Wednesday, April 27, 2022

So, So Wrong

A column written, but not published, the day after Trump’s “election:” 

How wrong I’ve been. Wrong about climate change, wrong about the value to our country of immigrants, wrong about the idea that separation protects religious freedom. I’ve been wrong in thinking Americans would reject a lifelong liar and cheat who knows nothing about our Constitution, or foreign affairs, or our system of governance.

I was right, too. The power of the dishonest right-wing propaganda machine can’t be overstated. The ease with which they made it possible to reject facts, ignore lies, consider expertise dangerous, is something I’ve pointed out, repeatedly; my wrongness was in thinking there were enough people able to recognize and reject it.

It’s hard to accept that I live in a country where a minority, who don’t value the things I value, rules: diversity, lending a hand, education, science, protecting the environment, believing our greatness isn’t military power, but the power of our ideas, the potential for success in people of all races, religions, backgrounds. But it’s true, and I’ll have to deal with it.

People who, because of my liberalism, consider me a traitor, have won the day. We’ll see how it plays out, a vengeful narcissist at the head of our government, one who’s promised to use the powers of our government against those who challenge him. (Maybe I should disappear my columns.) He has Congress in his pocket, too; time will tell how he’ll deal with those in his party that didn’t support him. He’s made it clear he’ll go after “enemies.” His past business behavior indicates he will.

I don’t think I’ve been wrong about the horrors that will follow the election of such a man, but since I’ve been wrong about everything else, maybe that, too. There have been times when I’ve thought that if he won it’d finally make clear how wrong he is about what makes our economy strong, and about what makes America strong in the eyes of the world; that Trumpism will disappear. If not, we’re in deep trouble as a nation and as a world. We’ll know soon enough.

Unlike Republican electeds during the Obama years, I accept the results: he won the Electoral College, and that’s how it works. I hope against all likelihood that Donald Trump will either make the effort to become educated on political matters or that he’ll defer, as he’s suggested, to other people while he savors the trappings but not the responsibilities of office; that he’ll abandon deliberate division as the path to maintaining power.

Over the years I’ve told countless patients facing grave illness, let’s work for the best while preparing for the worst. Given the stakes, and unlike Mitch McConnell and his ilk, who wished it for President Obama, I can’t hope for Trump to fail. I have grandchildren. I want them to grow into a world that’s welcoming, safe, unpolluted, with a climate that’s compatible with human life. I want my granddaughter to be valued for who she is, not devalued because of her sex. If either of them turns out to be gay, I want them to live without fear, to have the same rights as the rest of us. I want their schools to teach truth and, because democracy depends on it, empathy.

I don’t want to see our country consumed by hate and fear of people of differing backgrounds. I want science to be valued, religious differences to be respected. So I must hope that the seriousness of his office will find a way into Donald Trump’s selfish heart, and that he or the people to whom he turns over the job won’t turn our country back to the worst of times.

Hope is all I have now. Because, as it turns out, I’ve been entirely wrong about who we are. 

Update, 4/29/22: I under-predicted the bad. America is now riven by divisions far greater than before he took office, the flames of hate fanned and vote suppression brought to levels at which democracies don’t survive. He listened to crooks, liars, xenophobes, racists, and incompetents.

Trumpists in Congress block progress, just to “stick it to libs;” pushing hate, not help. And they’ll be reelected. Marjorie Taylor Greene. What more proof is there?

Caught lying outright, future Speaker Kevin McCarthy still denies he said what he said, on tape! For Republicans, denying reality isn’t disqualifying: it’s required. The Big Lie: gospel. In Ohio, Trump just called for one-day, in-person voting, which would disenfranchise  millions.

Their obvious, direct threat to democracy ought to see every Trumpublican voted out, yet the opposite appears likely. Other than spite, what do Trumpists think they're getting out if it?

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Judgement Daze

And, lo, great happiness came upon the land. And the people uncovered their faces and lifted them joyfully to the heavens (closer to which they had risen by about thirty-thousand feet). Hosannas were shouted, and citizens wept as one in gratitude. Sang they their praises to the blessed source, whence came the glad tidings, whose Name remained on their lips like manna, thenceforth and forevermore. All glory they pledged to That who gaveth even as it tooketh away. For They are and shall be known as … the Federalist Society.

