A Cause for Optimism about Democracy

I thought I had possibly dreamed this, but apparently not.  

Our president, the man who can’t seem to stop bragging about his historically large 106,000 vote Electoral College mandate (take those close votes in three states and flip them and Hillary wins), was rebuked 98-0 by a viciously divided senate the other day.

It happened like this.  He met with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin last week in Finland.  The strongman apparently easily lifted our large president over his head several times during their secret meeting, greatly impressing our great leader.   After the meeting Putin was wearing the smile of the cat with the canary in its mouth and our president seemed even more childish, confused and foolish than usual.   Putin apparently asked that he be allowed, in return for granting the Mueller team access to twelve recently indicted Russians, to interrogate a similar number of American diplomats including the former American ambassador to Russia.  Our president said he would consider it.   The Senate, bitter partisans who can agree on nothing, immediately voted 98-0 to “shut the fuck up, you imbecilic asshole!”

I find a reason for optimism in that unanimous vote by hacks for both supremely corrupt pay-to-play parties.  There is a limit, ladies and gentlemen, to what someone who has contempt for democracy, fairness and even honesty can be allowed to do, even if he’s the almost unanimously elected president of the United States.  I like to think so anyway.

Here’s a short article about the vote.

 

Advertisements

Healthcare as a human right

The radical right is consistent, most of the time, I have to say that for them.   They latch on to something like “Right to Life” (no abortion under any circumstances) or “Right to Work” (the legal right of the employer to fire your ass at any time, with or without cause) and ride it to the end.   Their disciplined relentlessness is impressive, even if it’s not always good for democracy, people, animals, plants, children, old people, babies, the environment, health, human dignity, human survival.   The important thing is that they give their supporters a rallying cry to scream, a cry that never changes, if it works.   That these phrases may not bear much scrutiny as ideas in the marketplace of ideas is not the point.  Winning is the point, the only point.

As Republican icon Ronald Reagan said, either being pithy or already in the first throes of dementia: “the right to life ends at birth.”   “Right to Life” means that the right of a fetus to be born is absolute, more absolute than a mother’s right not to die from complications of pregnancy, far greater than the right of a fourteen year old girl not to have to go through the trauma of giving birth to her rapist’s baby.   Like every right extended, except to wealth that has perpetual life (corporate folks, persons just like you and me except they never die) it terminates at a reasonable time.   In the case of an unwanted baby, the right to life ends as soon as the poor bastard is born, breathing air and crying.   When the unwanted child is born society says “you’re on your own now, motherfucker, we protected you for nine months, your own mother wanted to kill you, but we saved you from that murderous bitch.  Now get the fuck out and get a job, asshole. And try not to stink so much… can’t you change that sagging diaper already?  No self-respect, you little shitass…”   Nothing to see here.

The way America’s wealthiest and least scrupulous organized themselves to make sure Obama was not able to get bipartisan support for anything, especially his hated plan to give access to healthcare to more Americans; priceless.  Jane Mayer reminds us that when Ted Kennedy’s death in 2009 left a vacancy in the Senate, a flood of dark money was unloosed immediately before the special election in Massachusetts.   After that election unknown Republican Scott Brown would sit in the seat occupied by a Democrat (a Kennedy, in fact, Ted took over JFK’s seat in 1962) from time immemorial.   Read all about it here.  

The Koch influence machine (the Kochtopus, as admirers dubbed it)  had secretly pulled off a stunning, history defying upset in a blue state that hadn’t had a Republican senator in generations.   Wikipedia is pretty even-handed about the invisible tentacles of the Kochtopus:

As of January 8, 2010, Martha Coakley raised over US$5.2 million in total, and had $937,383 cash on hand. Scott Brown had $367,150 cash on hand. Brown spent $450,000 on television advertisements, while Coakley spent $1.4million.[99] A week before the general election, Brown raised $1.3million from over 16,000 donors in a 24-hour fund-raising effort. Reports also indicated that Brown raised an average of $1 million per day the week prior to the election.[100]

The effect of this historic upset was that the Senate, with Brown, was now 59-41 Democratic, meaning Obama’s majority in the Senate, although impressive, was no longer filibuster-proof.   The loophole now existed for the entitled vulture class to defeat the hated president’s hated, albeit mostly conservative-think-tank-created, healthcare proposal.   The compromise that became known as the Affordable Care Act, when it was passed, had many, many faults, none of them ever fixed.  The ACA contained a few huge improvements over America’s past ruthless health insurance regime, the biggest being the abolition of the vicious “pre-existing condition” loophole that allowed health insurance companies to only insure people who were good bets not to need massively expensive healthcare.   The business of America is business, how it is fair that some fuck with cancer expects to get all those expensive treatments and drugs paid by insurance?   Pre-existing condition, totally unfair to make the insurer pay!

Some socialist types, and others, believe that included among the rights of citizenship in a wealthy society is the right to decent, affordable health care, administered through a publicly supervised health care system.   Americans pay by far the highest prices for our health care, far more than the citizens of other wealthy, industrialized nations, yet our health outcomes are no better than most places, except, arguably, at the very top end of American medical care.   Wealthy patients can always seek out and buy that top high-end healthcare, if they want to pay for it (and why not? they deserve it).  

The rest of us believe we have a right to not die of the many preventable and treatable diseases that are always stalking us.  A “right to life” if you will.   50,000 or more dead Americans every year who die because their only access to health care is an emergency room where the ER doc will say to a family member “oh shit, if only we’d seen him two years ago…”   These unfortunate American dead and their loved ones unwittingly make a sacrifice for all of us, a small price to pay for the freedom of eternal, legally created “persons” to live in perfect liberty, enjoying maximum profits protected by a friendly government, with the populist cover of a manipulated mob of confused, angry, powerless people chanting “USA!   USA!!!”.

I get my health care through the problematic Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  I can tell you dozens of ways the law sucks, and have written about many of them here (click the category Obamacare to read ’em).   Top of my list is the difficulty of actually finding care in this corrupt, lobbyist-written regime.   After years of rabid Republican opposition to the law, and more than fifty attempts to repeal it in its entirety (check ’em out), some elected Democrats are organizing to fight back with the hated “public option” (something that already exists and works pretty well for millions of Americans 65 and older, as well as in most other wealthy nations).   Seventy Congressional Democrats have apparently formed a caucus to discuss lowering the age of Medicare to cover even that fucking unwanted baby who selfishly insists on its right to care after the government has already zealously protected its ungrateful little ass for nine long months.

Here’s the petty detail that bugs me today, as I work on rehabbing my aching knees.  It took me about a month to find and get an appointment with a sports medicine doctor for a referral to Physical Therapy (PT).   A rep for my health-insurance company (think of how fucking asinine it is to give people health care via private, profit-driven insurance companies…) assured me that referrals are no longer required by their company for things like PT.   Every place I contacted about PT disagreed.  Obviously, they said, you have to have a doctor’s referral before we can give you PT.  Made sense.   I finally was able to see the sports medicine doctor who immediately referred me for PT.   Then it was a few weeks of searching, not getting calls back from the “in-network” PT offices where I left  messages, until I finally hobbled over to a place I could walk to that accepted my insurance and where I could have PT.    

Note this:  every week I searched, without finding service, every obstacle I had to crawl over to get to the next step in finding treatment, was money in the pocket of the insurance company.  Multiply my search by a few thousand searches, by a million, and you begin to get the idea of how lucrative it is to make this basic of medical care, finding and seeing a doctor in your “network”, so difficult.

There was one last hoop to jump through on my ailing knees, now weeks and weeks, months, in fact, after they’d become acutely painful.  I’d have do be “evaluated” for PT for my knees, by doing a half squat with my back against the wall of the PT room.  I did the half squat and was told now all I had to do was go home and wait to see how many sessions my insurance company would approve.  You see, the doctor is not the one who decides what’s medically necessary, nor is the physical therapist, it is someone at your insurance company who decides exactly what course of treatment, under the current law, you are entitled to.  Fair is fair, they’re the ones paying, you dig.

They decided I was entitled to seven sessions of PT, twice a week.  If you do the math, the approved PT would last just over three weeks.  Not much time to fix a problem that had taken a year or more to get this bad, now I just had to wait until they got the go ahead from my insurance company.  A week later I was able to start PT.  It is slow going, physical therapy.   No long-festering physical ailment can be cured in seven sessions.   After session six I asked the receptionist at the PT place what I had to do to get more sessions.  Another referral, she told me.   I contacted the office of the sports doctor I’d seen for a second time a week or so earlier.  After session seven of PT I was told that once the referral arrived I would have to be re-evaluated.

Stand against the wall in the room where you’ve completed your seven sessions of PT and squat as far down as your creaky knees will take you, then just go home, without further treatment of any kind, and wait.   In about a week, if all goes well, they would get the OK from the insurance company, if your particular insurance policy authorized more physical therapy for you.  Then, the following week you could continue your PT, with only, at most, a short one or two week gap.   You see, it’s impossible to determine if you’ll need more than seven sessions until you’ve completed seven sessions, right?  That’s just basic logic, right?   No matter what your fucking know-it-all sports medicine doctor might have to say about it (the rehab could take several months of hard work, she told me sympathetically).  No matter what.

God fucking bless America, boys and girls!

