Monday, November 13, 2017

Keep Your Hands to Yourself

I said ‘Honey I’ll live with ya for the rest of mah life,’
She said ‘No huggy, no kissy ‘til you make me your wife.’
Oh honey, mah baby, don’t put my love up on no shelf.
She said, ‘Don’t hand me no lines and keep your hands to yourself.’”

Was no one paying attention to the Georgia Satellites back in 1986? It would have saved everyone so much aggravation. Or least listen to your mother…

Now Harvey, don’t touch, and for Pete’s sake put that thing away. Nobody wants to see that…”

I guess the famous quote is true: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” ~Sir John Dalberg-Acton

What we have going on in America is an epidemic of uncontrolled ego and power, manifesting itself in boorish and sometimes criminal behavior and it’s allllll coming to light.

The publicized cases seem to be the famously powerful… movie producers, politicians, directors, high-powered actors and comedians… and I’m sure it runs deeper than that, up to the not-so-famous men of business and industry.

Anywhere there are men who feel they’re beyond reproach, we’re finding men who feel the need to reach out and touch someone. Lady-someones, mostly.

If I were a powerful mogul with shenanigans like that in my past, I’d be trembling in my designer wingtips. That’s the thing with a movement like we’re seeing; the more that comes out, the more people are emboldened to tell their own stories.

People have always known about the Hollywood stories; I mean, we even know the term for it: The Casting Couch. Personally, I always thought that was a thing of the past; something relegated to the old movie studios of the 40s and 50s. Obviously, I was mistaken. A chorus of actresses is telling us that it’s still very much a “thing.”

To me, it’s telling to see how these stories play across the political landscape.

When the Weinstein stories started coming out, Fox “News” was all over it, to the point you thought the guy’s name was “Democratic Fundraiser Harvey Weinstein,” or “Hillary Clinton Donor Harvey Weinstein.” All the knives came out for the “Hollywood Elite,” which is dog-whistle for “no-good, uppity liberals.”

Then the Roy Moore story came out. Whole different story.
If true,” huh? Yeah, that’s an important distinction, but only when a conservative white man is accused. Because, after all, the biggest tragedy of them all is one innocent white guy out a hundred guilty ones, getting punished.

Contrast that to the “law and order” death penalty advocates, where if one innocent black man is killed along with a hundred guilty ones, that’s just the cost of doing business, because he probably did something else no one knows about.

When a Democrat screws up, other Democrats boot him off the team.  Just ask Anthony Weiner.
But just listen to the alibis for Roy Moore. They’re even trotting out biblical quotes to rationalize molesting a 14-year old girl. And then while they’re sharpening their knives for the victims, they incredulously ask why they didn’t come forward sooner?

Why do you think, Gomer? Because you and your Bible-thumping buddies are about to make their lives a living hell.

One more just came out today. A woman who, when she was a 16-year old waitress, let Moore (who was the local district attorney), give her a ride home from work and on the way, he felt her up and tried to force her head onto his crotch. Her story coming out is only possible by the existence of the first four stories.

Moore is most famous as the judge who insisted on posting the Ten Commandments on the courthouse walls and was removed from the bench for defying the Supreme Court on the matter.  I wonder which commandment says to sexually assault a minor.

What the hell is up with Alabama anyway? I saw an article that said they Roy Moore revelations made Alabama evangelical Christians 40% more likely to vote for him.

Alabama: Throwing off the learning curve since the 1800s. It’s the only state were molesting a minor makes a politician more relatable.

You know, every time you turn around, there’s another story about a woman who’s been murdered by her husband or boyfriend. Cops don’t even pretend to look for anyone else unless the significant other is on video elsewhere at the time of the crime. And even then, he probably hired someone to do it for him.

Between getting beaten, raped, killed, sexually assaulted, mentally abused, cat-called, black-balled, and paid seventy cents on the dollar, I don’t see how we even propagate the species anymore. If I were a woman, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near men, let alone live with one.

It’s a testament to Woman’s limitless capacity for forgiveness and seeing the good in people that we Man can even find someone to tolerate him.

And speaking of tolerating lower lifeforms, Happy Birthday to Sweetpea. This man thanks his lucky stars every day that she puts up with him.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Professional Wrestling has Nothing on Fox "News"

If you’ve read me for very long, you know I take a lot of shots at Fox “News.” Every one of them is deserved. They are not a news service at all; they are the media mouthpiece for the Republican party. Their only mission is to create and maintain a conservative voting bloc by any means necessary.

If a Democrat discovered a vaccine for cancer and offered it for free to the world, they would call him a Socialist and condemn him for undermining the free market. That’s how skewed a world vision they have. No Democrat has ever, nor will ever, take an action that merits their approval.

While they rarely come straight out and present bald-faced lies as news, they more often skew the context of news stories by slanting graphics or omitting mitigating facts or anything that would lessen the conservative outrage they are trying to whip up.

These tactics have been uncovered and parsed at various other sites. But up until recently, I didn’t know how “canned” their interview and debate segments were until I read this article by former Fox talking head, Tobin Smith.

If you have any friends or relatives who swear by the veracity of Fox “News,” you should click and read the article right now because it shows how every moment of every panel segment is carefully scripted so that the conservatives trounce the liberals in the most psychologically satisfying way.

It is the professional wrestling of the talking head genre, without a genuine moment to be seen.

Here’s how they do it…

They start with hand-picking the actors to play the liberal parts. The liberal panelist will always play to liberal stereotypes. They’ll be geeky, condescending, unattractive and usually a person of color or obvious ethnicity.

These actors will roll out the most strained liberal arguments… they’re practically straw men made flesh… AND, the entire argument will be provided to the conservative commentator in advance.

The faux-liberals will do their thing, guaranteed to raise the blood pressure of the target audience, who are, as Roger Ailes put it, white “men from age 55 to dead.” Then the last word goes to the conservative closer, who comes in and tears the liberal argument to shreds.

It is carefully directed to rile the conservative base and then flood them with “My team won” endorphins as their guy logs a convincing win using time-worn conservative talking points. It’s not at all different to the feeling of watching your favorite football team stage a comeback to best their biggest rival.