It's what happens when a “president” who neither understands nor cares about the law is lazy enough simply to rubber-stamp recommendations from a far-right group of lawyers and judges, a group whose criteria for judgeships are two: longevity and predictable predilection to legislate from the bench in their favor. Packaged and delivered by Fed S., the judge who contravened mask mandates was approved by McConnell’s Senate despite a “not qualified” assessment by the American Bar Association, despite being only eight years out of law school, and despite having never tried a single case in a court of law. Legal scholars have called her opinion a “train wreck,” a “concocted justification.” 

Denying entry to an airplane if unmasked, she “reasoned,” is equivalent to unlawful detention and quarantine. Whatever your opinions about masking in a flying sardine can, that level of legal twisticuffs in order to grant the goals of those who bought her judgeship ought to disturb everyone. But, as the anti-democratic end has come to justify any non-democratic means, it won’t.

Thanks to Mitchotrumpic court-packing with hardcore right-wing ideologues and religious zealots, there’s worse to come. Compared to everything else a majority of Americans support but which Trumpublicans and their courts don’t, masks are nothing: availability of abortion and birth control; equal voting access including mail-in ballots; LGBT rights; government action on climate change; renewable energy; public schools. And the holy grail: separation of church and state. The Christian right considers itself an oppressed majority, and now they have the courts.

A local football coach’s case is teed up to bring it all down. Why else would this Federalist Society’s handpicked SCOTUS have agreed to hear his case against the Bremerton School District, after previous, less radicalized ones refused? They have a plan.

Told he couldn’t hold prayer meetings with his players on the fifty-yard line of the high school field, after games, the coach did so anyway. Students from the stands and a rightwing legislator ran onto the field to join in after he defied the order. He and all of Christendom were the victims, they cried; not kids who’d have chosen not to participate, had they not felt pressure to do so. Predictably, as night follows dei, hate mail and threats from the saintly aggrieved followed the ruling. 

It's the same argument, whether prayer in school or creches on courthouse lawns or Christmas O’Reilly’s fake war: Christians are the victims, not people of other or no faiths. Performing their piety everywhere but in government spaces isn’t enough. Despite Jesus’ admonition. (Matthew 6:5-8)

In fact, BSD invited coach to hold his meetings off-campus. Doesn’t matter: it’s persecution. Nor could the inevitable ruling be coming at a better time. Since the “election” of Trump, there’s been a steady rise in attacks on Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, and their places of worship. And cemeteries. Will it become nationwide mobs? With “presidential” encouragement?

Can any observer of current trends deny Trump’s America is capable of mob rule, or of a government that leads the way while courts look the other? If Trumpublicans, already producing intimidating, death-threatening hordes at school board meetings and polling places, control all branches of government? Their states are busily banning books and words by the hundreds. With courts curated for pre-determined outcomes, can religious tests for office be far behind? (Good news: if Trump can fake being a Christian and fool millions, anyone can.)

It’s not just their judges who signal that party’s decline. Funded in the millions, supported by powerful Republicans, there are, so far, seventy-eight Q-anon-affiliated candidates running for office in at least twenty-six states. Thirty-six are running for Congress; all are registered Republicans except four Independents. 

And there’s Sarah Palin, proudly uninformed Fox contributor seeking national office, Scott Pruitt, disgraced former Trump EPA head, and Eric Greitens, similarly disgraced Missouri governor. Not to mention dozens of current Representatives, uninterested in legislating but pushers of The Big Lie while fomenting division and hate; all likely to be reelected.

Democracy has rounded the final turn, heading into the home stretch. It’s 2022, or never. And it’s looking more and more like never.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

The Party Of Q

Being in Congress is a good gig: prestige, power, perks. Lavish retirement. Money on the side, if you’re so inclined. If coming up with well-considered, beneficial legislation for all Americans weren’t so hard, it’d be perfect.

