Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The One Where I Call Out the Liberals

If you’ve spent more than 15 seconds on this site, you know where I fall along the political spectrum.  I’m pretty hard-left.  But that doesn’t mean I support everything labeled as a “liberal” idea.

For example, I keep seeing all these shots at Donald Trump’s comments about his daughter, which include insinuations that there’s something creepy going on.

Now far be it for me to be seen defending the likes of Trump, but in this case, I think it’s a case of liberals looking for anything they can use to throw mud at an opponent.  Granted, this is what Republicans have been doing for years, with Obama and both Clintons, but that doesn’t make it right.

As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing wrong with a dad being proud of his gorgeous daughter and saying so.  He might not articulate that pride in the clearest sense, but then this is a guy who’s using a 4th-grade vocabulary to campaign in the first place.  So it stands to reason there was room for innuendo in his comments.  But that doesn’t make it pervy and it diminishes our side to dwell on it.  There are so many more relevant things over which to criticize him.

He should just turn it around on people and say, “I condemn you for Dad Shaming.”  That’s another big thing now with the Left… you can’t suggest, even in the mildest terms, that something might not be up to snuff with someone or it’s “shaming.”

You know, sometimes people might be better off learning they’re not wrapped within the aura of fabulousness they imagine for themselves, and it serves them, and those around them to mention it.

I say you condemn the big stuff as shaming, like calling someone out on the air for daring to purchase birth control, or publishing names of those who have sought abortions, or publicly ridiculing someone using food stamps.  That’s shaming. 

The rest of this stuff?  That’s just life.  You have to learn to deal.

Used to be that you went to college to drink beer, meet other young people, and occasionally learn things.  If you’re lucky, you learn some mental life skills.  But now it seems to be all about “safe spaces.”

On the surface, that’s fine.  It would be grand if college students felt safe from assault, attack, and ridicule while on campus.  But "safe from attack" has morphed into "safe from being challenged," which should be the very goal of a college education.

There’s no need for spaces safe from feeling uncomfortable, especially if one’s discomfort stems from having their beliefs and attitudes challenged by things like “science,” “evidence,” and “logic.”

If one’s only goal is to be told that everything they already “know” is actually true, one has no business on a college campus, other than to deliver pizza.  Parents who want their kids to come back from college with the same mindset they had when they went in, should save their dough and just keep the kids living their old bedrooms.  Maybe let them out for church.

Colleges aren’t there to hand out participation medals to every little snowflake like it was just another soccer league.  And that’s another travesty: the participation medal.  I hate that “no winners or losers” philosophy, because the second the kids move past childhood, there absolutely are winners and losers, and those expecting to be handed a trophy just for showing up on time will be in the latter group.

Heaven forbid you refer to them losers, though, or you’ll be guilty of loser shaming.

I am so tired of the verbal gymnastics you have to go through, just to refer to someone in particular.  Everyone has a special multi-syllabic preferred descriptor now.  We’re a society that is completely carved up and dealt with by applied labels and demographics, but we aren’t allowed to refer to them in plain language.

The Onion made fun of it, back in the early 2000s:

Courtesy of my The Onion Day by Day Calendar.  (#3 still makes me LOL.)

When did we get so hung up on superficialities that we ignore intent?  For I just don’t see a problem with saying “That black guy,” or “That white guy…”  To me, they’re just descriptors, without value judgment.

I’m old enough to have seen Blazing Saddles in the theater (as a junior high student, with my whole family, including my younger brother and sister.)  This morning I just read an interview with Mel Brooks, who is celebrating the 42nd anniversary of his western spoof, and he was lamenting how it could never be made in the current environment.

By today’s standards, someone would be there with a clicker, counting ever time the N-word was used, and that alone would  kybosh the film.  Thankfully, back in 1973, someone was paying attention to the context, in which the idiot townspeople were the ones using the N-word and the black sheriff was the smartest guy in town, defeated the bad guys and won over the townspeople. 

That’s how you defeat racism; not by becoming the word police.

Obviously, I’m not coming out in favor of using pejorative terms for people.  I think we should be polite, respectful, but direct.  In other words, try not to be a dick.

And I suppose I should apologize to all the dicks out there now, who I have just dick shamed.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Black, White and Blue: A Police State

I know it was mentioned on national news last week but it’s still reverberating here in Maryland; big time.  I’m talking about the Justice Department’s exhaustively documented investigation of the Baltimore City police department, which for more than a year, cataloged mountains of instances of blatantly unconstitutional behavior and institutionalized racism, from the top of the force to the bottom.

As bad as people on the street thought it was, the reality was actually worse.

It was thoroughly predictable how fast the apologists came out.  Among other complaints, I saw one letter to the editor which claimed the findings couldn’t be taken seriously because the DOJ neglected to charge Hillary Clinton.

Aside from the apples to oranges ridiculousness, it’s a complete misapplication of reason.  The report provided details upon details of instances personally witnessed by the investigators, of illegal behavior on the part of the police.

In one of the more egregious episodes, a sergeant sent a patrol officer to stop a group of young African-American men, question them and order them to disperse.  When the office said he had no valid reason to do so, Sarge told him “Then make something up.” 

All this happened with the DOJ agent right in the car with them.

I made this point in the past, as it applied to the shootings of unarmed black men, but it applies here too.  It seems that this kind of behavior is so ingrained in the organization, even while under the microscope, they still do it.  It’s just the way things are done.

