Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Predictions For The New Year


We were once in New York City when the new year arrived. Uninterested in being crushed by several thousand people in Times Square, we watched the ball drop on TV. Since then, it’s been my goal to sleep through the festivities; especially when I was on call. Other than an excuse, as if they need any, for young people to get drunk and copulate, I’ve never seen the point. The flipping of a calendar. Whoop de doo.

Admittedly, since the election of Trump, it’s been reasonable, if futile, to hope the next year (or day, or week) would improve upon the last. There’s nothing wrong with hopefulness on any day. But January Oneth is so arbitrary. Why not June? Or, if it must be January, how about inauguration day eve? Every four years: seventy-five percent less meaningless.

Among reviewers of the receding year, there’s none better than Dave Barry. I wouldn’t dare. Nor will I make resolutions, other than forcing myself to pay attention and, when necessary, which is pretty much constantly, to sound alarums.

But I’ll indulge in a few predictions, none of which requires imagination or psychic ability, because next year will be a straight-line continuation of this one. What we’ve become, where we’re headed, is stone-cast: Han Solo in carbonite. Bad stuff will get worse. Good stuff will get better, but it won’t matter. The year will bring unbridgeable division, political poison and paralysis, same as now.

The House committee investigating Trump’s attack on democracy will succeed in proving how corrupt and intent on destroying faith in elections he and his hench were. His enablers, followers, and his dutifully destructive media will continue to dissemble, deceive, and dismiss the seriousness. The clearer it becomes that, as polls showed Trump losing to Joe Biden, they set out to convince the herd that the election would be “rigged,” the less it will matter. Though it’s hard to imagine how much less than it already is. Most Republicans will persist in rejecting the facts like they reject vaccines.

Democrats will keep legislating to improve Americans’ lives and mitigate environmental threats. Seeing politics as a zero-sum game in which the county’s future isn’t a player, Republicans will continue to obstruct. Democrats will beg Joe Manchin to prioritize America over coal; Republicans will cheer him on. Something will get done, though far less than is needed. Republicans’ sponsors will exult; corporations will reward their political purchases, executives, and investors. Kids born into poverty will remain poor. When God closes a window, Mitch McConnell bolts the door.

At the federal level, there’ll be no substantive legislative proposals by Republicans. Out in red states there’ll be plenty, aimed at securing Republican electoral wins, no matter the preference of voters. More rufescent rules will appear, packing election boards with Trumpists or moving election oversight to legislators. Some are already working on allowing themselves to declare winners when they don’t like voters’ choices. Gerrymandering will keep them in control, even where there’s a majority of Democratic voters. Knowing unfettered democracy disfavors them, Trumpists will delight in its crumbling.

Threats of violence against election officials and school board members will continue. More good people will resign. Actual violence, by unmasked patriots, on flight attendants, restaurant servers, and store employees will increase.

In state primaries, Republicans will lose if they don’t repeat Trump’s election Big Lie while characterizing liberalism as a mortal enemy. Use of the terms “socialism” and “communism” will still bear no relation to their actual meanings. Nor will Republicans stop lionizing their worst, whether it’s hate-peddling Congressional demagogues, a delusional, self-important teenage killer, or a guy who insulted President Biden during a sweet call to children, lied about it, and then, realizing his mendacious nastiness made him the perfect rightwing hero, is “praying about” running for office. God’s answer will be of interest.

Climate change will become more undeniable, and, by elected Republicans, more denied. After taking down thousands of anti-vaxxers, Omicron will run its course by Fall. SCOTUS will abort Roe v. Wade. The John Lewis voting rights act will be filibustered to death. The economy will continue to grow at the record pace initiated by President Biden’s American Rescue Plan. Rightwing media will credit Trump and/or focus on inflation. The southern border mess will become slightly less horrible.

Instances of discovered voter fraud will remain in single digits, mostly by Republicans. Impossibly, my grandchildren will become even more endearing. Rand Paul will still define “stealing an election” as legal Democratic voter registration and persuasion by having desirable policy, as opposed to Republican suppression and lying, having none. 

Happy New Year, anyway. Remember: Champagne is quicker than eggnog.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Good Tidings And Nog

(My newspaper column, that will be/is/was published on Xmas eve day.)

On this, the morning of the day of the night before Christmas, good tidings we bring. Figgy pudding, which is to say the minds of those whose only news sources taste like Trump, we set aside. For they won’t have been privy to the tidings, nor would they see them as good if they had.

We begin with a Scrooge who has seen the Ghost of Politics Future. Mitch McConnell, whose credo has always placed personal benefit above our country’s, who once spoke in the highest of dudgeon against creating the January 6 Commission, now says its findings are “something the public needs to know,” even as most Congressional Republicans dissemble, ignore, and refuse cooperation. 

From which we conclude Mitch’s finger drips wet in the winter wind. Recognizing the significance, seeing a loser in the looming, he concluded it’s time to disembark the Trump train. Indeed, those findings are exceptionally serious. (This eggnog is very tasty.)

The hardest-core Trumpofoxified will never see it that way; he’ll always have his thirty-five percent, despite or, just as likely, because of his exposed crimes. But ‘tis the season for belief. Surely, there exist enough rational conservatives, if not Republicans (mistletoe and lumps of coal), who see the Commission’s revelations for what they are: damning. Of Trump and the amoral, unqualified sycophants with whom he protectively surrounded himself. How they tried to subvert and overturn a legitimate, fraud-free election –- the fundament of democracy -- by whatever extra-constitutional means necessary, is now as clear as Mount Baker on winter’s cloudless days. So is the “fraud-free” part. (Think I’ll have another.)

Trump wasn’t the first. Nixon, too, worked to overturn an election, the one he lost to JFK. The difference is that, nasty and dishonest as he was, in the end, he could place America’s good above his own; be convinced by people around him not wholly devoid of morality. Same with impeachment. Which stands in snow-white contrast to Trump and his atramentous mobsters.

We’ve also learned that several Fox “news” talkers privately understood the horror of the insurrection, while publicly dismissing its seriousness. This will convince the cogent of how dishonest and damaging the network is and always has been; now, they’ll look elsewhere.

Tucker and Laura and Sean, never fans of fair elections, won’t change, nor will their psychically attached viewers. But true conservatives, by definition, should be fans; and, like Mitch (not that he fits the definition), they must have had enough of Trump, in sufficient numbers to keep him foundering in Florida. (Maybe one more.)

The denouement of his power to corrupt is good tiding, indeed, if not necessarily for democracy. Fully given over to preventing opposition voting, Republicans are likely to nominate someone equally dangerous, but smart. Like Raging Ron DeSantis, who is to Florida, Covid-wise, as Trump was to all states. Obvious even as it unfolded, the degree to which Trump politicized the pandemic and muzzled scientists has now been laid out, in black and white. Or is it blue and red? More reasons to ho-ho-hope for the slumbering to awaken. 

