Checks and Balances

This is something that Chloe and I have discussed numerous times, but don’t have a good answer. I would really appreciate hearing from any readers who have answers.

For those that don’t know me well enough to already know this, I was born in 1962. That means I started grade school in the 60’s and graduated high school in 1980. I never took any polical science classes in high school or college. I admit I never took an economics class until the MBA program at UST, but that’s a different matter. I did grow up in the heyday of School House Rock (Conjunction Junction, what’s your function?) and still recall the “I’m Just a Bill” episode that so lucidly explains the process of legislation. And, of course, it was well hammered into all students that the US Federal Government consists of three branches, Executive (President), Legislative (Congress) and Judicial (Supreme Court) and was so created to have inherent checks and balances to assure that no one branch had too much power. Until 2016, the system seemed to work as designed, but it seems that over the last 4 years things have come completely undone. Now that we have a wanna be tyrant in the White House, there seems to be virtually no way to reign him in. So, my question is, what are the checks and balances? Or, does this really just relate to my last post and the seeming unwillingness or inability of most anyone in government to do the right thing?

Looking forward to hearing your responses!

A Piece of My Mind Politics

Doing the right thing

Many years ago, I had a moment of actual wisdom. I was relatively new to my job as a General Surgeon and I had a nurse who was very capable. I admit that I sometimes did not have a ready answer to some of the questions she asked, mostly because I was new to private practice and just didn’t know. But, my answer was usually the same, “do the right thing”. After a week or two of this, she one day asked “so, how do I know what the right thing to do is?”. Huh. Excellent question and one that caught me off gaurd. But, being a surgeon (often wrong, never in doubt) I switfly replied one of the wisest things I’ve ever said:

When you consider the available alternatives, there is usually one option that stands out as being more work than the others. Pick that option; it’s the right thing to do.

I have found, in the many years since, that this is still a remarkably insightful observation. I nievely assumed that most people want to do the right thing most of the time and, for the first 50 years or so of my life it kind of seemed that way. But the last 4 years have shown me the complete error of my thinking. Clearly, there are large swaths of very influential people who have no desire to do the right thing. No desire to do anything that doesn’t enrich themselves or improve their condition. No ability to do anything requiring the actual work of doing the right thing. The lying, cheating, undermining, and evil doings of President Trump and his administration appear to be unending.

The Vanity Fair piece on Jared Kushner not formulating a Federal COVID-19 plan because he (erroneously) thought it would effect “blue” states. I can’t believe that I actually have to say this, but even if a voter (exercising his Constitutionally provided right to vote) did not vote for Trump (and, of course, over half of us did not), he is still required to use his office to protect us. Obviously, it’s the right thing to do.

We have Bill Barr coordinating Federal troops (illegally, I might add) to crack down on protests. Clearly not the right thing to do.

And our new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy hobbling the US Postal Service with less than 90 days until an election that will rely upon mail in votes more than any preceding election due, in large part, to the non-existent Federal guidance to the COVID pandemic. How could this possibly be the right thing to do?

Now all of us have to do the right thing and get this clown out of office so he can be rightfully prosecuted for his crimes against the United States and his genocide. Only if WE do the right thing will we hope to ever get some closure on this dark chapter.


Is this some form of dementia?

A break from coronavirus and the failure of our governments for today. I’m going to start with an admission. I don’t listen when Donald Trump speaks. I find his voice so grating & so nauseating, his views so absurd and his demeanor so childish that I just automatically tune my good ear out. But yesterday, Dearest Chloe let this clip play a little too loudly and like some grotesquery, I couldn’t un-hear it or even tune it out. I went back and found at least part of the clip (take your pick, either will do):

Is he demented? Does he always ramble in such an incoherent fashion? I don’t understand. Why is he bragging about wasting water and electricity? Why is he even talking about gasoline like he’s EVER pumped a gallon in his life, or a dishwasher? Does he know in which room of the house it’s usually installed? And incandescent light bulbs? Yeah, I really want to go back to plain old incandescent light bulbs because I love climbing up on a ladder every couple of months to change them.

But I’m serious; as a physician, this has to be some organic brain syndrome, doesn’t it? As much as I’d hate to even voice the thought, should’t the Vice President be taking over as he’s clearly not competent? Or has he always been this ridiculous? And if he has always been this disjointed and incoherent, how, in God’s name, is he the President?

COVID-19 Politics

Are masks political?

What is going on here? I read recently that women, democrats and city dwellers are more likely to wear face masks than men, republicans and rural people. This is not something that I understand. I can imagine that there are many uninformed, petulant people (like our President) that don’t want to wear a mask in public because it “impinges on my freedom”, but that’s seriously one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard. We do lots of things that impinge on our freedom for the public good. We make restaurants get health inspections, we don’t defecate on the street, and we don’t shoot guns into crowds of people because they all impact our personal safety, but we don’t complain that somehow make us less free. I would argue that they actually improve our freedom by allowing us to go about our daily business unencumbered by fear that we will get a foodborne illness, tyhpoid, cholera, or any number of illnesses, or randomly shot.

The Huffington post suggests that

Because this virus and pandemic feels so unfamiliar, we’re clinging hard to whatever makes us feel safe in the moment.

But we’re now in our 5th month of this riduculousness. Isn’t it time that we stop looking for excuses and start doing the right thing? I can see being uncomfortable about wearing a mask for like a minute, but come on people. Get over it.

