Wednesday, May 31, 2017

May 31, 2017--Jack: Be Careful What You Wish For

"Sneaking around again?"

It was Jack who spotted us in Hanniford's parking lot.

"What? We're just here to pick up a few groceries."

"And, I see, a newspaper. I assume your New York Times."

I had it under my arm and pressed it closer to me as if to protect it from him. "Let me have a look. What's this morning's headline, as if I didn't know?" He reached for it and I reflexively backed away. But he managed to grab hold of the paper and extracted it from where I had been attempting to hide it.

He read, "'Inquiries Turn to Why Kushner Met a Putin Ally.' So predictable."

"So true," I said, feeling pounced upon, "I mean about Kushner. What was he . . ."

Jack cut me off, "That's this week's drumbeat--the mainstream media's push to get rid of the son-in-law. To get him to resign and go back in disgrace to New York."

"I don't know about . . ."

"That's what's going on. Haven't you been listening to Morning Joe and all the other MSNBC harpies? And CNN? And then of course the Washington Post? It's all Jared-all-the-time."

"OK, so tell me what he was doing talking to that Russian banker? He's an intimate of Putin's and is on our sanctions list. And this meeting or conversation was before Trump was inaugurated. You think that's not a problem?"

"Maybe not. You think it's a bad idea for us to have a private channel for conversations with the Russians, and especially Putin?"

"Again, you're missing the point. We have one government at a time and this was going on while Obama was still the president. Then there is the issue of Trump and Kushner doing business with this banker, Sergey Gorkov. You're OK with them wheeling and dealing with each other?"

"First of all, this is speculation. No one knows if there were business dealings. And if there were, so what? What would be wrong with that? It was before Trump was sworn in."

"Because, as I said, Gorkov's on the sanctions list which means he's dirty. You want our president and his senior advisor son-in-law doing business with someone like that? With him maybe having something on them that can be used for blackmail?"

"It sounds to me like you've been listening again to your late night talk radio. The programs that are devoted to conspiracy theories."

I said nothing to that but I had been, though all the conspiracies being discussed were right wing ones. "Maybe we'll find out they lied. Trump and Kushner."

"So," Jack said, "how about waiting until then to condemn them and drag them through the mud?"

"The whole business with Russia, and I mean more than business, stinks to the high heavens. There are too many Russian connections between Trump's people and Putin and his henchmen."

"I get it. You want to bring Trump down and think the best way to do that is by demolishing all the people close to him."

Involuntarily, I nodded, "This is the way Nixon was exposed and had to resign."

"So, that's your plan--to get Trump to resign by trashing the reputations of his closest advisors?"

That was essentially true but I did not want to acknowledge that to Jack.

"As the saying goes, 'Be careful what you wish for.' Sometimes it works out that you get what you want and that in turn presents an even bigger problem."

"Go on."

"OK. Like with Nixon, to get Trump you start out be squeezing underlings. For Nixon it was Ehrlichman and Halderman; for Trump Flynn and Manafort. Then you get Kushner in the net and after that Trump himself." He looked at me for further confirmation. "To you and your friends that sound good, right?" I stopped nodding. "So, let me ask you this." He didn't wait for a response, "Kushner and, and this is big, Ivanka both resign and move back to New York. That's the hope?"

"That wouldn't be the worst thing. This business of the two of them right next to the Oval Office gives me the creeps."

"And tell me what the Trump presidency would look like with the two of them run out of town."

I hadn't thought much about that.

"You want him there all alone without his wife--who I predict will say in New York and only show up for glitzy foreign trips and state dinners--and without the two people in the world closest to him and who are the only ones who have a chance of keeping him from doing crazy things? Because, left to his own devices, even I, who still supports him, think he has the capacity to do crazy, even dangerous things."

"This sounds worrisome. That it's only Jared and Ivanka who are keeping him from blowing up the world?"

After a moment, Jack, leaned closer to us and softly said, "That's what I think."

"Then we're cooked," I sighed. This was not what I was wanting to talk about in Hanniford's parking lot on a beautiful Tuesday morning.

"Nepotism is not my favorite thing," Jack said, "But in this case maybe . . ."

A car backing out almost ran into us.

"Enough," I said. "I think I won't read today's paper. Maybe just the sports."

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

May 30, 2017--A Word About Intelligent Design

There is a hot debate underway among progressives and others who do not in any way support Donald Trump about how to relate, if at all, to those who voted for and are sticking by President Trump.

The fact that I have difficulty referring to him as "President," is indicative of how complicated this situation is. About as complicated as how Republicans in the main had difficulty thinking about Barack Obama as "President" and opposed him aggressively, seeking from Inauguration Day to bring him down.

So Democrats and Republicans share that.

I have been arguing here for some time that, while opposing most of Trump's initiatives, progressives need to reach out to the most independent-minded of Trump supporters in an attempt to convince them that we understand their frustration and anger and make the case to them that traditional Democrats share many of their concerns and would like to welcome them back to our enlarged tent. Even including abortion opponents and Second Amendment defenders.

Others argue that we shouldn't waste our time reaching out to them. They are so unredeemable from a progressive perspective that we should not engage with them.

Yesterday, guest-blogger Sharon made that case forcefully--
If I have given up trying to reason with and understand people I already know who perhaps have spent too many years being brainwashed by Fox News, trolls and "news" outlets even further right, I have even less interest engaging strangers who want people to be free not to have health care.  I hold in special contempt those who encourage conspiracy theories that spur the lunatic fringe to shoot up pizza parlors, etc.
I respect this, understand, but disagree. I feel we have to do the opposite--no matter how difficult or infuriating, we need to seek opportunities to talk about our differences to see if there is any possibility of finding some common ground. 

In that spirit, Rona and I have been talking about how to have these difficult dialogues. Unlike our life in New York City where, politically, pretty much everyone we know has nothing but contempt for Trump and his supporters, we are fortunate up in Maine to know people with a wide range of views, including some who are eager to talk across the divide.

Thus, we have been searching for issues, topics around which to organize potential discussions. We even made a list. The first few topics are not good places to begin since about them there is little or no possibility for compromise. For example, abortion. If to opponents it is murder and for supporters it's a woman's right, there is not much to talk about. There is nothing to negotiate.

Here are some of the topics--

The Second Amendment
Same-sex marriage
Prayer in school
The deficit
Government regulations
Climate change
Food stamps
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Evolution/Intelligent Design

We have had considerable success talking about SSI. A number of conservative friends expressed vehement opposition to it, claiming that almost everyone receiving benefits is perpetrating a fraud, lying about their circumstances, and thus should be denied ongoing assistance  To complexify matters and to see if there might be some room for give, I looked up who actually receives SSI benefits and found that 33 percent of the 8 million are children or elderly and 15 percent more are significantly disabled and incapable of working. When discussing these recipients in turn, all on the far right agreed it was important to continue to help these people. To many of them it was the Christian way.

