Dem Rx

Certain folk are complaining that the Democratic Party has gone off the rails, and is incapable of doing anything right. Nonsense. Dems believe in what they have always believed, that the strength of our democracy depends on how well our citizens are treated.

It’s the Republicans who have gone off the rails, and are now devoting all their time to serving the very rich and living in a fantasy world where magic works just fine. In recent decades Republicans have operated at the edge of the law. This has resulted in 120 indictments, 89 convictions, and 34 prison sentences for Republicans, compared to 3 indictments, 1 conviction, and 1 prison sentence for Democrats over the same period. And that’s pre-Trump.

But aren’t the Dems just as corrupted by corporate bribery as the Repubs? The way I see it is that the Dems have no choice but to accept Corporate Personhood bucks if they want to mount an electoral defense against multi-billionaire fossil fuel science deniers and the like. That’s unfortunate, but unavoidable, and Dems in this trap have to be extremely careful.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is to correct the ongoing lies that Trump voters believe no matter what evidence there is to the contrary. The absurd Republican belief is that making the billionaires richer will help everyone. The opposite has been proven numerous times to be the case. Pure greed is the only thing the Republican belief serves. It makes the rest of us worse off.

Some problems and how to fix them.

Poverty: It seems so obvious. Set a minimum wage that allows people to simply live, without working two jobs. Currently that seems to be about $15 per hour. Every place where $15 has been tried has thrived.

Shorten the work week. We no longer work a 72-hour week, yet the 40-hour week didn’t bankrupt us. A 20-to-30 hour week is overdue. The transition will need to be carefully managed, but the result will be that more people will have work and fewer will be unemployed, which helps the country.

Get rid of desperate poverty with a guaranteed minimum income that prevents suffering from the worst effects of extreme poverty, but won’t be enough that it would be desirable.

Establish tax-supported national health care. This will save tens of thousands of lives yearly, and will vastly improve the national health, which in turn will boost economic health. Since cost control would be a part of national health care, excessive costs from fees, technology, and medicines would be reduced. We would no longer waste one of every three dollars on insurance administration, which contributes absolutely nothing to health care. The cost savings would be some $200B annually. That’s a savings of $645 per person per year just for instituting universal health care.

There are many other things Dems should support, policies that create greater common wealth. For example, encouragement of worker ownership of businesses. Policies that help domestic businesses be more competitive against overseas businesses that exploit workers with very low pay. For example assistance in financing a new business and modernizing older ones, and improvements in transportation and marketing. Tax breaks that help real people, not just corporate billionaires.

Perhaps the biggest challenge facing Dems is reaching Trumpsters, who have fallen for blatant lies, and live in a fantasy world where Trump will make them all rich. Dems must learn how to reach these people and show them how government actually works, and what will help them personally. That’s a tough challenge, because many such people are very resistant to such realization, and would rather remain in their fantasy world. They hate Obama and Democrats because they hate Obama and Democrats.

No, Democrats haven’t gone off the rails. The Democratic platform should be what it has always been: serve the people, all the people, not just the rich. Enact laws based on factual evidence, not quasi-religious faith that doesn’t hold up under inspection.

Women, Power Up

I have heard that the Women’s March of “45” + 1 (the day after Trump’s inauguration) was the largest demonstration in history. I don’t know about that, because there have been many marches and demonstrations around the world that made the streets look like a bee swarm. But what I do know is that women, particularly in the West, have enormous power, and that power must not be lost.

Almost all of the violence, wars, and mistreatment of others throughout history has been the fault of men. This is largely because women, because they are generally smaller and weaker, have been judged inferior by men, and relegated to the kitchen and the business of child rearing, often by force. But women have some of the most important character features needed in the world today, particularly patience and compassion.

There have been hundreds of laws proposed by Republicans in recent years to control and limit women, but not a single one that limits the social atrocities or sexual activities of men. The statements by old white Republicans in this regard are astonishing. Old white Republican men can’t seem to leave the female reproductive organs alone.

