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“sacred”? jarhead, please

October 21, 2017

I believe that a Trump unchecked has unlimited potential to fuck things up beyond all repair and recognition.  Ergo, I  have deeply appreciated the efforts of fellow Marine John Kelly to mind the baby.  Until a few days ago.

Kelly had been the calm center of Hurricane Donnie until Trump bungled the condolence call to Myeshia Johnson, widow of  soldier La David Johnson.  Sgt. Johnson was one of four soldiers (including Staff Sergeants Bryan Black, Justin Wright and Jeremiah Johnson) killed in the Niger ambush.

Ms. Johnson and her family, along with U.S. Representative Frederica Wilson — a long-time family friend — were on their way to receive Sgt. Johnson’s body when Trump called.  He was put on speaker phone.  According to Wilson and family members, POTUS did not use Sgt. Johnson’s name.  He did say, however, words to the effect of  “he knew what he he was getting into when he signed up, but it still must hurt”.

Trump swore that those words were suggested by Kelly, who listened to the call on speaker phone along with other officials.  I can see how Trump might have rewritten the first part as he filtered Kelly’s words through his brain, the Swamp Too Deep to Drain.   As former cannon fodder, I agree that Sgt. Johnson likely considered the possibility he might get killed, yet you don’t enlist with that goal.

But I’d wager that “it still must hurt” was an ad lib, like when he reads off a teleprompter, then goes off script with something inane like “and that’s really important”.  Trump usually gets into trouble when he speculates about human emotions, like Sheldon Cooper does.

So the game was afoot and Trump went to his playbook.  He claimed that Obama and other presidents didn’t even make condolence calls, a charge quickly shot down.  He railed about Rep. Wilson “SECRETLY” listening in, even as he, Kelly and others (I’m guessing some other white guys) did the same.

Then he went long.  He had Kelly attack Rep. Wilson.  He called her an “empty barrel”.  He stated erroneously that she had boasted in 2015 about securing funds for a building named after Gerry Dove and Benjamin Grogan, two FBI agents killed in a 1986 Miami shootout.  She did give a speech about working with Republicans to name the building, but she wasn’t in Congress when it was funded.  Nonetheless, Kelly was “stunned” by this non-incident.  And, of course, Trump had to pile-on.

Then it got weirder.  Kelly said that condolence calls should be “sacred”, like women were when he was growing up.  Back when they had equal pay and comprised half of Congress, General?

Then it got even weirder.  Sarah Sanders, Trump’s press secretary, thought she might put matters to rest by saying it was highly inappropriate to question a four-star general.  She has since walked that back.  Sanders is the daughter of former GOP presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee.  He’s an ordained Southern Baptist minister.  I’d love to see her have to do a press conference with her hand on the Bible.

It’s still a fine mess.  The Niger ambush that started it all is beginning to look like the Republican fantasy version of the Benghazi incident.  I hope Kelly will do a 180 and challenge Trump.  I fear he’ll do a 180 and quit.  And I fear that he may have gone over to the Dark Side.  However it plays out, the plot gets more Stygian.




Trump fiddles (around) while Santa Rosa burns

October 14, 2017

Full disclosure: I have even less objectivity than usual this post.  Jude and I have family in Santa Rosa.  They had to evacuate their apartment because they live in the still endangered Bennett Valley area.  And my daughter’s brother-in-law and wife were on alert to evacuate in nearby Rohnert Park.

We are aghast as we view the photos of destroyed places that were part of our lives: the Applebee’s where I introduced her to my best friends; the Luther Burbank Center where we saw Ellen Degeneres; Annadel State Park where I often hiked.

So I’m maddened by the response (lack of, more accurately) to this ongoing disaster.  It’s bad enough that CNN — which seemingly can’t get enough of the Las Vegas massacre — treats the fires like a red-headed stepchild.  But I’ve yet to see Trump even acknowledge their existence, let alone extend any sympathy.

I understand he’s busy turning every other news story into a personal slight or his Best Accomplishment Ever.  And he has the responsibility to alert the nation again about the bogus War on Christmas.

