When I was an intern, one of my fellow interns would summarize a busy night of medical admissions with a simple phrase: “So many problems.” Unfortunately, this was during morning report when we were supposed to receive a detailed summary of the patients who had been admitted overnight. This would allow me and the rest of the medical team to carefully plan how we would take care of the newly admitted patients. The “so many problems” line gave us nothing. We had to scramble and figure out what was going on with these newly admitted patients and then formulate a plan for how we would take care of them. We have a similar problem in the United States these days. We have allowed Congress to kick problems down the road without resolution for decades. No one seems to be held accountable.
More than 20 years ago, two high school seniors walked into the Columbine HS library in Littleton, Colorado with a variety of pistols, sawed-off shotguns, pipe bombs, and other explosives. They killed 10 students and one teacher before committing suicide.
America cried out for action. We needed some meaningful legislation. We could have limited high-capacity magazines. A girlfriend of one of the gunmen was over 18 and she had bought some of the weapons. Allowing someone to buy a weapon which is later used in a mass murder seems to be a loophole crying out for simple action. Congress could easily write a law which holds the person who bought the firearm responsible for any crimes committed with that firearm, but nothing was really done.
We hear the same tired old arguments that put the rights of gunowners ahead of the rights of the victims. Current data from the Center for Disease Control states the number one cause of death or injury for children under the age of 16 is firearms. Yet, we still have weak gun control laws. And when there is a strong one, like the 109-year-old legislation in New York that required anyone to show a good reason for carrying a firearm in public, the current Supreme Court majority will strike it down.
If you are in a public space, you should be on the lookout for some crazy man with a gun. This means if you are at church, at the mall, at a parade, or anywhere in the United States, you need to be on guard. This is just a sad fact of life right now in the US.
The recently passed Safer Communities Act is a nice start but it doesn’t come close to protecting us from random gun violence. It does not ban assault weapons. Why a civilian needs an assault weapon is beyond my understanding. The 2nd Amendment does NOT say that Americans can and should have any weapon they chose. Nor does the Safer Communities legislation enact red flag laws (These are laws that temporarily remove guns from people who are an immediate threat to themselves or others.) The act does not hold Americans who purchase guns accountable for the violence that their guns create. This is a must. My right not to be shot, killed or injured by some crazed lunatic outweighs any Second Amendment right to bear arms.
Finally, arming teachers to protect our school children may be the dumbest idea since Wiley E. Coyote decided to capture the Road Runner. Why? Because if we quickly review mass shootings, we find that well-trained police officers, who handle guns every day, fire and miss their targets frequently. Now, inject an armed teacher who is NOT as familiar with guns as a police officer into the confusing mix of a mass shooting. I see very little good that can come out of this situation. I see teachers becoming scapegoats as angry parents are wondering why the teacher didn’t save their child.
In 1776, there was no illusion that American independence was about anything other than White men. It was about White men arguing with other White men about freedom. The American Revolution really did nothing to address grievances of the poor, people of color, or women—White or Black.
When you think about the history that we studied, it was about Benjamin Franklin, George Washington,Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams. Rarely did we ever talk about a female. Women were just never mentioned. Every now and then, when you really dove into the details you could read about Abigail Adams. She was a strong voice in the ear of one powerful man, but there needed to be more. Oh, don’t forget, we used to read about Betsy Ross sewing what would become the new United States flag (turns out that maybe a myth). I don’t remember anything else about her; do you?
While minorities have a long list of grievances, or, as Thomas Jefferson put it in the Declaration of Independence, “a long train of abuses and usurpations.” The list is equally as long for the American woman. For most of American history, her job has been to produce offspring, clean the house, and make sure that the home was hospitable for her “hard-working” husband. Oh, and I mustn’t forget, the American Woman was supposed to educate the offspring so they can assume the roles and perpetuate this American life.
Two things changed that helped liberate some American women. First, birth control.
Birth control Before birth control, every sexual encounter could result in humiliation, loss of social status, and being banished from the community for the egregious offense (I’m trying to generate as much sarcasm as I can here) of having sex and getting pregnant. In our society, getting pregnant out of wedlock was simply forbidden. There was no discussion, no thoughtful debate: it was just absolutely forbidden.
Women had this literally beaten into them. They were told by their parents. They were told by their teachers. They were told by the clergy that sex was “okay” within the confines of marriage but was sinful outside of marriage.
It is interesting to note, and important to remember, that men did not get banished for impregnating a woman. The double standard was and is outrageous.
Birth control pills really changed everything. Once they were introduced in 1960, sex didn’t automatically equal pregnancy. In theory, birth control pills allowed women the freedom to go and do what they wanted and be who they wanted because they were no longer tethered to pregnancy at every turn.
