Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Monday, July 24, 2017


George Mason, a father of the founding variety, had objections that kept him from signing the Constitution. One of those objections, in his words, was:
The President of the United States has the unrestrained power of granting pardons for treason, which may be sometimes exercised to screen from punishment those whom he had secretly instigated to commit the crime, and thereby prevent a discovery of his own guilt.
It's as if the guy had crystal balls.

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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Go For It, Flyboy!

In his long and unique career in elected office, John McCain has hewed more often than not to his persona as a truth-telling maverick. His stumbles are well-known, of course, the worst of which -- probably even worse than the Keating imbroglio -- was pretending Sarah Whats-her-name was qualified for any office, much less the presidency. Saying she "knows more about energy" than anyone. Defending her stupidity and uninformed demagoguery with that forced smile of his.

Still, his best and most honorable moments have been when he has spoken out, against his own party even, against obvious wrongdoings and misdeeds. His recent diagnosis of glioblastoma is very serious. It sounds as if it was a relatively small one, reportedly grossly excised, which, if accurate, puts him in a category of potential cure.

But it's a bad one, and the odds aren't great. Were I in his shoes, I'd be thinking seriously about living my remaining life as if I had, as people like to say, no more fucks to give. In my case, probably not much would change. I'd still rather spend my money, for example, on other people and causes than on myself. In his case, though, he could maverick the shit out of his current party and its unhinged, rudderless, morally bereft leader, away from whose dishonesty and incompetence they remain content to turn their faces.

I hope he's thinking about it. Hard. Really, really, hard. I have no doubt he knows what a faker and danger Trump is; and I'd guess he pretty much hates his guts.

So let 'er rip, Senator. Call out Trump and his apologists among your colleagues with your legendary indignation. You have nothing to lose, cured or not, and plenty to regain: the best parts of your reputation top the list. And you've withstood a hell of a lot worse than what Trumpists will unquestionably throw at you.

(I suppose this isn't the time to mention that his government-provided health insurance is far better than what Rs are trying to foist on regular folks and poor folks, and that they're hoping his financially worry-free treatments will be successful enough to allow him to return to vote away benefits for tens of millions of his fellow Americans; benefits that were never as good as his in the first place. One might hope his illness has engendered thinking on that, too.)

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Friday, July 21, 2017

A Smörgåsbord Of Lies And Outrages

My forthcoming newspaper column:
Lies and outrages, coming so fast, there’s neither time nor space. Here are some surface-scratches.
From the emails “transparently” released by Don, Jr. after the NYT told him they were about to publish them: “… The Crown prosecutor of Russia … offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary … and would be very useful to your father. This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump…” To which Junior responded, “I love it.” 
Said Sean Spicer: “… there was nothing as far as we know that would lead anyone to believe that there was anything except for a discussion about adoption…” (“Adoption,” understand, is code for removing sanctions.) The day after the offer, Trump promised a big announcement about Hillary, which never came. But he didn’t know about the meeting. Sure. 
Questioned during Trump’s “Made in America” week about Trump family products made overseas, Spicer replied, “That’s out of bounds.”  
Trump claims 45,000 coal mining jobs. The actual number is 800. Fewer coal jobs were added in his first six months than in Obama’s last six. Related: Ford is moving jobs to China. Carrier, another Trump brag, to Mexico. Harley Davidson, touted by Trump, just announced layoffs.  
Having campaigned on canceling the “terrible” nuclear agreement with Iran on day one, Trump grudgingly recertified their compliance with it.  
Having campaigned on repealing and replacing Obamacare on day one, promising better, cheaper, lower-deductible coverage, saying it’d be “so easy,” after multiple embarrassing failures Trump’s now for repeal with no replacement. Which he promised he wouldn’t. Or, depending on which tweet, it’s “let it fail.” Except they can’t “let” it fail: they’ll have to make it fail, as several R governors tried by refusing its Medicaid assistance. Everywhere else, it’s working as intended 
Trump would let millions of Americans lose healthcare coverage out of spite, an important lesson in today’s Republican governance. Repeal alone will be devastating. They don’t care. 
Trump blames everyone but himself for his healthcare failure. Remember when, referring to President Obama, he said presidents must take responsibility?  
The top government ethics overseer quit to protest Trump’s lack of it.  
DOD is renting space in Trump Tower for $130,000/month.  
The latest House budget funds Trump’s beautiful border wall for twenty-eight miles.  
While investigating imaginary voter fraud (“Find me something,” said Trump) they’re eliminating the Election Assistance Commission, which prevents it. Suppressing Democratic votes is the end game. In 2016, it worked well.  
Rachel Maddow, now leading cable news in viewership, has a PhD in political science. Hannity and Limbaugh are college dropouts. Coincidentally, a large majority of Republicans believe colleges are bad for America. Our free press, too. Since it’s only in the past couple of years, it’s pretty obvious what’s behind the switch. (I’m as disturbed by the extremes of “political correctness” on some campuses as anyone, but I also recognize what a small part of college it is.)  
It means Trump’s and his party’s attacks on education and science (and criticism) are working. On Republicans. Time was, that party understood the importance of public education; understood why America’s founders did, too. Now they consider it a threat to their agenda, and it’s no mystery why. Same with labeling news they don’t like as fake, while producing a steady stream of fake news themselves. Like pretending, despite Trump’s sons bragging that Russian money is an “outsize” part of Trump’s businesses, there’s no connection between him and Russia.  
Following the money, which Robert Mueller is doing despite Trump’s attempts to discredit him, should reveal the depth of it, and why Trump seems to favor Russian interests. The role of Russian oligarchs and criminals in his past businesses isn’t in doubt. Is it coincidence that the government’s solid case against Russian money laundering through American businesses including Trump’s was settled for a pittance, right after he took office, and after firing the US Attorney leading the prosecution? For a compelling discussion of the preceding with someone who knows, read this. Trumpists: reject it as fake while you still can. Like the continuing revelations of who was at “that” meeting, truth will out. Unknown is whether the Foxified will ever believe it.              
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Friday, July 14, 2017

