Pro-Life AND Pro-Choice

I’m pro-life. So is virtually everyone. I don’t kill bugs in my house when I don’t have to. I leave spiders alone. I rescue catchable bugs and put them outside. The problem with taking a Pro-Life stance and being against abortion is that you are also arguing that a woman who gets pregnant should be obligated by society to carry that pregnancy to full term and have that baby. This is an enormous infringement on that woman’s rights. That fetus can exist only in her womb for the first six months of development. If we become a society that mandates women who become pregnant carry their fetuses to full term, women’s, and only women’s, rights have been stripped from them.

I’m aware of the element religious beliefs play in this debate because I was raised Catholic. I was raised to believe abortion was wrong. I was raised to be Pro-Life, and I was Pro-Life even into my adulthood. Never was it pointed out to me, as I was being taught abortion was wrong, that making abortion illegal meant this enormous gouge in the rights of women. Right to Choose was just the label the other side used to indicate they weren’t on my side.

We’re a country where separation of church and state is one of our principles. That doesn’t mean people’s religious beliefs aren’t allowed to inform their opinions on issues. That would be impossible. It is a problem when religious beliefs shut people out to the opposing side of an issue. It is a problem when Mike Pence is angling to make abortion illegal because it’s against his religion, despite public opinion being against that policy. He doesn’t care because he’s certain he’s right and he’s certain he’s right because his religion is telling him he is. He thinks God is telling him he is. That’s not an opinion informed by religious beliefs, that’s dogma.

It is even more absurd that Donald Trump is pushing for this, a guy who has proven he is incapable of viewing any issue as nuanced. He aims to reward small pockets of people who voted for him to repay their loyalty to him. He isn’t the president of everyone, only those who never object to what he does.

The Pro-Life movement pushing to make abortion illegal couldn’t exist without religion. It puts religious rules above the natural order of life. Human beings have sex and sex results in pregnancy. Preaching abstinence only works for religious people who believe their religious rules should be followed. (It doesn’t work with many of them, too, but that’s not part of my point.) People aren’t going to abstain from sex. A Pro-Life stance argues that women who don’t abstain from sex and get pregnant should have to “deal with the consequences,” but having a baby are only the consequences of getting pregnant when religion creates a rule that commands people who don’t abstain from sex and get pregnant should have to “deal with the consequences.” That religious rule isn’t law because our separation of church and state elevates the freedom of women to choose above the right to life of a fetus that is utterly dependent on an individual woman. That so many religious people, like me, were raised to believe abortion is a sin without ever having that counterpart infringement of the rights of women to choose not to carry a fetus, conceived by an act entirely natural to human behavior, to the point of delivery makes holding that position sanctimonious.

That’s the only argument against abortion. It is an infringement of women’s most essential rights, probably between their right to live and vote. Listed below are simply problems with the GOP position that abortion should be illegal.

We would return to the days of women getting risky procedures from unqualified doctors in horrid conditions. Some of them would die. We’d have an increase of babies from women whose own judgment was that they weren’t prepared to have a child and care for it. In many cases, this would be financial, and we would simultaneously have a hypocritical extremist GOP government pulling back on programs to help the poor, a reduction in the SNAPs program, cuts to Medicaid, fewer opportunities for aid in childcare. Suicide rates among women would go up.

Sanctimoniously, some on the far right, Mike Pence, and others, would blame these problems on the women, falling back on their dogma that they shouldn’t have been having sex. What about rape? We couldn’t make an exception for rape cases, at least not one that would mean much, because rape statistics are clear. Rape is rarely proven in a court of law, not because it doesn’t occur, it’s just difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, the legal standard. Would we create a lower standard of proof that would allow for rape exceptions? Where would we draw THAT line to prevent women from abusing the new system of law that is abusing them?

An article pointed out that the Supreme Court overturning Roe vs. Wade will be unlikely no matter who Trump puts in. Public opinion is too powerfully against a complete overturn, but what is more likely to happen is that they’ll eat away at the law as it is to make various services for women harder to get, not just abortions but the many other services Planned Parenthood offers, which will satisfy public opinion enough to keep us from rioting in the streets, but still ruin lives. Standard operating procedure for our extremist GOP-dominated government, sanctimoniously ruining the lives of the poor. Vote blue in November whether you’re Democrat or Republican, it’s the only way to return our government to something resembling an organization that represents well the people.

