Stupidity: it’s not an excuse

Between Trump ham-fisting his way through his first foreign trip while in office, and now the revelations about Jared Kushner, my thoughts about both of them boil down to this: rich white boy privilege.

Both Trump and Jared are the epitome of guys who never had to really work for anything, as they were born rich, white, male, and entitled. Both think that they are smarter than they really are, mistaking being in the lucky gene pool for cleverness. Both are completely out of their depth in Washington where the big boys play. And both look pretty stupid when the spotlight is actually shining on them, instead of the fawning they are used to receiving. They’ve been built up by sycophants until they believed their own hype. They are dangerously out of their league.

With Trump, you have the added feature of incipient dementia. It’s becoming so obvious on the world stage, someone in his inner circle ought to be planning a way to ease him into retirement before he wrecks everything — including the family fortunes. But people won’t, because they see their status and position tied to his. But when the ship goes down, it will take them with it.

Already, it’s looking like if you took a position in the Trump administration you’re looking like you just killed your resume. The lack of judgment involved in accepting a position in what is by all accounts a chaotic and unproductive environment is so monumental you shouldn’t be allowed to have any position with any authority ever again.

Stupidity is not an excuse. It’s not defensible when charged in court  – “but your honor, I didn’t know that killing someone who annoyed me is a crime!” – not an excuse.  “But your honor, selling the US out to the Russians, it was just business!” – also not an excuse.

Nor is feeling that you are so right on the issues that you can excuse anything anyone in your party does.

Hubris is the modern American failing, and it could kill us all.

 

It’s hard

Roger Ailes died. That’s the best thing from last week.  And I’m glad he died from complications of a head injury — it sets up a nice fantasy that someone in his inner circle actually pushed him, and is relieved at the success of that push (the medical examiner says there is no evidence of foul play, btw — if you need reality to intrude on the fantasy). It’s just so easy to believe he was as obnoxious at home as he was in the world, and someone got tired of him being at home after he left his working life at Fox … but it’s just believable because he did so much damage to the United States through Fox News, and he was so awful, sexist, and harassing to the women there.  A lech is a lech is a bully is an entitled person of privilege , and it’s hard to believe that anyone who had to put up with him on a regular basis actually wanted to be in the same room with him who wasn’t paid highly to be there ….

And Joe Lieberman for FBI director? Oh please. There’s another awful person who should never be let near a position of power again. Sanctimonious, hypocritical, whiny, cowardly — ugh. When Ned Lamont beat him, and national Dems went to bat for him in the general election — I never understood that. We nearly got rid of one of the worst Democrats ever, and they rallied and raised money and campaigned for him (I’m looking at you, Sen. Obama!). And that came back to bite them, as he was one of the wavering “independents” when they needed votes to enact good legislation … and maybe that was the point, but it just enraged the activist base who pays attention to such things.  We don’t have medicare-for-all, or even medicare for those over 55, because of him. Loser-man.

And Trump goes off to Saudi Arabia to make nice with the country whose nationals did actually bomb us on 9/11 — as every other administration before him.  Blech.

Every day a new outrage. And when I say “a” new outrage, I mean at least one, if not two or three.  And Republicans can’t understand how Democrats can think James Comey was problematic at best and still be upset that he got fired in the middle of an investigation that was reaching into the administration — no, that’s not hypocritical, that’s understanding you can disagree with someone strenuously and still not approve of him losing his job …

Sometimes beating these F*ckers at the polls feels like it is taking too long.  2018 better deliver. And the Dems have got to stop being patsies for these guys (and there is some evidence that they’re trying to grow a backbone, but there’s also regretable moments of backsliding sometimes — I’m looking at you, Nancy Pelosi, and I am not pleased that you don’t think women’s reproductive health should be a litmus test for Democratic candidates: YES! It’s that important these days. Times have changed: we’ve gotten nothing from being embracing of other’s views — just backsliding on rights. Forget it. Done. Repeal Hyde Now.).

