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]

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Dreaming



It's become very clear that Robert Mueller is deadly serious and that his investigation will reveal multiple transgressions: not just Russia collusion and Russian hacking of the electoral process (more effectively than is currently believed by most), but Trump's own shady (and worse) business dealings, and those of his hench.

And it's clear, because it's already happening, that Trump, Trumpists, the right-wing media machine, and Congressional Rs will do everything they can to discredit Mueller and his findings.

What's not yet clear is the extent to which the latter truth will be effective. On the 35% hardcore, the answer is irrelevant: they'll believe Trump is Jesus-sent and Mueller is doing the work of the devil. The important question is how many Trump voters of the not totally blinded and deafened sort will think twice. And whether enough Congressional Rs will find the genitals to do something about it.

I cling to the belief that not all Republicans have gone entirely insane and that the word "conservative" still has meaning; so I'm inclined to think that if Mueller's findings are as damaging to Trump and his gang of deceivers as I'm pretty sure they will be, we'll be seeing the last of Trump, sooner than later.

A guy can dream.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Perchance To Dream


Tomorrow's newspaper column, today:
Steve Bannon and all of Breitbartdom were deliriously joyful, Jeff Sessions smirked his way through the announcement, their uncontained happiness telling. Ending DACA is, after all, about nothing so much as nativist white supremacy. Appealing directly to the worst among us, Trump’s initial decision was gratuitous cruelty.  
“Compassion,” said Sessions, the word inexplicably not burning through his nasal conchae and into his brain. And “law.” Well, the latter argument is not without weight: DACA was a controversial executive order by the Muslim Kenyan terrorist, a result of Congress even less able to legislate than it is now.    
Fake news notwithstanding, no court has ruled Obama’s order unconstitutional. Now, though, with Neil Gorsuch having taken his seat thanks to unprecedented obstruction by Mitch McConnell, the Supreme Court is stacked against it. Congressional inaction or an appearance before the Court would mean the end of DACA. Too bad. It’s been humane and mutually beneficial; which, considering its origin, is unsurprising. Note that CEOs of major companies, and the Chamber of Commerce are among those calling for continuing the program. 
As usual, right-wing media are disgorging deliberate disinformation about DACA recipients: they’re on welfare, they get food stamps, free college. Because it’s lies that created and animate Trumpism, truth won’t matter. But this is about children, innocently but unlawfully brought here years ago, who’ve honorably made our country a home. These are eight-hundred-thousand honest young adults, contributing no less to society than wave after wave of immigrants have throughout our history.  
On arrival, their average age was six. They’ve been here, typically, twenty years, during which time they’ve become American in all but citizenship. To qualify for DACA, they’ve passed and maintained legal scrutiny; they’re paying five-hundred dollars every two years to continue their inclusion; none have committed crimes; nearly all are employed, paying taxes. They include nurses, teachers, med students, engineers, tech specialists, soldiers. Debunked repeatedly is the claim that Dreamers take jobs from American citizens. There is, in other words, no downside to DACA. Having arrived as children, they’ve come to personify the American dream, as opposed to the deplorables to whose ugly demands Trump is acceding.  
Had Republicans in Congress shown legislative ability on much of anything, especially issues that require empathy, intelligence and forward thinking, Trump’s no-look pass to them could be seen as something other than cynical politics. “Above all else, we must remember that young Americans have dreams too,” stated Trump, vaporizing prior phony justifications, and implying benevolence is a zero-sum proposition. 
It’s only those aggrieved (in their own minds) nativists and supremacists who like the idea of punishing descendants for the crimes of their parents, but those are the people on whom Trump has rested his presidency. Muslim bans, Charlottesville, LGBT people, Sheriff Arpaio, and (maybe, maybe not) DACA: there’s no mistaking, to date, at whose approval his policies have been aimed. A third of Trump voters, according to polls, would deport Dreamers.  
And yet, as he reads the writing on the wall, senses he might be making an early exit through the presidential grift-shop, maybe Trump is listening to the better angels in Congress and the voices of the vast majority of Americans who disapprove of and disagree with him. Even if it’s because he fears an end to the cash cow his presidency has become for his businesses and family, has he reneged, yet again, on a major promise? As happened with the debt ceiling, Democratic leaders may have convinced him to reconsider this senseless deportation. 
But wait: after showing what looked like an uncharacteristic sense of decency, Trump is now demanding a cost-free act of humanity be tied to his expensive, pandering, and unnecessary border wall. So who knows? Does he care about Dreamers as fellow humans, or is their future only a bargaining chip? With Trump, whose only constant is self-enrichment, no one, not even supporters, can count on anything. 
Nativist Trumpites are already up in arms at his possible about-face. As we welcome their overdue recognition that Trump hasn’t the ability to produce coherent policy or keep his facts straight from one moment to the next, let them explain how Obama’s order has hurt them.  
Meanwhile: if this column is even more discohesive than usual, hey, the man has ping-ponged three times since I began it! 
[Image source]

