Wednesday, June 26, 2024

He Is Risible


Obsessively pondering the mystery of Trump supporters overlooking his abject amorality and monumental mendacity while claiming to be Christian has, finally, ignited an epiphany: They ignore Jesus’ lessons for life but still need to believe they believe. In Trump, they’ve found a way.

Among the thousands of deities available for selection, the most popular is Jesus. With good reason, His promise of life eternal and absolution of sins into which we were born because of Adam and Eve and a snake, have put Christianity on top. Aside from the occasional pogrom, holocaust, crusade, inquisition, suppression of science, and burning of witches, it’s served humanity well.

Now, however, a great discomfort – unspoken and unrecognized by them, but real -- has arisen within the so-called Christians who’ve thrown in with Trump. Jesus, they’ve realized, was a liberal. Liberalism, God forbid, is the political embodiment of His teachings, the Sermon on the Mount put into practice. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, love thy neighbor (which, since He never preached otherwise, includes LGBTQ people.) But the Foxotrumpified have been convinced to hate liberals. What are they to do?

Donald Trump, lifelong breaker of each of the Ten Commandments, is Jesus’ antithesis. In lifestyle and policy, some would say the anti-Christ. So, how can MAGA Christians reconcile their professed love of both? Therein is the epiphany: by claiming that Jesus sent Trump to save us, that Trump is Jesus’ chosen one, making the two all but indistinguishable, ignoring His teachings and revering Trump becomes a manifestation of faith.

In their equilateral genuflection, not living according to Jesus’ teachings is living according to His teachings. Gone is the uncomfortable dissonance: if Jesus chose Trump, it’s all okay. It’s like vegans idolizing Jeffrey Dahmer, but if it works it works.

Trump makes it easy to see. Avoiding churches except for photo-ops and AI-generated fakes, and though the last one he’d ever join would be a megachurch where he’d be a tiny presence in a huge crowd, he’s taken megachurch ministers’ methods as his own. Other than the fact that those ministers preach in complete sentences and stay on topic, Trump rallies are profane duplicates of megachurches.

Humans need worship. If the word of Jesus is problematic for the MAGA-selfish, they meld Him with Trump who, like megachurch millionaires, gives them what they need. America is a hellhole, he tells them, promising salvation. “God bless the USA” plays as the congregants sing along, tearfully. I alone can save you, he intones, often speaking in tongues. Follow me or die. Send me your money, buy my merch, and be rewarded. I’ll rid you of the vermin/demons who’d do you harm, cleanse the land of your enemies, salve your fears, and make you great.

If you notice that I spend your money on private planes and lavish homes, that I sock away most for my own purposes, reneging on promises to use it charitably, you won’t care. Unless you’re a faithless infidel.

The analogy fits even better with faith healers, whose debunked fakery compares perfectly to Trump’s regularly disproved lies. Rigged healing brings the crowds and the money, and they keep on coming, eager to believe. It’s the same with Trump’s comforting lies, even as they get increasingly bizarre: people are pitching tents in airports, he claims, waiting four days for their flights. Who cares if it’s lies or delusions of a disassembling mind? It’s Trump! Throw away the crutches and send him money!

The J6 Committee destroyed all its records, he repeats. They didn’t: it’s all available online. Crime is rising, he preaches: under Biden, it’s falling. The election was stolen: no evidence says so; in fact, it proves the opposite. But, like faith-healing, his lies trick the mind, powerful enough to convince the willingly deceived.

Trump’s dishonesty has become so egregious that honest media are finally reporting without both-siding it. By contrast, Trumpophilic media have taken to cutting away from rally coverage as he descends into incoherence, lest their viewers become heretics. To the loyalists, it wouldn’t matter. So strong is their faith that they believe what Eric Trump gaslightingly calls his daddy’s “unvarnished honesty.”MAGA is a misnomer. It’s MEGA.

Like the remarkable number of Trump’s inner circle convicted of crimes, along with Trump himself, so it is that we keep hearing of pastors – especially youth pastors – abusing those in their charge. In the latest example, Trump’s one-time “spiritual adviser” (what sort of people need one, and what do they do?) resigned from leading his megachurch after admitting to sexual abuse of a thirteen-year-old girl.

