Friday, June 29, 2018

What are you trying to accomplish?

Hello again,

Yeah, I've been AWOL for almost two years. Why?  Good question.  Some of it is the usual but the biggest reason is that I didn't think I had anything new or unique to say.  Of course, I could rant with the best of them about Trump's latest outrage or scandal, but what then?  The last thing we need is another repetition of what you've heard a hundred times.

Then Justice Kennedy announced his retirement this week and I lost it.  While I've gone through some pretty rough times, I've never had PTSD, but the way I felt Wednesday can't be far off.  I sat on my couch and stared at the wall unable to comprehend what just happened, and what it means for my future, and much more importantly, for my kids' future.  After a few hours, I had to get my mind off of it so I grabbed my running shoes and headed to the Central Park reservoir.  I ran hard.  Exercise has a way of clearing my head and focusing my thoughts so what came to me then is what you're reading now.  It's missing most of the humor I (try to) put into my mosts, but bear with me - I haven't seen this expressed elsewhere, and I think it will be useful.

As you probably know I have two children, ages 8 and 11.  The question I ask them most isn't "how are you?" or "what did you do in school today?" but some variation of "What are you hoping to accomplish?" It's useful when they start a project, do schoolwork, etc but I pull it out much more often when there's conflict.  Like when they're yelling at each other over some perceived slight.  Or when my daughter asks, for the 11th time, if she can have another cookie for dessert.  I get down eye-to-eye with her, with a very specific quizzical look on my face, and ask
"Have you ever known me to say no the 10th time and yes the 11th?"
"No,  Daddy" (she still calls me "daddy". I still can't get enough of it.)
"Then what are you hoping to accomplish? Will it get you what you want or will it get you in trouble?"

Not once has she asked that question a 12th time.  It's to the point now I give them the quizzical look and rarely have to even ask the question.

Democrats, Liberals, Progressives, realists and everyone else who recognizes the shitshow that is the Trump presidency are tearing themselves apart trying to decide whether we should continue to take the high road with his followers and maintain decorum, or if we should fight fire with fire by yelling, screaming, lying, insulting and worse.  I ask each of you the same question I ask my kids: "What are you hoping to accomplish?" You can roll around in the mud with a pig but you'll just get dirty and the pig will enjoy it.

If you're looking for a quick adrenaline hit and a round of accolades from the like-minded, then a "Fuck Trump!" a la Robert DeNiro is a good way to go.

What next?  After the rush subsides and the applause are silent what have you accomplished?  I'm not criticizing, I'm asking.  In a room of other sane folks, I say let 'er rip.

But if you're in the public square, literally, figuratively or digitally, think about everyone around you. How's it going to look to them?  Trump supporters will pass you off as a snowflake or otherwise whiny, limp-brained liberal.  Who gives a damn? They're a lost cause.  Basket of deplorables, indeed.  What about the on-lookers?  What will they see?  As polarized as we are there may not be too many true independents left these days, but there are a few.  How else would you explain a Democratic senator from ALABAMA?  Yes, dedicated and energized Democrats (THANK YOU, black women!!) but also independents and even some conservatives disgusted by the TrumpOldParty.

A favorite blogger/tweeter of mine, Doc Bastard battles anti-vaxxers and other science deniers on a daily basis.  (If you don't follow his tweets and blog you're really missing out.)  When I was lucky enough to chat with him a few months ago I asked why he continues to beat his head against these very, very dead horses.  He said he has little hope for the anti-vaxxer currently whose ass he's kicking at that moment.  He does it for his followers, and more importantly, the anti-vaxxer's followers.  He said he's received dozens, if not hundreds of emails from people who've watched him from the sidelines and been made to question their own anti-science beliefs, and a pleasantly surprising number of them have come around to reality.  Best of all, that's just the people who've taken the time to email him, so perhaps 1% of the total? 10%?