By now it should be very clear that it is not the case that women are fit only for the kitchen and child rearing. Women have been leaders in every field of endeavor. Women of all colors and cultures have been heads of state, leading scientists and mathematicians, have been CEOs of international corporations, prominent academics and presidents of universities, noted ambassadors and senators, pilots, welders, car mechanics, astronauts, and so on and on. Women are not inherently unfit for anything one can imagine.

Judging women as fit only for the kitchen has been the policy of the Republican Party and more, and in the face of the evidence it is an insult that cannot continue. That is not to say that the kitchen and child development are unworthy occupations. Indeed, both are vastly important, and women appear to be generally better at managing the lives of children for the same reason they should be prominently featured in public life: compassion, self-control, and endurance.

It is encouraging that in recent weeks women have seized the opportunity to organize for the purpose of resisting 45 and his dangerous acolytes. Republicans have embraced a world-plan that is bad for virtually everybody but the top 1% in income.

The Republican plan is built around these things: (1) enrichment of the rich at the expense of the rest of us, especially the poor; (2) punishment of everyone who is not a white Christian; (3) destruction of every law and regulation that protects the lives, education, and wellbeing of us all, as well as the natural world; (4) morbid denial of reality, including denial of the advancing climate change, belief in magic as found in ancient books like the Bible, denial of the reality of the physical world, including how the universe functions, the true age of things, the reality of evolution, and much more; (5) failure to understand that the Age of Carbon is over, and it is necessary to advance to a new reality and leave behind our dependency on oil and coal.

This is virtually, and maybe literally, insane. The purpose of the government of the United States of America is not to destroy the lives and futures of the people and to deny realities that cannot be denied. It is not to support the greed of the rich at the expense of the poor. It is not to lead us into war. It is to support and protect the people and the planet, nothing less.

When one sees pictures of Republicans in the seat of power one sees almost entirely the faces of old white men. Men who don’t give a damn about our lives or about any future of the country that doesn’t make them very wealthy—at the expense of the very environment we live in, the air we breathe, the water we drink. And at the expense of everyone who is not they. They want to control us all.

Only the power of women, many millions of women, can turn this tide in the direction of improving the lives of all. “45” can deny the sheer power of the Women’s March all he wants. The fact is that it was an awesome demonstration of the power of organized women. It was quickly followed by the hundreds of town hall meetings featuring women that frightened Republican representatives so badly that almost all of them fled when they were unable to answer simple questions—because they had no reasonable answers. They are correct in their fears, and they know they are doomed. When the next election rolls around, it is the women who will determine the outcome. If they continue to organize and be active, they won’t allow the same mistakes to be made—including allowing the 46% of lazy citizens who couldn’t be bothered to vote, thereby electing an unqualified white man with a three minute attention span.

Women, especially you young women, take a look at what men, especially Republican men, say about women. About all women. Consider what the uneducated voters for 45 have to say about women. These people are dangerous, not only for democracy, but for you and me. Many of you need to run for office. It is your responsibility to become involved however you can, for the rest of your life. We need you. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the survival of civilization depends on you.

Impeach Trump Now

Anyone who has observed Donald Trump at work, or even read his daily hateful and disturbing tweets, must be painfully aware that these things point to a pathological obsession with narcissistic perfection, and are not what we should be learning about a man who is representative of the most powerful nation in the world. While enormous global problems fester, Trump tweets about celebrities who ridicule him or point out his imperfections, his daughter’s fashion line, and anything that suggests he is not the greatest man in the world.

These daily rants are, as is becoming more and more clear, evidence of a man in the throes of mental illness that threatens not only the office of president, but our republic itself. Ordinary people and professional psychiatrists recognized the signs of pathological narcissism early on. His long astonishing history of hatred of whole groups of people, his personal sexual aberrations, physical insults to women and men alike, insults in his dictated book, his daily lies, astonishing ignorance of so many things, and his very brief attention span, provide ample evidence of an incompetence that cannot be denied. These things have been continually exposed in virtually every public medium, including respected news media like the New York Times (which Trump tweets is failing), which carried the Letter shown below.

Meantime, Republicans in the legislative branch have until very recently been 100% silent as Trump set about to accomplish wholesale destruction of protections for citizens and environment alike enacted over the past half century. If allowed to continue unchecked, Trump will be personally responsible for the deaths and impoverishment of hundreds of thousands of people every year, while at the same time funneling vast amounts of cash to the owners of dinosaur corporations of the dying Carbon Age.

