Friday, November 17, 2017

He's Back Home, But Still At The Brink





My next newspaper column:
Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump’s backhoe, backed and filled his way across China last week, insisting Trump’s groveling praise of Communist China’s leader was tongue-in-cheek. Given overlapping anatomic nomenclature, it wasn’t entirely clarifying. Later, Trump yukked it up with the self-admitted murderer/dictator of the Philippines. Donald’s mimesis of despots is well-honed by now.  
During what we may presume was his first annual performance review from Putin, in Danang (where I spent my portion of the Vietnam War), Trump called our former intelligence leaders “political hacks” and, despite mountains of evidence to the contrary (which he’s seen), genuflected in Vlad’s general direction, regarding election-meddling innocence. Inexplicably, his followers believe this does us proud. Had President Barack Obama said such things, the right-wing scream machine would have called him a traitor and Congress would be half-way through impeachment. Can there be any doubt?  
Like Putin, Xi must see in Trump a useful buffoon, distractible from their global agendas with a little low-cost flattery. Throw him a parade, dandle his ego. Do a deal with Boeing here, GE there, let him crow about his believe-me negotiating skills. Meanwhile, as Trump greatens America back to the nineteenth century, Xi is leading China to twenty-first century dominance. As Trump pulls out, Xi fashions trade agreements around the world, excluding the US. One such deal was finalized in Vietnam, even as Trump’s tough-guy America-first words were thudding like a deflated football. 
Xi is playing three-dimensional chess, Trump is playing slapjack. It’s embarrassing. Obvious to all but Trump and his co-dependents, the world’s most authoritarian leaders are manipulating his narcissistic neediness like silly putty. 
China is investing huge amounts of money into solar and other alternative energy sources, and working to improve the air quality of its cities. (It produces a third of Earth’s solar power, and, far ahead of second-place US, leads the world in wind power.) Slashing alternative energy funding, boosting coal and other fossil fuels, Trump is deliberately polluting our atmosphere as the rest of the world cleans up. Over Trump’s silence on human rights during his trip, actual world leaders are speaking out. One wonders what Trump expects from capitulating to our adversaries. A golf course in the Forbidden City? Sanctuary in Moscow?  
While Trump drags us into destructive (but, to his dead-enders, crowd-pleasing) rejection of global ties, China is investing a trillion dollars into infrastructure connections with Europe, giving Xi greater access to world markets and more ways to project economic power. Trump belittles science (eschewing a tradition of respect, he won’t be greeting this year’s American Nobel Prize winners). China now has the world’s fastest supercomputers. Trumpists believe he’s putting America first.  
Back home, Congressional Republicans stopped pretending their plans, created in secret, without hearings, help ordinary Americans. “I misspoke,” said Mitch McConnell, after promising tax cuts for middle and lower class Americans. Republicans designed their scheme, expressly, to benefit rich donors, most of whom won’t reinvest their largesse. Lindsey Graham said so. Mike Lee and Chris Collins said so. 
They admit choosing enrichment of their bankrollers (and, thereby, themselves) over helping average citizens: students, veterans, parents who adopt. Teachers, university workers, people with high medical expenses. The disabled, businesses that invest in poor communities. Recipients of Medicare and Medicaid. All harmed, specifically, intentionally, by Republican tax “reform.” Frosting stale cake, Trump just ended a program that supplies veterans with therapy dogs. This is gratuitous cruelty. 
So: Trump demeans our intelligence services while glorifying our adversaries; pig-headedly makes the US a bit player on the world stage. (We’re now the only country to reject the Paris Climate Agreement, benefitting polluters, harming us.) Congressional Republicans gift wealthy donors, paid for by hurting average people, including their supporters, who, incomprehensibly, don’t mind. Is manipulating fears and hatreds really all it takes to deceive them? 
C’mon, old-school Republicans! The man who would be king is even pressuring DOJ to go after his opponents. Surely you see the danger in what’s happening.  
Trumpists claim he’s turning the economy around after Obama ruined it; insist Trump is respected around the world. That’s impressively ossified Foxification, but clarifying: attempting to enlighten such people is effort wasted. What must take precedence is reaching the reachable: those who didn’t vote, regretful Trump supporters, people capable of processing the urgency of turning these deplorables out of office. People like those who just voted in Virginia.
[Image source]

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Modelling Kansas


I've just written about the dangers facing our planet. A nearly equal warning of impending danger is this article about Kansas, the sealed-off laboratory of Reaganomics, the window into what will happen when Republicans pass their tax and budget bills. If humanity is destroying the planet, Republicans have destroyed Kansas, and are ready to do the same to America.

... What’s hidden are stories of regular Kansans who have suffered inside the silence. 
In the course of its investigation, The Star found that: 
▪ Children known to the state’s Department for Children and Families suffer horrific abuse, while the agency cloaks its involvement with their cases, even shredding notes after meetings where children’s deaths are discussed, according to a former high-ranking DCF official. One grieving father told The Star he was pressured to sign a “gag order” days after his son was killed that would prevent him from discussing DCF’s role in the case. Even lawmakers trying to fix the troubled system say they cannot trust information coming from agency officials. 
▪ In the past decade, more than 90 percent of the laws passed by the Kansas Legislature have come from anonymous authors. Kansans often had no way of knowing who was pushing which legislation and why, and the topics have included abortion, concealed weapons and school funding. Kansas is one of only a few states that allow the practice. 
▪ When Kansas police shoot and kill someone, law enforcement agencies often escape scrutiny because they are allowed to provide scant details to the public. The release of body-cam video has become common practice around the country after several high-profile, police-involved shootings. But in Kansas, a new state law is one of the most restrictive in the nation, allowing agencies to shelve footage that could shed more light on controversial cases. 
▪ Kansas became the first state to fully privatize Medicaid services in 2013, and now some caregivers for people with disabilities say they have been asked to sign off on blank treatment plans — without knowing what’s being provided. In some of those cases, caregivers later discovered their services had been dramatically cut. 
The examples, when stitched together, form a quilt of secrecy that envelops much of state government...
There's much more chew-worthy stuff in the article, which deserves a full read. It translates exactly to the inevitable consequences of Republican economic plans; and to the attempts by Trump to discredit investigative journalism and to censor what its departments may tell citizens. What words and phrases are not allowed. As the article says, a spokesman for the Kansas highway department was fired after explaining they don't have the money to fix a deadly stretch of road. Because, you know, tax cuts pay for themselves.