I then said, "So we agree about nearly 50 percent. That's progress, and of course it's OK to disagree about the rest."

With this in mind, Rona suggested that maybe we should move on to talk about Evolution. Many who are deeply conservative and often evangelicals who believe the Bible is the literal truth do not want to see it taught in public schools. They either call for its outright ban or, at a minimum, that it be taught alongside the theory of Intelligent Design (ID).

"Where's the give with this?" I asked, quite skeptical.

"There is overwhelming scientific evidence to support Evolution," Rona said, "But, hear me out, no valid scientific evidence that discredits Intelligent Design."


"That's right. Tell me how you know, how we know that there was not some force of nature, or something more divine that guided the evolutionary process? Therefore, why not concede that it's worth putting this out for discussion? Doesn't a good education include teaching the history of controversies? Like Evolution and ID?" 

"Interesting point. Maybe this is like same-sex marriage. Twenty years ago only a small minority favored it but in more recent years it received overwhelming support, so much so that the Supreme Court stretched to find it to be constitutional."

"Bottom line," Rona said, "As difficult as it is and how unpleasant it can be, if we want to have a more inclusive and civil country, we need to not give up on having these kinds of conversations."

"I agree," I said, "But I do understand why others might come to a different conclusion."

"I'll predict that we could also have productive conversations about climate change and . . ."

I cut her off, "Let's take this one step at a time. I'm already feeling exhausted."

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Monday, May 29, 2017

May 29, 2017--Guest Blogger Sharon: Tone At the Top

Guest Blogger Sharon returns with thoughts about the ethical tone Donald Trump is setting for his followers and, if he were to have his way, America.

I will return tomorrow, Tuesday, with ruminations about Intelligent Design.

                                                     Tone At the Top

I first heard the phrase "Tone at the Top" about fifteen or twenty years ago. I didn't realize at the time it was a term which originated in accounting/audit firms. Used to describe an organization's general ethical climate, as established by its board of directors, audit committee, and senior management. Tone at the top refers to the ethical atmosphere that is created in the workplace by the organization's leadership. Whatever tone management sets will have a trickle-down effect on employees of the company. 
Many of the recent themes of this blog had me thinking about tone at the top again. This time not in a corporate context, but in the context of a leader and his advisers who conducted the vilest campaign in modern American history. He and his board have made it OK for Americans who are so inclined, to hate again, to ignore facts, and to admire someone whose behavior they would reject in another context. 
This week hearing Montana voters say they supported a candidate who assaulted a reporter because his behavior made it sound like the candidate was their kind of guy, made me wonder if people would feel as comfortable voicing this if just about anyone else was elected President. 
This is not to say that this type of behavior represents everyone who voted for Trump. Nor am I comfortable with everyone who did not vote for Trump or other Republicans in the primaries lumped together as Progressives, or Liberals. 
Having spent most of my adult life in a state that is red/purple, many friends, colleagues and neighbors had different viewpoints that didn't get in the way for over 40 years of cordial or even family-like relationships. Nor were most people, including myself, down the line categorizable. I know government employees who might usually vote for Dems who preferred some of their Republican appointee bosses to those they worked for under Democrat administrations.
But this is different. Trump has deliberately tapped into some really disturbing and powerful undercurrents in American life. Some of these people we've known for years and who are not unemployed coal miners or displaced manufacturing workers living in drug plagued towns have, with Trump as a model, felt free to say some pretty ugly stuff. 
One example. It's been about three years since I wrote about my dad's World War II service. At the time I read accounts of men who were captured during the Battle of the Bulge, who were first writing about their traumatic experiences 70 years later. To then hear a friend say Trump was right, John McCain wasn't a hero because he was captured left me dumbfounded. And that was only the beginning. I won't even repeat some of the other things that have been said.
If I have given up trying to reason with and understand people I already know who perhaps have spent too many years being brainwashed by Fox News, trolls and "news" outlets even further right, I have even less interest engaging strangers who want people to be free not to have health care.  I hold in special contempt those who encourage conspiracy theories that spur the lunatic fringe to shoot up pizza parlors, etc. (Fill in your favorite conspiracy or slur here).
For those who are not "deplorable" and just wanted to be heard, to shake things up or thought a businessman might be able to solve some problems, I wonder if they really still see this administration as setting the right tone to produce the results for which they voted.
Or perhaps this other New York businessman's profile which appeared in the Times last week is more apt. He sold people phony products and when customers complained, he terrorized them. He's headed to jail . . . 

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Friday, May 26, 2017

May 26, 2017--Tell the Truth

Tell the truth. Isn't it better with Donald Trump out of the country and in another time zone? A good way to start the long summer season.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

May 25, 2017--Beat Up

I'm getting beat up by some progressive friends who feel I am again being too easy on Donald Trump.

He's so execrable, they are saying, how can I express anything but contempt for him? When the other day I noted something to take seriously in his speech in Saudi Arabia, I could feel a number of people I've known for years deciding never to speak to me again.

Though I probably deserve some of the criticism, trying to explain myself, to one I said--
For me it's about finding ways to talk to each other because Trump supporters want to influence me as much as I'm eager to understand and have an impact on them. And I am not certain about that many things that I feel they need to agree to in advance for us to engage in deep and productive conversations and friendships. For me, everything begins with understanding. Not agreeing. 
Trump people are as concerned about the country as we. It's just that we disagree about many of the things that concern us. But it is concern that unites us and so we refuse to cross each other off our lists and instead look for ways to find some common ground. It's too easy to give up because we approach things differently. And ruinous, in my view, because if there can't be some healing we're cooked.  
So I try to work on that. I may be naive about this but for whoever claims to be liberal, to me, the test of their sincerity is how open they are (how I am) to ideas about which we disagree. 
Often, it works quite well here in Maine. There are a lot of good conversations among those who disagree, there's considerable listening, and I sense some coalescence around issues that involve poor people, children, and the elderly. With poor being the common denominator. For example, most of the conservatives I know are in favor of food stamps. Actually, many would like to see the funding increased. They also want to see the abuse pruned out. So do I. We've also had some terrific talks about Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and as a result seen some perspectieve shifting.
In response to this another friend said--"None of this matters. He obstructed justice. Period. A criminal offense." 