Among the other findings:
  • Blacks are nearly three times more likely than whites to be stopped by police in Baltimore (and that’s after accounting for the higher black percentage of the population).  More than 400 people were stopped more than 10 times from 2010 to 2015 and 95% of them were black.  One middle-aged African-American man was stopped 30 times in four years, without a single citation or arrest being filed.

  • Arrests for minor transgressions like loitering, disorderly conduct or failure to obey a police officer, were recorded against African-Americans far more than is reflected by their percentage of the local population.

  • Blacks are 37% more likely than others to be searched in pedestrian stops and 27% more likely to be searched in vehicle stops.

In reality, the real story is even worse, because of gaping deficiencies in police record keeping.  The DOJ’s numbers only reflect the things that got officially reported.

Ever since Ferguson, police apologists have gone out of their way to blame everyone but the police.  “If they’d just do what the police tell them, they wouldn’t have a problem, would they?

It’s so easy to sit back, wrapped in the aura of white privilege, and pass judgment on how other people should behave; other people whose everyday challenges would turn the critics even whiter.

I know people who have said these very things, but I guaran-damn-tee you that if they were ever stopped by the cops day after day after day, for doing nothing but driving legally, or standing and talking with friends, they’d be singing a completely different tune.  They’d be more than ready to rumble.

So when they smugly go all, “All lives matter,” they don’t understand the bigger picture, that of course all lives matter, but all lives aren’t the ones being systematically persecuted; the black ones are.
Inevitably someone brings up the recent targeted cop killings, inferring that it is the police who are under siege and it can’t be helped if they feel they have to defend themselves.

Of course, the facts say differently:
It just seems like all these things are exploding now because unlike in previous eras, now we hear about every incident.  Thirty years ago, if a cop gets killed in some backwood jerkwater town, only those in proximity to said jerkwater town heard about it.  There was no internet with which to get people fired up all over the country.

There really is no siege, just a few dangerous characters, probably not very bright, definitely suicidal, who are bent on taking out some cops.

So we’re back to the over-arching problem of institutionalized discrimination in big city police departments.  (If you think this is just a Baltimore problem, you’re kidding yourself.)

Now, what do we do about it?  That’s the question, isn’t it?

I wrote my thoughts on how to address this mess, back in December.  Band-Aids won’t work; it’s going to take a major philosophy change.  It won’t be quick and it won’t be cheap.  But it has to be done.

My opinion is that having a police force of one ethnicity with complete authority over a population of a different ethnicity is a recipe for suspicion, mistrust and not so spontaneous combustion.  But it will take a great deal of time to change any of that, if it’s even possible. 

If the schools are jungles and the students are poor and hungry, we’ll never find enough qualified people to join the police force.  So all we have to do is solve poverty and education and we’ll be home free!


In the meantime, recent events have shown that increased outside scrutiny does nothing to curb abuses of power.  Nothing will any different until there are agents of change on the inside.  Until police supervisors cease to tolerate these abuses, and good cops stop covering for bad ones, this predicament will never change.

The events in the DOJ report happened right here in this city.  And no amount of feel-good videos of cops playing games or dancing with kids will change the fact that police supervisors are specifically ordering their subordinates to do things that violate the Constitution, not to mention the standards of civilized society.

This has to be addressed in a meaningful way or else it’s going to stay blazing hot out there on the streets for a very long time.

Monday, August 8, 2016

What I Did on My Summer Vacation - Part 3

I gave you the first two days last week; now on to the rest of the adventure.

I probably should have mentioned this in the last post, to remain true to my chronologically ordered intentions, but on the way down from the airport, my buddy the VP called up his 87-year old dad and told him we’d be there to pick him up to go to the tavern in about 15 minutes.

His dad answered, in his distinctive Kentucky accent, “Why that’d be fine as frog hair.”

I love those old country sayings, especially the ones I’ve never heard before.

I probably spent half the week working on the leftover pulled pork and corn on the cob from Sunday’s feast.  Luckily I still had enough room for grilled brats.  (I’m sorry I don’t have any pics… but if you’ve seen one sausage, you’ve seen ’em all.) 

Afterwards, we went to the tavern and met up with my fearless friend, Sherry, she of the 52 at 52 Series.  

Important note: Sherry’s book, based on her experience of stepping out of her comfort zone once a week throughout her 52nd year, will be published in 2017.  I can’t wait to read it!

The big event of the day was going to see the World Famous Toledo Mudhens.
They play in a beautiful downtown ballpark and I never miss a chance to go.  Of course, the Hens probably aren’t too crazy that because they’ve gone 1-9 during all the games I’ve attended, including the 3-0 loss Tuesday night.  Sorry guys.

Barbecued chicken was the order of the day.  The VP did up three chickens, from the rubdown…

…through crispy completion.
After eating, we hit the tavern again, and when they threw us out of there, (due to an 11:00 closing, not because of our behavior), we headed on over to the smaller bar down the street.  The CFO’s daughter was working late and wanted to meet us there afterwards.  She needed some help from the “Council of Elders,” so we made this one a late night.  I hadn’t been out ‘til 2:00 AM in ages.  No skin off my ass, though… I could sleep in.

This was the day we decided to go fishing on the Maumee River.  The VP found a little fishing dock and we cast our lines around 9:00 AM.

