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, Snowe 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

Monday, September 11, 2017

Odd Bits – The “Irma Sick’a These Hurricanes” Edition

So how’s the weather lately?

Good God, it’s like Mother Nature is having a fit of projectile vomiting all over the south. Maybe it’s about time we figure out that it’s not such a good idea to pave over every living surface across cities that are at zero feet above sea level.

Mankind may not have control over nature, but we sure have influence. The effects of these storms wouldn’t be nearly as bad if we weren’t cutting every corner in sight just to put up a couple more condos. Why not shortchange barrier vegetation, overlook crumbling dams and pave over every square foot of waterfront real estate? Why let a few worry-wart hippies get in the way of development?

Look, I don’t believe that the existence of these two latest hurricanes constitutes proof of climate change. I do consider them two more pieces to add to the mountain-sized pile of evidence that climate change is happening and is contributed to by humans.

Just look how both of these storms were described.  Harvey was an unprecedented storm; with conditions never before seen in recorded history.  And then a week later, Irma becomes the strongest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded.

We’re breaking temperature records year after year after year and contrary to the common arguing point, they’re not just blips.  I’ve posted it before but it warrants reposting.  Check out this timeline, showing temperature variations going back to 20,000 BC. You’ll see slight wobbles that take hundreds, if not thousands of years to take place.

And then you get to the 1930s and 40s where temperatures start to rise noticeably and then BANG, they spike with the 80s and 90s.  There is no 50-year change like that EVER in prior ages.  Only a moron can conclude that humans haven’t had a hand in it.  Or, Republican politicians whose heads are so far up the Koch Brothers’ asses they have to look out their navels.

Take a look around, down in Florida. This is going to be the new normal. The big ones may not come every year, but they’ll come often enough to make it hurt. Where they land will be a crapshoot, but unless we change the way we develop our coastal areas, the results will be the same. The shit that doesn’t get blown down will get flooded out.

So keep disassembling the EPA. Keep cutting funds for NOAA and hurricane research. Continue to ignore our infrastructure and let the rich bastards siphon up all the tax cuts. Eventually, they won’t have any place left to moor their yachts. 

In fact, they’re probably working on an underground luxury condo system in Kansas, right now.

Breaking It Down
Speaking of murderous clowns, I saw the movie “It” this weekend. I loved it.
 The Knights Who Say ‘Ni’ definitely should not see It.*

I was a fan of the book, way back when. And I even liked the 2-part TV movie from 1990, although the special effects are painful to watch today. (They used a lot of stop motion photography, which looks like it’s from the original King Kong movie.)

As you may remember, the story involves a group of seven kids coming together to fight a supernatural monster, who terrorizes the town by abducting and killing children. Twenty-seven years later, the same kids come back to town as grownups, to finish the job.

This movie limits the story to that of the kids (which will be followed by the inevitable sequel, to tell the rest of the story.)

What I liked best about the new movie was the interplay between the kids… you know… ragging each other, mother jokes, sister jokes, dick jokes, aggressive use of profanity… Just how I remember being 13!  It was believable and real. The child actors do an amazing job.

And while the clown bits were definitely nightmare inducing, it was the atrocities committed human to human that were the most disturbing. I don’t remember if it was in the book, or it was from an interview, but Stephen King once said that (and I’m paraphrasing from memory), kid’s lives take place just under the gaze of adults, like it’s a whole different world.  The grownups rarely see what’s really going on and are consequently of little help.

That may be less true now, with the advent of helicopter parents and constant cell phone communication, but it was true in the 50s where the book was set, and it was true in the 70s where I grew up. Bullies had free reign to terrorize. There were no checks on bad or abusive parenting.

Kids just had to make do. Maybe that’s what I like about this story. It’s just kids taking their fates into their own hands and doing what desperately needs to be done.

*DVD Director’s Commentary: Just to explain the picture to the non-Monty Python fan, The Knights Who Say Ni should not see the movie “It” because “it” is the one word they cannot hear, as per “Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail.” Perhaps they could see it with the sound off. I just wouldn’t want to sit behind them.

Another Season Begins
Football season began for me last weekend with the opening game of my Steelers’ 2017 season. I went to my local sports bar for the festivities and it was nice to be back. Sweetpea has kept me well occupied lately, so I hadn’t been out to the bar for most of the summer.

The Steelers opened against the sad sack Browns, which should have been a walkover; like a 5th pre-season game. However, someone forgot to tell the Brownies, who battled a disorganized-looking Pittsburgh squad to a 21-18 loss.  We got the “W” but didn’t look very good doing it.

I just wonder if it was my fault.

