Category Archives: Culture

Donald Trump is a Russian Spy (Maybe)

I think that Donald Trump is a Russian spy. Here’s the evidence.

First and foremost, he is an ardent admirer of Vlad (the Impaler) Putin. Of course, I can’t be sure whether it’s political or sexual attraction to the ex-KGB guy with the penchant for going shirtless, but I’ll give The Donald the benefit of the doubt and assume the attraction is political. Philosophically, they do seem to be well aligned. And they’re both bullies.

Next, Trump supports the Russian invasion of the Crimea and feels that the US should recognize the extended Russian claims over Ukraine.

And then there is his urging of Russian cyber-intelligence to hack into US servers, especially Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail server. In other words, he’s advocating espionage against the United States by a foreign entity. One more step over the line and he’ll be guilty of treason.

Trump spends most of his time running down the country as an out of control mess, a place where everywhere you turn you expose yourself to the possibility of a violent death at the hands of people who don’t look like you (read: white). And in much of the time during which he isn’t trying to scare the bejesus out of the poorly educated and bigoted masses, he disparages the military, thus providing propaganda support for Russia. His recent attack on the parents of an American soldier, including his unconcealed racist insinuations about Muslim culture forcing the soldier’s mother to remain silent, goes far beyond the limits of decency and, again, speaks to his lack of loyalty and respect for American ideals and institutions. In this latter regard, no one is spared from his attacks, as evidenced by his recent verbal attacks on firefighters for simply enforcing limits on legal occupancy at his rallies. Firefighters!

While all this speaks to his borderline treasonous behavior, one has to ask why he’s acting this way. Could it be that he’s in severe financial trouble and needs money from the Russians to keep him afloat? Well, that’s just unsubstantiated speculation on my part, something Trump does all the time as he makes de facto accusations with implicit rather than explicit language.

Of course none of this Russian stuff explains why he also seems to be supporting ISIS. You don’t believe that he supports radical Islamic terrorist activity? For starters, just look at his ongoing denigration of America and its armed services, or his railing against what he says is the incompetence of the American government. He’s the best propaganda tool ISIS could wish for.

All of which leads me to ask one final question. Who would ever have thought that the Republicans, of all people, would nominate a modern incarnation of Benedict Arnold? Apparently all their flag waving is just a cover for the real goal of modern Republicanism: fascist, racist, ignorant dictatorship with Donald J. Trump as their anointed leader. So who’s Trump, himself, actually aspiring to be? I’ll leave the possible names from history unsaid, but you know who they are.

And the irony of all this is that Republicans brought this on, themselves. Trump is neither more nor less than the logical, inevitable outcome of years of Republican radicalism, bigotry, and waging economic and class warfare. Some Republicans are finally waking up to this ugly fact and the monstrous mess they’ve created, but party leadership remains spineless. How else to explain McConnell, Ryan, Priebus, et al., as they express their disapproval but refuse to retract their endorsement of the Party’s candidate. With gutless wonders like these at the head of the Party, is it any wonder that white supremacists and high school dropouts have felt justified in crawling out from under their rocks to support the beast?

As of today (3 August), some Party regulars are openly hoping Trump will voluntarily drop out of the race. Hah! Still no spine – just sit back, take no action, and wish for the high flying egotist to back out. The cowardice would be shocking if it weren’t so predictable. On the other hand, maybe Trump will be “disappeared” by a Russian extraction team. After all, that’s what they do when a spy’s cover is blown. And wouldn’t that be just dandy?

Of Mobs and Demagoguery: The Republican Convention of 2016

The 2016 Republican National Convention has now (thankfully) passed into history, but its effects are likely to be long-lasting. In no particular order, here is a listing of some relevant aspects of its frightening legacy, along with some observations of my own (of course).