Same, dare we say, with climate change. Hardly a haven of liberalism, the Pentagon recently released a statement detailing the ways in which global warming threatens national security. Last week we read of the degree to which it’s destabilizing Earth’s poles, imperiling the entire planet. Only science-denying anti-vaxers can dismiss the evidence; and whereas they have the numbers to keep the pandemic alive, they may no longer have the votes to do the same for climate denialism. In time for Christmas, its existence is real to everyone having accessible intelligence. 

There’s good news, too, in Joe “Owns-and-Owned-by-Coal” Manchin’s sabotage of President Biden’s Build Back Better Bill. His West Virginia is the second-poorest and unhealthy state in the Union. When its citizens realize how they’d have benefitted, and that Manchin joined every single R in voting against it, and that he thinks they spend tax credits on drugs, they’ll make their state reliably blue again, as once it was. Thanks to demographics and to its leaders, unconcerned for its Tiny Tims, Texas is getting there as well. Joyeux Noel. (Yes, please.)

Sarah of Wasilla provided heimal tidings, too, pledging to Turning Point USA’s death-cult gathering that she’d be vaccinated “over my dead body.” Sorry, Sarah: no one vaccinates dead bodies. Saner than she, I’m triple vaccinated. You should be, too. Research confirms it’s highly protective from omicron. 

So, Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it. Season’s Greetings and/or Happy Holidays to those who don’t. (Hey, how much booze was in that eggnog, and how many did I have?)

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Dangerous Demon Doctors

 


The Dean of Admissions at my medical school liked to ask applicants why they wanted to be a doctor. Given the clich├ęd response, “Because I like people,” he’d ask, “Yes, but do you like SICK people?” I don’t recall that he asked me that one; if he had, I might have answered, “I can’t be a dentist, because my hands are too big to fit in a mouth.” Which reminds me of what I did say when my dad suggested I should consider being a proctologist: “I think I’m too tall for that.” 

In any case, after talking to me for a few minutes, the Dean (Cactus Jack, we called him, for his gravelly voice and no-b.s. attitude) announced “We’ll take ya.” And that was that. 

My point is that it seems there are lots of docs of the Trumpist persuasion who do, indeed, like sick people. So much so that they’re trying extra hard to create them. And there are plenty of state legislatures around the country doing their best to send victims their way. It’s hard to figure. Medical school, after all, is pretty rigorous; hard to get through without at least some understanding of the scientific method; i.e., the ability to distinguish between documentation and doo-doo.

If not all doctors are brilliant, few are downright stupid. Is what I used to think. In Congress are several doctors, at least one of whom falls hard into the stupid category.

That’d be Rand Paul, who had to create his own ophthalmology board to become certified, and who’d need to acquire an additional wit to rise to half-wit level. The Republican remainders, who inveigh against mask and vaccine mandates (not to mention perpetuating Trump’s big lie) and who rarely argue for science-based approaches to the pandemic, have no such excuse. They must know the harm they’re causing.

Elected docs aren’t the worst among my chosen profession. Appearing regularly on rightwing media, other defrauding doctors regale the credulous with fairytale falsehoods, without evident shame. Mysteriously, they’d managed to get their medical degrees. It puzzles me.

All states have medical licensing boards, whose prime directive is to make sure doctors meet standards of competence and ethics. Anyone paying attention knows they’ve hardly covered themselves with glory, historically, in that regard; still, it’s been reassuring to see several state boards clamping down on doctors who spread Covid misinformation. Sadly, it’s happening in only in a third of states. For two-thirds, it must be no big deal. Welcome, even.

As of about a week ago, there’s one fewer doing the good work. Caving to pressure from its Republican-controlled legislature, Tennessee’s medical board has announced it’ll no longer rein in those dangerous docs. Amazing: actual elected representatives of the people, sworn to act in the interest of their citizens, pressured their medical board to stop disciplining lying or incompetent, willfully dangerous doctors. Let ‘em lie; we like it. It serves our interests.

Nor is Tennessee’s the only legislature acting to ensure the pandemic continues. In pretty much every red state, by legislative or gubernatorial mandate, requirements for masking and/or vaccinations are being struck down, going so far as to threaten school districts and private businesses who want to protect employees, customers, teachers, students. So much for freeing them from government overreach, the be-all and end-all raison d’etre of Republican rationalizations for giving their megadonors every bit of hands-off they demand.

By now, even Trumpic Fox-watchers (what took you so long, Chris Wallace?) must know it’s mainly among the unvaccinated that the pandemic rages on. So, what has overtaken their brains? It can’t be those vaccine-embedded microchips; they’re not the ones getting them. And powerful and effective as unabated brainwashing by rightwing has come to be, it can’t have decerebrated so many millions entirely on its own. Even though it’s obvious their disinformation is doing the work of our global adversaries, can those enemies’ activities on antisocial media have been so thoroughly assimilated without some sort of amplifying force?

It’s millions of people, convinced by bad doctors and lying media to harm themselves, their children, their families, friends, and neighbors. Weakening the country to which they claim singular loyalty. There had to be another explanation, and I’ve finally seen the obvious.

Aliens. From outer space. Beaming mind-control rays or drugging our barbeque sauce, softening us up and dumbing us down for the coming invasion. Affecting, ironically, only the unvaccinated. Too crazy? Alex Jones just suggested President Biden used a top-secret “weather weapon” to cause those deadly tornados. He’s proof the aliens are already here. Same with the Trumpofoxified millions: Unknowingly, they’re pod people. Nothing else makes sense.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

"Earthen Vessels," He Called Them


Overtly or co-, every one of the conservatives currently on the Supreme Court lied during their confirmation hearings. They knew it, Senators knew it, those of us watching knew it. With big-money backing and, in the cases of Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Coney Barrett, by way of cosmic hypocrisy on the part of Mitch McConnell, each was specifically selected to end legal abortion. Which, by all accounts, is about to happen.


So let’s talk about it. I can take it if you can.

First, some mostly non-controversial statements: 1) Polls show only 20% of Americans believe abortion should be banned under all circumstances, which is fewer than those who think it should be completely unrestricted; and far less than those who think it should be legal until some gestational point. 2) Establishing a universally agreed-upon point is impossible. 3) Where birth control and realistic sex education are available, abortions are much less common than where they aren’t. 4) It’s inconsistent to be “pro-life” yet unwilling to provide those things, or help for children forced to be born into poverty. 5) Late-term abortion is both disturbing and extremely rare.

