Distraction and Disorientation: The New American Way

I find recent events so disorienting that it is hard to know where to even begin when it comes to resistance or activism. I do not think this confusion is coming from my brain; I think it is a goal of he who I refuse to name and his minions to create a fog of misinformation and to flood our politics with so many issues that we risk losing the progress made during the Obama years because we don’t have time to respond in numbers strong enough to be as effective as we would like to be. Perhaps this person’s book should be called The Art of Distraction.

Purposeful Distraction (What would we do without Rachel Maddow?)

We are dealing with the issues around Russian intervention in American politics and the possible connections with Trump’s staff and possibly Trump himself. We are dealing with Devin Nunes and his pursed lips, so maddening. He conspicuously went onto the White House grounds to read classified documents in a safe room and then pretended that his actions were either invisible or have nothing to do with the investigation he is leading. But when he chose this option he must have known that there would be a trail to follow.

Nunes has us playing some ridiculous game. “I know something you don’t know but I will never tell you.” He is the head of an investigative committee that is supposed to find things out and then tell us, or at least inform the other members of the committee. Yet when he is confronted with his rather obnoxious refusal to fulfill his commitments and, when, as a result he is asked to resign, he just clams up, adopts a power stance, and says “you can’t make me” and even more exasperating “I will never tell”. But if it is something that harms Obama or the Democrats you can bet it will eventually come out. Now he has called Comey (FBI) back in front of his committee. This is not like any American government I have ever taken pride in.

Make Use of Disorientation – Act Fast and Pack the Agenda

Internet Privacy

I keep track of bills coming up in Congress on the Countable app and on the govtrack service. So I knew the bill that would end some of our consumer protections on the internet (allow sellers to access our browsing histories and our locations) was coming up for a vote. Well the vote is already done and if DT signs it, as we know he will, another of our rights bites the dust. It happened so fast there was little time to effectively resist.

Deportations

Deportations are continuing apace and they are not pretty. They are beginning to have impacts on our communities and therefore on us. Can you enjoy a leisurely summer with warm days and sunlight dappled through leaves while they are dragging people kicking and protesting off to await deportation and ripping parents away from their children? I believe it will begin to cast a pall over our entire nation that will rob us of some of pleasure we usually take from life. Meanness rebounds on the perpetrators.

Penalties for Sanctuary Cities

Our mayor in Syracuse has declared our city to be a Sanctuary City. She does not plan to help ICE with any deportation activities. On Monday Jeff Sessions broadcast strong warnings to all Sanctuary cities that they will lose federal funding if they persist in refusing to cooperate with deportations.

http://cnycentral.com/news/local/syracuse-mayor-on-threats-to-cut-funds-to-sanctuary-cities-this-is-not-who-we-should-be

The Wall

The issue of the “wall” has moved from the realm of speculation into the realm of practicalities and we are getting information about what sections of the wall the orange one should tackle first, who will lose their land, what the design will be and what the cost will be. I may come to think this wall was a good idea one day, but I very much doubt it. I think this is an expensive exercise in futility.

(Is this the America we know and love?)

Health Care

Mitch McConnell has done his nasty best to will whatever happens with Obamacare to the Democrats while he implies that the Republicans will not only not do anything to save it but they might use any tricks they can come up with to undermine it further than they already have.

The Environment

There is more. There will be more. There is the attempt to dismantle environmental protections painstakingly put in place to balance the needs of business and a world where polar ice is melting, sea levels are rising, human populations are testing the limits of our oceans to deal with our trash and our spills, and climate does seem to be changing. I can only hope that this egomaniacal man who pits his puny power against the power of nature does not trigger some disastrous event with his disregard for the planet. Do we have time to backtrack on this? Let’s hope we do.

It’s now day 70 of the first 100 days and I have dreaded turning on the news on each and every one of these 70 days. NBC is keeping a list of the activities of the first 100 days

http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/white-house/president-donald-trump-s-first-100-days-major-moments-n709706

Education

It goes on. The Education Department, which may soon no longer exist, is gearing up to privatize education in America so we can expect the first cannonballs to come over that horizon soon. The unions are preparing to resist but this administration seems to favor the preemptive strike.

Federal Budget

There is the “no good, very bad budget” that is coming up for a vote (maybe) soon. It is a miserable budget that carries out the GOP promises to help the wealthy and get rid of all those benefits that provide a safety net for the middle class, whose finances are much more precarious. So that should be fun.

Foreign Policy

And none of this even touches the things that are happening in the foreign policy arena that are so troubling, with a President who apparently only shakes hands with men, or women he considers attractive, even if they are from important NATO allied nations with a fairly dominant position in Europe.

Whiplash

It is no wonder that those of us who are following this stuff have whiplash and we are not sure what to protest first or what to say to our Representatives in Congress at any given moment without a program, and even with a program there is little time to react. There is a great rush to dismantle our government although I am not sure why. I suppose these people know that all Americans will eventually catch on to their deceptions and they are not sure what will happen then. In the meantime it apparently doesn’t matter where your activism focuses. Just pick a bad bill or bad executive action and chip away. Make noise. Be heard. We must; otherwise we seem complicit.

Test ACA By Using It As Intended

Republicans repeat time and again that the ACA is in a “death spiral”, that it is unsustainable and will die of its own internal flaws. The problem is that I will never believe them until they let the ACA function as it was intended to. Reinstate the mandate.

http://www.scotusblog.com/2012/06/the-mandate-is-constitutional-in-plain-english/

Get all the states to accept the Medicaid expansion. Test the ACA by using it as intended.

Free market health care will not work. That is why the ACA put together a public/private partnership. If there were a great option for health care that did not involve any public offerings someone would have already written that plan and it would have been approved right away. Do not listen to the insurance companies right now. They were terrible providers of health insurance if you care to remember. They only covered people who worked, for the most part, and, in fact, only people who worked for medium-sized to giant-sized companies.

If you were self-employed you could sometimes get good insurance when you joined a group or an organization, but if you were on your own insurance was either very pricey or covered very little. People who have preexisting conditions, contrary to popular opinion, do not always have those conditions because they have traveled down the “road to Perdition” and brought it on by their own vices.

Perhaps you heard the newest conclusion based on years of cancer research which says that cancer in our bodies depends on random changes in genes and does not necessarily result from bad lifestyle choices.

http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/03/23/521219318/cancer-is-partly-caused-by-bad-luck-study-finds

Although in the future we may once again hear evidence that random gene changes can be affected by some toxic external input, that is not what this recent study concluded. Obviously many people also have conditions besides cancer that are hereditary or work-related, or a result of an accident.

Insurance for most things can be logically based on risk. Health insurance is not that kind of insurance. Someone’s possessions are not what is at stake. Their quality of life is at stake. No insurance company in its right mind truly wants to cover something as risky as human health. But if they can deny insurance to anyone as soon as they show the slightest inclination to be sick or disabled then they can really rake in the profits by insuring only healthy people who get zapped off insurance as soon as symptoms appear. Although this might be good for the insurance industry, how is this good for people, who most assuredly will have health challenges at some point during their lives? Few people make it from cradle to grave without needing some care from the health sector at some point. There may not be a way to offer affordable and good quality health care and make a profit.

