Category Archives: Rant

The Path Forward

Looking at the Republican debacle over Health Care, I was constantly reminded of two things.

First, I keep on thinking of a classic Saturday Night Live skit from their third season portraying Richard Nixon as a vampire-like figure who keeps coming back.  Like Nixon in that skit, just when we think that the Republican efforts at gutting health care are done, they find a way to resurrect the bill.  Since the Senate never actually voted on the final bill (which was put back on the calendar after the substitute amendment failed), it could be brought back to the floor at any time.

Second, I am reminded of Representative Pelosi’s comments while the Affordable Care Act was pending that we would not know what was in the bill until it finally passed.  While Republicans made a lot of hay out of this comment, she was expressing the reality of the legislative process.  Until the vote on the final version of the bill, it is possible that legislators will add new provisions and delete others.  Normally, however, under ordinary process, there is a core of the bill that stays relatively the same.  With this bill, the Republicans have treated the bill as a placeholder.  The message in the House and the Senate has been just pass this bill whatever its flaws and we can decide on the real terms of the bill later.  The concept that the conference committee would write an entire bill from scratch as opposed to merely reconciling the disagreements between the two houses is mindboggling. Continue Reading...

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Donald Trump Is/Is Not Nehemiah Scudder

One of the advantages that science fiction has as a genre is the ability of writers to recast issues by presenting them in another place and time.  On occasion, the transformation of our problems into another situation can be forced (e.g., the original Star Trek episode in which the racial conflict was between those who were black on the left side of the face and those who were black on the right side of the face).

During the third quarter of last century, one of the top science fiction writers was Robert Heinlein.  While most famous for his novel Stranger in a Strange Land, his early career consisted of a series of short stories and novellas that formed a “future history” — taking the United States from the mid-20th Century until around 2200.   In several of the stories in this sequence, Heinlein mentions Nehemiah Scudder, a preacher who became popular enough to be elected president in 2012.  Scudder then establishes a religious dictatorship which governs until it is overthrown around 2100.  While Heinlein never got around to writing a story focused on Scudder’s rise to power, his summary of that rise in other stories identified some aspects of American politics that were not immune to the rise of a demagogue.  So in what ways does the election of Donald Trump mirror those aspects and in what ways do they differ.

The obvious difference is that Donald Trump is not a fundamentalist preacher.  However, writing in 1941, (well before the rise of the Moral Majority), Heinlein noted the power of fundamentalism in American power.  While Trump should not have been the natural candidate for fundamentalists, somehow he managed to get the support of fundamentalists over other “better fitting” candidates during the primary followed by the usual support for the Republican nominee in the general election. Continue Reading...

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Friday Rant: Idiots and Morons

A long time ago I had a boss my family referred to as “Bad Eric”. (I later had a boss named “Good Eric”). Anyway, Bad Eric thought he was a really smart guy. I’m not talking about any of those esoteric views of intelligence, he thought his actual, tested, IQ was higher than anyone else’s in the company, especially mine. This was a big deal to him. He liked to say hello to me in the following way “Good Morning, you dumb b***h”, although in fairness, he sometimes used the “c” word in lieu of the “b” word.

Working for Bad Eric was no picnic, but I did end up learning the difference between “idiot” and “moron”. It turns out that “moron” used to have a technical meaning in DSM classifications of someone with an IQ of 80 or below. (100 is average on a Bell Curve.) And so, when I talk about the stupid things that voters do, I no longer refer to them as morons, I use the strictly pejorative term “idiot”. And today, I’m going to rant about idiots. Feel free to skip to the end to find out what happened when Bad Eric and I went head to head in the quest for who was smarter.

In the past few days, a number of media outlets have gone out and interviewed Trumpkin voters who will now be affected by changes to the ACA. Their overall response is that while they do understand that they will no longer be able to afford insurance, and thus cancer treatments, insulin and other necessary medical care, they believe that  #TheAngryPumpkin will actually save them because he’ll negotiate with Paul Ryan and let them keep, basically, the ACA as it is. I kid you not. Idiots. Continue Reading...

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Random Thoughts for 7 March 2017

Years before Facebook, there was blogging. And as blogging was making a crescendo to its brief heyday, I used to send out an email every day about what was going on in the world. It took a while for the readership to hit 1,000 recipients, and then gmail decided I was a spammer, and luckily Matt and Tom let me join them here at DCW.

Almost a decade later, the world has changed, and attention spans have greatly decreased. But here is the list of what I’m thinking about today…see how far you can get.

The New House ACA Repeal Bill: Have you read it? If not, you can do so here.  (You’ll need to use the PDF download link as the front page is just lies.)  As I always tell you READ IT. Otherwise you’re just going with someone’s interpretation and it’s hard to quote your favourite insanity verbatim. It’s short, 123 pages. Nothing like the original 3,000+ ACA bill. And that matters, because the new bill lacks CBO scoring, and answers to the kind of important questions that make #NotMyCheeto complain that healthcare is difficult. Of course it’s difficult you moron, human lives are involved. Continue Reading...

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Hate in America

Last night, we in Philly heard that hundreds of headstones were turned over Saturday night at a Jewish cemetery, a week after similar vandalism in St. Louis. Many people are saddened, appalled and surprised. They should be sad and appalled, but not surprised. This is Trump’s America.

I have been working with Indivisible locally, and I am heartened by the number of people completely new to politics who are suddenly aware, and ready to take action to both resist the Trump agenda, and help elect people who will serve America, and not what is actually the Bannon administration.

