Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Let's Be Immoderate

In response to anger over his abolitionist advocacy, William Lloyd Garrison, founder of the anti-slavery newspaper, The Liberator, wrote this, in 1831: “I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or to speak, or write, with moderation. Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm ... but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I will not equivocate ... AND I WILL BE HEARD.”

Everyone, not just columnists, can be heard. By friends, family. By their conscience. If Trump’s and his Congressional conspirators’ recent behavior doesn’t end their political careers, and if you’ve not said something, anything, to anyone, you’re with them.

After Trump made undeniable his intent to subvert America to save himself, no Republican leader has had the guts to place country above power and party. Witnessing his hate for everything that our country stands for and by which it has survived as the world’s most durable democracy, their craven, cowardly silence is an indictment more powerful than any heading Trump’s way.

Fully aware of how his cultists respond to his unsubtle calls for violence, Trump posted a picture of himself wielding a baseball bat next to a picture of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s head. Predictable as lies at his rallies, death threats ensued. On his Truthless Social platform, he ranted like a street-corner doomsayer: "What kind of person can charge another person, in this case a former President of the United States ... and leading candidate (by far!) for the Republican Party nomination, with a Crime, when it is known ... that potential death & destruction in such a false charge could be catastrophic for our Country?" Death and destruction. Subtle. 

“Bragg,” he on-rambled, “ ... is a Soros backed animal who just doesn’t care about right or wrong no matter how many people are hurt [projection much?]... this is Russia and China [whose leaders he later praised as “very smart people”], but worse. Disgraceful! ... He is just carrying out the plans of the radical left lunatics. Our country is being destroyed, as they tell us to be peaceful!” An animal! Backed by a Jew! Radical left! Don’t be peaceful! Grab a bat and follow me. I’ll be right behind you.

There’s been no condemnation from elected Republicans. To the contrary, offering a free pass for all crimes Trump has committed or has yet to, House Republicans floated a law preventing state or local prosecution of any ex-president. Insurrection-lauding Marjorie Taylor Greene led a flagrant flock of fellow felon-fluffers to visit and glorify incarcerated January 6 rioters, calling them “political prisoners.” Later, she demanded defunding “the justice system.” Which, because it’s America, had given them fair trials and found them guilty. 

At last weekend’s Wacko rally, miming allegiance to justice, Trump stood hand-hearted, as a sappy recording blared his voice and those of convicted January Six felons singing our national anthem. While video of their seditious attack on the Capitol played, reverentially, like a hymn.

Trump and MAGA Republicans are all in on insurrection. Without irony and to cheers of his unpatriots, he eructed his usual election lies, poor-me-isms, and a promise that, if elected, “The thugs and criminals who are corrupting our justice system will be defeated, discredited, and totally disgraced.” We can hope.

It’s not those who’d apply the law to Trump who threaten our country; it’s those who wouldn’t. Until Republican leaders renounce him and his poisonous anti-Americanism, voting for any of them is nearly treasonous. So says respected conservative, retired Federal Judge, Michael Luttig: “The Republican Party has made its decision that the war against America’s Democracy and the Rule of Law it instigated on January 6 will go on, prosecuted to its catastrophic end.” 

People like those who attend Trump’s rallies to have their hatreds and grievances validated by a lying sociopath will never forswear him. But for Congresspeople sworn to defend our Constitution, and anyone who believes in America, there’s no longer any excuse to excuse Trump. There never was.

“If they can come for Trump, they can come for you,” say his mouthpieces. But it’s the reverse: if they can come for you for committing crimes, they MUST come for him, too. Conservatism can survive another four years of job and economic growth, protecting public education, rebuilding infrastructure, addressing climate change, protecting voting and civil rights, women’s and LGBT rights; providing for people in need, strengthening NATO, and more. It cannot endure another four years of Trumpism, though, and neither can America. Aiming to destroy the Republic to escape justice, Trump endangers us all. Silence is complicity.

And William Lloyd Garrison was a Republican.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023



Editorial demands being what they are, at the time of sending in this column it was unknown whether Trump had been/will be indicted for, as Trey “Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi” Gowdy put it, “paying for sex.” So far, the only announcement has been from lifelong liar Trump, himself, who then proceeded to denounce “leaks.”

