Media in the Age of Trump

Media in the Age of Trump

    Donald Trump is a creature created in the laboratories of media and reality TV. It is the media’s irresponsibility and criminal negligence that allowed him to rise to where he is now. But what could they do? He was ratings gold. They were there every time he opened his mouth. He probably got around $2 billion of free coverage because, as CBS’s CEO Les Moonves said, “He may be bad for the country, but he’s damn good for CBS.” Now, though, they are “the opposition party.” That’s gratitude for you. It isn’t as though Trump turned on them as soon as he’d won the election. He just turned the heat up.
    You may recall that over a year ago (Feb. 26, 2016) he said if he won, he’d “open up the libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.” His position is curious overall; on the one hand media attention (or any other kind) is like crack to him, but at the same time he must delegitimize them in order to peddle his particular brand of snake oil. Two days after the election he came out firing on Twitter: “Just had a very open & successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!” People are always being “unfair” to him.
    On Nov. 21st he summoned to his tower top executives and anchors of cable and network TV, then berated them for twenty minutes. It was stunning and unexpected. They thought they were there to discuss media access to the White House. Trump singled out CNN’s CEO Jeff Zucker: “I hate your network, everyone at CNN is a liar and you should be ashamed.” He went on to everyone else: “We’re in a room of liars, the deceitful and dishonest media who got it all wrong.” The next day was a scheduled meeting with the (“failing”) New York Times that got canceled, then rescheduled, after he blamed the paper for the confusion. The following day Trump called the Times “a great, great American jewel.” This is classic abuser behavior. You beat on the victim, beat on them, then when you compliment them they’re so happy. They want more compliments and less beatings, so they become compliant. It’s a form of Stockholm Syndrome.
    Enmity towards the press is certainly nothing new, even here; Nixon called the press the enemy. It’s on page one of any dictator’s playbook. Napoleon Bonaparte said “Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets.” Autocrats can’t stand the press, which is why it’s the only profession singled out for protection by the Constitution. It’s the media’s job to be adversarial, which often means simply telling the truth. Trump constantly refers to them as dishonest, lazy, scum, losers, and dummies. Lately, he’s using the meme of “fake news” for anything he doesn’t agree with. As near as I can figure, it’s a three step process. In step one he says something outrageous, in step two the press reports it, and in step three he plays the victim card, accusing them of lying, by quoting what he just said. The result is an increasing distrust of the media, exactly what Trump wants. There are even strong indications that Trump’s advisers are leaking false stories, so that when the media reports them he can reaffirm his fake news narrative.
    Last September a Gallup poll reported that only 32% Americans had a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media, an all-time low, and down 8 points since 2015. That was six months ago; I’d wager that the number now is in the twenties, because history teaches us that big lies, constantly repeated, eventually become accepted. At CIA HQ on Jan. 22nd, he said, “I have a running war with the media.” Three days later senior advisor Steve Bannon said the media should “keep their mouths shut and listen for awhile.” On Feb. 24th, at the annual CPAC Conservative gathering, Bannon said things are going to get worse every day for the media. The bridge too far, though, was Trump’s accusing the media of being the enemies of the American people. This is tin-pot dictator stuff, and unworthy of a supposed great nation.
    All this would be bad enough, but during the campaign, Trump exhorted his trolls to harass journalists at his rallies. NBC’s Katy Tur had to be escorted out of one by the Secret Service for her own protection. Kurt Eichenwald, who writes for Newsweek, is an epileptic. He has twice received GIF’s or emails with the particular frequency of strobing that causes seizures. Jewish reporters receive hate tweets and emails too disgusting to detail. Journalists have been arrested at anti-Trump protests, and in New York City, six were charged with felony riot.
    Journalists are fighting back, which is their only option if they want to remain relevant. Dan Rather said recently that this is a gut-check time for the media. Some admit they have avoided certain stories out of fear that Trump will sue them. Many of these are independents or working for smaller operations without the money to have a phalanx of attorneys standing by. Finally, the term “lies” was used by the press to describe Trump’s misstatements and distortions (New York Times). Even MSNBC’s Chuck Todd, whom I consider a lightweight, stood up for truth by challenging Kellyanne Conway’s “alternative facts.”
    We are all soldiers in the war on facts. Our weapons are intellect and the ability to discern. George Orwell, in a 1943 essay on the Spanish Civil War, worried “that the concept of objective truth is fading out of the world.” I’m reminded by another quote by Hannah Arendt, in her classic work The Origins of Totalitarianism: “The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists.”
    Let’s not forget that one crucial fact: Trump needs the press more than it needs him, and by a country mile. A malignant narcissist, he has to constantly be in the spotlight or he’d curl up into the fetal position. What would happen if the media simply refused to cover him at all? Well, then the classic abuser would turn on the charm again. And round and round we go. Who was it that said, “Who are you going to believe, me or you lying eyes?”

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Alternative Facts

Alternative Facts

    The relative sizes of Trump’s inauguration crowd and that of Obama, eight years earlier, has been made clear by comparing photos. Obama’s was about 1.8 million to Trump’s 250,000.
    The next day newly-minted White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer insisted Trump’s crowd was “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period.” The following day, Trump’s media spokesblonde Kellyanne Conway was asked about the discrepancy, and she replied, “You’re saying it’s a falsehood. And they’re giving — Sean Spicer, our press secretary, — gave alternative facts.” I guess aerial photography is just a theory.
    So what the heck are alternative facts? Isn’t that just another term for lies? I’m afraid it’s not that simple. On the TV show “Seinfeld,” George Costanza character said, “It’s not a lie if you believe it,” and that’s the problem. When Trump says crime rates are up 42% (they’re actually down), his supporters believe him. They believe that he lost the popular vote because 3-5 million people voted illegally, and they believe the media are all liars, except for Fox (alleged) News. It’s called magical thinking — believing something because you want it to be true. What is true is that our Narcissist-in-Chief lives in an alternate reality, or as a psychiatrist would put it, he is delusional. And alternative realities must be affirmed by alternative facts. It’s too bad they weren’t around when I was in high school; I would have gotten straight A’s.
    An alternative fact can be anything you want, whatever it takes to bolster up the bullshit that’s to follow. Conservatives have made themselves believe that the more you lower taxes on the rich, the more it increases government revenues. Not only has it never, ever been proven to work, they go on insisting it’s true. 25% of Americans actually believe the sun revolves around the earth (National Science Foundation). But then Americans believe a lot of cockamamie things. Below are some alternative facts I’ve thoughtfully collected. You’ve probably heard some of them. There are also about a dozen references to famous films, just in case you’re a cinephile like me.
    DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN.
    Obamacare caused the Great Depression. You all can decide for yourselves why the media won’t report that.
    Donald Trump was born in the log cabin he built with his own enormous hands.
    It’s not a Muslim ban. It’s a ban on Muslims.
    Corporations are people, my friends!
    Hope and Change.
    On his first day in office, Donald Trump restored the 2Nd Amendment that Barack Obama had abolished.
    Today at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, Donald Trump played 18 holes at 39 under par, breaking the record previously held by Kim Jong-Il.
    There was no women’s march in Washington, D.C. the day after Trump’s inauguration. Everyone loves the new President.
    The Death Star has no design flaws, period.
    The President’s secret plan to destroy ISIS was to make ISIS think he has a secret plan.
    Donald Trump was America’s first black astronaut.
    It’s my considered opinion and that of my staff that any time spent on the Bedouin will be time wasted.
    Tom Hanks peaked in “Turner and Hooch.”
    Thanks to HBO’s Bill Maher for this one: showing a sign by an anti-Trump protester that read “We’re Better Than This,” he said, “No, we’re not. If we were you wouldn’t be standing out there with a sign saying ‘We’re Better Than This.’ “
    Donald Trump has never been to Russia, has never had any dealings with Russia, couldn’t even find Russia on a map.
    I am the least racist person you’ve ever met.
    Gay conversion (pray away the gay) works.
    The moon landings had to be faked. It’s impossible to survive outside the Earth’s orbit because of the Van Halen radiation belts.
    Republicans really do want what’s best for America.
    There’s no definitive evidence that smoking is harmful.
    Professional wrestling is real.
    Not every Muslim is a terrorist, but every terrorist is a Muslim.
    James Franco and Ryan Gosling can act.
    God willing, we will prevail in peace and freedom from fear and in true health through the purity of our natural fluids.
    Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction.
    You should always water your plants with Gatorade — it’s got electrolytes!
    Everything the media says is a lie. Except for Fox News.
    Clean coal.
    Badges? We don’t got no badges. We don’t got to show you no stinkin’ badges!
    Obamacare’s death panels are gonna pull the plug on Grandma (I really like the Affordable Care Act, though).
    Climate change is a hoax cooked up by pointy-headed “scientists” so they can keep getting big governmental grants.
    A woman who is raped can’t get pregnant because the female body has ways of shutting that whole thing down.
    These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.
    It’s impossible for bumblebees to fly. Their bodies are simply too heavy.
    Donald Trump made the sun come up again today!
    Excuse me while I whip this out.
    Any negative polls are fake news.
    George Soros is paying all those anti-Trump protesters.
    Trump picks El Chapo to run DEA.
    Hillary Clinton is running a child prostitution ring out of a pizzeria in Washington, D.C.
    He may no longer be president, but Obama is still coming for our guns.
    Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life.
    The Art of the Deal has sold more copies than the Bible.
    Trump University is more prestigious than Harvard.
    Today the President nominated Judge Reinhold to the Supreme Court.
    Donald Trump set a new world record in the 100m yesterday, beating Usain Bolt by nine seconds.
    War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.
    Cinderella story. Outta nowhere. A former greenskeeper, now, about to become the Masters Champion.
    Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.
    Now, I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq, from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.
 