Every word of it is a psychological ploy, designed to play on the biases of their base. And now this isn’t just speculation, it’s a fact, coming from a former participant.

Sure, Fox backers may claim, “It’s just a disgruntled former employee.”

If so, where are the lawsuits? Smith’s article came out in May. If his disclosure was untrue, you’d expect them to sue. But the last thing they want is for their production techniques to become common knowledge.

Smith also describes the rampant sexism that flows through the organization.

Granted, it’s not difficult to tell what their physical standards are for female on-air talent. They’re all gorgeous, long-haired (usually blonde) model-types. That’s not an accident.

But for former network head, Roger Ailes, that often wasn’t good enough. From the Smith column:

Many times when I was on set Roger would call down from his 2nd-floor office packed with TV screens to tell female anchors during breaks (“I have a call for you from the Second Floor) to “tart it up — tits up and necklines down.

For the non-endowed female anchors, this meant being required to wear an uplifting “water-bra” while on set to meet Roger’s idea of what a female host on Fox should look like.

“The older the hosts got, the bigger the water bra and the longer the hair/eyelash extensions got too.”

Is it any wonder that one female host after another filed sexual harassment or discrimination suits?
The choreography also extended to the hosted shows, like O’Reilly or Hannity. If you didn’t argue the points they wanted, in the way they wanted, you ceased to get call-backs. So when you think you’re seeing an impromptu interview or discussion, it’s already been informally scripted and agreed upon.

Red State Theater; that’s all it is.

I remember reading something about this by comedian Al Franken, back before he was Senator Al Franken. In his book “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them,” he talked about the Fox show “Hannity and Colmes.” This was supposed to be a point/counterpoint kind of show with a liberal (Colmes) and conservative (Hannity) battling out the day’s news.

Franken was often disturbed by the performance of Colmes, who never “won” and rarely brought up important, salient points to discredit Hannity.

One time, Franken met Colmes face to face and offered his assistance. He offered a couple of effective facts, counters, and debunkings for future use on Hannity’s assertions.

Colmes’s response?  “That's not the format of our show.”

Franken was like, “Why not, it’s your job to be the liberal, isn’t it?”

No, his job was to be the punching bag who lets Hannity say whatever he wants.

The last thing Fox “News” is going to allow is a liberal to make sense on their network.

If Democrats are to make any progress in the upcoming elections, the effect of Fox “News” must be mitigated. There are vast segments of the country who get their news from Fox and only Fox. They’ve convinced their viewership that any news source that contradicts Fox is by definition, promoting fake news.

Most aren’t equipped to combat the onslaught of misinformation projected at them daily. They are psychologically outgunned by the master-level persuasion techniques wielded by Fox.

The only hope is that they’ll listen to one of their own… a guy for whom they used to cheer.

Scroll back up and click the link to the Tobin Smith column. Become familiar with the contents. Bookmark it if you can. Use it the next time that friend or relative tells you about something they heard on Fox.

Fox “News” is basically lying to every single one of its viewers. They are putting on a fake version of a live discussion panel show. They are to real news as professional wrestling is to Olympic wrestling; a scripted, truth-free imitation of a genuine product and Tobin Smith has proof.

Spread the word.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Please Excuse my Lack of Optimism

My last couple posts have been of a personal nature, so let’s see what’s going on around town.

Special Prosecutor Mueller has taken his first public steps in unraveling the Trump campaign/Russia issues with an indictment of Paul Manafort, a former Trump campaign advisor.

Manafort’s charges don’t have anything to do with the campaign just yet, but it’s not hard to project that he’ll be squeezed for information. Nonetheless, the Whitehouse is doing backflips to try to redirect blame as well as the public’s attention.

Trump is still flogging the Crooked Hillary Colluded with the Russians theory, which makes perfect Trump sense that she would seek to get cozy with the very people who were proven to have bought millions of dollars’ worth of ads to turn people against her.

Folks, this is going to be a three-ring shit show of the highest caliber, as the prosecutors slowly build their case and the Administration does everything in its power to discredit and distract. Look for the bombs to fly any minute, because only a no-good commie would try to prosecute the president during wartime, right?
I don’t plan to follow this story molecule by molecule… I’ll wait for Mueller to finish his job. Anything we think we know at this stage is speculation. Let the man take the deal and play his hand before we start keeping score.

In the meantime, there are other things worth discussing, like:

Cuts to our 401k
One of the ways the Republican Congress is trying to pay for their tax cut is by limiting how much we can put in our 401k accounts, pre-tax. They’re talking about lowering the current limit of $18,000 per year to $2400.

That’s right. First, they came for our company pensions and replaced them with 401ks, so that companies could avoid paying for the retirement they’d promised its workers. The bigger companies offered a corporate match, up to 4-6%, and as a greater incentive, it was pre-tax. The theory was that we’d pony up more for our retirement if it could lower our taxes now.

Now they’re coming for the rest of it.

If there was ever a clearer picture of the Republican ideology, this is it. They want to gut the retirement plans of the middle class in order to fund giant tax cuts for the 1%. That is today’s Republican.

In return, they say the 1% will turn around and stimulate the economy by creating more jobs and paying higher salaries, despite this having never happened before in the last 60 years.

Trump has stated via Twitter and his post-campaign rallies that they are not going to cut 401ks. In response, Paul Ryan said that we shouldn’t listen to the president on budgetary matters, thus letting us all know that Congressional Republicans do not feel bound by the president’s statements or promises.

The only thing the Republicans feel bound by are the Koch brothers and they want their tax cut. And I’m sure they’d like not to have to contribute any more to employee 401ks than they have to.

Nor do they care to contribute to the:

Republicans are now intentionally sabotaging Obamacare in a deliberate effort to make it fail. They are injecting massive uncertainty into the insurance industry by withholding the subsidy payments that prop up the whole operation.

Trump calls them “bailouts,” but that’s a heavily slanted word. They are really contractually obligated payments to subsidize insurance for the poor. The insurance companies did their part; they offered policies at reduced rates on the promise of receiving these funds. The government is trying to renege.