It’s all but certain that indictments are coming, and that Stormy Daniels is merely the appetizer on a comprehensive menu of indelicacies. But we don’t need an indictment to know how Republican leaders and media will respond. They’ve been embarrassing themselves and our country since Trump unbarned the horse.

Certifying his unfitness for the job he bought with what remained of his soul, “Speaker” Kevin McCarthy answered “No one is above the law,” when asked if Trump is. “But no one is under it, either,” he added, signifying nothing.

If the most stupid, that was the least deplorable of his utterances. He made clear what’s been obvious since his party elected a prolific liar, scammer, law-suit-laden, proud tax-evader, suspected launderer of Mafia money, serial adulterer. Namely, that the “party of law and order” cares for neither. Having no idea what, if any, the charges are, or what evidence was presented to the Grand Jury, he nevertheless opined, “Here we go again. An outrageous abuse of power by a radical DA who lets violent criminals walk as he pursues political vengeance against President Trump.” 

“Vengeance.” A District Attorney looking into possible criminal activity. Doing his job. The way it works. If indicted after Grand Jury consideration, a person is entitled to a trial in which evidence is presented and defense is mounted. He’s convicted or exonerated. It’s the American way, as opposed to how Mussolini’s career ended. For example.

McCarthy wasn’t done. “I’m directing relevant committees to immediately investigate if federal funds are being used to subvert our democracy by interfering in elections with politically motivated prosecutions.” He said, interfering with a state’s constitutional judicial process. What better example of “weaponizing government” is there than that? Other than Jim Jordan’s committee looking into weaponization of government. Or the endless investigations of Hillary Clinton, which Kevin McCarthy admitted at the time were about ending her political career. Maybe he forgot. Let us not. 

There’s an even better example; namely, the letter sent to NYC District Attorney Alvin Bragg, signed by three of McCarthyism’s committee chairmen: “You are reportedly about to engage in an unprecedented abuse of prosecutorial authority: the indictment of a former President of the United States and current declared candidate for that office,” they fulminated, demanding his presence before them. Having no authority to require it.

Well, of course it’s unprecedented. Until Trump, America had never Electoral-Colleged a “president” whose pre-, intra-, and post-“presidential” activities were so deserving of criminal investigation. Clearly, they consider Trump above the law. And, we must infer, no crime or suspected crime, no matter how egregious, by any former president, and no one running for that office, may be prosecuted, or even investigated. (Presumably, there’s an expiration date on that proposition. Instantly, when President Biden is out of office.)

Similar to McCarthy’s rejection of American jurisprudence and due process, Rand Paul offered these self-canceling words: "A Trump indictment would be a disgusting abuse of power. The DA should be put in jail." Evidently convinced he has a shot at Trump’s old job, not-hung Mike Pence chimed in: "... when there's a crime wave in New York City, the fact that the Manhattan DA thinks that indicting President Trump is his top priority I think just tells you everything you need to know about the radical left." Right. Buttons pushed: the radical left; crime waves. Plus, evidently, Pence believes a DA’s office can do only one thing at a time.

From there, it gets laughable. James Comer, one of the signers of that letter to DA Bragg, said an indictment would be intended to distract from Hunter Biden’s laptop. Makes perfect sense. Possible “presidential” criminality is way below what’s on the unsecured hard drive of a private citizen.

Then Tucker Carlson, causing "irony" to disappear from all dictionaries, said, “You don’t fantasize about your political opponents going to jail.” Really? Has there ever been a rally when Trump didn’t lead cheers of “Lock her up”? Does Tucker not recall when Trump called on Attorney General Bill Barr to lock up Joe Biden, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton? 

Trump and MAGA Republicans will see his indictments as proof of his perfection. Before Reagan and Gingrich, Republicans’ cowardly desperation to protect someone like Trump was unimaginable. Stormy Daniels is prologue. Their reaction to Georgia’s Fani Willis, DOJ’s Jack Smith, and New York’s Letitia James will reveal everything about Republicans’ respect for Constitutional order and their place in America’s future. Not that we don’t already know.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Blood 'n Stuff


For reasons I’ll explain further down the page, blood has been on my mind. My career involved a lot of it, leaking out, pouring in. Surgical residency produced lots of memories; many colored red. On the heart surgery service, an abundant source of excellent stories, the chief resident once scrubbed out of a case to donate his own blood to the patient on whom he was operating, who wouldn’t stop bleeding after finishing the pump run. Fresh blood – his was a match, of course – has magical powers, in some circumstances, to stop bleeding. It worked. Joe scrubbed back in and finished the case.