Trump Got Played. And Isn't A Player

Tomorrow's newspaper column:
Opinions may vary. Mine is that Putin played Trump like a balalaika. Example: agreeing to work with Russia to create an “impenetrable cybersecurity unit” is like inviting Mexican drug cartels to build his border wall. (After bipartisan derision, Trump pretended he knew all along it couldn’t happen. Riiight.) 
Worse was denouncing, on foreign soil, our intelligence agencies and free press while claiming “no one knows” who hacked the election. Which never occurred. But is Obama’s fault. Even Trump’s UN ambassador said “everybody knows” it was Russia. (Keep your résumé up to date, Nikki.) Backfilling, she defended Ivanka’s place-taking for daddy, saying she’s part of a “public service family.” I may not understand the term.  
Every involved US intelligence agency and every member of Congressional intelligence committees, Republican and Democrat, agrees that Russia alone was behind the hacking. Virtually all acknowledge its purpose was to help Trump win, and that it was on orders from Putin. Still to be determined is to what extent Trump’s team was in on it, although Don Jr. is stumbling toward implicating everyone, making a tougher sell for Foxolimjonesians insisting it’s fake news. (If there weren’t still people who claim Trump never lies and was an honorable businessman, it’d be an impossible sell.) Besides, who wouldn’t believe denials from a man who ordered hacking and one who benefitted?  
This much is clear: under Trump, there’ll be no consequences for Russian election interference, let alone unequivocal acknowledgement. Time to “move forward,” the men agreed. Because a malign invasion by a foreign adversary is no big deal. Not to Trump, not to his loyalists. Unless the aim had been different. 
It was a lopsided engagement: A novice Secretary of State and a gullible president, neither with diplomatic experience, alone in a room with a seasoned kompromat political operative and a former KGB agent around whom people seem predisposed to become dead, with or without poison or bullets in their systems. Usually there are official note-takers at such meetings. That there were none is a thought-provoking decision, leaving only he-said/he-said versions of the extent to which hacking was discussed and claims of innocence accepted. One assumes, though, that the two known spies among the four will have made records of some sort. To be stashed with the other stuff.  
In fairness (for this columnist is nothing if not fair), a ceasefire in a portion of Syria was implemented, and if it lasts that’s a good thing. Then Rex Tillerson said US and Russian objectives in Syria are “exactly the same” and that maybe the Russians have “the right approach and we’ve got the wrong approach.” Wow.  
Admittedly, US foreign “policy” has been changing at the speed of Twitter; but it’s long been stated that “we” want Assad gone, while Russia continues to prop him up and abet his crimes. We’re left to wonder why he said it, and what Trumpists would have said, had it been John Kerry. With that and Trump’s “fuggedaboudit” attitude toward election interference, Putin got what he wanted, likely including giveaways about which we may never hear. If cooperation with Russia, with its major military and minor economy, is desirable, having easily manipulated amateurs on our side and professional malefactors on theirs bodes worrisome.  
For those who’d dismiss this as left-wing blather, read what the editor of The Weekly Standard, about as right-wing as there is this side of Breitbart, had to say. True conservatives still exist, even as they’re powerless in their own party.  
In terms of economic impact, meeting Putin was a sideshow. The G-20 summit, at and before which Trump handed leadership of the free world to Germany and economic supremacy to China, was the main event. By its end, centuries of respect for the US had all but evaporated. Trumpites who think our past leadership was only about giving money away are unconcerned. But Europe, China, and Japan had forged their own agreements by the time Trump got there; and with the US alone in rejecting the Paris Accords, such self-inflicted isolation will be disastrous, and not just in trade and energy production. In a connected, dangerous world, reputation is currency and incompetence has far-ranging consequences.  
“Make America Great Again.” Turns out it contains a homophone.
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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Making Sense Of It

Simply repeating the facts makes it seem like a failed movie script. Junior must be dumber than his dad. And here I'd thought Eric was the stupid one.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Old (As In "Old") Friends

My next newspaper column. A certain amount of esoterica, since only readers of the local paper will know Larry. We did this once before and readers liked it. They miss him; especially the ones that hate my stuff.
Well, here we are again, Sid. A flaming “liberal” and a gun-toting, NRA Life Member, “conservative,” together again in The Herald because editor Jon Bauer saw our recent conversation on Facebook. And, yes, not only do I read you in The Herald, but I also follow your Facebook posts and your blog.

I also enjoy sitting down with you for coffee. You see, as friends, I both want, and like, to hear your views in order to check my own thinking. The fact that we may differ doesn’t matter because I know that we can still civilly listen to each other, take the time to digest what’s said and, then, respond knowing that the thoughts presented will not be treated with disdain or, worse, contempt and vitriol.

As you know, I don’t “do” politics because of the polarization that now dominates this arena. These days, it seems that the instant many people detect positions that are at odds with theirs, they lump you into the “enemy” camp and start lobbing verbal bombs. No longer is there a “neutral ground” upon which to meet and simply explore ideas and beliefs. And we, as a society, are definitely the worse for that.

