Friday, June 30, 2017

Only legitimize the false and already debunked claims

I wrote yesterday that the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity asked each state to send full voter rolls. Today I found they want that data within the next two weeks.

I also found wide resistance. California Secretary of State said:
I will not provide sensitive voter information to a commission that has already inaccurately passed judgment that millions of Californians voted illegally. … California’s participation would only serve to legitimize the false and already debunked claims of massive voter fraud made by the president, vice president, and [commission member Kris] Kobach.
Election officials in Virginia, Kentucky, and Connecticut also said no, as have in many other states, bringing the total to 22. Alas, Michigan isn’t one of them. So tell you elected officials to tell the Secy. of State that this commission should not have our private information

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Can’t debate someone into caring

Kayla Chadwick, writing for Huffington Post, had been trying to reach out to nasty guy supporters and have those “difficult conversations.” But she has run into a problem.
I don’t know how to explain to someone why they should care about other people.
Chadwick would be happy to pay another 17 cents for a Big Mac if it means the burger flipper will be able to feed her family. A little extra in taxes so that everyone has good health care? Great! Taxes to pay for public schools? Yes, all children deserve a quality, free education.
There are all kinds of practical, self-serving reasons to raise the minimum wage (fairly compensated workers typically do better work), fund public schools (everyone’s safer when the general public can read and use critical thinking), and make sure every American can access health care (outbreaks of preventable diseases being generally undesirable).

But if making sure your fellow citizens can afford to eat, get an education, and go to the doctor isn’t enough of a reason to fund those things, I have nothing left to say to you.

I can’t debate someone into caring about what happens to their fellow human beings.

To bring this back to one of my top themes: Ranking is stronger – much stronger – than empathy. People are quite willing to let another (lots of others) die to maintain their rank in society.

Incompatible with democracy

The bottom feeding National Rifle Association has hit a new low in a short video. It clearly divides the country into us and them and concludes:
The only way we save our country and our freedom, is to fight this violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth.
And since NRA members are the ones with the guns, this sounds a lot like a call for a civil war.

Why did the NRA create this video? Since the nasty guy took office gun sales have dropped. Only a threat of a civil war will ratchet up paranoia on the right enough to get their sales numbers up.

Last week Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) responded to the shooting of a GOP rep. at baseball practice by introducing a bill to allow Members of Congress to carry a concealed handgun practically anywhere they wanted to.

Melissa McEwan of Shakesville says this is incompatible with democracy. GOP Congresscritters have already assaulted reporters over questions they didn’t like. Some look pretty annoyed with voters who ask inconvenient questions. What if the Congresscritter, in his anger, didn’t bother with fists and went for the gun?

Why not instead introduce bills to avert gun attacks? One idea that would likely be highly effective would be to prevent gun sales to someone with a history of domestic violence.

Such a little bribe

Mark Sumner of DailyKos reports that the Congressional Budget Office, in the same report that said 22 million would lose healthcare under the Senate bill, also said the bill would save $188 billion more than originally anticipated and designated for tax cuts for the rich. Which means, says Sumner, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has plenty of money to bribe holdout senators into supporting the bill.

Hey, senator, got a special project in your state that is being overlooked? Would $10 billion help?

McConnell won’t make that offer to either Michigan senators because both are Democrats. But I could imagine him going to someone like Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and closing a deal. Hey, Rick, baby, I hear roads in Michigan are pretty rotten…

One thing the money is not going to be used for is improving Medicaid just a smidge so that it throws off only 21 million people instead of 22 million.

So do not think that because McConnell delayed the vote that this monstrosity is dead. Especially since the vice nasty guy has been put in charge of guiding it to the finish line.

Even so, a few GOP senators, such as Mike Rounds of South Dakota, have noticed that the bill is being portrayed as throwing people off Medicaid (and causing many to die) to give a tax cut to the rich. The idea of blood money bothers them. In a media environment concerned with optics over substance, this is a case where the optics are helpful to the cause. Thanks, Senator Warren!

And if this nasty bill goes through and you lose your health insurance and die because you don’t get the care? Laura Vitto wrote a post for Mashable when the House passed its bill. In it she says there is a new website that offers a new service. You can fill out the appropriate paperwork so that after you die your ashes will be sent to your GOP Congressman.

I wouldn't want to see what kind of trophy wall they might build with all those urns.

Senators and citizens kibitzing

Kris Kobach is on the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. He was appointed by the vice nasty guy for his sterling work in voter suppression in Kansas. Now Kobach and this commission have made a move. They sent a letter to every state requesting full voter rolls, including all names with party affiliations, voting history, and even last four of the SSN.

This is partial answer to the question: How can the GOP insist on passing such a deeply unpopular “healtcare” bill, one that has only 17% approval rating and could mean death to many citizens? That answer is: They don’t intend for the 2018 election to be fair. All this data could be used to show where voter suppression is helpful to the GOP cause. And suppression can be as simple as reducing the number of voting machines in minority precincts to drive long lines and people saying I can’t wait that long.

A magical event happened a few days ago. Ben Wikler, Washington Director for Move On, captured a few photos of it as he became a part of it. NJ Senator Cory Booker and civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis sat down on the Capitol steps, opened a Facebook Live stream and started talking about Trumpcare. Pretty soon Senators Jeff Merkley, Chris Murphy, Kristin Gillibrand, Brian Schatz, Bob Casey, and perhaps a few more joined them, as did a growing crowd of regular citizens, perhaps hundreds. The crowd shared stories about health care. Wikler says it felt like a picnic. This is what democracy looks like – “senators and citizens kibitzing about issues.” It became a rally and the start of the People’s Filibuster.

A quote being passed around Twitter:
Choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought.
To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears.
To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool.
To be led by a thief is to offer up your most precious treasurers to be stolen.
To be led by a liar is to ask to be told lies.
To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery.
– Octavia E. Butler, Parable of the Talents (Earthseed, #2)

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The family killer

Mom’s death this past week was the fifth death in the family in 21 months. And four of the five were because of cancer.

Dad died of cancer of the white blood cells. Time from first symptoms was about 8 months.

Brother Tim died of a blood clot that hit his heart.