  • The initially unlikely nomination of Donald Trump, a bloviating, bigoted, xenophobic, nationalistic, verbally abusive egomaniac has become a reality, the result of the Republican takeover by right wing extremists and evangelists. The party is now, de facto, the party of white supremacists, religious nut cases, and those with no understanding of the actual history of the United States and its founders.
  • The virtually complete takeover of the Convention’s proceedings by Trump forces resulted in trampling dissent and led to a mob mentality with behavior of the delegates that all too often (e.g., during Chris Christie’s kangaroo court performance), resembled that seen during the rise of the Third Reich. Personally, I found all those raised arms pretty terrifying.
  • Although one expects negative hyperbole denigrating the candidate of the opposing party, the behavior of the delegates as egged on by many speakers transcended the bounds of decency. Instead of being a celebration of the Republican nominee, the convention became an ugly hatefest, and if all that unites the base is hate, one wonders what Republicans will be voting for, rather than against in November.
  • We learned that Melania Trump is, as reported by the L.A. Times, an admirer of Michelle Obama, certainly an embarrassment of sorts for The Donald and others who have spent such an inordinate amount of time hating the Obamas.
  • The honesty, hard work, and dedication to principle so touted by Melania in her plagiarized speech bears no resemblance to the actual conduct of the candidate. In fact, listening to her, one would have been more than hard pressed to identify whom she was speaking about if she weren’t the candidate’s wife.
  • Every time the camera panned to the Trump family and showed his beautiful children, the only thought I could entertain was “Stepford”. In fact, so many of the women, in particular, in the arena had the same blond appearance of the Trump women that I considered the possibility that they were all programmed robots. Of course, an awful lot of the men on the convention floor looked more like beer swilling knuckle-draggers than intelligent specimens of the human species. Just sayin…but we know that Trump’s major appeal is to the white, poorly educated of our country. Just those whom we want to choose our leaders, right? And it is worth noting that this convention reportedly had fewer minority attendees than any other recent Republican convention despite the Party’s sticking some minority speakers on the program for show.
  • After the 2012 re-election of President Obama, the Republicans held that much touted autopsy on their stunning failure and came up with some reasonable conclusions about the Party’s wrong direction and what needed to be done to redirect efforts to broaden their base. The current outcome is the result of the party’s total failure to channel their own findings toward any sort of remedial action and a demonstration of how moderate influences within the party were completely overrun by the darker forces of radical religion and what now passes for conservatism but is really a complex mixture of paranoia, fear, bigotry, and a foundational philosophy anchored in preserving an American caste system.
  • Trump’s final address to the convention on Thursday night was simply raw meat for the already converted. It was a classic example of playing to white fears, denigrating the opposition, and offering no specifics while throwing out a few barely acknowledged platitudes in the vain attempt to convince a wider audience to support the ticket. And, boy, did he sound angry.
  • Neither Trump nor any other speaker acknowledged the overt bigotry and radical, chauvinistic nature of the Party’s platform, suggesting either total hypocrisy or an overt intention to deceive. In fact, if one looks at the history of VP nominee Mike Pence (Mike Pence???), one can see clearly through the deception. He is, in fact, the embodiment of the platform: a radically conservative, angry white guy out to “restore” the country to an idealized state that, in fact, never actually existed. If he and all the others of his ilk get their way, millions will lose their health care, women will once again begin dying from septic illegal abortions, climate change will be ignored, environmental degradation allowed to proceed unchecked, quality education reserved only for those who can afford it, and voter suppression will continue to run unchecked, among other “conservative” delights. Oh! Wait! It really is the Republican Party’s platform!
  • The funniest thing I heard anyone say all week came from Stephen Colbert, who commented, “Mike Pence was born after a bolt of lightning struck a jar of mayonnaise.” (See prior bullet point…)
  • In the final analysis, the 2016 Republican gathering accomplished only one thing. It played successfully to the already committed base without expanding support among elements of the public it needs to attract to have any chance of winning in the November election. Pundits say that the Party is losing more voters than it has been gaining, resulting in a net loss. We can only hope.

Unroofing the Polluted Well

Anyone who has read my blog over time knows my political views, so it will come as no surprise to read of my dismay over what the candidacy of Donald Trump has revealed about a substantial minority of the American populace. The deep dark, polluted well of bigotry and intolerance which Trump has unroofed has led to the cockroaches feeling empowered to creep out into daylight, and it has not been a pretty sight.

First, let’s review a bit of history. The founders of our country were both brilliant and selectively blind. Their brilliance, as reflected in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and its appended Bill of Rights, is evident for all to see. These documents have enshrined the highest aspirations for society, including certain specific rights we hold most valuable of all. And yet, these same founders permitted slavery and other forms of discrimination which, in today’s world, are seen to be totally unacceptable by most thinking, educated individuals. Unfortunately, however, it is only “most” and not all.

Within the country, bigotry exists: racial, ethnic, religious, and all tend to be generalized. Whether its anti-black, anti-Asian, anti-Latino/Hispanic, anti-Jewish, anti-Catholic, or anti-Muslim, the tendency is to paint with a very large brush. For those individuals and groups of individuals holding such views, no amount of logic or reason, education, shaming, or objective example can so much as dent their internalized biases.