6) Few, if any, women make the choice lightly. More often than not, it’s heart-rending. 7) Carrying an unwanted or fatally deformed pregnancy to term is likely to be life-long traumatic. The younger the mom, the more so. 8) If the Court effectively makes abortion illegal, it will contravene the wishes of 80% of the population, spurring countless illegal abortions, with attendant maternal death and disability. 9) Like Congressional Republicans, holding minority views which prevail in our dysfunctional system, they don’t need to care.

The following IS controversial, despite its obviousness: 10) Arguments against early abortion are 100% religious. And specifically religion-based opinions don’t belong in civil law. 

Okay. We’re off to a great start.

That there’s no distinction between an embryo smaller than your pinkie, having no measurable brain function or sensory life, and a fully-formed, viable baby is a religious concept. To which people are most certainly entitled. But it’s not universally held, not even among the religious. To so believe, one must claim God knows us before we’re born and has a plan for us all. Again: perfectly fine. Commonly held. But not universal.

Nor consistent. Because if it’s true, God also pre-plans stillbirths and birth defects that kill postpartum. And, since we know that as many as a third of all conceptuses are expelled, often before women even know they’re pregnant, medically referred to as “spontaneous abortion,” He had to have planned those as well. There’s no logical middle ground. In fact, doesn’t that mean anti-abortion laws are anti-God?

Don’t take my word about the religious basis for banning abortion. Here’s North Carolina Republican Madison Cawthorn, excessive Trumpist, incendiary liar, multi-alleged sexual harasser, performing an abortion speech last week on the floor of Congress, describing women as “… Eternal souls woven into earthen vessels sanctified by almighty God and endowed with the miracle of life …” His rhetoric echoes “pro-life” arguments made by all who make them. Not everyone, however, reveals so unambiguously the subservient role in which they view women.

At least until Republicans like Cawthorn are fully in charge (not far off), Americans are (theoretically) free to practice and express divergent religious views. People who see conspiracies to force Sharia law upon us have no problem doing so with their personal interpretations of Biblical law. Of which there are many. Interpretations. Some of which include being pro-choice.

Respect for divergent religious views is maintained when public law remains out of it. There's no reason “pro-life” and pro-choice can’t share space in our democracy. (What’s left of it.)
If your beliefs direct you, don’t use birth control, don’t have an abortion, don’t have sex outside marriage; and then, only for procreation. Banish from your houses of worship those who fail. It’s your right. What’s not, though, is compelling those religious prohibitions on others by force of law.

Everyone would prefer that there were no abortions. Not because they’re illegal, but because they’re no longer needed. Which would require Republicans ending their “pro-life” hypocrisy when it comes to birth control and sex education, and refusing to fund child-help programs. Even then, unwanted pregnancies are bound to occur. The force is strong…

Those who disapprove of abortion don’t need to outlaw it. Their God will know where they stood. Leave the consequences of having an abortion, if such there be, to Him who’s so familiar with them. Having a plan for us all means the innocent embryos from medical abortions surely will have the same afterlife as those of His “spontaneous” ones.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

To Cut Off One's Nose...

 


There was a time when it was impossible to believe elected Republicans would deliberately damage the country and its residents for political gain. After all, how could such a thing be considered a positive? Well, it’s come to the point that it’s really the only explanation for what they’re doing. And not doing.

In Congress and in state houses around the land, Republicans are making sure Americans will continue to get sick from the pandemic, and are planning to run for reelection on it. Ban mandates. Shut the government down to make it happen. They’re saying so, openly.

As there remain millions of people refusing to be vaccinated, even as their anti-vax “influencers” make deathbed repentance and call for vaccination before dying of the virus, Republican leaders see a perfect constituency. (It’s possible followers only of rightwing media haven’t even heard of those prominent deaths.)

Latest example: having pushed to end unemployment benefits in the now-discredited belief that it’d stimulate return to employment, suddenly they’re all for extending those benefits: but only to those who quit their jobs rather than be vaccinated. “We’re here for you, anti-vax conspiracists and Qanoners. Refusers to be microchipped and magnetized. Remember us, if you’re still alive, on election day. Let’s go, Brandon.”

The logic must be that they count on their in-pocket media to make sure voters only note that, say, the pandemic is continuing, or that the economy is struggling in some areas. Memories are short and facts in short supply on the dark side. So if the pandemic rages on, or help for the economically impacted vanishes, it can only be the fault of President Biden and Democrats.

The message will resonate through the airwaves, online, and be force-fed through one-channel TVs. By next election, memories of Republican blockages and refusals, if they once noticed, will vanish like Greenland’s glaciers.

That has to be it: we can do or not do anything we want, they must think, and, like those memory-wipey thingies Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones used, our voters won’t remember a thing. We can count on Trump, if for nothing else, to keep whipping the anger; and we know Tucker, Sean, Laura, et coven, will, too.

How else to explain ongoing Republican attacks on vaccine and mask mandates? Freedom? Choice? Yeah, right. Ask John Roberts about that. No, it can’t be about standing up to tyranny. If that were a Republican virtue, Trump would have been gone with the first impeachment. By now, as numbers of Covid cases continue to rise in mainly red states and they fall here, it’s clear that seeing their constituents fall ill or die doesn’t bother them. Long as they believe they can make a case come November.

In a rational world, of course, there’d be no case. But it’s also obvious that rationality has left that party like Trump left his first two wives. After all, it’s a party in which a celebrity quack like Dr. Oz thinks he can become a US senator. From a state in which he doesn’t live!

Perhaps he’ll get laughed out of the Keystone State. But Lauren Boebert hasn’t been laughed out of Colorado, nor Marjorie Taylor-Greene out of Georgia. Gaetz. Jordon. Cawthorn. People who haven’t passed, much less offered any serious legislation. People who only slur and fan hatred for colleagues on the other side. But they get elected, and that’s the thing. In their districts and states, voters love it. As long as they slander and “stick it to the libs,” they don’t care if nothing gets done on their behalf. In the case of Ms. Boebert, that’s despite the Denver Post’s outraged editorial.

She, for those who missed it, suggested to an appreciative, cheering audience, that Rep. Ilhan Omar could be a terrorist. Said she (Omar) doesn’t represent the America in which she (Boebert) is raising her children. There’s a certain irony in that, you may notice.

And Ms. Taylor-Greene, who, committee-less, fills her time spewing hate and lies, and just got in a fight with fellow Republican but not completely insane Nancy Mace, claims she’s not the “fringe” of the Republican Party, she’s the base. It might be the only true thing she’s ever said.

As a physician and putative scientist, I’ve never been into wishful thinking. But waving a magic wand might be the only way to stop the dying of democracy. When upwards of forty-percent of Americans, suffering cluelessness-by-media, keep electing Republican representatives not on the basis of what they do but whom they hate, absent something metaphysical, the end is near.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Gloaters, Gloating

It’s the gloating. 