Sister-in-law Karen died of brain cancer. Time from first symptoms was about 4½ months. Karen had an earlier bout of brain cancer, though that instance was as a tumor that could be removed. The killer round was more diffuse, defeating treatment.

Dad’s cousin Sara also died of brain cancer. Time from first symptoms was about a month.

Mom’s cancer wasn’t exactly diagnosed, though perhaps a variation of a skin cancer in her mouth. Time from first symptoms was about 3 months. Mom also had two earlier bouts of skin cancer, 38 and 32 years ago. She also had breast cancer, though I don’t know how long ago.

In Mom’s case I’ll ask, which is worse – cancer or Alzheimer’s?

Cancer may be cruel – it took Karen far too young – but it is quick. Mom had been dealing with Alzheimer’s for 14 years and, before cancer intervened, it looked like it could go for a few more. During the last couple years professional care was expensive. In addition, it was stealing Mom a bit at a time. It was heartbreaking to hear her say, I don’t know where I am, I don’t know these people, I don’t know where my husband is, please don’t lose me.

I admire brother Tom for putting up with that for a year and visiting her nearly every day.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Bye, Mom

I last posted on Tuesday. One thing that has happened since then I that I caught a cold – an extra deep voice on Thursday, adding a drippy nose on Friday. You know the story. The other thing that happened…

Mom died.

I had spent Wednesday evening at the Ruth Ellis Center and, once home, saw an email from brother Tom. The subject was “Mom” and the contents, “Call me.” It was easy to guess what the phone call would be about.

When I saw Mom a week ago I could see she wouldn’t last long. Tom proceeded to prepare a place for her in his house for her final days. On Wednesday a hospital bed was delivered and set up. As the workmen finished their work Tom got the call saying Mom had passed. He told them to take it away.

Mom had worsening Alzheimer’s since 2003, eventually requiring professional care at a residence near Tom. But it was cancer that took her life. The most obvious sign was the tumor in her mouth, but it also grew in lymph nodes and probably invaded other parts of her body. She wasn’t eating much and likely the food she did eat fed the cancer.

So while I sniffle from the cold I’ve also been working on the consequences of death – beginning to notify investment companies, emailing with relatives to choose a date for the memorial service, writing an obituary (which always seem so sparse), sending forms to the funeral home near Tom, and notifying the church (the one Mom and Dad attended for more than a half century). And my big project is to assemble photos of Mom to display during visitation.

As I’ve been cleaning out Mom and Dad’s house over the last two years I’ve found lots of photos, in particular an estimated 3000 slides. I’ve digitized perhaps half of them and know the treasures. Now I shifted to simply looking through the rest of the slides for images on Mom. Between the slides and digitized photos I have a folder of more than 70 images. I’ll get the slides professionally printed to display during visitation. Alas, my collection doesn’t include images from 1992 to 2015, after Dad got a digital camera. Dad certainly didn’t stop taking pictures. But I don’t have them.

An obituary seems sparse. A full life condensed to one short newspaper column. So this post is an attempt to be a bit less sparse. Even so, one can’t summarize a long life in a blog post.

Mom was born in July of 1929 in St. Louis. She missed her 88th birthday by less than a month. She and her sisters were preacher’s kids. At her birth her father was already working as a preacher at a new church in New Orleans. Her birth was in St. Louis so her mother could be with family.

At five years old and with two younger sisters the family moved back to St. Louis where her father took over a large church in south St. Louis. He served there for 25 years and this is where Mom grew up.

This photo is of the three girls in 1937. Mom is on the right. They are about to be flower girls for their aunt’s wedding.

During the Depression and the War the family did pretty well. Because he was a pastor her father got extra gasoline ration cards to make sure he could visit his congregation in their homes. If he managed to save up a few the family visited relatives in farms outside the city.

Mom went to Heidelberg College in northern Ohio. The reason for a school so far from home is it was associated with her father’s denomination, Evangelica Reformed. This is where she met Dad. He attended (for two years before switching to Ohio State) because it was less than 25 miles from the farm. This is them in 1949.

Dad told the story: On a cold Sunday morning Mom took the bus from college to a tiny village a couple miles from the farm. Something delayed milking that morning so Dad was late picking her up. In addition, he still wore his stinky barn clothes. When they got to the house they could tell a skunk had done its thing under the back porch. All those odors did not kill the budding romance. Dad says Mom passed the smell test.

Mom majored in Christian Education, something suitable for a woman of the era. Mom may have worked at a church for a while after marriage, but that ended when kids started arriving. Though Mom didn’t earn a paycheck she did put her education to work in the church’s Sunday School and Vacation Bible School programs.

Mom graduated on Saturday, June 2, 1951 (I just found her diploma, which is dated Monday, June 4). Dad graduated on Saturday, June 9. They were married Saturday, June 16 in St. Louis. Mom’s father walked her down the aisle, then turned around and officiated for the ceremony. The couple spent their honeymoon in St. Louis. Amazingly, her father allowed them the use of his car for the weekend. From photos I’ve seen it looks like the following weekend, back in Ohio, Mom and Dad had a weekend at Lake Erie – with Dad’s brother and sister tagging along.

The couple moved to Champaign, Illinois where Dad got his Master of Dairy Science at the University of Illinois. This is where my twin brothers were born. On graduating Dad applied to work at bull farms from Oregon to Connecticut. The only one with an opening was in Springfield, Missouri. This is where my third brother was born.

But the boss was one of these characters who knew everything. After 18 months, Dad had enough and quit. Mom was not pleased – she was caring for 3 active boys and I was on the way. The family moved to the farm, where Mom became the primary caretaker of the farmhouse – quite a change for the city girl. This is where I and my first sister were born.

She did this for 2½ years, until Dad got a job at IBM (at the dawn of the computer age and quite a switch from Dairy Science) and could save enough money to buy a house in Cleveland. This is where the second sister was born. We lived there until Dad was transferred to Flint in 1963 to work on the General Motors accounts. We moved in January of 1964. What sold the house was Mom standing in the living room and looking at the snow-covered pine trees in the back yard.