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Sinking To Their Level



I gotta say there's a bunch of really annoying lefty websites lately, ones posting articles with click-worthy headlines, pitching stories we all wish were true but which, when read, are empty, the titles having been dramatically misleading, the "story" nothing more than hearsay. It's starting to piss me off.

"Trump furious over something or other." "The final days of Trump's presidency or something." "White House in disarray after Mueller somethings a something."

I'd like to believe it all, but I don't need to be hooked into something that's unsourced hearsay bullshit. I'd like to believe liberals are a little smarter than that, and that they'd reject trumpic-level fakery. But it's not so: Facebook, for example, is full of links to those articles, posted, re-posted, garnering all sorts of "like"s. I'll assume the likers didn't bother to read the articles. Otherwise, they're at Foxolimjonesian levels of wishful thinking.

Are they deliberately false, just to raise hopes only to dash them? Are they cynical click-bait for ad revenue? Whatever the answers, "we" ought to be better than these useless places.

Here's a list of some of the worst bullshit liberal sites:

"Bluedotdaily dot com" "Progresstribune dot com" "Bipartisanreport dot com" And this bunch of bogosity: Occupy Democrats, PoliticsUSA, Blue Nation Review, Addicting Info, Liberalspeak. I guess it's not impossible any of them might on occasion post something useful, but they require reading with a high level of salinity and a low level of expectation.

Happily, there are plenty of reputable and intelligent liberal sites which do excellent original reporting of their own. A couple of the best are talkingpointsmemo.com and washingtonmonthly.com. Plus truthout.org, crooksandliars.com (which, if sometimes a little shady, has been known to link to my blog on occasion), thinkprogress.org, and, of course, Mother Jones.

And there's the best of the opinionators, Charles P. Pierce. That he happens also to be funny as hell is frosting on the apple.

No fan of bothsiderism, I have no problem with well-argued liberal-leaning sites: they're where reality is to be found. Which is why those superficial, shallow, low-standard, b.s. "liberal" places are so depressing. Actual, documentable, well-sourced truth is good enough, and all we need.

[Image source]

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Mine Eyes Have Seen



Sharia law, they scream. Christians are the most abused of all religions. Religion is under attack in America, they weep; they're coming for your gums.

Meanwhile, under Trump (who gives as much a shit about religion as he does about non-white Americans), our government is becoming an undisguised fundamentalist Christian theocracy, and it ought to be beyond worrisome to everyone, especially conservatives. If they were, in fact, actually conservative.

His latest nominee to the Federal bench thinks judges' religious beliefs should and do outweigh the law. And if that's not enough to scare the crap out of you (especially if you're a woman, or, for that matter, most other forms of human), how about the CIA becoming the enforcement arm of evangelical Christianity?

The only thing Trump's government is good at is prestidigitation: hey, look, there's voter fraud, they shout, waving ballots in your face, while with the other hand they're hiding the actual hacking of elections by Putin's pals. Oh, my, the Islams are gonna impose that Sharie stuff, they warn, as our government becomes biblically blind to the Constitution.

As a non-Christian, it gives me extra connection to the pit of my stomach. Because Trump and Trumpists no more believe in freedom of religious thought than they do in free and fair elections. Absent a great upheaval, a great awakening among the blind and deaf -- as likely as anthropogenic global cooling -- we're on our way back to the Middle Ages, in more ways than several.

And if Trump goes while Pence stays, it'll just be a change in the likeness of the Grand Inquisitor.

[Update: it looks like the claim about that judge may have been wrong. That's embarrassing. The CIA thing is real. So, now that you mention it, is the fact that that ousted Alabama supreme court justice, who refused to take down the Ten Commandments from his courthouse, is the likely next senator from there. So, a datum was wrong; the general point isn't.]

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Friday, September 8, 2017

Harvey



Tomorrow's newspaper column, today:
No city, state, or country could be fully prepared for a disaster like Hurricane Harvey. Texas is trying hard. Thankfully, Trump appointed a person to lead FEMA who, nearly alone among other appointees, is experienced and competent, and Trump pressed Congress for billions in aid. (Will it come from border wall funds or from critical services? Either way, might people notice how unimportant that wall is, compared to this sort of need?)