Then I received this email from Dr. S, the east coast's best audiologist--
Loved your two latest blogs. Your interactions with Jack got me thinking of more than just hearing well again. The deplorable barbarians just want to “tear it all down, start again.” I guess I would ask, what makes one think that building it all up from ground zero would result in a better outcome?  
I give you credit- -I don’t think I would have the patience, compassion, or whatever else is necessary to maintain an effective connection with any of them. Reason is, their decisions will have and have had a negative impact on our collective health, security, and environment- just to name a few concerns.
I responded--
Thanks for the tip of the hat for recent blogs. I am trying to stay sane even while crazily trying in my small ways to seek some common ground among people who are now more comfortable hurling missiles at each other. 
Dr. S said--
I need some suggestions on how to better relate to those who choose self-interest above all, profit over health, ignorance over education, pollution over clean air and water, denial of clear facts over reality . . .    
You do have your work cut out for yourself. I suspect, and hope I am wrong, that most are unreachable.
To that, I said--
One suggestion about the dichotomies you list--don't assume they aren't more bipartisan than we might think or like. Lots of progressives are greedy (choose profit) educated but still ignorant (biased i.e. "deplorables"), and do not do much more than complain about clean air and water. And around aspects of other social issues like health care, progressives are also prone to assert their own beliefs and ideologies over evidence-based knowledge. 
If we start by agreeing that both sides of the argument are not perfect, we have a chance to find some common ground. Which we need to find a way to do.
As my Grandma Zwerling used to say--"We'll see."

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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

May 24, 2017--"It Does Boil Down to Impotence"

In response to my "Vile Scumbag" posting, a good friend who is about as smart as anyone I know, sent me this note--
As I read the headline [to your piece], I thought to myself "Ha! I feel the same way," until I noticed that it was actually a quote from me.  
I am exhausted by the current state of things, I am enraged at the carelessness with which the fate of our democracy is being handled. I am at a loss for how to understand these same Tea-publicans being willing to murder over flag burning, but defend 45's collusion with Russia.  
I am maddened by the poorest, least educated, most at risk, segments of our society fighting for less and less for themselves, and more for the people keeping them poor and making them sick. I am so so tired of radical fundamentalists calling themselves "conservative" when nothing about their agenda is about "conserving" anything, not the constitution, not the rule of law, not the environment, not our foreign allies, not our treaties, and certainly not our reputation and standing as a global leader.  
At this point, to my eyes, it appears that the executive branch is just toppling over anything within arms reach, just to show it can. Then, on top of all of it, this is the most bald-faced cash grab probably ever in the history of the presidency. Not releasing taxes, not divesting from the family businesses, putting close family in executive level positions, massive tax breaks, and the legislative is choking on its own bankrolls rendering it incapable of governing ethically.  
Ultimately, it does boil down to impotence. Impotence and ineffectiveness that have me apoplectic. Why are the progressives still chanting "hey hey ho ho" when it never did anything. Why is there no attempt to bring the moderates onto the side of forward thinking. Why aren't there a dozen super-pacs on the progressive side, matching lobbyists from the dark side dollar for dollar.  
To take the Tea-Party analogy too far, the liberals are the red-coats, standing in formation, defeat after defeat, sticking with the tried and true, while the Radical Fundamentalist wing of the GOP has gone undercover and infiltrated everything in an all out guerilla war. They have [gained control of] state and local government, the judiciary, and now the executive.  
The Democrat response--"Hey let's make another formation!"
Then he added--
Sorry if this was too much of a rant. Generally, these days I am trying to stick to snarky one-line zingers.
Myself, I prefer his essay-long writing. Hopefully, including thoughts about why progressives are in about as much of a rage as Trump's people. All the while, criticizing his supporters for being so angry. I guess it all depends what one is angry about. 

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

May 23, 2017--Trump On the World Stage

Tell the truth--weren't you, like me, expecting, even hoping to see President Trump stumble on the world stage? While in the Middle East, while with the Pope in Rome, while meeting in Sicily with European counterparts at the G-7 summit?

Weakened at home as criminal investigations swirl around him, if he made a fool of himself, if he insulted Islamic leaders, made a botch of talks with the Israelis, again insulted Chancellor Angela Merkel, and said something inappropriate to the new president of France, in the aggregate, if his trip turned out to be a political disaster, it would move him one step closer to impeachment or resignation.

But, four days into his nine-day trip, from all reports, even from media sources that are not well disposed to him, he appears to be staying on script and, remarkably, actually saying a number of things that make sense. Or at least are worth putting on the table.

Before an assemblage of more than three dozen presidents of Sunni Arab nations, carefully avoiding the phrase "radical Islamic terrorists," Trump drew a distinction between ISIS fighters and the peaceful citizens of Islamic nations--
This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations. This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life and decent people, all in the name of religion, people that want to protect life and want to protect their religion. This is a battle between good and evil.
These comments were met with enthusiastic applause.

He continued, saying he wanted "partners not perfection" and that it was up to Muslim leaders to expunge extremists from their midst--
Drive them out. Drive them out of your places of worship. Drive them out of your communities. Drive them out of your holy land. And drive them out of earth.
This was a play to engage Sunni leaders in contrast to President Obama's alleged desire to strike deals with Shia-dominated countries such as Iran.

One could delete references to Obama and still make the case that a focus on Sunnis, the vast majority in the region, makes more sense. Including as part of an attempt to broker movement toward a two-state solution in Israel, something Trump spoke about yesterday when he told Benjamin Netanyahu that he heard from Sunni Arab leaders while in Saudi Arabia that if this were to happen they would consider expanding relations with Israel. Something that is occurring in private as power shifts across the Middle East.

It was also noted that Air Force One's direct flight from Riyadh to Tel Aviv is the first time there has been such a flight. Whoever added that to Trump's agenda (likely Jared Kushner) deserves praise. Gestures and symbols go a long way in that fraught region.

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Monday, May 22, 2017

May 22, 2017--"Vile Scumbag"

A friend, referring to Donald Trump, posted this on Facebook--
Vile scumbag. How I so purely and truly despise this spineless sack of shit coward. When will the carnage end? It is just so exhausting.
About all other subjects, my progressive friend is an otherwise moderate and thoughtful person. He is also literate. But here he is so in a rage that he's sputtering semi-coherently.

I have other liberal friends, all of whom oppose the death penalty, who are so crazed that they are cheering the death of Fox News' founder, Roger Ailes and they are so excited that he is dead that they are wishing the same fate for Steve Bannon and Rupert Murdock. I am sure others are on their death list.

When I try to get them to tell me why they have these feelings of murderous fury they say, in effect, isn't it obvious. Two words--Donald and Trump.