We need to do the same thing in politics, especially those with a platform.  If the undecided voter sees Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer ranting like Trump they'll be more justified in thinking "all politicians are alike, and they're all vile toddlers."  But if you can maintain your dignity while pushing back against the tide of darkness maybe, just maybe, you'll show them there's a difference after all.

Don't think, for a second, I'm suggesting we roll over and let them steal the spotlight with their bullshit.  But we need to find another way to push back.  A better way.  I have some ideas to toss out in my next post, which I promise will be out soon.

We absolutely must win in November and going forward. "What do you hope to accomplish?" is a powerful tool.  Use it.  Please pass along a link to this blog, and let me know your thoughts in the comments section here.

Every election cycle someone says "this is the most important election of our lifetime" but normally that's just hyperbole.  This time it really is.  We stand at a precipice. Do we back away carefully, or go over the edge "Thelma And Louise" style?

What are you hoping to accomplish?

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Explaining the election to a child

Tuesday night my 9-year-old son went to bed around 10pm, crying at the prospect of a Trump presidency.  I assured him it was early, the returns would go late into the night and everything would be ok by morning.  At 2:30am, along with just under half of the country, I watched the news report that Hillary Clinton had called to concede.  Tears poured down my face and I walked into the bedroom and told my wife that the United States as we know it died in that moment.  I firmly believe that the country reached an inflection point and will never be the same: economy, environment, science, tolerance, acceptance, self-determination are on the chopping block.  Dear Odin, I sincerely hope I'm wrong.

But I couldn't say any of that to my son in the morning.  He's a smart, aware, curious, sensitive child and the last thing any father wants to do is terrify his son, so I owed him something better.  My favorite part of the day is the half-hour I spent walking him to school in the morning.  (My work calendar has that time is blocked off with the label "Sacrosanct".)  As we left the apartment this morning he asked how so many people could be so stupid as to vote for someone so clearly wrong for the job.  What I told him may not be especially profound but I think it came out well and might be helpful to other parents struggling with the same thing.

 I started off saying it's not about smart or stupid.  This country clearly has issues, though not the made-up problems most people think (immigration and unemployment to name two.) And they're complex problems.  Because if they were easy they would be solved already.  Difficult problems require thought, experience, effort, time, patience and dedication.  In short, it's very hard work.  We average citizens have enough to deal with in our own lives without having to take on the nation's burdens alone.  So easy, simple answers have their appeal: Build a wall, take the country back, make America great, deport all of the illegals.  A few moments of serious thought make it clear none of those are realistic, much less desirable, but without the effort those solutions can be comforting to people who don't know better.  Compound that with the news bubble that feeds you only what you already believe and you get president-elect Trump.  

It's unquestionable that many of his voters are racist, misogynist, xenophobic, homophobic and/or antisemitic.  (Look at the virtual orgasm David Duke has been having for the last 24 hours.)   But I just can't believe that this country has that many, well, deplorables, for lack of a better term.  I blame last night on laziness more than malice.  

None of what I've said is meant to excuse the laziness and its fallout.  Far from it.  I was just looking for a way to explain it to a precocious boy who's waking up to politics just in time for what promises to be a disaster.  

Once again, dear [your deity here]  please let me be wrong.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Welcome to "The Apresidentist"

I haven't posted much here in a while.  (And by "a while" I mean almost three years.)  I was hoping my absence would cause chaos and rioting in the streets by my (checking....) thirteen many followers but, come to think of it, there's already been too much of that the last year or so.  I've had ideas to post here, but none were particularly original so I didn't want to waste your reading time or my writing time with the same things you've seen elsewhere.  Finally, though, I think I have something to add.  Let me know in the comments if you agree.   Or disagree.  I can take it.

It goes without saying that I'm ardent in my beliefs, but at the same time I recognize that people disagree and, as long as their points are thought-out and well-reasoned, I respect and even understand them.  At least I try to.  And as a long-time political junkie I've been following this election cycle with intense interest.

And alcohol.

