Friday, February 16, 2018

We Live in NRAmerica



Change of plans. This will be tomorrow's newspaper column: 
Between eleven million for Donald “I’ll self-finance my campaign” Trump and another twenty million against Hillary Clinton, the NRA spent over thirty million on the last presidential campaign. Marco “Don’t jump to conclusions” Rubio has accepted more than three million from them in his career. So has Joni “Thoughts and prayers” Ernst, which is only half of what John “the maverick” McCain has received. And Paul “No knee-jerk” Ryan has taken in more than any other in the House of Representatives. If post-hoc doesn’t always equal propter hoc, it must have an effect. Otherwise, why would Mr. LaPierre keep doling out cash like pig slop in a sty?  
We know, because we’re told so every time, it’s too soon to talk about Florida; so how about all the others that have occurred in 2018 and before. For numbers of mass shootings in America, Trump’s first year in office wins the gold. I’m not suggesting that it’s all on him: American gun violence has been epidemic for decades. But he gets zero credit for improving things, because he hasn’t, and some for making them worse. Calling for violence at his rallies (Trumpists consider that a lie, despite the video evidence.) Ending Obama-era controls on the mentally ill getting guns. Cutting funding for gun-purchase background checks. Cuts in Medicaid, which happens to provide the bulk of mental health services for the poor. Removing the mandate for insurance coverage of mental health.  
After Florida, Trump blamed locals who knew about the shooter’s mental health issues but didn’t report him. Given Trump’s aforementioned actions, what would have happened had they done so? (We know the answer, because some people had. Thankfully, it was different here.) He, a white-supremacist MAGA guy, purchased his AR-15 legally. Florida has virtually no gun control laws. 
At this point in America, the demon is out of the bottle. If sales of all guns were banned tomorrow, there are already enough of them out there for every man, woman, and child. Notwithstanding even the most fevered delusions of Infowars-loving Trumpists, there’s no way an effort could or would be mounted, much less be successful, to “come for them.” We are what we’ve become. 
Maybe there’s still a way to deal with it; if so, it won’t come from Republicans. After the Las Vegas massacre, Republican House members rose to the occasion by passing a bill forcing states that don’t allow concealed carry to allow people from concealed-carry state to roam free, unconstrained by their own laws. That’s some righteous federalism, right there.  
But really? No laws will help? None? It’s a favorite talking-point of NRAiders that Chicago, with its gun violence despite its strict gun laws, proves they don’t work. Facts, those troublesome things, say otherwise: guns flow into Chicago from neighboring cities and states which have no such laws. The result of Australian gun laws after its lonely mass shooting has become a liberal shibboleth: it’s impressive, and will never happen here. Not unless Republicans are thrown out of office and a constitutional amendment were to pass Congress, get signed by a president, and validated by thirty-eight states. We’ll be drowned by rising seas, choked by unbreathable air, or poisoned to death by undrinkable water long before that happens.  
If there’s a solution, I don’t see it. Democrats say we have to do something, Republicans say we don’t. We all say it’s time to regain respect for each other, but no one really knows how. I do know, though, that having a role model in the White House doesn’t help. Not one who suborns violence at his rallies, calls the press an “enemy of the people.” Who says Democrats want open borders, illegal immigrants running wild and raping your women, doesn’t help. One who reads the usual hollow, tired words from a teleprompter, saying he’s with us. Reading it badly, unenthusiastically. One who admires Alex Jones who, as usual, claimed the Florida murders were orchestrated by Democrats. We’re now a country in which people believe that.  
So the NRA and its money-takers are right. The only way to protect children in NRAmerica is to turn schools into impenetrable fortresses. Steel buildings with foot-thick doors, no windows, armed guards and barbed wire outside and armed teachers inside. It’d teach our kids the uniqueness of America, too. But, sure as hell, we’ll need more tax cuts to pay for it.  
[Image source]