How can he ignore a catastrophe so ghastly that some of its victims can only be identified by the serial numbers on their hip implants?  Thanks for asking.  Here’s why: Northern California, like Puerto Rico, is of no political value to him.  It’s voter rich, but strongly Democratic.  Texas has 38 electoral votes and Florida has 29.  There’s no talk of FEMA help being temporary there.

We know that Trump makes decisions based strictly on the math, never the misery.  And we know that he read off some sympathetic notes regarding the Las Vegas slaughter.  So maybe a body count of 58 is the Donnie’s threshold point.  Puerto Rico is at 48 and California is at 31, with hundreds missing.


P.S.  For better coverage of the fires, try


taking a symbolic knee

September 27, 2017

Yesterday POTUS 45 saw his zombie health care bill die yet again, watched the candidate he backed in a special election lose, and faced mounting criticism for the slow response to Puerto Rico’s deadly predicament.  Given his worries over uppity athletes, he may not have noticed.

In my last post, I foolishly noted that the odds a hurricane would again eat a major U.S. city a month later were astronomical.  Then Irma ate a state and Maria ate a nation.  That’s why I don’t bet.

I was trying to prepare for a tumultuous September.  But Trump is exceeding my fears yet again.  Why should he tweet about vital national issues when he can create a non-issue designed merely to beef up his base’s hunger for . . . well, beef.  The recklessness he showed in conflating a genuine concern — police violence against black men — with something as vague as patriotism confirms that his connection with reality is non-consensual.

Trump can hold a grudge indefinitely.  His current dust-up with the NFL is another chapter in a story that started in 1986.  He owned a team, the New Jersey Generals, which was part of the fledgling U.S. Football League.  He and the other owners filed a $1.7 billion anti-trust lawsuit against the NFL to force a merger.

Trump and company won on the merits of the case, but was awarded only $1.  Four years later, SCOTUS upheld the decision.  With the added interest, the new league ended up with a whopping $3.76.  But the nearly quadruple payout didn’t matter.  The cost and embarrassment of the lawsuit had already caused the USFL to fold.  So now the Don can only continue to abuse executive privilege by trying to micro-manage the NFL.

I kneel with the athletes.  As a veteran, I refuse to be lectured by a coward who got a draft deferment for short-lived heel spurs.  How can a brief peaceful protest possibly intimidate the (regrettably) most powerful man in the world?  Trump would like to give the flag the sanctity of the Shroud of Turin.  But if it truly does represent all the good the U.S. has done, doesn’t it also have to cop to all the shit it’s pulled?

Let me ask you this, Mister President: if Ivanka were drowning and the only way you could save her was to reach her with the flag, would you?  Would you for Eric?  For Mike Pence?  Mitch McConnell?  Colin Kaepernick?

And, by the way, POTUS: Kaepernick got the idea to kneel from a former Green Beret.


Caesar in September

August 31, 2017

I can’t think of any month in recent U.S. history with such breadth and depth of bad news.  But, even with astronomically low odds that a hurricane will eat a major city next month, September could yield a political storm that could make Harvey look like a summer shower.

Trump has said the right things, even seemed to comprehend some of them as he read them off.  But in his quixotic quest to be emperor, he put his taint even on that effort.  At one stop in Texas, he described the mammoth swath and cost of Harvey with spooky puffery, as if it was one of his Best Productions Ever.

Of course, he promised the storm survivors all the help they’ll need and SOON!  His pledge had the same tinny tone as his “health care for everyone at prices you won’t believe”.  And it contradicts his pre-Harvey proposal to cut $600 million from the FEMA budget.

Throw into the mix his ambitious plans to tackle tax reform, maybe another attack on Obamacare, and countless other unknown knowns, and September could eclipse August, even without an eclipse.

Look for a change of tone when Congress reconvenes.  For me, September 1st has long felt more like the first day of the new year than January 1st.  School starts.  Weather cools.  And there are footballs and parking lot BBQ smells in the air everywhere.  This year, too, politicians are going back to D.C. a mere 14 months before the mid-term elections.  I expect the cracks in Trump’s base to multiply and widen.

Hoo boy!  Buckle up, get some rest and drink plenty of fluids.


aardvarks and orgasms

August 17, 2017

Watching the maelstrom in Charlottesville, I was struck by a pundit’s comment about the difference between the two sides.  “It’s like apples and oranges,” he observed.  I saw it as way beyond that, thus the title for this post.

