Billionaires don’t need health insurance

photo of landfill

Billionaires don’t need health insurance. They never think about it.

That’s one reason Trump doesn’t care about taking health insurance away from 20 million people — and eliminating pre-existing conditions, which will result in denying health care to millions more.

He’s never had health insurance and doesn’t need it. He can’t relate to it. He can barely talk about it.

That’s not to say ALL billionaires don’t care about people. I’m sure many of them do.

As much as they promise it, the Republicans have not had a health care plan since Nixon.

To Trump, taking health care away from people is a way to piss off Democrats, especially Obama. It has nothing to do with health care. That’s not even a concern.

He doesn’t know anything about city bus routes or public schools or hunger either, having never been in a bus or a public school or been lacking for food. If Obama had started a public transportation system called Obamaride, or a hunger program called Obamanourish, Trump would also be fighting in the Supreme Court to end those programs.

He seems to be in it only for the fight — and that’s why millions of people will die from not having access to medical care.

Could Thom Tillis restore his credibility?

Senator Thom Tillis in 2016, 8 months before the election

“The campaign is already underway. It is essential to the institution of the Senate and to the very health of our republic to not launch our nation into a partisan, divisive confirmation battle during the very same time the American people are casting their ballots to elect our next president….There should be no confirmation. The most pragmatic conclusion to draw is to hold the Supreme Court vacancy until the American people’s voices have been heard.”

Tillis in 2020, after voting has begun

“We were put in this position of power and importance to make decisions for the people who so proudly elected us, the most important of which has long been considered to be the selection of United States Supreme Court Justices. We have this obligation, without delay!”

Words have power. Thom Tillis’s do not. They lack power. They are just noise or letters on a screen. 

This is not because he blatantly lied. Whether we admit it or not, we all lie. We don’t always know it, because also lie to ourselves. But there’s research that holds that human beings lie a lot.

Till blatantly lied — and now he makes no effort to restore the trust.

So his words have no power. Nobody listens. 

When this happens, leadership is impossible. It is possible to be the boss, get your way, give orders, manage people, and make a buck. It’s possible to hold an office and have a great title.

But real leadership is not possible — because leaders need to be heard. They speak such that other listen and gain inspiration.

He can’t do that. It’s just blah blah blah.

How could he restore his integrity and be a leader?

It would go something like this.

First, he could be a big enough man to acknowledge that he broke his word to the people of North Carolina. We all break our word sometimes, but it takes a big person to acknowledge it.

Secondly, he could acknowledge the impact of breaking his word. It’s upsetting to many of his constituents, including me. He might not care about how Democrats feel. That might be part of his political strategy — to piss off the other side. But in human terms, that’s still a lot of upset to have caused and not be responsible for.

It also impacts and diminishes his credibility, a lot. Others now have no reason to believe him about anything he says he will do.

It probably diminishes how he views himself. Notice he did not verbally announce his position on replacing RBG. He spoke forcefully on the Senate floor in 2016. He hid behind a weak little tweet in 2020. He also sounded weak and high pitched in the 2nd debate last night.

He might be saying stuff to himself that is more humiliating than the things others are saying. He is a human being and fully aware that he’s lying. Some people are not bothered by that. Some people are. He seems to me like he’s the kind of person that may be bothered, and diminished, for himself, about lying — even though he’s very good at covering it up.

Who knows what other ways this dishonesty impacts his life and the lives of those around him? Can you imagine what this is like for people in his family? If he’s willing to tell a whopper so casually on his job, it’s likely he also does this at home.

So that’s some of the impact — but there’s another thing he would need to do in order to reclaim the listening of his constituents. He would need to take some action to make it right. In this case, that would be a simple matter of saying that he will keep his word and wait until after the election to vote on a new justice.

Obviously, that’s not likely to happen. He would need to be a big person to do that. He would get slaughtered by a Trump tweet and be forever shunned from the cult. But, there would be some benefit. When he spoke, people would be hearing a man of integrity, and they would listen.

The big, quiet lie is now ear-splitting

What’s so cool about this time we’re in — with so much hardship and loss and chaos and conflict — is that many people are seeing possibilities they never saw before. 

The protests are markers in our history, communicating that massive numbers of people have tolerated waiting, staying quiet, and inaction long enough.

The majority generation is now eager to do something about some basic unfairnesses. 