Also nice, though parsimonious compared to his claimed wealth and to donations of billionaires like Michael Dell, millionaire athletes, and “Hollywood liberals,” is Trump’s pledge of a million dollars of “personal money.” Much is going to reputable charities, though Franklin Graham, worth tens of millions, all-in Trumpist, blamer of gays and immigrants for nearly everything, gets a hundred grand. 
One hates to dwell on Trump, but his initial trip to Texas showcased his predictable, narcissistic first instincts: comments on crowd size, a platform for selling hats, no mention of people hurting from the floods. “We’ll congratulate ourselves when it’s finished,” said he. Evidently stung by criticism, he returned to stage a simulacrum of empathy. Some people were impressed. “Sincerity. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” (George Burns.)

Local governments know best, Republicans say. But after eliminating environmental rules statewide, Texas’ state legislature moved to prevent cities and counties from enacting their own. Businesses need not say what toxins they harbor. When plants blow up in Texas, firefighters may be unaware of what they’re facing, even after they’ve finished.

Houston has minimal zoning laws. Neighborhoods have discovered they’re living next to stored poisons only after they leak. And if smarter development wouldn’t fully mitigate monster floods like Harvey, it’s a fact that land formerly capable of absorbing water was covered over with no requirements for redress. It adds up. Now, as the deluge recedes, pollution left behind will be monumental and, had there been wiser governance, largely preventable.

Before Harvey, Trump reversed Obama’s rules for building in flood zones, cut refinery regulations, supported nearly a billion in cuts to FEMA and three-hundred-fifty million in federal money for fighting wildfires. Already shrinking, the EPA is led by a life-long panderer to the interests of fossil fuel producers; a man who, like Trump and most Republicans, asserts man-made climate change is a hoax. All of whom claim bringing it up right after a disaster is unseemly, and bringing it up any other time is worse.

Last week’s column ended with, “Trump is Hurricane Harvey. Houston is America.” In fairness, it’s not just him: it’s the entire Republican Party since Ronald Reagan’s simplistic idea that “government isn’t the solution, it’s the problem.” Deficit-increasing tax cuts and dangerous deregulation have followed ever since. If Reagan didn’t know of man-made climate change, he didn't mind a little pollution, and ridiculed conservation, saying, “You’ve seen one redwood, you’ve seen them all.” 
For years, Texas has been a laboratory of Reaganoid “business friendly” deregulation and tax breaks. Then came Harvey, blowing away the peeling veneer of credibility for post-Reagan Republicanism, washing off everything but the writing on the wall. 
The measure of post-Harvey leadership won’t be photo-op mulligans, handing out food (ever tone-deaf, Trump called the tragedy “a beautiful thing” and told people to “have a good time.”) Leadership will mean replacing the “If Obama was for it I’m against it” mentality with willingness (and ability) to become analytical and responsible. It’ll be committing to years of recovery, with government solutions from many departments. It’ll require acknowledging the magnitude of man-made climate change, having the humanity to recognize and admit former wrong-headedness, and providing a clear-eyed plan of action. Including ending Trumpic coal-fired lunacy. It’ll mean reversing the assault on regulating dangerous practices, and rethinking reductions in critical services to pay for millionaire tax cuts and symbolic walls. 
Harvey’s lessons are unambiguous. Only fossil fuel producers and other polluters benefit from climate change denial and strangling the EPA. Around here we’ve broken records for rainless days. The Bay Area suffered record high temperatures, the West is on fire, another enormous hurricane is bearing down. As climate science predicts, storms, floods, drought, and wildfires are worsening globally. Man-made climate change is obvious, the consequences undeniable. 
People who still reject this reality are either impossibly ignorant or unimaginably evil.
[Image source]

Monday, September 4, 2017

Nasty. Harmful. Stupid. It's Just Who He Is.



My first thought about Trump's plan to end DACA was anger at his usual needless nastiness, his playing to the worst of his base. And the typical thoughtlessness of him.

My second thought was, after reading the deportations would be deferred for six months so Congress could deal with it was, well, that makes a certain amount of sense, so, okay maybe.

My third and probably final thought was, wait a minute. That's bullshit. Because either the crazy wing will manage to codify the end of DACA, or, more likely, Congress, already with too much on its plate and having shown its inability to do much of anything, will gridlock up to and past the six-month deadline.