Trump, Unmasked


My next newspaper column, sent in with too little time to address the latest mass murder. But Trump sent condolences, so it's all okay.
Based on emails I get, hardcore Trumpists are as impenetrable by facts as concrete by feathers. Either they enjoy being lied to, or they wouldn’t recognize a lie if it blackened their eyes. For everyone else, it’s incontestable: Trump’s campaign promises were free-floating falsehoods. Emailers insist he’s never lied, that he saved the economy after Obama crashed the excellent one he inherited. Which tells you everything.  
This isn’t about stupid lies, like the number of people at his inauguration, where the US ranks in taxation, how much tax reform will cost him, or voter fraud. This is about Trump’s lie-revealing, just-released budget, affecting millions of Americans, many of whom voted for him, inexplicably believing a man whose career was one of cheating, lawsuits, scams, and failures would be truthful and manage his office competently. 
Lies like protecting Medicare and Social Security. Like assuring us The Wall is indispensable and Mexico would pay for it. Like claiming he’ll never run a four-hundred-billion-dollar deficit. Promising to eliminate the federal debt (not the deficit: the twenty-trillion-dollar debt!) in eight years. Really, Trumpists? Now that we’ve seen his impossible budget, the mendacity is clear. Except to dead-enders, who, one assumes, consider arithmetic fake news.  
Trump’s proposal has the same chance of becoming law as I do of replacing Alex Jones on Infowars. Since a ten-page document directly affecting national security was too long for Donald to read, we know he had little if anything to do with producing it. But whether it was shown to him in pictures or highlights read to him with big words removed, he bestowed upon it his imprimatur. Presumably then, it represents his priorities. 
Like the Republican tax plan that’s already law, Trump takes the deficit, after Obama reduced by two-thirds the one Bush left him, to over a trillion for 2018. Using unrealistically optimistic predictions coming from the White House, which claim sustained economic growth fifty-percent higher than it’s practically ever been, the deficit would still be over four-hundred-billion ten years from now. According to economists using projections grounded in reality, it’d be around two trillion. 
How many Trumpophiles who raged at Obama’s (steadily decreasing) deficits will excuse Trump’s budgetary carnage? Or care they’ve been duped. How many understand why this is exactly the wrong time for such lop-sided tax cuts?  
Disagreements between liberals and conservatives about the role of government should, in theory, make for workable middle-ground legislation. Conservatives, though, claim social safety nets are abused by practically all recipients. Trumpists love cutting food stamps. Do they know it hurts military families along with their usual targets? Probably they’re fine with cutting housing assistance. But Medicare, Social Security? Even conservatives use Medicaid. The National Weather Service? Hanford cleanup? No concerns? Millions cut from gun-purchase background-checks: perfect timing. Condolences, though.  
What about people who believed Trump’s promises to return lost jobs? Okay with eliminating programs for displaced workers, neighborhood reinvestment, cutting mining safety regulations? Climate change research, sure: it’s a hoax. But the Chemical Safety Board? Legal services? Do no broke Trumpists need lawyers? Okay, cutting NPR, PBS, DOE, NEA makes sense: enlightened voters frighten Republicans. 
America already spends more on defense than the next dozen countries combined, but there’s a huge bump for the Pentagon, which can’t keep the F-35 flying. Billions for The Wall, naturally, paying for which amounts to giving a cookie to a child throwing a tantrum in aisle five. These aren’t the priorities that made America great.  
Remember that “only the best people” whopper? White House personnel turn over like tilled soil. Indictments, criminal behavior, ethics violations. Housing expert Carson gives a fat no-bid contract to his daughter-in-law. Zinke and Pruitt charge us for their fancies (the VA Secretary lies about his wife’s), while announcing they won’t enforce pollution laws. DeVos won’t enforce civil rights rules. Sessions plans to incarcerate more pot-smokers in private prisons whose stock he owns. Trump endorses sex predators, defends violent abusers, Kelley lies about when they knew. 
To anyone with a corpus callosum, Trump’s deceits scream out. Mismanagement, detachment, disinterest in new information, and now, a budget proposal designed further to enrich the wealthy and punish (and poison) those who, it makes sure, never will be. 
And Russia. Don’t forget Russia. The truth is out there.  
As to Trump’s promised infrastructure plan, well, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to the toll booth.    
[Image source]

