Monday, September 16, 2019

A 45 Caliber Noise from a BB Gun Argument

Beto went and did it; he gave the gun nuts the sound byte they’ve been looking for when at the last debate he said, “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15 and AK-47.”

He continued, “We're not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore... If the high-impact, high-velocity round, when it hits your body, shreds everything inside of your body because it was designed to do that so that you would bleed to death on a battlefield ... when we see that being used against children.

Sounds rational, right? Here’s a typical nutter response I found on Facebook:

There’s much to disassemble about that argument.

First of all, and this goes to the very basis of this house of cards, no one is being disarmed. Even if they confiscate or buy back every semi-automatic weapon in the country, we will still have the most heavily armed populace in the world, with handguns, shotguns and non-semi-automatic rifles. US citizens will by no definition be “disarmed.”

They say something is happening but it’s not. That essentially ends the argument.

But why stop there?

Another glaring problem is found in the first three words: “The only reason…”

Excuse me but the second paragraph of this post provides another wholly sensible reason, which comes down to this: there is no valid purpose to a civilian population owning this kind of military hardware.

None. Zero. Nada.

Every “yeah but” can be answered with “Use a different gun.” (And if you’re not a good enough shot to hit your target with anything else, that’s another damned good reason not to have a semi-automatic rifle!)

I mean, seriously? The Democrats, who are not in power, are currently hatching nefarious plans that would be only be thwarted by civilians armed with AR-15s? This is foil hat territory.

And like I often say, ask the Taliban how owning lots of semi-automatic rifles helped them fight off the US military. Who got forcibly moved out of their territory and who did the forcing? They and their AK-47s were hiding among the women and children, trying to get away.

You want another reason? Fine. Look at the dip in mass shootings (in which 6 or more were killed in public, non-gang-related incidents) before, during and after the assault weapons ban that we already had (and Republicans let expire).

And the source comes from the conservative outlet the National Review.

We’ve already done this before, and there was no massive government erosion of privacy or civil rights. Granted, this was only a half-measure because there was no forced buy-back or confiscation. But just outlawing the active sales of these weapons curtailed the number of mass shooting fatalities. It worked.

But the gun people won’t acknowledge that. They know that rational arguments are not on their side, so instead, they pursue fantastical arguments, like the one above, that get people all riled up, despite the fact they are 100% untrue.

If we outlaw these killing machines, with buy-backs or not, and couple it with a high-capacity clip ban, the number of killings will decrease. We saw it. The numbers show it. It won’t stop every killing but when it comes to our nation’s innocent men, women and children, isn’t less killing better than more?

We don’t HAVE to make it so damned easy to kill a multitude.

And lastly, the grammarians among us would be upset if I failed to point out that the last sentence should end, “something for which you would shoot them.”

Speaking of loss of life, it was with great regret that I saw the obituary for Rik Ocasek, former singer, guitarist, and songwriter for The Cars.

When I think of The Cars, I think of summer, sunshine, good times and parties. The Cars were on the soundtrack for every party we ever threw, back when I was in college. Whenever we had a Barn Party, (and they were plentiful during the early 80s), “Let the Good Times Roll” was always the first song we played, usually while tapping the keg.

That came from their debut album, which was one of the finest ever, a practically perfect pop-rock album. Each of the first three songs on Side 1 was radio-ready gems, each timing in at 3:44. I don’t know how many copies of that cassette tape I wore out while driving to school and back.

Their second album, “Candy-O,” was another classic. I loved the big hit from that album, “Let’s Go.” It wasn’t until a good while later that I started to really dig the 3-song blend that ended Side 1, “Double Life,” Shoo-be-Doo,” and “Candy-O.” "Shoo-be-Doo" is a weird little song but I especially liked the hard transition into "Candy-O." If you’ve ever heard it, you’ll know what I mean. If not, check it out. The transition comes at 1:48.

Yes, I am easily amused.

Their next albums, “Panorama” and “Shake It Up” each had a couple of good songs, but nearly weren’t as solid as their first two albums. And then “Heartbeat City,” released during MTV’s peak, brought them back to relevance and acclaim with five Top 40 singles.

I’m glad they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year, while Ocasek was still there to accept the honors and to play a set. Granted, they were never exactly live showmen, but the songs spoke for themselves.

At one time, someone tacked a magazine ad for the first album up on one of the barn roofing beams, and it stayed there for years. I still remember the slogan on it, which perfectly encapsulated The Cars’ role in that era:

Top-down music for a hardtop world.”

Rest in peace, Mr. Ocasek. You will be missed.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Weather Balloons

We all know the story by now. In what may be a new low for this clown-shoes presidency, the Current Occupant tweeted out erroneous information on where hurricane Dorian was forecasted to go and then, surprising no one, refused to retract or acknowledge his mistake and insisted that Dorian was likely to hit a swath of Alabama.

I remember thinking how President GW Bush was the epitome of intransigence when he insisted, years into his presidency, and after 9/11 and after scores of American lives were lost in an erroneously-based Iraq War, that there was nothing he felt he could have done better.

That was nothing. This guy could trip on his shoelaces and fall flat on his pointed hair and then insist he wanted to take a closer look at the soil composition. This Alabama thing was like “covfefe” revisited, only with lives at stake.

