9 08 2020

One of the big headline stories  recently is that Dr. Anthony Fauci and his family now need bodyguards because there are people making credible threats against them. The covid epidemic has sparked a lot of distrust and division. Some people call it “the planned-demic,” a tool that the Democrats are using to make Trump look bad, that Dr. Fauci and others are inflating the danger in an attempt to demoralize the country (thus the death threats), and thus the right thing to do is to ignore all the warnings about wearing a mask. “It’s killed 0.04% of our population,” one commenter on my Facebook feed wrote. “Yeah, this is getting serious.” Yeah, it’s only about four times as many Americans as got killed in the Vietnam War, but instead of being drawn out over a decade, it’s in the last five months. Nothing serious. But the point is, a whole lot of people don’t trust that the government and the media are telling them the truth about what’s going on.

Their distrust is both irrational and rational. First, here’s the irrational part. If you step back far enough to take in what’s going on all around the world, it’s clear that covid is a real threat, and that our government has botched its response, and that botched response has been amplified by the skepticism of so many Americans. But their distrust is also rational, given that the American medical system and its advocates in media and politics have told us that it is the best medical system in the world, even though it’s clearly failing us right now. Even before the current crisis, there was widespread awareness of the many faults of our system–wildly inflated prices, overtreatment and overbilling, misdiagnosis, a tendency to focus on minutiae and miss the big picture.

At the same time, America’s medical system is the most expensive in the world, and has used its wealth to prevent any kind of universal health insurance coverage, let alone a national health system that would lower the cost of that health coverage by removing the profit motive. The US is the only “developed country” in the world where one of the most common side effects of a cancer diagnosis is bankruptcy. Indeed, this is the only country in the world where “medical bankruptcy” is even an issue, and where chronic disease is a pretext for the extortion of wealth from the sick person and their family to doctors, pharmaceutical companies, and other already fabulously wealthy “health care providers,” such as, here in Tennessee, the Frist family and Phil Bredesen.  So gee, why would anybody distrust the word of the medical establishment?

Along similar lines, there is strong bipartisan support among the people of this country for some kind of universal-access public health system. The Democratic Party has had to pull out all the stops to prevent an advocate of universal single payer health care, and a lot of other very popular reforms of our society, from becoming its Presidential candidate. So, does the Democrats’ platform acknowledge this incredibly popular, demonstrably helpful idea? No, in large part due to the influence of money from for-profit medical businesses. The Dems nominated a candidate who is not afraid to state publicly that he would veto “Medicare for All” if Congress, by some miracle, passed it. And Bernie Sanders, the guy who campaigned so valiantly for “Medicare for All,” says he will support that vetoer, the burned-out husk of Joe Biden, for President. Yet another reason not to trust the medical establishment or our political system–or even alleged “insurgents” in our political system.

If you are African-American or otherwise of non-European origin, or if you are a low-income Euro-American, you know you can’t trust that the police will not, at any moment, swoop in and kill you. There was a story on the news as I was writing this about an African-American family that included an autistic young adult, Kobe Dimmock-Heisler.

Kobe Dimmock-Heisler

Kobe’s mother

His grandfather called 911 for help because Kobe was waving a knife around. By the time four police officers showed up, he had calmed down, and the family told the police they didn’t need their help and asked them to leave. The police didn’t leave. They forced their way into the house, which got Kobe agitated again. In response, the police shot him a total of six times, murdering him in the presence of his horrified mother, grandfather, and other family members. Read the rest of this entry »


13 01 2019

Before I get going with my main topic for tonight, I want to briefly address “the government shutdown,” because what I have to say about it seems obvious to me,  but I haven’t heard it from anybody else: Reactionary political organizer Grover Norquist is famous for saying he wanted to shrink the government down to such a small size that he could drown it in a bathtub, and I think that is exactly what Pres. Turnip and his friends are attempting to do–not shrink the government, but see if it’s been shrunk to the drownable point yet. In all likelihood, we are not at that point, but those attempting the drowning are not prepared to admit failure about this, or it, seems, any other issue. Don’t get all smug, Democrats–in your own way, you’re the same kind of crazy.

That gets us back to the original point of this monologue/essay, so on with the show.

I had one of those spontaneous flashes of political insight the other day, the kind of thing that sometimes pops up when I’m trying to settle in and do my own mental housecleaning. There’s nothing like stumbling knee deep through your own mental trash to hang you up when you’re trying to do something to clean up the planetary garbage crisis. Inasmuch as I don’t feel like I’ve been terribly effective in my efforts to clean up the world outside, I guess I must not have done all that well at straightening my inner world, although I can chalk up a few achievements. I navigated a divorce without my ex and I, or the friend she left me for, hating each other, and I haven’t been pushy with a woman, punched a guy, or helped myself to my friends’ peanut butter in quite a few decades. Peanut butter? Yes, I used to be a compulsive peanut  butter eater. I no longer suffer from that affliction. Long story, actually several of them, but some other time, OK? We’re here to talk politics.

The flash of political insight was, “Climate change denial is to Republicans as Russiagate is to Democrats.” Let me lay out the parallels for you. Read the rest of this entry »


14 09 2014

One of my readers is a guy who was a hippie in San Francisco in the late 60’s, but then took, as it were, “The right-hand path,” deciding that, in his words, “Conservatives have better answers than liberals.”  He first contacted me several years ago to comment on my tendency to refer to the two major parties as “Repuglycans” and “Dumbocrats,” pointing out that this was likely to turn off more people than it would turn on.  Well, those were juvenile insults stemming from my own deep sense of powerlessness in the ongoing circus, and I’ve abandoned the terms.  Last month, he got in touch with me again, asking

 I am curious — assuming you aren’t entrenched in a belief that conservatives are “sociopaths” or suffer from some other deficiency — what you make of this divide and how we might nonetheless speak across it and find some manner of constructively engaging each other…..I do wonder what it means for our country that we have become so polarized and separated that there is almost no temperate discussion across the divide. If you would like to compare notes on that, I’d be quite interested.

to which I replied:

This question, I think, is one of several that needs to be answered–and (those answers) implemented–if complex life forms on the planet are to have a future. As I’ve turned this over in my mind since I first read it, I have come up with several different approaches, and I think I’m going to have to write them down to fully understand what they mean and where they lead. That’s not something I’m going to do right this moment, but  i appreciate your request as a call to organize my thoughts on the subject, including what I mean when I say “sociopath.”

I asked him for more information about how he saw things, so that I would have a better idea of who/what I was addressing, and he wrote

I don’t believe a world of voluntary peasants is necessary or even workable. I don’t believe human nature changes much. I don’t believe the earth is on the verge of ecological collapse. I am not a pacifist. I think war or the threat of war is sometimes necessary. Similar to democracy, I think capitalism is the worst economic system except for all the others. I think technology is the way forward and is steadily raising the standard of living worldwide. I think most leftist efforts to transform society trade minor gains for major unintended consequences.

The time has come for me to fulfil my promise.  To some extent, I’m going to be thinking out loud (so to say), and I’m not quite sure where this is going to land.  It may not be pretty, or even cheerful, but here goes. Read the rest of this entry »

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