If the health insurance industry can prove that it can contain its greed and profit at a slow but steady rate, contain that hunger Capitalism encourages in its practitioners and “have a heart” for its clients, then perhaps we can keep private sector insurance for health concerns. I don’t believe that the insurance industry can practice any such restraint.

When we had only private insurance the competition which many promised would happen did not happen. Companies colluded. If one company raised premiums they all followed suit. If one company offered a new service to justify raising rates everyone jumped on the band wagon. And so, although many people would lose good jobs if private insurance disappeared, a single payer plan which would offer new jobs may be our only possibility if the ACA fails.

Both sides in Congress, if they are opposed to single payer need to find a way to make the current plan, the much maligned ACA, successful. So do the insurance companies. Single payer in America is not socialism. This is the people’s money and it is not socialism when the people decide how they want to spend their own money.

Now that the billionaires have had the American government make laws and tax breaks that shoveled all our money into their apparently bottomless pockets. they argue that the middle class and the poor do not pay enough taxes to support the ACA and that they definitely do not pay enough taxes to support a single payer plan, which these folks see as socialism, but which I do not. It is difficult to feel sad that a billionaire or millionaire might have possessed a few less billions or millions if we did not have such skewed laws. How many millions or billions can you spend, even in several generations? Did you ever read God Bless You Mrs. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut (probably no one reads Vonnegut anymore)? A billionaire wants to get rid of his fortune but every time he gives money away he gets more back.

It seems that billionaires feel faint even thinking about parting with a few million, which they have now convinced themselves appeared in their pockets totally through their own incredible talents and their sole efforts. In order to put an end to this standoff that has arisen because these privileged people have decided to refuse to contribute a portion of their wealth back to our government for the public good, perhaps the taxpayers who are not wealthy will be willing to pay taxes that are a bit higher in order to cover the safety net, the benefits we need as seniors, and a single-payer health care system. Why doesn’t that Congressional Budget Office give the people a figure on what it would cost the people who are not rich to pay for single payer health care and other social benefit programs on their own?

Diabolical Moves to Pass a Flawed AHCA

 

Background

My representative in Washington in the House of Representatives is John Katko who is serving his second term in Congress. He represents a sprawling CNY district which includes an inner city (which has been identified as one of the most stubborn pockets of poverty in the US), suburban areas which are quite affluent, including the one where his family lives, and rural areas where poverty is more the rule than the exception.

He has been elected in an area which has fairly recently been turned red by empty factories and recession. Republicans promise the hardest hit folks that they know the secret to turning the economy around and bringing jobs back. Democrats did not believe that they could promise any such thing. Republicans poured money into Katko’s election. The Democrats never came forth with the level of support that was necessary to help turn the area blue again. Ever since the Citizen’s United decision Republican PACs and donors have poured money into areas where it looked like they had a shot at turning any little dot on the map into a red dot. And their attention to detail has paid off.

So now we have a representative who is basically bought and paid for, who has, so far, voted the party line. And we have the health care bill coming up for a vote, supposedly as early as Thursday, March 23, 2017. In a district with as many poor people as Katko’s,  the number of people who will lose health care if the AHCA passes will be enormous. One of the problems is, of course, that the full impact of this bill will not be felt until 2020 so that these poor unsuspecting folks can vote this guy in again before they get zapped. Isn’t our politics lovely? Anything that can be done will be done.

I sent my Representative in the House the following letter asking him to get in touch with his better self:

Rep. John Katko:

Although I am sorry to write such a long letter I hope you will indulge me and read it in its entirety.

I am thinking that you are not thrilled by everything that is happening in Washington. I know that you are an earnest man who has a serious interest in serving the people in your district, which is a mix of urban, suburban, and rural cultures with diverse needs that few other representatives have to deal with. I suspect that you are a Catholic man, or at least a man of faith. I know that your unshakeable Conservative values include a firm pro-life stance and probably an economic view that fits with the one usually held on the right, one of fewer regulations and possibly even tax breaks to help employers take greater risks.

I don’t believe that someone with your inflexible position on women’s reproductive rights should be in government at all, but there are obviously many people in this district who do not agree with me. So I will leave this issue aside except to say that if you have your way in this matter it will make women’s lives far more difficult and will reset the clock on women’s rights back to my grandmothers’ days.

However, what seems most doubtful to me is that you want to “deconstruct” the American administration as the President’s men and women seem to want to do. It seems doubtful to me that you want to invite Vladimir Putin in to influence American politics. I find it hard to believe that you would like to vote in lower taxes for the wealthy at the expense of the poor and middle class people you represent. You just don’t seem like a person who wants to see our schools with insecure funding which could have profound effects on the quality of education in America and make opportunities unequal across the states.

I also find it hard to fathom why you might want to support the American Health Care Act when so many in your district would lose health insurance and so many seniors would be negatively affected. You don’t seem that extreme to me. I would guess that you are more moderate than some of your colleagues. But I do not know how ambitious you are. I do not know what you owe to the national party and the super PACs and other Conservative organizations. I do not know how courageously you would fight the very powerful pressure brought to bear on Conservatives in Washington by the base and the upper echelons of the party and by big money people.

Well I guess we, as your constituents, will see how extreme you are or how courageous you can be. Will you fight for the needs of your constituents the way a parent fights to meet the needs of their children. Every day I awake to see what new actions of this administration have weakened the foundations of our democracy and every day I am more and more shocked and distressed about what I see. Yet every day I feel more and more helpless to have any way to stop this administration from undoing every single thing I think any modern culture should try to do for the people it governs.

Sincerely,

Mr. Katko knows that the AHCA is not a good replacement for the ACA. He knows that it will create hardships for a large number of his constituents, and that it will please some of his constituents. He is between a rock and hard place but I was hoping that he would take the moral high road instead of the economic low road. I was hoping he would be brave enough to pick people over party in this instance. I am still hoping for that.

Federal Government Sweetens the Pot

The Federal government, however, is quite diabolical when it is determined to get its way. They have added an enticement to the health care bill that is only being offered to Upstate NY because Mr. Katko (and others upstate representatives) was having problems liking this legislation. They have also included some tidbits to tempt other Republican representatives who are less than delighted with this rushed and deeply flawed piece of legislation. The New York Times included a piece about these “carrots” in this morning’s edition.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/20/us/politics/house-health-care-new-york-republicans.html

In this article the authors, Thomas Kaplan and Richard Pear (with Jesse McKinley contributing reporting from Albany) tell us the following:

“House Republican leaders, trying to lock down the votes of wavering upstate New York Republicans, inserted a last-minute special provision in their health care bill that would shift Medicaid costs from New York’s counties to its state government”

(While it is true that Medicaid costs are among the mandated budget items that are an enormous burden on county budgets and while it is equally true that relief plans should be in the works, this Federal move to immediately shift the burden of these costs to the State of New York budget is a totally unplanned move that could perhaps bankrupt the state and is at the very least a political ploy strategically designed to get a very bad health care bill to pass, and at the most is something the states should raise an outcry about. Is it even legal?)