So it's cynicism2 effluxing from the Gold House: gratuitous meanness and a ploy to place blame on Congress. Either way, deporting people who arrived here illegally as children but who've become productive residents is despicable. It serves no good purpose. But when has "good" ever entered into Trump's thinking, other than when followed by "for me"?

In this case one would hope it's not even good for him. Sure his alt-right marchers and rally attendees will love it. But I think it'll be too much for (theoretically existent) decent people who, for some reason, talked themselves into voting for him. Among them there simply must be a few with compassion. Or, absent compassion, the ability to do math.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Idiots, All The Way Down

 

Tomorrow's newspaper column, today:
It’s a big, diverse country, so there’s no surprise it contains people who support Donald Trump’s ever more egregious demagoguery. Of course, it’s that very diversity which animates those non-diverse supporters who show up at his rallies. These are scary people; scary as a “president” who, in Arizona, read words claiming to love all Americans, after which he spewed venom at pretty much everybody. Especially reporters who, he says, don’t like America. Reporters, whose job it is to correct lies and uncover corruption. Who, coincidentally, will be reporting results of investigations. 
Phoenix was the worst yet: meandering, wallowing in self-pity, blaming others for his failures, threats against enemies perceived and real. (No mention, though, of ten sailors who died the day before.) But they cheer him. Even when, after promising Mexico would pay for his wall, he threatened to shut down OUR government if WE won’t pay for it. And now, pardoning a racist, law-flouting (but birther!) sheriff whose malfeasance and crimes are manifold, “Law and Order” Trump has sent us a clear, specific message; and it’s grotesque. 
On cue, they cheer and boo, making clear who really doesn’t like America. They’ll say otherwise, of course: they love it. Except its laws; except immigrants and minorities; except the mainstays of democracy: a free and adversarial press; voting by citizens they don’t like; and public education. What they don’t love is the foundation on which the republic stands. It follows, then, that they’re fine with a sociopathic leader who doesn’t love those same things. 
Trumpists posted scenes of tens of thousands filling the streets of Phoenix for the rally. The pictures were actually of throngs in Cleveland for the NBA champ Cavaliers; that’s how much they prefer lies, the more the better. As usual, Trump lied about crowd size, too. 
If it’s creepy having an insecure “president” who’s so needy he holds rallies to wallow in adulation, it’s beyond bizarre that he whines, rambles, fumes, can’t stay on message, contradicts what he said moments earlier. He invokes hatred (Lock her up, they chanted. McCain should die.) He misleads, he fails to understand those things of which he speaks (tinyurl.com/U-clean-it). And they cheer him. He offers up scapegoats, validates their prejudices. Are they brainwashed, or just willingly uninformed? Decide for yourselves. 
That there’s an audience in America hungry for Trumpo-totalitarianism is obvious. We’ve seen the neo-Nazis and white supremacists up close now, the salutes and chants and flags (“We all salute the same flag,” said Trump) of the ideology hundreds of thousands of braver Americans died to defeat. The ideology that killed millions of innocents; whose fascistic descendants loved Trump’s Charlottesville response. The difference between Arizona attendees and marchers in Virginia is geography. Those who’ve seen Trump’s disjointed ravings and still applaud are marchers in their minds, and they won’t be back.  
Trumpism was never about “economic insecurity” or “America first.” Only a day before the rally, Trump announced a “plan” for open-ended war in Afghanistan that was no plan at all. And now, after encouraging police violence, he’s re-arming them into a military force. Remember when Foxolimjonesians warned of Obama imposing martial law? 
Rational people see what participants in Trumpic love/hate-fests never will. They’re raising alarms about his sanity, concerned he’s in over his head, worrying that a vengeful, confabulating man is in charge of our military. They see historic parallels in his gullible, enthusiastic followers. And these aren’t liberals whose safe spaces were invaded. They’re conservative foreign policy experts, CIA officials who’ve served presidents of both parties. 
Not all Americans can resist the appeal of tyrants, especially people who believe they’ll never be targeted. Which is how it begins. If Trump’s inveighing words are reminiscent of dictators throughout history, we must consider whether he can accomplish on our soil what others have elsewhere. Not if enough decent people who voted for him are, finally, shocked enough by what they’re witnessing to join those who’ve seen it all along. 
Getting through to those who attend or approve his rallies is impossible: he’s their demagogue, tells their lies. But it’s well past time for Republicans and conservatives who love actual America to put country above party and reject Trump’s dangerous demagoguery. He’s Hurricane Harvey. Houston is America.  
[Image source]

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

No One Saw It Coming



Once again, CPP tells it. The waters are just the beginning; and whereas there's blame to go around (not to mention that much is blameless, other than God, that is) in many ways Houston is the result of rampant deregulation and anti-science that have become the mainstays of Republicanism. It's all, including the floods, been predictable. And predicted.