From 1966 to 1972 there were annual road trips. The first one was a four week journey to Los Angeles, where Dad’s sister was living. For the first one we has a station wagon towing a pop-up camper. We also added a cousin, so there were 9 of us in that little car before air conditioning was standard. And around Palm Springs it got up to 118F.

In 1967 we went to New York City (where Dad had to work for two weeks and we camped outside the city) then on to Montreal for the World’s Fair. There was a memorable (for Mom) day near Kingston, NY where Dad again had to work and Mom was stuck in the camper trying to keep six kids entertained while it rained all day.

In 1968 we had a van, which made travel more comfortable, so we could add two cousins for a trip to Yellowstone. The last big trip was to Boston in 1972. The twins did not want to go because they were already in college and had girlfriends. But they did.

And, yes, Mom did most of the same household chores, though at a propane stove in the woods. She got as much help as she did at home – my brothers, who were in Explorer Scouts, could make a bonfire and cook over it. At home we all learned to cook.

Here is a picture of the camper, the front of the van, and the twins during that trip to Boston.

Both Mom and Dad were active in the local church. Mom served on practically every committee. She was active in the women’s group, also serving as president. Four sons played in the bell choir, so after I graduated from high school Mom joined and played for 28 years. There were many Christmas Eves where I played bells at my church, then jumped in the car to hear Mom’s group play at the late service.

Once all of us were out of the house Mom joined the Flint chapter of Church Women United. She served as president of that group too. Mom grew up Evangelical Reformed. She married a Methodist with an Episcopal mother-in-law. One son became Catholic. Naturally, she became a part of a group that reached across denominations and advocated for women.

Outside the church Mom was a Cub Scout Den Mother and helped when my sisters were in the early stages of Girl Scouts. She also was pretty good with a sewing machine, making clothes for herself and us (though mostly daughters). She supported us in all we did, attending concerts and shows that we were a part of.

Of course, there were grandchildren, eventually 14, some living nearby, some requiring travel to visit, which Mom and Dad did frequently. The current count of great-grandchildren is 32. They visited family in St. Louis and Ohio and helped organize family reunions. They came to stay with me for five weeks when I lived in Cologne, Germany. They visited a brother when he lived in London and they all went to Russia for a week on a river boat. There were also trips to China, Israel, Hawaii, and Alaska.

Mom had bouts of skin cancer at age 50 and 55. Spots were removed from her cheek. There was also breast cancer in there somewhere, though I don’t remember when. Even so, Mom and Dad remained vital and active parts of the church and community. For Mom that faded as the Alzheimer’s increased beginning at age 74. For Dad that continued until his final illness at age 86.

Goodbye, Mom. And thank you.

At her 87th birthday

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

They want women weakened

This afternoon I saw the movie The Zookeeper’s Wife. Antonina Zabinski, and her husband Jan run the zoo in Warsaw in the 1930s. It is obvious that Antonina loves animals and will do whatever is necessary to care for them.

Then the Nazis invade. Mr. Heck, the head of the Berlin Zoo (who seems to stick around Warsaw a lot) tells her the best animals in the zoo will be well cared for in Berlin. After those are hauled away the rest of the animals are shot.

Antonina tells Heck, I’ve got all these pens and workers, why don’t we raise pigs for the Nazi soldiers to eat? We can feed the pigs with the garbage from the Warsaw Ghetto. When Jan collects the garbage he also smuggles out Jews hiding beneath the garbage. They are hidden in the basement of the house. Antonina is a sweet and tender lady in the way she treats her traumatized guests. She also has an inner core of steel in facing down Heck.

The movie is a cat-and-mouse game of keeping their refugees safe from the nosy Heck. The movie is very much about resisting authoritarian regimes.

Of course, I thought a lot of the current American authoritarian regime. Would life in America get as bad as the Warsaw ghetto?

Sarah Kendzior has an academic background studying authoritarian regimes. So when she calls out the nasty guy and the entire GOP she knows what she is talking about. A lot of what she is saying lately is the nasty guy and the GOP really are that bad. They really are displaying a lot of the signs of authoritarianism. Take it seriously! The hidden Senate healthcare bill is one of those signs.

A tweet comments that the GOP being so cold hearted that they would pass a healthcare bill that takes away insurance from 23 million people doesn’t make sense. Kendzior replies in a tweet:
1) Profit 2) Weakened, sick population can’t fight back 3) Plan hurts women most; women lead opposition 4) Helps Russia + other adversaries
In another tweet she links to an article she wrote back in early May for the site Marie Claire that explains in more detail.
The healthcare law is not only a sadistic assault on the sick and vulnerable, but a gendered attack meant to render his most forceful opponents, American women, helpless. Autocracy and patriarchy often go hand in hand; the countries with the highest levels of political freedom in general tend to prioritize women's healthcare, education, and other basic rights.

And American women know it. Since Trump took power, protests against his administration have consisted overwhelmingly of women.

Women, in other words, are a huge problem for the Trump administration. Unable to silence our voices, they've turned to controlling our bodies—and repressing women, whether through biology or social structures, is a characteristic aspect of authoritarian rule. It's meant to frighten us into disillusionment and compliance. When survival becomes our primary objective—when anger about willful denial of climate change is overshadowed by the more urgent need to pay for a critical doctor's appointment—it's harder to organize, protest, run for office, or generally fight back. Instead, we have to live.

Republicans behave as if they do not expect the 2018 elections to be free and fair … When representatives flaunt their disregard for public will this blatantly, they insinuate that public will is irrelevant. It's a classic authoritarian tell: They see their political dominance as a lock.

Targeting women's health is part of this administration's broader autocratic strategy to shut the opposition down. They want women weakened, desperate, and politically irrelevant as public frustration grows.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Seventeen Solutions – enlist enlightened super-rich

Continuing my overview of Ralph Nader's book, The Seventeen Solutions. Click here to get the rest of the series.

16. Enlist the Enlightened Super-Rich

There are indeed some really rich people driving politics these days. At the top of the list are David and Charles Koch. They – the Kochs and many others of the 1% – funnel huge amounts of money into the political process, both at the national and state levels. And they are successful at bending Congress and state legislators to their will.

The current GOP healthcare plan is an example of this. It is hugely unpopular with ordinary citizens. So why is Congress so intent on passing it? Because the rich want it.