See, last week, I decided to use my new window-facing office space for a little municipal smack talk, by pinning a Terrible Towel to the end of my desk, so that it is visible from the main road.

I thought of doing it last year, but the season had already started and I didn’t want to mess with the mojo. I figured if I posted it before the season starts, I’d be all right. And opening against the Browns made it seem like a good bet. I used my 6-Time Super Bowl Champions towel because I didn’t really have much choice. I have two others that are individual Super Bowl towels, which I have displayed at home, and I have my plain, unadorned “battle towel,” for use at games or watching at home.

Now, I’m not sure if it was a good idea. Maybe it was the towel mojo that clinched the win. OR, maybe the Steelers won despite the temptation of karmic smackdown. I’ll have to watch carefully in the coming weeks.

Anyway, I was hoping it would be a visually striking presentation, but I ended up receiving a lesson in “scale.”

This is a shot of my building from a couple blocks away, from my walk in from the subway.  The arrow shows where the towel is.

OK, no one is going to see that from their cars, from that far out. 
This shot is from across the street.

You can kind of see something up there, but it’s hard to tell.  Now if I just zoom in a bit… 
OK, now we’re talking.

Unfortunately, the human eye doesn’t come with telescoping zoom capability.

Maybe I’ll just have to settle for pissing off the people on upper floors of the Marriot and the condo across the street.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Under the DACA Night

President Trump’s executive repeal of the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals act, aka DACA, shows he’s finally exhibiting some of that business savvy for which he’s supposedly famous. By creating a 6-month window for Congressional action, he’s insulated himself from any blowback.

The idea of booting kids and people who were brought here as kids out of the only country they’ve ever known is essentially barbaric. It’s as if they’re sub-human. Any such enforced roundup would create an expensive and inhumane mire, from which our country’s reputation may never recover.

So why is Trump proposing that very thing? Politics. This is a move designed to be red meat for his racist base and a poke in the eye for progressives and anyone else with a conscience.
But by dropping final implementation onto Congress’s lap, he’ll seek to escape the blame, however it turns out.

If, by some miracle, Congress can agree on and pass a bill that formalized the DACA principles, then upon hearing complaints from the racist right, he can reply, “I killed the DACA order via executive action.  Blame those weasels in Congress for reinstating it.” (Granted, he’d still have to sign the bill.)

Alternately, if Congress is not able to enact a replacement and the rest of the non-racists in this country protest, he can say, “Blame the do-nothing Congress… I gave them every chance to come up with a new plan.

It’s basically a move right out of a reality TV show like Big Brother or his own Apprentice. One guy comes up with an evil plan, talks others into executing it, then stands by when it blows up, going, “Hey, they did it, not me.
I’m sure this blame-evading malleability played into the decision to have his AG, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions announce the news. Sessions, who looked practically gleeful at the podium, has never had a problem jamming up people who had the misfortune not to be born white.

Particularly odious was his bald-faced lie about providing motivation for other children to come here illegally.  As Attorney General, Sessions knows full well that the DACA only applies to those brought here before 2007.

I swear I am constantly taken aback by how brazenly this administration lies to the public.  Big, shiny, obvious-with-even-a-cursory-fact-check LIE. But they know their base isn’t interested in facts; they’re interested in getting rid of the ferners.

Research into DACA shows that the US would take a loss of over $105 billion dollars in lost revenue over five years.  $105 billion!  That’s a lot of dough to squander over racist posturing.

And yes, that’s what it is… Racism. That’s the only reason left after you look at some of what “dreamers” have to do to qualify:

·        Provide a clean criminal history
·        Have paid taxes for the last three or more years
·        Prove they have been providers for their communities
·        Prove that they are in or have been in school
·        Prove that they have never asked for welfare or government assistance
·        Renew their application every two years AND pay $500 each time.
·        They also pay state and local taxes and cannot collect Social Security.

These are tax-paying, upstanding, non-criminals, which is supposed to be who we want coming to America.

And the claims of, “but it’s illegal…”?  Bullshit. Why does illegality only bother conservatives when there are minorities involved? I seem to recall several bank executives plunging the country into a years-long recession, costing millions of people their pensions and 401ks. To date, not a single one has gone to jail or been convicted of anything. Of course, those were rich white people.

Even right at this minute, the Wells Fargo scandal is widening, where throughout the entire banking chain, millions of insurance and consumer accounts were created out of thin air, defrauding millions in the process. No one has even been fired from their board, let alone arrested.

Unpunished illegal activity runs rampant in this country, but law-and-order people only get upset about it when there are brown people involved. So spare me the platitudes about the sanctity of the law.

