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Zorro's Journal
Zorro's Journal
December 24, 2019

We're Getting Old, but We're Not Doing Anything About It

One of the paradoxes of this presidential campaign is that while many of the candidates are in their eighth decade of life, fundamental issues associated with the aging of American society are still receiving relatively little attention from the public, the press and politicians themselves. In 2031, the oldest baby boomers will turn 85, entering the land of the “old old” and facing exponentially higher risk for dementia, serious physical disabilities and long-term dependency.

Like climate change, the aging of America demands serious reconsideration of the way we live. Confronting the issue and its many implications, from Medicare’s failure to cover long-term care to the ethics of physician-assisted dying, requires what seems to be the most difficult task for human beings — thinking about the future.

In November, the National Center for Health Statistics reported that the birthrate among women of childbearing age had dropped to a record low, continuing a sharp decline in births that began around the financial crisis of 2008. At the same time, The Journal of the American Medical Association reported an increased death rate in the 25- to 64-year-old age group, with the main causes thought to be opioid overdoses, alcoholism and suicide.

What these statistics mean is that if these trends continue (always an important caveat in demographic studies), there will be many fewer young and middle-aged people to care for the frailest of the old, whose death rate has not increased in recent years. The population of the prime caregiving age group, from 45 to 64, is expected to increase by only 1 percent before 2030, while the population over 80 will increase by 79 percent.


December 24, 2019

The Cruelty of a Trump Christmas. Republicans aren't Scrooges -- they're much worse.

By Trump-era standards, Ebenezer Scrooge was a nice guy.

It’s common, especially around this time of year, to describe conservative politicians who cut off aid to the poor as Scrooges; I’ve done it myself. But if you think about it, this is deeply unfair to Scrooge.

For while Dickens portrays Scrooge as a miser, he’s notably lacking in malice. True, he’s heartless until he’s visited by various ghosts. But his heartlessness consists merely of unwillingness to help those in need. He’s never shown taking pleasure in others’ suffering, or spending money to make the lives of the poor worse.

These are things you can’t say about the modern American right. In fact, many conservative politicians only pretend to be Scrooges, when they’re actually much worse — not mere misers, but actively cruel. This was true long before Donald Trump moved into the White House. What’s new about the Trump era is that the cruelty is more open, not just on Trump’s part, but throughout his party.


December 24, 2019

Trump has made courage scarce. But there are still brave leaders out there.

Courage is a scarce commodity in President Trump’s Washington.

Fear of this reality-TV star set in soon after it became evident that Trump would seize the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. Overnight, then-House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) transformed from a person speculating that Trump could be on Vladimir Putin’s payroll to that suspect’s most steadfast supporter. Then-House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) accused Trump of racism right before endorsing him for president. Talk-radio hosts and U.S. senators who once declared Trump unfit for office similarly buckled under the pressure of a coming Trump presidency.
The latest Trump impeachment updates

These profiles in cravenness have only accelerated over time, with Trump’s political allies and media apparatchiks easily turning a blind eye to their troubled leader’s twisted views on presidential power, his record-breaking spending sprees, his massive tariff taxes and the socialist payouts that followed them.

Evangelical leaders have also turned a blind eye to the ugly realities of Trump’s Washington. They darkly warn congregants of an Armageddon-like culture war centered around wedding cakes, bathroom stalls and, of course, federal judges. Their obsession over judicial appointments has led to a blasphemous reduction of Christianity to the mere collection of federal judgeships and has allowed figures such as Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell Jr. to shrug off their idol’s failings. During the Clinton impeachment, Graham attacked Americans who fell prey “to the notion that what a person does in private has little bearing on his public actions or job performance, even if he is the president of the United States.” Falwell’s father went further, telling CBS News in 2000 that personal failings make one unfit for public service. “I personally feel that both President Clinton and Mayor [Rudolph W.] Giuliani should withdraw from political office,” Jerry Falwell Sr. said. “There’s no question that Bill Clinton has lowered the moral bar for political officeholders in America.”

Falwell’s son has further lowered that bar for Trump, despite the New York billionaire bragging about his twisted views on women, sex and business dealings to the likes of Howard Stern and Billy Bush over the past 40 years. Jesus declared that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory; as a twice-divorced man, I know that better than most. Unfortunately for Trump’s evangelical apologists, another belief of Christianity is that forgiveness comes only to those who ask for it. As Christianity Today stated in its editorial last week calling for Trump’s removal: “He himself has admitted to immoral actions in business and his relationship with women, about which he remains proud.”