The article goes on to say:
“The move – one of a number of changes designed to gain more votes – would affect New York State only. It could save county governments outside of New York City $2.3 billion a year. But it could shift costs to state taxpayers or deny New York the same total in matching federal aid if the state continues to require those counties to contribute to the cost of Medicaid. Upstate New York Republicans, backed by local government officials, pressed for the measure over the angry opposition of New York’s Democratic governor, Andrew M. Cuomo.”

“The more we learn about the repeal and replacement for the Affordable Care Act, the sicker New York gets,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement Monday night.”

While I can see what this measure does for county budgets I cannot, for the life of me, see what if does for poor people who need health care.

“The newly released set of changes does not directly provide more generous tax credits for older Americans as many Republicans had been requesting, but it lays the groundwork for the Senate to enhance those tax credits at a later stage in the legislative process.”

“President Trump and House conservatives already agreed to other changes involving Medicaid, including offering states the option of imposing a work requirement for certain able-bodied beneficiaries. They also agreed to let states choose a lump-sum block grant to fund their Medicaid programs instead of a per-capita allotment originally set in the House Bill.”

The Republicans representative who were wavering are now feeling that they can get back on board. But, although you can patch some tires and drive on them, some tires prove unfixable. Putting patches on this bill does not in any way make it a better health care plan. In fact New York’s governor has more to say:

“This cut is so severe that the majority of hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities located in upstate New York and on Long Island would be devastated, Mr. Cuomo said.”

What do I Say to Mr. Katko Now?

I guess this puts the ball back in his court, although I still believe that he has to legislate in ways that serve the majority of his constituents but, in particular, the poorest of his constituents, since we are talking about something that means life or death in many cases. I also know that he will have a county executive to deal with and that this relief from what she calls “unfunded mandates” will put a great big old smile on her face. And who will win? Supposedly I will win because my taxes will go down or there will be more money to spend locally, but I have never minded that some of my tax dollars help people less fortunate than me. I have little extra money to contribute to the many charitable causes that break my heart, but this, since I am used to it, is a relatively painless way to give back for my many blessing.

John Katko, please stick to your guns and vote down this bill which will hurt many of your constituents and perhaps the entire state of New York, which DT would love to humble because of the Governor’s defiant statements. As I said, diabolical.

 

 

 

 

March 2017 Book List

From a Google Image Search

It’s Spring (sort of) and this is the season when lots of new books appear on the market so I present to you my March 2017 Book List. Although you will find lots of repetition on these lists each source also offers some unique titles. If you just want a good story, nothing too esoteric, go the Amazon section of the list. If you have global tastes Publisher’s Weekly should satisfy, and if you like to get your book advice from the New York Times then that source is also represented in this list. For the truly compulsive, go for all three.

Nonfiction titles, for some reason, are getting longer and longer so they are, generally, easy to spot. If you are a true reader you probably wish to devour each new book and all of the older ones too. If you were to have a fantasy room it would probably have a comfy chair surrounded by piles of classic and newly-minted books. But if you set out to read each book that was published from February through Mid-March this year you would have to read a little bit over 6.5 titles per day. So don’t be discouraged if you are unable to meet your admittedly unrealistic book reading goals. You have a lot of company.

Publisher’s Weekly

Feb. 6th

Civil Wars: A History of Ideas by David Armitage (NF)

Universal Harvester by John Darnielle

This Close to Happy: A Reckoning with Depression by Daphne Merkin (NF)

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen (NF)

Schadenfreude, a Love Story: Me, the Germans, and 20 Years of Attempted Transformations, Unfortunate Miscommunications, and Humiliating Situations That Only They Have Words For by Rebecca Schumen (Memoir)

Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag trans. from the Kannada by Srinath Perur

Make Yourself Happy by Elini Sikelianos (NF)

Hit Makers: Why Things Become Popular by Derek Thompson (NF)

The Vaccine Race: Science, Politics, and the Human Costs of Defeating Disease by Meredith Wadman (NF)

Feb. 13th

The Dark Flood Rises by Margaret Drabble

In Full Velvet by Jenny Johnson

We are Okay by Nina LaCour

Sherlock Holmes and the Eisendorf Enigma by Larry Millett

There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé by Morgan Parker

The Last Night at Tremore Beach by Mikei Santiago

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History by Bill Schutt

The Undesired by Yrsa Sigurdardóttir

Incendiary Art by Patricia Smith (NF)

The American Street by Ibi Zoboi

Feb. 20th

Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach

American Sanctuary: Mutiny, Martyrdom, and National Identity in the Age of Revolution by A. Roger Ekirch (NF)

Spook Street: A Novel by Mick Herron

Running: A Novel by Cara Hoffman

Rusty Puppy: A Novel by Joe Lansdale

Optimists Die First by Susin Nielsen

The Inkblots: Hermann Rorschach, His Iconic Test and the Power of Seeing by Damion Searls (NF)

Encircling by Carl Frode Tiller trans. from the Norwegian by Barbara J. Haveland

Feb 27th

The Accusation by Bandi trans. from the Korean by Deborah Smith (Short Stories that offer glimpses of North Korea)

The Invention of Angela Carter by Edmund Gordon (Bio)

Alpine Apprentice: A Memoir by Sarah Gorham

Walking Lions by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen trans. from the Hebrew by Sondra Silverston

Daughter of the Pirate King: A Novel by Tricia Levenseller

The Home That Was Our Country: A Memoir of Syria by Alia Malek

The Gene Machine: How Genetic Techniques are Changing the Way We Have Kids – and the Kids We Have by Bonnie Rochman (NF)

The Chessboard and the Web: Strategies of Connection in a Networked World by Anne Marie Slaughter (NF)

Great Crossings: Indians, Settlers, and Slaves in the Age of Jackson by Christina Snyder.