Now, whether the report he was talking about in the unfortunate tweet was accurate or not is largely moot.

I saw that map too and examined it carefully. My parents live in the western Florida panhandle, so I was keenly aware that the direction suggested by the last two data points said that the storm could come across the peninsula, enter the Gulf, then cross the panhandle, of which Alabama wraps around the western end.

BUT… I know that the last two data points were projected and were five days out from where the eye of the storm was located. They don’t call it the “Cone of Uncertainty” for nothing. That’s why the end of the cone widens… there is a huge possible range to where the storm might go.

So I knew it was something to keep an eye on but nothing to act on yet. By that, I mean I would look at later editions of the map, which are updated on the NOAA website several times per day, and form conclusions once there was a reliable projection.

As we all know, the next iterations of the map showed a northward bend, taking the Gulf and panhandle out of play.

What Trump did was make a shaky assumption based incomplete data and then compound it by distributing the old map, long after it was updated.

Or maybe he was told the Gulf was a target during an initial briefing and then wrongly assumed that wouldn’t change in the ensuing days. Either way, he didn’t seem to know that these storm tracks can change greatly over time. Which, you’d think, as a property owner in a hurricane zone, he’d knowhow hurricane forecasts work. Maybe he already fired his toady in charge of weather.

Whichever way he came in contact with the map, it was obsolete by the time he sent it out, because hurricanes change track. That is an undeniable fact.

What a normal person does at a time like that is apologize for the confusion and then send out the correct information. But in another sign of the deranged times in which we live, he insisted that he was right, everyone else was wrong, and we owed him an apology. (Especially CNN.)

Breaking out the infamous “Sharpie Map” was just a gift to comedians and meme-sters. Did he really think the Sharpie Addendum made his assertions more “official?” All he really had to do was preface his remarks by saying, “I hereby…”

At first, the weather professionals at National Weather Service acted the part by correcting his misinformation within 20 minutes. Boy, did that get Trump riled up. The boss doesn’t like to be contradicted by anyone, experts included.

Then I suppose he found out that NOAA is a government agency so he put the screws to the figurehead in charge, who then showed the spine of a true bureaucrat and issued a statement that no one within the agency is to contradict the president again.

What’s next, public lashings when it rains on his golfing days?

This kind of interference should scare the hell out of everyone. Does the weather really need to be politicized? Weather forecasting comes with a high enough margin of error, we don’t need it compounded by trying to shield the feelings of our unclothed emperor.

And where are all the conservative believers in freedom and liberty? Probably at home, wrapped in a blanket, repeating to themselves, “Tax cuts and conservative judges… tax cuts and conservative judges…” 
That he botched what should have been an easy piece of safety PR and then defended it is just another piece of Business as Usual. But demanding a government agency validate incorrect information (that carries life and death consequences) is what happens in dictatorships and dystopian novels about 1984.

9/10/19 Update
As "luck" would have it, there was a report today that cabinet official Wilbur Ross personally threatened the leaders of NOAA if they didn't retract their (correct) statement about the storm hitting Alabama.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

What Next, Call Off Veterans' Day?

I really don’t understand the point of last week’s Presidential Incomprehensible Move of the Week, regarding children of US military personnel, born out of the country.

 What is it that the Trump administration hopes to gain by placing this hurdle in front of active-duty servicemen and women, who are, you know, actively serving our country?

Short of an official announcement of motive, I can only figure they think it’s a first step to ending birthright citizenship. This is an action that can be done via executive order, but birthright citizenship is specified in the US Constitution, so it would take an amendment to pass and be confirmed in ¾ of the states, (which will never happen. We couldn’t even get equal rights for women past that hurdle and women make up 51% of the country.)

Maybe Stephen Miller put a bug in the president’s ear about plugging loopholes in immigration policy that non-whites may be using. Or ending further “dilution” of the white gene pool from servicemen taking foreign, non-Caucasian spouses.

So now our servicemen and women who are risking their life and safety in the service of their country now have to “apply” to have their kids become citizens?

Since when has applying for anything through the government been a simple, no-hassle experience? It’s all they can do to get healthcare through the V.A. when they get out, and now they have to stress about making sure their kids aren’t deported?

This is how we thank them, by giving them more hoops to jump through and red tape to untangle?

Yes, “thank you for your service,” my ass.

We also have to wonder, what are the criteria they’re looking for in order to grant citizenship in such cases, and who is making the decisions? I haven’t seen any guidance published so that our military people can make informed decisions about it. Won’t the government have to express what it is they’re trying to weed out? I bet the tip-off will show in the paperwork if we can ever see a copy leaked.

Or are they just going to go by pictures and a color chart?

If I’m wrong, please tell me. What else does the Administration have to gain by enacting this policy?

Know what else I’m wondering about?

Where the hell is the outcry from all those people who go all dewy-eyed over the military? Where are all of those who post graphics on Facebook about how we can’t possibly help anyone while we have homeless, unemployed, or drug-addicted veterans? (But never call out their own tribe for not doing a damned thing for veterans while they have the chance.)

And that’s because these people are only interested in veterans as a club to use to keep anyone who’s not in their own demographic from getting help. (As I’ve said many times before.)