Like President Biden, I accept a verdict rendered by twelve citizens, because that’s how it works, and that’s that. Perhaps the instructions they were given by the obviously partial and borderline-nuts judge were a fair rendering of Wisconsin law on self-defense, which, as I understand it, is the stuff of NRA dreams. Poor kid was scared for his life, wept convincingly, so… 

The gloating, though. It burns through what ought to be, on this day after Thanksgiving, a pleasant post-tryptophan fog. It’s a reminder of what we’ve become, and where it leads. Well, not “we,” really. They. “Rhymes-with-Tucker” Carlson already making a laudatory “documentary” about him, had a crew in the car that drove him from the courthouse. The Republican House’s most despicables (tough call) scrambling to be the first to offer him a job, fundraising off it. Madison Cawthorn, after the verdict, saying “Be armed, be dangerous, be moral.” (“Moral.” Nice touch.) Trump, Jr., wanting to gift the boy a real AR-15. Rightwing media, green-light orgasmic

Because, when you have only anger, not a single idea (in the case of the despicables, not a single piece of legislation) that might make life better for non-millionaire fellow Americans, sticking it to the libs and gloating about it is the best you can muster. Seeing them die? Even better.

Their hero may be legally innocent, but he was, and is, no human innocent. Filled with the juvenile version of white resentment and delusions of grandeur; after announcing, before crossing state lines to “protect businesses” that didn’t need it, that he planned to become famous, he had his mommy (!) drive him to Kenosha. Carrying an illegally-obtained assault-style weapon, he placed himself amongst demonstrators, possibly responding to a rightwing call to "take up arms." As people bravely tried to disarm him (fearing for the lives of others) after he’d already killed one, he was firing indiscriminately into the crowd. Squeezed off a few more rounds, killing one more and wounding another. Wish granted: a rightwing hero before the smoke cleared, nor the blood dried.

Did his trial-tested tears come from non-rehearsed remorse, or pre-trial coaching? After all, immediately following his “not guilty” plea he headed to a bar, where his underage drinking, paid for by the assembled crowd, was Wisconsin-legal because his mommy (!) accompanied him. There, he posed with Proud Boys, flashing the white-power hand-sign and wearing a T-shirt that said “Free as F--k.” That’s who he is, whom Trumpists adore.

And it’s who they are, these self-described patriots. By definition, that ought to make every true patriot sick. Feeling ill at where they’re taking America is now what distinguishes Democrats from Republicans. We feel sick; they gloat. The sicker we, the gloater they. Oh, but he isn’t a racist, he told Tucker. Loves him some BLM.

No matter the finer points of Wisconsin’s finest laws, imagine if the kid were black, had showed up, armed unlawfully, at a rally of unarmed white people; paraded through the crowd, then killed a few who tried to take his weapon. Even if he claimed he feared for his life, how likely is it he’d be exonerated?

There followed, of course, the predictable, counterproductive rioting from the usual crowd (whoever they really are) in Portland. Probably too soon after the verdict for Trumpism’s best to organize a lib-hunt. Next time, now that they’ve seen there being no consequences. If not Portland, somewhere. Count on it

And count on the kid being all over rightwing media. Lionized at Trump rallies. Probably running for office someday. Winning. Look out, Gaetz, Cawthorn, Gosar, Taylor-Greene, Boebert, Gohmert, McCarthy, Cruz, Hawley, McConnell, Blackburn, Paul, Graham... You have tough competition for the Deplorability Gold Medal. What a list. People offering nothing positive, voting against their constituents’ best interest at every opportunity. In a party that glorifies violence; rewards those who encourage or commit it. Make anime about it. And, always, receives praise from Trump.

Millions of them, gloating. Even as President Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and Chuck Schumer, whom they hate more than they care about their children’s future, are, unlike that thrombus of Congressional Rs, producing non-socialist legislation that will make life better for them and America.

It’s more proof of the effectiveness of a constant deluge of disinformation on people made irreversibly ignorant by their calculatingly dishonest, deliberately inciting media sources. Hero-worshipping a smirking white-supremacist-would-be for killing libs, convinced the ones getting things done on their behalf are their enemy. Not in the most dystopian novel, ever, would such a premise be considered believable. It’s that. All of it. 

And the gloating.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

A Party Gone Nuts


If the revelations of the past several days haven’t convinced the convincible that the Republican Party, as currently unconstituted, is a clear and present danger to America, cares only about party power, and gone completely over to embracing the worst among us, well, nothing will. It’s hard to know where to start.

When President Biden accomplished what Trump couldn’t, namely getting an infrastructure bill through Congress; and, worse, when thirteen members of their party voted for it, Republicans lost their minds. Called them traitors. Acted as if they’d let Trump’s pal Putin annex the country. Sent death threats like Harry and David fruit baskets.

Georgia’s Congress-defiler Marjorie Taylor-Greene, who, because of her full-time, unproductive nastiness, has become an object of Republican adoration, published the home addresses and phone numbers of the thirteen, deliberately endangering them. Hoping for it. Now they and their families are so vilely threatened that some feared being seen at the signing ceremony.

For what? For deciding that bringing jobs to their districts, along with needed improvements in too many necessities to mention here, was important enough to risk their jobs. For improving their constituents’ lives. As Congresspeople are supposed to do. Risky only in a party that’s gone insane.

But, thanks to Trump et ilk, that’s where we are: a country in which bipartisanship, even in something formerly as uncontroversial as bringing infrastructure toward levels seen in more advanced societies, is political suicide. Because half the country has been convinced, by media doing the work of our international rivals, that it’s socialism or communism, the definitions of which they could no more recite than Critical Race Theory or the Bill of Rights.

Because, metaphorically, they’d happily live in a moldy, cold house without power, under a leaking roof, stranded by a fallen bridge, in order to “stick it to the libs.” Most of the jobs created, of course, will be private-sector. It’s capitalism! Self-harm for political gain: the new definition of insanity.

And whereas they’re attacking their infrastructure-approving members, Republican leaders have been silent on one of their top candidates, in a crowded field, for most horrible member, Arizona’s Paul Gosar, after he posted an anime of himself killing AOC. Across the spectrum and well-received by their voters, Republican advocacy of violence has become a signature element. The more outrage they get from sane people, the better they like it. Tucker Carlson has become the pyrite standard of Foxotrumpian fomentation by falsehood

There’s more. Long overdue, deserved also by several of Trump’s other anti-democracy co-conspirators, Steve Bannon was finally indicted for refusing a Congressional subpoena. Because, you know, law. The Constitution. Bulwarks against autocracy. Things Republicans once valued. Allegedly. Their response? Promises to do the same when they regain control. Because holding lawbreakers to account is something deserving of retaliation. Res, as they say, ipsa loquitur.

