Sunday, May 7, 2017

Trump Accidentally Makes Sense

Stop the presses! Big news! Donald Trump said something that wasn’t bullshit!

The Trump comment that blew open the news cycle is this: Turning to Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, he said, “You have better healthcare than we do.”

Yes, like pretty much every developed country in the world except ours, Australia has government-mandated universal health care. As Bernie Sanders tweeted in response to Trump’s accidental truth-telling: “President Trump is right. The Australian healthcare system provides healthcare to all of its people at a fraction of the cost than we do.”

This leaves us with two questions. (Three, if you count, “How did this clueless blowhard get to be president?”): First, “Why don’t we have inexpensive universal coverage like Australia, Canada, France, South Korea, etc.?” and, second, “Why, if universal health care is a good thing, did Trump push for the repeal-Obamacare vote in the House that made this worthy goal ever more unreachable?”

The answer to both of these questions is money - foul and fetid money. Such money has an epoxy-like grip on our elected officials, and, since a lot of this dirty money comes from the insurance and pharmaceutical companies, our GOP-controlled Congress favors these corporations while giving the shaft to the rest of us. A health care plan that enriches Aetna and Allstate by stripping away our coverage, makes conservative Republicans happy. Right now, they are ecstatic.

A Brief Lesson in Washington Ecology:

Corporate money lets callous bastards win elections;

once in office, these bastards rewrite laws

that help corporations suck more money out of us

which they funnel to their pro-corporate conservative reps for the next election cycle.

It’s the Circle of Life, Washington Swamp version.

The system wouldn’t work if more voters could figure out how to protect their own interests. But this doesn’t seem to be in the cards right now. Millions of them were duped last November by a corrupt, bullshit-spewing, corporate bastard who seems to regard the White House as his family’s latest marketing platform. Of course, when they start to lose their insurance coverage because of the new so-called health care plan, some voters may start to see the light. Should that happen, I wonder if they will remember the one honest comment that Trump made about health care – that our system is worse than Australia’s government-mandated, universal-coverage program.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Fake News in Paradise

We are living in crazy times. A lot of Americans have decided that a story is only true if it fits their political disposition. 

So here's a question: Did President Obama wiretap Donald Trump?

The answer, if you believe the FBI and other authoritative sources, is NO.

But,  if you really like Donald Trump, the answer is YES!

In an environment like this, where a story's truth depends on the reader's prejudices, Fake News will inevitably rear its ugly head. And sadly, the hoary visage of Fake News has succeeded in blemishing our own paradisiacal campus here at Rollins College.

The real story is this: A Rollins student, Marshall Polston, was temporarily suspended from the campus for his behavior which was making some people quite uncomfortable. Mr. Polston had, at the same time he was causing this discomfort, managed to have ongoing disagreements with Professor Areej Zufari, the instructor in his Middle Eastern Humanities class.

Mr. Polston has been spending a lot of time talking to right-wing media sources about his disagreements with Professor Zufari in connection with his suspension, but has apparently declined to mention to these sources that he was suspended not for any such disagreements but by virtue of the complaints made by those individuals, both females (one of them Professor Zufari), to whom he was causing distress.

Here is a link to an analysis by Snopes which includes a letter from Rollins to Mr. Polston which identifies those with whom he was instructed to avoid interaction. The student's name, no doubt for legal reasons, is obscured by a blue marker.

But Rollins is not the only place where Mr. Polston's behavior has caused trouble. Here is a March 31 story from the Independent Alligator of Gainesville, describing his suspension from the University of Florida for behavior similar to that which he has exhibited at Rollins.

But sadly, those sources that indulge in conservatively biased fake news have been posting headlines like this:

From The Blaze:

School suspends Christian student who challenged Muslim prof who said Jesus' crucifixion is a hoax

And from the Washington Times:

Rollins College lifts suspension of student who disagreed with Muslim prof over Jesus' crucifixion

In fact, Mr. Polston's suspension (from Rollins and, I'm guessing, from the University of Florida) had nothing to do with Muslims, Christians, crucifixions or hoaxes. It had to do with behavior that made  people uncomfortable both in and outside of class.