It's well-known to all but the Foxolimjonesified how dramatically Kansas' government is failing its people. And yet our R-controlled national government can't wait to do the same. In the name of enriching their donors.

And in the name of Jesus.

Monday, November 13, 2017

We've Been Warned


At the root of all of our ecological problems, including climate change, is continued rapid population growth. Any way you look at it, it's unsustainable. It impacts everything:
... By failing to adequately limit population growth, reassess the role of an economy rooted in growth, reduce greenhouse gases, incentivise renewable energy, protect habitat, restore ecosystems, curb pollution, halt defaunation, and constrain invasive alien species, humanity is not taking the urgent steps needed to safeguard our imperilled biosphere...
Along with perpetual demand for products that use up resources, capitalism depends on it as its most fundamental principle. But, in one way or another, so does nearly every society. The above-quoted sobering article, a statement by 15,000 scientists around the world, is unequivocal and compelling. The only factor it refers to as having improved since their statement from several years back is the ozone hole. From the world's response to it, they take some hope.

But really, stopping the use of hydrofluorocarbons wasn't all that hard: there were alternatives available which didn't require much in the way of re-prioritizing our lives. Going deeper and broader will demand major change, and there's little evidence of willingness to engage in it. Particularly among the current leaders of the USA.

Some things need an undeniable, disastrous occurrence to wake people up. In the case of the health and sustainability of the planet, by the time enough people are awake it'll be too late.

Despite all the evidence of what's needed, the US has announced to the world its intention to ignore it all; to make it worse, in fact. Deliberately. In-your-face-edly. So, in a historic role reversal, it falls on the rest of the world to save us. But it's what Trumpists consider making America great again. When I'm not angry, I'm just deeply sad.

The best-case scenario I can envision is that the generation of my grandkids, ages one and three, is the last one that has a chance of enjoying life as our planet has always provided it. Following theirs, it seems doubtful. Maybe they'll even be the last generation entirely, either by choice or law or having been rendered chemically unable to reproduce by pollutants.

[Image source]

Friday, November 10, 2017

Stay Real, Democrats


Tomorrow's newspaper column:
Collusion or not, it’s obvious Vladimir Putin intended to influence the election that put Trump into the White House. Collusion or not, Mitch McConnell sure didn’t want the public to know about it. And, given what we’re learning of Russia’s massive distribution of fake news, we can infer their ultimate goal was, and remains, to divide us against ourselves; to exploit the strengths of democracy and turn them into vulnerabilities. To let us do their work for them.
With Trump they got a twofer: an incurious narcissist, and a man who, because of his thin-skinned vindictiveness, could be expected to add his own poisonous divisiveness, which, along with embarrassing America worldwide, he has. (“Never knew we had so many countries!”) Trumpists consider America’s free press the enemy. They’re certain millions voted illegally. They’re convinced news which challenges Trump is fake and people who write columns about it are liars. Surely, Putin succeeded beyond his expectations.  
Russia’s reach was broad and deep and, planned or not, enhanced by decades of credulity-enhancing, truth-erasing efforts by rightwing media. Not to mention, particularly in Trump-loving red states, devolution of public education. On average and not by accident, we’re getting dumber.  
I’ve fallen for deception in the past, too, but have learned to be skeptical, to seek confirmation when a claim seems either too good or too bad to be true. I try to correct falsehoods whether on “liberal” or “conservative” sites. Trumpists email regularly, credulously forwarding ridiculous claims they received about Barack Obama, or Hillary Clinton, or liberals in general. Ignoring the factual debunkery I send, they’re back, predictably, with more flimsy falsehoods. 
And if there’s guilt on both sides, there’s no parity. Liberal bogosity is rarely received. When corrected, senders write back with apologies. There’s neither a quantitative nor qualitative liberal equivalent to Foxolimjonesian nescience.  
Of late, though, there’s a disturbing trend, as several websites have appeared featuring click-bait headlines touting news liberals would love to be true. The promised stories either contain nothing of the sort, or a bunch of unsupported hearsay. Since there’s plenty of real news, it’s troublesome. We have no need to make stuff up, for, as Stephen Colbert famously said, “Reality has a well-known liberal bias.” Maybe they’re just looking for ad revenue; if so, it’s no excuse. Among the worst are Occupy Democrats, Bipartisan Report, Blue Dot Daily, Politicus USA, Addicting Info. Use with caution. Call your doctor for misdirection lasting more than four hours. 
Related or not, some liberals appear ready to blow the next national elections, too. Out of perceived moral superiority and/or political purity, extremists in the party are, yet again, falling upon the impure, even if it means letting democracy die. Despite so much being at stake – climate, environment, healthcare, clean energy, free and fair elections, free press, theocracy, fair taxation, women’s rights, LGBT rights, public education, food and drug safety, help for the needy, science, my grandchildren’s quality of life – it looks like a pride of proclaimed progressives prefer to re-litigate 2016. There’s data suggesting enough embittered Bernie supporters voted for Trump to have swung the election. “Burn it down, that’ll show ‘em.” Look what it got us.  
Trump’s support is down to the rock-bottom incorrigibles, as only a third of Americans remain unawakened to the dangers he represents. It ought to mean Democrats will retake Congress next year, and the White House in 2020, no matter who occupies it by then. But, no. 
Rife with already-debunked claims of rigging the primary, talk on the left is all about Donna Brazile’s book. You’d almost think the Russians (and their adjuvants in rightwing media) are stoking it, just as they promoted fake rallies around the country and got people from both sides to show up and start fighting.  
The DNC’s fecklessness notwithstanding, after mere months of Trumpic corruption, incompetence, and threats to democracy itself, I’d vote for a pastrami sandwich over anyone offered up by the party of Trump, Bannon, Pruitt, DeVos, Zinke, Price, Moore… Progressives need to look ahead, not back. Tuesday was a good day. Stop the infighting; increase the outfighting. They’re toasting you with fine vodka in the Kremlin and expensive champagne in Trump’s cabinet room. 
Focus on the doughnut next year, Democrats, not the hole, and get to work. Lives are at stake, Republicans, so stick with the usual thoughts and prayers.
[Image source]

