Friday, May 12, 2017

My Friday Short Posts, 5/12/17: A Health Care Lament, the Process of Hillarization and Trump's Interview

1.  If you haven't seen this video about a "man losing his temper" at a meeting with Rep. Tom MacArthur,  you should spend the eleven minutes of your life it takes on it.

MacArthur is one of the evil architects of the Republicans'  House health insurance plan, and the man in the audience gives us an extremely eloquent and well-informed speech on what is inherently and morally wrong about the Republican attitude toward health care, pre-existing conditions and the facile assumption that well-informed and careful consumers would somehow fix the high costs of health care.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Trump, Comey and Loyalty to Our Dear Leader

This NYT article about an alleged January dinner appointment between James Comey and Trump is a nuanced and elegant example of the horror that the Trump administration is.  Examples:

As they ate, the president and Mr. Comey made small talk about the election and the crowd sizes at Mr. Trump’s rallies. The president then turned the conversation to whether Mr. Comey would pledge his loyalty to him.
Mr. Comey declined to make that pledge. Instead, Mr. Comey has recounted to others, he told Mr. Trump that he would always be honest with him, but that he was not “reliable” in the conventional political sense.


By Mr. Comey’s account, his answer to Mr. Trump’s initial question apparently did not satisfy the president, the associates said. Later in the dinner, Mr. Trump again said to Mr. Comey that he needed his loyalty.


As described by the two people, the dinner offers a window into Mr. Trump’s approach to the presidency, through Mr. Comey’s eyes. A businessman and reality television star who never served in public office, Mr. Trump may not have understood that by tradition, F.B.I. directors are not supposed to be political loyalists, which is why Congress in the 1970s passed a law giving them 10-year terms to make them independent of the president.

Read it and weep.  Then get up to go back to the most important work of resisting the attempts to kill any democracy dead* in this country.  This example shows what game Trump plays.

But that term "by tradition" in the last quote caught me  like a dart, because Trump doesn't care about any governmental traditions.  Just as he doesn't understand how the government works, neither does he understand what the unwritten rules, norms and behavioral rules of democracy are.  He grew up in his gilded cage, believing himself to be the largest of all silver-back gorillas in the jungles, and that is how he operates:  As the supposed Lord of the Jungle.

The situation is only partly Trump's fault.  He bears the responsibility for his giant ego and his miniscule competence, but it is those who voted for Trump, for a giant ego and for a miniscule competence,  who really should be held responsible for the crisis this country finds itself in.

 *  My previous post talks about the Republican plans to strangle democracy by taking away people's ability to vote.

President Trump and The Republicans: A Variety Show Look At Their Recent Doings.

How do you write snark about this president?  I can't exaggerate his narcissism or his ignorance.  Every time I try, I end up simply reporting what he actually says, which is that he is the smartest and greatest ever, in all great categories, and anyone who disagrees is evil and crooked and corrupt.

American politics today is a variety show where an evil chorus with skull faces sings menacing songs in the background while a clown capers all across the stage.  The audience must keep an eye on both the clown's random leaps and jumps and what the chorus is up to.

Well, the chorus (the Republicans in the Congress) is up to its usual stuff, and sometimes the clown (Trump) agrees to sing in tune with them.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

On Writing, part 63049762

What does writing require?  A famous quote by the American sports writer Red Smith tells us:
In April 1949, columnist Walter Winchell wrote, "Red Smith was asked if turning out a daily column wasn't quite a chore. ... 'Why, no', dead-panned Red. 'You simply sit down at the typewriter, open your veins, and bleed.
I have not found that to be necessary. 

All you need to do is to use a chain saw to open your skull and an oyster or pickle fork to pick out the bits which satisfy your present editor's demands, while carefully avoiding spilling anything pink and slimy on the keyboard (it gives you multiple fffff, uuuuu, ccccc, and  kkkkk streams if you do). 

The only complication is in making the writing seem effortless, funny, truthful and -- did I already mention it -- effortless.  Nobody wants to read laboring prose, and nobody wants to read a piece about the Comey hearings once the president suddenly fires Comey, thus killing the whole topic dead.

But if some imaginary writer had just spent most of the previous night (to 4am) writing 1300 erudite and long words on a very tricky topic past its due date, well, that imaginary writer might just patch the shocking firing of one FBI director into a post about something quite different.

Because fatigue is a shortcut to a fantastic high where words roar past us like sports cars, where sentences arrange themselves into arabesques and turn pirouettes on that full stop supposed to be their end, and the story simply refuses not to be written.

The comforting thing about owning a blog is that no eagle-eyed editor can intervene with that imperfect process.