I’ll add that there are other reasons I count you as a friend. We’re both granddads who are fully involved in the “spoiling” role that that title requires of us. You like cars. You served and were wounded in Viet Nam. Too, you enjoy the summer sausage I make from the deer I “slaughter” annually.

Still, despite differing views, we can sit, talk, and joke with each other. Makes you wonder who it is that wants this country polarized and, more importantly, why. I think we could identify the “who” were we to “Follow the money.” The “why” by “Divide and conquer.”

You’re right, Larry. The fact is that as human-Americans, dads, grandpas, indulgers in a sip once in a while, we, like everyone else, have much more in common than what divides us. We’re old enough to remember when even political discussions could be had among friends, which might be why we still manage. I long for those days, and, despite my inability to resist putting it too strongly in my writing, it’s fundamental to why I keep at it: to point out the craziness that’s replaced reasonableness. I acknowledge it’s sort of self-defeating to yell and scream about how we’ve come to yell and scream at each other (present company excepted), but it’s hard not to.

I’d say it started with Newt Gingrich when he adopted his scorched earth policy as Speaker, and hit its lowest point when Rs got together, literally on the day of Obama’s inauguration, to plan how to block everything he did, no matter how good it might be for America. The days of comity are long gone, but the blame isn’t equal. Plus, I don’t think there’s even been an attack on science and expertise like we’re now seeing. It makes me crazy. And frightened. So I shout it out.

I don’t mean to let any felines out of bagatory confinement here, Larry, but you’re the kind of conservative I grew up around: thoughtful, skeptical, curious, not inclined to suffer fools, or vote for them. I’d like to think those are traits we have in common, as neither political party has exclusive claim to them.

And you’re right, of course: while “the people” fight among themselves and fail to listen to each other, thinking our opinions matter, those who keep us at each other’s throats are piling up the cash.

Sid, I’m not a “registered” anything, thus who started this “scorched earth” hell doesn’t matter to me. Each side has often behaved hypocritically and even despicably in the years since I first started voting. I just want an end to it all. Too, my beliefs don’t shoehorn into any party and can be best summarized as “I’ll only support a candidate whose loyalty, first and foremost, is to the country and not to a certain party.” This past election, Jim Webb received my write-in vote for President as did James Mattis for VP. Thus, I think both parties would view me as an unwanted pain in the butt.

Probably. Not me, though. In fact, I think if they’d let us, we could solve it all. But let’s get to the important stuff: that deer sausage you make. It’s darn fine sausage. You and I have gone to the shooting range together. I think I impressed you with a shot or two. I’d enjoy a hunt, too, up to a point. I’d not be the one to pull the trigger, but I’d help you carry the load back to your truck. Not gonna kill. Happy to eat.

Sid, your shooting did, in fact, impress the hell out of me. But, then again, my rifle was in the hands of a surgeon and, that, as they say, puts an end to that discussion.

Okay, then: as grandfathers of adorable kids who happen to have preexisting conditions, maybe I can suck you further into quasi-politics: think universal single-payer healthcare ought to be back in the mix?

In a word, “Yep.” (Try to pick yourself up from the floor.) In any discussion of tough problems, every possible solution should be on the table. Too, that “Yep” only comes with an iron-clad agreement that whatever mish-mashed, hodge-podged, load of doggerel comes from those we call “our representatives,” they themselves will be subject to whatever fresh new hell they inflict upon us.
Agreed. And it applies to lots of other stuff they produce that affects others but not them. Of course, among other things, they’d have to grow uteri or know what hunger feels like. (Ha. I said that without space for you to respond). Thanks, Larry. Next round of coffee is on me.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Could They Actually?

If Republicans do as some, including Trump, are threatening -- namely repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act before they have a replacement -- it will reveal them to be the uncaring, hypocritical, nasty people we (those paying attention) know they are. It'd mean that in their haste to reward their owners with massive tax breaks, they're perfectly happy to leave millions of Americans without coverage and with no way to know what will happen to them.

One hopes they're not that stupid and awful. We know they're perfectly capable of it. We know they don't care about anyone but the wealthy -- the white, testiculated sort in particular. But were they to do it, I'd think even Trumpists would recoil. Not all of them, of course. Not the ones unaffected, for sure; and probably lots who'd be affected but wouldn't understand or, because Jesus sent Trump, wouldn't care. But enough to make it thinkable that the government might be handed back to Democrats.

That, of course, implies Democrats could get their message-shit together in ways they haven't in a long, long time.

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Monday, July 3, 2017

Everything New Is Old Again

Thanks to Charles P. Pierce, who got it elsewhere, we can see that whereas Trump is surely the worst, he's not the first. This appeared in The Atlantic Monthly in 1866, after Andrew Johnson's ascendancy to the presidency after Lincoln's assassination:
The President of the United States has so singular a combination of defects for the office of a constitutional magistrate, that he could have obtained the opportunity to misrule the nation only by a visitation of Providence.  
Insincere as well as stubborn, cunning as well as unreasonable, vain as well as ill-tempered, greedy of popularity as well as arbitrary in disposition, veering in his mind as well as fixed in his will, he unites in his character the seemingly opposite qualities of demagogue and autocrat, and converts the Presidential chair into a stump or a throne, according as the impulse seizes him to cajole or to command. 
Doubtless much of the evil developed in him is due to his misfortune in having been lifted by events to a position which he lacked the elevation and breadth of intelligence adequately to fill. He was cursed with the possession of a power and authority which no man of narrow mind, bitter prejudices, and inordinate self-estimation can exercise without depraving himself as well as injuring the nation.  
Egotistic to the point of mental disease, he resented the direct and manly opposition of statesmen to his opinions and moods as a personal affront, and descended to the last degree of littleness in a political leader, — that of betraying his party, in order to gratify his spite. He of course became the prey of intriguers and sycophants, — of persons who understand the art of managing minds which are at once arbitrary and weak, by allowing them to retain unity of will amid the most palpable inconsistencies of opinion, so that inconstancy to principle shall not weaken force of purpose, nor the emphasis be at all abated with which they may bless to-day what yesterday they cursed. 
Thus the abhorrer of traitors has now become their tool. Thus the denouncer of Copperheads has now sunk into dependence on their support. Thus the imposer of conditions of reconstruction has now become the fore- most friend of the unconditioned return of the Rebel States. Thus the furious Union Republican, whose harangues against his political opponents almost scared his political friends by their violence, has now become the shameless betrayer of the people who trusted him. And in all these changes of base he has appeared supremely conscious, in his own mind, of playing an independent, a consistent, and especially a conscientious part...
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Friday, June 30, 2017