I keep hearing two themes through my work with Indivisible. First, people are concerned about what they can do to stop hate. And by “hate” I mean not just the vandalism, but the verbal abuse people see foisted upon innocent people, just for the colour of their skin,  The ICE roundups are another form of hate: people question what they can do to help those who will be caught up in the dragnets. Hate also in the form of the administration’s moves against sick people (“repeal Obamacare” and dismantle Medicaid), Hate in the form of transgender bathroom rights. I’m a doctor, and I’m telling you, the only thing that matters is that you wash your hands. (If you’re a long-term reader, you remember back to SARS and fingers, nails, fingers, fingers, fingers.) And let’s not forget the hate of literacy in terms of claiming the media is the “enemy of the people”.  The hate is creeping down from the Cheeto Team, and up from the GOP state legislatures. Continue Reading...

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Bridgegate — Who needs to be locked up?

For the past four months, Donald Trump has been leading chants of lock her up.  Who knew that the her was Chris Christie’s deputy chief of staff.  Earlier today, a federal jury found that Christie’s deputy chief of staff and his hand picked appointee to the New York Port Authority were found guilty of violating multiple federal laws in connecting with shutting down I-95 near Fort Lee, New Jersey.  Throughout the trial, the federal prosecutor’s laid out a convincing case that Chris Christie was aware of and approved of the decision to shut down I-95.  Of course, Chris Christie is also the person in charge of Donald Trump’s transition team if the country goes insane on Tuesday.  In what universe can anybody who knows anything about what is happening in this country think that Donald Trump — he of the multiple conflicts of interests who has never followed the rules in his life — and Chris Christie can be trusted to clean up corruption in government.  That’s putting the fox in charge of the hen house.

While it is probably too late to hope for one more piece of investigative journalism into the charade that is Donald Trump before the election, I can’t wait until some journalist after the election does a thorough analysis of Trump’s FEC reports.  Between designating Trump Organization employees to do work on campaign, assigning vacant Trump Organization office space to house the campaign, and holding multiple campaign events (doubling as free advertisement for the Trump Organization) at Trump Organization holdings, the FEC reports have shown and will continue to show a large amount of expenditures going to the Trump Organization.  How much (particular as a percentage of the amount that Trump “contributed” to his campaign) of the total campaign funds ended back in Trump’s pocket will be interesting to see.  Who knew that a business could make a profit running for president?

The shame with ninety-six hours or so left in the campaign is how much Trump’s blather and blatant falsehoods have sucked the air out of  the room for the issues that deserve serious debate.  “Repeal and replace” without any details about the replace is not a solution to what is wrong with out health care system.  Building a wall and deporting everyone is not a realistic plan for dealing with immigration.  Trickle down economics is not a program to reinvigorate the middle class.  Banning all Muslims is not a solution for terrorism.  This country deserved a real campaign.  Instead, we are focused on a person who is unfit to be President as a holding place for folks who are tired of gridlock in Washington but do not understand why (hint it’s the party of no) it exists.

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Putin-Trump 2016

No, I don’t think that Trump is actually running on a ticket with Vladimir Putin.  It’s just that sometimes, you just can’t tell for sure.  Throughout 2015,  the conventional wisdom was that, at some point, as the primaries approached, Republican voters would wake up from their flirtation with Donald Trump and realize that Trump is not a Republican, that he supports almost none of the traditional positions that the Republican Party has taken for the past fifty years.

Nowhere is Trump’s lack of respect for issues and principles clearer than when he stumbles into foreign policy.  The only discernable principle that Trump has demonstrated so far when it comes to foreign policy is some variation on mercantilism — that the only foreign policy interest that the U.S. has is what’s good for U.S. business, primarily what’s good for the Trump Organization.

The past week has seen several examples of this approach.  On NATO, forget the fact that the security guarantees that the U.S. has given eliminates any need for Germany, Poland, the Baltic states, Ukraine, etc., to develop their own nuclear weapons (and all could within months).  What matters is how much everyone is paying, as if the U.S. Army was 21st century mercenaries fighting on behalf of the highest bidder. Continue Reading...

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Independence in an Era of Interdependence

The world is an increasingly complex place.  The biggest environmental threat is no longer the factory upstream but the practices of factories and power plants around the globe.  Terrorist attacks in countries that many have never heard of (or only heard of in relation to a benefit concert) are the lead story on the news (even though most terrorist attacks outside of the U.S. and Europe do not make the news).  Terrorist attacks at home are conducted by folks who have lived in the U.S. for an extended period, but who get their “religious” philosophy over the internet from groups based in the Middle East.

It is not surprising that we see similar responses to these issues around the globe.  In Greece, the established political parties have been tossed to the side in favor of new parties that vow to defend Greece’s interests in renegotiating its national debt with its European allies.  In the United Kingdom, a slim majority votes to leave the European Union in opposition to the EU’s control over much of the economy and immigration.  In Australia, new parties centered around single strong figures gain Senate seats will expressing concern about immigration and keeping Australia for Australians.  Across Europe, anti-immigrant parties are gaining strength.

It is also not too surprising that we are seeing the same thing in the U.S.  As the U.S. slowly approaches the day when a majority of its citizens will be from “minority” groups, we see a plurality of the Republican Party picking a nominee who vows to exclude Hispanics and Muslims from entering the U.S.  Even though imports and exports each represent about 10-15% of the eighteen trillion dollar national economy (with the net trade deficit representing about 3% of the national economy), the disruption caused by trade (and other changes like increased automation from modern technology) leaves a significant part of the population feeling battered by the new economy.   To these people, we have the same candidate pretending that all we need is a new tougher approach to trade negotiations is all that it will take to turn things around.  To terrorism, his answer is that we just need to be more aggressive, even though we have been bombing terrorist facilities for almost two decades. Continue Reading...

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