Friday, February 9, 2018

Memo Demo


My next newspaper column: 
By ignorance or premeditation, Donald Trump, who, as did Stalin, defines treason as failing to applaud him, damages the United States and its institutions beyond Soviet Cold War dreams. Khrushchev said they needn’t invade America, they’d take us down from within. With aid and comfort of today’s Republican party, as they attempt to derail investigations into potential sabotage, it’s happening. “When you don’t have facts, sow doubt.” That’s a Russian thing, too. (So is Trump ordering a military parade for himself.)  
The FBI, CIA, and DOJ have hardly been exemplary throughout history. FISA resulted from the Church committee’s investigations of their excesses, requiring specific justifications for surveilling American citizens. Warrants aren’t handed out like sausage samples at Costco; they are, in fact, extensively prepared and subjected to critical judicial review. 
Around the same time as FISA’s creation, rules were written to prevent federal law enforcement agencies from becoming instruments of presidential imperium. (Ironically, given Republican claims, current FBI recruits are required to visit the Holocaust Museum, to see what follows when they do.) Trump, unchecked by capitulating Congressional Republicans, looks to undo them. That should frighten everyone, especially what’s left of conservatives in what’s left of that party. This, not Nunes, shows where the conspiracy is, and reveals the motives behind the “memo” and those defending it. Spoiler alert: it’s about abrogating Constitutional checks on unbridled power.  
For years, Carter Page, self-described “Kremlin adviser,” had been suspected of being a witting or unwitting Russian agent. And maybe – who knows? – Trump himself, considering his dodgy dealings with Moscow’s wealthy kleptocrats. One assumes former KGB interrogator Putin knows how to weaponize patsies. 
Having previously given the White House info from his intelligence committee and lied about it, Devin Nunes admitted to Fox “news” that he hadn’t read the FISA application to which his deceptive memo refers, relying instead on summaries provided by Trey “Benghazi” Gowdy, who, interestingly, admits the memo “in no way” discredits Mueller’s investigation. In fact, with its footnotes and final point, it negates itself.  
Democrats on Nunes’ “intelligence” committee requested all documents related to the application. Republicans refused. If they’re truth-tellers, why not allow examination of the supposedly deep-state-plot-revealing records? Answer: Nunes, et al, have a narrative they want the public to swallow and messengers eager to spoon it out, counting on the power of Foxification to obscure the dangerous implications. 
Republicans’ defense of Trump’s authoritarianism amounts to explicit rejection of Constitutionally established system of checks and balances. Support for the mechanisms for America to repel dictatorship or subversion by a hostile foreign power ought to be universal and bipartisan. That it’s not raises serious questions about what’s happened to the Republican Party, and what, or who, is behind it. Questions Trumpists doggedly want neither asked nor answered. 
Mere months ago, Republicans agreed Vladimir Putin was a mortal enemy, toward whom President Obama was dangerously weak. Then came Trump (whose lawyers fear he can’t testify without lying), heaping praise on the man and hiring people with deep ties to him. If there’s no “there” there, why the desperation to defame the investigation and the people and institutions carrying it out? 
Consider who benefits from causing Americans to distrust agencies dedicated to preventing illegal foreign influences. Why are those who claim to love America more than people like me rallying around attempts to be rid of Robert Mueller? Why not let him report? If it reveals threats to America, shouldn’t all Americans want to know? If he finds nothing, wouldn’t that be a good thing for everyone, including Trump? If it’s full of falsehood, won’t our fair-minded right-wing media be able to tear it apart with Hannitoid verisimilitude? 
It’s self-evident how TrumPutin benefits from silencing Mueller and the FBI. What side deals Nunes, Ryan, Hannity, ad prevaricatum, have made, and with whom, remains a vital unknown. Whatever their motivation, they’d have us believe the FBI investigating possible treason is “politicization,” when what it is, is doing their job.  
The “worse than Watergate” crowd are right: this obstruction of justice from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue makes Richard Nixon look like Eliot Ness. Devin Nunes’ cynical stunt and Trump’s lies about it lay bare their contempt for established rules of law, while Trumpists and the Republican Party remain slavishly indifferent or actively complicit. 
Meanwhile, Rex Tillerson says we’re as vulnerable to Russian treachery as we were in 2016. 
[Image source]


Thursday, February 8, 2018

Debt? Didn't They Once Care?


I'm probably misremembering. Here I'd been thinking Republicans laid claim to fiscal responsibility. That they were outraged at the deficits under Obama, despite the fact that they got steadily lower than when he took over for George Bush. Who was, I seem to recall, a Republican.

Turns out -- imagine my surprise -- that government borrowing is taking a huge leap in Trump's first fiscal year:

... The federal government is on track to borrow nearly $1 trillion this fiscal year — Trump's first full year in charge of the budget.
That's almost double what the government borrowed in fiscal year 2017.
Here are the exact figures: The U.S. Treasury expects to borrow $955 billion this fiscal year, according to documents released Wednesday. It's the highest amount of borrowing in six years, and a big jump from the $519 billion the federal government borrowed last year. 
Treasury mainly attributed the increase to "the fiscal outlook." The Congressional Budget Office was more blunt. In a report this week, the CBO said tax receipts are going to be lower because of the new tax bill... (bolding by yours truly)
There really are no immutible values among Republicans, other than tax cuts and the pretense that they pay for themselves and help people other than the very wealthy.

Friday, February 2, 2018

What Happened To Republicans?