For further reading I recommend “Authority and American Usage” where David Foster Wallace makes the point that being American requires us to be both Pro-Life and Pro-Choice: Exceprt: “Given our best present medical and philosophical understandings of what makes something not just a living organism but a person, there is no way to establish at just what point during gestation a fertilized ovum becomes a human being. This conundrum, together with the basically inarguable soundness of the principle ‘When in irresolvable doubt about whether something is a human being or not, it is better not to kill it,’ appears to me to require any reasonable American to be Pro-Life. At the same time, however, the principle “When in irresolvable doubt about something, I have neither the legal nor the moral right to tell another person what to do about it, especially if that person feels that s/he is not in doubt’ is an unassailable part of the Democratic pact we Americans all make with one another, a pact in which each adult citizen gets to be an autonomous moral agent; and this principle appears to me to require any reasonable American to be Pro-Choice.”

Greg Metcalf is the author of Flowers on Concrete, a novel, Letters Home: A WWII Pilot’s Letters to His Wife and Baby from the Pacific, a memoir, and Hibernation, a YA thriller: all are available in print and Ebook from Amazon.

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Womp-Womp

In a typical television exchange between someone on “the left” and someone on “the right,” the latter being Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, “the left” guy, former DNC adviser, Zac Petkanas, Petkanas criticized Trump’s zero tolerance policy that led to children being separated from their parents at the border by pointing out the anecdote of a ten-year-old girl with autism being separated from her mother. Lewandowski spoke over him and said, “Womp,-womp.”

“Did you say womp-womp to a child with Down’s syndrome being separated from her mother?” Petkanas said. Lewandowski then tried to launch into a justification of Trump’s policy, but Petkanas, appropriately, wouldn’t stop calling him out for his womp-womp. The exchange is here:

http://www.tmz.com/2018/06/19/trump-corey-lewandowski-womp-womp-down-syndrome-girl-immigrant/

Exchanges like this come from not listening, we’re only signaling each other. Petkanas signaled he was against Trump’s policy. The detail that required some reflection from anyone with empathy was overlooked completely. Lewandowski only responded to the signal. I’m not excusing Lewandowski who might be the uncaring jerk he came across as, at least to me, but this is how we’re talking to each other, now. It barely matters what anyone says, it only matters what signal they put out showing which side they’re on.

A lot of people wonder how smart Trump is. I don’t know the answer. I don’t think the question is important. What matters is that Trump is an extremist who seeks out what confirms his extremist views and ignores anything that might conflict with those views. The best answer I heard about whether or not Trump is smart came from a guy who said, “Trump would be smart if he were a villager from thousands of years ago before writing or science when people just spun theories that suited the current circumstances and convinced others to agree.”

If you agree with Trump that we need to strengthen our borders, you could acknowledge the tragedy of a child with Down’s syndrome being separated from her mother, express an openness to figuring out a way to prevent that, but still assert that coming up with a policy for a strong border is necessary. Lewandowski didn’t do that. He said, “Womp-womp,” in response to real-life pain. But when we simply take an important point as a only signal of opposition to Trump, in this polarized culture, that real-life pain—that fact—doesn’t register.

People refer to what’s happening as tribalism, which I find too incomplete, as an explanation. The better explanation is the degree to which we’ve reverted to the times when tribalism was rampant, when tribes of people clashed, who knew nothing of each other, and so had no trouble viewing them as Other. They had no trouble because they had no information, no facts. We have information and facts, but we ignore them when it’s convenient. Trump is leading that charge, after copying it from right-wing propaganda television programs and websites. He’s delegitimized the news as “fake,” to his supporters, and so citing the press doesn’t work. The New York Times has reported Trump has told over three-thousand lies or misleading statements since his inauguration, but people convinced the NYT is fake won’t believe that. I’ve started telling people just to listen to Trump to determine that he lies.