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Played Like A Guqin


Trump's in China now, heaping praise on their leader and blaming the US for all inequities in trade relations. (Tillerson, Trump's backhoe, is pretending it was "tongue in cheek.") Having no ability to think long or deep, as Xi plays three-dimensional chess to Trump's slapjack, Donald's the perfect stooge for world leaders anxious to overtake America's role in the world. His aims are personal glory, or the perception thereof. A smart and powerful guy like Xi must be rubbing the skin off his hands in delight.

To American exceptionalists, this ought to be sobering:

... At the World Economic Forum in January, Mr. Xi proclaimed China the new champion of free trade and globalization. His “One Belt, One Road” initiative — with funding from the made-in-Beijing Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank — will invest $1 trillion in linking Asia with Europe through a network of sea routes, roads, railways and, yes, bridges. China will gain access to resources, export its excess industrial capacity and peacefully secure strategic footholds from which to project power...  
... The Trump administration has belittled the United Nations, withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, jettisoned America’s commitment to the Paris climate accord, tried to renege on the nuclear deal with Iran, questioned America’s core alliances in Europe and Asia, disparaged the World Trade Organization and multicountry trade deals, and sought to shut the door on immigrants. 
Mr. Xi? He has grabbed leadership of the climate-change agenda, embraced the World Trade Organization’s dispute-resolution system and increased China’s voting shares at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Beijing is forging ahead with a trade pact that would include the major Asian economies plus Australia and New Zealand, but not the United States...
All those world leaders whose power Trump envies and glorifies surely see him as their wildest-dream opportunity to turn the US into a second-rate power. And they needn't try all that hard, as Trump is doing most of it himself.

The above-linked opinion piece is by a former Assistant Secretary of State. Read the whole thing. It's hard to find fault with his reasoning.

Make America Great Again. As Trump does the opposite in every way, every day, his supporters, blinded by their fears and hate, stupidly stand by, cheering it on, missing the point entirely.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Bullet Points For Trumpists


Tomorrow's newspaper column:

Bullet points for Trumpists:

·   Trump said he’d protect Medicare and Medicaid. His budget cuts them by $1.5 trillion. Depending on the study, it also adds two to ten+ trillions to our national debt, while cynically dodging CBO scoring. After outrage at Obama’s deficits, lowered by two-thirds from when he took office, your silence is clamorous.

·  You’re alone in a room. Jeff Bezos enters. The net worth in the room now averages $45 billion. Sarah “Huckayou” Sanders says the average tax break for families is four thousand bucks. Get it?

·   Likely no one reading this benefits from eliminating the estate tax. Everyone in Trump’s politburo does; some, including Trump, by over a billion.

·   Trump takes credit for not (yet) bending downward the trajectory of the Obama economic recovery; brags about employment growth, also set in motion by Obama. Neither he nor Congress have done anything significant to stimulate this boom, but they’re insisting we need tax breaks for corporations and their wealthy donors to stimulate a boom, about the current splendor of which they’re bragging. Make sense?

·   They expect you to agree cuts should be paid for by those hits to Medicare and Medicaid, and by taking money from people whose spending actually does stimulate growth. (Tax cuts, economic boom: Kansas, Wisconsin. California before and after Democrats took over. Minnesota. Look it up. It’ll be a learning experience.)

·   That no bid-contract, which granted a pal of Trump’s swampy Interior Secretary $300 million to find people to repair Puerto Rico’s electric grid, also precluded government audits or penalties. It specified hourly wages of over $300, daily lodging of even more, meal allowance of $80 a day. The governor, previously lauded by Trump, wised to the scam. Trump passed the buck faster than a Russell Wilson toss with twenty seconds to go.

·   While Trump ignores those US citizens’ growing health crisis, the Clinton Foundation just airlifted 76 tons of medicine and medical supplies there.

·   Because Democrats paid for investigations into Trump’s relations with Russia, he wants you to believe it’s collusion. You do. Research that was begun by “Never Trump” Republicans. Research whose findings, if true, are hugely important. Think of it this way: Suspecting your spouse is cheating, you hire a P.I. who finds lovers. You don’t use the evidence. Your spouse claims you colluded … with the lovers! Seriously, that’s what they’re saying, because they think you’re stupid. (Also: Opposition research is older than all of us.)

·   To distract you from his malfeasance, counting on your gullibility, Trump and his enablers are lying about Hillary and uranium, too. He prefers lies, but you needn’t. Here’s the truth: No uranium left our country. The sale was approved, as required, by all nine members of CFIUS (Google it), independent of Hillary. Years before his donation, the guy who gifted gazillion dollars to the Clinton Foundation sold his stake in the involved Canadian uranium company. (Okay, for something this important, we need links again: This, and this. Assuming you found your brush with reality refreshing, check this out.)

·   Trump refuses to enforce Russia sanctions imposed by Congress and signed by him. Why don’t you wonder why?

·   Benefitting only Dow Chemical, which donated a million to his inauguration, Trump overturned a ban on a nerve-gas/pesticide known to cause severe brain damage in children. Your children. While, presumably from inside his impenetrable shipping container (not-kidding), away from his 18-person security squad, environment-killer Scott Pruitt fires expert scientists in favor of corporate shills. This doesn’t bother you?

