Sunday, July 30, 2017

Something to Believe In

Watching "Leftovers" I had a revelation about the Republicans.
You know how Barack Obama said there are people who cling to their guns and their religion, and like the "deplorables" comment, that was just too close to the bone and it was used to cement the resentment against him, and later against Hillary.

Well, in the episode I saw tonight, Second Season, Laura, has freed herself from a cult formed after the great disappearance of 1/10th of the world's people. The cult embraced nihilism but Laura finally realizes it is possible to do something to confront big problems in life, and she embarks on a program to rehabilitate the nihilists. 

But liberating people from the cult does not solve their problems. Laura has the  epiphany that while she has been able to help people who sought salvation in a cult of nihilism, she had been unable to help them find what they were really seeking in the cult in the first place: Something to believe in.

Nobody knows what to believe about the disappearance, about the departed. And the randomness of the culling is what bothers people. If it could happen to those people, chosen for no apparent reason, just randomly, then it could happen to me. It's the unnerving feeling I had as a new intern on the wards of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital for Cancer and Allied Diseases--all these people, living their lives, not smokers, no apparent reason and then, poof! They're gone, or on their way out, just random, no explanation. 

In "Leftovers" there's a cult which says it's coming for all of us, just stop trying. This is familiar to anyone listening to Republicans: Oh, there's nothing to be done. 

This fleshes out the wonderful song which plays at the opening of every episode in the second season, which says we are all afraid of going back to where we came from before we were born. There's that deep fear we all live with of not knowing how the universe works or our place in it.

And, you know, I think that's what Donnie Dubious offers people. It's why he has that unctuous Lee Greenwood sing that gooey song before his rallies: 
If tomorrow all the things were gone
I'd worked for all my life
And I had to start again
With just my children and my wife
I'd thank my lucky stars
To be living here today
Cause the flag still stands for freedom
And they can't take that away

I could just puke every time I hear that and see the tears streaming down those bloated, stupid faces of the audience.

The song which opens "Leftovers" is haunting.
Some say that they're comin' back in a garden
Bunch of carrots and little sweet peas
I think I'll just let the mystery be
Everybody's wonderin' what and where they they all came from
Everybody's worryin' 'bout where they're gonna go
When the whole thing's done
But no one knows for certain
And so it's all the same to me
I think I'll just let the mystery be

Once upon a time, Democrats said there was something to try. They called it the New Deal. Said it would work, or at least it might work, but as Roosevelt said, it's better to try something, anything, even if it doesn't work, rather than being frozen into inaction by the fear of failure. 
What the Democrats need is that cleansing hug, that something people are looking for.

I don't know, maybe Bernie knows what it is.
Maybe the thing people want to believe in is it is possible to help people at the bottom. Republicans have basically said the same thing since Herbert Hoover: "There's just no helping it." 
They look at health care, pensions, you name it and they say government can't help. 
I heard a Republican Congressman talking about Obamacare and how it was really just a souped up version of Medicaid and well, there are just all those able bodied people out there who want free health care without working for it--as if Medicaid is for slackers.
And I thought, this guy does not understand the Obamacare Medicaid went to working people, to people who had jobs but no health insurance. Private enterprise did not provide the option. Government had to act, and did, finally. 

Maybe we can make people believe that. Government can help.
Oh, I know Reagan and the nine scariest words in the English language: "I'm from the government and I'm here to help."
Very cute. Ronnie could always deliver a good line. Everyone laughed, even some Democrats.
But the fact is, Reagan was offering the ultimate in Republican nihilism: Nobody can help you, certainly not the government. You're on your own. 
But the fact is, when FEMA swoops in after a hurricane, when Social Security saves people from poverty and when Medicare saves the elderly ill, nobody's laughing. 