Making these payments are not a bailout, they are upholding the government’s promise. But Trump knows that his base hates the idea of a “bailout” for anything… Banks, car companies, sinking ships, you name it. This is what they'd like to see in its place:

Beginning the Neutering of the CFPB
In another perfectly Republican congressional action, the GOP stripped the public of the right to file a class action suit against banks. Banks can now go back to when they could concoct fine-print clauses tying customers to in-house arbitration to address all wrongdoings. In other words, that’s like playing a ballgame where the other team provides the park, equipment, umpires, your teammates, AND writes the rulebook.

The class action allowance was a mainstay of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which Republicans have been trying to shit-can ever since it was created.

Once again, congressional Republicans take bold action to protect banks from customers they have wronged. (In most cases, intentionally wronged, like opening millions of fraudulent accounts under customers’ names.)

You might ask, “Aren’t they afraid of being voted out by a pissed off public?

Hell no. First of all, they have Fox “News” out there explaining to the base how all these actions are GOOD for us, appearances be damned. 

Second, congressional districts are gerrymandered beyond belief. It would take a massive revolt of the base to turn the House.

And third, in states where the GOP has governmental control, (and that’s most of them), they are busy stripping names from (likely Democratic) voter rolls for specious reasons. And as a second prong, they are instituting scores of hoops to jump through, like voter IDs, to register (or re-register) to vote.

Well what’s wrong with IDs?” you may ask.  The deal is that they disallow any IDs they feel are tied to Democratic voters, like university IDs, library cards, or MENSA memberships. Gun licenses are valid though… They also raise the cost of obtaining the official IDs.

While we twiddle from one distraction after another, tawdry sideshow after salacious accusation, the Republicans are quietly stacking the deck. They get in, they change the rules of getting in and then spend their public “service” careers funneling money upward to those who have the most.

That’s why I’m not optimistic about regime change anytime soon. Even with a Trump impeachment or arrest, we’d still have Mike Pence or Paul Ryan. Both are minions of the Koch brothers, especially Pence. They’ll get the Republican middle and lower class-destroying agenda passed without stepping on their own dicks because they’re not trying to be popular and populist.

They don’t give a shit what We the People think; they answer only to their corporate masters.

Would that our voices matter as much as corporate dollars…

Monday, October 23, 2017

The "C" Word

After months, if not years, of dread anticipation, it was finally time to confront a colonoscopy. (Yes, it’s that C-word. If you prefer not to deal with today’s subject matter, best to get out now.)

At my first meeting with my new primary care doctor, late this summer, I finally consented to go under the pipe, only six years overdue. And once I got a look at the instruction sheet, the dread began.

It wasn’t the dread of the procedure; it was the preparations. And not even the incessant pooping… it was the fasting that had me the most worried. A whole day (and part of the next), without food? That was gonna suck so hard.

Director’s DVD Commentary: Obviously, I knew I was going to write about the experience, but even that entailed some dread because it’s already been done. In fact, one of the funniest things I ever read was a 2008 column by my humor-writing idol, Dave Barry, about his colonoscopy. You’ve probably read it too. A condensed version of the column has been floating around on email for years. In fact, you should probably skip my post and go read his.

Also, my close, personal friend, Sherry Stanfa-Stanley, included a chapter about her colonoscopy in her book, Finding My Badass Self: A Year of Truths and Dares. (Go buy it!) So that precludes me from merely dropping every pooping pun I can think of into a post.

But if you stick around, I’ll doo my best. (Sorry.)

I selected a Friday for "C-Day" because normally work from home on Thursdays and Fridays, and I could begin the prep on Thursday without having to take the day off. (And without having to penguin-walk through the office to the men’s room every 15 minutes. Heaven help anyone who would dare to stop me to chat.)

During the preceding week, I was on a restricted diet. Among other things, I was to avoid seeds, nuts, fresh or fibrous vegetables, and fruit. None of this would be terribly restrictive; in fact, that was mostly my usual diet (before Sweetpea).

But I also had to give up coconut, mushrooms, and salami/pepperoni; the latter three really put a damper on pizza night. And avoiding coconut meant I had to stop working on the German chocolate cake Sweetpea made me at the beginning of the month.

The Day Before C-Day (B-Day, I guess) finally rolled around so the time for the “fast” had begun. The previous night, I filled up on leftover pork roast and mashed potatoes. I knew that would have to hold me awhile because all I was allowed to put in my mouth Thursday were clear liquids (water, tea, soda, vodka), hard candy and jello. Red and purple-dyed drinks were forbidden. So I had my supplies in order:  
Since cherry and grape were out, I went with anti-freeze blue.

I was surprised that this was over-the-counter stuff. I figured they’d keep it in the back with the Sudafed. It would be easier on the public after a meth lab explosion rather than one from explosive laxatives.

The Gatorade was another dilemma. Again avoiding reds and purples, most of what was left was green and yellow-tinged stuff, which I wasn’t really feeling, and I already had some blue-screen blue. So I went with this odd white-cherry concoction. Think there are any natural flavors in there?

I was leaving nothing to chance.

And, of course, I must have in-house entertainment. Between my tablet/iPhone, a half-read Playboy, and my mirror-accessed TV, I would be able to spend hours on the hopper before becoming bored or having my legs fall asleep.

The instructions said to take the Dulcolax tabs at 3:00 PM and then starting at 5:00, to begin drinking 8-ounces of Miralax every 15 minutes until it was three quarters gone. Then at 11:00 PM, take the remainder.

I was not OK with this. I at least wanted a chance to sleep away some of the starvation, but this guaranteed I’d be up into the wee hours. So I decided to start the drill a little earlier than that.

So I took the Dulcolax an hour earlier, at 2:00, right after “lunch:”
Not a color found in nature. Just Bomb Pops.

Nothing happened for the next two hours. I wasn’t sure if that was normal or not… I figured it was like the Advance Team, in there to soften up the enemy for the full assault.

At 4:00 I mixed up the Miralax and we were off to the races. The powder mixture made it a little thick, but it was rather tasty. Good choice, going with the Glacier Cherry Gatorade.