When I press, some confess that their rage is connected to the anxiety and fear Trump and his presidency have unleashed.

They are afraid about what will happen to the environment and the Earth (the New York Times on Saturday published a piece about the accelerating melting of the Ross Ice Shelf in Antartica--it is occurring so rapidly that many scientists are saying that by the end of the century, sea levels will rise by up to six feet, enough to inundate much of New York City and south Florida); they are worried about their jobs (many are professionals who work for or are funded by the rapidly shrinking government); they have deep fears about what their children will be facing (many are mired in tens of thousands of dollars of student debt and living in their parents' basements); and almost all are panicking about their 401(k)s.

Above all, most are feeling unable to do anything about it.

Rage comes largely from feeling powerless.

These are very efficacious people who are used to helping make things happen. They pride themselves on their ability to take on complicated problems and move them toward solution. They have been upwardly mobile and feel that this is because they have earned their way and deserve to be part of the professional and managerial classes.

Now, as they see things, everything is changing, becoming upended by the barbarians who have seized control. Used to feeling accomplished and even superior, they are now finding themselves being treated disdainfully. Being dismissed. And worse than death, being ignored.

The "deplorables" are in charge. The knowledge my friends have acquired, the history they have participated in shaping is no longer, they feel, valued. And since they cannot figure out what to do, what to think, or how to fight back, rather than dig in for the long haul and devote themselves to a sustained and relentless political and cultural resurgence, when together, they complain, they fulminate.

When I ask them what they think will make a difference, they say joining the "resistance" movement. When I ask what's planned, they say more marches. When I ask when the next one is scheduled, they say they do not know. When I ask how long ago was the last one, they tell me they are not sure. Maybe a month or two.

I tell them I don't think this will get the job done. In the latest polls, last week, 84 percent of Republicans say they think Donald Trump is doing a good job. Considering what he has been up to, we need to figure out why that is. We need to figure out how to push these numbers and, forgive me, figure out ways to reach out to some of them and get them to consider other ways to think about what's going on. About how they are being manipulated and taken advantage of.

In the meantime, some friends say they plan to post more on Facebook.

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Friday, May 19, 2017

May 19, 2017--Jack, Not In a Good Mood

"I'm not in a good mood."

"If true, I could take a pass on talking to you right now. I'm feeling good, the weather's perfect, I have a lot to get done, and to tell you the truth I don't want you to bring me down."

Jack said, "I only need 10 minutes. Start the timer."

"I'm OK but, really, just for 10 minutes. If you're calling about Trump I can imagine why you wouldn't be feeling very happy." I couldn't resist poking him.

"It's not what you think. With all this Comey business and now a special prosecutor or counsel you might be assuming that I want to talk about that. Suffice it to say, I agree with Trump--it's a witch hunt, plain and simple."

"The people involved with this now, Robert Mueller especially, do not engage in which hunts. But feel free to believe whatever works for you."

"I want to talk about why Trump supporters are sticking with him. People like you expect that his favorabilites will plummet. Well, think again. They're pretty rock solid. Still about 40 percent."

"I have been wondering about that."

"Well, it's pretty simple. Basically, he's doing exactly why we sent him to Washington to do. To tear everything down. Even if he has to put a blowtorch to things. That's why they're going after him. Even Republicans, though they won't admit to that out loud. We've grown fed up with everything. Both parties are at fault. All they want is to keep the gravy flowing in their direction. They don't care about the people, they only care about feathering their own nests. To continue to do so. Trump is a threat to that. That's what we wanted and that's what we still want from him. Bring it all down. Start all over."

"None of this surprises me. There's a lot of frustration out . . ."

"Listen to yourself. Frustration? It goes way, way beyond that. We're talking rage, fury. Not frustration."

"You got me. I underestimated it. A lot of people are furious. They deserve to be. I share some of that, but no way is Trump the solution. In fact, he's part of the problem. He's on the gravy train too. He's all about wanting the government to do things to the tax code, for example, that will yield to him and people like him more and more money. At everyone else's expense. At the expense of the rest of us."

"Furthermore," Jack rolled on, ignoring me, "people like you and the elite media think they know how to make sense of this. You have your conventional wisdom that you apply to what's going on but that gets in the way of your understanding what's really at work. In fact, your conventional wisdom is a good place to begin because everything you assume to be true isn't true. It's the opposite of true. Take any example, and I'll show you how the reverse of what you think you understand is not what's going on. Go on, try me."

"I'm not sure I'm following you. So why don't you give me one example."

"Sure. You value leaders who are thoughtful and restrained. You think that's what voters want. You assume that's what we want, what everyone wants. Well, we don't. We want a leader who goes with his gut and is the opposite of restrained. We don't value that. Restraint. We value the opposite of that. Reasonable leaders think they can negotiate their way to good deals for people. What they wind up negotiating is worthless to us. Worse than that. It is harmful to us. So we like it when Trump goes off script and tells it like it is. Especially when it comes to what's politically correct, which is another example of how the conventional wisdom is all wrong. We're OK with the outrageous. In fact we value it."

"This sounds totally crazy to me."

"We're also OK with crazy. Not totally crazy, but a decent amount of crazy. Crazy also shakes things up. We like it when everyone is scared about the next things coming out of his mouth. I'll admit it, I would prefer if he toned it down. Not all the way down but a little bit. It would make him more effective."

"'Trump' and 'effective' don't belong in the same sentence."

"One more thing from the conventional wisdom," Jack said, ignoring me again, "About economics. I don't mean big-picture economics but personal economics. People like you think that a big motivator for people is concern about their personal finances. Of course to some extent that's true. Everyone has to pay rent and eat. But even truer is that people like me don't follow what you assume about us--we're not primarily motivated by what's 'good' for our bottom line. 'Good' in quotes. Money doesn't trump everything for us. Bringing everything down, bringing everything to a halt is what motivates us. That's what we care about. Bring it down so we can start all over. Enough tinkering around the edges. Even if the tinkering puts a few more dollars in our pockets. Blowtorching it, that's what we wanted from Trump, that's what we still want even as the witch hint unfolds."

"I have to run in a minute," I really did, "so cut to the chase--what do you want to see happen? I mean for him to accomplish."

"What I just said--to bring things to a grinding halt. A lot of people are saying, including conservative people, that if Trump is forced out of office--and I don't see that happening; to be a loser would kill him so he's not quitting--if Pence took over, people are saying, he'd sign the same kind of bills Trump would sign. But Pence fits the conventional wisdom so with him it would be more of the same. We're in a crisis and, don't quote me, we need to be in one. As I see things a bigger mess would be even better."