    People believe a lot of silly things, because they need to. Call them preferred truths. They will persist in these beliefs with a stubbornness that’s hard to comprehend. I remember a quote attributed to the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, when confronting a colleague: “Sir, you are entitled to your own opinions, but you are not entitled to your own facts.” I really loved what Barack Obama (miss him yet?) said in his final presidential press conference. He was diplomatically referring to his completely unqualified successor and what passes for his policies, saying that reality has a way of asserting itself.< ;p>

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Trees — the Other Social Network

Trees — the Other Social Network

    There have been some intriguing scientific breakthroughs lately in our understanding of the plant kingdom. I just finished reading a fascinating new book, The Hidden Life of Trees, by Peter Wohlleben, who was a forester in Germany for decades. He draws from research far and wide, mostly the pioneering work begun 30 years ago by Suzanne Simard at the University of British Columbia. Imagine you’re standing on the street in any city. Hidden beneath the pavement is a maze of cables carrying phone or electricity, gas lines, water and plumbing. It forms the city’s communication system.
    The forest is the same way, and especially so for trees, whose root systems extend to about the size of the visible canopy of leaves and branches above. Connected to the root tips are tiny fungal threads called hyphae, about the size of sewing thread, which make up a larger nexus called mycelia (some of the world’s largest organisms have been found to be vast fields of mushrooms, interconnected underground). So what’s in it for the fungi? A piece of the action, in the form of sugar and carbohydrates. What service do they provide in turn? The creation of what Simard calls the “wood wide web.” Think fiber optics. (Ironically, a group of fiber optic cables bundled together is called a trunk line.)
    Science evolves, too, as growing knowledge supplants old ideas with new ones. Decades ago we thought that young trees grow fastest and older ones more slowly. Now we know the opposite is the case. The key to long life for a tree is to grow slowly when young, building strength so as not to be vulnerable to storms or high winds. I’ve never liked the term “forest management,” though I understand the mindset of looking at trees as board feet of lumber. The forest can manage quite well without our help. Yes, trees compete with each other for sunlight and space, but there’s more cooperation than conflict. It’s all about what’s good for the whole, not the individual, which the Right calls communism, or at the least, socialism. I guarantee you won’t find many libertarian trees out there anywhere, outside of a stray seed the wind blew into a rocky crevasse. Another old idea is that of controlling pests with harmful chemicals. This kind of thinking is typical in a dysfunctional society where only short term gain is valued. A good example is the spruce budworm. Left alone it can decimate a large portion of a forest, clearing large new sunlit areas where flowers can thrive. Flowers attract insects, which attract birds, which feast on the spruce budworm. That’s forest management.
    It turns out that trees are social beings. Because of their interconnectedness, not only can they identify other family members, but kin of the same species, as well as others. Trees can “see,” by way of the light sensors in the leaves. They can feel if not pain, at least discomfort. An insect bites into the bark. The tree analyses its saliva, and begins to produce a chemical making its flesh a little more disagreeable. It can also send chemical signals through the air to the others, as a warning. Trees are capable of producing up to 3000 different chemical compounds. That’s a pretty impressive laboratory. How much information is in those signals, I wonder. Are they a kind of language?
    Young saplings get little sunlight, beneath the leaf canopies of the adults, so Mother trees furnish them with nutrients. Simard helped discover these maternal tendencies. Hub trees, usually the eldest, may be in contact with dozens of others. A sick tree may be fed by many other trees in the vicinity. If it dies it could open a gap for wind to break off branches of other trees, making them more vulnerable to insect or bacterial attack. Again, as with the Three Musketeers, it’s all for one and one for all. A tree is only as strong as the forest around it. We don’t think of them as being mobile, yet they can be immigrants. Right now, due to global warming, several Southern and tropical species are migrating North (better build that wall quickly, President Rump), as they did after the end of the last ice age. It may take hundreds of years, but remember they are operating with a different sense of time than ours.  J.R.R. Tolkien had it right with his ents.
    Conifers (evergreens with needles) create antifreeze so their needles don’t freeze and die. In summer they cover the needles with a waxy coating to conserve water. Notice that many conifers grow their branches a little downward. That’s so that heavy snowfall drops off, preventing the branches from breaking. Deciduous trees (lose their leaves in winter) grow their branches slightly upwards so that rain runs down them to the trunk and root system. All trees in temperate or polar regions, whether deciduous or evergreen, hibernate. After a rigorous growing season, they’re exhausted, so they go into a dormant period, saving their energy for spring, when it will be most needed (it’s why dormancy is usually a good time for pruning). Trees in cities with perpetual lighting actually suffer from sleep deprivation, so they’re more vulnerable to insects or diseased. After a heavy winter, deciduous trees will leaf out sooner. Trees can count. They are aware of the passage of time. They can “see” the days getting shorter or longer. And they remember. In fact, as with animals, it seems their memory is epigenetic, meaning it’s passed on to future offspring.
    I want to inject a note here that all plants exhibit similar properties, to a greater or lesser extent. I chose trees because they are the oldest well-adapted beings in the plant kingdom, hence the most evolved. Conifers first appeared 300 million years ago, and deciduous trees about 150 million years ago (followed by the triumph of flowering plants — the most efficient means of propagation — about 125 million years ago). There are bristlecone pines in the Rocky Mountains that are 5000 years old. And because they live so long compared to other plants, I rather like the idea of wisdom coming with age. I’m grateful again for journalist Michael Pollan, who writes a lot about food and plants (The Omnivore’s Dilemma, The Botany of Desire). I recommend him highly, especially an article he wrote for The New Yorker (Dec. 23, 2013), called “The Intelligent Plant.” That’s where I learned about Mancuso’s work.
    How are all these “decisions” getting made? Well, that’s a loaded word. I prefer “intent.” This is where we get into debates about intelligence, sentience, and self-awareness. That’s a problem, because the only examples we have of these things are ourselves, so we’re already biased. If intelligence is defined as being self-aware, then we can’t tell, yet. Mancuso sees it differently; he defines intelligence as the ability to solve problems. In one of his experiments he set up a time lapse camera on young bean plants with a metal cylinder about two feet away. The bean plants were “looking” for something to climb, and they moved toward the cylinders, time after time. How could they sense the presence of the cylinders? We know they have photoreceptors in their leaves, but those are thought to be for detecting light levels.
    We tend to think creatures with brains are the most evolved. Plants don’t have brains, so they can’t have neurons or a nervous system. They do, however, have structures analogous to neurons, and even create the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and glutamate. Structures analogous to brains have been found near the root tips, or radicles, of plants. I was astounded to learn who first discovered them — Charles Darwin, who late in life became passionate about botany. In his 1880 book The Power of Movement in Plants, he wrote “it’s hardly an exaggeration to say the tip of the radicle, having the power of directing the movement of the adjacent parts, acts like the brain of one of the lower animals.”
    Mancuso makes an interesting point that for a creature which is immobile for its entire life, a brain or vital organs can be a disadvantage. A plant can lose as much as 90% of its mass and still survive; not many animals can do that. Because they are immobile, they have to be more intensely tuned in to their immediate environment. Mancuso informs us that because plants are sensitive and intelligent beings, we are obliged to treat them with respect. To the American Indians, they were the tree people. They referred to themselves as human beings, but all the creatures were other people; that’s respect. These recent breakthroughs have also changed Peter Wohlleben’s perspective, as towards the end of his book he says, “When you know that trees experience pain and have memories and that tree parents live together with their children, then you can no longer just chop them down and disrupt their lives with large machines.”