But not all rich people are like that. Some are actually progressives.

There is a long history of rich people supporting such causes as abolition, women’s right to vote, and breaking up monopolistic oil. And with the rise of the tech millionaires, that wealth should be tapped again.

An example where that worked: In 2005, William Gates, Sr. (father of Microsoft Bill) recruited a thousand rich people to oppose the repeal of the estate tax. He teamed with an economic expert to write a little book “about the responsibility to pay the estate tax as payback for all the help that rich people like them have received over their lifetimes.” They spent millions over three years on this campaign.

An example that failed: In 2003 George Soros spoke out against going to war in Iraq, joining the voices of many outspoken former military and diplomatic people. But Soros didn’t put his money on the table – $200 million out of a wealth of more than $2 billion would have done it. And America started a disastrous war.

Another failure: Warren Buffet called on Congress to change tax laws so that “billionaires like me pay more in taxes.” He did a lot of talking about fairness, both to Congress and fellow rich people. But he hasn’t put his wealth behind the effort. And Congress is itching to do the opposite of what Buffet campaigned for.

Yes, lots of rich people donate the money for libraries, new college buildings, and hospitals. But there is a difference between charity and justice. “Money to charity eases the problem; money to justice destroys the problem.” This is the reason: spend the money on justice and everyone, including the rich, live in a better world.

In 2009 the estimated wealth of the Forbes 400 richest people in America to be about $1200 billion. Most of half of that ($600 billion) is “dead money,” only accumulating interest or dividends. It could be live money, by funding justice, by creating a better society.
How much would it cost to get single-payer health insurance, prison and drug policy reform, a living wage, severe reductions in corporate crime and fraud, voluntary public funding of public campaigns, and organized consumer watchdog groups? How much would it cost to place our country on a sure path to replacing fossil fuels and nuclear power with renewable energies and massive energy efficiency technology? How much would it cost to implement electoral reforms, such as ending the practice of gerrymandering or removing ballot access obstructions to give voters a choice of many candidates of varied agendas? How much would it cost to enact a sales tax on Wall Street trading transactions, which would bring in hundreds of billions of dollars a year to salvage budgets and lighten up taxes on workers? How much would it take to enact the kind of carbon tax that’s been favored even by ExxonMobil? …

Unlike most major social changes – which rely on the kinds of behavioral change that’s almost impossible to mandate – these popular proposals need only to go through Congress and the president to take effect – and they already have solid intellectual, empirical, and public support. The only question is how much money it will take to organize a successful campaign to get them enacted.

As for who will provide these funds, the answer should be clear. The enlightened super-rich – those who are interested not just in money but in justice.

Without justice there can be no freedom and no liberty. “Philanthropy” means “love of mankind.” Collective love is at the core of justice. The wealthiest among us, those who have the broadest horizons to put forces in motion, should embrace that work as their own highest calling.

Seventeen Solutions – Congress with skin in the game

Continuing my overview of Ralph Nader's book, The Seventeen Solutions. Click here to get the rest of the series.

15. Get Congress to Have Skin in the Game

I started this series at the end of last August and it has been two months since I added a chapter. Life has been so interesting, prompting me to write about lots of other things – when I have time to write at all.

General citizens are annoyed with the gap between Congress and We the People – “the gap in wealth, power, privilege, and accountability.”

We can start closing that gap with these ideas that get rousing applause in Nader’s speeches:

* When military personnel are sent to another country, “all their able-bodied and qualified children and grandchildren will be drafted into the armed services. That should make them think twice about making war.”

* “The members of Congress can have no benefits unless the American people all share in those benefits universally. There would be no health insurance, no life insurance, no lush pensions, and no accessible gym facilities for the 535 members of Congress unless they saw fit to provide such benefits to all.”

Americans highly value fair play. Yet Congress has done a lot to exempt its members from the hardships the rest of us face. Two examples:

* Congressional pay is tied to the cost of living increases. Minimum wage is not.

* The recent healthcare bills in Congress show that not only are members exempt from the hardships the rest of us face, they are actively working to increase our hardships. The current bill is too new to be in Nader’s book, though Congress has long enjoyed a gold-plated health plan the rest of us can’t get.

Since Congress makes the rules about what Congress can and cannot do, how do we get them to enact these ideas that go against what they think of as their privileged status? How do we push, “If it’s good for you, it’s good for us?”

Nader says this solution is based on the previous one, the Congressional Watchdog Groups. The argument these groups use should be similar to this: Your pay should be the average of the workers in your district. If my child goes to war, yours does too.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The remaining choice plays out

I’m home now, back from Pittsburgh. I spent several days visiting Mom so Tom and his wife had the time to arrange for caregivers so they could bring Mom to their house. Not all details are in place yet, though they hope to do so within a couple more days.

Mom’s meals have been a glass (maybe two!) of chocolate milk or fortified milkshake plus a few spoonfuls of applesauce or yogurt. Then she says she doesn’t want any more. I noticed she does much better without the straw. After drinking, if she’s been awake for more than a couple hours she is ready for a nap. If that meal is supper she will sleep from then to the middle of the next morning. She has lost a lot of weight.

For a while Tom had asked that Mom’s meals be pureed. But soon she wasn’t able to eat even that. So Tom canceled the pureed meals. And at the next meal they set a hamburger in front of her – which Tom ate. Since then they’ve been good at keeping the refrigerator in Mom’s residence wing stocked with milk, milkshakes, and applesauce.

If I’m there with someone else – a cousin came with his son from North Carolina for a couple days – we carry on a conversation and she’ll listen as we talk. If I’m the only one with Mom I read from a book – Mark Twain’s Roughing It. I read his description of a stagecoach ride from St. Joseph, MO westward in 1865.

Today, after Mom drank her lunch and began to get ready for a nap, I gave her a final hug.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The choices shrink

This morning I went with Mom and Tom to the radiation center in the hospital. The radiation tech said we'll do measurements for the mask today (as expected) and treatments start in 7-10 days. Tom said that would be too late. Even starting tomorrow (what Tom had thought) the radiation would have dubious help. The tech got the doctor, who said the earliest treatment could start would be Monday. The doc and Tom stepped into the hall so they wouldn't be talking in front of Mom. Tom came back and talked to Mom a bit. He turned to the tech and said thanks, but no thanks.