Stunningly, this exchange barely registered in the media chaos Trump has intentionally created as a mode of control. He admitted he lied to the New York Times that he didn’t dictate Trump Jr.’s response about the meeting with Russians. He now has admitted he did. When called out for the lie, he said it didn’t matter because it was just something he told the “phony” NYT. So he creates the certainty (among his supporters) that the NYT is “fake news,” and then uses his own assertion they’re fake and phony as a reason it’s acceptable for him to lie to them. “It’s the NYT, it’s not a high tribunal,” he says, in the clip below. In America, where freedom of the press is highly valued, where the press is an essential safeguard for democracy, ‘a high tribunal’ is a pretty apt description of what the press is, because he wasn’t lying to the NYT, he was lying to the American people. Why did this clip and story get so little attention? Because it came the same week he told an even bigger and more outrageous lie: that separating children from their parents was something he had to do because of the Democrats’ law. Then that only congress could stop those separations. And then he proved he was lying by ending those separations with an executive order, which has nowhere near fixed the problems his zero tolerance policy, including separating them, caused. Here is our president justifying lying to the NYT, to us:

Greg Metcalf is the author of Flowers on Concrete, Letters Home: A WWII Pilot’s Letters to His Wife and Baby from the Pacific, and Hibernation, all available in print or as Ebooks at Amazon.

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Did Jesus Go through a Selfish Phase?

Jesus was born, he spoke to the elders at thirteen or so, while his parents searched frantically for him, and then years passed before he brought his message of peace to the world. What did we miss? What was he like in his early twenties?

Jesus was God, according to the religious teachings, but if you interpret God as immersing himself in a human life then he wasn’t here as God. He was living a natural human life, like we all do, learning lessons as he went. We’re born selfish. Empathy has to be learned. I don’t think God would have come to Earth as Jesus and skipped learning this important lesson.

One of the great writings about living a compassionate human life, I’ve found, is David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech at Kenyon: “This is Water.” He opens with an old fish saying, “Morning boys, how’s the water?” The two young fish swim on and then one says to the other, “What the hell is water?” The point of the “didactic little parable-ish story” is that every experience each of us has we are at the absolute center of. Work is required to recognize that every other person we meet is experiencing life from their perspective. And that work has to be constant or we’ll lapse back into living like only our experiences are real and matter.

He illustrates this point by telling these graduates about the life waiting for them, the day to day tedium of working all day at a challenging job and then having to drive home through “SUV-intensive traffic” and having to stop at the grocery store because you have nothing at home to eat before you go to bed and to sleep before waking up to do it all again. “Who are all these people in my way? And look at how repulsive most of them are and how stupid and cow-like and dead-eyed and non-human they seem in the check out line.” Then he describes the agonizing drive home the same way. At one point, the audience laughter breaks in, and he interjects, “Remember, though, this is an example of how NOT to think.” Which is funny, but the vivid description of being annoyed at people in your way was intended to be funny. He knew it was relatable to everyone in the audience, as evidenced by their laughter. He wrote it because it was relatable to him. If living aware of and with compassion for the reality that everyone we meet has their own struggle we know nothing about was our default setting then we wouldn’t have to work at it, we wouldn’t have to be reminded of it with facebook posts, the young fish would know this is water. If David Foster Wallace had known it as a young fish, he wouldn’t have been able to offer his writing as instruction on how to put in that work and get there.

I’ve recently learned this man, whose writing is so loaded with compassion and empathy for the perspectives of his various characters, treated Mary Karr, a poet he dated in the early nineties, beyond poorly. She recently reminded people, in light of the Me Too movement, that no one cared when she pointed out his abusiveness. I believe her. Some overlook it because of the struggles with mental illness that led to his suicide in 2008, some overlook it because of his genius as a writer. I don’t overlook it. I acknowledge it. He treated her terribly. I’m just not going to throw out the lessons I learned from him and the lessons I’ll learn on another level when I reread him. Should I?

I think that’s a reasonable question for me to ask. I was nine-years-old when I became a Steelers fan, but I gave them up as my team after a woman accused their quarterback of raping her. A court of law never determined he raped her, that legal standard was never met, but enough about the story came out that I wasn’t going to be comfortable rooting for a team he led. That woman now has to live knowing a city worships a guy who allegedly raped her while he was, admittedly, blacked out drunk and her friends were prevented from rescuing her by his friends. She must be pained every Sunday in the fall.

