Saturday, March 25, 2017

Health Care, Hubris, and Happenstance

The trouble with lying and deceiving is that their efficiency depends entirely upon a clear notion of the truth that the liar and deceiver wishes to hide.
--Hannah Arendt

Today came and went and Obamacare stayed, despite draconian efforts by Paul Ryan and his puppet master, the antithesis of a human being, Donald Trump.

After seven years of symbolically voting to repeal the ACA, the Republicans in the house could not agree upon a plan that was going, according to the Donald, "be a terrific alternative to Obamacare."  It was going to be repealed on the "first day" after his inauguration.
It was going to replace a plan that, although flawed, that through its replacement, the Congressional Budget Office predicted would eventually throw 24 million Americans off health care, and decimate Medicaid in the states by scotching federal subsidies for the poor, and providing a huge tax cut for the wealthy. The audacity of it all, espoused by Paul Ryan, failed miserably because Republicans could not agree on its features and after seven years, could not come up with anything better.   Trump, of course, blamed the Democrats,(who had always been against the repeal of their president's signature legislation) failing to mention that his own party could not muster the vote of its own members.   It is an enormous defeat for the President.   Will Trump learn that he cannot order members of congress to do what he wants as he does members of the Trump organization?
With an already dismal 37% approval rating there still may be room for even more downside.

Trump's pick for the Supreme Court, wrote an opinion about a truck driver who when faced with freezing to death or moving his rig, contrary to his dispatcher's orders, detached it from its trailer and drove to a place to warm up. Fired from his job, was blackballed from ever driving a truck again,  brought an action against his employer.  Unfazed by this employee's Hobson's choice, Gorsuch voted that he followed the law in voting against the driver. Gorsuch was reversed 8-0 by the Supreme Court.  In other cases, he voted against a disabled child receiving a more than a "de minimus" education.   Behind his smooth, brilliant exterior he finessed his confirmation hearings by avoiding even a slight hint of his prospective judicial philosophy.   "I followed the law" was also an argument posed by war criminals during the Nuremberg trials.  All this business of textualist/originalist/strict constructionist loses its meaning when a judge loses his humanity or does not understand the Framer's intent that the Constitution needs to move with the times we live in. 

However, when it came to defending his writings, his phlegmatic predisposition toward corporate interests shone through.  Under intense questioning by the brilliant senator from Rhode Island, Sheldon Whitehouse, every bit Gorsuch's intellectual equal, Gorsuch failed to opine about the presence of dark money financing his push for a seat on the highest bench in the land or that same money financing opposition to Merrick Garland.  The enraged democrats will rightfully filibuster him, regarding that Merrick Garland's seat was stolen.  Mitch McConnell, who refused to give Merrick Garland a hearing, or even to meet with him called the democrats "obstructionists," blocking an highly qualified candidate, perhaps even more qualified than Gorsuch.   McConnell obsequious hypocrisy is legend even before this fiasco.

Trump, meanwhile, is under investigation by the FBI for potential collusion with "strong leader" Putin who, it seems by coincidence, had another opponent fall out of a hotel window this week "while moving a piano."

So far, we have seen nothing accomplished by this president, except a sea of vindictive tweets, accusations, alienation of allies, and solicitude for our adversaries.  Even the Wall Street Journal excoriated him this week, fearing that he is devolving into a fake president, his paranoia debunked by the FBI director and the director of national intelligence.

The fact is that Trump will need members of his own party to vote with him, and through his mendacity is losing more and more of them every day.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Los Angeles and other places 2017 part II

Sometimes, further experiences broaden one's perspective.   Although Los Angeles is all the things I said in my previous piece, there are many aspects to this metropolis that inspire.   The LACMA for example, which is showing an outstanding exhibit of Picasso and Rivera, visiting the periods of their great work and contrasting them at the same time.  Not to mention its impressive permanent collection of French impressionism, old masters and renaissance art.

The diversity of the people and the harmonious California tolerance for others does not match the gullible xenophobic environment of Middle America, victimized by the hucksterism of Trumpian averments and mendacity.   However, in all fairness, these people are being left behind because of the failure of our educational system.  But it is doubtful that Trump budget cuts will do anything for that.

The people here exude tolerance for the diversity.  Mexicans, Asians, Muslims and all manner of people congregate here to achieve the Hollywood dream, even though it is illusory.

Although the United States is going through a period of transition, a period of taking stock of what will work in the coming years, California represents the leading edge of the recognition that global engagement is the only way forward.  California, the fifth largest economy in the world, only has two senators for its 35 million people.  Wyoming with its 500,000 people has the same.   Seems like the days of the Missouri compromise should have been over a long time ago.  A Constitutional amendment should be the order of the day.

The Boulevards, jammed with traffic, the grove full of shoppers and the cinemas full of moviegoers all of whom wish to commune with the latest offerings of the 21st century art form that has transitioned from the 20th century, not missing a beat.    IMAX, enormous screens, that magnify the movie experience populate the multitudinous theatres, the lifeblood of the Hollywood film.

