004 – compounded conflicted interest

In this episode, we discuss the examples of Trump’s conflicts of interest that I was able to find in an hour or so of googling.  There are surely many more.

and there we were all in one place

Funny things happen to Washington DC when you drop half a million people or more on it.  We basically took over most of downtown, streets were shut down, the National Mall was packed solid, and the Metro was so far beyond capacity that station managers gave up trying to get everyone to pay and just focussed on getting them through. If your card didn’t beep after a couple tries, well, whatever, go on through.

And yet there were no arrests – at the inauguration, which I wouldn’t have gone to for any amount of money, there were 217 arrests.  Assaults, rioting, protesters crossing the line.  Drop three times as many folks at least in the same space only a day later, and you’d expect bedlam – but there was not a single arrest.

There was instead an air of relentless positivity and radical peacefulness – even the signs displayed this.  For every sign that boiled down to ‘oh SCREW THIS GUY’ there were a dozen more that were messages of positivity and support. “Never forget you are valuable, powerful, and deserving of opportunity.” “Love is love.” “No human is illegal.” “Women deserve equal rights.” “Black lives matter.” “Refugees welcome.”

It’s resistance, but joyful resistance.  It’s the happiness of returning to fulfilling work – a vocation, a Calling, instead of just a job – after a too-long sleep.  America is waking up.

Excited people swapping tales of the people they were marching for and interspersing them with sightings of the faces of the previous and greatly missed administration. A woman with a Hillary pin tells a man with a Shrek sign (Get out of my swamp!) about seeing John Kerry walking his dog.  A man holding a sign announcing that Trump’s approval rating (32%) is less than the Rotten Tomatoes score for Paul Blart: Mall Cop (33%) talking to someone with a pussy hat about his mother with an aw-shucks smile.  People telling each other about their friends and loved ones who couldn’t make it to DC but they’re at a sister march in Boston, or in Seattle, or in Paris.

Reassuring themselves and each other that none of us are alone, that this is a fight we will keep fighting, that if their feet get tired there’s a million more pairs marching in lockstep.

Given the tremendous amount of people dropped on the Capitol, and the crap that went down at the inauguration, the DC police and various federal agencies freaked out a little – I spotted a division of mounted officers (horses!) and several sniper nests atop tall buildings which became more frequent the closer we got to the White House.  But every DC cop and uniformed Secret Service agent and National Guard member seemed surprised and relieved at the radical positivity – I lost count of the number of times I marched past and saw an officer chatting with someone who’d stopped to take a rest or ask for directions.  Every time, without fail, they were smiling – not the uniform, move-along-citizen sanitised smile of official positivity, but a genuine happiness at seeing democracy taken to the streets without the chaos.  Unrest without unruliness.

And that’s how we’re going to win this one, and every other fight we’ve got coming in the next however long.  Hate is strong, and scary, and has long sharp teeth.  But love is stronger, fearless, and has hide too thick for any fang to pierce.  They’re going to try to bring us down and get us mired in negativity and goad us into violence so they can point and shriek and call us all criminals – because that’s the only way they can win.  They can never defeat us if we don’t follow their script.

Write your own story.  Don’t let them hand you one.  Be excellent to each other, I love you all.

please don’t kill us

In this episode, we talk about the Republican legislative agenda, about how it’s fundamentally incompatible with Trump’s tax plan that promises tax cuts for all, and how an ACA repeal without an equivalent program in place isn’t merely an inconvenience, it’s a literal death sentence for an alarmingly high number of Americans.  There’s also a sidebar about That Document, and an open question about the Watergate fire.

The Senators mentioned, and their phone numbers, are:

Senator Bob Corker – (202) 224-3344

Senator Lisa Murkowski – (202) 224-6665

Senator Rob Portman – (202) 224-3353

Senator Susan Collins – (202) 224-2523

Senator Bill Cassidy – (202) 224-5824

eighty bucks and deamonte driver

Deamonte Driver, who lived not far from where I live, would have been looking forward to his 23rd birthday this year, a young life at the very peak of its potential – instead, his mother is looking at the tenth anniversary of his death. Because she lost Medicaid due to a paperwork mixup that resulted from the family having to move, and not having the $80 for an extraction, she could not find anyone willing to remove the abscessed tooth.