Mary Karr might be pained every time someone raves about Infinite Jest, as I have at this blog. I acknowledge that. How he treated her wasn’t okay. If he learned from those experiences abusing her and they helped him learn to become a better person and pass those lessons on to others through his skill at writing that doesn’t make her an acceptable casualty. That’s not the statement continuing to read him is making, for me. I understand others might feel like reading him is making that statement and choose not to. I respect that. I hope they respect the decision I’ve come to. For me, I consider these situations case by case. A factor is visibility. Ben Roethlisberger’s high level of visibility makes me too uncomfortable to even consider remaining a fan of the Steelers. Another factor is the kind of experience I’m getting from remaining a fan. Football is a fun distraction but has little value beyond entertaining me, so it makes less sense for me to accept the flaws in the quarterback of the team, recognize the pain his visibility causes the woman he violated, who I believe, but still engage with because he brings me mild entertainment. For David Foster Wallace, that visibility is significantly less—though Mary Karr experiences pain from his violation of her that might be worse because he’s still widely read and lauded—and I know reading him helps me be a better person, so I don’t feel uncomfortable. I’m not ignoring her or her feelings. I’m also not ignoring the significance of his failures as a person. I’m not worshipping the man by loving the work. For me, in this case, the art is too valuable not to separate from the artist and continue to utilize as a tool for improvement in better living.

I’m not comparing David Foster Wallace to Jesus Christ, I hope that’s obvious. I’m also not suggesting Jesus Christ went through a reckless youth treating others terribly before he could emerge a wise old fish ready to teach the world how to live compassionately. My point is just that teachers in our lives will become exceedingly rare if we eliminate them as teachers because of their flaws. Part of the “Me Too” movement will have to include either reaching a consensus or accepting and respecting our differing views on where we choose to make these distinctions between art and artist. Would it be in poor taste to close this blog with a quote from David Foster Wallace that concludes Consider the Lobster, his wonderful essay on how we treat the animals we eat and how much we think about or should think about their treatment before deciding to eat them?

“There are limits to what even interested persons can ask of each other.”

Please Spread the Truth about the Affordable Care Act. Trump is Lying, Again

It’s not a surprise that Trump is calling the passage of the tax bill a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. He takes full credit for things he had little to do with and exaggerates them to the point of lying. I think that was a chapter from the book he had written for him, The Art of Manipulation, I think it was called. What’s stranger is he apparently thinks the money collected from people who went without insurance and paid the fine funded the ACA, which demonstrates ignorance about the law. The Affordable Care Act is still the law of the land. The thirteen million people the CBO projects will lose coverage with the repeal of the individual mandate is just that, a projection. Opinions vary. Some experts expect that the law has been in place long enough that people have learned it is a benefit. Those subsidies are still there for people who qualify for them. That’s what puts the “affordable” in The Affordable Care Act. We all have a right to purchase insurance at a price that doesn’t exceed a certain percentage of our income. Trump is lying, again. He’s telling the American people the ACA has been repealed, which it hasn’t. His hope is people will feel discouraged or outright confused and not take those available subsidies, so he can feel right, I guess. This post isn’t about how flawed Trump is as a leader and person. We know that. If you have friends and family who depend on the ACA to get their insurance be sure they understand the truth. Uninsured people are more likely to die, that’s a statistical reality. So it’s good for them to have health insurance but it’s also important for the health insurance system, the only one we have, that healthy people are maintaining health insurance. “Healthy people” should probably be “potentially healthy people.” The healthy today could be the sick tomorrow, which is why we want to be a country where more people have health insurance, so our sick can receive care when they need it.

My Yeti Cup

The last birthday present my mom would receive from her sister was a Yeti cup. She came for an expected last visit early in the summer and we all chatted about these cups that could sit all day in a hot car and keep a beverage so cold the ice wouldn’t melt. (Allegedly, this hasn’t been tested, by me.) Then one arrived as her birthday present in late July. For the last month of her life that Yeti cup was kept full of water and kept cold and by her chair in the living room or, more often, as the days passed, at her bedside upstairs. When my sisters came to visit, intending to stay for the funeral, my mom held up her Yeti cup and had my sister take a picture of her with it and send it to my aunt. My mom wanted to include her sister in all of us being together. My sister had to send a text ahead warning her to be prepared of how our mother would look. She died a couple of days later.

That Christmas my sister sent me a Yeti cup. I opened it and it was like opening a memory of our mom. My sister said she knew I’d take it that way that’s why she wanted it to be a surprise. With my Yeti cup, I get a refill coffee for just a dollar at the gas station near my house. It stays hot all morning while I work, on days off, and when I take one to work it’s still hot during my first break. I use it every day and always think of my mom.