Artists and most people whom I have met here are progressives who care deeply about the crypto-fascist element that inhabits the corridors of power in Washington, and fear the emanations of the new administration and a regression to the 1950s--a time when our country was not so great, because the underlying racism and fear of others was well disguised under a veil of secrecy and a homogenized view of the American polity.  Not that Hollywood did not participate in a blacklist for fear that their point of view would be antipathetic to box-office revenues.    Bryan Cranston, brilliantly portraying Dalton Trumbo, a blacklisted writer-genius had to conceal his work under nomes de plume in order to support his family.  Many other screenwriters and actors had to suffer as well.

McCarthyism, like Bannon/Trumpism used demagogic fear mongering and bullying to intimidate and get its own way, even without the benefit of Twitter.

Now the chickens are coming home to roost; the POTUS circus is being revealed for what it really is:  a circumlocution bureau of lies.  President Obama was not born in the US.  President Obama tapped the Donald's phones in his gold plated tower, a "better" replacement for Obama care that will boot 24 million Americans off their insurance plans, billions for a "beautiful wall, believe me." that will keep Mexican "rapists and criminals" out and Medicaid for the poor, an exploding deficit and don't forget, tax cuts for the richest "job creators."  And by the way, Ivanka and Jarred can pick their own fruit.  But billions more for aircraft carriers and submarines to fight ISIS in the desert.

And let's not forget the picture of Andrew Jackson, a racist murderer, now ensconced in the Oval office, together with the new gold "dictator chic" curtains.

Presently, Donald's presidency apprenticeship is not doing well either in LA, NY, Miami or even in flyover country where workers are going to lose their health insurance, coal mining jobs among all the other promises purveyed by prevaricating GOP politicians.   So far nothing has happened except virulent tweets, a health care plan, which is dead on arrival, and a budget that is nonsensical.  Thank you Paul Ryan for your cowardice and obsequious support for party unity at the expense of the middle class.

Oops.  I forgot the British intelligence tapping of Donald's phone, the source for such information a former "very talented legal mind" on Fox news (later disavowed by Fox itself).  Judge Napolitano, obviously more reliable than the chiefs of all the national intelligence agencies.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Los Angeles 2017

The last time I negotiated flyover country to get here was about 10 years ago.   The history of this California leviathan continues to mystify.   Disjointed architectural creations, rendering this place of 10 million people less humane than New York, Paris or even Miami, demonstrates how a city without a plan can spread like the proverbial serpent.  Eight heads, a freedom of creativity stultified by an overabundance of poorly planed neighborhoods, an urban sprawl that sees no possibility of rectification.

Walking on Sunset, one sees Mel's diner next to a steel and glass concoction of architectural ambiguity that eschews the context of the neighborhood.   New apartment houses, with infinity swimming pools and Jacuzzis, placed outside spectacularly outfitted gyms, sit encased in glass with views of the city below from near the Hollywood hills.   The mansions of Beverly Hills and the Hollywood hills rising above the plebeian Taco stands and hotdog emporiums as testaments to the less impressive duplicates populating the heartland and even Tijuana.

The young and beautiful congregate here to have their dreams dashed in a whirlwind of  pitches, auditions with no call back in sight.  Aspirants from Nebraska, Kansas and the heartland vie for fame and fortune with about much opportunity for success as playing for The New York Yankees or in the NBA.

Actors, dancers, singers, writers with inherent talent who do not get the break of being discovered at the lunch counter of Schwab's drug store.
People, who as Emma Stone said at her Oscar acceptance speech, that she was there through the enormous confluence of good luck and a screenplay that was just perfect for her to dance with Ryan Gosling, although neither of them danced even close to Fred and Ginger and could not sing as well either.

How many of these people who follow their dreams are chasing an illusion that will always be unrequited, as though some missing ingredient in their talent had held them back from breaking trough the barriers they were sure that would crash before their young limber feet.  Many of them succumb to the realities of life, bringing with them some form of Post traumatic stress disorder, depression as they pass through their 20s, 30s and 40s with diminishing hope each year.

Some of the fortunate, the intelligent manage to transition into some normal employment where a steady pay check does not compensate them for their ruminations of failure--the acceptance of their ordinariness.  They were not the next Streep, DiNero, Nicholson or Apetow. 
And then they, often late, realize that it will not come and that they must find something to do with their lives, searching for life choices increa
singly more difficult to come by.

How many writers spent years submitting screenplays, only to have them shelved and never made into a motion picture, the system grinding them up like some poor hamburger meat at the Whole Food Butcher shop.  These are children who have led lives of privilege, starred in high school plays, edited their high school newspaper, got accepted in elite schools, were star athletes, successful in every endeavor they ever tried suddenly realizing that the right stuff is not easy to obtain or to have recognized.   Who has not seen talented violinists and cello players on the street corner, playing for nickels, dimes and quarters who but fortune, could have made the big time?

How many parents, in a dilemma of how to be supportive to children following their dream, yet agonizing at the delusional lottery tickets to fame and fortune sought by their children, most of whom are doomed to finally accept their not hitting the lucky number?