Where are the Congressmen, who take every opportunity to be photographed and associated with US military personnel and our most powerful war machinery, but dare not contradict the president?

Where are all the military apologists, who cover and alibi for every war crime ever committed, as long as they were committed in the name of the U-S-of-A? It’s like they’re saying, “We’ll help you out with slaughtering villages of women and children, but if you knock up a foreigner, you’re on your own.”

This administration is telling active service members that despite their service to our country, if their kids are born outside our border, even on US military bases, even if both parents are in the military, they’re not worthy of citizenship, and all I hear are crickets.

It just goes to show, they’re more interested in a whiter America than a just one.

Otherwise, there would be a significant public outcry coming from Fox, Sinclair, InfoWars, Breitbart, and the rest of the military fetishists and chicken-hawks.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Copping an Attitude

I saw another Facebook status that pissed me off last week:

In other words, “Stop crying or we’ll give you something to cry about.”

How nice to be immune from criticism from anyone who isn’t doing the job themselves.

I understand that it’s a dirty and dangerous job, and we owe a lot to our police officers. But is it too much to ask that they do their jobs without arresting innocent bystanders or beating the shit out of people in handcuffs? Or shooting people who are running away from traffic stops? Or rolling anyone who looks like they have money?

It’s not like we’re just being picky here.

The funny thing is, right after I saw the meme, I read an article in the Baltimore Sun about how the Baltimore City police are now afraid to make arrests because they’ll get in trouble.

So many things set me off.

Many Baltimore Police officers say making an arrest can be nerve-wracking because they feel overburdened by documenting even necessary force, they worry they will be harshly punished for their actions and they don’t feel supported by commanders.”

If you can take the time to night-stick someone, I think you can take the time to justify it in writing. Next time, maybe they’ll think before they clobber.

You know, I’d really like to knock the crap out of that guy, but I just don’t wanna do the paperwork.

’ They’re ready to throw police officers under the bus to appease the media and don’t support us even when our actions are appropriate,’ one officer was quoted as saying

The media would be falling at their feet if they could start locking up bad guys without the eventual civil suit settlement for unnecessary violence. I don’t know about the internal review apparatus, but if their actions are justified, there shouldn’t be a problem. And I mean “justified” to an average person, not to another cop going, “It wasn’t THAT bad of a beating,”

All they have to do is release the body-cam footage at the soonest possible time. If the cop is justified, like the suspect is going crazy and inciting a fight, it will be plain as day (as long as there is no “selective editing” by turning the cam on and off at crucial times). Sometimes, some of these guys are asking for it and I don’t think there’s that much of an outcry.

Another officer said police were ‘afraid to arrest anyone’ for fear that too many documented uses of force would be used against them.” 

I’m sorry, if it’s justified, regardless of how many, it shouldn’t be a problem, although one might want to know how a single officer always seems to catch the “justified.” And if it’s not justified, well that’s the freakin’ point, isn’t it? To weed out the cops who are dealing out unjustified force.

I like the new Commish. He says he responds to such complaints by telling them “that the law hasn’t changed. Rather, the expectations are raised and officers will now be held accountable.”

But that’s the problem, in a nutshell. For the past 20 years, the Baltimore City police have had carte blanche to crack heads, plant evidence, and go on their merry way. Usually, there was no one to say otherwise, other than the one with the cracked head. And who was going to believe some criminal over an officer of the law?

Cell phone video changed all of that. Now there is independent, corroborating evidence showing cops cracking people at the drop of a hat or comment. They need to realize that the old days are over and they need to act like the public servants and role model’s they’re supposed to be.

I keep mentioning this because it’s vastly important, but this “above the law” behavior is so ingrained, they keep doing it even with Justice Department officials are riding in the car with them while they were formulating the Consent Decree.

I know that I’ve never been a cop and wouldn’t have been if I could. And I know that they’re the first people I’m calling when I hear someone coming in the door. People always complain about the cops until they need one.

But that doesn’t mean we can grant this group of people a broad license to do whatever they damn well feel like doing and operate like the unelected King of their Domain. They’re supposed to uphold the law, not break it when it’s convenient or hurt people just for fun.

For those feel this expectation of lawfulness is just too restricting, they can always apply for a job with ICE.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Debunkery - The Voting Dead Edition

Let’s take a critical look at some conservative memes, freshly harvested from social media last week.

Civics 101
I never took “civics” in high school; it was called US Government when I took it, but the content under either name should be required viewing before posting racist memes like this: 

Only USA citizens should vote in USA elections.” Already true, with any variance being statistically negligible.

Only USA citizens should receive government benefits.”  Already true. Illegal aliens are not eligible for SNAP, Welfare, or anything else the Right considers “handouts.” It’s funny though… the Right doesn’t really like card-carrying USA citizens receiving government benefits either, at least not if they’re not white.

Only USA citizens should be counted officially in the USA census.” The Official USA Constitution requires the count of all people, citizen or not, in the USA census. The Right is supposed to cherish the Constitution as it was written. “Originalism” is a main requirement to get the GOP blessing for a SCOTUS nominee. But as most things with Republicans, they’re all for an idea except when it becomes inconvenient to their topic of the moment.

That’s What HE Said
Speaking of racism masquerading as “border security:”

Meme-sters are trying to show Democratic hypocrisy but linking this statement from then-Senator Obama with the current protests about the Trump southern border policies.