Here comes my next newspaper column: 
Once upon a time, most Republican members and leaders had integrity. Believed in science. Considered the environment worth protecting. Created the agency dedicated to doing just that, matter of fact. Guy named Nixon, as I recall.  
Nixon won as the “law and order” candidate. Pretty much every Republican candidate for pretty much any office since then has touted his or her law ‘n orderliness. No one loved our law enforcement agencies more than they. To them, J. Edgar Hoover personified the perfect FBI agent (or was it Efrem Zimbalist, Jr? Doesn’t matter). Attacking the agency as seditious, calling for it to be “cleansed,” would have been unthinkable. A dishonest Congressman ginning up a deceptive “memo” aimed at ending an independent investigation into corruption, rallying around it in unison: wouldn’t have happened.  
I don’t think I’m misremembering a time when Republicans were no more likely to lie than Democrats; when they’d have stood up to a president of either party who told outrageous lies daily, who, when the lies were pointed out, called the out-pointers “fake news.” Wasn’t it honorable Republicans who, seeing Nixon’s obstruction of justice, told him to resign or be impeached? What changed?  
Newt Gingrich, for one, with his scorched earth approach to politics. Karl Rove, who considered Evangelical Christians gullible fodder. A Republican Supreme Court, declaring that “money is speech,” “corporations are people,” and, laughably except for the crying part, that “… independent expenditures do not lead to, or create the appearance of, quid pro quo corruption.”  
Today’s Republican Party bears no resemblance to that of a few decades ago. That party would never have excused an amoral, grandiose, ill-informed, vengeful, lazy, corrupt, pathological liar like Donald Trump. Today, though, it’s about money, pouring in through Courtly opened floodgates. Koch money. It’s about being bought and paid for.  
In that context, Donald Trump, horrifying as he is, is a convenient distraction from the much more important issues; which may explain why Congressional Republicans are so intent on keeping him in power, coughing up Alex-Jones-level conspiracies to end an investigation into what are possibly the most democracy-threatening actions by a president ever. All but silent are they, even after Trump made clear how beholden he is to Putin by refusing to implement sanctions that passed Congress by a combined vote of 517 - 5. If that’s not threat to the rule of Constitutional law, what is? Surely some Republican voters care, even if those in Congress don’t.  
Maybe it’s because the Kochs have pledged $400 million dollars for the midterm elections. They’ve just announced plans to turn public education into a cafeteria from which parents can pick and choose what their children are taught, providing the Kochs another generation of climate-change deniers and Congress a new batch of uninquisitive voters. 
Historically incapable of producing a coherent message, Democrats must make 2018 elections less about Trump’s unfitness, and more about what he and Republicans are doing to our country
· Making climate change worse. “Polar ice is at record levels,” lied Trump. 
· Allowing pollution by lead, arsenic, benzene, dioxin, and more. Other than polluters, why would anyone support this? Don’t we all want our children to be healthy? 
· Expecting the Departments of Justice and the FBI to become instruments of presidential power. Surely even Trumpists can see the danger. They did when Fox “news” convinced them Obama was doing it. 
· Turning public schools into places to propagandize and mis-educate. Can’t we all agree decent education is key to America’s competitiveness? 
·  Increasing unwanted pregnancies and therefore abortions by preventing access to sex education and birth control. Forcing birth but refusing to help the newly born. This is “choosing life?” 
· Kicking millions off healthcare coverage, offering no sensible replacement. 
· Trying to destroy our Constitutionally mandated free press. It’s not mysterious why Russia, China, and North Korea don’t allow it, and Trump doesn’t want it.  
· Ongoing voter suppression and gerrymandering, even after courts strike them down. Sooner or later, they could come after you, too.  
These threaten everyone, even Trumpists. In his fear-mongering SOTU speech (he lied that it was the most-watched ever), Trump, grade-school-level name-caller, demander of jailing opponents, called for “unity.” That’s the last thing he wants. For, were voters of both parties who care about their kids’ future to unite over these issues, there’d be a very different Congress, and he’d be a one-termer. Or less. 
[Image source]


Friday, January 26, 2018

Expect The Unexpected


Not something readers of my blog and column would have expected, I'm thinking.