Not yet become a Buddha,

                                                   This ancient pine tree,

                                                   Dreaming.

— Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828)

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2017 Coyote Irony Awards

2017 Coyote Irony Awards

    It’s the awards season. The Grammys were last weekend and the Oscars this weekend, so let’s join this year’s Coyotes from beautiful downtown Culver City, California. In the past, the coveted prize was the Grand Irony Award. This year, for the first time, all awards are ironic, in the best sense of that Alanis Morissette song. Irony can range from the comic to the tragic and hypocritical. Again, dress is casual, so kick back and enjoy the show. As always, we remind you to please think responsibly.

    The Circus is in Town Award — The week before the numbskull’s inauguration, the Ringling Bros. & Barnum and Bailey Circus said it’s closing up its tents. Maybe they know they can’t compete with the coming circus from the White House. They said attendance has been declining since, and due to public pressure, they retired the elephants (the symbol of the Republican Party). The elephants are now in a preserve. I wish all the Republicans were.
    The Cover and Heat on Media Award — The mainstream media are all complicit in Trumputin’s victory. They sold their souls for ratings by giving him free coverage every time he opened his mouth, thus normalizing his bizarre behavior. But now the media is “the opposition party.” Now they have to play nice if they want access, so let’s give them a special You My Bitch Now! Award, and what the hell, throw in an Instant Karma Award as well.
    The Pot Meet Kettle Award goes to the Resident of the United States. After civil rights icon John Lewis said on a cable news show that he didn’t consider Trump a legitimate president, he had no choice but to angry tweet back: “Talk, talk, talk. No action or results. Sad!” No action? Lewis had his skull fractured by a police baton while marching with Dr. King at Selma in 1965. Talk, talk, talk, no action or results. Who does that remind you of?
    The Foxes Guarding the Henhouse Awards have multiple winners. Betsy DeVos has never taught nor attended a public school, nor have her children. She’s an advocate of private charter schools. She’s going to head the Dept. of Education. Steve Mnuchin, a hedge fund manager from Goldman-Sachs as well as a foreclosure mill vulture, will head the Treasury Department. Scott Pruitt, a lifelong enemy of the EPA, will head that agency. Tom Puzder, CEO of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., opposes overtime pay, the minimum wage, and workers’ rights in general, and will be Secretary of Labor. Worst of all is outright racist and bigot, Senator Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions III (R-AL). He will be the next Attorney General, the highest law enforcement officer in the land. They’re all like that. You know, I guess I never really understood the expression “like bats out of hell” until now.
    Three awards came out of Trumpolini’s attempted Muslim ban that wasn’t. First is the Let Them Eat Cake Award, which goes to Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner. On Saturday while 100,000 legal visas were revoked worldwide, and at least 100 legal residents in the U.S. were unconstitutionally detained without due process for hours — including a 5-year-old Iranian boy, Ivanka tweeted a photo of her and her hubby (in tuxedo). They were all dressed up for some gala event. She wore a $5000 silver Carolina Herrera gown that made her look like a baked potato. I recall F. Scott Fitzgerald’s line about the rich being different from you and me. It’s just really bad optics, that’s all I’m saying.
    The second award is the History Doesn’t Repeat, It Rhymes Award, which goes to the Ugly Trumpling. He issued that Executive Order on Fri. Jan. 27, which also happened to be Holocaust Remembrance Day. He mentioned the day but not the Jews. The irony becomes apparent to anyone who knows that in 1939 the U.S. refused entry to 900 German Jews arriving on the St. Louis. They were returned to Europe, where many died at the hands of the Nazis. At the time America was isolationist, and there was a general feeling that we shouldn’t be taking in immigrants we didn’t know or trust, and who would take our jobs. A poll showed that 61% of the public felt that way.
    The third “honor” is the Bad Samaritan Award. It goes to all those evangelicals who voted for this scrotum in the White House. The travel ban included no refugees for 120 days, and Syrians not at all. Evangelicals seem to have forgotten, if they ever knew, that Jesus was himself a refugee. Matthew 2 tells how he and his family fled to Egypt to escape Herod. It’s my opinion that many of these hypocrites have never even heard of the New Testament.
    The Hypocritical Oath Award goes to ISIS’s number one recruiting tool, the immigrant-hating Tweetledumb. But his first trophy wife, Ivana, and present trophy wife, Melania, are both immigrants!
    The Call Is Coming From Inside The House! Award goes to Melania Trump. On Nov. 5th, three days before the election, she said if she were to become first lady one of her main issues would be to combat cyber bullying. Uh, Melania, have you seen any of your husband’s tweets? You must have at least heard about them, right? You can start right there. And you’ll have the advantage of being able to work from your own home.
    The Who’s the Bastard, Here, Anyway? Award goes to Trumpelthinskin, our big weiner this evening. He spent five years birthing the Birther conspiracy that Obama was illegitimate. Then he got elected in the biggest election fraud in American history; the purging of millions of minority voters, the FBI’s interference days before the vote, and the revelations that Trump’s campaign people were in contact with Russian officials. If there were ever an illegitimate president, it’s this short-fingered Vulgarian.
    Our Giant Step Backwards Award goes to that peaceful transition of power we Americans pride ourselves on, wherein the first black president handed the reins of power to a president who was widely endorsed and supported by the Ku Klux Klan, along with other white nationalist extremist groups. As the Trumpet himself says all too often, “Sad!”
    Along those racial lines, the White Hood Award goes to Senate Majority Leader Mitch “the Turtle” McConnell (R-KY). During the final Senate confirmation for Sen. Jeff Sessions, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) read a letter by Coretta Scott King. She’s the widow of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and originally introduced the letter into the Senate Committee considering Sessions for a federal judgeship, in 1986. He was denied. So while Sen. Warren was reading this letter about how Sessions “used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters,” and “his indifference toward criminal violations of civil rights.” McConnell stopped Warren under an obscure Senate law about “impuning a colleague” and forced her to be silent. It seems to me it wasn’t Sen. Warren who was doing the impuning, but never mind. Oh, and by the way, Happy Black History Month, everybody!
    The I’ll Be Your Server This Evening Award goes to Trumpledorf”s White House staff. Remember all the hoo-hah about Hillary’s private server? The White House staff is using their own private server for inter-staff email communications. It’s the same server the staff used in the George W. Bush administration! ousHH
    Finally (big fanfare music), the Electile Dysfunction and Grand Irony Award goes to the Electoral College. It was established for many reasons, one of them to appease the Southern slave states by allowing them to count their slaves as 3/5 of a person, thus gaining them more representation in Congress. But the primary reason was that the Founders didn’t trust the people, most of whom were uneducated, and who might fall for the persuasive rhetoric of a demagogue. They were there to see that a calamity like that never happened, and instead, they failed us miserably by putting a ten-year old psychotic into power.
    I never thought about it before, but the Groin Reaper talks about “extreme vetting” when bringing in immigrants and refugees (there already is, and the process takes up to two years). Isn’t it ironic, as Alanis would sing, that we don’t have an extreme vetting process for presidential candidates? It could be very simple; a full mental examination and a basic civics test. Oh, and tax returns. Then we wouldn’t have to worry about getting stuck with a foul-mouthed, ignorant lout. Well, what did you expect, an awards show WITHOUT politics? Anyway, we hope you enjoyed the 2017 Coyote Hypocrisy — I mean Irony — Awards. Be sure and tip the wait staff. We pay them $15 an hour but they work really hard, and they’re tremendous. The best. Believe me.