There really is no disconnect. Yes, what Obama said is what most Democrats want. We are NOT for letting people flood across the border all willy-nilly. What’s more important are the things we are also not for, like:
·        Forcibly separating children from parents, as a matter of policy. (A policy highlight, in fact.)
·        Holding said children (and adults) in subhuman conditions.
·        Continually moving the goalposts for what it takes to become a citizen or claim asylum.

Until conservatives propose the same things for our northern border, it’s a simple matter of racism. If the current policies were really about not allowing criminals into the country, they wouldn’t keep making it harder and harder for anyone to immigrate legally. They are 100% trying to limit the number of brown people in America.

Same Old, Same Old
I’m getting pretty tired of this one:

“Illegals” basically get nothing already (except incarcerated). And yes, we DO owe veterans. So where are the Republican plans to help them? Republicans have been in undiluted power for 2 years. And even if they approved a plan for veterans NOW, the Democratic House would support it too, unless they added the requisite “poison pill,” like “Wall” funding, to ensure the Dems don’t support it. That way they have a campaign issue and more memes to circulate: “Hey, The Democrats voted against Veterans!

Also, please explain why this is always presented as a binary situation. It’s always, “issue of the day” vs “why aren’t we helping veterans?”  Believe it or not, we can do multiple things at once.

How come conservatives aren’t making memes like “Why can we can push billions of dollars to corporate agribusiness giants, but not help homeless veterans?

Republicans love veterans, especially as a club against any other public works, but not so much that they’ll do anything for them.

Deliver Us from Evil
I take this to be an anti-gun control meme:

They’re saying there are no laws we can pass to prevent people using guns to kill.  Of course, we already have laws addressing all kinds of evil: murder, rape, kidnapping, torture… should we just scrap those too because evildoers don’t obey laws?

Obviously, gun murderers kill in defiance of the law. But do we have to make it so damned easy? That’s the goal of the recent, reasonable gun proposals: background checks, banning semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity clips. With laws like those on the books, future killers may take a hit to their killing efficiency. Instead of killing 20 at a clip, maybe they kill 5 or 10 because they were stopped when they had to reload. Is that not a worthy, attainable objective?

Of course it is, but the gun nuts seek to misdirect and muddy the moral clarity here.

Chief Running Scared
Yes, the last gasp of gun apologists… defending the homeland against our own government.

Dear Rednecks,
If the good old US of A wants to, they can squash you and your buddies like bugs, regardless of how many AR-15 Bushmasters you have on hand. This is real life, not “Red Dawn.” A band of plucky rebels is not going to hold down the fort against US Army firepower.

Just ask the Taliban. They had a lot of semi-automatic weapons too. The USA military wiped them out like swatting flies. (You know, back when that was an active operation. And much like bugs, they came back.)

If that’s the best argument you have against banning semi-automatic rifles, you’ve already lost. You and your buddies can get along just fine hunting with standard rifles and bows and arrows. And there will be plenty of handguns available to protect yourself and your loved ones.

But this “budda-budda-budda” fetish of yours has got to go.

Where is That Forest? All I See are Trees!
Because BET is causing so much angst in the white community:

Yes, black people can have the BET Channel and the NAACP because white people have everything else. I suppose in the next meme, they’ll be going after Univision.

Since the dawn of film and television, the media has been predominantly and overwhelmingly white. Even as recently as two years ago, it took a social movement to get the Oscars to start taking African-American films and casts seriously.

We have a market here that has been so marginalized in popular media that they had to start their own channel and awards, and you want to take THAT away too?

All I see here is the “race” version of straight guys wanting Straight Pride parades. It’s a farce.

Bring Out’cher Dead
I haven’t heard of any cemetery fence protests, but OK...

I presume this is a shot at the social media noise regarding names of dead people showing up on voter rolls. That made for a solid-sounding basis for Republicans to insist on requiring voter ID at the polls. (And totally NOT because it suppresses likely Democratic votes.)

But this point is just as misleading as all their other points on the issue. What the meme-makers don’t want you to realize is that while they found names of dead people on voter rolls, they did not show any significant casting of votes under these names. In other words, no harm, no foul.

At most, it’s a matter of poor precinct housekeeping. It is most assuredly NOT a basis to deprive voting rights to a significant segment of voters (who in a wild coincidence, just so happen to oppose your candidates, platform and attitude).

Monday, August 12, 2019

Odd Bits - The Frank Pentangeli Edition

Hopes for the show-trial to end all show-trials blew up over the weekend with the “suicide” of Jeffery Epstein, accused child molester and boss of a human trafficking/sex slave operation. I understand the investigations into his business dealings will continue but now we’ll never be able to see him on the stand, to not only answer for his activities but naming names under oath, of those who participated in his particular brand of “live entertainment.”

Now, let me get out in front here and say that I don’t think anyone snuck into his jail cell, subdued him into silence and hung him by the bedsheets (or whatever it was he used). I think he killed himself.

But I don’t think there’s any way that the path to off himself wasn’t cleared from high above. Otherwise, the level of incompetence would have to be so high that everyone associated with that prison should be fired. Even people who wrote letters to prisoners. I mean, there should have been a bull sitting outside his cell 24/7.