·   Trump’s long-delayed response to the opioid crisis includes, so far, $56,000 in funding. And various words.

·   Law requires the science adviser to the USDA be “a distinguished scientist…” Trump nominated Sam Clovis. Look him up. Assistant secretary of energy: a Meineke muffler salesman. “The best people.”

·   After 9/11, George Bush spoke of American unity. After this week’s attack in NYC, Trump tweeted division. And called our justice system (i.e., the Constitution) “a laughing stock.” Patriotically, though.

·   Oh, there were indictments, too? Nothing to do with Trump, says Sarah “Daddy likes my lies” Sanders. Manafort? Never heard of him.

Donald Trump assumes he can manipulate you into overlooking his corporatist, self-enriching tax plan, his disregard for people like you, and let him lie his way out of the Mueller investigation. If you don’t, he might just wag the deadliest dog in inhuman history. Your call. Admittedly, a tough one.

[Image source]

Thursday, November 2, 2017

What Will Said...



It's as if Democrats are determined to lose. We're (they're, more precisely) gonna resurrect the bitterness of the last election over and over until the hardened on both sides (Bernie's, Hillary's) are gonna wall themselves off in moral certainty of their righteousness and shut themselves out. And those of us in the middle, who would vote for a mushroom over anyone the Rs put up, will watch in horror as the chances for sanity prevailing in our government disappear like a Trump campaign promise.

Hillary this. Bernie that. Vote for Trump. That'll show 'em. Wake the country up.

Yeah. How'd that work out? Jesus.

There's nothing -- NOTHING -- more important to the future of democracy than getting Trump (or Pence, or whoever's left) out of the White House and regaining at least one chamber of Congress. Voter suppression. Gerrymandering. Free press. Theocrats in control, of Congress and the Supreme Court. Climate change. Renewable energy. Pollution. Women's rights. Minority rights. Religious freedom. LGBT rights. Healthcare. All of it on the line, dangling over the edge.

If we're not already past the point of no return, it's damn close. If "liberals" can't get their shit together, can't stop relitigating the last election, it's over. Over.

But the hard-core don't seem to care any more than Trumpists care about his lies or his attacks on Constitutional democracy. I no longer give a rat's ass about the last election (well, other than how it was stolen by voter suppression, fake news, possibly direct interference with voting machines.) Let's focus the fk on the next one, okay?

Friday, October 27, 2017

One Of These Things Is Just Like The Other


Tomorrow's newspaper column:
It’s a good week to talk hypocrisy. 
First, the obvious: anyone who voted to put “their” sex predator in the White House isn’t allowed to criticize any Democrat who accepted money from “theirs.” The difference between the despicable Harvey Weinstein and the deplorable Donald Trump is that one got fired and the other got elected.  
Polls indicate the vast majority of Democrats and Republicans believe the accusations against Weinstein; only eight percent of Republicans believe those against Trump. There, in full view, is “Foxification” and how it ruins our country. It’s of a piece with Trump supporters who received hurricane aid saying American citizens in Puerto Rico don’t deserve it. 
If that sort of hypocrisy is normal in today’s political climate (the one that’s not changing), another is far worse: Niger. As to the more minor issue: maybe Trump’s bone-headed call to Myeshia Johnson was the result of a doomed effort by John Kelley to teach a sociopath how to fake empathy. Kelley gave him words; Trump, unable to understand any suffering but delusions of his own, had no idea how to use them. Lacking the moral tools or simple decency to allow a war widow her grief, he’s been making it worse ever since.  
At one time, despite his enthusiasm for deporting non-offenders while at DHS, General Kelley appeared possibly honorable. His attacks on Representative Wilson eliminated that misconception faster than EPA quashed its scientists’ speaking engagements. For his false accusations, there are two possible explanations: either he was provided inaccurate (or misremembered) information about her speech at the FBI building, or he knowingly lied. If the former, a correction and apology would be forthcoming from a man of honor; if the latter, then of course there’d be none. To date, there’s been none. 
Then, with Trumpic name-calling, Kelly went far beyond mere lies. Trump’s amorality is a virus. The White House is an immunosuppression zone.  
Steve Bannon said criticism of Trump dishonors the military. And when Sarah “Going to hell in a Huckabee” Sanders says it’s “highly inappropriate” to question a four-star general, where we’re headed with this administration became even clearer. True conservatives (do any remain?) should be appalled. It hardly needs stating that Trump has criticized four-stars repeatedly (just did so regarding Niger). Or that the Pentagon scramble to come up with names for belated condolence proves he lied when he said he’d called “virtually all” Gold Star families.  
But let’s get to the hypocriticrux of it. Dots aplenty surround the action in Niger that got four Green Berets killed, and we have a right to know if they’re connected: why was Chad, a reliable partner in the fight against ISIS, placed on Trump’s banned immigration list? Was its subsequent withdrawal from Niger related? Did that endanger whatever mission those men were on? Was there adequate support for that mission? Was it, as a “Congressional source” said, the result of a “massive intelligence failure?” Why did Trump use “private contractors” to retrieve the bodies? How many are in Niger and what are they doing? Why was Trump silent on the episode for so long? Was it because it belied his claim of vanquishing ISIS? What IS the mission in Niger, and why didn’t Congress know Trump had sent a thousand troops there? Does it dishonor America to want more than Joint Chiefs Chairman Dunford’s account?  
These questions are at least as important as those surrounding Benghazi (asked and answered, over and over, for eight years). Yet we’ve heard of no plans by our Koch-owned, Republican-run Congress to convene hearings, Benghazi-style (kangaroid, multiple, parallel, repetitive, witness-limited, televised) or otherwise. Not Russian hacking, either. Oh, but they’re opening yet another dead-horse email investigation, and reanimating their uranium distortions. 
Will we be told, from the other side of Congressional mouths, inquiry into Niger would “politicize” a matter of national security? As opposed to Benghazi, et al.? How about considering it “supporting our troops,” which, General Kelly made clear, is becoming the prime measure not only of patriotism, but of dispensation to raise questions. From such an undrained swamp do juntas arise.  
Looking away is the biggest hypocrisy of them all. And there remain too many examples for limited space: deficits, executive orders, deficits, fair elections, deficits… And opposition research. Let’s not forget that.
 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Truth? We Don't Need No Stinking Truth.


Why would anyone think Republicans would allow a truthful, deep, comprehensive investigation into Russian interference with our election process?
... Nine months into the Trump administration, any notion that Capitol Hill would provide a comprehensive, authoritative and bipartisan accounting of the extraordinary efforts of a hostile power to disrupt American democracy appears to be dwindling...
Voter suppression and fake news got them where they are. It's clear that Russia helped in both. Why mess with a good thing, right?

The party of patriots. Lovers of the Constitution. America first. They hate us for our freedoms.The bullshit is so deeply ingrained, the deplorables so fully in charge despite (one likes to believe) being a distinct minority of Americans, that at this point there seems no way out.

Which is why.

[Image source]

Friday, October 20, 2017

Gridlock



My next newspaper column. It's decidedly local but, perhaps, an issue with wider relevance. The backstory is there's a guy in these parts who makes a fine living (a quarter mill a year, it's reported) cranking out voter initiatives (yeah, WA is one of those states, for better or worse, mostly worse) that play on the anti-tax, anti-government sensation that's sweeping the nation.
When we arrived here thirty-five years ago the Mukilteo Speedway passed mostly through forest. Harbor Pointe and Seaway/Merrill Creek didn’t exist, nor did many of the apartments downtown and along Casino Road. Mill Creek and much of what’s now part of Mukilteo hadn’t yet been incorporated. The Navy wasn’t here, or its developments in Marysville, or the crowded shopping malls to the north.  
Back then we could drive to Seattle in about half an hour almost any time. Bumbershoot could be enjoyed for $2.50 (free on Fridays) with room to spread out. The population of Snohomish county was about 350,000. One of the fastest growing counties in the country, it’s now nearly 800,000. If there’s an end in sight, it’s invisible to me.  
The “Negotiated Agreement,” which, we were told by our realtor, meant Paine Field would never become a commercial airport, was smoke. Bringing even more people, Alliant Air and United Airlines are first in line. And, because it looks like Northwest Washington will be the last part of the US to become uninhabitable due to climate change, still more will flock here, needing places to live; good news for builders. Both Everett mayoral candidates favor upzoning for taller buildings downtown, for more “density.” There’s gotta be point at which it becomes unsustainable: overcrowded, gridlocked, polluted, parched. 
But unabated population growth in these parts looks to be a permanent condition. If land in Everett and Mukilteo is about tapped out, there are still nearby farms to be converted, a few uncut trees, more zoning laws to change. Our freeways are maxed already. Social services, too. Police and fire protection, water resources, air quality, sewage treatment and, eventually, even power supplies, can’t support this rate of expansion forever. Much as I’d like, selfishly, to see a moratorium on growth I know it won’t happen. Too much depends on it. Candidates say no to more taxes, but yes oh yes to more taxpayers. 
The good news is there’s effective action we can take in response to unstoppable growth, and we must do it, now, before it’s too late. Happily, it requires almost no effort: Just say no. 
To Tim Eyman.  
Say no to his latest ploy for self-enrichment, cranking out initiatives, counting on American heads remaining in the sand.  
Apparently caring as little about quality of life here as Donald Trump cares about air, water, climate, education, equal rights, and access to healthcare everywhere, Eyman has offloaded yet another self-serving initiative, this one aimed at reversing our commitment to mass transit. Betting we’d prefer a permanent traffic jam over paying for a half-way livable future is a safe bet: he makes his money on the presentation, not the outcome. He wins either way, even if we don’t. (Which is why, I believe, he’s written initiatives that get struck down by courts: whipped outrage equals more donations. Even his latest b.s over “b.s.” fits the pattern: repeatedly bleating victimhood = ink = cash flow.)  
Because half of America has come to prefer ignoring those things which sustain us, it appears Eyman figures campaigning against taxes assures him of continuing to take (us via) the initiative. It has to stop. This is about far more than car tabs. It’s (sticking) a fork in the road. This is one of those times when, as citizens (and patriots!) we’re called upon to look beyond self-interest, for the sake of the future: our own and our neighbors,’ our children’s, and theirs. When the right thing to do is not, as a recent letter-writer proudly bragged, to “vote with my wallet,” but to vote with one’s heart and head (not to mention carbonized lungs). 
If just societies are conceived for the betterment of individuals through the power of many, it’s by individual willingness to share responsibility that societies survive. (Having splurged on an electric car, my RTA tax took a breathtaking leap. But, hey…)  
No crystal ball is required to see the consequences of voting for Eyman’s latest. If we can’t do anything about growth, we simply must do more about mass transit. Decades of cunctation have already increased costs. Not paying now will bankrupt us when there’s no choice. Money “saved” is a future lost. 
And, yes, it’s about time for a conversation about when enough growth is enough.  
[Image source]

Friday, October 13, 2017

Speaking Of Neiling: Winning Is Everything


The upcoming newspaper column:
It’s clear to all but the Foxified why Mitch McConnell bested his prior Himalayan heights of hypocrisy to block President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. Women’s health, immigration, LGBT rights, same-sex marriage? Just frosting on the wedding cake; Mitch cares about them only to propitiate the basest Republican base. It was to protect the means by which his party has the presidency and both houses of Congress: egregious gerrymandering and dishonest voter suppression laws. Both issues are at or approaching the Supreme Court, where Neil Gorsuch isn’t even pretending he’s not a partisan zealot. 
You lost, they say. Get over it. Yes. We did. Everyone lost. Democracy lost. Getting over it before addressing what happened is exactly what Trump and Republicans in Congress and state legislatures want. Vladimir Putin, too.  
But it was the Electoral College, people say. Yes. Conceived when there were no political parties, no popular elections, or, for that matter, announced candidates. If we’re to keep it, let’s return to original intent: states choose electors who, on their own, sequestered from the rest of us, meet to select our president. They could wear wigs and work by the light of whale oil.  
But it empowers small states, they say. Yes. Which already have disproportionate power in the Senate. In the House, too, where gerrymandered red states’ districts unequally produce Republican winners, and where fewer citizens are represented by their elected, giving residents of small states relatively more influence over legislation. Gerrymandering turns minorities into majorities.  
If any position deserves popular election, with every vote having the same weight, it’s the president of all of us. Why should a Nebraskan have more impact on the choice of president than, say, a Washingtonian? This time, the Electoral College got us exactly what the founders wished to prevent: kakistocracy.  
But it is what it is. So let’s talk about voter suppression. Again. Because it’s as un-American and dangerous as a president threatening (non-existent) “licenses” of news networks he doesn’t like; i.e., all but one.  
Notwithstanding Trumtalitarian lies, multiple investigations have found approximately zero in-person voter fraud, the wink-wink reason for red states’ voter ID laws. In the past election, hundreds of thousands of legitimate voters were denied. The vast majority were Democrats, and the number of those denied far exceeded the numbers by which Trump narrowly won those states. If Trump’s patently phony “voter fraud” commission has its way, it’ll get worse. 
Get over it, they say. We’ll get around to caring when it’s your nominee who benefits. Besides, what’s wrong with requiring identification, they ask? Nothing, if it’s as easily obtainable for the poor, elderly, and people in minority districts as it is for white Republicans. But the requirements and locations for obtaining ID were designed specifically to make it harder. Legislators in those states admitted it. Some lower courts have recognized the fraud. Do states even have a right to deny the franchise in a federal election? Enter the Mitchdefied Supreme Court, where democracy confronts hypocrisy.  
There’s more. Russian interference: sophisticated, relentless, carefully targeted. Until Robert Mueller makes it undeniable, let’s ignore collusion: it’s bad enough without it. Clearly they wanted Trump in office. (Will we learn why?) What they did should alarm everyone. (Instead of “Jews will not replace us,” this time Nazi re-marchers in Charlottesville chanted “Russia is our friend.” Donald Trump, busy reversing rules that protect our planet, neglecting Puerto Rico, and ignoring California wildfires, said nothing.) 
The extent of Russian use of social media to plant fake news has become disturbingly clear. If it’s hard, for now, to know the effect, suffice it to note the multimillions of times those messages were shared. They attempted to corrupt voter rolls in Democratic precincts, and may have succeeded. But Trump and his airwave propagandists, dismissing the constitutional threat, insist reporting it is the real fake news. Who can wonder why? 
Donald Trump (considered a moron by his SecState), his cabinet of grifters, and many R congressdwellers are in office because of voter suppression, gerrymandering, and direct and indirect meddling by a foreign enemy. If it’s reassuring on some level that such people couldn’t have won by legitimate means, all Americans should be alarmed that illegitimacy prevailed. Because, who knows, next time it could be Democrats.  
(Some have noticed: I haven't been including hotlinks lately. For the paper version of the newspaper column, I'd added tinyURLs for readers to use if they chose to, which some people complained were distracting. And since the Foxified ignore them and the well-informed don't need them, I've stopped. For the blog version I'd been converting those URLs to direct links. I prefer to provide that documentation, but for now...)   

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Unoriginal Questions



If kneeling disrespects the flag, what does it mean that people do it in church? Or before the Queen? Why doesn't she lop off their heads?

[Image source]

Friday, October 6, 2017

Guns. And Lies


Tomorrow's newspaper column, today:
Now isn’t the time to talk about it, the White House said, and Sean Hannity agreed. They were right, of course, because only hours after the horror in Las Vegas there was a multiple murder in Massachusetts. Then Kansas. Best to wait till there aren’t any. 
Shortly after signing a bill making it easier for the mentally ill to buy guns (the problem isn’t guns, said Paul Ryan, it’s mental illness), readying to sign one allowing wider use of silencers, Trump tweeted “warmest condolences” and “God bless you” to the victims. It was, he said, “In many ways a miracle,” because cops got to the murderer after only fifty-nine dead and five hundred wounded. (Had he used a silencer, would they have?) 
After speech writers composed a less prosaic response, our pretend-religious president teleprompted prayers for peace, healing, and banishing evil. Momentarily suspending his peddling of hatred and fear, he also suggested praying for an end to hatred and fear. Which left no time for addressing guns.  
If evil is to be banished, it’d have happened by now. If preemptive prayers don’t keep killers from filling hotel rooms with automatic weapons, perfectly legal in Nevada, after-action ones will likely go unanswered, too. Still, since it wasn’t the time to mention America’s tolerance for gun violence as the price we willingly pay to have protected ourselves from Obama’s terrorist army and from the next time a Democrat becomes president, there wasn’t much else to talk about. So prayers it is. Just not the other thing.  
Like how, after Australia outlawed assault-type weapons and tightened gun laws following a massacre, murder rates dropped by over half and mass murder disappeared; citizens relinquished hundreds of thousands of guns and they’ve yet to be enslaved. But legislating is hard. During the shooting, Congress had its hands full ending healthcare funding for nine million children.  
Chiding reporters who brought up gun laws, Press Secretary Sanders brought up Chicago’s gun laws. Following NRA guidelines, she didn’t mention their giant geographic loophole. Would gun laws have prevented Las Vegas? Maybe not. Like climate change, no single event is due to it, they say. But it’s getting worse. On day 274 of 2017, this was mass shooting 272. 
But, no, not the time. Then let’s talk about lying, which Trump does more often than the heavily-armed shoot at us.  
We had the votes, he said after his latest Obamacare failure, but a Senator was hospitalized. This he repeated, semi-automatic, even after the Senator noted he wasn’t in the hospital and, had it been crucial, he’d have returned to vote. Trump’s hospital excuse was fabrication; his insistence they had the votes was dishonesty, squared. 
Why does he lie so bizarrely? Why don’t his apologists care? That’s just Trump being Trump, they say. Recently I conversed with someone who said since all politicians lie, he’s glad Trump does it better. He wasn’t kidding. But good lying is hard to disprove. Trump lies about crime statistics, American business taxes, estate taxes, clean coal. He lies about what he said yesterday. He stands in cloudless sunshine waving the weather report, insisting it’s raining. His tax plan won’t help him or fellow top one-percenters at all, he declares. Every credible analysis says otherwise, but who ya gonna believe: Trump, or your lying arithmetic? His believers say, well, heck. Emails. 
The number and weight of Trump’s lies threaten democracy, annihilate trust. They portend a new and dangerous American exceptionalism. How frightening to have as president a demonstrable, recidivist, outlandish liar; having the nuclear codes, currently in a schoolyard name-calling brawl with another unstable person. Trumpists don’t care. Incredibly, when he claims his tax plan will hurt him personally while balancing the budget, they believe him. When he tells us North Korea, or Iran, or Democrats did something horrible, something war-worthy, there’s no precedent of any sort for assuming he’s being truthful. The danger is obvious.  
Then, for four hours, he visited Puerto Rico, whose citizens he’d called lazy moochers, lamented the expense of helping them, said not enough people died to make it a real catastrophe and other equally stupefying things, importuned praise while praising himself, overstated the relief effort, and tossed paper towel rolls at people like a t-shirt gun at a basketball game. 
It's obvious. Oh, say: can you see?
[Image source]