Many of those harboring these belief systems understand that to reveal them to the larger public would result in significantly adverse social consequences, so they keep their views to themselves. Increasingly, however, they and their more vocal counterparts have come to feel empowered  to express themselves.

The largest, but perhaps not the only, enabling force in this has been the Republican Party which, for years, has drifted increasingly rightward under the influence of religious fundamentalists, white bigots (the so called “angry white men”, although there are many angry white women, too), and those with money buying their way into government for their own gain. Republican philosophy has become increasingly based upon policies that maintain a rigid social structure in which there is a permanent underclass that is always slighted in legislation and preyed upon by those who continue to benefit and exert ever increasing influence over legislation.

Donald Trump has become the almost inevitable end product of the Republican Party’s acceptance of, and conquest by, these expressive and controlling forces. The party of Lincoln has been co-opted by the radical right, the business elite, the NRA, intolerant religious fundamentalists, and white supremacists. One need only take the most obvious example of this over the past 8 years: the racially motivated, unending campaign to discredit President Obama by labeling him as a foreign born Muslim. As recently as immediately following the Orlando mass shooting, Donald Trump (who still supports the “birther” movement), strongly implied that President Obama was complicit in the attack. Examples abound, but who needs more than this to understand the nightmare that the Republican Party has unleashed.

The most disheartening aspect of this, aside from the fact of Trump’s ongoing support by those who feel as he does, is that influential Republicans are continuing to support him: Ryan, McConnell, Perry, Rubio(!), et al. are all placing “party unity” and irrational hatred of Hillary Clinton above their previously expressed opinions regarding Trumps behavior. This could mean one two things. Either their feelings haven’t changed about Trump but they’re simply morally bankrupt, or despite their criticism of Trump, they actually see him giving vent to their own views, which is just another way of saying they’re morally bankrupt. Either way, it’s pretty damned depressing. In the end, though, one thing is clear: the Republican Party has become neo-fascist, racist, class-conscious, angry, and militant, and has adopted a punitive attitude toward all with whom they disagree or toward whom they harbor deeply seated bias. It does not bode well as it serves to empower other elements in the country holding similar views. One can only hope that changing demographics along with an increasingly secular, humanistic orientation of the highly educated in our county will ultimately overtake and drown out the voices of anger and intolerance. It’d sure be nice.

Back After a Hiatus: Politics as Usual

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted to the blog. Life’s like that, I guess. Lots of other responsibilities and even some fun stuff have kept me from blogging. First, in early April, I spent time selling one of my books, Zendoscopy, at the L.A. Times Festival of Books. While sales were less than spectacular, the time I spent with other writers while meeting and greeting the public in the Greater Los Angeles Writers Society booth was interesting and fun, and when it was over, I returned home recharged to work on the not-quite-a-sequel to Zendoscopy. Yes, it’s got a title, finally, after two years of ruminating over possible monikers, and it’s getting close to completion. I won’t be announcing the title until the book is completed and formally copyrighted, however. A bit later this year, all being well, I’ll post a chapter or two to whet appetites. All I can say now is that it’s going to be even funnier than the funniest parts of Zendoscopy, and not quite as angst-ridden.

Those who’ve read Spacebraid and Other Tales of a Dystopian Universe and/or Zendoscopy have likely surmised that I’m an amateur (“ham”) radio operator. In fact, I have been a ham since I was a kid. In April I was away at a major West Coast amateur radio convention for which I was the program chairman (third time in the job), and I just returned from attending the largest such convention held every year in Dayton, Ohio, where as President of an international organization of amateur radio operators in the health professions I chaired its annual meeting.

So, I’ve been busy.

Not so busy, however, that I haven’t been following what journalist Matt Taibbi has aptly called the Republican Clown Car. Of course, with only Trump (Drumpf?) left standing, it’s less a clown car now than a reincarnation of the Third Reich. Think that’s an exaggeration? Think again.