So now we understand the Trump/Jesus thing. What we may never unravel is why Trumpists, loving his plans to ruin the lives of the people they hate, can’t see that theirs will suffer the same

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Let's Go Big

Until last week, I was agnostic about enlarging the US Supreme Court, even after they’d handed down several outrageous decisions. I can’t, for example, understand how so-called “originalists” were able to derive from our Constitution that corporations are people and money is speech; decisions that have given “dark money” enormous political power, most of it to Republican benefactors.

Nor could I agree, as Justice Roberts glibly implied when gutting the Voting Rights Act, that racism no longer exists in America. And, of course, ignoring precedent to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Those decisions were based on personal opinion, not interpretations of the law. Judicial activism, in other words. Legislating from the bench. Something conservatives once decried. Nevertheless, though those decisions baselessly furthered a far-right political agenda, and though they strayed far from the law’s letter, the idea of growing the Court to thirteen Justices still felt questionable.

No longer. Now, we have two justices, Alito and Thomas, injecting their black-robed political prejudices to achieve premeditated ends, not even pretending to care how they’re received. Relishing, no doubt, law-abiding liberals’ outrage. The public’s trust in SCOTUS is at an all-time low? Who cares? Chief Justice Roberts, some say. If so, he hides it well. And why should he? Like the rest, he’s untouchable. In fact, in theory, public opinion ought not matter at all in judicial decisions. Assuming they were based in law, that is; an arcane concept that, because of Mitch McConnell’s hypocrisy and the Federalist Society’s unaccountable power, withered years ago.

The 6-3 decision on bump stocks did it for me. Written by Clarence Thomas and agreed to by all the Court’s “conservatives,” it was cynical parsing of words to achieve a desired outcome, ignoring the clear intent of 1934 legislation outlawing machine guns. Their decision negated a rare, helpful action that happened under Trump: declaring that rifles so equipped fall under that legislation, after a shooter in Las Vegas, using bump-stock-outfitted AR-15s, killed 58 people and wounded 500 almost instantly.

The 1934 law prohibited citizens from owning machine guns, which it defined as weapons that can fire “automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.” A semi-automatic rifle, like the AR15, requires pulling the trigger for each shot. But when the standard stock (the part that’s held to the shoulder) is replaced by a bump stock, it can fire over 500 rounds per minute, with a single, continuous pull of the trigger.

So, how did Thomas exclude such weapons from the unambiguous 1934 definition? “Single function,” is how. His published opinion contained several diagrams showing how internal trigger mechanisms move during firing. Therefore, they opined, not a single function. Because, though the trigger remains stable during its rapid, deadly firing, inside it doesn’t. That’s a Plastic-Man-level stretch.

Also not single: the non-trigger hand has to push the front of the stock forward; two things are happening. Oh, c’mon: the trigger is pulled, once, by the finger and held in place. That’s as single as Melania probably wishes she were. It’s like saying you violated a “don’t move” order because your heart was beating.

Bringing up those other motions suggests the “originalist” majority, ignoring the unmistakable original intent of the law, had to want killing machines back in the hands of citizens. Why? For the next January Sixth? Remember when John Roberts says the Court’s job is to “call balls and strikes,” not make law? Good times. Soon, we’ll be told that left hands are people and mass murder is speech.

With typical condescension, Alito wrote, in concurrence, that Congress can simply rewrite the ban. Right. Republicans just quashed an attempt to do exactly that. He knew that as surely as he knows flags. Such tendentious reasoning is what convinced me of the necessity to enlarge the Court with honest people. Which could happen only if Democrats control Congress and the White House after November 5.

Originally, there were six justices. Since then the number has gone up and down. Briefly, there were ten. And five, and seven. It’s been nine since 1869, despite the number of judicial districts they oversee, along with the US population, having increased exponentially since then. Adding justices makes mathematical as well as common, non-ideological sense. Given the extra-legal intransigence of Alito and Thomas, plus their refusal to recuse from cases in which they have conflicts of interest, including wives’ activities and expensive gifts from people having business before them, the political need is clear, too.