 FDR said it, four score and seven years ago: when ideology paralyzes politics into frozen inaction, when government ceases to make any effort to save its citizens, then we are staring failure in the face and we must do something.  We must dare to try something new. 
As our problems are new, so we must strive to think anew. 
Anything is preferable to surrender.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Finding Our Herblock: Pia Guerra

At the depths of the McCarthy era, when Tail Gunner Joe was terrifying every liberal with a past, when anything he said was inhaled by millions of Americans as received truth, when lies became the norm, a wonderful cartoonist, an accomplished artist at the Washington Post began drawing McCarthy, always with a dark five o'clock shadow looking unappetizing and scurrilous.

And people took heart, came out of the their crouch and began to stand up.

Sadly, Herblock is gone, dead and gone, but there is a spiritual heir, Pia Guerra, who has captured the essence of today's man of the hour, Donnie Diva, the drama queen, who sees dark threats everywhere, from which he must rescue us.

She sees him as infantile, as we all do, the great amplifier.

She sees him for what he is and for what he is not.

And she sees the damage done.

We need to see more of her, and less of him.

The Next Act

So three Republican Senators finally figure out what voting for the Republican pout would do to the country:  Alaska's Mirkowski knows what it would do to her state which as been sucking on the government teat since it was born; Susan Collins has enough neurons rubbing together to know destruction of a hamstrung system is still worse than no system at all and John McCain may have come to Jesus when he had to face the fact that health care is important to actual human beings.

That did not stop the Senators from West Virginia or from Kentucky or from South Carolina voting for the assassination of the ACA, but to paraphrase Lincoln, you can count on some Republicans to be deplorable all the time, and you know some will be deplorable some of the time, but you can't count on all the Republicans being deplorable all the time.

Of course, Donnie Dubious tweeted that Collins, Mirkowski and McCain let the country down, which once again displays his uncanny ability to hone the big lie--these were the three who did the very opposite, who saved the country from driving right off the cliff, but in Snowflake speak, that translates into they acted against the best interests of their country.

And then Dubious ate breakfast, and forgot all about it and tweeted:

Departing for Long Island now. An area under siege from gang members. We will not rest until is eradicated.

Say what?
Oh, right in the best Apocalyptic absurdity Republican mode, the conspiracy train moves on.  The new most threatening host is not the Syrian hordes or the North Koreans or the Iranians but the gang members of MS#13.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Obamacare: Blaming the Victim

Thomas Edsall, the best and most analytic of current journalists, writing in the NYT tells us how Donald Dubious plans to spin the collapse of Obamacare. He will claim it was doomed all along and nobody could save it.
This war, often operating below the radar, entails the use of a quintessentially conservative strategy, and the cooperation of Congressional Republicans. In a way, it’s pretty simple: You cut the budget, impose debilitating regulations, track the subsequent missteps and then attack the program as a failure
--Thomas Edsall , NYT
What Edsall details is how Trump and his accomplices are actually killing it with a thousand cuts--very much the chutzpah of the man who murders both his parents and asks the judge for mercy on the grounds he is now an orphan. In this case, you've got the Snowflake who is the captain of the ship watching the ship he has torpedoed going down, all the while  shaking his head, shouting, "Ships should avoid torpedoes!"
Healthcare is a winner for the Democrats.

After all the machinations about complexities of this Rube Goldberg creation we call Obamacare, patched together to satisfy the health insurance industry and various other constituencies, the country may now be willing to go for single payer, or Medicare -for-all option. This will happen if the Democrats let the Republicans fail spectacularly enough--once West Virginia, Kentucky and other dependent, low functioning states see the loss of health insurance for 30-40% of their people.

What is not a winner for Democrats is this whole issue of transgender rights. Trump is canny enough to know where he can stick a fork into the body politic of his base and get a yelp.  Ask any group of people what a transgender is and they cannot tell you; they just know these people are weird and they know they don't want these people showering in the locker rooms of public high schools with their daughters.
Way too complicated for the Democrats, who look like the panderers of old when they rise indignantly to the defense of transgenders. Most people are not transgender. Most people will turn away from you--at least for now--if you look absurd defending "transgender rights."

Just move on, Democrats. Go where the citizens are. They can understand health care.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Wait! We're Losing to These Guys?