The Art Of The Shutdown


My next newspaper column:
Trump’s shutdown came and went, because Democrats trust Mitch “Lucy with the Football” McConnell. It’s hard to decide who’s most at fault, but these words ring true: 
 “… I actually think the president would be blamed. If there is a shutdown, I think it would be a tremendously negative mark on the President of the United States...”  
That was the guy currently posing as president, back when Barack Obama held the office. Later, he declared: “Here’s the truth, the gov't doesn’t shutdown. All essential services continue. Don't believe lies.” 
Circumstances were different, of course. For one, Trump’s is the only shutdown to occur when one party owned the presidency, Senate, and House. But there’s similarity: last time, it was over Republicans’ desire to deny medical coverage to millions of adults. This time, it was about denying it to millions of children, plus throwing almost a million innocent people (for starters) out of the country. The common thread: concern not for people but for ideology, demanded by wealthy benefactors and enabled by confused supporters. (The stopgap agreement includes more budget-busting tax cuts; and, though it funds CHIP, it leaves community health centers, which serve many CHIP recipients, unfunded.)  
Having non-fake concern for our military, Dems put forward a bill to ensure they and their families would receive pay and benefits during the shutdown. Rs rejected it. But Trump called it #Schumershutdown, which (not kidding) immediately became the top trending hashtag on Russian influence-peddling networks. (#no-collusion.)  
Donald Trump, artist of the deal, promised to bring his business prowess to the presidency, and he did. In particular, his talent for bankrupting ill-conceived and poorly-managed enterprises, pocketing the money and walking away, leaving others to deal with their devastation. The genius deal-maker, who, in May, said “our country needs a good shutdown,” cajoled the opposing party with tweets like this: “… Dems want a Shutdown in order to diminish the great success of the Tax Cuts ... (capitalization his.)” That’s a firkin of fiction in a bolus of bullpucky. “The shutdown is good for us,” explained Trump scion Eric, disembagging the cat. 
Democrats made a proposal directly to Trump which included his gossamer wall and increased military spending in exchange for reaffirming DACA and CHIP. Reportedly, he accepted the offer, after which General Kelly, who, when heading DHS, loved nothing more than deporting people, overruled the “president.” So we learned who’s in charge. And that the “president” is dangerously untrustworthy. 
Following his embarrassing failure, Trump produced a vile ad claiming Democrats are “complicit” in murders committed by illegal immigrants. No doubt his supporters love it, but brave Paul Ryan stood tall, saying, Look, I’m not going to comment... I don’t know if that’s necessarily productive.” Powerful stuff. (Off topic but enlightening: Ryan raked in $500,000 from the Kochs mere days after his tax bill passed.)    
Commanding the moral high ground, Democrats stood firm until, as usual, they didn’t. (Some say it was brilliant strategy. We’ll see.)  Against Trump’s loathsome lie that they “want illegal immigrants to pour into our nation unchecked,” they held out for a whole two days for Dreamers, who are supported by nearly ninety-percent of Americans. 
(In fairness, Democrats are always disadvantaged during government shutdowns, all of which have happened under Republican control, ending when Democrats give in. They consider government useful, and have empathy for those affected when it closes. Republicans, who don’t and don’t, are happy to use their decency against them. And Dems did have a bad hand.) 
It’s only the most irredeemably Foxified who don’t know, or care, that Dreamers are young adults brought here innocently, years ago, as babies and children, now qualified for DACA by being law-abiding, tax-paying, productive people, deportation of whom accomplishes nothing good for America. But it enhances Trump’s adulation by his rock-bottom remainders. 
If it once was, illegal immigration is no longer among our major problems. It became a trickle under President Obama and remains so under Trump. To the extent immigration needs fixing, let’s do it. Right after health care, climate change, inequality, and pollution; and preserving voting rights, public education, and press freedom. 
His instinctive turning to hypocrisy, lies, and slander after his failure was Trump at his worst. But wait, this just in! He’s for a path to citizenship for Dreamers? I’m impressed. Will his supporters be? And will Kelly let it stand? 
[Image source]


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Build The Fking Thing



I'm ready to give him his damn wall. For one thing, it'd be entertaining to see how his diehards react to the cost overruns and delays, the government takeovers of their border property, the fact that it won't be a "big, beautiful" impenetrable wall. The gaps. The failures to control drugs coming in. And, of course, the realization that their taxes will be paying for it, not Mexico.

Even considering the wasted money, if that's what it takes to get continuation of DACA, funding of community health centers, and -- a person can hope -- a return to sanity regarding alternative energy, among so many other things, it'd be worth it.

[Image source]

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Art Of The Deal


What a great negotiator. What great deals he'll make. Asshole.