Second shot at 4:20. No activity. Third at 4:35. Nothing. Fourth at 4:50. Nada. I’m beginning to fear the explosion to come. Fifth at 5:10. At least I’m wasn’t hungry anymore. Sixth shot at 5:30. That was supposed to be the stopping point until I finished the last two glasses later on. I went to check the Miralax bottle, to make sure it wasn’t some kind of internal sealant. But literally two minutes after that last glass, the dam began to crack. About freaking time…

5:48: Now things are opening up and the flood waters are raging. 6:02. 6:20. So far, no worse than an ordinary bout of the runs; not the firehose Dave Barry led me to believe was waiting.

7:00. It took a while since the last event. I wondered if I should start the rest of the Miralax. I decided I should wait.  7:15… the waters are raging. But where is the substance? All that pork and potatoes last night have to turn up somewhere… Who knew Miralax was also an industrial-grade solvent?

Next event was 8:15 and I seem to be tapped out.  I figured it was time to hit the remaining potion. No way I was waiting until later that night, only to have it kick in at 2:00 AM.

9:00, 9:50, more hot sauce. Around 11:25, watching the end of “Spiderman: Homecoming,” I nearly committed the cardinal sin… I almost farted. Luckily I caught it in time before I had to bleach my sofa.

I wound up the night with one more trip right before bed, around midnight, and found I had finally reached the prized “clear” stage. (And you can thank me later for not describing the full-color spectrum of the preceding stages.)

Because my brother’s office is literally a minute away from the doctor’s office, I had him give me a ride in. He said he’d pick me up at 9:00, which meant I got a solid night’s sleep until I got up at 8:00.

I was worried, though… the first potty trip of the day showed I’d surrendered the coveted “clear” status. Luckily I didn’t have to worry for long; the second trip brought me back to clear. I tried one more time right before we left, just to be sure, but I was finally tapped out. I think maybe dust came out.

Once at the hospital, I was checked in and gowned in no time. They told me not to even bother with trying to tie it in the back, which was fine with me. The last thing I needed was a dislocated shoulder from trying to tie up that torture device.

As per my usual custom, I tried to be charming and fun with the nurse who got me ready. I always want the medical staff to love me, just in case anything goes wrong. Same with the anesthesiologist… He was in charge of making sure I remember nothing about the ordeal, so I don’t want him doing a half-assed job.

Right before they wheeled me in, I asked if he could stow my phone under the gurney, with the rest of my stuff.  He said, “Are you sure you don’t want to take a selfie first?”

That cracked my shit up for the next five minutes. I was like, “That would be the most epic Facebook update ever!

I said, “I can just see it… me laying on my side, gown on, IVs in, all the doctors cheesin’ behind me, everyone giving a big Thumbs Up!”

All we’d need is a selfie-stick. Or a camera-shy intern.

I added, “Just wait until the selfie generation starts aging into colonoscopies. This is gonna happen, you just wait.

We were both still chuckling when the doctor came in and my guy goes, “He wants to take a selfie with us!”

I was like, “KIDDING!  I was KIDDING!” I’m pretty sure they had more important things to do.

So they got me all arranged, lying on my left side… bottom leg straight, top leg bent, and gown pulled over my hip leaving buns exposed to the various people hustling in and out of the room.

The anesthesiologist was right in front of me so I looked up and said, “I’m feeling entirely too conscious right now.”

He said, “But you're NOT conscious. This is all just a dream.”

Who knew these guys were such comedians? I said, “I hope not because this is the worst dream ever! I could be on a beach somewhere but here I am, HERE, with all of YOU…”

And then a moment later… I was OUT. There was no hazy awareness of anything; I was knocked right the hell out. One minute I’m laughing with the anesthesiologist and the next, the doctor is telling me it was over and all results were negative. No polyps, no nothing. 

See you in ten years,” she said.

Sweetpea had just arrived and they led her right in. This was the second time in five months she’s seen me in a gown on a hospital bed. After about 15 minutes of letting me get my head together, we were sent on our way, discharge papers in hand.

Later, as I was looking through the documents, I saw the analysis of my colorectal health. It seems they have a scoring system… There are three segments and each is graded on a 1-3 scale.  I had one 2 and two 3s, for a “Boston Bowel Preparation Scale” of 8 out of 9. I felt like I just pitched a one-hitter and won the Colon World Series.

Next thing I gotta do is talk to my buddies and see what their scores are. You know us guys… once there’s a score involved, everything becomes a competition.

So then I turned the page and I’m immediately confronted with… Pictures!  Full-color pictures of my colon! Jesus! They could have at least put a warning page in there. You don’t just spring something like that on a guy…

No, I will not include the pictures here.  You’re welcome.

So, now that’s all done and not only were there no medical issues, it really eliminated all the fear and anxiety about the process.

I’m just amazed that there were no findings. I figured, with all the meat and drink I consume, there had to be something wrong in there. Now they’ve gone and encouraged my behavior.

After spending the day emptying out my colon, I can now spend the next ten years filling it up again!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Not So Grand Theft

Q: How do you create a conservative?

A: Rob a liberal.

That’s the old joke, isn’t it? I got to test that hypothesis a couple weeks back, when I had some stuff stolen from my car, in the parking lot right outside my place.

I got in the car that morning and I immediately felt like something was wrong. I looked down into the storage compartment under my sound system and saw that my sunglasses were gone.

Normally that could have meant that I just left them at work or in the apartment, but I hadn’t worn them anytime recently. I looked to my right and saw that the passenger-side door was unlocked.

That gave me pause. I knew that I only flicked the “unlock” button on my key fob once, which should only unlock the driver’s side door. (Two pushes unlocks all doors.)

With that, I began to take inventory, to see what else was gone. I opened the top section of the center console. Coin container: there. USB charging cords for phone and MP3 player: there. Burger King coupons: there. (Phew!)

Then I opened the lower compartment and what I saw broke my heart.

Bastards stole my CD case!

Can you imagine that? And these weren’t even retail CDs… these were 13 homemade mix CDs full of dinosaur rock and blues, with cute little graphics inserts I designed and printed myself. What kind of car burglars would want something like that?? It’s not like they can sell them… My only guess is that they probably didn’t even look inside the case.