We have never had to impeach a sitting president for mental incompetence, but it becomes more and more evident that we must do it now. How this should be accomplished is not clear, but it is clear that Republicans cannot function in the obstructionist lockstep they practiced during the entirety of the Obama years, because to do so would be literally very dangerous. Trump and Trump alone—an unbalanced man given to temper tantrums—has the ability to launch a nuclear attack.

Please read the following and lend support to your representatives in every way you can. The enormity of the risk cannot be overstated.

To the Editor (NYT, 14 Feb. 2017):

Charles M. Blow (, Feb. 9) describes Donald Trump’s constant need “to grind the opposition underfoot.” As mental health professionals, we share Mr. Blow’s concern.

Silence from the country’s mental health organizations has been due to a self-imposed dictum about evaluating public figures (the American Psychiatric Association’s 1973 Goldwater Rule). But this silence has resulted in a failure to lend our expertise to worried journalists and members of Congress at this critical time. We fear that too much is at stake to be silent any longer.

Mr. Trump’s speech and actions demonstrate an inability to tolerate views different from his own, leading to rage reactions. His words and behavior suggest a profound inability to empathize. Individuals with these traits distort reality to suit their psychological state, attacking facts and those who convey them (journalists, scientists).

In a powerful leader, these attacks are likely to increase, as his personal myth of greatness appears to be confirmed. We believe that the grave emotional instability indicated by Mr. Trump’s speech and actions makes him incapable of serving safely as president.

Lance Dodes, M.D. and 34 other respected practicing and retired psychiatrists

Low Tax is Not What We Need

Low tax never made anyone’s life good.

Consider India. Millions of Indians pay no tax at all, and they are so miserable that suicide is at a record high. In the US, low tax means nothing to you if you can’t pay for your cancer treatment until you go bankrupt. We already have taxes that are too low.

Taxes too low!? How is that possible?

It’s very simple. The cost of a good life is not measured by how low taxes are. We forget that only the rich can afford high quality with low tax, because they can buy anything they want. That’s why they always want to cut their own taxes.

What we want is the best quality of life, and that’s very different from mere low taxes. Let’s attempt to determine what gives us high quality of life. Here’s what I think.

First, high quality of life isn’t very dramatic. The elements of a good life are pretty basic: clean air, clean water, safe housing, healthy food, competent medical care, and a few more. All of these will cost much more if they aren’t paid for with taxes.

We don’t really need public transit, right? But if we have nothing but private cars a simple trip downtown in any US city will cost a fortune, the trip will take much longer, and parking will be a bear. Good public transit is much better, and far cheaper. Scope it out yourself, beginning with car cost, insurance, and maintenance. Cars are damned expensive.

But perhaps medical care is the easiest element to illustrate why low tax can mean high cost.

It’s not a contradiction at all. As literally every modern nation except ours knows, the cost of national medical care is about half the cost of individually purchased healthcare.

Did that come through? We pay twice as much.

Look at it from the other end. Let’s say a new nation wanted to have health care for everyone. They might decide that $2,000 a year for every person is enough. That would work fine if everybody had the same income, because everyone would have the same advantages. Unfortunately, not everyone has the same income. Capitalists earn a lot, and the poor don’t earn enough to buy health care.

If health risks for the poor are not shared, any serious disease will easily kill them, which will cost everyone more. Repeal of the Affordable Health Care Act would cause 44,000 additional deaths each year. All of us eventually pay for these unnecessary events.

Back to our new nation. What happens if health care is paid for with private insurance? The cost for health care would be $2,000 plus the extra cost the insurance companies would add. Don’t forget that insurance premiums provide no health care at all, and capitalism demands that profit be maximized for the benefit of the owners.

In sum, we pay a lot of money to insurance companies that provide no health care at all, yet absorb a large part of the money spent on health care. And the poor are often left to die because they can’t afford the insurance. We have this gross malfunction even though we spend twice the money that countries with national health care pay.