We returned Mom to the care home. When Tom and his wife and I got back to the house, she called hospice.

Tom had been mulling the question, if we go through the pain and hassles of radiation, then what? The tumor might be smaller, but not gone. He had already come to the conclusion that the benefits of radiation were small. If delayed the benefits would be near zero.

As we were walking out of the hospital I had two emotions:

* We had just signed Mom's death warrant. Of course, I must think intellectually that the cancer had already signed the death warrant. Even so, it is hard to think this is the end.

* There isn't much Mom left. Mom is worse than I saw her in December. She doesn't talk much. She doesn't walk much. Tom has to do fancy maneuvering to get her into and out of a car. There isn't much life remaining.

We met with hospice people in the afternoon to understand the process and sign forms.

Tom and I stayed with Mom through supper. Mom drank a milkshake (small by restaurant standards) and had a few spoons of applesauce. Since only the tip of the spoon would fit in her mouth there wasn't much on it. By 6:30 she was tired and was put to bed.

I am delighted to see the tenderness and patience Tom shows to Mom. He has been visiting her for a year now and recently has increased his hours with her. It is good to see how he cares for her.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Choices leading to the same end

My mother started showing signs of Alzheimer’s in 2003 at the age of 74. She was still a very competent housewife, though puzzled by such things as why she couldn’t remember what she had served for lunch.

By the time Dad died in 2015 my sister, who lived with Mom and Dad, had taken over the household chores. Mom made a mess of loading the dishwasher, or hung up clothes that were twisted all about. Or Mom put a few dishes in the dishwasher and wandered away.

After Dad died brother Tim took Mom into his own home, but that lasted about a half-year. She required professional care. For a year now, Mom has been living in an Alzheimer’s residence near brother Tom. He continues to visit nearly every day. He occasionally took her for outings and when he brought her back she would say why are you bringing me here? None of this looks familiar.

And we settled in for the long slow decline. A doctor officially declared her to be incompetent to handle her affairs (which we had known for a long time – I’ve been handling things since Dad went into the hospital two years ago). She still talks though many times she uses stock phrases. Mom is beginning to have trouble with stairs and Tom guesses she would be in a wheelchair within a year and likely death two years after that.

In mid April Tom noticed that Mom was nibbling her food, taking perhaps 20 minutes to eat a cookie. After a cursory checking of her dentures Tom took her to his dentist. Who made referrals. The reason why the dentures didn’t seem to fit and caused pain was because there was a tumor attached to the side of her tongue.

Towards the end of April surgery removed the tumor. The lab said it was cancerous and a type that is slow growing. It could have been there a long time and Mom wasn’t capable of noticing. She seemed to recover quickly and was back at the Alzheimer’s home in a week.

A short five weeks later and Mom was nibbling again. The tumor is back. The lab report was half right – the cancer was, in Mom’s case, actually growing rapidly.

Tom will take Mom to a surgeon tomorrow morning. The big question is whether another surgery is worthwhile. Did the first surgery and insufficient nutrition from pureed food weaken her too much for a second round? Will the tumor regrow in a few weeks, forcing us back to the same situation a third time? We already understand that chemo and radiation are not an option in Mom’s frail state and at her age. From the first surgery we know that Mom won’t handle a feeding tube well. All it would do is extend the known end.

If surgery is approved it happens Wednesday. If not approved, then the tumor grows until she can no longer swallow. Death is likely a couple days later.

I leave tomorrow to visit Mom either helping her get through the surgery or visiting with her while she can still talk. There won’t be any blog posts during this time.

In spite of its unpopularity

In Congress the House failed to pass a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Then a few weeks later they did. This is the bill Senator Elizabeth Warren summarized as:
The CBO confirmed: Trumpcare is a $663 BILLION tax cut for the rich paid for by kicking 23 MILLION people off of insurance. End of story.

The bill was sent to the Senate and leading GOP senators said they would ignore the House bill and write their own. And it would take a while.

So they formed a committee (all men deciding women’s health) and started meeting in secret. And they intend to maintain that secrecy until a few days before the floor vote, which they intend to hold by the end of this month (meaning that bit about taking a while was a diversion). That secrecy means no public hearings, no testimony from those who will lose insurance (and might die because of it), no chances for debate in committee, no way to amend. Because of the way the Senate rigged the rules on this bill, there is also no chance to filibuster.

A new poll in Georgia’s 6th district (in a deeply red state) show only 25% are in favor of the House bill and a massive 62% see it as unfavorable. This is a district a Democrat may now win in a special election this month.

In spite of this huge unpopularity the GOP seems determined to pass it.

Make sure your senators know what you think. Though the Senate version of the bill is still a secret, here’s a hint: Since it is written by the GOP it will throw people off insurance and therefore is bad.

Two anniversaries

Fifty years ago today the Supremes ruled that states may not restrict who white people married. The various state miscegenation laws (only 15 left in 1967) were struck down. I learned something new today: these miscegenation laws weren’t just to prevent from white people from marrying black people. It was to require that white people could only marry white people, keeping the race pure.

The case was brought by Richard and Mildred Loving, so it was known as Loving v. Virginia. And in some communities June 12 is now delightfully known as Loving Day. So love your partner or spouse today, whoever they are. Then see the movie Loving.

The LGBTQ community is always thankful for this ruling. It formed the foundation of our own right to marry, achieved just two years ago.

The other anniversary isn’t joyous. A year ago today a terrorist killed 49 people and wounded more than 50 at the Pulse night club in Orlando. NPR host Ari Shapiro visited the site to talk to survivors, family of the victims, and medical staff who were on duty when the injured arrived at area hospitals.

We remember.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

I’d like you to meet my tax cut advisor

Back in 2012 Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback pushed through aggressive tax cuts to spur small business growth. Lots of people exploited a feature of the cuts and the state’s revenues plummeted. Of course, since Kansas is a GOP controlled state, funds for education got cut.

In March this year the state Supremes ruled that funding for schools is so low it is unconstitutional. Lawmakers were given a deadline to properly finance education to close the achievement gape between the white and affluent students and those who aren’t.