Morning on the Maumee River

We probably should have come later because we didn’t catch anything for the first three hours but sunburn.  Eventually, the sun moved so we caught a bit of shade for the rest of the day, as long as we stayed about 5 feet back from the railing.

Later on, we started seeing some action.  The VP pulled in a sheephead, and then I caught a couple, as well.
I had an even smaller one earlier.

Highlight of the day was pulling in this channel catfish.
Next thing you know, I was catching my own bait.
I don’t even know how I caught this thing… must have just swam into the hook.

I tried reusing it as bait, but that was it for the day’s biting.

It wasn’t like we were trying to keep any to eat; we had plenty to fill our bellies that evening when we went to my old college haunt, Myles Pizza, for the biggest pie you’ll ever lay eyes on.

God, I love this pizza!

We had a big group, with me, the VP, the CFO, his 3 kids, and his oldest daughter’s 3 kids plus fiancĂ©.  And we still had leftovers! 

The CFO’s youngest daughter and beneficiary of the wisdom passed down by the Council of Elders.

The CFO’s son and I square off for our annual “Who’s Tallest Now?” contest. 

As you can see, I have him by about a frog hair.  Of course, there are ¾ inch cushions in my sneakers, plus a Dr. Scholl’s gel insert, while the boy was wearing what looked like dock shoes, so I was totally cheating.  Age and treachery, baby!  He’s just going into his junior year of high school this fall so I expect he’ll have passed me by my next visit, whether I’m gellin’ or not.

When we got home, there was no room for beer, but we’d planned ahead.  We had some incredible Woodford Reserve whiskey instead of beer and killed the night watching a Naked Gun marathon.  Life is good.

The CFO and I went out to watch the new Jason Bourne movie that afternoon.  If you like the other Bourne movies, you’ll like this one.  It’s good stuff.

For a culinary finale, the VP barbecued up some awesome pork ribs and baked potatoes, which we attacked with our customary enthusiasm.

I’m pretty sure I should stick to salads this week, after last week’s Meat-O-Rama.

After the rib feast, we went back to the tavern once more, but this time entailed a reunion.  That morning I’d heard from my old buddy Bruce, whose co-worker we convinced that we were brothers, just so I could get a discount at the toy store where they worked, and then kept up the ruse for more than a year.  He and his sister were in town from the west coast and it was my last night in town, so we had no choice but to meet up.

I hadn’t seen Bruce or his sister (another Sherry) since the early 80s so it was great to catch up.  You can tell a friendship is real when no matter how long the layoff, whenever you get back together, it’s as if you were just hanging out the previous week.

It was a nice way to end the week.  Old friends are the best.

L-R: The VP, The CFO, and me.

Thanks for putting up with me again this year, guys.  And I can’t believe we made it through a presidential election year without talking about politics!

Monday, August 1, 2016

What I did on My Summer Vacation - Part 2

Greetings from rustic Whitehouse Ohio!  I'm out on my annual pilgrimage to the land of my youth, the farmlands outside Toledo, to visit my best buddies, the Chairman of Fuck Off (The CFO) and the Vice President of Hell No (The VP).

I've only been here since Saturday so I don't have a lot of adventures to report just yet, but there's enough for a short post.

After the VP picked me up in Detroit, we thought we'd never get out of Michigan.  All the interstates seemed to be under construction, with the corresponding traffic jams, so we had to procure some alternate routing to get back to friendly territory.

After we met up with the CFO at the local tavern, we stopped at the grocery store for a supply of beer for the week. (OK, next couple days, probably.)
I just wonder what came with the full-service restroom...

When we got back to the garage, I noticed the VP's charcoal supply.
If that garage catches fire, they'll never be able to put it out, they'll just have to have a community barbecue.

On Sunday, the VP did up some pork butt, for pulled pork.
Fully spiced and ready to smoke.

Then when it was done...
it was a sight to behold.  And a smell to besmell too.

We also did some cooler corn, with the watchful oversight of the CFO's dog and grandson.

Later on, the boy demonstrated his magnetic personality.

Tonight, we're looking at grilled brats, (that's as in the sausage, not rotten kids) and a night back at the tavern.  Later this week, we have a Toledo Mudhens game, some river fishing, and a trip to my favorite pizza place in Bowling Green.  Stay tuned for what's sure to be a fascinating story... 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Living in Concert - Part 5

Because I want to write about something other than politics today,

and there’s not really anything else going on, I figured I’d do up another installment of my old concert life, last addressed in February of 2015.  Back when I was in the record retail business, I used to see a lot of concerts… mostly for free, as a perk of the job.  It was one of the few things that kept me going.

At this point in the narrative, I was working in my company’s home office in Albany NY.

2/16/93 – Bon Jovi/Jeff Healey Band, Knickerbocker Arena, Albany, Crossroads tour. ($22.50 comped)  I’d seen Bon Jovi open for the Scorpions in Toledo back in the 80s, and seen Jeff Healey headline Peabody’s in Cleveland, so their roles were reversed on this night.  Seemed wrong seeing Jeff Healey on a big arena stage.  I felt he belongs in a small grungy club like the Double Deuce.  They could have at least put up some chicken wire in front of the stage.