I checked my glove box and my car docs were still there, but I didn’t see the emergency knife I kept there. I have one of those fold-out knives with a 3” blade, a blade-slot in the handle to cut a seatbelt, should I be dangling upside down, and a steel point on the end of the handle, to break the glass should the car be under water after I cut off the seatbelt.
A week later I ended up finding the knife wedged between the seat and seat back of the passenger seat, but not until I had already ordered another one. I also thought they got my large golf umbrella, but I found that stuck in the back of the trunk.

Other casualties? A lint roller.

Sweetpea had just given me the lint roller, to combat the onslaught of second-hand dog hair that was invading my car. I hadn’t even opened it yet.

They leave the knife, phone accessories, and several bucks in change and assorted crap in my trunk, but take cheap, drugstore sunglasses, homemade CDs, and a lint roller? WTF?
Who the hell would want these? (Outside of The Burgh, that is…)

I wondered how they got in; I ALWAYS lock my doors and there was no sign of break-in… and where? I mean, they could have stolen that stuff when my car was parked at Sweetpea’s house the night before and I might not have noticed when I came home after dark. But I managed to put it all together.

It came down to that one-push unlocking. The passenger door was open that morning and I didn’t open it. I’m very conscientious about locking up when I visit Sweetpea. Her neighborhood has seen better days.

And I lock up the car at home too; I always have, especially ever since I had my car burgled for spare change about 10 years ago, in my parking lot.

In the end, it was pizza that did me in.

When I went to see Sweetpea that night after work, we got take-out pizza. I took home the leftovers, still in the big pizza box. When I pulled into my lot, I had to wrangle my laptop back out from behind the passenger seat, along with the pizza box on the passenger seat, plus another container of leftovers. Obviously, amid all that wrangling, I forgot to lock my doors.

You’d think if you left your door unlocked just once, you might get a “bye” on it. But that one time I left the door open was the one time some schmo came looking for an easy score.

Or was it?

Now I think it’s more like some dude (or dudes) troll the parking lots regularly, looking for cars left unlocked just that “one time.” Strolling through lot after lot in the middle of the night would be easy as pie. Mine is such a quiet neighborhood, literally nothing is going on outside. I swear, anytime I come home after dark, like 9:30 PM, it might as well be 3:00 AM.

So, I reordered my knife, as I said, plus another pair of shades and a new CD case. Sweetpea suggested I put a cheap stick-on label on the case and mark it: “HOMEMADE ROCK COLLECTIONS 1980-95,” like it’s part of a whole set of other cases. That should repel any CD thief under the age of 40.

But it’s the loss of the CDs that really hurt. I spent a lot of time and effort putting those together. Luckily, I still have the graphics inserts with song listings on my PC so I can recreate the collection. And I have plenty of blank discs. It’s just going to take some time.

Also, I’m going to have to repurchase some of the MP3s, because a lot of the songs I’d burned had copy-protection on them. Then once I upgraded to a newer PC, those files no longer play, nor can I burn them to CDs.

Oh well, live and learn.

At least that pizza was good…

But did the experience turn me into a conservative?

Please. This was chump change compared to the robbery the current conservative administration is proposing for the middle and lower classes. 

If only we could just lock the doors to keep out the Koch Brothers.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Taxing My Patience

Remember how there used to be a Tea Party who got howling mad about any increase to the deficit? I sure do. I wrote about it from way back in 2009 to clear up to this year that they were only concerned about the deficit because it wasn’t one of “their guys” in charge of the spending.

Trump’s new tax plan is destined to explode the deficit. Even without the details laid in, it’s going to be break-the-bank expensive.

Anyone see any Teabaggers out in the street demonstrating? Anyone hear any Tea Party senators making anti-deficit spending speeches on the Senate floor? Any Tea Party representatives railing against increasing the deficit into any microphone they can find?
Of course not. Because it’s their guy doing the spending and for some unfathomable reason, spiking the deficit to give the country’s top earners a tax cut seems like a good idea to them. (Probably because they’ve been funded by the Koch Brothers all along, and the Kochs want tax cuts.)
If there are going to be any offsets, look for them to come from programs used by the middle and lower classes.

Perhaps they actually believe it when the GOP says this tax cut is targeting the middle class. But all you have to do is look at the ideas they’re talking about and it’s as plain as day that the only people upon whom this will have a positive effect are the top 1%.
I mean, repealing the Estate Tax alone affects around 200 people in the entire country… the richest of the rich.

Or perhaps they believe it when they’re told that giving tax cuts to the rich will trickle down into more jobs and better pay, when everyone with at least a couple of brain cells left and who were alive in the 80s knows that when Reagan cut taxes for the upper crust, there was no glut of jobs or higher wages. There was a recession.
And when George W. Bush doled out a huge tax cut to the wealthy, they pocketed the dough and paid out higher bonuses to the executives. There was no job creation, only the Great Recession of 2008.

When Kansas and Wisconsin enacted the Republican Nirvana of slashing tax rates to business and the upper class, the states’ economies dove straight into the dumpster, where they remain.

Tax cuts for the rich DO. NOT. LEAD. TO. MORE. JOBS. It’s just the excuse they use to get you to continue to vote Republican. How many times must this play out before we catch on to the ruse?
On the other hand, Minnesota raised taxes for the upper class and cut taxes for middle and lower classes. Know what happened? Booming economy. Schools are properly funded and performing to high standards. It’s pretty much the opposite of Kansas.
Republicans love to talk about how we have the largest corporate tax rate in the world. (We don’t, but why let facts get in the way?) But even if it were true that we did have the highest rate in the world, why would it matter if no one actually pays that rate? With all the loopholes and gimmicks corporations use to reduce their tax burden, the official rate is irrelevant. The biggest companies pay a lower percentage than you or I do.

I would have no issue with lowering the corporate tax rate if they could ensure that would be the amount the companies paid. But they’re not talking about closing the loopholes, are they? Not seriously.  

However they stack it, there is no scenario where corporations are going to pay more than they do now. Such a proposal would be killed in an instant by big business lobbyists.

They can hype it as a boon to the middle class as long as they like. Just remember the ultimate truth… This tax cut isn’t for us. We’re just getting enough to wet our beaks.