Another time, when another patient wasn’t responding to routine post-pump coagulants, the attending cardiologist left the room, returned wearing a feathered headdress and carrying a ceremonial rattle, which he shook, chanting, over the patient. The bleeding stopped.

Before moving here, forty-plus years ago, I began my surgical practice in Salem, Oregon. Not long after setting up shop, I was called to the ICU to see a woman in her early forties, bleeding relentlessly from a duodenal ulcer. Other surgeons had been consulted before me, the last-choice new guy of whom few had heard. They had all declined to operate, despite her obvious need for life-saving surgery. The reason: A devout Jehovah’s Witness, she refused to receive blood. Her husband was equally adamant. Those surgeons wouldn’t agree not to use blood, or to face a potential lawsuit for “wrongful life” if they did. Already a tough situation, that makes it tougher.

But I didn’t hesitate to operate on the exsanguinating young woman; she’d die if I didn’t try. She needed me and I was there. I did, however, make clear to her husband (she was no longer able to concur) that it was possible she wouldn’t survive the surgery if I was prohibited from giving her blood. He understood. Still, I told him, if we’re at that point, I’m going to come to the waiting room to ask one more time if you’re willing to have her die. So don’t go away. He nodded.

Disaster avoided, I was able rapidly to control the bleeding and do a couple of things to minimize the chance of it happening again. I don’t know what I’d have done, had it come to “do or die.” Amusingly, after word got around the community that I was a surgeon willing to operate on Witnesses, I saw many more in my practice. Continued to do so, here, too. (Side note: in training and for a while after, I operated on many emergency ulcer patients. They’re uncommon nowadays, as new understanding of the origins of peptic ulcer and better prevention have made such operations much less frequent.)

So, why have these patients been on my mind? Imagine if our government was fully controlled by people whose particular interpretation of the Bible demanded refusing blood transfusions? What if they made giving and receiving it illegal? What if state legislators passed laws to imprison doctors who gave transfusions and their patients? What if citizens were rewarded for reporting people who received blood? What if a single federal judge, appointed by a “president” who lost the popular vote by millions, narrowly confirmed by a Senate majority representing forty-million fewer Americans than those who voted against him, single-handedly made transfusions illegal in all states under all circumstances, for all people, of all or no religions, no matter their personal beliefs, or the fact that it had been legal for decades?

What if “the system” allowed zealously pro-life-without-transfusions people to sue in a state where it’s possible to hand-pick the court and the judge who’d hear the case? What if that judge had had no judicial experience prior to his appointment to the Federal bench, but was chosen for his extreme, anti-blood religious views? Added together, would those what-ifs be more consistent with properly functioning democracy or theocratic oligarchy?

It’s unlikely to happen with blood transfusions. For one thing, judges might need one someday. But it’s exactly what may happen regarding medical abortion pills (effective only prior to ten weeks, by the way), even in states where it’s been legal for decades, which is most of them. The case will be decided in Texas, where nearly all those what-ifs apply. In Amarillo, you’re practically guaranteed to get the “right” guy (which they did), who, in addition to rabid anti-choice views, is known for his vehement anti-LGBT rhetoric. 

Remember when warnings of President Obama establishing “Sharia Law” were sliming their way through right-wing media? How crazy it was to think that one set of extreme religious views could be imposed on us all, here in the US. Oh, how innocent we were.

Also: “Woke” doesn’t break banks. Deregulation does

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Insanity Rules

The gods of stupefaction have gifted us again with the spectacle of speciousness known as CPAC. Poorly attended, it featured, except for Nikki Haley, only MAGA Republicans and Trump, whose lie-filled conflagration of a speech is encapsulated in this loathsome utterance: “I am your warrior. I am your justice. And for those who have been wronged and betrayed, I am your retribution.”