December 23, 2019

Exclusive: Pentagon warns military members DNA kits pose 'personal and operational risks'

Source: Yahoo News

The Pentagon is advising members of the military not to use consumer DNA kits, saying the information collected by private companies could pose a security risk, according to a memo co-signed by the Defense Department’s top intelligence official.

A growing number of companies like 23andMe and Ancestry sell testing kits that allow buyers to get a DNA profile by sending in a cheek swab or saliva sample. The DNA results provide consumers information on their ancestry, insights into possible medical risks and can even identify previously unknown family members.

The boom in popularity of such kits has raised ethical and legal issues, since some companies have shared this data with law enforcement or sold it to third parties. The Defense Department is now expressing its own concerns about these kits.

“Exposing sensitive genetic information to outside parties poses personal and operational risks to Service members,” says the Dec. 20 memo signed by Joseph D. Kernan, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, and James N. Stewart, the assistant secretary of defense for manpower.

Read more: https://news.yahoo.com/pentagon-warns-military-members-dna-kits-pose-personal-and-operational-risks-173304318.html

December 23, 2019

About Pete Buttigieg's wine cave dinner? I was there.

You may have some questions about that famous “wine cave” fundraising dinner in Napa Valley last weekend. I may be able to help, as I was there.

The location for the event was the Hall winery near St. Helena, Calif. Yes, it’s a beautiful place, and, yes, that chandelier over the table was kind of remarkable. The whole scene that evening left me and my partner slack-jawed.

Our host was the celebrated and pioneering female winemaker Kathryn Hall and her husband, Craig. She served as ambassador to Austria under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Hall is wealthy and has a beautiful home, and she chooses to use both to advance candidates and causes she believes in.

Anyway, who else was there? Well, I mentioned my partner. He’s a professor at a community college in the Bay Area. There was also a dean from another local community college system.


December 22, 2019

Republicans' latest excuse for opposing D.C. statehood represents a new low

You might have thought congressional Republicans couldn’t get more contemptuous, or contemptible, in their disregard for the rights of people who make their home in the nation’s capital. But their latest gambit — using the scandal surrounding D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) as a reason the District shouldn’t become a state — represents a breathtaking new low in gall and hypocrisy.

During the Sept. 19 hearing on a bill that would make D.C. the 51st state, Republicans on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform exercised a rarely used authority to call additional witnesses at a separate day of hearings. They wanted Mr. Evans and officials of Metro, where Mr. Evans served as chairman until revelations about his misconduct forced his resignation, to testify. Mr. Evans and Metro officials refused to show up for the second hearing, and ranking Republican Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio) argued the committee cannot proceed with the statehood bill until it “fully understands and assesses the nature and extent of D.C. Council member Evans’s misconduct.”

If this is to be the standard for statehood, the committee’s Republicans would do well to spend the holidays reviewing the report given to Congress by the Justice Department detailing the work of the department’s public integrity unit. Since 2008, the Justice Department has successfully prosecuted public corruption in each state represented by the Republicans on the committee. In Mr. Jordan’s home state, between 2008 and 2017, prosecutors secured at least 309 public-corruption convictions. In a case that shares some similarities to that of Mr. Evans, the speaker of the Ohio House resigned suddenly last year and remains under investigation after the FBI raided his home. We don’t see Mr. Jordan offering to turn in Ohio’s statehood card.

It’s pretty rich that Republicans who think it’s fine for convicted Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R-Calif.) to decide when to stop collecting his federal paycheck, and who excuse any egregious conduct by the president, expect us to think they actually care about integrity in government. Here, they could learn something from the D.C. Council, which did undertake a serious investigation of Mr. Evans and is moving to expel him.


December 22, 2019

How a Poisoning in Bulgaria Exposed Russian Assassins in Europe

The Russian assassin used an alias, Sergei Fedotov, and slipped into Bulgaria unnoticed, checking into a hotel in Sofia near the office of a local arms manufacturer who had been selling ammunition to Ukraine.

He led a team of three men.

Within days, one man sneaked into a locked parking garage, smeared poison on the handle of the arms manufacturer’s car, then left, undetected, except for blurry images captured by surveillance video.