When Susan Collins blurted out to Jack Reed her assessment of the Texas Republican who had said he would like to duel her with pistols the way Aaron Burr dispatched Alexander Hamilton, she, if anything, understated the obvious: "He's just so unattractive."

Now, I've been unwilling to say publicly what many of us must have been thinking: This Trump, his buddies, the whole lot of these pink puffy white guys (PWG's) are just so unattractive, why are they drawing such crowds, such adulation?

Now, I realize, this is very superficial and we ought not be judging people because of the way they look, but by the content of their character, by the content of their words, by their values.  But, still. When you get a right wingnut on stage and he's exhorting the crowd and they are responding with adulation and a huge roar--they are responding to more than just the reducto ad absurdum arguments these PWG's make.

Blake Farenthold
This is the guy who wants to shoot Senator Collins on the field of glory.

Alex Jones
This is the guy who says Sandy Hook was a government plot to take your guns away.

This is the guy who says there is a sinister "administrative state" which wants to control every facet of American life.

This is the guy who says the special investigator has no business investigating Russians but should be focused on all the crimes Hillary Clinton committed.

This is the guy who says Obama wanted to make Black boys and White girls shower together in locker rooms at public high schools.

This is the guy who says admitting refugees from Syria is like mixing poison pills into a bag of Skittles and putting them out for people to eat at a party--only some of them will kill you.

Kris Kobach
This is the guy who says voting fraud is rampant, that 3 million fraudulent votes were cast for Hillary Clinton and that Mexican immigrants intend to take over America and commit ethnic cleansing.

These are the guys who say they are all that stands between the White women of America who all those dark skinned aliens massing on the Mexican border.  These are the protectors of American female virtue.  These are the guys who will make America great again. These are the men who will give coal miners back their jobs, who will open up those assembly lines in the factories, who will protect America from the world.

Senator Collins (R-Maine)

Senator Reed (D-RI)
And here are the two Senators who chatted about these guys.

So here is the way the guy from Texas would deal with these two.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Apocalyptic Style of the American Right

Did you know that Hillary Clinton murdered Vince Foster on the Virginia bank of the Potomac river?
that the moon landing and the Sandy Hook shootings were staged by the United States government?

that the Holocaust was staged, that the 9/11 attacks were an inside job, staged by the federal government, that Barack Obama was born in Kenya to extraterrestrials?

 that Timothy McVeigh was framed for the Oklahoma City bombings, that fetal tissues from abortions are sold on the open market in China where they are a great delicacy in Manchurian restaurants?

that Rick Perry is a child rapist, that global climate change is a Chinese plot, that Hillary's various plots to profit from a child porn ring are well documented in those emails she destroyed?

that Barack Obama wants Black boys and White girls to shower together every day in public school locker rooms?             

 that Bernie Sanders wants to take away your guns? 

that ISIS is plotting to load up a huge wooden horse with terrorist soldiers which the Democrats will drag into downtown Omaha, unleashing a YUGE attack on America from within?

that Mexican Muslims are massing on the Rio Grande, poised to sweep across the border and take control of Texas and Arizona--they'll leave their comrades in New Mexico alone--where they will wage war on Christmas and begin a reign of ethnic cleansing across America, targeting White Christians? Oh, and that includes the rape of White women, who those dark skinned men just lust after?

Did you know there is a world conspiracy to subjugate freedom loving people to a world government which will arrive on black helicopters bearing soldiers wearing blue helmets and determined to deprive freedom loving people everywhere of their guns and their religion?

Well, if you didn't know that, then you have not been watching Fox News, listening to Rush and Newt and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and you are an ignorant twit.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Meltdown of Our Effete Friends

This morning NPR ran a long segment about Donald Trump, Jr. meeting with Russians during the election. A clip of someone calling this "Treason," was played. Other nasty words like "collusion" and "nefarious" floated by.

Finally, one pundit remarked, "No matter how badly we want there to be a crime here, or something very wrong, that doesn't mean there was a crime."

Ah, finally, someone said it.

This obsession with finding that smoking gun, well actually, with finding the bullet riddled body, is actually harmful.