Legal right to abortion The other thing that helps liberate women, unshackle them from the kitchen, was legalized abortion. The famous Supreme Court case, Roe v. Wade, made abortion legal throughout the United States. Now, if the revolutionary birth control pill should fail, women had a legal, safe backup method for ending their pregnancy.
There is a huge body of literature for and against abortion. In my opinion, this is not a religious argument (although many religions have taken a stance). When you read the Bible, you’ll find the Ten Commandments. These are the words to live by. And there is nothing in the ten commandments about abortion.
Nor did Jesus say anything on the subject. Throughout the life of Jesus, he stressed loving God and loving your fellow man. He said nothing about do not abort the fetus.
In my opinion, this issue boils down to what you believe the American Woman is. Is an American Woman an equal partner in the phrase “all men are created equal?” If you believe an adult female who is an American citizen should have all the rights conferred by our Constitution, then an American Woman should have the right to decide what to do with her body. It is that simple. Once you decide that the fetus has more rights than the adult female who was carrying the fetus, the American Woman becomes a second-class citizen. Period.
It appears that the Republicans have exactly what they’ve been dreaming about for more than 60 years. They have a super-majority on the Supreme Court. The Republican judges are not just conservative; they are ultraconservative.
And, as we now know, it’s very likely the Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade. As far as I can tell, there is nothing that we can do to stop this from happening. So the question is, what we do after it happens?
Do we rally around the American Woman? Do we follow the American Woman into a years-long battle to actually get meaningful national legislation passed that makes abortion legal in the United States forever? That is my hope.
The Slow Death of Ukraine Russia has continued its slow python-like squeeze on Ukraine. This is nothing like a blitzkrieg. Instead, it’s more like death from a thousand paper cuts. There is no massive invasion of an army. Instead, there is a missile strike on a train station. There is another missile strike into a clearly marked Red Cross shelter where children are sheltering. There are dozens of missile strikes into apartment buildings.
To me, this war does not seem to be about conquering Ukraine. Instead, it seems to be about punishing Ukraine. It seems to be about inflicting maximum damage.
This war has gone on for more than two months. The Ukrainian people have proven themselves to be resilient, but they lack resources. We are giving them some resources, and so is the European Union, but I would urge the United States government to up their game.
It is time for us to put all of our chips into the center of the table. I just don’t think that we can sit by and allow the Russians to slowly destroy a country just because they want to. We need to send more weapons. We need to send more guns. We need to send more ammunition. We need to send more antitank weapons. We need to send airplanes. We need to send fighter jets. We need to give Ukraine a fighting chance to save their country.
January 6, 2021 It has been over a year since we all sat and watched our TVs as Americans attacked their own United States Capitol. Once order was restored, I was looking for swift justice. I didn’t see that. Instead, I’ve seen a slow methodical conviction of low-level knuckleheads. I feel like I’m watching one of those classic mafia movies from the 1970s and 1980s. The low-level guys go to jail while the big Mafia bosses continue smoking their Cuban cigars and living in their 20,000 square-foot houses, and never get touched by law enforcement.
A recent recording was released showing Kevin McCarthy, top-ranked Republican Congressman and Minority Leader of the US House of Representatives, condemning the January 6th attack. He went so far in the recording as to say that he was going to ask Donald Trump to resign.
To me, although the recording is genuine, the idea is naïve and McCarthy’s idea was asinine. The one thing we know is that Donald Trump never admits defeat. He never admits that he is wrong. And he would never resign. In fact, there is no circumstance or situation in the known universe in which Donald Trump would admit that he did something wrong and would resign. None.
And, although we never heard this recording before, we did see the sentiment of high-ranking Republicans on the floor of the Senate and the House in the immediate aftermath of the insurrection. There was shock, there was dismay, there was true anger. Yet, over the next several days to weeks anger resided—and then there was renewed, abject fealty to Donald Trump.
Coordination—or collusion A huge trove of text messages from Mark Meadows, Trump’s Chief of Staff (and Asheville’s former congressman), has been released to the public. They offer several amazing revelations.
First of all, Fox News personalities had open access to the White House. Sean Hannity and others could simply text or call the White House Chief of Staff and expect to get an immediate response.
Second, the White House and Fox News coordinated everything they did. Sean Hannity asked for advice on how to present certain issues to his viewing public—and, in the other direction, gave advice to the White House and how to deal with certain situations including this January 6 attack. This symbiotic relationship is not good for democracy.
Billions for food … What would you do if you are the richest person in the world, if you had tens of billions of dollars at your disposal? What would you do?