But wait! Today’s Republicans figured out how to retain the benefits while not legislating at all. Getting reelected by way of electoral manipulations and by inflaming their distractable voters with disinformation and scapegoating, they’re realizing no downside to filling the wells of Congress with conscienceless, unproductive people. And they’ve hit upon the latest campaign targets to accomplish it: gay and trans Americans.

Fully given over to Qanon and Qanon-adjacent conspiracies, it’s “Pizzagate” gone mainstream, hollered from the halls of Congress, where inflammatory, rightist mendacity has become routine. Anyone who voted for Judge Jackson, declared Margorie Taylor Greene, is “pro-pedophile.” When Judge Jackson was officially confirmed, as Democrats stood and applauded, every Republican senator except Mitt Romney made a nasty, low-minded show of walking out. How nasty and low-minded must they consider the voters for whom they were performing?

Florida’s preferred nomenclature for its “Don’t say gay” bill has become “Anti-Grooming,” a truly despicable slander; as if it’s true that liberals want to “groom” your kids to become gay, and as if “grooming” sexual orientation is even possible. “If you’re against the Anti-Grooming Bill, you are probably a groomer, or at least you don’t denounce the grooming of 4 to 8 year-old children,” accused Repugnant Ron DeSantis, DeSmugly. It’s their latest vote-getting trigger-word; probably focus-group-tested with Fox viewers.

Grooming is, in fact, how they see any teaching of reality, because educated voters threaten their policy-free electoral schemes. Promoting misunderstanding of gender identity issues, Republican leaders sense a winning strategy for getting their base to vote, against their own interests, for people that otherwise dismiss them. Transgender girls in sports, for example, is a complicated issue, deserving honest discussion. Lacking ideas for our more existential problems, they’ll run on it, cynically. “I hope the left doesn’t understand how big of a deal it is,” said Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins.

Bullying America’s most vulnerable gets the votes they need, from the ill-informed people they’ve groomed. Rushing to make it a felony even to counsel transgender youth, red states play doctor, while pretending they’re the party of limited government. 

More DeSantis: he just threatened “cold war” with Georgia if they elect Stacy Abrams governor. Yet self-described conservatives rationalize remaining in that “limited government” party, one of whose governors tries to intimidate voters in another state over their potential electoral choices. One who’ll likely seize the mantle of Trumpism and lead the party to even worse breaches of constitutional democracy. (Admittedly, if Georgia replaces Senator Raphael Warnock with debate-avoiding, ill-informed, domestic abuser, Trump-endorsed Hershel Walker, cold war comes to mind.)

How disinterested are today’s Republicans in solving problems meaningfully? Texas governor Abbott says he’ll round up migrants and bus them to D.C. How fact-averse? Playing to cultivated stupidity, a candidate for Wisconsin Attorney General promises to prosecute doctors who refuse to prescribe ivermectin for Covid, despite its multiply-confirmed ineffectiveness. Given the undead persistence of Trumpism, it’s probably a winning strategy.

How lawless have they become? All but two R Representatives voted against holding Peter Navarro and Dan Scavino in contempt of Congress for refusing Constitutional subpoenas. “The militant left wing in our country has become the enemy within,” said senator and convicted Medicare-fraudster Rick Scott, borrowing successful terminology from history’s worst tyrants while providing no examples of left-wing activities comparable to what militant right-wingers did on January 6. Republicans’ perpetual self-labeling as the party of law and order is laughable.

Sixty-three voted against a resolution in support of NATO, guardian of European freedom, and, by extension, our own. Ten voted against aid for Ukraine until Trump’s easily-breached wall is finished. (In fairness, the Senate voted unanimously to withdraw “most favored nation” trade status from Russia. Brave patriots all.)

Because of Republicans’ and their media’s grooming of credulous believers, none of the preceding outrages matter. Proof: under President Biden, job creation has occurred at the greatest pace in history; yet more Americans believe there’s been a net loss than know the truth. Why bother with policy when Trumpofoxification works so well? 

Is there a solution? Well, an experiment was done with regular Fox “news” viewers, getting them to switch to CNN for a month. As the researchers reported, “… participants concluded that Fox concealed negative information about President Trump. Partisan media does not only [give] its side an electoral advantage—it may present a challenge for democratic accountability.” Gee. Ya think? 