If you want to see a demonstration of this point, just wait until Mueller announces the litany of illegalities tied to the Trump campaign and administration that are sure to come, (assuming Trump doesn’t fire him, beforehand.) The silence from those "Sanctity of the Rule of Law" people will be deafening.

So when all those arguments are discarded… criminality, illiteracy, being uneducated, “sponging” off the taxpayers, what’s left?

Simple, garden-variety racism. Fear of those dissimilar to ourselves.

And because of this fear, 800,000 people have to live in terror of being scooped up and tossed into a country they do not know.

How very Christian of the god-fearing Republican party.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Doctors and Vacations Don't Mix

As an offshoot of my bout with atrial fibrillation in May, I went back in to see my cardiologist for a follow-up.  The good news: the old tickers is fine.  The bad news: I have to start acting like a grownup now and get some wellness care.  (Meaning maintenance drugs.)

First off, I know my blood pressure has been creeping up. I get a reading every time I give blood or otherwise see a medical professional, so I’ve seen the pattern. That the doc wants me on BP medicine did not come as a shock. In fact, I’d already been working on lowering my sodium intake.

Now, I never put salt on anything (but French fries), but have you seen the sodium content on prepared foods? Holy crap! Just about everything I buy from the grocery store is loaded with sodium. One can of Campbell’s chili has over 1600 mg, and most Progresso soups have over 1000. You’re only supposed to have 2000 mg per day, and probably less if you’re trying to lower your blood pressure.

I’ve been buying lots of “no salt” canned vegetables and “reduced sodium” soups. They’re better for me, but unfortunately they taste like sawdust. I had to consult with Sweetpea to help me make my side dishes taste like anything.

So I was ready when my doc prescribed BP meds for me.  (Lisinopril, to be exact.)  I also had to go buy a blood pressure monitor so I could take daily measurements and report them to my doctor every week.  I got one for Sweetpea’s place too, so I didn’t have to schlep mine around every weekend.

He also had me get some bloodwork done, which I haven’t had since around 2009.  My cholesterol was in the high range… just barely, but still high. (And the “good” cholesterol was barely too low.)  So I’m on cholesterol medicine now too… Crestor. 

The bloodwork also showed a problem with my triglycerides. I don’t know what those are but I have way too many of them. No pill for that; only way to address that is to lose weight and drink less.

And there it is… That’s why I avoid doctors the way I do. Total buzz-kills, and I mean that literally. Obviously, I’ll have to seek an exemption for football season.  I’ll see if there’s any wiggle room.

I’ve been on the meds now for just over a month.  Good news: my BP is way down.  The meds are doing the job. The bad news: I have one of the common side effects… persistent dry cough.  I asked him give me something else; we’ll see if it kills the cough. Just started taking it on Friday. No change with the cough yet but the BP is still good.

Another ramification of my follow-up is that my doctor hooked me up with a primary care physician, right in the same hospital complex.  I haven’t had a PCP, pretty much ever, so this is a big development.  I’m happy that whatever comes up, I’ll be in a facility that can handle it so I won’t have to be sent all over hell’s half-acre for different services.

I met with her for an initial consultation last week and we hit it off well.  Hell, it was almost like a first date, with all the relating of personal history.  But it’s time that I get with the program and start taking better care of myself.  I want to have a lot of time with Sweetpea before I get old and decrepit. 

And as I feared, our discussion led directly to the Big C. 

You know… Colonoscopy.  I knew I was five years past the threshold so I’m overdue.  I’m not exactly looking forward to it but I realize it’s inevitable. But when she asked me when I wanted to schedule it, I was like, “It’s gotta be before the end of the year.”

She looked at me like she was surprised by my rush.  I said, “That heart treatment this year filled up my insurance deductible. I’m in the sweet spot now, with the insurance picking up the bulk of the bills, so I want to fit in everything I need before December 31st.

If they must shove something up my ass, I’d rather not be the one paying for it.

On the bright side, we decided I wouldn’t need another prostate exam, without the appearance of symptoms indicating that one is required. I think I high-fived her. You really have to appreciate all of life’s little victories.

So there I was, all ready to make life changes and commit to good health, but there, standing in my way, was a week’s vacation in Ocean City.  Sweetpea had a friend with a condo for rent down there, so there we went… me, her, and two of her friends (a guy and a girl). 
This was the back of the place, with up and downstairs decks. Gorgeous.

Seriously, no one should have to start a new healthy lifestyle during a week in a beach house.  I know I ate stuff down there that I never eat at home.  The snacks were totally on point.
These were just the snacks Sweetpea and I brought.  Similar quantities were provided by the other two guests as well. To look at our countertop, you’d think someone handed a hundred-dollar bill to a 9-year-old and said, “Go get some food for your treehouse.”