Thank You, Sir. May We Have Another?

My next newspaper column:
Surely no one believes the thirteen white male Republican senators who scrabbled together their version of Trumpcare, in secret, thought even for a moment about doing the most good for the most Americans. Could anyone who sees the result think they discussed its impact on the people who’ve benefitted most from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act? On older Americans whose premiums will skyrocket? The chronically ill, the working poor. If it was considered, it must have been only to dismiss it. Such callousness can’t be unintentional. 
Trump promised lower premiums, lower deductibles, better coverage. Not in the bill, of course, because without “Medicare for All” it’s impossible. (If he didn’t know that, why not? If voters believed him, why?) He promised he’d raise taxes on people like himself and lower them on everyone else. He won’t. In fact, whereas the worst effects on average citizens in the Senate wealthcare bill don’t kick in till after the next election, its tax giveaways to their paymasters are retroactive. If it fails, McConnell warns his party, we’d have to work with Democrats. That says it all. 
Whether or not it passes, this version of Trumpcare underscores today’s Republican party values: in every way, on every day, transferring wealth and services from the poor and middle classes to the wealthy, while blaming the former for any misfortunes they’ve suffered or will in the future. Why do they do those things, so brazenly, confident they can get away with it? One answer is found in Trump’s latest “festoon me with your love as I speak of my wonderfulness” rally: because they can.
“I have to be a little careful,” he told the enraptured Iowans, “Because they’ll say, “He lied.”” Cheers for the man and jeers for the media which followed were rewarded with lie upon Trumpic lie. Like his oldie-but-goodie claim about American tax rates, debunked with facts so obvious you’d think by now they’d have plowed through the cornfields and into the Fox-encrusted cranii of his listeners. You’d be wrong. 
Capping it off to pandemonious cheers, he said it was high time for a law preventing immigrants from receiving government benefits for five years after arrival. We can be sure the audience had no idea such a law has been on the books since the Clinton presidency, but what of Trump? Is he that ill-informed? He’s president, after all; by law if not by majority acclamation. Or is he that cynical? Are his lies and apparent ignorance uncontrollable or deliberate? Either way, his supporters don’t care, so what does it matter? 
This -- beside the obvious need to trust a president on dealings with enemies and friends alike -- is how it matters: because those thirteen Republican senators know the president is an unrepentant liar who nevertheless retains support among the vast majority of their party, they feel empowered to lie with impunity. So far, there’s no evidence of blowback. And because of brilliant propagandizing and rock-solid gerrymandering, they know their seats at the table are almost perfectly safe. They’re free to carry out the wishes of their wealthy benefactors, knowing they’ll not be called on it. 
Those wishes are simple and few: more money in the form of tax breaks, more money for their businesses, and less for anyone not in their brackets: tax, social, or otherwise. Trumpcare delivers. (The Koch brothers and some of their paid-for congressfolk think it’s not brutal enough; but, hey, it’s a start. What it fails to deliver now will be more than covered in their as-yet unrevealed tax “reform.” Count on it.)  
Presidential lies and legislative gifts to wealthy donors at the expense of regular citizens won’t stop unless their voters demand it; but evidence suggests those people prefer being lied to. Since his electoral college victory, Trump has done so, on average, more than twice a day. Challenged to prove it by his faithful, I’ve directed them to sources where hundreds are catalogued. Without reading it, they reject the documentation, solidifying their commitment to remaining uninformed. 
Evidently the pleasure of jeering reporters and denigrating people unlike themselves makes up for what’s being taken away from them. Their leaders know this and appear quite happy to oblige.
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Taking It Down, Piece By Piece

So, in the face of clear evidence of Russia, a global adversary, trying to discredit our electoral system and attempting to hack actual voting machines, Trump's DHS refuses to investigate the extent to which they were successful. Gee. I wonder why. Homeland security, my ass.

Meanwhile, in the face of no evidence of significant illegal voting by Americans, Trump's team of special investigators into that non-existent issue is asking for the voting records of all fifty states, including names, last four of the SSID, party affiliation, and voting history. Gee. I wonder why. Free and fair elections, my other ass.

Given the apocalyptic response from the right over the all-but-insignificant efforts of one IRS office to follow the law by screening applicants for tax-exempt status, what would that side do if it were Obama asking for those records?

We're far past the point of unbelievable, truly unbelievable, past even fucking unbelievable. This, along with constant attacks on the press as "fake news," is deliberate sabotage of the only means we have to stave off totalitarianism: voting, and a free press. With pitifully few exceptions, people on the right, patriots all, lovers of America as it once was, stand silent. Or cheering it on. Democracy, their ass.