Meanwhile, he was ON suicide watch, then taken OFF suicide watch at the end of July. Why was he taken off in the first place? Hell, he’d be voted Most Likely to Snuff It in Prison, practically unanimously. And still they were supposed to check him every 30 minutes, right?

And they had video cameras, but they were not pointed at cells, not even his. In what world does that make any sense? Why waste time and money watching the hallways when the cells are where the action is?

And if this was all due to an inconceivable dereliction of duty, don’t you think the Justice Dept (or whatever governing law-enforcement body was in charge) knew the conditions there beforehand? So why was such a high-profile prisoner to such an under-staffed and ill-conceived detention center?

I fully believe that someone who had a lot to lose and was knee-deep in Epstein’s “teenage outreach program” paid off whoever it took to get him in that very place.

And then, maybe someone sent word, (by emissary, probably), to make the Godfather II offer that Tom Hagen made Frank Pentangeli. Remember that scene in the jail, when Hagen tells the old Capo about how in Roman times, if captured traitors killed themselves in prison, their family would not only be spared retribution but be taken care of?

Then Pentangeli promptly went back to his cell and cut his wrists.

I don’t know if Epstein had anyone in his life he cared about, so whether it was the Pentangeli gambit or the educated guess that this rich bastard would not be able to cope with spending the rest of his life contemplating the cold steel bars of a prison cell, someone made sure he was in a place where he could take the coward’s way out.

The identity of that “someone” is now the subject of a great deal of social media speculation. Powerful people on both sides of the political aisle have been tied to Epstein, including President Clinton and the Current Occupant. The conspiracy theories are spewing from all corners. Conservatives immediately jumped on the Clinton angle, especially given the history of people from their circles getting killed, and there’s no conspiracy alive they won’t try to pin on Hillary.

But one thing I learned, when looking for the pic you see above, is that Trump mouthpiece Roger Stone already brought up the Pentangeli angle in 2017, in reference to Mueller's Russia Investigation.

If you testify, you’re a fool,” he told an associate as House investigators scheduled an appearance in the probe of Russian election meddling. Instead, Stone told his ally he should pull a “Frank Pentangeli.

So, this is not a new idea in the Trump Brain Trust and Alibi Headquarters. And Trump’s legal toady and apologist William Barr is in the perfect place to pull the strings that put Epstein in just the right place to execute this “strategy.” Just sayin’, this one quacks like a duck.

Social Circles
Have you seen how 45 is now trying to come up with an Executive Order to regulate how social media outlets, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., curate their sites and pull offensive material?

It’s funny that when these sites act to curtail hate speech, it’s seen as an anti-Republican move. “Hate” is their brand now and they’re leaning into it.

But here’s an angle I haven’t seen addressed… What if this is part of a plan to pave the way for the Russian troll farms to influence voters the way they did in 2016. We’re onto them now and the big operations are working to suppress their attempts at mass persuasion.

It worked well enough that Americans elected a bankruptcy-laden businessman with sexual harassment tendencies and zero ethics, so I’m sure they don’t want to lose that tailwind now.

Of course, it may also come from Trump being butt-stung when Twitter deactivated millions of Twitter bots and he lost a big chunk of his “followers,” to fall further behind Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande.

Now, I want to ask if you might help me out and explain something to me because I haven’t been able to find a satisfactory answer online. I’m primary asking other bloggers but will take input from anyone.

I don’t know about you, but I get overrun by blog comment spam. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. It’s those pointless blog comments made up of mealy-mouthed praise (or criticism), questions about the blog service, comments on the color scheme, and always in awkward English, like it was written by a knockoff version of Google Translation. They’re always anonymous and never show up on the Statcounter hit tracker.

Here’s one I got this afternoon:
“I know this web page provides quality depending
articles or reviews and extra data, is there any other web site which provides these kinds
of information in quality?”

Every once in a while, I’ll get one that has a link to whatever service they’re hawking. But most of the time, there is no link or call for action of any kind. Obviously, I kill all of these comments via Moderation, because I won’t have this written excrement on my site. (Say what you will about my own content.)

My question is, what’s the point? Why go through this operation to leave a semi-literate comment about nothing? What do they these mutants or bots hope to accomplish, other than irritating a blog owner? I just don’t see where the payoff for this particular scam comes from.

I’d love to hear any explanation you can provide.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Neighborhood Bluz

This week everyone is writing about the twin massacres in El Paso and Toledo Dayton and doing quite a good job of it. I can’t say that I have anything else to add that I haven’t said before.

I’ve addressed this issue a lot since I started this blog, but most comprehensively in February of last year. And even then, I started with a lengthy quote from what I wrote four years before that. I just don’t know what else to say. 

And I’ve even run this graphic before.

In the meantime, President 45’s attacks on Baltimore and Rep. Elijah Cummings continue because why give up an applause line at your rallies, right?

Now, as a Baltimore resident (and constituent of Rep. Cummings, as I pointed out last week), I’ve criticized Baltimore as much as anyone. There are real problems here. They were here when I moved here 21 years ago and they remain still. But dropping it all on the lap of a single Congressman is a little unrealistic. Sure, a little pork can help, but you still have to get it by at least half of the other 434 people in the House.