Regrettably, the distinction was blurred by the Antifas.  Their equipment and tactics were so similar to the Whiteys that sometimes I couldn’t distinguish between them.  Neither could they.  Some lad getting rousted yelled “I’m on your side!”

I hope the peaceful protestors will distance themselves from the Antifas, although I understand the frustration of the far left.  I, too, once ran with a pack of young men eager to bust the skulls of the Unenlightened: the Marine Corps.  But we were disciplined and got veterans’ benefits.

Heather Heyer’s death marks a significant turning point in Trump’s presidency.  His pathetic flailing to justify What Cannot Be Absolved just keeps spiraling downward.  Today he trotted out a thoroughly debunked tale about General Pershing killing Muslims.  And he released the Hound.  Steve Bannon assured a weary nation that we should be maniacally worried about trade with China.

And then there’s Chris Cantwell.  A major player at Charlottesville, he was prominently featured in a VICE report strutting his stuff.  Smug, vile and scholarly in revisionist Dixie history, he was Aryan arrogance incarnate.  It was like he was preening himself for a post in The Don’s cabinet, maybe Attorney General.  Even with mace in his eyes, he knew where the cameras were.

Then he went home and discovered that the Charlottesville police may wish to speak to him.  So the Mighty Whitey goes on Facebook crying that he’s terrified, and all he did was try to do things right.  Yeah, Chris.  Far right.

Likely the baseline Chris Cantwell is between these two excesses.  However, he told VICE that he’s looking for a leader who’s like Trump “but a lot more racist”.  This guy is pushing Anthony Scaramucci out of the loon gallery.

I simply must go eat a burger that Jude is making to celebrate our 12th anniversary on the farm.  But I wanted to share that I believe I have a solution to this Confederate statues problem: put them in a museum at Mar-a-Lago.  I’m certain that the Mad Yam would welcome them.  Rednecks could visit until the non-existent climate change covers the boys in grey with seawater.

Maybe then they could let go of the war that ended 150+ years ago.


it’s all about that health . . . about that health . . .

August 14, 2017

So, regarding Linda’s inquiry about Canadian health care: Jude and I pay $117 a month each for both of our Provincial health care.  Some provinces don’t charge anything.   Prime Minister Trudeau says he wants to eliminate Provincial fees nation-wide.  Our federal taxes are supposed to pay for the single payer system. Prescriptions, eye care, PT, massage, dental, and some others services are not covered.  My primary care physician (whom I was allowed to choose) is on our island.  It usually takes no more than a few days to get an appointment. My doctor is first rate.  I was lucky, as most doctors are not taking new patients.

If I need a procedure or service not available on Quadra, our ferry fee is covered if I get the proper paperwork.  Waiting times can be lengthy.  In December of 2014 I had a hip replacement.  The average wait time for that in our region is a year.  I only had to wait six, as explained here and here.  Some 31 months later, the hip is working better than many of my original parts.

Any bureaucracy can be improved, but I’m quite pleased with my interaction with the program.  I certainly would take it over the spotty, expensive coverage we had in the states.  We are free from the fear of financial ruin from a catastrophic illness or injury.  And at age 71, that is an immense relief.

So that’s the take of a satisfied consumer.  Let’s hear from a former provider, my lovely wife Jude:

As you wisely supposed, Linda, the issue of access to care is a big problem for both US and Canadian systems for different reasons.  The Canadian system is meant to pay for essential services such as routine doctor visits, specialists, and hospital care.  Some care, such as nursing homes are subsidized if you qualify.  There are multiple “gate keepers” in the Canadian system even for care that is covered.  For example, if you need help at home for bathing, you need a nurse case manager to assess and approve your need and authorize the number of hours you can use.  Then a Home Support Supervisor will come to assess your home to be sure it is safe for the worker.  It can take weeks for this process and the actual care to begin.

The equipment such as MRIs, CTs and the like are not as plentiful as they are in the US so not as accessible and therefore, the wait.  Canada does have a shortage of physicians – again slowing down access to care.  Emergency rooms are some people’s main source of medical care (like the US).  The ERs are so busy and understaffed that the norm (at least in the hospital where I worked) was to do basic tests and get people out as quickly as possible.  People would return in a few hours because they felt sicker.  Usually the third visit would get the patient a closer look and admission to the hospital.  Fortunately, walk-in clinics are becoming more available.