The other day, I left it somewhere. Not in my car, nowhere in my house. I drove back to the last place I’d been, which was work, and retraced my steps. No Yeti cup. I came back home and thoroughly searched my house before I called my sister and broke the news to her. I think the Yeti cup is gone. They’re known to be expensive cups, so someone might have seen it abandoned and swiped it. I didn’t think anyone I work with would have but I might have left it out where people shop. I was surprisingly forgiving of my mistake in misplacing it but still distraught. I had to keep reminding myself it’s just an object. I can buy another one. Would I still be upset about losing the original a month later? The answer felt like yes.

I mentioned to my manager at work what happened and asked her to let me know if the cup turned up. “The cup is valuable but it also has sentimental value.” She said she’d have our assets protection person look it up on camera. So on video, I set my Yeti cup and book on a counter above the time clock. I left and went to write in the coffee shop. I return later (for my jacket) and notice my book on the counter and grab it. My Yeti cup had already been grabbed by someone else who has a cup just like it. So it was tracked down, and I have it back. In the meantime I had accepted its loss and realized at an emotional level that my memories of my mom are not in a cup. Which turned into an opportunity to remember her. Plus I now have my cup back to remind me of her, and it’s literally like brand new because the person who had it washed it and knows a trick I don’t to get it sparkling clean.

What Tribalism Is, What Tribalism Isn’t

The idea of tribalism goes back to ancient times when bands of hunter-gatherers were following the animals they ate and searching for edible plants and fruits. Peoples clashed. They probably didn’t always clash, but if food scarcity was at levels that threatened survival, they certainly would have clashed. Compassion was enough of an instinct that killing would have troubled them, so they needed to carry a tribal god with them that told them they were a select group and other groups they ran into were not in that select group, which gave them permission to kill that other group without guilt or with diminished guilt. There are remnants of the tribal god thinking in the Western religions, which derived from the hunter-gatherer style of living. In the Bible, there are lists of foods appropriate to eat. These lists are worse than arbitrary, these were lists of the foods these people were already eating, so that when they ran into peoples eating different foods, they could kill them for violating religious law. There are other lists in the Bible, for how to sew etc. The Western religions (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism) have adapted to a more unified globe and now teach messages of peace, but this tribalism origin shows in their texts and that influence probably affects our thinking, whether religious or not, we’re all influenced by Western religion.

A close equivalent to tribalism, in modern times, might be people who take sports rivalries way too seriously and imagine the campus of a rival college team or the city of a rival team a completely other set of people, even when everything else about those two cities or campuses would point to them having a lot in common (similarly sized, same region of the country, etc.). Tribalism would be if I eat Wheaties for breakfast and I have a neighbor who easts Mueslix, and I think, What kind of an asshole eats Mueslix for breakfast? I don’t even have an issue with this neighbor, I’m just looking for arbitrary distinctions so that when the end of times comes if we’re down to one loaf of bread and one bottle of water between the two of us I can not share without guilt.

The problem with explaining the divide in America today with tribalism is that it attempts to establish a false equivalency, kind of a buzz phrase through the 2016 election and continuing after, but a buzz phrase because the tactic is used constantly. There is a tribal element to the divide in America, because those Western religion influences are so powerful, but the distinctions of tribalism exist solely so that there are distinctions. They exist to create us and not-us, other. What divides America today is where we align on actual issues and what the influence of tribalism allows us to ignore is that there are objective truths behind those issues. This predates Trump. Jenny McCarthy used a study, later determined to be based on manipulated data and fraudulent research, to convince people vaccines cause autism. Many probably still believe this. Vaccinating a perfectly healthy baby is frightening, so it can be tempting to believe someone who tells you not to do it, but read up on how terrifying Polio was before a vaccine to prevent it existed. Climate change, caused by human activity, is no fun to think about, so when someone claims we’re just in a natural warming period, it’s tempting to believe. If you’re a Trump supporter, believing, as he said, that millions of people in California illegally voted for Clinton is tempting to believe, because winning the popular vote would be a nice feather in the cap of the person you voted for. Similarly, believing his inauguration was more well attended than Obama’s.