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Senate Confirmation Hearing Disorder

Senate Confirmation Hearing Disorder

    “Give him a chance!” cried the Republicans, who never gave Obama a single chance in eight years. Okay, what are the first things the fascist President did? He nominated his cabinet heads, which made his intentions pretty clear. It looks like there’s a fox to guard every government henhouse; a long-time foe of the EPA to head the EPA, a private charter school advocate for Education, a long-time racist and bigot for Attorney General (the nation’s highest law enforcement officer), a former Goldman-Sachs hedge fund manager to manage Treasury, and a long-time enemy of workers’ rights to head Labor. They’re all like that, including the CEO of Exxon-Mobil for Secretary of State. Maybe the Donald is just screwing with us, rather than screwing us, but I think not. Each had to be confirmed by the Senate, and so the hearings began. Let’s have a look at some of the contestants.
    Scott Pruitt is a self-described “leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.” As the Oklahoma Atty. Gen. he’s filed a dozen lawsuits against the agency’s regulation of toxic substances like mercury and arsenic. He’s the nominee to head the agency.
    Andy Puzder is CEO of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., and a fierce opponent of paid sick leave, the minimum wage, and overtime pay. He’s the nominee for Secretary of Labor.
    Sen. Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions (R-AL), the nominee for Attorney General, once called a black attorney “boy” and another time said he “thought the KKK was okay, until I learned that some of them smoke marijuana.” Sessions insisted none of that was true, even though he was denied a federal judgeship in 1986 due to his racism. Get this — Strom Thurmond chaired the Senate Committee that rejected him for being too racist. Strom Thurmond — who had run on a platform of segregation — thought he was too racist! He has called the 1965 Voting Rights Act “a piece of intrusive legislation” and unconstitutional. As we saw above, he’s vehemently anti-pot. In a Senate hearing in 2007 he called for more mandatory minimum sentences for drug convictions, saying “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
    Steve Mnuchin was a hedge fund manager for Goldman-Sachs. Then came the housing market collapse in 2007. Smelling blood in the water, this shark bought a failed bank, renamed it WestOne, and turned it into a foreclosure mill that threw over 35,000 people out of their homes (including a 90-year-old woman who missed a payment by 27 cents). One trick they used was telling people they had to be late on their payments to qualify for a loan modification program, then when they were late, they were foreclosed on. WestOne is currently under investigation by HUD, the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development.

    How have they performed at the hearings? Betsy DeVos, of the vast Amway fortune, has never taught, never attended a public school, nor have her children. She’s a big pusher for private, for-profit charter schools, which of course are for the best and brightest (white children of privilege). Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) asked her, “If confirmed, will you insist upon equal accountability in any K-12 school or education program that receives taxpayer funding whether public, public charter, or private?”
    DeVos” “I support accountability.”
    Kaine: “Equal accountability?”
    DeVos: “I support accountability.”
    Kaine: “Is that a yes or a no?
    DeVos: “I support accountability.”
    Kaine went to another question: “Should all schools that receive taxpayer funding be required to meet the regulations under the Americans with Disabilities Act?”
    DeVos: “I think that’s best left to the states.”
    Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) had a question: “Do you think that guns have any place in our schools?”
    DeVos: “I think that’s best left for localities and states to decide.”
    Murphy pressed on, “You can’t say definitively that guns shouldn’t be allowed in schools?”
    DeVos said she deferred to Sen. Enzi (R-WY), and mentioned a school in Wapiti, WY, that might want to have a gun handy “in case of grizzlies.” Really. Grizzlies. This is unbearable.

    Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), nominee for Secretary of HHS (Health & Human Services) hates Obamacare. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) asked him, “Do you believe that health care is a right of all Americans, whether they’re rich or poor?”
    Price: “We are a compassionate society . . .”
    Sanders: “No, we are not a compassionate society,” and mentioned that the U.S. is the only one of the developed nations that doesn’t recognize this right.
    Price: “We want every single American to have access to the highest quality health care.”
    Bernie exposed the weasel word “access,” which means anyone can walk into a doctor’s office or clinic, but that doesn’t mean they can afford the care. Anyone can go the ER, and either they’re stuck with a huge bill they can’t afford, or the rest of us pay for it with higher premiums and deductibles. Then it was Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) turn. She asked him about the budget he approved as Chair of the House Budget Committee calling for cuts over the next decade of $449 billion to Medicare and $1 trillion to Medicaid. “Is that right?” she asked.
    Price: “You have the numbers before you.”
    Warren: “Is that a yes?”
    Price: “You have the numbers before you.”
    Warren: “I’ll take that as a yes.”
    Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) asked him whether it was true that “President Trump said he’s working with you on a replacement plan for the ACA which is nearly finished and will be revealed after your confirmation.”
    Price: “It’s true that he said that, yes.” (laughter) It went on like that. And there’s still the matter of Price buying stock in a company that makes hip and knee replacements, then six days later introducing a bill delaying a regulation that would have cost them money.

    Rex Tillerson is CEO of Exxon-Mobil, the world’s largest privately-held oil company, and the nominee for Secretary of State. His company has a $500 billion investment in Russian oil, except for those pesky sanctions.  Putin likes him, and awarded him Russia’s highest award for non-citizens, the Order of Friendship. Also, we now know that Exxon knew 40 years ago their industry would heat up the planet, but instead hired scientists to prostitute themselves by denying their own science. Tillerson was asked about that by Sen. Kaine:
    Tillerson: “I’m in no position to speak on behalf of company executives [like himself!]. You would have to speak to them.”
    Kaine kept on as Tillerson kept dodging, and finally asked, “Do you lack the knowledge to answer my question, or are you refusing to do so?”
    Tillerson responded, “A little of both.”

    Are you sensing a pattern here? But let’s get to the main entrée — Rick Perry. He may be the 2nd dumbest man in Texas (no one will ever beat Louie Gohmert). Perry is the former Governor of Texas, but his last job was as a contestant on “Dancing with the Stars.” In a 2011 GOP presidential debate he tried to list the three government agencies he would cut: “Education, uh, Commerce, and uh . . .” He couldn’t remember the third. “Oops,” he said, and that was the end of his candidacy. The agency he couldn’t recall is the very one he has been nominated to head — Energy. At the time he was nominated, he thought it was like a “good will ambassador to the oil and gas industry.” He had no idea its main function is to monitor the nation’s nuclear arsenal. Oops. The last two heads were Ernest Moniz, Chair of Physics at M.I.T., and Stephen Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist. Perry got a B.A. from Texas A&M in Animal Husbandry. He took four courses in chemistry and got 2 Cs, a D, and an F. He also got a D in a course called “Meats.” I swear, I’m not making any of this up! As Bill Maher said, “He may not know what a centrifuge is, but he can jerk off a horse.”
    This whole wrecking crew will be confirmed, every one, because the Senate has the majority, and confirmations for cabinet positions cannot be filibustered.  This is due to a rule change by then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) in 2013. Then Minority Leader Mitch McConnell warned that the Democrats would regret that decision, and maybe sooner than they think. And here we are. But don’t worry, little sheep. Did your President not say during his Inauguration speech, “Hear these words: you will never be ignored again!” So do not trouble yourselves. He cares for you so much that he has appointed a pack of hungry wolves to look after you, and keep you from any harm.

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Signs of the Times — the Women’s Marches

Signs of the Times — the Women’s Marches

(lovingly dedicated to Jill & Lauren, two of my fierce heroes)

