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EAGANBLOG ARCHIVE
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Bilk
I was glad to see the word “bilk” enter our public discourse here recently. Our new provisional Attorney General, Matthew Whataker, Esq., has been accused of bilking disabled veterans, among others, out of their meager savings as part of his duties for World Patent Marketing. That was one of his last gigs before becoming Jeff Sessions’ chief deputy at the Department of Justice.

Besides being a good, organic example of Anglo-Saxon punchiness, bilk is a particularly appropriate word choice in this case. It carries a connotation of sleaziness which nicely matches the quality of this scam. “Defraud” or even “cheat” just don’t have that odor of lowlife we detect coming off bilk.

Some might argue that “hoodwink” could be a contending choice here. You’ve got to love the word hoodwink, but let’s remember that Mr. Whitaker’s involvement in this scam went far beyond mere theft. He was also called upon to menace customers with criminal action if they dared to complain about their mistreatment by WPM. Bilk, I think, offers a hint of muscle behind the con, of the domination of a weak victim by a powerful deceiver. To hoodwink seems more like simple duping. For instance, when Kim Jong Un tricked Trump by agreeing to denuclearize while secretly supernuclearizing, he was hoodwinking him.

Nor can we fairly call Mr. Whitaker a mere “chiseler.” That term should be reserved for the likes of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and his relentless efforts to profit from his position of public trust. EPA chief Scott Pruitt set the benchmark for this field until his chiseling began to undermine the pedestal of Trump himself, and had to go. Whitaker’s crimes are less opportunistic and more meticulous in their planning.

“Weasel” doesn’t fully capture Whitakers identity, either, though there’s little doubt that he is one. Weaseling bespeaks the kind of unctuous, self-serving deception we expect from, say, Ted Cruz or Mike Pence. Lyndsey Graham is also a weasel, but it’s unclear why he’s suddenly gone all in with that role.

“Flimflam” and “bamboozle” certainly convey the spirit of Whitaker’s schemes, but perhaps not their corporate, white collar nature. Roger Stone and his fancy suits are closer the essence of this type of political grifter.

It is clear, however, that Whitaker “swindled” his clients. He also “fleeced” them and “rooked” them and “ripped them off” good and proper. It’s just that bilked feels like the perfect nomenclature for deceits perpetrated as a part of his training by the acting chief law enforcement officer of our nation.

Trump, of course, fits into all of these categories. For starters, he is the boss, and therefore responsible for every misdeed committed in his name. But all it takes is a cursory glance at his resume to find corroboration of almost every kind of corruption, from weaseling to swindling — including bilking. He is, in fact, the bilker-in-chief in this rogues’ gallery of miscreants. And if Robert Mueller has anything to say about it, we might be adding some other descriptors to that list, including “treason.”
A Real Pain
Used to be, the only drugs you saw advertised on TV were headache remedies. If I had a favorite among those ads, I guess it would be the old one for Anacin. It featured the silhouette of a human head with three windows inside it. Anacin’s claim to superiority was that it addressed three different kinds of pain, and each window represented one of the three.

The only one people really cared about, of course, was the middle window. It featured a steel hammer relentlessly pounding, pounding. A regular headache, in other words. The other two, as far as I could ever tell, were depictions of neuritis and neuralgia. Since we don't hear much about those afflictions anymore, I assume that it was Anacin that cured them once and for all.

I can’t say that I really liked those old commercials. They were about pain, after all, which is kind of a downer. But they were bearable, and the hokey imagery provided some amusement, at least for the first hundred or so repetitions. This is not the case here in the new age of drug advertising.

First of all, we’re way beyond mere headaches these days. The airwaves are now flooded with commercials for drugs that treat arthritis, depression, diabetes, Crohn’s disease, intransigent bladders, and a lot of other hellish ailments that people used to have the good grace to keep to themselves.

It is not the airing of private matters that I object to, though, or even to the non-stop hawking of prescription drugs. It is the flavor of the ads themselves that puts me off. The characters in them are excruciatingly bland and pleasant. They laugh at things that are not funny. They are irrepressibly active. They broadcast adorability every minute of their perfect days. I mean, these people are supposed to be sick, right? Why, then, are these geezers are out there playing music, hiking, sailing, bicycling, swimming, and boogying like there’s no tomorrow? And aren’t they just a little bit worried about that list of horrible side effects they are risking? Including death?

No, they are not. They may have life-threatening diseases, but these druggies remain deliriously happy. They are surrounded by other people who are the same way, and I don’t like them, either. They do not suffer, they do not inspire sympathy, they do not deserve the happiness they are faking. They are Stepford sickees.

I find the aging illness actor in the Eliquis ads to be particularly irksome. On top of his infuriating good nature, he is somehow able to draw things with his finger on the TV screen that are miraculously transformed into real objects. Each time he does this, he steps back from his work and beams with a knowing twinkle at what he has done. I’m not exactly sure why that gets to me, but it does. Meanwhile, he’s got blood clots and atrial fibrillation to worry about. And if he’s got any sense, he ought to be on guard for such side effects as excessive bleeding, inability to breathe, and vomit that looks like coffee grounds. But does he care? Of course not. Instead, he runs this carefree attitude that must be an insult to anyone who actually has blood clots.

At least the sick person in those old Anacin ads appeared to be suffering…even though she was a painting of a statue and not a real person at all. I could feel her pain because I could see and hear that pounding hammer inside her head. I would be more accepting of that guy in the Eliquis ad if he fell over clutching his chest once in a while or recoiled in horror at the sight of his blue urine. That might be a disturbing scene to witness, but I’m pretty sure I could handle it.