The Hate U Give: A Novel by Angie Thomas

Please Bury Me In This by Allison Benis White (Collection of suicide stories)

Velocity by Chris Wooding (YA Apocalyptic novel)

Camanchaca by Diego Zúniga trans. from the Spanish by Megan McDowell

March 6th

Taduno’s Song: A Novel by Odale Alogiun

The Price of Illusion: A Memoir by Joan Juliet Buck

The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui (Memoir)

The Hearts of Men by Nickolas Butler

Ill Will by Dan Chaon

Lenin’s Roller Coaster by Daniel Downing

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Rabbit Cake by Annie Hornett

Inferno: A Doctor’s Ebola Story by Steven Hatch (NF)

The Night Ocean by Paul La Farge

No Friends But the Mountains: Dispatches from the World’s Violent Highlands by Judith Matioff (NF)

The Lucky Ones by Julianne Pachico

Wild Nights: How Taming Sleep Created Our Restless World by Benjamin Reiss (NF)

The Photo Ark: One Man’s Quest to Document the World’s Animals by Joel Sartore

Goodbye Days: A Novel by Jeff Zentner (YA)

March 13th

The Idiot by Elif Batuman

A Psalm for Lost Girls by Katie Bayeri

The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea by Jack E. Davis

In Between Days by Teva Harrison (Memoir, Cancer battle)

Mikhail and Margarita by Julie Lekstrom Himes

The Wanderers by Meg Howrey

Himself by Jess Kidd Atria

White Tears by Hari Kunzru

The Family Gene by Joselin Linder (NF)

One of the Boys by Daniel Magariel

Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet by Lyndal Roper

Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries by Kory Stamper

March 20th

Mississippi Blood by Greg Iles

Lola: A Novel by Melissa Scrivner

Girl in Disguise by Greer Macallister

Find Me by J S Monro

Stranger in a Strange Land: Searching from Gershom Scholem and Jerusalem by George Prochnik (NF)

City of Light, City of Poison: Murder, Magic and the First Police Chief of Paris by Holly Tucker (NF)

The Exploded View by Ivan Vladislavic (F)

The New York Times Book Review

Feb. 3rd

Too Close to Happy by Daphne Merkin (Memoir, Depression)

The New Brooklyn by Kay Hymowitz (NF)

Disaster Falls by Stéphane Gerson (NF)

The Weapon Wizards by Yaakov Katz and Amir Bohbot (NF)

Upwardly Minded: The Reconstruction Rise of a Black Elite by Elizabeth Dowling Taylor (NF)

Fiction

A Great Place to Have a War by Joshua Kurlantzick (NF)

The Men in My Life by Patricia Bosworth (NF)

The Man Who Never Stopped Sleeping by Aharon Appelfeld

Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson

Dark at the Crossing by Elliot Ackerman

Days Without End by Sebastian Barry

4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster

The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Best and Latest in Crime Fiction

Rather Be Devil by Ian Rankin

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

What You Break by Reed Farrel Coleman

The Lost Woman by Sara Blædel trans. from Danish by Mark Kline

Books Recommended this Week

Arthur and Sherlock: Conan Doyle and the Creation of Holmes by Michael Sims (NF)

A House Full of Females: Plural Marriages and Women’s Rights in Early Mormonism, 1835-1870 by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich (NF)

Earning the Rockies: How Geography Shapes America’s Role in the World by Robert D. Kaplan (NF)

The Crossing by Andrew Miller (F)

The Patriots by Sana Krasikov (F)

Once We Were Sisters: A Memoir by Sheila Kohler

Feb. 12th

Fiction

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Night of Fire by Colin Thubron

The Evening Road by Haird Hunt

On Turpentine Lane by Elinor Lipman

Shadowbahn by Steve Erickson

This is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel

Nonfiction

Why Time Flies by Alan Burdick

Six Encounters with Lincoln by Elizabeth Brown Pryor

(Middle East)

The Attack by Loic Daewillier

The Arab of the Future 2 by Riad Sattouf

Rolling Blackouts by Sarah Glidden

The Girl from the Metropol Hotel by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya

The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy B Tyson

Generation Revolution by Rachel Aspden

The Genius of Judaism by Bernard-Henri Lévy

Black Edge by Sheelah Kolhatkar

Feb. 19th

Fiction

The Dark Flood Rises by Margaret Dibble

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen

A Separation by Katie Kitamura

A Book of American Martyrs by Joyce Carol Oates

The Dance of Jakaranda by Peter Kimani

Universal Harvester by John Darnielle

Autumn by Ali Smith

Fiction in Translation

Dance on the Volcano by Marie Vieux Chauvet

The Gringo Champion by Aura Xilonen

The Ninety-Ninth Floor by Jan Fawaz Elhassan

The Great and the Good by Michel Déon

Nonfiction

Dear Friend, From My Life I Write to You in Your Life by Yiyun Li

Age of Anger by Pankaj Mishra

Two about Silicon Valley

Valley of the Gods by Alexander Wolfe

The Kingdom of Happiness by Aimee Groth

At Utmost: A Devotional Memoir by Macy Halford

Cannibalism by Bill Schutt

Best and Latest Crime Fiction

Rush of Blood by Mark Billingham

Racing the Devil by Charles Todd

Snowblind by Ragnar Janasson

Walk Away by Sam Hawken

Amiable with Big Teeth by Claude McKay (lost Harlem novel)

Feb. 26th

Fiction

Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama

The School Days of Jesus by J M Coetze

The One Inside by Sam Shepard

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline

Journeyman by Marc Bojanowski

Nonfiction

Caught in the Revolution by Helen Rappaport

Pretending is Lying by Dominique Goblet

How to Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell

All the Lives I Want by Alana Massey

Testosterone Rex by Cordelia Fine

When Police Kill by Frank Zimring

Unwarranted by Barry Friedman

Tell Me Everything You Don’t Remember by Christine Hyung-Oak Lee

March 3rd

Fiction

A Horse Walks Into a Bar by David Grossman

The Fortunate Ones by Ellen Umansky

The World to Come by Jim Shepard

Argentine Fiction

Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin

Savage Theories by Pola Oloixarae

Nonfiction

We’ll Always Have Casablanca by Noah Isenberg

High Noon by Glenn Frankel

Flaneuse by Lauren Elkin

Pontius Pilate: Deciphering a Memory by Aldo Schiavone

Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast by Megan Marshall

Food Fights and Culture Wars by Tom Nealon

Reality is Not What It Seems by Carlo Rovelli

The Islamic Jesus by Mustafa Akyol

Robert Lowell – Setting the River on Fire by Kay Redfield Jamison

The Nature Fix by Florence Williams

Stalin and the Scientists by Simon Ings

Best and Latest Crime Fiction

What You Don’t Know by Jo Ann Chaney

I See You by Clare Macintosh

The Dime by Betty (Riz) Rhyzyk

Twelve Angry Librarians by Miranda James

March 12th

Fiction

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Before the War by Fay Weldon

Everything Belongs to Us by Yoojin Grace Wuertz

The Hearts of Men by Nickolas Butler

The Night Ocean by Paul La Farge

Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

Nonfiction

Lower Ed by Tressie McMillan Cottom

Insomniac City by Bill Hayes

Can’t Just Stop by Sharon Bagley

Convergence by Peter Watson

Divided We Stand by Marjorie J Spruill

The Brain Defense by Kevin Davis

The Gestapo by Frank McDonough

Abandon Me by Melissa Febo

Amazon

Best Books of March

Exit West: A Novel by Mohsin Hamid

One of the Boys by Daniel Magariel

White Tears: A Novel by Hari Kunzru

The Night Ocean: A Novel by Paul La Farge

Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked by Adam Alter (NF)

Learn Better: Mastering the Skills for Success in Life, Business, School, or, How to Become an Expert at Just About Anything by Ulrich Boser

All Grown Up: A Novel by Jami Attenberg

Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries by Kory Stamper (NF)

The Rules Do Not Apply: A Memoir by Ariel Levy

Literature and Fiction

The Book of Polly by Kathy Hepinstall

Our Short History: A Novel by Lauren Grodstein

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

White Tears by Hari Kunzru

The Idiot by Elif Batuman

All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg

The One-Eyed Man by Jr. Ron Currie

Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett

Edgar and Lacy by Victor Lodato

Celine by Peter Heller

Eggshells by Caitriona Lally

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

One of the Boys by Daniel Magariel

The Hearts of Men by Nickolas Butler

Bright Air Black by David Vann

The Night Ocean by Paul La Farge

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See

Mysteries and Thrillers

The Whole Art of Detection: Lost Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes by Lyndsay Faye

Mississippi Blood by Greg Iles

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

Never Let You Go by Chevy Stevens

Celine by Peter Heller

Ill Will by Dan Chaon

Quicksand by Malin Persson Giolito

The Twelve Lies of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti

The Night Ocean by Paul La Farge

Murder on the Serpentine by Anne Perry

Biographies and Memoirs

Dueling with Kings: High Stakes, Killer Sharks, and the Get Rich Promise of Daily Fantasy Sports by Daniel Barbarisi

The Rules Do Not Apply: A Memoir by Ariel Levy

The Moth Presents All These Wonders: True Stories About Facing the Unknown by Catherine Burns

Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy: Earnest Hemingway by Nicholas E. Reynolds

The Price of Illusion: A Memoir by Joan Juliet Buck

South and West: From a Notebook by Joan Didion

Grace Notes: My Recollections by Katey Segal

Being Elvis: A Lonely Life by Ray Connolly

The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last Three Hermits by Michael Finkel

Science Fiction and Fantasy

New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson

 

 

Governments Determine Society

 

Let’s talk about the link between a government and the society in which that government sits. Clearly governments determine society in very direct ways by the things they do and the things they do not do. Do the people in the society feel comfortable? Are people fearful? Do they scuttle out of their homes, do their business quickly, and get back behind closed doors, with closed curtains? Do the people have enough to eat, have adequate housing, pleasant surroundings? Are the people warm enough and well-clothed; are they healthy?

Is transportation available? Can people afford it? Are there jobs? Can people choose their own professions? Can they get the training they need? Do they enjoy some autonomy in the work places where they spend so much of their time or are they nervous because bosses are cruel and arbitrary and employees never know quite where they stand?

Russia

Let’s be more case specific. What do you think it was like to live and work in Russia before the Russian Revolution and after it? Russia had aristocrats, it had merchants, and it had peasants. The merchant class was about as close as they came to having a middle class. If you were not an entrepreneur then you were a peasant and the pleasure you took from your life depended on so many factors that you were far more likely to labor long and hard and die young, with perhaps a saint’s day to celebrate now and then. How the whole society fared depended on whether their ruler was benign or tyrannical.

So you would think that when that big pitchfork – revolution – turned over that compost heap and those on the bottom were the hallowed, but poor workers who rose up against oppression, that those poor people would experience a transformation in their lives. But the leaders of the revolution made tests for people. You had to join the Party and everyone’s actions were constantly under scrutiny. You could be sent to labor and die in Siberia. You could be killed outright. You could be imprisoned in a gulag, without a trial, without any argument, just taken out of your life and sent to hell on earth. Then the leaders, who perhaps felt vengeful about their years at the bottom of the heap, really clamped down. They assigned citizens to jobs. They erected that virtual iron curtain around the USSR so they would have no interference from other nations. They even built an actual wall to separate West and East Berlin.

China

The People’s revolution in China did not turn out well either. Perhaps it was because Mao was mentally ill or maybe Mao only became insane as he tried to correct his failing policies with more failing policies, until we got to the truly injurious Cultural Revolution. In this era China, as had happened in Russia, placed those who had been on the bottom on top as officials and those who had been on the top became the workers. So you had farmers, without any education, unable to read or write, in charge of a whole village of people. These untrained leaders become defensive and dictatorial. The upper classes made very poor farmers. Although we think that “turn-around is fair play, and that it makes a certain moral sense, it was a terrible failure. People starved. People were so intimidated they found sneaky ways to undermine those in charge. People were beaten and imprisoned. Many left the country if they could find a way and some died trying.

Democracies and Our Republican Coup

Revolutions that put democratic governments in place fared slightly better. Still when we wish for revolution in this country I want to know exactly what we will get when it is done. Will it take a revolution to overcome this coup that I have been writing about for the past six years? The one where the Republicans took over all three branches of government so they can have their way with the American people. What will it be like now that Donald has “trumped” their coup? Will he let the Republicans do as they wish? He seems delighted to do just that and more by dismantling our Federal agencies. When we have no affordable health care, when we have to work in an America with no labor unions to protect us, no laws about wages, no safety net if the economy slows, when we have no allies, what will life be like for people who once considered themselves in charge of their own fate and enfranchised in a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” With all these changes in governance how could we expect our society to be as it is now?

What Effect Will these Aberrations in Government Have on our Society

There does not seem to be any place for “we the people” in our government after the coup. Unless we agree with those in power we have no input in governance except through resistance. We are now a one party government, the other major party basically powerless. It looks as if America will no longer be a society that will nurture us all and provide opportunities for us all.

I believe that Donald Trump could only be President in an America where the Constitution has been trashed, hollowed out by people who found every way to exploit the flexibility our forefathers left in the document. The Republicans did the gut work to take over the government and their agenda seemed quite extreme to me. Then Donald stepped in and usurped all that the propaganda war, the gerrymandering, the purchase of state and local governments had accomplished, and went further when and he brought in his enforcers, the “alt-right”, so extreme that they had always been sidelined by nearly everyone.

This is now a “take no prisoners” government, a “my way or the highway government,” and they are vengeful and selfish. This time I think “we the people” may be in real trouble. We may find a meaner government produces a meaner society and guess who will bear the brunt of that? All of the big money is with those who have taken over our government. It is sort of a revolution in reverse.

After looking at the new budget, after looking at the new bill on education, and the new health care nonplan it is clear that these guys (don’t ever doubt that the men are in charge) intend our nation to be that old thing we fought so hard against – a military-industrial complex, and we will be the grist for the mills.

If all the programs that people depend on to lift up the less fortunate or the temporarily-down-on-their-luck are cut to the bone and our Federal government lavishes all its funds and energies on the military and the corporations, our society will be changed beyond recognition. It will be a DINO, a Democracy In Name Only. And we will be the ones behind the wall this time. I so did not want to go here. Of course we have to resist. We have to fight, fight, fight – to the bitter end. But I don’t see how we will win. In the end we may have to hunker down and try to make it through to the other side of this nastiness. Only experiencing it will convince the “faithful” of their misplaced loyalty.

 

 

 

 

 

 

News of the World by Paulette Jiles – Book

In Paulette Jiles’ book News of the World, Captain Kidd is in Wichita Falls, Texas, five years after the end of the Civil War, and Texas is in the midst of political upheaval. The Indians are still actively raiding travelers and communities whenever they feel that they need threats to help with treaty negotiations. Captain Kidd is a retired soldier and a printer/journalist forced out of business by the economy and then by the war. His great love of news has stayed with him through all the chaos of recent years. He is a lover of geography, literacy, and all human events in this world.

He has decided to earn his way in the world, now that his wife is dead and his two daughters are grown, by traveling to towns and small cities throughout the west, where newspapers are just about as scarce as readers, holding meetings to read out the “news of the world”. He avoids politics in these contentious times. He likes to read about exotic locations and interesting tidbits from lands people have heard of but will probably never travel to. He gives people a chance to escape the verbal battles that rage around them and marvel that other people live such odd lives and are, perhaps, unluckier than they are. People pay a dime to attend this somewhat cerebral entertainment.

In Wichita Falls he runs into an old acquaintance who works as a freighter, moving merchandise by wagon from a buyer to a seller, or vice versa. His friend Britt, it turns out, has been paid 50 dollars in gold to return a white girl, kidnapped by the Kiowa tribe when she was 3 to her Aunt and Uncle near San Antonio. His friend begs him to take this girl off his hands. Texas is a very big state and San Antonio is far out of Britt’s way. He will lose a lot of money if he takes her all the way home. He will give the gold to Captain Kidd.

“She seemed to be about ten years old, dressed in the horse Indians’ manner in a deerskin shift with four rows of elk teeth sewn across the front. A thick blanket was pulled over her shoulders. Her hair was the color of maple sugar and in it she wore two down puffs bound onto a lock of her hair by their minute spines and also bound with a thin thread was a wing feather from a golden eagle slanting between them. She sat perfectly composed, wearing the feather and a necklace of glass beads as if they were costly adornments. … She had no more expression than an egg.”

Now Captain Kidd does not in any way want to undertake this task. It is the rainy season and rivers are rising and he would have to cross several to get this child to San Antonio. Texas is relatively lawless and there could be bandits on the road. But he is the father of two daughters. And so we have a journey tale as this good man reluctantly undertakes the responsibility to get this child to all of the family she has left, people she does not even know. What happens on that journey, watching these two bond, is a sweet story and sometimes I do love a sweet story.

The author, Paulette Jiles, became interested in stories of children who were kidnapped by the Indians because they gave up their European heritage so easily and they were never happy to give up their second-hand Indian heritage. What was it about life with the tribes which gave children such a feeling of satisfaction and belonging even though it began as a harrowing and totally foreign experience? Of course we will probably never know the answer to this but there is still a part of us all that thinks that Native Americans or Indigenous People, or whatever the politically correct term is today, had a knack for living lightly on the earth and a natural social order which served most of them very well.

Social Darwinism and Overweening Egos

There are things the current incarnation of the GOP believes. They believe that social programs have been bad for the people at the bottom of the heap, robbing them of incentive to claw their way up the ladder. A lingering reptilian part of our brain is trying to whisper to us that this is a reasonable idea to explain why some people need government assistance for most of their lives. But the part of our brain that contains actual knowledge of history and intelligence to reach back and see if this is true tells us that this line of argument is wrong. This is Social Darwinism. Trump didn’t think John McCain was a hero because he got captured. Well the Social Darwinists (which apparently includes all of the GOP and their base) don’t think the less fortunate among us are worthy of any assistance because they are losers. They do not want to spend their millions and billions on losers. Let them survive or die. The fittest among them will survive. A few may even achieve greatness.

If you do some reading about the days before governments tried to “even the playing field” or at least put a livable bottom on our societies you will find that life without supports was very rough and hard scrabble indeed for those who were poor. But leaving poor people on their own without offering opportunities to legally improve their lives had consequences for everyone. Bandits roamed freely making travel difficult. Hygiene suffered when there were no funds to pay for infrastructure and when hygiene goes out the window, germs come in. So we know that plagues and diseases usually took root in poorer districts first and worked their way up. People who had to support families but had no skills turned to every type of crime and scam to make their meager way in the world. No country became great without some way to lift up those who were without honest resources.

The GOP points to the 1890’s, the midpoint of the era of the Robber Barons, when fortunes were made and regulation was pretty much nonexistent. They want to create this wild-west economy again. Throw out all regulations, disregard the end-of-the-world nuts who say that without regulation the world’s climate zones will change in ways that we may not be able to adapt to, and we may face the same extinction many animals face today. Nonsense the GOP says. The world’s climate changes all the time and nothing humans do can affect that it any way. So they are willing to bet on this even though all of the evidence stands against them and even though they are betting the futures of many folks who don’t agree with them. But they say, if we reset to a time when people were left to their own devices without government interference we might see the same burst of innovative energy that we saw at the beginning of the Industrial Age. To many of us this seems like an enormous gamble to take and they plan to take us all along for the ride.

They interpret the meaning of our forefathers when they said that all men are created equal differently from those of us who think that means that we are all equally human and that a government that is of the people and by the people and for the people is not a government for only rich people. Some of us believe that in order to keep our democracy great we must try to give everyone in our society an opportunity to succeed and at least a minimum standard of living to maintain health and order in our society. Offering social programs is not a totally altruistic endeavor. It is a survival mechanism besides offering spiritual rewards to all.

The GOP however does not assume that the forefathers were saying that all humans deserve to be equal regardless of their talents or the accidents of their birth (fortunate or unfortunate). They say this phrase means that although we may start out as equals it is how we make use of our opportunities that causes us to thrive or fail. The logic that they offer us is pretty self-serving. They feel that everyone can fight and struggle his/her way to the top given enough grit. No grit, no gold.

So under the cover of the “orange one” they are “deconstructing” Washington, enacting their brand of Federalism which sticks strictly to the Constitutions which says that any rights not given to the Federal government belong to the states. The Federal role is only to deal with foreign powers, to fund, maintain and employ the military, and to make a Federal budget. They have no worries comparing America with a population of 3 million to America with a population of 324 million. They have no worries that our forefathers decided not to go with a strict interpretation of the states’ rights versus federal rights. In fact, in 1890 the population in America was 5 times less than it is today but the GOP believes that the math does not matter. We are a republic, which means that our democracy is a constitutional democracy and we have wandered too far from what our forefathers intended.

Two of the strongest proponents of this view are Paul Ryan and Ted Cruz and, right now, they are the overweening egos of which I speak. Both of these men are well-educated and quite comfortably well-off. Both are ambitious and, I assume, sincerely want to fix America. But one is enamored of a thinker from the 1930’s and the other is the son of a man we took in as a political refugee, a man who has preached fire and brimstone and hate and racism all across the American South (like father, like son). We can see the Paul Ryan/Ted Cruz ideology in their stand on health care in America. Both are of the Social Darwinist wing of the Party. They want to put health care back on the free market and those who can afford it will buy it and those who can’t will get no health care at all. See if that doesn’t make “them” strive to move up the ladder of opportunity (which had just been pulled up into the attic, for the most part unreachable by any of the lowly).