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Patriots?



Interesting, isn't it, that the people who are so offended by anything they see as disrespecting our flag are the same ones claiming government is "the problem." Who agree with Trump that a free and adversarial press is "the enemy of the people." Who work to devalue education, who are fine with suppressing the votes of people who might disagree with them.

What, I wonder, do they think the flag stands for, if not those things?

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Redefining "Balance"



Deficits, it turns out, matter only when Democrats are in charge. Screaming about increasing debt, as was heard under Obama (despite, as has always been the case with Ds vs Rs, the deficit dropping after rising under Bush), will be a thing of the recent past. From the Tax Policy Center:
This paper analyzes presidential candidate Donald Trump’s revised tax proposal, which would significantly reduce marginal tax rates, increase standard deduction amounts, repeal personal exemptions, cap itemized deductions, and allow businesses to elect to expense new investment and not deduct interest expense. His proposal would cut taxes at all income levels, although the largest benefits, in dollar and percentage terms, would go to the highest-income households. Federal revenues would fall by $6.2 trillion over the first decade before accounting for added interest costs. Including interest costs, the federal debt would rise by $7.2 trillion over the first decade and by $20.9 trillion by 2036.
But... but... Donald and Paul promised us budgetary balance. It's almost as if they were knowingly lying. It's almost as if they assume their base LIKES being lied to.

Which, it's obvious, they do.

The entire analysis is found at the above link. In fairness, it does predict short-term growth in GDP, which falls after the first few years.

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Patriot Act


My next newspaper column:
“Thinking NFL players are protesting the flag is like thinking Rosa Parks was protesting public transportation." 
That’s from Facebook, source of all wisdom. But it’s true. Same with saying they’re disrespecting veterans. Being one myself, I understand why some vets believe it; but they’re missing the point, wide right. Worse, they’re being used by a president with less standing to define patriotism than any president, ever. 
Our justifiable wars (which excludes Vietnam and all that followed except, maybe, Afghanistan until Bush abandoned it) were fought in the name of freedom. Founded by people resisting unjust governance, America began with protests. The action we’ve seen on NFL fields is as American as football, embodying a most fundamental Americanism: belief that wrongs can be righted by rallying support. Peacefully challenging inequality honors the flag, those who fought under it, and the promise of justice for all. For which it stands.  
Oh, but our country has been good to them, say the Foxolimjonesified. Yes. Which makes their activism more significant: it’s for those who haven’t voice or means, who live with inequity daily. Thus, the source of this cynically fomented outrage: the Republican party denies racial inequality exists. To get what those athletes are about, one must acknowledge imperfection, including racism and unequal justice. Denying them is deliberate blindness. Fixing them requires loving America enough to believe it can improve, and willingness to help it happen. 
NFL owners didn’t have to support their players. They did. Instead of men attending to equality, Trump could have called for firing people honoring Nazi flags, hailing inequality. He didn’t. 
I served in Vietnam because I was drafted. Unlike Donald Trump, who undoubtedly used family wealth and influence to get five phony deferments for “bone spurs” which mysteriously didn’t prevent him from playing varsity sports, I hadn’t tried to get out of it. Unlike Trump, I figured if I did, someone worth no less than me would be going in my place. 
While I was dodging rockets in Danang (successfully but for one), my wife was working for anti-war candidates and participating in war protests. As I was there involuntarily, her bravery and patriotism were greater than mine. Risking reprisal from Richard Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover, believing America could be better, she exercised rights I was told I was fighting for. Candidate Trump literally wrapped himself around a flag in a laughably phony tableau of patriotism. Unlike him, my wife and millions then, and star athletes and millions now, know patriotism is more real, difficult, and committed than that.  
Dining with a thrombus of right-wing leaders recently, Trump bragged that his “NFL thing” was “really taking off,” that he was “winning” on it. Winning what? A war of propaganda and deception? Distraction from the latest failure of a pre-failed campaign promise, repeal and replacement of The Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act; or the just-revealed White House private email accounts? Or, despite his bragging about it, a disorganized, ineffective relief effort in Puerto Rico? Or possibly his imaginary secret plan to defeat ISIS in thirty days. (Maybe he meant thirty days from tomorrow.) “Winning,” he called his NFL demagoguery. Such are the priorities of a losing narcissist. 
Except as a word to manipulate supporters, Donald Trump knows nothing of patriotism. Calling white supremacists “very fine people” but men protesting inequality “sons of bitches” is the opposite of patriotism. Hoping to wrench health coverage from millions of Americans, including low-income veterans, isn’t patriotism, nor is promoting a tax plan that experts say will add two trillion in debt while enriching his fellow plutocrats at the expense of Americans struggling to succeed. Patriotism isn’t running scam businesses and hiding tax returns. Neither is a “I know you are but what am I” contest with the world’s second most immature leader. And it absolutely isn’t receiving election assistance from a foreign enemy (who’s now helpfully pushing NFL outrage online). 
His list of transgressions makes Donald Trump particularly unqualified to define patriotism for us. With phony outrage, the man who got rich avoiding taxes and bilking Americans wants us to ignore the inequality those NFL players are identifying. In claiming they disrespect our flag, Trump stands truth on its head, which, it’s clear, is right where his remaining supporters prefer it to be. 
[Image source]