These people. Enough already.

Sickness and the government

I am not feeling particularly well. Something with my lungs, the doctors haven’t figured it out, and I don’t know when they will. Maybe they won’t. Maybe it will go away on it’s own. Maybe this will be an ongoing saga of me going to various doctors and doing research on my own until we figure out what’s wrong. Initial tests show nothing.

It’s the beginning of May now, and the next appointment to see the specialist I need to see is at the end of June, but I already had one with him for early July … so I kept that one. The horrors of waiting for appointments in a capitalist system of healthcare. Supply of doctors is kept artificially low by 1) lack of medical college slots and b) prohibitive expense of training. The result: doctor’s wages are very high, and you can’t get in to see the right one when you need to.

And then there’s my government, which seems to be working really hard to make me a pre-existing condition.  Well, since I’m female I already was. Now I have this thing, which may be nothing and may not be, and I’m sure down the line the Republicans in Congress will decide to make unknown pre-existing conditions subject to penalties as well. Because it’s not cost-effective if health insurance actually covers any of the diseases people actually have.

Although, to be fair, everyone hated this bill, insurance companies included. Doctors, nurses, health insurance companies (which have been thriving quite nicely under ACA, thank you very much), many religious communities, patients, constituents, governors, hospitals …. all hated it. So who was the intended audience? Crazy people? (and by crazy people I do not mean the mentally ill, who as far as I know also hated this bill since it cut their coverage for needed services as well).

I think the unintended consequence — one the insurance companies could foresee as well as anyone else — will be a huge push for a single-payer system. Medicare for all. Universal health care. Socialized medicine. All of it. And the insurance companies will be cut right out of the pie, and all because of Republicans in Congress who let greed overcome their common sense.

And maybe they felt backed into a corner: they had to repeal the ACA because they had said they were going to and they had tried so many times before. They spent so much time on their talking points about how evil it was they believed it themselves.

But the reaction of people back home should have been a tell. People are rising up, defending the ACA. People need to have pre-existing conditions covered. People need to have no caps on medical care. People like being able to keep their kids on their health insurance. There are many things people really like about the ACA, despite it’s faults. They want it fixed, not repealed.

They also didn’t want it replaced with a bill that is going to make their healthcare awful. They don’t want it replaced with something that is going to cause more deaths. They don’t want to go into bankruptcy just to pay for their health care.

The Republicans are severely underestimating the anger that is out there. The ACA isn’t perfect. Many people still can’t afford insurance. The premiums on the marketplace are still to high for many people, who fall in a gap between making enough money to afford it and making too much money to qualify for subsidies. But it made life a lot easier for a lot of people. A lot of the things that don’t work in the plan were trade-offs put in to appease Republicans, who then didn’t vote for it. Others were parts that the courts struck down, making the system much clunkier than designed.

What it isn’t, is universal health care. What it doesn’t fix is the problem of having a middle man between you and your health care, an insurance company who needs to make a profit off of denying health care to people who need it.

And the Republicans just took a step in pushing us toward it at a faster rate. Democrats who are looking to move up are talking about moving toward a universal health care/single payer system.  Democrats who are entrenched, who aren’t thinking about moving up the ladder, are resistant to the calls for single-payer — but Democrats who are ambitious have noticed declaring support for single-payer is an applause line.

Good luck with that healthcare bill you just passed and hung around your necks for the next election cycle, Republicans. You’re already afraid of your constituents in town halls — and really, finding people waving red cards at you threatening is beyond cowardly.

Stuck in your own bubble, what will you do when it bursts? Oh, right. You’ll be out of a job.

March for Science Chicago

Went to the March for Science Chicago today.  Saw many great signs — in fact, here’s one observation: scientists are big on clever signs, and not particularly into chanting.  So it was a quiet, polite, and civilized march.  Not as many came out as for the March for Women — but then, so much else is going on right now ….