The scientific method allows us to eliminate our biases in how we observe. It has ways of eliminating that we might like to believe Trump’s inauguration was more well attended than Obama’s with what we can clearly see in pictures, that it wasn’t. Science has ways of studying how and why the planet is warming and was able to establish an extreme likelihood that digging up millions of years’ worth of fossil fuels and releasing them into the atmosphere as a gas is, inconvenient as it is to learn, the how and the why. Science establishes extreme likelihoods because science doesn’t deal in certainties. Certainty ends the search for potential new information and our ability to integrate that new information with what we already believe or to change what we already believe completely. We seem to be in a new age where people are comfortable believing whatever they choose to believe, and those people take advantage of science not dealing in certainties and use that to create irrational doubt, which is not the same as skepticism.

Soon after Trump was elected, he made the claim Obama had wiretapped him. An interviewer made every effort to nail him down on this, as Trump tried to be oblique, as he likes to be, you might remember this clip, Trump kept saying “you can figure it out,” and the reporter said, “I want to know what you think, you’re the president.” At one point, Trump said, “I don’t stand for anything,” and then he told the reporter, “I can have my own opinions. You can have your own opinions.” This is the problem in America, and Trump is just an expression of that problem. Whether or not Obama was illegally wiretapping Trump is not a matter of opinion, it either happened or it didn’t. That clip is here; it’s hard to watch:

After Trump’s win, a lot of Americans questioned how people could have voted for him and the response to that questioning was often, “Apparently people aren’t entitled to an opinion anymore.” That’s nonsense. Of course, everyone is entitled to an opinion but respecting others’ opinions doesn’t require not questioning them. As much as people were entitled to vote for Trump and defend that vote, I was and am entitled to state that they voted wrong. Russian paid for millions of ads on facebook manipulating Americans into being for Trump and against Clinton and, more relevantly, which doesn’t get the mention it deserves, those ads were shared by American citizens millions of times. We got duped. Russia rigged our election for president taking advantage of our willingness to believe whatever we like to believe.

If we’re not allowed to challenge each other to be better voters, our democracy is threatened. I hope everyone who’s read this far reads the quote below from David Foster Wallace. What comes through even more than his wish for his fellow citizens to maintain a Democratic Spirt is his compassion at how difficult it truly is, how we all fail, sometimes, how the trap of failing to maintain a Democratic Spirit is universal. Compare how his words below try to unite us at the same time as they try to make us better. Compare that to how our current president uses that same trap to try to divide us and make us worse.

“A Democratic Spirit is one that combines rigor and humility, i.e., passionate conviction plus a sedulous respect for the convictions of others. As any American knows, this is a difficult spirit to cultivate and maintain, particularly when it comes to issues you feel strongly about. Equally tough is a DS’s criterion of 100 percent intellectual integrity – you have to be willing to look honestly at yourself and your motives for believing what you believe, and to do it more or less continually. A Democratic Spirit’s constituent rigor and humility and self-honesty are, in fact, so hard to maintain on certain issues that it’s almost irresistibly tempting to fall in with some established dogmatic camp and to follow that camp’s line on the issue and to let your position harden within the camp and become inflexible and believe that the other camps are either evil or insane and to spend all your time and energy trying to shout over them.” – David Foster Wallace, from a 1999 article, “Authority and American Usage”

The GOP Tax Plan is a Disaster

The disaster known as… “The GOP tax plan.”

Unlike our president who likes to call the Affordable Care Act a “disaster” when really he knows little about it other than that he doesn’t like it, I’m going to explain why I am of the opinion that the GOP tax plan is a disaster. Trump grasps superficially to the ideas around issues that confirm what he wishes to believe. He probably truly thinks this tax plan is great, he also probably truly knows little about it. He can just be told what about it he would like and he’ll sign it.

Like their attempt to repeal and replace the ACA, the primary goal of this tax plan is to deliver tax breaks to the GOP’s wealthy donors. This tax plan is your work buying pizza “for everyone” but the managers and bosses get to eat the pizza and everyone else gets to eat their crusts. Except some of the lower level employees wouldn’t even get to eat crusts but they will have to chip in to pay for the pizza.

After McConnel announced everyone in the middle class would see a tax break, this statement was exposed as a lie. On average the middle class would see a break but depending on where you live, you might end up paying more. He later came out and admitted this.