Our first full day down there came with the threat of heavy rain, which was supposed to start around 1:30. We decided to hit the boardwalk for a couple hours before the rain began. 

There are all kinds of odd places on the boardwalk and it’s funny about the things you consider when you’re on vacation.
YOLO, right?

Wrong!  After careful consideration, I decided, “Oh HELL no.”

The rest of our board walking didn’t work out though… Rain started early at 12:30, so we did the only reasonable thing. We took refuge in the nearest bar. After a couple drinks, it looked like it was letting up, so we made a break for it. Bad choice. We got soaked running back to the car.

Note to Doctor: Today I went for a run.

Things started clearing up on Tuesday, enough so we could get in a round of mini-golf.

Note to Doctor: Played 18 holes, and didn’t even use a cart.

Wednesday and Thursday were gorgeous, so we spent the morning and early afternoon on the beach. At one point on Wednesday, I posted to Facebook:

Beach status check:

Times in water: 1
Times crushed by wave: 2
Saline in nasal cavity? Yes. Note to Doctor: I’m staying hydrated.
Water in ear? No.
Lost contacts? No.
Lost hat? No.
Sunburned? No.
Sand in every crevice? Well, shit…
Families of goobers set up directly between us and the water? 2
I wanted to move our chairs up and sit right in front of them.  See how they like it.

So the results of the beach experience were mixed.

After beaching, it was time to go out and get some libations. Because it was too early for “Happy Hour,” we went to Happy Lunch instead. That’s like Happy Hour with sandwiches.

The “guy” part of Sweetpea’s friends was the guy she texted the day we met when she saw me at the bar and wondered what my name was. They’d been friends for more than 20 years.  I only knew him as the jolly Ravens fan from the other side of the bar.

When we were at the condo, I said to him, “In your wildest dreams, did you ever think you’d find yourself in a beach condo for a week with “That Steelers asshole over there?

No surprise there.  Besides differences in football allegiance, we also had another significant difference:
I don't know how the dude even sits on a barstool without falling off. That’s a serious “Costanza” wallet right there.

He and the other girl left on Thursday, which gave Sweetpea and I some time to ourselves in the condo, which was nice.

In other news, Sweetpea wants to get our own beach house, so I’d better get to work.

This was the longest amount of time we’d ever been together without a night apart.  We both wondered if it would work, or if there would be problems. We were delighted to find that we could have kept going.  Granted, it’s a vacation on the beach, not the daily grind of working, commuting, household chores and complaining about the utility bills.  So it’s not really a fair comparison to a long-term living situation. But is sure wasn’t a disqualifier either. We are both optimistic for our futures together.

As long as I can stay healthy, that is.  Oh, that reminds me:

Note to Doctor: I played another 18 holes, still without using a cart.  And I had to use steps, too (to get up onto the pirate ship.)

A Shameless Plug
As some may know, my friend Sherry Stanfa-Stanley spent a year doing her 52/52 Project, in which she did one thing outside of her comfort zone for every year of age. She did things like going to a nude beach, zip-lining, acting as a street mime, crashing a wedding and a fraternity party, and going into a sensory deprivation tank. 

After first blogging about her experiences, she then wrote an honest-to-God book about them.
The book was released last week and I was thrilled when my copy arrived.  I was even more thrilled that I turned up in one of the stories (page 300) and in the acknowledgments. The acknowledgment stemmed from a comment I made to her from THIS blog in 2011, which may have just instigated the whole shebang. 

But the “Bluz” angle aside, the book is a real hoot to read. Trust me, you’re going to want to go along for the ride.  She’s one of the bravest people I know.  There is zero chance I’d do even half of the things she tried.  You can order it from Amazon by clicking the link: Finding my Badass Self

You can either tear through it in a couple hours, or read it more… incrementally.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Limitation of Statues

You have to stand in awe at the ease that conservatives are able to change the conversation from a topic they can’t defend to one they can.

Remember how we were arguing about whether Nazis and white supremacists were bad?  The Republican leadership can’t defend them and still seem rational, yet they are the base that they dare not alienate.  So what are we arguing about now?  Tearing down Confederate statues, aka: “erasing history.”

That’s one the guys at the bar can get behind… “Gee, no, we shouldn’t erase history; that’s what an overreaching, out-of-control government does.”

Thus does any criticism of their side become another symptom of the federal government-run amok.

Very crafty.

Essentially dishonest, but still very crafty.

First of all, the Confederate statue angle of the alt-right demonstration was a sidelight.  I mean, what were they chanting, after all?  “Protect the Confederate statues?” 