Suppression begets resignation — until it doesn’t anymore.

Trump, McConnell, Barr, Graham — these are also markers in time — markers of a desperate cling to minority rule. 

The pandemic and election brought the fuzzy impact of minority rule into clear focus. 

RBG’s departure, and the strong-arm replacement with a human rights denier, is making this conflict even louder.

A lie has been exposed — and it’s a lie that’s so big, and so loud, that it can’t be explained away as anything else.

The prospect of destroying the planet, denying health care, denying democracy, revoking human rights — paid for by big business against the will of the majority — is getting very loud.

People are voting and big change is coming.

The big shift may take a few cycles, but you can feel it getting off to a pretty strong start now.

If it were fiction

You know — if you look at this a certain way… strictly from a literary perspective, he’s not a bad fiction writer. It’s in keeping with a new kind of American texting/tweeting idiom wherein people disregard basic rules of grammar and punctuation, but actually express themselves in a whole new way, with a creative kind of punctuation and capitalization scheme. 

There’s this captivating, half-literate, trendy style, and a compelling, evil narrative (sort of a Hannibal Lecter/Joker mixture), that keeps people hooked, waiting for the next micro-episode. 

If it were art (which it’s not), some of it would be slander, but not all of it. He would need to leave out the parts where he attacks non-famous people. I may be wrong, but I assume he could still make up stuff about the main characters — Obama, Clinton, and Biden — and be fine. He could continue to attack John McCain, I would think, and stay on the right side of the law.

Excuse me, I was coughing. Let me continue.

There would be the question about whether artists have a responsibility to uphold moral principles, or should they focus purely on entertainment and let the reader decide. But that’s another question, and an interesting question — but not really applicable here. Because this is not fiction.

However, my point is that if he (just don’t want to say his name)… if he were not the president and a criminal and a cruel person — if he were a just a Twitter fiction writer pumping out a never-ending novel, you could make the case that he’s making up some pretty wild shit.

That said, who knows who writes these tweets. One day, perhaps we will know. It could be him, lying on his bed, reacting to Fox — but I doubt it. I’m not a conspiracy theory guy and I do not know. But if I were to guess, I would guess it’s a highly sophisticated propaganda machine that designs it, plans it, schedules it, writes it, and tweets it. There could be a producer, director, and writing team.

It’s not about a statue, and it’s not about history

After hours of emotional Zooming with local citizens, The Salisbury City Council passed two resolutions last night, moving the city closer (30 days, max) to moving Fame.

That’s progress.

Like all people in Salisbury and Rowan County, the statue is a familiar landmark and a work of art.

But not all people see it as something to be proud of. There’s a lot of shame and hate and discrimination and oppression associated with that statue. It’s symbol of racism, and it’s highly offensive to black people — and many non-black people.

People say it’s history. It’s not history. It’s a statue. The fact that it was placed there is history. And removing it will also be history.

Not moving it, in my view, is not an option. These confederate statues were racist in their inception, and we are seeing them come down all over our country and in Europe. Part of the reason Salisbury is considered historic is because it was slow recovering from the Great Depression. When stuff gets really old, then it’s historic. Let’s not do that again. At this point, we’re behind many of our neighboring towns already, and we’re in a recession. So in addition to the human cost (reminding people constantly of human suffering), the local economy can’t afford for Salisbury to resist the future. 

So this is a progressive move that has been bumpy and will remain bumpy — but, as my brother, David (a member of the City Council), said, “it’s the right thing to do.”

The council took public comments on Zoom — for hours. It reminded me of school integration, in the 60’s. I was in junior high school then. That didn’t happen overnight. That was also a hot stew of emotion. Protests happened. Private schools emerged. Part of our society looked for ways to re-segregate — and it did.

Those of us who lived through integration grew and learned and formed many loving relationships out of that experience.

It also reminded me of those city/county school merger forums.

But I gotta say, this seemed more raw than either of those times, even on Zoom.

This may not go smoothly either — but sometimes the government needs to take a stand for justice, for living into the possibilities created in our founding documents — and this is obviously one of times.