As Trump and his overflowing basket of deplorables systematically take America apart piece by piece, weakening us from within in ways no outside enemy could, it becomes perfectly and undeniably clear why Vladimir Putin did everything he could to get Trump into the White House. The only question is whether he chose Trump because he recognized his stupidity and easy manipulative potential, or because he literally turned him. Take you pick. It really doesn't matter. Out of curiosity, I'd like to know. Kinda like a last request.

I think it's pretty clear by now that if America is to be salvaged, it won't be with the help of anyone currently in the majority in Congress or the rightwing media; and if what's gone on already hasn't awakened Trump's supporters in red states, nothing will.

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Friday, June 23, 2017

One Person's Tyranny.

My upcoming newspaper column:
One side will say there are too many guns, the other not enough. One side will suggest new limitations on dangerous people getting guns, the other will see a slippery slope. Each will accuse the other of being the singular cause of all violence. We’ll hear of Jared Loughner and of James T. Hodgkinson. Hatred of Donald Trump will be pronounced unprecedented; that of Barack Obama dismissed. Fundraising political pitches will be made, condemned, and repeated. 
After Gabby Giffords was shot, politicians promised to cool their rhetoric, but didn’t. Screamers of the airways made no such promises, and delivered. There are as many guns in the hands of the public as there are members of the public. New laws or no laws, it is who we’ve become and will be, always. 
Hateful words abound on fringe websites of both sides. There, people make horrible, disgusting, violence-invoking comments. But here’s the thing, and it’s the area in which something could conceivably change: the leaders of only one party produce and encourage violent talk and threats. Offensive or not to say it, it’s true. To repeat, for clarity: the leaders. Not you. 
Only one party, via major candidates, Congressional representatives, and mouthpieces in the media, has lauded “Second Amendment Remedies.” It’s at the center of only one party, not its extremes, where you’ll be reminded about Thomas Jefferson and the Tree of Liberty and the Blood of Patriots. At only one party convention did major figures say the other party’s nominee should be locked up. Or shot. The candidate of only one party urged supporters to beat up protesters, promised to pay their legal bills; only one presidential scion considers opponents “not even people.” 
The likes of Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, and Alex Jones, spewing hate, paranoia, and rage, inhabit only one party. Not the other; not, at least, with huge audiences. Snark, maybe; hyperbole, even. But not existence-threatening warnings of deadly conspiracies (and lizard people), internment camps, or imposition of martial law. Nor, if such a person existed on the other side, would he be given White House press credentials. 
Only one president feted a man who called his predecessor a subhuman mongrel. Pastors associated with only one party call for all members of the other to be rounded up and imprisoned. Call a president the Anti-Christ. Call for murdering gays. Including the present, three-fourths of acts of political violence have been from groups associated with that party.   
Steve Scalise was gravely wounded, not long after promising to “continue fighting to protect every citizen’s right to keep and bear arms.” “Every,” he said, which includes James T. Hodgkinson with his history of arrests for domestic violence, legally carrying. (Listen, and wonder why he had access to such a weapon.) Rand Paul was at the ballpark, too. He’s informed us that the Second Amendment isn’t about shooting deer, but standing up to tyranny.  
If we’re to accept that the Second Amendment was written to provide the means for citizens to fight tyranny, maybe we need nationally ratified definitions of what the American version looks like and when it’s justified to shoot at it. Let’s settle upon acceptable parameters for government behavior needing lethal redress; and how, if at all, failed attempts should be penalized. It’s unlikely politicians and screamers suborning armed rebellion imagined liberals would take them up on it: they were thinking patriot militias, survivalists and Three Percenters. They didn’t like it when DHS named such groups a greater threat to the homeland than Islamic terrorists.  
And, aye, there’s the rub meeting the road. One person’s tyranny is another’s answered prayers. One’s is regulating carbon emissions, another’s is reversing those directives. One’s is executive orders protecting minorities and the environment, another’s is rescinding them. One’s is enabling access to healthcare, another’s isn’t. One person’s divisiveness is Trump demonizing immigrants and Muslims, another’s is Barack Obama saying Trayvon Martin could have been his son. Which assassins of tyrants by whose definition shall we call patriots? Who gets to choose? Everyone? It’s the westering spirit. 
Until we settle on the answer, how about the leaders, pastors, and airwave icons of that one party stop encouraging us to use our guns on one another? If nothing else, how about that much? 
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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

From My Better Blog

For irrelevant reasons, I've recently re-read a series of posts I wrote several years ago on "Surgeonsblog," wherein I tried to describe, in as much detail as possible, what goes on in an operation. Some of it is pretty good stuff, and, based on comments, it was entertaining and informative. There was a time when I could be that way.

So, shamelessly, to those who have more time on their hands than they know what to do with, and who may not yet have discovered the pleasures of a surgery blog written for laypeople, I recommend reading it.

It starts here. You need to scroll past the comments at the end to get to "newer post" on which to click to get to the next one. There are nine of them; be warned. Also, being old, most of the links no longer work, but it doesn't matter all that much.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Horns Of A Dilemma

In designating the President as Commander-in-Chief of the military, our founding fathers enshrined their firm belief that our generals and admirals must not be left to their own devices; that in a democracy, they must be under civilian control. The control of the people (theoretically), through their electoral choices.

I feel certain they didn't envision an uninformed idiot like Donald Trump in that role, though; not only uninformed but disinterested in and/or incapable of making the effort to learn.

So -- and here's the dilemma -- how should we feel about the fact that an uninformed idiot president has decided to hand over control of the military to its leaders? Troop levels in Afghanistan: up to them. Shooting down a Syrian fighter jet: was he in on that? What does he think -- did he "game" the possibility -- of Putin's announcement that they'll start shooting down our planes?