Once again, a glorious day in Chicago for a protest march. Couldn’t ask for nicer. And we actually marched: it wasn’t just a stand. Marching is nice: a lovely walk with several thousand of your closest friends concerned about the same thing: data, the planet, evidence-based decision-making, climate change, the weather, new cures for whatever ails us, and so forth.

The fact that these marches happened all over the world is not just dismay over the current political situation in the United States — though that is a large part of it. It’s a global dismay that our dear leaders are not valuing science to any great degree. What is valued is money and corporate power.  Art and science are getting left behind.  And our world may not survive that choice.

When we can’t do anything about climate change at a governmental level, it’s left to individuals to make choices to protect the environment: and while individuals can do a lot, they cannot do it all. It is more powerful when the governments come in and prevent corporate entities (and themselves) from pushing harmful emissions into the air — and when the push for non-harmful, green efficiencies come not just from consumers but from government standards.

Plus, what good does cutting funds to the Center for Disease Control bring? More people dying from preventable illnesses, less tracking of epidemics, less support for communities experience epidemics: more death.

Add in the EPA, the NIH, the NSF, NOAA, NASA … and the consequences are damning.  More people will die who needn’t have died. More people will have less quality of life than need be.

Bottom line, this world is going to suck if we don’t do something.  Stand up and march, write your legislators, stop using plastic bags, take public transportation, ride your bike — but we need to keep funding research and we need to have government regulation to prevent disaster.

The Dark Ages were not man’s finest hour. Let’s not return to them.

MFS 4 22 2017 DATA

No, we don’t automatically support war

Read so much about how Trump’s ratings would go up now that he’s fired missiles at Syria.

Despite the fact that a large portion of the American people are tired of war in the Middle East.

Despite the fact that he campaigned against getting involved in Syria, criticized Obama for thinking about missile strikes in Syria, and many people thought he was less likely to start a Middle East war than Hillary.

Despite the fact that the Syrians were using the bombed airfield again the next day (memo to Trump: you could use some lessons from Mayor Richard M. Daley on how to take out an airfield in the middle of the night and leave it un-usable ever again).

Despite the fact that bombing an airfield didn’t actually help gassed children, and that the causalities of the bombing were mostly civilian.

Despite the fact that two things happened in the immediate aftermath of the war: Raytheon stocks went up, and so did oil prices.

Despite the fact Trump owns stock in Raytheon and rising oil prices help the Russians. (Memo to the press: everything else is just theater.  Learn to recognize theater when you see it: concentrate on the concrete end-results.  Prices went up on what? Who benefits?)

So we’re all suppose to rally around a “war president?” Really? When it was so transparent most Americans can see through the charade (even if Washington-based pundits can’t)?

I got news for you: bombs don’t help gassed children.  Bombs don’t help a refugee crisis. Bombs aren’t going to stop the humanitarian disaster there.

Bombs are not a humanitarian response to anything. They don’t work that way. In fact, they are the opposite of humanitarian aid.

So no: not distracted. Not impressed. Not my president, not my war.

Can we allow Syrian refugees to come in, now? Re-settle them, give them food and water and shelter and medical attention? And jobs? That would actually help.

 

Snow day

So I worked from home today.

I didn’t intend to. I got up, showered, dressed, put on boots, got my kid up, made two lunches, and went outside.

I cleared about 4 inches of snow off my car. Maybe 5, if we’re generous. The kid came along, got in, and we drove to the bus stop. I did not have to shovel the car out of the parking space. There just wasn’t that much snow.

Drove out of the hood on the sketchy side streets. This is fine: side streets are the last to be plowed, that makes sense. Least traffic, last plowed.  But then I got to the main roads: and they did not seem to be plowed or salted either. Lots of cars on them, just after 7 am, but no plows, no salt trucks.

I was hearing on the radio the Kennedy was over 2 hours in from O’Hare. That is absurd. It’s a ridiculous time. I thought to myself, well take local roads, maybe go southeast on Milwaukee. It’s got to be moving faster, right?