He paused for breath, "My 10 minutes are up," Jack said. I could sense him smiling, feeling good about himself. That he got all this off his chest.

"I have one more thing to share with you," I said.

"What's that?"

"You may hate it, viewing it as another example of the conventional wisdom. But you remember when Trump was first elected how so many people of my persuasion were worrying out loud, fearing that he was like Mussolini and was going to bring fascism to America?"

"I remember that. I thought you and people who thought that way, who were so afraid, feeling so smart about yourselves and how you looked down you noses at us, showing off what you thought history taught, well, I thought you were a bunch of jerks. Sorry, but that's what I thought."

"I felt that people who thought that way were way over-reacting. But whatever we thought at the time, one thing I said, and this was conventional wisdom too, was that no one should underestimate the power of checks and balances built into our system. Look around, take a look. As of two days ago we have a special counsel and Trump is on the ropes. I don't know where this is headed but his strongman days are over. That's one thing I'm sure about."

"We'll see," Jack said, "People of you persuasion counted him out before, all the way back to the first days of the primaries, but he won the nomination and the election and he's still standing. A little weaker at the moment, but keep you eye on North Korea. I'm not suggesting anything, but if things get out of control there, it will be commander-in-chief time."

As usual, after having the last word, Jack hung up.

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

May 18, 2017--Down Day

I will be back on Friday with, what else, more Trump thoughts.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

May 17, 2017--The Evangelicals

Until reading Frances Fitzgerald's definitive book about the Evangelical tradition in the United States, The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America, I grossly underestimated the influence the religious right has had on our electoral process. Their influence puts to shame whatever the Russians did or didn't do to affect our most recent presidential election.

The book is over-detailed and far from a page turner, but anyone interested in the religious and political history of our country, very much including how they are entwined, needs to work one's way through it.

The "story" really picks up in about 1988 when Pat Robertson and his protege, 27-year-old Ralph Reed enter the picture. Up to then, socially active Christians had largely devoted themselves to cultural issues such as abortion (totally against it), homosexual issues (totally against expanding gay people's rights), prayer in school (totally for it), and pornography (totally opposed to it), but they didn't in any substantial way organize themselves politically, believing on some level that church and state should remain more-or-less separate.

With Reed in mind to lead the effort to win the culture wars through direct engagement in the political and legislative process, that agenda changed and to that end Robertson created the Christian Coalition and tasked it under Reed's leadership to select and support candidates who shared his values to run for office at all levels from school boards to the presidency.

Here are the key paragraphs from The Evangelicals that lay out this radical new plan--
The Christian Coalition worked with lay evangelicals of different traditions and made alliances with other Christian Right groups at the local level. Its core mission was "to mobilize and train Christians for effective political action." In Robertson's vision the Coalition would recruit five or more activists in each of the nation's 175,000 precincts (my italics); it would start with elections for school boards, county commissioners, and other local races, where a small percentage of registered voters could make the difference. It would work up from there to congressional races and the White House. Ralph Reed, who ran the operation and served as the public face of the Coalition, had what was often called "choir boy looks," but he was a political engineer. . . . 
Reed sometimes described his voter mobilization program as a covert military operation. "I want to be invisible," he told the Virginia Pilot in November 1991. "I do guerrilla warfare. I paint my face and travel at night. You don't know it's over until you're in a body bag. You don't know until election night."
What is interesting and upsetting is how off the case the liberals and the media were. The Christian Coalition's strategic plans and victories were barely noticed or commented upon. And in the absence of that, progressive voters did little more than show up at the polls every two or four years. While politically active conservative Christians were mobilized in every election district in the country, liberals remained relatively dormant.

As Reed said, we wouldn't know what was going on until election night. Especially this past November 7th. We woke up and discovered that evangelicals had elected Donald Trump and both houses were to be solidly in Republican hands.

We had grown self-satisfied and lazy.

Fair warning.

Ralph Reed and Pat Robertson

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

May 16, 2017--Where's Waldo?

Flipping through the Sunday New York Times, I was struck by a dramatic photo on the first page of the business section.

It was of a Ford Motor Company "assembly line" in their new plant in Hangzhou, China. I put assembly line in quotes because my notion of an assembly line is a slowing-moving conveyer belt where cars are assembled by workers one stage at a time.

From what I could tell from the picture of the Hangzhou plant the cars being assembled were moving along but there wasn't a worker in sight.

See if you can spot one. I couldn't.

Ford Assembly Plant, Hangzhou, China
Workers are nowhere in sight.

This reminded me of Where's Waldo?, a series of children's books created by the English artist Martin Handford in which there are detailed illustrations depicting dozens of people doing a variety of amusing things. Hidden in their midst is Waldo. Though he is always wearing his distinctive red and white stripped shirt and a bobble hat with a pom-pom on top and large, Harry Potter type glasses, it is not easy to locate him.

Where's Waldo?
As our economy continues to struggle with the decades-long decline in good manufacturing jobs, and as politicians point out the off-shoring of so many jobs to sites such as Hangzhou, all the while pandering to worker fears of global unfairness--how foreign wages are artificially kept low in regrettable efforts to undermine the workings of the free market--there are in fact larger forces at work that are not as widely discussed and much more difficult to ameliorate.

Yes, many high-paying manufacturing jobs have been lost because in places such as Hangzhou the workers that are employed at the Ford assembly plant make on average only $4 an hour, more disruptive--even to the Chinese economy--is the exponential proliferation of robots.

Robotics more than low wages is what is fundamentally transforming the nature of work.

And not just manufacturing. Modern forms of automation are also altering how work is organized in corporate offices. Thus the question the world faces, as we see the global economy undergoing a paradigm shift, is what kinds of jobs will be available, even exist, by the middle of the 21st century.

To adapt we may need to experiment with different ways to help support employees, or permanently displaced workers. Guaranteeing a minimum annual income may be one such approach. This has been suggested, counter-intuitively, by some of the economically conservative members of the free-market-oriented Austrian School of Economics.

It is being tried in Canada among other places and it may also be time to begin to think this way here.

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Monday, May 15, 2017

May 15, 2017--The Democrats' Bench

Mike Pence is not the only one who goes to sleep at night dreaming about becoming president. Dozens of Democrats are doing the same thing.

In Pence's case, obviously, he's thinking impeachment and resignation. Nixon redux.

In the case of the Democrats, they're thinking about the 2020 primaries.

Most preposterous are Hillary Clinton, who is thinking the third time around might be the charm; Joe Biden, who has been running for president for almost as long as the legendary Harold Stassen; and Bernie Sanders, who more than anything else has come to love the sound of cheering crowds and his own voice.