I don't doubt the generals, notwithstanding Trump's previous claim to the contrary, are smarter than Trump and know a hell of a lot more than he about fighting wars. But fighting wars, especially since we're now in several wars of choice, is, in the end, about politics and policy. Big picture. Strategy, not tactics. Complicated and comprehensive world-views. If presidents can't think like that, at least they should listen to people who can. And those are people at the State Department, among other places; not at -- certainly not exclusively at -- the Pentagon. The State Department is currently led by a man with no experience, and is woefully understaffed; either deliberately or due to incompetence in the Gold House.

The job of the military is to do what they're told to do, presumably by a president who has a clue. To provide him with recommendations about how to carry out his goals. They're not supposed to be the global perspective guys, the "best interest of the US" guys.

So should we be glad that Donald Trump, the most unqualified president ever, having the attention span of a charcoal briquet and the ability to learn of a flattened armadillo on I - 84, has given up his role? Or scared shitless?

CPP has some thoughts, too.

[Image source]

Monday, June 19, 2017


Here's my prediction for tomorrow's Congressional election in Georgia: that R woman will win, beating the young neophyte D guy. And Democrats will spin it as a great victory because he will have lost by considerably less than Hillary did in that district.

And hopes of re-taking the House in '18 will dim ever so slightly more.

[Image source]

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Cabinet Of Doctor Trumpligari

Tomorrow's newspaper column:
Ben Carson said it was spontaneous, and Ben knows states of mind because he just explained that’s what poverty is, a state of mind. Which you can tell because homeless people should pretend they’re in a house then maybe they would be. I never thought of it how Ben said which I should of. And that was after he figured out what was on Egyptian minds who built pyramids for grain which come to think of it the people who stacked those rocks weren’t exactly rolling in dollars which brings it all together.

So anyhow, what we’re talking about here is the cabinet meeting Trump had which I’m sure you’ve seen video so I won’t.* Some say it’s like North Korea or Russia but not me because their video quality isn’t all that good plus when Donald started congratulating himself which he’s entitled to on signing so much legislation he stopped way sooner than Kim would have or Putin. By the way I’m not like some people who say signing executive orders isn’t the same as legislation which I don’t care if he hasn’t learned that part and Paul Ryan doesn’t either.

After Trump stopped telling us his excellency which he wouldn’t have needed to if the fake press hadn’t been spending so much time finding stuff out and spreading it around, he gave everyone in the room time to speak which is generous because that’s who he is. His charities and all and those big cardboard checks which you can’t cash but you can bet he sends real ones.

Boy those people didn’t hold back. One after one, and it gave me a thrill up my leg, they sung his praise like people singing praise of someone they felt like singing praise of but not told to. It was American as heck and I can’t figure out why other presidents haven’t had their cabinets and cabinettes do the same. Out it came, the praise did, everyone having the same idea spontaneously. Spontaneity like that just doesn’t happen. And there’s nothing wrong with it because there’s a reason.

For one thing, ever since Boris Putin stopped helping him with the election it seems like President The Donald is sort of losing friends outside the White House which finally has Melania and Barron in it which ought to make him feel better and they held hands for a minute so much he forgot to notice Barron. Besides, pats on the back are good unless there’s a knife which there isn’t because they all said how much they like him even though Republicans like James Comey and Robert Mueller are giving him grief but not ones in Congress which if they haven’t by now. And if a president can’t praise himself who can other than his hires and hirettes who did it right off the top of their heads.

So no it wasn’t creepy and he’s in charge and he doesn’t lie.

What’s creepy is all that fake news about Russia and even if it’s not fake what’s the big deal. It’s not like they tried to hack election machines in all fifty states and even if they did they only made it in thirty-nine* which, hey, it’s a free country. Besides when it was discovered Barack Hussein Obama got all hot and bothered and if that doesn’t tell you how the rest of us should feel about it nothing does because he also got all hot (it’s a pun) and bothered about global warming which only God can do. Also he called Russia about it on one of those red phones that Jared wants so why not.

Plus no one thinks Russia managed to change votes because there’s no evidence although some states don’t have paper trails and don’t want to like Georgia which is having a big close election so don’t be stupid. Good for Republicans in Congress for saying no when Obama tried to declare voting machines vital infrastructure so Homeland Security could help protect them which isn’t suspicious and if sharing your own private notes isn’t leaking it should be.

The only thing who calls this serious is the deep state which I never heard of before but it’s real.
*Okay, okay. 
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Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Idiot In Action. Again.

The bullshitter in chief. Is there nothing he says that's not?
WASHINGTON -- While President Trump berates Qatar for sponsoring terrorism at the highest levels, he is simultaneously authorizing the country to purchase over $21 billion of U.S. weapons... 
On what basis would any halfway rational person take anything Trump says as truthful? Or serious? Or consistent? Or based on knowing WTF he's talking about?

Bad, Bad Karma

After eight years of promoting "Second Amendment remedies" by Republican governors and members of Congress and their media mouthpieces, and quoting Thomas Jefferson regarding "the tree of liberty" and "blood of patriots" by Tea Party ammosexuals, Republicans are now blaming Democrats for the sort of rhetoric that, they say, led to the shooting in D.C.

So someone took them up on those Second Amendment solutions. Someone who, given his history of violence, wouldn't have been granted a gun license if Democrats had their way. Someone who aimed his rifle to the right instead of the left, as opposed to what had been suggested during the Obama years. Who knew it'd be a "liberal?"