A lot of alcohol.

A lot of alcohol.

But until a few days ago I've been completely unable to wrap my head around how Donald Trump could be, well... Donald Trump.  Even more, I couldn't grasp how anyone could not only support him, but do so vigorously.  Then it clicked in - I understand not only his supporters but him.  Every bit of it.

First the more obvious: his supporters.  Two words: Fucking Nuts.  No, wait, not those two.  Ok, yes those two, especially for what's probably the bulk of his fans.  AKA the basket of delporables.(#ThanksHillary).  But for a subset who probably thinks that they're thinkers there are two more words: Supreme Court.  Yeah, this one's been discussed in the media already but what really gelled was how this can be a prime motivator.  Supreme Court justices almost always serve for much longer than the Presidents who nominate them and they end up impacting society for generations.  When Antonin Scalia died I saw a chance to bring some real balance to the court.  Of course the GOP saw that too so they've obstructed Obama every way possible hoping that a Republican would beat Hillary.  Well, they're going to get what's coming to them - I'd put good money on President Clinton (yes, a week out I'm still confident she's going to win) nominating someone to the left of Merrick Garland.  (Aside: wouldn't it be great if that nominee's name was "Obama"?).  To staunch blind conservatives this must be a fate worse than, well, a Trump presidency.  Hence, ardent support. Conservatives with functional brain cells, though, realize that no liberal justice could do more damage to the US, not to mention the world, than a President Trump.

I've tried to imagine the flip side.  What if the GOP had nominated someone sane and reasonable (You're laughing. I'll wait.) but the Democrats had chosen a ranting idiot with no experience and an uncontrollable mouth?  Bernie?  Nope.  Alan Grayson?  Closer.  Ralph Nader?  Almost.  Kanye?  Ah, there we go.  Mitt Romney vs Kanye West.  Honestly, I'd vote for Romney. But I'm also not a rabid ideologue.  The big picture matters to me, even if it means sacrificing what I want.  

Now, as for Trump himself - what explains all of his behavior, going back to the now-legendary elevator descent?  Reality.  No, not reality reality but reality TV.  Think about it: That's the only thing he's ever really done well.  He's a lousy businessman and a crummy real estate magnate but he's a good TV host - in the way that a cattle prod is a good way to wake up in the morning.  But he's no longer making "The Apprentice".  Now he's the creator, producer, writer, director and star of "The Apresidentice".  He doesn't actually want to be the POTUS.  Why would he want to cramp his lifestyle like that? Think of the freedom he has now to do what he wants, go where he wants, live where he wants, buy what he wants, talk to who he wants, sell what he wants, grope who he wants, say what he wants.  He could do none of that living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  He may not even realize it but, subconsciously at least, he's doing everything he can to sabotage his own candidacy.

Evidence?  Sure, I got ya: He lies far more than any other candidate in history;  he rejects science and facts; he perpetuates conspiracies; he retweets bigots; he goes out of his way to insult the largest voting blocs in the country like Latinos, Asians and Women; he comes up with ever-more-ludicrous nonsense - like he's trying to see how far he can go; and most recently he's doing his best to depress turnout of his own voters.  He talks about how the election is rigged, which makes people think "why vote - it doesn't count anyway?" He insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that he's ahead in the polls and will win on November 8th so voters think "He has it in the bag - I don't need to vote."  He fails to capitalize on news that should be harmful to Hillary's candidacy, even going so far as to create his own spectacles that push her out of the news.  Last but certainly not least he's told people the wrong day to vote.

So what is his end game?  Trump TV.  What better way to start a network than to travel the country; hold huge rallies; get billions in free airtime; convince experienced, media-savvy former-politicians to go all out on your behalf; all on someone else's nickel?  Give it a few weeks and you'll see his major campaign surrogates with their own shows. Give it a few more weeks and they'll all follow "Sarah Palin's America" into the footnote bin of history.