Book review preview: Dark Money by Jane Mayer

first draft of my first book review since elementary school:

Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right,  Jane Mayer (January 2016)

Dark money is tax deductible, it turns out.  If you anonymously contribute a very large sum of money to a political cause, funneling the cash through a non-profit corporation, in the worst case scenario you get a gigantic tax deduction against your income.  If you advance your political agenda with a skillful bet on the right politicians, you can reap an even higher return on your tax deductible investment. Win-win, if you know what I’m sayin’.

It is hard to empathize with somebody you will never share an experience with.   Being born into generations of vast, inherited, well-invested wealth means you have no need to ever make contact with the great unwashed, heading home in crowded subway cars with their grubby little problems.   The world of the super-wealthy, the top 0.01%, is hard for the rest of us to picture.  It is apparently also very, very challenging to be that rich in ways the rest of us cannot begin to imagine.  

Some indomitable men in this tiny group of the very richest, very best American families, led by the secretive Charles Koch, autocratic son of a founding John Birch Society member, realized that in order to eventually own literally everything in America, without interference from parasites of every stripe, they would need to control the government that was trying to put tyrannical limits on their freedom.   Charles Koch’s wealth, now highly diversified, was originally, and mainly, from oil refining.  His family had a process for refining the cheapest, dirtiest, source, the most energy intensive to extract, and selling it for much higher profit than their competitors could.   The EPA, in particular, was a bone in the reclusive billionaire’s throat.   Government was the only thing standing in the way of virtually unlimited profits.

It would take thirty or more years for Charles Koch’s radical agenda to yield a bumper crop (The Year of Trump), but the beneficiaries would be very happy with the results and well-reimbursed for their tax deductible political spending over the decades: abolished profit-killing “environmental” and “safety” regulations, pushed for a shrunken, mistrusted government of severely limited powers, decimated labor unions, “primaried” all moderates out of office and out of politics, ended ‘class warfare’ decidedly, redistributed wealth steeply upward to themselves.  Along the way they crafted and sold a larger, widely accepted public narrative that justifies all this as right and proper, even highly moral and exceptionally American.  It isn’t that all this pollution is doing anything bad to the environment, you understand, fellow sophisticated skeptics, it’s a conspiracy by rich liberal eco-hypocrites to kill jobs using fake science to do so.

Dark Money, by the  great Jane Mayer, pulls together a million details of how and what this tiny, infinitely wealthy group did to ensure that their privilege is preserved in perpetuity.  Mayer details the more than thirty year strategic campaign, mucho, mucho dinero very productively spent in a brilliant, deliberate, coordinated, disciplined long game of lobbying, swaying public perceptions and spending fortunes to put people in power who would advance their cause.  This largely successful campaign to bypass electoral democracy and take control of the government directly, by other means, is finally paying off big time.   All perfectly legal, these extraordinary means, the Supreme Court said so in a series of indisputable 5-4 decisions.   Extra-democratically grabbing power makes it sound so harsh, so dirty, almost fascistic, like a tiny, secretive clique imposing their will on the other 99.9%.   Let us simply say, these intrepid protectors of the 0.01% deployed their oceans of money very wisely.    

A lot of the world Jane Mayer lays out is sickening stuff, but, damn does she lay it all out.  It is one skill to be a good researcher, to dig up and read everything and to find and master a lot of interesting, complicated material, selecting and organizing the most crucial of it.  Being able to weave the raw materials into a flowing, compelling narrative is another skill entirely.   Reading a book like Dark Money it hits me over and over — this writer is really fucking smart.  I think it’s the sense that, in addition to the book being beautifully written, everything you are reading has been set so perfectly in context by everything you’ve learned to that point in the story.  It is an immensely complicated, yet, on another level, elementally simple, story.  Jane Mayer tells it clearly, smoothly and with virtually no editorializing.  I offer this example, as a placeholder for a more detailed review I will complete at a future time.

Mayer describes the great revelation Charles Koch and his friends had, along with a major change of strategy, after David Koch badly lost his vice-presidential bid in 1980.   Since Koch ran for vice president, rather than president, he could use a loophole in the law to legally finance his campaign with as much of his own unlimited cash as he chose to spend.  One of the planks of his vice presidential platform was abolishing all limits on campaign spending, (which is now the law of the land via the partisan 5-4 Citizens United ruling).   When the Koch platform, skewed toward the freedom of the wealthiest to acquire more while shrinking oppressive government and its socialistic programs to insignificance,  got less than 1% of the vote (ironic– he probably drew 100% of the top 1% vote) the Koch brothers [1] (along with their allies from the best of the top 0.01%) understood that their ideas were too unpopular to ever prevail by electoral means.  

They began to set about influencing public discourse by different means.  They drew up a long-term battle plan, with the help of a cunning graduate student named Fink.  They created a network of influence and public relations operations. They funded prestigious think tanks, numerous non-profits, endowed academic chairs, sponsored courses and student societies in the colleges across America, eventually found their way onto Ivy League campuses (to correct the distressing left-leaning tendency of these influential institutions), unleashed an army of lobbyists, paid advocates, psychological warfare experts like wordsmith-for-hire like Frank Luntz (attack Global Warming “myth” by attacking the non-unanimous scientific consensus– Luntz later recanted this bullshit).   They advised political candidates, funded their campaigns, took over state houses, got odious laws and regulations overturned, drafted model laws in corporate/legislative partnerships that advanced their cause, vetted Supreme Court picks, created and funded non-profits for specific political attacks, like the Swift Boat Attackers, funded the ‘grassroots’ radically anti-Obama Tea Party, and so on.  36 years of hard, dedicated, singleminded work later, et, voila!

Fred Koch, father of all of four battling Koch brothers, like Fred Trump, father of our current president, was a brutal, demanding, loveless autocrat and an admirer of Mr. Hitler who shared many of Hitler’s views on how things should run and who deserved to rule.  Fred Koch performed a heroic, well-paid service for the Fuhrer before the war, building a high tech oil refinery in Germany that ensured  the luftwaffe would have a ready supply of high octane petrol for years to come.   Fred Koch hired a German Nazi nanny (literally, she adored the Fuhrer) to strictly discipline the young Koch boys.   She was apparently very severe in her methods while she was the primary caretaker of the boys for the long stretches when the parents were away.   The nanny proudly returned to the Fatherland after the fall of France.   Talk about Nazi bastards, these boys come by it honestly.

I will amend this review a bit when I am done listening to the book.  It is hard to stop listening to the well-read audio version I have on my listening device.  I’ve already made dozens of notes.  

If we have any hope of fighting back against the monsters now in seemingly locked-down control, a book like this provides essential knowledge we need for understanding the fight ahead.

I highly recommend Dark Money.  Good reading on a subject even more vital to know about now than when she released it in early 2016.   Goddamned good work, Jane, and another very important book (The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Idealsabout Cheney’s torture program, is another, also highly recommended) that deserves to be widely read and talked about.

 

[1]  A Note on the “Koch Brothers”

The until recently secretive right-wing billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch are known as The Koch Brothers.   Their oldest brother, Freddie, was cut out of the picture years ago after an ugly family power play, featuring an attempt at blackmail by his other three brothers.   David Koch’s twin brother, Bill Koch, after decades of savage litigation against his brothers Charles and David, and some chicanery written into their demented mother’s will, finally signed a non-disparagement agreement with Charles and David, formally ending their long, bitter legal wars.  A family of goddamned princes, really.  Of these four brothers, only two have become “The Koch Brothers.”  You could argue that no two brothers have ever had a larger say in the public life of their country.

Placeholder

I spent the weekend, with ambitious plans, too distracted to do much, though I did do a mean version of Yer Blues for a while there downstairs.  My fault, really, being distracted, still letting petty, personal vexations twist and constrict me that way.  I am 62, it is past time to get much better at not being squeezed by extraneous emotions.  I’m not responsible for the misery of enraged, terrified, provocative people, I’m responsible for my own thoughts and actions, keeping my focus on what I need to do, in spite of all the noise all around.   

After all, the world is as the fox told Pearl in The Amazing Bone by the immortal William Steig (may he rest in peace).  

amazing bone.jpg

Pearl, the pretty little pig,  taken home by the smiling, courtly fox, is trussed and ready for the oven, flames already leaping inside the wood burning stove.   She pleads with the fox who is cutting up vegetables with gusto and whistling happily thinking of the tender, succulent pig he is about to enjoy.  Pearl pleads to the fox to spare her life.

“Why must you eat me, Mr. Fox?   I am young, I want to live.  Please!” The fox looks over at Pearl sympathetically. 

“Why are you asking me?” says the fox, “how should I know?  I didn’t make the world.”   (This isn’t the actual Steig line, the correct quote is below [1])  The fox finishes preparing his salad.   As he leads her to the door of the oven he offers further words of solace:

‘I regret having to do this to you’, said the fox. ‘It’s nothing personal’. 

It is the bone, it turns out, who says to the fox:

“You must let this beautiful young creature go on living. Have you no shame, sir!”

The fox laughed. “Why should I be ashamed? I can’t help being the way I am. I didn’t make the world.”  [2]

The wisdom of that “I didn’t make the world,” however cruel its particular use might be,  has always stayed with me. 