The legislature came up with a tax-hike plan and passed it with GOP help. They’re tired of the financial chaos too. Brownback vetoed it. And – finally – the legislature overrode his veto.

Alexia Campbell of Vox notes that Brownback got his tax advice from Arthur Laffer and Stephen Moore. Some of us remember when Laffer advised Prez. Reagan and how well that went (spoiler alert: huge jump in federal deficits). Laffer and Moore are now advising the nasty guy about tax cuts.

Perhaps Laffer and Moore should study what just happened in Kansas.

Leo Varadkar, a gay man, is on track to become the Prime Minister of Ireland! He will also be the youngest person to hold that office. Ireland joins Belgium, Iceland, and Luxemburg in having a gay or lesbian national leader.

Philadelphia has expanded the inclusion of the rainbow LGBTQ flag by adding black and brown stripes. The flag will be flown at city hall during the pride month of June. An anonymous source said:
The black and brown stripes are an inclusionary way to highlight Black and Brown LGBTQIA members within our community. With all of the Black and Brown activism that's worked to address racism in the Gayborhood over the past year, I think the new flag is a great step for the city to show the world that they're working toward fully supporting all members of our community.

Monday, June 5, 2017

More violent Christianity

A couple days ago my friend and debate partner sent me a couple articles from his humanist friends who try to understand their opposition. My email program declared his email to be junk and possibly harmful to my computer (it might be right), so I didn’t see it until now. Both articles closely contrast with what I wrote earlier today. I found them online, though my brief summary is probably enough for most of you.

Dave Daubenmire is described as a Religious Right activist “Coach” in an article by Kyle Mantyla of Right Wing Watch and Alternet. Daubenmire say America needs a “more violent Christianity.”
He cited President Trump and Greg Gianforte as examples of violent men who are properly “walking in authority.”

“The only thing that is going to save Western civilizaton is a more aggressive, a more violent Christianity,” he said.
Gianforte is the newly elected US representative from Momtana, who assaulted a reported the night before his election.

This “Christianity” is what William Barber soundly criticized as not being anywhere near what Jesus taught. What Daubenmire is praising is an overt display of ranking, and a violent display at that. He praises it because he wants it for himself.

In an earlier post I wrote that the presence of violence is a sign of seeking power over others. And people only seek power over others to enforce ranking.

The second article is by Travis Gettys for Raw Story. He wrote that white supremacists are turning to Norse mythology – a few big-budget movies in the last few years depicted the god Thor with his hammer. The reason they are doing so is because Jesus is a Jew and the teachings of Jesus are too passive and weak. They want to emulate Thor and his hammer.

Yup, white supremacy is all about enforced ranking – with them on top. And praise for the violence needed to put them there.

No copay for the leper

I listened to the New York Radio Hour on Michigan Radio yesterday evening on my way home from attending my niece’s high school graduation. Host David Remnick held a conversation with Rev. William Barber of Greenleaf Christian Church of Goldsboro, NC. William Barber had been the president of the NC chapter of the NAACP and the driving force behind the Moral Mondays demonstrations at the NC legislature. His people called attention to a wide variety of progressive causes.

The title of this episode is “Politics Needs Religion.” I think a more accurate title would be “Politics Needs Morality.” Barber wants to bring morality back to modern politics, though definitely not the Christian morality espoused by the right. He isn’t much impressed by modern Democrats, either. I transcribed some excerpts:

Differences between the white and black churches:
I’m an evangelical. The black church has been traditionally evangelical. The term was hijacked! Because in the Bible, theologically, there is no such thing as an evangelical that does not begin with a critique of systems of economic injustice. And when Jesus, the ultimate evangelical – that brown skinned Palestinian Jew that was born in Bethlehem and raised in Nazareth, the ghetto, the poor place – his first sermon said, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me to preach good news” – that’s “evangel,” that’s what that means – “to the poor.” If your attention is not on dealing with the issues that hurt the poor, the brokenhearted, the sick, the left out, the least of these, the stranger, and all of those made to feel unacceptable, you don’t have white, right-wing evangelical, you have heresy, theological malpractice. It doesn’t fit orthodox Christianity.

They came up with this weird theology. If you’re good, you go to heaven. If you’re bad, you go to hell. If you’re good, you’re wealthy. If you’re bad, you’re in poverty. [A prosperity gospel is] not consistent with orthodox theology, it’s not consistent with the theology of the Bible. … If your theology says whoever is good is wealthy then you would fawn over a wealthy businessman, because of his purse-strings, despite his moral behavior. Because maybe the religion you’re promoting isn’t about moral behavior. Maybe it’s about paid puppets of the empire. Because any time a religion seems to say the only moral issues are prayer in school, where you stand on abortion, being against a woman’s right to choose, private property, and making sure you can prove that Jesus was a founding member of the NRA, that is not Christianity.

Think about it. This is how you can see it: They’re so loud on things like abortion and prayer in the school and so wrong and so quiet on things like health care and living wages and acceptance of all people and treating the poor.

There are 3500 scriptures in the bible about love and justice and mercy and how you treat the stranger and how you help the least of these. And it’s not talking about private charity either, its talking about how we shape society, its talking about the nations. Jesus said what I will say to the nations when I’m hungry, not to the individual, to the nations. That’s governments.

There may be three scriptures about homosexuality. None of them trump the scripture that says you got to love your neighbor as yourself. So how do you claim to be a conservative if you dismiss 3500 texts but then build a whole theology around three scriptures that most of them you misinterpret. That’s not conservative. Conservative means to hold onto the essence of.
I see the white evangelicals taking the basic messages of the Bible and subverting them to support ranking (yes, a familiar theme with me). I agree with Barber that what they preach isn’t what Jesus taught. I’m pleased he says it so well and so forcefully.

Abortion and other social issues:
Let’s get the folk out of the room for a minute, we love them, but who want to come in here and talk about a woman’s right to choose and they claim they want the baby to be here, but then they don’t want to give the woman health care to get the baby here, or health care after the baby gets here, they don’t want to pay the parents a living wage so they can take care, so you really don’t have any credibility to talk about abortion because all your policies abort people’ possibilities, dreams and hopes. So you don’t need to be in this conversation.