All I am saying is, if we are going to have prescription drug ads at all, they should be honest. I am not an advocate of human suffering, but I do believe in truth in advertising. Sick people should not be living lives that are more fulfilled and joyful than healthy peoples’. It’s just not fair. If the Anacin lady has to lead a life curtailed by a simple headache, then it is only fair that those with life-threatening diseases should be honestly depicted. Again, I don’t like agony, but I am willing to witness it in the interests of honesty and fair play.
No More Excuses
I want to be fair to my fellow citizens. I know that not everyone pays attention to the news. Most people turn off the political noise and just try to keep up with the ordinary demands of everyday life. Unless you’re obsessed with this stuff, you might skip over some of the details of what is happening in our country — or even miss the big picture entirely. I get that, so I have learned to accept that good people can make bad decisions in the voting booth and fall prey to misunderstandings about what is true and what is not.

Now that we approach the two-year mark of the Trump era, however, I am dropping that disclaimer. If you still think that Donald Trump is a good guy and a great president, then I am holding you responsible for all the bad stuff that’s happening. Not Fox News, not InfoWars, not the morally corrupt “leaders” populating the political right, not even Drump himself. You.

For starters, you are charged with the responsibility of knowing that the President lies all the time. His lies are now your lies.

You should have realized by now that he doesn’t know jack about public policy, either foreign or domestic. His ignorance is yours, too.

He clearly doesn’t care about anyone but himself. His manifest lack of compassion and simple decency are now ascribed to you as well.

Do you think his stoking of hate and fear make him at least partly to blame for the sharp rise in hate crimes during his tenure in power? Even if you answered “maybe” to that question, then the blood is on your hands.

And if all of that weren’t bad enough, there is also the cruelty. It’s key to the Trump brand. Cruelty toward enemies, toward The Other, toward the vulnerable. If you are a passenger on the Trump train, then you are a partner in his cruelty. And if you find yourself enjoying the ride, if you are getting off on dehumanizing your fellow human beings, then it is time to check yourself, citizen.

I’m not saying you’re a bad person. That’s for you to decide. But if you are dancing to the music, my friend, then you are part of the show. And that is 100% your fault. Ask whoever you want: Jesus, Buddha, Yoda, Mr. Rogers, Jiminy Cricket. These are the kinds of impulses you’re supposed to fight. If you fail, it’s not because the Devil made you do it, it’s because you let him. Again, it’s all on you.

I’d like to see you come back to your humanity. Let go of the lies, the ignorance, the hate, and cross back over. Like I said, I want to be fair. Bring your boneheaded political views if you must. We’ll be able to work things out somehow.

But please, leave the cruelty behind.
Fork It Over
I hope you don’t mind my asking, but are you rich? Well-to-do, maybe? How about upper middle class? If you answered yes to any of these, I have some good news for you and some bad news.

First the good news. It’s probably not news, really, just a reminder about something you may tend to forget sometimes: you’ve got plenty of money. Now, you might argue with the term “plenty,” but let’s face it — you’re not hurting. And if you own more than one residential property, you’ve certainly got plenty of room to spread out.

Which leads us to the bad news: you need to pay more taxes. Oh, I know…it’s already too much. They’re bleeding you dry as it is, even with that new tax cut, and you can barely make ends meet. Believe me, I get it. Still, I must insist. And if you’re in that “rich” category, you’ll have to pay a lot more.

Still reading? Good! And look, if you don’t believe me, ask Thomas Piketty, the French economist who’s gone deep on the subject of income inequality. Briefly put, Tom’s research shows that when people get too rich, society in general does poorly. His solution: more taxes on the rich and even more on the super-rich — for everybody’s sake.

It’s not just that our government needs the money, even though it’s not cheap to keep a First World country up and running. No, the main rationale for a high graduated income tax — like we had back in the good old 50s — is that it’s the best way to preserve and nurture the free society we are all lucky enough to live in.

If you need evidence, take a look at the current state of affairs. Taxes on the high end are much, much lower than they were in the 50s, and the gap between rich and poor has grown enormously. There are many potential problems associated with such a disparity, but the place where it seems to be showing up most is in housing. The rent, like the man said, is too damn high. Teachers, cops, firemen, and people with plain old regular jobs can no longer afford to live in the communities they work in. So much of their income is gobbled up by housing that they can’t save, and their kids have to go deep into hock to go to college. Not only is this not a sustainable system, but it builds in unhappiness and kills hope.

This ugly side effect of income inequality is among the first we see because the rich (and the well-to-do, and the upper middle class) put a lot of their free capital into real estate. And why not? It’s a time-proven method of making more money. Flip this house? Sounds fun, sounds savvy, sounds profitable. And it is for those who can afford to do it. If, however, you are a member of the middle class or lower — like most people — all you see from this phenomenon is a rise in the cost of living.

Those tax cuts the supply-siders sold to us are at the root of this problem. They launched income inequality into the stratosphere by allowing the wealthy to keep most of their money. Like most stupid humans, the wealthy went for short-term profits with their investments, not ventures that would benefit society over the long run. That’s human nature, I guess, and one reason why pure capitalism will cripple a free society if left unchecked.

That’s what taxes are for…not just money for the things we all need, but as a brake on the ravages of runaway acquisitiveness. And the more people acquire, the more we have to take from them. High taxes will make for a happy, hopeful society.

So, rich folks…for the good of all (including you), pay up. Thank you.
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon