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March 20, 2017

Hey! That's Me You're Talking About!

Sixty-four year old making $26,500 now paying $1,700 per year for medical coverage would pay $14,600 per year under Trumpcare. Does Trump care? Sorry, rhetorical question.

My very personal master plan is to retire soon and move back to the U.S. After a lifetime abroad I think I deserve at least that. I'm letting you in on my life story because it's emblematic and because it shows how the millionaire politicians can really affect the ordinary people. Negatively.

If--big if--the Republicans can pass Trumpcare, I'm out. I can no longer afford my big move. That probably means little to you, readers, but it's a dream I've held for almost forty years. With the GOP deck stacked against me, I can't afford to live in my own country, to live in my own house. Most of all, I can't afford to get sick in the U.S., where it's "go broke or die."

Here in Italy, like in most European countries, we have a public health system, which has pros and cons. The gov pays for it out of our wages before we see them. When you call the central booking number to make an appointment they tell you it might be a month or a year before you can see a specialist (you can't choose which Dr.) or get an exam like an MRI. Your family doctor, who is free/go anytime, probably needs those results immediately, so you go to a private facility and pay. You also pay a small fee for prescriptions.

When I say 'pay' I mean reasonable amounts, not astronomical American prices. A complete cardiac exam is about $40; chest x-rays $60; medicine might be $5 for a month's supply. Some of this depends on government subsidies and some on low market prices. With our salaries--university instructor and city official--about the same as the American minimum wage (pensions even lower), things get tight around the end of the month. We could never manage an exponential increase in health costs. Trumpcare would be ten times more expensive than Obamacare for me.

So, like 20 million other Americans, I'm watching this very closely. The big move is on hold. "Oh Lord, stuck in Messina again." This time the Washington con games mean life or death to us middle-class folks. The politicians had better do what's right or they'll hear from us bigly. So far, it doesn't look good.

Plus, my iphone is a hand-me-down.

Happy trials, Martin

Mutt:  Two peanuts walk into a bar.
Jeff:  Good morning, Mr. Mutt-ster. How art thou this fine day?
Mutt:  One was a salted.
Jeff:  Well, some people just don't like food going to waist.
Mutt:  A boiled egg in the morning is hard to beat.
Jeff:  A horse walks into a bar. The bartender says, "So, why the long face?"
Mutt:  Heard it.
Jeff:  Did you hear about the two silk worms who had a race.
Mutt:  No, what happened?
Jeff:  They ended up in a tie.
Mutt:  Where do you find giant snails?
Jeff:  On the ends of giant's fingers?
Mutt:  A polar bear, a giraffe and a penguin walk into a bar. The bartender says, "What's is this? Some kind of joke?"
Jeff:  How bout the singer who broke into song because he couldn't find the key?
Mutt:  How bout the expert farmer who was outstanding in his field?
Jeff:  How bout the wife who needs a lover just to break the monogamy?
Mutt:  On the surface of things whales are always blowing it.
Jeff:  A criminal's best asset is his lie ability.
Mutt:  And when you dream in color it's a pigment of your imagination.
Jeff:  Are we on a roll yet?
Mutt:  No, not yet but close.
Jeff:  Oowah!

March 1, 2017

The DisUnited States of America by Luis Prieto

I just saw this documentary on Sky, and it struck me harder than I'd expected. I had to turn it off a couple times to recover. It simply follows Americans around before the election last November: Trump and Clinton supporters with no commentary. I suppose living abroad and being from California protected me from the this other face of my nation. I feel so distant from those people. They showed me my own prejudices and classism.

For example, the American-Republican obsession with guns is shocking. To me guns are one more useless bad thing that the corporate bad guys are trying to sell us. Less fear armed or more fear? Who's ever used a gun to save someone's life except a cop? It rarely happens. What more frequently happens is accidents, domestic violence shootings, murder, gang-related shootings, suicides, mass shootings (one a day last year). Nowhere else on earth is like this. Foreigners refer to it as the Wild West, and that's not a compliment.

But I'm not talking about the 2nd Amendment crowd, I'm focussed on my own blind spots, what I can't comprehend, that is, the good-hearted true believers in Trump: (the reality show con man, criminal, sexual predator, bigot, etc. etc.). I don't want to understand them, to allow them their opinions, to admit their humanity. I ran out of generosity on election day. No peace, no compromise, resistance! Maybe I secretly see a Trump supporter inside me and can't stand to face him (I am a middle-aged white guy, after all), or maybe that's amateur psycho-b.s.

I've tailored my news feed intake to suit my outrage and unhealthy obsession. That's not very American, watching either Fox or Fake News; shouldn't it be that everyone's equally entitled to their opinion, i.e., freedom of speech and all that. But this is, to me, a time of crisis, unlike any other. An unnatural disaster caused by mysterious forces. I've easily survived 8 terms of Republican presidents -- this is completely different. We risk losing our nation. Da.

Trump last night before Congress (I couldn't watch) proved that he can read what his conservative speech-writers prepare for him when he has to. That doesn't make him Presidential, which he has not been yet and gives no indication of ever being.  When he's au naturale he's an abomination, an embarrassment that'll last for the rest of our lives. The Twitter King is Nude. I'm not laughing.

And yet those (brain-washed) people who rallied to support him, apparently in increasingly smaller numbers, are my people. I can't choose who I want to consider Americans. I also can't ignore the situation that I consider so dire or become professorially removed from the action in the streets. If I were in the U.S. I hope I'd be out there getting dirty. Exercising my First Amendment Right to Protest.

So I teach and write, minor contributions to some imagined cause, like opening people's minds so they can think for themselves, sift through the trash on the idea heap, know when they're being conned. Whatever happened to "don't believe everything you read"? Anyway, better stay sharp, a hurricane of propaganda is coming. Never forget.

Happy trials, Martin

Mutt:  A successful diet is the triumph of mind over platter.
Jeff:  Good morning to you too, Mr. Muttster.
Mutt:  Bakers share their bread recipes on a knead-to-know basis.
Jeff:  Is your record skipping?
Mutt:  A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering.
Jeff:  Bitch.
Mutt:  Watch it. I'm not in a good mood.
Jeff:  Not you, Mutt. I went to buy some camouflage trousers the other day, but I couldn't find any.
Mutt:  Is that a joke?
Jeff:  Corduroy pillows are making headlines.
Mutt:  Is that a joke?
Jeff:  My cat ate some cheese and waited for a mouse with baited breath.
Mutt:  What's the difference between a well-dressed man and a dog?
Jeff:  I gave up long ago.
Mutt:  The man wears a suit, the dog just pants.
Jeff:  Long ago.  I didn't like my beard at first. Then it grew on me.
Mutt:  I couldn't work out how to fasten my seatbelt at first. Then it clicked.
Jeff:  My wife had a conniption yesterday. She saw her first strands of gray hair, and she thought she's dye.
Mutt:  Oh. My brother had a car wreck yesterday.
Jeff:  Oh.
Mutt:  He drove his expensive car into a tree and found out how the Mercedes bends.
Jeff:  My dog went into a saloon with his leg bandaged. He went up to the bar and said: "I'm looking for the man that shot my paw."
Mutt:  My sister got married yesterday.
Jeff:  You don't say.
Mutt:  With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress.
Jeff:  Oh.
Mutt:  Ohhhh, she was only a whiskey maker, but he loved her still. Tralala.
Jeff:  Quick! Hand me down my ukulele!