I’m not pro abortion. It’s not pro or con. I can say I believe in life, I want persons to have children, but there are so many situations where that may not be possible. There are situations where people have to choose. And even if they choose to have an abortion I choose to love, I choose to care for them.

What I want is to get the conversation to higher ground. And the higher ground is how do we stop aborting the hopes of the poor. How do we stop destroying health care. You think about, just a few weeks ago, the hypocrisy of having clergy in the Rose Garden with the president clapping for him signing the executive order about so-called religious leaders and not chastising him on his position to deny millions of people health care – and they claim to be Christian clergy.

This is a simple country-boy analogy. If I’m not mistaken, the one thing Jesus did was set up free health clinics. Everywhere you look in the Bible Jesus is healing people. He never charged a leper a copay.

You going to applaud someone? Something else is going on underneath that that’s ugly, that’s cynical, that doesn’t make sense, that’s not good for the health of our culture, and is a denial of the basics of our faith. The word salvation means healing.
About cutting taxes
The tax cut was always about disabling the government from being able to make the playing field more level and fixing the problems the government created in the first place.
He’s been touring the country training people in moral articulation and moral analysis.
People able to say, wait a minute, some of these issues are not about left versus right, they’re about right versus wrong. Health care is about right versus wrong. Living wages is right versus wrong. Dealing with systemic racism is about right versus wrong. We need to stand up, not as partisans, but as people of conscience.
We need a poor people campaign. During the last election cycle…
We had 26 presidential debates, I think, maybe 27. Think about it. Not one debate, not one full debate on voting rights. … Not one full debate on the world economy. Not one full debate on public education. None. We were talking about text-messages, emails, innuendos, and the strange conversation that you will not hear anywhere else in the world. … That says to us we don’t have just a partisan problem. We have a deep moral malady. Something is wrong in the spirit of the country. And we knew we needed to have this poor people’s campaign.
About the Democratic Party
We have to challenge the Democrats, especially right now. I’m very concerned when I hear Democrats talking only about the middle class. They think that’s all that went wrong in this past election. One of the things we have to do is recover our moral foundation.

When some of these extremists say they want to read the Constitution I get happy. I say, Please! Let’s read the Constitution. Or when they say we want to talk about what’s in the Bible. Please! Please! Let’s have that conversation! Because if we have it, then it will expose the holes and the hypocrisy and may even cause you to repent. And come join us. In love.

I think progressives make a mistake when we don’t know and remember the power of moral underpinning.
This does not have to be a Christian movement. Morals transcend religions. Progress is more than working on the white middle class. It has to deal with the issue of race.
It’s when we come together. When we’re willing to put our minds to work and our bodies on the line. What if we didn’t focus on Trump. Because Trump is a symptom. What if we went up to McConnell’s office and Ryan’s office, and every state capitol, and what if we said this is not the end of a movement, but the launch of a movement. … We want you to know we’re all in this together and we stand on our deepest moral principles, and not just curse the darkness but point people to the light. What if we used something like that to shock the very heart of this nation. I want to see what would happen if we finished that leg of the poor people’s campaign. I want to see what would happen if we would come together.
Study what your opponent is doing:
If, however, in order to win they had to lie almost every other ten minutes; they had to find a way to put pornographic sums of money into the electoral pot; they had to spend years pushing voter suppression; they had to use fear against Muslims, against immigrants; they had to be helped by the media that played too long with Trump and gave him too much free press; and then they had to go all the way over to Russia and get help … If somebody cheats you, they don’t cheat you because you’re weak. People only cheat you when they can’t beat you in a fair fight. Then that says we are stronger than we realize

It’s our time to stand up and be the moral dissenters, the moral defibrillators, the moral dreamers and to make it through this moment, and use it to change the course of history, to change America, and in some ways if we work together, we’ll change the world.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Wresting the title of worst

After the nasty guy pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement I began to wonder if he might reach the distinction of worst president ever. I knew the one currently at the bottom of the ranking was James Buchanan the one just before Abraham Lincoln. My understanding was that Buchanan was either the most incompetent or the laziest. Perhaps the nasty guy would win on most destructive, the one that brought the world ecology to collapse? So I went surfing for bad presidents.

Brian Scot MacKenzie of the Indivisible Movement takes a look at a Buchanan and a few other bad presidents to give us a benchmark. First of all, the nasty guy hasn’t been in office long enough – two months when MacKenzie wrote his post, four months as I write mine.

Some reasons why bestowing the title of worst is premature: It evokes too much juvenile glee. The nasty guy won by declaring Obama to be the worst (which the GOP implied the day he took office). A claim of worst should not simply affirm our biases. False claims of worst assume the past has nothing to teach us. So let’s study that past.

MacKenzie lays out what made Buchanan (1857-1861) earn the spot at the bottom:

* At a time when the issue of slavery in the south shifted from an economic practicality to fanaticism, Buchanan lobbied the Supreme Court to finally settle the matter. That resulted in the Dred Scott decision that declared black people as subhuman noncitizens and opened northern territories to becoming slave states. This energized abolitionists in the North.

* The economy floundered and the Panic of 1857 wiped out hundreds of banks. Buchanan refused federal relief. That spooked investors, deepening the following depression. Buchanan’s party, the Democrats, had refused banking regulations.

* Buchanan’s appeasement of the South alienated Northern fellow Democrats. That divided his party and handed the House and Senate to the Republicans in 1858.

* When Democrats split into North and South in 1860, Buchanan didn’t stop them. Southern states started seceding. Buchanan essentially gave the South a four-month head start in preparing for the Civil War (at the time the Inauguration was in March).

MacKenzie’s benchmark:
In order to wrest the title of worst president from Buchanan, a contemporary commander in chief would need to wreck the economy, revoke all human rights from an entire race, violate the constitutional separation of powers, and plunge the country into a ruinous civil war that kills nearly 2% of the US population.
Are we there yet? The nasty guy hasn’t wrecked the economy, though today’s jobs numbers were low. As for human rights, he seems to gaining ground on revoking rights of Muslims. He’s working real hard to violate separation of powers (and commit other impeachable offenses), though not providing checks the Congress seems to be urging him on. As for the ruinous Civil War, perhaps we can substitute ruinous climate change? Perhaps as an extra bonus we can add disenfranchising voters and in other ways making hash of the constitution?