You have enough money to end homelessness in the United States. You actually have enough money to treat everybody who has mental illness in the United States. You could pay for college for thousands of deserving high school graduates. You have enough money to end hunger in the United States. You can set up food stations throughout the United States and feed everybody who is hungry.
Yet, what does Elon Musk do? He spends $44 billion buying Twitter. Why? Because he’s an egomaniac. He believes—no, he “knows” he could run it better.
I have no idea if Elon Musk could do a better job of running Twitter. All I know is that unfettered speech is not good for democracy. We, as humans, are wired to respond to threats. We are wired to respond to immediate threats almost instantaneously. Of course, this makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint: if you don’t respond to immediate threat, you get eaten by a lion.
On the other hand, if a person calls you a knucklehead on Twitter, that’s no big deal—but when several thousand people gang up on you to let you know how worthless you truly are, that can be overwhelming. That can cause suicide. Misinformation can cause homicide.
Undermining education and truth The latest thing has to do with Florida math textbooks. Several textbooks were banned because they were promoting “unAmerican” ideas. You know that this is nonsense. Right? Every major textbook is scrubbed by wordsmiths over and over again in order to avoid anything controversial.
Now, the folks promoting this campaign have never released a complete list of books they’ve banned or even the full text of a single book. As a result, we can’t tell which words or phrases or actual facts in which books offend them. Instead, they release a couple of cartoons out of a 1,000-page book as an example of the egregious nature of the book.
This is nuts. There is no way that I can rationally decide whether a book should be banned or not based on one picture. Was the picture taken out of context? What point or points were they really trying to make? There is no way to know, though this is similar to the hysteria over teaching Critical Race Theory in primary school.
Laws have been passed across the country that Critical Race Theory should not be taught in elementary school. What? Critical Race Theory has never been taught in elementary schools. Never! It is something that has been discussed in some law schools. The whole CRT controversy was whipped up to force some people to have an emotional response. Personally, I also think we should pass laws stating that nuclear physics should not be taught to kindergartners. My friends, be thoughtful. Be rational. Oh, and one other thing to remember. It is an important rule. It is unbreakable: Friends don’t let friends watch Fox News!!
Welcome to 2022! This is the year that we beat Covid-19 into submission. At least, I hope so. I can give you the statistics, but I guess you already know them. We are in the midst of yet another spike. Over 75% of the new cases are the new Omicron. This new variant is supposed to be highly contagious but, less deadly.
All I know is I do not want the coronavirus. I do not want the original virus. I do not want the Delta variant of the virus. I do not want the Omicron variant. I will continue to do what I can to avoid this virus. I will continue to wear a mask. I will continue to social distance. I do not go to restaurants, movie theaters, or sporting events. I avoid crowds. I am vaccinated and boosted, I encourage you to do the same.
When we think about American democracy, we think about one-man (one-woman), one-vote. Yet, the original United States Constitution was not really about every adult voting. The original Constitution was about the rich voting or more correctly men who owned land voting. The Framers believed that people who held land were more important than “regular” folk. They believed that white-skinned people from Europe deserved the vote, but not the original inhabitants of the continent. Or women. Or people from Africa brought over to be property. Senators were not even elected by “we the people,” but appointed by state legislatures.
Over the centuries the Constitution has been changed. Now, we can vote for our representatives to both the House and Senate. But the real question remains—is America about us or about the rich?
Not my job
Recently Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) called out Warren Buffett, billionaire CEO of Berkshire Hathaway. It appears there is a steelworker strike of the Special Metals plant in Huntington, West Virginia (where I live). Berkshire Hathaway owns the parent company of Special Metals, Precision Castparts. Sen. Sanders asked Warren Buffett to pay his workers more. He correctly pointed out that these steelworkers work for a company that makes plenty of money. Yet Warren Buffett said, “That’s not my job” [to raise their pay.]
Really? Isn’t this the classic rich-vs.-poor struggle that we’ve seen in the United States for over close to 200 years.
In A People’s History of the United States, author Howard Zinn describes a, 1839 fight between tenants and the Rensselaer estate in New York’s Hudson Valley. The tenants were farmers that lived on the estate. They had to pay taxes and rents to the Rensselaers. The famers believed that the taxes and rents were too high: they barely had enough money to live on after they paid their dues.