March 1993 – Queen Ida (headlining Mardi Gras Night), Proctor’s Theater, Schenectady NY.  Went with the wife.  She loved Cajun music.  They made this ornate theater look like the French Quarter of old New Orleans.  They even had people up on the balconies in the atrium throwing down beads.  (And you didn’t have to show off any body parts to get them!)

3/18/93 – Howie Mandel, Proctor’s Theater. ($25.50)  Before he was a talent show judge, Howie was a great standup comedian, with boundless energy and a slew of voices.  My favorite bits were when he’d go into the audience and just riff off of people.

6/1/93 – Norman Nardini, The Metro, Saratoga Springs NY, Breakdown in Paradise tour. (comped)  I wrote extensively about seeing and hanging out with Norm in my “Brushes” series.  Norman Nardini was a guitarist out of Pittsburgh who I first saw playing at our company’s annual convention, and just rocking the place. 

Norm in Greenwich Village, about to rock this guy’s face off.

Went with the wife and two of her friends, my boss, and my other boss.  In between sets, Norm would come and hang out at our table.  This was the first time I saw him work a room full of people who didn’t know who the hell he was, and have them eating out of his hand by the end of the night.

July 1993, Buckwheat Zydeco/Beausoliel, headlining the annual Cajun Festival at Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC).  Took the family and wife’s friend’s family.  Picnic out on the grass, with lots of games, beer, and dancing to Cajun music.

7/31/93 – Tina Turner/Chris Isaac, Simply the Best tour, SPAC. ($25.50)  The fourth time seeing Tina Turner, who really hadn’t even aged since I first saw her in 1985.  Third time seeing her at an outdoor pavilion.

8/29/93 – Charlie Daniels Band, Starlite Theater, Albany NY. (22.50)  Third time seeing the CDB, but the first time in 11 years.  You always know what you’re going to get, though.  I don’t listen to much country music, but when I do, I like it shit-kicking, the way these guys play it.

10/31/93 – Joe Satriani at the Hard Rock CafĂ©, NYC, and Norman Nardini at Kenny’s Castaways, Greenwich Village, NY. (Comped)  Came into “The City” with some execs from work, along with the wife and her girlfriend, to see two shows in one night.  The Satriani gig was “invite only,” then we cabbed it across town to the Village to see Norm again.  Details are in the post I linked in the previous Norman listing.  Great night.

November 1993 – Dan Baird/The Poorboys, Folk Songs for the Hearing Impaired tour, Saratoga Winners. (Comped)  Dan Baird was the lead singer of the Georgia Satellites, and on a solo album tour in '93.  Wrote about this one, here, because this was the show where the wife finally became unafraid of the rock stars.  We met Dan Baird and the two of them just started talking like old friends.  (Even though she probably hadn’t heard of him before that night.  Actually, that probably helped.)

11/23/93 – Meat Loaf, Bat Out of Hell 2 tour, Orpheum Theater, Boston. ($28.50 comped)  This was a wedding present from the guys at the office; tickets to a “warm-up” gig in Boston before Meat embarked on his massive multi-year tour supporting his new comeback album.  (I wrote about this show as well, in the post linked directly above.)  The only opening act was a string quartet, playing Meat Loaf songs, up until the show started and they were literally chased off the stage by the guitarist, unleashing power chords in their faces.

January 1994 – Janet Jackson/Tony Toni Tone, “Janet Jackson” tour, Knickerbocker Arena, Albany. ($40.00)  Until 2008, this was the most I’ve ever paid for a concert ticket and this one hurt because there were four of us going. (Took the wife, her son, and niece.)  Great show, though.  Janet obviously learned how to put on a spectacle from her brother.

One part rang false, when she pulled some slob out of the crowd, sat on his lap and sang to him.  Dude was whimpering like a schoolboy.  I was wondering how they knew he wouldn’t try to do something, like unsnap a piece of clothing…  When I got back to work, I asked my mentor, Vinnie, about that bit.  I said, “Was that guy for real, or was he a plant?

Vinnie said, “Total plant.  She pulled the same guy when I saw the tour in Boston.”

Just goes to show; you can’t trust showbiz.

1/18/94 – Billy Joel, River of Dreams tour, Knickerbocker Arena. ($28.50)  The great thing about a Billy Joel show is that you’ll know every song and they’ll all be hits.

3/7/94 – Melissa Etheridge/Matthew Sweet, Yes I Am tour, Palace Theater. ($35.00)  Took the wife backstage to meet Melissa (second time for me), but unfortunately, we never got individual pictures.  Someone took a group shot, and I did have a copy but lost custody of it in the divorce.  Details on meeting Ms. Etheridge and my getting all clammed up can be found here.

To be continued, the next time I’m out of ideas.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Planks for the Memories

The Republican national convention and dumpster fire starts tonight.  I heard Donald Trump hand-selected Scott Baio to speak one night this week, because, you know… star power.

I don’t know if I’m surprised or not at what’s gone into this year’s Republican national platform.  It’s the most backward, regressive, trying-to-put-the-toothpaste-back-in-the-tube platform they’ve ever constructed.  All I can say is that they must feel really secure in their voter suppression strategies because it appears they’ve learned absolutely nothing from the last two elections.

Remember how they were going to try to be more inclusive?  Right, that’s out the window.  This platform doubles down on well to do angry white straight men and the women who dutifully walk two steps behind them. 