I hope Mr. Scalise will be okay. I've dealt with gunshot wounds like his; I infer the bullet entered his abdominal cavity through his pelvis, damaged his colon and tore through his iliac vein. That's a big one, and hard to control. I've seen people bleed to death from it. Sounds like he got good surgical care, but isn't out of the woods.

Probably not the time to mention his opposition to Obama's efforts at gun control.

Will anything change? I'm gonna say no. Fingers pointing in both directions before the smoke cleared from the field. I guess I'm among the pointers. Pointer-out, more like, I'd argue.

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Thursday, June 8, 2017

(Redacted) (Redacted) (Redacted)! Also, Fuck!

My upcoming newspaper column:
There’s a housing development under construction. Comes a fast-approaching forest fire, certain to incinerate it. Recognizing impending catastrophe, local authorities order evacuation. How should we describe someone who countermanded the order, “to protect jobs” of the builders, or because packing up is too expensive? Sensible and forward-thinking, or clueless and incompetent? Or, maybe, a tool of big firehose?  
When I consider the arrogant mendacity of Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Accords, my acclaimed civility eludes me. To be printable, I’ll do a little self-censorship. 
Some say I’ve been unfair to Trump. (Redacted)!! I’ve been too (redacted) kind. Trump, his cabinet, and the fully Foxified can spew whatever (redacted) they want. It won’t change reality. Climate change is observable. Evidence is everywhere, and, as with good science, confirmation comes from multiple sources. By now, denial of the danger we face isn’t ignorance. It’s (redacted) evil. 
Not satisfied with the environmental carnage he’s already initiated, Trump, spouting nonsense, lumbers on. I wish I could understand what motivates him. I doubt even he does. Maybe his impulses are buried so deep in his (redacted) wounded psyche that it’s just a (redacted) morass of uncontrolled reflexes. But his pig-headed climate actions amount to premeditated internecion. Same with his (redacted) apologists. Too costly? To avert disaster? (Redacted!) 
We’ll always have flat-earthers and fakers; likewise, people with something to gain, financial or otherwise, by rejecting the evidence of climate change. They’re welcome to their (redacted), but they’re the last ones who should be making decisions for the rest of us. Not when our grandkids’ quality of life is at stake. Republican lawmakers claim climate science is “unsettled.” (Redacted)! Such people, unable to evaluate data or discern propaganda, or resist jobbery, deserve no place at the negotiating table. Not coincidentally, those (redacter-redacting) Trump-excusing legislators have received millions from the fossil fuel industry. Yes: evil.  
But what of their (redacted) supporters? What’s their excuse for bequeathing to their descendants an inhospitable planet? What need in their (redacted) brains calls them to dismiss the obvious? Conditioned tribalism? Greed? Participatory gullibility? I don’t (redacted) know. But it’s (redacted) disturbing. 
It’s not okay, by which I mean it’s (redacted) (redacted), willfully to ignore reality. If it’s normal for Republicans to cling to tax cut mythology, for example (Wait! What?), it’s (redacted) abnormal that science has become a partisan issue. Respect for facts is now predictable by political affiliation. 
Every (redacted) week we see letters regurgitating Foxolimjonesian (redacted): Hillary’s State Department misplaced billions of dollars; she gave twenty-percent of our uranium to Russia; illegal voting is rampant; climate change is merely a natural cycle. Will no amount of debunkage unwash their (redacted) brains? 
Among Trump’s (redacted) justifications for abandoning the accords was they’d made America a laughing stock. This he said while affirming that America no longer cares about science, brazenly lying about (or showing he has no idea) what the agreement entails, and making clear that we’ve relinquished our role as a world leader in anything but (redacted). Could there have been a more ironic argument? Even Vladimir Putin is all but laughing in Trump’s face. It’s not America the world finds comical, Mr. Trump. It’s you. And your superficial understanding of complex issues. And your (redacted) embarrassing, fact-free tweets.  
Why did he do it? Spite for Obama? Grievance over perceived slights? Whatever the reasons, his words prove it wasn’t based on thoughtful consideration. Or truth. With Trump, a lifelong bully, cheat, and seeker of revenge upon those who refuse to (redact) his (redacted), who can know? But there’s more than climate at risk from his tantrums.  
Within hours of Trump’s disgraceful performance, American governors, mayors, and industry leaders announced they’ll adhere to the Paris agreement, as did remaining Paris participants, who’ll work directly with states. The world has declared the president irrelevant! How’s that for “great”? Unchecked, Trump is (redacted) dangerous, even beyond his repressive attacks on Constitutional bulwarks against tyranny. 
Abandoning Paris is anti-truth. It’s anti-grandchildren. He assumes his supporters are (redacted) buffoons. Is he right? It’s time to stop (redacted)-footing around the (redacting) (redacted) that he is; time for his enablers to wake the (redact) up and stop excusing the inexcusable. 
On every level, what Trump did is unconscionable. (Redacted)!
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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Let Us Count The Ways...

Donald Trump's headed to Ohio, ostensibly to talk about infrastructure and his plans to turn it into an ATM for private businesses. But, since Anthem, a major health insurer there, just announced it's pulling out of the ACA insurance exchanges, he's added a visit, on Air Force One, with some Ohioans who'll be hurt by it.

The White House, of course, points to Anthem's decision as proof that Obamacare is imploding. (Which, of course, is exactly what they've been working to hasten.) Anthem, though, doesn't quite see it that way:
Anthem, which said its decision to drop out of the state exchange does not impact individuals or families with grandfathered plans, pointed to the uncertainty surrounding President Donald Trump’s-endorsed GOP plan to replace the ACA, commonly referred to as Obamacare, as the impetus for the move. (Emphasis mine, in case you missed it.)
As we are ever more in the thrall of news of the Trump/Russia treason, let's not lose sight of the many ways, of which this is hardly the worst, that the Trump agenda threatens the welfare and well-being of average Americans, including his own voters.