His Piehole Is A Shithole


My next newspaper column:
“Being president doesn’t change who you are. It reveals who you are.” (Michelle Obama.) The same can be said about a president’s supporters.
The point isn’t that Donald Trump, Very Stable Genius, compared countries containing dark-skinned people to the last stop indigestible fiber and billions of bacteria make before exiting the colon. In part, it’s how it made undeniable his racism, and that of those who’ve been bending over backwards to pretend it isn’t. And it’s the clarity in the unabashed delight of his base when they heard the news: David Duke was orgasmic.  
Even that, though, is less important than how it shows Trump neither understands nor loves what America has, until recently, always meant; and how that contempt is revealed in his policies. The American idea is both foreign and anathema to the Very Stable Genius, and, now revealed undeniably, to his rebarbative supporters. To Trump, America is riches to be plundered. It’s a zero-sum game, a grift, an endless source of aggrandizement; the humanitarian miracle for which it stands means nothing to him. And he’s made it a place where he needn’t fake it. Enough people love him precisely for his racist gutter talk and his bluff ignorance that he assumes it’s okay.  
How okay? Congressional Republicans lightly tapped Trump with the “unhelpful” stick. Fox “news” apostles told us it’s just how people talk. Rand Paul said calling him a racist makes negotiations on immigration difficult. (No, sir. It’s his racism that makes it difficult.) Senators Cotton and Perdue (the latter once encouraged praying for President Obama’s death) claimed they “don’t recall” hearing the words, hours after attending the meeting. Then, when the VSG decided to lie about it, memory miraculously restored, flat-out insisted he didn’t. Later, in a display of condescending logomachy, they weaseled that “-house vs. –hole” makes some kind of difference.  
People who leave destitute countries to come here risk everything. In so doing, they identify themselves as courageous strivers; indeed, such families produce high-school and college grads and professionals at a higher rate than typical white, native-born Americans. Their crime rate is lower. They, not Trump, are the people making America great. They always have; now more than ever, as Trump and his cohorts attempt to make us a country ruled by white male billionaires, insulated and protected by purposeful stupefaction of everyone else: bible-schooled, science-illiterate, history-deprived, propagandized into docility, “faked” out of the means of resistance.  
Immigrants the Very Stable Genius derides fled that life, intent on bettering themselves. (Trump profits by employing Haitians on the cheap.) Norwegians? Other than to experience the character-building effects of impoverishment following medical care, and retirement insecurity, why would they come? (The happiest country on earth, Norway is a flourishing democratic-socialist atheist-majority country where, according to Trump, the people “work very hard.” Norway refutes every argument Republicans make for their policies.)  
There’s no doubt Trump said it: Lindsey Graham, lately a supine, unapologetic Trump apologist, attended the meeting and confirms it. Hardcore right-winger Erick Erickson tweeted that Trump called friends to brag about it.  
You can’t say things that are false ― knowingly false ― and be able to smile as money pours into your bank account,” said the Genius last week, obliviously believing he can change libel laws. Trump, whose falsehoods since taking office now exceed two thousand, who raised membership fees at Marks-are-Loco to $200,000 and has charged the Secret Service at least that much for using its golf carts. Whose D.C. hotel is Pay-to-Play Central. 
Fox’s most adorably aggrieved talker, Tucker Carlson thinks fact-checkers target conservatives. It’s true: and firefighters target houses that are burning. Like complaining that reporting on Jeffery Dahmer didn’t mention his other consumables, Foxophiles moan that “mainstream” media’s coverage of Trump is ninety-percent negative. 
Our democracy can’t sustain wondering if a president is telling the truth, and when his party lies to protect his lies. When -- the one thing they’re right about -- they’ve come to count on getting away with it. When ordinary citizens convince themselves, in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence, that their leaders aren’t lying. (Cue Trumpists: “But Obama said you can keep your doctor…”) 
To today’s Republican electeds, and, evidently, their voters, the founding ideals by which our nation once illuminated the world have become abhorrent. So has truth. Donald Trump, Very Stable Genius, is both cause and result.
[Image source]

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Very Stable Genius Loves Norway.


How ironic is it that the Very Stable Genius hails Norway as an exemplary nation? It is, after all, a fantastically successful democratic socialist nation, with high taxes and lots of "free stuff." They're hard workers, he says, after he and his party have been claiming for years that socialism makes people lazy. I hope poor Paul Ryan wasn't listening too hard. It could bring back scary memories of how he got by with the help of social programs.

And why in gods' name (Norway is now, by majority, an atheist nation) would any of them want to come here?

... We like where we live. In fact, Norway is the happiest country in the world. We are that way because we live in an egalitarian society where we strive to give everyone good and equal opportunities -- regardless of ethnic, gender and social background... 
... Today, Norway is one of the richest countries in the world, and we will not give up on our cradle-to-grave welfare. Our parental leave is a generous year, kindergarten is cheap, and our higher education is free. Health care is also free for every Norwegian citizen. Our society strives to be tolerant. Every political party promotes liberal values, gender-equality and human rights. The plumber´s son goes to school with the CEO´s daughter, and social mobility is high. Hence, our leaders have diverse backgrounds and anyone could meet the NATO secretary general skiing in the woods or our Prime Minister at the supermarket doing her own grocery shopping. 
So instead of trying to import our whiteness, the US President should try letting some of our ideals in...
If Norway isn't proof of the emptiness of Trumpic Republicanism and the falsehood of everything it stands for, I don't know what is. So, yes, let's finally give Trump what he wants and bring in the Norwegians. By the bucketful. Enough of them to bring their form of government to ours. That must be what he has in mind.

[Image source


Friday, January 12, 2018

Happy Talk


My next newspaper column. Chillin' at the end of a nice vacay in Hawaii.

Taking a mental health break from Donald J. Trump, VSG:
"Thangzz doc yer th greatiss .... No, rilly man... yer the... zzzzz ..." "Wha? Operation's over? No way. You're kidding, right? Oh yeah, lookit that. Wow. The operation's over? No way. You're kidding, right? Over? You're kidding, right? Is the operation over? You're kidding. Right? Oh yeah..." "I robbed a bank, y'know. Had to kill a guy. Put the money in a Swiss bank. The account number is...."  
I've been asked frequently: "Did I say anything when I was out?" Readers of my blog wondered the same. Evidently, it's a pretty common concern: do people reveal stuff or otherwise embarrass themselves when under the effects of anesthesia drugs? Relax, people: the answer is "no." Mostly.  
Sodium pentothal, formerly used extensively in the operating room but now largely replaced, has been referred to as “truth serum.” Whereas it's still true that under the influence of para-surgical drugs people can get a little disinhibited, it's not the case that they'll get all revelatory. I haven't learned any secrets from my patients. When asked, however, I've been known to say, "Well, you did mention a Swiss bank account." Only once did that result in a worried look. 
Most surgical patients get a little something to relax them before they get wheeled into the OR. It's not unlike a couple of my perfect martinis. So yeah, tongues loosen a little. Giggles sometimes; rarely, tears. "Wow, this feels great..." Stories get told. Amusingly, when the story is interrupted mid-sentence by the arrival in their brain of the knock-out punch, I've seen people wake up later and begin exactly where they left off, unaware of the passage of time. And yet, I've never heard anyone say anything they'd be sorry about. Except telling me how wonderful I am (for my regular column-haters, there’s no drug that potent.)  
When possible, I enjoyed operating on awake patients. We’d talk, usually light-heartedly. Given some sort of anti-anxiety drug, the conversations can be loose, chatty, funny. People will say the same thing over and over, ask the same questions repeatedly. My goal is to keep them comfortable; if they want to ramble on, it's fine with me. Most often they doze, wake up, talk a little, doze some more. It's pleasant, not confessional. 
Because such talk is commonplace, even when particularly entertaining it went out the other side of my mind as quick as it enters; my head -- and, I'd aver, those of everyone else in the OR -- is a sieve that way. Talk like that is texture, not substance.  
The flip side of this is a theoretical utility. Studies of suggestibility under anesthesia are equivocal. Still, I liked to give some positive thoughts to my patients as they went off to sleep and when they emerged: "We'll take good care of you. You'll be comfortable when you wake up." And, after it's over, "Everything went great. You'll be happy we did this. Comfortable, no nausea." I have no idea if it had an effect or not. 
I always made it a point to talk to my patients when they were awake in the recovery room, not only telling them how it went but -- unless it wasn't true -- telling them I expect things to be fine, give them some positive vibes. With practically no exceptions, no matter how engaged and appropriate they were in those conversations, people never remembered what was said, or even that I'd been there. Or that they'd asked me the same thing five times in a row. But I always did it.  
If it were possible, I'd love to see a study of people wherein, within a standard time of awakening, they'd hear suggestions. Some would hear words saying they'd be comfortable, be up and out of bed soon; others would hear something neutral, unrelated to pain. The floor nurses wouldn't know who heard what. Pain medication use would be recorded, along with nausea, time before getting out of bed. I'd like to think the former group would outperform. (The studies I'm aware of played recorded messages during surgery.)
The problem with any sort of surgical studies is that even when operations are "the same," they really aren't. Different surgeons, different operating times, incision size; different people getting the procedure, for differing reasons. It's really hard to standardize. Still, it'd be interesting. Valid or not, I liked doing it. 
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Monday, January 8, 2018

Under The Radar?



Here's something fairly obvious that hadn't occurred to me: by appointing so many "acting" officials, including several US attornies, Trump has bypassed confirmation hearings, and has a bunch of high-level people accountable only to him. Just another example of flouting the rule of law, yet one more cynical piece of the march to unchecked power.
... Senators have a right to ask prospective U.S. Attorneys how they plan to enforce federal law on marijuana, and, of course, the legislators have the right to vote these officials down if they don’t like their answers. But Sessions has installed acting U.S. Attorneys in much of the country—including in such high-profile locations as Manhattan and Los Angeles—and senators can’t exert any oversight of them. This gesture of contempt for the Senate’s role in confirmations is reflected well beyond the Justice Department. Throughout the government, Trump has nominated many fewer officials to Senate-confirmed positions than his predecessors; instead, Cabinet secretaries have filled these crucial positions with acting or temporary officials who avoid scrutiny from senators...
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Come To Think Of It...