They also reject climate change science and have gone so far as to recommend the burning of “clean coal,” which couldn’t possibly be more oxymoronic.  Just calling the dirtiest fuel source we have “clean” doesn’t make it so.  (If it was, I would have used that logic on my mom when she wanted me to clean my room.)

They attack pornography as a public health “crisis,” as opposed to the tens of thousands of gun-related deaths every year.  And speaking of health crises, (although unrelated to the GOP platform), the Republicans in congress refuse to pass a bill allocating funds to combat the spread of the Zika virus, that does not carry a prohibition of funds for contraception, which just so happens to be the best way to combat the spread of the Zika virus.  Maybe they want to do like they try to do with gays and pray the Zika away.

That’s another thing in the platform: recommending conversion therapy for gays, a process that’s been 100% discredited by all reputable psychologists.  This should be the GOP motto: “It’s not just environmental science we’re ignoring now.”

Obviously ending Obamacare is one of their priorities, because we can’t have all these people with insurance, because… well, sorry, I’m at a loss for the downside.

Trump sure picked the right guy for the VP spot. 

Indiana governor Mike Pence is a True Believer, which is just the thing needed to bolster Trump's recently discovered religious beliefs.  Pence was willing to break his state’s economy over a bill that gave businesses the right to discriminate against gays.  Anyone can talk a good game of repression, Pence has walked the walk.  I bet he uses one of these:

The metaphor I used earlier it true; they’re trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube, trying to un-ring the bell, closing the door after the horse is out of the barn.

Have you ever tried to take rights away from the people who have them?  They think gay people are just going to go, “Well, OK, we tried doing the married thing, but we’d really feel more comfortable if we could go back to being second class citizens.”  Do they think poor people are going to go, “You know, I’d feel much better if I could just use the ER as my GP and skip out on the bills.”

People are not going to give up their hard-earned rights without a fight.  But the GOP doesn’t care about that, not when they’ve locked up the voting process.  It’s no accident that wherever they’re demanding government IDs in order to vote, they’re ALSO closing and limiting hours of DMV locations that service the poorest neighborhoods.  You know, because of “voter fraud.”

We’re going to hear a lot of crap about both candidates in the next few months and all of it will be irrelevant.  The emails don’t matter.  The wall doesn’t matter.  Speaking fees and designer suits don’t matter.  Trump University doesn’t matter.  Crooked Hillary,  Racist Donald, none of it matters.

The only things that matter are what each party plans to do in Washington.

The Republicans want to:

…roll back civil rights on LGBT folks and stuff them back into the closet where they will be neither seen nor heard. 

…pretend environmental science is a hoax because it costs them money to change business practices.  (Ask Florida’s governor about what happens to tourist trade when your environmental policies lead directly to beaches filled with green crud.)

…end the right to an abortion in combination with eliminating the most effective means to prevent unwanted pregnancies. 

…ensure that nothing prevents the rich from buying politicians and elections.

…continue finding places to send our troops and places to bomb, to keep the flow of tax dollars to the defense industry.

…kick millions of people off of their insurance plans, in place of some kind of voucher system they haven’t yet been able to explain.

…privatize social security, leaving our retirement in the hands of the same people who collapsed our economy in 2008.

…eliminate the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, whose only mission is to keep banks from screwing its customers.

…initiate some kind of religious litmus test to apply to those who are legally immigrating, all the while trying to force their own religion into government policy.

…continue to prevent any progress on gun legislation of any kind, regardless of the toll in human lives.

The Democrats want to…

…it doesn’t even matter, because they oppose all the preceding points.

There’s only one thing that we can do to ensure we don’t move our country back into the Dark Ages, and that’s to make every effort to get people registered to vote, NOW, well ahead of time.  Time nullifies GOP voter suppression tactics and we have that at the moment.

If you have elderly parents or college student children, make sure they have the documents necessary to vote.  Some states require original or authorized copies of birth certificates, which can take time to obtain. 

If they’ve registered before, you’d best find out if they’re still registered.  Many red states are aggressively purging voter rolls, with little double-checking and even less oversight.

Start the process now.  By the time October and November roll around, it will be too late.

Moving the country forward is the only way to go.  Once you start taking people’s rights away, (even if they’re not “your people”), it’s an awfully short step away from fascism.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Facebook Follies

Facebook: Where anyone can graphically misrepresent facts to prove an ill-conceived point.

I’ve been having a field day on Facebook lately, collecting memes to disassemble.  I mean, with all the trauma and turmoil going on lately, anger and anxiety are peaking while careful reasoning is at a low.  (OK, that’s not just a recent thing, is it?)

Aside from the fact that the price quote is inflated, (by several thousand dollars), and it was a general stump speech rather than one focused on income inequality, has anyone  EVER, questioned the value of a male candidate’s suit?  This is just one more “standard” being applied to Clinton (or Obama) and to no one else.

I’ve seen a lot of snark aimed at Hillary regarding her (and her husband’s) wealth.  All I have to say is that coming from a party whose last two nominees have been billion-dollar trust fund babies; they are the living embodiment of the pot calling the kettle black.

This is another trick of dishonest timing.  The shooter’s quote was during the event itself.  The Attorney General’s quote was from the immediate aftermath, before investigations and before anyone had a concrete timeline of events.