Some of the other bad presidents listed by MacKenzie:

Andrew Jackson (1829-37): defied the Supreme Court who required protection of Native American property rights. This resulted in the Trail of Tears, several tribes forced from their lands. He also killed the Second Bank, causing the Panic of 1837.

Andrew Johnson (1865-69): An avowed racist he vetoed every effort to protect the rights of former slaves. Congress overrode the vetoes, so Johnson tried to interfere with enforcing those laws. He was impeached, but not removed from office.

Warren Harding (1921-23) was incredibly corrupt. He signed laws that banned nonwhite immigration. Calvin Coolidge (1923-29), was Harding’s VP and with Harding’s help, invented modern economic conservatism: tax cuts for the rich and no regulation for workers or consumers. The 1920s were wonderful. The 1930s weren’t.

Herbert Hoover (1929-33) didn’t cause the Great Depression. But he did make it worse.

Richard Nixon (1969-74): Lyndon Johnson almost had a peace deal for Vietnam. The Nixon campaign convinced the South Vietnamese to hold out for a better deal once Nixon took office. But that deal, not reached until 1973, doomed South Vietnam. His incursions into Cambodia led to the bloody Khmer Rouge that killed off a quarter of the country. At home there was the Southern Strategy, War on Drugs, and Watergate.

George W. Bush (2001-09): He signed tax cuts skewed towards the wealthy, turning surpluses into deficits. He may have been justified in going into Afghanistan (we’re still there), but bungled it by needlessly going into Iraq, which destabilized the entire region, leading to the rise of ISIS. Deregulation led to the 2007 financial crisis, in which he insulated the rich from their bad behavior as the rest of us lost houses and jobs.

So the nasty guy isn’t the worst. Yet. But it is up to us to resist, to make sure he isn’t as bad as Buchanan because if he is many of our fellow Americans and humans will have suffered a great deal.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Not to listen, but to lecture

Melissa McEwan of Shakesville, as you might have guessed, is a vociferous critic of the nasty guy, the vice nasty guy, and the entire GOP. Her blog seems to be only that for about six months now (though she had the nasty guy pegged from the day he became a candidate). Even so she and many who resist the nasty guy are pressured to “reach out.”

So McEwan imagined she was invited to dinner with the vice nasty guy. She imagines what she would say to him. But on arriving at the VP home she realized he doesn’t want to listen, but to lecture.
No matter how much good faith I extend, it will be abused.

He will lie. He will tell me lie after lie, weaving in between each dishonest phrase reminders of his moral superiority, his mendacity and sanctimony twisting into a blanket that threatens to smother me. He will say things that are demonstrably false, and reject out of hand any attempt to acknowledge the truth.

There is no conversation to be had here, and not because I don't want one. Because he doesn't.

I tell him I cannot join him for dinner after all. … I tell him that I have already spent far too much of my time and energy with men who don't want to listen, and I haven't a moment more to spare.

The GOP ran a disinformation and destruction campaign against Hillary Clinton for more than 20 years. That meant during the last election many (well, enough) had a low enough opinion of her they couldn't bring themselves to vote for her, even given who her prominent opponent was. That destruction campaign worked.

So, McEwan reports, the GOP is already starting on a campaign of personal destruction against Elizabeth Warren, just in case she runs in 2020. They are no longer even pretending to challenge her on policy. This is only about reputation. Perhaps they can make things so bad she’ll decide not to run in 2020.

And why are they doing this? Because that’s all they’ve got.

Veneer of classless meritocracy

Richard Reeves wrote the book Dream Hoarders. He was interviewed by Steve Inskeep on NPR. Reeves says the ones hoarding dreams are the upper middle class, those making $100,000 a year and more, about 20% of the population. We’re used to hearing what the 1% is doing to the country. Reeves focuses a bit wider. Some of the things these people are doing to our society:

The tax system helps people buy houses. The more expensive the house the bigger the tax incentive (perhaps there is a cap somewhere?). Most of the benefit goes to the wealthy. The effect is those in the upper middle class and above can seal themselves off from everyone else. They don’t live in areas of mixed income.

Colleges have legacy preferences. A student is much more likely to be accepted at a college if their parent was a student there. This means enrollment isn’t based on merit and a lower income student doesn’t get in. This practice was abolished in Britain at least a half century ago and no other country uses it.

Internships, usually a boost in eventually getting a job, are awarded based on who one knows, not on merit. The rich have a much more useful network than the rest of us. The eventual job searches are done through the same network.

So the 20% have advantages in housing, education, and getting a job.

Reeves is from Britain, also very class oriented. But Reeves thinks America is worse:
I never thought I'd say this, but I sort of miss the class consciousness of my old country which I grew up hating. The reason I miss it is because at least we're aware of it. It seems to me that in the U.S., you have a class system that operates every bit as ruthlessly as the British class system but under the veneer of classless meritocracy. So there isn't even a self-awareness.
The roots of many of these advantages are in racism. Though now they affect all poor.

The consequences of these policies, says Reeves:
I have come to believe that the dangerous separation of the American upper middle class from the rest of society is a huge problem for politics because there's a sense of a bubble. There's a sense of people who are kind of making out pretty well from current trends and who are increasingly separate occupationally, residentially, educationally and economically from the rest of society.

They are also disproportionately powerful. And the fact that they are not only separate from the rest of society but unaware of the degree to which the system works in their favor strikes me as one of the most dangerous political facts of our time.
Reeves says support for the nasty guy came from anger at these preferences, which keep the rest of us out. Until the rich admit that the system is rigged in their favor the lower classes will continue to be angry. He adds:
I discovered that the idea that some people should be downwardly mobile in order to allow other people to be upwardly mobile is a deeply unpopular one around upper middle class dinner tables. Especially when you start sort of trying to identify which of your own children are being identified as the downwardly mobile ones. But, you know, these are very uncomfortable conversations in many ways. But I think that unless we're willing to tolerate a little bit of discomfort in our conversations, then really we're in really deep trouble.