But, you know, experts...

The linked article ends thus:
... Once, long ago, the conservative activist Grover Norquist famously said that he wanted to shrink "government" to a size at which it could be drowned in the bathtub. Well, people actually are drowning in Houston now, and so is the political philosophy that reached its height when Ronald Reagan said in his first inaugural that government wasn't the solution, but the problem itself. We all moved onto a political flood plain then, and we're being swept away.
[Image source]

Monday, August 28, 2017

The 411 On The New 911



Anyone see a pattern here? Trump speaks to cops, tells them it's okay to rough up people they arrest. Trump calls people who protest him (or Nazis) lawless thugs. And now he reverses Obama's restrictions on the military giving offensive weapons to police forces. Tanks, grenade launchers, bayonets (!). Not only rescinds but makes it easier. This, after pardoning a lawless sheriff who bragged about that very lawlessness.

Anyone remember when Foxolimjonesians were warning that Obama was coming for us in tanks? That he'd suspend our government and impose martial law?

Railing against the press, against those who oppose him, against free and fair voting. Invoking all manner of conspiracies meant to frighten people into relinquishing the protections afforded us all in a democracy. And now, turning police forces around the country into extensions of the military. "Serve and protect" becomes "seek out and destroy."

Nope. No pattern at all. Nothing to worry about. Move along. Now. Or you'll get a bayonet up your nose.

[Image source]

Friday, August 25, 2017

Taking It For Granted


Tomorrow's newspaper column, today:
Readers of the letters portion of this paper were recently treated to the reanimation of a well-worn Foxolimjonesian climate change denial trope: climate scientists are in it for the grant money. If appealing to logic were effective, such letters might never be written, but let’s talk about it anyway.  
If the argument makes sense, its logical (sorry) extension would be that we should only believe scientists who work for free; even more so, maybe, if they paid for the privilege. In fact, when you think about it, the writer and those who accept that silly argument are communists: researchers should give us what they can and take what they need. Amazing. Foxolimjonesians: commies. It’s a relief to have figured it out.  
I have a niece who’s a world-renowned (among scientists in her field, anyway) researcher in immunology. A PhD professor at a major university, she’s published by the most highly regarded scientific journals, shares her findings at symposia around the world. She’s knocking on the breakthrough door, with work that will likely have enormous benefits in treatment of auto-immune disease and (maybe already) certain childhood leukemias. And she spends a ridiculous amount of time writing grant proposals. Time that’d be far better spent in her lab. Time, were there a more sensible system, wasted.  
I know other academics, and they too spend valuable time applying for grants. Most live well below the high parts of the hog. My niece lives in a small apartment with her husband and two kids. It’s close to her lab because she needs to go there day and night. (Mice, mainly, are the reason. I understand. For me, in college, it was fruit flies.)  
Bad research doesn’t win grants. Tough-minded committees review applications and money isn’t awarded to poorly-done investigation. When researchers succeed in getting them, grants pay expenses of running a lab, salaries of their post-doc assistants, and, in some cases, part of their own salaries. Unlike Trump’s cabinet of climate-change deniers, they’re not wealthy. But that’s our system. And now, as our short-sighted, science-denying leaders (science-fearing, as it threatens their economic and environmental dishonesty) are cutting funding for all sorts of important scientific inquiry, their situation will only worsen, their scrambling for private money even more distracting from the good they do. 
Republicans hate paying for anything other than tax cuts for their benefactors and for military equipment. (Stop the presses: more troops to Afghanistan. Again. Defense stocks surge.) You’d think it’d be a priority to spend public money on the kinds of research that has and will continue to make life healthier and safer. But you’d also think we wouldn’t have a science rejecter as president. 
From the letter-writer’s argument it’s a short hop to another claim of the hypo-rational: we doctors are suppressing cures for diseases. Like cops encourage crime and firemen fires. (The existence of some letters suggests educators have been creating ignorance for the same reason.) As to doctors, well, we and our families get sick, too. Die, even, from the same diseases that kill other humans. And whaddya know? Cancers, and more, that were considered incurable in my day are being laid low by newer discoveries. 
I don’t know whether it’s the insult or the gullibility that’s the more depressing. But I do know how dispiriting it is to see evidence, every day, of how easily fooled so many of today’s Republicans have become. Fox “news,” or Alex Jones, or Rush Limbaugh, or any of the crazy wing of today’s Republican Congress say something ridiculous, imagine a nutty conspiracy -- count on reading or hearing someone regurgitating it on these pages and elsewhere. Including the Gold House. 
It’s ominous. Society can’t long function with one of its major parties so loosened from terra firma; when lying from the very top and from a well-planned disinformation media campaign has created masses of credulous people no longer able to recognize falsehood, nor interested in re-learning the skill. 
It’s not the specific assertion of that letter that’s so sad; it’s what it portends for the future. If people can dismiss the validity of climate research because scientists earn a living doing it, what’s next? Defending a man who claims some American Nazis and white supremacists are “very fine people?” Could it ever get that bad?
[Image source]