The real meat goes to the richest people in America. It’s the Republican way.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Raven Mad

I haven’t been the Ravens’ Stadium for a Steelers game since 2008, the year I got sucker-pushed and assaulted in the upper deck, after a Ratbird loss. Then last year, a work contact invited me to a game in their corporate suite, which I hesitatingly accepted.

Escaping that experience without cuts or bruises, I decided to take my friend up on his offer to see the Steelers game this year. And even better, I could take Sweetpea to what would be her first pro football game. My plan was to wear a light jacket over my jersey, thus allowing me to move about incognito until I could get up to the safety of the suite. They don’t allow gang wars in the suites.

As you may have heard last week, there was a wee bit of controversy about football players kneeling down during the national anthem. Both teams this week took great pains to pronounce that they would stand straight and tall this week.

I had to laugh on the way in, as I passed by the statue of Ray Lewis, captured in mid-spasm of his game-starting “dance.” A local petition claimed to have over 45,000 names asking for the statue to be taken down, due to Lewis’s participation in the anthem debacle in London. (He was on both knees, so I assume people were doubly offended.)

I laughed because this was a guy whose posse killed two guys in 1999, who got rid of evidence and the murder weapon, misdirected the cops, eventually pled guilty to obstruction of justice. Then he testified against the alleged assailants, who were then found not guilty, in part because of Lewis’s untrustworthy testimony.

All that is fine with the people of Baltimore as far as Ray being statue-worthy. But he takes a knee during the anthem to protest police injustice and that’s what offends people to the point of wanting his statue removed? I think some of these fine, upstanding “Patriots” have their priorities scrambled.

The Ravens went all out to jump on the old U-S-of-A train. They played the full Lee Greenwood “God Bless the USA” song, with loads of red, white and blue lights and decorations. They did a full color guard presentation.

Baltimore still plays up the Edgar Alan Poe angle any chance they get. At the gate where the players enter, they have it done up like a graveyard or something.
All I can say is once the Ratbirds came spilling out of the tunnel through all the smoke, it looked like they were shooting out of a sewer pipe. Which only confirmed my long-standing suspicions.
One much-needed light spot was when Terrell Suggs came out of the dressing room wearing a “Bane” mask. As you may recall, Bane was the villain in the last Batman movie, who blew up Heinz Field (as Pittsburgh stood in for Gotham City during filming) and two football teams, including many actual members of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

He even did the “Bane pose,” clutching his hands on the bottom of his collar. As the designated Ratbirds “villain,” I don’t like the guy, but I’ll give him credit for that bit. I thought it was clever. I wonder what’s next though… coming out with a Pennywise the Clown getup?

Anyway, then came the long-awaited moment of truth: the anthem.

Before the anthem, the announcer went into a long spiel about pausing for a moment of prayer and reflection, to “pray for kindness, for unity, for equality and justice for all Americans.” With that, the whole Ravens team got down on one knee and the crowd erupted in boos that shook the whole stadium. They didn’t even boo the Steelers that hard. I mean, it just reverberated.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the City of Baltimore. Philly may boo Santa, but Baltimore boos silent prayer.

The Ravens were going with the Cowboys option of kneeling early, then standing for the anthem. I hate to give the Cowboys credit for anything, but I don’t think that’s a bad idea. You can get your point across without appearing to dishonor the flag, the military, the police, hot dogs or apple pie.

But it didn’t matter here. They booed like it was their job to be that offended.

By what? Who knows? I suspect that the predominantly white crowd didn’t like having to acknowledge the obvious institutional racism that pervades this country in general and police forces in particular.

I heard a number of people try to provide alibis for the crowd, the most common being that they didn’t know they were only going to kneel before the anthem. I call bullshit. The announcer made it clear that a moment of prayer and reflection was coming. There was no confusion unless the crowd was brain-damaged. (OK, maybe.)

They knew what they were booing and made it clear the next day’s morning’s paper. They don’t want to be reminded of social problems when they’re at a sporting event, which sounds an awful lot like the very epitome of white privilege.

If only people of color could pick and choose when to be discriminated against. Maybe they wouldn’t have to inconvenience everyone by protesting their status as second-class citizens.

Anyway, they did the anthem (for which all teams stood,) which featured a flyover by four A-10s, which I’m sure was totally not a waste of taxpayer dollars. Maybe we should have demanded our money’s worth out of those flights and asked them to drop a couple bombs into the poor neighborhoods. They could wipe out the crime AND clear room for some new condos in one fell swoop.

Eventually, there was a football game to be played and it was a fairly standard affair from that point on. And as usual, I still had things to complain about.

The Ravens still decline to announce the name of the opposing defender who makes a tackle against them. They announce their own players’ tackles, of course. And they announce the opponent’s names of those who throw or complete passes or run the ball. But no tacklers. I still can’t imagine why, other than cheap homerism. It’s like it would be an admission of weakness that the other team could make a tackle against your guys.

This is something they brought with them from Cleveland because the Old Browns did the same thing. It was annoying then and it’s annoying now. It does a disservice to the paying customer. Even if I’m a home team fan, I want to know who’s tackling my guys so I know who to yell at for not blocking properly. Next time I’m there, I may take a knee to protest it.

They have a new stupid wrinkle since I was there last. They have a “crowd effect” counter that counts off every time the opponent false starts on third down or doesn’t convert. At face value, it’s no biggie, but I see it as sucking up to the crowd’s collective ego. It would be more accurate if they also listed how many times the crowd did absolutely nothing of consequence to affect the opposing team.

For example, the Steelers probably converted 4-5 third downs on their opening drive, before eventually committing a false start penalty. The big counter then read “1.” It should have read “1-5,” like a won/lost record.

All bitching aside, though, it really was a good day. We had a great view:
It was a beautiful day for football, with the high temp around 70.

We had great food in the suite:
First helping: 2 crab cakes, some shrimp, and a meatball. You don’t even want to know about the other helpings.

We got to go down on the field for warm-ups:
Antonio Brown, before assaulting the Gatorade cooler. I asked him over the house for Tang and egg salad sandwiches.

And I got to show my honey a good time, on my birthday.