It’s an answer as illuminating as “because he can” to the question of why a dog licks his genitals or how a Supreme Court justice with a glaring appearance of impropriety can insist he has no legal or moral obligation to recuse himself from sitting to hear the case.  

“I didn’t make the world.”  

Truly.  I had no hand whatsoever in the making of this world.

My only work here these days is coherently setting down what I’ve seen, heard, learned, discovered, read, in an effort to understand as much as I can.  I don’t know what compels me, exactly, or why it seems so necessary to me to write down clearly as much as I can write  down in whatever time remains.  

I know it has something to do with this cosmic less than wink of an eye we each have to be alive in, this flickering miracle of consciousness we so briefly share.  How intolerable is it, therefore, to be forced to march in a column, for an insane reason, life and death decided by the worst and most violent humans on earth at any given time?   To wait a century or more for rights our Constitution provided for almost two hundred and thirty years ago?  Is it just me?  I don’t think so, my friend.

(placeholder)

 ii

A great book is like a fascinating conversation.   When you hear the voice of someone who reads a book with feeling, the author’s ideas coming out clearly in the spoken words, you’re having a conversation with those people.  The conversation of reading is as real as, and often much more substantial than, many actual conversations you may have with other living people.  Particularly conversations in these contentious, violent times, which can burst into flames quicker than you can say “wait…”.  

I have been listening to two fantastic audio books that I cannot recommend highly enough.   Eichmann in Jerusalem (Hannah Arendt) and Dark Money (Jane Mayer).   I intend to post full reviews of both here at some future time, hopefully some time this summer.  In fact, the NY Public Library is into me for two weeks of overdue fines already for the paper copy of Eichmann I have been making notes from. I have to buy a copy ASAP.  

(placeholder two)

iii 

I offer the following as an example of the kind of thing that, designed to eliminate stress, actually causes more stress, a kind of forgetful oversimplification that can lead to a fist fight.   It is the lazy mind’s approach to thinking.   Take a snapshot of the idea, and that’s the idea. The snapshot is the idea, get it?  If you hold the snapshot, the still frame from the movie, you’re holding the actual idea.   Nuance is for fucking eggheads, and, anyway, who can keep all that contradictory shit in their heads, you know what I’m sayin’?  The snapshot, on the other hand, is clear as the nose on your face.  Often the only possible response to a brilliant presentation of great nuance is “Fu-uh-uck YOU!”    That response often carries the day in the debate between a snapshot and the actual person in the photograph.

That’s just the way it is right now, when so many are angry, fearful, desperate, riled up, not going to take it anymore.   We didn’t make the world.  Consider, though, how limited the essential truth, if any, is contained in a single snapshot of anything.

There is a book called Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl.  I found it in the public library in Fresh Meadows back when I was in high school.  I read it and recall being very impressed by it.  An editor at Wikipedia did a wonderful job describing it:

Man’s Search for Meaning is a 1946 book by Viktor Frankl chronicling his experiences as an Auschwitz concentration camp inmate during World War II, and describing his psychotherapeutic method, which involved identifying a purpose in life to feel positively about, and then immersively imagining that outcome.

Toward the end of the book (a longtime international best-seller) Frankl writes, as I recall, that the highest form of personal purpose is one you’d be willing to die to defend.  I remember thinking as a sixteen year-old what a beautiful thing it must be to love someone or some value so much you’d die to protect her.  I also recall being a little troubled by the statement, even as a teenager.

Over the next few decades I’d come to see the danger of this statement, removed from the humanistic context of Frankl’s book.  Frankl was talking about defending decency against indecency, not endorsing some crackpot’s idea of hate and violent revenge that other enraged imbeciles would willingly die for.  But take that one statement by itself, present it as a snapshot of the book and you have the humanitarian Frankl advocating suicide bombing, killing abortion doctors, performing any of the many atrocities, undertaken for the sincerest of murderous beliefs, for which certain humans are rightfully abhorred.   These atrocities reflect badly on all of us humans, when you think about it.  Although we, none of us, made the world.

But dig how that works.  Out with the filthy bathwater, fuck the baby!    You read an entire book, enjoy and get engaging ideas from the author’s conversation, agree with virtually everything you read.  Then you find a paragraph toward the end that causes your brow to furrow.   You underline the sentence about being willing to die for your beliefs and put it next to a picture of fucking Mohammed Atta [3].   Then you take your snapshot: Frankl says Mohammed Atta is an example of the highest form of purpose and meaning in human life.   Based on that, the rest of the book can be dismissed as an intolerable incitement to fanaticism and murder.   You cast it on to the bonfire, along with Mein Kampf, The Art of the Deal, Atlas Shrugged and the rest of the worst of best-selling twentieth century dreck.