See, it’s a distinct possibility that the shooter was lying or misdirecting authorities with that and other statements.  His presence on nine or ten other nights there at the club, as well as statements from those who claimed to know him, might lead one to believe that he was gay himself and acting out in a fit of denial.  Coming from a culture that reviles homosexuality even more than ours might make a guy like that prone to overcompensating in an effort to find redemption.

So before jumping to the conclusion that the religious right was dying to hear, the AG admitted that the investigation was ongoing… like it should be, regardless of how badly the 24-hour news cycle wished otherwise.  We’re Americans… we prefer our news wrong but now, rather than correct and later.

This one is just a mishmash of nonsense. 

Muslims maintain those rigid societal standards because they run theocracies.  That’s their religion and the religion runs the state.  There’s your first paragraph.

Muslims may think they should be “allowed to tell us we should change our laws and customs” because that’s human nature, it’s protected by the First Amendment, and it’s the exact same thing we think about them.  That’s a far reach to actually accommodating them, which I’ve never heard from anyone, ever.  Show me one Democrat who says we should change our laws and customs to accommodate Muslims?

I expect the response might be regarding immigration and resettlement of Syrian refugees, but that’s really an "apples to oranges" comparison.  That’s a matter of immigration law and not banning pork chops.

On the contrary, starting with “Church” is the end of a nation.

For a country that’s so afraid of theocracies, we sure sound like a nation that wishes to become one.

Moving on...

Personally, I wouldn’t share this because I would be too embarrassed to post a lily-white, blue-eyed Jesus wearing a Jedi robe.  Are you sure that isn’t Ewan MacGregor?

It’s funny how some people want to take the Bible so literally, but then do a complete make-over on the star of the New Testament.  Obviously, He would be a proponent of concealed carry, too.

Another jewel from the tiny-brained.

To “clean up one’s community and get rid of the criminal element” would take millions of dollars in jobs and infrastructure development, as well as a serious commitment to education.  People have been trying to do just this for years.

On the other hand, getting a bunch of people together to march in the street to protest their loved ones being killed by police can be done in a heartbeat.  You don’t even have to leave your house.

To compare the two in terms of simplicity is asinine.

I’m not sure if this is meant to ask why the story isn’t getting enough attention, or to commend white people for not rioting.  Either way, there is an obvious (and non-racist) explanation.

This is a case where the details are not fully known.  The cops say it was a classic “suicide by cop,” wherein the driver refused to show his hands while continuing to approach the officer, despite repeated warnings.  The family says that’s not the kind of thing he’d ever do.  It’s hard to generate a protest when no one knows what’s going on (unless this kind of thing happens every day). 

People get shot by the police all the time.  Most deserve it.  It just so happens that the ones who don’t are most often black.

Simply put, for a white guy who is not posing a legitimate threat, getting shot by the cops, is a rarity. 

In raw numbers, more white are people shot by cops than black people.  However, and this is statistically important, white people make up 62% or our population; black people make up 13%.  Yet black Americans are 2.5 times more likely to be shot by a cop.

This is the linchpin of where the All Lives Matter movement falls apart.  All lives aren’t under siege; black ones are.  When such a time comes that 62% of people shot by cops are white and 13% of them are black, then we can sing Kumbaya about all lives mattering.  Until then, it’s a stacked deck.

On a semi-related topic, I was at the Orioles game last Friday night at the same time there was a planned demonstration.  I got a bit of a jolt when I looked up and saw a plume of smoke with a helicopter circling the area.

Last April, fans at the game got “locked in” when the protests broke out in violence.  My brother and his family were at that game; I thought this was going to be my turn.  But it turned out to be nothing but an apartment fire about 6 blocks north.

Facebook wasn’t ALL doomsday and grade school-level thinking last week… This cracked me right the hell up.

“Nature’s toothbrush for your colon!”

All I can say is the look on the guy’s face is really something.  I’m dying to know if that was a real ad from yesteryear.  It looks like something The Onion might do.  Either way, I’ll have to make sure I always get the celery with my hot wings.

But speaking of colon health, I I noticed something during my daily walk to the office.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Whitewater 2 Through 10

I saw today that after the highly publicized interview between the FBI and Hillary Clinton, the Feds recommended that no charges be filed.  The FBI director said, “Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.” 

That doesn’t mean the Justice Department can’t still file charges, but the US Attorney General had previously said the department will take its cues from the FBI investigation.

Naturally, there was an instant hissy fit on the part of the Republicans, who have been beating this particular drum for years now.  I found this circulating from the right-wingnut Breitbart group within minutes of the announcement.

I’m guessing they already had this one loaded in the chamber.

It’s obvious that they don’t like it when an investigation doesn’t form a conclusion until after it’s done investigating.  They’re used to doing it the other way around.

See, the Republicans have to carry on like this.  They’ve spent years now working the Benghazi angle… nine Congressional investigations now, right?  And they’ve come up with nothing except this.  Private email servers.

Granted, they’ve gotten an impeachment with far less and they know it.  They’re doing to Hillary Clinton exactly what they did to her husband.  Remember the Whitewater hearings?  They spent a fortune in taxpayer money in the 90s to investigate what they claimed to be a shady real estate deal which benefitted the Clintons.  They didn’t find jack shit that they could use… until it leaked that the president got a hummer from some intern.