Ted Cruz said recently that he does not back the American Health Care Act because it is just Obamacare Lite. He is holding out for Ryan Care, the free market. We the wealthy don’t wanna’ pay for any more health care handouts. Buy or die. And, he now is offering a way to get this done, right quickly. Here’s the title of the article that tells what Ted Cruz is up to now,

Senator Cruz Found an Overlooked 1974 Rule That Could Be a Real Game-changer for Repealing Obamacare

 http://ijr.com/2017/03/822444-senator-cruz-found-an-overlooked-1974-rule-that-could-be-a-real-game-changer-for-repealing-obamacare/

 

Of course he did, after all he prides himself on being a whiz (or a genius) at Constitutional Law.

“Among the disappointed is Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who now says he’s found a decades-old rule that he hopes will allow Republicans to pass a more thorough, far-reaching health care reform bill.

However, Cruz’s strategy — which would leverage the power Vice President Mike Pence has as president of the Senate — “might blow up the Senate too,” Bloomberg Politics notes.”

“These special rules hinge on what is known as “reconciliation,” a process which allows legislation that affects the budget but has a limited scope to be passed with only a simple Senate majority, leaving such bills immune to filibuster.

Traditionally, it has fallen to the parliamentarian — who advises the Senate “on the interpretation of its rules and procedures” — to determine what should and should not be considered a reconciliation bill.”

“Under the Budget Act of 1974, which is what governs reconciliation, it is the presiding officer, the vice president of the United States, who rules on what’s permissible on reconciliation and what is not.

That’s a conversation I’ve been having with a number of my colleagues.”

“Still, it remains to be seen whether or not Cruz’s colleagues will be eager to employ the senator’s “radical” interpretation of the rule. Being similar to 2013’s filibuster reform, it runs the risk of “fundamentally altering the way Congress works.”

In terms of fellow Republicans eager to see a more thorough replacement of Obamacare, however, Cruz certainly has plenty of allies.”

 

So while those who disagree with Social Darwinism fight to keep the ACA we are up against a new “nuclear” option, as if a Party that controls all branches of our government has any need to employ nukes. It is difficult not to feel that we are helpless to turn back the tide of backwardness now that it has been given sway over the business of our nation. I, for one, already believe that the GOP way is not good for our nation and I am sorry that we seem to have to go “there” to find out and that we may never find our way back. The tides of political thought in the world seem to have turned against government of the people, by the people and for the people.

 

Reasons to Resist the American Health Care Act

I get lots of emails from all kinds of people about causes that need money. They are all important and I wish I could give to all of them. Right now I really can’t give to any of them. But I sign any petitions that I agree with and I write to my Congressional representatives when asked and sometimes when I just feel the need to tell them what one of their constituents is thinking. I fill out lots of surveys, although not all of them, because most are just too transparently focused on getting you to donate. But with the release of the American Health Care Act this first full week of March in 2017, several of these fund-raising emails also included some very useful points showing why the AHCA will not meet the needs of “we the people” and is not a replacement for the ACA in any way.

We know that the bill offers tax credits to be used, supposedly, for buying health care, although I have also seen feedback that it will not be helpful unless you itemize your deductions on your taxes. No one with under 50,000 dollars in income is very likely to itemize deductions. There is a great graphic in today’s New York Times that depicts tax credits by income and there is a second set of maps that indicates lost funding by age.  (I do not mean to favor the NYT. It is the only paper I subscribe to. Sadly it is too pricey to subscribe to all of the papers I would like to read.)

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/03/08/upshot/who-wins-and-who-loses-under-republicans-health-care-plan.html/

We know that if this bill passes the mandate to buy health insurance disappears and so does the Medicaid expansion. Although the bill ostensibly still protects people with preexisting conditions and children up to the age of 26, it is unclear whether that will stay in the plan, either because it seems financially impossible, or because it may be such a point of contention with insurance providers that it will have to be deleted.

You can find summaries of the shortcomings of this bill all over the internet and on both sides of the issue but these short lists that came in my emails make the information that matters to folks who lean left very clear and concise.

Paul Tonko, a US representative since 2009 from New York’s 20th district (Paul Tonko.com) gives us this succinct list about the AHCA:

Key points about “Trumpcare”:

  1. The GOP’s plan will lower taxes for the richest among us while reducing coverage for senior citizens and the poor;
    Their plan lines the pockets of billionaires and CEO’s by giving money back to insurance companies – not the American people;
    3. Mental health care and other issues would no longer be required to be included in your health insurance plan;
    4. Planned Parenthood would be completely defunded and women would have less access to reproductive care;
    5. The GOP bill does nothing to fight the opioid epidemic and eliminates support for counseling and rehabilitation.

From the Daily Kos

  • Kill the Medicaid expansion, one of Obamacare’s most popular and successful ways to expand healthcare coverage
  • Defund Planned Parenthood, a critical provider of women’s health care coverage
  • And end healthcare subsidies in favor of tax breaks that will make it harder for older Americans to afford coverage

From Michael Phelan of Social Security Works

Republicans have wasted little time declaring war on seniors.

The new GOP plan to gut the Affordable Care Act will give massive tax breaks to the wealthy at the expense of the poor, elderly and sick. It does this by raiding $346 billion from the Medicare trust fund to pay for giveaways to the wealthy, and in turn intentionally weakens Medicare’s finances.

Immediately after Election Day, Paul Ryan “justified” his plan to gut Medicare by saying, “because of Obamacare, Medicare is going broke.” Of course this couldn’t be further from the truth. ACA has in fact extended the lifespan of the Medicare Trust Fund. But the GOP’s plan is a self-fulfilling prophecy: Weaken Medicare in order to destroy the program through privatization.

From Kirstin Gillibrand, one of my state senators

Here are the top points you need to know about the Trump plan:

  1. It allows health insurance companies to charge older Americans up to five times more.
  2. It repeals the employer mandate, causing many families covered by their employers to lose coverage.
  3. It will take insurance away from millions of individuals and cripple state budgets by phasing out the Medicaid expansion.
  4. It gives health insurance companies a tax break for CEO pay over $500,000.
  5. It defunds Planned Parenthood, leaving millions without access to breast exams, birth control and pap smears.

I’m sure there is plenty more to be learned about this plan, which gives health care breaks and tax breaks to those who are already well able to pay and pretends to offer breaks to people who have such low incomes that they will find themselves unable to access these breaks (because they offer payment after the fact rather than up front).

Democrats and Republicans are both unhappy with this plan but for different reasons. Democrats expected a plan that would widen the gap between the average American worker and the wealthy, and one that would make health care unavailable to most of the people who just got into a plan, although they hoped for better. The Republicans, as miserably greedy and judgmental as ever, think this plan is too generous, too costly, and too socialist. They want a plan that uses no Federal dollars to pay for anyone’s health care. I don’t see how “we the people” will win either way, but I think we ought to put up a wicked fight to keep the ACA intact. Regardless of how flawed it might be, it is not as exclusionary as what we are likely to get from our currently very one-sided government.