Diversity, New York Times Style

The New York Times usually puts the part of diversity having to do with women's rights in the style section, the section that used to be the women's pages in olden days and the section which even today has lots of fashion articles.  That way serious people know to avoid those articles.

But the august newspaper also has its own particular style about general diversity among its writers, best exemplified by the hiring of Bret Stephens and the ensuing brouhaha, and the interesting question when it's acceptable for opinion columnists to have their own data, not checked for accuracy, rather than just their own opinions about data most people accept as valid and accurate.

At this point it might be beneficial to have a look at the stable of op-ed columnists at the Times.  I count many more stallions than mares among those who have a permanent oatbag to munch from, and out of the two regular female op-ed columnists I could find, Maureen Dowd and Gail Collins, only one (Collins) is somewhat feminist, whereas the other (Dowd) has rarely met a powerful woman she didn't hate (unless it was in her mirror).

The next stalls are homes for Ross Douthat and David Brooks, both conservative writers whose views on women are either literally antediluvian (Douthat) or based on the fascinating speculations of the more misogynist types of evolutionary psychologists (Brooks).  And for many years the Times gave op-ed stable space for John Tierney whose major shtick is the inferiority of the female sex.

Yet the Times appears to be comfortable with that stall allocation, though, clearly a climate skeptic is urgently required to make certain that diversity is properly represented.


So Why Isn't Anything A Big Deal Anymore?

So asks the great bard Charlie Pierce in his latest column about  Comey and Flynn.  Read the column.  I did and then shed bitter tears of venom for not having Pierce's gift of the gab.

Never mind.  Charlie correctly frames* that uncomfortable whole-body itch I've had ever since the horrible elections of 2016:

Publicly expressed "values" are upside down, with greed now dressed as prudence and lies as alternative truth.  The powerful on their sky-high gilded balconies pee on us and we call it rain, carefully analyzing which of us truly voted for a rain of urine (but only if it falls on the Others) or a rain of green Pepe frogs, and which  among us foolishly voted for the status quo in this era when any change is better than none, even change from chronic acne to metastatic malignant melanoma.

Thus we get the Flynn farce and the Comey comedy, the latter with its last or latest act only played today. 

You don't have to be a goddess to see that Comey's decision to publish largely fake facts about Hillary Clinton's emails just a few days before the presidential election was aimed at getting Trump elected, and you would not be normal if you didn't feel that this decision was especially disgusting in the light of what we now know about the simultaneously ongoing  investigations into Trump's possible Russian connections.

And whoever you are it's impossible not to ask why Trump decided to fire Comey today, in a letter which stated:

“While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau,”

It's the timing of the firing which is suspicious, given that Trump has been aware of all pertinent Comey-facts for a long time and, indeed, had praised Comey for having the "guts" to reopen the Clinton investigation right before the elections.

So what could possibly have changed?  And is the answer to that question a big deal or not?  Does Trump protest too much in the above quote?  Was Comey shown the door because he is investigating Trump?  Will we now ever know?

And is that a big deal or not?

Sigh, almost nothing is a big deal anymore**.  It's not a big deal that Trump's administration still includes Sebastian Gorka, a man with pretty clear fascist tendencies.  It's not a big deal that Mike Cernovich -- who once wrote about how truly manly dominant men should go around choking women -- now has a White House press pass.  It's not a big deal that the Rasputin behind Trump's throne, Stephen Bannon, wants to demolish the administrative state.

It's not a big deal that we have a president who loves women the way I love spaghetti with pesto and who changes his wives the way some of us change our cars or our fashion wear, and it's not a big deal that white fundamentalist Evangelicals voted for that very un-Christian president in overwhelming numbers, because the real Christian values for them are not in charity or good deeds but in the control over women.

It's not a big deal that the Russians in 2016 hacked into the voter rolls in several American states.  It's not a big deal that the president of the United States refuses to show us his tax returns or an accurate picture of his health, and it's not a big deal that the Trump corporations are fairly openly trying to benefit from the official position of our Dear Leader.

And it's not a big deal that the countrywide Republican attempts to suppress  voting by people of color and other groups likely to vote for Democrats have been shown to be successful.

Finally, it wasn't anything to get upset about that president Obama's Supreme Court nominee could not get a hearing, for reasons that had nothing to do with the old-fashioned rules of democracy, and it was perfectly ordinary to suddenly find that thousands of our fellow-Americans sincerely believed that a Washington, DC, pizzeria was the den of pederasts, led by Hillary Clinton or at least by someone on her staff.


* The over-extension of Pierce's  explanation to my own itches should not be attributed to him.

** With two possible exceptions:  Trump's attempts to ban Muslims from entering the United States which has been seen as a big deal by both the courts and by large numbers of protesters, and the killing of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), to be replaced by tax cuts for the rich and higher death rates of the poor.