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Long Game



Admittedly a thought not entirely original with me, it's something I've been thinking and finding entirely worth considering: another reason Putin was so anxious to help Trump attain the presidency.

Yes, I think Putin figured he could manipulate Trump into doing what he, Putin, wanted. He already has. Very possibly because he has "stuff" on him that Trump wants never to see the light of day. But I see Putin as much more of an evil genius than that.

I think he took the measure of Trump and the people with whom he's surrounded himself -- Nazis, xenophobes, Islamophobes, anti-Semites, wealthy people with no regard for those Americans in need of help -- and concluded, rightly, that a Trump presidency had the potential to render our country asunder. To divide us and cause us to fall upon each other with brutality and hate unlike any we saw during the Obama presidency. To begin the end of democracy, the end of America itself. By civil war: figurative at minimum. Literal, very possibly.

(Need it be said: with each president it's been the same people fueling the division: the haters who hated Obama and now, who feel empowered to crawl out from under their anonymous websites and march in the streets. In the Obama presidency, it was reactive racism. Under Trump, it's racism unfettered.)

And, while that would be brewing, Putin figured Trump would very likely cause America to be reviled by the rest of the world. We'd sink one way or the other, with our former friends glad to see us go.

Is Putin that Machiavellian, Trump that much of a tool?

Is carbon dioxide a greenhouse gas?

Besides which, it seems to be working. Putin must have watched the events in Charlottesville, Trump's stupid responses, the outrage in response to that, the subsequent braying of the alt-right, and rubbed his hands together like you-know-who.


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Friday, August 18, 2017

Suggestion


Because I'm sure I have the ears (or eyes) of Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, I've written a simple and easily memorizable statement for them to make together:
Mr. President, it's time for you to resign  your office with "dignity" or be removed in disgrace. Your choice. 
There. Wasn't that easy? (They can use air quotes for "dignity," or not.)

And, no, the departure of Steve Bannon doesn't suffice. Especially since the White House statement, as delivered by Sarah "Going to hell for sure" Huckabee "And not coming back, ever" Sanders, tried to pretend Trump wasn't involved. To, you know, keep the racists happy.

[Image source]

Good For Mitt


Mitt Romney rose to the occasion. I take back some of the stuff I've said about him.

Unlike the mealy responses of other Republican leaders, who bravely said some words suggesting they don't like racism and Nazis all that much, but failed to address the "president" directly, he had this to say, as posted on Facebook. In full:

I will dispense for now from discussion of the moral character of the president's Charlottesville statements. Whether he intended to or not, what he communicated caused racists to rejoice, minorities to weep, and the vast heart of America to mourn. His apologists strain to explain that he didn't mean what we heard. But what we heard is now the reality, and unless it is addressed by the president as such, with unprecedented candor and strength, there may commence an unravelingof our national fabric. 
The leaders of our branches of military service have spoken immediately and forcefully, repudiating the implications of the president's words. Why? In part because the morale and commitment of our forces--made up and sustained by men and women of all races--could be in the balance. Our allies around the world are stunned and our enemies celebrate; America's ability to help secure a peaceful and prosperous world is diminished. And who would want to come to the aid of a country they perceive as racist if ever the need were to arise, as it did after 9/11?  
In homes across the nation, children are asking their parents what this means. Jews, blacks, Hispanics, Muslims are as much a part of America as whites and Protestants. But today they wonder. Where might this lead? To bitterness and tears, or perhaps to anger and violence? 
The potential consequences are severe in the extreme. Accordingly, the president must take remedial action in the extreme. He should address the American people, acknowledge that he was wrong, apologize. State forcefully and unequivocally that racists are 100% to blame for the murder and violence in Charlottesville. Testify that there is no conceivable comparison or moral equivalency between the Nazis--who brutally murdered millions of Jews and who hundreds of thousands of Americans gave their lives to defeat--and the counter-protestors who were outraged to see fools parading the Nazi flag, Nazi armband and Nazi salute.