Let’s forget about Barry Goldwater for this discussion and skip directly to the Reagan era, when we truly began to see the rise of the religious right and an increase in bold faced Republican right wing lying to the public in ways that left a significant segment of the American population unaware that voting “conservative” was tantamount to voting against their better interests. Then came the so-called neocons, with Dick Cheney and a moronic President named George W., who led us into a misguided war based upon inadequate data and outright fibbing. There was an increased sense of militancy in foreign policy with more than a dollop of nation building idealism thrown in but based upon a wholly inadequate understanding of Middle Eastern culture, politics, and history. Meanwhile, at home, those most opposed to “big government” had no hesitations about trying to further disadvantage the poor, trample on equal rights for women and reproductive choice, restrict health care, undercut voting rights, and gang rape the environment.

Endlessly repeated lies and misinformation from the right, coupled with the Republican and Wall Street induced economic collapse of 2008, created an angry public that swallowed Republican scapegoating of President Obama and the Democrats, Muslims, Mexicans, and immigrants in general, and in the end created so much alienation that it inevitably led to the appearance of the Republican Clown Car: all those idiots competing for the Republican Presidential nomination. Let’s see, now. Just a few of them…Ben Carson, a religious fool who thinks the pyramids are hollow and were built for grain storage. Carly Fiorina, who touts her business experience but drove Hewlett-Packard into the ground and was fired as its CEO. The pathetic Jeb Bush, wholly inept as a debater and too weak to stand up to any of his opponents . Ted Cruz, one of the meanest, most reactionary, lizard-like human beings on the planet. I could go on with Christy, Paul, Kasich, Rubio…but you get the idea. And finally, of course, the alien monster that burst from the collective chest of the Republican disaffected, an arrival virtually guaranteed by years of Republican rhetoric and behavior: the Trumpmeister, himself. Misogynistic, bullying, bloviating, ignorant of world history, politics and culture, bigoted, scapegoating, vulgar, egotistical — a man with no real political allegiances who simply gave voice to all that festering anger and frustration, bias, bigotry, and xenophobia: the slimy innards and cold heart of today’s Republican Party. The right wing is like the rioters of Watts, Ferguson, and too many other places. It doesn’t care if it destroys the country – it’s simply mad beyond reason, charged with irrational anger, and Trump is the vehicle of this inchoate rage. Damn the torpedoes – blow up democratic government by consensus and compromise and simply rule by fiat. In other words, If Trump wins in November, we will have elected a fascist.

In several of my prior blog entries, I’ve said similar things, but the situation now is getting serious, folks. A recent Wall Street Journal poll (and, OK, the WSJ is pretty conservative) found that Clinton still beats Trump in the general election, but only by a margin of three percentage points: 46 to 43. Now, that’s scary. Do we want a bloviating, bigoted ignoramus as President? Could he really win in November. Unfortunately, the answer is yes. After all, consider the re-election of George W., and try not to cry when you do. Anything’s possible.

The only hope is for youth and minorities to show up in droves at the polls. Let’s hope they’ve gotten the message because if they haven’t, and if we end up with a President Trump, we may find the Canadians wanting to build a wall to keep us out.

So Shall Ye Reap

As of today (3/5/2016), it looks as if Donald Trump (whose ancestral surname was Drumpf) is steamrolling his way to the Republican nomination for President of our now dis-United States. To quote William Bendix in The Life of Riley, “What a revoltin’ development this is!” But, then, people generally get what they deserve, and the Republican poohbahs, now all with their panties in a bunch over what, to their horror, is perhaps the impending implosion of their beloved party, catalyzed by a boorish lout with bad hair, are simply reaping what they’ve sown.

Yes, friends, I repeat: what they’ve sown. For years Republicans have worked tirelessly to undermine governmental process and inculcate anger and intolerance in segments of the population too stupid and sheep-like to know better. Pushing the notion for years that government not only is not working but is actually bad, the geniuses of the Republican hierarchy have failed to recognize that people might begin to see them as part of what’s not working. Which leads us to an understanding of why Donald Trump can (and does) say anything and people won’t (and don’t) care because he’s not an “insider”. That he’s an arrogant, misogynistic, politically ignorant, bigoted lout matters not one bit. He’s not one of them, and that’s all Republican sheep with IQs less than their ages care about.

So what’s a Republican insider to do? Probably not much that will derail the Trump juggernaut, it being too late to reverse years of sowing the seeds of discontent in people too dumb to realize that by voting for Republicans all this time they’ve been voting against themselves. Remember the guy who bitched, “Keep the government out of my Medicare!” Yeah, well, reason with that, Reince.

