Monthly Archives: January 2021

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Alex Trebek, Jeopardy Farewell

Tonight was the final segment filmed by Alex Trebek, which was supposed to air on Christmas Day, but which was pushed to the first week of January. The show was filmed on October 29th, just about a week-and-a-half before he died on November 8, 2020. This was an especially poignant way to end the Trebek years of one of my all-time favorite game shows: “Jeopardy!

The Trump “Revolution” in Foreign Policy … Not Quite

Back in July 2016, when I predicted that Donald Trump would win the White House, I wrote about the coming “Trump Revolution,” encouraged by only one thing above all: That Trump might foster a less interventionist foreign policy. He was belatedly critical of the Iraq War and when questioned by Bill O’Reilly about how Russia had interfered in U.S. elections, he replied correctly: “You think our country’s so innocent?” Indeed, the United States government has been responsible for toppling more governments abroad (both covertly and overtly) than perhaps any other government on earth. (The filth that is U.S. foreign policy was first made most apparent by the publication of The Pentagon Papers by the New York Times—through the reporting of Neil Sheehan, who died yesterday, ironically, and the Washington Post. We can thank whistleblowers from Daniel Ellsberg to Wikileaks for having provided so much evidence of this …)

Trump’s distrust of the so-called Deep State was also a breath of fresh air, given the long-standing power that has been exercised by administrative bureaucracies and agencies, all unelected, and embedded in the National Security apparatus, the U.S. intelligence community—and such institutions as the Federal Reserve System and the vast array of regulatory agencies, virtually all of whom operate to protect the very industries being “regulated.” This is in the very nature of the kind of “capitalism” that its advocates have defended with regularity. It is crony by definition—a system rigged in favor of those most adept at using its levers.

The problem, however, for Donald Trump, is that after four years, instead of “draining the swamp,” he became part of it. In fact, in all too many respects, he only deepened it. I’m not going to even begin to touch on what Trump’s years in office have wrought domestically, since I’ve discussed it here, here, here, and here, for example.

As one who favors radically freed markets liberated from the heavy hand of the state—and a culture that would necessarily support such liberation—it is simply a fact that Trump never endorsed freed markets. He remains an economic nationalist, harking back to the beginnings of the Grand Old Party, which championed, way back in the nineteenth century, high tariffs, subsidies for industry, and protectionism, all at the expense of the disenfranchised. Today, too many Democrats who oppose Trump with policies that are called “socialist” are typically advocating shifting forms of state intervention that will benefit a whole slew of other favored industries, be they in “alternative” energy or in healthcare. Neither party is a friend of freedom; the system is rigged to benefit those who are most adept at wielding the levers of power to augment their wealth and influence. Nothing that Trump did in four years has altered that dynamic. Period.

Moreover, those who think that the Trump years brought “peace” in foreign affairs, should check their premises. Like Obama before him, Trump focused on proxying-out military intervention. Sometimes it’s been trumpeted as good for the economy; after all, when the U.S. gives money to the Saudi government, the Saudis spend that money by purchasing U.S.-manufactured munitions, which are then used against countries like Yemen. As reported in Jacobin magazine, Trump’s promise to end “the era of endless wars” has only led to the repositioning of troops rather than their return home. Indeed,


the “endless” wars have not ended. Trump has dropped more bombs and missiles than George W. Bush or Barack Obama did in their first terms, and there are still roughly as many US bases and troops overseas as when he was elected. … Trump has vetoed every bill passed by Congress to disengage US forces from the Saudi war in Yemen and to halt the sales of US-made warplanes and bombs, which the Saudis use to systematically kill Yemeni civilians. … Trump has also backed a coup in Bolivia, staged several failed ones in Venezuela, and targeted even the United States’ closest allies with sanctions to try to prevent them from trading with US enemies. Trump’s brutal sanctions on Venezuela, Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Cuba are not a peaceful alternative to war, but a form of economic warfare just as deadly as bombs, especially during a pandemic and its accompanying economic meltdown. …


[M]ilitary spending for procurement, research and development (R&D), and base construction has risen by 39 percent. This has been a huge windfall for the Big Five US weapons makers — Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, and General Dynamics — whose arms sales revenues rose 30 percent between 2015 and 2019. The 49 percent increase to more than $100 billion for R&D on new weapons systems in 2020, part of the enormous $718 billion Pentagon budget, is a down payment on trillions of dollars in future revenue for the merchants of death unless these programs are stopped.

The Trump record is almost complete; future historians will debate his legacy—the last few days an ugly extension of it—but in the one area that some of us held out some hope, Donald Trump failed.

I do have to say, though, that I find it hilarious that the Democratic leadership is thinking about initiating a second impeachment trial or have expressed support for the invoking of the 25th Amendment to get Trump out of office before Inauguration Day, just 12 days away.

There was a real constitutional question as to whether a sitting President could pardon himself. If these Never-Trumpers succeed, there would be no question should the House of Representatives impeach him and a new Democratically-controlled Senate actually convict him, that the new President, Mike Pence, could very easily pardon Trump, with no constitutional issues clouding things up.

Either way, folks, on January 20, 2021, Mike Pence will be in attendance at the inauguration of Joe Biden as 46th President of the United States (Trump is boycotting the ceremony). In the meanwhile, even long-time Trump supporters are running for the exits in light of the Capitol Catastrophe, an assault on that building the likes of which have not been seen since the War of 1812. Gone are Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Special Envoy to Northern Ireland and Former Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Deputy National Security Adviser Matthew Pottinger, Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Commerce Department John Costello, White House Council of Economic Advisers (Acting Chairman) Tyler Goodspeed, the First Lady’s Chief of Staff Stephanie Grisham, Social Secretary Rickie Niceta, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Matthews and now THIS! Deputy Undersecretary for Stabbing: Jon Schwarz! Have these folks have no sense of decency left!

For those who don’t get the allusion to Jimmy Cagney’s “White Heat” [YouTube link]
Bramhall’s World,
New York Daily News (7 January 2021)
(Yeah, yeah, I know the Republic seems to be in shambles, the Capitol was ransacked, and life is miserable. Each side is accusing the other of treason, and it’s nothing to laugh at. But at some point, you just look up and say: WTF?)

Dialogue on Home Health Care Or How to Raise My Sicilian!

Having been born with a life-threatening disorder (SMAS) that nearly killed me when I was 13 years old, I received life-saving surgery back in 1974 that enabled me to not merely survive but to flourish, despite some serious complications that required 60+ surgical procedures since that time for a wide variety of side effects (including kidney stones, intestinal bleeding, hernias, etc.).

The condition pretty much bankrupted me and my family; I received generous assistance from caring friends and relatives, but it’s taken a lifetime to get out of debt.

For those who don’t know, there is a serious problem with healthcare in this country. Now is not the time to get into what needs to be done to even slightly improve the systemic problems that have plagued the medical professions and the health insurance industry. Suffice it to say, when you are considered “too well off” according to the government to receive any kind of sustained assistance, but not well off enough to afford long-term care, you’re put in a position of trying to come up with a practical patchwork plan that will carry you to the next level up, rather than six feet under.

As I have written recently, I have become the primary caregiver for my sister, who suffered a life-threatening episode in mid-November that kept her in the hospital for a solid month. Both of us have been familiar with the role of caregiver: We both cared for my mother who battled small cell lung cancer for five years before succumbing to the disease back in 1995. My sister has also been by my side for most of those 60+ surgical procedures, and anytime she’s been sick, I’ve been right there for her.

Having recovered from four surgical procedures myself within a three-month period ending the first week of November, I was prepared to go face-to-face with all of my sister’s caring doctors when she was hospitalized on November 13th. When she came home, I knew that I would have to summon the strength to take care of her the best way I knew how. Fortunately, upon her discharge, she was to get both physical and occupational therapy, and I was told that she’d be getting a home health aide for four hours a day, three days a week.

Well.

The first week, the home health aide services kicked in a little late. She started on Friday, December 18th and was a nice enough person that we decided to keep her on. She returned on Monday, December 21st. But we were told she couldn’t make it on Wednesday, December 23rd, so she returned on Christmas Eve for four hours.

Last week, she came on Monday, December 28th. Wednesday the 30th came and… no aide showed up. I called to complain, and I was told that the aide would return on December 31st; they hadn’t heard from her and couldn’t imagine why she didn’t show up.

New Year’s Eve came and no aide showed up again. I was told that the aide would return on New Year’s Day. New Year’s Day came and nobody showed up.

Well. Having been raised in a Brooklyn household with a mother of Greek descent and a father of Sicilian descent, I learned all the Greek prayers and all the Sicilian curses growing up. All I can say is that every Sicilian curse I knew came flying out of my mouth and every permutation of the F-word was screamed loud and clear as I ranted for about a half hour trying to get a hold of a real live human being on New Year’s Day wondering WTF was going on! Finally reaching somebody, the dialogue ensued:

Me: I was told that we were going to get a home health aide three days a week for four hours a day. The first week, she shows up once. The second week, she shows up twice, but she does not show up the third day. This week, she showed up once, and I was told she was going to be here on the 30th, then the 31st, and then the 1st. Nobody has shown up. What the hell is going on here? My sister needs help!

I take a breath.

Me: This is not directed at you personally, but do you understand: My sister needs help! I am a 60-year old guy who takes care of her but I have my own disability issues; I’ve got a brother and sister-in-law up the block but they are older than me! At some point, something’s gotta give!

Representative: We’re sorry for the inconvenience, sir.

Me: Inconvenience? This is absolutely outrageous! It is unacceptable!

Representative: Yes, I know, it is unacceptable and we will try to get a replacement for you today.

Me: Yeah, right, on New Year’s Day you’re going to find somebody on the fly to come here and to help take care of my sister! What are you kidding me?

Representative: We know that your sister requires assistance and she is going to get it!

Me: Well, right now, my sister is getting stugotz!

Representative: [not knowing what “stugotz” means] … Okay, well, we’ll try to get her some assistance today!

The home health aide never showed up on New Year’s Day. We have been promised a new home health aide today. We’ll see if the new aide shows up or if my sister ends up with stugotz again!

To 2021 (I): Pearls Before Swine Strikes Again!

Well, the New Year has come in. 2021 is real, it is possible, it is yours! Alas, while watching the news tonight, I was reminded of another recent “Pearls Before Swine” comic strip installment that has already captured the spirit of the young New Year (courtesy of Stephan Pastis and the New York Daily News). I don’t care what your politics is because this one seems to capture the very culture of our age!

Song of the Day #1831

Song of the Day: Happy New Year [YouTube link], words and music by Bill Katz and Ruth Roberts, was recorded by the McGuire Sisters (for their 1958 album, “Greetings from the McGuire Sisters“). It’s not well known, but it’s full of all the joy and promise of the holiday. A Happy and Healthy New Year: Here’s to a better 2021! [And RIP, Phyllis McGuire, last surviving member of the trio!]

🙂