A stray thought: could this hateful principle, seemingly applauding fanaticism, have possibly come from the same book by the same Victor Frankl portrayed here?   Remove nuance from any conversation and all that’s left is simplistic folly, or worse. 

iv

When my weekend of agitated distraction was about to begin I had an ambitious, perfectly achievable, though challenging, plan.  I was optimistic about making a good start on it, with two days to myself, before my concentration was shattered by an intolerably annoying personal sideshow I was unable to put out of my mind for long.   My goal is a 3,000 word publishable abstract of my 1,200 page manuscript about my father’s life and times.  This would be published somewhere and I would send the enticing published clip out to literary agents to try to hook one to sell the book proposal, to get me some money, an advance from a publisher.   I will take the first step now:

the first draft is here  (placeholder)

 

[1]  I went searching for the exact quote, as I am bad at exact quotes in spite of having a better than average overall memory and spending hours daily carefully weighing words. You’d think I’d be better at quotations, but I really am quite lousy at getting them perfectly correct.   I get the sense, almost never remember the exact words.

My own copy of Steig’s masterpiece is buried somewhere in my apartment.   I found nothing on-line to enable me to give you the exact, perfect Steig quote (he was a master of language in addition to being a great artist). I provide a link to a short animated clip, an advertisement of the copyright holders for the very best of perhaps six hideous video versions of this marvelous book read aloud on the internet.   I am seriously considering plunking down my $1.99, this is a beautifully done animation and aloud reading of one of the great books of all time.

[2]   Excellent description and review of  the Steig masterpiece, complete with quotes (yay!) and selected illustrations:  HERE.

[3]  Mohammed Atta was one of the 9/11 suicide terrorists who flew two 747s  into the World Trade Center.  His face, in the single snapshot of him most people have seen, is a mask of hatred.   The nervous Sekhnet and I  were at JFK airport for a flight to Spain, around 2005.   She had some anxiety about the flight, and time pressure (due to my habit of arriving at the last moment), and asked me to arrive with her three or four hours prior to our flight time, to avoid stress, and I had agreed.  While she slept contentedly on a bench in the terminal I walked around aimlessly with our valuables, sullenly counting the wasted minutes.  Over the PA there was an announcement asking Mohammed Atta to please come to such and such a desk.  The announcement was repeated several times.   I was glad Sekhnet was asleep, and figured the name they were calling over and over must be a common one in some parts of the world.

Basic Goddamned Fairness! How about it?!!!

People are unfair to the President of the United States of America, as they so often are to the true, unapologetic geniuses walking among us.    It is reported the U.S. president “attacked” our NATO allies, calling them cheap, demanding that they pay more into NATO’s military budget, claiming afterwards that they had agreed to his new terms.  Immediately after those remarks the French leader said there had been no such agreement.    The leader of Germany has never shown much respect for our president — he offered her some advice, told her what she needs to do for political survival, as he smoothly told one of Rupert Murdoch’s TV hosts in Britain the other day, but she, sadly, appears to be doing exactly the opposite.   He took some modest credit for the great feeling of collegiality at the recent NATO meeting, something he said never existed until recently, when, presumably, someone of his caliber finally came into the room.  

His meeting with Vladimir Putin on Monday, we learn, no surprise, will be secret, mano a mano; apparently no other witnesses, no recordings, no official record of any kind.   Just the account that will be given of the meeting by two world leaders who have never lied about anything, nor have they ever agreed to lie about anything, nor would either ever have the slightest motive to lie about anything, clearly.   No point to unfairly mention Cheney and Dubya’s controversial top secret, tandem testimony, not under oath, to the 9/11 Commission they reluctantly agreed to allow to proceed.   I’m not going to knock our current president, he’s had a very challenging life, is constantly treated very unfairly by many, many, many corrupt liars and gets so little credit for his many towering and historic achievements from our communistic mass media.  

One of the people who attacked the current president, while our leader was still a candidate, texted terrible things about him, this FBI man and one-time member of Robert Mueller’s team on the witch-hunt to find some kind of corruption to link to the highly principled POTUS.   This Peter Strzok as much as called him a “fucking asshole”.   When the defamation laws are tightened up (and truth is no longer an absolute defense to the charge of speaking words that harm another’s reputation) people like him will face justice.  For now, he was dragged into a Congressional Hearing to explain to hostile interrogators what the fuck he was fucking doing texting these vicious, personal opinions to another FBI employee he was having an extra-marital affair with.    Instead of apologizing, the adulterer Strzok was defiant.  He said this, among other inflammatory things:

Peter Strzok: “That was written late at night, off the cuff, and it was in response to a series of events that included then-candidate Trump insulting the immigrant family of a fallen war hero. And my presumption, based on that horrible, disgusting behavior, that the American population would not elect somebody demonstrating that behavior to be president of the United States. It was, in no way, unequivocally, any suggestion that me, the FBI would take any action whatsoever to improperly impact the electoral process.”

source

That dickhead’s words speak for themselves.  Traitor.