The tax plan the GOP is putting forth is (hold your surprise) centered around the floated but never proven theory of “trickle down economics.” If the wealthy have even more money they’ll invest it in growth of the economy, which will create more, higher paying jobs, so that money will trickle down to the rest of the country. The best response to that I heard was from someone on one of the Sunday morning news shows, who said that theory would make this tax plan defensible if we were in a recession, if unemployment was high. The economy is doing well, which means the people who will see most of the breaks in taxes already have money to use to invest and grow the economy and raise wages, if they wanted to. The wealthy don’t invest because they have money lying around. They invest to capture business opportunities and increase their profit. Whatever they would be doing with the extra money the GOP is about to transfer to them, they already are doing with the profits they’re making from the economy currently thriving.

The GOP is rallying around their inability to get a major achievement passed in the first year of Trump’s presidency as a reason to feel desperation to pass this. If we don’t get something done, after not repealing and replacing the ACA, we’re going to struggle in 2018. So their plan is to push an unpopular tax plan on voters to show them they can get things done and expect that to win them votes in 2018? Do you believe that? This doesn’t smell like that. It reeks, but it doesn’t smell like that. This is the GOP appeasing their wealthy donors and they’ll worry about damage control later.

This plan will add 1.5 trillion dollars to our national debt. They claim that economic growth will make up that 1.5 trillion, but we have other resources than just the political group highly motivated to believe generous estimates they come up with to justify the bill they want to pass. Nonpartisan groups run these numbers and give more objective analyses. Those groups do not expect increased growth to be significant enough to make up that 1.5 trillion dollars. So once again the “fiscally responsible” GOP is acting fiscally irresponsible, or at least reckless, in order to deliver money to their donors. They’re funneling so much money to their donors that they failed to stay under the 1.5 trillion dollar cap, so they’re also tacking on a repeal of the individual mandate, part of the Affordable Care Act. This tweak, the CBO, says will result in thirteen million people losing insurance and a 10-20% rise in premiums. They originally didn’t intend to attach healthcare changes to this tax plan, but they have because they needed to find more money: $338 billion. And while Paul Ryan will surely talk publicly about how this is America and he’s all for people having choices, this “tweak” isn’t about giving Americans choices, it’s about that money. These will be healthy people who “choose” not to buy insurance. It’s naïve for one individual to forego health insurance in hopes they won’t get sick or injured, but that one individual might not fall injured or ill. (That doesn’t matter, with insurance you’re buying the right to care if you need it, not the care you get if you need it.) It’s egregious for the government to pass this off on us when out of thirteen million people they absolutely know some portion of that thirteen million will fall injured or ill. When they do, they’ll get worse, more expensive care in the ER, most of which will be covered by taxpayers. Shouldn’t that concern the fiscally responsible GOP? It should but those extra expenses don’t fit into the 1.5 trillion dollar mark they have to stay under to get this law passed.

This is dumb governing anyway you look at it. Having a majority across the board might allow you to shove through some stuff but that’s a short term fix. (A short term fix is all you need if your actual goal is to win the favor of your donors and not to pass functional governing policies.) The GOP has made no attempt to bring any Democrats in since gaining majorities in both houses of congress and now the presidency. Wily Mitch works around needing the two-thirds majority and tries to pass things on purely partisan lines. Is that sustainable, to have a government where the minority party is just ignored? Particularly when you’re pushing unpopular laws, you’re bound to lose that majority and have the other party undo what you’d done. (Again, if your real goal is to show your donors your homework and get paid, then that’s not a problem.) And no, Obama and the Democrats didn’t do “the same thing” when they passed the ACA. Obama tried to work with Republicans, the ACA itself was a compromise to meet across the aisle with Republicans. The ACA ended up passing without Republican support but only because the Republicans intended to obstruct. The Democrats might be in obstruct mode, too, but how would we know? They’ve been completely cut out since Trump got sworn in.

Which leaves us with Trump, who besides riling everyone up with racist rhetoric also promised magic fixes to people struggling. Many people voted for Trump, not because of his racist rhetoric but in spite of it because they were frustrated with the struggle of living day to day. Trump promised them relief. He’s going to try to sell this as that relief delivered. Look how much I cut taxes, no one likes taxes, right? Look at how easy it will be to do your taxes on this postcard that I’m going to kiss. Have a look at the tax breaks Trump stands to receive personally and compare those to the break you’ll receive. He’s eating pizza and you’re eating his crusts. Trump is a deeply selfish human being. He’s only going to pretend to try to help you if he sees that it will help him. You missed that about him during his campaign, but don’t get married to that oversight.