Then there’s Trump’s first-choice, best-people, National Security Advisor, pardoned criminal, insurrection facilitator, Q-believer Michael Flynn, calling for Christianity to be the single and only religion in America. To the usual combination of cheers from Trumpists and silence from everyone else on that side. If Trump, our least godly “president,” ever, returns to office, don’t think it couldn’t happen. And don’t expect objections from his party.

Also, even as Trump tries desperately to conceal the truth, facts keep falling like Autumn leaves, as House committees investigate January’s attempted coup. Revelations of how close we came. The clandestine planning leading up to and during January 6. Convolutedly crazy but seriously-proposed justifications for overturning a legitimate, fraud-free election. The fact that Trump defended those chanting “Hang Mike Pence;” that at least one Republican senator, Doctor (to my shame) Barrasso of Wyoming, refused to speak ill of it. Amoral cowardice. 

We’ve also seen more clearly Trump’s malfeasance in addressing the pandemic. The suppression of facts, the silencing of CDC scientists, the outright lies about the seriousness facing the country. How many thousand deaths were due to dereliction even greater than previously understood? 400,000, evidently.

Finally, the revealed memo detailing that Trump fired SecDef Esper because he balked at turning our military into Trump’s personal hit squad against lawful protesters. Had he succeeded, can anyone doubt Trumpists, glued to their TVs, would have watched enraptured? 

This is the guy and these are the people that eighty-plus percent of Republicans want to return to power. A party of, by, for, and about criminality. How any decent person can retain membership is mystifying. Especially in our state, where some respectable conservatives remain. Elsewhere, the crazies have all the power. It bodes ill.

And we haven’t even mentioned covering up a war crime. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Parental Choice


In fifth grade, my teacher gave an example of disinformation. There was a competition, he said, between a Soviet-made car and an American one. The American won. Russia’s newspaper, Pravda, reported an international contest between cars, in which the Soviet car came in second, while the American finished next to last. In Russian, “Pravda” means “truth.” Which it was.

In a local school board race, a candidate’s campaign website featured pictures of a cute, blond, white girl-child and a kimono-wearing (because that’s what they wear) Japanese girl of similar age. “Blaming her for slavery,” it said, referring to the former, “Is like blaming her (the latter) for Pearl Harbor.” Also true. Even though no one is.

Presuming voter ignorance, “Take Critical Race Theory out of our public school system,” was the concluding tagline. It’s not in it, but that’s not the point, either. Republicans cooked up a vote-getting hot-button lie; one that fits snugly behind a forehead, the extraction of which requires too many words for Trumpic consumption. It worked

Riding the wishful whirlwind even further, they’re now campaigning on parents’ right to decide what their children learn in public schools. Likely, it won Virginia’s governorship for Glenn Youngkin. Brilliant. As not-brilliant as Terry McAuliffe’s summary dismissal of the idea. Yet again, a proper response requires more thought than Trumpists prefer. 

Nevertheless, it deserves credible conversation from both sides, not that such a thing exists anymore. Let’s consider it anyway.

Can we agree that societies have a stake in what’s taught in schools; maybe, even, that societies’ needs outweigh those of interest groups? We’ve already seen a sample of Soviet subterfuge. It should be obvious that having nothing but mis- or uninformed citizens opens the door to tyranny. Throughout history, nascent dictators have crossed that transom to little resistance. Others, home-grown, are still trying.

On the other hand, at least theoretically, in a democratic republic the people’s voice is controlling. Or was, pre-McConnell, pre-Foxotrumpism. We presume the people pushing parental power over pedagogy will predominate in political polling. They’re on it already – Republicans are as good at disingenuous messaging as Democrats are bad at it. So how do they propose it should work? They don’t. What’s important is that it inflames superficial thinkers and scores votes. 

Consider a state in which parents would have a say in public school curricula. How much of a say? In what subjects? All parents or chosen ones? Should it be the loudest shouters at school board meetings? Or would there be a parental committee? Selected how, and by whom? Will particular qualifications be required?

Would there be a list of books to be allowed, or banned, subject to popular vote? Who makes the list? What consideration is given to parents who disagree?

How about words? The aforementioned school board candidate said “equity” is a divisive one. Should every parent have the right to tell teachers what their individual children may and may not hear? Or should it be by majority vote of the classrooms’ parents? How, specifically, would this terrific idea work?

In some red states, where, ironically, so-called “liberal cancel culture” is bandied, banning words is under consideration. “Racist” has been suggested. Texas’ governor wants to remove from school libraries any books that any parent claims causes “discomfort.” (Remember “snowflakes?”)

So, if they don’t want their kids reading about slavery, no kids can? What about evolution? Or Jonas Salk, Susan B. Anthony, John Ross? Tulsa? Elvis? Is enforced ignorance good for our country, or, like wearing masks, doesn’t caring about community matter?

Teaching America’s history, unvarnished, is the primary source of rightwing outrage. Science, too. Will Trumpic states produce only kids who are clueless about how and by what means America’s ethics and laws have evolved? Or about science; unable, unwilling, uninterested in knowing what’s real? Other than Republican politician, for what occupation would they be equipped? And let’s not even think about sex education. 

Leave it to liberals, though, to go to their own ridiculous extremes. Consider a proposal in California, where woke is oke. Addressing the gap in math scores, which is real, serious, and a threat to us all, they’d stop identifying gifted children – even suggesting there’s no such thing. Rather than provide accelerated education, they’d have those kids spend time helping the strugglers. Make math “socially responsible.” The consequences for all students and for society are so obvious it’s amazing it was proposed. 

"Sister Sarah (she/her) has five organic, pesticide-free, socially-distanced apples in a hemp basket. How many…" 

That’s why Democrats, despite truly good intentions, lose elections. And why Republicans, despite truly bad ones, win. 
 


Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Flight Of Fancy



As a Flight Surgeon in Vietnam, I was required to fly a certain number of hours per month, on what were, by military definition, combat missions. I chose to avoid bombing operations; rather, I mostly flew in a spy/electronic warfare plane (EC-47), which was, I admit, fun. Because, since they were boring flights for the pilots, who had to, for hours, fly vectors ordered by the spooks in the back of the plane, they let me do the flying (“Roger, left oh-two-oh. Rollout…”)

On my final flight before DEROS (vets know it), the squadron commander asked who landed the plane. Complimented it. “It was the Doc,” the guys said. Humbly, I accepted the accolade.