I thought the NY Times was too respectable a paper to publish outright mockery of America’s president.  Apparently I was sadly mistaken.   Not only did the fuckers splash headlines about 12 Russians indicted today for hacking the Democratic National Committee’s emails and other records, the president “trying to repair damage after criticizing British leader,”  another headline reading, with leering suggestiveness, that he “Invited the Russians to Hack Clinton.  Were They Listening?”  but they also published a disrespectful, even humiliating little video of disgusting Brits ‘taking the piss’ on the NY Times website.   The disrespect for our commander-in-chief that these fucking out of control goddamned Brits mirthfully displayed when our president came to tell their head of state she’s wrong and misguided, and that her extreme right-wing political rivals are smart and with the times?  Fuck those fucking so-called “protesters”, you know what I’m saying? Totally unfair.

If you have a morbid curiosity about the depths the failing NY Times will now sink to in their hysterical hatred of our blameless leader, click here.

“Spokesreptile”

No idea where the president got this particular spokesreptile, Alex Azar (no offense to snakes and lizards) but check out this beautiful attempt at auto-fellation yesterday in response to the nettlesome question of why the administration has been unable to comply with a federal judge’s order to reunite families: to wit, 3,000 children forcibly taken from their parents at the southern border:

Health and Human Service Secretary Alex Azar: “It is one of the great acts of American generosity and charity, what we are doing for these unaccompanied kids who are smuggled into our country or come across illegally.”

source (hear the quote for yourself, spoken yesterday to Wolf Blitzer, on TV)

Here is CNN’s own account of the conversation (you can see that, in context, it’s not quite as simple as I made it sound above, but that’s just nuance).

Azar is the administration official who told  the Senate Finance Committee recently that it would be easy to reunite children forcibly separated from their parents.  It was a matter of a couple of keystrokes, he said on June 26, to find any detained child on the government database.   He claimed “hundreds” of children had already been reunited with parents and gave the numbers to back it up:  2,047 currently in HHS custody, down from about 2,300.    These claims were soon belied by many other reports, even by HHS’s updated numbers of detained children separated from parents (up now by about 1,000 from the 2,047 figure).   This is often the case with claims made by those speaking for our compulsively untruthful commander-in-chief.   Here you go.

I am sure Mr. Azar is as highly qualified for his position as Betsey DeVos is for her position as Czar of Public Education, or Ben Carson is for his stewardship of all federally subsidized public housing in the the United States, or Jared Kushner is for solving the Opioid Epidemic and making peace between Israel and the Palestinians, or as the environment-hostile Scott Pruitt was to head the Environmental Protection Agency.   Mr. Azar is possibly even as highly qualified as the president himself, even as the cruel president doubles down to escalate a bullying, counterproductive, unwinnable trade war with America’s enemies and allies alike.   But let us parse this “great act of American generosity and charity”.

The hateful program designed to terrorize those thinking of fleeing terror and seeking refuge in the United States is blandly called Family Separation.   Reads much better than Forcible, Possibly Permanent, Removal of Children from Asylum Seeking Parents, (and you get no receipt for your fucking kid, who we will send hundreds of miles away with no records kept, s-word asshole) in Order to Deliberately Terrorize Asylum Seekers, no?  

The president and his spokespeople freely admitted that the program was designed to scare would-be asylum seekers from coming to our borders.   It was designed to inspire the greatest terror someone fleeing persecution could ever face: the loss of the little brown children whose lives they are fleeing to protect.  Make no mistake about the class and race-based animus at work here: the despicable program is directed against impoverished brown people, not Aryans, the kind of genetic material, the best people, the very best of the best, that the president wishes were clamoring to enter the United States instead of these brown, raping hordes.

The diminutive, racist Attorney General sharpens this to a finer legal point.  We are no longer allowing asylum applications based on reasonable fear of deadly violence to those fleeing domestic violence or gang violence.   He points out, as defenders of the Ku Klux Klan did successfully for generations, that gang violence is not “state-sponsored”.   See, this is a supremely important legal distinction.   When the Klan tortured and hung a Negro who didn’t know his place it was never “state action”, the kind of thing that would have triggered the federal laws made to enforce the long-slumbering Fourteenth Amendment.   Since it was not “state action”, you understand, it was solely within the province of the individual state to convene a jury to decide, if a trial was even necessary, whether the allegedly murdered black person had crossed a goddamned line that would have made any white person justifiably enraged enough to kill him.  Nothing to see here, says Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, as so many of his ilk pompously intoned since before he was even a glint in his racist pappy’s eye.