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Health Care. And Now, Tax Reform.



Who knew "America First" and "Make America Great Again" meant ending taxation on money American corporations earn overseas? I guess I just don't understand job creation.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Perfect Version of "Graham-Cassidy"



Because I'm not the sort to put party above the good of our country, I have a "repeal and replace" health-care plan that will help Republicans, who control our government, fulfill their promise to the American people. It's based on their efforts (which some consider a bit shameless and cynical and desperate) to win over reluctant Republican senators by exempting their states from the worst parts of "Graham-Cassidy." (Or is it "Cassidy-Graham?" Or both, since there are two versions now.)

And here it is: write your bill and exempt all fifty states. Simple. Done deal. You're welcome.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Trump's Katrina? No. Far Worse.



Note to Donald Trump: Puerto Rico is part of the United States. Its citizens are American citizens, and they're in extremis. Instead of acting like a child over athletes standing up to you, how 'bout marshaling all the powers of the government, including the military, to get food and water there? How 'bout sending generators and fuel by the boatload?

You idiot. You self-absorbed third grader. Would it help if we sent skin-lightening cream first?

[Image source]

Friday, September 22, 2017

Kung Fu Surgeon


Tomorrow's newspaper column, today. A happy break from Trump and Trumpisim, by way of my Surgeonsblog.
Somewhere in my home is a letter I received from a Shaolin priest, at the time one of five (so I was told) highest grand masters of the martial art of kung fu on the planet. The letter is embossed with the gold seal of the temple of which he was the head (if that’s the word). With its beautiful calligraphy and that timeless seal, I should have had it framed. Sadly, at the moment it’s missing in inaction. 
The master came to me from another country, that I -- and only I -- might operate upon him. (To put it a little more dramatically than circumstances might warrant.) According to the man who sent him to me, he taught very few select pupils, and demonstrated his skills only in private. The referring person, a student of kung fu (but not of the master), had had the opportunity to witness the man's ability to toss a group of attackers like Pike Place fish, and other unearthly wonders. The priest was in his sixties, as I recall. 
I'm not sure what I expected. A spectral aura? Levitation? A shimmering cone of calm? Surely, though, were I to give satisfactory care, I'd be granted some sort of special status, maybe presented with a holy relic, invited to the temple for a secret ceremony rooted in ages past. I let myself imagine wondrous things. Truths revealed. Powers conferred. 
He arrived in my office dressed like a Florida retiree. Age-appropriately fit, but appearing neither athletic nor powerful, he was of unimposing stature. Less surprised than embarrassed for my silliness, I put aside my fantasies and proceeded into my usual doctor/patient partnership, treated him like everyone else, operated in due course and saw to his recovery, after which he returned to his homeland. 
The letter, which lavishly compared my commitment and work to that of great artists, was accompanied by a package. The elegance (and flattery) of the letter was more than enough; but, once again, I unloosed my imagination, now at what might be in the box, which I opened with partially contained expectation. 
It was a Montblanc fountain pen. 
I'd not heard of them. Very expensive for a pen, I discovered, and quite beautiful. A nice gesture, no doubt, but of not much use to me. A little too showy, it was also impossible to use for writing orders at the hospital, because (before computerized records) I needed to push hard enough for several copies. Nor was I interested in lugging a bottle of ink on rounds. I confess to being disappointed. It seemed so impractical, so materialistic, so... unlike a Shaolin priest. Not that I had any information other than a TV show. 
In its elegant box, the pen sat on my bedside table for a decade or more, alongside its exotic and suggestively erotic ink bottle. Then I wrote a book, found an actual publisher, gave some readings, did book signings. And it occurred to me: it was karma, or whatever kung fu masters believe in. He foresaw this moment, it was perfect, meaning and purpose of the gift revealed. 
I took it to my first reading. With its elegant, filigreed gold nib, its meaty heft, its unmistakable emblem, the silky lines of ink it imparted to the page, it’d be perfect for a signature and a few well-chosen words. Testimony to a writer of distinction. On stage, I read choice bits and answered questions. Humbly, I say my readings were mutual fun. I'm enough of a ham to enjoy it and get plenty of laughs. That first one was at “Wordstock,” a book fair of some renown in Portland. My presentation, in a small side room, was at the same time as Gore Vidal's, in an appropriately huge one. “This is my first reading of my first book," I told the audience, "So I'm looking forward to hearing what I have to say." 
When I finished, by then an old pro, sitting at a table stacked with books ready to be signed and inscribed for purchasers, I took up that auriferous pen as if having it were normal as breathing. 
It leaked all over my hands. The first book I signed was so smudged I had to throw it away.
[Image source]

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