A year ago if you were to have pitched this script to Hollywood they would have laughed it off as absurd.  Soon, though, this script will be Hollywood.

At least it won't be Washington.

I hope.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Cash For Clunking Insurance Plans


So, Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn says that Obamacare is forcing everyone to buy a Ferrari even if they only want fords. 


Oh, was I supposed to surround that with "*cough*" to make it more subtle? Yeah, we'll, I'm tired of subtle. These idiots are about as subtle as a chainsaw so I'm just playing their game. 

To continue with their goofy analogy Obamacare isn't taking Fords off the road, they're making sure Ford and all of the other manufacturers can't sell you a car with cheesecloth seat belts, smog-belching engines and airbags full of confetti. It's no different than when the government mandated seat belts in the 60s, pollution controls in the 70s, airbags in the 80s and increased efficiency every so often since.  Every time that happened the auto companies swore it was the end of cars as we knew them, freedom, sunshine and chubby baby cheeks.  Of course it never played out that way and now is no different except that this time the insurance companies *want* Obamacare. It's just the GOP standing in the way, screaming of doom and gloom and death to Grandma. 

Don't get me wrong, the insurance companies are far from upstanding citizens here: They're sending out misleading (to put it mildly) letters to their members. Going back to cars for a moment it's as if Ford notified their customers that "we can't sell you the Pinto any more but wouldn't you look good in this lovely Lincoln Continental?" entirely ignoring the Focus that costs the same as (or less than) the Pinto but doesn't blow up when looked at cross-eyed.   It's Cash For Clunkers 2.0. 

If Oscar Meyer were selling selling hot dogs full of poison you'd want the government to stop them, right?  And if Oscar Mayer agreed but then sent letters to all of their customers saying "sorry, no more Arsenic dogs, so you should buy some delicious filet mignon" that would be absurd, wouldn't it? So why do we let the insurance companies pull the same racket while somehow becoming the victims?? 

Once again the GOP is completely full of crap and, as usual, they're hurting the very people they've convinced to elect them. It would be an impressive bit of salesmanship if it weren't, literally, a matter of life and death.  I know people who were denied insurance coverage or treatment and died because of it. How anyone in their right mind could stand in the way of broader medical care utterly befuddles me.  

But that's just it.  They're not in their right minds.  They're completely insane. Fortunately Obamacare covers that. Think they'll take advantage of it?  

Don't be absurd.

Monday, October 7, 2013

What takeover?

This is a post I wrote over three years ago but never published.  Not surprisingly it rings as true now as it did then, especially now with President Obama in the White House for another four years and Obamacare actually up and running as of a few days ago.  Obamacare is our generation's social security: Reviled by the right at passage but a sacred cow a generation later.  So with no further ado I give you Abundant Absurdity circa November 2009.


The right-wing keeps going on about how health insurance reform is a government take-over of 1/6th of the economy.  If the reform were to institute a nationalized health care system, akin to the UK's, or our Veterans Administration I could see their point, (though I wouldn't agree with it).  If the reform were to be a single-payer system akin to Canada's or Medicare they would have a shred of credibility to stand on, though only a shred.

But it's neither, so I can't and they don't.  This is nothing more than strengthened regulation of an industry run amok and which provides no real value: health insurance.  Some of the regulations, like monitoring premium increases, match what is already done for the energy, cable, telephone and internet industries. Were those government take-overs too?

Neither is this.  Frankly, I wish it were because I don't think that profit has any place in deciding who gets medical care and who doesn't.  Doctors add value. Pharmaceutical companies create value. Nurses add value. Hospitals add value. Insurance companies move money around and nothing more.  They incur no risk, cure no ills, treat no wounds, reduce no pain, comfort no aching hearts.  They are leeches who make profit only by keeping money that would otherwise be used for care.  Parasites.  Pain merchants.  Death panels.