    Women are fed up with men’s bullshit, which goes all the way back to the Old Testament, at least. They’re tired of male privilege, tired of having Republicans looking up their skirts (because they’re still searching for a clue), tired of the patriarchal rape culture. So when a disgusting pig and unregistered, admitted sex predator was elected president, perhaps a suitable response was inevitable (except the 42% who voted for him). Hell hath no fury like 150 million women scorned. The Woman’s March on Washington took place Jan. 21, 2017, the day after der Gropenfuhrer was inaugurated. Other cities took up the call; about 600 women’s marches worldwide, from Alaska to Antarctica (!). I watched all day, marveling at the seemingly endless variety of terrific signs. And unlike the Tea Party rallies, no spelling errors! It’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes a few well-chosen words speak volumes. But enough of my rambling; the women speak for themselves. Caution: adult language and themes.
    I thought “It’s day one and I’ve had enough” set the general tone nicely.
    “My arms are tired from holding this sign since the 1960s” provided historical perspective.
    A little girl had a sign: “Trump is a Racist Sexist Dicktator,” and on the line below, “Mom says my spelling is fine.”
    There was a sign with a picture of actress Meryl Streep: “What she said.”
    A large circular sign was in embroidery: “I’m so angry I stitched this just so I could stab something 3000 times.”
    “Now you’ve pissed off Grandma!”
    “I can’t believe I still have to protest this shit!”
    “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.”
    “Tiny hands YUUUGE ASSHOLE!”
    “Grab ‘em by the patriarchy”
    “We shall overcomb!”
    “I know signs. I make the best signs. They’re terrific. The best. Everyone agrees.”
    “So many issues — not enough sign”
    “Girls just want to have fun-damental rights”
    “If men could get pregnant abortion would be a sacrament”
    “Let my people go — to Planned Parenthood”
    “Leave it to the beavers”
    “Orange lies matter”
    “I wish my uterus shot bullets so the government wouldn’t regulate it”
    “Make America think again”
    “Donald J. Trump will lie about this”
    There were several drawings of the female reproductive system. One caption was “Shed walls don’t build them” and another, “This machine kills fascists,” echoing the famous line by Woody Guthrie about his guitar. Still another simply said “Hands off.” One had no caption, just a fallopian tube and ovary turned upwards to form the one-finger salute.
    “Feminazis against real Nazis”
    “Twitler”
    “Resistance is fertile”
    “No country for dirty old men”
    “Tweet women with respect”
    “Melania, are you alright? Blink twice for yes”
    “This beaver gives a DAM about reproductive rights”
    Two versions of this one: “Super callous fragile ego Trump you are atrocious” and “Super Callous Fascist Racist Extra Braggadocious!”
    “Don’t call Trump a huge pussy. He lacks the depth and warmth”
    It wasn’t just women’s issues, either: A woman held up a sign with Arabic writing. Beneath it were the words: “Misogyny kills.” A young Middle-Eastern man, looking like maybe a student, had a sign: “My Muslim registry is with Macy’s and Bed, Bath and Beyond” and an elderly Asian woman in a wheelchair held hers up: “Locked up by US Prez. Never again!” A man had a weekly calendar: “Mon- be gay, Tue – Tacos, Wed – be gay, Thu – be gay, Fri – be gay, Sat – be gay, Sun – be gay” and called it “The Gay Agenda.” Another woman’s sign: “My great grandmother didn’t escape Warsaw for this!”
    “We are the granddaughters of the witches you weren’t able to burn!”
    “If you take away my birth control I’ll just make more feminists”
    “We were served a LEMON but will make lemonade,” showing hands upraised, each squeezing a lemon.
    “Tinkle, tinkle, little czar, Putin put you where you are”
    “Orange is NOT the new Barack”
    “I’ve seen smarter cabinets at IKEA”
    “Is this fake news?”
    With a picture of the White House: “Sex offenders cannot live in government housing”
    There was a poster of the Statue of Liberty being groped by Trump. Another of Lady Liberty said: “I’m with her”
    “Hell yes we’re Ovary-Acting!” was brilliant.
    “A woman’s place is in the RESISTANCE” with photo of Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia.
    Photos of Paul Ryan, Trump, and Mike Pence with caption: “Doctors agree that douches are bad for women’s health”
    An evolution diagram, left to right: A standing Lincoln, a crouching Nixon, and Trump crawling on all fours.
    “If I make my uterus a corporation, will you stop regulating it?”
    “I did not come from your rib. You came from my vagina”
    “Think outside of my box”
    “No more coat hangers!”
    “Women’s rights are not up for grabs”
    “Keep your theology out of my biology”
    A sign with the GOP elephant: “We need to talk about the elephant in the womb.”
    A woman wearing a Trump scarf yelled out of a car window, “If you all had jobs, you wouldn’t be out here doing this mess,” and a woman walking by said, “Bitch — it’s Saturday!” The D.C. march drew half a million. That’s roughly twice the size of Trump’s inauguration crowd, but size doesn’t matter, does it Donald? There was a terrific lineup of speakers and music, and not a single arrest. This idea was birthed (because women are the givers of life) election night by a grandmother in Hawaii, who posted on her Facebook page that women should march in Washington on or near the inauguration. Like a stone thrown into a pool, the ripples spread, it went viral, and soon state chapters went up. The rest is now U.S. history. I found myself wondering how many times “The Vagina Monologues” were performed.
    I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the pussy hats. Pink, knit, with cat’s ears. That idea was born Thanksgiving weekend, and was another stone thrown into another pool. It was in part a response to that part of the anatomy the Lyin’ King bragged about grabbing. People around the country made them, and a social media platform, Ravely, is offering free downloads of the pattern. They’re also available for sale on etsy.com in a great variety of styles and prices. I’m thinking of getting one.
    There were the usual comments by the more neolithic males. John Carman, a NJ government official, tweeted: “Just asking, will the women’s march end in time for them to cook dinner?” IN State Senator Jack Sandlin tweeted: “In one day, Trump got more fat women out walking than Michelle Obama did in 8 years.” Ironically, responses like these only prove the necessity of this resistance. For me, the sign with a quote by Dr. Angela Davis summed it up: “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.”

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World’s Greatest Trump Jokes — Vol. I