Nope.  It was “Jews will not replace us.”  Not exactly a Confederate war cry, was it?

The statues were an excuse.  This was a white power rally, pure and simple, for which there is no rational, 21st-century defense.

Secondly, this “erasing history” thing?  Complete BS.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  You can take the statue down but the history (of an event) is always there.  I mean, somehow we remember the history of events that never had statues in the first place, don’t we?

There is a difference between remembering history and celebrating it.  And there is no good reason to celebrate the darkest part of our nation’s history.

Not satisfied with the initial fallacies, the Nazi apologists started trying to get cute with the analogies.  Like this one:
Dudes, there is a difference between a tomb built by slaves thousands of years ago (on another continent) and a contemporary glorification of those who fought to preserve the right of white people to treat black people like cattle, barely more than a hundred years ago.  The two cases are not remotely similar, other than to a poorly educated mind.

The same goes for comparisons to the founding fathers.

No, there is no tearing down statues of Washington and Jefferson.  I hate to use the “product of their time” argument, but it applies.  It’s just the way things were in the mid-1700s.

BUT, when large factions of the nation accepted that black people were “people” too and should not be owned, they did not trigger a secession from the Union and go to war in an effort to keep that ownership intact.  Granted, they were dead by then, but this is an exercise in logic and reason, not a literal representation.  But that’s why they shouldn’t be lumped together.

The founding fathers built a nation; the Confederates waged war to tear it down so they could continue to treat sentient people like property.  That’s why one set of statues need to come down and the other does not. 

The rest of these absurd comparison arguments should be torn down and warehoused right beside the statues.

Last week, as you may have heard, the city of Baltimore removed the four Confederate statues that stood within city limits.  They did it smart… they just went in overnight, unannounced, and took them down and stored them.

Two years ago, following that SC church mass murder, Baltimore’s then-mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake commissioned a study on that very action.  And in the year and a half since it came back, no one took any action.  I liked Mayor Stephanie but I wish she would have stepped up like our current mayor, Catherine Pugh, and just got it done. 

Both current and previous mayors are African-American, as is most of City Council.  I don’t know what the hell they were waiting for.  They were going to get grief from pissed off rednecks either way; might as well be sooner rather than later.

I’m not often proud of Baltimore but I am this week, at least until the next video of police planting evidence.

And I was heartened to see some other cities follow suit, though.  Maybe this thing has legs.  Sure, there will be protesting, but I think it’s more important to be on the right side of history.

And this side will be remembered without having to put up any more statues.

Monday, August 14, 2017

On Many Sides

On many sides.”

Those three words show the lengths our supposedly “straight-talking” president will go to avoid alienating his racist base.

Does “two” count as “many?”  I always thought “many” meant “a lot.”  But I can only count two sides in the Charlottesville atrocity. 

On one side, you have a thousand white nationalists, Klansmen, and garden-variety racists, carrying torches, bats, clubs, guns, and wearing armor.  On the other side you have a couple hundred people with signs. 

Yeah, it’s those hippy sign-wavers who are the troublemakers…

Fuck off…

News item: Riot breaks out when white supremacist demonstrators attack peaceful counter-protesters. Woman killed and 19 injured when racist plows car into crowd.

Fox News Angle: 20 hippy activists damage young Patriot's car.

Trump had one chance to get it right and condemn the hateful attitudes that created this mess.  But no, he had to appease the dirtbags who put him in office… the people whose support he actively courted before being forced to disavow them.  But he didn’t really disavow anything, did he?  He kept right on spewing the nonsense that attracted the racist right in the first place.  They understood it was just lip service.

Just like this weekend’s mealy-mouthed condemnation.  Immediately after he uttered those three cop-out words, the alt-right websites (which I refuse to name or recognize) lit up with comments about how he didn’t condemn them, and that he supported what they were doing.

Grand Wizard David Duke himself reminded Trump that he’d best stay on the idiots’ good side:
At least some of these self-important dicks are starting to feel the consequences.  As pictures surface online and on Twitter, people are attaching names to the protesting white faces, who are then getting fired.  No, it doesn’t really change anything.  It’s doubtful any of these dipshits will reflect on what they’re doing and change their beliefs.  More likely, they’ll just blame it all on radical liberals and the media.  Like that’s something new…

And if you think Trump made weak excuses, he’s got nothing on the people getting named.  I’ve heard more convincing rationalizations from grade-schoolers.

It’s funny how they keep repeating the bullshit about not wanting to lose “white culture.”

What the fuck is “white culture” anyway?  Peanut butter sandwiches on Wonder Bread and small dicks?