Every major road I was on was a mess. The great northwest side of Chicago had no roads plowed.  I saw one truck out: going north on Pulaski as I was going south. That’s it.

At some point as I was white-knuckling it down a major artery of the great city of Chicago I thought: I’m not going to make it in. I have to turn around and go home, or I’ll be on the road ALL day trying to get to the southside.  What is it, about 17 or so miles from home? Yeah, not going to make it.

So I spent two hours on the roads this morning, during rush hour, to get as far as Belmont before heading home. Not quite three miles. And back. So … six miles in two hours.

Now the really horrible part of this was that it was completely unnecessary. I have made it into work in far more snow than this, in far colder temperatures than this, in far worse conditions. The roads weren’t bad because of the snow.

The roads were bad because of choices made by our elected officials. There was a dearth of snowplows not because Chicago – a northern city – doesn’t have snowplows. Nor do we lack salt at this point in the season: we had no snow at all in January and February which is exceedingly rare (and very weird and unsettling).  The weather forecast was dead on: there was plenty of warning that the weather would be exactly what it was.

No, there were no snow removal trucks out because our Mayor is awful. Maybe he didn’t want to spend the money on overtime for the Streets and Sanitation guys, because if he got them up before dawn to take care of the roads before rush hour, the city would pay overtime.

Or maybe he’s getting back at the aldermen of the northwest side (and south side, and west side, and …) for not supporting him enough and raising questions about budgets.

Or maybe he’s just incompetent and hired incompetent people to run Streets and San. He doesn’t really care about actually making the city livable for it’s people. It’s not what he considers an important part of his job portfolio.

But wait, you say. The city isn’t responsible for the Kennedy and that was terrible. Yes, the expressways are under the purview of the State of Illinois, and the responsibility of IDOT, so not the Mayor’s fault there.

So let’s move on to our stubborn governor, who can’t get a budget passed in Springfield because he is too bone-headed to know you have to compromise with legislatures, equal branches of government being what they are and all. He is not a CEO, he is a governor. Not the same thing. State government is not a business, and can’t be run like one.

I’m guessing that IDOT has a cash-flow problem, like every other state agency, and wasn’t prepared for this snowstorm. Or perhaps, like the mayor, the governor put incompetent people in charge. Being a Republican, there’s no reason to suppose he believes government should work for the people. But you’d think he’d care that his buddies in the northern and very wealthy suburbs could drive their BMW’s into the City to get to the office …

Or maybe not. Maybe he just wants to ram home how disfunctional state government is, so he can continue to dismantle it.

I’ve gotten to work plenty of times in worse weather than this. The fact that we had the worst travel times EVER this morning was no accident and not a result of the relatively minor snowfall we had (4-5 inches? In Chicago? Pah. Trivial). That was a direct result of the choices made by the Mayor and the Governor.  Equally incompetent, equally smug and ego-driven.

The Twin Disasters.

Unhinged

Life feels a bit unhinged lately.  This starts at the top – Our current president, whether or not he is personally unhinged, leads in a very chaotic and unhinged manner. Chaotic evil, one might say, if one were using Dungeons and Dragons terminology. His view of the world seems dark and nightmarish, easily startled by the shadows in the night.  Or in his mind.  Or both.

His team would probably have an easier time of it if they could wean him from TV.  I think there’s a metaphor in there somewhere: we’ve worried so much about how much TV is good for our children, it turns out that the real problem is in how much TV we allow our elders. It seems to be rotting any number of brains.

The executive orders coming out of the White House are nuts. The way ICE is acting, rounding up law-abiding folks, interrogating people as they step off planes – it’s like a whole bevy of stupid bullies suddenly got the green light to act out their tough guy fantasies. None of this has anything to do with keeping us safe: it’s all about pretending to be macho.

And it’s not rational. It’s not based on anything other than a vigilante instinct, and a desire to seem more masculine. So sad.