Eighty bucks. That’s about what the average family spends on groceries in a week (source: https://www.bls.gov/news.release/cesan.nr0.htm) For want of eighty bucks, the bacteria in Deamonte’s mouth spread to his brain, where it killed him on February 25, 2007 despite emergency brain surgery.

That surgery, and the costs of the healthcare that started when his health declined to the point where he was rushed to a hospital, totalled to about a quarter million dollars. Since Deamonte’s mom didn’t have eighty bucks, she sure as hell didn’t have a quarter million, so that cost went unpaid, where it was picked up partially by taxpayers and partially by the healthcare industry (and therefore by healthcare consumers).

Congress soon afterward passed a bill requiring pediatric dental coverage to be included in Medicaid, a provision which was eventually included in the Affordable Care Act. Repealing Obamacare would mean creating the same situation that killed Deamonte Driver for want of eighty bucks, instead forcing the public in general – whether they can afford health coverage or not – to help shoulder the burden of a young man’s life and a quarter million dollar bill.

It goes without saying that I’d rather not be complicit in the death of a 12 year old kid. It also goes without saying that I’d rather pay part of $80 than part of $250,000. There is no situation where a straight repeal of the ACA makes sense.

Opponents of the ACA will scream about how much it costs to cover everybody. They’ll scream about how it’s not fair that the costs of one person’s healthcare should be spread among everybody. What they won’t tell you is that it costs LESS to cover everybody, BECAUSE the costs of one person’s healthcare DOES get spread among everybody if they don’t happen to be independently wealthy enough to pay it out of pocket. (And if you think anyone wealthy enough to pay for their healthcare out of pocket does so, and doesn’t have very good health coverage, you’re out of touch with reality.)

Eighty bucks is less than two hundred fifty thousand bucks. I don’t care what direction you look at it from, I don’t care if it’s a great big 80 made out of diamond and an itty bitty 250,000 made out of balsa wood. Eighty is, was, and always shall be less than 250,000.

And a mother should never have to put flowers on her baby’s grave because she didn’t have $80 for the dentist.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/…/02/27/AR2007022702116_3.html

(liquor) cabinet

In this episode, we talk about Trump’s appointees for cabinet and cabinet-level positions, and I bust out a personal theory that I’m pretty sure is true, but has some terrifying implications.

rule 41 – modified slightly

Some folks couldn’t hear the podcast that well, so I jiggered levels a bit and here’s the result.  New episode drops tomorrow, thanks for waiting!

rule 41

In this, our inaugural podcast episode, we talk about the changes to the Department of Justice’s Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 41.  We talk about privacy, the rule of law, and how the WAY things are done is often just as important, if not more so, than THAT they are done.

what now?

Okay here’s the scoop.
Let me preface this by pointing out that the National Suicide Hotline exists, its number is 800/273-8255, it is open 24 hours a day, and exists to talk to you if you or someone you know are in crisis. They are not going to laugh at you or preach at you, they are not going to dismiss your concerns. If you’re thinking of hurting yourself, or worried that someone close to you is, please call that number. Won’t cost you a dime. There is help.
Regardless of whether you were disconsolate or elated by last night’s results, the last few months have made one thing extremely clear: Our political system is sort of broken. We’ve lost the ability to see our neighbor as a person with hopes and ideas if we see them with an opposing political candidate’s sign in their yard. We’ve stopped treating each other like fellow citizens of a nation and started treating them as potential enemies. All sides are guilty of this, and I’m not excluding myself from the path of this wide paintbrush either, we’ve all done it.
This has gotta stop.
For good or ill, Trump is the president-elect, and whether this makes you scream in terror or delight, we all still have a job to do: Making the next four (or eight) years go as smoothly as possible for everyone. Whether you want to support him or battle him, the answer is the same: Participate in our government. You don’t have to brush up your resume and run for local office or anything like that, but take a few minutes a day and read the news, national and local. Pay attention when they say an election is coming up, no matter how local or miniscule. If you’re not happy with either of the two parties, well, starting from the bottom is how a new political party gets going.
Stein or Johnson didn’t exactly have a hope of winning the election last night, but at least they were on the ballot – because a lot of hard work by a WHOLE lot of people brought their parties up from the bottom. That same effort could apply to any new political party, and heck, more work from more people and they could easily have a shot in four (or eight) years.
Voter turnout went up this election – but a whoooole lot of people stayed home. This worries me. I hear from a lot of people who refuse to vote because they think the system is broken – and, well, if we’re being honest with each other, it is. But the way to fix it is to vote out the jerks that broke it, and vote in the people to fix it.
Please, please, PLEASE participate in our government. It needs you more than ever, no matter which side you fall on, or whether you fall on no side at all. I’m not asking you to agree to political ideas you hate, or make compromises – all I’m asking is that you make your ideas known at the ballot box. None of the candidates for a given race satisfy you? Write someone in, or don’t pick anyone at all. I’ll bet you a Snickers that there’s SOMETHING on the ballot you have an opinion on, you don’t have to fill out the whole thing.
To close, I’ll fall back on the words of Ben Franklin: “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”
Be excellent to each other, I love you all.