Mr. Polston has retained an attorney and, in addition to sending out misleading stories to fake news purveyors, has claimed innocence on the basis of a weirdly unconvincing videotape that he offers as proof that he was not present when he was described as being on campus causing distress. 

But I don't think Mr. Polston needs an attorney. He needs a friend. Or someone who cares enough about him to sit down with him and let him explore whatever impulses he is feeling that are causing distress to those around him. I believe that, though these individuals are upset by his behavior, he is, at bottom, more upset than any of them.

Best wishes to you, Mr. Polston. And please remember the commandment against bearing false witness. (I haven't been to church in about 50 years, so I can't say which number Commandment this is, but I'm quite sure it's one of them.)

           Rollins College - Paradise, I tell you!




Thursday, March 16, 2017

None Dare Call It Trumpcare

President Trump [sic] is having a tough week. The “repeal and replace Obamacare” operation is running into trouble because Obamacare (i.e., the Affordable Care Act) was designed to help poor Americans get and keep insurance while the GOP replacement plan is designed to make the rich and powerful richer and more powerful. This fact should not be a surprise since the rich and powerful are the Republicans’ favorite charity (about $33,000 in tax cuts for the one percent, $197,000 for the one tenth of one percent in the Republican health care proposal). What is surprising is Mr. Trump’s refusal to call the GOP plan “Trumpcare.” I’m not sure why. Maybe he’s just modest about putting his name on big expensive things.

Now perhaps you believe the GOP is making a good faith effort to help poor Americans keep their health insurance. And perhaps you are an idiot. The fact is Republicans hate Obamacare for three reasons; first, it makes insurance affordable to poor Americans by providing them with subsidies - which in GOP-speak is “a government takeover of health care;” second, once established Americans were certain to like it, or, as Senator Ted Cruz said in 2013, Americans were bound to “get addicted to the sugar” of Obamacare and therefore it would never be repealed; and third, it was President Obama’s signature program. This was the most damning feature of all, given that GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell had stated that the Republicans’ primary goal was to ensure that Obama failed as a president.

But Trumpcare (or Ryancare or Billionairecare or whatever) is in trouble now since conservative Republicans say it isn’t generous enough to the super-rich and moderate Republicans say that taking away insurance from 24 million Americans would make it hard for them to get re-elected.

And Trumpcare isn’t The Donald’s only problem. Just yesterday federal judges began telling him that his travel ban on six Muslim nations (whose citizens have been responsible for no terrorist attacks in the U.S.) is unconstitutional. Admittedly, Mr. Trump was facing a delicate problem here. Putting together a carefully constructed travel ban whose provisions would appeal to his base (which is chock full of anti-Muslim bigots), but making it seem to be totally unrelated to religious discrimination is not an easy thing to do. As President Obama said, being president is hard, and Mr. Trump seems to be starting to get that.

Making the job even harder is his having to deal with imaginary wiretaps. Just because they only exist in Mr. Trump’s head doesn’t make it any easier for him to endure them. I guess I shouldn’t say the wiretaps exist only in his head, because he did find them referenced on Breitbart or Bigots-R-Us or some other such “news” source that he likes to rely on. And think about this: just how hard is it going to be for Trump to handle the presidency when he starts seeing imaginary assassination squads coming after him?

As Americans, we naturally have to be concerned about the Trump presidency. Especially because we now face a growing nuclear threat from another national leader even more dishonest, deluded, and psychologically unstable than President Trump: North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.

Maybe it’s just me, but I firmly believe that it is a crime for someone who is entirely unfit for the presidency to actually run for president. The question is, can we consider it the kind of high crime or misdemeanor that is the necessary basis for impeachment?

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone.

He didn't say assassination squads, he said "assassination squads!"