Waiting in line (in queue) is a value here.  Jumping the queue is a big no – no.  You really need your doctor to advocate for you if you are in need of a test or procedure due to the severity of your condition.  If they don’t, you wait.   Specialists are generally in bigger cities and travel is required.  Expenses are tax deductible, but not the total cost.

Unfortunately, Allen’s belief that our health care coverage prevents financial ruin is not accurate.  There are seemingly arbitrary limits or conditions that are not covered that can only be available if you pay out of pocket.  You can not carry your coverage from province to province and there is usually a waiting period before you can receive coverage, so you need to buy private insurance if you want coverage while you wait.  They do have help for poor people similar to Medicare in the US and coverage for people with disabilities with the same type of bureaucratic paperwork and frustrations as the US.

While neither system is ideal, what is happening now in the US with the uncertainty of healthcare is worse than either could ever be.  The affordable care act forms a good base and there are models in the US that work well.  This idea that people will be able to put aside enough money to care for their needs and wade through all the confusing options will work as well as trickle down economics has.  Trickle down health care – the rich get care and the rest get what is left (if they can pay)?



Linda Lee, you have been heard

August 4, 2017

At the end of my last post, Linda Lee (yes, of the Colorado Lees) asked about our puppy and health care system.  I will gleefully respond after a desultory paragraph on Trump.

I will miss Scarmucci.  He was looking more and more like a character from Guys and Dolls.  I was amused that Aging Orange thanked a group of 12 to 18-year-old boys for voting for him, but appalled by the rest of his Jamboree speech — and a tad unsettled by the Scouts’ reactions.  They had been reminded to be courteous (Point 5 of their Law) and they were being obedient (Point 7), but many were booing the mention of Obama and Hilary.  That ain’t right.  Does Trump think he has to blow up every American institution?

The last three days we have been sweltering in the massive heat wave baking western Oregon and Washington.  I hasten to add that that’s Canadian sweltering.  As Portland and Eugene hit triple digits F., and Olympia and Seattle broke into the mid-90’s, our farm topped out at 30 C. (86 F.) the last two days.

Today at 4 p.m., it’s 25 (76), but at the expense of others.  The extreme weather is pushing the smoke from the forest fires in the B.C. interior toward the ocean.  So, even though we are hundreds of miles from the hundreds of fires, our sky is quite hazy and the sun looks like this:

smoke, foundation 013.JPG

The ground looks like this:

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The puppies.  In May of last year, Jude and I had to put down our beloved Slinkee.  She was Queen of the Farm, one of a kind.  We wanted to mourn her properly, so we weren’t in any hurry to consider another pet.  Then she walked into our lives:

Katoo June, 2016 011

The dog of a friend had just produced a beguiling litter.  Mom is border collie and lab, with a wolf in the woodpile.  Dad is black lab and Rottweiler.  We brought Katoo home for a brief visit, then could barely wait until she was weaned.  At first she was a pain in the neck.  Literally.  For several weeks we had to sleep with our arms over our faces due to her middle-of-the-night romps.

We all got through it, of course.  Now she’s a sweetheart, though her wolfiness gives her a wild streak we may never contain.  She recently gave me the wolf look when I tried to take a dead mouse from her.

Then he walked into our lives:

Tooka after Feb. 9th 001

Tooka is Katoo’s half-brother.  Papa was a rolling stone, but we’re guessing German shepherd.  At just over six months old, he already outweighs Katoo by ten pounds or so.  He, too, has the wolfy wild streak.  Right now, for example.  We can’t get him to come inside, and we can’t catch him.  It’s those difficult adolescent months.

But between those bursts of testosterone, he shows tremendous sweetheart potential.  Katoo has been a very patient big sister.  They play together (though roughly) well.

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And they rest together well.

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Jude and I hope they stay friends for a very long time.


Linda, this post got a bit out of control, but I promise you the very next one will be about health care.  I want to do it right.  I’m going to describe it as a consumer, and Jude, who recently retired as a nurse, will describe it as a provider.