Say it out loud. Play this in the background. It's sinister; antithetical to our Constitution, repulsive to any democracy-loving American; projections of a disturbed man, his pathologically bloated view of himself, his malicious manipulation of those who cheered. Consider whether the words belong to a “leader” of a democracy, Deuteronomy 32:35, or Batman

But it perfectly exemplifies MAGA Republicanism: creating and flogging self-pitying resentment. Promising vengeance for manufactured grievance, and, echoing the 1930s, societal purification. Speaking about transgender people, whose status is scientifically confirmed, treatment for which is medically supported, and who represent about one-half of one percent of Americans but seventy-five-percent of rightwing mongering, Michael Knowles, of The Daily Wire, tip-toed around the edge of genocide: “The problem with transgenderism is that it isn’t true. ... If [transgenderism] is false, then for the good of society... transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely.” Probably figuring it’s a couple of years too soon, Trumpofoxification as yet incomplete, he stopped short of death camps. Like Trump’s, his malign screed was cheered enthusiastically.

If anyone spoke about economic policy, climate change, inflation, or, other than demagoguing it, immigration, we missed it. But we heard plenty about “woke.” If undefined, we learned it’s worse than floods, famine, drought, and pandemics. In fact, according to Nikki Haley, seen by some as a “normal” conservative alternative to Trump, wokeness is “a virus more dangerous than any pandemic, hands down.” Normal? Well, yes: shedding principle for votes is the new “conservative” normal. Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) referred to “deeply weird, nauseously woke people who hate George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Seuss, and Mr. Potato Head.” Ron DeSantis, absent from CPAC, previously declared Florida is where “woke” goes to die. He’ll be giving it CPR throughout his campaign.

“Woke” is the beast on whose single back Republicans fancy themselves riding into 2024 as winners, freed from the need for substance. As a rallying cry to the Foxified, it works best by remaining undefined. Nevertheless, a few TrumPAC goers gave it a shot. “It’s anything for me that’s anti-American, anti-common sense, anti-really in the sense of education, what education was meant to do,” said one. “Woke is more of the sense of like, if you feel a certain way, then you must be true... Woke communism, where they're trying to take over based on people's feelings rather than actual factual evidence,” offered another. One more: “It covers so many things. It incorporated all the stupidity that is going on with the country.” 

In other words, to them, it's stuff they don’t like, stuff they find threatening, stuff they accuse “them” of doing while they’re the ones doing it. Here’s a better definition: "[T]he belief there are systemic injustices in American society and the need to address them.” Who said it? Ron DeSantis’ chief counsel, in a trial, asked by the judge to define woke.

What it means, then, is being historically accurate. Concerned for the poor, the disenfranchised, the marginalized, the slandered. Caring about America beyond only self-interest. Empathy. Christlike, if meaning Biblical Jesus rather than the one claimed by multimillionaire, megachurch preachers and fake Christians in Congress and, last term, in the White House.

Who’s hurt by corporate decisions of M&Ms and Legos? Has any child in a bathroom been harmed by a transgender student? Do civil rights extend to all? Should minority citizens have equal access to voting? Careful: your answers could mean you’re woke.

Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” (Ironically, it applies to repeatedly attributing the quotation to him, but that’s not important right now.)

The point is that it’s insane to expect respect for democracy, protection of voting rights, or anything but top-heavy tax cuts and dangerous deregulation from another Republican president. Trump or DeSantis, both sides of the same authoritarian coin. Heads, we lose.

The party of limited government will select a monumental liar whose poisonous rhetoric mirrors history’s fascist dictators, or one who glories in dictating morality, education, speech, pronouns, clothes, reading material for citizens, schools, and corporations. Who punishes those who object. And whose legislature is abetting his every autocratic outrage

And now, some late-breaking news: Tucker Carlson has released footage of Mount St. Helens in 1979, not exploding, completely demolishing eruption lies. Congressional Republicans are demanding the release of Harry Truman from where he’s buried.

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

The Null Set

Two recent quotes confirm everything in last week’s column; namely, the dangers of Fox “news” spreading lies for profit, while viewers respond by electing people based on those lies. It’s a positive feedback loop, making lies central to what MAGA voters want and what their electeds happily provide.