Peter Fonda, an actor currently promoting some project, angrily tweeted that Barron Trump, son of the president and his third wife, Melania, should be ripped from Melania’s arms, that she might wail in agony to her supremely cruel husband (I think Fonda used the less precise adjective “asshole”) as the mothers of the forcibly seized young children wail to their husbands, if their husbands have not already been killed by the forces the US now claims no longer constitute “reasonable fear of persecution” for purposes of political asylum.  Fonda was forced to retract the tweet and apologize, since he was promoting a movie that is probably already being boycotted, based on his outrageously offensive, if morally justified, tweet.     

There is only one person in the country who is immune from apologizing for anything: the birdbrain-in-chief whose tweets, while largely incoherent brain farts emanating from his constantly enraged insular cortex, are often clearer than his oral pronouncements, his oral pronouncements, his very fine pronouncements, the repeated, idiotic sounding cadence, the idiotic sounding cadence, repeated, familiar, familiar from reality TV, which is real TV, let there be no doubt, and I repeat, I repeat, because he has, like, you know, the finest words, the best words, the very best words money can buy, and when I say money, I’m talking about money, Money, heaven-reaching towers of golden money piled on top of more money than you can ever imagine.  I have the greatest words.  Your words suck, but my words are the greatest, the best, the finest words.  I have the finest words, the best words, and I always get the last word, the last word, the greatest word, the last word.  I always get the last word!  Which is the greatest word, the greatest word.

Nuance vs. Anger

In an enraged world, where powerless people are poised, at the slightest provocation, to bite each other’s heads off, nuance disappears.   The best explanation I heard of why this happens is the neuroscience of what happens in the insula (insular cortex) when people are angry.   This important region of the brain, crucial to our emotional lives, lights up, apparently, whenever we are angry.   When the insula is glowing with anger we simply can’t process nuance, can’t make distinctions, can’t make productive comparisons, can only see our anger.   People who insist Trump is the worst president ever can quickly get mad enough to insist that fucking Trump is a better president than fucking Bernie Sanders would have been.

We attended a concert for peace at Temple Emmanuel a few months back.  A couple of musicians we like very much were performing and it was touted as a concert for peace, Palestinian musicians making music with Israeli musicians.   Outside the historic synagogue a small group of angry looking Jews were holding signs, behind a barricade, with a couple of NYC cops flanking them.   The signs said this was an anti-Semitic event held by self-hating Jews.   I crossed the street to ask what was up. Imagine my surprise to learn that I was about to be a dupe of fucking anti-Semites!   I was informed that one of the concert’s sponsors, the New Israel Fund, supported terrorism against Israel.

This claim took me by surprise.  I knew nothing about the New Israel fund, and asked how exactly these momzers [1] supported terrorism against Israel.   “BDS”, I was told, the anti-Semitic plot to squeeze Israel to death economically so that the Arabs who claim to be Palestinians can overrun it.   I felt like I was talking to Stephen Miller, the hatred coming off this one young man was palpable.   I told them I’d check out the New Israel  Fund, but that as far as I knew, from the artists in the show, I was pretty sure none of them are anti-Semites.  My friend crossed the street and took me by the arm at this point.  She led me away from the dozen or so protesters who continued to make a ruckus after we headed in to see the show.

For true believers, it suffices merely to have a rationale, a buzzword, to spit in the face of those who refuse to believe.  In the case of these protesters, BDS is a tool for modern day Nazis and should be criminalized in America, the sooner the better. Full throated support for BDS is the same, to them, as opposing the criminalization of this specific form of non-violent political coercion.   To these angry people, anyone who believes BDS should not be illegal supports BDS and intends to put a dagger through the heart of our beloved Jewish State.  Easy peasy, no need for your fucking anti-Semitic nuance you self-hating fucker!

Here is the New Israel Fund’s position on BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction), from their website:

What is NIF’s position on boycott, divestment and sanctions?

The New Israel Fund is committed to strengthening democracy in Israel, supports freedom of speech and promotes non-violent means of expression of belief and conscience. We oppose any attempt to criminalize the legitimate expression of support for any non-violent strategy or tactic, including the global BDS movement which we do not ourselves support.

The NIF does oppose the global (or general) BDS movement, views the use of these tactics as counterproductive, and is concerned that segments of this movement seek to undermine the existence of the state of Israel as a Jewish homeland.

NIF will not fund global BDS activities against Israel nor support organizations that have global BDS programs.

However, NIF opposes the occupation and settlement activities. NIF will thus not exclude support for organizations that lawfully discourage the purchase of goods or use of services from settlements.

 

[1] bastards