I flew some refueling flights, too, during which I got to operate the boom that delivered the gas. Lying on my belly, facing backwards, looking out a small window in the tail of a converted 737 (KC 135) as F-4s appeared, joined up behind the tanker, close enough to see the pilots’ faces. Using a joystick, I directed the hose into an opening on the fighter-bomber’s front. At which point one pilot held up a photo that could be taken as a metaphor. Is all I have to say about that.

One flight took me very close to Hanoi. When the pilot announced “bandits” coming onto our “six,” I reached for my parachute and survival vest. Stupid, really, since we were in a gas tank with wings. Not hard to imagine what would happen, were we hit.

My point, here, is that survival vest. It included several interesting items: a hacksaw blade enclosed in a rubber sleeve so it could be inserted in a less-than-sunny location, if you get the drift. Maps. Minimal rations. Flashlight. A beautiful silk cloth bearing an American flag and several Asian languages stating that my government would reward the finders if they kept me safe. Not super reassuring.

And a .38 pistol, containing six rounds of ammo, two of which were tracers. Fighter pilots found that number wholly inadequate, and added bandoliers with a couple hundred rounds. Me? I figured if I found myself on the ground, in a jungle full of hostiles, armed only with a six-shot pistol, in a situation demanding firing off hundreds, all I really needed was one. Dammit, Jim, I’m a doctor, not a Green Beret. 

Reading about the burgeoning market for war-training camps for civilians, brings us to my ultimate point. Militia types, learning urban warfare, are readying to take on libs in a battle to the death. And a Trumpopatriot who, at a recent conservative symposium, asked “When do we get to use the guns.” When, he demanded, can we start killing “those people” who stole the election. The audience cheered. 

The flames are fully fanned, by people lacking any positive ideas, who know they can only win by creating murderous outrage; fueled by which those propagandized patriots, already armed beyond measure, are now practicing for civil war. Our pal Tucker Carlson, for example, is using his latest abomination of a movie, “Patriot Purge,” for no other purpose than that. Creating the America he wants. With his millions, no doubt he’s sure he’ll be safely tuckered away from the rabble, sipping champagne and touching himself. 

In these horrifying times, knowing those people are everywhere now, thanks to believing Trump’s and Tucker’s and Sean’s and Alex’s and so many more’s lies (CRT!! In schools!!!), I think back to circling over Hanoi in that tanker. Reaching for a flimsy, survival-style flak vest, bearing a six-shooter. And today, seriously wondering if is this the time when I ought to arm myself, too. Go out there like a stupefied survivalist, load up with anti-personnel mines, booby traps, full-body armor, ARs and .50 cals, thousands of rounds of ammo, fill a shelter with freeze-dried food. Generators. Water filtration.

I have two deeply adorable grandchildren – I’m sure the only ones more adorable are yours – and, like any loving grandparent, I’d do anything to protect them. Die for them, if it came to that.

But then, would I want to live in a country where mind-controlled militias, itching to kill libs like me, roam the streets? Free to do it because their Congressional and judicial enablers, fearing them, provided the means, despite representing the minority of American citizens. Enraged, brainwashed, believing every lie they’re being told. They’re nearly in charge already, threatening poll workers and school officials, obliterating democracy. Making America exceptionally deplorable.

Fueling that F-4 over Hanoi, looking into its pilot’s eyes, a few seconds after reaching toward that vest, I drew my hand back, empty

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Fair Warning

 


“Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation.” — James Madison

A wretched situation, indeed. Because, whereas many of the Republicans in Congress – McCarthy, Boebert, Gohmert, Gosar, Taylor-Greene, Brooks, Paul, Cruz, Tuberville, etc. – are liars, stupid, or nuts, not all of them are. Mitch McConnell, though a liar, is a genius at perverting everything Democrats are trying to do to help average Americans: which happens to include most of his red-state constituency. He can’t be ignorant of the damage he’s causing; by that, and by closing his eyes to Trumpism. Destitute in virtue, rich in avaricious cowardice, he remains silent; the poster boy for the impending crisis. 

Everyone who cares about America’s future must read the recent dissertation in the Washington Post written by Robert Kagan, actual conservative and member of America’s most respected and balanced think tank, the Brookings Institution. Titled “Our Constitutional Crisis Is Already Here,” it’s a frigid dose of reality. If you profess love of America and its form of government, read it, as an act of patriotism. That includes Trumpists, professors for sure. (Non-subscribers have access to a limited number of articles.)

The opening quote of this column, above, also begins the essay. It continues: “The United States is heading into its greatest political and constitutional crisis since the Civil War, with a reasonable chance over the next three to four years of incidents of mass violence, a breakdown of federal authority, and the division of the country into warring red and blue enclaves…” Later: “… Trump and his Republican allies are actively preparing to ensure his victory by whatever means necessary... Some Republican candidates have already begun preparing to declare fraud in 2022…

Kagan’s analysis of why Trump can do no wrong in the eyes of his supporters, why cowardly Republican leaders fear him, and what it means for democracy, rings true. Justifying red state legislatures’ efforts to legalize overturning disliked election results, unwavering belief in his “stolen election” lie is at the heart of it. A trumpet, heralding the political apocalypse.

The more Trump’s lies are pointed out, the more his cultists love him. “The events of Jan. 6 … proved that Trump and his most die-hard supporters are prepared to defy constitutional and democratic norms…,” writes Mr. Kagan. Said a capitol-rioting woman, he reminds us, “We weren’t there to do damage. We were just there to overthrow the government.” “Just,” she said. Just.

More convincingly and eloquently, Kagan echoes what I’ve written many times: that Madison, et. al., figured they’d created the checks and balances necessary to prevent authoritarianism. Then, though, there were no political parties. If they arose, they surmised, it’d be limited to some states; and, whereas a psychologically unfit deceiver like Trump might become popular locally, national appeal was impossible. Wrongly, they assumed an informed electorate. White, male, and landed, to be sure; but well-enough educated to rebuff demagoguery. Modern Republicans have put that fantasy to rest. Our forefathers were tragically mistaken.

Nor could they imagine today’s rightwing wholesale rejection of the backbone of democracy: elections. Accepting outcomes. Instead, it’s willingness to burn the country down (figuratively, mostly, so far), including threats to poll-workers and their families, to maintain their personal privilege, dismissing the impact on our future. Virtuous it isn’t.

If legislating away free and fair elections is Trumpism’s most obvious threat, anti-mask/anti-vaccine activism is vivid proof of the loss of American idealism for a third of the country and ninety percent of Republicans. All-but-inexplicable susceptibility to transparent lies. Overarching disinterest in understanding the avarice behind them, uncaring how their selfish, misguided, manipulated refusals harm others. (Obvious statement: had American virtue been more present among Trumpists, mandates would have been unnecessary.)