So GOP and other righties, your ranting is nothing more than scare tactics and, to the Democrats' credit, it didn't work. Who knew the Dems had a spine?  I hope they keep hold of it for the coming battles including climate change, gay marriage, and immigration reform.

2010 is going to be a good year after all.  Perhaps absurdly so.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

What will it take before we learn?

This post isn't likely to be funny (I know, I know: Why start now?).  Many of you know I have a kindergartener so the shooting in Newtown, CT earlier this month really affected me.  For days I couldn't read a news article or hear a TV report without tears streaming down my face.  Of course my first thought was that this could only been committed by a monster, someone who looked human but wasn't.  The problem there is once you've created a demon it's easy to blame, easy to hate, and easy to dismiss.  Life doesn't work that way.   Clearly the shooter was ill to the point of needing a new word to describe his illness, but he was still just a person with access to deadly force far beyond what he could handle.

Would an assault weapons ban have prevented Newtown?  Or Columbine?  Or Aurora?  Or Virginia Tech?  It's impossible to know.  But the attack in China on December 14th, where 22 grade school children were stabbed yet all 22 survived, is a pretty good indicator that such a ban would have made the attack far less likely and almost certainly less deadly.  You see China doesn't allow citizens to own guns so all the attacker had was a knife.  Sure, knives can be deadly but as an able bodied adult if someone comes at me wielding one I have a good chance of dodging, fighting back and maybe winning.  And if I don't win the next victim has a better chance if I've weakened the attacker.  A gunman can kill from across the room without giving me a chance.  And he can do it a hell of a lot faster with large clips and semi or fully automatic weapons.

Could Adam Lanza have used a bomb instead?  Maybe.  Would he have blown himself up in the process of making the bomb?  Quite possibly since you can't walk into Walmart and buy a ready-made bomb.  Some assembly is required and extremely dangerous as police statistics (and reason) prove.  But that isn't even the point.  Keeping military-grade weapons away from common citizens means they can't be used to kill which of course is the entire reason they were designed and built.

The debate is strikingly similar to that about climate change.  Did global warming cause Hurricane Sandy?  Or Katrina?  Or Irene?  Probably not.  Did it make them more likely and more destructive?  Obviously.

Want an analogy you can use with your friends?  Assume baseball player X is taking steroids.  Can you point to any individual home run and attribute it to doping?  Of course not, but it does make that kind of massive hit far more likely.  It's the same with climate change's impact on storm frequency and ferocity as well as gun safety/control.    Sandy wasn't caused by global warming any more than Newtown was caused by an AR15.  But they were certainly amplified by them.

So how do we turn down the volume on both?  Clearly the US government can't confiscate all ~300,000,000 guns for a dozen different reasons.  Nor can we completely releasing CO2 and other greenhouse gases.  But we can limit and remove the biggest offenders: semi-automatic rifles, large capacity clips, armor piercing bullets; coal power plants, low-grade diesel, leaky natural gas wells.  None of that will happen without government leadership and guidance - and after all isn't that what it's for?  To protect the population from enemies foreign and domestic?

I've heard the arguments against both and they're the same hollow bullshit.  Europe and China have proven that green technology is a net job producer.  Yes, some coal miners will lose their jobs but aren't coal mines usually in the mountains?  Where there's an abundance of wind?  (Oh, yeah - some of the coal companies have leveled those mountains.  Oops.)  How about putting them to work building wind turbines and power lines?  Manufacturing is surging in the US so put a factory in what are now coal mining towns.  They're certainly an abundance of energy and ready labor.  Green is the next economic boom and if we skip it we'll be sitting out the economic surge of the next decade or more.

By the same token, the 2nd amendment guarantees the right to "keep and bear arms" but read all of it and you'll see that it starts off justifying such ownership, stating that a well regulated militia is "necessary to the security of a free state."  A) We have a professional defense force now so a militia is as necessary as the muskets they once carried; and B) it clearly says "well regulated".  Anyone who says the Constitution guarantees the right to own any weapon is either misinformed, has poor reading comprehension, or is lying.  Besides, we already have gun control - I can't buy a grenade launcher or a howitzer or a nuclear warhead.  (Yet, right NRA?) So we're not debating whether to have gun control, we're trying to find the line between "I want to kill deer" and "I want to kill people."