Baltimore’s problems are the responsibility of local and state government. Those are the boots on the ground that have to kick it into gear because there’s a lot to do.

The city water system was installed in the 1800s so water main breaks and sinkholes are a regular occurrence. The city police department has been as crooked as the perps they beat up. There are over 300 murders per year within the city limits. Many schools are in complete disrepair, often with no A/C system. Of course, there are rats anyplace garbage is left outside. And I’m just scratching the surface.

The president is only too happy to highlight these shortcomings because they come from a Democratic stronghold while ignoring similar situations in Red States run by his biggest fans. And he wonders why anyone would see fit to live here.

I’ll tell you why.

I live in an old working-class neighborhood. Sweetpea and I are two of the very few white people in the area. WE are the minorities here. It didn’t use to be that way, but it is now.

This is the house where Sweetpea was born and grew up. Last year, I moved in from my apartment in the suburbs and the one thing I learned is that there are good people in this neighborhood. Right here in the old hellhole of District Seven.

For example, while we were away on vacation last week, one neighbor watered our outside plants. Another one picked up our dog from the kennel and watched him overnight. And another brought in our newspapers. (Yes, I still get newspapers.)

This week, while Sweetpea was walking the dog, she got an offer to remove a pile of old rotted wood… mostly giant sticks that the dog likes to bring home… for free.

“I barkz softly, but carryz beeg steeck.”

She also met up with a Mexican family walking their pug, so now the kids come over so they can all walk dogs together.

Three different neighbors have the keys to our house, and we have theirs as well.

We try to do our part too. When we get a big snow in the wintertime, Sweetpea shovels the walks for some of our older neighbors. Then we always seem to find a big bag of dog food on our doorstep.

Earlier this year, our next-door neighbors’ house caught on fire. (No, it wasn’t firebombed; the teenage kids were cooking and something went wrong.) They stayed in some hotel rooms, courtesy of their insurance company, but we took their dog into our home for over a week. And another neighbor cut their grass.

This isn’t the stuff that goes on in hellholes; this is people being good neighbors to each other.

And one of the best features… No Homeowner’s Association! So we can have whatever kind of fence we want, and no one complains about clotheslines, the color of your house paint or patio furniture.

I work here, play here and live here. I can criticize this city if I want to. But I don’t want to hear it from some clown hasn’t seen anything but the route from the airport to the Four Seasons. If he doesn’t like the tenements in Baltimore, he can assign his son-in-law to clean them up. If he can take on peace in the Middle East, he should be able to clean up his own properties.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Odd Bits - The Rat-Infested Edition

The news of the weekend seemed to be all about the Current Occupant’s renewed race-baiting attack on Rep. Elijah Cummings and Baltimore. I have a few opinions on this because A) I have lived in Baltimore for almost 22 years and B) Cummings is MY US Representative.

It was interesting to me, the next morning, to see the Baltimore Sun, (the newspaper I still have delivered every day), not so much toss down the gauntlet but smack him in the jowls with it.

As much as I liked reading this in the morning paper, it was even better seeing it float across Facebook.

I don’t know whether the C.O. thought this up on his own or was guided by Fox “News” again, but it’s a clear political winner for him to attack Baltimore in the most graphic ways possible. First of all, he knows he has zero chance of carrying Maryland in the 2020 elections, as it is a solidly blue state when it comes to national politics.

Secondly, it’s more red meat for his deep red racist base. It’s apparent that his strategy for the upcoming presidential race is to abandon the dog-whistles and go straight for the blatant racism.

Aside from being a “blue” state, Maryland is on the C.O.’s “naughty list” because it resists his efforts to let ICE pull all the brown people from the streets, fields, and kitchens and send them to detention areas. That’s another paddle he can use to whip up the white guys’ fear of losing status. So yeah, attacking Maryland is a win for him.

Except, of course, to people who have a problem with fallacies and incorrect statements. Here are a couple of flaws in his attack.

1)      There is little sense in attacking a congressman about the state of his district. This is strictly a local-politics situation. A congressman needs a majority of other representatives to vote together to bring about changes to his home turf, which is usually a matter of providing tax benefits to businesses who create jobs there. (Otherwise known as “Pork.”) The condition of streets and alleys and creation of vermin-deterrent policies is a matter for local politicians… Mayor, city council, zoning boards, or at most, the governor.

Our current governor is a Republican and has been cutting vast sums of from the state budget that used to go toward Baltimore City. You want to blame someone for the trash situation, blame the guy who’s tightening the purse strings.

2)      All cities have areas that can be called trashy and rat-infested. You think rats are indigenous only to Baltimore? There are rats to be found in other cities, like Dallas, Atlanta, Oklahoma City, Mobile, St. Louis, Memphis or Charlotte. But he won’t be calling out those states because he needs to win there in 2020.

Anyone can post pictures of a city’s crappiest side. Pics like that have been coming out all over on social media. All cities have some greasy underside that can look bad when brought to light. But you know what? This is also Baltimore:
So is this:

And this:

 See, cherry-picking goes both ways.