I am ready to stop listening. It's just too painful to hear (and on TV, to watch) people I had formerly respected (Judy Woodruff, Mark Shields) or been entertained by (Chris Cuomo, Alisyn Camerota, Mika Brzesinski, Rachel Madow) transformed into ninnies. 

Of course, it's much easier and much more fun going after the one guy.
Not going to happen. Move on. Grow up. Think about 2020.Pia

The real problem is they lead with these stories and they never get to the real stories:  DEA agents hanging out at courthouses rounding up undocumented immigrants who have lived in this country harmlessly for decades, some of whom are from Ireland, for Pete's sake. I guess you can say, at least they are consistent and you can't accuse them of racism, if they are sending a white Irish guy back.
Pia Guerra

But, and here's the real problem: there are stories not being told about EPA regulations meant to protect against air pollution, river and ocean pollution being cancelled.

There are stories not being reported about the Koch brothers trying to kill the solar industry with the help of the Department of Energy. Ditto for wind power.

There are stories never surfacing about the deployment of thousands more American soldiers to Afghanistan.

These stories, which will never lead to impeachment, are the real stories.  

Memo to outraged news people:  None of you will ever be Woodward and Bernstein--and, truth be told, neither were Woodward and Bernstein.  Nothing is going to happen that easily.

You have to show the real outcomes of the players in place who are tasked with dismantling the EPA, the Department of Education, Housing and Urban Development, Medicaid, the National Parks, renewable energy projects. Those are the real stories.

Oh, this is so pitiful to watch: We've got villains to fight. But our guys, the guys in the white hats, are just so pathetic. 
Where are the superheroes from the left?

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Deja Vu in the Liberal Mode

As you get older, it's hard to not live in the past.
The thing is, you have so much more past than you did when you were in your 20's, and you see things happening which seem to be repeating what you've already seen once.

I keep trying to search out the new, but the old has this insistent way of reasserting itself, of rising up like a stain through a new coat of paint. 

And there is wonderful, new stuff to be excited about. There are now ultrasound transducers which can be used with a smart phone to ultrasound a thyroid or a heart or a uterus, which make the stethoscope nearly obsolete and the old methods of poking and prodding during a physical exam antiquated.

Of course, one wonders whether some skills are lost along the way. I once could slip in an intravenous line into a vein in a patient in cardiac arrest, when the vessels in the arm constrict, but if you had done enough IV's, you could get a line into a nearly dead patient with your eyes closed at the end of a 36 hour shift--it was like tying your shoe laces. Now even vascular surgeons need a portable sonogram to start an IV. 

C'est la guerre. 

But reading the New York Times, the Washington Post, listening to NPR, watching the News Hour, all of which are peopled by folks who make no attempt to disguise their contempt and dismay over our current President, I find myself thinking about the cultural revolution of the 1960's, when things seemed to be coming apart, and it was said often, "The center cannot hold."

Joan Didion looked at the counter culture in "Slouching Toward Bethlehem" and saw the obvious: walk around Haight Ashbury and you saw clueless twenty somethings, who had no competence, espousing incoherent incantations: "Turn on, tune in, Drop out." The brain dead were in ascendance.

On the other hand, look what they were reacting to:  There was George Wallace, segration now, segregation forever on the Right and one the Left,  Lyndon Johnson sending American boys to kill babies in Vietnam. There were Black revolutionaries like the Symbionese Liberation army who thought they were starting a revolution by robbing banks and there were armies of the Ku Klux Klan who thought they were saving White Protestant America by bombing Black churches and murdering children.

While all this was happening, the sands were shifting under the feet of the nation: The children of the 60's generation grew up no longer believing sex ought to be restricted to the marital bed, in fact, marriage has been largely abandoned as irrelevant by the underclasses--it's a luxury for the upper middle classes.  Racism is alive but not at all well; it's really on a respirator. Racist remarks in all but some segments or the lower classes are not tolerated even by White people. The idea of "career" has changed. Huge parts of the population now understand they will not be following their fathers into a factory or company for a 30 year career. Women now expect to work while they are raising their kids.  In the 1960's women were still mostly tasked with raising kids and men were not expected to contribute more than financial support. 