And once and for all, he must definitively repudiate the support of David Duke and his ilk and call for every American to banish racists and haters from any and every association. 
This is a defining moment for President Trump. But much more than that, it is a moment that will define America in the hearts of our children. They are watching, our soldiers are watching, the world is watching. Mr. President, act now for the good of the country.

Good on ya, Mitt. You crystallized the deeper and future impact of having a president who claims there are "very fine people" among Nazis and white supremacists. The world, and, more importantly, America's children are listening. The ones, that is, not already brainwashed to ruination by their parents of the Charlottesville marching kind.

Online and elsewhere, people still defend Trump. Either they're too stupid to see the implications, as Mitt Romney stated, or they don't give a shit. More important to them to be able to make up for their self-loathing by hating everyone else.

The "president" of the United States has, yet again, branded us as a rogue nation, a stupid, hateful nation. We need a hell of a lot more than lip service from Congressional Republicans. They need to rid us of him.

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

If There Was Ever Any Doubt....



My latest newspaper column:
Last Saturday a call for greatness came from Charlottesville. Trump didn’t answer. 
The poisonous racism and 1930s anti-Semitism flaunted at that Nazi, KKK, white-whine rally confirmed the self-evident. Likewise Trump’s cowardly first reaction and the gloating words of Klansman David Duke, characterizing the rally as “fulfilling the promises of Donald Trump.” This is what “take our country back” has always meant, and who Trump really is. None can claim they didn’t know. 
In his initial remarks, Trump began, as usual, bragging about the beautiful things happening since his tainted victory, because he hasn’t yet bent downward the trajectory of the Obama recovery. Of the vile hatred, the Heil Hitlers and heil trumps, the Nazi slogans and brandished weapons, Trump’s first thoughts were about Trump.

Then came vapid greeting card words about joining together, followed by refusal to name the marchers, who carried torches he might as well have lit himself. The self-pitying white men, filled with hate for everyone else, simulating manliness by packing armaments: about them, Trump was, in effect, silent.

Two days later, he spoke again. At critical junctures, some presidents’ words soar. His were leaden. Recognizing the need for eloquence and moral clarity, any president worthy of the office would have spoken very differently about Charlottesville. In an archive of orators rising to an occasion, Trump’s page would be blank.

“Very fine people on both sides,” he declared a day after that. No, Donald, only one side. White supremacists and Nazis aren’t fine. These are people who speak of killing Jews and Blacks, who consider them “filth” and “vermin,” Donald. But it’s always been clear your amoral sentiments lie with them. Everyone who voted for you bears responsibility; none can feign surprise. The Gold House has become base camp for the Nazis with whom you have surrounded yourself, and Mecca for the ones who love you for it.

Some Republicans (they knew who he was and voted for him anyway) implored Trump to speak against the horribles basketed in Virginia. It’s almost courageous in today’s Republican Party to condemn racism, and it had an effect. The man whose campaign explicitly encouraged violence and unmistakably dog-whistled racism read some words. Nearly in monotone, unconvincingly. And has been taking them back ever since.  
After the car ran down those anti-hate marchers, comments on right-wing websites ran from claims of “false flag” and “self-defense” to disappointment that he hadn’t taken out more protesters. And people defend them. People who email me do. Trump does. People claiming racism is dead, who contend it’s whites who are persecuted. 
Trump may not have accomplished much for average citizens (his factually deficient claims notwithstanding), but he’s been hugely successful in finding the bottom of the barrel and dragging us all there. To Donald Trump, journalists and educators are America’s enemies, not the white supremacists and Nazis who put him in office. 
If any remain, true conservatives, Christian and otherwise, ought to be carrying torches, too; but up and down Pennsylvania Avenue, forswearing further complicity, apologizing, demanding their party cleanse itself of this stain and disavow his clientele. Liberals who didn’t vote (except the several-hundred-thousand prevented from it by red-state legislation) should admit responsibility, too. 
More than any from abroad, home-grown Trump-loving terrorists directly threaten our way of life. Watch interviews from Virginia, and hear them say it, proudly. Fine people, indeed. Excused by the president of the United States. From Trump we can expect only lip-service to American ideals, of which he’s functionally ignorant. He shows no desire to elevate himself, nor the intellect, energy, or even the common sense required by his job, preferring twice-a-day folders of flattery over the demands of leadership. Donald Trump, the putative moral voice of the United States, her image in the eyes of the world, passes time watching Fox “news,” golfing, tweeting, and basking in words of praise unctuously, pathetically, delivered by caterers to his needy narcissism.