World’s Greatest Trump Jokes — Vol. I

    The election of Donald Trump to the presidency may be the worst thing ever to happen to America, if not the world as we know it. How long any of us will survive is anybody’s guess, but no one can doubt that he’s been comedy gold. I have painstakingly collected this material from far and wide. When he announced he was running for president as a Republican, many were surprised, as they had assumed he was running as a joke. Comics everywhere soon discovered the material often wrote itself better than they could have.
    Reporting on the Republican National Convention, in which Trump’s wife appears to have plagiarized a 2008 speech by Michelle Obama, Bill Maher said the blackest thing at the convention was Melania’s speech. After Trump made a sudden trip to Mexico during the midst of the campaign, somebody made up red baseball hats that said “Make the Rio Grande Again.” As far as his becoming Commander in Chief, Jimmy Kimmel said “The closest Trump ever got to battle was his fight with Rosie O’Donnell.” Seth McFarlane: “This guy has an ego. When Trump bangs a supermodel, he closes his eyes and imagines he’s jerking off.” See if you can guess who said this: “Donald Trump has had several foreign wives. It turns out that there really are jobs Americans won’t do.” It was Mitt Romney, of all people. After the scandal over the tape where Trump said “You can grab them by the pussy,” Stephen Colbert said Trump should keep tweeting: “At least we know where his hands are.” John Mulaney has a theory. He says Trump isn’t really a billionaire, he’s what a Hobo imagines a billionaire would be. “I’d build tall buildings and put my name on them. I’d have golden furniture, golden hair, and lots of beautiful women.” John Oliver reflected on Trump’s original family name: “Drumpf. It’s the sound produced when a morbidly obese pigeon flies into the window of a foreclosed Old Navy.” And Albert Brooks said “Trump obviously wants to take away a woman’s right to choose, otherwise no one will have sex with him.”
    Several prominent celebrities “un-endorsed” Trump. Cartoonist Brian McFadden came up with a list of Monster un-endorsements. The Mummy: “Trump’s views on women are as ancient as I am.” Dracula, standing outside a beauty pageant dressing room: “I can’t support someone who intrudes without an invitation,” referencing the myth that a vampire must be invited in. Frankenstein: “Fire bad! Trump worse!” The Bride of Frankenstein: “He barged into the laboratory while I was still animating!” The Wolfman: “I lose control only when the moon is full. Trump does that every day.” The Creature From the Black Lagoon: “ He mocked my appearance and called me a ‘creature.’ “
    After the election revealed Trump’s strength with white voters, Bill Maher observed “I haven’t seen this many angry white people since the O.J. verdict,” then added that “Trump’s voter base has taught us one thing: Anglo-Saxons are not sending us their best people.” He went on to say, “Like it or not, we are living with Trump now. Even though it kind of sounds like those prescription drug ads you hear on TV: I’m living with Trump, but I’m not letting it control my life.”  He still wasn’t through, though: “Who would have thought that going bankrupt in Atlantic City could be a stepping stone to the White House?” Lewis Black beamed sarcastically: “This is what I’ve been waiting for my whole life, a president who’s not afraid to tell the truth about being a lying asshole!” I can’t remember who said he changes positions more often than a prostitute with a bad back.
    I don’t remember where this one came from, that the Electoral College is the first college Trump ever got into without a letter from his father. After Kellogg’s, the cereal giant, pulled their ads from Breitbart News, the alt-right website, “because it doesn’t align with the company’s values,” Stephen Colbert responded: “Really? The makers of Frosted Flakes don’t agree with Breitbart. You’d think they’d love a bright orange cartoon who promises his product is Great!”
    Some of my suggested nominees for cabinet positions are as appropriate as the real ones. Christ Christie for Secretary of Steak, Scrooge McDuck for Secretary of Treasury, Mike Huckabee for Secretary of Church and State, Kim Kardashian as Secretary of the Interior (her TV reality crib is pretty well decorated), and Lex Luthor to head the CIA. Remember that TV reality show “17 and Counting?” This couple, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, are devout Baptists and don’t believe in birth control. They had to keep adding a number to the name of the show because she kept popping out units. I can’t think of anyone more qualified for Secretary of Labor. Energy? I can’t do better than Rick Perry, his actual nominee to head an agency he couldn’t remember he said he would abolish. You know, the one with nukes.
    There were rumors that Mark Burnett, who produced “Survivor” as well as Trump’s “The Apprentice” and “Celebrity Apprentice,” would be helping to plan the inaugural parade, which brought this comment from Stephen Colbert: “We just had the Thanksgiving parade. We don’t need to watch another bloated cartoon dragged down the streets.” Do you know why Trump wants classical music played at his inauguration? So he can grab them by DeBussy.
    There are of course the ones about his hair. Trump will rename the Presidential jet Hair Farce One. How is a thong like Trump’s hair? They both barely cover an asshole. And there are a host of pet names: Orange Julius, Cheeto Jesus, Hair Furor, Trumpelthinskin, Tweety, Trumpster fire, Agent Orange, the people’s billionaire, der Trumpenfuhrer, the Siberian Candidate, and one I’m thinking about making into a horror story — Trumpenstein.
    A female blogger observed how Trump’s answer to policy questions during the debates reminded her of a 4th grader giving a book report on a book he never read. Then she came up with some imaginary Trump book reports:
    The Grapes of Wrath — “Those grapes. They had so much wrath.”
    All the Pretty Horses — “They’re not that pretty, believe me. 3’s at best. I have prettier horses.”
    Catch-22 — “If I was in charge, there would be a lot more than 22 catches. And they’d be huge catches — the best.”
    Lolita — “Lolita. Beautiful girl. Phenomenal girl. In ten years I’ll be dating her. That Humbert Humbert guy? So low-energy. Sad.”
    The New Testament — “This New Testament is for losers. Jesus was crucified. I like saviors who weren’t crucified, okay, I hate to tell you.”
    And my favorite: “I’’ve never had a problem finding Waldo. Never. Ask anyone. I always find Waldo.” Of course, no Trump book report can ever be complete because he can’t get past Chapter 11.
    After Meryl Streep, called out Trump’s assholery at the Golden Globe Awards, without ever mentioning his name, you knew he would retaliate, and he did. At 3:27 A.M. he tweeted that she was the most overrated actress and a Hillary flunky. Seth Meyers’ comment: “That’s right. The Queen of American drama attacked Meryl Streep.”
    The story that wouldn’t let go was the (unverified) report concerning Trump and the “Golden Shower” and Russian blackmail. Supposedly he was at a hotel in St. Petersburg, and had hired some prostitutes to urinate on the bed that the Obamas had slept in on a previous visit. Trump himself has shown people don’t care if it’s fake news or not, so there’s some justice here. Stephen Colbert went of at length: “I think this is just an unfortunate leak that’s making a huge mess. And I know I’m being a wet blanket, but reporting on this is the worst kind of yellow journalism. Not to say the story didn’t make a huge splash; it did. It flooded Twitter. We’ll keep you up to date as the facts trickle in. We have our best researcher working on it; she’s a real whiz. One thing is for sure: the President-elect is a Goldwater Republican, who truly believes in trickle-down. But I’m through making jokes on this. I’m finished. Wait, a little more is coming out . . .” Trump angry tweeted his soon to be intelligence community for releasing the report, adding “Are we living in Nazi Germany?” To which Seth Meyers answered: “Of course not. Nazi Germany at least had the guts to take on the Russians.”
    On Mon. Jan 17, the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, The Onion  wrote: “President-elect Donald Trump spoke at a ceremony Monday honoring the sacrifices civil rights activists will have to make under his presidency.”
    Let me leave you with the best one I’ve heard yet. John the Apostle was busy writing the Book of Revelation, while talking to God. “So, Lord, you say the end of the world will be signaled by trumpets?” God: “No, John, I said it would be signaled by Trump/Pence.”

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Make America Sick Again

Make America Sick Again

    Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, Republicans have been itching to repeal Obama’s signature accomplishment. They want to destroy any trace of his legacy, so they’ve had the ACA in their crosshairs. After winning the election they said it would be its top priority to “repeal and replace” this popular program. They already have the bill ready, and yet they don’t even have a plan to replace it. This prompted new Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to come up with a beautiful sound-bite: the GOP wants to Make America Sick Again. They wouldn’t dare throw 20 million Americans off health care, would they? No, even Republicans aren’t that crazy. But I guarantee you that whatever they come up with it will cost more.
    Their talking points tell you that, if you read between the lines. When they say patients should be more involved, have “more skin in the game,” what do you think they’re talking about? When they say patients need to take more responsibility for their health care, it means more out-of-pocket expenses to the patient, nothing less. If you’re having chest pains or stroke symptoms are you going to go through the Yellow Pages and price various Emergency Room fees? That’s what they mean by more “choice, a word they also use to justify private charter schools that drain funding from public ones. They just love choice (except when it comes to women’s reproductive rights). It would be bad enough if all they were after was Obamacare, but they have Medicare and Medicaid in their sights, as well. It brings to mind then Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) on the House floor satirizing Republicans’ health care plan: No. 1 — Don’t get sick. No. 2 — If you do get sick, die quickly. They’re going to turn Obamacare into Wedon’tcare. I know Trump says all Americans will have health care, but who the hell would believe a pathological liar like Trump?
    Speaker Paul Ryan has said they plan to make Medicare into a voucher program, and Medicaid to be block granted to the states. A Medicare patient would receive a voucher for a few thousand dollars, and they’re supposed to shop around for the best deal. Choice, you see. Of course, if you have a serious illness like diabetes or cancer, that voucher is going to get you nothing but laughter from any clinic or hospital. The CBPP, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, reports that the average 65-year-old would pay an additional $6000 per year with Ryan’s plan, versus current Medicare costs.
    The plan for Medicaid is far worse, a tragic irony, in that it serves the most needy. Medicaid serves 73 million Americans per year. Eligibility depends on income, household size, disabilities, and other factors, and the government matches states’ expenses dollar for dollar. The Medicaid expansion of the ACA uses only income, with the idea of covering everyone below a certain percent of the poverty level. The Supreme Court ruled that states can’t be forced to accept the expansion, so it’s on a state level, and of course the red states mostly refused it. The government will cover all additional enrollees at 100% from 2012-2016, and at 90% after that. Pretty good deal, eh? Well, many Republican states would rather allow more of their citizens to be uncovered that to make Obamacare look good.
    What Ryan wants to do with Medicaid is give the states block grants, which the government would not match.  Right away you’ve just cut the funding in half, haven’t you? It would also give states more authority to establish qualifications, leading to widely different coverage state to state. And once they ran out of funding, they either have to raise the money themselves or cut back on services. You know how that’s going to go, especially in the red states who gave huge tax breaks to the wealthy while implementing austerity measures on everyone else, resulting in crippling budget deficits. And oh my God, let’s not forget the war on Planned Parenthood, the prime target of the pro-fetus people (they are not pro-life). About 3% of their services are abortion-related, and they receive government funding.
    I did a lot of research on this, because I want to get my facts as squarely set as possible. Planned Parenthood serves about 2.5 million people annually. It gets about $500 million from the U.S. government, about 40% of its funding. This comes from two programs, Medicaid and Title X, which was part of the U.S. Public Health Act (1970) to provide family planning services. Then in 1977 came the Hyde Amendment (a rider on an appropriation bill) that banned federal funds from being used for abortions. In 1994 it was itself amended to allow abortion in any of three cases: rape, incest, or the mother’s life being in danger. So I guess you have to say that Planned Parenthood cannot use any federal money for its abortion services. But money if fungible, I can see the controversy. What boggles my mind is that the same people who are anti-abortion are also against the best means of preventing it — access to birth control. As a far-leftie most of my life, I have always been uncomfortable with the idea of abortion. At the same time I support the rights of women, as well as trust them, to know what’s best for their own bodies. On Jan. 5th Paul Ryan announced their effort to defund Planned Parenthood, as part of the legislation repealing the ACA.
    Another canard in the Republicans’ snake-oil cure for health costs is their preachment of health savings accounts (HSAs). They say that will take care of those high deductibles. They’re blowing smoke up our asses, and they know it. Most working poor can’t afford to sock ANY money away; in fact, they seem to be getting further behind all the time. A year ago this month Forbes reported on a survey by Banknote.com. It said 63% of Americans couldn’t come with $500 for an emergency, and that 66 million Americans had no savings account. A similar finding came out last April from the Federal Reserve, that nearly half of Americans couldn’t raise $400. A Pew survey in November 2015 found that a third of Americans had no savings at all. The numbers vary, but it’s all bad.
    Republicans like to talk about patients needing to take more responsibility for their health care. Translation: get ready to pay more. They talk about having ‘skin in the game.’ Here’s a good example of what they’re talking about. Last December Michigan Congressman Bill Huizenga’s 10-year-old son fell and injured his arm. They thought it could be a sprain or even broken, but the congressman and his wife decided to bind up the arm and sort of, you, know, ‘splint’ it, and take him into the doctor the next morning. Huizenga explained to the media that he didn’t want to pay the exorbitant emergency room costs. He weighed cost against health, and figured his son could probably make it till morning. Give him an aspirin. And watch for their snake oil magic word, “access.” All Americans will have access to health care. That is, they are able to walk into a clinic or hospital. That doesn’t have anything to do with being able to afford that health care.
    Don’t worry, though. The Republicans wouldn’t dare to repeal Obabacare and throw their own constituents off health care. In fact as I write this (Jan. 11) they’ve all of a sudden backed away. Paul Ryan now says a replacement plan (which they still don’t have) would be concurrent with the repeal, which is hopeful. Do you wonder why they haven’t been able to come with their own plan in eight years? Maybe, as Thom Hartmann suggests, that’s because Obamacare is their plan. It’s very close to the one Nixon came up with in 1972, then in 1986 the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation fine-tuned it, and that’s what Mitt Romney implemented as Governor of Massachusetts in 2000!
    But really, what the hell is it with these people, anyway? Do they really hate poor people or are they just sociopaths, and don’t give a damn? Both, actually. You have to understand, there are two separate toxic viruses running through the conservative bloodstream: Calvinism and libertarianism. Calvinism is the gospel of prosperity. John Calvin was a 16th Century fanatic who asked how do we choose those who should govern us, and decided they should be people God has blessed. How to tell? Well, the wealthy are obviously favored by God, as they are wealthy. That leads to the polarity that ergo, the poor are immoral, lazy (or they’d be rich), and unworthy of our attention. The Lord helps him that helps himself.
    Libertarians have swallowed the poisonous Kool-Aid of Ayn Rand. Their “theology” is that if everyone selfishly follows their own aspirations and desires to the complete exclusion of everyone else, it will all magically work out. No taxes or intrusive government regulations — just the wild wild west of predatory capitalism. That’s why it’s called magical thinking. Libertarians appear to have all the characteristics of classical sociopaths. You know something else? I have yet to meet a poor libertarian. This stuff is like a theology to these people. We’ll be lucky if all they take is our health care.
    If you feel like crying, as I do, I’ve found the best treatment is laughter. Here’s part of a recent article in The Onion: “GOP Promises Americans Will Be Able To Keep Current Medical Conditions.” It goes on, Paul Ryan saying, “In fact, for the vast majority of Americans, repealing Obamacare will actually increase the numbers of significant medical conditions available to them.”