So, there it is: unFoxify voters, save democracy. If only 

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

If Only They'd Listen

As if it isn’t already obvious, we’ve received another warning from climate researchers that we’re heading toward an “unlivable world.” Timely, a letter-writer to this paper recently threatened to cancel her subscription because of its coverage of climate change. Weather has always had “ups and downs,” she wrote. And, by golly, as I began this column, the sunny sky darkened and there was a flash of lightning, followed by a thunderous downpour. The temperature dropped four degrees in a minute. And now there’s some blue sky again. She’s right!

And she correctly thinks climate alarmism is about cashing in. But she suspects the wrong people. It’s not Governor Inslee, ma’am. It’s oil companies and their wholly-owned Congresspeople, who’ve unalarmed you. 

Deviating from the norm, she omitted the well-petrolated trope that in the ‘70s scientists were predicting another ice age. For one thing, it was a small minority of scientists. For another, the effects of greenhouse gases were less-well understood back then. And such a reversal over fifty years pretty much proves how fast the climate is changing. Unlike Trump’s lies and Fox’s “news,” science evolves with new information.

Likely, she’s a nice lady; loves her grandkids, if she has some, as much as I love mine. If so, why hasn’t she made the effort to become informed? Her children and theirs will be the ones who’ll suffer. Are there news media in Hell? Forced to watch MSNBC forever to see what they’d done would be well-deserved eternal punishment for Foxophilic deniers. 

Though the window for action is closing fast, there’s good news: education is still possible. Also, bad news: it requires turning off right-wing media and pretty much every elected Republican. And reading honest sources

So strong is the evidence, the predictions wrong only to the extent they underestimated speed and severity, it’s starting to look like all climate-change deniers are on the take, paid-off by crude CEOs and petro-dictators. We know Trump is in the sack with Putin, but by now one wonders even about denialist letter-writers to this paper. Ignorance neither excuses nor explains it anymore. Any reason is depressing, but which is worse: that people are terminally gullible, ignorant by choice, born without information-processing ability, or simply I-don’t-care greedy? What other explanation can there be?

Climate-change denial is on a par with another letterer on the same day, who still thinks Trump won and that evidence of Russian electoral assistance is a “patently false narrative.” How, one wonders, does he dismiss this undisguised admission on Russian TV

But let’s believe Trumpublicans that climate change is a hoax. Thanks to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, we’re seeing the consequences of a world dependent on predatory, dictatorial countries that produce fossil fuels. Even as Putin commits genocidal war crimes, those countries refuse to condemn him. We’re still selling weapons to some, and buying their oil. 

How much closer might we be to permanent energy independence if Trump hadn’t undone everything President Obama did to promote renewable energy? In fact, like most everything wrong with today’s Republican party, that damaging trend started with Saint Ronnie, as he did the same to President Carter’s efforts to reduce the need for oil fifty years ago.

Even if climate change weren’t threatening life on Earth, fossil fuels will run out eventually. The cost of renewables is rapidly coming down and efficiencies are increasing. What might the price of gas be today if Carter’s and Obama’s intentions hadn’t been quashed? In Snohomish County, 98% of our electricity comes from renewable sources. There’s no good argument against aiming for it for all of America. Think of the jobs it’d create.

It’s a good bet, too, that the problems of nuclear waste will be solved, making nuclear power highly attractive. Meanwhile, we know of several golf courses on the east coast and in Scotland, Ireland, Bali, and Dubai where it could be stored.

Yes, there remain significant issues with renewables. Birds killed, for one. Storage of energy when the sun and wind are off duty, for another. But in both areas, things are looking up. Something as simple as painting windmills differently is making a difference. Spinning towers instead of mills are promising, too. And, like computer storage from a few years ago till now, battery technology is evolving energetically. Lighter, denser, cheaper. Using current tech, some homes in the US are solar-electric 24/7. It’ll only get better.

Bombarded constantly with disinformation, we can sympathize with the letter-lady. But it only takes a moment to consider who benefits and who loses from continued use of fossil fuels to realize what’s going on.

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