Republicans love to claim Abraham Lincoln as their own, while ignoring his ethos: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right…” Speaking of Whom, they also claim exclusive rights to Jesus. Which makes sense only if they believe the Sermon on the Mount is fake news. Also fake: Republican Secretaries of States’ attestations to a fraud-free election. And that Arizona thing.

Nothing can convince Trumpists they’re being lied to: about the election, CRT, masks and vaccines; glaring, dangerous, and deeply cynical as those lies are. If Mr. Kagan is to be proved wrong, it’ll be when people like Mitch McConnell and actual conservatives, caring nearly as much for America as for themselves, find the courage to disavow Trumpism and the corrosion at its core. Now or never. Like climate change. Time has all but run out.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Critical Thinking. Or Lack Thereof.

File under “duh.” Is what I thought when I saw the headline: “Conspiracy theorists lack critical thinking skills: New study.” But it was a slow day, so I read the article. Although it lacked a link to the study, it described what was done: giving groups of students an established critical thinking essay test and correlating results with belief in conspiracy theories. The unsurprising results, and the test itself, are stated in the article. Like I said: duh. It did make a provocative, if questionable point, saying susceptibility to conspiratorial thinking had nothing to do with intelligence. Well, okay. Maybe it’s a matter of definition. 

But that’s not the important part. The article also cited studies showing that, unlike intelligence, critical thinking can be taught. Which led to an “aha” moment. It explains the depressing scenes of demon-possessed parents at school board meetings, spouting insane falsehoods, threatening jobs and lives, based on fact-free belief in repeatedly disproved conspiracy theories. Critical Race Theory being taught in schools. Unnamed “studies” showing the ineffectiveness and dangers of wearing masks. And of vaccines. Comparing (because Tucker Carlson and the rest of Fox’s falsifiers do) mask mandates to felonious child abuse, or to the Holocaust. Threatening dire reprisals

Lacking, as they do, critical thinking skills, those blood-in-the-eye, crazed true believers can’t help themselves. Knowingly pushing those lies, though, the prime poisoners of their paralyzed perceptions can. Which is where the article triggered the “aha.” It’s in public schools, after all, that people begin to acquire critical thinking skills and the desire to engage them. And what Foxotrumpian leaders fear most is critical thinking.

As with the need to create distrust in free and fair elections, which they know they can’t win, so the Trumpublican Party needs to create as much distrust in public education as possible, lest too many citizens become thinkers. They’ve been working on it for decades; now, the pandemic has gifted them the perfect whipping-up boy. Vaccines. Masks. Mandates. Pure evil, right in our schools, intentionally harming our kids. Just like those child-trafficking, baby-killing, blood-drinking, liberal hangers-out at pizza joints.

But, Q dang it, critical thinking can be taught! Which imperils the con; namely, spreading lies to keep people distracted from what Trumpublicans are doing to their health, their education, their planet, their future, (in the case of infrastructure, it’s what they’re not doing), their chance at The American Dream -- in order to reward themselves and their donors.

Uncharacteristically, a guest on Fox “news” just unbagged the feline. “This is gonna be a boon, or a boom,” he said, referring to those demented protests at school board meetings, “for private schools, for charter schools, for homeschoolers, who are gonna look for an alternative other than in the public schools…” 

That’s the logic: Voters who think critically see through the grift. Critical thinking starts with public education. Ergo, destroy or dumb it down to meaninglessness. Whitewash history. Knowing it’s nothing of the sort, call teaching about slavery or the Trail of Tears, for example, attempts to get white kids to hate themselves. Describe efforts, in K-12 education, to mitigate the effects of poverty on performance, as “divisive.” Ban it from curricula. It’s “cancel culture,” multiplied times Texas. Where it’s been raised to supra-snowflake levels

In fairness – and I’m nothing if not fair – I’ll assume most of those furious parents believe they’re acting in their children’s interest. Because they lack the tools of resistance to Carlsonian confabulations, they’re unquestioning in their conspiratorial worldview, certain that even violence is justified. Who wouldn’t be, to protect their kids? Sadly, for everyone, they’re incapable of realizing the harm being done is coming from them

But, we’ve read, they’re not all stupid. Which means, had they any desire, they’re capable of exerting the minimal effort required to learn the truth. Theories abound about the attraction of conspiracy theories, and why such people prefer them. Mental illness. Loneliness. Desperation to belong. Validation of self-worth. Brains evolved to seek connections, short-circuiting into paranoia. Whatever the explanation, it’s there for exploitation by people of ill will. And if it’s always been a part of the human condition, the internet and (anti-)social media have given it the power to destroy. Nations. Democracy. Schools.

On the same slow day, I read an article about people trying to free themselves from the brain-eating bondage of Q-anon. Seeking cult-conversion therapy. Both hopeful and depressing, it describes only a small number of victims finding a way out. While others dig in deeper. 

At this point, is there a solution? Education? If only. Watch this, and decide.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Godfathered

 

Readers of last week’s column, which highlighted Trump’s bizarre claims about the extraneous Arizona election audit, are now convinced he’s a pathological liar or clinically insane. After this week’s, none will doubt he’s a would-be Mafia Don. Capo di tutti capi. Who controls a nationwide criminal organization intent on taking down democracy the way the Sicilian Mafia took down the few brave police and prosecutors who stood in their way.

(Having just spent time there, seeing memorials, everywhere, to those selfless resistors and the pride Sicilians deservedly take in finally standing up to the mob, we hope for comparable monuments in a future America. Assuming she has a future.)

Despite Republican/Trumpist/Foxian efforts to disappear it, some Americans might remember January 6. Some may even have sought legitimate, Fox/Newsmax/OAN-free sources of information about it, and discovered how Trump nearly accomplished overturning a legitimate, fraud-free election, by way of corrupt insiders and orchestrated insurrection. And the extent to which prominent Rs abetted the sedition. And still are. 

So, though its Republican members would like to rub it out, we have a Congressional Commission looking in. Subpoenas have been issued to Trump’s henchmen and consiglieri, as well they should. Because Congressional oversight is how our democracy protects itself from despotism. It’s in the Constitution – that hoary document which, while claiming willingness to die for it, today’s Republicans and their draft-dodging leader are setting on fire to light their torches of demographic resentment.

Overseeing the Executive is our Constitution’s second-most important safeguard. The Declarative Dads got several things wrong (slavery, women, Electoral College, too-skewed Senate), but, familiar with the tyranny of monarchical power, that part they got right. Without it, dictatorship is inevitable, and getting all too close.

Venerated parchment has no power of its own. Absent universal, non-partisan buy-in, calligraphic words are vapor. We’ve seen how close we came to a failed republic when Trump put lawless lackeys in charge of critical institutions. And we’ve heard the Republican hos and hums that followed.