And to think, all it took to bring blatant racism bubbling to the surface in 21st century America is a black guy getting elected president.  And then having a TV show huckster with sufficient lack of shame to cozy up to the poor threatened white males and promise he’d fix it all by sticking it to non-white people.

The bottom line is that the Republicans now own this.  They recruited this faction, they promised them everything on the racist wish list, from building walls to killing government aid.  They blew dog-whistles for two years before the election and the dogs came running.

To say that they don’t represent Republicans or conservatives is disingenuous.  In 2017, racists define the GOP.

That’s a fact that everyone who voted for Trump has to face.  No matter what alibi they tell themselves, they got in bed with a man proposing racist solutions to exaggerated ills. 

Maybe they were so laced with greed that they sought to lower their taxes even further, despite knowing millions of others would lose their insurance.  Or maybe they came from Republican-ingrained military careers.  Or maybe they just couldn’t stand Hillary Clinton for whatever reason, while giving Trump a pass on the same charges, (like being loud, abrasive, corrupt, immoral or mean).

It doesn’t matter.  For whatever the reason, people who voted for Trump prioritized these alibis higher than the result of what blatantly racist policies would do to fellow Americans.

That makes them no better than the racist, torch-waving alt-right pinheads.

Republicans, this is what you wrought on America. 

You bought it, own it, you fix it.

This is me, not holding my breath.

Monday, August 7, 2017

If Fox "News" Existed Before 1996..

You’ll notice that I give Fox “News” a lot of crap.  Believe me, it’s well earned.  They are not an outlet for anything resembling “journalism,” and what they broadcast can only be considered “news” in the broadest sense.

What they are is a mouthpiece for conservative talking points; nothing more and nothing less.

And really, their philosophies are malleable.  As soon as a Democrat adopts one of their points of view, they change it so that they are still in opposition to progressives.  (Remember that the idea behind Obamacare came from the GOP congress in the early 90s.  Mitt Romney, himself, instituted it in Massachusetts.  But as soon as the Democrats adopted the idea, it became a liberal, socialist scam.

There are only two kinds of stories you’ll see on Fox “News,” or read on their websites:
·        Those that promote Republicans or a conservative agenda
·        And those that criticize Democrats and highlight apparent failures of a progressive agenda.

It doesn’t matter what else is going on; if they can’t label it as one of the two of these, they ignore it or only cover select aspects.

And this is because Fox exists for only two reasons:
·        Creating new Republicans
·        Engaging, enraging and maintaining current Republicans.

Take a hurricane, for example.  Most networks will run stories about the devastation, heroic efforts to save people, or government efforts to address the crisis.

Watch Fox and you’re guaranteed to see outraged reports on the looting, usually black people.  That’s the part that plays to their base.  Every time Fox viewers see black crime, it translates to “Freakin’ Democrats…”

Look at last Thursday night. While other news channels were covering the Grand Jury being convened to investigate Donny Jr.’s date with the Russians, Fox was busy covering… well, pretty much anything BUT that.

As I was considering this situation, I began to wonder how Fox might have covered other major historical events from before it came into existence.  Before long, I had some ideas…

News Item: Berlin Wall comes down

Fox Angle: Radical liberals remove wall, compromise security to allow horde of commie refugees.

News Item: Nixon resigns.

Fox Angle: Hippie reporters use Fake News used to oust American Hero. 

News Item: Moon landing.

Fox Angle: Fanciful program begun by Democrats spends millions, adds to the deficit, and then finds no usable natural resources.  Wasteful spending!

News Item: Space Shuttle Challenger explodes after lift-off.

Fox Angle: Forced diversity causes millions to go up in flames as shuttle leaves a Challenging hole in the federal budget.

News Item: Civil Rights Act of 1964 passes.

Fox Angle: Democrats open the door to massive voter fraud.

News Item: OJ acquitted

Fox Angle: Reverse-racist jury lets a killer go free.  

News Item: US Olympic Team’s “Miracle on Ice.”

Fox Angle: Reagan surges in polls, inspires American skaters to beat favored Commies.

News Item: Reagan assassination attempt as shooter tries to impress Jodie Foster.

Fox Angle: Liberal Hollywood’s assault on Screen Legend President!

News Item: Rodney King beating.

Fox Angle: Policeman injures hand while subduing criminal.

News Item: San Francisco earthquake of 1989.

Fox Angle: Infrastructure crumbling out from under feet of radical-liberal California.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Outrage Overload

You know, maybe Donald Trump IS an evil genius, who’s got politics in America stone cold figured out.

Aside from spouting salacious and obnoxious tweets like a jukebox with Tourette’s, he’s happened upon a foolproof strategy to pretty much do whatever he pleases.  The secret?