Then it became all about the sanctity of the presidency.  (Obviously, they stopped being concerned about presidential image around January of 2009.)  They managed to gin up enough dewy-eyed outrage to pass some articles of impeachment.  Not that it made any real difference, mind you.  Bill Clinton remained the president, but they were able to tie up the administration in depositions and red tape until they couldn’t accomplish anything else.  Which was exactly what the Republicans wanted.

Now they’re doing the exact same thing to Hillary.  I’ve never once heard a plausible reason why the incident at Benghazi was so different from the dozen or so fatal attacks on US embassies and consulates under the Bush administration.  Other than there being a Democrat in office, of course.

Taking the shot at Obama wasn’t even the point, though.  This was the chance to put some pre-emptive stink on the presumptive Democratic front-runner for 2016, so every time their “investigation” didn’t turn up anything tangible, they just started another one.  The goal was purely and simply to keep the words “Clinton” and “scandal” in the same headline.  (Usually a Fox “News” headline.  Respectable news organizations didn’t give this story much oxygen and declined to participate in the charade.)

These investigations were 100% political in nature.  One of their own people even admitted it, in an accidental fit of honesty.  House majority leader Kevin McCarthey shot his mouth off on Fox “News,” saying the committee had achieved its goal of damaging Clinton’s poll numbers.  Fox anchors themselves admitted to the political nature of the investigations, with the alibi that every investigation is political. 

They’re really in a win/win situation here.  If all the investigations came back with something, that’s their campaign material for the election.  Now that there was no relevant finding, they cry “fix,” and insinuate corruption.  Either way, it keeps a Democratic “scandal” in the headlines.

Personally, I think the scandal was when prior to the Benghazi attack, the Republicans twice refused requests for more funds to bolster embassy security.  Somehow that didn’t make it into the Republican report.  Go figure.

I didn’t care about the first Clinton scandal and I don’t care about this one.  No one can show me any damage done to the country over either.  Regarding the Clinton administration, if a president can produce an economy that purrs along enough to create a surplus, flush with jobs, then hummers should be a perk of the job.  I honestly don’t care about politicians’ personal lives until they affect the rest of the country.

As for the emails, yeah, it wasn’t the best information management procedure.  Secret information was at risk.  But ultimately, what happened?  Nothing.

If I had a history with political rivals like the Clintons do, I wouldn’t want my personal emails on a public server either.  We have information security procedures where I work too.  If I did what she did, I doubt I’d be fired… not unless critical information fell into rival hands.  I’d probably get written up and admonished not to do it again

That’s what’s probably going to happen to Hillary.  She got reprimanded and now she won’t do that again.  It wasn’t the best judgment, but I understand it. 

If they want to attack her tenure as Secretary of State, then focus on something tangible.  I suspect if there was anything there to attack, they’d be doing it.  So instead, they dwell on minutia, because that’s what one does when unable to argue legitimate issues on merit.

And anyone who supports Donald Trump should not be allowed to call anyone else a liar, ever, not until they call out their guy first.

And these aren’t even the recent ones.  This graphic is from March. 

I’m over it, as should everyone be who wants to see something accomplished in this country, for the benefit of the 99%.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Odd Bits - Lord Stanley's Edition

This summer, like the last couple, I seem to have a lot of free time on my hands.  I’m not complaining.  I get to do the kind of things I like to do.  Not that it’s exciting, or anything.  I mostly go to Orioles games and movies, in and around binge-watching TV shows on DVD.  But there have been a couple of highlights…

All Hail Lord Stanley
I would be remiss if I don’t at least mention the experience of watching my Pittsburgh Penguins win the Stanley Cup for the fourth time in franchise history.  As each playoff series began, I’d think, “Gee, I don’t know how they’re going to beat these guys,” and then they’d go right out and do it… convincingly.  The Rangers, Capitals, Lightning, and then the Sharks in the finals… no one could keep up with the Penguins speed and pressure.

There were a number of subplots as well.  Phil Kessel, an under-appreciated all-star from Toronto, gets surrounded with top notch talent for the first time and wins his first Stanley Cup.  There was Matt Murray, a 21-year old goalie who spent over half the season in the minors before stepping in for injured starter Marc-Andre Fleury and shutting the door on all comers.  There was the newly formed HBK line (Hagelin, Bonino & Kessel), born from an injury to Evgeni Malkin to become an unstoppable “3rd line,” for which no team had an answer.

It’s a shame that the Pens couldn’t win the Cup at home, in Game 5.  There were thousands of people in the streets, outside the arena, just waiting to bust loose.

Personally, I think that was the problem: bad mojo.  You don’t show up to celebrate until AFTER the game is won.  Pens fans tempted the mojo gods, who in turn smote them by having the Pens win the Cup on the other side of the country.

Watching the last game was exhausting; there were so many tangents to the 2009 Cup Finals Game 7… playing on the road, nursing a 2 goal lead, having it cut to 1 with about 6 minutes to play.  Fortunately, the paths diverged when the Pens were able to knock in an empty-net goal with a minute left in the game, to take a 3-1 lead.  That took all the stress out of the last minute.  And then it was over, and holy shit...  Another championship for the Burgh.  That makes 12 during my lifetime, 15 in total.

I spent the next day buying all the championship swag I could get my hands on.  Some of it started rolling in last week.

Stanley Cup polo shirt, with the locker room hat.

I had the jerseys, but I ordered a couple of Stanley Cup patches to go on them.