 

 

 

 

Koch Clout – Distraction, Bill, Executive Action

On March 3, 2017 the New York Times reported that Koch backed organizations were ready to pitch a fit if Congress did not act to repeal the ACA. Obviously they have a lot of practice with pitching this particular fit because they have done this at least 60 times already. They plan to pull out their old action plan of shrilly stalking Republican Congressional representatives until they stop stalling.

Quote:  Saying their patience is at an end, conservative activist groups backed by the billionaire Koch brothers and other powerful interests on the right are mobilizing to pressure Republicans to fulfill their promise to swiftly repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“We’ve been patient this year, but it is past time to act and to act decisively,” said Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, which is coordinating the push with other groups across the Kochs’ political network. “Our network has spent more money, more time and more years fighting Obamacare than anything else. And now with the finish line in sight, we cannot allow some folks to pull up and give up.”

The Koch groups are calling their campaign “You Promised,” and are prepared to spend heavily, they said.

“I think that the only way we get members of Congress to stay the course on this is with constituent pressure,” said Noah Wall, the national director of campaigns for FreedomWorks. If that does not work at first, he added, “I’m going to fill their offices with really angry constituents, and they’re going to listen.

“And if they don’t,” he continued, “I’m going to go back into their district and fill their district offices with angry constituents. And we’ll do this again and again.”

“Their rhetoric that has enabled them to stir up the far right is in collision with the truth,” said Thomas E. Perez, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

“Congressional Republicans have promised an Obamacare repeal in unequivocal terms,” Mr. Phillips said. “It’s time for them to keep their promise.”  Unquote

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/03/06/us/politics/republican-obamacare-replacement.html/

 

Koch Clout

Well apparently we go from Koch mouths to Congressional ears, another sign of the outsized role of money and wealthy people (these two wealthy brothers in particular) in our nation’s politics. There seems to be no way to get these two guys to stop buying every level of our government. So two days after the New York Times article telling Congress to get a move on, my evening news tells me that the 66 page bill detailing the Republican health care plan was released. Now that is what I call real clout, or is it fear? Who knew eight years ago that all we had to do to get Congress to vote the way we want is to threaten to “primary” them and have the cash to back up our threat. There is no way these GOP reps want to see their ferocious constituents begin their assaults on GOP Congressional elections again.

Two Actions Come Out Right Quick

Not only did the new health care bill come out (which will once and for all defund Planned Parenthood, and we all know the level of anxiety the continued existence of this friend of females has been engendering in the ranks of the GOP), but, on this same day, we heard the details of the new Immigration and Refugee executive action which is just like the old one except it excludes Iraq as a banned country and if doesn’t begin immediately, it does not ban people already vetted or people with green cards, and the “pause” will last for 120 days while the “extreme” vetting program is designed. I would like to see a graphic in two columns. One column would list what immigrants and refugees must do to be vetted now and the other will show what will be involved in this “extreme” vetting of which they speak. The number of refugees accepted in a year will also be capped at 50,000.

A Distraction is Created

Under the smoke screen of their “trumped-up” charges about the Obama wiretapping at Trump Towers. (Whoever wanted to say trump or Trump this many times?). This tactic of creating a smoke screen by creating a fake big scandal is designed to draw we the people’s eyes away as these two developments are almost simultaneously released. They think Democrats and allies will be so protective of Obama that we will not notice the human rights violations contained in these two bills (like a health bill which will once again rob some people of health care, i.e. women and low income folks, and an immigration executive action that is likely as un-Constitutional as the old one.)

It is all happening so fast because they know they need to hurry. Why? Because the Smoke Screener- in-Chief may go off the deep end at any moment, or they may have to finally admit that we got him already broken, or they will lose seats in Congress next time around if they back these two actions, or the resistance may win. In fact the health care bill, if passed, does not go into effect all at once, but is rather phased in with the most onerous parts not going into effect until after the 2020 election. It is all happening so fast that we may just have to move out into the streets and live there for a while with our chants and our signs.

If you want to read the text of the Health Care Bill here is a link”

https://housegop.leadpages.co/healthcare/

Back to the Kochs

Both the bill and the executive action channel the “Conservative Way” and they will both, eventually, be totally disastrous for we the people. Will we ever be able to put America back together again once the wealthy win so many of their battles? Will the middle class become poorer and poorer? Will the wealthy winners stick it to their “loyal” followers who have been bullying them a bit too much, as if they truly had any power except the power of numbers? Will they cut these folks loose and also kick them out of the middle class? Will our Democracy “live” through the long game assault of the Koch brothers?

The Vegetarian by Han Kang – Book

The Vegetarian (2/2/16)
by Han Kang

The Vegetarian by Han Kang (trans. from the Korean by Deborah Smith) begins with a wife who stops eating meat. When her husband wants to know why she says “I had a dream”. As a reader we are privy to at least the text of her dream but her husband has little curiosity about this dream which returns over and over again. He never explores the dream with her because he thinks that he can be married and just go through the motions of the marriage relationship without any messy emotional subtext. He expects his wife Yeong-Hye to be the same. She will do all the wifely things the role requires and will be completely low maintenance and supportive. If women have fantasies about romantic love, perhaps there are men who have fantasies about no-fuss marriages such as this where no deep feelings are required, each partner simply plays their role.

Yeong-Hye’s vegetarianism is so extreme that it will no longer allow Mr. Cheong to live in his fantasy. The wife he chose for her ordinary ways is in a crisis that is disrupting the lives of her husband and also her family. I am what would be called a “maximillist”, if there were such a classification for people who like plenty of everything and who like it plush and fluffy. I guess the word often used is hedonist, although that word does not really fit. However, personally, I do have some experience with “minimalists” of varying degrees. I have a friend who is a fairly extreme minimalist, who does not even like gifts unless they are things that can be used up; who is so slim that she seems to be almost disappearing. This becomes the case with Yeong-Hye, who becomes so thin that her family tries to intervene, which ends up badly when her father slaps her and forces meat into her mouth.

The scenes change each time this book arrives at a new section. We think we have been transported into another story and that this is perhaps a book of short stories. It is, instead, more like a jazz piano composition that begins with a theme and then rearranges the notes in each new section only to have the main theme reappear and progress in new, but still familiar directions. This is a great book and short; a fast, but horrifying, yet artistically and intellectually satisfying, read.

How do we know so little about ourselves? How do we know so little about each other? Are most people this disconnected from each other? Even though this book is very sexual, it is not sensual. Even when connecting in very intimate ways these people have actually made little if any connection that brings any warmth to their daily lives.

Although we do get glimpses into Yeong-Hye’s young life because in the last section of the composition her older sister In-Hye becomes the narrator and she does, superficially attempt to unravel the reasons for her sister’s behavior, that dream that haunts Yeong-Hye is never satisfactorily explained (or maybe you will think it is). While certainly not a cheerful book, it is gripping and it plays on you like that jazz piano calmly going through its variations, with perhaps a somewhat emotional bridge in the middle.