Here's a good point, from a former US Attorney:
“The thing is, with Steve Bannon, we keep forgetting he was on the national security council,” said Moore. “And then to come out and say, ‘I don’t really know him, he’s Sloppy Steve’ or whatever, he was their pick to be on the national security council. He helped run the campaign.
Yep, just some guy we gave a top security clearance to, and put on the Security Council. No idea who the fk he is.

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Thursday, January 4, 2018

It's Now Or Never


Here's my upcoming newspaper column:
Now is the time for all good men and women to come to the aid of their country. Constitutional protections against tyranny have never been so seriously threatened. 
Donald Trump, would-be dictator and wouldn’t-be cogitator, began the new year by describing our Justice Department as a “deep state” adversary, while demanding it prosecute certain people he doesn’t like. There followed silence of the lambs who once mewled that President Obama used government agencies against enemies; now mum, as a “president” demands DOJ, CIA, FBI do exactly that. In a foreign leader, we’d all see it for what it is. Even Trumpists. 
This year is the turning point. Either people who once supported Trump, and people previously disinterested or naively persuaded by disinformation will wake up to the danger, or they’ll ratify, actively or passively, the end of Constitutional governance. What would follow was once considered impossible in the United States: dimming the beacon of a free press, hastened by indifference and too-easily constructed belief in fakery; a Department of Justice, helmed by a beholden Attorney General, becoming the enforcement arm of despotism, punishing adversaries as demanded by a delusional, vindictive, “semi-literate” (direct quote from inside the W.H.), narcissistic, sociopath. Lawful protests, quelled. Voting legislated into meaninglessness, voices stilled by complacency belatedly acknowledged. 
In no way is this overstatement. It’s begun, if not yet irreversibly. But if awakened voters don’t turn out in Alabama-like numbers for year-end national elections, it’ll become permanent. It will have been the last chance for the will of the people to have an impact, much of its meaning having been already lost when Trump was parchmented into office. 
Only by the still-remaining direct election of federal legislators might his authoritarianism be stopped. Watching Congressional sycophancy and acquiescence, it’s clear the current crop of Republicans won’t do it. Happy to have a resolutely know-nothing in the White House, actively ignoring the implications, they’re pursuing only self-enrichment. And, to protect it, they’re making a mockery of oversight. Ignore, if you must, today’s throwback links, but not this one.
Who’d have thought millions of Americans would succumb to a rightwing propaganda machine, even such a well-financed and coordinated one? Who can process the extent to which truth is no longer a valued or expected fundament of our political process? Swallowed whole by supporters, Trump’s untruths are approaching two-thousand.  
One may wonder why Trump chose “the failing New York Times” to host his recent interview, but in doing so he made clear how unsuited he is for the presidency. Those who read his mostly unchallenged word salad, his delusions, his inability to form complete sentences and aren’t horrified are a greater threat than Trump himself. Because, having the power, possibly for the last time, to vote Trump’s enablers out of office, not to do so, out of disinterest, or inanition, or ignorance of what’s happening, or, worst of all, selfishness, ought to be unthinkable. Given the stakes. 
It falls upon all of us – not just Republicans and self-described conservatives – to make preserving Constitutional republican democracy our highest priority. Liberals must interrupt the pursuit of political purity and the rejection of candidates who don’t believe exactly as they do. More, they have to turn out. 
Conservatives have to recognize that deregulation and tax cuts (and, for many, blaming immigrants and the poor for their problems) are less important than living in a free society wherein citizens, however remotely, still have voice. 
In 2018, we all must become active in preserving our uniquely successful form of government: at minimum, by paying attention, and voting. Now or never, enough Americans have to hit the “pause” button, putting aside everything but restoring sanity and balance. If you haven’t read that interview, do.  
Then read this summary of Trump’s first year. Before dismissing it as “fake news” or lies, Trumpists, do some fact-checking. Make the effort all citizens should, now more than ever, to inform themselves before casting their votes. Step outside the Foxolimjonesian bubble; seek other voices. Revisit how the Constitution is meant to work, consider the evidence that Trump would tear it up if he could. It’s there for the gathering. Across the country, 
Democrats, open wider your arms. Start now. And, no matter what, don’t stay home come November. Unlike last election, in this one popular vote will make all the difference.
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