I might also point out that when the president tweets that Cummings is “screaming and yelling” about anything, he should really pay closer attention to the other side of the aisle. I remember a hearing, not so long ago, when Rep Jim Jordan of Ohio was literally yelling at Rep Cummings, who was chairing the meeting, and then wanted more time after he ceded his. He continued to interrupt and badger him until Cummings coldly shut him down using points of order, while never raising his voice a decibel. I don’t think his pulse went over 75.

Another Day, Another Atrocity
Some were surprised that after the Robert Mueller testimony, in which he said the Russians were working to influence elections “as we sit here today,” that Mitch McConnell refused to let a couple of election security bills onto the floor for a vote. I was not.

This behavior is 100% consistent with McConnell’s behavior all along, in which nothing will EVER be brought to the floor if it doesn’t help Republicans stay in power. He bottled up the Garland SCOTUS nomination for 10 months on the flimsiest of excuses, regardless of the huge backlash that caused. He just didn’t care because he didn’t have to care. He was doing exactly what his corporate benefactors wanted him to do… take care of their business by making sure the Supreme Court never goes to a Democrat-appointed majority.

The last thing he’s going to do is prevent the Russians or anyone else from helping the Republicans win. And that won’t change until foreign powers start helping Democrats.

The only way to mitigate the damage McConnell does to our country is to take the Senate by a veto-proof majority. I don’t even worry about beating him directly, although that would help with the numbers. Whoever the Republicans put up next to run their part of the Senate will be just like him. If we can’t provide 60 votes, he’ll block up any progress like a triple-decker cheese sandwich on cork. The only remedy is to take away their power.

Taking the Pledge
I see the Pledge of Allegiance is in the news again, with a survey saying that 61% of Americans are in favor of requiring schoolchildren to recite the Pledge every day.

Personally, I’m against having to blindly repeat anything by rote, day in and day out. And if it’s anything like when I went to school, these kids don’t know the meaning of what they’re pledging anyway. To me, it was just something you had to do every day before getting down to business. I never gave it a second thought.

But with that said, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. Say it, don’t say it… whatever. Eventually, these kids will grow up and form their own opinions. And some of them will resent being made to take a pledge to a government whose leader calls them animals and tells them they live in shitholes.

It’ll all work out in the end.

This Guy has MY Seal of Approval
I love a good prank, so I was thrilled to see what was pulled on the C.O. last week at his rally with the Republican Youth. As I’m sure you’ve seen, someone on the A-V team substituted a fake presidential seal for the one that was supposed to be projected on the screen behind the president.

It featured a two-headed eagle (which is a Russian symbol), grasping bundles of cash and a set of golf clubs, with the communist “sickle and hammer” logo above the US flag shield and the phrase “45 is a puppet” in Spanish.

I’ve read about the creator of the fake seal, who’d been marketing his wares online, and that they fired the guy who got it projected, but it’s the latter guy I’d like to know more about. His trolling game is STRONG. I’m sure he knew he’d be fired but the opportunity was too good to pass up.

Sometimes, you just have to take the shot when you have it and damn the repercussions.

I know if I had an A-V company, I’d get this guy on staff immediately.

Trolling level: Expert.

Monday, July 22, 2019

The Focus Group (Redux)

Director’s DVD Commentary: An old blog friend of mine recently rejoined the fold and a recent comments conversation, I mentioned that I should dust off this old post from 2006 and give it some new air.

I’ve been enjoying the flurry of publicity regarding the movie release of The DaVinci Code… the protests, the defenses, the dialogues… As a Recovering Catholic, I find a great deal of happiness regarding anything that gets The Church’s panties in a bunch. 

As I understand it, The DaVinci Code asserts (albeit in novelized form) that the Catholic Church has for years covered up the fact that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and produced offspring, of which there is still a traceable bloodline today.  (Talk about an intimidating family to marry into!) 

As I also understand it, The Bible was compiled from the writings of various men and translated again and again throughout many centuries, often at the behest of powerful political figures, to ultimately become, in the eyes of the most devout believers, the literal word of God.  (These poor souls must have been sick on that day in grammar school when they covered “metaphor.”) 

(What’s a “metaphor”?   To keep cows in, of course.)

So, there is information from all these different sources… different writers, different styles, different motivations… Who was the editor that decided on what was used and what went to the papyrus recycling bin?  And how did he decide?  I also wonder who he was that he had the right to decide… was he given the Holy Red Quill, with which to make the Divine Edits of God?

The research department here at Darwinfish has obtained an ancient scroll fragment, which indicates a major role played by the Holy Focus Group… a mishmash of average Josephs off of whom the Editor bounced the Hallowed Rough Draft.  The scroll documents a meeting of the Exalted Editorial Committee, as recorded in the meeting’s minutes by a member of the Scribes Pool:

In Attendance: Phil Osteen (Editor in Chief), Ferris Seize (Focus Group Moderator)

Phil Osteen: Well Ferris, what did the group have to say?

Ferris Seize: They have a couple of issues, Chief.  First of all, they don’t like JC’s occupation.

Phil:  What’s wrong with being an accountant?  It’s an honorable position, counting the Holy Beans for the Eternal Revenue Service.

Ferris:  True enough, but they’re just not feeling the heat.  They think it should be manlier.

Phil:  What do they suggest?

Ferris: They’d like him to be a lumberjack.

Phil:  Are you serious?  A lumberjack?

Ferris:  Yes, Jesus, the Lumberjack of Nazareth.