matthew 25:40

I want you to do me a favor.  It won’t take long and won’t cost a penny.  Think back to when you were five years old, and try to remember what the biggest worries in your life were.  The sort of things that kept you up at night.  For the vast overwhelming number of people fortunate enough to have the internet connection required to be reading this in the first place, it’s probably stuff like ‘I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow so I can go play on the swings’ or ‘I wonder what I want for my birthday’.  Simple worries from small times, nothing too earth-shattering, despite the fact that at five, those were definitely Big Concerns.

And then there’s Omran Daqneesh.

I’m sure by now you’ve seen That Photo – if not, here’s a New York Times article that has That Photo right at the top.  That’s Omran – he’s a five year old boy living in Aleppo.  For pretty much as long as he’s been alive, his homeland has been the site of a brutal and hard-fought civil war.  He has literally never known the sort of peace required for one’s biggest concerns to be ‘I hope Mom doesn’t make me eat brussels sprouts again’.  I obviously don’t know the family, but it’s probably safe to assume that the parents do their best to try to make their children’s lives as happy and fulfilling as possible – but needs must, and happiness necessarily takes a back seat to simple survival; so I can only imagine that despite their best efforts, Omran and his siblings have had to see and experience the sort of things that you and I couldn’t imagine even in our worst nightmares.

There’s a video, if you can bring yourself to watch it.  In the video, Omran is sitting alone in the back of an ambulance after having been pulled free from the wreckage.  He’s covered in dirt and blood – blood that he only notices when he wipes some off his face, and looks at it with only mild surprise.  A world where a five year old kid is only barely surprised by blood coming out of his head is troubling.

A few days after that iconic photo of Omran was taken, his brother Ali died.  So now Omran has one less shoulder to cry on when the blasts get too close, one less set of arms to hug him and tell him he is loved and that he will be safe, and one more hole in his life when he already has so many.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Ali is one of a hundred children that have died in Aleppo since July 31.  As of the time of this writing, that’s 22 days.  A little more than once a day, one more Ali closes their eyes forever; one more Omran learns far too soon the meaning of grief and loss and that the world is not fair; one more family tries to figure out how to move on, like a car missing a wheel.

We’re lucky.  We can get through a basic day without worrying about our homes being blasted to ash or roaming death squads shooting us to ribbons because we go to the wrong church.  For all of its problems – and it does have problems – America truly is a land of plenty.  We need to use these gifts for the greater good.  We need to house and feed and clothe and care for as many refugees from Syria and all other places, as best we can, as many as we can, for as long as we can.  It’s on the Statue of Liberty, for sanity’s sake:  “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.  Send these, the tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

We need to do it, otherwise we’re all talk.  We owe it to ourselves, so we don’t have to feel ashamed of the missed opportunity.  We owe it to our children, to show them the meaning of compassion.  We owe it to fellow nations, if we have any hope whatsoever of the favor being returned should we need it later.

We owe it to Omran, for reasons I wish I had the words to express.  Just look at that picture again, and look in his eyes, and try not to shed a tear.

“I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” – Matthew 25:40