Is there any hope? Well, there’s despicable Ted Cruz and the pathetic hack, Marco Rubio. John Kasich at least behaves like a grown-up but, like the other two, is mired in a sort of socially repressive and punitive frontier Puritanism , apparently oblivious to, or rejecting, the validity and urgency of domestic needs that are being met in all the developed western nations except ours. So, no, there is no hope in sight for Republicans. No matter who wins the nomination, the party will continue its headlong rush into irrelevance in a changing American society. In truth, it’s hard to know which of these clowns would make a worse President for our times. Each in his own unique way reflects the mean spirited foundation of currently dominant Republican philosophy, a mindset that takes as gospel the need for enforcement of a rigid class structure with the dominant, white rich on top and everyone else oppressed below: women, nonwhites, non-Christians, and even poor whites too stupid to know they’re being scammed. Yes, scammed. Modern Republican philosophy continues to promote long discredited trickle-down theory like the hucksters of a national pyramid scheme. Give us your support, let big business bleed you dry, and we’ll make you rich. Rich, I say! Right.

So, again, I would ask whether there is hope. Well, perhaps in the other court. Let’s face it, though. Even Hillary, as smart and relatively liberal as she is, is part of the establishment. But she, at least, is not likely to deepen the hole the Republicans keep digging for the country. And Bernie? Minimal chance either for the nomination or, if lightning were to strike, the Presidency. And Grampa Bernie probably wouldn’t get very far with Congress even if he were elected. So, Hillary really is our best hope, and if we don’t see a big turnout for her in November, if we end up with one of the current crop of GOP Neanderthals in the white house, well, despite being an atheist I’ll be hoping for divine intervention.

A Few Words about a Supreme

The death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on 13 February came unexpectedly. Far be it for me to speak ill of the departed but, having said that, I fully expect there to be many critical opinions voiced regarding his philosophy and tenure, and I suppose that mine will be counted among them.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think Justice Scalia was a “bad man”. I just think that despite his purported brilliance, he was a Constitutional Neanderthal. After all, this is a guy who reveled in his view of the Constitution as a “dead” rather than a “living” document, a severely myopic view that supported the assumed perfection of the 18th Century society and minds that created our core document. Scalia refused to face the simple reality that time brings change and, with it, the need to adapt to evolving mores, priorities, and advances in knowledge. The Founding Fathers may have been brilliant and perceptive within the context of their era and, in some respects, beyond it, but we are now well over two hundred years farther along, and American society, not to mention the world in general, has grown more complex, sophisticated, and dangerous. Justice Scalia wished to preserve the nascent state of America despite overwhelming evidence that we simply are not the country that we were at our founding..

Scalia’s domineering personality, sarcastic wit on the bench, and reactionary philosophy combined over the three decades of his service on the Supreme Court to wreak havoc on established and evolving law. Bush v. Gore, Citizens United, a blow against voting rights for minorities…in his votes in these and other cases he as well as his conservative brethren vomited their contempt in large, discrete chunks for any semblance of social equality and fairness. Out of step with his time, he helped to fuel the fires of intolerance and made a travesty of those values and privileges that most Americans, and certainly most minorities, accept as the core of what makes America America.

I believe that the long historical view of Scalia will be that he had a markedly negative but fortunately transient, dramatic impact on the legal and social environment of the country, and that ultimately his efforts failed. He will be seen as a man out of his time attempting to use his position to reinstate an imagined era he felt was better than the one in which he lived. It will be broadly recognized that, paradoxically, his strict constructionist views actually favored far less freedom rather than more. As it is with other conservatives, Scalia was a man who believed that freedom was paramount as long as it didn’t conflict with his own biases. In an era in which the conservatives who supported him rail against activist judges, Scalia was one of the worst.

And so, I will not miss Justice Scalia, but I understand why Republicans, even before rigor mortis set in, trumpeted their desire to stonewall any – any — replacement nomination that will be made by President Obama. All of which leads me to believe that we truly need a Democrat as our next President, because another angry, reactionary, sarcastic, ultra-conservative driven by a right wing political agenda (don’t forget Bush v. Gore) is the last person this country needs on the Supreme Court. It’s critical to recognize that the country is speeding headlong towards a minority majority population, and radically conservative political views are ultimately doomed, no matter what happens in the short term. The fear, however, is that a lot of bad stuff can happen in the short term. History tells us that, at some point, events simply cross a line, and people rise up, unwilling to take it anymore. If Republicans don’t allow that uprising to take place at the ballot box, they may forever regret their unswerving support for the Second Amendment. Their behavior in the wake of Justice Scalia’s death suggests, however, that they don’t yet understand what they are risking. I’d like to think they’ll come to their senses, but based upon the recent behavior and pronouncements of those seeking the Republican presidential nomination, my hopes aren’t high.