Here’s Tucker Carlson: “It is galling to be lectured about democracy by a man who took power in an election so sketchy that many Americans don't believe it was real. Biden is far less popular in the US than Putin is in Russia... And it says everything about Joe Biden's tenuous legitimacy.” And that says everything about who Carlson is: an unrepentant pusher of lies and a fawning admirer of despotic war criminal Vladimir Putin.

His lies are central to everything repeated constantly by the gang of Trumpic legislators featured regularly on his show. He shovels it out, viewers shovel it in, their electeds shovel it again, digging democracy ever deeper into an inescapable hole.

Next are the words of House Republican Deputy Whip Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA) who wrote, straight-fingered, “House Republicans are delivering in two months what Washington Democrats failed to provide for two years: an economy that’s strong, a nation that’s safe, a future that’s built on freedom, and a government that’s accountable.”

In case it’s escaped notice, House Republicans have, in those two months of vaporous power, passed zero legislation relevant to our economy, security, freedom, or accountability. None. They’ve passed some base-pleasing but meaningless resolutions, plus two theatrical bills, aimed at those imaginary 87,000 IRS agents, which died in the Senate. And their “accountability” committees have, so far, produced only embarrassment

It’d be laughable if it weren’t so hilarious. Surely even the most hermetically Foxified can see through such obvious bovine excreta.

Republican Senators aren’t above the patties, either. Here’s Marsha Blackburn (R-Opposite Day): “Under Biden's lawless border policy, fentanyl seizures increased by 241% between the months of October and December.” Makes perfect sense, to the MAGA-minded. But they were elected, probably not in spite of but because of such brazen gaslighting.

So was Marjorie Taylor Greene, whose altiloquent plan for “national divorce” would bankrupt red states, reliant as they are on blue-state tax dollars. So, rather than secession, she now proposes that red states simply ignore federal law. Plus, any Democrat who moved to one of those no-rules, permitless-gun-totin’, pollution-breathing, biblical-educated, book-banning, science-denying, melanophobic states couldn’t vote for five years. Presumably, that’s how long she thinks it takes DeSantisoid education and Foxian propaganda to turn functioning brains into rubricated mush.

“If Democrat voters choose to flee these blue states where they cannot tolerate the living conditions, they don't want their children taught these horrible things, and they really change their mind on the types of policies that they support, well once they move to a red state, guess what, maybe you don't get to vote for five years," is how she pronoun-confusedly put it. Watch for a stampede.

Her proposal has a historical name: nullification. And don’t think it can’t happen. Just last week, the Supreme Court narrowly decided against allowing exactly that, in a case about a man wrongly sentenced to death based on an Arizona (of course) judge’s law-ignoring instructions to the jury. The appeal was rejected by the state’s courts who, yet again, chose to ignore federal law. Four of the nine justices hearing the current case were fine with a state rejecting the law of the land if it so chose.

The road to nullification remained closed only because Justices Roberts (unsurprising) and Kavanaugh (surprising) sided with the Court’s liberals; or, as Kagan, Sotomayor, and Jackson should be known, the constitution-respecting, democracy-preserving ones. That’s how close we came to defacto shredding of the founding document. It’ll take only one of the three replaced by a MAGA-chosen “president.” 

But there’s good nullification, too: After that toxic train disaster in Ohio, some Rs are nullifying their lust for deregulation. Suddenly, it seems, there’s a case to be made for not letting dangerous polluters write regulations for their industries. Will Rs stay woke when the cameras are off? Will they rethink the other polluters Trump deregulated? 

We can’t end without mentioning Barry Moore (R-AL), another MAGAfoxed Congressperson, who just introduced a bill, co-sponsored by Santos (R-Fiction) and Boebert (N-RA), among others, making the AR-15 “America’s National Gun.” Arising from the cesspool of cruelty within the Foxian mindset, where “sticking it to the libs,” no matter how hurtful, in this case, to families of those killed by mass murderers, this putrescence holds primacy over basic decency and human kindness.

It’s where MTG would have us all live and where most people who think like that already do. No, thanks. I’ll stay here and vote.

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