Don Trumpleone doesn’t buy in, nor do members of his party in Congress. Or out in the states. So, despite lacking the power of office, but supported by his 24/7 network of media wiseguys, he made an offer they couldn’t refuse: Defy the subpoenas. Put concrete shoes on the rule of law. Shove it through smashed windows. Reveal yourselves as an anarchic crime family. It worked during impeachment, consequence-free. The party of law, patriotism, family values, and fiscal responsibility: making words meaningless; getting away with it.

Defy them they did. Which bids us to remind their cheerers-on, in case they’ve forgotten, that when a Republican Congress blamed Hillary Clinton for all our country’s woes, she, believing in law and order, answered their subpoenas, sat for eleven hours straight while trumped-up charges kangarooed her way; amounting, in the end, to nothing.

Contempt of Congress is a punishable crime, as it must be. This time, actual crimes were committed. Trump’s Department of Justice, upon which the responsibility of prosecution falls, was headed by an obsequious lieutenant, willing to lie to America, who considered his job protecting the godfather, rather than the law.

Now it’s Merrick Garland, a man of unquestionable integrity. Understanding and committed to preserving the independent role of his Department, unlike his conscience-free, Trumpophilic predecessors, it’s likely he’ll see justice served. And, accordingly, that our democracy and respect for its laws are preserved. 

At least we hope so. If not, it’s over. Foxotrumpification has brought us closer than the founders imagined possible. Not just politicians, and not just their disingenuous repetition of Trump’s Big Lie.

With deliberately incendiary language, amoral Foxfather Tucker Carlson, in it for money and the orgastic thrill of power over the incurably incurious, called on viewers to attack school boards for requiring masks. Criminal child abuse, he called it. They did as commanded. Such malleable idiocy is inimical to democracy and an embarrassment to long-gone Republicanism. It’s only one example of what they’ve become. 

More powerful than Congressional oversight, fair and free elections are the ultimate bulwark against authoritarianism. While proclaimed “conservatives” cheer in deadly silence, red states are close to obliterating that, too. With ever more egregious and blatantly race-based gerrymandering, along with phony laws aimed at non-existent fraud, the Trumpist gang has ordered a hit on majority rule. A carefully-calibrated coup

Without resistance from within, of which there’s little left, the Don and his transcontinental crime family will confirm how powerless our Constitution really is, when so few on the right actually believe in it.

But don’t take it from me. Take it from one of their most-targeted truth-tellers.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

News Of The Week

 

If the current big and predictably evanescent story is the “Pandora Papers,” which confirmed – surprise! -- corruption among many world leaders and other wealthies, and how states like South Dakota, governed by one of Trump’s biggest sycophants, are welcoming tax cheats, there are other indicators, too, of how close to collapse we are. 

Anyone remember that “forensic” audit of votes in Arizona’s Maricopa County? By a group headed by another Trump-fluffing faker? Which would prove Trump won and sell lots of pillows? Well, months and millions later, it released its findings: Biden still won. By more votes than previous recounts had found. Which might surprise Fox “news” viewers; after pre-hyping it incessantly, Fox made nearly zero mention of the final report.

But that’s not the story. The story is that, after the results became public, Trump stood before an enraptured crowd and, preceded by his usual hallucinatory word-salad, uncorked the following grotesquetude: “We won on the Arizona audit yesterday at a level you wouldn’t believe.” 

They would, though. In a functioning democracy, having borne witness to real-time, living proof he’s a liar or insane, everyone in attendance would have flown the coup. They didn’t. Didn’t even blink. Which underscores the success of perpetual Trumpic election fraud claims: suborning rejection of elections past, present, and future in which Republicans lose. To that end, despite multiple audits showing no fraud, more are underway in other red states, the outcomes of which don’t matter. To the pre-softened, it’s show, not substance.

Like the debt ceiling charade. Per usual, Republican tax cuts broke the budget. Then, predictable as Trump’s next confabulation, when the bill comes due, they threaten default, dishonestly blaming Democrats’ future plans, which include pay-for.

Speaking of duplicity, a member of the right-wing, white-supremacist group known as Boogaloo Bois just admitted posing as a BLM member while shooting up a police station in Minneapolis. It’s not the only instance; the FBI has said so. In fact, it’s a solid bet that nearly all violence at BLM demonstrations was by racist poseurs. Another instance of convincing the eagerly susceptible. “BLM is a terrorist group” is ubiquitous Foxotrumpian fake news. And believed. 

In another threat to the Republic, we’ve now passed 700,000 deaths from Covid-19; even as red-state governors do all they can to keep the pandemic alive. Even as deaths are now nearly exclusively among the unvaccinated. Doesn’t matter. If Trumpists believe he “won” the Arizona audit, they’ll believe anything, literally to their dying day.  

And they’ll believe, for another democracy-killing example, that Texas’ egregious anti-abortion law, based on lies, religious hypocrisy, false promises, and bad science, represents no threat to anyone other than young women and their doctors; because who cares? Monday, in a New Yorker interview, Attorney General Garland warned of disturbing possibilities.

The law, for technicalities that challenge comprehension, avoids judicial review of its blatant unconstitutionality by having “deputized” citizens, not state agencies, to become watchdogs and bringers of lawsuits against anyone exercising what remains, for now, a constitutional right. That’s as cynical as it gets.

The same approach could be legislated against any other right, avoiding judicial review, Garland stated. Not worried? What if it were guns? Or religion? No worries: it’d only be Islam, right? Judaism, maybe. Sikhs. Heads covered by anything but white sheets. Hyperbole? Texas is the latest red state proposing to make the Bible its “state book.”

Speaking of head-coverings, we learned last week that the anti-masks-in-schools movement gets funding from Koch-related money. Same with groups pushing the lie that Critical Race Theory is taught in our K-12 public schools. So virulent is that duo of disinformation that school boards around the country need federal protection. But, hey, it's okay with Republicans.

Clearly, Koch and other involved billionaires believe the way to keep their money safe from taxes that help average people, is continual, manufactured outrage. Truth being unprofitable, they opt for lying to reliably gullible Trumpists. 

But there’s no more sickening example of manufactured outrage than Fox “news” latest attack on Tammy Duckworth. What horrible people they are. 

Finally, there’s President Biden’s $3.5 trillion “Build Back Better” bill. An unimaginable amount of money, causing predictable splits within the perennially suicidal Democratic Party, and fainting-couch hypocrisy from Republicans. How unimaginable? Well, it’d be spent over ten years. Meaning $350 billion per year, on programs that’d make millions of Americans safer, healthier, more secure, less impoverished, better prepared for employment. How much is that, in context? Less than half of what’s spent, annually, on the military. Makes you think. Or would, if thinking were still a thing.

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