Whither Obamacare?

Most readers of this blog are unaware that I am a retired physician. In 1977, after finishing my specialty training in ob/gyn and a fellowship in family planning and the treatment of sexual dysfunction, I entered the private practice of medicine. Eight years later, I left private practice to become the gynecologist for the student health service of a large university. From there, I went on to take control of a troubled clinic near Los Angeles International Airport, my predecessor having been summarily fired for moral and ethical indiscretions. Moving on from this clinic, I subsequently pursued a career path that led me to chair the ob/gyn department for a large managed health care plan, progress to become Executive Vice President of Medical Affairs for an HMO/PPO organization, and move to two other organizations before landing in my final job with a major health plan and insurer for which I spent the last fifteen years of my career. In this latter job, I was primarily focused on the management of quality of care in our physician, hospital, and ancillary provider networks. I relate all this to make the point that I’ve seen health care from just about every possible angle during the course of my professional life, and it has afforded me significant perspective on where we’ve been and where we ought to head.

This blog piece cannot hope to address the entire problem of the health care mess we face in the U.S. Simply stated, U.S. health care costs exceed by a large margin those of other western European countries and our outcomes (infant mortality, for example) lag woefully behind those same countries. The often stated (by Republicans, at least) mantra that we have the best health care in the world is, simply, not true, and it’s a national disgrace.

The Affordable Care Act (aka, the ACA or Obamacare) was implemented in the attempt to address some of the myriad issues confronting our health care environment. Note that I’m not calling it our “system” here because, in reality, we don’t have one. What we do have is a patchwork of medical care models that operate inefficiently and make almost no one happy.

The only viable permanent solution to the problem is universal health care coverage, a model into which many with vested interests will have to be dragged kicking and screaming. How might such a model work?

First, it would be sort of like Medicare for everyone. A baseline safety net would be established so that everyone would be covered for essential services. Yes, it would be a government program, but we know that Medicare works and works well. This would get the private insurance companies and their confusing plethora of care plans out of the business of providing basic health care. We would allow them, however, to sell supplementary policies for people who could and would want coverage for additional types of services including, just for example, certain plastic surgical procedures and advanced reproductive technologies. We could also use private insurance companies as the fiscal intermediaries for our model. Competition between companies to provide this service would incentivize efficiency and help to hold administrative costs down. Coverage guidelines would be centrally set, as they are for Medicare, and without the current, nonsensical variation we have now based upon company whim and, largely, state legislation.

Unfortunately, President Obama threw in the towel during the partisan and special interest haggling that went on as he fought for the ACA. The process, however, ended up producing a program that has had beneficial effects for many who now have coverage they formerly lacked. Admittedly, it has hurt a few and, worse, not succeeded in providing care for some people at all.

Democratic nomination seeker Bernie Sanders is militantly vocal about wanting universal health care but, unfortunately, although I agree with his sentiments on the matter, he’s a bull in a china shop and probably not electable. Even if he were to be elected, he probably could not create the revolution he seeks, as Congress will not be coerced. The better bet, although it would be slower to play out, is Hillary Clinton’s approach. She advocates incrementally improving on the ACA. Admittedly, this is not as exciting as a revolution, but it’s far more likely to take us in the desired direction. Furthermore, this is the only approach with any prospect of long term success.

Finally, if a Republican wins in November, it’s unlikely that he (not she — Fiorina has no chance) will be able to fulfill the oft-repeated pledge to kill the ACA. Some 17 million people now have insurance that they didn’t have before and, among other benefits, pre-existing conditions are now not allowed as coverage exclusions. In general people are happy with their coverage under the ACA, and killing it would be disastrous for Republicans. Would, say, a Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio really take all this away with nothing else to offer and risk incurring widespread public wrath? Unlikely.

So, although this discussion has been brief, it does point to a direction for the future with respect to health care. Bernie is too militantly cranky and the Republican Congress is not likely to respond in any functional way to him. If we want to straighten out what’s wrong, we have to support Hillary. She’s the only one who both makes sense and has an approach that might work.

BUT, having said all this, I will also say that health care isn’t the only issue of importance in the process of selecting a Democratic Party candidate. Hillary Clinton carries some real baggage with her: Her vote in support of enabling George W. Bush to invade Iraq, her e-mail kerfuffle, and her lack of ability to rally the support of younger voters and, in particular, that of younger women, are major concerns. Bernie Sanders, also not without his own baggage, nevertheless has drawn remarkable support from younger voters, but he does not have the same level of support that Clinton has from voters of color. Sanders is saying things that positively need to be said, if a bit too bombastically. His blow-things-up rhetoric is unlikely to play well with Congress, and he really should bury his repeated statement that he’s a democratic socialist. It’s not a problem for many that he is one, but his flaunting of the label is most assuredly hurting him among many voters whose support he’ll need if he’s to win in a general election.

The bottom line is that both Sanders and Clinton are on the correct side of the issues and, despite their individual drawbacks, either would be far better than the reactionary Republican opposition. But if health care is your main concern, Clinton definitely has the edge over Sanders as the person who is most likely to take us in the direction we need to move.

Where Are The Sales?

I just received the annual report from WordPress with the 2015 statistics for seductivepeach.com. Over the course of the past year, the blog was viewed in 71 countries around the world, a fact that both surprises and delights me. So, as 2015 ends and 2016 begins (I’m writing this on New Year’s Eve), I want to thank everyone for their support and interest in my ramblings and rantings.

Having expressed my thanks, I still want to ask a question to which I probably won’t get an answer. With so many readers in so many countries, how come I sold so few of my two books in 2015?

Zendoscopy is the sometimes hilarious, sometimes wrenching story of Sherman, a somewhat square peg of a kid coming of age in the round hole of his 1950s and ‘60s Southern California world. The book has received excellent reviews (check them out on Amazon.com), and I’ve done book signings and taken ads during the year. Yet, still, very few sales. If you haven’t read (bought!) the book, please consider doing so as we enter 2016. And if you like it, please write a review on Amazon.com or any other online site that accepts reviews. And tell your friends about it, too!

Spacebraid and Other Tales of a Dystopian Universe , my other book, was published back in 2004. It, too received favorable reviews but has sold many copies. It’s a collection of science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories written over a period of years when, in my former (I’m retired) career as a practicing obstetrician and gynecologist, I needed to kill time in the hospital waiting for women in labor to deliver their babies. It’s a fun read if you’re into those genres, and I hope you’ll consider getting a copy in the year to come.

Both books are available in hardcover and e-book formats, so take your choice. You’ll find the hardcover (trade paperback) versions of each on any of many online sites, and the e-book on Amazon.com. I recommend buying from Amazon.com and posting reviews there. Of course, if you live in Southern California and buy the hardcopy version, I’d be glad to autograph it for you.

Finally, the not-quite-a-sequel to Zendoscopy should be ready sometime in 2016. Several of the characters from Zendoscopy appear in the new book, but the story is totally new. If you’d like to find out more about Effie Mae, Larry, Saltzman, and Consuela, you’ll certainly want to pick up the new book when it arrives. I’ll be announcing its title a little later in 2016, so keep watching the blog or check me out on Facebook.

In the meantime, have a safe, happy, and healthy new year, and let’s all hope that in 2016 we’ll begin to see a more peaceful and tolerant world. And that goes for the behavior in Congress, as well!

Curmudgeonly Holiday Cheer

If you’re like me, you always feel a little ambivalent as the holiday season gets into full swing. And not without good reason, I would humbly suggest. And in the interest of perhaps making some of you understand that you’re not alone, I hereby offer a list of some of the things that annoy the hell out of me every year:

  • Christmas wreaths on car noses. Highly stupid.
  • Reindeer antlers affixed to the sides of cars. Almost as stupid as the wreaths.
  • Endless, and I do mean endless, e-mails from retailers, often including multiple missives from the same vendor in a single day. Eddie Bauer and Amazon.com, go f*** yourselves.
  • Holiday music on the radio, everywhere on the radio. Rum pum pum pum.
  • People who are actually offended when wished “happy holidays”, and who see such well-intentioned good will as an act of war on Christmas. Conversely, those who automatically wish me a merry Christmas or happy Hanukkah, presuming to know my religious leanings (and generally getting them wrong). For the record, I’m a Festivus kind of guy.
  • Which reminds me, what war on Christmas? Everywhere I turn, I’m bombarded by Christmas. The only war on Christmas I see every day at this time of year is the one being waged at its spirit by avaricious businesses.
  • “Black Friday” sales that start weeks before Black Friday and, as I write this, are still going on, albeit now being called by other names, such as “pre- Christmas” sales. What does buying a new mattress have to do with Christmas?
  • The same automobile commercials repeated over and over again, usually within bare minutes of one another.
  • Inconsiderate, reckless driving by people too harried, distracted, inebriated, and/or just plain irritated to be paying attention to the road, other drivers, and pedestrians.
  • Those Salvation Army bell ringers who feel it incumbent upon them to voice cheery good wishes in hope of attracting my attention and a contribution. You want a contribution, don’t confront me like a street beggar.