Phil:  But he would have looked horrible in plaid.  Plus, look at all the unintended irony at the end of the Third Act.  I can just see the headlines on the local parchment… “Lumberjack Felled By Tree”…  Can’t do it…we’d be the laughing stock of all the other religions… They’d call us “Bunyonites.” 

Ferris:  Well if we leave him as an accountant, no one but the IRS will be following Him.  We need broader appeal.

Phil:  Who would believe it?  No one can support a wife and kids on what a lumberjack makes.

Ferris:  Oh, they want to lose the family stuff too.  They feel there’s only room for one “Heavenly Father”.  No one wants to think of The Savior doing the laundry and changing dirty didies.  Ruins the “stud appeal”.

Phil:  Ok, what say we split the difference and make Him a carpenter?

Ferris: I can sell that.  Just make sure that no one ever finds out about that Accountant thing, otherwise…

Sadly, that’s where scroll fragment cut off.  But there you have it.  Jesus 1.0… husband, father, and accountant.  Stay tuned for further developments, as the Committee finds something else for Jesus to do during tax season. Also, Jesus turns white.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Dear Hilton,

It’s been busy here in Darwinfish Central the last few weeks. As you may recall, I got married the last week in June. But just as we were coming back from that trip, we had to embark on a road trip the next Friday through Monday, back to The Burgh.

We had a family reunion scheduled for my mom’s side of the family. I wasn’t crazy about scheduling the event so close to our wedding trip, but we don’t get together all that often so if there’s a gathering, I don’t want to miss it.

Besides, this would be the first chance they’d have to meet my new bride. So we basically rolled through the short holiday week and went right back on the road. As we did in Florida, we stayed at a Hilton for a few days. This one was a “Hilton Garden Inn.”

Our family usually patronizes the Hilton brands, so to consolidate reward points, so my brother and sister and their families were staying there as well.

Normally, I have no issues with Hilton or the services and rooms they provide. But this was a relatively new one, which we thought would make for the best stay. Nope.

The main room was mostly fine, but I hated the bathroom. There were several issues I had, which I didn’t think were inconsequential. But none of them were the sorts of things that the staff could reasonably address. My beef was with the architects and builders.

So, when after our stay they began the inevitable pleas to complete their survey, I gave them my considered response. And if I’m going to tell the Hiltons, I might as well tell you.

First, I made sure I told them the staff was fine… I had no complaints about them, as they were friendly and professional. But here’s what was wrong with the room… the bathroom.

·        They had one of those sliding doors for the bathroom door. It made lots of noise whenever you went in or out, which could be bothersome when one occupant needs to take a midnight whiz while the other is asleep. And there were gaps on either side, which left one feeling like anyone could peep in.

·        The fixtures were loose. There was a square base around the handle that turned the shower on and off, and it was crooked. At first, I thought it was supposed to be kind of avant-garde like Tim Burton designed the place. But upon further investigation, it was just loose, and wouldn’t stay straight.

Same problem with the toilet paper holder. It had an open side for the roll to go on but also was not fixed firmly to the wall. Anytime you touched the TP, the arm bends downward and the TP rolled off the bar.

·        The water pressure was terrible and it took forever to get to a temperature suitable for human bathing. Once it got warm, you just felt like you were getting peed on.

·        It was bad enough that the shower stall (no tub) had a clear glass door to it. But they also had a full-size mirror over the sink, directly opposite the shower. Does anyone really need to see themselves soaping up? I don’t want to see that! My only alternative was to do everything while facing the opposite wall in the shower. I only had to do that, though, until the whole place fogged up, because…

·        They didn’t have a goddamn exhaust fan in there! In my book, that’s just unacceptable for a hotel. There wasn’t a bathroom fan in our Florida hotel either, so maybe it’s a standard Hilton practice.

Not only do you need a fan in there to keep the mirror from getting condensation, there are other considerations as well. These are closed quarters. If you have two people cohabitating in such a small space, the last thing either party wants is someone to go in there and befoul the whole room!

Also, consider the poor schmo on the inside. While their loved one is just on the other side of the wall/gapped sliding door, they can hear every grunt, splash and worse. Even if the fan doesn’t actually work very well, the din is a relief for all involved. Believe me, the last thing I want my dearly beloved to think is that she married American Pharaoh. Must we destroy all the illusions the first week of marriage?

·        And if there wasn’t anyone else in the room and you dared to sit on the can without closing the door, you’re staring straight into another full-size mirror on the outside of the closet. Like that’s a view of oneself anyone ever wants to see. What are you supposed to do, pose like The Thinker?

·        And for the one non-bathroom-related item, the carpet stayed wet in front of the A/C unit for the duration of our stay. I’m glad I noticed it when I was barefoot. How bad does it suck when you step in something wet, in your socks? Especially when you only have so many pairs of socks with you in the first place? Shit like that ruins my whole day.

I got a response back from the hotel manager, but it reeked of canned copy. I know there was little he could do… my main beef was with the design. Although he could probably get someone to tighten up those loose fixtures. I probably should have left my room number.

I’m sure they’ll find a way to get even with my ass… probably change the expiration date on all my Hilton Honors points to “next week.”

Maybe next time we ought to just go back to the Omni William Penn, downtown.