Racists and anti-Semites are Trump’s truest base. Under pressure, he rebuked them. For a day. Then he equated hate and anti-hate; implied, in fact, the latter were more violent, worse. Everything that happened in and after Charlottesville was predictable. It’s who he’s always been, and those marchers have always been his people. They’re Trump’s America, the America, as David Duke said, he promised.  
By now, if you deny it, you’re blind. Or them.
[Image source: obvious]

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Worst Among Us


My upcoming newspaper column:
Proctor and Gamble just produced a video that’s become a minor sensation. Showing black parents talking seriously (and heartbreakingly) to their kids about racism they’ve encountered, or will, it’s affecting and realSurprising as sunrise, right-wingers online and elsewhere are outraged: it’s racist, they scream. Horrifying. Playing the race card. Boycott, boycott, boycott. To them, even to discuss racism is racist. Because there’s no longer any, if there ever was. Rug, sweep under.  
The video is racist the same way ones touting heart-healthy diets are coronary-arterist. 
When President Obama had the uppityness to talk about race and racism, sometimes very personally, they called him divisive. Most divisive president ever. “Deep seated hatred of white people,” opined an infamous right-wing screamer, locally rooted. No person of color may speak of such things, and, evidently, no Trump supporter will, other than to deny it.  
In another unhinged tweetstorm (so much for General Kelly), Trump assured us his base is “bigger and stronger” than ever. (It isn’t, of course.) Look at those rallies I hold for myself, he crows. Actual people show up. Cheering, chanting “Lock her up,” just like when my favorability was above 33%. A few thousand people showering me with love is all the proof I need. 
We can learn from this. First, consistent with his and his supporters’ unflagging avoidance of evidence, his need to believe he’s super-popular Trumps reality. Which explains why he holds those unprecedented self-congratulatory and compliment-fishing expeditions. Second, his voting “base” is the sole target for his dishonest rhetoric, which, third, reveals the superficiality of his regard for them. This president doesn’t even pretend to care about other Americans. He knows his zealots and what they want from him, which, to keep them from noticing his true base, he provides. But it’s the very wealthy to whose continued accrual of fortune his economic ideas are aimed, even as they’ll harm his enthralled ralliers. 
Thus, his abrupt, counterproductive announcement, widely unpopular except with his base, that transgender people shall no longer serve in our military (he lied that he’d talked it over with “his” generals). 
Thus his abrupt, counterproductive, and widely unpopular plan except with his base, to cut legal immigration by fifty percent (he lied that it’s about raising wages for Americans, which it won’t. (For the record, merit-based immigration is worth discussing, and not just because an immigrant Trump wouldn’t meet his own criteria; nor would have a majority of his wives or his mother.) 
It’s been a week since the bombing of a mosque in Minnesota. If Trump has had anything to say about it, I missed it. Since his election, incidents of violence against African-Americans, Muslims, LGBT, Jews, Sikhs, have increased significantly. I don’t claim Trumpism has created more racists and omni-haters than there were before his election; only that by his words and non-words, actions and non-actions, he’s made them feel empowered to act on their worst impulses. Patriotically. To the extent that he’s spoken out, it’s been a half-hearted “Stop it.” Like a napping parent to a mildly annoying child.  
Spend a minute or two online, see video of Trumpists vilely berating immigrants in public. Comments on those right-wing websites are, literally, sickening. Yes, on some liberal websites comments are disgusting, too. But they’re not aimed at minorities or defenseless people, nor do they repeat the equivalent of Foxolimjonesian lies, or have the equivalent of presidential approval the reddest ones do. Clear as climate change, both sides are not equal. Countenancing this kind of hatred comes from the top of only one. 
Now, having confirmed his duping of the basest, Trump moves on to threaten nuclear war, surprising our military and State Department, showing the world’s second most irresponsible leader who’s the more unbalanced. Mine’s bigger than yours, he says, claiming, eight months in, without allocating a dime or building missile one, he’s made our nuclear arsenal more powerful than ever. Trumpists who believe that are more delusional than he is.  
Excusing Trump the person, as he appeals to America’s worst instincts, careening between impulse and error, lying to himself and us, wagging war as his approval sinks: at this point, remaining defenders are demonstrating how empty their claims of “values” were, all along.

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