All that changed in the space of one generation. 

There were multiple forces forging this new Man and new Woman of the post WWII generation.  Hollywood, Playboy all played against the advent of effective oral contraception, which freed women from the fear of pregnancy from pre marital (or extra marital) sex.  Technology freed women to enjoy sex without fear.
The idea of the great white father, the God surrogate, father knows best, Ward Cleaver, dissolved.  Generations had looked to father to be the all knowing, wise being who knew better than you because he was older, wiser, more experienced. But old and experienced visibly did not mean wise when you had Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey and countless other White males telling you we needed to be killing babies in Vietnam.  
George Carlin, with his pony tail and insouciance blew that idea of respectability out of the water. 

Things had changed out there in the heartland, and in the cities, but the old guard who were still in official positions of power did not know it.

Listening to the former head of the New Hampshire Democratic power the other night, I had the same sense of hearing from someone living in thrall to past certainties. She told us the best way to resist is to do the same old things we have done for decades--neighbors talking to neighbors, canvassing. But even in a small town like Hampton, New Hampshire, you might know the neighbors in ten homes on your street, but go a half mile away and you are a stranger at the door. You might as well be from Montana, or, Heaven Forbid, Massachusetts.

The ground shifted from under the feet of the Democratic Party last November and our political leaders, our establishment, the people with the experience, have not understood that. Nor have the journalists I love so: Judy Woodruff, Mark Shields, even David Brooks, who is no longer even pretending to be the voice of the Republican viewpoint are all reduced to clucking and shaking their heads and words like "unprecedented" and "shocking" and "immoral" cascade from their mouths. They react much as the older generation did when viewing scenes of naked or semi naked hippies frolicking in the mud at Woodstock, or flashing peace signs at Haight Ashbury, "Oh, my, my. They are so ill behaved."

Here is the generation which changed the cultural norms of the nation, which rejected the ossified strictures of past thinking, now ossifying itself.

We do have problems with figuring out what to do with immigrants in Europe who flood out of Syria and Afghanistan, unprepared for the liberal societies they find in Germany and Scandinavia. France has been unable to figure out how to assimilate African Muslims. Britain has not faced up to the conflicts which the wave of Muslims now living in the UK brought. It's not racist or Right Wing to acknowledge these are real problems. 

A transgender boy to girl with testicles dangling, stripping naked in the girls' locker room of a public high school presents a problem. It's not reactionary to see that.

The displacement of the under-educated class of coal miners, factory workers in the Rust Belt from their jobs as business has gone global is not just their problem, it's our problem.

Fighting endless war whether in Afghanistan or Africa or Iraq is a failure of intellect and courage on the part of our political leaders. We have to admit, much as we loved him, Obama failed to extricate us from Afghanistan.

The power of Wall Street bankers, of rating agencies like Moody's and others and their failure which became the problem of the American taxpayer without any CEO paying the price of imprisonment is a failure of political leadership: Again, much as I love President Obama, he was too determined to be non confrontational in that instance. 

The success of the Koch brothers in defeating efforts to bring solar power and wind power on line in a massive way undermines our energy independence and our national security and this has been largely ignored by Democratic political leaders.

So, we have to wake up, or we'll be looking not at four years of struggle but of a two term President and a Supreme Court which may do more harm than we can imagine.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Donald Dubious

All right, I admit it. 
I'm violating my own rule--I exhorted the press to not take the bait, to try to go 24 hours without mentioning the 45th. And now, here I am, already breaking down. But from now, it will be three days before I mention him again. Promise.

Pia g\Guerra

But I think I may be closing in on a proper name.

Consider the definition, one of the definitions, of the word:

  1. 1.
    hesitating or doubting.
    "Alex looked dubious, but complied"


  2. 2.
    not to be relied upon; suspect.
    "extremely dubious assumptions"


And, so, going with the second meaning, of doubtful reliability, I think, for now, it has to be Donald Dubious.