The disagreement between the Rensselaers and their tenants became a huge fight. The sheriff was brought into collect rent or to evict tenants, but he retreated after being confronted with hundreds of angry farmers. Then the sheriff returned with a posse—and thousands of angry farmers threw stones and beat the posse with sticks. Again, they retreated. A petition for an anti-rent bill was submitted to the New York legislature in 1845. The bill was signed by 25,000 tenants. It was defeated. Finally, a guerrilla war broke out. People were killed on both sides. Although the farmers won some minor victories, the landlord-tenant structure basically stayed in place. This fight lasted for more than 20 years. Yet in the end, not much changed.
The fight between rich and poor is an ongoing battle in the United States. Think about the fights that we’ve been discussing in this space for over a decade. When you think about them in the context of rich versus poor, they make more sense.
Universal healthcare shouldn’t be a big deal. It’s not that we can’t afford it. We clearly can. Universal healthcare would raise millions of Americans out of poverty. Universal healthcare would not be tied to your place of work but instead would be tied to your citizenship here in the United States.
Think about it: if you’re poor and working two jobs and develop a toothache, you would have nothing to worry about. You would simply go to a dentist and have you tooth taking care of. Done.
Think about a living wage. This would basically mean you would only work two jobs if that’s what you truly wanted to do. Most people who work two jobs, do it because they need the money. Now, if we had a living wage in the United States, people would have enough money to cover their living expenses. They could buy a car (not lease). They could rent an apartment in a decent neighborhood—or buy a house. They could pay more in taxes, which would upgrade the school system.
Yet, we don’t have a living wage or universal healthcare in the United States. Why? I think the answer is obvious. What did Warren Buffett say? It is not my job. (What if the management of that steel company decided to pay every worker $250,000 per year? Would Warren Buffett sit back and say that’s not my job? Or would he fire all management personnel and hire some folks who would get the situation of worker pay under control?)
We don’t have universal healthcare or a living wage because the rich want the poor to stay needy.
A recent poll by one of the major news outlets found 1/3 of the electorate thought that under certain circumstances it was okay, or even necessary, to overthrow our government. After the events of January 6, I’m not surprised by these polling numbers.
Let’s just think about the aftermath of the 2020 election. Over the last 50 or 60 years, the presidential election has been out in the open. The person who got the most votes was elected president.
(Except in 2000 and 2016. Come to think of it, a majority of American voters have cast ballots for a Republican only once in the past 30 years—yet three times the Republican candidate “won” the presidency, thanks to the Electoral College—another of the Founders gifts to the rich at the expense of the poor).
Yet our 2020 election really depended upon just a handful of Republicans who believed in American democracy.
There was the Secretary of State in Georgia, Brad Raffensberger, who withstood presidential pressure, recorded on an angry, whiny one-hour phone call, and pressure from fellow Republicans, to “find” votes. Almost the same pressure was seen in Arizona. Michigan Republican lawmakers were actually flown to the White House to meet with President Trump. He tried to persuade them to do “something” to help his cause. And there was Vice President Pence, who surprised not only the president and his White House cabal, but the American people, by standing up for principle and certifying Biden and Harris as the winners—and Trump and himself as the loser—of the election.
Think about how close we came to a coup. The riot, the insurrectionists, on January 6, 2021, were simply the icing on the coup cake.
At the crossroads
American democracy is at the crossroads. Donald Trump, Fox News, Kevin McCarthy, Marjorie Taylor Green, Madison Cawthorn, Alex Jones, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Newsmax, and other members of the right-wing propaganda machine have left reality and democracy behind.
They have to keep their public riled up. This means they have to push more and more outrageous conspiracies. Yesterday’s conspiracies like Hillary Clinton leading a satanic cult of pedophiles based in a Washington, DC, pizzeria, are tame compared to the new conspiracies these anti-American propagandists are dreaming up.
Are the rich bothered by these developments? Nope. They are going to be okay no matter what goes down.
So this is our fight. The fight is not with each other. The fight is against the rich. I’m not talking about athletes who make a couple million a year. I’m talking about people who are truly rich. People who have so much money they can’t give it away. I’m talking about Rockefellers, Carnegies, DuPonts, Vanderbilts, and others. Their newer counterparts include the Kochs, the DeVos clan, and the Waltons (of Walmart)—older tycoons like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, and more recent entrepreneurs Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Elon Musk of Tesla, and Marc Zuckerberg of “Meta,” i.e. Facebook.
Can we fix it?
There are probably somewhere around a thousand American families that have this kind of money—half a billion or more, per person! What can we do about them?
We must take corporate and billionaires’ money out of politics. No political TV ads. No super PACs.
We must stop gerrymandering. This is killing our democracy. We need national standards for voting and districting.
We need voting to take place on Saturday, not on a Tuesday. If you want people to vote in state and local elections, that day should be a holiday. This is how we make America work for the everyday people instead of the rich alone.