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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Good Journalism: An Act Of Courage

Several months ago I wrote about a speech Christiane Amanpour gave to The Committee to Protect Journalism. Today I received an email from a person who'd found that post, requesting that I connect to an article written for journalists, instructing them how to protect themselves and their sources from government spying.

I read it. It's really a primer for serious investigative journalists, and way above my pay grade, but it's chilling on many levels. Especially now, when journalism is under direct attack by Trump and his enablers, and when there's an ever-increasing accumulation of evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors, rampant in the Offal Office and Congress, we depend on reporters brave enough to continue to do their work.

And, of course, people on the inside who believe in preserving our democracy enough to take great risk in providing information. The arrest of the woman who leaked documentation of Russian efforts directly to hack polling devices reminds us of the importance. (She may not be the perfect poster child: among other things, she was pretty clumsy. She should have read the article. And it's complicated: defending leakers is problematic. But in this specific case, as Trump and Trumpists across the land pretend the Russia connections are fake news, I'm glad to have had confirmation of what I've always suspected, something deadly serious. To the Trumpophiles, of course, the leaker will be the story, not the leakage.)

Anyhow, here's a link to the article. It's pretty interesting. How frightening is it that it's now an act of extreme courage to do a job considered so essential to freedom that our founders enshrined it in the Constitution!

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Thursday, June 1, 2017

Dear Leader

My upcoming newspaper column:
Having left our alliances in shambles to an extent Vladimir Putin daren’t have hoped for, Donald Trump returned from his world tour to the plaudits of his supporters; proving yet again that nothing will shake their adulation, ever. Literally a laughing stock among European leaders after he left, Trump’s arrogant know-nothingism only increased devotion amongst the devoted. Who needs Europe? Since when is Russia an enemy? Why care about human rights? Or climate change? Or that several hundred thousand German cars are built yearly in America?  
NATO’s workings continue to flummox Trump, who still asserts member nations owe us money. Whereas it’s true many spend less on defense than agreed, no one “owes” money to anyone. Undoubtedly he’s been told this, often. (It took Angela Merkel, leader of the free world, eleven tries to instill transient understanding of how the EU works.) One assumes, then, the falsehood is addressed to his base at home, whose intelligence Trump must hold high in disregard  
And what if those countries were to increase their military spending? If Greece added fifty thousand troops would we decrease our forces by that amount? If Germany built another airbase, would we close one of ours over there? What, in other words, is his point? Disunity, maybe? Trump, who can’t stop praising murderous despots, procaciously insulted our allies, while refusing clear commitment to Article Five, under which every NATO country joined in support of us after 9/11. How high were the fives in the Kremlin?  
In the Middle East, none of our past attempts at peacemaking have succeeded, so trying a new approach makes sense. Trump’s choice, after receiving lavish flattery, is to stop pressuring Saudi Arabia on human rights, and to resume treating Iran exclusively as an outlaw nation, rejecting efforts to bring them around. Remarkably, about the same time as Trump’s trip (choose your meaning), Saudi courts upheld sentencing a nineteen-year-old woman who’d been gang-raped to two-hundred lashes and six months in jail; while in Iran, their moderate president was reelected overwhelmingly over a hard-liner, in a record turnout. 
Of course, “moderate” in Iran is still pretty hardcore. But the fact is, subsequent to President Obama’s softening of sanctions there have been undeniable signs of westernization in Iran, especially among its young people. Barack Obama saw reaching out to that generation as a way forward; Dr. Krauthammer, in last week’s column here, referred to it as “Obama’s tilt toward Iran.” This doctor sees it not as “tilt” but long-term strategy. To look tough, right now, Trump is abandoning those younger Iranians, in whom resides the potential for rejoining the world. Many reasonable people like the Trumpian approach; others consider it simplistic and counterproductive. As with all things political, time will tell.  
Returning home, it took only moments for Trump to resume attacking the press and characterizing real news as fake. Like the rest of his flock, he cheered the election of that Montanan who beat up a reporter. (Even Fox “news” reporters who were there agreed the reporter hadn’t overstepped. And if he had, you’d think a person seeking public office might possess a modicum of self-control.) Good for him, they cheered. You’re next, CNN, someone warned. Out a newspaper’s windows, someone shot.  
To Trump and his enablers, any articles lacking the fawning apologetics he gets from “Fox and Friends,” Sean Hannity, et al, are fake, by definition and without questioning. The indispensable dependence of viable democracy on tough, adversarial investigative journalism is and will forever be lost on them. (As is the importance of the ACLU, even when it defends hate speech, as it did in Skokie, Illinois years ago and just now in Portland. Sadly, not all liberals get that, either.)  
Our greatest source of fakery, distraction, and obfuscation is the Gold House itself. Following the negative reactions from Europe, it produced a stupefying press release claiming, among other things: “President Trump has a magnetic personality and exudes positive energy… He has an unparalleled ability to communicate with people… and treats everyone with respect. He is brilliant with a great sense of humor…” 
 North Korean schools teach that Kim Jong Un was driving at three, has written fifteen-hundred books, and plays golf at thirty-eight under par. 
Probably just coincidence. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Asshole, Picture Of.

NATO summit. Where he also repetitively lectured our allies. Over and over.

Challenge: how many times can you watch that gif before catatonic depression renders you immobile?

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