It’s more proof that democracy is truly, no exaggeration, seriously, absolutely on the ballot this year. As are the countless lives that will be lost by handing definitional machine guns back to mass murderers. I’m not suggesting the SCOTUS majority approve of mass murderers. But right-wing militias in support of MAGA Trumpism and Christian Nationalism? No comment.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Oldtime Doc


Let’s take a break from worrying that, aided by the most corrupt and hyper-partisan Supreme Court in history and a non-stop disinformation campaign from all parts of the rightwingosphere, The World's Greatest Democracy™ might elect a convicted felon and lifelong liar who pledges to end it and to purge experts and opponents, Stalin-like. Hunter Biden’s rigged trial must wait for another time, too.

So here’s an essay I wrote for a now-defunct writers’ website. The first offering I submitted (not this one) got thirty-thousand views, so they kept asking for more. Which explains why they failed.

When I applied to medical school I imagined myself one day making house calls, good ol' Doc Schwab, paid in chickens and pies, smiles, tears, and blackberry jam. There I'd be, delivering babies in bedrooms, patchin' up Farmer Jones's leg on the sofa, shaking out thermometers and feeling foreheads.

I became a surgeon.

Early in my practice, when I had time on my hands, and to some degree throughout my career, I made house calls, the old-time doc I’d imagined. As I got busier I had to triage my time: people with a simple problem for whom a trip to my office was especially difficult, living not too far away. But as a youngster there were occasions when I went quite out of the way, and spent a lot of time.

For example: "The Phone Call." A woman awaits the news of a breast biopsy I’d done; I call her and note the stoppage of breath at the other end of the conversation. To say she should come in for the results is to let her know but provide no support. To give the news over the phone feels cold and impersonal. So I'd split the difference by breaking the news as gently as I could, and inviting her in for an immediate consultation.

Sometimes, early on, I reversed the equation and said, "How about if I come over and we can talk about it?" One time, in my pre-gray, abundant-hair days, after I'd spent at least an hour at their home, my patient and her husband gushed their appreciation for the visit and my care to that point, but announced they'd be going to Seattle for treatment. Probably thought I looked too young. Gray hair: a welcome advantage for ripening doctors.

Most of the time, my house calls were to a post-op patient, usually older, having a hard time getting around: check a wound, a little debridement, change a bandage, remove or unclog a drain. I'd load up with a few tools, some tape and gauze and ointments stuffed into my classic doctor bag, a name-embossed med-school graduation gift from my grandmother. Walking to the door, I’d imagine what the neighbors thought, figuring they'd be jealous: Miss Jones has a heck of a doctor there.

Always the visit was appreciated; frequently met with amazement. Sometimes it was my own, finding out how my patients lived, in a trailer, in an unkempt crumbling home, in a fancy joint with all the options. And I'd learn how they were able, or not, to carry out the post-op instructions I'd given them. Which led to a much more practical and pragmatic approach to what I'd tell people about after-care at home.

Once, I got a call from a feisty old lady for whom I'd recently done a mastectomy: she was worried about her wound, or a drain, or something. To her obvious delight I'd said, "Well, I'm almost done here, how 'bout I swing by your place and have a look?" She answered the door buck naked from the waist up, her unoperated side of the voluminous variety; responding to my surprise she said, "Hell, I figured you'd want to see it anyway, so why get dressed?" Her home was right on a main street. No screeching tires, far as I recall.

Making house calls always made me feel good, and the benefits were invariably mutual. In my medical school, each first-year student was matched with a family in which the wife was pregnant. We followed her through pregnancy and delivery, which I did with supervision, and were involved in the care of the baby. At least one home visit was a requirement, and we’d meet in groups afterward to discuss how it went. The real import was in learning how patients' conditions are part of an entire life and not just the little slice of it in which we see them.

All doctors -- especially surgeons, who typically send people home significantly altered, if only temporarily, hopefully -- would learn from seeing patients in their homes. It is, of course, completely impractical and nearly impossible nowadays, time and compensation (and liability) being among the reasons why it rarely happens.

Not to mention the possibility of seeing an old lady nearly naked at her front door.

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Right Verdict, Wrong Case

Second in line to the presidency per the Constitution he and his constituents reject, House Speaker Mike Johnson called last week’s election interference verdict “a shameful day in American history ... a purely political exercise, not a legal one." Godly Mr. Johnson doesn’t seem stupid, so peddling those disingenuous assertions is MAGA-typical political hackery. Unless he was referring, retroactively, to the impeachment of DHS Secretary Mayorkas.