Preposterous because in 2020, in the aggregate, these three will be 230 years old.

My guess is that Al Gore and John Kerry are stirring about and probably--if he's still alive--Michael Dukakis.

Enough with the jokes. Let's get serious and see who is really in contention.

Other than Bernie and Joe, everyone agrees that Elizabeth Warren is the clear frontrunner. I can see that though it is hard to imagine an east coast liberal Democrat Harvard professor winning the general election. But it's a long way off and Trump is already looking so vulnerable that even she could win.

Then again, if Trump manages to make it through four years, decides to seek a second term, and we're deep in a war with North Korea, Trump could be reelected because of the natural inclination not to want to change leaders when the country's at war. On the other hand, tell that to Lyndon Johnson.

So, the Democratic nomination is a valuable political asset and thus we have a large field of potentials already circling while denying any interest. Except, again, poor old Joe Biden who has all but announced he's running.

If Elizabeth Warren and the three septuagenarians are the top tier, the second tier includes--

New Jersey senator Cory Booker; New York governor Andrew Cuomo; Minnesota senator Al Franken; newly-minted California senator Kamala Harris; two-term Washington governor, Jay Inslee; former Virginia senator and 2016 Veep candidate, Tim Kaine; current Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe; Connecticut senator Chris Murphy; Ohio senator Sharrod Brown; and New York senator Kirstin Gillibrand.

Longer shots include--

Steve Bullock, governor of Montana; Eric Garcetti, mayor of Los Angeles; Colorado governor John Hickenlooper; Minnesota's other senator Amy Klobuchar; New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu, Representative Seth Moulton from Massachusetts; Oregon senator Jeff Merkley; and Martin O'Malley, former governor of Maryland and 2016 Democratic primary candidate (remember him?).

Much more interesting are four corporate types who haven't ever run for anything--

Mark Cuban, popularly known as a regular on the reality TV show, Shark Tank; Howard Schultz, founder of Starbucks (best know for caffeinating America and much of the rest of the world); Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook COO best known for teaching women how to "lean in"); and her boss Mark Zuckerberg (best known for not owning a suit).

There you have it--the Democrat's bench. There are others. This is just the off-the-top-of-my-head list.

One thing most have in common, and it's a potential problem--no one knows who most of these folks are or even recognizes their names. Probably the best known is Mark Cuban. If true, doesn't that tell us something?

On the other hand, in 2007 who ever heard of Barack Obama?

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Friday, May 12, 2017

May 12, 2017--RussiaGate

Here's where this is headed.

But first a little history--

On June 17, 1972, James McCord was one of five burglars who were caught in the Watergate complex while breaking into and bugging the offices of the Democratic National Committee. Nearly a year later, on March 19, 1973, after being convicted of eight counts of conspiracy, burglary, and wiretapping, the trial judge, "Maximum John" Sirica, who was famous for the severity of his sentences, was prepared to throw the book at McCord, potentially sentencing him to 35 years in federal prison.

Facing decades of incarceration, McCord wrote a letter to the judge in which he confessed that his testimony was perjured and that he would like to correct the record. In effect, he was offering to tell the truth, implicating the other defendants and White House staff who authorized and paid for the break in and then led the attempts to cover up the crime. Including the president, Richard Nixon.

The judge read the letter in open court and, after McCord's recanted testimony, set his sentence at one-to-five years and over the next two years a parade of high level officials, including John Mitchell, the former Attorney General and the two most senior presidential staff, H.R. Halderman and John Ehrlichman were convicted and sent to prison.

The world collapsed around Nixon and he resigned the presidency on August 9, 1974.

James McCord's Letter to Judge Sirica

Now we have RussiaGate, and I suspect we will see the denouement unfold in a similar way. 

A Michael Flynn or a Paul Manafort or even more likely, the lower-level Carter Page, will wind up being indicted, regardless of who becomes the director of the FBI (the investigations will proceed no matter what Donald Trump does to impede them), and one or more of them will be convicted and thus face a Sirica-like sentence.

The threat of a decades' long sentence, as with Watergate, will focus the attention of the new felons and we can subsequently expect to see plea-bargaining--the promise of a reduced sentence for testimony about the higher-ups. Perhaps including the president.

This prospect is why President Trump made what seems to be an impulsive decision to fire FBI director James Comey.

Trump may not know much about history, to quote Sam Cooke's song, but he knows how to survive. We'll see how he does the time and how wonderful the world actually is.

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Thursday, May 11, 2017

May 11, 2017--Reading to Rona

In elementary school, at PS 244 in East Flatbush, reading flawlessly out loud was highly valued.

At this, I was a total failure.

So much so that after being traumatized in second grade because, from anxiety, I stammered and mispronounced many words when reading out loud while standing in front of the class, facing my quivering fellow students--their turn will come--I didn't read another book, to myself much less out loud, until 6th grade. Somehow I resumed reading then and ever since books have been my most dependable companion. Actually, Rona has been my most dependable companion. (See below)

So much that went on at PS 244 they claimed was preparation for "real life," and reading in public was high on that list. Not that one would be called on to do much of this as an adult, but to withstand pressure and perform under a version of fire was what was valued and, if like me one wasn't good at it, having one's inabilities exposed in public and to be mocked and ridiculed by our so-called friends was thought to be essential preparation for those of us with middling talents who were destined to have many bosses during our lifetimes, bosses who would relish calling us to task for our foulups, often in the presence of work colleagues. Second grade, in other words, was not about the 3-Rs and nurturing creativity--it was a form of basic training where only a few would emerge to become achievers. The rest of us were destined to be barked at for the rest of our lives.

Then there was spelling. I begin to tremble as I approach this memory.

It was further preparation for the future. In this case not because any of us were being encouraged to become writers--more likely accountants--but since most of us were to be mired in authoritarian work situations where we would be forced to be competent in the world-of-following-orders that didn't make sense, all the while under pressure to carry out tasks that lacked necessity or logic.

English language spelling, then, with its arbitrary rules and idiosyncratic requirements was thought to be a good introduction to living unquestioningly with the irrational. Memorizing odd spellings trained us to not raise questions but simply surrender to things that otherwise should have raised questions. Parroting spellings such as foreigner and parallel and thought and through and gauge helped us learn how to handling tasks and follow, without resisting or objecting, work assignments and put up with civic requirements that didn't make much sense.

But later, with the help of Spell Check I became a writer and by reading to Rona I am overcoming my fear of mispronunciations--a liberating psychological metaphor.

Recently, over seven evenings, I read to her, Jonathan Allen's and Amie Parnes' Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign. We hung in more for the gossip than the insight or the vivid portraits of the key players. Both were missing and thus they rendered an intrinsically interesting story mundane. Still it was worth reading. Including just for the reading.

But then this week we have been reading out loud the newest novel by Lidia Yuknavitch, The Book of Joan. It is exceptional.

Neither Rona nor I are drawn to post-apocalyptic literature--usually the opposite--but this novel feels as if the imagined future (it is set in 2049) is actually an apt vision of the pre-apocalyptic present.

World wars and environmental catastrophes have transformed earth into an uninhabitable cinder. To regroup, a few thousand wealthy earthlings have retreated to an orbiting platform in space known as CIEL. There, as the result of widespread devastation, evolution has been reversed. The survivors have become hairless, blanched-white, sexless creatures floating aimlessly in space and in isolation. At the heart of the matter, these escapees have come under the domination of a bloodthirsty cult leader, Jen de Men, who turns CIEL into a quasi-corporate police state.

Enough said. No more spoilers. Pick up a copy and get lost in the dystopic world Yuknavitch invents. Or perceives.

Better yet, find someone to read it to you. Perhaps a refuge from PS 244.

PS 244

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

May 10, 2017--Firing James Comey

Many are saying that Donald Trump's firing of FBI director James Comey smacks of Watergate. We had the Saturday Night Massacre then and the Tuesday Night Massacre last night.

This comparison doesn't sound like a stretch to me. 

In fact, back on March 21st I posted a blog about where they would lead if one were to connect all the dots about how Trump's men were directly involved in the Russian hacking of the presidential election and how this subversion of our election is much, much worse than Watergate.

Anyone wondering why Trump fired Comey, claiming that he did so because of how Comey failed to indict Hillary Clinton, is capable of believing most anything. The truth is much simpler than that. And chilling. 

So below is my posting from March.

Here's what happened and it's pretty obvious.

Admittedly this is speculation but since it explains most of Donald Trump's behavior regarding Russia's tampering in our election, let me air it out--

Last spring when it was obvious Donald Trump would win the nomination and then that summer, after securing it, one or more members of Trump's entourage with on-going Russian connections (fierce supporter General Michael Flynn and/or campaign chairman Paul Manafort) told candidate Trump that their Russian connections, or handlers, indicated that they had the capacity to hack into Hillary Clinton's campaign and in that way dig up enough dirt to help the underdog, Donald Trump, win the election.

As someone who loves winning above all else, Trump with a nod and a wink gave them the go-ahead.

The rest of the election is history.

All the while, the FBI or NSA, as part of their routine work, were tapping into the Russian ambassador's and other Russian officials' electronic communications.

In the process, they stumbled on Flynn's and Manafort's machinations and began a deeper investigation into their work with Russia, including their involvement in the Clinton sabotage effort.

So here's the big problem--

If a version of this is true, the connected dots lead directly back to Donald J.Trump.

Trump of course knows the full extent of this, especially his own direct involvement, and thus the frantic attempt to divert attention from this festering situation and out of desperation turn the heat on his predecessor, Barack Obama, accusing him of "wiretapping" Trump Tower.

Here's how this will unfold--

Flynn or Manafort, eventually facing 20 years in prison, will make a James McCord, Watergate-like deal with the prosecutors and throw President Trump under the bus.

That is unless Trump has already been pardoned by his successor, President Mike Pence.

Left to Right--Manafort, Trump, Flynn

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Tuesday, May 09, 2017

May 9, 2107--Jack: Feeling Good While Getting Screwed

"For months I didn't hear from you and now all of a sudden you're calling all the time." It was Jack.

"There's so much going on I can't wait 'til you get here."

"Soon enough. Soon enough. But what is it this time? I only have a few minutes." That was not entirely true. In advance, I was preparing an excuse if I had enough and wanted to get off the line quickly. I wasn't in the mood to hear from Jack about all the things Donald Trump was accomplishing.

"I think this one will interest you."

"Is it about how the spring has reached the Midcoast and that Rona's garden is showing signs of life?" I knew that while we were away quite often Jack would walk over to our cottage and sit on the back porch looking out at the bay. We liked the idea that he was there keeping the house company.

"I can just see some of her early blooming perennials beginning to break through."

"Are you at the house now?"

"Yes. I love being here before any of the seasonal people begin to arrive."

"So you called to talk about Rona's garden?"

"Not really. I wanted to pass along something I heard from one of Trump's supporters. One even you would think is smart. Gerry is his name. He's educated, runs his own successful business, and reads everything."

"I think I met him once or twice. What's up with him?"

"He came out for Trump at about the same time I did. Going on two years now."

"That doesn't speak for his being smart." That just slipped out.

"I'll ignore that," Jack said.

"So what is he saying?"

"He's been trying to figure out why so many people in general, not just Trump people, will put up with their political representatives lying to them, not fulfilling their campaign promises. Including your people who lie to you. Think about Hillary and all her lying and even Obama. He didn't tell the truth about Obamacare. You can keep your doctors and so on. But you forgive them and from what you've said voted for both of them for president. And you don't hold them to the same standard you hold Republican politicians. This is Gerry talking."

"I'm not sure I agree. I voted for Hillary, yes, but knew she was all too comfortbale stretching the truth. And worse. When it came down to the two choices--her and Trump--for me it was an easy choice."

"But if she was elected some part of you would feel good, even be excited."

"That's true. I don't look for ideal or perfect. These people are human beings after all and have many of the weaknesses that pretty much everyone has. But for me there's no comparison between Obama and Hillary and Trump."

"This is all obvious stuff," Jack said, and I couldn't disagree, "But here's what Gerry is into gets a little more interesting. Some of this may surprise you coming from him and me."

"Go on."

"If you promise not to quote me, him and me are pretty disillusioned with Trump."

"Really?" I was totally surprised by this. For many months I've been hearing from Jack nothing but how wonderful and amazing Trump is. How he knows how to get things done. How he's shaking up Washington. How he's figuring out how to deal with North Korea. And of course how he's going to fix healthcare.

"But if you'd listen to the two of us talking about him and if you follow the polls which show that 98 percent of the people who voted for him would do so again, regardless of how they might feel now about his lack of substantial accomplishments, you'd hear people feeling pretty good about how he's doing and how they are thinking about themselves with him as their president."

"I'm sensing that on my own. How people are hanging in with him. And in general feeling good about him. I mean his people. Not people like me. I think he's a disaster. And dangerous."