Trump’s Response to Terrorism Resonates, which is the Problem

Every American is heartbroken at the announcement of the next mass killing. All of us. Then we wonder who was responsible. It shouldn’t be the first thought, the first thought should be empathy for the victims and their families, but that’s more abstract. Who did it is where we tend to first go. I recently confessed to a friend how guilty I feel for always immediately hoping it wasn’t a foreigner, who is Muslim, with ties to ISIS. He made me feel better by letting me know I wasn’t alone in that feeling. I’m still troubled by that response. It shouldn’t matter, but it does because we have a president who does the opposite. He hopes the killer is a Muslim foreigner, because it fits the narrative he campaigned on and the xenophobic agenda he’s trying to push. He “counts his hits and ignores his misses,” which is gamblers’ logic. We know because of how he responded to the Orlando shooter during the campaign and when comparing his responses to the Vegas shooter and the driver from the recent attack in New York. He’s not alone. His xenophobic campaigning got him elected. At least some of those voters think the same way. The statistics don’t lie. The majority of these like clockwork random mass murders are committed by white Americans but in these cases the same people who immediately jump to tightening our already strict immigration policies are the first to say there’s nothing we can do about our lax gun laws because that would restrict Americans’ freedoms. That is not a valid opinion, that’s flawed thinking. But what is actually a statistical outlier validates Trump’s agenda and presidency, it lets people who voted wrong for president feel what they desperately want to believe: that they voted right. This is how democracies continue down the wrong path.

NFL Boycott: I wouldn’t kneel for the Anthem but I will stand with a man who chose to

Football is the only sport I still follow through the regular season. There are too many games in the other sports, so I only pay attention to the playoffs. Sunday afternoons watching football in the fall is a great unwind for the weekend, and I think the Browns were going to have a great year. But I have to give that up because of the NFL’s treatment of Colin Kaepernick.

It’s really difficult to argue that Kaepernick didn’t deserve even a look from a team. For a short while, he was looking like a premiere quarterback in the league. He’s still in his twenties. Think of some of the former solid quarterbacks who have at least gotten looks as potential backups. Think of some of the baggage some of those players carried and still got hired. (Michael Vick, as an example.) So we know why he didn’t get the shot. He knelt during the National Anthem.

This either upset the NFL powers that be or the powers that be of the NFL determined this upset enough of their fan base that they decided the controversy of shunning him outweighed the controversy of allowing him to play. The fans offended by Kaepernick’s kneeling for the National Anthem have all entered his mind and determined that he is disrespecting the flag of the country and everyone who fought and died protecting the freedoms that flag represents. Because to recognize that he is actually exercising one of the freedoms that our country was founded on by choosing a form of protest that would, and undeniably did, draw attention to an issue in this country genuinely important to him, and one he was willing to risk his livelihood on, which it has ultimately cost him, would prove they’re being self-righteous, which those fans are motivated not to do.

We actually don’t know what motivates Colin Kaepernick to kneel during the National Anthem, not for sure, but everything points to him being a man of integrity with the legitimate issue of instances of blacks consistently receiving unfair treatment, including getting shot and killed, by some portion of the nation’s police force at statistically anomalous rates. Wherever we stand on that issue, no one can point to it as trite.

So this is about the NFL, either by capitulating to a portion of its fan base or acting on its own set of beliefs, telling an individual he must stand for the country’s anthem. Forced displays of loyalty to the country, besides being oxymoronic, are in direct opposition to everything America stands for, which ironically seems to me more disrespectful to the flag and to the people who died protecting the country. By supporting the NFL, we’re supporting forced displays of loyalty. So I feel I must withdraw all support from the NFL. For me, this won’t be too hard. I maybe watch ten games a season. For other people this will be a lot harder. I would suggest doing what you can. If everyone gives a little less time, attention, and money to the NFL this season, they’ll get the message that we stand with Colin Kaepernick’s right to kneel during the Anthem. They’ll get the message that we won’t continue to support a multi-billion dollar business while it flouts one of the principles this nation was founded on.