There are other reasons we spend so much on health care. First, training for health care professionals is very expensive, which leaves new doctors with huge debt they must discharge through high earnings. In other countries the government pays for their training, and they don’t have to earn a huge salary just to get by. Second, the cost of medications is determined by capitalists, who, as we have seen, have no compunction about pure greed. They apparently do not understand that they are not making fly swatters, that health care is a sacred duty. Third, charges for care often have little relationship to the quality of care because they are controlled by profit-maximizing capitalists. In countries where the government manages all the elements of health care, all costs are kept at a fair and consistent level. Providers are paid fairly and everyone gets all the care they need, paid for with taxes, because that’s the most efficient and fairest way.

In virtually the same way, all the other elements of good living—clean air and water, healthy food, safe housing, and so on—are most efficiently paid for with tax revenue and/or managed by the government. Everyone benefits and the cost to individuals is much lower. Imagine having to pay for clean water by yourself—think Flint—with corporations allowed to dump whatever they wanted to into the water supply. Imagine your house wired by some dodo unclear on the concept of electrical codes.

But, some say, government just can’t do anything right. That is nonsense. Government services, from federal to local, are full of programs that are well managed and efficiently priced.

It’s not low taxes we need, it’s the best services, and that has very little to do with low taxes. Low tax virtually guarantees higher cost.

Our Fatally Compromised Election

There are so many things wrong with the presidential election we just had that continuation of the process cannot result in a valid government.

The fatal drop of poison is the undeniable evidence that Russia’s electronic hacking created numerous conditions over a long period that favored Donald Trump and punished the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. This interference by a foreign power itself is enough by itself to invalidate the election.

In the last few days as voters were already beginning to vote, a lethal blow was struck by the FBI director’s release of the useless information that additional routine Clinton emails were found. That, of course, was the umpteenth time that Hillary Clinton’s emails were called into question by congressional Republicans. The FBI had extensive reports on Trump and Republican activities that were never made public.

Hackers working at the highest level of the Russian government regularly violated the email system of the Democratic Party and posted confidential messages at Wikileaks. Democratic hackings were gleefully picked up by our media and published. Similar confidential material from the Republican Party was rarely or never published, almost never in the larger media, in spite of the widespread knowledge that Donald Trump’s Russian business involved many millions of dollars and that he had close connections to Vladimir Putin.

So far, recounts of the votes of several states have failed to produce results that would alter results in the Electoral College. However, these recounts too have probably been compromised, as Republican lawyers during the recount process outnumbered recount officials in several places. Among other chicanery, they managed to get many districts eliminated in whole by loudly—literally shouting so that nobody else could work or be heard—exercising arcane rules to declare entire districts’ recounts invalid because of one vote they had challenged, as well as delaying the work of some recount officials for hours while they did their dirty work.

The failure of our news media to appropriately challenge the continuous lies of Donald Trump is a scandal they may not live down for many decades. Perhaps the most ubiquitous of his lies was his constant false reference to “crooked Hillary”, used to build hatred among his nationalist and white supremacist followers. This built on the failed generation-long attempts by the Republican Party to find something—anything—that Clinton might be punished for. But Trump’s Big Lie was never challenged, and apparently large numbers of rabid Trump followers fell for his lie that he would “restore” the jobs that are clearly lost permanently. This latter assertion was proven when Trump meddled in Carrier Corporation business, supposedly saving jobs at great expense, but not really.

To anyone with any perceptive sense at all, Donald Trump is clearly unfit for the office of president. His post-election activities have only reinforced this impression. Blatant egotism, a narcissist personality, gross ignorance of government, and a school-kid attention span, lend a truly bizarre flavor to his activities. Among them is his ignorant refusal to be briefed on items of vital national importance, on the grounds that he is too smart to need them. He expects to run the government part-time, and to run it as a business.

He has only a few requirements for his cabinet and bureaucratic appointments: they must be rich, and they must represent the industries they are supposed to control. Old white males are the gold standard. He considers wealth the only significant mark of ability.