Oh yeah, my birthday was yesterday too. But I’m totally not saying how old…
Anthony Chickillo knows…

There were a lot of yinzers on hand but I didn’t witness any inter-fan violence, which was a nice change. Of course, I was mostly in the gentrified air of the 2nd and 3rd levels. (The “club level” is on the 2nd level and the fancy-schmancy suites are on the 3rd.) I know better than to go up to the upper deck wearing Steelers stuff again. On the middle levels, someone wants to see your ticket roughly every 25 feet.

I did get to spend halftime with my brother, though, on the 2nd level. He was there with my nephew, who is a freshly minted 12-year old now, and was seeing his first pro football game. Happy Birthday, Sammy! It’s been close to 12 years since this story

The only downside to the day was getting out. My plan was to leave with about five minutes left to go, but apparently, about 35,000 other people had the same idea. That probably had to do with the Ravens trailing by a couple of scores. We ended up taking the long way out of town, but we made it.

All in all, a good day. I might even try it again next season, if my white privilege holds out.

DVD Director’s Commentary: I considered writing about the slaughter in Las Vegas today, but I don’t know that I have anything new to say. Just look up what I wrote about the last several public slaughters and everything still holds true.

If the murder of two rooms full of first graders doesn’t move the needle on getting rid of automatic and semi-automatic weapons, nothing will.

Unless, of course, the next killer takes a knee before shooting. I bet we’ll be outraged enough then…

But until that happens, there’s always “thoughts and prayers.” In other words:

Monday, September 25, 2017

Appetite for Distraction

President 45 has once again played this country like a symphony maestro.

Here we are again, on the precipice of losing insurance coverage for tens of millions, thanks to the newest ACA repeal bill Republicans are ramming through Congress. And what is everyone talking about this week? Football players taking a knee for the national anthem.
At a speech in Alabama, (where else?), he said that he’d like to see any player that knelt during the anthem get fired, and he referred to such a player as a son of a bitch.
He knew full well he’d generate a response from the NFL, and the owners, players, and coaches didn’t disappoint. Most of the owners released statements supporting the players’ right to protest as they saw fit. Teams held team meetings to decide how they should handle this provocation.

Some teams linked arms along the sideline. Others had some players stand and some kneel, according to their respective consciences. Still others (including mine) stayed in the locker room during the anthem, so to stay united as a team and not to isolate any one player.

And as if on command, the nation’s self-appointed “Patriots” on duty, all lavishly swathed in red, white and blue, had a conniption fit.

As usual, much of it was factually untrue.

No, the NFL commissioner did not fine the Steeler players one million dollars apiece for failing to appear on the sidelines.

No, there is no passage in the NFL game rulebook addressing requirements for the national anthem. The article and section numbers cited in the graphic led to various other mundane points of gameplay. In fact, there isn’t a single line in the entire rulebook addressing the national anthem. (About 90 seconds worth of Google research debunked that meme.)

It’s also worth noting that players standing along the sidelines for the anthem is not exactly a longstanding tradition. It only began in 2009, after the US Dept. of Defense paid the NFL $7 million in taxpayer dollars to buy patriotic participation in the pregame ritual. Senator John McCain called it “Paid patriotism.”

Facebook “Patriots” seem to be in love with the Steelers’ left tackle, (and former 3-tour Army Ranger) who stood for the anthem alone at the mouth of the tunnel. This is ironic since I’d bet if you asked his new supporters a week ago about what they thought of Alejandro Villenueva, they’d say he should be deported with all the rest of the illegals. They wouldn’t say that to his face, of course, because Al goes about 6’9”, 320 lbs.

When I wrote about this last year, I pointed out the inherent disconnect of a group of people viciously “protecting” the virtue of our Free Country, while simultaneously denying people the very freedoms this country specifically and pointedly protects.
When Colin Kaepernick first protested, everyone made much of how privileged he was and how he (and other rich NFL players) had no legitimate reason to protest. (Empathy is not a quality that conservatives understand.)

And then back at the beginning of this month, NFL player Michael Bennett wrote about his shameful treatment at the hands of the Las Vegas police department, where he was thrown to the ground, cuffed so tightly his hands went numb and had a cop’s knee between his shoulder blades to the point that he couldn’t breathe.

The reason? Officially, someone thought there were gunshots somewhere. Unofficially? He was a big black man who looked like trouble.

This shit goes on every single day. In the old days, you never heard about it in the media. Now in the era of cell phone cameras and social media, we hear about some of it. We heard about this one only because the victim was of such a professional stature that he had a microphone through which he could publicize his story.

What’s going in the Take a Knee backlash is a philosophical bait and switch. These “Patriots” are uncomfortable with the charges of institutional racism at the root of the player protests, so they pivot to Soldiers and The Flag and This Great Country of Ours. On that, they can pontificate for days.
I understand… it’s easier to wrap yourself in the flag than to address the serious problems with the way this country polices itself. But that doesn’t make it right.

We always hear, “This is not the time,” and “That is not the way to protest.” But no one ever, EVER explains when it IS the time or what the “Patriot-approved” way to protest might be. But I’m pretty sure it involves staying in one’s house with the doors shut, the blinds closed and the phone off the hook. And make sure it’s not too loud so one doesn’t disturb the neighbors.

I don’t think for an instant that 45 didn’t want this weekend to transpire exactly the way it did.

Congress now has 6 days to pass an Obamacare repeal and the bill under consideration has been harshly criticized by everyone in the medical industry, from health care groups to patient advocacy groups to doctor and nurse lobbies, and even insurance groups themselves. The only supporters are the GOP congressmen and senators who have campaigned for years on how they’re going to repeal Obamacare, plus the fools who Fox “News” has conned into thinking that would be a good thing.

John McCain has come out against it. Murkowski and Collins are leaning against. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz have come out against it for not going far enough, although I suspect both will be reeled back in by the threat of the ACA remaining as is.

I’m sure the Republican leadership is throwing everything but the kitchen sink at Murkowski and Collins, from threats to massive projects for their states, in hopes of avoiding another vote that falls short.  The last thing they want is millions of constituents blowing up the phones to register their dismay at the prospect of this insurance travesty becoming law.