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These Strange Feelings I’ve Been Having

These Strange Feelings I’ve Been Having

    It first happened a few months ago. I woke up on a Friday morning, and something just didn’t seem right. I couldn’t put my finger on it, I just felt different, somehow, and the feeling lasted most of the day. Next day I felt fine, though, so I just forgot about it. A few days later it happened again, and I began to worry. As I ascend (or perhaps it’s descend) into my 70s, I’ve learned to watch for anything out of the ordinary; it could mark the onset of something serious, such as my impending demise.
    I have always avoided doctors as much as possible. Doctors will kill you. They may not mean to leave that instrument inside, then sew you back up, but it happens. There was a news report earlier last year saying that about 250,000 Americans die each year due to medical errors. It’s the third leading cause of death in this country, only after cancer and heart disease! Besides that, clinics and hospitals are disease factories, some of them the flesh-eating kind, or other antibiotic-resistant death squads.
    [Note: for the purposes of this narrative, let’s assume that I am not one of the 25 million or so Americans who can’t afford any health care at all.] I couldn’t seem to stop worrying about it, so I made an appointment with my doctor. On the way, I stopped to buy one of those white dust masks, the kind you see people in China wearing all the time because of the pollution. I got the works: heart rate, blood pressure, urine & blood tests.. He looked into my eyes, ears, nose & throat, and listened to my breathing. He had my eyes follow his hand back and forth. He asked me about my medical history and that of my family. At last, he stood back and sighed, “Well, you seem relatively healthy for a man of your age, healthier than you should for a smoker. Your blood pressure is a little elevated, but that could be apprehension at visiting a doctor; that’s pretty common. What’s with the breathing mask?”
    “Flesh-eating bacteria,” I replied.
    He laughed, and said, “Well, we don’t do surgery here.”
    “Maybe not,” I said, “but most people see a doctor because they’re already sick. These places are bacteria traps.”
    He smiled at me, that patronizing smile that says you’re crazy. “I can’t find anything wrong with you, but if it’ll make you more at ease I can refer you to a psychiatrist.”
    “You think I’m crazy?” I said, looking up at him.
    “Certainly not, but the sensations you’re describing could be psychosomatic. You seem to want to get to the root of it, isn’t that right?”
    I had to agree with him, so an appointment was made, and soon I was on the way to see my first psychiatrist. I left the breathing mask home. Dr. Jennifer Murray greeted me warmly, had an easy manner, and wasn’t difficult to look at, either. She beckoned me to a seat.
    “What, no couch?” I joked, lamely.
    “Would a couch make you more comfortable?” she asked. “I could call a furniture store.”
    “No, I’m fine.” I was starting to like her.
    “Why don’t you start by telling me about the strange episodes you say you’ve been having. Strange in what way?”
    “Well, I start feeling light-headed, almost dizzy,” I said. “I thought maybe I was having a stroke, or something.”
    She began writing on a notepad. “You’re retired, is that right?” I nodded. “Tell me about your typical day.”
    I told her I was a politics junkie, that I can’t help it. “If you watch the news at all,” I said, “you have to admit it’s been a pretty insane year, if you’ll pardon the expression.”
    “How does following all these political stories make you feel?”
    “Angry,” I said. “I mean, the middle class is being decimated, Congress is bought and paid for, the planet is being turned into a smoking ball of shit, and our only choices for president are a corrupt corporatist and a psychotic 10-year-old. So I’m pretty pissed off most of the time. Good news seems to be a rare commodity.”
    She looked at me. “You’re kind of cynical, aren’t you?”
    “Oh, I’m the poster boy for cynicism. I don’t want to be, but there it is.”
    “I see.” She made some notes. “And on this first time you experienced these strange feelings, do you recall any news stories you might have heard?”
    “Yes, as a matter of fact. There was a report about an old videotape where Trump was bragging about how he could molest any woman he wanted, because he was rich and famous.” I thought it would be the end of his campaign.”
    “Okay, and the other time you had those feelings. Any news you can remember that day?”
    I thought for a moment. “Yes, it was when Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said he’d no longer support Trump, but concentrate on the down ticket. And Trump went off on him and the whole Republican establishment was in chaos.”
    “And that made you feel really good; I can hear it in your voice.”
    “Oh, yeah!”
    She quit writing and looked at me. “I think I know what’s going on. These so-called strange feelings you’ve described are an elevated mood and disposition.. I don’t know if there’s a clinical name for it, but in layman’s language you were experiencing what I would call a good mood.”
    “Good Lord,” I gasped. “Is there anything you can do about it?”
    She laughed again. “No, I’m afraid we still don’t have a cure for that. But a few more of those moods would be healthier for you, psychologically and physically. Being angry all the time isn’t healthy for anyone.”
    “I can’t help it, doc. There’s just too much that’s worthy of righteous anger.”
    “I agree,” she said, “but if you have to be angry, you might want to try and put it to some constructive use.”
    “I write a weekly blog, and I try to channel my anger into humor, when I can.”
    “You’re not that Coyote guy, are you?” she asked.
    “Guilty as charged.” I answered.
    “It’s good that you have a healthy outlet for your emotions,” she said. “But I’d like you to try something. Don’t let the little hassles of life get you so upset. It’s not worth the energy. When you feel yourself getting angry about some insignificant thing, just let it go. Channel that energy into creativity. If you’re going to be angry, save it for the things that count. That’s about all I can do for you.”
    “You could let me take you out for coffee.”
    She smiled. “That would be a violation of professional ethics, but I appreciate the offer.”
    I thanked her and left, feeling a little confused. A few weeks later, though, Donald Trump won the election. I don’t think I’m going to have to worry about those strange feelings for quite awhile.

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Insane in the Mainframe

Insane in the Mainframe

    What does it look like when an entire nation loses its mind?  How can one tell if America has had a serious psychotic break?  It elects Donald J. Trump as President. That alone should be sufficient, but Trump is merely the personification of the country’s psychosis. I think an even better metaphor is that America just put a gun to its head and pulled the trigger.  We committed suicide.  How did it come to this? For some possible insights we can take a look at some news stories over the past two years.
    Jan. 28, 2015 — For five years, Native-American children at the American Horse School have attended Rapid City (SD) Rush minor league hockey games. On this night, fans from the box seats above poured beer down on the kids, Grades 3-8, while telling them to “Go back to the Rez.” Days later the City Attorney visited the school to explain the results of their investigation. At one point, speaking from a microphone, he actually said, “If anyone wants to use the talking stick when I’m done, let me know.”
    Temecula, CA — In February 2014, 59-year-old John Dodrill heard a knock at the door. He opened it while pointing a shotgun at a 7-year-old Girl Scout who was selling cookies. The judge who sentenced him to six months said the man “was essentially a finger-twitch away from a homicide, and still doesn’t believe he did anything wrong.”
    While police are murdering unarmed black men who are running from them, Ammon Bundy leads an armed white nationalist militia in a takeover of a federal wildlife sanctuary. They occupy the place for over a month, going through files, destroying property. Then in the trial, they’re all acquitted! It is me, or does that sound just plain nuts?
    In June, 2015, Donald Trump entered the presidential race by accusing undocumented Mexican workers of rape and murder, and also called for the ban of all Muslims coming into the U.S.  His xenophobia, racism, and misogyny were on daily display throughout the campaign.  He encouraged his supporters to “kick the hell out of” protesters at his rallies, saying that they deserve it, they’re not like us, “These aren’t real people. Remember that.”
    At a Trump rally this fall, a 29-year-old woman carrying a portable oxygen tank shouted at his supporters, “You’d better learn Russian, and the first two words are ha ha,” and a man turned around and decked her.
    Several Jewish journalists have been troll-tweeted by Trumpkins, called Kikes and sent photos of Jewish men on their knees, being shot in the head. Kurt Eichenwald has written some blistering criticisms of Trump for Newsweek. He has epilepsy, and some hatriot sent him a GIF with a strobing light, causing him to go into seizure. Then weeks later another troll sent him a video with the same effect.  
    The NEA, National Education Association, is the nation’s largest teachers’ union.  It has reported increases in school bullying due to the “Trump effect.” Joy Bock, middle school teacher and lifelong Republican, told of a 10-year-old student telling her, “If Donald Trump wins, I’ll be sent back to Peru.” Another teacher whose class is majority African-American Muslims, said, “My students are terrified of Donald Trump. They think if he’s elected, all black people will get sent back to Africa.”  A NC high school teacher tells that many of her students carry their birth certificates and Social Security cards to school because they’re afraid of being deported.  The Southern Poverty Law Center reports the campaign “is producing an alarming level of fear and anxiety in children of color.”
    Oct. 29, 2016, Allen Park, MI — Michael Kubek, age 56, held six youths at gunpoint for ten minutes after he claimed they damaged his Trump lawn sign. He had a permit and the gun wasn’t loaded, but fortunately was stilled booked on felonious assault.
    June, 2015 — A 75-year-old Texas woman had an arrest warrant sworn out on her because the grass on her lawn was too high. She’d had several citations to appear in court, but claims she never saw them. Two good Samaritan brothers from the neighborhood mowed the lawn and she escaped a jail cell — this time!
    Oct. 16, 2016, San Diego, CA — Inserted into the newsletter of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church was a note: “How to vote Catholic — It is a mortal sin to vote Democrat!” It added, “Immediately after death the souls of those who died in a state of mortal sin descend into hell.” The church diocese says the insert wasn’t theirs.
    Silver Spring, MD — Twice, two children, ages 6 and 10, were picked up by police, and Child Protective Services called, for walking alone the two blocks from a city park to their home. Seeing an unaccompanied child anywhere now calls for a 911 call.
    A kid gets suspended from school for chewing a pop-tart into the shape of a gun. It’s part of schools’ zero-tolerance policy.
    In Kansas City, MO — Kaleb Wiley Primm, 7 years old, was crying after being bullied. A School Resource Officer came into the classroom to take him to the Principal’s office and he began crying again, so the SRO handcuffed him above the elbows. Missouri’s Department of Education policies say a student can only be put in restraint during “an emergency or crisis situation.” But a statement from the school district said SROs are not beholden to Dept. of Education policies.
    Incidents of Americans going berserk (apart from the nearly 900 mass shootings) only got worse after the election. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which keeps track of hate groups, reported 867 incidents of hate crime in just the ten days following the election. The “Trump Effect” flew through schools like a virus. Hijabs were jerked from Muslim girls’ heads, there were anti-Jewish taunts and jeers, swastika graffiti sprayed on walls and synagogues. A 10-year-old girl’s private parts were groped by a classmate who asked, “If my president can do it, why can’t I?”
    Jan. 3, 2017 — Today as I was writing this, I heard of a motion by a member of the L.A. City Council, and a Democrat! It would ban childless adults from playgrounds in L.A.’s parks. They might be pedophiles, you see. Fortunately, saner minds prevailed.
    The election of Donald Trump has normalized these kinds of deplorable acts. He has emboldened neo-Nazis and white supremacists to crawl out from under their rocks and inflict their bigotry and hatred on decent, innocent people. The week after the election, a Fremont, CA woman returned from a walk. She’s not Muslim; she wears a headscarf because she has lupus. She found a note on her car’s smashed windshield: “Hijab Wearing Bitch. This is our nation. Now get the F— out.”
    Food stamp shaming is also popular these days. A person is paying for food with an EBT card, and someone behind them says out loud to anyone in earshot: “See those groceries? Our taxes our paying for them,” followed by advice to get a job. As if it was any of their business. God forbid this hatriot ever hits a rough patch and needs government assistance (the key reason for government). Or if his house catches fire, why should I have to pay taxes so he can get free assistance from the fire department? There’s so little compassion anymore in this country, just mean and angry people everywhere.
    You’ve heard the expression about the inmates running the asylum? They’ve just elected one of their own to lead the country, a man who doesn’t read, isn’t curious, doesn’t trust or even own a computer, doesn’t care to attend security briefings, and will soon have his hand on the nuclear button. And he’s obviously as mentally unstable as many of the people who think he’s their hero. He once asked a military advisor three times: “If we have nukes, why can’t we use them?” In a Primary debate in Dec. 2015 he was asked about the nuclear triad, and he didn’t know what it was. Then he was asked about upgrading our nuclear capabilities, Here’s what came out: “I think to me, nuclear, is just the power, the devastation is very important to me.” And he just chose Rick Perry to head the Department of Energy, which oversees nuclear security. Rick Perry, who doesn’t even know which end the bullet comes out of. What could possibly go wrong?
    How did the country get so mean and nasty? Start with the working poor, formerly the middle class, busting their humps every day for less and less pay, less and less benefits. Then imagine a criminally negligent media in what’s being called a post-truth age. People can only be pushed so far before the snap. How many mass-shootings did we have last year? It was close to a thousand. I think America has had a full-blown psychotic break. And the mentally ill who don’t get help from a professional rarely get better on their own. After all, they know they’re not the crazy ones.

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