Too bad the white one is now effectively obsolete.  The Pens just announced they’re going to go with the 1992-era home black and visiting white jerseys.  Aside from closeting my current white jerseys, I’m happy with the decision.  It’s really a good look.  Of course, I’ll have to get in touch with my favorite Chinese sweatshop, to bring in jersey reinforcements before the next season starts.

I’m still waiting for the t-shirt, commemorative puck and a new “4-time Stanley Cup winner” hat, to replace my “3-time Stanley Cup winner” hats.

Now I just have to figure out how to get that 4th Stanley Cup in my blog header.

O’s Say Can You See
As my buddy, the CFO noticed from my Facebook postings, I’m on a record pace for seeing Orioles games this year.  Sunday was my 14th of the season.  Last year, I’d seen only 10 by the end of June and 21 by the end of the year. 

I used to try to go to at least one game per homestand.  This year, I’ve been able to see at least one game of every visiting team but one.  (Screw the Yankees.)  I’m on pace for a 28-game year, but that’s a bit misleading.  Judging from the back half of the schedule, which has a lot more long road trips for the Orioles, I probably won’t see more than another 9-10 games.  One of them will be against the Arizona Diamondbacks, though, which is the only team I’ve never seen live.  Of course, it’s the last home series of the year.

The best experience so far was last Wednesday, when the Orioles had another “Social Media Night.”  I went to one last year, where they had a buffet table, free drink tickets, raffle giveaways, and a Q and A with closer Zach Britton.

It was the same deal this year, but the Q and A was with Chris Davis, the O’s strapping slugger and last year’s home run champ.  He’s also one of my favorite players, so I got myself a ticket just as soon as I got the event notification email.

Chris Davis and his guns.

I remember the exact moment he became one of my favorites.  It was in 2012, his first season with the team after being traded from Texas.  The Orioles won a game late on a walk-off base hit by Nate McLouth.  When all the players ran out onto the field to celebrate, Davis picked McLouth up over his shoulder and ran around with him as if he were a child.

He literally ran around the infield like this.    (Source)

Now, McLouth will never be confused with the big boys like Prince Fielder or Bartolo Colon, but he’s still a grown-ass man and Davis handled him like he was a sack of potatoes.  I thought to myself, “This SOB is strong…”

Anyway, the event was cool.  I even got to ask a question… I wanted to know who he thought would hit the Warehouse (in right field) with a home run ball first, him or ex-Pirate Pedro Alvarez.  Chris said his own power was mostly to center field and the alleys and when he pulls the ball to right, it generally hooks so he didn’t think he’d do it.  Pedro, he said, was really powerful, so that’s who he’d pick to knock one off the Warehouse.

Other things I learned: he bench presses 405 and squats over 600 (but not lately, to save his knees), he had a big mustache in the early season but his wife kiboshed it, and if he ran for president, reliever Darren O’Day would be his VP.  What, you think people were asking about batting mechanics?

Speaking of O’Day, they also announced that he would be the guest of honor on the next Social Media Night, on August 4th.  This news caused me to email Sitcom Kelly immediately because he is the next candidate for her basement Silence of the Lambs pit.  If he disappears somewhere between the Q and A and the clubhouse, I think I’ll know where people can find him.

Card Tricks
For the last couple of years, everyone has been telling me to watch House of Cards; that the show was great and I would love it.  I never doubted it.  The only reason I hadn’t seen it was because I don’t do Netflix.  But with the summer TV dead spots, I found myself in need of viewing material, so I ordered the DVDs of both “House of Cards” and “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.”

I was surprisingly disappointed in Kimmy Schmidt.  Maybe I was expecting too much because it was a Tina Fey production, but I just didn’t find it that funny.  I maybe chuckled a time or two throughout the entire first season.  I don’t believe I’ll pursue the second.

On the other hand, I loved “House of Cards.”  It’s like the seedy underside of another favorite series, “The West Wing.”  I love plausibly realistic political intrigue and I found myself thinking the main character, Kevin Spacey’s Frank Underwood, was evil incarnate, yet wishing my own congressmen were that smart.

Now, remember when the HBO movie “Game Change” was filming here in Baltimore, and I got such a kick out of seeing a scene played out along the very route I walked to work every day?  The same thing happened with House of Cards, which also films in the Baltimore area.

The signature scene of Season 2 (or maybe the entire series) takes place in a subway station, which I instantly recognized as the one I passed through every day for 17 years (up until we moved our office last summer).

I know it’s several years old by now but I still don’t want to provide any spoilers.  Suffice to say there’s a scene where Frank Underwood talks with reporter Zoe Barnes, played by Kate Mara. 

They speak clandestinely, from opposite sides of a chain-link fence at the end of the station platform.   (Source)

The pillar on the circular seat and fencing on the end were added to the set.   (Source)

Within an instant of the beginning of the scene, I could see it was the Charles Center Metro stop in Baltimore.  I know that wall, I know that yellow line, I know the round wooden seats.  (The underground stations do not all look alike.) A route map appeared in the background, showing a “You Are Here” dot at the third stop from the end.  That’s Charles Center.  Booyah!

This is what it looks like without set dressing.

No fencing, in real life.  I shot this last week, on my way home from an Orioles game.

Anyway, I love it when local landmarks show up on national television, so I thought I’d share.