The current course can't continue.  As horrific and soul-searing as Newtown was the best thing we can do to honor the memory of those 20 children and 6 adults is reduce the chance this happens again.  Likewise if we don't start taming climate change then hurricane Sandy will seem like a fond memory and all of the people who lost everything will have done so in vain, never mind the wasted billions.  We need to learn from these situations otherwise we're no better than the bird that keeps flying into your window.  No, wait.  The bird eventually learns. Or dies.

Neither of these challenges can be conquered immediately, or easily, or without sacrifice.   But the survival of our culture and society as we know it depend on it.  One day our grandchildren will look at us and wonder why we didn't start working on climate change or gun violence sooner.  At least I hope they do.  Because if we don't start soon who knows what kind of world they'll inherit or whether we'll have those grandchildren at all.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Murder in the name of political expedience

Hi.  Miss me? I've missed you.  I've missed having a place to express my thoughts since almost no one I know in real life has the passion for politics that I do.  Or that you do.  So before I get to my point I want to thank you for reading.  I sincerely appreciate it.

Tomorrow is election day.  Correction: it's 12:15am so today is election day and, as always Americans are being told they to make the biggest choice of their lifetimes, that no other election has mattered as much as this, that the future of the galaxy teeters on the brink.  Who knows - maybe it's true.  But I doubt it.  Whether or not it's the most important election of our lifetimes, though, I do think it's probably the first time we've had the option to vote for someone who advocates murder, by his own definition.

No, I haven't fallen prey to conspiracy theories a la Vince Foster (look it up.) and I'm not talking about Mitt Romney, at least I don't think I am.  Then again he's taken so many different views who knows what he really believes in his heart of hearts.  If he has one.  I mean a proverbial one - not like Dick Cheney who doesn't have a real one.

In the 112th congress Paul Ryan sponsored HR 212 which declared that human life begins at conception, meaning that killing it any time after that instant is murder.  Ever.  For any reason.  If the mother's life is in danger I can see an ardent anti-abortionist asserting that killing the fetus to save the mother is good old fashioned self defense and, seeing it from their standpoint, I can't really disagree.

But what about allowing exceptions for rape and incest?  Anyone who believes that life begins at conception yet accepts abortion in those instances is advocating murder in response to what they must view as a lesser crime.  The GOP's candidate for Vice President believes that abortion at any stage is murder, yet he allows for the rape and incest exception.  Using his definitions, that are entered into the US Congressional record for all time, he accept murder as does the rest of the hard-core GOP who claim the same faith-based belief.

And this is a person and a party that (hopefully less than) half of the voting public is likely to choose to guide this country for the next four years???

Look, there's some maniacal sense of consistency to those who want to ban abortion in all cases except self defense.  I think it's a consistency born out of an utter lack of understanding of biology, but at least it's consistent.  But the "murder is OK sometimes" crowd?  I don't get them.

I've studied biology, including my own biology so I realize I have absolutely no right to tell a woman what to do with her pregnant body unless I'm the one who made her that way and even then all I can do is drop a note in the suggestion box and hope she takes it.  That's not to say we shouldn't do everything we can to reduce the need for abortion, but banning it treats women like children who aren't capable of running their own lives.  The civilized world put that behind us years ago.

Romney and Ryan are right about one thing:  They really do want to take this country back.  wards.

Look, I grew up in the South.   I've lived the bigoted, sexist past.  It sucks.

I choose a future where the Vice President isn't the kind of person who thinks something is murder yet approves it anyway.  It's a future where Barack Obama's second term sees job growth second only to Bill Clinton's.

Going back-wards is almost as absurd as advocating murder.  Don't drag us with you.