared for Americans of all colors, religious beliefs, and health and wealth status.” 
On the important issues, polls are consistent: mainstream policies of Democrats are preferred by a large majority of voters. Which is precisely why Republicans are committed to blocking legislation and preventing voting equality.  
Were we forced to choose between seeing Mitch McConnell out as Senate Majority Leader or Trump out as “president” (though, increasingly, we might get both), we’d opt for exit-door number one. It’d be a tough choice, though, between seeing him as Minority Leader, fuming ineffectually, signature hypocrisy refulgent, or out of the public eye entirely, McDucking the tens of millions he amassed while on the public dole. 
Unlike Trump, who pings and pongs between ideas that come randomly into his self-absorbed head or are implanted there by Fox “news” deplorables (the ones he still considers to be working for him), Moscow Mitch knows exactly what he’s doing. And, possibly because of those millions of rubles, sorry, dollars he’s pocketed, he doesn’t care about the consequences. 
Blocking legislation aimed at creating freer and fairer elections, and at preventing foreign interference in them, McConnell complained that Democrats were trying to create “political benefit.” Because it had gotten only one Republican vote, he reasoned, it couldn’t be fair. Which is even higher-order chutzpah: pressure your party’s legislators never to vote for Democratic bills, then decry partisanship. Or this: recently-leaked House GOP plans to blame mass shootings on people “coming from the left.”  
But the Kremlin Kentuckian is correct: like truth, fair elections do benefit Democrats. The only way to overcome his obstructive, anti-constitutional behavior is to outvote it. If the proportion of people who agree with Democrats shows up, and if their votes aren’t suppressed or altered, McConnell/Trump politics ends. Even more so when true conservatives have finally had enough of anti-democracy, self-aggrandizing dishonesty, and of Trump’s escalating craziness. Which is an even bigger “if.” 
[Image source]

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Melting Down


My next column in The Everett Herald:
You know what they say: there are two types of people in the world; those who say there are two types of people in the world, and those who don’t.  
There are three types of people in the world. The smallest group consists of Trump, his Caligari Cabinet, his spokespeople, enablers, accomplices, and consiglieri, and his Congressional apologists… The people, in other words, committing obvious crimes and those directly abetting them. Lying. Covering-up. Threatening. Hallucinating conspiracies.  
More densely populated are the remaining two groups, consisting of those who see what’s happening, describe it, recognize the implications, and try to do something about it; and those holding their hands tightly over their eyes with their thumbs in their ears. 
We’ve always had criminals, and we’ve always had people trying to expose and stop them. But there’s never been such a blatantly corrupt administration, in which the corruption is spread among so many people; and we’ve never “elected” a “president” who had a lifelong history of corrupt business practices in the first place, whose children were of the same mold, and whose transgressions were widely known before the election. 
Nevertheless, the first two kinds of people, qua categories, aren’t particularly groundbreaking. Who hasn’t played cops and robbers as a kid, right? It’s that third category that’s so baffling. How much energy it must take to refuse to deny, to excuse what’s going on. Worse, to like it. Even as the daily revelations are becoming a torrent. 
Some people cheered Bonnie and Clyde. This is altogether different. Donald Trump has no understanding of America. He’s calling Adam Schiff, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, a traitor. He’s demanding to know who that whistleblower is; has implied such people should be killed. He’s calling six Congresswomen (four women of color, two Jews) “savages.” He’s encouraging “civil war” if he’s impeached. Pompeo says no State Department employees will honor Congressional subpoenas. Lindsey Graham, who led the Clinton impeachment trial, says Trump’s not getting due process! What’s more “due” than a process outlined in the Constitution? Nevertheless, Trump calls it a “coup.” Rudy Giuliani says… well, who the heck knows WHAT Rudy says? Other than admitting to forgery.  
But they know how to speak to Group Three. They know the can’t-miss buzzwords: plot, fake, set-up. And, of course, “deep state.” Know what that really is? It’s career government employees wanting to do their jobs: protecting the food supply, the electric grid, small farmers and small businesses. Keeping vital research going, feeding the hungry, funding promising ideas that banks and other NGOs and banks won’t take a chance on. Oh, Solyndra, you say? One failed business out of hundreds funded, paying back their loans, giving innovation a chance? Dig deeper. 
In Group Three are two sub-categories: the deceived (of which there are another two: the willing and the unknowing), and the nasty. One of Fox “news” nastiest, Laura Ingraham recently did a “hilarious” bit on her show: using a straw to “drink” a steak peppered with broken incandescent light bulbs. Get it? You know, stuff liberals hate: straws, red meat, and wasting energy. Good one, right?  
But it explains why many in Group Three stick with Trump despite his mounting destruction of Constitutional governance, despite his lying and abuses of power, despite turning the departments of state and justice into nothing more than henchmen. Despite behaving in a way at which they’d be outraged were it a Democrat. 
They stick with him because, like Laura Ingraham, they love sticking it to liberals. What a great reason. How patriotic. How thoughtful. 
How deplorable.  
If there are any Trumpists who’d like to learn what our government really does, including indispensable and highly beneficial things about which they clearly have no idea, there’s a book they’ll find enlightening, if they could disencumber their minds long enough to read it. It’s called “The Fifth Risk,” by Michael Lewis, who also wrote “Moneyball” and “The Big Short,” among others. For those who believe in some sort of evil “deep state” and in the uselessness of government, it ought to be required reading. 
Or just note how, under pressure of impending impeachment, Trump is melting down at increasing speed, making ever-wilder accusations and anacoluthons, acting more and more the mad king. No matter the outcome of this Constitutionally-created process, he’s becoming so unhinged that even Group Three loyalists might come to recognize the obvious. 
One can hope.

Popular posts