Although it is not news, let alone secret, the decades-long effort of the Republican Party to disenfranchise as many voters as possible must be mentioned. These were targeted at African-Americans, immigrants, Mexican-Americans, Muslims, and anyone else likely to vote Democrat, and involved a significant list of ways to achieve this. This has been adequately documented elsewhere. Some Republicans exclaim with false shock at the accusation, “who, me?”, while a number of others have been recorded expressing glee at having accomplished their immoral and illegal goal.

I have no idea what the next step will be. Possibly the Electoral College will act exactly as Alexander Hamilton designed the College to do, and nullify the election of a despot. If so, a repeat election is probably in order. Although the US has never done this, many other countries commonly do.

This in turn calls into question who should run for office in a new election. Republicans have created the monster that resulted from their long list of incompetent candidates who believe in magic but not science, and now they must deal with the reality of Donald Trump. Nor is Hillary Clinton an absolute shoo-in, in spite of her obvious abilities and her achievement of a significant majority of the popular vote. Many voters, and probably all Republicans, simply cannot imagine a woman as president, and even Democratic voters are unsure in view of her connections to Wall Street and Big Money. If Clinton were president, she would be hard pressed to achieve much because she would face complete Republican stonewalling and stagnation, a continuation of Obama’s experience.

These questions are everywhere, and should consume public and private debate until a new president can be elected or chosen. The only thing certain is that the November presidential election results are invalid.

What You Personally Deserve

Do you like clean air? How about clean water? I’m kind of fond of them myself.

Some places don’t have clean air. We can wonder why not. Take Kolkata, India. Their air is so bad that people don’t even want to go out. Children literally struggle to breathe at night, and lots are taken to the hospital. It’s truly awful.

There are several reasons for this disaster. Farmers burn the residue from their crops, which causes a lot of smoke. Cooking fires make smoke. Old cars make smoke. Thermal inversion parks it all at ground level. All that is needed is for people to control these things. Why don’t they just do it?

Clean water is nice too. Ever see what passes for water in some parts of the world. Somewhere under all the plastic and oil and feces and so on, there is a stream of water. It stinks something terrible. Why don’t they take care of the plastic, oil, feces, and other stuff?

Do you like to go to the doctor when you are so sick you can’t stand it? The doctor would be able to tell what’s wrong and what to do about it. What about a really bad diagnosis? Cancer, which everybody is afraid of. So why don’t you just go to the doctor?

How about education? Should it be sold, like a custom bicycle, or a $5,000 coffee maker? Or should it be available to everyone?

I don’t think it’s a big secret that we would all like to have these things and more. I think everyone deserves them. They are all very ordinary, and we don’t pay much attention to them. But they are like bodily functions: you don’t worry about bodily functions much—until one of them malfunctions.

Astute readers like you will realize that the connecting element in all these things is government. The much hated Big Government. Isn’t it odd that we small creatures must rely on Big Government? If everyone is to have affordable health care Big Government will have to require it. If you want these things, Big Government will have to pass laws to protect them: clean air and water, medical care, schools, and more. If you personally decide to clean up the water it won’t be enough. Unless laws compel behavior change, it won’t change. Car seat belts weren’t installed until it was compulsory, long after we knew they were needed. Detroit objected.

If you have been to places overseas where the air is not protected, you know how your eyes burn, and you can imagine what your lungs look like. You know that only carefully constructed laws can make air clean for everyone. And there must be no loopholes that allow corporations to continue polluting as they have.

Here’s a timeless rule I just invented: All the truly significant elements of good life for everyone must involve Big Government. Significant elements don’t include stuff like widescreen TV.

What else does this say. It says that Republican focus on the uncontrolled free market is guaranteed disaster, because no corporation will participate in making things right unless they are forced to. Republican focus on the so-called free market (which is not free at all) can’t avoid hurting everyone who needs things like clean air and water, education, and sensible medical care.

What happens when the things that everyone needs becomes privatized? First, the overall effect is to worsen conditions in general. Corporations will not give care to something like clean water because it does not contribute to profit. The more schools become privatized, the worse the public schools will become; fewer children will have a good education.

There are lots of things better achieved by the free market. Justice isn’t one of them either. Nothing is, where individuals must battle corporations for essentials. Only when the whole government is involved can we preserve the things that are important to everyone. Prove it to yourself by looking at places where government is weak.