Listening to the hours and hours of public comment, I was left with a few observations:

The remarks were well written, and well stated, on both sides. Because I strongly support moving the statue, I with my arrogance assumed that those against moving it were a bunch of dumbasses, and that they would sound like fools, using bad grammar, sounding stupid, using ridiculous arguments. That wasn’t the case. Most of the people opposing the moving of the statue did not sound like flaming racists (although a few did). They basically repeated the same thing: that they always remember seeing the statue and it’s history. But they said it fairly well. Even though I disagree with them, I was surprised at how well they spoke.

It’s personal. The people speaking to keep the statue spoke from personal experience, often sharing how they remembered seeing it as a child. It was as if the statue were a personal possession that somebody was taking away from them.

No empathy. This was the most striking, and disgusting, part of the entire public comment time. Almost all the speakers spoke about why they were right. They gave their position and argued for it. Nobody in the moveit group expressed any empathy for those in the keepitthere group. Nobody said, “I know you’ll miss this familiar landmark and understand it will be a loss of something you love.” Nothing like that was said at all.

Conversely, All those in the keepitthere group sounded woefully unaware of what it represents. They don’t get it. Some are bigots — but most of them sounded like innocent white people, unaware of their privilege and clinging to what’s familiar. They didn’t seem to have a single ounce of understanding for why a confederate statue would be a symbol of slavery and racism, and thereby a pervasive offense to black people. That little detail — the reason for this whole conversation — didn’t seem to register at all.

Personal attacks on Al Heggins, Mayor Pro Tem (and former mayor). Al Heggins has been talking about this for a few years, but those who oppose moving the statue seemed to blame her, personally and completely. They turned her into an evil monster to attack ad infinitum. This was unfair, inaccurate, dehumanizing, and horrible. She’s one person who happened to speak out against something that hurts many people — but there are millions of people who agree with her and support this move, nationwide. Just turn on the TV news. She’s simply the one who is willing to speak up and articulate, for many, a single injustice in one small town. She did nothing wrong. She did something right. But even if she were wrong, she’s a human being and deserves respect. She didn’t get much.

People talked about the statue as if they were talking about a statue. This was a conversation, in a small southern town, about race and racism — and really had very little to do with a statue. Yet, most people talked about a statue. Conversations are more effective when people speak AND listen. There was not a lot of listening here — so in my view, it checked off the appropriate boxes and got the job done, but was not an effective conversation.

People talked about history as if they were talking about history. Again — this was not about history. In fact, those who claimed they cared about history the most seemed to offer a fairly botched interpretation of the Civil War (according to my limited knowledge). This was about the present. Things are changing fast. Some people resist that change. Some people don’t care. Some embrace it. As Obama said, when he won the Iowa caucus in 2008, “This has been a long time coming.” But it’s all about now, not then.

In order to do damage to white privilege, we must acknowledge that it exists. That’s the starting point, and denial does not work. That’s a challenge for all of us white people, and we can’t do it on our own. It’s a journey and an exploration, and we need our black friends to give us some coaching. 

It’s all about the upset

Volumes have been written, and will be written — and it can be complicated and extraordinary and crazy and blah blah blah.

But I think it’s pretty simple.

This is what’s running the show:

How do you get us to be upset?

Us — those of us (most of us) who are liberal/progressive/democrats/respectful of science — call us whatever you want.

It’s all about the upset.

Drink bleach.

The pandemic is Obama’s fault.

Join Russia’s team.

Put kids in cages.

Eliminate justice and respect for laws.

Collect money from workers and give it to multi-millionaires and billionaires.

Reject democracy.

Everything’s great! And even better if more people die.

Monarchs are awesome.

Do not allow voting by mail — during a horrific pandemic.

Deny health care and human rights and justice.

It’s all about getting us to be pissed off.

That’s the whole game.

If it were a reality TV show, the shock value would make us watch. It would increase retweets and ratings and revenue.

That’s all it is.

45th Salisbury High Class Reunion (class of ’74)

I did not go to my 5th high school reunion.

I did go to the 10th, 20th, 30th, 40th — and last night, the 45th reunion for the Salisbury High School class of ’74.

It was amazing. These stats are not accurate, but I think I heard there were 140 grads in attendance — and I think that’s about half the class.

I also heard that, statistically, the 45th is the last chance to have a big gathering, and that they diminish significantly thereafter.

There was a short memorial — both at the reunion itself and in the digital communications leading up to it. Compared to previous reunions, a shocking number of classmates have passed away.