Provide so much material for outrage that it overwhelms any who would object, straight to the point of total ineffectiveness.  Just look at the sheer volume of issues, any one of which an opponent could use to rally the troops to fend off.  There’s so much, there is no logical defense.

Here’s a short list, just off the top of my head:

·        The Russia Thing: colluding with a foreign superpower to rat-fuck a political opponent and steal the election for the nation’s highest office.  The multiple investigations are ongoing, including the fake ones run by Republican-dominated Congress, and the real one with the Justice Department-appointed Special Prosecutor.  This is the only issue with legs unless Trump finds a way to fire the Special Prosecutor and install his own lackey to dismantle the investigation.

·        Attempting, already, to influence, bully and coerce the Russia investigation into absolving him and his family of blame.

·        Discrediting our own intelligence agencies when they provide anything that can be considered “bad news.”  Like, “We intercepted a call your campaign manager made to the Russian ambassador.”  How can we use legitimate intel on the world stage if the president is denigrating the integrity of our spy network?

·        Bringing in industry hacks to cabinet positions for the express purpose of neutering oversight, rolling back regulations, and clearing any obstacles to unfettered corporate profit.  In particular, defanging the EPA, by bringing in an energy industry executive like Scott Pruitt and getting rid of all the climate, fossil fuel, and nuclear scientists.

·        Purging scientists at all the rest of the cabinet departments, to hire big business yes-men.

·        Ditching the Paris Accord on climate change and forfeiting our leadership role at the table.  Allowing the United States to become the laughing stock of the civilized world.  Other countries consider us a small-minded, provincial, selfish and short sighted little nation, long on muscle but short on brains.  Alienating allies and aggrandizing our traditional enemies.

·        Displaying far more interest in producing a “win” than producing an effective health care bill.  And this is the “family values” party, who is supposed to heed and revere Jesus above all else.  (At least that’s what the florists and bakers say before denying services to a gay couple.)

·        Claiming to respect the Constitution, yet doing everything he can to undermine the First Amendment with respect to religion and more aggressively, criticizing a free press for doing what it’s designed to do.  Freedom of the Press is more than supporting Fox “News” (when they agree with you.) 

·        Continuing to campaign and hold rallies 8 months after the election.

·        Continued obsession with Hillary Clinton (regarding alleged crimes) and margin of victory (in losing the popular vote.)

·        Refusal to release tax returns, which could show where the money sources are and what foreign countries hold IOUs.

·        Self-enrichment at taxpayer expense, by taking most every weekend off to visit his own properties.  (Yes, he may stay free, but the taxpayers have to pay for his security, entourage and other staff.)

·        After criticizing the amount of golf Obama played, going out and playing even more golf (at his own courses, of course.)  In 27 weeks, Trump has visited his own resorts 41 times and played 17 rounds of golf.  In comparison, Obama played 11 rounds in the same 27 weeks.

·        Insufficiently disassociating himself from his business.  His leaving it to his sons to run is hardly a sufficient buffer.  Foreign governments are already springing for fancy suites in Trump properties, to curry favor with the president.

·        Already looking into pardons for his family, staff and his own self.  That may be the new normal… Get into office, profiteer your brains out, siphon as much money from the treasury as possible, then pardon all involved.

·        Imploring the police to abuse suspects while they’re in custody.

·        Lastly, a complete inability to tell the truth about anything!  And then combining attacks against the press or anyone else who would dare to fact-check, so that even when the lies are reported, his base won’t believe them.

What we have here are so many outrages, it’s impossible to even begin to press for change.  By the time any one item garners attention, two new outrages arise to gobble up the news cycle.  And two more after that, and two more after that.

I mean, look how long Reince Priebus’s resignation was a story.  That lasted right up until new Communications Director Scaramucci shot his mouth off in a taped interview, blamed the reporter, and then resigns/gets fired himself.

And while all these outrages blend together in a sea of chaos, the new Powers That Be are working behind the scenes, to scoop up federal cash, strip public protections and lay waste to our natural resources, in homage to the almighty dollar and unrestricted profit margin.

The funny thing is that this is the best we can hope for, for the next three and a half years.  Sure, Trump may finally do something that gets him impeached, (I doubt the GOP would ever have the balls to turn on one of their own), but the result would be even worse.

Without Trump, we will have Mike Pence left in charge, who with blissful diligence and homage to both Jesus and big business, will go about completing the Republican pipe dream with efficiency and clarity of purpose.

In Pence’s world, women’s’ uteri will be more stringently regulated than a Fortune 500 business. 

So I’m just going to sit here and root for the chaos to continue.  We’ll all be a lot safer in the long run until we have a shot at flipping the House and Senate in 2018 and taking back the presidency in 2020.