"Again, nothing much new about this. But now let me tell you what Gerry said," he raced on, "A lot of us who are modest, working people know we're getting screwed by politicians. Pretty much by all politicians. Even ones we voted for and continue to support. In the spirit of the lesser-of-two evils. Let me take that back. We vote for the people we vote for, Trump included, not because they deliver for us--better health care than Obamacare or do things that generate jobs, good jobs, of deal with illegal immigrants or the opioid epidemic, which is out of control up here in Maine--we vote for them because they make us feel good."

"I'm not sure I'm following this," I said. "You know the people you vote for don't tell you the truth and don't deliver for you--that they really represent rich people and big corporations--and yet you keep voting for them because they make you feel good?"

"Yup. It's as simple as that. Like the way we all turn to things that distract us like movies and reading and music and TV and sports and hobbies because they bring us pleasure. Being for Trump is like that. We enjoy him. Even when he does stupid things. Sometimes because he does stupid things and how to us those things are also in their own way entertaining. We just simply like him. Even people watching MSNBC or CNN who are liberals and well educated tuned in to see what he was up to. And not just to find things to criticize."

"Can you give me an example of that? I mean stupid stuff that brings you pleasure."

"Like in the campaign when he came up with nicknames for Hillary--Crooked Hillary--or Little Marco or Lyin' Ted or Pocahontas for Elizabeth Warren. Why do you think record numbers watched the debates? To see Jeb Bush? Or Rand Paul? Trump blurted out how he'd lock up Hillary. That was ridiculous but funny. And it's easy to understand why people enjoyed him-- because he wasn't scripted and was liable to say anything. Some of it disgusting, others of it amusing. A lot of its both."

"I get the primaries. But now? He's our president for God sakes and that's different. It's no longer a reality TV show. And even as you and Gerry are willing to admit he's not doing an effective job, from your perspectives, it's no longer fun and games. This is serious business. Healthcare, war and peace, the environment, our kids' future."

"It runs deeper than mere entertainment. Again, this is Gerry's point. Trump makes us feel good in a deeper way. To feel good about being Americans. Sorry, but we want to be great again. In many ways we were greater in the past. For a lot of aging men, we don't feel good about the fact that since the Korean War we haven't won any of the wars in which we were engaged. That doesn't make people feel good about themselves. Nor has the quality of our lives improved. Economically we and our children are falling further and further behind. We need something to feel good about. Hillary's 12-point plan to fix the schools doesn't do it. All the USA, USA, USA chanting at Trump's rallies should tell you something. I mean about how he makes us feel."

"And for that you're willing to look the other way when among other critical things it comes to health insurance and maybe getting into a shooting war with North Korea?"

"Again, if we're going to get screwed no matter who gets elected it's better to vote for people who make us feel good about ourselves. I'm repeating myself and I know you have to go."

"I do."

"See you soon at the Bristol Diner. We can pick this up over coffee."

"I'm not sure I want to."

Jack just laughed.
Add caption 

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Monday, May 08, 2017

May 8, 2017--On the Road

I will be back at this spot on Tuesday.

Friday, May 05, 2017

May 5, 2017--Winners & Losers

Though Republicans members of the House of Representatives did not pause to see what the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office would say about the consequences of the healthcare legislation they rushed to approve, the New York Times did an instant analysis of who won and who lost.

What the Times found should be no surprise and suggests why GOP House members were in such a hurray to vote--if any of them took the time to read the legislation (few did) they might have been embarrassed to be made aware of what was in the bill and what they were heartlessly voting for.

It also might have given them pause before, like needy children, they rushed to Big Daddy at the White House to have him praise them for their dastardly deed. And, yes, to have a Bud Lite together before heading back to their home districts for yet another ten day-vacation. They had after all had to work for their $174,000 salary for two whole weeks since their last "recess."

Here are the winners and losers--


High-income earners--eliminates taxes for couple earning at least $250,000 a year.

Upper-middle-calss people without pre-existing health conditions.

Young middle-class people without pre-existing health conditions.

People who opt to go without insurance--the bill eliminates the individual Obamacare mandate.

Large employers--eliminates employer Obamacare mandates.

People who want less comprehensive coverage.


Poor people.

Older adults in most states.

People with pre-existing health conditions in many states.

State governments because of cuts in Medicaid--including, little noticed, for special education.

Hospitals--because up to 24 million people will lose coverage and thus hospitals will have fewer patients. Millions will again seek care in high-cost emergency rooms.

Planned Parenthood which will not be allowed to receive any government funds for at least one year.

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Thursday, May 04, 2017

May 4, 2017--Life Itself Is a Pre-Existing Condition

The current debate about healthcare among Republicans has come down to how the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus and the so-called moderates disagree about how to deal with preexisting medical conditions--

As House of Representatives leadership scrounges around for votes to repeal and replace Obamacare, the debate focuses on how insurance should work for people who have health issues?

The moderates are concerned that tens of millions currently covered will lose their ability to purchase insurance since individual states can opt out of the requirement to offer coverage to Americans who have, say, cancer or heart disease or can charge many times what equivalent polices cost for individuals who do not have preconditions.

Though there would be some subsidies for low-income people these would be inadequate since the GOP version of healthcare insurance is in essence more free-market, for profit in structure than redistibutional. This means the legislation they are pushing is about two things--first, cutting government costs and, more important to Republicans, conservative or moderate, to repeal the taxes high earners are required to pay to help offset some of the overall cost of the Affordable Care Act.

This would mean that if you have a precondition you either have to come up with the cash to buy insurance or go without it. In a market-driven Darwinian world, c'est la vie.

Talking about this over breakfast yesterday, Rona said that everyone older than 50 has one or more preconditions just from having lived that long.

She meant it as a quip since it is not literally true; but, when we went down the list of our family and friends to see how many have one or more preconditions, we found that this is true for almost everyone we know.

Including the two of us! If we had to, neither one of us would be able to secure much less pay for health insurance.

From TermLife's Website below is a very partial list of preconditions that would be disqualifying if Obamacare were replaced by what is apparently about to be approved by Republicans in the House of Representatives.

At least a third of Americans have preexisting conditions that would not allow them to buy insurance or it would be beyond their means to afford if we move back to a market approach.

Everyone has stories about people being denied coverage. Here are two from Wednesday's New York Times--

Larisa Thomason, of New Market, Ala., remembers how her husband got a letter from Humana informing him that his policy would not cover cancer care because a colonoscopy had turned up several benign polyps.

Also, an insurer in Washington refused to cover any treatment to Alice Thompson's reproductive system because a doctor had written in her remedial record that she should have a hysterectomy to eliminate powerful menstrual periods.

This is a glimpse of the future of health care if Republicans in Congress and the White House have their way.


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