And next thing you know, with one speech, no one is talking about health care anymore. All we’re talking about is some athletes spending a minute and a half on one knee, which in real terms, doesn’t make one goddamn bit of difference in a single American’s life.

That, my friend, is a master manipulator, playing you like the latest version of Madden for Playstation. The longer he keeps everyone talking about NFL protests, the better his chances of taking Obama’s name off one more thing and calling it a “win.”

It is our patriotic duty to resist this faux drama and to pay attention to what is truly important.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Homeless Thoughts - The Genetic Edition

There are very few ideas bubbling up in me today and none of them contain even enough substance for one of my semi-regular “Odd Bits” posts. So today’s post has been downgraded to Homeless Thoughts.

“Shoot, or I’ll Stop”
Oh look, more police shootings in the news. St. Louis is enduring ongoing protests after yet another jury found a white policeman “not guilty,” after he shot an unarmed black man. The guy, after having fled from the cops, was still sitting in his car. The officer shot him through the driver-side window.

The officer testified he felt endangered because he saw the victim holding a silver revolver when he backed his car toward the officers and sped away.

Prosecutors said the officer planted a gun in Smith's car after the shooting, but the officer's DNA was on the weapon and the victim’s wasn't. Dashcam video from the cruiser recorded him saying he was "going to kill this (expletive)." Less than a minute later, he shot the victim five times.

I’m not sure how you get to “fearing for your life” when the victim is still sitting in his car. Of course, the driver was a black man, so fearing for one’s life seems to be the default law enforcement position.

Granted, I’m not saying the guy was a model citizen or anything. He was fleeing from the cops. But it seems to me like another case of “shoot first, ask questions later.” Disobeying police orders is a crime, but it shouldn’t be a death penalty crime, to be judged and executed by an adrenaline-fueled, pissed off cop.

Meanwhile, in Georgia, cops shot a Trans kid who was an LGBT campus leader, who wouldn’t drop a (folded up) knife. Shot him right through the heart. Kid was slowly walking toward several cops and didn’t comply with their orders.

So armed policemen, in numbers, are now deathly afraid of pale, Trans kids now? They seriously couldn’t wing a shoulder or leg, but feel compelled to go for the stone-cold kill shot?

This is another case that called for calmer decision-making. It’s almost like our nation’s police force just can’t help themselves anymore; they have to kill anyone who disobeys.

I believe in law and order as much as the next guy, but there is a system of judges and juries that are charged by the constitution to deliver justice. No one ever passed a law that said, “Shoot anyone who disobeys.”

Severe punishments for mid-to-minor transgressions is how police-states and totalitarian governments start.

Republicans’ Zombie Healthcare Bill
They’re trying one more time to kill the Affordable Care Act. The attempt at tossing millions off their insurance comes via the Cassidy-Graham bill, which Republicans are trying to ram through Congress before the end of September. That’s the deadline for passing the bill with only 51 votes.

Reviewers already say that this bill is even harsher than the last couple, and it shuffles money from states that expanded Medicare via the ACA (blue states) to the states that ignored the ACA (red states).

If we’re to thwart another attempt at devolving the health market into chaos, there will have to be a concerted effort to get some GOP senators to vote no on the bill. A good starting place would be those who voted no the last time: Murkowski, Collins and McCain. Rumor has it that McCain is onboard this time, but that Rand Paul isn’t. (It’s not conservative enough.)

One Big Family

I sent that out on Saturday, after reading about the promotion in the morning newspaper.

The idea was for the fans to take cheek swabs, seal them in baggies, and put them in bins stationed around the concourse. Then they’d go online and register and eventually get some kind of genetic test results back.

Does no one want hat or pennant giveaways anymore?

And they were all set to go but then Sunday morning, the Ravens postponed the promotion due to privacy/security concerns. I can certainly see that… who knows what could be done with your DNA on file.

If they do follow through with the promotion, I hope the instructions are clear. If they say to take a swab from the inside of their cheek, they better specify that they mean the ones on their face.

Starting Them Young
Speaking of football, my Steelers weren’t on local TV again Sunday, so I had to watch from my local sports bar. This time, my brother met me there.

The last few years he’d bring my nephew along but this year, the boy is away for his freshman year of college. I asked if he was going to bring his younger boy, Sammy, and he said no. But then he texted back later and said, “Change of plans; Sammy wants to come.”

The boy is 11 so he can’t sit at the bar, but that’s no reason not to come watch football with his dad and uncle! Hell, it’s not just a bar, it’s a restaurant, and kids go to restaurants all the time. I sat at my usual place at the bar and I saved them the high-top table behind me.

It was especially nice because there’s a real cross-section of humanity at this place, with some legit local color. I think it’s good for the boy to see people from all different walks of life hanging out and getting along. And if he plays his cards right, one day he may meet the love of his life in a place like that.

I did.

Now speaking of the aforementioned Sweetpea, I ordered tickets today for 2 last Orioles games this summer. That brought my count of O’s games this season to 10. Last year I saw 26, so that was a major change. But for good reason.

In years past, I had plenty of time to go to ballgames because I had absolutely nothing better to do with myself. And rather than cocoon down in the cave, I opted to go out and mingle with the world.

But this summer, with Sweetpea in my life, sure I’ve gone to games, (often with her), but I have other things to do now and someone to do them with. Call it a more well-rounded life.

So while I haven’t been bringing home the Orioles swag like I used to, (from promotional giveaways), it’s not like I don’t already have a dozen orange t-shirts anyway. And I don’t have room for any more bobbleheads.

Spaced Out
I saw on Facebook that it’s been officially decided that leaving two spaces after a sentence dead.

Which is fine. But can somebody tell my fingers? I’ve been trying… reeeeally trying, but it is so ingrained in me, I can’t NOT double tap the space bar after a period.

I’ve been trying to comply for the last couple blog posts. I’ll start out the first sentence or two fine, but once I start thinking about the subject matter, those two spaces just start appearing automatically, then I have to examine every sentence break and remove all the renegade extra spaces.

I must be getting better though… I just went back to check my work and only found two instances.

The downside is that all those abandoned spaces have to go somewhere