In the meantime, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Survey Says: The GOP Wants Us Stupid

A survey came out two weeks ago from the Pew Research Center, in which 60% of Republican or conservative-leaning respondents said that colleges and universities have a negative effect on the country.  (Nearly 75% of Democratic respondents said they had a positive effect.)

Two years ago, the positive/negative response between political parties was about the same.

Then Trump happened and see, we’re getting dumber by the minute.

OK, it’s not really that simple, but there have been signs leading up to this alarming finding.

I’ve said this several times before but it bears repeating: Republican leadership does not want an educated electorate.  The last thing they want is for people to think for themselves or be able to dissect a statement or argument.  What they want is pliability and obedient workers who do what they’re told.

Look how long Fox “News” has been railing against the “Eastern elite,” or “egg-headed intellectuals.”  They’ve been demonizing intelligence since Day One by holding the most educated among us up to scorn.

Look how much time they devote to college protests, the more chaotic, the better.  It’s like riot-porn for them.  Then they can get together on Fox and Friends and cluck about how horrible these liberal college students are.  Granted, a lot of that has been because of the increased amount of protests directed at our current president.
Just look through an aggregated news web page like Yahoo.  Every time you see a blurb about college protests, or liberal professors, or university political correctness gone wild, check the source.  Guaranteed it will be from Fox, or the Federalist, or the New York Post, or some other conservative mouthpiece.

This is no accident; they want you to distrust places of higher education.  Right-wing media has been leading people in this direction for years… It’s just become more prevalent in the last couple years.

Conservative power brokers know that college can teach people about how to spot logical fallacies and how to pick apart arguments, political positions, and media advertisement, (political and otherwise).  College students are likely to learn about scientific processes and enough earth science to call strict biblical teachings into question.

They do not want this.

They want to be able to spew fake news stories across social media and have people take them as stone fact.  They don’t want more people like me taking their stories and memes and picking them apart line by fallacious line.  (Like you can see here anywhere under the Debunkery label.)

I went to college many years ago, so I admit, things might not be the same.  (For example, political correctness was just becoming a thing.  I remember when we had to change the name of our charity “services auction” away from The Annual Lincoln’s Birthday Slave Sale, to something much less catchy.)

I never really saw any raging liberalism coming from the faculty, other than an occasional TA or old hippie music professor.  For the most part, there was no discussion of the political environment at all.  We just learned the subject at hand, whether it was journalistic principles, the history of broadcasting, the art of public speaking, or how to write ad copy.

But, I also took classes on values analysis, principles of logic, and mass marketing, which taught me how to dissect advertisements from magazines to TV… how to tear down (or construct) an argument… how to examine the motivations of the persuaders, to find their interests… in other words, they taught me critical thinking.

That’s the last thing conservatives want from young people now.  They do not want their little angels coming home from school with wild ideas about how old the earth is, or how being LGBT is not an elective sin, but a happenstance of birth, or that recent climate changes are not cyclical at all.

They don’t want kids exposed to anything that will contradict conservative values or a religious upbringing.  And because the Religious Right is married to the GOP, they want to keep those bonds strong and the sheep plentiful. If they go to college, kids may learn to recognize the disconnect between the Christian morals with which they were raised and the policy positions of those who claim to represent them. 
If the kids from religious families start thinking for themselves, they might not support politicians who vow to keep wages low while providing tax breaks for the rich, because it goes against the word of Jesus, no matter how many snappy memes the Koch Brothers’ media lackeys can produce.  That’s bad news for Republicans.

So how do they combat that?  they run an endless number of negative stories about trouble on college campuses… riots, underage partying, date raping, weird roommates, politically correct administrators running amok, and any other scary-sounding event that shakes up a conservative home.
They create stories and memes designed to undercut the influence of the smartest people in the country, making it seem like they’re too busy philosophizing in the Ivory Tower to solve any real-life problems, while the simple folk get things done with common sense and prayers.

You cut access to government-sponsored college loans and jack up the interest every chance you get.  Then you keep the cost of college education so high and part-time job wages so low, there is zero chance of kids putting themselves through school on their own, without it taking until well into adulthood.

You keep pushing standardized testing in elementary and high schools, so teachers have to promote conformity and teach to the test rather than teach how to think, how to learn and how to blossom. 

It’s unfortunate when a major political party wants you to ignore the only rational thing the legendary Dean Wormer ever said. 
For the GOP, “Fat, Drunk and Stupid” is exactly the way they want you to go through life.  All the better to take your vote, enrich themselves and blame their opponent for your lousy lot in life.