If you’re from a big city, this kind of event would be a weird thing.

If you’re from a small town where you went to school with the same people for 3, 6, or 12 years, you may be able to relate to the exquisite specialness of an event like this.

There are a few people in my class who had a parent who went to school with and attended similar class reunions with my mother. And there are those, who, like me, got stuck in Salisbury. Some of those have children who graduated in the same ceremonies from the same school with my children.

Yet, I’m guessing most people traveled a ways, from other counties and even from faraway states like Tennessee and California and Colorado.

It was a bit like a family reunion.

The music was loud and there was probably more dancing than talking. Many things were said to me that I simply could not hear. I’m a little hoarse today from trying to hold conversations over the music.

No problem. The talking wasn’t all that important. After all, we do have Facebook. The days of exchanging biography and resume are past.

This was about smiling, hugging, shaking hands, being alive, and being together.

The bulk of reunion conversation is always in the world of reminiscing (so much fun!).

But in addition to the reminiscences — here are a few observations about reunion conversation topics I remember:

• 10th reunion: Marriage? Education? Military? Got a good job? Children?
• 20th: How many children? Career? Money? House?
• 30th: Still married? Remarried? Parents okay? Kids okay? Bush or Kerry?
• 40th: Had a colonoscopy? Parents alive?
• 45th: Retired? So sorry about your loss.

My experience (mine only, I know) was distinct from any other things that happen in my life. It’s an eruption of emotion and cognitive overload that begins in a moment and ends just as abruptly, a few hours later.

Resumes be damned at the 45th. Cliques and accomplishments and failures be damned. I did not hear the word Trump a single time.

In the background, there’s a sense of loss. All of us have dealt with the heartbreak and loss of loved ones — some more painful than others. But, by now, no one has been spared an abundance of devestating loss — most of it unknown to the rest of us. We don’t know all the details, but we know things happened, and we sort of love each other. And we’re wondering (at least I am) if and when we’ll see each other again.

That heartbreak, held up against the excitement of being together, gives the occasion a special, delicate joy for the opportunity to be in the world with those we love and participate in life itself.

Remembering Hugo, Waiting for Florence

Now that the rain is here and the hunkering has begun, I thought I’d share a picture of a tree.

I took this picture today. It’s a maple tree.

In 1989, when Hurricane Hugo hit, this tree was of modest size — perhaps the height of our 2nd floor at that time.

Hugo snapped the trunk at garage gutter level (depicted here with a yellow arrow).

The hurricane also took down some large white pines, also in our yard, nearby.  I think we lost 4 big trees. Our neighbor, a couple of houses up the hill, lost 20.

This tree had a limb intact, just below where the trunk had snapped. That limb became the new trunk, and, 29 years later, is the tree you see here. If it weren’t for this tree, we could probably still grow tomatoes and cucumbers. Years ago, before the abundance of shade, we had a pretty nice garden.

Our only damage was a broken car windshield, dented car hood, and downed trees everywhere in the yard.

A few other memories of Hugo:

It was quick and fierce. It hit Salisbury in the middle of the night and did its damage. By noon the next day, the skies were clear and the day was beautiful.

One of my neighbors, an elderly woman, met me in the street in the morning.

“This is the eye,” she said. “There’s more on the way.”

She was frightened.

“No Minnie,” I said. “That’s it. It’s over now.”

Hospital

My father had had heart surgery the day before at Carolina’s Medical in Charlotte. My brother and I took off to the hospital.

Salisbury was a mess. Giant, old oak trees were smashed into houses and burying cars. Roads were closed. The forests lining the interstate were filled with busted, fallen trees.

Hurricane Hugo had done something very unusual. It kept its full hurricane status all the way to Charlotte, Salisbury, and beyond.

Getting to the hospital was like driving through a maze. Trees everywhere. Roads closed. No power anywhere and nothing open.

The hospital, however, was another world.  There, lights burned brightly, people smiled and worked and did not panic. The bathrooms served running water, hot and cold. The cafeteria served an abundance of freshly cooked food.

In a hurricane, the hospital is a wonderful place to be. My dad did well in the surgery. My family was there. We spent time together and had access to running water and cooked food.

I spent several days at the hospital and was a little slow turning my focus to the yard. Finally, my neighbor complained.

“When are you gonna clean this up?” he said.