And now, for the things that don’t annoy me during the holidays:

  • People who refuse to patronize stores that stay open on days when employees should be free to spend time with their families.
  • Car manufacturers that don’t bombard the airwaves and cable with repeated ads with annoying music and, all too often, jolly Santas driving their vehicles.
  • People who do wish me to have “happy holidays”.
  • People who remain attentive and courteous behind the wheel, despite the awful provocations of those who don’t.
  • Salvation Army bell ringers who keep their mouths shut as I walk into the local Ralph’s.
  • Anyone, and I mean anyone, who wishes me a Festive Festivus.

Happy holidays, everyone!!!

Preaching to the Converted

Regular readers of this blog are pretty well onto my politics and so are probably expecting me to get into regular rants against what has become of the Republican mindset and, specifically, the ignorant and bigoted blather coming from the nomination seekers as they each try to outdo one another in their rush to the lunatic right. Well, I hate to disappoint, but I’m not going to do it, at least right now. Why? Because those who’ve read the 89 prior blog entries on seductivepeach.com are pretty much the converted. People who might perhaps gain some perspective from the liberal (educated?) view of things aren’t my readers, and my simply blowing off steam to those who already agree with me seems a waste of my time at the keyboard. Oh, I’m sure that despite this I’ll have more to say as we go through the primary season, but I’m going to try not to be the creator of a weekly harangue, even if venting my frustrations is somewhat therapeutic for me. So ‘nuff said for now.

It’s the holiday season once again, and Decembers seem to come and go at a furious pace as I get older. As always at this time of year, it’s time for the wife and me to catch up on all the recent movies we’ve missed, to visit with some friends, to eat (and eat and eat), and to wonder over why, in the words of the famous philosopher, Rodney King, we can’t all get along.

As I’ve often said in my postings, I’m not religious. I was raised in a secular environment (although my mother was a wishful agnostic who did send me to Sunday school for awhile – it didn’t “take”) and classify myself as a secular humanist. Perhaps because of this, religious intolerance and racism simply failed to resonate at any level with me. And so, instead of talking about the horror that just transpired in San Bernardino – incomprehensible in and of itself – I’d like to take the rest of this week’s entry to address what’s happened since the mass terror attack.

And what has happened? On one hand, there has been much caution urged by saner voices, pleas not to generalize feelings about the two terrorists responsible for the massacre to the Muslim community as a whole, the majority of whose members are as appalled as the rest of us and who, in addition, are coping with feelings of guilt and shame over what they see as a perversion of their beliefs. On the other hand, however, are a motley crew of gun supporters, Republican politicians who offered nothing but an exhortation for us all to pray (and in some cases, most notably that of Donald Trump, have suggested barring any further immigration by Muslims), and radical right religious bigots who, predictably, are venomous in their expressions of hatred toward all Muslims.

Those who express their hostility toward Islam – primarily right wing Christians – seem conveniently to forget that Christians’ behavior over time has often been as lacking in virtue as what we are seeing now. Just to name one example, the Inquisition wasn’t exactly a shining moment in the history of Catholicism. And are white supremacist Christians any more admirable than Islamic fundamentalist terrorists? Those filled with anti-Islamic hate tend to forget that most mass shootings and assassinations in the U.S. have been committed by white male Christians. I’m no Bible scholar, but it does seem that some have forgotten the injunction about not casting the first stone.

I’m not religious, and some would say that I therefore am not qualified to give those who are among the faithful any advice. Still, I would ask those of all faiths (and of none), to look deeply and honestly within themselves, to look at history, and to consider that those who committed the recent San Bernardino shootings constitute a lunatic fringe and not the larger body of Muslims in the U.S. who actually deserve tolerance and support in what has become a very painful time for them.

So, I’ll end by wishing happy holidays to all, and my hope for progress toward peace in the new year.