Shortly after, the arms manufacturer, Emilian Gebrev, was meeting with business partners at a rooftop restaurant when he began to hallucinate and vomit.

The poisoning left Mr. Gebrev, now 65, hospitalized for a month. His son was poisoned, and so was another top executive at his company. When Mr. Gebrev was discharged, the assassins poisoned him and his son again, at their summer home on the Black Sea. They all survived, though Mr. Gebrev’s business has yet to recover fully.


December 22, 2019

If the Chargers Score and No One's There to Cheer, Does the Owner Care?

CARSON, Calif. — It is the second quarter of the Los Angeles Chargers’ home game with the Minnesota Vikings and the fans are a cheering, chanting, delirious mass. One of their defenders has just scooped up a fumble and rumbled into the end zone for a touchdown.

The defender runs to the stands and jumps to embrace a clot of joyous, purple-clad fans. They pound his helmet, lean back and loosen thunderous yells: “Skol! Skol! Skol!”

Wait. Purple clad? Skol?

Minneapolis with palm trees gently blowing? No. But fans of the Vikings, Sunday’s visiting team, outnumber those of the Chargers by at least eight to one. This is not uncommon. And it serves yet another reminder that the supposed home field of the Chargers has become the N.F.L.’s friendliest locale for guests. When the Green Bay Packers rumbled in a month back, green jerseys and cheeseheads packed the joint. When the Kansas City Chiefs came calling, the Chargers’ stadium — a soccer arena the size of a big living room — became a red-clad world.


I for one am glad to see an NFL owner suffer the consequences of his poor decision. I'm not an avid sports fan, but abandoning his team's dedicated fan base for greener pastures was a dick move.

December 22, 2019

How a Banker Helped Save N.Y. (and Why It Will Never Happen Again)

On Tuesday morning at Frank E. Campbell, the Madison Avenue funeral home, Michael R. Bloomberg (former mayor, current presidential candidate) delivered a eulogy in memory of Felix G. Rohatyn — banker, writer, urbanist, savior, mensch.

That Mr. Rohatyn had come to this country as a World War II refugee, that he had forged a singular life in public service in gratitude for what America had given him, that he listened passionately and brought discordant voices together to harmonize in the name of the city’s resurrection — this was the theme of Mr. Bloomberg’s warm appreciation.

Historians have pointed out that there is an obvious through-line, for better or worse, from Mr. Rohatyn’s New York to Bloomberg’s. As a financier who chaired the public-benefits corporation created to rescue the city from insolvency in the 1970s, Mr. Rohatyn’s dominance marked the beginnings of a power shift in New York’s governance in which the wealthiest and their political supplicants assumed more and more control.

And yet the line is hardly as straight as it seems. It bends and curves when it hits the volcano of arrogance that so often characterizes today’s moneyed class and the collective belief that if your portfolio is big enough you are entitled to manage the empire.


I always considered Rohatyn to be one of the good guys.

December 22, 2019

What It Took for a Fox News Psychiatrist to Finally Lose His License

Late in 2009, a 28-year-old woman not long out of graduate school found herself in a stressful job at a Bronx hospital and decided it would be useful to talk to someone. Searching online, she came across the name of a psychiatrist, Keith Ablow.

Dr. Ablow was familiar to her from his writing, both his journalism and the best-selling thrillers he turned out — “Denial,’’ “Projection,” “Compulsion,’’ “Murder Suicide.’’ She had read all of those, as well as “Psychopath,’’ a book about a psychiatrist who prods the interior lives of strangers only to kill them, baroquely obscuring the distinction between patient and victim.

The woman — who has asked to be identified only by her confirmation name, Monique — found Dr. Ablow just as his media star was rising. That year, Roger Ailes had hired him as a regular contributor on Fox News, where he would remain until 2017, speculating about the mental states of political figures and presiding over viewer segments like “Normal or Nuts?”

Dr. Ablow offered counseling in the conventional sense, but he also conducted life-coaching via email. Monique engaged with him this way at first, but after she answered various questions about her past, mentioning adolescent bouts of depression, she agreed to see Dr. Ablow in person. His busy schedule meant that she would have to go to his primary office, in Newburyport, Mass. He was impressive to her, and so Monique made the five-hour trip for her first visit.


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