“Clean what up?” I asked.

He pointed at the four trees that had grown in my yard and fallen into his.

“This mess!” he said.

I went to Lowes and got a chainsaw, sledge, and maul.

In those days, we had a woodstove in our fireplace. We had a very warm house that winter.

Power

We lost half our power for one week and half our power for two weeks. How does that happen?

It went like this. After a week without power, with a yard full of power lines underneath trees and limbs, Duke Power showed up. These amazing workers cut trees, cut limbs, replaced transformers, lifted the lines, and reconnected everybody in the neighborhood. Then they went on to the next place.

Everybody’s lights came on. Except in half of our house. I’ll call it the left side. The left side (the side that included the kitchen) still had no power.

When I called, they said they had restored the power already. I told them the problem. It took another week for them to return for that singular, weird issue. At the time, he explained how that could happen. I didn’t understand then and still don’t.

Hugo was a rare event — strong winds and tornados in a large inland area. There was a burst of rain. It was all very quick.

———————

Florence seems to be equally rare. Not much wind. A ton of rain. And it’s so slow arriving. It’s like we’ve been bracing ourselves for a week, for a turtle. I know Wilmington got it. Will it be here, as predicted? We continue to worry and wait.

Meanwhile, the weather is really nice. I may take the dog for a walk.

Being a dumbass is good exercise

Most days I walk 10,000 steps, and this has been my habit for many years — since I stopped playing tennis in the early ’90’s.

I went through a few pedometers (the pre-smart phone Omron lasted forever), and I’m on my 3rd Fitbit (they last about 2 years).

When I was a tech facilitator in the schools, I got most of the steps walking to classrooms to work with teachers and computers.

When I delivered my own Coffee News, I could get well over 10k steps in a day.

And there are the sedentary days, when a website is broken, or when I’m on a project. Days when I go to the bathroom and the refrigerator and that’s it. Those days aren’t common, but they happen. The result is scary — 5k or less. I don’t remember ever having less than 3k.

Normal activity at home — going to the bathroom, the refrigerator, around the house, getting the mail, taking out the garbage, maybe a trip to the grocery store, and some sales activity for my business, gives me an easy 6k.

This leaves 4k to manage — easily accomplished by taking a walk, checking out something at Lowes or Walmart, or, in bad weather, spending some time on the treadmill.

Today, I got most of those steps looking for a key. Not plural, keys. Singular. Key.

Yesterday, I rented a car in Concord, drove to Asheville, and returned home to Salisbury. The car was due back in Concord at 4pm.

I got in the car at 2pm and the key wasn’t in my pocket. I spent the next hour walking — everywhere, in circles, mostly — looking for the key.

I called Avis and the manager gave me another number to call — but he advised me to keep looking. He said a lost key could be expensive.

About 3pm, I sat down at my computer and thoroughly searched the area. I had spent time there. Did I take the key out of my pocket?

A single key is not like a group of keys. It doesn’t make noise. It doesn’t feel like anything in the pocket. It doesn’t make an impression.

I got a phone call that resulted in a computer task, and I was doing something on the computer when my wife, Alicia, came into my office. She had been inspecting the yard. We had both been in the yard. Could I have dropped the key in the yard?

Could my dog, Luna, have found it and taken it into the yard? She’s the one I blame for most every problem, and I had noticed the sound of her chewing something.

Alas, Alicia stepped into my office and said, “There it is. Get up.”

I got up and it was on the floor, underneath my chair.

A single key can be a rascal — but it’s one way to get a lot of steps.

Last night, in Asheville, I told a story at The Moth Story Slam. The theme for the evening was ‘Caught.’ I told a story about something that happened when I was 10 years old, and how it has had me caught, ever since, in a conversation that I’m a dumbass. It was supposed to be funny.

Well, for about an hour this afternoon, it wasn’t that funny.

Spoiler alert: The moment it all shifts

There are many heroic acts in this movie — as there were in the real life events it’s based on.

The real shift, however,  is when Ben Bradlee realizes (thanks to a little coaching from his wife), that the water he’s swimming, despite all of his desperation, may not be as choppy as the water Katharine Graham is swimming in.

In other words, everything shifts when he considers what she has at stake — beyond the dollars or even the first amendment. This understanding of one human being for another is what propels the story forward to its liberating conclusion.