Every elected Republican said the same; most parroting Trump’s exact language. They may as well be ventriloquist dummies with Trump’s hand up their access. Several Republican senators performatively pledged never again to cooperate with Democrats’ legislation. (As with the infrastructure act, they will, of course, take credit for whatever passes without them.) Acting to benefit the American people, or MAGAphilic vengeance: they made their choice.

Such orchestrated unanimity reveals their not-so-hidden agenda. Having successfully destroyed their voters’ confidence in elections, all that remained was doing the same to our Constitution. On the hypo-informed, hyper-Foxified, angry in the streets, it’s working.

Unanimously finding him guilty on all counts, the jury, one of whom said his main source of news is Trump’s Truth Social, considered the evidence, including handwritten notes detailing the precise plans to falsify records. To argue his defense, Trump had lawyers none of us could afford and any witnesses they chose to call. He lost. In America, a jury of citizens empaneled by both sides decides what’s true. That’s anathema to MAGA Republicans, for whom truth is execration.

Praising and excusing Trump, lifelongingly dishonest and now a convicted felon, today’s Republican Party -- dba "the party of law" -- has given itself over to authoritarianism. What if they win? Ask yourself: what legislation do Republicans propose and who benefits? Tax cuts for the wealthy. Ignoring climate change. Deregulating pollutants. Weakening public education. Banning honest history lessons. And books. Even vaccines. Removing protection of minorities. Ending the Affordable Care Act, squeezing Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; banning abortion and birth control while leaving the government-required born on their own.

When Republicans propose funding needed legislation it’s at the expense of programs that help the vulnerable: SNAP, the aforementioned healthcare programs, early childhood education, childcare for working moms... Since Ronald Reagan, Republicans have been enriching the rich and ignoring the not.

Now they’re scheming to make it permanent: Elect Felonious Trump, who’ll facilitate his flock of favorite fellow felons in weaponizing the DOJ, FBI, IRS, and Congress itself against dissent and dissenters, embedding forever their pipe-dream plutocracy. It’s why they’ll never abandon him. Conservatism is dead to them. Lust for unrestrained power killed it.

Voters, then, must decide whether they’re more worried about Democrats forcing their kids to switch genders, and about immigration, bipartisan plans to address which Trump sabotaged; or about losing the benefits of Constitutional governance that have made America great. That’s the choice. It’s not hyperbole. It’s the inescapable inference from the obvious.

When godly Mike Johnson lies without shame about the Trump trial; when Lara Trump, head of the RNC, smirks, “What will happen to the jurors” and when a Newsmax host orders people to “search them out,” there can be no doubt about what’s afoot

No matter how much one believes Joe Biden is both senile and the mastermind behind prosecuting Trump’s crimes, this isn’t difficult. One party produces legislation that makes lives better and the future healthier; the other caters to wealthy, white, Christians (only those who reject the teachings of Jesus) and promises totalitarian rule. Trump, who’s never taken responsibility for his failures, who’s used the American legal system he decries to enrich himself and intimidate others, bombasted his way through this case, hurling conspiracies and truthless accusations while raising tons of money.

With no evidence, a convicted felon has convinced millions of people that American jurisprudence is corrupt; that this trial, the election, the sexual assault verdict, the Georgia charges, the documents case are all “rigged.” How? We await details.

Immediately after the verdict, a host of the self-described “most patriotic channel” in Russia, said, “They wronged our Donald Trump!” “OUR.” Dictators love dictators. Trumpublicans are okay with it. 

Far more damaging to the US and even more clearcut, the stolen documents case would have gone first, if not for Trump’s accessory judge, Aileen Cannon. Notwithstanding his lies, the Presidential Records Act gave him no right to the documents. He refused requests to return them, hid them, ignored a legally binding subpoena, lied about returning them all. Reportedly, he showed them to people unauthorized to see them.

It ought to take a jury five minutes to convict; and, because it borders on treason, it could well lead to incarceration, which the current conviction won’t. That’s why Trump, convicted felon, is desperate to finagle his way back into office by whatever means. From there, as he had A.G. Bill Barr do last time, he’d fire all the prosecutors charging him. And skate.

Popular posts