  1. But politics and mask wearing is really beyond me. Am I to believe that Democrats, as a goup, care more about other people and Republicans? Maybe it’s true, I don’t know. But if Republicans really only care about themselves, wouldn’t they want to see every person around them masked up to minimize their chances of getting COVID? I mean, isn’t that the next step in the deductive reasoning process? And really, no matter whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, don’t you really just want to be able to go about your day without having to worry that every person you have any contact with will give you COVID?
  2. Wear a mask in public
  3. Wash your hands often
  4. Maintain social distancing (6 feet or more)



COVID-19: A total failure of government

COVID-19 may be the most glaring failure of the United States government I can ever recall. Probably the greatest failure of all time. And by government I’m speaking directly of Donald Trump, but I’m including the House of Representatives, the Senate, and state governments as well.

The mis-steps, failures, lies and neglect will be documented and discussed for the rest of my lifetime, I’m sure. But there really is no need to make this complicated, folks. The easiest, cheapest solution has been at hand for months, yet the failure to use it, to mandate it, speaks volumes to the ability of our government to ignore science and then flail about, spending vast sums of money to try to fix a problem that could have been prevented or, at the very least, mitigated months ago. And yet, here we are, mid-July with 60,000 new COVID-19 cases in the US yesterday and our world is less safe now than it was during lock-down.

One word, people. Masks. Back on May 13, 2020 Atul Gawande, MD had a Medical Dispatch column in the New Yorker where, among other things, he made a couple of statements that deserve far more attention than they’ve received.

A study in Nature last month (April, 2020) shows that, if worn properly and with the right fit, surgical masks are effected at blocking 99% of the respiratory droplets expelled by people with coronavirus ex’s or influenza viruses.


A recent, extensive review of the research from an international consortium of scientists suggests that if at least 60% of the population that wore masks that were just 60% effective at blocking viral transmission—which a well-fitting, two-layer cotton mask is—the epidemic could be stopped. The more effective the mask, the bigger the impact.

That’s a pretty amazing concept that has not, to the best of my knowledge, been talked about at all. So I read that article, posted April 12, 2020. The Discussion and Recommendations includes this passage:

The available evidence suggests that near-universal adoption of non-medical masks when out in public, in combination with complementary public health measures could successfully reduce effective R0 to below 1.0, thereby stopping community spread. Economic analysis suggests that the impact of mask wearing could be thousands of US dollars saved per person per mask.

What this article is telling us is that if everyone follow hand washing recommendations, practices social distancing, AND wears a well fitting two-layer cloth mask (or better) the COVID-19 pandemic would end. Not sometime next year, not after we spend untold billions on vaccines that haven’t been developed (and may not be safe), but within 4-6 weeks. So, as Denzel Washington said so often in “Philadelphia”, can someone explain this to me like I’m a 3rd grader? Why is there not a Federal law mandating mask use? Why does Minnesota not have a state law mandating face mask use? Why didn’t the government, instead of spending $1200 per person as some lame stimulus, use war time powers, mandate mask production and give us all 10 two-layer cloth masks. It would have saved about $1150 per person and would have fixed this whole debacle before June.

I call failure.



I was out running yesterday and contemplating the state of affairs and I came to a stark realization: I am embarrassed to be an American. This is completely different than when I was in college, hosteling around Europe and occasionally pretending to be Swedish or Canadian to avoid the disapproving stares of the German, Swiss, or French hosts. That was fun and gave us a little separation from the loud, boorish American tourists. This, in contrast, is a deep and painful realization. As a country and a society, we have failed and failed badly. We’ve become the unruly children in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory; loud, demanding, rude, greedy, uncivilized, and selfish beyond measure. We elected a petulant, immoral, pathological lying toddler to the White House and have then failed completely to rein in his temper tantrums, foolishness, and now dangerous rants. We’re deep in the middle of a global pandemic and have demonstrated that tech and money are useless when we’ve lost basic human kindness. Our amazing and baffling rejection of fact and simple measures like wearing a mask in favor of “independence” have made us the wonder of the world in the very worst way. We embraced slavery in our early years, fought over it, then quietly and methodically built a society around the tenets of slavery and accepted it as normal. We have failed miserably in caring for our sick, with the most expensive and poorest performing health care system in the developed world. We have the greatest income disparity of any country in the world and, likely as a result, have a shameful number of people living in abject poverty, unable to access basic medical care, food, or shelter. As a society, I’d say we’ve failed miserably.

If there are any younger readers out there, it wasn’t always this way. I vividly remember watching the Apollo 11 moon landing in July, 1969 and the intense national pride that came with that accomplishment. It was a time when virtually anything seemed possible. Now, 50 years later, we’ve made amazing technological progress and seem to have regressed in every other way. I have no idea how or even if we can escape this quagmire. I do know that the first step must be to remove Donald Trump from the White House. As Abraham Lincoln said, in the Gettysburg Address, the United States is a government OF the people, BY the people, FOR the people. Under Trump we’ve become a government OF rich old white guys, BY rich old white guys FOR rich old white guys and everyone else be damned. But electing Joe Biden is not really going to fix our problems. As The Who pointed out so many years ago “meet the new boss, it’s the same as the old boss”. While Biden may not be as disgusting a human being as Trump, he will never be a catalyst for major change.


Note: I understand this is a pretty huge departure from what I have posted previously and if it’s not for you, well, so be it. I welcome honest dialog, but if you’re going to respond with “fake news” and conspiracy theories about coronavirus, I’m not going to respond and will mark those comments as spam and delete.