 

 

 

 

The things you do to survive

I think somewhere out there there’s a triad of needs (and my kid, who is taking “adulting 101” at his high school, probably knows the answer to who dreamt it up and what the real theory is) – first comes the most basic: food and shelter and companionship. Then comes the other needs: the things that feed our souls, like art (for some), religion (for some), and service to others (the fine art of being needed). After that, on the pyramid of needs, comes all the STUFF we want and for which our real need is dubious at best.

I find myself thinking about this lately, because in this first year of Trump as our President, there is a need to do it all, to be constantly outraged, to be on the alert, to not let them get away with ANYTHING without protest – their ideas are so mean, so cruel, and so useless – it feels like it all has to be resisted at every moment.

But we can’t resist constantly: we’ll burn out.  And so there are the things you do to live another day and fight – the things that revive one and bring back the energy.

For me, there are a few things that are sustaining me: reading (preferably fiction), cooking and thinking about transforming my eating to a more plant-based diet, and art.

I’m reading Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,” which is about her family retreating to a family farm and making a vow to eat local for a year – preferably from their own farm, but also supporting local farms for the things they didn’t grow themselves.  It’s a fact-filled book that will fill you with both joy and fear – but this isn’t a book review.

Living in the city, as I do, I don’t have garden space — I do have a porch, but my porch is more suitable to flowers than vegetables, between the west-facing aspect and the marauding squirrels (the squirrels are fierce in my ‘hood). Herbs are really the edible of choice, and I grow them and horde them  until they flower …

Her descriptions of the joy of cooking food, cooking as a communal activity fill me with some kind of nostalgia – for me, cooking is a solitary activity, mostly because my own kitchen is so small. And I get crabby when there is an other who gets in the way. But I do like to talk to folks when I cook – as long as that other is out of the way.

And her book is clarifying some problems with the way most of us consume food, and why Americans are so fat and unhealthy – and why family farms are dying off. So, I’m resolving to spend more time at the farmer’s market, and trying to eat more locally, and cook more.

Tonight a ward committeeman who I like and admire is hosting an event discussing immigration, and has a great panel.  Instead, I am going to a panel at the library featuring black playwrights – opting for the politics of art over the politics of deportation. Why? Because the art will feed the soul a bit as it brings up issues we need to wrestle with.

Since January, I have found my involvement with art and artists to be the most sustaining work I do: whether it is performing myself (rare these days) or going to see others perform or talk about art. Even though it is frequently political – it is NOT escapism – the performative nature allows for a communal engagement and response that is somehow more affirming.

The point is: there are many forms of being engaged. Supporting local artists, like supporting local food, is an act of resistance in and of itself – as this administration moves to cut all funding to the arts (like it would like to do to science as well), local artists will need our support more than ever.

 

 

Taxes

Did tax things today.

Walked over to the bank, and paid the property taxes.  Walked home, stopping at the grocery store on the way.

After eating a bit of lunch, I settled in to do my income taxes. They don’t take me long: I have a single employer, I get health insurance through my employer, I have one deduction I claim, and I didn’t get to claim my kid this year (his father did).

They still make me cranky.  Not because I have to pay taxes. But because the property taxes are so high, and the income taxes relatively low.

This state is falling apart. Education funding is abysmal. We should lower our property taxes by raising income taxes — and oh, yeah, switch to a graduated income tax like civilized people instead of this flat tax nonsense.

Then the state should pay it’s bills, including what it owes to the education system and the retirement benefits for state employees.

The current system doesn’t work. It needs to be re-invented. The state’s education system is way too dependent on property taxes, and it needs to be de-coupled from those taxes. A graduated income tax would solve a lot of these problems.

And yes, rich people would hire lawyers and tax accountants to try to get out of paying their fair share: that’s what they do.  We’d still end up ahead.

Addendum: in an article by the Chicago Tribune comparing Illinois in 2010 to 2014, the Tribune used an ALEC scale to claim Illinois’ ranking had improved — significantly because more children had access to charter schools. The take-away number, however, is that Illinois lost ground to other states in terms of education spending per child.